The Manchester Duck Race

We’re well into our second week of the Easter holidays here in Scotland. We’re heading for Yorkshire for a few days to spend the Easter weekend with friends. If you haven’t planned anything yet there’s still time for a last minute getaway.

Manchester Duck Race
If you fancy something a bit different the Manchester Duck Race is on tomorrow and promises family fun from 12pm including a bouncy castle, giant slide and teacup rides.

The big race will start at 2pm, ducks can be bought online! Anyone can enter the family race with the small rubber ducks, each duck entry is just £1 and will go towards the work Brainwave do to change a child’s life. You can buy as many little ducks as you want. The more you have in the race, the better your chance of winning. The first 5 ducks across the line will win a prize.

If you’re coming from a bit further away, make a proper trip of it with an overnight stay – there are some great deals to be had on Hotel Direct.

Have a great Easter weekend!

Brought to you by Hotel Direct

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A New Diet

Amongst everything else that has been going on recently, I’ve also been trialling a new diet. The crohns took a turn for the worse last year and I’ve been taking bi-weekly injections to help manage it. I’ve already adjusted my life quite significantly to suit the illness, for example moving out of town and becoming self employed. These changes had a big impact but now I’m left trying to find new ways to manage the illness. A friend suggested I try a more pure diet, this involves cutting out gluten, caffeine, most refined sugar and dairy products like milk and ice cream. Oh, and pretty much all processed foods too. At first I was sceptical, surely the doctors would have suggested such a diet before now? I also hadn’t noticed many food related symptom patterns over the years.

I’ve been doing the diet now for two months and I’ve noticed a big difference, I’ve had hardly any crohns symptoms and I’ve had more energy. I also lost a stone in four weeks, just as result of making the changes above.

Soda Stream

Coincidentally I was also offered a Soda Stream to review a few weeks after starting the diet. I thought being able to make our own sparkling water would be good as it can be mixed with fruit juice to make healthier fizzy drinks. It’s also environmentally friendly (only one plastic bottle) and it costs just 17p to make a litre of sparkling water. We’ve used ours loads already making both sparkling water and fizzy drinks.

A typical day now consists of a breakfast of oatcakes and pineapple with a black decaf coffee with stevia (a natural sugar substitute). Lunch is soup or a baked potato with water or cranberry juice. Dinner is something meat and veg based, we all love pork so we tend to have lots of that. Gluten free brownies, lentil crackers and Green and Blacks chocolate fill in the hunger gaps. I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times and the symptoms have returned almost immediately so I’m quite motivated to stick to it. It’s not so much a diet than a lifestyle, and if it continues to work, then it’s one I shall stick to.

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Twenties VS Thirties

It’s been a busy few months to say the least. There’s a lot of change going on at the moment. It’s a challenge to manage it all and I have had a couple of meltdowns trying to make it all fit.

My own workload has more than tripled since December, and I thought I was pretty busy to start with! Both our jobs are involved in various launches, and we’re under pressure to deliver – we’re definitely in our stretch zone. At times things have spilled over and housework and domestic admin has built up – neither of us have set working hours either.

We were in a similar position eight years ago, just after Erin was born.

At the moment it’s all about creating new systems that work for everyone. Erin’s the only one that has a set pattern at the moment. Alex works twelve hour shifts over 24hrs. Me? I try and fit my f/t work schedule around everything else.

Life is busy.

I’m not complaining, far from it, it’s busy and it’s challenged – but it’s also really fun, and we’re lucky to be in this position.

We’re having to lean on family a wee bit to get us through the school holidays, but I’m sure we’ll start finding ways to fit it all in.

If a baby was what shaped out twenties, it looks as though it’s our work that will shape them in our thirties. We just need to pay attention that we don’t get so busy making a living that we forget to make a life. We need to maintain some balance; lots of holidays, family dinners and weekends away are all part of the plan.

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Part 9 – Managing Relationships & Building Your Network

Last year, after embarking on quite a lot of personal development myself, I decided to write my first eCourse on the topic. A couple of hundred people took the course and I’ve enjoyed mentoring, and continue to mentor a few of the people that took it. The time has come to retire the course and make space for new projects. It seemed a waste to just throw it away, so I’ve decided to post it here. I hope you find it useful.

Part 1 – Awareness

Part 2 – Motivation
Part 3 – Your Lifestyle Blueprint
Part 4 – Your Map
Part 5 – Mindset and Your People
Part 6 – Setting and Achieving Goals
Part 7 – Managing Your Money and The Fulfillment Curve
Part 8 – Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Sometimes it’s not a lack of time, money or motivation that keeps us from the life we dream. It’s the concern about what others think of us, the barbed comments from people we love, the people who say we can’t or shouldn’t do something. A lack of support from the people around us creates negative energy and saps our motivation.

To understand the power our family have over our beliefs we have to look at how these belief structures are created.

Beliefs are passed from generation to generation. We take things as a given without ever questioning their origin or validity. Have you heard the story about the ham?

A mother was cooking a ham for Sunday lunch with her daughter. The mother prepared the ham for cooking by cutting off each end. The daughter asked why she cut off either end. Her mother said she did it because that’s what her mother did. As kids do, the daughter asked why her granny did it. Her mother said ‘I don’t know, let’s ask her’. Her granny said the same thing, she did it because that’s what her mother did. So they went to great granny and asked her, great granny answered ‘because the pot was too small for a full size ham’.

The moral of the story? Don’t accept other people’s beliefs without questioning them first. If we all did that we’d still believe the world was flat.

Your family can be your biggest supporters, but they can also be your greatest hindrance.

Don’t take other people’s views and opinions as a given. Always listen to the advice and opinions of others and then scrutinise them against your own values and goals. Just because one person thinks you’re mad and taking risks, it doesn’t necessarily make it the truth. Only you know the path you’re on. When people give feedback and opinions they are usually applying their own beliefs and fears to the information, they are considering the impact on themselves, not on you. You have to make a judgement call on whether someone’s advice has any validity when applied to your own situation.

Occasionally you come up against people who are constantly negative about what you’re trying to achieve. There comes a point when the only thing you can do is stop sharing your thoughts with these people, and until you feel a bit more confident, perhaps even limiting the amount of time you spend with them.

The next step is to surround yourself with people that act as a counter to all those who provide only negative feedback. There’s a big world away from your immediate family, there are a lot of people who’ve chosen the path you have. Find these people, learn from them, befriend them. They are the rocket fuel your journey needs.

Find people that have done what you want to do.

Find people that inspire you.

Find out where these people hang out and go and join them.

You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. Make sure the people around you are worthy of one of those five spots. Your happiness and success depends on it.

My experience

For a long time I felt different to a lot of people around me. I didn’t ‘get’ them and they didn’t ‘get’ me. Then I started blogging, and I discovered a whole world of people. Along the way I have found plenty of people who are just like me. Suddenly I didn’t feel so weird. I started to make progress and begun discovering what my purpose was and what I could offer to the world and the people around me.

Some people call this ‘finding yourself’. A lot of people never find themselves because they never explore beyond their own family and community. The internet allows us to create our own society, and in building our community we can then gather with those people offline too.

Make it your goal this week to;

Make peace with whatever feedback you’re getting from family. They are free to have an opinion, it’s your choice whether you accept it as relevant for your situation or not.

Make it your goal to discover people who are similar to you or who’ve done what you want to do. Find networks and communities that you can join.

Think about the five people who are worthy of having the biggest influence on your life.

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Getting Ready for Mother’s Day with Maw Broon

I’m not a huge fan of these organised celebrations, I know I know, bah humbug. Mother’s Day is a wee bit different though, I love the homemade cards and the secrets that are never kept. Most of all I love the excitement of giving that I see on her little face. As far as organised celebrations go, it’s got all the right ingredients.

Maw Broon

We try and keep our celebrations about Erin and what she wants to do. If gifts are purchased, they are low cost. Cards are handmade, and dinner is the local carvery. Breakfast is homemade, and cold by the time it reaches me. Just the way it should be.

This year Mother’s Day started a bit early when we were sent some Maw Broon goodies. We love The Broons here and there was something to please everyone. Alex claimed the tea and caramel shortcake, Erin took the shortbread and fudge, and I’ve put the jute shopping bag to good use. We also loved the Maw Broon cookery book, Erin and I spent a nice afternoon adding sticky notes to all the recipes we wanted to try.

Great gifts for any mum.

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Part 8 – Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Last year, after embarking on quite a lot of personal development myself, I decided to write my first eCourse on the topic. A couple of hundred people took the course and I’ve enjoyed mentoring, and continue to mentor a few of the people that took it. The time has come to retire the course and make space for new projects. It seemed a waste to just throw it away, so I’ve decided to post it here. I hope you find it useful.

Part 1 – Awareness

Part 2 – Motivation
Part 3 – Your Lifestyle Blueprint
Part 4 – Your Map
Part 5 – Mindset and Your People
Part 6 – Setting and Achieving Goals
Part 7 – Managing Your Money and The Fulfillment Curve

For many people, the lifestyle blueprint is a real eye opener. For the first time in your life you may have discovered and acknowledged one or all of the following;

  • You don’t need to work 40/60/80 hours a week to earn the money you need
  • You don’t need to work for someone else
  • You have followed the wrong career path to please others or because it was high paying or prestigious
  • That you’re ‘selling’ large increments of your life and have nothing to show for it, except for a few shiny gadgets
  • To achieve the life you dream of you need to change your work
  • To achieve the life you dream of you need to adjust your mindset and how you approach making the money you need
  • To fulfill your purpose you need to become self employed or set up other income streams

  • I made similar discoveries to these myself after reading the book Authentic: How to Make a Living by Being Yourself.

    I had never been told by anyone that I could work for myself. It wasn’t until around this time that I reconnected with my dad, whom I hadn’t seen since I was very young, that I found out he was an entrepreneur and businessman. Just so happens that business and entrepreneurship is in my blood! For quite a few years I struggled with the idea of employment. It was only once I’d discovered that you could employ yourself did the barriers lower and I was able to start feeling successful.

    You may not feel like a natural entrepreneur but you may find that to create the income, freedom and purpose you desire; that you need to become self employed, start a business or create multiple streams of income.

    I’m not against employment if it’s a fair value exchange and it fits in with your wider goals in life. Unfortunately this is rarely the case for a lot of people. Many people feel that their work ‘steals’ their life and provides little in return. I hear a lot of people complaining about this, and yet they do nothing about it. They say that they can’t afford to make changes, that they need to pay the mortgage.

    There is always a way to make the change, if that’s what you want.

    This is where you can always go back to your reason why. When faced with a decision you can go back and consider;

    Is my reason why more important to me than my bigger-than-I-need-house?

    Is my reason why more important than driving a brand new car?

    Is my reason why worth more than tying myself to a sixty hour a week job?

    Use these questions and your lifestyle blueprint to establish whether your current work is moving you towards your goals or away from them.

    The choices are there and they are yours to make. Never take to pitying your own situation. Our country is one of the richest on the planet, we know that things aren’t perfect. Life isn’t perfect. It’s part of the fun to overcome the obstacles and find your way through to where you want to get to.

    The key is to stop blaming everyone else, it doesn’t get you anywhere and it hands someone else the power. Always assume responsibility for your situation whether you see it as your ‘fault’ or not. By assuming responsibility you give yourself the power to change it.

    If you need to cut back to make your dreams happen, then cut back. Let the ‘Joneses’ think what they like, because when you’re living the life of your dreams they’ll be the first in line to ask what your secret is.

    My experience

    Over the years we’ve made do with smaller houses and second hand cars. We’ve never bought each other Christmas presents and we didn’t spend a lot on alcohol fuelled nights out when we were young. We had our first home at 17 and a mortgage by 20. We had our daughter at 22 and then we upgraded to a two bedroom house. Finally last year we were able to get the house we really wanted. Ten years of sacrificing in other areas has meant that we’ve been able to get the house we wanted without having to compromise in our work. We haven’t done it all right, we had a few blow out periods along the way. If we hadn’t had these we’d be a bit further forward than we are now, but in general we’ve followed our lifestyle blueprint and we’ve been very pleased with the results. We know we’ll never need a house that’s larger or in a better area than what we have. This leaves us free to pursue our other goals. One of which as I’ve mentioned is financial freedom. Barring replacing cars and upkeep of our home we’ve collected all the ‘stuff’ we need. We know that our living expenses will be fairly static now. We have the time and freedom to pursue the things on our lifestyle blueprint, the things that really matter.

    Making the shift

    Making the shift starts with your mindset.

    1. You don’t have to sell your time for money
    2. You don’t have to be employed by someone else
    3. You don’t have to work overtime, unless you need more money
    4. You don’t have to have just one source of income. £1000 from a job is exactly the same as £200 from 5 income streams.
    5. You can have multiple ‘jobs’ or projects on the go at once

    Creating new income streams

    What skill, hobby or passion could you develop to create a new income stream?

    A second income stream gives you the experience of making money for yourself.

    A second income stream may mean that you can begin working less hours.

    A second income stream can help you pay off debt and begin working towards financial freedom.

    Becoming self employed doesn’t necessarily mean starting a big business or quitting your job. You can make the shift gradually. Start with a small side income and build up from there. Set yourself a daily goal.

    Stop doing one thing that is wasteful of your time and switch to focusing on your money making muse. My first switch was tv soaps for blogging.

    Make this week about exploring your options with fresh eyes. Perhaps you can’t give up your job right now, but I’m certain there are steps you could be taking towards that goal.

    Posted in Life | 2 Comments

    Chop Chop, Edinburgh

    Commercial Quay in the Leith part of Edinburgh is a nice place to head for dinner and drinks. On a summery night it can feel almost as if you’re abroad. Unfortunately the night we went for dinner at Chop Chop the weather was what one might describe as ‘baltic’. There was no wandering, we huddled together and were glad to get inside.

    Chop Chop serves authentic North-Eastern cuisine, a quick glance at the menu told me this wasn’t your average local Chinese restaurant. I pre-warned Erin that this would be unlike the Chinese food we usually have.

    The restaurant was airy and modern, at the back there was a large table of thirty or so chinese diners – a clear sign we would be dining authentically. The second sign came as Alex scanned the table for cutlery, not a glimmer of stainless steel in sight.

    We decided to order the banquet and try as many of the dishes as we could. We take our reviewing very seriously. The unlimited banquet is £20.25 per head and it allows you to re-order any of the dishes you want, as many times as you want.

    The food begins arriving as soon as it is prepared. First the prawn crackers, cucumber salad and pickle. These were quickly followed by steaming pork and coriander dumplings, and then chicken wings, crispy beef, aubergines, squid and ribs.

    Our favourites were the chicken wings, ribs and crispy northern beef. The only dish we weren’t keen on was the squid, but to be fair it’s not something we would usually order.

    For dessert we ordered apple coated in hot sugar. You dip the sugar in ice water to set it which creates a sort of toffee apple idea, it was very sweet – one between your whole table is plenty!

    We really enjoyed Chop Chop, if you only eat a couple of dishes from your local Chinese restaurant, you may not enjoy Chop Chop as much. If you eat widely at your usual Chinese and appreciate authenticity, Chop Chop is for you!

    Posted in Edinburgh, Restaurants, Reviews | 1 Comment

    One 4 All, And All 4 One

    When an email drops into your inbox with someone offering you a shopping spree at someone else’s expense, you don’t tend to turn it down.

    This is what happened last week when One 4 All asked if we’d like a personalised One 4 All gift card for a special Mother’s Day shopping trip. Erin loves a bit of shopping so we were really excited. The card arrived and it had our picture on it. I love this picture of us, it reflects a new age and stage in our relationship.


    The day of our trip came around and we noticed Alex was just kind of hanging around. Erin and I have done quite a bit together recently including treating ourselves at the shops. After a quick discussion, Erin and I decided Daddy needed a treat, he’s been working really hard at his new job recently. Even though this was supposed to be a Mother’s Day trip, sometimes it’s about treating the person that needs it most.

    The One 4 All gift card can be used in a range of shops including Top Shop, Burton, HMV, Argos and Toys R Us. We headed to Debenhams, we thought Daddy needed some new clothes!

    Red Herring

    We spent a good half an hour selecting shirts, polo-shirt and belts. Erin was grabbing things and making ‘helpful’ suggestions which ended in Alex trying on a James May style flowery shirt – not his thing AT ALL, but he was a good sport and he tried it on and we all had a laugh.

    He tried everything on and the group consensus was that the three shirts were winners.

    Oxford Check Shirt

    Shirt number one was a Wine Gingham one by Red Herring

    The second choice was also a casual shirt, a St George by Duffer one this time.

    FFP Shirt

    Finally we managed to convince him to get a smart shirt. We all liked this FFP White Mini Star Shirt. Perfect for going out for dinner #hinthint

    We also chose a nice leather belt.

    The One 4 All card was really easy to use and worked just like a debit card – they swiped it and I signed for the purchases, the balance remained on the card.

    After all those treats we only had a few pounds left so we headed to Waterstones and Erin chose a book for herself – Black Beauty.

    A fun family shopping day out.

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    The Square, Edinburgh

    We made our monthly trip to the Nespresso shop last week. I’ve moved over to de-caffeinated coffee recently – I’m still trying to figure out if there are ways that I can manage the crohns without drugs and surgery. Luckily for me, Nespresso de-caff tastes just as good so the transition has been fine.

    Before all that though we headed to The Square for a bit of lunch. It’s not somewhere we are familiar with, we were both really hungry so it was a case of stopping wherever was closest and The Square won.

    The Square

    The Square is your typical hip Edinburgh cafe serving sandwiches, soups and salads to the office masses. There was a small seating area so we plonked ourselves down and decided what we were having. I headed up to the counter and was told it was table service so I sat myself back down again. Seemed a bit pointless, but there we are.

    The Square

    I had a baked potato, Alex chose a sandwich and the soup.

    The food was great – baked potato tasted like it had actually been baked (as opposed to microwaved) and the sandwich was filled with layers upon layers of turkey and pastrami. It wasn’t cheap, but it was good quality. By the time we were ready to pay it had filled up significantly, the chance of table service was nil. Alex headed to the counter to pay, he was asked to join the queue and waited twenty minutes, it seemed a bit of a nonsense considering we’d have been more than happy to pay upfront. An annoying way to end what was a nice lunch.


    Posted in Edinburgh, Food, Restaurants, Reviews | Leave a comment

    Viva Mexico, Edinburgh

    Viva Mexico is located on Edinburgh’s Cockburn Street, it’s one of my favourite streets in Edinburgh along with Victoria Street, I’m always transported back a century when I’m up there. It’s a pretty handy dinner spot for us as we can hop off and on the train. There’s also a few bars right outside the train station for an end of night tipple – try Jake’s Place if you love beer or whisky, just don’t ask for a malibu. It’s very hipster, they do beer and whisky and that’s the way it is. If you don’t like either there’s a choice of two rums and one variety of Scottish cider.

    We had been planning to go to the much hyped Rascals, an American style burger joint but predictably the husband forgot to book it (they are fully booked for about three weeks!) so at the eleventh hour we settled on Mexican and booked Viva Mexico.


    I loved the authentic and cosy interior, it had that fun Mexican feel. My mood was further improved on spotting a board advertising daiquiris.

    Viva Mexico

    We took a seat downstairs and awaited our guests. We all ordered daiquiris in various flavours, unfortunately they were a bit limey for me.

    We had a selection of starters to share; quesadillas, a pork dish with crackling (it didn’t crack unfortunately), nachos and calamari.

    The starters were ok, the nachos were pretty good.


    The husband had the steak for his main, he ordered it rare and it came blue but he seemed happy with it in a caveman-esque way. I’ve been flirting with a low gluten diet over the last month so I chose pulled pork tacos which was served with mexican rice and refried beans. It was fine, perfectly edible.

    Viva Mexico

    After we left Viva Mexico I was chatting to the husband asking what he thought of it. He said ‘it was nice, it just wasn’t memorable’, and there it is – we’re spoilt in Edinburgh and Viva Mexico is nice, I’d say the interior is great but the food is just nice, there’s nothing that’s so good it would make me want to go back.

    Posted in Edinburgh, Restaurants, Reviews | 4 Comments

    Saving Money The Easy Way

    There are easy ways to save money and there are hard ways. Hard ways include giving up your little treats like your daily coffee, your expensive (but delicious) ice cream, or you monthly manicure. I’m not a fan of giving up my treats, they are the things that make life fun and enjoyable. I’d much prefer to find ways to save on things that don’t matter so much, and make the most of free things too.

    1. Making sure you’re getting the best deal on your utilities is a good place to start. Once you’ve got the best deal, you then want to make sure you’re not using any of it unnecessarily. If you’re out longer than expected you don’t want to be burning energy unnecessarily for example. Hive is a new technology that allows you to control your heating and hot water via an app, they fit a wireless thermostat which allows you to control everything remotely.

    2. Utilise free and low cost entertainment. We make a point of having a family cinema night on a wednesday as we get a free ticket with our mobile phone. We also make the most of the local museums and galleries.

    3. Stop wasting food. Good quality food is expensive and it’s a sin to waste it, both from a monetary and environmental point of view. We try to guage how much food we need and have gotten much better at making sure we use things in the order they will expire.

    4. Don’t shop aimlessly.
    I’m not a fan of shopping as a hobby anyway but I know that every time I do go to the shops I will end up spending money, so I only go when I need something. I don’t need a lot of ‘stuff’, it’s an easy way to save on unnecessary expenditure.

    5. Clear your debt. Making interest payments on anything is money down the drain. Find ways to save money above and then put it all towards clearing any credit cards.

    This post is brought to you by Hive

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    Marshmallow Topped Brownies

    Toasted marshmallow on chocolate brownie, what’s not to love? Well actually I’d just started a low gluten and sugar diet a few days before making these and they were too sweet for me. However the rest of the family loved them so don’t let that put you off.

    Marshmallow Brownie

    100g butter
    200g dark chocolate
    4 eggs
    250g sugar (I used half caster and half light brown, I always think brown sugar adds a bit of fudginess)
    100g plain flour
    25g glace cherries
    Handful of chopped hazelnuts
    1tsp baking powder
    30g cocoa powder
    Marshmallows for topping

    1. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.

    2. Beat the eggs with the sugar. Fold in the chocolate then the flour, cocoa, baking powder, cherries and hazelnuts.

    3. Line a baking tray with baking paper and pour the mixture in. Bake at 200 for around 20-25 minutes.

    4. Let the brownie cool before topping with marshmallows and grill until melted. Slice and eat!

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    February in Pictures

    We saw Strictly Come Dancing at the Hydro in Glasgow

    Erin joined Instagram and discovered the selfie

    We celebrated Erin’s 8th birthday at Tuk Tuk and then went to see Evita

    We spent one of our afternoon’s creating Smiggle art.

    We had a lovely Sunday dinner at Carfraemill

    I received this awesome card…

    ..and these lovely flowers..

    and I did this with my girl, on my birthday.

    I also bought a new laptop…

    ..and started a new diet to try and help with the crohns.

    It’s been a great month.

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