How okay is it to go somewhere for a night away just to have more Deliveroo options?

I ask this in a purely rhetorical sense, because I’ve already done it, and it was amazing. It’s one of the downsides of living in an otherwise very lovely part of the country – that when you want a takeaway your choice is limited primarily to pizzas, kebabs, curries and Chinese food. That’s not to say I wouldn’t happily eat all of those things, but sometimes what you really want is just to have some sashimi delivered to your door.

When Your Apartment offered me and Belle a night in one of their serviced apartments in Bristol then, our first thought wasn’t ‘oh how lovely, the chance to enjoy the culture of a big city’, it was ‘yaassss! More Deliveroo options!’

In fairness, we did live in Bristol for about three years, so we have already seen plenty of what Bristol has to offer. It’s a fantastic city – small enough to feel manageable but with a vibrant food and arts scene. When we stayed for my birthday weekend at the end of April it was a little restricted in terms of what was open, but from our apartment in Cotham I was still able to walk down into the city centre and around the harbourside, which is always buzzing with people.

The premise behind Your Apartment is simple – serviced apartments that feel like home. They’re bright, colourful, clean and fully equipped with everything you need to create a home away from home vibe, including all the techy stuff like superfast Wi-Fi and smart TVs. They have apartments all around Bristol as well as in Cardiff and Liverpool, and Your Apartment Clifton Village even has its own exclusive co-working space – ideal for business travel to Bristol.

Your Apartment review

We stayed on the top floor of Rowan Tree in Cotham, so we had that sloppy ceiling penthouse apartment feel that always makes me feel kind of metropolitan and sophisticated. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with The Singing Zoo

When Joey has a baby, (same chubby cheeks, less hair), he went through a phase of absolutely LOVING the song ‘If you’re happy and you know it.’

I would push him along in the pram, doing our coronavirus laps of the park, being sure not to risk arrest by sitting on a bench, and I would sing him songs. His favourite bit about ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ was ‘stamp your feet’. I’d be singing, building up to the stamping your feet bit, and when I said it I’d jump up and down and he would be BESIDE HIMSELF. Honestly, he loved it.

non annoying kids' songs

No hair version of Joey

I had totally forgotten about it until I listened to The Singing Zoo today and it popped up as one of the songs. It brought back such happy memories – music is so powerful like that isn’t it? – that I listened the whole way through twice, even though I was on my own.

That’s kind of the point of The Singing Zoo though – to create music for children that’s good enough that as an adult you don’t want to drive off the road just to make it stop. The Singing Zoo is the brain child of a producer and musician who, when he became a father, realised that a lot of music aimed at babies and toddlers is just BAD. The time and care isn’t taken over production, they’re not well played – they’re just not good to listen to. View Post

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I was struck by this analogy this week and it has stayed with me – life at the moment feels like being handed the menu at a Hungry Horse pub.

You know when you go into a super fancy restaurant and they present you with a menu on one sheet of thick, cream A4 paper? There are four options for the main course – probably pork, chicken, fish, and something for the vegetarians. The prices are given just as whole numbers – a solitary 17 – because this place is too fancy for pound signs or pence.

It feels special doesn’t it? You feel like those four options are all going to be delicious, that someone has taken care over them, put thought into them.

And then you go to a Hungry Horse.

They take you to your table, your feet sticking a little to the carpet along the way, and they present you with the menu. There are about 47,000 choices, everything comes with a side of chips and garlic bread and somehow everything is £3.49, even the steak.

(Nobody ever needs chips and garlic bread. Especially not when the main dish is already pasta.)

If you compare the menus, the Hungry Horse gives you more choice. The multiple dinner options should give you a sense of freedom surely? Apparently not. Something I’ve learned, just in the last few months really, is that choice doesn’t equal freedom. In the case of the Hungry Horse menu, choice makes everything feel less.

The Hungry Horse feels like life feels to me since the easing of lockdown – overwhelming, cheap and way too heavy on the carbs.

This sounds like I’m just being terribly snobby, possibly I was a little with the sticky carpet comment, but it’s not really about price, it’s more just supply and demand I guess – basic economics. While options have been limited in the big wide world it’s given the choices that are available more significance and made them feel more valuable. Going out for a walk on a Saturday morning and finding a vintage truck selling coffee and teacakes in a garden centre car park feels so much more magical then walking down a busy High Street, cafés either side of you. With choice, it feels to me, comes the cheapening of individual options.

I know that in theory I should be able to hold onto that magic and to see those special moments regardless of the noise around them, but it’s hard. Imagine a tiny farm shop selling freshly baked bread, milk, apples, and local cheese. Then imagine Tesco. Those things exist within Tesco but it’s not the same – they’re harder to find and you feel less connected to them when you do.

I guess we just have to try to hold those simple pleasures close, to seek them out and to cherish them when we find them. How you do that as the noise of life and of choice starts to build I don’t know, but I do know that chips and garlic bread is never the answer.

too much choice

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This post is in conjunction with Boots UK. All thoughts are my own.

Today’s post is part of the #ParentYourWay campaign from Boots UK. Becoming a new parent is challenging for most people, but factor in a global pandemic and lockdown restrictions and you’ve got yourself the perfect breeding ground for increased loneliness and isolation. Repeated lockdowns have been hard on us all, but for new parents it’s been especially tough missing out on the opportunity to socialise, to get out of the house and to form friendships with other new parents.

I think back to when Belle was little, how every day had to be focussed around an outing, a meeting with friends, just to make it bearable, and I wonder how on earth I would have coped living through the virus. Those daily activities and interactions were what kept me sane, the other mums I met at breastfeeding group every Thursday, and went on the form forever friendships with, how would things have been different if I’d never had the opportunity to meet them?

Even little things I remember, like taking Belle to the big Mothercare when she was about nine months old for her first ever pair of shoes… so many of these new parent landmarks, shopping for your baby nursery bits, first haircuts – they have been made difficult or impossible by Covid.

breastfeeding group

I know that I’ve been massively lucky as a new grandparent during the pandemic. Bee and her partner and baby Joey moved down to Taunton literally a few days into the first week of lockdown in March 2020. It was a bit of a fraught day, as we weren’t entirely sure it was even allowed, but they’d given up the old house, the new tenancy was starting – there wasn’t much of a choice really. I remember asking Bee for a copy of their new tenancy agreement, which I printed out and kept with us in the van just in case we were stopped by the police and had to justify our presence on the road.

(I had imagined a post-apocalyptic scene on the motorway – armed police guarding the border into Bristol, a tuck and roll from the cab of the van, shots fired while I waved the printed tenancy as a flag of surrender. Nothing happened, it all went very smoothly.)

I’m so glad they were able to make the move though as being just a five minute walk away from me has made the pandemic considerably easier for all of us. View Post

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Homemade Snickers bars – Advertisement feature in association with Snackmasters

I could not be more excited today.

You know how much I love making things that look like other things, (remember the homemade party rings and homemade Tunnock’s teacakes?), well today I’ve been actually, properly recruited to make my own homemade Snickers bars! I know, it’s my dream job right? I am so chuffed with it, honestly, I can’t tell you.

I’ve been roped in by Snackmasters to help promote their new series. Snackmasters is a Channel 4 show where top chefs go head to head to try to recreate an iconic dish or snack. I loved the first series, where they made things like a Burger King Whopper and a bag of Monster Munch, and the most recent series is shaping up to be just as fun, with chefs recreating KFC, Wagon Wheels, and, which is were I come in, the Snickers bar.

Now I’m going to say straight up that although I haven’t watched the episode yet, I’m 100% confident that if I was one of the chefs, that I would win. It’s a bold claim I know, but every single person I’ve tried my homemade Snickers bars on has said that they are EVEN BETTER than the original. Now you could argue that in a competition where the aim is to copy something, that making your version even better than the original equals a failure – to those people I say get in the bin.

My homemade Snickers bars are amazing and that’s the end.

how to make a Snickers bar View Post

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I’ve always said I’m more of a biscuit than a cake person.

I know, controversial, but I’ve just never bought into that whole ‘I’m a woman and therefore I love cake’ storyline. Getting a slice of cake will not entice me to your event. I will not make a guilty looking face and say ‘ooh go on then, just a small bit’, like I don’t really deserve it but I’m going to ‘treat myself.’ 

If I want to eat something then I will eat it and I will enjoy it, I won’t be part of a weird female subcultural that defines itself by sweet treats.

Hmmm.

I’m not sure where that feminist cake rant came from. But also I don’t apologise.

I’m not saying I hate cake or anything, that would be an unusual way to introduce a post about cake, I’m just saying I prefer cookies. Or bourbons. God I love bourbons. I’ve even made homemade bourbons such is my love for them. If I could sit somewhere sunny with a packet of bourbons, a good book and a cat on my lap, fur warm from the sun, I reckon I’d be about as happy as it’s possible to be without being on a brunch date at a cat café with Reese Witherspoon.

So my idea was this – make a cake, but disguise it as a giant bourbon biscuit. Trick my subconscious into thinking I was eating a huge bourbon, when actually it was a light and fluffy sponge. Genius right? And why stop there? When I started diving into the idea of cakes that looked like other things, I even discovered amazing things like this fast food cake from agnes de sucre. A cake that looks like burger and fried chicken? I’m in.

Back to my bourbon cake – did I manage to trick myself? Sort of. Not really. But it looked awesome so it was totally worth it.

giant bourbon cake View Post

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Today’s Untold Stories post was sent as a response to some questions I posed for this post asking ‘how important is sex in a long term relationship‘, but there are some key things within it that made me want to share it as a standalone. Questions it raised for me personally were things like ‘how much is sex tied up in my self-worth and why?’ and ‘to what extent do I want to feel desired to make me feel powerful or in control?’ When I thought about it, I haven’t ever been in a relationship where I’ve not felt sexually desired 99% of the time and I think if I’m honest with myself I would really struggle with feeling secure and loved without that.

It’s very much tied in to what I have been reading and thinking a lot about lately – the concept of the male gaze and, as a woman, your role being to be SEEN rather than to just BE. I would say that I have used sex a lot, especially when I was younger, as a way to get attention and to feel noticed or important, and although I am understanding more and more where this comes from, it’s a very difficult habit to break – to separate your worth as a woman from your sexual desirability. Anyway, that’s what this post made me think about. I’d love to know what questions it raised for you, so please do leave a comment.

….

higher sex drive than my husband

This is actually my longest relationship. I met my husband online and when we got together one of the things that I really liked was how affectionate he was. It wasn’t just sex, it was intimacy. Probably for the first time in my life I felt really loved and accepted.  View Post

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I had a boyfriend once who used the phrase ‘a waste’ to describe the times when we saw each other and didn’t have sex.

It was a sunny afternoon when he said it. We’d just been for a walk along the beach and were sat on the grass with coffee and ice creams. I was lying with my head on his thigh, watching the clouds, the sun warm on my face. His comment ruined the vibe to be honest.

We weren’t living together and we both had other things in our lives, like work and families and friends, so sometimes we might spend the night together, sometimes I’d go to his house during the day, other times we’d go on what I thought were lovely outings – an opportunity to spend some time together and do nice things like lie on the grass and eat ice creams.

He tried to justify it, and talked about ’emotional connection’ and other things that to me felt like him just digging a bigger hole. It stuck with me. It hurt if I’m honest. Was that what it came down to for him? Was simply spending time with me not enough? If we stayed together would I always feel the pressure to perform, even years down the line?

Now I’m not saying that I was looking to put in a solid year and then never have sex again, but I appreciate that sex evolves over the course of a long term relationship, and in very different ways for different couples as well as the individuals within the couple. But how important exactly is sex in a long term relationship?

When I talk to friends about their sex lives, the message is, as you might expect, mixed.

Some friends barely do it at all but claim to be completely happy with that – they say it’s just not an important part of their relationship anymore. Others might make the effort on birthdays or holidays. A couple of married people I know haven’t had sex in over a decade.

I decided to do some research. (Research being the technical term for ‘nosing about into other people’s sex lives’.)

I started with some Twitter polls. Not exactly SCIENCE, but I thought it would be a good place to start to get an overview of exactly how important sex is to people in a long term relationship. I appreciate that it’s a bit of a self-selecting survey, and the people doing it once a year might not be the most willing to take part, but hey ho.

Here’s what I found:

How often do people have sex View Post

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I know, I know, a new home office chair – I spoil you with content don’t I? Give me a break though, it’s been over a year now of basically doing nothing expect reading murder mysteries, walking in laps around the park and working in my little study, so I don’t exactly have a lot to talk about.

Seriously though, a home office chair is actually pretty exciting news when you have been spending so much time working from home. If your job has shuffled you off into your spare room and working from home looks set to stay then you might want to read this and think about investing in your posture. (Maybe your boss might want to invest in your posture on your behalf and buy you a nice new office chair?)

Although I’ve been self-employed and generally working from home for 12 years now, I normally break things up with mornings in cafes, (under the guise of researching brunch club), or coworking spaces. Having to concentrate on work in the same space for large chunks at a time has been hard going. I gave my spare room a makeover in September, (see the ‘workpsace’ highlight on my Instagram), in a bid to create a more motivational workspace, and although I do love it, a lot of my time in here is actually spent in the little armchair in the corner reading magazines or, like this morning, sat at my desk taking stupid selfies.

I.e. wasting valuable time.

Office selfies

One of the issues, quite genuinely, was that I was too tight to invest in a decent home office chair. Since the makeover in September I’ve been sitting uncomfortably on a wooden dining chair which, although very stylish and ideal for dinner parties should anyone ever be allowed into my house again, lacks a certain something in the lumber support department.

As I mentioned on Instagram stories recently, when I told you about the pickled quail eggs, my manifestation powers have been strong lately, so it was barely a surprise when Summit At Home got in touch to ask if I would like to review a British manufactured ergonomic home office chair. ‘Well dur,’ I wanted to say, ‘what took you so long? I’ve been putting this out into the universe for ages?’

My first thought, obviously, was which colour to choose. View Post

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A little while ago I bought myself these cards that ask you questions, designed to make you think about yourself. I have a tendency with things like this to like the ‘idea’ more than the actual thinking. I knew that my instinct would be to flick through them all, thinking ‘oh yes, that’s a good question’, without taking proper time to actually answer it.

I promised myself that I would only turn one card over at a time, and that I wouldn’t turn over another until I had properly thought about the question. The first card I had was ‘What do I love most about myself?’ and the second was this one – ‘How do I show myself love?’ It’s been sat on my desk for over three weeks now, which shows I was right not to trust myself to get around to the thinking part very quickly.

How do I show love to myself?

I thought it was interesting that both of the first questions were about self-love. I don’t imagine the rest of pack is as generous, so it feels like the cards might be encouraging me to lay some good foundations.

I’ve thought about this question a lot over the last few weeks. I started off with answers like ‘I go for a walk’ or ‘I take time to read’, but they felt lame to be honest. I thought about the times when I’ve helped Belle with school work, encouraging her to go deeper, always telling her to ask ‘and what else?’ We can take the first answer that comes into our head, sure, or we can let that sit a little bit and then take another step in our thinking – and what else? Why do we do that? How does that mean that we are showing ourselves love?

I unpicked and unpicked in my head.

Okay, so I take the time to read because that’s something that I enjoy, it’s something that’s just for me, and it’s a way of making time for myself and prioritising myself. Better. So I show myself love by prioritising myself. What else? To prioritise myself I need to have good boundaries, I need to acknowledge that I am important, that actually I am the MOST important. Oooh… that’s a tricky one as a parent isn’t it? Can you really tell yourself you are the MOST important? You kind of have to don’t you? You can’t pour from an empty cup and all that?

So now I’m thinking about the things that get in the way of that, that make it hard for me to have boundaries, that stop me prioritising me, and do you know where I kept ending up? View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with HelloFresh

Cooking at home is wearing a bit thin isn’t it? A whole year of coronavirus, repeated lockdowns, and quite frankly if I never have to shop and cook for myself again it will be too soon. I just don’t want to have to think about meal planning, I don’t want to come up with new recipe ideas, my brain has run out.

Fortunately there are companies like HelloFresh ready to do the brainwork for me, who can take the time to create and put together new, interesting and healthy recipes and save me from another dinner of blue cheese and Frazzle sandwiches. (An actual lunch I ate.)

This week in our HelloFresh box we had sweet and sour chicken, really tasty halloumi tacos and pork chilli and bacon cheesy burritos with a zesty avocado black bean salad.

That’s the recipe I’m going to show you today.

pork chilli burritos HelloFresh

HelloFresh recipes come with exactly what you need – all of your ingredients in the right quantities, easy to follow recipe cards and no waste. For me that’s one of the things that normally puts me off trying new recipes – knowing that in a couple of months time I’m just going to be throwing away 7/8 of a jar of harissa paste. With HelloFresh you avoid this as they only send you exactly the right amounts. View Post

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YES. Yes I always make the same dating mistakes. Always. My last three boyfriends in a row have even had the same exact name. Clearly I have some habits I need to break. I asked dating coach Hayley Quinn to step in and write something for Slummy Single Mummy that would hopefully help me use lockdown as an excuse for a love life reset. 

How to avoid dating mistakes

Hayley Quinn – a woman who clearly knows how to take a profile picture

‘Do you think this is a red flag?!’

If your WhatsApp group chats frequently dissect your date’s every move…

If you’ve bookmarked blogs about dating narcissists…

If you’ve essentially lost all faith in your dating decision making: this blog is for you.

I’m dating coach Hayley Quinn and I’m moonlighting on Slummy Single Mummy’s blog to give you a simple message: you can change your dating mistakes and patterns. You are absolutely not destined to always be the one who has a “crazy” dating story to tell.  View Post

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