Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Memories with Snapfish

*Please respect the photo of Rocco as one of our only photos/memories with him, no reporting it or nasty comments please*

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I take and upload a lot of photos. They aren't super amazing quality or anything special but they capture the memories of our life... from days out, to special occasions to the general everyday activities. My Instagram currently has 2811 posts.. that is a lot of memories just sitting on the interweb. Having those memories put onto products seemed fun and nostalgic, so I ordered some bits from Snapfish

One of my New Year's resolutions back in January was to be more organised and so far, it hasn't materialised. I bought a nice new diary, filled it with all my important dates and appointments, popped it in my bag and I haven't seen it since. Whoops. 

I decided a wall calendar would be more helpful to me as I don't have to remember to look at it, it is there hanging in front of me, so no excuses (or at least that's the idea). However, finding a calendar I liked was a bit of a struggle so designing my own with backgrounds and photos was the perfect solution. It was easy to do online and when it arrived I was so impressed, I think it's great quality and looks exactly as I wanted. It's so cute and is much more personal than buying a standard calendar, they'd make great gifts for family too! 

Since I was going down memory lane, I wanted to order something for Rocco. Since losing him in September, I have been wanting something with his name on as we hadn't named him in time for it to be on his box of ashes. I created this little collage on a photo panel with his name at the bottom and it's perfect. It did warn me when I designed it that the photos wouldn't be the best quality and they are a little grainy but I'm happy with it as obviously they're the only photos we have of him.

Lastly, I ordered a few key rings. I got them as little gifts for family and they loved them. They're so adorable and the perfect little token gift to put with a few other things for birthdays or Christmas etc. The price point of all the items I got were fab and the website was easy to navigate and design on, I'd totally recommend Snapfish and I'm sure I'll be ordering from them again in the future!

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The best ways to bank for busy families

Nobody ever said that being a parent was going to be easy, but let’s be honest, few of us were really prepared for just how demanding it can be to raise a family these days. 

Between the all-consuming jobs, the school run, the seemingly never-ending list of errands, and after all those after-class activities our little loved ones are involved, we’re barely left with enough hours in the day to devote some quality time to our children, never mind anything else. 

Still, at least we’re not alone. Revealing the findings of a survey carried out in 2013, the Daily Mail reports that families were spending barely more than half an hour a week together as a result of the increasing pressures of modern life

In between all of that, we’ve still got to find at least some time to sit down and take care of the finances. Without being able to deal with those direct debits, to keep on top of the household expenditure, and to check those pay cheques are going in when they’re supposed to, any downtime we do get to spend with the kids is only going to spent worrying about the budget. 

Rising costs 
There’s a lot to worry about too. In a January 2015 article published in The Telegraph, the newspaper’s Social Affairs Editor John Bingham reports that the average cost of raising a child in Britain is somewhere in the region of £230,000 from birth until their 18th birthday. 

Multiply that by several children, and that’s an awful lot of money to keep track of over the years. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually spend less time managing our money effectively in order to give our children more than 30 minutes of our time over the course of a week?

Making life easier for the modern family
The banks themselves certainly think so. Throughout the last several years, both big brand players and the smaller-named banks alike have been taking huge strides towards introducing new features, new services and new ways of banking, all designed to make our lives a little easier. 

This includes efforts to data from all of those services together into one cross-platform approach to banking, a move Kallol Karmakar, Product Manager at financial software firm Misys, says is the best way for families like ours to get the best possible service from our bank when we need it the most. 

“Banking applications are complex and may consist of multiple back-end bank systems,” says Kallol. “...banks need to aggregate their data from across all these locations and present it coherently in one view.” 

Whilst most of the high street banks are still working on perfecting that approach, their efforts have at least resulted in a number of methods designed to take the hard work out of handling our finances, and ultimately give us more time with our loved ones. 

Which of these methods is likely to work out best for you and your family? That’s likely going to depend on your circumstances. 

Mobile banking 
With so many other things competing for our attention, banking can easily become one of those things that we simply run out of time to deal with, but it doesn’t have to be. More and more banks are releasing their own mobile and tablet apps, making it much easier to check balances and handle payments even when we’re on the move. 

You probably don’t need us to tell you that this is ideal for those occasions when you need to keep on top of the simple tasks whilst running the kids to and fro or handling all those countless errands. 

Internet banking 
We don't always have the time to pop into a branch or make those important phone calls during business hours, which can sometimes mean we miss out on the opportunity to really manage our money the way we'd like. 

This is when firing up the laptop and making the most of our bank's Internet site can really come in handy (this is the way I prefer). With everything available online, we can steal a few moments after the kids are tucked up in bed for the night to take care of those tasks that would otherwise have gone unfinished during the day. 

As parents, there’s enough that we’re left to figure out for ourselves without managing our finances being one of them, so it’s sometimes nice to have somebody sit down and go through things with us. Though getting the time to pop into a branch for a face-to-face chat with an advisor isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, it does certainly help when it comes to things like setting up savings funds for the kid’s university fees. 

Those aren’t the only options open to us of course. Telephone banking, using the small number of functions available through an ATM machines, and even using smart TVs to manage our accounts all offer their own benefits, though they perhaps don’t go quite so far in helping us to enjoy spending more quality time with our loved ones without worrying ourselves crazy over the family finances. 

Which method do you prefer?

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Monday, 30 March 2015

Tips for planning a holiday when you have young kids

Planning a holiday can be stressful and time-consuming at the best of times. But when you have little ones to consider as part of your plans, things get even trickier! I think it’s important not to get overwhelmed.  Otherwise, you will quickly lose the enthusiasm for what is meant to be a fun and relaxing break for you and your loved ones. So, if you are planning an Easter or summer holiday with your kids this year, here are my tips on how to make sure it all goes smoothly.

Reputation, recommendations and reviews

Whenever I am booking hotels, restaurants and other parts of our family holidays, I always rely on reputation, recommendations and reviews. This means that I always book with companies that I have worked with before, or that I know have a good reputation. For example, Venere hotels are a trustworthy accommodation option for families. If we are travelling somewhere new to us, I will ask my family and friends for recommendations on things to do and see with children. And, I also always check out reviews from previous customers before booking anything. This means I have peace of mind that I am booking a holiday that is suitable for my family.

Use your spare time

While juggling the many commitments of looking after kids (not to mention any work commitments you may have) it can be difficult to find time to even think about your holiday. Unfortunately, a family trip can’t be planned in a rush. My advice is to start early and do what you can, when you can. When the kids are at school, in bed or when you are commuting to work, you and your partner can use this time to start investigating potential destinations and booking what you can. Divide up the planning between you if possible.

Start packing now!

It may sound silly to start packing for a summer holiday now. However, when you’ve got you own suitcase and your children’s suitcases to get organised, it can be a potential disaster if you leave it until the last minute. One holiday I was so concentrated on packing summer clothes for my daughter, that I completely forgot to pack clothes for myself! Of course, you won’t be able to pack everything now. But items like towels, swimwear, flip flops, etc. are things you can root out now and save yourself stress and time on the lead up to your holiday.

Be flexible

It is important to book the important things in advance, like flights and accommodation. But, when it comes to the smaller details of your holiday, I think it helps to take a flexible approach. Kids are unpredictable. One minute they want to go to the park, the next minute they are demanding to be taken home. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to stick to a strict itinerary. Instead, have a few ideas in mind of what you might like to do as a family and take each as it comes.

Most importantly of all, enjoy the quality time with your nearest and dearest! Bon voyage!

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Beauty products for busy mums!

I'm always looking for products to help me cut down my beauty/pampering routine but still keep me looking half decent. Recently I have been using a few that have been doing just that so I thought I would share them with you.

In the shower:
HeavenSkincare All in one shower, shave and shampoo - I was sceptical about this but actually, this works for all 3 things really well. It smells amazing and has coconut oil in it to soften the hair but also has rosemary, sandalwood and orange to exfoliate the skin at the same time. My skin and hair both felt and looked great after using this and it's such a brilliant product to have in your wash bag if you're travelling to save on space and time!

Nivea In-shower body moisturiser - I rarely have time to moisturise after I shower so this product really appealed to me and I'm pleased to say it does work! My skin definitely feels nourished and more hydrated when I have used this and being able to do it in the shower is just easier and does save time.

Cocoa Brown gentle bronze gradual tan - This is an easy way to get your tan on without wasting precious time or worrying about it streaking. It can be used daily to keep up that healthy colour and it doesn't have that tell-tale fake tan smell either. Best of all, it's only £5.99!

Clinique self sun face bronzing gel - I don't fake tan my face as I haven't found one that doesn't clog my pores and break me out so if I'm not in the mood for make-up, I have a white face and brown body... not that attractive! This bronzing gel is sheer and lightweight on the skin but just adds a hint of colour to my face so it matches my neck. I use it alone on no make-up days and love it, I have been wearing less make-up as a bit of a tan hides a multitude of sins and of course that saves on time!

Estee Lauder Mineral Rich loose powder - On days where I do need a bit of coverage, I have been reaching for this mineral powder. Not only is it quick and easy to apply, it gives a great medium-buildable coverage, is oil free and gives a gorgeous semi-matte natural finish. It feels much lighter on the skin than a liquid foundation so is perfect for the Spring/Summer.

Ready to wear every last lash - This mascara is amazing and worth every penny of it's RRP £14.99, that's all I need to say really! It gives full, long, black lashes in just one coat.. you don't get quicker than that!

All these products save me so much time on my pampering routine so I can relax in the evenings, catch up on some YouTube videos, play some online casino games (sensibly!) or just drink tea and eat chocolate.

What are your time saving products?

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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Packing for glamping + healthy travel snacks

Yesterday was spent mainly packing for our glamping trip! We are only going for 2 nights down to Cornwall, but we still need to take a lot of supplies such as cups, plates, food, washing bits, duvet, towels etc so I wanted to get organised so we (hopefully) don't forget anything!

I'm taking my new Wanderlust zebra travel bag from Flamingo Gifts that I'm in love with! I adore the fun animal print of it and the tropical colours. The dark brown trim looks lovely as well and I love the contrast of the detachable stripy long strap. It's a brilliant size as well, perfect for weekends or little breaks like this. I have managed to get all of mine and Sienna's things in there including our towels and wash bags.

In the car and for exploring, we'll be taking our Ohyo water bottles. I'm normally bad at drinking water when travelling as I hate carrying the empty bottles around when I'm finished but these 'collapsabottles' are the perfect solution to that. They're available in 1000ml or 500ml and an array of bright colours. When they are empty they simply collapse down so they can fit into a pocket or bag and not take up much room. They're also dishwasher safe and BPA free.. we think they're brilliant! The only thing to note is they aren't aimed at toddlers so they aren't spill-proof.. they're best off with the grown ups!

Sienna will have her cup with some squash in and I also have a few cartons of flavoured coconut water for her. Of course, we are taking lots of healthy snacks/food too! We do have a microwave, kettle and fridge/freezer in our little wigwam so we're not too restricted which is good. For breakfasts we're taking eggs to scramble, fruit and just-add-hot-water oats with nut butters. 

For snacks, I have yogurt covered rice cakes, nature valley almond bars, humzingers fruit sticks (mainly for Sienna), Apple & almond butter and some smokehouse almonds. I'm also taking things like bread sticks and quavers for Sienna's lunches or more snacks.. we love our snacks!  

We're going to see how big our fridge is when we get there and what the weather is like before we decided on what to do for dinners. We have a BBQ but that won't be much good if it's raining so we might be eating out both days for lunch/dinner!

We have never been glamping before but are looking forward to the experience, it should be fun and I'm sure we'll make some great family memories!

Have you been glamping? Any last minute tips?

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