Christmas

Why I’m Doing My Best to be UN-Christmassy

un-christmassy grumpy catThe eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that today’s date marks exactly a month until Christmas Eve, which means that the whole world will be going Christmas-mad, and every shop, TV advert and event will be geared up to all things festive. Despite the fact that Thanksgiving isn’t even over yet, Christmas seems to be everywhere we go, and I’m not going to lie, it drives me a little bit mad. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, especially now we’ve got the girls and it’s all about them, but starting this early just destroys the magic for me.

I’ve seen several people on Facebook, both in random groups and on my friends list, who’ve got their tree up already, and some who’ve even had a Christmas dinner already, which is absolutely fine for them, but not for me. For me, Christmas is really special, a time to spend with family and friends and indulge in all of the excesses of the season…ONCE a year. Christmas is big and exciting and a happy time, but doing it more than once would just dilute it completely.

For the last few years in a row, I’ve managed to shoot my festive load WAY too early – I start to get excited at the beginning of November, planning presents and decorations and all of the other bits that go with it, and by the time 25th December arrives, I’m spent – both mentally AND financially. I seem to have a finite amount of Festive cheer and if I let it all go too early I have none left for the big day. Christmas Day is genuinely one of my favourite days of the year but there’s nothing as disappointing as polishing off your Christmas dinner and thinking “Oh. I don’t actually feel that Christmassy…”

The thing is, Christmas is a one, maybe two, day celebration, or at a push three days if you include Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Most of us spend the equivalent of a month’s wages getting ready for it, and if we start the the beginning of November and don’t take our trees down until after New Year, that basically means that Christmas lasts TWO MONTHS. Put into perspective, that’s 1/6 of the year – there is literally NO other holiday that we would allow to take over our lives for that bloody long!

I know I probably sound like Scrooge but I don’t dislike Christmas altogether – I just wish people would hold their horses. I’ve seen several houses which already have elaborate lighting displays outside and it’s just making me cross. It won’t even be the slightest bit special by the time Christmas arrives, and I think I’d probably throw my Christmas tree on the bonfire if I had to cope with tinsel droppage and fallen baubles for two whole months! What people do in their own living rooms is entirely up to them and I’d never dictate to them what they should and shouldn’t be doing, but it’s just not for me.

What do you think? Am I a miser or are you right here in NON-Christmas Land with me? I’d love to hear what you think,

Health

Medicinal Must-Haves This Festive Season

This is the time of year when a lot of us are busy shopping for presents, planning get-togethers andholiday travel. While you’re out and about, why not also think about stocking up on medicine cabinet essentials to make sure you and the family are covered for the winter?

There are a lot of bugs circulating at this time of year. People often turn up at hospitals with minor illnesses and injuries that could often be better treated more quickly elsewhere, or at home.

Your local pharmacist can offer you free health advice at any time, and no appointment is necessary. From coughs and colds to aches and pains, they can give you expert help on everyday illnesses and answer questions about prescribed and over the counter medicines.

So, before the holiday schedule gets too hectic, check your medicine cabinet and make sure you have the following basics:

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Your usual painkillers

A good stock of paracetamol and Ibuprofen will cover most aches and pains over the Festive Season – especially if you have partaken in one too many mulled wines. Remember to try and drink responsibly – Santa grabbing a sherry in each household isn’t that great a role model is he?

Cold and flu remedies

Although the best advice is rest and plenty of hot drinks, some medicines can take the edge of of your symptoms and help you sleep, essential to your recovery. Remember coughing is part of having a cold, but this symptom should disappear in about 10 days after you first begin experiencing cold symptoms. If your cough is still hanging around after 10 days, it’s time to see a doctor.

Thermometer

Image An essential at any time of the year. Having a thermometer on tap is a great way of ensuring your little ones red cheeks are simply from excitement over Santa rather than something niggling in the background. If you aren’t sure how to take one accurately or what the numbers actually mean learn more here – Everything You Need To Know – Taking A Child’s Temperature.

Anti-diarrhoea medicine

Frequent trips to the toilet after a mouldy mince pie can ruin your day so stock up on this festive favourite. Consult your doctor if diarrhea persists in a child for more than 24 hours, or after three days for an adult.

Oral rehydration salts

If you have overindulged and the”Never Again” is your new Mantra, these soluble beauties will make you feel much better very quickly. Having some child friendly salts is a fantastic way to ensure your little one gets over the effects of diarrhea quickly.

Indigestion remedies

A common ailment in the season that almost encourages gluttony, indigestion can be uncomfortable and annoying. However if you have been chomping down antacids and nothing is changing, see a doctor. There may be underlying reasons that require alternate treatments, seeEverything You Need To Know: Helicobacter Pylori.

Plasters

Carving the turkey, even paper cuts from the wrapping paper – all can result in little cuts and nicks. Avoid infection and make sure the only claret is on the table and not ruining the prawn cocktail! There are plenty of fun designs and evenfestive ones too should you feel the need to dress up your cut to match your jumper. Image

Bandages

From tubular to triangular, the average first aid kit will have a couple of different types that you will hopefully never get around to using. Accidents happen though, so it’s best to be prepared. For larger cuts or even bumps and strains, bandages are a very useful item. If you are unsure which type does what see: Everything You Need To Know – Bandages

Valuing your health and well-being

If you are already taking other medications, check first with your pharmacist to make sure the medicines are right for you.

Check any medicines already in your medicines cabinet are still okay to use. If any medicines are past their use-by date, don’t take them and return them to your local pharmacy for safe disposal.

If you need repeat prescriptions for your regular medicines, ensure that you order these in plenty of time. Check opening times for your GP surgery and remember to collect your prescription before the holiday period.

By being prepared for winter and stocking up on medicine cabinet essentials, many people could treat minor illnesses at home, avoiding unnecessary trips to the doctor.

So while shopping for the perfect gift for the Auntie with everything, remember to prepare for the festive season with more than just ribbons and bows! 

Food

Think Lunch Is A Bore? Think Again, With These Fabulously Tasty Ideas

Do you find that you struggle when it comes to thinking up healthy yet interesting lunches for you and your family? Don’t fear – most of us do. Lunch is a difficult meal to put together, much more so than breakfast or dinner. It’s not as simple as just grabbing a bowl of cereal or making toast like you do with breakfast. But you also don’t tend to have the time that you have when cooking your evening meal to come up with something both tasty and inventive. This is why a lot of us resort to the huge array of meal deals that supermarkets offer, or why a lot of our children eat school dinners rather than taking packed lunches. But if you’re ready to spice up your family’s current lunch routine, take a look at the following ideas for some inspiration.

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Lunch boxes

The lunchbox is a staple of many people’s daily lives. Whether we’re making them up for our kids or taking them to work ourselves, they are a good way to ensure that we have full control over what’s going into our bodies. These days, there a variety of different styles of lunchboxes that enable us to be much more creative with what we put in them. For example, you may choose a lunch box that is simple a one-section tupperware box. Or, you may go for a ‘bento box’ style; something which has lots of different compartments. If your children are fussy and don’t like it when different foods touch each other, this is a perfect option. Make sure the compartments are varied. For example, you may have pitta bread in one, hummus in the other, carrot sticks in one and a sweet treat in the last one. This isn’t just a children’s lunch box either – it’s perfect for you to take out of the house too.

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At home lunches

If you are able to make and eat your lunch at home, you are able to exercise a little more freedom over what you can have. For starters, you can have hot food at home. But still, you don’t want to be spending more than a few minutes making your lunch, especially if you are in the middle of a working day. It can be tempting to snack on unhealthy food options if they are at your fingertips. But, there are now so many great health products on the market that there’s no excuse not to get involved. Soup, for example, is great for aiding a well-balanced diet – you can get healthy soup flavours by GLORIOUS! both online and in store.

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Lunch on-the-go

If healthy eating is your priority, you may be conscious about where you buy an on-the-go lunch from. You only have to look at the hundreds of ingredients on the back of supermarket sandwich packs to know that they’re probably not all that good for you! If you do need to get a meal deal whilst you’re out and about, go for ones that don’t come with sauce if you can help it, and choose from any ‘lighter’ ranges. Alternatively, look out for independent delis and sandwich makers who will be able to serve you a freshly made lunch with minimal additives.

All About ME!

How To Make Use Of Spare Time On Your Own

In many cases, society expects us to parent our children in a certain way and judges us if we do certain things, like letting them stay up late or eating certain types of food. Heaven forbid spending time away from our children due to the accusations of neglect we’d receive. But the fact of the matter is that it is good to spend some child free time to yourself, and there is no reason to feel guilty about it. Of course we love our children and cherish them dearly, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to crave a little ‘me time’ as well. There will be plenty of opportunities to spend time with them, tell them off and use your unimpressed poker face when they’re being naughty. Whether they’re away for a whole week, just a weekend, or just during the day at school, here are a number of ways that you can make the most of your alone time.

Couple Time

If you and your partner are new parents, you may have forgotten what life was like before. So why not arrange for your children to have a sleepover with the grandparents, allowing for you to have a child free evening. This frees up time to go to the cinema, enjoy a candle lit meal or even just enjoy a bottle of wine. Why not revisit your first ever date together and remind yourselves of who you were before you were parents. It will make your bond as a couple stronger than ever, perhaps even reinvigorating the relationship as you continue your parenthood journey.

Girly Time

As much as you love your children, if you spend lots of time with them, you’re bound to miss regular interaction with adults. So whenever you get the chance of free time away from your children, utilise the time by hanging out with your friends. Whether that means heading to your favourite café for a cup of coffee and a really long gossip, or a pamper session at the salon, it will be great to have an adult conversation and you’ll feel energised and recharged afterwards.

Gym

A great way of keeping fit and a great social opportunity, statistically, people who go the gym are also far happier because exercise releases dopamine, a chemical in the brain that increases happiness. If you get yourself into a regular routine, even if it’s just once a week, and go along with a friend to keep each other motivated (it also provides opportunity for gossip). It’s also good to check if your gym runs classes like spinning, yoga or aerobics which can be great for meeting like minded people.

Baby · Family

The Great Childcare Debate

childcareSomething which is on a lot of people’s minds at the moment is the issue of childcare, after the Government introduced free funding for 2 year olds from underprivileged families to receive 15 hours of nursery a week. The idea was to get parents back into work without having the expense of nursery hanging over them, but it’s a scheme which has been a bit of a sticking point for a lot of families. Until the age of three, working parents are expected to pay the full price for childcare and the prevailing attitude is that it seems unfair that familes who don’t appear to need free childcare are more entitled to it.

Let’s look at the brass tacks of it:

At the moment, Husband and I both work from home, which works for us and means we don’t need childcare. Now, let’s assume that I wanted to go back to work, full time, as a copywriter which is what I currently do from home. Let’s completely ignore Husband’s salary and assume that this is still going on things like rent and our bills, as it does at the moment.

The average salary for a copywriter is £23,047 per year before tax and National Insurance, so my take-home pay would be approximately £18,840, or £1570 per month. I’d probably have to travel to London to find this kind of work so I’d have to factor in £355.60 per month in season ticket fares. The nursery attached to Sausage’s school charges £4.50 per hour, plus £1.75 for a hot lunch, which would make my monthly nursery fees (assuming I’d need to drop her off at 7.30 am to get the train and not collect her again until 6.30pm) £1110.42. Of course, this also doesn’t factor in needing before and after school care for Sausage.

In travel fees and nursery fees alone, my monthly expenses JUST FOR GOING TO WORK would be £1466.02, leaving me approximately £103 which, as far as I’m concerned would make it absolutely POINTLESS going back to work.

I know that there are flexi options, sometimes family can help with childcare, or companies which allow a homeworking element during the week, but these figures are the exact reason that so many people are up in arms about the government’s scheme. Being a copywriter isn’t the loftiest career in the whole world but it sure as hell pays more than retail work or other minimum wage jobs, which means that even people with hopes of getting a mid-level job will struggle.

Obviously, this is all part of a MUCH bigger problem. The cost of living is too damn high in the UK, whilst wages are depressingly low. Family-friendly working is more-or-less non-existent and women are usually expected to bear the burden of this. I know that there’s a prevailing attitude that women SHOULD be the ones to bear the burden because they’re the ones who CHOOSE to have the babies (obviously the men have zero say in this and we’re all just sperm-harvesting lunatics…*sarcasm*) but this is a hugely outdated notion and many men also feel penalised because of their inability to contribute towards the childcare duties.

I don’t begrudge families who are on a low income the opportunity to have free childcare, I really don’t, but I also don’t think it’s a solution. It’s a really romantic notion, hoping to help people back into work, but let me ask you this: 1. how are they supposed to afford that childcare once the funding runs out and they’re on a low wage and 2. WHERE ARE ALL OF THESE JOBS THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE FILLING?!

I think we can all agree that the Government has well and truly got its head up its arse on this issue and that more help needs to be given to ALL parents who want to go back to work, not least of all because we’ve probably got a massive pool if untapped talent in this country, desperate to get back into the workplace but unable to afford it. It’s all very well for the hate-mongers in the right wing press to be content with demonising benefit claimants but the Government has basically created this viscous loop of never being able to AFFORD to come off of benefits, for so many people, who are essentially tied to living in permanent poverty.

I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you a Mum who’d love to go back to work but simply cannot afford to? Would you have a career if the childcare was cheaper or more affordable? Are you in receipt of two-year-old funding but still unable to find a job? Please leave me a comment below.