Tried & Tested Tuesday (Week 2 – 2017)

Morning! Hope you’re coping ok through this somewhat dreary January – I’m missing the sunshine I must admit!

In case you are new here – let us tell you what Tried & Tested is all about. We all know how useful reviews can be.  Most bloggers do them – be it things they have bought themselves or have been asked to review.  They are a useful tool for people looking for honest and thorough reviews of products they need, things they are considering buying, or even to introduce people to exciting new products they have never even heard of.  You can find out more about how to join in here.

If you have linked up with us before – welcome back! We love having you. Please have a quick read through the points below to remind yourself how things are working:

* Tried & Tested is open on Tuesday – from 8am to midnight on the same day.

* We’d love to share your post on Twitter – please tweet us your link (@Lollinski & @FamilyFever) along with the #TriedTested hashtag and we’ll retweet that for you.

* If you’d like a Twitter reminder each week when the linky is open then please drop one of us a tweet and we’ll add you to the list.

* Each week we feature our two favourite reviews from the past week and we have a super special “featured blogger” badge! If you are this week’s featured blogger we will send you over the code which we would love you to add to you blog post or sidebar!

That’s about it – it’s super simple to join in, so crack on, link up and share some commenty love – let’s face it, that’s what makes linkys work.

This week we have loved:

#TriedTested featured blogger - Toby Goes Bananas

Toby from Toby Goes Bananas has been having lots of fun learning to use his new SmarTrike T1 Scooter – this post is packed with gorgeous images too!

#TriedTested featured blogger - Mrs Shilts

Emma has been organising Olly’s toys with The Sorting Box – I think we all love a good sort out come January don’t we!

We don’t have lots of rules for #TriedTested however the ones we do have are really important:
* Please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment on the posts we have each linked up
* Try to comment on a couple of other posts as well if you can – we know that people really appreciate the feedback!
* We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out. (Additional or irrelevant posts will be deleted out of fairness.)
We're going on an adventure



Siblings – January 2017

And so begins our third year of Siblings posts.  I love the way this project encourages (or even forces me) to take regular photos of my children together.  As time goes by it does get easier to get them all in the same place at the same time to take a photo.  They’ve learned to just let me get the photos I want quite quickly so they can disappear off and do their own thing again.  We tend to take it in turns to do nice photos and silly photos – and often the silly photos turn out to be my favourites!  The challenge remains, of course, to get them all looking at the camera the same time . . .

This month’s photos were taken at the very end of December on a walk up in Heaton Park, easily one of our favourite places for a good dose of fresh air in our lungs!  Father Christmas brought them matching #SquadGoals tops after being inspired by a Mummy Daddy Me video and I couldn’t resist taking some “team” photographs for this months’ Siblings post.

Siblings - January 2017 (1)

Siblings - January 2017 (2)

Siblings - January 2017 (3)

Siblings - January 2017 (4)

Siblings - January 2017 (5)

Siblings - January 2017 (6)

The Me and Mine Project

Raising money for DEBRA with BT MyDonate

BT MyDonate - Dave & Chloe

*Collaborative Post*

 Long time readers may know that Dave has a something of a cycling habit and each summer completes a bit of a marathon 75 mile charity bike ride from Wetherby to Filey with my Dad and little sister.  For one reason or another they didn’t do the ride last summer but are each determined to get back on it this year and up some of those killer hills.  Being a busy Dad of three, Dave can often find it quite hard to fit training sessions into his week – especially as he gets closer to the big ride and needs to be out for several hours at a time working on his strength and stamina.  This New Year, to keep him focused on training for the ride in June, Dave’s also going to complete a “short” 49 mile bike ride  in North York and raise funds for DEBRA using BT MyDonate.

As Colette said above I am raising money for the charity DEBRA.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you had never heard of DEBRA before.  They aren’t the biggest charity and I wouldn’t know about them without my personal experience.  The ‘EB’ within DEBRA stands for Epidermolysis Bullosa.  This is a disease which affects the way in which your skin works.  In the most basic description possible, (the only one I understand really) your skin has layers which are held together by a glue. People who are born with EB do not have this glue, or their glue does not work correctly, meaning that the slightest graze can remove their skin.  My step father had this condition and it caused him pain and discomfort his whole life.  Constant open wounds that require dressings and bandages along with the need for plastic surgery to stop fingers and toes from fusing together.  Despite all that he was an amazing man and the people at DEBRA helped him throughout his life.  So I would like to help them.

BT MyDonate - Dave & Chloe

BT MyDonate is a not-for-profit online giving platform.  It may come as a surprise to know that other fundraising sites (eg Just Giving or Virgin) often charge charities commission or subscription fees – I was really shocked when I first found out that some of these sites were making money off the back of your charity fundraising.  I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s really not ok?  Using BT MyDonate ensures that, aside from any credit card or debit card fees, every penny donated goes straight to your chosen cause – as you’d expect!

As if this weren’t reason enough to use BT MyDonate, every new registrant to the site who raises £100 in donations (including gift aid) before February 20th 2017 will automatically be entered into the “Donation Doubler” prize draw with five people randomly selected to have the money they have raised matched up to a value of £1,000!

In a recent survey commissioned by BT MyDonate, 28% of Brits agreed that they would be more likely to stick to their New Year’s resolutions if they involved a charitable cause – which makes perfect sense doesn’t it?  Raising money publicly makes you accountable.  So, I’m relying on you guys to help keep Dave out on his bike this miserable, grey January!

BT MyDonate - Bike Ride

Suzy Christopher, Charity and Community Director, BT, said: “With nearly three quarters of us having donated to charity over the past year, it’s clear that we’re a generous nation. As 54 per cent of us will make exercising more our priority in 2017, tying this into a charitable New Year challenge could be the perfect way to combine fitness and fundraising – from embarking on a sponsored bike ride to scaling a mountain summit. I’m running the London Marathon in April and fundraising for charity has certainly motivated me to keep training!

If you need a bit of help sticking to your own New Year’s Resolutions – why not make it about charity fundraising this year?  You never know what you could achieve or how much your chosen charity might benefit and sharing your challenges with your friends on social media will mean you really do have to crack on with them!

If you’d like to help Dave on his way, you can find our BT MyDonate page here: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/goingonanadventureblog 

The car leaser’s top three tips for an easy ride

shiny new red Honda

*Collaborative guest post*

Unsurprisingly, car leasing is continuing to grow in the UK and worldwide, with drivers ditching the responsibilities of ownership in favour of a stress-free driving experience. Leasing removes the considerable upfront payment, maintenance costs, and the distressing inevitability of depreciation and instead lets the driver take the wheel of a brand new car for a low monthly payment. At the end of the contract, the car is simply handed back to the leasing company with the option to pick up another brand new vehicle.

As with all agreements, it’s a good idea to make sure you know exactly what you’re doing before you sign on the dotted line. Making mistakes when finalising your agreement can be costly long-term, so make sure to always consider the following before you drive your new car away.

shiny new red Honda

Figure out a realistic estimation of your annual mileage

When researching cars to lease, make sure to check the annual mileage that each deal includes. The cheapest deals will often be so cheap because they come with a low annual mileage – some as little as 5,000 miles – so it’s important to know exactly what the deal includes.

Signing up for a low mileage agreement and then exceeding that limit can be costly, and you may end up owing a considerable amount of money at the end of the contract.

Think carefully and fully about the amount of driving you are likely to do so that you have a realistic figure in mind when looking for deals and, if you know that you will drive more than the limit allows, then simply ask for a higher limit. Many companies are happy to work out a personalised deal, so it’s always worth asking.

Keep your car in good nick

When you eventually return your car at the end of the lease period, you will be able to get away with anything that is considered ‘normal wear’, but any damage that goes beyond that could land you with additional unexpected fees to pay.

What is defined as ‘normal wear’ can vary, so be careful when reading through your leasing agreement to note what is expected of you as a driver. You will usually be required to keep the car maintained by reputable garages at the recommended service intervals.

Do consider gap insurance

As is the case with any new car, as soon as it is driven off the forecourt your lease car’s value will significantly decrease.

In the unlikely and unfortunate event that your lease car is either stolen or written off, the payment that your insurance company makes for the value of the car may not cover the total cost of the remainder of the leasing agreement. In this case, you may have to pay the costs yourself unless you have gap insurance.

Gap insurance is used to cover the difference between the insurance company’s payout (or the market value of a car) and the amount originally paid for it. This removes the risk of your insurer not paying out enough money to cover the rest of the lease deal.

When taking out any car lease, be sure to ask whether the contract includes specialist gap insurance and, if it doesn’t, you may want to find it yourself.

 This piece was put together by the creative team over at Vantage Leasing, a UK based car leasing company. If you are considering a car leasing deal, then contact Vantage Leasing for a transparent leasing option on both personal and business leasing contracts. 

My Baby & Me by Sam Faiers – Giveaway

Sam Faiers Cover

As a blogger I know that people love to read about real life parenting – about other people’s experiences be it similar to their own or a completely different view point.  We love to know what’s going on in other people’s lives – sometimes to make us feel better about what’s going on in our own or other times just to escape from reality for a bit.

Sam Faiers of Towie fame documented her pregnancy and birth in a one-off show on ITVBe called “The Baby Diaries” which went on to become the channel’s most watched programme ever!  She has since stared in a six-part series about her life as a new mum: “The Mummy Diaries”.

Alongside sharing her life family life on TV, Sam Faiers has also written a book (how does she find the time?!) called “My Baby & Me” charting “the highs and lows of her first year as a mum” which was published in hardback at the end of last month.

Written in a chatty, no-nonsense style, Sam opens up about what life as a new mum has been life for her – the good bits and the not so good.  She is keen to share her story rather than advise, pointing out “I’m not saying it’s the right way, it’s jut my way . . . !

Sam Faiers - My Baby & Me
My Baby & Me, 29th of December, Blink Publishing

If you’d like to win a copy of Sam Faiers “My Baby & Me” – then just complete the entry options in the rafflecopter below, ensuring to do this accurately to avoid disqualification. (UK only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tried & Tested Tuesday (Week 1 – 2017)

Happy New Year everyone – how was the festive period for you? Are you all getting back into the daily routine now?

In case you are new here – let us tell you what Tried & Tested is all about. We all know how useful reviews can be.  Most bloggers do them – be it things they have bought themselves or have been asked to review.  They are a useful tool for people looking for honest and thorough reviews of products they need, things they are considering buying, or even to introduce people to exciting new products they have never even heard of.  You can find out more about how to join in here.

If you have linked up with us before – welcome back! We love having you. Please have a quick read through the points below to remind yourself how things are working:

* Tried & Tested is open on Tuesday – from 8am to midnight on the same day.

* We’d love to share your post on Twitter – please tweet us your link (@Lollinski & @FamilyFever) along with the #TriedTested hashtag and we’ll retweet that for you.

* If you’d like a Twitter reminder each week when the linky is open then please drop one of us a tweet and we’ll add you to the list.

* Each week we feature our two favourite reviews from the past week and we have a super special “featured blogger” badge! If you are this week’s featured blogger we will send you over the code which we would love you to add to you blog post or sidebar!

That’s about it – it’s super simple to join in, so crack on, link up and share some commenty love – let’s face it, that’s what makes linkys work.

#TriedTested

We don’t have lots of rules for #TriedTested however the ones we do have are really important:
* Please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment on the posts we have each linked up
* Try to comment on a couple of other posts as well if you can – we know that people really appreciate the feedback!
* We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out. (Additional or irrelevant posts will be deleted out of fairness.)
We're going on an adventure



Blue Denim Pinafore Dress from Milk & Biscuits – Review

Chloe is something of a fan of dresses.  At one stage I had to make sure I told her the night before if it was going to be a “trousers day”, thankfully she seems to have got a bit of a grip now and it doesn’t end in tears if she needs to wear jeans but she would still always prefer to wear a frock – the twirlier the better!  Of course a twirly dress isn’t always practical and whilst browsing the Milk & Biscuits site I fell in love with this blue denim pinafore dress . . . yes ok so really I just want to wear it myself but if I’m honest that’s the case with most of Chloe’s wardrobe!

Blue Denim Pinafore Dress from Milk & Biscuits (1)

Blue Denim Pinafore Dress from Milk & Biscuits (2)

When the dress arrived I was impressed with how soft the denim felt – there’s nothing worse than an overly stiff denim pinafore bunching up around your waist or chin when you sit down.  Chloe is fairly tall and I felt the age 5-6 would probably be a bit small so I ordered the blue denim pinafore dress in age 7-8.  Because of the slim-fit style it turned out to be a great fit on her – the length is great, with room to grow and of course the adjustable braces mean it should last her for ages.  The only place that shows I sized up for her is the zip fastening waistline – it is quite a structured shape and isn’t adjustable so you can see there is room in it for her but it just looks generous rather than far too big if that makes sense?  All in, Chloe’s comfortable and I know her new dress is going to last her.  We’re both happy!

Blue Denim Pinafore Dress from Milk & Biscuits (3)

Blue Denim Pinafore Dress from Milk & Biscuits (4)

Blue Denim Pinafore Dress from Milk & Biscuits (5)

Blue Denim Pinafore Dress from Milk & Biscuits (6)

At the moment, whilst the weather is cold, the blue denim pinafore dress works a treat with a navy stripe top (of course) and boots.  Come the warmer months a pretty blouse and Converse will be a winning combination. (Yes, I’ve already admitted I want to wear this myself haven’t I?)

At £35 this Milk & Biscuits blue denim pinafore dress is a little more expensive than the dresses I usually buy for Chloe but for the versatility and longevity I think it’s worth the extra spend.  (I’m already eyeing up this absolute beaut of a coat for Amy!)

*We received this Milk & Biscuits blue denim pinafore dress free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Blog Goals – New Year Update!

Instagram Jan 17

If you’re a blogger or are interested in social media and then by all means read on, if you’re more interested in posts about my family then I’d have a look at this instead: Me & Mine – December 2016, my blog goals might not really be too interesting!

Whilst I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions – I do like to set goals, goals with measurable targets.  Last year, for the first time, I wrote a list of specific targets for my blog.  I didn’t share them publicly, just kept them as a note on Google Keep and checked in on them regularly.  Actually writing down my targets and monitoring them kept me focused on achieving them rather than just leaving things to happen by themselves or forgetting about them completely.  What I failed to do was record my starting points which seems really quite foolish now!  This coming year I will be tracking my social followings using a spreadsheet created by my lovely friend Jane so rather than just having a vague idea of how far I’ve come, I will know exactly!

My 2016 Blog Goals were:

* 15000 twitter followers → I achieved 13857 

I must admit this is probably the target I’ve paid the least attention too.  I remember being told at some point that you can’t be effective on all social media at the same time and that it’s better to concentrate on a couple and do them really well.  Because I started the year with a fairly strong twitter following of around 10k, I knew it wasn’t my top priority and I just carried on using it as I had before.

Blog Goals - Twitter January 2017

* 3500 Facebook followers → I achieved 3216

Facebook is notoriously difficult to grow and as such I’d set myself a fairly small target of increasingly from 2900 to 3500.  For a long time my facebook following just didn’t grow at all, every time I picked up a few followers, other people disappeared but it has seen a slow and steady increase over the last few months ending they year on 3216 – and whilst it hasn’t hit my target, it has been hard-won and I’m really pleased the numbers are finally moving again!

Blog Goals - Facebook Jan 17

* 1500 pinterest followers → I achieved 1286

Again I’ve paid little attention to Pinterest from a blog point of view.  I absolutely love it for obsessively pinning style inspiration, activities for the kids or even interiors goals but I’m really not that great at using it for my blog.  (That said I did finally learn to make a proper pinnable image for my posts this year!)

Blog Goals - Pinterest Jan 2017

* 6000 Instagram followers  → I achieved 13857 

Instagram has been my big success of the year.  I started in January with around 3000 followers having been using the platform for around 18 months.  It seemed reasonable to think I could double this in another year.  In fact I hit 6000 followers on Instagram in May and have gained around 1000 followers a month ever since.  This coming year, whilst I will set a target for followers I want to focus more on the interaction side of things.

Blog Goals - Instagram Jan 17

* Get over 200 likes on an Instagram photo → I achieved this in January 

* 1000 YouTube followers → I achieved 1278

Having started the year on about 650 subscribers, we hit 1000 subs on YouTube at the start of September and celebrated with a bit of a Me & Him quiz.  We’re ending the year having basically doubled our YouTube subscribers to 1278

Blog Goals - YouTube Jan 2017

* Beat current highs for UMV and Views → I achieved in November 

This target related to literally beating but not necessarily maintaining my peak blog stats and I achieved this in November, but for the most part my UMV and page views have followed a similar pattern to the previous year.

* Beat this year’s earnings → I achieved by September

As my accounts stand, I had already beaten my 15/16 earnings by about September so I think it’s safe to say we nailed that one!  Fingers crossed we can continue on the same path!
* Increase my Klout beyond 70  → Achieved and maintained for much of the year! 

Klout is basically a measure of social influence and tracks interaction across social media – the higher your klout the harder it gets to improve it from what I’ve read.  Last year my klout hovered around 67 to 69.  This year it has remained at 70 or above for most of the year, peaking at 75 at the end of November.

Klout Jan 2017

So all in, I’m finishing the year with a combined social following of 35k  . . .  I’m just about to set out some targets for this coming year.  Setting blog goals is definitely the way forward!

Me & Mine – December 2016

Me & Mine - December 2016

It’s quite some time since I attempted, and quickly failed, to join in with the Me & Mine Family Portrait Project.  For some reason, getting a family photo has always been so much harder than my monthly Siblings images but I’ve decided to give it another go!  It probably would have made sense to just start in the new year and join in with January’s posts but as we had taken a set of photos this week that I wanted to share, here we are!

I recently invested in a new tripod which we took up to Heaton Park for a play – until now we’ve always just found places to precariously balance my camera.  I did feel a bit silly posing in front of the tripod in public but you know what, if it means we get some decent photos of us all together each month then so be it!  We set the timer and Dave did the mad dash back before the photo was taken – perhaps we need to invest in a new remote for the camera before the next lot of photos!  I can’t decide if some of the images are slightly out of focus or if my eyes are just really very tired but either way . . . this is us, at the end of 2016, together.

Me & Mine - December 2016 (1)

Me & Mine - December 2016 (2)

Me & Mine - December 2016 (3)
Me & Mine - December 2016 (4)
Me & Mine - December 2016 (5)

I can’t quite believe how grown up my babies are looking as we enter a new year and I’m excited to try and capture a full year of family photos!
The Me and Mine Project

Happy Christmas!

That’s it, I’m officially done for Christmas.  The “out of office” is on and Dave finishes work this afternoon.  Someone pour me a gin. I’m really looking forward to taking a proper break with my family over the next week or so and not worrying about work or deadlines!

Whilst there won’t be any new blog posts to read, there’s still one last VLOGMAS video to go and I will of course still be over on Instagram if you want to catch up with what we’ve been doing (I’m pretty sure it will mostly involve presents, mince pies and Mum & Dad’s coal fire).

In the meantime I hope you have a really wonderful happy and restful Christmas x x x

Happy Christmas message