In association with Thomas Sabo

I have this thing with rings.

I’ve always liked them, generally, but the thing started about eight or nine years ago one day in Glastonbury. I’d gone over to meet a friend for breakfast and we were talking about something rather exciting for me that had happened the day before. I’ve always had a terrible memory, but I knew I wanted to remember this particular thing, so I decided to buy myself a piece of jewellery to mark the occasion.

I bought myself a rather lovely silver ring made with abalone shell, which I love. I bought it to fit the ring finger on my left hand, not especially out of any kind of marriage related principle, but just because it looked nice there and I’m a grown up person and can wear a ring on whatever finger I like, thank you very much society.

(Gosh, that came out a bit stronger than I thought it was going to – maybe it was principle.)

Ever since then, every time I have wanted to celebrate something good happening in my life – like the first time I had a feature published in a national newspaper – or just wanted to remind myself why I am super cool and generally awesome, I’ve bought myself a ring. I wouldn’t say I’m especially materialistic and I’m definitely not one of those people who spends loads of money on clothes and shoes and handbags, but just now and then it’s nice to treat yourself. In fact, it’s somehow more special when it only IS now and then. (Plus you can spend more and feel less guilty.)

Jewellery is a bit of a funny one, as it’s often something you feel you have to wait to be given, especially women’s jewellery, which is strange in a way as it’s so personal – who knows what you love better than yourself?

Which is why when Thomas Sabo got in touch to ask if I would like to take a look at their jewellery, just as I was sending off the final draft of my debut novel, I had a browse through the ladies rings and chose this crown ring from the Kingdom of Dreams collection:

Thomas Sabo ring View Post

In association with AlchemLife

A very unusual thing happened to me recently.

It was a Wednesday during October, and we’d been up to Bristol to hang out with Bee for the afternoon. When we got home I started to feel IFFY. My sinuses were burning, my head hurt and my throat was scratchy.

‘Brilliant,’ I thought, ‘a cold.’ I looked in my diary to see what I had on for the next couple of weeks, knowing that whatever it was would have to be rescheduled when the inevitable hacking cough took root.

But here’s the unusual thing – it didn’t. No cough. My sinuses burnt for a good few days and I felt generally a bit rough, but still, no cough.

Anyone who knows me will know that this is a very strange occurrence indeed. For my whole life I’ve suffered with horrible coughs that last for weeks and push everyone around me to the point where they want to smother me with a pillow just to stop the coughing. Normally any kind of small cold will immediately burrow down into my chest, but not this time.

It might have something to do with the fact that the day after my sinus cold thing appeared, I had a parcel in the post from AlchemLife. Inside the parcel was a natural food supplement called PhytoRelief-CC.

how to prevent a cold PhytoRelief

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In association with Yale

Since the various product reviews I did for Smart Home Week this year I have been ALL OVER the gadgets. I’m all ‘Alexa, turn my bedroom light pink’ and ‘Alexa, turn my heating up to 22 degrees’. You can be cosy and warm without even having to so much as LEAN.

Smart home technology appeals to my inner lazybones and basically makes my life super easy.

The Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm, part of the range of Yale smart living products, ticks both of these boxes. As well as being disinclined to get up off the sofa unless it’s strictly necessary, I’m decidedly forgetful, and often find myself halfway into town wondering whether or not I’ve remembered to lock the front door/close the windows/put on pants etc.

With a Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm you can check up on yourself, via the Smart Home app, and control your home security wherever you are.

Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm review

Before we start getting into all the cool things it does though, let’s see exactly what you get with your Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm kit. Yes, that’s right! I’ve made an unboxing video! I watched a few beforehand and the main thing seems to be to point the camera right at the thing you’re unboxing and to talk in quite a boring voice. This seemed to come naturally to me, so I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before this video goes viral: View Post

I was in Starbucks this morning, having managed to drop Belle at college for the second lesson of the day at least, (better than nothing), and on the table next to me were two women talking about their daughters and school. It sounded like they were probably just a bit younger than Belle – probably 14 or 15.

‘I just can’t bear to see her so miserable,’ said one. ‘It’s so horrible, because realistically school is meant to be the best years of your life.’

IS IT??

I can totally feel her pain over having a child who doesn’t thrive at school. As soon as I heard them talking I was there, at 8am on a school day morning, trying to gently encourage a sobbing Belle out of bed. I empathised with her on that, but… on her second point, I had to hope that she wasn’t saying that to her daughter – how dispiriting would that be?

Talk to anyone is my family – my sister, my daughters – and I’m pretty sure they’d tell you that school was far from the best time of their life. Even for me, who took a disproportionate amount of pleasure from a good test mark, school was tolerable at best. I did well, but I didn’t have a lot of friends and my absence rate was high. I was bored to a level I’ve hardly ever experienced since, but trapped too. I was, like most teenagers I’m sure, acutely aware of everything I said and did, turning a beetroot red if anyone said anything at all to me that I hadn’t already planned in my head.

I liked aspects of it, but mainly I just found the whole thing excruciatingly embarrassing. No way would I want to do it again.

Outside of school I spent quite a lot of time imagining all the fun things that other people would be doing, the people who had big groups of friends and went to Bridgwater Lido every day of the summer holidays. I made 3D scale models of my bedroom so that I could experiment with rearranging the furniture and went to bed at 9pm while I was sure everyone else stayed up past midnight watching 18 certificate films.

What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that the cool kids, the ones who really did seem to be having the best years of their life, then had only one way to go – downhill. View Post

In association with Red Letter Days

When you think Red Letter Days gift experiences, what do you think?

I have to admit that until a few weeks ago my first thought would have been package spa breaks and track days. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things – I like a lounge in a sauna and prosecco lunch as much as the next person – but Red Letter Days is about so much more than that, as I found out when Red Letter Days asked me to choose an experience to, well, experience. 

I started off with a browse, which takes a while as there is a LOT to browse. Honestly, I challenge you NOT to find a Christmas gift for just about anyone in your life. I was tempted initially by the London theatre and dinner packages – if you like comedy then I would DEFINITELY recommend this offer for The Play That Goes Wrong – it’s such good fun. Two tickets plus dinner for two for just £109, which is a bit of a bargain.

I liked some of the adrenaline activities too – how cool would it be to take a vintage Tiger Moth over Stonehenge or to undertake a private investigator surveillance mission at London Paddington? (Even though I’m 40 now I still want to believe that one day I will turn into Nancy Drew, the sassy teen detective.)

And then there’s all the food and drink options – I lingered for a long time over the bottomless gin and tonic afternoon tea.

In the end though I opted for a cookery course at River Cottage HQ in Devon. It was well timed for me as I’ve been in a massive cooking rut recently and we’ve been consuming unhealthy amounts of frozen chicken products. I’ve been trying to be more creative, but sometimes you need a bit of a kick up the bum to reignite an interest in something or to make you feel more confident in your own abilities.

Booking the course with my Red Letter Days voucher was easy – there were instructions on the voucher and then contact details for the venue, easy peasy. I packed my selection of Tupperware for leftovers, as advised, and set out for Devon.

I knew the day was going to go well when one of the first things we were told was that there was a bar and that if we wanted any drinks brought to us during the day we just had to ask Steve, and he would sort us out. Needless to say Steve sorted me out with a couple of lovely gin and tonics – the spa day vibe without even needing to hoist myself into a swimming costume.

The one day River Cottage course covers a whole range of cooking techniques, from bread-making to fish filleting, so we started off by getting our dough on the go.

Red Letter Days cookery courses View Post

In association with The Inner Circle

I’ve been single for about 14 months. Although I enjoy the freedom and the space in the bed, I’d love to have someone to share things with. I’ve dabbled with the ‘swipey’ dating apps, but it gets depressing when you just see the same faces holding the same giant fish…

When The Inner Circle asked me if I wanted to check out their selective dating site I played it cool for about 37 seconds, then shouted ‘Yes please!’

The Inner Circle review

I’ve just started exploring the site, so can’t tell you (yet) that The Inner Circle is THE place to meet the partner of your dreams, but I CAN tell you what makes it different from other dating sites.  View Post