Staying in is the new going out

The biggest night out of the year will soon upon us and I think I already know what I'll be doing this New Year's Eve. I won't be crowded around a significant monument nor will I be dancing on a table in a funky club. I'll asleep long before midnight as I have been for the past few years, because after motherhood New Year's Eve becomes just another night before a very early morning. And to be honest, I don't really miss it. I don't long for pushing crowds and triple priced taxis and, always, the heavy sense of disappointment. There are many positive things about parenthood but perhaps the most wonderful is a consistent excuse to stay at home. Still, even at home a girl's gotta have fun and this is how you do it. 

Spa  - This is all about soundtrack. For the most authentic atmosphere you can find that creepy whale music they play on Youtube but anything soft and relaxing will do. Break out the expensive bath bombs and wear your dressing gown for the evening, you'd never know you weren't in a fancy hotel. 

Cinema - Movies are all about the snacks. Get yourself some popcorn and pic n mix and it will be like having the best seats in the house. Okay, you won't get to see the latest offerings but who cares when you're free of the anxiety of rushing home to relieve the babysitter. Just make sure you eat all the treats before you start the film though. 

Bingo - My grandma introduced me to Bingo, she used to go every week. For years I didn't understand what the appeal was; then I went along with her and it was about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. But if you really want to play with your clothes off you can do it at home playing online! I don't think there could be better entertainment than one that might actually gain you money? 

Pub - The pub is just a living room you have to walk to, you can save your energy and your pennies and buy a bag of nuts and a box of wine when you do your big shop. Chuck a bit of beer on the carpet for that rich public house odour, just remember to leave quietly - the kids are asleep. 

What are your New Year's Eve plans this year?

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Christmas is here but so is Uncommon Goods

I can no longer deny it, Christmas is coming. I like the music; I love the food but the anxiety inducing part is the gifts. Generally I spend eight weeks in denial and then try and buy the perfect thing for everyone in a mad, sweaty dash, a couple of days before the big event. It's always unsatisfying and I always keep the receipts. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could find something beautiful and unique for everyone special in your life, without getting out of bed? With all the amazing goodies on offer at Uncommon goods, you can do just that. Here's a sneak peak of my favourite picks from their current selection. 

I always struggle with present ideas for the men in my life, my Dad especially, usually ends up with socks. I figure there's no reason to break tradition but this pair is both sophisticated and fun and would be a great stocking filler for any guy.

Mens Favourite City Socks 

My mum uses her mobile phone as an address book because she can never actually find it to make a call. Whenever she finally gets back to me she tells me she was out at the shops and I have to remind her that mobile's are called mobile's because they are just that. Maybe if she had a place to keep her phone, she would get more use out of it. Which is why I'm thinking this stylish phone holder would be great for her (and me) this year. 

Beside Smartphone Vase

On every night out I go on, one of my girlfriends ends up begging  me for a hair tie. That lovely blow out never seems like a shrewd move after a few turns round the dance floor. How cute is this hair tie bracelet? I'm getting one for all my girls, so they never have to wonder where all their hair ties have disappeared to.

Hair Tie Bracelet

I don't have a baby to buy for this year but can someone have one so I can give them this! I mean who doesn't want a teensy, tiny mermaid or man in the mix on Christmas day! 

Baby Mermaid Tail

For all these fabulous gifts and so many more, head to Uncommon Goods all your Christmas shopping needs. You can thank me later. 

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The Big to Small House Move: Apps to Help You Get Packing

If you have moved a lot in your life already, you’re probably quite savvy when it comes to packing, organising, and being as efficient as possible. Or maybe not; moving is something we tend to do with several years of preludes in between, and the amount of stuff we accumulate makes the process such a hassle every time.

Image via: Pixabay

While it’s tricky to make the most tedious part of moving easier on you, such as wrapping up all your plates and cleaning out your wardrobe, it is possible to make it lighter on your wallet. Technology is a wonderful thing, and new ones may have popped up since the last time you moved which can make your life so much more organised.

Here is a handful of the best apps and technology to help you get moving from your large home to a slightly smaller one.

Find sites to sell your stuff Discovered that you have way more stuff than you can even be bothered to bring along? Sell it, sell all of it, and do it right away through Letgo - a hyperlocal, Craigslist-style app that lets you buy and sell your stuff online. Your new place should be neat and simple, in any way, and not crowded with long-forgotten hobbies you tested out five years ago.

It’s easy to use, and you can also buy some furniture from other sellers while you’re there, in case you should discover that you need that extra side table after all.

ThredUP is another app that lets you sell whatever you can’t make use of any more, just specifically made for helping you clean out that wardrobe. Get rid of the clothes you can’t be bothered to pack as you haven’t worn them in years in any way, and you’ll be able to spend the extra cash you make on something you’d actually enjoy putting on.

Find apps for movers Now that you have mercilessly kicked out the clothes and furniture you’ve fallen out of love with, you should be left with a few neat boxes of valuables. Make sure you get the best quote on hiring a moving van through Shiply so that you’re not spending more than you have to. This site compares rates from several different moving companies to find the best option for you; just plot in the date you’d like to move, and off you go.

Luckily, they’re even focused on saving the environment by utilising spare capacity of the vehicles they have running on the roads so that you can feel a bit more confident about your move.

Test the safety of your neighbourhood You’ve probably found your new home already since it’s all about packing for the big day, but have a closer look at your destination through Crime Map for England and Wales. It makes it a lot easier to figure out the crime rates without having to call the local police station, and it shows everything from petty theft to violent crime.

Nobody wants to move to an unsafe neighbourhood, and this site is gold when you want to know a bit more about an area before moving. You should have more than enough time to do it too - since you’ve gotten rid of all that unnecessary stuff and even cleaned out your wardrobe.

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Why Health is a Vital Concern for New Parent

When a new baby is born, parents commonly report a huge change in their mindset. Instinctively, the child becomes the focus of all their energy, and other matters (such as the parents’ own sleep patterns, workout routines and general health) are put on the back burner. The human body is a marvelous and wise work of art; it lets us know when it is time to pull back and when to go full steam ahead. Still, new parents should be aware of the following health issues that may affect them:

When a Good Night’s Sleep is Elusive This issue affects mothers and fathers in different ways. The book The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Resource for Your Child's First Four Years, notes: “One 2013 study of 21 mother-father pairs enjoying their first infant experience found that fathers actually got less sleep than mothers and experienced more confirmed sleepiness, as measured using wrist trackers.” Mothers, it seems, have more time to make up for lost sleep during the day (when they are on maternity leave, for instance). However, although they sleep more hours, their sleep quality is less, because of the baby’s feeding schedule.

New parents should aim to make sleep a priority, by enlisting the help of friends and family. If required, A can also consider hiring a midwife to help with care, even for a few hours during the day. A lack of rest can exacerbate postpartum depression, which in turn can impede the mother’s ability to bond with her child. It is vital to ensure mum receives quality health care (both physical and mental), since both her and her baby’s well-being can be jeopardised by a failure to do so.

Movement is Life When every waking moment is spent tending to a new baby or toddler, it can be difficult for parents to find time to work out, yet research abounds regarding the negative effects of the sedentary lifestyle. In the UK, over 20 million people are classified as physically inactive, which significantly increases their risk of cardiovascular disease. Failing to exercise also contributes to obesity and Type II diabetes. Parents should aim to find exercise at least three times a week, to keep these illnesses at bay.

Mental Health Risks Postpartum depression in mothers is far from being the only mental health concern faced by new parents. Increased pressure to be ‘super mom’ and ‘super dad’ are contributing to the development of mental conditions, including anxiety and depression. Parents should be aware of the signs of mental illness, seeking treatment when necessary.

While welcoming children into the home can be a great source of joy, it is important to be aware of how this big change can affect parental health. Preventive measures should be adopted to enable parents to stay in optimal physical and mental health.

Professional Assistance Or DIY? You Decide!

When someone decides to make improvements to their home or redecorate, they have to choose between employing the services of professionals or using the DIY method. Both approaches have their pros and cons, and so most of the important ones are mentioned within this post. Hopefully, the information will ensure homeowners don’t choose the wrong method this year.

Pros of using an expert

  • Professionals will come to the home and perform the job without the owners having to lift a finger.

  • Professionals always work to the highest of standards because they have reputations to uphold.

Cons of using an expert

  • Specialists will always charge a substantial rate for their services because that’s how they pay their bills.

  • Some specialists are better than others, and so there is a small chance the finished product won’t look as amazing as you’d hoped.

Pros of DIY

  • You will save a small fortune if you use the DIY method when it comes to home improvements.

  • There are lots of guidebooks and free video tutorials on YouTube that could help with every aspect of the work.

Cons of DIY

  • Some people might have to make a substantial investment in tools and equipment if they don’t have them already.

  • In most instances, those who take the DIY approach won’t get to see the finished product for much longer than those who employ a professional.

Consider all of those points before making any decisions about the best home improvement strategies this year. Also, if you want to make changes to the bathroom, be sure not to overlook the graphic at the bottom of this post. Good luck!

Graphic by

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Making Stress Work For You

There are many things in life that are deemed to be stressful activities, from marriage to childbirth, life has its moments of total and utter meltdown. Stress is a leading cause of anxiety, insomnia and for some people, weight gain. But is the cure for stress about outlook or is it about management? Could you actually change your perspective on life with a simple switch in your priorities and your viewpoint?

Stress affects different people in different ways and it’s how we handle our stress that defines us in a big way. Stressful situations can make some feel powerless, unhappy and in the extreme, sick. Sickness caused by stress is often in the mind and is difficult to process because it manifests as physical symptoms. You may react to stress by developing a cold or symptoms similar to a cold, because your immune system is run down and thus reacting to the extra difficulties on your mind. There are those, however, who are able to turn their stress into something positive, and that’s the part to focus on.

If you could turn a stressful period in your life to an advantage, would you ever be stressed out again? When it’s harnessed correctly, stress can have a positive effect on the mind and body and the reaction is empowerment and determination instead of worry and sickness. You could feel empowered and ready to take on the world when you learn to embrace your stressful situation and make it work for you. This is opposed to fighting the stresses and giving yourself something to worry about. When you’re going through a tough time at home, such as a separation and starting over after a long time together, your stress levels are likely to be through the roof. The fight or flight response within you will be fighting to the surface and instead of taking the route of flight, fighting by doing things like buying a house during a divorce or getting yourself out into the world and getting on with life can help you minimise the fear and make you feel in charge. Stress can sharpen your memory, as your body switches into protective mode to look after itself. Take advantage of that moment and roll with it.

You go through life experiencing and overcoming stressful moment after stressful moment, but changing your outlook can transform your life. Imagine that you could face something stressful, take a deep breath and push through it without it hurting you? Empowerment is so much more than coping with something stressful and there are so many ways you can empower yourself. Losing a relationship, a job, a friend; none of these things are easy. However, focusing on what you can gain from each experience instead of focusing on the loss can help you become a lot less reactive to the situation. Getting proactive is the key to transforming that stressful moment into one of quiet empowerment.
There are plenty of ways you can empower yourself to feel strong, confident and capable on a daily basis. You don’t have to take our word for that, when you can just check out the tips below:
Do nothing. Well, not literally, but think about how ‘on the go’ your life is and take pause. On a day off without rush hour, dealing with exes or children or needing to go anywhere, take a moment just for you and focus. Take a yoga class. Meditate in an open field. Sit quietly and listen to what you want instead of the needs and wants of other people around you. Take a moment to put aside the ‘busy’ from everyone else and feel peaceful.

Set a goal. For some, stress requires a reliever. This can be in the form of art, music, a sport or even a class to learn something new. Setting yourself a target can make you feel more than positive and excited, it can make you feel worth something. Relying upon yourself is the ultimate empowerment.

Ditch doubt. Self-doubt is the biggest killer of happiness. Weight issues, relationship troubles and issues at work can make you feel unworthy of happiness. But you know what? You are. Those worries are just worries of today and tomorrow is something different. Stop doubting your ability to feel human and happy; you just have to allow yourself to do so.

Stress won’t have the same impact on everyone, but empowerment is for all. Taking a moment to let yourself be empowered can change your life. Make stress work for you.

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It's time to burn my sh*t list

I'll just come out with it, I have a sh*t list. Where, other than the internet, should you reveal the darkest, dankest most shameful aspects of yourself? For those (more evolved than me) who don't know about this concept, a sh*t list is a working record of people to whom you wish to cause harm. Before you google the number for Crimestoppers, you should know my preferred method of harm is pain inflicted through my own, completely unrelated to them, success. 

It's pretty easy to get on my list and nigh on impossible to get off; there's a whole subsection for ex bosses - the one who invited me for dinner at his house, over which he told me that 'meat made him horny'; the one who started my very first supervision with the words, 'We don't have to like each other'; the one who dismissed my idea for a new work initiative and then passed it off as his own (he's in block capitals). Friends don't get on there that often, I'm a bit softer on friends as they're usually not being paid. Occasionally one does and it's always pretty painful because it turns out that a friend who makes the sh*t list was usually not a friend at all. 

The list is not entirely based on my inner evil, I use it as a motivational tool. Sometimes it's hard to find the strength to keep going and the list has served to give me that little extra boost when it's needed. When I can't be bothered to take the steps to push my life in the direction I want it to go, I think of all the members of the list laughing at my failure. 

There was one ex friend who made the sh*t list for ignoring my plea for help. I don't like asking for help and will go out of my way to avoid it. When I first had my son I used to take the most ridiculous routes around London to avoid being the woman trapped at the bottom of a flight of stairs with a buggy; so reaching out to this friend was a big deal. She didn't say no, she didn't say sorry, she just left me struggling in an ocean, when as far as I was concerned she could've easily chucked me a rubber ring. So she took her place on the list and remained there gathering dust for several years. Then I got some really good news and she sent me a message of congratulations. It was very sincere and communicated no ill will and I realised that my progress was never going to cause her pain and more to the point I wasn't bothered if it did. The reward for success is success itself and my list was not propelling me forward, it was weighing me down. 

Happiness that is based on someone else's unhappiness is like living in a mansion on a rubbish tip, it might feel nice inside but open the curtains and you're faced with a stinking pile of  crap. So I think it's time to burn my sh*t list, wanna join me?

Use Your Experience As A Mum To Find Part Time Work

Many mums decide to take a long leave of absence from the working world after giving birth. Of course, we have maternity leave, but then some of us choose to stay at home for a few years. It’s an understandable choice, we want to be there to provide a proper maternal presence for our child during their early years.

But, there may come a time when you feel like going back to work or need to earn some extra money. If you’ve still got young children, it can be very hard to go back into full-time employment. Which is why a lot of mums look for part-time work instead. Now, if you’ve been out of work for a good few years, you may think you’re underqualified and don’t have enough recent experience to get any part-time work.

This is where you’re wrong. While you may not have recent work experience, you do have plenty of new experience in one of the toughest jobs around; being a mother. You can use your experience as a mum to find work and earn some extra money for your family. It’s all about figuring out the valuable skills you learnt as a mum and finding jobs that fit them. Here are just a few examples of great skills you develop, and how they can lead you to find work.

Caring Skills You may have been considered a caring person before motherhood, but having a child takes things to a new level. You truly develop the skills to look after and care for someone, putting them before yourself and doing all you can to keep them comfortable. These skills translate perfectly into things like care jobs where you look after elderly people or people with disabilities. You know what it’s like to look after someone that depends on you for assistance, and the care skills you developed will help out.

Teaching Skills Mums are amazing in that they take on so many different roles. As a parent, it’s your job to educate your children when they’re too young for school. As such, you develop the skills needed to teach young children. This could help pave the way for a part-time career in a nursery or playgroup, looking after toddlers and teaching them. You might need to pass a test to gain a simple qualification, but it won’t be hard. To make things even better, you could work in the same playgroup that your child attends.
Cooking Skills As a mum, you almost have to develop cooking skills to keep your children happy. Consequently, you could learn how to cook and bake amazing things. This opens the door to find work as a part-time chef/baker. You could sell birthday cakes or cookies to people, and make a decent bit of money on the side. The best thing is, you can work from home too.

Just because you’ve been out of work for a few years, it doesn’t mean your options are limited. Call upon your newfound experience as a mum to find work that suits your skills and pays the bills.

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How to Make the 1st Birthday a Special One

How to Make the 1st Birthday a Special One When your child turns one it’s a big deal for you but let’s be honest, not so much for them.  It’s literally just another day for your little bundle of joy. Just because they don’t quite understand the idea of birthdays yet that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a fuss.  After all, twelve months is a big accomplishment – both for baby and parents! It deserves celebrating. So here are some ideas how to make their 1st birthday a special one for them and for you.

Gifts Ideas There are two main lines of thought about presents for the first birthday – go for something that will be a keepsake or go for something they will enjoy right know.  Alternatively you can go for both.  Keepsake presents will often be given by other people such as personalised picture frames, keepsake boxes and moneyboxes so it might be worth waiting to see what comes from family and friends.  After all, baby isn’t going to know if their present is a day or two late.

The other approach is to go for something that they will enjoy playing with immediately.  Rocking horses or variety of other animals are a popular choice at the moment and these can last two or three years.  You will need to help them at first but as they get a little older, they will spend a lot of time rocking by themselves.
Toys that help them stand and walk are also a good first birthday present.  Everything from toy tractors, foot to floor cars to upright vacuum cleaners and other walker style toys make a great first birthday present and allow them to get a little independence as they get to their feet.

Celebrate Being A Parent The other thing to remember about the first birthday is that you should celebrate being a parent for a year, whether it is your first child or not.  Most parents will say that the first twelve months can be the biggest challenge and you should take some time to celebrate what you have achieved in that year.  Plus, who doesn’t love a good excuse for a party!

Lots of people now have a party for their kid’s first birthday and invite friends and kids of all ages.  Okay the birthday boy or girl won’t likely remember the event but you can take pictures and show them when they are older.  And it is a good excuse to get everyone together and to get your baby used to larger gatherings with lots of people around.

Don’t Stress About It One thing not to do for the first birthday is to stress about it.  As everyone says, you could give the baby a cardboard box as a present and they would love it.  So, set yourself a budget and a plan for what you want to do then just enjoy the event.  Make some memories that you can all look back on in years to come and use the day as an excuse to relax and take it easy, it is just the first of many birthdays after all.

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4 ways to prevent your house being filled with kid junk

I like things and I like to see all my things, all the time. I love looking at chic, minimalist living spaces online but the idea of living in one leaves me cold. Seeing my stuff brings me joy, sorry Marie. I don't think my home looks bad, I'm not ready for an intervention or anything but it could be described as cluttered. That being said having a kid can take a home from cluttered to chaos and if you're sick of impaling yourself on stray Lego during your nocturnal loo run, here's some things you could try...

Borrow Toys can be for Christmas and not for life. Exchanging with friends or signing up to a local toy library is a great way to allow your little one to enjoy that must have plaything for the five minutes they'll be enamoured with it.

Buy cheap, buy twice When my son sees a charity shop he shouts, 'New toys!' You may see a three wheeled car but he sees brand new things to take home. Most of his favourite toys have come from local second hand shops and I always feel chuffed when he is running round the house with a fifty pence find. 

Ban adverts We always used to watch TV in the mornings, until one day Roscoe stood up and said, 'I want to play with it!' I followed his little finger to the screen where a happy, blonde child was delighting at a cartoon branded piece of plastic. From that point I thought, 'Oh, hell no!' We now watch DVDs or stream programmes and shopping trips remain pester free.

Hide it There's a cupboard in my kitchen filled with toys. It started with a little piano, it's plink, plink, plinking was haunting me in my dreams. I shoved it in the cupboard simply to protect my sanity and then I forgot about it. So did Roscoe. A few weeks later I was looking for some light bulbs and I found it, sad and alone. When I pulled it out it was like Christmas (without the hangover). Roscoe was so excited to see it again that he played with it for at least twenty four minutes. Now I regularly stow away things for a rainy day, just remember where you put them.

Rhyming with Wine

My Random Musings

Watching Your Weight: Obesity Related Health Issues To Avoid

We all know how carrying too much excess weight isn’t good for us, we’re constantly reminded by doctors and the media that we should shave off those excess pounds. But how much of an issue is being overweight and obese really? While most people will likely get away without developing health issues for a number of years, they’re likely to show up eventually and could be debilitating. Here are just a few of the reasons why you should aim to keep your weight within the normal range.

Type Two Diabetes One of the biggest dangers when you’re obese is insulin resistance- or type two diabetes. When you carry excess weight, there’s more pressure on the body to use insulin to control blood sugar. If you have a BMI over 22, you are eighty times more likely to develop type two diabetes which is shocking. You can help to treat type two diabetes by losing weight and cleaning up your diet, Natural remedies such as Synergy Extracts, terpenes in particular, have been shown to be useful in diabetics. Keeping your weight under control is the best way to prevent the illness.

Heart Issues Heart attacks and disease is the biggest killer in the western world. And that really is a shame since in most cases it can be prevented. Eating a healthy diet and exercising will keep your arteries free of plaque and keep your heart muscle strong and healthy. Focus on eating heart healthy foods, fruits and vegetables, high fiber foods and oily fish are all good choices. You will also want to work on reducing saturated fat in your diet and exercise at least three times a week.

Joints While as humans our joints are robust, they’re not invincible. Carrying too much weight puts pressure on hips and knees, and over time these can quite literally wear out, leaving them feeling extremely painful. Losing weight and also exercising to build up strength in the surrounding muscles and ligaments is extremely useful. Cycling is a good example, this is great for cardiovascular fitness but also strengthens the knees. And as it burns calories will help you lose weight too (along with a healthy diet)

Self Esteem Finally, as well as physical health issues, being overweight can also cause problems with mental health too. Unfortunately, we live in a world that’s biased towards slimmer individuals, flick through any beauty magazine, watch any movie or music video, and you will be bombarded with the ‘ideal’ kind of body. While it’s important to understand that often these ideals can be unrealistic, it’s hard enough even for those who are the correct weight at times. Being overweight or obese can be difficult in today’s judgemental world. Losing weight will not just benefit your health but your mental health too. You are likely to feel more confident in yourself and your body and wear the clothes that you want.

Are you on a weight loss journey, or have you overcome any health issues due to losing weight?

This is a contributed post