Saturday, 28 November 2020

Tips for Remaining Confident as a Teenager with Psoriasis

JJ is a 17-year-old boy with chronic psoriasis. Here, he shares his tips for remaining confident as a teenager with psoriasis, & using Epaderm.

I'm really proud of my 17-year-old son, not only because he is super smart and already has his career with GCHQ mapped out in his mind, but because he is living with a long-term chronic skin condition and he does it with such good humour.  You'd be forgiven for looking at that photo above and thinking he is just a pretty normal teenage lad, perhaps a bit geeky or a nerd, but there doesn't look as if there is anything out of the usual, does there?

However, look a bit deeper and you'd see red or scaly white patches covering most his body. Why? Because he has plaque psoriasis

Living with Psoriasis

Until JJ started to develop psoriasis three years ago it wasn't something I knew much about. I had no idea that it is estimated around 2 - 3% of the UK population are suffering with it (according to the UK Psoriasis Association), and it's only in the last year that I've seen just how bad it can get, both on JJ and by joining some online support groups. 

Psoriasis is a particularly difficult skin condition as there is no cure for it, and it presents differently on each person. I'm also learning that what works to helps relieve it at one point may stop working, and there is a massive range of treatments to choose from. It can be quite overwhelming if I am entirely honest.

JJ's psoriasis started off on his back, behind his ears and a patch above his left eye, then over time it has spread and worsened. Whenever I read about psoriasis there is always a description of it flaring up and being worse for a while and then subsiding again. Sadly, this hasn't been the case for JJ, the psoriasis on his body has been progressively getting worse over the last year or so. The plaques on his face do seem to go down with topical steroid creams but we are really trying to limit the use of those.

You can see the from the zoomed-in photos below the reality of how psoriasis can look when you are up close. JJ's daily reality is a scalp that itches and flakes excessively leaving him with 'dandruff' shoulders, red or scaly white patches on his face and his body, constant moisturising to help take away the tightness, itchiness or even pain of his skin, a floor that needs hoovering almost as soon as you've just done it and bedclothes that end up covered in emollient. 

He doesn't have the luxury of most teenage boys, that of choosing if he has a skincare regime, without looking after his skin he'd be uncomfortable all the time.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Dreams for the Future, when I win the Lottery Jackpot

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

I have to admit it's been quite some years since I have actually played the lottery, but when it first launched here in the UK, I did play every week and I had a set of numbers that I always used. I won the odd £10 by matching three numbers and I think I even had four numbers once or twice but never more than that sadly. However, just because I don't play doesn't stop me dreaming of what I'd do with a really big win.

I don't think I'm alone there and I know I've played the 'what I'd do if I had a million pounds' game with friends before. I actually really enjoy spending an hour dreaming about what the future might hold if I have a whole load of money in my bank account. So here are the things I'd like to do if I win the lottery jackpot one day in the future.

Help Others

The first thing I know I want to do is help others. I know that sounds a bit cliche but as a Christian, it is important to me to serve and help others where I can. I'm not a saint, so it will need to be a project or business where I enjoy serving and working, rather than just selflessly giving, but it needs to be worthwhile. I've always had this dream that my husband and I would run a Christian conference centre somewhere in the UK, and he is sort of doing that now.

So I think my dream would now be slightly different. Still working with my husband and offering hospitality, but being more local community based. I could see myself investing in and managing a community centre that is really committed to helping its local people. I'd have a pastor and team on board to run the church side of things, but my husband and I could lead the outreach. We'd have a community cafe where locals can come for food, be that paid or gifted, people to chat and pray with them, a food bank, debt and job counselling, activities for the kids and youth and so much more.

I feel excited just thinking about this. Money is often the thing that holds these kinds of projects back and if I had my lottery win, there would be no need for it to feel limited by its resources. My background is in HR and training, so I'd really enjoy doing the practical parts of coaching people to help them get back into employment and leading training courses for parenting, assertiveness, time management. You name it, I want to give it a go!

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Save Money on Your Mobile Phone Bill, with Airtime Rewards, for UK Networks

All you need to know about Airtime Rewards, an easy way to get your mobile bill pad for you, without any hassle or fuss.
Image Credit: Airtime Rewards

About six months ago I received an email from EE introducing me to Airtime Rewards. It's an app you can download, add your credit and debit card details to and it sits in the background and logs your spend with the participating retailers. You then earn rewards for every eligible purchase and those rewards become money that you can use as money-off your mobile bill. I've received £30 off my mobile phone bill in the last few months and considering I only spend £10 a month, that has been three months of free service for me!

I love getting things for free and I'm sure you do too, and Airtime Rewards comes without any hassle or risks so I knew I had to spread the word and let others know about it too. So here is my lowdown -

Which Networks are Eligible?

The easy answer is all the big ones.  Three, EE, O2, Vodafone, giffgaff, Virgin Mobile, Tesco Mobile, ASDA Mobile, Lebara mobile, Lycamobile and Now PAYG. You can also use the reward for money off your pay monthly or pay-as-you-go contract.

How do I use Airtime Rewards?

1.  Download the app for Android or iOS. Complete the registration with your details including your mobile number, network and card details (you can register multiple cards and it takes around 24 hours to activate the card to start earning). Use my referral code Y7A844HB and we both make some money from it (see further down for more information). 

2.  Spend as normal and allow Airtime Rewards to do the work in the background. You can keep track of your spending if you want to and if anything is missed you can fill in the form within the app to log a missing transaction if it hasn't logged after 14 days. I don't bother, I literally sit back and wait for the cash to roll in!

3.   Keep an eye on what rewards you are earning. Then when you hit the minimum threshold for your network so can redeem the reward, or store them up for another day.

It really is super simple and feels like money for nothing. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Take The Stress Out Of Finding The Perfect Gifts

Photo by Erica Marsland Huynh on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

No matter what time of year it is, gifts are something that just about everyone can get excited about. Everyone loves giving and receiving presents. The issue that a lot of us end up facing is that it can often be a struggle to figure out what to get for each person. Even if you've known someone your entire life, you feel like you know everything about them, and you love them dearly, finding the perfect present can be tough. You don't just want to give them something they'll never use (or worse, throw away!) But at the same time, you don't want to spend massive amounts of money. Besides, it's not about the cost! The key is to think about who they are and what they might want! But if you're really struggling, here are a few things to consider when trying to find that perfect present.

Make it useful

Is the person you're buying for particularly practical? Do they do a lot of things themselves, whether it's cooking, crafting, or handiwork? Well then think about getting something that will actually be useful to them. If they love to make things themselves then getting them something that they can't use or do anything with could well mean it ends up at the back of a closet.

A gift that someone uses every day is not only going to be far more useful to them but it means that they have the chance to think about you as often as possible. It's the kind of gift that not only makes someone happy, but that also strengthens your connection to one another. Think about what interests they have and try to come up with something that can fit in with that interest, or even make enjoying it easier. 

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Amazing Gifts for a Young Woman - Christmas Gift Guide

A selection of gift ideas to suit a teen girl or young woman for Christmas 2020, all under £40

{This post contains samples given to me for review and also affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchase, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}

Echor End of Day Aromatherapy Candle - £24.99

Echor is all about improving your wellbeing by helping you to get the best, most rested sleep experience that you can. They say their science-backed products will help you to have the kind of sleep you deserve, by creating a positive end-of-day experience. We spend around a third of our lives sleeping and it's important to have a good end-of-day routine to set you up well for the next day. 

I adore the look of this candle as it is very streamlined and I think stands out from the masses on the High Street. The wooden lid is a particularly nice touch.  The candle is a blend of Ylang Ylang, Lavender, Geranium & Sweet Orange essential oils, which have been shown to reduce stress hormones and lower blood pressure. As you'd imagine, it smells divine too.

The vegan soy wax is 100% natural for a clean burn and will last around 60 hours. So if you use it each night for an hour, it will last about two months, which is great. 

Friday, 20 November 2020

Dating in Hertfordshire - Finding Love during a Pandemic

Suggestions of places to enjoy a date in Hertfordshire, UK during a pandemic
Photo by Tibor Pápai on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

What an odd time we are living through right now. If you're not attached and finding love is on the agenda it really isn't the easiest time but you know what they say in life, "nothing worth having comes easy" so don't despair you can still find someone to have fun with, devote your life to or even marry, depending on your desire. 

Dating in your Local Area

Being responsible at the moment means staying close to home and therefore dating within your home county is a great idea, as it means you won't be travelling long distances to meet up with new people. It also means that you'll be familiar with the areas where you'll go to meet your date/s and this will help you to feel safe. 

I lived in Herts for 15 years and lots of my friends dated and found love within our local area. You often find that by searching locally you find someone with the same kind of aspirations in life and someone who enjoys living in the same area as you do and therefore if you decide to commit long term you shouldn't have to make a big upheaval and move away to a new area. You'll retain all your friends, maybe make some new ones and can stay with your job and local clubs. 

Of course, you won't go on to marry every person you date and therefore if you'll continue to live in the same area once you have broken up, you need to make sure you break off any relationships well, so you can ensure there are not any awkward moments in the future. And on the flip side, you might meet people who you know you are not romantically suited to but actually, you get on wonderfully as friends and you end up with some new friendships from your experience. That is surely a win.

Hertfordshire Dating can be a delight and I thought I'd share some great places to meet your new date or to take an existing date across this beautiful county. For more ideas take a look on Trip Advisor too.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Reasons to be Cheerful - Sharing a Little Lockdown Cheer

It's been a while since I shared one of my happy posts and of course, I know that remembering to be grateful makes a massive difference in my life. So here is my long-overdue update of many of the things in my life that are making me cheerful and thankful right now.

An easy one to start us off. I've been enjoying doing some baking during this lockdown and I'm very pleased to say that my bakes have been turning out really well. Here we have choc chip banana bread, chocolate brownies and lemon cake. 

I'm working through a series with my church at the moment called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and I'm finding it very useful as I realised a few months ago that I have been stifling my emotions for about the last decade and it is time for me to start feeling again and acknowledging the joys and hurts of life. 

I've been spending time in one of our prayer rooms that is filled with an art installation called 1000 bottles of tears. I've been using the bottles to try and help me release some of my repressed emotions. I've managed tears in my eyes twice now, which feels like progress! (Not everyone's kind of reason to be cheerful I realise, but I'm pleased!)

Monday, 16 November 2020

Christmas Gift Guide for Food Lovers

A selection of gifts for Christmas 2020 for people who love food, drink, cooking and eating

{This post contains samples given to me for review and also affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchase, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}

With just 39 days to go until Christmas, I think it is prudent to start thinking about the gifts for those loved ones in your life. We all know someone who counts themselves as a foodie and the good news is that you don't have to spend hundreds on a superb meal experience for them, you can get them a present they'll love for a reasonable amount.

Check out my ideas below, I hope you'll find a good variety of fo things to suit people of all ages.

AnySharp Pro Knife Sharpener - £16.50

There is nothing worse than having blunt knives when you are preparing foods and it can get expensive to keep buying new knives but the AnySharp Pro knife sharpener is an excellent idea, as it will almost instantly sharpen any knife (including serrated ones). It is super safe as it has a strong suction cup at the bottom to ensure it stays in one place as you sharpen. It is also small and compact making it easy to store in even the most compact of kitchens. It comes in a variety of colours to suit your kitchen, or is tiny enough to store in a drawer and it has a 10-year warranty too.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Great Advent Calendar Suggestions for Teens in 2020

Check out these 10 ideas for advent calendars, and not a chocolate in sight. All priced under £31.

{This post contains samples given to me for review and also affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchase, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}

Advent has always been a favourite time for me and my family, and as Christians, we try to make it special with a proper count-down to Christmas day. When the children were younger it was all about taking part in our Christmas family traditions like attending a Christingle service, making festive biscuits and reading the story of Jesus' birth.

Nowadays, the kids are more interested in having an exciting advent calendar and writing a list of the goodies they'd like for Christmas gifts. So this year I've been putting some ideas together for Advent calendars they might like but ones that won't break the bank. I'd love to buy them gorgeous branded beauty or perfume calendars but I don't have hundreds of pounds spare, so here are some good options and they all come in under £31.

MAD Beauty - 24 Day Beauty Calendar - £19.99

I think this calendar looks stylish and the design will appeal to a teen. It is also good that it has 24 little goodies inside (instead fot he 12 that many are doing now) and actually for the money it costs the majority of them are pretty good. I liked the little eye shadows, lip glosses and nail polishes in particular. The brushes were a bit rubbish what then at under £1 for each item, what do I expect? 

Overall I think this is a winner with small items to take in your tiny handbag for a night out and I think it would work for tweens too, as an introduction to make-up. In fact the Christmas nail stickers do make me think of it being most suitable for a younger girl. 

You can buy this (#ad) MAD Beauty calendar on Amazon for £20.95 including delivery

Check out these 10 ideas for advent calendars, and not a chocolate in sight. All priced under £31.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Binge-worthy Boxsets for Lockdown 2:0 on Netflix UK

I absolutely love to escape into a great boxset and I'm always happy to receive recommendations for new ones that I might enjoy. With that in mind, I thought I'd share some boxsets that I've been enjoying over the last couple of years.

This first post will focus on those series available on Netflix and then I'll share for NOW TV and Amazon Prime too.  I do find Netflix great value, as you get films, documentaries, box-sets, kids TV - the whole works for the one price of £8.99 for 2 devices at a time or £11.99 per month for up to 4 devices at a time. 

Emily in Paris - 1 season

It feels like everyone has been talking about this series recently and after watching it last week I can see why. It is light-hearted fun and who wouldn't want Emily as a mate? Emily heads to Paris to work in a marketing firm but there is one small problem, she doesn't speak French!

Virgin River - 1 season

I watched this one during the last lockdown and it made me want to move to a small town in America in the middle of nowhere! It's a sweet romance about Mel, a medical practitioner who moves away for a new start and doesn't expect such a warm welcome from her new community. 

Friday, 6 November 2020

Gifts for Travel Loving Mums

Photo by Persnickety Prints on Unsplash

{This post is written in collaboration with Emily Jones}

Finding the ideal gift for a travel fanatic can be tricky. When a plane ticket is too costly, you need to find a thoughtful and practical gift idea that they will love. With Black Friday coming up, here are some inspirations to help you find your mum or friend the perfect gift for the holiday season!


A Stunning Travel Bag

A versatile travel bag can make the perfect gift for someone who loves globetrotting. Carry-on sized travel bags are a stylish and durable gift, that will fit a few travel essentials and hopefully express the traveller’s personality too. You can browse a lovely selection of beautiful handmade travel bags from sites like Mirta, an Italian online marketplace that sources products from artisans from all across Italy, who are using only the best leathers. What’s more desirable and gorgeous than Italian bags?  Not a lot, that is for sure. They are made of water-resistant materials, have quality zippers to withstand harsh outdoor conditions and the luxurious leather sets them apart. You can choose from duffle bags or backpacks.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

5 Outdoor Play Equipment to Encourage Kids to Stay Active

Image Credit: Vuly Play

{This is a collaborative post}

Staying active is an important part of keeping your kids happy and healthy, and ensuring they live vital lifestyles in the future.

Encouraging your children to engage in regular physical activity also helps to regulate their energy, improve their concentration and offers higher sleep quality. Physical play also helps children to become more confident learners as they engage with the world around them.

If you’re looking for clever ways to get your kids active, we recommend starting with outdoor activities that are fun for the whole family! Here are 5 family-friendly toys that encourage kids to get outdoors and stay active:


Teaching kids to ride bicycles can help them to develop a healthy, active lifestyle from a young age. Not only does cycling increase muscle strength and stamina, but also encourages children to get to know their local community in a fun and interactive way.

Another great benefit of bikes is that it’s a very social activity. Children riding their bikes in a group of friends is a wonderful way to keep busy on the weekend. Riding bikes as a family can also be an excellent opportunity to spend time together. Even younger kids can be involved by using scooters to race alongside older bike riding siblings. Find out more about bikes for kids from Vuly Play.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Learning to Live with Psoriasis

Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

Psoriasis is a little-known and sometimes taboo disease to suffer with, and I think that until you or someone close to you has it, your understanding on the profound impact it can have on a person's life is severely limited. 

About three or four years ago my son started to develop some red patches on his upper back and on his face, slowly they got bigger and then the skin started to thicken and it would look like he had white scales on him. This, of course, prompted a visit to our GP, who thankfully was wonderful and prescribed some steroid cream. After a couple of months without progress, she referred my son to a dermatologist to get an expert opinion.

After a few months wait we saw the dermatologist and he recommended that JJ wash with an emollient, moisturise twice a day and use more potent steroids on his patches of psoriasis, by this point, it had also spread to his upper arms. He also had to stay on the lower potency steroids for his face and make sure he had adequate breaks so his skin did not thin too much in this delicate area.

A skin biopsy was taken to check what type of psoriasis it is that my son has and it was thought that as he had skin damage (such as his teenage acne) the body was responding with rapid cell growth and he was ending up with psoriasis plaques (patches). Sadly over the last couple of years, it has progressed quite a lot and he now has psoriasis covering most of his body. Thankfully he doesn't seem too worried by it, but I know that as a 17-year-old lad it will only be a matter of time before he will wish it wasn't there!

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Foraging for Sweet Chestnuts in the UK

Guidance for the novice forager to help them pick, store and cook sweet chestnuts

October is the perfect time to head to your local woods and find a bounty of sweet chestnuts to enjoy both alone, or within sweet and savoury dishes. They really are very versatile and quite easy to prepare. Don't assume that foraging is just for the experienced person, all it means is searching for and using what nature has provided for us to eat. I suspect you've done it with blackberries before if nothing else!

Collecting your Sweet Chestnuts

The first thing you need to do is identify your sweet chestnut tree. You don't want to be trying to cook and eat conkers (the fruit of the horse chestnut) as they are mildly poisonous. You tend to find that conkers fall a bit earlier from the end of August through September and then sweet chestnuts fall more like the end of September and through to early November. Of course, this depends on the temperatures/ weather for that year. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

The Many Reasons to Choose Amtico Flooring

Thanks to Floorbay for the image

{This is a collaborative post}

Reading this title, you might be thinking, how many reasons can there be?

Well, when choosing your new flooring you need to be assured that there are enough legitimate reasons on which to base your final decision and Amitco go above and beyond to show you why choosing this product for your home is a lifelong investment. By now, you may have already considered laminate and hardwood but perhaps they’re not quite fulfilling your expectations.

So, you’re in the right place to learn all about Amitco luxury vinyl flooring and why you should choose it over the alternatives.

Cost Friendly

A great starting point when renovating or upgrading your flooring is considering the financial implication. Authentic and natural materials such as wood and stone undoubtedly have the largest price tag in the flooring market, followed by high-quality engineered wood or laminate flooring. These all offer great style but what if there was an alternative that was more cost-effective and durable?

When looking at authentic luxury wood effect flooring options you also need to account for the installation costs and price of repair or replacement should the flooring become damaged or chipped in areas of heavy use. As you can see the original price you pay has the potential to increase and could increase even further based on your installation choice or added extras such as coating or underlay.

Luxury Amtico vinyl planks and tiles present great value when installed by an experienced fitter as they will last for decades. Amtico even comes with a 20 year UK residential guarantee that it will tolerate regular foot traffic and not wear out. 

Monday, 26 October 2020

COVID Cleaning Tips for a Stress-free Home


{This is a collaborative post}

As COVID-19 surges in the UK again, families are scrambling to keep their homes clean. But it’s important to remember that we don’t just clean our homes for our own sakes or for fear of infection. We also clean our homes to create a safe haven for the ones we love.

Home should be a place where we can feel comfortable and relax. It should be a place where we can leave our stresses at the door and enjoy peace, love, and togetherness. Nothing’s worse than coming home to stress and anxiety and that’s why it’s so important to make sure we disinfect and clean properly during the pandemic. Not just for our physical health, but for our mental health too.

We’ve rounded up some fantastic cleaning tips to make your home feel cleaner and your mood lighter.

Disinfect with UV Light

Walking into a home that smells like a hospital isn’t very reassuring or relaxing. But that’s some homes smell like due to the constant chemical spraying and bleaching. To ditch the fumes and odours (and the scrubbing too!), you can disinfect just as effectively with a UV light wand.

UV light is proven to kill coronaviruses like COVID-19, and it’s so effective that it’s been used by the NHS in hospitals for years. However, it’s never been practical or affordable to use in the home until now.

Now, you can get a handheld UV light wand that kills 99.99% of bacteria, viruses, mould, fungus, and more in seconds. It’s 100% natural, so it leaves no stinky odours or toxic residues behind and, for parents, it requires no scrubbing at all! Just pass the UV-C light wand over objects in your home as if you were shining a torch on them. That’s all it takes!

Our favourite UV-C wand is called Allume, and it’s made by Violet Healthcare. This wand is powerful and effective, but it also has the necessary safety features to prevent UV light from shining on your skin or eyes.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

National Trust Ightham Moat: A great place for a Walk, Kent

We've been to Ightham Moat a couple of times now and enjoyed it both times, although they have felt quite different visits, with the first being back in October 2017 with 10-year-old twins and then the next time was this summer, during the COVID pandemic, and we took our three teenagers.

If you're looking to visit in the near future the moated house is currently closed but you can enjoy the outdoor space, both the gardens and the wider estate. The gardens aren't too big and with a one way system currently, they will only take an hour or so to walk around. If I'm honest, they are not impressive like the gardens of many National Trust sites. I think the gem of this site is being able to go inside the house, so with that closed the site doesn't have quite so much wow factor as normal. However, if you are willing to head out and take a longer walk, then the wider estate is fabulous and well-worth exploring. There is a big hill though, so be warned!

I think pictures speak a thousand words, so have a look at these from our visit this summer. The first few photos are within the gardens.

A visit to the National Trust Ightham Moat site in June 2020, when covid made everything different Walking the wider estate is still a delight.

We captured the same photo in 2017 and then again this year and you can see just how much my twins have changed and grown!

Friday, 23 October 2020

Perfect Vision: Expectations versus Reality

Photo by Scott Van Daalen on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

The seasons are changing quickly, and trying to see your way forward past the chaos of Covid-19 can feel like a never-ending derailment. 2020 vision is what all optometrists hope for their patients and what the year ahead had hoped to deliver: a more exact brighter future with the vision to see the road forward easily and without a million pitfalls.

However, rather than this beautiful ideal, it has been a year of chaotic upheaval and change. The key to our survival has been family, friends, and the relationships we have with other people. With eyes wide open, we have all watched as our world transforms into a new reality, which is all a little abstract and remote from the streams of our previous existence.

Faith and family are what help us to see past all of the uncertainty and change. For sure faith and hope have steered the direction of many people's lives during this pandemic and with our great British resolve we will get through this difficult time and come out the other side accepting a new normal.

As the days in lockdown or with restrictions have rolled by, we have embraced new ways to relax and keep a clear mind. Here, in this linked resource are a few techniques you can use to find direction and motivation, helping you explore the things you love. There doesn't have to be anything complex or sophisticated about the techniques you embrace, simple acts like taking a walk in nature and observing the changing season can help us to embrace the vision of our new reality.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Feeling Grateful for Time, Photography and Flowers

Hello friends, I hope you’re well? I’ve been trying to write this R2BC post for days now and I keep running out of time but I’m now wondering if that was God’s intention, so I had to write it today. I have a terrible headache today and I just feel like I want to curl up in bed, but instead, there are things to be done - JJ to run to college and back, Miss M to collect from her friends later and dinner to be sorted, so making time to sit down and reflect on the things I am grateful for is just perfect.

Here is my grateful list for the last week or so -

1.  I have time to have a cup of tea alone and with my hubby.

2.  I've been Trying out new settings on my phone camera and really liked learning a little more. 

3.  Discovering the glass doors on my cooker can come apart for cleaning in between them. I had no idea! Why haven’t I known this for the last twenty years?

4.  Having a lovely walk and coffee with a friend by the beach the other day.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

6 Gift Ideas For Parents of a Newborn

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

It’s always exciting when someone you know has a baby. But what do you buy for a new arrival? It’s easy to go for something cute and obvious, or vouchers always come in handy for new parents. But if you’re looking for something a bit different, here are a few ideas to give you some inspiration. 

A photo album or frame 

With camera phones to capture every waking moment of a baby’s first months, one thing new parents are not short of is pictures of their baby. A personalised photo album or frame can let them print and frame some of their lovely photos to cherish for a lifetime, and their child will enjoy looking back on them in years to come, I know my kids do.

Practical gifts

While it’s great to buy cute teddy bears or baby clothes, practical gifts are worth their weight in gold. You could put together a little baby medicine kit that includes a digital thermometer, some medicated nappy cream, a bottle of Calpol and some teething gel or powder. While you might think it’s boring, it will be one of the most welcome gifts when the time comes. 

Many times I have put together a practical hamper for friends who already have all the cute clothes. You can never have enough nappies if you are going the disposal route, or if you're friend if using reusable then buy them a super cute wrap or two.

Friday, 9 October 2020

The Ten Accessories Every Pushchair Should Have

Photo by Yan from Pexels

{This is a collaborative post}

Finding the perfect pushchair can be a hard task, so here are a few suggestions for must-have accessories that could help your pushchair become as close to perfect (for you) as possible. Things have come on a lot in the 17 years since my JJ was a baby, so there is no excuse not to have something that really works for you nowadays.

1 Bumper Bar

These are normally included when buying a pushchair, yet we often find ourselves taking them off as they seem to get in the way when you're removing a sleeping baby or struggling toddler. However, they can be very useful, not only are they a great added safety feature but they can be used to attach toys to and keep your little one entertained. I'll always remember my little JJ used to pull himself up to sitting when I had put the back down and he didn't want to sleep. He couldn't have done that without his front bumper bar!

2 Rain Cover

Here in the UK, it is bound to rain especially during the autumn and winter months. It is not guaranteed that your purchase will include a Raincover for pushchairs, crazy right? So if your pushchair doesn't already come with a one, or if you have damaged yours then we definitely recommend getting a rain cover.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Changes to Make Your Website Perform Better

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

Let’s start from the beginning. How long has your website been around for? In this day and age, if it's over five years then you probably need to start thinking about a redesign. Or maybe you just had a redesign, but your results are as good as you expected?

With technological diversity and online trend patterns changing constantly, responsive web design is the key to open the door to your audience online and to encourage and retain new visitors.

You may have heard Digital Marketing Agencies refer to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) before, but what is it all about? Well, SEO means editing your site with the objective of delivering an a great user experience which equates to your website ranking high in the search results of Google. But the key questions is, of course, how do you deliver that kind of experience?

Creating SEO Friendly Content

Nowadays, it is not just enough to take time writing great content, you also need to add in time to decide which words are the key to people finding your article in the future. Then do some keyword research nd once you start writing you'll actually keep your article more on topic.

Keyword research entails taking one word and exploring how it is used online. You’ll want to pick a keyword that is relevant to the product or service you’re offering/ writing about and then ensure the main keyword along with some variations are mentioned throughout your written text.

Monday, 5 October 2020

Choosing a Holiday Destination in the Age of Coronavirus

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

We all recognise that times have changed over the last six months and it now seems widely-accepted that things will be different for quite some time to come. With these changes in mind, it is important for us all to think through our holiday choices before we rush out and make a purchase that could set us back a few thousand pounds. 

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a holiday destination in the age of coronavirus -

Check the Government Travel Requirements

It's always been standard practice to check Government advice when you are planning to travel far afield but nowadays it is not just visas and vaccinations that you need to check. You also need to familiarise yourself with what our Government are saying if you visit one of our neighbouring countries such as France or Belgium. Will you have to self-isolate on return to the UK? Are there specific virus hot-spots that you should avoid? Or even is the Government recommending you don't travel to specific countries? There are a lot of factors to take into consideration.

Check you're Protected

Booking a package holiday will give you the greatest protection if the holiday can't go ahead or if a travel operator goes out of business, so this is a good option for those who don't mind paying a bit more and are risk-averse. However, if you are happy to do your own research and want a better value holiday with an affordable hotel and bargain flight then it can save you money to book each element of the holiday separately.  If you do this, make sure you use your credit card, so you have some purchase protection from your card issuer. 

There is always the chance that you or one of your party will fall ill with COVID-19 at the time you are due to travel, so before you book check your travel insurance to see how you are covered for this and also investigate the terms and conditions for the companies you are booking with. 

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Feeling Cheery this October #R2BC

It's time to share a positive update again. I find this process of thinking through the last week or two and looking for the highlights so therapeutic that I vowed (back in 2011) to do it regularly, and sometimes I've been great and others a month or two can go by and I've forgotten. But not to worry, here I am now and that is what matters.

Studying the Enneagram

I'm feeling very optimistic as we head into October, as I was on a course for a couple of days last week, studying the Enneagram. This is an ancient tool used to discover your personality type, which I really like as it isn't static, there are lots of opportunities to grow and become more balanced as a person, whilst understanding what deeply motivates you. 

I feel as if I went really deep earlier this week and discovered more about myself and now I have some work to do to learn more about why I act and react in certain ways. I'm not sure this will be the most painless process but it feels very necessary, so I am game!

Even though the course was held at Ashburnham Place (my home) I went and stayed in one of the guest bedrooms and attended the course as an external guest. So I enjoyed good meals, chats and time alone without any responsibilities except to look after myself. 

A visual depiction on my course, of how we are all living in the dark and bound to our ways,
before we become enlightened and move into the light

Owning what I do

I noticed this last week that I have made progress when talking about my life and what I do. The common question when you meet someone new is that they ask what you do, or what your work is and for the last seven years since I left my role as a trainer at a university, I have always mumbled as I answered and given variations on the answer 'not a lot'.

This week I told anyone who asked me that I was self-employed. That I'm a paid writer and social media manager and I didn't add any ifs or buts. It felt good. 

Grateful for a fabulous local Garage

A stupid pheasant with a deathwish decided to fly into my wing mirror as I drove along at speed the other day. I saw it walking across the road but doing 45 mph and with cars behind me I could only brake a little and the stupid bird decided to try and take flight in the direction of my car, then boom! It caused me £110 of damage, but it would have been a lot more if I hadn't had a great local garage who helped me sort it out. I have no idea what to do about car stuff, so I am so grateful to be able to just turn up and Carlton always helps me. 

JJ's Provisional Driving License has Arrived

My boy turns 17 this month and he is keen to get started with his lessons, so I am very pleased his provisional driving license has arrived and now we can book the lessons and also his theory test. I'm hoping that it is all quite a quick process for him as he has great information retention and recollection and normally good reactions and spatial awareness too. 

Making an Effort

I've felt for a while that I am looking a bit old and worn. So I treated myself to a nice new bright top from the charity shop (a bargain £3 and you could see it was new) and each day of the course I put on make-up and rocked my mask. I think I'm finally getting used to wearing them.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Review & Giveaway | Leather ICON Valencia Footstool from Bean Bag Bazaar

Giveaway closed - Congratulations to @Faridah,Brooker, you are the lucky winner. 

I told my kids the other day that my husband and I have reached middle-age and we're OK with it. In fact, we are embracing it; I treated myself to a new tapestry and he got some slippers and a footstool, so he can watch his favourite boxset in comfort and with toasty warm toes! It really is the little things in life that can make a difference.

I wanted to share with you the footstool that he got, as it is totally different to how I imagined but he is loving it, and yes I admit it, I have used it a few times in the day when he is at work and I'm doing a bit of work on the sofa. 

We were sent the ICON Valencia real leather footstool from Bean Bag Bazaar, which is currently on sale for £79.99, this is great value for a quality leather product. The footstool is fairly small and light-as-a-feather as it is filled with beans. The dimensions are 27cm height and 43cm both width and depth.

Friday, 25 September 2020

Operation Christmas Child - Box Packing Update for 2020

Operation Christmas Child shoebox header

I've now been involved with Operation Christmas Child for around 16 years and I still love it as much as I ever did. JJ has moved on and no longer helps me pack boxes but my twin girls are still keen and we often invite friends around for a box packing party, so a few of us can all do it together. 

Over the years I have been involved in various ways, from packing boxes as a family to organising assemblies at school, services at church, box packing parties (online and in real life), school and church collections, checking boxes before sending and even travelling to Belarus with Samaritans Purse to distribute boxes, be involved in live-streamed box opening and writing up the stories of the children I met. 

Things have been changing over the years and regulations have tightened up, meaning that not everything can be included in your box anymore. Also, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, you might be wondering if you can still create a physical box and the answer is yes. Samaritans Purse are still accepting boxes during the week of 9-16 November 2020. 

I thought it was important to update our box packaging tutorial here on the blog with all the latest 2020 information -

How to pack an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Gift

1)  Get a box - Either take a medium-sized shoebox and wrap the lid and box separately in festive and fun wrapping paper. Or you can use a pre-printed shoebox. available from Samaritans Purse. You can't buy these in packs of any less than 20, so they are good for schools, churches and community groups to buy and give out os sell individually. 

2)   Choose the sex and age - Choose which age group and sex you will make the box for. The choice is boy or girl for ages 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14. You can download and print labels from here for free. Make sure you attach the appropriate one to the top of your box.  

Thursday, 24 September 2020

How to Make a Pre-Teen Party a Success

    Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

Planning the perfect party can be a headache for any parent. Kids can be changeable at the best of times, and what they loved last month might not be what they like today. If you want to deliver the kind of amazing experience that your kid deserves, you might need a bit of help.

Planning a party for a preteen can be even more challenging because it’s often difficult for parents and guardians to find the balance between delivering the grown-up teenage experience that kids crave, and still catering to their younger tendencies. So, how do you make sure you impress your pre-teen with your party planning? These tips will help.

1.  Get the Right Gift

The great thing about pre-teens is that even if you mess up the entire party experience, they’re likely to forgive you as long as you get them the right present. The problem with this is that it can be notoriously tricky to figure out what your kids are going to enjoy. To avoid any mistakes, make sure that you keep an eye on your child for gift clues, for a couple of weeks leading up to the big day. You can also check out gift ideas sites like for inspiration relevant to their interests.

Ask for hints on the kind of presents that your child would like – most of the time, they won’t mind helping you out. You can also do some hunting online for some of the most popular items in the industry right now. Preteens generally like to keep up with what’s trending.

2.  Pick the Perfect Food

Another thing that can save just about any preteen party is the right food. Now probably isn’t the time for you to go all-in on your healthy eating strategy and try to get your kids to eat as many veggies as possible. Unless your child is one of the very few that actually likes eating healthy foods, ditch anything green and nutritious and replace it with the items you know your kids love.

Crisps, biscuits, candies, and home-made cakes always go down a treat. It might also be worth mixing up some mocktails for your kids too, to make them feel more grown-up. Placing fancy drinks into cocktail glasses can really class up a party. 

Thursday, 17 September 2020

What Next?

Girls going to secondary school

The girls have returned to secondary school and I dropped JJ off for his induction day at college and now I am sat at home, thinking 'what comes next for me?' I know I am in a season of mothering and supporting my husband but I also hope (and pray) that there is something really fulfilling in my future for me to do. I understand the importance of supporting others and being there to facilitate their lives, hopefully helping the kids to grow into decent citizens but I have to be honest, it doesn't give me that immense satisfaction that I get from paid work.

I feel like I'm sharing a dirty secret in having said that, as many homemakers and fellow Christian mums will be finding their satisfaction, contentment or purpose in serving their family, but it just doesn't do it for me. I do really enjoy being home for when I am needed; I like to clean, launder and make the house feel clean and comfortable but I also love the buzz of achievement.

I don't know if it is just the way I am wired or if it is because I didn't become a Christian until I was 28 and the world's view of success is deeply ingrained in me. Whichever, nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing my to-do list get ticked off and knowing I am achieving. It doesn't have to be anything particularly high-level or aspirational, I literally just like to be busy and work my way through a long list most days.

How to chose a Successful Wedding Venue in Covid Times

Photo by Jeremy Wong Weddings on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

We all know this year has been one of the trickiest in recent decades, never before have we had our civil liberties curtailed in quite the same way, without there being widespread war. We're not out the woods yet though, the complete lockdown might be over, but we're seeing local lockdowns across the country and the World Health Organisation are warning us that there will be many differences, such as distancing and wearing face coverings for some time to come yet, maybe even a couple of years.

Having said all that, life can still go on for most of us and we're having to adapt to our new normal. People still wish to get married, celebrate their birthday or hold a wake for a lost loved one and we can do these things, we just have to make sure we are meeting the current Government guidance. 

This week we saw the introduction of the 'Rule of 6' in England and this means that right now social gatherings that you are organising as an individual can only be for 6 people, whether they are indoors or out. The good news is that when you move a wedding celebration or funeral wake to a COVID-secure venue provider, you can increase the number to 30 and there is hope within the event industry that this number will increase in October when new announcements are made by the Government. 

It's important that we still have things to look forward to and as such, I believe you should go ahead and still plan and book your celebrations for 2021, so here are my top tips for doing so -

1.  Think about what You really Want

You might have always imagined you'd have a winter wedding in a stately home with 200 guests but now is the time to really think that through. Could it be that an intimate outside tea party in spring with just 30 guests would suit you just as well and take away most of the stress of planning something so fancy? The great thing about our current situation is it frees you to think about what would really make you happy and to drop any expectations that family or others might have. 

Once you have decided what you want your event to look like, you need to agree your budget, choose the season/ date, set the attendance number and decide on the location. Basically, draw up a blueprint for the event and decide how hands-on you want to be. Do you need a dedicated event planner? Would the venue event organised be enough, or would you prefer to do everything yourself? The choice is yours!