Thursday, 30 June 2016

What I've Won in June

This Month I've Won...

This has been an awesome month for comping - I'm back in the zone! Unfortunately I logged on to my online banking last night to find that I've lost over £200 in skimmed ATM transactions. I suppose it goes to show that what the Lord giveth with one hand, he taketh with the other. :(

Pack of Moony nappies from Lily's Little Learners.
Father's Day picture block from D&S Wooden Picture Blocks and Crafts.
Small travel bag from Intatec.
 Luxury hamper from Jelly Belly.
 Britt Bear from My Baba.
 LG G5 handset and 32" LG TV from Trusted Reviews.
Jam jar toppers from HettyHopDesigns.

image of jam jar toppers from Hetty Hop Designs etsy shopImage from the Hetty Hop Designs Etsy shop.

 Marbled notebook from the BoundlessBooks88 etsy shop.
 Pair of builders' gloves from Screwfix.
 Grainger Street by Tony Stowers from Goodreads.
 The Usborne Famous Composers Sticker Book.
 Necklace and earrings set from Touchstone Accessories.
 Teddy Bear from Quality Solicitors. I entered this one at their stall during Cwmbran Big Event, and I'm really chuffed because it's the first 'guess the name' comp I've ever won.
 £30 voucher for Party Bags and Supplies from Life, Love and Dirty Dishes. (If you fancy winning this yourself, I have a comp of my own running HERE.)

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Review: Order Blinds Online

Order Blinds Review from

Marianna's bedroom window looks out - and is looked upon - by lots of neighbours, so I've been meaning to get a net or something for it ever since we moved in. It's one of those thousands of things I hadn't got around to, for all I remembered why I wanted one every time I wandered in with bed hair and bleary eyes...

So, when Order Blinds Online contacted me to ask if I would like to review a set of made to measure blinds, I knew just the window to try them out on!

Order Blinds Online baby blue vertical blinds

About Order Blinds

Order Blinds was founded in 2009, in Bottesford, Leiscestershire, and employs three awesome members of full time staff. (I know they're awesome because my experience with them has been first class!) They offer a free sample service, free UK delivery on orders over £99, and the website is super easy to navigate.

The range itself is huge, with all kinds of blinds from roller to venetian to skylight. We went for vertical blinds, and even here there are so many options, from waterproof to sloping. The colour choices are extensive too; I wanted baby pink, but Anthony successfully argued for baby blue to match her walls.

view of Marianna's bedroom
Marianna's bedroom.

Once you have settled on a design, the first thing you need to do is measure your window. You need to choose between 'blind size', which would make the blind cover the whole of the window including frame, or 'recess size' which fits inside the window frame. We went for the latter. I was a little nervous about measuring it, and kept checking the instructions which say to measure exactly as they'll make any necessary deductions themselves.

(This is completely true. The blinds fit perfectly when they arrived!)

With that out of the way, you can then fill in the online form with your preferences. For example, you can choose between white plastic or nickel link chain for the bottom of your blinds, which way the vanes are stacked, and whether you want the blinds to be controlled by a cord and chain, or a wand. If the blinds are destined for a young child's room, the wand is a must because a number of children have accidentally strangled themselves with blind cords. It's better to be safe than sorry.

screengrab of Order Blinds Online order form
The order form.

The Finished Product

I placed my order on June 16th. It was dispatched on June 17th, and was with me on June 21st! I unpacked the box and spent about half hour inserting all the plastic hangers and weights, and attaching the link chain, then my dad did the actual DIY bit of installing them when he came around on Saturday morning. It took him about three minutes, if that, so I felt suitably embarrassed I hadn't just done it myself.

Marianna's window with blinds and curtains closed

I'm so happy with the way they look - and they've already made a big difference to Marianna's daytime naps thanks to all that extra light being blocked. The quality of the blinds is great, and the order process was quick and hassle free.

To purchase your own made to measure blinds, check out the website - - and stay in touch with Order Blinds on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

For more of my reviews, please click the picture below:
Reviews from Babi a Fi - food, fashion, beauty, baby, toys, books, tech, days out, and more!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Harry Potter Tag

The Harry Potter Blogging Tag

I loved Harry Potter as a teen, so when I saw this tag over at the Pretty Purple Polka Dots blog I had to give it a go!

#1. Favourite Harry Potter Book? 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This was the first one I read, after seeing Chamber of Secrets at the cinema. My brother had the book out at the time from his school library, so I figured I'd give it a try. I loved it so much I went straight out that weekend and got the first two books.

#2. Least Favourite Harry Potter Book? 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I still enjoyed it, but it was too long. It felt a bit like reading LotR and Tom Bombadil's random interlude all over again.

#3. Favourite Harry Potter Movie?

The Prisoner of Azkaban. The CGI werewolf sucked, but apart from that it lived up to my expectations.

#4. Least Favourite Harry Potter Movie?

The Chamber of Secrets. Again, I still liked it, but it's the weakest of the series in my opinion.

#5. Favourite Quote? 

It is our choices that show us what we truly are.
Image found via Google Images.

#6. Favourite Weasley?

Percy. He's terribly pompous, but I felt he was a more interesting character than most of them.

#7. Favourite Female Character? 

Hermione. She can be insufferable, but can't we all? :)

#8. Favourite Villain? 

Bellatrix Lestrange.

#9. Favourite Male Character? 

Hagrid is great.

#10. Favourite Professor?

Snape! I wouldn't want to actually be taught by him, but the teacher who hates their job is always something I like in fiction.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape

#11. Least Favourite Character? 

This will be controversial but, Sirius Black. If I'd read the books as an adult I'd probably be more sympathetic to his character, but at 14 I just couldn't stand him.

#12. Is there a character you felt differently about in the movies?

James Potter. He came across a lot better in the movies.

#13. Is there a movie you preferred to the book?

No, it's always hard to prefer a movie if you have read the book first, I think.

#14. Richard Harris or Michael Gambon as Dumbledore?

Richard Harris, but they're both good.

#15.  Your top thing (person or event) that wasn’t in the movie that you wanted there the most? 

It's not like we even see it in the book, but I'd have loved to see more of Hermione's life outside of school / the Weasleys.

#16.  If you could remake any of the Harry Potter movies which would it be? 

Prisoner of Azkaban. Just because it's my favourite so I'd love to get my hands on it! :)

#17. Which house was your first gut feeling you’d be a part of?

Ravenclaw. Eccentrics with a love of learning - where do I sign up?

#18. Which house were you actually sorted into on Pottermore?

Pottermore Ravenclaw House

#19. Which class would be your favourite? 

Probably History of Magic, even with the interminable Binns at the helm.

#20. Which spell do you think would be most useful to learn? 

Reparo. I'd save a fortune if my (and Anthony's) clumsiness could be undone!

#21. Is there any aspect of the books you’d want to change?

That epilogue. :/

#22. Favourite Marauder?

Lupin, for sure. Not least because I probably spent a good few cumulative weeks of my teenage life reading Snupin fanfiction.

#23. If you could bring one character back to life, which would it be? 

Fred Weasley. :(

24. If you were on the Quidditch team, which position would you play?

Let's face it, I would never have been on the team - and would probably have done all I could to skive out of lessons too. At house matches my crowd would have been the ones sat at the back paying no attention and chattering about the latest gossip in 'Teen Witch' or something.

#25. Were you happy with the ending?

I liked the ending - but I actually tore the epilogue out of my copy of the book. It was understandable to have the close marauders era ties after school, they were mostly dead or in prison before they could drift apart, but the 'everyone stayed with their high school sweetheart and friendship group' trope always annoys me.

Harry Potter Blogging Tag

#01. Favourite Harry Potter Book?
#02. Least Favourite Harry Potter Book?
#03. Favourite Harry Potter Movie?
#04. Least Favourite Harry Potter Movie?
#05. Favourite Quote?
#06. Favourite Weasley?
#07. Favourite Female Character?
#08. Favourite Villain?
#09. Favourite Male Character?
#10. Favourite Professor?
#11. Least Favourite Character?
#12. Is there a character you felt differently about in the movies?
#13. Is there a movie you preferred to the book?
#14. Richard Harris or Michael Gambon as Dumbledore?
#15. Your top thing (person or event) that wasn’t in the movie that you wanted there the most?
#16. If you could remake any of the Harry Potter movies which would it be?
#17. Which house was your first gut feeling you’d be a part of?
#18. Which house were you actually sorted into on Pottermore?
#19. Which class would be your favourite?
#20. Which spell do you think would be most useful to learn?
#21. Is there any aspect of the books you’d want to change?
#22. Favourite Marauder?
#23. If you could bring one character back to life, which would it be?
24. If you were on the Quidditch team, which position would you play?
#25. Were you happy with the ending?

For more blog tags, memes, and challenges, click the picture below:
blog tags, memes and challenges

Monday, 27 June 2016

What If Young People Voted?

What If Young People Voted?

I've wondered this ever since I first became interested in politics. Because the figures show, election after election, that the older generation turn out to vote while the young leave it up to someone else to decide. (We're talking generalisations, of course!) In 2015 78% of the 65 and overs exercised their democratic right to vote - in the 18 to 24 age bracket the same was true of only 43%.

Turnout at last week's referendum vote was even more starkly divided. 83% of the OAPs vs. just 36% of the under 25s.

But if you don't bother to turn up, you can't expect politicians to try and win your vote. That's why all the big parties formulate policy with the old in mind - they're the ones who will make or break their electoral chances.

Free bus passes, winter fuel payments, cold weather payments, pension credit, council tax benefit, free prescriptions and eye tests, senior railcards, free TV licences, plus rafts of local and private business arrangements for concessions on all kinds of goods and services are just some of the pensioner friendly schemes out there.

The basic state pension is now £119.30 a week, assuming you made your full NI payments, with means tested pension credit top ups available. The weekly Job Seeker's Allowance rate - assuming you've been making full NI payments - is £57.90 for those aged 18 to 24, and £73.10 for over 25s; couples can expect £114.85. The so called 'triple lock' ensures that pensions rise each year - so called 'austerity' has seen benefit rates for working age adults (currently defined as ages 18 to 65 for men and 18 to 60 for women) frozen. The pension age will rise slightly in 2020, and it is currently estimated a person born after 1995 will get to retire at the age of 73, making those working age cuts an ever bigger deal.

It feels mean spirited to talk about the possibility of reducing anything for pensioners, not least because the perception is that the majority are struggling in poverty. But if we, like the government, define relative poverty as '60% of median income after housing costs' 16% of pensioners - some 1.8 million people of a total 11 million - live below the poverty line. In contrast, of the 9 million 14 to 24 year olds living in the UK, 30% (c. 2.7 million) are in poverty.

Severe poverty in the UK is defined as ' living in a household with an equivalised income below 50 per cent of median Before Housing Costs which also experience material deprivation.' Around 900,000 pensioners fall into this category vs. 1.9 million young adults. Whichever way you look at it, poverty is a bigger issue for young people than old.

young hand in old

The received wisdom peddled by the traditional media - TV and newspapers, consumed predominantly by the over 55s - implies that all this is the fault of immigration. If it weren't for them, so the argument goes, we'd have full employment and no poverty! The truth is somewhat different.

In 2014 13.1% of the UK population (c.8.3 million people) were 'foreign-born', this includes people who have since taken British citizenship, and people who were born abroad to British parents. 8.5% of the population were 'foreign citizens', including EU nationals. These, then, are the 5.1 million or so who are supposedly causing all the problems. Except about 0.5 million of them are here on student visas, with undergraduates in particular keeping our universities afloat by paying £9,000 (EU nationals) or about £15,500 (non-EU) a year for the privilege. Tuition fees, of course, were introduced in 1998, long after our current pensioners had benefited from free higher education and apprentice opportunities. As a group, the over 65s have continued to vote for fee increases ever since.

It's difficult to say exactly how many are in skilled employment, but given that 24% of doctors working in the English NHS alone (that's about 36,000) are foreign citizens, the numbers are likely to be pretty high. Their taxes and expertise are helping to prop up public services, while the generation they tend to be most preoccupied with serving keep voting for policies which damage them. The working age UK population, as a whole, is poorly educated and low skilled - continual cuts and freezes to education funding mean we need immigrants to plug the skills gap.

When it comes to low paid and unskilled jobs, the kind of work immigrants can somewhat legitimately be accused of stealing from us, there has been a big growth in the number employed in such over the last few years. But, as LSE research points out: "the areas of the UK with large increases in EU immigration did not suffer greater falls in the jobs and pay of UK-born workers. The big falls in wages after 2008 are due to the global financial crisis and a weak economic recovery, not to immigration." The wisdom of austerity can be challenged, but if you've got to have it, it should at least be applied evenly. Salary increases for anyone are few and far between, even while pensions have seen year on year growth along with the introduction of expensive concessions like the free bus pass.

As for immigrants draining our welfare state, the figures simply don't support this supposed fact. About 78% of EU migrants of working age are in work, as are 62% of non-EU migrants. Of those not in work, only 10% or so of EU nationals claim Job Seeker's Allowance (c. 60,000 people), because a far bigger proportion of economically inactive EU (and non EU) nationals are students or dependents, in comparison to UK citizens.

I could go on, but I trust that my readers all know the score on this! And don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating some sort of Boomsday scenario. It's never a good idea to simply shift blame from one section of society to another. But - and it's a big but - we cannot continue to allow difficult questions about the sustainability of the triple lock, and other pension benefits, to go ignored because it might cost votes.

We've just seen what putting personal political ambition before the national interest can do.

The Milburn report (Social Mobility and Child Poverty in Great Britain) explicitly made the link between pension benefits and child poverty back in 2013, but it unsurprisingly went straight into the long grass. Even broaching the topic was considered too dangerous in the run up to an election, and the focus was instead given to vote winning pledges on commitment to free bus passes, and reducing levels of immigration....

Young people have to start caring about politics, and the impact it has on them. But will #Brexit be enough to spark that interest?

Sunday, 26 June 2016

This Week #41

What you see is what you get; you've made your bed, you'd better lie in it.
Life This Week

I try to keep these weekly round-ups mostly positive, and there were some high points this week. After posting last week's retrospective, Wingz got in touch to thank me for the mention and ask if I'd like to review a pair. (Did I?? I posted the review on Thursday.) I had my first regular council meeting as deputy mayor, and welcomed figures showing that our webcasts are the most watched in Wales.

On Tuesday evening I attended a youth EU debate organised by Bron Afon, and only got to answer half a question myself because Marianna decided to scream incessantly through the entire 'councillors' answers' section. Thursday evening itself was lovely; we went to the first prize evening of Cwmbran High, which merged Fairwater High and Llantarnam School last year. It was fab to see so much talent, and the musical interlude with the cast of the school's production of 'We Will Rock You' and Cwmbran High Deaf Choir was awesome.

And then #Brexit happened and wiped more than $2trillion off the world markets. I wrote about what it will likely mean for Torfaen, and as a family we're going to have to seriously think about our future. In my day job I'm an elected county councillor for the Welsh Labour Party, so the overwhelming local support for a populist, right-wing world view is an ominous sign for next May's council elections.

I really hope I am re-elected and can play my role in damage limitation for the area, but it is a very real possibility I'll be unemployed this time next year, and relying on Michael 'this country has had enough of experts' Gove and Boris 'If you can't turn the clock back to 1904, what's the point of being a Conservative?' Johnson to safeguard the positives of EU legislation and negotiate favourable trade deals. On top of that there are reports coming in from all over of disgusting racism, newly legitimised by the vote - from chants of 'go home' to British muslims, to the English Defence League and National Front protesters out on the streets of Newcastle.

Moving to the unknown is scary, but the idea of Marianna being exposed to such behaviour is much, much scarier.

Photo of the Week

This Week, I 'ave Been Mostly...

☆ READING: The lovely folks behind WILF Books wrote a guest post for me about the importance of sharing, and what they're all about.

☆ WRITING: I couldn't help weighing in on some of the #Regrexit twitter debate, namely the argument that the young shouldn't blame the old for voting out - because they fought world wars for them. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's fair to blame an entire generation, it just pains me that people's grasp of their own history is so awful. Where do they think the term 'baby boomers' comes from?

☆ WATCHING: Steptoe and Son. Anthony bought the boxset in the week and, as the Sopranos rewatch has finally (finally!) come to an end, we've made a start. Expect a post full of Steptoe quotes and trivia in the near future.

☆ LISTENING: We watched a 'classic' countdown on Kerrang! on Saturday, full of stuff we loved as teens because we're so old now! Typical of the playlist was Duality by Slipknot.

"I push my fingers into my eyes,
It's the only thing that stops the ache,
If the pain goes on - I'm not gonna make it!"

☆ WEARING: Wingz!

☆ EATING: We had an amazing cupcake at Cwmbran High's prize evening with the school's logo - it was so tasty!

☆ REVIEWING: I'm going to be reviewing Random Acts of Unkindness by Jacqueline Ward. I took part in the release day blitz already.

On the Blog

I dropped 3 points in the recent domain authority update which sucked, but on the other hand it has been a very good week for my Klout score. I'm at 68 for the first time. :) It's probably because I've got a few competitions running - £30 to spend at Party Bags and Supplies (UK), a copy of Saucy British Seaside Postcards: The Bamforth Collection (worldwide), and a copy of The Killing Kind by Chris Holm (UK) on Twitter.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

How can we help our children to learn about sharing?

How can we help our children to learn about sharing? A guest post by WILF Books.

A little while back I was contacted by the brains behind WILF Books, a new children's book sharing service. The idea is simple but ingenious - a monthly subscription service to which users donate unwanted and unloved books, for them to be sorted, boxed up, and sent out for individual children according to their personal preferences. I would have loved this so much as a kid, and I'm really pleased to be featuring a guest post from the team on the importance of sharing today.

Sharing is a super vital life skill, isn’t it? It teaches us how to co­operate with one another in our everyday lives. It teaches us about compromise, that if we give just a little to others, we can also get a little of what what we'd like too. It teaches us about negotiation, and how to cope with disappointment. It’s a fundamental human value that makes us who we are.

We all recognise its importance, but how can we help our children to learn about sharing?

Well, first and foremost, we think it starts with you. Monkey see, monkey do. Children learn so much just from watching what their parents do. You’re their role model, and when you model good sharing and *taking turns* in your family, it gives children a really great example to follow. You, as a parent, can always facilitate and encourage sharing in every day life, and here are five simple ways through which to do that:

  • Allow them to see it in others: Recognise it when your child sees another child sharing. There’s nothing more beautiful (and cute!) than watching children share and play nicely together, a little bit like grown­ups do. You can say things like: ‘Woah, wasn’t your friend sharing her toys really well, that was really lovely of her."
  • Nurture it through play: It’s really fun to play little exercises with your child that involve turn­taking, sharing and inclusive participation. Talk your child step by step through the process of sharing, saying things like, ‘It’s your turn, then it’s my turn; you share the brown bricks with me, and I’ll share the pink bricks with you, I’ll play with Buzz whilst you play with Woody".
  • Pile on the praise: When the proud moment comes, and you see your child attempting to take turns and share, be sure to lay on the praise, attention and all round good­will. This is super important, and with consistent practice and positive reinforcement, will become second nature in the minds of your little ones. For example, you could say things like "that was really lovely the way that you let Charlie play with your helicopter, great sharing!"
  • Have ‘the talk’ (not that talk!): Talk to your child about sharing before she goes on playdates or trips with other friends. Reinforcing before, during and after playdates can really help build their mental map for sharing. For example, you could say, ‘Rahul is almost here and you’ll need to share some of your toys when he gets here. Let’s have a think about what he'd like to play with, shall we?’ You can also talk to your child about sharing before all possible interactions with other children, like nursery, pre­school or big school.
  • Allow them to ‘own’ their sharing: Create an environment and culture that encourages your child to want to share. 

WILF Books was developed on the value of sharing, delivering tailored and personalised children’s books addressed specifically to your child, along with the opportunity to share their own books with other children across the country. Take the time to sit with your child to discuss which books they’d like to share each month, in return for new books that they will love! ­­

There’s sharing in every day life, and then there’s developing a sense of sharing amongst the wider society and community. In the globalised world within which we live, it’s more important than ever to be able to share beyond our own personal boundaries and connect with those from other cultures and backgrounds. By nurturing this connection, when a child reaches pre­school or school age where community, creativity and play are championed and they begin to interact with people of new cultures, they’ll be able to build more complex relationships with other children with the fundamental foundation of fairness at the heart. Imperative in today’s world.

WILF Books Logo
Stay in touch with WILF on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Black Friday

A Sad Day for Britain

Terrible news for the UK today as 51.9% of the population vote to leave the EU.

I sincerely hope I'll be proven wrong, but as just about every economist and policy adviser in the world warned us about the consequences, the future looks bleak. Here's John Oliver putting those warnings in layman's terms:

In Torfaen alone we'll be saying goodbye to money from the -

European Social Fund, e.g. Working Skills for Adults, Bridges into Work, Inspire to Achieve, and Inspire to Work - all of which rely heavily on ESF funding.

European Regional Development Fund, e.g. we used this to part fund projects like the refurb of Pontypool Indoor Market, and the wider improvement works over the last few years in Pontypool and the surrounding area.

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, e.g. the restoration of Llanyrafon Manor was largely funded from this pot.

Direct Payments to Farmers, i.e. Welsh government's method of distributing the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) money, which makes up over 75% of all farm income in Wales.

Because, overall Wales currently gets a guaranteed £500m per annum from the EU, and we then bid for other monies, like the £1.8 billion for the 2014-2020 ESF (European Structural Funds) for the East Wales and West Wales and Valleys Programmes. As our net benefit from the EU is much larger than what we pay in, going forward we're going to be very reliant on a Westminster government giving us that same level of funding.

On top of that, of course, we're going to be saying hello to unemployment, with EU funded posts obviously coming to an end, and the knock on effects for businesses which rely heavily on EU trade. Some foreign investment will be deterred - big employers like Airbus have already said they'll be monitoring negotiations closely and, should we not secure a good trade deal with the EU (and let's face it, why on earth should the EU give us any favours now?), may be forced to relocate. Tata Steel told its workforce last week that the EU market was 'fundamental to our business' - Brexit might help their pension liabilities (not such great news if it's your pension, but hey ho), but hopes for salvaging the Porth Talbot plant are looking ever more dismal.

We've already seen massive instability to the pound today - and it will continue jostling over the coming years as we negotiate our way out of the EU. This isn't just something which matters to your weekly food shop or whatever (you probably won't really see this until we're out completely and usual imports become more costly), it will also be fed in to things like council tax (including service precepts) and utility bill rises (sadly, you can expect to see this in the forthcoming budget round) as it becomes harder to predict the value of investment portfolios and secure match funding.

(For more on Brexit impact on Welsh public services, there is a good paper linked here.)

As for immigration, the curtailing of which is going to magically solve all our ills - around 3,000 people (about 4% of the population) in Torfaen were not born in the UK. Under 2% of those were born in another EU country, so around 1,300 people could be EU migrants. 6.2% of the working age population in the borough is unemployed - so, disregarding the fact that many immigrants are actually employers, even if everybody who wasn't born in the UK (and of course, some of those will hold full or joint UK citizenship) in Torfaen was of working age and in employment (which we know they're not), there still wouldn't be enough work to go around right at this moment...

On the plus side, we shouldn't be hearing many complaints if these things do come to pass - people will be getting what they asked for. /s

Friday Frivolity: Summer Giveaway

Friday Frivolity pinnable image

The host theme for this week is summer, giving me the perfect excuse to share some saucy British seaside postcards. The slightly risque postcard is a really fun British tradition, dating right back to the early years of the twentieth century. Here are five classic examples:

If you fancy winning your own copy of Saucy Postcards: The Bamforth Collection, you can get up to five entries into my giveaway by filling out the Gleam form below:

Win a copy of Saucy Postcards: The Barmforth Collection

Competition is open internationally.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Review: Wingz Sleeves

Reviewing Fashion Wingz - Sleeves for Every Occasion!

I came across Wingz on Facebook  recently and wondered where they had been all my life. After mentioning them in my weekly overview post last Sunday, Wingz got in touch and asked me if I'd like to review a set. You can be sure I jumped at the chance!

The Wingz concept is so cool: they're arm covers that go under rather than over your outfit. I've always loved the layered look of sleeves under a dress or short sleeved top but, come the summer - or a tight fitting outfit - and they're not particularly practical. Wingz solves the problem of bulk, while also providing a new option for those looking for modest clothing, ways to make their existing wardrobe more versatile, or just a simple arm cover-up.

This video explains what Wingz are all about - check it out on the website too for further info.

After much umming and ahhing I went for the White Chiffon Flare Wingz (£14.99). The floaty style is perfect for summer! Wingz come in four different sizes: 0 (UK 6-10), 1 (12-16), 2 (18-22), 3 (24-28). I'm wearing a size 22 at the moment but went for the 4, on the basis that it's easier to put a few stitches in and make something smaller than it is to have something digging in under the bust. In the event, I needn't have worried as they're true to size, though the stretchiness means you can easily go up or down if you're on the borders like me.

They arrived in super quick time, so after confirming the review on Monday I found them waiting for me when I got in from work on Tuesday. I tried them on quickly before I had to go food shopping, relying on Anthony's dubious photographic skills:

White chiffon flare wingz with a black cap sleeved top

I was really pleased with how little bulk they created - the band sits with your bra so it's really comfy. Anthony liked the way they looked but asked why I couldn't just wear a top with longer sleeves... Men. *sigh*

On Thursday I decided to try them out properly as I was going to Cwmbran High's prize evening in my role as deputy mayor. The dress I was planning on wearing is sleeveless, and I knew I'd feel self-conscious having my arms on display. Usually I'd wear a thin cardigan or a shrug, but it can get really hot and uncomfortable with the chain on over the top of them.

white chiffon flare wings under a sleeveless navy dress with white polkadots

The Wingz were so much more comfortable to wear, and I felt a lot more confident having that bit of a sleeve. I'm already thinking about which pair to get next!

Take a look at the website and let me know which Wingz is your favourite. :)
You can also connect with Wingz on Facebook and Twitter.

For more reviews, please click the picture below:
Reviews from Babi a Fi - food, fashion, beauty, baby, toys, books, tech, days out, and more!

Linking with -
Shelbee on the Edge blog party

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Party Bags and Supplies Giveaway

Win £30 to spend at Party Bags and Supplies

There are so many reasons in life to celebrate, from birthdays to anniversaries to sporting or academic success. (If you're still struggling, check out my editorial calendar ideas posts which lists all the weird and wonderful celebration days for each month.) And one of the best ways to celebrate is with a party!

1/6 scale birthday party

That's where Party Bags and Supplies has got your back. They have a huge range of products covering all the party essentials, from tableware, to decorations, to party bag fillers - and offer free UK delivery on orders over £50. If you fancy bagging yourself £30 to spend on the site, just fill out the Gleam form below:

£30 to spend at Party Bags and Supplies

Monday, 20 June 2016

Release Day Blitz: Random Acts of Unkindness by Jacqueline Ward

Random Acts of Unkindness by Jacqueline Ward - book cover

"How far would you go to find your child?

DS Jan Pearce has a big problem. Her fifteen year old son, Aiden, is missing. Jan draws together the threads of missing person cases spanning fifty years and finds tragic connections and unsolved questions.

Bessy Swain, an elderly woman that Jan finds dead on her search for Aiden, and whose own son, Thomas, was also missing, may have the answers.

Jan uses Bessy's information and her own skills and instinct to track down the missing boys. But is it too late for Aiden?

Set in the North West of England, with the notorious Saddleworth Moor as a backdrop, Random Acts of Unkindness is a story about motherhood, love and loss and how families of missing people suffer the consequences of major crimes involving their loved ones.

Random Acts of Unkindness is the first in the DS Jan Pearce series of novels."

This fab sounding crime / thriller novel, rated 5 stars by early reviewers, is out today - buy it on Amazon for £2.92 (Kindle) or £8.99 (paperback). I have been lucky enough to be sent a review copy, and will be sharing my thoughts on it in my regular 'What I Read Last Month' post on July 20th. Until then, keep up to date with the latest reviews on Goodreads.

You can also check out the first chapter for free!

Photograph of author, Jaqueline Ward
About the Author

Jacqueline Ward writes short stories, novels and screenplays. She has been writing seriously since 2007 and has had short stories published in anthologies and magazines. Her novel SmartYellowTM was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015 and was nominated for the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2016, the same year Jacqueline won Kindle Scout.

Jacqueline is a Chartered psychologist who specializes in narrative psychology, gaining a PhD in narrative and storytelling in 2007. She lives in Oldham, near Manchester, with her partner and their dog.

You can connect with Jacqueline on FacebookGoodreads, Twitter, and her website,

25 Facebook Groups to Boost Your Blog

25 Facebook Groups to Boost Your Blog

Blogger exchange and engagement groups are a great way of pulling in extra traffic and ensuring your posts are seen. Although the ideal is that all your traffic and interaction will be natural and organic, the reality is that we all need a bit of a boost from time to time.

Numbers aren't everything, it's true, but we're all guilty of clicking on the article with the higher number of likes on the basis that all those other people can't be wrong. Exchange groups can give your content a good base of likes and comments to encourage further engagement. They can also be a heads up to guest posting chances, and review / sponsored post opportunities, as well as helping you get to know other bloggers.

Here are 25 Facebook groups which will give your blog a boost - click the titles to be taken to the group. (I've not included groups which are just blog posts posted to the wall.)

#25. UK Bloggers.

This is the facebook group of the UK Bloggers forum and advice website. It's an excellent group to start out in, with comment exchanges, post share threads, and plenty of information and support on all those big blogging questions. Plus, regular review and sponsored post opps.

#24. Blog Support Group.

Daily exchange threads, with a membership of just over 1,400.

#23. Blog Linkys.

Find current blog link-ups, or advertise your own.

#22. Love 2 Blog.

Smallish group with daily blog post share and Twitter RT threads.

#21. UK Facebook Support for Bloggers.

Facebook specific exchange group.

#20. South Wales Bloggers.

Substitute South Wales for your own local area / region, and be the first to hear about opportunities close to you. If you are in South Wales, check out South Wales Parent Bloggers, South Wales Compers, and Family Days Local - Place to go in South Wales too.

#19. Grow Your Blog.

Exchange group with daily threads and almost 5,000 members.

#18. Blog Promo Community.

Share your latest post with 3,000 other bloggers.

#17. Blogger Opportunity Group.

Be the first to hear about review, event, and competition opportunities for bloggers. Other relevant groups include UK Blogger Opportunities, Bloggers Connect Network, Bloggers Be Nice and Share the LoveBloggers PR Events, Blogger Opportunities, Product Reviewer Group, AJ Morrison Media Opps, and Blog PR (UK).

#16. Blog and Social Media Promotion.

The title tells you all you need to know.

#15. UK Parent Bloggers.

This is the group I visit most, to chat and socialise - and scroll the wall looking for any crowdsourcing requests. Joining a FB group for your blogging 'niche' is a fab way to build links with similar bloggers.

#14. StumbleUpon for Bloggers.

Daily sharing threads, plus a weekly follow thread. If you're a SU newbie, check out my handy guide for growing your blog with StumbleUpon.

#13. UK Kawaii Bloggers.

I'm not even much of a kawaii (cutesy things) blogger, but there is just way too much cute stuff going on in this group for me not to mention it and its sister group, Kawaii UK.

#12. Friends Who Love Blogging.

Growing group with daily exchange threads.

#11. #KCACOLS Group.

The Facebook group of one of my favourite blog linkies, #KCACOLS (Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sundays). It's one of the best linkies out there for engagement, and the group helps ensure an even spread. Other linkies with FB groups include Blogger Club UK and Weekend Blog Share (Find Your Tribe).

#10. Blog Engagement and Promotion Group.

Well run group which lets you exchange social engagement on a different network each day. You can usually find me here for Facebook Mondays and Opportunity (i.e. network of your choice) Saturdays. It also has a number of spin-off groups, like BEPG: Connecting Brands & Bloggers and various niche groups.

#9. Bloggers United.

This group has been totally turned around in the last few months, and is now really well run with daily exchange threads.

#8. Bloggers with Klout.

Klout exchange group for those trying to get their Klout score up. The threads tend to fill up quickly, so try and get your link posted early.

#7. Content and Round Up Requests Group for UK Bloggers.

Does exactly what it says on the tin; this is a fab group for finding out about crowdsourced posts and requests for round-ups.

#6. Blog Sleep Repeat.

Chatty group for blogging advice and support. Similar groups worth checking out include Blogging Boost, Writers / Bloggers Network, and Blog & Business BFFs.

#5. Instagram Fabulous.

The best group for instagram exchanges. My favourite threads are the do-all three post likes on Mondays, and the follow-all thread over the weekend. Other IG groups worth checking out are Instagram Posse, Insta Followers, and Instagram for Bloggers.

#4. UK Awesome Bloggers.

One of my favourite daily exchange groups - it's small, but perfectly formed!

#3. Lucky Learners.

Superlucky Di's main Facebook group. If you're thinking about hosting a competition, Di has all the info you need!

#2. Bloggers Supporting Bloggers.

Another well run group with daily exchange threads and over 6,000 members.

#1. Social Media Network Group.

Large (c. 5,000 members) and active group with daily exchanges, and weekly follow threads. This is my current favourite FB blogging group!

Are there any Facebook groups you would recommend?

For more posts on blogging, please click the picture below:
Blogging Guides

Sunday, 19 June 2016

This Week #40

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
Life This Week

Another long week - or at least, that's the way it's felt! There was no seminar on Monday so I got to go food shopping a day early (yay...), but we also went to B&M Bargains and picked up some cool bits and pieces. Monday also saw my nemesis - the hedge in the front garden - cut back as much as possible. (There's a wire fence interwoven with it, so it can't go any lower until we get the fence out.) The only problem is that we really need to sort out the front garden, because all the passersby can now see what a mess it is.

I had planning committee on Tuesday (webcast), and resources overview and scrutiny (webcast) took up most of Wednesday. Anthony's mum and dad came around in the evening to drop off some toys they picked up at the local auction for Marianna - plus a dollhouse for me to do up. :D

Last Saturday was Torfaen Labour Women's AGM and I was given the task of writing a blog post for Monday on why we should remain in the EU, in readiness for leafleting and campaigning this week. Then, on Thursday afternoon, we were all home so ended up watching BBCNews 24 coverage of the shooting of Jo Cox, MP for Batley & Spen. The media was really reticent about motive, etc, all day, but the shooter gave his name as 'Death to traitors, put Britain first' at magistrates' court on Saturday - right at the time we were originally planning to leaflet Pontnewydd - dispelling any remaining doubts. It's so sickening and incomprehensible, even with all we know about the ease with which the isolated and the vulnerable are susceptible to radicalisation.

We had a minute's silence on Friday, at the Gwent Police and Crime Panel meeting, with a bit of reassurance that the force will offer support to MPs and AMs for surgeries, etc, if they want it until a proper review is done. Most of the four hour long agenda was looking at cost saving measures, and three different MTFPs (mid-term financial plans) based on different funding possibilities, with a worst case scenario being the continued fall of the pound following a Brexit win. If it happens, expect bigger council tax (which part funds the police and fire service via their precepts) bills.

Yesterday I just didn't want to do anything. We spent most of the day watching American Pickers and reading.

Photo of the Week

A photo posted by Jessica Powell (@plastigffantastig) on

This Week, I 'ave Been Mostly...

☆ READING: This week and last week's #FridayFrivolity posts - I was so behind! Still, I'm all caught up now and the linky is open until Sunday afternoon.

☆ WRITING: Some cool facts you might not know about A Nice Cup of Tea.

☆ WATCHING: American Pickers. Apparently the show is from 2010, but I've only seen it on Dave in the last few weeks. It's about two American guys who buy and sell retro Americana and other antiques, and travel across the States finding stuff for their shops. I love all the trivia they share; I've learned so much random factoids about US history from it!

☆ LISTENING: Nobody's Hero - Rush.

☆ WEARING: I've been wanting to wear Wingz, they're like tiny crop tops with sleeves attached to wear under your normal tops and dresses. Perfect for people who don't want to show their arms - like me! I love that it would make the same few outfits way more versatile too.

☆ EATING: We went to Wetherspoons for lunch on Friday; I had a tuna baguette with chips. :)

☆ REVIEWING: Scooby Apocalypse.

On the Blog

I wrote a guide on how to get the most out of Bloglovin', and finally hit the 3,000 follower mark on Instagram. 3,500 here I come!

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