A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Review: Boing! Family Fun At Cardiff's Sherman Theatre

It's been quite a while since I got to see what I'd term 'proper theatre'. We've taken the kids to see CBeebies shows with all the lights, dazzle (and merchandising!) in the Motorpoint Arena. So it was a new experience for our two to sit quietly in a darkened auditorium at Cardiff's Sherman Theatre to watch a piece of dance theatre lasting around 50 minutes in a fun show entitled "Boing".

Boing - an enchanting mix of comedy, acrobatics and dazzling breakdance 
The new front of the Sherman Theatre

The Sherman Theatre has had a massive overhaul without the original charm of the building being spoiled. The ticket office and cafe bar sit in a bright, welcoming entrance area and the staff were obviously prepared for an onslaught of excited children as they had thoughtfully provided colouring sheets, crayons and dressing up boxes. There was an easel with chalks to practise signing your autograph, a separate play area and a dressing up box with fun props.
Playing before the show starts

We arrived a good half hour early for the show so I was wondering how the kids would behave but they really enjoyed the items laid out, especially the dressing up box, and The Husband and I were able to enjoy a very reasonably priced coffee.

We were duly ushered into Arena 2 which is the smaller of the Sherman's two theatre spaces. The stage was simply set and lit with an enormous bed in the middle of the stage. The stage is at 'ground level' with the audience seated on rising tiers surrounding it. This gives the effect of actually being part of the perfomance.

Waiting for the show to start
Part of the Travelling Light Theatre Company, the inspiration behind "Boing" comes from director Sally Cookson (an associate artist of the Bristol Old Vic) who wanted to produce an early years piece about going to bed. 

The piece tells the story of two young brothers, Wilkie and Joel, who are going to bed to await the arrival of Santa Claus. The theme of sibling rivalry is also woven into the tale as the two brothers fight sleep in their excitement and end up fighting each other.

The two performers, Wilkie Branson and Joel Daniel, who both choreographed the show, skillfully kept the audience entertained throughout the duration of the performance - no mean feat when the audience is primarily comprised of little ones. Boing is a mixture of comedy, acrobatics and breakdance as the boys' bed becomes a giant trampoline and even a boat. Caitlin and Ieuan particularly enjoyed the pillow fight sequence and the bit about "Sheet Man". 

The piece captures well the excitement of Christmas Eve and grown ups and children were all equally able to relate to the feelings of anticipation and the frustration at the length of the night. All the more impressive when you consider that there just two cast members and the only props were the bed, two teddies and two Christmas stockings!

We all had a thoroughly good time and I left with the renewed determination to make more of the Sherman Theatre, which is practically on our doorstep. There is nothing quite like the exhiliration of a live theatre performance.

Boing is on until Saturday 2nd November. Tickets are £7. Performances are at 11 am and 2:30 pm daily.

I'd heartily recommend both Boing and the Sherman Theatre for young families - and there are still a couple more days of half term here to fill. This is a great way to spend an hour.

*2 free tickets were given for the purposes of this review.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

I've Been A Bit Distracted By ... Coast - 30/10/13

This is a glamorous, grown up coat from Coast, just as suitable for throwing over a beaded cocktail dress as it is for wearing with well worn jeans.  I love Coast clothes as they always have the edge in terms of detail and finish. 

Zabrina Coat by Coast

The Zabrina coat features a fur trim collar and a waist defining belt. The hem is slightly dipped with A-line shaping and the coat is fully lined.

What I'd call an investment purchase, to be loved and cursed at for many seasons when you remember there are no buttons and the belt is the only way of doing it up.

I'm always a sucker for fake fur.

Further information: www.coast-stores.com.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Am I A Good Mother? Just Pass Me The Paracetemol And Call Me Joan

It's been a Joan Crawford sort of day. 

If I had a turban and a cocktail shaker they would have come in useful. 

My mood has veered from tired, frustrated, tetchy and on the edge of morphing into my arch nemesis "Shouty Mummy".

Shouty Mummy is a stranger to Veet and likes the occasional cigar.

Joan Crawford
If I pull this over my head, the kids might forget I'm here
So what has Mommy Dearest been up to on this blustery perimenopausal day?

Washed net curtains to get rid of mildew (#FAIL), took kids to supermarket and tried to avoid buying any more cheap plastic toys (#EPIC FAIL) and cooked (well reheated) spaghetti bolognese (#FAIR TO MIDDLING).

Leaving aside my peculiar fondness for net curtains (how very Miss Marple), this has hardly been a day of sterling successes.

And, as a 'late' mother, this is one of the hardest aspects of motherhood to deal with after working for so many years. 

Now, marketing is one of those professions where you can easily spend years feeling like you haven't achieved anything at all. 

In legal services, where I spent over 13 years, marketing is still in some Jurassic quarters viewed as "something to do with golf". 

Things have moved on but it may not be the best career choice for the results driven.

My daily question to myself is "how do I know I'm doing this (mothering) right?" 

I worry that one mummy tantrum may irrevocably scar my kids, one shout too many may stunt their emotional development and one denial of a smile in favour of a stern talking to may blight their ability to ever play more than chopsticks on the piano. 

I have a very conflicted view of discipline.

Motherhood involves a kind of subjugation of 'self'.

It's all about the needs of others, kids, husbands, partners, family, pets and I think sometimes maternal moodiness is more to do with this loss of identity than it is with the stress of parenting.

I struggle to find an appropriate role model for late motherhood. 

Celebrity mothers have an army of nannies and housekeepers, not to mention personal trainers and chefs so I'm not sure their lessons are applicable to a stay at home mum in South Wales. 

If you can think of an inspiring older mum, please comment and let me know. In the meantime, it's a strong cup of tea for me, unless there's a 'y' in the day. 

Oh come on now, you know that makes it a legitimate wine night.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Review: Braun ThermoScan 3 Compact One Second Ear Thermometer [IRT 3020]

You'd expect a brand with the pedigree of Braun to produce top notch equipment and so it is with this lightweight and extremely easy to use compact ear thermometer.  Having previously struggled with forehead strips and other branded thermometers that were simply too cumbersome and uncomfortable to use when dealing with a poorly little one, the Braun ThermoScan Compact 3 gets the job done swiftly and gives an accurate reading in approximately 1 second.

The Braun ThermoScan 3 Compact 1 Second Ear Thermometer
The Braun ThermoScan 3 Compact 1 Second Ear Thermometer

The thermometer comes with full instructions and a box of 10 replacement lens filters
The thermometer comes with full instructions and a box of 10 replacement lens filters
It works by measuring the infrared heat generated by the eardrum and the surrounding tissues and also has a memory function which remembers the last temperature taken.
Taking Ieuan's temperature
Checking Ieuan for signs of fever
And speed is of the essence when taking temperature. I'm sure most parents can remember trying to keep a crying baby's head still to take their temperature whilst they are teething in the middle of the night.

This thermometer is suitable for the whole family, including newborns.  It is soft and gentle in the ear (we all tried it!), and readings can be taken in either Celsius or, for those of us who haven't quite managed to go metric yet, in Fahrenheit too.  The disposable lens filters ensure no cross contamination and the thermometer comes with a two year guarantee.
The current RRP is £32.99 and the thermometer is available from Mothercare, Tesco, Asda and Amazon.co.uk.
I would certainly recommend the Braun ThermoScan 3, particularly if, like us, your kids regularly succumb to lurgies and ear infections.

Further information at:  www.braunthermometers.co.uk
Disclosure:  We were sent a thermometer for the purposes of this review.

Silent Sunday - 27/10/13


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Tell 'em Why You're Gummy Mummy - The ORAL-B Love Your Gums Challenge

This week the tooth fairy has been gainfully employed in our house. Caitlin has lost one of her front milk teeth  - (cue much whistling of the old song "All I want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth"  - oh do keep up vintage song fans) and so it's an ideal time to reinforce all the messages we've been drilling into our kids about the importance of proper tooth and gum care, in preparation for the arrival of the second set of teeth.

Oral B Pro-Expert Toothpaste

Now you see it ....
Now I don't know about you, but my dental education contained nary a mention about my gums, other than the fact that they should be included when you brush. I certainly was unaware of the fact that problem gums are the biggest cause of tooth loss, nor that most people will have trouble with their gums at some point in their lives. And then there's pregnancy - not only do mums-to-be have to contend with a plethora of health niggles (I'm not sure morning sickness qualifies as just a niggle), but they may also have swollen, bleeding gums.

Now you don't ...
As part of the BritMums #ORALBLoveYourGums Challenge, we've been trying a new toothpaste from the Oral-B Pro-Expert Range which offers premium gum protection. In addition to reducing plaque and fighting tartar, this toothpaste helps to slow bacterial growth to protect against gum problems. Oral-B say that their Pro-Expert Premium Gum Protection toothpaste is "clinically proven to help prevent and reduce gum problems in just four weeks"

I have tried other toothpastes for gum health before but have found the taste of them quite unpleasant. There are no such issues with this toothpaste which both The Husband and I found cleaned well without being too abrasive or astringent.

I'm teaching my kids that good dental hygiene is as important as great skin or hair care, not only in terms of having teeth worthy of Princess Aurora or Buzz Lightyear (not sure Buzz actually has any teeth, anyway.....) but in terms of keeping an eye on health. (The kids have their own age-appropriate toothpastes). Now we know that it is important to clean the tongue which is an excellent barometer of our internal well-being and even that poor dental hygiene has been implicated  heart-related problems

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with tooth and gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease. And another study found that the presence of common problems in the mouth, including gum disease, cavities and missing teeth, were as good at predicting heart disease as cholesterol levels. Both these studies have to be proved definitively but there is compelling evidence sufficient to make the findings of these studies noteworthy.

And I have a secret weapon - I am missing a back molar, not through poor dental hygiene but through tooth clenching and grinding - don't work in the field of Law - that's my tip.  The kids like to inspect, with mild horror, the cavernous gap at the back of my mouth, as I tell them that this is what happens when you don't brush properly.  Cue much renewed vigour in the brushing stakes as their little faces register a modicum of anxiety. Stephen King eat your heart out.

This post is an entry for BritMums #ORALBLoveYourGums Challenge sponsored by Oral B, promoting healthy gums - something especially important for pregnant women.  Get tips and advice on www.oralb-loveyourgums.com.

Friday, 25 October 2013

I've Been A Bit Distracted By ...MAC - 25/10/13

Probably the Grande Dame of red lippies - MAC's Ruby Woo is definitely on my Christmas list.  It's the kind of colour Marilyn would have worn, a proper grown-up red.  

MAC lipstick in Ruby Woo
MAC Ruby Woo - £15

Now I suspect that it'll have to be applied very carefully with a lip brush and blotted or deep red kisses will be displayed on men, small children and babies.

Still, that's not so bad, is it?  It's good to leave something to remember you by.

What red lippie is your all time favourite?

Further information:  www.maccosmetics.co.uk

Thursday, 24 October 2013

A Wee Tale To Support Splashdirect & Water Aid

Did you know that every 40 seconds a child dies from water-related diseases? Or that 40% of the world's population don't have access to a toilet? This is my entry to splashdirect's #Blog4Sanitation Competition in support of World Toilet Day on 19th November 2013.

It was very, very early in the morning and I was suited and booted to travel by train from Cardiff to Swansea.  I had to be there at 9 am sharp because there was a tender document to be drafted and posted out by 5 pm and I was responsible for adding the marketing section. Senior managers were waiting for me.

The train was on time.  The air was cold and crisp and like most of the passengers I clutched an irradiated coffee from the one small stall actually open at that time of day. The heat seered through the thin walls of the paper cup offering at least a little warmth.  

The train glided into view and we duly piled on, rushing to claim seats facing forward and tables. Mobile phones were brandished; iPod headphones were plugged into ears; tickets were felt for and prepared for inspection.  As we pulled through the outskirts of Cardiff I decided to use the toilet. There were few other passengers in my carriage and the toilet was empty.

I opened the door with the door handle (a pretty common method of opening doors I find) and it clicked shut behind me.  It was only when seated and pondering whether my team members were likely to have prepared their text for editing that I noticed there was no door handle on the inside of the door.  Just a hole where the handle should have been.

Slowly the realisation dawned on me.  I was trapped in the toilet of the Great Western Paddington to Swansea service.  I banged on the door but there were so few passengers that nobody heard me.  I shouted at the top of my lungs but, again, there was no response.

By this time I was feeling quite hot and panicky.  What would happen to me if I didn't get out? Would I be shuttling back and forth from Swansea to Paddington for the rest of the day? And what about the document I need to work on - I could just imagine the hilarity if it became known in the office that I was late because I was locked in a toilet!

The train was beginning to gather speed.  My shouting was having very little effect and so there was only one way out.  I pulled the emergency cord.  The effect was dramatic and very impressive.  The train glided to a smooth halt.  There was no juddering, no shaking, just a smooth skate into complete silence.  There was no sound except for the tweeting of birds outside the train.

The silence was soon broken, however, by my shouts of "help! help!" and a guard finally released me from my closeted prison.  I was frog marched by the guard to the nearest free seat and instructed to complete a set of forms to explain why I had taken an action which could carry a £200 fine.  Having been imprisoned through no fault of my own, I was less than impressed by an additional 10 minutes of form filling, however, I was pleased that I did not have to pay £200 just to spend a penny.

Luckily, I had delayed the train by only a few minutes and we pulled into Swansea on time.  And, happily, I did not have to explain to my colleagues that "oh dear, what a calamity, marketing assistant got stuck in the lavatory". Since then, I am always very wary of train toilets and double check there is a door handle on both sides of the train toilet door!

I am part of the #Blog4Sanitation movement setup by Splashdirect to raise awareness of the importance of global sanitation. Learn more about World Toilet Day.

I've Been A Bit Distracted By ... Astrid & Miyu - 24/10/13

Here's another lovely statement necklace from London jewellers Astrid & Miyu. The chain comprises coloured chains and strings of diamantes and the brooch-style pendant has sparkly coral, red and clear crystal.

Anna Karenina in Red necklace from Astrid & Miyu - £39
Anna Karenina in Red Necklace from Astrid & Miyu- £39

Astrid & Miyu suggest you wear the necklace with a LBD for full effect - and for those with sensitive skin, it's nickel free and comes in Astrid & Miyu's signature packaging. There's free UK delivery and returns too.`

One for the Christmas list ladies.

Further information at: www.astridandmiyu.com.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Review: Free Nutri Club Healthy Living & Nutrition Introductory Course

When I was pregnant with Caitlin, I managed to put on a spectacular amount of weight - over 4 stone. I went from 10 stone to over 14 stone.  Now I have to confess that most of this was because I saw pregnancy (entirely mistakenly) as an excuse to relax my usually more stringent rules about the amount I ate. Plus, I felt so ghastly in the first three months that only chunks of cheddar cheese saw me through.

"At Nutri Club we don't promote fad diets. Nutri Club is a diet for life! After all, we are Ireland's on line, weight loss, nutrition & healthy living solution".
I managed to lose a little weight before conceiving Ieuan just ten months later but once my babies were safely delivered, I was still carrying a good two stone extra which made me feel bloated, unfit and pretty unglamorous.

By means of a low fat diet I managed to lose the baby weight over the course of about a year but how I wish I had had access to proper nutritional advice. Being a mum leaves you pretty low on energy supplies at the best of times and I have to say that although my diet was low fat (and still is), my food intake was heavy on carbs and too light on fruit and veg. It's easy to eat low fat and still be quite unhealthy was my experience!

So I was interested to hear about one of Ireland's best kept secrets, Nutri Club - the brain child of nutritionists Liz Gale and Erika Doolan.  

Liz, a graduate of the College of Naturopathic Medicine, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 15 years ago and then 3 years later was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent 6 months of chemotherapy. These experiences led to her studying nutrition and lifestyle management to find out how she could improve her health. She also specialises in anti-ageing, nutritionally from the inside and also skin health from the outside. Since I am 50 next year, this aspect is of particular interest to me! Erika Doolan is a nutrition practictioner who also began her study of nutrition with the goal of managing her own medical conditions. 

So, what exactly is Nutri Club?  It's an online nutrition and weight management programme which offers a complete nutrition and healthy living solution to club members. Exclusively web based, by signing up you can access nutritionally balanced meal plans, regular webinars, healthy living information and 24/7 access to expert nutritional information. Members can get together and learn how to reach their target weight using optimal nutrition and fitness training from the comfort of their own home for a very small outlay.

Currently, Nutri Club is offering a FREE Healthy Living & Nutrition Introductory Course, lasting two weeks and featuring Liz's and Erika's healthy eating plans. This is a brilliant chance to get to know Nutri Club before committing to a paid subscription.

During the two week course, you will receive 8 units with meal plans, tips and the most up to date natural health information.

Course units include:-

  • Healthy lifestyle tips
  • Healthy meal plan benefits
  • Key tips and motivators for setting goals within a healthy, low GL diet regime
  • Quick & easy to follow low GL recipes
  • Diet and exercise ideas
  • Natural healing news and seasonal tips
Nutri Club say that the course is mainly intended for people who want to take action and change their lifestyle for good. They believe that anyone can change their lifestyles by setting realistic and healthy goals. They also offer personal consultations and a monthly membership with tailored food plans and exercise regimes. 

When subscribing to a monthly membership (available from less than €2 per week), you will receive a €10 discount on personal consultations. Personal consultations are offered to both monthly members at €40 per consultation and non-member at €50 per consultation. Prices are quoted in Euros as Nutri Club are based in Ireland but sterling prices for membership will be available shortly.  €2 currently translates as £1.70 at today's exchange rate.

I don't know about you, but I believe support is a key factor in losing weight and keeping it off. As a mum though, I don't have time for complicated weight loss regimes or cooking a separate meal from the rest of the family.  I also know it's my responsibility to ensure my kids learn about the healthiest foods to put in their bodies.

So sign me up Nutri-Club!  I'll be reporting back.  After all , it's only 62 days till Christmas!

If you would like to benefit from Nutri Club's free course, just sign up here. www.nutriclub.ie/subscribe-to-our-free-nutrition-healthy-living-tips

Good luck and let me know how you get on.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

I've Been A Bit Distracted By ... Baileys - 22/10/13

It's taken three long years but it's here. Baileys Chocolat Luxe is a blend of Belgian chocolate, cream and Irish whiskey and is intended to give you the experience of drinking pure melted chocolate.

Baileys Chocolat Luxe - RRP £16.99

We usually treat ourselves to a bottle of Baileys at Christmas and drink it drop by melting drop whilst watching the usual array of repeated programmes offered on nearly every TV channel. It even makes "Smokey & The Bandit II" bearable.

This year, we'll be trying this one, or rather I'll be hiding it in the cupboard away from The Husband.

Baileys Chocolat Luxe (15.7% abv) contains, they say, 30g of Belgian chocolate in every 500ml bottle. That's more chocolate than is left for me in the average box once The Husband has got his mitts on it.

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Curious Case of Sherlock Holmes & A Mum's Missing Career

It is a Tuesday. The rain is streaming down Baker Street. Still warm horses are steaming gently, their cab drivers shelting under rough-hewn cloaks, chewing baccy and waiting for fares. Mrs Hudson has let me in and I climb the stairs in anticipation of meeting the great Sherlock Holmes and his faithful assistant, Dr John Watson.

The Great Sherlock Holmes
I have come to interview Sherlock as my private detective in the case of "The Missing Career Opportunity". His is one of the keenest minds of the last century and, since I have a time traveller's railcard, there is no other applicant so worthy of an interview to help me find the job I have in mind.

The sad wailing of the Stradivarius greets me.  The great man looks me up and down with some disdain. There is a moment's pause whilst he meditates on my somewhat bedraggled appearance.

" I see," he says, nodding to Dr Watson to begin note taking, "that you have recently travelled a path most dank and wearisome; your coat is cut to suit a woman of much smaller stature and there is an indescribable stain on your left collar".

I am amazed by these revelations.  "Yes," I concede, "I have travelled via First Great Western' Steam Service from Cardiff and purchased this garment at Ye Olde Ebay.  The stain owes much to a toxic substance known as "Ribena".  Mrs Hudson winces and retreats to the kitchen to prepare a brew of good, iron coloured British tea. Sherlock has his back to me and is toasting his knees against the open fire. When he turns round, his trousers are smoking slightly. "Well, I just hope it was the toothkind variety", he opines.

Mrs Hudson appears with a plate of cakes. Decent sized cakes made with real ingredients (in defiance to her own arch nemisis, the evil Mrs Kipling). "Now," says Sherlock, "what is this case, this so urgent case that requires my deductive genius and undeniable powers of observation?". "Sherlock," says Dr Watson, "your knees are on fire".  After much flapping of today's copy of The Times, Sherlock throws himself into a winged armchair and steeples his fingers.  His bright blue eyes are piercing.

"It is the case", I say, feeling the emotion welling up, "of the missing career opportunity". "Then, tell all you must" says Sherlock and he closes his eyes to listen to the sorry tale I have come to relate.

"Some six years ago," I begin, halteringly, I had a job. Not just a job. I thought of it as a career.  I worked in marketing for lawyers". A frisson of mild horror vibrated around the room. I continued. "I had worked for many years to establish myself, a humble woman, as a trusty team member, a purveyor of ideas, a steady pair of hands and someone who never shirked from buying cakes".

Sherlock snored gently. Mrs Hudson whacked him with The Times.

"Then, I... well.... I", "Go on" shouted the great man, "relay all! I am ready to hear".  "Well, I said, I had a baby. Planned. Twice. And then, I became a stay at home mother".  "This is indeed a serious case", said Sherlock,  "the wilful throwing away of cakey-fied employment but, if I may be so bold, it's not really up to Moriarty's standard, is it?"

"Oh ho" I say, feeling my dander rising, "You think not?  Do you know what happens to women like me trying to return to a job market awash with frisky young graduates, all with 10 A* levels?  Do you know how many decently paid temporary jobs there are left for mothers?  Do you know (by this point I am feeling an approaching fit of the vapours), HOW MUCH CHILDCARE COSTS????.

"Mrs Hudson, the gin", shouts Sherlock, clearly well versed in the universal language of tear sodden mothers at 4 pm.  I am braced by the aroma of Juniper.  Sherlock gets his pipe out and stuffs it full of something herbal and mysterious.  After the quarter pin of gin, I can no longer feel my feet.

"Your case is simple to solve".  proclaims Sherlock.  "and you yourself are the criminal here".  "What??" I say, gripping the arms of my chair since the room has started to swim slightly. "Indeed, Madam"

"Now Holmes," says Dr Watson, "be gentle, she has to get back on that train".

"Your crime is simply this - you have underestimated your own talent, dedication and hard work. You do a disservice, Madam, to all those for whom you worked before, who trained you, advised you, encouraged you and ate your cakes. Is it right that their investment should be cast asunder for all time?  No! You must take steps to put matters right".

By this point, I am feeling vaguely ashamed. "Take steps, Madam" shouts Holmes, "take steps to right this injustice". "How?" I ask, "Tell me Mr Holmes, what should I do?  What can I do?  My children are young and I am cruelly constrained to be free only between 10 am and 3 pm".

Sherlock picks up his violin. Its mournful tones fill the hazy air. Ignoring the fact that the music sounds uncannily like the theme from Coronation Street,  I prepare myself to receive the Holmesian wisdom needed to purchase my liberty.

"You must contact a strange and mystical organisation. They call themselves a "recruitment agency". They are agents of employment; they help horse-mongers, philatelists, brewers and peelers, nannies and nursemaids and those whose interests are secular and scientific" says Holmes.  "Slow down," mutters Dr Watson.  "How can I be expected to write that fast with a fountain pen?" Sherlock glares at him.

"You must face your fear. You must..." and here Sherlock stands and returns to toasting his charred knees in front of the fire, "stop making excuses".

Snatching the pen from Dr Watson's hands, he scribbles what can only be a clue of momentous importance on the back page of "The Times". You will need this!", he tells me, handing over scrap of newspaper. I look at it.  "Henry Ford builds assembly line for Model T Fords" I read.  Holmes snorts.  "The man is clearly mad.  No - look again".  I stare hard at the paper. My eyes are swimming, my head is pounding and the air is full of a miasma of herbal fumes, gin and fondant fancies (without the annoying paper cases).

And suddenly, there it is - the clue I have been looking for - in the great man's scrawl - "The Revamp-A-Mum Recruitment Agency - We Don't Pay a Maxi-Mum the Mini-Mum".  

It strikes me at this point that the interview I have come to conduct has not gone the way I planned.  I have been roundly trounced in the questioning stakes.  I have learned little about the great man but, it seems, he has learned much about me.  Somehow, Sherlock has solved the mystery without my needing to employ him.

"Mr Holmes",  I stammer,  "You have completed the assignment for which I required your help without us discussing fees.  I will contact this recruitment agency of which you speak. I feel you should be justly rewarded for your perspicacity".

Once again, Holmes steeples his fingers and regards me with some amusement.  "There is one matter, nay one question, one confirmation of a future truth that you can give me".

I breathe in, in anticipation at what this matter could possibly be.

"I had a dream, a vision"  (at this point Mrs Hudson stares hard at the smoking green fug emanating from Holmes' pipe),  "that in the next century to come, all communication will be by means of an Apple".

How could I disappoint him?  The truth needed to be told.  "It is true".  I say. Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson look at me as if I am madder than Moriarty.

"What ho!" shouts Holmes. "Mrs Hudson, pass me a Bramley".

Like what you've read?  Why not join me on the Mother Distracted Facebook page, tweet me on @lindahobbis or follow me on Instagram.

Don't Feel Gucci Guilty About This Sales Gossip Competition

This giveaway is now closed but you can find all my current competitions on my competitions page.

As you know, I love a good competition and the lovely girls at Sales Gossip (in partnership with Andrea Morando) have done it again with the chance to win a Gucci Guilty Fragrance and a gorgeous beanie.

Sales Gossip is a fabulous website whose team makes sure that you will be the first to know of any sale, whether it be pop-up sales, flash sales, student sales, designer sample sales and seasonal reductions on the high street in London and online.  You can access information on over 600 stores from your PC or smart phone.

Win a Gucci Fragrance & A Gorgeous Beanie

Andrea Morando offer 100's of luxury items under one roof making it the perfect place to pick up some designer gems whilst the Husband is transfixed by the footie.

To enter, just go to http://www.salesgossip.co.uk/competitions/gucci/ and enter your details. Extra chances are available for sharing the competition with your friends, either via Facebook or by email. You can also enter on Sales Gossip's Facebook page, where you will also find the competition terms and conditions.

You need to be quick. The competition ends on 3rd November 2013.

Good luck!  I've entered.

I've Been A Bit Distracted By Hotel Chocolat

Lovely Halloween choccies in 'dark' by Hotel Chocolat. 16 scary figures all individually wrapped. You could give them to trick or treaters or, you could be really evil and stuff them in the cupboard away from the Husband and kids. I'll leave it to your conscience to decide that one.

Hotel Chocolat Boo Box (Dark) - £9.00

Hotel Chocolat (lest you be trying to book a room there), is a British chocolatier of some 20 years standing and is one of the world's few chocolate makers to actually grow cocoa.

Now imagine if they actually ran a hotel as well ........

Further information: www.hotelchocolat.com

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Silent Sunday - 20/10/13


Saturday, 19 October 2013

I've Been A Bit Distracted By ...New Look - 19/10/13

You can't go wrong with New Look. Bubblegum fashion for teens with pieces which sit quite happily in the wardrobe of those of us who are, um, more mature.  

Red tartan check skirt from New Look

I'm sure I'm supposed to say something like "channel your inner Brave Heart with this red checked skater skirt". But the truth is we can all use an economical wardrobe update from time to time without breaking the bank.  

New Look suggest you team this one with "a simple crop top, biker jacket and ankle boots for effortless style"  

It's turned chilly. Think I'll give the crop top a miss. 

Further information:  www.newlook.com

Friday, 18 October 2013

Review: Ozeri Green Earth 20 cm (8") Textured Frying Pan

This is a really cute little frying pan from Ozeri (diameter 20 cm or 8") which is ideal for solo portions. It is, as the name suggests, green, but it has some impressive "eco-credentials".

The pan's coating is Greblon - which is an ultra safe, 100% PTFE and PFOA free ceramic non-stick coating from Germany. PTFE is PolyTetraFluoroEthylene which is known to release toxic chemicals at high temperatures.  PFOA is PerFluoroOctanoic Acid, known to pollute the environment.

Easy to care for, provided you take care to season the pan with a little oil before first use, and oven safe (including the handle, but use oven gloves!) to 180 degrees C, we found that the pan heats up quickly and requires less oil than traditional frying pans. It is, however, non stick so metal cooking utensils should be avoided.

Because the Green Earth pan heats up quicker, food cooking times are faster and less heat is used - so more economical and effective - plus environmentally friendly.

It's advisable to wash the pan in hot soapy water and to dry with a soft cloth, rather than put it in a dishwasher. You can use a dishwasher but over time you may find harsh alkaline detergents affect the pan.

Stir fry for one

The Ozeri Green Earth 20 cm Frying Pan is just one item in a range of kitchen equipment with the unique Greblon coating. (The frying pans are also available in 26 cm and 30 cm diameters). It is available at www.amazon.co.uk at £24.95.

We will be looking for the Greblon coating when we come to replace our other pots and pans. It's amazing just how many chemicals we end up ingesting without realising it, isn't it?!

*A PR sample was sent for the purposes of this post.  An affiliate link is also included.

I've Been A Bit Distracted By ...Emmerdale - 18/10/13

I love Emmerdale and it really bugs me that it never seems to get the recognition the soap should have in the various award ceremonies.  I think this week's siege episodes should redress that balance or there's no justice.

Emmerdale's Killer, Cameron
Source: www.itv.com/emmerdale

That moment when Cameron appeared behind Debbie in the flooded cellar? Chilling. And we're all routing for Alicia to pull through and run off into the sunset with David.

With all the excitement, who knows?  Edna may actually take her hat off.  

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Childhood Obesity & The Weighty Issue of Your Daughter's Weight

Once, when Caitlin was just 5, she came back from school asking why her tummy was so big (it wasn't). Apparently she had been teased for clearing her plate at lunchtime.  To say I was horrified is an understatement.  Of course, the whole incident was underplayed and a family comparison of tummies made to reassure her, but the incident left me wondering - when does a child's obsession with weight start and can we protect our daughters from what, at her age, is nonsense?

Fat cat
Not what you want for your kittens

There's no denying that the UK has a high level of child obesity and, sad to say, if you look at the parent, you can usually see exactly where the child has got it from - no, I don't believe it's genetic, more a product of the eating habits and the nutritional education parents give their kids. But, on the other hand, I have also written about the challenges I have getting my kids to eat food that's healthy for them. I hate seeing kids wandering down the street early in the morning munching on crisps or chocolate for breakfast. I loathe, loathe, loathe the advert for a particular meat based snack based on the old 'Hank Marvin' joke. But, again, I am not a glowing role model for healthy eating either!

We could blame the Media for its constant obsession with celebrity weight loss. We could blame Disney and Mattel for the unrealistic body shapes they have given princesses and Barbie (except they look pretty healthy to me). We could blame the fairy tales we read where the pretty princesses' only goal in life is to have a nice dress, a good pair of shoes and meet a prince (sadly I know plenty of women in their 40's who still believe that one!). But who buys the magazines, reads the stories and turns the TV on?  We do!

As a society, we are very blame-orientated these days without really wanting to examine our own parenting skills too closely. As kids we were allowed sweets at the weekend, cake at tea only if we'd cleared our plates and then eaten bread and butter and we always ate at the table. A Sunday treat was sitting round the coffee table in the 'living room' (lounge) with sandwiches watching the Sunday drama (usually something turgid by Sir Walter Scott) and, later, The Clothes Show.

We never went to restaurants unless we were visiting the grandparents in Plymouth and then it would be Wimpy (remember Rum Babas?) or "The Golden Egg". There was also the Mallard Cafe on Plymouth Hoe where you could sit on a promenade overlooking the sea and they served lemonade and cupcakes. Later, my mother used to take my sister and I to Marments (in Cardiff), an old fashioned clothes shop on two floors which had an Edwardian style lift with mirrors, fountains and a circular coffee bar which served limeade so green it looked nuclear and was so fizzy it gave you a headache.  We'd drink this while munching a Danish Pastry.  

As I said, I'm no nutritional role model!  Like most aspects of parenting so far, I think I'm going to have to play the weight issue by ear.  Where do you stand on the issue of child obesity

I've Been A Bit Distracted By ...Sultan Turkish Delight - 17/10/13

Described by Wikipedia less than romantically as a "gel of starch and sugar", these little Sultan's Turkish Delight beauties are one of my favourite treats. Ideal portion controlled low fatness that creates a gorgeous gloop in your mouth, sticks your teeth together and creates a blizzard of icing sugar on the carpet.  

Rose & Lemon Turkish Delight
Rose & Lemon Turkish Delight

Apparently Turkish Delight was invented by Bekir Effendi in Constantinople in 1776 and the original recipe contained honey and molasses as well as rosewater, lemon peel and bitter orange.

Dad used to give my sister and I a box of Sultans Turkish Delight every Christmas and Rose & Lemon is our absolute favourite. I'm less than convinced about the mint version.

Sultans Turkish Delight is available at around £2.50 per box from most supermarkets.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Review: Harumika Style Studio by Bandai

When I was young, I used to love to pretend to be a fashion designer and my parents bought me a fashion design kit which consisted of two flimsy purple plastic templates with which you could draw any style you liked - as long as it was a catsuit, and add a range of groovy accessories, including a large floppy hat.

All of my 'designs' bore an uncanny resemblance to the dance costumes sported by Pans People on Top of The Pops.  Yes it was the 1970's and Thursday night was TOTP night followed by Blankety Blank. Anyway, I digress as usual.

Caitlin has a flair for drawing and all things crafty (in both senses of the word!) so we were delighted to try out the toy I would have loved to have received instead of those flimsy templates - the Harumika Style Studio.

Harumika Style Studio by Bandai
Immensely popular in Japan, Harumika involves creating your own fashion designs on a small tailors dummy which allows you to tuck in pieces of material into a silicone strip at the back thereby creating a range of customised outfits. There is no cutting, gluing or sewing so even younger children can have a go at channelling their inner Vivienne Westwood. This set is targeted at the 6+ age group and I would say that's about right since Caitlin will be 6 in November.

The Style Studio comprises a sturdy and very well made pink case intended as a shop window in which to carry and display your creation. One tailor's dummy is supplied but there is room to display three. A starter kit of various swatches of material is also supplied so that you can begin to create your look. I would have liked an instruction leaflet, being a bit of an arts & crafts duffer but it didn't take long to work out what to do and the packaging does give you some guidance.

There are loads of other kits available e.g. the Party Dress Kit or the Runway Show Stopper kit which supply different swatches of material and accessories, but you could also supplement the swatches supplied with off-cuts of material from old clothes or odd remnants. Harumika devotees can also upload their designs to a website and hold fashion shows and style-offs on the website at www.bandai.co.uk/harumika.

Within minutes, Caitlin had worked out how to use the set and created her first look. She has spent quite a bit of time draping various bits of her jewellery over the dummy to customise her various outfits. And not a floppy hat in sight.

Harumika kits are available at retailers such as Argos, Amazon and ToysRus and the Style Studio retails around the £25 - £30 mark. Caitlin is now campaigning for extra fabrics and kits and her tailor's dummy is a new constant companion.

*A PR sample was received for the writing of this post.

Win Made in Chelsea Series 5 DVD [Region 2]

This giveaway is now closed but you can find all my current competitions on my competitions page.

A lovely friend gave me this as a present but I'm too late to the party to enjoy it, having managed to miss the first four series.  So, I'm giving this brand new, unopened copy of Made in Chelsea Series 5 to one of my lovely readers.

I'm reliably informed, thanks to Amazon.co.uk that "after the explosive revelations of the Christmas party at the end of series four, tensions are still running high".  Spencer and Louise are still together. Andy has a thing for Louise and Lucy has a thing for Spencer. And there are new girls on the scene, Olivia, Fran and Phoebe. Plus Ollie has a new girlfriend.

To find out more, just fill in the rafflecopter thingummy and everything could be 'okay yah'.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions are contained in the Rafflecopter widget and also at the tab above.  The winner will be selected at random and notified within 48 hours of the draw closing.  If I have not heard from them within 7 days, I reserve the right to redraw.  The prize will be posted within 7 days of confirmation being received from the prizewinner.

Good luck everyone.

I've Been A Bit Distracted By ... Estee Lauder Blockbuster - 16/10/13

Every Christmas Estee Lauder launches a fabulous kit of make-up in a beautiful case or bag which is available at an extra cost with an additional purchase, usually fragrance. Every year,  I lurk around beauty halls admiring the display model in its perspex case and duly put it on my Christmas list.

Revealed in 12 days:  The Estee Lauder 2013 Blockbuster!

This year's kit, known to Lauder Lovers as "The Blockbuster" will be revealed in just 12 days time. That makes it practically Christmas.

This year's Blockbuster will be called "Ultimate Colour" and promises "24 wearable colours with 2 deluxe cheek and lip palettes, a full size Sumptuous Extreme mascara and much more". It will be on sale at £50 with any fragrance purchase.

You can sign up at www.esteelauder.co.uk for more information about when this beauty will land. You'll find me lurking in Debenhams Beauty Hall then.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Review: www.iChild.co.uk - F&C Saving Superstar Activities

We were asked by the people at www.iChild.co.uk, a fabulous website containing a wealth of free educational resources for children up to age 11, to explore their F&C Saving Superstar activities. (F&C are an investment company). 

These are designed to teach children about money and guide them through a range of activities which get them used to the look and feel of money, as well as some basic sums and exercises to show how much things cost.

Caitlin, wondering how many Hello Kitty items could be purchased with these coins

iChild is designed for childminders, teachers, nursery carers, volunteer leaders, parents, grandparents or anyone looking after children. It has a vast range of free resources which support the current National Curriculum, plus activities suitable for the many religious festivals throughout the year. For example, there is a section on maths and the alphabet, as well as information about attractions such as Chessington Zoo or stories about the Saints. There is so much to choose from, it's tempting to browse for ages.

In addition, for a small monthly fee of £7.99, you can become a Gold member which gives you access to printable material such as flash cards and posters which can be personalised.  Gold Members can store up to 30 activities per day in an online "Toy Box" and print them all off in one go. Currently, if you pay annually, you receive two months' free plus a CD of nursery rhymes worth £10.

But, back to the F&C Saving Superstar activities. We received activities targeted for the Under 5's and the 5-7 age groups.

There are 10 activities to complete in each age group and, using the corresponding reward chart and certificate, you can monitor your child's progress as you go along and then reward them at the end. The first 2 activities, a reward chart and a certificate for each age group are downloadable free directly from the iChild website, with the rest being available free once you have registered at www.fandc.com/superstar.

For the under 5's, the kinds of activities included are:-

Ieuan & Daddy consider the coins needed to buy a top of the range Aston Martin

  • Looking at money - identify which coin is which
  • What is the value of each coin - what will they buy
  • Simple counting

There is even a party and a game included.

No.  £1.88 is just not going to do it
For the 5-7's the activities are a little more complex as you'd expect.  For example

  • The children are asked to copy the patterns and colours of coins onto templates
  • They are asked to identify the cheapest and the most expensive items
  • They are asked to work out what they can afford with pocket money earned from helping around the house (my absolute favourite!!!).

There is also a Race to £5 game and, for parents, a handy guide to internet safety.

Caitlin, assessing whether tooth fairy payments have increased in line with inflation

We had a lot of fun with the iChild F&C-Saving-Superstar Activities and I'd heartily recommend them as a way of introducing your children to the topic of money and saving in a structured, sensible way.

We will certainly be exploring some of the other activities on the iChild website!

*A collaborative post.
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