4 Great French Cheese Recipes

Today I have 4 fabulous French cheese recipes for you featuring yummy Le Rustique Brie de Caractère and Le Rustique Camembert (famously wrapped in its red and white Gingham cloth), all created by food blogger Lavender & Lovage.

Cheese and honey is a unique food pairing, so it is essential to create just the right balance between the two in order to avoid overwhelming our palates.

These recipes demonstrate the versatility of Le Rustique’s Camembert and Brie and would be ideal for sharing and taking on picnics.  Of course, you can use the Camembert and Brie which best take your fancy but Le Rustique is a particular favourite of mine.

4 French cheese recipes to try

Camembert and Apple Scones with Honey Butter

These scones are on the table in less than half an hour and are perfect when served with honey butter. Why not also serve as part of an afternoon tea or as an accompaniment to soups, stews or casseroles, or even as part of a “Ploughman’s Lunch”.

Le Rustique Camembert & Apple Scones with Honey Butter

Makes: 10-12 medium scones / 18-20 mini scones
Prep time: 25 mins
Cooking time: 10-12 mins

Ingredients:

Honey butter:

5 tbsp runny honey (flower or lavender honey)
150g unsalted butter

Scones:

450g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
100g butter, cut into small pieces
100g Le Rustique Camembert, diced
1 small eating apple, peeled, cored and very finely diced or grated
300ml milk mixed with 1 large beaten egg
Poppy seeds

Method:

1. To make the honey butter: beat the honey and the butter with a hand-held electric whisk until light and fluffy. Set to one side until needed.

2. Pre-heat oven to 220C/450F/Gas mark 7 and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and then rub in the butter until it resembles bread crumbs.

4. Stir in the Le Rustique Camembert and apple and add just enough of the milk and egg mixture to make a soft dough, it should not be too sticky. Reserve the remaining milk and egg mixture for the glaze.

5. Gather into a ball and place in a floured work surface; roll out gently to a thickness of about 2cm and stamp out the scones with a 5cm scone cutter. Gather together all the offcuts and continue to stamp out scones until all the dough is used up.

6. Place the scones onto the prepared baking sheet and brush them with the egg and milk mixture before scattering some poppy seeds over the top.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are well risen and golden brown.

8. Cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before serving warm with the honey butter.

Camembert and Hazelnut Parcels with Quick Fruit and Honey Chutney

You can use ready-made puff pastry for these delicious Camembert and Hazelnut Parcels which are perfect for an easy mid-week family supper, or for a lazy Saturday lunch. Shallots and hazelnuts are gently fried in a little olive oil for a tasty twist to compliment the Camembert; the fruit and honey chutney is the final “pièce de résistance” for these flaky cheese pies, which cuts through the richness of the filling.

Camembert & Hazelnut Parcels with Quick Fruit Chutney

Makes: 4 parcels for a main meal / 8 to 10 mini parcels
Prep time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 12-15 mins

Ingredients:

Fruit and Honey Chutney:

500g apples and pears, cored and finely diced (no need to peel)
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
50g sultanas
½ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp salt
120ml runny honey (Acacia honey)
150ml cider apple vinegar

Parcels:

1 tbsp olive oil
40g hazelnuts, crushed
2 to 3 shallots, or half a red onion, peeled and finely diced
500g block ready-made puff pastry
1 x 250g Camembert, cut into 4 pieces
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 egg, beaten

Method:
1. To make the chutney: place all the ingredients into a large saucepan and simmer over a medium to low heat for about 30 to 45 minutes, until the fruit is cooked and there is no liquid left – stirring all the time. Set to one side to cool and thicken once cooked.

2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the crushed hazelnuts and the shallots/onion; fry them over medium heat until the shallots/onion are soft and the nuts are toasted. Set to one side.

3. Pre-heat oven to 220C/450F/Gas mark 7 and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

4. Cut the pastry block into 4 and place them on a floured work surface, roll each piece out into a square, about 15cm x 15cm. Divide the hazelnut and shallots/onion mixture between the 4 pastry squares.

5. Cut the Camembert into thick slices and place on top of the mixture and then bring the corners up to the middle of the parcel, securing the pastry in the middle with the fresh rosemary sprigs. Place the parcels on the prepared baking sheet.

6. Brush the beaten egg over the tops of the parcels and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the pastry has risen and the parcels are golden brown.

7. Serve immediately with the fruit and honey chutney, and salad for a light luncheon or supper dish.

Camembert “Scotch Eggs” Two Ways with Honey and Mustard Dip

These delicious “Scotch Eggs” hide a cheesy secret inside! Two delicious flavours, herby pork sausage meat and black pudding, each wrapped around a cube of Camembert which after being deep-fried ooze seductively. Dunk these into a tangy, sweet honey and mustard dip for a truly cheesy treat.

Le Rustique Camembert Scotch Eggs Two Ways with Honey and Mustard Dip

Makes: 12
Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

“Scotch Eggs”:

x6 (400g) high meat content herb pork sausages, skinned
x6 (400g) black puddings, skinned
250g box Camembert, cut into 12 cubes
2 eggs, beaten
50g to 75g fine bread crumbs

To Fry:

Vegetable oil for frying

Dip:

125ml runny honey (Flower honey)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil

Method:
1. Take each sausage or black pudding and flatten them out into a large thin round; place the Camembert cube into the middle and bring the sides up to completely cover the cheese, making sure there are no gaps or holes in the sausage or black pudding. Gently shape them into an egg shape in the palm of your hand.

2. Dip the “Scotch Egg” into the beaten egg and then cover it with the bread crumbs; set to one side on a plate whilst you make the rest.

3. Fill a wok or a deep-frying pan to about 10cms in depth with vegetable oil and then heat it until smoking hot; add 3 to 4 “Scotch Eggs”, do not overcrowd the pan, and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes, turning them over halfway through cooking. If they start to brown too quickly, turn the heat down slightly.

4. Once they are cooked, drain them and keep them warm whilst you cook the remaining ones.

5. To make the dip: whisk the honey, mustard and olive oil together to form an emulsified dip.

6. Serve immediately with the honey and mustard dip.

Brie Tartlets with Honey Onion Relish

These gorgeous little Brie tartlets use rounds of bread in place of pastry and are so easy to make. Tangy honey onion relish adds a lovely depth to the crisp cases and melted cheese before they are dressed to serve with chopped chives for the final flourish. The honey onion relish can be made ahead of time and keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Le Rustique Brie Tartlets with Honey Onion Relish

Makes: 12 small tartlets/ 4 large tarts
Prep time: 45 mins
Cooking time: 8-10 mins

Ingredients:
Honey Onion Relish:

50g butter
2 red onions, peeled and diced
2 tbsp runny honey (Acacia honey)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Tartlets:

12 x slices Brown bread
50g softened butter
100-120g Brie cut into 12 pieces
Chopped fresh chives

Method:
1. To make the honey-onion relish: melt the butter in a pan and add the onions; sauté the onions for 4 to 5 minutes and then add the remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring all the time to stop it sticking, for 20 to 30 minutes until it is thick. Cool and set to one side until needed.

2. Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6.

3. Using a 5cm to a 6cm cutter, stamp out 12 circles from the sliced bread, and butter them on one side only. Place the buttered sides down into a 12-hole bun-tin, pressing them to create a tartlet shape.

4. Add a teaspoon of honey onion relish into each bread tartlet base, and then place the pieces of Brie on top.

5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and the bottom of the bread tartlet bases are crispy and golden brown.

6. Gently ease them out of the tray and sprinkle chopped fresh chives over them before serving.

All easy and delicious.  Which one of these French cheese recipes will you try first?

When is the right time to give your child a mobile?

When is the right time to give your child a mobile? That’s a question that many parents and carers will probably have to wrestle with – and it’s an issue that is cropping up ever earlier.

When is the right time for giving your child a mobile? Young boy playing on a mobile phone

Last year, when Caitlin was 10 and in Year 5, she told me that 7 of her classmates had brand new iPhones – a quick look on the comparison sites shows the latest iPhone 8 is anywhere from £40 to £90 per month, which for a child of that age is outrageous.

If the kids haven’t got iPhones, they’ve got iPods for texting.  Sleepovers are being arranged via Snapchat, Facetiming is happening via iPads.

Our kids are more connected than ever before.  It makes the concept of a playdate rather last century, doesn’t it?

I asked a group of mums on Facebook whether they thought this was a good idea and whether they would be allowing their kids phones.

The answer was a resounding “NO” with the recognition that we are all fighting a losing battle and that resistance to the march of technology is a bit like still insisting the earth is flat.

All we can do, I think, is decide for ourselves when is the right time for our kids to have a mobile phone.

giving your child a mobile phone - apple iPhone

Things to think about before you give your child a mobile

If you are considering whether to give your child a mobile phone, these are the factors to weigh up:-

  1. Your lifestyle – that is our need to contact our kids
  2. Peer pressure – are our kids being excluded from friendship groups because they don’t have a phone?
  3. Potential risks from phone use in terms of health and personal safety
  4. Cost

Lifestyle

If you work full time (or even part-time) you’ll find yourself rushing to do the school run, rushing to drop off, pick up, co-ordinate kids’ clubs and hobby sessions, doctors, dentists – the list is endless.

No matter how hard you try you cannot be with them all the time or even reachable sometimes.

It gets even trickier if you have more than one child.

Caitlin is off to secondary school in September, whilst Ieuan will be in the last year of primary. Two schools in different locations.

This means I will have to decide which one to take to school and which one to trust enough to make their own way.

The idea of doing this without being able to reach both of them causes me not a little anxiety so both of them now have a mobile – albeit an old contract phone with a pay-as-you-go SIM.

Of course, when my generation (I was born in 1964) was growing up nobody batted an eye and you just got on with it.  I used to walk along a scrubby track known as the Ash Path from Dinas Powys to my school in Penarth.  At the top of the path, you cross open fields before navigating the main road and walking along the side of the school to the main gate.

I would walk this in the dark, the rain, the cold and, frequently alone from age 11 onwards.

I had no choice because dad worked and mum does not drive.

In those days (the 1970’s), there did not seem to be the general panic about meeting undesirables on the way.

Today, such is our knowledge (and exposure to media coverage of paedophiles and other criminals) that we won’t even let our kids out to play in the street.

It is no surprise then, that the first thing parents do when their kids have to roam farther afield is to get them a mobile phone for their own peace of mind.

And, when our kids see their parents glued to pcs, laptops, iPads and phones, even if it is because we are working, it is very difficult to adopt the “do as I say, not as I do” approach.  As far as that argument goes, we really haven’t a leg to stand on trying to justify a ‘no’ to our kids.

Peer Pressure

When your son or daughter finds that social events are being organised via WhatsApp and they are excluded because they don’t have a phone, the temptation to rush out and get them a mobile is huge.

There’s a big argument between your head – which says that kids should not need phones in primary school to organise their social lives – and your heart.

It’s natural to want your child to fit in and be included.  Where there are a few kids with phones you can see that cliques will form and to be frank, this makes me a little uncomfortable.

Anyone who has experienced bullying will shudder at the idea of not being one of the crowd.  Today, of course, cyber bullying is rife – a new dimension to an age-old problem brought about by our addiction to mobile technology.

Health and Safety

You could say that the jury is still out on the effects of mobile technology on our health, and particularly on our children’s developing brains.  I believe we really won’t know the answer to this for many years to come.

There are already health-related conditions being identified not related to the phone but to the way we use them – text neck or thumb for example!

Perhaps the biggest threat is to our children’s mental health through the use of social media platforms such as Instagram where it seems it is impossible to completely filter out inappropriate material or those who are determined to target youngsters.

I also think that letting a child wander around with the latest, expensive handset is asking for trouble and may even make them a target for bullies or for those who want the phone for themselves.

On the other hand, for parents and children to be able to reach each other when there’s an emergency is a great thing.

I’ve even heard of parents giving children a code word to get them out of social situations that, whilst not dangerous, are upsetting them or making them feel uneasy. The child simply calls and uses the special, innocuous word or phrase and the parent takes this as a signal to go and pick them ups.

Particularly useful for teenagers where they may be pressurised to do something they don’t want to do – whether, sex, alcohol or drug-related.

Cost

If there is something that stops parents rushing out to get a phone it’s likely to be cost.  We can buy a basic handset and a pay-as-you-go SIM but, going back to peer pressure, when all the other kids have iPhones or other state-of-the-art handsets, your child is not going to be happy with a hand-me-down that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles.

I suspect lots of parents pass down their existing handset to their kids when they upgrade though, so this may not be a huge issue unless there are no phones in the family already.

It does mean that you need to find the best deal in terms of calls, texts and data because, as we know, our kids’ data usage is quite likely to outstrip ours several times!

I had to explain to Caitlin just recently that a text message charge will be incurred for every emoticon she adds into her texts and given that her messages are usually peppered with hearts, rainbows and unicorns, her credit can be rapidly eaten away without her necessarily saying anything at all!

Pay-as-you-go is the simplest way to manage the extra cost of running your child’s phone as long as you remember to keep it topped up.  You could also use it as an incentive for your child to do their chores or keep their room tidy – no chores done, no top up!  Yes, I’m an optimist.

Or you can add another phone to your existing mobile phone contract which, whilst allowing you to monitor their data usage, might mean they’ve already run up a bill you weren’t prepared for!

Make sure you do your research and compare deals from the mobile providers.

I have to be honest and say that although Caitlin and Ieuan both have mobile phones, I am not particularly happy about it.  In an ideal world, I would have waited until both of them were in secondary school.

But, with Mat working abroad or from his London office most of the week, I am the one who usually does the school run.  It is not practical, even if you do work from home, to be tied to the home all day – particularly if you are trying to develop a blog. Yes, stay at home mums do have to go out at some point!

There will be times in the future when I will have to travel and I will need to be able to contact my kids and vice versa.

Giving children mobile phones is not ideal but mobile technology is a factor of everyday life and one we can’t escape from. The secondary school my two will attend gives every pupil an iPad on which they are expected to do their homework. My husband’s job is in computer networking.

It feels like I am fighting a losing battle and I sometimes feel quite nostalgic for the old-fashioned type of childhood I had. In those days, it was all about playing outdoors in the sun, not gaming in a darkened living room.

If you do get your children mobile phones it’s important to sit down with them and set some ground rules. You’ll also need to make sure they know how to use the phone – although my kids are already teaching me how to use mine so I suspect that’s unlikely to be a problem!

Giving your child a mobile phone is a knotty issue which needs a lot of research and communication between all family members to come up with a system of mobile usage that works for everyone.

And it’s a conversation we’ll all need to have sooner or later.

Pin for later:

Krombacher Beer Recipes You’ll Love

Now that summer is here and barbecue season is upon us (weather permitting), we’ve been trying some new beers from Krombacher.

Krombacher Pils being poured into a tall glass

Krombacher is a beer with an impressive heritage. 60 glasses of Krombacher are drunk every second in Germany and it has been produced by the biggest family owned and operated brewery in Europe since 1803.

55 master brewers are involved in its production and the beers have 100% natural ingredients including the finest two-row summer barley, Siegel hops from Hallertau and a specially cultivated yeast.

Krombacher beers are made with the local Felsquellwasser® found in 48 wells within 3 km of the brewery and the range includes the Pils, Hell, Dark, Weizen, Radler, Low Alcoholic Pils and low alcohol Weizen.

We tried three beers from the range – the Pils, the Dark and the Weizen (wheat beer).

Selection of Krombacher beers

The Pils is light and refreshing with a delicate taste whilst the Weizen has a delicate wheat flavour with no cloying after-taste. It’s one of the most subtle wheat beers I’ve tried.

Krombacher Beer recipes

My favourite is the Dark, smooth, sweet, malty and almost dark chocolatey and we added it to a spicy beef curry for an extra kick.

Here’s Mat’s recipe.

Mat’s Spicy Beef Curry with Krombacher Dark

Ingredients:

  • 500g minced beef
  • 1/2 pint beef stock
  • 1/2 pint Krombacher Dark Beer
  • 1 tablespoon medium curry powder (or more if you want a hotter curry)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Method

  1. Fry the minced beef till brown
  2. Drain the fat from the meat and remove from the pan
  3. Chop and fry the onion
  4. Add the beef, chopped tomatoes, beef stock and beer
  5. Cover and simmer for approx 40 minutes until the liquid has reduced to form a rich sauce

Mat kept everything simple with this dish so it would be suitable for a family tea but you could obviously ramp up the taste with more spice – or more beer.

The Krombacher Dark added an extra depth to the curry with a slight hint of treacly sweetness.

Mat's Spicy Beef Curry With Krombacher Dark Beer
Mat’s Spicy Beef Curry With Krombacher Dark

Or, if you have a sweet tooth, what not try a Krombacher Tiramisu?  The dark sweetness of the beer is a great substitute for the coffee or liqueurs in this recipe.

Dark Tiramisu 

 Ingredients:

  • About 15 sponge fingers
  • 300 ml (1/2 pint) Krombacher Dark Beer
  • 600 ml (1 pint) double cream
  • 250g (9oz) mascarpone
  • 5 tbsp good quality chocolate shavings (I love Green & Blacks)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar

Method:

  1. Lay the sponge fingers in a flat 1 litre serving dish and pour over 200 ml Krombacher Dark Beer. Leave them to soak.
  2. In a separate dish, whip half the cream, half the mascarpone, 4 tbsp chocolate and 1 tbsp icing sugar until the mixture forms soft peaks.
  3. In another bowl, whip the remaining cream, mascarpone, beer and icing sugar to soft peaks.
  4. Remove the sponge fingers from the dish.  Spoon the chocolate cream mixture into the dish then layer the sponge fingers on top, followed by the remaining Dark Beer / Cream mix.
  5. Dust with the remaining chocolate to serve.

Lest you’re wondering which beer goes best with what, here’s a brief food matching guide to allow you to explore Krombacher Beer fully!

Krombacher Pils

Krombacher’s Pils is light and golden, with a thin ribbon of sweetness running through a crisp, dry body which crackles with peppery spice and bitterness. It’s a great beer for barbecues and goes best with juicy burgers and steaks.

Pilsner is a very versatile beer which goes as well with Thai and other Asian foods as it does with subtle dishes such as shellfish.  Whilst it’s great with burgers and perfect with pizza, it can also be an interesting accompaniment to light desserts.

It also works well with a cheese sarnie, or how about a combination of mature Cheddar with apple and a good British ham or a baked Brie with cranberries and Walnuts?

Krombacher Hell

This is another golden lager but with fewer bitter and spicy hop notes.  A delicate beer, this one goes well with lighter foods from the grill such as vegetable kebabs or chicken.

Krombacher Dark

The prominent treacly sweetness of this beer makes it an ideal complement to desserts such as grilled bananas and chocolate, but it also works well with meats slathered with sweet, sticky coatings, such as spare ribs with BBQ sauce.

Krombacher Weizen

The best complement for this one’s crisp tangy notes is the great British banger (or the Bavarian weisswurst – if you’re close to a well-stocked Deli). The banana and clove  aroma of this particular beer works well with pork.

Wheat beers also work well with Mexican Food such as cheesy quesadillas, spicy sweetcorn and chunky guacamole, or brunch dishes such as eggs Benedict, ham and cheese omelettes, sausages, gammon or ham, perhaps with a sweet or spicy glaze.

We used the Krombacher Dark for our curry but if you want something lighter, you can match your wheat beer with chicken curry or even a vegetable curry.

Krombacher beer bottle and filled glass outside in a garden

Krombacher is available via Majestic www.majestic.co.ukwww.beersofeurope.co.uk, and www.noblegreenwines.co.uk and it’s highly praised non and low alcohol range is available from www.drydrinker.com.

I hope you enjoy our Krombacher Beer recipes. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a ‘barbecue summer’ at last!

Is It Time To Get A Stairlift?

When you are caring for elderly relatives, you always walk a fine line between helping them lead an independent life at home and deciding whether, in fact, it is time to consider residential care.

Which is why I am all for anything that will make life a little easier for the elderly and the less mobile to keep them in the home they love and surrounded by all that is familiar and dear.

Many of the family homes we left, however, are two storey and traditionally designed so that the sleeping quarters and bathrooms are upstairs.

In an ideal world, of course, we would all have the funds to convert a downstairs room into a bedroom, together with ensuite washing facilities but few of us have that luxury.

A compromise is to get a stairlift so that you can get upstairs quickly, safely and without necessarily having to rely on a carer.  In fact I have even seen people install them for a pet pooch who struggles with mobility!

If you’re like me, though, you’ll have a few key questions to be answered.

  • How much should you expect to spend?
  • Which type of stairlift should you choose?
  • Are stairlifts easy to install?
  • How much maintenance does a stairlift need?
  • Will your loved one need assistance to use them?

Let’s look at each.

Cost

There are, surprisingly, quite a few types of stairlift and the price varies according to the type you choose and your installation requirements.  As a guide, a basic stairlift for a staircase with 13 steps is around £2,000 brand new.

Bear in mind that you may be able to apply for a local authority grant called a Disabled Facilities Grant and if you are eligible, your local council may be able to help towards the cost of installing your stairlift and any other home adaptations required.  You may also be exempt from paying VAT.  Check with your council first would be my advice.

Types of stairlift

You can choose from the following types of stairlift

  • seated stairlifts
  • perch stairlifts which have an adapted seat to give extra support for those who find sitting uncomfortable
  • straight stairlifts which can be seated or standing
  • curved stairlifts for curved bannisters
  • outdoor stairlifts which come with a waterproof cover
  • transfer platforms straight stairlifts (where you have a landing breaking the staircase)

Before you choose one you need to consider the mobility of the user and it might be a good idea to consult an Occupational Therapist before making a decision.

Are stairlifts easy to install?

A standard straight stairlift can be installed in as little as 2 hours.  You’ll have a visit from a surveyor to assess exactly what is needed and they will look at things like

  • the width of your staircase and whether there are obstructions such as a radiator
  • can you bend your knees and travel sitting down or would a standing stairlift be better?
  • if you do choose a standing stairlift, will there be enough headroom?
  • do you have the manual dexterity to operate the remote control or would you need something like a joystick or toggle?

Make sure you choose a reliable provider and don’t be pressurised into buying anything that isn’t right for you or your loved one.

You should be given a written quotation which includes installation.  Bear in mind, also, that you don’t necessarily need a brand new stairlift.  A reconditioned one may do just fine and it will be cheaper too.

Stairlift maintenance

Most companies will offer warranties (usually a one-year warranty) and an aftercare service to cover repairs and maintenance.

Brand new stairlifts should be serviced once every 12 months but if you have a reconditioned model, it is advisable to have them serviced every 6 months, especially if the stairlift is in daily use.

In order to keep your stairlift in tip-top condition, you should adhere to some basic common sense rules such as keeping the rails clear of obstructions, keeping children away from them and cleaning rails with a dry cloth once a week.

You’ll also need to ensure you don’t exceed the weight limit for your particular type of stairlift.

Helping your loved one to use them

For lots of us, this last point is actually the most important because unless your loved one is fully on board (to use a pun!) your stairlift may stay unused and unloved.

As with any aspect of caring for a loved one or elderly relative, communication is key to ensure that they like the idea and will be willing to use the mobility aid.

Choosing the right company and taking your time to ask questions and choose the right stairlift for your relative is crucial.  This is not a ‘rush purchase’ but it is one that could dramatically improve your loved one’s life at home and relieve them from spending all day staring at the same four walls.

And for that reason alone, a stairlift is well worth considering.

 

How to make your home a healthier place to live

When creating a home for your family, you will want to make sure it is safe and secure, especially if you have children as you will want to protect them at all costs. While you may think your home is secure enough, there are actually plenty of hidden substances than can creep and contaminate your home without you even realising.

To protect yourself and your family, you should take a look at these top tips which will provide you with a healthier and safer home.

Keep your home clean

 One of the best ways to rid your home of any nasty chemicals or germs is to conduct a regular and thorough clean. This is especially important in areas like the kitchen, where bacteria tends to build up. You should clear these germs out your home by placing things like used sponges or tea towels – which contain plenty of food-borne pathogens – in the dishwasher on a high-temperature wash.

The bathroom is also another germ-central room in your home, especially in areas like the toilet handle, where you can find pests like rotavirus, which is one of the main causes of diarrhoea in children. Therefore, it is important you can keep the toilet handle well sanitised with a high-quality disinfectant that disperses different types of bacteria.

Incorporate more greenery

Take botanical inspiration from properties like those available at RW Invest, which feature rooftop gardens that offer a great place for tenants to relax and unwind. These also create a healthier environment as the more greenery you have surrounding your home the better as it improves the air quality due to the increased oxygen levels.

If you don’t have a garden you should consider purchasing indoor plants like cacti or aloe, which are easy to maintain and will help to remove any air pollutants inside your home. They have also been proven to improve mood and reduce stress levels, which is ideal in a fast-paced home where there is a lot going on.

Invest in security systems

You may already have security cameras or motion detectors in place to deter intruders. However, you should also consider investing in protection such as carbon monoxide and smoke alarms. These systems act as a warning sign in the event of a fire or before harmful gases are released into the air. Some homes may need a carbon monoxide alarm if they are only powered by electricity, while homes with gas should have them in every room where fuel is burning.

To avoid contact with carbon monoxide, you should never use portable generators or charcoal grills inside your home. You should also try to look out for other gas leaking signs, especially if you use natural gas for cooking. Keep an eye out for suspicious smells like rotten eggs or gas which, if detected, should be reported to the police immediately and you would need to evacuate your home. By taking these precautions you can protect yourself and your family from getting sick or facing any smoke-related illnesses. 

Menopause And Insomnia – Sleepless In South Wales

I know that title doesn’t have quite the resonance of the film Sleepless In Seattle but still…  One of the many joys of the menopause seems to be insomnia.  And not just any old insomnia.

Oh no.  We are not necessarily talking about a racing brain that is happily creating to-do lists or pulling decade-old embarrassing memories to the fore.

I am talking about being perfectly wide-awake and feeling as if you don’t need any sleep at all. And this joyous state of affairs is currently hitting me at around 2:36 AM with monotonous regularity.

Menopause and insomnia

Apparently, this might be because my progesterone levels are wrong but since I have not had a proper analysis of my hormone levels, I’m none the wiser.

Many of my ‘menopausal sisters’ seem to know exactly how much oestrogen and progesterone they have and have been given HRT prescriptions to rectify these on a far more scientific basis than just being handed a tube of Ovestin.

It’s such a lottery, isn’t it?  Menopausal care from our GPs and yet there are millions of us suffering and desperately trying to overcome the inevitable dragging tiredness and complete ‘slump’ that hits 12 hours later, in my case at 2 pm.

The level of fatigue is such that a couple of strong coffees or a sugary snack goes nowhere near perking you up.

Naturally this tiredness affects your concentration, your productivity, your mood and your appetite.

It’s a vicious circle that sees me swinging from tiredness to caffeine to sugar to guilt to tiredness.  Round and round we go.

The problem with this is that it also affects your relationship with your nearest and dearest. You are far more likely to shout (bellow!) when you are knackered and just want to go to bed.

I know that I am impatient, cranky, less likely to listen to the kids and just generally less engaged with anything going on around me.

I know that I am not alone and wonder how those who are employed, rather than self-employed as I am, cope with the 9-5 and the pressures of belligerent bosses, deadlines and annoying colleagues.  (I loved corporate life – can you tell?!)

My dad, who also struggles to sleep, has discovered that you can get an antihistamine based sleeping tablet which won’t leave you feeling drowsy in the day.

But for those of us suffering from vaginal atrophy or any level of dryness down below, antihistamines can increase dryness and thus discomfort.

Not what you want when you are sitting down all day.

In any case, I would rather try a natural supplement than rely on a full strength sleeping tablet.

I have also, I have discovered, become an incredibly light sleeper.  Having a bedroom which faces the road means that any car driving past tends to wake me.

For instance, we have, for reasons I cannot fathom, a milkman who delivers milk two doors up at midnight.  At least, I am assuming it is milk being delivered!

We also have a company who delivers dog food at 5:30 am. I am also assuming it is dog food being delivered.

Perhaps early hour and dawn deliveries are a peculiarly ‘Dinas’ thing but they don’t make for a restful sleeping environment.

Add to that the racket made by certain snoring residents of Hobbis Towers who shall remain nameless and on some nights I find myself thinking that I may just as well get up.

Those of you of a certain age will remember the lovable cartoon cat – Top Cat – (TC) who used to sleep in a dustbin wearing a sleep mask and earplugs.

Substitute the dustbin for my bed and we have a lot in common.  If anyone were to break in at night it looks like I have been taken hostage.

Well as far as I am concerned, I have been – by my hormones.

If you have any tips for a restful night’s sleep please let me know!

Why feeding dogs fish-based dog food is a great idea

For many people, dogs are not just pets. They are already part of the family and deserve as much love and attention as other members of the family, but it is very important that we get then proper nutrition and not just give them the food that we eat at the table.

They may have other dietary needs that cannot just be fulfilled by whatever food we give them. If you are looking for the perfect dog food for your canine pet, you might want to look at fish-based dog food.

Anyone who has had a dog for a while knows that dogs love the smell of fish, so this type of dog food will really entice them to eat. And there are so many variants such as fish4dogs sea jerky, squid bites and even salmon oil.

Read on to learn more about the benefits of fish-based dog food.

The benefits of fish-based dog food

It is a great source of protein

Protein is needed by your dog so that their body will function properly. It gives them energy and helps their body heal itself. While red meat is a good source of protein, you might also want to look for alternatives.

A fish-based diet is a good idea because you will be providing them with the needed nutrients without spending so much.

Just make sure that if you are preparing the fish yourself that you choose the right type of fish.

It is perfect for dogs that are sensitive to certain types of food

There are some dogs that are not able to enjoy a balanced diet because they cannot stomach some of the ingredients in the dog food.

Also, as dogs get older they might start gaining more weight than what is allowed and some are also not able to tolerate red meat in their diet.

This is where fish-based dog food comes in. They are better suited for your pets if you want them to eat food with nutritional value without gaining weight.

It is a great source of Omega-3

Omega-3 has many health benefits, not just for us humans, but for our furry friends as well. Their benefits include a healthier dog because it helps them with their allergies and even slows down the development of certain types of diseases.

Fish-based dog food is very safe. You just need to do your research because there are certain types of fish that may not be as beneficial to your dogs.

Most experts would say that dogs should consume those that have a shorter life span, such as trout, salmon, and flounder.

Other types of fish like tuna or swordfish are not advisable because they might contain some high levels of metal which may be harmful to your pet.

You also want to check out the ingredients in the dog food you will be buying. This is to make sure that your pets will really get the nutrition they need.

Should You Make Room in Your Family Budget for Insurance?

Families today are under more financial pressure than ever before. As a result, there are a number of things that families would once have taken for granted, such as insurance, that are now dependent upon there being room in the family budget. With many families having to make tough financial decisions, It is understandable that lots of families are questioning the wisdom of buying insurance.

However, insurance is one of those things that you don’t really appreciate until you don’t have it.   While the costs of insurance are unavoidable, when you compare them to the often sudden and unexpected costs involved in replacing uninsured items or fixing uninsured appliances, they are an absolute steal.

One of the reasons that many families are hesitant about buying insurance is because there are simply so many different types and providers to choose from. While the competition is good, at least in theory, for customers, the range of choices can sometimes be overwhelming.

What Types of Insurance are There?

It is easier to understand the value of insurance when you understand what different types exist. There are types of insurance that are designed for insuring individual objects, such as the insurance you might take out on your smartphone, as well as types like home insurance that cover property or the items within it.

There are some types of insurance that you are legally required to have, such as home insurance and car insurance for people who own cars or have mortgages. But while most types of insurance are optional, they are often highly advisable.

Home Insurance

If you own your own home and it’s covered by a mortgage, then you are required to have home insurance. There are two types of home insurance, buildings insurance, and contents insurance. The difference between the two is easy enough to understand. Building insurance covers the cost of any repairs or rebuilding that needs to be done to your home in the event of unexpected damage. Meanwhile, contents insurance covers the cost of any possessions that are lost or damaged during unexpected damage. If you are still not sure which type of home insurance will serve you best then check out aa insurance website for more details. You can find different types of home insurance with various features and find the one that suits you most.

Neither type of insurance will cover general wear and tear. If you leave your property unoccupied for more than 60 days, this also invalidates most insurance policies. You don’t want to end up having to foot the costs of unexpected home repairs. Home insurance will, therefore, keep you safe financially.

As with any insurance policy, you will have to carefully read the terms and conditions in order to make sure you understand exactly what is covered by home insurance.

Contents insurance will allow you to either repair or replace any possessions that become damaged or lost. Again, you will need to look at the specific policy in question to find out exactly what is and isn’t covered. Some types of contents insurance will also cover your items when they are outside the home. You usually have to pay an excess for any claim that you make, this means that you will have to pay some money to repair or replace items, but it is considerably less than it would be without insurance.

Boiler Cover

Boiler cover is a type of emergency home cover that covers your boiler, and often other plumbing, drains, and electrics as well. Home Emergency cover will cover the costs of any unexpected home emergencies, such as boiler service. The Certi UK website is a great example of the kind of boiler cover that families on a budget can still consider.

As with most types of insurance or damage cover, the boiler cover package you buy might come with a number of other services. Having your boiler covered is a great idea, as you don’t want to be footing the costs of repairing a boiler when you aren’t prepared for them, but it is far from the only thing in your home that can go wrong unexpectedly and put a huge hole in your finances.

An issue with your plumbing or electrics can affect your boiler, depending on the type you have. It, therefore, makes a lot of sense to have both of them covered under the same plan.

Car Insurance

Car insurance is a legal requirement if you drive a car. Therefore, for many families, it is going to be an unavoidable expense. However, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the cost of your car insurance. The first, and easiest, is to use a price comparison website to check what insurance providers are available and who can offer you the best deal.

In the UK, you need to have third-party cover at the minimum; this covers other people who ride in your car such as passengers from any injury that they might sustain in an accident. However, if your car is lost or stolen, then you will be responsible for the costs.

You can also opt for third-party, fire, and theft insurance, which will cover the same things as standard third-party insurance but will also include fire and theft. This means that if your car is stolen or set on fire, you will be able to recover the value of it.

If you are looking at insurance plans for one of your children who are old enough to drive, then you’ll have to bite the bullet as far as the prices concerned. Insurance for young drivers is much more expensive than insurance for older drivers because they are seen as being a much higher risk.

Travel Insurance

It’s relatively easy to holiday on a budget these days. If you’re willing to take your holiday in the UK, you can save yourself a lot of money. if you decide to travel abroad, there will inevitably be some extra costs involved in that you will have to work into your budget. Nobody plans on becoming ill or injured when they get on holiday, but this is always going to be a possibility.

Travel insurance will protect you against the cost of healthcare while you are on holiday. Even in countries that have a system similar to the NHS in the UK, you will either need to have travel insurance or you will have to pay the cost of any treatment that you received. Medical treatment can quickly become very expensive, so travel insurance is worth having.

Travel insurance packages will not only cover the cost of any medical treatment you receive; they will also cover the cost of flying you home should the need arise. It’s worth noting that most travel insurance packages will not cover you for a pre-existing condition. There are also certain types of holidays, such as extreme sports holidays or holidays during which the policyholder undertakes dangerous activities that will not be covered by travel insurance policies.

Insurance is worth spending money on even when you’re living on a budget. It is better to take the small hit to your finances each month then it is to take the risk of suddenly being hit with a bill for thousands of pounds. Should a boiler or the pipes in your home fail, the potential for damage to your property is very high. The cost involved in repairing aren’t even worth thinking about, ensuring that you have the right insurance in place is a much better approach.

Back Fat Is Back

When I was pregnant with Caitlin, I put on four stone.  I did this primarily by giving up my job in legal marketing and then sitting on a sofa for 2 months eating cheese to stop the nausea.

It really was the only thing that worked.

That and those awful ‘fruit flavoured’ indigestion tablets they sell in Tesco.

I managed to lose quite a bit in between having Caitlin and Ieuan but since they are only 19 months apart, it wasn’t enough to get me back to my starting weight of around 10 stone.

Then I discovered Rosemary Conley and from 2009 to 2011 managed to get down to 9 stone 3 lbs (on my wedding day) and keep it off.

They say that a happy marriage tends to pile on the pounds as you both relax and enjoy yourselves with food but now at 55 in my menopausal or possibly postmenopausal years (nobody is sure, including me), the fat is most definitely back.

And, worse, the back fat is back.  It lurks behind you in rolls around your shoulder blades and hips, doesn’t it?

I took Caitlin shopping yesterday.  She has a Year 6 Leavers’ Disco in a few weeks which has morphed from a bit of a bop in the rugby club to a full-on prom event.  We managed (miraculously!) to find a dress she both liked and which fitted and then it was my turn.

Off to John Lewis we went and, in particular to my favourite concession, Karen Millen. Despite the fact that I have been welded into my leggings, I have a secret hankering to be a ‘Real Housewife of Dinas’.  The joke being of course that none of the real housewives ever do any actual housework, barely any cooking and a whole lot of wine quaffing, shouting, and occasionally hair pulling.  Aside from the last one, it sounds a perfect job description for me.

But I digress.

I have to say that the lighting in the John Lewis fitting room was clearly installed by a misogynist of the first order – certainly someone with tendencies bordering on the sadistic.

So strong you can feel your insides being slowly microwaved, it shows up every dimple, ripple, pucker, wobble, roll and droop.

My cellulite has got cellulite.

“Muuum,”  said Caitlin inspecting my pasty anatomy (closer to Cornish Pasty than anything pale and interesting), “I don’t think your bra FITS.  It’s really cutting in you know”

Hmm.  Now it’s been a while since the nice lady in M&S measured me with her ice-cold tape measure and I think Caitlin has a point.  It’s time to go up a size.

It’s tricky when you have kids, isn’t it?  You don’t want to give them any sort of a complex about weight but equally, you don’t want to ignore the fact that, at the end of the day, carrying those extra pounds is not great for your health.

And, whilst it’s strangely easier to deal with the podgy bits in the front, the creeping back fat is a different case entirely.

So, whilst I found a chic and simple shirt dress at 50% off (hurrah!), my physio has given me the number of a personal trainer.

You know, I think it may be time…..

Why You Should Promote Your Blog With Merchandise

When I worked for The Law Firm, handling its marketing, we would keep a stash of items printed with the company’s logo to give out at events and seminars.  Rugby-shaped stress balls,  branded pens, pencils, all sorts of golfing equipment from tees, umbrellas, polo shirts – you get the (printed) picture.

Those were the days of big marketing budgets (now long gone I imagine), but I’ve been wondering lately about whether bloggers could benefit from something more interesting to hand out than a business card.

It depends, of course, on whether you are an avid networker.  Many bloggers studiously avoid attending conferences, restaurant openings, and the like preferring to unleash their personality behind the safety of their laptop screen.

Others adore the people contact, the shoulder rubbing and the making of friends ‘in real life’ rather than virtual ones on Facebook.  These events are also very often a chance of meeting representatives from brands you would love to work with.

You might think that getting your own printed merchandise will be a really expensive exercise, however, if you click here you will find out that this isn’t the case.

How about a personalised t-shirt with your blog logo and social media handles on the back?  Or a professionally printed version of your media pack to hand out?

You could tailor your promotional items to match your blog niche?  Book blogger?  Give away some bookmarks.  Food blogger, how about an apron or a placemat?  Tech blogger?  branded USB drives would be a good choice.

If you are thinking that you just couldn’t afford to do that, then consider that some bloggers are creating their own merchandise and selling it on their site to generate extra revenue.  Some are even creating their own Amazon stores to do just that or using platforms such as Shopify. And how about eBay or Etsy?

Let’s not forget the huge potential of Instagram as a sales platform to promote your brand.  Wouldn’t those flat lays be boosted by including shots of your own mugs, t-shirts and pens? Or how about YouTube?  Caitlin’s latest edition of Shout magazine is, she tells me “wall-to-wall James Charles”.

Get your branding on point and use merchandise to get yourself noticed and who knows, a brand collaboration may be on the horizon. Beauty bloggers might get their own beauty advent calendar or beauty subscription box.

E-commerce is, of course, a huge topic in its own right but do your research, start small and keep an eye on costs and you may find that you hit gold with a great stream of passive income – if you find the right product.

There will be a host of new skills to learn – but we bloggers are already writers, designers, accountants, social media experts and networkers.  I can honestly say I’ve learned more about marketing whilst writing Mother Distracted than I ever did in the corporate world.

I’ve seen local blogs sell branded mugs and t-shirts and other bloggers go on to create their own books, diaries of their experiences, humorous cartoons and top-selling cookery books.

It’s time for lots of us to start thinking outside the box and whilst it is undeniable that the majority of our work has to be done online and social media platforms, there is still a strong argument for occasionally rejoining the non-virtual world and doing some back-to basics marketing and sales promotion.

What you consider printed merchandise to promote your blog?  Do you have your own online shop?

My Pain Free Way To Save For Christmas Every Day

Most of us are probably well-intentioned when it comes to saving but, well, life happens, doesn’t it?  There is always something to buy – whether it’s the kids’ school shoes or a DIY job around the home.

Then, come September, Christmas seems to loom large and we all start to think about where the money is going to come from to pay for the festive season.

The kids start to write their Christmas lists and the careful negotiating begins.

“I don’t really think you need to ask Santa for one of those – it’s too old for you”.

“Are you sure you would play with that?”

“I think that’s for a child a little bit younger”.

“If you ask Santa for this, I don’t think you can ask for that as well”.

If you’ve been disciplined, you’ve been squirrelling a little aside each week, but if not, you may well feel slightly panicky.

A while ago I read about a great idea which works well if you have internet banking and a related online savings account – and it’s a piece of cake to put into practice.

If you don’t have a linked savings account, why not start one just for Christmas or holidays or whatever big splashy exciting goal you may have.

A straight savings account is best as if you put cash into an ISA it really needs to stay there for the interest to accrue.  You just need an account you can dip in and out of without penalties.

So, to be clear, this is what you will need:-

  • a current account  you can access online
  • an online savings account
  • the ability to transfer money between these accounts online

My accounts are with Santander and I can move money between accounts with a few mouse clicks.  For the purposes of this exercise, it’s likely that your savings account will need to be with the same bank that provides your current account.

Here’s what you do.

EVERY DAY  go online and check the balance of your current account.

If your balance is an odd amount – and it usually will be – simply round it up to the nearest £5 or £10 and transfer the extra to the savings account.

Rounding up to the nearest £5 …..

For example,  your balance is £127.99.

Then you’d move £2.99 over to your savings account so your balance is £125.00.

Or your balance is £158.27.

Then you’d move £3.27 over to your savings account so your balance is £155.00.

Rounding up to the nearest £10 ….

If your balance is £244.50

Transfer the £4.50 leaving you with a balance of £200.

Sometimes you will move ridiculously low amounts – even under a £1 but stick with it.

I’ve saved hundreds!

I have been doing this for years now and I have saved hundreds of pounds and I have barely noticed the money has gone from my current account.  Rarely in that time has there been a day when I’ve transferred more than £2-£3.

It’s actually become a bit of a game for me – and I do not have that many transactions leaving my current account.

It won’t make you a millionaire, but it won’t hurt either!

It’s an easy and relatively pain-free way to say a Christmas fund – as long as you remember to check your balance.

Many of us can afford to save a little each day – even if we just give up our morning takeaway coffee.

Why not give it a try?  You may be surprised how much your savings will grow in the next 6 months.

It’s NOT about accruing interest on your savings though.

If your savings account has a decent interest rate (although few of them do these days), the extra benefit is that if you choose to leave your savings there to grow further, you might earn some interest but this isn’t the main reason I do this.

If you are looking to make a return on your investment, then you should be looking at pensions, ISAs or even, if you’re brave and have a bit of cash to play around with the stock market.

You might also find this form of saving easier than giving up your beloved daily coffee, although reining your occasional spending (you know, all those treats and fripperies you can’t resist), will free up lots of cash you could better spend elsewhere.

Let me know how you get on!

It IS possible to relax on a family holiday! 4 ways you can catch a break on holiday

When we think of family holidays in the sun, visions of happy memories, golden photo opportunities, happy smiling children are usually replaced with the realities of screaming toddlers, siblings arguing, moody teens and you and your partner desperately trying to have a good time….

Family holidays aren’t known for their relaxing status. And while you and your partner would probably prefer a mini break to Italy – check out this site for the latest opera ticket prices – family holidays can be something that everyone can enjoy.

Here I’ve put together 4 ways you can relax on your family holiday. Enjoy!

Don’t be a slave to routine

You could be halfway across the world, or halfway across the country. Either way, you’re on holiday! So, leave your everyday routine at home! You might all be eaten and dressed and ready to roll by 8 am on your average workday, but if you all sleep in late – that’s fine!

If the kids are taking their time getting dressed because they’re excited, then so be it. Barking orders and constantly clock watching is a sure fire way to increase your stress levels and make everyone cross and grumpy. The beach isn’t going anywhere.

If you have activities planned then wait until later in the holiday when things are little more settled.

Do something without the kids

You might feel terribly guilty doing activities away from the children, but they might actually appreciate spending a little time doing something that’s just for them, or the opportunity to get to know other children at the resort.

Take advantage of the kids’ clubs available to you, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. You and your partner can enjoy some quiet time in the sun and reconnect or have some fun without the kids at the waterpark or on the beach. There’s nothing wrong with a nap, either!

Don’t cram too much in

It’s easy to get carried away and fill your time with lots of activities and walks and big plans so that everyone can have the best holiday ever. Not only is that putting far too much pressure on yourself but cramming in too much into your itineraries is going to make everyone stressed.

Have a few days of the holiday where you’re all just enjoying the pool, the accommodation, at the beach or just enjoying each other’s company. You’ll all make memories whether or not you win the sandcastle competition or not!

Take it in turns

Holidaying with your family is tiring, so help each other out. Taking it in turns to be up with the kids when they get up ensures that both of you get a bit of a lie in on alternative days and either one of you don’t feel like you’re doing everything…the same applies with things like supervising the kids in the pool while one of you reads their book, or even taking the kids to the bathroom during your dinner. Work as a team and everything will run much smoother.