Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Making Money from Home using the Internet

Alarm clock with title above.
Since the invent of the internet, it has become a lot easier to earn money from home. Whether you want to be a millionaire, or just earn a bit while the children are at school or in bed, there are a variety of ways to make money, using tools you already have, with no outlay or risk. As with all money-making ventures, it will depend how much time you have to spend on it, as you generally get out what you put in, but that's the beauty of it, it fits in around what you can manage, alongside other commitments. Whatever your eventual money-saving aims, this post will give you some ideas to get started increasing your cash-flow from your sofa.

Housework Myths and Truths with Vorwerk

Graphic of a Mop and Bucket, with Title OverlaidI got involved in a conversation over on Facebook yesterday, about how often people actually change their sheets. According to Mumsnet, this task should be done weekly, and it's one of those situations where a lot of us probably feel we are the only ones who fail to do this and the rest of the world has freshly laundered and ironed sheets every Monday. I can assure you that, according to some of the answers I read, many of us don't make this imaginary deadline at all, and it left me wondering how many other household tasks we probably 'should' be tackling more often. One thing I do know, is that I am always perfectly happy with the state of my house until I know we are having guests to visit.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Taking my Child Out of School in Term Time, WWYD?

Northern Lights with trees in the foreground
This is an interesting post for me to write. As an ex-Governor, and a qualified Teaching Assistant, I have spent a lot of my life knocking around the education system, in one way or another. I know exactly how important it is for every child to have a consistent, routined school experience, not just because it helps instil discipline and gives them the best opportunities to socialise and feel part of something, but also because missing blocks of learning leads to problems later on, when it's revisited at a later date. Or, worse still, when it comes up in an exam! For all those reasons, I am the last person who should be planning a term-time holiday and yet, here I am.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Ideas for Helping Those in Need, When Money is Tight

A mitten with the words how to give a helping hand when money is tight across it.
There are so many charities vying for our attention at Christmas, that it can become overwhelming to find who best to help and how to do it. If you have cash to spare, it's a bit easier, because money is always welcomed by any charity, because it gives them the flexibility to buy the things that they need. What about when you are on a low income, though? Even when you don't have much money coming in, you can still be acutely aware that many people have less, and at Christmas especially, it's natural to want to reach out to those in need. Fortunately, there are lots of other ways you can help and here are some ideas.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Win a Signed Copy of Take Six Girls by Laura Thompson

Take Six Girls by Laura Thompson

Christmas Gift Guide: Children

View through a window of a boy opening Christmas gifts. This is always a hard guide to write, because there is such an insane amount of choice and children vary so much in their tastes and interests. Just the amount of adverts vying for our attention this time of year is mind-boggling. It's most likely your own children have dropped more than one heavy hint about what they would like under the Christmas tree, but for the friends and relatives you know less about, I have put together this guide, which focuses on school-age children, the ones with the most opinions! As always, this is a mix of things we've been sent to try that we've really liked and things we use ourselves and think everyone should know about!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Christmas Gift Guide: Men

Christmas desk scene, with sleigh and reindeer flying over.
It's no secret that men are notoriously hard to buy for. It helps if they have a hobby or an interest, but even that can get a bit samey and predictable after a few years. There are only so many golf balls, football shirts, or hilarious mugs based on a TV show that one person needs. Sometimes you can quirky-up the classic gift, such as socks, or gloves, with a bit of imagination, but the real challenge is to find something he doesn't know he wants, so that you can be sure he will not only be happy with your choice, but also won't have already bought one for himself. Check out our ideas for some stress-free man-shopping this Christmas.

Friday, 17 November 2017

A Garden Makeover on a Budget

Shed and patio of stone chippings. I've been working on the garden for a few years now. There are a few reasons why it's taken so long; there isn't much money to spend on it, I'm not very good at it, and time and weather are not always our friends. So, this is this season's update, and I have to say, I am really, really happy with it. The aim has always been to make the garden effort-proof and I think that part is almost perfect. Aside from a little mowing and picking up stray leaves, there's not much to do day to day, but it still looks pretty good. I am still very much an amateur and gardening for me will probably always be trial and error, but it's so great when something actually grows! Here's how we did it, what we've added recently, what worked and what didn't. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Christmas Gift Guide: Teenagers

Christmas Gift Guide: TeenagersOur first gift guide for this year, features that very tricky and somewhat elusive species The Teenager. Not always the chattiest group of people, it can be hard to settle on the perfect gift. I've called this Gift Guide 'Teenagers', but really it could probably apply to 'tweens' or possibly younger, since children have a habit of growing up at their own pace and will grow into, and out of, things, when they are ready. With this in mind, I've tried to find items that suit a wider age group, so that you can be sure of a positive reaction on Christmas morning. Some of the items are available to win in our Big Christmas Giveaway, so don't forget to enter if you haven't already.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Win Your Christmas Presents with our Huge Giveaway!

Christmas tree with presents underneath against a red background.
This annual tradition is the culmination of a year's worth of blogging and is such a lot of fun to put together. I really enjoy giving one of you the opportunity to benefit from some of the great brands we get to work with and it is so exciting taking all the photos and imagining how happy they will make someone's Christmas. As well as some brilliant brands, who have been really generous in contributing items to include, we have also included some goodies from our prize cupboard, as a thank you for all your support over the last year. Without further ado, here is what you could win, simply by using the Rafflecopter widget at the end of the post. Good luck!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Children's Costumes and Racism; Has the World Gone Mad?

Red haired girl in a Frozen-themed photo shoot. Disney may have its critics and it's faults, but it has never been afraid to embrace diversity and culture in its vast catalogue of popular children's films. However, a debate blew up recently on Good Morning Britain, about whether children dressing up as the Disney character Moana could be a case of 'cultural appropriation' and something that shouldn't be encouraged.  This isn't the first time this issue has made its way into the media. A post reappeared recently on Reddit, where a mother received a lot of negativity for dressing her daughter up in a Geisha costume for a Japanese tea party. So when does innocent fun become racism?

Monday, 23 October 2017

Zu3D Animation Kit Review

Close up of the Zu3D Animation Kit Box
You may have noticed by now, that we live in Bristol. The land of snazzy bridges, waterways, graffiti and Morph. The latter may explain why L has always been completely obsessed with animation. Particularly stop-motion. I even started putting them on YouTube. This 54 second Minecraft animation has been viewed over 2,000 times and it shows how you really don't have to be an animation pro to have a lot of fun with this hobby. He was just nine then and I think we are living in an amazing age of technology, when children of any age can make their own films. We were sent the Zu3D Animation Kit free for L to try and these are our thoughts.

Halloween Spectacular at The Wild Place Project, Bristol

The entrance to Wild Place, with Halloween decorations
The Wild Place Project, near Cribbs Causeway in Bristol, is a sister park to Bristol Zoo. It opened in 2013 and we have been regular visitors ever since. It has been lovely to watch it grow and expand and it is obvious that the staff and keepers have a great affection for the place. The emphasis is very much on the welfare of the animals and their habitats and this is my favourite aspect of the park. It is very close to our house, so we visit a lot, but this time we were invited to review the new Halloween Spectacular, taking place over half term (21st-29th October) and received free admission in return for letting you know what we thought about it.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Bristol Zoo Events for Children

Bristol Zoo Penguin with Title OverlaidIt's been over a year since our last Bristol Zoo Review and this post is a bit different to the last one. This time, I really want to focus on the additional events that are provided on a seasonal basis, as part of your ticket price  Bristol Zoo puts a lot of effort into making the venue even more entertaining for children in the school holidays and so we're going to be reviewing the recent events we attended, as well as those that are coming up in the near future. Most importantly, the next activity in the Zoo's calendar; the Halloween Festival. Obviously, we can't actually review it, as it hadn't happened at the time of writing, but we can tell you all about it. 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Importance of Movement in Children and a Competition with Reima

Sketch style photo of a child playing basketballThe title of this post may sound like an obvious statement, but, as with all parenting essentials, it's surprisingly easy to take your eye of the ball (sorry about the pun) and find that physical activity has gone by the wayside. Particularly as the nights draw in and the weather turns colder and wetter, you may find the family as a whole favouring the warmer indoors and getting less exercise as a result. Obviously, it's less safe for children to be outside when the evenings are dark, so how can we make sure movement and fitness are part of life and not something we have to remind ourselves to do? 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Insomnia: How to Get Back to Sleep

There are different types of insomnia. Some people can't get to sleep at all, and lie awake for hours counting the minutes until the alarm goes off, where as some people sleep for a little while, then wake up and can't get back to sleep. I usually fall into the second category and I have found that there isn't a huge amount of advice available for getting back to sleep, once you've woken up. I've written before about the thoughts that keep me awake at night, and I even wrote a poem about insomnia, with help from my son, but I thought it was time I shared some of the ideas that have worked for me.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Making the Most of Your Garden in Autumn

We've had one of our better summers in the UK this year, well, certainly here in Bristol, anyway. There have been many hot, sunny days to enjoy the garden and I think we've all got a bit too used to it. It's sunny today, actually, but the air is already noticeably cooler as Autumn takes hold, and it's easy to forget that soon it will be dark earlier and the weather will become even more unpredictable, by adding wind and rain into the mix. I don't want to let go of my garden just yet, though, so I've been looking at ideas for getting the most from the garden as the evenings draw in and the temperatures change.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

This Tear, Here; A Poem for Lynn on World Poetry Day

A sun flare and bubbles in a bright blue skyAccording to Twitter, it's World Poetry Day today. I thought that was in March, so it might be National Poetry Day, but nothing like a bad cold to make you forget what day it is, never mind anything else! Anyway, I really thought I would have to skip it this year, but, if I'm quick, I can still just about make it. I had absolutely nothing planned, and I wasn't sure I had any ideas at all, so I just sat down and wrote. Something appeared, but I warn you, this is not my usual tidy rows of rhyming couplets, it's more, what is affectionately known as, a 'mind dump'. It's still a style, though, of sorts, and it was important to me that it was raw and largely unedited, so I hope that's ok. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Free Printable Student Recipes: Easy Special Fried Rice

Cooked Special Fried Rice in a Striped Dish
This is the last in our series of easy student recipes and it's a favourite in our house. It's been a bit difficult to make into a recipe, actually, because I'm so used to just throwing things in, I had to really think about the measurements! It's another recipe which is great for using up leftovers and the ingredients are very flexible. Try adding pineapple, or peas, or you could replace the bacon with ham, or make a vegetarian version by leaving the bacon out and replacing the chicken with quorn. It's a great opportunity to experiment and make this dish your own. I hope you've enjoyed our fun recipes, click the link to try our Easy Stuffed Peppers. 

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Monday, 18 September 2017

Kobold VK200 Accessories Review: Why You Need Them All!

Kobold soft nozzle cleaning a chandelier
I've been testing the Kobold VK200 for a while now, and this is because it's a lot more than just a vacuum cleaner... and also because I really don't want to have to give it back *sob*. When it arrived for testing, it came with such an astonishing array of different, and very clever, attachments, I knew this was going to take some time. So, along with our initial review of the Kobold VK200 vacuum cleaner, with automatic electric brush head, this second review looks at all the attachments that are available to for it and all the different jobs they are waiting to take off your hands. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Free Printable Student Recipes: Easy Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed green pepper on a bed of salad.
Moving day is fast approaching for students all over the country, and I'm still digging through the archives to find the best easy, low cost recipes to help them on their way. Today's recipe is number five in the series and is vegetarian. I didn't think it would be possible to improve on the simplicity of the last recipe, but, believe it or not, this one contains just two ingredients. That's right, two, but it's such a big cheat, it looks like it took lots of effort and is also pretty nutritious. If you are not vegetarian, you can serve these as part of a ham or chicken salad, but they make a pretty yummy lunch as well.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Free Printable Student Recipes: Easy Cheesy Pork Steaks

Pork steaks with apple sauce and cheese
Day four of our student recipes, and they are getting even easier! If you haven't been keeping up, I have been making some of our easiest recipes into easy to follow recipe cards, that students can take with them as they embark on their new chapters. Hopefully it will lead to a less noodle-filled existence! This recipe only has three ingredients, and requires very little preparation. It takes half an hour to cook and is really delicious. It is a clever twist on what would otherwise be quite a boring meal and can make you look like you really know what you are doing with this cooking lark, even when you don't! Recipe 3 is here

My Sunday Photo: Lemur Baby Love

A lemur sitting on a rock with her baby clinging to her.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Free Printable Student Recipes: Easy Corned Beef Hash

A cooked Corned Beef Hash dish, straight out of the oven. Day three of our student recipes and this is one of the first recipes I learned to cook. It's a real comfort food favourite and there are variations of it around the country, including this Panakalty recipe from Sunderland. Corned beef isn't nearly as cheap as it used to be, but is a handy tin to have in the cupboard, in case you can't get to the shops and is often on offer in some of the budget shops that are all over our high streets these days. This recipe shows how to transform a simple tinned meat into a delicious, home cooked dish, using just four additional ingredients. The uncooked mixture can also be folded in pastry to make the most delicious Corned Beef Pasty too, if there's any left over. Recipe 2 is here.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Hiking up the Style, with Leki Poles and Bogs Footwear

Holding a pair of Leki Hiking Poles and wearing Bogs B-Mocs boots
I've wanted some hiking poles for ages, because they are brilliant for reducing strain on the joints, particularly  downhill, and I felt they might help me to walk further and increase my exercise a bit. Fortunately, Leki at Open Air, who are experts in the field of walking paraphernalia, were happy to send me some to try out for free and find out what hiking poles can offer to support your trekking goals, big or small. Also in this post, the very latest from Bogs Footwear, who sent me some boots to try out that I think actually could be magic. If you thought walking in the rain wearing something resembling slippers was nothing more than a crazy dream, you may be surprised...

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Free Printable Student Recipes: Easy French Bread Pizza

Cooked French bread pizza with ham and pineapple. Day two of our student recipes and this one is particularly popular with young children too. It's very cheap to make because you can use food you have in the house for the toppings, even your fridge leftovers. Vegetables, cooked meats, even fruit, you can let you imagination go wild! It's a great way of finding out what you do and don't like on a pizza and to ensure all your leftovers get used up, saving you, or your student offspring, money. Baguettes and French sticks are often reduced to clear in supermarkets towards the end of the day, so there is more potential to save money, and you could even go for a flavoured bread for an added twist. Recipe 1 is here.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Win a Disney Star Wars Projection Watch

Disney Star Wars projection watch in packaging

Free Printable Student Recipes: Easy Sausage Casserole

A plate of cooked sausage casserole on a bed of rice. If you have students starting University soon, this may be the series for you. All this week, I will be posting recipe cards, which you can download and print, featuring some of our favourite easy, cheap recipes. You can either give them to your nest-flying offspring to take with them, or use them to teach younger children how to cook. It's never too early to learn about budgeting and cooking your own meals, and these are so easy, it's a great place to start. Children are more likely to eat something they cook themselves, so it can help expand their menu a bit too! This Sausage Casserole contains just four ingredients and takes under half an hour to make. 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Quality Built to Last with Vorwerk's Kobold VK200

Vorwerk Kobold VK200 Electric Brush ToolThere was a time when, if you bought something, such as a fridge, or a toaster, you would assume it would last for years. In my parent's day, no one expected to replace an electrical appliance. Perhaps perform a repair now and again, but you would anticipate having the same one until it got a bit battered and loved, then replacing it would be a major event. In today's 'consumable' society, everything seems to need replacing every few years and its driving me mad. In the last five years, I have been through three vacuum cleaners, the quality has been that bad. So, in this review I am investigating what you get for your money when you invest in the Kobold VK200, from Vorwerk. An appliance designed to last.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Camping Must-Haves and What You CAN Leave Home Without!

A traditional-style tent in a field
Camping can be ideal as a low-cost family holiday option when money is a bit tight. However, on your first camping trip, it can be very easy to get bogged down with the different products available to buy, until you end up spending the cost of a week in the Algarve. As we've got better at camping, we have found some products that have been invaluable, and some that haven't. This is our guide to your camping essentials and how to keep the costs down by avoiding what you really don't need. This post contains items we've bought, and some we were sent to try and really liked. I have marked the review items, with an asterisk * for clarity.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Improving Children's Handwriting with Free Printables

A child writing
There are a lot of positives to the advance of the digital age. Laptops and iPads are providing a wealth of opportunities for children to develop their writing. Without the limitation of forming the words individually using a pencil and paper (which many children struggle with) it's proving much quicker for them to get their ideas down, so their story writing and other subjects are progressing much faster. However, the downside is that it might discourage them from persevering with the important skill of good handwriting and, at some stage, they will still need to write nicely. It is so much easier to start good habits early, so here are some ideas to encourage good handwriting in children. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Top Tips for Camping When it Rains

A tent, with some very inquisitive ducks waddling past.
Everyone hopes for good weather when it comes to the annual family holiday, but none more so than the dediated family camper. Like all holidays, once it's booked, it's booked and you are pretty much condemned to suffer whatever is thrown at you and, usually, the worst of these will be the weather. We've just returned from our third camping trip, through and we had spells of dreadful weather during each of them. This time, the tail end of a hurricane made us glad of our storm pegs, and this was just one of the things we learned from our previous trips. With this in mind, this post contains advice from myself and other campers on how to brave the worst of the British weather in a tent! 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Forest Glade Holiday Park: Family Campsite Review

Beautiful forest glade, situated in the Black Down Hills
Regular readers will know that sometimes I review things I've been sent to try and sometimes I review things I have purchased myself, but I am always honest in my reviews and upfront about where they come from. This time, though, it's a bit more complicated, because I bought and paid for this holiday, but the lovely owner gave me a refund when I said I would be happy to review it. The park is just stunning and there is so much I want to tell you about it, along with millions of photos I've taken for you, which I've tried to whittle down a bit. I hope you enjoy my unbiased review of the beautiful Forest Glade Holiday Park, situated in the Blackdown Hills between Cullompton and Honiton in East Devon. 

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Sister Act: The High- Energy Musical Extravaganza

A line up of nuns, playing various musical instruments
I had been looking forward to this performance for weeks. This has been a favourite film of mine since the 90's and it was so exciting to imagine it transferred to the stage, it is such a show-stopper anyway. This is our review of Sister Act The Musical, which turned out to be pretty surprising in many ways. It's always interesting to see how a film transforms on the stage and Craig Revel Horwood's direction brought some twists and turns I was not expecting. We are lucky enough to get press tickets for shows at the Bristol Hippodrome and you can read our previous reviews of Gangsta Granny and Dirty Dancing by clicking the links, if you would like to.

Win a 16" Marvel Iron Man Action Figure

Large 16" Iron Man Action Figure

Monday, 7 August 2017

Making Informed Lottery Choices Just got Easier with Lottoland

Pile of money, with title overlaid. Like most people, I have played the lottery in this country since it opened in 1997 and dreamed of a big win ever since. It soon became apparent though, that lottery players in other countries were getting a much better deal. In the dark ages; BG (before Google), it wasn't as easy to find out what was happening in other countries, but sometimes news of huge lottery wins would come through from the U.S. where they would roll over seemingly indefinitely until someone picked the right combination, resulting in piles of dollars that couldn't even be imagined. I also found out that the Irish Lotto, at the time, had way better odds than the British Lottery and my much younger, more self-assured, self was not happy about this. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

Choking Hazards and Children - Prevention Better than Cure

A sepection of objects that a small child could choke on. When my daughter was small, she choked on a Hula Hoop crisp. It was at our local playgroup and, whilst I was just a few feet away, it was the quick-thinking mum who was nearest who picked her up and slapped her back. She was instantly sick and disaster was very much averted. I was a member of the St John's Ambulance Brigade from the age of 12, so I was trained in first aid from an early age. I have always been relatively confident in emergency situations, but not everyone is, or would be able to remember under pressure. It's also very distressing for the child, and the parent, so this post is about preventing choking situations occurring in the first place.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Cleaning Short Cuts and Tips to Keep Up with the Housework

A neat and tidy downstairs cloakroomIt's very easy to get completely overwhelmed with housework. I do. It feels like I blink (or get absorbed in Facebook arguments) for a second couple of hours, and Armeggedon appears, uninvited, in my house. There are various issues that can cause this unwelcome phenomenon to occur. Maybe you are a bit of a hoarder, or have a brood of mini-hoarders, or just have other things you'd rather be doing. Whatever the reason, you are left with two choices; you can either dedicate yourself to a life maintaining a spotless showhome, worthy of a spot in Good Housekeeping or, you can do what I do and cheat a bit, fake it, and have a clean and happy home, without the hours of rubber-gloved drudgery. Here's how.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Review of The Gorgeous Buddy Box from The Blurt Foundation

Contents of the June Buddy Box
I have bored everyone for quite a while with the devastion caused by the death of my best friend, but, as I mentioned in my previous post, a few good things came out of it too, not least the kindness of others. Many of my friends came through with all kinds of offers of help and support and it amazed me how thoughtful and understanding everyone was when I needed them most. Although, it shouldn't have done, because friends are amazing. One particular act of kindness made me smile so much, though, I've decided to give it a post of its own. Introducing the Buddy Box, from the mental health charity The Blurt Foundation. It's a hug in a box! 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

SS Great Britain Summer Events Programme

A couple dressed in Victorian costume. School is finally out for us and the last few weeks have been crazy busy. Along with school plays, leavers' celebrations and other events, we somehow managed to squeeze in a visit to one of our favourite Bristol tourist attractions to find out what's on over the summer. The SS Great Britain is somewhere we have always been fond of, as it has a way of growing with children. Each time we go, we discover something different that we hadn't appreciated before. During the summer break, you can get even more for your ticket price with the addition of some amazing extras that will amuse your brood, whatever their age.

Win a Creature Peeper and Get to Know Your Critters!

Insect Lore creature peeper
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