More than a Mum

More than a mum is the place I save everything that doesn’t fall into the Travel, Food and Lifestyle buckets. It’s all those little things that go into my life and make me the person I am. Expect to find, fashion, beauty, photography, hobbies and anything else that is another part of me that I thought you might be interested in.

Most of us don’t go anywhere without our smartphones by our sides. Four out of five of Brits own one. We use them in all sorts of ways. But, surprisingly not many of us take full advantage of the apps that help us to manage our money. With that in mind, I have a look at what is available and come up with a list of money-related apps that could make your life easier.

Use an app to help you to invest

If you have your household bills covered and savings for a rainy day and important life events, it may be a good idea to invest some of your spare cash. This investment app will help you to understand the kinds of investments you could get involved with. Armed with that information you can do a bit more research and decide if investing some of your spare cash is a good idea.

Help to stay on budget

Budgeting is something a lot of us are not very good at. If you fall into that category, try the free Mint app. It enables to track and summarise your spending. All of your bank accounts and credit cards can be monitored using it.

There is a budgeting tool built in as well. So, you know whether you can afford to say yes to that night out, at the end of the month.

money cash

Debt payoff app

If you have debts you can still use Mint to help you to stay on track with your repayments and budget around them. But, you may also find it helpful to use a debt payoff app. 

The best ones will help you to work out which is the best way for you to pay off what you owe. Most of them have a countdown feature built-in. Knowing how close you are to being debt free and seeing the days tick down is very encouraging. A lot these debt apps are designed for American consumers, but, you soon get used to their little quirks. Debt Snowball is a particularly good one.

App to help you to save

Saving is a good idea for everyone. The problem is that when you are living on a tight budget, it is not an easy habit to get into. 

If you want to you can download an app that rounds up anything you spend to the nearest pound and sweeps the difference into an investment account. That cash is then used to make micro-investments into the stock market. There are a couple of apps that do this. The most popular of which, for UK residents, is Moneybox. It enables you to save and invest without really thinking about doing so. You need to bear in mind that your capital is at risk when you invest rather than save. But, you can get a good rate of return on the funds you do invest. So, it really is worth checking out this app.

The above are just a few suggestions. There are many more possibilities. So, why not take a look around, download a few and see if it makes a positive difference to your finances.

Disclosure: collaborative post

Emma at A Bavarian Sojourn has been committing her 2019 plans to (digital) paper and she wondered if I’d like to share what I have in mind for this year too. The answer is, thanks Emma – you’ve given me the perfect excuse to write a ‘proper’ post!

Where do I start?

Work and Study

It’s 15 months now that I have been working as a Teaching Assistant in a local primary school and I love it. Where working for the Italian Tourist Board in London was my best job ever, this is quickly becoming a close second choice. (I never thought I’d say that as the thought of working with 30 children a day – all day – horrified me but here I am telling you otherwise).

There can be stressful days, as in any job, and sometimes you may hear me say – ‘I hate this job – it’s the worst job ever!’ but that thought disappears as quickly as it came. It’s a tough gig, you’re on your toes all day long and I’ve had to relearn long division, fractions, percentages and all number of mathematical questions. The part that keeps me going is my colleagues. I have met such a wonderful bunch of supportive woman (and a few men too).

In my initial enthusiasm, I wanted to study a degree so I could progress to a class teacher, the problem with that is it will take 6 years to complete studying part-time (and, seriously – I might want to retire by then!) However, I did start an Open degree, my first modules were Beginners Italian (easy 30 credits) and beginners Spanish as I give the weekly Spanish lesson to my class, so it made sense. I’m halfway through my first year and have 98.25% in Italian and 76.5% average in Spanish. *happy face*.

Then I got wind of the many mental health issues primary school students up and down the country are suffering from. 1 in 4 children. I’m going on a few courses to improve my knowledge and I’m thinking of redirecting my degree to gain knowledge in this area.

I have completed a level 3 Diploma in Teaching Assistant. It was an online course and I’m waiting to hear from the moderator that everything is ok. It should be as I have had a tutor throughout who has guided me and passed the units.

I’ve just taken up an Awareness in Mental Health Certificate (level 2) that should be completed by May/June time. So I have been keeping my brain busy.

Naturally, there is little time for other creative hobbies but I hope to catch up over the summer in that camp.

My social media presence has dwindled enormously. I’m not too bothered about that anymore. I post when I have something to say and, although I like to keep them ticking over, it is no longer a Must Do for me.

Consequently, I have lost touch with the wider blogging community as a result. sometimes this breaks my heart as I made so many wonderful friends and I miss them but I accept this as a result of the life choices I have made.

I’m not ready to pull the plug on this blog just yet – there’s been too much blood, sweat and tears that went into building it up but occasionally I have found myself considering calling it a day.

2019 Travel Plans

los alcazares Costa Calida

As you know, we have a mobile home in Thanet and we shall be spending a lot of our weekends down that way. I love to visit the Turner Contemporary whenever I get a chance and the twins will make full use of their Dreamland passes I am sure. I feel as if we have explored Thanet well now even if I didn’t pop back and write about every excursion!

Spain – Calpe

We are all very excited to be going off to Calpe in Spain in June. Our school has chosen to take a two week Whitsun break, this means we can use the second week to book a fairly priced holiday and we are returning to Spain this year – it’ll give me the chance to practice my Spanish!

Twin life

I am so proud of the girls; they passed their 11+ exams in September and the Mayfield Grammar School test. All that extra hard work over the summer holidays paid off. I don’t regret coaxing them to learn over the summer. They had plenty of time to have fun and play and without it – they would not have passed. Now we are waiting to hear if they are assigned places at the grammar school and they’ll be off to secondary in September. That’s a sobering thought!

Menopause and other health issues

Urggh! I know I have spent the past ten years or so wishing for my periods (I hated them) to stop but boy this menopause stage is vile. However, I’ll take the menopause rather than the periods.

Hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, moodiness and hormone swings that cause me to go from normal me to a crumbling version of me who thinks everyone hates her and that she is good for nothing.

It’s tough and I’m hoping that by the end of the year my system will have got over the worst.

We can but live in hope, eh?

Latest bargain – £10 for this jacket!

Hair cut – I’m blaming the hormones once again for convincing me to have my hair chopped short with a fringe last summer. Although I walked out of the hairdressers happy, I ended up hating it and have been growing it back since.

Other health issues include, the enamel of my teeth starting to erode. I’m using Regenerate toothpaste and I want to invest in their serum next month (pay day issue!) Having fallen over last winter and landed on my front tooth, cracking it in half and having to have it rebuilt it is now a tiny bit wobbly making me determined to hang on to it (literally) for as long as I can.

Weight gain – already mentioned above but I’m going to try and see if I can knock off a few pounds. Let’s say 5.

That’s about it, or rather, there’s plenty more but I shan’t bore you any longer. In fact, if you’re still here listening to me warble on I commend you. Thank you.

I love bags. I have many and I can’t think of an occasion when I don’t take one with me. My everyday favourite is a shoulder bag and I have a few to choose from as I look after them and hang on to them as they don’t go ‘out of fashion’. They are an assortment of colours to suit the season and my mood. (Currently, I’m using a black Mulberry one but come the spring, I’ll change for something more colourful.)

Then there are my ‘pretty bags’, my Vogue purses. I don’t get many occasions to use them but they are my favourites. I have a beautiful bronze coloured clutch that my sister in law gave me on my 50th. I have a white leather bowling bag that I picked up in the Florida Walt Disney park years ago and I have an embroidered Italian pouch which is beautiful.

My most recent bag purchase was an ‘over-the-body’ bag by Mia Tui. It’s stone coloured and just the right size to hold my phone, purse and other essentials. I love it and it’s perfect for a hands-free day or for sightseeing and keeping your belongings close to you.

city messenger bag

I love weekend bags too and use mine frequently when we pack for a weekend in the caravan – it won’t be much longer before we re-open our seaside pad up again.

When I go food shopping I take a whole bag of bags with me and I’m very proud that I remember to use my recyclable bags to avoid buying any excess plastic bags. Even when I go ‘shopping’ shopping I take a fold away with me tucked in my handbag. In fact, I even gave some fabric fold away shopping bags as Christmas presents this year as I find them so handy.

I even use bags to tidy things up or keep things together, for example small zip bags I have used for sun creams in my beach bag, or holding phone chargers in my suitcase. Old toiletry bags that aren’t in use get recycled into ‘Hair accessories’ bags or bags for scarves. Larger unused bags become a new home for clothes that don’t fit but I don’t want to give away – maybe I’ll repurpose them one day? And those cloth holdall bags that brands give away – they are perfect for slipping into my suitcase and using for dirty clothes when I’m on holiday. I pack them up and tip them in the washing machine when I get home.

silver bag

I can even remember the first bag I owned that I was super proud of. It was a bronze holdall made out of a fake leather fabric and I bought it in Chelsea Girl, a really cool shop of the day. I used it for my school bags and was so upset the day the handles gave way and it had to be thrown out it was so well used.

How about you? Are you passionate about bags? Can you remember your first love?

Disclosure: A collaborative post.

I love January.

The Christmas decorations are back in the loft, the house has had a thorough clean and as the days are still short and cold, it’s time to snuggle on the sofa and enjoy my family.

Hygge the Danish call it. It’s all about the feeling and the moment. You can’t buy it, you create it and it is an enormously satisfying feeling.

Hygge - special feeling or moment

I am enjoying some fantastic British drama on the TV – Mrs Wilson, Luther and Manhunt to name a few.

I have been preparing some of my favourite winter recipes like stew with dumplings, some traditional roast dinners (we had roast leg of lamb on Sunday and it was amazing) and fish pie, mmmm!

January really is a proper hygge month for me. One daily ritual is lighting the candles on the mantle before I sit down to enjoy the calm winter’s evening. The flicker of the candles adds a warm glow to the room and adds to the cosiness as I hug my hot cup of tea and dip (once again) into the leftover chocolates from Christmas.

Actually, I hope we have soon finished off our Crimbo chocolate stash for the benefit of my wardrobe! Anyone else need to lose a few pounds that were gained over the festive season? I do. My trousers are tight around the waist, my t shirts are riding up and I feel uncomfortable. I’m going to have to make some time for exercise and long walks to get back into my clothes again.

However, I don’t want to go crazy and make it a mission. I’m not on that treadmill anymore, I know I have work to do but I’m not going to get all het up about it. By adding a few good walks into the week and cutting back on sweets, wine and large portions, I’ll get back to how I was sooner or later.

As my clothes are tight, I’ve been looking at the Simply Be website for some winter fashion inspiration. For me, this time of year calls for comfort clothing and also bright colours. Nice pops of red and yellow to brighten my mood and add a bit of happiness to my outfit. Black is wonderful but it can be a bit boring day in, day out.

How about this saffron coloured jumper? Worn with leggings or jeans or even a skirt would look great. 

Or this Joe Browns red cable cardigan? I love it, I think I would wear it forever with everything! UPDATE: I bought it!

I have my eye on longer skirts this year, I think they’re really going to take off. Maxi or long, both styles dress well and can be worn for both casual and formal occasions. Another element to look out for is animal prints. Take a walk down the high street (if you can bear to go out in the cold!) and you’ll see lots of prints in the shops.

How about you? Are you trying to incorporate some hygge feeling into your life?

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Pete Bellis

I’ve been talking a lot recently about my connection to Italy; an account of our day trip to Venice with the kids which was utterly amazing and memories of my time when I used to live in the country. Like running the clubhouse for the local golf club. I still think of that period of my life as my best years and the time when I ‘grew up’.

Having arrived in the country as a 19 going on 20-year-old and with just one year of work under my belt, I really was ‘wet behind the ears’ and trying so hard to be a grown-up. It was a difficult time having no family to turn to for guidance and all my choices and actions were completely down to me. It was like walking through life blindfolded.

However, as I understood more and more of the language and was able to make friends and converse with them, a whole new chapter opened for me and I entered into the fascinating world of fashion.

You cannot visit Italy and not notice the clothes. Everyone you come across will be dressed beautifully; it was one of the first things I learnt. My English student background had given me a baseline of charity shop clothes, make do and mend and the odd piece that had been a gift or I had saved up for. The suitcase that I arrived with was stuffed to the brim with trash. Although I’d never have admitted it back then.

I guess I started to understand my look wasn’t quite the ticket when my friends mentioned how ‘quirky’ I was. Or how I was ‘proprio inglese!’ Was that a compliment or not?

I started to take more notice of how the people around me dressed. I watched with intense curiosity as the shops displayed their new seasons and I started to pay more attention to how I put items together. That was the moment I fell in love with clothes and shoes and … boots.

Living in the mountains, boots become a necessity. With months and months of snow from October through to March, you must make sure you look after your feet. In fact, the montanari will remind you many times, ‘Keep your feet warm and you’ll be fine.’

Most of us had more than one or two pairs of boots. We had flat ankle boots, Moon Boots, snow boots, riding boots and for the more special occasions I’d recommend these Uppersole over the knee boots with lace up back  for those evenings spent dancing.

Coats were another important item and I remember, when I first returned to the UK, how I found it so odd that people here would go out with no coat or jacket on! I clearly remember a school group visiting the resort during a bitterly cold February half term and walking down the snowy high street in heels and skimpy dresses for their night out. I admit to cringing as I listened to the Italians murmur how foolish they were, ‘Why not take a coat and put it in the cloakroom?’ they asked me baffled at why the English would put their health at risk when it wasn’t necessary.

Different countries, different customs I would reply with a smile, shrugging my shoulders and hoping they weren’t including me in that bracket of fools.

I had a quick peek at my current boot collection and counted 4 pairs. How many pairs do you currently own?