Tuesday 29 September 2020

Book review - The Organised Time Technique by Gemma Bray

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Last year I turned around my cleaning routine thanks to The Organised Mum Method by Gemma Bray. The book really spoke to me, and helped me to make sense of the way that I could organise my housework to make sure that everything was done on a regular basis. I'm still following the method and it has really helped me to feel in control. So I was very interested to find out that Gemma has written a new book - The Organised Time Technique (affiliate link). 

Here's the blurb:

Do you ever get to the end of the day and feel like you've achieved nothing? Do you find it difficult to decide how to spend the small amount of free time you have? Do you ever wonder how some people seem to be able to do more with their time than others?

The Organised Time Technique is Gemma Bray's unique method for organising the day that will stop us from trying to do everything (and feeling like a failure when we can't), keep us focused on how we use the time we have available, help us to play to our strengths and, most importantly, stop worrying about what anyone else is doing.

The Organised Time Technique by Gemma Bray book review

The premise of the book is to really be aware of the fact that time is finite and that can, and will, run out. You are encouraged to break down your day into small blocks of time, for example 30 minutes, which gives you 48 units to divide between three levels of daily tasks. Level one tasks are absolutely essential - like sleeping and eating. Level two tasks would cause major disruption if you didn't do them - for example going to work, the school run and cleaning. Level three tasks are your focus tasks - the things that you really want to do, like your hobbies.

The first and most important step is to carry out a time bootcamp. Keep an honest record over the week of where your time is really going. This will help you to understand what sort of a timekeeper you are and how you can work with this to make some changes. It will help you to identify your typical time suckers, for example scrolling through social media, and where you are spending more time than you need to on a task. Then you can carry out an audit. You will work out firstly which tasks you can drop completely, and secondly how you can manage the remaining tasks so that they take up less time, for example by grocery shopping less frequently.

Although the techniques in the book can be used by all, it is written with particular relevance to mums, and especially working mums. It might seem sexist, but the reality is that many mums are juggling childcare and housework, as well as work, and are also involved in several other commitments like the PTA at school. The book is written in a really friendly and realistic way, and so it's very easy to relate to how you can use the techniques to turn things around.

I was reassured to be reminded that it is often difficult for mums to take pleasure in things that take them away from their parental duties, and that this is perfectly normal. The book has some really good tips on the importance of self-care and looking after yourself so that you are in a position to help others. You shouldn't feel guilty that you are taking time out for yourself, and you only need to be accountable to yourself. And spending just thirty minutes a day working towards a larger goal can yield really big results. 

I found this book really accessible, and although a lot of the advice is common sense, having it all written down in an easy to understand way makes it easy to digest and to think about the changes that you can make. I found it really motivational, and I've already made some changes to my life. For example I already know that I spend far too much time scrolling on my phone, so I've been making a conscious effort to keep it at a distance and pick up a book instead. 

The book was written during the Covid-19 pandemic, and so it's completely up to date with all the new challenges that families have been and still are facing. It arrived at a good time for me, as I begin to pick up things where I left them back in March and as we all get used to a new normal where some things are the same but others completely different. Now that I've given the book a good read through and taken the information on board I'm definitely going to be making some changes to how I manage my time.

If you want to understand where your time goes and how you can organise yourself to make the absolute most of it I'd definitely recommend this book!

Organisation books by Gemma Bray

Wednesday 23 September 2020

The return of the witching hour

When the children were small, and at home with me all day, I really struggled with the witching hour. We would often go out in the morning followed by an early lunch, and by 4pm everyone was bored and tea seemed a long way off. I struggled to cook dinner with children screaming and hanging off my legs, and there were often tears all round. Even once they were at school I still had tired children to deal with, but as they got older they were easier to look after, they could get on with their simple homework or play, and I was able to get on with preparing lunchboxes and dinner.

But the last few weeks have felt like a return to those difficult days. The children are exhausted after school. They are returning to a routine which they had all but forgotten, and are coping with new teachers, a new timetable and in Harry's case a new school. The amount of homework has increased, and time management skills need to be honed. As with everyone, the state of uncertainty is having a massive effect. With Covid cases already in the school, sometimes I feel as though it's only a matter of time before we are all back home again. 

By the time we get home from school, both children are often in tears. Mia is in no state to begin her homework, she needs a drink, a snack and some screen time to calm down. Harry is very good about getting straight on with his work, but when he looks at his list, which usually contains several tasks, he becomes overwhelmed and doesn't know where to start. I end up bouncing between the two of them doling out snacks, hugs and advice, and that's before I even think about starting dinner. This stops me from doing everything that I need to do, and so we all get cross with each other.

Luckily once dinner is out the way things are better. The children have a bath and get ready for bed, and then Mia is in a much better mood to get her homework done and Harry can catch up with his screen and reading time. By the time I have read to them and tucked them up in bed we have all calmed down.

It's going to take us a little while to get back into the swing of things so I'm trying to be as patient as I can, and to do the best I can to help with the transition. I'm really glad that the children are able to be back to school, both for their education and to be able to spend time with their friends, but it's going to take us all a few weeks yet to get used to it!

Photo credit Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Thursday 17 September 2020

Reading to the children

As a baby, Mia was never interested in books, so it was lovely when she let me start reading to her. We started with picture books then moved on to chapter books. We started with some classic Enid Blytons then went onto some of my favourite books from childhood - Charlotte Sometimes and Tom's Midnight Garden. We are currently nearing the end of the Snow Spider Trilogy, after watching the BBC adaptation earlier this year.

I used to read to Harry too when he was younger, but he was a much keener reader and quickly moved onto choosing and reading longer chapter books to himself. So I got out of the habit of reading to him and instead settled him into bed with a book of his own before reading to Mia.

Recently I was filling out an online survey and I was asked questions about reading to my children. Harry was in the same room and I mentioned the question to him, and something about the way he reacted to me talking about reading to Mia made me stop. I asked him, "would you like me to read to you too?" and he went all quiet, then admitted that actually he would like me to still read to him. I was a bit taken aback, and felt bad that I'd stopped!

Child reading on a bed from above
Photo credit - Annie Spratt via Unsplash

So I decided to take the opportunity to introduce him to a book that he wouldn't have the confidence to pick up himself. He's a comfort reader and likes to re-read books that he's enjoyed over and over, and he picks his new books from similar genres. So I found a copy of Treasure Island that he had on his shelf. I chose it because I reasoned that as a children's book I'm confident that it's going to be suitable, but the setting and language is quite different to his usual books.

Fortunately he's really enjoying the story, and I can also tell that he's enjoying me reading to him. So even though it takes me a bit of extra time each evening to put them to bed I'm hoping that I can keep it going with him for a little while yet!

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Why travelling is the most important gift you can give to your kids

This is a guest post.

Travelling is something some parents underestimate the importance of, but never should. Travelling does so much for kids mentally and helps them grow, see the world in different views, and become overall well-rounded people. If you can gift your kids with a trip and some travels as they grow up, it is something that they will thank you for now, and later as they reap the benefits of their childhood travels. 

Here are just a few of the reasons why travelling is important for kids: 


Communication skills will be with your children throughout their lives, and travelling helps to significantly boost communication skills. It can encourage and challenge to communicate clearly and confidently with new places people in new places, and they can even learn to pick up on some of the local languages. Languages are incredibly important in our globalised world, and it is more common and expected that people speak more than one language nowadays. So in terms of general communication skills as well as communication skills via language, travelling can have a significant impact on your children. 

Before travelling, encourage your child to learn some of the local phrases by using a language app aimed for students such as Babbel, for example. This way, they can have even just the basics down and develop their communication skills from there. These kinds of apps are great as well, because if they ever decide to study abroad, it’s a great tool to take with them! 

Child wearing headphones while travelling
Photo credit Film Bros via Pexels

It’ll make them more adaptable 

It can be easy (and helpful) for children to get into a routine at home, but travelling encourages them to adapt to new situations and places. Especially as they get older, being adaptable is an incredible skill to have, as it can make them be more flexible, comfortable and confident in themselves through work, school, and life changes. 

If you are travelling with young children, it is helpful to keep some routines the same (such as bedtime, meal time, etc.) so that their core routine is consistent as they are challenged and encouraged to adapt to new environments while away from home. 

Make them appreciate the world and nature 

There are all sorts of incredible places and landscapes around the world, and it is an incredible experience to go somewhere and be astounded the natural beauty of a new place. Getting children outside of the environment that they know encourages them to appreciate the world and nature, including places outside of their own little world. While we can see so much via Google Earth, photographs, art and media, there is nothing like experiencing a place for yourself. 

Group of people gathered around a laptop
Photo credit Mimi Thian via Unsplash

Teaches them geography and history 

It’s one thing to learn about geography and history, but it’s another thing to travel and experience it in person. Before traveling, encourage your child to read up on the history, geography and human geography of the destination so that they feel more connected and educated about the site. This can be especially beneficial if your child is learning about a time in history or a specific place at school, as it can give them hands-on experience with the place, historic sites and amazing culture

Can give them social skills 

The social skills that you learn while travelling are unparalleled to what your child will develop at home. Whether it is asking for directions or assistance in a local language that is not your own, connecting with other travellers and locals, or relying on social intelligence to determine what to do in a challenging environment, social skills are critical for travelling and can significantly impact how well a trip goes. You will probably see your children more comfortable asking for help or expressing their needs once back home! 

With all of this said, travelling really is something crucial for kids to grow. It can expand their horizons and show them new things they never thought of before. Plus, travelling is a fun and educational experience that is full of adventure!

Blank notebook

Tuesday 15 September 2020

We're all addicted to Animal Crossing

We were a bit late to the game, as it were, with Animal Crossing. During lockdown, people all over the world were losing themselves in an imaginary reality, creating their own peaceful islands and holding virtual meet ups with friends to swap fruit and flowers. But having played the game before, many years ago and before children, I knew that once I started playing I'd be hooked, and I remembered what happened when you didn't play for a few days - a return to an overgrown village in ruins, being chastised for your absence by angry villagers.

But having seen everyone chatting about it all summer on social media I was rather keen to play the new game, and so we finally bought a copy in the last couple of weeks of the holiday. The Switch console had been neglected recently as the children tend to use their iPads for their gaming, and so I thought it would be nice to get a bit more use from it.

Luckily I was the one to play the game first, which in hindsight was a really good move. I didn't realise until afterwards that this new version of the game is set up slightly differently. If there are several players on the one console then they need to share an island, and the first one to play is in charge and the only one able to perform certain functions. I can't imagine the conflict it would have caused if this role had been given to one of the children! There's a multiplayer mode to the game but it isn't very good.

I wasn't very happy sharing at first, as I was looking forward to having my own island to plan and decorate. However it's not so bad, the children and I can pool our money and resources for island improvements, we share our surplus items and we send little gifts to each other. But the problems come with the need to make sure that everyone has equal playing time, and I recently caused an argument by spending my savings to add a room to my house instead of contributing to a bridge upgrade. 

Animal Crossing game displayed on a Nintendo Swith
Photo credit Sara Kurfess via Unsplash

Animal Crossing is definitely an addictive game, despite the gentle repetitiveness. It's definitely much more fun roaming around a virtual island to pick up twigs and weeds rather than spending half an hour weeding my own vegetable patch. Likewise, I spend a lot more time rearranging the furniture in my virtual home than dusting my actual house. I'm not an expert on the science of digital addiction but I know that a big factor is the dopamine hits, which are continually triggered throughout play when you successfully catch a fish or acquire a recipe for the missing furniture item in a set. 

Playing the game is also a way of escaping from the real world to somewhere that you can control and improve, which is why I can see it was such a hit during lockdown. It also offers opportunities to meet up with friends online and play together as well as sending letters and gifts, so it's a fun way to keep in touch with family and friends.

Of course now that the children are back at school they have less opportunity for screen time. So it has become part of my own routine to log under their accounts each day to collect the 'Nook Miles' which accumulate as you spend consecutive days playing, keep an eye on the fluctuating turnip prices and generally make sure that they've been present and active in the game world. I'm also busy on my own account catching sea creatures and selling shells so that I can save up enough money to pay for all the improvements that they want.

We've been having a lot of fun playing this game and I can see it continuing for a good while yet!

Thursday 10 September 2020

Back to school

Like children all across the country, this week mine return to school. Harry went back for a few weeks in July but that didn't feel like real school, more of a chance to catch up with friends and say a proper goodbye to his junior school. The school run was easy with no traffic on the roads, he didn't have to wear uniform, and he had no homework.

Now of course we are back to school properly, with Mia joining Year 5 and Harry starting Year 7 at the senior school. We had a fair bit of anxiety leading up to the first morning, but I'm pleased to say that so far the transition seems to be going well. Of course they are tired, and I'm sure missing their screens, but they have both settled well and seem to be enjoying themselves. 

There are a few changes - no blazers this term, PE kit to be worn all day on PE days, and staggered start and pick up times that are a little bit awkward at first. Harry spends most of the day in one classroom rather than moving around for different lessons, so he doesn't need to worry about being trodden on by the older pupils because he doesn't see them!

As for myself, I feel a bit lost now that they are back at school. I need to remember what I used to do to fill my time! I've made a list of my September goals, and I'm hoping to pick up my exercise again as well as getting back into the blogging. 

I do have a feeling of unease at the back of my mind. Both concerns about the virus and concerns that at any minute the school may have to close and they'll be back home again, with all the distress that will cause. But for now I'm really pleased that they are doing well and are happy to be back learning with their friends.

Kids back to school standing by door

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Tyre Material: What makes your car tyres powerful?

This is a collaborative post.

Different tyres are used by motorists depending on different weather and road conditions. While some differences in tyres may be noticeable, others may go unnoticed. For example tyre rubber is one compound that is difficult to differentiate but greatly affects tyres’ overall performance and longevity. In this article, such compounds will be discussed, so that readers are well aware of what makes their tyres better and powerful:


The main component of a car tyre is rubber, also known as polymer. Leading tyre manufacturers make sure of the fact that the selected tyre material will get you safe through any weather. Therefore, the rubber compound used to make tyres helps in increasing tyre grip, increases elasticity and reduces downtime. 


Fillers are black carbon or silica that are generally added to the tyre rubber to reduce tyre wear. Alone rubber can crumble, but with fillers tyres become more resistant to wear and helps improving your car’s mileage as well. 

Pile of tyres
Photo credit Robert Laursoo via Unsplash


Plasticisers are used to ensure that the car is safe to drive during rainy and snowy seasons. These are oils and resins that make sure that the tyre has improved grip and rolling resistance. Plasticisers may also help in preventing the hardening of rubber during cold weather. In winter tyres, these oils are used more so that the tyres offer better grip and safety during low temperatures. 

Tyre Care 

Now that we are aware of primary components of tyres, therefore efforts should be made to prevent tyre wearing and improving tyres’ longevity. Rubber is a compound that tends to wear out with the passage of time. Improper maintenance and excess heat can accelerate the process of tyre wear. Due to these reasons, cracks may appear on the surface or sidewalls of tyres. Such a tyre can prove to be dangerous, as driving with it can result in tread separation or even a blowout while driving. 

By maintaining tyre pressure, rotating your tyres regularly and investing in wheel alignment one can surely decrease the process of tyre wear. Excess tyre wear can be dangerous to drive along with, therefore always opt for replacing your tyres if they do not appear to be roadworthy. For readers looking for car tyres in Basingstoke, reserve tyres online from Headley Tyres Basingstoke Branch and make sure you’re driving safely.

Tuesday 8 September 2020

My September goals

This week both the children are back at school full time - Mia starts in Year 5 and Harry starts Year 7 at a new school. They've been at home for a long time, with both learning from home and enjoying a summer break, and it's going to be a big adjustment for us all. Like most people, even though we are getting back into a routine, my life looks quite different than it did back in March when everything turned upside down.

September and the start of a new term always feels like a good time to reassess goals and make plans for the remaining months of the year. So here are some of the things that I want to achieve this September, and onwards.

* A positive transition back to school. A return to routine, with normal and relaxing bedtimes, making time to chat about any worries and anxieties, along with a massive reduction in screen time.

* Getting back into blogging. As well as being the time of year for reflection and planning, with Halloween and Christmas coming up there is plenty of seasonal content to both create and update. I'm going to aim for three blog posts a week and I'll be pleased if I manage two for the time being.

* Picking up the exercise again. Our gym has been shut since April and our membership is currently frozen until the beginning of October. Thanks to a great deal we signed up for back in January we are fully paid up for at least the next year, so cancelling the membership isn't an option. Until we return, I need to get my fitness back by going out for some runs now that I have some free time during the day.

Glass jars in the pantry
Photo credit Nadia Pimenova via Unsplash

* Stock up the cupboards again in case of a future lockdown/quarantine and for any issues caused by Brexit. I was grateful to have prepared a modest Brexit stockpile which kept us going through the first weeks of lockdown - we had plenty of pasta and sauce at least, although the flour and yeast shortages took me by surprise! But we've been working our way through it over the summer, and now that I know the sorts of things that people stockpile, it's easy to pick up a few extra bits each week to make sure that we have enough food and other essentials on hand.

* I've re-discovered the library over the last few weeks and I definitely want to keep up with regular visits and making the time to read. It's almost easier in some ways because our library has very limited opening hours so it helps me to plan in a regular visit!

* General tidying up and sorting out. At the beginning of lockdown the children took over our guest bedroom and turned it into their playroom. They spread Lego and Playmobil out all over the floor and built complicated built train tracks and Hexbug layouts. Even though we don't have any immediate plans for overnight guests it would be nice to have a room that isn't full of dusty plastic, so I'm gradually tidying it up, or at least trying to contain some of the smaller bits in boxes.

* I need to make the time for my crafting. I've been doing really well this year with finishing an incomplete craft project each month, so well in fact that I don't have an obvious project to complete this month. So I'm planning to put my time in September towards my cross stitch map with is a long term work in progress.

* Embrace the school run. Like many people I find the school run stressful, with time spent sitting in traffic and arriving early to secure a parking space. I'll be listening to some new music on Spotify and maybe searching out a few podcasts to listen to so that I can try and make it more enjoyable.

Lots to be getting on with there!

Writing a to do list
Photo credit Glenn Carstens-Peters via Unsplash

Thursday 3 September 2020

It's September and I'm saying goodbye and hello...

September is now underway, and the children will very shortly returning to school after a break much longer than I ever imagined back in March. It's a big change for us all, and a departure from the new habits and routines that we've developed over the last few, very strange, months. Here are some of the things that I'll be saying goodbye and hello to, some more gratefully than others.

Goodbye to...

* The constant presence of the children. Providing a stream of snacks and entertainment served alongside far too much screen time.

* Late nights and lie-ins.

* The continuous noise of squeaky voices throughout the house.

* Clutter and junk lying around leading to constant tidying.

* Daily refilling of the toilet roll holders.

* Watering and weeding the garden every day.

* Long light summer evenings and star gazing.

Hello to...

* Back to a familiar routine - school runs, homework, piano practice, early nights and the chance to watch television as a couple once the children are in bed.

* Hopefully returning to the gym, or at least attempting a little more exercise.

* Some uninterrupted time for work and blogging during the day.

* Tidying something and it remaining tidy for several hours.

* Constant driving back and forth to school.

* The chance to work on a craft project without interruption.

It has been a lovely long summer, it was difficult at times but fortunately in the main it has been a time to look back on with fondness. We've been blessed with the most wonderful weather and with two lovely children that are old enough to look after themselves for a large proportion of the day, yet will still play happily together and indulge me when I just want to grab and hug them.

We have some big changes ahead. Harry starts senior school next week, a transition which would have been challenging enough at the best of times, and who knows how the next few months will pan out. But for the most part I'm looking forward to the next season of our lives. 

Autumn leaves hanging on a line
Photo credit Chris Lawton via Unsplash