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Skavi & Ray Alkoholfrei Prosecco and Lush Bahlsen Christmas Goodies

Thanks to Scavi & Ray, and also to Bahlsen for our Christmas samples.

Scavi & Ray Alcohol Free Prosecco

I have to say, that I haven’t understood the Prosecco thing.  I’m pretty much teetotal, but not through deliberate or sustained choice.  I’ve had times in my life when I’ve drunk alcohol, it’s just that it hasn’t been that often, and I rarely ever found a drink I actually enjoyed.

Wine for me, is a bit hit or miss.  I rarely drink it in company, as it tends to be either very dry, or to me, pretty bitter.  I’m usually a cheap fizzy wine girl when I choose to imbibe, as I have absolutely zero alcohol class, and because it’s rarely on offer, I usually say no.  I’d been quite negative around the Prosecco culture, but I hadn’t ever really tasted it, nor had I understood why it’s talked about so much.

Scavi & Ray asked me to try the Alcohol free version, so I gave it a go.  I also have to say, I’ve never understood the put the kids to bed and have a glass of wine thing that goes on in blogging circles. I’d rather have chocolate……  Perhaps it’s just the younger ones, but hey ho.  The times I do miss having a drink in my hand, is at the Christmas dinner table, or at New Year.  I usually end up having to drive, so it’s often fizzy grape juice, but you know how it goes, there’s often someone, who’s usually had a drink or two, and they’re trying to push ‘just one,’ glass on you.  It annoys me that they push, and it annoys them that I don’t take.

The bottles really do look like a real bottle of wine.  I received two sample bottles, in a perfect size, and immediately – my Xmas and New Year problem is solved on the fooling those who are drinking into my actually taking one.  Unless they scrutinise the bottles very carefully, they’re not going to know.

Tasting some of my wine, I realised it’s a sparkling wine, and is refreshing, almost as sweet as grape juice but it looks like the real stuff.  I have no idea if this tastes like the alcoholic version of Prosecco, as I’ve never tried it, but if it does, I understand why it’s popular.  I have also realised the attraction…..and it’s that many people who drank wine, used to pretend they like the other stuff…….   This non-alcoholic Prosecco is fizzy wine, and doesn’t have a name that’s frowned upon.  It’s also very easy to drink…

I don’t think I’d be persuaded to go down the alcohol version route, as I don’t fancy a hangover with my daily routine.  There are no days off when you have 2 people with disabilities in your house, and you need to be able to get up during the night when the need arises.  Available from Amazon.

Bahlsen Christmas Goodies

This type of Christmas food, is something else I hadn’t ever tried, so is the main reason for choosing to feature these on my blog.

Our samples were:

  • Lebkuchen Mischung – An assortment of spiced lebkuchen cakes with chocolate.
  • Mohn-Stollen – A Christmas stollen with a poppy seed filling.
  • Zimtsterne – Star shaped cinnamon spiced, hazlenut cakes.

My favourite is the Mohn-Stollen.  I honestly thought the crunch was nuts, but it’s the poppy seeds.  I don’t mind either way, as it was delicious.

The Zimtsterne and Lebkuchen Mischung tasted very similar to me, but with slightly different textures than I expected.  From the shape and size, I expected crunch biscuit, but they really are a cake like texture in the middle.   I believe Waitrose, Amazon, Ocado, Asda, Morrison and Tesco stock Bahlsen goodies.  The cakes tasted cinnamony to me, but my youngest is convinced they are ginger based.   I checked the packaging and I was right. That’s why I liked them, as cinnamon is my favourite spice of the season.

Sadly, I opened the Mohn-Stollen early afternoon, and it was half gone in less than an hour.  I can’t see this hanging around for long.

I hope you all enjoy your own pick of Christmas goodies when you go shopping this month.

(Affiliate Links Below)

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Review: Disney on Ice Frozen

We had the good fortune to be invited to Disney on Ice for Aberdeen, where it’s running until the 11th December, so if you want to see it, you better get your skates on..  See what I did there…..

As luck wouldn’t have it, we ended up being late for the pre-show, after I scratched my car.  Well, I wouldn’t call it a scratch, as I pulled off a side skirt on a friends fence and scratched two side panels.  I also ended up doing my back in, by pulling the fence away to stop more damage while I reversed, but at least it wasn’t until the next day when I really felt the burn.

After a horrendously long drive time wise, we ended up in rush hour traffic and missed the meet and greet we’d been invited to, which couldn’t be helped, but I did manage to snaffle the Princesses on the way from the meet and greet room, so bagged a picture for one of the boys to show their nephews.

I’m ashamed to say that it’s my first ever Disney on Ice show.  It’s one of those things I kept meaning to get to, but somehow never did.  I won’t make that mistake again.  I’m going to be finding every excuse under the sun to take my nephews with me next time it comes around.

The skating was amazing, and the intricacy of the steps phenomenal.  Despite having a car and friends fence to fix, I’m glad we made it in time.  At one point, I worried we wouldn’t get there at all.

The favourite part, by the reaction of most of the kids, seemed to be when the Trolls came out.  I have no idea why ghoulies and ghosties and all things trollish please children of most ages, but they do.

It’s the full story, live on ice.  And it’s not just for the girls.

There were groups of adults, plenty teens, and a fair few boys sitting around where we were.  Not to mention the two Aberdeen footballers beside us, who middler kept checking up on.  I’ve no idea who they were, but the kids did.

Disney says:

Whisk your family away to the wintry world of Arendelle as the entire heart-warming take of Academy Awared-winning Frozen skates into town!  Featuring never-before-seen characters, sensational skating and inspirational songs like “Let It GO”, treat your family to a dazzling celebration of love and friendship they’ll never forget!

The show is running in Aberdeen until the 11th December, 2016, and then onto the Sheffield Arena from the 14-18th December, and The O2 in London from the 21st to the 30th December.

We’re advised to arrive early to learn the snowman dance.

For more information and tickets, visit

On the way out, I heard someone say that it was “stunning.”  She was right.  It really is.

Disclaimer:  Thanks to Disney on Ice for our complimentary show tickets.  All opinions are my own.


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A Last Minute Break to Crete, and the Lovely Anastasia Hotel in Stalis

We’re just back from a last minute break away from it all.  We needed to do it as a family, as the kids school holidays were a challenge and finding respite for my  mother during the holidays proved impossible.  In the end, we took the boys out of school and scoured holiday websites for where we could go the next week.

We’d almost got to the end of a booking for Majorca, when two of the four available seats on the plane from Aberdeen were snapped up before our eyes, so it was onto a new search, and we eventually landed on Crete, after we’d read the reviews for the Anastasia Hotel, near Stakis, in the North of the Island.  We had to fly from Glasgow, but that was no biggie, since it’s only two or three hours or so in the car to get there.  For us, it was still a lot of money for a week, but a single week was all we could go for.  We’d not flown for 12 years, so it was a bit daunting.

Anastasia Hotel Stalis Beach

The last time we took middler on a plane, all those years ago, he screamed from the moment the engine started until the plane landed.  Needless to say, we didn’t attempt it again, and were a bit nervous about it.  Booking a last-minute holiday didn’t help, as we felt a bit vulnerable going out, wondering if it’d be a disaster from start to finish.

On the plane, he did well, although he nearly crushed my hand at the take off, but we got there just fine.  Choosing Stalis in Crete, wasn’t a bad choice, actually it was a very good choice for us, given we were taking along a boy with special needs.  On the last day, he realised he had an audience around the pool and went into major meltdown mode a couple of times, to the point where we left the pool to give everyone else peace, but other than that, he actually did really well.

There was only one running off episode where he swore blind for about five minutes, although one of the hotel staff gave him a telling off and that seemed to work.  It gave him a bit of a shock that people other than his parents and school can actually say something about it.  Littlest met some friends around day three, so his holiday improved no end from then on.  Eldest wasn’t with us this time as he’s just started college, but we’re hoping he can come next year.

It wouldn’t be fair not to mention the hotel we went to, and what we did, as we couldn’t have chosen better for what was a budget half board hotel, that showed three stars.

Hotel Anastasia, Stakis, Crete, and the Stakis Area

Anastasia Hotel Stalis Crete 1

Anastasia Us

As a three star hotel, we did worry a little before we got there, but the reviews were actually really good on Trip Advisor.  The hotel was small enough at around 300 people, not to feel ram packed in, but big enough not to feel empty and boring.  There are three pools, none of them very large, but big enough for the people around the pool.  I’d read about the sunbed mafia, but we didn’t find that a problem to be honest.  Any day we wanted a bed or two, we managed to find them.

Up to about day 3, people seemed to be sharing beds, removing towels when they went out etc and it worked well.  Around day 4, a new batch arrived, and the sunbeds were monopolised for a couple of days, but they seemed to back off too, when they realised bed hogging was pointless.   A couple of groups were taking beds for toddlers, which was a bit selfish, but hey ho, they felt entitled I guess as they were on holiday too.  I’d have no problem removing towels from beds where people don’t show, but never needed to.

Anastasia Hotel Stalis

The reviews for it on Trip Advisor were mostly glowing, which is rare for a three star, and we knew what we were going to.  With some negatives around the food and accommodation, we didn’t expect too much for when we got there, but it was fine.

The hotel lobby is plain and quite small, but it’s perfectly functional, and although my  heart sunk on the bus from the airport, at the entrances of some of the places people got dropped off at, I felt better when I saw the pleasant sign when our hotel was called.

Anastasia Hotel Stalis Crete Welcome MealThe Food

At reception, we were told to leave our cases, and taken down to a meal, even though it was after 1am their time.  It’s a really good first impression and a nice touch to have food waiting for you on arrival if you get there out of food hours.  The hotel is half board, and evening meal finishes at 9pm, so we really didn’t expect anything, even though we’d read on reviews that others had been given a meal on late arrival.

Plates of salad, some bread, and a small meal with meat, veg and rice were put down to us.  I think it was some Greek dish, but I forgot to ask what it actually was.

Although the hotel is half board, the drinks are not included for your evening meal, but bar staff attend your table during your meal to take your drinks orders.  For breakfast, there are juices, tea and coffee, but not for the evening meal, which seems standard across the island.  A small cola was around 2 Euros, and a large cola was 3 Euro, with a large Mythos 3.50 Euros.  It’s sensible to budget for your drinks as part of your spending money before you go.  We knew this from reviews, but others seemed taken by surprise.

Breakfast was very good, I have to say.  Remember this is a three star hotel.  Anyone upset at the food here, must be expecting à la carte dining, or are much more fussy than my crowd.  We found something to eat every day.  My favourite in the mornings was the yoghurt and peaches, but with lots of fresh fruit, traditional hot British breakfast, cereals, breads, cheeses and much more, it’s impossible to find nothing to eat.   I’m going back to the yoghurt though.  At home, I tend to dislike plain Greek yoghurt as it tastes bitter to me, but it wasn’t the case over there.  I wish I could have taken a couple of freezers full of the stuff back with me….  Honestly, I really did.  It was a lovely breakfast with coffee how I like it on tap.  You won’t find any spoon standing black stuff, but lots of hot coffee for anyone who wants it.

The buffet evening meal changed every evening.  With a full salad bar each day, I had a lot of salad meals.

There were always options for kids, either nuggets, fish fingers, burgers etc etc, similar to canteen style kids food, but with chips, rice, pasta dishes, and with a Greek choice every day, there was always something and always fruit to choose from too.  The dishes were filled quickly, and not left empty towards 9pm, which is what I’d half expected.

Whether you arrive for supper at 6.30pm, or 9pm, the help yourself selection was always large.  Evening meal also had three desserts to choose from, with a mousse, or cream, soup, bread, cheese and more.  I took my images in the dark, so they’re not good, but you get the idea.

The kids had chicken nuggets at lunchtimes from the bar, which were around 3.50 Euro I think, and really good.  Better than the nuggets they had for the evening meal one night.  I think those benefited from being made to order rather than being in a large batch.   The only day I had lunch, I opted for the Carbonara but without the ham and bacon.  I half expected to get the same Carbonara with just the meat taken out, but it had been cooked from fresh.

Anastasia Hotel Stalis Crete Bar

For the amount of food on offer, and the amount eaten for the price paid, there is nothing to complain about.

It’s easy enough to go for the locally cooked dishes, and the pasta ones were fabulous.  Sunday night is barbeque night, and with plenty buns and bread, the kids made sausage butties and burgers, going back a few times over the 2.5 hour serving time to get something else.  It was common for our youngest to eat at 6.30 with his new pals and then come and join us around 8.30pm for chips and sauce, and maybe a bowl of dessert.  The staff were fine with how often the kids ate during the buffet service times.

The Staff

They make this hotel, I have to say.  I’ve never been anywhere with such courteous staff.  Always a smile for you, and nothing is ever too much trouble.  If you’ve an issue, you just need to go to the desk, and they’ll do all they can to help you out.

The cleaners do a fantastic job, and the owner seems to pitch in with his staff.  When he arrives, he goes around picking up anything he sees someone drop, tidies up glasses, and keeps his eye on the whole place, always smiling as he does.  Staff never seem harassed, and seem to enjoy working as hard as they do.  And they work hard.  The staff here could give lots of far more expensive hotels some great tips in customer service.

I saw a couple of reviews where holiday makers were disgruntled because the owner didn’t single them out for special treatment, but seemed to do so for others.  Personally I don’t understand this. We didn’t get to know him, but we didn’t go on holiday to get to know the owner, and there was no need to.  He was often walking around, and hard to miss, mostly smiling, and keeping on top of his hotel.  His staff did such a good job, there nothing to approach him about.  If someone wanted to get to know him, all they had to do was make the effort to talk to him.  There are three hundred people there at a time and it’s impossible to get to know everyone personally.

Towards the end of the holiday, I mentioned that I’d found the beds hard, as the traditional Greek way, is concrete base, with slat and a mattress on top.  I had a stinking bout of the cold half way through our week, and stayed in bed longer than normal.  I put pillows under my hips and shoulders as I found it hard, but they said they’d have bolstered up the mattress to help with that if I’d gone earlier.  It wasn’t an issue, but was nice to know they’d have done something about it if I’d only asked.

The Accommodation

Anastasia Hotel Stalis Crete Basic Room for 4In the back of my head, I’d pictured the accommodation I had at a three star a few decades ago in Corfu, which was atrocious.  I didn’t expect much, so I wasn’t disappointed.  The room we were allocated was a basic family room, for four people, all sleeping in one room.  There are smaller rooms for two or three.  Our room was fairly big, a cream colour, patio doors to a small terrace, a bath with overhead shower, air conditioning and a fridge.  Apologies for the messy room.  We were on holiday 🙂

Our room was steps away from reception, great for the kids with the terrace to the side of the complex,  and we had a partial sea view, which wasn’t terribly scenic with some wire in the way, but didn’t bother us.  The side sea view was definitely better than some of the views towards the garden areas.  We quite liked our position, as the sun arrived there fairly early and very few people were walking up and down outside our wee terrace.

Anastasia Hotel Stalis Side Sea View Terrace Anastasia Hotel Stalis Side Sea View

The air conditioning was brilliant.

It worked a treat.  And it was free.  As was the fridge.

We were 10 Euro for the safe for a week, which was pretty good.  Rooms are cleaned daily, with towels changed every second day.  We’d tried to upgrade to the superior rooms, but couldn’t get one.

Our room was fine for a week, but if we go here again, I’d get the upgrade if possible.  The beds are more like we’re used to at home, and the TV’s there are much more modern in the newer blocks, with separate rooms for adults and kids to sleep in.

Anastasia Upgrade Room 1 Anastasia Upgrade Room 2


It’s Greece, and the hotel does a great job for a three star hotel.  Actually, they put more work in than some four and five-star hotels I’ve stayed in.  Yes, there are places which do it better, but you’ll pay a fortune for it.   I missed the Greek night as I had a stinking cold, but the boys and my hub all seemed to enjoy it.  I suspect I’d have compared it with my Greek night from 30 years ago in a small village where there was lots of plate smashing and a dozen dancers and more.

One night was a quiz, another was karaoke, and a group of dancers put on a pretty good show for only three of them.  There was something every night, and I was sad to miss the magic show and the quick change shows.  I’m told they are spectacular, but they weren’t on the rota for the week we were there.  The owner does a kids disco every night, and during the day, there’s a kids club for up to age 12.  It’s pretty much a family hotel, and does it very well, in the Greek way.  If you want pubs and clubs, they’re actually not far away in Stalis and Malia.

Going Back?

If I could change anything about Crete, it would be to lose the crickets…..  Pointless gripe, oh yes, and a more comfortable bed, but that’s a personal thing and I know what to do the next time.  The allure of the Anastasia is definitely the staff. And how child friendly the place is.  My youngest made a few friends, and they would sit talking until the wee small hours.  It’s the only place I’ve ever been where I’d allow that. Door staff are watching all the time, the outdoor bar is open until 2am, or the last arrivals have been sat down and fed/watered, so there are always people keeping an eye and they don’t chase the teens away, who’re sitting beside the pool bar or pool table, just chatting away.  It’s well-lit throughout all alleys and walkways, all night long.

Getting Out and About in Stakis / Malia

We went for several long walks in our week-long holiday.

From the hotel, it’s just a few seconds to the underpass which goes right under the road outside the hotel.  The road can be a bit noisy, but after a couple of hours, we stopped noticing it at all.  The crickets of Greece were more of an annoyance than the road.   Anyway, turn left at the other side of the underpass to go to Stalis, and right to go to Malia.  Fairly simple really.  If you go to Stalis, turn left out of the underpass and cut through the Hotel Kyknos, which takes you down to the road going to the two towns.  It’s a really busy road, with lots of quad bikes flying around and no real pavements as such in either Stalis or Malia, so be careful with little ones when you walk down the road.  There are loads of shops with plenty of fake goods, including Rolex watches and handbags, if you like that sort of thing.

Anastasia Hotel Stalis Crete Underpass Anastasia Hotel Stalis Kyk

At the bottom of the Kyknos, there’s a path to the beach, although it’s fairly rocky there.

Anastasia Hotel Stalis Beach 2

We didn’t really do a beach holiday, but if the beach is your thing, walk further into Stalis, and most of the pubs have beaches you can rent a sunbed and parasol from.  A little further and you get the public beach, which is quite narrow and didn’t appeal to us much, as so many pale people were getting sunburned on it.

Anastasia Hotel Stalis Beach 3

There are a couple of waterparks, fairly close, one of which would definitely be too big for middler, so we didn’t consider it, but we did try a day at the Star Beach, which had four slides, and a fairly large pool area which is free entry.

Anastasia Star Beach

Star Beach is busy, and it’s full of older teenagers, who I believe go there to party, with a foam party in the afternoon.  We never saw it, but there were loads of things to do there, if you have a deep wallet.  Sadly, we paid for access to the chutes, but middler wouldn’t even go on them, so we considered that a bust and walked back.  The bus had cost 7.2 Euros to get there, which I actually found expensive, even though everyone kept telling us that buses in Crete are cheap.  It was a couple of stops for four of us and over 7 Euros one way.  I don’t think that’s cheap, but hey ho.

We’d started walking to the bus stop to get back, but middler wanted to see the rocks on the beach, so we just kept walking.  It was around 7Kms to get back to the hotel by the coast road, although it didn’t feel as long as that to me.  My hub, who has a dodgy knee, wished we’d gone back for the bus…….

We didn’t really do anything else, and we bought very little because we didn’t go out much.  Mostly just walks and around the hotel.  I didn’t like Malia much.  Too many teenagers scooting around, so we didn’t go back there after the first walk along.  Most of our money went on drinks.  We kept plenty bottles of water and juice in the room, so often tended just to go back there for five minutes when we were thirsty, and just bought the occasional drink from the pool bar.


There’s a happy train not far from the hotel, that takes you a tour, and plenty of excursions if you’re into that.  When we go back, and we will go back to Crete, we’ll hire a car for a couple of days and have a scoot around like that.  The hub likes to find his own way around on holiday normally, so not hiring a car was unusual for us, but we really just wanted to go and chill for a week, and that’s what we did.  Yes, some days were challenging with middler, but it was fantastic, and we all needed that break.  The hotel made it easier for us with middler, which was great.  I doubt they even know the atmosphere there made it easy for us to control him.

Apologies to anyone he upset, but that’s life…  Disability can’t and shouldn’t be hidden away.  Just because somebody who was lucky enough in life not to be disabled, finds the struggles of someone else annoying or confusing, isn’t a good enough reason to exclude them from experiencing life.  Most people were lovely and understanding, and he had a ball, despite struggling on the last day.

The Afterwards

We came home, after a night flight, a nearly three-hour drive and got home around 5.30am.  Had to pick my mother up from the respite house by lunchtime, and eldest was home for two nights that night, so we had to sort him out too.  Washing took another day to even begin, and now, with my mum back into a routine, I will have time to breathe and begin to catch up again.  Real life has hit hard and fast.

When’s the next holiday?  It’s definitely time to sell the  motorhome and move on to more traditional fun in the sun.

So there you have it.  That’s what we’ve been up to.  Sorry I’ve been neglecting the blog recently, but it’s back to the daily routine now and lots in the planning stages for later this year.  I’ll be blogging until I’m 100 I think….


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Our Go Ape Experience

We all know exercise is good for us…..right…  It should also be um fun…..right??????   Bwahahahaha.  I couldn’t not share this quickly on the blog.  I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved in the last year so far.

As if some of you hadn’t thought I was nuts enough to start running at my age, I accepted a challenge from Simply Health, to try out a new Fitbit Flex, and use it for activities locally.  We all need more exercise, don’t we?

I worried a little about my hands as they’re weak, but I’m not going to let that stop me.  Little did I know what I’d let myself in for.  Numpy, yes me, that’s what I am, really and truly.  Next time someone asks me to do something like this, bop me on the head, then tell me what a great thing it is to do.  I’ll believe ya – honest.  It’s good for me too.

The challenge they set, was to do the local Go Ape course at Crathes Castle, which is something I’ve never tried before, although I’ve watched my boys try out something smaller.  They had a blast, and it looked like fun.  I could do this……right?  Ya bet I could.  Maybe….

On what looked to be a really rubbish and drizzly, yucky day, we rocked up to start our safety briefing, in our recommended clothes, ready to get mucky and wet.  With gloves on, my hair tied back, and sensible shoes on, I was ready to go with a couple of my boys.  Thankfully the sun came out and it ended up as a pretty good day.

The experience of Go Ape, promises a tree top adventure, flying down zip wires, jumping off tarzan swings and high rope crossings in breathtaking woodland.  It’s a lot to live up to.  It also sounds painful for someone who wasn’t even a couple of flights of stairs fit not that long ago, but hey, even at my age, new things are worth trying.  If I can do it, then almost anyone can.  But….and you’ll have to read on……for where I needed a boost up…

Some others in the group in front of us were taking pictures of each other, very artfully, as they only had to hook themselves on and go, but as I’d two kids to supervise, and make sure they were hooked and unhooked on each time, I didn’t get time to take any shots at all, and had to make do with the ones from my other half’s phone.  We went last, as I’d two kids to keep an eye on, and it was just as well, as we seemed to take ages.

At the top of this slide, I looked down, checked sideways, saw some people watching and pretended to be not scared at all.  Not a jot.  Who me?  You’re kidding right!



I got stuck at one bit.  I took one look at the Tarzan Swing, across to a cargo net and even my eldest said he was “shi****g” himself…  That didn’t make me feel any better, honestly…  Especially after hearing someone screaming when they did it ten minutes before us……  Having weak hands meant that I struggled to pull myself up on the cargo net after the Tarzan Swing.  My hands had almost had it, and pulling myself up to the platform was impossible, so one of the instructors had to give me a bit of a help up, which was fine.  I still had to do it myself, but with a little help from a pulley to take the pain away from my hands.  I am so glad I had gloves with leather palms on, or at this bit, I’d have struggled even more.  There was the option for a slightly easier route, but with boys being boys, they wanted to go the hard way, and mum being mum, and supervising, had no option but to go the same way… Duhhh…

The zip slides were incredibly more fun than I expected, even though I bashed my head on the second one by lying too far back as I dug my heels in to stop.  Just as well they have that soft bark on the bottom, or I’d have been spending the night in A&E.  As it was, my head sort of bounced and it was fine, but taught me to keep my head up on the next two…  Lesson learned….  Pretty quick…

The Go Ape experience, according to the internet, burns approximately 500 calories for a woman, so it’s a not too shabby way of getting some good exercise in there while also having some fun.  My shoulders ached just a little afterwards, but nothing major, although my hands might take a day to recover, but if you don’t have a touch of arthritis or anything in your hands, you’ll be fine.  I’m not sure that many other women my age would go swinging about like tarzan, but hey, we’re only as old as the things we do.  I’m nowhere near ready for the pipe and slippers…  Maybe when I’m 90!

Right, the Fitbit Flex.  Thanks Simply Health, for the lovely gift.

Fitbit Flex 1

This was easy to pair with my phone, and wearing it was quite simple, although it felt a bit strange being a little loose for the first couple of hours.  I used it to do a 5K on my treadmill to try it out, and felt oddly gratified that it showed 6.5K, on a par with my Apple Watch, when my treadmill hit the 5K, at around the same time as it takes me to do outdoors.    Bonus….I’m slow, but proving not to be as tortoise like as I thought I was on the treadmill.  Still plodding slow though.  I’m not kidding myself at all, uh uh…

This was my starting and end point today.  2062 steps before starting, and 5926 steps after it was finished, and I had food.  I was starving afterwards.  I could have eaten dry sawdust, I was that hungry.  I was going to say I could have eaten a scabby horse, but wondered if someone might actually take me seriously.  I wouldn’t eat horse, let alone a scabby one, and a scabby one, I’d be more likely to feed me to, as I’d feel so sorry for it.


The calories on this throws me a bit, as it states calories up to that point in the day, rather than for the whole day upfront.   I ate 991 calores by 5.15 and it said I was 429 calories over for the day, which is deceiving at first.   I quite like that it monitors sleep.  I’ll need to get my youngest night own to wear it and see the quality of his sleep.   He’s a dreadful night owl.

At first, I took one look at the active minutes, and went huhhhh……  Only 9 tiny minutes, heartsink…after three hours swinging about like Jane hanging from the rafters!  Then I realised it only records spells where you’re active for more than 10 minutes at a time, and with spells in-between activities, it seems to have cut out for each one.  Gutted…but makes sense.

I’m a gadget girl, so I was always going to like this anyway.  I’m a sucker for electronics and I DO like the steps it counted for the treadmill.  Not that I’ve already told you that of course.

IMG_2177 IMG_2182

So, the short story is, that getting more exercise can be fun.  Give it a go, you won’t regret it.  Even my eldest actually enjoyed it, and getting any 15 year old to enjoy a family activity isn’t as easy as making a custard pie…… Result all round..

Thanks to Simply Health for the Go Ape Experience and our Fitblit Flex

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You’re Never Too Old to Play on a Swing

Ok, I gave it a go, and decided outdoors running in any of my current shoes is a no go.  I only made three-quarters of a mile and my feet were killing me today.   It doesn’t help that I bruised my arches on the daft shoes with too much support yesterday, which I only felt when I’d done my 5k.

Perhaps I’ll always be a treadmill runner, but kids were bored, and nobody had to go anywhere,  so we went out for a wee jog.

In the end, we eventually went to the park, before hitting Maccy D’s.

I have to admit, that I’ll never be too old to play on swings.  I was too heavy for a while, but now I’m a more normal size, it was fun to climb the chutes and swing away like I used to do.  Who cares if I got funny looks.  I also love how my boys, even though they’re all early teens, still wanted to go play.  I bet they wouldn’t admit that in front of their friends!!!!

We had a lovely evening, and it was worth getting off our bums, cold or not.


My 13 year old took these on his phone, so forgive the poor quality, but I’ve spent so long – not doing things like this, that I couldn’t resist sharing on my blog.  Fitness has to become a much bigger part of my life, and hiding away has to stop.


The next time you go to the park, give it a go.  You never know, you might just enjoy yourself…


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My Middle Child Finally Swims

Sorry, but I just had to share this one.  My middle child, who has learning difficulties, has taken lessons for over 10 years.  Yes, that’s right, lessons for 10 years, along with weekly swimming at his school, and swimming with us, his family on top.  It’s been a long and difficult road for him, but he’s finally done it.

For years, he screamed at the sight of water, or even at the thought of jumping into the shallow end.  We closed our ears and persevered, and eventually he made it in the water.

That was no small feat in itself, no matter how simple it might seem at first.

Determined to keep going, he was signed up for a whole summer holiday one year, every morning, in a group of 6.  When they all moved up to the next class, he struggled along with trying to get his feet off the bottom of the pool as he walked along, his hands doing swimming motions on the top.

Three years later, he was still in the bottom group and his lessons kept going.

Thankfully, his school began swimming, which meant he could go away from lessons with little ones when he was growing fast, and every week since, they’ve persevered and kept chugging along.

Three weeks ago, we all went swimming, and he sailed along the top of the water.  His feet didn’t touch the bottom once, but he was still frightened of going out of his depth.

It’s one thing being able to swim, and quite another being able to swim out of your depth.

To let you all know, he came home on Friday with a certificate from school, to say he’d jumped in at the deep end.  It might not seem much to most of you, but for him, it’s HUGE.

It just goes to show, that perseverance and patience can win in the long-term when the brain says no.  As a very active child, swimming was important to him, and for us too, knowing that if he fell into water, he’d at least have a fighting chance of possibly getting himself out again.

I can’t even begin to say how much this small thing means to us as a family.  Way to go middler, you’ve done yourself proud….



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I’ve a confession to make.

Yes, I have.  Through stress, and under active thyroid and diabetes, over the spell of a few years, I gained a bunch of weight, and I mean a whole bunch.

100lbs if I’m to be exact.

Last June, I was diagnosed and put on meds for my diabetes and for my underactive thyroid.  The thought of losing a limb or going blind terrified me, but the possibility of losing was daunting.  I’d reached as low a point as I could go.

Yet, I didn’t really share.  How could I?  I met many of my fellow bloggers in 2011, in London, but have not met any since.

My circle has shrunk and shrunk, and while my kids are part of the reason, they’re not the reason I turned down a lovely TV company on their offer of being part of something awesome.  My weight gain was also the reason there have been so few photos of me over the last few years.   I’ve avoided the camera like the proverbial plague.

So, last June 2015, I kick started my change.  To stay alive and keep my limbs, I needed to get in control of my life.  Having my thyroid balanced again made a huge difference, and instead of maintaining and often gaining at sometimes calorie levels of 800-1000 a day, suddenly, eating 1200 calories a day meant I was losing weight which helps with the diabetes.

Having a medical condition may have been responsible for me gaining weight, but I have still had to put the work in to lose it, and it’s been a long haul so far.

I’ve lost weight in the past, pre online diet websites, and I used to track using a spreadsheet.  This time round, I took My Fitness Pal seriously, and it’s free, so I had nothing to lose by starting to log my food.  I started off being majorly stupid.  Going down to 300-400 calories a day, and all low carb at the same time.  It was completely unsustainable, but it’s the way I’d lost weight, every time, since my first “diet,” at 15, when I lost a stone the sensible way, by calories in v calories out.  What my 15-year-old self knew, was that fad diets just don’t work – at all.  Somehow, along the way, I forgot how to be sensible.  And now you know why I make so many soups….

Me (1 of 1)As of now, I’m 83 pounds down, and with only 17 to go until my gain started, probably around 2009/2010, I’m eyeing up being back to the weight I was at 15, as I can see me getting there this time round.  I’m conscious that I will have to eat at this level for what is possibly the rest of my life, eating around the 1200 calorie mark, but I can live with that.  What I struggled with is gaining at 1000 and less, as people just didn’t believe me, so I’d hibernate away from the world more and more, until I became a virtual recluse, only going out the front door when it was absolutely necessary or for people who knew me through the gain.  For people I hadn’t seen for years, I made every excuse under the sun to avoid seeing them.  Ok, I know it’s a flattering picture from a night out, but hey, after all this weight loss, I deserve a little bit of flattery. 🙂

The one thing people don’t tell you when they’re really fat, is how much of a struggle it is to get through daily life.  Just tying shoelaces is a near impossibility, as is bending down to pick things up from the floor.  And the shame, when you’re the fattest person in a room is simply incredible, if you feel all sorts of negative emotions around being overweight, which I do.  My father in law died, and the only thing I could get on my expanded backside was a pair of dark coloured jeans, that were so tight that I felt they were cutting me in half.  I saw the half lopsided eye sliding people, even though I wore what looked like a suit jacket to cover up a bit, but I suspect many people thought my wearing jeans was disrespectful, but I’d no choice in it.  I’d convinced myself that “something” would fit, and on the day, when I tried to find something……there was nothing.  It was put on the jeans or not go, and that wasn’t an option for a family member.

I’ve declined to go to two funerals of people I should have gone to, simply because I couldn’t face people seeing how fat I’d got.  I always pulled childcare duty, going out of my way to do it, in an excuse to be busy, and have a reason not to go.

Then, we’d have someone like the TV personality who gained and lost weight to “prove,” how lazy us fatties were, and I’d feel even worse about myself, and possibly eat something that took me over my very low maintenance level, and that would make it even worse again.

It’s safe to say, that I’ve lost more years than I care to think of recently, due to the wobbly blubber that I laid down under my skin.

So – extreme weight loss…. Yep, that’s what it’s called.  I qualify for that now, but I’ve still got possibly a fair few to go, before I try to reach my age 15 weight…….  I think I’ll aim for the 100 mark, then see where I go from there.  At the 100lb mark, is where people used to tell me I was too thin, despite still being past the middle section of the BMI chart.  I’ve also started C25K, using the NHS running app, and have lost inches that don’t correspond to the numbers on the scale, so I’m getting slowly smaller, despite not losing so much recently.

The big ho ha, is people I’ve not seen for months, for whom, I’ve dropped almost 6 stone, and they say nothing………  I’m never sure whether to laugh or not.  Perhaps they’re scared to say anything in case I pile it back on again. 🙂

Anyway, that’s where I’m at, and why this blog is turning so foodie.  Food is becoming something I enjoy very much now that I can eat more than I used to, but making healthy choices has become a big part of my life, with some treats thrown in.

My youngest has joined me in doing Couch to 5K, and we’re muddling along nicely, despite my fibromyalgia that means my feet often suffer.  Hopefully they get better with time, and I did the first weeks wearing Fitflop trainers…  Nothing else would do, but I’ve now got myself proper ones, and I’m really pleased that one of my boys has joined me in doing it.

The last part of my weight seems to be taking an age to shift.  I only lost 1lb in the last three weeks, so it’s going to take a while.

There, I’ve done it.  So, now you all know…

Love and light,


ps, ginger tea for weight loss tends to get mentioned a lot.  Make your own mind up about it.


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Happy New Year for 2016….

Just a little thank you from me to my readers.

Thanks to you all.  Yes, all of you.  I’ve had a great year on the blog, and without readers, there wouldn’t be any point continuing to write.  I also want to thank all those who’ve stuck by me through the years, still getting and opening their little e-mails when I publish a post, and I’m still slightly thrilled when the report comes in, to say how many of you have opened each one, whether it’s to enter a giveaway, check out a recipe, or just to find out what I’m talking about.

We still have our three boys, who are now all moody teenagers with a definite preference for spending all day in bed whenever the opportunity arises.  I have a parent with dementia living with me, and another parent with dementia in a care home an hour or so away.  The days are often too short….and I still miss my furry four legged friend who left us last year.

I’ve a few things on the go for next year, and will begin early in the year with an e-book full of soup maker recipes for those of you who are interested.   I keep being asked, so I’ve finally got it almost done.

Massive best wishes to all, and I hope you can all have as happy a new year as is possible for your own circumstances.

The very best of the seasons greetings.


Lesley Happy New Year




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Bank Accounts & Scary Debit Cards for Tweens and Teens

I spent a long while, looking for bank accounts for my boys recently.  They’ve had savings accounts for years, but I hadn’t realised that kids as young as 11, can have their own debit cards.  In my head, I had that little milestone filed away for 16+.  I got their new accounts with the RBS, and we just got on with it.  They have apps on their phones which let them know how much money they have left, and they feel all warm and fuzzy, as the pseudo grown ups that such freedom brings.

Debit Card


I overheard a conversation at the table next to mine, when I was clacking away on my keys in our local coffee shop, having left the man in charge of the house while I got out for a while.  Nobody knew I’d gone out for a solitary coffee fix, but hey, why should they!

Anyway, the conversation at the next table turned to wealth management.  Having absolutely no idea what that meant, I started seriously lugging in on their chat about savings and current accounts for their kids.

From what I could gather, wealth management for regular kids is just posh speak for being in charge of their own accounts.  In circles of people who have serious money, it will mean something entirely different, but calling sproggets pocket money ‘wealth management,’ is a bit OTT for me.  I pretended to be laughing at something on my computer screen, as I did a very unladylike snort, but it did bring home some issues that have niggled at the back of my head for weeks.

A few months ago, I’d had one of mine complain about not having his own debit card to buy things online with, but as a principle, it’s something I still struggle with.  As far as I knew, it wasn’t legal for someone under the age of 16, to actually get involved in buying online at all…  Perhaps I’ve been living in the dark ages.

I still have not got to the bottom of it, but my youngest has a debit card now, and he’s bought and received goods he’s paid for online.  I guess it does make a difference that most shopping accounts don’t ask for dates of birth, but whatever it is, I’m elated that kids can learn all about budgeting and paying for goods sensibly.  On the other hand, it also fills me with complete horror.  Just what on earth can they get access to when they can buy anything they want online……

Perhaps I’m worrying too much, but that would frighten the life out of me if I was a parent and had absolutely no idea what my kids were up to online.  As it is, I nab the statements once they’re read them and I can research what they spend until they’re older.

I’m not too sure if I like them growing up nowadays.  The world is a much scarier place than it was when I was their age.

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Halloween Is Coming

This often fills my heart with dread.  Standing out in the freezing cold for ages, while little cherubs run amok through the streets, knocking on doors and telling jokes to get sweeties.

My middle boy is now a teen.  He’s the same height as me, and takes a size 8 shoe already.  He STILL wants to go door to door, asking why the chicken crossed the road, and the house owners look at him with staring eyes, as the answer is always ‘to eat his supper.’

Our kids call it Trick or Treating nowadays.  Americanism has taken over, in more than just Halloween, but the kids love dressing up, so who am I to spoil their fun.


This year, his disability is embarrassing him, and to be honest, at times, the rest of the family too.  Our embarrassment is for him, as we’re used to his antics and inappropriate comments and funny hand actions, and sometimes, just sometimes, the unbelieving looks from strangers get through, and he understands he’s made a big faux pas.

We try to head it off by only visiting houses where people know him, but with the pumpkin outside the house rule, he can take off to join the tots at the home of someone I don’t know.  All I can do is raise my eyebrows and try to send a telepathic signal to the disbelieving recipient of the chicken dinner joke, that makes them laugh, despite knowing it’s not even a joke, let alone a funny one.

Half a decade of trying to get him to change his joke has come to nothing.  This year, I’m not even going to try.

The best bit about Halloween, is when it’s over….  We can retreat back inside our front door, while he dumps his bag of sweets on the lounge floor and tries to count them out.

Recapping some of the Halloween, here’s Devils Food Cake Recipe from a couple of years ago too.

Enjoy your spooky evening.

Happy Halloween

Devils Food Cake Halloween Nigella 570
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Soup Maker Recipe: Pickled Onion and Celery Soup

Pickled onions are pungent.  This recipe won’t suit everyone, but if you like a tangy taste, give it a go.  How tangy you want pickled onions soup, depends on the vinegar the onions you pick have been pickled in.  The stronger the vinegar, the more pungent the soup.  Sweet vinegar will give a vegetable soup that tastes like most others, but the celery helps give it some bite.

Serves4 – 6
Prep time10 minutes
Cook time28 minutes
Total time38 minutes
DietaryDiabeticGluten FreeVeganVegetarian
Meal typeSoup
MiscFreezableServe Hot
By authorLesley Smith


  • 150g Small Pickled Onions (Drained. Use Sweet Vinegar if possible, for a less tangy taste.)
  • 150g Celery (Chopped and Sliced)
  • 150g Potatoes (Cubed)
  • 150g Carrots (Sliced)
  • 800ml Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper (To Taste)


Makes 1.6 Litres


Step 1.Lightly saute the pickled onions in some olive oil. The goal is to release the pickled onion taste, without the onions becoming brown or overcooked.
Step 2.Add all the ingredients into your soupmaker and choose the chunky setting.
Step 3.Serve chunky, or blend if you prefer your soup smooth, but the tangy oniony taste that you can get with the chunky version will fade into the other vegetables when they’re pureed.

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I have Tinnitus. What is it?

I have what I guess is likely to be a milder form of Tinnitus, but it’s still there all the time.  For every second of every day, it keeps me company through thick and thin.

My tinnitus is like that of 1 minute 44 on the video below, with just a higher pitch.  It used to be combined with the heart pulse noise immediately after that, but after suffering with it for two years, the pulsing tinnitus has eased off a lot.  I suspect that was more down to an inflamed inner ear than actual tinnitus itself as I have a nerve very close to my main vein, according to my ENT specialist who tried to pin it down for me a few years ago.  At about 3 minutes 55, is how highly pitched mine is.

What is Tinnitus?

Simply, it’s a blooming nuisance.  It’s loud, always there and drives me to distraction when I’m trying to sleep.

In acceptable terms, it’s a loud noise we feel in our ears, causing noise in our heads.    The noise can be:

Buzzing, humming, grinding, hissing, whistling, beating, throbbing…. You get the picture?

There are different forms of Tinnitus that are more rare.  The pulsatile kind that I used to also have, has an easier explanation with the real heartbeat to cause the feeling.  Some people even have musical hallucinations, where they hear whole songs.

What causes Tinnitus?

Loud noise probably helps it along, and it’s the one thing everyone seems to think about with Tinnitus, but it’s only one factor.  I’ve had very mild Tinnitus since my late teens.  The worst thing about it, is knowing, that never again in your life, will you experience total silence.  That’s actually quite distressing at times, though I have learned to live with it most of the time.  I dread how bad it must be for those who have severe Tinnitus with extremely loud noise.

I can pin down the worst of my Tinnitus to the time the pulsing started in one ear.  Those two years were horrific.  I couldn’t sleep, my head felt fuzzy, and as if I were hearing through cotton wool.  I went to doctor after doctor, appointment after appointment, always being told there was nothing wrong, then one day, I woke up, the ear popped and the worst of the pulsating disappeared.  What I was left with, was an increased level of Tinnitus in my right ear, with the same level of my high pitched whistling Tinnitus in the left as before.  My Tinnitus is now very lopsided.

I have some degree of hearing loss in my left ear, but it’s not too major.  It’s certainly liveable with.  For me, the worst Tinnitus was caused by inner ear damage.

The NHS says this about inner ear damage:  “If part of the cochlea is damaged, it will stop sending information to parts of your brain. These areas of the brain will then actively ‘seek out’ signals from parts of the cochlea that still work. These signals are over-represented in the brain and cause the sounds of tinnitus.”

There are other things that could cause Tinnitus, such as earwax, infection, a perforated eardrum and yes, those dreadful loud noises as a child / young adult, when we thought we were invinceable.

How to Treat Tinnitus

Sadly, there isn’t really any way to treat it that’s actually helpful.  The only thing I’ve found is distracting myself from it.

Although mine is there all the time, there are some points in the day when I’m more conscious of it than others.

If you’ve blocked ears etc, some medical intervention might help, but for many of us, it’s simply a case of managing the noise in our ears.

I notice the noise most when it’s quiet.  The noise feels all encompassing then.  It’s so loud, that in the absence of other noise, I can’t possibly imagine being able to hear anything else on to of the sound, yet at the drop of a pin, I can hear it through the other noise in my ears.  I’m not quite sure how to describe that, but it’s very deceiving.

I’m getting used to my noise.  Mine is annoying, but not debilitatingly so.  I can blot some of it out.  Bedtime is difficult as I have to sleep on the worst affected ear.  Somehow, it helps to drown the noise out to lay on it.  On really bad nights, especially if I have a cold, I tend to use music under my pillow, making a noise I can hear through the high pitched hissy singing tone.

The Future

Well, mine isn’t going to get any better.  I really do have to learn to live with it, and be prepared for the time I could get worse.

I deliberately stay away from loud noises, in case it makes the problem even that teensy bit worse.  If you invited me to a disco, I’d probably have ear plugs in, well hidden under my hair.  I might have to ask you to repeat what you’re saying, but at least my ears won’t deteriorate any further from loud music.

If you have Tinnitus, take care of the noise around you.  I suspect it really does matter.