This week has seen the 1st anniversary of my brother Michael’s death. I had prepared for it. I have lost people before and I felt I had come to terms with this particular one partly because my brother lived such a full life and because he made such an impact whilst he was here.

I had a little wobble in the bar one night last week when Freddie Mercury was on the television singing “The Show Must Go On!” I should explain that my brother was often mistaken for Freddie Mercury and lived in the same area of London. I am a huge Queen fan and can cry for Freddie in his own right but I guess from now on, such tears will be added to by grief for our Michael.

Then yesterday it was the 9th anniversary of my Mum’s death. After such a long time, I was not expecting to be knocked sideways by the day. I started feeling irritable on Sunday evening leading to a row with my husband. He ended up throwing a remote control at me. It hit me which I do not think was his intention but that led to fitful sleep so yesterday was a difficult day in so many ways.

Dates do not matter much to my husband. He would happily avoid Christmas, birthdays and does not really see the point in marking the date when special people passed away. My own family always made a fuss about dates. When Mum was terminally ill, she insisted on Dad writing down all the key dates so he could keep up with things once she was gone. I am not saying my husband is wrong as such. We just see things very differently.

So I was in a woe in me mode yesterday. I felt so down and if it were possible would have cuddled up with a duvet all day. Of course, you can’t do that when you have children, pets and work to contend with.

I can’t really remember the details of the day. Lowlights included the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door and a dress not fitting. It was just a very dark one altogether where I tried to shift my mood and just couldn’t. Having said that, it is amazing what will pull you out of a low mood. Yesterday afternoon, my son was telling me about his views on the book her is reading at the moment which is the Adrian Mole one. He was laughing how he had misread the title as “Dairy” instead of “Diary” and how this has fuelled his imagination of what the secret dairy looked like and what went on there. This was the first light moment in the day and I started to emerge as the dark clouds dispersed a bit. He then went on to analyse the book much as myself or my Mum would do. People really do live on in their children and grandchildren.

Then out of the blue my 17 year old son suggested not getting a takeaway last night but waiting until today when there are special offers on. He never budgets so this was a turn up for the books and again cheered my soul a little.

As for my 14 year old daughter, she stroked and hugged me again and again very aware of my feelings yesterday.

So the children survived me not being there properly for them yesterday. I guess another point is that we did not have to contend with any back to school hassle now that we home educate.

Today I have worked out that I was naïve to think I could just glide through two important anniversaries. I love my brother and Mum so of course I mourn them. That does not make me pathetic or weak, just very human.

In the evening, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I asked my husband to light a candle for my Mum. He did two so we had one for Mum and one for Michael. I am good Catholic girl after all and lighting a candle always brings comfort.

When Mum died, I lit a candle. Not long after my toddler son who was asleep on the sofa suddenly did a big giggly belly laugh in his sleep. He had not done this before and he has not done it since. I thought it was Mum telling me to lighten up a bit and today I can do that again.

Cuddle Fairy

Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

Twin Mummy and Daddy

When the nicer weather arrives, you need to make the most out of your decked space — but the last thing you want to find is pests around your area.

As we’ve entered the colder months, pests will begin to look for shelter and your garden is the ideal space. In London, more than 100 rodent complaints are made every day. Although this doesn’t mean that you’re at risk, it’s worth making a few quick and simple preparations to stop potential pests from making your garden their homes.

You need to prevent pest invasion across your compostite decking boards — this includes birds and mice.

Lower the appeal

You need to remove the appeal of your decking. Pests, such as rats and mice, will scout out places before deciding on where to settle down, so try and make your decking as uninhabitable as possible.

If you eat in your garden, make sure that all rubbish is cleared so pests don’t make their way to your space. If you have a get-together on your decking, make sure you thoroughly clear up and clean the decking so that no sauces or dropped food remain which could entice rodents and other critters. Remember; rats, mice and hedgehogs will also eat birdfeed, so make sure to opt for a birdfeeder that isn’t placed on the floor or a table and put it away from your decking.

You should also be regularly trimming your hedges to reduce the number of sheltered locations for pests to live. If your main pest problem is birds, movement is a great deterrent. Try hanging something that moves — like a wind chime or wind spinner — to help prevent birds from making a mess on your decking.

Barricade the space

Have you considered barricading your decking? Pests won’t be able to make a home under your decked areas if they can’t get in to begin with, so investing in extra materials to create a barrier is worth it.

Beneath your decking is the perfect location for pests to protect themselves from harsh weather conditions. To stop this happening, use wood, mesh or chicken wire and run it along the entire edge of your decking between the boards and the ground. If you’re worried that this will ruin your decking’s aesthetic appeal, you can install a wooden trellis and have the mesh running behind it. Then, arrange potted plants or flowerbeds around your decking to mask the mesh further.

Believe it or not, rats and mice can squeeze through some of the smallest spaces (as small as half an inch) so your area must be tightly secured.

Seal your space

Woodworm is a pest you’ll likely encounter. Unless you have composite decking that doesn’t rot, you might want to take steps to prevent this particularly unpopular garden pest.

You may have heard of the three types of common woodworm. The common furniture beetle is usually what people mean when they say ‘woodworm’, but the house longhorn and deathwatch beetles are far more destructive — although thankfully rarer.

The first step is keeping your wooden area dry. This might be difficult for large areas like your decking, but your tables and chairs should be relatively safe under a waterproof cover. Sealing your wood with varnish is a good shout too. This creates a barrier that prevents female wood-boring beetles from laying eggs in the pores of the wood.

Have you encountered a pest invasion already? If you can see small holes across your decking and furnishings — these are usually in a cluster and often about 1mm wide — there might be woodworm present. Although this is treatable, you first need to identify which type of woodworm is doing the damage, so it might be worth seeking professional advice. Common furniture beetle problems can be treated yourself using products that you can buy online. However, if the culprits are house longhorn or deathwatch beetles, you may need to treat by injection.

Non-lethal traps

This should be your final step if necessary. If you already have pests in the garden and need help getting rid of them, you could consider using non-lethal traps or scent repellent. Alternatively, try spices — pests hate the smell. Plant a peppermint tree around the edges of your decking or sprinkle cayenne around potential entry points to deter vermin from nesting. Of course, there are also plenty of commercial rat and mice repellents you can buy that will work to keep pests at bay.

But forget cheese; sweet treats work best to lure mice. Place these around your decking and make sure to release the rodent at least one mile from your home once caught. If you prefer, buy an ultrasonic pest repellent. Compact and discreet, these devices are ideal for placing by your decking and emit high-frequency sound waves that rodents can’t stand — and we can’t hear.

Sources:

http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/15700482.Pest_authority_wants_greater_emphasis_on_tackling_rat_issues/

https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/08/messy-bird-droppings-ruffling-womans-feathers/

http://www.diydoctor.org.uk/projects/woodworm.htm

https://dengarden.com/pest-control/5-Simple-Ways-to-get-rid-of-Mice-without-Killing-Them

https://www.rentokil.co.uk/blog/rodent-proof-decking/#.WkuPjN9l-Uk

https://www.westernpest.com/pest-control/tips/decks/

Cuddle Fairy

Blogs are extremely powerful, or at least they can be. Whether you started your blog as part of your business or as a hobby that has now grown into so much more than that, it’s important to understand how much potential your blog actually has. The fact is that today blogging is big business. While just a few short years ago it was nothing more than a hobby, blogging has made a huge impact in the past few years and has the potential to be extremely powerful.

If you run a blog, then you most probably want to ensure that it is reaching its full potential. After all, blogs can be great tools for success, but only when utilised effectively, of course, which is why it’s so important that you know what it takes to ensure your blog reaches its full potential. The question is, what can you do to do that – how can you ensure that your blog is as successful as it could be?

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Below are some useful tips and advice for ensuring that your blog is being run in the most effective way possible.

Create a blog schedule and stick to it

If you want to build a solid blog following, it’s crucial that you create a schedule for blogging and stick to it. Your followers will only come back to your blog if they know when to expect new blog posts to go live, which is why establishing a posting schedule is so important. It’s better to set a schedule of only posting once a week and meeting that schedule than setting a more unrealistic schedule and letting your followers down.

Ensure quality content

One of the most important factors when it comes to blogging success is quality. Blogging is highly competitive, which is why you need to be able to create high-quality content for your readers, to ensure that you are able to build a strong following. Your content should be interesting, informative, unique, and highly personal – if it’s the same as everyone else’s you’re going to limit your chances of success. It’s also vital that your content is optimised properly and is not stuffed full of keywords – an SEO checker can be a good way to check that your content is properly optimised.

Market your blog

Think of your blog as a mini business; if you want it to succeed it needs to be well marketed. You can’t expect to build a blog if you aren’t taking the time to market your content to people, as otherwise, you will most probably have very few readers. So take advantage of social media and effectively market your blog. Post regularly sharing content. Communicate and build connections with other bloggers. Join virtual networking events and get to know other bloggers.

If you want to give your blog the very best chance of success, you need to treat it like a mini business from the get-go. It might purely be a hobby right now, but taking a professional approach to it can have a huge impact on how successful your blog becomes.

Confessions of a New Mummy

I have organised a number of training events and sizeable conferences over the years. I have also contributed as a speaker and trainer in events run by other people in the charity and public sectors. I am going to share what I think makes an effective breakout session.

What is a breakout session?

It involves splitting the audience or participants into smaller groups. Often this happens after a number of speakers have delivered presentations. They can be used simply for networking or ideally to enhance learning and develop action points to take forward after the event.

Breakout sessions need to have a purpose

Although people may want to just chat, I believe breakout sessions should have a purpose otherwise they become mere talking shops often with people talking over one another. Having a clear purpose and desired outcomes from the session helps energize the group. As an organiser you can impose these or be creative and ask the group to formulate them at the start of the breakout session.

Logistics

All too often I have seen attendees not able to find a breakout area at all or turning up late because clear directions were not given to a breakout space. Visit your venue in advance to check on practical things like acoustics, stewarding and heating. Furniture is another thing to consider as it can set a tone for the session. Would desks and  office chairs work or are you looking for the opportunity for attendees to slouch more?

Facilitators

Select your facilitators carefully. You can find people who will do it for free but they may not be the best choices so if you have budget use it. Also ensure that learning from the group is captured by a note-taker so that key points can be shared with other event attendees and online if appropriate.

Creativity

There is not just one way to run a breakout session. Could you have a quiz or a speed dating type session? How could you harness social media during the session? What team-building activity could you incorporate? Don’t force fun but allow it to happen. People tend to remember information gained whilst enjoying themselves. Consider London office furniture that meets your type of session if you are meeting in the capital.

Finally, always make efforts to learn from the event itself by asking participants for feedback either at the event or shortly thereafter whilst memories are fresh.

 

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Run Jump Scrap

My big reason to be cheerful this week is that I am letting myself off the hook. In fact, I am letting  myself off several hooks. I have always worked hard, striven for more in just about every area of life and too often for poor rewards. I have started to realise I am not on the planet to do every job, to have every skill or quality or to serve everyone on demand.

Here are some areas where I am slacking and I think it is doing me the power of good.

  1. It is the first anniversary of my brother’s death today. I actually thought it was tomorrow so was all geared up for that date. My other brother emailed me today and referenced the anniversary and then I checked my brother’s funeral order of service. He died today a year ago. I got the date wrong and that’s OK. In the grand scheme of things, it does not matter. I loved him and cherish so many memories of a very special character. I have now emailed his widower and will go to the bar to drink in his honour tonight.
  2. Home education has stayed in the children’s own hands for about a week with little input from me. I can beat myself up about this or I can get real and recognise that  most children are still on school holidays so we can have a relaxing time too. We can get back to learning any time we choose.
  3. My 17 year old is still not sure exactly what he wants to do but would like to work in theatre, film, gaming or politics. He also has a key hope for next year that he will work towards. I walk and talk with him. I am recognising that he really does need to work out his own future. I can advise and support but ultimately he must live his own life his way.
  4. I was just offered a bit of work to do today or tomorrow. I chose tomorrow which  is so unlike me. Normally I would do anything to meet the tightest deadline. It is not necessary to do so. There are more important matters to attend to today in terms of marking my brother’s passing.
  5. I am going to tread less carefully of other people’s feelings around my adoption. I want to trace my family tree and although I will try to be sensitive I am not going to run away from contacting people or asking questions. My adoption was not my fault so I refuse to suffer any more as a result of it.
  6. Finally I am letting myself off the hook of seeing myself negatively. Recently I have looked in the mirror for possibly the first time in my life and actually liked what I see. I am OK. I should have realised this a long time ago but now I have I am going to revel in the new and improved me.

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