10 Tips to Keep Warm this Winter

Brrrr, it's cold out there today. Having just returned from a wet, wild and very wintery school run, I've been thinking about ways to keep warm this winter without going over budget given the high price of home heating oil and electricity!

1.Layer, Layer, Layer - Whether it's just you that needs warmed up or the children are also feeling the bite of winter snapping at them, an easy and cheap way to keep warm is to wear layers of clothes. For you, that might mean wearing an extra vest (thermal vests are fabulous) or cardigan, or for some it might mean thermal leggings under their jeans or two pairs of winter socks! Layering your clothes helps trap more heat and lets less escape and if you do then find yourself overheating it's very easy to remove one or two layers to cool down again!

2.Keep moving and the more quickly the better. It might sound logical but you'd be surprised how many people sit at a desk all day long feeling cold and don't think to get more active! Moving in an energetic way helps get your heart beating stronger and faster and gets your circulation going.

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Living on a Prayer? Tips to Stretch Your Income Until Pay Day

I've just been reading an article in today's Daily Mail written by a freelance journalist named Liz Hoggard entitled, "I've become one of the new middle class poor: How one writer is keeping up the illusion of prosperity" and I must admit it makes for an interesting read.

In recent months, I've noticed through conversations I've had, quite a few people making cuts to their spending habits. This has been a sort of silent revolution as people don't tend to talk about it outwardly, rather it just happens to slip in the course of a chat. Lots of families it seems are curbing their spending habits and it's something I'm happy to state we're doing in our own family too. I must point out though that we've never been big spenders anyway, but it's actually an educating prospect realising you can't go spending money without thinking about whether or not you can afford to in the first place!

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Eat Well for Less - Saving Money on Food Bills

Since we're currently going through a pretty tough time financially in the UK, more and more people are trying to think of ways to reduce the cost of living. One area where it is often fairly easy to reduce costs is in the weekly food bill.

Now, like many people, years ago when I was a student I had a very limited supply of money and my diet was dire. It's still a family joke that I existed on dried supermarket noodles for four years and actually it's not that far from the truth! Noodle sandwiches, noodles on toast and noodles with beans were a common enough meal in those far away days!

Then, as a young working woman, my diet improved although at one point I confess it even became rather extravagant with my husband and I, then unmarried, eating out two or three times a week... and yes we both put on some weight then!

However, eventually we grew up and got some sense realising that eating out instead of cooking home meals was a ridiculous waste of money and not the healthiest of lifestyles and these days we have home-cooked meals every day and only eat out on special occasions or as a real treat.

I would never suggest going back to the frugal eating of student life, especially when you have a growing family, but there are lessons to be learnt from the budget constraints of those days.

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Minimising Heat Loss Whilst Warming Up the House in Winter

So winter has finally bitten here in the good old North of Ireland and I've been thinking about how to save on heating costs and reducing heat loss whilst keeping the house warm and cosy.

With four children, most of the heat we lose in our house tends to be down to the kids leaving doors open everytime they enter or leave a room. This is something that drives me totally insane as when I was growing up I remember my own mum always telling us to close the doors behind us and it's only now that I'm a mother I realise how frustrating the constant refrain becomes!

So, this week I've put one of the children in charge of door closing. Her job is to make sure others in the house close doors behind them and she has to do spot checks to ensure upstairs doors are also kept shut. It's working out well at the moment because it's a big responsibility and she'll be rewarded at the end of each week if she does her job well.

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Budget Blues? Top Tips for Living More Frugally

Many people living in the UK and Ireland (and elsewhere) have been feeling let down by recent government budgets and the consequent effects on individual's pockets. In effect, what the recent UK and Irish budgets mean is that many of us will have a lot less money to spend and, for some, that means trying desperately to make ends meet.

If you're suffering from the budget blues, then have a look at my top tips for living more frugally below and try implementing the suggestions into your everyday life. You might just be surprised by how big an effect each small change can have.

  • Go through at least two recent bank statements carefully. List all income in one column and and all direct debits in another. Total these up to see what, if anything, is left over. Next think carefully about any additional outgoings - things +such as car fuel, bus/train tickets, food bills, after-school lessons such as music, swimming etc, window cleaning, milk, newspaper and bread bills that may collected at the door. Take these extra bills away from your previous total. This is what you have left over to pay for absolutely everything else and this is what you need to work with to feed, clothe and buy extras for your family every month.
  • If you find that you are left with very little, simply not enough or worse still that you are into your overdraft, go through your direct debits and see if there is anything at all that you can do without or reduce. For example, you may be able to move your broadband, telephone or electricity bills to lower tarrifs or you might find that you have direct debits for things you no longer use such as online subscriptions or subscriptions to gyms etc that you had forgotten about. And talking about overdrafts, make sure yours has been authorised with your bank or you'll be paying exhorbitant charges on it. Many banks allow an overdraft facility of approximately half your monthly income.

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Peace at Last - Let the Home Baking Fun Commence!

This morning, after yet another bad night's sleep, I decided on the spur of the moment to make some scones and right now the house smells yummy. It's brought me right back to my childhood where I recall regularly returning home from school to the smell of apple tarts cooking and my mum standing in her apron, rolling pin in hand! Of course she always left a little dough behind for my sister and me so we could make jam pies but since there was only one rolling pin, one of us had to make do with a milk bottle!

My first port of call these days when looking for recipes is usually Google and most times I find great recipes. Today's was no exception with the good old BBC coming to my aid. If you'd like to try the recipe I used, here it is! I had to alter it ever so slightly as I had no sultanas and used raisins instead. Raisins are clearly inferior though as the mix is quite dry and juicy sultanas would have worked much better. However, aside from that minor niggle, this is a recipe for my keepers list and I'll definitely use it again... with sultanas next time!

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Christmas is Coming, Ready or Not!

IMG_4462It's hard to believe that it's almost Christmas once again and that ready or not we'll all be procrastinating about what to buy for whom over the next few weeks! Actually, I'm doing pretty well this year and have almost all my presents either bought or ordered so I must admit to feeling a lot less stressed than I normally would by this point in time!

With Christmas just around the corner, I'm noticing even the early mornings are starting to feel quite magical right now. Looking out this morning at 7am there was a lovely clear dark blue sky with a few stars sparkling and lots of glittering frost gathered on the grass and car windows! For me, this is when the build up really begins.

Of course, this year many people are feeling the financial bite more acutely than in recent years and we're all cutting back in one way or another. Christmas is always notoriously expensive and most of us get caught up in the atmosphere leading to overspending and then the worry about what it was that was so important to purchase that it ate into January's pay-cheque! 

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Me, Myself and I!

It's been quite a while since I blogged on here and mostly that's because I've been incredibly busy with my growing family. My children are now aged 12, 9, 7 and almost 1!

Actually, I cannot quite believe that my baby will be 1 year old next week and how quickly she is growing. She's still breastfed and I'm pleased to say has got through her first twelve months without so much as a sip of formula. Hooray! She still feeds frequently but most of her feeding is during the night which is not so good. I realised this during the week when she slept for a solid two hours during the previous night without waking and couldn't believe how good I felt the next day! Normally she only goes 90 minutes between night feeds but all my others were the same despite everything I tried. On the positive side, she doesn't really ever cry at night and since birth we've only had one night where she woke the family - and that was during this past week when she kept biting me so I put her in her cot next to my bed whereupon she went bonkers...

Anyway, you can maybe understand why my blogging life has been somewhat sparse of late with all the little people in my life taking up all my days and nights.

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Members of the public are encouraged to save the dates 2 -10 June 2012 for Britain’s biggest rail celebration at the National Railway Museum – Railfest 2012.

The nine day celebration of Britain’s railways will see an enormous space the size of 11 football pitches bustling with an awe-inspiring line up of more than 50 locomotives including record-breaking historic and modern locomotives from the museum’s collection and visiting locomotives from across the UK. A wide variety of railway-related activities, attractions, sights, sounds and smells will add to the exciting atmosphere with the opportunity to get up close to the exhibits.

The festival will bring together over 30 record-breaking locomotives that have made their mark on rail history for being the fastest, strongest, first, last and oldest. Among the confirmed record-breaking attendees is holder of the record for the word’s fastest steam locomotive at 126mph, Mallard, the newest mainline steam locomotive in operation, Tornado, and the most powerful industrial tank engine built for use in the UK, Mardy Monster. The first steam locomotive to reach 100mph, Flying Scotsman, is also set to attend the event. The locomotive is currently undergoing major restoration work and will be on display to the public during Railfest with further work being carried out on Flying Scotsman after the event. Railfest 2012 will welcome the largest gathering of railway record breakers ever brought together in one place.



FINAL Elsie artwork 280312[1]More than a fifth of smokers admit to lighting up in front of their children in the home or car, is the finding from a new Department of Health survey. And almost 15 per cent believed that their children’s antics in the back of car makes them reach for a cigarette.

The findings come following a raft of tough measures unveiled by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley this spring designed to cut the biggest cause of premature death in England. This includes a new hard-hitting national campaign on secondhand smoke.

The adverts show how children are exposed to smoke in the home even when their parent moves away from them - for example by smoking by an open door or smoking in the car with the window open.

The new findings also suggest that parents think they are protecting their children from the harmful poisons of secondhand smoke by opening a door or car window - without realising that is not enough. Figures show one in four open the car window when children are in the car; and one in five said that they smoke out of a window or door when children are at home.

But up to five million children across the UK are still regularly exposed to secondhand smoke in the home. People don’t realise that they could be breathing in deadly smoke because more than 80 per cent of cigarette smoke is invisible. Opening a car window or smoking out of the house door just isn’t enough to protect children.

Even the school run isn’t a smokefree zone as almost one in ten smokers admit to smoking in the car which exposes children to the harmful cancer causing toxins and poisons of secondhand smoke whilst making the daily journey to school.

Three hundred thousand children visit the GP each year, in the UK, due to secondhand smoke with 9,500 visiting hospital. This costs the NHS a staggering £23.3 million every year.

Children cannot protect themselves from secondhand smoke and are particularly vulnerable to it due their higher breathing rate, less well-developed airways, lungs and immune system.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more at risk of respiratory illnesses, asthma, meningitis and even cot death.

They are also 90 per cent more likely to become smokers themselves. In the UK, 23,000 young people each year start smoking by the age of 15 as a result of exposure to smoking in the home

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said:

“It is important that we help parents protect their children from possible harms to their health. We want parents to know that by making their cars and homes smokefree they can protect their children's health.

“Figures show that 9500 children have to go to hospital each year because of the second hand smoke and toxins they breath in. It's hard to quit but worth doing for your children. Get more information by getting a free Smokefree Kit at nhs.uk/smokefree, or for help quitting get in touch with your local stop smoking service, GP or pharmacist.”

Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation Dame Helena Shovelton said:

“The harm caused by second-hand smoke to children is irreparable. Once the damage has been done, their lungs will never fully recover.