Monday, 28 July 2014

Feel guilty and unhealthy for loving Coca-Cola & concerned about caffeine? This Mum looks at the facts.

I have loved Coca-Cola since I was a teen when I was able to drink "full fat" Coke from the signature red cans with no worries and certainly no guilt. It was just a lovely refreshing treat.

It never occurred to me, to be honest, to not allow my children to enjoy it too. I believe in everything in moderation although for the sake of my figure and my diabetic consultant I switched to Coke Zero years ago!

And I'll confess I feel more sad than guilty when I hear other parents say their children are banned from drinking it on the grounds it is unhealthy. Well, yes a lot of things that we enjoy aren't always the most healthy choice but a treat is a treat and since I make sure that less healthy choices don't become staple diet fodder I refuse to feel bad about my choices. I'd be a hypocrite if I preached abstinence when I love Coke myself so much!

Anyway, luckily for me Coca-Cola has a great choice of online tools and "real world" opportunities to make sure that people can be re-assured that they can be healthy and fit while enjoying their favourite drink too.

Have you heard of Park Lives? It's a fabulous initiative from Coca-Cola offering a programme of fun, free family activities in more than 70 parks which they plan to expand from the first three venues in Birmingham, Newcastle and the London Borough of Newham to parks in towns and cities across the UK over the next few years.

Activities on offer range from Tai Chi and rounders to Zumba and table tennis and all sessions will be free. The scheme launched just a few days ago after Coca-Cola pledged earlier this year to get one million people active by 2020. Impressive! I look forward to the scheme coming to a park near me soon.

One of the factors a lot of people quote as their reason to not drink Coke is the caffeine content. I must admit I had worried a bit about this as my 18-year-old son loves Coke and I was concerned that he drinks too much.

However my fears were laid to rest after using the Coca-Cola online caffeine calculator and learning that caffeine-wise he was better off drinking Coca-Cola than filter coffee, tea or eating a bar of plain chocolate! Did you realise that "healthy" green tea contains more caffeine than "full-fat" red-can Coke? I certainly didn't!

madmumof7 & DS#2- huge fans of Coca-Cola
The "work it out" caffeine calculator is brilliant for anyone worried about caffeine intake like pregnant women or parents and just interesting for people not worried but curious! As well as totting up your daily intake you can learn more about what caffeine is used for and how it affects hydration and athletic performance. There are lots of FAQs and examples of completely caffeine free Coca-Cola drinks in case you'd prefer to avoid it altogether!

You might be surprised to learn that this is not in fact a sponsored post. I got chatting to a  representative of Coca-Cola at Britmums Live this year and after mentioning my teen son's love of the product she offered to send me information to put my mind at rest about the caffeine intake side of his consumption.  I have shared this information in the genuine belief it might reassure other people too!

A light look at in-car arguments and news about the fabulous family film, Rio 2

(Photo credit: elgarydaly)
When I was a child my family spent most of the six week holidays on mammoth road trips  to somewhere hot for our annual camping holiday. Italy, Spain, France, the country formerly known as Yugoslavia - all amazing places to explore as a child in the sunshine.

Indeed I  have some very happy memories  - snorkelling in crystal clear water in the south of France, marvelling at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, riding in a gondola in Venice, eating fish cooked on coals burning in pits in what had been the campsite road, visiting a Spanish chocolate factory and camping high in the mountains of Andorra.

But I have some equally terrible memories - mostly involving being in a (non-airconditioned) car for many hours a day and everyone getting tired and bad tempered. The rows were worst when we had to drive through strange cities as my father refused to ever consult a map or ask for directions. Hungry and tired and after scorching days we would be driving in circles hunting for Camping Municipal. Did I mention the car wasn't air conditioned? 

I was amused to receive a fun survey this week which claims that this time of year- the school summer holidays - is the worst for family rows in the car. Well I suppose with everyone trying to get somewhere for their holidays that is obvious. 

After spending three hours on the M25 driving a distance that normally takes me an hour and a half I was getting a bit grumpy myself. And to further remind me of my sweltering childhood travels the air con in our car seems to have run out so it was hotter than a hot thing in there.

Anyway, enough of my woes - if you are stuck in a car right now reading this on your mobile device, hopefully this will turn your frown upside down. Here's a few fun statistics.

·         July 23rd heralds the week of woe, which sees more in-car arguments than any other time over the summer
·         In-car clashes commence after only 22 minutes on the road
·         The M25 sees the most arguments, with 1 in 5 families having a fracas on the London orbital
Peak times for a row on the M25? Between 10am and 1pm!

Most frequent causes of dispute including the music being played, children asking lots of questions and who gets to sit in the front seat. However an interesting 1 in 20 arguments are started by someone farting in the car.

 For those parents that don’t pull over and refuse to go any further (21%) or turn around and drive straight home (15%), the humble services become a refuge to defuse tensions.

Well it's one way of avoiding traffic!
The survey was commissioned to mark the release of family film Rio 2 by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film takes you deep into the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest for the most fun you’ll have all summer with exciting special features everyone will enjoy.  

The cast of the animated hit comedy Rio returns — along with a new flock of all-star voice talent, including Bruno Mars, Kristin Chenoweth, Andy Garcia and more — in this high-flying sequel for the whole family. 

The film follows on from the first film when Blu met Jewel. In this sequel Blu (Oscar® nominee Jesse Eisenberg1), Jewel (Oscar® winner Anne Hathaway2) and their three kids take a walk on the wild side and embark on a colorful, comical, music-filled journey through the Amazon. 

As Blu, formerly a house-pet, tries to fit into his new surroundings, he goes beak-to-beak with the villainous Nigel, and meets the most fearsome adversary of all: his father-in-law! 

A Rio 2 spokesperson commented: With one third of families already using tablets on family journeys, Rio 2 provides the perfect solution to a peaceful journey. The great music and incredible cast means there is something for every family member to enjoy”.

Rio 2 was released on Digital HD nationwide on 28th July, and will be out on Blu-ray and DVD on 4th August. (This is not a sponsored post)

On Location with Elizabeth Hurley

You may recall last week we had lots of fun shepherding sheep from one field to another in our village so that Elizabeth Hurley could wander amongst them for a new TV show called The Royals about a fictional Royal family.

madmumof7 shepherding
The day of filming arrived and lots of curious residents suddenly found they desperately needed something from the village shop, or that the dog walking route needed to go past the large film crew which had set up in the village centre.

I have lived here over 20 years and am well used to filming here - our village is both picturesque and very close to London on major transport routes so its a top choice for location managers.

But even I was a bit curious so was delighted when my friend who owns the field the sheep had been moved to invited me up for a well-timed cuppa!

We stood in her garden next to the field with our tea and chortled as we watched the director try and direct the sheep. He instructed someone to put cash in a bucket and shake it - whether it as a financial incentive or whether he thought it might sound like sheep food we aren't sure but the sheep ignored it.

The Royals -Liz Hurley on location in Hertfordshire

Our mirth was spotted and the director asked:"Are you with the sheep?"

With them? What, like their entourage or something? To my surprise my friend said yes and the next thing we knew we had been roped in for more sheep herding duties, this time watched by a large crowd of production folk, actors, extras and bystanders. Oh, and Liz Hurley. You can just about spot her in the picture below wearing a red dress.

Up and down the field we coaxed the sheep. Director man wanted them to amble on cue past Liz as she spoke her lines - preferably in the same place. He obviously hasn't spent much time observing sheep. We had to do all of this quietly and while staying out of shot.

Elizabeth Hurley filming new TV show The Royals
And then he wanted us to move them away from the filming and asked if we could keep them quiet. Errm. No. They are sheep. Slightly pissed off sheep who are fed up of being moved from their grazing to "act" around a thin lady pretending to be a Queen.

Anyway, an hour later, hot and sweaty with nettle rash and with sheep poop coated legs and ruined sandals our services were no longer required. We got a thank you, a smile at my suggestion we had earned animal wrangling fees and a complete blank from Ms Hurley who didn't even glance our way as she sailed regally past. Still in character or too snooty for her own good? We will never know!

This post is linked to #whatsthestory and #magicmoments. Pop along and discover some great blogs.

 photo 93142f35-6d39-479f-b3de-d94dbca68162_zps58499252.jpg

Sunday, 27 July 2014

#silentsunday #mysundayphoto

children peering into pond in garden under trees


Friday, 25 July 2014

Fun with soon-to-be famous sheep!

It started with an unusual email asking if we were free on Wednesday evening to help herd some sheep. OK. Where from, to and most of all, Why?

Apparently actress Liz Hurley will be filming scenes for a new TV show "The Royals" in our village this week. The show which will air on E! sometime next year is about a fictional Royal family. Liz plays the Queen - but apparently a boozy table dancing monarch which is in no way based on our Queen!

So where do the sheep come into this? Hmm not entirely sure but the location people had scouted out my friend's small field and booked it for filming along with the sheep in it. In between scouting and filming, the sheep had been moved and this week we needed to move them back.

I replied to the email - yes of course we would love to help. Then wondered what I had let myself in for.

children on gate in rural england
young shepherds
I am from Dudley you see - well Upper Gornal if you want to get picky. Anyway, not a region of the UK known for sheep or any other farm animals. Unless you count the pig on the wall (local joke!)

I wondered what one should wear for sheep herding -shepherding rather - but in the absence of a Bo Peep costume decided it didn't really matter.

The hour was upon us. Several adults and even more hot and over excited children gathered. Serious sheep people arrived with proper crooks (big sticks!), panels to make a sheep pen and spray paint. Yep - the sheep had a graffiti makeover with blue stripes being sprayed on their bums.  To identify them if by any chance the amateur's shepherding proved to be rubbish and some escaped?

We were given instructions on good sheep distraction techniques - crouch low with arms wide if you are wondering. And told which specific points to be sure to cover. Driveways, gateways, the recreation ground entrance all needed a row of crouching people while yet more ran ahead, alongside and behind. And of course we had traffic marshals to stop traffic when needed.

Well what can I say! It went like clockwork. It was quite a sight standing at the bottom of the first lane ready to make sure the sheep went left not right, to see the herd of children, followed by the herd of sheep pelting down the lane.
children running with sheep
and they're off!

And running alongside the sheep occasionally blocking entrances gave me a (tame) taste of what it must be like running with the bulls in Pamplona. Very exhilarating only with less goring and trampling.

madmumof7 shepherding
madmumof7 in shepherding outfit
Even little Grumpy who is just about sheep sized entered into the fun with gusto, arms outstretched and hilariously crouching like the adults even though this made him sheep knee-height.

Motorists and walkers filmed and took photos as we hurtled by and when the sheep were successfully diverted into the film location  field we all cheered and applauded.

City dwellers with access to theatres, cinemas, museums, trendy bars and art galleries are shaking their heads sadly at this tale of sheep-related entertainment but let me tell you it was really good fun!

So when you tune in to watch The Royals next year, check out the sheep. As featured first in film right here on!

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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

NISA ISAs - a guide to the new ISA rules.

If it were left to me I would probably shove money in brown envelopes under the mattress. The many varied bank accounts and investment plans available often leave me confused and bewildered and I suspect I am not alone in this!
 Luckily since my mum and the internet both tell me the mattress is not the best place for any spare cash I might save which is fairly infrequent to be honest there is no need for burglars to tidy my room to get to my cash. What little I have is stashed safely (and I hope sensibly) away with people who know more about how to look after it than me.
Pink Piggy Bank On Top Of A Pile Of One Dollar...

 (Photo credit: kenteegardin)
Now if you have any extra money and are wondering what to do with it.....well you could send some to me but I'm guessing a more formal investment plan might be what you are looking for. Have you considered an NISA?
Most people have heard of ISAs which have been around for a while now. But did you know that new ISA rules ( and a name change)  came into effect on 1st July this year (2014)? 
The Government announced the New ISA (NISA) at the last Budget raising the investment limit from £11,520 to £15000 to supposedly make the system simpler. You used to only be able to pay in half of this (£5,760) as cash - the rest had to be stocks and shares etc, but from July 1 you can theoretically pay in the whole £15000 to a cash NISA.
Here's a round-up of the new rules:
From 1 July, you could choose to pay in:
  • £15,000 to a cash NISA and nothing to a stocks & shares NISA.
  • £15,000 to a stocks and shares NISA and nothing to a cash NISA.
  • A combination of amounts between a cash and a stocks & shares NISA, up to the overall annual limit of £15,000.
  • You can only open one cash NISA and one stocks and shares NISA to put new money into each tax-year. But you can also open other NISAs to transfer old ISAs into. This is the same rule as for current ISAs. (information from Money Saving
But Scottish Friendly  is warning savers to be wary of being drawn automatically into holding all their ISA funds in cash and to consider the alternative funds available through ISA investments.
Apparently in the last few weeks before the new rules came into effect a number of savings providers lowered their already low interest rates even further in anticipation of the launch of the NISA and the mutual organisation believes that more needs to be done to communicate the alternatives that are available to ISA investors.
Neil Lovatt, Scottish Friendly’s Director of Financial Products, said: “For every one investment ISA taken out, three cash ISAs are opened.
“Cash is easier to understand as it offers security and access to the savings without penalty that investment ISAs do not. People are being put off by what they think is pure equity investments and instead are opting for accounts that offer poor returns on their cash.
“The changes introduced in the budget gave savers a glimmer of hope and incentivised people to put more money aside each month. However, the Cash ISA market has not risen to the opportunity, instead choosing to offer low rates of interest on cash ISAs and in some cases actually reducing their rates for fear of overly high inflows”.
Still with me? The very simple moral of the story is you should definitely do some research before investing your money. Not all providers offer the same deals! 

You can follow Scottish Friendly @scotfriendly on Twitter for news, top tips and events and check out their profile on The Drum.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. If you are in any doubt as to whether any plan is suitable for you, you should contact a financial adviser for advice. If you do not have a financial adviser, you can get details of local financial advisers by visiting Advisers may charge for providing such advice and should confirm any cost beforehand.

K is for Kiss- The Alphabet Photography Project

couple kissing at Drag Queen themed dinner party

Every time I look at this picture I laugh. Note the tiaras, my interesting eyebrows, DH's feather boa and diamonte eyebrow decoration....

Together with friends we hold "Come Dine With Me" style dinner parties. Four couples taking turns to host over four months (one a night or even one a week would be too much!) and we theme our evenings for added fun.

This picture was taken on our night (a few months ago) which was Drag Queen themed and people threw themselves into it whole heartedly.  Unfortunately I can't show pictures of our other guests as they have the sort of jobs where it might not be appropriate for them to be seen in extreme fancy dress!

I watched youtube videos of how to create a drag queen look with makeup - the eyebrows are key! We had glittery high heels as place card holders and I gave everyone Drag Queen names. The meal itself was a bit of a disaster as until three hours before we had no electricity for 24 hours due to a major safety issue which resulted in lots of men in and out of the house and digging up our driveway!

Hunting this picture down for the #alphabetphotoproject made me nostalgic - I might have to see if I can arrange another round. Come Dine With Me anyone?

This post is linked to The Alphabet Photography Project run by Charly Dove over at PODCAST.

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