Teen Beauty: The Heavy Pressure On Young People

Whenever there’s a discussion on beauty, people talk about ‘youth today’ and the pressure they are facing. I don’t believe that’s a new thing that applies only to ‘youth today’ – I remember the horrible emotional swings of teen years and the pressure to be noticed, or not, depending on the day and place! And that was in life before the internet and celebrity culture, Facebook and being ‘on’ 24/7. I can only imagine the world my daughters are growing into, and I won’t lie: it terrifies me.

The media is partly to blame. American teen dramas like Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill depict teenagers as impossibly gorgeous, coiffed to within an inch of perfection. Adding to this is a magazine culture which delights in showing the failures of A-list celebrities, from cellulite to spots. Think about it: Society pressures society to look the way no one in society can!

Redtop newspapers feed off the imperfections of celebs like a vampire sucking a neck – and the more we buy into their spite, the more we indulge insecurities about appearance. But don’t think for a moment that this only applies to teenagers! Ameli is only 6, but she is more fashion conscious than I’ve been in all my life! Aviya is only 3 and today she told me she couldn’t wear her muddy shoes because ‘people will laugh at me’! Read more: Teen Beauty: The Heavy Pressure On Young People

Higher Education: What Path Will You Take?

When you look at your baby, the idea of them growing up seems almost impossible. But as we know grow up they will, and all too fast and we only want ‘the best’ for them.

And, when they’re old enough, many of our children may want a university education.

But attending university isn’t the ideal option for families on a low income. Tuition fees are costly (most will set you back around £9,000 at this point, not to mention 18 years from now), and living expenses are high. The idea of sending a child to university can feel like putting your life savings on one colour at a roulette table!

The costly situation at universities doesn’t look like it’s going to improve any time soon– Russell Group universities are actively campaigning for higher tuition fees – and it’s making many parents search for a viable alternative.

It’s the capitalist ideal that something new will come along to counter the problems of the old – and education is no different.

Beyond these old institutions, a number of other educational forms have gained traction, and they could help you trim your budget while still giving your child the finest possible education.

Education – going the distance

The first has technically been in existence for a century, although in a variety of forms.

Distance learning used to be considered the inefficient and impractical counterpart to a university education. To get the most from a course, you’d have to stay up late watching Open University programmes on BBC2, scour libraries for textbooks they might not even stock, and communicate with your tutor via snail mail. That’s how I started my correspondence degree!

When the internet began making waves, however, distance learning took on a more efficient form. Nowadays, it’s improved on the core aspects of university, allowing people with full-time jobs to study whenever they’ve got a few spare minutes – I know! I was working full time while I gained my degree!

Although generally vocational, online degrees can offer a variety of career paths. Anglia Ruskin University, for instances, offers a football degree, accounting degrees, managerial qualifications and much more.

So it’s a broad area, and will cut down on living expenses and tuition fees.

Making a decision

What if your child doesn’t know what they want to do when they leave school? Again, the internet has all the answers.

Free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have become the in thing in the educational world. Essentially, they’re taster courses which allow you to dip in and out of short modules, providing you with a foundational knowledge of a subject – just enough to decide if you’d like a degree.

Fortunately there are years yet before most of us have to worry about our toddlers knowing what they want to do with the rest of their lives, and perhaps in that time the face of education – along with that of much of the rest of life as we know it right now! – will have changed, but it’s never a bad idea to know what’s going on and what the options are.


Simple Christmas Decorations For A Child’s Room

I don’t know about you, but my children are worse than any cat I’ve ever had when it comes to Christmas decorations, and fiddling with things on the tree! They simply can’t leave well enough alone. Of course Christmas is a family affair, but when you’ve spent hours putting it all together, it can be soul destroying to have little hands pull it all apart again – especially when they do that to everything else all year round anyway!

There are a few things you can do give children their own creative space for Christmas – preferably in their own room.

If you’re lucky enough to have an amazing room for your child already, like one of these nursery ideas, then you’re off to a good start:Read more: Simple Christmas Decorations For A Child’s Room

#nothingbeatsabike Halfords Competition

Halfords has a great competition on at the moment where they are offering a new bike as a prize every week till the 16th of December.

Enter the competition to WIN a Carrera Star 16″ Kids’ Bike! Excellent for 5-8 year olds, the Star is lightweight and really easy to ride! It’s got the same high quality parts you’d find on grown-up bikes, making it perfect for little ones who can ride without stabilisers. Entrants for this competition must be must be 5 to 8 years old.

YouTube Direkt

Closing date for this week is 2nd Dec 2015, with the new competition being announced that day.

To be in with a chance of winning a bike in time for Christmas, all your child needs to do is draw a festively fun picture of their dream bike! Let their creativity run wild, and show exactly how they’d love their dream bike to look – the more colourful and unique the better!

To enter the competition, a grown up needs to take a photo of this drawing and upload it to the Halfords Christmas page here. Each week the most creative dream bike drawing will be featured as the Bike of the Week on Facebook, and the lucky drawer will win a shiny new children’s bike!

The competition at Halfords is now in it’s fourth week. This competition requires your child to draw their dream bike. The parent or guardian will then take a photo of the picture your child has created and upload onto the Halfords website. The most creative drawing will be picked as the winner. You can find out more here.

For a wide choice of Kids Bikes Visit Halfords Today

Christmas Gifts: 4 Fantastic Magazines For Children

While children today have so many amazing things that we didn’t even dream possible when we were kids, there was one thing that we had that they don’t: mail. Or ‘snail mail’ as we know it today. While adulthood has dulled the joy of the postman’s ring a little, since most of what he brings me is bills, there’s still a momentary thrill of excitement when I see him (or her) walking up the path. What’s he bringing? Is it for me? Is that a parcel I see peeking out of his over the shoulder bag? So exciting. (Or maybe I should get out more?) But either way, this is a thrill our children don’t really know.

As a child and later as a teenager I had pen pals, and a subscription to a Tinkerbell, and a later a couple of teen magazines and the arrival of the postman was the most wonderful thing.

This year I’ve been working with some magazine publishers and have been thrilled to have magazines arrive every month for  my girls, and have loved passing on that excitement too. Here are five magazines I get for my children. I think they would make wonderful  Christmas presents as they are gifts that bring new and fresh excitement every month (or two, depending). Few Christmas gifts will last through to next Christmas, so you’re looking at value for money too!

Please note these are affiliate links, but we subscribe or subscribed to these magazines. 

Eco Kids Planet Magazine

  • For boys and girls aged 6- 11
  • 11 issues a year
  • Trial offer: 4 issues for £9.90
  • 6 Month Christmas Gift Subscription Offer: £19.90 (choose a Christmas subscription if you’re subscribing to 3 or more magazine.co.uk magazines for £15 savings – November 2015)


You can read a full review of Eco Kids Planet Magazine here.

This is a lovely magazine for environmentally minded youngsters with an interest in learning about the world. Each issue has a topic – Himalayas, Scotland, India – and deals with different aspects of each area.

Eco Kids Planet also has a current offer on where you can pick up 4 magazines for £9.90, with their direct debit offer.  The magazines are normally £3.50 or subscribe and save up to £6.80, here.

Storybox Magazine

  • For boys and girls aged 3-6
  • 10 issues a year
  • 10 Issue Christmas Gift Subscription Offer: £50 (choose a Christmas subscription if you’re subscribing to 3 or more magazine.co.uk magazines for £15 savings – November 2015)Storybox

Storybox Magazine is very different to the previous one. It’s all about imagination, stories, a little bit of seasonal learning (why do we wear sun block, going back to school) and a few activities. It contains a full story, and plenty of short stories, and provides a few hours of entertainment for young readers. It’s ideally pitched at those learning to read, but also fantastic for reading with smaller children.

You can read a full review of Storybox Magazine here.

Okido Magazine

  • For boys and girls aged 2-8
  • 6 issues a year
  • 12 Month Subscription: £24Okido

Okido Magazine focuses on art and science, and is filled with games, quizzes and features that will keep children  entertained as they learn. Each magazine has a theme, such as space, habitats, or feelings, and has activities, games and science experiments to try at home. With input from artists and even poetry and short stories there’s something for every interest in this subscription, . Each issue of this great kids’ magazine has a different theme, introducing little ones to subjects as diverse as space, habitats, and emotions and feelings.

While there’s great carry over from lovers of Messy on CBeebies, the magazine stands alone too, and doesn’t require knowledge of the TV Show to be enjoyed. Subscribe to Okido here.

Little Cooks Dora the Explorer Collection

  • For boys and girls aged 2-8
  • Fortnightly issues
  • Up to £4.99 per magazine


We love this magazine and have a huge box full of all the goodies that come with it. While one of the things I love about the top three magazines is that they are their own attraction and don’t come with loads of tat, I love about this one that it comes with cooking and baking equipment as required for the recipes in the book. We’ve had this subscription for over two years, and the baking accessories are still going strong.

Each magazine comes with a variety of recipes to make together, a story to read and a few activities to do.  Little cooks don’t have to be Dora fans, nor do they have to watch the show in order to enjoy this series.  It’s no longer available as a subscription, but you can still buy individual magazines.

Review of Little Cooks Dora the Explorer Collections here

House Moves, The North Wind & Itchy Feet

I was at an event yesterday where I met a lot of people for the first time. As you do when you’re meeting people, the question ‘where have you come from today?’ or ‘where do you live?’ came up a number of times, and I was surprised to find that a lot of places that people live are places I have lived! The truth of the matter is that I have moved way more than should be normal for a person not on the run from the law!

child-559378_640According to an article from Legal & General on settling into a forever home, the average Brit will move 8 times before settling into a home they will never leave. Well… I’ve lived in 8 homes in just the last 8 years, and lived in the previous one for almost 3 years!

I often think of the book/movie Chocolat by Joanne Harris who talks about the sly North Wind which compels her to travel. I think my favourite quote from that story is this:

“But still the clever north wind was not satisfied. It spoke to Vianne of towns yet to be visited, friends in need yet to be discovered, battles yet to be fought…”

Even as a kid I used to have to move the furniture in my room around every six months. I just don’t like things being the same for too long.

My oldest daughter seems different though. She still cries when we talk about our old house – the one we lived in for three years – and on a visit to the old neighbourhood last week, she was really upset when we drove by it. I guess she feels the way I did when we left the first house I remember too.

The thing is, for me at least, different houses have different periods of life tied to them. The house my oldest was born in was one of the happiest times of my life, so that house fills me with happy memories. The house we left recently was the house my youngest was born in, but also the house my mother died in, so those are bitter sweet memories. I guess I see each house as the ‘wrapping paper’ for a specific period in my life. Once that period has passed, that house should too. I wonder if I’ll ever think of a home as a forever home? Time will tell, I guess – but in the meantime, watch out! I might just be your new next door neighbour ;)

Elastoplast Launch New Vintage Tin

My family pretty much keep the plaster industry in business. Aside from the fact that I’m really accident prone in the kitchen – I’m not kidding, a meal is hardly a meal if I haven’t shed blood or given a burnt flesh offering, and quite frankly my life insurance should have gone up when I started a food blogBut aside from that, my youngest daughter tends to be an accident waiting to happen too. She can fall over from a stationary position, that child.

EP1I always carry plasters around in my handbag because any fall, no matter how big or small can pretty much be ‘fixed’ by a plaster. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but it would be if my children were in charge. They would use plasters for decorative tattoos. Especially the ones with Disney characters on them.

The problem I have is that the boxes always end up scrunched up in the bottom of my bag, and the contents scattered across the inside, which is just a waste really.

Recently Elastoplast have found a solution to my problem! They’ve launched these cute retro vintage tins for keeping your plasters safe and secure in your handbag – I have two so there’s one for my kitchen too!

The good thing about this cute little tin is that you don’t have to fill it with plasters only, but can put safety pins, nail clippers or other every day essentials in the box too, making it an on the go emergency kit.

EP2One tip I can offer you, if you find yourself handing out plasters like Halloween candy, is to stick to the plain old ‘boring’ varieties. If it has pictures on, my kids will throw themselves down stairs for one! But the plain skin toned variety are less tempting.

And also, as a mother, I’m always in and out the kitchen, dipping my hands in the washing machine, helping with bath and hair and face cleaning, and the Elastoplast plasters hold up really well to the in – and – out of wetness conditions, though of course you have to change them frequently so your fingers don’t go soggy underneath.

Well, I think these tins are really cute, and super convenient!


Three Extra Weeks Of Activities For Preschoolers – Flash Sale

Remember a few weeks ago I told you about the Hands On As You Grow ebook series filled with activities for you to do with your small people?

Well, HOAWG has a 48-hour FLASH SALE that’s just gone live and will go till roughly midnight on Tuesday (roughly, because it’s past midnight as I write this and I don’t feel like figuring out time zones!)

LEARN MORE is a free bonus of 3 additional weekly activity plans filled with 21 hands on learning activities planned out especially for your preschooler. LEARN MORE is only available when you purchase one of the other Weekly Activity Plan eBooks during this Back to School special. (It will not be available after this short 48-hour special!) Valued at $7.Capture

So basically, if you buy one of the existing eBooks, you’ll receive this added three weeks for free, giving you 8 weeks of activities for you and your little ones.

One of the things that drew me to this programme was the talk about accountability. I know that being accountable makes it easier to stick to it, and there’s only benefits to be had both for my small person, our relationship, and with it our daily interactions and by association my feelings towards my parenting.

The weekly activity plans come in:

You can also see a PREVIEW OF THE EBOOKS here.



Ways To Find Work As A Freelancer

As a homeschooling, freelancing mother, time is never on my side. Between running a home and providing a sufficient – hopefully more than sufficient! – education for my children, I have had to find efficient ways of making the hours I am able to work every week count.

A lot of freelancing involves pitching for work, applying for opportunities, hoping you’re selected. The reality of blogging, however, is that you never really know what the client is looking for, so you may or may not be chosen for the project, whatever it is.

I’ve been freelancing for 5 years now, and here are some of the ways I go to look for work – hopefully they can help you find work as a freelancer.


1. Relationships with clients

When I started blogging, way back in the days of yore – sometimes it feels like back in ‘the olden days’ – you’d feel elated when a PR emailed you, offering you pretty much anything in exchange for a post. Back then I used to take pride in replying to every email, whether I was interested in the opportunity or not. A few years in and sometimes over 100 emails a day, I looked at my newborn baby trying to crawl across the floor one day and I realised how much of her babyhood I’d missed by trying to reply to every email, for no return.

Politeness costs nothing, but it does take time. For a freelancer, time is money. I now use an out of office with an explanation of why I might not respond, but asking the emailer to get in touch again next time. Some people don’t like it, but my time is more precious than the opinion of someone who doesn’t think enough of me to pay for that time*. 

That said, relationships are essential to ‘easing’ the work load. I have a number of clients that I have an ongoing relationship with. Every few months, I’ll get an email requesting extension of an advert, for example, and for the time-cost of 3 or 4 emails, I earn a repeat advertising fee. This is ‘easy money’, but it comes off the back of relationship building, and repeat business.

2. Email approaches

The above said, it’s still really important to be visible as a freelancer. You might not love being on social media all the time, and you don’t have to be, but you do need to have a profile and be reachable. I’ve received approaches through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, in comments on the blog and even on Instagram. The most important thing is to be contactable. Make sure your blog has your email address on it. You won’t get the work if they can’t get hold of you.

3. Sign up with assignment-based websites

If what you’re looking for is sponsored posts or reviews, sign up with companies that offer those. Look at websites like WeConnect* or Bloggers Required where you can keep an eye on what’s available. You need to pitch for these, telling them why your blog is the right one for their assignment, and the brand will then get in touch with everyone it’s chosen. Most of these aren’t paid opportunities, but sometimes what you’re able to review makes up for it since generally you’re able to keep the product.

4. Sign up with networking websites

Websites like LinkedIn and Hiive are great for finding longer term projects. Sign up with them, and network. I think most people know LinkedIn now – the online place where people can connect with others in the same fields and areas of interest? Hiive is pretty similar, but with more of a focus on creative people.

On Hiive you can create ‘swarms’ or join someone else’s swarm, and get involved with their projects, see what’s going on in your field across the web, apply for job vacancies, connect with professionals in your niche and usefully, take some of the courses they offer online too.

I think the most important thing about being a freelancer is staying current, taking advantage of the opportunities out there, and moving with the times. Old fashioned principles – politeness, kindness, courtesy and patience – will always stand you in good stead, and with a little bit of time and luck, you’ll be a successful freelancer in no time.

*I don’t respond if it’s just not something that’s relevant to me, I don’t dismiss all unpaid work as sometimes that has value too.