Help The Young And Homeless To Feel Less Alone This Christmas

On our occasional shopping trips to our nearest town centre, there is one thing that can be guaranteed – that we will see homeless people bedded down in the doorways of empty shops or in the city’s subways. Youth homelessness is a growing problem across the UK.

youth homelessness - a young man begging on the street

More often than not, the incumbents of old sleeping bags and blankets are ignored by busy shoppers who just want to get their purchases and return home.

There’s something about having children yourself that opens your eyes to things you may previously have tried to ignore – the plight of the homeless and, in particular, homeless young people who find themselves cold, hungry and alone through no fault of their own.

My kids simply cannot understand how it can happen and just trying to explain it to them is difficult.  Whilst we give what we can, it never feels enough and, often, giving directly to the person makes you even more aware of how ineffective this is as a way of solving their problem long-term.  We see the problem, but we don’t always acknowledge the people.

Of course, we should give food, clothing, blankets.  It is just common humanity but what lots of these youngsters really need is attention, kindness, conversation and the feeling that they have not been forgotten.

And our town is just the tip of the iceberg.  This Christmas there will be 18,000 young people alone on the streets in the UK.

Everyone should have someone at Christmas

This November sees the launch of a new campaign from Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity called So Alone For Christmas – to raise awareness of the problem and to appeal to all of us who will have a comfortable warm Christmas to donate whatever we can to give a young person some hope this festive season.

Last Christmas Centrepoint helped 2,400 young people and the aim is to help even more this year by getting them off the streets into a place where they are cared for.  Everyone should have someone at Christmas.

How do young people end up on the street?

But how do our young people find themselves out on the street?

It’s easier than you might think to end up homeless. Violence, abuse, mental health problems are key reasons, together with financial pressures and poor family relationships.

And it’s a vicious circle.  No home or bed leads to mental and physical exhaustion.  With no address, the chance of an education or finding full-time employment is seriously hampered.

youth homelessness - young girl and boy begging on the streets

Real life stories of youth homelessness at Christmas

You can imagine that all of this must be especially hard to bear at Christmas when the rest of the world seems to be celebrating, indulging and sharing special times with their friends and family.

You can read real-life stories from homeless young adults who have experienced a rough time at Christmas in Centrepoint’s recent blog post – “What’s it like to be young and homeless at Christmas?”.

For instance, Ben found himself on the streets following a terrible argument at home. He ended up in hospital on Christmas Day, desperately ill but had only one visit – from a family member who told him he couldn’t go home ever again.

Ben found himself sleeping rough on a park bench with just a blanket and his
medication, too ashamed to admit his situation until he found his way to Centrepoint.

Ben’s keyworker arranged for him to take part in tenancy training to help him prepare to live independently. He learned about practicalities like organising finances and paying bills.

Today Ben has settled into a place of his own and he is hoping to become an engineer.

As a parent, it takes no great leap of the imagination to see that such an experience for a youngster must be soul-destroying and the sense of abandonment and isolation overwhelming.

Many young people are much more likely to self-harm or have suicidal thoughts at this time of year because they’re so desperately lonely.

Whilst youth homelessness is a societal and political problem, this does not mean that we should not do everything we can do to ease the plight of young homeless people right now.

How you can help

Your donations can make a real difference.  Did you know that Centrepoint supports 10,000 homeless young people each year and that 86% of these move on positively with their lives?  They may go home again, get their first jobs or go to university.  There IS a way out of youth homelessness.

For example:-

£18 pays for a safe bed in Centrepoint supported housing

£50 could pay for the support of a Centrepoint keyworker

£144 could sponsor a room for a whole year.

You can donate by visiting the Centrepoint Christmas appeals page to discover how your donations can help the charity to support homeless youth in the UK.  Don’t forget to add Giftaid to your donation if you are a UK taxpayer.

Alternatively, you can call 0800 472 57 98 or visit

If you need help with homelessness, the Centrepoint Helpline offers advice about dealing with homelessness to young people in England between the ages of 16-25.  They will also offer advice if someone you know is homeless.  Their number is 0808 800 0661.

For advice on homeless in Wales, contact Shelter Cymru on 0345 075 5005.

Please give what you can to help make a homeless young person’s Christmas a time of hope, rather than despair.

It’s what I would want somebody to do for my children.

Is My Levothyroxine A Menace Or A Miracle?

Hmm.  I might just have done something daft.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember whether I had taken my daily dose of Levothyroxine for my underactive thyroid – so I took another.

Now whether it’s ‘menopause brain’ or just general scattiness I don’t know but my health anxiety kicked in big time and off I duly went to consult Dr Google.

And, as anyone who does this knows, 9 times out of 10 you generally wish you hadn’t.

Levothyroxine is a medicine which replaces the thyroid hormone which our thyroid gland should be making to help us control energy levels and growth. I am on the minimum dose of 25 mg.

I haven’t really given much thought to the effect of Levothyroxine on my body but this morning’s ‘research’ suggested that the drug may lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis, also one of the ‘side-effects’ of the menopause so am I doubly at risk?

Further, there were many anecdotal reports of a triggering or worsening of tinnitus from taking Levothyroxine, coupled with either rapid weight gain or loss (guess which one I have!).

There seems to be a huge gulf in the knowledge sufferers have and that of their GPs.  I recently learned the term ‘patient expert’ from the marvellous Jane Lewis in her book “Me And My Menopausal Vagina”and I think that’s a brilliant description of what many of us are becoming -through necessity I might add.  It’s hardly a fun hobby.

Some say that TSH levels should be monitored every six weeks and the full report checked – including vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels and iron.  Many report that their blood tests are, in reality few and far between.

I think I have had one thyroid blood test this year but I can’t remember exactly when and I didn’t get to see the report until I asked at a later appointment for something different.  I was just told the result was ‘normal’.

Some sufferers are so frustrated with the effects of Levothyroxine that they stop taking it – not advisable without medical supervision, but understandable if their experiences are to be believed (and why would I doubt them?).

If you are unfamiliar with the symptoms of an underactive thyroid, they include these:-

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
  • Coarse, dry hair
  • Dry, rough pale skin
  • Hair loss
  • Cold intolerance
  • Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • Decreased libido

So the logical question is, if you are still getting these symptoms and you are taking Levothyroxine, are you on the right dose and have your bloods been properly assessed?

The consequences of not getting the right dose are pretty serious – birth defects, heart problems and infertility to name a few.

There is also the rare but potentially fatal condition of Myxedema (extreme hypothyroidism) which occurs when the disorder has progressed for a long time with no treatment. Myxedema can eventually slow metabolism to the point where you would fall into a coma. It’s hard to recognise the symptoms but if you experience extreme fatigue or cold intolerance, seek medical treatment immediately.

See what I mean about consulting Dr Google?  But you have to wonder if some of our doctors are up to the job of diagnosing and providing the right patient care when it comes to hypothyroidism.

Actually that seems to be a recurring theme in my life because I could argue the exact same thing about tinnitus, menopause and any gynaecological problem you like.

We seem to have got ourselves into a position where our doctors’ surgeries are populated entirely with generalists rather than specialists – and whilst it would be unrealistic and unfair to expect our docs to be experts in everything, there does seem to be less and less of a holistic or even a personal approach and more of a “right you’ve got 10 minutes in which I’ll tell you what it’s most likely to be and prescribe the usual treatment”.  Although reportedly you’ll struggle if that treatment is antibiotics or HRT in some places.

Anyway, I’ve resolved to ask for another blood test to check my levels because I have noticed a rapid weight gain and an increase in the volume of my tinnitus.

I’ll report back but I’m really hoping to avoid increasing my levothyoxine tablets!

Do you take levothyroxine for an underactive thyroid? How do you get on with it?


Five Questions You Should be Asking Your Customers

Rather than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on market research, along with countless hours of time trying to figure out how to please your customers, there is one very simple method of accomplishing it.

Ask them.

Customer feedback questions - mini shopping trolley on a keyboard

People will usually tell you everything you need to know if you just ask. With that thought in mind, businesses ranging from ebooks online stores to sporting goods providers will benefit from learning the answers to these five questions you should be asking your customers.

What do you like about shopping with us?

You might learn the thing you thought was your most attractive feature doesn’t matter at all to shoppers. On the other hand, you might also learn that that thing really is the main thing. Either way, it’s a good way to find out what you’re doing right so you can build upon it and make your customer experience even better.

What do you dislike about shopping with us?

This one is pretty self-explanatory. However, be prepared to toughen your skin, you might hear some things you don’t want to hear. Which, of course, is the whole point of the exercise, facing facts you might have not wanted to face—or completely overlooked. Either way, it’s a question you shouldn’t shy away from asking.

How would you characterize your last experience with us?

One of the strange quirks about humanity is people will tell everyone around you how much they dislike you, but they won’t tell you—unless you ask. This question has the potential to elicit responses that questions one and two above do not. Shoppers could well love shopping with you for the most part, but the last time they had an issue with something, one of your reps left them feeling less than valued. This gives them an opportunity to vent to you, rather than all over social media. And, it gives you an opportunity to make the situation right.

If you could change something about our website, what would it be?

Let’s say you’re marketing ebooks. Even if you use one of the best e-commerce platform providers like Shopify for your ebooks online stores, you could have still overlooked some key feature shoppers encountered elsewhere and appreciated. Asking this question lets you get a peek at your competitors from the perspective of the shopper. It’s an invaluable opportunity.

What else do you think we should know—or do?

Placing this question at the end of the survey gives the respondent an opportunity to sum everything up in a nice neat package. It demonstrates your willingness to understand exactly where your customers’ concerns lie and it gives them a chance to tell you about anything else your questions may have overlooked.

The True Value of Customer Feedback

Asking for customer feedback from time-to-time—and acting upon the information you gather—is key to your continued customer satisfaction. Competition is very intense out there these days even though e-commerce is still in its infancy. This presents you with an opportunity to get well established while the wave is still building.

Seeking customer feedback in this manner will:

  • Improve your service
  • Enable you to provide a smoother customer experience,
  • Allow you to look at your business from a different perspective
  • Give you a foundation for better business decisions
  • Enhance customer loyalty
  • Help you identify your best customers

The value of these advantages cannot be overstated. And, the best thing of all is you don’t have to work that hard to acquire them.  All you need to know is these five questions you should be asking your customers.

What I’ve Just Realised About Exercising

I recently bought The 6-Minute Diary (review to follow later) which makes you take 3 minutes every morning and evening to practise gratitude and decide how you are going to improve.

For years I have been promising myself that I would take better care of my body and since today is 6 months away from my 55th birthday, and I have no intention of checking out till a ripe old age, I decided that I would just have a 30-minute walk at lunchtime.

That’s it.  No gym, no branded gear, no water bottle, Fitbit or phone.  Just me, my walking boots and far too much puffing as I ascended the hillier bits of Dinas Powys.

Not surprisingly I feel much better if a little rained on and wind-swept.  There is something about the repetitive plod of foot after foot that soothes and helps you focus.

I found myself thinking about my excuses for not taking better care of myself – and there are plenty.

  • not enough time
  • the wrong gear
  • having to do it alone
  • too many other important things to do

You get the picture.  I supposed what also triggered this was watching Mariella Frostrup’s programme on the BBC this week – The Truth About The Menopause – which demonstrated quite convincingly that exercise can really help our bodies to cope with the onslaught of symptoms.

Not all exercise is equal it seems.  Running or dancing were recommended as the impact upon bones seems to stimulate them to regenerate, or at least remain strong – if I understood it correctly.

No matter.  Today I managed a brisk walk.  I’m no longer naive enough to promise that I will do it every day but at least I now tell myself if I write it down in my diary it will get done.

And I finally realised that these things we do to improve our health are not chores, drudgery or a penance for too much food and drink – no – these teeny tiny steps are acts of self love, of acknowledgement and saying “actually I quite like my body so I’m going to take better care of it”.

It comes from a place of deserving more not a place of punishment.

It is about valuing yourself enough to decide that your health matters.

I’m not about to run a marathon.  But you know what?  I’ve made a start.


5 Reasons Why You Need to Write a Will

Death is something us humans prefer to avoid. Talking about it makes us feel uncomfortable, thinking about it does too. It’s not a glamorous topic, but it is one of life’s inevitable events. Unfortunately, we will all pass on, and whether you believe in reincarnation or the spirit world, we all need to make sure we have prepared for our deaths.

Writing a will is the first place you should start, these days, they are quick and easy and you can even write your will online! So why is it so important for us to write a will?

Why we should all be writing our wills

It Makes Life Easier for Those You Leave Behind

It’s a sad thought, but it’s also true. When you die, your family and friends will be left to organise your funeral service, your estate and your belongings. Without a will this process can be much more time-consuming and indeed, more stressful. A will removes the hassle for your loved ones.

You’ll Be in Control of Your Estate

If you don’t write a will, your estate will be handed over to the law and they will decide what happens. This can cause a lot of upset and it might not be shared out the way you would have intended. Writing a will avoids this, as you’ll decide who gets what when you die.

It Can Help Reduce Inheritance Tax

A will can also help to reduce the overall amount of inheritance tax that may be required to pay on the value of the estate you leave behind. You can ‘beat’ Inheritance Tax by giving away your assets, setting up a trust or changing your will. It is however important that you make sure you pay attention to the legal details and tax consequences.

To Appoint a Guardian to Your Children

Wills don’t just deal with the financial side of your life, they’re also important if you have children who still require a legal guardian. You may state in your will who the guardian of your children should be if anything were to happen to you. It’s a thought we never want to process, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can be comfortable in the knowledge that if the worst were to happen, your children would be well looked after.

It Will Give You Peace of Mind

Writing your will is a relief and a big tick off your to-do list. You can rest easy in the knowledge that you have a plan in place for how your future affairs are handled. Don’t panic about writing it, it won’t necessarily have to stay set in stone, as you are able to make changes to your will whilst you’re still well. If your assets change, you change your mind, or your marriage breaks down, you can make the necessary updates.

It’s not an enjoyable topic by any means, but the sooner you get your will in the place the more relieved you’ll feel! If you have any questions, consult a specialist for advice.

I’m Dreaming Of Some Winter Sun (And Gorgeous Beachwear)

If like me, you are already feeling quite fraught with the amount of organisation needed to steer a small family through the festive period, you might find yourself dreaming about relaxing somewhere warm, sandy and preferably with a cocktail in your hand.

Although our family Christmases have always been spent close to family and friends, I would love to escape one year to warmer climes to make the most of the winter sun – particularly since we still haven’t got around to arranging our honeymoon 7 years on!

But where to go in December and January that would be warm enough to chill out in a bikini?

Winter sun destinations

Here are my top 3 suggested destinations for finding winter sun


Number one on my list is the Caribbean island of Barbados which has a beach for just about everyone with its golden, white and rosy pink sands.

The dry season in Barbados runs from December to May with temperatures ranging from  23°C to 28°C.

The island attracts sunbathers with its gorgeous southern beaches and surfers at the famous Bathsheba Bay. The calmest waters are on the west coast where you’ll also find the most luxurious hotels.

Among the hotels, guest-houses and restaurants you’ll find late night fish fries and, of course, plenty of rum.

Visit Bridgetown’s historic Garrison area or venture inland to explore botanic gardens, plantation houses, ravines and caves.

Note, though that topless sunbathing is against the law on Barbados.


Quite apart from the fact that The Art Deco Weekend runs for three days in mid January in Miami, there’s plenty of warm sunshine on offer in Florida, together with a mix of Cuban culture and tranquillity if you’re brave enough to go kayaking through the Everglades.

Florida is the southernmost state in the US and is known for golf, tennis, auto racing, and water sports in its emerald and turquoise coloured waters.

Visit Universal Orlando, The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, Disney World or Legoland Florida.  Take a trip out to the Kennedy Space Centre or take a boat trip to find the Manatees.  Literary fans will love The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum before people watching on Miami Beach where you can parade your finest swimwear along with the celebs and ‘beautiful people’ on the white sand.

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Just a 4-hour flight from the UK,  on the Spanish island of Lanzarote you’ll find dramatic volcanic landscapes, beautiful beaches and rolling surf for watersports.  Temperatures will be in the high teens and low 20s.

Visit the Timanfaya National Park to see the extraordinary striated rock formations and dine on meat and fish cooked on a grill using heat from inside a volcano at the summit’s restaurant designed by César Manrique.

In the centre of the island you’ll find the town of Teguise founded in the 15th century with its cobbled streets and colonial mansions and the Convento de San Francisco which dates back to the end of the 16th century.

There are plenty of beautiful beaches to choose from.  Playa Chica  (also known as Pila de la Barrilla), is a sheltered beach noted for the stillness of its waters.  If it’s a quiet secluded beach you’re after take the ferry over to La Graciosa and Playa Francesa, allegedly the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

If you have the family in tow, Playa Blanca is the island’s most family-friendly beach with loads of restaurants and ice cream parlours and just 10 minutes from the bus station.

Take a winter cruise

If you prefer the glitz and glamour of cruising, top up your tan in the Southern Hemisphere where December, January and February are the summer months and there’s still plenty of sunshine.

How about Singapore and Hong Kong, Hawaii and Mexico, Australia and New Zealand or Martinique to Antigua?

Prices should be lower and the ships less crowded.  There’ll be fewer tourists at the various ports of call leaving you to enjoy the milder weather in a little more relaxed way.  And, since hurricane season runs from June to November, you won’t have to worry about running into one of those.

What to wear

If all of this has you dusting off your passport and hunting for your sunglasses, you’ll need to make sure your beachwear is ready to go.

Winter sun - Bikinis from Freya at Simply Beach

New in at Simply Beach: Freya Swimwear

Simply Beach, the UK’s leading luxury swimwear retailer, has a great selection of designer swimwear, bikinis and maxi dresses to allow you to easily go from beach to bar.


Winter sun - Freya bikini Top

Freya Rumble Underwired Padded Bandeau Bikini Top – Tropic

I love these new pieces from Freya Swimwear and Australian brand Seafolly which are flattering and comfortable to wear.

Winter sun - Seafolly bikinis at Simply Beach

New in: Seafolly at Simply Beach

Seafolly has a great range of beachwear co-ordinates and accessories too.

Winter Sun - Seafolly Buttercup Maxi at Simply Beach

Seafolly Sunflower Maxi Dress – Buttercup

You also find designer swimwear from Melissa Odabash, Jet, Heidi Klum, Fantasie, Pour Moi and Stella McCartney Swim so you’re sure to find something to make you stand out on the beach.

Whether it’s the flattering cut of a full brief or a brazilian bikini, there is a style for every body shape so there is no excuse for not flaunting your curves.

For those of us staying in the UK for the winter, let’s hope we see a few of the sun’s rays and at least there are plenty of gorgeous hotel spas and pools for us to lounge around.

You can count me out for the traditional Boxing Day swim though!

Are you planning to go in search of some winter sun this year?

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Nutcracker Sweets At Moonglow – Book Review


The small Montana town of Timberton has a way of bringing magic to the holidays, especially for guests of the local hotel. Resident artist and chef Mist has a way of touching people’s lives with exquisite cuisine, imaginative art, and her own ethereal nature.

When a nearby theatre burns down just before Christmas, cast members of The Nutcracker arrive at the Timberton Hotel with only a sliver of holiday joy. Camaraderie, compassion, and shared inspiration combine to help at least one hidden dream come true. As with every Christmas season in Timberton, this year’s guests will face the New Year with a renewed sense of hope.

*Cookie and candy recipes included!

The Moonglow Series…

Mistletoe at Moonglow, Book 1

Silver Bells at Moonglow, Book 2

Gingerbread at Moonglow, Book 3

Nutcracker Sweets at Moonglow, Book 4

Available to buy from……   Paperback

Also available in The Moonglow Series

Each book may be read as a stand-alone novel, or as part of the series.

Mistletoe at Moonglow, The Moonglow Series, Book 1

The Timberton Hotel has always provided a perfect Christmas retreat for regular guests, as well as newcomers. But the small town of Timberton, Montana, hasn’t been the same since resident chef and artist, Mist, arrived, bringing a unique new age flavour to the old western town.

When guests check in for the holidays, they bring along worries, fears and broken hearts, unaware that Mist has a way of working magic in people’s lives. Old-fashioned time spent together, exquisite food, conversation and a snowball or two offer guests a chance to trade sadness for hope. One thing is certain: no matter how cold winter’s grip is on each guest, no one leaves Timberton without a warmer heart.

Available to buy from… Nook  Paperback   

Silver Bells at Moonglow, The Moonglow Series, Book 2

Christmas at the Timberton Hotel arrives each year with a unique set of guests, some returning, some new. When this holiday brings a celebrity seeking reprieve, sisters who are distant yet closer to each other than they think, a widow approaching a new horizon, and an eclectic smattering of local townsfolk and visiting relatives, the season is certain to be eventful. Add in a hint of romance and there’s more than snow in the air around the small Montana town.

Elegant decor and exquisite cuisine from resident artist and chef, Mist, form a backdrop to much-needed camaraderie, bringing strangers and friends together. When the last note of Christmas carols has faded away, the soft whisper of silver bells from the front door’s wreath will usher guests and townsfolk alike back into the world with hope for the coming year.

Available to buy from…   Nook   Paperback

Gingerbread at Moonglow, The Moonglow Series, Book 3

The small town of Timberton, Montana, boasts an ambience of near-magical proportions during the Christmas season, due in no small part to resident artist and chef Mist’s mysterious way of working small miracles in people’s everyday lives. Each year, return guests and new arrivals mingle with local townsfolk to enjoy companionship, exquisite decor, and exceptional cuisine at The Timberton Hotel.

As the aromas of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and molasses mix with heartfelt camaraderie and sweet romance, guests share reflections on family, friendship, and life. Although decorating the outside of a gingerbread house may prove easier than deciding what goes inside, no one leaves Timberton without renewed hope for the future.

Available to buy from……   Nook    GPlay Paperback

My Review

Nutcracker Sweets at Moonglow is a festive treat for the senses.  Readers who enjoy a bit of outright sentimentality and a feel-good tale at Christmas will love this and there is even a selection of candy and cookie recipes to enjoy at the end of the story.

A novella rather than a full novel, I devoured Nutcracker Sweets with as much enjoyment as the hotel guests tucked into artist and chef Mist’s Christmas Eve buffet.

The burning down of the local theatre leads to extra guests at the Timberton Hotel for Christmas – dancers who were putting on the Nutcracker Ballet.  Mist takes the opportunity to share their talents with her guests whilst making a young girl’s dream come true at the same time.  But who is the mysterious Olga and what part does she play in all this?

Garner draws a picture which is as delightful as a Christmas snow globe with her descriptions of decor, dancing and above all food.  I’m passing this one on to my daughter Caitlin to read as it contains two of her most favourite things – ballet and sweets.

I’m off the read the previous three books in the series as this one is a perfect antidote to grey skies, cold weather and daily drudgery.  Nutcracker Sweets at Moonglow will appeal to anyone who likes their Christmas with a dollop of festive magic.

About the author

Deborah Garner is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts centre, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now prides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.

Find the author on the following sites…

Website   Facebook Twitter   Pinterest Google+   Goodreads Bookbub Amazon Author Page

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Could You Use Your Negativity To Win In 2019?

It’s that time of year when we find ourselves both reflecting on the year just past and the one to come. It’s time to evaluate everything that has gone before, to take stock and to make some changes.

negative thinking - cardboard robot with a grumpy face

The problem with this, of course, is that, if we’re not careful, our focus can be on all the bad events, the unhappy moments, the things we shouldn’t have said and the things we should have done.

But if we find ourselves locked in a spiral of negative thinking, can we turn this around?  Could negative thinking actually be a good thing?

Clayton John Ainger, award-winning author of The Ego’s Code (£15.99, Panoma Press) shares why negativity is a powerful message from you, to you; a message to learn from rather than suppress you.

Because we all have this tendency to focus on the negative, we may find this causes so much uncertainty that we end up paralysed and end up doing nothing.

As you change, your life changes. Rather than look at negativity as an obstacle, it is better to see it a fuel for change and one which can motivate you to make important changes so that you reveal the real you, the you that is often hidden away!

Here are his three quick tips to help you start banishing your negative thinking in 2019.

Change the meaning of your negativity

Negativity is a natural and normal part of life and is a valuable resource for change. By treating negativity as innately bad or wrong, we give it more power over us and increase its impact in our lives.

Changing the meaning you give negativity and seeing it as something to serve you, rather than hinder you, allows you to approach uncomfortable and difficult situations in a new way, which enhances your ability to engage more fully with life.

Be Aware, Acknowledge and Act on your Negativity

It’s easy to allow ourselves to feel the weight of negativity. When we do this, our negativity anchors us to the past, causing us to literally relive our past in the here and now.

At that moment, we are prevented from making any true progress in life. It becomes easier to bail out and accept failure rather than to push through and pursue success.

Instead of dismissing negativity or sweeping it aside, become aware of it, because awareness pulls you out of the past into the present.

Acknowledge and express gratitude for your negativity! You are about to learn something about yourself to help you in life.

You then have a choice; you can react, in a way that could harm you or someone else, or you can respond by consciously acting in a way that serves you for your highest good.

It is this state of being that make lasting changes, not short-term fixes.

Set yourself up to WIN

Before you go into challenging situations, or have difficult conversations that may trigger negative thinking, try the ‘WIN’ technique to calm the mind, body and emotions; Focus on your intention and the desired outcome so that you feel confident enough to serve others and express your truth.

Here is the WIN technique:

W: Walk and Breathe

Deep, controlled breathing helps you to calm down, bringing clarity about the situation. Clayton always walks in a figure-eight; to access both sides of the brain – creativity and logic – and align his head and heart, powering up his intuition.

I: Intention

As you walk, focus on your intention and outcome from the situation. Clayton spends a lot of time front-of-room speaking, engaging with senior leaders in business, working with customers from all walks of life so being clear about his intention and how he can serve his clients or his audience at the highest level is of the highest importance to him.

Clarity and certainty of his outcomes bring confidence and puts him in the best mindset to help his clients win.

N: Nail it

Deliver, succeed and celebrate! So many people quickly move onto the next thing without thinking about what they just achieved.

Celebrating your achievements helps you to get a sense of your real value and real self-worth. When you value yourself, others will automatically do the same. ”

What do you think of Clayton’s tips?

Personally, I think it’s far healthier to accept your negativity and to actively channel it, rather than make yourself miserable by trying to suppress it – and becoming even more negative in the process!


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Things To Do In Vienna On A City Break With Kids

Beach holidays are great. The sun, the sea, the sand (not to mention the all-inclusive buffet!). There’s no question that soaking up the poolside atmosphere can really recharge your batteries. But. And there is a ‘but’. What do you do on day two? Day three? You can’t keep lying around. The kids won’t let you.

That’s why I’ve been looking into city breaks suitable for the whole family. Something with daytime fun and evening culture. Something new. Something different. Vienna has taken my fancy.

Concert Hall, Palace, and Museum Tours

Vienna is home to seven world-class concert halls, as well as over 100 stately palaces and slightly more than 100 museums. That’s a lot to see and do! I discovered that I could book Vienna opera house tickets with superb package tour deals for families, including pick up and drop off at all music venues, palaces, and museums.

There’s also an evening meal at a selected palace! This type of varied and well-planned tour is enough to keep the whole family entertained all day.

Fish. In the air.

When you think aquarium, you think water. When you think water, you think a pool or a tank, usually wide and deep. But then there’s the House of the Sea in the centre of Vienna. It’s a vertical aquarium. The building is tall and sort of thin (it was used during World War Two as a massive gun tower for shooting down planes!). But don’t be fooled.

Thanks to clever and unimaginably inventive planning, this 11-story tower is home to a 500,000-litre main tank (complete with tunnel), a cave grotto filled with over 100 attractions, a terrarium section filled with snakes, lizards, and tarantulas, and as if that weren’t enough, how about a hammerhead shark tank on the 10th floor? Amazing. Great views of Vienna, too.

Visit the Mariahilferstrasse

The Mariah what now? Well, Austrians speak German, and the German word for street is ‘strasse’. That should be your first clue that this is a street name – and what a street it is! I don’t know about you, but when I visit a city, I want to see the modern side just as much as I want to see the history.

The Mariahilferstrasse runs all the way from the Westbahnhoff (a huge train station on the edge of the immediate city centre) to the centre of town. Here you’ll find reason after reason to stop and be entertained. From sushi and cinemas to multi-floor department stores, ice cream shops, street artists, markets, museums, supermarkets, and parks, this is where the Viennese come to have fun.

Budgeting Ideas For School Trips and Exchange Programmes

It’s no secret that raising a child is expensive, with the average cost now ranging between £75,000 and £187,000, depending on factors like childcare. While you budget for food, clothing and toys, what can you do when an unexpected expense arises? One such example is a long school trip or exchange programme.

New research shows that even free and state schools cost parents £800 per child, per year. This includes lunches, course materials and uniforms, the latter of which have resulted in parents applying for loans.

When it comes to school trips and overseas programmes, you don’t want your child to miss valuable learning opportunities. To help, below are some ways you can budget.

Teach Your Child About Money

While the upfront cost of the trip may be pricey, there will likely be more money to shell out when your child is away. This is where teaching your children the value of money is important, both for the trip and their financial future.

Depending on the age of your kids, there are loads of activities and games to help them learn about money and budgeting, which could help them to spend less while they’re away.

Consider a Pre-Paid Card

Whether they’re going on a school-organised holiday or taking part in an exchange programme, your child will need to take money with them. Rather than giving them a large amount of cash, which could be misplaced or stolen, consider a children’s pre-paid card.

This provides your child with access to funds, but limits how much they can spend, helping to reduce costs. It also provides more security, as cards can be cancelled if lost and the limit can be increased if required.

Speak to Teachers and Hosts

Without knowing about activities planned or the price of local amenities, it can be difficult to create a budget. This is where speaking to teachers or host families can be helpful.

Teachers can give you a breakdown of the trip and any additional costs to expect. While speaking to the host family will allow you to find out what activities their children are involved in and learn about the costs of daily life in the country.

Remember the Extras

Finally, don’t forget those extra expenses. Depending on the length of the trip and where your child is going, this could include anything from additional clothes and medicines to pocket translators and increased monthly phone costs. You may also need to factor in travel insurance and additional baggage allowance.

School trips and exchange programmes can enhance your child’s education, providing the opportunity to learn new skills. As such, hopefully, these tips will help you to budget.

How To Care For Your Poinsettia – THE Christmas Plant

Some of us are not very good with houseplants even though they help improve the quality of air in our homes and home offices.  In fact, some of us find keeping a Spider Plant alive a bit of a challenge.  I am proud to say, though, that I have a Poinsettia which I have managed to keep alive for nearly 6 years.  This is a bit of a miracle because my Poinsettia care consists of watering it when I remember.

Poinsettia care - beautiful red poinsettia plant

Apart from the Christmas tree, there is nothing like a blooming red Poinsettia to add a bit of festive cheer to a room.

There is even a special marketing initiative founded by a coalition of European Poinsettia breeders to protect the interests of this seasonal favourite Stars For Europe (SfE).

Sales of this classic plant continue to grow they say and the white, coral and ‘spattered’ colours are as popular as the red variety in the UK.

If you’ve bought one and are wondering how best to take care of it, here are a few of Stars For Europe’s care guidelines.

Poinsettia care - red poinsettia on a red cabinet

Poinsettia care tips

Keep them away from cold and draughts

The most important thing to remember is that Poinsettias HATE cold and draughts so keep away from doors and windows and then they should last until Christmas.  After that, you could put them out for recycling or if it’s like mine see how many Christmases you can make it last for.

Inspect before buying

Dense foliage and yellow-green flower buds are a sign of freshness. Don’t take any standing in breezy entrance areas.

Keep them in a bright, warm spot (around 20° C)

They can even be close to a radiator, but not in direct sunlight or near draughts – so keep away from open doors and windows.

Don’t over-water

Don’t over-water them by leaving a pool of water in the bottom of the pot or saucer they’re sitting in. Only water when the soil is almost dry (preferably with lukewarm water).

Know when to add fertilizer

To keep your poinsettia going long after the festive season, do not fertilize during its flowering period. Afterwards, fertilize monthly using conventional nutrients.

Keep them in the dark

To produce colourful leaves for years to come, keep the plant in complete darkness for at least twelve hours per day for several weeks.

Poinsettia care - Christmas candles, berries and a poinsettia

Interesting Poinsettia Facts

Poinsettias got their name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the man who introduced them to the US in 1828?

December 12 is Poinsettia Day to commemorate the death of Poinsett on 12 December 1851.

Poinsettias originate from Mexico and have been associated with Christmas since the 16th century.

Poinsettias are not just red! You can get them in cream, pink and vintage apricot.

Poinsettias make great cut flowers. Immerse the stems in hot water for 20 seconds and they’re good to go!

Poinsettias are grown in black-out conditions for days so that they develop their colourful leaves.

I hope you find these poinsettia care tips useful. I’m off to put my Poinsettia in a dark place to see if I can get the leaves to change colour but I think it might be time to buy some new plants to add a bit of colour back to the house.

Do you buy a Christmas Poinsettia?

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To celebrate the variety of comforting moments that come from eating the Jelly Men, Milk Bottle, Ice-Cream and Sheep pieces that are available in the mix, HARIBO is offering one lucky fan the chance to win their very own limited edition Supermix Snuggle Pod worth £250!

Haribo Supermix snugglepod

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Supermix now boasts vibrant colours and creamier flavours; experience the new lemon meringue and peach flavoured Little Jelly Men and delicious vanilla in the Sheep and Ice-Cream treats. You can also enjoy popular raspberry, blackcurrant and apple flavours, in vibrant pink, purple and green colours.

For more details about HARIBO Supermix and the rest of the range, please visit

The Giveaway

Entry is via the Gleam widget and the usual terms and conditions apply which you can find on my giveaways page.

The prize is one HARIBO Supermix Snugglepod worth £250.

The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on 10th December. UK entrants only.

Every attempt will be made to get the prize to the winner before Christmas, however, this is not guaranteed.

HARIBO Supermix Snugglepod worth £250

Good luck!



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