Cleaning all over the world

Wonderful places to visit

This week I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time cleaning. Vacuuming, dusting, bleaching - all in a post- Christmas pine needle frenzy to get back to normal. At times I’ve stood, vacuum in hand, channel and felt a rather strong connection to Freeddy Mercury singing ‘I want to break free’ while mindlessly vacuuming back and forth! Minus the leather mini and pink crop top.

That and the Karcher Monuments of the World quiz I recently came across got me thinking, if I was to break free, where would I go? So while dusting for the 241st time I began to create my wish list of wonderful places to visit (without a duster in sight)’.

Rome is top of the list. Maybe a little obvious but I’m a romantic and the thought of strolling through 1000s of years of beautiful history is so very tempting. While in Italy I would spend some time in Florence. One of the main setting for E.M Forster’s ‘A Room with a View’, it’s a book I’ve read over and over as a teenager and I would love to bring to life the imaginings of that 16-year-old mind.

Next I’d continue that literary journey and make a stop off in America- the Deep South to be precise. a little travel around some of the haunts of Scout and Atticus from’To Kill a Mocking Bird.’  I’d  mix it up with a trip to Detroit – the urban home of so much great music.

Next, I’d take a few weeks to go somewhere hot, where I could be lazy, swim in clear blue seas and drink copious amounts of cocktails. I think I’d do this on my own. Much as I love my boys, this is my wish list so, for a couple of weeks it will be me, a pile of books and sunshine.

When I get back my final stop would be a tour of the Scottish islands. Far north, beautifully wild and full of adventure. We’d stay in quirky b&bs, search for hidden coves and watch sunsets, wrapped up in blanket, drinking hot chocolates and breathing chills clean air.

What a fantastic time I’ve had!

 

Keeping your property safe

It struck me over the festive period. I’d filled my home with expensive gifts, delicious food and plenty of lights…

ThenI went out to work, or the park and it would most likely be dark when I came home. Just how easy would it be for some burglars to decide now was a brilliant time to help theselves to all my hard earned stuff. They can almost guarantee there will be easy pickings – many nearly wrapped for ease of removal!

We do everything we can to keep our home safe. We’ve got locks on the windows and, apart from the odd senior moment, our doors are always locked when we’re out. But it doesn’t stop that niggling feeling that someone could be helping themselves to our things. Since having children I’ve become more aware of the need to stay safe. How scary for a four-year-old to think monsters exist and they e been in your home.

I’ve been looking at house alarms and how we can get something in place that won’t cost a fortune but will give us extra peace of mind. It’s definitely something for 2016.

In the meantime here are a few hints and tips on how to keep your property safe. I know most of us know these but there’s no harm in a little reminder:

  1. If you have a gate, keep it closed and in good repair. It’s the first thing any would-be burglar will spot, and they will judge how secure the rest of your house is from this first impression. If you don’t have a gate, maybe you could consider getting one installed?
  2. Get decent locks on your front and back doors – and more than one on each door if possible. If a burglar thinks the front of your house looks vulnerable, they’ll almost certainly find that the back is, too.
  3. Don’t leave ground-floor windows or doors open in the house – even if you’re in (and especially if you’re in your yard or garden). Sneak thieves will look for these kinds of opportunities and can be in and out in just a few seconds.
  4. If you have a dog, think hard about whether to put up a ‘beware of the dog’ sign (or if you have a cat, an ‘I love cats’ notice). It could actually indicate that you don’t have an alarm, or worse, that you leave your back door open for your pet. It’s worth noting that Kings’ alarms can be fitted with pet sensors, if required.
  5. Don’t leave your keys near the front door (on a hall table or another obvious place in your home) – especially at night. Burglars look for keys above big, bulky items, since they can take them away easily for a return visit in the near future!
  6. Store cash and jewellery carefully, avoiding obvious places like bedside tables. This is the first place that a burglar will look.
  7. To avoid false alarms, keep your alarm sensors free from dust, cobwebs and spiders!
  8. Consider having a second (false) alarm box on the back of your house, so that it looks as secure from the rear as it does from the front.

A stay action in beautiful Cambridge

 

I love planning my holidays But this time I’ve been inspired by the rise of the staycation. Look around you – there are some amazing jewels tucked away on our little island and it rarely involves a long flight to get there!

We have stunning beaches and amazing coastlines  but what we don’t have reliable weather. So I’ve been looking at city breaks not too far from home. So what better place to start my bucket list of places to visit in the UK, than the beautiful Cambridge. Steeped in history it has the voices of a thousand literary giants, innovators and pioneers coursing through its East Anglian veins.

Here are a few of the best things to do in Cambridge:

Punting - Cambridge is so well known for the boat race and take a trip to the city and you’ll see punting is hugely popular too. In fact it’s one of the staple student jobs. It’s a great way to see the stunning architecture of the colleges and their bridges.

Visit Trinity Great Court. Famous for the Great Court Run at Trinity College in under 43.6 seconds on the strike of noon on the day of the Matriculation Dinner as performed by Abraham in the movie Chariots of Fire. The is best done as part of a walking tour so you actually get to grips with all the history around it.

Have a pint of real ale in The Eagle pub. You can also read some of the comments on the ceiling in the back room, left by WWII pilots.

If you’re not a beer drinker then my next stop would be to have a glass of wine at the roof top bar at The Varsity Hotel.

Eat Crème Brûlée in a college dining hall. Supper surrounded by thousands of years of history and academia – I’d love it!

Watch a Footlights performance. It’s where the likes of Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson took their first steps into performing. I’d love to go along and watch some stars of the future.

There’s so much to do and once this lovely city is ticked off my list I want to venture further afield. There’s so much of this amazing country I’ve not seen and I think I have the bit between my teeth for a few more staycations.

Next on the bucket list would be Cornwall. I went once as a child for a week and it rained everyday. But I still remember St Ives beach stretching for miles with yellow sands. I also want to pay a visit to Rick Stein’s fish restaurant in Padstow – I love his shows!

I want to explore the old smuggler coves and go on an adventure in the tin mines – Arthur would love that. I’d finish with a few surfing lessons, I’m sure I’d be terrible but I’d love to give it ago.

My staycation would then take me up North, far into the heart of the Scottish Highlands, walking the Munros and watching the amazing wildlife. Maybe I’d hire a castle and spend my time imagining I was Lady of the manor. There’s so much to do in this amazing island of ours and I’ve only just scratched the surface. Maybe next year my bucket list would continue with the Cotswolds and some of the wonderful northern cities like Liverpool and York.

Looks like I won’t be hopping on that plane anytime soon!

Homeschooling – the myths exposed.

Three myths about homeschooling

There’s no shortage of myths surrounding homeschooling and some of these untruths may put you off teaching your kids at home. Here, I take a look at three common falsehoods concerning this form of learning and examine some of the benefits associated with the approach.
1) Hardly anyone does it.
Especially if you don’t know anyone who homeschools their kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking this approach is extremely rare. Often, this style of schooling is presented as the preserve of a relatively small number of eccentric families. In reality though, many thousands of households across the UK have switched to this way of learning. It’s thought that around 150,000 youngsters are currently being taught at home, and this figure is expected to increase by approximately three per cent a year. There are a whole range of reasons why parents make the decision to educate their children in this way and homeschoolers have a broad spectrum of beliefs and backgrounds. The one thing that unites them is the fact that they believe their kids will be better off being taught at home.
2) It’s bad for children’s education
Another myth is the idea that taking children out of the classroom automatically spells disaster for their academic success. In fact, the opposite is often true. Teachers may be highly trained, but they can have classes of up to 30 kids to deal with, making it virtually impossible for them to pace their lessons to suit all of their pupils. In turn, this can lead to frustration, boredom and bad behaviour in the classroom. Alternatively, if you’re teaching your youngsters at home, you will be able to give them much more attention on an individual basis, helping to ensure they learn at the right speed. There’s no need to worry about formulating your own curriculum for your kids. Specialist websites such as http://www.oxfordhomeschooling.co.uk/ provide tailormade courses ranging from Key Stage 3 to GCSE and A Level. As well as providing your children with course materials to work through, online programmes like these can come with tutor support.
3) It deprives children of the chance to socialise
It can seem logical to think that away from the classroom, kids find it difficult to socialise. However, homeschooling doesn’t necessarily have a negative impact on children’s social development. Many of these youngsters take part in extracurricular sports and activities with other kids and enjoy a range of social opportunities with their friends. It’s also possible for parents to sign up to homeschool co-ops that meet on a regular basis to have classes or to go on trips to museums, zoos, galleries and other attractions.

By busting some of the myths associated with homeschooling, you should be able to get a clearer picture of what it involves and whether it could benefit your kids.

Keeping your home safe

It’s fundamentally all any of us want. To keep our home and the ones we love safe. What’s the point of a beautiful home if you don’t feel safe there?

I know I spend a lot of time worrying before I go away. Did I lock the Windows? Are the lights off? Are my valuables tucked away safely. While we can’t stop everything from happening – we can be as prepared as possible.

With new technology come new ways of doing this. Now it’s not about waiting for something to happen but about making sure nothing ever does. Take a look at this short film from Panasonic on their new home outdoor cameras. Not only does it keep a reassuring eye on your home but it also send alerts straight to your smart phone or tablet if it senses something is happening.

With one simple device you can take away the worry of ‘what ifs’. It’s all about giving you a sense of freedom and this new technology gives you just that.

From window sensors to smart apps that allow you to control your lighting remotely. Today, we can be safer and more prepared than ever. It can’t stop people doing bad things.But it can help mitigate these things and give you back control over your home and the things you love.

I love the idea that, no matter where I am, I can keep an eye on my home. Whether it’s something I’ve forgotten to do – most likely turning off the lights! Or stopping others helping themselves to my things – this new technology has it covered.

 

It’s dark, it’s raining – it’s time for a cruise.

When the nights draw in and the mornings seem to be just as dark, my mind starts to wander. It wanders off to warmer climates, sun, relaxation and the temptation to book a long and lazy summer holiday is almost too much to handle!

There are so many places left to explore – too many left of my wish list and it would take a lot of holidays to fit them all in. That’s part of the reason I’ve always fancied a cruise holiday. It conjours up a sense of decedence and a chance to sample wonderful moments in lots of different places.

I’d love to take in the Carribean Islands.  Stopping off for a day here and there, swimming in crystal waters and taking in the beautiful scenery. Barbados, St Lucia and some of the smaller islands. Then back on to my gorgeous floating hotel and on to the next adventure.

There’s something that really appeals to me about having my own cabin and a window out onto the ocean – you can even have your own balcony. To watch a world you only really get to see from the shoreline . There’s something of the old Hollywood glamour about it all. I always imagine it will be on of those little round port Windows and I can peer out while we bob along. I’ve never really seen the sea at night. My best friend said she once sat on her balcony and watched a group of dolphins following the ship, leaping and diving as she sipped a gin and tonic and waited for the next stop.

While your days can be filled with exploring the beautiful beaches and towns on these Carribean jewels, you can bet there will be some great entertainment in the evenings. The same friend who told me about the dolphins told me she’d never had so much choice in the evenings. From musical extravaganzas to casinos to ten pin bowling and dinner at the captain’s table – there’s so much choice!

Maybe Santa will bring me a little sunshine and a couple of tickets for a cuise across the  Carribean. A cruise is like several holidays all wrapped in to one and when it’s cold outside and I’m fighting my way through the lunchtime crowds and home throught the wind and rain, I can’t think of much else I’d rather do.

 

Make Christmas sparkle a little more with PNP Santa

There’s little better than watching your children revel in the magic of Christmas.

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The sparkling lights, the whisper of Santa visiting – the genuine belief they’ve heard a sleigh bell in the sky. I love it as much as Arthur and so the Portable North Pole Santa videos are just perfect.

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You can create magical films personalised for your children using names, photos and special people.

It takes minutes and I am genuinely bowled over by the quality – a brilliant Santa and the voice, when saying Arthur’s name, sounds so natural. Set in the North Pole with a real backdrop of snowy mountains and cosy wooden chalets,  you can chose a tour of Santa’s post office, a visit to the elf house to find out which elf is watching over you or even a special song for your child.

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Santa will talk about how proud they are of your child’s behave (or not if you’re feeling that way inclined!), and a little about what they like to do. You can also add in additional children so they can enjoy one with brothers and sisters.

I’ve created the elf house film which is just over five minutes long. I’ve also chosen the song as well. Plus – I couldn’t resist the special Christmas Eve version. At just a couple of minutes it shows Santa getting ready with his reindeers to take to the skies for the biggest night of his year. He feeds them some magic lichen and off they go.

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Filled with snow and sparkle they are utterly magical and for a child, spellbinding. There are some short video as to make for free but even the most comprehensive package come in at just £9.99  and covers multiple films and children.

In the true spirit of giving, the PNP team has pledged to donate 5% of all web sales to Children’s Hospital foundations across the world.

If you’d like to try one for yourself (or your child!), here’s a special promo code for a 20% discount on all paid for videos. Just enter BLG20PNP at the check out to get your discount.

Taking it all online

Sometimes all I want is to sit online and shop! There, I admit it. Amazon, Asos, evening the weekly shop. It’s all at my finger tips.

Well, nearly all. I just wish it was as easy to buy things like medicines, vitamins and all that type of thing. There is a reluctance to sell medicines direct to customers online and that’s absolutely as it should be.

Doctors are there for a reason! But there is also an element of common sense and I’ve just discovered the world of online prescriptions. I would never try to treat a new ailment or get diagnosed online. But I would try it out for things I use all the time, like creams for dry skins. Maybe medicated shampoos and even some anti biopics.

I’m not recommending it to everyone but in a fast-paced world where time is a valuable resource, having the freedom to buy a Few bits and bobs from somewhere like you drugstore, while watching Eastenders is a good thing.

It will never and should never replace doctors but, as with so much is life, it’s about taking a common sense approach and using your savvy to make the most of your time and your health.

Make it a Christmas cracker!

Someone put a post on Facebook a few days ago: ’100 days until Christmas’.

And so it begins, my journey, in equal measures of fear and excitement, towards 25 December. I love it, absolutely love Christmas but it’s a bit of an abusive relationship if I’m honest! I keep coming back every year, full of hope and renewed enthusiasm. But each time I still get caught out.

Is my freezer groaning loud enough under the weight of unnecessary food? Do I have enough stocking fillers to be lost or ignored by Boxing Day? Is my house adorned with enough ‘frippery’ after all, I’d hate anyone to pop in and not realise there’s the small matter of Christmas to be getting on with.

I’m making a list…im checking it twice. But still I know I’ll miss something. It’s usually something like Christmas crackers. I spend ages looking for the best ones. Something beautiful but also not disappointing.

All the big retailers do their own brands and premium brand crackers so it can be a bit of a mission finding best ones. To be fair, all you really need is a good ‘bang’ a sturdy hat and a lame joke. The rest is a pointless quest for the perfect cracker gift – you’ll never find it so give up now!

One year I did attempt to make my own. I’ve since promised this will never be repeated. I’ve seen some amazing homemade ones and if you’re that way inclined then there’s nothing nicer than creating a theme and filling with your own gifts. Mine looked like freak refugee toilet roll middles following an explosion at the toilet roll factory.

Along with Christmas pud, festive jumpers and simmering resentment, Christmas crackers asre essential – how on earth could you enjoy Turkey without them?!

I’d love to hear your top tips for a stress-free Christmas. Leave me a comment and let me know how you make your Christmas go with a bang.

Time to crank up the heating

It’s that time of year when Jonathan begin our little dance. Back and forward; will she won’t she…

Sadly it’s not some kind of romantic ritual. It all boils down to hitting that switch and walking the heating back on, he holds out as long as possible, throwing sideways glances when I stand up and walk within touching distance of the thermostat. He throws jumpers at me while I threaten to hit the on button in September. seems October is his cut-off point and only then does he feel officially ‘cold enough’ to fire that boiler up.

I do get it, it’s bloody expensive heating a house. Especially one where there’s a tendency to leave windows open too. I do love fresh air when I’m warm! There are loads of alternatives, including a wood burner but that’s a massive financial out lay. There are loads of different electrical heating systems too and they’ve come along way since the early days of expensive storage heating. Check these ones out – they use up to 50% less energy. Electrical radiators which use less energy and are better a for the environment – bit of a win win really.

I love winter, I really do. Frosty cold days, slow cooked loveliness and warm jumpers which hide a multitude of stodgy sins! But along with cranking up the temperature it cranks up the bills as well! Maybe it’s time to look into an alternative.

But the heating will always be a bit of an Autumn dance for us. One flick of the switch and there is no going back.