Find Money You Might Not Even Know You Had!

MoneyWith the summer holidays just days away, a lot of us will be thinking about how we’re going to afford all of the days out and activities that we’ll be wanting to do with the kids. It would be nice to be able to do a different thing every single day, but with the best will in the world, that’s just not in the budget for most of us. There might be, however, some money hanging about that you didn’t even realise you had, and we’ve got some suggestions of how to find it:

Outstanding PPI?

It’s hard to believe that anyone could still have any outstanding PPI claims with all the reminders on TV, radio and in the papers, but there are still a whole bunch of people who still haven’t claimed. It’s a simple process that could see you entitled to hundreds, even thousands of pounds!

Old Accounts

If you’ve changed bank accounts over the years, there could still be accounts in your name, laying dormant, with money in them. Write to the bank who you were once with and ask for details of any old accounts and you could be in for a surprise windfall!

Premium Bonds

If you’ve got Premium Bonds and haven’t seen much of a return, you might actually be better off cashing them in for an injection of cash now, rather than hoping they’ll come up long term. If you are hoping to win the top prize you probably need to know that the odds of winning £1million are 1 in 35,926,766,878. So I wouldn’t count on a payday anytime soon.Even winning the lowest prize of £25 is a 1 in 24,500 chance!

Pension Plans

If you have a pension plan that you don’t pay into any more, it’s worth having a look at the terms, as some plans will allow you to release the funds early, before the term is up. Have a think about any plans you may have paid into and contact the companies to see if it’s possible to withdraw the money. a

Cash Around the House

This one might be slightly less lucrative, but still worth a try. Gather up any old purses, handbags, wallets and money boxes and pillage them to see if there’s any cash that you forgot about. My kids own about 20 money boxes each and have managed to gather together the cash for some desperately needed toy on more than one occasion!

Don’t forget, the PPI deadline is 29th August, so you’ll need to get your act together if you think you might be entitled to claim!

Five Ways to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Five Ways to Improve Your Sleep HygieneAlthough I’m not someone who very often struggles to get to sleep (Husband is often in awe of how quickly I fall asleep after my head hits the pillow), I do often awaken feeling as though I haven’t had a very good night’s sleep, and I think a lot of that is to do with my lack of sleep hygiene. If you haven’t heard that expression before, it’s nothing to do with going to bed dirty! Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness. Here are a few changes that I think I need to make in order to improve things:

Devices

As much as I have grand ideas about putting my phone or laptop down well before bed so that the blue light doesn’t affect my circadian rhythm, I’m also an absolute terror and very rarely do. There are, however, apps and programmes that you can install on your devices which offer blue light protection. They alter the tone of your screen ever so slightly to stop too much blue light being absorbed by your eyes.

Routine

At the moment, my bedtime routine is usually “fall asleep on the sofa until Husband wakes me to to get into bed”, and it’s not great because my sleep cycles are interrupted. Often, I’ll wake up after being asleep on the sofa and feel too wide awake to go back to sleep, OR I’ll get back to sleep but feel like my alarm is going off about five minutes later. Getting in bed when I’m ready to sleep instead of sofa surfing would be much healthier.

Bed Hopping

I’ll be honest, it’s a rare night when I don’t end up in bed with Burrito Baby instead of sleeping in my own bed and although I still love snuggling up with her, it’s probably not conducive to a great night’s sleep! We often wake up too hot, or because one of us is snoring, so I need to try to maintain an “everybody in their own bed” system!

Eating Late

I’ve always been a late-night snacker, enjoying a bit of supper with Husband once the girls are asleep, but going to bed on a full stomach isn’t good for you. I get a lot of acid reflux when I eat late, which wakes me up several times a night, so imposing a ban on eating after a certain time would probably do me a big favour.

Caffeine

I’m a bit of a caffeine junky, and I definitely feel the difference in my sleep quality on days where I’ve had more than usual. A lot of people I know switch to decaf after 6pm, and I definitely think that this could be something which would help to let me get a better quality of sleep.

What’s your sleep hygiene like? Do you have a strict bedtime routine? Leave me a comment below.

The Things You Can do Online Without Leaving Home!

OnlineWhen I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with my Nan, and I remember a lot of her days seemed to be a real slog. Instead of going to the supermarket for one big shop, she’d go to the butchers, the greengrocers, a general shop for cleaning stuff and cupboard essentials and then to Marks’ for what she called her “bits”.

Then came anything money related, which meant a weekly trip to the Post Office to get her pension and pay some bills, then to the building society to pay money into other accounts…it’s truly mind boggling when you consider how much we do online from home these days! It got me thinking about things I never thought I’d be able to do from home…

Socialising

I don’t know whether this one is a good thing or not, but I personally love the fact that I can still interact with my friends without leaving the comfort of my own home. Social media means I can keep in touch with friends and family who I might not see from one year to the next, which is a truly wonderful thing in my opinion.

Gambling

I won’t lie, I do love a flutter every now and again and being able to go to a live casino online without even having to get out of my pyjamas is a bit of a novelty! Watching the spin of the roulette wheel on my screen is such a thrill, and it’s even better if I win!

Banking

Just recently, Husband and I sold a phone on Facebook and were paid in cash, which I took to the bank to pay in and it occurred to me that it was the first time in about three years that I’d stepped foot inside an actual branch! Husband and I do all of our banking online, usually through a phone app and rarely need to go to the bank in person.

Shopping

Just as with the bank, my trips to a High Street are few and far between. I avoid the shops as much as humanly possible and MUCH prefer shopping online…although the amount of returns that I have to do are too darn high sometimes!!

What do you do online that would have been a massive chore for your parents or grandparents?

Keeping the Kids Entertained This Summer

keep the kids entertained this summerEven if you’re going away this summer, there’s a good chance that you’ll have at least a month at home, which you’ll be wanting to fill with activities for the kids, keeping the dreaded cries of “MUUUM, we’re BORED!” at bay for as long as possible! There are loads of things that you can do across a variety of budgets, which will fill their summer nicely, and this is just a few of them:

Pony Camp

If you live near a riding stable and have kids who love animals, find out if they’re doing any sort of pony camp during the summer. Last year, Sausage went to a pony camp one day a week for the entire holidays, and although it wasn’t cheap (we paid about £25 per session), it meant that even during quiet weeks, there are at least one day with guaranteed fun! Our stables bought all of their Horse Nutrition Products from Spillers, so we knew they were well cared for.

Shopping Centres

Take a look at the shopping centres near you; many of them have fun days for kids all the way through the holidays, with various characters like Chase from paw Patrol or Anna and Elsa from Frozen turning up. They’re generally free or very cheap, and give you a chance to pop into town for an afternoon of low-cost fun.

Pick Your Own

The nice weather means that you’ll be wanting to get outside as much as possible, and a PYO farm is a lovely bit of wholesome fun for the whole family. You generally only have to pay for the fruit you actually want to take home with you and the kids get to spend a few hours doing something which is about a million miles away from screen-time.

Fun Classes

Okay, so I’m not suggesting you get them doing school work in the holidays, but there are a few different places you can take them where they’ll get to learn something fun. YO! Sushi do awesome sushi making classes for kids, which we tried last year and the girls ADORED, but you’ll also find stuff at your local library, like coding classes, which your kids might enjoy, and again, they’re usually pretty cheap.

Litter Picking

This summer, Husband, the girls and I have decided that we’re making it our mission to go litter picking at least once a week. We live in a beautiful rural spot which is popular with dog walkers and cyclists, but we see an alarming amount of trash and mylar balloons when we’re out on walks. We figured, if we pick up as much as we can, we might offset some of the damage, doing a good deed and spending time together in nature at the same time. It might not be hugely glamorous, but it’s free and we’ll get a nice warm glow for having dome something for the environment.

How to Organise Your Blog Posts

Blog organisationI’m not going to lie, organisation is not my strongest quality. I’m always the mum who finds the crumpled up letters at the bottom of Sausage’s bag, the day before they’re due to go in in some sort of elaborate fancy dress and I’m terrible at remembering to RSVP to anything we’re ever invited to. I’ve started using my reminders on my phone more and more to keep me organised in my daily life, and am planning to invest in some quality notebooks, but my blog is something that suffers massively because of my lack of organisational skills.

With BB off to school this September, I’ve realised that I need to get some life back into my blog, which means planning more original content and getting back on track with my writing, so I decided to ask some fellow bloggers how they get their act together and stay on top of blogging. Here’s some of their advice:

Nickie at Typecast said “I personally use a bullet journal system incorporated into my Filofax. I also have a BOAT (Book Of All Things) which is generally a brain dump and I’m a bit old school where I have to write things down. I also use Google Calendar a lot (linked to my phone) for reminders on the go and we have a Family Google Calendar too for ‘family reminders’. This may seem like overkill to some people, however, what works for me may not work for you but you can take ideas from various sources and incorporate them into your own planning system.”

Amy Lynne Andrews said “Create a way to capture your blog post ideas. Great resources to capture ideas are Evernote, a note-taking app on your phone or a paper notebook. I always seem to get good ideas when I’m driving. If you do too, try calling yourself and leaving a voicemail, having Siri or your Google Assistant email or text you or using a voice recorder app. Regardless of how you do it, keep all your ideas in one designated place.”

Alisha Nicole said “Starting off with a solid routine will help you get into the flow of creating content consistently. Your schedule should be based on two major factors:

  1. How often you are able to provide high quality content. (remember it should always be quality over quantity)
  2. When your audience is online to consume your info.

Personally, I know I am only able to create one blog post, one video and send out one newsletter per week. And according to my stats, my highest traffic days are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so those are the days I post to my blog. Also from a recent reader survey that I conducted, I know that the majority of my audience would rather watch live webinars in the evenings and on Saturdays due to their work/life schedules. If you’re unsure when to post your content, checking out your Google Analytic stats will tell you exactly when your audience is using your site most often.”

Alternative Medicines for the Naturally Sceptical

Alternative Medicines As someone who has a strong belief in science, there are a lot of things which make me massively sceptical. On an almost daily basis, I see people on social media discussing things like ear candling, amber teething bracelets, “detoxes” and other such stuff which I believe to be absolute hokum; pseudoscience which people parade as fact, which actually does absolutely nothing except separating you from your hard earned cash. It’s a massive bugbear of mine and I range from pure rage to absolute defeated apathy on the subject!

There are, however, lots of alternative medicines in which I do totally believe, things which should probably be prescribed by doctors as they’re so beneficial, and these are a few of them:

Medical Cannabis

I think we’re SO far behind the rest of the world in our attitudes towards medical cannabis and strongly believe in the many, many beneficial uses that it can have, from pain relief to reducing inflammation, stimulating appetite in chemo patients, treating autoimmune diseases – the list goes on and on. Sadly, it’s illegal for use here in the UK but I really hope we’ll start to follow the lead of the rest of the world soon.

Garlic

According to WebMD “Garlic is used for many conditions related to the heart and blood system. These conditions include high blood pressure, low blood pressure, high cholesterol, inherited high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, heart attack, reduced blood flow due to narrowed arteries, and “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis). Some people use garlic to prevent colon cancer, rectal cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, and lung cancer. It is also used to treat prostate cancer and bladder cancer.”

Beetroot

Beetroot has such a profound blood-pressure lowering effect that there were significant debates about banning it from the Olympic village before the games as it can give athletes such an advantage! Beetroot juice can lower blood pressure – in fact, when you consume the juice, you will find your blood pressure drop instantly and stay lowered for up to twenty-four hours. Researchers believe that this impact on blood pressure is due to naturally occurring nitrates found in beets.

Are there any alternative medicines that you swear by?

All Information Displayed In This Post Is For Educational Purposes Only, And Is Not To Be Construed As Medical Advice Or Treatment For Any Specific Person Or Condition. Cannabis Has Not Been Analyzed Or Approved By The FDA. Individual Results May Vary.

Win a Copy of Jumanji on DVD

Husband and I are huge fans of the original version of Jumanji, so we have to admit to having been sceptical when the remake was announced. However, once we saw it (and also realised that it had The Rock in it, who be both kinda love…) we realised that it was actually an excellent film and was a really well-made update to a classic. We both love Robin Williams and are probably a bit over-protective when it comes to his work, but they’ve done an amazing job and bringing the story into the 21st Century.

Fancy getting your hands on the amazing Jumanji DVD which was released only last year – for free? Well you are in luck! This film, starring none other than the The Rock, takes four friends on a journey through a tropical adventure after finding an old console game which transports them to the jungle.

If you love the jungle and games, then why not take a step into the jungle yourself. Bgo.com which offers free spins when join has array of jungle themed games that will get you in the mood after watching this great film. One of the most exhilarating of these is Amazon Queen, which really thrills and excites casino players new and old. This jungle-based slot focuses on the Amazon Queen, it has all your favourite characters from the movie including, gorillas, parrots and other jungle themed forest creatures and phenomena.

If you are complete Jumanji mad and want to try some other slot games, then Go Bananas, Rainforest Dream and Forest of the Wonders are some other great games. Other than the standard 3 and 5-reel slot games, Jungle Madness is a progressive jackpot game so its makes the jungle experience a little bit more enticing! If you hit all 5 tigers on the payline then you can potentially be taking home thousands of pounds!

Jungles are not for the faint hearted, so if you the love the danger and thrill of Jumanji, these other casino games will certainly live up to your expectations. The immersive experience will convey you to the jungle where you will need to keep an eye out for snakes, gorillas, and lots of creepy crawlies beneath you.

Hopefully you will have been awarded for the epic journey with Jackpot wins or something little less but overall the fun experience of these games is what we think is best!

To be in with a chance of winning, just fill in the widget below:

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Greece – The Ideal Destination for Families and Couples

Before Husband and I met and had a family, we both did a little bit of travelling, mine more Europe focused, his in both Europe at the US, but we always wanted to travel farther and wider as a couple and later as a family. Obviously we were lucky enough to get married in the Maldives and have always said that we’d find it hard to top that experience, but we’ve been doing a lot of research in recent months and think that a holiday to Greece could be an amazing experience, both for us as a couple and the whole family unit.

Greece and the surrounding islands have so much to offer, from incredible historical sights to stunning beaches, not to mention the food! I thought I’d ask my friends if they’d been to Greece or if anyone had stayed in one of the many glorious homes for rent in Greece and the fact that I got such a big response proves how wonderful the country is!

My friend Pippa said “I would say you have to visit Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon at sunset. We took a bus from where we were staying in Athens when we were on our Honeymoon (back in 2001) and arrived around three hours before sunset. We explored and sat on the beach, watching little fishes swim around our feet as we paddled.

It was an amazing afternoon, not even made less special with the rush to get to the bus a few minutes after the sun had set!

Oh and don’t eat the Cheese Pie. Yes I know it’s traditional, but it was also horrid! Oh and do buy Prayer beads, they are a great fiddle toy, much better than a fidget spinner!!!”

My friend Sara actually got married in Greece and said “Santorini is beautiful; I got married there last year. Kamari was reasonable for food and drink and to stay, Thira was more expensive but great to visit and see the caldera (volcanic crater)”

My friend Joanne wrote her own post about Greece and has some excellent tips about visiting the Acropolis “Well you’ve got to, haven’t you? This is the site that everybody visiting Athens has to visit, and so it’s one of those places that’s constantly busy. Get there as early in the day as you can, and buy the combined ticket that gives you access to other museums too. Allow most of the day for a trip here, because you will want to visit the Acropolis Museum too. Though be careful if you have mobility issues, since there is a lot of walking over stony ground.”

My friend Jen also wrote a post about her holiday to Paros and says “Paros is nice for a relaxing break, but really don’t expect too much excitement. The weather is fairly consistently warm (around 27 degrees during August) though it can get very blustery, as we found on a few days; the sunsets are pretty, the water is clear, and there are no shortage of eateries. In general, people are friendly, and we were pleased to find that it was not too jammed with tourists, despite being high season. The nightlife is family-friendly and, while the sun sets fairly quickly and quite early (around 8:15), it is still warm enough to enjoy a lingering meal or a few extra drinks into the late evening.”

My friend Nickie visited Roda in Corfu and couldn’t speak highly enough about it, especially the food: “Every single restaurant in Roda deserves your custom. The quality of food is unbelievable and the hospitality is second to none.  All food and drink is reasonably priced and you are given very generous portions. It’s not unusual to eat late and eat slowly so sit back and enjoy the view whilst you sample local delicacies.  Our two most favourite restaurants were Roxannes (you can find this on the beach road in town) and Thalasea (on the main road in Roda).”

Something that Husband and I like to do is go to lesser-known places, which aren’t purely touristy, so we’ve been doing a lot of research into the more unusual places to visit in Greece and we’ve come up with a list of our top three (although I’m thinking this may require more than one holiday to get it all done!)

Necromanteion of Ephyra

Lots of people visit the Oracle of Delphi, but fewer go to the Necromanteion of Ephyra, which was built as a temple for Hades and Persephone. It’s basically a series of underground chambers and is thought to be intended as an entrance to the underworld – I get the feeling it will appeal to Sausage’s recent gothic leanings!

Ghost town of Gavros

We’ve got a bit of an obsession with ghost towns (have you seen the images of the island off of the coast of Japan which was abandoned, or the drome images of Chernobyl?) and the one at Gavros looks like a fascinating place to visit. It’s not actually known why the locals abandoned it, but I’d love to take a look around and try to get my head around the mystery.

Volcanic crater, Nisyros

As we mentioned above Santorini also has a volcanic crater but the one at Nisyros is lesser known and also open to the public. The very bottom of the crater is closed off, but if you go as close to the edge as you can and you’re wearing flip-flops or thin soled shoes, you can actually feel the extreme heat coming up through the ground!

Have you been to Greece or one of it’s surrounding islands? Please leave me a comment below.

Days Out – Visiting Bristol

BristolGiven the fact that we’ve just got a new puppy, a foreign holiday is pretty unlikely for us this year. We are, however, planning a few day trips around the country (now that we’ve managed to rope some of our lovely family members in to look after Maureen for the day!) and one of the places I really want to visit is Bristol. I’ve got a fair few friends who live in or around Bristol, so I thought I’d ask them what the best things were to do on a day out in Bristol. Here’s what they said:

Jennifer from My Mummy’s Pennies said “Visit Brunel’s SS Great Britain and have a lovely walk around the quayside. We were there two weeks ago and really enjoyed it.”

Stacy from It Takes a Woman said “We The Curious is really good. Loads of experiments and activities and you can scan your wristband and access your results/photos etc when you get home…”

Liz from Me and My Shadow said “Do the Banksy trail – there’s an app!”

Aly from Bug, Bird and Bee said “We like visiting Cabot Tower at Brandon Hill. The tower is over 200 ft tall and looks out over Bristol. It’s smack bang in the middle of a nature reserve. There’s a big kids play park.”

Carolin from Mummy Alarm said “The street art south of the river is amazing. There’s so much to see on your own or on of the many street art tours and there are some really cool and quirky restaurants along North Street in Bedminster.”

Rachel from Rachel in Real Life said “For parks I’d recommend St Andrews Park and Blaise Castle. From Easter until September (maybe October, can’t remember) St Andrews has a paddling pool. Blaise Castle is near us and we go regularly. It has two separate play areas and loads of open space. Excellent value for money is Avon Valley. Reasonably cheap to get in and lots to do. Though again, mainly outdoors so best on a nice day.”

Cass from Frugal Family said “I went to Hestercombe Gardens yesterday – it was beautiful!”

My friend Becky, who isn’t a blogger but is a displaced Bristol native, said “Go and see a Rovers game!”.

Lots and lots of wonderful options of things to do! If you need transport while you’re in Bristol, why not give AA Taxis Bristol a call?

Summer Weddings: Finding the Perfect Dress

Husband and I have been invited to a wedding in August, and I am SO excited about it – not only do we get to dress up and have a fun evening with our best friends, we also get to STAY AT A HOTEL for the night, which is something we haven’t done in literally years! Of course, going to a wedding means finding the perfect outfit, so when Fashion World got in touch to ask if I’d like to take a look at their range of women’s dresses, I jumped at the chance!

I knew that I wanted something in either blue or grey, as they’re the colours which suit me best, and if it was blue, ideally it would be navy. I’ve had an obsession with peacock feathers for ages, and wanted to be able style whatever I wore with a peacock-feather fascinator, so it meant that I could narrow down my search on the site by not only size, but also colour and occasion. Here’s what I chose:

BEADED PROM DRESS

To be totally honest, the picture doesn’t do it justice – the beading on the front is not only very intricate, but the peacock-inspired colours really pop, shimmering with blues, turquoises and purples in the light. It’s going to be absolutely perfect with my dream head-wear and I can’t wait to see what the whole outfit looks like together.

My mission now is to find the perfect shoes and bag to go with the outfit. As we’re staying, the bag only needs to be big enough to fit my phone and bank card, so something clutch-sized. The shoes would ideally be a mid-sized heel (I don’t want flats but I walk like a baby giraffe in skyscraper heels!), and would compliment the colour of the dress. I saw an incredible pair or purple platforms in a Kurt Geiger sale, but I wasn’t brave enough to buy them and now they’re sold out! Any suggestions of accessories to complete the outfit would be much appreciated!

What do you think of my choice?