29 articles Articles posted in Guest Blogger

Tips for Mummies on Frugal Car Maintenance

car maintenance Copyrights (Chandra Marsono) on Flickr

Forking out for a mechanic every time that a simple bit of maintenance to your car is needed is an expensive way of running a vehicle. Of course, if you simply do not have any knowledge when it comes to car maintenance, then this is what you have to do. Nonetheless, maintaining a car does not require a great deal of engineering skill or mechanical know how. For the more advanced jobs, then you will need a trained mechanic, but for simpler jobs you can do it yourself. Remember that the more of these little maintenance jobs that you do for yourself, the more you will save.

Spark Plugs

An essential maintenance job to keep your car going is to change its spark plugs once in a while. This is because the metal on the plugs’ electrodes can wear away over time and suffer from carbon deposits which coat them. Spark plugs that are in poor condition tend to have problems igniting the fuel and air mixture in the engine. As a result you will notice a drop in power and the fuel efficiency of the car. Fitting new ones can be done by anyone. Installation of new plugs is as easy. Just remove the ignition wires from the old spark plugs so you can work safely. Then pull the old spark plugs out of their sockets. Before installing new plugs, coat the inside of the ignition wire boots with a little grease to get a good connection.

Tyre Maintenance

Check your own tyres every few thousand miles. This is cheaper than having them inspected professionally each time. Keep your tyres fully inflated to the car maker’s specification because this will lower the amount you spend on fuel. Check your tyres’ tread with a twenty pence coin. If the rim goes in fully, then you have enough tread. However, if it does not, then you’ll need to have new ones fitted by an expert like Point S to remain street legal. Remember to check all over the tyre – not just in one place.

Lights

Check all the lights on your car once every few months. You can do this yourself and – if you don’t have someone to help you with the rear lights – place a mirror behind the car so you can see them. Don’t forget the side lights, reversing light, fog light and even the number plate light. Car owners’ manuals tend to not be that helpful when it comes to changing bulbs and – as a result – tend to encourage you to take the car to dealer. Look for advice on your specific model online, because many car owners post instructional videos which can help you do the job for yourself. You seldom need anything more than a screwdriver.

Air Filter Replacement

With the majority of cars, switching the air filter is nothing more than flipping a few clips or undoing a couple of screws to remove the filter box. Then you simply take out the old filter and place the new one in. It should take no longer than a couple of minutes and be conducted about once every 15,000 miles depending on your model.

IBS Friendly Sweet Potato Brownies

IBS Friendly BrowniesIntroduction

If you struggle with IBS, you know how difficult dessert can be – but not with this brownie recipe. These brownies are low FODMAP, FODMAP is an acronym for a collection of complex molecules found in foods and poorly absorbed by the small intestine. The brownies are also gluten and dairy free, thanks to one secret ingredient – sweet potatoes. Bring these with you to any summer barbecue; you won’t believe how tasty they are – or how healthy!

Ingredients

3oz almond meal, blanched
3oz cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon non-iodized salt
1  sweet potato
2 generous tablespoons of real maple syrup
6 egg whites
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of nut butter
1 teaspoons of real vanilla extract
Olive oil (for greasing)

Method

1. Peel the sweet potatoes and dice into 1-inch cubes. Lightly oil a large sheet pan and spread the potatoes out evenly across the surface. Bake in a 180 degree celsius oven until fully cooked and fork tender.

2. Remove the potatoes from the pan and allow to cool thoroughly.

3. Place the sweet potatoes into a food processor and pulse until just combined – take care not to over-mix them!

4. Add the egg yolk, maple syrup, nut butter, and olive oil, and pulse until thoroughly incorporated.

5. Turn the mixture out into a small bowl and set aside.

6. In a large bowl, sift together the salt, cinnamon, baking powder, cocoa powder, and almond meal. Gently stir together with the tines of a fork until the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

7. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix gently with a sturdy spoon just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t over-mix, or you’ll end up with a tough brownie. A few lumps are fine.

8. Add the egg whites into a medium size bowl, and mix until stiff peaks form. With a stand mixer this will normally take about 5 minutes – with hand whisking it will probably take closer to 10.

9. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter. The goal is to keep as much air in the egg whites intact as possible. Using a scooping motion, bring the spoon up through the center of the batter, forcing the egg whites down into the center. Repeat this motion until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

10. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

11. Grease the inside of a 9 x 9 baking tray.

12. Pour the brownie batter into the greased pan. Smooth out the top and tap out any large air bubbles.

13. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the brownies comes out clean – about 18 minutes for most ovens. Allow the brownies to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

If you think you may have a food intolerance or allergy be sure to check out YorkTest, food intolerance test experts.

4 Tips for Eating Healthily At Reastaurants

Dining outThis post is from Clayton Curtis. He’s a contributor to the Instawares Restaurant Blog where he writes frequently about restaurant marketing and the food service industry. 

It’s easy to stick to eating healthy when you’re preparing your own meals. However, it is unrealistic to expect that you will always be able to rely on cooking for yourself. Sometimes you will need to eat out with friends and coworkers. Other times, you may just not have the time or patience to prepare your own food. Fortunately, it is very possible to eat healthy when dining out.

Ditch the Bun

Whether or not you’re adhering to a low-carb diet, the typical enriched white flour bun that you’ll receive with your burger or sandwich at a restaurant will contribute little to nothing to your nutrition besides several empty calories. Fortunately, many restaurants are more than willing to give you a burger without a bun. Some restaurants will even offer a lettuce wrap instead of bread. You may be surprised to hear that you can even request your burger without a bun at a fast food restaurant. They will treat a request for no bun in the same way that they treat any other substitution request.

Grilled, Broiled, Roasted and Steamed

The way that your food is prepared has a huge effect on how many calories it will contain. Always avoid fried or breaded menu items as these are the most fattening. Look for meals that are grilled, broiled, roasted or steamed. If a menu item that you want isn’t prepared in one of these healthy ways, ask if they can do it for you. Most restaurants are equipped and willing to make these kinds of adjustments for their health-conscious customers.

Substitute Your Side

French fries are one of the worst options when eating out, and unfortunately, a lot of popular menu items come with a side of fries. Thankfully, many restaurants will allow you to choose a different side. Ask for steamed vegetables if you’re eating at a diner or other kind of sit-down restaurant. If they do not offer steamed vegetables, see if you can get boiled or mashed potatoes. Many fast food restaurants are also offering alternative sides such as apple slices or baked potatoes.

Get a Doggy Bag

Many diners and restaurants will give you a gigantic portion that you would never normally eat in one sitting. However, many of us were raised to clean our plates. You don’t have to choose between pigging out or wasting food. Once you’re satisfied, ask to have the rest of your food wrapped up. Most restaurants will do this for you at no extra charge, and you’ll save time and money when you’re feeling hungry later on.

Eating out doesn’t mean that you have to ruin your diet. Although healthy options can sometimes be hard to find, there are usually several of them at any restaurant. If you know what to look for and aren’t afraid to speak up, you will have no problem keeping the pounds off even when going out for dinner.

Guest Post: 5 Things To Sacrifice After Having A Baby

cutebabyShhhh! No one wants to talk about the negatives of having a baby! You rarely read or hear people talking about the sleepless nights and the things you regret, but believe it or not people do regret having to give things up after having a baby, whether they are married or living in cohabitation. From a quick loo break to that lingering bath, you really can forget them all, because after the baby alone time of this calibre becomes non-existent – enjoy it while you can, basically.

Most people feel they still wouldn’t change having a baby (although if you do it isn’t something to be afraid to talk about), but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel some kind of pining for the life you’ve given up. Let’s look at the most common things you might have to say goodbye to – remember though this doesn’t mean forever goodbye!

Nights out With Friends

Not entirely of course, if you have good friends and family nearby who can occasionally babysit for you then you might not have to give these up entirely. But the type of night where you stumble home after dancing until 3am, a kebab in hand and don’t surface until 3pm the next day? Well those probably do have to stop, until the babies are grown up enough, but by then you might prefer a boozy dinner party with friends anyway.

Giving Up Selfishness

Having a baby means you start to think about another human but yourself a million times a day. Hardly ever do new mums or dads find themselves shopping for a new outfit with their most recent paycheck. All money, feelings, food and thought goes towards the baby, and you know what? It can be pretty refreshing to think about someone else for a change!

Being on Time

Often that one last kiss or cuddle will completely warrant being late, sometimes it can’t be helped but whatever the reason, you can more or less kiss goodbye to punctual behaviour – your baby is your clock now, you go when she/he goes, stay when he/she stays, and you’re up at the time of their internal alarm clock, not yours!

Intellectual Conversation

Often having a baby will mean that everyday normal conversations you have may revert mainly to ‘goo goo, gaa gaa’ noises instead. Gone are the days of spending your mornings pondering over the economic stability of India, and in come the musings and discussions about sleeping patterns and that cute little face the baby makes when they first wake up. It can be a blessing, to feel removed from the rat race for a little while, so enjoy making those nonsensical noises for a little while. Just remember to revert back to normal talk as often as possible around colleagues!

Wear White

Sounds ridiculous right? And something you probably hadn’t given much thought to, but trust us, once the baby is on-board wearing white is a massive no-no. Off-white, cream, taupe and ivory – much the same. Think of a mums camouflage and wear patterns and dark pieces, they disguise baby accidents much more effectively.

Of course it’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s worth knowing what you’ll have to sacrifice so you can be prepared.

Guest Post: How to Choose Your First Bathroom

shower-enclosures_2

When you buy your first house, you’ll want to make sure each and every room is exactly to your taste. It can be a daunting prospect, so take it one room at a time. The bathroom is a good place to start – keep reading for a guide to how to design and furnish this space.

Choose your style

When designing your first bathroom, you’ll probably have thought of a style that you’d like to create in the space. From cool and modern to cosy cottage chic, keep your idea in mind and get some inspiration online or by browsing home improvement publications.

The style you choose should not only reflect your taste, but also be in-keeping with the amount of room you have. For example, using dark or very bright colours on the walls of a small bathroom will only close up the space further, so give some careful thought to the dimensions of the room and what you can do with it. Instead of painting the walls in a dark shade that you really like, you could add accents of the colour to a white background to avoid losing the impression of space.

Consider whether you have a large enough area to install a separate shower cubicle in the bathroom or whether you’d prefer a mixer shower over the bath, and if you’d like to install features like his and hers sinks, a wetroom area or a Jacuzzi facility for a touch of luxury. Wooden elements can add warmth and texture, while metals can create a cool, modern ambience.

Choose your suite

The bathroom suite you pick will need to meet a number of stipulations, so make sure it’s aesthetically-pleasing to you, within your budget and useable for you and your family members. When choosing the main furnishings for the bathroom, it’s important you know the dimensions of the space, so you can avoid purchasing a suite that will either dwarf the area or look generally incongruous.

You’ll also need to give some thought to whether or not you want to create a traditional bathroom area or a more modern space, and browsing a selection of suites from retailers like Splash should help you figure out what’s really to your taste. Suites come with rounded or square edges, traditional bases or chunkier alternatives, so it’s worth doing some research before you commit to a specific style.

Choose your accessories

Once you’ve picked your suite, established a colour scheme and decided on your tiles, you’ll want to ensure the bathroom is finished off in a cohesive way with the right accessories. Your colour scheme and budget are likely to largely guide your choices when it comes to extras like towels, blinds and storage units.

When thinking about which accessories to invest in, consider if and where you need storage. You could install shelving near the bath or invest in corner caddies to hold toiletries, while a tallboy is ideal for towels, toilet rolls and other bathroom items.

You could put up a blind or even leave the window uncovered to let as much light in as possible, and choose towels or accessories like soap dishes to match your walls, floor colour or accents like a chrome shower head or bath taps. Add finishing touches like tea lights, an over-bath book stand or a duckboard to complete the look of your bathroom.

Ideas for family breaks in Devon

GUEST POST

Devon-coastDevon is a great destination for a family break. Its combination of gorgeous scenery, charming holiday cottages, beautiful beaches and family-friendly attractions means that it has something to offer all ages – and this kind of wide appeal is, I think, key to the success of getaways like this. Today, I’ll be giving you a few ideas of how to spend your time in Devon.

Before I get started, though, I’d just like to talk briefly about accommodation. While there’s nothing wrong with staying in a hotel, I think it’s worth choosing a self-catering cottage instead. Sykes Cottages has a decent selection for you to check out, and you’ll see that this type of lodging gives you the freedom to choose something that suits your whole family.

For instance, there are pet-friendly cottages for those with dogs, holiday homes with huge skylights for keen stargazers and converted barns on working farms for animal lovers. Plus, a cottage gives you so much more scope to spend quality time together than other forms of accommodation, while the fact that you can cook your own meals means you can keep an eye on your budget, as well as make sure the kids have meals they’re happy to eat – we all know how fussy they can be!

Now, let’s move on to Devon’s best family-friendly attractions; these are some of my favourites.

Baddacombe Model Village

You’ll find Baddacombe Model Village in Torquay, where it is – very deservedly – one of the top attractions. The ‘village’ here is no ordinary village; instead, it replicates some of England’s best-loved attractions, as well as aiming to show daily life over the past few centuries. All, of course, on a tiny scale. I think this is great fun for adults as well as kids – best of all, you feel like a giant as you’re walking round it all!

Among the highlights to look out for is the miniature Stonehenge, while there’s also a castle – complete with dragon! I love the fact there are tiny people dotted around the village too, as well as noises and animated effects that help the place feel alive. There’s even a little man mowing the lawn – ask your kids if they can spot him.

Woodlands Family Theme Park

Next on my list is the biggest family theme park in the south-west, Woodlands Family Theme Park. A place where you and the kids can go on rides and slides, splash about in ball crawls and meet animals, it’s the perfect option for a day out.

The theme park is divided into zones, each with its own theme, which the attractions in it aim to match. So, for example, in the Sea Monster Zone you can go on the Sea Dragon Swing Ship – one of the most exciting rides in the park. Over in the Action Zone, meanwhile, there are slides, ball pools and climbing frames.

The Farm-Zoo Zone is an absolute must-visit. Here, you can see the likes of parrots, meerkats, rabbits and more up close.

Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park

Last on my list is the lovely Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park. This amazing place gives you the chance to meet a huge range of animals, see animatronic dinosaurs and meet tiny creatures at the petting zoo. Plus, there are a few small rides and a museum as well!

Among the creatures you can see here are lions, raccoons, otters and penguins, to name but a few. Over in Petsaurus Corner you can meet guinea pigs, rabbits, pygmy goats and many more – something younger children are bound to particularly love.

In between seeing cute creatures and model dinosaurs, you can hop on the thrilling Earthquake Canyon Train Ride. As well as feeling the world shake, you’ll also see a colossal 7,500 gallons of water rushing towards you, so hang on tight!

A taster of the best restaurants in Europe

Europe is a gastronome’s delights – there are more amazing restaurants than you can shake a breadstick at, whether you’re visiting Germany, France, Italy, England or… just about anywhere within the European Union.

We’d love to give you a heads up on al l of the greatest places to eat across the whole continent but sadly we just don’t have the space. So instead, we’ve picked some of our favourites for you to try out should you be in their neck of the woods. You may not agree with our choices, but we’d bevery surprised if you don’t have at least one of the best meals in your life if you take us up on our suggestions!

LE GAVROCHE, London

This French restaurant is superb for a number of reasons, not least the sheer artform of presentation. Each course is pe rfectly presented and explained in detail to the diner. Situated in Marble Arch,the restaurant is far more than just somewhere to eat a fancy dinner, it’s about the entire experience. Naturally, you pay for the high quality of food, service, ambience butwe think you’ll agree that it’s worth every penny. Dishes include Souffle Suissesse, Fois Gras Terrine, chocolate millefeuille and a surprisingly affordable wine menu.

LA PERGOLA, Rome

This is, unsurprisingly, a Mediterranean restaurant that doesn’t stint on luxury. Gilded platters and cutlery add extra luxuriousness to your experience, but it’s really all about the food, with the added bonus of a spectacular view of Rome. You can see St Peter’s, Piazza Venezia, all while you’re enjoying extraordinary foo d, meticulously prepared. It’s a three michelin star restaurant in Rome so don’t expect to be paying less than a lot but it’s an unforgettable experience.

RESTAURANT GUY SAVOY, Paris

It’s Haute Cuisine done in the way only the French can! A true delightfor the senses, this three michelin star restaurant is bound to exceed your expectations. Warm, friendly and expert service add to the experience and the food is perfection. Lemongrass chicken to their truffle brioche are among their specialities. If you’r e in Paris, make sure you make a date to visit.

EL CLUB ALLARD, Madrid

If you like a bit of Heston Blumenthal style gastronomy then this is the place for you. Every plate is designed to stimulate all of your senses – taste, smell, vision and texture. You can try a taster menu for around 90 Euros, which gives you a taste of lots of their specialities, including a faux hard boiled egg for dessert. Well worth the money, and worth a visit. If you’re on a trip around Spain, take in Madrid for this place and make sure you also visit Barcelona for similar gastronomic delights.

Cheap flights are available from major UK airports to cities where you’ll find the best culinary delights, including, for example, cheap and convenient flights from Glasgow to Barcelona, as well as from London airports.

Maybe it’s time to treat your tastebuds as well as the rest of your senses when you’re travelling around Europe next time. You never know what delights you’ll encounter!

Female Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Business Success

Being an entrepreneur is all about empowering yourself to create a business that’s right for you. It’s about facing up and rising to different challenges, overcoming the day-to-day demands, learning and planning for the future.

In a new campaign e-commerce specialists Alibaba are celebrating female entrepreneurs. They want to encourage women to realize their vision and head down the path of creating a thriving and successful business.

Starting your own company can be a daunting prospect, but listening to the stories of some of Alibaba’s successful customers can help show you how achievable it is. These stories show how, by overcoming the various challenges and with dedication, hard work, belief and ambition, you can reach your goals and realize any dream you want.

And now Alibaba wants to hear your inspirational stories too. If you’re a female entrepreneur they want you to submit your story and you could be in with the chance to win a mentorship from one of five successful businesswomen.

It’s a unique opportunity to learn from experienced entrepreneurs who have turned their ideas into business acumen. You’ll learn from some of the best so you can expand your business and make it even greater, achieving more than you thought possible.

Meet Kate Castle

Kate Castle’s story shows how you can create a business from the simplest idea and you don’t need a huge infrastructure to make it work. Being a mother of two children she noticed how, when out camping, going to the toilet in the middle of the night could be a problem. So she created Boginabag, a portable, lightweight toilet to meet these needs.

Even though she had no previous experience in how to turn something from an idea into a product, she got a product sketched out and then used Alibaba to find manufacturers and make her dream a reality. Now her business is growing into an international company — her story shows its possible to achieve whatever you set your mind to. She’s even inspired her kids to want to set up their own businesses too.

Meet Chelsea Abingdon Welch

Chelsea Abingdon Welch makes luxury designer watches for adventurous, high-flying women. At the age of just 19 she went about setting up her own business, challenging stereotypes to create a range of high quality aviation watches. She also runs a group that supports and celebrates female stunt pilots.

After initially learning to fly she noticed how all the guy pilots had amazing watches, which had all kinds of different functionalities. But she also noticed they only made them for men, so what did she do? She went out and produced a range for women, proving that there’s no point waiting for somebody else to do it when you can do it yourself.

Meet Li Su Ling

Li Su Ling runs a successful clothing company that she started back in 2003. With the simple goal of wanting to produce quality outdoor clothing she’s seen her business grow and grow. She puts her success down to hard work, striving for excellence and maintaining high production values so that her team have respect for the product and take pride in the work they do.

With this solid relationship with her employees, it ensures customer satisfaction, as they know they can trust the product and the people behind it. Li Su Ling’s story teaches us a valuable lesson about creating the right work environment to encourage the best from those around you.

Find out more and submit your own story here.

Look and Feel Good in Ten Easy Steps

Do you feel in desperate need of a mummy makeover? Before you go under the scalpel, try getting back to the basics. These ten steps will help you rejuvenate not just your body but also your mind. And best of all, there’s no risk of having to make a medical negligence claim.

Ritualise your ‘me’ time. Block off a few minutes of your schedule each day to sit and relax. That’s it! Even if you only do it for five minutes after you wake up or before you go to sleep, having a pause can increase your focus and productivity, not to mention, your happiness.

Read a good book. Sometimes all you want is to get lost in a good story. Reading a book can help you do that. And unlike watching a movie, you can go a slowly as you want when you read.

Start a workout routine. Working out is a great alternative to cosmetic surgery, and it’s one that won’t have you worried about medical negligence laws. Whether it’s pilates for toning your muscles, running for trimming your waist or yoga for clearing your mind, regular exercise has physical and emotional benefits. And just twenty or thirty minutes a day is sufficient if you find it hard to make time for an hour-long workout.

Have a mani/pedi. If only for the foot and hand massage, every person needs a good manicure and pedicure every now and then. Small changes can make a big difference in your attitude, and getting a new coat of nail polish will make you
feel more attractive.

Invest in new accessories. Maybe you don’t have the time or money to go shopping for a new wardrobe, but just picking up a few pieces–such as a scarf or a new handbag–will make you feel like you’ve got new wardrobe options.

Overhaul the family diet. You are what you eat, so try to keep your diet healthy and clean. Stocking the refrigerator with more whole vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins will give you more energy and a youthful glow.

Have a date night. Don’t get caught up in the rat race of life. Remember to take time out for special evenings with your partner or your friends. Catching your girlfriends up on your life will give you a chance to process it yourself.

Start a journal. Writing down your thoughts before bed is an excellent form of therapy. It may also help you sleep better, too.

Make new friends. Introducing yourself to new people can help make you more aware of how great your life really is. So don’t be afraid to mingle in social settings; you just might meet your new best friend.

Love and live for the person you are today. Are you saving that size 6 pair of jeans for when you lose weight? It’s a phase that every mum goes through.

The important thing, however, is to try to be your best self in every moment–and to value that person in every moment, as well.

Commissioned Post

Fun Craft Ideas on a Shoestring

Are you looking for new ways to unplug your children from their favourite electronic devices and encourage them to use their creativity? Setting aside time for a family arts and crafts day can help you do it together. You don’t need to spend a fortune on costly art supplies to put together some fun crafts. The following are a few ideas using common household or recycled items.

Fun with Fashion

Most families have old clothes, scarves, or scraps of fabric lying about the house. You may have planned on donating these to charity, but you could also encourage your child to bring out her inner fashion designer. If there are old skirts or dresses that are made out of pretty fabrics, they could be cut horizontally to make an instant scarf. Old T-shirts can be decorated with great kids labels, stickers, buttons, or ribbons to give them new life.

Cheerful Gift Cards

Chances are that you have some loose buttons and colourful paper on hand. You could use these to create textured gift cards. Other materials to use could include glue, glitter, rubber stamps, UK name labels for children, and regular household markers or pens. Encourage children to draw a design of their choosing and send their final creations to friends or family.

Homemade Puppet Show

Do you have a couple of old cardboard boxes sitting at home? Use one as a stand and the other as a stage, cutting out a picture window from one side of it. You can hang curtains using scrap fabric and fashion puppets out of old socks or newsprint papier mache if you’re feeling ambitious. This activity can take up an entire rainy day if you get the whole family involved. Children can not only create their own puppet characters, but script and act out a full skit.

These are just a few ideas to turn the tedium of a rainy day into a day of family fun to remember, all without spending a dime.