... blogging my guts out

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

Woodland Trust Nature Detectives
I have mentioned this on a number of occasions and here's another opportunity... we are so lucky that we have Witton Country Park literally on our doorstep and as a family we use it with great regularity - I run/exercise at least four times a week on the park, we take the dog for walks up there, my youngest son even had a hand in designing the adventure playground that's there. It's the perfect place for us to explore as "Nature Detectives" using our Woodland Trust membership.

On Sunday we had a wander around Witton Park Wood here are some photos and a video of what we got up to. There are lots of pathways to explore and hills to climb and it sometimes feels a bit like Enid Blyton's Enchanted Wood. Some of the trees have grown in unusual ways or have fallen over so there's plenty of opportunity to climb.

Witton Wood  secret pathway

tree climbing  tree climbin

gatepost in Witton Wood  attitude

exploring Witton Wood  unusual shaped tree

We found a really unusually shaped tree and we were going to draw in in our books, however, as we got closer I heard the girls shouting that they'd found some money.  As you can see from the pictures, coins have been pushed into the branches of the tree and the bark as grown around them.  There are coins of all denominations all over this tree and we have no idea why or how. 

money tree in witton wood  money tree in Witton Wood

The best find of the day was one that I would have missed if I'd have been on my own. The girls found a small plaque, hidden away at the bottom of a tree, almost out of sight under a bush. It says "NHS 60. This tree was planted to celebrate the 60th year of the NHS in Blackburn. Adding years to life and life to years. 29th January 2009".  This was a really fitting end to our wander around the woods

NHS tree in Blackburn, NHS60,

We made lists of everything that we saw and heard. Here's what the girls wrote in their books:

Nature Detectives activity books~ Trees
~ Rivver (river)
~ Horses
~ Bryyge (bridge)
~ Dogs
~ Horses Poo (there were some horse trials on...)
~ Roos (roots)
~ Witton Wood
~ Nettles
~ Steps
~ More Steps
~ Scriwules (squirrels - but we didn't see these)
~ Branch
~ Bird (we heard the birds)
~ Rabit
~ Fat rabit (there are some rabbits in the Myerscough College training centre at the edge of the woods)
~ Lily Pads

The Woodland Trust are a charity. Without donations they would not exist to protect our woodland for our future generations to enjoy and the wildlife that lives there. In the past 70 years, more than half of our ancient woodland has been destroyed even. This fact is staggering when you think that over 250 of our most threatened species' depend on native woodland for their survival. With our Woodland Trust membership and our roles as Nature Detectives we can take part in puzzles games and activities to learn about plants, trees, animals and exploring outdoors. Find out how you can become a member of the Woodland Trust right here

The Woodland Trust Nature Detectives membership pack  The Woodland Trust Nature Detectives membership pack

I am currently working with The Woodland Trust to help them promote their #NatureDetectives campaign. 
For more information please see my disclosure policy

Newsflash... you don't have to wear all the make-up because people don't notice it!

Yesterday I ran out of things to watch on YouTube so headed on over to the 'Recommended' section and spotted a Zoella video which saw her challenge her boyfriend to apply her make-up.  I started watching (don't judge me just yet).

(Side note: Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, is the 'It Girl' of YouTube. She's the bench mark for apparent success and the role model for many a tween and teen who are into YouTube. Her boyfriend of a couple of years is another popular UK YouTuber personality, Alfie Deyes, aka PointlessBlog)

On her channel, Zoe Sugg has countless Get Ready With Me (GRWM) style videos which are basic make-up, fashion and styling tutorials so you can all achieve the "Zoella look". Hell, she's even launched her own make-up and beauty product range but that's all part of the 'branding' she's now achieved. Anyway... there's a number of interesting points in this video that are worth noting.  Here's the video in question so you can watch whilst you read along.

Alfie has to search for a picture on Google of Zoe wearing make-up so that he can attempt to copy the look.
Zoe *shocked face* : I wear it every day
Alfie : But I don't look properly, do I?
Zoe attempts to coach Alfie slightly as to what products are needed whilst he looks bewilderingly at the photo on his phone.  She then hands him her huge make-up bag (which I actually want as it says "WAR PAINT" on the side) and he dives in. There's a fair bit of shade thrown here, there and everywhere by Zoe because Alfie doesn't know exactly what type of product he is using and the way in which it should be applied but he gets off to a good start with foundation and concealer. He then applies a bit of common sense because he uses products which appear to have been well-used. It's also very cute when he realises that applying make-up to one side of the face is easier than applying it to the other and his knowledge of cat-flick eye liner and contouring sucky-face is very endearing. 
Zoe: So we've had bronzer [..] So that's all you want to put on on my cheeks?
Alfie *stares intently at Zoe's face for a couple of seconds* Yeah, what else have you got?
Zoe : Blusher, contour and highlight
Alfie : They're all the same, they're all the same
At the end, Zoe has a closer look and appears to be surprised at what a good job Alfie did on her make-up however, there's a bit of an issue with the eyeshadow...
Zoe : You didn't really do much eyeshadow. You could have really gone to town. [..] I'm just a bit disappointed with the eyes.
Alfie : They're my favourite bit.
Zoe : I can't get over how small my eyes look. It literally looks like you've not put anything on my eyes. 
Alfie : I have. I've put loads on!
Zoe : You didn't.
Alfie : I did. I put so much on.

So what am I asking you to take away from this? 

Over the past couple of years I've written about body confidence, my own battle with an un-made-up face and the way in which the media decide what is or isn't acceptable to look at. Whilst Zoella keeps her public (YouTube) image very 'clean' and she talks openly about her mental health, she is rarely seen without make-up or dressed down. Now, this can be taken both ways; 1. it's important to be proud of your image especially when you are a public figure or 2. your perception of your face in this world is totally different to how others see you.  

Maybe Alfie is entering that 'comfortable' period in his relationship with Zoe where he knows that it's not all about looks but more about the person and who they are to you, hence his lack of understanding about Zoe's obsession with the amount of make-up she feels as though she needs to put on her face.  This also says a lot about how Zoe feels about herself (her lack of self-confidence is well documented on her YouTube channels and her blog) regardless of how she appears in front of the camera - speaking from experience, it's a totally different feeling speaking to a camera lens than it is to a room full of people, and I'm a confident person. 

But, as the title says (and this is the TL;DR bit for you), I think Alfie has hit the nail on the head here. Generally, people don't look at the make-up you're wearing, or the amount of contouring you have (and are even less bothered about the time invested in that process), or even the outfit you are wearing.  Can you remember what your partner or your work colleague wore yesterday? No, me neither! So girls... from someone as old as the hills (me) and someone who is the boyfriend to the most popular person in the UK (Alfie), you don't have to wear all the make-up because there's a possibility that other people don't notice it. Concentrate on being the best YOU you can be!

Be the best YOU you can be

Young Driver Insurance : Then And Now

♠ Posted by Nickie O'Hara
Once upon a time, I worked for an insurance brokers and managed to get a fabulous staff discount on my car insurance – very handy when you are a seventeen year old who has just passed their test. Over the next few years always remember my father encouraging me to stay with my existing insurance provider so that I could earn rewards along the lines of long-term policy discounts, no claims discounts and more.

Over the years the way in which I renew my car insurance has had to change.  When I started to apply for joint car insurance with my husband we always seemed to be ‘loaded’ – another expression for additional premiums dependent on age or circumstance.  At first it was my age that was the cause (under 21, which then rose to under 25 and, yes you've guessed it, under 30) then the area that we lived in (always measured by postcode rather than the quality of your neighbours and the price of your house) so we saw the premiums begin to rise rather than drop. Nowadays, we have the freedom to shop around a bit more for our insurance - usually using online comparison websites.

mini, union jack, car insurance, more than
Fast forward a few more years and our middle child has now passed his driving test and needed to purchase young driver's insurance. To keep the cost down (we started at a premium of just over £2000 per year... yes really!!) he agreed to a mileage cap and to be part of a telematics programme which is essentially like having a 'black box' attached to the car that monitors your driving style and good driving is rewarded.

I believe this brings us full circle and encourages new drivers to stick with their existing insurance company for more than one year.  And, as long as the renewal price is favourable, the driver and the company can start to build a long-lasting customer/provider relationship.  If one company is prepared to make car insurance purchase easier and cheaper then that's definitely the option we are all going to head for! 

This is a featured post. For more details please see my disclosure policy.
Image Credit : MoreThan.Com

Life Hacks : How to Stay On a Budget

♠ Posted by Nickie O'Hara
coupons, budget, Everybody hates spending money. No matter what you purchase and how much you pay, it is always hard to open your wallet and give away your cash. So, after some time of struggling with this problem, I have started to change my philosophy a little bit, and began shopping for things which I need but along with a few life hacks that helped keep me in a budget. I would like to share some of it with you, so it might help you out a little bit as well.

Use Cash

It might sound weird, but shopping only with a specific amount of cash in your wallet and leaving your credit cards at home, can help stay on a budget and even save some money! Because you only have that specific amount of cash, and no ATM nearby, you will avoid purchasing items with are over your budget and also avoid purchasing some unplanned products as well. So, really – leave your credit or debit cards at home and only take that amount of cash you really want and can spend.

Keep Receipts

By keeping your receipts after shopping for groceries or for other everyday essentials, you can easily plan your future budget. Save all your receipts, and write down the places you spend money. This is how you will be able to compare the expenses in different stores, and choose the most suitable place to shop at. Also, because of that you'll be less likely to overspend if you realize how much money has actually gone through your hands.

Shop with a List

No matter if you are going to shop for small items or simple products, or even for some bigger ones, like furniture, always enter a store with a shopping list in your hands. It is another great way to keep yourself in a budget because, if you really keep yourself on a list, you won’t spend on a stuff you might purchase unplanned. It will also help you to be aware of an amount of money you spend every time and help you to avoid spending too much. Also, shopping list can help you prioritize your purchases so you can better manage your cash flow.

Eliminate Bad Habits

Want to hear it or not, but your bad habits like eating junk food, smoking or partying every single weekend, is not a good thing for your budget. You can save a lot of cash by just quitting smoking, or just by trying to stay at home for a while. It will save you some great deal of cash for sure, and moreover – you also will improve your health! So, it is a win-win on both ways!

Use coupons

Another way to save money and keep yourself on a budget is one of the easiest. You can simply get all kinds of coupons from special coupon websites and shop at every single shop with various numbers of discounts. For instance, promo codes and coupons to shop at Target will reduce the price on every single item for sure. There are either printable or online coupons, so, just get the best ones and easily save money!

What are your hard or easy ways to save money and stay on a budget? Share it with me and other readers in the comment section.

This is a featured article. For more information please see my disclosure policy

Things I Learnt This Week (inc. How To Win Leeds Festival Tickets)

♠ Posted by Nickie O'Hara in ,,,,
postcard, barbados
It takes about two days for a postcard to travel from Barbados to the UK.  Impressive!! Thanks to Tanya for my pretty special message in the post.

If I held a fancy dress party and took pictures of all the guests, I'd still have more look-a-likes than this agency (h/t to Popbitch).  My favourites change on an almost hourly basis but today they have to be Katie Price, Hugh Jackson and the fact that there's an "Ant" listed but no "Dec".

Us commuters relish the last couple of weeks of July because there's no school traffic on the roads. We get fairly complacent during August and then somewhere around the 3rd or 4th of September we wonder where all the traffic has come from...

The word "Bronde" can completely and utterly knob off. 

When you mention to Buzzfeed and one of their staffers that a particular recent article looks awfully like one of yours from a couple of weeks ago, they go very, very quiet and don't acknowledge your tweet.

rick astley, pencils, stationery, etsy,Rowntrees will send you hush money a £1 voucher when you jokingly mention to on social media that you're a bit shocked that most of the wine gums in the packet are yellow.

I absolutely need these pencils.  They might be expensive but at least they're never going to let me down *badum-tish*

Freddie was God. His solo albums still rock.  I've been revisiting Mr Bad Guy and The Great Pretender this week on YouTube.

You could never, ever make a modern version of The Breakfast Club because everyone would just be on their phones, taking selfies, twatting about on Snapchat or playing that stupid pirate game that's so popular at the moment.

Do NOT miscalculate a running route when you're trying to achieve a personal goal (5K in under 35 minutes) because you'll be really, REALLY pissed off with yourself when you realise that the distance you actually ran should have been 3/10 of a mile further.

Every time I see the Samsung Galaxy s6 advert with Rita Ora I think it's my low battery alert bleeping. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME! 

You can win Leeds Festival Tickets and wellington boots kit worth £700 with Hunters Wellies. Find out all the details here. In fact, it's so easy to enter as all you have to do is provide your name, email address and telephone number and a winner will be picked at random. There's also another opportunity to win by sharing your favourite festival story so what are you waiting for? (competition hosted by Mainline Menswear)

Now it's your turn. Tell me what YOU have learnt this week!