A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Valentines Day Is Not For Kids

I must confess to being a little unsettled by a trend which has appeared on my social media timelines - Valentines gifts for children - even for those kids in primary school and younger.



Haven't we just spent enough on them for Christmas?

Or how about 'Valentines Day Activities' for kids?    A chocolate making workshop?  Heart decoupage?

And in the romance stakes, already competitive mums across the land are crossing their fingers that their offspring will come out of school clutching a sticky, chocolate smeared Valentine card or even a rose like a trophy.

The point is, of course is that it's romantic brownie points for the mother, and probably not a little confusion for the child.

Can anything be done to halt the ever increasing commercialism of every single 'celebration' in the calendar, including saints' days?

Probably not.  But we don't have to buy into it, particularly where our kids are concerned.

In the same way we don't need to encourage the ever earlier sexualisation of our kids any more than their doubtless exposure to social media is already doing.

Lots of people don't see the need for Valentines Day anyway.  If you love someone, they sensibly argue, why not tell them you love them on a daily basis.

Love is not proved by a bouquet of roses and pink champagne.  It's those loving gestures which shore us up against the monotony - the headaches, the setbacks, the bills.

It's the cup of tea in bed in the morning.  The pick-up from the railway station in the rain. The comforting hug when things go wrong.

It's the same for our kids.  Why teach them to equate love with presents?  Anybody can buy a basket with a teddy, a reading book and a lolly.

But how many parents will tuck the child up and read the book to them at night?

Why, oh why, encourage young kids to equate their desirability with their looks - particularly girls - when their self esteem at this age is so fragile?

I won't deny I enjoy a bunch of flowers but whilst I appreciate their beauty, I also understand what they may, or may not mean.

That's a skill honed from years of romantic experiences - both good and bad.

And those are experiences our kids may not be ready for - for a long time to come.

Let's celebrate their 'achievements' in the areas that matter - education, manners, being a nice person, a good person.

Everything else can wait.

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Can You Demystify The Dentist For Your Kids?

There are some words in life we need to learn not to say out loud. If you have a dog, you need to spell out "B-A-T-H" to ensure the element of surprise. Just as you need to spell "W-A-L-K" so that your household ornaments are safe from the tail-wagging frenzy.

Whilst we would never dream of comparing our children to dogs, there are words that raise their hackles too. L-I-C-E. Q-U-I-E-T. C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. Perhaps top of that list would be "D-E-N-T-I-S-T." No child looks forward to sitting in that chair, to begin with. Any child who does should either be cherished or feared. But they need to go for regular appointments.

If they can't be persuaded to enjoy it, then they at least need to know why they need it.

1. "Do You Like Having Toothache?"


The reason that we have regular mandatory dental appointments for children is so that issues can be caught before they become problems. If a dentist spots decay early on, they can clean up some of the issue and recommend aftercare. This way, that tooth decay doesn't need to become a toothache - which is never fun.

2. "Would You Rather Stop Eating Chocolate?"



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Another reason that children need to see their dentist regularly is so that brushing regimes can be assessed and recommended. Most kids have a sweet tooth and poor impulse control, and without the assessment of their dentist, can let their brushing get sloppy. Combine the dangers of sugar with a lack of efficient brushing, and you get tooth decay running wild.

3. "Do You Want Yellow Teeth?"


There’s no doubting it, yellow teeth look awful and do nothing for a person’s self confidence. Although kids may not see it in exactly that way, everywhere they look there are singers and film stars with white teeth. Shane MacGowan is an exception, and we only ever hear or see him at Christmas. Regular appointments and some purchases from the likes of BF Mulholland will help.

4. "Mum's Going As Well!"



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Although it is important to persuade a child of the importance of seeing their dentist, there are positive ways to convince them. If you book them in at the same time as you, then you can let them sit in as you have your check-up. If they see you having yours, it will demystify the process for them. It's important, of course, that you stay upbeat during your appointment - and keep a cheery tone as they have theirs.

5. "You Like The Nurse/Stickers, Don't You?"


It would be hypocritical of us to tell our kids not to be afraid of the dentist - after all, we were at their age. But once you’re in there it is another matter, as there will always be someone to take their mind of it. A dental nurse will concentrate on keeping their spirits up while the dentist does what they need to do. At the end, there will always be a reward for a child who has been brave. If a sticker doesn’t work for your kid, you may need to resort to a treat as bribery - but it’s for the best reasons possible!
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Monday, 30 January 2017

Working Mum Debate: Work From Home Vs. Back To The Office

After pregnancy, many mothers have the choice between going back to work and staying at home with their child.

Nowadays, mostly thanks to the technological evolutions of the past several decades, there are many more work options that enable employees to work from home.

woman in office lounging on a bean bag working on her Mac


This is a concept especially interesting to mothers who wish to both spend time with their young children and not miss out on work.

These types of work often come in the form of "freelancing", and can be found through simple Google-searches or through any of the multiple freelancing platforms.

These professions predominantly include: freelance writing, freelance accounting, graphic design, web-development, marketing, teaching and translating.

On the other hand, going back to work in most cases means going back to the same company the mother worked at before her pregnancy.

However, there are also cases when a mum may wish to pursue a different career path. In those cases check what are the most in-demand jobs in your area and get yourself familiar with what qualifications you may need. Have a look also at mock interviews online, such as for example nursing interview questions for those interested in becoming part of the UK's ever growing healthcare industry.

With so many options out there, let’s explore the pros and cons of both working from home and going back to the office.

Work from home

Some pros of work from home are having no commute and cost savings (like those from childcare). You also get to be in your own space, which is said to inspire creativity and improve productivity. Plus, if you need to get recharged and enthused, you can spend time playing with your child instead of scrolling through social media in an office setting.

With some organization (and luck), you also could schedule your day around your child’s general nap or school schedule.

Some cons of work from home include the need for self-motivation and discipline.

You’ll have little to no socialization with like-minded adults, which means you’ll have to look elsewhere to bounce ideas around.

It can also be quite difficult to spend time with your child for 15 minutes during a work break, then having to close the door for two hours while you take a business call and can hear them cry from the other room.

Back to the office

The two main pros of going back to the office are interaction with other professionals and collaboration.

You are also able to focus more of your direct attention on your work while working in an office, as there is no possibility of your 3 old banging on the door and causing a temporary mind shift back into home mode.

Though the idea of absence making the heart grow fonder is pretty out there, it also makes you savor the time reading a storybook with your child even more.

Cons of going back to the office are headed by having to leave your kids everyday. Daycare drop-offs or trying to slip out the door while the babysitter attempts to distract them can be really difficult.

Working in an office can also mean having to put up with your company’s work environment, which can be loud, distracting and not as conducive to productivity as the work routine that normally gets your creative juices flowing.

No matter what work option you prefer, having the possibility to even have this debate is huge.

Without recent technological advances, many would still be debating between raising kids and working.

Now you can change your mind as you see fit and it is up to you to explore what inspires your productivity, suits your family and makes you the happiest with your work-life balance.
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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Brighten Up Your Winter & Win A Family Tech Pack From VARTA

I always think January is the gloomiest time of year and if you are finding that you need something to brighten up the winter months then I have just the thing - the chance to win a Family Tech Pack from VARTA worth around £70.

VARTA is one of the leading consumer battery manufacturers in Europe and has expanded its range to include an exciting array of premium tech products such as chargers, portable powerpacks and torches. 

This is what you can win:-



Minions Flashlight

The Minions Flashlight is available in pretty yellow and cool blue and is adorned with everyone’s favourite characters; Bob, Kevin and Stuart. Robust and durable, the torches are specially designed for small hands. ARP £4.99. Available from Amazon UK.


VARTA Minions Flashlights


Outdoor Sports 2x1 LED Head Light

The Outdoor Sports 2x1W LED Head Light is ideal for dawn and dusk excursions. Extremely light and with a wide choice of lighting modes, the powerful LEDs on this fashion accessory will keep you on track whether you are running, cycling or walking the dog. It comes in an attractive purple. ARP £16.99. Available from Amazon UK.

VARTA Outdoor Sports 2x1 LED Head Light

Safety Powerbank

The new VARTA Safety Power Bank 2600mAh gives real peace of mind. It combines a handy 2600mAh battery charger which will give a smartphone one whole charge, as well as a powerful 100 decibel panic alarm that can summon help if the user feels threatened. ARP £18.99.

VARTA Safety Powerbank

Family Powerpack 16,000mAh

Available in stylish grey and white colour options, this power banks feature two USB ports; 1.0A for charging phones and MP3 players and a faster 2.4A port for tablets. The 16000mAh model will give up to six full smart phone charges. ARP £24.99. Available from Amazon UK.

VARTA powerpack 6000

Max Tech Batteries

The powerful VARTA Max Tech range is ideal for high-tech devices like computer games controllers and DIY gadgets. ARP from £4.99. Available from B&Q, Amazon UK, Notcutts, Dunelm Mill and convenience stores nationwide.

VARTA Max Tech AA Batteries

For more information on VARTA products visit: www.VARTA-consumer.co.uk.

Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below and the usual terms and conditions apply which you can find on my competitions page. UK entrants only.

The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday 19th February 2017.




Good luck!

*post contains some affiliate links
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Choosing The Best School For Your Child

Our child’s education is extremely important to us as parents. Chances are you’ve been thinking about your child’s schooling before they were even born!

A good education puts them on a good path and sets them up for being a successful adult.

Here are a few things to consider when it comes to education

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Image credit
Move to a New Area

Since schools work on a catchment area basis, you will need to be living locally to the best ones in order to be considered. It can seem like an extreme reason to move, but if you’re serious about your child’s education, then it’s one option. Check out the Ofsted reports and grades from different schools nearby to help you decide on one. From there you can find somewhere to live. The best schools tend to have higher exam result scores, and more satisfaction reported by both parents and students.

Look Into Private Education

Private schools tend to have better exam results than public schools. On top of this they’re more selective in the students they allow meaning the classes tend to be made up of intelligent and hardworking children. The class sizes are smaller, the extracurricular activities are more varied, and research has suggested that the teaching is better too. Probably due to smaller class sizes and children being easier to deal with, teachers aren’t so stretched or stressed. There are scholarships and funding available for a lot of private schools so if your child is gifted it may well be worth applying, even if you can’t afford the fees.

Employ a Tutor

If you can’t afford a private education and your child doesn’t quite make the cut for a scholarship, how about hiring a tutor? This could either help your child get ahead, or allow them to catch up in areas where they’re struggling. While tutors aren’t cheap you generally only have them for a couple of hours a week, so it’s something you could work into your budget much more easily than a full private education.

Consider Boarding Schools

Boarding school is so much more than just a school. It’s a chance for your child to explore various extracurricular activities, learn to be more independent and develop bonds with peers that run far deeper than they would at a regular school. Prep school boarding offers beautiful accommodation, often on large grounds in old mansions and manor houses. So you get peace of mind that your child is in a nice place and being looked after well.

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Consider Home Schooling

While schooling and the education system is generally very good, it doesn’t suit every type of child. There are a whole host of reasons you might consider homeschooling. Bullying can be an issue for some children, which can hugely affect their education. If this is a problem for your child and you’ve not been able to get it resolved, then you may consider homeschooling. Perhaps your child has certain needs which aren’t able to be fully met in the traditional way with a classroom full of other kids. Maybe they just learn better in a homeschooling environment. There’s no doubt that one on one teaching is effective- something your child will never experience in a regular school.

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Friday, 27 January 2017

This Year's Hottest Trends For Your Child's Bedroom Decor

It's a challenge to keep both parents and children happy when it comes to decorating their bedrooms, isn't it?

A child's bedroom is a room which comes with a large set of demands. It must be tough enough to be able to withstand vigorous and, let's be honest, occasional destructive playing.

child's bedroom with Apple Tree Farm bedding


It should also feel both comfortable and secure, crucial elements that allow a room to act not only as a playroom but also as a place of rest and relaxation.

The room must also be versatile in its design and should not only grow with your child as they mature, but should also allow your child to easily keep up with the latest trends and characters from their favourite films and TV shows, with a range of simple to make changes.

The above is a huge ask of any room, and when you're planning the decor, furniture and fittings you need to consider both the look but also the function.

So whether you are decorating a nursery for a baby who will soon be making an appearance, updating a nursery for a toddler, or are just looking to refresh your child's bedroom, family run business Childrens-Rooms.co.uk offer the design and decorating inspiration you need to help you achieve the perfect room.

They are one of the largest independent online retailers for kids bedding, kids curtains and matching childrens-bedroom accessories. They also have the largest selection of toddler bedding sets.

So I asked them what this year's hottest decor themes for kids bedrooms will be and this is what they told me.

Nature & Animals

Whether its safari bedding, butterfly curtains, bird’s bedroom accessories or high definition daisies, we are seeing a huge increase in sales of all things involving nature. It’s possible that these sales represent an increasing effort from parents to get their children interested into the great outdoors! Our predicted best sellers in this category are farm themes, jungle themes as well as forest & flower themes.

Storage

There are a few things which are just timeless, and a clutter free bedroom has to be one of them. To this end, we stock and supply a wide range of children’s storage options, meaning that you (hopefully) never have to stand on another piece of Lego again. The range includes storage bins, storage boxes, toy boxes and bookends, everything your child needs to keep their bedroom in great condition.

crocodile storage box


Often purchased as part of a full bedroom theme, a number of these kids’ bedroom storage products enhance the aesthetics of a room, as well as serving an important function. One of our favourites has to be our camouflage storage box, the irony of hiding clutter in a camouflage box isn't lost on us!

Feature Walls

A feature wall is certainly nothing new with regards to interior design, they are however becoming increasingly popular in children's rooms, creating a fantastic centrepiece which children love.

There are a wide range of wallpapers which can be used as feature walls - some customers choose colourful stripes and more neutral themes, whilst others dive head first into the amazing array of cartoons and characters from hits such as Frozen, Disney and Marvel.

Collage of Marvel characters


One of our favourites, and a paper which has already proven itself to be a bestseller this year is the Marvel Avengers Breakout Wallpaper.

With a number of Marvel films due out in 2017 & 2018 including Spider-man Homecoming 2017 Thor Ragnarok and Avengers Infinity War - we are confident in this paper continuing to be a popular choice.

Rooms That Grow

Alongside neutral colour schemes, we are seeing our customers relying on accessories to quickly and easily change the design of a room over time. This method allows a children's bedroom to be almost continually updated with products such as wall stickers, bean bags, rugs, curtains and bedding at a low price point, avoiding the need for total decoration and theme change from age restrictive themes which children very quickly outgrow.

An example of this would be a boy’s bedroom, painted in pastel shades of blues which provides the perfect platform for easy customisation with bedroom accessories.

Miniature Seating

Another range which is increasingly being discovered by parents is ‘miniature seating’. This range typically includes everything your child needs to sit, lounge and relax in their room, either with friends or alone.

Popular seating options include bean bags, as well as inflatable and non-inflatable sofas and chairs. The inflatable options are perfect for smaller rooms, which struggle holding permanent large pieces of furniture. Bean Bags also represent another very flexible option, bright, comfortable and easily stored, they are a popular choice.

Batman bean bag


Children’s Rooms provide children and their parents with the largest range of top quality children’s bedding, children’s bedroom furniture and children’s bedroom accessories online, at unbeatable prices.

You can visit their website here: www.childrens-rooms.co.uk.

*collaborative post
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New Releases, Free & Bargain Books Link-up Week 5 2017

New Releases Free & Bargain Books Link-up Badge


How are you all this week?  Spring is just around the corner now (or so I keep telling myself) and we're looking out for the first Snowdrops and Daffodils!

Still there's plenty to look forward to, Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) and for us here in Wales, St. David's Day is on the horizon.  Plus the Husband has a very big birthday next week.

In the meantime I'm flicking through the travel brochures and watching Death In Paradise to get a beach fix.

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...
Monday
 Life as Leels | IrishdaisylovesRomance | Book Babble | All Romance Reader
Tuesday
It's My Side of Life | Celticlady's Reviews | First Time Mommy Adventures 
Wednesday
Beck Valley BooksCinnamon Hollow Reviews
Thursday
Miki's Hope | Nicki's Nook
Friday
Ebook Addicts | I Love Romance | Colorimetry | The Ultimate Fan Blog Mother Distracted
Saturday
Totally Addicted to Reading | 3 Partners in Shopping | Angie's Angle I Create Purty Thangs | Wishful Endings
Sunday
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!
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Dealing With Your Child's Sports Team Injuries

We are constantly encouraged to lead healthy lives through regular physical activity, as are our children and one way we can do this is by joining a sports team. Football, hockey, netball, rugby - it doesn’t matter what sport you or your children take part in, just as long you all enjoy it.

While being part of a sports team comes with many benefits, from staying healthy to making new friends, it also comes with a risk or two, one of which is injuries. 

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Whether it’s your kids that are part of a sports team or your partner, the chances are that at some point or another, someone is going to get injured.

It could be a minor injury such as a cut or a couple of grazes, or it could be something a little worse - whatever the injury, it’s important to ensure that you know how to deal with it.

Want to know how to deal with all manner or sports injuries? Read on.

Remain calm

Whether you see the injury take place or get a phone call from the team coach, it’s important to stay calm.

No matter what has happened, be it a bump to the head or a potentially broken bone, getting stressed isn’t going to help the situation.

The most important thing is to approach things with a cool head so that you’re able to think clearly about what to do.

The first question that you need to focus on is whether they - your partner or child, should come off the pitch or whether they can continue to play the rest of the game. This will depend on the nature of their injury and how serious it is.

Assess whether medical care is required

The next step is to assess whether medical care is required. If your partner or child has a head injury, is bleeding heavily, or has a potentially broken bone, then immediate medical attention is needed.

You can either call an ambulance - if you think the injury warrants emergency care, or you can take them to the local accident and emergency department.

If the injury isn’t too serious, then immediate medical care may not be required. However, rehabilitation care, such as physiotherapy, may be needed to help them get back on their feet.

If this is the case, it could be worth looking into going private for their care by contacting a hospital such as Highgate Private Hospital, as often NHS waiting lists are extremely long.

If you’ve got medical insurance, this shouldn’t cost you anything. If however, you don’t have medical insurance, you will have to cover the cost of any treatment fees.

Make the patient comfortable and encourage them to rest

Once you get the patient home, make them comfortable and encourage them to rest. If it’s a minor injury they have suffered from and you haven’t sought medical advice, make sure to keep an eye on them, to ensure that they are definitely okay.

If they’re in pain, give them some painkillers, get them comfortable in bed or on the sofa, and take care of them, with a little rest they should soon be feeling better.

Being on a sports team comes with many benefits. However, it also comes with a risk of injury. The chances are that at one point or another, anyone who’s part of a sports team will get injured, so you need to be prepared for that.
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Thursday, 26 January 2017

My Problem Page Edition 4 2017

This week I'm talking about whether announcing your crush on Facebook is effective, how to chat your neighbour up and whether a gentleman should still hold a car door open for a lady.

Mother Distracted Problem Page: Woman in white tunic, leaning against a white wall holding a bunch of pink flowers


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 are this week's questions.

Q: How can I talk to the girl in the flat downstairs without seeming weird?

I got handed some post for the flat downstairs and when I knocked on the door a really cute girl answered. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to talk to her and left abruptly. (I’m a bit shy too). It’d probably seem weird if I knocked on the door again and asked for her. Do you have any ideas?

A: Can’t you do use the old “can I borrow some sugar / coffee / tea” ruse?

Or claim there’s a strange noise coming from your heating and does she have it too?

You could drop her a note if you’re less brave saying “hi it’s your neighbour from upstairs. Would you like to go for a coffee sometime?”

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

You do need to find out though whether she already has a partner. 

Q: I have a manipulative step daughter. How can I address this situation?

A: Manipulative in what way and how old is your step daughter? 

Teenage girls can be pretty manipulative no matter what their position in the family! Are you saying that she is causing trouble between you and your partner? Are they taking their daughter’s side? 

Is the break-up of her family relatively recent?  I would say that your first step is to raise your concerns with your partner and you both working through the issues with her as a united front. 

Once she realises she can’t play one of you off against the other, her behaviour may change. 

Q: What should I do when there's people saying bad and fake things about me to my boyfriend?

A: I’m assuming someone, somewhere is jealous of you. 

That is usually the reason for bad-mouthing. 

Did your boyfriend leave another for you? Did he cheat on his previous partner with you? If that’s the case then it’s entirely likely you’ll have to put up with some bitching from his ex and their friends.

The aim of these people is clearly to split you up and I think you do need to address this with your boyfriend to put your side of the story before this escalates. 

If he knows and loves you I’m sure he will discount these rumours but it would be better to present a united front against these trouble-makers. 

Just be sure that what is being said is definitely fake.

Q: Does adding your crush on Facebook counts as making the first move?

I would prefer to interact in real life, but I only see him in a crowded place and due to the nature of his job we only have the chance to talk briefly. We do have friends in common on Facebook so I thought about adding him there. Does doing that counts as making the first move, or not?

A: No it doesn’t. 

People add Facebook friends all the time for all sorts of reasons. 

You say you have the chance to talk briefly. Why don’t you be brave and ask them for a coffee?

It’s better to find out now if they are interested than waste months puttering around on Facebook in the hope that they may one day message their undying love. 

Whilst you’re doing that, someone braver might steal them away from under your nose. 

Time to take a risk.

Q: Is not holding a car door or paying for her dinner wrong if she has a job and is physically able?

A: It’s not wrong but it is considered good manners. 

When you’re dating you want to make the best impression possible and whilst I wouldn’t expect to pick up the tab every time as the relationship progressed, an offer to pay for dinner the first time is a nice thing to do. 

She may be a feminist who resents such attention on the basis that she is perfectly able to look after herself but, frankly, I have always found gestures like this quite charming and endearing. 

There’s a difference between that, though, and becoming a meal ticket where the only reason she wants to spend time with you is for the nice meals and treats. 

You have, unfortunately, to go through the initial ‘learning curve’ to find that out. 

If you’re broke by the way there’s no reason why you can’t be upfront about this and ask to split the bill. 

If you really like this girl, a bit of chivalry won’t go amiss - or she’s likely to choose someone else who does treat her like a lady rather than ‘one of the lads’.

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.
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How am I doing on the LighterLife Fast Blogger Challenge - Week 2?

Hmm.  Well I must be honest I had expected the weight to fall off a lot faster.  So far I've lost the princely amount of half a pound.

LighterLife Fast Porridge & Shake


Now I will be honest and say that I did cheat on my 3rd fast day and ate a sausage and some baked beans for tea instead of the LighterLife Fast ready meal I was supposed to have.

But that's the only transgression I've made.

As you will recall from my previous post, the LighterLife Fast programme is a version of the 5:2 diet where you restrict your calories on 2 days of the week and then eat normally for the remaining 5.

The problem is, I think, with the definition of "eating normally".

There are several reasons why the weight isn't shifting and this is why you really can't have a "one diet fits all" approach.

I can't compare my weight loss with yours over the same period because we may have different metabolisms or retain more water.

As a menopausal woman with a thyroid problem I suppose I should expect weight loss to be a little more challenging.

Selection of LighterLife Fast ready meals and weighing scales showing weight of 10 st 2lbs

Here are my 'issues' (oh alright then - excuses)

Lack of support

It's not surprising the group support is such an important feature of the other LighterLife weight loss programmes.

It's bloody hard eating something from a sachet when the family are tucking into a home-cooked tea.

Motivation

You really have to want to do this.  Again, this comes back to support and having a 'diet buddy' to share your progress with.

You have to adjust your eating on the other 5 days

You may say this is blindingly obvious but the danger with restricting calories on 2 days is that you tend to load up on the other 5.

So it's really a diet plan that is 7 day not 2 day.  After all, it was "eating normally" that started to put the weight on in the first place.

I am surprised though how little difference calorie restriction has made so far.

I really miss fresh food

There's no denying that the LighterLife Fast plan is incredibly convenient.  A trip to my local Superdrug found shelves well stocked with a good variety of the brand's soups, shakes and ready meals. (The products are exclusive to Superdrug).

One of the key benefits of this plan is that it's a no-brainer, no cook, no stress method of eating and although the products are formulated to ensure you don't miss out on nutrition, there's nothing like eating fresh food - particularly fruit and veg.

You need to increase your daily activity

Again, hardly rocket science but I think I need to dramatically increase my activity levels.  At the moment on weekdays it consists of walking about a mile on the 2 school runs and little else!

So that's where I am today, at the start of my 4th fast day (half way through my challenge).

I've just had Apple & Cinnamon porridge (155 cals) which was hot and tasty so let's see how I get on.

I would like to see a weight loss of at least 3-4 pounds within a month, ideally 7 pounds which would be realistically achievable with other diets.

Wish me luck.

You can find more about the LighterLife Fast plan at www.lighterlife.com, on Facebook or Twitter.

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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Fun Theme Ideas for Children's Winter Birthday Parties

It can be tough having a birthday after the holiday season’s finished! Bank accounts may feel empty, and guests can be partied out after all the festivities between Halloween and the New Year.

If you’re tasked with throwing a birthday party for your child during this season, you’ll want to make sure the day is extra special.

Woman in white jumper holding silver Christmas bauble
Image credit: Pixabay

This can be a bit challenging when you’re cooped up indoors, but with a bit of creativity you’ll be able to make their special day one to remember!

Here are some fun themes to help you begin your planning.

Winter-inspired Theme

Make the most of the winter spirit by throwing a winter-themed party! A winter wonderland type of theme can be really fun and easy.

The décor can help you reuse some old Christmas decorations, with snowflakes, twinkly lights, and paper crafts.

Decorate with paper cut-outs of snowflakes, trees, or arctic wildlife like penguins and polar bears.

You don’t need it to be snowy outside to get in the spirit indoors, either. You can have a mock snowball fight with fluffy fabric balls, or create your own snowflakes with plenty of glitter.

Keep your guests cosy and warm with steaming mugs of hot chocolate and marshmallows!

Cooking or Baking

Does your child love to help you out in the kitchen? Are their friends old enough to handle some light decorating or mixing duties?

Throw a baking party with the kids, setting up a buffet-style bar with decorations to create customised cookies, cupcakes, or other baked treats.

This will not only keep them busy for the better part of an hour, but it takes care of goodie bags because you can send kids home with their creations.

Fancy Dress Party

If you’re like many mums, you may immediately reach for the dress-up box on a rainy day.

It’s amazing how long children can be entertained by dressing up in costumes of all varieties, and you can use this same idea for your birthday party.

A fancy dress party lets them choose what character they want to be, and you can join in the fun by wearing Funidelia opposuits or a fairy princess costume, depending on your own mood.

Add to the fun with props and a “photo booth” that they can pose in.

Book and Movie Characters

A book or movie theme is always a popular party idea for kids, and it can be particularly useful in the winter months.

If you want to narrow down the general fancy dress theme a bit, let kids choose their favourite book, TV, or film character.

This lets them choose between funny fancy dress or more serious and elaborate costumes, and you can always run with the theme in terms of décor with cinematic cut-outs and invitations.

Animal Themes

Finally, why not try a wintry animal theme? Have someone on face painting duty, whether it’s yourself or a more artistic friend.

Let children choose from a selection of animal faces, or make masks together as a party craft.

You can play animal-themed party games like pin the tail on the donkey, and use cookie cutters to cut out finger sandwiches in animal shapes.

Does your child have a winter birthday?  What party themes have you chosen?
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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Dressing's in the Details: Little Style Touches That Make a Difference

Looking your best every day isn't an easy task. When you're a mother, it can be even harder to find the time to put yourself together every day. But just because you're busy, it doesn't mean you have to neglect yourself.

If looking good is important to you, you can find your own way to create your look in the time you have available.

Image credit: Pexels

One of the ways to look good all the time is to pay attention to the little things. Even if you're dressed casually, you can still have a unique necklace on or an eye-catching bag.

Try these little touches to elevate any outfit.

Wear a Watch

Perhaps currently you use your mobile to tell the time. A watch might seem a little pointless to you, but it can be the ultimate accessory for a busy mum.

Whether you wear a traditional analogue watch, a digital watch or even a smartwatch, it can look good and help you stay on track.

Your watch can be an ever-present accessory that completes any outfit, and it can do a variety of other things too. If you get a smartwatch or fitness tracker, you can watch your activity levels.

Smartwatches can help you stay on top of your schedule and calls.

Image credit: Wikimedia

Get an Arty Phone Case

Most people have their phone with them all the time nowadays. You're probably forever having to get it out, whether you're taking a business call or scheduling a play date. If it's going to be surgically attached to you at all times, you might as well make sure it looks good.

An artistic iPhone case can add a splash of colour to any outfit. Even if you're conducting the school run or going to the gym in leggings and an old t-shirt, it shows that you're usually much more fashionable.

Match a Few Details in Your Outfit

If you're unsure about how to bring an outfit together, consider picking a motif to run through your outfit.

There might be something on one piece of clothing that you can match to other things. For example, perhaps your floral skirt could go with a flower necklace. However, you could also add something that's not on your clothes.

Use the same motif on your hairclip as you wear on your bracelet or as a brooch. Nothing has to match exactly, though. You could pick a more general theme to run through your outfit.

Image credit: Pixabay

Pick a Signature Accessory

Do you know someone who always has an amazing bag with them or never takes off their colourful scarf? If you want to look good even on your lazy days, this is one way you can do it.

Pick a signature accessory that you always have with you. It doesn't have to be the same item every day. You can simply build a fun collection of scarves or statement necklaces, so you always have one to show off.

You don't have to do anything big or flashy to look good. Sometimes, it's the little things that make a difference.
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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.
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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 restrict your 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.
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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!
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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
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