A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Saturday, 31 December 2016

How To Finally Stick To Those New Year's Resolutions

If you're like me, you are likely to be one of the estimated 30% of the UK population who will make a New Year’s resolution of some kind by January 1st. That’s approx 12.4 billion people and nearly half of those self promises will relate to health and exercise - the most popular being to lose weight and get fit.

The problem is, stats show that over 500,000 of us who make New Year's resolutions will have broken them by the 2nd of January!

So why do we do it? Are our goals just totally unrealistic in the first place? Are we a nation of dreamers who think things will come easy to us?

Woman doing yoga by the sea

The key lies in the way we make our resolutions. American self help author Melody Beattie says ‘The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.’

Nutritionist Zoe Martin at Discount Supplements advises that a great way to interpret this is to break our goals down into smaller, manageable steps so that we won't get discouraged and give up too easily.

Says Zoe, ‘If your goal is to lose 3 stone then break it down and make it more achievable. Set yourself a target weight to lose over the course of a month, and set smaller targets in between such as going to the gym twice a week or not eating takeaways. These small resolutions will change your behavior in the long term and can really feel like you are making progress, rather than think the challenge is just too great and giving up within days.’

Here are some more tips from Zoe you might like to use when setting your New Year's resolutions.

1. Be realistic

Be realistic about your resolutions. If you can actually see yourself achieving it then it is more likely that you will stick to it. 63% of people that start New Year’s resolutions fail within the first month so keep it realistic and don’t lie to yourself.

2. Make it measurable

It can be inspiring and fun to have an ambitious goal but if you can’t tell if you are getting closer to achieving it then you will fail. For example; you can’t exactly measure how happy you are but you can measure how many nice or good things you have done for others in the past week.

3. Never doubt yourself

While working towards your goal, you must always believe you can do it. If you doubt yourself, you will start to become complacent and will slowly give up. If you allow yourself to take a break even for a small period of time you will most likely never get back to working on achieving your goal.

Having a list up on the wall of what your goals are and how you plan to achieve them will help stop you from giving up. For example have it on the wall facing you when you wake up, it will keep it fresh in your mind so you won’t start to forget or doubt yourself.

New Year's Resolutions Infographic from Discount Supplements

4. Keep it short

This happens more often than you think, where people set themselves extremely long term goals that can be very difficult for many people to stick too. This is purely because the more time it takes to achieve the goal the more time you have to quit before you achieve it.

For example; it appears easier to stop drinking carbonated drinks for 6 weeks than trying to stop for an entire year.

5. Create small challenges

After you have been working towards your set goal, you can start to give yourself small challenges to keep you from slipping into laziness. It could be a simple challenge like adding an extra 5 minutes to your workout or not checking your social media accounts until the evening.

6. Get a friend involved

If you can have a friend trying to achieve the same goal will help keep both of you on track. This buddy system helps both of you as to not let each other down by giving up or putting it off.

Discount Supplement's Fitness adviser Luke Thornton has worked with Zoe to create a guide on sticking to your resolutions and meeting your goals which you can download here.

The most important step is setting up a cue to remind yourself of your resolution each day - for example leaving your running shoes by the back door - and of course you need to reward yourself (in a healthy way!) for committing to changing your habits.


Friday, 30 December 2016

London's Calling! Why You Must Visit England's Capital City In 2017

Have you made any big plans for 2017 yet? If not, why not get a little culture in your life by taking a trip to London?

It’s one of those cities that really does have absolutely everything, with thousands of years of history combined with some incredibly cool modern architecture, a plethora of incredible restaurants to eat and hotels to stay at, and a diverse, multicultural vibe that means that absolutely everyone feels welcome here.

Here are some of our top reasons that you must visit London…

Incredible Nightlife 

Picadilly Circus, London at night
Image source

Everyone says that New York is the city that doesn’t sleep, but if you go to London any night of the week, you’ll see that the same is true there as well! London is the sort of city that’s truly alive all night long – party on Brick Lane or in Soho before taking one of London’s famous black cabs back to your hotel. The Underground now runs all night, if you feel like being adventurous!

Museums To Visit

Museum interior
Image source

London is home to some of the best museums and galleries in the world – and happily, they’re all free (although it’s advised that you make a small donation of £5). The British Museum is near Tottenham Court Road and is home to a truly spectacular glass domed central hall along with exhibits from all over the world, while the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are next door to each other in South Kensington and some of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. You could also go to Buckingham Palace or the Tower of London if you really want to explore an incredible slice of history.

The West End

Globe Theatre, London
Image source

If you’re at all interested in theatre, then London’s West End is up there with Broadway. You could go to any one of a number of brilliant shows, from The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time to Jersey Boys to Wicked to Les Miserables. If you’re interested in a more cultural experience, check out what’s on at the Globe, the National Theatre or the Soho Theatre.

Restaurants To Go To

London eateries
Image source

One of the sheer joys of London is the huge variety of restaurants that you can go to. There are plenty of great pubs serving hearty, wholesome British food, but it’s the range of worldwide cuisines that really make London a gastronomic force to be reckoned with. It’s been said that curry is the national food of the UK, so check out the Gourmet guide’s best London restaurants to find out where exactly would be best for you and your family to visit.

It’s Easy To Get To The Rest Of Europe

Eurostar train at Waterloo, London
Image source
One of the best parts of visiting any European city is how easy it is to get elsewhere. London is home to a number of major airports that will take you pretty much anywhere, along with the Eurostar that can take you to Paris from St Pancras. Use London as a hub to explore the rest of the world, with cheap fares to cities like Madrid, Rome and Berlin.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

My Problem Page - What Was I Asked In Week 52?

This week I'm talking about mums who prioritise their boyfriends over their kids and what to do when the venue for your second date isn't as stylish as you'd like.

Heart shaped bookmark inscribed with the word love

If you would like any advice, feel free to message me or pop a comment in the comment box at the end of this post. I promise to be gentle.

Here's this week's questions.

Q: What are some of the sly ways your ex-narcissistic lover will use to try and get back with you after the person he dumped you for dumps him?

A: Does it matter what the reasons are or did you mean ways? 

Whichever, if you don’t want to get back with this person then you won’t. 

I get the sense that you want to make this person pay for dumping you but that will really just stoke their ego further. 

Any interest you show them whether good or back will make them think you are still interested. 

If you are then you need to ask yourself why you’d want someone back who is just likely to dump you again without any remorse. 

If you’re not interested then allow yourself a moment of smugness and move swiftly on.

Q: Should I leave my boyfriend OR ask him to change as he often lets me walk alone in the hotel at 2am (apart from that, he’s a great lover)? 

We had a one week trip with friends. I stayed with my female friend and he got a single room. I came to his room every night and then walked back to my room at 2am—there was no one in the hotel, it was too scary for me (from 6th floor to 1st floor). It’s been the 3rd trip like that but he never walks with me.

A: Well you are making it easy for him, aren’t you? 

All he has to do is wait for you to turn up and then presumably happily go back to sleep whilst you make the scary journey back to your room alone. 

There’s more to being a good boyfriend than just being a great lover - and frankly if he’s happy for you to go back on your own he’s not that great. 

How does he treat you otherwise? Is he kind, considerate, thoughtful? If the answer to that is no, then I’d stop making yourself so available until he learns a little respect. 

And what does your female friend think about you leaving her every night? I’ll bet she’s not too thrilled about it either. 

Is your boyfriend not prepared to go on a trip with just the two of you? And if not, why not? 

You ask whether you should leave your boyfriend but, at the moment, he’s really not behaving like a boyfriend, is he?

Q: Do your misdeeds come back to haunt you in the form of bad luck for you?

A: No - that’s a superstition but perhaps bad luck does follow us when we cause another harm or do a bad deed because we miss the opportunity to be a good person, a kind person, a person of note.

There’s a quote “you don’t have to do the work of the gods” which means that rather than join the wrong-doer by exacting revenge (and possibly doing a misdeed yourself), generally, Karma will sort these people out. 

Not always, but often. 

Otherwise, I believe the universe is random and we all get a share of luck, both good and bad. 

The trick is to recognise which is which.

Q: Why does my people pleasing mum choose boyfriends over her adult kids?

A: There’s a little resentment in the tone of your question and I wonder if this was a theme throughout your childhood? 

Some people feel incomplete without a partner because they can’t cope on their own. 

Or they have so little self esteem that they need somebody to shore them up. 

If a woman’s kids have reached adulthood and left home, she may suffer from “empty nest syndrome” where she literally does not know what to do with herself. 

If you want your mum to do something for you, support you, visit you, attend events , listen to you, I would suggest you take her out for a coffee and tell her how you feel (without the boyfriend). 

It might be that she doesn’t realise how her actions affect you. 

But, since you are adult, you do have to bear in mind that she has the right to live her life as she sees fit - even if her mothering skills are under par. 

If her actions are making her embarrassing to be around and others have noticed, does she have a close friend you could get on side to have a chat with her - not to remonstrate but to gently offer some guidance and support?

Q: How many children can you have in your 30's?

A: Theoretically you could have one every 9 months assuming you conceived immediately afterwards.

Life, of course, isn’t quite like that, particularly since doctors tell us that a woman’s fertility starts to reduce from about 35 onwards - and the risk of birth abnormalities starts to increase year on year. 

I had my children at 43 and 45 and I consider myself very lucky. The reason I left it so late was simply because I had not met the right man. 

If you are in a happy stable relationship and wondering whether now is the time to try for a baby, that is something you must discuss with your partner. 

It also often surprises women how long it takes to conceive. It is frequently not the case of sex and then boom, baby is on its way. It can take a year or more sometimes - depending on your fertility, your partner’s and how healthy you both are. 

I would also say that it will be the mother’s life that will be impacted the most in terms of career, health and lifestyle. Babies also, of course, cost a bit of money. 

If I had my time over and met my husband in my twenties, I would definitely have started a family then. 

I’d advise women entering their thirties to seriously consider how they feel about having kids and when the best time is likely to be. 

A thorough medical check-up is also a good idea particularly if you have already had gynae issues such as polycystic ovaries. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because it is possible to have babies in your forties that it is possible for you. 

It’s one of life’s great ironies that although age no longer matters in many areas, we have not yet managed to extend a woman’s natural fertility and assisted reproduction is expensive and not available to all.

Q: I was looking forward to a 2nd date with a man but he doesn't text much or pursue and chose a cheapy place for dinner. Should I go tonight with him? 

I was excited after our date and he texted to ask me out for next week. Then I texted and he took a whole day to answer and doesn't seem crazy about me. He chose a crappy place for dinner tonight and I like stylish places and he doesn't even offer to pick me up. Am I just anxious and feel pressure?

A: There’s a lot of focus in your question about how much the man is going to spend. 

You say he chose a “cheapy place” for dinner and that you like “stylish places”. Perhaps he does not earn much money and, if he suspects that you just want his company just for a nice dinner in a stylish place, I’m afraid he won’t be pursuing you too hard. No man wants to be treated like a meal ticket.

Taking a whole day to answer is hardly a crime either - I’m assuming this man has a job and other responsibilities? 

After just one date you hardly know each other so if you really like this man then give him a chance. 

There’s no reason why you couldn’t suggest a more stylish place if you make it to a third date, is there? Or, if he is strapped for cash, offer to cook him a meal? 

If, though, after the second date, he still seems uninterested and he doesn’t ensure you get home safely then I’d assume he really isn’t that keen.

How would you have responded to these questions? I'd love to know. You can find more advice on my problem page.

Disclaimer: 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.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Red Hot For New Year's Eve

Red is the colour to wear this festive season and it makes a refreshing change from being one in a sea of little black dresses. Best of all, lots of these are reduced in the sales.
Red Hot For New Year's Eve

Pencil dress

Fit and flare dress

River Island red bodycon dress
£57 - riverisland.com

Red prom dress
£53 - amazon.com

Fendi red jacket
£3,155 - marissacollections.com

Red jacket
£630 - laperla.com


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Will You Let Your Kids Stay Up To See The New Year In?

Now this is something that tends to polarise parents.  There's the "it's only one night and they can sleep in tomorrow" crowd and the "you have to be joking, keeping them up that late is abuse" crowd.

New Year's Eve Fireworks over a city

I tend to fall in between the two camps.  Having seen the effect, though, of lack of sleep on my two (now 9 and 7), I'm not entirely sure that keeping them up to see in something which has very little meaning at that age makes a whole heap of sense.

We took our two to see the fabulous Mary Poppins at Wales Millennium Centre this week (highly recommend it) and because we were slow to book (as usual), could only get tickets for an evening performance.

The kids had an 'enforced nap' early afternoon much to their chagrin but it did mean that they were brighter and I think enjoyed the show more.  There were other kids there but quite a few had fallen asleep in their parents' arms.  Sweet, but a waste of a quite expensive ticket.

Do kids really want to be partying with a house full of tipsy (or worse) adults?  Actually, I suppose it's no different on Christmas Day really, is it?

It's probably fine if you're not doing anything on New Year's Day but if you are going visiting with a hangover and unruly, knackered kids it's not going to be much fun is it?  Either for you or your hosts.

Perhaps the solution is to have a mini New Year's Eve celebration before the kids go to bed.  A special story and a snuggle to plan all the lovely adventures they can have next year?  There's no reason why you can't all sing "Auld Lang Syne" before they go to bed, is there?

baby in a tutu fast asleep on a bed

I would far rather start the New Year off in a relatively calm and peaceful fashion rather than with the sounds of morning to night bickering, tears and door slamming  (the joys of living with a tween).

So I asked my fellow parenting bloggers what they did and, as usual, they had some brilliant advice to offer.

Sally: I let mine stay up until midnight once they reached about 10. Now they are 15 and 13, they stay up a little later than that. We have an afternoon nap on New Year's Eve, and then a quiet day and an early night on 1st Jan! www.sallyakins.com

Lauren: I'm taking mine to a kid friendly rave where everyone celebrates midnight at 6pm. Home and in bed by 8pm none the wiser! They're 1 and 3. belledubrighton.co.uk

Katie: My daughter has additional needs and cannot cope with disruption or lack of sleep so we have a fake midnight much earlier in the evening, with the previous year's Big Ben fireworks on TV! Much easier than an overtired grotty child to start the year! www.livinglifeourway.com

Amy: We don't even stay up to welcome the new year in anymore, my pair are 5 and 8. If we did the 5 year old wouldn't last past bedtime (8pm) and the 8 year old would out last us all. I swear she doesn't need sleep. www.epsandamy.co.uk

Charlotte: Our son is almost 5 and he stays up, he has insane amounts of stamina and if we are all staying in we might as well see in the new year together. (You can find Charlotte's post about just this topic here at The Mummy Toolbox.)

Cathryn: My children are 7, 5 and 2 and so far have not stayed up until midnight. We get together with other families with young children and bring the celebrations forward a few hours - start about 4pm, food and drinks about 5pm, party games and then we go outside about 7pm and all sing Auld Lang Syne then. We also then usually watch the Sydney celebrations on YouTube or record it from earlier in the day, as they are obviously ahead of us. The kids usually last until about 9pm and the other families head home then. www.cardiffmummysays.com.

Melly: Mine are 11, 10, 7 and 3. I put them to bed with the threat if they don't go to bed nicely I won't wake them for midnight. At ten to midnight I wake them and they go back to bed around 12.30. Works fine. If they sleep in a bit I don't mind. www.bridgefamilyabridged.com.

Amanda: My two boys are 10 & 4 (5 in Feb) and they have strict bedtimes most of the year. However, as we always go to a family party with all of our local friends with kids, we go for dinner then they stay up as long as they can last. If the younger one is tired my husband takes him back home early but he loves it and the excitement of partying with their friends carries them both through. The key thus far has been him having a sleep in the car earlier in the day as we are out and about but this won't last much longer. We have a lovely lie in the next day followed by a brisk walk and a huge lunch. Works for us! www.ginger-mum.com

I think I'm going to have to be more creative and get the party going a bit earlier in the day! How do you celebrate the New Year with your little ones?

Whatever you do this New Year's Eve, I hope you enjoy it - and have a peaceful New Year's Day!

Will Your Life Be Better With These 50 "Pearls of Wisdom"?

As we approach New Year I'm sure we'll read many articles about how to improve our life - whether by reinventing ourselves into the person we think we'd like to be, or by adopting life hacks.

Flowers and postcard saying adventure awaits

I love a good list and this one was put together by the Skipton Building Society whose researchers asked 1000 people aged over 65 and in retirement to pass on their advice to the younger generations.

As you might expect, being sensible with money is a dominant theme!  For example, "don’t go into business with family, avoid lending money you’re likely to need back and never let the sun set on an argument with friends".

Here's what else the survey discovered:

"Among the basic financial common-sense advice such as pay off debts rather than spending money on luxury items and try to pay off your mortgage as early as you can, are nuggets such as save the long working hours until the children fly the nest, and spend quality time with grandparents as they won’t be there forever.

Retirees also cite the importance of doing something every day that makes you happy, and trying not to worry about what other people think.

All great advice and easier said than done but the point is we have the luxury of time to at least try some of these.

The over-65s can look back on mistakes they have made and opportunities they’ve missed during the first two thirds of their life, and try to encourage their children and grandchildren to follow a different path.

When it comes to finances, retirees are brimming with useful tips for youngsters – such as plan for retirement rather than burying your head in the sand.

‘Spend some, save some’ is also advice commonly passed down by people over the age of 65 – with many feeling you should holiday as much as you can, while you can.

Retirees are quick to suggest people should start saving at a young age, and recommend people don’t lend money they may need back.

In relationships, elderly respondents believe you should marry someone who makes you laugh, and make sure you stick by old friends even when making new.

Those in retirement also say you should never rely on just one or two close friends – create a network of many, and when it comes to keeping friendships, never go into business together.

Never give relationship advice as you’ll always be wrong, keeping a happy wife means having a happy life and continue having date nights after having children are also top relationship tips.

The top 50 Pearls of Wisdom also includes some practical guidance for those who haven’t yet reached retirement – such as always trust your gut feeling, always lose gracefully and be persistent.

Retirees also recommend flossing regularly as dental problems are awful, make friends with the neighbours and only pack what you can carry yourself.  I can second that one!

Pursuing hobbies and interests outside of work, trying to secure a job which you enjoy and treating yourself once in a while are also things retirees have learned are important over the years.

Older generations are also keen for people to ensure their children know the value of money, and also encourage them to teach their children how to budget from an early age.

The study shows 51 per cent of retirees polled do have some regrets about their working years – of these, 19 per cent wish they’d worked fewer hours and four in 10 wish they’d made more of an effort to pursue their dreams.

A further three in 10 people wished they’d created a better work life balance, while 45 per cent would have put more of their earnings aside into savings if they could turn back time.

Now in retirement, 17 per cent are struggling with money, while 28 per cent say their health is their biggest concern.

More than half of retirees look at younger members of their own family now and wish they would start taking their family more seriously."


  1. Pay your bills and stay out of debt 
  2. Pay off debts rather than spending money on luxury items 
  3. Pay off your mortgage as early as you can 
  4. Plan for retirement rather than burying your head in the sand 
  5. Teach your own children how to budget from an early age 
  6. Be kind 
  7. Spend some, save some 
  8. Teach your children the value of money 
  9. Pursue hobbies and interests outside of work 
  10. It’s okay to need help 
  11. Don’t make decisions when you’re angry 
  12. Treat yourself once in a while 
  13. Spend more time with the children before they leave home 
  14. Don’t complain about getting older: not everybody gets the privilege 
  15. Start saving at a young age 
  16. Manners maketh man 
  17. Do something every day that makes you happy 
  18. Try to not worry about what other think 
  19. Travel / go on more holidays while you can afford it 
  20. The most important person in your life is the person who agreed to share their life with you – treat them as such 
  21. Neither a borrower nor a lender be 
  22. Never lend money that you need back 
  23. Make new friends but stick by the old ones 
  24. Always trust your gut feeling 
  25. Marry someone who makes you laugh 
  26. Always lose gracefully 
  27. Take criticism constructively 
  28. Spend quality time with your grandparents as they won’t be there forever 
  29. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to grow up 
  30. Make sure you get a job doing what you love 
  31. Always sleep on a big decision 
  32. Get to know your neighbours 
  33. To thine own self be true 
  34. Never let the sun set on an argument with friends 
  35. Start thinking about your retirement before your boss does 
  36. Never go into business with family or friends 
  37. Happy wife = happy life 
  38. Don’t work long hours, save it for when the children have left home 
  39. Nothing worth doing comes easy 
  40. Only pack what you can carry yourself 
  41. Be persistent 
  42. Do what you can to live close to your grandchildren 
  43. Floss regularly, dental problems are awful 
  44. Always avoid inconveniencing others 
  45. Never give up what you want most for something you want now 
  46. Don’t rely on one or two close friends, create a network of many 
  47. Never give relationship advice – you’ll always be wrong 
  48. Continue date nights with your partner after having children 
  49. Never make someone a priority who only makes you an option 
  50. Clean less
So there you have it.  Do any of these resonate with you?  Personally number 37 is a bit of a favourite and I've never had any trouble with number 50!

I guess the main takeaway from this which we should all remember is simply "life is shorter than you think".

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Top Tips for making it through ‘Dry January’

Every year I strongly consider becoming a "Dry Athlete" and giving up the booze for January.  After all, Dry January is the perfect way for your body and wallet to recover from an indulgent Christmas, not to mention New Year celebrations.

woman drinking next to small dog

By giving up your old friend alcohol for a mere 31 days, you will save a few quid, lose a few pounds, and feel more energised and refreshed in the process. But for some people that’s not as easy as it sounds. January has five whole booze free weekends to get through.

If, like me, you're considering giving your liver a well-earned break, here are some very helpful tips from Tugend Demir, restaurant manager at The Arch London in Marylebone.

1. Don’t hibernate

The worst thing you can possibly do is to hole yourself up in your house and attempt to hibernate. Make it your mission to get up and make the most of your hangover free weekends and mornings. Plan activities you would never normally get round to at times you would never usually be up.

2. Ditch cocktails for detoxing mocktails

Don’t settle for plain old tap water when you go out. Drinking mocktails is a great way to get through dry January, as you are still treating yourself to a luxurious drink, minus the calories and headache the next morning. For example, at The Arch London you can try Seedlip, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, which has zero calories and is sugar, sweetener and artificial flavour-free.

3. Know your numbers

Read it and weep. A Pina Colada cocktail with rum has 644 calories. That’s more than a Big Mac burger. A pint of larger has 180 calories – more than a small slice of chocolate cake. And a large glass of white wine is 185 calories – the equivalent of 4 fish fingers. Calculate exactly how many calories you will save by ditching the booze – odds are you’ll be shocked by how many you can save.

4. Plan a holiday

Planning a holiday is the perfect way to motivate yourself during dry January. Putting all the money you’ve saved on booze into a ‘holiday piggy bank’ will be a visible inspiration to keep going, along with your shrinking waistline of course. Win, win.

5. Recruit a partner in crime

Your driathlon will be about a million times easier if you have a least one of your friends on board the good ship sensible. You’ll have a sober partner in crime to go out with and look suitably smug while your other friends are being drunken idiots around you.

6. Get drunk on love

Replace visiting your old friend alcohol with seeing real actual people that you care about. Arrange to go and see that old friend you’ve been meaning to visit, visit your parents, or make time for your partner. Booking a romantic city break is the perfect idea as it takes you away for a weekend of relaxation, and no pressure to go to the pub with your friends.

Glass being filled with white wine

7. Try a new type of exercise

Taking up a new exercise for the month will boost your levels of serotonin plus giving you something else to focus on. Try a ‘Ravercise’ classes – think daytime clubbing without the booze – for your dancing hit while staying firmly on the wagon.

8. Think positive

Don’t picture your month of sobriety as something negative. Think of it as something great you are achieving purely for yourself. Rather than focusing on denying yourself alcohol, envision your success and how happy you will be at the end of the month when you have reached your goal.

9. Tell Everyone

By telling everyone you are never drinking ever again (well, for January) will increase your chances of success. Why? Because your feelings of shame will be increased by about 98% if your friends or family catch you clutching a sneaky gin & tonic when you shouldn’t be.

10. Cut back, don’t cut out

If all else fails, simply cut back on your alcohol intake and set yourself an achievable goal per week. This will be much more easy to sustain and will certainly alleviate any January blues. There are also plenty of other ways to put goodness into your body, by upping your intake of fruit and vegetables, drinking more water, and taking supplements such as Milk Thistle which protect the liver from alcohol damage and premature ageing by helping to regenerate liver cells.

Will you be signing up for "Dry January" this year?

Thursday, 22 December 2016

My Problem Page - What Was I Asked In Week 51?

This week I'm talking about getting over people you don't find attractive, awful exes and whether it's bad luck to ask a woman the gender of her unborn child.

Man and woman embracing

If you would like any advice, feel free to message me or pop a comment in the comment box at the end of this post. I promise to be gentle.

Here's this week's questions.

Q: How do I reject my awful ex? 

He was the nightmare of my life. Manipulative, and always degrading women for very ridiculous reasons (eg. non virgins). One year later he is sweet talking me into getting back. I have such a strong urge to humiliate him for all the things he did, but should I just ignore him? Which is better?

A: If you give in to the urge to humiliate him then you are still, essentially, being manipulated by him. 

He is still pulling your strings and you are still reacting to all the stupid things he did. I suspect if you tried to get revenge he’d just laugh, feel smug and think to himself “she still feels for me”. 

He’s winning, though, isn’t he because you say he is sweet talking you into going back. And by the sounds of it you are strongly considering it. 

Humiliating him to punish him won’t make any difference - whether you take him back or not. He’ll still have won. 

I would move on and try to find someone who is mature enough to respect women - and you. I’d suggest you also need to boost your own confidence and self-esteem and work out why you think being with a man like this is worth one second of your time.

Q: I broke up with my ex because he did not understand the word no and he kept pushing boundaries. I still love him though. What should I do?

A: The central issue here seems to be a lack of respect from your boyfriend. 

I am not sure what ‘boundaries’ you mean but I am really hoping you have not been coerced into any activity (particularly sexual) with which you are not comfortable, or which caused you pain. 

If that is the case, do not go back and seek advice from friends and family. Or was the problem that your boyfriend kept flirting or behaving inappropriately with other women? It’s hard to tell from your question. 

Only you can say whether the ‘boundaries’ you refer to were reasonable ones. 

Sometimes we expect people to behave in a certain way just to keep us happy when, in reality, we have no right to make such a demand. 

We cannot ever really ‘control’ another person because at some point they will resist and rebel. 

No man wants a ‘mother’ as a romantic partner. If your boundaries were all about keeping your ex close to you and denying him basic freedoms then, if he loves you and you can relax the reins, perhaps there is some hope. 

If, though, your ex treated you badly and showed you little respect, you need to develop a greater love and respect for yourself. 

Bad boys always have an allure but ultimately that allure is a complete illusion.

Q: How can I forgive myself for letting someone emotionally abuse me repeatedly?

A: It’s not for you to forgive yourself. It is for the abusers to seek your forgiveness - and the fact that you feel you need to forgive yourself suggests that the abuse is still going on. 

We all make decisions which aren’t necessarily in our best interest because we are swayed by love or by the desperate need to be liked. 

I’d suggest that rather than berating yourself for just being human, you concentrate on building your strength so that you feel better about yourself. 

When that happens you’ll be savvier and better at recognising when you are being abused. You’ll be able to say “no, that’s not acceptable and if you don’t like it there is no room for you in my life”. 

Sometimes of course our worst abusers are friends and family and it is even tougher to stand firm and tell them that you won’t tolerate any more nonsense. 

Is there anyone you can reach out to that you trust to talk things over? Could they be your eyes and ears - your early warning system if you like, to tell you when things need dealing with? 

Others are far more adept at spotting when we are being badly treated than we are. I think you absolutely do not need to forgive yourself but you do need to work on making better choices - and that may mean cutting some ties.

Q: Is it love when he says he hasn't fallen for me but he really really likes me and calls me his queen?

We started talking about 2 weeks ago. He said he really likes me and finds me attractive.  We met, held hands, hugged, he kissed my cheeks. I refused to kiss him because I'm confused if he is serious because he does all this and says he hasn't fallen for me.  Is he playing me or do you think its serious?

A: I think he’s indulging in some heavy flirting but it does sound like he’s playing with you since he’s said he hasn’t fallen for you. 

I wonder - did you ask that question directly though, after just 2 weeks? I think you might have come on too strong too soon. 

Your best bet is to act more like a Queen - with a little coolness and even a little disdain. Make him chase you. 

Watch to see if he is a nice person, a genuine person and is interested in you. Flirting is no proof of anything. 

And I don’t care if it is nearly 2017. Lots of men prefer to do the chasing.

Q: How do I get over someone who isn't even attractive? 

I haven’t dated this girl in 1 1/2 years and she’s constantly on my mind. I've had stronger feelings for other girls and honestly, I've treated this one like total garbage (bought presents for her friends, hit on her friends and roommates, made her deal drugs for me). What do I do? Its awful! I don’t deserve it.

A: There’s a hefty amount of denial in this question, isn’t there? 

All our actions have consequences and sometimes come back to bite us. 

You say she isn’t even attractive but you clearly are attracted to her - and you also enjoyed being unkind to her. 

Is that the real issue? 

You are feeling powerless in your own life and want someone to lord it over and control? Have you not found another girl who will put up with it? 

I think your feelings are a smokescreen for the recognition that, unless you do something to change, you are going to end up a not very nice person - and alone. 

If you are still taking drugs your obvious first step is to get help to kick the habit. 

The motivational writer Anthony Robbins says that when we’re in a mess the first thing to do is to raise our standards (the book is “Awaken The Giant Within” and I suggest you read it). I’m sure there is a decent kind man in you but playing stupid games with girls in order to make yourself feel better is not going to make you happy. 

Time to raise your standards.

Q: Is it "bad luck" to ask a pregnant woman about the gender of her unborn child?

A: No it isn’t bad luck but some more sensitive women may find the question intrusive because it might imply that one gender is preferable to the other. 

Frankly, I wouldn’t object to the question “do you know what you’re having” but be prepared if the answer is a blunt “a baby”.

How would you have responded to these questions? I'd love to know. You can find more advice on my problem page.

Disclaimer: 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.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Win A Man's Suit From Dobell Menswear

After the Christmas festivities, it can be a bit of a relief to don our workwear again and prepare for a fresh new year.

Dobell Blue Man's Suit

We make our New Year's resolutions and determine that this year will see us become even more successful and what we wear definitely helps us to "walk the talk"!

In fact in a survey undertaken by car manufacturer Kia in 2014, when asked what made them feel confident, the top 10 list for women included: high heels, a little black dress, and designer perfume and for men the list included: a freshly shaved face, a new suit, and a nice smelling aftershave.

If you're looking to spruce up your man, there's nothing like a crisp new suit to make a statement and Dobell Menswear have kindly provided a man's suit for a lucky Mother Distracted reader.

Dobell menswear have created fine men’s suits, tuxedos and wedding suits for over 10 years, and create handsomely fitted suits and formalwear accessories, at great value - up to 50% cheaper than the high street.

They stock leading suit and shirt brands such as Paul Costelloe, Tommy Hilfiger, Noose & Monkey, Esprit, Lambretta, Paul Gross, and Alexander Dobell.

They also cater for men who want to look and feel correctly dressed when they’re attending black tie dinners, weddings, balls, business conferences or calendar events such as Glyndebourne and Ascot.

There's free standard delivery, and free UK returns, a next day delivery service, and international delivery. Their site offers on-site expert advice articles and sizing guides or, if you prefer, you can talk to their dedicated customer service team who are on hand to help from 9 am to 6 pm weekdays.

For a chance to win, just enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.  Terms and conditions apply (please see my Competitions page).  UK entrants only.

The prize is one Dobell branded man's suit in your preferred size (jacket and trousers).

The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Friday 13th January 2017.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Good luck!


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Could You Use Your Negativity To Win?

It's that time of year when we find ourselves both reflecting on the year just past and the one to come. It's time to evaluate everything that has gone before, to take stock and to make some changes.

cardboard robot

The problem with this, of course, is that, if we're not careful, our focus can be on all the bad events, the unhappy moments, the things we shouldn't have said and the things we should have done.

Clayton John Ainger, award-winning author of The Ego’s Code (£15.99, Panoma Press) shares why negativity is a powerful message from you, to you; a message to learn from rather than suppress you.

Because we all have this tendency to focus on the negative, we may find this causes so much uncertainty that we end up paralysed and end up doing nothing.

Clayton says that, as you change, your life changes. Rather than look at negativity as an obstacle, it is better to see it a fuel for change and one which can motivate you to make important changes so that you reveal the real you, the you that is often hidden away!

Here are his three quick tips to help you start banishing your negativity in 2017.

"1. Change the meaning of your negativity - Negativity is a natural and normal part of life, and is a valuable resource for change. By treating negativity as innately bad or wrong, we give it more power over us and increase its impact in our lives. Changing the meaning you give negativity and seeing it as something to serve you, rather than hinder you, allows you to approach uncomfortable and difficult situations in a new way, which enhances your ability to engage more fully with life.

2. Be Aware, Acknowledge and Act on your Negativity - It’s easy to allow ourselves to feel the weight of negativity. When we do this, our negativity anchors us to the past, causing us to literally relive our past in the here and now. In that moment, we are prevented from making any true progress in life. It becomes easier to bail out and accept failure rather than to push through and pursue success.

Instead of dismissing negativity or sweeping it aside, become aware of it, because awareness pulls you out of the past into the present.

Acknowledge and express gratitude for your negativity! You are about to learn something about yourself to help you in life.

You then have a choice; you can react, in a way that could harm you or someone else, or you can respond by consciously acting in a way that serves you for your highest good.

It is this state of being that make lasting changes, not short term fixes.

3. Set yourself up to WIN – Before I go into challenging situations, or have difficult conversations that may trigger my negativity I use my ‘WIN’ technique to calm my mind, calm my body and calm my emotions; I focus on my intention and outcome so that I feel confident to serve others and express my truth. Here is my WIN technique:

W: Walk and Breathe: Deep, controlled breathing helps you to calm down, bringing clarity about the situation. I always walk in a figure-eight; to access both sides of my brain - creativity and logic – and align my head and heart, powering up my intuition.

I: Intention: As you walk, focus on your intention and outcome from the situation. I spend a lot of time front-of-room speaking, engaging with senior leaders in business, working with customers from all walks of life so being clear about my intention and how I can serve my clients or my audience at the highest level is of the highest importance to me. Clarity and certainty of my outcomes brings confidence, puts me in the best mindset to help my clients win.

N: Nail it: Deliver, succeed and celebrate! So many people quickly move onto the next thing without thinking about what they just achieved. Celebrating your achievements helps you to get a sense of your real value and real self-worth. When you value yourself, others will automatically do the same. "

What do you think of Clayton's tips?

Personally I think it's far healthier to accept your negativity and to actively channel it, rather than make yourself miserable by trying to suppress it - and becoming even more negative in the process!

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Let It Snow With Bostik

Amongst the hectic activity, the lights and the surfeit of sugar, it's good to take a few moments to chill with your kids.

Caitlin's snow scene for Bostik

Everyone benefits from a few moments of peace and there's something quite mindful about crafting isn't there?

Crafting materials from Bostik

It's always fascinating to see how your kids interpret the world and crafting is a great way to discover what is occupying them at the time.

Caitlin hard at work on her snow scene

This month's theme from the Bostik-meisters was snow.  We rarely see snow here in Dinas Powys and when it does come it usually appears at the oddest time of year - the end of March and even early April being a favourite.

But there will always be something magical about a white Christmas.

Caitlin decided to create her own snow scene which featured (obviously), glitter and stars.  I'm very tempted to declare 2017 the official year of glitter to see if it makes it a bit more, well, sparkly than 2016 which for many of us has been unremittingly grey.

Caitlin colouring in her snowman

This time we had a new weapon in our arsenal as well as Bostik's trusty White Glue - the Bostik Fine And Wide Glu Pen .

It's a clear gel adhesive that can be applied in a thick or thin line. The fine applicator is great for precise and intricate work whilst the wide applicator is perfect for covering large areas quickly and efficiently.

Bostik Fine And Wide Glu Pen

You can use it for arts and craft, school projects, scrapbooking, photos, paper, card and even as a temporary hold for fabric  It's also washable and safe for kids as it's non toxic and acid free.

Caitlin's final creation is a cute snow scene featuring a snowman and some rather sinister brown figures.  I'm proud to say the pond is all my own work.  (I'm a natural).

The final snow scene

Wouldn't it be magical if we actually had a white Christmas this year?

I suspect, as Bing would sing, we might have to settle for "merry and bright' instead.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Festive Kitchen Time Savers You'll Want To Try

Just in case, like me, you haven't really got yourself organised for cooking one of the most important meals of the year (no pressure!), here are 10 quick time-saving tips to try in the kitchen.

Christmas table laid in preparation for lunch

You can spend the time you save doing something more important - like drinking Prosecco or perfecting your Christmas 'look'.  My Christmas 'look' usually just involves taking my apron off as once the kids are up it's chaos.

Plan ahead

I very often make a list and stick it somewhere constantly in sight. You could have a timetable for cooking Christmas lunch or a meal planner for the whole festive period.

Make sure you note down timings, quantities and temperatures.

The Husband and I usually prep the veg whilst watching TV on Christmas Eve.

Buy the trimmings

You don't have to make everything yourself.  I've bought pre-made pork & sage stuffing balls and mini sausages wrapped in bacon which can be quickly put in the oven alongside the turkey.

Whilst you're at it, why not buy some cubed pancetta which goes lovely with brussel sprouts or some flaked almonds which jazz up broccoli.  A drizzle of honey and some orange zest brightens up carrots too.

Berries and sprigs of herbs like Rosemary can add some pizzazz to warming winter drinks.

Don't forget the essentials

You know, the dull but vital stuff like matches for candles and extra bin bags.  You can find my helpful list in this post.  You really don't want to be running out to your local corner shop to hunt for stock cubes or cream either.

Make the most of your gadgets

Christmas is the time lots of kitchen gadgets come into their own.  If you have a breadmaker you can wake up to fresh bread on Christmas morning. Some of these are quite sophisticated, for example the breadmakers by Panasonic have Artisan, Rustic Sourdough and Scone modes as well as fruit and nut dispensers and a gluten free programme.

We also use a Nutri Ninja bullet blender to blend vegetables to hide in sauces (for dishes like meatballs and spaghetti sauces).  Caitlin and Ieuan have no idea how many veg they have actually eaten this year!

Cheat with desserts!

As long as you hide the packaging you can easily get away with shop bought desserts.  Just add some freshly chopped strawberries or berries (keep a bag of frozen fruit in the freezer) to decorate a shop bought cheesecake.

And you can't go wrong with good quality shop bought ice cream which you can jazz up with some warmed dulce de leche and a few toffee cubes - or even M&Ms for the kids.

Cheesecake with berry topping

Make space in the freezer

We make sure we use up some of the stuff lurking in our freezer so that there's room for desserts etc over the Christmas period.  I usually find I've been bulk buying oven chips and fish fingers!  A good defrost a couple of weeks before Christmas is a good idea too - because it's colder the food will survive a bit longer outside the freezer.

Space in your freezer will also let you quickly chill bottles of wine and beer.  Just pop them in for 20 minutes or so.

And you'll need lots of ice cubes too!

Put Individual Portions In Freezer Bags

You could speed up food prep by pre-portioning veg, berries, chicken fillets, mince beef and the like in individual freezer bags so you can just pull out what you need without weighing and measuring.

There are some more great tips on easy festive food prep from Tesco here.

Whatever you do, don't forget to rope in the family to help out where you can.  There's no reason why little ones can't help set the table or lay the crackers out.

Do you have any time-saving festive kitchen tips?  I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Review: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer For Hair

Some products are just too much of a faff I find these days, but I had heard of this particular product many times so thought I'd give it a go.

I'm sure you've heard about the 'reverse washing' trend - where you condition hair first and then shampoo.  This product is arguable ahead of its time for that reason.

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer is a pre-shampoo conditioner which you massage into your hair (in sections it is advised) and leave for 10-20 minutes with a plastic cap on so that the heat can do the work. It is priced around £17 for 75ml.

For a start, on a cold winter morning, wandering around with wet hair looking for a shampoo cap (no such luck) is not advisable.

It's true that the product does have a lovely geranium and neroli fragrance but this I suspect is to distract you whilst you hang about waiting for it to work and in any case it is shampooed straight out.

If you have longish hair, like I do, you'll also go through a tube quite quickly.

I remember once reading that Marie Helvin (one of the original supermodels) recommended using mayonnaise as a conditioning treatment and a jar of Hellmans would certainly be a lot cheaper.

The problem I have with many of these 'hero brands' is that they seem quite cold and clinical, standing aloof in bleak cosmetic 'boutiques' like Space NK.

In fact many of today's brands look more like potions stolen from a secret lab somewhere deep in the Swiss Alps.

You need a GCSE in Chemistry just to understand the ingredients.

Busy mums struggling with cash and time don't want to be bamboozled.  We just want products that do the job.

We also want brands that engage with us appropriately.

Somewhere in-between Benefit (desperate to be liked - "look at us, we're pink for heavens sake and we make teeny tiny palettes suitable for elves) and Mac (don't bother talking to us right now we're too busy being fabulous).

And somewhere decidedly south of No.7 (come in No. 7 your time is probably up).

Anyway I duly applied, shampooed, rinsed and used my usual conditioner and yes, my hair did have a little more oomph but not £17 worth of oomph.

Some of the reviews I've read suggest that you need to use this product consistently to see results but it is time consuming when you struggle to get into the bathroom before the husband and kids!

A product to add to your Christmas list rather than your shopping list.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Easy Life Hacks For Becoming More Self-Sufficient

We’re in the midst of December. Once all the Christmas festivities have died down, you might start thinking of your New Year’s resolutions.

It’s common to set goals such as saving more money, losing weight, and being more eco-friendly. But one overarching goal which can help achieve all of this is becoming more self-sufficient.

In basic terms, being self-sufficient means developing the needs to look after yourself. You can save much more money and time by learning to do things without any help.

It can make a significant change in your life, and it starts with a few easy steps. Here are some things to try.

Grow Your Own Food

How to be self sufficient - selection of colourful vegetables
Image credit

You might not have a whole farm to create your own produce, but your garden is all you need to be more self-sufficient.

You can grow fruit, vegetable, herbs, and other edible products yourself. It’ll give you a range of healthy and free eating options!

You could start with a patch of soil or a planter in your back garden. But to grow more, you might want to find greenhouses for sale.

They’re fantastic for growing all kinds of plants year-round and make an interesting addition to any garden.

There are guides online for growing food in your garden. Learn how to do it and enjoy your delicious organic cooking ingredients!

Be More Energy-Efficient

Energy-efficiency helps both you and the environment. Some adjustments around the home can help you save a lot of money on your electric bill.

You can also find ways to generate your own power. A lot of energy providers will help you install solar panels to fill some of your energy needs.

One small installation cost can save you a lot throughout the year- especially during the Summer!

Another goal you might want to take on is to rely less on technology. Modern electronics can be a big distraction, so using them less can help you get more in touch with nature.

What’s more, you’ll be able to look after yourself if you’re faced with a power cut or go out camping!

Learn skills like cooking without electricity and cut out the TV for some reading or a walk with nature.

Cut Down On Car Rides

How to be self sufficient - Smartly dressed woman on bicycle

Another small change that can save you big money is relying less on your car. After all, who wants to deal with traffic jams and annoying drivers?

Instead of driving to work in the morning, consider cycling. You’ll save a truckload of money on petrol costs- plus you don’t have to worry about damaging your vehicle. You’ll also get more exercise and be much more relaxed when you reach work.

Taking walks more is also beneficial. It can clear your mind and get you more in touch with nature.

Learn D.I.Y. Skills

Are you sick of having to call for help whenever you need something changed or fixed in your house? To be more self-sufficient, pick up some D.I.Y. skills.

There are plenty of online tutorials and YouTube videos which can teach you how to deal with home maintenance.

Not only can you keep your home in good shape, but you can also learn to redecorate on a budget.

Overall, having D.I.Y. skills will make it cheap and easy to look after your living space.

What tips do you have for becoming more self sufficient?

Woznow.co.uk - Shop The Sales From The Comfort Of Your Sofa

You may remember a while back I wrote about a great new online shopping mall, Octer.  It's an online portal which allows you to browse and shop your favourite retailers whilst being able to compare and contrast the things you want.

My physical shopping trips usually involve a hefty amount and to-ing and fro-ing the length and breadth of Cardiff's shopping centres which, if you have the time and energy, is a very pleasurable pursuit.

Usually though I've got the Husband and kids in tow and the boys do not do shopping.  In fact Ieuan's idea of pergutory is the Pandora shop (which Caitlin and I love) and he'll flounce out and sit like a grumpy pixie on the floor outside the display window.

You don't need that on a Saturday do you?  So, particularly where Christmas shopping is concerned, I, like many parents have been doing it mostly online.

Now I'm very fond of saving money and whilst most retailers have a 'sale section', wouldn't it be great to be able to compare those sale bargains side by side online too?

Good news.  There is now a new site very similar to Octer which does just that called WozNow (www.woznow.co.uk) and it's updated almost daily with the newest bargains.

WozNow guarantees that all its sale prices are real sale prices and that every product has been previously listed at a higher price on the retailer's website. They are setting themselves apart from "discount retailers" who have never-ending sale prices.

WozNow allows you to search by category (e.g. Women, Men, Kids), department or store and then to drill down further within each of these to find exactly what you're looking for.

You can check size and stock availability without running around from store to store.  (I've lost track of the times we've had to hike from one Clarks Shoe Shop to another in the quest for a particular shoe in the kids' size).

So for example, clicking on jeans gives you the choice of skinny fit, straight leg, wide leg, tailored etc.  Clicking on Shoes & Boots gives you a choice of Casual Flat, Smart Flat, Heels and so on.

Once you have found your item, clicking on the link takes you direct to the retailer's site which happily opens in a new window so that you can not clicking back and forth on your browser back button.

Then you simply check out via the retailer's site in the normal manner.

WozNow is incredibly easy to use, up-to-date and rather addictive.  If there is a downside to it I'd say that it becomes fiddly if you want to use cash back or voucher code sites to save more money.

You would have to make a note of the item and then enter the retailer's site via Topcashback (or whoever) instead.

That said, generally the cash back and voucher offers I have come across are not usually useable on sale stock so this may be a bit of a red herring.

You do have to be quite quick off the mark too as lots of the bargains I had my eye on were already out of stock when I clicked through to the retailer.  Those bargains are vanishing as quickly as the site updates! For that reason, avid shoppers should visit the site often.

I'm afraid I did succumb and bought this fluffy faux fur coat from ASOS.  You can never have too much faux fur, can you?

Barney's Originals Ombre Faux Fur Coat From Asos £58 reduced from £95

I'll be checking back in the lull over Christmas to see what other bargains have appeared.  Just think - no endless queuing for the car park, no overheated shops and no stropping from Ieuan outside Pandora.

Much less "Oh what now!!!" and more "WozNow".

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