Firemizer is a Clever Little Thing!

We hadn’t heard of Firemizer until we were asked to take a look at it, but our log burner at Chataigne House in France is quite old, so anything which could help with its efficiency is very welcome!

Firemizer is an award winning, fuel saving device which optimizes the performance of fuel in solid fuel stoves and fires. It can also be used in barbecues too. It is a high performance technology, proven to work in aerospace and automotive industries, so we thought it would definitely be ok for a log burner in France! In practice, it looks like a thin sheet of a wire-mesh type material. It is very lightweight and easy to use.

Firemizer for your open fire or wood burning stove
Firemizer for your open fire or wood burning stove

You simply put the wire mesh across the grate of your fire or stove (they recommend using gloves when handling as the wire edges are sharp), then build up the fire in the usual way. That’s it! I know – simple!

Putting the Firemizer into the grate of the fire
Putting the Firemizer into the grate of the fire

Here’s the science part (and even this is quite simple) – Firemizer is not catalytic and doesn’t contain any chemicals. It works by slowing the air flow to the fuel, thus reducing the burn rate. It then conducts heat evenly across the base of the fuel to ensure it is all fully combusted. Finally, it also prevents small fuel fragments falling through the grate or being left unburned in the ash bed.

What a nifty little device! It claims to reduce fuel costs by up to 38%. I can’t say whether it did this for us, as we don’t usually use the house in France over the winter, but this year our son has been working over there and has certainly seen the benefit. He has reported that he seems to be using fewer logs, and that they last longer and burn more thoroughly. He also thinks they produce less ash.

Firemizer also claims to minimise creosote in chimneys by up to 57%, which has to be a good thing too. This has been independently tested by the University of Cambridge, and the University of Nottingham. (We haven’t put our son up the chimney to check this – yet!)

So, for all of you who have a log burner or open fire, you might want to consider this clever little Firemiser. Also, if you enjoy a lot of barbecues in the summer, this may save you some money too. And if you don’t have an open fire, perhaps you’d like to share a picture of ours? It’s warm and cozy and oh so lovely on a winter’s evening. Just curl up with a good book and a glass of something delicious…

Cozy up by the fire with a glass of something...
Cozy up by the fire with a glass of something…

We will have a log burner and an open fire in our new house when we move at Easter, and I’m sure there will still be days cold enough to have the fire on (it is Scotland!), so we’ll definitely invest in a Firemizer for our new place.

You can buy Firemizer at fireplace centres, or DIY stores such as B&Q, or from Amazon. (affiliate link).

Disclosure: We were sent a Firemizer for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are honest and our own.

Dad’s Musings Before The Big Ski Trip

Here’s what I thought before we took a ski trip with a difference. We’re back now, but I’m not letting on how it went just yet. I want you to read this first!!
It’s almost half term, the big trip to the USA beckons, and still not a bag packed. One of these years we’ll be organised, everything will be ready a week or two in advance and all we’ll have to worry about before the big push is how early in the day is too early for an alcoholic imbibement to get into the holiday spirit!

Bags packed and ready to go on a special ski trip!
Bags packed and ready to go!

This year we’re taking a break from the Alps and heading for New England and some Dad and lads skiing Stateside, as well as some well-earned r&r for Mum as she recovers from some serious back trouble. We’re not quite sure how this is going to pan out to be completely honest.

We’ve been utterly spoilt for the past few seasons, having holidayed with specialist family companies. They really are superb at what they do, for instance we holidayed with Esprit last year in Austria, and they made the whole week an absolute pleasure. The boys were looked after from just after breakfast, right through ’til late, and had great fun with various activities and clubs based around their ski lessons. The biggest lesson being, if they’re having fun, you’ll have fun too.

Toby’s ski lessons finished for the day

This year is different. There are no kids clubs planned, the boys will be with one or both of us 24/7. I think it will be OK as they’re older now and much more accomplished and ‘into’ their skiing. We’ll see. The biggest worry that I have is the journey. The boys do have a tendency (like most boys of a certain age) to be silly when in each other’s company, so how to keep them occupied? These days it is electronic gadgetry that we rely on, but it’s good for the brain (and the eyes) to have some additional armaments, including a good book, actual games (rather than virtual ones), and something artistic to keep them occupied.

Giving them an item that they’re personally responsible for is a good idea too. For instance, there’s no way Mum will be able to transport anything apart from herself (and even that is a worry!). So I’m planning on them each being responsible for a luggage item. Carrying some documents is another, although I will make sure we have duplicates, just in case…

The kids will have some responsibility for their luggage
The kids will have some responsibility for their luggage

So, with some apprehension, I’m looking forward to this year’s ski trip. It will be different, but it will be great to ski for the first time with the boys. We’ll keep you posted. I’m pretty sure though that we’ll be back with a specialist family company next season!
Now, back to packing for this ski trip.

Packing for the ski trip
Packing for the ski trip

Goodness me, those salopettes have really shrunk quite badly since last year…

Would you like to save this for later?

We're planning and packing for our big ski trip to the USA. Read about it here.
Planning our ski trip


Snapped Up Linky February/March

Welcome to the new Snapped Up linky!

Snapped Up Linky for shopping hauls
Snapped Up Linky

If you love shopping – and snapping up bargains (and you’ve blogged or vlogged about your latest buy) the #SnappedUp Linky is for you!

Home and Horizon has teamed up with us here at Family Makes to bring a fantastic new monthly linky which celebrates all your best shopping buys; from thrifty finds through to one-off pieces and unique gems.

In her new role as Shopping Hauls Round-up Editor for BritMums, Lauretta will be picking a selection of the best ones to feature on the BritMums site, promoting your blog posts to thousands of readers!

You can link up a blog post or a vlog (or both) with a maximum of two links.

But wait, there’s more….every month we’ll be picking a random winner to win a fantastic prize!

This month we’re giving away a ticket to the 2017 Traverse Conference in London worth £89!!

The conference takes place from 24th-30th April and offers a week of events, culminating in a weekend conference.

Follow the 3 simple rules below for your chance to be featured on BritMums AND win a ticket to Traverse!

**** Please note that linky entries will only be considered as eligible competition entries if all three rules of the linky have been met. ****

(YouTubers can post a link to the linky on social media or mention in their video description)

The Rules

  1. Comment on the hosts’ posts. (If there)

  2. Comment on the post before yours PLUS at least one other (it would be great to comment on all if you can – sharing is caring!)

  3. Grab the badge below and paste it at the bottom of your blog post

You can also tweet @FamilyMakes and @LaurettaCWright with the link to your post and the hashtag #snappedup and one (or both) of us will retweet it and leave a comment on your blog/vlog.

Feel free to follow our social media accounts plus as many of our great linkers as you can, to show them your support and help to grow the #SnappedUp community!

Thanks for taking part – and remember to pop back soon to see more great buys and leave your comments and support.


Family Makes Snapped Up Linky

This linky has now closed, see the current linky in the series here

New Hampshire in the Sunshine- My Sunday Photo

We’ve just spent the most amazing week in New England. We love this part of the world, we were even married here.

The main reason for the trip was to ski, but we’ve done some sight seeing too. There have been some snowy days, but isn’t it lovely when the sky turns bright blue in contrast to the crisp white snow?

Old railway bridge over Connecticut River
Old railway bridge over Connecticut River
 Covered Bridge between Vermont and New Hampshire over the frozen Connecticut River
Covered Bridge between Vermont and New Hampshire over the frozen Connecticut River


Why I Don’t Like Valentine’s Day (it’s not what you think!)

No, I don’t really like Valentine’s Day. I’ve waited until today to share this revelation however, as I didn’t ‘t want to spoil it for all you lovers out there! There is some romance in this old soul!

Nope, the reason is not because I’m single or feeling unloved. It isn’t because I hate slushy sentimentality. I’m a sucker for it actually, a real girly hearts and flowers kind of girl. It isn’t even that I resent the commercialism (although I do, a bit!).

I hear all the arguments about not needing a particular day to show your love for your partner, and I get that too, but there again I don’t have a problem with special days for any reason. Why not get swept along with the idea? It’s fun, it’s sweet, and card companies need something to keep them going between Christmas and Mother’s Day.

No, my problem with Valentine’s Day is a little more personal – I just find it really hard to get Valentine’s day right!

I failed again this year. I knew I would. Every year we agree not to bother, or to get ‘just a card’, or ‘just a little something ‘, but whatever I do it’s never quite right. This year we were away skiing, so I got him some lovely merino wool base layers, plus ski socks and a neck warmer from the kids. Not romantic, but thoughtful and practical.

What did he get for me? A pretty little eternity ring, a diamond crossover, presented from the kids. Toby even went down on one knee to give me it! They said it symbolises my two boys, and that they will always be mine, for eternity. I cried. Of course!

My husband is so good at this stuff. Although to be fair he always breaks the rules! Whenever we agree to not bother, he always does. Or he’ll tell me not to worry or do anything fancy, when he’s been planning something for weeks. I know this already, but I’m still always unprepared. I should know better. I DO know better! But I still find it really hard.

The truth is I love my man so much that I just can’t find the right gift to show it. Or maybe I could, but I certainly couldn’t afford it! Plus, he’s not really the sentimental kind (unlike me!), so a lot of things would just get me laughed out of the room, if I was dumb enough to buy them in the first place. Men are so hard to buy for at the best of times, but when you’re trying to reflect your complete respect and utter adoration for someone, and do it in a non-sentimental and relatively inexpensive way, the task becomes nearly impossible.

So that’s why I don’t like Valentine’s Day. The pressure is too great. Ok, it’s self-imposed pressure, but that’s even worse! I’m doomed to fail, because I love my man more than any pink heart or red flower can convey. Next year I’ll be more organised. I’ll read more gift guides and Pinterest posts. But for this year I still don’t like Valentine’s Day because I failed again!

Six Things To Do With Your Old Books

Is it still the time of year for having a clear out? I’m sure any time is good for a de-clutter, but especially between the new Year and Spring Cleaning time. We’ve had a big sort out of our old books recently, and our children have too. So what to do with all of your old books?

Your old books could be loved by someone else, and make you some money!
Your old books could be loved by someone else, and make you some money!

We have a few ideas to share with you, whether you’re having a massive, ruthless sort out or just letting go of a few books you know that you won’t read again. Let’s get started with the suggestions:

  1. Sell to an online agent. I recently sold some books, plus some CDs, DVDs and Xbox games, via an online company called Ziffit. They are advertising on TV at the moment, but there are other sites which offer a similar service. They don’t accept everything, and some offers are really low (literally pennies), but it’s very convenient to just type in or scan the barcode, print off a postage label, and send the whole lot off to them. I set a price limit below which I decided I’d rather give the item to charity, but I still managed to send off two parcels worth approximately £25 or so. It’s £25 I otherwise wouldn’t have had, so why not?

    Your old books can be put to better use!
    Your old books can be put to better use!
  2. Sell to Amazon. They offer a similar service, but only on text books, not fiction (plus games, phones etc). The offer can be quite high on something sought after, but I didn’t have any luck this time with any of my books.

    Old text books can be useful to others
    Old text books can be useful to others
  3. Sell individually via Amazon, Ebay etc. This is a little more time consuming, and you have to handle all of the postage yourself, but you may get a better price for them at least. Alternatively, you could sell them as a job lot, but bear in mind that postage costs may be quite high. Perhaps you could offer them for collection only, or sell via something like Shpock or Gumtree, which expects people to pick up items from you.
  4. Trade in at your local book store. This may just be my personal favourite since I discovered a store called Barter Books. Followers of our blog or social media will know that we discovered this marvellous book store in Alnwick by accident a few weeks ago. We returned last week to trade some of our own books, and were delighted to receive £55 of Barter credit! OK, so it’s not real money, it is credit to spend in store, but what a wonderful store to spend it in!

    A section of Barter Books, my new favourite place!
    A section of Barter Books, my new favourite place!
  5. Book Crossing. Have you heard of this? I’ve done it a few times over the years with old books, but had forgotten my account details so I set up a new one. It was very easy. Then you register a book and get a unique ID number, which you write onto the book or a printed label with a message encouraging the person who finds the book to go online and register it. The recipient then reads the book and ‘releases’ it back into the wild. Then the original owner can track its journey. This is really good fun if you leave the books in random public places or on holiday for example. Some people also arrange Book Crossing meetings where books can be exchanged.

    Book Crossing
    Courtesy of Bookcrossing, Inc
  6. Donate to charity. This can mean anything from taking your old books to a charity shop, which is what we did, to donating them to a jumble sale.  Many organisations may have a use for them – perhaps a hospital, refuge or school.
    You could donate your old books to a good cause
    You could donate your old books to a good cause

    Did you like these ideas? You can Pin them for later:

    Make your old books work for you! Are you having a clear out, organising or spring clean? Here are some ideas to help put your old books to good use, making you money or helping others.
    Pin these ideas for later – 6 things to do with your old books


You Baby Me Mummy

Books Galore – My Sunday Photo

We’ve been having a massive book clear-out, and have a post coming soon about it!

In the meantime, we’ve shared some images on social media from a fantastic place we discovered a couple of weeks ago, Barter Books in Alnwick. It is inside an old railway station, and has toy trains going around on tracks above the book shelves, plus vintage seating, open fires, and a waiting room with tea and coffee.

We were there again on Friday, and will definitely be regular visitors now! We’ve even traded in some books of our own.

A section of Barter Books, my new favourite place!
A section of Barter Books, my new favourite place!
Hugo by one of the cosy fires, with his new books, at Barter Books in Alnwick
Hugo by one of the cosy fires, with his new books.

Wouldn’t you want to be a regular visitor to a bookshop this great?