Exploring the Mediterranean with Larry Lamb

When Husband and I were planning our wedding, we narrowed it down to two choices; one was the Maldives and the other was a cruise. Ultimately, the Maldives won, but we’ve both still got our hearts set on a cruise one day in the future. One of the things which we love about the idea of a cruise is being able to stop at several different places to see cities along the way, experiencing a different culture at each port. Just recently, Thomson Cruises challenged Larry Lamb to explore the Mediterranean to meet some new “Cruise Mates” – watch this video to see how he got on at one of his stops!

Ibiza is somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit for ages, and although it’s got a reputation for being the clubbing capital of the world, it’s actually great for travellers of all ages, including families, and has some beautiful sights and beaches. Because the Mediterranean is so close to us in terms of flying, I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to take a cruise there, but actually it would be perfect for us because Husband is NOT a fan of flying and it would allow us to see so much more in a shorter space of time.

Mediterranean lifestyle and culture is so appealing to me; I’ve been to Malta twice and the main thing that I love is that everything is geared up for families. Kids aren’t expected to be seen and not heard and it’s completely normal to see kids dining with their parents at 9pm, rather than the kids being ushered off and evenings being adults only. If we’re on a family holiday, I want everything we do to be for the WHOLE family!

Something that Larry Lamb said really confirmed how perfect a cruise would be for us. He said: “I teamed up with Thomson Cruises to show that people aren’t restricted to just staying on the ship – there is a wealth of amazing people from different cultures and backgrounds that cruise-goers can meet when they step ashore at a new destination. Hopefully the films we have created will inspire holidaymakers to try cruising and meet their very own Cruise Mates.”

Managing Director of Thomson Cruises, Richard Sofer, said: “We knew that Larry had a love of travel and meeting new people – made evident by his ability to speak five different languages – making him the perfect person for our Cruise Mates challenge. It was great to see him really get into the spirit of the trip, meeting an array of fascinating locals who bring to life the different destinations that TUI Discovery 2 visits. We’d really love our holidaymakers to now step ashore, explore each destination and discover as many of their own Cruise Mates as they can, because we know meeting new people whilst on holiday is proven to increase our happiness.” Larry’s journey can be followed at https://cruise-mates.co.uk/

Can Creating a Will Save You Money?

moneyDo you have a will? Discussing or even thinking about making plans for your assets post-mortem has developed a bad reputation.

People consider a scary topic, whether they think it’s a complex, expensive process or because they don’t want to think about their mortality.

It is one of those things people will seek out the most tedious tasks to avoid talking about. However, if you take the time to sit down and plan a will, you’ll actually find it’s not as time-consuming or draining as you might believe.

Creating a will won’t only save your family a lot of trauma once you have passed, it can also save your money and inheritance from being spent in a way you never intended.

If a will has been created your assets will be divided up according to your wishes. Without a will, splitting up your property can become much messier and can end up costing everyone involved quite a bit of money.

Leaving your loved ones without a will to use as a binding blueprint means you have no say in what happens to your assets. Even if you have verbally promised items of your estate to individuals or organisations, without a legally-binding will Intestacy law will overrule this and determine who is entitled to inherit what.

So, can sitting down and creating a will save you a bit of cash? Absolutely. Employing a solicitor to help draft your will is a relatively small expense in comparison to what your family could lose or spend in court trying to secure your assets after your death.

The peace of mind this provides will last until the day you’re no longer here, or at least until you chose to amend your will!

Giving it to a solicitor to look over also means they can advise on potential legal pitfalls. Issues such as not being born in the UK, or having residential ties in another country could end up costing your beneficiaries and family a significant sum of money to resolve, taking into consideration the tax and administration issues involved and there are a number of other things to consider which you solicitor will ensure you take into account.

Having your will validated by a professional can be the difference between your inheritance being spent on legal fees or used to benefit those who matter most to you.

So, you’ve made a will, you’re happy with who’s inheriting what, that’s it right? No, you need to revisit it from time to time. Crucially many people forget to update their wills throughout their life. Changes in your circumstances can invalidate a will, making it worthless.

You’ll need to update your will if you’re getting married, as this will overrule the contents of any previous will. Also in the opposite situation where you get divorced, you’ll need to decide if your former partner is removed, while welcoming a child into the world can also alter inheritance entitlement.

It’s also a good idea to amend your will each time you buy a new property or an asset with a lot of value. By doing this, you ensure that these items are not part of an expensive legal battle.

So, what are you waiting for? Create a will today and save your loved ones the risk of added stress and expense.

Is Your Vision Good Enough for Driving?

One In Three Brits Risk Driving Ban With Overdue Eye Tests

I’ve been a glasses wearer since I was 11. At primary school, our classes were pretty small, so seeing the blackboard was never an issue, but once I got to senior school, the classes were bigger and suddenly I realised that my vision wasn’t good enough for me to see what was being written on the board. I went for an eye test, and lo and behold, I needed glasses, albeit with a pretty weak prescription. My lenses have got stronger pretty much every year since then, until about 2 years ago when the optician said I’d reached some sort of vision-stasis and that my eyes hadn’t worsened since my last test. However, I still get yearly tests because as a driver, I think it’s massively important.

Vision Express has recently conducted a survey which came up with some, quite frankly, terrifying results. Here’s a video that they’ve made all about it:

New research revealed today by Vision Express has found:

• Almost 30% of UK drivers are overdue an eye test, with 4% admitting to never having had one

• Drivers with uncorrected vision which falls short of legal thresholds face potential insurance invalidation, a heavy fine, penalty license points and even driving disqualification

• On average, Brits will be spending almost three hours in their vehicles en-route to their UK holiday destination and will be travelling with three people, including one child

• There will be increased pressure on UK roads this summer with 50% of Brits families holidaying in the UK, compared with 38% last year

• Brits are more likely to have their cars stocked with drinks and snacks, rather than they are to have had a recent eye test

As drivers, we’re all spot-on when it comes to getting our cars MOT’d to make sure they’re as safe as possible, but that safety-checking should always extend to ourselves – if your eyes aren’t giving you a reliable picture of what you’re seeing, then you’re putting yourself, your family and every other road user in danger.

My ability to drive is something which is so essential to us as a family because of where we live; we’re 6 miles from Sausage’s school, 3 miles from the nearest shop and we don’t even really have passable pavements on any of the roads immediately around our house. In an emergency, Husband or I could cycle to get where we needed to go, but transporting ourselves as a family would be very tricky indeed. This means that my eye health is of paramount importance.

Do you make sure you have yearly tests? Are you as shocked as I am about the amount of people driving around with potentially poor vision?! Do leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear from you.

Keeping Kids Safe Online in the Holidays

In previous years, the summer holidays have meant that Sausage mostly just sees her friends on her birthday (which is in August) or if I manage to arrange playdates with her friends, by contacting their parents. This year, however, seems to be a whole different kettle of fish. Sausage is going into year 5 in September and seems to be growing up before our very eyes. She has her own iPhone, iPad, laptop etc, and so do many of her friends, which means that she’s able to communicate with them as and when she likes, within the bounds of when she’s allowed device time. We aren’t MEGA strict with her when it comes to devices, but we do try to get her to put them down for at least an hour before bed so that the blue light from screens doesn’t interfere with her sleep.

The communication versus online safety thing has been playing on our minds, however. She’s not allowed a Facebook account because she’s too young, although we do know kids of her age who are on there. Snapchat’s recent update has left us with security worries and we’ve got her account locked down because it’s a site which is well known for being an avenue for grooming. She currently uses WhatsApp or iMessage to speak to her friends, but we still worry about the lack of security with these; it would only take one of her friends to give someone her phone number or leave their own device unlocked for someone to be able to attempt to contact her and it’s something that is a constant source of worry for us.

Just recently, Azoomee got in contact with us to let us know about their new chat features and it seems like something which could be the answer to all of our worries. Azoomee Chat was built for children. It’s not an adult platform re-designed for kids! Key features which make Azoomee Chat best practice are:

  • Communication between two children only takes place if a parent for each child has verified the connection
  • There is no geo-tracking data
  • There are no group chats (which is where cyber-bullying begins) opnly one-to-one communication
  • There are no photos or face-time (we use personalised avatars instead)
  • There are lots of pointers in case a child needs advice
  • Parents have full visibility of all communication
  • Only pre-verified friends can see your posts

Every child has their own Kid Code; it looks like this: GF6D7XS2. You’ll find your child’s Kid Code in the Azoomee Settings screen. Your child can give their Kid Code to their friends, or you can give it directly to their parents. They need to add your child’s Kid Code in their Azoomee Settings. Finally, for an extra layer of security, you’ll need to verify the friendship – you’ll receive a notification to do this in Settings.

We’ll be trialling Azoomee over the next few weeks and are really hopeful that it is something which could work for our family and give us the peace of mind we need to be able to allow Sausage to use her devices without the need for us to be constantly looking over their shoulder. I strongly feel that schools should be offering kids an Azoomee membership and teaching them safe communication as part of the national curriculum as we’re only going to be MORE reliant on technology as the years go by.

Keep your eyes peeled here for an update so you can see how we get along with Azoomee’s new chat functions or head over to their site to get your free trial of the services.

 

Styling the New Me

I’m still nowhere near the end of my weightloss journey, but I have lost enough now to notice that many of my clothes are now miles too big. This was okay when the weather was cold and I could just wear belts on the jeans and chuck a hoody on, but now it’s summer again (or at least pretending to be!) I’m finding it a lot harder. A few weeks ago, I decided to get my summer dresses out and all but one of them hung off of me like a potato sack! I’m not keen to to go and spend a fortune on a whole new wardrobe but I think there are probably a few key items that I can buy which won’t look outrageous once I’ve gone down another dress-size or two.

The thing I’m really struggling with though, is HOW to dress. Since gaining weight, I tend to opt for The Mum Uniform which consists of a selection of t-shirts, skinny jeans and cardigans. Every single outfit I wear is some variation on this theme and while I’m not planning to get to a size 10 and suddenly start going out in hotpants, I don’t really know what my style even is anymore. The last time I enjoyed shopping and was even ABLE to shop in non-plus-size shops, I was in my very early twenties, newly married and child-free. Now that I’m a mother of two and in my thirties, I feel quite stumped.

For summer, I reckon maxi dresses are a good bet. Any that I buy now will hopefully be too big by next summer, but I’ve seen lots of people styling maxi dresses with a big belt, or even wearing ones which are really baggy, so I think that could be an investment worth making. They’re ‘girlie’ and summery but don’t bare loads of flesh which makes them ideal for school runs on a hot day.

I have noticed already that shopping is significantly easier JUST from loosing one dress size. Previously, shopping for an 18 meant that there were lots of places I couldn’t shop at all and my body shape made it impossible to find things which suited me. A few weeks ago, I went to a wedding reception and needed a dress. I was DREADING going shopping because it’s usually such an ordeal. I go from shop to shop, getting more upset and frustrated that I either can’t find anything I like or nothing fits me properly.

This time, however, I went to ONE department store, picked up about 5 dresses, tried them on and managed to find something I loved with just one trip to the changing rooms. It was probably the happiest shopping experience I’ve had in over a decade.

From now on, I’m going to try to keep a positive head on when I go shopping as I think it makes it much easier to find something I like, instead of getting into a funk in my head and not wanting to look any further. I may even take the liberty of using a personal shopper to help me find some items that I love at some point in the future!

What’s your shopping style? Have you had a body overhaul which has meant that you’ve needed a new wardrobe? Do leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear from you.

 

Top 5 Tips on Managing Incontinence after Childbirth

Top 5 Tips on Managing Incontinence after ChildbirthChildbirth is an exciting time and there are many news skills to master – and for some women, managing incontinence may be one of them.

It is a common problem that many women suffer from, mainly in the short term. In rare cases, it may be a long-term issue that requires further medical help to alleviate the systems. Being informed means being prepared and so check out these five top tips for managing incontinence after childbirth.

Tip 1 – Use appropriate pads and products

There is a range of incontinence pads in various absorbency levels that make managing incontinence on a daily basis much easier. Unlike sanitary towels, they trap odour as well as urine. They absorb the urine away from the skin, preventing soreness a common complaint alongside urinary incontinence.

They can be worn day and night, and are the ideal solution for catching accidental leaks of urine post childbirth. They allow you a sense of confidence in that embarrassing leaks are stopped in their tracks, great for when you go to post-natal exercises class or enjoy activities with your family.

Tip 2 – Pelvic floor exercises

Alongside incontinence pads, performing pelvic floor exercises several times a day help to combat a weak bladder. These exercises are discreet but incredibly powerful as they tone the pelvic floor muscles, meaning you gain control of your bladder.

The great news is that you can do these exercises anywhere, they are free and require no complicated or expensive equipment.

The pelvic muscle runs from the front of your pubic, across your body to the base of your spine. It is a sling like muscle and during pregnancy, is under pressure not only from the weight of your growing baby but also from a cascade of pregnancy hormones. It is under further pressure during labour and clearly, all that pushing during childbirth also impact on it.

To strengthen it, you need to tighten and hold the muscle for a few seconds and then perform a controlled release. Some people also suggest ‘forcing’ the muscle to relax as the final step. Doing this means that the muscles go through its full movement.

Not sure where your pelvic muscle is or which part to clench? Find out more here.

Tip 3 – Yoga

Incontinence pads and pelvic floor muscles are fantastic just after giving birth mainly because the pelvic floor exercises help you heal and the pads make incontinence much easier to manage.

Now that you have fully recovered you may decide you want to try something that strengthens your pelvic floor in the longer-term. Yoga is having some great results for people who suffered from stress incontinence – in other words, an accidental leak of urine when they cough, sneeze, exercise and so on.

Yoga strengthens and tones a variety of muscles groups, including those in the abdomen, the lower back and the pelvic floor muscle itself. There are various yoga poses that can help manage incontinence better and your qualified yoga instructor will be able to help.

Tip 4 – Train your bladder

Some people find that bladder training helps them too. This works with stress incontinence but with urge incontinence too. The latter is when the bladder has a sudden urge to empty, making it difficult to get to the toilet in time. If you can’t make it to the bathroom in time, an embarrassing leak could ensue.

Training your bladder means holding on between toilet breaks for a certain length of time. For example, when you get the urge to visit the toilet, override this urge by clenching your pelvic floor muscles and resist visiting the bathroom for a length of time, such as 10 minutes. Over time, you increase this amount of time from 10 to 20 minutes and so on. If you need help with this, your doctor may be able to refer you to an incontinence specialist.

Tip 5 – See your doctor

Incontinence can be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI) and so if it continues, becomes worse or you are in pain when you pass urine, seeing your doctor is essential. It is common for women to suffer from incontinence immediately after birth. For some women, it soon disappears but for others, it can carry on for some weeks. However, if you are still struggling to control your bladder several months after birth, see your GP or have a chat with your health visitor.

Incontinence, on one hand, is to be expected after birth but it should right itself within a few weeks. If not, follow these tips – which ones worked for you.

HARTMANN Direct stock a range of incontinence products, ideal for use during and after pregnancy, helping you to manage accidental leaks.

Top 5 Reasons to Use Dealspotr

DealspotrWorking from home might sound like I spend my day solidly writing articles, but in fact I have a number of different ways that I monetize my time. As well as working on social media campaigns, writing for my clients, editing and sourcing posts, I also make money through various third-party sites, and Dealspotr is one of them. Dealspotr allows you to find coupon codes, as well as allowing you to add them to the site yourself, and earning you money in the process. It’s a great site for a number of reasons and I thought I’d share some of them with you here:

1. Dealspotr Saves you Money

If we’re planning to make a purchase of something, we ALWAYS check Dealspotr for a discount code, voucher or deal. I’m pretty savvy when it comes to finding vouchers for things, but somehow the listings on Dealspotr seem to have ones that even a seasoned bargain hunter like myself hasn’t found yet! Of course, there’s not a voucher for everything, but so far, we’ve saved money on everything from pizza to days out to trainers and I reckon the value of what we’ve saved is probably into the hundreds of pounds now.

2. Dealspotr MAKES you Money! 

Setting up your own Dealspotr account is a great way to make yourself some money. Once you start adding the deals you’ve spotted, once they’re verified you’ll accrue points for every single find, and eventually this will add up to vouchers. Husband and I probably spend more money on Amazon than any other shop, so these vouchers do equate to practical funds for our family.

3. It Takes Minimal Time and Effort

When you add up the actual time you spend adding deals to Dealspotr versus the return, it’s actually really good value! Just a couple of minutes a day will add up really quickly towards your points balance and the vouchers you earn are on par with, if not more than the vouchers that you’d potentially earn on other sites of this type. Most of us spend time on our mobiles, tablets or laptops doing things to help us idle away the time, like playing Candy Crush or surfing social media. Take that time and dedicate it to deal spotting and you’ll be making your free time work for you.

4. Helping Others

I don’t know about you, but I really love the warm glow you get when you think about helping others! I’ve added a lot of vouchers to Dealspotr in the time that I’ve been using it and when I think about how many other families like us who’ve saved money or potentially been more able to afford something because of vouchers I’ve found and added it really makes me feel good. Dealspotr Is like a little community where everyone’s goal is to help someone else to save money and that’s something that I absolutely love.

5. Dealspotr Saves you Time

There are a number of ways in which Dealspotr actually saves you time; first of all, it has a higher number of WORKING codes (how many times have you trawled through, added a dozen different codes to your basket before any of them actually works?!) than other voucher sites online. It also shows you a screenshot of the codes working on the sites, giving you a guarantee that the code is working. This means that not only do you save time by heading to Dealspotr rather than doing endless Googling to find a legitimate voucher code for your purchase, you’ll also save time on the Dealspotr site because you’ll know that each code is the real deal!

Are you a fan of Dealspotr? Do you regularly use the site or is this something that you’re planning to do now that you’ve read all about it? Do leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear from you.

 

Helping Refugees Through the Hardest Times

I think we can all agree that the past few years have not been great for ‘feelgood’ news. It barely seems like a day passes between stories of tragedy, war and human suffering and it’s something which weighs heavily on my mind during those idle moments when your brain wanders. Some of the images I’ve seen on TV and in newspapers in recent years will probably stick with me forever.

I heard a quote, a few years back, from American TV hero Fred Rodgers and I find it helpful to remember when the news gets too much. He said:

“For me, as for all children, the world could have come to seem a scary place to live. But I felt secure with my parents, and they let me know that we were safely together whenever I showed concern about accounts of alarming events in the world.

There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.”

I thought of this quote again when I heard about ESSN and their new way of helping refugees. The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is a programme that provides cash to the most vulnerable refugee families living in Turkey. They can spend the cash on whatever they decide is most important. It could be food, fuel, rent or medicine.

They’ve teamed up with twelve European illustrators have come together to produce delightful new work to portray how seemingly mundane items, from toothbrushes to teddy bears, mean so much to a refugee child. The series of illustrations aims to promote the work the European Union (EU) and United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are doing with their ESSN (Emergency Social Safety Net) Programme, which helps the most vulnerable refugee families find their feet again. Here are some of my favourite illustrations from the collection:

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Work like this is SO important; the mainstream media seems to go out of its way to completely dehumanise refugees, to the point where people were totally unmoved by images of dead children after their boat sank, escaping from Syria. It’s easier for people to be unwelcoming of these people than it is for them to contemplate the suffering and misery they must have endured to make them risk leaving their homes. These children are no different to our own and things like a book or a teddy or a skipping rope are just as important to them as they are to ANY little boy or girl.

If you’d like to know more about ESSN or would like to see some of the other artworks which have been created for this campaign, do head over to the site and take a look.

Sweet Burritos (Camping Recipe) – #campfirecooking

When I was a kid, the vast majority of the holidays we went on were of the camping variety. The south of England is pretty packed with family-friendly places to camp and on years that we couldn’t afford a big holiday, we’d still get taken for the odd night camping here and there, which felt like such an adventure. Unless you’re camping on a  site with great facilities, campfire cooking can take some thought and preparation – it’s unlikely you’ll have refrigeration beyond a cool box (which doesn’t stay cold forever) so finding food which won’t perish without a fridge is essential.

Just recently, Simply Hike got in touch and asked me to create a campfire cooking recipe. Anyone who reads this blog will know that I’ve been eating a low carb diet for around six months now, but I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to try to make something sweet, decadent and TOTALLY off plane! Here’s my recipe for sweet burritos:

Sweet Burritos #campfirecooking

Sweet Burritos (Recipe) - #campfirecooking
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A sweet take on a burrito
Author:
Recipe type: Campfire Cooking
Ingredients
  • Flour tortillas (I used special ones with a foldable end)
  • Bananas
  • Mini marshmallows
  • A bag of giant chocolate buttons
  • Tin foil
  • Cast iron pan
Instructions
  1. Place your pan on your campfire or camping stove and allow it to get hot
  2. Tear off a strip of tin foil which is about the size of an A4 sheet of paper
  3. Place your torilla on the foil
  4. Peel a banana and place it in the middle of the tortilla
  5. Sprinkle mini marshamllows down one side of the banana
  6. Line your choloate buttons along the top of your banana
  7. Wrap your tortilla, remembering to fold the bottoms in first to create an enlosed pocket
  8. Wrap your tinfoil tightly around the burrito and place it in the hot cast iron pan
  9. Cook it for a minute at a time on each side, turning frequently
  10. You'll know it's cooked when you give the burrito a squeeze and it feels squishy inside!
  11. Eat around the campfire!

Sweet Burritos #campfirecooking

This is honestly the sweetest, most indulgent thing I’ve eaten in months and it was SO worth it! It’s the perfect dish to top off a whole day of camping and will definitely help you to drift off into a cosy slumber when you crawl into your tent at bedtime. And don’t worry about all of the calories, because you’re bound to burn it off with all of the walking/tent erecting/other activities you’ll do whilst on your camping trip! This recipe can also just as easily be made a home on the hob, so don’t feel like you have to wait to make it!

Do you have a favourite camping recipe? Do leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear all about it.

 

11+ Help for a Fraction of the Cost with Education Quizzes

Education QuizzesI’ve mentioned before that Husband and I have been looking into getting Sausage a tutor to help her with the 11+ and now that we’re getting towards the end of year 4, it’s becoming even more of a pritority. The main issue we have is the cost associated with tutoring; most of the decent tutors locally charge betwen £25 and £30 a week, which can really build up over the course of the month and it’s quite normal to think that would be well out of the budget of the average family, who usually doesn’t have that kind of spare cash at the end of the month.

Just recently, we were made aware of Education Quizzes, an online education portal which contains quizzes on a number of different levels, including KS1, KS2, 11+ and even G.C.S.E’s and the cost is absolutely fractional compared to that of a tutor. For just £9.95 a month, your child will have access to quizzes relating to the level they’re studying which are written by teachers and are intended to make learning both interactive and fun.

The site is totally advert-free, which is something that appeals to us massively. We’ve done our best to make Sausage super savvy when it comes to internet stuff and advertising, and she even checks all of the permissions that apps ask for before she’ll download them onto her phone, so it’s nice to know she won’t be bombarded with adverts while studying. You can also cancel your subscription at any time without any fees, which is also good to know.

It’s also possible for schools to sign up to Education Quizzes and allow all of their pupils access to the site with one membership – schools are offered a hugely reduced rate per pupil and they’ll have access to a whole new set of resources for helping the kids, as well as giving the children something they can use from home if they choose to. If you’re a parent and think that your kids’ school could benefit from this, I strongly suggest you put the idea forward to them!

I love the fact that we’ll be able to monitor Sausage’s progress as well as the fact that this type of extra curricular learning will be totally convenient for us. Not only do we live well out in the sticks (much further than most tutors are willing to drive!) we’re also usually pretty busy with something or another, but with Education Quizzes we can fit it in wherever, and whenever, we need to. I also think that the online aspect will be appealing to Sausage – let’s face it, most kids would rather look at a screen even if it’s for something educational, so at least we know this will hold her interest!

I’m excited to see how Sausage gets on with the site and I’ll update you at some point in the future. In the meantime, if you want to find out more about Education Quizzes, follow the link above.