Friday, 29 August 2014

What You Can Do To Improve You and Your Family's Life

With busy lifestyles and each family member having his or her “own thing”, we usually find it hard to connect and make quality time for our family. When everything seems to be the same day in and day out, perhaps you should consider different ways of improving you and your family’s life. You can bond with each other over pizza, or plan a three-day road trip with your teen. From simple to special, we have listed several tips on becoming a tighter, happier family.
Break out of the routine by doing something special.
Weekends are usually the time when teenagers sleep the day away or go out with friends, younger children watch cartoons the whole morning through, and parents try to accomplish as many chores as possible. Change your routine and do something new for a change. For example, wake up really early one weekend, prepare a thermos of hot cocoa, gather your family’s breakfast mugs, and wake them all up before first light. Tell them you’re all going for a drive, and that they should not take anything with them apart from what they’re wearing.
When it’s not too cold out, let them stay in their pyjamas; otherwise, coats and wellies are in order. Drive eastward to where you’ll have a great view of the rising sun. Take out the cocoa, hand each family member a mug, and simply take in the sun as it rises. It’s a great way to start the weekend together.
Eat together.
Busy families tend to spend less time together at the dinner table, but we all know that the best conversations usually happen over a meal. Open and strengthen communication lines by cooking and having meals together, or by having a weekend cook-off.
Team up and come up with challenging recipes, a quirky set of criteria for judging, and a blind taste test. You may be used to calling for takeaways or eating out, but if you really want to improve your family life, it’s best to do something meaningful, something your kids will remember even when they already have a family of their own. Who knows, it can become a tradition!
Go on a trip.
Best for families with older kids, a road trip can become the ultimate family vacation. This activity requires careful planning, and enables parents to give their children more responsibilities. There are plenty of bonding moments when you’re out in the open road or camping by a fire. Spending time with your kids away from distractions also gives you the opportunity to talk about your family, especially when you’re going through a rough patch.
Families, even the most tight-knit ones, aren’t without their share of squabbles. There may be fights, conflicts, misunderstandings, and a slew of other issues in between. Resolving the issue is not always easy, but one thing you have to remember is to keep communicating. Problems rarely resolve themselves when left alone; these can even create feelings of deep resentment. Talk things out, and make the family members involved know that what they have to say is important. It can be a silly or serious—what’s important is that at the end of the day, there is no love lost and you have an understanding and a solution.

 This is a guest post.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Neat and Tidy: Quick and Simple Tips to Save You Time

It’s often said that the kitchen is the heart of the home, but if you’re not careful, this part of your property can end up feeling more like a prison. After all, so many vital household tasks are completed within this space and it can take what feels like an age just to keep it clean and tidy. However, by following these simple tips, you should be able to streamline your chores, ensuring you’re able to spend more time relaxing with your family. 


Invest in a dishwasher


If you don’t yet have one, instead of slaving away at the sink why not get a dishwasher? These handy appliances can dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend keeping your washing up pile under control. It takes a matter of moments to load and unload the machines and dishwashers tend to do a more thorough job of cleaning crockery, cutlery, glassware and other items. As an added bonus, they can even help you to reduce your utility bills, if you use them carefully.


Sort your storage out


Because so much happens in kitchens, they can quickly become chaotic. This is why effective storage is so important. Simply installing user-friendly cabinets that pull out can save you time, stress and hassle, making it easier to find items and put them away again. Using dividers in your drawers also comes in handy. They help to keep things in order and mean you should spend less time searching for objects.


To take full advantage of the square footage available in your kitchen, full height cabinets and corner units are useful to have. Creating a home for all the items in this room makes keeping things in order much easier, and it’s especially important in busy family homes.


Prioritise a practical layout


Ideally, the three main areas within your kitchen — namely the sink, the cooker and the fridge — should be located close together. This ‘work triangle’ should be compact but not too small. Experts suggest making the distance between the three areas no less than four feet and no more than nine feet. Being able to move quickly and easily between these stations will really speed things up. Of course, you can only work with the shape and size of kitchen that you have, but you should certainly bear this principle in mind.


By following advice like this, you stand to complete your daily kitchen tasks and cut out a whole lot of hassle. A complete kitchen revamp can prove pricey, but if your budget’s under strain, you can make the changes gradually.


Karen Jean is a mum of four and part-time receptionist and can’t stand a messy home. When not tidying up after the kids, she likes to relax with a glass of red wine and a good book.


Monday, 18 August 2014

In defence of boys....

In years gone by, like most people I had a vision of what my future life would be like.  I pictured shopping trips with my very co-operative daughter, followed by lattes and pizza express. I did not, not once, picture myself putting together Ninja Turtles, doing drop offs at Beavers and giving instructions about how to use a urinal. Yet, this is my fate.

When we had our first son, we broke the "middle class code" and found out what gender our baby was going to be. I am way too impatient to wait for something as interesting as that. I was happy to find out we were having a boy since we would almost certainly be having another one, and there was every chance I would get a girl right? Wrong.

Again, breaking the unspoken code of people who deal with delayed gratification - we found out the gender of our second child - a boy. I remember shedding a year afterwards and thinking, oh no, I have to go through all of this and it's ANOTHER boy! How silly I was.

Actually having two boys has loads of benefits. First, it is cheaper, as they are into the same things (hopefully). It's a friend for life, a buddy to go through things with, stick up for, fight and wrestle with, learn from and teach.  I actually quite like being the only girl in our family as it means I get special treatment and they adore me. They are totally straightforward and show their emotions (sometimes too much) in a very frank way. I never have problems working out what's going on with them, as it's so obvious. They've actually taught me quite a few things - aside from totally changing our lives, they've taught me not to care so much, since they clearly don't care what anyone thinks - at all!

So boys are pretty awesome. I wouldn't change them for the world and actually Son 2 slotted into our family quite beautifully. Son 1 has a playmate and they do everything together, I am pleased that, most of the time, they are best friends and miss each other massively. I am actually quite envious of their relationship as it's something I never had as a child, and I often felt very lonely.

Here's to boys!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

How to manage the summer heat in your garden.

The recent spell of hot weather has been glorious. Unfortunately, extreme temperatures aren’t too good for gardens. Certain sections of the population, mainly the very young and the elderly should also take some sensible precautions in the sun.


Summer health risks for humans


If you intend to enjoy your garden during the summer, try not to sit in direct sunlight between the hours of 11am and3pm. The sun is at its hottest during this time and you really should take advantage of the shade to avoid its harmful rays and extreme heat.


Take measures to keep yourself well hydrated by drinking plenty of water too. Conditions including sunstroke,dehydration and heat exhaustion are all too common during the summer months, so make sure you take adequate steps to prevent against this.


Create a shady garden


The UK is known as a green and pleasant land thanks to William Blake and Britain’s temperate climate. A few weeks of prolonged summer sun and heat will soon transform your verdant lush lawns into a dry patch of scrub, so it’s important you stay on top of garden maintenance.


One way of coping with this is to water your lawn every evening, and when you do mow the grass, try not to cut it too short. Create a shady alcove by planting Cornus(dogwood) and jasmine, which are hardy plants that produce beautiful flowers.


If you’re worried that you’re too old to pick up a plough, then think again! Recent research reported by retirement home experts McCarthy & Stone have revealed that one fifth of Brits don’t class themselves as ‘old’ until the age of 90! McCarthy & Stone’s retirement homes often come with landscaped gardens that are cared for by the firm too – so you won’t be expected to tend large patches of lawn yourself.


Hanging baskets need a lot of love


Whether you grow fruit or flowering plants in your hanging baskets, they will need attention from the watering can in order to withstand the rigours of the hot sun. If possible, try and water your baskets in the early morning and repeat the exercise in the evening once the sun has started to go down.


You can even add a couple of ice cubes to the soil as the water from these will evaporate slowly and give your plants more moisture.


Compost can catch fire


If you have a compost heap in a plastic bin and keep on topping it up with plant debris and grass cuttings, you should be aware that in some extreme circumstances the grass cuttings could catch light if placed under direct sunlight. Make sure that you keep your bins in the shade and turn the pile over on a regular basis.


Don’t forget to nurture your pond


Anyone who has an ornamental pond in their garden should make sure that the pond water is regularly topped up. Tepid water is better than very cold, as this won’t shock the fish with a sudden change in temperature.


A garden in the summer can be a delight, and if you follow these guidelines you’ll still be able to sit outside and enjoy its beauty.

This is a guest post. 


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