Friday, 26 February 2021

Feeling Thankful in February Lockdown


I'm pleased to report that my mood is much improved since the last time I wrote a reasons to be cheerful post. The announcement on Monday that the UK has a plan for the next few months has really boosted me. I can't wait to be able to see my parents, go to church, travel for a break away and have a meal out. I don't do lots of extravagant or expensive things in life but I do really enjoy the simple things and I can't wait to enjoy them all again. 

That said, I have been still looking for the silver linings in this lockdown and have many blessings to count -

*  As I tided the kitchen this morning I watched a kestrel flying overhead, a pheasant wandering past my window and a then bunny hopping by and I reflected on how much I love living in the countryside.

*  I helped with community meals today at church and it was great to have a chat with a few people. 

*  Our little cat is being very affectionate with me at the moment, I still marvel at the fact that I now like cats. 


Sunday, 21 February 2021

Top Tips for Buying Perfect Age-Appropriate Presents for Children

Tips for buying age appropriate gifts that children will love.


{This is a paid collaborative post with Wicked Uncle}

At one point I'd have said I was brilliant at buying children's gifts but not anymore, I've lost touch. My youngest children are now 13 and if I had to buy for a 2-year-old boy I'd be lost! Thank heavens for Wicked Uncle who have amazing gifts for all ages, both boys and girls. I always know I can head over there and pick up something that will be enjoyed and appreciated.

If, like me, you feel like you don't know what the latest gifting trends are for various ages then read on for my tips to help you buy a present that will be loved by its recipient -


Set your budget


First things first, it is far too easy to end up spending a small fortune, so set yourself a budget. If this is your beloved Nephew or Grandson, you're buying for then you might be happy to splash out £80 to £100, but if it is for a birthday party that your child has been invited to then the budget might be considerably smaller.
 

What kind of gift do you want to give?


Is it important to you to give a gift that will educate as well as give joy? Or are you a book buff who always want to pass that love to every child you meet? Each of us likes to give different kinds of presents and that is what makes them personal and special. My brother is brilliant at giving the gifts that I'd never buy for my kids, but the ones they really want. He really is the epitome of the Wicked Uncle!

Whereas I like to be more practical and I love a toy that combines learning and fun. It's great if you can find a gift that will grow with the child, some toys are dual function and can be used in one way for a year or two and then changed as the child develops, or something like LEGO or Meccano that can be added to are always a wise investment. 

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Period Pants from ModiBodi - Perfect for Stress-Free Periods


{This is a review post, we received these pants in exchange for an honest review}

ModiBodi offers a range of leak-proof underwear, swimwear, activewear and even maternity wear that keeps you feeling dry and secure, no matter what your issue (period, stress incontinence, sweat and discharge). You may worry that their products will be bulky and uncomfortable but genuinely, I can assure you they are not. The gusset area where any liquid is collected is just 3mm thick and so soft, that they are a joy to wear (or so my daughter tells me). 

They come in five different absorbancies for different flows and to suit your pattern, from moisture-wicking right through to heavy/ overnight. The pants are made from a range of breathable fabrics and fibres, including bamboo, merino wool and microfibre. I've been very impressed with the feel of these pants considering what they are made for. 
 

Maxi-24hrs Absorbency Pants for Adults and Youths

 
At Christmas, my teenage twin girls received some ModiBodi pants and have found them perfect for wearing during their periods, so when ModiBodi contacted me to say they had created new Maxi-24hrs absorbency pants for adults and youths in the Modibodi RED range, I happily said yes, we'd like to try them out.

ModiBodi really understands the difficulties that many girls can have with navigating first and early years periods and their proven-to-work technology provides growing bodies with protection from front to back, meaning there are zero fears of leaking through clothing whilst studying, being active and even while sleeping. My girls confirm this is true and have been really pleased with how safe and protected they feel in ModiBodi pants. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Planning a Short Break in Hampshire - The Test Valley or South Downs National Park?

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay 


I absolutely love going away for the weekend, or any other time to be truthful; a short break is my idea of heaven. I don't even mind who I'm away with - my husband, mum, daughter or a friend. As long as there is great food to eat, new places to explore and a cheeky Baileys in the bar before bed I'm a happy girl.

When I go away for the weekend I like to head somewhere new but to be honest, I don't particularly like travelling too far, so anywhere within about a 150-mile radius works for me. For some reason, I have been conditioned to believe that you either go to the coast or to a big city like London or Bath for your short break, but in recent times I've been questioning this.

I think the last year and the lockdowns particularly, have taught us all there is so much beauty and unexplored places on our doorsteps and as such, I am keen to explore some new places closer to my home, rather than spending lots of time in a car or on a train. Hampshire isn't a county I have explored much before and having lived in Surrey all my childhood/ teen years and now Sussex for the last seven years I'm not sure why, as it is pretty close-by.

I'm trying not to dwell too much on how much we have missed out on in the last year or so, but instead, focusing on the future and the excitement of new trips away. Last April I was chatting to a PR Manager acting on behalf of two areas of Hampshire - The Test Valley and the Hampshire area of the South Downs National Park and we were planning that I'd take a couple of short breaks to try out what these areas have to offer.

Of course, the trips didn't happen, but I am feeling much more positive that short breaks will be back on the agenda later on this year. As such I've been having a virtual search to see which area might suit me best to go and visit. My Mum and I will have our annual London trip this year and therefore this trip will be for my husband and me.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Pensions Advice to Help Tackle the Gender Pension Gap

Exploring the gender pension gap and seeking free & impartial advice from Profile Pensions about your future investments.
Image by Alexander Kliem from Pixabay 


 {This post was commissioned by Profile Pensions and Mumsnet}

Did you know that the average person who takes pensions advice will increase their pension wealth by £31k? (1) That is a pretty massive amount, right? If you live frugally that is enough to keep you going at least another couple of years, or maybe you want to splash a good amount of it on a once-in-a-lifetime world cruise or the car of your dreams. Whatever it is that you choose to do with your money, there is no denying that £31K can make a big difference to the average person's life.

The Gender Pension Gap


I think pensions are a funny old thing and certainly not always top of your priorities. As a teenager, I didn't even think about them and then even in my early twenties when I got my first proper job I wasn't worried about paying into a pension. It was only when I started to earn a good amount of money in my mid to late twenties with a company that was going to pay a decent amount into my pension that I realised it was a really sensible idea to start saving for later in life. Before that point, I hadn't realised that the money I paid into my pension was taken before my tax and NI was applied to my wages and therefore it was really working well for me, saving me paying tax.

It's certainly now one of those times where you see the benefit of hindsight as I earned a lot of money in my late twenties and I now really wish I'd been paying in additional contributions to my pension, especially as the company I was working for even matched contributions and what I'd paid in would have been doubled. Never, in my twenties, did I guess that in my forties I'd be self-employed and not even have a current pension scheme!

It appears this is the story of many women; they don't see any urgency to pay into their pension as a younger woman and then have time off to look after their family and end up regretting their lack of financial planning later in life when their pension pot is considerably less than a man's. Research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Insurance (2) found that by the time a woman is 65 to 69 her pension pot will be only about a fifth of the pot of a man in the same age bracket, the woman's being roughly £35,700.

This gender pension gap is a reality and it appears that it not only comes about because of women perhaps working less due to family caring responsibilities but also as "the result of the unequal accrual of pension entitlements over decades. It is mainly the product of women’s lower state pension entitlement, the gender pay gap and lower historic access to workplace pensions" (3) 

Friday, 12 February 2021

Sustainably Surviving 2021: Buying Used Cars!

Image by Dũng Nguyễn from Pixabay 

 

{This is a collaborative post}

The coronavirus pandemic has affected every country on earth and almost everyone has felt the impact in one way or another, whether that is directly or indirectly. And most of the direct impact has been financial – even for those who have lost loved ones to the virus, money worries have also surfaced in the wake of their bereavement.

 

A Warning

Some people are taking the pandemic as something of a warning from nature, fed up with humans exploiting the resources of the planet, and sadly, all too often, wasting them! From being an instant gratification population who sees something new and wants it, often discarding last week's 'must-have' items in order to make space for it, we must turn, or so the experts say, into people who are a great deal thriftier with what we have been. Learning to recycle, reuse and repurpose our items instead of continuing the never-ending quest for newer, bigger and better material possessions is essential.

 

Driving Force

One of the ways that we can each make a dramatic difference to our impact on the environment, and quite coincidentally save money at the same time, is by opting to buy a used car rather than a new one. There are many advantages to getting a used car that are often overlooked in the tempting allure of a shiny new vehicle, but consideration of these advantages is actually worth a moment or two of your time.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Lockdown Exercise Options Recommended by Teenage Girls

Teenage girl shares ideas for exercising options during lockdown in the UK
Miss E is enjoying her resistance bands from Neon Sheep

{This is a review post, we were provided with the items from Neon Sheep for review}


This lockdown seems to be so much harder than the original one last Spring and as such motivation can be lacking to get outside and do all the things we enjoy and most importantly keep us fit and are good for our bodies and minds. 

I'm lucky that my twin girls have been enjoying having the time to focus more on their fitness but it is just such a shame it keeps raining so much at the moment. I asked my girls to share what they (and their teenage friends) have been doing to exercise during this lockdown -

Chloe Ting Workouts on YouTube

Miss E is loving the Chloe Ting workouts, there is a massive variety and they all seem easy to do from home, all you need is an exercise mat. There are workouts to target all areas of your body and challenges that last a few weeks, so the variety is good and will keep you going for some time. Best of all, her content is all free.

Miss E didn't have an exercise mat so she was chuffed when Neon Sheep sent her a grey yoga mat for use when she is exercising. She was also really pleased that it is a good size, as at 5ft 7" tall she wondered if it would be long enough for her. This lightweight mat is currently on sale at £10.


The Body Coach Workouts

Joe Wicks, AKA The Body Coach is another person with a great YouTube channel. My girls were keen for me to emphasise that it is not the PE with Joe Wicks that teens like but his other workouts, especially the 7 days of sweat. Have a look on his chancel and again, you'll see a great variety of workouts. 

Roller skating

Miss E loves to rollerskate and this is great for your core strength and general balance. It's something you can do alone or with friends and you don't need much space outside. Paths, parks or cycle trails are all good places to go skating and if you manage to improve your skills during lockdown, it will be useful for when the roller discos open up again later in the year.

Yoga

Yoga is not only great for helping with your physical fitness, but it is also a wonderful way to help calm and centre yourself. You can feel the stress leave you and a new sense of mental clarity take over, which is just perfect for this unpredictable and stressful time we find ourselves in.

We have been using Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and again it is free content. She has a great 30-day program on there at the moment, called Breath. Miss E is loving the cute little pink yoga socks from Neon Sheep, they are £3 and have little rubber dots on the bottom to ensure you don't slip. 

She also received these workout leggings and matching bra top. The leggings are available in size XS to L and they retail at £19.99. Miss E is wearing a size medium. They have sweat-wicking and quick-drying properties and Miss E says they have been really comfortable to wear. I can confirm they have also washed well too. The sports bra is available in the same size range and sells for £16.99. I really like the mesh detailing on the back and it gives good support in the bust area. 


Cycling

Cycling is another great form of exercise during this lockdown as you can do it alone or with members of your family. Or even meeting with one other person for the purpose of exercise outside. Start small if you haven't cycled for a while as you may find you'll ache in odd places the day after and then slowly build up your stamina, distance and route. 

Going for a Run

The Couch to 5K app is really useful for people just starting out on their running journey, as it gives you a safe way to build up how far you'll run and with what intensity. Of course, your teen may already be quite fit and not need an app like that, but always remember to do some stretches and a short warm-up before any exercise.

Footwear is the most important thing when running so make sure it is comfortable, well-fitting and not too heavy on the foot. Then why not grab a running armband to put your phone in and head off to enjoy some music or a podcast as you take in the fresh air. 


Create your own Workout

There are loads of great article out there about creating your own HIIT workout and it is easy to do this as you don't need any equipment. You can even use a site like Interval Timer to plan your time intervals and have an auditory reminder of when it is time to change activities.

Miss M likes to plan circuits with her twin. So she'll get out any exercise equipment they have like a gym ball, weights, kettlebells or resistance bands and then they decide which exercises they'll do in which order and sort times out. This kind of workout is good as you can change it every time and it stays fresh and fun. It is also nice to do it with another member of your family, as you can then have a bit of friendly competition and compete against each other. 

You can see Miss E with a resistance band in the very top photo. This is one of a set we received from Neon Sheep. For £12.00 you receive five different length/ resistance bands, a door anchor, 2 padded foam hand grips and 2 ankle straps, all supplied in an easy to carry nylon bag.

There really are so many ways to keep fit during lockdown, it doesn't have to be boring and even if the rain never lets up you can exercise in your house or even the garage if you want a bit of fresh air but to stay dry. 

Do share with us any different ways you've been keeping fit during lockdown.

Why not pin this post for later?

Teenage girl shares ideas for exercising options during lockdown in the UK



Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Reading and Bonding During Lockdown

Image by 2081671 from Pixabay 

{This is a collaborative post}

Lockdown 3.0. We’ve done this before, but it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. What many parents have found really beneficial to both you and your child is to get into a routine. If you’ve already set one up, or you’re thinking about it now, there is an addition you should definitely consider: story time. 

Reading and Schooling 


Reading is such an easy way to support your child's homeschooling, and provide them with endless hours of entertainment at the same time. The benefits of reading can also be seen throughout your child’s life. The 90% Reading Goal (Lynn Fielding, 1998) states that 77% of children reading at a second to eighth-grade level at the beginning of third-grade will graduate high school. Only 27% of children reading below this level will graduate. 

Fielding concludes that “a mum or dad, sister or brother, who reads twenty minutes a day with a child from birth can first increase their chance of high third-grade reading skills and then of high school graduation. When a child graduates high school, the child’s probable increased lifetime earnings increase by $220,000, or £170,000.” 

Such a significant impact on your child’s future cannot be ignored or understated. Taking just twenty minutes a day to read with your child will improve their literacy skills and future prospects. This will most likely inspire them to read more on their own, but reading together can be a really good time to bond. 

Monday, 8 February 2021

Enjoying Lockdown in Femme Luxe Loungewear


{This is a paid collaboration with Femme Luxe}

As we're all spending so much time at home right now, loungewear is definitely the order of the day. My teenage girls have been spending their days in fluffy pyjamas and tracksuits, so when Femme Luxe got in touch and asked if I'd like to collaborate again, the girls were over the moon. Last year they had some great T-shirts from them and they are wearing and washing really well. 

I have to admit that as a larger lady it's not a site I've ever had a look at, their clothes are definitely for the smaller and more trendy lady. Some items go up to a 16 but many just seem to go up to a size 14 and it is one of my pet peeves when clothing manufacturers call a size 12/14 an XL. You can't possibly call a size woman extra-large, but I'll save my rant for another day as this post is about the clothes the girls have received and they do actually really like those.  

Trendy Loungewear

Friday, 5 February 2021

Stylish and Practical Black Praper Backpack from Gaston Luga: Review


{This is a review post, we received this backpack free of charge}

We've had a Gaston Luga backpack before and know that the Swede's really understand how to make a styish and long-lasting bag, and that's why we were happy to work with them again. When I showed Miss M the website there were many designs that caught her eye but I steered her towards a bag that was practical and big enough for everything she needs for school and could also be used for a weekend away.

The Praper backpack normally retails for £115 but I see they have a Valentines special on at the moment, with 10% off everything until 16th February 2021 and this takes the price down to £104. Then Gaston Luga are also giving away a free Plankan design cardholder with each order and as always, you get free delivery and returns. 

Add to that, I also have a great deal at the moment for my readers and you can get another 15% off (yes you can add it on top of the 10% they have already slashed off), you just need to use the code michelletwinmum15 at the checkout. 

Ordering & Delivery with Gaston Luga 

When I've ordered before I order as an influencer so it is a little different but looking at the ordering on the website it is easy, intuitive and quick. I have found both deliveries to be super-efficient and Gaston Luga use DHL, You might be tempted to think that there would be a time lag as the products are coming from Sweden but this isn't so an I have found DHL to be excellent with communication and I've easily been able to track my delivery and amend my delivery preferences,

You'll see from the photo below that all the Gaston Luga bags come in a stylish and hardwearing black box and inside you have a dustbag to keep your actual bag clean and in good condition when it is being stored. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Spa Day at Bannatyne Hastings During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Review of a half spa day at Bannatyne Hastings during December 2020 and the time of the coronavirus pandemic

I've been to the Bannatyne Spa in Hastings a few times now and always really enjoyed myself. It's not the most glossy or exclusive spa I've ever been to and realistically the cafe can be quite hit and miss, but seeing as I only ever go when I can book a good deal, either directly or through a site like Wowcher I'm generally happy.

Here are some of the deals I've bagged in the last couple of years via Wowcher:

  • £29.99 for day spa access and 25-minute treatment
  • £69 for day access for 2 people and 3 mini treatments each
  • £49 for day spa access and 3 treatments
  • £95 for day access for 2 people and 4 mini treatments each
Then the latest trip I took was for a half-day entry to the spa (9am - 1pm although they didn't seem to care what time I was there as the receptionist was trying to book me brunch for 1pm), 2 treatments (45 minutes) and brunch for £59.50 (booked directly and the offer is still available now), which was probably my most expensive trip but the brunch really made it a special treat.

I shared my thoughts on a day spa visit that my husband and I took in January 2019 and this is now an updated review on how a half-day spa went for me in December 2020 between the two lockdowns in the UK. This was my early Christmas present from my parents and I went alone. After doing lots of spa days with friends and my husband I actually think I enjoy the days I go alone the best, as I only have myself to suit and I do love to relax and read.

Bannatyne Hastings

The centre itself feels more like a gym/ sports centre than a traditional spa, so make sure you have the right expectations when you book for here. If you want the kind of experience you'd get at Champneys then I'd say don't bother. On the last two or three visits, the reception staff have seemed pretty new and not very clued up. I've even had a couple of rude ones and certainly, it appears, some like to chat with each other more than help you, but I take it with a pinch of salt as the actual spa and the treatments I've received on every occasion have been exceptional.