Monday, 2 October 2017

ChileanEasyPeelers Challenge

We try to eat healthily in our house, right from day 1 I had said that when Macy started weaning that I was going to avoid anything sweet and she always had water or milk to drink.  As a result she does eat lots of fruit and veg and although does love her sweets etc she actually loves fruit more 9 times out of 10. 

I signed up for the #ChileanEasyPeeler Challenge, sponsored by Citrus Fruits from Chile along with Britmums.  We were sent some easy peal mandarins, which are low in calories and fat and full of vitamin C, a rich source of fibre, folate, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Easy peel mandarins have a high water content as they contain about 87 per cent water. No matter how much you encourage Macy to drink, she usually forgets and you can’t think about it all the time, so picking foods with a high water content like these helps to keep her hydrated. I find that during summer we eat a lot of fruit.
On the way to ballet, a snack for the car journey

Our challenge was to enjoy a summer day out as these delicious little oranges are easy to pack up for days out and lunch boxes.  However, our stumbling block has been that since the oranges arrived it has done nothing but rain and Macy has hot lunches at school!

Her face lit up when she opened the box and saw all the oranges.  She loves the fact that she can go and peel them herself, they are so easy to take out with us as they aren’t messy and she can eat them on her own.  They are a great little snack between school pick up time and dinner.  She often has swimming or a dance class so I don’t want to give her anything substantial but she is usually a bit hungry, these oranges are great just as a little snack that is light enough before she is swimming or dancing. 

This post is an entry for the BritMums #ChileanEasyPeelers Challenge, sponsored by Citrus Fruits from Chile.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Testing the New Ecover Detergent for our Laundry

The only good thing about washing is climbing in to a fresh smelling bed at night :)
Laundry – sometimes I feel like all I do is laundry!  With a 4 year old who has just started school, a husband who always gets filthy at work, 4 cats (and kittens at the moment!) and 2 dogs it is never ending.  It always falls on me as hubby works weekends and this is when the school uniform normally needs washing.

I came across the #EcoverLaundry Challenge in conjunction with Britmums and signed up.  What Ecover say about their new Non-Bio Concentrated Laundry Detergent: 
“it delivers a powerful clean and features a new delightful naturally-inspired fragrance, Lavender & Sandalwood. From your baby’s first wash to the average bedding load, this dermatologically tested, plant-based Non-Bio formula delivers spotlessly clean results, even on a cold wash.  Pioneering a greener clean since 1979, Ecover’s new Non-Bio formula is now even tougher on stains, but just as kind on sensitive skin and is now Mumsnet rated* (with 89% of Mumsnet raters saying they would recommend to a friend), making it the perfect partner for all the family, as well as the planet. You can find Ecover on Twitter at @EcoverUK, and on Instagram at @Ecover_UK.”

When I look for a detergent I must admit I tend to usually avoid liquids as the caps get sticky and I find I get it all on my hands, so I tend to go for a powder as I find it less messy.  I want a detergent that cleans well and I do love to smell that lovely freshly washed smell on clothes.  However hubby isn’t keen on a smelly detergent at all so we tend to have to compromise somewhere along the lines.

I have given the detergent a good test.  Our bedding is delicate and it cleaned this well, it came out smelling really fresh and that stayed for a couple of days – the usual detergent seems to stop smelling after just a few hours.  My husband also didn’t hate the smell so it is obviously just a very fresh, neutral smell.

Benji finds the washing more interesting than I do lol!
I washed some of Macy’s white PE shorts on a 30 degree wash with the detergent and it didn’t get the mud off them so I did have to put them through on a 40 degree wash and it cleaned them no problem.

I did really like the fresh scent of the detergent and if they were to do it in a powder form I would buy it.  I do find I tend to end up dripping liquid down the bottle after using the cap for meausuring it and then it gets all over my hands.  I would recommend it to someone who uses liquid detergent though as it is good and the smell is lovely.

This post is an entry for BritMums #EcoverLaundry Challenge, sponsored by Ecover.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Eating Healthily with Red Meat

In our house we try to eat healthily, I usually do vegetables and meat for dinner most nights, the meat aspect however does tend to usually be chicken or fish most nights and sometimes a couple of nights we have red meat normally in the form of beef mince (always 20% less fat) in a spag bol or pastor pie.  I never really pay attention to the media when they shout about such and such being bad for you, causes this that and the other etc etc.  I believe in ‘everything in moderation’ so we never tend to cut anything out particularly and try to have a bit of everything. 
Recently there has been a lot of bad press about red meats (lamb, pork, beef) and yes it does tend to have a bit more fat, however you can still enjoy it with less fat – Tesco sell both lamb and beef mince in a lower fat option.  We have enjoyed pork steaks recently with a marinade and I have cut the fat off – I don’t actually enjoy fat so I don’t miss it.
In light of this the Meat Advisory Panel (an independent group of health and nutrition experts) has partnering with BritMums to promote red meat in the diets of children.  So the #HealthyRedMeat challenge was born!  Red meat provides a range of important nutrients that are often low in toddlers and children – including iron, zinc, and B vitamins, selenium and potassium.  I really liked the sound of the challenge as I do try hard to provide us all with a healthy diet.

Our trouble is getting our 4 year old to eat red meat – she just doesn’t seem to enjoy it, perhaps we should have encouraged her more when she was weaned.  Dr Emma Derbyshire (a public health nutritionist and mother) says: “Including a small portion of red meat in the diet a few times a week after weaning can help to bridge nutrient gaps and so help to maintain good health through childhood and beyond.”  I think Macy is just lazy with chewing, the only red meat she will eat is in the form of mince!  So that leads nicely on to the recipe we used, it had to be fairly quick and easy as I have a house full at the moment and work as well, so I found "The ultimate makeover: Shepherd's pie" By Angela Nilsen on BBC Good Food.

For the filling
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped
3-4 thyme sprigs
2 carrots, diced (total weight 300g)
250g lean minced lamb (we used 10% fat)
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder, made up to 350ml/12fl oz stock with boiling water
227g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
400g can green lentils with no added salt, drained
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
For the topping
650g Maris Piper or King Edward potato, roughly chopped
250g sweet potatoes Sweet potatoes , roughly chopped
2 tbsp half-fat crème fraîche
1 tbsp semi-skimmed milk

Heat the oil in a large, deep sauté pan or saucepan. Tip in the onion and thyme sprigs and fry for 2-3 mins. Then add the carrots and fry together for 5-8 mins, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to brown. Stir in the mince to break it down. Fry for 1-2 mins until no longer pink. Stir in the flour, scraping the bottom of the pan in case the meat sticks, then cook for another 1-2 mins. 
 Pour in the stock and stir until thickened. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato purée, lentils and Worcestershire sauce and season with pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 mins, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Drop all the potatoes into a large pan of boiling water. Bring back to the boil, then simmer for 12-15 mins or until the potatoes are tender. Drain well in a colander then tip back into the pan. Mash with a masher or, briefly, with an electric hand mixer until smooth. Beat in the crème fraîche and milk with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
Spoon the meat into a 1.5 litre pie dish and remove the thyme sprigs. Top with the mash and smooth over with a knife. Use a fork to create a ridged pattern on top. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for about 20-25 mins until piping hot and the filling starts to bubble around the edges. If the top is not brown enough, pop it under the grill for 5 mins or so until the mash is crisp and golden. Let it sit for 5 mins then serve. 
I amended the recipe slightly as I didn't use Creme Fraiche (seemed wasteful to buy it and use 2tbsps and leave the rest) so I just used butter and milk. I also put in some garlic as I do believe it has good health benefits. What I also liked about the recipe was the fact that it made use of veggies such as tomatoes, carrots, sweet potato and lentils.
This post is an entry for the BritMums #HealthyRedMeat, sponsored by the Meat Advisory Panel.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

How to Blitz Nits and Other Nasties

This is the first year Macy has broken up for summer as she starts school in September. She has been at nursery there since she was 10 months old so it won't be a big issue for her. She is excited at seeing her friends again as most are stopping on for school there.

The oppurtunity came up to review the new Mumsnet book 'How to Blitz Nits and Other Nasties.'  Described as "A witty yet practical guide to defeating the ten most common childhood 'nasties'."  

I thought it sounded like an interesting read and seeing as a lot of these "Nits & Nasties" seem to occur when they start school I thought it would be good timing.  

From reading the book I think we have had quite an easy ride so far as we have only had one bout of sickness which wasn't horrific and one case of conjuctivitis so far. I think we have got off lightly!

The book is a pocket sized (all be it a big pocket) guide to all sorts of nasties that may be likely to crop up at some point. From nits to sickness to tapeworm and even monsters under the bed I think pretty much everything is covered.
The book in an entertaining read and covers treatments available from the usual channels (chemists, gps etc) and also homeopathic treatments as well as a few 'old wives tails.'  It also includes snippets of personal experiences   from other mumsnetters.

It would have been nice to have the text broken up with a few funny cartoon line drawings I feel.  Would have made it a bit more light hearted still.  It is nice to have a book that makes you feel like you are not on your own, keeps it light hearted yet also gives you factual information to help.

It is available on Amazon for Kindle and Hardback for £8.99.

I was sent this book for the purpose of this review, all opinions are my own.  Thank you Mumsnet :)

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Henry Wag Microfibre Cleaning Towel & Glove Review

Rum (left) & Kite (right) - Our Testers

I love Henry Wag, they do some great products and they are a small family business who are passionate about pets.  Being part of a family business myself it is really important to me to support other UK family businesses.  They have recently gone through some re-branding and their brand looks fabulous, really modern, clean and minimalist. They were kind enough to send me a couple of products to test - a Henry Wag Microfibre Cleaning Glove and a Henry Wag Microfibre Cleaning Towel.  I have had them both a while as we have had such nice weather I haven't needed them, however today it was a rainy day and both hubby and myself were home so we could test them.  I have never had a microfibre towel, well I tell lies I have bought cheap ones from B&M and they have never been any good so I was looking forward to trying a proper one to see whether it works.  

Testing The Henry Wag Microfibre Cleaning Glove
The dogs weren't muddy, just wet, we decided to use the glove on Kite as she is the smallest.  She found it quite exciting and thought it was a bit of a game, she is only 8 months old though so everything is a game as far as she is concerned!
The glove has two sides to it, one a flat microfibre and the other has lots of little microfibre 'fingers.'  We found this a great idea as the side with the fingers really gets through the coat and dries it, you can then finish them off with a rub over using the flat side.  I have to say this is a great idea and so handy to take away with you or when you are going for a walk and using the car.  It really does dry them off perfectly.  Our only issue was it slipped off your hand a bit so perhaps a bit of elastic round the wrist?  However we do have small hands and the inside is split in two so you can put fingers either side and squeeze them together to hold the glove on.  What a great idea though, this will stay in the car! 

We used the towel on Rum as he is a big lad.  The large towel is a generous size and covered him well so I would think should be suitable for most breeds, it measures 150 x 100cm.  It looks really classy too in a grey colour with the edges finished in a light blue.  
This product is also brilliant, it dried him really well as you can see from the photos,  It is a really thick and luxurious towel, I won't be going back to regular towels ever again!
Both products look really smart and classy, the towel I will keep for home after they have had a bath or got wet in the garden.  The glove I will keep in the car to give them a quick dry off after a walk if we have taken them out.  I do think the glove is a fantastic idea though and would recommend both products.

I have not been paid for this post, however I received the towel and glove in order to review. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Rollercoaster Restaurant at Alton Towers

I didn't really intend to review the restaurant when we were there but having got back, lots of people have asked me about it so luckily I managed to grab some candid photos and a short video while we were there and here is a quick review.

We took Macy to Alton Towers for her 4th birthday, we went during the week on a sunny day.  The theme park was pretty packed.  I had looked online beforehand about booking the Rollercoaster Restaurant for lunch but you can't, only dinner can be booked.  We thought we would be in for a wait.  As it happened, we weren't, we got there about 1:30pm and were seated straight away, there were quite a few empty tables too. 
At first it sounds a bit complicated as you are passed an ipad to order on rather than speak to a waitress but you soon get the hang of it.  Each one of you has an individual number on the table and you order your drinks and food on the ipad via that number.  I will explain the setup (or at least try to!) imagine a flower - where the centre of the flower is the rollercoaster and there are petals which are the tables at which you are seated, each 'table/petal' seats 4 people.  As the drinks come down the rollercoaster they have your number attached so you know it doesn't belong to someone on another 'petal' as each rollercoaster serves several 'tables/petals' - if that makes sense?
Kid Starter - Veggie Sticks
The menu isn't overly exciting as it is still fast food at the end of the day and it is really fast service!  We had our meals in no time.  A burger meal was £14 which isn't cheap but I don't think it's a bad price seeing as you are inside the theme park and at a bit of a novelty restaurant.  The food comes down the rollercoaster in little tubs which you then empty out onto a plate (which sits under the rolercoaster). 
Quorn Burger Meal
The food was good, well it was a burger meal so nothing amazing but it was cooked fine and tasted nice enough.  So I would recommend it if you haven't been as it is a different dining experience.  Probably isn't somewhere you would go back to as it is the novelty of it that appeals, although when you have been walking round the park it is nice to have a sit down meal rather than queue at a burger bar.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Habito - The Digital Mortgage Broker

Habito is an online, digital mortgage broker, through Mumsnet they were looking for people to test their service.  As our fixed rate has come to an end we have been looking at remortgaging but we have also seen somewhere with some land we are interested in buying also however as that has a large acreage we have been told by a mortgage advisor this would need to be mortgaged commercially.
Habito say:
"At habito, we believe that getting a mortgage should not be a scary experience. Whether you’re doing it for the first time or are an experienced remortgaging veteran, the process should be fast, transparent and painless.

First and foremost you need to know how much you can borrow, so we start with a proper ‘mortgage calculator’ (we call it a habito mortgage illustration) which asks you a few questions then gives you an accurate illustration of what you could get, it allows you to change certain numbers and factors to understand which inputs affect your total amount and/or repayments.

At that point, if you wish, you can sign up and have a live chat session (or phone call if you prefer) with one of our certified mortgage experts to fine tune your application, find the right mortgage for you based on true cost, and submit it to your chosen lender for approval. And the entire process can be done in a few hours, rather than weeks. For free. And with no commitment or credit checks until you agree to submit your application."

So I logged on to - it was easy enough to create an account, literally email address and password, that is all that you need.  The online form is simple and inviting when you initially click through, it also works well on mobile.
One of the questions isn't clear which is the 'How much do you earn each year?  Please enter your total income before tax'  I wasn't sure whether this was joint income or just my income.  Husband also receives dividends and it doesn't make it clear whether these should be included. I only put my income in and once I clicked continue I couldn't find any way to go back a page.  I had to go back to the beginning and start a new process.  I wasn't sure about dividends so asked the question via live chat, they were quick coming back to me and advised it is just normal income without dividends.  I think they could do with a little button next to this with more info advising it is the joint income and without and other income from other sources.
When you get your illustration you then go onto a following page where you have to put further info in for both applicants.  Unfortunately if you do make a mistake there is no way of going back but if you do speak to an advisor they will then be able to amend anything incorrect.

Once you have completed these forms you go through the usual questions about whether there are any life changing events etc.  They also mention life insurance and work with Zurich to offer policies with about 6-10% discount. 

After this you have to chat (either online or by phone) to an advisor, their opening hours are: 
  • Monday & Tuesday: 9am-9pm 
  • Wednesday, Thursday & Friday: 9am-5pm 
  • Sunday: 12-5pm
I think it would be a good idea to have mentioned these opening times at the start of the application process as you would want to sit down and do it all at the same time, not get so far then find you can't continue. 

I clicked on start chat and it looked as though it was loading but it wouldn't connect. I then realised there was a little number one on the chat icon bottom right so I clicked on that which opened the chat but it was showing as being 'away.'  However I did manage to then speak to someone online.

I was a bit annoyed that two of the questions the mortgage advisor asked were already answered in my application and he wanted to confirm income figures but he had noted them down all incorrect so it just seemed like he had rushed looking through it all.  I advised him our fixed rate with Lloyds had come to an end and he responded with 'Llloyds will reward loyalty with high rates, so you have to get away from them as soon as possible!'  Something else that got my back up slightly as I cannot stand companies slagging off other companies - all they are trying to do is to get you to go with themselves and I think it is a pushy and disgusting sales tactic.  
Once the advisor has confirmed any info that perhaps isn't clear then the process is as follows:

'The live chat is the start of the journey, here is what happens next:
1.We'll research the market for the best product available for you (you can close this chat and don't need to stay online - we have everything we need from you for now).
2. We'll send you a ‘Key Facts Illustration’ (KFI) in 2 working days. We'll recommend a specific mortgage product that we think best matches your needs and circumstances (we'll send it to you by email, and you can review it at your leisure)

3. You let us know if you're happy to proceed to an Application with the lender(s). This will involve a credit check and we will need enough documents to confirm your identity, income and address.
4. We'll manage the process through to completion. From this point on we will liaise directly with your lender and update you regularly on the progress of your case

Please let us know if you have any other questions along the way - we're always here to help!'

So overall I fell quite negatively about Habito as I still feel quite put off that they were putting other companies down, I hate this type of sales tactic.  I also expected to get a list of available mortgages giving me how much I could borrow, monthly figures etc  I didn't get an accurate illustration as I couldn't include the dividends which are our main source of income.  It also doesn't give you any idea on monthly cost.  So to be honest it isn't something I would use again as I expected to get more information through without having to wait for them to search the market.  I can use an online calculator with Moneysupermarket and see a list of available lenders, their fees, interest rates, monthly cost etc at the touch of a button.  Perhaps someone who is a first time buyer and is searching the market for a new mortgage it would be a really good tool for.  They have  the backup of someone being there to help with questions but they also can start the process online today without having to wait for an appointment with someone.  If they could speed up the process and get the information generated like other calculator do then it would be a lot more useful.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher in return for writing this post. 

UPDATE 14.07.2017
Habito have since read my blog and will be rolling out some updates to their site which address some of the points I have raised such as being able to go back and amend figures.  They are looking at putting more info next to the income box to explain what figures are needed.

They have also said they are constantly training staff and confirmed that the experts don't work on commission so should have no need to push their services.  I am impressed they have taken the points on board and arranged to improve things. 

I have also since received a list of suitable mortgages, the rates seem to be the same as if I were to go direct to those lenders.  However they did recommend a lender I hadn't found that worked out better than the others which was Digital Mortgages (Atom Bank), I am a bit wary of using companies I have not heard of but they did manage to find these whereas I hadn't.