A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Silent Sunday - 19/01/2014

Caitlin & Ieuan on the sofa
Caitlin & Ieuan on the sofa

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Friday, 17 January 2014

I've Been A Bit Distracted By ...Oasis - 17/01/2014

This is a cute little blue skater dress with a pretty scalloped lace trim on the hem. It has a v neckline and long sleeves (always a bonus if you're a bit scared that if you lift your arms up, someone will shout "Bingo").

Lace trim knitted skater dress from Oasis
Lace Trim Knitted Skater Dress - Oasis - £45


Standard delivery is £3.99 and the dress is available from www.oasis-stores.com.

I've been searching for exciting Spring knitwear but everything I've seen so far could have been knitted by my Aunt Maud and seems to be in bland candy colours. If you've seen anything that inspires you, let me know.
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He's Not A Salad Dodger; He's A Salad Dodger's Son

Hmm. Well having just had my 4 yr old son hand me back each lettuce leaf off his plate and having been informed that he hates salad, it's still status quo here in the battle to get veg and salad into him. 



Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit



Short of sitting on him, my armoury of psychological tricks is rapidly running dry, save complete disinterest and feigning death (the latter would probably be frowned upon by Social Services and warrant front page coverage in the Daily Mail - "Mad woman's fake death inspires vegetable binge in toddler" or some such).

The marketing of salad to children has always been tricky. I became vaguely interested at the Tale of Peter Rabbit when his lettuce eating made him sleepy and am convinced that the Magic Roundabout's rabbit, Dylan, has clearly been smoking some sort of vegetable (I hesitate to use the word weed here obviously).

Other than that, I remember the biscuits in Enid Blyton's "The Magic Faraway Tree", the fabulous tea Mr Tumnus the fawn puts together for Lucy in "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" and the picnic in "Wind in The Willows". J. K. Rowling could have done an extra national service to parents across the land if she'd introduced vegetables into the plot of Harry Potter, although you couldn't really see Hagrid as a vegan could you?

Caitlin enjoys school dinners and proudly announces each day that she has eaten some vegetables so I am hoping it's an age and / or control thing with Ieuan. Surprisingly, Ieuan often comes home from school with a "clean plate award" sticker, but he's always suspiciously hazy about what was on the plate he cleaned.

Even more suspiciously, Ieuan recently had tea with one of his best school buddies and reportedly ate peas, carrots and, (cue my incredulous face), broccoli. I'm not sure what's going on but I can't get that quote of Gandhi's out of my head "be the change you hope to see in the world" because, if it's true that kids learn by copying I'm not exactly grade a material as a nutrition coach. Or possibly as tough as Ieuan's friend's mum.

If I stop and think about it, I'M the true salad dodger.

I've got into the awful habit of eating the same thing most days to keep my weight stable. I now know to the gram what I can eat and what I have to avoid. I eat the veg which hubby cooks with our evening meal but he is always wading through the 'veg cupboard' removing blackened carrots and yellowed broccolli. (Have you noticed that men are generally food nazis when they don't have to do the shopping themselves?).

I must confess that my staple diet consists of hot cross buns, marshmallows, jaffa cakes, diet coke, Babybel cheeses, curry and red wine. It's a good job Gillian McKeith has vanished off the radar or she'd be chasing me with a large pointy stick and a poo pot.

My favourite story about Gillian McKeith comes from Nigella Lawson (looking depressingly good in Nigellissima despite chowing down on a vat of lard and cream judging by her recipes). she has named the cupboard in her house where she keeps the cakes, biscuits, crisps and sweets as "The Gillian McKeith".

Anyway, I'm digressing as usual. But I think I'm the one who's going to have to have the diet overhaul before Ieuan can be inspired to try salad. And I'm going to have to eat the stuff. Not smoke it.
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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Silent Sunday - 12/01/2014

Caitlin ready for her ballet lesson
Caitlin ready for her ballet lesson

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Thursday, 9 January 2014

Online Cashback Schemes - I'm Confused!

I'm beginning to realise that making the most of cash back schemes and loyalty cards requires quite a bit of planning and strategy when it comes to your weekly shop.

I had a look at Quidco's site today and my head was in a whirl by the end of it - and I consider myself quite a savvy shopper. Each time you shop via Quidco, the retailer you purchase from pays them a referral fee which Quidco then pass back to you in the form of cash back. They say it is possible to amass hundreds, even thousands of pounds of cash back over a year. A good incentive to use them indeed!



Not only do they have the Quidco app which allows you to get great deals on your mobile but they also have Click Snap - which allows you to take up deals on grocery shopping, either direct on line or at the store, where you have to upload your receipt afterwards to take advantage of the saving.

To benefit from Quidco you obviously have to adjust your shopping to buy what's on offer - so is that really an economy? Then there's potential savings at Costco Wholesalers where we took out a membership back in May. I know I should be comparing the cost per item against the supermarket item cost to see if I'm really making a saving. At the moment, I'm assuming I am on the basis that we're buying in bulk.

Factor in voucher sites like Voucher Cloud, other cash back sites like Topcashback and Tesco Clubcard loyalty points and I'm completely muddled.

I'm guessing that, if I want to save on our grocery shopping this year, I am going to have to sit down and create a practical, sustainable budget.

One of my hobbies is entering competitions and I have had quite a bit of luck. I only enter for prizes that we really need as a family. You won't find me entering competitions for prams now the children don't need one and then selling it on Ebay. I am aware some compers do this but it feels dishonest to me and unfair on someone who might really need that particular prize.

The things I win, such as vouchers, food and clothes, are our family treats and I see it as my way of contributing to the family finances whilst I am a stay at home mum. There is, of course, no guarantee of a win but it adds a fun element to our finances.

If you fancy giving comping a go, a good place to start is www.theprizefinder.com which is completely free and provides a comprehensive list of all kinds of competition which you can sort through according to the date they close, the date they were added to the site or the type of prize you are looking for.

But, in terms of maximising our monthly income, there's nothing else for it. I'm going to have to create that budget. Here's one from Mr Money Saving Expert himself - Martin Lewis that I might try.

Has anyone else undertaken a complete overhaul of family finances and how did you do it? I'd love to know.
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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Renew With A Twist of FTN - World's First Wholefood Nutraceutical Stem Cell Recovery Drink

In my usual New Year quest to be fit and hone the bod into a Goddess like state, I like to try everything new and exciting in the Health market but I was particularly intrigued to discover a world first, currently being launched in the UK - FTN.


FTN wholefood nutraceutical stem cell recovery drink

As our bodies age, they begin to slow down and lose the natural ability to repair and renew cell damage. 


FTN is the world's first wholefood nutraceutical stem cell recovery drink which you take everyday.

The makers say it has a potent blend of five key ingredients which have been proven to work with the body's own natural repair and renewal systems - allowing the body to slow down the ageing process, speed up recovery times from training and also protect against degenerative diseases. 
It is completely natural and free of any chemical or stimulants and its unique properties have already been documented in five published independent research papers - all of which are downloadable via the FTN website. 

It already has a number of celebrity fans such as Sir Elton John and his partner and model/actress Agnes Deyn.

So what are the five key ingredients?

Green Tea extract which helps to support the health of the digestive and respiratory systems and enhances the proliferation of cells within the skin

Wild blueberry extract which further promotes maintenance of healthy brain, cardiovascular, vision, joint and urinary tract function

Vitamin D which supports adult stem cell renewal and helps these cells become immune cells for naturally fighting infection

Organic blue-green micro-algae which contains protein, essential fatty acids, chlorophyll, beta-carotene and a vast array of micro-nutrients that supercharge the body’s ability to maintain superior overall well-being

Amino Acids which can be thought of as pieces of a complex protein puzzle which build and repair all kinds of tissue in the body.

All delivered in organic fruit juice which gives a refreshingly cleansing taste.

FTN is available in Citrus and Super Berry Flavour and your daily dose is a 60ml shot which comes in a neat little, 'twist and drink' bottle.


Varieties of FTN wholefood nutraceutical stem cell recovery drink

My unwilling guinea pig (The Husband) tried the Citrus and I tried the Super Berry and the drink is pleasant tasting with a slightly smoothy-like texture.  

It's certainly a very easy way to take a powerhouse of nutrients without spending hours wrestling with a juicer or a blender. 

The bottles would be very handy to carry around in your handbag (or gym bag) and for busy mums, are a good energy booster when you start to flag around 4 pm. 

FTN is currently being sold online at www.ftnbelieve.com, www.amazon.co.uk and stocked with specialist retailers Win Naturally. 

It will be available at Holland & Barrett and Boots in the New Year. You can currently try FTN for two weeks at a cost of £19.99 with free shipping. 

You can also find more about FTN on Twitter (@ftnbelieve) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ftnbelieve).
*PR samples were sent for the purposes of this review.
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Sunday, 5 January 2014

Let's Celebrate - All Year Round!

I always going into a right old funk this time of year. Of the Eeyore rather than the Jamiroquai variety. Is there anything more miserable than the twinkling lights of everyone else’s Christmas decorations once the last streamer has unfurled on New Year’s Eve?

1950's office Christmas party


The kind of wild & crazy party we hold at Hobbis Towers

Taking all your Christmas decorations down isn’t exactly fun, is it? We’re not supposed to take them down until Twelfth Night (6th January) but I have seen many Facebook statuses along the “couldn’t stand it any more so I’ve taken them all down” variety. The thought of having nothing to look forward to until the daffodils appear and Wales goes slightly mad over St. David’s Day and the Six Nations Rugby tournament hits its stride really depresses me.

So I thought I’d see if I could compile a list of events to commemorate before then. Obviously there’s Burns Night on 25th January. You don’t have to be Scottish to celebrate that do you? Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, Shortbread and Whisky – easy. Except I don’t know anyone who can play the bagpipes.

Or what about St. Dwynwen’s Day, also the 25th January. Dwynwen is the Welsh version of St. Valentine – patron saint of lovers and also of sick animals. Dwynwen fell in love with someone entirely unsuitable and after drinking a potion given to her by an angel was forced to renounce men and retreated to Llanddwyn Island off the west of coast of Anglesey to die an unmarried hermit in AD 460. These days she might have been helped to get over it by internet dating and ITV's “Take Me Out”. Can’t imagine Paddy shouting “Let the Saints see The Sinners”, can you?

Or on February 3rd, you can celebrate the Feast Day of Blaise – Patron Saint of Throat Ailments, Veterinarians and Wild Animals. Blaise was a bishop who convinced a wolf to return a woman’s stolen pig whilst on the way to his trial for being caught praying. Sentenced to death by starvation, the pig’s owner sneaked in food to his cell and this so incensed the Governor that he had him beheaded in AD 316.

I hope at this point your mind is thronging with canapĂ© suggestions and nattily named cocktails. Because whilst you’re getting all Martha Stewart, there’s also the feast day of Apollonia, Patron Saint of Dentists on 9th February. Apollonia was set upon by a mob who took out all her teeth and offered to spare her life if she would renounce her faith. I think you can guess the end of the story but Apollonia is often depicted wearing a necklace of her own teeth.

You know, I’m beginning to realise why we don’t actually celebrate too many saints’ days……. These are more days for quiet reflection and thought – something that is also missing from many of our lives.

Perhaps we should just invent some of our own celebrations – “First Sighting Of A Snowdrop”? I would suggest first sighting of a Cadbury’s Cream Egg but in Cadbury World Christmas segues neatly into Easter into what can only be described as four straight months of chocolate.

Actually, do we really need an excuse to celebrate? Good friends, good food, good wine – a little candlelight – what could be nicer to get through the dark days before Spring has sprung. Christmas makes us make the effort; many of us are less proactive through the rest of the year. What better New Year’s resolution could there be than to celebrate life and take every opportunity to enjoy yourself?

If you can play the bagpipes though and you live near Cardiff, though, just give me a shout!
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Silent Sunday - 05/01/2014

Caitlin & Ieuan as superman
Sunday morning chaos

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Saturday, 4 January 2014

I Can't Sleep - Insomnia Padme Hum

Occasionally lately insomnia has reared its ugly head and I've been having trouble sleeping. Nothing is worrying me so I'm guessing it has to be one of the usual culprits - too much caffeine, too many late nights, possibly a little too much Rioja on the odd night but nothing I can pinpoint.

I'm wondering if it might be.... dun, dun, dun, the herald of the menopause or at the very least a hormonal imbalance requiring some exotic herb harvested from the foothills of the Andes and sold at a 700% profit margin in my local chemist. Incidentally, what has happened to chemists? They all seem to be turning into pharmacies.


The Dark Recesses of My Tortured Noctural Mind? - No, I think it might be Cardiff Bay

Now in France, a pharmacy is a place of excitement if you have a penchant for skincare preparations which promise the skin of a nubile fourteen year old girl in two weeks. In Britain, well, not so much - usually shelves full of strangely branded makeup and toiletries you remember from the 70's like Silvikrin and Cuticura plus Chupa Chups lollies. What possible medical purpose Chupa Chups lollies serve, apart from encouraging sales of dental products I'm not sure. The only reason I can think that a chemist might sell them is because at 20p, they are a cheap way of keeping your kids quiet whilst you wait for your prescription.

Anyway, where was I? Oh,yes, Sleepless in Dinas (never going to be a film title, that one). I could try Nytol but tablet taking is not my preferred first port of call. Then there's milk with nutmeg grated on the top which is supposed to be very soporific. It's quite challenging these days to actually find a whole nutmeg. Our local Tesco doesn't do exotic. One Christmas I asked a staff member for Star Anise and I swear they thought I meant the one that shone over the stable at Bethlehem judging by the look I got.

I'm guessing I'll have to use the one thing that used to send me into a stupor as an English undergrad - any novel by Charles Dickens. Heresy to say it but I used to find that until I got past at least the 6th chapter, I'd be snoozing faster than The Husband during an Emmerdale Omnibus.
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Review: Spatone Liquid Iron Food Supplement - Apple & Vitamin C

Did you know that 91% of women between the ages of 16 and 64 do not get sufficient iron in their diet? Quite a staggering statistic.

Iron is needed in the body to transport oxygen and to help maintain a healthy immune system.
 
Spatone liquid iron supplement - delicious apple taste with vitamin C 
It is particularly important for pregnant women.

When I was pregnant with Ieuan in 2009, just a few weeks away from a planned caesarian, the midwife found my iron level was low.

She made it very clear that there would be no delivery until my iron levels were back up - for both my and Ieuan's safety.

She recommended Spatone (from Nelsons Natural World) - made from iron rich water sourced from the Snowdonia mountains as it was easy to take as a liquid supplement and gentle on the stomach.



Spatone comes in easy to open individual dose sachets.

The recommended daily dose is one sachet for adults and children but pregnant women are advised to take two sachets.

It certainly did the trick very quickly and I had none of the stomach aches, constipation or headaches that sometimes a side effect of the more traditional iron tablets.

When I was pregnant, I tried the original Spatone but there is now a new variety - Spatone Apple combined with Vitamin C, which aids the absorption of iron from non meat sources.

So you're getting the recommended daily dose of iron and Vitamin C together.
The Husband and I both tried it (one sachet = one daily dose).

You can see from the picture the size of the dose but it really does have quite a pleasant apple-y taste and you would not know you were consuming iron.

It would be easy to add a dose to some apple juice, should you need to give an iron supplement to your children (only suitable over 2 years old). T

The Husband, never one to be taken in by marketing in any shape or form whatsoever (why he married an ex-marketing professional on that basis I'm not quite sure) and my trusty benchmark for testing said "Hmm. That was quite nice".

And so it was.

Nelsons are running a competition on their website to win a box of Spatone Apple. Just enter your details on their website.

You can buy Spatone Apple from Boots, Waitrose, Tesco, Asda, Lloyds Pharmacy and independent pharmacies and health food stores priced around £10 for 28 sachets.

Disclosure: I received one box of Spatone Apple for the purposes of this review.
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Friday, 3 January 2014

It's Budget Time - Pass Me My Small Suitcase

At this time of year everyone feels the pinch, don't they? I'm watching Martin Lewis on ITV and thinking that I should implement his system of multiple bank accounts in which to channel amounts for holidays, Christmas and big purchases.

Stacks of coins and pens

I've tried to do a budget before. In the old days I used to limit myself to about £40 a week in cash. These were the days when if a full supermarket shop approached £100 it was a BIG shop. Now it's difficult to leave our corner shop without having spent £15 on bread, milk, cake and a bit of fruit.

Make no mistake. I am well aware I am lucky to have funds to spend on items I could, and arguably should, be making myself. Hands up. No excuses.

But when did everything become so expensive? Is it because of the rocketing cost of fuel, affecting transportation costs - which then of course get passed on to us, the consumer? Is it because we eat so much out of season, again involving fruit travelling half way across the world to keep us happy? It's no wonder Gordon Ramsay's mantra is "eat fresh, eat local".

It's great that we see loads of artisan bakers and other types of food producer springing up all over the UK. Organic produce is now widely available (though don't think, by the way that this means it is entirely pesticide free!). Marco Pierre White exhorts us to ask about the provenance of our meat as though it is a regular occurrence to debate the origin of our beef rather than see how many fish fingers we have lurking at the bottom of the freezer.

We are obsessed with TV cooks and cookery shows. I have a bookshelf groaning with cookery books which promise exotic meals, budget meals, healthy meals, vegetarian meals - all knocked up in 20 minutes with the minimum of effort but, and here's where the plan goes a bit wrong, most of these mean you have to go to the supermarket and make quite a hefty investment in spices, vinegars and oils. Think about most diet plans - a basket of low fat food is, in my experience at least, definitely more expensive than the fuller fat and (debatably) less healthy version.

Our hunger for buying is insatiable. Shopping malls are truly the new churches, except that they tend to lead us further into the path of temptation. I sometimes think that the best way to save money is to lock yourself in the house!

So, I will be examining the family finances with a fine tooth-comb and consulting some of my fellow bloggers for their advice. Cash back sites, saving money on energy bills, becoming a Queen of coupons - all some of my goals for Spring.
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