Thursday 25 August 2022

The extra things I do before going on holiday

There are all sorts of things that you need to do before you go away on holiday - the packing of course, gathering together the important documents, booking things like parking or taxis. But there's also a whole host of other jobs that I find myself doing before we leave. 

For example:

Eat up all the food - I can't bear the thought of throwing away food that won't keep. So I make sure that I'm careful with the shopping and I plan meals so that every last thing in the fridge is eaten. Even if this means forcing the children to eat fruit and veg as snacks all day!

Make a food shopping list - We usually book an online shop for the day we get back, so I like to have that ready to go before we leave in case we don't have time or an internet connection. That means making a meal plan for when we get back and adding in the things that were eaten up before we went.

Batch cook some pasta sauces - I keep a couple of different pasta sauces in the freezer in pots for an easy dinner for my fussy child, so I make sure the freezer is stocked before I go.

Clean the house - For two reasons, firstly because it's so nice to come back to a lovely clean and tidy house after a long journey and secondly in case something happens to us while we are away and relatives need to come into the house!

Paint my nails - I always like to paint my nails before a holiday, especially if it's a holiday that will involve sandals. It does take such a time though, and it can be annoying when I'm busy as I like to wait until the day before so that it lasts longer!

Clean out the fish tank - Last year we bought some goldfish, and they are still alive! We feed them with a battery powered automatic feeder while we are away which has always worked well, and we also position one of our security cameras by the tank so that we can check in on them. But I still fret about them! So I make sure that their tank is nice and clean before we go and change the filter if necessary.

Make a plan for the first week back - I add any important tasks into the calendar like bills that need to be paid or things that need to be chased. I have a rolling to do list in Trello so I fill out all my jobs for the first couple of days back.

Sort out birthday cards or presents - I've been caught before having to buy and post a birthday card whilst away!

Backup photos - In case of accident befalling my phone, and also to free up the storage.

Empty my inbox - As much as possible at least. I only leave e-mails for things which are in progress and will be needed when I get back as well as e-mails for the holiday like accommodation confirmations.

Doing all these things helps me to feel in control, and less anxious as the holiday approaches!

Large pile of vintage suitcases
Photo credit Nick Fewings via Unsplash

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Using the Marie Kondo method to declutter an older child or teenager's room

For a little while my teenage son's bedroom had been descending into chaos, so I decided that we would tackle it together at the beginning of the summer holidays and have a really good clear out and clean. I'm a big fan of the Marie Kondo method for decluttering and organising, and so I decided that we would use this method in his bedroom. It was really successful and his room looks so much better now,  so I thought I'd share how we used the method on his room.

The Marie Kondo method involves sorting possessions by category. You start with categories of items that have little sentimental attachment and can obviously be removed. The main categories are clothes, books and paperwork, and then you move onto the smaller categories which can be customised based on the sorts of things that you own. 

I came up with a category list before we started, and I also added things as we went along. I've shared our category list below, and I'll go into detail about each one.

Marie Kondo for a child or teenager's bedroom

Downloadable a printable version of the checklist

Before you start, if possible clear a sorting area and gather together large boxes, bin bags, and bags for charity donations. As you sort you will find things that belong to later categories or to a new category so it's a good idea to have somewhere to keep them. Prepare for a few days of mess!

We did the declutter slowly and worked on a category or two every day. I planned the next day's category in advance and where possible gathered the items together in my sorting area. That way we both knew what was coming up. If we had a busy day then I planned a smaller and easier category to work on. 

I also cleaned as we went along, for example pulling out the bed to hoover underneath and giving the window a good clean. As the room begins to empty it's a good opportunity to think about whether your existing storage systems are working, and whether you need to look at repurposing or purchasing new storage.

Clothes - For me this is the easiest category for children as it's really obvious which things have been grown out of and can be passed on. I also keep on top of it anyway - every time we pack for a holiday I take out the things that no longer fit! I take clothes that are still in really good condition to the charity shop, and those which are a little more worn to the supermarket recycling bins.

Books - Again I find this quite an easy category as children's interests change so quickly and they grow out of books. But I am also quite careful here as I've recently found myself re-purchasing some of my old childhood favourites! So I found Harry a large box for carefully chosen 'sentimental' books which he can keep in his wardrobe.

Paperwork - I tried to start with the least sentimental items of paperwork, so for a child this includes instruction leaflets for toys, schoolwork, old notebooks, certificates and all the random pieces of paper that end up lying around. Some of the paperwork can be dealt with in the sentimental category, for example photos, letters and postcards, diaries and journals. 

Bags and accessories - Hats and caps, jewellery, belts, ties and so on.

Stationery - I like to sort this into 'current' stationery, including school pencil cases and desk stationery, and 'spare' stationery for when this runs out. Make sure that the pens all work, pencils are sharpened etc. and there isn't too much excess in the spare category. 

Decorative items - Pictures on the walls, cushions, blankets, fairy lights, ornaments and trinkets.

Jigsaws and games - Always a satisfying declutter as the boxes take up lots of room! I included card games, board games and puzzle games in this category.

Large toys - Playmobil sets, dolls houses, marble runs and so on.

Construction sets - For my son the majority of this category was Lego, also KNEX, Meccano, and magnet activity sets. 

Action figures and dolls - Also the accessories that go along with them like bottles and clothes.

Small toys and collectibles - Figurines like Pokemon toys, Shopkins, LOL Dolls and I also included trading cards. If you are getting rid of these then it might be worth looking at whether it's worth selling as they may have some value.

Completed craft projects - This was a surprisingly large category. Pottery painting efforts, sculptures from school and various other creations. Luckily much of it was no longer wanted!

Soft toys - Possibly the toughest category! But I found that putting stuffed animals together in one place really helped to see just how many there were. Our school loves to take these as donations for the soft toy raffle at the summer fair.

Sentimental - All those precious things that are much harder to part with, although my son was much more ruthless than I expected. I found that we had different ideas about the things that would be sentimental to him, so I had to let him take the lead! It could be photographs, ticket stubs, holiday souvenirs, postcards, gifts from friends or relatives, journals and so on. 

Extra categories - All children are different and you are bound to come up with extra categories as you go along. For example - toiletries and makeup, computer games and gaming accessories, DVDs, sporting equipment, badges, craft supplies.

Teenage girl's bedroom decluttering
Photo credit Kenny Eliason via Unsplash

For me the most difficult part of the tidy is getting rid of the excess items. There are lots of options - passing things to a younger relative or friend, selling, donating to a charity shop or recycling for example, and ideally it should be done as soon as possible. I like to at least get things neatly packed up so that I can grab a bag or two to take to the charity shop or deliver to a friend when I get the chance.

Just one last thought - when it comes to decluttering with children I think that the age of the child makes a huge difference. With very young children I think it's best not to really involve them, and instead I would just do the decluttering myself. Many of their possessions are ones that they've been given and they outgrow things so quickly. 

But older children have many more things which are sentimental to them, and things that they've specifically requested as gifts or chosen and purchased with their own money. So I think that using the Marie Kondo method works really well with older children and teenagers. I also think that regular decluttering is a really good habit to work on while they are younger so that they learn to keep on top of things, and hopefully they will remember this method so that they can use it in the future.

Category list background credit - Alessio Soggetti via Unsplash

Thursday 11 August 2022

Things that happen as soon as I put on nail varnish

I love to paint my nails but I don't do it as often as I would like, mainly because I don't have the time. Not the time that it takes to paint the nails, which is just a few minutes, but the time that it takes for them to dry! As soon as I've finished painting them, something inevitably happens which means that they are ruined.


* I need the toilet. Even if I went just before I started.

* Someone needs a snack - even just taking a bowl or plate out of the cupboard can be hazardous.

* A delivery arrives that needs to be opened. It's a risk just picking the key from the hook to open the front door let alone sliding fingers under the flap of an envelope. 

* I need to send an e-mail or do something else which requires typing. I always think that typing is a safe activity as it's only the bottoms of my fingers that touch the keys, but that's not the case.

* I need to open a can or tin. Those pesky ring pulls have ruined my nails even hours after I've painted them!

* The house suddenly looks dirty. There is either a spill or some crumbs that are bothering me or I want to catch up on a bit of regular housework.

* My feet get cold and I forget that I've just painted my toe nails so automatically put on my slippers or a pair of socks.

* I pick up a book to read and my fingers accidentally slide between the pages. 

I've found that in order to keep my perfect nails the only way is to sit in front of the television for a couple of hours and sit still with my hands laid out in front of me which is very rarely practical!

Person applying nail polish
Photo credit Element5 Digital via Unsplash

What have been the most annoying causes of damage to your manicures?

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Getting back out on roller skates

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

On our recent cruise holiday one of the activities on board was roller skating, and I was very keen! It had been a long time since I put on a pair of roller skates, but I loved mine when I was younger. I used to spend hours going up and down the road both by myself and with friends. 

We all enjoyed the roller skating on the cruise and I was surprised by how well I picked it up again. Mia also really enjoyed it. It took her a little while to pick up the knack but she was soon skating really well and was desperate to have some roller skates of her own. And at the same time I was thinking that I quite fancied having a pair too!

So we got home and treated ourselves to a pair of skates each. We bought these ones - United Skates Vibe Camo skates in pink and blue (affiliate link) and have been very pleased with them. I chose a larger size for Mia so that she doesn't grow out of them too soon and they have been a great fit. They are comfortable to wear and sturdy, and it looks as though it will be easy to replace the stoppers and wheels if they start to wear down.

Two pairs of feet in roller skates

We are lucky to live in a quiet cul-de-sac so Mia has been out most days by herself perfecting her technique and she's coming on brilliantly. I've also been out with her quite a few times and we've been having a great time skating around all the local streets. I've passed lots of ladies my age while out and about, some of whom I know from various child related things, and I like to think that they are looking enviously at me as I wobble past. Or more likely they are just amused!

Girl on roller skates skating past trees

Now that we've improved a bit my next step is to take us down to the seafront so that we can skate along the promenade. I want to find a quieter time, perhaps first thing in the morning or maybe we'll wait until later in the year when there aren't so many tourists. Also I've not been brave enough to go out without Mia yet, I think I might get even more people staring at me if I'm on my own!

Friday 5 August 2022

The two edible things that I successfully grow in my garden

I always try to make an effort with planting fruit and vegetables, and I've had a few successes over the years as well as quite a few misses. But there are two things that I've consistently been able to grow, use and enjoy.

Firstly we have a lovely apple tree in our front garden which must have been planted when the house was built about twenty years ago. I don't know what type of apple they are but they are cooking apples, and I'm guessing Bramley apples. Every couple of years I prune the tree back quite a bit in the Autumn and we don't get many apples the following year. Then every other year we get a bumper crop, and this year is one of them!

Apples growing in the apple tree

I offer bags to visitors and I use as many as I can for my own baking. I particularly love making apple crumble, even though I'm the only one that really eats it. I use a super simple recipe from BBC Good Food - Easy Apple Crumble although I halve the quantities because it makes loads. Delicious!

Homemade apple crumble

Then the second thing that I can grow successfully is tomatoes. Historically this part of the country has been good for growing tomatoes because apparently we get quite a lot of sunlight. I grow the plants directly in my main vegetable patch and also in large pots and I am quite lax about their care - I do  remove the side shoots and I keep them from getting overgrown but I always forget to fertilise them. They also often get neglected if we go away. But in spite of this they usually do quite well!

They are a little behind this year because we were away over Easter and I waited until we got back before I planted the seeds. There's a chance we may be going away in a few weeks time, and I'm really hoping that I don't miss the harvest!

Tomatoes growing in the garden

Wednesday 3 August 2022

How cruising has changed since Covid

A couple of weeks ago we embarked on our first family cruise post-Covid. My husband found an amazing last minute deal on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas - a ship that we were actually due to sail on back in April 2020. We cruised for a week from Southampton, visiting La Rochelle and Le Havre in France and La Coruna and Bilbao in Spain. 

Cruise ship testing rules are changing all the time. When we cruised, all over 12s needed to be fully vaccinated and all passengers needed to have a supervised negative lateral flow test result within 48 hours of the cruise date (unvaccinated children under 12 within 24 hours). We did our lateral flow test online with DocHQ the day before which was very straightforward, although I did feel that I couldn't start properly packing until we had received that negative result!

Royal Caribbean cruise ship hand sanitiser stations

Once onboard we noticed very little change to our usual cruising experience. We purchased expensive FFP2 masks which we wore whenever we were walking around the ship and we avoided the lifts and other crowded areas whenever we could. However we were definitely in the minority. Although the crew wore masks, only a handful of fellow passengers wore them.

There were a lot more hand sanitiser stations than I've been used to seeing on a ship, but generally handwashing is very much encouraged on cruise ships anyway. There was plenty of signage to encourage social distancing but no actual enforcement. The buffet and other eating areas were operating as normal. 

Royal Caribbean cruise ship covid safety signs

Of course we knew that the Covid risk on a cruise ship would be very high, and so despite the precautions that we took we weren't particular surprised that both me and my husband caught Covid on board. Judging by the comments in our cruise Facebook group we were far from alone, and a huge number of people came down with it. 

It's difficult to know what we personally could have done differently to avoid it. Perhaps mask wearing needs to be more strictly enforced among passengers, but I'm not sure that would make much difference. 

I think if you are taking a cruise holiday you just have to be realistic about the fact that there's a good chance you'll be bringing Covid home and if you are particularly at risk of serious complications from Covid then you need to consider whether it's the right holiday for you at this time.

Tuesday 2 August 2022

Six common dental problems and how to fix them

This is a collaborative post

Although we all strive for excellent dental health, maintaining it can be difficult. People can experience many common dental problems throughout their lifetime, like bad breath, a gap in teeth, gum disease, and much more. It can damage your confidence, but the important thing to remember is that some issues are much more common than you think. This article will discuss six of them in more detail and tell you everything you need to know to fix these issues and achieve optimal dental health. 

Bad Breath

Bad breath is a common dental problem that most of us will experience throughout our lifetime. It can make people feel rather self-conscious, and you may question whether your dental hygiene is up to scratch. The important thing to remember is sometimes bad breath can be triggered by factors that are out of your control. For example, certain medications, or infections, can trigger it. You can learn more about bad breath triggers online. Bad breath can also be a product of poor hygiene. Luckily, there are some things you can do to address the issue. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day and using fluoride toothpaste can help. You should also clean your tongue once a day using a scraper. 

Gum Disease

Gum disease is a serious gum infection that can lead to symptoms such as bleeding or swollen gums. It can also cause bad breath. Without the correct treatment, gum disease will continue to damage the soft tissue and bone that supports your teeth. Be aware that gum disease is not necessarily painful. Some people may live with it for a while until they are aware of it. Initial symptoms include bleeding and swollen gums, which is something to look out for. Luckily, there are treatments available for gum disease. Maintaining a good level of oral hygiene will certainly help. Make sure to visit your dentist, who will be able to offer guidance on this. They may also offer to clean your teeth for you to remove any plaque that has built up. 

Lady cleaning white teeth
Photo credit Diana Polekhina via Unsplash

Teeth Spacing

If you have a tooth gap, you may feel quite self-conscious about it. The important thing to remember is you are not alone. Many people have a tooth gap, which can often be corrected with dental treatment. A Tooth gap results from gum disease - or when the jaw is overly large. They can be corrected with the help of a clear aligner. This is a plastic form of braces that are formed into the shape of your teeth. Not only are they discreet, but they have been proven to correct any tooth gap, regardless of its size. If you are interested in knowing more about clear aligners, Straight My Teeth are an organisation that can help. Their team of experienced orthodontists can tell you everything you need to know and guide you through the process, to give you a smile that you are proud to show off.

Cracked Teeth

Cracked teeth can result from an injury - or even from chewing hard foods - and are very unpleasant. It can cause pain and knock your confidence, so you must get it checked out as soon as possible. Make an appointment with your dentist who will discuss your treatment options with you. Some of the most common treatments for cracked teeth include a crown, veneer, or filling. If you are suffering from swelling due to the cracked tooth, you can rinse your mouth with warm water and apply a cold compress to the area. Your dentist may also advise that you take some anti-inflammatory medication like Ibuprofen. This can be purchased over the counter in your local pharmacy. 

Sensitive Teeth

Once the enamel on your teeth starts to wear down, you will notice that your teeth become much more sensitive. This is a common problem that many people face. Your teeth can become susceptible to certain foods and drink, and it can cause you a lot of discomfort. Although the wearing down of enamel plays a huge role in the development of this issue, it can also come down to other factors such as gum disease, receding gums, broken teeth, and much more. Luckily, specific toothpaste and mouthwashes have been designed for sensitive teeth. They can help minimise discomfort, so they are worth checking out. You can find the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth by reading some online reviews.  


A cavity results from tooth decay. Unfortunately, the damage they cause is permanent - but can be repaired with a filling. So, how do you know if you have cavities? You may start to notice some symptoms, such as tooth sensitivity. Some hot and cold foods may cause you a lot of discomfort. You will also notice that you are regularly experiencing tooth pain. It often feels like a sharp, stabbing pain. At first, it can be mild, but it will worsen without treatment. If you want to minimise your risk of cavities in the future, make sure you regularly brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and visit your dentist regularly.