12 October 2018

Plus Size Styling

Are you looking to update your wardrobe but are not sure what is best to buy that will best suit your shape and style? There are some wardrobe staples that you need to make sure that you have for the upcoming season and below we are taking you through our favourite style tips for plus size women. 

Get a Vintage Kaftan 
If you live in a warmer climate or love a good holiday abroad, then something that you will definitely need to invest in is a beautiful kaftan. 

You can easily amass a selection of these and vintage ones are great as they will usually be unique and at a great price point. While you may be thinking that you don’t want something flowy that doesn’t show your shape, this is not the case with a kaftan and they can look beautiful and regal on every plus size woman. 

Have a Go to Outfit 
No matter what size you are, everyone needs a go to outfit that is comfortable and suitable for the environment in which they live in. If you live in a warmer climate, this may be a pair of slides teamed with leggings and a crop tops, however, if you live in a colder climate, skinny jeans, a comfy jumper and a great pair of ankle boots. 

You can find a wide selection of boots from DuneLondon.com to tuck into your jeans.This will allow you to be comfortable when you are running errands, but still looking great. 

Stay Inspired by Everyone 
A common mistake that many plus-sized women tend to make is that they think they can only look to plus-sized models for inspiration on what to wear. However, this is simply not the case and you can look for inspiration from a wide variety of body types and then adapt what they are wearing to you. There is no need to restrict yourself to simply looking at one type of body image as you can find passion and inspiration everywhere that will help you to choose clothes that look great on you. 

Try on Lots of Different Sizes 
No matter what size you are, most people will tend to find that there are inconsistencies across different brands sizing. While you may be a size 20 in one store, you may be a 16 in another and this is why it is always a good idea to try on lots of sizes when trying on clothes instore. You may be surprised at how vast your sizing can vary between different shops. 

Go for the Crop Top 
If you are a plus size woman, then you may be thinking that crop tops are completely out of the question, however, this is really not the case! Crop tops can look amazing on curvy girls and you can show off just the right amount with a cool crop top and a pair of high waisted jeans or a high waisted skirt. 

Invest in Tailoring 
Tailoring does not have to be expensive, but it can make a massive difference in an outfit and transform it from being frumpy into being classic, chic and put together. Dresses are a great option to tailor as you can transform an oversized dress into the perfect bodycon dress. 

Always remember that life is too short to be strict on following rules. You should always wear what you want and not worry about what other people think. 

*Collaborative piece

11 October 2018

How To Brighten Up Your Home For The Winter

As the winter approaches, the nights are getting a lot darker and so are our homes. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to brighten up your home for the winter and to help you, we have put together some ideas. Keep reading if you’d like to feel more comfortable in your brighter home this winter.

Add Some Colour
One of the easiest ways to brighten up your home for the winter is to add some pops of colour. If you want to make some big changes, you could consider adding some brighter colours to your walls using paint or wallpaper. If you’d like to make some more temporary adjustments, you could add some coloured pieces around your home. Think about all of the ways that you could add colour and don’t be afraid to buy some standout pieces.

Change Your Lighting
In the summer, you tend to use fewer lights during the day but as the winter approaches, your lighting becomes key to making your home bright. This is why you should think about updating your current lighting set up, buy some new fixtures and change your bulbs. Take a look at great lighting sites like pagazzi.com if you want to find some amazing overhead lighting. If you’d rather not change the overhead lighting but still want to make a difference, you could buy some lamps that you can place around your home. Lighting is key so make sure not to ignore this if you are trying to brighten up your home.

Clean Up
Another great way to brighten up your home in preparation for the winter is to give it a good deep clean. You’ll find that your windows will be able to let in more light if they are sparkling clean and your surfaces will be able to reflect the light if they have been cleaned thoroughly. It is always a good idea to do a deep clean before the winter in preparation for the bad weather and the effect that it is going to have on your home. Think carefully about your deep clean and see how you can use it to brighten up your home.

Add Some Plants
If you really want to brighten up your home, you should think about adding some new houseplants. Make sure to find out which plants live for the longest inside your home in the winter. When you add these plants, they’ll not only brighten up the rooms and make them look great, but they’ll also help to clean the air out. Try some plants in your home and you will love the effect that they have.

Hang Some Mirrors
Our final tip for those who want to brighten up their home a little for the winter is to hang some mirrors. Mirrors are great because they can actually reflect light and so they will open up the space and brighten up the entire room. Think carefully about where you place your mirrors for the maximum effect and don’t be afraid to get a really big one for your living room or hallway.

There are plenty of different ways that you can brighten up your home for the winter including hanging mirrors and changing the lighting fixtures. Make sure to take all of our advice on board and don’t be afraid to experiment a little with the light. If you try out some of these ideas, you should soon be living in a bright, colourful home just in time for the winter.

Collaborative piece

9 October 2018

Here Come The Girls

At 6.45pm on Sunday, a little smile appeared on my face.  We were about to see the emergence of the new Doctor Who.  For the first time in that leading role; a woman.

There has been much talk about the new Doctor.  A woman did not have, to some angry voices, any place playing Doctor Who.  An alien with two hearts who could regenerate into absolutely any being.  Except, apparently a woman, which was a step too far for some.  

The usual default setting of a white man in a leading role was being challenged.

I started watching Doctor Who when Christopher Eccleston came into the role.  Since then we have had David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi.  All totally different Doctors, all with their own spin, coming from different genres and styles of acting.  Who could have thought for example the shouting, swearing Malcolm Tucker would one day play Doctor Who?

So I watched, with trepidation.  Trepidation.  That is a strange word to use about watching a new actor take over an iconic role.  When I watched the change between David Tennant whom I adored as the Doctor, to Matt Smith; I was uneasy and unsure as to whether he would play the part well.  He was a quirky Doctor, unlike the charm and charisma with the slight dark tinge of David Tennant.

But with Jodie, it was different.  Because she was being, yes in 2018, judged first and foremost as being a woman.  Not an actor who had a fabulous backlog of previous characters to show her skills.  Not her personality and how she would play the role.

But because I knew that should that first episode not have worked, had her spin on the Doctor or the way she played it been any less than spot on and well formed; she would have been blamed not for her character portrayal or her take on the Doctor, but because it would somehow prove in the minds of the misogynists on the internet, that a woman had no business playing Doctor Who.  

(I did not think, by the way, that the story was a great first starter to the series and would have liked a little more oomph with more excitement, but that did not take away from Jodie's fabulous performance).

With Jodie, little girls everywhere have a lead character role that is not defined by the way that she looks, how she dresses or how much she needs to rely on a man to succeed.  Any of us can imagine ourselves as Jodie and I can imagine many a little girl (and sod it, yes me too), visualizing herself now in the role.

When I was a little girl, I remember watching the boys in the playground playing as soldiers and spies (no doubt channeling James Bond).  They had a plethora of film stars and characters to aspire to and want to be.

In my formative years I remember watching Scooby Doo for example.  You had the option of wanting to be the ditsy atypical stereotype airhead of Daphne, or the geeky, dowdy Velma.   The message back then was clear.  You could be beautiful or clever; you couldn't be both.

We had Wonder Woman who could have been an amazing role model for girls, yet her character was defined by the outfit that she wore.  Even Princess Leia who was an amazing role model for girls, is remembered most for the gold bikini she wore when captured by Jabba the Hut.

We had She-Ra who was supposed to appeal to girls as He-Man did for boys, yet she was styled and drawn with barbie style curves, large breasts, short backless dress and riding a unicorn; despite also having super human strength which did not correlate with how she was styled.  Not practical for one!  The idea itself was great, but the execution in her styling, as visualized by the men drawing her, were not.

Boys did in He-Man have a similar problem in the stereotypical muscle bound man, but they had at least other role models to look towards.  The shy, geeky types had Spiderman and any boy could emulate Bond who although an international agent for MI6, was shaped like a regular guy; granted always in a great suit.

Don't even get me started on Barbie.

We did of course have the occasional amazing female lead.  Ellen Riply, Sarah Connor, Clarice Starling.  All well thought out, complex characters who functioned as a single entity without needing direction through the plot by a man.  They didn't need or require sexy clothing, obligatory large breasts (see Lara Croft) and were not there simply to appeal to men.  They demanded respect and they got it.

I noted the recent Lara Croft film reboot.  The main commentary I saw was complaining that her breasts were too small to play Lara.  What the actual fuck?  Is that STILL how women are mainly defined?

In the last few years, female lead characters have been on the uptake.  Little girls can aspire to be Hermoine Granger, Katniss Everdeen, Letty Ortiz, Hit Girl, Merida from Brave (until Disney gave her, and subsequently retracted, her makeover into an "acceptable" looking woman).

I don't want reboots or woman taking over characters that used to be men.  I don't want a female James (Jane?) Bond.  Women deserve their own storylines, their own well defined characters.  We are not a genre, we are half the population of the Earth.

In the days of Instagram and filters and the endless need to be "perfect", female so called icons like the Kardashians who, in the words of Jameela Jamil, are selling self consciousness with their waist trainers and diet lollypops; while one in four 14 year old girls are cutting themselves; we need iconic, strong female leading characters more than ever.

I cannot end this without saying, as I think my teenager self would have shouted out in class had we had The Hunger Games in my teenage years;

I volunteer as tribute!!!!! 

8 October 2018

Budget Tricks To Add Style To Your Home

Renovating your home can be an expensive business.  Adding touches of glamour or putting your own stamp on your home can prove costly; but there are ways to bring your personality to your home without it having to cost the earth.

 First Impressions

They say that first impressions count and in your home, that first impression is your hallway and stair case.  

Family photographs on the wall gives a warm to the home and a glimpse into who you are.  In terms of decoration, flowers at your doorway and a pop of colour with a stair runner adds interest and a touch of elegance.

Think of your entrance way and staircase as another room and decorate accordingly.  Simple touches make the world of difference.

Fake It Till You Make It

So you live in a town or a city but you dream of country living?  Large fireplaces, stone walls, exposed brick; all the features that come as standard in the country but not necessarily in a standard two up two down or city apartment.

If you want to bring some country chic to your home, why not try brick slips?  They can be used anywhere from your kitchen and bathroom to your living area and even outside.  They are inexpensive and so effective to create the look you are going for.  You can find some great examples at https://ukfeaturewalls.com/collections/brick-slips

Feature Walls

If you buy a new build these days you are often faced with white waters, laminate flooring and somewhat of a cold looking interior, with no personality.  

The changes that you make to this kind of interior don't need to be major.  A brightly coloured or patterned couch, a plethora of interesting cushions, vibrant lighting design or perhaps a wall mural.

If you a large expansive wall, a wall mural can be a perfect choice and add a really interesting element to the home.  The bonus being that as they are relatively inexpensive, you can take them down easily and change at your leisure.

How do you change up your home?

Buying a New Car? What Factors Influence the Cost and How to Keep the Cost Down

A Modern Convenience

The vast majority of American households have at least one car. Cars provide a modern convenience to people, who rely on their vehicles for a variety of purposes - the daily commute, the school run, visiting family and friends, shopping; American people love their cars.

But sooner or later the time will come when you want - or need - to buy a new vehicle. However, you should take the time to consider what factors influence the cost of buying a new car in order to get more bang for your buck.

Insurance Premiums

These factors all have a bearing on your vehicle insurance premium- one of the most variable costs when purchasing a car.

   The Age of the Driver - Younger drivers pay much more to insure their vehicle - particularly if they are buying a new car. This is often a hidden cost for young people who haven’t considered all the different options.
   License Points - Points on your license can have a huge effect on the price of your premium - especially if you are a younger driver.
   Annual Mileage - The higher your annual mileage, the higher the price of your insurance!
   Geography - The local geography in which your car is registered influences the cost of your car insurance. Factors such as the prevalence of crime in the local area are taken into consideration.
   Profession - Your car insurance premium may be greater if your work requires regular travel.
   Marital Status - Strange as it may seem, your marital status can have a bearing on the price of your insurance.

Time of Year

In addition to the cost of insurance, the cost of maintenance on your old car should be considered when choosing when to buy your new car. More inclement seasonal weather can lead to breakdowns and high repair costs. As fall goes into winter, the onset of bad weather can put stress on an older vehicle. The number of breakdowns goes through the roof in the colder months of the year. Therefore, making an investment in a new car before the winter months can actually save you money in the long run.

There are many factors which affect the overall cost of buying a new car. Your insurance premium often represents one of the most significant and variable of them all. However, the cost to insure a brand new vehicle may be disproportionate to your expectations.

Therefore, why not replace your old car with a quality used car? This can represent a good and cost-effective investment. Used cars are easily available online from trustworthy suppliers such as AA Cars, and they often give you much more bang for your buck.

You may not be able to change your age or life circumstances to reduce the overall cost of buying a car, but looking for a quality used car may help you to get great new wheels for less!

What are your next wheels going to be?

5 October 2018

6 Steps to Build a Healthy Family

Remaining healthy in today’s world is not as easy as it was in the past, because there are temptations everywhere you look. Almost every food item is loaded with sweeteners, sugars, and fats. Moreover, you will come across many distractions that make it hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

As a parent, you need to lead by example if you want your kids to be healthy. Staying healthy as a family is not easy but it can be fun if you try it together. Here are some steps to build a healthy family:
Stay Active Together
Instead of spending your time as a family indoors watching television, you should consider spending that time outdoors to stay active. You can engage in lots of activities and sports as a family. For instance, if your kids have always wanted to visit the Houston Zoo, you can Charter Flights to Houston Texas. You can also plan a fun family weekend and learn new hobbies such as kayaking. Such activities will have a positive impact on your family and encourage everyone to remain active.
Educate Your Family
The best way to keep your family healthy in this age of confusing news is to keep them educated. You need to be proactive when it comes to learning more about the foods you eat and how they affect your health. You need to avoid following the food pyramid, as it might not be the best way to keep your loved ones healthy.

The more you know about exercise and nutrition, the more prepared you will be as a family to make the right choices. For instance, once you learn about healthy sweets for your kids, you can schedule for candy delivery once a month.
Eat Better

As a family, you can make the choice to eat better every single day. Your kids will look up to you for decisions about their diet. This means that you should start preparing nutritious meals for your family to keep them healthy. However, you should keep in mind that eating right does not necessarily mean that you have to eat boring.

You can spruce up your veggie servings by making them appealing for everyone; otherwise, your children will not eat them.
Slow Down Meal Time
Mealtime is one of the most important times that a family spends together. Not only should you focus on preparing a healthy meal for your family, but you should also take the time to wind down with everyone. When your family members rush through mealtime, they are more likely to chew their food incorrectly and overeat.

If you want to practice healthy mealtimes you should encourage your family to eat slowly. You can do so by telling stories at the dinner table to make mealtime fun for the kids. Moreover, you should restrict the use of electronics such as phones and video games because children rush through meals to go back to their rooms and play with their gadgets.
Practice Moderation
Kids who are not allowed to eat snacks and sweets do not end up learning about moderation. From a young age, you need to teach your kids to eat sweets in moderation if you do not want them to eat them behind your back. You can do this by planning a monthly family outing where you take your kids to eat ice cream and special candy.

Just because you want to live a healthy lifestyle does not mean that you cannot enjoy candy occasionally.
Be Positive
A healthy family is a happy family and parents are responsible for teaching their kids how to eat healthy. Children who learn how to eat healthy at a young age are more likely to carry the behaviors into adulthood and live long, fruitful lives. For this reason, you need to be positive when teaching your family how to live a healthier lifestyle if you want the new habits to stick.

The above tips will come in handy if you want to build a healthy lifestyle. Through purposeful commitment and investment, you and your family will be able to enjoy great relationships and lead healthy lives. Good health will allow your family to thrive in all areas.

4 October 2018

Winter Is Coming

Tell me, are you a Summer person?  Someone who craves the sunshine, loves the fact that you can walk around without the baggage of a coat?  Someone who looks at the snow and ice with dread and has a hatred for all things cold?

Alternatively, are you a Winter person?  A lover of warm drinks and cozy clothing.  Someone who loves a good snow ball fight and generally loves the beauty that Winter brings to the landscape.

Me, I'm a definate Summer person, but am trying, slowly to learn to love Winter.  So here are a few things that I thought about that I love about Winter that might make you love it too.

A Good Cuddle

Summer is wonderful, but how many nights have you spent far too hot during the evenings, stripping off layer after layer of clothing, drowning yourself in ice filled drinks and throwing off the bed covers at night?  How many times have you given up on the idea of a cuddle with your partner because you are just too damn hot?

Winter is made for cuddles on the sofa, a hot chocolate and a good film.  My fella is like a walking hot water bottle and snuggling up in bed on a cold night is something that brings us together even more.  

Stepping Into a Warm House

When you have spent a freezing day in the office followed by a cold and miserable commute home, is there really anything better than walking into a warm, inviting house?

It is this time of year that I make sure that our central heating systems are working as they should to ensure a warm and inviting house.  There is nothing worse that getting home on a cold day only to find out that your radiators are not working and you walk into freezing cold house.

My top tip for ensuring that your house heats up faster and retains more heat is to cover a thin sheet of card with tinfoil and placing it behind your radiator.  This reflects the heat back into your room and helps to heat everything that much and more importantly, retains the heat (saving you a bit of money too!)

Winter Clothing & Accessories

As much as I love, and I do adore, a Summer dress, there is just something about wrapping yourself up in many layers like a cocoon that makes you feel wonderful, calm and serene.  

Warm toasty socks in bed, a sumptuous scarf around your neck to keep out the cold, fur trimmed gorgeous coats and a good, old fashioned hot toddy on a particularly cold night are all things that I love about Winter.

The Food

At a risk of sounding like what they call a "typical woman" (what about any woman is typical I have to ask?), I do love a gorgeous roasted hazelnut latte in the Winter months.

Also, who can resist the lovely beef stew, simmering throughout the day in the slow cooker and ready to perfection when you arrive home?  Cauliflower cheese, apple crumble, chicken and mushroom pie or the good old English breakfast.  My mouth is watering just typing about them.

So, is Winter really that bad?  The icy streets can be hard to handle but there is so much about Winter to love, if you only care to look.  

28 September 2018

Learning To Drive: 7 Ways To Keep Costs Down

Defensive Driving Starts Before You Learn To Drive
Following are a number of tips to help you drive in the most effectively defensive way possible. Defensive driving will reduce your vehicular defenses substantially, but it’s just one of many strategies you can employ to achieve this result. Several more worth considering include:
1. Driver’s Education
Driver’s Ed can reduce your insurance expenses while additionally teaching you effective defensive driving techniques that are essential in an increasingly urban driving environment with an expanding population. Attending driving courses can help you pass your test more quickly, and once passed, ensure you pay the minimum necessary amount in vehicular insurance.
2. Always Insure Your Vehicle
Insurance isn’t fun, it’s costly, and let’s be honest: to a certain degree it’s a racket. You’re going to have one claim every 19 years, but you’re going to pay around $1k annually depending on the level of coverage you get. However, that’s the rules of the game, so you’ve got to play by them.
If you lapse in coverage, resuming will cost you more. Your best bet is to buy insurance initially, and retain it perpetually. If and when you switch companies, don’t let coverage lapse in the process. Also, ensure you know your legal recourse in the event of a denied insurance claim.

3. Exercise Proper Maintenance Strategy
A vehicle that is properly maintained will be less likely to break down unexpectedly in a place which is inconvenient, and costs you hundreds of dollars. Read your driver’s manual and replace components at strategic intervals. There are certain things you can take your time on by monitoring them.
Its pretty obvious when serpentine belts start to go; you can run them until they get a “look” to them which requires replacement. Sometimes it will be under the projections of your user manual, sometimes over. The more defensively and carefully you drive, the less wear-and-tear you put on a vehicle, allowing components to last longer. A good rule of thumb: drive like your grandmother.

4. Learn The Patterns Of Traffic
High traffic produces higher likelihood of collision. Avoiding traffic as best you can will reduce your likelihood of being wrecked into, costing you money directly and collaterally. You can’t avoid all traffic, but you can pay attention to patterns, and figure out secondary routes that may be longer, but take less time because they avoid traffic. Time is money, and so are repairs. Avoid wasting time and paying out the nose in repairs by reducing their need through traffic avoidance strategy.

5. Plan Your Trips Out Ahead Of Time
This point dovetails from the previous one: figure out where you’re going, and what conditions will be like when you arrive; and as far in advance as possible. Internet maps can make this a lot more simple than it used to be. Additionally, know the time of year. Avoid holiday travel during high-traffic times if possible; or at the very least, leave in the dead of night when traffic is statistically low.
6. Start With A Beater
If you’re new to driving, don’t be so foolish that you buy a new car valued at around $30k and pay it off every month. That’s just setting money on fire and dancing around it like a savage. A better strategy is to buy a cheap old beater at around $1,000. If you get a year’s worth out of it, it will have paid for itself. Also, you won’t feel so bad when you make mistakes and tear the thing up.
When it breaks down, you can either get another one, or consider investing in a finer vehicle. Unless you can drop $30k on a car directly, and not be impacted financially, it’s not a wise move to have your first car be new.
7. Buy Used
Generally, buying used is a wise tactic. The cost you’re shooting for is about $5k, and you want to pay it all off at once if you can. If you’re fastidious about maintenance, and strategic about how you drive, you’ll get the same kind of use out of a used vehicle that most people get from a new one, but you’ll save tens of thousands of dollars.

Saving Time And Money
If you’re strategic to ensure you plan your driving ahead of time, start with a beater, buy used, take classes to learn more effectively how to drive while reducing insurance premiums, learn traffic patterns, and keep your insurance up to date at all time, you’re going to reduce necessary costs of vehicle ownership.

Even so, you should expect to pay around $2k to $3k a year in terms of gas, insurance, repairs, and maintenance. Budget for that, and keep an eye on expenses. That way you’ll be able to see how well you’re saving.

26 September 2018

5 Top Tips For Pre Planning Christmas Gifts

I don't want to scare you away; but I am going to use a word that can put dread and panic into your heart.  Christmas.

Christmas you say?  It is months away, why are you talking about it now?

Quietly whispers to you, it's only 3 months....  

Well, my suddenly terrified reader, because I want you to be prepared this Christmas and not run around like a headless chicken, credit card in hand; buying presents the week before the big day.  I have been there.  I swore never again.

So here are my top tips for pre planning your gift buying for Christmas without making a mess of your finances with panic purchases.  If you plan ahead, Christmas doesn't have to be that stressful.  I promise.

Lists Are Your Friend

So you have had a (hopefully) lovely Christmas with friends and family.  A few too many festive wines, waaaay too much chocolate and the last thing you want to think of is next year's Christmas planning.  My first tip.  Have a break first, leave your planning till February.

Next, make a list of the usual family and friends that you will be buying a present for.  Add in a miscellaneous gift to the list.  For the person who invariably turns up with an unexpected gift that you want to reciprocate.

Alongside the name of each person, write an amount that you are happy to spend on them and will stick to.  Now you have a budget that you can save for each month.  Add another £50 to it marked Christmas.  Trust me.

Take Advantage of Post Christmas Sale Items

OK now I know I told you to wait a couple of months to think about Christmas, but buying some dirt cheap wrapping paper on sale and maybe a few cards isn't going to kill you in January, right?  I much prefer my money to go on the contents, not in its wrapping.

What Do Women (Men & Children) Want?

It's June.  You made your list a couple of months ago, you've started saving.  You are ahead of the game.  Now is the time to start thinking about things that you want to buy.  Write them on your list.  Check out the latest deals, find out when the sales are.  That watch you want to buy for your boyfriend for example sounds a lot better at £50 in a sale than £100 two days before Christmas doesn't it?

Live By The List, Don't Die By The List

It's September.  Hopefully by now your Christmas saving budget is going well.  You have bought a few presents.  You are on track.  But are you?  Sometimes you can plan all you want and then you might have a couple of rough months financially and your saving isn't quite where it should be.  Don't panic.  You have time.

People appreciate the thought of a present and the time spent coming up with a great gift more than the amount it cost.  If you need to make changes, reduce your budget or maybe have that conversation with a friend about maybe not swapping gifts this year, it is okThe world will not end.

Time To Wrap It Up

It's the end of November.  Finish your shopping, wrap your presents.  You are set.  

The next few weeks will be distributing gifts, office parties and impromptu "hey lets go for a drink, it's Christmas" invitations.   Things that you haven't accounted for in your Christmas saving budget.  That is what you will spend your extra £50 on.  You will, without a doubt, end up spending more, but at least you have a little buffer for some fun.

So that's it!  My pre planning for Christmas tips!  Let me know what your tips for Christmas planning are.

*Collaborative piece

20 September 2018

Letting The Words Out

I've had my blog for eight years now.  It started as a diary of sorts and over the years it has worn a variety of hats on different subjects.  It helped to fuel my body positive journey, it forced me out of black clothes into colour; it let loose my imagination and freed the words that were always in my head, but never came out.  It fueled me to write my opinion pieces and later, for the past couple of years, it has given me an out of hours income aside of my full time job.

The problem is that when you start to write commercially, when you focus your spare time on writing for someone other than yourself; the words that always flowed so freely before are forced into a particular mindset and your thoughts are pushed to one side.

Although I will still have my commercial side, although to a smaller aspect now, I want to really write again.  I want to rant again.  I want to share the thoughts that somehow come out so freely on my blog, especially when I wouldn't say them out loud.  I want to talk about current affairs, the silly things that enter my mind and talk about the parts of my soul that only come out when I write, unedited.

Right now, I am barely blogging.  I have fallen out of the habit of opening up my laptop every night.  Blog ideas that I used to jot down during the day don't appear.  I used to be able to come up with a subject and practically have the post drafted in my head by the time I got home.  Not now.

The thing is, I remember how much I love writing here, as soon as I start to type.  As I write this post now, the smile appears on my face and parts of my brain wake up again. 

There certainly isn't a shortage of things to talk about in current climes! I recently did a post about non platforming which got my brain juices flowing again. 

I think the answer to my non writing period is that I need to get back into the saddle properly.  I need to write, every day, about something.  Not necessarily a full blog post piece, sometimes just a paragraph.  About anything.

I need to be excited about writing again because I can't put aside something that I love to do just because life gets in the way.  So hopefully, there will be many more posts to come.

Moving Home? Declutter First!

Has the time come to up sticks and move to somewhere new? Whether you are moving just down the road or across the country, you are most probably feeling rather overwhelmed by the sheer amount of the work that needs to be done. The fact is that moving house is an extremely stressful experience, it’s not something that is quick and easy - there’s a lot that goes into moving to somewhere new, and it’s important to understand that.

One of the most stressful parts of moving to somewhere new is the packing process because there is just so much that needs to be packed. The key to success with packing for a house move is ensuring that before you start packing, you declutter your entire home and get rid of anything that you don’t need. After all, there’s no point taking items that you don’t need to your new house, is there?

Bearing that in mind, below are some useful tips for making your pre-move decluttering quicker, easier and far less stressful. For everything that you need to know, have a read of the tips below.

Focus on one area at a time

One of the most important tips for decluttering before moving house is to focus on one area at a time. If you try to do too much at once, you will end up feeling overwhelmed, which is why it’s so important that you only focus on one space at a time. It’s best to start at the top of the house and slowly work your way down. That way you can systematically go through the entire house, making the clearing out process simpler and less stressful.

Hire a team to collect your junk

While you could opt to do multiple trips to your local dump, it makes far more sense to hire a waste collection team who can deal with this for you. It’s a good idea to look deeper into what your waste collection options are before making a decision - to do that, click here and have a browse of the options available to you. By choosing to go down this route of waste collection, you can make the entire clearing out process far less stressful and much faster and more efficient too.

Pack and clean as you go

It makes sense that while you clear out one room, instead of putting everything back again that you pack it up. That way you can ensure that you aren’t wasting any time and that you are making the most of all of the time that you have available to you. Don’t just clear out junk and pack what you want into boxes, consider cleaning as you go as well, to help take some of the pressure off in terms of the move.

There you have it, everything that you need to know about the ins and outs of decluttering your home prior to a house move. There is a lot that you need to do when it comes to moving house, so anyway that you can make the process easier and less stressful, take advantage of.

17 September 2018

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer is something that we have all had experience of; whether being diagnosed ourselves or having had a family member or loved one suffer.  Since 1960, an unbelievable 1 in 2 of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime.

If you are a family who has a child that has been diagnosed with cancer, the news is shattering.  The thought that your child is suffering this disease must be completely unbearable, devastating beyond belief.  

Just getting through each day, supporting and uplifting your child through the illness and the treatment that goes alongside takes superhuman strength.  But parents, every single day, find that strength to take care of their children, visiting them daily in hospital, spending hours, days and months and sometimes years by their bedside; providing a constant, positive and supportive outlook; no matter how bad it gets.

One thing that we forget is how much this all costs the family.  Not just the emotional cost of the heartache, not just the time spent away from work while you spend infinite hours at hospital with your child; not just the worry and maintaining that positive facade; but the practical, physical cost that can be crippling for families.

Children with cancer cannot simply go to their local hospital.  Studies show that on average, children and their families have to travel at least 60 miles to hospital and back for treatment.  Research carried out by Clic Sargent revealed that families are spending around £180 and more per month on their commute.

Children with cancer and their families get very little in way of support in relation to travel costs and this needs to change.  When you are using every ounce of your strength to support your child through their treatment, the very last thing you want to worry about is whether you have the money to visit them.  Families are often plunged into debt just for visiting their sick child.  This is wrong and has to change.

During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Clic Sargent have launched a petition asking the Government to create a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund so that families no longer need to worry about the costs of travel whilst visiting their child.

I ask today to sign the petition above which will be delivered to the Department of Health on the 26th September.  You can also download a petition sheet that can be signed by your work colleagues and friends which can add to the numbers (see the link on the petition page as linked above).  Every signature counts.

Please sign this petition for something so worthwhile which would help families with children suffering this terrible disease; taking some of the financial worry away from them at a time when all of their strength is focused on their child.  They are dealing with enough.

16 September 2018

Why I Am Turning Against Non Platforming

LONG READ    *Disclaimer - I'm not sure I should give one.  People may have an issue with my thoughts here, but the internet is a place for discourse, so if you don't like them, comment and disagree.  Debate should be what progresses conversations and thoughts.

I have been thinking a lot about non platforming recently and my views have changed.  Do we have the right to be offended by someone's words?  Absolutely.  Do we have the right to vehemently disagree with someone's thoughts and how they express them?  Of course.

But, do we have the right, and should we have the right to stop them speaking?  No.  I don't think we should.  Free speech, provided that it is not inciting and encouraging violence, is something that, in the Western world at least, we are all afforded and should be celebrated.

As the internet has grown over the years, people's voices have grown louder.  Whether you are left, right, centrist; man, woman or child; feminist, anti feminist, MRA or just your garden variety troll; we have all gained a platform to speak.  Whether it be spouting a mini rant on Facebook, 140 characters of your thoughts on Twitter, a lengthy blog post or an hour longYoutube video; there has never been a time in history such as now where we can air our thoughts to the world to such a degree.

My question is, what right do we have to censor speech?  From the point of view I have come to believe, no we don't.  Inciting violence or encouraging violence against others always needs to be dealt with appropriately, but should we stop people from talking about things we don't agree with?

Censorship, non platforming, banning people from social media and places where people can talk openly about their views, only drives those views underground.  The supporters grow in numbers, incensed by the censorship.  Their words grow stronger, get more validation (from those who believe their words) and their voices are amplified, not muted.

There are many people that I disagree with in terms of their views.  Germaine fucking Greer for one.  How can someone who wrote The Female Eunuch become someone who decades later, decide that rape isn't that bad and women should basically put up and deal with it?

That is my point about non platforming.  I should be able to hear her thoughts on this, if only to solidify my view that she has turned into a fucking monster.  

There are many, many people in the world who have views and thoughts a thousand times worse than Germaine Greer.  But my thoughts lately are that those voices need to be heard.  Not because we agree with them or advocate what they say; but because we need to realise that these people exist, they have followers who believe unequivocally what they say and we NEED to be aware of it.  Those views exist whether we agree with them or not and banning them, I believe, only escalates and elevates those views.

We cannot bubble wrap ourselves against words and thoughts that we do not disagree with.   We need to hear them, sometimes in order to protect ourselves.  

Non platforming for me needs to be dealt with on a case by case basis and viewed in terms of, is this inciting violence or do we just disagree with them.  

For me for example, Alex Jones, crossed the line between free speech that we completely disagree with and find despicable (his views on Sandy Hook) and his recent speech telling his supporters to get their battle rifles ready against Antifa and the mainstream media.  

I, of course, am completely against his views on Sandy Hook.  But thoughts on a something, however unbelievable and abhorrent we think of them, versus an active "call to arms" is different.  That is actively inciting violence.  He deserved to be banned, in my opinion, for his call to arms.  His views and conspiracy theories on Sandy Hook, don't cross the line on free speech; but what it does highlight and publicise what an utter asshole he is, as it does for those who believe in what he said.

What started my thinking about free speech and non platforming is something that someone said to me recently.  At the moment, we live, in the Western world, in a fairly left thinking world.  We non platform hate speech.  But the far right, as we are seeing more and more, is picking up speed in a frightening fast pace.  

Think about it.  The wannabe neo Nazis.  The people who support the man who killed Jo Cox or the guy who drove into a crowd of Muslims who were leaving a mosque with the defence of "revenge".  Revenge for what?  Do we blame every Catholic for the thousands of boys raped by priests?  For the thousands of women imprisoned for decades in the Magadelene laundries?  I digress.  

The people who think like Katie Hopkins that refugees are cockroaches.  The people who think that rights to a woman's body should be legislated by a man.  Those who believe that white people are better than others.  Those who think that The Handmaid's Tale isn't necessarily a bad thing.  The incels who want to kill women who won't sleep with them.  The list goes on and on and on and they all exist.

Now imagine, and it isn't hard to do given the current climes, that people like this got into power.  Suddenly the people talking about left wing views, pro immigration, pro choice etc are the ones getting banned, non platformed and their voices shut down.  Their justification?  You did it to us.  That is all that they would need.

For me, ultimately, on my last, very long point here, is that we need to hear all opinions, all thoughts (unless as I said before, they actively are inciting violence), in order to formulate our own thoughts, disagree with them, actively speak against them and sometimes, laugh at them for what they think because their thoughts are so far from our own that their views become laughable.

If we lose our right to free speech, we lose everything.