THRIFTY FASHION for summer – Sustainable Style

It’s been a while since I shared some of my thrifty fashion finds. As the weather has been sunny, it has made me start to think about what I’ll be wearing this summer! I make no secret that I love to charity shop, and I’ve had some fabulous purchases recently. You can read more about my charity shopping tips here.

I have not owned a decent pair of denim shorts since the pair I owned as a teenager which I wore until they literally fell to bits! I have been looking to replace them ever since, but I’ve never found a pair which fit quite right. This week I finally found a super pair, which are perfect! They’re The White Company, and I found them in a Cancer Research Shop for around £6!

I think a lot of people shun t-shirts and vests at charity shops as they’re such a cheap thing to buy new. But, I’m buying second hand for environmental reasons, so I’ll happily look through all the things!

Every summer, I wear cardigans to help with the changeable British weather! But sometimes a jacket works with an outfit slightly better. I gave my favourite jacket away last summer, as it didn’t suit me anymore. Imagine my delight when I found a casual Monsoon linen jacket on a 50p rail! It is perfect with a dress or teamed with my new to me denim shorts! It’s so light that it’s almost a shirt, and I love the handkerchief style front, though I may need a brooch to secure it on days when it’s windy!

I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a pair of sandals, I know people have mixed views on second hand shoes, but I have to admit that when I buy them they always look unworn. Often with sale stickers still stuck on them.

Swimwear – Speedo review

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I reignited my love of swimming last year, I’m not the best swimmer – I lack style, something I should probably work on. Other people get in the water and look gorgeous, I get in the water and…well, swim. But I’m sure I don’t look as graceful as others! I really do need to work on my front crawl this year!

What I love about swimming

I love swimming as it requires very little equipment, just great your swimming costume and you’re ready to jump in. Although, if I’m swimming in a pool, I also have to have goggles! I have a pair of anti-fog Speedo goggles which fit me well and I find really comfortable.

For me, swimming is a great way to relax, I have to focus on my breathing and every day stresses fade away. Of course, it is a great way to keep fit too, and I am always amazed by how a good swimming session really does work all my muscles!

Swimwear

I have to admit that I like to have different options when it comes to swimwear. Especially if I’m taking part in a water-based sport rather than swimming. Sometimes I need more support – or more flexibility in my swimwear.

I was sent a Speedo Swimming costume to review which is designed for sports use. It has a high neck, and offers great bust support. I was worried about the zip-front but actually I can’t notice it once it is on. The leg is not cut too high, making it comfortable for things like aqua-aerobics too.

The side panel detail makes it a really flattering style, it really helps create a waist.

I was really impressed with this swimming costume, it was comfortable in the water and out too. It is soft to wear, and yet offers great support too. Also, it is also an eco-friendly option! It has been made using recycled abandoned fishing nets.

I teamed it with a pair of Speedo ladies swim short – I love these as they’re perfect for beach days when I am in and out the water! I have to say that they’re quite a generous fit, and they’re not too short! Being tall I often struggle with shorts being a little too short, and these are perfect for me! They have a drawstring waist which helps them to stay perfectly in place! They are also made using recycled polyester – it is great to see companies like Speedo choosing eco-friendly fabric options.

5 Ways to protect your home and your pocket

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A house is the building we create our home inside of, and sometimes a house can disrupt our home. Small accidents and home emergencies can have big financial repercussions for any family, as well as coming with inconveniences like no hot water or electricity. There are steps we can take to protect our home from these disasters, and make sure they don’t leave a hole in our pocket. Here are five ideas you can use to save yourself money and worry.

Get the Right Home Insurance Cover

Many people don’t have the right home insurance cover or no cover at all. Some insurance may be included with a mortgage or rental agreement, but this will often not have enough cover for your contents or valuables, or for unpredictable but inevitable problems like boiler repairs and burst pipes. It is worth checking any cover you have and seeing if it offers you enough protection.

Get Some Boiler Cover

Getting separate boiler cover for boiler repairs is becoming increasingly popular. It gives great peace of mind to know that in an emergency, the details of the boiler repair become someone else’s problem and you can concentrate on keeping warm and tending to family members. If you want to ensure you’re covered against multiple home emergencies, the company Certi offer packages that also insure your pipes and drains and all kinds of home emergencies as well as boiler maintenance. This type of package is highly recommended as you know your home will e fully protected.

Consider Insuring Specific Valuables

Some general home and contents insurance will not be enough to cover some of your most precious valuables. It is worth looking for specific insurance for these kinds of items. There are policies that are aimed at high-tech equipment, for example, that you can use to protect your computers and smartphones from theft or damage. Claiming for these on your standard home insurance can push your premiums up or come at a higher excess charge than is reasonable.

Install Home Security

Having your own CCTV system or home alarm is easier and cheaper than you may at first think. Thanks to advancements in technology and home wireless networks, it is possible to install a high-quality system yourself without wires covering the house. Modern systems even integrate your smartphone with an app allowing you to check on your home from anywhere in the world. This feature is very popular with the parents of teenagers.

Take Some Precautions for Emergencies

Having a box or bag with some emergency supplies kept in a handy spot may seem like you’re being overly cautious, but you won’t think that when you need it. It doesn’t have to contain emergency rations and bottles of water unless you want it to, but having a first aid kit and some candles or torches for home emergencies isn’t a bad idea. You could even add a USB power pack to charge phones.

Taking some precautions to protect you from home emergencies and the cost of boiler maintenance can save you money and stress at difficult times, so don’t let a natural disaster become a financial one.

My tips for healthy living

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I am not a health and fitness geek, but I have learnt over the last 12 months that I really need to look after myself!

Keeping Active

Staying active is really important! But, I think it is really important to find something you enjoy doing. I have never enjoyed running, but I kept running to the point where it was bearable. I just don’t love doing it! The truth is, I love the feeling when I stop, and I keep going as I hate not loving it, but I’ve never been a runner. So, I’m trying out different sports to see if there’s something I can love more.

I love the water. So swimming, sailing, kayaking or SUP and I am there! I enjoy walking, and will happily walk miles. I really want to give myself a challenge this year – but more on that another time!

Healthy Diet

My diet declined rapidly around the time I became a Mother. It is something I have to continually work on, or I fall back into bad habits. It’s difficult when you’re tired and there’s a chocolate bar at the checkout calling your name! Strangely I love eating vegetables and fruit, but I am terrible at snacking.

I try to eat quite a balanced diet, avoiding too much meat and dairy. So while I’m not Vegan, I tend to eat quite a lot of Vegan products. I prefer Vegan friendly chocolate, and I read dark chocolate is meant to be good for you too!

Gifts and healthy lifestyle.

I am terrible at asking for specific things when asked what I’d like as a gift. I always feel a bit awkward, having been raised fiercely independent! But I’m learning that it is OK to suggest e.g. vegan gifts. It’s a broad suggestion allowing them plenty of options (and I still get a surprise!).

Vegan Food Hamper

Healthy Living with Children

I have always encouraged the children to keep active. Weekends are spent out and about in woods or beaches – anything to keep them running about! Whether it is the park, swimming, or dancing around the lounge I think it is great to keep us all moving!

We are working on sugar intake, I think I do give them too much sugar at times. So I’ve started to take small steps. I’ve banned squash from the weekly shop and explained why – I think it’s important to explain that I’m not just being dull! Of course I’m not going to ban treats altogether! And with Easter almost upon us I’m well aware they will want chocolate – (so will I!) We were sent some Vegan Easter Eggs from Yumbles and they were popular with all of us! I didn’t even mention they were vegan!

Remember…

I’m the worst at “being too busy…” but I always remember to go for healthcare checks. I don’t think anyone enjoys going, but I see it like an MOT for me. I plan appointments for days when I have childcare, and if I have to cancel, I re-book straight away.

Cooking with duck

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I have always thought duck was difficult to cook with, and as such avoided buying it. I prefer the flavour and texture of duck to other meat. It has a much stronger flavour than chicken or turkey, I also find that I can’t eat too much of it. ! I had thought that duck was a fattier meat than chicken, but then I read this;

…a skinless duck fillet has less calories and less than half the fat of a skinless chicken fillet ­(a skinless duck fillet has 92kcal and 1.3g of fat per 100g compared to a skinless chicken fillet that has 120kcal and 3.2g of fat per 100g)
https://www.gressinghamduck.co.uk/about-us/the-duck-people

Which made me think I ought to try duck again, but where to start cooking it? I am not the best in the kitchen!

Image: Gressingham Duck

Gressingham Duck has made cooking duck really simple. Their Bistro range, takes the stress out of cooking duck, you simply pop the try straight into the oven. There’s no need to prepare the meat, add sauces, or seasoning – it is all done.

I served the Duck Breasts in Plum Sauce on a bed of noodles and stir fry vegetables. This was perfect as a quick dinner, but could easily have been served as a special dinner for two.

I was impressed with how easy it is to cook, and that the meat was really tender. The whole family enjoyed the meal!

Having introduced the family to duck using the Bistro range, I felt braver to try cooking duck myself. I’ve not tried cooking a whole duck yet, although that is on my list for Easter now! Instead I tried cooking duck breasts. It was so simple to sear them in a pan and then pop them into the oven until cooked. It was so simple.

Cost, I thought duck was quite expensive so had never thought about adding it to our shopping list. A pair of Gressingham duck breasts cost about £8, so it isn’t a cheap option, however I do feel it is worth it for adding variety to our diet.

Which 8 man family tent?

Last year after a single holiday, the decision was made to sell it on. It was a fabulous tent, loads of living space, but the sleeping pods were small. It just didn’t work for us. We have taken our tents camping in Europe for several years, so our tent is an investment!

I had chatted to various camping friends about their recommendations, and there were varying opinions on air-beam tents. They always came up as part of the conversation, but people seemed to have differing opinions on whether you could buy a reasonably priced air-beam tent.

The benefit of an air-beam is quite clear – no poles to fight with, and in theory therefore easier to put the tent up – especially if you’re a lone adult trying to put up a family tent. The main problem with air-beam, in my view is the weight of the tent bag! The air beams are weighty!

I’m looking for an 8 man tent to ensure we have plenty of space, but I want room in the sleeping pods to be able to stand up. This may sound silly, but many of the cheaper tents have low ceilings in the sleeping pods and I’m tall. So, bluntly I fear I may put my head straight through the pod in the middle of the night.

Decathlon offers two 8 man tents, thankfully it is the cheaper one which has more height in the sleeping pods (160cm). The 8 man Arpenaz 8.4XL is a traditional tent, but most reviews suggest it is quick to pitch. Priced at £399.99 it appears to offer good value.

I’ve always been a fan of Vango, and the Longleat Air 800XL is a serious contender. It boasts a 10 minute pitch – so even if I’m slow surely that means 20 minutes and it’ll be ready? The height in the sleeping pods is 190cm. The price – it’s on offer at £599.99. But it is an air-beam – so no fighting with poles!

I’ve also looked at an Outwell Middleton 8A, this has a RRP of £1439.99. It doesn’t work for me as the sleeping pods are too low (150cm tall). This does have the benefit of extra living space – ideal if we’re camping in the UK.

Currently I think it’s a choice between the Decathlon tent which offers great value, and the Vango which offers ease. £200 between the price makes it a tough choice as that could pay for a weeks pitch fees!

A Parent’s Guide to Summer Holidays at Disneyland Paris in 2019

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The kids have been begging to go on holiday to Disneyland Paris for what seems like years now. This year you finally have decided on a summer holiday in Paris with Disneyland being the main focus. Of course, as parents, you want a bit of adult time as well. Here is a brief guide on how to give everyone a little of something they all want when visiting Disneyland Paris in 2019.

Travel Arrangements Are First

Once you have decided to take that trip to Disneyland Paris just across the channel, you’ve decided that leaving the car behind is a much easier and quicker option. You know when your holiday leave has been approved so you start making air travel arrangements from the UK to Charles de Gaulle to Disneyland Paris. It makes the most sense to arrange not only for air travel but also for a private transfer to and from the airport Paris as well as for transport to and from the hotel you reserve for the holiday. Because you can book all of that in one service with companies like Easy Go Shuttle, you can narrow down your itinerary almost by the hour. Easy Go Shuttle have a 5* rating on Trip Advisor and are the recommended choice amongst many parents, as they provide complimentary child seats and will assist you with all of your luggage – no matter how much you have with you!

But first, even though you know that the chauffeur driven taxi can pick you up and take you all around Paris for other attractions, you need to know where to have them pick you up! It’s time to choose a hotel!

Booking Accommodation Comes Next

Before going any further, it’s best to get those accommodations reserved. Most parents find that staying as close as possible to Disneyland makes the most sense. Transport times to and from the theme park can take time away from enjoying all the attractions the kids love most.

Did you know that Easy Go Shuttle not only offers transfer from Charles de Gaulle to Disneyland Paris but can also pick you up for travelling to other attractions around the capital as well? This is something else to consider when choosing a hotel once you know those dates of travel and have made the flight arrangements to Paris from your nearest airport in the UK.

Parents’ Night Out in Paris – From Dream to Reality

Of course, you want to give the kids a holiday to remember always, but you also want a bit of much needed alone time with the love of your life, your spouse. Don’t forget to check out hotels at Disneyland Paris with babysitting services! With professional childminders, you can plan one or more nights out and about together as a couple. What better way is there to keep the romance alive than an evening or two of dinner and dancing with the wife?

If you know when you are going and where you are staying, Disneyland Paris airport transfers are easy to book. You only need to know the dates of arrival and departure as well as things to do on holiday in Paris 2019. Just think. There is nothing to worry about on holiday because you’ve planned for everything from transport to tickets to accommodation, all at the very same time. All you’ve left to do is pack, go and enjoy. Now, that’s something to be excited about!

Cottage Pie topped with sweet potato

This is an entry to #MeatMatters Challenge Sponsored by Simply Beef & Lamb. Learn more about the benefits of eating beef and lamb along with recipe ideas and inspiration here.

When I first accepted this challenge, I had intended to make a macaroni pie. But I’m trying to eat healthy, and I’ve yet to find a recipe which is low fat high flavour for Macaroni Pie!

Instead I went for a healthy cottage pie. I say healthy as I used lean steak mince. Beef is naturally high in protein, and contains 8 essential vitamins and minerals* that support health and well-being. It’s a really easy recipe and you can pack it with vegetables – perfect for the reluctant veggie eater.

Dice an onion and a garlic clove and fry them until they are lightly browned, then add the mince – I usually use 250g to feed 6 (2 adults 4 children). Add a teaspoon of marmite, teaspoon of Bovril and let the mince brown. Add one grated carrot. Add a tin of tomatoes – I like plum tomatoes but any will work! Add 100ml of water and cook until the liquid is mostly gone.

Cook 500g of sweet potatoes – they seem to take around 15minutes to boil. Once they’re cooked mash them well!

Add the cooked mince to an oven proof dish and top with the sweet potato mash. Pop into a pre-heated oven (180c) for 20 – 30minutes or until the top has browned. You could add grated cheese before you put it into the oven, but if you’re trying to watch your calories don’t!

Serve with boiled vegetables.

*Niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, riboflavin, plus iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus

5 Craft Ideas that will Earn Your Child Money

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Handmade goods are everywhere, and people are making a living off their passions. Everyone is looking for that cool, original gift to buy. The good news is, anyone can get in on the fun. Your kids can learn a craft and become entrepreneurs in their free time. Though there are all kinds of crafts that sell, some of them are easier and cheaper than others. Here are a few crafts that are easy to learn, quick to produce, and could earn your child some extra pocket money.

  1. Stickers

Everybody loves stickers! Kindergarteners love to get them on school reports, teens cover their notebooks in them, hikers cover their water bottles in them, and crafters dedicate entire drawers to their sticker collections. Stickers have taken on a new life, outside of the scrapbook aisle and teacher supply store.  Plus, stickers are super easy to make! If your kid is artistic, they should turn their artwork into original sticker designs.

All your child needs to get started selling stickers is some matte sticker paper. They can doodle, draw, and paint right onto the paper and cut those stickers out by hand to sell in person. If you have the resources, they can up their sticker game by digitizing their artwork. A high-resolution photo of their art on a white background can be uploaded into any free photo editing software. Cut the background out of the photo and leave it transparent. Digital images can be printed onto high quality vinyl sticker paper for a more professional look. Partner with local paper or art supply stores to sell your kid’s stickers to a wider marker. Or, start an online store!

  • Knit hats

Lots of kids learn to knit or crochet as a quick, easy craft. Once they’ve mastered the basic techniques, they can start selling knit goods. Hats are a fast, simple project that can be made en masse, depending on the pattern. Knit beanies are very popular, and are a wardrobe staple from fall through spring. After factoring in the cost of yarn, you can sell a handknit beanie for a fair profit.

Knit or crochet hats are a more expensive and time-consuming product to sell, but it’s great for crafty kiddos that need something to do with their hands. A single ball of inexpensive yarn can yield an adorable beanie in one evening. It’s a great craft to sell during the fall and winter to make money for holiday gift giving!

  • Baby Blankets

Baby blankets are the simplest of sewing projects. All you sew is a straight line around all four sides. The nice thing about baby blankets is the size. Material for a full-sized blanket is expensive, and they can take days to construct. A baby blanket is significantly smaller, meaning you get more blanket per yard of fabric.

A quick, simple baby blanket project is the minky blanket. Minky is that super soft fabric that almost feels like fur. The blankets are usually minky on one side, and an inexpensive synthetic satin on the other side. You can even buy folded blanket binding to finish off the edges like a professional. These fabrics come in a multitude of colors and patterns, so your child can get creative with it. After making a sizable inventory, these blankets can be sold at craft fairs, online, or to local businesses. 

  • Photography

If your child has access to a camera or smartphone, they can start making money with no initial spending on materials. Though some photography is more art than craft, it is a profitable business that is easier to get started than you might think. There are several digital platforms that will pay people for stock photos, like still lives or nature photography. Some free stock photo sites work on a donation basis, meaning the more followers and downloads your child gets the more money they could be making.

For teens 14 years old and up, photography is a legitimate service industry job. They can focus on portraits, like senior photos, or events like birthdays. Teens who offer their photography services can market themselves through word of mouth, free platforms like Craigslist, or a personal website. As a parent, it’s important that you teach your teens how to meet with clients safely. They should never go to a photoshoot alone, and you should always know who the client is and where they will be. If your teen is smart and safe, photography can be a lifelong career path.

  • Upcycled Clothing

We all do our best to limit our environmental impact, and thrift shopping is one way of saving money and saving the earth.  Unfortunately, many charity shops seem to cater mostly to the over fifty crowd. For a creative teen, those outdated threads could mean a fashion goldmine! Upcycling is the act of finding gems in charity shops (or just the back of your closet), and re-imagining them into something new! No Pinterest board is complete without a couple of t-shirt crafts or button-down shirts turned into dresses. There are plenty of genius upcycling ideas floating around the internet, and plenty of gently used clothing that can be turned into something unique!

So, how can your child actually make money on arts and crafts? The key is to find the appropriate audience and venue. It might take some help and support from you, but your child can find a market for their handmade goods. Craft fairs, farmers markets, and even local boutiques are great for handmade goods. Ecommerce platforms like Etsy and Shopify offer a professional level audience for your child’s crafts. Even starting small, like selling their homemade slime to their friends at school, gives kids a taste of running a handmade business. Encourage your kids to be entrepreneurs! It is a lesson in healthy risk taking that can reap significant rewards.

Byline:

Ron Stefanski is the founder of JobsForTeensHQ.com and has a passion for helping teenagers find jobs.  He created the website because he feels that teenagers need to focus on their professional passions much earlier in life and aims to teach them how they can do that.  When he’s not working on his website, Ron is a college professor and loves to travel the world. 

The cost of being a Single Parent

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Being a parent is expensive! A day out or trip to the cinema quickly add up. Tickets, drinks, snacks and that’s not including the cost of travelling to get there! With the Easter holidays coming up, many parents may be beginning to make plans on how to spend the holidays.

There are some offers available for family tickets, which offer a discount. Some of these you do need to book in advance, so it is worth checking online in advance of visiting. But, many family tickets are aimed at two parent families. So, if you’re a single parent family, you miss out on a discounted ticket. Which doesn’t seem very fair! Payplan have created an info-graphic which shows some of the financial pitfalls of being a single parent;

It shouldn’t be so difficult to participate in family deals just because you’re a single parent family. While some savings on family tickets may seem small, it is still the cost of a loaf of bread – and this may make the difference between a day out being viable or not.