January 2017 | Mother Distracted

A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Monday, 23 January 2017

How to plan a budget friendly family holiday in Spain

Many of us are seeking to avoid the grey days of January by planning our family summer break.  Just the thought of warm sun and blue seas is enough to cheer anyone up.

But with January's credit card bills about to plop onto the mat (or inbox), there's Christmas to be paid for first.

It's all a financial balancing act, isn't it?

Cala de la Grandella beach in Spain
Image credit: Cala de la Granadella
But there are ways you can plan your family summer break now without breaking the bank.

Agree on a destination that suits everyone

There's no point booking to tour the mountains if your teens prefer to lie on the beach listening to their iPods.

And older relatives probably won't want to stay in a noisy resort.

Sit down with the whole family and agree on a destination that has something for everyone such as Spain.

Spain is the number one destination choice for family holidays in Europe and it's easy to see why.

The country is renowned for its long sandy beaches and has over 300 days of sun a year.

There are many beautiful cities such as Barcelona, Madrid and Seville and renowned cultural sites like the Moorish Alhambra Palace in Granada which is an Unesco World Heritage site or the Guggenheim Bilbao gallery designed by Frank Gehry.

Image credit: Barcelona Cathedral

Then of course there's the food - tortilla, cured meats (jamon, chorizo, salchichón), Spain's famous bean stews, paella, the seafood and the wine!

Create a budget

It's easy to get carried away so create a budget which takes into account all the incidentals - airport taxes, transport to and from your resort, day trips, eating out, souvenirs, additional mobile phone charges....

That way you can prevent too many nasty shocks when you get home.

You may find that you need to compromise - say on the quality of your accommodation or on your airfares but there is plenty of great budget accommodation to be found, particularly if you are going self-catering.

Personally, I prefer to rent the best quality accommodation I can and then cut back on meals out or package day trips if need be.

The Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain
Image credit: The Alhambra Palace, Granada
Interestingly, the latest figures from the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (ine.es) show that British tourists to Spain spent an average of €130 per day on their holidays in 2016 (between January and November) with approximately one third of that being spent on travel (flights) and accommodation and another third being spent on food and activities.

That puts the cost of an average 10 day break at €1300 or £1128 according to the current exchange rate.

A great incentive to start seeing where you can cut some costs!

Go off peak

This is a huge bone of contention with parents of course and most of the time it is just not possible if you don't want to risk the censure and possible fines of your local education authority!

All you can do is be as canny as possible with your budget and try to save as much as you can by booking well ahead and giving yourself plenty of time to save.

Spanish Paella
Image credit: Spanish Paella

Don't forget travel insurance

If there's one area you definitely shouldn't scrimp on it's travel insurance.  You hear so many horror stories about holiday makers who have been taken seriously ill and left stranded because they do not have the money to pay for their medical care.

Make sure you have a valid European Health Medical Insurance Card which gives you the right to have state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland. The card covers treatment that is medically necessary until your planned return home. Treatment should be provided on the same basis as it would to a resident of that country, either at a reduced cost or, in many cases, for free.

Check your passports now

Are your passports in date?  We are all familiar with the logjams that tend to hit the passport office toward peak holiday season and the rush to either get to your local office or a hefty extra charge to get your renewal sorted out in time.

Go self catering

Personally I am a huge fan of self catering and it would always be my first choice where family accommodation is concerned.

You can come and go as you please.  You don't have to eat out or eat at times that don't suit you and you don't have to leave your room to let house-keeping in!

You also don't have to worry about little ones making a noise and there's no competition for sun-loungers around the pool.

Spain-Holiday.com is the leading holiday rental website for Spain and it has 1000s of family-friendly villas and apartments to choose from.  You can even contact the owners direct with any special requirements you may have.

You can even refine your search for a holiday rental property according to the distance from the beach.

Join up with another family

You can save costs by booking a joint holiday with another family.  I'd make sure that you really get on though, but you could take it in turns to babysit, cook or do the driving.

Shop locally and eat in

Experience the authentic Spain by shopping at the local markets and trying some of the local produce.

For example, there's Feria, Seville's oldest food market which sells produce in two market buildings beside a beautiful 13th century church.

Or then there's Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, Barcelona where you can see hanging jamons and pass fresh fish stalls as you make your way to sample fresh tapas at one of the bars near the back of the Boqueria.

Whatever type of holiday you are looking for, Spain has loads to offer and there are plenty of opportunities to keep your budget on track.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

I've Taken The LighterLife Fast Blogger Challenge

Weight is such a subjective thing, isn't it?  There's the weight we are supposed to have for optimum health and then the personal weight we have where we feel at our best.

Many of us fall over both of these figures on the weighing scales.
Lighterlife Fast shake & my weight
My starting weight at 10 st 3lbs
There are acres of material on the subject of diets.  A new trend appears every few months or so which generally requires an expensive trip to the supermarket to stock up on Quinoa, Kale and, given the current 'national courgette shortage', the humble rival to the cucumber.

But who has time for all that?  And if you struggle with your cooking mojo, you really aren't going to whip up something with miso, fish stock and noodles when the kids are demanding fishfingers.

My interest in the 5:2 diet (or intermittent fasting as it is otherwise know) began when I read that eating this way has greater implications for our health than the other diets I have come across.

It is claimed that intermittent fasting can

*increase lifespan
*improve cognitive function
*protect against conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
*protection from disease in general.

Intermittent fasting is where you eat around 500 calories for 2 days a week and then eat 'normally' for the remaining 5.

The jury, of course, is out as usual but logic tells me that most of us eat far too much.

Even as long ago as 1600, the physician Thomas Moffet had this to say:-

"Men dig their Graves with their own Teeth and die more by those fated Instruments than by the Weapons of their Enemies."

You get the feeling this is really not a new problem, don't you?

I am currently 10 stone 3lbs which is about 7lbs over where I would like to be.  I'm actually a stone heavier now than I was on my wedding day on 25th November 2011 and now I am on the brink of Menopause, I am aware that weight loss might be more of a challenge than it was previously.

All of which is a rather long preamble to say that I have currently taken on the LighterLife Fast blogger challenge to try their 5:2 Weight Loss Made Easy Diet where you simply choose from 4 out of a wide selection of their products including soups, shakes, ready meals and bars.  

They say that a combination of any 4 of their products will give you 100% nutrition - i.e. 100% of the recommended intake of vitamins and minerals with plenty of protein and fibre.

LighterLife Fast is a 5:2 range designed to maintain your weight or help you lose 1 or 2lbs a week, so a small and steady weight loss programme.

The products are exclusive to Superdrug and you can buy them online.

I will be taking on this challenge for one month and tomorrow sees my third fasting day (or the first fasting day of my second week).  I am fasting every Monday and Thursday which leaves the weekend clear for 'normal' family meals.

Selection of LighterLife Fast products

Here's what I've found so far:-

* you don't feel hungry and it doesn't feel like fasting
* the products taste good and there is sufficient variety to get you through the day
* you have to resist the urge to eat extra the next day to make up for your deprivation!
* you need to have pretty strong motivation to stick to it.
* it's a bit odd not eating when the rest of the family are tucking in to regular meals.

This is the ideal diet, I suggest to try before a special event like a wedding or in preparation for hitting the beach this summer.

I'll be reporting back to let you know how I've got on and I'm hoping that this way of eating might be something I can do on a longer term basis.

We'll see.

How Being An Optimist Helps You Win

Don't you find you are naturally drawn to optimistic, upbeat people?  I do.  Well some of the time at least.

I am aware, though, that maintaining a "glass half full" outlook is probably better for me than being a Mrs Mardy-Guts.

Founder of www.vavistalife.com, Health Expert and NHS weight loss consultant surgeon Dr Sally Norton spells out the benefits of optimism below.

Happy group of people jumping in snow

Many people see positivity as a genetic trait – something they are either born with, or not. In the same way that we might talk about our eye colour or height, many of us will describe ourselves as naturally optimistic or pessimistic.

However, your brain can change!

In the same way that we can train our brains to appreciate healthy food, we can train ourselves to have a more positive outlook on life.

When you find yourself thinking those negative thoughts about yourself, your circumstances, or even about others, STOP!

Instead, force yourself to think of three positive things instead – there will always be something. If you persevere with looking for the good, instead of the bad, it will become a habit.

It’s well worth the effort – the benefits of being more optimistic are now being recognised in numerous studies …

Improved heart health

According to a new study from the University of Illinois, having a positive outlook on life could provide you with better heart health.

The study of more than 5,100 adults, found that those people who were most optimistic, were twice as likely to be in ideal cardiovascular health, compared with their pessimistic counterparts, with significantly better blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Not only this, but the optimists were also more likely to be physically active and have healthier BMIs.

woman jumping for joy
Image credit www.vavistalife.com
More likely to succeed

You might think that succeeding would lead you to feeling happier, but in actual fact, it works the other way round.

Studies show that positivity and a happier outlook will increase your chances of success.

For example, did you know that ¾ of our success at work is linked to our optimism and how well we manage and deal with stress, rather than our IQ?

And being positive could help you to achieve better results in smaller tasks – in fact, studies have shown that people who are encouraged to think positively before a maths test actually did better than others!

Better chances of ditching the junk food

Struggling to lose that last half a stone? We all know that when we’re feeling negative, we instinctively turn to sugary and fatty foods that will give our bodies a quick burst of energy and feel-good hormones.

However, this is swiftly followed by a crash in our blood sugar levels – leaving us feeling even worse than before.

These junk foods also do little to help us lose any weight, adding to those negative feelings that left us reaching for the junk food in the first place!

So instead, try focusing on the positives – think about how hard you’ve worked so far, and how good you’ll feel when you finally reach your goal weight, and you’ll find those negative yearnings for junk food soon dissipate!

Chopped fruit and granola with strawberries

More likely to stick with your fitness goals

Thinking about fitness in a negative way will make you more likely to bail at the first opportunity.

Studies show that a positive frame of mind helps people to stick with their fitness regimes as well as their healthy eating goals.

Once you get exercising, that positivity is helped even more by the endorphins or feel-good hormones that exercise releases.

If you find that the thought of heading to the gym leaves you feeling miserable, then ditch the gym!

Try finding different ways you could keep fit – fitness classes, swimming, or brisk walks in the fresh air.

There’s something out there for everyone, and when you’ve found an activity that you really enjoy, those positive feelings will make you more likely to stick with it for the long-haul.

Some pretty good reasons to try to be less Eyore and more Tigger, I'm sure you'll agree!

Friday, 20 January 2017

Puressentiel Anti Lice Treatment Lotion & Spray - See Off Nits The Natural Way

Well 2017 started with an itch.

Yes, we succumbed to those pesky head lice and spent the days before the new term combing, spraying and basically trying to nuke the little critters with pretty much any solution we could get our hands on.

Even worse?  I got them.

And let me tell you if you have long-ish hair they are a nightmare.

If you have coloured hair, an additional joyous problem is that many of the chemical nit preparations on the market do a sterling job of stripping out your hair colour if you dye your hair.

This was our first time with the blight and we didn't really know much about them.

What are the signs of head lice?

If your child comes home complaining of an itchy scalp then it's time to start checking for "visitors" - particularly if the itchiness is behind the ears, near the nape of the neck and along the hairline.

Head lice are tiny insects that live in hair and nits are the empty egg cases attached to hair that head lice hatch from.

What does a louse look like anyway?

female human head louse
Image Credit: The Female Head Louse
A head louse is a small insect, visible to the naked eye, about the size of a sesame seed (2 to 3 mm), which lives on the scalp and feeds on human blood.

It has six legs armed with pincers used to cling to the hair, they move very quickly, which explains why it is so hard to catch them.

The exciting life of a louse

The life cycle of a louse lasts approximately 50 days during which female lice lay 5 to 10 eggs (nits) per day.

After a week, the egg hatches and the embryo becomes a larva, which will reach adulthood in 2 weeks.

The adult lice live for about 30 days on a person’s head. The lice multiply rapidly, so you must act quickly.

Head Lice Myths

Lice are a sign of poor hygiene.

No - getting head lice has nothing to do with your family’s hygiene habits. In fact, lice are very resistant to soap and water.

You should keep your kids home from school.

No - taking time off school is not necessary.

Although the back-to-school period is an ideal time for lice to spread due to close contact between children, the transmission of the lice occurs directly through contact between two children (touching hair).

There is also a slight chance of catching them by sharing combs and brushes.

Lice cannot fly, jump or survive longer than 4 to 36 hours away from the scalp.

So how do we get rid of lice?

Basically you can either use synthetic chemicals which can be harmful to the environment - and therefore possibly you (such as those formulated with dimethicone and silicone derivative) or lotions formulated with vegetable oils which are natural such as the Puressentiel Anti-Lice range which is guaranteed to be 100% natural.

Both methods aim to suffocate the lice but whilst the chemical formulae are aggressive, neurotoxic and irritating to the scalp, the natural versions coat the lice with greasy substances which obstruct their respiratory openings.

Over the past 10 years, research suggests that lice have in fact become resistant to the chemical anti-lice products which, given the hefty price tag some of them carry, is very frustrating indeed.

A natural way to get rid of lice

Puressentiel Anti-Lice Treatment Lotion on the other hand is made from essential oils and naturally active ingredients.

It was created by the French family-owned Laboratoire Puressentiel in 2005 - a company specialising in the design of aromatherapy and plant based organic products.

Lotions are considered to be more effective than shampoos because they are more concentrated. After all,  shampoos are diluted with water.

The lotion kills lice, larvae and nits safely and comes with a handy nit comb. You won't find any chemicals.  Its 100% natural formula contains plant oils such as coconut, calophyllum, jojoba, sunflower, sweet almond and castor, which act mechanically by obstructing the respiratory openings of the lice, larvae and nits.

The lice are unable to develop resistance due to the asphyxiation mechanism.

There are also essential oils of lavender, clove, tea tree, geranium, which are soothing and antiseptic, ideal for relieving scalp itching.

Its formula is gentle on hair and the environment, and leaves hair silky and shiny.

The applicator bottle is easy and practical to use and it has a fresh and pleasant fragrance, unlike some of the synthetic lotions.

It is suitable for use by adults and children over 3 years.

Best of all, it starts to work after only 10 minutes.

There is also Puressentiel Repellant Spray which offers effective protection against lice for up to 24 hours in the event of an outbreak.

It contains Citriodiol®, a 100% natural substance derived from lemon Eucalyptus essential oil which has a repellent action to rival its chemical rivals.

What did I think?

I found both products easy to use and loved that there was no harsh chemical smell.  I tested the anti-lice lotion exactly as instructed and found that it did not irritate my scalp.

Because it is an oil based product, you may find you need a shampoo for oily hair to wash it out effectively - and possibly more than one wash.

I used my usual conditioner afterwards, although you can just treat, wash and detangle using the nit comb provided.

The comb is of good quality and built to last - which is handy!

My hair was left in good condition without any lingering scent of the product and my scalp felt soother.

The kids tested the spray which, is easy to apply and comb through and doesn't leave the hair greasy.

Puressentiel Anti-Lice Treatment Lotion + Comb and Puressentiel Lice Repellant Spray are available at Boots, online at Amazon and currently 50% off at Lloyds Pharmacy in-store and online – currently priced at £6.49.

Puressentiel also offer a range of other natural products including their Purifying, Respiratory, Rest & Relax and Muscles & Joints ranges, as well as a selection of diffusers.

The company is committed to respecting nature by adopting an eco-responsible attitude, from the harvesting of the raw materials to the manufacturing of each of its products.

If you are looking for a safer, natural solution to the annoying problem of head lice, Puressential is well worth a try.

Find out more at www.puressentiel.com.  You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

*collaborative post

New Releases, Free & Bargain Books Link-up - Week 4 2017

New Releases Free & Bargain Books Link-up Badge

How are you all this week?  We're all back in the usual routine and missing the sun. Everything is so grey, isn't it?

I hope you all survived Blue Monday which is apparently the most depressing day of the whole year - unless you're locked in the Celebrity Big Brother House where every day seems to be equally awful.

Time to embrace a bit of Hygge and hunker down with hot chocolate, a blanket and a book.

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 | Colorimetry | The Ultimate Fan Blog Mother Distracted
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, 19 January 2017

My Problem Page Edition 3 2017

This week I'm talking about what to do when you can't agree about having children, what to do when the man you rejected for being a failure becomes a massive success and how to tell your girlfriend she has a moustache.

Mother Distracted Problem Page Edition 3 2017 Couple on plinth high up over city

If you would like any advice, feel free to treat me as your agony aunt. Just 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: Were you ever in love with someone who suddenly left with you without any explanation or closure and now hide their new relationship from you? Is the person ashamed at all? 

I feel like part of me has died inside and my health has faded so much in a year, I’m constantly torn between absolute hate and resentment for this person and the beautiful memories we shared. I’m not sure this would have went on so long had we not had a child together.

A: From your question it sounds as if your partner left you for someone else. Is that the case?

If so, the reason for their sudden departure is simply because they didn’t have the guts to tell you and couldn’t face the hurt they were about to inflict on you and your child.

Please don’t feel ashamed or that it was something you did wrong.

I know it is easy to bask in warm, fuzzy romantic memories but the harsh reality is that this person treated you incredibly badly.

I think you will heal and recover quicker if you acknowledge your anger and resentment and use that to make some changes.

Are you and your child adequately provided for? Do you know where your partner is - is he still in touch with his child?

I’m not sure if you are in the UK but here the CSA may help ensure he faces up to his responsibilities (although I am aware that this is not always a great success).

Do you have friends or family you can turn to for support and comfort?

You say that he hides his new relationship from you and I understand you want to see the woman who has taken him away but it won’t make you feel any better.

If anything she deserves your pity because if he did this to you, he could do it to her too.

Time to get strong again - reclaim your health and make sure you are provided for.

How is your child / children in all this?

They will not want to see their mum crumble (even though that is what you feel like doing).

They will want to see her take charge and ensure that their dad acts like a dad - even if he is a romantic waste of space.

A year is long enough to wallow. The pain will still be there but it’s time to get moving again.

Otherwise he will have won.

Q: How can I stop feeling awful about rejecting a guy (years ago) for not being successful enough when he's massively successful now? I'm now doing awful, career-wise.

A: Since he’s doing so well, it’s obvious your rejection didn’t hold him back and I wonder if you would feel so bad if your own career wasn’t in the doldrums.

Are you sure you aren’t projecting your own frustrations on to a past scenario?

You either have to let this go or perhaps drop him a line saying how pleased you are to see his current success.

There is a risk, of course, that he won’t be particularly thrilled to hear from you if he took your rejection badly but who knows, perhaps you’ll meet up and he can give you some career advice.

He might even know of some job opportunities for you.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

But don’t go on feeling bad. Concentrate on making your future brighter.

Q: How do I tell my girlfriend she has a moustache?

A: With great tact and sensitivity - assuming you really need to mention it at all because she will be well aware of her facial hair.

I’m assuming she already had this facial hair when you met? If it is a recent development, she made need to see a doctor to rule out something like polycystic ovaries.

Please do everything you can to help her keep her self-esteem. You could gently ask her if she has ever thought about removing her facial hair or talked to a doctor about it.

If we are just talking the odd straggler though then that is perfectly normal and your discomfort has more to do with your attitude to female body hair than hers.

Have others commented on her facial hair? If not, then I suspect the problem is yours, not hers.

Q: What should I do? I have been with my partner around 10 years and we moved abroad. I was promised work and am broke. He has money but struggles to help me. 

I was promised work here so I quit my old job and left my cat only to find that the job didn’t really exist. I can barely afford to go shopping (grocery) while he goes away to work for weeks. He gives me the equivalent of a part time job at minimum wage. If I leave the relationship I will have to start over with nothing

A: I am sorry to hear that you have been badly let down with your job.

I also wonder if you are staying with your partner simply for financial reasons.

Are there no part time jobs you could apply for? Waitressing, retail work, bar work?

It sounds as if you are sat around moping and just subsisting on the ‘pay’ your partner gives you.

A man is not a meal ticket you know.

It doesn’t matter if he’s away for weeks. That does not stop you taking a course, furthering your education, starting a business from home or seeking part time work.

It may not be the dream job you were hoping for but it’s better than waiting to be ‘rescued’.

You say you are abroad - have you had to learn a new language? If so, then there are books and nightclasses you could take.

You may meet some new friends which would lift your spirits.

Is there any reason why you couldn’t get another cat?

I would also suggest that before you make a drastic move to take up a job you make sure you have everything in writing - a signed employment contract.

Contractually, you may possibly have a claim against the firm who let you down but this should have been addressed when it became clear the job wasn’t there.

It’s time to make some big changes and living off your partner’s hand-outs isn’t making you happy.

I suspect your partner isn’t happy either at having to support you if you are making no effort to get another job and get your life back on track.

Why not write a list of everything you’d like to achieve this year and set a few goals for yourself. 

You’ll feel a whole lot better once you are taking some positive action.

Q: Should you still get married if you disagree on having children?

A: It’s a very personal decision which only you can make. 

What would be a mistake is to marry in the belief that the one who doesn’t want children will change their mind. 

Very often people don’t. 

Is it you or your partner who does not want children? Are there specific reasons? 

For example are their objections to do with finances or religion? Are there medical conditions which may be passed on through pregnancy? 

You really need to understand the objections and their origin to be able to assess whether an agreement can be reached. 

If having kids is a deal breaker for you and your partner is adamant that they do not want children, then, sad though it is, I would prioritise my own long term happiness and seek a partner to build a family with. 

It is better to have the conversation before you fork out for a wedding though. 

I’d also say that even if the other partner promises a ‘one day’ scenario when all their objections will be gone (they’ll be the right age, have money, etc), there is still no guarantee. 

Having children is for many a fundamental part of a relationship and if it is for you too then I’m not sure this particular relationship is the right one.

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

Disclaimer: 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.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Pay your kids to eat their greens? Try these tips instead.

We've all been there.  Sat at the table watching junior push two kernels of sweetcorn and one lonely green bean around the plate whilst trying to ignore the sound of retching.

It's a constant battle and one that can only be won by persistence and, possibly, according to a new survey, bribery.

Caitlin & Ieuan trying out Infruition Water Bottles
The terrible twosome trying out Infruition Water Bottles
We get to the stage where we will do anything to get the little blighters to ingest something that actually grew and later on I'll tell you my huge mistake when it came to getting those veggies into my kids.

But should we be bribing them with cash?  This is a suggestion that comes from Tam Fry, head spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum and honorary chairman of the Child Growth Foundation.

Fry's proposal comes hot on the heels of a YouGov survey last week that revealed some worrying statistics. One was that almost a third (29%) of parents in Scotland have abandoned adding greens to their children’s plate at some stage.

In a way, it’s unsurprising: in another 2015 study, only 21% of Scottish adults were said to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

And I'm sure the rest of the UK is no different.

Mr Fry's proposal is likely to divide opinion.

We know how good vegetables are for us and their importance in maintaining our health and avoiding diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes but this has little meaning for our kids at their age.

Of course, parents can be extremely devious at sneaking in veggies, hiding cauliflower under cheese sauce, for instance, or chopping tiny nuggets of vegetables into soups, quiches and casseroles.

The recently-launched Eat Better Feel Better campaign from Healthier Scotland aims to encourage parents to save money by eating healthier food. It also lists recipe ideas to ‘beat the teatime tantrums’, a downloadable Food Lab which introduces fun into the meal prepping process and information about healthy eating events throughout Scotland.

Or you might want to try smoothies. A "milkshake" can hide a multitude of fruit and veg plus, thanks to more sophisticated blenders these days, the fibre, vitamins and minerals remain intact.

To improve the taste, you can add real fruit, natural fruit juice or coconut milk to the blender along with your chopped vegetables.

Here are some tips you might want to try:

Superhero veg to the rescue

Give the vegetables superhero names - mad I know but we renamed spinach "carrot guardian" and Ieuan ate it. That might just be my son though.

Hide veg everywhere

Hide veg in as many sauces as you can. The Husband whips up a meatball sauce which contains any leftover veggies he finds in the fridge and the kids haven't cottoned on to this yet.

Soups and stews are your friend

The kids will eat soup if there's plenty of warm crusty bread to dip in it.

Don't fuss

If you create a battle of wills you'll be sat there a long time.

Model the behaviour you want to see 

You can hardly insist your kids eat their veg if you're a stranger to salad yourself.

Caitlin & Ieuan Hobbis
Well they seem to be growing ok....

Get kids to help with the cooking

Teach your kids about the importance of healthy eating by involving them in food preparation.  A home-made pizza is easy to make and can be decorated with veggies such as cherry tomatoes and peppers.

Make food portions manageable

Don't swamp their plates with huge portions.  It's easier to get the kids eating veg if you start off with small, manageable portions.  Notice I said 'easier'

Make food fun

.... although my Potato of Doom was not exactly a crowd pleaser

Linda Hobbis' Potato of Doom - A Jacket Potato In The Shape Of A Hedgehog
Look, I tried, OK?
Don't give up

Continue to serve up veg in the hope that they will eventually try them.

Play the long game

Remember they'll probably grow up to love veg.  After all you did, didn't you?

My biggest mistake?

Not serving them foods with home-made gravies and sauces early enough. It's too easy to serve up fish fingers, chips and peas with just a dash of tomato sauce, but they get used to 'dry' food.

If you can get them used to gravy then you're just a blender away from supplementing it with veggies.

Ieuan loves his gravy now and I wish I'd got him eating it a long time ago!

If all else fails, there are also numerous ranges of supplements such as Super Kids’ Vibrance, which is formulated by green food specialist Vibrant Health. This one was the winner of a 2016 Taste for Life Essentials Award and is packed with nutrient-rich greens, essential trace minerals and a high number of probiotics and digestive enzymes. It also provides a dozen vitamins, including A, C and D3.

Caitlin Hobbis eating Shepherd's Pie
Caitlin has no idea how many veggies she's eating
Ultimately, conditioning kids to eat their greens requires a conscious effort – and it’s best to get youngsters into the habit of munching veggies from an early age.

If you don't, you may well find yourself having to take Mr Fry's advice and cough up the cash - which in Ieuan's case would be very, very expensive indeed.

*contains some affiliate links

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Will You End 2017 Richer Or Poorer? Time To Plan Your Year With Saga

Readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of budgeting and putting a bit aside for a rainy day. This is something that the Husband and I drill into the kids on a daily basis.

There's nothing like teaching them the power of anticipation and the value of saving up for the things they really want.

Financial Planning - pile of pens and coins

I think I inherited this from my parents.  I can still hear dad's voice behind me when about to squander my pocket money on a copy of Jackie or some Black Jack chews (4 for a penny!). "You don't really need that, do you?" he used to say.

Mum and Dad were both born in 1939 just in time for World War II and having experienced rationing their attitude to saving is a lot more stringent than that of most Millennials.

When you're young you always think you'll live for ever and you really can't envisage the day when you'll need your pension - or what desperate circumstance might arise when you'll need to get your hands on some cash quickly.

Financial planning - Ieuan adding Minecraft to the family weekly shopping list
Minecraft is Ieuan's number one shopping item
When you become a home owner (which is increasingly looking a rather remote possibility for Caitlin and Ieuan), it is often a bit of a shock to be landed with bills for replacing a boiler, rewiring the electrics or fixing a leaky roof!

Equally, though, you don't want to spend your life always worrying about whether you should be enjoying yourself.  We are only here once (depending on your personal beliefs of course).

Life is too short to wallow in guilt about treating yourself occasionally.

Planning your financial year is the answer.  This January Saga are running the #SagaPlanYourYear Campaign.

Saga offers a range of products and services exclusively for the over 50s, including insurance, holidays, money and the UK's best selling monthly magazine.

They are encouraging us to pick up our pens and planners (some of us still haven't got to grips with Google spreadsheets) and create a budget which will cushion us against financial shocks whilst still adding a frisson of excitement to 2017.

And I'm sure we are all looking forward to a more exciting and happier year than 2016 which seemed to chiefly feature Brexit, the terrible war in Syria, the looming nightmare of Donald Trump and the grim reaper happily cutting swathes through celeb land.

Those of us over 50 are aware that retirement is, if not exactly looming on the horizon, something that needs thinking about.  Saving is pretty critical in these years and you really don't want to be dipping into your savings pot to fund large items of expenditure.

I'm sure most of us don't want to start taking out large, and often expensive, loans either.

One way to release funds for things such as home improvements like a conservatory or adapting a property to meet mobility needs, or that long promised cruise, is by equity release.

Now obviously you will want to make sure that you take independent financial advice to look at your finances as a whole and to plug any gaps which might need urgent attention - especially your pension and possibly funeral planning.

But equity release may well work for you. This is where you obtain funds derived from the value of your property whilst still being allowed to live there.

Saga helps those over 55 with its equity release service. Used sensibly, this can help you gain greater control over your finances.

So, what action points are on the Hobbis Family's planner?

Financial planning - Caitlin writes out the family financial plan
Caitlin plans to raise money by selling the family's endless supply of coat hangers
Here's our top 5.

Plan for Christmas

Still far and away our biggest expense.  This year we're trying to save £3 a day up to the first of December which should give us £996.

Pay Off Our Holidays

We have two weeks in Devon booked with Toad Hall Cottages and need to pay off the balance around March.

If our funds will stretch I'd like to take an extra week towards the end of the summer holidays (when everyone is in dire need of something to remove the boredom and boost the spirits!).

I'd also look to have a few shorter breaks and take a lot more day trips.

Budget for carpet

Just the word tends to make my soul sink but it has to be done.  We took all the carpet up hoping that wood floors would help with allergies and reduce dust.

They do, but the house creaks in the night like an old galleon and it's impossible to creep about without risking waking the kids.

Plus we're hoping to dampen the sound of our next door neighbour's occasional belief that he lives in a night club in Ibiza and ramps up the volume of his stereo accordingly.

We'll make sure we time our purchase around bank holidays and general sale periods when there are often great deals to be had.

Reduce our food bills

The key to this is menu planning and shopping list writing. It's something I'm still trying to discipline myself to do.

Otherwise it's too easy to wander round Tesco throwing 'things you fancy for tea' in a trolley which, 9 time out of 10, wouldn't make a nutritionist very happy.

Then there's Ieuan's "Mr Kipling" habit but since Mr Kipling's cakes are rapidly reducing to the size of microdots, it might be time to get baking again.

Save more by using vouchers and discount codes

If you avoid impulse buying and plan your purchases sensibly you can often save by buying through cash-back sites like Topcashback which is free to use.

So that's our top 5. I think it's a good idea to sit down with the family (and the kids!) and discuss financial objectives for the year.

It's never too soon for little ones to grasp that their parents have to work for their money and that there are some things which have to be paid for before Roblox, Minecraft and anything with a puppy printed on it.

Have you planned your financial year yet?

Monday, 16 January 2017

Review: The TomTom Touch Fitness Tracker - Sleek, Simple, Effective

There are so many fitness trackers on the market that I have to be honest here and say that the TomTom Touch Fitness Tracker hadn't crossed my radar, so to speak.

TomTom Touch Fitness Tracker

But I am very glad it has.

I am what you might call a spasmodic exerciser but although I am not a gym bunny, I do make sure that I am active every day.

As it turns out, the TomTom Touch tells me I am nowhere near active enough!

The TomTom Touch is a water-resistant and comfy-to-wear fitness tracker which sits in a flexible silicone strap that you wear like a watch.

It is a great gadget to use when you want to overhaul your daily routine to include more exercise.

It captures steps, active time, calories burned, heart rate and sleep time.  You can use it to measure your fat and muscle mass percentage and monitor your heart rate throughout the day to get an idea of your fitness level.

The TomTom Touch Fitness Tracker

You need to press a button to wake the screen up.  Then you scroll up and down on the front of the tracker unit to get to the other screens.

Swipe up for current step count, calorie count, distance travelled, last sleep duration and exercise duration.

Swipe down for the body fat scanner, heart rate sensor and exercise logger.

The TomTom Touch syncs with an online app to track your progress and for the body composition logger, the result can only be read on the app.

It is water-resistant so you could wear it in the shower but not go swimming wearing it.

The TomTom Touch does not have GPS so if you're looking for a tracker to go running outdoors with, this may not be the right choice for you.

I found the tracker great for my daily school run trips and family outings to our local parks and nature reserve.  I definitely found myself wanting to walk further to rack up those steps!

Mat, Caitlin & Ieuan Hobbis in Alexandra Park, Penarth
My Coaching Squad - Tough But Cute
This tracker has an optical heart rate sensor and a body fat scanner.

The heart rate monitor is only really designed to check your resting heart rate so, again, if you want to check your hart rate during vigorous exercise, you may need a different TomTom tracker.

I did struggle a little with the fat scanner.  To get it to work you have to place your finger on the sensor and hold it there for 10 seconds. You then get a reading of the amount of fat and muscle in your body which you can see on the app.

It took us a while to work out that your finger needs to be parallel to the screen rather than vertical and it sometimes takes a couple of attempts to get the tracker to acknowledge the reading.

It does this by giving you a tick if it has worked or a cross if it hasn't.

I was, I confess, mildly horrified by my fat reading of over 30% and if that isn't an incentive to back away from the Welsh Cakes, I don't know what is!

It also has a vibration motor, which can signal very basic call and text notifications from your phone.

The app "MySports' allows you to track your heart rate readings and set goals for your sport activity. via a selection of pie charts and graphs.

The only function I didn't use was the sleep function as I dislike the idea of wearing a tracker while I sleep but I may yet try it out for the odd "mum nap"!

Whilst this tracker may not set the world on fire, for those of us who are getting on track with fitness trackers, it's a great entry-level unit which doesn't cost the earth and presents the information in basic, but easy to understand ways.

Linda and Mum in The Star Inn, Dinas Powys
Training intensively at The Star Inn, Dinas Powys
I suspect that lots of the bells and whistles on some of the TomTom Touch's rivals wouldn't be used anyway.

An addition I would like to see which the FitBit Alta has is an alarm for when you have been sedentary for too long.

I also found the TomTom Touch very comfortable to wear and not too chunky to cause a problem with sleeves in coats and jackets.

It is a great little tool to literally have up your sleeve throughout the day to keep an easy on how mobile you are being.

It isn't a high fashion item but it does look quite stylish and it does have a comparable price tag with its rivals - £89.99.

One small gripe, although the battery charge is supposed to last up to 5 days, I found I had to recharge it every 3 days or so but the USB cable is permanently attached to my laptop so I can easily charge it each day if needed.

We found that using a fitness tracker is a great way to encourage the whole family to take more exercise - especially your kids.  You can talk to them about how much we should all be moving each day - the minimum being 5000 steps.

In summary I would say this is a great 'entry level' fitness tracker and ideal for someone who is flummoxed by too many bells and whistles and just wants something to "do what it says on the tin".

New Releases, Free & Bargain Books Link-up Week 3 2017

New Releases Free & Bargain Books Link-up Badge

How are you all this week?  I'm a bit late with the book linky this week and it will be resuming its usual slot on Fridays shortly.

We're all back in the swing of things and have managed to miss the snow.  If you were affected by the "Thundersnow" I hope it didn't create too much chaos for you.

Today is Blue Monday - the most depressing day of the whole year so you might want to lose yourself in some romance fiction or a great thriller. You'll certainly find these in this week's linky.

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 | Colorimetry | The Ultimate Fan Blog Mother Distracted
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!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

7 Tips For Surviving January 16th - "Blue Monday"

Welcome to Blue Monday.  I say this ironically, of course, because it is the day when the post-Christmas gloom hits us with full force.

We're cutting back on booze, ramping up our exercise and facing our failings head-on. Again.

Young woman with an umbrella walking through a suspended walkway

Yes, Blue Monday (16th January this year) is THE most depressing day of the year.

So how to survive it?  You can find my own tips here but here are some extra ideas to put the colour back into your cheeks.

TIP 1: Change your perspective

Clayton John Ainger, award winning author of The Ego's Code (Panorama Press £15.99) says that negativity is in fact, a very natural and normal process.

“By labelling negativity as bad, we provide it with more fuel. By changing our perspective on negativity and the meaning behind it will undoubtedly have a positive effect on your life. Feeling down is not meant to hinder you, it is there to learn from, so embrace your negativity and move on”  

TIP 2: Book a winter sun break

The summer months are the most popular time for sun holidays, but there are plenty of opportunities to escape to warmer, sunnier weather during the winter months. Booking a sunny break can increase your levels of serotonin which can make you feel more calm and focused as well as making you feel more productive when you return to normal life.

TIP 3: Book a staycation

If your bank balance doesn’t allow for an extravagant holiday abroad, why not book a long weekend away instead?  A change of scene will do all the family good and just a couple of days away can leave you all refreshed for a reasonable cost.  

TIP 4: Go back to bed

It is ok to admit you are having a blue day, so don’t bother trying to fight it! Once you’ve finished work for the day, transform your bedroom into a tranquil sanctuary where you can take the time and rest you need.

Stephen Volkins from Big Brand Beds has this sound advice.

“Make sure it is dark and a comfortable temperature with a source of light air flow, and remove light sources like TVs and LED clocks. Take a tip from Feng Shui and make your room softly curved and coolly coloured – avoid sharp angles and dominant colour schemes in order to calm the mind and spirit for a really relaxing night’s sleep.” 

TIP 5: Identify your negative thinking triggers

What sends your thinking into a spiral of negativity? Does seeing your friends going on great nights out on Facebook make you feel inadequate? Or perhaps you have some people in your life who are negative and that brings you down. It could even be the news on the TV before bedtime that send you to bed feeling unsettled or bad. Take some time to identify your triggers and then you will be able to avoid them.

TIP 6: Put the kettle on

Tea has a range of psychological and physical health benefits that can improve your wellbeing. The humble cuppa has been used for centuries across the world to help with relaxation, improve spirituality, nourishment and healing and there are many speciality teas which contain health promoting ingredients.

TIP 7: Challenge the rut

Carla Watson and Shelley La Mancusa, authors of Getting Out of a Rut (released 24th January ) suggest that the only way to combat self-improvement is to concentrate on who and what you surround yourself with. They say:

“It is hard enough sometimes for us to get out of bed in the mornings and shower ourselves with compliments, without the aid of other people commenting on the choices you make. A supportive network of friends and family is vital to achieving inner happiness and avoid negativity.” 

So there you have it - 7 more tips to cheer you up.  What coping strategies do you have for surviving Blue Monday?

*contains affiliate link

Friday, 13 January 2017

Staying Afloat In A Rising Tide Of Debt: Practical Tips That Will Give You a Lifeline

From time to time, we all go through periods when everything seems to be against us, and we just can’t make our money stretch far enough.

One minute you’re fine, the next you’re wondering what else could possibly go wrong. If you’re trying to stay afloat in a rising tide of debt, these practical tips will hopefully provide you with a lifeline. Stay strong. There are ways of getting out of debt, and getting your life back on track.

Image credit

Budgeting for life’s expenses

In life, there are certain things that are more costly than others. Planning a wedding, buying a house, raising children, caring for a pet, and running a car all cost money. Sometimes, being a responsible adult is an incredibly expensive business.

It’s wise to budget, even when you’re not anticipating parting with large sums of money. If you draw up a budget every month, it gives you a clear picture of how your finances are looking, and reduces your risk of overspending. Budgeting is even more essential when you’re saving for a deposit, buying wedding dresses, titanium rings, and top hats and tails, and paying for new school uniforms. If you’ve got an expensive few months ahead, make sure you get to grips with the sums.

Taking out and paying back loans

Many of us take out loans to cover unexpected costs or help towards home improvements, buying a new car or paying for a honeymoon.

If you are considering borrowing money, don’t rush into making a decision. It’s essential to compare offers you have on the table, and to ensure that you understand the terms of the agreement, and what it means for your finances going forward.

Make sure you can afford the repayments. If you fall behind, this can affect your credit rating, and you may face legal action. Once the repayment schedule begins, factor this into your budget. Try and avoid taking out loans with very high interest rates. You’ll end up paying much more than you borrowed, and you may find it difficult to keep up with the repayments.

Asking for help

If you’re in debt, the sooner you ask for help, the better. Debt can spiral out of control rapidly, and before you know it, it’s affecting every aspect of your life. See a financial adviser, and they will be able to help you to draw up a strategy.

If you have multiple debts, it may be advisable to take out a debt consolidation loan. Another option is to investigate an IVA (individual voluntary arrangement). Don’t be an ostrich. If you bury your head in the sand, the amount you owe will only increase. Sadly, this is one of those problems that won’t simply disappear with time.

A growing number of people are in debt. It’s always best to try and prevent getting into trouble, and budgeting is a really useful tool. If you’re already in debt, try and nip the problem in the bud. If you can clear debts quickly, there’s a much lower risk of you coming unstuck. When you’re in debt, you often find that the issue gets worse very quickly because of late payment and interest fees. Ask for help, and try and be open and honest with the people closest to you.

5 Classic Films To Watch This New Year & A Giveaway

Do you ever find that you can reel off a whole list of classic films that you have never actually watched?

You tell yourself that since they're classics they're not going anywhere and you can watch them whenever.

I do this all the time.

But one of my New Year's resolutions is to catch up on my classic film watching instead of the endless repeats of Midsomer Murders and Marple.

Here's a few of the ones I always say are on my "must watch" list but never make it to a screen in our house.

Read on because you can win the lot!


Classic film Westworld - DVD cover

The original classic stars Yul Brynner and Richard Benjamin and was the directorial debut of 'Jurassic Park' author, Michael Crichton.

Westworld is an old Wild West theme park where for $1,000 a day, vacationers can indulge their whims.

They can bust up a bar or break out of jail, visit a brothel or shoot down a gunslinger but it's all completely safe. The park's lifelike androids are programmed never to harm the customers but it doesn't stay that way.

A lawyer and businessman (Richard Benjamin and James Brolin) take a dream holiday to the newly opened technological paradise, but when one of the computerized gunslingers (Yul Brynner) malfunctions, they find themselves in a battle for their lives.

Westworld has currently been resurrected into a hit TV show which is gaining legions of new fans. Caitlin and Ieuan also love the Aquabats' take on it in the episode "Cowboy Android".

Get Carter

Classic films Get Cover DVD Cover

Who doesn't love Sir Michael?  I love The Italian Job but this acclaimed 1970s British thriller has somehow passed me by.

Michael Caine plays hardened gangster Jack Carter who returns to his hometown of Newcastle to find the truth behind the death of his brother. Since leaving Newcastle, Carter has made his name in London as a tough enforcer for his crime boss, Gerald Fletcher.

On hearing of his brother's death, Carter returns to Newcastle for his funeral and to investigate his suspicion that his sibling may have been murdered. After visiting local gangster Cyril Kinnear, Carter is threatened and advised to head back to London.

He refuses and descends further and further into the city's underworld as his investigations begin to pay off. His search is merciless, unrelenting and fraught with danger and it becomes clear that he will stop at nothing to exact his own brand of justice.


Classic films Goodfellas DVD Cover

Directed in 1990 by Martin Scorsese's 1990 GoodFellas tells the story of the violent life of actual gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), from his teen years on the streets of New York to his anonymous exile under the Witness Protection Program.

Scorsese shows us Hill's ruthless rise to power in the 1950s as well as his drugged-out fall in the late 1970s through cocaine use.

Dirty Harry

Classic films Dirty Harry DVD Cover

Produced in 1971, Dirty Harry is the first in the series of films featuring Clint Eastwood as Lieutenant Harry Callahan - a right wing, bad-tempered San Francisco policeman, not averse to bending the rules to get his man. The maniacal 'Scorpio Killer' is on the loose and Callahan disregards procedure in his efforts to track him down, using his trusty Magnum .44 to dispense his own brand of justice.

Strangers on a Train

Classic films Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train DVD Cover

This 1951 film is class Hitchcock and tells the story of a battle of wits between tennis pro Guy (Farley Granger) and his mysterious, sycophantic admirer, Bruno (Robert Walker), who offers to kill Guy's unfaithful wife, in return for which Guy will kill Bruno's spiteful father.

But do both the murders actually go ahead?

You can find all of these films here or why not enter my giveaway to win the five films listed above?

Entry is via the rafflecopter below.

Extra terms and conditions apply which you can view on my competitions page. UK entrants only and the giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Tuesday 31st January 2017.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
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