Slenderbind Review & Giveaway

My regular readers will know that I have been working with Forza Supplements over the last few months. I have reviewed a few of their fab weight loss products if you missed them read them here:
My weight loss has stalled a bit over the summer holidays and I have fell off the wagon a little. With school coming around again soon I am hopeful of getting back into a normal routine. I boosted this kick start with a 5 day trial of Slenderbind from Forza. This time, I am hosting my review and giveaway on the Forza blog instead. So pop over there and have a read of my results and enter the giveaway to win a supply for yourself.

Teksta Voice Recognition Puppy Review

You may have heard or seen reviews of the Teksta range, I know I have and they looked fab. A few weeks ago we got an email asking if we would like to review the brand new voice recognition Teksta puppy and I knew the kids would love it!
The popularity of the Teksta Puppy is to set to grow with the next generation Voice Recognition models with multi-coloured LED eyes and realistic ear movements making the Robotic Puppy the most advanced yet. With 10 voice recognition commands programmed in, Teksta Puppy will respond to your voice. With new applications and multiple command led features this pup will be a child’s new favourite hi-tech companion. Engineered with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, his toyetic interaction mimics emotions including; barking, crying, whimpering and much more.
The Teksta puppy requires 4 batteries which are not included, he also has a bone to chew on and a ball to play with.  The whole point of Teksta is to train him like you would with a real puppy, so he won't do what you want him to do straightaway. But the more you train him the better he will get at it.

You have to train your puppy to recognise the 10 voice commands, to get him to recognise these commands you have to press his nose for a few seconds. You will hear a beep and its then that you can give him the command. The 10 voice commands you can train him to respond to are:
  1. Bark - He will bark at you
  2. Come Here - Will walk towards you
  3. Play Dead - He will power off for 5 seconds
  4. Sing a Song - Will sing for you
  5. Don't Cry - Will laugh at you
  6. Good Boy - Reacts happily
  7. Good Girl - Reacts happily
  8. Roll Over - Will sit then flip
  9. Sit - Will sit
  10. Jump - Will flip over
You know when he is ready to learn my his led eyes will flash and then still, this shows he is ready to listen. Mr C managed the use the voice recognition play easily, he was able to hold down his nose until he heard the beeps. He managed to get him to bark, sit and even flip. He is still working on getting him to do the rest of his tricks for him.
The Teksta Puppy also have gesture recognition, to activate these you have to hold both the button down on his head until you hear the beep. To make Teksta sit you slowly pass your hand over his eyes, he will them sit down slowly. You can also make him flip baclwards, you do this by moving your hand upwards past his eyes slowly. The children loved making him flip over, he even manged to flip his ear off at one pint, but luckily they just clip right back in! 
Teksta also comes with a bone, this is what you use to feed him. The bone attaches via a magnet and when he is eating the lights on the front flash up. You can hear him chewing and slurping on the bone and he barks when he is done. He also has a ball that he loves to play with, this also attaches with a magnet, your puppy is also touch sensitive. If you scratch his head or pet his back he will respond to you! He is just like a real puppy just without the mess. The Teksta Voice Recognition Puppy is available through Character Option retailing at £59.99. we made a little clip for our Youtube channel of him in action. The kids love Teksta and are still busy training him to respond the first time, Honey our actual puppy isn't too impressed with him though!
Thanks For Reading
Mandy
*This post features press samples, see my Work With Me page for more information.

How to Lower Costs on Food

You are one of those persons that like to budget, and you do it really well too. You know exactly how much revenue you have coming in, and can easily control the costs of the family. Budgeting is important to you because it allows you to have more control over the types of activities you and the kids get to do. Budgeting is important because it does give your family more flexibility in terms of having fun, and it also protects you all in case there are any emergencies. At the same time, you like pushing the limits and looking for areas of your budget that could use improvements. Well, one of the best areas of spending to look at if you want to makes some cut backs is in food costs.
When you have a family, everybody has to eat. With every child that you have, food costs go up. Food is one of the biggests costs every month, but at the same time that does not mean that you can’t find ways to slightly cut back. One of the best ways to make cuts in your food costs is by shopping for ingredients and cooking more meals at home. Instead of eating out casually or on special occasions, if you and your family buy your own ingredients and cook you can save a lot of money! Cooking at home is great because it allows you to get more food for less money. If you shop intelligently you can pick ingredients that are in season and, therefore, less expensive. Picking ingredients intelligently and cooking proactively can help you get more meals out of your money, and cut back on costs. You can use the extra money on other fun activities for the family! If you decide that take out is a must, for some special occasion on another, then use these Groupon Discount Codes for Pizza Hut so you can lower your food costs anyway! It’s an intelligent way to keep the family happy while making some progress on your budgeting. Budgeting does not have to be stressful or difficult, it can actually be a very rewarding process!
Thanks For Reading
Mandy
*This is a collaborative post

What Was Inside August's Degustabox

It's time for another Degustabox delivery, it is my favourite time of the month and it was a good mix of things I haven't tried before. If you haven't heard of Degustabox it's a monthly subscription box priced at £12.99 that delivers 9-14 surprise products, many of the products are new to the market so you get to try them first. This month's box didn't follow a specific theme and contained lots of things I haven't heard of before.
Tabasco BBQ Sauce - £1.99 - Mr RTR loves a good bbq sauce and this is a new one to us. It's made from chipotle sauce and is perfect for drizzling over pork or chicken.
Fentimans Lime & Jasmine Drink - I let my Mum try this and she said it's really refreshing, the sharp lime taste gives it a lovely taste. She said it would be great mixed with vodka.
Mahou - £1.20 - An international lager from Madrid, Mr RTR has had this before when on holiday and he really like the sharp taste.
Get More Drinks - £1.45 - I reviewed the Get More range on the blog a while ago and we all love them, they even have a range for children.
Dorset Bircher Muesli - £3.49 - I am a big muesli fan but I haven't tried bircher mix before. Rather than putting milk on it, you add fruit juice or yoghurt.
Clipper Lime & Ginger Green Tea - £1.59 - Another to add to my green tea collection and a new one for the clipper range I haven't tried.
Capsicana Peruvian Cook Sauce - £1.59 - I love to try new cooking sauces and this one can be used on meat, fish or vegetables.
Oloves - £1 - I have only recently found a love of olives, so I am interested to give the Oloves range a try. These cholo and oregano flavour look tasty!
Nutripots - £2.49 - These nutripots are great for a nutritious low-fat lunch option. Every pot contains 50% of the 28 vitamins and minerals your body requires!
Geetas Range - £1 - I haven't tried the Geetas range before, but we do love a curry. We will be trying out the tikka paste this week.
Willy Chase's Fitcorn - £2.19 - I'm all over these amazing flavour popcorn, these taste just like salt and vinegar crisp.
Rakusens Snackers - £1.29 - We are a big cracker eating family and these are only 1% fat, they will be yummy dipped in cream cheese. I love the Gluten free range too, means I can share with my friend when she comes round.
**********************************
What do you think of the contents? This month's contents retails for around £27, so you are getting more than your monies worth in the box. There were 16 items from 12 different brands so a good variety. Want to try Degustabox yourself? You can get a massive £6 off your first box by using code BLDEG15 at the checkout.
Thanks For Reading
Mandy
*This post contains press samples, see my Work With Me Page for further information

Family Dining At Ask Italian

We love to eat out as a family, but for us, it's a little more difficult, we have a small list of places that we can go to that suit the children's needs. I had seen Ask Italian in Piccadilly gardens and it looked like a really good option for us. As 3 of our children have autism, we need a really open and spacious restaurant, quick service and a variety of menu options that suit all 4 of our children's need. We also tend to visit at lunchtimes when we know it will be quieter than an evening service.
We headed in for our 12.30 booking and I was relieved to see that it was relatively quiet, ideal for the children. There was a table for the 6 of us set up towards the back of the restaurant in a lovely quiet corner and we were seated immediately by the lovely Kelly.
Children's Menu & Colouring Card
All Ask Italian restaurant teams are proud to offer our ‘Amici kids’ experience, which is everything they do to involve children within the restaurant. From serving their food first to providing smaller cutlery and highchairs, these differences keep your little ones happy – which means you can relax and enjoy themselves. The children were each resented with their own menu, the reverse has a fab colouring activity on and there is a pot of crayons on your table. They even get their own Luca & Lucia finger puppets to colour in which if you share your design on their Facebook page you can win a fab prize. The children's menu is a great prize at just £6.95 and includes a starter, main, dessert and a yummy babyccino to round off their meal. The options are great and there was something for each of my fussy children that they liked.
Children's Starter
The children's starter is 4 yummy garlic bread soldiers, carrot & cucumber sticks and a nice dip to accompany them. The kid's starters were brought straight out when we ordered and it was a great distraction while we waited for the main meals to be freshly made. We opted for the adult starter's to be brought out with the main meals.
Cody's Luca & Lucia Finger Puppets
Eating out with 3 autistic children can be quite stressful and while we waited for our food Mr L got a bit anxious and stressed. Miss S was very excited and was verbally stimming a lot that day and this particularly bothers Mr L, he is very noise sensitive, so he requested to move to another table. Kelly sorted it for us straight away and it was no trouble for him to sit at another table with his Dad and brother while I stayed with the little ones. He was much happier and we were all able to enjoy a meal without stressing each other out.
We all really liked the relaxed atmosphere in Ask Italian, there is no loud music playing, the waiting staff have the perfect balance of asking if you require anything else without being too intrusive and nothing is too much trouble.
Children's Menu Penne
Children's Menu Cheese Pizza
 I was really impressed with the children's main dishes, they were a great size my children's appetite. Mr C struggled to finish his Penne dish, but he did dive into the chips and dough balls we got as adult sides!!

The choice for us adults was immense! There is something for every taste on the menu from chicken, pasta, pizzas and salads. It took us a while to all decide what we wanted and I went back and forth a few times, we had out starters/sides served with our main meals. This wasn't a problem at all and the restaurant were happy to hold them back and cook them a the same time as our mains.
Baked Dough Balls £4.95
Chips & Garlic Mayo £3.50
The dough balls were amazing, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. You have the option of having Fontal cheese & chilli, pepperoni or a mixture of both. We decided on the mix, you dint know the flavour until you bit in! The chips were equally as good and came with a lovely garlic mayo dip on the side, Mr D loved the mayo and asked for more, which they were happy to provide.
Linguine Carbonara £9.75
Chicken Caesar Salad £10.25
Stromboli Pizza £9.95
Mr RTR opted for the linguine carbonara, its one of his favourite dishes and he said he wasn't disappointed with this. It was so creamy and the pancetta was really cripsy, its a brand new item on the Ask Italian menu and we highly recommend it. You can opt for a half sized portion with a side salad for £1.50 less than the menu price if you have a smaller appetite. I went for the caeser salad, which is another new item on the menu and it was delicious. I was surprised at how big the bowl was, it was an impressive portion for the price, I really enjoyed it the chicken was cooked to perfection and it had just the right amount of caesar sauce on. Mr L who is 12 ate from the adult's menu with us and he opted for the Stromboli pizza, this would be ideal for sharing between 2 people as it had 8 slices. It had a nice crispy Italian base and Mr L said it was the best pizza he ever had and he's fussy!
Children's Menu Chocolate Pizza
Children's Menu Tip & Top Ice Cream
Children's Menu Ice Lolly
There are 4 options on the children's dessert menu and we tried 3 of them. Mr D opted for the chocolate pizza, a sweet dough topped with hazelnut chocolate spread and strawberries, it comes with a pot of mini marshmallows & sprinkles to decorate. Mr C opted for the tip & top ice cream, 2 scoops of icecream in a flavour of their choice, a meringue, pot of strawberries and a pot of marshmallows. Miss S opted for ice lolly which is available in strawberry or tropical. The 4th option is Frutti which is strawberries, raspberries and grapes.
The kid's desserts went down a storm, I think you can tell from their faces that they loved them! All their plates were empty. As part of the kid's menu they also get a babyccino, which is the perfect way to round off their lovely meal.
Children's Menu Babyccino
Now the kids were all sorted we had the task of deciding which of the amazing desserts we would like to round our meal off with. It was a really tough choice for Mr L and Mr RTR, but there was only 1 choice for me when I saw the menu.
Grande Gelato £4.95
Honeycomb Cheesecake £5.95
Ice Cream Profiteroles £5.95
I just had to have the Grande Gelato, meringue, strawberries and ice cream are 3 of my favourite things, the dish is topped off with a dash of cream and was heaven in a bowl. Mr RTR went for the new recipe honeycomb cheesecake, with crunchy honeycomb, white chocolate and a scoop of vanilla gelato it looks fab. Mr RTR said it was really good and he isn't a big dessert fan. Mr L opted for the ice cream profiteroles, filled with creamy Italian ice cream and topped with hot chocolate sauce, a delicous mix of hot and cold, Mr L loved it.

We can't fault Ask Italian, the service was fab, the food was nothing short of amaing and the staff were incredible. Especially Kelly who looked after us for our entire visit, nothing was too much trouble, she chatted with the children, got us everything we needed, arranged an additional table for Mr L and was polite and courteous throughout. Infact even the satff who weren't serving us were polite and friendly and made a point of saying hello and goodbye. Our meal for 6 people which included 3 courses and 2 drinks each came in at less than £100, which works out at roughly £15 per person. I think it was well worth it and we will definitely be visiting again in the near future.
Thanks For Reading
Mandy
*We visited Ask Italian for the purpose or review, our meal was complimentary. This does not affect our opinion.

The A to Z of Autism - N is For

When Mr L was diagnosed back in 2007 I didn't have a clue what Autism was or even what it meant, 8 years on and 2 more diagnoses its still a puzzle. I have been contemplating doing a blog series with all the words associated with Autism to help other parents and to maybe be a bit of a reference point. So say hello to the A to Z of Autism. Each week will be a different letter, last time was M is for and I got some fab inclusions from other autism parents. This time is N is For.....

Nervous
Suggested by Faith Mummy - I can definitely relate to this my middle boy is terribly nervous. Especially when it comes to trying or ding something new!

Nocturnal

Suggested by Faith Mummy - I think most SN parents can relate here! The nigts with a non sleeping child is hard!

No-One

Suggested by Autism Mumma - At times, it feels like no-one else understands your hopes and fears unless they have a special needs child.

Negativity

Suggested by Autism Mumma - Something you have to rise above and focus on the "can do's" and not the "can't"s

Neurodiversity

Suggested by Rainbows are too beautiful - Check out her post Art Neuro

Name
Suggested by Faith Mummy - Every child with autism has a name which is so important to remember when they are too often referred to as 'the child with autism'

Needs

Suggested by First Time Valley Mam both parents and child. I think it's really important to remember to be kind to yourself and remember your needs.

Nappies

Suggested by Brody Me and GDD - Check out her post, Why Supermarkets Need To Sell Bigger Nappies

Noise

Suggested by Being Tobys Mummy sensitivity to noise, making noises etc. Miss S really struggles with noises, she doesn't seem to mind them when she is stimming loudly though.

Non Verbal 

Suggested by Faith Mummy - This is the case for many children on the spectrum, language can take time. Miss S still isn't fully verbal, but she can certainly now make her feeling know LOL

New Experinces

Suggested by The Wrong Kind Of SnowNew experiences and the fear of them. We really struggle with this, getting our gang to try something new is a bloody nightmare, it takes weeks of planning and sometimes still fails.

Are there any other M's you can think of that could be added? If so do leave them all below in the comments. I will be back again soon with the next post, which will be O is for.......

Thanks For Reading
Mandy
xx

Our Day at #OGgetkidsintogolf Event

On Monday myself, Mr D, Mr C and Miss J hopped on the train and headed for the Hilton Hotel in Leeds city centre. We had been invited to a fab event with Online Golf, the #OGgetkidsintogolf event launched an initiative to ‘Get Kids into Golf’ this summer. There were some great activities for us to join in with such as a 6 hole indoor golf course, chipping nets, golf ten pin bowling and some expert golf pros on hand to help the little ones out with their swing.
We were split into 3 groups so it was easy to move around each of the activity and the kids got the chance to play golf ten pin bowling, getting the golf ball into a target area, chip the ball into the score slots and play the 6 hole golf course. 

The kids first task was to get some target practice in, they got points dependent on which area the golf ball stopped in. This game was all about controlling the balls and hitting it at the right pace. They got 3 balls each to have a go and they all managed to get a decent score.
Next up was the golf bowling which they were all excited to try out, you had to hit the ball as hard and fast as you could to knock the pins down. Each of the pins had a number on, so you got a score, we managed a respectable score between the 4 of us, the kids really enjoyed this one.
All 3 of the kids loved the 6 hole golf course and they spent a lot of time playing it after the guided session. I couldn't get them off it in time to go home. The staff on hand were amazing with the children and really patient. Mr C couldn't get the hang of turning his hands backwards to hold the club, so ended up playing more like croquet!
The last activity we all tried out was the chipping balls into the score nets. We all got 3 tries each but none of us managed the technique! We scored a big fat zero on this game, but the kids loved having a go anyway. We were served a delicious lunch of open sandwiches and hot chips and left with a rather fab goodie bag for each of the kids.

Online Golf has also compiled  5 top tips from their team about why kids should get into golf:
  1. More kids can play golf! For golf you don't have to be tall, strong or fast or lean. Successful golfers come in all shapes, sizes and ages.
  2. It's low-risk! Chances of injuries in golf are very small to non-existent compared to other popular sports like football or rugby. Being no-contact, golf is a very safe, respectful sport.
  3.  It's healthy! Golf is an outdoors sport giving kids the opportunity to exercise al fresco whilst enjoying nature.
  4. It creates bonds with friends & family! Whether your kid plays golf with family members, friends or takes lessons with a pro, mentoring and playing together will create unique and close bonds that will last a lifetime.
  5. Your kid will learn important life lessons! Playing golf, kids will experience highs and lows, from the first hole-in-one or birdie to a misplaced shot in a bunker. Golf will teach your kid that though we can't always win, we always have another shot in life and skill comes with practice.
Thanks to Online Golf for the invite and the Hilton Leeds for the fab venue, we all had a blast in Leeds. The kids have definitely sparked an interest in golf and can't wait to play again.
Thanks For Reading
Mandy

5 Tips To Running A Successful Social Media Page

I am Liam, the Social Media Executive for the online sales retailer Lovethesales.com. A UK top 100 Start-Up which aggregates sale items from over 500 of the biggest retailers in the UK, including Fashion, Electronics, Home & Garden. I am going to run you through a few quick tips I have picked up over the past year to run a successful social media page.

1. Know Your Audience 
The first step should be to draw a clear picture of the main groups of people that visit your website, business and or social pages. You can find this information with analytical tools like Facebook Insight, Twitter Analytics & Google Analytics. Once you have some key demographics like age and gender, you can begin to understand who you are trying to reach and engage with on your social pages and which platform is best for reaching them.

2. Value Proposition
The best way to reach your target audience is to first look at what you have to offer them on social media. Many businesses get this completely wrong and their eyes light up at the prospect of utilising a free marketing tool to sell to their audience. Social media is an extremely demanding place and people will switch off if they do not see the benefit they get from your page. It’s crucial to understand what value your audience is receiving whilst following your page. This could be in the form of helpful information, aesthetically pleasing pictures or even just a light funny post. The more you understand what makes your audience tick, the easier it will be to target posts that will drive engagement. This will in turn, build a relationship between your social pages and the audience, so when it comes time for them to, for example, ‘make a purchasing decision’, they will have more of an affinity to your business than your competitors.

3. Learn From Your Competition
A great way to understand what content works for your audience is to look at your competitor’s social media accounts or any in your related field and see what amount of engagement they get on different types of posts. This is fundamental to understanding what connects with a similar type of audience. The most successful social pages today will mimic, copy and paste content that begins to go viral and is popular among social media consumers. While you want to avoid breaking any copyright infringements, there is definitely a case to follow and check who’s getting it right on social media and why.

4. Feedback
Testing posts through trial and error is a perfect way of improving your value proposition which will lead to better engagement with your audience. I gather all the analytical information from Facebook insight and Twitter analytics and hold it all in an excel spreadsheet, this allows me to see which posts are working and which aren’t and draw objective conclusions. However, analytics can be misleading. For instance, I started off posting funny cat pictures and videos (which of course got a lot of engagement at the time), but had no relevance to the brand. I found out quickly that I had to strike a better balance between providing a great value proposition but also relating the content back to our brand.

5. Build An Active Audience
Big brands are starting to see how frivolous the number of followers or likes they have on their social pages, especially if the audience is not engaged in some way. The majority of our competitors have huge social followings but their constant barrage of salesman type posts receives minimal engagement, this is because their audience have switched off, they have liked the page or followed the brand but have become what I like to call ‘fan zombies’. People don’t go on social media to be constantly sold something and they like brands pages because they feel personally connected to that brand in some way and like their value proposition. To keep an active audience, you need a good combination of the last four points. The most successful businesses on social media are constantly evaluating their value proposition. They are the quickest in reacting to how people absorb content and why they engage in the first place.

Following these 5 steps will not only improve brand awareness and your Search Engine Optimisation standings (as google take social engagement as an indicator of more relevant results). It also builds a personality around your business, social page or brand, creating a connection with your audience which in todays saturated online world, is priceless.

Thanks For Reading
Liam Solomon 
Social Media Executive - Lovethesales.com

The Vax Air Stretch Pet Upright Cleaner Review

If you saw my post Say Hello To Honey a few months back, you will know we now own a rather cute doggy. Honey is now all settled in, when I got her I was told she was a puggle, a lovely short haired breed, but she is the hairiest puggle I have ever seen! This means I am fighting a constant battle with the stairs carpet and the dog hair. I was until now losing the battle, but thanks to the Vax Air Stretch Pet Upright Cleaner I am now winning the war!
The Vax Air Stretch Pet is a powerful and lightweight upright vacuum cleaner with a long reach hose and cord. It’s also perfect for homes with pets as the TurboTool helps to remove stubborn dirt and pet hair from surfaces around your home. As you can see from the video there is zero construction required and it all clicks together for ease of storage.
All of the attachments and buttons are nice and chunky and they are blue so really easy to see. I love the colours used on the vacuum, the bright blue and grey look stunning together. The cord of the vacuum is a massive 13 metres long and the cord clip is big enough to wrap all of the cord around for tidy storage. The 3 important buttons on the vacuum are all just below the main pipe, the power button, the brush rotate which enables you to turn the rotating brush on & off and the lock button to remove the dust canister.
The vacuum comes with 3 useful attachments to help with the war against pet hair. The crevice tool is 3in1, it acts as a solid crevice, move the slider down and it has a smooth end and the other end has a brush end, it's great for using on all type of fabrics and floorings. The turbo tool which is just the perfect attachement for combatting the stairs and the sofa, the rotating brush head really aggravates the carpet and lifts out the hairs. The vacuum handle comes out of the hoover and you can attach the additional hose and make a combined reach of 17 metres, this means you can plug the unit in at the bottom of the stairs and clean right up to the top.
Honey took a liking to the crevice tool!

The slider on the front of the vacuum allows you to easily switch between low pile and deep pile carpets. It's really easy to just slide over with your foot when you need to, so no bending down required. You can really feel the 820w suction power when you have it on the deep pile setting, it really sucks the carpet.
It has a fab HEPA media filter, the filter is locked under a safety cover under the dust container, the great thing about the filter is that is it replaceable. You can buy a replacement from the Vax website for £15, this means your vacuum can last for years if you keep your filter in top condition. Not that you need worry as the vacuum comes with a massive 6-year guarantee.
All of the materials are great quality, even the hose attachment on the vacuum. We have had vacuums in the past that have been made from cheap materials and the hose is the first to thing to split. I was impressed with how lightweight the vacuum is and it glides like a dream. It goes from my laminate to carpet with ease and you can easily use the floor selector to switch modes really easily. It's not great at turning corners, but it is so light it is easy enough to lift it slightly onto 2 wheels and it goes round that way.
Just Look At All That Fur Off The Stairs
Overall  I love the vacuum its perfect for our needs, its lightweight (only 4.9kg) for carrying around, but thanks to the massive 17 metre combined reach you really don't need to carry it. The filter is replaceable, it's got incredible suction and it has all the tools us pet owners could possibly need. The multi-cyclonic action means you will never lose suction. I think the results speak for themselves if you look at the above picture, all that dust and hair is from my hall, stairs and landing and the box bedroom which are carpeted. They had been hoovered just 2 days previously and looked pretty clean to the naked eye! The Vax Air Stretch Pet Upright Vacuum retails at £249.99 and it is one of the bestsellers for Vax and after trialling it I can see why.
Thanks For Reading
Mandy
*I was sent the above item for the purpose of an honest review
Designed by FlexyCreatives