REVIEW – Method: designed for good

Guest post from Bee Richards

On my way out to buy hand wash recently, I decided to check my post box. Inside was a parcel slip, and inside the parcel was some hand wash! What are the chances?!

This wasn’t just any old hand wash though. This was Method gel hand wash – designed for good. This hand wash has been designed by Method, the eco friendly cleaning products company, to help raise awareness for the fair treatment of animals.

Method hand wash cruelty free

Method believes that “guinea pigs should never be used as guinea pigs” which makes me happy, with guinea pigs being my favourite pet and all. Method never tests any of their products on animals and, better yet, their products are actually safe to use around your pets. That means no excuse for any guinea pigs not washing their hands after they’ve been to the toilet.

As well as the hand wash being pet friendly and pro fair animal treatment, it’s the most adorable hand wash I’ve ever seen. The bottle is a lovely teardrop shape and is decorated with bunnies! I love bunnies.

I received the Mimosa Sun variety, and there’s a Botanical Garden scent available to buy too. Mimosa Sun smells gorgeous – orange, peach and lily of the valley are some of my favourite smells and they are all combined into this refreshing hand wash. It really does smell like summer sun in a bottle. It also made my skin really soft; usually most hand wash just dries my hands out and I have to put hand cream on straight after. Not with this hand wash though, as it contains no harsh chemicals making it great for your skin.

All in all, this hand wash is one of the best I’ve ever tried, and it’s against animal cruelty message gives you a happy little buzz every time you wash your hands.

Disclosure: I was sent this and other products to review and in return, Method is donating £100 to Cruelty Free International! 

Would you prefer to look slimmer or younger?

As much as I hate the idea of a society governed by looks, you can’t deny that most of us do care about our appearance to some extent, whether it’s simply dabbing a bit of a concealer over a massive spot or spending an hour every day on an elaborate hair styling routine.

(In case you couldn’t guess, I’m in the ‘light dabbing of concealer’ camp. Except I don’t actually own any concealer. Opps.)

I’ve always been ‘lucky’ though in that I have really young looking skin, partly due I like to think to the fact that I’ve never smoked or excessively sunbathed and have worn a moisturiser with SPF15 for the last 20 years, but mostly I suspect because I just have very greasy skin. Seriously, my nose is so slick it doubles as a lip balm.

(True fact. I saw it once on Oprah. If you’re stuck for Vaseline just rub a bit of nose grease on your lips.)

Bee has inherited the nose grease gene, and recently tried to bill me for expensive skincare products, but as I pointed out, I was technically saving her money on anti-ageing regimes, so it all balances out.

Check out the infographic below. Would you rather be slimmer or younger looking? How would you choose between moisturiser and Facebook??

Secrets Behind Beauty
Secrets Behind Beauty from
Sanctuary Spa

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post.

5 reasons why we love Lottie

Today I have a guest review, written by Kathie from Hungry Sauce. Kathie and I both LOVE Lottie dolls, but my youngest daughter is 11 and Kathie writes a food blog, so we teamed up, getting Kathie’s young daughter Em to put Lottie to the test.

Emma and her Lottie Doll

Have you seen Lottie? She’s lovely.

She’s a doll, but get this – she’s a girl. A girl, with a girl’s body, no boobies, no make-up and no weird teeny, tiny, foot-binding feet. And what’s even more amazing is she’s a girl who – and I know you won’t believe this – sometimes wears trousers. And trainers. Read more

Webloyalty Easter research reveals the nation’s favourite chocolate

Is Easter special for you? Webloyalty reveals how many of us will be celebrating this year…

How do you feel about Easter? Do you have a favourite Easter Egg or is it about something else for you? Webloyalty is conducting some Easter research and as part of it you could win ten Easter eggs to either share with family and friends or eat secretly in bed when no one is looking. Read on to find out how to win…

Easter egg competition

“Don’t get me an Easter egg this year,” Bee text me recently.

“Really?” I replied. “How come?”

“I’m trying not to eat sugar,” she replied. “Or dairy.”

OK. Well that definitely narrows it down a little bit.

Fortunately for Bee I don’t tend to buy my Easter eggs until about 5pm on the Saturday before Easter, so there is plenty of time for her to swing the other way and demand a two foot tall Lindt extravaganza. I won’t make the same mistake I made at Christmas, buying an array of expensive vegan chocolates in September only to have her give up veganism in favour of a diet of Burger King and Starbucks as soon as she got to university and had to buy and cook her own food.

When I was little I remember Easter, thanks to my Gran, who always got a little overexcited about gifts, being a very lucrative affair chocolate wise. It wasn’t uncommon for me to end up with a tower of ten eggs. Nowadays though it doesn’t really feel like so much of a thing – as a parent it’s tough to part with £4.99 for what you know is essentially about 27p worth of chocolate and a recycling bin full of cardboard.

I’m not alone. According to Webloyalty, 72.8% of consumers feel that Easter has become far too commercial, and cost is a big issue with almost two-thirds of consumers viewing Easter eggs as poor value for money. Interestingly though this is one area where we don’t appear to want to skimp, with 58% of us intending to buy mostly or solely branded Easter eggs. It seems that something may be lacking in the marketing of own-brand Easter eggs as just 33% of consumers agreed that own-brand eggs are the equal of branded ones. Nobody wants an Asda value egg do they?

The Importance of Easter - Webloyalty research - Slummy Single Mummy

Aside from the eggs, Easter will see lots of us heading off to B&Q or the local craft shop for some wholesome family fun, as well as cooking up a Sunday roast. Personally I prefer to save the space, skip the chicken and stuff myself with chocolate cornflake cakes and mini eggs, but each to his own.

What we are planning this Easter - Webloyalty research - Slummy Single Mummy

One tradition that does hold strong in our house is the Easter Bunny. Just like Father Christmas, I am a big fan of the Easter Bunny as he can do all of the hard work of buying and hiding the eggs, whilst I get all the glory as my children mistakenly believe that he isn’t real.

Seriously, do they think I have managed to get up ever year at dawn, often with a hangover, to hide dozens of tiny eggs in imaginative places? I don’t think so.

Webloyalty’s Easter Competition!

Webloyalty wants to know what your favourite chocolate Easter egg is! To be in with a chance to win the whole lot, just tell them your favourite out of this selection: The Webloyalty Easter Egg Competition. You’ve only got a few days left to enter, so hurry up and do it now!

Easter egg competition

You can follow Webloyalty on Twitter @WebloyaltyUK for more interesting research snippets and ongoing competitions, or take a look at other research on the Webloyalty Slideshare. More importantly, here you can find the Webloyalty Easter Retail Report in full – enjoy!

Photo credit: Nomadic Lass                                                                        

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post

Win a family ticket to Berkeley Castle this Easter

I have to confess that until we visited Berkeley Castle last year I had never heard of it. It seems strange that you can live so near to somewhere and not know about it, but there you go, I can’t be expected to know everything.

If you read about our trip though, you’ll see that it was an excellent discovery and I’ve been recommending it to people ever since, if only for the butterflies and the yurt cafe. (I love yurts).

Today then, I am very pleased to have a family ticket to give away to visit the spectacular Berkeley Castle over the Easter weekend. There’s loads going on, including life-like dragons and a Chinese dragon parade on the Sunday and Monday. There’s also a dragon egg hunt around the Castle and grounds, and dragon themed arts and crafts activities on all weekend.

Berkeley castle Easter acitivties

Berkeley castle Easter acitivties

Berkeley castle Easter acitivties

Tickets will be valid for any of the Easter weekend days – Friday 18th – Monday 21st – and will be available for collection on the day, so you don’t need to worry about the post arriving in time. The competition will close on Wednesday 16th April at midnight. To enter, just use the widgety thing below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 must-see English Heritage sites

For Christmas last year Boyfriend’s parent bought me an English Heritage membership. (Jolly nice of them wasn’t it?) I’ve been a National Trust member for years, lured in mainly by the cream teas, but had never really got into English Heritage apart from a visit to a castle with Belle on the Isle of Wight last summer.

Now though, I am a convert. This week my new handbook and magazine arrived, giving me the perfect excuse to turn off Twitter for a few minutes, make a cup of tea and read some real words on actual paper. You know, the old fashioned stuff, made of trees?

English Heritage

As part of my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40, I plan to visit every county in England, and I thought that English Heritage would be an ideal way to make sure I did something wholesome along the way, rather than just stopping in every county for a cake. I’ve browsed my brochure and come up with five English Heritage sites I would love to visit on my travels:

Stonehenge

A bit of a classic this one. I have driven past it a few times, and have a vague memory of visiting when I was small (although it could have been anywhere really – perhaps the stones just looked big because I was little?) but I would love to visit properly.

There is just something so magical about it isn’t there? Seriously, those stones are massive, how did they even get there?? Please do take a quick look at the video – it’s really short but just beautiful.




Sponsored video
Bolsover Castle

The East Midlands generally is the region of England that I have visited least, so I thought I should pick out a couple from this area. I was drawn to Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire as it’s described as a ‘fantasy castle of frivolity’ – ‘a uniquely preserved example from an age of extravagance.’

Well, I’m always up for a bit of extravagant frivolity as you know, so what’s not to love?

Bolsover Castle

Peveril Castle

Also in Derbyshire, I thought this one would make a nice contrast to Bolsover, as it used to be a prison. Call me morbid if you will but there is something very evocative about a ruined prison. Gazing out over the Peak District I imagine getting a real sense of what life may have been like as a prisoner – the vast, sparsely-populated landscape stretching for miles.

It hasn’t always been a prison mind you – mentioned in the Domesday survey, Peveril Castle is one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses. Pretty cool.

Peveril castle

Whitby Abbey

Having lived near Glastonbury for the majority of my life I have a bit of a soft spot for ruined abbeys and Whitby Abbey looks particularly beautiful. In fact, its gothic splendour is said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula – spooky stuff. There are even sometimes live performances, helping you to get into the Dracula spirit of things, which is always fun.

Whitby Abbey

Audley End House and Gardens

When you think Essex you might not immediately think stately homes and sites of historical interest, but Audley End House looks like a cracker and Essex is on my list of counties I’ve never been to. Reopening this spring after a huge redevelopment project, Audley End House promises the whole upstairs downstairs thing – showing the contrast between how different members of the household lived.

I always love seeing the kitchens and servants’ quarters in old houses as I think these create much more powerful, relatable stories.

Audley end house and gardens

What are your favourite English Heritage sites?

All images apart from the one of my cup of tea are courtesy of English Heritage.

National Stationery Week and child sponsorship with World Vision

You might not immediately make the link between sponsoring a child with World Vision and National Stationery Week, but then the talent of any writer is take two seemingly unrelated subjected and weave them together into a convincing story.*

Now I am a massive fan of stationery and love any excuse to buy a new pen, but in today’s modern touchscreen world I don’t often get to do much actual writing. One of the only times I ever sit down to write a letter is when I write to Eyerus, the child I sponsor through World Vision. I began sponsoring Eyerus after my trip to Ethiopia last year and it’s always lovely to get a letter from her – we’ve never met and yet she always shares such interesting details about her life. Child sponsorship really makes you appreciate how your money makes a difference to individual people and their communities.

Child sponsorship with World Vision National Stationery WeekRyman very kindly gave me a voucher to spend on treats to celebrate National Stationery Week – 31 March  - 6 April – so I thought it would be nice to share this with Eyerus. I bought myself a lovely new red pen to write my letter in (rather worryingly the same type of pen my Grandad used to insist on writing all his notes in when he was very old and forgetful) and I bought Eyerus a notebook and some coloured pencils.

Child sponsorship with World Vision National Stationery Week

Child sponsorship with World Vision National Stationery Week

Child sponsorship with World Vision and National Stationery WeekI’m pretty sure they won’t be celebrating National Stationery Week in Ethiopia but I hope that Eyerus gets as much joy from a notebook and coloured pencils as I do.

Do you still write letters to anyone?

*I’m not sure that is actually a writing thing, but one thing writers do need to be able to do is make a story convincing, and I pretty much convinced myself of that fact.

Disclosure: Ryman sent me a voucher in return for mentioning their pencils.

6 things to do on a Snowbizz family ski holiday apart from ski

I had quite a few people comment on my post about our family ski holiday in the French Alps with Snowbizz and say that they’ve never really fancied skiing, so not considered a ski holiday before. Now this might seem like an obvious thing to say, but actually there is potentially a lot more to a ski holiday than just skiing.

family ski holiday activities Snowbizz

It might be a little bit silly to book a ski holiday if you have no intention of skiing whatsoever, but if you are married to a skier for instance and aren’t so keen yourself, there is no reason why you can’t take the kids away for a ski holiday and enjoy all the benefits of being away from home whilst your other family members take to the slopes. I have a friend and fellow blogger who regularly does just that – her husband and children ski and she enjoys the time to herself, reading, relaxing and drinking hot chocolate. Sounds like a pretty decent holiday to me.

Here are some of the things that Belle and I recommend on our Snowbizz ski holiday:

Go out for breakfast

There is something about eating breakfast out that is much more exciting than any other meal. I don’t know if it’s because you have things that you would never normally eat at home, but breakfast is always one of the best bits of going away for me. I love hotel breakfast buffets and the challenge of eating as much as the possibly can (not really the point I know, but it’s included in the price, so you have to do your best) and in Puy we loved going down to one of the cafes for crepes. You can’t go to the French Alps and not eat crepes can you?

Go sledging

If you’re not a fan of skiing but still want some snow action then sledging is a great option. For starters, you are already on your bum, so there’s no risk of losing your feet from underneath you. (I say that, but Belle still manages it in this video.) There are loads of sledges available to borrow from the Snowbizz team so you don’t need to worry about taking one or buying one. Other standard snow activities include snowball fights, snowman building and snow angels.

Try a sirop

If you’re done with the usual soft drink offerings in UK pubs and cafes, check out the range of crazy syrup flavours in the cafes in Puy. Not only did Belle learn a lot of useful French vocabulary, but I got to have a drink that tasted of parma violets. Awesome times. It was such lovely weather when we were there that we could sit outside with our exotic syrups playing ‘Go Fish’ in just t-shirts. Don’t say we don’t know how to live the rock and roll lifestyle.

Eating and drinking at Puy st Vincent

Swim outside

The outdoor pool at Puy was open from 3pm everyday and if you arrived early enough there was a good chunk of the pool that still had the sun on it. You might not think that being outside in water and surrounded by piles of snow would be the most relaxing of experiences, but there was something very magical about having part of your body in warm water and the rest in the cold air. Belle loved the pool and we went most days. We made up several very entertaining dances and played a strange game that was either called ‘Rabbi Dolphin’ or ‘Rabid Dolphin’ – I was never really sure.

Go shopping

Although it’s a relatively small resort, (I think, never having been on a skiing holiday before), there are plenty of little shops selling sports and ski gear, outdoor clothes, souvenirs and sausages. In fact, our apartment had a sausage and cheese shop underneath it, so the delicious smell of garlic and cheese filled the air for the whole week. I bought back a rather extensive cold meat selection and now every time I open the fridge I get a whiff and imagine myself surrounded by snow. I also just had to add to my ‘adorably tacky holiday fridge magnet’ collection.

Snowbizz ski holiday Puy St Vincent fridge magnet

Watch a film or read a book

You don’t have to be skiing, sledging and swimming all day long you know – a holiday is meant to be chance for a rest as well. We had a DVD player in our room and the Snowbizz office had loads of DVDs to borrow, so we really enjoyed having the time to watch a few films and generally veg out a bit. Belle’s favourite was About A Boy – a Hugh Grant classic. If you wanted a more authentic French experience there is actually a small cinema within the resort. We spent a bit of time on Amazon before we went too and chose a couple of new books each for the Kindle, and picked up some magazines at the airport.

What are your favourite things to do on holiday?

Disclosure: We went on holiday as guests of Snowbizz – thanks Snowbizz!

 

The Tesco Mum of the Year Awards – why my life is blessed

Seriously, blessed.

I know that normally I complain about stupid stuff like car air fresheners and generally take the mickey out of myself, but I want to be serious for just a couple of minutes.

My life is blessed. Honestly, it’s awesome.

You know why?

Because I am alive.

And everyone I love, apart from my grandparents, (and that’s sort of normal and OK, even though I have dreams where they are alive and wake up sad), everyone I care about is alive. No one I know has died tragically. No one I know has experienced the ultimate trauma of losing a child.

I know it’s kind of obvious, but sometimes it is worth saying. Sometimes it is worth just taking a minute and saying ‘do you know what, I am so bloody grateful that my life is normal, and that nothing really disastrously shitty has ever happened to me.’

I am writing this on the train on the way home from the Tesco Mum of the Year awards – I wanted to capture my feelings now while I am still raw with emotion from hearing the stories of the winners and my cheeks are blotchy from crying. I don’t want to look back in a few days and think ‘oh yes, that was fun, I got to mess about taking selfies with Gail from Coronation Street’, I want to do it now, when I have been consumed with that feeling of wanted to ACT. I want to contact every Tesco Mum of the Year Award winner and offer them all of my money. I want to DO something. I don’t want to sit and watch stuff happening around me, I want to DO.

Tesco mum of the year awards winnersCan you even imagine losing your eight year old daughter and having the motivation to do anything other than sit in a dark room drinking gin? Laura Young did. Laura started a charity – the Teapot Trust - using art therapy for kids in hospitals to make their visits not quite as crappy as they might otherwise be. Laura lost her daughter Verity at eight years old and it was Laura’s story that tipped me over the edge and saw me with tears rolling down my face when I was trying oh so hard to look cool and glamorous just in case the cameras were watching me.

Laura Young Tesco Mum of the Year award winnerIt was Laura that made me stop and think about just how fragile and precious life is and how easily it can snatched way from us, even though we take it so much for granted. We spend literally years building up these precarious lives around us, we agonise over ridiculous things like catchment areas, when what really matters is that our children are alive and that we can speak to them any time we want to.

Just think about it for a minute. Your kids might annoy you sometimes, but just think about what it would feel like never to hear their voices again.

You can’t really can you?

Please, if this post has pulled at you heart strings at all, please take the time to read the stories from the Tesco mum of the year award winners, to watch the show this Sunday at 6.10pm on Channel 5, (you might spot me…), and to think about whether there is anything, anything at all, that you can do to help.

Disclosure: I am a Tesco Mum of the Year Blogger Ambassador

Butlins announces a new (high)chairman

It’s just a few weeks now until Belle and I head off to Bognor Regis for our first ever Butlins holiday, so it’s good to know that Butlins take fun very seriously. This month a mini Lord Sugar was unveiled in Plymouth – three-year-old Sophia Jade Carr – who will become (High)Chairman of Butlins, road-testing their ‘Just for Tots’ breaks.

Butlins new high chairman

Launching this April, Just for Tots are little breaks with big adventures, where everything from the accommodation and food right through to the entertainment and activities have been designed solely with younger children in mind.

Miss Carr will be accountable for working up a number of recommendations for the breaks based on her experience, which will be implemented across all breaks moving forward to ensure these are curated by tots, for tots. Miss Carr will also be closely monitoring a number of key operations and putting them through a vigorous testing process that includes:

· Bounciness of the beds

· Cuddliness of the characters

· Splashiness of the water

· Slipperiness of the slides

Often being described as ‘demanding’ and ‘strong-willed’ by co-workers (parents), Miss Carr’s résumé showcased her impressive capability to be both professional and fun. “We are thrilled with our daughter’s new role,” sais Miss Carr’s mum Samantha, “we’re very proud she beat over 650 applicants! Sophia has definite leadership skills, often dictating to us as a family exactly what to do and when we do it.”

Butlins High Chairman

Disclosure: I am a Butlins Ambassador and part of my role, in return for our holiday, is to share the latest news from Butlins.