Monday, 29 April 2013

Why we are not taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge this year

I was asked this week to see if we could live below the line ie £1 a day per person.  I declined.   Now I want to explain why.


Firstly the boys both have school dinners, which cost me £2 a day.  So £20 a week.  Their school dinners are fantastic.  They are varied, nutritious, well balanced and above all they love them and they eat well at school.  I know how hard the school and local authority work on provided this service and if they can not do it for any less that £2 per meal then that leaves little hope for me.

I know that low income families get free school meals, but I also know that many people do not qualfy and that finding that £10 per child per week is hard work, but know that it provides them with the ONLY hot meal they will get.

I know from experience that I can NOT provide my family with a balanced, healthy and accessible diet on £20 for five days.

I cook from scratch most days.  We eat as many fruit and vegetables as I can afford and I can make a chicken go a long way, but I can not do this challenge without resorting to beans on toast and potatoes. I am lucky in that I do not use jars and can of sauces and feel that this would be the only way I could manage.  We do not eat a lot of meat, in fact I take quality over quantity with meat and will pay £5 for an organic chicken from Aldi over a £2.50 value chicken.  I find that the "happy" meat not only tastes better, but dores further and makes better stock

My boys are encouraged to eat their five a day at school and to also eat a rainbow.  How can this be done on £1 a day?

I have produces a live Below the Line menu plan on Frugaliscious Food for 5 main meals for less than £20 which includes fruit and vegetables and it is nearly impossible.  The meal plan really does not include enough fruit and veg for my two growing boys and this made my decision for me.

I would love to know your thoughts on this.  Are you taking part?  Does this campaign highlight the real issues?


Dumping the tumble dryer and Ecoforce giveaway

We have a tumble dryer, but it broke before christmas and we  couldn't afford to get it repaired, so I have been managing with an old fashioned wooden clothes rail and hanging bedding over the doors to dry,

This last would of weeks however, I have been hanging the washing outside and it has been drying much quicker and with less creases, so I am going to take the plunge and instead of getting the dryer replaced I am going to give it away.


Ecoforce heard me on twitter bemoaning the fact that I was chasing laundry round the garden as my pegs were not working and very kindly sent me some of their Ecoforce pegs to try and they have been fab.



So in conjunction with Ecoforce I have a year's supply of green cleaning and washing up wonder products worth £50 comprising the following:

EcoForce Peg Basket x 1
EcoForce Clothes Line x1
EcoForce Pegs x 2 packs
Several of each of: EcoForce sponges, scourers, cloths, duster and bag grips
Dishmatic
Dishmatic Refills x 2
Dishmatic Steel Scourer (or brush)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 26 April 2013

No Cost Simple Pleasures - Hill rolling

We took advantage of the free weekend at the National Trust and went to Fountains Abbey on Saturday with a picnic.

Is there anything much more fun than children rolling down hills?


My boys had so much fun, but it really upset me to hear a parent tell their child off for doing it as they would get mucky!


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 25 April 2013

How to make holiday memories on a budget


Some of the most vivid memories I have are of holidays I took as a child with my parents.  These holidays memories are tinged orange and brown, which must have been the colour of the trailer tent we had and the inside of the touring caravan we moved on too!  

For my childhood holidays were spent  on campsites such as Richardson's Holiday Parks.  They were filled with communal shower rooms and midnight walks to the toilet block in my wellies in the dark with a torch.  Of communal washing up areas where we carried all the washing up and one washed whilst the other dried.


We had lots of freedom and I even remember being washed in a bucket.  I also remember fantastic meals that my mum cooked on a camping stove and BBQ's.  

Days on the beach and sand in the sandwiches   The dingy in a cold sea with a rope attached to it and ice-creams.    These are my holiday memories and they were achieved on a budget.  

Nowadays holidays are expensive and you can spend lots on extras, but this need not be the case if you plan well. 

My top tips are:
  • Always take picnic equipment with you and flasks.  It is much cheaper to pack food than buy it.
  • A day at the beach costs nothing, but do go prepared with chairs, a windbreak, towels and a UV or beach tent if you have one.
  • So not feel you have to have all the latest equipment.  You are only going to use it a couple of years a week, so why not share with family or borrow it from friends.
  • Be prepared for the British weather and take packamac's everywhere and sun cream too.
  • Save your loyalty card points and exchange them for restaurant vouchers making eating out more affordable.
  • Take lots of pictures.
  • Take advantage of any national membership cards you have such as National Trust or English Heritage   
  • Never buy water.  Take a refillable water bottle.  Most places will provide tap water for free,
  • Find the local parks.  As a child we loved going to a new park and the ones on holiday were always better than the ones at home.
  • Find out about local free attractions such as museums.
  • Can you get a visitor pass or citypass for where you are going?  Many offer reduced entry prices to local attractions and travel.
  • Set a daily budget for extras such as ice creams, entry costs and incidentals
  • Go self catering, this way you can cook as you would at home and not spend any extra
  • Take books, board games and colouring pads for wet days.  By being prepared for the weather you are not forced in to spending more just to get out of the weather.
  • Make walks an adventure by Geocaching
  • Take swimming kit for all the family as you can always find a pool if the weather is terrible
  • Take advantage of farmers markets and roadside stalls to get a taste of the local foods.  Not only does this make shopping more interesting, but it is great fun for the children too.  I remember picking plums as a child.
My family holidays were not expensive, but they did fill me will joy and I have lots and lots of happy memories about spending time with my family.  So my main tip to you would be turn off the electronics and get out and enjoy being a family together.

What are your top tips for having a family holiday on a budget?




Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Making wedding season more affordable


Spring is definitely here and that also means that wedding season will soon be upon us.  Like most people out there I do like to look my best when at a wedding and would love to be able to afford a new outfit for each of the weddings over the year, however, finances just do not allow for this most of the time.

Firstly I make sure that I look at mid season sales for high end clothes.    At the moment there is some fantastic reductions on damsel in a dress, which means I can afford a high end dress at a more affordable cost.



Once I have the dress that I will look at how I can make it look different for the weddings that I will have over the season.  By mixing up the accessories for each of the weddings I attend I can really mix up a look.

It is amazing how adding a different pair of shoes, hat (or fascinator), shawl, cardigan,. jacket, jewelry and handbag you can make an outfit look very different.  

However, I do not have the finances to go out and buy these new, as they will cost a lot more than the dress!  So I am always on the lookout for good quality accessories when I go into charity shops.

I am also not afraid to ask friends if I can borrow something of theirs, in fact when MadDad's brother got married I wore a hat borrowed by a friend and a handbag which I got from a car boot sale.

Often I will not have to buy anything at all, just shop from my existing wardrobe and work creatively.  You can add finishing touches to shoes by adding a bow fixed on to a hair clip to them and even make your own fascinator.

Vintage fairs, car boot sales and eBay are all great places to pick up affordable accessories so you can change your outfit.

How do you dress for weddings?

   



Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Message in a Bottle - A bottle made from sugarcane

As we live by the sea, this is pretty close to our hearts. We make sure that we always recycle our plastics and the boys and I have been known to pick up other peoples rubbish whilst on the beach and put it in a bin.

I love that Ecover are making a stand.  I think that small ripples can make big waves.
Cleaning the seas, one bottle at a time
Cleaning the seas, one bottle at a time. Visit The-Splash for more information and to read our pledge.

BTW, this is NOT a sponsored post.  We use Ecover products and I fully support them.


Monday, 22 April 2013

Magpie Monday - A tea set

We are avid tea drinkers in The Mad House.  In fact I am often called a tea monster.  I love the whole routine you have with tea.  I love making it with leaves and it seems the boys are joining me in my tea drinking habit. We have switched to decaf so they can.

We were walking past the church charity shop in the village and we happened upon the lovely tea set below.  perfect. 2ix tea cups  saucers and tea plates.  It also had a milk jug and sugar bowl.  It cost me £10, which was a little more than I would have paid, but we adore it and the boys egged me on!


Perfect for our little family as they tea cups are not tiny and I adore the pattern

. Me and My Shadow

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Anniversary songs for Will and Kate

Panasonic are looking for light-hearted playlists to celebrate the Royal couple's second wedding anniversary on the 29th April.  Now I am not sure about light hearted, but two years already!  

MadDad and I have been wed for over 18 years and rather oddly we do not have a special song.  So I am not sure I am in any position to do playlists, but I thought I would give it a try.

So Firstly My Life Story and 12 Reasons Why.


I adore this song and always have.  I like to think that Will will have his own reasons why he loves Kate.  But "She leaves the pie and always, always eats her greens" is one that MadDad loves about me!

Today was a fairytale - Taylor Swift

I have to admit that my wedding day was the BEST day of my life and who can resist a little Taylor Swift and this is just perfect.  Magic in the air and fairytales.  Most weddings are just that.

Better together - Jack Johnson




Never a truer song in my opinion and I( hope that Will and Kate feel the same.

Amazed - Lonestar


"It just keeps getting better and I want to spend the rest of my life with you by my side!

The Smiths - The Queen is dead



Perhaps not the obvious Love song choice, but I wonder that maybe life would be much better for them if the monarchy was abolished! 
Do you think yuou can do better?  I think you can, so why not join in as Panasonic UK are running acompetition where if you publish your top 5 Royal Wedding themed songs and tweet them to @PanasonicUKPR with #PanasonicNESeries by midnight on Sunday 21 st April 2013 you stand a chance of winning a Panasonic NE Series. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Get 2 free packs of Huggies Baby Wipes


Quidco are offering you the chance to get two free packs of Huggies Baby Wipes. 

OK, so my boys are way past the baby wipe stage, but this is a great offer.  Too good to be missed really and I am going to use my two free packs of Huggies Baby Wipes to clean the Minimads football boots.






To learn more about how you redeem this exclusive offer, click here.

What is Quidco?

Quidco is the UK's largest cashback website.  It has over 3 million members and more than 3,500 retailers.  Basically it you shop through Quidco it is like being paid to shop.  

Not only is it a cashback site, but you get special offers and discounts via Quidco too, just like the Huggies offer above.

They are also on twitter too @Quidco 



Stationery Magazine - FREE online magazine

I have an admission to make "My name is Jen and I am a stationery addict".  I have a real fetish for stationery and I have since being at school.  People can really make friends and influence me with lovely stationery and a quality cup of tea!

Stationery is a bi-monthly trade magazine all about stationery!  It is free online, whoop de do.  The cover does not show you a hint of what is inside for its pages are filled with lots and lots of stationery goodness.




Soon I will never have to subscribe to a paper magazine again.  I keep finding lots of online freebie magazines.  Do let me know of any you know of in the comments so I can feature them too.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Comparing credit cards - What to look for


Although I am as thrifty as I can be, due to being unwell in the past and MadDad having to take unpaid time off work we do have debts, specifically credit card debts.  Although we have not added to these debts for the last three years we still haven't managed to pay them all off.



Learning to live within our means due to still paying off these outstanding balances is hard and every so often we make sure we compare credit cards to ensure that we have the best type of card for us.

In order to decide what is the best card for you firstly you need to understand what you use a credit card for.  Are you like us and have an outstanding balance on it that you are trying to pay off without adding to it?  Perhaps you want a card that you can use for your purchases on a month to month basis and will always clear the outstanding amount.

Transferring a debt to pay off - Balance transfer cards

For us we look for a long term balance transfer with the smallest interest rate for the longest period.  In addition to this we need to know what the amount is that they will charge us for transferring our debt to them.

Making a purchase and paying it off over a set period - Borrow money for free

You can get credit cards that offer a set interest free term, these are great if you are going to pay off the whole amount before the end of the term, but can have high interest rates after this period.

Pay your balance in full each month - Reward cards

These cards are perfect for people who can pay off a balance each month and reward you for using your card often with rewards, which are often points.  I know people who have used the points from their reward credit card to pay for their cross channel ferry, which meant that it was three times cheaper.

A credit card to use abroad - Frequent traveller

Many people never use a credit card, but would like one to use on foreign holidays or trips.  If this is the case it pays to look out for one that doesn't charge you for overseas use.  

What to do if you are already in debt and need help.  

If you are reading this and looking at adding to debt that you already have and can not afford to pay back, then stop now.  Do not look at getting an additional card.  There are organisations that offer free debt counselling, including Citizens Advice Bureau,  Consumer Credit Counselling Service, now called Step Change Debt Charity   and National Debtline (www.nationaldebtline.co.uk).






Wednesday, 17 April 2013

What Playtime Has Taught Me


When our 4-month-old flat-screen and HD television came to a rather abrupt and unexpected end under a deluge of (quite artistically plastered I have to say) E45 cream, it was a blow, but I managed to pull through. (There is now always - praise the Lord - the iPlayer and I keep the laptop tucked away in Drawer 3 under a pile of old t-shirts in our bedroom where it sleeps snugly and safely, away from those prying little, cream-smearing fingers).

When our pine kitchen table underwent the kind of metamorphosis you only see in science fiction flicks and turned into one of the giant yellow and purple rectangular toadstools from Alice in Wonderland, that put off dough rolling for a while, but in the end I found another solution. (I bought another, less antique and more plastic kitchen table. I know, I know. Hey, I am nothing if not practical. Not sure Kirsty would go for it, mind).



When the red Givenchy dress my husband gave me for our 10th wedding anniversary was transformed into a rather more avant-garde style piece of clothing that Jean Paul Gaultier might conjure up on one of his wilder days, a shudder of pure panic and deep despair did ripple through me for a moment - I cannot lie - but I managed to find another similar dress (from Mango, natch) that I have so far managed to cunningly disguise as the original, tucked away as it is in the wardrobe for special occasions.

When the Arts and Crafts curtains that I inherited from my Grandmother and which hung in the living room, were trimmed into more of a thinly threaded frame allowing people to see directly into our house like some sort of live museum space exhibiting dysfunctional homosapiens, I bit the bullet and went to see the Swedish House Mafia (or as it is perhaps better advertised: Ikea).

I did used to wonder how I now take these things in my stride when, in the past, I would have run shrieking from the house, sending coffee cups flying, holding my hair in clumps and giving the cat a coronary in the process. (The cat and I now have a mutual and profound understanding/laissez-faire attitude to the house).

But this new serenity is not just down to the valium (joke!) it is because, now, I pretty much value playtime over anything else.

I have learned so much. I have.

The value of free expression for one. Yes, maybe there have been a few sacrificial lambs in the shape of previously beloved items of furniture, but that’s part of the process, so you’d better get used to it. That vintage orange lampshade from the nice flea market in le Marais, Paris? Furgeddaboudit.

Of course, should I want to spare the sacrificial lambs their strangely kaleidoscopic fates, you can let your kids play merry havoc at somewhere like Camp Beaumont’s playtime instead, putting a nice slice of distance between them and the living room’s Persian rug.

One of the other things I have learned is that is also important to let the kids have some time by themselves too. I mean, whose heart can not be filled with joy when the little sunbeams say in the sweetest little voice, ‘Mummy go away. Go away Mummy’?

No, of course I am joking again but that said, giving them a bit of a free reign during playtime is definitely good for them. Just maybe tie those curtains up for a while.

Other things I have learned during playtime include this: kids can spot a cheat, or in my case, a guilt-ridden, hesitating and procrastinating cheat, a mile off. So don’t even think about it. They will realise the thought has crept into your mind like a shadow in the night before the thought has even had time to make itself known to you. They are that good.

I have also learned that what you previously thought was an inanimate object suitable only for storing old tv listings magazines and pamphlets, is actually better used as a space ship, as unlikely as it looks, sitting there, tucked behind the wood for the fire (actually, that’s not wood for the fire, they are violent and stern-looking alien beings who are interested in invading Earth).

The most important thing I have learned through playtime is that sometimes, you’ve just to let go - both in terms of your material possessions*, but also your hold on the activity.

*(Just not the china though. Not the china. That’s not an option. Step away from the china.)





Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Free Weekend at the National Trust - 20 and 21 April


We love The National Trust, I am just  sad that our annual pass has run out, however, they are offering free admission 20 and 21 April to over 200 places nationwide. 



Simply download your free visit voucher and pop along to your favourite Trust place to enjoy the best of spring. 

Why not take a look at what’s on and start planning your free visit.

Make sure you pack a picnic and flask to make it an even more affordable weekend.

It’s spring – Refresh your bedroom with these design ideas


With winter gradually retreating into the rear view mirror (not that you’d be able to tell by the recent bout of cold weather) and spring beginning to emerge, many people’s thoughts turn towards revamping the home.

The prospect of a new year encouraging a fresh start, along with the mid season sales making it more affordable, make it one of the most popular periods to freshen up surroundings. Why not start your home makeover with the room where you wake up every morning? Here are some suggestions for the best ways to give your bedroom a new look.


My new bedroom shelf that we put up at easter 


Choosing your style

The main question to ask is what kind of style you want for your bedroom. Perhaps choose a timeless, traditional country bedroom, where old-style wood furniture and natural colour schemes are emphasised along with plenty of layered, embroidered bed linen and vintage-looking cushions. Various pieces of handicrafts and ornaments also contribute to the ‘lived-in’ feel. This aesthetic works particularly well in a room with lots of natural sunlight; nothing beats a Sunday lie-in nestled within your own little slice of the idyllic countryside.

Alternative looks

For those with more cutting-edge tastes, there are plenty of alternative looks to suit your room. Focus on vibrant, strong shades to provide intensity, and look for furniture with smooth lines and modern construction materials. In contrast to the homely country house look, you should aim to create as little clutter as possible; minimal design is the order of the day, with sliding-door wardrobes and under-bed storage highly recommended.

Finding the balance

For the more adventurous, there’s always a possibility of mixing modern with traditional – which can be a difficult task but one that makes a room feel uniquely yours, if done right. It’s all about finding the balance between complementary items, while still providing enough contrast to be striking. The range of bedroom furniture at K&Co offers a variety of modern and classic designs for those who want to try to mix it up – a useful aid for creating your new look.







Explaining the horror to children

This morning, MadDad and I sat down and told both the boys, who are eight and nearly seven of the horror that happened at the Boston Marathon last night.  MadDad had deliberately decided to go in late to work, so that we could tell the boys ourselves.


We didn't want them to find out about it at school or worse still on the news.

We kept it very concise and told them the bare bones. We told them that there had been two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and also a fire at the library in Boston and that at least three people had died including one child and that over a 100 people were injured and that possibly other people would die too.

When they asked why it had happened we had to tell them that we didn't know.  That sometimes people do not have all the answers.

Mini quietly replied "there are bad people in the world".

Out of the mouth of babes, yes there are bad people in the world.

How do you explain something of this magnitude to children?


Thursday, 11 April 2013

What Are The Advantages Of Having An American Fridge Freezer If You Have A Family?


Families have big demands when it comes to eating, which means big demands for food storage. An American fridge-freezer has plenty of benefits, but what are its best assets when it comes to family use?

1.   Big

One of the main advantages of American fridge-freezers is that they are big. This means that they are great if you have a large family and need to store lots of food, but also means that you can take advantage of any supermarket deals and offers that are available, thus saving you money in the long run. It also means that you’ll be creating less rubbish as you won’t have to constantly throw things out to make more room.

2.   Safety

As one of the alternatives to an American fridge-freezer is the chest freezer, it could be argued that the American model is safer if you have small children. It can be easy for children to hurt themselves with a chest freezer if they are reaching down into the bottom to get something out, especially with them having to hold the heavy lid up at the same time. With an American fridge-freezer, this isn’t an issue as the doors are on hinges and will stay open until they are shut, ensuring that your children remain safe.

3.   Ice Machine

Having an ice machine on your fridge-freezer can be a great advantage. It is seen as something fun by children and can therefore encourage them to drink more water in order to make use of the ice maker. This is great if your children do not drink much; it ensures that they remain hydrated and have fun while they’re at it.

4.   Energy Efficient

Most of the American fridge-freezers that you can buy today are very energy efficient. This means that you won’t be causing any damage to the planet and therefore will be showing your children the importance of looking after the world.

It’s clear then, that American fridge freezers have plenty of benefits for you and your family and this is by no means all of them. They’re great for storage, safety, fun and the planet and also look great in any big family kitchen so why not give them a try?


Student Finance Tips- Money Management


It is a long long time since I was a student  however, I think that good financial housekeeping is often learned and ingrained during those student years so I have asked a fellow blogger who is a Student to give me a hand and she is going to do a regular monthly Student Finance Tips post.

So let me hand you over:  

Hello! I am Siân, AKA HelpfulMum. I am a full-time mature student and hope to give you some money-saving advice and tips for managing your money as a student. I think I should concentrate mainly on money management first.



I think I should concentrate mainly on money management first.

You will be paid in three instalments of your student loan. One in October, one in January and one in April. The instalments in January and April will be the biggest (it was in my experience anyway). The only exception to this is the final year, when the April payment will be lower.

What I have found works best for me is to have two separate accounts, one where the loan goes into, kind of like a holding account, and one which I put a monthly amount into. This really helps to budget each month. It means that you know exactly how much you have to spend each month. It also means that you don't spend your entire loan straight off, you have a reserve of money to see you through until the next instalment.

Get a good bank account. Look around, do your research. Check out the comparison sites and make sure you get a bank account with a good overdraft. The majority of student overdrafts are interest free and some increase with each year of your degree. They are usually interest free up to around £1,700. Don't forget that you will have to pay interest on it once you graduate. Then I recommend getting a pre-paid debit card and you can put your monthly allowance on to that.

Once you have your account set up, use your holding account to top up your pre-paid debit card. That way you now have a set budget for the next month. Effectively, you are basically paying yourself a salary every month. I have found it really useful to manage my money like this because I know what is there every month and I am less likely to spend all of my loan straight away. Obviously this doesn't work for everyone, but I would imagine that it will also help with budgeting once you graduate and hopefully find full-time work.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The tongue of concentration



They both have "the tongue of concentration".  

Does your child?

Are you looking for guaranteed car finance

What do you do when the time has come to look at changing the family car?  Over on The Mad House, I have discussed what I look for in a family car and how I have been lusting after a Honda.  In the past when we have purchased a new car we have opted for the finance provided by the car company and you can also get guaranteed car finance from Honda UK.

I am lucky in the fact that MadDad works in finance and understand the difference financing options, but it can be a minefield when you are looking to finance a new car.




There are lots of things to consider.  Do you want to own the car at the end of the finance deal?  Do you want your Honda to have a guaranteed future value and many many more.


So I sat down with MadDad and we looked at the options available and here is my Thrifty Mum explanations. 


Do you want your car to have a guaranteed future value, so you can either buy it outright at the end of a finance period, trade it in or hand it back with no extra costs?  If this is you then you would need to look in to Honda Aspirations.  Often with deals like this you have lower monthly repayments over a shorter period than traditional financing.


Do you want to own the car outright at the end of the financing   Id so, then it is Hire Purchase that you need to look into.  The costs are worked out by the amount you can put down as a deposit and the repayment period.  Monthly costs are then fixed in place. 


Do you just want a car to drive around in and not worry about anything else?  Then Contract Hire could be for you.  With this you pay a deposit and a fixed monthly fee dependant on the car and your milage.  You can even opt to pay for your maintenance on a monthly basis too so there are no surprises   At the end of a fixed period you just hand the car back and pay any excess due to mileage differences.


The thing to look at whenever you are going in to financing is to check the interest rates and make sure you ask if there is something you are unsure about.  Also always ensure that you can cover the cost of any finances in your family budget.


Monday, 8 April 2013

A guide to making a girl's dress

In the past few years sewing has come back into fashion and now making your own clothes is seen as a trendy way to show off original style. Making clothes for yourself and your kids is also a great way to save money, as you can buy patterns and fabrics for a fraction of the cost of a shop-bought item.

Girls dresses are one of the simplest things to make and a great starter before you start creating your own wardrobe. By making clothes for your daughter you will be making a substantial saving, which can then be used to splurge on one-off special items, which are perfect for spoiling your little one on her birthday or for a special occasion. Designer clothing for little princesses can easily be bought online, so even if you don’t live in a city with access to designer stores, you can shop for your favourite designers from your home! Before you splurge, make some savings by creating a wardrobe of dresses for your daughter.

Can I start with something simple?

Yes! If you are new to sewing, or haven’t used a sewing machine for a while, you can always start with a simple girl’s dress before you progress to something more advanced. It is even possible to make a cute garment with the most basic of home-made patterns. Download a simple two-piece pattern from the internet and find a fun printed fabric. Two pieces cut from the fabric will provide the front and back of the dress, with lengths of ribbon acting as straps. If you have never sewed before you can practice your stitch by sewing the ribbon to the fabric, and use tailor’s tape rather than thread for the hem. Simple!

Where can I find more advanced patterns?

After you have progressed from something easy, you can move on to more advanced patterns and styles. Most haberdashery shops stock patterns for dresses in a range of sizes and ages. Alternatively, you can find a huge variety of patterns on the internet, at sites such as simplicity.com and gotopatterns.com. Some websites provide downloadable patterns for free, whilst others charge a small sum. If you are stuck and are looking for step-by-step guidance, use Youtube.com to search for video tutorials which act as a great guide.

Where’s the best place for fabric?



Haberdasheries will always stock a huge variety of fabrics and often have catalogues, allowing you to order in something you like which is not in store. However, if you are looking to save money there are more cost-effective alternatives. Charity shops often sell fabric off-cuts, or you could purchase a large second hand item of clothing in a pretty fabric and use this to create a dress for your daughter. Second hand as well as new fabric can also be bought cheaply on sites like ebay.

So, what are you waiting for? Start creating original pieces for your daughter and use your savings to treat her to a designer piece for a special occasion!


Saturday, 6 April 2013

Clothing on a budget

While shopping is fun, getting a great deal can be even more exhilarating and rewarding. Fortunately, with today’s wide variety of retailers and designers, it’s more than possible to buy stylish, quality clothing for everyone in the family – even if you’re on a shoestring budget.

When you carefully budget your money, plan ahead and shop wisely, it’s easy to pick up pieces without feeling guilty about spending.

Shop Around

Before heading to the mall, write out what you plan to buy. That way, you’ll be less tempted to over spend. When making big purchases, such as a new house, you have to shop around and take your time. Unless it’s a great deal, chances are you will not act on it immediately. The same goes for clothing. Scour different stores and websites until you find the item you want at the price that fits your price range. Don’t forget about newer stores. While there are plenty of established stores, there are several new ones on the rise that can be just as great.

Invest in classics



Sometimes it’s best to splurge on a piece. When you buy wardrobe staples, like black trousers, a great fitting pair of jeans and a blazer, it’s you can spend a little more money. These are items that tend to be of better quality, fit well and will last you a long time. Again, because of the variety of designers it is easy to find great value denim jackets, dresses and other wardrobe classics. So while it’s not necessary to spend a fortune on these timeless pieces, know that it is permissible to spend more as long as you will get great use out of them over time.

Know sales schedules

All stores have sales. If you have a favorite store, figure out its sales pattern and wait to purchase something when it is discounted. You’ll save a ton of money and feel better about your purchase. The best time to buy clothes is during the off season when they are significantly marked down. For example, spring is great for purchasing winter clothes and coats. Early fall is the best time to buy spring and summer pieces, especially shoes.

Look at the bigger picture

Instead of just buying one article of clothing because you like it, consider how it can be made into an entire outfit. Before you buy anything, think of other pieces you already own or that you intend to purchase and if it will pair well with them. Do you have pants or a blazer that would go well with that blouse? If not, maybe it’s not the best piece to buy at the moment, as it may sit in your closet untouched because you cannot incorporate it into an outfit.


Friday, 5 April 2013

Asbestos in schools

Did you know that life-threatening asbestos is more prevalent in the UK than anywhere else in the world.?  

This was news to me and I can imagine will be of interest to any parent out there.    Why not take a look at the infographic below.  If you want to see it in a larger format then visit Spencers Solicitors website, they produced this in In support of International Asbestos Awareness Week (1-7 April).


Asbestos in Schools

Infographic by Spencers Solicitors


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Gatherings - FREE online magazine

Before long you will be able to cancel all your paid for magazine subscriptions as more and more free online quality magazines, ezines and ipad compatible magazines are coming available.


Gatherings Magazine is a seasonal online publication to inspire your creative life! Each issue spotlights articles on crafts, food, interiors, vintage collecting, and style with the intent to foster creativity and delight the senses. Not only a visual treat, but Gatherings collects real-life stories from seasoned professionals pursing creative careers as impetus for your own dreams.



Such a feast for the eyes and even better you can download it on to your ipad!


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Frugally entertaining children in the car

I don't know about you, but both my boys can get board on journeys in the car and there are times that I curse the fact I taught them how to play i spy!  

So instead of verbal eye spy, I created a sheet that I printed off and laminated and then give them whiteboard pens to mark off the items.  The competition is to see who can fill in parts first.  

If you click on the image below, you can enlarge it to print off yourself.


Some of our other favorite in-car or travelling games are:
  • I don’t spy (just like I spy, but the opposite) 
  • Who am I? Where you have to guess what job the person does without them using the title. ie I help people, I work in a hospital (Doctor)
  • Count the cars, ie find 48 white cars
  • I spy using a colour
  • I went to the shops and I bought…..

This is an entry in to the Tots100 Jolly Journeys competition in conjunction with Travel Supermarket.  Take a look at their UK car hire, as this is where they will be displaying some of the best tips they receive.


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