A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Unleashing The Colour With Chalkola Markers

Chalkola Markers are a fun range of pretty unique markers that you can use on non porous surfaces. If you're bored with just colouring on paper and card and want to decorate some different materials, these are a great way to do it.

Chalkola Markers - Party Colours and Earthy Colours

The kind of non porous surfaces we're taking about are chalkboards, whiteboards, glass, plastic, windows and mirrors.

Why non-porous surfaces?  Because porus surfaces have small holes in them which can absorb the liquid chalk ink and it can be difficult to completely erase your work of art.

Mug inscribed by Chalkola Marker
It's possible to leave subtle messages for your other half

Mug inscribed with I Love U with a Chalkola Marker

In any case, it's always best to test the surface you're about to decorate just in case and it's worth noting that, although the markers can be used on chalkboard paint, paint tends to make the surface porous and absorb the ink so be careful there.

Chalkola Markers contain high density chalk ink and you do have to prep each marker by shaking it thoroughly for 2 to 3 minutes and them pumping the nib until the ink starts to flow.

Caitlin with inscribed water bottle saying drink me
My subtle reminder to Caitlin that she needs to drink more water.
The colours are well worth the effort.  We tested the Chalkola Premium Wet Wipe Markers in 10 party colours with a 6mm bullet tip and the Chalkola Earth Color Series Set of 8 Earthy Colours with a 5.5mm tip.

We tested on a variety of surfaces which the kids found enormous fun, not least because it felt a little like graffiti - still it's OK for Banksy, isn't it?

The markers are very versatile and we tested them on plastic, ceramics (a mug and a plate) and a mirror.

Mirror decorated with Chalkola
So much fun - but I wouldn't unleash your kids without supervision!

Best of all, once you are tired of your creation, a damp cloth wipes it all away (or you could use a window or glass cleaner).

Caitlin's favourite artwork was her plate which I am now under strict orders to put on show in a cabinet somewhere.

Caitlin decorating a plate with a Chalkola marker

If you would like to try the markers, you can save 20% on the cost of the markers by using the coupon code below.  This applies to all Chalkola products.

Coupon Code - 20OFFSTR

You can find out more at Chalkola.com.

Caitlin holding plate decorated with Chalkola markers
Caitlin's finished masterpiece
We're planning to decorate more plates and some ceramic pots.  I'm hoping Caitlin will be the next Orla Kiely or Cath Kidston!


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Win Amazing Anti-Hair Loss Products From folliOne

When you get to a certain age, particularly around the menopause, or perhaps after surgery or medical treatment, you may find your beloved hair starts to get thinner and that your scalp starts to make an appearance.

Woman playing with her hair whilst staring into the sun

There's no denying that it's hard enough for a man to lose his hair but there is far less social stigma about male hair loss than there is for hair loss in women.

These days there's no shame in talking about this issue and there are more and more treatments available to help cope with this distressing condition.

Did you know that nearly 40% of women experience some form of hair loss by the age of 60?  But you need to be sure of the cause.

Women’s hair loss may appear at times of hormonal change and is identified by overall thinning as opposed to a more patchy loss.

Common causes of women’s hair loss include: starting or stopping birth control, having a baby and just before and after going through the menopause.

Women rarely go completely bald but the end result is a visible decrease in the density of the hair in the affect areas.

Folione Anti Hair Loss Products

Also, there's a difference between Alopecia and the kind of hair thinning which may be only temporary - for example after you have had a baby.

With Alopecia, the reason for the hair loss is thought to be a sensitivity of your follicles to the hormones in your scalp, in particular the hormone DHT (Dihydro-Testosterone). This is why treatments for female alopecia include DHT blockers, and antiandrogens, just like the treatments for male hair loss.

If you are suffering with this distressing problem, you should talk to your GP for advice and support but there are products that can help with thinning hair.

I have discovered one such range of products from folliOne who offer a range of treatments including Growth Stimulators, Anti Hair-loss shampoos and liquid hair nutrition to help maximise hair growth.

I tested two of the three following products, the anti hair loss shampoo and the liquid nutrition.

folliOne Growth Stimulator for Women

Folione Growth Stimulator for Women

This non-alcohol based formula is designed to gently strengthens your scalp, allowing the ingredients to penetrate the scalp without evaporating or crystallizing.

Diaminopyrimidine Oxide, one of the main active ingredients in folliOne Growth Stimulator For Women, has been shown through clinical research to disrupt 5α-reductase activity and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) production, these two substances are linked to hair loss.

It also contains Oxothiazolidine Carboxylic Acid to stimulate new hair growth and prevents further hair loss, and it also delays the ageing of the skin in the scalp.

folliOne Shampoo for Hair Growth and Recovery

Folione anti hair loss shampoo

This shampoo is formulated to stimulate hair growth and prevents hair loss whilst supporting a healthy scalp, new hair follicles, and the growth of hair cells.

It reduced sebaceous secretion from the scalp (oil in the skin) and targets dandruff caused by hair loss. It is also designed to enhance the body’s ability to prevent the recurrence of scalp itching, irritation, redness, and flaking.

This is quite a runny shampoo with a strong medicinal smell and it is quite strong and rather drying. This is what it is designed to do though! You will need conditioner and possibly some conditioning hair products afterwards.  Because it is strong, I would caution against using it on coloured hair - certainly freshly coloured hair.

It does contain the magic ingredient that seems to be the latest buzz word in preventing female hair loss - caffeine and the product is not tested on animals so full marks for that.

I found that this shampoo boosted the volume of my hair and did not irritate my scalp or my skin. In fact, I found my facial skin looked smooth and had more of a glow which is an interesting side effect!

I think it is certainly worth persisting with if you can find a way of conditioning your hair afterwards.

folliOne Liquid Hair Nutrition for Hair Growth

Folione Liquid Hair Nutrition

folliOne Liquid Hair Nutrition is a daily dietary supplement designed to give your hair the essential vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and protein it needs for normal growth.

You can take it on its own or mix it with fruit for an easy smoothie.  It has a pleasant orangey taste and the daily dose is 15ml which you can drink straight down - far easier than taking bulky pills.

As well as the usual vitamins you would expect to find, there's biotin, iodine, folic acid and selenium. It is certainly a specific blend rather than a standard liquid nutrition supplement and it is a more powerful way of getting these vitamins and minerals than ingesting them from natural sources.

To give you an idea, you would have to contain 750mg of amino acids from your foods to get the same benefit as 15ml of folliOne Liquid Hair Nutrition.

If you would like to try folliOne products I have a great giveaway for one winner to win two folliOne products of their choice from the range worth £30.

You can find more information about the range at www.follione.co.uk.  You can also find help and advice about hair loss at www.hairlosstalk.com.

Entry this time is via the Gleam app below and the giveaway ends on 28th December. Open Worldwide.  Terms and conditions are on my competitions page.


Win a choice of any two Follione products #3

Good luck!

One in Five Children Don't Know That Milk Comes From Cows Says Cadbury

When Caitlin and Ieuan were little, most of their picture books featured animals, the noises they made and what they produced. They knew quite early on where their food came from.  We had to explain to Ieuan, for example that there is no fish which leaves the ocean covered in breadcrumbs.

Ieuan eating Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons

So reading that, according to research by Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons, one in five children don't know that milk comes from cows is a bit shocking, and also a bit sad.

The research was conducted with the help of 1500 UK parents and their children aged between 4 and 8.  The survey discovered that 73% of parents considered that knowing where their food comes from is important to them.  That message doesn't seem to getting through to our kids.

Caitlin drinking milk from a mini milk bottle

To help teach kids about food provenance, (particularly where the glass and a half of milk in each packet of their buttons comes from), Cadbury's has partnered with Giovanna Fletcher to produce the video below.

Not only do 20% of kids not know where milk comes from, the survey unearthed some rather worrying facts too.

Over one in ten boys (11 per cent) believe milk comes straight from the supermarket

A fifth (20 per cent) of five year olds believe that chocolate is made from eggs.

Almost a third of children (29 per cent) believe a cow’s diet consists of sandwiches and pizza

The research also revealed that children are unsure of what is used to make chocolate, with over a third (32 per cent) of the children likening the ingredients to those found in a cake.

The top 4 ingredients children believe are found in chocolate are:

Eggs (20 per cent)
Flour (12 per cent)
Plants (9 per cent of four year olds)
Wheat (6 per cent of four year olds)

As Catherine Young, Senior Brand Manager for Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons says “Whilst some of the findings from the research are amusing, it has highlighted that more needs to be done to make farming and food provenance as important to children as it is to their parents."

I couldn't agree more. Check out the video and see what you think.

You can find more information on Cadbury's Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Sam's Curious Cars - A Great Xmas Gift For Young Inventors

If you're looking for a present that engages young minds whilst teaching them how to create mini machines that work, look no further.

SAM Labs Curious Cars Kit

Sam's Curious Cars is a kit from SAM Labs which teaches kids how to build and programme their own cars and games.

SAM Labs Curious Cars Kit - back of box

The kit contains 5 cars and a separate booklet which contains even more projects to try once you have got the hang of it.

5 car templates available in SAM Labs Curious Cars Kit

SAM Labs Curious Cars Kit Press Out Car Templates

The Husband writes code for a living so this was the perfect thing for him to try out with Caitlin and Ieuan and, of the two kids, it was Caitlin who was most captivated by the kit.

In fact the Huffington Post describes SAM Lab's kits as "Lego for the internet generation" which is very apt. And, even better, the kit is compatible with Lego itself.

SAM Labs' believe that every kid has inventive potential and their kits are built to unleash it - and their imaginations.

The Curious Cars kit contains 5 SAM blocks which all have different functions - for example a light, a motor and a button.

The SAM Labs wireless blocks in the Curious Cars Kit

You turn the blocks on and then charge them (this takes an hour).  Then they are programmed wirelessly via an app which the kids used on an iPad, but which is also available for Android and Windows/Mac.

You have to connect the SAM blocks together to make them work via the app and you do this when you have assembled the base of your car and put the wheels on.

SAM Labs Curious Cars Kit Instructions To Get Started

Connecting the SAM Labs blocks

Caitlin connecting the SAMs blocks via the app
Caitlin connecting the blocks via the app
It's a great opportunity for parents and kids to work together.



There are also 5 press out and assemble cardboard cars which sit on top of a base and each of these can be further customised by a little more programming.  For example there is a bulldozer and you can move the shovel up and down using the SAM servo.

Racing car instructions in the SAM Labs Curious Cars Kit

Racing car from SAM Labs Curious Cars Kit

I particularly liked that each project is given a star ranking for degree of difficulty and there is also an indication of the time taken to complete each one.  Once you have mastered the hardest project, the Vintage Hotrod, you can design your own.

Sam's Curious Cars is a really unusual and challenging toy which is genuinely educational.  Caitlin has just turned 9 and I would say that this is an ideal age for the kit because patience is needed, along with the ability to read and understand instructions - and practice.

The separate booklet of projects "SAM Book of Crazy Cool Ideas" contains ideas like creating your own game show buzzer or alarm, or even creating a stirring machine.

Instruction booklets in the SAM Labs Curious Cars Kit

The kit retails at £149 and in terms of value for money and the hours of educational fun is can provide I think it's excellent. Even I learned something!

Instructions on how to make a stirring machine

The SAM Labs kits would also make a good pressie for not so young inventors and I can see that they would make a fabulous teaching tool for schools and workshops too.

You can find more information at SAM Labs.

Are We Konmari-ing Ourselves OUT of Joy?

I'm sure you will be familiar with the tidying tome that is creating ripples of almost religious fervour across the UK - The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Japanese author and organizing consultant, Marie Kondo.

plant pot, dessert, book and mobile phone on table

So popular is it that it has even spawned a new verb - to 'konmari'.

To save you reading it, the basic premise is that by decluttering you can create not only a gleaming, if somewhat sterile, home but you will achieve levels of mental peace and clarity - not to mention lots of space and less dusting.

To do this, you should consider whether your possessions "spark joy" and, if not, remove, purge, delete from your life.

In fact, it's not dissimilar from what my mother would frequently yell at me.  "You'd feel a god sight happier if you tidied the mess in your bedroom up".  Strangely, I may also have shared this nugget of wisdom with Caitlin and Ieuan.

But I must confess to feeling a little uncomfortable.  For example, in the Facebook groups dedicated to Ms Kondo's spartan lifestyle,  there seems to be a certain amount of, shall we say, pressure being put on those who like the idea of a tidy living room but who are unsure of what to do with items which hold memories for them.

I have seen posters being advised to get rid of baby clothes, first Christmas ornaments made by the offspring and gifts from their recently dead mothers.

"Does it spark joy" - these hapless declutters are questioned?


See the thing about us humans is that we are capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions.  I don't know about you but my joy is not sparked very often and, if it were sparked every day I think I'd get a bit bored of it.

Isn't that one of the reasons we love Christmas so much?  All that heightened fervour, bonhomie and goodwill to men, women and pets.

But imagine feeling like that every day.  Exhausting.

I just worry that there are many frantic declutterers out there searching for joy by chucking their most precious possessions out because these things do not evoke jubilation.

What about comfort?  What about sweet sadness?  What about nostalgia?

What about the things that remind us of times where we have grown - even though the time itself was not particularly happy.

What about the things that are a bit of an eyesore but meant so much to someone we loved very much?

What about when our kids ask us in years to come where the heck their baby photos are and we did we never keep anything they made?

Can we take a moment to remember that Ms Kondo has a business to run and books to sell?


I would love to be able to declutter to the extent Ms Kondo advises.  And perhaps it is wrong that some of us define ourselves by the things we choose to surround ourselves with.

That is a far different thing to the avaricious accumulation of the latest gadgets and trinkets.  I'm talking about those things that are so precious to us that they become symbols of our life and who we have become.

You may get a frisson of excitement chucking it in a bin bag now but will you still feel like that in years to come?

Will a kitchen worktop so clean you could eat your dinner off it really outweigh your memories?

There will always be those who hoard and those who can't stand being surrounded by stuff.

I'm somewhere in between.  Most of us let stuff pile up and then have an occasional purge.

But if things upset us now (for example, something precious from a deceased relative), why not put it in a memory box and put it away safe in the knowledge that it may one day offer great comfort?

Sometimes we need to visit the bad stuff because there are often good memories attached.  Why is so much importance put on headstones in graveyards?  A bit macabre possibly but you get my point.

I suspect konmari-ing is a trend but for some it's going to cost them a fortune.  Because I'll guarantee in less than a year, they will regret some of the things they've discarded and will be replacing them.

There is some great advice in Marie Kondo's book but I think we need to keep things in perspective.

Now I'm off for a coffee to see if my kettle sparks a bit of joy.

Actually, you know what,  it does!  Think I'll keep it.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

What Are The Top Ten Most Requested Xmas Gifts By UK Kids This Year?

Royal Mail has revealed this year’s top ten most wanted presents asked for by children in their letters to Santa and, unlike most toy surveys in the run up to Christmas, these findings come directly from the children themselves.

Santa with kids on his knee
Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons

Santa’s helpers at Royal Mail, who have been helping him with his mailbag for 53 years, analysed a number of children’s letters before sending them on to him at the North Pole.

The special letters also reveal the range of questions children ask Santa including; “how many mince pies do you eat around the world?” and “do you like being Santa?”

Traditional toys hold the top three spots for the second year in a row. The results show that the most popular toy is Lego, which has retained its top spot from last year.

It has also remained in the top three since 2013. Scooters have made a new entry as the second most popular Christmas wish in 2016. This is followed by bikes, which have dropped down into third position.

Mobile phones are still proving popular, with Paw Patrol as the fourth and fifth most popular request of Christmas 2016.

There were also a number of other new entries including Pie Face Showdown, Star Wars Spin Action Lightsabre and Barbie 3 Storey Townhouse making entries at number seven, eight, and nine respectively.

Furby Connect has made a comeback as a new entry at number 10 having last been seen in Royal Mail’s list as the most wanted toy in 2012.

The top ten most requested toys of 2016 are:

Mobile phone
Paw Patrol
Air Patroller Nerf Gun
Pie Face Showdown
Star Wars Spin Action Lightsabre
Barbie 3 Storey Townhouse
Furby Connect

Questions for Santa

The special letters also show that many children like to ask Santa questions instead of just asking for the latest toy as a gift. Some of the questions that children have asked Santa this year are:

How do you deliver all the presents in one night?
How many mince pies do you eat around the world?
How old are you?
How many elves do you have working for you?
Do Rudolph and the reindeers like carrots?
How many children do you deliver presents to?
Do you like being Santa?

Letters to Santa

If your children are going to write to Santa this year, make sure you get your letter to him by by no later than 9 December 2016.

Make sure you write to him using the correct address on a stamped envelope and send the letter to:-

Santa/Father Christmas Santa’s Grotto Reindeerland XM4 5HQ

Don’t forget that Santa needs to know the full name and address of your children to reply so please include this in the letter.

Christmas is a very busy time of year and Santa will respond to as many letters as possible, in between getting the sleigh ready for the long journey on Christmas Eve.

Visit Royal Mail’s special letters to Santa webpage at www.royalmail.com/letters-to-santa

Last Posting Dates

The last posting dates are;

Tuesday 20 December 2nd Class and Royal Mail Signed For®
Wednesday 21 December 1st Class and Royal Mail Signed For®
Thursday 22 December Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed®

Further information is available at www.royalmail.com/greetings

Get the kids writing now to avoid any disappointment.

Friday, 25 November 2016

My Problem Page - What Was I Asked In Week 47

This week I'm talking about whether nagging wives and girlfriends are a fact of life and whether you should put up with critical, fault finding husbands and boyfriends. Plus, why you do need to ask at least some questions when you're on a date.

woman leading a man by the hand down an alley

If you would like any advice, feel free to message me or pop a comment in the comment box at the end of this post. I promise to be gentle.

Here's this week's questions.

Q: My husband cheated on me while I was pregnant and living apart from him for work reasons. His visiting sister hid his acts from me, including his intention to get a divorce. Was this morally wrong of her?

A: No. She’s his sister and it was only natural that she should protect her brother. 

My question to you would be why are you focusing on the sister and not the scumbag of a husband? He is the one who should bear the brunt of your anger and I’m curious that he doesn’t seem to be. 

Do you think that if his sister had told you things would be different? Do you think she put the idea of a divorce into his head somehow? 

Some men do cheat when their partners are pregnant - but these men are usually immature and desperate for attention. They will claim that it’s unfair that sex is no longer on tap. 

You don’t say how long you were apart from your husband but is it possible you are blaming yourself for being away too long? 

Was the distance so great that you could not meet up regularly? Have you invested more in your work than your marriage? 

Were there problems before your pregnancy? Did your husband actually want this baby? 

You see I think there are a whole host of issues here you need to work through with close friends or even professional counselling. Even better if you can work through this with your husband if he is to be a part of your child’s life. 

By the way, I hope that he will be - despite his dreadful behaviour, that is no reason to cut him out of his child’s life. 

Rather than focus on his sister, I think you need to be gentle with yourself but take steps to talk to your husband to try to understand how you have both ended up in this difficult situation.

Q: For how much time can a married man be separated from his wife before he cheats?

A: Do you mean actually separated, as in taking a break from the marriage -in which case it may technically be classed as cheating but if the relationship has broken down to that extent, it may be the final death knell to the marriage. 

Or, do you mean being physically separated - for example travelling on business or a lads’ holiday? 

If the latter then the question of time is irrelevant. Men are not animals who spontaneously combust if they don’t get sex. 

The question has more to do with the state of the marriage and whether the man is happy in it than it does with some primeval urge to sow seed across the continents. 

It sounds as if there are trust issues here which need to be aired. And if you suspect cheating has already taken place, an urgent discussion is needed. 

There are those who say that “if it’s offered on a plate, most men will take it” and there are some men like that. Equally there are some women like that. 

I’m not sure gender is the issue here. But trust, honesty and fidelity in a marriage are.

Q: Should I bother staying with my boyfriend?

I’m in a great relationship but my boyfriend is having no luck at his job and is thinking of moving. He said that we can stay together until he leaves or we can cut it short. I wish we could work this out but his mind is made up. I don’t know what to do.

A: First off, it’s not a great relationship is it? 

Your boyfriend is basically telling you he is leaving without any discussion or consideration to your feelings. 

What is he saying - that you should stay around, presumably for sex, until he is ready to fly off to his next destination? 

It is quite clear he does not consider yours to be a long-term relationship - “we can cut it short”?! 

That is incredibly self-centered and arrogant you know and I wonder why you consider this man to be such a great catch. 

In your shoes I would say, “yes, I don’t want to waste any more of my time, I’ve better things to do” and leave him. Have some pride and dignity - you are worth more than that. 

With his attitude it’s little wonder he is having problems at work. And I can’t see things improving.

Cut your losses while you can.

Q: Why do wives/girlfriends get mad at their husbands/boyfriends for any little thing that they say?

A: They don’t. That’s a comic book type stereotype that should have gone out with the ark. 

If wives / girlfriends get mad then there’s usually a very good reason and rather than lumping them all into one homogenous pile, better to look at your relationship and work out what it is you’re doing that’s so annoying. 

The basic relationship skills apply across all genders and age groups - courtesy, honesty, open communication, listening without pre-judging and taking how someone is feeling into account. 

This really isn’t a gender issue.

Q: How many women out there continue to live with their husbands who always give them negative comments about themselves and then apologise later? 

A: Many, I suspect. But I think you need to be clear. 

Are you saying your husband is an emotionally abusive man who constantly belittles you and makes you feel worthless? 

That requires action to build up your confidence and decide whether you want the marriage to continue. 

For example, couples counselling might be required to unravel the causes of the husband’s unreasonable behaviour and why his wife continues to endure it. 

But, if your husband is like many other men - a bit set in his ways, has strong opinions on certain matters which causes occasional conflict, then that’s quite normal I think. 

Do you criticise him? Do you make negative comments too? 

Sometimes it’s also easy to forget our own role in these situations. It sounds like some straight talking is needed. 

Q: What does it mean when you are on a date, and your date ask more questions about you then you get to ask about her?

A: It means your date is either more outgoing than you are, or more likely, they are incredibly nervous. 

It also sounds as if your conversation skills need improving. 

Could you not say “but enough about me, tell me about you”? 

Why not think of a few questions to ask before you go - you are interested in this person, aren’t you? 

It may be, of course, that they have issues and have been badly treated in the past. 

What sort of questions are they asking? If they are general then that’s one thing, but if your date is asking for the ins and outs of your last relationship, I’d be more wary. 

Are they asking you some “big” questions - do you want kids - for example? 

I’m guessing you are quite new to the dating scene - in which case practice makes perfect. But you won’t come across as very attractive if you sit there too scared to open your mouth. 

You want a dialogue. Not a monologue.

How would you have responded to these questions? I'd love to know. You can find more advice on my problem page.

All materials included in this post are intended for informational purposes only. This post/information is not intended to and should not be used to replace medical or psychiatric advice offered by physicians or other health care providers. The author will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages arising therefrom.

New Releases, Free & Bargain Books Link-up Week 47

New Releases Free & Bargain Books Link-up Badge

How are you all this week?  It's Black Friday so I'm hoping you haven't all maxed out your credit cards.  Among the usual bargains, there are the cheeky gifts where the price has actually gone up! You really do have to read the small print, don't you!

Still, if you want some true bargains, you've come to the right place and there's plenty to choose from on this week's link-up.

Don't forget that I still have plenty to be won on my competitions page and don't forget my problem page here.

Happy bargain and freebie book hunting on this link.

Have a great week!

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

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 
Beck Valley BooksCinnamon Hollow Reviews
Miki's Hope | Nicki's Nook
Ebook Addicts | I Love Romance | Mother Distracted | Colorimetry | The Ultimate Fan Blog
Totally Addicted to Reading | 3 Partners in Shopping | Angie's Angle I Create Purty Thangs | Wishful Endings
Lynchburg Mama | LibriAmoriMieiAli - The Dragon Slayer | Wondermom WannabeDeal Sharing Aunt | Rambling Reviews 

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 weeks awesome selection!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Parent Only Zones: Romantic Destinations For Those Who Badly Need A Break

Parental life can be a joy. But it can also be very difficult to manage at times too. With school, clubs and shopping, the daily schedule with kids can be demanding.

What’s more many family holidays don’t exactly meet the criteria of having a “break.” Parents have to get up super early on the day of the flight. They have to organize all of the packing. And they have to come up with an itinerary that suits their kids. It’s not exactly what you might call relaxing.

This is why a parents-only break is so important. Parents need a break to recharge their batteries to re-energize themselves for the new school year. Having a break can actually help to reinvigorate family relationships so that they don’t feel so strained.

So where can parents go, and what can they do to escape the stresses of family life? Let’s take a look.

Key West, Florida

Key West Florida
Image credit: Pixabay

Key West is one of Florida’s quaintest towns. It has some of Florida’s best beaches for parents to stroll along late into the evening. And it also plays host to some of the area’s most beautiful quays.

There’s plenty to do on the town’s palm tree-lined streets. Here you’ll find world-class restaurants, gingerbread mansions, and cafes right on the sidewalk. Oh, and don’t forget the balmy weather too. The early summer is the best time to pay a visit.

Cancun, Yucatan, Mexico

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Cancun is one of the most interesting geological areas in the world. It’s believed that the Cancun area is the place where the meteor that killed the dinosaurs landed. The whole of the Yucatan is like one giant crater, hundreds of miles across. Today there’s very little evidence that anything cataclysmic ever happened here. Cancun is lined with beautiful beaches and has a youthful exuberance about it.

The city itself is world famous as a resort. It’s got attractions here for all different types of couples. Here you’ll find a mix of beach parties as well as long lonely beaches for people who want to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.

The Mekong, Cambodia

Boat on the Mekong River, Cambodia
Image Credit: Flickr

The Mekong River is the most famous river in southeast Asia, as well as one of the most beautiful. Since ancient times, the river has been an artery of trade in the area. Today, it’s still contributing to the local economy as a tourist hotspot. All day the river is patrolled by cruise boats from companies like Imagine Cruising. Along the banks of the Mekong, you’ll pass through some of the most important ancient sites on Earth. Among them is the world-famous Angkor Wat, the sprawling temple complex surrounded by jungle. You’ll also visit some of the area’s charming local towns and their floating markets. Tour guides are passionate about their country’s history, so you’re bound to learn something here too.

The Mekong is famous all over the world for it’s stunning, romantic sunsets. Don’t forget to settle down in the evening over a glass of wine and watch the crimson sky turn dark.

St Lucia, Caribbean

Bay in St. Lucia
Image credit: Pixabay

St Lucia is an ideal place to reignite the passion in a stale marriage. Here you’ll find the island’s characteristic blend of idyllic beaches and fun activities.

The island is also home to some fascinating history. The former plantations of the island are now centers for cooking, eating and celebrating Caribbean food. Alongside many of the former plantations are beautiful jungles and waterfalls that can be explored on foot. If you pay a visit to St Lucia, don’t forget to pack your walking boots. It’s the perfect place for parents to get lost in nature and find stunning new, romantic locations.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was one of the most beautiful cities in America - and that’s saying something. But today, ten years on from the disaster, the city has regained much of its charm. One of the best parts of the city for parents is the French Quarter. Here you’ll find atmospheric music as well as juke joints and Blues bars.

There’s also opportunities to see the city by horse and carriage, just like in the old days of the West.

Mykonos, Greece

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mykonos is one of the world’s most popular island destinations - and that should come as no surprise. The island is widely considered to be a romantic paradise, looking out over the Aegean Sea. You can watch the sunset here from under the island’s famous hillside windmills. And after that, you can shuffle off to one of the island’s many traditional romantic restaurants.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Tips To Avoid A Christmas Debt Hangover

It's very easy to get so carried away with budgeting for Christmas presents, decorations and a delicious Christmas lunch that we can forget that we still need to meet our December and January household bills.

Christmas tree

We've been saving a little each day towards the cost of Christmas using Skintdad's 52 Week Saving Challenge which helps you save around £650 by saving the same number of pennies as the number of the day in the year.  So, on 1st January you save 1p, 2nd January 2p, 1st February 32p and so on.

I would highly recommend trying this out next year and we will certainly be repeating the exercise, but that doesn't help with the general household bills and the costs of things that can go wrong, like the heating, the boiler, or the car.

The chances are, as soon as the cold weather hits, anything that's about to break down or leak will start to do just that and, unless you have a savings 'cushion' you're left to find the funds to put things right.

Most insurance deals now offer emergency cover for this kind of thing and it is certainly worth shopping around when you renew your policy to see if this extra protection can be added on cheaply. Don't forget to do your comparisons though using a search engine like gocompare.com.

If your car won't make it through the winter and you need finance to purchase another one, make sure you do your research and use a site with a car finance calculator.  That way you'll be clear about exactly what the true cost of your loan is and whether the repayments are manageable.

Here are some other things that might help.

Plan for Next Christmas as early as possible

As I mentioned above, simple savings plans like Skintdad's can provide you with a nice safety cushion to cover the costs of the big day.  It's obviously a bit late now - but you can at least console yourself that Christmas 2017 will be paid for.

Don't blow all your December pay packet on Christmas

Easier said than done if you've bills to cover!  Lots of companies pay their staff earlier in December - at least a week earlier - and it's easy to spend on luxuries and extra presents because you're in the Christmas spirit.

Remember, it needs to cover you to the end of January - a looooong 6 weeks away.

Make sure you don't miss vital payments like your mortgage.

Missed mortgage payments are likely to get you into very hot water, not only by denting your credit score for future loans but with your lender.  Meeting these is far more important than new fairy lights or a state of the art TV to watch Christmas telly on.

christmas presents wrapped in brown paper

Talk to your bank if you need an overdraft

Don't get clobbered by high interest rates because you have not agreed an overdraft.

Use credit cards wisely

Credit cards can offer protection if you purchase goods costing over £100 because, if you have a complaint against the retailer, the credit provider can also be liable. But, the best advice is to pay off your credit card in full every month to avoid interest charges, or shop around to see if you can find good balance transfer deals.  Don't forget, though, that credit is generally an expensive way of paying.

Similarly, don't take out extra store card which often have very high rates of interest, or extended finance schemes which you might struggle to pay back come spring.

Manage the kids' expectations

It's best to be upfront with kids who are pretty good at understanding when money is tight.  Tell them that Santa will be bringing them one special present this year rather than promising the full Christmas list.

Share the costs with your family

Are you the one who always organises Christmas?  If you have siblings (and it won't cause a riot) try to agree to rotate the festive hosting between you.  If you're cooking Christmas lunch, get your family to bring another course, or a Christmas cake, mince pies or wine.

Budget for nights out

It's easy to budget for presents and food but forget all the extras that come with drinks after work and things like taxis back and forth from office parties (those were the days!).  Then there's your office party outfit, Secret Santa presents and tubs of Quality Street to keep your colleagues happy.  Don't forget to add an allowance for these 'incidentals' and try to stick to it.

With a bit of planning and some positivity you will hopefully be able to rein in the excessive spending which can grip us all at Christmas and face the New Year without a Christmas debt hangover.

If you need advice about your financial situation now, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau who can help.

Children Draw The Invisible Carbon Monoxide Monster - But Would You Recognise It?

Shocking new research reveals the risks some UK families are taking when it comes to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

More than a third of UK homes (33.9%) aren’t fitted with a CO alarm (approximately 9 million homes) and only 6% of Brits can identify the most common symptoms of CO poisoning.

Lara's Carbon Monoxide Monster

One in 10 UK parents wrongly think you can smell a CO leak and only half the UK (51.5%) know that a solid fuel or gas fire can be a potential cause of CO poisoning.

One in 10 private renters (9.7%) who should legally have a CO alarm, haven’t had one fitted.

For this year’s Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week (21st November - 27th November), the energy company npower has released findings from its annual carbon monoxide (CO) research to highlight how at risk the UK could be from CO poisoning.

Freddie's Carbon Monoxide Monster
The results show there is a clear disparity between the UK’s awareness of CO poisoning and the UK’s actual understanding of what the symptoms are, which appliances can be a cause and also what people should do if they suspect they are suffering from CO poisoning.

The research also sheds light on how British parents could be worryingly underprepared to spot cases of CO poisoning. Despite 95 per cent of UK parents (95.3%) saying they know CO poisoning can be fatal, less than five per cent (4.3%) are actually able to correctly identify the most common symptoms.

Dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, tiredness and confusion, stomach pain, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are the most common symptoms of CO poisoning. But, one in six people (15.7%) think a metallic taste in your mouth is a symptom and one in five (17.3%) think a fever would be a symptom.

Further cause for concern is that one in eight of us (11.6%) wrongly think you can smell a CO leak, and one in 10 Brits (10.2%) admit they would have absolutely no idea how to identify a CO leak.

Each year in the UK over 200 people are admitted to hospital with suspected CO poisoning and around 50 people die unnecessarily from it.

Alik's Carbon Monoxide Monster

This new research suggests people in the UK are unaware of what the symptoms of CO poisoning are, so the true number of people affected could potentially be much higher.

Carbon monoxide is completely invisible, it has no smell and no taste, so the only definitive way to detect a leak is with a CO alarm, but despite this only two thirds of UK homes (59.2%) have one installed.

The top three reasons people gave to justify not having a CO alarm were: ‘I’ve never had one before’ (28.3%), ‘It’s on my to-do list, I just haven’t done it yet’ (28.1%) and ‘I don’t think I need one’ (22.5%).

To raise awareness of this silent killer, Carbon Monoxide, npower asked 6 children to draw what they thought the deadly gas would look like if it wasn't invisible -"The Invisible Carbon Monoxide Monster".  A group of talented designers then interpreted the children's drawings and brought them to life.

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood don't burn fully, so incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or poorly ventilated household appliances like boilers, cookers and fires – both gas and solid fuel, can all be causes of CO poisoning.

Between 1995 and 2015, only 35 per cent of deaths from CO poisoning were actually from mains gas appliances or heating. It was in fact appliances that burn solid fuel, portable gas bottles and, petrol and diesel that represented the majority of the remaining 65 per cent. However, when respondents were asked which household appliances could be a cause of CO poisoning, only half (51.5%) know that a solid fuel or gas fire can be a potential cause.

The research also shows that almost six per cent (5.9%) of us have never had our boilers serviced, which could be around 1.5 million homes. And, one in 10 people who live in privately rented accommodation (9.7%) who legally should have had a CO alarm fitted by their landlord (because their rented home has an appliance that burns, or is capable of burning solid fuel), do not have one installed.

When respondents were asked what they would do if they thought they were suffering from CO poisoning, only two thirds (69.8%) said they would go to hospital.

If you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from CO poisoning, you need to turn off the fuel source and get medical treatment immediately.

Installing carbon monoxide alarms and getting your boiler serviced should also be carried out with all due speed - especially during the festive period when more time than usual may be spent at home.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Christmas Crafting With Bostik

Despite the fact that it's only the end of November, the kids have gone full on "Christmas".  Caitlin and Ieuan have already recorded their Christmas song in school (reindeer antlers obligatory).

Caitlin opening the Bostik craft box

This year it's Slade's Merry Christmas Everybody and I have already had to reassure the pair of them several times that, yes, Noddy Holder really is still alive.

This month, in our role as "Bostik Bloggers"  (I'm not sure they know what they've let themselves in for), we were sent another box of gorgeous crafting supplies and trusty Bostik Glue Dots and Glitter Pens.  The theme this month is, not surprisingly, Christmas.

Ieuan holding polystyrene ball and Christmas tree

Ieuan's approach to crafting is very serious (slightly worrying shades of Kanye West). He knows what he wants to do and that's it.

Caitlin, on the other hand is like a magpie, playing with colours, textures and anything glittery.

Bostik Glue Dots & Glittery Pens

Luckily with Bostik products, there's no mess to clear up afterwards.  We used Bostik White Glue as well because it's strong enough to cope with paper crafting and quicker than using the Glue Dots.

Caitlin & Ieuan making a Christmas card together

While you're crafting you might like to create your ideal Christmas playlist on Spotify or iTunes.

Ieuan's Christmas card
Ieuan's masterpiece
Here's my top ten - and I'm sure there will be no surprises.

1. All I Want For Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey
2. Merry Christmas Everybody, Slade
3. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues / Kirsty McColl

Homemade Christmas gift tag

4. Little Drummer Boy - David Bowie / Bing Crosby
5. White Christmas - Bing Crosby
6. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday - Wizzard

Caitlin's homemade Christmas card
Caitlin's Christmas Card
7. Wonderful Christmas Time - Paul McCartney
8. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - Jackson 5
9. Driving Home For Christmas - Chris Rea
10. Sleigh Ride - The Ronettes

As an extra plus, all that music tends to drown out the sound of sibling bickering.

Happy Christmas crafting!
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