Sunday, 30 June 2013

Summer Accessories

I have been busy thinking about sandals for the boys and being the shoe lover I am, I refuse to be left out.  So have been browsing the Lotus Shoes Website looking at the Lotus Sandals. I can no longer get away with high heels and have turned in to a comfort lover in the shoe stakes, but that doesnt mean that I can not look stylish too.  I find that a wedge heel makes for both a great looking sandal, but also means that I can wear it most of the day without my feet getting sore.  
Sandal Wish List

I also have to say that I love matching sandals with handbags, so had great fun searching for ones to match the sandals I liked best.  

I still wear sandals that I bought over 18 years ago and for me the secret is looking after my shoes.  I make sure they are cleaned, resoled and healed as required and regularly polished.  I also put them away with newspaper inside over the winter.


Saturday, 29 June 2013

The best shoes for Children for Summer

Soon school will be out for summer and I am currently busy looking for shoes that will see the boys thought out summer and fulfill all their needs.

Any shoes I buy for the boys need to see them through the whole summer and be able to survive their various activities, which include football, scooting, cycling, climbing trees, going to the beach, visits to the moors, becks and be conformable.

I know that this might be the holy grail of shoes, but it doesn't stop me looking.  I have to say my current favorite are Keen Footwear from the Jellyegg Website.

These are my current favorites, the KEEN Kids Newport H2 Carnelian sandal.  I love the fact they are a sandal.  The boys wear leather school shoes all year and I think that it is nice to give your feet some time to breath.  However, normally sandal are not the practical option as they do not protect their toes and are pants for football.  But KEEN have KEEN Patented Toe Protection where the shoe outsoles wrap up and over the toes for ultimate protection.

Also Keen Sandals are washable and perfect for wearing both in and out of the water.  They have leather uppers that will not crack, shrink or stretch when washed. Their sandals are machine washable, using a small amount of detergent on a gentle cycle and air dry.

What do your children wear over the summer?




Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Families and banks

If there are two things that require a lot of time, energy and attention, it's families and finances. Money is a very confusing matter at times, whilst raising a family presents its own challenges and time-consuming tasks.

So, when you have a family to look after and the other associated aspects of children, what do you need to keep in mind? Here are a few things to consider when supporting a family and balancing a bank account.

Accounts

Of course, you're going to want an account that lets you save money. There is quite a wide choice and you can get a close look at savings accounts at Money Vista. For an active parent an instant access account may prove more beneficial, for instance, since you never know when you might need to make a withdrawal.

These accounts can also be useful for children when they start getting money. Instant access can prove useful again but a simple savings account can ensure they start to collect interest and money over the years. Banking and financing are important life skills so teaching children the importance and benefits of saving from an early age can prove useful and beneficial in the future.

Accessibility

Likewise, how accessible is your bank? If you prefer to visit the branch personally, geographical location is always going to hold more importance. This is arguably even more important when you have children and a family to look after.

On the other hand, modern technology means this may not be a problem. Both telephone banking and online banking are common practices that allow you to do most things from the comfort of your own home. This is great when time is short or you simply don't want to leave the house for a small, trivial matter. For actual cash withdrawals, you can visit your closest ATM, meaning you might not ever need to visit the bank unless it's for a specified meeting.

In short, this is just a quick look at some of the areas surrounding your choice of bank or account. Other areas can also include budgeting and managing savings but this should hopefully show you how to assess the wide range of choice open to any banking customer.




Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Bedtime Routines

I have blogged about the fact that we had had bumpy times in the past with bedtimes with Mini.  Thankfully we have had help and our bedtimes are a much happier time.


Fairy non-bio has just released some research which I found really interesting.  After speaking with 1,000 mums with children aged 0-7, they  found the following:

          Even as dads get more involved in parenting, bedtime is still mums domain, with 51% of mums in charge of bedtime each night compared to just 15% of dads
          Working mums prioritise bed time, although 61% said that bedtime happens later once they returned to work and 16% are skipping bath time to fit it all in
          8 of 10 mums read to their children nightly – 4 out of 10 (37%) of children prefer new stories, with 2 out of 10 (22%) opting for the same stories that were read to their mums and dads.
          A lucky 35% of mums say their child tends to settle down quickly and easily most nights, while another 43 % say this is the case 3-4 nights of the week.
          Although, as you might guess, bedtime isn’t bliss for everyone and 1 out of 10 admitted their bedtime routine is a cause of stress and tension in the evenings.


For us the secret to a calmer bedtime has been about setting and sticking to routines.  However, I think that there is something in the fact that all children are different.  Maxi goes to sleep and bed easily.  As soon as his head hits the pillow he is out for the count, but Mini is a different story.  He struggles to settle his mind. 

So how did we get out of the 1 in 10 people whose bedtime routine was a cause of stress and tension?
  1. Gratitude journal.  Each night before bed we right down three things we have  been grateful for that day.  It is always good to end the day on a positive note.
  2. We have strict rules and consequences for if they are not stuck to.
  3. We let Mini read.
  4. We also have calming music on in his room which really helps him.
  5. We are consistent.
  6. We are a team.  We take turns in dealing with issues, but act consistently and off the same song sheet.
  7. We reward and praise the behaviour we want to see.


To encourage parents to read to their children Fairy has renewed the partnership with Timmy Time, which includes an on-pack promotion offering a free book with every purchase of Fairy Non Bio or Fabric Softner

For more information on Fairy visit www.softeningyourworld.com or for more information on Fairy’s link up with Timmy Time please visit www.timmytime.tv/fairy

Monday, 24 June 2013

Magpie Monday - Mirror, Mirror on the wall

Mirror, mirror, please don't fall.



I live in a modern house, you know the type - walls made out of cardboard where you panic when you hang anything heavier than a postcard!

However, I fell in love with this mirror in the charity shop, especially when I saw that it was only £10, but I didn't know if I could hang it on my walls.

Well MadDad  and I located a wooden beam upstairs on the landing and we decided to take the chance.

I am so glad we did.  A week later and it is still hanging in my little house made out of ticky tacky.



Friday, 14 June 2013

FREE wine

Yes, free wine.  Have I got your attention now?  Interested?  Then read on.

Tesco are introducing a new way to buy wine Tesco Wine Co-Buys.  Putting it very simply the more people buy the cheaper it becomes.  But even better the person that introduces the most other people to a co-buy gets their wine for free!

Want to know more, well this short video explains it really well.



MadDad has a real eye for a nice red wine.  He doesn't have many vices, but does love the occasional red. So this is something that really appealed to him.



The key points are:

  • The more people that join in the co-buy the cheaper the price will be
  • Co-buys only last for a limited period, so make sure that you sign up for alerts and share the information.
  • The person that introduces the most buyers has the chance to get their wine for free
  • Can not see the right wine for you, then suggest one for Tesco to source 
  • There is a £1 refundable joining fee to confirm your age

Everyone loves a bargain and in this cash strapped time affordable luxuries are often what gets people from one week to the next.  There really is nothing to lose as you get your £1 joining fee back off your first purchase.  As Tesco say, every little helps!

Disclosure: I am a Tesco Wine Brands ambassador

Thursday, 13 June 2013

10 tips to make the most of Mid Season Sales

In theory Summer is upon us, however, in practice I am no longer sure that there is such a thing in the UK any more!


One of the ways that I ensure that my money goes as far as it can is to always buy the boys clothes in the sales, often the year previously.

So how do you make the most of the mid season sales which are soon upon us:

If you have a favorite brand, then make sure you know when their clothes sale starts.  Often it pays to sign up to newsletters for favorite stores (using a separate email address to your regular one) so that you can find out this information or I have even been known to email the company! 

Do a clothes audit for everyone.  I make sure that I regularly clear out the boys wardrobes so I am aware of what they need.  I also have a list of clothes in the next size that I fill in whenever I buy something that size.

Know your sizing - Do the clothes run true to size or small.  Check out the online reviews to make sure you get the correct size you are looking for.

Always shop with a list - I know what I need to buy in what size and I stick to it.

Set a budget - Do not be tempted to overspend, I set aside a small amount each month so I can buy the boys clothes in the sale.

Set your Alarm - I never go shopping with the boys present, I tend to do their shopping online  so I make sure I am online when the sale starts.

Know the returns policy - It pays to make sure you have free returns if something doesn't fit.

Have a trial run.  I let the boys have a look at the website to get an idea of what clothes they would like.  That way I give them the chance to get involved.

I make sure that I wait untill the end of season sales before stocking up on swimwear, UV suits etc for the boys for next year.  I know that Mini had swimming lessons this year, so I purchased an extra set.

Buy online, collect in store.  Save on delivery costs and also this way you can check out the products and return any that are not suitable immediately with no return costs.




Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Top 5 Car Maintenance Mistakes

Top tips on looking out for your automobile’s health

Our cars are, for many people in the UK, one of the most expensive – and prized – possessions available to own. Not only do they require a lot of money to be purchased in the first place, they also require attention and presence of mind afterwards.

Whilst car maintenance is not half the struggle it used to be – when oiling, lubing and tuning up was an almost constant cycle of events to keep your motor on the road – it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have half an eye on the health of your car.

There is no doubt that you can get by with fewer trips to the garage – but there remain a few key helpers which can ensure your car doesn’t wear down or burn out too soon. If you have specific concerns – or activities – which you undertake with your car, you might be interested in taking out a tailored insurance policy, such as the policies offered by Allianz Your Cover (www.yourcoverinsurance.co.uk)  – this allows you to add specific clauses of extra cover for items such as valuables, foreign travel or a roofbox or trailer.

But on to maintenance. The majority of problems arising from today’s high-performance cars stem from a lack of attention paid to the guidelines and tips in the manual. It is there for a reason. A close read of most manuals will let you know when you should check essentials like oil and wipers – and you’ll feel ridiculous when your mechanic points all this out to you after a costly trip to the garage.

1.       Overlooking tire pressure and brake pads
An obvious one to start with – many of us neglect to keep half an eye on the tire pressure of our vehicles, meaning that by the time it comes for a service, we have to fork out for fresh tires as ours are overused. Follow your manual for advice on when and how to check them: the same goes for your brake pads.

2.       Not checking oil
This is the classic- with today’s low-maintenance cars, too many of us are happily driving along and only doing something once the warning lights come up. Different vehicle manufacturers recommend different optimum times to change your oil – some as frequent as every 10,000 miles – so make sure you find out from the manual and note it down somewhere prominent.

3.       Not changing fuel and oil filters
Blocked filters are one of the main causes of the engine light coming on – and if not seen too, can lead to further problems such as the engine misfiring or catalytic converter failing.

4.       Unnecessary tune-up
Like we said, given the triumph of modern technology in today’s cars, many of us are carrying anachronisms from yesteryear into our contemporary maintenance routines. ‘Tune-ups’, once a regular fixture for old models, are now a thing of the past – but just save all your changes (spark plugs etc.) for your 60,000 mile service.

5.       Not checking gas-cap

Easy to overlook and therefore a real source of headaches if not looked after properly. Many of us pay little or no attention to the gas or petrol gap in our cars. But leaving it loose can cause fuel leakage – or simply annoyance, as it regularly sets the check engine light on. To avoid embarrassment at the garage – check it now!


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Scrap Art Book Marks - perfect for Fathers Day

This is a super way of recycling and making purposeful bits of art that the children have done.  For ours I used our Mable Paintings.
Materials
Card
Scissors or paper cutter
Artwork
Paper
Glue 
Laminator or clear sticky backed plastic (also known as contact paper)


Method

Cut and matt the scrap artwork and your choice or card, making sure that the artwork is slightly smaller than the card backing and glue on.

We made a back for the bookmark out of paper, which read Happy Father’s Day and then mini decorated it and stuck it on to the rear of the bookmark.

I then laminated them, I got four into one pouch leaving space for the sheet to adhere between the bookmarks.  If you don't have a laminator, then you can use clear sticky backed plastic or contact paper. 

I then used my guillotine to cut them up to individual double sided bookmarks.

Saving money and helping charities with voucher codes

I'm always looking for new ways to keep expenses to an absolute minimum, so when there's an opportunity to save cash on my shopping I'll jump at it.

Since online shopping has become more popular, voucher codes have been popping up all over the place, helping consumers save anything from a couple of quid on their groceries to hundreds of pounds on their summer holiday.

Using coupons was once looked down upon, but with internet shopping offering more in the way of anonymity, they have soared in popularity again.

All the voucher codes and offers on My Favourite Voucher Codes are free to use. They earn money by taking a small commission of every transaction made through the website, paid by the retailers, not the customer.



Gift to charity by saving money
My Favourite Voucher Codes is a relatively new website as it's only been going for just over a year, but it already stands out from the crowd. One of the unique things about this particular site is that  20p from every £1 profit is donated to charity.

The more purchases you make through the website, the more money can be donated to charity as 20% of net profits is gifted to a variety of charities. Consumers can choose where the donations go by voting in the poll on the website homepage. 

Don't miss out – download the app
One of the most annoying things about relying on these discount vouchers to save cash is that you have to hunt around before doing your shopping. Well, My Favourite Voucher Codes have helped solve that problem by develop a voucher code app for your internet browser.

Whenever you visit a website you'll receive a notification if there's a code available. It means that you'll save time searching for suitable codes and you'll save more money because you won't miss any of the deals.

Top deal of the week
Just before I sign off, I wanted to let you know about one of the best deals on the website this week, so you can get a head start on your saving. If you're a fan of Waitrose, you'll be pleased to hear that you can save up to £75 on your online grocery shopping with Waitrose voucher codes.

This is just one of the many shopping vouchers listed on My Favourite Voucher Codes right now, so visit the website, download the app and don't forget to vote in the charity poll.



Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Summer Financial Manifesto 2013

Aha, before I share my summer financial manifesto, I need to let you know how I managed with the Spring goals and aims.....................

  • Declutter in the hope of doing a couple of car boot sales once they start again after Easter - The weather has been terrible, so I am doing the boot sale in the summer!
  • Look for a part time job whilst the boys are in school - I keep looking, it seems to be the Holy Grail! 
  • Check out car insurances as out policies are due for renewal - We did this and remained with our current provider as they were the lest expensive. 
  • Hold a budget friendly birthday party for Maxi who turns eight - We did manage this. 
  • Make not buy cards.  In addition to Maxi's birthday we have mothers day and our wedding anniversary in March.  I have lots of craft things, so me and the boys are going to have a card making session - We have not bought a card all spring.  Will be making fathers day cards too 
  • Arrange to have the boiler serviced - failed with this, so will arrange over the summer 
  • Have a spend free April - only buy what is essential. - Again this didn't happen 



I need to keep spending down to a minimum over the summer as we are going on a family holiday in the Autumn with my brother and family.

  • Take a picnic and flask on all days out 
  • Find out about free activities over the summer
  • Allocate a budget to summer days out
  • Get together a summer bag for the car with kite, swimming things, ball etc in for adhoc days out
  • Make our own ice creams and lollies, we will escape the lure of the ice cream van
  • Do a car boot sale
  • Declutter the garage and sell what I can
  • book a boiler service
  • Make the most of the food we grow in the garden and remember to keep sowing more salad leaves throughout the summer
I would love to know your financial goals for the next three months. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The old sits comfortably with the new in Egypt

It's an eye opener, a different kind of country in terms of culture and history. Little wonder millions of people from all around the world visit Egypt every year, drawn to its glorious 6,000 years of civilisation. From the modern, bustling, fast-paced capital city Cairo to the sombre, reflective, ancient atmosphere of the Valley of the Kings, Egypt simply fascinates. The old sits comfortably with the new. It's simply the way it is.

But don't be fooled for a minute. Egypt's eye on the past is firmly rooted in today's world. Its slick presentation of past glories converts easily into hard cash, adding much-needed foreign currency vital to the well-being of its hard-pressed economy. With all the pessimism surrounding the January 2011 revolution and its well-documented aftermath, tourism continues to be the beacon of light that it's always been.

But it's not only tourists who visit Egypt. Many visitors from the UK, the USA and other countries in the West actually work there although, truth be told, it's not easy landing a job given the country's stubbornly-high unemployment rate. Teaching is a popular choice amongst expatriates, especially the teaching of English. There is a huge appetite for the language. Everyone in the business world speaks English or wants to learn it which in turn means lots of opportunities both in terms of private language schools and for freelance work.

Many English teachers have little more than an accredited TESOL certificate behind them – an  acronym for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. However, many also possess an uncanny ability to network and to end up talking to the right people who can help them secure that  first teaching job. It all helps! So does good banking. True, you'll never become rich by being a teacher. However, you'll still need a decent current account in Egypt for the salary if nothing else. Luckily, the country is not short of a bank or two with major multinationals such as HSBC, Barclays, Citibank and others competing in a fairly crowded retail banking space.

So with the job sorted, not to mention the bank account, you're all set to enjoy the multitude of sights and sounds which come with this fabulous culture. Probably you'll quickly notice how friendly the Egyptian people are towards strangers in their midst. Hospitality is legendary in this land of some 85 million people.

No doubt you'll also become quickly aware that this land of the pharaoh, pyramid, River Nile and all manner of ancient monuments is not in a continual state of unrest, as has been portrayed many times in the international media. The vast majority of the population simply want what we all want, a good job and to enjoy a reasonable standard of living so they don't have to struggle in order to bring up their families. That's what preoccupies their lives.

The negativity was recently highlighted by Egypt's Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou while speaking at a press conference organized by the Arab Organization for Tourism in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

According to the Egypt Independent website, Mr Zaazou predicted tourism figures rising 17% over 2013 to 13 million visitors, a million short of 2010's pre-revolutionary numbers. The number of Saudi tourists also rose, from 128,000 in 2011 to 241,000 in 2012, a figure he expected to see continue to increase.

Hitting out at the negative media coverage, Mr Zaazou said, “Reducing Egypt to events occurring in a one-square kilometre area in down-town Cairo simplifies the reality in the country. Protests and demonstrations are an internal affair. Arab tourists in general, and Saudis in particular, are always welcome.”





Monday, 3 June 2013

Entertaining the whole family on holiday in Mexico


Mexico is a truly remarkable country with so many great things to see and do. There are a number of really exciting cities to explore and this can be especially fun if you’re on a holiday with your family, because Mexicans certainly know how to cater for everyone! Here’s a quick guide to great family holidays to Mexico.


Cancun is a gorgeous city on the southeast coast of Mexico. Set on the Caribbean Sea, it’s not surprising that Cancun has, over the years, become a major tourist hotspot. The beaches are second to none, with powdery white sands and warm blue seas that will leave you feeling like you’ve spent the day in paradise. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll no doubt love spending time in and around the water, and Cancun has a fantastic range of water sports available. There are at least 25 different water sports centres, all of which make a conscious effort to keep their pollution levels as low as possible to avoid damaging the environment. The Interactive Cancun Aquarium is worth a look if you fancy getting up close and personal with some of the local sea life. There are touch tanks and dolphin shows and you can pay a little extra for the chance to swim with sharks or dolphins.

Mexico City is also a stunning place to head for if you’re looking for something a little more cultural. Arena Mexico stages famous Lucha Libre wrestling matches, where two masked challengers fight it out in colourful masks and rather fetching spandex until one unmasks the other and is declared the winner. Just south of the city you’ll find the Xochimilco, a network of canals which connects a number of lakes that surrounded the area. You can rent one of the beautifully decorated punts and navigate down the waterways at your leisure. It can get a little busy on weekends, so head there early if you want to avoid queues. You can also have a lot of fun together renting bikes and riding around the city. Alternatively you might enjoy a spot of horseback riding. There are several organisers around the city, and it’s best to ride in the morning as temperatures tend to climb enormously in the afternoons.

Whatever you do on your holiday to Mexico make sure you check out some of the local cuisine. There are several juice stalls in Mexico City where you can get the most incredible orange juice for virtually no money. And obviously the fajitas served here are better than any DIY kit you might come across at home – the kids are bound to love them!

Image of Cancun by Nicolas Karim used under creative commons licence


This post is sponsored by Holiday Hypermarket



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