How Unique Are You?

Me? Probably not very unique at all, to be honest. Blue eyes, mousy hair – I’m pretty ten a penny! My kids, on the other hand? A LOT more unique than me! Sausage has red hair, the least common hair colour in the world, and she’s super proud of it, too – our little Viking! BB not only has green eyes, she’s also got segmental heterochromia, making her a special little mutant – only 1% of the whole world has this genetic mutation.

Not BB’s eyes!

Roulette Online have put together some fun research into people’s uniqueness and shared it with us in this fun infographic:




View Interactive Version
(via Roulette Online).

How unique are you?

Products We’ve Replaced with Natural Alternatives

Since having kids, I’ve been a lot more aware of what’s in the foods we eat, as well as the products we use around the home and on our bodies. Obviously, we want everything around us, including ourselves, to be as clean as possible, but I really worry about the ingredients used in toiletries, cleaning products and other stuff that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Recently, I’ve been trying to replace some of these things with more natural products, and I thought I’d share with you a few of them:

Aftersun/Moisturiser

Having as many different skin conditions as I do (psoriasis, dermatitis AND eczema) means that I have to be really careful about what I put on my skin and although the girls (thankfully) don’t have the same issues, they do both have sensitive skin. Many moisturisers are too heavily scented and full of preservatives for me, so I tend to opt for natural products containing Aloe Vera, like AloeClear. It’s soothing and moisturising and never irritates my skin like other products do.

Facial Cleanser

This one might sound bonkers, but I recently started using a facial oil to cleanse my face and realised that it’s basically just sunflower oil, scented with a few things! Once I’ve run out, I fully intend to start using grapeseed oil to cleanse my face as it’s great for your skin and a really neutral oil, with minimal odour. Adding a few drops of geranium oil will make it smell amazing, too!

Disinfectant

There are a number of all-natural disinfectants out there, but to be totally honest, you can’t beat white vinegar and bicarb for cleaning things around the home. They tend to do a better job of cleaning, don’t leave streaks over everything and I don’t have to worry about what the kids are breathing in.

Carpet Deodoriser

Because we have a dog, I’m always super conscious about the smell of our carpet, but all of the highly-scented carpet powders seem to make us feel chesty when we use them. Opting for bicarbonate of soda works just as well, if not better, at soaking up odours and it’s a fraction of the cost, as well as being totally natural. You can also add a few drops of essential oil if you want to make it smell nice, and it also makes your vacuum smell good when you use it, too!

Oven Cleaner

I’m not gonna lie, chemical oven cleaner SCARES ME. I used it once and splashed some on my arm and got an actual chemical burn – I am FAR too clumsy for hazardous materials! These days, I make a paste from bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar and smear it all over the surfaces that need cleaning, leave it for a couple of hours and then wipe off with a scourer and warm water. Great cleaning power and no chance of losing layers of skin!

Do you use any natural alternatives? I’d love to hear them.

Cool Grandparents Rule!

When it comes to ‘cool’ grandparents, my girls really do know a thing or two. Husband and I both had really close relationships with our Nans and having the same thing for our girls is really important to us, which is why we’re so lucky to have Husband’s Mum just round the corner from us.

Nanny L is the best Nanny ever! The girls absolutely adore her and she’s basically a cross between Willy Wonka and the Fairy Godmothers from Sleeping Beauty – she’s the kindest, most caring Nan with cupboards which look like a branch of Thorntons! The girls love spending time with her and I think they prefer her house to ours at times!

My Dad, Grandad P, is cool in a very different way – we don’t get to see him as often as we’d like because we live a little ways away and all have busy lives, but it doesn’t get much cooler than a motorbike riding Grandad! He’s popped over a few times without ringing first and I absolutely LOVE seeing the girls faces when they hear Grandad’s bike on the drive and run out shouting “GRANDAD’S HERE!”.

Husband’s Dad and his wife live in the States so we haven’t seen them for some time, and we miss them like crazy. They lived here for a while and the girls used to love going to their house for dinner on a Friday evening – their stash of craft supplies was second to none and we used to spend a lot of time laughing together and enjoying music (and a glass of wine or two!).

Did you know that you can save for the future of your grandchildren tax efficiently, in a Young Savers Plan from Shepherds Friendly? They’ve done some research into what makes a cool grandparent and put together this awesome infographic – take a look!cool grandparents

 

Do your kids have cool grandparents? Are you a cool grandparent yourself? Do leave me a comment below!

My Top DIY Tips

Before we begin, I should probably confess that I am by NO means a DIY expert. By the same token, we’ve been doing a fair bit of decorating and DIY recently as we had a few bits in the house that needed doing and our landlady asked us to do them. Between painting, damp-proofing, repairs and improvements, it’s been a real baptism of fire as it’s years since I’ve done anything like this, and I was probably a kid helping my parents the last time I did any of it. Jumping in at the deep end means that we’ve learned a few things along the way so I thought I’d share some of my pearls of wisdom with you:

It Doesn’t Matter How Careful You Are, Your Clothes Will Get Dirty

You can be the neatest, most careful painter and DIY-er on the planet but there’s still a better than average chance that you’ll end up getting SOMETHING on your clothes! Wearing old clothes for decorating in is all well and good, but using dedicated workwear if you have a big renovation project to complete is a really good idea as not only will you not mind if you get it dirty, you’ll also feel more in the DIY mood if you’re all kitted out. Take a look at the Engelbert Strauss’s website for some great options.

It Can Make or Break a Relationship

Decorating is one of those things which can be really fun and a great exercise in teamwork but it can also be massively stressful and a source of conflict for many couples. Husband and I are lucky enough to be really good at working together as a team when we’re doing practical things like decorating or furniture building, but it has also caused some fairly big rows in the past, so be prepared for potential tiffs!

It Might Not Always Go To Plan

Having a vision of what things will look like is all well and good but tempering your expectations will do you a favour in the long run, rather than allowing yourself to be disappointed if it doesn’t go your way. Husband and I recently decorated our bedroom and I had my heart set on a wallpapered feature wall, only to realise that the wall was just too damp to hang paper on. Although we’ve treated the damp and painted over it, it’s still pointless hanging paper which could ultimately be ruined but that didn’t change the fact that I was VERY disappointed for a while!

Have you learned something from a renovation project recently? Do leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear about it!

Blinds in a Box Review

A few months back, our landlady told us that she was having a new roof put onto our property, and although this was really welcome news, it occurred to us that this meant having very little privacy during the day while the roofers were here. We’ve got blinds on all of our front windows, but we back onto farmland and enjoy the unobscured view from our lounge, so we don’t have any coverings on those windows. I didn’t want to buy blinds or curtains just to be used for a months or so, and while doing some research on temporary blinds, I found a company called ‘Blinds in a Box’.

Blinds In A Box is the brainchild of Simeone Salik, interior designer Janice Dalton and businessman Dominic Lawrence, 3 entrepreneurs from North London. They took their product on Dragons Den and received the praise (and investement!) of both Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan. I emailed and asked if they’d like to send me some blinds to try out and here we are. The blinds come with a set of literally two instructions, so I thought I’d make a (probably TOO honest…) video so you can see what the installation process is like:

As you can see from the video, it was SUPER easy to install the blinds! We’ve been really impressed with the quality of the blinds since we installed them a week ago, too. They allow us a really good level of privacy without blocking out too much light and they come with little crocodile clips so that you can raise them as and when you want to. The white colour is really neutral and Husband and I have both said that we fully intend to leave the blinds up for as long as they last.

If we ever move house again (although, I really hope we don’t!) I would 100% invest in a couple of boxes of Blinds in a Box so that we could avoid that awkward stage where you don’t have blinds or curtains for the new house and end up sleeping in a room with nothing at the windows! Every time we’ve moved house, we’ve ended up putting either newspaper or old sheets up at the windows, and not only does it look pretty rubbish, it’s a total inconvenience. Knowing that we could just pull the blinds out of the box, trim them to the right size and have smart-looking window coverings is really appealing.

The blinds can be bought in white or black (the black offers a blackout effect, which would be great if you’re taking light-sleeper kids on holiday) in regular or wide widths, and can be bought one at a time, or in a box of three or six. We were sent a box of three, which would be £22 to buy, and I really feel they’d be worth every penny for situations like we’ve been in. They also arrive REALLY fast – if you order by 12pm on a weekday, your blinds will be with you the next day, so even if you forget right until the last minute, you can have them with you really quickly.

I can totally see why the Dragons were so impressed with this products, and I’ll be recommending it to anyone who’ll listen!

Become a Mini Ninja at YO! Sushi (review)

If there are two things that my kids love it’s cooking and sushi, but unless you’ve got some serious skills, the two passions rarely meet – until now! Recently, the people at YO! Sushi got in touch to tell us about their in-store cooking classes, Sushi Ninja for adults and Mini Ninja for kids, and we knew we had to go along and try them. Our nearest YO! Sushi is in Lakeside and we’ve actually never eaten there before, despite our love of Japanese food, so it was a first for us all.

We arrived at the the restaurant at 11am, before they start opening up for the day, and the kids were sat down with their bamboo mats in front of them, all cling-filmed up and ready for use, before being taught all about the importance of proper hand hygiene, especially when making food with raw fish. They were given hair covers and gloves to wear and I think I counted at least three glove changes throughout the class, which was impressive to say the least.

The class was run by Marcell, the manager of Lakeside YO!, and she clearly knew her stuff. She was excellent with the kids and taught the whole class without once talking down to the kids or making things too complicated. She was happy to help Burrito Baby, whose hands were probably still a little bit on the small side of sushi rolling, and both of the girls thought she was a fab teacher.

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The Mini Sushi Ninja classes cost £15 per child, last one hour and include all of the ingredients, the bamboo mat which the kids get to take away with them, and a goody bag containing the recipe cards, chops sticks and the bag itself. The girls made three types of sushi during the class, a cucumber roll, a salmon nigiri, and a California hand roll, which then gets put into a takeaway box for the kids to eat once they’re done. Husband and I sampled the sushi and were really impressed with how well both girls did. The whole class was such an awesome and different way to spend a morning and the girls actually said that it was their favourite activity of the whole summer.

We were also lucky enough to stay at YO! Sushi for lunch, and although we’re regular sushi eaters, we wanted to try some new stuff too – Marcell kindly offered to choose a few dishes for us so that we got a variety of flavours and MY GOODNESS did she choose well! I’m not usually a fan of squid, but I liked their spicy pepper squid so much that I ate a whole plate of it by myself! The beef teriyaki was also basically one of the nicest things we’ve ever tasted; we were back in Lakeside the next day for a different event and were seriously considering just going back to YO! for about five plates of beef teriyaki!

Although this was our first experience of YO! Sushi, it most definitely won’t be our last. The class was excellent, the food was genuinely lovely and the whole experience was hugely positive for all of us. The classes were so fun to observe that Husband and I are thinking about trying the adult classes too! Head over to the YO! Sushi website for more info about the classes, store locations and the menus.

Thanks so much to Marcell and the team at YO! Sushi Lakeside for giving us such a lovely experience.

Exploring the Mediterranean with Larry Lamb

When Husband and I were planning our wedding, we narrowed it down to two choices; one was the Maldives and the other was a cruise. Ultimately, the Maldives won, but we’ve both still got our hearts set on a cruise one day in the future. One of the things which we love about the idea of a cruise is being able to stop at several different places to see cities along the way, experiencing a different culture at each port. Just recently, Thomson Cruises challenged Larry Lamb to explore the Mediterranean to meet some new “Cruise Mates” – watch this video to see how he got on at one of his stops!

Ibiza is somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit for ages, and although it’s got a reputation for being the clubbing capital of the world, it’s actually great for travellers of all ages, including families, and has some beautiful sights and beaches. Because the Mediterranean is so close to us in terms of flying, I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to take a cruise there, but actually it would be perfect for us because Husband is NOT a fan of flying and it would allow us to see so much more in a shorter space of time.

Mediterranean lifestyle and culture is so appealing to me; I’ve been to Malta twice and the main thing that I love is that everything is geared up for families. Kids aren’t expected to be seen and not heard and it’s completely normal to see kids dining with their parents at 9pm, rather than the kids being ushered off and evenings being adults only. If we’re on a family holiday, I want everything we do to be for the WHOLE family!

Something that Larry Lamb said really confirmed how perfect a cruise would be for us. He said: “I teamed up with Thomson Cruises to show that people aren’t restricted to just staying on the ship – there is a wealth of amazing people from different cultures and backgrounds that cruise-goers can meet when they step ashore at a new destination. Hopefully the films we have created will inspire holidaymakers to try cruising and meet their very own Cruise Mates.”

Managing Director of Thomson Cruises, Richard Sofer, said: “We knew that Larry had a love of travel and meeting new people – made evident by his ability to speak five different languages – making him the perfect person for our Cruise Mates challenge. It was great to see him really get into the spirit of the trip, meeting an array of fascinating locals who bring to life the different destinations that TUI Discovery 2 visits. We’d really love our holidaymakers to now step ashore, explore each destination and discover as many of their own Cruise Mates as they can, because we know meeting new people whilst on holiday is proven to increase our happiness.” Larry’s journey can be followed at https://cruise-mates.co.uk/

Can Creating a Will Save You Money?

moneyDo you have a will? Discussing or even thinking about making plans for your assets post-mortem has developed a bad reputation.

People consider a scary topic, whether they think it’s a complex, expensive process or because they don’t want to think about their mortality.

It is one of those things people will seek out the most tedious tasks to avoid talking about. However, if you take the time to sit down and plan a will, you’ll actually find it’s not as time-consuming or draining as you might believe.

Creating a will won’t only save your family a lot of trauma once you have passed, it can also save your money and inheritance from being spent in a way you never intended.

If a will has been created your assets will be divided up according to your wishes. Without a will, splitting up your property can become much messier and can end up costing everyone involved quite a bit of money.

Leaving your loved ones without a will to use as a binding blueprint means you have no say in what happens to your assets. Even if you have verbally promised items of your estate to individuals or organisations, without a legally-binding will Intestacy law will overrule this and determine who is entitled to inherit what.

So, can sitting down and creating a will save you a bit of cash? Absolutely. Employing a solicitor to help draft your will is a relatively small expense in comparison to what your family could lose or spend in court trying to secure your assets after your death.

The peace of mind this provides will last until the day you’re no longer here, or at least until you chose to amend your will!

Giving it to a solicitor to look over also means they can advise on potential legal pitfalls. Issues such as not being born in the UK, or having residential ties in another country could end up costing your beneficiaries and family a significant sum of money to resolve, taking into consideration the tax and administration issues involved and there are a number of other things to consider which you solicitor will ensure you take into account.

Having your will validated by a professional can be the difference between your inheritance being spent on legal fees or used to benefit those who matter most to you.

So, you’ve made a will, you’re happy with who’s inheriting what, that’s it right? No, you need to revisit it from time to time. Crucially many people forget to update their wills throughout their life. Changes in your circumstances can invalidate a will, making it worthless.

You’ll need to update your will if you’re getting married, as this will overrule the contents of any previous will. Also in the opposite situation where you get divorced, you’ll need to decide if your former partner is removed, while welcoming a child into the world can also alter inheritance entitlement.

It’s also a good idea to amend your will each time you buy a new property or an asset with a lot of value. By doing this, you ensure that these items are not part of an expensive legal battle.

So, what are you waiting for? Create a will today and save your loved ones the risk of added stress and expense.

Is Your Vision Good Enough for Driving?

One In Three Brits Risk Driving Ban With Overdue Eye Tests

I’ve been a glasses wearer since I was 11. At primary school, our classes were pretty small, so seeing the blackboard was never an issue, but once I got to senior school, the classes were bigger and suddenly I realised that my vision wasn’t good enough for me to see what was being written on the board. I went for an eye test, and lo and behold, I needed glasses, albeit with a pretty weak prescription. My lenses have got stronger pretty much every year since then, until about 2 years ago when the optician said I’d reached some sort of vision-stasis and that my eyes hadn’t worsened since my last test. However, I still get yearly tests because as a driver, I think it’s massively important.

Vision Express has recently conducted a survey which came up with some, quite frankly, terrifying results. Here’s a video that they’ve made all about it:

New research revealed today by Vision Express has found:

• Almost 30% of UK drivers are overdue an eye test, with 4% admitting to never having had one

• Drivers with uncorrected vision which falls short of legal thresholds face potential insurance invalidation, a heavy fine, penalty license points and even driving disqualification

• On average, Brits will be spending almost three hours in their vehicles en-route to their UK holiday destination and will be travelling with three people, including one child

• There will be increased pressure on UK roads this summer with 50% of Brits families holidaying in the UK, compared with 38% last year

• Brits are more likely to have their cars stocked with drinks and snacks, rather than they are to have had a recent eye test

As drivers, we’re all spot-on when it comes to getting our cars MOT’d to make sure they’re as safe as possible, but that safety-checking should always extend to ourselves – if your eyes aren’t giving you a reliable picture of what you’re seeing, then you’re putting yourself, your family and every other road user in danger. If you cause an accident and other people are injured including any that are in the car with you, you could find yourself facing legal action for whiplash claims and other injuries.

My ability to drive is something which is so essential to us as a family because of where we live; we’re 6 miles from Sausage’s school, 3 miles from the nearest shop and we don’t even really have passable pavements on any of the roads immediately around our house. In an emergency, Husband or I could cycle to get where we needed to go, but transporting ourselves as a family would be very tricky indeed. This means that my eye health is of paramount importance.

Do you make sure you have yearly tests? Are you as shocked as I am about the amount of people driving around with potentially poor vision?! Do leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear from you.

Keeping Kids Safe Online in the Holidays

In previous years, the summer holidays have meant that Sausage mostly just sees her friends on her birthday (which is in August) or if I manage to arrange playdates with her friends, by contacting their parents. This year, however, seems to be a whole different kettle of fish. Sausage is going into year 5 in September and seems to be growing up before our very eyes. She has her own iPhone, iPad, laptop etc, and so do many of her friends, which means that she’s able to communicate with them as and when she likes, within the bounds of when she’s allowed device time. We aren’t MEGA strict with her when it comes to devices, but we do try to get her to put them down for at least an hour before bed so that the blue light from screens doesn’t interfere with her sleep.

The communication versus online safety thing has been playing on our minds, however. She’s not allowed a Facebook account because she’s too young, although we do know kids of her age who are on there. Snapchat’s recent update has left us with security worries and we’ve got her account locked down because it’s a site which is well known for being an avenue for grooming. She currently uses WhatsApp or iMessage to speak to her friends, but we still worry about the lack of security with these; it would only take one of her friends to give someone her phone number or leave their own device unlocked for someone to be able to attempt to contact her and it’s something that is a constant source of worry for us.

Just recently, Azoomee got in contact with us to let us know about their new chat features and it seems like something which could be the answer to all of our worries. Azoomee Chat was built for children. It’s not an adult platform re-designed for kids! Key features which make Azoomee Chat best practice are:

  • Communication between two children only takes place if a parent for each child has verified the connection
  • There is no geo-tracking data
  • There are no group chats (which is where cyber-bullying begins) opnly one-to-one communication
  • There are no photos or face-time (we use personalised avatars instead)
  • There are lots of pointers in case a child needs advice
  • Parents have full visibility of all communication
  • Only pre-verified friends can see your posts

Every child has their own Kid Code; it looks like this: GF6D7XS2. You’ll find your child’s Kid Code in the Azoomee Settings screen. Your child can give their Kid Code to their friends, or you can give it directly to their parents. They need to add your child’s Kid Code in their Azoomee Settings. Finally, for an extra layer of security, you’ll need to verify the friendship – you’ll receive a notification to do this in Settings.

We’ll be trialling Azoomee over the next few weeks and are really hopeful that it is something which could work for our family and give us the peace of mind we need to be able to allow Sausage to use her devices without the need for us to be constantly looking over their shoulder. I strongly feel that schools should be offering kids an Azoomee membership and teaching them safe communication as part of the national curriculum as we’re only going to be MORE reliant on technology as the years go by.

Keep your eyes peeled here for an update so you can see how we get along with Azoomee’s new chat functions or head over to their site to get your free trial of the services.