A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Beck Valley Book Tour: At Once, An Alex Troutt Thriller By John W. Mefford

New Release....
Alex Troutt Thriller, Book #3
AT Once
“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”

FBI Agent Alex Troutt has no intentions of falling for anything. Apparently, neither do the bad guys, as the Boston area is once again targeted by extremists. Boston Strong of just a few years ago is now Boston on Edge. And this time, the targets are men of the cloth—priests.

At least that’s how it looks at first.

As investigators struggle to make sense of the bombings, Alex is thrown for a loop when the FBI assistant director asks her to investigate one of their own—a colleague and friend who is suspected of having ties to a known terrorist. Torn between her values of friendship and the oath she gave when she accepted her FBI credentials, Alex must now lead two investigations simultaneously.

The bombings don’t stop, and panic sets in as the carnage spreads beyond the realm of the original targets.

Bloody Sunday. The IRA. The movement toward peace. Wounds of decades ago have reopened, bleeding all over Boston. As she pieces together the puzzle, Alex begins to wonder just how innocent her colleague really is. It’s almost too much for her to fathom.

Just how far will someone go to make a stand?

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

My Review
Alex Troutt is fast becoming a firm favourite of mine.  Tough, without being too militant, maternal without being too soft and refreshingly intelligent for a female protagonist, Mefford has created a female lead that many women readers will identify with - particularly as Alex struggles to achieve some sort of work life balance.

Although this book can be read as a stand alone story, I recommend reading the first Alex Troutt thrillers because Mefford cleverly builds the story and reweaves echoes of the previous cases and characters as he goes along.  

At Once is, like the previous novels, a roller-coaster of a ride with enough twists and shocks to keep the reader's interest.  It is extremely difficult to predict what is coming next which only adds to the fun.  There is enough horror to keep you on the edge of your seat and Mefford obviously knows his police procedure because you are drawn into Alex's world and get to know the members of her team.

Without giving too much away,  this case is about a terrorist cell leading a bombing campaign - with a possible connection right at the very heart of Alex's work life - and she is forced to investigate someone she has long considered to be an ally and friend.  It's also a race against time to stop the terroists fulfilling a very bloody and dangerous goal.

Highly recommended.

Also available
AT Bay (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book #1)

Alexandra Giordano never knew she had it so good. Until it was all gone in an instant.

As she begins her daunting quest to uncover the black spots on her memory, what she finds isn’t sweet or charming or even pleasant. And that’s when she begins to question everything, including herself.

Her work as a Special Agent for the FBI is only a distraction, serving as a mental metronome…anything to crank the gears of her feeble mind.

And then it happens—a bizarre, ritualistic murder. She loses herself in her work, fully immersed in the investigation. Unable to recall even her own kids, she’s somehow able to formulatecoherent theories on what type of person could pull off such a sickening act.

As her mind slowly plugs a few memory gaps, her emotions are scrambled by the reality of herworlds colliding. And the resulting explosion tears her in two.

Can she pick up all the incendiary fragments to solve the twisted crime while she clings to somesemblance of sanity?

One woman can only keep so much…AT Bay.

Available to buy from.....

AT Large (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book #2)

The pursuit of the truth. The hunt for a life.

For the first time in months, FBI Special Agent Alex Troutt feels almost normal, hanging out at a local bar with friends after work. Not long into the evening she stumbles over one of the most disturbing images she has ever seen.

And that’s only the beginning.

A body is found in Lowell, the human damage, once again, inconceivable. Hours later, another strike. Pushing heartache aside, Alex immerses herself in the investigation. But with every new clue comes a new twist.

With the killing spree drawing the attention of every intelligence and law enforcement agency in a five-state radius, Alex is forced to partner with an egomaniac from the CIA. Yet, even with limitless resources, every step forward proves to be a step too late, the kill list seemingly endless.

Once the killer makes it personal, Alex is left with no other option—she must confront the person who destroyed her life to try to cease the vicious murders. And when she finally learns the killer’s end game, every second counts if she has any hope of stopping the brutal killings.

The hunt will end. Will Alex?
Available to buy from.....

About the Author

A veteran of the corporate wars, former journalist, and true studier of human and social behavior, best-selling author John W. Mefford has been writing novels since he first entered the work force twenty-five years ago, although he never put words on paper until late 2009.

John writes novels full of intrigue, suspense, and thrills, but they also evoke an emotional connection with the characters.

When he’s not writing, he chases three kids around, slaves away in the yard, reads, takes in as many sports as time allows, watches all sorts of movies, and continues to make mental notes of people and societies across the land.

John lives in Frisco, Texas with his beautiful wife, three opinionated kids, and a feisty fat cat who rules the world.
Find the author on the following sites...


Follow the book tour

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


Win THREE Alex Troutt Thrillers by John W Mefford 
ebooks AT Bay, AT Large and AT Once
2 Winners!!
Ending on Friday 3rd June at 11.59pm CST
Open Worldwide 

Enter HERE

Good Luck !!


Father's Day Gifts He Will Never Forget

I can’t believe it’s Father's Day in a couple of weeks time. June 19th is rushing towards us so it’s time to start thinking gifts. Father’s Day is a great time to celebrate what a fantastic dad he is by giving him a gift from the kids he will always remember.

Here are some great Father’s Day gifts you could consider.

A trip to a brewery or winery

Dads love relaxing with a glass of wine, or a pint of larger, after a long hard day at work. So to get him something he will enjoy, why not arrange for him to go to a brewery or winery for the day?

He will get to understand more about how his favourite drink is made, and might be able to try some new wine or beer that he might love. It’s a full day out so why don’t you arrange for a sitter for the kids and go with your other half.

If you can’t afford to send him to a brewery, why not buy a beer brewing kit so he can make his own beer at home! It will be a lot of fun, and he can get guests to try it as well.

A driving experience

If dad is a fan of driving, you could arrange for him to go on a driving experience. These typically take place at a track in a supercar such as an Audi or a Lamborghini. For something even more unique, you could buy him a tank driving experience where he gets to drive a tank. It will be an incredible experience he will never forget, and you will have to take your camera to get some shots of him driving the tank!


Paintballing day

If dad loves adventure, you could arrange for him to go on a paintballing day with his friends. You could team up with your mum friends and buy the gift from all the kids. Paintballing is a lot of fun (but can be painful!) and will be a day he never forgets. You should get a few paintballs included in the cost.

Image Source

A spa day

Dads can get stressed out with work and home life, so a great Father’s Day gift he would never forget would be a spa day. You could book him a treatment so he could enjoy a back massage or an Indian head massage. He can also take the time to swim in the pool and get some exercise in his life. You could go with him or let him go for a lovely day on his own at the spa.

Image from Flickr

A hot air balloon ride

For something unique he will never forget, you could get him a hot air balloon ride from the kids. He can experience views of the city he would never have seen before. You could go up there with him, or send a friend with him if you’re scared of heights. It’s something a person should do at least once in their lifetime as the views are incredible.

File:Colorful hot air balloon ZK-OAK landing at Lift Off Levin.jpg
Image Credit

If you’re strapped for cash, you could stay at home and have a picnic in the garden as a family. He will still love spending time with you all!

*collaborative post

Monday, 30 May 2016

Hot Summer Trends To Update Your Wardrobe At Debenhams

As the temperature continues to rise, we get closer to being able to wear all the amazing summer trends that were featured during Fashion Week. But with so many fabulous styles to choose from, you may find it difficult to narrow down which ones are must-haves.

Here's a list of the hottest summer trends that you need a part of your wardrobe.

1. Backless Dresses

Whether we're talking about a dramatic evening look or a flouncy day dress going back this will be one of the largest trends of the season. Pair this look with strappy sandals a statement clutch for a chic and flirty look.

2. Crop Tops

Lipsy Tribal Embellished Crop Top - £29.40
Whether you pair them with your favorite ripped jeans or a matching full-length maxi skirt, crop tops can add a touch of sexiness to any outfit.

3. Embellished or print shorts

4. Hexagonal or round sunglasses

5. Off-the-shoulder tops and dresses

Oasis Ruffle One Shoulder Dress - £48

6. Tote bags with statement prints

Whether you're looking to pack up your stuff for the beach or use it as a trendy Shopper tote bags with statement prints are an easy way to add some flair to your style.

7. Ruffle dresses

Whether the ruffle is used to embellish the hemline, sleeves or the top you can't go wrong with this fun and feminine summer trend.

8. Leather skirts

Nine By Savannah Miller Black Leather Skirt - £35

9. Slip dresses

Whether you wear them, it's a flouncy cocktail dress or pair them with a casual tee to create a laid back 90s looks adding a slip dress to your wardrobe is a great way to update your style this season.

10. Chunky Heel Sandals

Head Over Heels By Dune Chunky Brown Platform Sandal - £33
This trend looks great whether you pair it with a casual Jersey dress or a tailored work suit. The versatility of chunky heeled sandals makes them a must-have summer item.

11. Heirloom jewelry

12. Coral colored clothing

Jessica Wright Coral Aurora High Neck Plunge Bodycon Dress - £58.50
13. Keyhole lace dresses

14. Loose fit maxi dresses

Maxi dresses are forever on trend but by embracing a looser, more Bohemian look for summer, you'll be able to breathe new life into this old style.

15. Teal color clothing 

Little Mistress Teal Lace Bandeau Prom Dress - £51
Now that you know some of this summer’s hottest Trends be sure to update your style accordingly. And to pick up all of these styles and much more be sure visit the Groupon discount code page for Debenhams.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

My Sunday Photo - 29/05/2016

My Sister & Her Partner Anil Walking Across The Cardiff Bay Barrage
We had a lovely day today.  My sister and her partner came down for the weekend since it was my birthday on Saturday.

We woke to blazing blue skies this Sunday and so walked with the kids across Cardiff Bay Barrage to Mermaid Quay for lunch.

It's amazing how the Bay has changed since I grew up.  I can still remember going to the Big Windsor Pub to listen to The Spasm Band and Madassa. I doubt the old regulars would recognise the place now.

One of the joys of living in Dinas Powys (apart from having to put up with Charlotte Church's birthday parties) is that all this is on our doorstep.


Friday, 27 May 2016

Relationship Dilemmas - What Was I Asked In Week 21?

I spend a lot of time responding to the questions I am asked about dating & relationships on Quora.com and I thought I'd share some of my answers with you in case you are going through anything similar.

Obviously I am not an expert but I am a 50-something married mum of two with quite a few years' experience under my belt. I take the view that, sometimes, you need to hear it like you would from your own mother - however tough the truth may be.

Here's just some of the questions I've been asked this week.

Q: I like a guy. I am not sure why but he has started to ignore me. How can I get to know what happened and resolve this?

It sounds like he is gently trying to tell you he is not interested. The best thing to do is NOTHING. If he’s not interested if you start chasing him he’ll become even more irritated. If he’s interested, let him take the initiative. Keep yourself busy with your own friends and interests (and other guys). Then he’ll either want to spend time with you because you’ll be more of a challenge to him or you’ll be so busy you won’t be interested
in HIM.

Q: It's been two and a half years but I still think about my ex-girlfriend. Is this normal?

A: Entirely normal - and not a problem unless it is preventing you from finding someone new. After such a long period it is unlikely that you’ll get back together so why waste any more time? Go and find someone new, more exciting and who wants to spend time with you. You should be out enjoying yourself, not moping over a lost love.

Q: I cried in front of my ex-girlfriend. Am I a weak person?  She's thoroughly disgusted by my behaviour.  What can I do?

A:  There is absolutely nothing wrong with men crying. Of course you are not a weak person. You don’t say why you cried though so is your girlfriend disgusted at whatever you did to make you cry - were you unfaithful, for example, or is she disgusted because you showed emotion in front of her. It sounds like she is extremely angry with you for some reason so you need to think about whatever you did to make her feel this way and, if you want to win her back, find a way to apologize or make amends. If she’s just disgusted because you cried, on the other hand, she sounds a horrible person and I would not bother pursuing any kind of relationship with her in future.

Q: My friend shows up to my house uninvited and then expects me to entertain him. Is there a courteous way to get him to stop? We have a  sort of open door policy and we just show up whenever but my friend has decided to start coming to my house whenever he feels like it. I’ve been manufacturing excuses to not be able to hang out but that won’t last forever.

A: I would just pretend to be out - I’m assuming your friend doesn’t have the keys to your property! Otherwise you just need to be honest - say “I have such and such I really need to do so I need a bit of privacy / space”. Or, look I love having you round but I’ve got a lot on my mind and I could do without the stress of having to entertain you / whatever”. It all depends on whether you want to keep this friendship going or whether you are happy to let it end - in which case you can be as blunt as you like.

Q: What should I do when a girl responds to my proposal by 'friend-zoning' me and saying she doesn't feel anything for me?

A: I think you have to accept that she is not interested I’m afraid. Your best course of action is to give her some space to see if she may change her mind but I would concentrate on building relationships elsewhere. I think she has been entirely honest with you so at least she respects you which is a good thing. You wouldn’t want to end up with someone who doesn’t feel the same, would you?

Q: There's a guy I like but I live far away from him. He likes me too but there's another girl on the scene. Should I keep talking to him or stop?

I would find somebody else. Unless he gets rid of the other girl and makes really big steps to be with you I think he’s just playing you both along. Long distance relationships are really hard work and I’m sure there will be someone just right for you much nearer to home.

Q: What are the disadvantages of marrying a girl who doesn't have any ambitions in life?

I think the biggest risk is that you’ll get bored if her level of ambition doesn’t match yours. The point is whether you have enough in common to sustain a long-term relationship. There is no law which says you have to be ambitious and some people don’t discover what they want out of life until much later. I would also avoid a ‘shopping list’ approach to finding a mate. Shared interests and goals for your life together are what are most important. If you have a girlfriend who you suspect is using you as a meal ticket and not furthering her own career simply because you can support her at home, then that is something you will need to think carefully about.

Q: Can I tell my girlfriend I'll be with her forever when I'm not sure of the future? My girlfriend asked me if I will be with her forever.  I really want to but my experience tells me no one knows what’s going to happen! Should I tell her that? Am I responsible if she got hurt after I break up with her because I told her that?

A: I think you should reassure her but tell her that nobody knows what’s around the corner but you want to be there for her. It sounds to me like she’s seeking a marriage proposal or a long-term commitment. I think that’s what’s really behind this question.

Q: Why do men chase girls they don't like much?  A man says he has strong feelings for me but his behaviour doesn't seem to show it. He texts me everyday but doesn't want to have a video or voice chat.  We don't live in the same city and I'm really confused.

This sounds like the man likes the idea of having a girlfriend so he is going through all the motions of having a relationship without the commitment. I think if he were really interested he’d be up for a video chat or, more importantly, arranging to come and visit. If he’s doing neither of those things I think it’s a case of “actions speak louder than words” and I’d find somebody else. This doesn’t sound like it’s going anywhere, particularly since you’re in different cities.

Q: Should I tell my girlfriend's husband about her past affairs? I went out for a girl for more than 6 years and we were engaged. I had introduced her to my family. She cheated on me and then cheated on the man she left me for.  Now she has married someone else and I am tempted to warn him.

A: You know, however tempting it may be to get your own back on this girl, it’s really no longer any of your business and you don’t know if the Husband actually knows and is turning a blind eye to it. And there’s nothing to say she will cheat on her husband. If I were you I would leave well alone and concentrate on your own life. It sounds as if you have not got over this girl yet. There’s also the saying “don’t shoot the messenger” because sometimes both parties turn on the one who brought the bad news. Telling on her might make you feel a bit better but might wreck a marriage which was basically OK.

How would you have responded to these questions?

You can find more dating and relationship advice here.

All materials included in this post are intended for informational purposes only. This post/information is not intended to and should not be used to replace medical or psychiatric advice offered by physicians or other health care providers. The author will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages arising therefrom.

New Releases, Free & Bargain Books Link-up 27 May 2016

How are you all this week?  It's my birthday tomorrow and I'm hoping for a little something written by Hemsley + Hemsley.

I always find birthdays are a great time for reviewing all those New Year's Resolutions I made (and didn't carry on with).  Mind you, after a large piece of cake and some vino, I usually find I've forgotten all about them until the end of the year.

If one of your resolutions was to find more time for yourself to indulge in a bit of peaceful reading, you'll find plenty to choose from on this week's linky.

Here's the fab books on offer this week.

Sharing the Love of Books
Enjoy our selection of New Releases / Free & Bargain Books this week

Click HERE for this week's awesome selection.

Authors please feel free to add your own books
Readers please free to add your own finds
(any genre except erotica welcome)

This weekly link up is hosted by Beck Valley Books & these awesome book loving blogs...
 Life as Leels | IrishdaisylovesRomance | Book Babble | All Romance Reader
It's My Side of Life | Celticlady's Reviews | First Time Mommy Adventures | Bound 2 Escape
Beck Valley BooksA Library of Reviews | Cinnamon Hollow Reviews
Miki's Hope | Taking Time for Mommy | Nicki's Nook
Ebook Addicts | I Love Romance | A Bit Bookish | Mother Distracted | Colorimetry
Totally Addicted to Reading | 3 Partners in Shopping | Angie's Angle I Creat Purty Thangs | Wishful Endings
Lynchburg Mama | LibriAmoriMieiAli - The Dragon Slayer | Wondermom WannabeMy Bizzy World |  Deal Sharing Aunt 

For Pre-orders post - PRE-ORDER / genre / title /author
For New Releases post - NEW / genre / title / author
For Free Books post - FREE / genre / title / author / end date 
For Bargain Books post - SALE / price / genre / title / author / end date
(Strictly no Erotica please.  Steamy romance is fine but watch those covers people, incase any underage child is viewing it!)

Click HERE for this week's awesome selection.

And don't forget you can always add some of your own!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

What is Hepatitis A?

A third outbreak of Hepatitis A has been confirmed in a South Wales school this week.

But what exactly is Hepatitis A?

Source:  Jeff Eaton, Flickr
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and it is highly contagious.

It is usually spread when the Hepatitis A virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces (or stool) of an infected person.

This is more likely to occur in countries where Hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene.

The average time between exposure to the virus and the development of hepatitis symptoms is about 30 days.

One of the first viral hepatitis symptoms is a high temperature and fever along with feeling tired and unwell.

Other symptoms include:-

- joint & muscle pain
- loss of appetite
- pain in the upper right part of your stomach
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- dark urine and pale stools
- itchy skin

Hepatitis A in children is usually asymptomatic while in adolescents and adults the symptoms are easier to spot.

Because Hepatitis A can be a mild infection, particularly in children, some people might not know that they've had it. It can cause prolonged illness for up to 6 months, but usually only causes short-lived, mild illness.

It does not cause chronic liver disease. In milder cases, symptoms may be similar to a stomach virus (with vomiting and diarrhea).

The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is through vaccination with the Hepatitis A vaccine but this is not routinely offered on the NHS.

If you are travelling to a higher risk area, such as Africa, Asia, Central America, Southern and Eastern Europe, you are advised to get yourself vaccinated.

Immune globulin can be given either before exposure to the Hepatitis A virus (such as before travel to a country where Hepatitis A is common) or to prevent infection after exposure to the Hepatitis A virus.

Otherwise the NHS advice on managing Hepatitis A includes staying away from school or work for at least a week after your symptoms appeared, getting lots of rest and being meticulous about your personal hygiene.

Public Health Wales say "We continue to work closely with Environmental Health Officers to investigate this outbreak and to offer advice to parents, school staff and pupils. All information received is treated confidentially.
People are advised to contact their own GP or NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 if they have any concerns about their health or their child’s health."

Why More People Are Investing In Sterling Silver Jewellery

Sterling silver jewellery is by far the shiniest of all the precious metals. A lot of people choose to adorn themselves with sterling silver pieces over any other metals. In fact, both the popularity and value of silver has risen, making way for even more choices among sterling silver designs.

Here are 5 reasons why people choose to invest in silver jewellery.

1. The Value of Sterling Silver

While it is the most brilliant and whitest metal, sterling silver is also more affordable than platinum or gold. Since it is a fraction of the price of gold, finding a stunning piece of silver jewellery for a modest price makes for more variety and allows customers to feel like they have found something sensational for a good price. You can take a look at the collection of silver jewellery here.

2. Durability of Silver Jewellery

Silver is a harder metal that can stand the test of time. It can be filed down effortlessly and polished to repair a surface that has been damaged or simply worn out with normal wear. Rings can be sized quickly and easily, and repair costs in general for this metal are economical.

3. Artistry and Design

The variety of jewellery designs in silver is abundant. This is mostly because new artists can afford to cast a lot more designs in this metal than in platinum or gold. This means that there are more and more new jewellery designers and new concepts on the market. The Silver by Mail silver jewellery collection has some gorgeous new designs.

4. Different Styles in Silver

Sometimes it is tough keeping up with the latest jewellery trends. But since silver jewellery is more affordable, customers are able to update their wardrobes more frequently and mix and match as they please.

5. Interchangeable

Many customers find that silver jewellery is easily interchangeable with platinum and gold items. They can don stunning silver designs with other items from their jewellery box, which means that a variety of designs can be worn together as unique ensembles.

Many people adore sterling silver for its bright lustre. The marketplace has seen resurgence in sterling silver simply because it is less expensive to produce and buy compared to its platinum and gold counterparts.

Customers love the fact that sterling silver pieces are great value and highly durable. They can keep up to date with the latest designs without having to pay a fortune to procure them.

Today, many high-end designers enjoy casting their unique jewellery designs in sterling silver. It’s not uncommon to see beautiful precious gemstones being set in silver, either.

Jewellery lovers are enjoying this concept and being able to afford new pieces from popular designers.

While sterling silver may require a small amount of special care to retain its simmer, that doesn’t bother today’s customers. They have learned how to look after their precious pieces and find that it is well worth the effort to continue enjoying all the advantages that purchasing sterling silver has to offer.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Are You In The Greatest British Family? - Show Your Family Selfie & Win £300 With Prestige!

Prestige, makers of some of the nation's best loved kitchenware, are running a fabulous competition to find the Greatest British Family and to reward them with £300 to spend at Prestige.co.uk.

Now all I have to do is get us all in ONE picture!
Prestige has been at the heart of the British home for more than 75 years and I can certainly remember my mum making casseroles in her Prestige dishes and mixing up a Victoria Sandwich or two.  There was also the unfortunate "bran muffin" phase where she created a cake dense enough to create a partition wall but nobody is allowed to talk about that.

This year Prestige have created a new range of kitchenware in patriotic blue or red with their Vintage Kitchen range - just in time for the Queen's Birthday.

Prestige Vintage Kitchen Enamel Mixing Bowls & Ramekins - Greatest British Family Selfie Competition - motherdistracted.co.uk
Enamel Mixing Bowls & Ramekins From The Prestige Vintage Kitchen Range
Families have changed over the years but one thing remains the same - the importance of spending time together and making memories and Prestige want to celebrate families everywhere.

How To Enter

Simply submit a family selfie or video that shows what makes your family the greatest in Britain and tell Prestige what sets your family apart from the rest.

It could be family baking together, a trip to the zoo or playing footie on a Saturday morning for example.

All you need to do is upload your family selfie via the submission box on the right hand side of the competition page HERE

You must explain why you're the Greatest British Family in the description and if you wish to submit a video, there's a separate link you'll need to follow.

You can join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #greatestbritishfamily after you have entered!

The Prizes

One lucky winner will receive £300 to spend at Prestige.co.uk and there are two £100 prizes for a family member of your choice.

All entrants will automatically receive a Prestige discount code to spend on any Prestige products on the Prestige website.

Closing Date

The competition will close on Sunday 31st July. So what are you waiting for?

Get ending those videos and family selfies.

Good luck and here's that link again.

Fab Free Ebook - Best of British - 101 Ideas For Having Fun With The Kids This Summer As Recommended By Bloggers

What’s better, the warm British summer breeze running through your hair on the beach, or the thrill of adrenaline coursing through your veins after a big roller coaster ride?

Obviously it's the Husband's duty to go on all the scary rides as somebody has to hold on to all the coats and bags since the British summer weather is more unpredictable than Kanye West on a talk show.

Fortunately, whether you’re a beach or thrill fan, summer is only a few weeks away and there is no time like the present to get planning.

If, like me, you’re struggling for ideas of where to take the kids this summer, check out this handy ebook created by over 101 of the Best British Bloggers.

With hundreds of activities, destinations, and just general FUN each of the ideas has been tested by a blogger just like myself and is a personal recommendation straight from the heart.

Dyffryn House, Vale of Glamorgan
Source:  Anil Nayar
My suggestion for the book was DYFFRYN GARDENS, SOUTH WALES I wrote…

"Our favourite local National Trust property is Dyffryn Gardens where we spend many happy hours playing hide and seek and admiring the really unique collection of plants they have.

It’s like entering the Secret Garden, peaceful, quiet and plenty of space for the kids to run.

Caitlin & Ieuan at Dyffryn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan
Caitlin & Ieuan Exploring Dyffryn Gardens
We will be heading back to Dyffryn Gardens this summer for more exploring and lots of after-school picnics. We love supporting the National Trust and family membership means free entry to some amazing properties and gardens all over the UK.

Let me know if you have a destination favourite from the ebook!

And let's hope that the long promised "barbecue summer" actually arrives this year.

Update:  The ebook is no longer available but you can find more ideas in these posts:-


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Review: Lose Yourself At Octer.co.uk - An Online Shopping Mall You'll Want To Revisit

I was recently introduced to online retail site Octer.co.uk, a new website which not only allows you to search for your favourite items but let's you select your purchases by store as well as item type.

Octer is a start-up company developing mobile-first, e-commerce technology with the goal of making online shopping simple. As you might expect you can shop using Octer via your mobile or tablet too.

The best way to describe it is as an online shopping mall.

I was given the chance to try the Octer shopping experience by selecting a maxi dress.

You select the category - in this instance "Womens" and you can either search by the item category "Dresses & Skirts", shop by brand or shop by store.

If you select "Dresses & Skirts", you are given a further set of options to select from.  I chose "Maxi Dress" and was taken to a page with loads of fabulous dresses to choose from.

These options give you an incredible amount of choice!

Once you have selected a dress, you simply click straight through to the retailer..

Whilst looking for your maxi dress, Octer will suggest loads of similar styles you might like and allow you to check details such as price, size and availability by a one click link through to the relevant store.

Each item clicked on appears in a separate window and everything is under one 'virtual roof' so that you don't have to have keep going to and fro from other websites.

Technically this will speed up shopping.  In reality I found I could spend hours on Octer!  You don't just get one or two alternative suggestions, you get pages of them which you can sort according to low or high price too.

Not only does Octer offer fashion but it also offers beauty, technology, interiors, gifts and sports products.

So what did I choose?

My lovely Jarlo Yara Green Maxi From Asos.Com
I found this lovely green overlay maxi dress from Jarlo Yara Maxi Dress at ASOS.Com.

Octer is well worth exploring if you fancy a full shopping experience without the stress of a crowded shopping mall on Saturday.  And if you've every tried that with kids in tow, you know exactly how stressful that can be!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Review: Vita Liberata pHenomenal Luxury Tan 2-3 Week Tan Mousse

I recently had the opportunity to test Vita Liberata Luxury Tan 2-3 Week Tan Mousse, courtesy of Fighting Fifty, a website with an engaged audience of women, and increasingly men, approaching and over 50, who are looking for good health, beauty and fitness information and education.

Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse is a luxury self tan product which has ingredients that are organic, odourless, non-toxic and very long lasting.

The product claims to give a natural looking tan which fades evenly and is the World's first completely non-toxic tanning range.  There are no parabens, perfume or alcohol and the product is odourless (no yucky "biscuit" smell).

Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 week Tan Mousse is fast drying and claimed to last 4 times longer than regular tans.  Plus, because it contains organic ingredients, it is kinder to your skin.

I have to admit being a complete duffer at self tan application, having previously flirted with numerous spray-on colours, tanning moisturisers and a couple of the well known brands popular with the celebs.

I was sent the Medium Golden Bronze shade and found Vita Liberata to be incredibly easy to apply.

It's a light, frothy mousse which is quickly absorbed and dries instantly - no annoying staining.

You just apply in light circular motions with a tanning mitt (there's a small one supplied in the box with the produdct), making sure you take extra care around knees, elbows, feet and ankles.

You do need to make sure that you exfoliate thoroughly before application as with all self tan products.

Best of all it gives an instant colour so you can quickly apply some to get rid of the pasty glow from your legs before sprinting out on the school run.

The colour develops over 4-8 hours and fades slowly over days - although you are advised to use just water on your self tan patches when you shower.

You can reapply to darken the colour if you choose (or to prolong the tan).

I found the product gave me a lovely natural looking medium bronze colour without streaking after just one application.  You can see my handywork in the photo.

Vita Liberata retails at £37.50 for 125 ml from the Vita Liberata website (also Boots, Space NK and other pharmacies) which makes it slightly more expensive than that well known brand with the French name but this was so easy to use I am extremely tempted to treat myself.

Locally a spray tan costs around £30 so this compares favourably and I haven't yet summoned up the courage to step into the spray tan booth - not least because the idea of all those chemicals puts me off.

If you're thinking of trying a self tan for the first time or just want a reliable, no fuss and organic product, this one is well worth trying.

*I was sent a small sample of Vita Liberata to try in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Miniscoff - Great Organic Ready Meals For Kids aged 1-8+ & Giveway

When I weaned my kids it involved endless hours wrestling with a food processor, fruit and an selection of implausibly small freezer pots. I was a devotee of Annabel Karmel and would blend combinations of fish and spinach or mix up fruit purees to get as much goodness into the kids as possible.

Miniscoff Organic Meals
Nowadays, as readers of this blog know, my cooking is a little more, er hit and miss and there are times, particularly when the Husband is away on business, that I'd love to give the kids a proper hot meal with real family favourites.

The reality is that we dash home from school, dash straight out again and then come home to reheat a pizza or when time is really short to yet another round of sandwiches.

I always mean to get something out the freezer and cook something up in the slow cooker in the morning, but now I write full time (and am hopeless at getting side-tracked), I usually remember after lunch that tea is looming.

The kids are too big for baby ready meals and too small for adult ready meals which, being generally stuffed with too much sugar, salt and other additives are often a poor choice anyway.  Ieuan is still resisting baked potatoes, although he will deign to eat roasties so I was happy to find that there is a range of ready meals for kids which cater up to 8+.

Miniscoff is a children's organic food brand founded by Angus Oliphant, who, as a working dad discovered that trying to cook meals from scratch was challenging and that healthy prepared meals suitable for kids were hard to find. He decided to create his own range of organic ready meals for parents that didn’t want convenience to mean compromise.

Ieuan Hobbis with Miniscoff Organic Sauces - giveaway - motherdistracted.co.uk
Ieuan weighing up the Miniscoff Organic Sauces
All Miniscoff dishes are certified organic and made by hand and the brand has recently received awards from Prima Baby & Pregnancy as Best Toddler Food Range and Best Children’s Food Brand from Junior Design Awards.

Miniscof meals are available from Ocado as well as the Miniscoff website and are also available on over 300 menus across the UK if you're travelling.

The meals include 9 organic ready meals and 4 organic sauces:-

The Ready Meals

Ali Baba's Shepherd's Pie (lamb) (GM, Egg & Gluten Free)
Mr MacGregor's Pie (beef) (GM, Egg & Gluten Free)
Curly Wurly Chicken (GM, Egg & Dairy Free)
Broccoli Bill's Pasta Pie (GM & Egg Free)
Salmon Ocean Pie (GM & Egg Free)
Jolly Spag Bolly (GM, Egg & Dairy Free)
Planet Spaghetti (GM, Egg & Dairy Free)
Chilli Yum Yum (GM, Egg, Dairy & Gluten Free)
Creamy Salmon Pasta (GM & Egg Free)

The Organic Sauces

Chicken & Bacon (GM, Egg, Dairy & Gluten Free)
Bolognese (GM, Egg, Dairy & Gluten Free)
West Country Cheddar (GM & Egg Free) 
Cheese & Tomato (GM, Egg & Gluten Free)

We were sent a selection of Miniscoff meals to try and we tried Ali Baba's Shepherd's Pie, Curly Wurly Chicken and Broccoli Bill's Pasta Pie.

Caitlin tries Miniscoff Ali Baba's Shepherd's Pie
Initially I wasn't too convinced about the portion size but they were just right for my two.  You may want to add a side dish or two of extra vegetables if you have time to bulk the meals out.

We did find that, particularly with the Ali Baba's Shepherd's Pie, the omission of seasoning was noticeable, although only to be expected and that a pinch of salt and pepper improved the dish greatly. My kids are 8 and nearly 7 though so you would not want to do that for younger children.

The pasta dishes we tried, (the Curly Wurly Chicken and Broccoli Bill's Pasta Pie) were preferred by my two who adore pasta and they both said the sauce had more flavour.

I found all three dishes to be tasty and with a natural flavour.  You can tell that there are no artificial additives in the dishes.

In fact, Ieuan actually cleared his plate which is practically unheard of in the Hobbis household.

Miniscoff have set themselves a challenge by coming up with organic ready meals for such a comparatively large age range (1 - 8+) but I think they have succeeded. I will be trying the organic sauces during the week and they will be ideal for a quick half-term holiday lunch.

I did find that microwaving two meals together required extra time for the Shepherd's Pie but that is standard with microwaved foods.

As an option I think that the Miniscoff meals give you a hassle free choice of menu options to serve up without having to rely on pizza and fish fingers.

I don't know about you but when the kids are off I find I really have to scratch my head to come up with lunch and dinner options that find favour!

You can find more about Miniscoff on their website, on Facebook or Twitter.  The ready meals retail at £3.50 and the sauces at £3.00.


If you fancy trying Miniscoff organic ready meals, I have a lovely hamper of 6 assorted ready meals and 3 organic sauces for one lucky winner.  Entry is via the Rafflecopter in the usual manner.  Terms and conditions apply.  UK entrants only.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Friday 17th June 2016.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!


Friday, 20 May 2016

Tips For Looking Stylish In All British Weathers

We all know that the British weather can be slightly unpredictable.  One minute it's lovely and warm and the next minute you're stuck in a downpour.  It makes staying stylish in summer a real challenge.

How do you balance the changing temperatures and the constant risk of rain whilst still looking chic rather than crumpled?

These tips may help.

1. Take a spare pair of shoes, ideally flats or wellies.  It's a good idea to keep these in the boot of your car so you always have them. You can change into your sparkly sandals when you get there to avoid turning up with soaked feet!

2. Wear waterproof mascara and take extra precautions with your makeup by using a waterproof foundation and a longer lasting lipstick. A primer will also help to keep your makeup in place.

3.  You can also protect your hair with an anti-frizz serum or a humidity proofing hairspray. Scarves are always handy to shield your hair from the sun or rain.

4. Have an emergency umbrella. It may not be used but it's better to have one just in case.

4. Always carry a pocket size pack of tissues. The cold or wind can make eyes and noses water.

5. Carry a wrap, cardigan or shrug. I have recently discovered that good quality Cashmere knitwear can be had at prices that won't break the bank.

6.  If you're off to do the school run and pushing a pram or pushchair, you might want to invest in a lightweight coat with a hood.

7. Wear lip balm to protect your lips from the drying effects of the sun and any cold and windy conditions! Don't forget to apply a good hand cream with an SPF either.

8. Wear several layers so you can put them on or take them off as the weather changes.

9.  But don't forget your sunscreen and a good pair of sunglasses that protect your eyes from the sun's glare.  Look for a pair that block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays.

10.  If you are travelling on the underground or public transport a small portable fan may come in useful and it's always good to have a bottle of water if you have room to carry it.

If all else fails, make sure you've got the latest blockbuster novels loaded on your Kindle or phone so you can lose yourself in a great book and forget that you are more bedraggled than groomed!

New Releases, Free & Bargain Books Link-up 20 May 2016

Another week has whizzed past and there's just one more school week for us here in Wales before the Whitsun holidays.  It's also my birthday on the 28th so I'll be giving the Husband a long list of books I fancy as a birthday treat.

If books are your ideal present too, you'll find plenty to choose from on this week's linky.

Here's the fab books on offer this week.

Sharing the Love of Books
Enjoy our selection of New Releases / Free & Bargain Books this week

Click HERE for this week's awesome selection.

Authors please feel free to add your own books
Readers please free to add your own finds
(any genre except erotica welcome)

This weekly link up is hosted by Beck Valley Books & these awesome book loving blogs...
 Life as Leels | IrishdaisylovesRomance | Book Babble | All Romance Reader
It's My Side of Life | Celticlady's Reviews | First Time Mommy Adventures | Bound 2 Escape
Beck Valley BooksA Library of Reviews | Cinnamon Hollow Reviews
Miki's Hope | Taking Time for Mommy | Nicki's Nook
Ebook Addicts | I Love Romance | A Bit Bookish | Mother Distracted | Colorimetry
Totally Addicted to Reading | 3 Partners in Shopping | Angie's Angle I Creat Purty Thangs | Wishful Endings
Lynchburg Mama | LibriAmoriMieiAli - The Dragon Slayer | Wondermom WannabeMy Bizzy World |  Deal Sharing Aunt 

For Pre-orders post - PRE-ORDER / genre / title /author
For New Releases post - NEW / genre / title / author
For Free Books post - FREE / genre / title / author / end date 
For Bargain Books post - SALE / price / genre / title / author / end date
(Strictly no Erotica please.  Steamy romance is fine but watch those covers people, incase any underage child is viewing it!)

Click HERE for this week's awesome selection.

And don't forget you can always add some of your own!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Have You Been Diagnosed With An Underactive Thyroid?

I have just been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and, being me, I obviously came straight home and terrified myself by googling the subject.

Doctor's Stethoscope and computer - underactive thyroid - motherdistracted.co.uk
It's important to understand what your test results mean.
I have been prescribed 25mg of Levothyroxine and advised to have my blood retested in 6-8 weeks to see if the medication has improved the level of antibodies in my blood.

I am completely rubbish at taking medication and made the mistake of reading the side effects leaflet which came in the pill packet.

I am now awaiting weight gain, baldness, palpitations and depression and, having taken precisely 3 tablets so far am convinced I now have dry eye syndrome since my eyes are sore and gritty.

The Husband is already out of patience!

The problem is, if you visit the many thyroid forums, that testing in the UK only takes into account one of 4 antibodies, T4 and medicates for that whereas our American cousins say that an holistic approach is needed to supplement all four.

To add to the confusion, many of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) are the same as those suffered by many women during the menopause.

So what is the thyroid gland and what does it do?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the base of your neck. It is about 2-inches long and lies in front of your throat below the prominence of thyroid cartilage sometimes called the Adam's apple.

The Thyroid System - underactive system - motherdistracted.co.uk
The Thyroid System

This gland produces hormones which regulate the body's metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance. Its correct functioning depends on having a good supply of iodine from the diet.

The thyroid function is normally regulated by a hormone produced in the pituitary gland (thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH for short), which ensures that neither too much nor too little thyroid hormone is produced.

If too little thyroid hormone is produced, the body functions slow down and the thyroid is said to be underactive - hypothyroidism.

If, conversely too much thyroid hormone is produced, the sufferer is said to have an overactive thyroid - hyperthyroidism.

Some of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid include fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, constipation, impaired fertility, and depression.

Some sufferers have also reported dizziness, inability to pay attention and memory loss, hair loss and tinnitus.

In truth there are loads of symptoms and it can be very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of these.

Underactive Thyroid is more common in older people and in women than men, with estimates that 10 times more women than men are affected.

The conventional treatment for an underactive thyroid is with the hormone levothyroxine (LT4 or Synthroid), which I have been prescribed.

If an underactive thyroid is left untreated for a prolonged period of time, more serious symptoms will develop as the condition advances, such as cardiovascular disease and raised cholesterol.

An underactive thyroid is a lifelong condition, so you will probably need to take levothyroxine for the rest of your life.

It's important for the health of you and your baby that an underactive thyroid is treated properly before you become pregnant.

An annual blood test to screen for an underactive thyroid is recommended for individuals with this condition.

Current research tells us that the best diet for an underactive thyroid is one that contains whole foods, is high in protein, and naturally rich in iodine and selenium.

Seaweeds like kelp are an excellent natural source of iodine, whilst Selenium can be found in Brazil nuts, cod and mustard seeds – 3 to 5 Brazil nuts each day provides plenty of selenium for proper thyroid function.

I am at the beginning of my thyroid education and am hoping that this small dose of Levothyroxine will be enough to return my hormone levels to normal.

Have you been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid?  I would love to hear your experiences and the lifestyle changes you have made to cope with this condition.
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