Thursday, 28 February 2013

Stationery at Home Bargains

Anyone who knows me knows that I have something of a stationery fetish!  When I saw these fab stationery items on Instragram and felt compelled to go and see them for myself.  They were all 99p (you got three tins for 99p) from Home Bargains.

This was just a selection of what they had as they had larger note books and list pads too for 99p.  Perfect for Mothers Day without breaking the bank

How Do You Keep Your PC Clean?

Regular maintenance of your PC is really worth the effort. In the short term it helps prevent your computer from running slowly, and in the long term it helps to extend the life of your PC. Here’s a quick guide to the main tasks you can carry out that will keep your computer running smoothly.

Disk Cleanup

When your hard disc fills up your PC will run slower, so it’s important to clean it regularly. Fortunately there is a Windows program already installed in your PC that can do this for you.

Disk Cleanup searches your drive for cache files, temporary files and programs that are no longer needed. It can either identify them for you, leaving you to decide what to do with them, or automatically remove them for you. Here’s how to runs Disk Cleanup on:

It’s probably easier to set up Disk Cleanup to run as a scheduled task. To make your computer run as effectively as possible, it should run once a week. Here’s how to run a scheduled Disk Cleanup on:

Disk Defragmenter

When your computer stores large files it may break them into chunks to make it easier to find storage space, this is known as fragmentation. When you need to use the program, your PC remembers where the chunks are and reassembles them. However, if you have a number of fragmented programs then the reassembling process will take much longer, and this will slow down your computer.

Defragging your computer, or reassembling the files in order, will help increase the speed of programs. How often need to you defrag your computer will depend on how regularly you create and delete files and how much time you spend online.

Before defragging you should do all of the following, in this order:

  • Delete any unwanted files.
  • Run Disk Cleanup and ScanDisk.
  • Make a system back up.

The following links explain how to defrag different Windows operating systems:

Check your hard disk or drive for errors

Disk errors are another problem that may cause your PC to run slower than normal. Running programs like Chkdsk can check for these.

Once the disk checking program has started running you shouldn’t interrupt it, so you should only do this task when you don’t need to use your computer for anything else. You will need to be an Administrator to carry out this task. For further instructions see:

Uninstall old or unused programs

Programs you no longer use, like games, or preinstalled programs that you never use will be taking up space on your disc that you can utilise. Removing them will free up space for new data and programs.

Deleting the icon for a program on your desktop will not remove it from your computer. It simply removes the shortcut. To remove a program completely you need to go to the Start menu and uninstall from the All Programs list, or from Control Panel. Full instructions can be found on the Microsoft at home website.

Back up your system regularly

A system backup creates a copy of your computer system that is stored in a separate place to the original, like an external hard drive. Creating a copy means that if you accidentally delete files, or if your computer is attacked by a virus, you can reinstall your original system.

It’s always wise to back up your system regularly, especially if you create a lot of files, or hold personal items, such as pictures, on your computer. These two articles contain more information:

Running a virus scan

Viruses and malware are some of the biggest culprits if your PC is running particularly slowly. Regularly running virus scanning software will not only disable any software that is slowing down you computer, but will also help keep you safe online.

If you’re regularly online then you definitely need virus protection software. Without it your system can be easily hacked. It’s the equivalent of leaving your house unlocked while you go away on holiday! Find out about how you can install the best free antivirus.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Preparing Your Patio or Balcony for the Spring

The days may still be short and darker than we would like but in our gardens nature is preparing for another cycle. Hardy bulbs are bringing colour to drab winter beds and birds are preparing for the breeding season. 

This is the time, when like the hedgehog emerging from his hibernation nest of leaves and twigs, we start to take tentative steps outside again. It can be a rather bleak and uninspiring sight as the lawn and beds are so sodden they will be no-go areas for some weeks yet.
There is one activity however, from which we can derive much satisfaction without getting covered in mud. Yes, next time the sun shines at the weekend why not get out there and prepare your patio or balcony for the summer. Here are a few tips on how to do a good job.

Remove all planters, patio heaters, barbecues, garden furniture, etc. Sweep up all the leaves, dust and debris that have accumulated over the winter months.

Wash down. If you have a power washer you are home and dry! If not a garden hose with a jet nozzle can do a decent job or, and many people swear this is the best method, fill a bucket with a solution of bleach and warm water and scrub the whole area with a stiff brush. Bleach is also excellent for removing the green algae that survive against all the odds on stone surfaces and can make them slippery and dangerous.

Inspect your patio furniture for damage. Check that frames are solid and that screws are not working loose. Barbecues and any other item which has metal parts should be inspected for signs of rust.

Clean. Garden furniture regardless of whether it has been left out over winter or stored indoors will still need a clean. The above methods for cleaning the patio surface will work equally well here. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to cleaning cushions. Some will require scrubbing with the same bleach solution as the patio while others will need a much more gentle approach. Barbecues, birdbaths, planters and patio heaters will all look better after a good clean.

Oil or seal. If you have aluminium or rattan furniture you can miss out this step, but for those with teak furniture you may have work to do. This type of furniture is often sold as maintenance free and indeed it can be left to weather. If like me however, you find the resulting grey patina which admittedly looks great on old benches in some country house garden, just looks drab and shabby on your patio, you will have to oil it each year. Teak oil or a good quality linseed oil have been used in the past but nowadays teak sealers  do a better job as they keep the wood looking good for longer.

Paint. If nothing is going to restore your teak furniture to its former glory you could try painting it with garden paint. Formulated to offer protection as well as colour there are many colours available and they will give you a whole new look relatively cheaply. If you have found any rusty bits on barbecues or patio heaters now is the time to deal with it. Minimum preparation is required if you use an anti-rust paint which you can either apply by brush or use a spray can.

Plan. If you need to replace some or all of your furniture now is the time to plan so that it can be ordered bought and in place by the time our summer arrives. With our climate you cannot afford to wait for summer to arrive or you may miss the sunniest days. Remember last year when summer was in spring!

Reward yourself for all your hard work by buying a pot of colourful bulbs or polyanthus. They will provide much needed colour now and can be planted in the garden when they have finished flowering so that they can give pleasure for many years to come.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Saving Money When Raising a Child

Me and MadDad have managed to keep out of any real financial trouble while raising our two boys. I’m not saying it hasn’t been hard at times, but in the long run we’ve always kept a close eye on our finances and never done any spending where spending was not needed.

I’m often asked about how to raise children on a shoestring, but I don’t think it’s that difficult. While having a child is a huge drain on money, it’s been worth every penny as far as we are concerned. You can’t put a price on unconditional love.

My boys are now 6 and 7 years old, but I can remember my slight panic when we were preparing for Maxi. The Guardian reports that the cost of raising a child can be about £200,000, so you can guess that I was a little nervous. MadDad and I sat down and worked everything out, so we wouldn’t be hit by any financial troubles by the time we were parents.

The essentials

If you’re thinking of having a child, my main advice would be to put aside money for the essentials. I’m talking nappies, bottles, sterilising equipment, clothes and some baby-friendly detergent.  

Work out a budget for each of these every month, and stick to it. As baby gets bigger, you will need to expand that budget a little more, so keep tabs on it.

It’s probably not a good idea to cut corners when it comes to sterilising equipment, so don’t take the risk of cheap and nasty products. The same goes for baby-friendly detergent. As far as nappies go, you will find that supermarket own brands do the job just as well as expensive nappy brands. Don’t ever try to save a few pennies with really cheap nappies though, or run the risk of giving your little one a rash.

The bigger things

You’re going to need a pram or buggy, a cot and a car seat for one the little one gets a bit older.
You’d be surprised how often you can find prams and cots in charity shops or for sale second hand online. As long as they’re in good condition, there’s nothing wrong with getting another use out of them. A car seat is the only item that shouldn't be bought second hand unless you can guarantee they've never been in a car accident or accidentally dropped. You can still make savings even on new carseats by looking online at sites like Bambino Direct, who can offer generous discounts that you may not find on the high street.


Poor Mini often ends up with some of Maxi’s hand-me-downs.  I am not going to pass up the opportunity to save some money! I usually help him customise the hand-me-downs with his own appliques and designs, so in the end he prefers them to what I could buy in a store.

If you’re planning more than one child, keep everything from the first time round!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Back to reality meal plan

After a fab, fun filled week in Orlando with Maxi last week, this week will be spent catching up on chores, work and spending all the free time I have as a family.

One of our most favorite things to do as a family is eating together. Our evening meals are a real highlight for me and MadDad.

This week I will be trying to make simple meals which are family favorites   I also have movie night planned too, so it will be eating in the lounge which is a real treat.

Monday - home made pizza and popcorn
Tuesday - slow cooker fajitas
Wednesday  - mince and dumplings with vegetables
Thursday - cheese toasties and soup
Friday - fish and chips
Saturday - chili and salad
Sunday - roast dinner

Now just to go shopping to get the things I need!  I can not complain as I did return home to fresh bread and milk.

Linking up with Mrs M as Always

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Cleaning Football Boots - HELP

Most Sundays my boys play football and this is what their boots come home looking like:

Now I need some advice and help about cleaning said boots.  Normally MadDad and the boys would leave their boots by the back door to dry and then they loose mud is banged off them.

As we tend not to get newspapers, I have encouraged them to take some paper of the Ikea roll and use that to put their boots on, but.........

The boots will often stay there until I clean them.

MadDad will clean them under duress, but his idea of cleaning them is using baby wipes and these are not something I buy anymore as the boys are not in need of them and part of me doesn't want to buy them just to clean football boots.

During the summer and Spring, we would give the boys a bowl of soapy water and a brush and let them lose in the garden cleaning their own, but it was so cold this weekend that even though Maxi was wearing his baselayer set from M & M Direct under his kit, he was actually in tears.  So outdoor cleaning is out and there is no way I am letting them lose in the sink to cover the walls and window with mud splatters (bare in mind they are 6 and 7)!

So people I need your help.  How do you go about cleaning muddy football boots?  I also should say that the boys football boots were gifted to us from M&M Direct and are superb at only £7.99 per pair a saving of £22 each boy.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Have a frugal half term

My most recent post on The Tots100 is all about ways to have a Thrifty half term.

Whilst Maxi and I are having fun in Orlando, MadDad and Mini will be doing some father and son bonding and trying to have fun on a budget.

They have quite a few low and no spend days planned including:

  • A trip to the beach  and woods for tree climbing  den making and fire making and even perhaps cooking some sausages weather permitting.  
  • A trip to the local museum on the day that they have an organised craft activity and a warm picnic.  We have a food flask which we can use for soup, hotdogs or even beans and sausages and it is wonderful to use in the winter months.
  • Taking the car to the garage to be repaired and a trip back on the train, which will be an adventure for them both! 
  • A visit to the farm (FIL is a dairy farmer)
  • Trip to the National Railway Museum in York.
What are your favorite low or no spend trips for the holidays?

Friday, 15 February 2013

Holiday Packing Checklist

Me and Maxi are spending half term in Orlando thanks to Visit Orlando and I still haven't even started packing.  I spent the last hour searching for my packing list and couldn't find it, so decided to type another one out!

I am one of those people that needs to tick everything off the list as I put it in to the bag, so  a list is essential for me.

Also as I have gone to all the trouble to make one I thought I might as well share it with you!

I really should start packing now as we catch the train to Gatwick tomorrow afternoon.  Have a great half term everyone and see you on the other side.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Scrap paper hearts bunting

I don’t know about you, but it seems once Johnnie Boden gets a hold of your address, he sends you a million and one catalogues, STOP Johnnie, you must be single handed responsible for the decimation of the rain forest.  Plus the models are so smug with their little snippets of their lives.  I don’t want to know that Verity loves chocolate cake, especially when she looks about a size 2!  I can not bear to throw them in to the recycling, so we have started to punch them out with our paper punches and use them for craft.

This week, Mini punched some out and Maxi and I sewed them together on the machine.  Maxi had great fun using the sewing machine and I think the time may have come at nearly eight to let him lose on some projects of his own on the machine.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Magpie Monday - Buttermilk bowl

I am joining in with Miss Lizzie and Magpie Monday   I do not usually have much luck in the local charity shop (we live in a village and the shop is really well used and visited) and never seem to find the time to go round the ones in the local towns.  However, today as I was picking up some needle threaders I happened to see this bowl in the window and it really caught my eye.

I loved its shape and the cream buttermilk colour, it curves in all the right places and is perfect to hold my felt balls until I make them into a garland.  In fact MadDad likes the balls in there that he suggested I leave them there, however, the boys thought I should fill it with sweets for them!

Me and My Shadow

Get energy efficient and save money

Energy-efficient appliances don’t just help the environment - they also help the wallet of the householder who fits them.

A recent test by Which? found that the difference in yearly running costs for tumble dryers could vary by almost £100.

When tested for energy consumption based on average use over the course of one year, it was discovered that the most energy efficient dryers cost just £38 per year, while at the other end of the scale it was costing closer to £131, which is a pretty big difference, especially if it applies to all your appliances.

A new, energy-efficient dishwasher found atAppliances Direct might set you back a couple of hundred pounds, but in just two years you will have made that money back and be able to enjoy huge savings on your fuel bills for many years to come.

The tests were performed on every type of tumble dryer, from vented models both gas and electric, those with inbuilt condensers and those with heat pumps. While there were certain makes and models from each category that stood out as being particularly energy efficient it was found that heat pump and gas vented dryers were the cheapest to run overall.

At current prices, gas is far cheaper than electricity, and the heat pumps work by utilising the hot air already produced and pumping it back over the outside of the metal inner drum to keep it heated up.

The savings apply to other appliances as well. A washing machine with an energy rating of A+++ may be pricier than those with a rating of A, but the additional cost of purchase is swallowed up in reduced energy bills in as little as a year or two.

By investing just a little extra cash at the purchasing stage, you could equip your home with appliances which reduce your fuel bills by a significant amount year on year whilst knowing you are also helping the environment.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Beds for children: how to save money and space

Like most products in the home, if you buy smart when it comes to kids’ beds, you can save on both storage and costs. These are essential concerns in the days when toy boxes are overflowing and many families are making do in homes which are smaller or have fewer rooms than ideal. Fortunately, there are plenty of options on the market which don't have to mean comprising on quality or value.

Bed design has evolved over the years but good quality bunk beds for kids are still one of the fail-safe ways of keeping their bedrooms tidy and organised. Perfect for twins or young siblings, bunks free up a fair amount of floor space for other furniture, and contemporary products can come with anything from under-bed drawers to detachable beds, saving pennies later on when your kids become more independent.

Loft beds offer a similar solution for the single bedroom and can combine a bed with a study or play area underneath, making these one of the most economical ideas out there. Similar versions like cabin beds come with built-in drawers which are great if your budget won't stretch to another chest or storage unit.

If you're thinking of buying a camp-bed or sofa-bed for overnight guests, it might be more cost-effective to look at trundle beds, which have a spare single that you can pull out from below the bed frame. Some can also be completely separated from the unit, making them flexible for use around the house.

Most parents are after something which achieves both utility and comfort for the bedroom, but it's still good to consult your child about their preferences to avoid expensive re-fits later on. Take some time to measure the room, think about specific needs and plan the best layout; as the focal point of the room, maximising the space is much easier when the bed is taken care of.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Baking bits and peices

We are avid bakers here.  Both the boys can make a mean Yorkshire pudding batter off by heart and also know the recipe for choc fairy cakes too.  One place I never think of looking for baking supplies is HomeSense, but I have to say I really love some of the current things they have in store.

I especially think the cake stands at £7.99 are great value and the measuring spoon selection at £2.99 would be perfect for using with children.

Plus the cookie cutters and silicone cases would be perfect for using with paydough too.

I have not been paid to share this, I just loved the current stock and received some information about it!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Meal Plan Monday (on Tuesday)

I regularly meal plan and am fond of telling everyone the benefits of it, but usually pop my weekly plan on Frugaliscious food.  However, I though I would pop it on here this week.

Mini cooking last nights Curry! 

Monday - Chicken Curry - from leftover roast chicken and vegetables

Tuesday - Sausages and Bubble and Squeak

Wednesday - Chicken soup with dumplings (with left over chicken from Sunday and stock made from the carcass)

Thursday - Hotdogs (as we have split mealtimes)

Friday - Homemade Fish and Chips

Saturday - Baked egg posts for lunch
                 Home made pizza

Sunday - Mince and Onions, dumplings and veg

I am linking up with Mrs M

Monday, 4 February 2013

Cleaning made Easy - get a routine

January was all about decluttering.  February is all about getting a cleaning routine and making it a habit.  Now I am not saying that this is going to be the same for everyone, it needs to work for you, so that you follow it and it becomes second nature.

This is a lesson I learned from Flylady.  BY creating a routine that I follow, daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly and annually I am always pretty much on top of the cleaning and my house looks presentable most of the time.

To start I am going to make a note of all the jobs I carry out on a daily basis and would like you to do the same and also if they are morning, noon or night jobs.

Then I am going to move on to the weekly or bi-weekly jobs and monthly ones.

You might like to have a book for this.  I prefer a spreadsheet  which I can then print off and pop in a file.  Having this meant that when I was in hospital MadDad continued on doing the jobs that I did, maybe not everyday, but he did everything that was essential to keep the home ticking over.

I love this routine from  So today I want you to have a think about the jobs that you need to do on a daily basis to keep things ticking over

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