All posts by Familymakes

Trying to be Sugar Smart Week 2 – Drinks

As you may have seen last week, we are taking part in a scheme with Kallikids to try and be a more sugar smart family. In week two our challenge was all about drinks.

We were challenged to make the world’s most disgusting drink, and the world’s most delightful (low sugar) drink. The goal was to show kids just how much sugar was in fizzy drinks, and demonstrate that low-sugar alternatives can be great.

So, just how much sugar IS in fizzy drinks? Well, in a 500ml bottle of coke for example, there are cubes 13.5 of sugar, or 54g. That is a huge amount of sugar. Enough to set my teeth on edge!!

How much sugar is in fizzy drinks?
How much sugar is in fizzy drinks?

I must admit, the drinks part isn’t too much of a challenge for us, as we’ve never allowed our children to have fizzy drinks, and consequently they haven’t really developed a taste for them. They are actually quite repulsed by most fizzy drinks, and will only try them when at a friend’s birthday party or occasion to be polite, but then come home really thirsty and want to drink juice or squash.

Iced water is so refreshing, but will the kids drink it?
Iced water is so refreshing, but will the kids drink it?

I’m not being too smug and self-righteous though. My kids still hate to drink water! Toby isn’t too bad, but Hugo flatly refuses. When very small, we used to give them fresh apple juice very diluted with water, and as they’ve grown older we also give them sugar-free squash. If we’re out we allow them to have fruit shoots or similar, or again they enjoy apple juice or squash when we’re out. They also enjoy milk and milkshakes, but they have learned at school about the amount of sugar in shop-bought milkshake, and were so disgusted that they often shy away from them.

Delicious smoothies, juices and milkshakes
Delicious smoothies, juices and milkshakes

They really enjoyed making smoothies as part of our experiments though, and it was their immediate choice when I asked them what healthy drink we should make. I’m really guilty of not making smoothies enough, as they are a brilliant healthy choice for kids. They also like making them into ice lollies too. It’s partly because my old blender broke, so I only have a food processor, and it’s quite messy to wash up afterwards. So if anyone feels like donating me a great blender/Nutri-bullet type machine, feel free! Just think of how healthy you’ll be making my family!!

Fabulous and healthy smoothies
Fabulous and healthy smoothies

The obvious choice for their disgusting drink had to involve vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Explosions and fizzes go down a storm here! So we added the coke and mints experiment for good measure too. Shame the kids thought that one actually tasted nice! We also added the 13.5 cubes of sugar found in coke to our vinegar potion, to see if it improved any. Of course it did not! Toby’s face was a picture – take a look!

Please pin this for later:

Sugar Smart drinks advice and experiments for kids. Reduce sugar in drinks for your children and help them to make healthy choices.
Sugar Smart Drinks – please pin for later

Mum Interview With Emma and Family – Oh My Blog!

Oh My Blog is a monthly interview series, where fellow bloggers come together to answer a series of questions on a specific theme. This is a chance to get acquainted with a whole range of bloggers, some of whom you may not have heard of before, and learn a little more about them!

This month, the theme is Mums (because it’s Mother’s Day soon!) and we’re hosting Emma from Emma and Family.

Mum Questions Oh My Blog Emma and Family
Oh My Blog – Emma and Family
  1. Introduce us to your mum. What’s her name? What does she do? Reveal her age if you dare!

My mum is the lovely Wendy, I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing but she is 50 years young. She’s a young fit granny! She works as a bookkeeper for her father in law’s accountancy firm one day a week. Don’t ask me what that means she actually does because I haven’t a clue but it is something to do with numbers. She is also the lucky lady who gets to look after my toddler 1 day a week whilst I go to work as well as deal with my ferociously hormonal 13 year old sister.

  1. What’s the one thing your mum always used to say to you?

I can’t think of anything poignant that she used to always say but she used to sing this little tune to me every morning. It’s about it being time to get up which always makes me think of her and I like to sing it once in awhile to Harrison.

  1. Someone’s playing your mum. Who is it and why?

OOOoohhh this is so tricky. My mum’s, my mum! I can’t think of anyone that is like her! The first person that sprung to mind was Emma Thompson but I can’t really pinpoint why!

  1. She’s won the lottery. What’s the first thing your mum buys for herself?

Probably absolutely nothing! Pay off the rest of her mortgage I imagine. She is the type of lady that extremely rarely spends money on herself. Which is actually something I used tell her off for when I was younger but now I’m a mother I find myself doing the exact same thing (I am currently wearing 10 year old leggings that have holes in them because I’m too stubborn to buy a new pair!)

  1. What embarrassing story about you does she always tell when you meet new people?

Aw no my Mummy doesn’t actually do that! I struck lucky there! So instead I’ll tell you what she used that really embarrassed me. My high school was attached to a gym where my family as well as many of the families of staff and students at my school were members. My mother is one of those women that walk around the changing rooms fully starkers. Meaning the majority of my friends and schoolteachers have all not only seen my mother naked but also probably had an awkward conversation with her whilst naked!

  1. What are your plans for Mother’s Day this year?

Not a clue in all honestly. I will probably try and see my mum and nan on the Saturday and then Sunday is up for my partner and son to spoil me! Although last year I seem to remember offering to take my mum and nan out for an afternoon tea which I never got round to do doing so maybe I will see if I can find anywhere not already fully booked and take them to that! But my Sunday will ideally be spent with a lie in and a take away with my boys.

  1. What’s her favourite TV show at the moment?

A combination of Holby City and Casualty. My mum, my nan and I have all watched them both for as long as I can remember and they are pretty consistently the only programmes my mum makes time to watch every week. She likes things like One Born Every Minute and anything-medical documentary kind of thing. I think if it wasn’t for her fear of vomit she would have made an awesome nurse in another life.

  1. What’s the biggest or most important thing that your mum inspired you to do?

Working hard at school. She didn’t do so well at school and has always regretted it as it stopped her going all the way in the career she wanted. So for as long as I can remember she has always pushed me to do well at school, to go to university etc. In my teens I probably resented her for that a bit but now I’m on the other side I’m really grateful she did. Not going do I have a great education that I will hopefully build on once I have school aged kiddies but I also had the best time of my life at university.

  1. Your round at the bar! What’s your mum drinking?

White wine, or if it’s near Christmas Baileys! She isn’t really a big drinker, a glass of wine here and there but she doesn’t go in for anything adventurous alcohol wise.

  1. What’s the biggest different between you and your mum?

As I get older I see more and more of  my mum in myself! What will always remain a difference between us is our attitudes to drinking. My mum is terrified of being drunk, she got drunk once and hated it and will do her best to avoid it and has done ever since. Me on the other hand? Give me the booze! All the booze!

  1. Most important question of the lot. What is your mum’s stance on 50 Shades of Grey? Does she love it? Hate it? Not even know what it is?

I would love to say she hasn’t even heard of it. That’s what I’d like to think anyway. We don’t discuss sex in my family.

  1. What’s your favourite memory of your mum?

My mum was a single parent until I was 5. I don’t actually have many specific memories of that time but I have this warm overall fuzzy feeling of a memory of how close we were and it just being me and her as a little team and loving that. There is something special about being just a little two person team of a family.

  1. What do you think your mum was like as a kid?

My mum  was a big old tom boy. She was in the scouts and was a competitive swimmer so had her hair cut short. All her childhood and teenage years involved sailing or climbing tree. Although by the time she was 24 she had been engaged twice so maybe she was a little more exciting and adventurous than she had ever let me know!

  1. Cast your mind back a bit; what was the thing you did as a child or teenager that made your mum the angriest she has ever been with you?

I was 13, I had a load of friends round for a sleepover and everyone stole some alcohol from their parents and we all got drunk! In my house. With my parents upstairs. How I imagined ever getting away with that I don’t know but I definitely was caught. That was without a doubt the most trouble I have ever got in! I was grounded for a month, in a family that didn’t do grounding as a punishment!

  1. Finally, what’s the BEST piece of advice your mum ever gave to you?

In general, my mum isn’t really a big advice giver. She seems to believe in letting me go out there and make my own decisions and choices and mistakes and then being there to comfort me when those mistakes do happen. Apart from when it comes to my son, she always has little pieces of advice here and there, which to be honest, I don’t listen to many of. She taught me to know my own mind and make my own plans and to trust my gut. I think that is better than any piece of advice she could ever give me.

If you want to find out more about Emma, go and visit her lovely blog and social media.







Oh My Blog!
You Baby Me Mummy

Can We Be Sugar Smart? Our First Week Of The Project

We have been chosen as one of eight families taking part in a Sugar Smart challenge with Kallikids. We have no idea what we are in for!!

Sugar Smart is a project associated with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and Sustain – the alliance for better food and farming, to raise awareness of the amount of sugar in our foods and the adverse effects it can have on our bodies.

You may have heard of the Sugar Smart app, which has been created as part of the NHS Change for Life programme. Our children have brought home information from school about this, and are quite aware of sugar and the fact that too much of it is not good for you.

So, Kallikids have teamed up with Sugarsmart to help raise awareness, and they are starting right here with us!!

In the first week of our challenge, we were simply looking at our current habits and analysing the amount of sugar we consume in a normal week. We had to put crosses on our individual charts for natural sugars (fruit & fruit drinks, and honey), sweet things with sugar, and savoury things with sugar listed. The thing which surprised us most was how much sugar there was in savoury foods, such as pizza and bread! What is sugar doing in our pizza, I ask you??

Luckily, we do eat quite a lot of home cooked foods, so we can avoid a lot of added sugar there, but we are a busy family, like most families, so often turn to convenience and processed foods to help us out. It’s really shocking what is in some of these foods!

During week one of our challenge, a great big hamper of sugar free foods arrived to help us with our challenge. This is us opening our treats!

The kids were keen to dive right in, and as we were having chicken curry, they wanted to us the chickpea pop pops as popadoms! They then designed a new dish which looked a little like a blini, piling the chicken and rice onto the little crisp. They found it so delicious, and ate the whole lot! We even made it our Sunday Photo this week!

Sugar smart week 1 - tucking in to chickpea pop pops
Tucking in to curry with Little Dish Chickpea Pop Pops

And how was our sugar count? Not too bad to be honest! The worst things are our breakfasts (tea and biscuits for grown ups, and cereals with sugar in for kids), plus some of the snacks the kids have. They are not as bad as they could be though, mostly cereal bars and brioche, but still containing some sugar. We also noted that none of us are eating enough fruit really. Could do better…

Our Sugar Smart record chart from week 1 of the challenge
Our Sugar Smart record chart

So, keep reading each week of the twelve week challenge to see what we discover about sugar and how we manage to change things as a family!


Snapped Up Linky March-April

Welcome to the monthly #SnappedUp 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!

We’ve joined forces with Home and Horizon to bring a fantastic new monthly linky which celebrates all your best shopping buys; from thrifty finds through to one-off pieces and huge shopping hauls.

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’ve bagged yet another 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 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. ****

The Rules

  1. Comment on the hosts’ posts. (marked HOSTS in brackets)

  2. Comment on the post before yours plus AT LEAST one other (preferably all if possible – sharing is caring!)

  3. Grab the badge below and paste it at the bottom of your blog post.
    (If you are submitting a YouTube link please post a link on social media or mention the linky #snappedup in your video description, then tweet the hosts)

    Note: In Lauretta’s role as the Shopping Hauls Round-up Editor for BritMums, she’ll also be picking a selection of the best links to feature on the BritMums site, promoting your blog posts to thousands of readers!

Feel free to tweet the hosts @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.

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


We’ve linked with the #LuckyLinky to share our great #SnappedUp competition

rachel bustin

Tasty Dog Food For Your Faithful Friend

It’s Crufts week everyone! My little Labradoodle and I are enjoying watching all the fine dogs on display. So I thought it was a good time to tell you about our new dog food…

Choosing dog food can be almost as complicated as feeding your kids these days. There are so many choices available – wet food, complete dry food, mixer, raw…. so complicated!

When we first got Daphne, we stuck with the food the breeder had been feeding her, but we soon found out there was a huge variety of choice out there. Just step into any pet food store or even supermarket, and the range is ovewhelming.

Thankfully, the helpful people at stepped in to help us out! They custom blend their complete dog food to your requirements, all worked out based on the size and type of dog, and their activity levels. They even take into consideration your dog’s favourite flavours! The tailor made dog food is then delivered to your door every month in the perfect quantity so that you never run out.

All of our personalised dog food products from
Our personalised products from

When I first saw the offer online, I thought that such a special service and delivery would be costly, but I was pleasantly surprised. All prices are different, depending on the type of food and quantity required for your dog’s specific needs. For us it was no more expensive than the type of food Daphne was eating before. say that this is because you cut out the middleman, buying directly from the manufacturer.

Daphne and her new dog food
Daphne and her new dog food

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so what did our little Daphne Doodle think of her new dog food? Well, we followed the very informative guidelines, and introduced the new food slowly, mixing with her current food. supply a handy little scoop which folds down to your required size, and they tell you exactly how much to use which is really reassuring.

Daphne was so excited to have some new food to try, and we also got her a tray of the wet food, which comes in delicious sounding flavours such as ‘Fisherman’s Pate with Salmon and Peas’, and ‘Hearty Casserole With Pasta & Carrots’. The wet food worked out slightly more expensive per tray than the pouches she was having, but they were bigger. Most importantly, Daphne went absolutely wild for them!

Patiently waiting for her new dog food
Patiently waiting for her new dog food

She was very keen on the dry food too, we had no problems changing her over at all. In fact, she’s eating much better now, and she literally runs into the utility room when she knows her food is ready!

I would have no hesitation in recommending Everything from the service to the quality of the food has really impressed me. The uniquely designed menu, and the fact that everything is labelled with Daphne’s name are a lovely personal touch. It is also a great reminder that this is all tailor made for her.

Daphne's own tailor made dog food
Daphne’s own tailor made dog food

Would you like a free 2-week trial of food, with only £1 for delivery? We have a special code for you! Just head to their website at and enter the code FAMILYMAKES.

If you would like to see further opinions, check out the reviews on Trust Pilot at

Disclosure: we were sent some custom made dry food from for this review, but all opinions are honest and our own (or our dog’s own!)

Pin this information for later:

Tasty Dog Food For Your Faithful Friend, custom made from
Pin for later: Tasty Dog Food For Your Faithful Friend


Can’t Stop The Holiday Spam! – My Sunday Photo

Sorry, I know, more holiday spam! But New England is so beautiful, especially with the sun out and the snow gleaming.

A Covered Bridge over a Snowy River in Littleton NH
A Covered Bridge over a Snowy River in Littleton NH

Look at the icicles on the building to the left! We spent a lot of time spotting spectacular icicles!

Littleton is the Hometown of the authour of Pollyanna
Littleton is the Hometown of the author of Pollyanna

We love the town of Littleton, New Hampshire. It is the hometown of Eleanor H Porter, the author of Pollyanna. They have a statue of Pollyanna outside the library in town, and this year the lovely addition of the yellow Pollyanna flags on the lampposts. I like to think of myself as a bit of a Pollyanna, so this is particularly endearing to me!


Favourite Books For 7 to12 Years, & Younger Children Too

As it’s World Book Day tomorrow, we decided to record our family’s favourite books for 7-12 year olds,

and also some of our all-time favourites from when the boys were younger.

Hugo is 10 years old, and is in Year 5 at school. His current top 10 favourite books are:

  • The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling – Hugo read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Year 4 as a class, and has worked his way through the rest. He is currently reading The Half Blood Prince.
  • The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively – he read this with his class in Year 5
  • The Titan – I think he means The Titan’s Curse, a Percy Jackson book by Rick Riordan. He hasn’t read this, but his class teacher has mentioned it, and he really wants to read it.
  • Room 13 by Robert Swindells – this is his current class book for Year 5, and is about a place near to us, Whitby
  • How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell – we have read most of the books in this series, and Hugo got the last few he was missing recently at Barter Books.
  • Paw Tracks In The Moonlight by Denis O’Connor – this isn’t actually a children’s book, it’s one of mine, but Hugo is really enjoying it.
  • Krindlekrax by Philip Ridley – Hugo read this with his class in Year 4 and really enjoyed it. Toby has also read it at school this year, but didn’t like it as much.
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – he really enjoyed this classic
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling – having initially struggled with the style of this book, being a play rather than a story, he enjoyed it more by reading it himself rather than us sharing it as a story.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them by JK Rowling – a screenplay version which again he preferred to read alone. He did say that he enjoyed the film more.

    Hugo's Top 10 Books for a 10-year old
    Hugo’s Top 10 Books for a 10-year old

Toby is 8 years old, and is currently in Year 4 at school. His top 10 favourite books are:

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – Toby read this with his class in Year 3.
  • Danny The Champion Of The World by RoaldDahl – This is Toby’s current ‘tray book’ at school.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl – out little Dahl fan likes this one best of all I think.
  • The Beast Quest series – Toby has drained the school library of all of the Beast Quest books, and I’ve had to buy him more! He absolutely devours them!
  • The Demon Dentist and Billionaire Boy by David Walliams – these are Toby’s favourite Walliams books, although I think he has read them all!
  • George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl – This was another Year 3 Class book which Toby enjoyed.
  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney – he has loved all of these.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling – this is the book his current Year 4 class are reading, and he has also enjoyed the illustrated version at home in our story time, as well as The Chamber of Secrets.
  • How To Speak Dragonese by Cressida Cowell – this is Toby’s favourite in the How To Train Your Dragon series.

    Toby's Top 10 Books for 8-Year Olds
    Toby’s Top 10 Books for 8-Year Olds

All-Time Favourites:

We couldn’t choose 10 each, as when the boys were younger they always had (and enjoyed) the same stories. So, we’ve gone for 15 in total:

  • You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart- not much reading in this book, but lots of interaction which they always loved.
  • Ginger by Charlotte Voake – this was the first book Hugo ever read by himself
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox – On Toby’s current list, but one of Hugo’s ‘when I was younger’ inclusions.
  • The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown – we knew this one off by heart from an early age!
  • The Richest Crocodile In The World by Daniel Postgate
  • Duck In The Truck by Jez Albrough
  • Farmer Ham by Alec Sillifant
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • Hugo (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) by Brian Selznick – for obvious reasons.
  • The Magic Sky by Lucy Richards – an all time favourite!
  • The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark by Jill Tomlinson
  • The Bear Under The Stairs by Helen Cooper
  • Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
  • Tinga Tinga Tales – Why Elephant Has A Trunk
  • Who’s In The Loo (toilet humour never fails to amuse!) by Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds
  • Animals In School by Julia Donaldson

    Some favourite books from when they were younger
    Some favourite books from when they were younger

What do you think of their list? Any they’ve missed out? I’m surprised ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ and ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ don’t appear here, and they also missed out the great ‘Hairy McClairy’ books too, plus Mum’s favourites ‘Each Peach Pear Plum’, and ‘Tiddler’, and Dad’s favourites ‘The Night Pirates’ and ‘The Little Old Lady Who Cried Wolf’!

It’s interesting to see their personal preferences and styles appearing though as they get older, even if they have forgotten some of their old favourites already!

Would you like to pin this to help you remember our recommendations?

See our favourite books for 7-12 year olds, as chosen by my boys, plus some all-time favourites for younger children too. Become a bookworm at Family Makes!
Favourite books for 7-12 year olds – pin for later!


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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.