Category Archives: lifestyle

Guest post: Best Ways to Play Together as a Family

Families that can play together spend more quality time together. If you want to strengthen the ties and bonds within your family, playing together is one of the best ways you can do that. This is a holistic approach that has worked for many families. There have been studies done to show that families who play together will be closer to one another.

If this is the type of family you want to have, learning more about the best ways to play together as a family is a great idea. However, before doing so, there are a couple more things to note. First, there are so many adults who are so busy with work and other responsibilities that they forget to take the time to play. Just because you are an adult, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play. You can have a great time, relieve stress, and bond with your family members through play. Choose one of these ways to start playing with your family today.

Finding Ways to Laugh More Often
Laughter really can be the best medicine for your family. Laughing helps you and your family members to decompress from complicated and stressful situations. It helps to prevent stress in the family. When did you last belly laugh? You know that full type of laugh that really comes from inside of you. Research does show that laughter helps to increase longevity. If you can find more ways to laugh with your family, this can help you all with so many things. Not only will it help relieve stress and improve longevity, but allows you all to connect with one another as well. Many families don’t like spending time around each other. This may be because they don’t laugh and have a great time together. The more you do this, the more you may actually enjoy each other’s company.

Keeping Things Simple
It is easier than it seems to make things simpler in life. When you spend time with your family, you don’t have to do something complicated and intense. There are many ways to play together and have fun without getting even more stressed out. You can take a small getaway to the local park. Maybe you can even have a quick picnic instead of eating out at fast food. You can make memories by playing in the river down the street, instead of driving all the way across town to a lake. Think of the simple things. Do you have trails in your yard? If so, you and your family can play in the trails. Make a tent out of sticks. Keeping things simple really is the best way to have fun and play together as a family.

Meeting the Needs of Everyone
Do you feel that everyone in your family is getting their needs met? If not, there are ways to make sure this happens. You can let everyone pick one weekend a month to plan a playful activity. Family meetings are a great way to get everyone involved in planning out fun events as well. Maybe your youngest child loves going to the park while your oldest loves playing board games. You can always play chess in the park or do one of these things every other weekend. Being positive around your children and making sure they know you want to meet everyone’s needs is a great way to teach them to care for others. By meeting everyone’s needs, you might just find that everyone in the family is happier and more content on a regular basis. In addition, you teach your children to take turns.

Spontaneity Can Breed Happiness
Some families stick to the same routine repeatedly. While routines are great for children and entire families, sometimes spontaneity can breed happiness. You can find many fun and spontaneous things to do. You can spontaneously decide that instead of electronic time, you are going to take the children outside to play in the mud. You can decide that instead of taking an afternoon walk outdoors, on a rainy day, you make forts in the bedroom. Being spontaneous can help everyone to loosen up and have a great time. You can also find new things that members of your family didn’t know they enjoyed by being spontaneous.

Letting Go of the Electronics
There are so many families that spend most of their extra time on electronics. When everyone is glued to electronics, you can’t truly bond with one another. It may be time to let go of the electronics. How do you feel your family would do if they didn’t have electronics for 3 hours, 1 day, or even a weekend? At first, they may not know what to do. However, in time, they are going to find other ways to spend time together. Your children may start playing together. They may go outside and build a fort. They may pull out those Legos they haven’t played with in months. You can join in with them as well. Letting go of the electronics is something that you may want to implement regularly to help everyone grow and connect as a family.

Taking Pictures
When was the last time you just got everyone together for some pictures? Maybe you snap a few pictures, here and there, on your phone. However, when you look through them, when was the last time you had a true family picture. You can take pictures of everyone doing their favorite things for instance. If your youngest child loves reading a book, have her pose while reading a book, and you snap a picture. If your oldest child, loves playing basketball, have him jump in the air with the ball, and you snap a picture. Taking purposeful pictures of the family can be a fun and playful activity you all do together. Let the children take pictures of the parents doing fun and exciting things as well.

Making Up a Game
Have any of your children ever tried to make up a game before? What did you do? Were you responsive to their ideas or did you put it aside? Don’t worry either way. Now is your chance to get more involved. Everyone in your household can get involved. Let everyone take turns making up a game and having everyone play. This could be a game that involves everything made up or they can change around a game they already have. You might just be surprised at the ideas they come up with. You can come up with a game that everyone has to play as well, even if it is a cleaning game.

These are some of the best ways to play together as a family. If you or anyone in your family is stressed out, tired, bored, or just need to have some bonding time, any one of these ideas can give you something fun to do. If you are worried your teenager may become a teenage alcoholic, these ideas can show them how much you care about them. You can use these ideas to help you create other fun ways to spend time with your family as well. What are you waiting for? Go and get with your family. Pick one of these activities and do something fun together as a family. Remember, playing is for the entire family, not just for the children.

Author Bio:
Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Patrick Bailey

Guest post by Patrick Bailey

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Guest post: Growing Up Green

Growing Up Green: The Importance of Teaching Your Children About Sustainability

Children are naturally drawn to their environment. They see the world as one big playground to explore and experience, but it’s up to the adults around them to show them their roles as stewards of the earth. It’s our duty to teach them good practices that could eventually form into habits. Teaching children about keeping the earth in good shape when they’re young is the best way to ensure that they grow into environmentally conscious adults. Something as simple as reducing plastic consumption is an easy and realistic way to contribute to green advocacy.

Why Teach Your Kids About Caring for the Environment?

What your children do today will have a major impact on their future. Previous generations, including ours, have made quite a mess because of unbridled consumption. For instance, the world has already produced more than eight billion tons of plastics and of that total, less than 10% is recycled. The rest ends up in landfills or oceans, where it can be ingested and endanger marine creatures.

This is significant considering that plastics don’t completely dissolve until after 400 years. That piece of plastic that you allow your kid to just throw out on the street? It will outlive them by five generations. So, how do you teach your kids the importance of going green? Here are a few simple tips to follow.

  1. Start green education early

According to House Method, you should introduce your child to plastic alternatives early on. Instead of using water bottles, invest in a reusable bottle. Have your child come grocery shopping with you and explain how you can pick vegetables and fruits without having to buy plastic packaging. The sooner you start teaching your children about the importance of sustainability, the more likely that green habits will form.

  1. Be a role model

Children pick up habits from their parents. That’s why it’s important that you instill in them good practices through your own actions. Let’s take the example of climate forcing – this condition occurs when our human activity forces a change in either the cooling or warming balance in the atmosphere. Instead of taking the car to the grocery store and contributing to this issue, why not bike or walk your way there? This is not only a bonding opportunity, but a teaching moment as well. Some other things you can do include stop usage of plastic straws, bring a reusable bag with you when you go shopping, and recycling all papers and plastics in your home.

  1. Make the conservation fun

Let’s face it: most kids would rather be glued to their mobile phones or tablets than help you garden or prepare that compost pit. But you can make the whole activity fun with a little creativity. For instance, when you go exploring the park or the woods, you can challenge your child to a game to see who can pick up litter the fastest. For composting, let them help you dig for worms.

  1. Visit the zoo or nature reserves

Children really fail to appreciate the importance of conservation when they don’t explore their environment. You can rekindle their curiosity by taking them to see wildlife or birds they haven’t seen before. Introduce them to animals at the zoo and show them how nature doesn’t create an anomaly. Everybody has a role to play and humans have the biggest responsibility to make sure that the gains we made in nature conservation in recent years won’t be wasted.

Teaching your child about sustainability is both incredibly important and surprisingly easy. It just takes a bit of creativity, dedication, and consistency.

Guest post by Kaytie Pascale

Guest post: Four Ways Your Behaviour Affects Your Child’s Development

There is no doubt that children are little sponges. Even though it seems like we spend most of our time trying to get them to listen to us and pay attention to what we ask them to do, they are there, absorbing what we say and do. Anyone who has ever turned beet red with embarrassment after our child uttered an unfortunately-timed swear word can testify to the fact that children are paying far more attention to what we do than they let on.

Recent research even confirms this, finding that our behaviour can influence every part of our children’s development, from social skills to physical health to moral development. While children often look up to celebrities, athletes, and super heroes, as a parent, you are your child’s first and most important role model. Here are four key ways that your behaviour can affect your child’s development.

Body Image
How we see and talk about our bodies can directly impact how our children see themselves. Children even as young as three can begin to develop negative body images, and although it tends to impact female children more than males, some male children do develop a poor body image.

As a parent, if we are constantly talking about dieting or complaining that our stomach is too big or our butt isn’t perfect or we are afraid to get into a swimsuit because we feel we don’t look good enough, our children can begin to believe that there is such thing as a perfect body and that only perfect bodies are worthy of love and acceptance. On the contrary, when we practice accepting our bodies and making choices becuase they are healthy rather than because they help us look better in a bikini, we are teaching our children to respect and honor their bodies and make choices to be healthier.

Substance Use
If you are a child of the 1980s or 1990s, you likely remember the famous anti-drug PSA where a father is asking his son where he learned to do drugs. The son looks into his father’s eyes and says “I learned it from watching you”. Whether we like it or not, our children’s decision to smoke, drink, or use drugs is intricately tied to our decision to use those substances. Addiction is generational and children of parents with substance abuse disorders tend to use drugs as teenagers or adults. Likewise, parents who don’t smoke, drink or use drugs send the message to their children that life can be enjoyed without using dangerous substances.

If you do happen to suffer from drug abuse or alcoholism, the best thing you can do for you and your child is to seek help. In doing so, not only will you save your own life, but you will be able to be a better parent. In addition, you will be a great role model for your child, showing them that sometimes we face hard things in life but we can make the choice to work hard and overcome obstacles. You will also show them that mistakes don’t define you – it is what you do to overcome them that will.

Work Ethic
Researchers from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business found that the single most significant factor in determining our work ethic is the work ethic of our parents. Children who see their parents as hard-working, able to solve problems, and in a career they love learn to see work as fulfilling and meaningful. They also learn to solve problems using critical thinking and hard work rather than assuming that difficult problems just can’t be solved.

Likewise, parents that complain about their jobs day in and day out or who tend to back out of committments teach their children that hard work is a hassle, something to dislike, or perhaps even something to avoid altogether.

Kindness and Manners
Finally, as the key people in our children’s lives, we are responsible for teaching our children how to interact with those around us. Parents who are aggressive or violent in their relationships teach children to respond to others similarly. Likewise, children learn to respect others by watching their parents. Moreover, children learn who is worthy of respect by watching their parents. If you treat your restaurant servers, trash collectors, the person in a wheelchair at the store, and the homeless man on the street with kindness and respect, your children will learn that all people have value and are worthy of respect. If you yell at a server because your order is wrong or use hateful language to describe a religion, disability, culture, sexual orientation, or way of life, children will grow up replicating that behaviour.

As you can see, your behaviour has an important impact on your children and the way they navigate the world. This is good news though – if we want our children to do good in the world, we have the power to model that behaviour for them. When we look at our children, we can truly “be the change you want to see in the world”.

Author Bio:

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Patrick Bailey

Guest post by Patrick Bailey

Free From Fellows sweets review and giveaway

For the last few years, I have become more aware of how bad sugar can be for us. It is known to be one of the worst foods for a variety of common diseases like arthritis, cancer and autism. I enjoy sweet treats far too much to eliminate them, but I do try my best now to reduce my sugar intake. I’m now buying less refined sugar and opting to purchase the likes of date sugar or coconut sugar instead. I’ve made a few little changes like always having fruit with my porridge instead of sugar and sometimes opting for something like a cheese scone or slice of fruit bread rather than cake.

Now although I feel like I personally am gradually winning the battle against sugar, it is a different story when it comes to my youngest son. He is such a fussy eater and so skinny compared to his brother, but he does have a sweet tooth. So we do have sweet treats in the store cupboard for him to help himself to, as I don’t aways have time to bake and sometimes he rejects my lower sugar baking anyhow. And one thing he has always been partial to is the likes of Haribo.

Free From Fellows sweets

So I was delighted when Free From Fellows contacted me, asking if I would like to review their sweet range. They sent me 9 free packs of their sweets along with a Utopia preserving jar. I used this to make a very retro look sweets jar. It looked just like a mini version of what I fondly remember being stocked at the sweet shop when I was a child. I particularly have fond memories of counting out chocolate mice from such a jar.

Free From Fellows sweets

The range includes the following six varieties.
Gummy Bears
Cola Bottles
Midget Gems
Rhubarb & Custard
Pear Drops
Lollipops (packet contains cola and strawberry flavours)

Their sweets are sugar free, gelatine free, gluten free and have no artificial colours or flavours. They are also suitable for vegans which is great as so often gummy sweets can contain pork gelatine. Apart from the lollipops packet which was 60g or 5 lollys, the other packets were all 70g each. All the packets were very long-dated to 2020.

However when I looked at the packets, I found they did contain other sweeteners instead of sugar. The 3 gummy varieties contain maltitol syrup and steviol glycosides whilst the lollipops contain isomalt and steviol glycosides, and the other 2 hard sweet varieties contain isomalt and sucralose. This reminded me that I had planned to do some research into sugar substitutes a while ago, but this is still outstanding.

Free From Fellows sweets

With all the choice of sweets in the jar, the boys took their time choosing which variety to try first. But once they had tried them all, everything got the thumbs up. And I have to say I’m struggling to decide whether cola bottles or rhubarb & custard is my favourite.

Free From Fellows sweets

Free From Fellows are stocked both in-store and online at Sainsburys, Morrisons, Ocado and Boots plus many smaller health food stores. I was just browsing in a small independent store called Honest To Goodness last week whilst on holiday and spotted all the varieties on the shelf there.

However one thing that was a shame was the packaging. Not only was it plastic packets, but the pear drops, rhubarb & custard and lollipops were all individually packed in plastic again inside the outer plastic packet, so an unnecessary double layer of plastic. How about considering compostable packets like a few brands are starting to move towards? Or since they were keen for me to use a jar, how about selling them in jars in the first place?

Free From Fellows sweets

One word of caution though. However tasty they are, don’t eat too many at one time. There is a little word of warning on the back of the packet that if eaten in large quantities, the sweets can occasionally give some an upset tummy.

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway 12 packs of sweets from Free From Fellows to one lucky winner. That will be 2 packs of each variety. What a sweet treat of a prize.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear about your favourite reduced sugar treats. Or perhaps you have an idea to share for an addition to the Free From Fellows range?

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Disclosure. This post is a review of products I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.

Homemade sugar-free Cranberry Sauce

Over the last few months I’ve been trying to reduce my sugar intake, but of course that is going to be much more difficult over the Christmas period with all the tempting seasonal goodies. I wrote a note on my amazon wishlist, requesting everyone to not buy me any sweet treats, as I usually seem to end up with a lot of fudge and chocolate gifts for Christmas. I am hoping they respect my request. I still plan to indulge on Xmas pud, mince pies and Xmas cake, all with the regular sugar hit. I’m not ready to skip sugar entirely.

In the past, I’ve always bought a jar of cranberry sauce, but I took a look at the listed ingredients and saw it was only 45% cranberries, with the second highest ingredient being sugar followed by water. So I put it back on the shelf, thinking it was one trimming we could skip.

However when I spotted fresh cranberries for sale at our local farm shop, I thought why not give them a try. Son2 immediately asked for one, as he is very fond of dried cranberries, so I gave him one before trying myself. Big mistake, as we found they are quite bitter raw. I was quite surprised and checked our dried cranberry packet for comparison, at which point I discovered that those are sweetened with apple juice concentrate. I never realised that before.

So I knew that I would need to sweeten the cranberries with something, but not sugar. So the following is the recipe I came up with.


Sugar free cranberry sauce

Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

200g cranberries
zest and juice of 1 large orange
30g agave nectar

Method

Wash the cranberries.
Grate the zest of the orange and squeeze the juice.
Add all ingredients to a saucepan.
Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Heat gently for about 5 more minutes until all the cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened.
Allow to cool.
Serve with turkey.

Sugar free cranberry sauce

This can be made ahead of schedule and will keep for a few days in the fridge. It can even be frozen and then defrosted.

It tasted delicious, with the orange flavour really complimenting the cranberries. So much nicer than a shop-bought jar. Pity that fresh cranberries are only seen in the shops at this time of year, as this sauce would make an ideal substitute for jam.

I’d love to hear what food preparations you do ahead of Christmas?

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Guest post: Common Keto Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

I understand, it’s hard for you to gauge your progress when you’ve only followed the ketogenic diet for a week or two, or even a whole month. The magic happens internally, and the only way for you to record your progress is using the weighing scale or measuring parts of your body (and how you feel too, to an extent).

A lot of beginner’s screw things up at the beginning once they realize things aren’t as straightforward as it was thought to be.

Here are some common keto mistakes beginners make and how YOU should avoid them, so your keto journey doesn’t have to go through hiccups and you can maintain your ketosis stage.

Obsessing over the scale!!!

If you’re stepping on the scale when you wake up, before lunch, after lunch, and after dinner, then STOP! This obsession will only lead to disappointment. Your weight changes throughout the day, especially after meals.

When you’re frequently disappointed, you’ll start to self-doubt that may lead you to throwing in the towel.

Sure, you’re on a low-carb diet … But you really think your weight isn’t gonna change after a meal? Be reasonable!

Woman on weighing scale

Photo source: https://pixabay.com/ (Creative Commons license)

The best time to step on the scale is the morning when you wake up. If possible, every morning, around the same time for consistency. Keep it fair to yourself, and don’t fret too much about the digits on the scale! Write down what you see every morning for the next few weeks.

Once you see a pattern emerging, you’ll thank yourself for doing this.

Too much meat, bro

Yeap, too much protein can be counter-productive for you in a keto diet. When you’re in a low-carb diet, your liver can convert amino acids into glucose for energy, in a process called gluconeogenesis. Fancy, huh?

Remember, the point of entering ketosis is to prevent the body from using glucose as a main energy source. The protein you consume should only be enough to maintain muscle mass.

You should be keeping your daily protein intake below or at 1 gram of protein per day, per kg of body weight. So, if you weight 60 kilograms (133lbs.), keep your protein at 60 grams a day.

A good place to estimate your keto macronutrient needs that suit your goals is by using a keto macro calculator (like this one from Perfect Keto.)

The wrong mentality

A lot of people start with a diet to lose weight in a short period of time. It is possible, but you must be realistic.

An internet “guru” can claim that he lost 15 lbs within the first week of a diet he discovered (followed by a link to a course you have to buy), just as I can claim I have found the eternal cure to cancer. Don’t be fooled by these crazy marketing claims.

If done right, you can lose a lot of weight (2-10 lbs) within the first week, because your body loses WATER WEIGHT, not fat. And this too, depends on so many factors such as your metabolism, how active you are, and so on.

In the medium term, due expect weight loss of only 1-2lbs a week, and even a slower rate in the long term. You can’t get discouraged. Following a ketogenic diet is a lifestyle and a commitment in the long run. When you’re not there mentally, you’re gonna give in to sugar cravings and the hunger, which will kick you out off ketosis!

Taking the wrong types of fats/proteins

Keep your fats in check. Fats are a necessary part of a keto diet, but not all fats are good. Processed fats, such as hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils in junk food, fast food, and margarine should be avoided.

Avoid processed vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil soybean oil, and a few others.

The best proteins to take on a Keto diet are plant-based proteins, not to say you can’t have animal meats, though. Too much fatty meat has been linked to heart diseases and high cholesterol levels. You should not follow a ketogenic diet just to lose weight, but to have a healthier life in the long run.

Keto protein supplements are a great way for you to meet your protein needs when it’s not convenient for you’re a strict-protein diet.

Take-Home Message

To every keto beginner out there, you need to have a lot of patience and commitment. Do your research, stick to your plan, be honest to yourself, and the results will come forth. As mentioned, you may lose a lot of weight initially, but don’t expect it to be like that the following weeks!

Guest post by Sarah Peterson
“Sarah is the Content Director at Perfect Keto, with a mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.”

Sweet Victory Products review and giveaway

For the last 2 or 3 years, I have become more aware of how bad sugar can be for us. It is known to be one of the worst foods for a variety of common diseases like arthritis, cancer and autism. I enjoy cakes and biscuits far too much to eliminate them, but I do try my best now to reduce my sugar intake. I’ve made a few little changes like always having fruit with my porridge instead of sugar and sometimes opting for something like a cheese scone or slice of fruit bread rather than cake.

So I was delighted when Sweet Victory Products contacted me to offer a free hamper of some of their products to review. They had seen my Zollipops review, which is one of the products they stock. Their aim is to help as many people as possible to change their relationship from High Sugar to Sugar-Free and healthier alternatives. This is exactly what I would like to do, if only I had the willpower.

Sweet Victory hamper

It didn’t take long for a beautifully packed basket to arrive which contained all the following goodies.
Virginias B-San white chocolate coated digestive biscuits no added sugars 130g
Diablo sugar free chocolate chip cake 230g
Jim Jams no added sugar milk chocolate spread 350g
Sweet Switch No added sugar Premium Belgian milk chocolate confetti 22g
Sugar free gummy sweets pick and mix 100g
Sugar free sweets pick and mix jar
2 sugar free cherry lollipops
2 Tplus+ immunitea vitamin tea orange and blueberry sachets
Cadbury highlights reduced sugar hot chocolate 11g
Cadbury highlights reduced sugar fudge flavour hot chocolate 11g

Sweet Victory hamper

So focussing on the individual products and starting with the digestive biscuits, which son2 was over the moon to see, as chocolate digestives are his all time favourite type of biscuit. I don’t think any of us had come across a white chocolate version previously. These contain zero sugar, and are sweetened with an ingredient I haven’t heard of called maltitol. We all enjoyed these. I haven’t done a direct price comparison on any of these products but I would certainly be happy to pay more for these sugar free digestives when I consider how quickly we get through a regular pack in our household.

Virginias B-San white chocolate coated digestive biscuits no added sugars

Next the cake. Once again sugar free and sweetened with maltitol and acesulfame K. I’ve not heard of this sweetener either. However I wished that I hadn’t looked at the ingredient list, as 16 E numbers sounded rather excessive. Luckily I didn’t look until after I had tried it. The boys enjoyed the cake, but I only thought it okay. Like many shop bought cakes, it tasted rather synthetic to me. I’m much more a fan of a homemade cake.

Diablo sugar free chocolate chip cake


And the chocolate spread. Jim Jams is a brand that I heard about earlier this year and have been unsuccessfully looking out for, so I was very interested to try this. Again this contains maltitol rather than sugar. Rather than just spreading it on toast, I decided this deserved a recipe.

Pain au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants)

Ingredients (makes approx 4-5)

250g puff pastry
approx 75g Jim Jams chocolate spread

Method

Preheat fan oven to 200 deg C.
Grease baking sheet.
Roll out the pastry.
Cut pastry into similar sized rectangles.
Spread a length of chocolate spread along one edge of each rectangle.
Roll each rectangle up from that edge.
Place on baking sheet.
Cook on middle shelf of oven for about 10 minutes.
Remove from baking sheet immediately and place on cooling rack.
Serve either warm or cold.
Enjoy.

These were delicious warm. We all enjoyed them. For a store cupboard essential like chocolate spread, I definitely plan to switch to the Jim Jams brand in future.
Pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant)

And then there were four types of sweets. Firstly the Sweet Switch chocolate confetti which look very similar to smarties. The product name on the website indicates that these are made from premium Belgian milk chocolate, but this isn’t particularly promoted on the packet, with just a small mention of Sweet Switch address in Belgium. Tasty but again I wished I hadn’t looked at the packet, as I was confronted by 8 E-numbers. No added sugars, but more sweeteners that I hadn’t heard of – maltitol again plus sorbitol and steviol glycosides.

Sweet Switch No added sugar Premium Belgian milk chocolate confetti

And then the sugar free Gummy Pick & Mix Sweets with all our favourites like cola bottles. The packaging advises you to refer to their website for ingredients, but as it is a pick & mix product, you would need to look at each sweet type individually. I only looked at the cola bottle page, which does show that they contain pork gelatine, so I feel that this ought to be highlighted on the Pick & Mix webpage itself.

Sugar free gummy sweets pick and mix

Wow what a lot of different varieties of sweets in this pick and mix jar. Just looking at it brought back happy memories of visiting the local sweet shop as a child. And just think, these are all sugar free. There are a few familiar brands like Werthers and Mintoes, nether of which I realised did a sugar-free variant. But mostly just dip in for a tasty surprise. Again you would need to refer to individual sweet webpages for ingredients, but you can request for a particular sweet to be excluded. All of Sweet Victory weigh-out sweets can also be purchased in 100g increments. With Halloween round the corner, these would be fab for Trick or Treat.

Sugar free sweets pick and mix jar

And of course lollipops. I didn’t get to try these myself as there were only two and both boys wanted one. However they said they were good. These are sold in packs of 10. Again more unknown sweeteners on the ingredient list – acesulfame K again, plus sucralose and isomalt.

sugar free cherry lollipops

Next for a cup of tea. This was very pleasant and apparently contains an immune boosting blend of beneficial herbs, green tea, fruit and 50% RDA in 9 daily essential vitamins; Vitamin C echinacea and ginseng. I’ve never really thought about tea in the context of free-from but according to the website, this is gluten-free. So does that mean that some teas contain gluten? I never knew. This is sold in boxes of 15 sachets.

2 Tplus+ immunitea vitamin tea orange and blueberry sachets

And finally the hot chocolate. This is marketed as a low sugar product, rather than sugar-free and is something I have purchased previously. So I already knew that I liked both flavours. However I just scanned the barcode with my food scanner app and found that they still have 3g (original) or 3.4g (fudge) sugar in an 11g product. That is not really low sugar in my opinion.

Cadbury highlights reduced sugar fudge flavour hot chocolate

After sampling all the goodies, I had a look round their online store and can certainly see plenty of other tempting products, including some which would make lovely gifts. I think I would like to give the Xylitol a try, to see how that works in baking. And I also noticed that they stock Real Good Tomato Ketchup which is another product that I have previously reviewed. I have looked for this in vain at a couple of local branches of the Co-op, so very pleased to identify an online stockist.

And I was pleased to see that delivery costs are very reasonable, starting at £3.55 for second class. There is also a reward points scheme. I am definitely happy to recommend Sweet Victory Products.

But looks like I need to do some research into sugar substitutes next. Find out a bit about maltitol, acesulfame K, sorbitol, steviol glycosides, sucralose and isomalt.

And I have an offer to pass on to my readers – 10% off your first order at Sweet Victory Products with discount code: YABM10

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a hamper of treats from Sweet Victory Products to one lucky winner. What a tempting prize bundle. Contents will be similar to those that I received.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear about your favourite reduced sugar treats.

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Disclosure. This post is a review of products I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge ad

So the boys are back at school and as usual the washing pile has grown exponentially. There is all the school uniform and sports kit. I just groan thinking about the sports kit. Why is there so much of it? There are different types of tops for each sport they play, so at least two get worn each week. The boys take it to school in trolley bags, as it would be too heavy to carry.

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

Luckily neither of the boys are that sporty, so tend to be in either the C or D team. This does generally tend to mean less matches against other schools than for the A or B teams. But even so, my washing machine always seems to be on. And of course, most of it can’t go in the tumble drier. I’m just glad it is still mostly sunny and mild, as once we head into November, I have just one word to say to you – mud!

Mud is the bane of my life when it comes to washing. Even if they haven’t slipped over and sports kit isn’t looking too bad, they need to take their muddy boots off before getting the bus home. And do they remember to put those in their boot bags? Sadly usually not. Instead the boots go loose into their trolley bags right on top of their school uniform. Oh dear!

This all adds to the washing nightmare. All I can say is thank goodness that the blazers are washable. The ones for their last school were dry-clean only. So I immediately signed up, when Britmums challenged bloggers to take part in the #ACEforSchool Challenge. I received a free bottle of ACE for Colours and a free ACE Stain Remover Spray to help tackle the stains.

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

But even without the mud, I still needed to put these products to the test straightaway, on the dried-on lunch remnants on son2’s tie. A squirt of the spray in advance of washing, followed by a capful of the bottle in the washing drum did the trick on cleaning it up.

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

Next test will be when the school jumpers go back on after half-term. I know that there are several paint stains on one of them that defeated me week after week last winter. Why do schools use permanent paint these days rather than water paint like they did in my schooldays? Will Ace be up to the challenge?

Britmums #ACEforSchool Challenge

About ACE

  • ACE keeps garments bright, robust and clean meaning clothes last for longer
  • Keep those colours bright and fresh with ACE for Colours
  • Tackle germs, grease and stubborn stains with ACE Stain Remover

I’d love to hear about your washing tips or nightmares.

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Disclosure. This post is an entry for the BritMums #ACEforSchool Challenge, sponsored by ACE. Get help for all kinds of stains with the ACE Stain Helper or to buy head to your local Tesco’s, Morrison’s, Waitrose or Sainsbury’s.
This post mentions products I received for free. All opinions are my own. This post is classed as an advert because of the requirement to include the #AceforSchool hashtag.

Soundiculous game including giveaway

Time for a family game and once again we have received a free product from Gamely. Having really enjoyed playing their other two games, we were looking forward to some fun.

Soundiculous game

I was very pleased to see that just like the other two games, Randomise and The Pretender, it comes in a nice small box, the size of two decks of playing cards. Always a plus point for me, as the boys’ possessions seem to be gradually taking over the rest of the house.

The game gets its name Soundiculous from the ridiculous sounds you have to make for the other players to guess. You are only permitted to make sounds, no words, hints or actions. The cards range from easy, through medium to hard, with potential scoring of 1, 2 or 3 points accordingly.

Soundiculous game

So yes I can happily make the sound of a train, but how am I going to convey the sound of a tractor, to distinguish it from any other vehicle. Luckily you are permitted to nod, if someone makes a close guess. And if you get stuck, you can try associated sounds, although the guessers can end up diving down a false trail, as I found when swapping from bird sounds to oinking for a pigeon.

The rules suggest that it is for 3-10 players and suitable for age 8+, with the aim to get the most points. When someone shouts the correct answer, both of you score but if at least half the guessers give up, your turn ends. So plenty of strategy, regarding whether to opt for easy, medium or hard. We certainly had loads of fun playing this game.

We’re out of shot in this video, to convey how it is the sounds that are key to this game. You’re even supposed to sit on your hands whilst playing, to avoid making gestures.

Soundiculous currently retails at £11.99 on Amazon and John Lewis. Great value in my opinion, especially if you are starting to think about stocking fillers. I highly recommend this game.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a Soundiculous game to one lucky winner. What a fun prize.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your idea for a new game.

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Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Preserving Photographic Memories ad

So the end of summer is now upon us. We’ve been away on two holidays to Spain and Edinburgh, plus had plenty of fun days out.

Throughout it all, I’ve been snapping happy memories with my phone. I always upload my pictures to my computer, but what happens after? A few get shared on Facebook or Instagram. Some get chosen to be made into Christmas cards or fridge magnets to be sent to other family members. And of course, I have my own selection on my fridge, along with our photo table mats and mugs. I even used to have a fab photo phone case, but haven’t got around to ordering a new one since it wore out.

What about the rest of the images that did not make the cut? Will these photographic memories never get the chance to see the light of day again, languishing on the hard drive or a USB stick? You might have a lovely picture of little Johnny at school sports day, but you couldn’t share it on Facebook for relatives to see because there are other kids in the picture, what with all the privacy rules.

So I was delighted to be contacted by Nixplay, who offered me the opportunity to review one of their digital photo frames for free. This could be just the answer.

Nixplay Seed Digital Frame

Nixplay sent me one of their Seed frames and it arrived in just 4 days. I was pleased to see that it comes in a sturdy box, and that it is available in a choice of 4 colours and 4 sizes.

I received the 8 inch blue frame. It comes with an attached USB cable, a remote control and a two-part power plug that allows the user to switch between UK 3-pin or European 2-pin.

However once I started the set-up process, the frame kept switching off at inconvenient moments. In the end, I put the USB cable into a different plug which worked perfectly, so the plug must have been faulty. Luckily I encountered no such issues with the frame itself. The instructions were simple to follow, with the main points being to give it access to my Wi-Fi and to set up a Nixplay account to link my frame to.

Nixplay Seed Digital Frame

I’ve only tested it with a few photos so far, most of which were downloaded from my computer. I also tried downloading one directly from my phone using the Nixplay app. I soon realised it was better to keep portrait and landscape photos in separate playlists, so as to fill the entire frame. The frame is easily turned between portrait and landscape as it only uses the cable for balance, no additional back support required.

Aside from the infrared sensor between the frame and the remote, the frame also has a motion sensor that enables it to switch off when nobody is in the room. You can set the time-lag on this, as well as the time periods. I set it off between 23:00 and 07:00 hrs. I couldn’t see any details on the instructions regarding the type of battery in the remote or how to replace that when necessary.

Nixplay Seed Digital Frame

The best part is the frame’s scope. A single playlist can contain up to 1000 photos. You can link multiple frames to the one account, so you could buy frames for other family members like your grandparents. Think of the benefit of a frame like this if someone were away from home for a long period, like when one of my sons was an in-patient at the hospital back in 2013 after his leukaemia diagnosis. Everything can be managed remotely, so all they have to do is watch. It’s great for keeping them up to date with the children’s progress, especially when they don’t tend to see them very often.

I could even use it for long-term projects like scanning my old pre-digital photos before the colours deteriorate further and loading those into playlists. It would be nice to show the boys some of the countries we visited on holiday before they were born.

Also, when I was a child, my Dad took all his photos on slides, but he has now gotten rid of his projector and large screen, which we used for viewing his images. So another long-term project could be to send those slides somewhere to be converted into a digital format and saved onto a memory stick. I can then upload these into playlists, which I can display on my Nixplay frame. There are lots of photographic memories that my parents would like to see again. We’ve even got some old family photos from the 1800s – just imagine watching those on a Nixplay frame!

Nixplay Seed Digital Frame

The Nixplay 8 inch Seed Frame currently retails at £129.99 / $139.99. It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, a 1-year warranty and free shipping. A great way to view your memories, in my opinion, as well as a fabulous gift idea!

Now I just have to work out what other functionalities it has. I’ll try uploading videos onto my frame next. I’ve even heard that you can ask Alexa to manage your frame, too Wow!

You may see more details about Nixplay on their website. The Nixplay digital photo frame range is available to purchase from their online shop or from Amazon.

I’d love to hear what you do with your favourite photographs.

There is a version of this post on the Nixplay blog here.

Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.
This post is classed as an advert because my content has been checked by Nixplay.