Morph at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

We did it! We found a festival event that we all enjoyed equally!

It’s hard finding a festival show that will please a 33 year old man, a 32 year old woman and a nine year old girl, but we managed to find two. A Morning with Morph was an interview with director and model maker Peter Lord, creator of Morph. During the morning we saw lots of clips that were new for Erin, but which took Alex and I back to our childhoods. Throughout Peter was making a Morph model as he talked, it was fascinating to watch. He made it look very easy and we were about to find out just how difficult it was…

We stayed at the Pleasance Courtyard for a bit of lunch, it was just ok, but still better value than the Foodies Festival which I was going to blog abut but was too disappointed by to bother. The kidzone was a welcome addition though, there were crafts on offer and a little corner shop selling sweets – great if you want to enjoy the festival atmosphere with kids.

Our afternoon show was a Morph Model Making Workshop with model makers from Aardman Animations (creators of Wallace and Gromit). Erin was so excited and sat right down the front. Alex and I sat at the back but as soon as they handed out the plasticine we were transported right back to our eighties childhoods and got really carried away trying to create the best Morph.

Alex accused me of ‘morphing’ (did you know that term was only coined after ‘Morph’ was created) into Monica from friends and becoming overly competitive, but we had a good laugh uploading our efforts to Facebook for some official and impartial judging.

A great interactive day that we all really enjoyed, perfect for kids of Erin’s age and big kids from the eighties or before!

If you’re a fan of Morph, check out the Morph YouTube channel.

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100 Things: New Orleans

After enjoying an evening of jazz on a steamboat we were ready to enjoy our one full day in New Orleans.

New Orleans Hurricane Katrina

Just around the corner from our hotel (a converted cloth factory) was this memorial, the only reminder that I could see of Hurricane Katrina.

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We walked back to the French Quarter in search of two local dishes, beignets and gumbo. I don’t seem to have any images of the beignets, those pillowy puffs of goodness obviously didn’t last long enough. The gumbo was pretty good too.

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We spent the afternoon shopping and exploring before grabbing a hot dog (how good does that hot dog look!) before going in search of some jazz.

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We headed to the very edge of the French Quarter. We were told by a friend to avoid the famous Bourbon Street and I’m glad we did, as you can see what we found was much more authentic.

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The Spotted Cat was barely still standing when we arrived. Held up by wooden scaffolding and lurching slightly it looked like somewhere that should be abandoned rather than somewhere supposedly playing some of the best jazz in New Orleans, but inside that’s exactly what we found.

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Back outside there was an arts and crafts fair in full swing…

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And smut while you wait…yes really!

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And the highlight of my evening, this ragtime street band singing Sugar Blues. One of those perfect moments in time.

New Orleans Street Band

Another of my 100 Things completed!

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Ten Things I Love About Working For Myself

I’ve been working for myself for over nine years now. Here are ten things that make it all worthwhile;

1. Clients

I love working with my clients and helping them succeed. Working for myself I have direct contact with my clients daily, something I didn’t have much of way back when I worked as an admin assistant.

2. Flexibility

I love that to a certain extent I can work when the mood takes me. I find the quality of work I produce when I’m in the mood is far better.

3. Health

I have crohns disease and being in control of my own schedule is really important. I truly believe it has changed the course of my illness – I’ve never had to take a day off sick for as long as I can remember!

4. Creativity

There’s a lot more scope for being creative when you work for yourself. If you come up with an idea you think is good you can act upon it, you don’t have to ask someone else’s permission and you aren’t stifled by hierarchy.

5. Work/Life Balance

I have a far better work life balance since I started working for myself. Time for family, time to study, and time for hobbies and travel. Life’s still busy but not all my time is taken up with work.

6. Independence

I enjoy being self-reliant, it’s not for everyone but I seem to thrive on it.

7. Office Politics

What can I say? I hated the office politics and I don’t miss it one bit!

8. No Boss

I’m not great at being told what to do, I’d rather take the risks and work for myself.

9. Less Work-Related Expenses

I didn’t realise how much money I wasted at work until I left. Wedding collections, baby showers, leaving presents, social committees subs, engagements, new houses, charity collections, dress down days, the collections were endless!

All that plus expensive coffees, lunches, business dress, keeping up appearances and nights out, it really adds up.

10. Fulfilment

I just can’t get excited about a monthly pay cheque in the same way as I can about creating my own multiple streams of income.

I’m not a cog in the wheel anymore, I’m the wheel. It doesn’t suit everybody but it certainly suits me!

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Home Improvements for 2015/16

We’ve been living in our house coming up for three years. As a new build there was nothing for us to do and that suited us perfectly. After three years of medium to heavy abuse, some bits are beginning to look a bit tired and in need of attention.

We’ve already decided that travel/holidays is going to take precedent for us over the next few years, but if there’s any money left in the pot then we will work through our home improvements list.

Hall and Landing

So not exactly being the best interior designers or decorators, we decided when we moved in to try painting the stairs as we have wood effect floors throughout our house. Unfortunately we didn’t realise that you had to do a few coats and pop some kind of protective layer on top that. Now, if I’d been working in the beauty industry when I did it, I would have known because it’s the same with nails! Anyway, after three years of stomping, it’s looking shabby without even a hint of chic. It’s time to sort it out. Tartan Carpet I love this carpet by ANTA, but I don’t think I’m in my forever house yet so at over a grand it’s wise I hold off investing in this. I think we will end up with something fairly plain and functional and perhaps I will do some kind of Tweed/Tartan feature on the wall instead.

Livingroom

After three years you’d have thought I would have everything just the way I want it, after all I only had to fill a magnolia space, but no. I have managed to get the solid oak matching (read: grown up) furniture I wanted including my pride and joy – a Welsh dresser. However, there are spaces on the walls where I need to put stuff up, paintings unfinished, and a corner sofa that has seen better days. Apart from the expense of a new suite, the rest is just a case of finding the time to finish it off.

Kitchen

A lick of paint is all that is needed in the kitchen to freshen it up. When we bought our house we had the opportunity to choose our kitchen and I’m really glad I chose a fairly boring shaker style kitchen as it is ageing really well.

Bedrooms

The bedrooms just require a few soft furnishings to finish them off.

Office

I keep swithering on my office, one minute I’m leaning towards a classic look with heavy oak furniture, and then I go and visit Amsterdam and a modern minimalist style really appeals to me. I may need to leave this until last to see which style wins out.

Garden
Garden

The garden *sighs*. It was the bane of my life in our last house, and while the one we have now is fine, it could be so much better. My plan? Save up a few thousand and employ the services of a good local gardener/landscaper and ask him to create me something with a bit of decking that’s easy to maintain and a pleasure to sit in.

So that’s the plan, although with a trip to Florida in the planning stages I’m guessing we will need to take it slowly.

For more inspiration visit Homify

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Taking A Mini Sabbatical

The school summer holidays, along with the time in between Christmas and New Year has always been one of those periods where there is time to recharge my batteries and refocus on my priorities. I’ve always been the type to reflect and make plans, it ensures I stay on the right path. Like a business, it’s important to keep checking that you’re on the right path and whether you need to make adjustments.

We have quite a bit coming up in August. As I write this I’m on a plane to Amsterdam for a few nights with the family. Next week we will finally be attending the Foodies Festival in Edinburgh, we’ve been meaning to get around to this for the last three years! The following weekend we are off on our annual family camping trip with my mum and brother. At the end of the month we are splashing out on an overnight stay to Gleneagles where we will be dining at Andrew Fairlie’s two Michelin star restaurant, it’s on my 100 Things list so I’m pretty excited about it. I also have a day trip to London and dinner at The Ivy and we will also try and enjoy some of the Fringe Festival too.

After what feels like a period almost solely made up of work, a month off is a bit of indulgence that I think is much needed and deserved. I love my work though so I won’t be off completely, my work should fit easily around everything I have planned and will hopefully benefit. I always seem to have my best ideas when I’m away.

I’ve read quite a bit in the past about replacing retirement with mini sabbaticals and extended periods of time where you can just be creative and see where that takes you. One of my goals over the next year is to build up a larger pot of money to allow for months like this, one where taking time out just feels like the right thing to do.

I’ve never been the type to dream about retirement, the idea doesn’t appeal to me at all, mini sabbaticals and extended holidays are far more appealing.

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Money, Freedom and Multiple Streams of Income

I wrote about the idea of passive income streams in Making Money Online, and I spent a lot of time learning about how other people did it during the first couple of years of being self employed. One of the main things I learned from books like Your Money or Your Life and blogs like The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly was that money can give you freedom, but it can just as easily trap you if you aren’t careful.

Over the years I have created many income streams, some very passive, some not passive at all. What I’ve learned is that not all income streams are created equal.

Some income streams require very little of your life energy, while others require a lot.

Furthermore those that require a lot can be split into those that simply take your life energy and give you nothing in return but money, and those that require a lot of life energy but repay you with skills and experience and fulfillment beyond money.

Working at a job you hate can be characterised as an income stream that takes your life energy and gives you nothing in return but money. It’s the worst kind of income stream in my opinion and should be avoided unless your basic needs are not being met.

Work that requires a lot of life energy but gives you skills, experience and fulfillment is worth it, but perhaps only in short bursts. These are income streams where you either get in and get out, or you find a way to automate or outsource some of the work so you can still do the parts you enjoy. These income streams are good but can be very tiring as it usually involves being in your stretch zone for a significant period.

Passive incomes are ones where you no longer sell your time for money directly. The income continues to flow, even if you aren’t working on it the whole time. Examples are book royalties, advertising income from a blog, or dividends from an investment.

My goal has always been to create financial freedom, that is to be able to pursue whatever I want with little thought for the money. I haven’t achieved that yet, but I have created a bit of breathing room to allow decisions to be made that aren’t solely money focused. The result has been an increase in earnings in every year since I went self employed. I do believe that if you follow your passion that the money will follow that.

Over the next while I am going to return to some of the principles that encouraged me down the self employed path in the first place. I am going to spend a larger proportion of my time working on the passive income streams. I have written a plan today which I will be implementing, bringing together all the skills and experience I have gathered over the last ten years and turning it into a diversified income made up of a blend of passive and non-passive streams.

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Back to Blog: Running a Lifestyle Business

I haven’t blogged for a while, and no, this isn’t one of those blog posts where I apologise and presume that anyone has been sitting waiting for updates. I’ve been off working on a few big projects, and I am the type that gets sucked in to something when I discover an interest, a passion, or when I feel I’m doing something of value. The last year or so has been one of those periods. I have been working on my marketing business and doing three small business launches. It has been a great experience, taking what I did with ACE Inspire, the training business I co-run and applying this in person, working with businesses and doing all the steps involved in the marketing strategy I developed. The launches have been successful and I am proud of what I have contributed and loved every minute of it.

Unfortunately though, it hasn’t left much time for blogging, or anything much at all really… I have lost sight a little bit of why I started on this journey nine years ago and it’s time to reflect for a bit.

Just after Erin was born I decided I didn’t want to spend my life doing work I hated. I wanted freedom and a business that would give me the lifestyle I desired. I jumped on the ‘make money online‘ band wagon and bought in to the idea that if I could make £1 online, I could make £10. And if I could make £10, then I could make £100. And I did. Eventually I had replaced my employed income and I left. I created blogs and podcasts, I wrote books and training courses. I taught myself about marketing and even went to Uni for a while. I learned that the greatest skill in life was to have the ability to turn your skills into something you could make money from, that money would sustain your lifestyle so you could do more of what you loved. It was never about accumulating lots of money and being ‘rich’, it was about freedom and doing what I loved.

One of my main projects has come to an end now and I have time to reflect. Being self employed is not a replacement for a job, it’s a lifestyle choice.

It’s a lifestyle that makes you feel alive though. This morning, I woke up buzzing with ideas and I can’t wait to put these into action now as well as continuing to look after my other clients of course.

I came across this video on Facebook (isn’t it funny how things like this are thrown in your path at the strangest times).

Forget the money. Money is never the most important thing. Do what you are passionate about. Don’t make life all wretch and no vomit…

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Is Your Relationship Financially Sorted?

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I’m at that age when almost all of my friends are married, have kids, and all have at least one mortgage!

With weddings, kids, houses and cars to maintain it can be a period full of responsibility and pressure! Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change my family for the world but sometimes being an adult can be pretty overwhelming, don’t you think?

With this in mind, it’s important that you and your partner are on the same page financially, and being honest with one another and adopting good spending habits early on in your relationship will only put you on the right track to a blissful marriage, and of course, financial future.

This said, plucking up the courage to be open and honest about your financial situation can often be pretty daunting. After all, many of us have financial pasts that we are not proud of…

When I reached that natural stage in my relationship when it was time to start thinking about making important joint decisions financially, I found advice like this to be extremely helpful. Known as the guru of all things money related, Miss MoneyPenny has some really good, simple tips to help you get your relationship sorted financially.

Are you on the same page?

You may be compatible when it comes to sharing the same taste in music, life’s most important morals, and even the amount of children you would like to have. If you are not on the same page when it comes to money though, this can lead to all sorts of tensions, arguments, and ultimately, even breakups.

So, before making big financial decisions, it’s important to understand your partner’s attitude to money, and vice versa. Are they a scrimper or a spender? Knowing this simple information will help you to iron out any potential problems, and resolve them before they arise. Check out this video from Mrs Moneypenny for more on this.

Saving for a mortgage

When the time arrives to start thinking about applying for a mortgage with your partner, it can be extremely exciting and daunting. After all, it’s probably one of the biggest financial commitments you will make in your lifetime.

When it comes to saving for a mortgage, it’s important that you’re both on the same wavelength – how much can you afford to save each month? Where can you cut back in other areas in order to free up more money for saving?

Joint bank accounts?

Things can start to move quickly in any relationship. Before you know it, you’re moving in together, starting to think about marriage and starting a family, every part of your life becomes a shared venture.

When this happens, many of us feel obliged to open a joint bank account, and although this is the right decision for many couples, it’s not compulsory and you shouldn’t feel pressured into opening a joint account if you don’t need to. Of course, if you are renting or buying a property together it can often seem like the most convenient away to stay on top of your finances, but it’s not for everyone.

It’s also worthwhile remembering that if you open a joint bank account, you create a financial link between you and your partner, this means that lenders may take into account your partner’s credit report, when assessing a credit application. This is why it is important that you are both fully aware of each other’s financial past, so that there is no nasty surprise when it comes to applying for credit.

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Sponsored Post: World Baking Day

Today is the day, it’sWorld Baking Day! We have been busy in the kitchen cooking up the World’s Happiest Cake with a recipe courtesy of Stork.

Our cake is a mango, coconut and lime flavoured number – ingredients we all love. This is what we were aiming for…

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We aren’t master bakers but we do enjoy it. As the husband says, you get a lot out of it for the little effort you have to put in and home baking always tastes better than shop bought, no matter how much you spend. Baking has also been found to help decrease stress through the focus and reflection, also the sense of accomplishment and opportunity to share your bake with others.

This is our finished effort here, it has certainly brought us happiness today – we can’t wait to tuck in now! We are taking it with us to share with good friends.

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You can share your cakes on Twitter with @WorldBakingDay and on Instagram here.

Find out more about Stork here.

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The Huxley, Edinburgh

A pub that promises to be as inviting for kids as it is to adults? With a promise like that we decided we had to check the The Huxley out. image1

The Huxley’s menu has an American feel offering burgers and hot dogs as well as a solid breakfast menu featuring my own favourite, Eggs Benedict. I will be back to see how it compares to other versions around the city.

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The children’s menu (pictured) features mini versions of the hot dog and Huxley burger. For £7 your little one can also enjoy a drink and dessert.
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While we chose from the menu Erin busied herself with the activity pack.

We both fancied the pork burger complete with scratchings, but we decided we should try a couple of different dishes so Alex opted for the chilli dog. Erin ordered her favourite, hot dog!

The chilli dog was topped with plenty of chilli and cheese and was served with handcut fries, it seemed to go down very well.

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My burger was good, but unfortunately the salted fries, salty scratchings and salty pork left me reaching for my (very tasty) smoothie, and not in a good way. I think nowadays it’s best to leave the salting to diners. It was a shame as the ingredients were really good quality.

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Erin enjoyed her hot dog and it was generous enough for a kid’s meal. The real treat was the ice cream though, vanilla and peanut butter & jam flavours – I immediately regretted not ordering a dessert!

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Overall we really liked the vibe at The Huxley. It felt grown up but still really inviting for kids of Erin’s age (9). We’ll definitely be back and I’ll make sure to ask for my food unsalted next time.

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Sponsored Post: World Baking Day May 17th

It’s World Baking Day on Sunday 17th May and I’ve been challenged by Stork to bake myself happy by making something for a loved one.

Erica & Erin

It didn’t take me long to decide who I would bake for. In fact, I’m going to bake WITH them. Erin and I love cooking together and recently I’ve been really busy with work. Like most working mums I have the mummy guilt when I’m working and can’t spend much time with her, so this is the perfect opportunity for us to get in the kitchen and have some girly time.

We are going to bake what has been dubbed the World’s Happiest Cake – a Coconut, Mango and Lime number.

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The World’s Happiest Cake was created by Stork with a focus on the delicious combination and mood-elevating qualities of the key ingredients.

This is here is what we are aiming for…let the baking commence.

Sponsored by Stork

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First Taste Of New Orleans

After a day touring Alabama we headed south towards New Orleans through some amazing scenery.

New Orleans

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We pit stopped at Arby’s which were as frequent as McDonald’s on our trip, the food was much tastier though.

Arby's

A couple more hours and we were making our way through the narrow streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans. My first impression was that it was completely different to anywhere I’d been in the USA before. What I discovered by the end of our too short stay, was that New Orleans is unlike anywhere I’ve been anywhere, and there’s something special about it.

We stayed in a converted cloth factory which was full of character, I don’t seem to have any photos but it was very authentic.

Jazz Cruise
We’d booked a jazz cruise on a traditional steamboat. The dinner was a bit of a disaster but the music, atmosphere and views more than made up for it.

Cornet

I entered a competition to win this fab cornet, alas no luck this time, probably for the best as there’s no way I could have done it justice. Would have loved to have had a play, I was inspired though and bought my own cornet as soon as I got home.

New Orleans

A great first night in New Orleans.

New Orleans Steamboat Cruise

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Alabama

After a restful night in our first hotel…

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..Mum made her peace with the local police (after ‘the incident‘)

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We boarded our coach and made our way to Alabama. I wasn’t sure what to expect really, this was my first visit to the Deep South, previous trips to America have been to Boston, New York and Florida which as I found out was completely different.

Alabama

The centre of Alabama was more modern than I was expecting, it did feel strangely deserted though.

Alabama

The white government buildings were beautiful though and the state has a lot of history.

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We were going to try and find a sign in each state, but this is as far as we got!

During our tour we saw the church where Martin Luther King preached before he became famous.

Martin Luther King

A short drive away we visited the bus stop where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for boarding white passengers.

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I wasn’t expecting to see this so it was a real surprise and something I’m really glad to have seen.

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We then made our way further south to New Orleans.

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