Latest Posts

Sweet Gifts for Her at Christmas

Hotel Chocolat, the luxury chocolate brand, doesn’t need any introduction whatsoever. When it comes to flavoursome, created with the intention to spoil chocolate there are hardly any rivals on the market. Its excellent quality, the refined yet bold combinations point to a winner every single time. For the chocolate lover, it is the ultimate treat, the one we dream of when contemplating possible Christmas gifts. To our loved ones and let’s admit it, to ourselves!

We all know too well the haggard, lost expression men get when considering possible gifts for the special ladies in their lives. This Christmas I decided to show grace and spare possible meltdowns (on both sides of what could easily become a barricade, and not of love, mind you!)  and point any lost (for ideas!) gentlemen in the right direction when it comes to the dreaded gifts for her.

And why would I suggest chocolate, I hear you ask?

Well, first of all, because chocolate is soothing to the senses. Hotel Chocolat have created a Christmas range which is appealing not only to the palate but also to the eye:

While the debate is still inconclusive over what scientists ascribed as the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate, we all know the unadulterated, pure pleasure a box of chocolates can give. So my second and very logical reason for choosing chocolate as a viable Christmas gift option is the guaranteed joy it will bring!

And there is no excuse in not choosing chocolate on account of budgets either. Hotel Chocolat have a wide range of Christmas gift options for her, from the very decent Christmas hampers, starting at £25 (the chocolate and fizz option for me, pretty pleeeaze!) to the totally luxurious Signature Chocolate Cabinet which will satisfy any taste and desire she could possibly have! So, whether you have budgeted to totally spoil her this Christmas or want to include chocolate as a complimentary treat, there’s an option for every purse and every taste!

Well, did I convince you? Has my post been helpful? Has it saved you a possible dilemma or a fight with your loved one over inappropriate Christmas gifts? Let me know and, most importantly, don’t bypass Hotel Chocolat on your Christmas shopping trip these weeks. You won’t regret it!

Disclosure: the blog post was written in collaboration with the brand mentioned above and I have been compensated for my time and effort.

Girls’ Trip – Movie Review

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Six months! I haven’t been blogging for six months!

So many things happened with us since. Good things.

Emma and myself have settled into our new home and have been making the most of our friendships, work and travels.

We were away in Romania last month and had an absolute ball seeing family and friends. I hope I’ll be able to squeeze in a post about it, joy can only be conveyed sometimes in pictures and we have tons of them from our visit home.

We have also settled into a visitation arrangement regarding Emma (with the intervention of patient and wise friends) so now, from time to time, this mama gets a bit of time to herself.

To gather her thoughts. To catch up with friends. To go watch a movie. To blog.

Tonight I went to watch Girls’ Trip. I had read loads of reviews about it, from ScreenCrush calling it “the filthiest and funniest comedy of the summer” and rating it 8/10 to The Times interpreting it as “a raunchy comedy that’s high on the raunch, but rather low on the comedy.”

My opinion of it?

Trashy, yes, and loads of foul language. A lot of sexually-laden conversations between the four female protagonists, which I found healthy, hilarious and embarrassing all in equal measure. You’ll get me only when you watch the grapefruit scene!

Copycat of previous versions of “women-let-loose” movies like Bridemaids?

Absolutely!

Still funny?

Totally.

Best scenes?

The zipline and the pee sprinklers, I won’t say more. The sausage chopping on live TV, to die for!

Moral of the movie (hard to use the word in relation to a movie that uses so much foul language!)?

Friendship can carry you through the worst of times and will help you stay true to yourself. Help and support from friends, be them foul-mouthed or distant at times, can help one change the course of one’s life. For the better.

If you have watched it, do drop a line and tell me what you thought of it all.

And thank you for stopping by, I hope my next post won’t take another six months to write!

 

 

Spring drives with Emma around Northern Ireland

One more day and it will be spring, how very exciting!

Well, in the calendar, that is, at least, so this is a good time to start pondering on day trips we would be able to take now that the weather is a bit warmer.

Chill.ie have challenged me to come up with a list of #hiddendrives within Northern Ireland and although I’m not sure the things I have in mind are very secretive, they are still worth a visit at this time of the year.

We are members of the National Trust and a trip to Mount Stewart in spring is as close as you can come to heaven! The drive to Mount Stewart, located on the shores of Strangford Lough in County Down, takes only 30 minutes from Belfast and it is a lovely journey. Following a three year £8 million restoration programme, this 19th- century house has been significantly transformed, making it a must-see attraction on the island of Ireland.
In 2017, Mount Stewart will unveil the newly restored Central Hall floor and stunning Rome bedroom. There will be opportunities to see collections of international and national significance and one of the most significant silver displays in the Trust’s care. Exquisite family collections will be on show including works by Lawrence, Brock and Stubbs. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore this wonderful home at their leisure or by guided tour to learn more about the Londonderry family and the important role they played in local and international history.

This coming weekend Mount Stewart will celebrate the World Book Day and it will also see the official opening of The Magic Ink Pot play park so if you’re like us, fed up of being cooped up indoors, do use the opportunity and come out for some fun and exercise!

Another drive both Emma and I really enjoy is the Antrim Coast.

We live very close to Whitehead so it is really within our reach and the lighthouse walk is invigorating and offers some stunning views on a sunny day.

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Something I’d really love doing, once it opens again for the season, is The Gobbins cliff path walk. It is a bit steeper that the Whitehead one and consequently, only opened for grown ups. Again, it is really close to where we live and it is something I think I will enjoy with a friend.

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But the ultimate drive for this spring will be going to visit the North Coast and places we haven’t seen yet! We are both familiar with the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge and again, as members of the National Trust, we will be able to visit them at any point we desire but we haven’t yet visited the Dark Hedges and I do think Emma would enjoy a visit there this year. Visiting the North Coast requires a day trip and if you have the time, possibly an overnight stay, as there is so much to see and do!

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What are your plans for this spring? And what would you like to visit with your little ones?

Disclosure: I was compensated for my time in putting together this post but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

#KnowYourMoney

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I have been a single mum for four months now and I’ve learned more about how to manage my money in this time than I had in the 10 years I was married.

Being responsible for our budget, expenditure and savings was a very scary thing when I started at the end of October last year but slowly yet surely, I’m getting the hang of this, I think.

The first thing I did was keep a very close eye on our bills and reduce them whenever possible. I changed my mobile phone provider and the gas provider as soon as we moved in as I found better deals with competitors. This resulted in a saving of over £20 per month, with very little effort.

Keeping a close eye meant also eliminating unnecessary direct debits. In October we still had both Netflix and Now TV billed to my account but upon realising that we rarely used the Now TV I decided to cancel our monthly subscription, saving another £10 per month!

I decided to keep my Amazon Prime subscription and bought an Amazon Fire TV stick, as I deemed the £39.99 investment worth the money long term. My judgement proved right as the Amazon Fire stick comes not only with a host of movies and series to watch but also with a Netflix account usage option, making our evenings in the house much more entertaining! Emma has numerous series saved as her favourite on Netflix which means she rarely runs out of options and is never bored when home. I also can relax in the evenings with a good movie when she is in bed, and all at no additional cost!

I then turned my attention to our food bill. I love variety in our diet and we consume loads of veggies and fruit on a weekly basis so I took to shopping in Lidl for those. When it comes to meat, I kept an eye on deals at the meat counters and also hunted for yellow stickers in supermarkets. I buy our canned and dry goods in Home Bargains, as their prices are the best and usually their products are great quality.  This strategy has been working like a charm, our freezer is always bursting with good quality meat which has been purchased at great prices and our food bill rarely goes over £40 per week now.

When it comes to clothing, I have been an expert at shopping in sales for years now and that hasn’t changed. This year, I scoured the internet for good deals for Emma and ended up bagging a lot of great items for her next season’s wardrobe from shops like Joules and Boden. For myself, I am still enjoying a very generous discount with Joules as a blogger so all my tops get bought from there now. My jeans and the rest of my wardrobe come from Primark or H&M, as they are usually cheap and can be replaced seasonally without great expense.

The scariest part has been thinking of savings and finding a way to save money for holidays in the summer. I have decided to set up an account for Emma and start depositing her child benefit in there every month. I realised that by saving the £82 per month religiously will create by the time she is 18 a golden egg of more than £10,000 (!!!) which she’ll be able to use to get herself a wee car or start her student life quite comfortably.

This year, we’ll most likely holiday with family in Romania or France, Emma is quite excited about seeing her grandfather as she hasn’t been there since she was 2! Going home for our holidays and staying with either my parents or my brother will mean saving on accommodation and food bills but I do hope in a few years’ time Emma and myself will have a proper holiday together.

 Swiftmoney.com have invited bloggers to share their money knowledge and expertise with their readers as part of their #KnowYourMoney campaign. What are your own tips and experience, would you mind sharing with my readers?

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Swift Money and I have been compensated for taking the time to put it together.

Parenting Super Powers

I have been invited by npower(@npowerHQ) to write about my own parenting super powers in view of their new #familysuperpowers campaign that’s being promoted at the moment.

As a recently “knighted” single mum, my super powers have to cover a huge variety of needs: from being Emma’s protector and provider to being her playmate, role model and educator. From being her nurse when she is ill to being her encourager when she feels down.

But the thing is my super powers find their strength in the very person I am meant to “prove” myself to. Emma motivates me every single day to be the best mummy and super woman I can be.

We have learned a lot about each other in the past three months. We have become thicker than thieves, as they say, and we have continuously drawn strength from each other’s beauty of soul and resilience.

We have had some terrible lows but the highs are the things we cherish and will always remember.

We have grown together, in our grief journey, on our life journey.

If you are looking for a practical example, it will have to be the fact that we have gone abseiling together while on a retreat with Cancer Fund for Children last summer.

I am not good with heights but I didn’t want Emma to learn to fear the same thing.

So, when presented with the occasion, I did put my superwoman cape on and under the admiring gaze of my little girl, I climbed and then, with eyes closed, launched myself down, trusting only a flimsy rope.

Did I enjoy it? Nope, not at all. My knees and hands hurt afterwards and my legs were like jelly. But I did it because I want Emma to grow knowing that fear is there to be defeated, not there to defeat us.

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I watched my beautiful girl follow my example and there and then, I knew that I am raising a super girl! I knew the strength it takes to climb that wall and more importantly, defeat those fears, and I saw it in her and couldn’t have been prouder!

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npower is inviting every super parent in the land to share a video or image of her or his parenting super powers with at familysuperpowers.com for a chance to win one of three UK theme park resort breaks.

Watch Peter and Emily Andre’s super power video for ideas for your own clip:

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not been paid for this blog post but there will be a gift voucher sent as a token of thanks. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.