Making Difficult Decisions



In a couple of weeks time, I’m going to my very first primary school open day. In a way, I’m dreading it – it’s a sign that my little girl is growing up and after a few years of us all being cocooned in the nursery and pre-school world, we’re going to be thrust into a world of timetables, homework and tests. But I’m also a bit excited – taking a look around schools that might be where she spends so much of her future, speaking to the teachers, getting a feel for the place. Choosing which schools to apply for feels like a massive responsibility – especially when you have other parents telling you their (often wildly differing) views on your local schools.

But we all have to make difficult decisions in life – whether to stay in a job we dislike or make a jump into the unknown, whether to stay in a relationship that isn’t good for us or leave, whether to move nearer our family as our parents get older and need our help.

When I think back to when my gran was in her late 80s, she moved from her family home near Edinburgh to a smaller flat in the town I grew up in. She was close by and I would regularly pop in for a cuppa and chat. As she needed more care, it was decided she would move into a care home near Edinburgh. It was a lovely place, run by nuns, and suited my Gran well.

I’ve been thinking about how you choose a care home for an elderly relative – it is one of those decisions nobody really wants to make. It reminds us how short our own lives are and how quickly we lose the people we love. But just as I can’t stick my head in the sand now, and pretend my daughter isn’t getting older and doesn’t need to go to school, it’s important that we tackle choosing a care home properly.

And just as we don’t dictate to our kids (unlike 20 or 30 years ago), we shouldn’t dictate to the older generation either. We explain why things happen to kids, and we give them options to choose from. We give them a sense of control (eve if it’s little things like which colour of t-shirt to wear). So we shouldn’t make a decision for an elderly relative either – work with them rather than decide for them. Think about what suits them and chat to them about different options and share any issues and concerns. Value their opinions. Reassure them that you’re listening to them and that they are loved and safe.

Do your homework carefully when looking at a care home. Whether you’re looking for a care home in Wiltshire like Gracewell’s Salisbury Manor or a more independent retirement setting like Kernhow Park Homes, you’ll find retirement villages scattered across the UK that could be perfect for your elderly relatives.

As well as how the place ‘feels’ when you walk in, here are some things to consider:

  • How easy is the care home to access? Is it near public transport?
  • How clean is the care home?
  • How happy do the staff look?
  • How happy do the residents look?
  • Ask to see an inspection report – they can give you a good idea of how the place is run.
  • Are the bedrooms light and airy?
  • Are there any nasty smells?
  • Is the care home, and the bedroom, wheelchair accessible and are the corridors wide enough for a walking frame?
  • Is there a garden to walk in?
  • What are the communal areas like – are the residents encouraged to mix and join in activities?

It’s such a big decision to make, but don’t put it off, and by working with your elderly relative, you can choose a care home that will be a happy, comfortable place for them to live and be cared for.

• This is a sponsored post. Image: Nate Embrey / DTTSP

What’s On At The Birmingham Hippodrome

Today, I’ve got a guest post from the lovely people at the Birmingham Hippodrome. If you live in the Midlands, check out some of the fab looking shows they have coming up and plan in a trip to Birmingham to catch one of them. If it were me, I’d be booking up for Beauty & The Beast – it sounds magical…

Beauty And The Beast ballet

We’re over halfway through the year, and it seems like the weeks are flying by. Before we know what has happened, it’ll be Christmas and we’ll be welcoming 2015 with fireworks and Jools Holland. However, before we break out the Christmas tree and decorations once more, we have the rest of summer and autumn to look forward to. Make the most out of the rest of 2014 by incorporating some nights out into the coming weeks. Perhaps a city break or two wouldn’t go amiss, either?

Head to Birmingham for a couple of days and you’ll be able to enjoy a range of attractions, sights, shopping and nightlife opportunities. Not only that, but Birmingham is home to the Hippodrome, which has a busy and exciting schedule over the next few months. Organise a hotel for the night (you can book here if you’re looking for accommodation that won’t break the bank) and take a look at what’s coming up at the Hippodrome between now and the end of the year.


The summer run of this sell-out show can be found at the Hippodrome between now and 6th September. This spellbinding, award-winning show has stepped away from the West End and stepped its ruby slippers into the West Midlands for a few bedazzling weeks in the heart of Birmingham.

Unlike the original Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Wicked is based on a series of books by Gregory Maguire, who reimagined the original storyline to help readers (and now audiences) everywhere delve deeper into the past of the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West. Not all is what it seems, and this mesmerising show will take you on a rollercoaster ride through the life of Elphaba, telling you more about why she became wicked.


As one of the longest-running shows on the West End and Broadway, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s timeless classic is recognisable anywhere. It paws its way onto the Hippodrome stage between 9th and 27th September for what promises to be a sell-out run. From the incredible musical score to the fantastic costumes and sets, Cats is nothing short of legendary. Don’t pass up the chance to see it, if you can help it.

Beauty and the Beast

The Birmingham Royal Ballet previously produced the smashing Cinderella, and they return with the enchanting gothic fairytale Beauty and the Beast between 30th September and 4th October.

Blood Brothers

A story of twins, separated at birth, Blood Brothers – written by Willy Russell – has received much critical acclaim and often has audiences up on their feet at the end of it. Be ready with your standing ovation at the Hippodrome, where it takes up residence between 13th and 25th October.

The Nutcracker

The Royal Ballet returns, hot on the heels of their production of Beauty and the Beast, with their production of Tchaikovsky’s festive ballet, The Nutcracker. It’s at the Hippodrome between 28th November and 13th December.

The Hippodrome is home to some sensational shows between now and the end of the year – take the opportunity to enjoy one, or more, for a cultural evening to remember.

• Thanks so much to The Hippodrome for this guest post – if you go catch a show, come back and let me know what you thought of it.

Think Again About World Hepatitis Day 2014

Did you know it’s World Hepatitis Day today?

When you think about world health days, you might automatically think about World AIDS Day on Dec 1st – there are ribbons, concerts and global events all to raise awareness of it. But World Hepatitis Day is possibly a lesser-known world health day. Yet every year the virus kills 1.5million people worldwide – that’s as many as HIV/AIDS.

The World Hepatitis Alliance launched World Hepatitis Day in 2008, concerned about the lack of priority of hepatitis as a killer. To raise awareness of World Hepatitis Day 2014, ‘America’s loudest lounge singer’ Richard Cheese has combined forces with The Netherlands puppeteer, Lejo, to produce a brilliant YouTube video…


It is, without a doubt, one of the most important videos of the year, so after you’ve watched it, please help raise awareness of hepatitis by clicking ‘share’ and including the Hepatitis: Think Again 2014 campaign hashtag #thinkhepatitis.

• Sponsored by World Hepatitis Alliance

Dreaming Of Bathrooms…

I have  a list as long as my arm of things we could do to our house. Shelving in the alcoves of our living room… turning our daughter’s room into a proper little girl’s room… landscaping our garden… gutting out the under-stairs cupboard and fixing the broken door on it…

Luckily, our bathroom is in pretty good nick. But that doesn’t stop me spending hours on Pinterest, dreaming about what I’d do if I were to redo it.

I’m a huge fan of hotel bathrooms. It’s one of my key things when staying somewhere nice – comfy bed? Tick. Complimentary water? Tick. Does the bathroom look amazing? Tick. Key trends this year have been nordic wood, aztec prints and bold textures – and these are all things that I love in a bathroom. Oh and it’s got to have a big walk-in-shower amiright?

Bathroom firm C.P.Hart has challenged me to create a mood board of my dream bathroom – they’re calling one of the main interiors trend ‘Tactile Textures’ with rustic woods, mixed materials and strong prints. It’s a great look to embrace if you’re tired of the bog-standard (pardon the pun) bathroom suites that many homes have. I didn’t even have to visit a C.P.Hart showroom for inspiration – their website has a huge range and lots of beautiful images to whet your appetite, as well as a trade section for builders and professional interior designers.

Some of the images that I’ve been lusting after include free-standing wooden units with a sink on top, walls covered in vintage mirrors, curved baths, unusual glass lighting, white brick walls (very hotel-like) and black and white aztec rugs. (Side note: I’ve never put a rug in a bathroom before.. anyone else?)

Dream bathroom

You can easily add a splash of colour to this kind of bathroom with bright orange towels – injecting a bit of sunshine into the room.

Check out the rest of my wish list on my Dream Bathroom Pinterest board…

Follow Alison’s board Dream bathroom on Pinterest.

What kind of bathrooms do you lust after?


• Big thanks to C.P. Hart for sponsoring this post – for information on how I work with brands, see my Work With Me page.

Waste Less Food… Save Cash

It scares me a bit when I realise how much food we waste. Whether it’s stuff that my three-year-old rejects (“I don’t like broccoli… or pasta… or cheese…”) or veg that we haven’t quite used up yet and has gone off in the fridge, our food waste recycling bin is probably fuller than it should be each fortnight.

I could save my family up to £700 a year by reducing our food waste through four easy steps. WasteAware are encouraging Hertfordshire residents to make the most of their food and save up to £60 a month with the launch of their new video, “Making food waste history”. But it’s not just Hertfordshire residents wh can benefit from the tips – we all can…

In the UK we throw away more than 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year and the average family throws away the equivalent of 6 meals a week. These facts are pretty staggering especially when you consider that some of this food was actually still fit to be eaten.

Research into food waste by WRAP has shown that food is mainly wasted due to incorrect portioning, storage or planning. By taking four simple steps to reduce food waste, the average family can save up to £700 a year on their food bill:

1. Plan ahead

Shopping lists can save time and money. Check your store cupboards and freezer before shopping. Organise your fridge and cupboards so the shortest date items are at the front.

2. Store correctly

Fruit can last much longer if kept in the fridge (except bananas). Potatoes last longer if stored in a cool dark place. Most meals can be frozen and kept for a later date.

3. Cook what you need

Correct portioning can save money… as well as the waistline! Did you know that one cup of uncooked rice is enough for four people? 100g of uncooked pasta is enough for 1 adult.

4. Recycle what you can’t eat

Uncooked fruit and vegetables can be home composted. Cooked food can be recycled at the kerbside through your organic waste collection.


Food waste reduction tips:

At their recent food waste roadshow, Waste Aware has received some great food waste reduction tips from Hertfordshire residents. Here are some of my favourites:

• Make vegetable crisps from vegetable peelings by baking them in the oven with some oil and salt.

• Use up all your leftover vegetables by blending them to create a unique soup. (PS This is great at Christmas as you can add all your leftovers to make a Christmas flavoured soup.)

• Leftover chicken from a roast makes a nice curry later in the week.

• Leftover plain pasta can be fried in a pan with garlic and bread crumbs for a tasty, quick meal.

• Create your own banana puree ­mash over-ripe bananas with lemon juice and sugar. This can be frozen for later too.

• Chicken bones can be boiled to create stock for soups.


Do you have any more tips on reducing food waste?


• Thank you to Hertfordshire County Council for sponsoring this post. For details on how I work with brands and organisations, see my Work With Me page