Creative writing online course

Business image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com

It’s been a while now that I have wanted to do something to better myself. I like to have a project and I like to think that I am constantly working at improving my skills in one way or another, be it for work, home or just for fun. I just need more time in the day, that’s all. Small ask.

Anyhow, I have signed up for an NCC course in creative writing.

I’ve been playing around with the idea of writing a book for years, I have started a few and slowly petered out, unsure of my words and unsure of the path to complete the story but every time I listen to people like JK Rowling, who celebrates 20 years today since Harry Potter first published, I am inspired and my desire to write kicks in again.

Who knows, maybe by the time I am 100 I’ll have something to show you.

In the meantime, I am working on improving my writing skills. I think I have come a long way since my first attempts at blogging. Grammar, spelling, attention to detail and constructing a simple sentence that is understandable have all played a role in this process and I am very aware that I have a long way to go before I will be satisfied with my work.

NCC is an online home learning website that has many different courses to complete; science, culture, health care and business are just some of the sectors where courses are offered. The forensic scientist course shouted out at me but that’s because I love Silent Witness and other similar dramas. I can’t really see myself taking up a career in this sector and I’m not sure I would sleep easy either.

So, I’ve gone for the creative writing course, I’ve completed the first module and started the second, so far so good. I don’t feel as if I have learnt anything new yet but I am looking forward to ploughing ahead and discovering lots of new styles of writing. I shall be looking at poetry, writing for radio, novel writing, life writing, writing for children, non-fiction, scriptwriting (looking forward to this module). I will even have to sit an exam at the end.

The good news is I shall have a certificate if I pass. But more than the certificate, I’ll have spent some quality time improving and expanding an area of my life that I love and am passionate about.

What about you? Would you like to take up a course and further your knowledge? If so, what would you like to study?

Disclosure: NCC has given me a Creative Writing course (without tutor feedback) in return for a review. I’ll be back soon (after 200 hours study) to let you know how I got on.

A few other friends have taken up the challenge and you can find out what they are studying and how they are getting on here.

Mummy Barrow is learning to be a Life Coach

bib2017-BADGE

 

I think it might be my best achievement to date, being a finalist in the Family & Lifestyle category of the BiBs 2017 awards! Holding down a full-time job, running a home and family and on top of that writing is not a task for the weak. Continuing to write is a passion, it has to be otherwise why else would I use my precious free time to keep on at it? But it has paid off and I am wearing my finalist badge with honour.

I am over the moon considering the exceptional quality of blogs out there. Loyal readers will know that I have been blogging for over 7 years now, I started in 2010 when there were a mere few hundred blogs and we spent our time writing, commenting and learning the skill that has since become so popular. It was a very different scene back then compared to the explosion of great blogs there are today.

The new bloggers are way more savvy than I was when I first started and it is evident from their presentation, their superb promotional skills and the way they write confidently. However, I have made it to the finals as I have many times in the past, even with my first nomination back in 2010, look I still have my badge!

BiB_2010_FreshVoice

I can’t tell you what it would mean to win this award, having reached the finalists on so many occasions and being pipped at the post I am kind of setting myself up for another disappointment, but like everything in life – if you don’t give it your best shot then you’ll never know. I am very British about asking for votes (which clearly doesn’t help my case) but PLEASE, would you vote for my little blog in the Family & Lifestyle category?

Votes close on 2nd July  – THIS SUNDAY – so please don’t wait, go straight in and plant your cross on my name. I will be forever grateful to you. Just click on the link below and thank you for taking the time.

BritMums

Vote for #BiBs2017 here!

best shoes for walking

I love my job and as trying as it can be to fit in a full-time working week, family needs, house needs, after school activities, shopping, ironing and all the rest that comes with a normal day to day life. I don’t want to stop working just yet.

However, certain areas of my life are slipping and one of those is fitness. I don’t go to the gym anymore, I don’t like running, I rarely go swimming these days and if I do it’s just a dip in the sea. What I do like to do and it fits in around the madness of my life is walk.

I treated myself to a Fitbit last year with my birthday money and have worn it more or less every day since. I love how it tells me how many steps I have done, it prompts me to get up and move if I’ve been sitting too long and it can show me how I have slept which I find oddly fascinating to check.

Now the days are longer and brighter, I can walk the girls to the local clubs and at the same time stretch my legs, get a breath of fresh air and add some steps to my Fitbit count.

Millet Sports got in touch recently and asked if I would be interested in reviewing a pair of their walking shoes. I didn’t even know there were such things as walking shoes! I clicked on their link and came across a lovely selection of what I would call trainers but trainers have come a long way since back in the day.

I am now the very proud owner of these beauties, the best shoes for walking!

best shoes for walking

First of all, they look the part and I am sure you will agree on that note. Nice colours, nice style and look sturdy but comfortable at the same time.

Secondly, they are comfortable and supportive too.

I have worn them to walk Baxter with a couple of school mums whilst the girls were at Brownies one evening but I had to stop and take Baxter home because he couldn’t keep up the fast pace. It was also a very hot evening, poor boy.

I have used them to walk up to the shops and back. To accompany the girls to clubs but I am really looking forward to do some proper walking and I have in mind to complete the Viking Trail in Thanet, have you done it yet?

So if you are looking for the best shoes for walking, then take a look at the Millet’s range as I think you’ll really like them.

Disclosure: I was sent a pair of the best shoes for walking for the purpose of this review.

spring gardening tips

Spring Gardening Tips

We have had our static caravan in Thanet for over a year now and as the summer approaches, we are enjoying the outside more and more – weather permitting of course. It’s nice to have another area to enjoy. We have bought a small table and chairs which comes in very handy for quick snacks and, in this case, sowing our seeds that Tesco kindly sent us through along with a wonderful hamper of bits and pieces to help make our garden even more special.

It’s only a small patch of grass to the side and another stretch in front which was initially covered with a decking area but had to be ripped down by the new management for ‘health and safety’ reasons. Annoying as a new balcony around the caravan will cost a minimum of £7000!

So we want to make the most of the area we have without creating enormous amounts of work. Can it be done?

Tesco set up a conversation for me with Katie Rushworth and I share her top spring gardening tips on how to get the best out of your plot for the summer.

1. Plant out summer bedding, half-hardy annuals

Spring is the perfect time to dust off your trowel, get planting and give your garden some love.

When you start, try to plant and stick to a colour theme throughout your containers and baskets. Maybe a mix of hot colours and the odd chilli plant thrown in to your window box might spice things up. If you fancy something a little more ‘cottage garden’ in style then stick with pastel shades and add some herbs to the mix. Half-hardy annuals such as Cosmos, Zinnia, Cleome and Nicotiana can all be sown straight into the ground at this time of year and are fantastic colour fillers.

acer tree plant

An acer tree plant bought in Tesco

2. Pressure wash, or hose down and scrub

A great and easy way to get your garden looking its best is to get the pressure washer out and give that patio, path or deck some TLC. Just removing any dirt and moss from your seating area will instantly make your garden appear smarter. They are also great for cleaning down garden furniture and children’s play equipment, often they look brand new again.

3. Paint a fence or wall

gardeing tesco

It’s a great time of year to treat any wood that is in the garden – spring offers slightly cooler days with a possible chance of sunshine (unpredictable English weather) so your fence/wall will have time to properly dry. Whether that be fencing, a shed, garden furniture, wooden planters or a children’s climbing frame – all will last longer if given some added protection against the elements, and it will also give them a new lease of life. If you’re feeling brave, add some colour! A brightly coloured wall can make a fantastic statement all year round, a steely grey coloured fence can add a contemporary feel.

4. Costs

Have a plan for your garden and stick to it. Keep an eye out for retailers and garden centres who will have a wide range of deals available in the lead up to the summer months. Tesco is offering some great deals on its garden range available, in store now or visit online for more details and inspiration.

5. Lawn

Don’t forget to look after your lawn, as a freshly cut lawn makes all the difference. One of the top gardening mistakes Brits with a garden are committing is letting the lawn become unruly and overgrown. Make sure you remove any bare patches by getting rid of any dead grass and moss from the area. Then sprinkle some topsoil, followed by some lawn seed. A final fine dressing of topsoil will keep any wildlife from eating the seed as well as ensure that the seed comes into contact with the soil. Lightly water to prevent any of the seed from being disturbed.

6. Stake and support plants

Any plants that you know need support to look their best will benefit if you visit your local retailer or garden centre and get those supports in now. Even if they are weeks from flowering and still have lots of growth to put on, getting those garden canes in now and tying things in is much easier to do when you don’t have to navigate excess foliage and other plants in flower. As the plant continues to grow it will also naturally disguise the canes or framework you have put in place and leave you with beautiful looking flowers.

Tesco summer cup

A quick snack for the workers!

7. Lighting

Garden lighting is often overlooked, but it can really extend the use of your garden and add ambience and atmosphere to any outdoor spaces. String lights always look fabulous and add a festival feeling, whilst clusters of lanterns on steps and tables add charm and elegance. Up lighting a tree can add drama and give the garden an evening focal point, as well as give that holiday feeling. Don’t forget the fire pit which also gives warmth as the evening draws in.

8. Hoe

According to Tesco’s research the most dreaded gardening job for over a third of adults with a garden is weeding. However this task won’t seem so daunting if you find yourself a hoe (this is my favourite garden implement). It makes easy work of keeping on top of those weeds! On a dry day, slice the top of the weed off just below the surface of the soil. This will prevent the weed from photosynthesizing and the root will dry out and die. Sometimes the weed may eventually regrow, but this definitely weakens the plant so it is much less likely to make an appearance. For more persistent weeds, removing the whole root maybe necessary. However intermediate hoeing can make weeding a much more manageable garden task.

aperitivo

9. Prune spring flowering shrubs

Any shrubs which have flowered this spring can be pruned now if they are getting too big and unruly. Tesco has found that people are not confident when it comes to pruning plants but this is really easy to do! Remove any dead or damaged growth first, then any growth which is weak or crossing over one another causing stems to rub together in a tangled mass. Always cut the branch on an angle and to a new outward facing bud to increase air circulation. Shrubs can tolerate being cut back hard now, so removing half of the plant may seem brutal and look a little drastic, but it will recover over the summer months and reward you with lots of fresh new growth.

10. Dress it

Cushions, throws and outdoor rugs are the finishing touches that really make your garden feel like an extension of your house. Tie the colours in with colours you have in the home as well as colours you have used in the garden to create a unified and cohesive design. You don’t need green fingers for this, and it’s amazing how much more welcoming a garden becomes when it has a seat with a lovely cushion and a throw on it. Also, don’t forget to invest in a decent BBQ – this is essential to have, especially if you are planning to entertain friends and dine alfresco. Check out the wide range of outdoor essentials and BBQ’s available at Tesco on tesco.com/direct/garden.

cheers Tesco

Tesco is running unbeatable deals over the next month on its garden range. Don’t forget to head down to store, or shop online, to take advantage of these great deals and get your gardens set for summer.

Disclosure – This is a collaborative post with Tesco, I hope you can make the most of Katie’s tips, I certainly will be over the coming weeks. As you can see I have a lot to do. Cheers!

This is a collaborative post with Tesco.

Margate street art

I love Hello Canvas and when I saw the effects of their latest ideas for displaying family photos, I had to purposely go out and take a great image, the perfect image for an HD Metal frame.

Luckily for me our time spent in Thanet allows for the discovery of a lot of artwork, the Turner Contemporary is a huge favourite of mine – I popped into the latest exhibition this weekend – Every day is a new day and was wowed by the sculptures and paintings. I also love to stroll the streets of Margate, I always find some street art or quirky detail that surprises and delights me. It was in fact, on parking the car that I spotted the mural above and asked dad and the kids to stand in front for a photo opportunity.

I also took a photo of the mural with nobody in it and that is the one I decided on to place on HD metal.

When the artwork came through I was so excited to see how well it turned out. I knew it would work wonderfully in the girl’s bedroom in our new holiday home and couldn’t wait to put it up.

What is HD metal?

HD metal wall art

HD metal is a thin aluminium plate with a coating on top. Your image is applied onto it and the results are sharp, strong, eye-catching quality that really gives images a wow factor that I have not seen before. HD metal is scratch resistant and waterproof – they say it can be used outside but I’m keeping mine inside.

I went for the high gloss version but there is a matt version available too.

The finished product is incredibly light – I hung mine with Command velcro stickers. It is strong and the colours are intense. It comes with a frame on the back which keeps it off the wall giving the impression of depth.

 

The only problem I had with my new wall art was taking a photo of it, you see the high gloss finish reflects the light, so with the window behind me, I kept seeing my silouhette reflected in the picture. Not good when you want to take a serious photo!

I went for something bright and quirky but I imagine black and white would work extremely well too.

I’m really pleased our little holiday home is starting to look more and more like a home these days and a place where we all like to go to and spend some quality time together. Watch out for our Thanet Uncovered posts to find out where we go and what we get up to.

Disclosure: Hello Canvas gifted me this artwork in return for this blog post. All opinions are my own.