This Request May Make You Turn That Wedding Invite Down!

On Mumsnet not so long ago there was a thread which queried how tacky it was, on a scale of minor social embarrassment to pure greed, to ask for a wedding gift of CASH.

My own wedding in 2011 was a quite a small, quiet affair and we had a wedding list at a local department store with a few items on it – not a lot because the Husband couldn’t be faffed and I didn’t really feel comfortable shopping with other people’s money – which is essentially what these lists are.

Plus when you have been together a fair few years, it’s not as if you need wedding presents to set up a home, is it?

That was surely the original purpose of wedding presents in the days of innocence when two young people pledged their troth and set up home together with multiple toasters and a set of pastry forks.

It seems some weddings are now all about the money and not about the meaning. Rather than focus on a celebration surrounded by nearest and dearest, by old friends and new who mean something to you, some seem to focus only on the value of the gift their guests can bring.

Yes, weddings can be horrendously expensive but nobody is forcing you to book Westminster Abbey, the BBC Concert Orchestra and a flock of doves to be released as you walk back up the aisle.


You do not have to bus in Mary Berry to sort out your wedding cake nor have your wedding invitations hand-etched by monks in a remote Italian monastery.

Even Meghan and Harry didn’t pay for the entirety of their own nuptials, much to the irritation of Republicans everywhere.  The Government paid for the security, Meghan paid for the dress and the Royals paid for everything else apparently.

My point is – have an expensive wedding by all means – it IS your day after all – but don’t expect your guests to foot the bill.

The mum in question had been invited to an evening do with a request for a cash gift and felt she couldn’t get out of it because it would create ‘tension’.

It’s so British, isn’t it?  The refusal to show bad form or appear unseemly whilst you are being royally being taken advantage of – or, some might say, fleeced.  She hadn’t even been invited to the ceremony.

Now if it’s a close relative, there’s an argument for a cash gift before the wedding to help them out. But I think that’s something best kept away from the actual day.

You could, of course, ignore the request and just give a card or a gift of your own choosing but that rather puts the matter up for discussion after the honeymoon, doesn’t it?

And that would surely be a really fraught ‘chat’.

So what do you say?  If it’s a relative I’d say, “Oh I’ve already got you something I’m afraid” and smile mysteriously.  If it’s just an acquaintance, I’d tell them that you have minor day surgery and can’t get out of it.

Because it’s not just the wedding present these days, is it?  It’s outfits, transport, childcare (for those who can’t bear the idea of kids at a ceremony designed to celebrate the union of those who presumably want to have kids), hen nights, spa days and on and on…….

With all the money you save by crying off you could probably afford a second honeymoon for yourself.

Tips for Designing Your Dream Bathroom

People have different priorities when it comes to bathroom design. Some are after a sumptuous space which they can take to for some quality pampering time and relaxation. Others want to make their bathroom as functional as possible in a limited amount of space in order to maximise the room they have in the rest of their property.

Either way, what you are trying to achieve will be better if you follow the up-to-date design tips to get what you want.

For the latest bathroom design in Harrogate, visit the website of Harrogate Bathrooms.

Alternatively, read on to discover some of the on-trend ideas you might choose to incorporate in your own bathroom design.

Ceiling Designs

Some bathrooms make nothing of their ceilings but it is an area that should not be undervalued.

A bright, strident colour rather than the traditional white makes a feature on its own. You could go for a false sky with clouds and an azure background, too.

Failing that, how about installing pinpoint LED fittings so you can gaze up at the stars?

Take the Bath Out

Baths take up lots of space. Sure, you can get a bit more out of the available space by opting for a P-shaped bath, but what about not having one at all?

Many bathrooms feel a good deal more spacious if you have an over-sized show tray rather than a bath.

Not only do you get step-free access, but the entire bathroom becomes less visually cluttered.

Use Diagonals

Not seen in interior design much since the 1980s, diagonals offer an on-trend look nowadays which is very appealing when used in bathrooms. Zigzags and chevrons look superb on a feature wall whether you use wallpaper or tiling.

In addition, you can use diagonals by setting your floor tiles out at an angle. Doing so looks chic and fools the eye into thinking there is more space than there actually is!

Natural Materials

There are plenty of natural materials that look good in a bathroom. Cotton and hemp are always great options for bath mats and so on, but have you considered the merits of something like bamboo?

Bamboo is used to make a superb alternative to hardwood flooring these days. It is warm underfoot, unlike ceramic tiling, and is moisture resistant making it ideal for natural looking bathrooms.

Focus On Glazing

Don’t ignore your windows and mirrors when redesigning a bathroom. Swirling designs in glazing often look great in bathroom glass rather than the cold, frosted look. You can replicate such glazing in your choice of shower door, as well, to coordinate the effect.

What tips do you have for improving the look of your bathroom?




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5 Great Reasons To Explore Mauritius

When I got married in 2011 the Husband and I decided to postpone our honeymoon since we had two small children. 5 years later and we still have no honeymoon and two much bigger children.

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But I have been compiling a list of fabulous places on my honeymoon wish list and my latest addition is the beautiful island of Mauritius.

Reasons to explore Mauritius

Mauritius is an island in the Indian Ocean located about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of Africa.

Whilst we appreciate a beautiful beach, neither of us is an avid sunbather so our dream destination has to have lots of things to do and see.  We like to immerse ourselves in different cultures.

Mauritius is often referred to as the Continent-Island because its people is such a diverse mix of Europeans, Africans, Indians and Chinese. Mauritians pride themselves on being able to live and respect different ethnic origins.

5 great reasons to explore Mauritius

And whilst there are some stunning beaches, there are 5 (at least!) very good reasons to visit – whether you are on a honeymoon or not.

Soak up the local culture in the island’s capital city Port Louis

Port Louis Vegetable Market

Port Louis is the heart of the island and the capital city was founded in 1735 by French governor Mahé de La Bourdonnais, whose colonial buildings are still to be seen. You can visit the colourful vegetable market and sample delicious street food and an array of restaurants.

Explore Mauritius’ Cultural Heritage Sites

Mauritius has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites,  Aapravasi Ghat and Le Morne.

Situated further up the coast on the bay of Trou Fanfaron in Port Louis, Aapravasi Ghat is the original immigration depot where Mauritius was the first colony to receive indentured labourers after the abolition of slavery.

More than half a million immigrants arrived between 1834 and the 1920s to work in the sugar plantations.

The site became a National Monument in 1987 and a World Heritage Site 19 years later, and the official commemoration of the arrival of indentured labourers is held there every year in November.

Le Morne Brabant is a mountain on the Le Morne Peninsula in the extreme south-west of Mauritius where runaway slaves came to shelter through the 18th and early 19th centuries. They formed communities in the caves which lie nearly hidden on the slopes of the mountain.

You can explore the Government House as well as the historic Port Louis Theatre, the Central Post Office, the Court of Justice building and the old prison.

There is also the Vieux Grand Port historical route which has several historical monuments including the Dutch landing site.

Indulge in some fine dining

There are plenty of culinary experiences to be had in Mauritius, from Michelin-starred chefs fine dining to enticing street food.

Visitors are advised to try the delicate heart of palm salad, dhol puris, samosas, gateaux arouille and gateaux piments.

Eating out is very popular among the locals. There are also cultural festivals like the Chinatown Festival which attracts thousands of Mauritians.

Then there is the international, award-winning rum ( a happy by-product of the island’s sugar cane industry), tea from Mauritius’ traditional tea fields and Mauritian vanilla, amongst the world’s best.

Explore The Island With Your Kids

Since our chances of childcare are confined to the odd evening here and there, it is entirely possible we’ll have to take the kids.

Luckily most of the island’s resorts have kids’ clubs where dedicated staff look after the younger visitors with special activities, events and offers.

There are also amusement parks and museums such as The Blue Penny Museum, home of the world’s most expensive stamp, the National History Museum where the bones of the Dodo are kept or the Mahebourg Naval Museum.

Did you know you can also go ziplining as Mauritius has the longest zip lines in the Indian Ocean which allow you to view breathtaking surrounding and have magnificent views of the forest canopy?

The island is also abundant in wildlife.  You can make friends with 100-year-old tortoises, Mauritian Kestrels or Pink Pigeons, and bright-hued Macaws.  There are also 1,500 Nile crocodiles around and you can take a picture of a baby crocodile in your hand.

You can take a safari and see lions and giraffes or watch dolphins playing in the bay at sunrise.

There’s plenty to do to keep your family occupied (while mum tests a little more of that rum ….).

Go Off The Beaten Track

If you’re a bit more adventurous, you can go trekking to discover Le Pouce Mountain where you will find stunning views of Port Louis, Le Morne or the Black River Gorges. You can even try canyoning, an adventure sport gaining momentum in Mauritius.

You can take an off-the-beaten-track tour on foot in the city centre or a bicycle tour of a former sugar estate to learn about Mauritian hospitality and the local way of life or explore the sea on a submarine trip or undersea walk where you can explore the local coral reefs and shipwrecks.

Whether you are on a honeymoon or just a holiday, there is plenty of reasons to explore  Mauritius!

If you are getting married and are planning your honeymoon in a more organised fashion than we did, it’s worth knowing that all resorts have dedicated wedding planners.  And, if you are lucky, you may be invited to a lavish and colourful Mauritian wedding.

I’ll be muttering about renewing our vows in the Husband’s ear.  Wish me luck.




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Our Tips For Making Your Family’s Budget Last Longer

Regardless of how well off you are, it’s always worthwhile to look for ways to save on your outgoings so that your family budget stretches further. A common way people can bring an unexpected lump sum into the household is to reclaim PPI. Many don’t even realise they are entitled to a refund, and it can bring you thousands of pounds that you weren’t expecting.

Here are our top 5 tips for making your family budget stretch a little further.

1. Order your shopping online

When you do your grocery shopping online, it’s much easier to track your spending and items as you go, and you can easily check your cupboards for what you need.

Standing in the supermarket wishing you hadn’t forgotten your list can lead to you needlessly buying things ‘just in case’.

By shopping online, you can also avoid impulse buys like picking up chocolate while you’re at the checkout.

2. Use natural products to clean your home

Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar are a low-cost cleaning solution and can really go a long way. And, as a bonus to saving you money, by cleaning this way you will actually have a healthier environment than if you bring lots of nasty chemicals into your house.

3. If you do get extra, unexpected income, pay off debts first

If you do manage to score a windfall when you seek to reclaim PPI, you might think of building a savings account. Before you do, think about paying off any debts you have outstanding – this will actually save you more money and free up your income flow quicker.

When you lock money away in a savings account, any income it earns won’t match the savings you make by clearing your debts.

4. Set a little aside each week from your grocery budget

By having a little extra set aside from your weekly grocery budget, you’ll build up a little fund to use on more expensive items like toiletries and dishwasher tablets when they go on sale.

This way, you can stock up on the cut-price goods and make greater savings in the long term.

For example, if you buy 6 months-worth of dishwasher tablets when they’re on half-price sale, you’ll be all set right up until the next time they go on sale, saving you a significant amount in the long term.

5. Introduce Meatless Mondays to your house routine

Meat is one of the more expensive food items out there. If you have one day a week where no meat is needed, you will be surprised at how much money is saved over time. And you can enjoy the added benefits of helping your family’s health and reducing the strain on the environment.

If you have a good family budget in place, you’ve already taken a big step in managing your finances. But there is always more you can do to save money, and by following the tips in this article you’ll stretch that family budget a little further and enjoy greater savings in the long term.

Home Maintenance Tips for Everyone

Since we spend almost two-thirds of our daily lives at home, you’d think that maintaining our biggest asset, our home, would be a top priority, wouldn’t you?  If you are anything like me, though, it’s all too easy to prioritise other things – shopping or taking the kids out, for example.

Yes, when it comes to home maintenance, for many of us, it’s “out of sight, out of mind” – just until something malfunctions and an expensive repair bill is on the horizon.

home maintenance checklist - beautiful white flowers in a vase on a wooden table

So think of home maintenance as a way of cutting your long-term costs and making your living space more enjoyable.

Your home maintenance checklist

Here is a handy home maintenance checklist if you’re not sure where to start.

Start inside

First of all, start with the interiors. If you feel a slight breeze inside even though your windows are closed, try fixing the frames, sealing them, and changing the screens if they are broken.

This will also help to preserve heat and save you money on those ever-increasing utility bills.

If you have air-conditioning, note that the air filters need to be clean at all times, so wash them at least once a year, preferably at the end of spring, and make sure they are serviced from time to time.

This may prevent allergies with your family members, as can keeping the house clean and free of insects.

Make sure your fire extinguishers are working, and change them if you need to.

Inspect your plumbing in the house. If the water runs slowly, that is extremely easy to fix. Keep your sink clean, and use vinegar or chemicals when you need to clean the kitchen sink disposal. Your range hood filters also need to be free from grease.

If you have sinks or toilets you don’t use, (perhaps in an ensuite), make sure to run water there every month or two and flush the toilet to check everything is flowing properly and there are no leaks.

At least twice a year give your home a full treatment – a whole weekend of dusting, mopping and vacuum cleaning.

Pay special attention to refrigerator coils, as when they are clean, your fridge runs more smoothly and expends the least energy.

home maintenance checklist - large house exterior and gardens

Now check the exterior

At this point, you could also remember to pay attention to the exterior. If everything seems to be in order, check exterior drainage and clean the gutters.

Clean the garage which, if you’re like us, tends to be a dumping ground for anything we do not need in the house.  It’s too easy to lose track of what we’ve got in there.

Once the garage is in order, it is time to focus on the plants in the garden.

Prune any overhanging tree branches that may be intruding into your neighbour’s garden and reshape hedges.

Get rid of any dead plants and weeds. Weeding the patio and drive is a constant process in my experience but it needs doing to prevent the weeds from growing between the bricks or in small cracks around the house.

Make sure you are careful if you use weedkiller due to the risk to children and small animals.

The patio will need a good wash every now and then with a jet washer.

Check your garden fence – panels or brickwork may need repairing.  Talk to your neighbour if you have a ‘party wall’ as you may be able to share the cost of patching these up.

The roof is another important thing on your check-list, as it needs to be free of damage, cracks, holes and leaks at all times.  It’s worth investing in a good pair of binoculars to see if you can spot any obvious damage.

It is also important to keep the chimney clean, as it keeps your house safe from all the harmful effects of gases. Check it at least once a year.

If you have the luxury of an outdoor pool, you will need to check the pool pumps are functioning correctly and there is no damage.

Finish your inspection by checking the driveway for cracks, and then your to-do list of things to keep your house in good order is done.

With these tips, you will be ready to tackle most troublesome home issues without even calling a handyman!

What tasks do you have on your home maintenance checklist?

The Steps You Need to Take to Achieve Your Dreams

Everyone has a dream. Whether it’s far-flung travels, superstardom or launching your business, having a dream is what keeps us inspired and motivated to achieve more in life. For some, however, having a dream is only that: a dream, which is why taking steps towards that dream can seem like an impossible task with an improbable outcome.

Achieving your ambitions boosts self-confidence and makes you happy

So, why bother? Because it doesn’t have to be like that! If you have waited for the right time to make your dreams happen, these are the steps you need to take to manifest your new reality. 

Get Specific

Having a vague idea of what you want to do is an excellent start, but you need to be much more specific. Nail down the specifics of your dream.

If you want to be a property mogul, for instance, you might want to start with the basics of buying your first home.

If you want to be famous, work out what you want to be famous for doing. Do you want to be a Hollywood star, an athlete, a musician or a theatre performer?

Having a specific idea of your intended destination will help you to take the first steps in getting there.

Visualise the Process

Visualisation is a hypercritical step in making your dreams into a reality, so believing in your dream and seeing the result is an excellent way to get yourself motivated and energised to see it through. But it’s crucial to include the process of achieving your dream in your visualisation practice.

That’s because it is the process that will make your dream happen — and the process usually involves a lot of hard work and commitment.

Indeed, leaving that part out of your visualisation makes it harder to see it through to the end.

Studies show that people who visualise the process, as well as the result, are much more likely to stick to their path than those who only visualise the outcome.

One Step at a Time

If your dream is enormous, the thought of achieving it can seem overwhelming. That’s why it’s critical to take the process one step at a time. That means setting yourself smaller, more manageable goals that help you work towards your bigger, overall ambition.

Each time you achieve one of your smaller goals, you move further towards your goal. It will also keep you motivated to work towards the result, as the little wins are great confidence boosters.

Isn’t it time you turned your dreams into reality?

Don’t Listen to Negativity

The beginning of your dreams can often feel like a lot of hard work without much reward, and there will be times when you feel like giving up. That perhaps your dreams aren’t meant to be. That people around you don’t believe in your goal. Don’t listen to these doubts!

There are plenty of people before you who achieved their dreams through hard work and persistence.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was too broke to afford photocopying fees when she was in the process of sending her manuscript off to publishers, so she got around the problem by manually typing up each copy on an old-fashioned typewriter.

Although she received dozens of rejections of her manuscript, she kept going until someone said yes.

Hollywood superstar Emily Blunt suffered from a stutter before working relentlessly to conquer it and achieve her dream of being an actress.

PSPC winner Ramón Colillas never gave up studying poker on the side while he worked as a personal trainer, a savvy move that led him to win a cool $5.1 million.

Start Now

Waiting around and twiddling your thumbs until you have the right amount of skill or the situation to pursue your dreams means you are less likely to achieve them. Whatever it is that you want to achieve, put the process into action now.

There will always be excuses and reasons to put off your plan. That’s how life works. Your goal is to find a way through those challenges and obstacles to give yourself the best shot at making your ambition into a reality.

The most important thing to remember is that there are millions of people who don’t take steps towards their dreams. Taking only one or two small steps towards fulfilling your ambition is a great achievement, so stay focused and work hard.

Achieving your goal of being a violin player or a circus performer could be right around the corner. And if it isn’t, then other doors will open in the process.

 




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How To Beat Back Pain – Try These Tips!

As we get older, sadly, we are no longer as flexible as we used to be, which can lead to many problems. One area of the body that can cause a lot of issues is the back, especially the lower area. From constant aching to spasms, back pain comes in many varieties. Whether it is related to excess weight, surgery, sports injuries or a road or workplace accident, there can be many triggers of back pain.  Read on to find out how to beat your back pain.

If you suffer from back problems, you will know just how upsetting it can be. There’s not just the pain to deal with, but also how it affects your daily life. Simple tasks like picking up your child for a hug or carrying the groceries to the house can be all it takes to put your back out.

I once ended up in bed for a week simply by bending down to pick up a black bag full of rubbish and the Husband had to carry me to the sofa!

For serious back pain caused by an accident or illness, it’s always best to consult a doctor. Mild back pain, though, can often be treated quite effectively at home with some of the tips below.

How to beat back pain

Stay active 

It might be painful, but the worst thing you can do is lay still. Our spines are meant to be constantly moved, even when they’re feeling a little sore. Don’t spend the day sat still, get up and move about. My physiotherapist told me that he advises never sitting down for longer than 45 minutes at a time!

Take the dog for a walk, go to work, do everything that you normally would on a daily basis. While your back is healing, avoid strenuous exercise. Once it’s healed, however, aerobic exercise, like swimming and cycling, can help to keep your back healthy. Weights are a big no-no, but any form of aerobic exercise is perfect for strengthening your spine, as are pilates and yoga.

Relieve the pain 

When it comes to fighting back pain, often taking a couple of ibuprofen tablets can work wonders. If you are unsure about what will work best for the type of back pain that you have, ask your pharmacist to recommend something.

You might not like the idea of taking drugs to remedy the pain, but often, they can work wonders. My GP advised me that taking painkillers will help you to keep moving and therefore help heal your back quicker.  Ibuprofen comes in gel form as well as tablets and you may find applying these directly to the location of your pain more effective.

As well as taking medicine to relieve your back pain, you may find that applying hot and cold compresses also helps.

Whatever you decide to take, if the pain does not subside or starts to get worse, see your GP and remember to check the dosage for any tablets you do take and stick to one type, rather than mixing and matching whatever you can find in your medicine cabinet.

Maintain a healthy weight

If you are overweight, you have an increased risk of pain not only in your back but in your joints and muscles too.

You will be more likely to experience problems in your lower back because carrying extra weight around your middle pulls the pelvis forward, straining your lower back and giving you lower back pain.

Extra weight will affect your spine too.  If you are significantly overweight, you may suffer from sciatica, pain from a herniated disc or a pinched nerve.

If your BMI (body mass index) is too high, there is an increased risk of osteoarthritis due to the additional strain on your joints from carrying too much weight.

Your weight may also influence how well you recover from any back surgery and obese patients have a higher risk of complications and infections from surgery.

Maintaining a healthy weight will not only help to reduce existing back pain, but it will also help prevent certain types of back problems in the future.

Find more tips here.

Switch your mattress 

Did you know that 10 per cent of back pain is caused by sleeping on a mattress that is uncomfortable? You may not have thought about it, but something as simple as your mattress could be causing your backache.

If you think that your mattress could be the problem, especially if it is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it and take a look at some of the memory foam mattresses on the market such as SIMBA.

Stretch regularly 

Did you know that backache can be caused by not stretching out your muscles enough? To help reduce your back pain and aid healing, take the time to stretch at least twice a day.

There are various stretches that you can do to help your back, but the best ones will depend on exactly where the pain is.

Advice from fellow back pain sufferers

Maggie says “You can buy a TENS unit on Amazon. I swear by yoga and gentle exercises at home.”

Susan says “Depends, but moving around is recommended. Hot showers, ice packs, stretching exercises help me.”

Paul says “Exercises which a specifically designed to strengthen your core will help.”

Bo suggests “I have plenty of back pain. I use Boron 10mg/day (removes fluoride and your body uses it as a joint lubricant). You should see results after a week and a half.

You could also try a spoonful of diatomaceous earth mixed in water for a month or so.

Silicon improves collagen and vitamin C will collagen production. Collagen is the scaffold of the human body so the quantity and quality of collagen are key.

Daniel says “I find that two approaches help – a focus on mobility and a focus on strength.

So I do stretching exercises, yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong… anything that gets me to twist, stretch and turn the spine further than the usual small bandwidth of movement I would otherwise have, especially if I have been spending my day at my desk in front of my computer.

I find that aiming for an extended range of movement helps me to avoid stiffness and maintain spine mobility.

Secondly, I try to build the strength of my back and my core muscles. I love the Plank and variants of it, as this set of exercises builds up strength surprisingly fast.

If, though, you have a back injury or have damaged your back in any way (for example arthritic damage or damaged discs), then you must consult a doctor and a physiotherapist.

They will be able to help you to develop a set of “safe” exercises which will help build up your strength and mobility without making your back injury or damage worse and increasing your back pain.

Maureen says  “I recommend the back exercise called “the cat”…you need to kneel down on all fours and gently raise your back and lower it. 10 times is enough to begin. Make sure you don’t jerk.  Smooth action is needed.

It loosens my back up and keeps it supple. You can put pillows under your knees if you wish.”

Jill says “Heat, cold, yoga and most important of all – maintain a healthy weight”.

But could it be cancer?

Many people worry that their back pain is a sign of something more sinister, particularly if their doctor can find no obvious cause – which is often the case.

The American Cancer Society says that back pain can be a symptom of cancer of the colon, rectum or ovary.

Cancer may be present when the pain is persistent, getting worse and is not helped by rest. The pain is often worse at night and disturbs the sufferer’s sleep.

However, the NHS says that it is very rare that back pain is caused by something as serious as this.

See a GP if your pain does not go away in a few weeks or begins to get worse.

For more tips on Health, visit my Health Page HERE.  Please note that I am not medically qualified and all advice is taken at the reader’s risk.  If in any doubt, please consult your doctor.

What are your best tips on how to beat back pain?




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Children’s Bedtime Story: Moosie-Moo And The Cheesy Moon

I’ve always loved crafting stories for my kids, nieces and nephew.  This is my first in a long while and there will be more children’s bedtime stories to come. In this tale, Moosie learns that, sometimes, gratitude is more important than ambition.  I hope you and your little ones enjoy it.

Moosie-Moo And The Cheesy Moon

Once upon a time, there was a cow called Moosie-Moo who spent her days happily grazing in Poppy Meadow. Her closest friends were a beautiful fluffy rabbit called Honeybun and a wise old owl called Lennon.


Now Moosie-Moo loved to canter, gambol and kick her heels. She’d race raindrops running down the knobbly oak, she’d race beatles through the long lush grass and sometimes, when the sun was high, she’d even race her own shadow.

Summer turned into autumn.

The Harvest Moon rose like a huge blue lantern and Moosie-Moo became suddenly sad. “What’s wrong?”, asked Honeybun, bouncing like a rubber ball, eyes shining bright in the
moonbeams.

A rustle high above in the leaves of the knobbly oak announced the arrival of Lennon who settled on his favourite branch, spectacles perched on his beak. He let out a long “twit twooooo”.

Moosie-Moo sighed and stared at the moon. “It’s so beautiful”, she said, “I just want to jump right over it”.

Honeybun sat back on her haunches in surprise. “But,” said Moosie-Moo, “I can walk and
run and roll on my back but I can’t fly like Lennon or jump like you”.

Honeybun considered. Lennon closed both his eyes and seemed to sleep. “Well,” she said, “perhaps you should do some training to practise jumping high enough to reach the moon. Why do you want to go to the moon anyway?”.

“That’s easy”, said Moosie-Moo. “I’ve heard that there’s a cat who plays the violin, a little laughing dog, a dish and spoon who love each other and it’s made of lovely, yummy,
creamy cheese! It sounds so much fun!”

Next morning the training session began. Honeybun used her great strong paws to dig a pit filled with warm sandy soil and created a finishing line made from her best carrots at the end of Poppy Meadow.

“Moosie-Moo”, she instructed, “run as fast as you can and jump! Jump with all your might!”.

So Moosie-Moo ran the length of the meadow and when she saw the pit and the line of carrots she threw herself into the air but her hooves barely rose higher than the tallest blade of grass and she sank firmly into the pit of sandy soil.

“Oh dear”. said Honeybun.

Over and over again Moosie-Moo raced the length of the meadow, willing her body to rise into the air. “You make it look so easy, Honeybun” she sighed sadly.

As the moon rose that night, the two friends sat together bathing in the soft moonlight. “I bet it’s the best, most creamy cheese you could wish for up there”, said Moosie-Moo. “Have a carrot”, said Honeybun, “you’ll see better in the dark”.

A swish in the trees announced Lennon’s arrival, but he remained silent in the dark canopy
of leaves above.

“I have heard”, said Honeybun about a magic device made by a cat named paul”.

“I think you mean a catapault”, said Moosie-Moo, “I’m too heavy”.

Honeybun thought again. “what about going on that tram with pauline”?

“I think you mean a trampoline”, said Moosie-Moo, “I don’t think it’d get me high enough”.

Now Lennon could keep quiet no longer. He shook his wings and fluffed out his chest. His eyes gleamed in the moonlight.

“Moosie-Moo”, he said sternly, “the moon is there for all to enjoy. It would be a shame if you were to take dents out of it by eating its lovely soft cheese!”.

“Well,” said Moosie-Moo, “it seems as if I will never get there in any case. I cannot fly and I cannot jump. All I can do is walk and run and roll on my back”.

“Moosie-Moo”, said Lennon, his glasses sliding even further down his beak, “you
can walk in the sunshine and run in the rain, you can roll on your back in the mud. You are tall enough to see right across Poppy Meadow.

I have to fly in the air and Honeybun has to hop till she’s breathless to see the sun setting on the horizon. And your friends the beatles barely get to see above the grass”.

“I suppose I am being rather ungrateful”, said Moosie-Moo.

“We all have our special talents and skills”, said Lennon. “It’s what makes Poppy Meadow the wonderful place that it is.”.

Honeybun twitched her nose, gently placing her paw on her old friend’s hoof said, “We’ll always be friends whether or not you can jump over the moon”.

“Indeed,” said Lennon. “It’s not how high you can jump but what makes your heart jump with joy that matters”.

And with that, he closed his great round eyes and went back to sleep, leaving Moosie-Moo and Honeybun to happily continue moon bathing in the peace of Poppy Meadow.

More children’s bedtime stories to come very soon.




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Half Term Activities To Put A Spring In Your Step

The February half term is a funny one, isn’t it?  This year it starts on the 18th or 25th February depending on where in the UK you are.  Here in Wales, we start ours on the 25th and I am already planning some half term activities.

I say planning – that is no guarantee that we will actually do them.  We find ourselves getting progressively slower and slower whilst the kids hunker down with games and iPads whilst my Facebook timelines fill up with happy pics of mums on beaches, hanging of rock-faces, cooking banquets and still fitting in yoga, pilates and running a 10K.

So, if like me, you have more in common with Ice Age’s Sid Sloth than Scrat, here are a few things you might like to try to add a spring into half term proceedings.

Half term activities for a fun spring break

Eat Something Different

No, not a bushtucker trial but perhaps a different cuisine.  We’re taking the kids to Wagamas, Yo Sushi or our local Japanese restaurant to try some Japanese cuisine (primarily to see the expression on Ieuan’s face), but you could ring the changes with an authentic curry house or perhaps Chinese.  We love The Summer Palace Chinese Restaurant in Llandaff in the shadow of the magnificent cathedral.

Try the theatre

There is nothing like live theatre, particularly where musicals are concerned.  We’ve recently enjoyed Matilda at the Wales Millennium Centre and there are loads of shows and contemporary theatre productions happening this season at venues near you. Look out for interactive theatre workshops for acting, singing and dancing or even puppetry or mime.

Rally car in action - half term activities

Drive something different

I love my Skoda Roomster but it isn’t the fastest vehicle on the planet.  The Husband prefers a Beemer – although ours is now 11 years old.  As my dad would say “it’ll see us out”.  But how about whizzing around a race-track all day?

There are experience days for the family where 11-17-year-olds can get behind the wheel of a Mazda MX5.

Caitlin is already campaigning for this for her 12th birthday in November and since the venue is north of London, it’s easy to get to as well.

Get the kids involved with the DIY and gardening

Yes, I am serious.  Let’s face it, the chances of lots of us ending up in our nearest DIY superstore are high so if painting is on the agenda rather than exploring the countryside, why not let the kids help with the painting (you can always paint over it!).

There’s no reason why they can’t help in the garden either – perhaps planting some summer flowers, weeding, sweeping up fallen leaves or making a bird table or nesting box.

Caitlin and Ieuan like to use these opportunities to wangle a little more pocket money so you could add on cleaning the car to remove last August’s beach sand and the thousands of Werthers Original wrappers that never finally made it to the bin.

Get a babysitter

It’s funny how a lot of us plan to entertain everyone else but don’t give a thought to our own entertainment.  We soldier on selflessly whilst keeping a very close eye on the corkscrew and parking the diet until ‘next Monday’ (note – specifying which Monday is not required).

So why not get a babysitter?  (even better if you can bribe your other half or relatives) and leave them for a home cinema afternoon whilst you treat yourself in a spa or take your bestie for a posh afternoon tea whilst trying not to think about the probable domestic carnage you’ll be returning to.

Explore somewhere different

We are so lucky in the UK because almost every part of the country has amazing sights and places to visit.  We’re in the Vale of Glamorgan which combines beautiful countryside with country pubs and close proximity to wonderful beaches and castles.  And then, of course, we are only a few miles outside Cardiff with its 5-star shopping, restaurants, bars, entertainment and culture.

If the weather is as stormy as it has been and you are forced to stay indoors,  check out these posts from my fellow bloggers.

Steph at Expert Home Tips has 17 super fun ways to keep the kids busy at the weekend whilst Leyla suggests making an activity box or even your own jigsaw.

Have you made plans for the Spring half term yet?  Let me know what half term activities are on your list.

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Top Tips For A Low-Cost Day Out With The Kids

Entertaining our kids over the holidays and even for a day can be quite stressful for us parents. Not only do we worry about keeping them happy, but also not overspending while doing it.

If you and your family are in need of that long overdue holiday, and money is tight, you have the option of taking out a short term loan which can relieve much of the stress. However, if you’re simply looking for low-cost ways to entertain your kids on a day out, you’re in luck as there are many.

The good news is that what kids mostly want, more than anything, is to spend quality time with their parents. Fortunately, this costs us nothing but our time and attention. We tend to take our kids to the cinema, out to dinner, or even to fun parks which are all great fun. But such activities not only cost too much, but they also make it hard for us to give our kids enough quality time and attention.

Here are some tips on how to entertain your kids on a budget while giving them your undivided attention:

A picnic

Instead of taking the family out to lunch at a pub or restaurant, organise a picnic. Make some homemade snacks such as sandwiches or wraps. Take some fruit, crisps or popcorn and a few sweet treats like cookies and you’re good to go! The kids will love it and so will you.

Camping

Taking the kids camping is one of the best ways to keep kids happy and costs next to nothing. You don’t have to stay the night if you’re not comfortable doing so. You can go early in the morning and return late at night. They will inevitably want to go again and again.

Sports

Doing sports together as a family is another low-cost activity and really creates fun memories for you and your family. Games such as football, basketball, swimming and cycling, for example, don’t cost much to partake in.

Play

Playing games like hide and seek, charades, board games or card games are a great way for parents to spend quality time with their children. They also learn how to lose and move on, which is a good life lesson. Make the most of games by doing them outside at a park or during a picnic.

Gardening and building projects

Whether it be a little gardening, DIY or even building a tree house with old pallets, kids love working with their hands and building things, and especially with their parents. These are also quite educational activities for them as you get to teach them a thing or two in the process.

Walking/Hiking

With today’s kids being glued to a screen much of the day, they miss out on making memories. Venturing outside may be a chance to bond with the family and make some real memories. Exploring and sightseeing by taking long walks or by hiking are great ways to spend quality time with your kids. They get to breathe in some fresh air, exercise, observe nature and wildlife and have interesting conversations with you in the process.

Science experiments

You can find a number of simple science experiments online that are not only fun but also educational. Your kids will be fascinated. Be prepared for a little mess.

Arts and crafts

Drawing together or crafting something from scratch is also quite fun and low cost. You can take some stationery outside and look for something they find interesting enough to draw and draw it together or recreate a craft you found online.

A day at the beach

Spending the day at the beach doesn’t take cost much (unless, of course, you live far from one). You can search for cool looking pebbles, have a pebble throwing competition, and pretty much do all the aforementioned activities there.

Reasons Why You Don’t Get A Second Date

Have you ever wondered why you don’t get a second date?  Have you had dates where you were sure there was a connection?  The conversation was right.  The restaurant, the food, the music, the moonlight – it was all there and then – complete radio silence.

Sometimes we don’t realise that some of our habits can be really off-putting and we need a good friend to point out the error of our ways so that we can finally attract the man or woman of our dreams. After all, every diamond needs to be polished to sparkle at its brightest.

I asked my blogging friends what their ultimate dating ‘faux pas’ are and what behaviours meant you’d be unlikely to get a second date.  Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

How not to get a second date

Bad Table Manners

Zoe of Lycra Widow says “Chewing with their mouth open, clinking their fork on their teeth. Slurping their drink. Any of the above” and Pete at Household Moneysaving can’t stand burping.  “Absolutely hate it when people do it in front of strangers”, he says.

Noisy eaters won’t fare well nor will the extremely picky who won’t eat anything off the menu. These are the sort of people who will order a burger and then religiously pick off every last scrap of lettuce, tomato and gherkin.

Alex at Better Together Home’s bugbear is “Being rude to the staff or not tipping, I could never date someone like that!”  Since many staff are paid the minimum wage these days and are taxed on their tips, surely we all leave something if the service is good, don’t we?

Personality Problems

Candace at Buckets Of Tea says a failure to make her laugh would mean no second date. Taking things too seriously would be a definite no-no, whilst for Charlie at Our Altered Life it’s “not making conversation and leaving me to do all the talking. Even though I’m a chatterbox it’s exhausting to fill those awkward silences.”

Emma at The Mini Mes And Me is turned off by people who are overly forward or who “use too many sexual innuendos and make you feel uncomfortable… back off!” And Kate at Ever After With Kids can’t stand people with a massive ego.  “If they think they are God’s gift it comes across immediately. And constantly. Total no no.”

Then there are those who insist on comparing you to their ex, or who have to drop their ex into the conversation.  “Oh you like tennis – my ex loved tennis”.  You wonder why they have bothered going on a date.

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Bad habits

Carly at Forever Cosmopolitan echoes many people when she says “smoking! Can’t stand it!”  Time to stop smoking because it may be seriously affecting your romantic chances.

And talking of bad habits, Lauretta at Home and Horizon hates “looking over your shoulder while you’re talking with them – or worse still, checking out other girls while on a date. Do they think we don’t see these things???!!!”

Other examples included “asking to touch my boobs”, “turning up with cocaine in his pocket”, “farting in front of me”, having bad breath and spending all their time staring at their mobile phone.

Perhaps the biggest faux pas listed was, unsurprisingly, being married and trying to hide it. My girlfriends and I used to joke that you could spot a married man a mile off because their shirts were always impeccably ironed (yes, I know there are men who do their own ironing but still..) and they were never around on a Saturday always a Friday night after work.   In summer you could usually spot the tell-tale tan line of a hastily removed wedding ring!

Dating horror stories

Some the dating stories shared would make your hair stand on end so I’ll leave you with three particularly memorable ones.

“When I was at uni I turned up for a first date, the chap had a dog with him, not a problem, I like dogs. He then said that we just had to take the dog somewhere first before we went for a drink. OK, still not a problem.

We took the dog, it was a big Alsatian, to a tiny terraced house where there was another big Alsatian. I sat on a red leatherette sofa in a tiny sitting room while the two dogs had sex.

They kept on bumping into my legs while they were doing it and my date and the other man shouted encouragement.

He couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go for a second date.” Sara, Jodhpurs For Maisie

“The hot rugby guy who had asked me on a date took me to TGI Fridays with his parents, and I endured some of the most excruciating few hours of my life. Needless to say, there was no second date!!  Laura, www.fivelittledoves.com

“I worked with a woman who set me up on a date with her son. I’d met him, he was attractive, and we had chemistry, so I thought I was safe. Turns out he was super religious (when I am not). Would only date and marry a Christian girl, wanted to get a giant Jesus tattoo on his back (a cross with a giant eagle overlaid), and after asking if I wanted wine and ordering a bottle, made me pay for it because he didn’t drink! I’m not sure why he even wanted to go on the date. He spoke mostly about religion and the trashy girls his roommate brought home. Needless to say, I drank the whole bottle!” Lisa, Bare Mother

Lots of this stuff is common sense but it’s easy when we’re nervous to become so wrapped up in ourselves that we behave in ways we normally wouldn’t.  The best thing to do on a first date is simply this “focus on the other person”.

Crack that one and you’ll get a second date.  I guarantee it.

More dating advice

Find lots more clues the date may not be going your way in this post – 32 Ways To Tell They’re Just Not That Into You.

Get a second date - reasons why you don't - book and flowers




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Keeping Your House Clean When You Have Pets

I really miss having a cat.  My last cat, Samson, was a beautiful black and white tomcat I got from a rescue home.  He had been badly treated and would only use a litter tray.  The outside was of no interest to him whatsoever.

keep your house clean with pets - cute snoozing kitten

Now, of course, we have kids and they would both love to have a pet.  There is, of course, a common notion that having pets makes it harder to keep your home clean and tidy, which is why a lot of parents aren’t willing to have them. (Other issues are cost, medical bills and what to do with your pet when you go on holiday).

The question is can you have pets and a clean, germ-free home? Or, does having a dog, cat, or gerbil or even a more exotic pet like a snake, mean that your home will be more difficult to keep clean?

How do you keep your house clean with pets?

keep your house clean with pets - cute black and white dog wearing a pink scarf on a bed

Pets do make a mess and spread germs 

The truth is, pets do make a mess and spread germs, especially outdoor pets. An indoor cat is much less likely to spread germs than an outdoor cat because he or she isn’t exposed to outdoor germs, such as those found in the dirt. However, just because pets can spread germs, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

A lot of parents keep their homes in sterile like conditions, which means that children have little to no immunity. To be healthy, kids need to come into contact with germs. This is what helps them build a stronger defence against certain illnesses and conditions. Having a pet is the perfect way to do this.

keep your home clean with pets - adult cat snoozing on a white radiator

Proper pet care can create cleaner pets 

The number one reason pets smell is because they aren’t being looked after properly. The truth is a pet that’s well cared for should never smell or be dirty.

Say, for instance, you have a hamster, the only time it would smell would be if its cage wasn’t being cleaned regularly enough. Or, let’s say you have a dog that’s getting older, he or she may start having accidents in the house, causing your home to smell. However, with proper care and the use of Propalin Syrup for dogs, these types of accidents can be prevented.

A lot of parents worry about pets carrying fleas or ticks. However, if you flea and worm your pets regularly – once a month, this won’t be an issue.

All healthy cats are self-cleaning, so should never smell. If a cat starts to smell, this is because they’re unwell and unable to clean themselves, in which case a visit to the vets is needed.

keep your home clean with pets - close up of hamster

Regular cleaning can prevent problems

While pets do carry germs and dirt, as long as you clean your home regularly there shouldn’t be a problem. Simply by vacuuming your home once every couple of days and cleaning the floors with a steam cleaner, you can remove all dirt from it. These days you can even get robot vacuum cleaners to do the work for you!

As long as you keep on top of the cleaning in your home, there shouldn’t be any problem with a pet making it dirty or messy.

Well, unless you have a dog that likes to destroy things, that is. In this case, while you’re unable to supervise your pup, it’s best to put him or her in a room where there’s nothing he or she can destroy.

keep your house clean with pets - cute puppy snoozing whilst cuddling his teddybear
The answer is yes, it is possible to have a clean home when you have pets. Don’t let the fact that pets carry germs put you off of having one. As, if you care for your pets properly, and clean your home regularly, there should be no problem.

What are your best tips for keeping your house clean with pets?