Category Archives: Blogs

How do you say I Love You to your loved ones?

Shout “bah humbug” at me if you want, but I often feel that being given a bunch of flowers on an occasion such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day is a bit of a waste. I’d hate to feel that someone felt obligated to buy me something because it was considered the right thing to do.

I’d much, much rather have someone give me a bunch of flowers just because they wanted to tell me they loved me, or because they knew they were my favourite flowers, or because it’s weekend and why not. Impromptu flowers are my favourite kind of flowers.

Flying Flowers

A beautiful bouquet of flowers can often be the perfect way to say I love you. My husband and son, when they are moved to express their feelings for me in gift form, often do so in a bouquet of flowers. On birthdays and special anniversaries I often receive a delivery of beautiful flowers.

I have on rare occasions sent my husband flowers. But more often than not, I express my love for my boys is through cooking. By cooking their favourite meals and baking them their favourite cakes and biscuits. I feed them well and they know when there’s a roast dinner in the oven; what I’m really saying is I love you.

UK flower delivery specialists, www.flyingflowers.co.uk have done some research on how the people of the UK say I love you., Flying Flowers have created the infographic below with their research results.

Apparently 83% of people associate the classic red rose with love. I do love receiving red roses, but I had delicate white roses in my wedding bouquet and a bouquet similar to what I walked down the aisle with is a special gift for me. 

How do you show your loved ones how you feel about them? Are you a feeder like me? Or a sender of flowers or chocolates? How do you say I love you?

Flying Flowers

This is a collaborative post. 

Making the most of natural light with aluminium roof lanterns

Until I had a family of my own I didn’t appreciate just how much room kids take up, with their toys and games and general bouncing around. It’s nice to have a space just for the grown-ups. In my Grandma’s time, her house would have a parlour reserved for visiting adults which was absolutely child free. These days many family homes have a well turned out conservatory for grown-ups to enjoy some clutter free quiet time.

Of course conservatories have a whole range of different uses. Most people build them for the extra space and to take advantage of natural light. Natural light is so important. It can be a great mood booster and can help reduce the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (known as SAD). I often walk into the sunny atrium of a large public building and feel uplifted, purely because of the light. But how can we bring that uplifting feeling into our own homes?

Installing aluminium roof lanterns in our homes is one way to maximise the natural light levels in your new or existing conservatory, kitchen or flat roof extension. Aluminium roof lanterns are made to measure and are available in standard white finish or a wide range of colours and finishes.  

Making the most of natural light with aluminium roof lanterns

From the inside the roof looks like a solid glass panelled roof. The glass panels help the conservatory to retain heat and this means that you can use your conservatory or extension all year round. 

Dark homes can feel a little oppressive. I love these ten ideas to bring light into your home. Trimming down trees, cleaning your windows and having lots of light reflective surfaces can really make a difference. 

If you’re building an extension, or you need to replace the roof of your existing conservatory or extension; aluminium roof lanterns are beautiful, modern, efficient and stylish option. I adore the idea of a light filled room we can use year round. Somewhere to relax with friends, a quiet space to read; or a vibrant colourful family room where we can enjoy meals, crafts and games. A conservatory or extension can add so much to your home and is a great investment, it makes sense to maximise the natural daylight in your home by installing aluminium roof lanterns.

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Is your business making a good first impression?

In the dim and distant past, I had a job where I managed the admin teams for a number of NHS services. The largest service I was responsible for was the admin team of a unit with a number of (usually quite jolly) inpatients who were looked after by a fairly large number of staff and carers. It was busy, the patients had lots of visitors and when I arrived on my first day, it was clear that our reception area needed some care and attention and wasn’t making the right first impression.

Being the NHS, the budget I had was quite tight; but I was determined to do my best to find some reception furniture for the unit which ticked all the practical boxes and a few aesthetic ones too. Not to mention furniture which wouldn’t blow my budget. We eventually managed to find reception furniture which fit the bill and as far as I know it’s still going strong ten years later.

Creating the first impression when you walk into a building or business for the first time is so important. My husband has his own business and he often asks me for my opinion on sprucing things up. His budget is also woefully small, so again I’m shopping for office reception furniture on a shoestring. The problem is having a shoestring budget often shows when you’re trying to make a good first impression.

Furniture At Work who have created a video that looks at how quickly we make a first impression, whether that’s of people or places. It makes for pretty interesting viewing, especially if you’re thinking of making more of your office reception area.

If you’re looking at giving your reception area a refurb, having a tidy, decluttered space is an excellent start. A lick of paint and a clean (shampooed or new) carpet or polished flooring helps. Help your reception staff keep things tidy by giving them sufficient storage and space to work. You don’t need to blow your budget on expensive furniture; but if you buy cheaply it usually shows quite quickly, especially in a high-traffic area like a reception. 

Creating a positive first impression for your business is vital. You don’t have to blow your budget, but blowing some of the budget can help you make the right impression.

Is your business making a good first impression?

This is a collaborative post.

How to plan an Easter egg hunt at home

One of my favourite things to do on Easter Sunday is to set up an Easter egg hunt for my son. He’s 6 now, but he still believes in the Easter bunny and I have no wish at all to shatter his illusions. Easter egg hunts are pretty easy to put together and lots of fun to take part in. Here are my top tips for setting up an Easter egg hunt.

Step 1:
Buy some Easter eggs. I like to get a selection of sizes and colours to hide in the garden. Make sure you buy enough to share fairly equally between the Easter egg hunters. I tend to get a couple of medium sized eggs and then some smaller ones for the hunters to seek out. You don’t have to stick to Easter eggs, you can also mix things up and add some Easter sweets too.

Step 2:
Count the eggs and sweets before you hide them and try to make a mental note of where you’ve hidden them.

Step 3:
On Easter Sunday I am usually tasked with distracting the boy whilst my other half scurries around the garden hiding the eggs in obvious and not so obvious places. If you can do this just before the hunt without anyone noticing you’ve got a better chance of finding everything and it’s less likely that the local wildlife will find your goodies and eat them for you.

Step 4:
Don’t forget your bucket or basket to put your Easter bounty in.

Step 5:
Go hunting! Have fun, don’t forget to take some photographs. See if you can find an egg and get away with keeping it all to yourself.

Since last Easter we’ve got a new puppy and she is into absolutely everything. If you’ve got a new puppy, or an older dog it’s worth remembering that chocolate is very bad for them. So sadly our puppy, Penny will not be able to join in with the Easter egg hunt. She will have to stay on her lead just to make sure she doesn’t snaffle any goodies she shouldn’t have.

Will you have Easter egg hunt at home? What are your top tips for a successful hunt?

 
How to plan an Easter egg hunt at home

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Learning at home with Education Quizzes

I think most parents are keen to help, push, coax and encourage their children to try their best to do well at school. Part of that is sitting with them while they do their reading, helping them with homework, doing educational activities with them and working with their teacher to encourage them to be the best that they can be.

Yesterday was parents evening. Whilst my boy is as bright as a button, he’s not always first with his hand up in class. He needs lots of encouragement to be the best that he can be. We already do lots of reading and educational activities at home with him, but we are working with his teacher to try and develop his motivation and to push him along a little bit. 

This week we’ve been trying to find new ways at home to make him feel that learning is exciting. We logged on to Education Quizzes, clicked on KS1 and got quizzing. He loves playing games, so if he feels like whatever he’s doing is part of a game then he’s all over it. 

Learning at home with Education Quizzes

The idea behind Education Quizzes is to help children to be more successful at school. By quizzing them on areas of the curriculum, the website helps learning seem more enjoyable. What’s more, it’s easy and we found it to be a great way to go over what he’s already learned at school; helping to build his confidence and show him how far he has come.

The quizzes are written by teachers and the quizzes are based on the National Curriculum. They are split into sections – KS1, KS2, 11-Plus, KS3 and GCSE quizzes and cover all the core subject areas. We had a good look at the KS1 options, as that’s where he is right now. KS1 is split up into different curriculum areas. We started working our way through the KS1 Maths quizzes. He loves maths, so this seemed a really good place to start.

Learning at home with Education Quizzes

He needed a little bit of help reading some of the questions, but he really enjoyed working through the quizzes with me. It really did help to show him how far he has come and just how much he knows. Confidence is everything for him I feel.

He has enjoyed doing the KS1 Education Quizzes so much he keeps asking for me to put them on the iPad for him. I’m very happy to oblige. I think it’s a useful website, especially for revision purposes. Our kids are tested every step of the way throughout their educational careers. Being used to taking quizzes and tests is a useful discipline. 

Subscription is monthly, costs £9.95 and it can be cancelled at any time. Education Quizzes go from KS1 right up to GCSE. So wherever you are there will be a quiz every step of the way. Looking back, I wish I’d had access to something like this when I was doing my GCSE’s. It’s an excellent revision tool.

For more information about Education Quizzes, visit their website.

Learning at home with Education Quizzes

This is a collaborative post.

Need to improve your credit score? There’s an app for that!

Being an adult means worrying about all kinds of things you never dreamed you might need to worry about. Bin night, indigestion and the state of your credit score are just part of an endless list of things to fret about. In 2016 a Which? survey of more than a thousand households found that 53%  had never checked their credit score or obtained a credit report.

Whether you’re buying a house, getting a loan, applying for a credit card, or buying a mobile phone, your credit score and credit history will be checked by the lender. Your credit score is based on your financial history, particularly around credit and debt management. 

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

If it’s not a good score, then you could be refused credit; however, all is not lost if you are. Once you know your credit score you can take steps to improve it. ClearScore have just launched their new coaching platform. It’s a cutting edge chatbot style programme which coaches people to better manage their finances. Using artificial intelligence and information from your credit report, the tool can help you either ‘build’, ‘shape-up’ or ‘repair’ your finances depending on your status.

I’ve never personally checked my credit score, so I was really curious what it might be. I downloaded the free ClearScore app and signed up with a few details. Within a few seconds I’d discovered my credit score. It was much better than I expected, but there was still room for improvement.

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

The app includes a coaching section which gives tailored advice on how to improve your credit score. If you need to improve your score, spending an hour going through the coaching section and acting on the advice the chatbot gives you could really pay dividends. 

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

I found the app and the coaching section really easy to use. I liked that the information was presented to me in small text message sized chunks. I often find little bites of information at a time are easier for my brain to digest than pages and pages of text. I had a notepad next to me to jot down some notes and action points, but you can always go back if you need to.

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

In the coaching section you can find out more about certain aspects of your credit score. It was all easy to understand and there were lots of suggestions on how to improve your score. It won’t necessarily happen overnight, but chipping away at it sooner rather than later is always a good start. You can find more advice from ClearScore on how to improve your credit score here.

I’ve got a few action points to improve on, and now I’ve got the ClearScore app I can keep track of my score and take action if my score dips any further. Hopefully it can only improve from now on. 

This is a collaborative post.

Pets: Ensuring your dog gets the right food all year round

When it comes to your canine companion, you need to provide them with food that’s not only nutritionally beneficial, but also makes them as happy as they make you. Dog owners usually take a considerable amount of time deciding what food is right for their pet, but knowing which foods are best can usually be a struggle.

In total, Britain spent £899 million on dry and wet dog food in 2015 alone. Depending on the time of year and whether temperatures are mild or freezing, it can be difficult to determine whether your dog should be eating dry or wet food. If you’re walking your dog in colder temperatures, it’s vital that your dog receives a sufficient amount of nutrients in order to stay fit and healthy. In the summer, dogs can rely on a much leaner diet, so they don’t need the fatty content provided by wet foods.

Provided by natural dog food retailer Feedem, this guide will help you figure out how to ensure that your dog gets the right food and nutrients whatever the weather.

Check your dog’s fitness

We’ve all been there, you’re sitting in the living room with the dog, and sometimes, they get a bit of what you’re eating as a treat. Although you may not notice it, because you see them every day, this can be a significant contributor to weight gain. This will have an impact on your dog during their walks, as it might result in sluggishness and will affect how long they can walk for.

If you begin to notice this yourself, then change their food from a wet to dry serving, as dry foods typically have a lower fat content. As well as this, fewer dog treats are an easy way of regulating your dog’s weight; think of it like this, would you keep giving yourself a treat if you stopped exercising?

Try to remember that whatever changes you make to your dog’s diet, it still needs to be tasty for your pooch. For example, if your dog is content with wet food and they need a fattier meal to build a strong winter coat, then keep a small amount of dry food in their diet so that you’re changing what they’re eating, but it’s less of a shock to them when they’re eating new foods.

How often is your dog outside?

If your dog isn’t inclined to go on many walks, and likes to sit snug beside you rather than go outside, make sure that they’re receiving a low-fat dry food diet; it seems obvious, but when they’re moving around less, they aren’t going to burn off much of the food they eat. However, if your dog works outside all day, or likes to run around a field for hours during their walk, then try to give them 10 to 90% more fatty-wet foods depending on the dog’s circumstances.

 If you’re unsure, then consider these key points as a guide:

  • Size: Depending on your dog’s size and build, you’re going to have to accommodate this through the foods that they eat. Subcutaneous fat keeps your dog warm and aids their fur coat, so it’s important their body fat remains constant and doesn’t deplete through the year.
  • Fitness: Dog foods contain a range of vitamins and minerals to uphold the general health of your dog. Look for ‘complete foods’ for dogs that are struggling with either their health or ability to complete their routine walk, these foods will help them reach their peak fitness again.
  • Fur density: If your dog carries a stronger and thicker fur, then they don’t need foods that are high in fat. This is because dogs with thicker coats don’t expend as many calories as those with thinner fur. Dogs use a significant amount of calories by shivering to keep them warm. For smaller dogs with thinner furs, make sure they’re given slightly more food than they would normally get during the winter. This will help them stay warm.

Each dog to their own

Complete foods are the best way of making sure that your pet will receive a nutritionally balanced meal that contains fats, proteins, and vitamins – everything your dog needs to stay healthy with every portion.

These types of foods are usually the best option for your dog as they are balanced, so they won’t receive more than they need of one food type, such as fat. However, we all know that dogs can be just as picky as us, so make sure it’s a gradual change if you’ve now spotted something wrong in their current diet. If you need some advice, then consider for a moment that in 2015 dry food outsold wet food by £241 million, so if you’re stuck for ideas then choose this option.  

We recommend that your dog sticks to this diet unless your dog is exposed to temperatures that are freezing on a regular basis. In this instance, try to supply them with a wetter food that contains a type of gravy. These foods will provide your dog with a sufficient intake of calories when they need it the most. Remember, try not to provide treats alongside this diet, or they’ll need to go back to the dry foods after gaining too much weight! We all know it’s harder to lose weight than it is to gain…

dog food

Sources:

http://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/ken-tudor/2014/october/how-much-should-you-feed-your-dog-fall-and-winter-32085

http://www.1800petmeds.com/education/winter-feeding-tips-dogs-33.htm

http://www.pfma.org.uk/types-of-dog-food/

http://www.pfma.org.uk/market-data

http://www.pfma.org.uk/using-the-right-ingredients

This is a guest post.

Have you ever considered leasing a family car?

If there is one thing any parent can do without, it’s the added pressure of finding, funding, and maintaining a new family car whilst juggling the myriad other responsibilities of parenthood.

But the car has become an indispensible part of family lifestyles, and for parents with a young family to take care of it can make a major difference to the day-to-day routine. Having the freedom to do the weekly shop, pick the kids up from the school, and take weekend trips away without a second thought spent on the practicalities of getting around is a luxury few of us would like to live without.

But not all luxuries are easy to afford, and getting hold of a new family car, whether it’s used or new and paid for outright or on finance, can be difficult both practically and financially.

Used cars are often more affordable, but it’s hard to get a clear picture of their history and the chances of something going wrong are significantly increased. What’s more, there’s usually no warranty left in place so anything that does go wrong is left to you to sort out.

New cars, although they’re far less likely to throw up any problems themselves, are notoriously expensive to get hold of and lose their value quickly. Most people will find that buying a new family car requires a personal loan from a bank, building society, or even a family member.

Cars bought on finance deals eliminate the risks associated with picking up a used car, but they do bring along a whole range of their own problems. The financial implications of purchasing via a finance deal can be great and far-reaching. Most deals will require you to pay around 10% of the car’s value as a deposit as well as ongoing monthly sums, and at the end of the deal you’ll be left with a car worth much less than you’ve paid for it.

Leasing is a middle-of-the-road option that gives parents the best of both worlds; you can drive a brand new car with full manufacturer’s warranty, whilst paying an affordable amount of money each month and only having to pay a few months’ rent upfront as a deposit. At the end of the leasing contract, you simply hand back the keys. At this point, you’ll be a leasing convert and ready to choose the next brand new car for you and your family.

Have you ever thought of leasing the family car?

What else is great about leasing?

It’s reliable: Leased cars are brand new, unused, and with warranties still in place. Nothing is likely to go wrong, but if anything does then it’s not your responsibility to get it fixed. That means no surprise costs and no hassle.

It’s practical: Unlike buying and hire purchase finance deals, leasing is incredibly straightforward. You pay a small deposit, pick up the keys, and pay your monthly installments. At the end of the contract, you hand back the keys and take back the deposit before choosing whether another lease is for you. Additionally, day-to-day practicalities are even easier with all of the smart new functions available in brand new vehicles. Think litres of storage space and fold-away seats perfect for daytrips to the beach.

It’s safe: Every new generation of cars on the road is safer than the last, and with your little ones in tow there’s nothing more important than making sure they’re as well looked-after as possible. When choosing a family car to lease, you’ll get to pick from the latest models with the most advanced safety features on the road.

It’s affordable: We’ve said it once, but we’ll say it again. For parents with a limited amount of disposable income, leasing can be surprisingly easy to manage. A short-term agreement with no long-term financial implications means you’re able to drive the best of what’s available without making a loss when you decide to move on to a new family car. There’s no major upfront cost, no loans or credit agreements, and nothing to lose at the end.

If, after reading this you feel a car lease deal maybe a feasible option, then check out Vantage Car Leasing. They offer an array of car leasing options that you may find are suitable for most family budgets.

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Five ways kitchen towel can keep your house clean!

Kitchen towel is a real household essential. It’s great for mopping up spills and for cleaning up after children and pets. It’s so essential, a roll of kitchen towel is one of the first things we pack when we go on a self-catering holiday. Here are my five ways we use kitchen towel to keep our house clean – it’s so versatile we wouldn’t be without it!

Five ways kitchen towel can keep your house clean!

Damp dusting – I’m allergic to dust, so when I do dust my house I have to damp dust. To me damp dusting makes more sense than just moving the dust around. To damp dust, just dampen your kitchen towel and wipe over the dusty areas, then you just dispose of the dusty kitchen towel. No dust has been flicked up around the house, I’m not sneezing and everything looks clean and tidy.

When I’m cleaning windows – Kitchen towel is great to use for cleaning your windows with. Just damp them and use with some window cleaning spray – there will be no streaks just shine.

Fat fighters – Tipping cooking fat and grease down the sink is a big no-no. If your sink or drains get blocked it can cause all kinds of problems. To combat this problem, I put a couple of sheets of Plenty Kitchen Towel in my pan (once it’s cooled obviously) and leave it for a few hours, the towel soaks up the fat. I then just put the soaked kitchen towels in the bin. No fuss, no mess, no blocked drains.

Condensation killer – If your windows suffer with condensation in the winter, one old fashioned but excellent tip is to dab of washing up liquid onto your kitchen towel, wipe it all over your dry window and that will help to prevent condensation build up. 

Bye bye cobwebs – If you’ve got high ceilings or hard to reach places to dust, slightly dampen a piece of kitchen towel, put it on the end of a sweeping brush and carefully dust the cobwebs off your ceiling or hard to reach corners. The damp towel will stop the dust from floating down onto your face and your corners will be cobweb free. Result! 

Five ways kitchen towel can keep your house clean!

Over on Facebook, Plenty and their hero Juan Sheet have got some great giveaways running for the first 12 days of December. Just answer the simple riddles each day to be in with a chance to win one of the Plenty #12DaysOfPlenty prizes. To enter, hop on over to the Juan Sheet Facebook page.

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Safe Journey – Top Tips for Winter Driving

As Christmas approaches many people are busy making plans to visit friends and relatives up and down the country. If you’ve got a family in tow, it’s often easier to pack your car up rather than travel by train or coach with them, but winter driving has its own hazards. Read on for some top tips for safe winter driving.

In the UK we are largely unused to driving in icy, snowy conditions, so when the winter weather is at its worst many drivers struggle. On family car journeys I am always chief navigator and in charge of the map reading and snacks. Preparation is key when you’re going on a long journey in winter. 

Winter Driving Packing Essentials

  • Drinks – hot and cold
  • Snacks
  • Blankets
  • A snow shovel
  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • A spare battery pack for your phone.

I would also suggest taking a map with you as well as your sat nav. I’ve lost count of the number of times our sat nav has failed us and I’ve had to guide us to our destination with a good old fashioned map.

Winter Driving in snow and ice

In Scandinavia, people learning to drive spend time learning to drive safely in the extreme winter weather they have over there. In the UK this is not often the case, your instructor may touch upon how to deal with different driving conditions, but the only thing we’re really prepared for is rain.

  • When driving in icy conditions, avoid braking suddenly, this may cause you to skid and lose control.
  • Drive slower than normal to reduce your chances of skidding and having an accident.
  • Make sure you approach bends and corners with extra care, always look ahead and anticipate the conditions ahead.
  • If you lose control, don’t panic! Take your foot off the accelerator, and position you wheels in the direction you want to go in.

For more advice and information on driving safely in the winter, you can download this useful ebook from Chill Insurance, providers of some of the cheapest car insurance available in the UK.

Safe Journey - Top Tips for Winter Driving

What are your top tips for winter driving? 

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