A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Our Family UK Staycation Bucket List 2016

Now, as you know, the Hobbis family sojourns into the wilderness have basically got as far as Devon since it has taken me the last four years to muster up the energy to get my passport updated.

Selfridges in Birmingham UK - Staycations UK - motherdistracted.co.uk
Selfridges, Birmingham
But it strikes me that, although the parenting rite of passage that is the Disneyland visit is on the agenda, if ever there were a year for supporting our home nations, it's going to be 2016.

Leaving aside the, to me, incontravertible proof that climate change IS beginning to affect us and the likelihood that the levels of rainfall we are seeing are here to stay, the UK has so many glorious beauty spots, places of interest and cultural quirks that exploring as many as we can should be on all our travel bucket lists.

The other side of this rather waterlogged observation is that, this year, the UK tourist industry needs our financial support more than ever.

I grew up in the 60's and 70's at a time when the Costa del Sol package holiday was in its infancy. Those who braved air travel to fly to Spain were considered very 'posh' indeed.

My Dad took a different approach.  He took his family to all of the areas of outstanding beauty in the UK. We travelled up to Inveraray and back down to Edinburgh.  We visited Keswick and Ambleside in the Lake District and marvelled at the beauty of the Lakes.  We stayed just outside York and visited its cathedral and explored the Shambles.  The Cotswolds were (and are) a favourite haunt with many visits to Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-On-The-Wold.  We saw Donald Sinden as Othello in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and travelled by boat to Hampton Court out of a dusty and overheated London.

We explored North and Mid Wales and stayed in a cottage in the shadow of the mountain, Cader Idris just outside Dolgellau.   My sister and I splashed about in the river close to the Swallow Falls at Betws-y-Coed.

My parents are from Plymouth and most summers were spent visiting our grandparents.  There were many trips on the "Dockyard & Warships" boat trip, drives to Modbury Beach and Burgh Island and drives over Dartmoor to see Widdecombe and climb up Sheepstor, hopefully (but not always) avoiding the rain.  On Lands End, the winds were so strong, we had to hold on to my mother, lest all 4 foot 11 inches of her blew away to sea.

These are all places I hope to visit with the family over the next year or two.

What my Dad gave us, I now realise, was an education about the wonders of geography and history that was far more interesting than the O level geography syllabus topics of glaciation and orange growing in California.

There are, though, many gaps in my UK travel education and places still to explore.  My grandmother, Jessie, had relatives in the West Midlands and, aside from a trip in the 80's to see Chris de Burgh in concert (even pre-"Lady In Red"!), Birmingham is a city I have yet to explore.

Victoria Square Birmingham - Staycations UK
Victoria Square, Birmingham
It's so much easier today now that hotels have comfortable, spacious family rooms.  I remember on our trip to London in the 70's that my Dad rushed out to buy a camp bed to put up next to our hotel room's sole, rather rickety double bed.

These days, too, there is a far greater range of family friendly activities.  Around Birmingham we could visit the National Sea Life Centre or Cadbury World. Then there's the award-winning Black Country Living Museum near Dudley.  I might persuade the Husband to take the kids to the National Motorcycle Museum whilst I explore the shops in The Bullring which has over 160 shops.

Another city I have never visited is Newcastle Upon Tyne which has Europe's largest shopping centre, The Metrocentre.  It has 300 shops, an 11 screen cinema and a fun fair!

Tyne Bridge - Newcastle Upon Tyne - Staycations UK - motherdistracted.co.uk
Tyne Bridge
There's the science and local history museum, The Discovery Museum, The Great North Museum which has a planetarium or the contemporary art gallery, The Biscuit Factory for starters.

Yes, 2016 is going to be a great year for exploring and I sometimes think that if you waited for perfect weather in the UK, you'd never go anywhere.

No wonder my Dad made sure we always had our waterproofs with us!

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

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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Throwing A Children's Birthday Party? Read This.


Whether you’re planning for your own child or just helping out a new mum, birthday party planning can be an extremely stressful affair. You want every aspect of the day to be perfect from the icing on the cake to the colourful decorations. But planning such a momentous occasion in a child’s life does not have to be difficult. 

Follow these tips and make it a birthday party to remember for all of the right reasons. 

Choose a simple theme 

Having a theme is a very good idea as it can inspire the whole feel of the day. It can inspire colour palettes, games, decorations and even food, but only if it is simple. Over-complicated themes that are difficult to execute can take a lot of time and effort that you could spend elsewhere. 

Consider what the child likes and dislikes to help you find a suitable theme they will love. Remember classic themes such as pirates or princesses always work and suit a wide age group. 

If you’re stuck for ideas, you could hire party planners such as Pickle Pie Parties or Twizzle to organise a theme for you. They could also help you with invites and entertainment for the party, giving you more time to enjoy the process. 


Children's Party Food - Throwing A Children's Birthday Party - motherdistracted.co.uk
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Get creative with food 

Kid's party food options such as sausage rolls and sandwiches are perfect. But you could create something more magical and inventive too. You could use food colouring to dye the snacks and drinks your child’s favourite colour or a colour relating to the theme. 

A Frozen princess party, for instance, would look great with icy blue and white coloured food. You could also bake cupcakes that feature each of your guest’s names on in icing or chocolate. The children will get excited about finding which cupcake is theirs.

If you aren’t really into baking, you could hire an ice cream and candy floss cart or a burger van for the party instead. You can rename every food and drink provided with your child’s name or their favourite cartoon character’s names. This will make it more intriguing for the children and adults attending. 


Party Popcorn Machine - Throwing A Children's Birthday Party - motherdistracted.co.uk
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Decorations add the fun 

It doesn’t matter if you’re holding the party in a local hall or at home; it’s important that it feels fun and extraordinary to the child. Decorations are important for a birthday party and will highlight the theme you have chosen. Balloons, bunting and banners are classic birthday decorations that are still just as popular. 

You can also get crafty and make some of your own decorations if you wish. For instance, you could use large pieces of coloured paper to create oversized leaves and flowers. These will create a beautiful jungle atmosphere in your venue. 

Use Pinterest and party pieces magazine for inspiring and unique ideas to decorate and style your event and don’t refrain from making your own. 

Children’s parties need to be fun so make this a priority in your planning. It doesn’t matter how many people attend, as long as everyone spends the day smiling and laughing. 

Like what you've read?  Why not join me on the Mother Distracted Facebook page, tweet me on @lindahobbis or follow me on Instagram.
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Post Christmas Divorce Rush Predicted To Avoid Hike In UK Divorce Fees In April

Online divorce firm divorce-online.co.uk, the single biggest filer of divorce petitions in England and Wales, is predicting a big spike in divorce filings in January as couples rush to beat the Government's proposed hike in court fees to file a divorce.

Sad girl looking through window - cost of divorce UK - motherdistracted.co.uk
Divorce is stressful enough, without the added financial worry
The fees will rise in April from £410 to £550 a massive 34% increase, despite the actual cost of processing a divorce having been calculated at £260.

A draft statutory instrument has been laid before parliament and unless the Government do a U turn in the next 3 months, the fees will be introduced at the start of the new financial year.

As one of the largest firms sending divorce petitions to the divorce centres, Divorce-Online are already warning potential divorcees of the coming rise.

Mark Keenan a spokesman for the company believes that the rise will prevent couples on modest means from formalising their split and many couples will be left in a legal limbo for years, separated but not able to finalise their divorce because of the sheer cost.

Since the withdrawal of legal aid in 2012 for divorce cases, the number of people looking for cheaper alternatives to traditional solicitor led divorce routes have rocketed using services provided by companies like Divorce Online.

As the cost of divorce in the UK rises, it is likely that even more couples will turn to the Internet to seek a more cost-effective alternative to the traditional high street legal practice.

Further information: contact mark.keenan@divorce-online.co.uk.  Twitter @mrdivorceonline
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Sunday, 27 December 2015

Want 2016 to be YOUR year? Tell yourself A Better Story.

Now we're all approaching the traditional post-festive slump, my thoughts automatically drift to New Year and those things I would like to improve.

Woman looking up at sun - want 2016 to be your year? - motherdistracted.co.uk
Write yourself a brighter future.
We have already probably read, by now, the myriad of pop psychology suggestions to transform our existence - from writing gratitude lists, to mindful meditation, seeking your guardian angel and rebalancing your chakras.

Listen, I love this stuff and you won't find any cynical sniffing from me if you tell me your goal next year is to explore your spirituality.  Too few of us are stuck in a kind of two dimensional hell of work and shopping with very little actual human connection inbetween.

But here's the thing I want to suggest you try.

If you stop and listen closely to the voice in your head, that incessant chatter which is you (probably) berating, criticising and scolding yourself, you might notice something.

You say the same stuff over and over and over and over ......

Basically you are retelling your life as a story in which you may not necessarily be playing the role you want to play.  Is there someone else you have cast as the star whilst you have a mere walk-on part?

If you think about your history, your past, it is a collection of memories you've put together seen through just one perspective - yours.  We can never know exactly what someone else is feeling. Their behaviour may give clues, of course, but nevertheless, the only person we can truly begin to understand is ourselves.

Some of the people we find most inspiring, whether they are celebrities or members of our family, have the ability to make their own sunshine.  They put a positive spin on everything that happens. They are the 'silver lining people'.

Hands up, on occasion, I find 'silver lining people' extremely annoying but in my more sanguine moments I acknowledge that they are definitely on to something.

So, rather than retell yourself ghastly tales of past times when you were the fall guy, the stooge, the fool, where you let your light be eclipsed by someone with all the brightness of a 20 watt bulb, why not put a twist in the tale?

Ask yourself.  If I were to rewrite this, what would have happened?  And, in future, when you think of that time, tell yourself this new story.

If the old version of events has a terrible hold on you, see yourself writing it down then pick up the paper, scrunch it into a ball and chuck it over your shoulder.

Or pretend you have set it on fire and those horrid memories have literally gone up in smoke.

As you look to the future in 2016,  why not write yourself the story of the year now, complete with a list of what WILL happen. I don't mean a bucket list.  I mean a list of glorious, golden outcomes.

Faith and positive thinking may make them happen.

We are adult and know that there are no guarantees in life but, equally, to live with an optimistic view where you let in the light has to be better than starting another year in a fug of gloomy despondency.

January is such a dark, dank month.  We miss the sun and the light both emotionally and physically. Those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) must feel this loss of light even more and, once the Christmas bonhomie has passed, there is a tendency for those of us who suffer from depression to sink into a deeper pit of our own hopelessness and melancholy.

But if we look around us, the best loved stories are still there and are a testament to our eternal belief that good triumphs over evil, that light always wins out over darkness.

I am thinking not just of religion but of the Harry Potter stories and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

If we can let ourselves enter their worlds and believe so willingly,  why don't we write our own sagas and recast ourselves as heroes and heroines.

Ultimately you know, we've all got the Force.

Like what you've read?  Why not join me on the Mother Distracted Facebook page, tweet me on @lindahobbis or follow me on Instagram.
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My Sunday Photo - 27/12/2015

Christmas cake remains - My Sunday Photo - motherdistracted.co.uk



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Thursday, 24 December 2015

Helpline Numbers - If You Need Someone To Talk To Over Christmas


I know that Christmas is not a happy time for everyone.

Man gazing at stars - Christmas helpline numbers - motherdistracted.co.uk
Sometimes you can feel really alone at Christmas

But there are people who care, and who want to help.

Here are the telephone numbers of a great collections of organisations who will do their best to help.

As a parent, I've a particular piece of advice to offer which was given to us by an experienced paramedic.  If you feel your child needs urgent medical attention, do not have any qualms about dialling 999 or visiting A&E. They would rather be safe than sorry.

I wish you a happy, healthy and safe Christmas wherever you are.


MIND (The Mental Health Charity)

Website: www.mind.org.uk 
Tel no:   0300 123 3393

SAMARITANS

Website:  http://www.samaritans.org/
Tel no:     116 123

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Website:  www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk
Tel no:     0800 9177 650

STONEWALL

Website: www.stonewall.org.uk
Info line:  08000 50 20 20

LONDON LESBIAN AND GAY SWITCHBOARD

Tel No:    0207 837 7324

SANELine 

Website: www.sane.org.uk
Tel no:   0300 304 7000 

PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide)

Website: www.papyrus-uk.org
Tel no: 0800 068 41 41

BEAUMONT SOCIETY (National self-help body for the Transgender community)

Website: www.beaumontsociety.org.uk
Information Line 01582 412220

CHILDLINE

Website: www.childline.org.uk
Tel no:  0800 1111

DEPRESSION ALLIANCE

Website:  www.depressionalliance.org

REFUGE

Website: www.refuge.org.uk
Tel no:    0808 2000 247

BEAT (Beating eating disorders)

Website: www.b-eat.co.uk
Help line 0345 634 1414
Youth Line 0345 634 7650

SHELTER

Website: www.shelter.org.uk
Tel no:   0808 800 4444

NHS Direct

Tel no: 1111

NO PANIC (Anxiety Disorders)

Website: www.nopanic.org.uk
Tel no:  0844 967 4848
Youth helpline:  01753 840393

If you feel there are organisations which should be added to this list, please let me know in the comments below.
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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Smiggle Giveaway - Funky Stationery From Australia - 2 Prize Bundles

Smiggle is an Australian stationery brand with over 200 stores worldwide and they pride themselves on being the ultimate creators of colourful, fun, fashion-forward stationery.

The first Smiggle store opened in Melbourne, Australia and word spread fast about the bright pens, notebooks and gadgets that filled a tiny, but very special place and, in 2014 Smiggle opened its doors here in the UK.

In case you're wondering, a Smiggle is a cross between a smile and a giggle and the team at the Smiggle Design Lab draw inspiration from all over the globe to create products with bold colour, quirky graphics and good value prices.

I have two prize bundles each worth £15 to give away.  Each bundle contains a selection of Smiggle items (a pen, pencil, pencil case and slapband).  Ideal for restocking those back-to-school pencil cases to make a grey January a bit more bearable.

Smiggle Yums Scented Silicon Pencil Case - Giveaway - motherdistracted.co.uk
Smiggle Yums Scented Silicone Pencil Case - £12.50
Smiggles' first ever silicone scented 3D shaped pencil case has 2 fun YUMS characters! Pineapple & cola scented!

Smiggle Yums Pencils - giveaway - motherdistracted.co.uk
Smiggle Yums Pencil - £2.00 each
These HB pencils have interchangeable scented eraser toppers and match the other Yums designs - ice cream, cupcake, pineapple, drink cup and hamburger.

Smiggle rainbow pens - giveaway - motherdistracted.co.uk
 Smiggle Yums Rainbow Pens - £3.50 each
I used to love multi-ink pens when I was in school.  These pens have 8 colours in 1 pen (pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and black) with graphic epoxy on the clip.

Smiggle Yums Scented Slapband - £3.50

These new scented slap bands are available in 5 yummy smelling scents - Cola, Blueberry, Vanilla, Apple, Strawberry.  They're made from rubber and steel and have large icons designed to be worn like a bracelet.

To enter the giveaway, just complete the Rafflecopter widget.  The usual terms and conditions apply. UK entries only.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Thursday 7th January 2016.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
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Monday, 21 December 2015

Fruity Festive Tipples For Christmas & New Year & A Giveaway

Christmas is a time when mulled wine and hot cider brews rein supreme in the drinks department, but for those that are partial to a cold tipple during the festive season the options can often be limited and disappointing.

This year I’m teaming up with NuCasa to give away a set of vintage style Kilner handled drinking jars, so I decided to pull together some fruity festive tipple recipes the lucky winner can try out in their brand new glasses!

Cranberry Mojito 

Ingredients:
3 mint leaves
1 tablespoon Cranberry Reduction
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Ice cubes
3 tablespoons of your favourite rum
Lemon-lime soft drink
Garnish: fresh mint leaves, lime slices, cranberries

Make it: 
Muddle the mint leaves, cranberry reduction, and fresh lime juice against the sides of a cocktail shaker (or a flask with a lid). Add ice cubes and the rum. Cover with lid and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled (about 30 seconds). Strain into your drinking jar glass filled with ice cubes.
Top with lemon-lime soft drink and garnish with fresh mint leaves, fresh cranberries and a slice of lime.

Blueberry & Lime Gin Gimlet 


Ingredients:

6 1/2 tablespoons sugar
6 1/2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons fresh blueberries
2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice gin (3 tablespoons per drink)

Make it:

First you’ll need to make a simple syrup. Put equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan (for this recipe 6 ½ tablespoons of each) and cook over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally (should take about five minutes).
Add the blueberries and cook for 10 minutes until the blueberries burst and the syrup is purple.
Add the lime juice and remove from the heat.
Let cool and strain.

In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 parts gin to 1.5 parts blueberry syrup and some ice. Shake and strain into glass. Top up with soda water or for a twist try sparkling elderflower!

Non-Alcoholic Festive Fruit Punch

Ingredients: (Makes approx. 15 servings)

2 litres cranberry juice
250ml orange juice lemon/lime cordial diluted to taste in 500ml soda water
Sugar Garnish: oranges, limes, cranberries

Make it:

Slice up the oranges and limes and throw into the bottom of a drinks dispenser or large punch bowl along with the cranberries.
Mix all the punch ingredients together and pour on top. Serve ice cold.

TIP: For an alcoholic twist add prosecco or champagne for a festive fruity fizz that’ll liven up any party!

The lovely folks at NuCasa, retailers of retro kitchen accessories and funky home decor, have got a set of their Kilner handled drinking jars to giveaway (perfect for sipping any of these festive tipples this Christmas & New Year!)

To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is fill in the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the steps for entry. All terms and conditions are within the widget, so please make sure you read them and understand the rules.

The giveaway ends at noon on 30th December 2015.

Kilner Handled Drinking Jars Rafflecopter Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway


*collaborative post

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Beck Valley Book Review & Giveaway: Swindled In Paradise By Deborah Brown





Sexy sleuths Madison and Fab race to uncover the truth behind a horrific crime… before a loved one pays the ultimate price.

Beautiful Tarpon Cove has everything you’d expect from a paradise retreat: Blue waters, white sand and … murder?

With deadly secrets and dark dealings brewing beneath the surface of Tarpon Cove, Madison and Fab are caught in a race against time to uncover the truth behind the grisly murder, which may only be the tip of the iceberg….

The eighth book in Deborah Brown’s Paradise series, Swindled in Paradise will take you on a high-speed thrill ride through non-stop action, steamy romance, and dark intrigue, and leave you begging for more.

The Paradise series, are Florida Keys mysteries, “great as stand-alone reads, but they're like chips...you won't be able to devour just one!”

Available to buy from.....

"Swindled in Paradise will take you on a high-speed ride through non-stop action adventure, romance, & suspense, & leave you begging for more." 

"LOVE this book series! Each new Paradise escapade surrounds you, and the characters... they unwittingly become your extended family."

"I absolutely love Madison & Fab! Their friendship and their adventures. These two can't stay away from trouble and I love it!"
Above reviews from Goodreads/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....

Also available in the Paradise Series


My Review

This is my second Deborah Brown / Paradise Series novel and I enjoyed it as much as the first. Brown is truly the queen of continuity because the character portrayal and attention to detail was seamless. All the old favourites are there, Brick, Spoon and Madison's formidable, cigar-smoking mother.

This time, Madison and Fabiana are trying to save someone very close to them from ending up in the slammer.  There have been grisly murders and a very shady collection of property developers are at work .  As usual, there is a series of extra cases that the two girls solve in their roles as PIs, each one of them being entertaining and different.  You never know what the girls are going to take on next.

I'm not going to spoil the ending for you but the novel is fast paced, highly entertaining and works as a stand alone story.  It's fun, escapist stuff and the two female protagonists are street smart, entertaining and ballsy.  

Highly recommended.




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

NOW FOR THE AUTHOR'S GIVEAWAY
Win $25 Amazon.com Giftcard / Paypal Cash
(winners choice)
Open Worldwide
Ending on Tuesday 22nd December at 11.59pm EST


Enter Below and Good Luck !!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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


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Sunday, 20 December 2015

My Sunday Photo - 20/12/2015

The Kids At Westonbirt Arboretum


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Driving Home For Christmas? Do It Safely.

Driving home for Christmas was a special Christmas tradition when I was growing up.  We'd drive, each Christmas to Plymouth, to the homes of my grandparents and the journey used to be magical.

Car driving on a deserted road through a forest

When you're young, the heady feeling of festive anticipation is so potent that it seems to colour ever activity, no matter how mundane, with glitter and sparkle.

The journey was made, through the years (in the late 60's through to the 80's) in a Mini Cooper, a Renault 4, a Renault 5 and a Ford Fiesta.  None of these had much boot space and my sister and I would be surrounded by blankets, presents and rationed toys desperately fighting off deep vein thrombosis and cramp in our nether regions.

To keep us quiet, dad would stock up on Wrigleys chewing gum (usually Double Mint - I'm not sure about Juicy Fruit to this day) and the discarded silver foil wrapped blobs would eventually seize the door panel ashtrays.  Yes, in those days, some family cars also doubled as mobile ashtrays.  

My mother had little room for her feet because she had a large bag full of foil wrapped sandwiches and thermoses of water and milk.  Not for us the mad excesses of service station food. No, staring out a steam and rain covered windscreen trying not to get ready salted crisps on the seat was more our family's style.

My sister and I loved spotting the fairy lights festooning houses, pubs and lorry cabs as we drove. Each junction had a significance and the highlight was descending the sloping dual carriageway on to the very scary Marsh Mills roundabout in Plymouth and from there across to Cattedown and my grandfather, Harry's house.

Widowed very early on, Grandad nevertheless always made sure that there was a Christmas tree lit up in the always cold 'front room' reserved for visitors and special occasions.  He'd buy in a jumbo tin of Quality Street, enough peanuts to pebble-dash a small semi, a Christmas cake and a Christmas Log covered in thick chocolate.

My father would pull up, decant us all and then spend a good ten minutes driving back and forth to get the car properly lined up against the kerb.  I think it's a Virgo thing.  Or a dad thing.

John Brooks, Linda Hobbis' dad
My Lovely Dad
In those days, of course, even joining the M4 from Cardiff was a novelty and there was a fraction of the traffic that there is today.  If you were unfortunate enough to break down though, you were in for a long wait.

Before we set off, my father would go through the ritual of checking the tyres and their pressure, topping up the oil and water and wiping over the lights - something he taught both my sister and I to do.  I often wonder how many of us take sensible precautions with our cars before we set off.

Do you do any or all of the following?

Make sure your lights are working

Get someone to stand behind the car and check the break and back lights for you.

Check your oil, water and screenwash

Don't just rely on the top ups you get when you have the car serviced!

Check your tyres

Are your tyres roadworthy and inflated at the correct pressure?

If you're not sure which ones you need, specialist tyre supplier Point-S have a handy online guide which tells you the tyres you need when you input the registration number of your vehicle.

You also might want to consider purchasing a set of winter tyres if the weather is particularly treacherous.

Check your wipers

Replace blades that aren't working.  Having good visibility on the motorway is crucial, especially in torrential rain.

Check your fuel levels

Don't forget the not all garages will be open over Christmas and the last thing you want to do is run out of petrol miles from the nearest station.

Be ready for ice

Make sure you have enough de-icer and an ice scraper.  It's a good idea to carry water, blankets, torches and warm clothes too.  You might also want to have some snacks to hand - although we have never managed to make a packet of 'travel sweets' last much further than the Severn Bridge.

I hope that if you are driving home for Christmas that you'll make sure your journey is safe and enjoyable by taking the important precautions listed.

I'd also make sure your breakdown cover is renewed and you have the breakdown telephone number in your mobile.

Then, all you'll need is a suitable Christmas sound track to sing along to while you drive.

Something about driving home for Christmas possibly .......


*collaborative post


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Thursday, 17 December 2015

Help A New Mum With These Top Tips

As a parent, I have a wealth of experience raising my kids. But I still remember those early days struggling to figure out what to do. Why was the baby crying? Was I feeding her enough? I was so grateful for all those tips and helpful words of advice from anyone who would offer them.

If a close friend or someone in your family has just had their first baby, there is plenty you can do to help them out. Some newborns find it difficult to sleep for long. Poor mum can end up exhausted in just a couple of days. If you have three or four hours to sit with a newborn one afternoon, tired mummy can get a much-needed rest. In that time, you may need to offer a feed and a nappy change. Be sure you have everything close to hand.


Thanks to Kakisky for the pic 

Some mums find it difficult to grab even a shower each day with a demanding newborn. Even if you’re not too confident about nappies and feeding, you can sit with a baby for twenty minutes while mum gets dressed. You might even bring mum a fresh new outfit, or some makeup to help her feel human again! And don’t forget to bring something nutritious for her to eat.

Organising a Christening or Naming Ceremony is hard to do when you’re sleep deprived and frantically busy with a newborn. You can help by finalising the arrangements and managing the invitations. You could even help find some christening gifts for newborn babies that mum would love to receive. Sometimes, just offering to host and cater the gathering after the ceremony can be a huge relief for a new mum.

Finding the time or energy to clean up around the house is never easy for a new mum. The laundry piles up and so do the dirty dishes. Whenever you pop round, see if you can lend a hand to get some bits done. Perhaps you can take the laundry home to do, or run the vacuum around. Few new mums would be put out by a little domestic assistance!

Getting out and about can feel like the impossible challenge for a new mum. Offer to take her and the baby out in the car to town for a spot of retail therapy and a coffee. It’s important to take your time and not let it feel like a burden. Help pack up the bag and dress the baby for going out. Pop the pram in the car. Pack extra burp cloths and a couple of bottles. Then proudly wheel the pram into the cafe and have a seat. New mums can often feel like they’re in the way or putting people out. You can do a lot to allay her fears.

It won’t take long for mum to feel comfortable in her new role with your support. Any help you can offer will be gratefully received. I remember feeling so awkward the first few times I did anything with my little ones. Then you look around and see other people just getting on with it and it helps. See what help you can give your new mum friend today.
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The One Thing You Should Be Doing For Your Health Tonight

Now, as you know, I frequently write about health and my collection of idosyncratic and ever-increasing ailments - none of which are taken particularly seriously by The Husband and most of which may well have something to do with my status as a "woman somewhere vaguely approaching menopause".

Couple holding hands - sex is good for your health - motherdistracted.co.uk

In my defence, I am always on the brink of taking some sort of positive action.  Don't we all  have "the list"? That list you carry in your head which appears regularly as a set of New Year's Resolutions you never keep.

You know the sort of thing:

- drink more water
- get more exercise
- walk, don't take the car
- meditate for 20 minutes a day
- reduce your sugar and salt intake
- moderate your alcohol intake

At this time of year, all the hoary old chestnuts of resolutions past are dredged up with a religious fervour and accompanied by a self-help tome or two and a herbal supplement from the slopes of the Andes which promises to invigorate and refresh.

But there is one item on the list that we probably forget to add and one which, according to Durex, we should.

Yes.  I'm talking about sex.  Or, 'iggly boo' as a friend of mine used to refer to it for reasons none of us could ever quite fathom.

After a hard day's work which also includes running round after two kids, shopping, cooking and cleaning, I suspect many of us would rather attack a 1000 piece jigsaw of a picture of baked beans than take our PJs off but there are very good reasons why we should.

For example,  did you know that sex increases the immune system?  Sex once or twice a week can increase the level of antibodies in your body which not only protects against common colds and flu, but can help your body defend itself against germs, viruses and other intruders?

Or that sex with your partner not only relieves migraines but arthritis, back, leg and menstrual pains? One study has even found that sex can lead to partial or complete relief of headache and migraine. (That rather debunks the "not tonight darling I've got a headache" excuse).

Lest you think that my age group (50+) are all at home completing jigsaws featuring baked beans, 8000 Saga customers aged 50 and over were interviewed in 2007 and 2013 and it was found that a fifth of over 50s have sex at least once a week.

This does not mean, though, that women in my age group no longer have to worry about contraception.  Pregnancy is still a possibility, however remote.

The NHS advice is that women who are sexually active with men need to use contraception until the menopause (that is, until they haven't had a period for two years if under 50, and for one year if over 50) if they don't want to get pregnant.

And then there is still the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

A report from Public Health England from 2009 to 2013 highlighted that although other age groups were represented by far larger numbers of STD diagnoses, (in particular the 25-34s), there was a greater percentage increase in sexually transmitted infections across the years for men over 45.

Between 2012 and 2013, the number of men in England over 65 diagnosed with chlamydia rose by 16%, compared to a 4% increase in the 25-34 age bracket.

So, whilst more sex is doubtless good for us, we still need to take as much care with our sexual health at the end of our fertile years as we did when we reached adolescence.

The debate over whose responsibility it is to carry the condom is not over yet.

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

*collaborative post
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5 Creative Christmas Entertaining Made Easy Guides To Give Away

As Christmas creeps ever closer, it’s time to start planning those festive get-togethers in earnest.

To make your holiday dinner parties all the better this year, the award winning Pudding Bridge has everything you need to host the perfect event in an inspirational collection of brand new how-to guides that is available right now for just £16.

Decorated Christmas Table - Pudding Bridge - motherdistracted.co.uk


Pudding Bridge is a wedding and event hire company owned and managed by Helen Hopkins. She has created her own range of innovative products that enable clients to transform any event into dazzling celebrations. From the fun and funky ‘Booth in a Box’ to the elegant and glamorous Sequin Collection, Pudding Bridge creates breathtakingly beautiful celebrations.

Creative Christmas Entertaining Made Easy is the perfect mix of creative projects, recipes, ideas and advice.

Featuring step-by-step craft guides, instructional videos and helpful printables, you’ll learn how to make gilded crockery, embellished napkins, floral arrangements, cocktails & mocktails, canapés and much more. It’s also full of down-to-earth advice that makes hosting easy.

Says Helen: “Christmas gives us all the perfect excuse to get friends and family together for a party but sometimes, you just need a little help bringing it all together. My Christmas tutorials give you absolutely everything you need to host a fabulous event.”

“We do put a lot of pressure on ourselves at Christmas so following my tutorials is like having an extra pair of helping hands when you’re preparing to party. For example, if you work through my two hour countdown you’ll have time for everything and the evening will be as much fun for you as is it for you guests. Plus, there are plenty of creative projects and recipes to try and nothing takes longer than an hour – perfect for maximum impact in the least amount of time!”

Decorated Christmas Plate - Pudding Bridge - motherdistracted.co.uk


So, here are Helen’s top ten tips for stress-free parties this Christmas:

1. Get prepared! The most you can do in advance the better. So, try to complete all household chores a day or so before.

2. Stock up! Do an online shop that’s timed to arrive when you need it to so you’re not rushing around. Don’t forget kitchen supplies, loo rolls and bin bags!

3. Keep it simple! Complicated menus sound amazing but pile on the pressure. Keep it simple with my tried-and-tested recipes that everyone will love.

4. Cut down on washing up! Place a little stack of cocktail napkins next to each plate of nibbles so you guests can use these rather than plates. Also, my killer one pot main course means your dishwasher won’t be struggling to cope!

5. Don’t pour drinks! Pouring endless drinks for guests will keep you busy when you could be having fun. Set up a drinks station with jugs of cocktails, plenty of ice and glasses on hand so guests can help themselves.

6. Lower the lighting! Bright light is a no-no so switch on those fairy lights on and use lots of candles to create a cosy, intimate feel.

7. Prep the playlist! Pull together your playlist before the event so you’ve got your sound track sorted in advance. Don’t forget, a few cheesy tunes will make everyone smile!

8. Start clean! Starting with a clean kitchen, clear counter tops and an empty dishwasher is a great idea.

9. Lay the table early! Do this well in advance so that if guests arrive early, you look like you’re ready for them even if you’re still in the kitchen. Follow the step-by-step instructions in Creative Christmas Entertaining Made Easy to make sure everything looks amazing or download Pudding Bridge’s Perfect Christmas Table guide.

10. Timers are your friend! Using timers alongside my two-hour countdown will mean that you don’t miss anything and you can serve your dinner on time and with a smile on your face.

Christmas candles - Pudding Bridge - motherdistracted.co.uk

So, for the prettiest, easiest and most stress-free festive party, all you need is Creative Christmas Entertaining Made Easy which is now available from Groupon for £16.

I have 5 copies of this online guide to give away.  Entry is via the Rafflecopter.  Terms & Conditions apply.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday 20th December.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

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



SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

More Free Competitions At www.theprizefinder.com.
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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Festive Outfit Inspiration From Bonprix

It's that time of year when not only do we girls have to ensure that we produce a Christmas lunch worthy of Nigella for the family and presents to satisfy the most discerning, but we're supposed to look stunning at the same time.

I don't know about you but finding time to plan a spectacular outfit is a bit tricky - not to mention factoring in the extra cost.

Happily, the Bonprix stylists have done the job for me - and at a very reasonable price too.  Here are their suggestions for four rapidly approaching Christmas events.  See what you think.

The Work Christmas Party

I'm hoping you'll be treated to a fabulous meal somewhere swanky.  Drinking champers out of your footwear might be a slightly career limiting move though.  The last Christmas party at the Law Firm involved a tray of sausage rolls from the sandwich bar downstairs and some perry.  How the other half live, eh?



Christmas Jumper Day - Friday 18th December

Friday 18th December is Christmas Jumper Day for ITV's Text Santa which this year is supporting Macmillan Cancer Support, Make-A-Wish UK and Save the Children UK.  You can find out more here.

Just text SANTA5 or SANTA10 to 70760 to donate £5 or £10 to these great causes.

Wearing a Christmas jumper is rapidly becoming a Christmas tradition but there are some tasteful ones out there!



 Christmas Day

If you're going to be in the kitchen cooking (or supervising whilst nursing a glass of wine), you might not want to wear anything too elaborate.  These separates are the right combination of practical, chic and sparkly.



New Year's Eve

These days our New Year's Eves tend to involve watching Big Ben and the fireworks on the BBC and then switching over to Jools Holland (if you get the chance to see him live, go!).  That's no reason not to dress up though, is it?




All clothes are available from size 6 - 24 and there's currently 25% off and free delivery with your first order when you open an account.

Have a stylish Christmas.

Further information at www.bonprix.co.uk.

Like what you've read?  Why not join me on the Mother Distracted Facebook page, tweet me on @lindahobbis or follow me on Instagram.
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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Experiencing Italy On A Plate With Expedia

In celebration of all the fabulous places to which you can travel with Expedia, they have thrown down the gauntlet and launched a culinary competition - the "World On A Plate Challenge".

Caitlin & Ieuan in Roman costume - motherdistracted.co.uk
Multi toned socks are an integral part of the Roman look apparently.
The aim is to try your hand at the local cuisine of one of their package holiday destinations.

Now, as readers of this blog know,  although there's nothing I can't do with a baked potato, the kids are, shall we say, ever so slightly discerning when it comes to 'grown up food' and Ieuan can take three weeks to finish one mouthful of carrot.

Nevertheless, not daunted by this fact nor by the loving moniker the Husband has given me ("Queen of The Reheat"), we decided to reproduce a beautiful sea bass dish from Italy.  I say "we".  Obviously I mean "under maximum supervision by the Husband".

Many years ago, I visited the wonderful city of Rome and then travelled to Amalfi and Portofino. Gazing at Mount Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples is a view that will always stay with me; as will the sheer scale of the Forum and the Colosseum in Rome.


The Colosseum in Rome, source www.telegraph.co.uk
The Colosseum in Rome Credit:  telegraph.co.uk
And of course, I had to throw the famous "three coins in the fountain" at The Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain - credit trevifountain.net
The Trevi Fountain:  Credit trevifountain.net
It's only taken me 4 years but I have finally renewed my passport so I can now legally travel further than Devon and as a family we can begin to introduce the kids to the World's wonders.

Part of the charm of Italy, of course, is its food and much has been written about the health giving properties of the Mediterranean diet with its high proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, olive oil and red wine.  Then there is also the legendary Sophia Loren's claim that "everything you see I owe to spaghetti".

Actually, many of us beleaguered parents owe a debt of immense thanks to pasta as it is frequently one of the few food groups which can be spooned into a protesting child without too many repurcussions.

We did, bizarrely, manage to get Ieuan to eat spinach recently when the Husband told him that the role of spinach was to protect carrots and it was also known as "carrot guardian" and had superpowers. Sadly,  that moment has never been repeated.

So, to create our homage to the beauty of Italy (with me hinting rather largely that Rome would be such a nice place to be taken for my next birthday, particularly the River Palace Hotel), we began our creation.

Since the kids have had pasta twice this week already in their school dinner, we adapted a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis called Sea Bass Alla Fiorentina.

The Husband playing chef - motherdistracted.co.uk
You just can't get the staff, can you?
Ingredients:-

4 x Sea Bass fillets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly chopped baby tomatoes
Baby Bell Peppers
3 Garlic cloves
Fresh chopped Parsley
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped tomatoes, garlic and peppers - motherdistracted.co.uk
Freshly chopped tomatoes, peppers and garlic
Instructions:-

Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.

Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan and cook the fish until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

Transfer fish to a plate.

Sea Bass fillets - motherdistracted.co.uk
The Sea Bass fillets
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.

Add the garlic, tomatoes, peppers, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the parsley and the fish and heat for 2 minutes.

We served the fish with baby potatoes sautéd in olive oil and a heavy dose of optimism.

To add to the fun, the kids 'went Roman' - although the combination of tomato and bed-sheet is probably not to be recommended.

Caitlin & Ieuan as Romans - motherdistracted.co.uk
OK, so I can't tie a toga either
Over dinner, we talked about the ancient Roman civilisation which the kids are currently studying in school.  We recently visited the Roman Baths in Bath and Caitlin's school trip was to the Roman remains in Caerleon.

The flavours of Italy never fail to inspire - although the combination of fava beans and a nice Chianti is probably one to be avoided.

Sea Bass Alla Hobbis - motherdistracted.co.uk
Sea Bass Alla Hobbis
I'm hoping 2016 will be the year I can revisit Rome.  In the meantime I will channel my inner Sophia and build my strength up with spaghetti.

But my chances of getting Ieuan back in a toga are slim.

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

*collaborative post
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Monday, 14 December 2015

Do You Know Your Flood Risk? Free downloadable ‘Homeowners Guide to Flood Resilience’ Launched.‏

With the Government this week announcing an additional £51 million to support households and businesses affected by last weekend’s devastating floods in Cumbria and Lancashire, the Know Your Flood Risk campaign has launched a new ‘Homeowners’ Guide to Flood Resilience’.

Front cover "Homeowners Guide To Flood Resilience" - motherdistracted.co.uk
"The Homeowners Guide To Flood Resilience"
The free guide provides advice on how to determine your flood risk, how to plan against flooding, as well as offer guidance on flood resistance measures, appropriate property level flood products and community-based measures.

Know Your Flood Risk is a campaign raising awareness of the risk of flooding from all sources - not just from the river, sea, or a visible water course. The majority of flood insurance claims are for surface water flooding where there is no obvious water to alert a homeowner to the potential risk.

The campaign provides essential practical guidance to enable homeowners and property professionals mitigate against and prepare for the risk of being flooded.

This guide, which is written especially with the homeowner in mind, hopes to reduce the worry about what property level flood products to use, and illustrates the variety of ways a home can become resilient to being flooded.

The campaign also supplies a property-specific flood report for £24 which can be used by homeowners to help identify the potential risk, as well as confirm whether they will be able to obtain insurance at standard terms.

Mary Dhonau OBE HonRICS HonDSc, Chief Executive of the Know Your Flood Risk campaign said: “This time exactly 15 years ago, I had flood water in my home – the second flood in only just a few weeks – so I know exactly how dreadful being flooded is, and to be flooded at Christmas time makes it all the more appalling.

With the announcement of grants for those newly flooded, this guide will be an excellent resource for those thinking about trying to reduce their risk. The prospect of trying to reduce flood risk to your home can be a baffling one, with many people not knowing how to go about this other than resort to the humble and extremely inefficient sandbag. This Homeowners’ Guide is here to help. In addition, for those thinking about installing flood resilient repair, we have an excellent case study, which details the types of interventions that can be made.”

Concludes Mary: “Sadly, flooding is set to get worse and it is essential that we not only know our own flood risk, but prepare in advance and take moves to make our homes more resilient to being flooded. We hope that by launching the new guide it will help inform homeowners as to what can be done to reduce the impact a flood can have and in turn reduce the misery that being flooded brings with it.”

The Know Your Flood Risk Campaign’s mission is to raise awareness of the risk of flooding from all sources. It is one of the UK’s leading online resources for helping people find out the flood risk related to their current or future homes.

To download a copy of its free guide click HERE.

A free-to-download Flood Risk mobile app is also available to quickly assess whether a postcode is considered to be at risk of flooding.

To download the app from iTunes, click on: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id941612469.

For more information, visit www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk or follow the Know Your Flood Risk campaign on Twitter.
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Sunday, 13 December 2015

My Sunday Photo - 13/12/2015

Ieuan rockin' out
Ieuan rocking out!


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Saturday, 12 December 2015

Refresh & Rehydrate Your Kids With Robinsons

Kids do everything at 100 miles an hour and, in their haste to pursue the next shiny thing, or toy, or chance to make a mess, sometimes things like drinking enough fall by the wayside.

We know that staying hydrated is vital for our health.  In fact just a slight drop in hydration levels affects our brain and our performance.

Robinsons Sparkling Orange & Ginger - recipe - motherdistracted.co.uk
Robinsons Sparkling Orange & Ginger
And, for school age children, staying hydrated is even more important to give them the best chance to learn as much as possible.

So how do we encourage our kids (and the rest of our family!) to drink more?

Ideally, of course, the drink of choice would be water but, having regularly had to remove barely touched cups of water, it's good that there is another weapon in the parenting arsenal.

Robinsons Squash is a regular item on the shopping list with eleven flavours including no added sugar varieties. Caitlin's favourite is orange whilst Ieuan is an Apple & Blackcurrant fan.  They have to be different, don't they? But there's also Lemon & Mango, Orange & Raspberry and the more exotic Mango & Passion Fruit.

I drank Robinsons as a child too (yes I know that's a few years ago), although I'm afraid it never improved my tennis.

Caitlin about to make her Robinsons drink
Caitlin about to make her grown up drink
This year Robinsons have a new recipe and are encouraging us to be a little more creative with their squash to encourage us all to drink more water in a tasty, easy to prepare way.  All their squashes are now 'no added sugar' too.

So why not indulge your inner mixologist and see if you can come up with something a little more exciting than straight squash?

How about Warming Lemon & Ginger?  Robinsons Lemon with fresh lemon juice and finely grated ginger, served with warm water from the kettle?

Or, just right for Christmas, Mulled Apple & Blackcurrant? Apple & Blackcurrant squash with cloves, black peppercorns, star anise and ground allspice?  Just warm in a pan, simmer for 3 minutes and then set aside for 3 minutes to infuse.

Caitlin chopping an orange to add to her drink - Robinsons - motherdistracted.co.uk
Don't Worry - I Was Supervising!
Caitlin's new twist on her favourite orange squash was to combine it with ginger ale for a bit of sparkle and a touch more zing. Well, actually it was Robinsons' idea but I hadn't the heart to discourage her.

Adding the Robinsons Squash - motherdistracted.co.uk
Adding the squash
We used approximately 50 ml of Robinsons orange per glass and topped it up with sugar free ginger ale and sliced of orange.

Adding the ginger ale - Robinsons - motherdistracted.co.uk
Adding the ginger ale - other brands are available!

The drink was really refreshing and Caitlin really enjoyed having a hand in making a drink she found a little more exciting.

You could add a few extra touches if you wanted to with coloured straws, glace cherries on sticks (I'm going back to the 70's here) or even a cocktail umbrella.  Strangely the latter seem to have vanished from supermarket shelves.  Can't think why.

Caitlin drinking Robinsons Orange & Ginger Ale - motherdistracted.co.uk
Caitlin's "Orange Fantasy"
We're looking forward to mixing up some more combinations - next on the list is a St. Clements with orange and sparkling lemonade and I'm looking forward to warming some lemon squash and adding some honey the next time someone has a sore throat.

Why not give some of your own blends a try?

To find out more about the Robinsons range you can visit www.robinsonsquash.co.uk.  Alternatively you can talk to them on Facebook @RobinsonsDrinks or Twitter @DrinkRobinsons.

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

*collaborative post
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