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Help From The Social Fund

Social Fund

I’ll be the first to admit that, recently, times have been pretty tough for me and Mark, money-wise. Mark has been trying to deny that we no longer have as much as we used to before the kids were born, back in our ‘wild-child’ partying days, without a care in the world and the reality is, not only did i have to give up my all-inclusive beach and spa holiday for a weekend in a tent (which was extremely fun, don’t get me wrong) we’re also struggling to pull anything together in terms of savings. You probably all know how it is, kids come along, that are expensive, very expensive, combining that with a house that needs paying for, bills that need sorting, a car that breaks down every five minutes, inflation and all the rest of it, things can get a bit, well, tight to say the least. To make matters worse, I was made redundant from my office job a few weeks back and with a measly pay out, it seems I had no choice but to be put on Job Seeker’s Allowance. As you can imagine, I am bringing significantly less into the family home as I once was and it’s beginning to take its toll.

After a few mini, weekly, breakdowns and a couple of ‘what are we going to do’s’ and one teeny argument with Mark over leaving the bathroom light on all day (we made up soon after, but i’ll spare you the details) we decided that enough was enough and we were going to have to get some help before we all starved to death. Just joking, but, we were pretty worried.

Speaking to one of the girlies, I mentioned how we were struggling for money more than we ever had due to me losing my job. She agreed that things just seemed to be getting more and more expensive these days and asides from changing her shop from Sainsbury’s to Aldi she was finding it impossible to see how else she could scrimp and save some money together. I felt relieved that i wasn’t the only one in such a position, to say the least. Anyway, she proceeded to tell me about the Social Fund. Now forgive me for being ignorant but I didn’t have the foggiest what this was. But what she told me made everything seem that little bit brighter and more manageable.

The Social Fund is basically a loan that is given to you in emergency situations and does need to be paid back, but is interest free. This just makes it that little bit easier to manage when money is really stretched. You do have to have been receiving some sort of benefit eg. income support or Job Seeker’s Allowance for at least 26 weeks before you qualify for a crisis loan, but it is comforting to know that if i continue to be out of work, there is help at hand. Thee are restrictions as to what the loan can be used for but I guess this is just to ensure that the money is being spent responsibly and benefits the whole family. The loan can be used towards things like rent or hostel charges, travel expenses and essential household items.

Whilst I may not qualify for the social fund at the moment, I hope this piece informs all of you other lovely ladies (or gentleman) out there of what you are entitled to if you are struggling at the moment. The loan can also be used to cover an immediate expense, so if you have something costly that needs paying immediately, the loan can sure take an almighty weight off your mind!

The World of the Social Fund

Doing my research on Mark’s laptop, I read some interesting social fund related things (in between cooking for the kids, bath time, bargaining with them for a 7.30 bed time, you know how it is). When I got a moment to myself, I discovered that there is no set amount given for the crisis loan and it is decided based on your circumstances. A reassuring factor is that is does not affect any other benefits you are claiming and as i said before, this beauty is interest free. If you (like me) aren’t the best at budgeting and managing money, you are signed up with a Government adviser that will help you draft up a repayment plan, to make sure you are staying on track.

Another useful form of the Social Fund is cold-weather payments. Whilst it might be August at the moment, it’s surprising how quickly it can get cold once those clocks go back (I’m in full onesie and slipper mode come mid-September!). We all know how difficult it is to keep up with heating payments, but we also all know how nice it is to be able to have it on in the evenings. The amount of times Mark has shouted at me to ‘just put another jumper on’ is enough to make me want to cry! The Cold Weather Payment helps towards heating costs when the weather drops below a certain temperature.

To claim the Social Fund, the best thing to do is to pop into a job centre plus, or easier still, simply ring the contact number! I am sure your mind will be put at rest in minutes, and that light at the end of the tunnel will re-appear!

Anyway lovelies, I guess I just wanted to get some issues off my chest, and i hope a lot of you yummy mummies out there can relate. There’s no shame in being a little strapped for cash in this day and age, and where there is help available, have no shame in grabbing it with both hands!

Happy bargain hunting!

J

xx

 

The Spooky Curse of Jin’s Cornish Holiday

I don’t recall angering any old gypsy fortune-teller women. I’m sure I haven’t crossed the path of any hags, or dealt with many devils. I’m sure I never wished for a holiday to Cornwall on a dried monkey’s paw, which subsequently curled one of its gnarled old fingers into the palm and bestowed a twisted, cursed version of what  I asked for. I definitely didn’t ask for travel help from any mournful, withered mermaids, who agreed to assist my voyage in exchange for a terrible price.

However, with all that in mind, I can’t really understand how my trip down south went so catastrophically wrong.

It was Mark’s father’s birthday last week, and the old sod lives at Land’s End of all places (although Mark himself is a good solid Lancashire Lad) so we were in for a long trip, no matter what happened… But I had to do this one alone, since I have less holiday than him with work, so he went down with the kids three days before me, arriving at the same time as his brother, his uncle and aunt and all their kids.

So bad enough already that I’m still stuck in work while he’s sipping sangria in the Cornish sun, but I’m flying, and the app won’t let me print my boarding pass til the day before the flight, so I have to content myself with packing and arranging everything well in advance, besides the passes (you know how I love organising everything! I’m a proper organised mumma, me).

Two nights before the flight, I turn the house upside looking for my passport, but can’t find it anywhere, even using extremely methodical, room-by-room clearing tactics that would make a Navy SEAL search team weep with jealousy. It’s getting late at night now, and the passport has ceased to exist, or slipped through the creases in the fabric of reality to some other plane where the Anti-Jin has just bemusedly found it. On the cusp of a rage, I decide to have a cup of tea and a sit-down to calm myself down before continuing, when Mark call from Cornwall to tell me he’s remembered where he put them!

He put them in A Sensible Place, So They Wouldn’t Get Lost.

The day before the flight, I could finally print my boarding pass, but – oh wait, no I couldn’t – the office printer was broken! Inexplicably, irreparably and utterly busted, the office printer was a useless shell, smouldering quietly, and there was a very real possibility I wouldn’t be able to get those passes.

I racked my brain. Who would have a printer? Not the girlies – we’re all office mommas, so we don’t have printers in the house, and without logging on to my email, then my FlyBe account, there’s no way to access the passes, so I couldn’t send them over. Then, in a stroke of typical Jin brilliance, I remembered – Liverpool Central Library.

Calling ahead of time, I confirmed that they had available printers for public use, and immediately after work I belted into town to sort my printing. Boarding passes in hand, I tried to fathom the horror that the next day would hold, if my bad luck streak carried on.

The Day Of The Flight

The day of the flight was well planned out, in my head. First, I would wake up, have a classic egg breakfast, have a shower and get dressed, do a final clean of the house, put the bins out, water the plants and leave the house.

Getting to the train station, I would get on the train to Earlestown, which runs every hour, and get a transfer there to Manchester Airport, where I would get my flight.

At that point, the hub-sub-la-bub-bub would pick me up from Newquay Airport and drive me, fast as anything, to dinner with his family, as that was the night we were having the official birthday dinner.

All good so far, right? Wrong.

So continues the Spooky Curse Of Jin The Spooky Cursed Lady.

First, my train arrived almost at Earlestown, only to stop for ten minutes on the tracks, until I missed my connection, then pull in. So first, I was trapped in Earlestown for an hour! I’m as partial to the poors as the next person, but this place was rough. Within ten seconds of leaving the train station a child of no more than five chased me down the street, yelling, only to give me the middle finger when I turned around and just stare at me!

As a mother, I can’t believe the sort of parent it would take to allow a child to do such a thing. The thought of Tilly pursuing a random stranger down the street simply to make vile gestures and stare makes my blood boil. However, vitriolic little children aside, I survived, and made my connection train an hour later with no further harassment.

I arrived in the airport several hours early, to allow for just such shenanigans, and got myself a cup of coffee. Luckily for me, this is where I made a friend, as the coffee shop was busy and there was nowhere to sit, so I offered my seat to a lovely Northern Irish woman named Saoirse (she taught me how to spell it).

While we were chatting, my flight was delayed in little increments, slowly ratcheting up in the background, until it was 35 minutes delayed. Now we’re cutting it really, really fine for making that dinner reservation.

However, when I got off the flight (practically running), my Mark was there with the car ready, and we jumped in and went!

Immediately after leaving the airport, a juddering sound began to come from the engine, making him nervously say that he had never heard a sound like that coming from a car. He immediately said he thought it was fatal, but  I didn’t want to believe him – we made bets on whether we’d make it to the house to collect another car, or whether we’d get all the way to the restaurant. The power of positive thoughts!

I thought positive things and occasionally complimented the engine for being a tough little soldier while holding onto my llama-hair prayer bracelet tight, and I sincerely believe that’s why it lasted as long as it did.

We still wound up stranded on a green verge between the slip-road and the A30, since the car began to lurch as if it was going to stall and then an incredible boom sent bits of metal and oil spraying all over the motorway, forcing us to beach the car and get out. The recovery driver said it would be two hours to wait, and that was the soonest he could get out.

Everyone else had already begun to drink at the restaurant, so there was no rescue coming from there, and I’ll admit, when I sat down on the grass I was being a huffy little madam.

Tilly would have been so proud.

At least the children were at the restaurant with Mark’s brother Will and their cousins, so I didn’t have to worry about them, but the hubble-bubble-toil-and-trouble and I were starving, so while he waited by the car I walked up the slip-road until I found a Premier Inn that could do us a bottle of coke and a little paper bag of chips. They were great, and sitting there eating chips as the sun went down on our own little green island in the middle of the road? Well, it wasn’t all that bad after all.

We made it to the restaurant after the kitchen had closed, but Will had – amazingly – managed to arrange a cheese board for us, so we had chips and cheese for dinner.

We told the story to shocked faces, and everyone was amazed at my terrible luck! Mark’s dad laughed the longest, and it got me thinking, he never did like me. What if he was the one that made my journey so terrible?

I’ll have to do some digging and see what I can find out about him.

Hope you all have a magical week!

J

xx

Still Running!

It might not seem like much to you, but I’m still running!

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s something that I always hated and never really managed to stick at, even though it’s got lots of health benefits.

I’ll list some of them here, since I’m hoping to start experiencing them soon!

It’s great cardio

Running is basically the thing everyone thinks of when they think “cardio”. It’s something not many people look forward to, and is usually looked at as sort of a chore – I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past! However, cardio is the foundation of great health and fitness.

If you’ve got good cardio, your risk of heart disease and respiratory problems plummets, and you tackle life much more easily – more energy, less trouble getting around, and less hassle keeping up with two crazy little kids? Sign me up!

It makes you skinnier

Okay, Jin full disclosure time: this is the reason I started running, more than the heart-disease stuff or the runner’s high or any of that. I wanted to get thinner, I hate strict dieting and I don’t have it in me to purge, so here we are.

Running burns a phenomenal amount of calories, especially at long distances, but regular running also burns incrersed calories after you stop – it’s called “afterburn”. If you’re running just shy of marathon pace but faster than an easy jog, you’ll experience it.

It makes you happier

Exercise releases endorphins, and runnign is famous for giving out lots of them. The “runner’s high” as it is so called is a feeling of pure contentment and happiness that kicks in during or after a run, and I’m delighted to report it hit me for the first time yesterday!

It’s good for your joints

Contrary to what you’ve probably read, running is great for the joints in your legs – and elsewhere, too! Admittedly, going to hard too fast can lead to injury, and a lot of runners with improper technique wind up with tendon injuries and long-term issues. However, if you nail your technique, train gently on an upward trajectory, and take care of yourself, you’ll find the strength of your tendons and joints rising steadily!

Keeps you sharp as you age

Now this is one I’d rather not admit to needing! Still, it’s important to keep all our marbles together as we age, especially when I do seem to be getting more scatterbrained as I get older! Whether it’s forgetting where I put my keys, not sleeping right, or seeing spiders everywhere out of the corner of my eye, it’s enough to make me realise I have to take care of myself, and it’s a relief to know I’m doing something to keep my mind sharp as I age.

According to a study by the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, fitter older people had much more success fighting the effects of age-related mental decline compared to their unfit peers – well watch out, retirement home, because that’s gonna be me!

Going for a Run

Running’s one of those things that you either get or you don’t, like marmite or astral projection.

And I, for the vast majority of my life, have not been one of those people who “gets” it. I don’t like running at all – it’s hot, it’s uncomfortable, my legs and lungs both scream for the entire duration, and I wind up a sweaty, gasping mess.

So it was with some trepidation that I decided to go for a run this week – but not the usual just-run-fast-until-dead kind. This time, I decided on something more chlled, more of a stepping-stone to bigger things. I decided to do a Couch to 5K run.

For anyone not familiar with it, the Couch to 5K programme is designed to get lazy potatoes like me off the sofa and running, one gradual increase after another, over a long period. Hopefully, that way, you avoid going too hard too soon and burning out. Hopefully.

So with that in mind, I laced up my running shoes, put in my headphones, put on my running charms, and got going in the sun. And you know what?

It was great.

I was exhausted afterwards, but I kept moving for half an hour and got plenty of running done. The app told me when to run and when to walk, and I spent more time recharging between my runs than I spent running. When it was over, I was tired, yeah, but I’d done it. The next one has almost as much relaxed walking and just a little more running.

Let’s see where this takes us.

J

xx

Picking up the Violin Again

So I finally got around to sorting another one of my New Year’s Resolutions… Getting back to playing the violin!

Since Tilly was born I haven’t played much, but believe it or not I was quite the talent when I was younger! I started when I was only 8 (so I’ve been playing for a long, looooong time) but like I said before, life kind of just gets everywhere when you’ve got a sprout or two running around, and it’s impossible to get something like a decent practice in, let alone a routine!

So even though Tilly’s off school today (Easter holiday still stretching on, the lucky duck), I got Joe fed, sat them in front of the TV and got the case down from the wardrobe. It was so dusty!

The violin wasn’t, though. It was a little out of tune, and cold, but it felt so right picking it up, like I’d never put it down. Once it was tuned, I tightened the bow up again, rosined the horsehair and started to play.

It was rusty, sure. I’m not as fast or as clean on the notes as I used to be. But it felt so freeing, like long tendrils of sound were slowly unfurling and coiling around everything in the house. It was keening, scratched – it could definitely use some practice. But it all fit, just like it used to.

I feel so real. I’m definitely going to be practicing more tomorrow!

I Lost My Driver’s Licence!

I was buying a bottle of wine as a gift for a friend last night and was actually a little flattered when the girl on the check-out asked to see my I.D (Asda seem to think my anti-ageing cream is doing the trick) but when I looked for my driver’s licence I got a surprise nobody wants to see – it wasn’t in there!

Retracing my steps

First things first, I had to retrace my steps. Luckily the girl on the check-out accepted my library card as ID so I got to keep the present! I looked all through the aisles I had been in, and thought I saw it slithering away under some shelves a few times, but there was no sign of it whenever I looked.

Calling the DVLA

I had a quick look online for the DVLA phone number and called them up this morning. It took me a little while, but in the end I managed to get through to a real person, a lovely lady called Jane, and she got me set up for a replacement. I’ll be sending off a copy of my certificate and a photo, and I’ll get the new licence soon! Until then, I’ll have to dial back the wine purchases a little or bring my passport out!

Still no idea what happened to my original licence. I found a tiny piece of pink plastic outside earlier, but that could have been from anything. Tilly’s saying she hasn’t seen it, so who knows?

Keeping Up New Year’s Resolutions – Against All The Odds!

This is around that time of year when most New Year’s Resolutions start to crumble for most people – and usually, I’m right there with them falling back into my old habits – but not this year!

I’m determined not to fall in the same old traps that everyone always does this time of year, so this morning after my Xanax I made myself a veggie-rich omelette to keep me going through the day, and then went out for a walk!

It’s still pretty chilly here, but the woods aren’t too far and they’re gorgeous, especially when it’s frosty, so I could really settle my mind and enjoy the trail for a few hours. Afterwards, I felt fantastic, but I was dying to get back in for a cup of tea, so after a quick drive home, I stuck the kettle on, sat down and made a to-do list for keeping my resolutions.

I’ve decided not to join a gym (although I was a really keen lifter as a younger woman, my powerlift and deadlift days are behind me!) since I think some nice walks and some good food will do me just as well. I don’t need to be able to crush muscleheads like Dwayne Johnson or Tommy Wiseau, I just need to be fit enough to take my kids on adventures through the park and trim enough to feel nice when I’m with my husband!

Not that much to ask for. I think I’ll go for another walk into the deeper parts of the woods tomorrow.

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year!

I hope all you lovely people had a great New Year’s Eve (I know I did!) and a lovely Christmas on top of that.

However it’s back to business now, and time for some New Year’s Resolutions! Last year I promised myself I would stop smoking, lose some weight and start reading with Tilly every night. And, in a shocking twist, I managed to accomplish every one of them! Usually New Year’s Resolutions are much harder to stick to, so I’m very proud to have made it!

Ok, so I have a bit more weight to lose, but that’s a continuing resolution into 2016. As for the others, I’m thinking:

Official Resolutions

  • Take more walks with the family in nature/at the park
  • Start playing the violin again
  • Try to have one date night a week with Mark

Unofficial Resolutions

  • Eat more greens
  • Put some money away for Christmas throughout the year
  • Convince Mark that the scratching in the ceiling is real

What about you? Have you all set some New Year’s Resolutions to stick to this year? Let me know in the comments!

J x

Surprise Anniversary Trip to Rome!

I can’t believe what a whirlwind that was!

So with our anniversary quickly coming up, the hubby and I had planned to go away to the Wirral for a few days – but little did I know that’s not what he had planned at all!

We left the kids with my sister Florence, and got in the car to start the drive, but we wound up on – get this – the motorway to London!

I asked what was up and just got told that we weren’t going to the Wirral after all, we were going to Rome!

Needless to say, I was just gobsmacked.

And it was gorgeous!

Without me finding out, my amazing hubster had booked a loft apartment with Air BnB in the middle of Rome for us to stay in, close enough that we could go see the sights during the day and easily take in the best restaurants at night. He even made sure the internet connection would be great so I could Skype the kids before bed to kiss them goodnight and make sure they’d brushed their teeth, eaten their vegetables and didn’t have nits.

We went to a beautiful restaurant called Cacio E Pepe on the first night, and – although I hate saying that things are “authentic” – it just felt real, like we were seeing what pure Italian culture looked like. The waiters spoke very little English, and we were surrounded by hungry Italian families with snide sideways glances at each other’s food, which was amazing.

There was no menu, just “the specials”, and the lack of choice really put me at ease and let me enjoy whatever they brought out – it was like everything was a lovely surprise!

Then we went to see the Colosseum and the Forums, which were just astounding, annd Vatican City, which had a beautiful, whispery echo everywhere through it and so many beautiful pieces of old art that I actually reached saturation point and couldn’t appreciate them all after a while!

It’s really a wonderful city, and even more wonderful as a surprise for your anniversary!

Needless to say we’ll be back soon!

J xx

Dress woes with Littlewoods!

After seeing the Littlewoods summer advert (late, I know! I don’t get onto youtube as much as I’d like and Tilly and Joe always have the TV to themselves!) I just had to have the dress Myleene is wearing at the start. It’s up there in the photo, and I just managed to grab one!

When it arrived, I tried it on straight away, and it was too small – though most of my old dresses seem to be shrinking lately. I checked the label and I’d just been sent the wrong size, thankfully. Still a yummy mummy!

I gave Littlewoods a call and they were lovely about it. The summer range had just stopped, but they said they’d pull a few strings and send me the right size, so that was a relief!

I sent my one back and I’m just waiting on the new one now. Here’s hoping it fits this time!

Receive the wrong sub, get free cookies from Subway

It’s very rare that you get something for nothing, but when you do it’s worth telling others, especially if it’s a little trick that they too can employ.

When asked what sub I’d like as I stared, blurry-eyed contemplating my decision, (I forgot my glasses) I swiftly gave him the same order I usually give when  I go to Subway – a 6 inch toasted tuna sub on Grain Honey Oat bread, with extra cheese.

There was a fairly big queue. Still, it didn’t take long before I was giving my topping choices. “Just lettuce and onion, please”, I said “and hold the mayo.” (I was trying to be good.) I saw them wrap my sub and put it next to the girl in front of mine’s.

Once I’d paid for my sub and filled up my cup (with lots of ice), I proceeded to climb the stairs to go and sit with the rowdy bunch I like to call my friends. Excited to tuck in, I quickly unravelled the sub. However, to my confusion, the bread was plain. I opened it up and soon realised that this was not my 6 inch toasted tuna sub on Grain Honey Oat bread with extra cheese, lettuce and onion and no mayo. It was turkey on plain bread.

Not wanting to accept my fate, I descended the stairs and informed the cashier of the mishap. To my delight he gave me a nice apology and quickly ordered me another tuna sub. But this is where it gets good because whilst passing me the sub, he also slipped me a free bag of cookies for my inconvenience.

This quick thinking from the guy with the long hair and nose ring turned what would have been a negative experience into a positive one. Well done Subway! All companies should take note of this excellent customer service!

via GIPHY

Oh, and to the girl who must have received my tuna sub instead of her turkey sub – I hope you like tuna. If not, I hope you got your free cookies too!

4 New Things To Do With Your Children This Summer

Wow guys… It’s hot, hot, hot! So hot in fact, that there’s simply no need to pay for an expensive trip abroad. There’s so much to do here in good old England when the weather is like this, (and even when it’s not.)

great days outWe took the children camping in May and they loved it, by now it’s time to think of things to do in the Summer holidays. I’ve been looking around and found some great days out that are completely new this Summer. If you’re sick of the same old trips, consider these.

Dreamland, Margate

Dreamland looks pretty fantastic to be honest. From 1930s Caterpillars and 1940s Double Decker carousels, to 1970s Chair-O-Planes and modern adrenaline pumpers, it has been re-imagined to recreate a thrilling amusement park from the past.

It’s full of classic rides that pay homage to British Street Culture –Mods, Beatniks, Hippies. And apparently, the park’s famous Grade II listed, heritage Scenic Railway is set to re-open later in the summer.

http://www.dreamland.co.uk

KidZania, Westfield London

This one only officially opened on June 25th but after doing some research, it seems that it’s one of the fastest growing education-entertainment (or edu-tainment) brands around. On the site, it says that “Through role playing, children will become pilots, firefighters, and police officers in this make-believe world…”

This sounds wonderful, and kids can even learn essential skills along the way, such as team work, independence, and even financial management!

http://london.kidzania.com/en-uk

Shrek’s Adventure, Far Far Away (on London’s Southbank)

On the 1st of july, Shrek’s Adventure opens. It’s situated on London’s South bank and it takes you from a Swamp through 10 magical lands, where you’ll meet Gingy, Puss-in-boots and the rest of the gang, as well some other familiar DreamWorks faces.

It’s essentially a 4D bus ride, and if your children are anything like mine, they’ll love it as they get to rediscover a number of classic childhood fables to get through each level. Sounds like fun!

https://www.shreksadventure.com/london/

Chester Zoo Islands, Cheshire

I can’t wait for this one. On the 13th of July Chester Zoo will open the most ambitious zoo development in the UK: an immersive re-creation of six south-east Asian islands and their biospheres.

Islands opens up the natural climates of Panay, Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi, complete with some of the world’s most magnificent wildlife – including carnivorous plants, prehistoric-looking birds and reptiles.

www.chesterzoo.org/islands

 

To Avon or not to Avon…that is the question

It’s been too long yet again, and even this is only a quick one. (Sorry guys!)

So, I don’t often order from Avon, but I do have a lovely Avon lady called Michelle who comes every other week, so I thought I’d give her a bit of business and order a couple of things.

However, when I gave her my order we got talking and she was telling me how successful her Avon job is. I was quite surprised really, because apparently Avon is quite popular in this area. I won’t go into detail but she earns a considerable amount and it got me thinking… could I become an Avon rep? Surely it can’t be too difficult to manage. I mean I know I’ve got two kids to look after but i’m not sure how much time the job takes up.

I might try and find out some more information about it. Michelle was saying that one of the perks of being an Avon lady is that you can fit work around your schedule, and do it whenever you’re free. So it’s perfect for me.

Anyway I’m going to give Avon a call, but have any of you guys had any experience with Avon? If so, please let me know.