Baby On The Way? Home Hacks For House Proud Parents

Getting your home ready for a baby is one of the more pleasurable aspects of pregnancy – at least it is something else to focus on instead of any pregnancy aches and pains.  There’s a particular joy in planning a nursery and buying those cute bedding sets and soft toys.

It’s more of a challenge, of course, to keep the home looking spick and span once baby has arrived and you may find that the way you use your home space changes entirely.

I think I missed a trick because I probably should have got myself a bit more organised before I had kids and, when you’re in that nesting phase, it’s a great time to prepare yourself for the nappy onslaught whilst still maintaining an elegant home.

If you’d like to know how your home can look more polished than demolished, then here are some tips from Tommee Tippee ambassador, Sommer Pyne, owner of House Curious and mum to Lyla and Indy.

How to get your home ready for a baby

1. Get organised

As boring as it may sound getting organised and having everything in its place before the baby arrives will help you feel empowered and in control.

When you have the energy, start sorting through your cupboards and do a big cleanout. Get rid of anything that you don’t need to make space for all your new baby supplies!

Some things you’ll want to store away such as bottles, sterilising equipment and toys, but there may be other things that you need on display for quick and easy access.

Go through each room and think about how you’ll use the space.

Make a list of the things you need quick access to or that can be put away.

2. Feeding

Like many of us, Somer had a hard time with breastfeeding the first time around.  “I was feeding hourly and my daughter never seemed to get enough milk”, she says. “My saving grace and something I recommend to all my friends is to swap the night feed for formula. It was life-changing for me and my daughter slept through and gave my body a much-needed break”.

With formula feeding, you have a lot more equipment so that’s why it’s good to be organised. Make things easy for yourself so when you need to prep the baby’s bottle at 3 am you have everything to hand.

3. Storage solutions

Baby station

In the rooms that you spend most of your time in – like the living room, bedroom and kitchen – set up baby stations with all your baby essentials neatly packed away and on hand whenever you need them.

Baskets

Somer says “my daughter has a lot of toys but we cleverly hide them away so our house doesn’t look like a toy shop”.

Baskets not only look great but can also hide a mountain of things. Buy a decorative basket, put a sheet inside and fill it with all your child’s toys. Tie it up or just twist the top so it keeps everything together.

On top place a lovely woollen blanket or throw to hide the sheet and toys. This makes a great decorative piece just like you’ve seen in those stylish boutique hotels.

Chest

If you don’t have money to buy storage units or cupboards, a nice vintage chest is a great way to store games, toys or even blankets. You can also use them as a side table for when guests show up.

Built-in units

If you’re doing a renovation or redecorating it’s worth investing in good storage. Don’t go to branded cupboard designers, a good carpenter should be able to knock something bespoke up for half the price.

4. Practical and fuss-free interiors

Somer doesn’t like to compromise on her interior style so she still has velvet and fabric sofas. “My house probably doesn’t seem that kid-friendly but it is in so many ways”, she says.

Sofas

If comfort and style are high up on your list, what can you do to protect your furniture? The simple answer to this is to have a large throw or sheet to hand that can be easily stored under the sofa or in a cupboard.

When you are nursing or playing with your baby on the sofa cover it with the throw or sheet so that it’s protected.

Let’s be honest there are going to be moments of projectile vomit and if you’re already a mum/dad the chances are you have enough poo stories.

Flooring

If you’re redecorating consider the flooring carefully because this not only has a huge impact on the overall style of your home but we also know how messy kids can be… carpet may not be the smartest idea!

In Somer’s house, she only has concrete floors and wooden floors. So, no matter how many accidents there are, they’re easy to clean.

Clutter free

Get rid of the clutter and simplify your space with just the essentials and decorative pieces you absolutely love. In Somer’s family room, there is no coffee table in the middle and most of her decorative pieces are up high on the fireplace or on shelves. This way her daughter can run around freely without bumping her head on sharp edges. The other alternative is to have a soft ottoman.

Different zones

Have areas that are no go kid’s zones. Somer has a great family room and her daughter’s bedroom for her many toys, but there are certain rooms that are out of bounds.

Low cost interiors

It can be expensive prepping for a baby’s arrival but there are so many low-cost options. Ikea is brilliant for nursery furniture, Primark Home and the baby section for your essentials and Next is great for affordable clothing.

5. Decorating your nursery

Decorating the nursery can be a lovely experience but I know for some parents it can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some of my tips to help ease the pain:

Don’t worry about matching furniture I think it looks more eclectic and fun when you mix it up.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you must buy nursery furniture. Other than the cot the rest can be furniture that you already own.

For example, for Somer’s first baby she didn’t buy a changing station but simply used a vintage chest of drawers and placed a changing mat on top with all her essentials on display.

Be bold and creative; think about what colours appeal to you and how you want the room to feel. The baby won’t notice the décor but you will and you’ll be spending a lot of time in the nursery.

It’s important to create a relaxing environment so you will want to invest in a comfy chair – you don’t have to buy a nursing chair – buy something you like that will outgrow your children. Soft rugs are always a good idea and don’t forget your throws and cushions.

Are you getting your home ready for a baby?  How are you preparing your home?

How to Save Money for Your Next Family Holiday

When money is tight saving up for things like holidays can be incredibly difficult. However, you and your family deserve the chance to get away for a bit and explore new places and experiences together – and with these tips, you’ll be able to put aside enough money to give your family the holiday they deserve.

Cut Out Any Unnecessary Expenses

Whether you’re overpaying for something you could get cheaper, or paying for something you don’t even need, it’s likely you’re paying for things that you can easily cut out. Maybe it’s a gym membership that you haven’t used in a long time or a TV subscription you never use, or a bill you keep paying without considering whether or not you could find it somewhere cheaper – there’s always somewhere you can cut your expenses.

Make sure to review your bills, as well as reconsider your insurance, especially car insurance. You want to make sure you can get the cheapest deal possible – use a site like Quotezone.co.uk to search over 100 different car insurance providers to find you the best option, meaning you could save lots of money in the process. Using this comparison site to find cheap car insurance in the UK also means you’re using a reliable, secure service, so you know it’s safe, and could save you a lot of money, meaning you can put the money you save aside.

Subscribe to Travel Newsletters

Whether you’re looking at flights or accommodation, prices can be a bit too high, especially since the only time you may be able to go is during the kids’ summer holidays. It sounds a bit pointless, but trust us when we say subscribing to newsletters is one of the best things you can do – not only will many of these also offer tips on getting cheaper holiday prices, but most likely they will offer their own discounts too, meaning you don’t have to spend a fortune on flights instead of the holiday itself. It’s also worth shopping around – compare deals and discounts as well as regular prices. Although this may take a bit of time, it’s worth it to cut back on costs and potentially save you hundreds of pounds.

Make Saving Easier

Before you even start saving, you need to make a budget of everything you’ll need money for – things like car hire, food, and activities. Once you have a rough idea of how much it will cost you, figure out how much you need to put aside a week to save enough. Putting aside just £10 a week can save you £520 in a year. The best way to think about it is to treat it like paying a bill – dedicate yourself to paying a regular sum each week or month, as this will make it easier to stay committed.

It’s also worth putting aside any spare change left over from the day in a jar; you’d be surprised just how quickly that little bit of change at the end of the day can build up, especially if the whole family contributes. Then, when you’re putting money aside, set up a savers account and put it into there – this is a much better place than a current account, as you can earn a little interest from the money you put into your account. It also means you can keep the money for your holiday separate from your spending money, making it much less easy to dip into and spend.

When you start, saving money for a holiday can seem daunting and out of reach, but a bit of planning and some dedication is all you need to put some money together and give your family a well-deserved treat.

Being A Healthier Mother: Mind, Body, And Immersion

Being a great parent is something we all aspire to. When we are snowed under with the tasks of being a parent and navigating modern living, whether it’s saving money, cooking meals, or just ensuring we keep our children on the straight and narrow, we can very easily neglect ourselves.

This means that we’ve got to find ways to be a healthier person, inside and out. If we find that we neglect our practices as parents, then we are doing ourselves and our children a disservice.

As such, it’s worth thinking about what you can do to be the best parents so your children can benefit, but you can fine-tune your skills as well. What are the best ways to do this?

Image by Vânia Raposo from Pixabay

Addressing Those Unhealthy Habits

We get it, after a long and stressful day, there is nothing you want more than to sit down, have a glass of wine, maybe a cigarette, and just slump in a chair, and feel that tension melt away. But we have got to remember that when we have habits that aren’t particularly healthy, we tend to use these as crutches.

This means that when we use these items every day, they become a part of our lifestyle, making them a harder habit to break. So we need to find ways of being healthier, by making a few swaps at the very outset.

When it comes to something like cigarettes, a lot of people are vaping at the moment, so you may very well want to look for the best vape mod, or at the very least, think about cutting down on your smoking. We have to remember that our children look to us as the blueprint in which to live their lives, so if we don’t look after ourselves, they will think this is the norm.

Prioritise Sleep

Again, this is easier said than done when you have children, but sleep is one of those things that can make all the difference, regardless of what’s going on in your life.

If you have 2 hours less sleep than the average nightly amount, over the course of two weeks, this is the equivalent of going 48 hours without sleep. Sometimes we can function okay without proper sleep, but after a while, it begins to creep up on us.

While there’s a TV show that we want to stay up and watch or we think that 11 at night is the only time we have to ourselves, sleep is one of those components that we will feel the negative outcomes of if we don’t prioritise it.

Some people feel that if they nap, it puts them at a deficit later on. But any sleep is better than none at all.

Think about when you can sleep because even a 20-minute catnap can make all the difference. And also, think about caffeine intake, but using it the right way.

Drink too much, you will feel jittery, and you won’t be able to sleep. But this is where something like a caffeine nap will come in handy.

Tackling Stress And Its Negative Connotations

If you feel like you’re in a pressure cooker, perhaps you need to consider the overall impact stress has on you. Because if you succumb to stress, or you’re very easily overwhelmed during the mornings, it’s important to think that if you feel like this all the time, it’s going to build up over the years.

Tackling stress isn’t something that you do once and then you are set up for life. It’s about tackling those triggers, your own insecurities and fears, as well as the right methods to calm down.

Much like sleep, you need to learn the best practices so you are able to cope with whatever comes your way. Perhaps you go too fast and feel that in order to accomplish everything you need to rush around.

Stop, take a breath, and give yourself 10 minutes every day to do something that’s rejuvenating. Do you want to be a better parent and you want to be healthy? Stress is one of the crucial areas that need addressing right away.

Be Proud Of What You’ve Done

We can get caught up in the eye of the storm, that we don’t feel that we’ve accomplished anything. But look at what you’ve already done so far. You’ve got children, and you clearly want to be the best person you can for them, which means that you’ve got to stop, look at what you have achieved, and actually absorb this.

Every day is a challenge and this means you can either shy away from these issues or take them head-on. You clearly want to tackle them, which means that you accomplish something every single day that’s worth noting.

Being a great parent isn’t just about fine-tuning your health, but it’s about understanding that you have to be comfortable in your own skin, and knowing it’s not about getting everything 100%.

Nobody’s perfect, and parenting is such a trial and error practise that you won’t ever get everything right all of the time. What you can achieve is taking steps in the right direction. As long as you do this, you are on the right path.

Pardon the cliches, but if you want to be healthy, it’s about mind, body, and actual immersion in your skills. Being proud of what you have achieved so far, cutting yourself some slack when you make a mistake, but realising that you are doing everything for the best is essential. This is what will make you a healthier parent overall.

Understanding that we’re all human, we make mistakes, and that we can rectify these things is what will make us be a better pillar of strength for our children. As we are the blueprints that our children will become, we have got to think about setting the right example. But this means that we can overthink it. If you trust in who you are and remain true to your values, you are going to improve your overall skills and be a healthy parent.

Is Your Home Security Up To Scratch Now Winter’s Here?

I recently wrote about the necessity to secure your garden valuables now that nights are getting darker but, of course, even more important is checking your home security and your home alarm systems.

Not just because you’ll get a better home insurance premium if you have a decent home alarm and the correct locks on doors and windows, but for the security of your valuables – and you and yours.

If like me, you find yourself solo parenting, whether full or part-time, it’s nice to know that you and the kids are as protected as you can be against unwelcome intruders.

Feel safe in your own home

In the evenings I work in our lounge which has french windows opening out onto a small garden.  I feel far happier with the curtains drawn to keep out prying eyes and, like Mrs Hinch, have a regular ‘put the house to bed’ routine which involves double-checking everything is locked up and put away.

But I must confess that I don’t like the dark evenings, nor creeping upstairs trying not to wake the kids.  That’s why a good quality home alarm system can really help your frayed nerves!

Installing a home alarm system is easy

For a start, home alarms these days are so much easier to install.  If your home doesn’t have an existing home alarm, you can get a wireless alarm system which needs no screws, cables or installation work.

Many alarm systems offer features such as motion detectors, surveillance cameras and door alarms and it is certainly worth considering a monitored alarm system which will transmit signals to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC).

If your alarm is triggered, the ARC will contact you or a nominated key holder and if necessary take action.

You can even monitor some home alarm systems with a mobile app and you don’t always need a landline.

Stay safe even when you’re asleep

Some alarm systems will also operate in what is called ‘partial mode’  which protects you when you are asleep or in a specific part of the house.

This works by leaving one or several detectors active, such as the window-opening detector or the movement detector in the hallway. If an intruder tries to break in through the windows or the main door, the alarm will go off.

Make sure you test your existing alarm system

If you already have an alarm system in place, make sure that you keep it well maintained.  As a general guideline you should:-

Test after having any work done in the home by tradespeople

Anyone that has been working inside your home for any reason could have interfered with your alarm system, whether accidentally or not.

When the tradespeople leave, do a quick system test to make sure everything is functioning correctly.

Test after performing any renovations to your home

Even if you know your system well, it’s only too easy to accidentally damage a connection or component. Not something you want to only discover when you’ve had a break-in!

Test after performing any major changes to your phone or internet service

Anything that might affect the system’s ability to communicate with the monitoring centre should be thoroughly checked.

And don’t forget to check other alarms such as smoke detectors at least once a month.

Have you got an emergency evacuation plan in place for the family?

Another commonsense measure is to have a plan in place in the event of a fire or other problem.  Grim though this sounds, such a plan may save lives.  For example, if a fire breaks out, you have less than 5 minutes to leave your property.

Many of us have received fire safety training at work but we need to remember to teach the children what they need to do in the event of a fire – without scaring them unnecessarily and giving them nightmares!

Things like not leaving hair straighteners plugged in, loading up sockets with too many chargers and of course, not playing with matches are basic pieces of advice which should be reinforced.

Do your kids have front door keys?

For many working parents, the question of when to give your kids a front door key is an issue.  You don’t want them roaming the streets unable to get in, but equally, you don’t want them wandering off leaving the door unlocked.

There’s no point having a brilliant home alarm system if the kids leave the front door unlocked or, for older kids, either forget to set the alarm or forget the key code so the alarm goes off.

We think 11 is around the right age to have a key especially when a child starts secondary school but it is important that keys are on keyrings that don’t identify the owner or their address.

Otherwise, if the keys get lost, a burglar knows straight where to go!

Home security is a topic which affects all the family and which should be discussed openly but gently with children.

A good quality home alarm system is worth investing in and there is plenty of help and advice available for you to find the best one for you.

Now that the dark winter nights are here, I find that very reassuring indeed.

How to Inspire an Attitude of Gratitude in Children

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.

As an adult, you may know how lucky you are for what you have. You have worked hard for your career and perhaps put your heart on the line for someone you loved. And you’ve given life to your children — a gift that’s perhaps the best life has to offer.

So, it’s understandably easy for you to feel gratitude for the life you have. And you want your children to approach their lives with the same thankful outlook. Without as many experiences as you have, they might not have an inherent sense of gratitude. But you can still foster such a sentiment, and it’ll be rewarding for both of you.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Express Your Own Gratitude Often

Children will mimic their parents’ behaviours, whether we like it or not. This starts early on — little girls tend to imitate their mothers, while boys want to be like their dads. And by the time they reach 15 months, kids have the physical capacity to mimic the adults around them.

So, when you make a point to express your gratitude for what you have, your children will start to do the same. With time, those expressions will turn into true feelings of thankfulness as they grasp what it is they’re saying.

Always begin with “thank you” — your children can easily make the phrase part of their vernacular. Be sure to explain why we say it, too, beyond the fact that it’s “polite.”

 

2. Experience Other Cultures

A new cultural experience opens your child’s eyes in more ways than one. Sure, they will learn some new customs and perhaps get to know a corner of their hometown — or the world — that they never knew existed. On top of that, though, such experiences provide perspective. Not only will kids gain respect for other people’s customs and beliefs, but they’ll also look at their own traditions and lifestyle with a newfound appreciation.

3. Spend Money Wisely

Whether we like it or not, much of what we have comes from the money we make and spend. You can engender gratitude in your children by helping them to understand the true value of money. The earlier you start with this, the better. Kids as young as three can start to take their gifted money or allowance cash and separate it into banks. Encourage them to put money away for spending, saving and donating.

4. Give to Others

Above, we touched on the idea of donating a bit of your child’s money to a worthy cause. Giving to others, in general, helps kids build gratitude for what they have. It doesn’t necessarily have to be money, either. Perhaps your children can go through their closets once a season to find clothes and toys they no longer use. Explain to them that they’re helping someone less fortunate than they are. For many children, this inspires them to give more — and better understand how lucky they are to be where they are.

To that end, you might bring your teenage children to an event where they can volunteer their time to help those in need. Meeting such gracious people will only teach your children to mirror their sentiments.

5. Encourage End-of-Day Reflections

Self-reflections help people of all ages to grow and improve themselves. You can use this tool to help your children improve their gratitude, too.

One of the many ways to stoke self-reflection is to engage in a conversation with your child at the end of the day. Perhaps you can sit with them before they go to bed and talk about the day they’ve had. Ask them to outline the moments they liked best — the ones for which they feel the most grateful. You can also use this time to learn more about your child’s day in general. Perhaps they had a sad or uncomfortable moment at school, too, or witnessed somebody else experience one.

Opening a dialogue with your child can keep you informed and help them become more thankful, to boot.

6. See It Their Way

Finally, if you want to hear your child’s feelings, you must be open to accepting that they might not always feel how you expect them to. Don’t pressure them to feel a certain way about something when their experience was something different. Sometimes, we can cultivate gratitude for a situation after we process the initial emotions — fear, anger, sadness, etc.

With your guidance, your children can come to the same understanding of life’s most confounding events. But you must be open to hearing them in the first place. Without that promise made, you’ll have a hard time inspiring your kids to open up to you.

Give the Gift of Gratitude

Gratitude comes in many forms, and we feel it at different times over the course of our lives. With the right guidance, your kids will be able to recognize their own gracious feelings and express them to you and others. With that, they will become better people with greater perspective on their world — and as a parent, that’s all you could hope to provide for them.

 

Should You Allow Your Teenagers to Drink Coffee?

Well, it’s not uncommon for adults to grab a cup of coffee to help them kickstart their day. Coffee consumption among teenagers is growing and becoming a cause of concern for most parents. The common perception is that coffee is bad for adolescents.

So, should you allow your children to drink coffee? The simple answer is yes. You should let teenagers drink coffee, but strictly in moderation, excess of caffeine can be dangerous.

How much coffee is too much?

Many, including myself, drink one, two, or even five cups of coffee daily to keep us all day functional. Of course, our interest is not so much about the coffee but its caffeine content.  

The effects of caffeine are different for each person. Some people might feel jolted and jittery from a single cup of coffee while others will feel nothing from drinking three cups. The best amount of coffee depends on your personal tolerance levels to it.

That being said, no doubt that there is a daily maximum consumption limit of 1 cup for teenagers that you should not surpass regularly. Teenagers should avoid consuming more than 100mg of caffeine in 24 hours. 

What is the effect of drinking coffee on teenagers?

It is easy to think that coffee will affect teenagers the same way as adults, but it isn’t necessarily true. It is believed that teenagers are more likely to develop a caffeine dependence by drinking coffee regularly.

There is a further concern that regular coffee consumption can affect the emotional development of teenagers. Caffeine inhibits neurotransmitters in the brain, and it is possible that these neurotransmitters are permanently damaged by overdosing on coffee.

Excessive coffee drinking is also a known factor for losing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. Caffeine tampers with the chemicals in the brain that are responsible for helping us feel calm and peaceful.

Using too much coffee, not only deprive teenagers of using these chemicals but, caffeine is making the teenager anxious and agitated. However, drinking coffee in moderation is not a problem and can have plenty of health benefits.

Drinking coffee in moderation is healthy for teens

Coffee is the world’s favourite hot drink, with an estimated 2.25 billion cups consumed every day globally. The famous French writer Voltaire is renowned for drinking up to 50 cups of coffee every day and lived until the age of 83.

If you are a teenager, there is no harm in sticking to only one cup of coffee in 24 hours. Make sure you don’t consume any other beverages that contain caffeine when you are on coffee.

Coffee boosts brainpower 

Coffee with sugar can turn you into a little genius for a while because the combination of caffeine and glucose activates certain sectors of your brain.

The caffeine in coffee acts as a mild stimulant to the central nervous system. This neuronal activity triggers the release of the Adrenaline that affects your brain and body in several ways.

Your heartbeat increases, blood pressure rises, breathing tubes open up and sugar is released into the bloodstream for extra energy. Depending on the level of intake it can improve attention and concentration.

Coffee can help you get better grades in class 

Coffee can be a saviour is school and can definitely help to manage hectic schedule if appropriately consumed. You should know the right way to consume caffeine if you are planning to use it during your exams or tests.

Caffeine, like most drugs, is subject to the effect of tolerance, and it works on many receptors inside your brain. When you repeatedly use caffeine on a regular basis, the body upregulates or downregulates these various receptors to maintain homeostasis.

This means the body generally does not like drugs or chemicals changing things up, by trying to maintain a balance.

The solution is only to use coffee occasionally to prevent tolerance. If you drink coffee daily, try to cycle your caffeine.

Caffeine cycling means a brief period of stopping or tampering consumption to reduce tolerance. A good starting point for caffeine cycles is to go one to two weeks without consuming caffeine in any form, to reset your tolerance.

Coffee makes the immune system stronger

Coffee contains an abundance of nutrients and healthful chemicals that can aid your immune system. According to scientists from several counties, coffee reduces the risks of premature death.

This is because coffee alters your immune system, making it stronger and healthier. Coffee contains a lot of antioxidants and phenolic compounds that play a crucial role in cancer prevention.

Coffee also improves your liver, heart, and digestive system. The best option is to stick to natural and freshly ground coffee because instant coffee contains fewer nutrients and more chemical additives.

Coffee reduces stress due to the release of dopamine serotonin, which triggers a good mood and lower risks of getting depressed. 

Most parents would never think of giving their teenage kids a cup of coffee, yet many teens consume drinks with just as much if not even more caffeine than coffee.

The caffeinated beverages come in different assortments and appear more benign, whereas the truth is that caffeinated drinks are much more dangerous than a cup of coffee.

Where do you stand on caffeine consumption for teens?

How To Find Money For That Rainy Day

They say that you should find the money for a rainy day, but what if it seems always to be raining? Often, life has a habit of steamrolling on through and leaving a trail of destruction in its path. And it never rains, it pours. So when it comes to saving up that money for a rainy day, we very often find that we need more than we can save.

Lots can go wrong that we suddenly need cash for. You might need to find the money for an emergency dentist, or the car may break down and need a whole heap of work doing to it. Here are a few ways to consider finding money when you need it the most.

Using Credit Cards

Having a credit card handy can be handy if you know that you can repay the money soon. However, if you already owe money on your card, it can be very easy to start spending lots on it. Pretty soon, your card will be maxed out, and paying high levels of credit card interest generally means that your minimum payments never actually reduce your debts at all. 

It is very useful to own a credit card for an emergency situation, but if you can find a way of getting the money without risking getting into debt that you can’t pay back straight away, explore some other options. 

Have A Clear-Out

If you need cash but can wait a couple of weeks to get it, then you may want to see if you have any items that you don’t need any more. Listing these on eBay or Facebook Marketplace can help build up a bit of money. You will also be decluttering your home, which is handy, and you will be surprised how much money you have sat around in possessions that you don’t use.

You could also opt to go to do a car boot sale. This is a very quick way of working through a collection of items that you may want to sell.

Take On A Side Job

If you are currently earning all that you can from your primary income, you could always take on a bit of flexible part-time work to help you out while you need the money. There are plenty of opportunities to join the gig economy, such as becoming a driver for Uber or Lyft.

You may also want to try your hand at freelance writing for blogs and websites. Many content creation sites offer jobs such as these on a per gig basis, meaning you can pick and choose how much work you want to take on.

Have a look at Freelancer or Upwork. The flexible nature of this work means that you will get paid quickly, and you can choose how much you want to work or not work. Don’t forget though that you will need to pay your taxes on this work, so keep records and hold some money back.

 

Quick Ideas For Decorating the Outside of Your Home For Halloween

Halloween often marks the beginning of the autumn season, and many people use this as an opportunity to begin decorating their home to hunker down in maximum cosiness! But it is only too easy to spend a fortune on Halloween bits and pieces which aren’t particularly inspired or unique.

Two Halloween pumpkins

And, frankly, who wants to invest in expensive Halloween decorations for the outside of the home which are quite likely to be pinched or damaged?

Then there’s the chance for the whole family to work together on a crafting project to really celebrate the spookiest day of the year.

The following decorating tips provide family-friendly Halloween decorations that aren’t too scary but are great for this season.

Create a Pumpkin Fairy Garden

If you have kids that love fairy gardens, they will really enjoy this decoration! It can even be a craft the family creates together. Instead of putting the fairy garden in a large bowl or pot, you will instead use a pumpkin.

Since real pumpkins go bad, it is best to find a large plastic pumpkin that you would be able to use. What you want to do is have the garden inside the pumpkin, but be able to see it.

For this, you would cut out a section of the front of the pumpkin, and set up your fairy garden there. You can get a fairy figurine and decorate her in little witch clothing, then add some small pumpkins to create what looks like a little fairy pumpkin patch.

Make Yard Signs

A fun way to decorate your yard or the front of your house for Halloween is by making yard signs. These should be the names of different Halloween or spooky places with arrow-shaped signs as if they are showing where these spooky places are.

Have things like ‘Halloween Town’, ‘Bates Motel’, ‘Transylvania’ and anywhere else you and your kids want to make signs for. Stick them on stakes in your yard or attach them to a large tree in front of your house.

Put Witch Brooms On Your Porch

For porch decorations, you can make witch brooms if you are unable to find good ones at local Halloween supply stores. This is really easy to do.

You just need an old broom, since the handle and the bottom of the broom are already done. To make it look like a witch broom, get a bunch of straw and use it to cover the bottom of the broom so that it looks like the bottom of a witch broom. This is easy to do and keeps your original broom intact.

two witches brooms

Place Ghosts in the Front Yard

There are a few different options for making ghosts you can put in your front yard. The first option is to get some wire and create forms with it. This is more of a creative challenge, so maybe the kids can help as well.

You just want a simple wire form of a body. You can then put a large white dress on the form, such as one you find at a thrift store, or any type of white fabric. It makes it look like ghosts are just floating.

An easier way is to simply get plastic pumpkins and attach them to stakes in the yard. Cover the entire thing with an old white sheet, and your ghost is done.

5 Great Ways to Give Back to Others

Giving back to others benefits people, local communities and the whole world. Doing selfless acts also helps you. Being generous and having concern for others allows you to feel good about yourself and achieve a sense of personal satisfaction.

There are several great ways you can give back to others.

Here are five of the best ways you can have a positive impact on other people’s lives.

Make a Donation

One of the best ways to give back to others is to make monetary donations to charitable organisations. As well as benefitting charities, donating can be extremely rewarding for you.

Knowing you are positively and proactively helping others can make you feel more fulfilled. It can also encourage your children, family and friends to donate.

You can make even more of a difference to people’s lives by making a regular donation. Any donation helps charitable organisations to provide essential care and support to their causes.

However, by regularly donating, you allow organisations to plan more efficiently because they will know how much funding they can utilise on an ongoing basis.

Sponsor a Child

By sponsoring a child through a charitable organisation, you will provide much-needed help and hope to make a lasting impact on a child’s life.

Your sponsorship can enable a child to receive various kinds of support and care, such as health check-ups, nutritional support and education.

You can also provide a child with the help of a local church through a charity organisation like Compassion, which empowers vulnerable children in poverty throughout 25 developing countries.

Learn more about Compassion to see how sponsorship can make a positive change.

When you sponsor a child through any charitable organisation, you will receive regular updates. These allow you to see how the child is progressively overcoming hardships and struggles with the help of your sponsorship.

Volunteer in Your Local Community

Giving your time is just as important as making financial contributions. There are many ways you can volunteer in your local community.

You could regularly commit to helping with a local organisation such as a food bank or a daycare centre.

Alternatively, you could work in schools or hospitals, or spend time with elderly neighbours.

By volunteering in your local community, you can make a big difference to the people around you. It allows you to develop new skills and gain valuable experience too.

Volunteering can be challenging, but it is also rewarding. By positively contributing to your local area, you will be able to see first-hand how volunteering effectively impacts your community.

 

Donate Items

Giving back to others does not have to involve donating money or time. Charitable organisations can benefit from the donation of items too.

If you have unwanted homeware, clothing, jewellery, books and other things, you can donate them to charity shops. These allow charities to raise essential-funds for their causes.

You could also donate food products to food banks to help people in crisis.

According to The Trussell Trust, approximately 1.6 million emergency food parcels were handed out to people in need in the United Kingdom in 2018, and that number is rising all the time.

As well as donating things you own, you could actively gather items by hosting a collection through a local school, business or church.

Raise Awareness

Charitable organisations do not only rely on donations and volunteers to help them succeed in their causes. It is also vital that they raise awareness of the issues they aim to resolve.

If you do not have the resources to donate items, funds or time, you could give back to others by raising awareness of charity and NGO projects.

With the internet, you can now easily make people aware of worthy causes more than ever before. You can do this in several ways, such as blogging and social media.

Raising awareness leads to people donating their time, items or money. That means more people can give back to others to make a positive change in the world.

How to Improve Your Chances of Conceiving a Girl Naturally

Do you already have one boy (or several), and now you want to have a girl? Or perhaps you grew up with only brothers, and always wondered what it would be like to have a girl? Are you asking how to conceive a girl when there are only boys in the family?

Some people choose to leave gender selection to chance, which can be great fun to find out whether they are having a boy or girl on the day of birth. However, some other parents would like to tip the scales in their favour of conceiving a particular gender.

Blue eyed baby girl in pink knitted top and headband

How to conceive a girl

So what are the factors that can help you conceive a girl?

First, understanding the science behind what creates little boys and little girls is the easiest way to increase the chances of conceiving the gender of your choice. In particular, knowing the differences between sperm is what is most important.

So what are the differences in sperm?

As you may already know, sperm can be X or Y chromosomes. X chromosomes result in a girl baby when they fertilize the female’s egg. Y chromosomes result in boy babies upon fertilization. The mother’s egg always contains an X chromosome.

X (from mother) + X (from father) = Girl baby

X (from mother) + Y (from father) = Boy baby

What other differences exist between X and Y sperm?

X sperm chromosomes are heartier and live longer in a woman’s body. On the other hand, Y sperm chromosomes are weaker and do not live as long, dying off more quickly inside a woman’s body. X chromosomes also swim more slowly, compared to Y chromosomes.

Therefore, to increase your chances to conceive a girl, you will want to ensure that there are no Y sperm still inside your body so that the X sperm fertilize the egg when you ovulate.

So how do you make this happen then?

When to have sex

If you want to have a girl, you need to plan to have sex about two to four days before you ovulate. By then, the Y sperm will have died off, and the slower-moving, longer-living X sperm will presumably get to the egg to fertilize it.

This is just one factor that can help you in getting pregnant with a girl. For best results, you need to combine several techniques for higher success.

Foods to choose

It has been suggested that eating lots of calcium and magnesium-rich foods will increase your chances of having a girl.

Adding acidic foods to your diet such as chocolate, citrus fruits and vinegar will help to make the vaginal environment more acidic, ideal to conceive a girl.

On the other hand, you should moderate your consumption of potassium, sodium and caffeine which may make the environment more alkaline.

Eat plenty of calcium and magnesium-rich foods such as chicken, rice, eggs, cheese, beans and berries.

Take a bath

As above, it is thought that a more acidic vaginal environment may help you to conceive a girl.

There is a theory that douching with a mixture of one part vinegar to 4 parts water after sex may help.

This is supposed to increase the pH level of the vagina and helps kill the sperm with Y chromosome.

Proceed with caution with this one!

You can find out more here: How To Conceive A Girl: Fertility Guide To Having A Girl: Tried And Proven Methods Of Conceiving A Girl by Dana Tebow.

Choose These Super Foods To Give Your Health A Boost

We all know the benefits of eating the right foods. They help you to maintain a healthy weight, protect you from diseases and improve your appearance by giving you healthy hair, skin and nails.

They generally keep our bodies running at their best and provide us with everything we need to grow, repair and thrive.

Eating a rainbow of healthy fruit and veg, whole grains and lean protein will generally do the trick- however, you can take it a step further by adding ‘superfoods’ to your diet.

These come under the radar every now and again and are hailed by health buffs- generally, they’re ingredients which have been used across the globe for both food and medicine for centuries.

Now that health food shops and even supermarkets give us access to all kinds of weird and wonderful ingredients, it’s worth getting on board and giving some a try!  Just invest in a good blender and you’re good to go.

Here are some unusual yet very healthy foods to add to your diet.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds, the seeds from a flowering plant in the mint family, have become one of the most popular superfoods in the health food industry.

Thought to have been eaten by Aztec warriors in ancient Mexico to give them strength, energy, and endurance.

Eating chia seeds has a number of incredible benefits. They can improve digestion, promote healthy skin (and reduce the signs of ageing), help to build healthy bones and muscles and in some cases even heal diabetes.

They’re full of fibre, are a good source of non-animal protein, omega 3 and 6, and calcium.

There are tonnes of antioxidants and micronutrients which all help to support the body’s functions.

You can add chia seeds to smoothies, cereal or yoghurt, if you’re not keen on the slight crunch then grind them in a pestle and mortar first.

They taste a little like poppy seeds, but you only need a small amount and added to other breakfast foods you won’t even notice they’re there. An easy way to add a huge boost of nutrition to your diet.

Wheatgrass

Ever wondered what the healthiest fruit, vegetable or herb you could possibly eat is? According to scientists and nutritionists, it’s wheatgrass.

This is the young grass of the wheat plant and contains every vitamin and mineral you could possibly imagine.

It can heal your body and is said to be one of the greatest food healers known to man.

Due to being an excellent source of living chlorophyll, it can clean and build the blood and reduce unfriendly bacteria in the body.

You can buy wheatgrass in tablet or powder form where it’s been dried and rehydrated. This is useful as it can be added easily to smoothies and other dishes.

You can also buy the living grass which can be juiced and drank daily as a shot. If you’re looking to try just one superfood, wheatgrass is an excellent contender!

Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil is pretty gruesome, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The oil pressed from the liver of a cod. However, if you can get your head around it, it will provide you with some awesome health benefits.

It’s high in vitamins A and D, plus omega 3 fatty acids. These can help to reduce the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, dementia, depression, and arthritis.

Green Tea

Green tea is the healthiest beverage on earth- as well as gulping plenty of water during the day making up a big pot of green tea will do you wonders.

It’s packed full of antioxidants which fight free radicals in the body.

Free radicals come from things like chemicals in our diet and pollution and cause damage from ageing skin to cancers. So neutralising them is a smart move.

Green tea can also help to decrease body fat, especially in the abdominal area which is a particularly dangerous area to carry weight. It can boost metabolism, with numerous studies showing excellent results.

Kelp

You heard that right- kelp is a superfood! Not just for fish to nibble on, it’s extremely good for us too.

While brown algae isn’t the most appetising looking food, it can be bought in powder or tablet form. You can even buy things like pre-made kelp noodles made with it making it easy to consume.

It contains a wide variety of unique minerals from Iodine and underwater antioxidants, iron, folate, and vitamin K.

Another thing to note is that it also contains the highest natural concentration of calcium of any food. Great if you don’t consume dairy as it’s a fantastic form of calcium that’s 100% vegan.

One convenient way to consume superfoods without needing to shop, chop and blend raw veggies is with a supplement like Grown American see this here for a review.

These are foods that are easy to include in your diet to give your health a boost.  Which ones have you tried?

A Car Maintenance Checklist To Keep Your Car On The Road

In these uncertain times, many of us are looking carefully at our household expenses to see where we can cut back.

Car owners like us are certainly feeling the pinch, not only with increasing car insurance premiums and fuel costs but the price of car servicing and maintenance too.

We have a Skoda Roomster as our family runaround but recently bought a secondhand Nissan Elgrand which can seat up to 8.  When you have elderly parents to care for and kids to ferry about a car becomes a necessity rather than a luxury.

If you are looking for ways to save money by keeping your existing car on the road for as long as possible, regular car maintenance is vital if you want to avoid nasty repair bills.

Your Car Maintenance Checklist

Your basic checks should include:

Oil and coolant levels

At least every month and especially before any long road trips, inspect oil and coolant levels while the engine is cool. Letting the levels of these drop too low will lead to engine problems.

Air filter

A properly functioning air filter regulates the air that flows into the engine and keeps out debris. Keep your air filter in good condition to improve fuel efficiency and decrease your emissions.

Tyre pressure and tread depth

This is essential to ensure the family’s safety. Check your tyre pressure monthly, before long trips and if you are carrying an extra heavy load.  Don’t forget the spare tyre either.

Invest in a decent tyre pressure gauge and remember that extra checks will be needed in the winter months.  In the event of snow and ice, consider investing in winter tyres which can help shorten your stopping distance.  Did you know that in the UK there are around an extra 6500 road accidents due to poor driving conditions? Check out my tips for protecting your car against the winter weather.

Rotating your tires will help to extend the service life of your tires by more evenly balancing the tread wear, and helping prevent noise and vibration problems.

Car Lights

Unless you physically check your lights yourself, often you don’t realise there’s a problem until someone points it out.  Hopefully, that someone won’t be a police officer!

Switch on your headlights when you’re parked in front of a flat surface and check that both headlights are working properly and well-positioned.

Take a walk around your car to check that parking lights and indicators are working.

Get someone to stand behind the vehicle while you apply the brakes to check your brake lights.

Oil and filter

Your motor oil lubricates the moving parts and acts as a sealant against debris.  It keeps the engine cool and reduces wear and tear.  This helps prevent engine corrosion.

You need your oil to be clean and the correct type for your engine and, you will need to change both the oil and the oil filter periodically.

This can be done by the garage carrying out your vehicle service or, if you are mechanically minded, you can, of course, do it yourself. If you’re doing a lot of mileage or have a large or older car, you may need to change your oil and filter as often as every 3 months or 3000 miles.

Replace worn out car parts

If you are lucky enough to have a vintage or high-performance car such as one from cult Italian brand Alfa Romeo you’ll find spares at BESTPARTSTORE.CO.UK.

Think about the fuel you use

You may have heard stories that cheaper supermarket fuel may lead to compromised engine performance.  This may be true if you have a high-performance car or your vehicle requires higher octane super unleaded petrol but most of us are trying to save the pennies where we can.

Check fuel comparison websites and remember that the little arrow next to the petrol pump icon on the dashboard shows you which side of the vehicle your petrol cap is on.

Research the best car insurance deals

I’m sure you know that automatically accepting your car insurers’ renewal premium could mean missing out of the savings and benefits sometimes reserved for new customers.

Always query the proposed annual premium and, if you want to stay with your existing insurer, it’s still worth doing some research on price comparison websites.

If you find a cheaper deal elsewhere, you can ask your existing insurer to match it.

Just make sure when you do use comparison websites that you are comparing like for like deals with the same level of cover and benefits (e.g. courtesy car and breakdown cover).

Many insurers will give you a discount for a multi-driver policy too – or a discount on related policies taken out with them (e.g. home insurance and pet insurance).

So there you have it.  If you want to avoid hefty car repair bills and want to save some cash on fuel and insurance, these money saving car tips should help.

Do you have any car maintenance tips to share?