Archives for January 2014

Midwife Advice: How Much Money Will You Need for Your Baby’s Arrival?

baby

What with the late night feedings, occasional crying (occasionally more than occasional) and the general attention that a new-born baby needs, parents don’t get much sleep – that much is part of the deal. But what they really don’t need is to have what little slumber they do get ruined by money worries. A new-born baby can cost a bundle (in this case not a bundle of joy) but with a little bit of forward planning, a healthy savings account and a lot of foresight you shouldn’t have too many worries.

So just how much do people spend on their own mini-me? According to the Daily Mail parents will fork out more than £5,000 on a baby before its first birthday, on items like nappies, clothes, nursery furniture and food. Here’s the kicker with this though, almost £1,500 of this is spent before the baby is even born. The biggest chunk of pre-baby spending goes on decorating the nursery, which costs an average of £547, while £265 goes on a pushchair.

Helpfully this was broken down into a list. If you take a look down the list there are a few items that can probably be cut back on, if you need to save a few pennies. For instance, do you really need to spend, on average, £771 on toys, games and books? Sure it’s great to read to your child but you don’t need to have read the entire works of Shakespeare (or Lemony Snickett) to them before they even start teething. When it comes to toys most babies are perfectly happy with your car keys and don’t really need a room full of gifts.  Do they really need a spare crib or car seat, a deluxe baby monitor with 500 metre range or a decade’s supply of nappies? You don’t have to leave your child wanting of course, but buying unnecessary goods is just going to make your financial situation a little worse.

Of course there are some situations you can’t really do much about. For instance, babies grow quickly and buying new clothes every few weeks is something you’ll have to get used to. Clothes make up £747 of the first year spending, and the averages aren’t just made up of Hugo Boss and Ted Baker. We checked (the figure surprised us too).

Luckily most people do seem pretty prepared for this whole spending business. According to a survey on RedBookMag 76 per cent of expectant parents say they feel financially prepared for having a baby – which while admittedly a US survey, the results are probably echoed in the UK, especially given that us Brits seem to happily overspend on their baby rather than underspend (which, let’s face it, is way better).

You can probably trim a few of the costs by cutting back on a few unnecessary items but if you really can afford to spoil your baby, why not? At least until they’re old enough to realise what you’re doing, at which point you’ll have to refrain from spoiling in order to teach them things like the value of money.

 

5 Exciting Ways to Keep Your Kids Happy During The Summer Break

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When the summer finally arrives, and it is the last week of the school term, our children get a sudden burst of energy. It’s on you before you know it. The summer holidays.

We have a dilemma. When the kids return to school, the first thing they will be asked to do is spill the beans over the quality of play we have provided for them. Oh, the shame if we left them to their own devices allowing their imagination to keep them occupied. Any mention of the dreaded games machine is also to be avoided at all costs, in that most revealing of essays.

We may not be able to afford daily activities. Once a week, however, we can surely find a free way of entertaining them with a paid activity thrown in here or there.

So here are five cool ways of keeping your reputation intact when they return to school.

A Simple Walk in the Forest

Especially for the younger children, the sense of freedom they get out in the country cannot be equalled. Many Forestry Commissions have dedicated walks with points of interest. They are free, despite our government’s best attempts to sell them off, and they belong to you. Use them. Spend a day in the forest, have a picnic, let the children run. Then have a quiet drive home as the little one’s sleep off the day’s exertions. I bet they will remember that day when returning to school.

Mountain Biking

Across the country, there are many mountain bike trails free to use. Get those bikes strapped onto the car and let them make the rest of us feel guilty as they demonstrate their fitness. Always think safety though, make them wear those helmets.

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For a reasonable fee, you could go on Hoverday’s Segway Experience or even a quad bike ride. Activities can be found across the length and breadth of the country. Under expert supervision, they can explore without having to walk or pedal. Now ,as adults, we are used to this but it is a new experience for kids to be in control of the vehicle. The pleasure gained is not to be underestimated. Go on, treat them, it’s only once.

Theme Park

Once a year at least, all kids deserve a go on the big rides. This may be the most expensive activity. They need to feel true terror, and it is our job to provide it! Take a photograph or video of your child screaming, horrified, crying, begging for the ride to end. And then, of course, asking to go again. Kids!

Fishing

Fishing? Exciting? Rubbish!

No, it’s not. Ok, they may not burn many calories, but the look of sheer exhilaration and panic on your child’s face as they land that ten pound carp is priceless. You can bet that picture will go to school. If they are under twelve they won’t need a license, but you will. Get a day license from your local post office or online.

So there we have five things you can do with your children, hopefully without breaking the bank or any bones. They will go back to school with their heads held high and a story ready to be told. Give yourself a pat on the back and consider it a job well done. Until next year anyway.

How to instil your child with a love of reading

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Image by arrathoonlaa@att.net 

A love of reading is one of the most precious gifts that you can give to your child. As they grow up, if they’ve always had lots of stories read to them, and then begin to enjoy reading by themselves, a love of reading will open up worlds of entertainment and information throughout the rest of their lives.

So how do you get kids to love books? Well, of course, it’s as simple as sitting down to read with them regularly but every individual is different. Some people are natural bookworms from the very beginning, others might only ever read books when they have to and never pick up a book out of choice once they’ve left school.

But there are ways you can encourage that love of reading – and by doing so, you’ll be doing your child a good service.

The earlier you can introduce your baby to books, the better. Of course, when they are very young, they’ll be more interested in sucking and chewing the books rather than the stories they contain! That’s why board books are built to be so indestructible after all. But just the act of sitting down and reading with your baby a few times a day will provide them with a sense of calm and relaxation. The cosy position most people take up to read will also fill them with reassurance, even though it may only be on a subliminal level. Babies take in a lot of information before they can speak, and the more you can stimulate them with books and pictures and reading stories, the quicker their language skills will develop.

There is a great article about how to get children to love books which is featured on the www.gltc.co.uk/blog/. It has some great tips and ideas on ways to get kids to appreciate books and reading. For instance, if you get a bookshelf or a set of shelves for your child’s room that they can easily access themselves, they’ll naturally go to get a book when they want one. Books shouldn’t be kept high up and out of reach – unless, of course, you have a child who loves the sound of ripping paper! But even if that’s the case, you can adapt what you put on your child’s bookcase according to their temperament and age. Start with the plastic coated board books that survive pretty much anything, and as your child understands that books are not toys and are objects to be treasured, you can gradually introduce some paperback picture books and see how they get on with treating them gently.

One key aspect of encouraging a love of reading is to make sure that children get to hear a wide range of stories. You might start with the books you remember loving as a child, or the ones with the most enticing of illustrations. Don’t forget the classic children’s tales like Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows as well as the modern classics like The Gruffalo and ‘The story of the little mole who knew it was none of his business.’ And if you’ve not yet read the mole story, be prepared to talk about quite a yucky subject!

You may have a natural bookworm for a child, but if you don’t, don’t despair. They’ll appreciate the value of books one day – and if you keep reading them stories, that day may come sooner than you think!

Play Bingo Online Free for a Year

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Bingo remains one of the most popular past times, and now with the Internet you can easily play online at home. You no longer have an excuse to log in and see what all the fuss is about, and there are many different sites to choose. In 2014, the opportunities to play free bingo are exciting, and will encourage you even more to join in the fun.

You will soon discover that there are many excellent reasons to play online bingo, and if you look there are opportunities to play free bingo for a year. You may be sceptical, but at 888ladies bingo site they want you to join in the fun. Through several online promotions you can help to make 2014 an exciting year.

Not only can you have the opportunity to play bingo free for a year, but through their Facebook page you can have your wish come true. All you have to do is join them on Facebook, make a wish, and through the power of likes, you may get your ultimate wish come true. There has never been a better time to log in and explore what the online bingo sites have to offer.

Even if you are currently playing on other bingo sites, the opportunity to be able to play free for a year is attractive. Although attending bingo halls was once popular, more people are finding that online bingo is have more convenient. You can be at home with the kids, and in between housework you can log in and play.

Many people do not play bingo online for financial rewards, and more to join the exciting community that has grown from these sites. You will soon discover that when you join there are numerous people willing to help you find your way around. Logging in every day becomes something that you look forward to, and you can make genuine friends.

Choosing the online bingo site carefully is essential, and when there are offers of free bingo it can be attractive. You need to check out all of the information including their websites, and Facebook pages and choose a website that you feel comfortable playing on and exploring. Sites such as 888ladies are excellent, and will provide everything you need.

Once you have been on the site you will see how straightforward everything is, and how much you enjoy playing online bingo. Throughout the day you can log in, enjoy some quiet time, and maybe even win. If you are lucky enough to win the free bingo for a year, it will make it even more attractive to play online.

Whether you join due to the offers, or have been recommended this great site, there are several advantages to online Bingo. You never have to leave your home; it is warm, comfortable and incredibly safe. You can watch the kids, cook the dinner, and  still enjoy playing bingo, which is perfect for many busy mums. 

Top Five Activities to Do Around the House with Children

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It’s the middle of winter right now and we’ve not had the best of times with the weather so far with rain, snow and storms since the end of November. This can lead to frustrated children and frustrated children tends to lead to stressed parents, so we’re letting you know what works for us in preventing our children from turning into rampaging monsters during the wet weekends and school holidays at this time of year.

Wear Them Out With Games

While board games are, depending on the game, educational as well as fun for smaller children, yet I find that these types of games do not manage to resolve the frustration at being stuck inside at this time of year due to the weather. I’ve always found that playing hide-and-seek and running around the house like lunatics, although it’s sure to leave you with plenty more cleaning up than a board game, is the perfect way to spend a cold, wet afternoon in winter.

As well as this if you have a games console, such as an Xbox 360 with the Kinect sensor that tracks your movements, allows the same kind of running around madness without messing up your house as its large collection of games allows children, and adults too!, to play games in a unconventional way using their arms, legs and bodies as a controller.

The plus side of these physical games is that it can tire the youngsters out nice and early, giving you the chance to relax early in the evening! My favourite past-time when this happens is bingo online at Butlersbingo.com and it is my favourite place to play! Click here and you can play some free bingo too!

Baking

It does seem as if we’re getting into a pattern of making a mess of the house but, in my opinion, a messy house is a happy house! My children love creating things, whether it be colouring, drawing, Lego, but their favourite thing to create is food they can eat!

They love nothing more than to be sat in the kitchen creating cupcakes, cookies and brownies amongst a million other sweet treats and this can while away the wet and miserable hours!

Jumping in Muddy Puddles

If your children, like mine, are Peppa Pig fans then you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from with this one! Putting on a pair of wellington boots and a heavy jacket as well as gloves and a hat to keep the cold and wet out gives you plenty of hours of fun bouncing around in the garden, or even in the park, as the young ones replicate their favourite young pig from TV.

Just don’t tell my wife or I’ll be in trouble!

Movie Marathon

Sometimes when it’s horrible outside no-one is in the mood jumping around the house like lunatics or getting soaking wet in muddy puddles and a perfect remedy for boredom in these times is firing up the DVD player and watching some movies with big bowls of popcorn!

My house is split between watching older Disney Princess movies, like Cinderella, Snow White or Beauty and the Beast, or the newer animated movie series’ like Madagascar, Ice Age and Toy Story as well as many others from recent years. I have to admit that this is my favourite of all the things to do as I think I love the films (and the popcorn!) more than the children!

Cleaning

This may seem as a surprise addition to the list, but hear me out. Ok, children don’t tend to like cleaning the mess that they’ve made after them, but if you decide to have a big house wide and family cleaning event where everyone gets involved and is assigned specific duties, from my experience anyway, they love it. Alternatively just call a cleaning company like this one.

It gets the house nice and clean, takes their minds away from the pouring rain outside, and you can reward them for all their hard work giving them a sense that they themselves have achieved something, just like Mommy and Daddy do.

Recreating a Country Lounge in 3 Easy Steps

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Country kitchens are so last year; this is the year of the country style living room! Think ‘Little House on The Prairie’ style net curtains, plenty of wooden furniture, some shabby chic decorations and some statement furniture to finish it all off. Here are the three easy steps to recreating that country lounge you’ve always wanted.

Step 1: Lots of wood

Wooden furniture is a must-have if you’re planning a country style living room. It just wouldn’t look right without it. Wooden coffee tables, bookcases, sideboards, dressers; wooden everything. Try not to go for painted or varnished wood if you want to recreate that authentic country look. You will be better off using pine or lighter woods if your living room is quite small, as it will open it up and give it a fresher feel. If you have a large lounge then you can be a bit more adventurous with the pieces you pick and the type of wood they are made from. You will find a whole ton of beautiful wooden items online and in furniture stores, but be prepared to pay big bucks for some of the larger pieces. If you want a country lounge, without spending a fortune, then just opt for one key wooden piece such as a bookcase or sideboard.

Step 2: Shabby Chic

Once you have filled your living room with plenty of wood, it’s time to go shopping for some shabby chic goodies. Luckily, this is one trend that is not going to fade out for a long time, so there should be plenty of places to buy what you want. Country homes are always filled with sentimental items, such as photo frames, little bird cages holding candles and hurricane jars filled with candles. When you start on a shabby chic shopping dash you won’t be able to stop yourself. It’s best to set aside a budget for the smaller items and ensure you don’t go over it; otherwise you could end up getting carried away and have no room for it all! Don’t forget pastel coloured scatter cushions, paisley curtains and cosy rugs to complete the shabby country chic style.

Step 3: Finish it off

You now have a living room filled with wooden furniture and beautiful shabby chic ornaments, but you’re missing your statement piece. No country lounge is going to be complete without a couple of Chesterfield Sofas for the family to sit on. Luxurious, leather seating that will look stunning with your newly purchased scatter cushions. Lighter colours would again work best, in contrast with the wood and the shabby chic ornaments. Think soft caramel colours as opposed to a dominant black 4-seater in the middle of your white and pastel palace.

Now you’ve completed all three steps, sit back and enjoy your beautiful country living room. There’s something so relaxing about the pale wood in contrast with the light browns of the leather sofa and pastel scatter cushions. You won’t ever want to leave your living room again!

4 Great Reasons For Using Wood Stain To Improve Home’s Timber

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If you are planning to use timber on a home improvement or building project you might be thinking about not wood staining, seeing it as an unnecessary nuisance of a job.  However there are many good reasons why you should stain wood, products such as these decorative wood stains, as you will see from the following article.

Makes Wood Waterproof

As the majority of wood on the exterior of your property will obviously be exposed to a certain amount of water some of the time.  However, it is also possible that wood used on the interior of your home will also be exposed to water from accidental spillages.  Therefore, to avoid the problems associated with water damage to wood, wood staining is important.  When you wood stain wood, it forms a protective layer on the wood’s surface which causes the water to flow away from the wood without affecting the wood at all.

Gives Wood Rot Protection

As you may already know, wood is vulnerable to the effects of rotting.  This is a major problem because once your wood starts to rot; there really is no way round it.  Rotten wood, particularly if it is used in a supportive structure, is very dangerous.  The only thing you can do with rotten wood is replace it, so to avoid doing this it is important to prevent any rotting from effecting the wood from the beginning.  Wood staining will protect your wood from mildew, mould, termites and other pests that can rot wood.

Staining Blocks Sunlight

Wood can be damaged if it is exposed without protection, to sunlight over a long period of time.  Therefore, any wood that is positioned or placed somewhere where it will receive lots of direct sunlight, it is important to use wood stain to stop the sun from damaging or discolouring it.

Decoratively Colours The Wood

Although natural wood colours suit certain decor and styles, you may want your wood to be a particular colour in a particular room.  The best way to colour wood is to use a coloured stain.  There are many different options and when you are considering the aesthetic value of wood staining, there are two varieties – pigment and dye.  While dye stain will colour wood with small pores, pigment based wood stain will colour wood with larger pores.  By using colourful wood stains you can give your wood a colour that is not naturally found in that particular wood or any wood if you want to push the boat out, while retaining the wood’s attractive features – including the texture and the grain.

If you do not want to colour your wood, don’t worry as there are many wood stains available that are transparent and can be used to highlight and preserve the natural look of the wood.  Although you will find that the majority of wood stains are neither wholly transparent nor opaque, but some kind of happy medium between both contrasts.

 

Top 5 Reasons to Choose a Wood Stove for Your Home

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Whether you are renovating your current home and want to improve the heating system or are building a new house and want to start off with an efficient system for heating the property, you should consider buying a wood burning stove.  If you are still on the fence, then you should find the follow article featuring 5 great reasons to buy a wood burning stove from Stovax.

They Are In Fashion

In recent years wood burning stoves have become more and more popular and very much a trendy addition to your home.  Newer and contemporary designs have glass doors so that you can see the flames burning, while keeping them safely contained.  There are many different colours and styles to choose from so you will always be able to find one that suits your decor, even if you have a very modern looking home.

They Are Incredibly Eco-Friendly

Whereas electricity and gas companies don’t provide green energy, wood burning stoves do.  These are clean burning appliances that rely on wood, which is a renewable energy source that only releases a very small amount of smoke if it has been dried properly before being used in the stove.  Whereas electricity companies use expendable and costly sources such as coal and oil which are running out and as they become harder to find the cost will rise even more.

They Cut Energy Costs And Bills Dramatically

Wood burning stoves can also dramatically cut your utility bills, particularly if you rely mostly on the heat provided by them during the winter months.  The reason why is that energy bills are always much higher during winter months, so it is more expensive to use your energy company provided electricity during the winter.

They Also Provide A Cooking Surface

During a blackout is the time when wood burning stoves really become useful. If you do not have access to electricity but have a working stove you can use the stove to not only heat your home but do as much cooking as you like on.  Whether you want to bake a cake, cook a stew or soup or fry some bacon and eggs, this is all very easy to do with a wood burning stove, meaning you can stay warm and nourished during a bad storm or a power cut.

They Offer Some Great Accessories

Another useful aspect of wood burning stoves is that you can use surface-mount magnetic thermometers with them.  These helpful little gadgets let you know whether the air-intake settings on your stove need to be adjusted or if it’s time to add more fuel or close the damper.  You can also get special shelves and racks for wood burning stoves which can be used to carefully warm or dry clothes on.

There are many other reasons why you should consider buying a wood burning stove for your home, but hopefully the list above has given you something to think about.

 

Europe’s Best Spring Holiday Destinations

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Most UK residents wait until the summer to take a family holiday, but as so many of us are currently experiences money trouble, perhaps moving things forward slightly and opting to travel during the spring months would be the ideal solution. You see; everything is always cheaper during this period, as fewer people take a vacation due to the weather. This is precisely the reason why you should consider visiting a European destination between February and April. You never know; it might even work out much more enjoyable.

With that in mind, this article has been written to help people on a budget to select the perfect location for their family break. All of the places included have been popular with British tourists for years, and I’ve personally been to each of them, so I can vouch for their appeal. So, have a quick read through all the information I’ve included, and you should come away with a much better idea of where you should go over the next couple of months.

Paris, France

Known around the world as the city of love, you might be surprised to learn that there’s a lot more to Paris than meets the eye at first. Sure, you’ve got top class restaurants and beautiful, unique architecture, but there’s also some amazing museums and plenty to keep the kids occupied as well. Venere hotels in Paris are usually quite cheap, and so it might be a good idea to start comparing prices and weighing up your options immediately if you want to avoid disappointment. You have to remember that this is a very desirable location, and so accommodation tends to get fully booked pretty quickly.

Prague, Czech Republic

Now, I’ve been here over five times since the year 2000, so that should tell you something about how stunning this city really is. Thanks to mass immigration from almost every country in the world after world war two, the Czech culture is incredibly interesting, and don’t be surprised if you bump into people of the like you’ve never seen before. To illustrate this, I actually have a friend over there now called Jordell. He was born in Nigeria during the 1950’s; he speaks French, and he’s been living in Prague since the age of ten. This place is incredibly diverse.

Rome, Italy

Although the weather does pick up in Italy towards the summer, most people who visit this destination do so for other reasons anyway. Rome is filled with historic buildings and ruins of the largest and greatest empire ever to exist on this planet. Also, you’ll find hundreds of designer clothing stores and boutique shops guaranteed to keep you occupied for the duration of your stay. Accommodation is usually very cheap in the spring, just avoid staying at any of the top hotels, as they will cost you upwards of £200 per night. By sticking with the budget options, you could end up only paying that amount for an entire week.

So there you have it guys, you should now be ready to start making arrangements for your spring 2014 holiday. I hope you have a fantastic time, wherever you decide to go.

Everything You Should Know About Buying a Trampoline for Your Kids

A trampoline is a fun way to get your kids to spend more time outdoors. Not only will it entertain them for hours on end, it’ll give them some great exercise – much better than sitting around in front of the TV all day long! The only problem with buying a trampoline is that there is no official British or European standard, meaning that some companies could easily compromise on quality to cut costs. You certainly don’t want your kids to become injured, so what can you do to make sure you’re buying your kids a quality piece of equipment? Here’s everything you need to know:

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What is The Best Trampoline For You?

The best trampoline for you and your kids will no doubt be a model that comes with a warranty or guarantee – this way, you’ll have peace of mind. Make sure the trampoline is covered for any structural breakages due to rust, as this can cause accidents. If you plan on having the trampoline for a long time, it’ll also help if you can get spares/replacement parts. Take a look at Outdoor Toys Direct to start you off!

What Shape Trampoline Do You Want?

You can get various shaped trampolines, but the two main shapes are round/rectangular. Real sporting trampolines have always been rectangular, but most trampolines you’ll find in your neighbors gardens will be round. The shape you get totally depends on you and your preferences!

Can You Get Recommendations?

If you do have neighbors/friends with trampolines, you should talk to them to get recommendations. If they have had their trampoline for years and are perfectly happy, you should consider the supplier they purchased their trampoline from. Ask them questions about building the trampoline, purchasing the replacement parts, and how well the company treated them if they did come across any problems.

What Size Trampoline Should You Buy?

There are a variety of sizes when it comes to buying a trampoline, from the tiny models just big enough for one person, to bigger models suitable for around 5 children. If you have the space and budget, it’s recommended you get the biggest sized trampoline you can afford. Many people regret choosing a small trampoline!

How Can I Make The Trampoline Safe for My Kids?

Risks do come with owning a trampoline, so you need to make sure your kids are perfectly safe. To prevent your kids from falling off the trampoline, a netted enclosure works best. To stop toddlers and pets from going underneath the trampoline while people are bouncing, you should consider buying an undernet.

There have also been stories of trampolines taking off in the wind! This can sometimes happen in very high winds, especially if you have a safety net fitted as it acts as a sale. When strong winds are forecast, take away the safety net and make sure the kids stay off it.

How Long Should A Trampoline Last?

Your trampoline is going to live in the garden, so not only is it going to take a bit of wear and tear from the whole family, but the elements too. You should expect your trampoline to last around 10 years!