Rural Life

Surviving Winter in the Countryside

winter countrysideThis will be our second winter living in the countryside and I like to think that we’ve learned a few things since last year. Obviously, we’re not exactly living inside the Arctic Circle, but we are far enough away from civilisation to have to think about certain things in advance. Here, I look at our top five things that we need now that we live off the beaten track:

Cardboard and Paper

Last year, I wrote a post about The Art of Lighting a Fire, talking about how it’s far more difficult to light and maintain a fire than I ever realised, so this summer has been spent stockpiling newspapers, egg cartons, old boxes and other things which make excellent tinder. We’re dab-hands at getting the fire going now and our stash will only make it easier!

Decent Coats

Our house is surrounded by farmland and is basically open to the elements from all angles which means that even when doing simple things we’re at the mercy of the wind. This has taught us that having a decent coat is an absolute must and also that kid’s coats are often more style than function. Opting for a proper outdoor brand like Regatta or Barbour means they get nice looking coats which actually keep out the cold and wet! I also highly recommend getting some good gloves as well.

Outdoor Walking Gear

If all else were to fail, Husband could make his way across the fields to the nearest shop if we were to get completely snowed in, he just might need some trekking poles for stability!

Candles and Torches

Seriously, since we’ve lived here I’ve expereinced more power cuts that at any other time in my adult life. Just last week, I posted a photo on Instagram of us all plunged into darkness, relying on my candle collection to give us a little bit of light. Since then, I’ve decided to invest in some good, rechargable lanterns so that we don’t have to scrabble around in the dark next time it happens!

Long-Life Milk

Here’s the scenario: it’s 10pm on your main work day and you’re still not finished writing, you’re desperate for a cup of coffee to keep you going but you remember that the last of the milk got used up earlier and the nearest shop is a 15 minute drive away. BUT IT’S OKAY! You have cartons of long-life milk stashed away at the back of the cupboard! Again, I’m aware that we aren’t living off the grid or anything and that, worst comes to worst the nearest supermarket is open 24 hours, but having long-life milk to hand can really be a life-saver…or at the very least a deadline-saver!

A Good Shovel

When you live in the sticks, the council doesn’t come and clear the roads. If you’re lucky, a very benevolent farmer will come along and scatter salt with his tractor, but having a good shovel can make all the difference between being stranded at home or being able to actually leave the house. Your neighbours will also love you forever if you help them too, especially if they’re elderly.

All About ME! · Personal

No Time to Read?

Time to ReadAs soon as I was old enough to read, I became something of a bookworm. The Hobbit was the first “proper” book I read when I was about 6 and it was an ongoing love affair from then. When I was in my early teens, I’d wake up on Saturday morning, go into town to buy a new book and then spend the rest of the weekend reading it, usually finished by Sunday afternoon. My mother was so concerned by my lack of interest in being a street-raker that she actually consulted a doctor about my behaviour (although I think most  parents would be delighted by a child who chose to stay at home and read, but hey, sometimes you just can’t win).

The last time I read a book was a couple of years ago now. Carrie, by Stephen King if I remember rightly (which I highly recommend, if you haven’t already read it. In fact, read ANYTHING by Stephen King.). But since then, I’ve not picked up a book. I have plenty of access to books and I also have a Kindle, so that’s not the problem.

I keep claiming that I “don’t have time to read”, but that’s not really true, either. I have plenty of time for Facebook and Netflix and Candy Crush and all of the other things which hog my attention. I might CLAIM to be time poor but that only seems to apply when it suits me. I think the problem is inside my brain…what I once loved about reading is the thing which is making it hard for me now. Bear with me while I elaborate.

One of the appeals of reading a book was that feeling of slipping inside the story, losing myself in the words and in my own imagination and being taken away from reality into a finely-woven tale which could completely consume me. These days, I seem to have an absolute inability to disconnect myself enough to lose myself in anything. Even when we’re watching a film or TV show, I’m picking up my phone to browse Facebook or Reddit or occasionally Twitter (I say ‘occasionally’ because, is it just me, or is that place just tumbleweed central these days? No-one seems to chat on there like they used to).

People have noticed how attached to social media I am and it’s become a bit of a running joke, but it’s also starting to worry me. It seems like my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has become all-encompassing. It’s definitely a lifestyle thing; when I was young and single, I literally NEVER turned down a night out or a chance to socialise. I could be settling down in my pyjamas, get a phone call and be in the pub in half an hour flat because I couldn’t bear the thought that people were having fun without me, and I think Facebook has become a substitute for that – I can still be sitting in my pyjamas, not NEEDING to go out and still be connected to everything that’s going on in my friends lives.

I’ve seen other people take a social media detox and I genuinely wonder how they do it. Going on Facebook, either by app or desktop, has become almost like a reflex, something I do as a matter course and I really feel like I need to take a break. The main fear is that, because so much of my work is social-based or reliant on a social media scoring, stepping away means losing money but I think I need to give it a go and see before I let it consume me. From next week, I’ll be removing the app from my phone and only accessing Facebook via my laptop, and I’ll only be using my laptop during “work” hours.

I need to re-learn how to read. How to watch a TV show without picking up my phone every two seconds. How to interact with my kids and Husband without there being a screen between me and them.

And the stupid thing is, the thought of it fucking terrifies me.

Baby · Health · Pregnancy

Protecting Yourself: Which Type Of Contraception Should I Choose?

gender-1674893_640Picture from: Pixaby

There are many different types of contraception on the market. Not every style of contraception is suitable for each person, so there is a range of types and brands on offer. The best person to talk about what contraception is right for you is your nurse. This is because a medical family history will need to be taken before you go on a pill or have an injection. But just so you aren’t going in blind, today we are going to look at some of the most popular methods of contraception that may suit your lifestyle.

The Pill

The contraceptive pill is one of the most popular methods of protection. There are two types of pill. There is the mini pill and the combined pill. The combined pill contains artificial oestrogen and progesterone. These prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg, which is what is known as ovulating. If you are not ovulating, you should not get pregnant. When the pill is taken correctly, it is over 99% effective in stopping pregnancy. But pleased do remember that it offers no protection against STDs. If you are concerned about STD’s, always get tested. And if you are sleeping with a new partner, always make sure he uses a condom. The pill can also help with heavy periods and muscle cramps. And sometimes it is prescribed for these things.

The Mini Pill

The combined pill is taken for 21 days and then has a break of seven days before resuming again. However, the mini pill is taken continuously. Its main difference to the combined pill is that it only contains one female hormone, and that is progesterone.  Sometimes is it referred to as POP or progesterone only pill. The mini pill is often given to women who have just had a baby or those who have risk factors from the combined pill. Please talk to your nurse or doctor to see which one is better for you.

Contraceptive Implant

If you don’t mind a very small thin tube inserted under the skin in your upper arm, then the contraceptive implant may be for you. This method of contraception stops the release of your eggs, and it lasts for three years. However, it can be taken out whenever you want it to be. Again, this method is over 99% effective, and it means you do not have to worry about taking a pill at the same time every day. Using the implant can make your periods stop after the first year of implantation. Or they may just become lighter. If you have any side effects, the implant can be removed.

Diaphragm

Possibly the one that scares men the most! The contraceptive diaphragm is known as a barrier method of contraception. It is a large looking cap that you put into your vagina before having sex. You must then leave it there for at least six hours after having sex. It works by covering the cervix so that the sperm can’t get in. But you also need to remember to use a spermicide with it as this kills sperm. This type of contraception is around 92-96% effective. However, it is a good form of contraception if you are concerned about the health risks of taking the pill.

Family

A New Car for The Family

As I’ve talked about in other posts, we’re in the market for a new family car which means that I’ve been spending a LOT of time online researching cars which would be suitable for the five of us (because Chuck gets a vote too, OBVS!). So far, I’ve come up with a shortlist of cars that we’d like and I thought I’d share them with you in case you’re also in the market for a vehicle and need some inspiration:

Ford Kuga

Motorpoint has some amazing deals on Ford Kuga at the moment which is enough to make me consider them as a really good option. They’re five seaters, but we don’t really need any more than that and Ford are often really economical and run but also to repair if they need it. The Ford Kuga can provide you with fantastic drivability and handling, as well as a spacious and comfortable interior. This makes the Kuga an excellent choice for any young professional or as a safe, reliable family car.

Volvo XC90

We’re huge fans of Volvo in this house and will probably stay loyal to our current make of car. We’d also like something with the option of four wheel drive as it would make the possibility of snow less scary now that we live in the middle of nowhere, so this is also really high on our list.

Kia Sportage

Kia are a relatively new manufacturer in the UK and they’re also really reasonably priced. The Sportage is a good sized car that would probably do a really good job of hauling us all around, plus Chuck, random junk that the girls take everywhere with them, bikes etc!

Volkswagen Touran

My sister-in-law drove a Touran until very recently and her experiences of the car are enough to make us consider one for ourselves. They have flexible seating which means that you can have either 5 seats and decent boot space or 7 seats but less room for luggage. She was also really complimentary about the way the car actually drives and misses it now she’s changed over to a different car.

SsangYong Turismo

Yet another relatively unknown brand in the UK, SsangYong are a Chinese manufacturer which are making strides for offering high quality vehicles for a fraction of the price. The interior of the Turismo is consistently ranked highly in terms of practicality for families and they’re basically the cheapest vehicle available for the size. What’s not to love about that?

What family car do you have? Do you love it and would you recommend it? Leave me a comment below!

Family

Upgrading Your Family Car for Less

family carAlthough we love our current car, the fact of the matter is it’s getting a little bit old now. It’s still running really well for now but we’d like to upgrade to something which gives us a bit more peace of mind in terms of reliability. However, we’re not in the market for a brand new vehicle at the moment, so I’ve been looking for ways that we can invest in a newer vehicle without breaking the bank. Here’s some of the things I’ve come up with:

Check What You’re Entitled To

Are any of your family members eligible for a motability car from Robins & Day? If so, you could possibly get a brand new car through a lease scheme for less than usual, especially if you look around for some good deals. Motability cars often roll tax, insurance and services into the cost so you’ll be saving money in the long run and there are often models available which don’t require a down-payment.

Go for an Unpopular Make

This one might sound bonkers but there are still brands of cars which people largely turn their noses up at and are therefore lower priced. Skoda, for instance, still have a weird stigma attached and yet they’re made by the same people as Volkswagen, which means you can pick up a decent quality car for less money.

Think About Size

Do you currently drive an MPV or estate car? If so, do you REALLY need the extra space and often lower fuel economy? Down SIZING your car often means that you can afford a slightly newer or better model.

Buy An Older Car

Okay, this might sound bonkers but bear with us here. The reason we have our current car is that the model is very safe and very reliable. Going for an older model meant that we were able to buy a car for the same budget as a slightly newer one but a higher spec and in good condition. Newer cars aren’t always better and by choosing a manufacturer with a reputation for quality, you can still get something decent.

Choose an Unpopular Colour

This one is absolutely INSANE to me, but it’s a fact that there are people out there who are STILL superstitious about cars of certain colours and that green vehicles still command lower resale prices than the exact same model of car in another colour. Break the mould, buy a green car and reap the rewards of shunning silly superstitions!