My mum was an amazing cook and baker and growing up our home was filled with the smell of cooking and baking. She cooked everything from scratch including bread and biscuits. One of my favorite things that she baked was her savory scones. She could whip them up in 10 minutes flat and always said that the less you handled them the better they were. She never rolled our her scones, she just patted them down and often just cut the in to triangles rather than cut them in to circles. When my mum died I took her cook books, but to be honest most of the time she cooked from […]
Securing Your Family’s Finances
You are your family’s protector. So it is important that you manage your family’s finances wisely. There are many risks and challenges in today’s economy, so how do you maximise your family’s financial security? Here we offer some of the best advice that has stood the test of time.
Check Your Debts
Debt is money lost. Now while some debt might be useful, like a mortgage, other debts are bad especially if interest rates are high. Check every source of debt, and find out if you can pay it down or get a better rate. In some cases debt consolidation can lower what you pay in the long run. Here are some options for paying off your debts.
Balance Your Budget
Sit down with your spouse and review all your expenditures. Do you really need an expensive triple latte every morning? Can you buy bargain brands instead of name brands? Remember, sometimes the easiest way to make money is to save it. Once you identify the fat, then trim it and keep it trimmed. A yearly budget review keeps your spending in line and avoids waste.
The next step is to find out if your company has a pension scheme. If they do they will make contributions that match or partially match your contributions. This is a guaranteed return that you must take advantage of. Also, study what the scheme is investing in, and find out if you can make personal modifications. Remember that soon, workers will be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension scheme.
If you are self-employed or if your employer does not have a pension scheme then you can still save with an Individual Savings Account (ISA). You can contribute up to £11,520 a year into the account, and all returns are tax free. There are different options that you can choose from including a simple cash savings ISA or a stocks and bond version. In any case, the tax break is money in the bank so start an account as soon as you can.
Now while all of this trimming and saving is important, you also must take unforeseen risks into account. What will happen if you get sick or injured unexpectedly? What if you die? In these cases disability and life insurance should be in place. Even though these are expenses, your family’s financial future should be secured in the event that something goes wrong.
There is one case, however, where insurance can be an investment vehicle. Whole life insurance is where you are the owner of the policy until you die. All money that was contributed to the policy grows tax free. After fees and commissions are removed, the remaining cash is added to the death benefit. Some policies even allow you to borrow or withdraw from your insurance account. Find out more by reviewing policies at Compare The Market.
If you are fortunate to have some cash to spare, then you should consider other investments such as precious metals, real estate or stocks. The best advice is to diversify, but you can focus on certain areas that interest you. Educate yourself as much as possible about the markets and their risks. Financial advisors cost money, but if you don’t have the time to do the research it might be worth hiring an advisor.
Buying a home is usually a good investment as well. First of all you get to live in it, and you can borrow against it if necessary. Later, as you age, you can sell it and move into a smaller property.
Re-evaluate As You Age
Your savings goals will change as you get older. As you approach retirement age you should gradually move your investments into more stable vehicles. For example, your company pension scheme might start out heavily in stocks, but as you get older move it into stable cash. While cash certainly can lose its worth, it is less likely to plunge in value as quickly as a stock.
You can also look into a Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) which gives you greater control over your investments. If you have been doing your homework over the years, then you should feel comfortable steering your own investment ship as your working years wind down.
The world economy has become extremely challenging. Nevertheless, there are still ways that you can fireproof your family’s finances. It is important to have a plan, stick to it and live within your means.
Win an iPad, Wii U, iPad Mini or iPod Touch with Butlins
Butlins are call for all bloggers to tell them about a special childhood holiday memory that still makes you smile and you could be in with the chance of winning one of these 4 prizes: An iPad, WiiU, iPad Mini or iPod Touch.
Once you have thought about which childhood holiday was most memorable to you, all you need to do is write and post on your blog a short description and conclude the entry with the end line “Competition sponsored by Butlins Holiday Parks, helping your family make memories.” Then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with link to your blog entry to let them know!
How to enter
We adore the Sunderland International Airshow and it is something we have visited every year with the boys since returning to the North East. However, this year MadDad and MIni had the opportunity to view the airshow from a different perspective. They took the DFDS Sunderland Airshow Sailout, which costs £15 for children and £30 for adults and includes a three course lunch too.
The sailout is such a popular event that it often sells out early and we were lucky enough to receive our tickets via the press office.
The trip at a glance
10:30-11:00 Check-in and board the ship. Boarding will take place at 11am
11:30 Ferry leaves port for Sunderland. You have a three course buffet lunch.
12:20 Ferry arrives at viewing point off Seaburn and Roker
14:00 Ferry leaves Sunderland for voyage back to port
15:00 Ferry arrives back into port. All passengers disembark
You are guided to a free car park as you enter the Port of Tyne and then are shown where to exchange your ticket for boarding pases and board the ship. Once onboard you have the freedom of the ship and we decided to go for our lunch, which was a three course buffet style meal. Both Mini and I enjoyed the food, although we did find the drinks rather expensive (which are the only extras you have to pay for).
The boat dropped anchor off shore at 12.20 and we found a place on the deck to watch the Red Arrows who were opening this years airshow. It was hot on deck and I was glad that we had took sunscreen and hats. Although there was 500 people onboard the ship didn’t feel crowded and there was plenty of room to find a vantage point.
Watching from the sea gave a whole new perspective on the airshow. The planes were closer and we had super views and really enjoyed our day. There was people of all ages on board the ship from families with small children and older couples. You avoid all the traffic and queues getting out of Sunderland.
The only negatives were that the day was far too short and we didn’t get to see all the days flights and also the drinks were more expensive than I anticipated. Saying that we will be looking at booking tickets for next year for the whole family.
I was really excited to be going on a special trip with just Daddy. I love planes and have lots of models at home and the airshow is one of my favorite things to go and see. I have never been on a ferry as big as the one I went on, which was called the King Seaways. The food was gorgeous and the carrots were my favorite part of the meal.
After the meal we went to get a drink of slush as it was very hot on the deck. I was excited to see the red arrows and they surprised me by being so close and it felt like they nearly skimmed the funnel of the ship. We also saw Misdemeanor (a Hawker Hunter), which I have seen before and could tell it was her by the colours she is painted.
We also watched two helicopters that did lots of tricks and they were absolutely class. I was a little upset to have to set off back before we saw the Typhoon. I wish the trip had been longer and I would love to go next year with all the family.
We are also trying to reduce our dependance on screens for those I am boarded moments whilst waiting for food to be served or waiting in queses with small games and have recently been sent Dobble from Esdevium Games, which is a card game and the perfect size for keeping in my bag. It is a card game, which is based on the concept of snap and needs, speed, good observation and super fast reflexes. You can play up to five different mini games from the one tin of 55 cards (which are circular) and is a great game for all ages and is currently less than £10.
What are your favorite screen free pastimes?
Moving Tips for Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas consistently makes its way onto “Best American Cities” lists, and for good reason. The city of 770,000 is home to several major employers, including Lockheed Martin, American Airlines, FUNimation Entertainment and the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base. Fort Worth’s cost of living is 10 percent below the national median, so it is an affordable city in which to build a career and raise a family. As part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, you have access to excellent schools, restaurants, culture and recreation. Whether you want to root for the Dallas Cowboys or attend “Don Giovanni” at the Fort Worth Opera, there is something in Fort Worth for everyone.
When moving to Fort Worth, there are several things to keep in mind. Your list will be different depending on whether you are a rambling family aiming to stay in Fort Worth for just a year or two, or a family hoping to lay down permanent roots in the city. However, regardless of your length of stay, you still need to find homes, schools and methods of employment.
Housing in Fort Worth
There are as many options for family housing in Fort Worth as there are families. Choose a downtown apartment or a suburban rental. Fans of older houses and historic architecture will find multiple options in Fort Worth’s Hi Mount neighborhood.
However, for a rambling family, there are other options you won’t want to overlook. Consider doing a house trade with another family, or providing housesitting and grounds keeping services for people who are away from their homes for several months. With the Naval base on site, Fort Worth has more than its share of families and individuals with short-term military assignments; look for opportunities to provide service to service members by maintaining their homes.
If you’re looking for a space to store your belongings while you ramble, invest in a local storage unit from Uncle Bob’s. They provide units as small as 5 by 5 feet and is a great way to store belongings that you don’t need for a few months.
Education and Schools
The Fort Worth Independent School District includes many Gold Seal Schools of Choice. There are also a number of private and parochial schools in the area. For homeschoolers, Fort Worth includes numerous homeschool groups as well as a yearly homeschool prom. Whatever your education choice, you and your family are certain to find the options you need.
Between corporate headquarters, such as Lockheed Martin and Radio Shack, and local bookstores, coffee shops and art galleries, there are employment options for everyone. Fort Worth’s unemployment rate is 6%, nearly half that of other urban areas like Los Angeles; Fort Worth is a city committed to finding work for all its citizens.
If you’re a rambling family, look for short-term temporary work or freelance contracts in writing, animation or web design. The Creative Group is a great resource for finding these types of jobs in Fort Worth.
As you prepare to move, don’t forget basic travel tips for families: drive in short spurts, take breaks often and make sure every day includes something fun. Check out Family Rambling’s trip to Fort Worth’s Cultural District for more ideas of what to do when you arrive in town, and enjoy your move!
They received a plush cut the rope OmNom that makes the cut the rope noise, which Mini really loved. As it is a circle the boys took to throwing it at each other and it wasn’t long before Alvin decided that this must be his new toy. This is around £9.99 and has been a big hit with any of the many children that come through my house.
We were also sent a joke book (RRP £4.99). My boys who are now seven and eight really love and understand jokes. This book has been well thumbed and has 64 pages of age appropriate jokes. It is a super book for any reluctant reader and prepare yourself to be inundated with jokes.
We were sent a comic, which is a monthly publication and is £3.99. I find childrens comics quite pricey, but this did have a lot of content and was also filled with puzzles posters, experiments and also things to make and do, so Maxi enjoyed it and as always the boys love the freebies that you get on the front of childrens comics and magazines. This edition came with a small book and pen and some cut the rope stickers.
We were also sent a doodle book, which I actually nabbed to put in the boys summer activity packs for the car. This is £5.99 and is filled with activities including dot to dots and mazes (which are Maxi’s favorite).
Learn how to bubble write
Write a book report
Try some decoupage
Write a letter to a penpal
Make fingerprint art
plan and cook a meal
Make a masking tape race track or town
Make your own play dough
Make paper flowers
Looking for more ideas, then Cass at Frugal Family has some more great rainy day ideas on her blog.
Pen and Paint is Lindsay Hopkins and I first discovered her fab artwork on Instagram. We now have four of her prints around our house and we love them Everytime I look at them they make me smile and people always comment on them.
pen and paint blog bucket list
Lindsay also has a brilliant blog and every now and then she offers free printables on it and I just had to share the summer ones with you. I have printed out the bucket list one for my boys to colour in and fill in, but Lindsay also have one that is pre coloured in.
pen and paint summer
Both my boys had the Spring version of the seasonal print in their rooms. I love the fact that you can make children aware of such fantastic art and they love it and have been waiting for the summer one.
Nor does it mean that I let them be bored or fail to plan activities for us as a family. I am not a parent that see’s boredom as a virtue, in fact I have a bored jar for times like that!
No a #freeRange Summer means that I am trying to give my children some freedom to play out. That I am trying to establish some boundaries for them to stick too and to reduce their reliance on screens. In today’s increasingly technological world they are increasingly looking at picking up a piece of technology to escape their boredom.
As I am a Tefal Innovator, I was sent the brand new Tefal Optigrill to test. This is a revolutionary new grill that can detect how thick your meat is and tells you when it is cooked to rare, medium or well done.
It does what is says it will – We had three different cuts of meat all cooked to different specifications and it was delicious.
It takes the guesswork out of cooking – I love that it has an audible beep as well as a visual identification when your meat gets to a certain specification
The cooking plates are removable and dishwasher safe. _ no mess, no stress and no burning your fingers cleaning it.
Large drip pan – We tried burgers on the Tefal Optigrill today and they were either fatty, but the drip tray more than coped and it fits snuggly to the machine
It is versatile with settings for fish, sausages, burgers, bacon, chicken and a manual setting for vegetables. My mushroom today was divine
We weren’t keen:
At £130 is isn’t a cheep bit of kit, however, I have had three of the competitors grills in over two years. So if this lasts then it will be much better value for money than its competitor
It has a large footprint. I know that this is something we will use regularly, so didn’t want to put it in a cupboard, but it takes up two thirds of the top of my microwave where it now lives!
The Optigrill has such a familiar look and feel to me. My mum had a tefal grill with removable interchangeable hot plates for over 30 years. She used it a lot and I am hoping that I get just as much use out of this as she did. The grill plate is a great size and could easily cook six burgers on it and is perfect for a family of four. I am looking forward to trying out tuna steaks on it and fish next week.
Don’t just take my word for it, see what my fellow panelists think of the Optigrill
Banishing family recipes to the bin
How many times have you been eating something delicious and asked for the recipe, only to be told it’s a family secret passed down through generations? Well, it’s not exactly a regular occurrence but it must have happened a few times.
Every single time I can’t help but wonder why it has to be a secret. Can this delicious food not be shared between friends as well? I understand that these treasured recipes might evoke memories of a late family member or a particular special occasion but let us in on the secret too.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any family recipes that were created by my great-great-great-grandmother. I’m lucky if I can remember what my own mother used to cook for me. It’s a shame, but my family just isn’t that talented in the kitchen.
I’m not going to pretend that I am a spectacular cook but I can whip up some simple dishes if I have a recipe to follow. It doesn’t make it any easier when people refuse to share their recipes. Of course, I could turn to a cookbook but I find that most of these dishes end up bland or just not very nice.
So, to show my circle of friends that I can also pull something together that resembles a tasty meal and I don’t need an ancient recipe to help, I threw a dinner party. Now, I’ll let you in on my little secret… Schwartz recipe inspiration kits.
These kits are amazing. They include pre-measured pots of herbs, spices and seasoning and also come with a free recipe card. I decided to throw together a beef stew for my friends and it was so easy to make.
All you needed, aside from the beef stew mix, was a few ingredients that I already had at home, including the meat and vegetables. To make this delicious meal and surprise your friends and family all you have to do is brown the beef,fry off the vegetables, add the herbs and seasoning before transferring to the oven for a couple of hours.
Even the dumplings were simple enough to make; you just put them on the top of the stew and return to the oven.
As me and my friends were tucking into a hearty home-cooked meal, you’ll never guess what…they asked me for the recipe! Who needs old-fashioned hand-me-down recipes from hundreds of years ago when you can whip up delicious meals with no effort at all?
The notebooks were from the pound shop and the stamps we already have, but you can pick up similar from ebay, just search for 70 piece Alphabet/Number/Symbol Stamping Kit, they are about £10 and brilliant for all sorts of things.
We used washi tape or stick on stamps to hide the smudge marks!
We also bought the two main teachers a brill stamp set from Skull and Cross Buns on Etsy.
This holiday has been booked since just after my Mum died and we have been looking forward to the trip for a long time. My Brother and family are self employed and that is why we are travelling at this particular time of the year and I am aware that it could have an impact on my seven and eight year olds school work, but…………
For the last two weeks they have not really done any significant learning at school, in fact for this week they have watched more DVD’s at school that they have at home in about a year. I am not going to justify me taking them out of school by saying they will learn as much with me as at school, however, I will say that it should be my choice as a parent to make this decision.
We are sensible enough to make our own decision and I am disappointed that this is being taken away from me. There has been a lot of noise made about the Lunch box issues this week, but no one has shouted about the fact that the law has changed and that from September Headteacher will not be able to grant time off for holidays.
Currently headteachers are allowed to grant leave of absence for the purpose of a family holiday during term time in “special circumstances” of up to ten school days leave per year. Headteachers can also grant extended leave for more than ten school days in exceptional circumstances. However, Amendments to the 2006 regulations remove references to family holiday and extended leave as well as the statutory threshold of ten school days come into force in September.
Not only are the government taking this out of our hands, but also out of the hands of the school. Yet another example of the government invading my home and my choices.
I wonder if this applies to private schools too? or maybe that would be a bit like a bear pooing in its own backyard.
If there’s one thing that people tend to complain about when it comes to their home, it’s storage. No matter how much stuff we throw out or donate to charity it just seems to continue accumulating.
The worst room is usually the main living room as this is where the whole family gather and leave their stuff behind but that can make it really difficult to kick back and relax.
Whether your home is littered with shoes, DVDs, books, magazines, newspapers, school work, remote controls, photo frames or even fireplace accessories here are some top tips to help you get organised.
Newspaper and magazine rack
If there are more magazines in your living room than in the local doctor’s surgery, it’s about time you had a clear out. You don’t have to bin all of your favourites but throw away anything more than a month old. Store the ones you’re keeping in a tidy magazine rack next to the sofa instead of letting them clutter the coffee table.
Invest in adjustable shelving
How annoying it is that shelves tend to be the same height? Our stuff is all different sizes with books tall and pocket-sized, folders can be A4 or A5, photo frames are landscape or portrait and so on. If you’ve got adjustable shelves, you’ll find that you can finally fit all your belongings without difficulty.
Tidy up that hearth
An old traditional fireplace can add a bit of character to your home but you’ll need all sorts of stuff to maintain it, such as the logs and coal but also the poker and other accessories. If you’ve got inset gas fires in the house, you might still have bits and bobs lying around the hearth. Use some wicker baskets or boxes to keep your belongings tidy and use your fireplace as a feature of your living room rather than seeing it as a nuisance.
Make the most of your walls
If you’ve got a smaller floorspace to work with, you’ll need to really utilise your walls. Rather than spreading your furniture around the living, work your way up towards the ceiling to create a feeling of openness.
Think carefully about your furniture
It’s easy for the living room to become full of furniture, so the fewer pieces you have, the more space that is available. Obviously, you will need most of it, such as sofas, bookcases and television units but some will be solely for displaying other items that are also cluttering the room. Think twice about your furniture choices, literally. If a TV stand or ottoman can also be used for storage then that’s all the better!
Let’s play – Read a book
Go on your DS for 30 minutes
Research the Romans on the computer
Let’s cook – Biscuits
Let’s cook – make pizza
Tidy your room
Pick a flower and paint a picture of it
Call on a friend
Do the washing up
Go to the library
Make rocky road or fridge cake
Make an obstacle course
Groom the dog
Colour in a book
Clean your bedroom
Learn how to skip
Help pair socks
Draw round your brother
Write 5 things you love about each member of your family
Play with Lego
Do a jigsaw
Scoot round the block
Make fingerprint animals
Feed the ducks
Put up the play tent
Play with the toy cars
No electronics for the rest of the Day
Have a bath
Write a story starting with “David had to find out where Rocky had gone…………………”
Draw a map of our house
Find out how many bones are in the human body
Have a shower
Draw a robot and label all his parts
Pretend you are a knight
Sort the laundry
Make paper aeroplanes
Have a tea party with your friends
Empty the dishwasher
Jump up and down 20 times
Let’s cook – cupcakes
Let’s cook – you choose
Put on a DVD
Go out on your Bike
Get the paint out
Go to a park
Water the plants
Make homemade bubbles
Have an ice-cream
Make hot chocolate
Vacuum the stairs
Craft with Mum
Set the table
1 chore of Mums choice
Draw a comic
Play with Playmobil
30 minutes on the Wii
Feed the ducks
Make a bird feeder
Build a den
Draw a picture of our house from the outside
Time for a Science Experiment
Make a rain water collector
Climb a tree
Make wooden spoon people
Spend 30 minutes on Moshi Monsters
Let’s cook – muffins
Make’/fly a kite
Let’s cook – Make popcorn
Go out on your Scooter
Roll down a hill
Go to the beach
Sort out your shoes
Borrow the camera
Find five toys to give away
Go for a walk
Sweep the ground floor
Do some stitching
30 mins with Mum
Wash the car
Football match upstairs
30 Minutes on the Xbox
Go to a Museum
Make a volcano
Plan dinner, write a menu, help cook and serve
Have a race
Wash the pots
Plan a bean in a jar
Make finger puppets
Find shapes, animals and objects in clouds
Write a poem
Watch Phineas and Ferb
Pretend you are a cowboy
Make a family tree
Empty the dishwasher
Make a treasure map
Make a paper plate monster mask
Pretend you are a pirate
Learn how to use the washing machine
Go to soft play
Steam mop the bathrooms
Steam mop the kitchen
Make a paper boat
Take dog for a walk
Write to your penpal
Make a card
We tried lots of different flavours of Coke including vanilla, cherry and plain and couldn’t decide which was a winner on a unanimous basis! Maxi and I love vanilla, MadDad plain and MIni Cherry. But we all agreed they were a real treat and something different to make the family games night special.