Category Archives: Reviews

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!)

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Tasty Dog Food For Your Faithful Friend, custom made from
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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!

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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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ethannevelyn.comAfter the Playground


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.

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

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    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.
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You Baby Me Mummy

First News Review – Our First Impressions

First News is a weekly newspaper aimed at children in the age range of 7-14 years. We’ve been sent two copies now, and they have gone down very well with my boys, ages 8 & 10.

What they like about it:

The boys felt very excited about something coming through the door which was for them. They also felt very grown up about having a proper newspaper, not just a comic which was full of cartoons.

Hugo looks very grown up reading his 'First News' newspaper
Hugo looks very grown up reading his ‘First News’ newspaper

They really enjoyed the subject matter – everything from World News and Home News to the science, technology, nature and sports. Every topic seemed to interest them. It was all explained in a clear and engaging way.

Toby, my youngest, especially enjoyed the puzzles and other interactive quizzes where he could get a pen out and take part, and Hugo, in particular, was pleased to see Harry Potter featured, as well as ‘coming soon’ type features that he could go to school and tell his friends about. Everyone wants to be the first to hear about things!

Toby enjoyed First News' quizzes and puzzles
Toby enjoyed First News’ quizzes and puzzles

What I liked about it:

They were reading! Yes, without my nagging or cajoling, my ‘typical’ boys who would rather be playing Xbox games or football, or doing anything but homework, were reading! Not only this, but they were happily reading things which were educational, informative and very useful indeed.

World news and features about animals were very popular
World news and features about animals were very popular

It was so good that I allowed them to record it in their school reading record, in place of their usual reading books. This is what they wrote (yes, they were writing as well!)

H: “This is a newspaper to tell me about my near future in 2017, and so far it has told me everything from Sweden to Turkey. It is brilliant as I know what is going on all around me and in other places.”

T: “A new newspaper for kids came a few days ago, with a lot of information in it. So I got straight to reading it!”…and then….

” Issue number 2  turned up at our door today and talked about protecting jaguars and celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. “

I also liked how much discussion and intellectual debate reading First News sparked in our family. We are always happy when topical discussion occurs, and are pleased to answer questions which show that our children are genuinely interested in understanding the world around them.

I’m really pleased that my children are also keen to share First News with their friends. I can definitely see this publication being very useful in schools too, either in the classroom or school libraries.

Lots of interesting facts to share from First News
Lots of interesting facts to share

Special Offer

If you are interested in having First News for your family, we have a promotion code so that you can access an exclusive offer for a subscription.  The price is 5 issues for £1 (on direct debit).  This is a trial offer.  After the 5 issues it continues as a price of £15.99 every 3 months.

Please follow this link to access the deal

Most people choose to continue with the subscription.  However, there is no obligation and the customer can call or email to cancel the subscription at any point and no further money will be taken.  (This is for the print edition of the newspaper only.)

We hope you enjoy your subscription as much as we are enjoying ours. I can see it being a very useful thing to have for a considerable time in our family.

With thanks to First News for giving us a subscription in return for this review. All opinions are entirely honest and our own.

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Hannah Spannah

Top 10 Ski Resorts For Beginners – Our Recommendations

Well, that’s Christmas and New Year done and dusted. Thoughts now move on to our next adventure as we start to get ready for our annual skiing trip. This year we’re returning to the other side of the pond, we’re off to New England. We got a great deal with Virgin holidays, despite the fact we’re going over the peak half-term week. The kids are no longer beginners, they are getting quite adventurous now, and I thought it was about time they spent some time on the slopes with dad. Somewhere not too difficult, but somewhere that non-skiing mum won’t be too bored either. Cal’s had a bit of a tough year, with continuing health issues, so a nice hotel with leisure facilities, adjacent to tax-free shopping, and with flights from our local airport, is just what the doctor ordered!

Collecting icicles in Austria
Collecting icicles in Austria

All of which got me reminiscing about the very first time I went skiing, back in 1978. A group of us had been away on holidays for the past couple of summers, and started musing about where to go the following year. In a moment of youthful impertinence, I suggested that perhaps we should do a winter trip instead and try skiing. After all, we used to go ice skating every weekend at Altrincham ice rink, so if you can ice skate, you can ski, right? To my amazement, everyone thought it was a great idea, and left me to make the arrangements.

And so, in the middle of a freezing January, we arrived at our rented bungalow in Aviemore, following a nightmare 24 hour journey through snow and freezing fog. I won’t bore you with every detail of our first time ‘on the slopes,’ but it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. The road to the ski runs was closed due to bad weather (Aviemore is about 10 miles from Cairngorm, no ski-in, ski-out luxury here…), so we took our first tentative turns on the dry slope, and I still have the scars to prove it! The mountain was shut most of the week, so the only snow we got to ski on was the dusting on top of the dry slope. It was rubbish. Little wonder that of the 6 beginners that made the trip, only 1 actually persisted with skiing in later life.

Of course, we’re all wiser with hindsight, so where would I have planned to go for a beginners’ ski trip nowadays? Well, with apologies to the Scottish Tourist Board, it wouldn’t be Scotland (unless you live close to the slopes, which is a different matter). Europe has literally hundreds of ski resorts to choose from, so how to choose one for complete beginners?

A few suggestions follow, but they all have similar criteria for inclusion.

  • They need to have ‘nursery slopes’ (runs to learn on) close to your accommodation – there’s nothing more dispiriting than long walks or packed bus trips from hotels to the slopes, and back again.
  • They need an extensive range of easy slopes for when you progress on to the mountain itself.
  • A good ski school that can communicate in English is a must (especially for children).
  • There needs to be plenty of non-skiing activities, just in case you decide skiing isn’t your bag.
  • And finally, there should be decent apres-ski. After all, skiing is not just about the skiing. Ask any skier!

    Paul's Apres Ski
    Paul’s Apres Ski

So here’s my list, it’s not exhaustive, they’re in country order rather than order of preference, and I’ve not been to all of them myself, but they would certainly be on my short list if I had to start all over again…

  1. Arinsal, Andorra.

Small, pretty resort in the Pyrenees, with wide open easy pistes into the village, and a good English speaking ski school. It doesn’t attract the speed freaks or tipsy revellers that neighbouring Pas de la Casa does. Great for a first ski holiday on a budget.

Wide sweeping ski slopes in Andorra
Wide sweeping ski slopes in Andorra
  1. Obergurgl, Austria.

Nursery slopes next to hotels. Good apres ski. Uncrowded slopes through the week. English speaking ski school. We went there last year, and our kids really came on well. Toby could hardly stand upright on his skis at the start of the week, but was managing blues and reds by the end. Hugo was doing blacks, and actually wore the (Irish) ski instructor out to tears on the last day!

Obergurgl, Austria Ski Resort, great for beginners
Obergurgl, Austria Ski Resort
  1. Alpbach, Austria.

One of the prettiest resorts anywhere. Traditional Tyrolean charm, lots of nice walks and good hotels with leisure facilities for non-skiers. Easy tree-lined runs for beginners. Short transfers from the airport.

It’s always worth looking at the resort’s webcams. Alpbach’s are fantastic!

  1. Les Arcs, France.

Arc 1800 is probably best for beginners, as the slopes adjacent to the accommodations are all easy and ski-in, ski-out. Les Arcs is well known for its excellent, progressive ski school, and whilst the resorts (as in much of France) are purpose-built and a bit lacking in charm, the apres ski and facilities are excellent. If you want a bit more charm (at higher cost), try Arc 1950.

Les Arcs, France ski resort
Les Arcs, France ski resort

5. Alpe d’Huez, France.

Huge beginners areas adjacent to the resort, excellent ski school. It is high and snow sure, and the town itself is quite large with plenty to see and do apart from skiing.

Alpe d'Huez, France
Alpe d’Huez, France
  1. Bardonecchia, Italy.

This is a good sized town, not purpose built, and has an authentic lived-in feel to it. The best ski accommodation is just outside the town in Campo Smith, next to the lifts. There are plenty of nursery areas, and tree lined green and blue runs for when you’re ready to take to the mountain proper. The food, both on and off the mountain, is as you would expect in Italy, fantastic, and plentiful. Don’t forget a grappa or bombardino at the end of the day!

  1. Passo Tonale, Italy.

High and snow sure, with runs radiating out from the long village. Most of the runs into the village are easy,  wide and sunny. Quite a large village, and much of the apres ski tends to be hotel based, although there are plenty of bars dotted about.

Italian Skiing for beginners
Italian Skiing
  1. Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

High and snow sure, surrounded by a spectacular amphitheatre of 4000 metre peaks and glaciers. The town itself is car free, you get to the lifts by small electric powered buses, or even a novelty train. The beginners runs are extensive, and once you’ve progressed to the mountain, there are long wide blue runs to bring you back to the village. Great apres ski, and plenty of non-skiing activities to keep you entertained, including a long toboggan run, a glacier that you can have a tour through, and the world’s highest revolving restaurant with spectacular 360 degree views!

Saas-Fee as the sun comes up
Saas-Fee as the sun comes up
  1. Norway (most resorts, but especially Hemsedal, Geilo, Beitostolen, Trysil etc.).

A bit of a wild card this, but many Scandinavian resorts are particularly good for families first time skiing. Don’t worry too much about the lack of daylight in these northern climes, they are experts in floodlighting the runs. Night skiing is brilliant, you can see every lump and bump in the snow. A ski lift up a silent mountainside with the moon overhead is magical. The ski schools are fantastic and they all probably speak better English than you do! The only downside is the price of booze, but if you take your full allowance of duty-free (Norway isn’t in the EU), it shouldn’t be too bad.

Skiing for beginners in Trysil, Norway
Trysil, Norway
  1. Lapland.

Again, a bit of a wild card, but if you want to take the kids to see Santa, or want to see the Northern Lights, then why not combine it with a first time ski trip? Out of season (i.e. after Christmas), the costs come right down. Like Norway, the daylight is limited – but see above about floodlit slopes. It can be very cold (but a dry cold, -30C here doesn’t feel nearly as bad as it sounds…). The runs are mostly gentle, English is widely spoken, and the accommodation is top notch. Plenty of snow related non-ski adventures await, like snowmobiling, dog sledding, or ice fishing. Again, booze is a bit more expensive, but not prohibitively so.

Northern Lights in Lapland
Northern Lights in Lapland

Remember, I haven’t been to all of these places, so please do plenty of your own research. Good luck, and welcome to a lifetime of skiing fun!

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Top 10 Ski Resorts for Beginners - Our Recommendations
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Diary of An Imperfect Mum


Look After Your Gut in the New Year

Hello friends! Did you have a lovely Christmas? Are you still finishing off the leftover turkey and mince pies? Lounging on the sofa all bloated and full? I know, me too!!

Christmas over-indulgence
Christmas over-indulgence

It isn’t over yet! We have New Year to come. More alcohol, more naughty nibbles. Staying up late and over-indulging. It’s what this season is about, isn’t it? Then helping the kids with all those selection boxes, and dipping into another tin of Quality Street, followed by the guilt and the resolutions to eat better and get fit in the New Year!

More indulgence in the New Year?
More indulgence in the New Year?

In among the resolutions, please remember your gut! Think about what you’ve put your poor belly through recently, and make a resolution to make amends with your body!

Make amends for all that indulgence!
Make amends for all that indulgence!

In advance of the festive season, I made sure I was stocked up with Probiotics. I’ve often turned to yoghurts or yoghurt drinks to top up the good bacteria in my gut, but then I got a bug which made me not tolerate dairy products very well, and I had to rethink my strategy. So I was pleased to receive a sample of Nutri Advanced ProbotiX Daily 5 Live.

ProbotiX Daily 5 Live probiotics for gut health
ProbotiX Daily 5 Live probiotics for gut health

Have you heard of Probiotics? How much do you know about these tiny guys doing all the good work in your intestines?

Here’s the science bit:

Probiotics are ‘friendly’ bacteria that offer positive health benefits. Bacteria are essential for the health and function of your intestinal tract, which has a tremendous impact on your overall health. They play a crucial role in the gut’s ability to fight infection and support general digestion as well.

Probiotics support the friendly bacteria in your intestines
Probiotics support the friendly bacteria in your intestines

Many factors in our normal life can disrupt the balance of our good bacteria, leading to poor health. Do you recognise any of these?

  • Antibiotic Use
  • Stomach medicines such as antacids
  • A high fat, high sugar diet (mince pies and Quality Street?)
  • A low fibre diet
  • Foreign Travel
  • Food & Water contaminants (Chlorine, pesticides etc)
  • Alcohol (oh dear!)
  • Stress (Oh deary dear!)

Well, no wonder I needed to crack open the ProbotiX at this time of year!

Needing more friendly bacteria for gut health at this time of year
Needing more friendly bacteria for gut health at this time of year

I took the ProbotiX capsules for the month of December. During this month we had a very busy time, and were also all fighting off a bug which threatened our family (and finally brought the little one down in the final week of school). Of course everyone’s lead up to Christmas is busy, and I also decided to take part in Vlogmas (which you can see week 1 & week 2 plus here), plus I was in hospital 3 times for procedures on my back! We also had the usual Nativities, School Discos, Football parties – all the pre-Christmas craziness.

Christmas craziness put the probiotics through their paces!
Christmas craziness put the probiotics through their paces!

The poor little probiotics were certainly put through their paces! I was lucky I even remembered to take them half the time!

How did they make me feel? I’ll be honest, at times it was difficult to say. Not surprising really, with the amount of pain relief I was taking and the number of sleepless nights I had. But I did feel a difference, the greatest amount when I took them right before bed. I guess when you lay off the mince pies for a while you give probiotics a better chance to do their thing! I awoke feeling much less bloated and looking much ‘flatter’, which also felt more comfortable. There was also less of the early morning nausea and generally grogginess I sometimes feel. That has to be a good thing, right?

At other times, even when I didn’t feel a massive difference, I still had the reassurance that my friendly little bacteria were keeping me topped up and doing their hard work for me, quietly and without complaint. Thanks guys!

Finally, we should ask ourselves what makes a good probiotic? They need to be scientifically studied, effective bacteria strains, have proven delivery and survival in the gut, guaranteed stability and quality, high potency, and clinically effective probiotic formulas. Did my Nutri Advanced ProbotiX have these? Why yes! The strains of good bacteria within ProbotiX Daily 5 Live have been chosen to work synergistically together, and provide over 5 billion good bacteria in each capsule. They help each other grow as well as creating an optimal pH range for good bacteria in your gut.

For more information visit


Disclosure – we were sent some ProbotiX Daily 5 Live supplements for the purpose of this review, but all opinions and experiences are our own. This is not a clinical trial, nor does it intend to replace the advice of a health care professional.

How to look after your gut with probiotics - are they for you?
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Amazing ‘Augmented Reality’ Greetings Cards & Giveaway from

Welcome to an excited Family Makes!

I’m always impressed by technology (perhaps because I’m in the ‘Over 40’s’ age group?!), but friends, let me tell you, this is so cool!

Greetings cards from have just gone to a whole new level! For the same price as many ‘personalised’ greetings cards (ie £2.99) you can send an Augmented Reality card to your loved ones! Amazing, no? Augmented Reality Greetings for Christmas Augmented Reality Greetings for Christmaas

I was so completely blown away by this concept, that I’ve enthusiastically made a list of people far and wide we can blast with a very animated ‘Merry Christmas’ message this year, as well as an extra special message for my Mum’s 70th birthday on Christmas Eve (she’ll cry, for sure!). We’re sending messages to France and America, as well as just around the corner to Grandparents who we know will be absolutely delighted to see their Grandchildren in Christmas jumpers, merrily dancing and singing, presenting their Christmas message in such a unique way.

Viewing the Augmented Reality card
Viewing the Augmented Reality card

The choice of Christmas cards is so extensive, ranging from funny to cheeky, rude and cute. There really is something for everyone! There are, of course, cards for other occasions too, and for many different relations.

If you have any questions about how this clever kit works, you might want to look at the explanations here. Or if, like many of us, you’re scratching your head as to what Augmented Reality actually is, basically, you open up your card, scan the code with your smartphone, and instantly watch a personal video message from the person who has sent you the card. Clever or what??

If that’s not amazing enough, the lovely people at have let us get involved in a wonderful giveaway just for you!

The brilliant prize is £40 of Choosey credit, to create whichever personal cards you want. The giveaway is open to UK only. But HURRY HURRY HURRY it closes on 15th December!!

Enter via the Gleam widget below:
Win 10 free Choosey greeting cards inc postage #32

But don’t worry if you don’t with the star prize, all of our lovely readers can get an amazing 25% off your orders by simply quoting BGCHRISTMAS16 when you place your order. What are you waiting for? GO GO GO!!


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Teens, Tweens and Other Hard To Buy For’s – Sweet Treats

Yes, we’re continuing to try and inspire you as you try to buy the perfect gift for that Teen, Tween, or other difficult to buy for person in your life. Today we bring you some sweet treats. Well, who doesn’t love a little treat or two?

There are some major advantages to gifting edible goodies. For a start, it’s not likely that the recipient has ‘already got one’, and if they have, so what? Just eat two! You can never have too much chocolate and other sweet treats (IMHO!). Secondly, there are very few storage issues, along the lines of “Where are we going to keep that?”, as it hopefully won’t be kept for too long. And finally, the person you buy for may even share with you!!

Sweets, chocolates, biscuits, cakes. All very lovely, and all available in abundance at this time of the year. Many can be found in quite beautiful packaging, or in novelty or funny shapes and designs. Definitely something for everyone.

And speaking of lovely packaging, and funny or novelty designs…. Allow me to introduce you to Morse Toad Messaging Service, a whole new kind of chocolate Christmas card or gift, and show you what we’ve bought as a teacher gift:

Morse Toad Chocolate Card Gifts
Morse Toad Chocolate Card Gifts

Isn’t it fabulous?! Now you know here at Family Makes we like to get a bit creative and make something truly unique and personal, so this was perfect for us. The guys at Morse Toad appreciated this, and gave us free rein to design something bespoke, fun and fab. Don’t worry if you’re short on creativity or time though, there are plenty of templates to choose from too.

Lots of Chocolate Cards to Choose From
Lots of Chocolate Cards to Choose From

You can either use one of their pre-made chocolate messages, which can be funny or thoughtful, or develop your very own.

Personalised Morse Toad Chocolate Card
Personalised Morse Toad Chocolate Card

We created a ‘Head Elf’ gift for our teacher. Taking a photo of her, we ‘elfed’ it into a funny image by drawing on ears and a hat. (We haven’t shown you the whole thing to protect her identity and prevent too much embarrassment!)

Personalised Teacher Gift Sweet Treat in Chocolate
Teacher gift chocolate

But that’s the other good bit about chocolates from Morse Toad – you can add your own image to the plastic gift card, as well as putting your gift message on the reverse. I highly recommend paying the extra £1 to do this, as it really finishes off the gift in a personal way.

The service from Morse Toad is super-speedy, and the gift can be sent directly to the recipient or back to you. The packaging is sturdy and smart, and the presentation is really quite cool. So what are you waiting for? You can order this sweet treat for your teens, tweens and other hard to buy for’s today!

Carefully Packaged Sweet Treats from Morse Toad
Carefully Packaged Morse Toad Gift

Wait a minute!

The generous chaps at Morse Toad have been chatting with Santa’s Elves, and they decided you’re all on the Nice List, so you’ve been given a special discount code:

Simply quote the discount code HappyToadmas when you order from Morse Toad Messaging Service before Christmas Day, and you will magically be given a 10% discount on your order.

Not for the easily offended, but Morse Toad have also created a brilliant and funny Secret Santa Gift List. You might want to take a peek at it.

We’ve also added a few other sweet treats we’ve found for you here:

Disclosure: We were sent a voucher from Morse Toad to create our gift, but all opinions and ideas were completely our own.
Contains affiliate links to Amazon

Oral-B Electric Toothbrushes as Christmas Gifts

You might have already seen that we’re writing a series to help you with Teens, Tweens and Other Hard To Buy For people at Christmas time (or any other time really!). We were therefore very excited when the team at Oral-B got in touch to see if we’d like to add their range of electric toothbrushes to our list. Yes please!

We started this gift guide for ‘Teens Tweens and Hard To Buy For’s‘ as our own boys are at that difficult, not really into toys anymore, kind of stage. But would young boys really appreciate an electric toothbrush as a present?

Star Wars Themed Oral-B Electric Toothbrush review gift idea
Star Wars Themed Oral-B Electric Toothbrush


That’s the simple answer, in my experience. My boys were SO excited to receive new electric toothbrushes. This is a win on several levels. Firstly, the fun character designs made them feel that this really was a cool gift – Hugo chose Star Wars and Toby chose Marvel Avengers. There are also more designs available, including Frozen. It was also cool because it was a gadget. It was electric, it had power! What’s not to like?

Frozen Themed Oral-B Electric Toothbrush Review Gift Ideas
Frozen Themed Oral-B Electric Toothbrush

It was also a win for me as a parent, as my kids have never been so keen to brush their teeth, and to brush them well. Can you imagine the parenting win that is your children begging to be able to brush their teeth?! So in my humble opinion, an electric toothbrush is definitely a good gift.

Of course, that’s not all. Mummy got a fabulous gift too. I was lucky enough to get to try out the gorgeousness that is the Oral-B Genius 9000. This is absolute electric toothbrush Royalty – have no doubt.

Oral-B Genius 9000 Electric Toothbrush Review Gift Guide
Oral-B Genius 9000 Electric Toothbrush – the latest thing!

This baby has all the looks, and the technology to go with it! So excited was I, that I actually just let it sit in the box for a while and looked at it. It’s a really cool piece of kit, and even the packaging screams quality. So I decided to make a little unboxing video – partly because the packaging and the product itself look so good, and partly because you really don’t need to watch me brushing my teeth! No, not my finest moment! So here is the packaging and the unboxing:

The technology behind the Oral-B Genius 9000 is indeed genius! You can link it to your phone via an app (from App Store or Google Play), and you can make sure that you are covering all the right areas in your brushing as well as doing it for the right length of time. There is even a phone holder which you can stick to the mirror, and a travel case which charges your toothbrush and phone. Talk about thinking of everything!

Travel case and phone charger of Oral-B Genius 9000
Travel case and phone charger

There is a ‘smart ring’ light on the toothbrush which has various functions, from an operating and timer light, to a Bluetooth indicator, and a pressure sensor indicator. There are also various brushing modes you can select – daily clean, pro clean, sensitive, 3D white, gum care, and tongue clean. Plus, it has four different brush heads included, and a brush holder. I told you – they think of everything!

So that’s the technical bit, the science part. The other thing is that in use, it is fantastic. I have mine set to the ‘professional’ setting, which gives a short buzz every 30 seconds to advise you to move onto the next section of your mouth, then a number of buzzes to tell you that your two minutes of brushing is up. It is so easy and intuitive. Even though you are applying hardly any pressure, the subsequent mouth feel is fabulous. My teeth feel wonderfully clean, smoother and fresher than they have in years. I feel confident that my teeth have been cleaned properly too, which is very reassuring.

But the other important part is that this toothbrush looks like a great gift. It is sleek. It is indulgent. It’s something high quality which feels like a treat, and that you probably wouldn’t buy every day.

Oral-B Genius 9000 Electric Toothbrush review
Oral-B Genius 9000 Electric Toothbrush

Perhaps you’re wondering if an electric toothbrush would make an appropriate gift? I’d say absolutely. I’d be delighted to receive this. I WAS delighted to receive this! It feels like the latest thing, and it’s something I don’t have already. Most women have a hairdryer and straighteners, most men have an electric shaver. This is different.

You may have seen some advertising about the Oral-B Genius – 9000. There are lots of special deals around at the moment (because this is such a great gift, peeps!).

Oral B Genius 9000: Amazon’s Black Friday Deal of the Day**

“This ground-breaking electric toothbrush is on sale at a huge discount – from £280 to £99.99– and makes for a truly perfect gift this Christmas.

Key features of the Oral B GENIUS 9000:

·        Works in conjunction with the Oral-B app via bluetooth, and is the first to offer Position Detection Technology which tracks brush position, ensuring all zones in the mouth are evenly brushed

·        Comes with Oral-B’s iconic round-brush heads. For the best clean, best gum health, and for superior whitening from day one, with oscillating-rotating-pulsating technology.

·        Triple Pressure Sensor Technology measures the pressure applied through the brush head, and alerts you when the pressure is too high

·        The Oral-B app also shows you your Dental Care journey; providing recommendations and tips based on your individual goals

·        Includes an innovative Smart Travel Case, which charges both your toothbrush and smartphone

You will find this amazing deal on Boots [here] for Rose Gold and [here] for Black, for the discounted price of £99.99*. 

 Available in Black, White and Rose Gold (Rose Gold is exclusive  Boots). ” 

*Prices correct at time of publishing and subject to change

**Affiliate link to Amazon

Disclaimer: We were sent the toothbrushes for the purpose of this review, but all opinions and associated excitement are entirely our own.

Oral-B Genius 9000 Electric Toothbrush review and gift guide
Pin for later – Oral-B Genius 9000 review


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