Sunday, 26 April 2015

Silent Sunday - 26/04/15

Saturday, 25 April 2015

9 Tips To Maintain Your Weight Loss

After putting on 4 stone when I was pregnant with Caitlin in 2007 and only having ten months between pregnancies, it is not surprising that after having Ieuan in 2009 I was still 2 stone overweight. I was determined to lose the excess in time for my wedding in 2011 and to return to my healthy weight of 9 st 9lbs (I'm 5 ft 6).  

Baby weight gone in time for my special day in 2011

I did this by following Rosemary Conley's low fat Hip and Thigh diet and, even though it has been overtaken in popularity by diets like the 5:2 diet and a whole host of healthy eating plans (such as Deliciously Ella's for example), I still think there is a great amount of common sense in the Conley approach.  

Give and take the odd 'blip' over Christmas and holiday periods, my weight remains around the 10 stone (140 lbs mark).  I won't lie.  It requires quite a bit of self discipline to ensure I don't go crazy and return to the days of multiple take-aways each week and creamy restaurant desserts and I still don't eat as much fruit and veg as I should.  But I have managed to keep my weight relatively stable and avoid putting the pounds back on.  

There are a million diet gurus and I am not medically qualified to tell you what to eat. But here's what has worked for me and the Husband, who would eat peanuts and crisps till they came out of his ears if left to his own devices.

1.  Weigh every day using a decent set of scales like these from Ozeri which remember your previous weight measurement and tell you by how much it has increased or decreased.  They'll also tell you your BMI. 

The standard advice is to weigh once a week but I find daily weighing helps keep me on track and if my weight has increased I can make sure I eat lighter on that particular day.  

2.  Eat breakfast but eat it later  

A bit in line with the idea that fasting is good for the body and that having a mini fast between your evening meal and a later breakfast does you good.  I find that eating a later breakfast stops you reaching for biscuits around 11 am and also makes you less likely to go mad a lunchtime.

3.  Don't eat two main meals a day

By that I mean either have a bigger lunch and a smaller dinner or vice versa.  If we have a roast dinner for example, we'll have sandwiches or soup for lunch.

4.  No takeaways

Given that a portion of fish and chips can contain as many as 2000 calories (i.e. practically a full day's calorie allowance), let alone the fat content of some of our favourite curries, we just don't bother with these any more.  

We will have a bag of chips whilst on the sand at "Barrybados" though. Nothing like lots of salt and vinegar on your chips and a brisk walk on the sands at Barry Island - and we wouldn't deny the kids one of life's greatest culinary pleasures.

5.  Find something to snack on that's healthy and that you really enjoy eating

It's pointless munching your way through pallets of crispbread and carrot sticks if you hate the stuff. Better to eat a few olives (which I love) or even a few squares of dark chocolate than to eat the crispbread and carrots and get so depressed you end up eating biscuits because you're starving.

6.  Buy clothes that fit you NOW

There is no point in wearing clothes that are too small because you don't want to go up a size because I find you get so depressed because your jeans are too tight that you cheer yourself up by eating. You do need the discipline though to make sure that you go up one size and don't keep going.

7.  Improve the quality, decrease the quantity

Think like a foodie. Better one or two glasses of a really good quality wine than a bottle of cheap plonk;  one or two squares of an amazing dark chocolate than a selection box.  No, it's not a question of money either.  Lidl and Aldi have some amazing choices.  

8.  Take each day at a time

Women come in all shapes and sizes. As the life coach Fiona Harrold says - gorgeousness is yours for the taking and it is available to everyone.

9.  Make sure you're losing weight for you

You're not daft. You know too high a weight is bad for your health (and your fertility for that matter). You certainly need me to point that out but if you're healthy and otherwise happy just make sure you're losing weight for you and not because some guru in the Daily Mail's 'sidebar of shame' has decreed "stick insect" is the look of the summer.

This is a sponsored post.

Friday, 24 April 2015

5 Best Beauty Buys On My Shopping List This Weekend

I'm looking for some new beauty buys as the May Day bank holiday and Whitsun week approach in the hope of some warm weather in which to glam up a bit. Here are my top 5 best beauty buys to splash some cash on.

BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream [£26]

This is a BB, a CC and a tinted moisturiser all in one and claims to give a 215% increase in skin hydration after just one week. It's ultra lightweight and easier to wear than a foundation. It comes in 10 shades, too.

BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream 

Mini make-up essentials in a neat box, Benefit's Primping With The Stars contains everything you'd need to look glam. It contains what Benefit views as its iconic products and with the inclusion of They're Real mascara and Benetint, it's hard to disagree.

Benefit's Primping With The Stars

Charles Worthington London Instant Root Boost [£9.99 exclusive to]

I'm dyeing to try this (ha!).  It comes in 5 shades, light blonde, dark blonde, warm brown, brown and dark brown and claims to cover grey hair, hide root growth and add temporary colour.  Anything that lengthens the time between expensive hair colouring appointments is fine by me.  Now that the sun is appearing my hair seems to be growing faster and that means so are the odd grey stragglers!  

Charles Worthington London Salon at Home Instant Root Concealer

L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Exfotonic Body Polishing Gel £7.99

I really need to practise my fake tanning and this product is ideal for refining the skin and sloughing away dead cells in preparation for your tan.  It's enriched with AHA and contains microbeads for gentle exfoliation.

L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Exfotonic Body Polishing Gel Tan Optimiser

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Or Dry Oil Golden Shimmer 50 ml [£21]

If I can't master the fake tan, my fall back plan is this gorgeous multi purpose dry oil from Nuxe which contains plant oils and Vitamin E and tiny gold particles which will add a shimmer to face, body and hair. There are no preservatives and the product is silicone and mineral oil free.  

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse OR Multi-Purpose Dry Oil for the Face, Body and Hair
What would be on your beauty wish list this weekend?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Things You Should Never Say To An Older Mum

I had my first child at 43 in 2007 and my second at 45 in 2009. I believe the NHS termed me a 'geriatric' mother, even though I was in better health and fitness than many of the much younger mums to be.  In the back of my mind I was well aware that there would be those who would look on having a child in my forties as being selfish but, in general, most people have been accepting and nothing but kind.  

On the other hand, there are those who can't quite resist trotting out a few of the gems below:

"Oh, was it, you know, a natural conception?"

People are fascinated by how we late mums conceived.  It is a reasonable enough question I suppose and I do know women older than me who have traveled abroad for IVF or egg donation. But why people can't quite grasp that, until you have your menopause, you are still technically able to have a child, I don't know. Does the method of conception affect your ability to be a good parent?  Hardly. And, the answer to the question is, yes it was.

"But aren't you menopausal"?  

The average age for menopause in the UK is 51.  And average, maths lovers, means that many women will reach menopause AFTER that age.  

"But aren't you very tired?"

Having a child is tiring.  Having two children is even more tiring.  Prior to giving birth I was not spending my days lying on a chaise longue being fed peeled grapes.  I could even walk unaided. What does my age have to do with it?

"I suppose you find you're so much more patient"

Nope. I still have all the patience of my son in the Lego shop.  I think anyone who has a child (or adopts, fosters or becomes a step parent, come to that), goes through a rapid learning curve, taking on all sorts of skills and personality traits that they never previously considered.  I'm still as impatient but I am learning strategies to deal with it.  Rioja for instance.

"So when you're reaching retirement, they will only just be going to college?"

Possibly true but given that retirement age will probably reach 70 for all of us sooner or later, I might not quite have a bus pass. Us late mums are hit by a triple whammy - retirement, kids' university fees and caring for elderly parents. I think in future the shape of the family will change; extended family will become much more important and child care will be shared through the generations (in a model which already exists in parts of Europe).  

I think our friends will play an important role too. Stats say that something like 1 in 4 women born around 1964 (my birth year) are childless. I have many friends who are single, childless and in poor health and I can quite envisage adding them to the family mix!

"But don't you and your husband worry about dying while your children are still young?"

Of course we do!  One of our main preoccupations is staving off illness and making sure we maintain a decent level of fitness. But life doesn't come with a guarantee and parents can die at any age. I wish I had met my husband ten years ago. I wish my first pregnancy (a year before Caitlin) hadn't ended in an early miscarriage. I wish. I wish. I wish.  

I would still tell younger women to have children in their twenties and thirties whilst their fertility is much higher, but I completely understand why women choose to have babies in their forties. For me, the chance to experience having children and build a family would always outweigh anything I could possibly achieve in my career (I was a marketing director for a Welsh law firm).

You can call it selfish if you like. But I maintain that having a baby is always a selfish act. As Richard Dawkins explains in his book "The Selfish Gene", we are programmed to reproduce to ensure our species' survival.  The drive is more primal than just the urge to paint a nursery and knit bootees.

When the time is right we will sit down with Caitlin and Ieuan and tell them the story of their birth and reassure them that we will do everything in our power to stay with them as long as we are needed.  We will tell them that they were wanted, loved and not some random throw of a dice in the last chance fertility saloon.  

I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had not had children.  I might have had a better wardrobe, more exotic holidays and a flasher kitchen but I think I would have felt dead inside - like my life had been a bit of a waste.

I'm happy to talk about my experience as a late mum but please try to remember that it is the Pacific Salmon that dies after spawning.  I've never felt more alive.

Single Mother Ahoy Weekend Blog Hop

50 Things Mums Say (Bet You Will Too)

You know that feeling when you realise you are turning into your mother?  Oh yes.  I'm there.  Do you recognise any of these?

  1. Shut the door - were you born in a barn?
  2. Because I say so.
  3. Ask your father.
  4. It's not big and it's not clever.
  5. If you pick your nose your brain will cave in.
  6. I would never have talked to MY mother like that.
  7. It'll all end in tears.
  8. I told you so!!!
  9. If you make that face the wind'll change.
  10. I'm not running a taxi service.
  11. Close your mouth when you're eating.
  13. Who used the last piece of loo roll and didn't replace it!
  14. Wet towels do not belong on the floor.
  15. Because I say so, that's why.
  16. I don't care what Timmy's mother says, this is the way we do it in this house.
  17. Any more of that and there will be no more iPad for a week.
  18. Don't walk on my carpet in muddy shoes.
  19. I'm going to count to 3.
  20. If Lucy jumped off a cliff would you do that too?
  21. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
  22. If you don't eat your vegetables you won't grow up big and strong.
  23. Jam sandwiches are not a 'healthy' tea.
  24. Why did you ask for it if you weren't going to eat it all?
  25. When I was young we ate what we were given.
  26. Stop fidgeting.
  27. Stop shouting or the neighbours will be round.
  28. I don't want to see either of you before 7 am.
  29. Stop rolling around in your school uniform - you'll look like a bag of rags.
  30. You've got birds nesting in the back of that hair.
  31. Are those potatoes growing in your ears?
  32. Where's your father got to THIS time?
  33. Stick your finger in that plug socket and you'll go bang.
  34. No, it's January.   You can't go without a coat.
  35. No, you can't go to church dressed as Elsa and Spiderman.
  36. I bet Spiderman never spoke to his mother like that.
  37. And I bet Ironman ate his vegetables.
  38. Hulk went green because he ATE HIS VEGETABLES.
  39. Is your father out of that bathroom yet?
  40. No you can't stay off school for a grazed knee.
  41. Or because you feel 'a bit strange'.
  42. Yes you can have a cuddle.
  43. Yes we both love you - to bits.
  45. Get back in bed.
  46. Yes that was the music from Emmerdale.
  47. Yes the moon is a different shape tonight.
  48. Do you really need fleecy pajamas on in June?
  49. No I don't know what we are going to do tomorrow yet.
  50. Yes we still love you.  Night night.

Brilliant blog posts on

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

20 Tips To Be A Good Parent

Being a good parent. Everyone has their own definition and boy, is it easy to judge others without knowing or understanding their individual struggles. Caitlin will be 8 in November and Ieuan will be 6 in June so I figure I must have learned something by now.

Here are my 20 tips to be a good parent:-

1. Be a role model. Kids watch you all the time - and they copy. That's why counting to ten is such a useful skill. If your kids see you consistently losing your rag and having a 'grown-up' tantrum, rest assured you'll be seeing more of the same from them.

2. Cuddle them often (especially boys).  You can't really show too much love, can you?  And I'm so aware that the day will come when cuddles, sitting on my lap and nestling up together on the sofa will be deemed 'not cool'.  In fact I tear up just thinking about it!

3. Be present.  We're all (probably) guilty of not giving our kids our full attention whilst looking at phones or PCs.  The truth is you have to sacrifice what you want to do to meet your child's needs. You need to be there mentally as well as physically.

4. Don't do their homework for them.  There sometimes comes a point when, after much stropping, pleading and pen throwing, we may consider just doing the kids' homework for them just to keep the peace.  We're not doing them any favours and worse, we're not letting their teachers know where they may need extra support.  

5. Establish consistent rules from the beginning.  We recognised quite early on that it was going to be far easier to instill a sense of respect for others and discipline into our kids when they were young. The idea of doing this with teenagers was never appealing! The rules we teach our kids will shape the people they will become - hopefully in a good way.  And if we don't teach our kids any rules, how will they look after themselves when we are not there?

6. Explain your rules and decisions. For example, we explain to Ieuan that his early bed time is so that he can 'recharge' (like his iPad!) and be full of energy for enjoying the next day.  Caitlin knows that she should drink water so that her brain and body are hydrated so she can learn easily at school.

7. But don't micro-manage them.  I'm guilt of this (see my post here).  Play is a way of learning and being creative; of putting ideas together and finding out what works.  If you stifle this creativity, you take out all the fun of play - and being a child.  You just have to put up with some mess and chaos. I'm still working on this one!

8. Encourage their independence. Again this comes back to setting consistent rules and limits so that the child feels free to explore.  To succeed, we really need both self control and independence. Sometimes it's hard to recognise whether a child needs independence or whether they are just pushing the boundaries.

9. Adapt your parenting to fit the individual child.  As a 7 year old, Caitlin's needs are definitely different to those of her younger brother. We try to stagger bedtimes and to give her more grown-up tasks to do around the house, which is helping her develop her sense of self-esteem.

10. Avoid harsh discipline.  A real hot potato but we have found that it just does not work.  If you show aggression, you are teaching aggression.  Better to have the consistent rules mentioned above with a set of clear consequences e.g. if you are rude to mummy and daddy, there will be no iPad today.  Again, you need to tailor your approach to the individual child.  We had very little success with the 'naughty step' and 'time out'.  We also learned that any consequences have to be enforced as close to the 'misdemeanour' as possible, otherwise the child does not learn the cause and effect of their actions.

11. Treat your child with respect. This comes back to a child's tendency to learn through observation.  If we respect our children, hopefully they will respect us and others. Thankfully we have moved away from the old philosophy that "children should be seen and not heard".  Our challenge today, however, is to balance their needs and ours.  There are some who think that parenting today has become much too liberal with too little respect being shown to adults and especially teachers.

12. Grit your teeth at picky eating.  I have written at length about Ieuan's aversion to vegetables [here] but he is gradually getting better at eating a wider range of food.  He now expends so much energy running everywhere I think he's too hungry to care but oh the hours we've spent at the table waiting for him to chew and finally swallow one tiny piece of carrot! It does get better - last Friday I nearly passed out with shock as he came home from school and asked for a ham sandwich.

13. Bedtime routines are important. I remember reading that sleep is the time when babies and children's brains develop, hence the importance of getting younger children to nap.  We have always been really strict about observing sensible bed times. Naps are long gone but if the children are under the weather, really stroppy or just exhausted, we will have a family 'siesta'.  Nowadays the kids are in bed around 7:30 pm, possibly 8 pm at the weekend but no later.

14.  Time with your partner is equally important!  You need 'adult time' at the end of the day, particularly if, like mine, your partner works long hours or works away a lot.  I always think it's sad when you go out for a meal and the restaurant is full of couples not talking to one another or, worse, looking at their respective phones.  You have to have more in common than just bringing up the children together.

15. Guilt is unavoidable.  So you need to learn to deal with it - ideally by talking to other parents in the same boat or, if they are still around, your own parents. Grandparents can really be a vital source of support, can't they? Working mothers feel guilty about working.  Stay at home mothers feel guilty about not working. Either way, being a parent is the most responsible job of the lot.

16.  Don't try to make your child your friend.  Remember that TV series (probably Channel 5) where the mums tried to out-dress / out-dance / out-flirt their teenage daughters by going clubbing with them (and then wondering why there was very little discipline in the house)?  It's probably not very fashionable to say so but I think at some point you need to step aside and let your daughters shine.  That is not to say that you should dress in beige and take up knitting yoghurt but a bit of dignity in some cases wouldn't go amiss.  I also hate it when parents call their children 'mate'.  If you're trying to be your child's best friend, it's going to be very difficult to exert any discipline or authority.

17.  A caesarian birth is still a birth.  Much nonsense seems to have appeared on Facebook recently claiming that real women have a natural birth and having a caesarian is a cop out.  Leaving aside the fact that this is deeply insulting to those who had to have sections, it completely ignores the fact that the most important thing is to get the baby out safely at minimum risk to the mothers' health.

18.  It is not a crime to not breastfeed.  If you can't, you can't. I can't bear stories where mums are made to feel bad because they struggle with breastfeeding.  I breast-fed Caitlin for 10 weeks then had to give up because I was not producing enough milk.  Ieuan went straight on to formula.  Yes, we know that breast milk gives a baby the best start but Ieuan seems to have survived well enough on SMA.

19. You do not have to lose the baby weight in 6 weeks after the birth.  I put on 4 stone with Caitlin.  Largely because eating cheese was the only thing I could do that made me feel any better.  Ieuan was born 20 months after Caitlin so although I had lost a couple of stone in between pregnancies, I still had 2 stone to shift before my wedding in 2011.  I did the Rosemary Conley eating plan and took a year or so to lose it all.  Babies don't stay small for long.  As long as you are healthy why not make the most of your precious time with your baby rather than counting calories and making yourself even more stressed at what can be a challenging time, especially for new mums.

20.  Go with your gut instinct.  It's great to gather as many tips as you can to shore up your confidence as a parent but there are times when you have to trust your own gut instinct.  You will know when your child is really ill and when they are just 'hamming'.  You will know when they are really upset.  At these times, particularly when it comes to children's health, you have to be pushy and stand your ground.  Demand second opinions.  If you're really worried, take your child to A&E or an out of hours doctor.  Yes, you may be thought of as the neurotic mum who's there every time their child coughs but I would rather that than miss a diagnosis of something like measles or meningitis.

I hope you found these helpful.  Are there any you would add?

Super Busy Mum

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Fridges & Freezers - Save Money, Stay Healthy

Earlier this week I talked about the new initiative [here] between Bird's Eye, Hotpoint, Love Food Hate Waste and the British Frozen Food Federation who want to encourage the nation to combat the issue of food waste by using their freezers to save money. 

A more exciting breakfast is probably lurking in that fridge/freezer 

Their research has discovered that the average family household throws away £700 of food and drink every year - and this could have been avoided if we had frozen the food instead of throwing it out.

But I also frequently find myself throwing food away from the fridge because there is little room and the kids tend to rifle through the yoghurt stash and ignore use by dates.  My worst crimes are against bagged salad and mouldy vegetables! I think it's as important to use your fridge correctly as it is to freeze your leftovers. For many of us, our food shop is the highest weekly bill and it makes sense to make every penny count.

I didn't realise that I could freeze a wide range of foods, from eggs (out of their shells) to cake! I knew you could keep herbs in there but not that you can freeze cooked meat. 

Apparently one in five women believes that food will only last for two weeks in the freezer but my problem is that I leave food for too long and I'm realising that it's really important to label the food correctly.

So how long CAN you leave various food stuff in the freezer? 

Here's a list of basics but you can find more information at The NHS also has some very useful information about food safety and frozen food.  For example, you should never refreeze raw meat (or poultry or fish) that has been defrosted, and you should never put ice-cream or frozen desserts back in the freezer once they have started to thaw. (Oh dear, certainly guilty of that one with those jumbo tubs of ice cream!).

The basic list (based on the foods eaten most in the Hobbis Household)

  • bananas - 8 months
  • bacon - 3 months
  • bread - 3 months
  • butter - 9 months
  • chicken (whole bird) - 1 year
  • chicken (raw pieces) - 9 months
  • chicken (cooked) - 4 months
  • fruit juices - 1 year
  • ham - 2 months
  • ice cream - 2 months
  • leftover casseroles & lasagna - 4 months
  • rice (and other grains) cooked - 4 months
  • steaks - 8 months
  • Vegetables, commercial frozen - 1 year

Hmm. Think I'd better have a freezer clear out!  The point of course is that if I am using my freezer effectively, there should be a constant turnover of the food in there.  I never seem to have enough space!

Even if you don't buy much frozen food, you still need a decent sized refrigerator, particularly if you are to make the most of shopping BOGOFs and other special offers. What you need to decide is the ratio of fridge space to freezer space that best suits your family.  Your choice should also take into account how many shopping trips you make each week.  

There are some fabulous fridge freezers on the market now [click here] which combine the best of both worlds and I am finding that as the kids grow and eat more (at last!), fridge space is equally at a premium.  The American style fridge freezers, in particular, seem better designed to meet the needs of larger families (or those who do a lot of home cooking / food preparation) and who need lots of fridge space. They have lots of useful features such as an ice maker, special shelves for deli products and adjustable shelving so you can store your shopping more efficiently.

I'm hoping that as we get ourselves organised, we will be doing more home cooking using fresh produce and being more diligent about storing leftovers. That £700 per year we could be saving could go towards a new fridge/freezer!

This is a sponsored post.