Five Ways to Get Your Kids Interested in Reading

Southend on Sea’s award-winning Children’s Library © Andy Spain www.asvisual.com

With World Book Day on the horizon and parents around the country scrambling to put together costumes for the kids, we’re all thinking about the books that we love. It’s a great way to get kids to be creative and learn about new books from their friends, but what do we do for the rest of the year when books just aren’t as engaging to kids as gadgets or screens? Although the girls both love a bit of screen time, they’re also complete bookworms and love reading, so I thought I’d share with you five tips on how to get kids interested in reading:

Give Them Freedom

There’s a tendency with a lot of parents to try to get their kids to focus on “real” books, steering them towards novels which they feel their kids should be reading. However, we’ve found that giving kids freedom over what they read is a much better way to get them to read. Whether it’s a comic, magazine, joke book, even a recipe book – if they find it engaging, it’s ALL reading! Their tastes will likely change over time, but removing the pressure can have a profound effect. Happy Beds have released a new World Book Day campaign, which looks at the UK’s best bedtime books. This is a great list and hopefully your children will love the thought of reading some of these!

Read With Them

While some kids find snuggling down in a corner with a book a pleasant experience, some kids find it isolating, which in turn discourages them. Ask if you can read to them, or let them read to you, and make it something fun that you can do together. You can even sit together and read your own books to yourselves, but a sense of closeness and companionship can really help.

Make it Fun

There’s are SO many ways to make reading fun. Pick a corner of the room and make it your reading nook, get some blankets and torches and make yourselves a reading den, pick a character each and do your own voices for them! Kids will engage with a book in a much bigger way if they feel that what they’re reading is fun and exciting.

Visit a Library

Library use is way down in recent years and far fewer parents take their kids to the library than ever before, which is such a shame. Check your library for fun events, as they often have things running in the holidays. Also, when you go to the library, don’t just check your books out and leave – many libraries have comfy little spots where you can sit and read while you’re there, which will maximise the value of your visit and give your kids a sense that going to the library is an event in itself.

Be Topical

Kids often like books when they have context to their lives. If they’ve watched a film about space, find a book on the same subject so they can learn more. If they’re currently mad about dinosaurs or cooking or a sport, encourage them to read about the subject as this will help improve their knowledge and vocabulary.

Do you have any tips for getting kids to become book-lovers or fun ideas for how to celebrate World Book Day? I’d love to hear them, so please do leave me a comment below.

Maureen – One Year On #PethoodStories

We’ve been asked by Petplan Pet Insurance to tell you one of our Pethood Stories.

When we lost Chuck back in December 2017, we said it would take us a long time before we ever considered getting another dog. When he passed, we told the girls our belief that energy can never be destroyed which means that his energy would pass into something else and maybe that energy would find its way back to us one day, but we expected to be a petless family for quite some time.

Then, a month or so later, my friends dog had a litter of puppies and one of them was born with a broken tail which looked EXACTLY like Chuck’s. I showed Husband the picture and it took us about 30 seconds to decide it was too much of a coincidence and we needed to have her. I messaged my friend and thankfully the puppy hadn’t been reserved by anyone else, so she was ours. We had to wait until she was ready to leave her mum at 8 weeks and we decided that we’d keep it all a secret from the girls and surprise them.

 

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We spent weeks making surreptitious arrangements, buying a crate, a puppy pen, a bed, researching Petplan Pet Insurance and all sorts of other stuff that we had to try to hide from Sausage and BB, but amazingly enough we did it. On the day we were due to collect our puppy, we didn’t even tell the girls where we were going, we just said that we had to go somewhere to collect a package. In fact, our sweet, trusting babies didn’t even realise what we were there for, even when we were standing in my friends’ living room, surrounded by puppies!

It’s been a maaaaaad year. Having a puppy is a shock after having an elderly dog who was already trained to do everything when he got him, aged two, but actually the toilet training and other stuff all went amazingly well. She’s a really intelligent, enthusiastic dog who fitted in with our family from really early on.

via GIPHY

We’ve had ups and downs – one low point being when Maureen managed to steal a chicken skewer from a plate and swallow it, stick and all. Leaving her at the vets to have emergency surgery when she was just a few months old was really hard, but she made it through and we learned a LOT from that day…mainly not to ever leave plates unattended.

Next Tuesday marks a whole year since Maureen came to live with us and it’s gone so fast! She’s grown into such a fabulous dog, and although she’s still a boisterous little monkey at times, she’s loving and loyal and an absolute pleasure to be with. She’ll never replace Chuck, but she’s taught us how to love again after losing such an important part of our lives and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

So, here’s to Maureen. A year as a Crammond and carrying on your brother’s legacy of being stubborn, greedy and the best kisser in the whole house. We love you, Beansy.

For more Pethood Stories and the results of the Petplan Pet Census 2018, head over to their site. This post is in conjunction with Petplan but all thoughts are my own

 

The Best Keto Friendly Curry

Curry, it’s one of the most delicious dishes on the planet, but don’t think just because you are rocking a low carb diet that you can’t eat it. In fact with its combination of meat, vegetables, and a creamy sauce you can make a delicious low carb curry for you and the family with minimal effort. Just read the post below to find out how.

Equipment needed

First off, before we get into what ingredients you will need to create this curry you need to check you have all the right equipment.

Don’t worry though, as you don’t need masses of specialized stuff. In fact chopping boards, a sharp knife, and something like one of these cast iron casserole dishes will do. The latter being the best way to slow cook the curry and get a delicious rich flavour.

Ingredients

Next, you need to think about the ingredient you will include in your curry. Obviously, meat is a good starting point as this is low in carbs and full of tasty and filling protein. Most folks go for chicken, but beef and lamb also work well, and if you are looking to push the boat out using some king prawns works well too.


Image source

Curry powder is an essential ingredient for this dish.

For the sauce, you can use plenty of veg including onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Of course, most ketoers limit the amount of onion and tomatoes they use but remember as long as you don’t go overboard, the net carbs in both is fairly minimal and well worth spending on a delicious evening meal.

Red and green paper also make an excellent choice to include in your curry and are similarly low in net carbs. You’ll also need cream or cream substitute, and some good old fashioned curry powder and ghee to get things going.

Recipe

Start with heating the spices, herbs, and curry powder in the ghee, so they brown. Then add the meat once it’s been cut into chunks.

Once that has browned add the veg and a little water and leave to simmer on the stove top for around 10 minutes. After that, it’s time to add the cream stir and then place the dish with the lid on in a low oven. Leave to slow cook for an hour or more, and at the end, you will have created a delicious family dish.

Serve with

The best thing about serving up this delicious version of curry is that you get to eat wit with some pretty impressive side dishes as well. Of course, you’ll have to eschew the samosas and poppadoms, but in their place why not treat yourself to some seriously low carb cauliflower rice? You can even by this read made and frozen from the supermarket now, so all you need to do is bung it in the microwave for a few moments.

Alternatively making yummy spinach paneer is also totally keto friendly and delicious too, so go ahead and treat yourself and your family to a delicious low carb curry night!

 

What To Think About When Buying a New Bed

Photo by feliperizo.co | heart made on Unsplash

If you’re in the market for a new bed and have already done some browsing, you’re probably well aware of the huge range of options available out there. In fact, a lot of people feel totally overwhelmed when it comes to buying a bed and the wealth of options sometimes leads people to make the wrong decisions, so today we’re taking a look at five things that you should think about when buying new beds.

Mattress

The mattress is probably the most important part of a bed and the bit which will ensure you get a good night’s sleep for years to come. When choosing a mattress, think about whether you’re a side, back or front sleeper, whether you like a firm, medium or soft base to lay on and also whether the mattress has a ‘try at home’ offer to allow you to see if you like it. It’s a big investment and you want to get it right.

Size

Having the biggest bed possible might seem like a good idea, but having a bed which totally swamps your room could actually make you feel more closed in. Pick a bed which leaves ample room for a bedside table on each side (or on one side if it’s a single or going against a wall) so that you can safely get in and out of bed when you need to.

Headboard

Are you planning to have headboards on your beds? Many people don’t, opting for a divan base with no headboard, but heads boards can be valuable in many ways. They insulate you from the wall behind, stopping the cold from getting to you, and they also make beds more flexible in terms of where you position them – a bed with it’s own headboard doesn’t need to be pushed against the wall to stop your pillow from falling off the back all night!

Base

The base of your bed will make a difference to your room in many ways. An ornate base will add to the aesthetic of the room, but a divan or storage base could give you a whole load of added storage space that you might not have been able to otherwise you. You can also get beds which have another trundle bed underneath them, giving you double the sleeping space if you regularly have guest or want to co-sleep with your child.

Your Weight

This one might seem odd, but bear with us. If you’re a very small, light person there’s a good chance that you’ll barely compress your mattress when you sleep on it, however, larger, heavier people will create more pressure on a mattress top, That’s why the latter group should probably think about getting either a memory foam or pillow-top mattress so that you aren’t pressed against the tops of springs all night.

5 Unique Ways to Give your Room the WOW Factor!

MirrorWhen it comes to interior design, unless you’re an expert it can sometimes seem daunting trying to envisage what a room will look like when you’re finished decorating. You can have big ideas for the finished project, but when it all comes together it feels like it’s lacking something. Today, I’m sharing five ideas of how to add a WOW factor to your room to give you some inspiration for your decorating project.

Graphic Wall Paper

Long gone are the days when wallpaper had to be a flowery pattern; now, your wallpaper can carry you off to an enchanted land, make you feel like you’re sleeping in the stands of your beloved football stadium or even give the impression that you’re sleeping next to a priceless work of art. Azutura offers a whole range of wallpapers which will really take your decor to the next level.

Wall Stickers

If you aren’t brave enough for a full wall mural of wallpaper, you could always opt for a wall sticker. Wall stickers come in a whole range of designs from shooting stars to trees to your favourite quotes and are super easy to apply and remove.

Accessories

If you don’t want to make changes to the decoration of the room, you could always change up the accessories and ornaments you have on display. A statement clock in sterling silver will create a focal point in the room which will draw the eye and create a little wow factor all on its own.

Mirrors

A big bold mirror in an unexpected place will visually double your room size, increasing it’s depth and immediately make it brighter. I love them in areas where you wouldn’t naturally expect them and I like them BIG. The only thing you have to remember is that whatever you put directly in front of the mirror will be reflected so make sure it counts (and looks pretty even from the back)!

A Pop of Colour

Everyone has a different colour tolerance level for the amount of bright colour they have in their rooms. Some people want their spaces filled with bold, beautiful colour. Others prefer a quieter, more muted palette. No matter where you fall, consider adding a new pop of colour to your space. I guarantee it will turn heads.

What do you do when you want to add a bit of WOW factor to your rooms? Do leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Helping an Elderly Relative to Stay Independent

There comes a time in a lot of people’s lives where they need to start making arrangements to help their elderly relatives. A lot of people get older but want to remain in the home they’ve known for decades, and that means making their environment safe and suitable for their additional needs, if they have limited mobility, sight or memory problems. There are lots of ways that you can make a home suitable again, and today we’re looking at five of them.

Stairlift

If your elderly relative lives in a house with more than one storey, getting up and down the stairs can be really daunting. As well as the physical effort needed to climb the stairs, the risk of a fall gets worse as they get older. This is where a stairlift could really help. It allows people to travel safely between floors without the risk of falling, or needing to expend a lot of energy to make the climb.

Alarm System

A lot of elderly people worry about having a fall in their home and not being able to call for help, so personal alarm systems can give a lot of peace of mind. They allow people to call for help in an emergency and an ambulance to be sent remotely so that they aren’t left by themselves in an emergency.

Walk-in Bath

Although showers can be built on floor level so that you don’t need to step up to get into them, many elderly people prefer the security of sitting down in a bath, although getting into one can be very tricky. A walk-in bath has a sealed door which opens and closes and allows people to sit comfortably to wash, reducing the risk of slipping and falling when you’re at your most vulnerable.

Video Doorbells

Many elderly people fear opening the door to an unknown person, especially once the sun has gone down, and this can leave them very isolated, especially in the winter. There are lots of video doorbells on the market now which allow people to see who’s at the door without needing to answer it, and this could give your elderly relative the freedom to know when it’s safe to answer the door.

Remove Obstacles

This is the simplest, and cheapest way, to make surroundings safer for your elderly relative. Thousands of accidents happen every year when elderly people, especially those with limited eyesight, trip and fall because of things like rug edges, electrical cords and low items of furniture. It could be a good idea to get an expert to come in to assess the house as they’ll spot hazards that you might miss.

Sausage’s Bedroom Makeover

It’s got to that point where Sausage wants her own space. She’s starting senior school in September, so instead of being surrounded by her sisters toys and games, she wants a proper grown up space where she can chill, watch her own programmes and do her homework in peace. As we’re in a three bedroom house, Husband will be giving up his office space and moving his desk into the dining room, and we’re planning a bit of a makeover of the room so that it feels more like Sausage’s own.

The first thing we’ll do is replace the floor; there’s carpet in there at the moment, and while it’s good quality, we want something a bit more modern for Sausage, so we’ll opt for Quick-Step Impressive laminate flooring (https://lifestyleflooringuk.co.uk/laminate-flooring/quick-step-laminate/quick-step-impressive) as it’s so versatile, easy to fit and simple to keep clean. You can find it at  Lifestyle Flooring UK.

She’s also requested a change of colour – the walls are a plain magnolia at the moment, but we’re planning to replace that with three walls of light lilac, plus one wall of a darker purple colour. It’s a nice colour scheme for a kid of Sausage’s age, but one which I think will grow with her and won’t feel horribly young when she’s in her teens.

Another thing I’m planning is a multi-functional space which will double up as both a dressing table and a desk so that she can use it for doing her homework and then use it for doing her hair and make up at other times (she doesn’t go out in make-up, by the way, she just loves to practice at home!).

She currently sleeps in a single bunk beds that she shares with her sister, but we’ve decided to give her our king size bed so that she has more space and can have friends sleeping over when she wants, without needing to find extra sleeping space! Our bed is currently a neutral wooden colour, but we’re planning to give this it’s own mini makeover with some nice chalk paint.

In terms of finishing touches, we’ll be adding shelves for books and nick-nacks, plus colour co-ordinated curtains, lamp shade and other little touches to make it feel like Sausage’s own little haven of peace and tranquillity! I’m really excited to do this for her, and I know she’s going to love the end result. I’ll be sure to share pictures with you all when it’s done!

How To Add an Accent Colour and Futureproof Your Rooms

When it comes to home decor, trends change on a pretty regular basis. Every year, new colours come into fashion and lots of people jump onto the bandwagon, using the colours all over their houses. For the last couple of years, grey has been a major interiors trend, and be honest, how many people do you know who’ve got grey in at least one room of their house now?

The problem with following trends is that, in a few years time when the colour is out of fashion, your house could end up looking pretty dated if you’ve got it everywhere. So today, i thought I’d show you a few ways to add on-trend colours to your house without leaving you needing to redecorate again in a years’ time!

Flooring

Grey is a nice neutral colour, so using it for something like a floor won’t leave your room looking outdated for years to come. Our tip? Lifestyle Flooring UK have a large selection of solid wood flooring here https://lifestyleflooringuk.co.uk/solid-wood-flooring that are easy to buy and fit and allow you to change the whole look of a room without going overboard and painting every surface.

Feature Walls

Choosing one feature wall in your room to paint and keeping the rest of the walls a neutral colour is a great way to add an accent with minimal effort. It’s easy to paint over when you want something different, won’t require the whole room to be prepped and covered with dust sheets and is achievable in one afternoon, if the rest of your room is in good condition.

Soft Furnishings

If your room us a pretty neutral shade and the accent colour you like goes well with it, you could simply invest in cushion covers, lampshades and curtains or blinds in your chosen accent. These are all relatively low cost items which can totally transform the look of a room.

Faux Flowers

Keeping a constant stream of fresh flowers in your house is both expensive and unsustainable. However, investing in some good faux flowers can add a splash of colour to your room and will last as long as you need them to. Faux flowers have come on a lot in the last few years, and some of them look more real than the real thing!

Art

Adding a piece of art to the wall can help you to add a stunning splash of colour to a room, and if you hang it in a central place, you can change it as often as you like. There are companies who make large canvases with traditional art pieces on them, or you could even try making your own with a blank canvas and some paints in your chosen colour.

3 Keto Baking Recipes the Family Will Love

Keto Chocolate CookiesKeto Chocolate Cookies

The key to the keto diet is to get as close to eliminating all carbs as possible. As such, traditional pastas, breads, and baked goods are a no-no. That doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a sandwich or even indulge in some cookies, but you will need a modified version of these staples. Try out a few new recipes and you will learn which ingredients need to be swapped. No matter what recipes you use, baking will remain enjoyable for you and your loved ones. Check out these three keto baking recipes that will teach you that eating a keto friendly diet doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to delicious baked goods.

Keto Chocolate Chip Lover’s Moist Cookies

The key to a good chocolate chip cookie is combining the perfect amount of chocolate chips with a rich and decadent dough. In order to make this cookie keto diet approved, you have to substitute regular flour for something else. You can use ground flaxseeds, coconut or almond flour, or even psyllium husk. You can’t use regular sugar either so you will have to get a sugar substitute like stevia, monk fruit sweetener or erythritol. Some of these items can be picked up at the grocery store but other items may need to be purchased at a health food store or ordered off the web. The good news is that the baking process is fast and simple, so you will be able to enjoy your Keto Chocolate Chip Lover’s Moist Cookies in just minutes.

To make these cookies you will need the following; 1 cup of standard flour substitute, 1/3 cup butter, ½ cup of sugar substitute, ½ cup sugar free chocolate chips, 1 egg, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon baking powder, and a sprinkle of salt. First, mix up all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. The butter should then be heated on the stove or in a microwave until it is melted. Next, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

After the butter has melted, you want to add in the egg and vanilla extract to it. After it is well blended, pour it over the dry ingredients and mix gently. Use a tablespoon to make evenly sized dough balls, then flatten them as you place each one on a cookie sheet. Your cookies will need to bake for 10 to 12 minutes before they are golden brown and moist.

Low Carb Sandwich Bread

Bread can be a major point of contention for those trying to eat a low carb diet of any kind. There are plenty of pre-packaged varieties, but there is nothing like making something delicious from scratch. You might want to make a keto friendly specialty bread like challah that contains cheese and tomatoes so you can make it a meal. Make modifications to existing recipes so that you can enjoy biscuits, flatbreads, and even dinner rolls while on the keto diet plan.

Try KetoLogic’s recipe for keto bread and you will have a recipe that can be used to make bread at any time. This recipe is great for beginners as there aren’t many steps, but the end result is still a flavorful delight. Whip up a batch, slice up the entire loaf, and you will be able to reach for a piece of bread whenever you want – without feeling guilty.

Creamy Keto Sugar Free Cheesecake

If you ever get in the mood for a really decadent dessert while on the keto diet, then you have to try out this next recipe. The really great thing about cheesecake is that it is easy to make because there are not many ingredients in it. You will need to make the crust first, then the filling, but each step is super-fast to execute. Next up, a sugar free keto friendly cheesecake to die for.

Measure approximately 2 cups of flour substitute, ½ cup of melted butter, 4 teaspoons of sugar substitute, and a teaspoon of almond extract, then blend well to make your cheesecake crust. Roll out the dough and then carefully place it on the inside of a pie shell. Press down firmly so that the crust falls into the corners.

To make the filling for your keto-friendly cheesecake you will need; 3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (softened), 2 eggs, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. All you have to do is blend all of these ingredients well and then spoon the mixture into the pie shell. Smooth the top of the cheesecake, then bake for approximately 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

It can take effort to find the right ingredients needed to make these delicious keto-friendly recipes, but once you taste them you will be more than happy to put in the work. Enjoy keto bread so that you can make scrumptious sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, and even a slice of cheesecake while still eating smart. These recipes can be addicting so try to enjoy them in moderation.

Our Ideal Home

Cupola HouseImage Source: http://www.tumbarumba.co.uk/

The other day, Sausage and I were chatting away in the car and she asked my what my ideal house would be like. I love the location of our current house and there are things about it that I like, but if money were no object I realised that my ideal home would be pretty different to this one! It got me thinking about what my ideal home would be like, so I thought I’d share my vision with you all here:

Bedrooms

Ideally, I’d like us to have four or five bedrooms, so that we could have one room each for Husband and I and both girls, and then a spare room for guests and a room where Husband can use as his office. Our current house is three bedrooms, but the girls currently share as we’ve got an office, but Husband is going to be giving his space up soon so that Sausage can have her own room. I’d also love to have South West Upholstery come in and give us some bespoke upholstery in the house.

Garden Room

I’ve always loved the idea of garden rooms, and having a space that I could set up as an office/sewing room/reading nook, so that I could have everything set up in order for me to be productive. If it was inside the house, there would be a temptation to be in it all the time, but if it was at the end of the garden, I’d have my own space but a healthy amount of separation so that I’m not checking emails at midnight!

Kitchen

I don’t need some massive state-of-the-art kitchen, but I would like a LOT more cupboard space. I’ve also always had a bit of a thing for kitchens with an island in the middle, which I’d love to have some sort of breakfast bar at one end so that the kids could eat there in the mornings and people could hang out in the kitchen with me while I cooked.

Conservatory

I’ve always been a sucker for a conservatory – I blame growing up on a council estate in the 80’s and 90’s where a conservatory was a sign that you’d really made it in life! I’d love a conservatory with enough space for a dining table so that we could eat there on summer evenings, as well as some sort of sofa so that we could sit out there and enjoy the sun even on cold days.

Cupola

This one is a bit niche, but bear with me! There’s a house where we live with a cupola on the top and every time I go past, I fantasise about living in a house with some sort of cupola or turret so that I can sit up there at night and look through a telescope at the stars, or snuggle up in a blanket on a rainy day and read a book with a cup of hot cocoa. Imagine watching a lightening storm from inside your own cupola?! I know finding a house with one is probably a pipe dream, even with a hefty lottery win, but it’s always been something I’ve loved.

Outside buildings can often add value to your property so if you’re thinking about adding some additional space, it might be well worth it in the long run!