Karcher asks: How long does it take to clean your house?

When Karcher asked me this question I could answer it no problem at all as I have a pretty tight cleaning schedule. I’ve also halved the time it takes to clean our family home since April this year because I’ve followed Marie Kondo‘s advice and more than halved the ‘stuff’ that we own!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How long is enough?

I spend 8 hours a week on all of our general cleaning and household chores, running a tight ship where various days are earmarked for washing, clothes sorting and bathroom cleaning.

Working from home I generally use 30 minutes of my hour long lunchbreak to tackle some household tasks, washing on, hoovering, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and prepping a meal for the slowcooker, then when J is in bed I do the quieter jobs, folding and putting away clothes, making lunches for the next day and washing the pots and clearing surfaces. I find weekends are a time I try to protect as family time so less happens on a weekend and on Monday lunchtime I tend to do a bit of catching up but generally I find we have a clean and tidy home that takes a lot less effort than it did when we had double the amount of stuff!

My least favourite task is cleaning the bathroom, but it’s probably the most satisfying to see sparkling white tiles, the task I least mind is washing the dishes as I like to use the time to think, and plan ahead for the rest of the week!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A monumental task?

Slightly harder to answer was the second question Karcher posed, how long, in hours did I think it would take to clean Mount Rushmore! What? Well my washing pile is fondly known as Mount Washmore so I guess longer than my usual hour spent washing and folding each week?!

The monumental heads of the American presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were created from 1927 to 1941 by the sculptor Gutzon Borglum. They measure around 18 m (60 ft) from crown to chin – I’d guess it must have taken Karcher, who cleaned them first in 2005 200 hours?! I’ve used and loved a Karcher power cleaner but not on anything like this scale!

A spot of fun!

If you’d like to find out for yourself, watch videos of the Karcher team in action, and also challenge yourself about the other various worldwide monuments Karcher has cleaned you can check out their fun quiz and make yourself feel relieved that you have what will then seem like a rather manageable sized home to clean rather than a national treasure! Do let me know how you fared, my geography isn’t as great as I thought, so I won’t be shouting my score from the rooftops!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post all views are my own

Mental Health and BuddyBox – a hug in a box

Founded in 2011, The Blurt Foundation is a community interest company that exists to support, help and inspire people affected by depression.  BuddyBox was born out of Blurt Foundation’s belief that whilst depression can’t be treated with ‘things’ we all need to pay attention to ourselves, self care is something I’m really interested in both as someone who runs a pre/perinatal mental health support group and as someone who sometimes needs a reminder to attend to my own needs.  I generally find winter a really challenging time and I try to pay extra attention to my mental health as I know that if I don’t do the things I know that keep me healthy, like practicing mindfulness and taking the time to rest, I can get into a downward spiral.

The BuddyBox is effectively a clever care package aimed at letting a loved one know you’re thinking about them, and it’s a really kind gesture, a sometimes much-needed hug in a box.
buddy box

Mental Health and BuddyBox

If you know someone who is struggling, it can be difficult to show your support.  The new BuddyBox subscription care package makes a thoughtful gift for anyone who could do with a boost. And if you’re living with depression, buying a subscription for yourself is a great way to enjoy a little self-care.

Every month a new BuddyBox is released, a special box filled with things to help, inspire and comfort those with depression. Each box has a different theme – for example, products and tips for a good night’s sleep or items to recharge the body and mind.  I was sent the September BuddyBox to review.  I thought the contents were thoughtful, well put together and I sensed that anyone receiving this as a gift would feel nurtured by the contents.

12033535_10152993676262062_2005687072_n

A monthly subscription costs £21.50 per month (there’s also a lite version, and you can buy a one off box too) and the contents of the box reflect the cost, as Blurt Foundation is a community interest company some of the proceeds from boxes support Blurt Foundation’s mental health advocacy.

In my £21.50 box I received:

– 4 postcards including a lovely one to leave in a public place as a random act of buddybox kindness :)

– Tisserand energy roller

– Cafe Direct hot chocolate

– Colouring sheets

– May the Thoughts be With You book by Charlotte Reed

– Seeds with a message

The energy roller is my favourite item in this month’s box, uplifting and an on the go item that I can take about with me I thought this was a lovely addition for pepping me up with amood boosting romatherapy oils, the quirky colouring sheets are much appreciated and a nice addition for someone thinking about buying a mindfulness colouring book who wants to give ‘grown up colouring’ a go.

12032470_10152993676267062_1145284942_n

May the Thoughts Be With You is something to dip into when you need a pick me up or a reminder that you’re not alone in your feelings.

12023166_10152993676242062_675929121_n 12007267_10152993676247062_2128473723_n

If you’re looking for a little self-care, or want to surprise a friend with a thoughtful pick me up BuddyBox is a simple and effective idea – why not send a hug in a box? Whilst you’re browsing read more on the Blurt Foundation’s site about mental health too, lots of fab resources to be found there!

Take care x

Organic September Round Up

I’ve a bumper Organic round up this month as it’s Organic September, the month when Soil Association encourage us to make a small change in our shopping, an organic swap, to make a big difference to people, animals and the environment.

OrganicSept_V1

Food

This month I’m kicking off with food, and what a great swap cereal could be, starting your day the organic way! This month I’ve been starting my day with Lizi’s Organic Granola. Sweetened with organic agave syrup, the lowest glycaemic sugar, Lizi’s Granola is everything I like in toasted oats, it’s not overly sweet like the sugary cereals I try to avoid, instead it’s really nutty and has that comforting golden toasty taste that makes for a really moreish start to the day. The addition of pistachios makes this granola sing, and packed full of nuts and seeds alongside oats you get a brilliant slow releasing energy, it’s easy to see why Lizi’s B&B customers were crazy about her granola!

8

Next up Vita Coco Coconut Oil. Extra virgin, no nasty chemicals, organic, 100% raw and cold-pressed with all of it’s natural goodness this is one I’ve been meaning to try for a little while, I’ve been using coconut oil on J’s skin and in our cooking and baking for about a year now and it’s great to try an organic version. This is an easy swap for me as I really liked the quality of the oil, I was impressed because the one I’ve been buying can be a little grainy, I’m not sure why that is, but it doesn’t seem to have the same purity Vita Coco has. I’ve been using the small jar in my handbag for moisturising on the go (coconut oil is a great all rounder in this respect) and the large jar for cooking, I recently discovered Deliciously Ellas’s date and oat bars so I’ve been using Vita Coco to make afternoon snacks too, with great results!

6

Beauty

Gold award winner in the free from skincare awards 2015 Skin Revivals organic facial cleansing oil from Beauty Naturals is a bit of a gem and is a product I have recommended heartily this month, priced at just £12 this really is a superb cleanser, and a brilliant price. It removed every trace of my waterproof mascara leaving a really luxe soft finish, the rosy geranium scent is really gently relaxing and the blend of oils avocado, sweet almond, sunflower, jojoba, wheatgerm and rosehip seed work a treat on my dry patches. The packaging is very simple but don’t let that put you off, what’s inside is liquid gold!

3

Another oil that’s bringing love to my bathroom cabinet is Khadi Amla ayurvedic hair oil. I loved the pipette applicator, it made applying the oil really simple, I use a hair oil regularly as I have a dry scalp and they tend to smell a little boring, I loved the smell of the organic Amla oil, rich and relaxing and herbal, which I love and which is needed as this is a pre-wash treatment and Khadi recommend leaving the product in the hair for an hour or two before washing, or overnight, I found the gentle scent very relaxing. Amla is one of the world’s oldest natural hair conditioners, I didn’t know much about it so I googled and it’s apparently an Indian gooseberry, hence the green colour of the oil!

2

Marili skincare has children at its heart, fun and with a wild side! Inspired by Zimbabwe’s nature and wildlife, Marili Skincare is a newcomer to the children’s organic bath and body market. The product range is SLS, paraben, petrochemical and mineral oil free, with packaging designed with a wild animal design to make bath time more fun. The Hair & Body Washes are available in Strawberry & Honey and Caramel & Honey and we used them after our weekly swim this month, the scents are appealing to children without being overpowering, I’ve also been using the Papaya Foaming Face Wash, a great foaming cleanser with neroli and papaya this would be brilliant for introducing teens to a skincare regime! The lipbalms are a lovely soft texture with a not too sweet flavour but the chocolate one is a firm fave as it’s delicious! I loved the funky packaging and Joss loved the rhyme on the hair and body wash packaging, great for singing in the shower!!

4

Clothing

Boody Bamboo Eco Wear has been exclusively sourced and developed with up to 95% organic and chemical free bamboo yarn mixed with a touch of nylon and elastin to create a fabric that is soft, stretchy and wrinkle free. It’s a new to the UK Australian brand that I find really exciting. I love bamboo childrenswear but adult clothing is really hard to come by. I reviewed Boody’s scoop neck top and was blown away by the quality of the fabric.

boody eco

Seamfree, warm and soft I’ve worn it alone, and under my favourite dresses and cardigans to give an extra warm layer. I’m no fashion blogger but I am a busy working parent so this photo well captures how I’ve been wearing Boody! I love wearable wardrobe staples and I’ve added Boody leggings to my winter shopping list!

1

If you’re making a switch to Organic in September I’d love to hear about what you’re up to, leave a comment, I’d love to get your ideas!

Disclaimer: Products reviewed were sent to me as samples, all views and photos are my own

Big issues: Save Syria’s Children #savesyriaschildren

In the Syrian conflicts fifth year civil war continues to devastate children’s lives, living in fear, being denied an education, hospitals destroyed and fleeing war. Refugee resettlement isn’t a new issue, this hasn’t somehow just reached fever pitch, the scenes in Calais and Hungary are simply the tip of the iceberg and the world can no longer avert its gaze.

Humanitarian Disaster

People didn’t expect and many didn’t like the picture of three year old Aylan Kurdi appearing on their newsfeeds, Aylan’s tiny body was washed up on a beach in Turkey, this beautiful little boy the same age as my daughter, sadly his photograph is the one thing that has made people pay attention and so I won’t apologise for sharing it. These are real people, real children, fleeing, it could have been my daughter, your son.

There are millions more children just like Aylan who need help; the refugee crisis isn’t going to go away and I feel we have a moral obligation to join together and act accordingly. This is the worst humanitarian disaster of our time – The U.N. estimates that 7.6 million people are internally displaced. When you also consider refugees, more than half of the Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders. As we have seen, the risks of the journey to the border can be as high as the risks of staying, imagine weighing this up for your children, what choice do you have, what chance do they have?

Do something

The groundswell of grassroots campaigning and organising that I have been following has heartened me (North East Solidarity with Calais Refugees for local readers but there are lots of other local groups springing up nationally), people organising collections of goods and clothing, tents and shelters, encouraging donations and organising protests, ordinary people who want to stand together and say yes, we see you, we hear you, we stand by you. People asked what real difference can we as individuals make, we can speak with one voice and say refugees are welcome, we can raise awareness and we can give our money, time and resources. When I was contacted by a group of bloggers who suggested we get together as use our blogs as a collective voice I thought this was another way I could be involved.  I love how the blogging community gets behind a cause and each other and feel privileged to be part of this.

It could have been me

I am using my blog post to say ‘it could have been me’ and am making a donation to Save the Children as well as getting involved in local community activities.

savesyriaschildren

You can make a donation by TEXTING 70008 and the word SYRIA to donate £5 (see T&Cs) or you can make a web donation

There’s lots that you could do from the comfort of your own home.

Please don’t turn a blind eye.

Do Something to help.

Anything.

Whatever you decide, don’t choose apathy

#savesyriaschildren

Organic September with Soil Association

This is a bit of a teaser blog post as I’d usually be posting my bi-monthly organic roundup about now! I’m currently editing this month’s guide but as we’re in Organic September I’m kicking off the month with a little guide to going organic to raise awareness.

OrganicSept_V1

This month the Soil Association is launching the biggest ever Organic September, the UK’s celebration of all things organic. With more people looking for healthy, ethical and local food, Organic September makes it even easier to eat and live well – with inspiring tips and recipes using good ingredients. Swapping to organic food has huge benefits for people, animal welfare and the environment, these swaps are small changes to our everyday shopping to help our planet. Last year I switched to organic eggs and organic milk, with our budget supermarkets offering organic dairy it’s a great swap at a good price, and one we’d kept up with all year.

Soil Association have shared their 5 top tips for Organic September with me and I thought my lovely readers might like to get involved, why not try one of these this month?

1. Switch to organic milk. Organic milk is naturally different – no system of farming produces milk with higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids or a healthier balance of omega-6.

2. Eat less, but better, organic meat. Organic animals enjoy the very highest welfare standards of any farmed animals. They are fed a GM free diet and graze on organic pasture where pesticides are severely restricted.

3. Switch to organic beauty. There are currently no legal standards for organic beauty so some products may be labelled ‘organic’ even if it doesn’t always stand true. Look for the Soil Association symbol to make sure that what you put on your body is as important as what goes in it.

4. Sign up for an organic veg box. Organic farms support 50% more wildlife than non-organic farms, so you’re not just treating yourself to the best of British produce, you’re also helping to protect bees, birds and butterflies.

5. Brew an organic tea or coffee. Organic tea and coffee is grown without the use of artificial pesticides and fertilisers. This not only reduces the farmers’ exposure in the developing world, it also means healthier soils and more habitats for birds and wildlife.

Are you making a swap this Organic September, if so what are you trading?

A jar of Seaham Seaglass

This summer Joss and I have visited the beach every week, exploring the Northumberland and Tyne and Wear coastlines and we’ve loved it!

When Think Money challenged us to fill a jam jar with our holiday memories for their Jam j-art project I had an idea that it would have a beachy theme, little did I know the treasure that would eventually come to fill our lovely kilner jar as we start to get ready for preschool!

jar

Our seaside visits took us to Seaham Beach, famed for its treasures – seaglass! Seaham seaglass is pretty special stuff. until almost a century ago there was a glassworks at Seaham and waste glass from the hand blown bottles was tipped into the sea, years on and polished by the sea these marine treasures can be found by keen eyed beachcombers. End of day glass is especially prized, tipped into the sea at the end of the day these pieces are multicoloured and so pretty!

sea glass

On our first trip we found a few small pieces which I blogged about at the time, and by the end of the summer we’d become a little bit addicted to the hunt and ended up with some beauties!

These are my favourites:

seaglass montage

Displayed in our kilner jar they’re a reminder of a summer of adventure, and as I’ve lightly oiled some of the more dense pieces to give a gorgeous glow keeping them under a lid keeps them dust free and vibrant!

seaglass 3

A ProjectLife tag with the date tied with some lovely ribbon from a dollypeg makes this a great memento!

kilner jar

Disclaimer: Think Money provided me with the Kilner jar and a contribution towards project materials, all words and photographs are my own

#LoveNorthEast

Tutorfair – helping kids succeed

When I was doing my GCSEs I had a really hard time with Maths, given I now work with statistics and adore data this probably seems crazy but I really found it hard to follow the GCSE syllabus and consequently spent many an unhappy hour crying over my textbook knowing I would face an overly strict teacher the next day. It was the pits, I dreaded the lessons, maths coursework had me a wreck and I felt very anxious about my grades.

My saving grace early in year 10 was a Maths tutor my parents found via an ex-teacher, Jo was brilliant, she came to my parents home once a week and spent an hour building my confidence, more than that I started to see a path through the haze of numbers and algebra slowly didn’t feel like Spanish to me. Jo encouraged me to lighten up a bit, she was someone I looked up to, and unlike my teacher who didn’t have the time to show me the basics that I had picked up wrongly she started afresh and it started to ‘click’. Some of this work took place in the summer holidays where I had the mental space from school to concentrate on key skills.

My parents and I would say that this tutoring was worth every penny, I couldn’t have continued on the same path without it and although my parents weren’t rich they saw how the tutoring increased my confidence and I think this made the expense worthwhile.

Tutorfair is a website that makes tutoring accessible for all. It’s easy to use, you search by putting in your postcode and subject, and voila, it picks the best tutor near you. Fifteen years ago we were lucky to find Jo, so I think anything that opens up the possibilities and makes tutoring more accessible has to be a good thing!

Tutorfair Website[1]

View everything from qualifications to videos of tutors, so you can get a better idea of what they are like and make the right choice for your child. Online payment makes booking easy, and if you’re not totally satisfied with your tutor after your first lesson, Tutorfair will give you your money back.

The big difference between Tutorfair and other traditional tutoring agencies is that Tutorfair gives something back – for every student who pays, Tutorfair gives free tutoring to a child can’t (the ‘fair’ bit).

Tutorfair’s Mark Maclaine really nicely illustrates the experience I had from tutoring and I would seek the same for J if she needed it. Mark talks about Comfort, Stretch and Panic Zones. In the ‘comfort’ zone, the learners are highly familiar with the situation. This includes everything they already know and tasks they can do almost without thinking. Students are comfortable here, feeling like they are in full control. But they are not learning. At the other end of the scale, in the ‘panic’ zone the situation is highly stressful or can seem dangerous to the learner. In this zone there is often a perception that the skill required for success is so far out of reach that it’s not even worth trying. Students in this zone can be overwhelmed, feeling like they have no control, and may ‘shut down’ entirely.

This was where I was when I really needed some support with my Maths. The trick to growth is to be somewhere in the middle, where the student is slightly uncomfortable but still learning. Mark hits the nail on the head when he says “a child who feels shame may find it hard to approach the teacher, but if your students are comfortable approaching you with concerns you can solve problems early on. The same thing goes for a parent. Opening up this dialogue with children helps them feel comfortable about coming to you if they ever feel overwhelmed in the future.”

With some careful support I succeeded in reaching the ideal zone for me, I was stretched and learning, but the panic lessened and I went on to improve from a predicted D grade to a B grade in my GCSEs, and I now know that there are many strands to Math, I love stats and I haven’t looked at algebra since!

Disclaimer: post in collaboration with Tutorfair

Alnwick Gardens Late Summer Bloom

It’s been about eight years since I last visited Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland, how nice to visit again and see how much more established it is, the gardens have been here since 1750 but were redeveloped in 2001 and a Poison Garden added in 2005. Today we took in the Rose Garden, Serpent Garden and Ornamental Garden, quite a walk for a toddler and a real treat for me! Not the best photos but we were busy making memories!

alliums

IMG_2144

IMG_2187

IMG_2193

frog prince

fountain1

rose

peach rose

ornamental garden

monkey

fountain

roses1

roses2

small rose

walkway

Women’s Equality Day 2015

Women’s Equality Day marks the date in the United States that women were granted the right to vote – August 26, 1920; commemorating Women’s Equality Day (WED) calls our attention towards women’s continued struggle towards equality, and the stories of women forging a path for others coming up behind them.

I’ve blogged before about the importance of amplifying women’s voices, increasing access to opportunities and highlighting and challenging the inequalities women face in their everyday lives. To this end I want nothing more than for my daughter to dream big, learn to become resilient in the face of setbacks and stand up for her beliefs.

For young women coming up behind a long line of women including Emmeline Pankhurst and Malala Yousafzai there’s no shortage of inspirational stories and I particularly like the This Girl Can campaign for shining a light on women’s strengths. Thinking about these stories made me reflect on my own experiences of overcoming challenges and finding my voice.

index

Recently I’ve felt my own resolve tested and have sought out sources of inspiration and hope, reminding myself of the personal resources and energy reserves I have to fall back on.

I’ve been exploring goal setting in my personal as well as working life and looking to the future after a setback has been a huge challenge, but one which comes with some great rewards. There’s a lot to be said for spending a little time doing some soul searching, living in the moment and taking the time to re-evaluate your personal goals and how these fit with the life you currently lead – making dreams a reality is all about breathing life into them and moving forwards towards them.

I’ve found strength in exploring what makes me feel empowered, these are some of the questions I have found really useful to explore:
– What inspires me and makes me feel empowered?
– What holds me back?
– Who are my role models?
– What attributes do I admire in them?
– How do I deal with setbacks?
– How do I look to the future? What are my hopes and dreams?
– How can I make my dreams a reality?
– What I will tell my girl about life’s struggles and setbacks when she looks to me for support to deal with her own?

There’s a quote by Erin Hanson that I love, “There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” – there’s such promise to be held in a leap of faith! Which women do you admire? Which stories inspire you?

Disclosure: Post in collaboration with TheCircle

Our Lego Dream House

What if you could build the house of your dreams? What would it be like? Classic, modern, traditional?

How about multicoloured, designed and built by a three year old architect and situated on a blue ‘sea’ road?!

We were challenged by Ocean Finance to design our dream home from Lego for their latest blogging competition.  In exchange for 1 kilo of Lego J and I spent a happy hour planning, then building her dream home, if you’re a regular reader you will know animals will be involved and actually in her dream home they play an inspirational role!!

dream house

I absolutely love it when J’s imagination runs wild, so when I challenged her to build her dream house I was delighted by her specification, here’s a brief rundown of her spec!

– “My house is at the seaside”
– “Needs to have a garden for my bunnies on the roof”
– “No Mammy, no black Lego bricks, brown is OK but not black”
– “Can you help me make a sandy road on the sea road?”
– “Has it got somewhere for the bunnies’ lettuce?”

dream house 3

Part beach condo, part open plan fridge (yes, she was serious about storing the bunnies’ lettuce inside the main structure of the house!) I love how her dream home has evolved into this masterpiece, not bad for a just-turned-three year old!

dream house 1

I suggested we build stairs up to the roof terrace but that idea was met with horror!

dream house 2

What do you think of our dream home?  Perfect for Flopsy rabbit and family?