A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Friday, 31 July 2015

Blog Break Time

I'm taking a little break from blogging to spend some time with the hubby and kids, so normal service will be resumed shortly.

If you need to get in touch, I will be picking up emails at lindahobbis38@hotmail.co.uk.  Or you can tweet me at @lindahobbis.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Why aren't wives treated like brides?

I love reading bridal magazines.

In fact, I enjoyed planning my wedding so much I'd happily do it all over again (to the same man, I hasten to add).

Is there anything like the thrill of putting on a wedding dress for the first time or the excitement of shopping for rings?

If you were anything like me (or are planning your nuptials at the moment), there are menus to be poured over, wines to be tasted and selected and a whole host of knotty relationship issues to be navigated before the big day.

Should you invite your mother-in-law to be's ex-husband?

What's the right number of bridesmaids?

Should you allow your friends to bring a plus-one?

Everything seems to pass so quickly in a haze of rose-petals and sugared almonds until - pffft - with a wave of the wedding fairy's wand you are a Mrs.

And then what? (and in many people's opinion, so what?)

From being the star of the show on your special day, from then on some days you feel as if you'd struggle to get a walk-on part in a pound shop advert.

It's no wonder so many new brides feel immensely deflated and depressed once the big day is over and the new passport is put away in the drawer with the honeymoon photos.

Actually, I still haven't updated my passport with my new married name - all that documentation seemed too much of an extra stress at the time.

Consequently, I'm still planning our honeymoon nearly 4 years on (and it gets grander and more expensive in my white sandy fantasies as the years pass)!

As wives, are we wrong to want to enjoy, how shall I put it, an 'uplift' in our status? Some sort of recognition.  I can hear staunch feminists shouting from here - no, we are not chattels.  Our existence should not be defined, nay constrained  by shackling ourselves to some man.

In the olden days, of course, marriage was practically the only means of guaranteeing a respectable place in society.

Marriage was a financial transaction where, at least for the gentry, birth lines and the inheritance of land were protected by forging a suitable match.

The feelings of the bride for her prospective groom were often of little consequence.

Thankfully, today we women define ourselves and make our own choices - and that's my point.

If we choose to become wives, should there not be some sort of acknowledgement of it?  I'm not necessarily talking about tax breaks but at least something.

In the absence for a lot of people of any religious meaning to the concept of marriage - I'm a believer, my husband is not so we had a civil ceremony - and after the public declaration of love for your partner has been made - what are wives for these days?

I am not, let's be clear about this, saying that wives are more than singletons in any sense but I just wish there were some celebration of our choice to embrace marriage.

Singletons are encouraged to stand up and be counted - to declare their life choice and be proud.

No longer is the spinster seen as the sad lady living at home with too many cats.

That stereotype has been (almost) erased from society's lexicon of  "types of women".

Well I say why shouldn't wives stand up and be counted too?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Other people's kids driving you bananas in the supermarket?

The ear splitting screams made everyone at the check-out turn round.

Three kids, two boys (roughly 13 and 7) and a girl (maybe 6) were sitting on the bench at the end of the till run making full use of the acoustic properties the Tesco superstore offered.

People winced, the screaming was that loud.

On and on it went, driven by the annoyance of the other shoppers.

The mother, who had a fourth child in a pushchair seemed to find this activity funny and gave the youngest girl a loving hug as they walked off (still screaming) leaving the rest of us muttering "why didn't she tell her kids to shut up?".

Her three miscreants were certainly old enough to know their behaviour was getting on others' nerves and yes, we probably all did stuff like that when we were young.

The difference is most of us were not allowed to carry on doing it.

Now there are those who think that self expression is a good thing and must not be stifled but, surely, when others are being irritated, the first course of action is to consider others' feelings?

This was not a family on its uppers.

No form of societal judgement could be made on them based on their outward appearance.

One might charitably suppose that, since it's the long summer holiday, the mother was at her wits' end but she seemed remarkably calm and upbeat if that were the case.

We mothers love to judge other mothers, don't we?

But it sometimes seems as if children are increasingly just being allowed to run amok.

This may be a result of the ineffectiveness of some of the more liberal forms of discipline such as "positive time out" but, woe betide anyone who dare suggest that a more stringent method of discipline might benefit  - the "S" (smacking) word must never be uttered.

We need a 'third way' but I'm not entirely sure what that is.

As for keeping your children occupied in a supermarket, why not give them their own list and task them with retrieving easy items?

I often wonder why supermarkets don't offer creche facilities because I'm sure they'd quickly recoup the cost of staffing by the extra sales from parents who could actually concentrate on what they came out to buy.

Kids love to shout, scream and, above all, run the length of those gleaming aisles.

My two do and, hands up, it is hard to constantly check their behaviour but that's the job of parenthood, isn't it?

To teach them how to behave in society?

And it is our job, not that of teachers or childminders.

It's not something we can delegate.

There is much muttering, currently in the UK about the developing of a perceived "nanny state".

Only this week a report by the United Nations Human Rights Committee has suggested that Britain should ban smacking and many feel that, whilst violence towards children can never be condoned, it is not for some governmental body to tell us how to raise our children, thank you very much.

Possibly, just possibly, if there were a groundswell of support and encouragement for positive behaviour of children (and their parents!) in the public arena, then maybe there would be less grounds for any interference by public servants desperately struggling to find a way to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

My Sunday Photo - 26/07/2015

Beautiful pink flower at National Trust Dyffryn Gardens
A beautiful flower at National Trust Dyffryn Gardens


Saturday, 25 July 2015

Treetop Adventure Golf Cardiff - A Stroke of Genius

If you had said to me that I would spend a happy morning playing golf on Level 3 of the car park in the St. David's 2 Shopping Centre in Cardiff, I would have probably thought you were somewhat under par but that's exactly what happened earlier today.

The Hobbis clan were given the opportunity to play mini golf in the tropical rainforest at Treetop Adventure Golf centre whilst storms rumbled overhead and we were accompanied by the sounds of chattering monkeys and tropical birds.

No, not the usual Cardiff weather but an impressive sound and light system adding great atmosphere.

It is immense fun - and you know me, I'd often struggle to find fun if it was signposted "fun this way" and included a comprehensive guided tour by Mr Fun himself.

I haven't played mini golf (or crazy golf as we were allowed to call it in the 70's) since playing the windswept and rainy course on Plymouth Hoe when flares were all the rage and the Osmonds were rocking white jumpsuits and singing about equally crazy horses.

There are two 18 hole trails - the "Tropical Trail" and the "Ancient Explorer Trail" which both include interactive figures that either congratulate or berate the players.

There's "The Sacred Mask" and "Chief Slumber" as well as Bob Monkey-House's challenge at the 19th Hole.

Needless to say, the Husband's competitive streak appeared and he managed quite a few "holes in one".

My own attempts varied from "roughly near the hole" to "which ruddy hole are you actually playing?" but I did manage to improve by the end of the course we played - which was, for obvious reasons the "Ancient Explorer".

Caitlin and Ieuan were highly bemused at the transformation of their parents into two golfing ninjas (cough) and Ieuan was very disappointed to find his technique of just picking up his ball and placing it nearer the hole was frowned upon.

Caitlin had her own unique stroke which seemed to be closer to shovelling the ball in the hole than hitting it.

Still, we completed the course before Ieuan managed to collapse (according to him) from hunger.  He had spotted the very inviting clubhouse bar and cafe with its cosy chairs, tables and beanbags.

The Husband won (sigh) but I did manage to come second with the kids almost tying.

We celebrated our sporting prowess with moist chocolate brownies, chocolate cupcakes and reviving coffee (the kids had their usual Fruit Shoot / Diet Coke - the latter not being allowed at home, I might add).

We arrived at 10:30 and the centre got busy quite quickly

This may be because if you tee off before midday you can play both courses for the price of one (except on bank holidays).

Also, there is a suggested maximum of 6 shots per person per hole to ensure that nobody is waiting too long to play.

You're also supposed to add a 1-shot penalty if your ball leaves the course and I'm afraid I may have 'accidentally' forgotten to do that a couple of times.

Treetop Adventure Golf is open every day from 11 am in the week to 10 am at the weekend and stays open till late, either 10 pm or 11 pm depending on which day you go.

As well as coffees and cake, you can buy wine, beer or cocktails - although I'm not sure these would have improved my golf.

You can also have a party or event at the centre.

Prices are very reasonable - for example it's £25 for a family of 4 (where one child is under 12) to play one course and £37.50 to play two (hence teeing off before noon is a good idea).

To compare with a cinema trip to the Odeon, it would cost a family of 4 (where 2 kids are under 12) £34 per film - without pick 'n' mix or ice cream.

The full tariff of fees is available on the website.

We had a great time at Treetop Adventure Golf and it made a change to do something different and memorable.

The staff were friendly and helpful and, when our two started to protest at the time it was taking to drink our coffee (have you noticed kids always finish their snacks in about 30 seconds whilst your coffee is still boiling?), kindly proffered some colouring sheets and crayons.

There are lockers to leave your bags and the toilets (always an important benchmark in my book) had ornate hand basins and taps where the water flowed over, rather than out of them.

The door handles were made of rope.

The whole experience is extremely well designed and, if you have visited the Eden Project in Cornwall, you will know what kind of atmosphere to expect.

Ieuan was fascinated by the talking head at the 19th hole who, if you manage to shoot your ball into the centre of his puzzle, grants you a free round of golf next time.

None of us managed it but someone did whilst we were there - so it is possible.

I'd heartily recommend a visit to Treetop Adventure Golf, particularly since summer has apparently failed to load correctly as usual and we've been treated to random bouts of torrential rain and hot sun.

It took us about an hour to complete one trail but if your kids are older you'll probably find they want to move on to the second trail after a quick snack break.

We'll certainly be going back.  I've got the hang of it now and since the Husband had 51 shots to my 58, a rematch is definitely due.

Further information is available at www.adventuregolf.com.

*We were invited to play a round of golf as guests of Treetop Adventure Golf.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Is It Still OK To Admit You Want To Lose Weight?

I ask this simply because, since I married in 2011, I have put on 12 lbs which are currently sitting comfortably around my stomach (the kids call it a 'podge'), hips and thighs.

Now my ideal weight is, according to the generally unreliable but prevalent medical charts (actually devised for insurance, and not medical purposes by the way), around 9 st 9lbs.

Don't ask me to go metric.  I'm happy with Imperial measurements thank you very much.

This, I appreciate is clearly a "first world problem" which could be easily solved by not stuffing so much food in my face and joining the rapidly growing cult of "sitting is the new smoking".

But everywhere I look there are plus sized sisters 'embracing their curves', insisting on their right to be body confident no matter what their size (and, indeed, why not?) and even wearing obesity like some feminist trophy of war.

Women of all shapes and sizes are staking their claim to beauty and femininity and taking the likes of Protein World and their "beach body ready" advertising campaign to task.

But you know somewhere a little klaxon is sounding;  a note of warning I can't quite shake off.

I see these women and their bravery and I think, "perhaps I don't need to lose any weight at all".

Perhaps I should just eat and be happy.

Does it matter if I have a burgeoning muffin top?

Will it matter when my thighs start to chafe and I can no longer run at all?

I am really, really torn.

I know that, medically, we were not designed to carry too much excess weight and that its original purpose was to keep us alive until the next successful hunt.

I know that I should not make weight an issue for my kids, particularly Caitlin who, at nearly 8, is already aware of the body shape that the media finds most desirable - and it's still thin.

If I'm confused by these mixed messages, what on earth is going on in the minds of our youngsters?

We can have as many lauded Twitter campaigns as we like but this will not make being overweight safe for our bodies or a route to longevity.

The media can trumpet about the latest morbidly obese super model but is this really the way to give confidence to young women?

Some will argue that it is possible to be overweight and healthy, surely the two are polar opposites?

And in an attempt to do something, anything to get the Nation's weight under control, every week there is a new Government initiative - tax sugary drinks, tax sugar, tax alcohol.

This week fat is the enemy, the next week it's salt.

Surely the finger of blame should point back at the manufacturers who feed us this junk and price it cheaper than the food we really need to eat.

I can guarantee that, right now, a punnet of strawberries will cost more than a chocolate bar and a multi-pack of crisps will be less than a bag of salad.

I don't accept the argument that it's a question of education.

Unless you've just been parachuted in from space you know chips are bad for you and that mass consumption of chocolate will make you fat.

No, there's an unhealthy collusion between the Government, restaurants, food manufacturers and the media all happily working to keep us in this state of wavering weight with the scales moving ever upwards.

Yes I am responsible for my weight and the choices I make about it, but it's clear that for many of us the environment in which we make these choices is becoming more and more challenging.

And what of those whose health conditions have led to them putting on weight?

What help is available for them?

It would be interesting to see NHS statistics about the number of smokers and alcoholics treated, compared with the number of obese patients.

There comes a point, I suspect, at which you simply can no longer control your weight gain without medical, psychological and emotional support - no matter what Katie Hopkins says about putting on a pair of trainers and developing some willpower.

And there goes that klaxon again.

If we just give in to weight gain and don't make any attempt to stay within healthy limits,  where are we headed?

To that point at which all control is gone?

We have got ourselves into such a muddle over weight that it is almost a crime to talk about it at all but, for our future health and that of our kids,

I think it's time to put the cameras down and start talking.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Review: Ilcsi Grape Stem Cell Gel Mask from Sulis & Thermae

Sulis & Thermae is a new website offering premium beauty and aromatherapy products.

Inspired by Sulis, Roman Goddess of Healing Water and Thermae, luxury Romanic bathing complexes, the emphasis is on global products with therapeutic properties.

They offer a wide range from bathing and skincare to men's grooming and home fragrance.

There's even a supplements and a mother & baby section.

It makes a refreshing change to see products which you wouldn't find on the high street, but which have something different to offer from other beauty website premium brands, many of whom have only celebrity endorsement as their claim to fame.

So, many of their brands are new to me, although I am familiar with Dr Lipp, Czech & Speake, Manuka Doctor, Miller Harris Perfumer and The Scottish Fine Soaps Company.

I was sent a product to try from Ilcsi, a natural skincare brand from Hungary.

This is a heritage brand founded 50 years ago based on recipes from Aunt Ilcsi.

I was sent the Grape Stem Cell Gel Mask which claims to regenerate and rejuvenate skin using powerful antioxidants to eliminate free radicals.

It has a high concentration of grape stem cells to help prevent premature ageing and stimulate cell renewal.

I'm never particularly swayed by lofty claims and, for me, the proof is in the product's effectiveness.

The mask has quite a high, sweet scent which, I must admit, made me wonder if it would make my slightly sensitive skin sting.

The fragrance reminded me of almonds, rather than grapes, although it is very pleasant.

The texture is best described as 'gloopy', but it is not sticky and goes on to leave a faint brown hue.

But, it did not sting in the slightest and dried quickly leaving a tightening and firming sensation.

After leaving the mask on for the suggested 15-20 minutes (during which I had no spa-like tranquillity but much hilarity from the kids), the product washed off easily with warm water.

My skin was left feeling firmer and smoother.

I was impressed by this mask and, unlike some of the beauty products I have reviewed which are destined to be handed on or to languish in the back of the bathroom cabinet, I will be using the Grape Stem Cell Gel Mask again.

I'd guess there's around 4-6 applications in the pot and Ilcsi suggest the mask is applied weekly.

At £44 it is not inexpensive, but I reckon if I bribe the Husband to take the kids out next time,  it's a treat I thoroughly deserve.

Have a look a Sulis & Thermae and let me know what you think.  Their Summer Sale is on at the moment - and it's never a bad idea to have bought a couple of Christmas presents in advance, is it?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Mums - struggling with the school holidays already? Here's why you're doing fine.

Well I bet many of us are already feeling a little, how shall I put it, wrung out having looked after our little darlings for 3 days straight.

Cue much muttering from the "well what did you expect" and "why did you have kids then if you didn't want to look after them" brigade.

Many of us find ourselves as the sole childcare provider if our other half is working and, of course, the cost of childcare can be exorbitant - thank God for grandparents.

Let's press the mute button on our critics and acknowledge one or two things, shall we?

We love our kids and they love us.

It is our responsibility to set boundaries, limits, call them what you will so that our children learn how to fit in.

(Yes I know little Johnny has every right to kayak around the world eating lentils and being 'free' but such things are easier with an education and some sort of gainful employment under your belt).

Sometimes, the setting of boundaries requires, (whisper it), raising your voice and imposing sanctions - whether that be the removal of an iPad or time out.

The imposing of such sanctions very often makes you feel like s**t.

Learning to play independently is a valuable skill.

We do not need to provide wall-to-wall entertainment involving crafting, cooking, painting, singing, board games or reading for the entire time our kids are awake.

Meaningful interaction is required of course, but if you find yourself devising a time-table,

I suggest you make yourself a coffee and have a word with yourself.

That 'word' should involve asking yourself the following question honestly.

"What kind of mother do I want to be" and "Am I physically, mentally and emotionally capable of being that kind of mother?"

Culturally, our society prefers its mothers to have more in common with the Virgin Mary than it does with the living, flesh and blood conglomeration of discordant emotions that many of us consist of.

From an early age, we are taught that 'mothers' are sweet, caring and nurturing.

They are selfless, self-sacrificing and willing to relinquish all sense of entitlement to individual happiness just to ensure their offspring thrive.

Readers of this blog may recall that I have, on occasion, found myself identifying with Joan Crawford.

A rather stark counterpoint to the cultural fantasy described above.

The point, of course, is that the kind of mother you want to be is the kind that you are able to be.

An honest assessment of your failings, together with a plan to improve (where you can) is likely to be far more fulfilling for you and your kids than to mope on the sofa at the end of the day with a large glass of vino whilst muttering "I'm just not cut out for mothering".

If you're short on patience and your temper is frayed, make sure your self-care is up to scratch.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Eating right?

Drinking enough water?

Are you asking for help?

If you really are at the end of your tether and you can afford it, hire a babysitter (or bribe a relative) and just take two or three hours out for you - even if that's just nursing a coffee at Costa.

Or arrange to babysit for a friend in return for a night out with your partner or best friend.

Listen, if you are kind, caring and compassionate, if you soothe hurting tummies and wipe away tears, even if you sometimes shout quite loudly, it's all OK.

So, take a deep breath.

Put your guide to local attractions and "501 free things to do with the kids" down for a moment.

Geo caching whilst wearing floral wellies can wait.

Building a fully functional mobile home out of cardboard boxes and an old camping trailer can be shelved, as can baking a cake in the shape of Taylor Swift.

Tomorrow, when the dark cloud of "useless mothering" looms large over your head, turn everything with a screen off.

Throw some cushions on the floor and just sit down with your kids, tell them a story or just chat.

That's all they really want.  Your attention. Heck,  I've convinced myself.  I'm going to give it a go.

After all, kids are human too.  Now, where's my wine.

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

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Why silence is the new wealth

As I sit in my lounge now at 8:14 pm I can hear kids playing two gardens away and someone hammering in the throws of some fit of DIY which has been going on for four nights.

If I open a window I can hear dogs barking.

Always dogs barking.

I'm dreaming of peace
As soon as their owners leave for work in the morning, off they yap.

How is it right that you can leave a dog all day on its own?

Aren't we supposed to be a nation of dog lovers?

When I was young, we were taught that you respected your neighbours and didn't indulge in anti-social behaviour such as lawn mowing in the early evening.

Two doors away from me live a couple with a young baby.

Next door we have two teenage boys and one young girl that same age as my daughter.

Across the way live an elderly couple.

You get the feeling that we are all invisible.

Why is it, I wonder, that the smaller the garden, the larger (and noisier) the mower?

Do you really need a petrol mower to cope with a postage stamp size lawn?

Is it some mark of masculinity?  Some last proof of fertility?

My bedroom faces the road which, although relatively quiet, is a short cut between the village and the main road to Cardiff.

At midnight, cars race through or drop people off without thinking to lower the thumping volume of their radios.

Taxi drivers are the worst for this.  I often wake with a start.

I dream about living in a house of silence.

Ironic since, due to my tinnitus, silence isn't something I've enjoyed for years but oh, the bliss of never having to listen to other people's noise.

The Husband says we are equally bad noise offenders.

And it's true.

When the kids are in the paddling pool, we both spend a fraught half hour or so pleading with them to keep quiet, to be respectful, but still mindful that children are supposed to make noise.

It's called play and it's normal.

But at least we try to keep them quiet.

At least we consider other people's feelings.

Our neighbours think nothing of vacuuming or hammering at 10 pm.

We spent one summer listening daily to the incessant drone of a radio left in the garden to play loudly - even if the occupants went into the house, the radio still droned on.

Thankfully, things have quietened down since then.

We don't let the kids play outside before 9 am on Sundays.

We ensure that they don't make too much noise early in the morning and if we clean the cars we do not, like other neighbours, undertake the task with all the car doors open and the radio blaring at full blast down the street.

Am I the only one who hates summer for this reason?

You can keep the idealised TV adverts with their soft-focus barbecues.

There is literally no escape now - from people who think it fine to let their phones ring in theatres, to those who are happy to chat through a cinema film.

When the temperature rises, the windows open and we all have to go radio ga-ga.

Builders seem unable to undertake any kind of work without a radio blaring.

The school run is punctuated by car radios at ear-bleeding volume, or else people taking hands free telephone calls so loudly the entire conversation can be heard in the next town.

Recently, on the ITV programme Loose Women, the possibility of rail companies getting rid of the quiet carriage on trains was discussed.

Some thought quiet carriages should be preserved as a haven of peace; others thought that if you paid your ticket, you were entitled to behave as you like.

Hmm.  I have never been in a quiet carriage where anyone took that much notice of 'the rules'.

Actually I think that the instigation of quiet carriages on trains had more to do with our nation's inherent dislike of children making a noise than it did with convenience for business travellers or those who wanted to quietly read or watch the countryside pass by lost in thought.

If I ever win the lottery,  I will be buying a house deep in the country where the only sound is that of birdsong (if we have any such countryside left given the likely scale of construction needed to meet our demand for housing).

The Husband says that I would still find something 'noisy'.  Cows, agricultural machinery, cockerels, there are a host of noise pollution possibilities.

But at least my fantasy keeps me quiet.

You can have all the money and 'things' in this world but if you don't have peace, and a quiet sacred space in which to exist, what do you have, really?

How can you experience your life to someone else's (usually discordant) sound-track?

Silence, my friends, is the new wealth.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Choosing The Best Wedding Dress for a Civil Wedding Ceremony

This is the last in my series of guest posts from Venus Bridal UK and here the focus is on finding a wedding dress suitable for a civil wedding ceremony.

If you're getting married in a hotel, as I did, you may find a dress with a long train rather unsuitable!

Another consideration is that you may well be sitting down for a longer period of time, particularly if your reception is following straight on from the ceremony.

My dress had lacing at the back so it could be let out for breathing (and toilet breaks!).

I'd also advise deciding whether or not you will want to wear the dress again when making your choice.

I planned to cut the train off and get a dress-maker to turn my wedding dress into an evening gown - but I haven't quite got around to it yet.

Finally, if you do plan to wear your wedding dress again, be aware that your weight may well change (I was a stone lighter on my wedding day!), and that even if you plan to wear it again, you might not be able to get back into it!

Here's the advice from Venus Bridal.

Where you have your civil wedding will help influence what you will wear on your big day but should by no means limit it.

With this in mind, your dress needs to suit the season and the location but you should also think about the type of civil ceremony you’re having, as civil ceremonies take place in countless settings – including on a beach, in a fairytale castle or in a hotel ballroom.

However, if you want to look like a princess there’s nothing stopping you but you can also go for a relaxed and casual look or even fancy dress.

That’s the beauty of civil weddings.

And, of course, you can always ask your partner what they would like to see you in.

Type of outfit

For a civil ceremony, you can essentially wear anything you like – a short dress, smart suit, T-shirt and jeans, or even a themed outfit - but whatever you decide on make sure you feel comfortable in your final choice.

Your wedding day is the time you show friends and family how much you and your betrothed love each other - it is not a time to experiment or try to be something you’re not.

But with a civil ceremony you can allow yourself more leeway than with a traditional wedding.

Most brides would not wear a short dress for a church wedding but they are ideal at civil ones.

And then there’s the practicalities to consider: a short dress is often less expensive, easier to carry if going abroad, more comfortable and you can wear it again.

Dress shape

If you decide on a dress think about your best and worst features and then choose a shape that hides the bits you’re less fond of and highlights your best parts.

Colour of your outfit

One of the great advantages of a civil wedding is the freedom to choose a wedding dress that is not white.

This is great for those who don’t have the right colouring for a brilliant white dress.

But you can go beyond the off -white shades such as ivory or cream and really go to town with dramatic reds, pale golds or ethereal lilacs.


Wedding dresses come in a variety of fabrics but when deciding what fabric to use it is a good idea to remember what time of year and/or the location.

With a civil ceremony you have a lot more choice, you no longer are confined to satin and silk or crepe and brocade.


Unless you still want to look like a princess on your special day it is probably preferable not to wear a train.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to go bareheaded – you can wear a headdress or a hat that suits your dress. In fact, you can make a real statement with what you wear on your head.

Whatever wedding outfit you choose to wear for a civil ceremony, the bridal attire can be just as beautiful and as unforgettable as a more traditional wedding gown.

This blog 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.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

My Sunday Photo - 19/07/2015


Friday, 17 July 2015

No Smoking When Children Are In The Car In The UK From 1 October 2015

On the 9th July this year, the UK Government announced new rules about smoking in cars which will come into effect this autumn. These new rules will go some way to protect children from being exposed to the risks of passive smoking in the enclosed environment of our cars.

This is, of course, a highly emotive issue - particularly for smokers who feel that their rights are being gradually eroded. But the health of our children must come first.

Smoking is a particular bugbear in our family.  My father has smoked a pipe for decades and has been unable (and unwilling) to give it up - despite having survived prostate cancer and a heart attack. He has never smoked in the car but believe me, I am well aware of the likely reaction from some smokers.

But aren't we all so much more educated now?  Can anyone, hand on heart, justify smoking in a car with kids present?

Of course, like the horrendously dangerous activity of using a mobile phone whilst driving, the problem will be enforcing this at a time when police resources are already stretched.  But it's a step in the right direction, at least.

These are the new rules.

From the 1st October this year it will be an offence:

- for retailers to sell electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or e-liquids to someone under 18

- for adults to buy (or try to buy) tobacco products or e-cigarettes for someone under 18

- to smoke in private vehicles that are carrying someone under 18

So it will be an offence:

- for a person of any age to smoke in a private vehicle that is carrying someone who is under 18

- for a driver (including a provisional driver) not to stop someone smoking in these circumstances

Offences carry a £50 fixed penalty fine or possible referral to court.

You can read the new rules HERE

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Glossybox Vive La France - July Edition

This is the last box of my six month subscription to Glossybox.

For those of you not aware of the concept, Glossybox is a monthly beauty subscription box containing 5 hand picked beauty samples wrapped in a signature pink box.

Some of these samples may actually be full size products.

This month Glossybox is a collector's edition inspired by "all things French" and claims to be a "tour de force of our favourite French finds that contain ingredients that really work".

The box is curated by Jamie Lee Reardin who is France's "it" artist of the moment who has put pencil to paper for Chanel, Givenchy and Christian Dior and created "Mademoiselle Glossy", who features both on the box and on the cute little travel pouch which is the centrepiece of this month's box.

You can find out more about Jamie on Instagram at @JamieLeeReardin.

Frankly I would have preferred a 'Madame Glossy' but clearly Glossybox is targeting a younger audience who are perhaps more likely to immerse themselves in a wider variety of brands and are less brand loyal than older subscribers.  (Remember the tattoos from last month?!).

Actually, the whole beauty box concept needs a bit of a shake-up I think - where are the boxes targeting the 40+s?

I have written before about the fact that this age group (and higher) is actually where the most disposable income is but, as usual, the beauty industry has not yet worked out what to do with us, nor (with the possible exception of L'Oréal) how to market to us.

I still don't think Glossybox is using the information it collects from its subscribers to maximum effect.  It's still a one-size-fits-all box.

But I digress.  Let's dive in to this month's contents.

There's an interesting mix of products in this box and, yes, they're French.

The strange thing about French skincare products is that they often manage to be very effective whilst at the same time being unremittingly dull and unengaging, lost in a sea of meaningless beauty marketing speak.

The value of this box is a little questionable too.

Aside from Glossybox's own travel pouch (which is valued at £3.99), there is just one full size product in the box and, you've guessed it, it's a lip balm - Lollipops Balm Délicieuse at £4.15.

There is no way of valuing the sample products which are 25 ml, 15ml and 2 x 3 ml.

That makes this box the worst of the six in terms of value.

The move into its own products is an interesting one but a bit of a shame if this is the route Glossybox is going down.

The whole point of a beauty box subscription is to try other brands and to provide a platform for those brands who would otherwise not reach a wider audience.

You can only imagine how difficult it must be to win a spot on the shelves in Boots or Superdrug.

Although perfectly understandable from a business point of view, there's something a little cynical about passing off 'Glossybox' own products as a bona fide item in a beauty subscription box.

Mademoiselle Glossy Travel Pouch - £3.99
So this is centrepiece of the box, the travel pouch designed by Jamie Lee Reardin.

This is a zip-lock pouch to keep your beauty essentials safe through security or for use as an everyday make-up bag.

noxidoxi Enhancing Serum Base Sample Size - 25 ml (Full Size £33.46)
This serum is from Bordeaux brand noxidoxi and has a "CRC6 moisturising complex" (see what I mean about jargon!) to hydrate the skin's surface as well as the deeper layers and includes "a cocktail of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to protect the skin".

It is to be worn under moisturiser.

Teoxane Cosmeceuticals Perfect Skin Refiner - Sample Size 15ml (Full Size £70)
This is Perfect Skin Refiner for night from Teoxane Cosmeceuticals.

It has hyaluronic acid "to plump and hydrate skin" and 10% glycolic acid to "help resurface the skin". You are advised to use it every other night because you might feel a 'mild tingling' at first.

You're also advised to wear a high SPF during the day.

I can confirm you certainly DO feel a tingling (I'd call it stinging) and if you have sensitive skin I'd be tempted to leave this one in the box.

Vichy Ideal Soleil Tinted Velvety BB Cream, 2 x 3ml (Full Size £15.50)
Then we have two 3 ml samples of Vichy's Ideal Soleil Tinted Velvety BB Cream.

I always find Vichy's products to be very good quality and this BB cream, although quite dark when applied, blends to a really nice finish with a subtle hint of colour.

I'm not sure I needed Glossybox to introduce me to Vichy which you can pick up in Boots, even though it is a French brand in keeping with this month's theme.

Surely there are loads of other French brands just waiting to be discovered.

Lollipops Lip Balm Délicieuse - Full Size £4.15
Lastly, we have yet another lip balm.

This is from Paris-based brand Lollipops - Lollipops Lip Balm Délicieuse, which is described as containing antioxidants and vitamin E.  It's colourless and has a strange sweet taste.

Am I happy?

I would have preferred less art and more product in this box.

A beauty subscription box should be about the products and not the box - and this is the third 'collectors' box I've had out of 6.

Let's not forget that, even though the cost of the box is anywhere from £8.50 to £10, depending on the length of your subscription, the postage is a static £3.25 irrespective of the weight of the box.

Glossybox claims that the minimum value of this box is £52.

I don't think anyone really considers the value of sample sizes in their box because the whole point of a sample is that it is given away FREE at point of sale to encourage sales of the full size product.

So no, I really don't think this month's box is worth a fraction of that.

I have enjoyed receiving my Glossybox each month but most of the products are still sitting in them waiting to be used or, more likely given away.

I may subscribe to another beauty box to see if any of them get the balance right between value of product and the brands they contain.

But for around £14 each month, I may just be better off going to my local highstreet drugstore.

Glossybox can be contacted at www.glossybox.co.uk, on Twitter at @glossyboxuk and on Facebook as www.facebook.com/GlossyBox.co.uk.

*This is a completely independent review based on my own Glossybox purchase.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

What to tell yourself when you're tempted to interfere

It dawned on me last night after yet another "put my foot in it" moment that there is something very simple to tell yourself when you are tempted to interfere, meddle or offer unsolicited advice.

Interfering puts you in the dog house
Constantly offering your 'advice' may put you in the dog house!
An interesting concept I have come across whilst reading the acreage of self-help tomes which fill our groaning bookshelves is that our daily lives are very much a product of the thoughts we constantly run in our heads.  And most of these thoughts are endless reruns - like a hamster on a wheel.  Our world, such as it is, is literally constrained by the number and variety of thoughts gambolling through our minds.

Thoughts, according to the Law of Attraction, become things.  Now, you may not believe in magic but if you consider, everything you have created in your life started off as a thought - and this includes the bad things as well as the good.  Your thoughts tend to create your beliefs.  Your beliefs tend to create your feelings and then your feelings release more thoughts which lead to actions. It's a never-ending cycle if you are unaware of it.

It's a bit like constantly running the same old movie over and over again.  Or, you could choose to think of it as reading yourself the same never-ending story.

But, and this is my point, your story is not my story.  You have no way of knowing what is really going on in my head (unless you are a neuro-linguistic programming expert, in which case you may be able to 'read' me quite well).

You can change your own story by unearthing the thoughts which trigger your beliefs.  For example, you may be reluctant to date after a bad relationship because you think you are unattractive, or unlovable.  You may believe you are destined to be alone.  You may feel too anxious to even think about someone new and the resulting action will be to hide at home and to reject the friendly smiles of anyone who tries to strike up a relationship with you.

But this won't necessarily be true for the friend you have been pushing to come out clubbing or bowling or any other form of tortuous organised 'fun'.  (I'm not big on 'organised fun' - can you tell?)

M* is a terrible interferer.  She just cannot help but offer advice, even if it is based on random googling and something she read on Facebook.  M* finds she frequently upsets her elderly parents by offering her thoughts on subjects such as applying for a carer's allowance and buying the right type of mattress for the elderly. She constantly cautions about hiring unvetted workmen and fears (not without some justification) that her parents will be conned into endless charitable donations.

This advice is met with a certain degree of grumpiness and hurt feelings from her parents who feel that they should be allowed to make their own decisions since they are still in full control of their faculties!

This leads M* to add the burden of guilt to her worry and her compulsion to offer advice.

C* has the same compulsion to 'advise' on her best friend's separation and divorce.  She has been pushing her friend to seek legal advice and has told her that she should make sure she has a secret nest-egg to protect herself in the event that her husband 'takes her to the cleaners'.  C* thinks everything should be sorted out immediately whereas her friend is carefully negotiating the mine-field of hurt feelings and coping with three teenage children who are equally bewildered.

And, unsurprisingly, C* finds her advice rejected and there is a certain frost in the air between her and her best friend.

It is so difficult, isn't it, to refrain from offering advice but if you are reaching the stage where you are no longer feeling good about it, and your relationships are suffering, here's what you need to tell yourself.

"It's Not My Story".

Because, you know, it really isn't.  Half the time, the advice we give is already known by the other person.  By the time you get to your 30s, most of us are pretty savvy and know how the world works. We hear what we want to hear.

Of course, if a friend's partner is cheating, or they are being abused then the situation is different. Your actions will depend on your own moral compass and your beliefs.  You may feel you have a duty to intervene - but even then, it's still not your story.

So when you feel compelled to advise or interfere (and especially with your partner who views interfering as nagging),  sometimes it won't hurt to step back and let them make their own decisions. This also applies to your children. We grow by experience and learning how to deal with these experiences, both practically and emotionally.    It's not your story.

Instead of rushing in with warnings of dire consequences from something you've read in the papers, why not take a moment, make yourself a coffee and ask what's happening for you in your story today.

As busy mums, that might be a much needed interference.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Why I'm buying pregnancy testing kits in my 50's

It's highly ironic, I think, that I have spent more on pregnancy testing kits in my late forties and early fifties than I did in my twenties.

This has nothing to do with not using contraception but everything to do with not knowing exactly whether I am menopausal or not.

My periods now turn up every 8 weeks or so and it seems to be a lottery as to which month they choose to appear.

It can take so long that it's a toss up whether the menopause has finally started, or whether I am pregnant - which, at 51 would be a surprise I really don't want.

In fact, the trip down to chemist for a pregnancy testing kit is far more fraught with mixed emotions than it used to be.

One the one hand a late baby (and mine were already pretty late at 43 and 45) would turn our lives upside down but the thought of no longer being fertile is quite a psychological event in any woman's life.

I can understand why menopause used to be referred to as "the change".

Some women define themselves by their fertility.

They love having babies.

For them, it is the ultimate proof of womanhood.

For many of us though, having children is something we do to complete a relationship - because we believe in family - rather than an obedience to the ticking of our biological clock.

There is plenty of information online about pre-menopause symptoms.

This article at www.patient.co.uk lists no less than 66 symptoms to look out for - including headaches, exhaustion, decreased motor co-ordination, night sweats, insomnia, muscle cramps and backache.

But there is such a wide variety of symptoms that could apply to almost any illness, it doesn't really help you to decide whether you do indeed have menopause symptoms.

Irregular periods are certainly one symptom, as is menopause weight gain, the appearence of a rounder, fuller middle.  And while I suspect I might occasionally have experienced a hot flush or flash (as our American cousins call them), I'm still not entirely sure.

My GP says that, to see whether or not I am menopausal, I would need a blood test  to measure the level of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) which can be an indication of menopause, but there is no definitive test.

This could only be carried out if I stopped taking the contraceptive pill.

That sounds way too risky to me so I'm stuck in some sort of peri menopausal wasteland until I haven't had a period for at least a year.

So, what are the chance of conceiving naturally during your 40s and even 50s, and what about pregnancy after menopause?

In your 40s, your chances of getting pregnant naturally are about 20%, falling to less than 5% in your mid 40s and 50s.

There is also the increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities and a higher chance of miscarriage.

Nevertheless, I conceived naturally twice during my mid to late forties so there is hope if you have also left it late to start a family.

In terms of IVF, in your early forties you have roughly a one in five to one in 10 chance of a live birth per treatment cycle.

From age 43 onwards, success rates fall to around one to five live births for every 100 women .

From 43 to 44 onwards, your chances of success using your own eggs really are minimal, because conception rates per cycle of IVF are so low. (source www.babycentre.co.uk).

Also, mothers over 50 are at almost three times the risk of low birth weight, premature birth, and extremely premature birth and their risk of giving birth to an extremely low birth weight baby and the risk of fetal mortality was almost double. (source:  Wikipedia).

Surprisingly. pregnancy after menopause (which you'd think would be impossible since you're not producing any eggs), is possible. Here's an explanation from www.babymed.com.

"Menopause drastically changes a woman’s body. When menopause occurs, a woman no longer gets a monthly menstrual period.

This is because the hormones that trigger ovulation and pregnancy are not longer as strong in the body as they were when the woman was twenty years younger.

Estrogen and progesterone will drop, and this will cause the body to no longer have the ability to get pregnant.

But since the process of menopause takes anywhere from five to ten years to complete, this is an awkward time in a woman’s life.

She will still have a chance of getting pregnant.

 With menopause, the hormone levels will drop, but there are times when they will spike during the course of the change.

At this time, a woman’s body can be able to still conceive a child, giving into the fact that a woman can get pregnant during or what they think is after menopause".

So, even though I know the chances of conceiving are very small, I don't want to take any chances.

If I were to get pregnant through some random last throw of the fertility dice, I would have the baby but as a late mother I am already worried about being in my 60s when my kids leave school.

That's the thing late mothers may not admit to;  the pressure to live longer, not to conk out, to remain a fully functioning parent to support their kids as long as possible.

To undertake this commitment in your 50s must be huge.

The other day I was asked by a lady who had her three children in her twenties whether I thought having children in your forties was selfish.

My honest, and immediate answer was yes.

I've written before that having children is in many ways a selfish act at any age but there is the extra poignancy of having a late baby - a kind of bitter-sweetness overladen with a hefty dollop of guilt.

For the next year or two, I'm guessing I'll be a frequent visitor to the chemist.


Monday, 13 July 2015

Book Review: Kidnapped in Paradise by Deborah Brown

I must confess that I rarely read fiction these days.

My tome of preference is anything from the Self Help or Mind, Body & Spirit sections.

(I think I may actually have worn the carpet away in my local branch of Waterstones).

So when I had the opportunity to review "Kidnapped in Paradise" courtesy of Beck Books, I thought I'd see if I could rekindle my love of light-hearted, fun, easy to read fiction.

This is the seventh in Deborah Brown's "Paradise Series" so I have managed to be spectacularly late to the party but, despite the fact that I thought I was in line for some twee, romantic froth where all the women have long, honey-coloured limbs and all the men have their own teeth (sorry, too much Jeremy Kyle), I really enjoyed the book. (The synopsis is below and I'm not going to spoil the ending for you).

Briefly, this is the story of two female private detectives who find themselves in trouble when one's ex husband gets embroiled in a drug deal that goes very, very wrong.

Brown's two heroines, Madison and Fabiana are gutsy women who take no nonsense from anybody.

They do not need to reapply lipgloss before setting off on a car chase.

There is a fair old slew of violence that the pair have to withstand and the dialogue is punchy and realistic.

There is an element of romance, but nothing to make your mother blush.

I once made the mistake of lending a Jackie Collins novel to my mum only to be told by my father that he'd taken it off her because it "wasn't doing her blood pressure any good".

No such worries here, I'm happy to say.

Also, although the dialogue is spicy, the text isn't punctuated by profanities which is always a pet hate of mine.

Brown's action is relentless.

There is literally never a dull moment as Madison and Fabiana (private detectives living in the Florida Keys) go from case to case with barely a pause.

The book is fast, funny and very enjoyable.

And, it's quite a rare occurrence when I read a fiction book from cover to cover - as I did with this one.

I'd highly recommend "Kidnapped in Paradise" as a beach read or something to transport you to more exotic climes when you're stuck on your morning commute.

Book Synopsis

In the Florida Keys, trouble is brewing along with the coffee. Friends Madison Westin and Fabiana Merceau search for the mastermind behind gruesome warnings showing up on their doorstep. Fab’s infamous new partner and Madison’s reappearing ex-husband complicate matters in this sexy and humorous action-adventure, the seventh installment of the Paradise series.

Can they slip the bonds of protective custody and solve the mystery before they are Kidnapped in Paradise?

Kidnapped in Paradise, is the seventh novel in Deborah Brown's Paradise series, which can be also read as a stand alone book.

Available to buy from.....

"I loved it. Couldn't stop reading; real page turner! Would highly recommend. Can't wait for the next book in the series!" 

"Deborah Brown has done it again. The whole crew of South Florida lunatics are flying in every direction in this, the seventh book of the Paradise series." 

"I love the characters with their attitudes and personalities not always agreeing it is a great read!I hope there is more to come can't wait to see what these two cook up next! Definitely two thumbs up Deborah Brown!"  
above reviews from Amazon

About the Author

I've been writing, in one way or another for as long as I can remember; writing poetry, short stories, a romance novel secretly stashed under the bed and sappy love letters. Fiction should be fun. I wanted to create the perfect beach book, to make the reader laugh, cry and cheer... and then run out and tell their friends about it.

My love of reading began when I was seven, the day I opened the cover of my first Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book. Mrs. P gave lessons to other children in how to behave and to me I learned to love the written word. I live with my family and demon children aka rescue cats in South Florida.

Find the author on the following sites...
  Facebook,   Twitter,   Pinterest,   Google+   Goodreads 

Also available in the Paradise Series

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

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Sunday, 12 July 2015

I Like My Holidays Fully Medicated

Readers of this blog will know that I have terrible trouble packing.

Or rather I have trouble fitting in clothing to the metric tonnage of toiletries and tablets I am compelled to take on holiday.

For our approaching week in a log cabin in the wilds of Malvern, I am obviously preparing for sudden climatic change and an outbreak of some terrible fever or ice-cream related injury.

There will be an outdoor hot tub (will it have a mosquito net?) and a hammock (with a gym mat underneath in case of falling out, I'm hoping).

What has all the hallmarks of a really fun place has turned, in the wry twisting of my neurotic mind, into an endurance test a bit like "Ninja Warrior" mixed with "The Cube".

Needless to say, the Husband, who travels around the world with a spare vest and a toothbrush, cannot comprehend how I could possibly be allowing the dark clouds of holiday anxiety to roll not just over my head, but over the whole family.

But then, men rarely do the packing, do they?

Mind you, the Husband says he spends most of the time taking stuff out that I put in so that the car will actually move and we can fit the kids in!! That's after one of his comprehensive car maintenance sessions of course. Cue much huffing and puffing and shouts of "where is the tyre gauge"?

It's ridiculous because nothing usually goes wrong on our infrequent trips  I did, to be fair, spend my 25th birthday in bed in an Egyptian hotel room in Luxor with terrible travellers' tummy.

That particular anniversary was marked by my managing to ingest one finger of a Twix.

An Egyptian doctor was sent to my room who gave me a strange injection in my bottom and wrote a sick note which said I had "psychic problems" (true, my tarot reading is very dodgy).

I was duly flown home by British Airways and felt better as soon as I put one foot inside the plane.

Is it any wonder, then, that I am a bit nervous when travelling, health wise?

My coping strategy is shopping for toiletries and medications and I have been whiling away the odd half hour internet shopping at Chemist Direct, which carries a surprising large range, including an online doctor service and offers a prescription service for both you and your pets.  (You simply order your prescription and post the prescription slip to them).

The brands include the usual favourites such as Colgate, L'Oreal and Vaseline but also some surprises such as La Roche-Posay and Roger & Gallet.

I ordered the La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Comfort Tinted BB Cream with SPF 50+  at £14.95 which offers UVA and UVB protection with a matt tint and the Roger & Gallet trio of soaps in "Jean Marie Farina" at £12.99.

I have been searching for Roger & Gallet "Fougère" soaps ever since I was an au pair in Paris at 19 but with no luck.

I'm hoping this Mediterranean inspired fragrance will be a good substitute.

In preparation for our holiday, I stocked up on a Stereoplast Holiday First Aid Kit at a bargain £4.95 and a Jungle Formula Plug-In Mosquito Killer at £8.99.

I also found some TravelMAX travel tablets for motion sickness and traveller's tummy which contain ginger as the main ingredient - a bargain 60 tablets for £1.  I'm planning to use these instead of the full strength travel pills to see if the ginger plus the 'placebo effect' might work.

I placed my order on 8th July and received it two days later via courier, on the 10th July.

Everything was well packaged and as I had ordered it.

Delivery is free over £40 or otherwise £3.49 for delivery within 5 working days.

Next day delivery options start at £4.75.

I thought the service was great, the prices reasonable and, unlike shopping in store at the two main big name UK drugstores, there's less of a risk of being lured in by BOGOFs and promotional gifts which tempt us toiletry addicts to spend far more than we should, or need to.

That doesn't mean I won't be having another quick 'check' before we go though.

Doesn't hurt to be prepared for every eventuality, does it?

*A voucher was received for the purposes of this review.
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