Review: Collyre Bleu Eyelights by Verseo

There are many minor annoyances when you’re a contact lens wearer. And, despite my love-hate relationship with my glasses, I do wear daily disposable contact lenses quite frequently.

One of them is that, like guitar players, you generally need to keep your fingernails varying lengths to avoid jabbing yourself in the eye when you put the lenses in.

Another is that if, like me, you suffer from dry eyes, not only is your lens wearing time curtailed but your eyes also need a bit of extra care sometimes to keep them looking fresh.

Collyre Bleu eyedrops - close up of woman's eyes

I’ve tried quite a few eye drops over the years and also a variety of drops and wetting solutions to make wearing my lenses a little easier so I like to think I was the ideal tester for Collyre Bleu Eyelights by Verseo.

Collyre Bleu eye drops are sold as a packet of 10 sterile, single-doses.

These drops are, I should add, suitable for everybody – an added bonus is you can use them as a contact lens wearer which you can’t with many other brands of eye drops, particularly those which also claim to have an anti-redness action.

Collyre Bleu eye drops - box and vials

Collyre Bleu Eyelights by Verseo

The solution’s ingredients include distilled Cornflower (renowned for its astringent, decongestant and anti-redness properties) and Chamomile water (which has a soothing, calming and refreshing action).

Interestingly, the Collyre Bleu eyedrops also contain Hyaluronic Acid which helps hydrate and lubricate the cornea and conjunctiva of the eye as a result of things like being in a smoky or dusty atmosphere, tiredness, due to too much computer work or irritation from wearing contact lenses.

Collyre Bleu eyedrops - single vials

The eyedrops come as 10 sterile, single doses in individual vials.

The eye drops are easy to use. Detach one vial, unscrew the top and drop 2/3 drops into each eye.

You can then put the top back in (unlike some other refreshing contact drops which then leak in the bottom of your handbag) for use later in the day.

So, how did I find them?

I tried the drops on a day when I was just wearing my glasses, having worn lenses the evening before in a pub.

Since this usually leaves my eyes sensitive, I have to say that I found the drops quite astringent and my eyes smarted slightly on application.

This lasted only seconds and was quickly replaced was a nice comfortable feeling.

My eyes did appear a little less red, but after going to bed much too late throughout the entire school holidays so far, miracles could not really be expected!

My eyes did feel refreshed for at least a couple of hours after use, longer than with the more well-known brands.

At £19.95 for ten vials, Verseo Eyelights certainly isn’t the cheapest option on the market.

Other well-known brands such as Optrex and Eyedew retail around the £5, but only include distilled witch hazel and Naphazoline Hydrochlorine (a vasoconstrictor with a rapid action in reducing swelling when applied to mucous membrane – thus making your eyes look clearer).

It is the inclusion of hyaluronic acid which makes Verseo Eyelights different.

The molecular structure of hyaluronic acid makes it quite elastic so, as I understand it, it spreads itself over the eye and forms a thin surface coating which keeps the eye lubricated for longer.

Another bonus of Verseo Eyelights is that they contain no preservatives – a factor which can also cause irritation.

If you want to try something that, over the longer term, may be better for your eyes than just distilled witch hazel, then I think Verseo Eyelights are worth a try – particularly with the biggest party of the year, New Year’s Eve just a couple of days away and, for many of us, a return to hours sat our PC as we catch up with all those projects which were shelved in the general excitement of Christmas.

I certainly intend to try Collyre Bleu eyedrops whilst wearing my lenses as the vials will fit easily in my purse. You can’t really fit a bottle of saline solution in a clutch bag, can you?

UPDATE 2018: This product now appears to be called Innoxa Blue drops and comes in a single bottle.  You can find them on Amazon.co.uk.

[amazon_link asins=’B00NIBS4RY,B00U6AU5PO,B0052ELZJY,B01AVEUNCO,B00195QLRG,B00UTX0UG2,B0015XA9B6,B079DCF1KC’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’mothedistr-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’f1bb6c80-b6c3-11e8-82d4-132a258e22b2′]

*PR samples were sent for the purposes of this review which contains an affiliate link.

Silent Sunday – 29/12/2013

Caitlin and Ieuan at Pizza Express, Cardiff Bay
Caitlin & Ieuan at Pizza Express, Cardiff Bay

Surviving Christmas…

The thing about our generation (born around 1964) is that we are sandwiched.  Squashed between children and parents whilst trying to understand what passes for middle age (or middle youth).

We balance the needs of the elderly and ageing against the excited anticipation of our children – with our own hopes and desires bubbling below somewhere below the surface.

We are truly the sandwich generation.

Baby Ieuan with his grandfather John
My dad with Ieuan, Christmas 2009


So, I had a lovely Christmas.  It had all the picture book elements I try to include to create lasting memories – from attending the village carol service, to decorating the house with fairy lights; from ensuring there was enough to eat and drink, to buying and wrapping sufficient gifts (but what IS sufficient?)  I have seen so many TV advertisement for supermarket food, I feel like the M&S and Morrison’s logos are burned into my eyeballs.

From December onwards, it has been like living in a bizarre Alice in Wonderland dreamscape where Christmas puddings shimmer with glitter and glace cherries tumble down from the sky, glancing off snow topped fir trees decorated with sugar canes and glinting with the gold of chocolate coins.

There were no arguments; no disagreements – not even a minute of shirtiness, because I have learned that it is just not worth the lasting damage it can do to memory making. It’s as if, from December onwards, we all enter a bubble in the space-time continuum; like pressing pause whilst playing a DVD.  And that, coupled with the enticing anticipation Christmas gives us is what makes this time of year so magical.

However, I have also seen, in a similar quantity to the Morrisons, Very and M&S adverts, seemingly endless appeals from charities asking for £2, £3, £5, £19 a month to help the sick, the needy, the dying across the World and in the UK. So frequent have been these appeals that one wonders how on earth giving such a small amount per month can possibly make a difference to the lives of the poor and starving – whilst also wondering how many lives could have been saved from the cost of such television advertising campaigns alone.

Such campaigns are a reminder that there is a reality outside our Christmas bubble and that while we are congratulating ourselves about having survived another one, without fights or falls outs, for some surviving Christmas is actually a miracle beyond their control – either today or in the year to come.

Ways Of Avoiding Conflict At Christmas

Christmas is a potential minefield for arguments – with family, with partners, with children, with the cat, with shop assistants and probably with yourself.  If you’re the
sort of person who could start an argument in a phone box, and if you’re hosting Christmas this year, channel your inner Kirstie Allsopp and consider these ways of avoiding conflict at Christmas. Cheer up – it’s only a couple of days, isn’t it?

ways of avoiding conflict at Christmas - hand holding up a wrapped present in front of a Christmas tree

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

It does not all have to be perfect.  You do not have to greet people looking like an extra from a 1950’s retro greeting card in a twinset and pearls.  You do not have to have place cards inscribed with perfect calligraphy, table confetti, ice cream sparklers or anything else you’ve longingly coveted in the Lakeland catalogue.  It is a good idea though to adhere to some basic etiquette. Either that or employ a bouncer.

Ways of avoiding conflict at Christmas

Hospitable Hosting

  • Set time frames. There’s nothing worse than the embarrassment of having to turf out
    guests who overstay their welcome. If you can, send out written invites – e.g  “Coffee & Mince Pies, 4 – 6 pm”.  Or then there’s that helpful phrase “would you like a coffee before you go home?” This has to be delivered with a certain amount of aplomb lest you come over like a Christmas Curmudgeon and you probably won’t get away with it with close family and definitely not on Christmas Day.
  • Avoid flashpoints – you know, I’m sure what topics are likely to start World War III but a couple of glasses of fizz and the urge to start talking about them is hard to resist.  Think of it this way. Christmas Day is 24hours. Even during World War I, the
    opposing sides took a day off at Christmas. Surely you can avoid talking about your ex, that outstanding loan, and why your children are never invited to Aunty Flo’s house for just a day. Stick your fork in your hands. Bite your tongue. Otherwise, you’ll regret it.
  • Do not remark upon half-finished plates. Annoying if you’ve slaved in the kitchen all
    morning but they’ve probably had too many Quality Street before turning up.
  • Eat your own food – sounds weird but there’s nothing worse than a host who loads everyone else’s plate to the rafters and then eats half a potato and a pea because they’re on a diet.
  • Don’t get sloshed. Alcohol and a stove whacked on to full power plus igniting the Christmas pudding is a recipe for disaster.

And, if you’re lucky enough to be a guest at someone else’s festive lunch this year….

Gracious Guest-ing

  • Bring a gift. At the very least turn up with a bottle of something decent.
  • Curb your urge to flirt with your sister’s boyfriend, the next door neighbour or anyone else you know full well is off limits. And if you see someone flirting with your partner, try to ignore it and not cause a scene – at least till you get home! Tell yourself you must have made a good choice if someone else is after your beau.
  • If everyone else is wearing their cracker hat, don’t be a mardy guts and refuse to on the grounds that “it will ruin my hair”. If Lady Gaga can go out wearing a meat frock, you can manage to balance a few grams of coloured paper on your head for half an hour.
  • Try the food. You’re not 12. A mouthful of Brussel Sprout won’t kill you. And make
    sure you’ve told the host/hostess about your wheat allergy/gluten/ intolerance/fear of scallops well in advance of the day.
  • Join in. Yes, I know you hate party games but unless it’s “strip Twister” or someone’s suggesting throwing car keys in an ashtray, at least give it a go. Why not bring a pub quiz book with you or Trivial Pursuit so you can steer the post-meal fun in a generally less embarrassing direction. You can’t go wrong with Charades, can you?
  • Don’t talk through the Queen’s Speech. In some houses, watching the Queen’s annual
    address is de rigueur and even if you think the French had the right idea with their guillotine, Christmas Day is not the best time to mention that. Keep your jokes about corgis and an annus horribilis for another time.
  • Know when to go home. As a general rule, when your host’s eyes have glazed over and if anyone has started to snore, it’s time to leg it.

In all seriousness though, if an argument does break out, the best thing to do is to try not to get involved. A dignified silence usually works well, as does “shall we discuss this another time? We don’t want to spoil the party”. Or there’s one of my favourite anti-argument techniques learned from Agatha Christie’s legendary Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. On hearing anything vaguely insulting, Poirot would raise his eyebrows and utter just one word in a questioning tone – “Indeed?”.

There are ways of avoiding conflict at Christmas – make sure you have a happy one!

Giveaway: A Selection of Goodies From Good Hemp

I always thought that Hemp was something rather New Age and used for knitting sandals but actually it seems that hemp oil and seeds are good for us, containing half the saturated fat of olive oil and with 25 times more Omega 3 – particularly important for kids.

The lovely people at GOOD Hemp grow their hemp on their Devon farm from which they produce Good Oil, a 100% cold-pressed hemp seed oil, GOOD SEED shelled hemp seeds and GOOD HEMP Milk alternative. 

They tell me that GOOD Oil is great for festive cooking as it has a delicious nutty flavour and makes excellent roast potatoes – and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is a fan. 

GOOD products are also approved by the Vegetarian Society

So, if you would like to try this healthy alternative to cooking oil, GOOD Hemp Food have kindly given me a selection of their delicious hemp products to give away. 

The prize includes a 250ml bottle of original GOOD Oil, a selection of 4 flavours of GOOD SEED shelled hemp seeds, rich in protein and Omega 3,which you can eat as a snack or sprinkle on cereals, soups and salads, and a carton of GOOD HEMP Milk, a dairy free alternative to milk and soya containing 50% of the recommended daily intake of Omega 3 per glass and with no cholesterol.

Entry is via the rafflecopter below and the usual terms and conditions apply. 

The giveaway ends at midnight on December 31st 2013 so you can embrace a healthier you in the New Year (well, that’s always my intention!).

Further information at www.goodwebsite.co.uk.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fine Tune Your Festive Flirtation

You know, I always find it strange when my girlfriends say
they don’t know if a man is really interested in them.  And most blokes seem to remain resolutely
oblivious to the most obvious of flirtation signals. Prior to my becoming a respectable married woman (cough), I
had quite a lengthy flirtation with internet dating. Now I know a lot of people are still quite
sniffy about meeting a partner this way, seeing online dating as the refuge of
the dateless and socially inept, but I found it immense fun and an excellent
way of deciding what I wanted in a man. 

A long-time single girlfriend of mine (and I mean years) would love to meet a special
someone but won’t try online dating on the grounds that she’d have to have a
profile picture. It’s funny how we’ll
happily supply the most ghastly of photos for passports and driving licences
but when it’s a question of our attractiveness being judged, nothing less than
a photo-shoot with David Bailey will do. She also worries about work colleagues
finding her out. Frankly, unless you’re
‘M’ at MI5, I’m not sure this is too much of a problem. Rather than view my dates as a nerve-wracking experiment, I
pretended I was ‘auditioning’ the latest candidate, thus making him the one on
trial rather than me.  Possibly a weird
mental switch, but try it, it works.

Anyone who works in HR or who interviews as part of their
job knows that the first judgement of a candidate is normally made in the first
few seconds of meeting and that most of our communication is non-verbal.  Yes, what you say is less important than how
you say it and the various signals you give out. I could read body language tomes all day from self-styled
‘sexpert’ Tracey Cox to the grandfather of body language study himself, Desmond
Morris.  So, when you are at a party or a
date, take a moment to observe your potential partner in action. This is no bad thing because the late Helen
Gurley Brown (Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine) once said “if you’re
doing all the talking, you’re boring somebody”.  Silence is power. 

Here’s what to look for.

Good signs

  • Prolongued
    eye contact
    – particularly if they look into your eyes and then at your
    mouth
  • Proximity
    – are they sitting close to you or if not, are they turned towards you? If you
    are standing in a circle with others, have a quick glance at the floor to see
    if their feet are pointing towards you.
  • Preening
    I’m sure we all know the classic preening gestures such as toying / flicking
    hair or licking lips.  Some men will hook
    their fingers in their belt loops unconsciously ‘pointing’ to their groin. Some
    women will stroke their throat, drawing attention to their breasts.
  • Mirroring
    – if you both have a drink, look to see if you both lift your glasses to sip at
    the same time or, if you change your posture, do they change theirs too?
  • Territory
    – if you are sitting across a table from each other, try putting your glass or
    a piece of cutlery down on their ‘side’ of the table. If they are comfortable, they’ll probably let
    it stay there. If they’re not, it’s
    likely to be handed straight back.
  • Conversation
    – do you both finish each other’s sentences? Are your questions being answered without just a curt yes or no?
  • Revealing
    gestures
    – the inside of the wrist is considered to be an erogenous zone –
    watch to see if there are lots of palm up / wrist revealed gestures. Revealing the wrist whilst smoking is a
    classic flirtation gestures and you could probably write a book about
    Hollywood’s use of smoking as flirtation. Now such a thing would be not quite Disney and I suspect that trying the
    same femme fatal routine with an e-cig probably won’t have the same effect. Far
    sexier these days not to smoke unless you’re happy to keep leaving the table
    this festive season to stand outside with the other lonely souls and light up
    in the rain while your date eyes up the other women in the restaurant.

Bad Signs

  • Lack of
    eye contact
    – that thing where you’re dancing and you just know he’s
    checking out other women over your shoulder
  • Constantly
    checking a mobile –
    be honest. If
    they are checking their email or updating their Facebook status, they aren’t
    that keen
  • Pomposity
    – they sit with both hands behind their head maximising their physical size and
    space. This is the gesture of arrogance
    and superiority. Him Tarzan, you
    probably one of many Janes. Either way, you’re
    not considered an intellectual equal.
  • Closed
    answers –
    yes/ no answers that leave conversation in the air, not asking
    about you, talking about the Ex – no, no, no!
  • No
    attempt to prolongue the date
    – if you finish the last mouthful of your
    dessert and they ask for the bill rather than coffee, not good. Some women think men should pay on the first
    date; I’m more pragmatic, particularly if you earn more than he does but if he
    splits the bill to the penny, run.

Let’s be honest.  If
your date is not making every effort to know when they will see you again, then
in the words of that famous dating bible inspired by “Sex & The City”, he’s
just not that into you. You may remember the book “The Rules” which was popular
about ten years ago which contained rather militant advice such as “if he
phones after Wednesday asking for a date on Saturday tell him no”. You were supposed to be a creature of
mystery, alluring and just that little bit hard to get. When you get to a certain age, all that game
playing is very wearing, decidedly not sexy and, generally, a complete waste of
time.  Many women say they just ‘know’
when they’ve met the ‘one’ so if the one you’re with is Mr or Miss Right Now
rather than Mr or Miss Right, keep auditioning!

21 Tips For Staying Safe On A Night Out

My daughter is only 7 years old, but already she can make that sound – “harrumph” – which implies she hasn’t the faintest intention of listening to me; a situation that I fully envisage will continue when she hits her teens.

Since, journalists often lurk around the many pubs in St. Mary Street in Cardiff (or any other busy city centre) at weekends hoping to catch party goers in less than dignified positions to publish next day (i.e. spark out on the floor, face down in the gutter, etc), I found myself wondering what advice I’d give Caitlin in the years to come on how to stay safe on a night out.

Source:  Cumbria Police

I suspect that very few of us have personal safety at the top of our agenda for a good night out. Most of us are more concerned about whether our dress looks good and we can actually walk in those heels. But safety IS an issue, particularly at this time of year.

According to the Home Office statistics published back in 2013, more than 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and over 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales each year.

So, below are some tips it would do all of us, male and female, well to read and inwardly digest before stepping into that taxi.

Before You Go

  • Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged.
  • Carry a personal alarm with you – men as well as women – as statistics show that men actually stand a higher chance of being attacked in the street.
  • Keep some money separate from your purse or wallet.  A friend of mine shoves a £20 note down her bra!
  • If you’re using public transport, find out the times of the buses / trains so you’re not waiting about too long at the bus stop / station and know what time you have to leave so as not to miss the last one home altogether.
  • Make sure you have the taxi firm’s number in your phone.
  • Let someone know where you are going and roughly what time you plan to be home.
  • Don’t get too tipsy before you leave.  It’s tempting to have a few glasses before you go to get you in the party mood (and to avoid the hefty prices some clubs charge for drinks), but you’re likely to end up drunker than you might otherwise have been much quicker.

And, on the subject of drinking …

Alcohol

  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach – the levels of alcohol in your blood will rise quicker, which means you’ll be drunk quicker.  Try to at least have a high protein snack – some cubes of cheese and some crackers, or even a bowl of cereal will be better than nothing.
  • Try to control your drinking – set yourself an upper limit and stick to it.
  • Avoid drinking in rounds – it puts you under pressure to both drink and spend more. The Government advises 3-4 units of alcohol a day for men (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer) and 2-3 units a day for women (equivalent to a 175ml glass of wine). And there’s always someone who manages to avoid paying for a round, isn’t there?!
  • Watch your, and your friends’ drinks – take turns to watch each other’s drinks when you go to the toilet or outside for a cigarette.  One of my girlfriends drinks bottled beers and advises keeping your thumb in the top of the bottle when you’re not drinking.

At The Club / Party Venue

  • Stick with people you know – and try to go home with them.
  • Don’t get drawn into problem situations or arguments  – just walk away.  
  • If you still don’t feel safe then call the police.

Getting Home Safely

  • Book a taxi before you go out – and make sure the taxi firm’s number is on your phone. I’d have the number of two or three firms to be on the safe side. And if possible get them to identify both the model and registration number of the car which will be collecting you. The taxi firm I prefer to use here in Cardiff, Premier Cabs, will send a text to your phone with this information when your taxi arrives.
  • Make sure you have enough money for your journey – and use a reputable firm who won’t take the mickey by grossly inflating the fare.  Another of my girlfriends was recently asked to pay £75 to go from the centre of Cardiff to an address on the outskirts – a journey which should have cost £15 – £20.  She had not been drinking on that particular evening and was able to tell the driver where to go! But it is obvious that there are unscrupulous drivers out there who see tipsy revellers as fair game for a financial fleecing.
  • DO NOT TAKE AN UNLICENSED MINICAB! Only licensed taxis are allowed to pull up at the kerb.  You have no idea who you might be getting into a car with.
  • Use your gut feeling – if the driver starts to ask you inappropriate questions or if it’s clear you are being driven the long way round or along a route you do not recognise, ask to be dropped off at the next available bus stop / shop / anywhere open and full of people.  Better to wait for another taxi than to put yourself at risk.
  • Sit near the driver on a bus and in an occupied carriage on a train.
  • If you HAVE to walk home, try not to do so alone – and use well lit, busy streets and main roads wherever possible.
  • Take a pair of roll-up flat shoes with you – companies such as Rollasole and Tipsy Feet make roll up ballet flats which you can take in your bag so you can walk home comfortably without having to teeter in heels.  It’s much easier to run in flat shoes too.

A lot of this is common sense, but it is human nature to assume that “it will never happen to me”. Avoid using the body language of a “victim” too.  Stand tall, walk swiftly and with purpose. Look like you know where you are going. It is illegal to carry weapons of course but I like to carry my house keys in my hand. There are also numerous apps now which allow you to use your mobile as a torch but, since mobile phone theft is so prevalent it would be better to keep your phone to hand but concealed.  Do NOT stop in the middle of an empty street to take a mobile phone call or answer a text.

With these tips in mind, you can enjoy your night out without compromising your safety.  Then all you’ll have to worry about will be the photos of you dancing on tables appearing on Facebook the next morning.

Review: On-line Legal Advice From www.expertanswers.co.uk

Having spent 14 years in Legal Services Marketing and after working for a number of law firms, I know only too well that many hesitate at the thought of consulting a solicitor for advice. 

Primarily, people worry about cost and about starting a course of action they cannot control. 

The irony is that, with many problems, for example matrimonial difficulties, you are much better placed to make sensible decisions, particularly if there are children involved, if you know where you stand legally.

Online legal advice from the team at expertanswers.co.uk

www.expertanswers.co.uk

Christmas and the New Year are very busy times for lawyers. 

There is usually an increase in instructions for divorce in particular as the strain of the festivities push spouses too far. 

Then there are accident and personal injury cases and also conveyancing matters as everyone clambers to be in their new home for Christmas. 

You may be faced with parking fines or employment rights matters as it seems many businesses these days struggle over the Christmas trading period with resulting redundancies.

Whatever your problem, I am sure that the thought of driving into town to consult a lawyer may just be too stressful to contemplate on top of everything else. 

With Legal Aid being squeezed and many Citizens’ Advice Bureaux closing, it can be difficult to know where to turn.

So I was interested to read about www.expertanswers.co.uk – a new online legal advice service comprised of a panel of barristers, lawyers, solicitors and legal executives, which aims to knock down these hurdles by offering accurate, affordable and reliable answers to legal questions from the privacy of your own home, 24 hours a day.

How does it work?  There is a simple four step procedure. (Apologies for the slightly blurry screen shots but I wanted to give you an impression of how simple the process is).

1. Ask a question, providing as much information as possible. Type your legal question in the box, selecting the category of law your question falls into.

2. Put a value on the answer by moving a slider to indicate how much you are willing to pay, the minimum being £10 and the maximum £150.  You will be asked to create an account and once you have done this you will be asked to pay your agreed deposit via Paypal, a debit or a credit card. You will be asked “What else have you tried? How important is your question?  How much do you want to pay?”.

3. Receive a summary answer to your question which, if no further advice is needed entitles you to a 100% refund.

4. If you need more information, you may access your full answer which means you will be charged the price you have agreed. You will, however, be entitled to free unlimited advice on your question once you have accepted your full answer.

www.expertanswers.co.uk promises no hidden charges and you may have a free one-to-one with a legal expert once you have accepted your answer.  

They says that their service is confidential, anonymous and secure and offer 100% satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

I have to admit I am somewhat baffled by the charging structure which seems almost too good to be true, but I thought I’d seek advice on behalf of a friend who is considering divorce (not me , I hasten to add!).

I chose £30 as my deposit being aware that matrimonial advice is often not straightforward.  

Within a matter of hours I received a response from my legal expert Karl Edwards requesting further information. 

Shortly after this I received an email notifying me that the answer to my question had been posted. 

The summary gave a general appraisal of the key points but confirmed my suspicion that the question would require a more complex answer and would thus incur my agreed deposit of £30 for the full response from Mr Edwards. 

In this, Karl neatly summarised the key issues, highlighted points my friend needs to consider and also included helpful links to online documents (for example a guide to current CSA payments).  

He recommended that my friend consider mediation as a first step in order to avoid wrangling over finances in court and advised that now was definitely the time to start taking legal advice.

I felt that the response highlighted the next steps to take and was a useful starting point for making difficult decisions that bit easier. 

Using www.expertanswers.co.uk is, in my view, a useful alternative to making an appointment to see a solicitor face-to-face until you have committed yourself to a course of action. 

It is low cost, risk free and I found the service I received to be helpful and friendly. 

With in-house solicitors charging upwards of £50 + VAT for an initial consultation (although some do still offer a free first appointment) and many no longer offering Legal Aid, I would certainly recommend Expert Answers as a first port of call.

* I was allowed to ask one question free of charge for the purposes of this review.

Giveaway: Disney Epic Mickey 2 – The Power of Two For Wii

Disney’s Epic Mickey 2 – The Power of Two For Wii

This giveaway is now closed but you can find all my current competitions on my competitions page.

In Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, gamers will play as Mickey Mouse and for the first time ever, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first cartoon star, in Wasteland, an alternate world filled with 80 years of forgotten Disney characters and theme park attractions. 

For the first time, Mickey and Oswald join forces as true partners – Mickey with his magical paint brush that wields paint and thinner, and Oswald with his powerful remote control that allows him to command electricity. 

All the characters are fully voiced by the official voice actors of those characters and this is the first video game which the manufacturers say can be described as a “musical”.  

The songs feature original Disney inspired music and players can choose tunes and instrumentation to conduct their own unique soundtrack.

I have one brand new, sealed copy to give away.  

Entry is by completing the rafflecopter and the usual terms and conditions apply.  The giveaway will close at midnight on New Year’s Eve, Tuesday 31 December -something for the prizewinner to look forward to brighten up January 2014!

Disney’s Epic Mickey 2 is available at Amazon.co.uk.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This post contains affiliate links.

Review: Shrek The Musical DVD

We are big fans of Shrek here at Downton Shabby and the box set of films is much loved and often played. The kids were thrilled when we had the opportunity to review the DVD of Dreamworks “Shrek The Musical”.

Shrek The Musical DVD Cover
Shrek The Musical DVD

This is the Broadway production and the staging, choreography and singing are superb.

The musical has a strong soundtrack which mixes sing-along numbers with some songs in rock/pop style which makes for an incredibly catchy score.

The plot remains largely faithful to that of the first movie where ogre Shrek meets the irrepressible donkey and together they set off to rescue Princess Fiona from the evil clutches of Lord Farquaad.

The musical’s principal characters (Shrek, Donkey, Fiona and Lord Farquahar) are supported by a talented cast playing characters from fairy stories and other Disney characters.

Because this is the Broadway version, the cast is unknown, however, this did not matter in the slightest. The Three Little Pigs are there, as is Pinocchio.

There are also some very clever references to other musicals such as The Lion King.

The banter between Shrek and Donkey matches anything that the film characters (Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy) have to offer and there are enough jokes for the grown-ups to keep them amused too.

Lord Farquaad’s short stature is hilariously portrayed by the actor kneeling throughout with a pair of ‘comedy legs’.

The scene where Shrek and Fiona fall for one another is also very funny with each rivalling the other by burping and other methods of wind expulsion!

Needless to say, the kids giggled throughout this scene.

Donkey’s paramour, the dragon also takes a central role to the plot and appears as an enormous puppet figure, as does the Gingerbread Man (yes, the Muffin Man joke is there too, for Shrek connoisseurs).

I wondered if Caitlin and Ieuan would enjoy the musical as much as the film and, by and large, they did, although the production at 130 minutes was about 20 minutes too long to keep Ieuan fixed on the sofa.  In the end, we watched the DVD in two parts.

I really enjoyed Shrek The Musical (possibly more than the kids) because, as mentioned, it is written to appeal to all age groups.

I’d highly recommend it as good family viewing this Christmas to make a change from endless repeats of Harry Potter and Star Wars.

Available at Amazon, this edition also contains a special feature of a songbook with 7 sing-along songs.

*A DVD was sent for the purposes of this review, which contains an affiliate link.

Even Bigger Tax Breaks For Married Couples If Tories Win Election Says Cameron

Chancellor George Osborne will announce in his Autumn Statement this Thursday (5th December) a proposal to give married couples a tax cut worth as much as £150 a year. And David Cameron has hinted that, if the Tories win the next election, there may be even bigger tax breaks in the pipeline for those who have gone down the aisle.

Tax Breaks graphics under a magnifying glass

The Lib Dems are against the move which will cost as much as £700 million on the grounds that it penalises single parents, widows and cohabiting couples.

David Cameron said: “We will be making this change to back marriage in the tax system. It’s a change I strongly support. It’s very similar to what we set out in our manifesto. It’s something I have long wanted to do so I am pleased we will be achieving it. I believe in marriage. I believe marriage should be recognised in the tax system. I see this as yes, a start of something I would like to extend further”.

Under the new proposals, one member of a married couple or civil partnership will be allowed to transfer £750 of their tax-free personal allowance to their partner. This would be worth about £150 per year to basic rate taxpayers.

This proposal fails, needless to say, to curry any favour with “Don’t Judge My Family”, the campaign against the marriage tax allowance who do not believe that the Government should be spending public money promoting what they see as their “ideal fantasy 1950s family’ and have produced a report detailing what they see as more practical options for the £700m this proposal will cost the Government.

They suggest ideas such as increased access to relationship counselling, cancelling proposed cuts to benefits for widowed parents or scrapping the Bedroom Tax which, they say, is causing stress and misery for hundreds of thousands of individuals and families but is predicted to save only £470m a year.

Whatever your personal views about marriage, in my view anything which helps to shore up the family unit should be seriously considered – but in a way that does not penalise those who do not see marriage as relevant to them.

Perhaps instead of relationship counselling, the Government should consider parenting classes because, irrespective of how we choose to declare our commitment to our partners, it is surely good parenting which helps a family unit to bond, whether or not the marriage bonds have been broken or indeed existed in the first place.

20 Weird Things I Do At Christmas – Is It Just Me?

Around this time of year, I find my stress levels rising and I tend to become, well, shall we say less centred and calm than usual.

I know everyone has one or two weird habits and quirks but mine all seem to come to the fore with a vengeance.

How many of these things to do at Christmas time are on your list?  (please try hard so I feel at least vaguely normal)?

Buying the Christmas Radio Times and highlighting the programmes I intend to watch – (despite already having at least 3 Xmas TV guides) – and then not watching any of them.

Recording whole swathes of films – which I then don’t watch.

Having a yearning for dried figs and Di Saronno.

Becoming extremely tetchy if I have to wrap presents which are not completely symmetrical.

Finding the writing and posting of a dozen Christmas cards very hard work.

Going completely blank when asked what I would like for Christmas, despite having a list as long as your arm the rest of the year.

Eating a mince pie a day. From 1st December.

Reading diet books whilst eating said mince pies, figs and Di Saronno.

Wondering what happened to Meltis Mulberry Fruits

Watching all the Christmas Day soap episodes, even though Emmerdale is the only one I watch all year.

Compiling a New Year’s Resolution list which even the Dalai Lama would find challenging

Never EVER having the right shoes to go with my evening dress

Ditto coat

Sanctioning the eating of chocolate from Advent Calendars before 9 am which must surely by now be against some EU convention or other.

Vowing to wear decent, matching underwear and then finding it too cold to take my thermals off – a situation which usually lasts till the end of the following May.

Listening to “Now That’s What I Called Christmas” on repeat so that I feel like I’m trapped in a lift in Debenhams

Coming over very peculiar in the Debenhams Beauty Hall and finding the lure of the MAC / Benefit / Estee counters stronger than Luke Skywalker’s lightsabre.

Despite this, being unable to actually BUY anything due to ‘seasonal guilt‘ and the irrational belief that, come 1st January, prices will plummet by at least 40%

Finding I can still sing the descant part of numerous Christmas carols and embarrassing the hell out of the family in church.

Never being able to find my gloves. Until the snow has gone.

Any Christmas weirdnesses you’d like to share? What are the highlights of your things to do at Christmas time?