Advertisement feature in association with Jet2 Holidays

This weekend I took a train up to Bristol to make some tapas. It might feel like quite a way to go when I have a perfectly good kitchen at home, but this was a special event being hosted by Jet2 Holidays to promote the fact that they are expanding their range of flights from Bristol airport. Plus I was promised free wine. I’ll go a long way for free wine.

The event was a tapas cooking class at Little Kitchen, which is a really lovely space in Totterdown, within walking distance of the station. They do a lot of private events, but loads of open cookery classes too, so if you like trying new things then definitely have a look. I’m seriously considering a scotch egg masterclass.

Jet2 holidays from Bristol

The aim of our cookery lesson was to recreate some of the Jet2 Holidays winter sun vibe that you would normally get by flying off to the Canary Islands. I have never been to the Canary Islands or had a winter sun holiday or even been on any kind of package holiday at all. I’m not sure why exactly – I guess money, as a young, single parent, and possibly just never having done it before, not being sure how it would work with kids on my own? That said, a week in a caravan in Cornwall is probably MORE expensive nowadays. Plus travelling abroad is so much simpler and more affordable, and there are places like Sims Direct to make sure you’ve got your phone prepared to travel too.

Lately though, now that Belle is older and I don’t have ‘children’ anymore, I’ve quite often found myself browsing package holiday sites like Jet2 Holidays and imagining how wonderful it might actually be to just lie in the sun and drink cocktails and not have to pack all the self-catering paraphernalia like tea towels and tea bags. Does any holiday ever feel like a real break when you have to pack tea towels??

There I am then, browsing the all inclusives, and into my inbox drops this event invitation, with the promise of wine and cooking and a quiz, where the winner would get a Canary Islands mini-break. Food, drink and competition – all of my favourite things.

The universe had provided. I had to say yes.

Jet2 Holidays Canary islands

Yes please manchego cheese

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Sponsored post in association with Stay Energy Safe

Do you understand the signs and the dangers of energy theft?

I didn’t. Not until this morning anyway.

Until then, if you’d asked me to explain energy theft I’d have probably thought about the Christmas film Deck The Halls, where Danny DeVito runs a cable over to his neighbour’s house in the dead of night to power his record breaking Christmas light display.

Spoiler – it’s not that.

How to spot energy theft

Energy theft, or energy fraud, is when gas or electricity meters are tampered with so that they don’t record usage properly, meaning you can pay less or nothing at all for your energy supply. Unfortunately energy theft if definitely NOT a victimless crime.

Although it often goes unnoticed, energy theft is hugely dangerous and can result in gas leaks, fires, electrocution and sometimes death. Not only that, but the cost of the theft is passed on to other bill payers. It’s estimated that energy fraud costs the average household an extra £30+ on their energy bills every year, so it’s worth doing what you can to help catch the people doing it.

Energy fraud is a crime, with a possible prison sentence attached, and yet with rising fuel costs putting pressure on businesses and individuals it’s a crime that’s on the rise – there has been a 15% increase month on month recently, which means more lives at risk. View Post


Includes gifted items from Lily Blanche personalised jewellery

Last night at Brownies we talked about jobs and careers and the kind of things that the girls might want to do when they grow up. There were a lot of ambitions involving baking and animal rescue, but a good mix of more unusual things too like deep sea divers and archaeologists.

When it got to my turn, I said that when I grow up I’d like to be a detective. I didn’t have the chance to elaborate, but if I had, it would go something like this…

I would be freelance, obviously. I don’t want to be faffing about reporting to anyone or having to do boring paperwork. I will take on cases that I find intriguing, rather than just those that are well paid. I will be like Poirot in that respect, noticing the odd way a man peels an orange and instructing my assistant to follow him while I recline on a sun lounger with a cold drink to Think Things Through.

I will probably ride a bicycle with a basket, although bikes do scare me a bit, and I will definitely have a LOT of jingly bangles. They’ll be the sort of bangles I have collected over the years either on my adventures or as gifts from suitors. I will have been proposed to at least four times in this fantasy, but I will have always turned them down because they will have wanted to take care of me and buy me houses and I can’t bear to part with my hand built canal barge and collection of plants.

The bangles will jingle together as I ride through the woods on the trail of a suspect, silenced temporarily with a woolly sleeve if I’m doing anything particularly stealthy. Otherwise they will be a permanent fixture, reaching further and further up my wrists the older I get.

None of this has happened yet, although I feel it’s just a matter of time now that I have not one but two Lily Blanche bangles. They are exactly how I imagine my mature lady detective bangles to be – that sort of hammered gold vibe that looks homemade and expensive.

birthstone jewellery View Post


untold stories slummy single mummy

Today’s Untold Story has been anonymously contributed by a man who has been through the experience of losing a friend – literally losing them, without any idea of where they’d gone. I can’t begin to imagine how this must feel, that state of limbo and uncertainty, unable to move on or let go of the hope. Please read and leave a kind comment if you’d like to. If you have a personal story you’d like to share please get in touch.

This story starts in the late 60s – 68 and 69 to be precise.

Growing up I had lots of friends, but I had one special friend. She lived on the same street as me and we were as thick as thieves. But the story starts before just living on the same street.

Our mums worked together at the local school as dinner ladies and were great friends, they both had other children older than me and  my friend – let’s call her Claire. Our mums fell pregnant at the same time, so as they were good friends they supported each other through pregnancy just as they did with my older brother and sister.

They would go to antenatal clinic together, shop for baby clothes, support each other through pregnancy, do what expectant mothers do all throughout the country.

So as the pregnancies progressed the due dates appeared to be within days of each other in March. Claire’s due date came and went with no sign of her. Three days after the due date she appeared, a happy and healthy little girl. Next it was my turn to make an appearance. Within three hours of Claire being born, little old me came along.

As you can imagine, living on the same street only six doors apart life was pretty much growing up together. From going to school together, playing together, eating together, even going on holidays with both families together. We were inseparable friends.

I lost my older sister when I was nine to a tragic playground accident and Claire naturally took the role as my sister. Once the tragedy of the accident had faded and was just a memory, Claire was my rock and best friend. Even though we grew into teenagers, our friendship never faded and we didn’t let hormones get in the way.  View Post


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If you’ve ever watched Death in Paradise, chances are you’ve longed to spend a tropical evening on the edge of the water at Catherine’s Bar, gazing out over the sands and sipping a cold beer. Sure, if you were in Death in Paradise you’d also be looking over the case files from a baffling murder in a locked room but let’s be honest, that’s only going to add to it isn’t it?

Well, without wanting to make you too jealous, take a look at me, just this week…

The River Shack

Right?? It’s basically Guadeloupe. Except that it’s actually the River Shack at Stoke Gabriel, near Totnes, in Devon. I know, isn’t it gorgeous? We were even sat on a shack style patio. I just needed Catherine to saunter over in one of her long dresses and big hoop earrings and offer me a rum and I could have been there, about to crack the case.

I’d never been to Stoke Gabriel before but I’d been doing some research into dog friendly restaurants in Devon and was lured by the River Shack photos and also the promise of an ancient tree in the village churchyard that can grant wishes if you walk backwards around it seven times. View Post


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When I put ‘complete all three crazy golf courses in Hastings, the spiritual home of crazy golf’ on my list of 50 things to do before I’m 50, I didn’t realise I was carrying on a family tradition. Little did I know that my mother and grandparents before me had, in the mid 1960s, stood on the slopes of East Hill in Hastings, playing the 9 hole, council run, pitch and putt.

Hastings pitch and putt East Hill

That’s my mum on the left, my uncle Pete in the middle, and my Grandad on the right. My Grandad was rarely seen without a suit and tie, although we did find some other Hastings pitch and putt photos where he appears with his short sleeves rolled up! The scandal.

The pitch and putt closed in the 1980s, but Hastings hasn’t lost its love of mini golf. In fact, Hastings now plays host to the World Crazy Golf Championships, which I’m sure is something a lot of you had never even imagined existed. Hastings Adventure Golf, which you can see in the picture below, taken from the cliffs above, has three courses – ‘Adventure’, ‘Crazy’ and ‘Pirate’ – and last week we took a Southern train along the south coast to Hastings and did ALL THREE.

Hastings crazy golf

Crazy golf, crazy lady

Now you might be thinking ‘THREE courses of crazy golf is a lot of crazy golf Jo, are you sure you’re not the crazy one?’ and you would be right, it IS a lot. In fact, by the time we finished it was dark, and I was feeling a little bit like I might never want to see a golf ball again, but that’s the whole point isn’t it? Life is fairly meaningless at the best of times, so if you’ve challenged yourself to complete three crazy golf courses back to back then damn it, you’re going to complete them, even if it is past your bedtime. (We were visiting mid heat wave and were very pleased that the golf was open until 10pm so we could go in the evening when it was a bit cooler.)

Seriously though, we had a lot of fun, and there was a WINDMILL and everything. You know your crazy golf course is properly crazy when there’s a windmill. View Post


Advertisement feature in association with Zip World – all views my own

What are you really scared of?

I like to think that generally I’m pretty confident. I’m not scared of a lot of big stuff like being a single parent, being self-employed and the only breadwinner, driving massive motorhomes by myself, going on stage in front of hundreds of people and trying to be funny, zip wiring off the end of a pier across the sea – all of these I’m good with.

Stepping out onto a bridge made of planks though, high above the ground, with just a couple of carabiner clips to reassure me – THAT I am scared of.

It’s probably not surprising then that the weeks leading up to visiting Zip World in the Rhigos mountains in South Wales were a little on the anxious side. Especially not when you consider their brand new family attraction – Tower Climber.

Tower Climber Zip World



Tower Climber is the newest addition to Zip World in South Wales, joining Tower Flyer, Tower Coaster and Phoenix – the fastest seated zip wire in the whole world. (We did this while we were there and LOVED it – definitely recommend.)

While I can get on board with zip wires, as you really just have to sit there, there is something about the high ropes and having to physically make yourself step out onto an obstacle that I find really tough. Still, I’m always up for a challenge, so I engaged the ‘act now think later’ part of my brain, said YES and off we went to the site of the old Tower Colliery for some wholesome family fun. View Post


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Last weekend I met a friend in a café in Langport for brunch.

‘We can visit my old dining table!’, I said, in reply to her suggestion. ‘It lives there now!’

‘I am weirdly looking forward to that,’ she replied, proving why we’ve been friends for nearly thirty years.

You might be wondering why exactly my dining table now lives in a café in Langport. It’s because when we first bought our house around five years ago, my partner at the time was a teensy bit on the controlling side and was insistent that proper people ate their meals at a table. Now in principle I’ve nothing against this – gathering around a table for a family meal is all very wholesome, sharing news, playing games, nothing to dislike there.

My idea of sitting down around a dining table though would be in a lovely big kitchen, preferably with bifold doors opening onto a beautiful garden. The table would be a long wooden table, maybe with benches either side and obviously with some sort of charming homegrown flower arrangement in the centre.

Something like this one from Furniture Village:

Best dining tables

You get the vibe right?

Unfortunately the only house I could afford to buy just has a small kitchen and a average sized living room, large enough for a small dining table as long as you don’t insist on having a piano taking up one wall. OH WAIT. Yes, ex-boyfriend insisted on having a piano taking up one wall, meaning the only space for a table of any kind was in the kitchen, wedged into a corner, where to sit down you had to take turns and breathe in. If you wanted to go outside you had to open the back door only very slightly and squeeze through carefully. Not a bifold in sight.

Idyllic was NOT the word. View Post


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I had twenty years of one or other of my children being at school or college.

Imagine that, twenty years! Twenty years of packed lunches and nagging about homework and traipsing round shop after shop looking for exactly the right kind of skort. Twenty years of heading to Clarks and taking one of those tickets like you’re at an old supermarket deli counter, looking around at all the other parents who’ve also left it until August 31st to buy school shoes.

My point is, it’s a long time, long enough that you’d hope I’d have learnt a few lessons and be able to impart some back to school wisdom.

Here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way…

Always get the school photos

I know, they’re a rip off, and at the time you think ‘well I KNOW what they look like, I don’t need to pay £27.95 for that privilege’ but take it from me, you will forget. And yes, you’ve very likely got masses of photos of them already, but really how many photos of them do you have looking smart in their school uniform, posing for the slightly eccentric school photographer?

The top one here is Bee. The one underneath is me at a similar age. Whenever I think of myself, this is how I picture me still now, aged 44.

Are school photos worth it?

School photo View Post


Advertisement feature in association with Sammy Satsuma personalised recipe books

Sammy Satsuma recipe book review

This week Joey came round for the afternoon to do some baking. He turned three last month, and although I wasn’t entirely sure how good he would be at concentrating, I thought it was worth a try as cooking with kids is one of my favourite things to do. I always volunteer for the cooking activities at Brownies because they just love it so much and there’s always at least one who tries something they thought they didn’t like.

Initially Joey was sceptical about standing on the chair and seemed more interested in putting a yellow football in and out of the shed and saying he was going on holiday, but as soon as I got him in front of the pastry and he realised there was jam to spread he was 100% invested.

Cooking with kids

We were making a recipe from Joey’s new personalised recipe book from Sammy Satsuma. The concept behind Sammy Satsuma is simple – cooking is fundamental in teaching children about food and nutrition and getting kids involved in cooking means they’re more likely to try new foods. Being part of the cooking process gives them a sense of pride and investment in their food, which makes it a totally different experience from just having a meal plonked down in front of them. View Post


Advertisement feature in association with Samsung SmartThings Energy

A few months ago I had an email from my energy providers to inform me that my monthly direct debit would be going up from £100 a month to £150 to allow for price increases. I felt a little aggrieved, because as much as I appreciate that costs are going up, I live in a two and a half bedroom semi, don’t have a dishwasher or tumble dryer, and I only have three radiators switched on, so really how much energy am I even using?

Still, there we were. I’m not the only one I know, people everywhere are feeling the impact, and I’m grateful that I am able to absorb it at least. It’s horrendously sad reading about the families spending their evenings in McDonalds sharing a Happy Meal because it’s cheaper to stay warm and use the WiFi there to watch TV than it is to be at home.

Even so, £150 a month feels like a huge amount to be paying and I am always keen to save money on my energy bills if I can. I’m forever turning off lights and telling Belle to turn the TV off – she has an annoying habit of just pausing it for hours at a time while she’s watching TikTok videos instead – but it’s hard to get a sense of what really makes a difference.

I have a smart meter at home and I have the little gadget on the windowsill, but to be honest I don’t really look at it and sometimes just switch it off because all it does it scare me, it doesn’t help.

Samsung energy app

Maybe if it could give me some tips or help me manage my appliances better, that would be useful?

What is Samsung SmartThings Energy?

SmartThings Energy is a completely free app from Samsung, available on iOS or Android, that connects to your smart meter, whoever your energy provider. It not only monitors your energy usage, but actually offers practical tips and solutions to help you save money. So basically like the smart meter gadget, only better. View Post


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Last week I tidied my bedroom. Tidying my bedroom makes me feel like I’m 15 years old because in my mind grown-ups are meant to have the sort of bedrooms that somehow stay tidy. Grown ups put their pants in the laundry basket before they get into bed and definitely don’t leave them on the floor.

*looks shifty*

What I concluded in the process of tidying my bedroom was that I simply have too much stuff in there. I have lovely built in wardrobes, so it’s not like I’m short of basic storage, but there was just so much clutter everywhere, piles of toiletries and books and a large old bedside table with a huge drawer full of cables for phones I no longer have and dead batteries and old plasters.

Rather than just tidying it then, I did a proper sort out. I gathered up all the coins and old hair bands, I threw out rubbish and I filled EIGHT bags to take to the charity shop. EIGHT! I don’t even know how I did that really, I don’t even have a big bedroom. I think it was mainly clearing out the shelves in the top of my wardrobes, which I’d probably not looked at since I had the wardrobes built. This made space for sensibly stored bags and shoes and suddenly the room itself was freed up to become the tranquil oasis of calm that I always want my bedroom to be.

Then it was time for the fun bit.

I’d been asked to team up with Very, who are honestly a bit of a mecca for furniture and homewares. I didn’t realise that as well as lots of own brand stuff they actually carry all kinds of other brands, so as well as choosing one of their lovely rattan bedside tables from the sideboards section I also picked a gorgeous solid oak bench from Cox & Cox and lots of lovely bits and bobs to accessorise with too.

I had a very jolly couple of hours carefully arranging plants and ornaments and I am extremely pleased with the result.

Very sideboards View Post