A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Monday, 27 February 2017

Keep Your Family Healthy This Spring

We have survived another dank and dismal UK winter and are heading towards spring.  Just the word lifts the spirits.  We start to think of brighter, lighter days and evenings with the promise of summer warmth and lazing on beaches in the sun.

Family outside in a garden sitting on a log

So it's time to think about getting the family fit, healthy and ready to enjoy everything the British summertime has to offer (even if that involves umbrellas).

Rather than stress yourself out by making wholesale changes, try subtle tweaks to your routine to gradually improve everyone's health - including your own.

Here are some great ways to improve your health as a family.

Get outside together and make the most of the daylight

Did you know that in the UK we get most of our Vitamin D from sunlight exposure from late March to the end of September?

Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet, minerals which are important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.

We make sure we take the kids out for a brisk weekend walk through our local woods, to our nearby beaches (usually Penarth) or Cosmeston nature reserve.

But make sure you use sunscreen

Many skin experts agree that THE most important thing we can do to protect our skin against aging is to use sunscreen.

And we know how vital it is to protect our little ones' skin against the power of the sun. The NHS advises that children under 6 months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight and that, from March to October in the UK children should cover up with suitable clothing and spend time in the shade (particularly from 11am to 3pm) and wear a sunscreen of at least SPF15.

In fact, Cancer Research UK says that getting painful sunburn, just once every 2 years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.

Early nights

We've always tried to maintain a regular bedtime routine for the kids (around 7:30 pm) which is just as important now that they are 9 and 7 as it was when they were babies.

Things tend to lapse during school holidays though but even then 8:30 pm tends to be the latest as the kids are grumpy and tired the next day.

We try to limit screen time before bed because research shows that it affects our sleep patterns, making it harder to drop off.

And the kids still have a drink of milk which, even if the jury is still out on whether the tryptophan it contains actually helps you sleep, has the effect of signalling it's time to relax and switch off.

Strawberries in a kilner jar

Eat fresh and organic

We've all heard this a million times and it is basic, common sense advice.  Many people feel that organic food is overpriced and there certainly seems to be a noticeable price hike on produce such as organic berries.

To make the most of our food budget it's worth remembering that some organic fruits and vegetables are worse than others for containing pesticide residue - according to the campaigning charity Pesticide Action Network (PAN UK).

It all depends on the farming methods used so they advise switching to organic for the food most affected by chemicals and sticking with the standard versions of the least affected if budget is an issue.

So which fruits and vegetables should we always consider buying organic?  You can find a helpful list in this article from The Telegraph newspaper published in November 2015.

Protect young tummies with probiotics

There's nothing worse than an outbreak of the dreaded sickness bug and one simple way you can help your children's immune systems strong and hopefully keep the bugs away is to give them a probiotic.

These are live bacteria and yeasts in the form of a food supplement or yoghurt drink and are promoted as having various health benefits.

Probiotics are also thought to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut when it has been disrupted by an illness or treatment.

As yet,  the NHS says there is little evidence to support many of the health claims made for them but I give Caitlin and Ieuan a probiotic every morning on the basis that it is unlikely to harm them and if it saves me having to swab down the bathroom - great!

Make drinking water interesting

We know that drinking water is vital for our health.  According to the National Hydration Council, kids should be drinking anywhere between 1.6 litres (ages 4-8) up to 2.1 litres (ages 9-13) a day. Note that this amount is water from drinks and food and includes milk, vegetable and fruit juices and plain unsweetened drinks.

As adults, we should be drinking around 2.5 litres a day for men and 2.0 litres for women.

We try to stay away from highly sweetened drinks and choose no added sugar squashes but we also serve up a jug of water at mealtimes to which we sometimes add ice and chopped fruits like strawberry slices and lemon.

We also try to bribe the kids with funky water bottles and straws!

Lemon tea in a glass

We've found if we drink it, the kids are more likely to join in.  As they say you have to model the behaviour you want to see.

As you can see, there are loads of small changes you can make to get your family healthier without breaking the bank.

It's also a good idea to make sure that the family's medicine chest is fully stocked with everything you might need for minor injuries and illnesses.  We've usually got a bottle of Calpol stashed away and a job lot of plasters!

And remember the healing power of oxytocin, also known as the 'love hormone' which is released whenever we share a hug.

That's an easy one, isn't it?

*collaborative post

Hack Your Home On Tour: Scientific Fun For Kids From The Royal Institution

Professor Danielle George
Monday 13th March 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm 
National Museum of Wales, Cathays Park, CF10 3NP

When I was in school, our science lessons were decidedly low tech and uninspiring.  Back To The Future it was not.  More a cloud of chalk dust, bunsen burners and strange smells.

Every year, my dad made my sister Sarah and I watch The Royal Institution CHRISTMAS LECTURES in the hope to get us enthused and the programmes were always much more fun and grown-up than our school lessons.

Credit: Paul Wilkinson
And now kids of all ages have the chance to indulge their inner science geek and experience the magic of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES in our home town of Cardiff.

I'm sure you are aware of the impending arrival of smart meters to help us measure and better control our energy usage.  And there are already numerous smartphone apps which let you switch your heating or lights on or off.  We are bringing science in to our homes and daily lives more and more and at an increasing rate too.

Professor Danielle George, an Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at The University of Manchester, is currently presenting "How To Hack Your Home on Tour", an exciting and inspiring event which will show how you can use your creativity and imagination to engineer amazing things.

Professor Danielle George:  Credit Paul Wilkinson
You'll learn the simple scientific principles which underlie much of the modern world whilst watching a host of hacked robots perform amazing musical feats and witnessing everyday objects being turned into something wonderful - even a loaf of bread!

The lecture is suitable for all ages but particularly for ages 10+.

As a mother of a daughter, I think it is incredibly important to get girls interested in science and thinking about a science-based career.  And Professor Danielle George is certainly a bit of an inspiration!

How to buy tickets

You can buy tickets here and tickets are buy one get one free.

How to get involved with The Royal Institutions

Families in Cardiff area can get also involved with Ri programmes by becoming members of The Royal Institution and on the Ri website you can also find some great simple science experiments you can do at home.  You can also connect with the Ri on Twitter @Ri_Science.

Ticket giveaway

I also have 4 tickets to give away.  Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget and my usual terms and conditions apply.  UK entrants only and the giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Wednesday 8th March.

Please note attendee names and email address must be provided no later than Friday 10th March.

This looks to be a fabulous fun event and Caitlin, Ieuan and I will be there to learn as much as we can.  We hope to see you there too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Diabetes in Children: Focus On The Positive

It can be one of the most overwhelming challenges any parent can ever go through, and that is because there are so many different things to think about when it comes to managing your child’s diabetes.

We, as parents have enough to think about, we already have to handle the immense pressures of doting on young ones, so having the added pressure of dealing with diabetes can be horrendously daunting a lot of the time.

Image credit

But don’t despair and don’t pull your hair out, because chances are you are doing the most fantastic job.

However, if you are doubting yourself now and then, or just want a little bit of advice on how you can make thing easier, then the following tips may help.

Image source

1. Management tasks

It doesn’t matter what age your child is, you are going to need to take a really proactive role when it comes to the management tasks of diabetes.

This will not only make your life easier, but it will help them understand what they need to remember, which will encourage these steps to become a habit.

This includes meal planning, monitoring glucose levels in their blood, insulin injection and pill management. All of this is part of your life, it is just a matter of adjustment.

2. Understanding

Understanding what diabetes is, what can help and what can inflame is a tough task. It requires a real dedication to gaining knowledge. However, there are a few areas which you can concentrate on, and do as a family.

These include things like exercising, and knowing how, when, for how long and at what intensity they should be exercising. It includes things like understanding the importance of daily foot care, how to apply Allpresan, how to do a thorough foot exam and what footwear is best.

Above all, it also requires a detailed understanding of high and low glucose levels, how to treat and how to prevent.

3. Medical Team

Don’t just find a good medical team, work as closely as you can with them. Learn as much as you can from them, try and tap into their knowledge, especially when it comes to pediatric diabetes.

Speak to everyone on the team that you can; doctors, nutritionists, educators, mental health experts, and anyone else you can. It will all help, and it will all help hugely. The less stress, worry, and pressure on you the better, so do what you can to reduce that stress.

4. Honesty

This is so important and so underrated. The worst thing anyone can do in life - whether it involves diabetes, bereavement, cancer or anything else - is to suffer in silence.

So talk to your child about anything they may be feeling. Ask what they are struggling with, help them remain positive and upbeat. Tell them about all the things they are doing so incredibly well, and build from there.

It is easier to help them improve on their weaknesses by focussing on their strengths,; it will help their mentality. But don’t stop there.

Be honest with your medical team; tell them what you are struggling with and what your child is struggling with too. This will allow them to react accordingly and help you both make the right moves.

5. Focus

Don’t make their life all about diabetes, because it isn’t who they are it is just something they live with.

Talk to them about other stuff too, about school, friends, girls, hobbies and everything else you talk to your other kids about.

The last thing you want to do when your child comes back home from school starts asking them about their glucose levels and focussing on this again. Let them tell you off their own back.

Just ask them what they got up to and whether their friend Jack is still is still captain of the football team. Take the focus away from diabetes for a moment.

6. Normal

Yes, your child has diabetes, a condition that requires monitoring and attention and concern, but let them have a normal childhood too.

So many parents let the worry overcome all else, so much so that they forget the child has their own life to lead and one that they want to be as normal as possible. So let them play sports and have their friends over for sleepovers and go to parties and stay up late watching films with you once a week.

That is the best way to help them feel strong and not powerless, happy and not caged, grateful and not bitter. It is about mentality, and normality, both of which you will have a huge amount of sway over.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

I Had My Babies In My Forties

If you had asked me when I was a young career girl just setting out in the world whether I would be having a baby in my forties, I would probably have told you absolutely not. Despite this, I had my children at 43 and 45 (I'm now 52) and I know that I have been extremely lucky.

My grandmother had a child at 45 so, whether or not there is a genetic predisposition to being able to have children later in life, I'm still aware that I managed the best feat of my life just in time.

Mum holding a baby's hand

Can you have a baby in your forties?

What was surprising was just how long it took. Despite being in my 40's I somehow thought that conception would be nothing short of immaculate and, when it took over a year, I found myself reading numerous books on improving your fertility the natural way and taking my temperature every morning to track ovulation.

My temperature never seemed to budge. Tracking the 'ten most fertile days' made sex (or iggly boo as one of my stranger friends calls it) about as exciting as cardboard.

I suffer an early miscarriage

I lost my first child at approximately 6-7 weeks. The charmless consultant gynaecologist we saw made it clear that he viewed this miscarriage as nothing more than a missed period. "You can hang on to see if there's a heartbeat", he told us, "or we'll have you in and whip it out". A managed miscarriage at home was the option we eventually took, wanting to see if the initial scans were wrong. They weren't.

Caitlin, born 2007
It was back to the temperature taking and the headstands for about another year until, one Valentine's evening, having practically given up, we went out for a romantic meal and got ever so slightly sloshed.

Caitlin was born the following November. And then, the October before Caitlin's 1st Birthday, Ieuan was conceived. Having waited so long for Caitlin, we assumed it would take a couple of years to give her a sibling. I should have listened to my wonderful midwife who told me that once you have had a child, it's as if your motor starts to work properly, and that I shouldn't be surprised if it didn't take long.

Pregnancy Scans

We were aware of the risks of late pregnancy. I had a nuchal translucency scan with Caitlin and amniocentesis with Ieuan. What we would have done in the event of any genetic problems, I still couldn't tell you.

Why didn't I do it sooner?

I have friends older than me who have had children at an equally late age. I also have quite a few friends in their mid thirties who think that they have all the time in the world to reproduce, when the truth is, the clock is ever ticking. Some of my friends must look at me and think "well, SHE did it" but it's easy to kid yourself isn't it.

I regret not having had my children at least ten years ago. In the end, my career (as a Marketing Manager and later Director) simply could not match up to the joy of having kids but I didn't meet my husband until I was 41.

This is the dilemma facing many women. Do we put our heart and soul into a career and hope that Mr Right will just come along, by which time we may no longer be fertile or able to carry a child? Or do we pursue a partner and children whilst we are still in our most fertile years, hoping that we can resume our education and career when the children are in school?

Can Women Ever "Have It All"?

I am a great fan of the late Helen Gurley Brown (who, with her husband, created the Cosmopolitan magazine empire) and read her book "Having it All" (still available from Amazon) from cover to cover in my early twenties. Helen believed the sky was the limit - primarily in terms of work and sex, but I think most women will agree that, today, "having it all" is an impossibility. That said, I'd still recommend Helen's work just to admire her incredible work ethic and zest for life.

I'm now faced with the prospect of staying as fit, healthy and mentally 'young' as possible. Not so much because I worry about the opinion of other mothers (although I'd be lying if I said I was totally immune to it), but for the sake of my children. As Hubby says "well, we just can't conk out early"....

Whatever our decision, we have to live with the consequences - but my two 'consequences' are pretty wonderful.

My Random Musings

You Before Them: The Necessity Of Self-Care

Being a mum goes hand in hand with putting others before yourself. Parenthood changes everything. You can no longer do exactly what you want when you want to do it because there are others who rely on you. This is all fine, of course, and is completely natural. But there are times when it’s necessary to put yourself first. After all, if you’re not healthy and happy, you’re not going to be effective in caring for others.


The concept of self-care means taking care of your own needs. It means making time to focus on yourself for a while and do the things that are necessary to keep you well and happy. It is necessary for optimum health and your overall sense of wellbeing.

What Happens If You Don’t Practise Self-Care?

If you fail to take some time for yourself once in a while, it’s likely you’ll burn out. You’ll feel ill, frustrated, irritable, and unhappy. It may also lead to physical illness. And if you’re ill, you won’t be able to take care of anyone.

Little And Often

The difficulty, when you’re a parent, is finding time to practise self-care. What with the morning routines, preparing the kids for school, work, meals, housework, etc., there’s little time left for anything other than sleep. The trick is to take a ‘little and often’ approach. Each day carve out a short period of time just for you; even if it’s just for twenty minutes. It could be when you first arrive home from work, or at some point in the evening. Let the rest of your family know that you’re taking a little time and you won’t be available to them for the next however many minutes. If you know that you have this time to look forward to, it makes the rest of your busy day a little easier.


Types Of self-care

Self-care isn’t just about practising yoga and meditation, though this works for a lot of people. It’s about doing the things that support, sustain, and nourish you. This will vary from person to person. The following are common examples:

1. Taking A Bath

Water is naturally soothing and has been used in therapy and health for thousands of years. The water and heat help you to unwind and relax, gently easing away aches, pains, and stresses. Throw in some Epsom Salts for added impact.

2. Pamper Night

If you have the time, you can extend your hot bath into a full night of pampering. This can include some or all of the following:

Soothing your tired, aching feet with a range of treatments

* Spending time on your nails and toenails and applying your favourite nail polish

* Face and body masks

* Exfoliating

* A gentle steam treatment for your skin

* Applying a conditioning treatment to your hair


3. Concentrating On Your Physical Appearance

If you rarely have time to get your hair cut or to try some new makeup techniques, set aside an evening or a couple of hours to do this. Looking and feeling your best sometimes go hand in hand and so it pays to spend a little time on your appearance. Try out some new hairstyles. Take out your straighteners, heated rollers or electric hair straightening brush. Watch some online tutorials and experiment with different styles and looks.

If your makeup is a little old, invest in some new items. Makeup doesn’t last forever, and over time it can attract bacteria. So keep it fresh and new. This is a great excuse to try some different colours and products.

4. Reading

For many people, getting lost in a good book is a welcome form of escapism. For the duration of the book, they can divert their attention from the stresses and strains of everyday life and enjoy being part of someone else’s life or another world. Audiobooks are also a great way to relax. You can sit back while someone else tells you a story.

5. Walking

There’s something about being in nature that helps clear your mind and helps you feel more focused. You don’t have to go anywhere special. Just fifteen or twenty minutes with your iPod and the fresh air is all it takes.


6. Exercise

Some people use exercise as a form of self-care. It gets their blood pumping and heart racing. You don’t have to go to the gym if that’s not your thing. Find a physical activity that’s right for you, whether it’s running, cycling, tennis, etc. Some people find that low-impact exercise such as swimming helps them to relax and wind down.

7. Gardening

Gardening not only gives you a good workout but it can help with aches, pains, and anxiety. Because it tends to last for a few hours, a gardening session can burn off more calories than going to the gym. If it’s a sunny day, you will also get a good dose of Vitamin D, and the close proximity to nature has a positive impact on the mind, helping ease stress and worry.

8. Meditation, Yoga, And Tai Chi

Forms of meditation, yoga and tai chi often go hand in hand with self-care, and there is a good reason. People who practise these activities report feeling calmer, less stressed, and generally happier. Much research has been done on this topic, and results show that exercising your mind has many physical and mental benefits.

9. Keeping A Gratitude Diary

Keeping a gratitude diary is much easier than it sounds. It doesn’t require you to write pages and pages. Many people do this each day, by simply recording three things they’re grateful for. Over time, it has been shown to increase positivity and refocus the mind. The idea is that no matter how busy or stressful your life is, there are lots of good things that are often forgotten or taken for granted. Focusing on these things helps to reset the mind and ease some of your worries.

It may be that you’re already practising self-care without even knowing it. What steps do you take to look after yourself and maximise your health and wellbeing?

Friday, 24 February 2017

Mother's Day Giveaway: Win A Krug Baumen Watch Worth Up To £200

Mother's Day in the UK this year falls on Sunday 26th March and I am looking forward to breakfast in bed from Caitlin and Ieuan.

This usually consists of a cup of tea (made by Mat) and a Hot Cross Bun (also prepared by Mat) which is then eaten by Caitlin and Ieuan while I drink the tea, the four of us squished up in our rickety wooden double bed.

If you would like to inject a little glamour into Mother's Day this year for your mum (or if you're a parent, guardian or carer who feels in need of a little reward for all your hard work),  I have a beautiful watch from the Krug Baumen watch to give away from Watches2U and you can choose one from this range up to the value of £200 for either women - or men.

That should certainly earn you a few brownie points to smooth over your past indiscretions (such as being collected from school when you were 'ill' in order to spend an afternoon in bed being fed tea and toast whilst listening to the radio).

Krug Baümen offer a wide range of watches from classical dress watches to robust sports watches and their classically styled dress timepieces can be worn to formal occasions and corporate occasions, thanks to their elegant leather straps, minimalist dials, and stylish touches - suitable for mums everywhere.

These are my favourites from Krug Baumen.

Krug Baumen Ladies Principle Diamond Chronograph Watch
Krug Baumen Ladies Principle Diamond Chronograph Watch - £195

This is a Seiko VD53 analogue ladies wristwatch built by Krug Baümen. It has a tan leather strap with a metal case that compliments the cream dial and comes with a 2 year manufacturers' warranty.

Krug Baumen Ladies Tuxedo Gold Watch £145
Krug Baumen Ladies Tuxedo Black Gold Watch - £145

This wrist watch (1965KL-G) comes with a gold metal bracelet and a case which compliments the black dial.

Or how about the Krug Baumen Charleston 4 Diamond White Dial Gold Strap wristwatch?

Krug Baumen Charleston 4 Diamond Wristwatch
Krug Baumen Charleston 4 Diamond Wristwatch - £175

The 5116DL ladies watch comes with a gold metal bracelet and a metal case combined with a white face.

Of course, there's no reason why the lucky winner couldn't choose a man's watch.

Watches2U is one of the largest online UK watch dealers today and offers free UK delivery as standard with same day dispatch if you order by 4pm Monday to Friday.  They also have a price match service and you can earn VIP points on purchases, reviews and friend referrals.

The Giveaway

Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget and the usual terms and conditions apply which you can find on my competitions page - along with lots of other great giveaways.

UK entrants only.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Friday 17th March.

The lucky winner can select one watch from the Krug Baumen range up to the value of £200.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Planning For The Holiday Of A Lifetime? Try Abu Dhabi

Before the children get any older, you may feel inclined to take everyone on an amazing holiday which nobody will forget. 

You want this holiday to be the best of the lot, and you are prepared to save as much as you need to ensure that nothing is going to cost too much or that aspects like the entry prices to different venues are not too high for your budget. 

The holiday of a lifetime means that it will not be forgotten about in a hurry by your children. In fact, it means the opposite. They will remember this holiday that you are planning for the rest of their lives and will continue to talk about it when they are in their twenties or thirties.

Picture source

A place which can cover all aspects of the meaning of your holiday of a lifetime, is Abu Dhabi which is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and is the second most populated city in the UAE. 

The city is full of history, from artefacts to hotspots to memorials. It is also home to a dense amount of restaurants, pubs, cocktail bars and also has many places of interest to visit during the day. 

It is a common misconception that Abu Dhabi can be a difficult place to get to, in terms of flights and airport transfers to and from your hotel - but this is simply not true. 

Proof of this is booktaxiabudhabi which can provide easy access to transport you to and from the airport.

Heroes Sports Bar is a very popular destination for travellers. It is family friendly, has a great range of drinks and even offers food for a quick bite to eat if you are not stopping long. If someone in your family is a sports fan, various games are shown in the bar meaning it may be hard to get your husband or son out of there!

Origins could be a good choice for you and your family to eat at. The menu is varied, though consistent, and offers different types of food to suit everyone - even the fussy eaters. The ambience is peaceful, the price is good, the service is excellent. For something a little different, you could try Vasco’s, which has a great view of the sea. Depending on what you choose, the food can tend to be overpriced but nevertheless it still tastes delicious.

To please the kids, take them to Yas Waterworld which is a sprawling water park filled with all kinds of activities the children can get stuck into. While they are out having fun in the water or sliding down the water slides, you can relax under the sun with a nice refreshing drink. 

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is also a place you must visit. Beautiful architecture, mouth opening artwork and an extremely interesting religious background means that this place will appeal to the children as well as the older generation. It may be better to arrive here in the morning as it can tend to get busier as the day goes on.

New Releases, Free & Bargain Books Link-up Week 9 2017

New Releases Free & Bargain Books Link-up Badge

How are you all this week?  As half term draws to a close here in Wales we're gearing ourselves up for the return to school.

You know, that time when you discover your darling offspring have 'forgotten' to mention their homework or the fact that their shoes are pinching and they need you to blow at least £40 in your local school shoe shop.

We've not exactly done a lot, having been hit by a nasty tummy bug but it's been good to rest up a bit.

Don't forget World Book Day on March 2nd - time to start planning your kids' dress-up for the day (you might this post a useful resource), and of course it's St. David's Day on March 1st so Welsh Lady costumes and rugby shirts at the ready.

As usual, there are some great books on the linky for us grown-ups - and don't forget you can always add your own to spread a bit of the book love.

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, 23 February 2017

My Problem Page - Edition 8 2017

This week I'm talking about what constitutes a toxic relationship, how to deal with an ex who dumps you even though they claim they love you and the mystery of limerence.

Couple on a pier at sunset

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: Should I discuss limerence with my boyfriend? 

I just learned about thing called limerence on internet. I think I am limerent to one guy from my office. I want to discuss this with my boyfriend. Will he not feel bad about me having feeling for someone else?

A: Just because it has a fancy name, does not, unfortunately, mean your boyfriend will be OK with it.

Basically limerence is the same thing as a crush. 

For lots of people, being emotionally attached to somebody else is still being unfaithful. 

You don’t say whether this other guy feels the same, or whether you both flirt with each other, or whether he even knows you’re interested in him (I suspect he does). 

If nothing has happened and you love your boyfriend, I would keep quiet. But it does hint that you are not that happy with your boyfriend and it may be time to move on. 

If you do tell your boyfriend I suspect he won’t be happy but it may be a way to force a resolution to a relationship which you may have outgrown.

Q: A guy and I are interested in each other and are talking to see where it goes. Should I be texting him every day? 

We are talking to see where it goes but he says work is his priority and is unable to talk everyday due to a really hectic schedule. Should I text him a little something at the end of the day everyday to help lift off a little bit of the stress of work? Or would that look too desperate?

A: I’m curious. If you two are really interested in each other, why are you not making arrangements to meet face to face? 

It’s very easy to hide behind text messages without taking any risk (or commitment). I think that this guy has gently told you he’s not that interested in a relationship right now - hence the old “hectic schedule” excuse. 

If he were desperate to meet up he would make the time. I don’t think he’ll be fooled by you texting him something ‘relieve his stress’ everyday and in all honesty I don’t think it will make much difference. 

You’d be better off keeping your distance, not chasing him (certainly not every day) and letting him chase you if he’s interested. 

I can tell you’re really keen but people don’t usually talk about the possibility of having a relationship if it’s right - they get on and have one.

Q: How can we ensure we conceive a baby next month?

A: You can’t. Conception doesn’t work like that. It may take a year to conceive even for healthy couples. 

All you can do is try to work out when ovulation occurs (generally around day 10 of the woman’s 28 day cycle - if she has a regular cycle) and ensure you have unprotected sex during that time. 

You should also ensure your lifestyle is as healthy as possible - good nutrition, limited alcohol, no cigarettes or drugs, plenty of exercise. 

Good luck.

Q: What qualities do very intellectual men like in a woman?

I’m interested in dating a certain male academic. I’ve never dated a particularly intellectual man before so I was wondering what kind of differences there might be in terms of dating.

A: I am not, clearly, a male academic but I do think you have some rather stereotyped ideas of what male academics do on dates. 

I’m sure they don’t drift about quoting from Proust and discussing nuclear fission. 

I’m also unsure that intelligence has all that much to do with love - although it certainly helps if you ‘match’ at least vaguely in that regard. 

It’s clear you want to make a good impression and that’s understandable but you shouldn’t have to change yourself to make someone else happy (I’m not talking about bad behaviours here). 

Has this man actually asked you out on a date though? 

If he has then have confidence in yourself and concentrate on your best qualities. 

It wouldn’t hurt, I suppose to read a little about the guy’s field of interest so you at least understand what he does. But I’m sure you’ll find a date with an academic is barely different from one with a guy on a less cerebral plain.

Q: What does a toxic relationship look like?

I am worried me and my girlfriend are falling into a trap, we love each other dearly, but sometimes have nasty fights.

A: To me a toxic relationship is one in which you both bring out the worst in one another and consequently see these your bad behaviours get worse and worse. 

Or they are relationships where the balance of power is firmly in one partner’s favour while the other, though miserable, does not have the strength or motivation to change things. 

Arguing is perfectly normal in healthy relationships. Physical violence and outright abuse is obviously not. 

You don’t say what constitutes a ‘nasty fight’ but it sounds as if you need to sit down when the dust has settled from one of these fights and talk about what happened and what is annoying you both. 

I suspect you are both aware of exactly what the issues are but don’t make the mistake of hiding behind psychological terms when what you really need to do is talk openly and, if necessary, leave the relationship.

Q: What are the chances of getting back with your ex who loves you but has dumped you?

A: It depends why you were dumped. Did you cheat? Were you unkind? Did they leave for someone else? 

I think a lot of people would say that if your ex truly loved you, they would not have dumped you - as harsh as that may sound. 

And if they have started another relationship they are not being very truthful, are they? Or perhaps the pain of whatever happened outweighs the pleasure of being with you and the trust has gone. 

The only exception I can think of to this would be if they were married or in a long term relationship and yours was a fling or affair. 

All you can do, I suppose, is give it time and see if bridges can be built again but in the meantime don’t sit about moping. 

Rebuild your life and see other people. You may find you no longer want them back. 

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. 

How to make your hair naturally beautiful in 6 easy steps

The cosmetic industry has seen a huge rise in hair product sales in the last 20 to 30 years as well as in the types of hair product available to buy.

Whilst this undoubtedly gives us a lot more choice, it can be really hard to tell what kind of ingredients the average products has. Some of them may even contain volatile ingredients which could put the health of our body and skin at risk.

woman with long hair wearing sunglasses

Luckily, we are more aware of the variety of chemicals that go into our products and today, more than ever, we are trying to turn to natural solutions and products.

Here are 6 great tips to keep your hair naturally beautiful from Nick Stoyanov, content strategist for  HollywoodMirrors.co.uk , an online family-run business in the UK helping to bring glamour to the home with lighted mirrors.

Start with your diet

No matter what you do, it is necessary to start with your diet. Hair receives a lot of nutrients from your food such as vitamins, minerals and proteins.

If you’re malnourished, this will affect your cells leading to loss of hair and lower quality of follicles. You can make a huge difference to the condition of your hair by eating more foods such as salmon, oranges and carrot.

Be careful when buying hair products

A lot of women make a mistake by using the wrong products for their hair type. First of all, you should always be suspicious about products making grand claims and offering instant results.

Although the product may be good for your current appearance, it may lead to long-term damage to your hair.

In fact, you should choose products that have a smaller number of ingredients. With each additional ingredient, the risk of hair damage increases. Simply put, you can never know how your hair will react to something. Try to focus on natural products instead.

Too much treatment

If you’re a neat freak, you probably comb your hair often. In fact, you probably comb it too often.

Like most other systems in our body, natural processes work to keep our hair healthy such as the secretion of sebum.

Excessive treatment (for example, too much washing) can remove natural oils from your hair making it more susceptible to damage.

Let your hair be wild from time to time. Give it a rest by avoiding combing it in the evening unless you are going out.

Avoid heat 

Similar to combing and washing, heat is something that can ruin your hair. It dries out both your scalp and the hair follicles making them rough and easy to break which can lead to split ends.

Ideally, you should wash your hair several hours before going out, then use a drier just a bit so that it remains damp. After that, it will dry out on its own while you’re still at home.

Check your scalp 

Besides your follicles, the skin on your scalp can also pose a problem. Various issues such as hair loss, hair thinning or dandruff may be caused by scalp issues.

There are numerous problems you can have with your skin. For example, it may be dehydrated or perhaps it doesn’t have enough natural oils.

Stress and malnutrition are also common causes of hair issues.

Condition your hair with natural oils

Oil is crucial for your hair but some people deplete their hair's natural oils by over-treatment.

This is why you should add some artificially. A good choice is tea tree oil or coconut oil - the purer and more natural the oil the better.

By feeding your hair with them, you will definitely see an improvement in its condition.

Like everything else in life, you need to be moderate when it comes to hair care. Overdoing it can only endanger your cells leading to various health issues.

Make sure to use a lot of natural products and place emphasis on vitamins and minerals.

With such a strict regime, you will have beautiful hair that will last for ages.

Beck Valley Book Tour: Hurricane In Paradise by Deborah Brown

Set against the steamy backdrop of Tarpon Cove's sun-kissed, tropical waters, sexy sleuths and best friends Madison and Fab are at it again dealing with the occasional dead body. Hidden just below the surface of the small town lies an underworld, one steeped in deceit, corruption, and deadly secrets. It's only a matter of time before Madison and Fab find themselves on a collision course with the police, who consider them likely suspects in a murder.

Ride along on their adventures when the duo realizes that a family member is missing and pull themselves away from all jobs to track him down. Theories: walked away, freak accident, kidnapped? If so, then why no ransom demand?

Hurricane in Paradise is book ten in the thrilling and humorous provocative Paradise series, which finds the two waist-deep in mystery and romance. It is a smart, adventurous read that delivers heart-thumping, non-stop action. Join Madison and Fab as they solve the most twisted of cases, through unconventional ¬– and highly entertaining – measures… sometimes in flip-flops.

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

Available to buy from.....

"Deborah Brown's Florida Keys mystery series is highly addictive! The characters are quirky & amusing. The dialogue is snappy. The plot highly entertaining & thrilling. All the oddball cast of characters are back as well as Mad's & Fab's deliciously hunky loves, Creole & Didier." 

"Madison and Fab are so much fun to read about along with their better halves. This time there's murder (of course), a missing family member and a crazy grandma! You'll love this book so much!"

"Once again Deborah Brown has written a wonderful humerous highly entertaining book."
Above reviews from Amazon

About the Author

I've been writing, in one way or another for as long as I can remember; writing poetry, short stories, a romance novel secretly stashed under the bed and sappy love letters. Fiction should be fun. I wanted to create the perfect beach book, to make the reader laugh, cry and cheer... and then run out and tell their friends about it.

My love of reading began when I was seven, the day I opened the cover of my first Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book. Mrs. P gave lessons to other children in how to behave and to me I learned to love the written word. I live with my family and demon children aka rescue cats in South Florida.

Find the author on the following sites...
Website  Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest  Google+  Goodreads  Amazon Author page

My Review

Madison and Fabiana are back and so is a hurricane which starts the book by causing havoc and leaving a decided aftermath for the pair to sort out.

All the usual favourites are back, Creole and Didier, Mother and Spoon and the crazy cast of characters at The Cottages.

The pace is full on as usual and there are enough escapades (thanks to the roguish Brick) to keep the girls fully occupied.

This time though one of their cases is more personal than usual as Brad, Madison's brother goes missing and it's a race to find him.

There are laugh out loud moments and the dialogue is punchy.

We know these two so well now that I found myself wishing for a new team member to add a little freshness to challenge the girls' friendship. And it would be great to know a little more about Fab's mysterious French background.

Fans of the series will love this one and Brown's gift is to create stories which stand equally as well alone as they do as a part of a series.

Also available in the Paradise Series

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I received this book through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, I have volunteered to share my review and all the opinions are 100% my own.

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Cute, Quirky & Wonderfully Unique Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

It seems like only yesterday we were buying Christmas gifts, doesn’t it? And yet, already it’s nearly Mother’s Day. Where has the time gone this year, it’s just flying by, isn’t it?

With Mother’s Day on the way, whether you’ve got a mum to buy for, an aunt, a step mother, a grandmother, or another special lady, it’s time to start thinking about the perfect gift idea for them.

Photo from Pixabay

Finding that perfect gift can often be a struggle, especially when you don’t want to get them something too similar to what you got them last year.

There’s only so many times a bunch of their favourite flowers, and a box of fancy chocolates will cut it, isn’t there?

As a mother myself, I know how important Mother’s Day is, not just for those of us who are mothers, but also for our children. 

Being able to give your mum a card and a gift to thank her for everything that she does all year is important, as it allows you to ensure that your mum knows how loved she truly is.

The question is, of course, how can you go about finding the special woman in your life - aka your mum, grandmother, aunt, or step mother, that perfect present? The key to gift buying success is getting a little creative and being willing to think outside the box.

With that in mind, below are a few cute, quirky gift ideas that should help to make picking a Mother’s Day gift that little bit easier for you.

Hand painted ceramics

Image credit

For a present that’s wonderfully personal and unique, hand painted ceramics are ideal. Head to your local ceramic painting centre or order a kit off of the internet and spend some time creating some beautiful ceramics for your mum. 

If you’ve got little ones of your own, perhaps you could get them involved too? Whether you opt to paint her a selection of plates, a teapot, a set of two new mugs, or something else, it doesn’t matter; it’s just a case of finding something that she will love and get use out of. 

A great way to make the ceramics that you make a keepsake is to decorate them with yours’ and your children’s hand prints. Hand painted pottery not only makes a great gift but is also a lot of fun to make, and is something that you and your kids can enjoy doing together.

Family Scrabble board art

Since Scrabble has become more and more popular over the past few years, there are now lots of people selling family Scrabble boards as wall art. 

These are Scrabble boards with the names of each family member added to them and entwined, as words are in a normal game of Scrabble - how amazing is that? 

The best thing about this gift, apart from the fact that it’s wonderfully personal, is that you can easily make it yourself, so it doesn’t have to be expensive. All you need is an old Scrabble board (or a print out of one), Scrabble tiles, glue, and a photo frame that is larger than the Scrabble board. Then it’s just a case of fitting everyone’s names together.

Beauty box

Picture link

If your mum is into her beauty products and loves to pamper herself, why not put together a beauty box for her of little treats?

Think about all of her favourite beauty products, from the lipstick she loves to her favourite perfume from thefragranceshop, and pick out a few bits and bobs to go into her beauty box. 

As well as picking beauty products that she already loves, try to find some products that you know she’ll like but has never tried before. Perhaps some lovely luxurious bath bombs, a rich face cream, and a hair mask could be ideal?

Day out

What do you get the woman that’s got everything? If your mum is one of those women who has everything that she needs, then perhaps planning a special day out could work out better than picking her a gift. 

For a day out that she will love, think about the types of things that she likes to do. If she’s a big foodie, why not take her out for a fancy lunch? Does she love being pampered - if so, a spa day could be ideal. Is your mum someone who loves adventure and trying new things? Then how about booking her an experience day, trying something new, such as flying a hot air balloon.

Family photoshoot

Photo source

Is your mum always saying how she wishes you had more family photos? Then how about booking a family photoshoot to celebrate Mother’s Day? 

Perhaps you could get all of your siblings and their children together for a big family photo shoot? 

If your mum is always asking for more family photos, then this could be a perfect way to make her dreams come true. 

Best of all, a family photoshoot need not be expensive, as there are plenty of online deals that you can take advantage of - it’s just a case of taking the time to look around to find the best deal.


If your mum is a woman who loves wearing jewellery, then you can’t go wrong with a new pair of earrings or a new necklace. However, before you pick a piece of jewellery for her that’s similar to all of her other pieces, take the time to look at unique jewellery designs. 

Etsy has some fantastically unique jewellery designs, many of which are handmade, so it’s worth taking the time to have a browse, to see if there’s anything that you think she would like. 

Perhaps a piece of jewellery with your children’s handprints on would be nice? Don’t be afraid to pick a piece that’s unique, as often the unique pieces are the best pieces.

Picking that perfect gift for Mother’s Day isn’t always easy, but hopefully, the ideas and suggestions above have given you some ideas that are a little different to the normal things that you pick out.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

How To Ban The Bin Now & Love Food This Lent

Caitlin's term project this Spring has been World War II. And not surprisingly she has been learning about food shortages, rationing and 'make do and mend'.

My parents were born in 1939 and still joke about powdered egg and the scarcity of things we take for granted, like sugar and bananas.

 food, healthy, veggies, vegetable, dessert, plate, toppings, pasta, snack, tomatoes

It is ironic, then that in 2015, in the UK alone £13 billion of edible food was thrown away from our homes.

That's a staggering total of 7.3 million tonnes of food binned, which if prevented, would have the environmental benefit of taking one in four cars off the road.

Consumer charity campaign Love Food Hate Waste is determined to encourage us to make 2017 our year of action to do something about this appalling level of waste.

This Lent (1 Mar - 13 Apr), instead of making a conscious choice to give up chocolate or alcohol, they suggest we should be healthier, happier and wealthier if we gave up binning food instead.

To this end they are running a 40 Day Challenge to help us reduce the amount of food that ends up in the bin, and, by making a few small changes, save a few pounds into the bargain.

The campaign, which starts on the 1st of March, will cover a period of just over 6 weeks, each with its own theme and daily tips and challenges.

The themes are:-

Week 1 Meal planning – when’s this for?
Week 2 Storage – where should I put this?
Week 3 Fridge focus – how do I make the most of my fridge?
Week 4 Portioning – how much should I use?
Week 5 Food labels – what do they mean?
Weeks 6/7 Leftovers – what can I do with my ingredients?

So why should we save food?

Rows of bananas in a supermarket

Leaving aside the moral issue of those affected by famine and food shortages who could benefit from the food we waste, when many of us are struggling to cope with ever increasing bills, making the most of one of the large items of expenditure in our weekly budget just makes sense.

As Love Food Hate Waste says, let's change the world one meal at a time.

Save money

Research has shown that if we actually use what we buy, every family could save £60 a month. In fact, throwing good food away costs the average person in the UK around £200 a year, and the average family £700.

It's easy to knock up a quick meal with some leftovers.  For example, left-over vegetables can be blended and turned into a tasty soup.  Off-cuts of meat could be used in a curry or stir-fry.  Left-over berries could be whizzed into a smoothie or turned into a fruit sauce for ice cream.  You could even freeze them for ice lollies for the kids.

Bread can be turned into breadcrumbs and frozen or used in a bread and butter pudding (you can do the same thing with rolls and other kinds of bread).

Nothing beats the taste of fresh food does it, and it tastes even better when you don't have to shell out extra cash for it.

You can find lots of leftover food recipes on the Love Food Hate Waste website.

Save time

If you are organised and cook in bulk then you can simply freeze what you don't use that day and pull a healthier ready meal out to defrost when you need it.

But to really save time and money you need to create a meal plan - and to save argument it's a good idea to get the family involved.

That way everyone's favourites can make an appearance.  We tend to have a roast on Sunday, use the leftovers for a quick tea on Monday and have a pizza night on Wednesday.

I find our meals are planned around the kids' social calendars and occasionally, of course, we are all just too tired to cook.

Save energy bills

If you are using your freezer properly, then you'll not only save money on food but you'll save money on your energy bills too.

And batch cooking will make the most of your oven usage too.

You'll find some great tips for saving energy in the kitchen here.

Woman arranging bread in a bread basket

Get healthier

We know that processed food is loaded with fat, sugar and additives and home-cooking allows us to regain control over what exactly we're putting in our mouths - even more important when you have kids.

Rather than buy a calorie laden fish & chip supper, for example, which comes in at a whopping 2000 calories (your entire day's calorie allowance), you can easily pan-roast a white fish fillet and use spuds (even older, sprouty ones) to make potato wedges.  Chuck some chilli flakes on for some extra oomph.  You could even add some left over tomatoes and onions to the baking tray.

Much more taste, less fat and certainly less than the average £7 per supper.

There is one product though that as a nation we are notorious for wasting - the bagged salad.  I've found that despite all my good intentions, we usually end up throwing half a bag away or even, in some cases, the entire thing.  What a waste!

Now we buy little gem lettuce, baby tomatoes, celery, rocket and grate some carrot.  Throw in some pine nuts and some home made salad dressing and you're done.

The Hobbis Household are fully signed up to the challenge and I hope you'll join us.  Why not set yourself a financial target of saving the £60 per month?  By the end of the challenge you could have saved over £75 on food alone.

The challenge kicks off with meal planning and you can find lots of quick and simple tips at www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/lent to get you started.

It's time we all start to Love Food and Hate Waste.

A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed

We all need a helping hand in our lives at some time or another. We can often rely on our partners and relatives, but it is important to also remember that we can always ask our friends whenever we need some help as well!

After all, there is that old saying ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’!

Do you want to be there for your friends as often as you can? There are various ways you can offer them your help.

Here are some very common situations in which they might get a bit stressed out. If you know that a close friend of yours is going through one of these, don’t be scared to ask them if they could do with a hand. I’m sure they will enthusiastically take you up on your offer!


A New Baby

There is nothing quite as stressful as welcoming a new baby into your home! Sure, it is a very happy time that is filled with joy, but it can be very difficult to deal with all the changes, especially for new mums.

If one of your friends has just had a new baby, you should let her know that you are there for her to help her out with anything she needs.

That might just be some words of wisdom or advice if you already have kids. But there might also be some practical stuff that you can help her with too.

You will no doubt know just how tiring living with a newborn can be, so one nice idea is to offer to look after the baby whenever she needs to take a well-earned nap.

If you have any old clothes or toys that your kids no longer use, you could consider passing them on to the newborn. Baby things are very expensive, and I’m sure your friend will really appreciate this thoughtful gift!


Planning A Child’s Birthday Party

Once the newborn has grown up, there will be a big birthday bash to plan each year!

These are very easy to do when kids are young, as babies and toddlers won’t demand too much for their party. In fact, many parents simply organize a small gathering at home with close friends and relatives.

However, things can get very stressful once the child grows up and starts to make demands!

If you know a friend is struggling to plan their child’s party, you should offer to help them out. For instance, why not say that you will take care of the food?

You could also help with a variety of other small jobs. Offer to ring around a few different venues to see who can offer the best price, or help your friend post out all the invitations.

No matter how small the job is, I’m sure it will be a big help for your friend!


Moving House

Another extremely stressful situation to go through is moving house.

There is a lot to organize and plan in order for moving day to go very smoothly, such as packing and hiring some movers.

If your friend is dreading their upcoming moving day, offer a helping hand to them. You could nip around to their house and help them pack up their final few things before the movers arrive.

Another great idea is to take care of their kids while they are packing and sorting things out. Having the kids around while your friend and her partner are trying to get on will only slow them down and cause them to get stressed out.

Taking them away for the day will certainly help your friend out.

It would also be a nice gesture to help them to organize a housewarming party. You could buy them a few gifts, like hampers with prosecco in them and send out invites to friends and family.

It doesn’t have to be a huge occasion; just a small gathering in their new home will be enough to help them celebrate!


Job Troubles

No one wants to go through a difficult period at work.

If you think your friend is having trouble in their job, for whatever reason, you should offer them a shoulder to cry on or just be there ready to turn the kettle on whenever they need a strong cup of tea and a chat!

More often than not, just being there to talk through their problems with them will be enough to take a large load off their shoulders.

But there may sometimes be other ways you can help. For instance, if your friend ever needs a character reference, you should offer to write them one.

One reason why our jobs can become so stressful is because more and more people have to work longer hours. If this is the case for your friend, offer to pick up her kids from school and look after them until she or her partner can pick them up. That way, the don’t have to worry about expensive childcare.


Relationship Worries

Do you have a suspicion that your friend’s relationship is going through a rocky patch?

If so, invite them round for a brew or glass of wine and see if she will open up to you about things.

Simply talking through problems will be a great way to help her out. They do say that a problem shared is a problem halved, after all!

However, if she doesn’t open up to you, then you shouldn’t force her to. I’m sure that she will in her own time.

If your friend is going through a divorce, all of this emotional support will be a great help.

You should also try to organise as many nights out and catch ups over coffee as possible so that you can take her mind off things.

Let her know that she can give you a call, no matter the time, if she ever needs to have a chat with someone!

As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can be there for all your friends!
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