A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

A True Story Of Discovering And Dealing With Fibromyalgia

Recently, I’ve been speaking to a friend who had been coping with her daughter having peculiar symptoms. When the symptoms started, it seemed like it might have been a serious illness. But, after much deliberation, three months later, she was still none the wiser. If you have been in this situation, it can be incredibly stressful and difficult to understand what is happening. You want to help, but there seems to be nothing you can do. However, my friend took great steps to ensure they got to the bottom of this difficult illness and eventually discovered the truth. Here are steps she took.

1. Watch And Wait 

After the symptoms had started to develop, my friend watched her daughter carefully. She believed it might have been something to do with passing through puberty. She decided to wait and see if the symptoms worsened or the problems increased. The symptoms in question were a severe back pain and difficulty walking. As peculiar as this sounds, this can happen when a teenager passes through puberty. Growing pains can be incredibly nasty.

2. Contact The GP

The symptoms did not fade after two weeks, and my friend was forced to take further action. If anything, the symptoms appeared to be getting worse. The pain was becoming more frequent and was severely limiting how well her daughter was coping. Her mother decided it was time to get in touch with the GP. You may have recently read about whether or not a GP can diagnose you in ten minutes. Well, in this case, the GP was completely stumped and could only offer her daughter painkillers. This was not a long term plan on dealing with the issue, and they were told the situation would be reassessed in a couple of weeks.

3) A&E

The painkillers did not work and one worrying night the girl had to be rushed to A&E. She was unable to walk with agonising pain down her entire back. She also could no longer move any of limbs. If you think this is a nightmare scenario, you would be right. It was terrifying for both her and her daughter. But, after several hours in A&E they were still no closer to finding out what was wrong. They were only offered stronger painkillers.

4) The Specialist 

After the incident with A&E, my friend’s daughters condition was passed onto a specialist. The quickly diagnosed the condition as fibromyalgia.

Image Credit

This is a condition that causes severe chronic pain, often for the rest of a sufferer's life. There is no cure and worse still, no known cause. Although it was a relief to find out what was wrong, they were still stuck with no remedy except putting the girl on painkillers for the rest of her life.

5) Clinical Trials 

Due to the mystery surrounding fibromyalgia there are constant clinical trials to attempt to fix the issue. A clinical trial involves a collection of patients being given drugs that could work to cure their illness. There are different phases of clinical trials that you pass through. It is possible to enquire about this option when you are dealing with a difficult illness. My friend asked for this option for her daughter. Five months later they were granted the request.

6) The Road To Recovery

Since the clinical trials, my friend has seen success in the treatment of her daughter. Although the pain is still there, the situation is improving. She hopes these trials will bring the end to the suffering of those who have been diagnosed with this and other similar conditions.

Thanks for reading Mother Distracted.  I really appreciate your support and I'd love it if you could share this post across social media. If you’re new to Mother Distracted, why not join me on the Mother Distracted Facebook page, tweet me on @lindahobbis or follow me on Instagram.

For loads more health advice, just visit my health page.

*collaborative post

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

8 Ways To Look Younger Right Now

Do you gaze into the mirror, longing for your old youthful appearance to return? So many people hate getting older, and wish they could make themselves look younger right now.

Luckily for you, there are ways you can do just that! It might take some commitment and practice, but anybody can turn back the clock with these tips:

1. Get More Sleep 

Perhaps you’re not getting enough sleep, and this is affecting your looks. Make sure you’re getting as much sleep as you need every night, and that it’s quality. You should feel well rested after 8 hours of quality sleep. Any more and you might be doing just as much damage as having too little.

2. Eat Better 

You could probably stand to overhaul your diet and make it a little better for you. See if there are ways you can replace your favourite foods with healthier versions, and try to make your meals vegetable based. The better you eat, the younger you’ll look. We’re made from what we eat!

3. Exercise 

Exercise might make you sweaty and questionable looking for a while, but, in the long run, it has a great effect on the body and skin. This means that we usually look much younger than we are, and feel amazing to boot! Find ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine and make sure you enjoy it.

Image Credit
4. Invest in Your Skin 

There’s nothing wrong with splashing out a little when it comes to your skin. This might mean treating yourself to a luxury product, or even going for a luxury silhouette face lift. There are lots of treatments you can look into to make your skin look more youthful.

5. De-stress 

Stress can make us gain/lose weight, make our hair fall out, stop our periods, and make us look older. It’s no good for anybody! Many of us lead very stressful lives these days, so we need to make sure we’re de-stressing. Take some time to breathe and a nice bath. Go for a walk. Do things you enjoy and try not to worry about things out of your control!

6. Apply a Mask 

Apply a mask every so often, perhaps once a week to brighten up your skin. There are lots of masks out there for maturing skin, so you’re bound to find something you like.

7. Drink Lots of Water 

Water is beneficial in multiple ways. It flushes toxins, helps to shed fat, and, of course, clears the skin. Try drinking more for a few days and notice how much better you look and feel. Soon enough you’ll be in a routine and won’t even need to think about it!

8. Practice Your Makeup

Clever makeup techniques can help us to look younger too. Using suitable products and tools is a great help, but make sure you watch Youtube for guidance too.

Try these 8 techniques and you should look younger in a flash. Not only that, you’ll feel great about yourself too! Leave your thoughts below. See you again soon!

Thanks for reading Mother Distracted.  I really appreciate your support and I'd love it if you could share this post across social media. If you’re new to Mother Distracted, why not join me on the Mother Distracted Facebook page, tweet me on @lindahobbis or follow me on Instagram.

*collaborative post

Say Thank You With Debenhams Flowers This Grandparents' Day (4th Oct) & Discount Code

It's Grandparents' Day on Sunday 4th October this year and what better way to say thank you for all they do than by sending a lovely bouquet of flowers?

My Lovely Mum, Kay & Her Moonlight Bouquet from Debenhams Flowers.
For working parents, grandparents are an invaluable source of trusted childcare. Recent research carried out by restaurant chain Table Table found that grandparents save parents an amazing £8,000 per year by babysitting their grandchildren and driving them around.

And research by the specialist over 50s insurer RIAS found that Britain's "Grandparent Army" of childcarers is now 9.1 million strong as the number of grandparent childminders has increased by 49% since 2009.

There's little doubt that parents owe them a huge debt!

I have to admit that Grandparents' Day seems to be a new annual celebration but I can see no reason why we should not take some time out to show our appreciation.  It is only too easy, if grandparents live a long way away, to let contact slip, perhaps only visiting around Christmas and birthdays. Another reason, I think why an extra day to share with them is a good idea.

The relationships our children have with their grandparents are often unique.  Having had to put up with my sister and I, our parents now combine many years of wisdom with a level of patience I can currently only dream of!  Both share their love of painting with the kids and my father, who teaches the piano, has been giving Caitlin lessons.  Ieuan will have lessons a little later on and I am hoping he will not have been too far indoctrinated by the Husband in the ways of "shouty Viking Rock" by then!

So bearing this in mind, I have been mulling over what to get them to say thank you on Grandparents' Day and flowers would seem to be an easy-to-please gift.

I was recently sent a lovely bouquet for my mum by Debenhams Flowers who have a great flower delivery service.  They offer next day flowers 7 days a week across the UK with a beautiful range of seasonal bouquets. For guaranteed next day flowers you need to order before 9pm on weekdays, 4pm on Saturdays and 2pm on Sundays.  Next day flowers are available by courier or you can choose flowers by post which are delivered in secure packaging by Royal Mail to any UK address.

You can send your best wishes with a personalised gift message delivered alongside the bouquet you choose and add a gift, for example chocolates, fine wines or balloons.

Debenhams Flowers suggested range for Grandparents' Day can be viewed here.

The bouquet I selected for my mum was the "Moonlight" - a lovely display of lilies, roses and carnations (£30.99).

As you can see, the picture above really doesn't do the bouquet justice.  It will be even more gorgeous when the lilies open.


I am delighted to offer my lovely readers a discount code which entitles you to a very generous 25% off a bouquet (*Flowers By Post not included).

The code is: DFBLOG25.

Just go to www.debenhamsflowers.com.  You are sure to find a bouquet that suits.

I hope you and your family get to spend some quality time for the grandparents on Sunday 4th October.

*A "Moonlight" bouquet was received for the purposes of this review.

Poor Health - It's Often The Letting People Down That's Hardest

It was a gleaming mint hybrid bicycle with a basket.  It sat beckoning, with a promise of endless summers freewheeling through fields filled with wild flowers. There were picnics to be had by bubbling streams, whilst lying on picnic blankets chewing straw and watching the clouds make wispy shapes in the matchless blue sky.

The husband was excited.  The kids were excited.  They all had bikes and were waiting for me to join them on the cycle paths. What could possibly go wrong?

Except.  Except.....

Back in the early 90's I had gynaecological surgery which has left me with what my consultant calls unprovoked vulvodynia.  This is a condition which is rarely written about and, as far as I can tell, its existence is frequently denied by the family of the sufferer, being so nebulous, difficult to treat and well nigh impossible to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it.  It is a persistent pain in your 'bits' which comes on for no particular reason.  Couple that with a bad back and my glasses OCD which means wearing any sort of headgear brings me out in a cold sweat, and you can see that I am hardly primed to join the ranks of the sporting elite any time soon.

After approximately 15 minutes trying out various saddles, it became clear that cycling was going to be a painful experience.

The bike went back.

I felt guilty and vaguely ashamed - as if I had let everybody down.  But you see it has taken me years to recover from the surgery (and since then I have had 2 caesarians) and the thought of undoing all the care I have had to take was too much to bear.

The experience led me to reflect that, for many of us dealing with daily health problems, whether it is a condition which comes with chronic pain or even if we are just dealing with a collection of what others might term 'health niggles', the impact of our suffering on others adds to the stress of the health complaint itself.

We are stuck between a rock and a hard place, desperately wanting our bodies to look, feel and behave like they did when we were young and struggling to understand how we ended up like this. It comes on gradually for some of us, doesn't it?  Lack of exercise, poor diet, poor sleep.  More than that, we want to join in and have a normal family life. We want the memories we create to be happy, fulfilled ones - not that time Mum put her back out and spent the afternoon sat in the car.

As mothers we get used to putting our own needs second to those of our children.  How many of us miss the weekend lie-in and get all misty eyed and nostalgic for the days when Sunday mornings started at noon. Weekends used to be times when we would recharge our batteries, both mentally and physically.  Times when we could, at least to some extent, get rid of any stress and strain which had built up over the preceeding week.

It makes it all the harder, then, when we can't acquiesce to our children's need to be ever active, ever pushing the boundaries of what their young bodies can achieve, but with us at their side.

I'm sure there is a compromise.  I am equally sure that self pity will get us nowhere either.  But occasionally, it is nice to hear that someone understands and gives you permission to acknowledge that, for whatever reason, you just can't join in.

And that's the permission we need to learn to give ourselves - without the bucket load of guilt that usually comes with it.

Further information on Vulvodynia is available on the NHS website.  Ladies, if you have any kind of unexplained pain or discomfort, please see your GP - and remember it is not all in your head. Nobody knows your body like you do!

Beck Valley Book Tour & Giveaway - Return to me by Carolyn Menke

New Release....

Eighteen-year-old Sadie Stark, raised by the governor of Pennsylvania, has the world on a string. She doesn’t need the mother who left her any more than she needs the fiance who promises to change. What she needs is to finish college, and keep her wits about her. 

When war-bound James Pasko returns her stolen clutch, and shows her what’s missing in her life, she gains the courage to search for the truth about her past.

What Sadie uncovers rattles her to the core. But James’ steadfast love gives her hope for the future—for the first time—even as the war tears them apart.

When James disappears over enemy lines and Sadie makes a startling discovery, she must decide to follow in the footsteps of the mother who gave her away, or face a life of hardship like she’s never known.

Available to buy from....

“A sweeping, romantic debut that brings the war-time forties to vivid life in this Titanic meets Philomena tale—fast-paced, tender, and real.” —RITA Award-winning Author Gwyn Cready

 “Menke’s writing is so lovely, you will want to wrap yourself in her words and savor each moment you spend in Sadie’s story. Return To Me will tug on your heart strings and take you on a journey back in time.” —Dana Faletti, Author of the Whisper Trilogy 

 “A timeless tale of love, loss and sacrifice that will equally break and warm your heart, as you cheer for the beautifully complex characters until the very last page.” —Lori M. Jones, Author of Renaissance of the Heart

So what did I think?

I'm not usually a romance fan but it was easy to get swept along by this moving tale of love spanning the decades including World War II.  The characters are believable and engaging, even though I found Sadie occasionally quite frustrating, constrained as she is in a world where feminism barely raised its head.  The theme of return is strong in the book, as is the idea that life is precious and incredibly brief.  The effects of the choices we make truly echo down the years and life continues to test us.  

A chance meeting throws Sadie and soldier James Pasko together just as he is going off to fight. Despite the fact that she is already promised to the thoroughly dislikable Henry,  the die has been cast and Sadie's life will never be the same.

Without spoiling the ending, Sadie's story mirrors that of the mother who gave her away as history seems to repeat itself.

If you are looking for a romance to escape into on a chilly autumn evening and you love stories from the 1940's, you will adore "Return to Me".

4 out of 5 stars.

About the Author

Carolyn Menke is the author of "A Little Known Truth" and "The Survival Guide to Mommy-hood," both published in "Beyond the Diaper Bag." Her flash fiction piece "Full Circle" took first place in the Writer's Type literary competition in July 2012. "Baba's Bananas" also placed first at Writer's Type in March 2011, and was later awarded first runner-up overall for the yearly competition in the same category.

A storyteller with an entrepreneurial spirit, she started a marketing communications business with clients ranging from local start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Prior to that she worked as a marketing communications specialist for high-tech companies. She gained valuable public speaking experience while leading corporate and educational training workshops. Recently, she was a guest speaker at Wexford Elementary, and has been invited to share her latest novel, Return To Me, with area reading clubs.

The author earned a bachelor's degree in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University and a master's degree in marketing communications from Duquesne University. She is a member of Pennwriters and two writing critique groups.

Find the author on the following sites...
Website    Facebook    Twitter    Pinterest    Goodreads 

Follow the book tour


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

Win a $20 Amazon.com GC / Paypal
(winners choice)
Open Worldwide
Ending on Sunday 4th October at 11.59pm EST

Enter Below and Good Luck !!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, 28 September 2015

50 Ways To Wear A Scarf by Lauren Friedman

Did you know that, according to recent research, 30% of a woman’s wardrobe is wasted, meaning that she only wears 70% of what’s hanging up in her wardrobe.

Apparently we women are also guilty of not wearing the clothes we do have, with the average item of clothing being worn just 2-3 times a year, despite it being estimated that women buy 64 new items of clothing each year.

Whilst I'd like to know who these lucky women are, I have to confess I am rather welded into my black leggings when running after the kids.

It's really hard to keep up with the latest fashion trends as they change so quickly.  And who has the money to buy a whole new wardrobe each time you want to update your look? No.  The canny fashionista would advise that you can simply update your existing clothing with accessories.

Items like a scarf can be extremely versatile in how you wear them and I've found a lovely little book that challenges us to wear a scarf in 50 different ways - yes 50!

In my office days there would always be one woman who, upon switching off her PC, would don her coat and do something stylish with a scarf (often Burberry).  My own attempts would go as far as chucking a scarf around my neck and having done with it.

The 50 Ways to Wear a Scarf book by Lauren Friedman from Qwerkity.com (£9.99) shows how to wrap, loop, or tie a scarf to instantly dress up or dress down any outfit, helping you to discover the delights of styles such as the Bandit, Minnie Mouse, Ascot, New York, Boy Scout, babushka and 44 other fascinating styles.

The book shows you how to create these styles in easy steps, complete with illustrations, helping you to get the right look using oblong and square scarves.

OK, so I probably still need to practise but at least now I have 2 styles in my repertoire!

My version of No. 1 - The Bandit
Lauren Friedman's "50 Ways To Wear A Scarf" is a really clear and concise guide which gives you loads of ideas, even how to create a kimono and various ways you can wear a scarf in your hair. Unlike lots of the other style / wardrobe guides which are a two minute read and give you really basic ideas, this one really delivers in terms of fashion sense, creativity and ease of use.

Because the instructions are well illustrated and simple, the reader is given the confidence to try out styles of scarf you might not previously have considered.

I will definitely be giving some of the other styles a go.

Delft Blue Bird Scarf - £9.95

Petrol Blue Floral Scarf - £9.95

Multi-purpose Scarf (Teal or Pink) - £6.95

I have one copy of "50 Ways To Wear A Scarf" and a scarf to give away (design may vary).  Just enter via the Rafflecopter below.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Monday 12th October.  UK entrants only.  Good luck!

If you can't wait to start tying, the book is priced at just £9.99 and available on the Qwerkity website, where you'll find some great ideas for gifts for her - and him!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Further information is available at www.presentsformen.co.uk/qwerkity, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Review: Hotel Tycoon Board Game - Move Over Hilton!

As is becoming customary on a Sunday, we gathered round for a session of board-game playing - this time trying out "Hotel Tycoon" from Esdevium Games.

We loved Disney Pictopia and Dobble so were looking forward to trying this one too.

Hotel Tycoon sees players try to buy and build the best hotels, earn the most money and bankrupt their opponents. And once you've secured your land and built your hotel, you can charge players who end up outside your hotel entrance.  The more luxurious your hotel, the more money your 'guest' has to pay.

The suggested age range for this one is 8+ and we found this to be right as it was a little too complex for Ieuan.

The other thing to bear in mind is that the game takes quite a bit of assembly (at least the first time around) as you have to build the hotels, which are assembled from cardboard cut-outs and add on roofs and bases.

We'd suggest putting the game together and then assembling the family if you are playing with younger children.

Like Monopoly, which I think is this game's nearest equivalent, Hotel Tycoon needs several plays before you get into the swing of buying your land, applying for planning permission, constructing hotels and nabbing properties off your opponents.

The game certainly has an intellectual element to it which older children will enjoy.  Caitlin, for example, loved having money from the bank and quickly understood the concept that the more land and hotels you had, the more likely you were to win.

When it's time to put the game away, there's a handy "cheat sheet" which shows you how to place your hotels back in the box without having to deconstruct them.

Hotel Tycoon is the kind of game which takes a good hour or so - it would be ideal on a rainy Christmas afternoon and I think the more you play it, the more you'll become hooked.

Here's how it works.

As usual, Caitlin managed to win by dint of buying everything in sight.  Ieuan just wanted the "Uptown" hotels to construct his own version of Hogwarts - which is where he is now.  Happily playing with all the hotels, building "Ieuan City" and shouting (I kid you not) - "Hurrah, I'm rich!".

Hotel Tycoon is available from Waterstones at £24.99 and is also available from Amazon.

For a review of two other great Esdevium games, Disney Pictopia and Dobble (and a Dobble giveaway), click here.

*A PR sample was received for the purposes of this review

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Win A Degustabox Of Foodie Treats

Degustabox is a monthly subscription food box service with each box containing between 9 and 14 products from well known and / or up-and-coming brands. Each box costs £12.99 including delivery and the value of the box contents is promised to be far greater than this, based on what you would expect to pay if you bought the items in the shops.

Once you have received your box, you are encouraged to review the products and let the brands know what you thought - whether you liked the item or not.

As with all monthly box subscription services (as you know I have regularly reviewed Glossybox, the monthly beauty box subscription service), the thrill is in the surprise of the contents and the anticipation of receiving a present just for you.  Yes I know you are supposed to share it but we mothers have to, er, vet the contents thoroughly, don't we?

I was sent the September box to try and it contains a lovely mix of sweet and even boozy treats. There is a selected list of products for each month published on the website but not everyone receives the same combination.

Here's what was in mine.

There was a mixture of brands I already knew but quite a few I'd heard of but not got round to trying. Actually, I think this box was designed specifically for me.

There were 8 products from September's selection and 2 which Degustabox call their "Db's Discoveries".

UP & GO Breakfast Drink & Complete® Energy Bites
Up & Go is a nutritious breakfast drink from Australia intended to replace a bowl of cereal and milk when you are rushing out of the door in the morning.  Complete® Energy Bites are low calorie chocolates infused with caffeine.  They say that 1 energy bite is the equivalent of a 1 large premium coffee.  I won't be trying these in the evening but they might be ideal for the mid afternoon, pre-school run slump!

Maynards Wine Gums, Bassets Jelly Babies, Mallow & Marsh Marshmallows and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
I have to say that, although I am prepared to relinquish custody of the wine gums to the Husband, everything else in the above picture is mine - and if you haven't tried a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, you really need to.

There was a pack of Maynards Red & Black Wine Gums, a pack of Bassets Jelly Babies in "Berry Mix", Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (peanut butter covered in Hershey's chocolate) and a raspberry marshmallow mini box from Mallow & Marsh.

The Good Cider of San Sebastian & Sweet Sally Tea
Lastly, there were two bottles of cider (1 apple, 1 pear) from Spanish cider producer The Good Cider of San Sebastian and a bottle of Sweet Sallly Tea, Ceylon black tea with Spanish oranges, Sicilian lemons, suger and a blend of cinnamon and cloves.  Both brands are new to me.

The 2 "DB's Discoveries" this month were Portlebay Popcorn (in cappuccino and sweet & salty flavours) and TG Green Tea (with Ginseng, and with Mandarin & Ginseng).

Portlebay Popcorn & TG Green Tea
Portlebay Popcorn is actually handmade in Devon using totally natural seasonings.  TG Green Teas are natural energy infusions which are low in sugar and contain 'good-for-you' ingredients.

Degustabox also include a cheat sheet detailing all the brands and what you could expect to pay for them in the supermarket and a couple of handy recipes to try out the contents of the box.

My only quibble is that my recipes were for soups - lovely but nothing in the box to make them with. One of the other listed products for September was a Greek olive oil from The Olive Shop which would have been used in both recipes so I'm not sure I got the right leaflet.

The total retail value of the box is £24.97, good value given the cost of the box was £12.99.  If you like the excitement of a monthly present and enjoy trying out new brands, I think Degustabox is a great scheme.  I'd place it firmly in the 'treat' category but the price is low enough to make it attractive.  Currently, if the four of us go for a coffee and a bun, for example, we usually end up paying around the £15 mark.  (Yes I know, find the thermos!).  A Degustabox subscription would also make a great gift.  You can cancel at any time, as long as you give them sufficient notice to stop next month's box.

Please note, though that Degustabox can only deliver to Mainland UK and not to Northern Ireland, the Scottish Highlands and Islands and you must be over 18 to order.

I have an October Degustabox to give away to one lucky winner and no, I can't tell you the contents because it will be a surprise.  Simply enter via the Rafflecopter below.  Sorry, but Mainland UK entrants only.  The giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Friday 2nd October 2015.

If you don't win but would like to give Degustabox a try, I also have a discount code for first time subscribers for a very generous £6 off your first box. Simply enter BLDEG15 at checkout.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Reminder: all entrants need to be resident in mainland UK (excluding Northern Ireland and Scottish Highlands and Islands) and over 18.

Further information is available at the Degustabox UK website,  or you can talk to them on Facebook or on Twitter.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Technology - Does It Bring Families Together, Or Push Them Apart?

Having a husband who works in the telecommunications industry means that our house possibly has more laptops, phones and things with screens than the average home.  It also means that our kids have been able to become IT savvy in a way those of us born in the 60's could only dream of.

I remember starting work for a shelving & racking company in the late 1980's and finding a brand new word processor sat on a desk with a dust cover on it because nobody knew how to use it.  I also remember the thrill of moving from a black and white television to a colour one.  Yes I am that, er, mature.

Technology has become so ingrained in our daily lives that we barely look up from our mobiles to see what's going on.

Last weekend, I attended a blogging event at a local hotel.  This was basically three tables of women all looking at their phones and photographing each other.  We are all now apparently obsessed with recording every detail of our lives to make it look #instacool.

And it's the same for kids.  Every restaurant, waiting room, in fact anywhere where people congregate will contain parents looking at their phones and children being kept mute by an iPad or Nintendo DS.

On the other hand, there is no denying that social media is a great uniter of people.  How many of us now talk to friends and relatives we have lost touch with over the years?  We can keep in touch via SKYPE.  There is actually, today, no excuse NOT to keep in touch.  And, conversely, no hiding place if you embrace as many social media platforms as I do.

The dark side of this is the danger it puts our children in. The temptation for parents to avoid the minimum age for Facebook is strong (it's 13 by the way) - and I know parents who start accounts in, say the pet's name so that the child can have a social media presence.  Peer pressure is usually cited as the reason the child has to have a presence.  Cyber bullying is a growing problem as is sexting with children as young as 11 and 12 sending indecent pictures of themselves, not realising that these snaps will never vanish from the internet.

Then there's the pressure from children to have a mobile phone.  The jury is still out on whether or not mobiles can cause brain cancer but the advice is not to let children have mobiles near their still developing brains. Because we play on our phones we think of them are toys.  But toys they most certainly are not.

Parents need a new set of skills to teach children how to deal with these issues - not always so easy when you are not particularly good at understanding social media yourself.  We are being forced to address issues such as sex education and pornography much earlier than in previous decades.  In many ways our children's innocence is being eroded by the advancement of technology and it is becoming harder to protect them.

In the evening, how many families now sit around a dining table to eat together and talk about their day?  And how many are sat on sofas in front of the TV?  When the kids are in bed, having spent the last hour of the day on their iPads or gaming in their bedrooms, how many couples sit and chat and how many have a PC on their lap and are in their own social media worlds?  I have to confess that the Husband and I are guilty of this.

We know that excessive screen use before bed interferes with our ability to go to sleep and that's without the stress of exposure to bad news on TV or the pressures of work and school.

There's no denying that technology has revolutionised almost every aspect of our daily lives.  Our kitchens are groaning with gadgets to make food production quicker.  We have fridge / freezers you could hide an ox in.  Our cars are now basically mobile computers which move fast.  We read books on screen.  Films and TV are always available on our phones.

But what are we doing with the time we've saved?

Mostly spending more time on the internet, creating our own little worlds where interaction seems real, but is not.  Where we kid ourselves we have lots of friends and followers, many of whom we will never meet and who certainly would not recognise us in the street.

And we are teaching our kids that this is an effective use of their spare time, instead of playing with them, talking to them, encouraging them to play outside.  We are failing to teach them the skill of making 'real' friends, making small talk and taking an interest in what is really going on in their lives.

I have a love / hate relationship with technology.  It's brought me great friends and great experiences. But I am well aware that this has come at a cost, that cost being less time spent with my kids creating memories in the real, rather than the virtual, world.

I think we need to learn how to control the technology in our lives, before it starts to control us.  And, given Professor Stephen Hawking's fear, voiced just yesterday, that we need to get to grips with Artificial Intelligence before it out-thinks humans, now may be a very good time indeed to switch off and have a reboot - in the good old-fashioned sit-down-with-the-kids-and-chat type of way.

This article first appeared as a guest post for Hello Mamas, the US mum meet mum website coming to the UK very soon.

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, 22 September 2015

8 Lies I'll Tell Myself This Autumn

Now that the kids are back in school, leaves are turning brown and the air has that lovely crispness about it which heralds the onset of the kind of weather in which you can legitimately cover yourself in faux fur and stop worrying about shaving your legs,  I find myself making many promises which rarely come to fruition.

I say promises.  Actually I mean blatant fibs. But the intention is there. Readers, I give to you the 8 lies of autumn.

1.  I will cook something featured in The Great British Bake-Off

Excited by all that artistry, the creation of statues out of dough and cakes so large you could wedge a barn door open with one,  I consult my wall of cookery books, find my flour is inhabited and my eggs don't float at the right angle (I've read up on egg freshness you know) and then ponder whether I am brave enough to turn the K-Mix on.  Yes I actually have a K-Mix but I'm a bit scared of it.

Generally, this is so stressful an experience, I put the whole thing safely in the hands of Mr Kipling and mutter about baking a Christmas cake this year.  (See lie 4).

2.  I will not watch X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing but will read a book instead.

The Husband and I have the same conversation each year along the lines that both programmes have 'gone downhill', we don't know any of the 'celebrities' on them and we should just turn the damn TV off and chat or read.  Obviously this means will end up watching one or the other (or if the Husband is not around, possibly a combination of both).  Who can resist Simon being mean? Or having a bet on how long it will take before Mrs O starts throwing water?  And the dresses on Strictly.  I love the dresses.

3.  I will not leave all the Halloween pumpkin carving to the Husband

I am the proud possessor of Martha Stewart's guide to Halloween - which is one of my favourite celebrations.  In it, she gives templates for carving 4 ft high witches and cats out of balsa wood and her home (mansion) is a fantastic concoction of spiders, webs, potions and cute themed cupcakes. There is, let me tell you, emphatically nothing produced by Cadburys.  Her fancy dress costumes would not look out of place in a Hammer Horror film.

In reality, this means that the Husband and I argue about whether 3 pumpkins is overdoing it a bit and then I leave him to assert his masculinity by carving them out in the cold in the garden.  After a bad tempered trip to ASDA where we are usually too late to get the kids' choice of costume, I then spend two hours putting our Halloween decorations up indoors. This means getting out Mr Bones (our full sized plastic skeleton) and making sure there are spiders webs in all the corners.

I am sure that this really irritates the real spiders who live in all the corners but it's company for them, isn't it?

4.  I will make a Christmas cake.

Now, admittedly, baking a fruit cake is not too difficult but by the time you tally up the cost of all that dried fruit, marzipan, icing and a decent whisky to 'feed' the cake (and fortify the cook), you may as well buy one of M&S' finest creations and stick a Santa ornament on the top.  Plus, nobody in our house will actually admit to liking Christmas cake except me.  Strangely it usually all gets eaten, even if the kids just pull the icing off.  I may just be better off buying a packet of ready roll icing and sticking a toy reindeer on it.  Sorted.

5.  I will keep up with my exercise routine.

Well, I would, if I actually had one, apart from my weekly Pilates.  I have visions of jogging through darkened streets lit by twinkly fairy lights with my breath frosting into the cold air.  This would be great if I could cantilever myself away from The X Factor. Or jogged.

6.  We will invite people round for mulled wine and mince pies.

I could eat mince pies every day but mulled wine on the other hand can be just plain lethal.  I had a spectacular fall from grace the Christmas before last after consuming too much and having to stay in bed for the whole of the next day.  The Husband was left to "babysit" (sorry, I meant parent) which as every mother knows means the appearance of far too many crisps and jam sandwiches and a sink full of dishes.  God knows what he fed the kids.

After much consideration about who to invite and whether guests tanked up on mulled wine would be quiet enough not to wake the kids, we usually decide to go up the pub (our village has 3) instead. Mulled wine is usually restricted to a dose in a plastic cup served by The Conservatives at our village's irrepressibly twee "Dickensian Fayre".  Jenna Coleman would not be all that impressed.

7.  We will make autumn collages from the leaves and berries we find on our walks.

We do venture out to Cosmeston, our local nature reserve and through our local woodland but apart from the kids trying to wound each other by using pine cones as missiles, we never seem to get into the whole 'nature as art' thing.  You won't get me to make a collage using anything found where they've been walking dogs for a start.

And I'm always a bit suspicious about blackberrying near the road (all those fumes and the risk of being run over).

I once made Sloe Gin after a sloe picking episode with my dad.  A word to the wise.  Do NOT try to pick sloes at twilight because you can't see the little swines.

8.  I will get all the Christmas shopping done by 1 December.

I promise myself this every year and it never works because I'm never sure how much is 'enough' and I have to make sure each child receives EXACTLY the same or there's war.  And if that wasn't difficult enough, coming up with a natty and exciting combination of stocking fillers each year is even worse than deciding on the 'main present'.

By the time the Husband and I get round to thinking about each other we normally agree we don't need anything at all and then pick a couple of books from Amazon.  Mine are usually cookery books (Lord knows why) or something from the self-help genre along the lines of "20 things I would tell myself if I loved myself enough, even though I can't really be arsed".

I love this time of year.  I really do.  I think I'm going to see if the flour's weevil free and de-rust my cake tins. It's OK to use WD40 on them, isn't it?

Sunday, 20 September 2015

My Sunday Photo - 20/09/2015


Does Your Home Insurance Cover Your Lofty Aspirations?

As you know, I have recently been giving thought to creating a great blogging-space and getting the Husband to share some of his considerably larger home office in our loft.

The previous owners of our house created a great office space which is now the Husband's domain, since, when he's not gallivanting across Europe, he's working from home.

I suppose we could turn it into a bigger bedroom for Ieuan, whose bedroom is about half the size of his sister's but that's a bridge we'll have to cross when Ieuan notices Caitlin's room is positively palatial in term of size compared to his.  I've a suspicion this is not going to take too long!

Our home office houses numerous computers, laptops and other office equipment like a printer, scanner and shredder.  It is also occasionally colonized by Barbie, a collection of soft toys and two children who have to do some colouring on an office desk.  Ieuan is a great fan of the swivel chair and loves to pretend to be the managing director of some crime fighting organisation where the payment is in sweets and the hours are, frankly, much better than any of my previous jobs in the Legal Sector.

The proximity of two children to the Husband's work is apt to make him understandably nervous, not least because of the not inconsiderable cost of replacing anything ruined by biscuit crumbs, squash or the general miasma of 'ick' children are apt to carry about with them.

This is just one of the reasons that we have had to ensure we are fully covered by our home insurance.  I bet if many of us took a moment to add up the value of tech items we have in our homes (possibly mostly owned by our children these days!), it might give us a bit of a shock.  It is easy, when considering renewing your home insurance policy to 'guestimate' the value and pick a level of cover that is, shall we say, ever so slightly random.  Let's be honest - many of us never believe that we may one day actually have to use the policy.

A sensible thing to do is to mark your items with your postcode using an indelible pen.  You could also keep a separate list of serial numbers and other codes and photograph each item so, in the event of anything getting stolen, it will be easy to show the police.  The issue of whether the police will be interested these days, is, of course, another matter.

You might even want to go the whole hog and set up a file which contains these details and attach the machine's instructions or guarantee.  You can bet that you won't be able to find these when you need them - for example if your laptop goes on the blink and you have to take it in to be repaired.  I struggle to remember which model of mobile phone I have - I know it's a Lumia but that's about it.

Once you have assembled all this info in one place then you'll have a much better idea of how much contents cover you will need.

If, on the other hand, you are currently considering a loft conversion, you need to think about the effect on your house insurance as early as possible.

You see, if your loft conversion (which is, after all major building work) isn't carried out properly and the correct permissions and regulations aren't followed, and if you don't tell your insurer so that your policy can be amended, then your cover may become void.  If you have an extension or loft, the cost of rebuilding your house will go up - which will affect your policy.

Your contents cover could also become invalid as an insurer is unlikely to honour a claim for an area they weren't aware existed!

Here's what you need to do:-

* Let your home insurer know your plans before starting any building work

* Be very clear about the exact nature of the work to be carried out.  You might have to increase your cover while the work is going on.  It is best to put this in writing - handy should there be any disputes later on.

Extensions and loft bedrooms will see a rise in the cost of re-building your home if it is destroyed so your building insurance will need to be increased. And if you've added lots of new furniture or gadgets, so might your contents cover.

You might also need to add accidental damage to your policy in case of damage by builders and if you are going to have to move out whilst work is being done, this might also affect any potential claim.

You should also think about adding legal cover to your home insurance just in case of any disputes with the builders or in the unhappy event that their firm goes bust before your work is completed.

On the other hand, though, a loft conversion can add 20% to the value of your home, according to research by the Nationwide Building Society in 2014 so the benefits far outweigh any inconvenient increases in home insurance premiums.

If it had not been for our loft conversion and a ready-made work-space for the Husband, it is unlikely we would have purchased our current house.  Something worth thinking about if you do plan to move in a few years.

In the meantime, I am still on a mission to carve out a small corner of our home office for my own.

*PR collaboration


Friday, 18 September 2015

Review: Cosmopolitan - The Debut Signature Scent

I've read Cosmo for many years and, in many ways, I've grown up with the magazine.  Whether campaigning against sexual inequality, advising us about staying safe or bringing us cutting edge fashion and beauty news, Cosmopolitan has become a part of our lives.

Recently Cosmopolitan Magazine has undergone a bit of a shake-up and is in the process of reinventing itself with a definite emphasis on targeting "young women forging careers, developing their individual style and finding their place in life".  I have to say that this process does not stop when you no longer meet Cosmopolitan's definition of "young", but there it is.

Now the Cosmopolitan brand is moving into the fragrance market and has just launched its signature scent called, unsurprisingly, "Cosmopolitan".  Even back in 2009, research showed that Cosmopolitan readers accounted for £1 in every £12 spent in the beauty market so it's no surprise that Fragrance is now in their sights.

The packaging is understated and subtle, a plain white box with a dash of hot pink and orange ribbon but the bottle inside is a pleasant surprise.

Almost art deco in design it is a multi-faceted glass bottle with the 'C' logo on the sides - a single 'C', otherwise comparisons would have to be drawn with Chanel and this is a fragrance which lacks the subtlety of many of that brand's scents.  The bottle is supposed to give off a pink and orange glow, which is does and it would look lovely on a dressing table.

What we have here is a powerful and heady fragrance which is quite an exotic mix of notes. Cosmopolitan describe the fragrance as follows:-

"The Cosmopolitan woman’s zest for life is captured in fresh sparkling top notes of mandarin, bergamot and red berries. Then comes the surprisingly seductive heart: hypnotic night- blooming jasmine and the powdery sweetness of heliotrope. Pimento berries give it a rich shot of spice, while carrot seed offers something earthy and unexpected. The base will linger on your skin long after you’ve sprayed, with powerful patchouli, comforting vanilla and the tobacco-like qualities of tonka."

If anything it reminds me of a Britney Spears fragrance and has more in common with the celebrity scents than with the classics.  This is no bad thing but it is a fragrance that shouts "look at me" rather than "come closer and inhale my perfume".

The top notes are pineapple, bergamot, cardamom, mandarin, nectarine and red berries with base notes including patchouli, musk, sandalwood, tonka, vanilla and caramel.

The Cosmopolitan Fragrance is definitely a perfume for those who want to be noticed.  Personally I find it too heavy for day / work wear, but it is a great evening fragrance and one which lasts far longer than some of its rivals.

The price point is mid-range, starting at £28 for 30ml of EDP and two gift sets (including a shower gel, body lotion and a purse spray) will be available later this year.

Cosmopolitan The Fragrance is available exclusive at Boots.

Further information is available at www.cosmofragrance.net, on Facebook and on Twitter.

* A PR sample was received for the writing of this post.  The opinions expressed are my own.


Wingz - A Clever Cover-Up For Arms And A Giveaway

I recently discovered a brilliant way to add a bit of versatility to your wardrobe whilst covering your arms - Wingz.

Neither bra, lingerie, top or outerwear, Wingz are a one-piece pair of sleeves you add to your outfit by pulling them over your head so that the band sits just underdneath your bra.  You then simply put your dress or top on in the usual way.

I'm sure many of us find hiding any upper arm wobbly bits more flattering and, now that the temperatures are dropping, Wingz are a great way to wear with some of your favourite summer outfits to create 'transitional' looks.

It's easy to work out your size.  Just measure under your bust and use Wingz' size guide.  Wingz fit from a UK size 6 to 28.

They are also a great addition to your suitcase when you are travelling to countries where local custom requires you to cover your upper arms, for example in India or Turkey.

There are a number of styles and colours to choose from, some classic and some more glam depending on the look you want to create.

I was sent a pair of the black, full length fitted stretch Wingz and a pair of  black chiffon flare Wingz to try.

Black Full Length Wingz & New Look Dress

These are the black full length fitted Wingz worn under a New Look sleeveless dress.

And these are the black chiffon flare Wingz worn under a jumpsuit from Wallis.

Black Chiffon Flare Wingz, Wallis Jumpsuit & Bertie Shoes
Wingz are really easy and comfortable to wear and really add a bit of versatility to your existing wardrobe.  It's not obvious that they are not part of the outfit, either. They are also very reasonably priced, most of them being under £20 a pair.

I have a pair of Wingz to give away to one lucky winner - either the black chiffon flare, as above or a pair of the black beaded angel Wingz.  Just enter via the Rafflecopter in the usual way.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Friday 2nd October 2015.  UK entrants only.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Further information is available at www.wingzfashion.com.  You can also contact them via Facebook or Twitter.

*PR samples were sent for the purposes of this post
Blog Design Created by pipdig