Work Off That Chocolate Overload With Some Footie Fun

I read, last year, that over Easter each child in the UK will consume around 8 Easter eggs each which is a staggering amount. And I have to confess that our two have had their fair share – which we are rationing and ‘helping them out with’ to lessen the load a little.

Ieuan Hobbis

So, despite the ravages of Storm Katie and the infrequent bouts of sunshine, we have taken every excuse to get out of doors this Easter school holiday for some exercise and, having watched Wales draw 1-1 with Northern Ireland last weekend, we are all cautiously optimistic for the approaching UEFA Euro 2016 ™ matches.

We are blessed, in Dinas Powys, with a large expanse of open green known locally as “The Common” and it is the site of many a football and rugby match along with the lovely sight of horses cantering around the perimeter.

Ieuan Hobbis playing football on Dinas Powis Common

It is a great place to take the kids so they can run about and let off some steam. What could be easier than taking a ball and having a kick about for an hour?

It makes such a welcome change from the usual activities of iPad, TV and DVD and gives everyone the chance to clear their head.

Football is great exercise because:-

– it increases cardiovascular health and increases aerobic capacity
– lowers body fat and improves muscle tone
– builds strength, flexibility and endurance
– increases muscle and bone strength


– improves overall health because of the shifting between walking, running and sprinting.

Five very good reasons why adults should get out of their chairs and join their kids on the pitch!

“As a kid, you obviously dream of being a professional footballer. I would watch players like Ronaldo of Brazil and pretend to be him in the playground. But I don’t think about trying to become one of the best in the world or anything like that. I just play football.”

Gareth Bale

Ieuan saves the football on Dinas Powis Common

Then there are other benefits such as:-

– you learn teamwork
– you learn to literally “think on the run”
– it teaches you persistence and self-discipline
– it helps to increase your confidence and self-esteem

and, as we all know, exercise of any kind is a brilliant way to deal with our anxieties and the stresses of daily life.

I think children also benefit from admiring their football heroes because they can teach children to model positive behaviours like co-operation and looking out for one another.  Everyone needs something positive to aspire to.

So, as the opening game of the UEFA Euro 2016™ championship approaches, we are all honing our football skills.

Wales face England in the second game of the group stage on 16 June in Lens. They play Slovakia in the opening game on 11 June and Russia the final match of Group B on 20 June.

Sporting legend Ian Rush has told BBC Wales Sport that ‘I’ve got a strong feeling that we won’t lose to England, even though they’ve had a good result against Germany,”  Fingers crossed!

And of course, there is still the fabulous opportunity for kids to win the opportunity to be a Player Ambassador at one of three UEFA EURO 2016™ matches taking place in June or July 2016 and the chance to win one of a hundred footballs in McDonald’s fabulous competition.

How to enter

To take part all you have to do is to upload a photo of your child here by 10th April 2016 showing their passion for football: cheering on their country, celebrating a goal, or supporting their favourite team via the entry form.

Here’s that link again.

The Prizes 

McDonald’s are offering some amazing prizes.

Not only does your child get to walk out on the pitch but McDonald’s are throwing in (see what I did there?), travel and accommodation for the three-day trip to attend each respective match.

This is for one parent/guardian (who must be over 18) and the winning child.

These are the matches the Player Ambassadors will be attending.

England vs Wales (England Player Escort) Match 16, Lens, 16th June 2016 (4 prizes)
England vs Wales (Wales Player Escort) Match 16, Lens, 16th June 2016 (3 prizes)
Northern Ireland vs Germany (Northern Ireland Player Escort) Match 30, Paris, 21st June 2016 (1 prize)
The Final, (Player Escort may walk out with either team) Match 51, Saint-Denis, Paris, 11th July 2016 (1 prize)
1 of 100 footballs


Your child must be between 6 and 10 years old (inclusive) on 10th June 2016. Entries are limited to one per eligible child. No purchase is necessary to enter.

You’ll have to hurry though, the competition closes on 10th April 2016, so there are only a few days left to get photographing.

In the meantime, let’s hope the weather holds so we can all get out for a bit of footie fun.

And don’t forget to submit your entry to this amazing competition!


Win The Chance For Your Child To Be A Player Ambassador At UEFA Euro 2016™

My own sporting prowess, as readers of this blog know, is rather limited so it is great to see that my children take after their father and not me.

Now that the weather is improving, Ieuan is spending every waking minute when not in the classroom kicking a ball around which is a refreshing change from his previous unswerving allegiance to all things i(Pad).

Caitlin’s ballet phase is in full swing and I am fully expecting it to morph into an obsession with ponies very shortly.

Either way, we are enjoying the rush of activity and the chance to spend time in the sunshine and fresh air.

And, of course, the sporting season is upon us with the UEFA Euro 2016™ football championship rapidly approaching.

On March 24th Wales will be playing Northern Ireland in a friendly and we are hoping our boys will do us proud.  It will be a great opportunity for all the family to get together and cheer Wales on.

Then, there’s the brilliant chance for kids to win the opportunity to be a Player Ambassador at at one of three UEFA EURO 2016™ matches taking place in June or July 2016 and the chance to win one of a hundred footballs in McDonald’s fabulous competition.

Ieuan is so excited at the prospect of walking out on to the pitch for Wales with his football heroes. Gareth Bale, Wales’ youngest ever scorer and the man who contributed 7 out of 11 goals in Wales’ qualifying match, is definitely his number one. The fact that there would be thousands of people watching Ieuan, does not daunt him in the slightest!

It would be a dream experience for any young football fan so we have explained that he might be up against a bit of competition!

How to enter

To take part all you have to do is to upload a photo of your child showing their passion for football: cheering on their country, celebrating a goal, or supporting their favourite team via the entry form.

Here’s that link again.

The Prizes

McDonald’s are offering some amazing prizes.

Not only does your child get to walk out on the pitch but McDonald’s are throwing in (see what I did there?), travel and accommodation for the three day trip to attend each respective match.

This is for one parent / guardian (who must be over 18) and the winning child.

These are the matches the Player Ambassadors will be attending.

England vs Wales (England Player Escort) Match 16, Lens, 16th June 2016 (4 prizes)

England vs Wales (Wales Player Escort) Match 16, Lens, 16th June 2016 (3 prizes)

Northern Ireland vs Germany (Northern Ireland Player Escort) Match 30, Paris, 21st June 2016 (1 prize)

The Final, (Player Escort may walk out with either team) Match 51, Saint-Denis, Paris, 11th July 2016 (1 prize)

1 of 100 footballs


Your child must be between 6 and 10 years old (inclusive) on 10th June 2016.  Entries are limited to one per eligible child. No purchase is necessary to enter.

You’ll have to hurry though, the competition closes on 10th April 2016, just a few short weeks away so get photographing.

We’ve got our entry in and Ieuan has already requested a French phrase book and some new footie boots.

Good luck!

How Everyone’s United By Football – Making The Most of Family Time During UEFA Euro 2016™

These days it’s all about the screen time.  We are a nation obsessed with all things ‘i’ and android.  We experience huge swathes of our life online and converse in emoticons (as Facebook’s new ‘like’ icons attest).

We parents can be as guilty of this as our kids.  At the end of a long day, it is just so easy to pick up a tablet and switch on and check out.

So it’s a refreshing (and much needed) change to find an event that brings families together and generates an energy that doesn’t come from a charger.

Now readers of this blog know that I am not the most sporty of women. I make no secret of the fact that I used to wear the Left Back bib in hockey because I used to be Linda Brooks and I liked wearing my initials.

But when you have kids, you quickly realise that an event like the forthcoming UEFA Euro 2016™ football championship is too good an opportunity to pass by when it comes to spending some quality time with the family.

We’ve got the kids enthused about the Six Nations Rugby Tournament and we watched last year ‘s Rugby World Cup together – except that the kids were really upset when Wales were knocked out (we were robbed).

The concept of national pride is very topical these days and, even though I moved to Wales in 1969 when I was 5, I consider myself to be Welsh.  The Husband was born in Cardiff and both my children were born in the Heath Hospital so their nationality is definitely Welsh!

There is something very emotional about supporting your own country’s sporting efforts.

I think it’s good for kids to see their parents cheering and shouting encouragement at the TV.  Caitlin and Ieuan’s expressions when the Husband shouts for Wales to “come on!” is a sight to behold.  I don’t think they realised he was capable of that volume of noise.

And then there’s the subject competition.  I think kids need to learn that a game has winners and losers and that there is no shame in losing if you gave it your all.

As my mother always says “it’s the taking part that counts” – not that I’ve ever seen her on a football pitch.

Kids need to see that achievement can be physical and not just academic. Watching a team sport is a great way to truly understand team work.  To see a team sprinting down a pitch like a well oiled machine is a noble thing.  To watch team players listen to the ref (without referring him to Specsavers) shows that rules are there to be followed.

Pulling together, ‘having someone’s back’ – these concepts are made much easier to understand when watching a game.  We can use sporting analogies to help kids solve problems and get them to relate to the concept of achieving a goal.

Sport is also a great way to demonstrate that everyone has different physical strengths and that a team is a combination of different strengths arranged in an effective way.

Cue the role of the coach.

As kids develop and grow at different rates and as they discover their bodies have different builds, sport is a great way to teach them acceptance.

And when our kids enter the working world, being a team player is a vital skill in career success and overall happiness.

This year sees the UEFA Euro 2016™  European Championship, which will be held in France from 10 June to 10 July. Spain are two-time defending champions.

24 teams will compete in a new format and the matches will be played in ten cities –  Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint-Denis, Saint-Étienne, and Toulouse.

The French team have won the UEFA Euro 2016™ twice: in 1984 and 2000 and the winning team earns the right to compete at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup hosted by Russia.

We will obviously be supporting Wales who are in a group with England, Slovakia and Russia and our first match will be on the 11th June against Slovakia in Bordeaux.

Prior to qualifying for UEFA Euro 2016™, the team had only qualified for a major international tournament once in their history, when they reached the quarter-finals of the 1958 FIFA World Cup.

And since Wales knocked England out of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, our expectations for our footie team are, shall we say, pretty big.

I’m sure there will be a real party atmosphere here in Cardiff, perhaps even with a French flavour!

Of course we will be watching the game and perhaps adding a French flavour with hamburgers et des frites (chips!) and un peu du vin for the parents.

The Husband will no doubt expound on the rules of the game (don’t ask me about the offside rule) and the kids will get to know the Welsh team members.

It will be a chance for us to all sit down together and cheer Wales on.

And how about this for a fabulous opportunity for your football mad youngsters?

Your child has the opportunity to be a Player Escort at one of three UEFA Euro 2016™ matches taking place in June or July 2016 by entering a competition run by McDonald’s.

We would be thrilled if Caitlin or Ieuan had the opportunity to walk out with the Welsh team – it would be an experience none of us would ever forget.

Just launched by McDonald’s ambassadors, Ryan Giggs, Martin Keown and Pat Jennings, the competition will give the lucky 9 children the chance to stand beside their national heroes and walk out at hotly anticipated fixtures throughout the tournament including England vs Wales, Northern Ireland vs Germany and the UEFA Euro 2016™ Final.

To enter, parents are asked to capture their child’s football passion and upload images of them enjoying the beautiful game.  It is open to all children in the UK who will be aged between 6 and 10 years old on 10th June 2016 and the lucky winners will join the qualifying home nation of their choice and walk out hand-in-hand with their football idols at this summer’s tournament in France.

Big sporting events are great for getting together with family members you don’t often see and perhaps getting together for a meal afterwards.

Hopefully the weather will hold so that we can just get out into the fresh air and kick a ball around.

And if you enter McDonald’s fabulous competition, who knows, your child may actually be on the pitch!

For your chance to enter see:

Review: Kiss The Cartridge Goodbye! – The Epson ET-2500 Ecotank Printer

For many years, it could be argued that investing in a printer was a luxury.  Times have changed of course and now many home offices boast a printer of varying levels of sophistication.

The Husband has a home office where he works when not travelling the globe and his work requires the production of complex, technological documentation for clients and for sales presentation materials such as hand-outs and printed slides.

The Epson ET-2500 Ecotank Printer - home printers - review -
The Epson ET-2500 Ecotank Printer

My printing needs are simpler – the odd e-book (I still love to read hard copy!), maps, e-tickets, order confirmation slips and invoices.

Our existing printer, a small Samsung black and white laser printer, has worked well, if temperamentally for over 5 years.

You can bet that it will have a paper jam when you really need to print out something urgently – an e-ticket or map, for example – or that it will announce it needs a cartridge change on a Sunday at 4 pm.

According to Epson, we’re not alone – with 56% of us having had ‘printer panic’.  I don’t know about you but I have quite enough to worry about as it is!

We were recently given the opportunity to review the Epson ET-2500, one of Epson’s new EcoTank printers which can save you up to 70% of your printing costs due to its integrated high capacity ink tanks.

The Epson ET-2500 is a 3-in-1 inkjet printer with print, copy and scan features.  It’s the first time we have had a photocopying facility at home, having previously had to trudge over to our local library with a pocket full of 5p pieces and a prayer that the machine was actually working.

The Epson ET-2500 Ecotank Printer - showing photocopier capability - home printer review -
Finally, a photocopier at home!

This printer also comes supplied with 2 years of ink having four colour 70ml Epson genuine ink bottles in the box, which make it easy, clean and quick to fill the ink tanks.

Epson ink bottles for the Epson ET-2500 Ecotank Printer - home printer review -
The printer comes with four bottles of ink to add to the tank

Best of all you can say goodbye to ink cartridges.

The ink supplied is sufficient to print up to 4,000 pages in black and 6,500 pages in colour at just a fraction of a penny per page.

Because the ink tanks are high volume and refillable, the ink should last you far longer than the traditional ink cartridges.

The printer also has mobile printing.  It is equipped with Wi-Fi, so that you can use the Epson Connect features.

These allow you to print quickly and easily over Wi-Fi from a smartphone using the free Epson iPrint app, print remotely or email the ET-2500 a print job from anywhere.

The ET-2500 uses Epson’s own Micro Piezo technology for excellent-quality print-outs.

Mono prints are delivered at a rate of 9.2 pages per minute while it can issue 4.5 colour pages per minute.

The Epson ET-2500 retails at £229.99.

So we gave the Epson ET-2500 a thorough road test over the period of one week to see how it compared with our old printer.

What we loved

  • Compact
  • Easy to maintain
  • Pulls in paper without a hitch  (unlike our old printer)
  • Good quality printing in both mono and colour
  • 3 year extended warranty
  • Lots of ink compared to other printers and cartridge designs – will last a long time 
  • Refill costs currently look well priced making this a cost effective printer 
  • Connects over Wifi – no need to use cables
  • Reasonable speed for an ink-jet
  • Multi-function printer – In built scanner and copier facility

What we loved less

  • Slower than a laser
  • Does not automatically wake up once the printer has gone into sleep mode (Wifi) 
  • Needs manual intervention to print duplex 
  • Slow print time for detailed graphics
  • Long set-up time – 20 mins to charge the ink.
  • Needs Epson driver

This is a great multi-functional printer which would suit a home office where bulk printing is an occasional, rather than a constant event.  If you need to print out a set of hand-outs and produce a high-spec technical document, it is ideal.  Having the photocopying and scanning functions included is an added bonus.

I think that if you are constantly churning out multi-page documents then you may be better off considering a laser printer – and possibly asking your boss for an office!

There is an Epson Easy Photo Print tool which allows you to correct and position your photos, plus add frames but I was unable to print out a photo of suitable quality using normal copying paper (not surprisingly).  Ultra glossy paper is recommended so this function was not fully tested.

The price of the Epson ET-2500 is very reasonable, in our view (£229.99), especially when you factor in the savings you’ll make from not having to buy and replace ink cartridges.

It’s a great, economical and environmentally friendly home office printer, best suited for daily correspondence, small scale bulk printing and family printing.

Teach Your Kids To Save & Understand Money With The Jangle App

If only there was a way of solving the pocket money problem.  It’s difficult to know when to give pocket money, how much and on what basis.  What if there was a way to teach kids about the value of money and empower them to make their own (guided choices) whilst earning their treats?

I recently got the opportunity to meet entrepreneur Sarah Willingham (Dragons Den) and the lovely people at Experian and Pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group – part of Young Enterprise) who have been busy creating an app for children aged 7-11 which will teach them how to save and, more importantly to understand the value of money.

Jangle Logo -

Jangle is a clever piece of software which allows the creation of savings pots for specific goals such as buying an iPad or yet another Lego collection. (Ieuan has recently spotted the Millennium Falcon Lego set and I really don’t think I’m emotionally ready for that level of foot pain and general frustration).

finance for kids-pocket
Caitlin, learning about coins

The child decides on a savings goal which is authorised by the parent.  The child can watch the pot grow as they earn (yes – you read that right – earn) the money by completing tasks around the house or selling unwanted toys or clothing.

Rather than just hand out pocket money or succumb to pleading and all-out stropping in the supermarket, Jangle gives parents a valuable negotiation tool, and children a framework for understanding that there is a direct correlation between earning and spending.

It will also teach children how to be a critical consumer and how to get the most from the money they save.

It’s really important that children learn about finance at a young age because, by the time they reach their teens, spending patterns are generally firmly entrenched.

We all know students who have blown their student loan on nights out, beer and clothing before the end of the first term.

And we probably all have friends who live hand to mouth and struggle to put anything by for a rainy day, even though they don’t deny themselves any treats.

To me, parenting is about teaching your offspring to survive and thrive in life – and educating them about finance is pretty key in my book.

Did you know that many adult money habits are set from the age of seven (Cambridge University/Money Advice Service (MAS) Research 2013), yet there is no statutory provision for financial education across UK primary schools (PFEG).

Pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group part of Young Enterprise) have found that, on average, children begin to receive pocket money aged seven, own their first mobile phone at eight, and purchase items online at 10, with one in five having used their parents’ or older siblings’ credit or debit card to purchase these items.

Children can open a bank account and have a debit card at 11. At 18 they can apply for a credit card or loan, and before they leave school they have to make crucial decisions about jobs, student loans, and living independently.

Now more so than ever, parents need to be able to talk to their children about how to manage money well but it’s not something that parents often find easy


Parents of young children are less likely than the average population to feel like they are good at managing their money (Experian Consumer Affairs TNT Research April 2015).  “Rather than waiting until their son or daughter has ‘earned’ the privilege of being treated to something new, six in ten parents admit they buy their children the latest trends and collectables as soon as they ask for them” (Skipton Building Society Research 2012).

It’s so easy to cave in sometimes just for peace and quiet – but we are not helping our kids by doing this.

Actually it’s already working.  Ieuan announced he wanted a transformable bat cave (a mere snip at £40) but then paused and said he was going to ‘jangle it’.

The family cars are going to be spotless next year and I’m hoping the pocket money problem will be solved.

The Jangle app for iPad is available to download free from the IOS app store.

You can find out more about Jangle HERE.

Creating A Healthy Work Space

I’ve been blogging on and off for a couple of years now but it’s only really since March this year that Mother Distracted has become what I regard as my ‘job’.  But, much to the consternation of the Husband and my physiotherapist, I’ve been spending far too long in a run-down armchair typing away with the company of ITV’s motley morning crew as a general background noise.

It’s not the best working environment now, is it?

Prior to that, I used to work typing away standing up at our breakfast bar (probably much better for my health and back) but, envious of the Husband’s work-space in our loft (secret hideaway more like!), I’m coveting a work-space of my own.

When I used to work in office, the emphasis was always on health and safety (lawyers are not going to get caught out on that score!) so the desks were always the right height and the chairs ergonomically designed to support the lower back.  We were trained to have the PC monitor at the right height and distance away and counselled to always take a brief break every 30 minutes or so to rest our eyes, even if that was just by looking around or getting up and having a good stretch.

Now knowing all this, I wonder how many of us take the same care with our work-spaces as we do (or did) in offices?  How many of us are avoiding repetitive strain injury by using wrist rests (or foot rests) when we type.  And how many of us a getting a nice double chin from staring down at a laptop which is far too low for our natural eyeline?

I seem to have conveniently forgotten everything I used to do to protect my health when I was working in marketing legal services. Do I regularly get a cup of fresh water (coffee yes!)?  Do I get out for a walk in the fresh air every lunch hour?  Umm.

No.  My work-space needs to be designed to get me back into some healthier work habits. Don’t tell the Husband but I’m planning to ‘borrow’ some of his loft!

There is already a nice desk and filing cabinet there but I would replace his old office chair with one of these as recommended last year by The Independent newspaper during Back Care Week 2014.

Herman Miller Aeron Office Chair – £925, John Lewis

I appreciate this may be more than you’d like to pay for a chair but given that you’d be sitting in it for years, I think it’s a worthwhile investment in the health of your back.

I’d also get a laptop stand like this one to get the laptop screen closer to my eye level.

Slim Cool Laptop Stand – £59.94 –

together with a decent wrist rest, should the Husband ever let me use the PC.  I have to confess that, as a trained touch typist, I do prefer a ‘proper’ separate keyboard.

ErgoBeads Keyboard Wrist Rest- £21.22 –

Another problem we often face when reading a computer or laptop screen is glare from the sun. All that squinting can really give you a headache. We have VELUX windows in our loft and so I’d invest in some smart new VELUX blinds to ensure that I can see the screen clearly even when the sun is shining at its brightest. (Yes, we do get sunshine in Wales occasionally!).

Sholten & Baijings Roman Blind from VELUX

These blinds are part of a colour collection from Amsterdam-based designers, Scholten & Baijings who are inspired by the way light changes from dusk till dawn. The fabrics are cut individually and the blinds can be sculpted as you prefer. You can let in lots of sun light through the transparent blinds or block out the light entirely. Ideal for our loft.  I can only dream about living somewhere that remains pure white and pristine clean!

Then I’d add some funky stationery, some fresh flowers or a spider plant to clear the air and a coffee maker (oh alright then, a water bottle). Incidentally, you can find a list of 15 plants to improve your office air quality here.

Plus a very strong padlock.

What steps have you taken to ensure your work-space is helping you to stay healthy?

*This is a collaborative post.

We Made A Hash Of The Princes Corned Beef 20 Minute Challenge

Somethings are indisputably British. Afternoon tea, bad weather, being rude about all the other entrants to the Eurovision Song Contest and dancing around castles and stately homes (the latter may just apply to my relatives).

We are very fond of anything involving pastry or custard and cope with all national emergencies by putting the kettle on.

A firm family favourite is corned beef hash. Easy and quick to make, nicely warming and filling and popular with young and old alike.

Princes Corned Beef

A British Classic – Princes Corned Beef In Three New Varieties

Princes, the Nation’s favourite corned beef brand has done something jolly daring and launched a new range of corned beef with three new flavour combinations – with chilli, with mustard and with onion and dared us to create something inspirational with the new flavours in just twenty minutes.

So it was over to The Husband to do his best Jamie Oliver impersonation in the kitchen and he chose to prepare corned beef hash with onion.

Unfortunately I have been banned from the kitchen due to the last baked potato farago where the hedgehog I lovingly created for the kids looked like it had already been run over.

But I digress.

Hi tech mulching and hashing bloke style

After much faffing with a potato ricer (no idea why such a gadget was invented) and hiding various mulched vegetables in the vain hope of getting a modicum of nutrition into Ieuan, The Husband proudly presented his corned beef with onion hash.

Is it hash or is it the surface of planet Oki Doki?

No Sunday afternoon being complete without a marital tiff-ette or two, this was the point at which I was designated sous chef and tasked with the onerous challenge of putting the baked beans in the microwave.

Just 7 minutes. I ask you. I’m an artiste for heavens sake.

We then assembled the crack tasting panel who had already half-inched the patriotic box the corned beef came in to fill it with random doll body parts and broken jewellery as per usual.

The Tasting Panel

I’m afraid we didn’t quite make the 20 minute challenge – we made it in 25 and the hash was extremely tasty. The addition of the onion definitely perked up the flavour and the kids cleared their plates in record time.

Happy kids.  Note, this is not what Ieuan looks like when given anything green

We really liked the combination of corned beef with onion and are looking forward to trying the other versions in sandwiches this week. For a quick, easy, substantial meal, you can’t beat it.

Princes new Corned Beef varieties are available at Sainsburys priced at £1.99, and are currently on offer for £1.50.

Further information at

*PR samples were sent for the purpose of this review.