Yesterday was Belle’s last day of secondary school.

It’s weird, because although we’ve been counting down to this moment for literally years (‘I know you hate it, but only two and a half years left!’ ‘Just 27 more weeks Belle, you can do it!), it has also flown by.

Belle was only seven when I started writing this blog. At that age she was easily impressed with life. I remember writing this post in my first six months of blogging about her getting excited by the fact that bread sometimes comes pre-sliced.

Looking back through old posts I also found this picture of her first day of secondary school, nearly five years ago:

First day of school

(The post wasn’t about school itself, more me complaining about getting back to work after the summer, but this is MY blog remember. Belle needs to write her own if she wants it all to be about her.)

And now here she is, nearly 16 years old, with almost half of her GCSE exams done and dusted.

I can’t believe how much she has changed. And how much better my photos are. (We took this one when we did our own mini photoshoot in Bristol, which you can see here if you want to check out how tall she has got.)

Also, I wonder if I will ever get this jumper back? Probably not.  View Post

In association with Bella Italia. All views my own.

Although we have about 47 different Italian restaurants in Taunton, we don’t have a Bella Italia. We have been to Bella Italia in Bristol in few times, but about four or five years ago I had a slightly odd experience with some goats cheese bruschetta and I’m not sure we’ve been since.

My general impression, a few years ago, was that the food was FINE. Nothing more though.

What I’m saying is that if you’re seeing ‘Bella Italia’ and wrinkling your nose up a bit because you’re not 100% sold then I hear you. I felt exactly the same until this week.

BUT….

(And this is a big but)….

WE ARE BOTH WRONG.

I took Bee and Belle along to Bella Italia in Baldwin Street in Bristol this week to try out the new menu, which launched this month, and I honestly could not have been more impressed. Bella Italia has clearly come a long way since the goats cheese incident, and we stuffed ourselves silly (in the name of research) trying out a whole host of fantastic dishes.

Bella Italia totally exceeded my expectations and all three of us said we would definitely go back again. Every single thing we tried was delicious, plus I learnt a lot of things that I didn’t know about the restaurant and their ingredients.

Next time you’re going out for a meal, do think of Bella Italia.

Here are SEVEN reasons why:

They serve lovely cocktails

I know, this one isn’t about food, but cocktails? Come on. You know you want one.

I tried a ‘Sicilian Southside’, which is prosecco, limoncello and mint. It’s not a combination I’ve tried before but I will definitely try it again. There’s also a mocktail section on the menu – Bee had a passionfruit cooler.

Bella Italia cocktails View Post

In association with Smart Home Week

Smart Home Week

According to research for Smart Home Week, (which is this week), nearly a third of homes now have at least one smart technology.

Are you one of them?

To be honest I was surprised it wasn’t higher, as I’ve been feeling a little bit left behind lately, like everyone had a Google Assistant or a smart lightbulb apart from me. I would make lists in silence on scraps of paper with a pencil I found on top of the fridge and feel like a right chump.

Not any more though. Now I have so much smart home technology that I suspect my various devices could potentially team up and beat me in a game of Trivial Pursuit.

The research also highlighted however that 47% of us find smart technology overwhelming and honestly, I feel your pain. When these smart home products started arriving for me to test, I was SCARED. I would open the boxes and stare at the cables and feel a genuine sense of utter bemusement. I wrote a little bit about it here.

What I quickly discovered though is that the whole thing is really not as scary at it first seems. In fact, the beauty of smart technology is just that – it’s SMART. Often it’s just a case of switching something on and letting it set up ITSELF, but in every case instructions were simple, clear and intuitive.

To help you feel more comfortable with things and to encourage you to think about adding some smart technology to your home, I’m going to give you a quick run down of the seven new products that we’ve added to our home this month. Each is just an overview as they can all do loads of fancy stuff, but if you have any specific questions about set up or how they work then please leave a comment and I will do my best to help.

Okay, here goes…

Ring video doorbell

I’m going to start with this one as this is something that Belle has wanted for a LONG time. I’m not sure what it is about it, I think it reminds her of the good old days when she used to watch MI HIGH and spend her pocket money on spy glasses to help you see behind yourself.

I feel like all of the smart home technologies have this element of ‘I’m a spy’ about them, (because I am old), but the Ring video doorbell is probably the product for me that most solves an actual problem. Where everything else is really fun or useful or saves me time or money, the Ring doorbell means I no longer have to worry about missing parcels while I’m at work. I can literally answer the door from my desk, via my phone. We also have ours connected to a Ring Chime Pro, which can tell you when someone has rung your bell as well as when motion has been detected.

The postman was a bit confused the first time I spoke to him seemingly from nowhere, but I think he liked it. ‘Just leave the parcel behind the bin at the side of the house please!’

‘Okay,’ he said, ‘but don’t forget!’

He knows me so well. View Post

Today I had an intriguing email. It was titled ‘looking for a single mummy.’ It was from a man, I can only presume, who introduced himself as Henry.

Hey, am Henry from Africa, Nigeria to be presided. Am 25 of age and am really looking for care and support from any single mummy around for a son to take care of. I saw your email online so I decided that I let you know that someone is interested in your caring. Thank you for audience, I hope for a positive reply. Thank You.

Well. I had only been thinking to myself just this morning how I didn’t feel like I quite had enough to think about, so this seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.

Hi Henry,

Thanks so much for thinking of me for this role! Just to clarify – exactly what tasks would I be expected to perform? I’m assuming cooking and washing up as a given, but I should warn you that I’m not very good at ironing. Should I start practising or could you do without that?

Would I need to move to Nigeria or would you live here?

I eagerly await your reply.

Jo

P.S. When you say you preside in Nigeria, does that mean you are president?

I didn’t need to be eager for long, Henry was quick to respond. View Post

In association with Smart Home Week

Smart Home Week

Today is the first day of Smart Home Week.

It’s going to be a fun week for me as I’m teaming up with Smart Home Week to showcase some of the latest smart tech for your home. Over the last few weeks I’ve been installing various gadgets, chatting to my postman via video doorbell and even rewiring a thermostat (a bit scary but made me feel super powerful) so that I can explain how various things work, how simple (or not) they are to use, and how they can benefit your home.

I bought my first ever house last year, so the project was well timed for me. It has made me feel very grown up, like I am taking charge and creating a home that works for us as a family.

That’s not to say I didn’t have doubts at first. I am the woman who gets confused by TV remote controls remember?

This time last month my idea of running a ‘smart home’ would have been remembering to lock the front door before going to bed, so it’s fair to say I was slightly nervous at the prospect of filling my home with smart tech. Technology isn’t something that comes naturally to me, and I pictured myself sat on the floor next to my router, fist fulls of leads, lights blinking, sobbing quietly.

You’ll be pleased to hear it wasn’t quite like that, although I DID end up with a lot of leads and things plugged into my router.

Top tip: invest in one of those boxes where you can tidy away all your cables.

Most of the technology was actually incredibly easy to set up – much of it had a step by step process through its app, telling you exactly what to do ant every stage. The great thing about it being SMART technology is that it pretty much knows how to set ITSELF up. You just plug it in and off it goes. View Post

In association with Bosch

So, the Bosch Unlimited cordless vacuum cleaner.

Now here’s the deal. I do already have a different cordless vacuum, and I love it. It’s so handy to be able to just grab it from the cupboard when I need to do I quick job on the cat litter that Camille kicks all over the kitchen floor, and I know the cleaner likes being able to wheel it around the house with her without constantly plugging and unplugging.

HOWEVER.

The battery life is not great. I have to remember to add a fully charged battery before the cleaner comes on Monday, and she always uses it up before she finishes the house. The individual batteries take ages to charge, so I always feel like I’m playing a game of vacuum cleaner battery roulette.

(I don’t get out much, so I have to get my thrills where I can.)

The Bosch Unlimited vacuum is different.

Bosch Unlimited review

The new cordless Bosch Unlimited vacuum comes with interchangeable batteries. Nothing new you might think, and you’d be right. The cool thing about the Bosch Unlimited though is that the batteries charge more quickly that you can use them, effectively giving you an infinite run time. 

Oooooh! View Post