GoGo squeeZ® – The Best Fruit Snacks For On The Go Kids

Now that the new school term is in full swing, it is perhaps inevitable that some schools will attempt draconian measures to enforce healthy eating for children – for example as this Bradford school did only this week by banning pork pies and sausage rolls. I think, though, that most parents have a good idea what constitutes a healthy diet; it’s just that many of us are so time poor these days.

best fruit snacks - GoGo SqueeZ pouches

We know that our kids should be eating a good balance of fruit and veg but, when it comes to lunchboxes and mid-morning snacks, I am pretty tired of unearthing mouldering fruit from the depths of Caitlin and Ieuan’s backpacks.

best fruit snack - GoGo Squeez pouch

If you’re looking for the best fruit snacks for on the go kids like my two, there is an alternative to a bruised banana and a dented pear which, hands up, I’m quite partial to myself – and these are school compliant.

best fruit snack - Caitlin with a GoGo Squeez pouch

GoGo squeeZ® is a range of squeezable fruit snacks and yoghurt snacks with no artificial additives, no mess and no need to keep in the fridge.  You don’t need a spoon – simply twist off the cap and squeeze. They consist of either a fruit puree or a relatively ‘set’ yoghurt, both of which taste great without that yucky tang of added sweetener or too much sugar.

The fruit snacks are made from 100% fruit whilst the GoGo squeeZ® YogurtZ are made from milk and fruit puree and are a source of calcium and Vitamin D – particularly important now that the sunlight is decreasing and the days are getting shorter.

 

The pouches each contain a small serving size of 85 g, come in boxes of 4 and are suitable for children over 3. There’s no preparation or waste involved and these are a very easy way for kids to get 1 of their 5 a day. The fruit snacks come in three flavours: Apple, Strawberry & Apple and Apple & Mango, whilst the YoghurtZ come in Banana and Strawberry flavours.

These would have been a godsend to me when Caitlin and Ieuan were younger and feeding hungry (and grumpy) toddlers was a bit of a challenge.  Let’s not talk about the ‘John Lewis Lift Melt-Down’ or the grass eating incident at Sudley Castle – both of which could have been avoided with a GoGo squeeZ®.

These days, my two don’t stop and I find GoGo squeeZ® are the best fruit snacks to tide the kids over to mealtimes after Caitlin’s ballet or Ieuan’s Tae Kwon-d0 and football. Ieuan does his own particularly spectacular version of ‘hangry’ which I’m finding some emergency fruit or yoghurt curtails somewhat.

It’s really easy to just chuck a few GoGo squeeZ® pouches in your bag or their kit bag along with their water bottle.  They’re also ideal to add to your child’s lunchbox.

I once met a mother who advised me that tantrums and lift meltdowns could be avoided by carrying a stock of sultanas at all times. A GoGo squeeZ® would do much the same – and avoid a glutinous sticky mess at the bottom of your handbag too.

And, if you’re a bit of a lazy cook like I am, you could always squeeze a fruit snack on to your porridge in the morning or squeeze out a yoghurt and decorate it with chopped fruit as a speedy dessert for the kids (or mid-morning snack for me). Shameless but very handy.

GoGo squeeZ® are now available in Tesco, at around £2.55 per box or on Amazon.

If you’re looking for a more fun fruit snack for kids, give them a try.  In my experience, the best fruit snacks are the ones that actually get eaten!

*PR collaboration.  Post contains an affiliate link.

How a well designed home office can make you more productive 

When working from home, having a well set out office can be the key to making sure you get your daily jobs done. But putting together a well-designed home office, with the right equipment and furniture, doesn’t just give you what you need to work. It can allow you to work more effectively.  

From the space to think to seating to work comfortably (particularly if you have a bad back), office furniture business Penketh Group explains how a well-designed home office can make you more productive.  

 working from home, home office

Space 

Space is essential for working effectively in a home office – space to move, work and think. So having a well-designed office in your home, which provides you with ample space for the basics – a large desk, seating, equipment, and storage to keep the room free from clutter – can help make you more productive.

If you work in a closed-in space, that environment is likely to make you feel cramped, distracted and considerably anxious. So you’re likely to find it harder to focus and concentrate. Whereas, a space that’s more open should do the opposite, allowing you to work more effectively.  

A spacious home office will also allow you to position equipment, like your printer and filing cabinet, without them taking up too much room. This can also make the room feel less overwhelming and more comfortable upon entering so that you’re more inclined to want to work right away. With more space and less clutter, work shouldn’t feel so on top of you and tasks should feel more doable.  

 Desk 

A decent-sized, well-designed desk can be a big part of helping to improve your work productivity. Desks of a good length and width can allow you to have what you need to work around you, but at arm’s length. This allows you to use things when you need them, without them feeling in the way, so you can stay focused.

As well as your computer, keyboard and mouse, this includes key equipment – your phone, in-tray, stationary holder, a note pad to write down ideas, and a desk clock to keep an eye on the time – all without making the space feel too cluttered.  (Check out my post of organising your home office the Feng Shui way to maximise the benefits to your health.)

Desks with several drawers at one end can also help speed up the way you work. This is because drawers allow you to keep and grab those urgent items, like spare pens and paper, when you need them. For working effectively, this is better than a desk with a cupboard as it will take longer to access those items – you’re likely to have to move from your chair to look in the cupboard for what you need. Wide desks can also provide you with ample leg room to work more comfortably and, in turn, more effectively.  

Seating 

When it comes to seating, selecting a chair for your home office that provides you with comfort and good posture, alongside the ability to work well, can help make you more productive. Being more comfortable can give you a higher level of concentration. You’re focusing on what you’re doing rather than that irritating tension in your back, for instance.

It should also allow you to work comfortably for long periods of time without fidgeting. However, the seat shouldn’t be so comfortable that you feel so relaxed your work pace slows down. It should instead promote a good posture to keep you seated upright, focussed, alert, and on the ball.  

Office chairs on wheels can also help increase productivity, as you’re able to move around your desk and react to things with ease, without standing up. This includes quickly answering the phone or grabbing a file from a drawer.

A good office chair should also be adjustable, well-shaped and firm to give good support to your bottom and back. It should also have armrests to support your arms when typing. 

Storage  

A tidy office equals a tidy mind. So it makes sense that a home office with ample storage, to keep things tidy and organised, can make you more productive, while a cluttered space can be distractive and slow down your productivity. A well-designed home office will have a range of storage to keep your essentials close by and your less urgent items out of sight. 

Good storage includes a filing cabinet to keep your business documents and shelves to hold key files. You can use shelves or drawers alongside your office walls to store items that you’re unlikely to need on a daily basis, such your tax and financial information. More urgent items can be stored at arm’s reach, like in your desk drawers, as mentioned above.     

Lighting  

Finally, carefully selected lighting for your home office can also help increase your work productivity. Poor, harsh lighting can result in eye strain, headaches and feeling irritable, which can be distractive.

It can also slow down your productivity, as you’re likely to feel unfocused and need more breaks from work. You should also aim to illuminate your home office space in a way that doesn’t create harsh shadows or undue glare on your computer screen.  

Desk light infront of blue venetian blind

Effective lighting involves an adjustable desk lamp, which can be positioned to bring light to exactly where you need it when doing different types of work. This includes typing, reading documents, sketching ideas, or taking notes on the phone. Also, a home office that’s set out so the desk is close to a window will allow some natural light to come in during the day. This lighting is easier on the eye and more comfortable to work in, helping to increase your work productivity further too. 

Book Review: Writing For Bliss By Diana Raab PhD

A Seven-Step Plan For Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life

Writing for Bliss is most fundamentally about reflection, truth, and freedom. With techniques and prompts for both the seasoned and novice writer, it will lead you to tap into your creativity through storytelling and poetry, examine how life-changing experiences can inspire writing, pursue self-examination and self-discovery through the written word, and, understand how published writers have been transformed by writing.

Poet and memoirist Raab (Lust) credits her lifelong love of writing and its therapeutic effects with inspiring her to write this thoughtful and detailed primer that targets pretty much anyone interested in writing a memoir. Most compelling here is Raab’s willingness to share her intimate stories (e.g., the loss of a relative, ongoing struggles with cancer, a difficult relationship with her mother). Her revelations are encouraging to writers who feel they need “permission to take… a voyage of self-discovery.” The book’s seven-step plan includes plenty of guidance, including on learning to “read like a writer,” and on addressing readers as if “seated across the table .” Raab covers big topics such as the “art and power of storytelling” and small details such as choosing pens and notebooks that you enjoy using. She also helps readers with the important step of “finding your form.”
–PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY

Available to buy from
Amazon.com    Amazon.co.uk    Barnes and Noble 

From Loving Healing Press: “Writing for Bliss is about the profound ways in which we may be transformed in and through the act of writing. I am grateful to Diana Raab for sharing it, and I trust that you will feel the same as you read on. May you savour the journey.”
–from the foreword by MARK FREEMAN, PhD 

“By listening to ourselves and being aware of what we are saying and feeling, the true story of our life’s past experience is revealed. Diana Raab’s book gives us the insights by which we can achieve this through her life-coaching wisdom and our writing.”
–BERNIE SIEGEL, MD, author of The Art of Healing 

“Only a talented writer who has fought hard to overcome life’s many obstacles could take her readers by the hand and lead them through
the writing process with such enormous compassion, amazing insight, and kindness. Diana Raab is a powerful, wise, intelligent guide well worth our following.”

–JAMES BROWN, author of The Los Angeles Diaries and The River 

“Writing for Bliss is far more than a ‘how-to manual’; it enlightens the creative process with wisdom and a delightful sense of adventure. Bravo to Bliss!”
–LINDA GRAY SEXTON, author of Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton 

“Uniquely blending inspiring insights with practical advice, Diana guides you on a path to discover the story that is truly inside you and yearning to be told.”
–PATRICK SWEENEY, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Succeed on Your Own Terms

MY MISSION

“Through my writing, mentoring and workshops, I guide others to discover and tell their own unique stories and abiding truths. The craft and practice of writing can be transformative and empowering—a cornerstone for emotional and psychological well-being, and a way to tap into one’s true inner voice and passions.” — Diana Raab

My Review

Writing for Bliss is a beautiful book which gently pushes the recalcitrant writer towards actually putting pen to paper.  Raab peels away all possible objections and excuses by helping the reader examine their innermost fears and feelings through a series of writing prompts which are all quite challenging to complete whilst offering an insight into your own psyche.  It may take courage, she suggests, to deal with what you find there.

This is, on the one hand, a book about writing to find yourself and, on the other, a collection of Raab’s own memories, observations and insights she has gleaned over the years from other writers.  Her own writing career began as a reaction to the suicide of her beloved grandmother – it was a kind of therapy for her, as it was again when she suffered from breast cancer.

If you are a writer, and, as a blogger, I certainly consider myself to be one, you will find yourself excited at the prospect of putting pen to paper and wondering what might appears when the words start to flow. I can only hope that the results are as cathartic as Raab suggests they may be.

Whilst actual therapy may be challenging for the more introverted among us, I suspect writing as therapy may just as effective as any time spent on the therapist’s couch.

Highly recommended.

About the author
Diana Raab, PhD is an award-winning memoirist, poet, blogger, workshop leader and speaker. Her passion is writing for healing and transformation.

She’s the author of eight books and over 500 articles and poems, and editor of two anthologies, WRITERS ON THE EDGE: 22 WRITERS SPEAK ABOUT ADDICTION AND DEPENDENCY and WRITERS AND THEIR NOTEBOOKS. Raab’s two memoirs are REGINA’S CLOSET: FINDING MY GRANDMOTHER’S SECRET JOURNAL and HEALING WITH WORDS: A WRITER’S CANCER JOURNEY. Her fourth and most recent poetry collection is called LUST.

Raab has been writing since the age of 10 when her mother gave her a Khalil Gibran journal to help her cope with her grandmother suicide. Since then, she has been using writing as a way of healing and transformation and inspiring others to do the same.

She is the mother of 3 adult children and grandmother to two. She lives in Southern California.<

She blogs for Psychology Today, PsychAlive, and Boomer Cafe.

Find the author on the following sites…
Facebook   Twitter   Goodreads   Amazon 

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

Does Having a Baby Set A Woman’s Career Back Six Years?

One of the many important questions we women ask ourselves if we have invested heavily in our work is “will having a baby ruin my career”?

The bad news is that having a baby can set a woman’s career back six years, according to a study of mothers carried out in September 2017.

Will having a baby ruin my career? Woman taking notes at a laptop

Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

Will having a baby ruin my career?

Researchers found becoming a mum can lead to missed promotion opportunities, issues caused by staff, management or procedural changes in the workplace as well as the fact new mums arrive back at work with different priorities.

Around half of those polled said having a baby had a negative effect on their career, with 42 per cent of them believing they would be in a more senior position if they didn’t have kids.

It also emerged 37 per cent of working mums believe they have been discriminated against since having a child.

Commissioned by Easy Offices, the research of 1,000 mums with a child aged one to 13 also found four in 10 would advise mums-to-be to be ‘wary’ about returning to work following maternity leave.

A spokesman for Easy Offices said: “Many women will be wondering about how having a baby could affect their career.

“So we polled mothers who know from experience just what impact having a child can have.

“The findings show how difficult it is to adjust to the new priorities that come with having a baby but also suggest it can be hard to reintegrate into the workplace.”

Three in 10 have experienced negativity from colleagues because they have had to take time off to care for their kids.

And over a quarter admit they initially felt left out by colleagues when they came back to work.

Thirty-five per cent noticed a change in work processes, while a third said the dynamics in their team had changed.

Amid this, over a third of those surveyed believe it takes time to regain self-confidence in the workplace following the birth of a child.

Mums believe it typically takes 13 months to get back up to speed upon returning to work after maternity leave.

While half said it took time for them to get used to juggling work and looking after their children – on average taking them 15 months.

But, the survey carried out by OnePoll.com, also found a quarter of those polled have left job roles because they found it too difficult to juggle both roles.

On average mothers said they went on maternity leave for 30 weeks – around seven months – for their most recent child.

However, three in ten didn’t return to the place they worked at prior to having a baby.

Those polled believe they have missed out on an average of two promotions during their time away from work.

A spokesman for Easy Offices added: “It may not be a surprise to learn having a baby changes your life but we might not realise just how long it takes to adjust to it – especially in the workplace.

“The working world moves forward at a fast pace so it’s understandable mums would find returning to work a bit of a shock to the system.

“Perhaps colleagues may not fully appreciate this point of view so mothers might feel more could be done to rectify this.”

For more information visit: https://www.easyoffices.com/blog/discrimination-in-the-workplace/

Problem Page Edition 39 2017

In problem page edition 39 – when you get your life together but your husband doesn’t, why you keep picking emotionally abusive friends and how long should you wait for your ex to come back?

problem page edition 39 - leaves with droplets of dew

If you would like any advice, just message me or add a comment at the end of this post and I will answer selected questions on this problem page.

Here are the questions for problem page edition 39.

QDo you think it’s okay for me to stay with my boyfriend if he cheats but treats me like a queen?

We are happy together. He’ll go out of his way to make my days the best day every day, but he has given me reasons to think he has cheated. He swears he hasn’t cheated.

A: If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, as they say, it’s a duck.

You have pretty comprehensive evidence he’s playing around and treating you like a queen is a great way to assuage his guilt and try to put you off the scent.

Don’t fall for it.

How did he get those scratches? Was he mauled by a kitten? Has he been trimming rose bushes?

You know what’s going on.

Time to act like a queen and kick his sorry backside out of your court.

Q: My ex boyfriend wants to get back together with me. He asked me to wait for him, but it’s been 5 months and nothing has happened. What do I do?

He checks on me every now and then. And he disappears for the rest of the month and he shows up again for an out of the blue formal conversation via text. When I say stuff like, I can’t do this anymore, he starts swearing that he will never let me go. But he wants me to wait until the right moment.
 A: This man is just playing games and keeping you on the hook in case he can’t find anyone better.

You know this at heart, don’t you? Unless he has been confined in a prison in the depths of the Amazonian jungle, is there really any reason that he can’t be with you?

It sounds suspiciously to me as if there is already another lady in the picture, hence the vanishing for the rest of the month.

Could it be that he is keeping you sweet while he decides whether this new relationship is a goer?

Please don’t waste any more time on this man.

Find someone new who wants to be with you NOW. Your ex sounds as dodgy as heck.

Q: How do I tell my husband that he is no longer good enough for me? I got fit and I got promoted. There are dozens of men at my work who are better looking, drive better cars and have larger homes who have shown an interest in me.

A: Whilst I applaud the changes you have made in your life, I suspect that a lot of people reading this will feel really sorry for your husband.

Does he know how you feel? Have you told him, clearly, what you need from him? Have you given him the opportunity to change?

Have you asked him if you are enough for him?

Your question reeks of frustrated ambition but I think you need to be clear about what you want.

These ‘better looking’ men with bigger cars and bigger homes may not be kind, loving, loyal, good fathers or faithful.

Don’t be seduced by a fantasy when, with a bit of honest communication, you might have something far better at home.

If, on the other hand, all this is shorthand for ‘I no longer love my husband and I want a new start’, then, equally, you really need to tell him.

With kindness and respect.

Q: Is it too creepy and clingy if I text my wife 10+ messages every day to tell her that I love her and to thank her for being my wife?

 A: Lots of people would certainly think so. And they would also suspect that these ‘loving’ messages are your way of keeping tabs on her.

Do you expect her to respond to these messages?

I’m assuming you do this at work which must surely break your concentration from what you are supposed to be doing.

Why can you not tell her in person? I’m assuming you live in the same house?

I understand that some people love to show their affection many times a day and that’s fine if your wife is also happy with that.

Your question should really be addressed to her.

And if you are terrified of losing her, the sooner you sit down and talk – in person – the better.

Q: How can I tell my crush’s friend to help me and my crush get together?  Her friend knows that I like her.

A: Well firstly you can’t ‘tell’ her, you have to ask, nicely. I’m sure the girl doesn’t want to play gooseberry.

I’m assuming if the friend knows you like your crush then surely she would have told her by now?

Has your crush given any indication that she feels the same way? If so, then you just have to be brave and ask her out.

If, on the other hand, she is ignoring or avoiding you, I think you can assume the friend has told her and she is not interested.

You can’t really expect the friend to do the running for you. I would, though, ask her directly if she thinks your crush IS interested and if so, ask the friend to suggest a date at a coffee shop or something.

But after that, you should do all the running yourself.

Rejection is hard, but it is always better to know, rather than make a bit of a fool of yourself by chasing endlessly if the object of your affections isn’t interested.

Q: Why do I always have friends who emotionally abuse me and are jealous of me?

A: There’s no easy answer to that one save that you choose your friends and allow them to treat you that way.

How do you know, though, that they are jealous of you?

Do your relationships start all sweetness and light and then change somehow? Are you a demanding person? Judgemental? Do you brag or boast? Do you have unrealistic expectations for your friendships?

You see friendships are a two-way street and not only do you need to work out why you are attracting these people, you also need to think about your part in your friendships.

I don’t think this is as simple as saying “I always pick people who are nasty to me and are jealous”.

Because that is effectively what you are saying.

But as an adult, you have to power to choose who you hang out with.

Time to start using that power wisely – and make sure that you play your part in the friendship too.

How would you have responded to the questions in problem page edition 39? I’d love to know.

You can find more dating advice in these posts:-

Dating:  11 Ways To Tell They’re Really Into You

 6 Signs Your Dating Buddy Isn’t On Your Side

32 Ways To Tell They’re Just Not That Into You

How To Know Whether You are Arranging Your Furniture All Wrong

Tired of having a room that isn’t practical? Have no idea where you’re going wrong with your design? The likelihood is if your room isn’t working for you, and your furniture looks out of place, you are arranging your furniture all wrong.

arranging your furniture - well ordered living room with tan three piece suite

Image credit: Pixabay

While there is no set-in-stone way to arrange your rooms, there are many ways to optimise the space to better suit your needs and make spending time in a room much more enjoyable.

A simple adjustment to your conservatory sofas, moving your dining room table to the opposite side of the room or inching your favourite pictures to the left or right, is often all that’s needed to transform your living space.

To help you identify where you’re going wrong with your room design, check out our list of some of the most important factors for optimising space and the best ways of arranging your furniture to create a room that works for you.

There are a few key things to keep in mind which will help you get the feng shui that your living space deserves.

Arranging your furniture to maximise your space

Find Your Focal Point

The focal point is the part of your room that you want attention to instantly drawn to, whether that’s the windows, TV, or fireplace. To create a room with the wow factor, build your design and arrange your furniture around the focal point. This ensures that whatever your chosen focal point may be, it is the first thing noticed when entering a room. This is also extremely practical in making sure that your room is better catered to its primary purpose.

Work with Your Wall Space

The walls of a room are often left forgotten when it comes to furniture placement. If you can’t move because a shelf is in the way or if a mirror reflects light into your eyes, no matter how the rest of your furniture’s placed, the room design isn’t going to work. Re-arrange your furniture to consider what’s hanging on the walls, whether that’s a wall-mounted TV or favourite family photos that you want to be seen.

Work with the Space You Have

Some of the biggest room problems occur begin when the size of the room isn’t accounted for when the furniture is being placed. Small rooms need careful furniture placement to ensure the room doesn’t look too cluttered. In contrast, large rooms need a good spread of furniture so the room doesn’t appear too empty. Avoiding the walls and placing furniture central to the room can make all the difference with the appeal of the space you’ve got play with.

Think of the Needs, Not the Wants

Everyone wants their rooms to look great, but when that comprises the purpose of the room, the room is unlikely to be used as often. The choice of furniture used can give a room a specific purpose, so working with the focal point in mind, make sure that the placement of your furniture reflects the purpose, be it to talk, eat, or relax. Catering to the needs rather than the wants ensures that the home will have a better flow, and things will be arranged in a way that is necessary for relaxing.

Make Sure You Can Move

Above many things, if you can’t move around your room, you’re not going to be able to enjoy it. Identify where the most common traffic flow areas are and make sure that furniture isn’t blocking the passage. A few extra inches between your dining room table and the wall could be all that’s needed to transform your room.

Start with Priority over Variety

When arranging your furniture, start with want you need, not what you want to include. Once the larger pieces of furniture are arranged, the more decorative items can be placed around them to optimise the space. As opposed to matching smaller items with bigger items, if you place the sofa to match a lamp for example, then you could easily find that both the focal point of a room and ease of movement, are quickly lost.

Rattan Direct have produced high-quality garden and conservatory furniture for many years, all designed to work with spaces both large and small, with different styles to fit every purpose. To learn more, check out the website.

Resources

Better Homes & Gardens – How To Arrange Furniture

The Spruce – 10 Rules For Arranging Furniture

Houzz – How To Get Your Furniture Arrangement Right

*Collaborative post

Do YOU struggle with gratitude?

It’s World Gratitude Day today.  A day on which we should be counting our blessings and saying thanks for all we have.

gratitude - Little glass bottle with a label- thanks for existing in my galaxy

To be honest,  gratitude is something with which I struggle.  If we are to believe the self-help tomes and the manifestation gurus, our inability to give thanks is probably one of the biggest obstacles we face on our road to self-fulfillment and living the life of our dreams.

As parents, one of the best things we can do is to teach our kids to say please and thank you.  Teach them to count their blessings and to try to see the glass as half full.

Manners are a vital part of gratitude – both are about showing respect to others no matter who they are.

In the ‘old days’, the teaching of such things was also supported by the church but as church attendance seems to be dwindling, at least for the Church of England and the Church of Wales, there seems to be a distinct vacuum.

Ingratitude and bad manners abound right across all age groups.  We have been encouraged to worship at the altar of the self for far too long whilst ignoring petty injustices and day-to-day rudeness.

So what, you might ask?  The problem is that these things burgeon and grow and gradually pervade all aspects of modern life.

At weddings and christenings, it is hard to see above the raised throng of smartphones waving in the air trying to film the event.

We have to be asked to turn our phones off before theatrical performances.

We push and shove to get the last seat even though the elderly, infirm and pregnant would appreciate the chance to sit.

Rather than address issues head-on with hotels, restaurants and customer service staff, we write snarky reviews on TripAdvisor.

Our inability to say thank you is tied firmly to the bad manners which ensue when we put ourselves constantly above others.

We even have a ‘jokey’ hashtag #firstworldproblems which is used when the problem isn’t really a problem at all to someone facing famine, disease or some other natural disaster but we still expect others to agree that it IS a problem.

There are loads of gratitude journals.  Making your own gratitude list is imbued with a mystical, magical power to change your life.

This might be new age guff (or as the Husband calls such things ‘weirdy, beardy shite’) but you know what, if it makes you feel better, makes you more appreciative and a bit of a nicer person, why not?

I’ve even heard of people carrying ‘gratitude stones’ in their pockets as a kind of talisman to remind them to be thankful.

When you think about it, all of our celebratory days are about giving thanks – Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving (no surprise there), Midsummer’s Eve, New Year…..

Saying thank you allows us to recognise the beauty and the goodness in life.  Gratitude allows us to be fully present.

It allows us to acknowledge what we have and without that knowledge, how can we move forward?  How can we set meaningful goals?

It surely can’t hurt to take 10 minutes, morning and evening to jot down your gratitude list.  Do you have family and friends who love you?  A roof over your head?  Your health? Money in your pocket?

If so, you’re doing a hell of a lot better than many.

Write your list and go about your day with a grateful heart.

That’s a great prescription for health, happiness and a longer life.

Beck Valley Book Tour: In Control – An Ivy Nash Thriller by John W. Mefford

NEW RELEASE….

A child is kidnapped, sending a mother into a panicked frenzy. It’s one of a dozen such crimes across central Texas, targeting those who live behind the pristine brick walls of master planned communities.

Ivy Nash hunts the kidnappers, but she quickly sees this case morph into something else entirely different…more dangerous, more twisted than anyone could imagine.

At the same time, the father of Ivy’s long-time friend pleads with her to do what no friend would ever want. But what she learns could shatter their worlds. An international drug trafficking ring. A professional hit. And one cover-up after another.

Secrets from the past are exposed, but how can Ivy separate reality from a smokescreen of falsehoods? With lives on the line, she can’t fail. The clock is ticking…

Available to buy from….
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“Rife with deceit and deception and characters that leap off the page, this story is told with confidence through a sure hand, engaging both the mind and the heart. A compelling treat.” — Steve Berry, New York Times Bestselling Author

“An intense and heart wrenching story that keeps you engaged from beginning to end.” — Simon Wood, USA TODAY Bestselling Author of DECEPTIVE PRACTICES.

“I love the way that Mefford writes, seamlessly jumping between characters and time frames with no confusion, and he is extremely descriptive of the setting . You almost feel like you are watching a movie instead of reading a book!” — Hilary Mahoney, Elusive Red Tiger

Above reviews from An Ivy Nash Thriller, Book 1, IN Defiance

My Review

Every new book by John W. Mefford is a treat – and this one is no exception with a plot that is as complex and satisfying as the previous books in the Redemption Series of Thrillers featuring his other detectives such as Alex Troutt.

Mefford is starting to pull the strands of his thrillers together and you can sense that they are building up to a climactic finish involving all the crime solving characters we have come to love.

Ivy is back and this time her case is uncomfortably close to home.  Could the fiance of her best friend be all that he says he is?  Or has he links to a nefarious underworld where a psychopathic drug lord rules the roost and doesn’t care who he hurts?

Supported by her chopsy but lovable side-kick, Cristina, Ivy also takes on the case of the kidnappers who fake child abductions to get their hands on the money – but where exactly are they getting their information from and how do they know who to target?

There is even an appearance from Alex Troutt’s partner Nick and Alex herself makes her presence felt.

Ivy is potentially Alex’s equally ballsy and intelligent younger partner and putting the two of them together is going to make a very enjoyable read.

Like all the previous thrillers, In Control can be read as a stand alone novel, but if you don’t read the back catalogue and immerse yourself in Mefford’s world of crime, you really are missing out.

Books in the Alex Troutt Thriller Series:
AT Bay AT Large
AT Once
AT Dawn
AT Dusk
AT Last

Books in the Ivy Nash Thriller Series:
IN Defiance
IN Pursuit
IN Doubt
Break IN
IN Control
Coming soon….
IN The End

Q&A with author John W. Mefford: 

Q: What do the Ivy Nash Thrillers have to do with the Redemption Thriller Series?

JWM: The Ivy Nash Thrillers comprise the second sub-series in the Redemption Thriller Series. The Alex Troutt Thrillers are the first sub-series. While I’ll eventually write a series that connects the major characters and plots from all the sub-series, you don’t have to read the AT books prior to the IN books. But I have to say, the AT thrillers are darn good.

Q: So you’re saying you don’t have to read the Alex Troutt Thrillers before the Ivy Nash Thrillers?

JWM: Nope. While a few of the characters might occasionally overlap between the series, they can be read as stand-alone. And then I’ll wrap everything up in a final set of six novels that connects all of the main characters and stories from each sub-series. If you haven’t read any of the Alex Troutt thrillers yet, you can try out the first three at a pretty nice discount. Just search for Alex Troutt Box Set.

Q: Can you give some insight into how Ivy Nash might connect to Alex Troutt down the line?

JWM: Sure…and then I’ll send over a hit squad. Seriously, I’ll be sprinkling in a few clues along the way for those who pay close attention to the details, but it will all come together in that final six novels of the Redemption Thriller Series. And it will be explosive and gut-wrenching at the same time.

Q: How many different sub-series are you planning to have in the Redemption Thriller Series?

JWM: Right now, I see four sub-series in the Redemption Thriller Series, with six novels in each. It’s the most challenging and fulfilling creative endeavor I’ve undertaken. I hope you enjoy the journey.

About the Author
Amazon #1 Bestselling Author, #2 bestselling author on Barnes and Noble, and a Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal winner.

A veteran of the corporate wars, former journalist, and an astute observer of human and social behavior, John W. Mefford has been writing his debut novel since he first entered the work force almost thirty years ago, although he never put words on paper until 2009. Once he started writing, however, he couldn’t stop.

A member of International Thriller Writers, John writes novels full of electrifying suspense — the same types of books he has loved to read since before he could shave.

When he’s not writing, he chases his youth on bike or a basketball court, all while making mental notes of people and societies across the land.

“Pop on over to my WebsiteFacebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads and Amazon Author Page

Join John’s Readers’ Group and receive the first novels in both the Greed and Booker Series 

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

NOW FOR THE AUTHOR’S GIVEAWAY

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Depression And The Return Of The Black Dog

The highly ironic thing about suffering from depression is that you are very often the last one to recognise that you are back in its grips.

Black Dog - Depression - Mother Distracted

A key clue, for me at least, is when I find myself unable and unwilling to communicate.  It’s that thing of announcing ‘I’m fine’ to everyone whilst looking like you’d cheerfully assassinate them. It’s the piercing resonance of the slightly shrill “I’m OK”.

Sometimes it even seems loud to me.  And I’m deaf.

Whilst we go on strike verbally, struck dumb by our latest encounter with the Black Dog, our bodies tend to shout our feelings loudly.

We don’t want to get out of bed.  We don’t want to talk.  We want to eat comfort food and watch the same ITV3 drama repeat over and over again letting it wash over us like morphine.

The Husband has become pretty shrewd at working out when I’m about to plummet. He knows the signs better than I do.  For the person who suffers from depression, so locked inside our experience are we that everything seems normal – even when it clearly isn’t.

You know, those days when washing your hair seems unnecessary and hiding behind the curtains so you don’t have to answer the doorbell is entirely normal.

Equally odd is the slow drip, drip, drip of the latest malaise as it builds up without you noticing. Like leaving a tap on in the bathroom, you never quite know when to expect the flood.

Also confusing is what exactly sets it off – whether it’s the effect of a period of poor self-care, or the kids going back to school, or the gradual fading of the sunlight into autumn, I can never pinpoint when I crossed the line from slightly anxious and definitely grumpy, to morose, gloomy and downright unapproachable.

All of this has to be hidden behind a painted smile, of course. But, gradually, phone calls get ignored, letters remain unopened and packet noodles replace any attempt at cookery.

The kids are, happily, generally unaware of all this.  Caitlin though, approaching the grand old age of 10, has a way of looking at me knowingly and asking “Mum, are you ALRIGHT” in that cadence which hints she knows something is up.

Many of us rely on anti-depressants to see us through.  I have never been able to take them. I don’t want to be beholden to chemicals to make me feel better, particularly since the side-effects of some of these drugs make you wonder why they are prescribed in the first place.

I say this with absolutely no judgement of those who do take them, by the way.  We sufferers all find our own way through as best we can, dodging the bullets of depression like ninjas when we can and sinking like a donkey stuck in quicksand when it all gets too much.

I joked recently to my sister’s partner that whilst, for many 2016 was a dreadful year and t-shirts were being printed with “I survived 2016” on (funny, but not really if you see what I mean), I’m already starting to feel like I need the 2017 version.

Hospital visits, builders, family illness, endless problems with my glasses, tinnitus – ah – a veritable catalogue of potential triggers. There’s even Blue Monday in early January designated as the most depressing day of the year where we’re all likely to feel miserable!

So where is your tipping point?

When does the Black Dog return to sit faithfully at your lap, tail wagging, damp cold nose insisting you pay attention?

One thing’s for sure, I wish someone would let the bloody dog out.

Review: A Luxury Tartan Blanket For A Cosier Autumn

GIFTED: It’s decidedly chilly and my Facebook timeline is peppered with people slightly miffed that they have already had to put the heating on.

Ieuan wearing The Tartan Blanket Co. Auld Scotland Tartan Blanket

Frankly, I love this time of year – the cosiness, the excuse to cover surfaces with the warmest and softest of throws and cushions and to indulge in the glow of candlelight with a nice glass of red wine.

The Tartan Blanket Co. Box

And there’s nothing nicer than snuggling up together on the sofa whilst watching a family movie or box set.

I was recently gifted a fabulous luxury Scottish tartan blanket from The Tartan Blanket Co. made in Edinburgh from the softest lambswool and available in a beautiful array of colourways.

I was sent a Scottish lambswool blanket in Auld Scotland Tartan and it arrived beautifully boxed and wrapped in tissue paper.

The blanket is closely woven in the finest lambswool using wool spun from the first shearing of the sheep which is the softest to touch. This has been spun into a really fine fibre which makes it lightweight yet beautifully warm.  The Tartan Co.’s blankets are handcrafted in one of Scotland’s most prestigious mills.

Caitlin opening my package from The Tartan Blanket Co.

My blanket measures approximately 72″ x 56″ (183cm x 142cm) and has a smooth finish with purled fringes.  It is, as you would expect, dry clean only.

There are loads of different tartans to choose from depending on your taste – or clan!  For example, MacDonald, Douglas, Stewart or Black Watch.

 

The Tartan Blanket co. Auld Scotland Tartan Blanket

You can also find a wide range of blankets made from recycled or new wool, blanket scarves, knee blankets, lovely baby gifts and quirky home accessories such as geometric pots, jars and prints.

If your purchase is a gift, the team will include a designed in-house postcard with your personalised message.

Delivery is free over £49.

The Tartan Blanket Co. Auld Scotland Blanket Care Label

With Christmas coming up, it’s great to discover somewhere different to shop for that really unique gift and who wouldn’t like a luxury tartan blanket to snooze under?

Caitlin snuggling up under The Tartan Blanket Co. Auld Scotland Tartan Blanket

For more information go to www.tartanblanketco.com.

Toy Review: Awesome Little Green Men Collectables Series One & Game

After years of indulging Caitlin’s passion for Shopkins and Cupcake Surprise, it made a nice change to review a collectable that Ieuan showed some interest in – Awesome Little Green Men.

Awesome Little Green Men

Awesome Little Green Men is the name of a military collectable which also includes a table top (or floor) game to play.

Actually, the name is a little misleading because there are also little blue military men to collect. Figures can be bought singly or in collections and there are also ‘blind boxes’ where you chance your luck to see if you get a super rare figure.

Awesome Little Green Men Battle Pack

We received the Awesome Little Green Men Battle Pack and two blind boxes to open. You can enlist your figures online so you can track which ones you already have.  The little military figures are given a rank, role and squadron – they even come with their own dog tag which the kids can wear.
Awesome Little Green Men individual figures
The Battle Pack contains 8 soldiers, 8 dog tags, 1 chain, 1 new recruit poster, game pieces and a game guide.

There are 100 unique characters to collect in Series 1, including four super rare figures in the green army and the blue army.

Each figure has their own expression which helps you recognise which is which – they are quite distinct.  For example, Major Boo-Boo drives a little ambulance and Corporal Kickbutt has a gun.

Super Rare General Panic

Super rare General Panic

The game is based on the concept of paintball when the aim is to ‘hit’ members of the opposing army. There is obviously a strong incentive to buy extra soldiers here so that the rivalling armies are of a similar size.  Our current blue army is decidedly underpowered.

Playing Awesome Little Green Men game

You line your armies up facing one another and move by using two sliders – stickers which you need to stick to a coin. There’s a marching one so that you can move closer before your strike, and an attack one which you flick at the opposition to see who you can hit.

I think that’s basically it.  Hands up I did find the game slightly confusing and Caitlin and Ieuan just wanted to play with the figures and make up their own stories. You can, however, find full instructions both in the Deluxe Pack and print them off online too.

The stated age range is 6+ but I think the game is better suited to older children and I suspect that Awesome Little Green (and blue) Men will work best as collectables.

The figures are really well made and quite amusing (for us adults a little more ‘in the know’). They are also a decent size and are unlikely to be lost down the back of the sofa or in the carpet somewhere. Always a bonus!

I am sure there will be some parents who will object to the military aspect of the game.  (I was once taken to task at the traffic lights by a mother objecting to Ieuan carrying a toy gun!).  I think you have to be pragmatic about these things and the introductory video on the product’s website states that the reason the two armies are fighting is not serious – for example, it could be that they are contesting the superiority of ketchup over mayonnaise. (Mayonnaise on chips. Weird, no?).

The Awesome Little Green Men Blind Box is RRP £3.99 and comes with one soldier, one dog-tag, a new recruits poster and game guide.

The Awesome Little Green Men Starter Pack is RRP £12.99 and comes with four soldiers (one in a vehicle), four dog-tags, a new recruits poster and game guide. But who’s in the blind box?

The Awesome Little Green Battle Pack is RRP £24.99 and comes with eight soldiers (three in a vehicle), eight dog-tags, a new recruits poster and game guide.

To find out more information about Awesome Little Green Men and The Battle Game, visit https://awesomelittlegreenmen.mgae.com.

You can find them on Amazon or at ToysRUs.  Read more of our toy reviews here.

Problem Page Edition 38 2017

This week – dealing with bullies, when he’s still texting his ex and when your partner forgets your anniversary. Yes – it’s problem page edition 38 from your online relationship coach.

problem page edition 38 - woman in grey jumper waiting by a black phone

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 the questions for problem page edition 38.

Q: I confessed my feelings to a guy and he rejected saying you deserve better. What should I do?

A: I don’t think there’s much you can do because it sounds as if he tried to let you down gently.

It’s the old “it’s not you, it’s me” thing. If he was that keen, he would have tried to start a relationship with you no matter his misgivings.

Yes, it’s possible he may lack confidence and feel unsure of himself but now that he knows how you feel, the ball is in his court.

He’s not a child, after all, is he? And don’t you want a man who has the gumption to pursue you? Particularly if you have just confessed your love.

Q: How do I respond when someone is bullying me, and they are much stronger than me (socially, economically, in every aspect)?
A: You’d respond in the same way you’d respond to any other petty minded, unpleasant bully.

Walk away and don’t give them the satisfaction of seeing that you are upset.

Call time on their behaviour and tell them to stop.

If they are your boss, then it’s difficult but you must go to HR – you’ll probably find the bully’s behaviour will come as no surprise.

If they are a member of your family then you either have to enlist support from other family members or walk away from the bully.

If they are a partner or friend, seek support from others or professional counselling to help you develop strategies to cope.

Bullies need a reaction. Doesn’t matter how much they have in the bank, or how ‘powerful’ they are – deep down they are scared, unhappy individuals who don’t know how to command love and respect as you and I would.

They deserve pity.

You’ll find you are stronger, more powerful and richer in all the things that really matter – self-respect, confidence, peace of mind when you decide that the bully will no longer get under your skin.

I hope you find some support to get to that place.

Q: What does it mean if a man has a girlfriend but still text and call his ex?

A: It sounds to me that she isn’t fully an ex – yet.

It’s possible of course that they are two mature individuals who have decided to stay friends and the calls and texts are perfectly innocent.

But if your relationship is new then I would expect your man to be more into you and worried about impressing you than keeping up with his ex.

All you can do is ask him frankly if their relationship is truly over and see how he reacts.

Don’t be fobbed off by bland reassurances that it means nothing but keep your counsel and observe for a while.

If the calls and texts don’t stop, then in your shoes I’d start to feel the odd one out in their relationship.

And that’s something I personally would not put up with.

Q: Why does my ex want to meet over coffee?

She dumped me 9 months ago. Aside from one argument, the breakup wasn’t bad.

Since then, contact had been minimal. I emailed her a few times. Never got a response until 2 weeks ago, when she suggests meeting over coffee.

I have mixed feelings. Couldn’t she just ask or say what she needed to via email?

A: It sounds like she wants you back – otherwise, as you say, she could just email.

I’d go but I would be wary. Did she dump you for someone else and has that relationship crumbled? Some people can’t cope with being single.

If you are still interested in her then you have nothing to lose but if you are not interested then I would just gently explain this in a text or email rather than raise her hopes.

One last thing – when you say you have ‘emailed her a few times’, could it be that she thinks you are pursuing her again (are you?) and wants to explain to you that it definitely is over.

Without knowing more background it is difficult to say but it sounds as if the ball is definitely in your court.

Q: We ended it a year ago and he’s now in a relationship with a woman 10 years older than him. Now she gives me the evil stare every time. Why?

A: It’s possible that she finds you a threat because I assume, you are that much younger.

But when you say she gives you an evil stare ‘every time’, that hints that you are still hanging around your ex. Why is that? Are you still good friends? Do you work together?

Or, forgive me, but are you making sure you are where they are?

Could it be that you can’t understand why a woman 10 years older should have any appeal to him?

Attraction often has nothing to do with age you know and for that, we should all be grateful – as I’m sure you will be when you, in your turn, are 10 years older.

Rather than concentrate on them, it’s time to concentrate on you and to find a partner who is so captivating, engaging and good to you that you no longer give a fig what your ex and his new lady are doing.

Q: My boyfriend didn’t wish me a happy anniversary, and he knows that it is our anniversary. Should I confront/leave him?

A: Ask him. You don’t say which anniversary it is but it obviously isn’t your first. Ask him if he’s forgotten and if he hasn’t, is there anything wrong?

By the sound of it he is stewing over something and since long-term relationships are based on good communication, you need to confront the issue head-on.

He might be stressed, or too busy, or peeved about something but as his (I assume) long-term partner, you have every right to know.

How would you have responded to these questions? I’d love to know.

You can find more dating advice from your online relationship coach in these posts:-

Dating:  11 Ways To Tell They’re Really Into You

 6 Signs Your Dating Buddy Isn’t On Your Side

32 Ways To Tell They’re Just Not That Into You