Our Family UK Staycation Bucket List

Now, as you know, the Hobbis family sojourns into the wilderness have basically got as far as Devon since it has taken me the last four years to muster up the energy to get my passport updated.

Selfridges in Birmingham UK - Staycations UK - motherdistracted.co.uk
Selfridges, Birmingham

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But it strikes me that, although the parenting rite of passage that is the Disneyland visit is on the agenda, if ever there were a year for supporting our home nations, it’s going to be 2016.

Leaving aside the, to me, incontrovertible proof that climate change IS beginning to affect us and the likelihood that the levels of rainfall we are seeing are here to stay, the UK has so many glorious beauty spots, places of interest and cultural quirks that exploring as many as we can should be on all our travel bucket lists.

The other side of this rather waterlogged observation is that this year, the UK tourist industry needs our financial support more than ever.

I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s at a time when the Costa del Sol package holiday was in its infancy. Those who braved air travel to fly to Spain were considered very ‘posh’ indeed.

My Dad took a different approach.  He took his family to all of the areas of outstanding beauty in the UK. We travelled up to Inveraray and back down to Edinburgh.

We visited Keswick and Ambleside in the Lake District and marvelled at the beauty of the Lakes.  We stayed just outside York and visited its cathedral and explored the Shambles.

The Cotswolds were (and are) a favourite haunt with many visits to Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-On-The-Wold.

We saw Donald Sinden as Othello in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and travelled by boat to Hampton Court out of a dusty and overheated London.

We explored North and Mid Wales and stayed in a cottage in the shadow of the mountain, Cader Idris just outside Dolgellau.   My sister and I splashed about in the river close to the Swallow Falls at Betws-y-Coed.

My parents are from Plymouth and most summers were spent visiting our grandparents.  There were many trips on the “Dockyard & Warships” boat trip, drives to Modbury Beach and Burgh Island and drives over Dartmoor to see Widdecombe and climb up Sheepstor, hopefully (but not always) avoiding the rain.

On Lands End, the winds were so strong, we had to hold on to my mother, lest all 4 foot 11 inches of her blew away to sea.

These are all places I hope to visit with the family over the next year or two.

What my Dad gave us, I now realise, was an education about the wonders of geography and history that was far more interesting than the O level geography syllabus topics of glaciation and orange growing in California.

There are, though, many gaps in my UK travel education and places still to explore.  My grandmother, Jessie, had relatives in the West Midlands and, aside from a trip in the ’80s to see Chris de Burgh in concert (even pre-“Lady In Red”!), Birmingham is a city I have yet to explore.

Victoria Square Birmingham - Staycations UK
Victoria Square, Birmingham

It’s so much easier today now that hotels have comfortable, spacious family rooms.  I remember on our trip to London in the 70’s that my Dad rushed out to buy a camp bed to put up next to our hotel room’s sole, rather rickety double bed.

Things to see around Birmingham

These days, too, there is a far greater range of family-friendly activities.  Around Birmingham, we could visit the National Sea Life Centre or Cadbury World. Then there’s the award-winning Black Country Living Museum near Dudley.  I might persuade the Husband to take the kids to the National Motorcycle Museum whilst I explore the shops in The Bullring which has over 160 shops.

Things to explore around Newcastle Upon Tyne

Another city I have never visited is Newcastle Upon Tyne which has Europe’s largest shopping centre, The Metrocentre.  It has 300 shops, an 11 screen cinema and a fun fair!

Tyne Bridge - Newcastle Upon Tyne - Staycations UK - motherdistracted.co.uk
Tyne Bridge

There’s the science and local history museum, The Discovery Museum, The Great North Museum which has a planetarium or the contemporary art gallery, The Biscuit Factory for starters.

Yes, this is going to be a great year for exploring and I sometimes think that if you waited for perfect weather in the UK, you’d never go anywhere.

No wonder my Dad made sure we always had our waterproofs with us!

Which things to see around Birmingham would you add to this list?

Throwing A Children’s Birthday Party? Read This.

Whether you’re planning for your own child or just helping out a new mum, birthday party planning can be an extremely stressful affair. You want every aspect of the day to be perfect from the icing on the cake to the colourful decorations. But planning such a momentous occasion in a child’s life does not have to be difficult.

Follow these tips and make it a birthday party to remember for all of the right reasons.

Choose a simple theme 

Having a theme is a very good idea as it can inspire the whole feel of the day. It can inspire colour palettes, games, decorations and even food, but only if it is simple. Over-complicated themes that are difficult to execute can take a lot of time and effort that you could spend elsewhere.

Consider what the child likes and dislikes to help you find a suitable theme they will love. Remember classic themes such as pirates or princesses always work and suit a wide age group.

If you’re stuck for ideas, you could hire party planners to organise a theme for you. They could also help you with invites and entertainment for the party, giving you more time to enjoy the process.

Get creative with food 

Who doesn’t love kids’ party food?  It’s just as popular with the grown-ups.  Whilst traditional options such as sausage rolls, pizza and sandwiches are always popular, you could create something more magical and inventive too.

You could use food colouring to dye the snacks and drinks your child’s favourite colour or a colour relating to the theme – making sure, of course that the colourings you use are natural and don’t contain any harmful additives for the little ones.  Beetroot, for example is great for pink / purple.

A princess party, for instance, would look great with icy pink, blue and white coloured food, whilst the colours of your child’s favourite superhero might be red and orange (Spiderman or Wonderwoman). You could also bake cupcakes that feature each of your guest’s names on in icing or chocolate. The children will get excited about finding which cupcake is theirs.

If you aren’t really into baking, you could hire an ice cream and candy floss cart or a burger van for the party instead. You can rename every food and drink provided with your child’s name or their favourite cartoon character’s names. This will make it more intriguing for the children and adults attending.

Make sure, of course, that you cater for vegetarians, vegans and anyone with allergies or food intolerances.  Add a line to the invitation cards or email asking parents or carers to let you know if you need to make special foods or snacks.

Decorations add the fun 

It doesn’t matter if you’re holding the party in a local hall or at home; it’s important that it feels fun and extraordinary to the child. Decorations are important for a birthday party and will highlight the theme you have chosen.

Balloons, bunting and banners are classic birthday decorations that are still just as popular. You can order custom and personalised banners online or you could get crafty and make your own. For instance, you could use large pieces of coloured paper to create oversized leaves and flowers. These will create a beautiful jungle atmosphere at your venue.

Whatever you choose, though, make sure the materials are recyclable and kind to the environment.  Remember that some coatings such as glitter are not accepted in your recycling waste and be aware of the dangers of things such as balloons and paper lanterns to wildlife and marine animals.  Natural is best, wherever possible.

Use Pinterest and party pieces magazine for inspiring and unique ideas to decorate and style your event and don’t refrain from making your own.

Children’s parties need to be fun so make this a priority in your planning. It doesn’t matter how many people attend, as long as everyone spends the day smiling and laughing.

Post Christmas Divorce Rush Predicted To Avoid Hike In UK Divorce Fees In April

Online divorce firm divorce-online.co.uk, the single biggest filer of divorce petitions in England and Wales, is predicting a big spike in divorce filings in January as couples rush to beat the Government’s proposed hike in court fees to file a divorce.

Sad girl looking through window - cost of divorce UK - motherdistracted.co.uk
Divorce is stressful enough, without the added financial worry

The fees will rise in April from £410 to £550 a massive 34% increase, despite the actual cost of processing a divorce having been calculated at £260.

A draft statutory instrument has been laid before parliament and unless the Government do a U turn in the next 3 months, the fees will be introduced at the start of the new financial year.

As one of the largest firms sending divorce petitions to the divorce centres, Divorce-Online are already warning potential divorcees of the coming rise.

Mark Keenan a spokesman for the company believes that the rise will prevent couples on modest means from formalising their split and many couples will be left in a legal limbo for years, separated but not able to finalise their divorce because of the sheer cost.

Since the withdrawal of legal aid in 2012 for divorce cases, the number of people looking for cheaper alternatives to traditional solicitor led divorce routes have rocketed using services provided by companies like Divorce Online.

As the cost of divorce in the UK rises, it is likely that even more couples will turn to the Internet to seek a more cost-effective alternative to the traditional high street legal practice.

Further information: contact

mark.keenan@divorce-online.co.uk.  Twitter @mrdivorceonline

Smiggle Giveaway – Funky Stationery From Australia – 2 Prize Bundles

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

Smiggle is an Australian stationery brand with over 200 stores worldwide and they pride themselves on being the ultimate creators of colourful, fun, fashion-forward stationery.

The first Smiggle store opened in Melbourne, Australia and word spread fast about the bright pens, notebooks and gadgets that filled a tiny, but very special place and, in 2014 Smiggle opened its doors here in the UK.

In case you’re wondering, a Smiggle is a cross between a smile and a giggle and the team at the Smiggle Design Lab draw inspiration from all over the globe to create products with bold colour, quirky graphics and good value prices.

I have two prize bundles each worth £15 to give away.  Each bundle contains a selection of Smiggle items (a pen, pencil, pencil case and slapband).  Ideal for restocking those back-to-school pencil cases to make a grey January a bit more bearable.

 

Smiggle Yums Scented Silicon Pencil Case - Giveaway - motherdistracted.co.uk
Smiggle Yums Scented Silicone Pencil Case – £12.50

Smiggles’ first ever silicone scented 3D shaped pencil case has 2 fun YUMS characters! Pineapple & cola scented!

Smiggle Yums Pencils - giveaway - motherdistracted.co.uk
Smiggle Yums Pencil – £2.00 each

These HB pencils have interchangeable scented eraser toppers and match the other Yums designs – ice cream, cupcake, pineapple, drink cup and hamburger.

Smiggle rainbow pens - giveaway - motherdistracted.co.uk
 Smiggle Yums Rainbow Pens – £3.50 each

I used to love multi-ink pens when I was in school.  These pens have 8 colours in 1 pen (pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and black) with graphic epoxy on the clip.

Smiggle Yums Scented Slapband – £3.50

These new scented slap bands are available in 5 yummy smelling scents – Cola, Blueberry, Vanilla, Apple, Strawberry.  They’re made from rubber and steel and have large icons designed to be worn like a bracelet.

To enter the giveaway, just complete the Rafflecopter widget.  The usual terms and conditions apply. UK entries only.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Thursday 7th January 2016.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Swindled In Paradise By Deborah Brown – Book Review

In Swindled In Paradise, sexy sleuths Madison and Fab race to uncover the truth behind a horrific crime… before a loved one pays the ultimate price.

Beautiful Tarpon Cove has everything you’d expect from a paradise retreat: Blue waters, white sand and … murder?

With deadly secrets and dark dealings brewing beneath the surface of Tarpon Cove, Madison and Fab are caught in a race against time to uncover the truth behind the grisly murder, which may only be the tip of the iceberg….

The eighth book in Deborah Brown’s Paradise series, Swindled in Paradise will take you on a high-speed thrill ride through non-stop action, steamy romance, and dark intrigue, and leave you begging for more.

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…..

Amazon.com    Amazon.co.uk   Barnes and Noble

“Swindled in Paradise will take you on a high-speed ride through non-stop action adventure, romance, & suspense, & leave you begging for more.” 

“LOVE this book series! Each new Paradise escapade surrounds you, and the characters… they unwittingly become your extended family.”

“I absolutely love Madison & Fab! Their friendship and their adventures. These two can’t stay away from trouble and I love it!”

Above reviews from Goodreads/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…

FacebookTwitter  Pinterest  Goodreads

 

Also available in the Paradise Series

My Review

This is my second Deborah Brown / Paradise Series novel and I enjoyed it as much as the first. Brown is truly the queen of continuity because the character portrayal and attention to detail were seamless. All the old favourites are there, Brick, Spoon and Madison’s formidable, cigar-smoking mother.

This time, Madison and Fabiana are trying to save someone very close to them from ending up in the slammer.  There have been grisly murders and a very shady collection of property developers are at work.  As usual, there is a series of extra cases that the two girls solve in their roles as PIs, each one of them being entertaining and different.  You never know what the girls are going to take on next.

I’m not going to spoil the ending for you but the novel is fast-paced, highly entertaining and works as a stand-alone story.  It’s fun, escapist stuff and the two female protagonists are street smart, entertaining and ballsy.

Highly recommended.

Read more of my book reviews here.

Follow the Book Tour

 

I received a copy of Swindled In Paradise to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.

Driving Home For Christmas? Do It Safely.

Driving home for Christmas was a special Christmas tradition when I was growing up. We’d drive, each Christmas to Plymouth, to the homes of my grandparents and the journey used to be magical.

Car driving on a deserted road through a forest - driving home for Christmas

When you’re young, the heady feeling of festive anticipation is so potent that it seems to colour ever activity, no matter how mundane, with glitter and sparkle.

The journey was made, through the years (in the late 60’s through to the 80’s) in a Mini Cooper, a Renault 4, a Renault 5 and a Ford Fiesta.  None of these had much boot space and my sister and I would be surrounded by blankets, presents and rationed toys desperately fighting off deep vein thrombosis and cramp in our nether regions.  If we were especially lucky, my sister would avoid car sickness.

To keep us quiet, dad would stock up on Wrigley’s chewing gum (usually Double Mint – I’m not sure about Juicy Fruit to this day) and the discarded silver foil wrapped blobs would eventually seize the door panel ashtrays.  Yes, in those days, some family cars also doubled as mobile ashtrays.

My mother had little room for her feet because she had a large bag full of foil-wrapped sandwiches and thermoses of water and milk.  Not for us the mad excesses of service station food. No, staring out a steam and rain covered windscreen trying not to get ready salted crisps on the seat was more our family’s style.

My sister and I loved spotting the fairy lights festooning houses, pubs and lorry cabs as we drove. Each junction had a significance and the highlight was descending the sloping dual carriageway on to the very scary Marsh Mills roundabout in Plymouth and from there across to Cattedown and my grandfather, Harry’s house.

Widowed very early on, Grandad nevertheless always made sure that there was a Christmas tree lit up in the always cold ‘front room’ reserved for visitors and special occasions.  He’d buy in a jumbo tin of Quality Street, enough peanuts to pebble-dash a small semi, a Christmas cake and a Christmas Log covered in thick chocolate.

My father would pull up, decant us all and then spend a good ten minutes driving back and forth to get the car properly lined up against the kerb.  I think it’s a Virgo thing.  Or a dad thing.

John Brooks, Linda Hobbis' dad - driving home for Christmas
My Lovely Dad

In those days, of course, even joining the M4 from Cardiff was a novelty and there was a fraction of the traffic that there is today.  If you were unfortunate enough to break down though, you were in for a long wait.

Before we set off, my father would go through the ritual of checking the tyres and their pressure, topping up the oil and water and wiping over the lights – something he taught both my sister and me to do so that our cars were as safe as possible to drive.  I often wonder how many of us take sensible precautions with our cars before we set off.

Driving home for Christmas – car safety tips

Do you do any or all of the following?

Make sure your lights are working

Get someone to stand behind the car and check the break and backlights for you.

Check your oil, water and screenwash

Don’t just rely on the top-ups you get when you have the car serviced!

Check your tyres

Are your tyres roadworthy and inflated to the correct pressure?

If you’re not sure which ones you need, specialist tyre supplier Point-S has a handy online guide which tells you the tyres you need when you input the registration number of your vehicle.

You also might want to consider purchasing a set of winter tyres if the weather is particularly treacherous.

Check your wipers

Replace blades that aren’t working.  Having good visibility on the motorway is crucial, especially in the torrential rain.

Check your fuel levels

Don’t forget the not all garages will be open for Christmas and the last thing you want to do is run out of petrol miles from the nearest station.

Be ready for ice

Make sure you have enough de-icer and an ice scraper.  It’s a good idea to carry water, blankets, torches and warm clothes too.  You might also want to have some snacks to hand – although we have never managed to make a packet of ‘travel sweets’ last much further than the Severn Bridge.

I hope that if you are driving home for Christmas that you’ll make sure your journey is safe and enjoyable by taking the important precautions listed.

I’d also make sure your breakdown cover is renewed and you have the breakdown telephone number in your mobile.

Then, all you’ll need is a suitable Christmas soundtrack to sing along to while you drive.

Something about driving home for Christmas possibly …….

You can find more tips for getting your car ready for the winter weather here.

Over 50? Sex Is Still Good For Your Health

Now, as you know, I frequently write about health and my collection of idiosyncratic and ever-increasing ailments – none of which are taken particularly seriously by The Husband and most of which may well have something to do with my status as a “woman somewhere vaguely approaching menopause”.

In my defence, I am always on the brink of taking some sort of positive action.  Don’t we all have “the list”? That list you carry in your head which appears regularly as a set of New Year’s Resolutions you never keep.

You know the sort of thing:

  • drink more water
  • get more exercise
  • walk, don’t take the car
  • meditate for 20 minutes a day
  • reduce your sugar and salt intake
  • moderate your alcohol intake

At this time of year, all the hoary old chestnuts of resolutions past are dredged up with religious fervour and accompanied by a self-help tome or two and a herbal supplement from the slopes of the Andes which promises to invigorate and refresh.

But there is one item on the list that we probably forget to add and one which, according to Durex, we should.

Yes.  I’m talking about sex.  Or, ‘iggly boo’ as a friend of mine used to refer to it for reasons none of us could ever quite fathom.

After a hard day’s work which also includes running around after two kids, shopping, cooking and cleaning, I suspect many of us would rather attack a 1000 piece jigsaw of a picture of baked beans than take our PJs off but there are very good reasons why we should.

Simply put, sex is good for your health.

For example,  did you know that sex increases the immune system?  Sex once or twice a week can increase the level of antibodies in your body which not only protects against common colds and flu but can help your body defend itself against germs, viruses and other intruders?

Another reason that sex is good for your health is that it not only relieves migraines but arthritis, back, leg and menstrual pains? One study has even found that sex can lead to partial or complete relief of headache and migraine. (That rather debunks the “not tonight darling I’ve got a headache” excuse).

Lest you think that my age group (50+) are all at home completing jigsaws featuring baked beans, 8000 Saga customers aged 50 and over were interviewed in 2007 and 2013 and it was found that a fifth of over 50s has sex at least once a week.

This does not mean, though, that women in my age group no longer have to worry about contraception. Pregnancy is still a possibility, however remote.

The NHS advice is that women who are sexually active with men need to use contraception until the menopause (that is until they haven’t had a period for two years if under 50, and for one year if over 50) if they don’t want to get pregnant.

And then there is still the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

A report from Public Health England from 2009 to 2013 highlighted that although other age groups were represented by far larger numbers of STD diagnoses, (in particular the 25-34s), there was a greater percentage increase in sexually transmitted infections across the years for men over 45.

Between 2012 and 2013, the number of men in England over 65 diagnosed with chlamydia rose by 16%, compared to a 4% increase in the 25-34 age bracket.

So, whilst more sex is good for your health, we still need to take as much care with our sexual health at the end of our fertile years as we did when we reached adolescence.

The debate over whose responsibility it is to carry the condom is not over yet.

Experiencing Italy On A Plate With Expedia

In celebration of all the fabulous places to which you can travel with Expedia, they have thrown down the gauntlet and launched a culinary competition – the “World On A Plate Challenge”.

Caitlin & Ieuan in Roman costume - motherdistracted.co.uk
Multi toned socks are an integral part of the Roman look apparently.

The aim is to try your hand at the local cuisine of one of their package holiday destinations.

Now, as readers of this blog know,  although there’s nothing I can’t do with a baked potato, the kids are, shall we say, ever so slightly discerning when it comes to ‘grown up food’ and Ieuan can take three weeks to finish one mouthful of carrot.

Nevertheless, not daunted by this fact nor by the loving moniker the Husband has given me (“Queen of The Reheat”), we decided to reproduce a beautiful sea bass dish from Italy.  I say “we”.  Obviously I mean “under maximum supervision by the Husband”.

Many years ago, I visited the wonderful city of Rome and then travelled to Amalfi and Portofino. Gazing at Mount Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples is a view that will always stay with me; as will the sheer scale of the Forum and the Colosseum in Rome.

 

The Colosseum in Rome, source www.telegraph.co.uk
The Colosseum in Rome Credit:  telegraph.co.uk

And of course, I had to throw the famous “three coins in the fountain” at The Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain - credit trevifountain.net
The Trevi Fountain:  Credit trevifountain.net

It’s only taken me 4 years but I have finally renewed my passport so I can now legally travel further than Devon and as a family we can begin to introduce the kids to the World’s wonders.

Part of the charm of Italy, of course, is its food and much has been written about the health giving properties of the Mediterranean diet with its high proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, olive oil and red wine.  Then there is also the legendary Sophia Loren’s claim that “everything you see I owe to spaghetti”.

 

Actually, many of us beleaguered parents owe a debt of immense thanks to pasta as it is frequently one of the few food groups which can be spooned into a protesting child without too many repurcussions.

We did, bizarrely, manage to get Ieuan to eat spinach recently when the Husband told him that the role of spinach was to protect carrots and it was also known as “carrot guardian” and had superpowers. Sadly,  that moment has never been repeated.

So, to create our homage to the beauty of Italy (with me hinting rather largely that Rome would be such a nice place to be taken for my next birthday, particularly the River Palace Hotel), we began our creation.

Since the kids have had pasta twice this week already in their school dinner, we adapted a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis called Sea Bass Alla Fiorentina.

The Husband playing chef - motherdistracted.co.uk
You just can’t get the staff, can you?

Ingredients:-

4 x Sea Bass fillets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly chopped baby tomatoes
Baby Bell Peppers
3 Garlic cloves
Fresh chopped Parsley
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped tomatoes, garlic and peppers - motherdistracted.co.uk
Freshly chopped tomatoes, peppers and garlic

Instructions:-

Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.

Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan and cook the fish until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

Transfer fish to a plate.

Sea Bass fillets - motherdistracted.co.uk
The Sea Bass fillets

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.

Add the garlic, tomatoes, peppers, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the parsley and the fish and heat for 2 minutes.

We served the fish with baby potatoes sautéd in olive oil and a heavy dose of optimism.

To add to the fun, the kids ‘went Roman’ – although the combination of tomato and bed-sheet is probably not to be recommended.

Caitlin & Ieuan as Romans - motherdistracted.co.uk
OK, so I can’t tie a toga either

Over dinner, we talked about the ancient Roman civilisation which the kids are currently studying in school.  We recently visited the Roman Baths in Bath and Caitlin’s school trip was to the Roman remains in Caerleon.

The flavours of Italy never fail to inspire – although the combination of fava beans and a nice Chianti is probably one to be avoided.

Sea Bass Alla Hobbis - motherdistracted.co.uk
Sea Bass Alla Hobbis

I’m hoping 2016 will be the year I can revisit Rome.  In the meantime, I will channel my inner Sophia and build my strength up with spaghetti.

But my chances of getting Ieuan back in a toga are slim.

*collaborative post

Do You Know Your Flood Risk? Free downloadable ‘Homeowners Guide to Flood Resilience’ Launched.‏

With the Government this week announcing an additional £51 million to support households and businesses affected by last weekend’s devastating floods in Cumbria and Lancashire, the Know Your Flood Risk campaign has launched a new ‘Homeowners’ Guide to Flood Resilience’.

Front cover "Homeowners Guide To Flood Resilience" - motherdistracted.co.uk
“The Homeowners Guide To Flood Resilience”

The free guide provides advice on how to determine your flood risk, how to plan against flooding, as well as offer guidance on flood resistance measures, appropriate property level flood products and community-based measures.

Know Your Flood Risk is a campaign raising awareness of the risk of flooding from all sources – not just from the river, sea, or a visible water course. The majority of flood insurance claims are for surface water flooding where there is no obvious water to alert a homeowner to the potential risk.

The campaign provides essential practical guidance to enable homeowners and property professionals mitigate against and prepare for the risk of being flooded.

This guide, which is written especially with the homeowner in mind, hopes to reduce the worry about what property level flood products to use, and illustrates the variety of ways a home can become resilient to being flooded.

The campaign also supplies a property-specific flood report for £24 which can be used by homeowners to help identify the potential risk, as well as confirm whether they will be able to obtain insurance at standard terms.

Mary Dhonau OBE HonRICS HonDSc, Chief Executive of the Know Your Flood Risk campaign said: “This time exactly 15 years ago, I had flood water in my home – the second flood in only just a few weeks – so I know exactly how dreadful being flooded is, and to be flooded at Christmas time makes it all the more appalling.

With the announcement of grants for those newly flooded, this guide will be an excellent resource for those thinking about trying to reduce their risk. The prospect of trying to reduce flood risk to your home can be a baffling one, with many people not knowing how to go about this other than resort to the humble and extremely inefficient sandbag. This Homeowners’ Guide is here to help. In addition, for those thinking about installing flood resilient repair, we have an excellent case study, which details the types of interventions that can be made.”

Concludes Mary: “Sadly, flooding is set to get worse and it is essential that we not only know our own flood risk, but prepare in advance and take moves to make our homes more resilient to being flooded. We hope that by launching the new guide it will help inform homeowners as to what can be done to reduce the impact a flood can have and in turn reduce the misery that being flooded brings with it.”

The Know Your Flood Risk Campaign’s mission is to raise awareness of the risk of flooding from all sources. It is one of the UK’s leading online resources for helping people find out the flood risk related to their current or future homes.

To download a copy of its free guide click HERE.

A free-to-download Flood Risk mobile app is also available to quickly assess whether a postcode is considered to be at risk of flooding.

To download the app from iTunes, click on: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id941612469.

For more information, visit www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk or follow the Know Your Flood Risk campaign on Twitter.

Refresh & Rehydrate Your Kids With Robinsons

Kids do everything at 100 miles an hour and, in their haste to pursue the next shiny thing, or toy, or chance to make a mess, sometimes things like drinking enough fall by the wayside. Just getting them to stop for a glass of Robinsons squash can be a challenge.

Robinsons Sparkling Orange & Ginger - recipe - motherdistracted.co.uk
Robinsons Sparkling Orange & Ginger

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We know that staying hydrated is vital for our health.  In fact, just a slight drop in hydration levels affects our brain and our performance. And, for school-age children, staying hydrated is even more important to give them the best chance to learn as much as possible.

So how do we encourage our kids (and the rest of our family!) to drink more?

Ideally, of course, the drink of choice would be water but, having regularly had to remove barely touched cups of water, it’s good that there is another weapon in the parenting arsenal.

Robinsons Squash is a regular item on the shopping list with eleven flavours including no added sugar varieties. Caitlin’s favourite is orange whilst Ieuan is an Apple & Blackcurrant fan.  They have to be different, don’t they? But there’s also Lemon & Mango, Orange & Raspberry and the more exotic Mango & Passion Fruit.

I drank Robinsons as a child too (yes I know that’s a few years ago), although I’m afraid it never improved my tennis.

Caitlin about to make her Robinsons drink
Caitlin about to make her grown up drink

This year Robinsons have a new recipe and are encouraging us to be a little more creative with their squash to encourage us all to drink more water in a tasty, easy to prepare way. All their squashes are now ‘no added sugar’ too.

So why not indulge your inner mixologist and see if you can come up with something a little more exciting than straight squash?

How about Warming Lemon & Ginger?  Robinsons Lemon with fresh lemon juice and finely grated ginger, served with warm water from the kettle?

Or, just right for Christmas, Mulled Apple & Blackcurrant? Apple & Blackcurrant squash with cloves, black peppercorns, star anise and ground allspice?  Just warm in a pan, simmer for 3 minutes and then set aside for 3 minutes to infuse.

Caitlin chopping an orange to add to her drink - Robinsons - motherdistracted.co.uk
Don’t Worry – I Was Supervising!

Caitlin’s new twist on her favourite orange squash was to combine it with ginger ale for a bit of sparkle and a touch more zing. Well, actually it was Robinsons’ idea but I hadn’t the heart to discourage her.

Adding the Robinsons Squash - motherdistracted.co.uk
Adding the squash

We used approximately 50 ml of Robinsons orange per glass and topped it up with sugar-free ginger ale and sliced of orange.

Adding the ginger ale - Robinsons - motherdistracted.co.uk
Adding the ginger ale – other brands are available!

The drink was really refreshing and Caitlin really enjoyed having a hand in making a drink she found a little more exciting.

You could add a few extra touches if you wanted to with coloured straws, glace cherries on sticks (I’m going back to the ’70s here) or even a cocktail umbrella.  Strangely the latter seems to have vanished from supermarket shelves.  Can’t think why.

Caitlin drinking Robinsons Orange & Ginger Ale - motherdistracted.co.uk
Caitlin’s “Orange Fantasy”

We’re looking forward to mixing up some more combinations – next on the list is a St. Clements with orange and sparkling lemonade and I’m looking forward to warming some lemon squash and adding some honey the next time someone has a sore throat.

Why not give some of your own blends of Robinsons squash a try?

To find out more about the Robinsons range you can visit www.robinsonsquash.co.uk.

Let The Bells Ring Out For Christmas – Except If You’ve Got Tinnitus

Spare a thought this Christmas for those of us whose ears are musical all year round.

We hear crickets chirping, kettles whistling, bells clanging, strange voices and a whole cacophony of sounds which the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra would struggle to replicate at full pelt.

Christmas tree bell decoration-tinnitus-motherdistracted.co.uk
Tinnitus sufferers don’t want to hear bells at Christmas!

Add to this the problem that, for many Tinnitus sufferers, they are isolated by the fact that very few people understand how soul-destroying and draining a condition it can be.

Many Tinnitus sufferers live in a permanent state of heightened anxiety just waiting for something to set off their particular collection of sounds.

We travel with earplugs in our bags in case shop music is too loud.  We cannot attend a concert with ‘naked’ ears. Or, if we are brave enough to do so, we sit there just wondering whether we will pay for it tomorrow by a ramped up buzz (known to sufferers as a spike).

Car radios are a no-no.  The sound of a pneumatic drill or an ambulance siren when we are out and about may make us cover our ears.  Hairdryers, coffee machines, grass cutters, balloons popping – there is literally no end to the sounds which can set our ears off.

Simple things like attending a carol concert, a school nativity play or a pantomime become a sort of aural Russian Roulette.

Because the condition is so isolating, Tinnitus sufferers need to mix and socialise but the very thing they need the most can be the trigger for days of anxiety afterwards.

The great irony is that many sufferers are prescribed antidepressants to help them cope with their anxiety – and the tablets they are prescribed have been heavily implicated (at least anecdotally) in the increase or even causation of Tinnitus.  If you think I am exaggerating, a quick search of, for example, “Citalopram (a SSRI) and Tinnitus” brings up reams of stories from people who wish they’d never taken the stuff.

It is symptomatic of the fact that Tinnitus is so little understood by the medical profession, so infrequently acknowledged and so under-researched that sufferers are left to their own devices to seek for endless homeopathic or alternative cures, and fall prey to every quack who comes up with a ‘miracle cure’.

We are left to cope with our problem alone and that, at Christmas, can be pretty miserable at a time when music is so important and such a part of the festivities.

So please be kind to those with this miserable condition.

And remember, they’ll want fewer jingle bells and more of a silent night.

Further information:  if you suspect you have Tinnitus, please talk to your GP and contact the British Tinnitus Association who have lots of helpful information.

Parents – Christmas is NOT “just for the children”

There comes a time when, it seems, those of us who love Christmas with a passion are expected to subjugate our need to cover every inch of the house in fairy lights and accept that now Christmas is “just for the kids, really”.

Christmas decorations-Christmas is not just for the kids-motherdistracted.co.uk
It’s easy to forget yourself in the chaos of Christmas

Bah humbug!

If ever there were a time when the stresses of parenthood should be acknowledged and rewarded, it’s surely at Christmas.

Now I can accept that if you hate Christmas, then telling yourself you are putting yourself through the nightmare of shopping in the overheated and overpriced emporia of commercial excess for them may well make it a bit more bearable.

But how sad.

How sad if we can’t enjoy the fun.  How sad if we can’t bedeck the fridge with tinsel.  How sad if we can’t indulge our inner child and cover shelves with elves, stags, fake snow, snow globes and enough tealights to illuminate a football pitch.

Christmas should be a time to reflect; to congratulate yourself on another year of challenges and triumphs.  Another year of seeing your children grow, develop, mature in wonderful ways you probably never dreamed of.

Why dull their pleasure by not entering into the spirit of things?

Children want to see their parents happy.

And, the Christmas story is very much a celebration of parenthood isn’t it?

Traditionally we women bear the brunt of the shopping, cooking and organisation.  Some of us put ridiculous amounts of stress on ourselves because we focus on making everyone else happy.

But why don’t we find a few ways to make ourselves happy?

Whether that’s a bottle of our favourite liqueur or our favourite chocolates, a scented candle, a new cushion or a special Christmas decoration to add to the tree, there are many ways to acknowledge ourselves.

It’s not about buying things;  it’s about acknowledging that we are very often the rock to which others cling and sometimes we need strengthening – otherwise we will find ourselves chiselled away.

Sometimes the best treat we can give ourselves is a little while alone, with a book and a coffee.  Time to reflect, regroup and breathe.

I hope that, as the Christmas preparations ramp up a gear this week, you will remember that it’s your Christmas too.