Setting Them Up for the Future #sp

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comI don’t know if it’s because having two kids now makes this whole ‘grown up’ thing seem SO much more real, or the fact that I recently turned 30, but my mind has been turning to all sorts of responsible-adulty type things lately, such as wills, life insurance and savings. When I was little, my Nan and Grandad put money away for my cousins and I every week and when we were 18, presented us each with a cheque for £1000. This helped me to buy and insure my first car and really helped me out with my first few years as a driver, giving me the independence to go wherever I wanted to go.

Just recently, the rules surrounding ISAs were changed and Scottish Friendly issued a press release warning people that the changes mean that cash ISAs might not be working quite as well for your money as you might think they are.

Neil Lovatt, Scottish Friendly’s Director of Financial Products, said: “For every one investment ISA taken out, three cash ISAs are opened.

“Cash is easier to understand as it offers security and access to the savings without penalty that investment ISAs do not. People are being put off by what they think is pure equity investments and instead are opting for accounts that offer poor returns on their cash.

“The changes introduced in the budget gave savers a glimmer of hope and incentivised people to put more money aside each month. However, the Cash ISA market has not risen to the opportunity, instead choosing to offer low rates of interest on cash ISAs and in some cases actually reducing their rates for fear of overly high inflows”.

It’s good to know, as we started an ISA for Sausage when she was little and have mostly just left the money to its own devices, adding to it every now and then. We’ve been a bit slack with BB’s savings and haven’t started anything for her yet, but this new information has really given us food for thought and will probably mean that we think again about Sausage’s savings whilst sorting something out for BB.

Obviously, financial jiggery-pokery and investments can be more than a little daunting to the average person, so we plan to arrange an appointment with our bank and have a chat to them to see what they advise, so that we can make sure we maximise the girls’ savings for their futures. Scottish Friendly also has a really informative Twitter feed, full of links to useful articles and advice, aimed at keeping you up-to-date with all of the news regarding finance and banking.

Basically, the long and short of it is this: interest rates are being lowered, which is good if you’ve borrowed money, but not if you have a lump sum in a savings account or ISA as you won’t be earning as much interest overall. Investments may be riskier but could provide you with a much better return on your savings. You have been warned!

And that, my friends, is where this Public Service Announcement ends!

Feeding a Senior – Growling Tums Dog Food review

If you’ve read any of my older posts about our dog, Chuck, you’ll know that he didn’t have the best start in life. He came to us covered in scars from untold abuse, riddled with worms and a haunted look in his eye. We vowed that we’d always do our best to give him the best life we could, and his nutrition has always been a big part of that. He’s a bull terrier cross, with heavy musculature and a short coat, so he needs plenty of protein and exercise, as well as the right nutrients to keep him shiny and bright-eyed. 

He’s also a complicated beast, suffering with bouts of colitis and bloating, as well as having joint issues, so his food has to be both hypoallergenic and contain some sort of joint care, which is why when Growling Tums got in touch as asked if we’d like to try some of their dog food we were more than happy to give it a go. You see, their Golden Oldies senior dog food is both gentle on the tummies of older dogs and contains high-quality protein and Glucosamine, MSM and Chondroitin, all of which are essential for keeping Chuck’s joints well-cared for. 

Growling Tums Golden Oldies Senior Dog Food

The other thing we like about this food is that it’s calorie-controlled – when Chuck was a younger pooch Husband would take him on a five mile walk every day. As his joints gave him more issues, it became every other day and now, we’re only really able to take him a mile or so at a time, but once or twice a day. This means that he’s more prone to weight gain because he’s not exercising as much, but the Growling Tums Senior food helps us to control this – let’s face it, a fat dog is not good and more weight will ultimately put more strain on his joints.

Chuck’s been having the Growling Tums for a couple of weeks now and he’s absolutely loving it! He wolfs his dinner down when its put down for him (with other brands of dry food, he turns his nose up until he’s so hungry that he forces himself to eat!) and his coat is looking fantastic. Best of all, we’ve not had to give him any of his anti-inflammatories since he’s been on the new food either; occasionally, after a walk, he’ll develop a limp and his vet had given us some medicine to give him when he’s in pain, but we’ve been medicine-free for ages now!

photo

Another great benefit of Growling Tums is the price – we were sent a 12kg bag for the purposes of review, which would ordinarily cost £34.99, which works out at £2.91 per kilo. The food we were giving Chuck previously (which matches up in terms of nutrition) would cost £3.57 per kilo, giving us a saving of around 66p per kilo. That might not seem like much but over the course of the year we’ll save over £70 by switching to Growling Tums.

Which, I think I can safely say, is something we’ll definitely be doing!

How To Avoid Giving Your Kid Issues with Food

fussy eater It occurred to me recently that many of my issues with food are huge overspills from my childhood, and I got to thinking about what I would have changed if I could go back. It’s a struggle every day for me to get Sausage’s nutrition right because many of my food-related issues also spill over into the way I deal with her, but I’m determined that she won’t have the same issues I do and I’m lucky that I have Husband to help me moderate things.

I’m aware that there are certain children who just seemingly wake up one day with a new disinclination to eat, or an objection against anything green, but I thought I’d share a few words of wisdom from my experiences, to help other parents. You may even recognise certain behaviours in here that you, yourself, do and decide to do things a little differently.

1. Offer them everything

Don’t make an ‘adult’ meal of something with flavour and a kids meal of something super bland. When I was little, I went through an extremely fussy stage and was fully indulged with nuggets and microchips for the sake of getting me to eat anything. When Sausage came along, we offered her everything and as a result, she’s a 5 year old who loves olives, anchovies, Mexican food, curry, stew – all things that I’d have refused as a child, simply because I was scared to try things. The earlier you broaden their tastes, the better.

2. Understand that most kids won’t spite themselves

I truly believe that if you put a plate of food down in front of a kid that you know they like, in 99% of cases, they’ll never stop eating and claim be full up for no reason. Kids are covetous little creatures and if there’s something on their plate that they want, they’ll eat it, so if your child is telling you that they’re full, unless they’ve only eaten a leaf of lettuce, they’re probably telling the truth. Children are actually very good at self moderating and forcing them to clear their plate stops them, in the long run, from recognising the feeling of fullness and only knowing what it feels like to be stuffed like a Fois Gras goose, which essentially increases their capacity to eat to unhealthy levels and will carry through to adulthood.

3. Don’t use dessert as an incentive

So often, I hear parents say “Well, if you don’t finish what’s on your plate, you won’t get dessert”. What they’re essentially doing here is incentivising overeating with more food, generally food with high sugar contents. If your kid is full, they’re full and they shouldn’t be eating dessert if they’ve no more space, because if it’s put there they WILL usually eat it just for the sake of eating, which is another dangerous habit to get into.

4. Help your kids understand nutrition

Kids aren’t stupid, and as I said above, are actually pretty good at self-moderation. In my experience, most kids WANT to please, so teach them about nutrition and reward good choices (with verbal praise or even stickers) and see how quickly they’ll make good choices as a reflex. I’m not saying they’ll never go for sweets or ‘bad’ stuff, but if you teach them that they can have sweets providing they’ve made other good choices, they’re less likely to see sweets as a highly coveted prize and won’t go for them by default.

5. NEVER accept “I don’t like it” if they haven’t tried it

One of my BIGGEST bugbears in life, from both adults and kids, is when I hear this:

“I don’t like it”

“Have you tried it?”

“Well, no, I just don’t like it”

Saying you don’t like something you’ve never tried is utter bobbins. We tend to make Sausage try something 2 or 3 times and then if she truly doesn’t like it, we never make her have it, but you’d be surprised by how few things she genuinely dislikes (I can only think of Brussels Sprouts off the top of my head and they actually make her gag!).

6. Monkey See, Monkey Do

If your little monkeys see Mummy and Daddy refusing to eat veg or try new foods, they’re going to see that as an entitlement to behave the same way. Children are very led by the examples their parents set and if one parent is refusing to get on board while the other parent is desperately trying to get more fruit and veg into the kids, it’s not going to work. Obviously, “But Daddy doesn’t eat veg…” isn’t a good reason for your kids to get away with it, but it’ll make your life SO much harder if that’s what they see at the dinner table.

7. Don’t turn food into a secret pleasure

One of the worst things you can do to a kid is give them ‘naughty foods’, on the proviso that they don’t tell the other parent. Stopping for KFC or McDonalds when you’re out shopping is one thing, but adding the “But DON’T TELL DAD” qualifier just turns food into an illicit thrill (or a huge pressure, depending on what way you look at it). Even as an adult, I go through phases of ‘secret eating’, because as well as getting the comfort aspect of food, I seem to attach a ‘well it doesn’t count if no one knows about it’ attitude towards it, too.

8. Portion with your head, not your heart

Husband and I both come from families where huge portions were given as a kind of sign for love. We both spent a lot of time with Grandparents as kids and because they grew up in times of rationing and deprivation, they poured on the love in the form of biscuits, sweets and FAR too much on the dinner plate. It was all done with beautiful, kind intentions but isn’t good in the long-run. As a result, I’m absolutely atrocious at judging how much food is a reasonable amount to give, and we both struggle with the idea of waste, so tend to eat everything put on our plates, even if we’re full halfway through. If you struggle with portion control, have a look at the ‘Healthy Plate’ graphic which you’ll find if you Google it, and try to stick to it, even if it seems like too little food in your heart.

Do you have any good tips that you’d like to pass on? Do leave me a comment below.

Birthday Ideas for the Man in Your Life

I don’t know about you, but I find the men in my life really hard to buy for. Husband, my Dads, my FIL (whose birthday it is today, actually – Happy Birthday if you’re reading this, Rick!) – all of them leave me scratching my head when it comes to birthdays, Christmas and Father’s Day. Husband, I can sometimes work out as he has an Amazon Wishlist; something which has saved my skin on more than one occasion, but the rest of them leave me befuddled!

Just recently, the people at The Watch Hut asked me to take a look at their ranges, and in particular the mens watches really caught my eye; I’d imagined that they would all be mega expensive, especially when I saw brands like Armani and TAG Heuer, but there are actually some really nice, reasonably priced mens watches on the site. Here are a few of my favourites across the varying price ranges:

The Watch Hut
The Watch Hut by jayne-crammond on Polyvore

The Citizen watch (top left) is one that I can imagine giving as a Fathers’ Day present or even a retirement gift, with the classic style being perfect for these occasions. The Swatch watch in the middle of the top row would be perfect for the gym buff in your life as the pared-down style would go well with gym wear and it wouldn’t be too bulky to wear during exercise. Top right is the Oris watch – my choice if I were in a ‘money is no object’ situation!
The bottom row starts with the Casio G-Shock watch, a hard-wearing watch which would be perfect for the man with a manual job – G-Shocks are renowned for their toughness and wouldn’t be bothered by a bit of brick dust or engine oil! The middle of the bottom row is the PERFECT watch for the retro geek boy in your life – the Casio Calculator Watch will go down in history as one of the most memorable watches of all time! Finally, I chose the Armani watch – Husband has a blue suit in which he makes me go weak at the knees and this watch with its dark navy strap and low-key face would look perfect on his wrist.
So, there you have it – my guide to men’s watches. What do you think of my choices? What would you buy if money were no object?

Maybelline Super Stay 7 Day Nail Polish

Sausage is of an age now where she loves nothing more than a bit of pampering, so sometimes as a treat when we’re wandering around the supermarket, I’ll grab a new nail polish for us to use. A few weeks ago, we noticed that Waitrose had a bunch of new Maybelline polishes in some pretty colours, so we grabbed one to try later. Even better, the polish was ‘Super Stay 7 Day’, which really appealed to me; as much as I love painting my nails, I hate it when it starts to chip off after a couple of days, so the thought of flawless polish for a week seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, my instincts were exactly right. I applied the polish once the girls had gone to sleep (is there anything worse, beauty-wise, than painting your nails and having one of the kids needing their bottom wiped while they’re drying?!) and sat watching TV while they dried. In fact, two hours passed before I did anything else, and I decided to jump in the shower before bed. This is what my nails looked like, after getting out of the shower:

Now, I don’t know about you, but the fact that a bit of steam and hot water was able to completely decimate two whole nails worth of polish within a couple of minutes really does not fill me with confidence about its lasting ability over the next 6 days, 23 hours and 58 minutes.

The annoying thing is, this is a departure for me from the brand that I tend to stick to (I’m a huge lover of Barry M, the colours are always gorgeous and the lasting power is, well, a lot better than what you can see above) and the Maybelline polish makes hugely grand promises about lasting for 7 days, yet my regular brand which is half the price and makes NO such claims lasts significantly longer.

I’m completely unimpressed and feel like Maybelline are using totally false claims to sell their products. I’m a mum of two, I can tell you that on a day-to-day basis I’m pretty hard on my hands and if the polish had started to wear off after scrubbing the bath or doing gardening within the 7-day period, I could almost excuse it, but this sorry product couldn’t even deal with a shower. That’s pretty poor in my book.

From now on, I’ll be sticking to my trusty Barry M polish and steering away from over priced, under-performing nonsense from Maybelline – let’s hope Barry forgives me for ever deviating in the first place!


As a side-note, a couple of people mentioned to me via social media when I tweeted the picture that Maybelline test on animals. According to Maybellines site:

Thank you for your interest in Maybelline, a brand of L’Oréal USA, Inc.

L’Oréal no longer tests any of its products or any of its ingredients on animals, anywhere in the world nor does L’Oréal delegate this task to others. An exception could only be made if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes.

For complete information on this subject, please click here.

However, according to PETA, Maybelline does test on animals (see the page HERE)

For the record, I would never knowingly buy products from a company who employs cruel practices for the purposes of research and I’ll be avoiding all Maybelline and L’Oreal products in the future. 

No More Babies?

baby clothes bundleCan you believe BB is almost 5 months old? How can it possibly have gone that fast? Being the dinky dot that she is (more about that in another post), she’s only just gone up to wearing 3-6 month sized clothes and yesterday, I sorted and bagged up all of her newborn and 0-3 month sized stuff to make way for the clothes that fit her. Once I finished, I stood looking at the bag full of tiny rompers and scratch mits and suddenly I felt desperately sad.

I never thought I’d have kids.

Years of gynae problems, starting age 11, meant that it had always been made very clear to me that I’d probably find it hard to conceive, so I galvanised myself by “deciding” that I never wanted kids anyway; a pre-emptive strike against heartache and disappointment. Then I met Husband and things changed. Sausage was conceived after about 18 months of trying and so commenced one of the most miserable pregnancy and labour experiences that one could ever endure. I never wanted to repeat the experience again. I genuinely considered having my tubes tied.

But, bad memories fade and heartache is more of an occasional throb once time has passed, and instead of thinking about what could go wrong if we had another baby, we started to think about all of the things that could go right. We wanted Sausage to have a sibling, an ally in the world when Husband and I cannot be, and we couldn’t see how having another Sausage could ever be a bad thing, so off we went on our mission to try again. And it worked. Quickly this time, as BB was conceived after just 3 months.

Another miserable pregnancy, but in different ways this time; no oesophagus-tearing morning sickness this time, but insulin injections and a million hospital appointments, leaving me weary and more than ready to never be pregnant again by the time BB came along.

And, come along she really did.

The labour was beautiful, a healing experience for both Husband and I, though the subsequent weeks were anything but. BB was diagnosed with a cows milk allergy, but only after about 14 weeks of pain and misery; we were told is was colic, then reflux and she was tried on two different formula milks, Gaviscon to add weight to her food, ranitidine to try to stem what was assumed to be acid reflux, lactulose to deal with the subsequent constipation caused by the thicker milk…making a bottle for my baby ended up being more like using a chemistry set.

As a final attempt before referring her to a paediatrician, our GP recommended that we try her on Nutramigen, a formula milk made without cows milk and almost immediately it was like we had a different baby. The 6-hour screaming sessions (please believe me when I tell you that is NO exaggeration) stopped and suddenly BB was laughing and smiling more often, sleeping through the night and able to get through the day without pain and discomfort. I could have kissed our GP, though I fear she may have objected somewhat. It changed all of our lives.

We’ve started to find balance.

I can do things with Sausage without having to worry about BB screaming all the time; she’s still a fairly vocal baby and she’s been teething for a few weeks, so things are by no means perfect but they’re a whole lot better. Better, I’ll take.

So, what does my sadness at packing all of the baby clothes up mean? Is it my body’s way of telling me that I do want another baby at some point? Many of the clothes I put away were Sausages’ first, then stored and passed down to BB. Looking at some of those precious little babygrows and knowing that they’ll never have another one of my babies in them again makes me feel more than a little bereft.

But.

And there are SO many ‘buts’.

I’m now over 30. I’m lucky to have managed to have two healthy children already and having another increases the chances of something going wrong. I really don’t do ‘pregnancy’ very well. I still have a bunch of weight to lose that I was supposed to get rid of before BB even came along. We don’t have the space.  Having another means splitting ourselves into even smaller pieces to make sure they’re all being cared for.

And yet, despite all those buts, I still can’t get my head (or my ovaries) around the thought of never doing it again.

Maybe its just my hormones.

Weddings Abroad

image

When Husband and I were researching where to get married, we looked at a whole bunch of options. One of the first things we thought about were cruises, as it’s possible to get married right there on the ship, with many of the major operators, if you have all of the paperwork organised beforehand. The idea of being able to sail around the world on a cruise ship in those first days of wedded bliss was hugely appealing and it was a close contender on our shortlist.

Another option was a wedding in the treetop canopy in the jungle in Costa Rica – my nature-loving Husband and I would have loved something like this, but the cost was just a little bit out of our budget at the time…perhaps we could go back for our 20th anniversary and renew our vows amongst the red-eyed tree frogs and scarlet macaws!

Vegas weddings are always amazing; my cousin Amy got married in Las Vegas and her wedding photos are just beautiful. We seriously considered Vegas for a while but I decided that anywhere I could get hooked on gambling and potentially gain 50lb in two weeks from all of the luscious American food was probably not such a great idea for me!

One of the closest contenders for our big day was Sri Lanka – as I mentioned before, Husband and I are huge lovers of nature and we’d seen pictures of people getting married on elephant-back in Sri Lanka, so we ummed and ahhed for a long time about that one.

Ultimately, we ended up choosing the Maldives. We booked a two week stay on an island which was just 250m across and booked our wedding for the very middle of the two weeks, giving us time to relax and enjoy ourselves before and after. We walked down an aisle of white sand, lined with palm leaves and tealights and married on the most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen, while crystal blue waters lapped just a few feet away.

Our wedding dinner was eaten under a canopy on the beach, made up of the most succulent lobster and seafood, freshly caught that day, and we may have polished off a couple of bottles of Laurent Perrier too!

If you’re considering getting married abroad, I can highly recommend it. More often than not it works out a lot cheaper than getting married in the UK, and the day was all arranged for us, making it a beautiful, relaxing experience. We’d definitely love to go on a cruise at some point in the future too as the chance to see so many countries during your holiday makes it great value for money.

Did any of my lovely readers get married abroad? If so, where? Would you recommend it to other people looking for interesting venues for their wedding? Do leave me a comment and let me know!

Fisher-Price Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym and Rainforest Friends Bouncer Review

When Sausage was little, we started as early as we could with stimulating her mentally. She loved to watch baby-focused DVDs with us, which played classical music and showed brightly coloured, highly contrasted images, and Husband would spend hours with her on his lap, looking at pictures of animals, listening to music and reading books. She’s an amazingly bright child (she recently got moved up to purple on the Pearson Books chart, which are books for kids in the end of year two and beginning of year three, whilst Sausage is still in year one) and I can’t help but wonder if her thirst for learning was kicked off by her early days. We’ve done our best to attempt the same level of interaction with BB and now that she’s at a stage where she’s holding her head up almost all of the time and her eyesight has sharpened, she’s really benefiting from it all.

When Fisher-Price got in touch and asked if we’d live to review their Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym and Rainforest Friends Bouncer we jumped at the chance. Sausage had a Fisher-Price seat which she loved and we thought that BB would really benefit from some apparatus to help with her development.

Fisher Price

It’s a little difficult to take pictures of BB using either of her things, because I don’t put candid pictures of the kids on here, but I did manage to get a snap of her using the mat which sums it up perfectly:

Fisher Price Kick and Play GymThat yellow circle? That’s a mirror. BB will happily kick away for AAAAGES whilst gazing lovingly at herself in that mirror, testing out all of her newly learned facial expressions. She loves kicking her feet and making music come out of the piano and she’s also now starting to try and grab the hanging parts, much to our amusement. The volume can be adjusted and it’s possible to choose from music or single notes when the piano keys are kicked, so there’s plenty of variety if BB seems to be getting bored.

The Rainforest Friends Bouncer is just as much of a delight to BB as the mat; the seat unit has a vibrate function, which can soothe her quite effectively when she’s feeling a bit grumbly and the removable toy bar allows us to moderate her levels of stimulation. In fact, when BB was going through the worst of her colic, one of the ways that we found best to soothe her was to gently bounce her in her Rainforest Friends Bouncer. I don’t know if the motion helped to move some wind through, but it definitely made a difference, and the fact that the crotch strap unclips from both sides made it easy to get her out and into bed once she’d finally dozed off.

Both items are colourful and well made, and the fabric parts are removable for washing, which makes life a whole lot easier. We’re really pleased with both the Rainforest Friends Bouncer and the Kick ‘n’ Play Piano Gym and would highly recommend them to parents both new and old.

We were sent the Fisher-Price Rainforest Friends Bouncer and the Kick ‘n’ Play Piano Gym for the purposes of review. No payment was received and all opinions are honest. 

A Housing Crisis?

council houseGiven the fact that I’m agnostic, I had an ironically Biblical experience just before Christmas. Our landlord got in touch and told us that he wanted us to vacate his property. Hugely pregnant and financially pushed, we emailed back with a plea to his humanity and he clarified that although, eventually, he intended to re-let the property to a smaller family, he didn’t expect us to move until the summer.

Skip forward a few months and Husband and I were fully in the swing of house-hunting.  Despite having recently had BB, we’d managed to save and put away what we needed for a deposit, as well as being able to cover admin fees. We saw a few houses we liked and started making serious plans to move, when we met our biggest stumbling block.

Estate agents.

It’s been almost 5 years since Husband and I have had to look for a house and in that time, something seems to have changed. See, before, if you liked a house you’d hand over the admin fees and should you fail the credit checks your money (minus a small fee) would be handed back to you. These days, it seems, Estate Agents think that it’s reasonable to keep the WHOLE fee if anything in the checks doesn’t come back squeaky clean, which means that every single time we find a house we like, we’d effectively be gambling with a not insignificant portion of the money we’d saved; the cheapest fees we were quoted during this time were £300. Worst of all, none of the Estate Agents would tell us what the full criteria were for the checks we’d need to pass, so we couldn’t even hedge our bets by working out if our affairs were in good order.

In the end, our Landlord decided that he’d rather have us here for another year than foot the bill of an empty house, so we’re not homeless for now, but it got me to thinking.

A couple of years ago, I had the bright idea of getting us on the Council Housing list. Being a pair of freelancers (one of whom ME has slightly iffy credit from many years ago) means that our chances of getting a mortgage would be pretty much nil. Our only chance of getting a place we could make our own and not pay through the nose for would be if we got a Council house. So, I applied and dutifully ‘bid’ on houses, week in, week out, until we got a letter through our door telling us that we weren’t even eligible to bid on houses any more because our needs weren’t great enough. I appreciate that housing stock is low in many areas (thanks for that, Maggie, you bitch…) but isn’t social housing supposed to be for normal, working class families?

In the last five years, it also seems that rents have risen ridiculously in our area. I mean, it’s no real surprise; with people unable to afford mortgages, the landlords of the world are in hogs heaven and when demand is high, prices rise. Unfortunately, higher prices do not in anyway mean an improvement of the quality and during our search we saw houses which cost almost £1000 per month (£12,000 a year, when the average family income for our area is £21,000) which were damp, had peeling wallpaper, stained carpets and wiring which looked like it had been installed during Churchill’s era.

And, of course the economy is in a shit state; consumer spending is what drives the economy and no one has any money to spend on anything other than keeping a roof over their heads and heating their homes during the winter. How many news stories do we have to read about working people who are having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their  kids? But it’s okay, Channel 4 are doing a bang-up job of demonising anyone on benefits by showing a handful of morally devoid people who flout the system, forcing decent people with genuine need to resist asking for help for fear being stigmatised.

What’s even worse is that, instead of realising that normal families are at the neediest they’ve ever been, we’re seeing more things like this popping up:
image

Those, in case you are unfamiliar, are known as anti-homelessness spikes. Let me make that clear for you: not anti-homelessness SHELTERS or anti-homelessness soup kitchens. Nope. SPIKES. So that we can stop the horrible inconvenience of having homeless people try to find a tiny slice of shelter as they sleep rough on our streets. What kind of world do we live in where we not only refuse help to our neediest citizens, but we actively attempt to make their lives as difficult as possible? Are we living in the Dark Ages?

So, what if our landlord hadn’t had a change of heart? Where would we be? In a hostel, with a kid, a baby and a dog in tow?

One of the main problems seems to be that people are allowed to stay in council properties which are totally unsuitable for them. The estate near us is made up of mainly 3 bedroom houses and I’ve seen several of these properties inhabited by a lone old person – I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of old ladies being wrenched from their homes, but at the same time, should a young family not be being given a chance to live in a property with reasonable rents?

It’s all very well campaigning for empty council houses to be reclaimed and done up, but what about the ones with a lone occupant rattling around three bedrooms? This isn’t about entitlement, it’s about fairness.

Fortunately, we’ve now got a years grace in which to carry on saving and hopefully I can attempt to repair my credit so that when the time eventually does come for us to move, I won’t be putting our savings at risk. I’m pig sick that we’ll be lining a greedy Estate Agents pocket, but I really don’t see what other option we have.

And the sad thing is, we’re just one of MILLIONS of families who are suffering this exact conundrum in the UK right now.

Mum’s the Word Instagram Challenge #MTWIC

Instagram is one of those social media services that I absolutely love – being able to do in-app editing, add overlays and frames and share across multiple platforms is hugely useful and probably explains why it’s one of the most famous apps of all time. An estimated 150 million people use Instagram, many of whom are celebs, giving us a tantalising insight into their glamorous (and sometimes not so glamorous) lives.

I’ve seen a few Instagram challenges around before and have often wanted to join in, but haven’t kept up, so I thought I’d put together on of my own and I’d love it if you’d join in. There are 30 topics and it’s up to you how you do it – you can either do each one on the assigned day, or challenge yourself to tick off every theme randomly throughout the course of the next 30 days. I want you to be as creative as you can be with the themes and once you’ve taken your snap, Instagram it with the name of the theme as the title of the post and the hashtag #MTWIC.

There’s no need to join in every single day if you don’t feel like it, but I’ll be sending out a daily reminder email if you want to leave your email address in the form below so that I can give you a gentle prod!

The beauty of a hashtag is that you can then go through Instagram by clicking on the hashtag and find all of the other people taking part – give as many comments and as much love as you can muster so we can give this a real community feel. This isn’t just for bloggers, either and I’d love as many of my readers as possible to come along for the ride. So…here’s the list:

Proof (1)

If you want to Instagram the list, just press and hold the image on a smartphone and save it to your device. Once you’re in Instagram, you can choose to upload it by clicking on the gallery icon next to the camera button. Don’t forget to add the title and the hashtag so we can find your posts. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think of the list and whether you’ve been inspired to join in. Also, do let me know if you have any questions. I can’t wait to get started!