A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Review: ClaireaBella Medium Jute Bags for Girls

You may remember I recently posted about my lovely personalised jute bag made by ClaireaBella. Loved by celebs and previously featured on ITV's This Morning, I bought my personalised bag during one of stockist Toxic Fox's occasional discount offer periods and both Caitlin and I fell in love with it.

Since then, the ClaireaBella range has exploded with a whole raft of girls' accessories which can be personalised - not only jute bags but hoodies, t-shirts, mugs, wine glasses and phone covers to name just a few.

Caitlin was overjoyed when she recently got the chance to have her own ClaireaBella medium jute bag courtesy of Toxic Fox.  The bags are an ideal birthday present for girls of all ages and great for taking on holiday to pose on the beach!

How are the bags personalised? Simply go to the Toxic Fox website, click on ClaireaBella and then select the most appropriate dress design, hair style, hair colour, eye colour, skin tone and name (up to 12 characters) for you, then sit back and wait for your unique bag to arrive. You can design your own 'aBella' character in about a minute and it is really easy to do. 

Choose your outfit and then customise eye, hair, and skin colour and choose an accessory.

And it's so simple, Caitlin designed hers in a couple of minutes. In fact she revisited the application quite a few times to play around with different looks and combinations.

In terms of quality, the bags are very well made and the jute is of a sturdy quality. Caitlin's is a Girls Medium Jute Bag which measures 30 cm wide x 27 cm high with a 15 cm gusset. The handles are nicely rounded so that the bag is comfortable to carry.  You can have a name up to 12 characters painted on your bag.

The bag also features Swarovski elements, a cute rosette bow, a 'hand made with love' silver charm and a gorgeous rosette and bow. Each design is also surrounded by matching bubbles. Because there are so many ClaireaBella impersonators out there, each bag also says "yes it's a ClaireaBella" on the reverse.

The jute bags can take up to 15 Working Days to produce as they are hand-made with love. Because each bag is hand painted by a fully trained ClaireaBella artist there may be some slight colour variations, but this makes every bag unique.

The Girls' Medium Jute Bag measures 30cm wide by 27cm high with a 17cm gusset and is priced at £34.99 with free delivery when you spend over £40.

More information is available at ClaireaBella at Toxic Fox. @ClaireaBellaLtd on Twitter or on Facebook.

Be warned though,  Caitlin already has several "mum & daughter" shopping trips planned so we can show off our ClaireaBella personalised bags!

This is a collaborative post..

Monday, 29 June 2015

5 Things People With Tinnitus Want You To Know

My ears are buzzing. My tinnitus is back and it's so ridiculous.  The trigger?  A hand-drier in a toilet yesterday lunchtime.  Whether or not it affected the volume of my tinnitus cannot be proved;  what it did do was focus my attention on sounds I try hard to ignore on a daily basis.

I put my hearing aids in today.  I have been told that I need to wear them so that my brain gets used to full-on sound again, with the bonus that the increase in background noise may drown out the tinnitus - or at least change my focus.  And, honestly?  It did make a difference.  Depressingly though, I take them out and wheeeee it's back.  Yes I know I will need to wear them for months.  To retrain my ears but it's the emotional impact that is often hard to deal with.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, tinnitus can be described as sounds a person can hear from inside their body rather than from an outside source. Although it is often described as 'ringing in the ears', sounds can take the form of buzzing, humming, grinding, hissing, whistling or sizzling. Some people describe it as sounding like chirping crickets. Sometimes, the noise associated with tinnitus beats in time with a person’s pulse. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus. Tinnitus can often have a significant impact on day-to-day life, such as affecting concentration and cause sleeping problems and depression.

If you think tinnitus is some airy-fairy, minor physical niggle, take a look at the tinnitus groups on Facebook and you will be staggered by both the degree of suffering endured and the immense spirit that some sufferers manage to find.

Here's what I suspect many of them would like to say to you.

- these sounds are not 'in our imagination'.  Focusing on something else is a skill that has to be learned.  We cannot just "do something to take our mind off it".

- we may not sleep well.  This will make us tired, grumpy and irritable.  Some of us love to sleep because it's the only break we get.  For others, the quiet of a bedroom makes things infinitely worse.

- we miss silence.  Oh boy do we miss silence.  Sometimes sufferers report that their tinnitus may vanish for random periods of time (although it generally returns) and they get a glimpse of the silent bliss now denied them.

- we don't care if it sounds like quackery.  We will try anything to get some peace.  Obviously this makes us a ripe old target for scammers and snake-oil merchants but it's known that the placebo effect is immensely strong.  If we think Gingko Biloba, acupuncture, magnesium baths, vitamin B6 or anything else might help, support us.

- don't tell us "it's just stress".  We know that.  We're stressed because we have tinnitus, not necessarily the other way round.

Thankfully we have organisations like the British Tinnitus Association to offer support and guidance but the feedback I generally glean from the various forums is that tinnitus is rarely understood and frequently treated with a complete lack of sympathy from ENT Departments and GPs alike.

It is even harder for the loved ones of sufferers to understand and deal with.  The Husband is as sympathetic as he can be but his approach is to focus on something else - so, so difficult.

I guess sufferers feel, like I do, that tinnitus is a curse.  Why me?  must be the silent (ah the irony) refrain of many.  We search to understand what caused it and any sniff of a cure, however flakey, makes us light up like beacons with long-surpressed hope.

There are so many people suffering from this now, not least those returning from military service, those who have had car accidents, those who have had industrial injuries and those who suffer from hearing loss.

Yes.  Tinnitus is not fatal but the misery it causes sometimes is.  On that basis alone, tinnitus sufferers need to band together and demand more research and push for solutions that are clinically tried and have a proven efficacy.

I understand that such studies are underway, however, I hope the results and any cure follow swiftly behind.

Pretty Girls' Sandals Caitlin is Coveting

Caitlin views herself, like many 7 year olds as a budding fashionista and, having spent far too long (in her view) in sensible school shoes, is very excited at the prospect of the long summer holiday and being able to wear what she likes (with covert supervision from me of course). This means girly, flowery, glittery or sparkly sandals - and preferably a combination of all of those!

The challenge, of course, is balancing the budget in the certain knowledge that kids grow so fast sometimes you can have as little as a couple of months before they go up a shoe size.  Then there's the issue of durability - flimsy sandals won't last two minutes on the beach or give the necessary foot support.

Sometimes though, you just have to let them enjoy being a girl, don't you?

Here are some of our favourite sandals for girls.

Jones The Bootmaker Rose Flower Casual Sandals - £22 reduced from £30

This one, from Jones The Bootmaker, is a pink open toe sandal with floral & diamante detailing. It has a shock absorbing sole, a comfy padded leather sock, padded collar, a full touch fastening strap and adjustable touch fastening toe strap.

Lelli Kelly Chantal Leopard Sandals - £39.99

Much as I love the designs of Lelli Kelly Sandals, I do find the range somewhat pricey.  Caitlin, of course, is completely hooked by the funky designs and the assorted 'gifts' which are often thrown in as an extra incentive.  These sandals have a leopard print and a gold and metallic fuxia flower on the strap. They have a velcro strap fasting and are embroidered with the Lelli Kelly wording at the back.

BLOX Kids Tropical Wedge Sandal- £22 at Brantano 

This one is a multi coloured tropical print cork screw wedge sandal with pleating detail and an adjustable side strap.

John Lewis Penny Metallic Sandals Pink/Silver/Tan - £20

The leather board sandals have an enclosed back section with a silver ankle strap and a contrast coloured front strap. They are fastened with rip-tape and look easy and comfortable to wear.

Clarks Volkin Ice Jnr in Red Leather - £16 reduced from £34

These sandals have a fabulous retro feel and have two adjustable buckles for a secure fit. A strap behind the ankle adds extra support and Air Spring FX technology in the rubber sole absorbs impact and provides cushion comfort. This sandal is also water-friendly so it can be worn on the beach.

Jones The Bootmaker Keira Casual Sandals - £22 reduced from £28

This is a white T-bar open toe sandal with cut out flowers including diamante centres. The sandals have a padded leather sock, padded collar and touch fastening strap with 2 additional adjustable toe touch fastening straps.

Tabarca Gold Toned Glitter Sandals from TK Maxx £12.99 reduced from £29.90

These lovely sparkly sandals are from Tabarca at TK Maxx. They have a contoured foot-bed for a comfortable fit and glittery straps.

Now, of course, it's summer sale time so don't forget to check sites like topcashback.co.uk to see if there are any voucher codes you could use.

I think I could do with a pair of sparkly sandals of my own!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

My Sunday Photo - 28/06/15


Saturday, 27 June 2015

My Boy Ieuan Is 6

So my Spiderman is now 6 years old and I, like many other parents, have no clue where the last six years went. Readers of this blog will know that I had Ieuan when I was 45 years old.

Baby Ieuan  in 2009
Ieuan was born by elective caesarian at the University of Wales Hospital, Cardiff at 9:48 am. His sister, Caitlin was born by emergency caesarian when I was 43 and it was thought that this would be safer for Ieuan due to my age. I was given the option to deliver 'normally' but was too nervous to do so since Caitlin's cord was wrapped around her neck three times.

Ieuan's birth was relatively uneventful, save for the Husband passing out and having to be fed coffee and chocolate by the consultant whilst the rest of us waited patiently for his eyes to uncross.  Never let your husband abstain from food and water in an act of 'solidarity' would be my tip.  Unfortunately, at the moment he chose to blank out, the nurses were doing the ice block test to see if my spinal block had worked and I had to be returned to the trolley.

Ieuan at National Trust Dyffryn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan
I have no truck, I should say at this point, with anyone who claims that real women do not give birth this way. I have read such rubbish since having my kids aimed at making women feel inferior because they did not 'push'.  I'm assuming that these critics are part of the same group of breast-feeding nazis who decree that breast is best to the exclusion of all else, including common sense and empathy with new mothers.

Ieuan and his maternal grandfather, 'Taid'.
Ieuan has grown into a delightful, caring little boy who I've nicknamed "the Chairman of the Board" because when he's out and about (usually dressed as Spiderman) he addresses all and sundry, talks to anyone and flirts outrageously with any girl or woman he considers to be "foxy".

Outside the National Museum of Wales
With Big Sister Caitlin outside the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
You may not believe in Astrology but Ieuan, being a Cancerian shows quite a few decidedly Cancerian traits ("Cancerians need a lot of attention due to their unpredictable character":  They are intuitive, insightful and have an excellent memory"). Cancerians are loving and loyal, although they can be moody, cranky and,er, crabby. They are also supposed to love their food and luckily Ieuan is moving out of his "half boy, half peanut butter" phase to try a wider variety of foods and, occasionally, vegetables).

Tree climbing at National Trust Dyffryn Gardens
Ieuan's favourite things at this stage of his life (apart from any Marvel superhero) include Lego, swimming, wrestling with his father (it was a complete shock to me, never having had a brother, to find how rough boys are at play!) and, just recently, Harry Potter.  I suspect he may be now be occasionally dressed as a wizard.  He loves Cherry Bakewells and Quavers and has probably broken a Guinness Record for the consumption of pears and bananas.  His squash has to be blackcurrant and his pasta requirement is for spaghetti or fusilli ('curly pasta') only. His current favourite phrase is "I'll do it tomorrow"!

His party this year was a superhero party at Hamleys in Cardiff (one of their many themed parties) and he had a wonderful time surrounded by Batman, Supergirl and Batgirl plus his superhero friends.

Hamley bear popped in to say hello and to dish out hugs.

Playing Superhero Statues with Batman

I can't believe Ieuan will be going into Year 2 in September. They grow up so fast, don't they?

Happy Birthday Ieuan - my little superhero.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Review & Giveaway: The Seven Natural Wonders of The Earth - My First Travel Books

This is a lovely little book and is the second in an on-going travel series for children.  Author Anna Othitis, originally from Zimbabwe and now living in America, introduces us to her son, Captain Frankie of Angelic Airlines and the story sees him fly us around the World to visit our planet's "seven natural wonders".

These span all four continents and whilst I had heard of some of them (for example, Mount Everest in the Himalayas and Australia's Great Barrier Reef), others I had not (Paricutin Volcano in Mexico) or would not have thought of (The Grand Canyon in Colorado, USA).

Written as if Captain Frankie is talking to us over the plane's intercom, each wonder is introduced by a poem and then there is some age-appropriate factual information, together with a simple quiz for the children to do.  At the end of the book Captain Frankie asks the children to name out loud the seven natural wonders they have just visited.  There are also pictures of the countries' national flags at the beginning of the book and then again as a test at the end.

I have to say that I learned quite a bit.  I did get my Geography 'O' Level (remember them?!) but aside from the fact that there were lots of orange groves in California and Ox bow lakes were quite easy to draw, I find my geographic knowledge is slightly sketchy!  The Husband, of course, gets to fly around the World quite regularly (although he claims he only sees airport lounges and hotel rooms). We have not yet ventured abroad with the kids but they already have their suitcases packed in anticipation!

For example, did you know that the Victoria Falls water drops 354 feet down?  Or that the Paricutin Volcano stands at 1353 feet, which is higher than the Empire State Building in New York? What about that there are 1500 species of fish in the Great Barrier Reef or that the Grand Canyon is 18 miles wide?

I particularly liked the environmentally friendly emphasis - we are reminded to take care of our earth and the way that Anna's books can be used as teaching aids to encourage conversation between parents and children. Captain Frankie's light, friendly tone makes you feel as if he really is talking to you.

This is a great way to teach our kids about the wonders of the Earth in a fun and engaging way.  I'll be checking out the rest of the series for Caitlin and Ieuan.

Scroll down for the author's giveaway - $50 Amazon.com giftcard or PayPal cash (winner's choice).

Follow Captain Frankie on his adventures...

Are you ready to take to the skies?
Then welcome to Angelic Airlines!
Come join the adventures of Captain Frankie and the Angelic Airlines flying angel as they travel across the world to the Seven Natural Wonders of the Earth. Captain Frankie is waiting for you to book your ticket, safely stow your bags, and open your eyes to the beautiful places created for all of us to visit in My First Travel Books.

This is Anna Othitis’s second trip with Captain Frankie and the crew. Originally from Zimbabwe, Africa, her home port is now Wanaque, New Jersey, and she has flown across the world in her travels.

Book available at

"My daughter and I enjoyed these books. We took a trip around the world without leaving the house! We saw things and places we will probably never see in real life." - review from Amazon

"Beautifully illustrated, amazing little 'first travel' adventure book for children. A great way to get children interested in the geography of the world and the delights of travel." - review from Amazon

"Another gem from this consistant author. She is making quite a name for herself. You will not be disapointed!!" - review from Goodreads

"This book is in its simplest form: fun, educational and informative, which plays an important part in connecting our children with our world.  So come on and fly the skies with us on Angelic Airlines to some popular world destinations with your friendly Captain Frankie"

Check out the other My First Travel Books...

My First Travel Book (My First Travel Books) (Volume 1) 

Are you ready to take to the skies?
Captain Frankie welcomes you on board.
Come join the adventures of Captain Frankie and the Angelic Airlines flying angel as they travel across the world to some of the most popular, entertaining, and educational places in the world.

Captain Frankie is waiting for you to book your ticket, safely stow your bags, and open your eyes to the beautiful places created for all of us to visit in My First Travel Book.

Book available at
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk   Barnes and Noble

The Seven Wonders of the World (My First Travel Books) (Volume 3)

Are you ready to take to the skies?
Then welcome to Angelic Airlines!
Come join the adventures of Captain Frankie and the Angelic Airlines flying angel as they travel across the world to the Seven Wonders of the World. Captain Frankie is waiting for you to book your ticket, safely stow your bags, and open your eyes to the beautiful places created for all of us to visit in My First Travel Books.

This is Anna Othitis’s third trip with Captain Frankie and the crew.

Originally from Zimbabwe, Africa, her home port is now Wanaque, New Jersey, and she has flown across the world in her travels.

Book available at

About the Author
I lived and was raised in the beautiful land and country of Zimbabwe, Africa (home will always be home). We relocated to Wanaque, New Jersey, USA, our new home and where our younger son, Frankie, took up his “American Dream”.

 My husband George, sons Johnny, Elia and Frankie encouraged me to write my first children’s book titled My First Travel Book, which was inspired by Frankie (Captain Frankie). Given a wonderful opportunity, he graduated in his Masters degree in Aeronautical Science, and is successful in his career as a professional pilot. My favorite saying is: “Be Bold Be Brave”.

My dream is to be given the opportunity for my book to reach each and every less fortunate child who will have the opportunity to fantasy travels through our book to see our lovely world destinations, and to one day to give back and assist the needy in Africa and beyond, to keep giving care and love to the less fortunate. Whilst in Zimbabwe I was involved with many charitable organizations and groups where my greatest passion and love was with the primitive, simple people of Zimbabwe, Africa and will still continue to reach out to the many beautiful children of the world.

Now living in the USA, after having traveled some short and some long journeys, to get to our final destination, we realize how small this world really is, yet is also so big and so beautiful in each and every corner. Still so much is untouched by humans, which will hopefully remain sacred in many areas. We have to cherish every and all beautiful things that our planet earth has to offer to us.

Find the author on the following sites...

I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own. 


Win a $50 Amazon.com Giftcard or Paypal Cash
(winners choice)
Open Worldwide
Ending on Sunday 12th July at 11.59pm EST

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a Rafflecopter giveaway


Save Me From The Shiny Happy People

I'm having one of those grumpy mornings when all my gripes and moans are amplified by the kind of mood which makes you find even gamboling kittens rather irritating.

And nothing is worse during these times than a run-in with the terminally jolly.

Now I know I should not find happy, upbeat, positive people occasionally annoying.  It's probably a heresy to say so but don't you sometimes suspect that it's all a bit of an act?

There are a myriad ways to shore up flakey self confidence and I don't doubt there's a lot of truth in the statement "fake it until you make it" but good God, please give the rest of us a break.

Actually, people who put a positive spin on everything run the risk of denying others the chance to experience their misery in glorious techicolour - which is often quite enjoyable, albeit for a short period of time.  If you are insisting that everyone radiates sunshine, you force them to deny the storm clouds overhead and perhaps stop them from truly dealing with their problems.

I guess it's the difference between glass-half-full people (like the Husband) and glass-half-empty people like me.  I've come to the conclusion that we are genetically programmed this way.  Even in medieval times, doctors talked about 'the humours' and knew all about melancholia (possibly what we today know as depression).

If you happen to suffer from depression or anxiety (as I sometimes do), trust me when I say that you cannot whitewash your emotions by pretending to be happier than an Andrex puppy in a toilet roll factory.

You can change your state by changing your physiology - studies show if you smile you feel happier. We know that we can lift our mood by going for a walk or taking a nap.  But these I think are temporary fixes and the source of our gloom still needs to be addressed and comprehensively dealt with.

Do us misery guts a favour and let us be who we are.  If you must radiate sunshine and joie-de-vivre, could you do it quietly, and preferably without a witty slogan t-shirt and a selfie stick?

So no, I don't want to hear

"It'll all come out in the wash"

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that's why its called the present."

"Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.”

"Everything happens for a reason"

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life".

and any other phrase involving surviving.  The only person qualified to talk to me about survival is Gloria Gaynor.


Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Autumn & Winter Brides - Finding THE Gown For The Cooler Months

We married in late September at the fabulous St. David's Hotel & Spa in Cardiff. We knew we were taking a bit of a risk with the Great British weather but luckily we saw some sun. Nobody wants to shiver at the altar or need defrosting at their reception!

If you are planning an autumn or winter wedding, bridal wear specialists venusbridal.co.uk have given me their thoughts on wedding gowns suitable for the colder months.

autumn winter bridal gowns

From more budget-friendly prices to a better chance of getting the venue you want, there are many, many reasons to have a wedding in the autumn or winter months instead of a more typical spring or summer celebration. In fact in the world of weddings, autumn and winter could be seen as the new spring and summer.

But the best part of getting hitched in cooler months is definitely the wedding dresses, cover-ups and accessories an autumn or winter affair allows you to play around with. So after you’ve decided on the dress style that complements your body you can go wild with the colours of your wedding season. 

autumn winter bridal gowns

Although a white wedding dress is perfect for any time of year, autumn and winter weddings give you a chance to be more adventurous with colour. A colourful gown will add drama to your wedding day look. But if you still prefer to be more traditional you can take elements of autumn and winter colours and add them to a white dress.

Autumn Colours 

What about a dress that uses the hues of autumn – orange, deep rusty red, brown, olive and white gold? Or why not mix up the colours and go for a two tone wedding outfit.

Winter Colours

The colours associated with winter are stunning – red, gold and silver. Wintertime can provide a wedding with an entirely different feel by introducing more intensity and drama. Selecting a winter wedding dress can be a very different experience from any other time of the year and many winter brides wear bridal gowns with Christmas-themed colours and accents.

autumn winter bridal gowns


With the chillier weather, fabrics can be heavier and richer. You should think about using velvets, taffeta, satin, brocade and heavy silk. If you love lace choose a denser variety like Battenberg. Or you could create your own stylish, bespoke look - starting with a simple crêpe, satin or chiffon dress and layering everything from sequined overdresses and tiered skirts to washed silk sashes.

Staying warm and stylish 

You don’t have to sacrifice style just because the weather is freezing. Keep cosy with some seasonal accessories such as a wedding dress cover up. It can be as simple as a light jacket, an angora cardigan or a cashmere wrap. Even a lace or satin bolero can add warmth. A capelet is another excellent cover-up option. Some may prefer a wedding dress with long sleeves; in fact, sleeved gowns are back in a big way. But you could also add to the drama of the event with a glamourous faux fur stole. Other popular choices include fur hand warmers and full-length coats in white.

autumn winter bridal gowns

Autumn and winter weddings allow you to bring out your playful side, from wedding bouquets that include berries and turning leaves to a winter wonderland venue. Let the cooler months bring colour to your special day. With an almost endless choice, finding your wedding dress, whatever the season, is one of the most exciting parts about planning your big day.

This guest post was written by Venus Bridal, bridal gown designers and manufacturers who provide timeless, glamorous and diverse wedding gowns to stockists throughout the whole of the UK.

Monday, 22 June 2015

A Mummy Blogger's Guilt

Recovering from Britmums Live 2015 and still marvelling at the sheer volume of mummy bloggers, their chutzpah, their confidence and their blogging prowess, I am sat in my 'writing chair' (mine in the day, the Husband's in the evening) trying to 'inspire, educate, entertain' and many of the other goals discussed over the weekend.

Except I can't.

Nope.  It's an inset day and Caitlin and Ieuan are out playing in the garden whilst I sit here and feel what can best be termed as "extreme blogger guilt".  The Husband is in the loft working from home today before flying off to Europe on business tomorrow.  There is a kind of irony in that fact.  He is being paid and therefore has no qualms in focusing solely on his job. He will appear as referee and sounding board for both the kids and I if need be, but he has none of the accompanying guilt I feel.

I, on the other hand, am somewhat confused about what I should be focusing on.

If you are a 'stay at home mother', even if you work from home (or are trying to create a new job role for yourself), it feels as if your 'job' is to focus entirely on the children.

Don't get me wrong.  I chose this.  And yes, I'm bloody lucky.

But the boundaries are all mixed up.  I watch the kids play from the french doors' window and think "I should be out there with them.  I am missing valuable moments of their childhood which I will never have again"

The blogger in me says "yes, but you are not just a mum.  It is OK for you to try to re-establish yourself in the World, to create a niche, make the most of your education and help your husband to secure your kids' future (and, alright, to have some blogging-related fun times along the way).

It is not that wall-to-wall childcare is difficult in terms of 'technical ability' but the occasional mundanity and the sheer repetition can really grind you down - particularly if you have just had a (rare) two day break away from your kids and can just about still remember what it was like to have nobody to answer to but yourself, nobody else to worry about and nobody else's expectations to dash apart from your own!

The Husband has not had to make this choice and I'm not sure he altogether understands how vast a choice it feels like I have made sometimes.

Organisation is the key, I suppose.  A timetable which allows me to focus on time with the kids and time blogging.  The solutions are there - practicality should be my watchword.

But even then, I'm not sure it will heal the rift I feel between me as a mother and me as the professional working woman I once was.

I don't think I have ever felt more conflicted.

Review: DermaEraze Miracle Oil by Lorena Öberg

As you get older your skincare preparations need to be a whole lot gentler.  In fact, I think those of us over 40 have as big a job finding skincare products which truly suit us as teenagers fighting the blight of spots and blemishes (which I still occasionally get!).

For years I have viewed oils with a degree of suspicion.  All those years of removing oil from my face (especially my nose) and now I'm supposed to start putting it back on?

51 and I still get hurty, angry skin
But, I have started experiementing with oil based products (for example L'Oreal's Age Perfect Extraordinary Facial Oil and Sanctuary's Ultimate Cleaning Facial Oil) and my nervousness is definitely starting to abate.

I recently came across DermaEraze Miracle Oil - created by skin repair expert Lorena Öberg - CEO & Founder of 'Lorena Öberg Skincare'. Clinics in Harley Street & Surrey. An all purpose oil that helps heal the skin, it can be used as a moisturiser for dry skin, preventing and treating stretch marks (especially caused during pregnancy), after sun-care, bruises or chapped lips.  It contains a combination of oils including olive, avocado and almond oils which, says Lorena, will help stimulate healing and helps prevent skin imperfections if used daily.

To use DermaEraze Miracle Oil as part of your cleansing routine, after using your usual cleanser, simply apply a couple of dabs or tiny drops to each side of your face, then apply warm water on your hands and very gently massage the oil over your face (including any problem areas) then allow to settle.  The oil has a thin to medium consistency - it is not heavy or gloopy and I found that it is quickly absorbed.

The idea is that the oils will not only act as an essential conditioner for your skin but also provide a layer of protection and I certainly found my skin felt smoother and had benefited from the massaging. The dry patch to the side of my mouth was less flaky, albeit slightly redder from the massaging.

After applying DermaEraze Oil

It is obviously too early days to say how long it will take for DermaEraze Miracle Oil to get rid of my dry flaky patch, but it is certainly a gentler way of treating my skin than harsh exfoliation.  The oil is multi-purpose too. You can also use the oil in the bath and on your hair and the Husband can use it to shave.

Available at: www.lorenaoberg.co.uk/contact/shop/, DermaEraze Miracle Oil retails at £15 for 50ml with larger sizes available and a flat £5 shipping fee within the UK.

You can also connect with Derma Eraze on Twitter at @DermaEraze and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LorenaObergSkincare.

A PR sample was received for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

My Sunday Photo - 21/06/2015


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Can your GP really diagnose in 10 minutes?

Now I appreciate that we are lucky to have the NHS.  I also appreciate that many of my medical ailments are comparatively minor and that many GPs are working all the hours God sends (albeit for what could be considered a very generous salary) and do their best to help us.

An apple a day doesn't always keep the doctor away
But, here's the thing.

In my local surgery we are allocated 10 minutes per appointment and I fail to see how a comprehensive diagnosis can possibly be made in that time.  I spend more time waiting to see I doctor than I do in front of them. Ignoring the logistical problem of keeping everybody happy and ensuring medical emergencies get priority treatment, let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.

I have been variously diagnosed with TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint syndrome), Bruxism (teeth grinding), bleeding gums, Early Onset Hearing Loss and Vulvodynia.  Add to the mix lower back pain and anxiety. My life is occasionally a series of trips to the doctors - each generally futile because a GP will treat the symptoms you present at the time without considering the overall picture.

For example, go to the doctors with gynaecological problems and I can guarantee you will be treated for i) thrush, ii) water infection or if you are my age iii) vaginal dryness.  It's as if there are literally only 3 choices.  Now it may well be that, for most women, these are likely to be the main contenders but what if they're not?

And that, to me is the crux of the matter.

I have been reading about Fibromyalgia lately - happening to come across some excellent blog posts on the topic and it's curious that every single one of my symptoms could be the result of this.

Fibromyalgia is a long term condition that causes pain all over the body. The NHS says that "the exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it's thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) processes pain messages carried around the body. It's also suggested that some people are more likely to develop fibromyalgia because of genes inherited from their parents."

But I know that unless I go to my GP and directly ask the question "could I have Fibromyalgia", there is practically zero chance that anybody would make the link between my symptoms and start to address the potential cause.

Constantly treating the symptoms without addressing the cause must be costing the NHS millions, not least in the amount of antibiotics and antidepressants that are dished out.  Is it any wonder so many of us are turning to Dr Google?  There is obviously a lot of incorrect and potentially dangerous medical information online, but as our obsession for googling all things medical grows, we are reaching a place where the patients consider themselves much better informed than their doctors - which must make a doctor's life even more difficult and may be putting some of us at risk.

There is no obvious answer to this problem.  We need a root and branch change to the way we think about medicine and its place our health.  We surely cannot go on with a situation where the sum total of a doctor's advice is "put a bit of cream on it" (oh yes, I've heard that one a few times).

I suspect that the future of medical care in the UK may well involve compulsory medical insurance and private medical care.

But perhaps a rethink about how we manage doctors appointments is in order.  And some division of labour so that there are medical specialists in particular areas in each practice - my first suggestion would be paediatrics, closely followed by gynaecology! Let's staff up practices to cover practical appointment times e.g. up to 7 pm at night.

Having spent 20 years in Law I can say that law firms have had to look at their business models and many have had to drag themselves kicking and screaming into the 21st century.  Better communication (both internally and with clients), a clearer understanding of the needs of their clients and designing services to anticipate and meet those needs have been critical for those firms who have survived.

It's time for our doctors' surgeries to start thinking the same way.

If more comprehensive and accurate diagnoses are not made at an early stage, then all that will happen is that chronic conditions will need to be treated at greater time and expense in our hospitals. Get the diagnosis right in the first place (or earlier on) and the number of appointments requested will probably decrease, freeing up time for treating more medical emergencies or offering more specialist care.

Otherwise, we'll all just carry on diagnosing ourselves and putting up with aches and pains that maybe, just maybe, could have been dispensed with months, even years ago.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Win a gorgeous organic beauty hamper from Urtekram

The older I get, the more I appreciate the benefits that organic products can offer - particularly now that I have kids.  We know that the skin is the largest organ of the body and that some of the chemicals we put on it can be absorbed with a potentially detrimental effect further down the line.  It makes sense to me to try organic products, particularly now that the slightly dusty and uninspired image they used to have is long gone and many ranges now rival the best that the beauty market can offer.

So I was interested to discover Danish organic beauty specialist Urtekram which has just launched an all new, organic range drawing on its philosophy of simplicity and honesty.

They have been creating their plant-based products since 1972 and have created a range which includes shampoos, conditioners, body lotions, shower gels, soaps and scrubs, crystal deodorants and even toothpastes using the most aromatic herbs, flowers and oils in the world.

Not all organic products are created equal and even some of the ingredients in these can affect our bodies, but Urtekram products meet the COSMOS-standard which is an internationally recognised standard for organic and natural cosmetics. Their products are also certified by Ecocert Greenlife which is the international certification body for sustainable development and organic agricultural production. The Urtekram range is hypoallergenic, Vegan Society approved and free from parabens, synthetic ingredients and artificial colours. Impressive credentials.

In the UK, the range includes Rose (made from fine rose geranium oil and shea butter to nuture and calm the skin), Brown Sugar (made with Fairtrade sugar from Paraguay) and sun-ripened orange-scented Aloe Vera among others.  There is also a no perfume baby range.

Urtekram have kindly sent me a selection of their products to try and I will be reviewing these for you shortly. You can buy their products from all good health food shops, priced from £1.75 and I have a lovely hamper containing every product in Urtekram's Rose range for one lucky winner.  Just enter via the rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The competition ends at midnight on 30th June 2015.  UK entries only.  Good luck!

Further information about Urtekram can be found at www.urtekram.com or www.healthyfoodbrands.co.uk.
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