A Lonely One

I didn't expect Christmas time to be as hard as it has been.
Thankfully I've had work to distract me but in the evenings...that's the hardest time.
When on Boxing Day I can't even find one friend to socialise with because, quite rightly, everyone has plans. Plans with their family, their partner, with other friends.
As it came to the end of the working day and I said bye to two of my closest work friends I felt my eyes tingle. My heart felt heavy. I knew that the evening was going to be hard and that tears were inevitable.

I drove another colleague home, got in and went straight upstairs. The boys were with their dad so making sure I at least did one thing to take my mind off what I was expecting I had a sort out in my bedroom whilst I ran a bath, listened to my (pretty amazing if I do say so myself) "current favs" spotify list and opened up the bottle of Prosecco still waiting in it's Christmas bag.
I poured it into my "Mines a Large One" glass and then....distruction.

It didn't take long for me to get rid of the contents of that bottle, and to start on another.
And before I knew it I was messaging friends and sending videos to another drunk friend and.....yeah.....the night was OK but I constantly had that knowledge of how desperate, sad and lonely I was.
How desperate, sad and lonely I am.

Tonight, the boys are again with their dad and I am starting the wind down to bed to prepare for a day at work tomorrow.
I have to wash and dry my hair and I just don't want to.
I know that tomorrow everyone will be excitedly preparing to see in the New Year with friends and loved ones and there will be me...seeing it in alone.
The boys will be back with me, but asleep in their beds.
There's not really much new there to be honest. For years my soon-to-be-ex-husband would head to bed early leaving me to see in the New Year alone. I guess part of me hoped this year would be different. That maybe I could shake off the crappy feeling of New Year by celebrating it with friends, a friend, or someone special.
And again, I'll listen out for the fireworks and hear car horns bib, the odd cheer from people outside as I sit and dry my eyes.

This might have been the best decision, but it's a lonely one.
A really lonely one.



Starting Botox Young – The Pros and Cons You May Not Have Thought About

One topic that seems to keep coming up on beauty blogs and in the press in general is the concept of early, or 'preventative' Botox. This where women in their twenties, early thirties, or even in some extreme cases late teens, begin having Botox injections in sites on their faces where they anticipate wrinkles may appear later in life.
As Botox works by paralysing the muscles under the skin, stopping you from making the facial expressions that cause expression lines to form over the years, the idea is that these treatments will stop you getting wrinkles at all, or at least dramatically delay their onset.
However, while this sounds great in theory, nobody really knows if it works or not, because early Botox only became a trend recently and none of the young women who have been having it are old enough yet to really gauge whether it's worked.
This means if you are considering starting Botox young, you are really taking a bit of a gamble. Here are some of the pros and cons you might not have thought about:

It Can't Do Any Harm, Right?

Trying out early Botox does seem like a sound approach, even if the long term results aren't in yet. We do know that the main contributor to facial lines is movement, and that Botox works by stopping this. While other factors related to ageing like depleted skin elasticity will not be affected, if the theory is right then you could end up looking wrinkle free for far longer if you have Botox young, and if it doesn't turn out to work, you haven't lost anything in beauty terms. This makes it seem like it could be worth a 'shot', as long as you are OK with the cons...

Financial and Time Commitment

When you are young, working and relatively free of other commitments, spending your free time and money on your looks seems like a good way to use it – after all it makes you feel happy and confident. The trouble is, that Botox is something you need to have done regularly to maintain the benefits, which means the earlier you start, the longer your commitment will be. When you are older, perhaps with children, a mortgage and other things that seem like a bigger priority for your time and cash, will you still be OK with a bi-monthly expenditure on Botox and the time it takes to get it done, even though as yet, you probably won't be seeing any immediate results from it?

Weighing it Up

The decision about whether to start getting Botox young is one you should think through. If you are comfortable with the long term commitment and the costs, then go for it (but make sure you choose somewhere professional and safe like cotswoldfaceaestheticsclinic.co.uk). If these are off putting to you, just wait until later in life when you can either have Botox with immediate benefits, or there may even be something even more effective on the market!

Thrifty Shopping Tips for Mums on a Budget

In theory shopping is fun, but when you don’t have a lot of spare cash, shopping can also be stressful. Some types of shopping are essential: we have to eat and unless you are completely self-sufficient, you will probably need to visit the local supermarket to stock up your cupboards at least once a week. Other types of shopping fall into the frivolous category: buying a new party dress or splashing out on some sexy shoes.
Fortunately, there are ways and means you can do both, even if you are shopping on a tight budget – and here’s how.

Use Price Comparison Websites

Price comparison websites are useful if you are making larger purchases for Christmas and other special events. All you have to do is tell the search engine what you want and it does the legwork. You can find the cheapest prices for a Playstation, iPads, or even your weekly grocery shop.

Buy at the Right Time

Some things are more expensive at certain times of the year. For example, if you wait until December to buy Christmas cards and wrapping paper, you can expect to pay full price, but if you buy them in January, they will normally be heavily discounted to help the store shift their stock. So be a smart shopper and buy out of season.

Shop in Bulk

It is always more cost effective to buy products in bulk. Obviously this only works for some items, but in the case of grocery products, there are definite savings to be made if you can buy in bulk. Washing powder, dried goods and anything with a long shelf life is cheaper when bought in larger quantities from wholesalers or large sites such as Amazon. So stock up, save money and store items until you need them.

Plan Shopping Trips Carefully

Last minute panic buying is never a good idea, particularly at Christmas. You will inevitably end up in the most expensive stores and parking costs will be extortionate. To avoid this, plan shopping trips carefully by making sure that you pre-book your parking space rather than driving to the nearest premium rate car park. If you’re not driving there’s also money to be saved on train tickets.

Be a Coupon Queen

Coupons and discount vouchers are the answer to a thrifty mum’s dreams. Collecting these vouchers can seem like an odious task at times, but if you are organised and know when to spend them, it is possible to save a fortune at the till.

Buy Short Date Products

Grocery products are usually discounted when their “best before” date has or is about to expire. This doesn’t mean they are unsafe to use; rather, it means you need to eat them sooner rather than later. If you want to save money on dried goods such as rice and cereals, shop for short date products at the local supermarket.

There are lots of ways to save money on all kinds of goods. You just have to be a thrifty shopper to hunt out the bargains and pay less than the recommended retail price. So what are you waiting for?


How to encourage wildlife to your home

Wildlife is an integral part of any garden. From beneficial bees and butterflies, to birds, foxes and rabbits, wildlife is all around us. If you want to encourage more animals and insects there are certain plants that will ensure that you have a constant stream of visitors.

Bees love flowers

Bees are fantastic pollinators and if you introduce roses from Ashridge Trees you can rely on these amazingly hard working insects to visit your garden on a regular basis. Roses aren’t the only plants that attract bees. Lavender beds are accompanied with a steady buzzing sound right through the summer, and bees also love any herb blossom.

Bees and butterflies are vital for garden and plant fertilisation and in the wake of the recent outbreaks of disease in British bees all gardeners are encouraged to grow plants that produce plenty of nectar and pollen to sustain these wonderful insects.

Planting for wildlife

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) ‘highly bred cultivars’ produce little or no pollen. The RHS advises that gardeners plant crocuses with their pollen rich stamens to attract bees and butterflies. Wild flowers are also another useful way of attracting beneficial insects. If you have the space, try leaving a patch of your garden wild to encourage more flowers.

Keeping the birds happy

Of course, birds also carry out many wonderful tasks in the garden. From killing snails - if you’ve ever seen a blackbird teaching its fledgling how to perform this task you’re in for hours of fun - to keeping down aphids and beetles, birds are invaluable. During the winter months erect a bird feeder and keep it well stocked with seeds and nuts.

The Discover Wildlife website has some useful tips on how to keep birds visiting your garden the whole year around. Bushes with berries help. You could always install a nest box to encourage any of your feathered friends to lay their eggs in your garden, just remember to place the nest box high enough away from any predatory cats. Some birds also love some ground cover, dunnocks, blackbirds and robins all like to make their nests fairly close to the ground, so try not to over prune your garden.

Ponds and wildlife

Frogs and newts love ponds, as do water boatmen and a whole host of other insects. Ponds are on the decline across the UK, so you’ll be contributing to the national biodiversity if you dig a pond in your garden. House martins and swallows adore ponds, as they love the insects that are attracted to the water. If you are thinking of installing a pond in your garden, then the RHS advises that the winter and autumn months are the best times to get building.

With the decline in many species, and the increase of chemical fertilisers in the countryside, the UK’s wildlife needs all the help it can get. If you make your garden wildlife friendly, you’ll play an important part in the country’s conservation programme.


5 ways to lower your insurance

A thorough risk assessment will lay the foundation for your company’s safety and best practice out on the road, and most insurers will take it as a sign that you’re dedicated to operating as accident-free as possible. And regular driver training will ensure that bad habits don’t creep in. Richard Flint, head of transport at North Yorkshire Police, tells FleetNews.co.uk: “Make employees aware that you will monitor accidents and take action where necessary, such as retraining.”

There are more steps you can take to lower the cost of covering your vehicles, including the following five.

1 Install camera technology

All sorts of safety tech can now be installed on your vehicles, with the aim of servicing three main needs: vehicle tracking in the event of theft and to better aid route planning; monitoring driving behaviour and recording accidents should they occur; and alerting other road users and nearby pedestrians to your intentions.

Exterior cameras, in-cabin monitors and anti-collision detection devices are available from specialist suppliers such as Brigade Electronics. These will afford you protection against the growing trend for fraudulent, ‘crash for cash’ claims, while also helping you to identify whether drivers, especially younger ones, could do with additional training.

2 Increase your excess payments

First of all you need to check that your provider will allow you to raise your excess payments. If they will, then this could be a very effective way to preserve your bottom line. Essentially, by paying a bigger excess, you pay cheaper insurance rates. It’s an ideal solution for companies who are proud of their safety record and confident their best practices will avert future incidents.

However, it does mean that minor incidents could be very costly due to increased excess payments, possibly far outweighing the increased premiums you’d have paid before any change to rates.

3 Shop around before renewing your policy

Wading through thousands of words of providers’ insurance policy small print is enough to make any fleet manager reach for the phone, call their current provider and simply renew their existing deal. But sometimes easiest is not cheapest. Digging around for the best deals might mean you find a policy which lets you pick and choose what is covered and what is not. Items such as windscreen replacement or breakdown cover could be removed entirely and underwritten by separate policies.

4 Combine policies

Your insurer may allow you to roll certain policies into a single, cheaper one. Sheer economy of scale might mean that, should you run the fleet of a larger company, you may be able to add your public and employee liability insurance to your vehicle cover for a cheaper overall rate. Smaller companies may find it harder to convince insurers to offer similar options.

5 Manage your younger drivers carefully

As with private driving, young people aged 17 to 20 are twice as likely to make a claim as any other driver. Many of these claims happen at night. This might mean you need to stipulate that company vehicles are not to be driven after a certain time, and that fronting - the practice of putting younger drivers onto a company’s fleet policy even though they’re not directly employed by it - is not taking place.

For more tips on lowering fleet insurance, head to BusinessZone.co.uk.


How to involve your children in your big move

Selling your property, be it via an estate agent or a company like We Buy Any Home, can be a daunting and somewhat nerve-wracking experience – not just for you, but for your kids too who might be worried about moving away from their friends, starting a new school or something simple (but huge in a child’s world) such as getting a new bedroom.
With this in mind it’s really important to make the move as smooth and natural as possible for little ones and you can do this by involving them in the whole process – here’s how.
Ask them where they’d like to live
To help your children feel like their opinions on the house move matter, ask them where they’d like to live – or what type of property they would prefer. While you might get some rather random answers such as Peppa Pig World or Cinderella’s castle, you could also guide their answers by asking whether they’d like to live in the city or country or whether they would prefer a bungalow or a house. You could even show them the houses you are trying to decide between to see which one they prefer or ask if they wouldn’t mind having a smaller bedroom in exchange for a bigger garden.
Of course, it’s down to the adults to make the final decision, but being honest and open with your kids from the start and asking for their input should reduce their anxiety levels and get them excited about moving somewhere new.
Take them on house viewings
While many kids dislike the thought of moving and show visible signs of irritation, upset or annoyance, you might be able to help them think in a more positive way by taking them to house viewings. As soon as they see what properties are out there they might start to feel better about relocating – especially if something works in their favour such as being closer to their school (meaning a few more minutes in bed in the morning).
If you’ve found a house you really like and are close to signing a deal, you could also take the kids along to a final viewing and suggest ways in which the house can be made really fun – such as turning that spare third bedroom into a games room or transforming the attic into a cosy, fun den for sleepovers. Kids of all ages really need to see the benefits of being dragged from their current place of comfort, so be prepared to sell the property you like to them too.
Ask them to help with packing
Packing up a house with kids underfoot is never easy, which is why there’s plenty of advice for stressed parents online, but one of the best ways to make the process easier and to get your children involved with the big move is to ask them to help. While very young children can do things like placing objects in boxes, older kids can organise, sort, label, tidy up, move suitcases from A to B and do other tasks that’ll make your life easier.
Knowing how to pack up your home will save time and energy, so try to use colour coded boxes where possible (one for clothes, one for games, one for DVDs and so on) and ask each child to take responsibility for their bedroom in the weeks running up to the move, before moving onto communal areas.
Kids will feel the stress of a house move as much as you, so try to make the process as organised, fun and entertaining as possible being sure not to keep them uninformed about any important details.

10 Things Owning A Pet Teaches Children

This year it was estimated that 12 million, 46% of households, have pets in the UK. Of these almost a quarter own dogs, making it the most popular pet with Brits, with cats not far behind. These numbers are hardly surprising, when a pet is a welcome addition to any family, whether this is a dog, cat, hamster or even a fish.

But, besides many other benefits, pets can also teach children skills that will aide them as they grow. So before you start searching through the dogs or cats for sale from Freeads, here is what they can teach your child:  

1. Responsibility:

When children have a pet they must learn to look after something other than themselves. The pet will require feeding, exercise and affection everyday and the child must be aware of what they need, when they need it and provide it for them. This in turn will enable them to learn simple tasks, such as keeping food and water bowls topped up, grooming and exercising their pet.

2. Empathy:  

For your child to be able to fulfill your pet’s need, they will need to understand how they are feeling. They will learn the signs that mean they are hungry or need to go in the garden, for example.

3. Trust:

Your pet will become your child best friend and therefore will become someone they can talk to, without fear of being judged or told off. It will enable them to talk when they feel no one else is listening and not have that information passed on, which will help your child build trust with others.

4. Academic Skills:

Pets can play the role of teacher – with research showing that animals can actually boost academic skills. This is because pets, especially dogs, are a far better reading companion for children than adults, because the child is more relaxed when they can just read without being told when they have made a mistake.

5. Compassion:

Similar to learning empathy, your child must feel concern for their pets and work towards rectifying any situations that are causing them to suffer.   

6. Confidence:

As your child is able to fulfill the tasks your pet relies on them for, it will increase their confidence.

7. Social Skills:

Pets, particularly dogs, are great icebreakers – children will find themselves having several conversations whilst out on a walk with them. But just by being there, and providing an opportunity for the child to chat to them, will help with social skills. In fact, studies have shown that children with autism make substantial progress when they interact with a dog, so imagine what they could do if your child doesn’t have these restrictions on their social skills.

8. Bereavement:  

When your pet sadly passes away your child will learn the feelings of loss, but also how to cope during this period.

9. Loyalty:

A pet is extremely loyal to its owner and your child will learn the importance of reciprocating this loyalty.

10. Physical Activity:

Children with pets can learn that physical activity is fun, which will encourage them to become healthy and active.

There are many benefits to having a family pet, and all animals can teach your children these skills to some extent, however a dog, for example, will allow the opportunities to learn far more than a fish will. But, ultimately, it depends on your individual circumstances which pet is best for your family, bear in mind it will be more than just your child’s ‘teacher’ and will need looking after itself. 


10 things you MUST consider when choosing a wedding venue

When choosing a wedding venue there are more things to consider than just how good it looks and the price (of course these are important aspects), be sure to check for the following things before settling on a location:

1. Have you thought about logistics?
You might find a venue that seems perfect, but it’s a good idea to check how far the location is from where the vast majority of your guests live, whether it has parking and accommodation on site or close by. Think about how everyone is going to get there to ensure you don’t upset or disgruntle your guests, it is your day but you want everyone to be able to get to your wedding as easily as possible.

2. How many people can the venue can accommodate?
The size of the venue is very important and any space can appear huge when you first look around it but you need to bear in mind how full it will be once the tables, DJ and catering set up are in place. Be sure your venue can accommodate everyone before you put a deposit down.

3. Are there any decoration guidelines?
Check with the venue that you can hang things up and move furniture around, some places are stricter than others and you might find yourself restricted on the day and that you can’t put up decorations as you like. You should also check what the venue itself provides, some are full service, which means they offer everything from the chairs to the tablecloths, while others require you to source these things yourself.

4. What time can you start setting up?
Some venues can be fussy about how early they let you in to start setting up, while others are flexible and allow you to come in the day before – some will even do it for you! Check what this aspect of the venue entails to avoid any last minute stress.

5. Is the venue available to wedding guests only?
Some venues remain open to other members of the public, while being used as a wedding venue, which puts you at risk of gate crashers in the evening. Opt for a venue that once booked out is only available to you, to avoid this.

6. Is there an alcohol license?
Most venues will be able to distribute alcohol but some – usually outdoor venues – don’t have a license to provide alcohol so you will need to bring your own. Check this detail beforehand or you might find yourself having a sober party!

7. Will the venue provide catering, or can you source your own?
More and more couples are opting for less traditional foods at their wedding, shunning the three course sit down meal and bringing in fish and chip vans and ice cream trucks.

8. What about extra fees?
Some venues like to slap on extra fees when it comes weddings, from uncorking your bottles of champers to a fee for cake cutting. Check what additional extras you might have to pay for before signing anything. The Daily Mail recommends serving up your cake as dessert at your meal, to save costs, which is a great idea if you have decided to prioritise paying for top-class rings from 77diamonds.com.

9. Is there a cancellation policy?
In the unlikely event you need to cancel your wedding venue it’s a good idea to check whether you will get your money back or if there is a time limit on when cancellations can be made by to at least return everything but your deposit. You should also check what happens should the venue need to cancel on you, to avoid any heartbreak or loss of money.

10. Are there enough electrical outlets?
No, not for when your phone battery has died! You will need plenty of places to plug in fairy lights, the DJ set up, any catering stations etc. and you could find yourself getting a little stressed if you discover at the last minute there isn’t enough. If you’re unsure leave some extension leads at the venue for people to access.

Winter crafting with the kids

Winter is the best time of year for crafting with the kids as we have Christmas, snow and plenty of time off from school to look forward to! Check out these winter crafting ideas for the kids, to keep them occupied when the weather gets really chilly outside:

Finger knitting
While browsing your crafting publications you have delivered via magazine subscriptions, you might consider knitting an ideal craft for the kids to undertake but aren’t sure if they can manage using the tools required.

That’s where finger knitting comes into play and is relatively simple to teach, allowing you to create fun items such as a scarf, a bookmark or friendship bracelets. Pick out festive themed or winter colours for the wool and work together to create something they can use afterwards. Here is a great tutorial to follow.

Toilet tube bird feeder
This crafting project is perfect for winter and for also encouraging the kids to take an interest in what happens in the garden, by creating a bird feeder you’re providing food for the birds in the colder months, when it’s harder for them to find.

Simply take a finished loo roll tube, punch two holes in the top and pull string or twine through these, tie in a knot, spread peanut butter or lard over the whole tube and then roll it in bird seed and you’re done! You can create a few of these to hang around the garden then spend the rest of the day watching for birds and ticking off which ones pay you a visit. This YouTube video goes into detail how to create your own.

Paper snowflakes
Most kids won’t get to do this fun craft at school these days, so grab some printer paper and get them cutting (be sure to supervise when scissors are involved) to create some pretty snowflakes they can stick on their bedroom windows.

Footprint penguin
This one is great if you don’t mind the kids getting a little messy and is a lovely way of cherishing them when they’re small – they don’t stay that way for long! Simply take some black paint, place your child’s foot in it and then get them to stand on a white piece of card. Once this footprint is dry decorate it like a penguin, with the toes for the feet and the heel of the foot for the face.

Handprint reindeer
Much like the penguin, kids can use body parts to create other winter animals that can be used as card designs or hung on the fridge. Simple paint your kid's hand in brown paint then get them to transfer this onto a colored piece of card (one hand print creates the head and antlers and another upside down one underneath for the body, this tutorial is a great example), once this is nearly dry stick on a red pom pom or glitter glue for the nose and a bell onto a red painted on collar. A googly eye, which can be found in packs, at retailers like Hobbycraft, can finally be added to finish off his face!


6 cleaning hacks from the pros

If your budget doesn’t extend to hiring a cleaner, keeping your home spick and span can be a tedious business. Most modern families are so busy working, transporting children to a whole variety of social occasions as well as simply keeping on top of life that there’s little time left for domestic chores. Here are a few tips to help you become a domestic god or goddess, that will ensure you can manage your timetable and your budget.

1. The right equipment helps

In order to cut down on time make sure that you have the right cleaning equipment. A pair of gloves from Brosch Direct will help you keep your hands soft and will protect you from any abrasive cleaning solutions, As well as commercial products you should always stock up on lemons and vinegar. Dusters, disposable paper cloths and wet wipes should also form a part of house cleaning arsenal.

2. Create your own air freshener

In a recent article in The Independent, Juliet Davenport, the CEO of electrical supplier Good Energy, stated that in order to overcome the many demands on her time and clean her house, she had found that a mixture made up of lemon juice and water acted as a wonderful air freshener.

3. Cleaning wood

Commercial polish doesn’t always result in beautiful wooden furniture or floors.
It can also be difficult to apply and cost a fortune. One way to get around this problem, and save money as well, is to make up a mixture of ‘one part lemon juice to two parts of olive oil.’ This solution will clean all wooden surfaces and is quick and easy to apply. Some experts suggest that if you have any mixture left over, you can always add it to your salad!

4. Eradicate greasy stains

Clothes, table cloths and sheets can all suffer from greasy stains. The House Steward at the National Trust property, Nuffield Place, Joanna Gamester, recommends that sprinkling some chalk over the affected area before you put the items in the washing machine. This process will eradicate the stains and means that you won’t have to take the damaged material to the dry cleaners.

5. Cleaning the grouting

Most contemporary bathrooms and kitchens have at least one wall covered with ceramic tiles. In order to fix the tiles to the wall the builder will have used grouting, which can look dirty very quickly if you don’t keep on top of your tile cleaning. Mumsnet recently hosted a debate on this subject and many advocated the advice given by TV clean guru Anthea Turner. Bicarbonate soda mixed with water is the answer to any of your grout cleaning problems. You can apply this mixture with a toothbrush and then simply wipe it away leaving your tiles and grouting sparkling and clean.

6. Cola isn’t just for drinking

Fizzy drinks receive a lot of bad press but one area where they are positively beneficial is when used as an aid to household cleaning. Even the Coca Cola company acknowledge that some people use their drink in this way. Simply splash some cola into your lavatory and any stains will be removed once you clean the bowl with your lavatory brush. Cola also cuts through any oil stains on your garage floor.
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