Category Archives: Blogs

Easy ways of getting organised with Kids

Getting organised at home isn’t usually an easy task for most people. Add kids and all of their toys into the mix and having a tidy and organised home can feel like an impossible dream. But it doesn’t have to be a daunting chore. Read on for some easy tips on how to gain some order in your life.

Set up a bin system

Collapsible fabric bins are super versatile for children’s bedrooms and are great for getting organised. They come in a variety of sizes and colours and can be mixed and matched to complement your décor. Many of these bins have slots for labels, so kids can sort toys, art supplies, hair products, and even books into organised groups. For kids that share a bedroom, personalised name labels can be put into the slots to keep things separate. Inexpensive plastic or wooden shelving is perfect for displaying the colourful bins and keeping items handy.

Easy ways of getting organised with Kids

Utilise plastic totes

Plastic totes are lifesavers when it comes to long-term storage. When swapping your kids’ winter and summer wardrobes, put the out-of-season items in a tote and store in a closet or other out-of-the-way space. These are also perfect for storing keepsake items that are special but no longer in use. Unlike cardboard boxes, plastic totes keep bugs, rodents, and water from ruining your things.

Invest in vacuum storage bags

I use the term “invest” here because with plastic vacuum storage bags, you get what you pay for. Skip the bargain off-brand bags and spend a little more for higher quality. These bags are perfect for storing extra pillows and blankets that take up precious closet space until your kids have slumber parties. Place the items inside, seal the bag, vacuum the air out, and voila! That mountain of bedding just became a compact rectangle that can be hidden away under a bed or shoved behind a dresser.

Put baskets EVERYWHERE

Being a parent means laundry, and lots of it. Each additional child increases your wash load exponentially, and it can be extremely frustrating to wash, dry, and fold all of the laundry just to find a stray pair of jeans or a soccer uniform that didn’t make its way into the laundry basket. To combat this, make sure laundry baskets are SUPER accessible to everyone in the house. Placing one in each bedroom, one in the bathroom (or two if you wash towels separately like I do), and one in the laundry room greatly improves your chances of getting everything washed at one time.

Having kids means that your house will never be perfectly tidy. And that’s okay! The happiest homes tend to be the ones that are comfortably lived in. But having some basic organisational systems in place reduces the amount of time spent looking for things and gives everyone more time to spend together doing things much more fun than cleaning the house. After all, they’re only kids once.

= This is a collaborative guest post =

UK Travel: Five British Beaches to Explore This Summer

If you’d prefer to soak up the sun in the UK this summer, there are many excellent, award-winning British beaches to explore up and down the country. While most of the UK’s best beaches are generally in the South West, around Cornwall and Devon, there are some superb sandy beaches to explore in Wales, Scotland, and the South East, too – you just have to know where to look.

Big family trips to the beach can take some planning, transport is often an issue. Public transport can be minimal in rural areas and if you’ve got a small car and a big group of beach-goers then considering minibus hire to take everyone and their buckets and spades to the beach may be a sensible idea.

Woolacombe Beach, Devon

Located on the North Devon Heritage Coast, Woolacombe Beach is a two-mile stretch of picture-postcard sand beach that’s popular with families, couples, and surfers alike. Throughout the summer, the beach has lifeguards present as has plenty of parking. Just a few minutes from the Atlantic Ocean in Woolacombe Bay, you’ll find a quintessentially British ice cream parlour called Sea Breeze Ice Cream & Coffee Shop serving all the beach side refreshments you could ever need.

Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset

One of the UK’s most exclusive locations for holiday homes, Sandbanks in Dorset is considered to be one of the best beaches on the South Coast thanks to its peninsula location, giving it a European vibe. While visiting Sandbanks, you can hop on the Sandbanks Chain Ferry, a shuttle service between Sandbanks and Studland near Poole Harbour. Just a few minutes of the beach, Sandbanks is home to a fantastic selection of cafes and restaurants.

Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, South Wales

Home to the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales is famed for its excellent walks, views, and natural landmarks, however, it’s not the first place you think of when searching for a beautiful British beach. However, Rhossili Bay in Swansea, South Wales, is set within the Gower Peninsula, one of the first Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK. The beach is a vast and pristine stretch of sand surrounded by lush greenery and dramatic cliffs.

Nairn Beach, Nairn, Scottish Highlands

On the north coast of Scotland in Inverness, famed for it’s proximity to the world-renowned Loch Ness, sits Nairn Beach which during the winter months is a favourite for dog walkers. When summer comes, the beach comes alive with families, children playing, and couples. The beach benefits from an astounding view to the Black Isles and, further along, is home to a school of dolphins which, if you’re lucky, you might glimpse during your trip.

Hunstanton Beach, Hunstanton, Norfolk

Norfolk in the South East is home to many stone beaches; however, Hunstanton Beach isn’t one of them. Instead, Hunstanton Beach is a pristine sandy beach that’s perfect for families thanks to it’s proximity to an array of activities, including donkey rides, a funfair and pier, and a great selection of restaurants and cafes. Because of its west-facing location, Hunstanton Beach is sheltered from harsh winds, making it the ideal sunbathing spot on a summer’s day.

Wherever you are in the UK this summer, taking a trip to the coast for a day of sunshine is a wonderful thing to do. Choose coach hire London and get your friends and family together with a picnic and set out on a golden adventure and relax on one of the UK’s best sandy beaches and swimming in crystal blue waters, too.

UK Travel: The Best British Beaches to Explore This Summer

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Three times in my life when I’ve needed money fast

I’ve always been pretty good with money, living within my means and budgeting and saving when I can. In good times and bad we’ve always had enough to pay the bills and keep a roof over our heads. It’s those pesky times when you’re hit by a big bill for something unexpected which knock you for six. 

No matter how well you’re managing your money, having to dig deep and find £500 for a car repair bill, or a new washing machine is always going to mess up your budget for that month, and perhaps the following few months. Despite careful planning and budgeting, we have sometimes found ourselves in a financial pickle. 

Here are the three times in our lives when we’ve needed money fast –

Unexpected and huge Vet bill

We inherited a wild and wonderful dog. She was young, bouncy and fearless. She also wasn’t insured. One of the first times we took her for a walk she had a freak accident and poked herself in her throat with a stick. A huge haematoma developed and she not only needed emergency treatment, she needed specialist emergency treatment. Several surgeries later she was better and we were £3k poorer. 

We scrabbled around trying to find the money to pay the bill. We spent our savings, our family had a whip round and we budgeted extra hard for months afterwards (beans on toast for tea every night). It was tough and it took us a few years to get over the financial hit we took. The lesson? Always insure your pets.

New car after write off

When my husband was involved in a car accident and his first car was written off, we thought we would be ok because it was insured. It turns out we had undervalued his car (a nippy little Citroen Saxo which we loved) on the insurance forms, so instead of getting the £2k it was worth, we got half that and needed to find the difference and a little more for a new car. 

I don’t drive, so we relied on his car for holidays, for shopping and getting us both to work. He used his car for work a lot too. Whilst we could manage for a few weeks solely on public transport, we needed a new car pretty quickly. Again we scrabbled around, dipped into savings and negotiated hard with used car salesman. We got our new car, it probably wasn’t the car we would have chosen if the circumstances were different, but it got us from A to B and took us on a few adventures over the years.

You can’t live without a fridge freezer can you?

White goods are a bit of a nightmare. They’re mostly essential and these days when they go wrong it’s usually cheaper to replace them than it is to repair them. Having said that, our trusty washing machine repairman has kept several of our washing machines limping along for a few extra years. 

What we cannot live without, especially now we have a son is a fridge freezer. A few years ago we went away for a weekend and when we returned home we discovered that the fridge freezer had died and everything in it had defrosted. It was completely kaput. Although it was quick and easy to get online and find a replacement, finding the £350 to pay for it was a little trickier.

We’ve been lucky when it’s come to big bills. We’ve usually managed to get enough money together by digging into what savings we had and family have usually been happy to help out if we needed them to. Finding the money to pay an unexpected and big bill can be a nightmare, a short-term loan from a company such as Cash Lady could help to get you over the bump.

Big, unexpected bills are part of life, and whilst you can put money to one side to pay for them, sometimes that’s not enough.

money Three times in my life when I've needed money fast

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Interiors: Stylish LED Lighting to suit your home

LED lighting offers some great benefits, but a common misconception is that although LED lighting is great value for money, it has an ugly, commercial appearance that isn’t suitable for the home. If your house is cosily and beautifully decorated, then the last thing you want is bright industrial looking lighting.  Are LED lights really just ugly fittings and bright white bulbs?

There is no denying the difference that good lighting can make to a room or garden. Even if you have a relatively small space, the right lighting can make your home bright, light and beautiful. By the same token, if you have a big open space that just doesn’t feel ‘cosy’ enough to live in, then a warm, subtle glow from your lighting can really help in setting the scene. The great thing about LED lighting is that you don’t just get one ‘colour’ of light and LED options these days are virtually infinite. 

There is a whole spectrum of different hues and brightness available from a golden warm white, all the way up to a crisp, bright daylight as well as plenty of choices in between. Choose an option to suit the mood you are trying to create, and you will have the perfect lighting to complement to your décor.

Not only do the LED bulbs come in a vast range of stylish choices, there is also a huge selection of super stylish fittings that will make you wonder why you didn’t try LED lighting sooner! For illumination in the bedroom, try some ceiling spotlights? There are some really great, delicate options that can be fitted on their own or in a row of five or six heads. Their chic design means they will not intrude on the décor you already have in your bedroom but rather enhance it.

If your after something a little more ‘out there’ why not go for some wardrobe lighting? Most wardrobe LED’s are designed with a sensor. This means that they will come on automatically when the wardrobe is opened. This is not only practical but also looks great and will definitely bring out your inner Carrie Bradshaw!

Bathroom lighting can be tricky as often bathrooms can be fairly small spaces, Having a large, unattractive light fitting in your bathroom can be too much. A popular bathroom lighting option is the spotlight as they can be recessed easily into the ceiling. However, if you want to add a little extra something to your bathroom, why not install some cabinet or shelf lighting, These can really set the mood for a relaxing candle lit bath. Teamed with spotlights, they will add an extra dimension to a usually fairly small and compact space – plus if your cabinet is illuminated, there is no risk of using someone else’s toothbrush!

For most people, the living room is a family space where everyone can get together and watch TV or talk about their day. Living room lighting is important. No one likes the big light on and lamps and wall lights can create a cosier feel. High floor lamps are popular, there are some stunning designs using LED bulbs available. From bulky and retro to sleek and traditional, there are hundreds to choose from. However, trying something different is always a good thing. If you like a modern, futuristic look (think pops of colour and metallic) then there are plenty of funky LED options you can choose from.

LED lighting has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. The range of different designs means that you can save money on your bills and create the right kind of ambience for your home.

Interiors: Stylish LED Lighting to Suit your Home

This is a guest post.

Top Tips for Family Road Trips 

It’s just you, the car, your family and the open road – what could possibly go wrong? Very possibly, quite a lot, here are some top tips for successful family road trips.

Everyone has been there at some point. The long-awaited family holiday is finally here, the kids are more than just a little bit excited, dad is working out the best route (he doesn’t need to ask for directions, of course) and mum is playing the role of peacekeeper. Fairly standard stuff.

It is part and parcel of any family holiday. To be somewhere, you have first got to get somewhere. Thankfully, here are some tips that we are sure you will find more than helpful as you settle in for the ride.

Top Tips for Family Road Trips 

Consider Your Route

To allow for as smooth a journey as possible, try to map out a route that will have as little delay as possible. The shortest route is not necessarily the quickest, especially if that route involves going out onto busy congested roads that are prone to traffic jams. No one likes sitting in traffic for hours on end, not the driver and especially not the children.

Take into consideration what time you begin your journey, as this can also make a massive difference to your journey time. Obviously, if you are setting off during rush hour you can expect a far more congested road than if you started your journey at night or early in the morning.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of accidents occur during the morning and evening rush hours, however, noon is statistically the most dangerous time to be on the road.

Comfort

To get your family holiday off to the best start possible, it is essential that everyone is as comfortable as possible. This means checking that your vehicle’s interior is up to scratch, the air conditioning is working and any other essentials are included.

It might be worth looking into car hire for your family, especially if you are staying away for a prolonged period of time. If your holiday will involve a lot of travelling, taking the steps to ensure that everyone is as comfortable as possible will take away a lot of stress that can be caused.

Also be sure to factor in comfort breaks into your journey. Most children will not be able to last more than a couple of hours without needing to use the toilet, and it is also not advisable to drive for more than two hours without at least taking a small break.

Entertainment

Have you ever been on a long journey without any form of entertainment? No radio, no music whatsoever, and not even any mobile signal…boring! If you are unsure as to how you would cope, just imagine what it must be like for children. Little ones become bored very easily, and if they are bored they are going to let you know about, which is the last thing you need when driving for long periods.

Bring along some of the kids’ favourite toys, within reason, of course. Ensure that any electrical devices have spare batteries, or the ability to be charged while in the car because, if the power dies, you will hear about it.

It is always best for families to have fun together. While toys and gadgets are great for occupying children, they can easily be lost in their own world during a time which is meant for family bonding. Simple games such as I-spy, storytelling and 20 questions are fun and cost-free activities that everyone in the family can take part in to pass the time.

With these handy tips, you and your family will be guaranteed a pleasant and stress-free start to your holiday.

This is a guest post.

Five tips for heartbreak free school trips

One of the biggest childhood rites of passage is going on school trips and being away from home for the first time. School trips are a great way to encourage independence and for children to explore the world a little bit more. School trips to European cities are very much the norm. I was lucky enough to go on school trips to America and Holland. They both broadened my horizons, gave me a sense of independence and taught me some new things about life and friendships.

Most away from home school trips start when your children reach double digits. Often these are whole class trips away to cities such as Paris or Barcelona, other times they can be skiing holidays or trips to take part in school football tournaments.

Tips for heartbreak free school trips

Some children might also get the chance to go away for a night or two with Beavers, Brownies, Cubs or Scouts. Short Scout camps and the like are excellent for preparing younger children for slightly longer periods away from home with school.

It’s never easy to wave goodbye to your children, even if it’s just for a night or two. I’ve put together a list of things to can do to lessen your heartbreak and their separation anxiety.

Tips for heartbreak free school trips

Let go – trust that the group leader will take care of them and all will be well. They will have your emergency contact details if you are needed. Remember the group leaders will be well qualified and able to manage whatever situations crop up.

Be available – if your child is old enough for them to have their own phone, top up their credit and tell them to call you anytime they want, day or night. A quick chat with their family when they need one will be enough to keep them from getting too homesick.

Tears are normal – try not to cry too much in front of their friends, it’s so not cool. But if there are tears from you or from your child, then that’s normal too. It’s normal to feel anxious or worried, or to miss them terribly.

Leave little notes – whenever I am away from my boys I always leave them notes. They will find them hidden in their shoes, tucked under pillows, written in toothpaste on the mirror. Write little notes of joy and pack them in their bag. Hide them in shoes, tuck them in their toiletries bag. Secretly change the lock screen on their phone to one which will make them smile. It’s the little things not the grand gestures they will appreciate.

Enjoy the peace – enjoy a night or two in a quiet house. Go out as a couple if you can, stay up late and get up at noon. Or if you’re like us, take the opportunity to really tidy and declutter their room without them moaning about it all.

They’re going to leave home sooner or later, giving them little bursts of adventure and independence can help build their confidence and life experience. Saying goodbye, even for a for nights is hard, but it can be very worthwhile for everyone.

Tips for heartbreak free school trips

This is a collaborative post.

Stylish & Practical Flooring Trends for 2017

One of the key things you can do when you’re refurbishing or redecorating your home is invest in new flooring. Often the sensible but uninspiring option it to lay beige carpet everywhere, but going for something a bit bolder can really help to bring warmth and life to your home. We took a look at the key flooring trends for 2017.

Stylish & Practical Flooring Trends for 2017

Stylish & Practical Flooring Trends for 2017

Introduce some six-sided style into your home this season with hexagon flooring. Hexagons are everywhere at the moment. They are the flooring style of choice for contemporary homes and businesses alike. Hexagons make a bold but classic style statement. A hexagon floor would look great in kitchens, bathrooms and hallways. 

Floorboards continue to be a key trend. It’s bye-bye blonde tones, stripped back and stained in darker tones are now the order of the day.  It’s up to you if you prefer broad boards or skinny slats, but don’t feel you have to play it straight. Mix things up with a herringbone design, chevron, or a classic parquet style in contemporary colours.

Stylish & Practical Flooring Trends for 2017

Many people are choosing to rip up their carpets and replace them with vinyl flooring. It’s a practical and stylish option. It is easy to maintain and clean, it’s incredibly hard-wearing, ideal for high traffic areas in your home and can stand up to the rigours of family life.

Vinyl flooring has come on in leaps and bounds since the 1970’s orange and brown lino monstrosities we remember from our childhood. It is warm under foot, with a range finishes to choose from. Whatever your personal style, amtico vinyl flooring will have a design to match. 

Floors don’t need to be 50 shades of brown and beige either. Be bold and inject a splash of colour into your flooring. This is 2017, there’s no need to be pedestrian in your choices. The only limits are your imagination and your budget. There are literally thousands of ideas for bold flooring on Pinterest to inspire you.

Stylish & Practical Flooring Trends for 2017

This is a collaborative post.

Catch the new series of Kazoops on CBeebies

Cbeebies is our kids TV channel of choice and we enjoy sitting down and watch together. We are excited that a new series of our favourites, Kazoops is starting this week (Monday 17th April at 4.20pm).

If you’ve not watched Kazoops before, it’s about a six year old boy called Monty Kazoops. He has a very vivid imagination. This week Monty and his loyal pet pig Jimmy Jones are back with a new series of brand new animated adventures in Kazoops.

Catch the new series of Kazoops on CBeebies
Children see the world in a different way to the adults around them. Monty and Jimmy use their imaginations to find ways to look differently at the world around them. After all, who says the world works the way grown ups think it should? Things can always be different if you just imagine… 

We were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the first episode in the new series of Kazoops and it does not disappoint. In the first episode, Monty is busy dreaming up helpful but rather fanciful ways to get a new piano upstairs. When his family tell him that his ideas are fun but not actually useful, Monty wonders if daydreaming can help solve problems. Do you think it can? I do.

The world of the Kazoops family is fun, fantastical and colourful. There’s never a dull moment with Monty and Jimmy Jones around. Their family, Gran, Mum, Dad and big sister are well matched and excellent foils for imaginative Monty and his piggy friend. There’s lots of fun to be had in this incredibly appealing series.

Packed with bright colours, these well drawn characters make for imaginative talking points for young children. If it’s not dragons flying high in the sky, it’s aliens, lions or medieval knights lighting up Monty’s imagination.

Catch the new series of Kazoops on CBeebies

Each episode asks a question, or throws in a talking point. Why can’t you keep wild animals in the house? Is it really is important to always be the winner? Can still be friends with people if you like different things? Do adults get scared too? These are all excellent starting points for children to start exploring empathy, friendships, or just to discover more about the world around them.

At a little under ten minutes long, each episode of Kazoops is packed with imaginative fun. It completely enthralls my six year old and holds his attention. It really helps to get him talking to me about what he’s seen and what he thinks about it. If you’ve not seen it, give Kazoops watch. Just imagine!

Kazoops is on CBeebies from Monday 17th April 2017 at 4.20pm.

This is a collaborative post.

What makes the ultimate spa day?

I am a great believer in spa days and taking time out to pamper yourself. I’m a busy mum and taking time out occasionally to completely unwind and relax is a massive treat, and one I am prepared to scrimp and save for. 

I’m happy to have a bit of regular home pampering to tide me over until I go on my annual spa weekend. I love a hot bath, a face-pack, a little home pedicure and maybe a hot oil treatment for my hair. They’re a nice little pampering pick me up after a busy week, or before a big night out.

Each year I go away with a couple of close friends for a spa weekend in Yorkshire. It is nothing short of blissful relaxation. When I think of my idea of an ultimate spa day, I think of my last visit there.  A few hours exploring the sauna and steam rooms, sitting in the outdoor hot tub chatting with my friends long into the cold November night; having a luxury pedicure and falling asleep in the relaxation room and waking up to find my amused friends peering over me and chuckling to themselves.

We’ve booked another spa weekend away in July and I can’t wait. Now I know the spa and what to expect I know exactly how I will spend my day. It will begin virtuously with me swimming 20 lengths of the pool. Then I will move on to experience the sauna and steam rooms for a while. I’ll meet my friends for lunch, then off to the relaxation room for a nap. The afternoon will be spent having a facial, another nap and then an hour or so in the hot tub. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

www.ellisons.co.uk, the wholesale hair and beauty specialists have created an eBook about the Ultimate Spa Experience which you can download here.

What’s your idea of the ultimate spa day?

 
What makes the Ultimate Spa Day?

This is a collaborative post.

Making a style statement with your composite front door

First impressions are everything. A smart and stylish front door is a great way for you and your home to make a statement. When we moved to our current home six years ago I wanted a front door with a bit of flair. Having moved from an estate where everyone had virtually identical white uPVC front doors, I was determined to make a more stylish statement about my new home.

Of course, there’s a reason why uPVC doors are so popular. They are considered to be more secure, well-insulated and hard-wearing. These days modern composite doors have been engineered to have all of the positives of a uPVC door, but with a sense of style most white plastic doors lack. Plus they’re available in a range of finishes and styles to suit all tastes.

If you’ve never heard of a composite door before, they have solid timber cores and are fitted with multi-point locking systems. Composite doors are designed to easily fend off even the most determined intruders. Hard-wearing and thermally insulated; a composite front door has the practicality you need in a secure front door, but with an individuality you can enjoy.

Making a style statement with your composite front door

It makes me happy to walk down my path towards my lovely solid bright blue front door; knowing that behind it is the secure oasis of my home. My front door looks pretty unique and it gets a lot of compliments. You certainly can’t miss it. 

People think a front door is just a door, but it can say a lot about the individuals who live in the house behind it. The colour, the style and the door furniture can tell you so much. This article in House Beautiful – what your front door says about you makes for quite fun reading.

Of course, choosing a style and colour for your front door might not just be a case of personal taste. You might be wise to consider feng shui when selecting a new door. Which direction does your house face? This article could help you to select the most auspicious colour for your new composite front door, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Whatever you decide in terms of colour, style, finish and furniture for your front door; safety and security come first. Choosing a modern composite front door over a generic uPVC one will help your home stand out from the crowd.

This is a collaborative post.