Sunday, 5 April 2020

What will the Legacies of Coronavirus be? I'm hopeful...

Cherry blossom buds close up
Spring - a time of new life

We are of course going through a major crisis right now. Wherever you live in the world, the new Covid-19 coronavirus will be having an impact on you. We are forever hearing people tell us this situation is unprecedented and of course that is because it is. The last time there was anything that impacted the world in these kinds of ways, it was the second world war.

I don't think any of us would have wanted this situation to happen, but now it has, I am wondering about what the legacies will be that come from this time when most of the world locked down and stopped their citizens freely roaming the streets.

History has shown us that things change after times of crisis, we can thank Boots (the Chemist) during the great depression for the introduction of the two-day weekend, and of course, women working in factories and taking over roles traditionally held by men during WWII, continued long after the war had ended.

Each day I avidly watch the news to see what the current status is, how many more lives have been lost to this awful virus and what other hardships are emerging as we isolate more and more. Despite the economic difficulties and the loss of lives, I can't help looking to the flip side and hoping there will be positives for the future. I pray that in the long-term we will be seeing a lot of good coming from this time too.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Reasons to be Cheerful during Lockdown

I feel a little guilty writing this post, as my experience of lockdown and having self-isolated is quite different to most peoples. As most of you know we live in the grounds of the conference centre where my husband works, and whilst normally we yearn for a little private space, during this lockdown we are super grateful for a closed front gate and 220 acres to roam free in.

Thankfully the time we self-isolated went quickly and no-one developed any symptoms but of course, we have no idea if this is because we've already had the virus, which seems to be the thinking at the moment, that around half of the UK population might already have had it and not even realised. It will be pretty cool if this is the case.

Here's a few fo the things we've been really enjoying over the last couple of weeks -

The board game Azul. As soon as I knew we'd be isolating as a family, I ordered this and I was so glad I did. It can be played with 2 upwards players and it is good fun and takes only about 30 minutes to play.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Visiting Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, East Sussex

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

A great free place to visit

A couple of weeks ago when life was more normal, my husband and I headed out for a walk around the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and had a quiet lunch together. Of course, right now, we couldn't do that as the pubs are closed and we're all staying home to heed off the coronavirus but I think it is important that we can enjoy the wider outdoors from the comfort of our homes right now.

Also, it's enjoyable to plan where we can go once the lockdown is over and things are safer again. Looking back on photos of all the amazing places I have visited is definitely helping me not to feel so cooped up since we started to self-isolate nearly two weeks ago. 

We were really impressed with the nature reserve, it's free, it is massive (465 hectares to be precise) and there is loads of free parking at the entrance to it, as long as your vehicle is under 2 metres. You are encouraged to make a donation in the car park, to help with its upkeep and ensure it stays free for all to use, but you can't moan at that!

There are easily accessible public toilets too, and nearby are a couple of pubs, a cafe, bed and breakfast, shop and the lifeboat station, all just a few minutes walk from the parking. 

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Updating our Lounge - Dreaming of a Brighter Future!

Photo by Guillermo Nolasco on Unsplash

We moved into our house nearly seven years ago now and it's a truly beautiful home. Built-in the 1700's, it was originally a stable block for a large manor house and now I refer to it as the tardis, as on the outside it looks tiny, but when you come in, you realise it is very spacious. We really are very lucky to live here as part of my husband's job.

As the house isn't actually ours, we haven't done too much with it, it had all been cleaned up before we moved in, so we have magnolia walls and beige carpets, but they really are a bit boring and the furniture and soft furnishings we bought with us from our old home are not the most stylish. I've therefore decided it is time for an upgrade and I'm dreaming/ planning how we want it to look.

How is our lounge used?

I've never been one for following trends, I'm all about making the space work for our family and the way we use it. For us, the lounge is a sanctuary, it's where we come together to snuggle up and watch a film, it's where the cat gets played with, where we craft and make cards and often where my husband and I both work. In short, it is probably the most used room in the house and we spend well over 50% of our time in it.

Somewhere amazing to relax

I had a chat with all the family and asked them what they wanted from our lounge and the top answer was an amazing sofa. When we holidayed in an airbnb last year we had two of those sofas where you can raise up the footrest and relax back and everyone loved those, but I do worry about the durability of them, with kids keep flipping them up and down! With that in mind, I think we'll go for a massive corner sofa with deep seats and beautiful, soft cushions. As well as a couple of footstalls, so even when all five of us are together watching something we can still all have our feet up if we fancy.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Cafe Tibbles at Beal’s Barn, Wadhurst - Review

Now the children are older and all at secondary school, it makes it a lot easier if my husband and I fancy a lunch date. He’s been working some weekend evenings recently and this means he gets a day off in the week. We’ve been making the most of these times recently with some trips out to try new places for lunch. It’s all too easy when you’ve been together for a quarter of a century to take each other for granted and not to spend time alone any longer.

The other week we took a trip over to Wadhurst to try out Cafe Tibbles at Beal’s Barn. My husband had been seeing their homemade cakes on Instagram and they’d tempted him in. I was certainly glad they did, as we had a lovely lunch together, but be warned it is definitely at the more expensive end of the cafe market.

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Talking to your Daughter Once she Starts her Periods - The Practicalities

Teen girls in a field together
Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

As parents, we're fully aware that we need to prepare our daughters for when they start menstruating. The NHS states that the average age in the UK is 12 years old, but it can be as young as 8, so it is important to have conversations early on with your child to ensure they feel ready for when the big day comes along.

Chatting to your child about puberty, menstruation, sex and other sensitive topics doesn't have to be difficult. if you can approach it in a matter-of-fact fashion and show that you won't be shocked, your child will probably be more open to talking to you. Have a look at my post from a couple of years ago with some tips for having an effective talk with your child.

What I've found is that it is all good-and-well having good, open conversations so your daughter feels prepared but actually when the time comes and they start their period, it is important to have another conversation. To actually talk them through some of the practicalities of having their periods, discussing items such as -

1.  Help her track it
We know that a young woman's period will last for between 3-7 days and will appear around every 28-30 days, but it is super easy to forget when you are due on and be caught out. So get your daughter a calendar, diary or online app like Period Tracker or Clue (here's a recent article on Good Housekeeping suggesting the best tracking apps) so she feels in control and gets to know her own menstrual cycle. 

Friday, 13 March 2020

Tips for making Dating work, when you're a Single Parent

caring couple and small child
Photo by Lauren Samuels on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

Once you have children life changes, of course for the better but it can also make some things a little more tricky. Things like dating for instance. You haven't stopped being an adult who needs company, companionship, romance or sex just because you have one or more children. So it's important to find a way to make dating work for you if you are keen to seek a new partner or even just some friendship,

Here, my friend Katie shares with you her tips as a single mum who has successfully got back out there after the break-up of her long-term relationship and found a new man that she thinks she'll have a future with.

1.  Be honest about the fact you're a parent

If your new partner has a problem with kids then you need to know this upfront, as your children are always going to come first and if one of them is ill and you need to cancel, you should be sure that he/she will understand. Being honest and having open conversations is definitely the best basis for any new relationship.

2.  Don't overshare on the first couple of dates

Take things slowly with regard to revealing all about your family situation and children. Get to know your date a bit before you go into why your relationship with the kid's other parent didn't work out, or the ins and outs of your kids' lives.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Spring Cleaning Doesn't need to be Overwhelming

Grey colour scheme lounge
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

The stormy weather may be denying that Spring is here but the clocks going forward in a couple of weeks confirm it. The blossom is starting to bloom and I'm not needing to defrost my car in the mornings, so those are both serious reasons to be thankful for Spring. Luckily I'm one of those people who enjoy a good cleaning session, but I know I am in the minority so I thought I'd share with you my tips for spring cleaning, without the overwhelm.

1.  Make a Plan

How deep do you want to clean? It is totally up to you, it's your home after all. Of course, if you want to wash every wall, and clean all the curtains, it is going to take you longer, but that's OK just plan for it. Try to be realistic and depending how much cleaning you want to do and what time you have, make a list of all the tasks that need doing and plan what you will be able to do in a week. My Spring cleaning takes about 4 weeks, as I do like to do the whole house and really give it a good going over.

2.  Tackle the clutter

Before you even get on with the cleaning, it is important to de-clutter and tidy up. Just imagine how much longer it will take you to clean if you are working around the mess. A few years ago I employed the Mari Kondo method for clearing out and I found it worked a treat. I'm probably at the point of needing to clear out again, but being very strict and assessing if items bought me joy was a great way of clearing out and being ruthless.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

International Women's Day: Amazing Sight-Saving Women

International Women's Day is a commemorative day that hadn't even landed on my radar until I started to work with charities and NGO's like Save the Children, One and Samaritan's Purse back in 2011/12. I've never been much of a feminist; my narrative growing up was that women could be who they wanted to be and do what they wanted to do. I was lucky to have parents who believed in me and pushed me to break any glass ceilings that got in my way.

It was having my own children and especially my twin girls that really lit my passion for fighting for the rights of parents (particularly mothers) everywhere. My time as a #ONEMum has shaped my life immensely, and events like International Day of the Girl (11 October each year) and International Women's Day (8 March) are now pivotal in my calendar and I hate to let them pass without marking them in some way, and especially without speaking out on behalf of those who find it hard to share their voice.

See the Way

This IWD I want to share with you the ‘See the Way,’ appeal from CBM UK which is raising money to help more people access sight-saving surgery, glasses and support so they can go to school, read and write, get around safely and support themselves and their families. The appeal has been running since 12th February and goes on until 12th May 2020. The most wonderful news is that they have match funding from the UK government and for every £1 that someone like you or me donates, the government matches it and thus there is twice the money to go towards sight-saving initiatives in Malawi.

Nearly two-thirds of the world’s blind people are women. Too often, women’s health and wellbeing is still valued less than that of men, which means they are less likely to access sight-saving medical care. International Women’s Day, is a day to remember the continued gender imbalance in our world but it is also a day to celebrate the huge role that women around the world play in driving positive change.

Women like Debisa, who is based in the Amhara region in Northern Ethiopia, are working every day to help ensure that fewer people go needlessly blind from conditions that can be treated. When I spent a couple of weeks in Ethiopia in 2012 visiting community projects I met so many of the rural health workers and they were amazing women. Most of them were young and passionate to see change; to help their fellow Ethiopians be as well as possible, despite the very challenging situations most of them lived in.

Debisa goes from village to village to find people living with trachoma and provide them with eye drops to save their sight. Trachoma is an infectious disease which causes roughening of the inner eyelids. This roughness leads to pain, damage to the cornea and eventual blindness if left untreated, but something as simple as these eye drops make a real difference. This region in Ethiopia has one of the highest trachoma prevalence rates in the world – over half of the population have this blinding eye condition, and that is why Debisa and her colleagues are working with CBM to change this.

I'm sure you'll agree that the See the way appeal is very worthwhile and any donations made will help train health workers, equip hospitals and strengthen eye health systems for the future, helping build communities where nobody is needlessly blind in Malawi.

If you'd like to make a donation, however small, please do. 

And this International Women's Day take time to think about all the female champions you know, the women making a difference, whether that is through supporting the next generation as a teacher or mother, or a woman moving to the top of her field and making a worldwide difference.

Who is CBM?
Too many people face poverty and isolation, denied the chance to go to school or earn a living, just because they have a disability. Driven by Christian values, CBM works in the world’s poorest places, preventing blindness, improving health and transforming the lives of people with disabilities. For more information about CBM, visit


Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Capturing those Treasured Family Moments

{This is a collaborative post}

When you become a parent a really special thing happens, your heart expands and you are able to love another person as much as your spouse. Everything about that small person who has joined your family captivates you and you feel compelled to store up the memories for a rainy day. Even if you've never been the kind of person to take lots of photos or videos before, I can guarantee that will change when you become a parent.

Luckily in this day and age, it is very easy to capture all the precious moments and memories. Here are a few ideas on how to capture all those little times that you don't want to forget.

Blogging/ Instagram

My blog was born in 2008 when my twin girls were a few months old and I wanted to share photos and the things we had been up to with family and friends that live quite a distance. Little did I know quite how much this hobby would grow. Nowadays many people are more likely to share on social media in the form of a microblog, on sites like Instagram or Facebook as it is far less time-intensive than a traditional blog.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Five ways to Update your Style in your Forties

Glamorous mature woman
Photo by Adalia Botha on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

This year I'll turn 47 and I don't think I'd win any prizes for my personal style. Don't get me wrong I am always clean and presentable but comfort is definitely my number one priority rather than fashion. It's not that I like jogging bottoms or anything quite so horrendous, but I am usually spotted in jeans, a fairly smart top and a cardigan. I think that is my signature look and I've been starting to wonder if I ought to have a rethink.

I am plus size and that impacts what I feel comfortable to wear. I know many body-positive activists will tell me to wear whatever I like, to go for a crop top or body con dress if I fancy and I get that. But the thing is I don't fancy either of those things, I like to dress modestly and in a way that I think is appropriate for a 46-year-old married mother of three. We're all different and we have to embrace our personality and who we are.

Despite not wanting to change too radically, I am thinking that this year should be one of growth for me and updating my style is one way to do that. So here are five ways to update your style when you are in your forties and don't want to go too extreme!

1.  Invest in a human hair wig

I do love my blonde hair but it has a tendency to frizz and won't grow any longer than I have it now. It would be a dream come true to get long and thick hair easily by buying a best human hair wig. I don't think I'd change from blonde, but I would maybe go for a few shades lighter and definitely longer. I've only ever worn a wig for fancy dress before and they've never been great quality, so it would be such a treat to try a decent one that actually looks natural and matches my skin tone.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Too much Pressure on our Girls! It has to Stop #BeALady

Mother and tween daughter
Miss E - artistic, expressive, loyal, hard-working, conscientious, honest, great sense of humour,
true to herself, authentic, brave, determined, self-disciplined, diligent, caring and creative

I came across a video today and it makes for a very interesting, powerful and scary watch. The video has been created by Girls. Girls. Girls. magazine and it shows Cynthia Nixon narrating the words of Camille Rainville.

"Don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. Eat up. Slim down. Stop eating so much. Don’t eat too fast. Order a salad. Don’t eat carbs. You need to lose weight. Go on a diet. God, you look like a skeleton. Why don’t you just eat? You look sick. Eat a burger. Men like women with some meat on their bones. Be light. Be little. Be petite. Be feminine."

To be truthful it made me feel sick, as these are the messages that I've heard for the last 46 years and my girls are hearing every day now. They are not new messages, but it is time for them to stop.

Girls, women, ladies, call us what you will. We are people, just like men are and as such we deserve to live our lives as freely as men do.

We can be who we want to be.

We can look and dress in a way that pleases us.

We do not have to conform.

We do not have to live up to your standards.

We have value and worth without doing anything.

We are lovable and likeable.

We are so much more than a body.

We deserve respect.

We are unique, every last one of us and that is exactly how God meant it to be.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Bodiam Castle - Amazing History and Great for all the Family

Bodium castle from the front

Amazing History

The other week after Storm Clara, my family were desperate to get out for a bit and enjoy the blue sky that had shown itself. As it was already after lunch we didn’t want to travel too far and thus decided to head just twenty minutes up the road from us to Bodiam. I hadn't been to the castle for 3 or 4 years and whilst nothing much changes at this 14th century moated castle, the views are always beautiful and there are plenty of walks local to the castle to enjoy.

Bodiam Castle is what many people refer to as a ‘proper’ castle as it’s outer walls are beautifully intact, and it sits fully surrounded by a moat. It makes for the most magnificent pictures and is fun inside too, despite being ruins. You can still climb some of the spiral staircases to go up and see how it looks from the top of the castle on a rampart and also the Posters tower, but be aware these are narrow, well-worn and spindly stone steps. If you don’t like enclosed spaces or have physical difficulties they might not be for you. I’m fully able, but was a bit nervous and took it slowly up and down the rampart staircases. However, I declined to go up the tower as that has two-way traffic on one small staircase and that was too much for me. My husband and daughter went up there and said it had amazing views though.

Inside Bodiam castle

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Put Your Home in Order – Useful Tips

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

For many of us, cleaning means a lot of unpleasant, time-taking hard work. However, in reality, there are some simple tips which will ease the process of cleaning, and most importantly, change your attitude to the cleaning process.

The primary cause for negative attitudes towards cleaning your house is the wrong internal motivation or even a complete lack of motivation. Often, one person does most of the cleaning work, but the whole family creates a mess. In addition, no matter how much time was spent putting everything in order, by the very next day the mess seems to have recreated as if by itself! It can feel neverending. 

Here I'll share some tips on how to make cleaning your home pleasant, easy and not burdensome.

Cleaning as you go

Urgent cleaning prevents a shallow, easily removable mess from escalating into a serious problem. For example, after cooking dinner, a few greasy spots remain on the stove, they are barely noticeable and do not bother anyone at all, you could easily leave them there. However, if you don't wipe the mess away immediately, and if you leave the dirty stove unattended every day, then a multi-layer burnt crust will form, which will require a large amount of cleaning products and hours of elbow grease, all when you could have spent just two minutes each day keeping your stovetop nice. It really is a false economy to leave it for another day.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

A Gratitude Catch-Up!

Hey friends. It is time for a little catch-up, and rather than telling you about the bits that have been a bit tricky or darn-right exhausting, I'm going to share my gratitude for all the great things that have been going on over the last month or so.
  • I've been pro-active with chasing up paid work and January was a really good month. February is quieter but a couple of jobs came in just before the weekend.
  • Time with my boy - we spent an afternoon together at TEDx Tunbridge Wells at the beginning of the month and had a fab Prezzo meal afterwards. Even better was that I had bought a voucher from Red Letter Days for about £20 as there was a deal and money off. Three courses and a drink each for £0, I was very happy!

  • I got my monthly email from Kobo and it informed me I had read for 27.5 hours in the last month.  For me, that is 27.5 hours of pure joy, as I only tend to read fiction on my e-reader.
  • Every week recently, we've been having a yummy home-cooked roast dinner. I love doing a roast with loads of different veggies, that we can all sit at the table and eat together. These simple things really make a difference with teens. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Puppy Care: How To Look After Your New Furry Arrival

{This is a collaborative post}

When you decide to push the boat out and take on the responsibility of a puppy, it can be so much fun for the whole family. Dogs truly are man's best friend, so having a puppy of your own can provide you with so much positivity and joy! However, it takes dedication and effort to provide the best level of care for your new arrival, and you must take steps to ensure that your dog can be well looked after until the end of its days - a pup is for life, not just for Christmas. Having a puppy can also be a great learning experience for your children, as introducing them to animals in such a fun and enjoyable way will encourage them to form bonds and lose their fear of other species. So, what are you waiting for?

If you’ve decided to get a puppy for your family, then read on to uncover some of the best tips and tricks that can help you to provide them with the best level of care to improve their quality of life and make the most of your time together!

The Right Breed 

Choosing the right breed for your family pet is one of the most important features of your project. Opting for the wrong kind of dog could mean that your family does not develop a positive bond with the animal, therefore resulting in a bad quality of life and eventual rehoming. You must consider the basics, such as the age of your children and the experience they have with dog handling, otherwise, they could get scared or frightened and potentially receive some kind of injury when mishandling the dog. Small pups are often much more suited to families with younger children, as they appear less intimidating and can perhaps do less damage, however, some breeds such as Jack Russell terrier are partial to nipping and barking as a larger animal might also during play.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Supporting your Friend through their Divorce

female friends walking a country path
Photo by Joseph Pearson on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

Whilst the number of heterosexual couples getting a divorce in 2019 may have dropped by over 10,000 from the year before, 90,871 (Source: ONS) is still an incredibly large number of people choosing to end their marriage.  As such you are bound to have friends going through this difficult period. Even if your friend is the one who instigated the divorce and was fully fed-up in their marriage, it can still be a very tough time for them and it's good to be able to offer support and let them know you are there for them.

Here are a few ideas of how to support your good friend thought their divorce -

Be available to listen

Your friend many have loads of unresolved issues and hurts that they need to get off their chest, so it is good if you are just able to be there for them and listen. You don't have to provide answers, or platitudes, just show you are interested and offer a big hug as necessary.

Don't judge or place blame

Even listening to your friend talk for hours, you may never know exactly what went on it their marriage, so make sure that you do not judge or apportion blame. No-one wants to hear that they should have listened to you and left their spouse years ago, nor that you saw this coming. Avoid bad-mouthing their ex too, as they may just get back with them again in the future and then where will you be?

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Have you considered Engineered Wood Flooring?

Comfortable seating area with engineered wood flooring
The images are all of the newly installed engineered wood floors at Ashburnham Place where I live
{This is a collaborative post}

Growing up as a child in the seventies and eighties everyone I knew had a carpeted house, in fact, most had a shagpile in at least one room. As I grew older trends started to change, carpets got cheaper but the quality also seriously declined and it seems that due to that, and the worries about keeping them clean, as well as the rise of allergies that many people moved to a hardwood floor, more in line with what our European and American brothers were doing.

Vinyl flooring or lino was a cost-effective and easy choice for quite a while, especially in bathrooms and kitchens were traditional wood flooring was unsuitable due to the amount of moisture and potential water spills. However, as home design moved on and houses became more slick and modern, a vinyl-covered floor didn't really cut it. Thankfully we've seen the rise of the engineered wood floor over the last few decades and today it is accepted as a really good choice for flooring that looks fantastic and just like real wood (as of course, it is real wood) and is long-lasting and durable.

What is engineered wood flooring?

It is a number of layers of veneers, which are thin slices of different real woods put together and sandwiched under pressure with a high-quality glue. The top layer is the highest quality wood, giving the beautiful final appearance. Make sure you do your homework when choosing your engineered wood floor as not all engineered wood flooring is the same, it can come in a range of thicknesses from 14mm - 20mm and depending on the footfall and where the floor is placed will help you decide what is best. Ask for boards that have at least a 4-6mm top layer, to help protect from damage over time.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Getting To Grips With Everyday Technology

Image Credit: Janeb13 on Pixabay
{This is a collaborative post}

If you find that you frequently struggle to understand what you are meant to do with the technology in your life, you are not alone. A lot of people feel this way, and, likely, it will only continue to get more and more confusing and frustrating as time goes on and technology becomes more and more advanced. Of course, there is plenty that you can do to ensure that you understand it better and that you are getting to grips with it better, so that is a good thing to bear in mind. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the essential things you can do to make this process a lot easier, so that much of your life is going to be a lot easier too. Let’s take a look at this in some detail.

Simplifying Your Usage
First of all, you should bear in mind that you only have to use technology to the degree that you want to. You should not feel as though you have to use it any more than that. If you force yourself to do that, you will only end up being more stressed, and that is not the direction we want to be moving in here. So the first thing to do is to look at the technology you use in your life every day, and ask yourself whether it might be necessary or whether you might be able to do away with it instead.

If you can apply this kind of rigorous vision to all the technology in your home, you will already find that your usage of technology is much simpler indeed. So that is something to be aware of - and likewise, you should make sure that you are not over-complicating things by trying to use as much technology as possible. If you can do that, you will find that technology becomes much less stressful over time.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

When did you last check your Pension? It could be time for a Health Check

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

{This post was commissioned by Profile Pensions/ Mumsnet}

With an ever-ageing society as people live longer, it’s now quite different as a woman heading towards pensionable age. Well, I say heading towards, but I am actually quite a few years off the age to claim my state pension. As a youngster, all women could take their state retirement benefit from age 60, but now for me, as someone born in 1973, I’ll be 67 when I can take my state pension, that will be in 2040.

Will my State Pension be Enough?
If I was of the age to retire today the full level of the new state pension is £168.60 a week (£8,767.20 a year), as long as I have 35 years of NI contributions. If we assume that this raises in line with inflation, it means that when I retire this would be no-where near enough to allow me to live a comfortable lifestyle. How do you pay rent, bills, food and other living costs on around £700 a month, especially if you don’t have a council or mortgage-free house?

I input a few brief details into the Profile Pensions calculator to see how much yearly income my husband and I might need if we were to retire at age 67, whilst renting a house, and it showed that between us we’d need £24,589 per year on top of our state pension. Are our pensions operating at a level to give us that kind of yearly pay out in twenty years? I suspect not.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Planning our Travels for 2020

{This post contains gifted content}

As soon as Christmas is over, I am always keen to start planning the year ahead and plotting out when we might be getting some nights away and quality family time. We're not a family that has loads of disposable income, so I can't generally plan European short breaks and Florida summer holidays. I have to be a bit more creative with the money we have, and try to make it go as far as possible. It's also incredibly fortunate that I can secure some breaks away due to this blog.

2020 is panning out really well and I am feeling excited and looking ahead to the great times we'll have. The kids half term is next week and I'm always dubious to book anything much in the February half term as you can never tell what our weather will do. So, the kids and I will just be heading for February for a few days to spend time with my parents, and we always love doing that.

April - Spring Harvest at Butlins, Skegness
On Easter Sunday we'll head up to the in-laws to celebrate Easter and then on to Skegness for our yearly holiday at the Spring Harvest Christian festival. JJ won't be coming with us, as he will be staying with my parents and revising for his GCSEs that will start the next month.

So, it will be just the four of us and the one good point of that, is that it is cheaper, but I always miss my boy when he isn't there. I love this holiday as it is a mix of relaxation and fun, with swimming, the fun fair and chilling with my hubby, as well as great times of teaching and celebration. It is completely joyous and I haven't been to Skegness since 2011, so it will be great to experience the changes they've made there in the last decade.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Low Cost or Free February Half Term Fun in East Sussex

We're only a couple of weeks away from the February half-term and the weather can be unpredictable at this time of the year, so if you're anything like me, you'll be looking for things to do with the kids that will keep them occupied, but won't break the bank.

Check out my round-up of fun activities going on in East Sussex for February 2020 half term -

Scotney Castle, National Trust, Lamberhurst
The National Trust are amazing at catering for primary school aged children and each half-term there seems to be some great activities going on. Scotney Castle has a murder mystery trail this half-term, along with a great outdoor play area and of course the ongoing initiative of ticking off the 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4.

Scotney Castle is a great site as it has the large manor house, which you can explore inside, the old castle ruins, again you can explore inside, massive grounds, a play area and cafe.

Check out my review of Scotney Castle. We are very lucky in East Sussex as there are loads of good NT sites. I've written about Batemans, Bodium Castle, Standon, Sheffield Park, Sissinghurst Gardens and they're all fun to visit, especially if you have membership!

Top Tip: Visit the second hand bookshop where you can always pick up a great book for a donation, and whilst you're there have a look through the binoculars and see if you can spot some birds out the massive windows.

Friday, 31 January 2020

A Beautiful Lunch at the Vintage Inns Beachy Head Pub

Beachy Head Vintage Inn

Last week my husband and I had the pleasure of a weekday off together, so we decided to head to the Eastbourne area for a walk along the beautiful cliffs at Beachy Head and to enjoy lunch at the Beachy Head Vintage Inn pub. We’ve eaten there before so we were expecting it to be good and we certainly weren’t disappointed.

Check out the Vintage Inns App
I downloaded the app as I knew you could get some good deals via that. Straight away I saw there was a 33% off food voucher running for all of January, but noted this couldn’t be used on set menus. I booked a table via the app and this was easy and I received a confirmation quickly.

Arrival at the Beachy Head Vintage Inn
We know this area well, so it was easy for us to find the pub, and even for someone travelling there for the first time, if you follow the signs or your SatNav for Beachy Head you’ll arrive easily. Make sure you park in the pub car park behind it, so you don’t have to pay, as most local car parks up on the cliffs are local council pay and display ones.

The pub looked clean, well maintained and welcoming. When we went inside it became clear that it wasn’t the busiest day and we just grabbed a table where we fancied. There are good seating areas outside for warm weather use, at both the front and back of the building. The views from the back are breath-taking and stretch right across to the lighthouse, Birling Gap and Seven Sisters cliffs from inside the pub/ restaurant.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

How to Save Money on your Family Travel

{This is a collaborative post}

Family travel! It can be one of the most fun and rewarding experiences. Unfortunately, it can also cost a lot of money, making it tough for many families to travel as much as they would like. The good news, however, is that there are some strategies you can use to travel without busting your budget. Keep reading to find out what they are -

1.  Compare prices
The great thing about booking holidays these days is that it can all be done online. The advantage of booking online is that you can compare you break with similar ones to check that you are getting the lowest price possible. However, doing so isn't quite as easy as when you are purchasing a physical product. The reason being that what vacations include and how they are displayed can often be quite different from provider to provider. 

You may have also noticed that the low price you discover when first visiting the site fluctuates and even goes up daily. Although, searching again via a VPN, using an incognito page or after clearing your computer's cookies should take care of that particular problem, and you won't end up with overinflated prices.

2.  Use exclusive offers run by tour operators
Utilising the special offers that tour operators run can be very beneficial, many operators offer particular deals for families with younger children, such as free or half-price child places. These kind of deals that can save you a significant amount of money, especially if you have a brood that is on the larger side. But remember to book early, to bag them, as there is normally a limit number of spaces available. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

5 Big Challenges That All Mums May Face

Image Credit: Sasin Tipchai on Pixabay
{This is a collaborative post}

Everybody knows that being a mum is one of the hardest jobs there is, and many feel like they are out of their depth. They think that the challenges they face every single day are unique to them and that all of the other mums out there are handling things a lot better than they are. But that isn’t true at all and the reality is, it’s a steep learning curve for everybody and all mums face the same set of challenges every single day. If you are feeling overwhelmed, have a read through this list of some of the biggest challenges that mums face, and know that you aren’t the only one.

Judgment From Other Mums 
This is a big problem and even though we don’t mean it, we can all be guilty of judging people from time to time. When it comes to parenting choices, everybody has to decide what they think is best for their own child, but this can lead to a lot of judgment from other mums. Things like breastfeeding, for example, can be very controversial and mums that choose not to might feel judged. If you feel that you are constantly justifying your parenting choices, you need to change the way you think. The truth is, there is no right way to do things and if you are doing what you genuinely think is best for your child, you’re doing enough and it doesn’t matter if other people don’t agree with your parenting style. 

Being Ignored 
Kids all go through those stages where they will ignore whatever you say, and it’s so frustrating. A lot of mums worry that it’s their bad parenting and they haven’t done enough to discipline their child, but that's not the case, kids are just difficult sometimes. Check out this list of funny things that mums say to their kids and you’ll realise that you aren’t the only one that is constantly saying the same things over and over, only to have it fall on deaf ears. It’s so frustrating, but you just have to keep going and eventually, you will get through to them. The all grow up in the end!

Monday, 27 January 2020

10 Top Tips for Dating when you're Divorced

Dating couple cuddling
Photo by Devon Divine on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

I have to be honest I am well out of the game when it comes to dating; it is like another world now, as the last time I dated was in 1994 and that's quite some years ago! However, just because I'm not dating (I don't think my husband would approve), doesn't mean that many of you aren't. I know from my local friends that there are many people my age who are now in the second stage of life and divorced dating. So I thought it was high time that I chatted to a few of those friends and put together some tips for anyone who is now dating after a divorce.

1. Take it slowly at first
Even if your divorce comes as the end to the worst marriage on the planet there is still bound to be a sense of loss tied up in the relief, and as such it is important to allow yourself some time to breath, and even grieve before you dash straight back into full-on dating. Make sure you have some quiet time focusing on you and thinking about how you want your next relationship to look. What is important to you, and how can you be a better partner next time?

2.  Decide what you're looking for
I don't mean draw up a massive list of what this partner of your dreams must look like or do. Just have a good think about what is important to you. We are all different and it doesn't matter if your friend Sally will only date a man with his own home, or a full head of hair. What are your non-negotiables? Mine would be, that he'd have to be kind and good around my kids.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Supporting your Child through their GCSEs

person studying
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

It’s January and when you have a child in year 11 and getting ready to sit their GCSE examinations in the summer, that means mock exams time at most schools. My son is right in the middle of his, he had three in November and now the rest of them in a three-week block in January. So far, he has sat eight of them and whilst he’d happily go without the mocks, I am really pleased the schools do them.

When I’ve asked secondary school teacher friends what the best way to revise is, they have all said that the best thing your child can do is complete past papers. This doesn’t actually give them new knowledge, or even revise what they know already but it allows them to recall their learning, to give exam style structure in the answers and to gain valuable feedback from the person marking it, as to where they could improve and gain valuable points. An extra point or two on a paper could be the difference between grades, and thus a pass or a fail.

Let me share with you how I am supporting JJ in the run up to his GCSEs -

1.  Being available - have you noticed that teenagers never want to talk to you when you make yourself available? My JJs favourite times to chat to me are as soon as he walks in from school and I’m working, or around 11.15pm, when he should be sleeping! Yes, it can be annoying, but I’ve learnt it is far more important to stop what I’m doing and give him 15 minutes to download his concerns, thoughts or questions. This is particularly important during the actual exam period, then if your child feels as if an exam went wrong it’s good to be able to talk about it and externalise the associated feelings.

2.  Let them set the agenda - your child is now 15 or 16 years old and as such we have to give them a level of trust. Allow them to choose what they will study and when, of course we can offer advice, but it is really important that we don’t continually badger them to do things our way. I know that if I asked JJ too much about his revising he would clam up and probably do less as he’d be annoyed at me.  Let’s afford them the level of trust they deserve, and of course each child is different. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

What to Wear When You Work From Home (Aside From Pyjamas)

Photo by AllGo  on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

Now, more than ever, many people are working from home or via a remote location, which has sparked many discussions on workplace productivity, diversity and mental health. But where is the discussion about how working from home affects workplace fashion? Well, we are about to have it right here.

The number of people telecommuting or working remotely has grown by 159 percent over the last 12 years, according to a study conducted by Global Workplace Analytics. This has provided both employees and employers with more flexibility in all aspects of business, and it has virtually eliminated workplace dress codes.

If you work from home, it may be easy to stay in your pyjamas all day, not brush your teeth until 5 p.m. or work from the comfort of your own bed. And statistically, while those who work remotely are more productive than their counterparts who work in an office, all of those factors above could lead to a loss in productivity, creativity and motivation while on the job.

If you’re looking to revamp or improve your work from home wardrobe, consider this style advice and these hacks that will have you looking fabulous while feeling comfortable.

Tops Perfect for Remote Workers
If you work from home, you could stay in your favourite oversized t-shirt all day. But what happens when you have to video conference in or run to a quick meeting at a local coffee shop? That t-shirt isn’t going to cut it. Think about bold plus size blouses that will have you feeling motivated and on your A-game.
      Flowy TopsOf course, no one wants to be wearing a blazer while they work from home because that’s just simply not comfortable. But when you opt for a flowy blouse with unique embellishments, you’re pairing comfort with style, which should make you feel great about your remote look.
      Opt for BlackBlack will always be a sharp colour that can make even the most comfortable clothing look like it belongs in an office. Whether you choose a blouse made out of a soft, stretchy jersey material or a more structured blouse, if it’s black, you will feel put together and chic.
      PrintapaloozaIf you still need a “pick me up” after your first cup of coffee in the morning, throw a blouse on that has a bold pattern or vibrant colour to wake you up. According to colour theory, warmer bright colours can positively impact your mood, and if you’re feeling confident and happy, you are more likely to be more productive.