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Friday, 22 May 2015

TREK Protein Flapjacks from Natural Balance Foods *REVIEW*


Continuing on the health theme today, I wanted to share with you a snack product that might help keep your hunger cravings at bay, and keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer. Making a sensible snack choice will hopefully mean you'll be less tempted to binge on cakes, chocolate, and biscuits - the usual comfort food quick fix snacks that so many of us turn to on a daily basis. 

I was sent a box of 16 TREK bar Protein flapjacks from Natural Balance Foods. Boasting that their TREK flapjacks are packed with 9-10g of protein to keep you going throughout the day, I was interested to see if a cake/flapjack purist like myself, would a) be impressed by the taste and b) whether they would sate my rather large appetite. TREK says their flapjack bars are ideal for sports and fitness fans and perfect for eating on the run, so my husband also tried them out as snacks at work, as well as for a pre or post run snacks.

They come in a variety of really appealing flavours, and we were lucky enough to try out:

- Original Oat (gluten, wheat & dairy free)
- Cocoa Coconut (gluten and wheat free)
- Banana Bread 
(gluten, wheat & dairy free)
- Oat Raisin (gluten, wheat & dairy free)
- Morning Berry (gluten, wheat & dairy free)
- Cocoa Oat (gluten and wheat free)

Having tried them all I can now honestly say that this brand are by far my favourite flapjack/cereal bar/protein bar, and I've tried a fair few over the past 21 months! 

Not only do they taste really good, but they are also incredibly filling, and I find myself not feeling remotely hungry for hours after I've eaten one. 

I have tried all of the above flavours over the past few weeks and I'm finding it really hard to pick a favourite flavour - my husband said his three favourites were the Banana Bread, Oat Raisin and Cocoa Coconut. The Coco Coconut tastes much like a Bounty Bar, and so is definitely up there in terms of the best flavour for me. However, I think my top flavour would be ultra-cinnamony Oat Raisin, which is so beautifully spiced. The Morning Berry flavour is your perfect breakfast substitute, the Cocoa Oat perfect for all you chocoholics, and the Original Oat was the nicest teamed with a cuppa tea for an afternoon treat  - there really is a flavour for every occasion! 

Enjoyed on the run, for breakfast, at work, at home with a cuppa, after dinner, an evening snack: any time is a good time for a TREK bar. 

Liam found they gave him the perfect boost of energy he needed before a run, as well as being great "repair" food afterwards - he seemed happy that they worked well in both instances. I just simply enjoyed them with my mid-afternoon cuppa, as a breakfast substitute or along with my lunch as an added extra. I shared some with friends, and Bert even enjoyed a taste! 

Each bar weighs 50g and is around 210-220 calories. The bars are naturally vegan - making them also the perfect choice if you need to eat a gluten/wheat free diet. Some of the flavours are also dairy free. TREK bars contain no artificial ingredients and are handmade in Britain.

Obviously, at 220 calories with around 5.2g of saturated fat, 14g carbohydrate from sugar they are still a food to be enjoyed in moderation (like everything), but with 1.9g fibre, 9.2g protein and only 0.5g salt they definitely are a great alternative to a cake/biscuit/chocolate/sweets snack, or overly sugary bowl of cereal breakfast. 

For a mixed case of 16 TREK Flapjack bars it costs just £15.99, which works out at 99p per bar - a bargain! You easily pay more than that per bar in the supermarkets, and having a big stock of them at home will help you to stop your sugary cravings in their tracks! 

I also wanted to mention that when you buy a mixed case of flapjacks they deliver them in a single flavour box to help the environment - a lovely touch I thought! 


Have you tried TREK protein flapjacks before? 

What did you think?

I'd love to hear from you.

Mrs B 

xxx

Disclaimer: I was sent a mixed box of 16 TREK protein flapjacks from Natural Balance Foods for the purpose of this review. All words, opinions and photographs are my own. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Importance of Exercise... "Eat Your Frog" & ultimate motivation/advice for busy parents!

This post has been bustling around in my headspace for a little while now. I've started it, abandoned it, and returned to it on a number of occasions. 

I've been fretting...how do I write about my new found love acceptance of exercise as a part of my daily/weekly routine, without sounded all holier than thou & preachy? Will I just be stating the obvious? Doesn't everyone already get tons of lovely exercise? 

Well, the short answer is: no. Scarily, regular exercise is something that lots of people struggle to make time for, it is often low on the priority list, especially for busy parents, and/or people working long hours - and we are suffering because of it. 

Clearly the most obvious side-effect of this lack of activity is Britains' ever-expanding waist lines, but weight issues aside, anyone not partaking in regular heart pumping exercise is really missing a trick or two: not only will a regular work out burn lots of calories and help you to burn off that cheeky slice of cake you had at lunch time yesterday, but it is also an amazing stress reliever, helping to keep a healthy balanced mind, as well as body. Regular exercise can improve mood, stress levels, PMT, anxiety, and insomnia/sleep issues. 

Before I embarked on my weight loss journey I was incredibly lazy: full of excuses as to why I didn't have time to exercise - the truth of the matter was, I just didn't want too. The thought of walking the then 10 minute journey into town used to seem like a mission, and I'd put off going until I had a long 'to do' list, to make the effort seem worthwhile. I hated the gym and had tried it on various occasions - always feeling self conscious and overwhelmed by the gazillion machines with all their lights and buttons. I wasn't 'sporty' and this moving about malarkey really didn't come naturally to me - I'm an awkward dancer, so anything that needed co-ordination seemed out of the question, and with three slipped discs in my back I decided it would be stupid to exercise anyway - it hurt! 


Image source: Pinterest

Oh how wrong I was. The key to me embracing regular exercise was the realisation that if I wanted to eat (and oh, I do love to eat) and lose weight, then I would simply just have to get moving - those calories weren't going to burn themselves, and by moving more, I could eat more - simple as that. 

I also had to find my 'sport' - something I enjoyed, found easy to fit into my routine, and something that my bad back could cope with. The answer for me was power walking. Good old, simple, one foot in front of the other, pavement pounding!

I made a pledge to myself when Bert was born in August 2013 that I would no longer rely on public transport to get around (I don't drive). So the plan was that unless it was absolutely necessary, or if the journey would be over an hours walk, I would avoid public transport and walk there instead. Since then I have stuck to my word, and have only gotten two taxi's in 21 months - one to the doctors surgery when Bert was poorly and it was snowing, and one over to my friends house, who lives somewhere it is impossible & dangerous to walk to. The only trains I've gotten are to London and Luton, and I've not been on a single bus! From that day on Bert and I have walked hundreds of miles around our home town, and between October 2014 - today I have walked on average 26 miles per week - I'm pretty chuffed with that - especially considering that's through the winter months! 

My back is holding up - the weight loss has really helped lighten the load (literally) and I now know my limit - I am taking pretty heavy duty painkillers when necessary, and now understand that keeping active is a help and not a hindrance when it comes to my disc problem. Sitting around doing nothing really isn't the answer! 

21 months on and I'm 6 stone 9 lbs lighter, I sleep well, I feel mostly balanced and content, and most importantly I have so much more energy and zest for life. I am no longer sluggish and lazy, and I feel proud of what my body can achieve. 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Obviously, it's helpful if your exercise is just a part of your daily getting-to-places routine: for those people with full time jobs, children to take care of, and cars to run, fitting in a workout won't be quite as straight forward - but it is absolutely do-able! If you're full of "I haven't got time" excuses then here's some ways you might not have thought of for us parents to fit regular exercise into our routines without too much hassle/change. 

How to fit exercise in to your busy week:

  • Don't automatically take the car: ask yourself before you start that engine, can you walk it, and do you really need the car to get there? 
  • Plan ahead, leave early and park your car further away from your destination so you have a little walk to get there and back. If you do this often those pavement pounding minutes will soon add up.
  • Take a family walk during the lighter evenings/weekends: not only is it brilliant exercise, but it's a fab way to reconnect as a family and step away from technology. Make it a regular thing for certain nights of the week, or say every Sunday, like you would if it was a class you were paying for, and you'll soon be reaping the health benefits. 
  • Take the kids to the park with a football and have a good run around with them - they will so enjoy your undivided attention, and the fact that you are playing with them, instead of watching from the side lines. You'll be amazed how it will get your heart racing! 
  • Housework. Sounds like a given, but when I do my housework I try consciously to do it with speed and vigour - put in 10% more effort, and your heart will soon be pumping - 30 minutes of moderate effort cleaning can burn 100 calories! Bonus. 
  • Workout in front of the telly! Got an old exercise bike, cross trainer or rowing machine in the garage/loft? Dust it off and plonk it right in the middle of your living room! Pledge to cycle/cross train/row all the way through your favourite regular TV show, and you'll be amazed at how easily you manage to a) get through the exercise without dying of boredom and b) how easy it becomes to fit into your routine regularly. If you don't already own any home gym equipment ask around friends and family (you'll be surprised at how many people own unused equipment) or check out selling sites such as Freecycle, Friday Ad and eBay for some freebies/bargains. 
  • Have your children got a trampoline in the garden? Now those evenings are lighter and the summer is just around the corner think about using it as well as your children- trampolining is a fantastic form of exercise and your kids will think it's hilarious to see you bouncing around. NB: Mums: don't forget your Tena lady! ;-)
  • Cycling. This incredible form of exercise is useful as well as brilliant for you: like your car it gets you places quickly (obviously), minus the huge petrol bill and parking fees. If you swap some of your car journeys for bicycle rides, before you know it you'll see the pounds drop off your bottom right into  your purse! I love bike riding, and am thinking about requesting a bicycle for my 30th birthday next year. I'd go for a stunning bike with a basket on the front (to hold my shopping, naturally) for long countryside cycles, if however, you'd be more likely to cycle on busy roads you'd be better off with a top of the range road bike designed specifically for road cycling (if your budget allowed). 
  • Evening classes. There are hundreds of evening and weekend fitness/exercise classes running up and down the country suitable for busy workers of full time stay at home parents, who don't have any time during the day to workout. Even one regular class a week will have a huge impact on your fitness, and you're really looking at only an hour out of your busy routine to attend. From yoga, Pilates  and Zumba to kick boxing, spinning, aqua aerobics, and dance classes: there's bound to be something you could enjoy. 
  • Fancy yourself as a bit of a team player? Why not look into joining a local sports team - from all your usuals like football, netball and hockey - to something more unusual like roller-derby or a running club - you might find that exercising as part of a team is just the motivation you need to stick at it. Now the summer months are here you could try summer sports such as tennis, badminton, volley ball or cricket (don't forget safety and make sure you always wear the right kit such as a cricket helmet - I once experienced a cricket ball hitting my eye socket, that was really not fun, I can promise!). 
  • Want to run, but find it difficult to even run up the stairs? Why not try the Couch to 5K phone app & build up your running stamina slowly but surely. You could join up with a pal, or go to a running club. Have a baby & buggy in-tow? Why not join a Power Pramming group (running with your baby/buggy)? There are lots of options. You could even sign up to a charity run with friends to make you accountable and therefore more likely to stick at the training - you get to raise money for a good cause too, so all the better! 
  • Go swimming as a whole family, and take it turns to watch the kids while you and your other half both get twenty minutes or so of proper swimming in (rather than just splashing about). Alternatively, make the most of the late-night swimming sessions that your local pool will run. It might feel like the last thing you want to do of an evening - but trust me when I tell you that you'll get into bed after a nice swim and feel brilliant (you'll also sleep so well!). 
  • Join a 24 hour gym. These places are springing up all over the place, and are perfect for busy parents whose only free-time to workout are first thing in the morning (before the kids awake) or last thing at night. If your partner can stay home with the kids while you fit in an hour at the gym, then these open 24 hour gyms might be just what you need. 
There's a term used in business called 'Eat Your Frog' whereby you get done first the thing that you are most dreading: often exercise is our 'frog' - we dread it, avoid it, and usually end up not getting it done. If you could get up half an hour earlier and fit in a workout first thing before the kids wake up, you'll feel oh-so-much better for it - all day you'll be filled with a fuel in knowing you "ate your frog" and got it out of the way. Obviously, it's all the better if you find an exercise you truly enjoy doing and want to fit in. But whatever you do, try to avoid the excuse making & just get moving. 

You'll thank me for it in the long run, promise!

Mrs B

xxx


Need some more inspiration? Why not check out my Pinterest Board "Fitness".


Image source: Pinterest

Friday, 15 May 2015

I'm Going to BritMums Live 2015...

It's that time of year again: I'm busy arranging my weekend away in London for BritMums Live 2015 in just 5 weeks time - the hottest blogging conference around, and it's set to be the best yet! 

Little ol' Mrs B xx

Name

Lucy Bishop (Mrs B)

Blog:  

Mrs Bishop’s Bakes and Banter

Twitter ID:  

@lucybishop2012

Height

5 ft 5

Hair

Chestnut Brown

Eyes

Blue with tortoiseshell glasses!

Is this your first blogging conference? 

No, I attended BritMums 2014 and I went to Blog Camp UK this year. Both were truly excellent! 

Are you attending both days? 

Yes, I wouldn't miss it for the world! 

What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2015? 

Oh, so many things! I'm majorly excited that the fabulous Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella) is one of the keynote speakers, so this will be a huge highlight for me. I'm mega excited about the social aspect of the weekend - some time off from being mummy, with the bestest girlfriends a lady can ask for (Emma, Jade, Donna). I'm sharing a hotel room with my gorgeous mate Jade (from Late for Reality) and I get to spend some more quality time with my blogging bestie Emma (from Mrs Shilts) and the lovely lady that is Donna (from What The Redhead Said). I'm looking forward to spending more time/catching up with other bloggers like Vicki (Honest Mum) who is a great friend online, and just generally enjoying whatever BML has to offer. 

Oh, and THE FOOD :-) *yum*

What are you wearing? 

Well, lets face it, this is me we're talking about so it's likely to involve Breton stripes! Haha. I usually try to pack something comfortable, but something I feel fab & confident in too. I'm excited to be at my smallest this year (weight wise) and hoping that will help me to feel super happy in my skin for the weekend. 

As a side note - on the weight loss front I'm hoping to have reached my 10 stone weight goal by BritMums Live 2015 - it seems like a great date to aim for, and gives me 5 weeks to shift this final half stone, which is totally do-able! FINGERS CROSSED! 

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015? 

A fab weekend of chilling with my beautiful friends, lots of networking with fellow bloggers and brands, hearing some truly inspiring and motivational speakers and attending workshops which will make me a better blogger. Not much then! 

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before?

-Wear comfy clothes and shoes. 

-Do not be afraid to talk to anyone - we are all bloggers & probably all a little nervous, you'll kick yourself if you hide in the wings, be bold, beautiful & YOU. 

-Eat/drink all the deliciousness and don't feel guilty, one treat weekend won't kill you! 

-Don't feel like you have to attend absolutely every scheduled workshop/talk, enjoy relaxing and chatting with friends and brands too. 

-Make sure there's plenty of room in your case for the ample goody bag! 

-Bring phone/camera chargers/spare batteries, you will need them. 

-Bring business cards and dish them out throughout the weekend, it's all about networking don't you know! 

-Make social arrangements around the conference - breakfast/dinner/drinks with friends on the Friday and Saturday, and some fun plans on the Sunday before you go home.

ENJOY EVERY MOMENT.

I cannot wait! 

See you in 5 weeks (hopefully a few pounds lighter!)

Mrs B 

xxx

I’m going to BritMums Live

* I'm still on the hunt for a sponsor for this years event, if you or anyone you know might be interested in sponsoring me for BritMums this year then please email lucybishop2012@yahoo.co.uk Thanks!*

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Simplicity of Men's Fashion...

Since losing our weight, Liam and I have both found a new passion for fashion! I have always admired from afar clothes that I either couldn't fit into, or wasn't confident enough to wear. Similarly, Liam used to hide himself in baggy jeans and loose fitting shirts - you'd never see him in just a t-shirt as he felt too self conscious and 'on show'. 

As we've lost weight we have had to completely replace everything in our wardrobes, and this meant giving us the opportunity to really think about how we wanted to dress our new shapes, and newly acquired confidence. 

What I've noted throughout this process is just how simple it is for men when it comes to clothing. They really do just need a capsule wardrobe of a few items, and they're away! 

For us women, its slightly different - there's a whole host of 'staple' items we need, as well as accessories, bags and outerwear to co-ordinate. We have varying different lengths - leg, sleeve, hem, neckline - all of which make a difference to an overall outfit, leaving us usually with wardrobes full-to-bursting!

Now, don't get me wrong, I love owning loads of clothes, I love the variety, the colour choices, and that I have clothes for all seasons and all occasions - but if you don't have a passion for fashion, as a woman I imagine it could become quite tiresome. It doesn't surprise me then that some women opt out of this 'fashion for every occasion' style wardrobe and opt for jeans, plain t shirts, and a couple of 'nice' outfits for going out. This way of dressing is far closer to a man's capsule wardrobe, and although simpler, doesn't allow for much expression of character. 

I'd love to know what type of dresser you are...do you follow trends and buy new items for your wardrobe each season? Do you buy high end fashion occasionally or are you a regular high street shopper? What about your men? Do you buy/choose their clothes? And do you feel their options are simpler and more straight-forward compared to women's fashion?

I tend to help buy/choose lots of Liam's clothes - not because he's incapable, but because we just tend to be together while shopping and he values my opinion (bless him!). Liam is pretty laid back when it comes to most things, but what I love about him is that he will never be pushed into something he truly doesn't like - so I know on the whole that he would be honest with me if I chose him some clothes that he really wasn't keen on. 

Liam's style is casual most of the time - he doesn't have to suit-up for work, which means a much more relaxed capsule wardrobe. He does of course own a lovely smart navy suit, with a waistcoat and a selection of ties for weddings/smart functions. But apart from that it's all about the smart/casual look. 


My smart boys all suited and booted (well Converse footed!)

Liam's Capsule Wardrobe

So, what is in Liam's capsule wardrobe, and does this compare similarly to your husband/partner/boyfriends clothes stash?

- a few pairs of jeans in varying colours - blue, black, dark navy chino style, beige chino style. 
- a selection of plain, stripe and slogan t shirts
- a selection of plain or raglan long sleeved t shirts
- a couple of casual cotton shirts (usually check)
- a couple of pairs of swimming trunks
- a pair of smart work trousers in grey
- two pairs of chino style board shorts in navy and beige
- a couple of smart jumpers to wear with chinos
- three hoodies
- a smart/casual maroon sweatshirt
- a pair of joggers/lounge pants
- a selection of pyjama bottoms (usually themed!! He is mentally 9!)
- smart trainers for best
- everyday trainers for running
- running shorts, t shirts and jacket
- walking boots
- smart shoes for occasions
- converse-style pumps
- sandals for the summer

Does this sound similar to your husband/partner/boyfriends wardrobe? I'd be interested to know! It seems like a lot when you note it all down, but actually it all fits into one chest of drawers, with just his suit hanging in the main closet. 

Liam's style has slowly matured in the five years we've been together - when we first met he lived in very baggy skater/goth style jeans and band t shirts, and over time he's grown away from this 'fashion' (it pains me to call it fashion! ha!) and now wears a much smarter and more grown up look. Since losing so much weight he is braver in his choices when it comes to fit and colour: he wears slim fit t shirts and trousers, and much brighter colours than he did before.

We now both enjoy clothes shopping and it's great to find a nice range of smart/casual men's clothes together, and pick out our favourite items. He is also good at knowing the sorts of clothes I like for myself, and regularly points out items he thinks I would like (usually Breton stripes, mustard or floral) - good work Liam! 

Here's an example of what I would say is Liam's standard 'look':

Liam's Capsule Wardrobe




I like that he wears a lot of navy, maroon and stripes, as i think they really suit him, and are on the smarter end of the smart/casual spectrum! 

Do you like the way your partner dresses? Have you changed the way they dress since you've been together? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Mrs B 

xxx

Monday, 11 May 2015

My Blogging Space Mood Board: Oak Furniture King Competition Entry

Today on the blog I'm bringing you some interiors inspiration in the form of a re-design of my current study/blogging space/library. 

Here's where the magic happens...haha - my study/library/blogging space as it stands. 

I've tried hard to make it a nice space to work in, but it could definitely be improved upon! 

Excuse the 'dump it ground' corner - this part of the room tends to end up a but messy with review items, my sewing bag etc! 

We are really lucky to have a study in our house, and for me it is one of my most important rooms - I do all of my blogging there, and it houses some of my most precious possessions, my books. 

For ages I've been dreaming of giving this space a make-over, and I've had loads of fun finding the perfect bits and bobs to give it the ultimate spring uplift. 

My Blogging Space


Lighting
heals.co.uk


Bar tool
notonthehighstreet.com


Office accessory
£17 - etsy.com


CB2 file storage cabinet
£105 - cb2.com


Office chair
johnlewis.com






Eat Blog Love Coffee Mug Crystal Faye
£14 - shopcrystalfaye.com


Wall art
nikkimcwilliams.bigcartel.com


Wall art
nikkimcwilliams.bigcartel.com


Desk
oakfurnitureking.co.uk


Oakwood furniture
oakfurnitureking.co.uk


Display unit
oakfurnitureking.co.uk


nikkimcwilliams Gold Ruby Jammy Heart Foil Print
nikkimcwilliams.bigcartel.com




nikkimcwilliams Mint Custard Cream Cushion
nikkimcwilliams.bigcartel.com



To update the main wall (the wall behind the desk) I would use this Tea Time Wallpaper to make a feature wall - I would love looking up at this happy paper as I blog, and it encompasses some of my greatest loves: tea drinking and vintage china! 


Tea Time Wallpaper for a feature wall

From Oak Furniture King I chose to use the Aspen Solid Oak Computer Desk as the main piece of furniture in the room. This would house my laptop, printer, stationary, biscuit tin, coaster and awesome blogging mug! 

I would replace my two current bookcases with the stunning 
French Chateau Rustic Solid Oak Large Bookcase and French Chateau Rustic Solid Oak Display Cabinet from Oak Furniture King to hold all of my many (and beloved) books. 

I am obsessed with all things pastel, copper and biscuit-themed - so I ran with that theme for my room-dressing and accessories. I found these amazing reused Copper Pipe Pencil Pots and Mason Jar Pen Pots on Etsy, and would use these to store all my stationary bits and pieces. I'm totally in love with this Oak Digestive Biscuit Coaster and it would sit proudly atop my desk to hold my mug of blogging fuel (TEA). Of course, no blogging nook is complete without a decent mug to fill - I chose this Crystal Faye 'Eat, Blog, Love' Coffee Mug, which I would have personalised with my blog name and beside it would sit a tin to house my biscuit stash (biscuits have been known to get me through a blog post!) I chose this 'Cookies' Biscuit Tin.

The walls would be decorated with a Nikki McWilliams 'Custard Cream Queen' BannerSet of 3 Nikki McWilliams Metallic Biscuit Prints 'I Am Busy Blogging' Print from Etsy and a 'This Month' Re-Usable Wall Decal, which I would use to plan out my blog posts for the month. I'd keep track of time with this Jones Teapot Wall Clock and this fab Solid Copper Spun Pendant Light Shade would help accent the copper pen pots and the copper shade in the Nikki McWilliams Bourbon print. 

I would sit in this fabulous Boss Design App Aluminium Office Chair (Colour: Massage) with the super-comfy, super-quirky Nikki McWilliams Custard Cream Cushion (Mint) to support my back. 

Finally, I would ensure all my paper work was beautifully organised in this elegant and stylish CB2 TPS Mint 3 Drawer Filing Cabinet. I do love to organise, and I couldn't run my blog as efficiently as I do, if I didn't have clear organisational strategies and storage in place. 

This really would be my dream room. It combines my love of blogging, books, tea drinking, vintage prettiness, biscuits, copper, and pastel shades, while being a useful and usable space to blog and house my books. 

Win, win, win! 

What room in your house would you love to redecorate? 

Mrs B 

xxx

This post is my entry into The Oliver's Madhouse Competition with Oak Furniture King: Spring. 




Sunday, 10 May 2015

'Kids Don't Come With A Manual' Review & Giveaway

"If you want your children to be happy and joyful when they grow up, you need to lead by example."

Kids Don't Come With A Manual


This month I'm reading a guide to family life called 'Kids Don't Come With A Manual: The Essential Guide to a Happy Family Life'' by Carole and Nadim Saad (published by Best of Parenting Publishing). 

Carole and Nadim are a husband and wife team who have written this book after their experience in early childhood education, as parent coaches and as parents themselves. It has been my reading challenge book for April and I've throughly enjoyed it and learnt so much. 

The book contains a programme of practical 'tools' designed to empower parents to:

-Deal with everyday parenting challenges without confrontation or anger

-Help children to become happy, fulfilled and self-reliant adults

-Maintain a strong and loving connection with children throughout their lives

-Agree on a balanced and more enjoyable approach to parenting

Bold statements, I hear you cry, but having read the book from cover to cover, I can safely say I feel hugely empowered and have learnt far more than I ever imagined I could from it. The book is set out so that you don't need to sit down and read it from cover to cover in order to find it useful - the clearly marked chapters mean you can dip in and out of it, using it as a point of reference when you're trying to deal with a new 'mis'behaviour, or parenting challenge. 

What I've liked most about reading this book is that it has made me stop, pause and really think about the type of parent I want to be. The book has made me consider the way I was parented and what parts of my own upbringing I want to emulate or not repeat with my own children. Life is so busy...we race around at the speed of light, often never giving ourselves the time to pause and think about where we are going, and what we ultimately want to achieve. By reading this book I have inadvertently addressed all of these issues, and have come out the other side much clearer about what my role as 'Mum' really means to me. I like to think of myself as a mindful and reflective person, I see myself as a work in progress, and enjoy self-improvement and development: usually this self-improvement is aimed at me as 'the friend', or 'the wife', or about physical improvement (health, weight loss etc), as a still relatively new parent, it hadn't occurred to me that my role as 'Bert's Mum' needs to be nourished and developed as well. 

As I read the book I identified how harsh and overly-critical of myself I can be: I give myself a hard time over the most stupid of things, and as I turned the pages I found that it helped me deal with some of my more negative feelings towards myself as a parent, as I realised that every parent loses their temper and makes mistakes. We are but human after all. 

Me and My Bertster! (May 2015)

On the whole being Bert's mum is the best and most rewarding 'job' I've ever had - I feel lucky to be a mum, I feel important and needed and necessary, I feel so loved by him, and my connection with my husband is stronger, and happier than I could have ever imagined since becoming parents. I'm hugely lucky that our parenting methods and our views on how to parent effectively are very similar - we don't clash or disagree when it comes to discipline, and our priorities seem to match across the board. This makes life much easier when it comes to dealing with 'mis' behaviours and those challenging moments with Bert. Some people aren't so fortunate, and they might find themselves in a position where theirs and their partner's parenting style may be completely different - the book deals with this in detail and provides great advice to encourage parents to reach a mutual compromise, a parenting common ground. 

Bert is now 20 months, approaching those 'terrible twos' at speed, and every day he is becoming cleverer and more strong-willed. This makes for a hilarious little character - with bags of personality who is a joy to be around - it also makes for some challenging moments when we as his parents have to try reeeeeally hard to keep our cool!  

My happy, smiley boy doesn't always keep his cool! Ha! 

When reading this book I read it not only thinking about life now as a parent, but also with all of the future parenting challenges ahead of us in mind - at whatever stage of being a parent you're at - whether you've got toddlers or teens, this book will be useful. The advice is simple, clear cut, practical and doesn't advocate or push a particular 'school of thought' - the advice is common-sensical, and more often that not comes down to pausing, taking a breath, and seeing things in perspective before you react to your children's 'mis' behaviour.

TOP TIPS FROM 'KIDS DON'T COME WITH A MANUAL' 

Here some top tips that I've taken away from the book, written in my own words:

-Parenting is about teamwork. To be successful parents you need to be singing from the same hymn sheet - you may have differing opinions/approaches/priorities, but you MUST come to a compromise and agree a balance between your differing approaches. You need not be 'good cop' and 'bad cop' but should share the responsibility of parenting across the board. 

-BE CONSISTENT. Empty threats are one of the biggest parenting faux pas you can make - children need and understand consistency, they learn from it, and they will respect you more if you show consistency with how you parent - they learn how to make sense of the world from you, their parents, if you are all over the place, then so might they be. 

-Give LIMITED CHOICES to your children to ensure they feel in control and have a sense of autonomy. All options you give them should be suitable for you, but they won't focus on that, they'll just be glad to be making a choice, and having some control. For example, you might ask your child "Would you like to go to bed now, or in five minutes?' more often that not they will say 'five minutes' and be so glad of that 'extra time'. Genius! 

-Instead of becoming a negative and naggy parent who constantly barks 'no!' you should try positive redirection. This is where you replace 'no' with 'yes', but ultimately drive the conflict to the same outcome. For example - your child might ask you for some sweets at 5pm, your standard reaction would be 'No! You know you don't eat sweets before dinner!" - instead you could reply "Yes! Of course you can have some sweets, but after you've eaten your dinner." This positive redirection usually works a charm, and will ultimately lead to a happier, more positive and harmonious household. 

-Use 'I' Statements for more respectful communication between parent and child. For example instead of saying 'Finish your dinner otherwise I won't give you pudding!' you could say 'I give dessert to children who have finished their dinner'. This positive communication will make life so much more enjoyable day to day and will teach your children vital life lessons in a non-threatening, positive way. You might be really cross with your child for speaking disrespectfully to you - you may shout and get terribly cross, but by using an 'I' statement you could teach them how to communicate respectfully even at times of stress and anger, and how, ultimately they will be happier people for it - e.g. 'I listen to people who speak respectfully to me'. Note the use of 'people' instead of 'children' - vital in teaching children that adults need to be respectful in the way they treat people just as much as children do. 

-Have quality one-on-one time with your children. Re-connect with them, have fun, play, laugh, be silly - take a step back and remember to ENJOY PARENTING. Life can so quickly get bogged down into a series of things we 'have to do' - school runs, work, meal prep, washing, after school clubs etc - before you know it another week has passed and you might not have managed to take a breath. By making time for quality one on one time with your child, playing with them, listening to them, being truly silly with them, it will force you to slow down and enjoy the ride. Make memories you'll cherish forever - you will never lie on your death bed saying 'I wish I had worked more and played with my children less'. 

-I especially loved the Saad's suggestion of holding an impromptu 'family disco' - just imagine your children's reaction should you get the whole family together, put on flashing coloured lights (fairy lights), make the room dark, push back the furniture, pop on your favourite CD, and dance like no one is watching! Magic! 

There is TONS more practical advice in the book, and I could go on for hours recounting the tips I'll be using in The Bishop household now and in the future. What I've shared above should whet your appetite and give you a good idea as to whether this book is for you or not! 

If you'd like to buy your own copy or find out about more publications from Best of Parenting then head over to their website Best of Parenting - books.

'Kids Don't Come With A Manual' is available to buy on Amazon for £8.49 (paperback) £6.99 (Kindle Edition).

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of the book for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are my own. 

*WIN* Your own copy of 'Kids Don't Come With a Manual'

The lovely people at Best of Parenting Publishing have kindly given me another copy of 'Kids Don't Come With A Manual' to giveaway - so if you'd like to be in with a chance of winning, then just use the gleam app below. 

Good Luck everyone & happy parenting! 

Mrs B

xxx

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