Friday, 30 November 2012

November's review round-up and a Girls Night In film giveaway!

We've been lucky enough to try out some new products this month and I've done a quick round-up with some recommendations.

Teangi tea tree range

First up, we were sent some products from the Teangi Tea Tree range to try out in August  very recently *cough* and although it's taken me a while to write up the review that doesn't reflect on how much we liked them. Tea tree is naturally antibacterial, a natural antiseptic, anti-fungal and also an insect repellent.

We've been fans of tea tree products for quite a while, and Tall Daughter likes to wash her hair in tea tree shampoo so the Teangi hair products (shampoo and conditioner) were tried out by her - and she gives them both a thumbs up!  The hair products are paraben-free and PH balanced which leaves the hair and scalp healthy and dandruff free; but also deters the dreaded headlice which don't like the smell. That's a win-win! We also liked the witch hazel cream and the tea tree oil and they're now staples of our first-aid box.

Lil-lets teen range

Tall Daughter turned 13 last month and Lil-lets sent her a lovely birthday package to celebrate her becoming a teenager. The package included a really lovely hot-water bottle for relieving those nasty period pains; a box of assorted nail varnishes; a huge chocolate brownie; and a Lil-lets teens starter pack.

It's a helpful little pack containing everything a girl might need to help choose the right products when they start their period, and it also included a little booklet explaining more about periods and body changes. Tall Daughter was pretty impressed and we've also had a look at the website which gives some very sound advice about becoming a teen.

Hotel Chocolat festive box

Next up, luxury chocolate brand Hotel Chocolat asked me if I'd like to review one of their Classic Christmas Collection boxes.  Erm....oh, go on then. Well, someone has to do it so it may as well be me!  The box arrived and looked almost too pretty to open, but I forced myself and found a gorgeous selection inside. I was sent the dark chocolate selection and if I'm honest, I'm not a huge fan of dark chocolate and some of them were quite unusual (which put my daughters off, but that's not such a bad thing, eh?) but if you're looking for a special box of chocs for someone this Christmas these might just do the trick.

Talking of Christmas, if you ever wondered what your choice of Christmas tree says about you try this fun quiz and find out.

And finally, a film review and a chance to win two newly released DVDs suitable for a girly night in. I've got copies of  Friends with Kids and Magic Mike to giveaway.

Friends with Kids is a romantic comedy about Jason and Julie, the last two singles in a group of 6 thirty-something friends.  After observing the effect having children has on their friends, they  there must be a better way and decide to have a child together while still dating other people.

If you liked What to Expect When You're Expecting you'll like this. It's pretty formulaic, but none the worse for it. Despite being able to guess what's going to happen it's still an enjoyable watch, and some of the humour is quite dark. There's a good ensemble cast including four of the main Bridesmaids actors  - Kirsten Wiig, John Hamm, Chris O'Dowd and Maya Rudolph (although I still can't get used to seeing Don Draper smile).  One thing I would say is don't watch the trailer before you watch the film because it will ruin the few surprise elements of the film.

And if that isn't enough, there's also a copy of Magic Mike, starring Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey, to complete the perfect combination for a girls night in. If you fancy winning the DVDs just leave a 'pick me' comment and I'll choose a winner at random next week. Good luck!


Terms and conditions: 
UK entries only, there is no cash alternative, all entries must be received by 6pm Friday 7th December. If the winner has not made contact within one week I will choose a new winner.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Guest post: Family Holiday Tips from Jo Whiley

Travelling with the family is a real passion for radio DJ and mum of four Jo Whiley, just as it is for many families across the UK: new research has found that over two-thirds (67%) of the nation will travel up to four times a year with nearly a quarter (23%) taking over five trips.

The research, by American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card, found that we are also a nation of planners, with one in ten (10%) planning their next trip whilst on their current holiday and nearly a fifth (18%) of us booking this within a month of returning home. 37% also like to spread out their pre-holiday spending, buying toiletries, clothes and other essentials four weeks in advance of a holiday. It’s no wonder we like to do this, with nearly 32% of Brits spending over £100 and one in ten (10%) paying out over £200 ahead of their holiday.

Jo Whiley, ambassador for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card says:

“It’s important to me that my children get to experience different cultures and see the world, so we try to travel frequently as a family. I have four children with ages ranging from 4-20 years so when I look for a holiday the key thing is finding something that is right for everyone, so we’re all happy and we stay within budget, as with six of us, the costs can mount up!

“For me, having an American Express Gold Card makes total sense - it gives me the flexibility to create the perfect holiday for the family. I get points from things that I buy every day, like supermarket shopping and petrol and can spend these on the high street and online to help with my pre-holiday shop.  I can also put my points towards flights or hire car upgrades and hotel costs so that we can treat ourselves to a few little luxuries on our trip, whilst keeping within our budget.”

Watch the video below to hear Jo’s top tips to help you travel on your terms and enjoy the ultimate family holiday.

Jo Whiley is the ambassador for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card, which gives you and your family the freedom to travel on your terms, with its flexible rewards programme. For more information visit:

This post is sponsored by American Express

Monday, 26 November 2012

Dispatches from the chalkface ~ Nazis, Buddhists and fried eggs.

During a lesson about the Diamond Jubilee, year 5 were learning about the Queen's family. When I asked if the class knew the name of the Queen's eldest son, Billy put his hand up "I know this Miss, it's Charles Dickens."


An RE lesson (for some reason these lessons seem to produce some of the funniest comments from children), and we are looking at the holy books from different religions. When we were looking at the Qur'an I asked "Who can tell me which religion this belongs to?"
Matt shouts out the answer "It's the holy book of the Nazis."


Me: Does anyone know anything about Buddhists?  Pupil: They sit quietly in a room and masturbate...

Image credit
Another RE lesson: Talking about the three Wise Men and their gifts for Jesus. Me: "What were the gifts the wise men gave to the baby?" James shouts out: "Gold, Myrrh and...erm....a fried egg!"

And just today, talking about the Nativity story. Me: Can anyone remember which town Mary and Joseph had travelled from to go to Bethlehem? I'll give you a clue, it begins with a N.

Joe: Was it Neverland? (At this point I did consider resigning....)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Guest post: Love and dates for single mums

So your first marriage or serious relationship hasn’t lasted, and you’ve now got a child to look after. That’s not necessarily a reason to stop going out on dates, or looking for that special someone to give love another go with. Here is some advice for single mums looking to get back out there.

Dating for fun

The idea that dating is merely a tool used in an underlying quest to find love is something of a misunderstanding.  Dating can be a fun, social activity which can boost your confidence after a break-up, encourage you start doing the things you once loved again and meet great new people. Don’t feel like you have to hide the fact you’re a mum, either.

As a mother you may be short of time and unable to go out as much, but that doesn’t mean you can’t date. Why not give online dating a go? With dating sites like you can find compatible singles from the comfort of your own home and speak to someone before you meet up with them – it’s the perfect way to ease yourself back into the game.

If the word of dating via the web seems a little daunting, The Telegraph has lots of great advice on everything from how to ensure your profile looks positive to what to do on dates. Remember to be honest with yourself and not to lead anyone on if you do just want some fun!

Looking for love

If you are looking for a long-lasting, loving relationship, that’s fine too (and using dating websites can still help!). The important thing is to really consider what you want from this relationship; what will make you happy? Don’t be ashamed of your past – you have to be completely comfortable with your relationship history to be able to start afresh, and remember there are plenty of other single mums out there who also deserve another go at finding love. You are not alone!

Make it clear from the offset that you have a child who is very important to you and there’s no reason a new relationship can’t blossom around them. Your partner should understand what their role will be in your son or daughter’s life – check out Supernanny’s tips on step-parenting for some advice you could offer your new other half.

Use your experience

Whether you want to try onlinedating in Belfast or you’re searching for a new life partner on the London social scene, you can use your previous experiences to be more aware of what you do and don’t like, learn from what went wrong in previous relationship(s) and use that knowledge to build a better partnership this time around. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


Yesterday the Teenager celebrated her 16th birthday, and today Tall Daughter turned 13.

Of course that means that I'm now outnumbered by teenagers in my own home*. Which reminds me of this very funny quote by the late, great Nora Ephron...

*please send wine.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Styled by Electra - Christmas fashion specials

There was a time, not so long ago, when I could confidently buy clothes for my daughters. That time has long gone.

Nowadays they say things like "Mum, you don't know anything about fashion" and to be fair they do have a point. So when I asked Tall Daughter to put together a list of things she'd like for her birthday (next week) and/or Christmas I was slightly flummoxed. On her list she had written 'nice clothes'.

Nice clothes? I'm pretty sure my idea of nice clothes is not the same as hers, so I really didn't know where to start.

Fortunately, help is at hand with a series of fashion tutorials by Electra Formosa of Disney Channel's 'Get the Look' fame. The 3 minute videos show Electra styling the M&S Christmas Kidswear range and showing tweens how to stay on-trend (and helping adults to shop for that age range too!)

They're all available to view on Electra's Youtube channel 'Electra Loves' including this one which is all bows. Tall Daughter also happens to be a big fan of Electra, so I will be watching and taking notes before I go shopping!

Subscribe to Electra Loves at

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Friday, 9 November 2012

Another Place

One of the advantages of blogging is that we develop a group of online friends and often those online friends become real life friends. This week I met an American blogger who was visiting the UK and came to Liverpool to meet me. Audi, from Fashion for Nerds, is a scientist from San Francisco and under normal circumstances our paths would never have crossed, but thanks to blogging they did, and meeting bloggers from different parts of the world is something that never fails to amaze me.

During her time in the North-west Audi was keen to see the eerie and beautiful art installation by Anthony Gormley.  Another Place consists of 100 life-size cast-iron figures set into the sand and looking out to sea. They're spread across beach covering a couple of miles and since their original installation they have weathered in different ways, adding an extra dimension to the experience.

So yesterday we headed off to Crosby Beach, taking Tessie with us and enjoyed a bracing walk across the seafront.

Monday, 5 November 2012

A quick round-up of scrumptious foods we've been enjoying this month

We've been sent some delicious things to scoff sample this month, so let's get started.

First up, The Handpicked Foodstore have a great selection of gourmet foods to order such as whole salmons, potted shrimps, luxury chocolate and a selection of tipples and they sent us some of their award-winning smoked salmon to taste.  I love smoked salmon and so does Tall Daughter. When the pack arrived we were quick to try it and we both agreed it was the best we'd eaten.

Unfortunately, the next day when I thought I'd have a bit of it for lunch there was only a very small piece left. Look at the size of the pack and then look at the small slice she left for me! I'm considering grounding her for life.

Even so, this is my idea of food heaven: smoked salmon, creamy scrambled eggs and wholemeal soda bread. Bliss!

If you're looking for a hamper for someone special this Christmas the trusty Lakeland website is well worth a gander.  They have a good range of hampers to suit most pockets and tastes, and I've got someone in mind for their Gardeners' Trug hamper.

We enjoyed their St. Kew Teacup Basket which included the most delicious Fabulous Oatie Flips! OMG, they are to die for! And the willow basket makes a very nice plant holder when all the contents are a distant memory...

Lakeland hamper

I very rarely make Yorkshire puddings, and yes I know they're very easy to make blah blah blah, but I just don't. No, instead I take the easy way out and buy them and more often than not it's Aunt Bessie's.

So when Aunt Bessie herself (we're like that) asked me if we'd like to try some of her new dishes we didn't need much persuading to be honest.  It turns out that there's a new range of products in the freezer cabinets now, including gravy, stuffing balls, casseroles, 5 new puddings and best of all according to my daughters, boat shaped yorkshires. Guess what we had for tea last night? (Followed by Aunt Bessie's apple pie and custard.) Just what's needed on a cold November evening.

Disclosure: I received free samples of these items for review purposes, however the words and opinions are my own. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The November garden: jewel colours

November seems to be about clearing old leaves, cutting back and pruning and although colour is limited there are still some stunning jewel colours to be found.

I mentioned last month that hebes are amongst my favourite plants, and this one is new. It's called Wild Romance and is a really striking purple.

I'm still a relative newcomer to all this, so I've been watching Gardeners' World and looking in a couple of gardening books for lists of things to do at this time of year. As per Monty Don's advice I've cut back all the crocosmia and put my Cosmos Chocca Mocca into a pot and placed it on an inside window-sill to protect it from the frost.  The lavenders, which were glorious this year, needed a good haircut which I've done while keeping the dome shape they held all summer. I'm not even sure if I should have cut them back even further, but I've taken them back to the wood and I hope that'll do.

Apart from that I've been a bit gung-ho with the secateurs and pruning shears and have cut back some, as yet, unidentified shrubs. I also dug up part of a huge fern which had dominated a border - but as I don't have anything to replace the whole thing I've left part of it in the ground for now.  Ferns are not my favourite plants so I don't imagine it'll still be there next year.

I've still got three packs of tulip bulbs to plant, and more pruning to be done, but I'm going to have to try and identify some of the shrubs before I start hacking them back. I don't want to do more damage than good.

I'm still trying to get the hang of this gardening lark, but I'm enjoying it.