A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Six Futures We Really Need To Plan More For

We spend a lot of our time wondering about the future. Many of us worry about the future, but not specifically.

We go through life with a set of small anxieties in the back of our mind that never really go away. Not unless we take action to take care of it.

For ourselves, our family and children, we need to think more about our future.

Here are six things we should be taking action over.

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Our finances 

We might try to be frugal and save money where we can. Especially if we want to put towards our savings. But our spending always has a way of creeping up on us. Particularly when the children are involved.

If you’ve been burned by overspending one time too many, it might be time to do it properly.

Prepare a budget as http://smallnotebook.org/2008/09/30/your-family-budget-step-by-step/ shows and stick to it. This budget should allow space for the nice things, but focus on the necessities.

Our parents 

When you grow more as an adult, if your parents are still with you they become a sense of worry. Or at least some apprehension about the future.

It’s a possibility that we should accept that in future they may need care. Care we might not be able to provide. Be prepared to talk to your aging parents about their retirement living and care.

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Our health 

A lot of us have followed the advice we’ve received about life to the fullest and seizing the moment in our youth. Whilst we wouldn’t take that back for anything, now’s the time we should focus more on our health.

As www.claybrooke.org.uk/high-blood-pressure-and-cholesterol-life-insurance shows, certain health risks can affect our life insurance. Our health no longer influences just us but how we can take care of others in our lives as well.

Our legacy

Speaking of the others in our lives, we spend a lot of time worrying about what we leave behind us for them. Not just in terms of the lessons we impart, but our legacy in value, too.

If we have valuable assets, we want to make sure they pass to the people we care about. The Money Advice Service can help you ensure everything’s prepared for them.

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Our children’s competence

Raising children is by no means easy. It takes hard work and a very keen eye to just feed, clothe and protect them. But we should also be preparing our children for life.

Competence and self-confidence are part of a self-feeding loop. Yet many parents only focus on one part of the equation. Make sure you take the time to guide your child with helpful skills.

Our guiding hand 

Making sure our child is able and confident isn’t the only thing we do for them, of course.

In a lot of ways, we act as their guiding hand.

One of the parts of our legacy we would like to leave behind is children who will do good in the world. But we don’t have to wait until they’re grown up.

Get them involved in helping people through things like volunteering early. That way we won’t have to worry quite so much about the future.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

How To Talk To Ageing Parents About Retirement Living & Care

Talking to your parents about how they wish to live and be cared for during their retirement is vital.

You understandably want to respect their wishes and make the later years in their lives as comfortable as possible. But that doesn’t mean that this is an easy conversation to have.

Some parents may not like the role reversal and some children may find it upsetting to talk about.

While it may be difficult, it’s essential that you take the time to do it now rather than later. To give you some much-needed advice, use the suggestions in this guide to help you.

Grandparents with small boy off for a walk - retirement living - motherdistracted.co.uk
Image Credit 
Be patient and understanding 

The best way of starting a conversation as important as this is by being honest.

Let your parents know that you are concerned about their health and well-being and want to help them get organised.

You may find they have made some initial plans or know how they want to be cared for or where they want to live. But you may also find that they are not currently willing to discuss it.

Be patient and don’t be too forceful. Remember that this is a sensitive issue for them too.

But now that you have set the ball rolling, it may make them realise they need to make necessary preparations. So don’t give up, but be gentle and understanding in your approach.

Know where their important documents are kept

Another way of starting the conversation is by asking where their documentation is kept. This should include wills, insurance details and their doctor’s contact number.

Explain that it’s important for you to know where they are kept, just in case they are in an accident or become ill.

This can give you the perfect opportunity to determine what has been arranged and what hasn’t.

For instance, you may find that your parent’s wills are no longer relevant and need to be updated. You can then suggest helping them get everything up to date and prepared.

This should then naturally start the discussion of how they want to spend their later years.

Grandmother and Granddaughter - Retirement Living - motherdistracted.co.uk

Talk through their options 

Some elderly parents may not want to talk about retirement living and care because they don’t know what options are available to them. So visit informative sites like Churchill Retirement and show them the facilities and homes that are available. 

Or you could call care providers who could visit them at home each day or organise a consultation face to face. 

Gather plenty of information and talk through all of the options with them. They will appreciate the trouble you have gone to and the research will help them make a more informed decision. 

Ask them what they would like and listen carefully to their answers. Even if it’s not the answer you want to here, again remember to be patient. 

Whether it’s health issues, financial concerns or living needs, it’s always better to talk while your parents are still able. 

That way you can help them make the necessary arrangements that will make their lives easier and more enjoyable as they get older.

Monday, 28 March 2016

How Do You Tackle The School Run?

For some reason the media seems a little bit obsessed with the morning school run at the moment. If they’re not reporting on parents being banned from wearing pyjamas at the school gates, they’re now musing about the time we spend getting the kids ready before the bell goes.

Stack of children's books - how do you tackle the school run? - motherdistracted.co.uk
Are you organised for the school run?
Hitting the headlines recently has been a debate about the ultra organised, which appears to have first stemmed from this Australian blogger’s post about her personal approach to school organisation, which involves setting up a special headquarters in her home that’s exclusively dedicated to school prep.

It’s a rather nifty idea that many other mums and dads across the globe also seem to have put into action into varying degrees and as articles about the post gained momentum, parents started sharing their own hints and tips for tackling the school run more smoothly.

Feeling inspired? This post will explore the age-old problems that cause parents stress on weekday mornings and offer simple solutions to help you triumph.

Setting up a school station

Setting up a special zone where you keep kids school bags, coats and shoes along with other items such as letters from school, reading books and brollies might at first seem a little extreme. But be honest, how many times have you been late out the door because someone’s shoe had gone missing?

It is of course possible to get everything ready without having a special area of the house dedicated to it, but designating a space to that particular purpose will hopefully stop the chaos spreading and encourage responsibility among children to keep their kit in order!

If you don’t have a dedicated porch or utility room to convert you consider sectioning off a segment of your hallway. You could do this simply with a curtain or install some internal bi-fold doors then if things do start becoming a little bit messy, at least you can close things off.

Ultra-organised mums recommend dividing kids school kit into separate shelves or lockers or using hooks at different levels to create special spots for each child to get ready to leave the house. These IKEA shelves have little cupboards already built in.

Labelling each child’s shelf or hooks and putting up a simple schedule that shows their activities for each day of the week will remind them what they need to back on what day, which should mean less time spent chasing children with PE kits.

Along with their regular weekly routine, you could also include a place where they can record ad hoc weekly activities such as school trips or non-uniform days.

The school run rules

Do you have particular rules that you follow as a family each morning or evening? Perhaps each child is responsible for their own packed lunch? Does homework have to be checked and transferred to schoolbags before bedtime? Do smartphones stay off until everyone is packed up and ready to go?

Maybe you have a quick chat with your little ones before bed to make sure everyone is on track for a fuss free exit? Or perhaps you all have set bathroom times?

We all have little rules that we try and stick to, sometimes they work and others they go out the window but how do you make sure they’re drilled into everyone? Would you go as far as having them printed and put on display?

How much help is too much?

While ultra organisation undoubtedly saves precious time in the mornings and might prevent a row or two also, there has been some debate over just how much of a head start you should give kids with getting ready.

By putting together rules and regulations and specialist school stations, are we taking responsibility away from children and stopping them from developing their own solutions and strategies?

There’s definitely an argument that time saved getting ready means more quality time as a family elsewhere and there’s got to be something said for having parents that are less stressed too.

Technically, a lot of the responsibility for getting things ready could still fall with the kids, leaving you to check things over before departure, but does ultra organisation stop kids from thinking for themselves?

Stack of exercise books and pencil - how do you tackle to school run - motherdistracted.co.uk
Oh to be organised!

What do you think? Does it pay to be super organised in the morning? Do you already have your own school station in place in your home or perhaps a set of published rules or a timetable for getting ready? What works for you and your kids?

*collaborative post


Sunday, 27 March 2016

It's School Holiday Time - Will You Avoid The Grimness Of Soft Play?

It struck me the other day whilst thinking of ways to entertain the kids over the Easter Holidays that I have reached a watershed in parenting.

The kids are now at that age when they are a bit too big for soft play - both in age and size.

Previously in my parenting career, soft play centres were a necessary evil - the location for many a loud and boisterous child's party coupled with the chance to be ignored by the various tribes of school mums in a completely different location.

Still, there was usually WiFi and coffee.

Leaving aside the small mortgage these places seem to demand for the privilege of risking anything from a verucca to a moderate personal injury claim, these are my top gripes.

There's never enough staff to supervise.

Once your kids' shoes have been chucked into the grubbiness of an ancient IKEA plastic bucket, you're on your own.

The age range of the kids is always 'variable'

I swear some of the kids I've seen in our local soft play centre have the beginnings of stubble or breasts.

Is a soft play centre really somewhere for pre-teens to hang out?

Discipline is a dirty word

Should you dare raise your voice to your child you are regarded balefully as someone who must be on a social services register somewhere.

You have to sort out any bullying

Equally, should your child be picked on, the parents will be so attached to their phones the chance of them removing their child are zero.

Which you do at your own risk....

On the other hand, if they do notice, you can bet it will be your child who is at fault.

They polish the slides

At least our local centre does.  I once unwisely joined Ieuan on the slide and came down it so fast I nearly ended up back in reception.  (See I told you some of the 'kids' had breasts).

A word to the wise - a little bit of limp netting at the bottom of the slide is not going to stop an 140 lb adult at speed.

They will get stuck at the highest point on the climbing frame.

From which location they will remain tearfully mute and petrified until you crawl up the three flights of frame to get them, knocking smaller children aside in your haste to rescue your offspring and discovering your bottom seems somehow too large to fit through the entry points.

Once you get there said child will be totally fine and leave you there like a breathless lump.

The loo roll has vanished by 10 am

I suspect there are some kids who have started their own black market trade in ultra thin loo roll, along with other basic necessities such as paper towels and door locks.

Changing Mats

I don't know why they both buying these in any colour other than brown or off yellow because that's invariably the colour they turn.

You will face the terror of the vending machine

Stickers and those strange plastic things in eggs will tempt your child to ask for £1 at approximately 10 minute intervals until you give in.

There's candy floss

Why,  I have no idea.  Whoever thought it a good idea to let kids work themselves up into a lather and then go home on a sugar high is either not a parent or is at war with Jamie Oliver.

But there's zilch for you to eat

Our local centre will charge you a £1 for a frankfurter sausage slapped in the middle of a dry hot dog roll.  No butter.  No garnish.  Not even a slice of tomato.

The Husband says I'm weird for buttering my hot dog rolls but you have to eke out some miserly pleasure whilst your tinnitus is screaming and you are having an anxiety attack because you haven't seen your kids for the last 15 minutes (since they asked for a plastic egg and candyfloss).

The music is loud enough to make your ears bleed

Why?  Do they not know about protecting kids' ears?  Or mine come to that.  Having to listen to "Let It Go" for the millionth time at a volume which makes a pneumatic drill seem like a chirping cricket is sheer pergutory.

On the plus side though at least you can let your kids run free with their mates in an environment where any spats of a more violent nature can be dealt with.

Despite the fact the coffee would normally dissolve metal, at least you can get a caffeine fix and plan the rest of your week.

Unless there's a zip wire.  In which case the next two hours will require you to stand sentinel like and fully alert in case of the inevitable health and safety incident.

And that's just the Husband.


Saturday, 26 March 2016

4 Types of Social Media Kiss You Should Probably Stop Giving xxx

I found myself the other day adding a kiss to a tweet to a company with whom I was trying to develop a professional relationship.

Woman in a swimming pool blowing a kiss - social media use - motherdistracted.co.uk
Pucker up - but not on your timeline
Actually, it would be truer to say I was unable to stop myself from doing it.

We use them everywhere don't we?  Those little xxx appear like chicken pox spots and once they start appearing, it's very difficult to curb the rash.

It seems to be women who are the main culprits.  Men don't seem to feel the urge to express their undying love for someone who is about to sell them double-glazing or fix their tyres.

And why do we do it?

I think there are 4 types of social media 'kiss'

1.  The "Look-At-Me" Kiss
2.  The "Please-Like-Me" Kiss
3.  The "I Have No Clue How To End This Message" Kiss
4.  The Passive Aggressive Kiss

The "Look At Me" Kiss

There are those who style themselves as the most popular people on the internet and have to adorn every message with a row of x-kisses - using an exciting blend of upper and lower caps just for effect.

These are the social media fans who will generally include more emoticons than words in their message so that if, like me, most emoticons are a bit of a mystery (apart from the poo one), you really haven't a clue how they are feeling.

Your general impression is that they are crying their eyes out next to a glass of wine and a poo whilst the weather in their area is quite sunny.

 The "Please Like Me" Kiss

These people use x-kisses as subtext for " I am really a very nice person and you should follow me / like me / stumble my post on Ancient Peruvian knitting techniques".

X-kisses pepper their conversation in the most odd ways and are usually spotted in random Facebook status updates and tweets.

"I am now going to send my gas meter reading to the gas board.  How about you?  xxx"

These people also post lots of pictures of puppies and kittens.

The "I Have No Clue How To End This Message" Kiss

This one is particularly dangerous because if you are not paying attention it can appear in your professional emails.

"I feel I am eminently qualified for this position as I have designed a unique gadget to recycle solar energy in greensheds" xxx

In fact, I suspect I sometimes type it automatically.

"Please can I reschedule my dental appointment on Tuesday because the kids have locked me in our spare room?" x

The thing is, it looks a bit, well, lame outside of the touchy-feeling, multi-photo-posting world of your family and friends on Facebook.

But "yours sincerely" and "yours faithfully" don't seem to fit either.

The Passive Aggressive Kiss

Ah, the one you really need to look out for.  Do you ever find that, even though you could be seething at someone, you still have to add a 'x' at the end of your message just in case.

Just in case of what is the question?  Just in case you upset them?  Just in case you are unjustified in being annoyed?

You can normally spot these passive-aggressive little kiss-bombs a mile off - for example

"I just thought I ought to let you know that you have used a semi colon incorrectly in line 5 of your blog post"  xxxxx

"That looks a very nice lipstick shade but I think a neutral would make you look much younger" XxXxX

There's little doubt that recruiters and employers are seeking employees with a good command of their native language - written, rather than texted.

The unfortunate leakage of "LOL" or the completely unhilarious "ROFL" and acronyms such as IUSWIM (if you see what I mean) or AIBU (am I being unreasonable) really don't belong in professional correspondence either.

It looks even weirder if you are no longer a teenager.

And, even though we social media addicts feel compelled to "share the love" with our little keyboard kisses, there's a time and a place.

You can't imagine Ariana Huffington or Anna Wintour ending a message with kisses, can you?


Friday, 25 March 2016

New Releases/Free & Bargain Books Link-up 25 March 2016

Sharing the Love of Books
Enjoy our selection of New Releases / Free & Bargain Books this week

Click HERE for this week's awesome selection.

Authors please feel free to add your own books
Readers please free to add your own finds
(any genre except erotica welcome)

This weekly link up is hosted by Beck Valley Books & these awesome book loving blogs...
 Life as Leels | IrishdaisylovesRomance | Book Babble | All Romance Reader
It's My Side of Life | Celticlady's Reviews | First Time Mommy Adventures | Bound 2 Escape
Beck Valley BooksA Library of Reviews | Cinnamon Hollow Reviews
Miki's Hope | Taking Time for Mommy | Nicki's Nook
Ebook Addicts | I Love Romance | A Bit Bookish | Mother Distracted | Colorimetry
Totally Addicted to Reading | 3 Partners in Shopping | Angie's Angle I Creat Purty Thangs | Wishful Endings
Lynchburg Mama | LibriAmoriMieiAli - The Dragon Slayer | Wondermom WannabeMy Bizzy World |  Deal Sharing Aunt 

For Pre-orders post - PRE-ORDER / genre / title /author
For New Releases post - NEW / genre / title / author
For Free Books post - FREE / genre / title / author / end date 
For Bargain Books post - SALE / price / genre / title / author / end date
(Strictly no Erotica please.  Steamy romance is fine but watch those covers people, incase any underage child is viewing it!)

Click HERE for this week's awesome selection.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Easter Bunny Springs Into Action At National Trust & Win A Family Weekend Pass

The Easter Bunny has kicked off his 2016 schedule in style, with the National Trust unveiling a show-stopping giant topiary bunny at Stourhead, in Wiltshire.

Children with the topiary Easter bunny at Stourhead for National Trust - motherdistracted.co.uk
The Easter Bunny makes first stop at Stourhead to kick off the National Trust’s nationwide Cadbury Easter Egg Hunts 
The topiary bunny has been created to celebrate the ninth year of the Cadbury Easter Egg Hunts.

The hunts will be taking place at 271 National Trust locations over the Easter weekend (25-28 March).

A family on the National Trust Easter Egg Hunt in partnership with Cadbury's
He is set to deliver 362,592 chocolate bunnies to 271 National Trust places around the country. 
Families are invited to unleash their inner explorer at these adventurous hunts taking place across the country.

Stourhead, known to many as the location of the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice, played host to the Cadbury Easter Bunny’s first destination this year, as he begins his nationwide tour to generate excitement ahead of the upcoming Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

The iconic gardens and Palladian mansion, given to the conservation charity in 1946, is just one of the locations providing a beautiful backdrop for an Easter day out.

At a towering height of 8ft, the frame of the impressive topiary bunny, celebrating the Cadbury Easter Bunny’s visit, took a whopping three days to create. If laid flat, the length of the steel wire used for this creation would be that of two football pitches!

His accompanying 4ft friends used the combined talents of a team of four over a five day period, using enough wire to cover the length of a further five football pitches in the process.

Hoping to delight children and families alike this Bank Holiday Weekend, the smaller topiary bunnies will be on display at Wimpole, Stowe, Killerton, Castle Ward, Fountains Abbey, Hardwick Hall and Tredegar House.

The Easter bunny has been very busy indeed, delivering an impressive 362,592 Cadbury Dairy Milk Bunnies around the UK. Visitors to National Trust places across the Easter holiday weekend will be able to take part in special Cadbury Easter Egg Hunts, with every child receiving a Cadbury chocolate treat for getting involved.

With over 270,000 people getting involved in a Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt last year, and over 3 million people welcomed to participating National Trust places over the Easter weekend, the charity is hoping for another great turnout.

You can find your nearest hunt here: Cadbury.co.uk/Easter or check the list of participating properties below.

Scroll down and you can also find out how to win one of two Family Weekend Passes.

Participating Properties

Castle Ward, County Down
Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt at the Easter Fair, 27 – 28 March, 12pm – 6pm

There’s a mystery to be solved at Castle Ward and we need your help! The Easter Bunny has hidden clues all over the front lawn, can you solve the puzzle? You’ll be rewarded with a tasty Cadbury chocolate treat at the end. Stick around afterwards for a whole day of fun at the Easter Fair. Visit Phil's Farm, take part in the chicken run race and tuck into some delicious local food. Price: £8 per adult, £3.80 per child (normal admission charges apply) www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-ward 

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal, North Yorkshire 
Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt, 25 March – 10 April, 10am – 4pm

I spy with my little eye… an Easter bunny! This spring at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal little bunnies have been hoppety-hopping around the estate. Head over bridges of the river Skell, explore around every corner of the Abbey ruins, and follow the waterways of the Georgian gardens to find them and get a yummy Cadbury chocolate treat. There’ll be lots of family fun along the way too, including crafts in Swanley Grange and a brand new adventure playground. Price: £2 per hunt (normal admission charges apply) For more information, please call 01765608888 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire 
Cadbury Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt at Hardwick, 25 – 28 March, 11am – 4pm

Get outdoors at Hardwick Hall this Easter and grab a trail sheet for the Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt. See if you can follow the clues that will lead you around the house, garden and Lady Spencer's Wood, and then collect a delicious chocolate treat at the end. After you’ve had your fill of chocolate why not seek out more adventures with the ‘Famous Five’-inspired trail or try your hand at some special Easter crafts. Price: £3 per hunt (normal admission charges apply) For more information, please call 01246 850430 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardwick-hall

Killerton, Devon 
Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt, 19 March – 17 April, 11am – 4pm 

Visit Killerton this Easter to explore the estate in search of mysterious clues left by the Easter Bunny. The egg hunt will lead you along winding paths through wild woodlands and blooming orchards to find the Bear's hut, ice house and chapel. There’s a yummy chocolate treat to tuck into at the end, so what are you waiting for? Price: £2.50 per child (normal admission charges apply) For more information, please call 01392 881345 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/killerton

Stourhead, Wiltshire Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt, 25 - 28 March, 11am – 4pm 

Take a trip to Stourhead this Easter where egg hunters can explore through towering trees, by mystical grottoes and past a glittering lake. Make a day of it and bring a picnic, best enjoyed on the rolling lawns with views that stretch across the Wiltshire countryside. Afterwards, keep the family fun going and play giant games in the garden. Price: £2.50 per hunt (normal admission charges apply) For more information, please call 01747 841152 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead

Stowe, Buckinghamshire 
Stowe’s Sleeping Beauty Quest - Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt, 25 - 28 March 10am-4.30pm

This Easter embark on a quest to awaken Sleeping Beauty from her slumber, and in return claim your delicious chocolate treat. Fairy-tales, myths and legends have been weaved through the garden, where chivalrous knights and courageous princesses will hunt for clues. The quest will take you past mystical lakes and deep into the Sleeping Wood to claim your egg and finish on a happily ever after. Price: £2.50 per hunt (normal admission charges apply) For more information, please call 01280 817156 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stowe

Tredegar House, Monmouthshire 
Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt, 25 – 28 March, 11am – 4pm

The Easter Bunny has been up to his old tricks again at Tredegar House. He's left a trail of clues around the garden for you to follow. Solve the puzzle to claim your chocolate treat, then why not explore the rest of the estate? There’ll be loads of other Easter crafts and activities to try your hand at. Price: £2 per hunt (normal admission charges apply) For more information, please call 01633 815880 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/tredegar-house

Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire 
Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt, 25 March – 8 April, 10.30am - 4.15pm

Take a trip to this beautiful country home complete with a working farm and resident bunnies. Rhyming clues will lead you on an egg hunt around the gardens, but to claim your chocolate treat you’ll have to find the hidden magic word. Price: £2 per hunt (normal admission charges apply) For more information, please call 01223 206000 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wimpole-estate

The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything the charity does.

Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than over 600,00 acres of countryside, 775 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Over 20 million people visit every year, and together with 4.5 million members and over 62,000 volunteers, they help to support the charity in its’ work to care for special places forever, for everyone.

For more information and ideas for great seasonal days out go to: www.nationaltrust.org.uk

I have two free Family Weekend Passes (2 winners) up for grabs for you and your family to enjoy at your convenience (though please note this would not be redeemable on a Bank Holiday weekend).

Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget.  UK entrants only and terms & conditions apply.  One entry per household.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Friday 8th April.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and happy egg hunting!

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

More free competitions at www.theprizefinder.com

Best Guides To What's On In And Around Cardiff This Easter

If you're lost for something to do this Easter, why not check out one of the great guides below.

Source:  Flickr: Barnley Moss
Image credit:  Barnley Moss
You're sure to find an activity you'd like to try.

Just click on the links.

Easter Activities In And Around Cardiff - mumsintheknow.co.uk

A great list of Easter Holiday activities, from lambing to egg decorating.

18 Awesome Easter Activities happening in South Wales over the bank holiday weekend - walesonline.co.uk

A list of activities (some free) happening between April 3 and 6, as well as during the wider school holidays for the whole family.

Caitlin on picnic rug - motherdistracted.co.uk
Caitlin enjoying a picnic

Family Easter Holiday Roundup - visitwales.com

A great list of local places to visit.

Events in The Valleys

What's happening in our Valleys communities over the bank holiday break.

Easter events at Cadw

A list of those Cadw sites hosting Easter events, including Easter Egg hunts.

Ieuan at Raglan Castle - Easter Events Cardiff 2016 - motherdistracted.co.uk
Ieuan at Raglan Castle
Easter Fun In Wales with the National Trust

Or there's the Mother Distracted weekend guide for any time of year.

Caitlin & Ieuan at Dyffryn Gardens - motherdistracted.co.uk
Caitlin & Ieuan at Dyffryn Gardens
Have fun!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Over 40? - Do You REALLY Need To Be Told Which Hairstyle to Have?

It's weird, isn't it that when you reach a certain age you are deemed incapable of choosing make-up and applying it or selecting the hairstyle that suits you best.

woman with hair in bun - hair & beauty over 40 - motherdistracted.co.uk
It's Your Hair - Do Your Own Thing!
To be frank, I'm a little tired of the "Fab Haircuts For The Over 40's" articles, or the "How To Apply Make-up without looking like Dracula's Grandmother" type pieces.

Obviously our skin and hair has changed but we know that.  Unless you've been wearing a potato sack over your head for the last ten years, you've probably been tracking every wrinkle, blemish and age spot.

So why is it that younger women and the media are quite happy to lecture us on what we should look like when we were the ones who came up with many of the trends that are still around today?

Time after time we see the old beauty tips and tricks recycled and presented in the slightly breathless tone so beloved of the few women's print magazines still left in circulation.

I find it somewhat amusing that the 'new' make-up techniques such as baking actually originated in the Drag Community many years ago.

Which probably explains some of the sights I've seen on YouTube.

And then there's the mystery of the 'duck face' selfie.

Any picture containing several teens / twenty-somethings tends to resemble a row of ducks at a funfair gallery.

I dread to think what the photos accompanying CVs look like.  How can you possibly look like a potential credible addition to a business when you look like you should be sucking a lollipop and wearing ankle socks?

See the joy of being that, shall we say, little bit older is that you can wear what you want and the World can go whistle.

But then there's the "women over a certain age are invisible" crew.

Do we really vanish once we hit 40?  Or do we subconsciously decide to retire from the spotlight?

I'm not suggesting you need a truck load of fillers, eyebrows like landing strips and a day-glo tan to fit in but if you want to make the effort - great.

If you don't, also great.

What you don't need to do is absent yourself from all the things that once gave you pleasure on the basis that you have hit a certain chronological age.

The truth is many are uncomfortable with ageing (me included) and don't know how to treat us.

We are a walking reminder of what is coming (should they be so priviliged to enjoy a long life) so there is the mocking, the teasing, the gentle gibes, the discounting and the all-out ignoring.

The Daily Mail in particular loves its articles about women who have the temerity to still want to compete and who invest in beauty treatments to rival younger women.

"Look at her" crows the Mail, "She thinks she looks half her age".

I doubt she does.  But I wish some of these ladies would understand that maturity has its own kind of sexiness, its own power that we should not give away by lessening the beauty we have today.

We need to strive to look comfortable in our own skin - bien dans sa peau - as the French would say.

And then we can wear what we like and it will not matter in the slightest. Because we won't care.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said "No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent".

That's the reminder many of us truly need.

Not another article on hairstyles.

What is Swine Flu?

After the sad news that a 3 year old child recently died from a suspected case of swine flu, and as officials confirm that three others are infected, what exactly is Swine Flu?

Doctor's Stethoscope - Swine Flu - Motherdistracted.co.uk
If in doubt, telephone your GP for advice
A relatively new strain of the influenza virus, Swine Flu (or H1N1) is highly contagious.

The H1N1 form of this virus is one of the descendants of the strain that caused the 1918 flu pandemic.

Swine Flu is a respiratory disease that infects the respiratory tract of pigs and results in a barking cough, decreased appetite, nasal secretions, and listless behavior.

It is transmitted from person to person by inhalation or ingestion of droplets containing the virus from people sneezing or coughing; it is not transmitted by eating cooked pork products.

The disease is contagious about one day before symptoms develop to about five to seven days after symptoms develop. Some patients may be contagious for a longer time span.

Swine Flu Symptoms Chart - Swine Flu - Motherdistracted.co.uk

Its symptoms are similar to regular flu and include:-

- fever
- fatigue
- lack of appetite
- coughing
- sore throat.

People infected with the swine flu often complain about the problems with stomach, headaches and even toothache.

In some cases, human swine flu is asymptomatic, which means the infected person feels fine and has no symptoms.

Although most people recover in a week without treatment, it is dangerous for children under two, pregnant women and those over 65.

A potentially life-threatening complication of human swine flu is pneumonia (a type of lung infection).

Those who do die from swine flu often have some underlying medical condition, like asthma or diabetes.

Sufferers are advised to keep warm and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Some antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu, appear to be effective against the human swine influenza H1N1 strain.

Tamiflu is a prescription medicine used to treat the flu in people 2 weeks of age and older who have had flu symptoms for no more than 2 days.

Tamiflu is not a substitute for an annual flu vaccination.

It is not known whether Tamiflu is harmful to an unborn baby.

You can find more information on the NHS website.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Ways To Show Your Parents How Much You Love Them

Busy lives and older parents are not always a match made in heaven.

We all love our mums and dads but finding the time to share in their lives and support and help can be a challenge. However, our parents deserve to retire and grow old happily and peacefully.

With this in mind, here are some ways you can help with this, and show them how much you care.

Phone them for a chat

Finding time to sit and listen, even a regular phone call can brighten a day. It doesn't have to be for long, just so they can hear your voice and share their day to day routine.

Do their shopping 

Getting out and about can be a chore as you get older. Why not ask for a shopping list and do this alongside your weekly shop? Even better find time to take them out on a trip to the shops. You are going anyway so share your time!

Hire live in care 

There will come a time when your parents made be ready for live in care. Live in care is a fantastic way of offering help to your parents in their older years. Be prepared. Do your homework. Word of mouth is invaluable. Visit different places both with your parents and on your own. Compile a list of questions. Talk to the charities such as Age UK. They will have a wealth of information and plenty of support for both you and your parents.

Take them for a treat 

We all love to be pampered, why not organise for a regular chiropodist to visit them at home. Even a reflexology session can have huge benefits. A mobile hairdresser could be also be organised, and they could do fortnightly or monthly visits. What better way to give your mum a treat and a boost to her confidence and wellbeing? Dad too!

Find them new friends

Help in the hunt for new people to spend quality time with. This might be finding local community services or centres so they can meet friends. Together they can enjoy a meal or play some Bingo. Once they’ve met, you could arrange for them to enjoy a classy afternoon tea together!

Image Link

Take them to meet distant friends or family

Our mobility decreases as we get old. Just as getting out for shopping can be hard work, so can be visiting people. Make it so your parents can still see their loved ones by taking them yourself. Make a weekend of it and stay the night. This will help break up the journey. Your parents are sure to really appreciate the effort you’ve put in. They’ll make some special memories too.

Give them your kids for the afternoon 

Your parents looked after little kids once with you! Chances are, they’ll want to try it again. Hand over your kids for the afternoon and let them play. Even better, organise a big family holiday! You’ll get to spend some time with both your kids and your parents. Win win!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Win The Chance For Your Child To Be A Player Ambassador At UEFA Euro 2016™

My own sporting prowess, as readers of this blog know, is rather limited so it is great to see that my children take after their father and not me.

Now that the weather is improving, Ieuan is spending every waking minute when not in the classroom kicking a ball around which is a refreshing change from his previous unswerving allegiance to all things i(Pad).

Caitlin's ballet phase is in full swing and I am fully expecting it to morph into an obsession with ponies very shortly.

Either way, we are enjoying the rush of activity and the chance to spend time in the sunshine and fresh air.

And, of course, the sporting season is upon us with the UEFA Euro 2016™ football championship rapidly approaching.

On March 24th Wales will be playing Northern Ireland in a friendly and we are hoping our boys will do us proud.  It will be a great opportunity for all the family to get together and cheer Wales on.

Then, there's the brilliant chance for kids to win the opportunity to be a Player Ambassador at at one of three UEFA EURO 2016™ matches taking place in June or July 2016 and the chance to win one of a hundred footballs in McDonald's fabulous competition.

Ieuan is so excited at the prospect of walking out on to the pitch for Wales with his football heroes. Gareth Bale, Wales’ youngest ever scorer and the man who contributed 7 out of 11 goals in Wales' qualifying match, is definitely his number one. The fact that there would be thousands of people watching Ieuan, does not daunt him in the slightest!

It would be a dream experience for any young football fan so we have explained that he might be up against a bit of competition!

How to enter

To take part all you have to do is to upload a photo of your child showing their passion for football: cheering on their country, celebrating a goal, or supporting their favourite team via the entry form.

Here's that link again.  www.mcdonalds.co.uk/ukhome/Sport/Football/LetsPlay/EURO-2016.html.

The Prizes

McDonald's are offering some amazing prizes.

Not only does your child get to walk out on the pitch but McDonald's are throwing in (see what I did there?), travel and accommodation for the three day trip to attend each respective match.

This is for one parent / guardian (who must be over 18) and the winning child.

These are the matches the Player Ambassadors will be attending.

England vs Wales (England Player Escort) Match 16, Lens, 16th June 2016 (4 prizes)

England vs Wales (Wales Player Escort) Match 16, Lens, 16th June 2016 (3 prizes)

Northern Ireland vs Germany (Northern Ireland Player Escort) Match 30, Paris, 21st June 2016 (1 prize)

The Final, (Player Escort may walk out with either team) Match 51, Saint-Denis, Paris, 11th July 2016 (1 prize)

1 of 100 footballs


Your child must be between 6 and 10 years old (inclusive) on 10th June 2016.  Entries are limited to one per eligible child. No purchase is necessary to enter.

You'll have to hurry though, the competition closes on 10th April 2016, just a few short weeks away so get photographing.

We've got our entry in and Ieuan has already requested a French phrase book and some new footie boots.

Good luck!


Beck Valley Book Tour - Starfish Island by Deborah Brown



After a bad break-up, Nicole Alexander is ready for a change. When she inherits a house on Starfish Island from a grandmother she never knew, it seems like the perfect opportunity for starting over. But soon after moving in, Nicole receives a cryptic message warning her to leave immediately. 

Determined to get to the bottom of the hauntings, Nicole starts an investigation. When things get hot and heavy with one of the island’s most charismatic residents, Michael Edwards, Nicole begins to suspect his amorous attention might be a cover for dark motives. 

Will Nicole discover the reason for the island’s hostility before it’s too late? Can she fall for a man she doesn’t exactly trust? 

STARFISH ISLAND is best-selling author Deborah Brown’s first romantic suspense novel. If you love the charm and fast pace of her popular Paradise series, then you’ll love this engrossing romantic mystery.

Available to buy from...

What did I think?

Starfish Island is a real page turner from Deborah Brown and it reminded me strongly of some of the classic romantic suspense fiction like Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.  All the elements are there - a huge house in a remote location, staff who are deeply unpleasant and threatening and a romantic interest who is really hard to pin down right until the very end.

Throw in a lawyer who seems to be a touch too self-assured, an ex lover who is a complete cad and, refreshingly, some strong female characters and you have a story which is difficult to put down.

Nicole, Brown's heroine, is just the right side of independent, although I did find myself wishing she would be a lot more assertive when it came to dealing with a group of characters who treat her like a child when it is clear they don't have her best interests at heart.

The most clever aspect of Starfish Island which has a great mystery plot, is that it is very hard to know who is good and who is bad until the end.

And there is a very enjoyable and satisfying denouément.

There are a couple of quite explicit sex scenes though so you might want to avoid this one if that offends you.

All in all highly recommended.

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....

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 $25 Amazon.com Giftcard / Paypal Cash
(winners choice)
Open Worldwide
Ending on Saturday 9th April at 11.59pm EST

Enter Below and Good Luck !!


Sunday, 20 March 2016

My Girl's Holiday Essentials - What's On Your List?

Now I'm going to state upfront that my list is probably not going to be your list.

And that the list of a woman in her 50's might differ ever so slightly from that of a twenty-something off to Aya-too-much-booze for 10 days of tattoo warping sunshine.

No. I have a much more traditional approach to going on holiday with the Husband and kids.  I like to think of it as "coming back healthy".

Some people like to come back 'refreshed' or 'energized'.

I like to avoid any possible communication with the Institute of Tropical Diseases (which happened on my return from a trip to Egypt  in 1988).

I'm afraid I have form, having managed to catch Pharaoh's Revenge.  My 24th birthday was spent lying prone in a hotel room in Luxor whilst nibbling on a Twix to get my sugar levels up and trying not to be sick.

I love to read other girls' packing lists.  During my single life, no trip anywhere was to be undertaken without a trawl through the floor-strewn merchandise of Primark for some Primarni t-shirts and knickers.

And of course it was de rigeur to pack so many toiletries into your suitcase that the plane had to extend its taxi up the runway just to lift off.

Today we have all learned to pack light (largely to avoid being charged extra by the budget airlines) - that, and the threat of terrorism.

Travelling has lost its innocence in many regards.

But I digress (as usual).

If I had to come up with a list of holiday essentials, then they would surely be

- suncream (protection factor 25+)
- smartphone
- Kindle (a duplication but I can't bear squinting at the small print on my phone)
- extra strength hair condition to avoid frizz
- a good lip-balm

It's not very Kim Kardashian, is it?

I suppose I ought to add the Husband and kids for the full family effect.

When you're a parent your chances of a holiday night out all glammed up tend to be remote in my experience.  

This makes lugging a full make-up kit rather unnecessary.

In fact the days when I actually get round to applying a full face of make-up are few and far between. Now I come to think of it, the last time was my wedding day in 2011.

Medication on the other hand is another matter entirely.  You can never be too prepared in my book so my toiletry bag(s) groan with Calpol, Nurofen, current prescriptions, earplugs (vital!), stomach medication, travel sickness pills - you name it and I could probably treat it.

You know I do wonder whether people really manage to relax on holiday or whether it's more about managing their neuroses in a different location.

I'm far more likely these days to spend time browsing in an online pharmacy than I am testing shimmer bricks, lippies and reformulated-for-summer perfumes and spritzes.

How times change!

Thank the Lord for wine.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour® Cream All-Over Miracle Oil Giveaway

I was recently given the opportunity to try the newest product in Elizabeth Arden's legendary Eight Hour® Cream Range.

Created in 1930 by Elizabeth Arden herself to soothe skin, Eight Hour® Cream Skin Protectant became an instant success. It was made from a combination of petrolatum, a skin-soothing beta-hydroxy and vitamin E.  Miss Arden even used it to soothe her famous thoroughbred horses' legs and its name came about when a loyal client used it to treat her child's skinned knee and "Eight Hour®s" later, the skin was all better.

The new product, Elizabeth Arden's Eight Hour® All-Over Miracle Oil, is a versatile, multi-tasking formula for the face, body and hair. It is infused with Tsubaki oil, an ultra-hydrating ingredient that works to deliver long-lasting moisture.

Like the other products in the range, All-Over Miracle Oil can be used in numerous ways.  Elizabeth Arden suggests:-

- apply for all over moisture
- use it to smooth rough skin
- apply to dry dull hair to add shine
- slather it on skin post shave
- use it as a massage oil
- use it as a cuticle softener twice a day

It comes in a handy pump spray which is easy to throw in your bag and carry with you.

I found it to be pleasantly scented, easily absorbed and very hydrating.  It is quick to apply and doesn't leave greasy marks on your clothes - a really useful multi-tasking product.

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour® All-Over Miracle Oil retails at £29 per bottle and I have one to give away.

Simply enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. UK entrants only.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on 31st March.  Terms and conditions are on my Competitions Page.

Good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

What’s the truth about vaping?

I smoked briefly in my late teens and twenties. Why did I start?  All my friends smoked and it was the 'thing' to pass around the Benson & Hedges (Bennies) or Silk Cut in the pub.

Ah, my wild youth.

I promptly gave up when I read that each cigarette takes about 5 minutes off your life.  That's without factoring in the damage it does to your fertility and your kids, both in the womb and out of it.

Oh and the smell lingering to your clothes, hair and breath which no amount of Gold Spot breath freshener or TicTacs could ever disguise.

It is not a habit I ever want Caitlin or Ieuan to take up and we have been discouraging them in the strongest possible terms.

Not that this worked with me - my father still smokes a pipe to this day.  It's hard to impress on kids the dangers of smoking when there's a smoker in the house.

I should probably mention that dad doesn't live with us and never smokes around his grandchildren.

These days we’re all well aware of the health dangers linked to smoking tobacco and I don't see anywhere near the number of people smoking cigarettes I used to.

I do see people vaping which raises the question, what are e-cigarettes doing to our health?

There has been a lot of media coverage lately about e-cigarettes but separating the fact from the fiction is no easy task.

There are strong arguments being put across from both sides of the debate. For example, Cancer Research UK and Public Health England are both clear on the fact that vaping is much safer than smoking tobacco.

I’ve been reading through the information collated by The Electric Tobacconist which gives arguments both for and against e-cigarettes.

Whilst the effects of nicotine on the body are deeply concerning, it does seem that vaping is a significantly safer option than smoking.

My personal view is that if vaping helps those who already smoke to cut down their habit or to eventually quit entirely, then it should be cautiously encouraged.

It’s confusing that there are such strong arguments on both sides of this one, even more so when the media goes for scaremongering headlines. The debate is triggering more and more research which will be interesting to follow given this is a relatively new product.

In the meantime, it looks as if a safer alternative to tobacco has been found. It will be interesting to look back on this in years to come and see just how much of an impact it has had.

Vaping as a Safer Alternative to Smoking
Credit: www.electrictobacconist.co.uk

What is Scarlet Fever?

As scarlet fever cases reach an almost 50-year high, and nearly 600 cases a week are being diagnosed in England alone, what exactly is this disease?

Scarlet fever is a highly contagious disease caused by an infection with bacteria in the group A Streptococcus (the same bacteria that cause strep throat).

It mainly affects children with those aged between 2-8 being most at risk.

Scarlet fever is treatable with antibiotics and usually is a mild illness, but it needs to be treated to prevent rare but serious long-term health problems.

There is no vaccine.

The incubation period for scarlet fever is about 12 hours to seven days.

Scarlet fever is usually spread by the aerosol route (inhalation), but may also be spread by skin contact or anything capable of carrying infection including skin cells, hair, clothing and bedding.

As it's so contagious, scarlet fever is likely to affect someone in close contact with a person with a sore throat or skin infection caused by streptococcus bacteria.

Early symptoms to look out for are a sore throat, headache and fever with a pinkish/red sandpapery rash appearing within a day or two.

The rash usually first appears on the chest and stomach before spreading to other parts of the body.

Scarlet fever is usually treated with a 10-day course of antibiotics, often in the form of penicillin or amoxicillin tablets, although liquid may be used for young children.

The fever usually gets better within 24 hours of starting antibiotics, with the other symptoms disappearing within a few days.

If scarlet fever has been caught as a result of a throat infection, the fever usually goes within 3 to 5 days, and the sore throat passes soon afterward.

The scarlet fever rash usually fades on the sixth day after sore throat symptoms began, but skin that was covered by rash may begin to peel. This peeling may last 10 days.

You should keep your child away from nursery or school for at least 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment.

Adults with scarlet fever should also stay off work for at least 24 hours after starting treatment.

You can also take some simple self care measures such as:-

- drinking plenty of cool fluids
- eating soft foods (if your throat is painful)
- taking paracetamol to bring down a high temperature
- using calamine lotion or antihistamine tablets to relieve itching

Public Health England (PHE)  expects a further rise in cases in the next few weeks as the peak season for the fever occurs, usually between late March and mid April. Currently, Yorkshire, the Humber, London and the East and West Midlands are being badly hit.

For further information go to the NHS Choices website.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Surcare Sensitive Washing Up Liquid Helps A Hand

We were recently challenged by Surcare to swop our usual brand of washing up liquid for Surcare Sensitive Washing Up Liquid.

Ieuan Hobbis & Surcare Washing Up Liquid - Surcare Help A Hand Challenge - motherdistracted.co.uk
Ieuan - ready for the challenge
Well known for its gentle laundry products, Surcare washing up liquid is made for those looking for great cleaning without harsh chemicals. It has no added perfumes or dyes, is fragrance free and has been dermatologically tested and approved.

Surcare Sensitive Washing Up Liquid contains nothing to irritate skin and, being prone to contact dermititis from certain other brands, I was keen to return to the bowl and give it a go!

Let's be honest, having a dishwasher is a luxury many of us have got used to but they are not always the most effective use of time and money if you only have one or two items to wash.

Plus, hand washing your dishes is a great way of training the kids in the gentle art of housekeeping.

Cue much muttering from the Husband that I don't do any and the usual response from me that "if you think I don't do anything then I'll stop and you can see what the house looks like then".  

But I digress....

As part of the challenge, we had to pass on some 'handy' skills to the kids - giving them a helping hand since Surcare had helped ours.

We gave the kids a choice.

Having discounted car engine maintenance and making a puppy out of clay and buttons on the basis that the potential for mess was probably way above acceptable European Union standards, we chose two more peaceful activities.

My sister and I grew up in a piano playing household - my dad is a piano teacher in his spare time and he has given Caitlin some lessons.  My sister went to Dartington Music College but I only ever managed to 'play by ear'.  (I can still play a rousing version of "Men of Harlech" and "Onward Christian Soliders" if anyone's interested).

Caitlin Hobbis playing the piano - Surcare Help A Hand Challenge - motherdistracted.co.uk
Caitlin practising her piano
So I spent some time with Caitlin trying to decipher the annotated music books my dad has given her. 

My dad has a baby grand piano but the Husband bought me a lovely keyboard with bells and whistles a few years back.  

Caitlin loves to switch on the church organ function and play everything in funereal, although admittedly peaceful tones.

Ieuan does not have his sister's patience yet and, in any case, has been brainwashed by the Husband into liking shouty Viking rock.  (I feel another post on Tinnitus coming on).

He does, however, like to help out with some gardening and as part of the Surcare Help A Hand Challenge, we spent a lovely warm afternoon in our Capability Brown styled garden (um...).

Caitlin raked the leaves whilst Ieuan supervised.  Have you noticed how boys are very good at 'supervising' even at a very young age?

Caitlin Hobbis raking leaves in the garden - Surcare Help A Hand Challenge - motherdistracted.co.uk
There's plenty of work to do in the garden!
Eventually his sister handed him the rake and told him to "get on with it".  That's my girl.

Caitlin & Ieuan Hobbis with mini bird houses in the garden - Surcare Help A Hand Challenge - motherdistracted.co.uk
The kids have made birdhouses for some very small birds.

Then the kids added a finishing touch of two bird houses, which anything bigger than a worm-starved linnet is going to struggle to get in - but they look nice.

We really enjoyed the challenge, not least because it involved time away from the iPads and some fresh air.  It's too easy to let the kids slump on the sofa and play "ninja kittens burst balloons" or some such non-educational game.

And what did we think of Surcare Sensitive Washing Up Liquid?

I have used my main brand for many years but was really impressed by Surcare's.  It did not irritate my skin at all and a little went a surprisingly long way.  

Its cleaning power was as good as my main brand's which I wasn't expecting being suspicious of the efficacy of lots of the eco-friendly / anti-allergy brands.

It also doesn't have a cloying fragrance which some washing up liquids do - and sometimes you even find that the fragrance lingers on your dishes after you've washed them.  

Surcare is available at all major retailers and the Hobbis family highly recommend it.

Surcare Sensitive Washing Up Liquid
Plus we've been reminded that there's really no substitute for hands-on, if slightly messy, family fun.

*collaborative post

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