I may be in a minority here, but I don't really watch Strictly Come Dancing, although I have seen the odd show or watched some of the most famous performances. That being said, I do have a particular soft spot for two of the dancers, Kevin and Karen Clifton.

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First of all, my best friend used to be a part of Kevin's parent's dance school when she was a young teenager, and even got to backing dance for him too.

Second, I had the chance to work with Kevin and Karen a couple of years' ago. I hired them to perform at a press event I organised for a client at Chelsea Flower Show. And they were just the nicest people. Down to earth, friendly and professional, it was lovely to work with them and to see these fantastic dancers do their thing from the wings.

So, when I saw that Kevin and Karen would be hot-stepping it to Symphony Hall Birmingham, I knew it would be the perfect treat for my bestie - and a nice way to spend an afternoon.

And it really was.


My birthday is 11 days away and there's a few bits and pieces I have my eye on - a make up treat hear, something sparkly there and a new scent for summer.

Here's some of the things on my wishlist...

I love finding new places to explore and when the weather is as glorious as it is right now (long may it continue... we can live in hope!), as a family we just want to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and nice surroundings. Whether it's a National Trust location, a walk around town, a picnic at the park or a day out at an attraction, being outside and being active is what summer is all about for us.

* In collaboration with Fenetic Wellbeing


I don't know about you, but it's not always easy to get out and about, particularly if you have young children or older parents or family members. I remember when we went to Cornwall on our first family holiday when Ethan was just five months' old and how parking the car was a nightmare and trying to navigate around with our bulky pushchair was really hard work. We couldn't even fit down some of the pavements and some shops we just couldn't get into because of the high steps!

My parents live down south and we visit every couple of months, and at this time of year, there's a lot to enjoy where they live, including the local lake, annual canal fayre and lots of spots of natural beauty.

The trouble is, my Dad has difficulty walking. He turned 70 this year and his legs are a real source of pain on a daily basis. When he starts to walk, he soon has a build up of pain which makes him have to stop every so often to recover and let the feeling in his legs dissipate. It's a real frustration for him and I know he'd love to try and keep up to Ethan, who always tries to lend his Gramps a helping hand.

When we first moved into our house almost 11 years ago, the first thing we did to make it feel our own, with our minimal budget, was to hang mirrors in the hall, lounge and dining room. We couldn't redecorate for a while and hanging three statement mirrors worked wonders in adding some of our personality and opening up the space.

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They are a really great way to make any room feel bigger, as they reflect the light and can enhance the feeling of space, even in a narrow hallway. They're of course practical too but with so many mirror designs available, from minimalist to vintage inspired to full on statement designs, there's the perfect mirror to suit every style and every room in the house.

Ethan is well into his four's now and it's got me thinking about how we have a good routine (most days) that works for us, as two full time working parents and a preschooler who will be off to school in September, when a whole new world will open up to us, and a new routine will need to be established.

Now, routine is a word I think that's overused and can have a real negative association with it. From the moment our babies are born, as parents we're under pressure to 'establish a routine'. Strangers or family members ask 'is the baby in a good routine now?' or 'have you got the baby into a sleep pattern?'. It all gives first-time parents the impression that this is a) necessary, b) a template that all parents should follow and c) easy to put in place. For most of us, we quickly realise that this isn't the case.

With this all being said, I am the kind of person who likes to know what we are doing and when. I have relaxed over time - motherhood will do this to you if you are a hyper-organised type, but if you're laid back, it may have the reverse effect - and try to follow a certain flow each day, but at the same time, I try not to force anything or get too worried if things go off plan.

Ethan seems to get Mummy's need for a rough routine and has since I went back to work when he was eight months old. Lucky me!


A typical day in our house at the moment looks a bit like this...

6am - alarm goes off. One press of the snooze button later, and I'm up.

I plod downstairs in search of tea and feed the cats, check my phone (which I leave downstairs overnight to avoid distractions before bed) then head upstairs to shower.

6.30am I then settle myself at my dressing table, put the lamp on, and get myself ready, doing my make up whilst watching my iPad. This takes up to half an hour, as I try not to rush and want to enjoy my cuppa, followed by drying my hair and getting dressed. At some point during this, hubs emerges and starts his morning routine.

7.15am Once ready, it's time to let the dog out and fill his bowl with fresh food. I then pack our lunch bags for the day - more often than not, I haven't made anything in advance so I quickly whip a salad together, or we have last night's dinner leftovers to take with us to work.

Lighting is so important in a busy family home. The chances are that no matter how much you nag, someone will forget to switch the light off when they leave a room, and you will end up forking out on your energy bills, or replacing bulbs constantly. This is where switching to LED lighting may come in handy to you. 

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Let’s take a look at the benefits:

Kitchen

The kitchen is so often the heart of your home – cooking, eating and socialising all take place here. In a kitchen, you need different types of lighting – you need task lighting over areas where you prep food, ambient lighting over areas where you eat and mood lighting for when you are socialising. By using LED bulbs, you can customise your lights more easily. You can opt for cool, focused light in cooking areas, and ambient warm lights with a dimmable switch in areas where you socialise. The flexibility of being able to switch between bright lights for cooking and relaxed lighting for socialising allows your kitchen to be the hub of your home. LED bulbs go into a wide range of fixtures from spotlights to pendant lighting, and even strips of lighting to illuminate your cabinets and work surfaces.  

Living Room

Whether you’re watching a film, having a board game night with your friends or relaxing with a book, your living room has many different functions. As a result of this, you need to put in a variety of light sources that can adapt to the various occasions. Avoid blue lighting which can produce serotonin, as the living room is a place for relaxing! An ideal structure for living room lighting is usually a floor lamp which can be adjusted for reading and wall lighting which can be used to highlight artwork. LED lighting suppliers also offer unique lighting solutions for your living room, like an LED colour-changing panel behind your TV.
This week is Child Safety Week, taking place from Monday 5th to Sunday 11th June, and promoting the theme of ‘Safe children: sharing is caring’. 

Child Safety Week is run by the Child Accident Prevention trust, and this campaign aims to reduce the number of young children seriously injured in preventable accidents. We all have a responsibility to keep children safe, and nothing is more powerful than sharing practical advice and knowledge. This is why families, friends, businesses and communities are coming together this week to discuss the simple things we can all do to keep children safe. 

It is essential to have plumbing and heating appliances in the home, but it is important to ensure that they don’t pose a danger to young children. Just follow these simple tips and tricks so you can make your house ‘child-friendly’...

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In the bathroom


When optimising your family bathroom, it is important to consider what shower your children will be using. To prevent the risk of scalding, it is worth switching from a regular shower to a thermostatic shower. Thermostatic showers guarantee temperature stability for your children despite changes in cold and hot water pressure, and can be easily plumbed into your existing system.  


For increased safety, digital showers offer accurate temperature control to within a degree and some models can even run your child the perfect bath. Simply programme a safe depth level and temperature for your child and the digital shower will fill the tub independently. But remember – it’s the little details that matter too! Bath mats and non-slip bath strips help prevent slipping, and soft close toilet seats prevent any small hands from getting trapped.

It is also important to never underestimate a child’s curiosity. All too often children will reach up for ointments, medicines and razors that are kept on work surfaces and window sills. Make sure you lock away harmful bathroom essentials in a wall-hung cabinet or bathroom vanity unit. If you keep bleach and cleaning products in a low-level storage unit, then fix a child lock onto the cabinet doors. You can’t always rely on ‘child-lock caps’ on bottled liquids!
I have a confession - I'm not that 'into' cars. I can't tell the difference between one make or model and another and my main car decision-making factor centres on the question 'does it look nice?' - that's probably why my dream car is a VW campervan - but boy, would I be lost without ours.

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I passed my test almost nine years ago now I believe, after five attempts at the practical (don't ask) and countless tries at the theory (really, don't ask). So you could say that I wasn't a natural driver, as it took my time to get into my driving curve. If you want to do something right, you can't rush it, can you? That's my story anyway.

Since then, I have always enjoyed driving for the freedom it gives me and as the sole driver in our household, it has helped me and my family no-end. I used to drive a lot for work and the car was always so convenient. We holiday and visit family and friends a lot in the UK, so I'm designated driver. And with Ethan to run around to preschool and, soon, school, I couldn't be without my car and the time it saves me every day.
The weather may be a disappointment this week but we are still trying to get into the summer spirit and I have unpacked the flip-flops, hung up the maxi dresses and I've also picked up some new pieces for all three of us that have a fab summer vibe, from beachwear brand Saltrock.

It's not a brand that I've come across before but as soon as I was introduced, I found quite a few things that would suit Ethan, Ste and myself.

Saltrock is a North Devon based company and they offer a wide range of beachwear inspired clothes, as well as accessories if you are into your surfing. Living in Birmingham, our nearest beach is an hour forty minutes away in the car, so we're very much about the look more than anything!

It didn't take me long to pick out some things that all three of us would like...

For me


I picked out these cute, tropical print pumps. The colours are so bright and vibrant and for £10, they're a bargain and will be work all summer long.
Following on from my first gift guide for Father's Day last week, I have a few more ideas to share with you that are fun, quirky or practical - from a website I've discovered called Qwerkity.com.

It's a kind of 'bit of everything' online shop where you're bound to find something to suit the father figure in your life, even if you don't know what it is yet. I always find that the search for the perfect present can take some time so finding a one-stop-shop that offers funny gift ideas alongside personalised items and practical pieces too is actually a bit of a time saver - and has the inspiration I need to find something my hubs, Dad and Father-in-Law might like.

With the opportunity to pick a couple of presents for the purposes of review, I had a good look around, starting with Qwerkity's best Father's Day gifts page to get some ideas.

I was shopping for my hubs in particular, on behalf of Ethan of course, and came across two items I thought he would like.


If you're struggling to get enough sleep as a mum, don’t worry - you are not alone. And it’s entirely normal, of course. Not only will you have to get up and attend your little ones several times a night, but you will even find it tough to sleep purely down to the worrying factor.
But let’s be honest, the longer you aren’t getting proper sleep, the worse it is for your health. A good night’s sleep will give you the energy you need to be a good mum, heal your body and mind from the stresses and strains of the day, and brighten your mood by a significant amount.
So, it’s not enough to just ‘put up with it’ - you have to be proactive about avoiding sleep deprivation wherever possible. And it only takes a few minor changes to your days and nights to ensure you are getting enough shuteye. Let’s take a look at some of your options.

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Be serious about sleep

First and foremost, start thinking about sleep. It sounds obvious, but many mums - particularly new ones - just plough ahead and accept things as they are. It’s not a case of deserving a good sleep - you, your body, and your mind actually need it. Don’t ignore your sleeping needs or it could have a grave impact on your health, not to mention an adverse effect on your ability to look after your children.
Buying for the men in my life isn't one of the easiest things - I don't know why, but picking gifts for my Dad, Husband or Father-in-law each Christmas, birthday and Father's Day can prove really tricky. Of course, Father's Day is just two weekends away (it's Sunday 18th June, in case you need a little reminder) and I don't think I'm alone when it comes to head scratching and wondering what to get the special men in my life...

Another pair of socks? Novelty, of course.
Their favourite chocolate?
Some aftershave?

These are usual fail-safe options that suit most men but they aren't necessarily the most inspired.

For recent occasions, I have tried to go for the personalised route. I enjoy gift giving and like the idea of picking something and making it personal to the person it is for. Add in my love of taking pictures and you can see why I am such a big fan of Snapfish.

They offer a great range of online printing services and gifts and I have called upon them many a time - for Ethan's first birthday photo album, to a special canvas I designed for my Father-in-Law, some fun coaster gifts I made for family and friends and personalised photo calendars that our parents loved.

So, what do they have to offer for this Father's Day?


I had a good look and found a few different things to get the three fathers I have to buy gifts for and picked up something for them all...

Despite my best of intentions, we just aren't very good at getting a regular photo of us together as a family of three. It's such a shame as I would love to be able to look back at a monthly photo of us and see how we have changed, bit by bit, over the past four years.

At least we try every so often! I actually have a couple of photos to share from May where we're together in one shot... amazing!

The first is from our recent Center Parcs Sherwood Forest break, during our encounter with owls, and the feathered friend featured here is called Alan. Alan the owl.


The week before last, we went to Center Parcs Sherwood Forest and one of the real highlights of our holiday was the baby owl experience. We got to meet, handle and stroke three owls - the white one is Alan, the tiny one Stella and the large eagel owl was called Carl.

They were amazing creatures to learn about and were very friendly, letting us pet them and Carl even likes being given hugs.

I'm really pleased with these photos we managed to take, in the moment, as the birds let us try and capture some of their beauty.


A year ago today, I left my job of almost 11 years to move on to pastures new. It was a huge decision for me to make (you can read how I was feeling at the time here) as it had been a part of my life, and a part of me, for so long.

So many things happened professionally and personally during that time, it was hard to disconnect the two. I remember sobbing as I left the office that last time and, when picking hubs up just a couple of minutes around the corner, he said nothing as he got in the car and just put the media player on. Because he'd made me a special playlist to help me feel better.

It contained lots of pun filled songs, considering the circumstances. NSync Bye Bye Bye. Spice Girls, Goodbye. M People's Moving On Up. John Denver, Leaving On A Jetplane. Will Young, Think I'd Better Leave Right Now. Queen's Don't Stop Me Now. Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell. Europe's Final Countdown. Ending on Green Day's Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life).

Some made me laugh and some brought even more tears.

It was the end of the era. For some people, a job is a job but after so long, it was more and the thought of leaving it behind was terrifying - but exciting too. The opportunities that lay ahead were too good to miss and I wanted - needed - to know I could do more. Be more. Make a difference again. I wanted to find out how others would perceive me, how I would do in a different environment and with new challenges - and the space, scope and belief to do so.  
Are you thinking about making some improvements to your home this year? Would you like to become more eco-friendly to protect the planet? Then you should take a look at some of the ideas on this page. Regardless of the size of your property, you can always save power and use the sun to illuminate your home. That is especially the case at the moment now the good weather has arrived. Depending on how much you can afford to spend, you should choose your improvements wisely. I’ve included some cheap and cheerful options alongside alterations that would provide the best results. So, there should be something for everyone in my latest post...

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Use blinds instead of curtains

Before you do anything else, you should think about the materials used on your windows. Lots of people use curtains because they provide privacy. However, they’re not the best solutions for the summer months. If you want the best outcomes, you should consider purchasing blinds from a specialist retailer. There are many different types and styles available. You just need to select something that suits your home design and personal tastes. Best of all? Most companies supplying those products will make them to your specifications. So, you just need to get your tape measure out, and you can make better use of natural light.  
I've been trying a few new products recently to help nourish my dry skin, both on my face and as a result of my psoriasis. I've written many times about my psoriasis and as I've just reached the six year mark since my first patch first appeared, I thought I'd share a quick update on what I'm using.

The patches on my head and behind my ears have subsided quite a bit and generally, my psoriasis has improved all over. I still have it quite severely on my legs, noticeable dry patches on my lower arms and a big patch across my tummy, but it has been worse and it has been improving thanks to one new product in particular.



Skin Balm from What Skin Needs (£9.99), is designed to specifically for skin problems including irritation from warm and cold weather, cracked skin, dry skin, and skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. It's a blend of natural extracts and essential oils including Plantolin but also aloe vera, olive oil, myrrh, lavender oil, tea tree oil and geranium oil. 
We’d all like to spruce up the house every once in a while, but we’re often held back by the lack of funds available. Since home improvements are, more often than not, a vanity project, the ideas are often discarded and the money is spent on holidays or necessities. However, there is a way to justify getting some work done on the house this summer. Believe it or not, there are some renovations that pay for themselves.
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Insulation
We all know that going green can cut your energy bills, but up until now you’ve only switched your energy provider, upgraded to energy efficient lightbulbs, and started turning off your appliances. You need to think bigger. Around 25 percent of the heat lost in an uninsulated house literally goes through the roof, so why not look into insulating your attic and roof. Effective insulation will slow the rate that heat escapes from your house in winter, and will also slow the rate that heat gets into your house during the summer. In short; it will keep your house at the optimum temperature. You may also find that you don’t need to turn up your thermostat as much to compensate for the escaped heat. Add new insulation along your walls, your ceiling, and your attic wall for maximum efficiency.
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