I was sent a blind from Make My Blinds for the purposes of this review and to spare my neighbours

It’s been about three months now since I had to take my bedroom curtains down because they smelt of bolognese.

I’m not quite sure what happened – smells from the kitchen I presume – but every time I went in my bedroom I was noticing this horrible old food smell. I changed the sheets, I made sure there were no ‘gifts’ from the cats decomposing under the bed, but I couldn’t shift it. I sniffed about, and traced it back to the curtains. I took them down, washed them, but it was still there.

Fortuantely I hated the curtains anyway – they were a ‘temporary’ measure when we moved in two years ago – so I took it as a sign from the universe that it was okay to sell them at a car boot sale to a nice lady who was going to cut them up for something.

I’ve not minded too much being without curtains, because I love having the window open and feeling the breeze on my face and waking up to the sunshine and the sound of the birds. It has been lovely and bright without curtains and I’ve liked not having vast widths of fabric breaking up the clean lines.

Over the last month though, as the sun has been coming up earlier, it has been catching me on the face at about 5am, it a kind of intrusive, burny way, which isn’t so idyllic.

I also have a bright street light outside my bedroom, which has been a bit annoying, plus my bedroom window is pretty much the full width of my room and is at the front of the house, so probably not ideal for the neighbours.

This is what it looked like without the curtains:

Review faux wood blinds Make My Blinds

I may have been confused as to what was meant to be the focus of this picture.

I’ve been umming and ahhing then about what to do next. View Post

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I was gifted these treatments in exchange for this review

‘I keep being drawn back to your womb,’ said Lisa, her fingers exploring the soles of my feet, ‘does that mean anything to you?’

It didn’t. But that was a good sentence wasn’t it?

‘There’s also a spot in your lower back, left hand side,’ she said, ‘that feels like it might be painful.’

I started a bit at that, as I actually had my left fist discreetly placed under a spot on my lower back that, ever since my car got hit by an ambulance about 20 years ago, has hurt if I lie on my back for more than about five minutes.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, I was having my first ever go at reflexology, not a session with an overly sympathetic foot fetishist. What neither of us knew was that as she held my feet in her hands, connecting strongly with my womb, Bee was at the maternity hospital having an injection to start inducing labour. Coincidence maybe, but then I do feel sick if Belle has a migraine, so who knows.

The reflexology was part of a selection of treatments that I was gifted by Beaux Health and Wellbeing and Tia Brown Natural Aesthtics. Beaux is a centre on The Crescent in Taunton, owned by a lovely woman called Lauren, and Tia offers advanced skincare treatments at Beaux as one of several locations across Bristol and Somerset.

When I was in my 20s and early 30s I was never really a spa kind of girl. Being poor probably had something to do with it, but I just never found the idea of being massaged or anything like that relaxing. I did get gifted a massage as a birthday present once and I didn’t like it at all – I was so tense, lying there wondering which bit of me she was going to touch next. I don’t think I quite got it. I was always rubbish at small talk too. It’s only recently that I’ve started half enjoying going to the hairdresser.

As I’ve got older though, and perhaps a little less self-conscious and better at chatting, I’ve started to ease myself into the idea of beauty and spa treatments. It turns out that lying down in a darkened room full of lovely smelling oils while someone undoes all the knots in your back can actually be pretty nice.

So, it was with excitement rather than 26 year old me’s anxious reluctance that I rocked up to Beaux.

Beaux Taunton View Post

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Spoiler alert – I WILL give away the ending 

Toy Story has always had an uncanny way of mirroring my own life.

The first Toy Story film came out in 1995, the year Bee was born – an introduction to the world of parenting and children and toys when, let’s be honest, I was basically still a child myself. 1999 saw the release of Toy Story 2 when Bee was four years old and the prime age for imaginative play.

Then we had a break, and in 2010 Toy Story 3 swept in, just as Bee was gearing up to leave school and start college, with a film all about kids growing up and leaving home. Andy was a teenager now, moving on. He didn’t need Woody and the other toys anymore. They were being left behind, their job done, but what next for them? Who were they without Andy?

God. I saw that film THREE TIMES in the cinema and I cried every damn time.

And then Toy Story 4.

I didn’t know what to expect, and initially I was kind of disappointed.

‘I don’t buy it,’ I said dismissively to Belle as we left the cinema. ‘No way would Woody have left Bonnie and his friends, that’s just not his style.’

Nonplussed would have been a good word to describe me. I just didn’t get it. It seemed so out of character for Woody when his whole life until now had been about taking care of others. He lives for being someone’s toy. That’s his JAM.

It was only about an hour later, while I was doing the washing up and thinking about it some more, that it struck me – that was the POINT wasn’t it? Woody HAS spent his whole life looking after other people, leading people, taking care of them, and it wasn’t enough any more.

Woody has had his very own midlife unravelling.

Toy Story 4 midlife crisis

(Catch up with my own midlife unravelling here if you’ve not read it already.) View Post

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Okay, so I’m not going to go as far as a rebrand or anything, but if you follow me on social media AT ALL then you cannot have failed to notice that one week ago today Bee gave birth to a baby boy! Does it seem ages since I teased you with the scan photo? It feels like a REALLY long time to me.

It turned out to be even more exciting than I was expecting it to be, as Bee hadn’t realised she’d be allowed two people in the delivery room, and so when she found out, she asked me to be there.

Casually, like ‘if you fancy it.’

I definitely DID fancy it.

I’ve actually always wanted to see a baby be born. It’s weird, because although I’ve done it twice obviously, you don’t get to really SEE it. You’re so involved in the searing pain, ripping of flesh etc, that you can’t exactly concentrate on watching and marvelling at the miracle of birth.

Bee was absolutely amazing, as I knew she would be. Although I know she worries a lot about things, she has this incredible way of handling stress or pain, where she just seems to focus inside herself and go all quiet and calm and powerful looking. She did it when she had her skull drilled into, and she did it again last weekend.

Bee’s partner was an absolute star too – they make an adorable couple and he couldn’t be a better daddy.

Anyway, here he is, on the day he was born:

 

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About a week ago Belle and I went for our second visit to Symonds at Redwood, a lovely restaurant on the outskirts of Bristol – Clifton side – with a focus on seasonal, locally sourced food. Symonds is a slightly unusual offering in that it’s situated within a luxury retirement complex, but don’t let this put you off – it’s open to everyone and the service, ambience and decor is top notch. You’d expect nothing less from a luxury retirement after all.

The first time we went, about a year ago now, Belle was in a grump. I can’t remember why exactly, but I know it wasn’t a great time for her generally. She had GCSE exams looming, and wasn’t what you’d really call going to school, as she was finding it all a bit much. Being made to go out for dinner with me seemed to tip her over the edge, despite having her every whim catered for, including an off-menu side of dauphinoise potatoes.

This time around though she was in much better spirits and I was feeling more optimistic about conversation levels.

Redwood near Clifton

As I had been expecting, we were greeted by friendly and attentive staff, and settled down for a look at the menu. The food changes every three months, inspired by what’s in season and available locally, and if you go now you can choose from delicious sounding things like ‘Skate wing, celeriac puree, girolle mushrooms, braised fennel and beurre noisette’ and ‘Asparagus, petit pois and basil oil risotto, pecorino crisp and wild rocket’.

(You know a menu is fancy when every ingredient is listed don’t you?) View Post

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easy homemade lamb burger recipe

Okay, I know, June this year hasn’t exactly begun with a barbecue vibe, but it’s only going to be a matter of time surely before the rain clears up and we all start rushing out to buy charcoal and burger buns at 4pm every Sunday?

I’m confident.

*looks doubtful*

To make sure you’re ready for the sunshine, I’ve been practising my barbecue skills by making some homemade lamb burgers. This is the latest in my series of lamb recipes to support the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it‘ campaign, and if you haven’t already, do pop back and check out some of my other lamb posts, like a Green Eggs and Lamb breakfast recipe, (genius, if I do say so myself), and a Game of Thrones inspired rack of lamb, which I feel has to be seen to be truly appreciated.

The aim of the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it’ campaign is to highlight the health benefits of lamb – lamb is rich in niacin and vitamin B12 and a fantastic source of protein, zinc, potassium and phosphorus – as well as show that cooking with lamb doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult.

In this vein, I’ve made what are quite possibly the easiest lamb burgers you will ever make. I came across a lot of recipes while I doing my lamb burger research that had long lists of ingredients – breadcrumbs, egg, vinegar even – but I just don’t think you need them. Lamb has a lovely flavour already, and lamb mince holds together really well, so all I’ve done is add a couple of ingredients to enhance the natural lamb flavour at the same time as keeping things super simple.

Also, who wants to be slaving away in the kitchen making breadcrumbs on a sunny day?? Not me. You want to be sat outside drinking beer and pretending that life is sunny and full of possibilities don’t you?

Quite right.

So, get the barbecue lit, crack open the beers and let’s go. View Post

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I was on the brink of joining an amateur dramatics group and auditioning for a role in the Christmas production of Aladdin when I finally concluded that I am in the midst of some kind of midlife crisis.

I’d volunteered as a Brownie leader a month or so before, which I’d let slide because I actually like making peppermint creams and hanging out with children who still find joy in life, but pantomime? No.

The trouble I’ve had is that at no specific point do I feel like I am actually IN crisis. No switches have been flipped, I’ve not lost it in Waitrose and swept a shelf of artisan artichokes onto the floor or anything, and yet… for quite a while now something has been OFF.

When I tried to explain it to a friend at the weekend it sounded kind of lame.

‘I just feel kind of BLAH,’ I said, ‘like the stuff that used to feel meaningful just doesn’t. Every day is FINE – I get on with things and I enjoy stuff on one level, but I have no idea what I want to do or where I want to go. I kind of thought by now that I would KNOW, that something would have clicked in. But what if it doesn’t? I used to feel like I had time to decide things and make stuff happen, but what if this is it? I feel like I’ve trapped myself.’

I sighed a bit.

‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘I just don’t know. I swing from the urge, albeit brief usually, to make a grand life plan and act upon it, to just wanting to run away in a mobile library.’

It sounded kind of whingy to be honest.

Midlife unravelling

Mood courtesy of Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Luckily it turns out that I’m not alone in feeling like this. My friend confided that she’s felt the same for a while now, like she just wants to jack everything in and move to France and write novels and not think about anything. What I found really interesting is that although we are similar ages, we are at very different life stages with our families, and so it can’t be just about children growing up.

‘Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis,’ I said.

‘It sounds,’ she said, ‘like more of a midlife unravelling.’ View Post

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Advertisement is association with Thicker Fuller Hair™

I’ve always had fine hair.

As a teenager I would read hair tips in Just Seventeen magazine and spend ages lying on my bed with my head hung backwards over the age, trying to encourage blood to flow to my scalp. At the same time I’d be reading the problem pages and looking at the ‘Position of the Fortnight’ in More and wondering what it would be like to actually have sex with another person. Like how would you even go about it? You’d have to actually talk properly to a boy for a start. I couldn’t get my head around it, hung upside down or otherwise.

(Funnily enough, not long after I drafted this post I found myself talking to some women about More and Position of the Fortnight. How is that feature the only thing people ever remember from the whole magazine?)

Over 25 years later and I do less of the head dangling, although I do still wonder sometimes about how to talk to (now grown up) boys, and my hair is still just as fine. In fact, if anything I probably have even less of it now, what with the impending *whispers* menopause. Hopefully I have few years yet, but I’ve definitely noticed my hair getting dryer, so it’s probably only a matter of time before it starts thinning too.

(Yay! Life is so kind.)

Fortunately there may be something that can ease the thinning hair crisis at least, if not help with the men thing – a new naturally-derived haircare range called Thicker Fuller Hair™. Clue’s in the name with this one isn’t it? While I can’t afford a personal stylist waving products and a professional hair dryer at me every morning, this is the next best thing.

How to get thicker hair

If you have thin hair, or are worried about hair loss, you’re not alone. View Post

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I’m going to tell you an embarrassing secret – when I was younger, I used to count my friends.

When I say younger, I don’t mean like eight or anything, I mean into my early twenties. And when I say count I mean actually count, on my fingers.

I wasn’t what you’d really call a popular child. I was precocious and bossy and a bit of a know it all if I’m honest. Adults liked me, my peers, not so much. Even into my teens, if I knew the answer to something in class, I wanted the teacher and my classmates to know it.

As a result, I didn’t have a lot of friends. Basically two – one at school, one out of school.

Things did start to pick up when I was 15 and my mum inexplicably let me have an outrageous house party, (possibly pity?), and then I turned 16 and somehow, out of the blue, got a boyfriend. (He didn’t go to my school, which definitely worked in my favour. I met him quite literally sat on the street.) Then a few months later I was at college, and pregnant, and probably had a certain mid-90s teen pregnancy glamour about me, sat in the common room, my charity shop Bob Marley t-shirt stretched across my bump. View Post

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87% of British households have a garden, but how many children get to experience a garden as more than just somewhere to play on a trampoline or in a paddling pool?

Here are some scary facts, based on research conducted amongst 300 4-8 year olds*:

  • Over half of British children between 4 and 8 are unable to name 5 vegetables or fruits that could be grown in a garden
  • 95% were unable to name 3 herbs
  • Only 8% able to identify a trowel
  • 79% believed worms are bad for plants 
  • Only 8% had ever picked an apple
  • Only 6% had ever eaten a fresh pea from the pod

This is crazy isn’t it??

When I was little, getting a little patch of soil in the garden to grow my own flowers and vegetables was an absolute joy, and one that as many children as possible should be able to experience, whether or not they have a garden of their own.

It’s why, this month, Get Out and Grow will award school gardening starter kits to 20 schools nationwide, giving young children the chance to have a go at gardening. The kits, which are sponsored by British skincare brand Sudocrem, will include children’s wheelbarrows, gardening gloves, mini-trowels, seeds and lessons on how to make the most of a school garden.

school gardening kit View Post

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Advertisement in association with Smart Home Week

Can you believe it’s a whole year since I bombarded you on social media with a load of gadgets as part of Smart Home Week? It feels like only yesterday that I was showing you how I could switch the heating off from the middle of town, or make a thunderstorm with my lightbulbs.

It was a really interesting week to take part in actually as I’m not a natural when it comes to technology and I was curious to see how easy the various gadgets would be to set up and use and whether or not they would really add value to my life. As part of the week I had a go with a Ring video doorbell, a tadosmart heating system, Philips Hue lightbulbs, a Yale Conexis L1 smart door lock, a Yale Smart Home Alarm, the Samsung SmartThings system and Google Home.

I know right? My house was officially smarter than I was.

Smart Home Week

It looks so innocent doesn’t it?

What I discovered though, which is kind of the whole point of Smart Home Week, is that smart home technology doesn’t have to be scary or difficult to use. In fact, most of the technologies I tested were incredibly simple – pretty much you switch them on and they install themselves. Some things, like the smart lock and the heating system, needed a bit of actual, physical installation, but once you’ve done that, you’re good to go.

(I actually really enjoyed installing the tadosmart heating system myself. It involved doing a bit of wiring to take out the old thermostat and put in the new one, but the instructions were VERY clear and I felt a huge sense of achievement at the end.)

I wrote a pretty comprehensive introduction to each of the technologies at the time, so that’s probably a good place to start for an overview, but of course one year is a long time in the world of smart homes, so it’s worth having a quick look at what’s changed. Then I’m going to focus on a few of my favourite products, to tell you a bit more about how we’ve used them over the last year. Also, a quick side, I didn’t get to try a smart alarm clock but they’re worth a look too – check out the best ones here. If you’re thinking about indoor cameras, check out this Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera review. View Post

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Irish stew easy recipe

Is there a word that means the opposite of heritage? Opposite in that it’s about looking forward rather than backwards? Forwardtage maybe? No, that’s terrible.

What I’m looking for is a word to describe the fact that my sister has been living with her Irish husband and my neice and nephew in Ireland for a few years now, and the longer they stay and the more often I visit, the more I feel a connection to Ireland as a place that part of my close family is growing up in. I may have no Irish heritage, but I feel a growing sense of Irish forwardtage.

When the latest theme for my lamb recipe project came through then, and it was all about cultural influences on food, an Irish stew seemed like an obvious choice. I’ve never cooked an Irish stew before, but the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it’ campaign is all about inspiring you to try new lamb recipes, so this felt perfect. View Post

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