Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Preparing your Home for Autumn

Financially this time of year is when our utilities bills start to mount up and also when you can take small steps that make a big difference to keeping warm and trying to keep your finances under control.

  • Take a leaf out of your grandparents books.  They never used to heat the whole house (before central heating) and use to wear layers and heat the main rooms of the house.  We have thermostats on each radiator.

  • Layer up.  I think we have become accustom to just wearing less layers.  Encourage your children to wear vests and also all wear dressing gowns and slippers.  We all have thermals and wear them.

  • Make sure you review your utilities supplier.  If you are spending more you need to ensure you are on the best rate with the best company you can be.  Do not leave it till the winter to change.  Whilst you are doing that why not also take a look at your contents insurance and make sure you are adequately covered for moving the children's outdoor toys in to the shed to store.

  • Small changes make big differences.  Turn off lights when not in rooms, use draft excluders, close curtains as it gets dark and place blankets on sofas for people to snuggle under.

  • Use hot water bottles, there is nothing worse than getting in to cold beds.  Layer up and add a blanket or change from your summer weight duvet to your winter weight one.

  • We have a lamp in the dinning room set on a timer to come on at dusk and also PIR light at the front of the house, so that we do not come home to darkness as the nights draw in. 

  • I love candles and find that if I keep them int he fridge they burn for longer.  I also trim the wicks before using them to 5m  to avoid smoking.

Monday, 24 September 2012

After-school activities: how do you choose?

Once upon a time, when you got home from school you did a little bit of homework before being unleashed on the street to play with your neighbours. If you were lucky you might have a piano lesson once a week, or play football for the local club. But for the most part, kids amused themselves.

But since the mid-90s, there has been an exponential surge in after-school activities, and also pressure on parents to make sure their kids are exposed to just the right amount of everything – music, sport, language, art… the combinations are endless. Hearing that little Annie takes French conversation classes on Monday, guitar on Tuesday, football on Wednesdays and Saturdays, karate on Thursday and drama class on Friday is enough to make any parent worry that they’re not giving their kids the best opportunities.

So here are five tips to remember when it comes to selecting what after-school activities are best for your family.

1.      What does your child want to do?

This is the most important consideration – are they interested in music and show an aptitude or is it just a thing that’s “good” for them? There is a fine line between encouraging and enforcing an activity. For instance, learning to swim or taking part in some kind of exercise is fairly essential to leading a healthy life, but make sure that the particular sport works for your child. Team sports are good, but perhaps more individual pursuits like athletics suit your child. You may have to try out a few options before hitting on the right one.

2.     Time for unstructured play is important

Being stimulated by after-school activities is great, but time to experiment, play videogames, get bored, watch TV, be alone and read are also important for kids’ development. Too much structure could lead to kids being unable to come up with ways to amuse themselves, and a decrease in ability to take initiatives on their own. So don’t overload the schedule too much.

3.     Budget

Some activities are simply going to cost a lot more than others.  Horse-riding: expensive activity. Swimming: cheap activity. Think about hidden costs like getting to and from the activity (are there distant away games for sport), uniforms, specialist gear, musical instruments.

4.     Scheduling

Don’t forget that you yourself will usually have to juggle drop-offs and pick-ups. Look at what each of your kids are doing and make sure that timings work. Consider signing your kids up for activities that friends do to maximise car-pooling potential, or start a car-pool with other parents whose kids also participate.

Remember that when considering after-school opportunities there is no right or wrong way to do things, as long as your child is getting something enjoyable out of their activity.

What after-school events do your kids participate in? Do you feel pressure to sign them up for lots of activities?

Vivienne Egan writes for Baker Ross the arts and crafts suppliers

Friday, 21 September 2012

Are you the UK's Smartest Shopper?

I love saving money, but I also love that Savoo have recognised that being thrifty isn't all about cutting costs, but it means being savvy and smart.  

So are you the UK's smartest shopper? Why not enter Savoo's competition if you are a smart shopper  and take the chance of winning £10000.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

My Autumn Financial Manifesto

Each season I write a manifesto on Mum in the Mad House and a financial one here,  I find that they help me concentrate on what is important to me over the coming three months and help me to focus on getting small things done that can make big differences.

  • Price check our utilities and look for best deals on our Gas and Electric
  • Make another draft excluder (we have one at the front door, garage door and need one for the back door) - how to post to follow
  • Bleed the radiators (if there is air in them they work less efficiently
  • Make a home made Christmas present each week
  • Try using http://www.giftcardconverter.co.uk/ before I make any purchases.you can find discounted cards that people sell on. Bargains might include a £60 Starbucks card for £35 or a £50 iTunes voucher for £40, for example. And if you receive a card for a store you never use, the site will buy it for almost face value
  • Also use Morrisons Fuel Save before making any major purchases
  • Get the thermals out and prewash them ready for the season
  • Get out our hats, scarfs and gloves and put the summer hats away
  • Use a waterproof spray on our coats
  • Check the bulbs on the car to make sure they work and I don't get pulled over.
I would love to know of any things that you do to make or save money over Autumn.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Great BIG Fifideals Art Competition

Well what a Great British summer it was, one that won’t be forgotten in a while, even if it is just down to all the rain we had.   While reminiscing about the amazing times that we all had, the golden jubilee, the Olympics and the Paralympics, the @fifideals office decided that it would be a lovely idea to commemorate the golden British summer and to get the kids help them remember those fun family days.

Fifideals are  pleased to bring you the inaugural ‘The Great BIG Fifideals Art Competition’.  They would like to invite every playgroup, nursery, toddler group, 1 O’clock club or any kids group wanting to take part to paint them a summer family picture.  This could be of his or her own family, their playgroup family, the Royal family or even the Team GB Olympic family.

The Prize:

There is a great prize worth over £500 for your kids group to win:
3 X 2 year subscriptions to Reading Eggs
A selection of Monster Catcher gifts from Orchard Toys
A Pirate Ship from Leaning From Play.

The two runners up will each receive a one year subscription to Reading Eggs.

How 2 Enter:

• Firstly register on our page so we know you are human: http://www.fifideals.com/blog/  or Like fifideals on Facebook.com/fifideals
• Send in a photo of your painting: info@fifideals.com
• Competition starts on 18th Sept. and closes on the 16th Oct. The public vote is from the 16th -23rd Oct.
• Only 1 painting per group may be submitted.
• You may supply an accompanying letter to tell us why you should win.

Good Luck!

Disclosure:  This is a sponsored post.  I have been paid to publicise this competition.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

91 Magazine - FREE online magazine

I love eye candy.  I had a subscription to Mollie Makes, but lately had been really disillusioned with it and cancelled it.  So I was delighted when I noticed this fab free magazine 91 from Patchwork Harmony.  It fulfills my requirements perfectly and you can download it to an iPad too.

Do you have any favorite free magazines, ezines or sites that you visit on a regular basis?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Durable and Long lasting children's coats

A much-loved brand in Sweden, Polarn O. Pyret is kids clothing company that, since its inception in the 1970s, really has stood the test of time – why? Because the clothing it makes is fantastic value for money in the long run.

The veteran brand promotes nothing but good-quality, durable clothing that, importantly, will last. And what’s more, it promotes reselling and hand-me-downs, because its clothes are so good that they will last even after your child outgrows them. The resell value on eBay is phenomenal simply because the clothes don’t get worn out by either repeated machine-washing or the kids themselves – genius!

And if you plan on having more little ones in the family, then hang on to your PO.P clothes for them. Many of the clothes in their range are unisex, which means you can hand clothes down from boy to girl and vice versa if you want to – even more genius!

PO.P is a truly eco-conscious brand for the same reasons that its clothes are great value.

The fact that it’s iconic striped (as well as it’s plain and beautiful, bold printed) clothing designs are so durable can – and certainly should – be passed down through the generations constitutes as recycling!

Now that really is eco-friendly. Are there any other kids’ clothing brands out there that promote such unbelievably environmentally sound and socially responsible practice? We can’t think of any.

Polarn O. Pyret also designs, makes and distributes its own baby and kids clothes, and which means it has full control over every aspect of its business and the direction of the company and its products.

Since its launch back in the ‘70s, PO.P has been renowned for its iconic striped designs, and now, the kids who wore them back then are becoming parents themselves and buying the same quality as they wore way back when.

With a history of more than 35 years in the kids clothing trade, PO.P has strived and now unequivocally knows what works for kids and their parents - and what doesn’t.

LAYERS – that’s what works!

There’s the base layer, which is made of either wool or polyester because they are breathable, draw moisture away from the skin and therefore keep kids warm and dry.

Then, the mid layer, which is a fleece and wool blend; also breathable, this is the handy thermal layer that can go under outerwear in the colder months to keep kids warm

And finally, there’s the outer layer, which is light, waterproof and rainproof – coupled with the base and thermal mid layers in the winter, or just with the base layer during the warmer months for protection against the wind and the rain.So grab yourself a bargain – head over to PO.P’s website.
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