Cute, Quirky & Wonderfully Unique Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

It seems like only yesterday we were buying Christmas gifts, doesn’t it? And yet, already it’s nearly Mother’s Day. Where has the time gone this year, it’s just flying by, isn’t it?

With Mother’s Day on the way, (Sunday 22 March in the UK) whether you’ve got a mum to buy for, an aunt, a stepmother, a grandmother, or another special lady, it’s time to start thinking about the perfect gift idea for them.

mother's day gift ideas - cutting out a red heart from card

Finding that perfect gift can often be a struggle, especially when you don’t want to get them something too similar to what you got them last year.

There’s only so many times a bunch of their favourite flowers, and a box of fancy chocolates will cut it, isn’t there?

As a mother myself, I know how important Mother’s Day is, not just for those of us who are mothers, but also for our children.

Being able to give your mum a card and a gift to thank her for everything that she does all year is important, as it allows you to ensure that your mum knows how loved she truly is.

The question is, of course, how can you go about finding the special woman in your life that perfect present? The key to gift buying success is getting a little creative and being willing to think outside the box.

With that in mind, below are a few cute, quirky gift ideas that should help to make picking a Mother’s Day gift that little bit easier for you.

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Hand-painted ceramics

For a present that’s wonderfully personal and unique, hand-painted ceramics are ideal. Head to your local ceramic painting centre or order a kit off of the internet and spend some time creating some beautiful ceramics for your mum.

If you’ve got little ones of your own, perhaps you could get them involved too? Whether you opt to paint her a selection of plates, a teapot, a set of two new mugs, or something else, it doesn’t matter; it’s just a case of finding something that she will love and get use out of.

A great way to make the ceramics that you make a keepsake is to decorate them with yours’ and your children’s handprints. Hand-painted pottery not only makes a great gift but is also a lot of fun to make, and is something that you and your kids can enjoy doing together.

Family Scrabble board art

Since Scrabble has become more and more popular over the past few years, there are now lots of people selling family Scrabble boards as wall art.

These are Scrabble boards with the names of each family member added to them and entwined, as words are in a normal game of Scrabble – how amazing is that?

The best thing about this gift, apart from the fact that it’s wonderfully personal, is that you can easily make it yourself, so it doesn’t have to be expensive. All you need is an old Scrabble board (or a print out of one), Scrabble tiles, glue, and a photo frame that is larger than the Scrabble board. Then it’s just a case of fitting everyone’s names together.

Beauty box

If your mum is into her beauty products and loves to pamper herself, why not put together a beauty box for her of little treats?

Think about all of her favourite beauty products, from the lipstick she loves to her favourite perfume, and pick out a few bits and bobs to go into her beauty box.

As well as picking beauty products that she already loves, try to find some products that you know she’ll like but has never tried before. Perhaps some lovely luxurious bath bombs, a rich face cream, and a hair mask could be ideal?

Day out

What do you get the woman that’s got everything? If your mum is one of those women who has everything that she needs, then perhaps planning a special day out could work out better than picking her a gift.

For a day out that she will love, think about the types of things that she likes to do.

If she’s a big foodie, why not take her out for a fancy lunch? Does she love being pampered?  If so, a spa day could be ideal.

Is your mum someone who loves adventure and trying new things? Then how about booking her an experience day, trying something new, such as flying a hot air balloon.

Family photoshoot

Is your mum always saying how she wishes you had more family photos? Then how about booking a family photoshoot to celebrate Mother’s Day?

Perhaps you could get all of your siblings and their children together for a big family photoshoot?

If your mum is always asking for more family photos, then this could be a perfect way to make her dreams come true.

Best of all, a family photoshoot need not be expensive, as there are plenty of online deals that you can take advantage of – it’s just a case of taking the time to look around to find the best deal.

Jewellery

If your mum is a woman who loves wearing jewellery, then you can’t go wrong with a new pair of earrings or a new necklace. However, before you pick a piece of jewellery for her that’s similar to all of her other pieces, take the time to look at unique jewellery designs.

Etsy has some fantastically unique jewellery designs, many of which are handmade, so it’s worth taking the time to have a browse, to see if there’s anything that you think she would like.

Perhaps a piece of jewellery with your children’s handprints on would be nice? Don’t be afraid to pick a piece that’s unique, as often the unique pieces are the best pieces.

Picking that perfect gift for Mother’s Day isn’t always easy, but hopefully, the ideas and suggestions above have given you some ideas that are a little different to the normal things that you pick out.

10 Benefits of Probiotics

You’ve probably heard of probiotics and how they can help your health – but what are they and what do they do?  Let’s take a look.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can offer health benefits when consumed. They are mostly bacteria and yeasts found in certain foods – particularly yoghurts, cultured drinks and supplements. But what are the benefits and why should you be consuming more of them?

The benefits of probiotics

Probiotics help balance the friendly bacteria in your digestive system

The body is home to a wide range of bacteria both good and bad and if the balance between them is interrupted, problems such as digestive issues, obesity and allergies can be the result. Probiotics can help to replace lost good bacteria and redress the balance, particularly in the gut. As the digestive system influences many functions of the body, taking care of our gut health is important

Probiotics can reduce symptoms of digestive disorders

Because of their influence on gut flora, certain types of probiotics can reduce some of the symptoms of digestive conditions including ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. The probiotics known to have this positive effect are strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Alicia Harper has reviewed a lot of these beneficial ProBiotics on her blog ProbioticReviewGirl.com.

Probiotics may boost immunity

Probiotics can give the immune system a boost in two ways. 

The good bacteria inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria, thereby enabling the body to not have to work so hard to fight the bad bacteria. 

Also, the production of natural antibodies (including T-cells and natural killer cells) can be stimulated by probiotics. 

Probiotics can improve some mental health disorders

Research has shown that probiotics can improve symptoms of certain mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression. The research has been undertaken by scientists and psychologists and evidence and studies show a link between gut health and mood

Probiotics can help heart health through cholesterol levels

High cholesterol has links with heart disease and probiotics are known to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. It has been shown that some lactic acid-producing bacteria (probiotics) are able to break down bile in the gut. Bile is a fluid mostly made of cholesterol which aids digestion. Breaking down bile means it cannot be reabsorbed in the gut as cholesterol. 

Probiotics can lower blood pressure

High blood pressure can lead to health complications including having an impact on heart health. High blood pressure can affect physical and mental health. There is also a link between blood sugar and blood pressure. Clinical studies have found that probiotic consumption can have a moderate effect on lowering blood pressure. 

Probiotics can reduce the severity of eczema

Most of the research in this area focuses on childhood eczema which is not surprising given that the incidence of eczema is much greater in children – particularly infants – than in adults. Research that links reduce eczema symptoms and incidence continues but so far studies have found that in infants fed with milk supplemented with probiotics, symptoms improved compared to infants fed milk without probiotics. There is also a study that showed children born to women who consumed probiotics during their pregnancy had ~80 per cent lower risk of developing eczema in their first couple of years. 

Probiotics are a weight loss aid

Again, research continues, and care needs to be taken as to which strain of probiotics is consumed because some have been linked to weight gain (such as  Lactobacillus acidophilus). There are various ways in which probiotics may help/promote weight loss. 

Some bacteria in the intestine inhibit dietary fat absorption. The fat is not stored in the body but is excreted in faecal matter. 

Some probiotics can aid the body to burn calories faster and store less fat and also make you feel fuller for longer, thereby reducing appetite.  

One particular strain – Lactobacillus Rhamnosus – has been shown to directly aid weight loss. A study showed that dieting women who took the probiotic over a three month period lost up to 50 per cent more than those who didn’t consume the probiotic. 

The strain Lactobacillus Gasseri was used in a study that evidenced the bacteria had a direct impact on belly fat. 210 people took low doses of the bacteria and saw a reduction in belly fat of 8.5 per cent. 

Probiotics can improve urinary health

Now that science is in the process of debunking the idea that cranberry juice is the best natural way to deal with a urinary tract, it is good to know there is an alternative. There is evidence that Lactobacillus Crispatus can reduce the risk of infections of the urinary tract. One study showed the risk of UTIs is reduced by 50 per cent. 

Probiotics can prevent and treat diarrhoea

Diarrhoea occurs when there is an imbalance of the gut’s good and bad bacteria. Diarrhoea might be related to antibiotic use or food intake. Various studies linking diarrhoea and probiotics have concluded a positive effect with probiotics being effective for antibiotic-related diarrhoea, non-antibiotic diarrhoea, and traveller’s diarrhoea. The most effective strains are Lactobacillus Casei and Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and also, Saccharomyces Boulardii, a form of yeast.  

How to get the benefits of probiotics

To achieve the benefits outlined above, “it is necessary to consume adequate amounts of probiotics” according to Alicia Harper. It is equally important not to overdose as this can cause issues. 

The evidence (particularly in the studies mentioned above) suggests that the daily dosage of probiotics you need is 1 billion to 100 billion microorganisms. 

It is hard to know how much you are consuming with food containing probiotics as it is rare that food labels contain such information. You would need to consume foods containing live probiotic cultures regularly. Such foods include live yoghurt and fermented milk drinks and fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kefir, and kombucha. 

Probiotics also come as supplements in the form of tablets and powders. These will usually state the number of colony-forming units that are contained in each dose. 

Probiotics are a natural way to improve health and are beneficial alongside a healthy, balanced diet. 

Top 12 Money Saving Car Tips

The cost of motoring just seems to be going up and up, doesn’t it? But there are things you can do to make sure you are not paying over the odds for running a car.  Even more important if you have more than one car in the family!

Money saving car tips to try

Fuel economy

Fuel is known to be one of the biggest costs when it comes to owning a car. Here are our top tips to dodge fuel over-consumption. Firstly, avoid harsh breaking as it can increase fuel waste. Driving smoothly is your best bet to save a lot of money. Decluttering the boot and rack from various stuff will be easier on the engine and will also decrease the need for more fuel.

Regularly service your car

If you look after your car, it won’t break down as easily. However, servicing can be pricey when performed at the garages. You can save quite a bit by doing simple repairs yourself.

Oil

Even though there’s no universal answer to how often an oil change is needed, it is recommended to replace it every 7,500 or 10,000 miles. If you’d like a specific answer, it’s best to check your owner manual.

Air Filter

Replacing the car air filter every year can save you lots of cash. If the filter is broken or incorrectly fitted, it can be a costly defect as the engine is directly affected by debris and dirt.

Fluid levels

Always check up on fluid levels to see if any need topping up. It’s a relatively easy task that can spare you from a lot of hassle down the road. These include brake fluid, windscreen wash, power steering fluid and many more.

Don’t buy premium fuel

If you want to save up as much as possible, using premium oil is a luxury. It is best to stick to regular fuel, such as petrol or diesel.

Shop around for finance deals

Not only you should shop around when looking for the cheapest and best car insurance, but the same also applies to car finance. Take your time to learn about various types of car finance and it will have immense benefits. For example, some dealerships offer various finance deals, such as 0% car finance, deposit free cars, bad credit car finance and others.

Decent tyres

Tyres don’t seem like it can have a big impact, might as well get them cheap, right? Wrong! Cheap tyres may end up costing more in the long run, especially because of longer stopping distances and poor quality materials.

Good tyres have superior quality and better road grip, which is extremely important for road safety. Even though it’s more expensive than cheaper tyres, you need to think about it as an investment that will last for a long time.

Pay for road tax yearly not monthly

If paying for a road tax monthly, there is a 5% surcharge which will make the total sum larger. The same applies to 6 months. There are no additional fees, however, if you pay yearly which ends up costing less.

Avoid driving up and down the curbs

Driving on the curbs is not as harmless and you might think, as it can damage the wheels, as well as the front of the car. Avoid doing that to make the car last longer.

Pothole Claims

There are hundreds of thousands of potholes in the UK alone. If your car gets damaged while driving, you are entitled to make a claim. Gather as much evidence as possible – take photographs, measure the width and depth of it, take note of the location and the damage car has sustained. The more evidence – the better.

And another thing to keep in mind:

Was it negligence on authorities’ behalf? Could the authorities fix it before the accident happened? If it’s not the authority’s fault, then you may not receive compensation.

An appeal against unfair parking tickets

Again, you need to gather evidence to appeal. Another thing to note – don’t pay the fine if you’re going through an appealing process. However, if the parking ticket was your fault, the chances of winning are very slim and it’s best to just pay.

It usually just boils down to a few things – keeping the car in check, not overpaying on fees and other extras, as well as shopping around for the best finance and insurance deals. This way, you’ll save £100’s in an instant.

Emetophobia – Doesn’t It Make You Sick?

A chance conversation on Twitter reminded me of a phobia I used to have – emetophobia – a fear of vomiting. A phobia of being sick or of seeing someone else be sick.

In my case, I used to be absolutely terrified of being within earshot of anyone I thought was about to be sick.

emetophobia - fear of being sick - young woman looking nauseous on the sofa

I’m writing this because it strikes me that this phobia might be more common than I had expected.

I was always slightly embarrassed by my aversion to all things pukey.

The triggers for my fear of vomiting

There were a couple of events which triggered it.

The first was witnessing my grandmother, Phyllis, being ill when she had the early stages of bowel cancer.

As a child, it was hard to understand how someone could be in so much pain.

The noise was terrible.

The other event that triggered it was my dear sister’s constant car sickness.

To this day I swear she can be sick at the drop of a hat.

Car journeys were an absolute nightmare because before we had driven even two miles, Sarah would have her head hanging out of the window and would have gone green.

Family holidays were nerve-wracking especially since my father developed an (in my view) irrational hatred of motorway driving and made it his mission to avoid them by taking arduous (and generally fruitless) shortcuts he’d devise whilst smoking his pipe at service stations using a succession of battered ordinance survey maps.

Mum and us girls would return from the ladies to find him with an excited glint in his eye which meant usually i) getting lost and ii) my sister feeling sick.

This led to me having a phase of having to sit on the end of rows in churches, cinemas and theatres, terrified I might not be able to get out if someone was taken ill.

I also found myself unable to eat in restaurants for the same reason.

On a family holiday to the Loire Valley via the Roscoff Ferry (a vessel designed to make people sick as far as I could see), I took a travel pill so strong I practically tranquillised myself.

Just as well given that it was a rough crossing.

On buses and trains, I’d survey the passengers as they got on to assess who might fall prey to travel sickness.

The fact that the journey into town must be no more than 7 miles made no difference.

The thing about having a phobia is that, at a logical level, you know you are being irrational but you are unable to do anything about it.

My phobia used to give me panic attacks and, if you’ve never had one, the heart-pounding breathlessness and the urge to run to the toilet are quite frightening. That, of all the emetophobia symptoms, is the one that is hardest to deal with.

I used to put my fingers in my ears and head for the door if someone so much as coughed or looked pale!  I would feel the panic rising – that horrible feeling of heat seeping downwards from your scalp to your toes.

I was somewhat lucky because my fear revolved around other people being sick.  Some sufferers are terrified if they themselves are sick or even start to feel nauseous.

Another difficult problem with emetophobia is that you are constantly on red-alert, lest someone be taken ill.  That really puts a dampener on social functions – particularly, I found ones involving alcohol.

I worked at various law firms for many years and their Christmas parties (or any social function ) were notorious occasions for much boozing and, sometimes puking, particularly among the young trainees who felt compelled to keep up with the partners.

I could never really relax or enjoy these events because I suffer from social anxiety as well as, at least then, emetophobia.

Today, of course, I know that I should have talked to a GP who would have suggested counselling, perhaps some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to explore the triggers for this phobia and to help quash them when they arose.

They would surely have helped me with a better coping strategy than just running away or avoiding social contact.

What cured my emetophobia?

Actually, I consider myself really lucky because I found the cure was actually my earlier nightmare – having to deal with it.

Every parent knows that the first few days of a new school term are likely to introduce some new virus – either cold-like or, more usually, involving preparing the guest room for Messrs Puke and Squit.

I very quickly found that when faced with two ill children, hiding at the bottom of the garden was not an option.

I just had to roll up my sleeves and get the disinfectant out – at least once or twice per school year.

And worse still, generally I managed to get every bug the kids brought home.

The husband, with his annoying tendency to think positively at all times, has only ever succumbed once in the past six years using a mind over matter approach.

I have never been sick as much as I have since I had kids!

I knew I was over the worst the other week whilst in the doctor’s surgery with Ieuan.

He managed to throw up in one of those horrid kidney shaped bowls whilst I continued to discuss his symptoms with the doctors.

A few years ago, I’d have had to run out of the room.

If you do suffer from emetophobia, I just want to say that there are probably more of us sufferers out there than you might imagine.

And please go to your GP or confide in someone to get some help dealing with it.

It can colour your entire life if you don’t take steps to deal with it – with socially, travelling or even at work.

I’d never volunteer to be the First Aider in work in case I had to treat someone being sick.

And if the worst happens, you may just find you’re cured of your emetophobia, just like me.

Alone In Paris,The City Of Light – Why I Recommend It

When I was 19 I spent three weeks as an au pair to a French diplomat and his three children.  That glorious summer was at the end of my second year in Swansea University and, although I was nervous, I packed my treasured Antler suitcase and headed off toute seule.

Image credit: Sulox 32 Pixabay

Welcomed into a rather cold but orderly Parisian flat in the suburb of Meudon, I quickly fell in love with the sights, sounds and smells of the French capital.  From the waft of Gitane smoke in the Metro stations to the sweet aroma of crepes freshly made on street corners, everywhere offered a new experience to the senses.

I had been to Paris before on a school trip but travel is an entirely different experience when you are on your own.  It is also a challenge when you have to speak French to three kids (and a cat) and you hear barely a word of your own language for days.

As you might imagine, I made the most of my spare time.  There were trips to Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.  A wander around the Louvre and the fabulous Rubens Gallery (much more impressive than La Jaconda I thought).  Outside Notre Dame Cathedral I was mistaken for a local and interviewed (briefly) for a French radio station.

Notre Dame Cathedral: image credit Satyaprem from Pixabay

Many a cafe au lait was sipped and many a French magazine purchased.  I hunted for Roger et Gallet soap to take home (to this day I can’t find my favourite, Fougere) and loitered in the pharmacies where, even then, skincare was treated with a cross between scientific exploration and an almost religious reverence.

For the latter half of my trip, we packed everything into a small car and headed off for a chateau in the middle of the country near Nevers.  It sounds glamorous but there was no running water and the toilet had to be flushed with a bucket. The rooms were small and dark with ancient creaking wooden furniture and dust danced in the sunlight which pierced the slats of the shutters.

Taking a siesta was mandatory and so, from the middle of the day till around 3 pm, the chateau vibrated to the sonorous snoring of my employer and his girlfriend who would occasionally visit in between rounds of golf.

The children were a delight.  I don’t know exactly what had happened to their mother but they were affectionate, if quarrelsome.

I will always remember that there was a cherry orchard behind the chateau and one evening as we sat out drinking wine, the youngest lad marched solemnly up to me and presented me with a sprig of cherry blossom he had chosen.

I also remember the food.  Simple, rustic, fresh.  The girlfriend would appear with trays of fresh peaches.  Yoghurt was eaten plain with a teaspoon of brown sugar.  Squash was diluted red wine!  I learned to eat artichoke and to make a proper vinaigrette.  Baguettes were always fresh that day from the local boulangerie and the goats’ cheese came from a local farmer.

Then we packed up and returned to Paris with the cat, practically feral by the point, hissing and spitting in a box on the car roof.

I returned to Wales feeling truly European and as if I could take on anything.  My language skills had improved and my confidence had grown by leaps and bounds.

As a mum, though, I sometimes wonder how I’ll be when Caitlin wants to spread her wings and travel the world.  Both excited and apprehensive I guess.  I certainly could not deny her the opportunity to venture abroad and hope that, by then, she will have enough commonsense and savoir-faire not to get into any scrapes (as I did in Egypt, but that’s another story).

A Bateau Mouche on the Seine. Image credit: SoleneC1 at Pixabay

The media whips us parents up into a lather of worry when it comes to young people travelling abroad, doesn’t it?  If they are not falling off cliffs taking selfies, they are prey to dubious locals.  It gives me the shudders just to think of it.

But then I remember being all alone on the Champs Elysee and the fabulous feeling of freedom.  Solo travel is truly great for discovering ones’ self and ones’ capabilities, isn’t it?

It will be a while before Caitlin ventures forth but in the meantime we are planning a Parisian city break with Voyage Privé. We’ll take the kids to visit the Eiffel Tower  – is that rickety lift still there halfway up I wonder?  We’ll visit some of the smaller museums like the Jeu de Paume and take a bateau mouche along the Seine.

And I’ll be hoping that the kids fall in love with Paris, just as I did.

6 Tips To Check Out Before Visiting Orlando With Kids

Orlando, which attracts tens of millions of visitors every year, is the world capital of theme parks. Hosting Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, Florida is an ideal destination for families with plenty to keep children and adults entertained. And although you may know everything there is to know about Mickey’s Orlando, there is still much beyond Disney to keep in mind when you visit the city for the first time. With that in mind, here are 6 important things to know before your first trip to Orlando with kids.

Artystyk386 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Renting a car is the easiest way to get around Orlando

Orlando is big, and the most convenient way to get through the city’s four-lane highways is by car. Lynx buses and SunRail trains offer good public transportation options, but you may want to explore beyond the subway area and go further to see beaches, wildlife and other attractions within walking distance of the city. Avoid taxis because all those trips back to the parks add up.

Tip: Through Enjoy you can compare car hire in the city of Orlando and find the cheapest prices.

Complimentary transport is also worth considering

If renting a car is not an option, there are other smart ways to travel around the city for free, mainly to and from parks and areas such as International Drive. Most parks and resorts have mutual agreements to provide complimentary transportation for guests, so if you are here to visit the amusement parks, such transportation is an easy and convenient way to save money.

Buying all tickets in advance will save you money

The smartest way to save in Orlando is to book tickets in advance using the discounted online price. This applies to theme parks (as more days are acquired, the price per day becomes cheaper), but it also applies to many attractions, from tours and shows to museums and art exhibitions.

I-Drive is a convenient place to stay

The International Drive (I-Drive) is a cultural theme park in itself that offers many food and beverage options, exclusive shops and discount stores, resorts and some of the city’s most popular clubs and theatres. Along with the variety of hotels and entertainment, I-Drive is close to the parks and the Orange County Convention Center, making it an excellent place for those who wish to have all of Orlando’s main attractions right at their doorstep.

The golf scene in Orlando is amazing

Orlando is a golfer’s dream. With around 25 courses in the city, it is not difficult to see why so many golf professionals consider the city to be their home. For tourists, the large number of public golf courses means variety. The pristine and well-kept streets within the world of Walt Disney World, such as Waldorf Astoria Orlando or Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes, are a paradise for golfers. So, don’t forget to pack your sticks!

Walt Disney World is not a park, and it is huge

Of course, this may seem obvious, but there are many people who may not know that Walt Disney World is actually a fusion of four of the largest theme parks in the world, covering approximately 40 square miles. Yes, the Four Park Challenge is one thing, which is coming to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios games, all in one day. However, we do not recommend the challenge unless you have 10 days to spend in the parks. Instead, it will be better to decide on one or two that you want to visit. The children will have a blast no matter which you pick.

How to run a stress-free event

There are no two ways about it: organising an event can be stressful. While some people are natural party planners, most of us find the idea of coming up with a theme, guest-list and budget confusing – not to mention hosting when the guests arrive. But, whether you’re planning a birthday party, baby shower or engagement party, there are certain ways to make the planning go as smoothly as possible. So, what are they?

Organisation

When running an event, the key is to be organised. You can now get free event planning software that helps with this and allows you to plan, schedule and manage everything you want the event to include. Alternatively, this might mean using a diary and making sure you have all the information there. Whatever your methods, you will need to keep all your bookings in one place and make sure you plan everything with plenty of time in advance. Don’t leave it to the last minute, or you’ll certainly feel the pressure.

Budget

Much of the stress of organising an event comes from money, especially if you haven’t planned an event before. The most important thing is to establish a budget and stick to it. Don’t just blindly buy things and hope for the best. If you’re not sure how much you should be spending, speak to someone else involved and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Spreadsheets will be a huge help here, as you can keep an eye on everything and make sure the numbers add up. Don’t forget to keep receipts, too!

Invites

Another sure way to get your palms sweating is thinking about the guestlist for your event. Often, who you want to invite, who you should invite and who you end up inviting don’t tally up. A way to reduce stress in general is to come up with a clear guest list and send out invites early. Your invites should include all the relevant information and establish the theme of the event, so guests are clear about what to wear and if they should bring anything. Depending on the type of event you’re organising, you may wish to send invites out electronically instead of via post. Just make sure that there is a way to RSVP so you know who will be attending.

Asking for help

The best way to run a stress-free event is to understand that you can’t do everything alone. Sometimes, we find it hard to admit that we’re feeling overwhelmed, and we might feel ashamed that we’re finding organising our child’s birthday party so stressful. Don’t be embarrassed. If you’re not used to organising events, it can be a lot to take on, and you’ll have plenty of other things on your plate. Fortunately, friends and relatives will be more than happy to help, and sharing the responsibilities will take a huge weight off. Just establish some of the things you need help with and ask for a little assistance. You’d do the same for them.

Making Pancakes With Caitlin

It’s Pancake Day on Tuesday 25 February this year and, with some nostalgia, here’s Caitlin helping me to make pancakes a fair few years ago.  We still use the recipe though.  Here’s what happened back then …..

Existing readers of this blog will be familiar with my undoubted culinary prowess and remember the ‘Potato of Doom’ incident. Despite this, and racked with unprecedented levels of maternal stress since mums everywhere appear to be flipping pancakes, a couple of years ago I caved in, embraced Delia and learned how to make pancakes with the help of Caitlin.

how to make pancakes - ingredients to make pancakes

Let the sorcery begin

In those days Ieuan had only progressed from eating things mostly beginning with ‘b’ (bananas, bread, bags of crisps), to things beginning with ‘c’ (carrots, and bags of crisps) so he absented himself from the kitchen on the grounds of being a future auditionee for “Freaky Eaters”.

how to make pancakes - chef Caitlin at the ready

Chef Caitlin

This year, Pancake Day is on Tuesday 7th March so it’s time to get practising. This is the recipe we used, courtesy of Ms Smith.  It looked simple enough and didn’t involve anything green so we gave it a go.  Weren’t the kids cute in those days?

how to make pancakes - Caitlin holding a bag of plain flour

Ingredients:-

For the pancake mixture

*  110g / 4oz plain flour, sifted

*  pinch of salt

*  2 eggs

*  200ml/ 7fl oz milk mixed with 75ml / 3fl oz water

*  50g / 2oz butter

how to make pancakes - Caitlin sifting the flour

First, sift your flour

Method:-

1.  Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.

2.  Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it

how to make pancakes - add the eggs to the flour

3.  Begin whisking the eggs, including any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl as you go.

how to make pancake - Caitlin mixing the batter

4.  Gradually add small quantities of the milk/water mixture, still whisking to get rid of any lumps.

5.  When all the liquid is added, use a rubber spatula to scrape elusive bits of flour around the edge into the centre, then whisk until the batter is smooth with the consistency of thin cream.

how to make pancakes - the pancake batter all mixed

6.   Melt the 50g/ 2oz of butter in a pan and spoon 2 tbsp. of it into the batter and whisk it in.  Pour the rest into a bowl and use it to grease the pan, using a wedge of kitchen paper to smear it around the pan before you make each pancake.

7.  Get the pan really hot, then turn down the heat to medium.  Do a test pancake to gauge the right amount of batter.  Delia suggests 2 tbsp. for an 18cm / 7 in pan but my frying pan is enormous and I found I was using at least 4/5 tbsp.

how to make pancakes - Caitlin making her first pancake on the stove

how to make pancakes - pancake batter in frying pan

Er,  yup this definitely looks like my usual culinary standard – although it is the test one

Delia suggests it’s easier if you spoon the batter into a ladle so it can be poured into the pan in one go.  The pancake should cook in around 30 seconds but I found it took a couple of minutes in my pan to get the golden colour and slightly crispy edges we love.

8.  Flip the pancake over to cook the other side which should only take a few seconds (again I found it took much longer).

9.  Decorate to taste.

how to make pancakes - Caitlin about to tuck in to her pancake

I assembled a selection of sweet treats for the kids to try, including blueberries, sultanas, maple syrup and lemon juice.

how to make pancakes - ieuan with his pancake

We found the mix made five decent sized pancakes which the kids ate.  No really.  Even Ieuan.  Perhaps the curse of the potato has been lifted.

NB: Caitlin was fully supervised when by the oven and no potatoes were harmed in the construction of the blog post.

Surgery gone wrong: the rise of botched breast implants

There seems to be loads of stories doing the rounds at the moment about the horrible effects that can arise when breast implant surgery goes wrong. When you look at it in more detail it becomes clear that there is a lack of information both for women who are considering surgery and for those who have already had breast implants. People don’t know where to turn when it comes to their legal rights. Botched cosmetic surgery is civil malpractice, and women have the right to be compensated for poorly done operations that put their health and lives at risk. 

After conducting a survey, the British Association of Plastic Surgeons found some very disturbing results. Across its entire membership of trained and accredited members, over 75% of them state that during the last year, they have had patients come to them with botched surgery that they need fixing.

From that survey, around 7 out of every 10 surgeons reported that they were witnessing an increase in other botched surgeries needing fixing. In fact, over 35% of the average surgeon’s earnings in the last year came from fixing malpractice mistakes. Some of these mistakes were so bad that many of the surgeons had to refuse clients, as the damage was not repairable.

The data from the survey seemed to point to three problem areas. 38% of the clients who were asking for help had been granted permission to have the surgeries when they shouldn’t have. They were not properly vetted and deemed medically or physically fit. If a proper surgeon has carried out these checks, these patients would not have been allowed to undergo surgery.

31% of the clients, had received surgery from an unqualified surgeon. These surgeons were not part of the accredited surgeons guild and had often received their training in other countries, where the quality levels are much lower.

Finally, the remaining 31% of clients had gone abroad to receive their surgery at lower the costs. 

This is the group of clients with the lowest quality of operations and the highest number of un-fixable botched surgeries. Their only remaining option was to go to the NHS. This is an enormous strain, as the cost for doing this can be around $19,000 dollars (around £14,500). For just one hospital, over 20 patients had to be treated in just one month, and this cost the NHS around $400,000 dollars (around £307,000).

If you have decided that you want to undergo cosmetic surgery, please take your time and do the proper research. Ask your surgeon the right questions too. Some good ones to start with are:

  • Do they appear to be qualified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons?
  • How many surgeries have they performed and do they have good reviews/feedback from clients?
  • Do they have any malpractice claims against them?
  • Are they making sure you understand the whole process?
  • Do they make you feel safe?
  • Do they have any awards to corroborate their skills?

The answers to these questions could help you avoid a botched surgery that could have long-lasting implications. Don’t ruin your life by getting cheap plastic surgery.

Your Annual Guide To Cleaning Your Home

It’s almost time to start spring cleaning but, as we all know, cleaning your house is an ongoing chore – and not necessarily an enjoyable one.

Still below you’ll find a helpful schedule to plan those cleaning jobs season by season.  Since I’ve just moved house, I’ll definitely be taking note of upcoming chores – and bribing the kids to pitch in and help.

Otherwise I can foresee several unscheduled ‘blips’ in WiFi access!

Take a look at the schedule below and let me know in the comments whether there are any seasonal jobs to be added.

And take heart from the fact that you can burn up to 200 calories an hour when cleaning.  That’s almost a four finger KitKat.  Small pleasures, eh?


Content Provided By Maggy Maid

How To Care For Your White Carpet At Home

The white carpet is probably the most beautiful of all types of carpets. When buying a white carpet though, you should consider how you are going to look after it. Due to improper carpet cleaning methods, often, a white carpet changes colour to yellow. In addition, if you neglect its maintenance for several weeks, it can get quite dirty.

 

Why White Carpets Gets Dirty When Cleaning?

The thing is that the white carpet is known to be more affected by pollution than carpets of other colours. Even after carpet cleaning, the carpet may get dirty due to poor quality detergents, a dirty brush, etc.

It is also worth noting that premium white carpets are made from natural wool, and are quite difficult to wash. With synthetic carpets, everything is much simpler in terms of carpet washing and carpet cleaning.

Specifics of White Carpet Care

To keep the white carpet always white, you must follow these carpet cleaning techniques:

  1. Using a vacuum cleaner

Vacuuming a carpet is not difficult, as it only sucks in all the dust and dirt. However, you need to be careful with it, since sometimes there are cases when cleaning the carpet with a vacuum cleaner, the dirt only “spreads” over the surface of the carpet, which makes it even dirtier. You need to vacuum the white carpet at least once a week.

  1. Using special foam

In stores, you can find special spray cans designed for carpet cleaning. The composition of the foam is such that when it gets on the carpet, it raises all the dust and dirt from the bottom of the carpet, after which they can be removed using a regular sponge or brush.

  1. Using a nap brush

Thanks to the use of a bristle brush, it is easy to get rid of pet hair. Therefore, it is not necessary to carry out general cleaning of the carpet if the hair is from a pet, because after each cleaning the carpet wears out more and more.

How to Clean White Long-Piled Carpets?

If you still decide to purchase a long-piled carpet of a white colour, get ready for painstaking care of it. It looks gorgeous but requires increased attention to itself. A few care tips to help keep snow-white carpets in proper shape:

  • Vacuum clean at least once a week.
  • Once a month it is advisable to knock out white rugs outside.
  • In winter, it would be nice to clean the steps with snow several times.
  • For snow-white carpets with a high pile of natural materials, it is better to use dry carpet cleaning. Artificial long-piled carpets can be cleaned with a washing vacuum cleaner. In this case, special detergents should be used in moderation.

After wet cleaning, the carpet should be dried in the fresh air so that mould does not start in a long pile. You can open all the doors and windows at home to bring the fresh air inside your house.

Useful White Carpet Tips You Need to Follow

  1. When buying a white carpet from an online store, it is better to ask the manufacturer in detail about the proper care of the carpet;
  2. If possible, it is better to knock out a white carpet on the backyard so that the level of carpet cleaning is higher;
  3. If there are many detergents available, then it is worth starting with less strong ones, and if the stains do not wash off, then you can move on to stronger ones.

It can be concluded that caring for a white carpet is not an easy task, but if you are diligent with its upkeep, it will please the eye for a long time.

Easy Dressing Up Ideas For World Book Day

Don’t panic.  It’s World Book Day on 5th March 2020 and the challenge is on to kit your child out as their favourite character from a book.

In case your imagination has run dry and you need inspiration, the following posts should give you plenty of budget-friendly ideas.

And don’t worry, if you’re a craft-duffer like I am, trust me you will be able to do one of these.

And if not, there’s always Smiffys, or Amazon (bad mum alert!).

Keep reading for plenty of useful suggestions and relevant links.

Worldbookday.com

2020 celebrates the 23rd World Book Day, the aim of which is to encourage children in the UK and Ireland to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.

Schools are being sent packs of Book Tokens and age-ranged World Book Day Resource Packs (age-ranged into Nursery/Pre-School, Primary and Secondary) full of ideas and activities, display material and more information about how to get involved in World Book Day.

World Book Day has its own really useful website with plenty of dressing up ideas which you can find here.

This year if you donate £1 to dress up and you can help change lives at the same time by helping Book Aid International.

You’ll find even more dressing up ideas on the Book Aid International website here.

Ieuan as Willy Wonka
Ieuan as Willy Wonka

30 last-minute World Book Day costume ideas that you can create at home without a needle and thread

Wales Online have put together some really useful ideas – and you could even re-use the costumes you doubtless had to cobble together for Roald Dahl Day.

World Book Day 2015: What To Wear – The Guardian

A useful collection of real-life costumes featuring photos parents have sent in to the Guardian’s photo gallery.

As you might expect, you’ll find some useful ideas on Netmums and Mumsnet.

If you live in the North East, ChronicleLive has 41 Inspiring World Book Day Costumes From Families in Newcastle and the North East.

More ideas from The Daily Post in North Wales in its piece “When is World Book Day 2017. Some Ideas And Find Out What Is Expected To Be This Year’s Best Seller”

Caitlin as Roald Dahl's Matilda
Caitlin as Matilda

More ideas from the Manchester Evening News and the Liverpool Echo and ChronicleLive’s “10 World Book Day Costume Ideas from Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys“.

This list may also help “15 Best Children’s Books Of All Time” from The Telegraph.

But are there any characters you shouldn’t dress your child up as?  I recently heard the story of a woman who sent her son to school dressed as serial killer Dexter and then there was the mum whose son’s favourite book was his Top Gear Annual – so she sent him in dressed as Jeremy Clarkson.

And on that bombshell……

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