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Hands up if you like pizza!

Who am I kidding, we don’t need a show of hands, everyone loves pizza right? Of course they do. Which is why I know today’s competition is going to be a popular one.

Today I’m giving away an Optima Pizza Express Napoli – a miniature version of a professional pizza oven that you can use at home to create deliciously crisp pizza in a matter of minutes. The Optima pizza oven is normally £169, so this giveaway is a fantastic chance to bag yourself a very decent prize indeed.

Optima pizza oven

It looks the part doesn’t it?

Optima Pizza Express Napoli was designed by Gabriele Ferrari and manufactured entirely in Italy in the picturesque Italian Modena. Two heating elements (bottom and top) heat the interior of Optima Pizza Express Napoli up to 450°C in just 10-15 minutes – the temperature that professional, large pizza ovens achieve – and then pizza can be cooked in just 4-5 minutes. The base of the oven is made of refractory stone, which draws excess moisture from the dough, meaning no soggy bottoms. You can use the over with homemade or shop bought pizzas, so it’s super flexible.

All very jolly.

I had a go with my favourite pizza recipe, which uses ricotta and roasted garlic as a base instead of tomato sauce. I don’t know what Italians would think of this, whether it’s frowned upon to use a non-tomato base, but hey ho, I’m doing it anyway because that’s the kind of gal I am. Remember when I made that ham and cucumber pizza? I’m not afraid to push pizza boundaries.

My pizza is a good one to use up roast dinner leftovers too, so basically it’s environmentally friendly? Food waste and all that? I don’t know, maybe not, but it’s tasty. View Post

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A few weeks ago now I headed up to London one day on the train. When I got there I headed to a nearby apartment, had a glass of prosecco and took my clothes off in front of a man I had never met before.

I KNOW!!

It sounds so DRAMATIC doesn’t it?? How daring I am.

I say it like that for impact, but that is actually what happened, although it’s not the full story.

Boudoir photoshoot

The full story is that I took part in a body confidence photoshoot with Merv, the man behind the camera at You at Yours. Merv sells himself as a boudoir photographer because, he told me, it’s what people understand, but his shoots are about WAY more than standing in your pants against a cheesy background trying to look sexy.

A lot of the traditional boudoir photography shoots are about creating a glamorous, photoshopped version of you that isn’t real. Think 1960s Star Trek with Vaseline smeared on the camera lens every time we turn to look at Kirk’s love interest. What’s the point though of that though if every time you look back at the photos you’re just thinking ‘if only I could look like that all the time!’

With the photos from a You at Yours shoot you just see yourself. View Post

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Have you come across the term ‘manscaping’? It’s a mix of the words ‘man’ and ‘landscaping’ and tends to refer to things below the belt.

Ooer.

If you have a man in your life, (or you ARE a man), who likes to keep his bits and pieces nice and tidy then STEP RIGHT UP because today I have a fantastic giveaway for you – the chance to win the The Performance Package from Manscaped – everything you need to keep yourself well groomed. The Performance Package would make a fab Christmas present and it’s worth over £100, so read on and find out how to enter!

What’s in the Manscaped Performance Package?

The Manscaped Performance Package is an amazing bundle of manscaping goodies including:

  • The new Lawn Mower 4.0, the fourth generation groin and body trimmer featuring cutting-edge ceramic blades to reduce grooming accidents thanks to advanced SkinSafe™Technology.
  • The Weed Whacker, a nose and ear trimmer for the toughest weeds. Designed with proprietary SkinSafe™ technology, the Weed Whacker helps reduce nicks, snags, and tugs.
  • The Crop Preserver® ball deodorant – helps create an anti-chafing barrier and provides long-lasting freshness below-the-waist.
  • The Crop Reviver® ball toner – features soothing aloe and witch hazel extracts to keep the highly sensitive areas of the body cool, calm and protected.
  • The Performance Package also comes with a free premium travel bag – The Shed – and a free pair of anti-chafing boxers!

Manscaped discount code

I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a pretty nice prize. It would definitely make a better Christmas present than a Lynx giftset from Superdrug.

I’m sold! How do I enter?

Cutting to the chase, I like it.

To enter for the chance to win the Manscaped Performance Package, simply complete as many of the entry mechanisms below as you can. The more ways you enter, the better your chances of winning this fabulous prize. The competition will close at 11.59pm on 20th November 2021 and full T&Cs apply.

Enter now – your balls will thank you!

If you can’t wait to see if you win you can shop with Manscaped NOW and get 20% off – the discount will be applied automatically when you shop via this link.

Win a Manscaped Performance Package worth over £100

Manscaped discount code

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Advertisement feature in association with Carrot Kitchen

Today I want to introduce you to Carrot Kitchen, the world’s first mobile cooking buddy for kids, and show you how your kids can use Carrot Kitchen to improve confidence in the kitchen, learn new skills AND make chocolate bat brownies.

bat brownies Carrot Kitchen

One of my proudest moments as a parent was when Bee went off to university eight years ago (gah!) and was the only person in her flat of eight who knew how to cook or use a washing machine. I think that to get to be a full grown adult and not be able to wash your own clothes and at least chuck together a spaghetti bolognese is pretty shocking to be honest. What are all these parents doing packing off their kids without basic food skills? More importantly, (for us as parents), how have they been pulling their weight at home if they can’t even cook dinner?

I’ve always encouraged my daughters to cook and Belle, who is now 19 and my only child left at home, is a lovely cook and always has been, as evidenced by the easy tomato soup video she made when she was 13. It might be the most adorable thing you’ll ever watch. (Unless you’ve seen her singing Small Pleasures in her primary school production of Oliver Twist.) She does a fantastic lasagne and her baking is immense. Remember when she made these steamed bunny bao buns? They were SO good.

I know, I know, I’ve done well, thank you. 10/10 for parenting when it comes to cooking at least.

The point I’m trying to make is that empowering kids in the kitchen is important – it equips them with essential life skills, it means they can contribute to the cooking and take the pressure off you AND it’s fun. Cooking is a brilliant creative outlet, it helps your maths skills and coordination and it encourages healthy eating – it’s really got an awful lot to offer.

I do get though that sometimes it’s hard as a parent to find the time or the motivation to cook with kids, which is where Carrot Kitchen comes in.

Carrot kitchen – a cooking buddy for kids

Carrot Kitchen is aimed at kids from aged 6-13, but you could use Carrot Kitchen with younger children too if you were supervising. With a Carrot Kitchen subscription kids have access to loads of tasty and healthy recipes and skill videos, all designed by food education experts. There are step-by-step recipe videos, featuring real children, so kids can cook independently or with friends and family. View Post

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We moved house a lot as a child. Every time we moved, my sister and I would entertain fantasies of discovering some kind of hidden part of the new house – a shed or a cellar maybe, ideally accessed via a hidden doorway behind a bookcase – where we’d find all manner of long forgotten secret and important things. This hidden area would become our BASE, in which we would eat secret snacks, solve mysteries and generally be very cool.

It never quite happened like that of course. We came (not very) close with the space behind the drawers under my cabin bed, (I mention that here), and a little closer with the brick built ‘shed’ in one garden of a house we lived in in Bridgwater, but we had to carve a space out in that amongst stacks of boxes and old fire extinguishers, which rather shattered the illusion of it being undiscovered by anyone but us. It really wasn’t very Secret Seven.

All of these memories came flooding back to me today when I read A Robot Called B4, a children’s book produced by Worcester Bosch on World Earth Day 2021. A Robot Called B4 tells the story of friends Ava and Alfie, who discover of a robot called B4 in a hidden garden shed and travel back through time to the age of dinosaurs to realise how our past actions are destroying the green planet we once knew.

I can’t say I wasn’t more than a little jealous of Ava and Alfie.

A Robot Called B4 book

There was always a slim hope when my sister and I were on a secret shed hunt that we would accidentally come across some sort of time/space portal, that we would clamber in through a rotten wooden shed door and find ourselves in wartime Britain, Goodnight Sweetheart style. I never hid in a wardrobe as a child without a tiny part of me convinced that Narnia was waiting for me. View Post

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A few weeks ago I listened to Oliver Burkeman’s new book, Four Thousand Weeks. It’s about how much time we have to live on average, (the clue is in the title), and how to use it. Generally I have to say I found it more terrifying than liberating, but it was just before I started HRT so maybe I was peak hormonal midlife crisis.

One phrase stuck out for me at the time and has been swooshing around my brain ever since – it’s the idea of always trying to clear the decks.

Most of us I’m sure do this a lot. We literally clear our desks before we start work or we clean the kitchen before we sit down to relax in front of the TV. Sometimes it’s a procrastination tool, sometimes it’s a feeling that we have to do something we don’t want to do in order to earn the ‘reward’, whatever that may be.

Sometimes though it’s bigger. Sometimes clearing the decks can be a feeling of needing to wait until something has happened in order to do something else.

‘Once I’ve lost a stone I will feel better about myself and will start dating again.’

‘I just need to finish up this big project at work and then I can make time for family.’

‘The kids will be leaving home in a few years, that will be the time to pursue my own dreams.’

We’re scared of starting something, of taking a risk, of just enjoying ourselves, so we wait for the perfect moment. We wait until we’ve accomplished the things we feel we need to accomplish. We feel like if we can just clear the inbox, THEN we will start that creative project we honestly really do want to do. We just need to finish the house renovations and THEN we can start having friends and family to stay. We just need to clear the decks first, then we can properly start.

SPOILER: The decks will never be cleared.

Life doesn’t work like that. You can empty your inbox but the emails will keep coming. Lose that stone and what a surprise, you won’t instantly feel confident about dating. Nothing is really ever finished. There is never a right time.

I think the idea of never being able to clear the decks stuck with me because it aligns with my own personal motto.

(Yes, I have a personal motto. I am THAT person and I’m not even sorry about it. I don’t have it in swirly writing above my front door or anything, but I carry it in the back of my head, quietly, just as a guide.)

Ready, fire, aim.

I know, I’m awesome right? You’re welcome to share.

If I had spent my life waiting until I knew exactly where I was going before I started anything then I would never have taken any of the first steps that have led me into exciting adventures, new opportunities and, admittedly, disastrous relationships. I wouldn’t be here, writing this blog, that’s for sure. The career’s test at school told me I should be an insurance underwriter and the internet hadn’t even been invented.

When people ask me how I came up with my blog name I shrug and say ‘it was available and I’d had a glass of wine.’ I could have spent ages choosing a name and designing a logo and getting everything just so, but then I would never have begun. I would never have asked Antonio Banderas if he thought that if birds ruled the world, they would leave food out for humans.

We have four thousand weeks people.

We can’t afford to wait until we feel 100% ready because what if that time never comes? This isn’t a dress rehearsal, life isn’t just around the corner waiting to start just as soon as you’ve sent the kids of the university, retiled the kitchen and joined the gym. It’s happening right now. This is it, it’s started, and the clock is ticking.

You should probably stop reading this and get on with it.

Ready, fire, aim

The link to Oliver Burkeman’s book is an affiliate link so if it’s on your wishlist, buy it through me and I get a few pennies. Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash  

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Today I want to talk dating apps, specifically dating apps for single parents.

‘Ooh,’ I hear you ask, ‘which are the best dating apps for single parents?’

None of them is the answer, because there aren’t any. I mean sure, single parents can use whatever dating apps they like if they can stomach the Tinder Bingo, but there’s always the baggage angle isn’t there? Nothing’s going to get you in a romantic frame of mind quite like reading ‘no baggage, no drama’ on a man’s profile and knowing he means ‘no kids, no emotional needs of any kind thank you very much’.

There are a handful of great dating apps worth trying but you won’t find any worth your time that are specifically for single parents. The problem is that while there are a lot of singles parents out there it’s only a small portion of the total number of singles. That means that any single parent dating app would be REALLY small compared to the best out there.

You also don’t want to limit your dating options to other single parents, which is what a specific app would do. There are plenty of singles out there open to dating single parents, maybe even more than the number of single parents! You want to give yourself as many options as possible.

I find it surprising sometimes that of all the men I’ve had serious relationships with, the ones where we’ve lived together, none of them have been parents already.

(Okay, caveat here – I just remembered that Belle’s dad actually did have a daughter already, he just wasn’t in touch with her, which really should have been a huge red flag in itself, especially as he blamed number 7 on my red flag list. He also lied about his age when we met and said he was 26 when actually he was 27, which is quite frankly just WEIRD. I was only 21 when I met him though, so let’s cut me some slack.)

Being a single mum and being in relationships with people without children has always been difficult. I’ve never really felt like they got it, like they understood that my priorities were always going to be slightly different to theirs. I’ve never truly felt either like my partner has taken on my children as if they were his own. In one relationship for example, where we lived together in the same house, ostensibly as a family, my partner would only contribute a third of all household bills, claiming that I should have to contribute the kids’ share on my own.

(I pick them don’t I?)

In this particular relationship the fact that I was a parent, and that we were therefore at very different stages in our lives generally, was what eventually led to our separation. I remember one Friday evening, feeling exhausted after a busy week, bemoaning the fact that I would have to get up early in the morning and hoping secretly that he might offer to get up instead.

‘Well they’re your kids,’ he said, matter-of-factly.

I fell silent. View Post

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I have to be honest, everything about this post thrills me.

I am easily thrilled, that’s probably fair, but the process of writing this post has actually fulfilled a childhood dream of mine, similar to always wanting a Mr Frosty but never getting one.

No, I don’t finally own Mousetrap, and I’ve not been allowed to join the Secret Seven, so what could it be?

Here’s a clue in the form of a photo.

Safecan student security

Can you spot my family jewels in my kitchen cupboard?

No, I didn’t think so.

How about on this bookcase – can you spot where I’ve hidden all my very important family documents, like the deeds to the family mansion and the government bonds worth millions? View Post

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brunch club

It’s been a while since I went anywhere new for brunch.

What with the whole global pandemic thing, and then a new puppy who quite frankly I find scary enough taking to an empty field, the opportunity hasn’t really arisen for me to enjoy a casual sweetcorn fritter or two somewhere new and exciting. In fact when I went back and checked, the last time I wrote about going out for brunch was when I had homemade baked beans at The Weir in February 2020, which felt rather poignant and sad.

A couple of weeks ago though, when Mako the puppy was going through a short, well behaved phase where I trusted her not to bark loudly in my face for half an hour or so, Belle and I decided to brave it and take her out for her first ever brunch. Frogmary Green Farm‘s cafe and restaurant, Farm and Field, said it was dog friendly and it was far enough from home that if we did end up causing a scene we could just never go back and no one would be any the wiser.

As it was, Mako was very well behaved, and so you now ARE the wiser.

We went while they were having their one of their sunflower weekends so that we could pretend we were going for a wholesome outdoor activity and not JUST pancakes, and although that has now finished I noticed that they have a pumpkin patch coming up soon, which would definitely be worth a visit. They also have their own small florist on site, Frogmary Flowers, which was very sweet. (Mako DID knock over a pot outside the flower shop but we stood it up again quickly and I think we got away with it.)

Frogmary Green Farm View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Very

There are certain moments from books that I read as a child that were so powerful that I can still remember now how they made me feel, years and years later.

There was a moment in a Secret Seven book for instance, when they twig that they’ve misheard the baddies and realise that Emma Lane is in fact Ember Lane, and a red pillow is in fact a red pillar box. Suddenly they KNOW and the suspense of it is terrifying and thrilling all at once. I remember having to run downstairs immediately and hug my mum because it was all too much.

I had a similar experience with Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and the Vermicious Knids – evil, carnivorous beasts who roam the universe, destroying everything in their path. The moment where that bank of lifts opens one by one and there is a Knid in each, spelling out the word SCRAM… well, if you’ve read it I’m sure you’ll understand.

Roald Dahl in particular has a way of telling stories that makes you believe, even when you’re old enough to know better. That story in The Witches about the little girl in the painting still gives me shivers. His stories are incredible, but with just enough reality to make you think that maybe, just maybe… Honestly, you wouldn’t believe the amount of time I spent genuinely trying to uncover my hidden powers of telekinesis after reading Matilda.

Roald Dahl at Very View Post

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The Golden Girl donut

A little while ago I discovered the joy that is getting cookery books out of the library.

I’ve always gone to the library, obviously, I’ve not just suddenly discovered it as concept. I’ve facilitated my fair share of summer reading challenges with the girls, and been to story times, and done all the usual library things, but for some reason it had never occurred to be to get recipe books from the library. Silly really, as they are BOOKS, dur.

So anyway a few weeks ago I went along to the library, with my tote bag, and there were shelves and shelves of them! I sat on the floor and looked at all the pictures of all the things I’d probably never get around to making, but liked looking at nonetheless. I concentrated on baking because I find it more enjoyable cooking when I’m not hungry, just for the fun of making something. When you’ve been answering the ‘what’s for tea’ question every day at 4.30pm for over 20 years then the joy of cooking actual meals becomes a teeny bit diminished.

I ended up with a big stack of books for my tote bag and one of them was DONUTS by Vicky Graham.  View Post

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I’ve been struggling for a long time now to feel creative.

There are loads of excuses I could come up with, like a global pandemic, significant parenting and grandparenting responsibilities, stress, I don’t know, there’s plenty to pin it on, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I come to the conclusion that it’s something bigger than that.

I’ve been feeling this same kind of ‘God I wish I could just sit and stare at an unopened book and eat bourbons’ vibe probably, if I’m honest, since I wrote this post, which is before I’d even heard of the phrase ‘social distancing’, so it hardly seems fair to blame my lack of creative inspiration on Covid.

At the time I called it a midlife unravelling, because a friend had told me about this article and everything I read resonated with me so much, but since I wrote the post over two years ago a new word for it has been blipping more and more frequently on my radar – PERIMENOPAUSE.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I talk about the perimenopause quite a lot over there, which is fine – the lack of flow in the creative juice department lends itself well to a few sparsely worded Instagram stories, but I’ve written less about it here, probably because the sheer volume of words required makes it feel impossible.

While I do feel that the whole concept of perimenopause has gained more and more publicity over the last couple of years, I think there’s still a huge lack of understanding around what exactly the perimenopause is, and what it means for all the people who go through it.

If you think perimenopause, what do you think? Can you reel of some of the common effects or do you just think hot flushes? (Which actually are more common during menopause that perimenopause.) Do you know how long it can last? (Up to ten years God help us.)

I was listening to a podcast today that used an expression that really stuck with me – they called perimenopause an ‘all systems’ condition. Perimenopause isn’t just a gynaecological issue, it’s an EVERYTHING issue. It impacts every area of your life, from sleep to libido. It can cause joint pain, lethargy, anxiety, skin and hair changes, even tinnitus.

Perimenopause can effect your energy levels and your motivation. It gives you BRAIN FOG. It makes life sometimes feel overwhelming or infuriating or pointless.

Perimenopause gets EVERYWHERE, in every bit of you.

There are women who’ve given up jobs because perimenopause symptoms have made them feel like they’re no longer capable, like they might be going crazy, like they might have dementia, like they are drowning.

Is it really any wonder that when I wake up multiple times every single night, lie awake for sometimes hours at a time, unable to find a place to lie that isn’t too hot or too painful for my hips, that I might feel a tad lack lustre? Can I really be blamed for not wanting to sit down and bash out creative stories everyday when sometimes even opening my laptop makes me furious and exhausted all at once?

No.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this post to be honest, I think I just wanted to start talking here more about what’s going on for me right now and to give some insight for people who might be feeling that same lack of motivation and direction, some reassurance that if this is you, you’re not alone, you’re not crazy.

Over HALF the world’s population experience the perimenopause, so it’s time we started talking about it. If any of this resonates with you I’d love to hear from you – you can leave a comment on this post.

 

perimenopause symptoms

PS. My Menopause Doctor is a great source of information on the menopause and perimenopause and a great place to start if you want to find out more.

 

 

 

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