Stoptober & Go Sober for October Challenge

Well it has been another busy few weeks here with the start of the new school term and lots of changes taking place at work. I have been feeling pretty rough & tired and the anxiety has been bothering me, so I have decided that it is time to make some changes.

I have wanted to stop smoking for a long time now and with Stoptober coming up I have decided that now is the time to do it. I also saw a campaign on Facebook to Go Sober in October and raise funds for Macmillan Cancer research, which is a charity I like to support where possible due to the effects that cancer has had on a number of my friends and family. As I find it much more difficult to avoid smoking if I have had a drink I am going to join this challenge too and hopefully raise a bit of money in the process. If you would like to support my challenge and donate to Macmillan you can do so here.

During a visit to the doctors this week I was also advised to cut out caffeine so I am going to give this a go as well as trying to eat my five portions of fruit & veg a day, as at the moment I can go for the best part of a week without seeing any fruit!

Quitting smoking is definitely going to be the biggest challenge. I have quit on a number of occasions before, mainly around the times that I had my children but I also managed to stop for a few years before I started my current job. Smoking is part of my daily routine and going out for a cigarette from work is the only time I get any daylight during the winter months. I have ordered my kit from the NHS website but as there are only two days to go until the start of the challenge I need some other strategies to support me. I have tried nicotine replacement of various types before but these all make me feel ill so this is not an option this time. I have succeeded in giving up before after reading Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking book. I still have a copy on the bookshelf so reading this again is going to be my first step. You are supposed to continue smoking as you read the book so I will need to read it quickly!

I am a regular visitor of the forums at and have used their excellent demotivator tool to work out how much money I will be saving and how long I would need to work for to pay for my smoking over the course of a year. I will save approximately £3000 per year if I manage to stop smoking which would make a huge difference to our family finances and allow me to buy myself a few treats!

My second biggest challenge will be cutting down on caffeine. I drink a lot of tea and carry a full travel mug with me everywhere I go. I suffer from headaches if I don’t drink caffeine so this will be unpleasant for a few days. I do like some herbal teas and I also like water infused with fruit. I think I will use some of the money I save on smoking to treat myself to a fruit infusing water bottle like this one and a selection of expensive fruit teas!

Giving up alcohol will be less of a challenge as I do not usually drink heavily but I do go to the pub twice a week and have a pint or two and I have the occasional bottle of wine at home. Giving up the wine will be easy as I just won’t buy any but I will need to find an alternative to beer in the pub. I am not a fan of fizzy drinks so most soft drinks are not an option. The pub does serve hot chocolate though so I will give that a go. (Hot chocolate does contain a small amount of caffeine but this is much lower than a cup of tea).

The main reason that my diet is somewhat lacking in anything nutritious is that I am often grabbing food on the go. If I am to eat more fruit then I need to make sure that I have it available at work so then I will eat that rather than the usual diet of chocolates, cakes and sweets that are often available. As I will be saving so much money I think I can stretch to an organic fruit box that I can have delivered to work. We have had organic food delivered in the past from so I will set myself up a delivery and then I have no excuse!

This seems like quite a daunting set of changes to make all at once but I am determined to give it a try and see if cutting out the stimulants has an effect on my anxiety levels and my overall wellbeing. By sharing my plans I am now far more likely to actually achieve my goals so I will be updating the blog with my progress as the month goes on.

If you are planning on joining any of these challenges then let me know in the comments and we can try to keep each other motivated!


Sanctuary Spa Youth Boosting Facial in a Box Giveaway

Well it has been a busy few weeks here what with numerous end of term activities, No 1 completing his degree & getting a job, No 4 having her 8th birthday and lots of planning and organising as we are shortly going to be heading off to China for a few weeks to attend my brothers wedding.

Amongst all of the chaos, myself and the girls have been busy trying to ensure that we look our best for the wedding. The girls will be bridesmaids and are really looking forward to wearing their handmade Chinese dresses but it wasn’t so simple for me! After numerous unsuccessful online purchases I have finally found a dress and shoes that meet all of the Chinese customs (red for luck – no white or black) and doesn’t make me look like a strawberry!. (If you are interested I have ended up with this dress and matching shoes from Boden) All I need to do now are the finishing touches such as a hair cut and sorting out my nails which I am planning to get done over the weekend.

I suffer from very dry skin and am usually utterly rubbish at following any kind of skincare routine so I have been making a special effort over the last few weeks. Having used up all of my Elemis goodies I have been using a Sanctuary Spa Youth Boosting Facial in a Box kit that I won in another competition a while ago but hadn’t got around to using.

The kit contains a Time Reverse Face mask, Lift and Brighten Eye Complex, Youth Firming Serum, Stop the Clock moisturiser and warming microbrasion polish.

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The microbrasion polish is brilliant for me as it removes all of the dead, dry skin and combined with the other products my skin is definitely feeling a lot smoother and looking much less like a beetroot! The moisturiser is great as my face is the only part of me that burns in the sun but ordinary sunscreens leave my face feeling greasy.

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As I will be away for a few weeks I wanted to leave you with a giveaway so I have another box of Sanctuary Spa Youth Boosting Facial in a Box to give away.

To enter you just need to follow the instructions on the rafflecopter. Don’t worry if your comments don’t appear immediately – I have to approve them and won’t have any internet access so I will approve them all when I return, your entries will still count. Giveaway is open to UK residents aged 18 and over.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Toucan Box review & Free sample

For a while now I have been a member of inbox pounds and have just earned my first cheque for just over £20 for receiving paid emails and answering a few surveys. I had never actually purchased anything from the offers that they have sent but I received an email a week or so ago offering free samples of a Toucan Box and I decided to give it a go.

Toucan box send personalised boxes to your child that contain everything that you need to complete a craft project and I knew that No 4 would love it. I went for the Petite box option which will cost me £3.95 for each box, which are sent once per fortnight. The first box was free but you do need to hand over your payment details for a continuing subscription. You can cancel after you receive your free box without paying anything but if you are anything like me there is every possibility of forgetting so it is definitely not for everyone.

When I signed up the plan was to cancel before I paid for anything, but my daughter was so delighted that I have decided to continue and see if the continuing subscription is as good as the first box.

They also offer a selection of other boxes, the Grande box at £9.95 per month or the Super box for £16.95 per month. The Grande box contains everything you need for 2 activities along with a book and stickers. The Super box contains enough for 4 activities plus a book and stickers. The two larger boxes also offer the option of paying an extra £4.95 so that you have enough materials for a sibling to do the project too. The box I received though contained enough to make two of the project so this is not always necessary.

The box that arrived was addressed to my daughter, which delighted her as she doesn’t usually get any post. The external appearance of the box was appealing and she was very eager to get started.

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The project contained in my free sample was a pair of jelly fish that climb up ribbons. Everything that we needed to complete the project, other than a pair of scissors was included. It even included coloured pencils to colour the jellyfish in. The instruction booklet was very clear and No 4 (age 7) was able to read and follow the instructions herself without any assistance from me.

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No 4 made the first jellyfish and No 3 was going to make the other jellyfish but eventually decided that he would rather be using his iPad so No 4 made the second jellyfish too. When he saw the result though he was very keen to be involved in racing the jellyfish up the french doors!

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Altogether the project took No 4 about 3/4 of an hour to make but it has provided No 2, 3 & 4 with hours of fun racing the jellyfish up the french doors (not to mention the fun myself and DH have had racing them when the kids are asleep!)

If you would like to try a free box of your own then click here

Disclaimer: If you follow the link above to the Toucan Box website you will get a free petite box but I also get a box at half price. If you are not happy with this you can go to the site directly and get a petite box at half price here . I believe in integrity, will provide honest reviews and will only recommend products that I am happy to use myself. You will be required to provide payment details but you can cancel without paying anything. If you are not happy with this the please do not sign up.

Keeping the Kids Occupied on a Wet Bank Holiday & Loom Bands Giveaway

As the previous weekend had been so lovely the kids had plans to spend the half term holiday playing outside in the paddling pool. Unfortunately as the holiday loomed the weather forecast had other plans. I know that given the chance the kids would spend the entire holiday glued to the screen of a computer or an iPad so I wanted to find something to occupy them that wouldn’t cost the earth but didn’t need plugging in!

We decided to have a shopping trip on Saturday with a strict budget of £5. The only rules about what they could spend it on was that it could not have batteries or a plug.

The girls had come home from school with bracelets that their friends had made for them from Loom Bands so they decided that they would get some of these. We managed to pick some up really cheaply and we also visited the pound shop and purchased a plastic compartment box to keep them all in. It is possible to buy more expensive packs that contain peg boards and other bits and pieces but these are not necessary to make basic bracelets and necklaces.

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Each pack came with 300 bands, a hook and a pack of S clips to join them together. The first job when they got them home was to sort them all out into the box and this took them the best part of half and hour.

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Once they had them all sorted they started creating. No 4 started making the simplest type of bracelet using her fingers. To start it off you twist one of the bands and put it over your index finger and middle finger. You then place another band, without twisting this time, above the first and pull each side of the first band over the top of the second band and into the gap between your fingers. You then add another band above the one on your fingers and repeat until the band is the desired length.

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This type of band can be created really quickly and No 4 loved making patterns using different colours. You finish the band off by hooking both ends of the last band onto one side of the S hook and hooking the other side onto the twisted band that you started with.

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No 2 was busy making the slightly more complicated version that results in a thicker band. To make these, instead of just having two bands at a time on your fingers you use three. After twisting the first band and placing it on your fingers you then place two more untwisted bands above it and pull the bottom band over both of the others before adding another band.

I had a go at these and my fingers very rapidly grew tired (The girls never complained though so I assume this is just because I am getting old!). To avoid this the bands can also be made using two hooks instead of your fingers.

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No 4 was also soon making the more complicated version and by the following morning she had created several bracelets, some ankle bracelets, some rings and a hair band.

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If you are feeling more adventurous there are lots of tutorials on YouTube that tell you how to make all sorts of objects with the bands but in terms of keeping the kids occupied the simple bracelets are great.

No 3 didn’t fancy making himself any bracelets so he decided to buy himself a Scraperfoil set. I remember having these when I was a child and I hadn’t seen them for years. Now No 3 is not known for his patience and immediately after opening the box he was scraping away at the picture without using the little piece of the card to practice first. It wasn’t long though before he realised that maybe he should have practised making narrow lines with the scraper first and the results after this were much more delicate!


The kids had a lovely time for a fairly small amount of money and I was really pleased that they had not spent all day in front of a screen.

If you fancy having a go with the Loom Bands yourself or would like to keep your kids entertained for a while I have three packs of 300 bands with hooks and S clips to give away to one winner. Just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter to enter.

Giveaway is open to UK residents and all entries will be checked.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Elemis Competition Prize Review

I was really pleased to get an email earlier in the week informing me that I had won an Elemis goody bag from a competition at the Resident magazine,

I received the email on Tuesday and was really impressed to find my prize waiting on the doorstep when I got home on Friday. The prize was sponsored by QVC who are offering the set at £62.76, which was a great offer considering that the retail price of the set is £173.60. If you want one of your own you can find it here

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Living with Anxiety

I have suffered from anxiety, low self-esteem and bouts of depression for as long as I can remember. However, the first time I realised what it was that I was suffering from was when No 1 was very small and I had a panic attack which resulted in an emergency visit to the doctors followed by a course of anti-depressants and beta-blockers.

At least I then had a label for the irrational way that I had been feeling but the treatment only succeeded in masking the problem and it has returned repeatedly throughout my adult life. Thankfully though that was the only occasion that I have had a full blown panic attack and I have the deepest sympathy for people that go through this on a regular basis.

Anxiety is a debilitating condition that is poorly understood by people that do not suffer from it. My anxiety usually manifests itself in irrational fears about my health but I also suffer from generalised anxiety and feelings of inadequacy and there is rarely a moment when I feel completely relaxed. It prevents me enjoying myself in a wide variety of situations as I am constantly plagued by irrational thoughts. There is a social stigma surrounding many mental health conditions, anxiety included, and I have always felt ashamed of my condition and do not discuss it with anyone other than to a small extent with my long-suffering DH. I have also experienced stigma when going to the doctor about the condition and have felt patronised on a number of occasions by the people that are supposed to be there to help. This has resulted in a severe reluctance to visit the doctor for any reason.

I have got to the stage now that I do not want this condition to plague my life any more and I want to be modelling a healthy mental attitude to my children. I need to do something to tackle the underlying problems and find better ways to manage the condition. There is much that has been written about living with anxiety but the advice is of very variable quality and has variable effects. I intend to use this section of my blog in a positive way to record the strategies that I am using to help me overcome this condition and to share what is successful for me and what is not.

I appreciate that a lot of my readers will have little interest in this subject and if you don’t then feel free to ignore these posts but I know that I am not the only person out there that suffers from this condition and I hope that my experiences may be of some help to someone else.