Anonymous Post: Why I am Voting Today

I haven’t had an anonymous post on here for a while, but today I am handing over the blog for a post which is heartfelt and emotional. Please be respectful of the content in comments guys, and remember, go vote today!

As I write this, it’s election day and it’s an emotional one for me, because when I cast my vote, I will be thinking of a special friend, who cared passionately about her vote too. Not just for her own sake, but for other’s. She would have voted today and she would have put the needs of the people she saw suffering at the forefront of her mind as she cast her vote.

My best friend didn’t have an easy life. A single mum to a teenage boy, she was also a carer to her mum for many years, until she died in 2013. As soon as she died, my best friend was expected to get a job and she wanted to get a job. After spending many years dedicating her life to her mother, she was looking forward to making a life for herself and making her son proud. But it was hard, because she had been out of work for so long, that her experience and qualifications were out of date. So, the government gave her barely enough to live on to ‘encourage’ her to try harder. She kept on trying, visiting the Job Centre every two weeks, where she received very little help with her job search. She even tried setting up her own business, but it was too hard to go from benefits to self-employment with no support, so that failed. Eventually she found a job in a local retail establishment, and a second one cleaning, because the first one didn’t pay enough to live on.

Shortly after, she slipped on the dangerous steps at her workplace on an icy day and broke her leg. She ended up back on benefits. Then Concentrix arrived and stopped her benefits for 7 weeks for ‘random checks’. Nothing was found, but in the meantime, she was relying on food banks and hand-outs from friends, sending her spiralling into depression. She ended up struggling with stress-induced asthma, which made her so sick, that she was taken into intensive care.

When she was released from hospital, she received woefully lacking follow-up care from the NHS. She lived in constant fear of further attacks, which became a regular thing, but when she rang her doctor, they couldn’t give her an appointment or made her wait for hours and feel like a nuisance. She was too sick to work and should have been able to claim a sickness benefit, but the system is complicated and demanding, not easy to navigate when you are trying to raise a son and survive day to day, because that’s all it was; surviving. By now her benefits had been reinstated, but the weeks of having nothing to live on had left her with crippling debt.

Her benefits were still barely enough to live on, though, as the government’s ‘encouragement’ strategy continued so, despite still having frequent asthma attacks and living in constant fear that each one would be her last, she found herself another job. Some days she had to take her nebuliser to work with her, but she kept going.

Then, on Sunday, she had a final asthma attack, which put too much strain on her heart and she died.

If the NHS wasn’t crippled under so much pressure, if the Government provided better support for the sick, if the unemployed were helped into work, instead of just being signed off each fortnight, if any agency had been able to support her, I firmly believe she could be alive today.

The above definitely gives something to think about as we go and cast our vote today. Thanks to our anonymous post author. And I send my fullest sympathies on the loss of your friend.
If you want a safe place to write, whatever you have to say, the feel free to send me an email on mark your email “anon post” and I’ll post them here. No names needed.

Doing Your Part for Local Charities*

Charities are important services and while we look to them for support, we don’t always acknowledge the assistance which they need.
Both local and national charities require support from fundraisers and here we look at a few things you could do to help. From understanding their role in the community to highlighting their cause or simply looking into fundraising opportunities, there is always something you can do. No matter how little it might seem, it is always worthwhile to help a good cause.

First of all, these charities often highlight the very best of your local community. After all, a charity is often comprised of people doing something out of the goodness of their heart or working in roles specifically aimed at helping others and making a difference.
With local charities, this often has a direct impact on the local community and area. It might not affect you directly but, as part of the community, you have a chance to become more integrated.
Additionally, you never know when you might need to use the service either so helping to ensure it’s still operational is highly important.
Unsung heroes
Likewise, let’s not forget that donating money or volunteering, helps contribute to those who might not get the attention they deserve. We all know the major national charities but how much do we know about the good deeds right on our doorstep?
Whether it’s Herts Air Ambulance or any other service, these are charities and people that don’t always get the praise and attention they deserve. Volunteering or doing your part can change that. Whether your contribution is large or small, it’s putting the name out there and increasing recognition.
Putting the ‘fun’ in fundraising
Finally, you can combine a lot of these elements and look into fundraising. This can be a useful method of gaining money for a local cause but it also has a lot to benefits for you as well. Raising funds encourages you to get out there. Not only do you become integrated with the community as a result but it pushes you to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do and thus occupy more of your free time.

Let’s not forget that the gift of giving can also make people feel good about themselves. In other words, if you’re going to donate money then why not have some fun whilst trying to raise as much as possible?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Supermarket sweep: easy ways to save on the weekly shop*

As the impact of the recession continues to bite, many of us are finding our regular necessities – like the weekly supermarket shop – a bit of a strain. However, with a little know-how, you can start cutting costs on your food bill to put towards holidays and other treats: 

Capitalise on price check policies
If you’re struggling with your weekly shop, the supermarket giants have plenty of schemes in place to help shoppers keep to their budget. Tesco, for example, has launched a new price comparison scheme that allows customers the chance to be reimbursed if they could have bought their shopping cheaper from a rival. You’ll be eligible to receive up to £10 in coupons at any given store; the only requirement is that you need to buy a minimum of ten different products to qualify.
Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s biggest rival, already has a similar scheme called Brand Match, so if you ensure you redeem your vouchers when necessary, you’ll be able to save yourself some valuable cash. If you look online, you can also find money off coupons from a whole host of retailers, on products ranging from beauty essentials to garden furniture, so a little time spent browsing price comparison sites is sure to pay dividends.

Minimise food waste
In recent months, new statistics have exposed the staggering quantity of food that we waste in British homes each year as a consequence of ‘bogof’ and other supermarket schemes. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign estimates that we throw away around 7.2 million tonnes of food each year in the UK, and that it could be costing us an eye-watering £12 billion on an annual basis.
To avoid buying in food that will end up in the bin, go shopping with an organised list based on the recipes you and your family plan to cook for the week ahead. TV chef Nigel Slater has even made a BBC series specifically addressing this issue. Dish of the Day offers excellent tips on using up leftovers and transforming them with a few store cupboard essentials. 
Having a trusty collection of non-perishables in the house is a good way to reduce the amount of household waste. Keep a good stock of items like tinned tomatoes, beans, tuna and anchovies, and save by buying dried carbohydrates like pasta and couscous in bulk. With these useful backups stocked in your cupboards, you’ll be able to knock up a tasty family supper by adding just a few fresh ingredients.

Know your labels
When it comes to sell-by and use-by dates, exercise a little common sense. Remember that ‘best before’ labels simply refer to the peak quality of the food; after this date it may still be safe to eat even though it may be past its absolute ‘best’. ‘Use by’ dates, however, do refer to food safety, and anything kept beyond this date may be harmful to consume. But always use your discretion: if you are undecided, the NHS offers excellent advice online on how to judge the shelf-live of food. If you can learn to avoid throwing things away as a knee jerk response, you could save yourself good money.

*This post was brought to you in collaboration with Super Savvy Me

How to Take Care of Those Little Teeth*

Caring for your teeth, whatever your age, relies on establishing a rigid regime. Good dental health is not only important for your overall health and fitness but can also affect your confidence and perceptions of your appearance.
When encouraging little ones to adopt teeth cleaning as part of their daily routine, parents can encounter difficulties though. Many young children are reluctant to brush their teeth or struggle to do it correctly – so how can you help them take care of their little gnashers?
Show them how to brush their teeth
While brushing teeth twice a day is always recommended, it is equally important that teeth are brushed correctly. Using too much force or brushing in the wrong direction could mean children don’t clean every part of their teeth and could even result in damage to gums or teeth enamel. Dentists can show your children how to brush correctly using props and tools but you can encourage this learning by helping them at home.
Brushing for them may not be possible, least of all because little ones often want to appear independent, so why not brush your teeth at the same time as them? That way you can set an example of what to do, offering advice and assistance where necessary, and also show them that dental hygiene is an important part of their life both now and in the future.
Explain when to brush
It can be counter productive to brush your teeth straight after eating. Not giving your saliva and digestive enzymes enough time to break down your food means you risk compacting small pieces of undigested food into your gums. That’s why you should wait at least 45 minutes after a meal before brushing. Make sure your child’s dinners and breakfasts are prepared with enough time to allow them to eat at a comfortable rate and wait the necessary time before brushing.
Use the right products
Brushing technique is an important part of dental hygiene but which products you use is equally as important. Child-friendly toothpastes, mouthwashes and other dental hygiene products are all readily available but it may be possible to buy products suitable for the whole family.

A toothpaste that cleans as well as whitens such as Oral B pro expert will leave teeth gleaming for the next day and you can find out if they’re suitable for children by reading the packaging or speaking to your dentist. A little mouthwash, go for an alcohol-free variety, will help eliminate any excess bacteria while floss is great for helping guard against gum disease by ensuring every part of the mouth is thoroughly cleaned.

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol /

Luxury travel: Shopping & Coffee in Madrid*

If you like shopping, and you like Madrid, then you’re in for a treat. I’ve discovered a Madrid travel map they’ve just published, which their ‘Style Hunters’ made after visiting the city recently!’s a unique fashion platformthat people from all over the world who make unique jewelryandfashion accessories can showcase and sell their work on. Your classic online marketplace – but really chic.

Boticca’s bespoke Madrid shopping map

Not just anyone can get on there and sell their stuff, either. They employ Style Hunters who actually travel the world (best… job… EVER) and source unique collections and meet the designers themselves!
So this is where the Madrid Map was born, apparently… And word on the street is that this is the first of a whole series of maps for different cities!
Just to accompany this excellent map here are some of the excellent cafes to visit while there. Coffee and shopping, with a little cake thrown in for you?Mm?
So, in no particular order, here were my top three:
  1.        Chocolateria San Ginés

 Pasadizo San Ginés, 5 (Metro stop: Sol or Opera)

It’s hot in Madrid… but not too hot for this café’s famous mud-thick hot chocolate!! Not to mention its melt-in-the-mouth churros (that’s twirly pieces of deep-fried batter dipped in chocolate to you and me)! My Spanish friend took me here at night when, according to her, I could see this place is at its very best. It. was. ace.

Just thought I’d convey to you just how yummy churros are! Mmmmm… 

  1.  Nuevo Café Barbieri

Calle Ave Maria, 45 (Metro stop: Lavapies)

This is in a cool spot – in Madrid’s international centre. And don’t be put off by its scruffiness, either… This is where the cool kids hang!
  1.  Cafe Commercial

Glorieta de Bilbao, 7 (Metro stop: Bilbao)

Having opened way back in the 1880s, Commercial is said to be Madrid’s oldest continuously operating café. And from what I can remember, it’s been in the hands of the same family ever since! And although it is pretty ancient, it’s got an upstairs Internet café – unless you just want to relax with a good old-fashioned book downstairs, in which case there are comfy seats galore.
So if you plan on trying out Boticca’s travel map for size, then give yourself a break in between with these lovely cafes – they’ve all got something really different and special to offer, and are the best of the ones I got taken to when I was over there last year.