Guest Post

The Most Fun You Can Have at Home

their own space, with the whole family helping.
How about all those daily or weekly chores that just have to get done? Involve the family in the weekly shop so that the drudgery turns into fun. Play “guess the price” as you’re drawing up a shopping list, and when you’re at the supermarket, delegate finding particular products to individuals.
For some reason, dads and kids love the visit to the local tip! So get them sorting all the rubbish that needs to go, with prizes for the fastest bagger-up, or for the cleanest and tidiest bedroom once the rubbish has been taken out!
Design a treasure hunt around the house and in the garden – even older kids love this, once they’ve had their chance to register a cynical sneer at the idea. You could also suggest turning the tables – so that they get to design the treasure hunt for their parents. Creates great hilarity and many crows of delight from the kids as you and their dad miss the obvious clues.
And once the family reverts to their usual individual activities of playing computer games, chatting to their friends on Facebook, or watching the big match on television, and you are free to relax…. How about indulging yourself with a spot of bingo with UK best online bingo site Jackpotjoy? It’s a great way to wind down and have fun, with the added plus of a chance to win cash prizes, and to connect with new friends in the chat rooms. After organising all that family fun you deserve to give yourself a treat

Things to do for families in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a place that we usually associate with gambling and casinos, but there is far more to the place than that. Casinos are very important but you can also enjoy a family holiday there which doesn’t involve Mum staying with the kids while dad plays slots in Caesars Palace. Here are a few things for families to do.

Hire a car and take a trip to Death Valley. In many ways it is one of the most exciting places on the planet and the kids will just love it. Just driving across the Mojave Desert is a thrill of a lifetime, and visiting the valley is an unforgettable experience. Badwater Basin is 86 meters below sea level and Furnace Creek has the record for being the hottest place on earth. You will see some amazing sites and make sure that you visit Zabriskie Point and view the Badland Formations; truly amazing.

Keep that car and take another trip, this time to the Grand Canyon. This is one of the world’s natural wonders and another very remarkable and unforgettable destination. The canyon is 277 miles long and up to a mile deep and 18 miles wide. This beautiful and unique place is home to many Native Americans whose tribes have lived there for thousands of years. You can take an aeroplane or helicopter trip into the depths of the canyon too for some unparalleled views.

Another fascinating place to visit is the Hoover dam, but the kids might appreciate its reservoir Lake Mead a little more. Boating on Lake Mead is very popular ad are swimming, water skiing and fishing. The lake is huge, up to 112 miles long, and there are numerous beaches, marinas and resorts.

What is Home Legal Expenses Insurance and why do I need it?

What is Home Legal Expenses Insurance and why do I need it?
Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) can provide cover for legal costs if you have to go to court for a claim. Generally, the most common scenarios involve what is known in legal parlance as pursuing a claim, which means trying to get compensation from a third party for causing loss or damage to you or your property. In other circumstances you may be defending a claim – if for example you have crashed into another person’s car – and in fact many LEI policies are sold alongside or included in car and home insurance packages.
Home LEI policies, includes cover for things like personal injury and compensation claims, and consumer disputes over the buying and selling of goods and services. Home Legal Expenses Insurance can also meet the cost of pursuing a claim against your employer for breach of contract, such as unfair dismissal, and can also provide funds to finance the mediation of disputes with your neighbours – this can be issues like access to your home, or the boundaries of your land, or complaints about noise.
So just how important is it to have Home Legal Expenses Insurance? Like all insurance, a sensible way to look at the situation is to consider the alternative to taking out cover. This could mean having to cover the cost of legal action on your own, if you end up in court for a claim that would have been covered by a Home LEI policy.
Perhaps a comparison could be useful here. Home insurance is considered a necessity because of the massive cost of rebuilding your home, should a disaster such a house fire occur. When you consider that the cost of legal action can run to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds, Home LEI starts to look like an essential type of cover.
You may find that the basic LEI provided through your home insurance leaves you underinsured, and that you need additional cover. However, it is also important not to over insure – most Home LEI policies cover the whole family, so unlike car insurance, two partners don’t usually need separate policies.
At Allianz Your Cover ( you can add Home Legal Expenses insurance to your current Allianz Your Cover home insurance policy at any time.

Spring is suffering an identity crisis 1

Spring is suffering an identity crisis

Those of us looking at an Easter break of more frigid and dismal days won’t be thrilled at the news that record numbers of British holidaymakers are booking last-minute travels to lands that promise sunshine, warmth and bodies bared to the elements instead of bracing against the cold. Meanwhile, we’ll be welcoming April more like Scandinavians than Spaniards.

Which got me thinking: how do our Nordic neighbours cope with copious snow and cold for months on end? If their exported crime dramas are to be believed, they’re all too busy chasing homicidal maniacs in their Volvos whilst wearing sensible knitwear to notice the temperatures, but I suspect that’s an unfair generalisation. The Scandinavians of my acquaintance all drive VWs, for a start.

Since Britain’s not going to look anything like Ibiza anytime soon, we might as well make like we, too, live in the land of the midnight sun. Starting with:

● Let there be light. Boxes, that is. Technically the sun does still make an occasional appearance over the British Isles, but that doesn’t mean we’re getting enough Vitamin D or any of the other vital benefits of sunshine. Have you spent the past few months feeling particularly sluggish, fatigued, sad or irritable? Do you avoid social or physical contact, crave sugary foods and generally feel a bit blue? You could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Don’t do anything without speaking to your GP, but light boxes, which mimic the effects of daylight on hormone levels, work well for some people who suffer from SAD.
● Fire. You may not have a fireplace or wood burner and it’s likely a springtime bonfire wouldn’t be welcomed by your neighbours or local council, but there’s nothing to stop you adding a few candles to brighten things up. Well, your lease might stop you. Or the threat of small children, pets or absentmindedness, but used responsibly candles can add a cheery glow when evenings draw in.
● A nourishing meal. Scandinavians love nothing more than a jolly big (candlelit) feast with friends and family and though Christmas Eve and Midsummer are the main times to celebrate with lots of food and good company, they don’t limit socialising to the holidays. My Little Norway touches on this in the brilliant post, How to survive the dark winters, which has plenty of useful advice that translates to their southern counterparts. So buy some fish (good for so many things, including vitamins A and D), fire up the electric range cooker and get your mates around – guaranteed to lift your spirits and boost your nutritional intake.
● Bundle up and get down with the cold. Yes, it looks miserable outside, but so what? Make the effort to exercise anyway and you’ll be glad you did – if only because you can enjoy all the extra calories you’re craving, smug in the knowledge you’ve earned them. Or try a new winter sport. It’s surprising how many sled dog clubs exist in Britain, with events that are open to all. Hopefully the snow is now behind us but you can still look for a local ski slope (indoor or outdoor) or ice rink or try Nordic walking.
● Prioritise. Try to get on top of those jobs you won’t want to do when the weather’s perfect for just soaking up the sunshine. Tackle the hedge trimming, turn over some soil, dig a new border, sharpen your mower blades, make a plan to landscape or do house repairs or clean the car or wash the windows.

Last of all, don’t lose hope. Before you know it, summer will be here with enough rain and cloud cover to satisfy all your whinging needs.

A one-time journalist for metropolitan daily newspapers in the USA, Laura Potts moved to England in 2005 where she is a writer and editor. She plans to spend the Easter break with her children and an array of hats, scarves and mittens.

Get the Basics Right in Your Kitchen

Get the Basics Right in Your Kitchen

We would all love to have a more impressive kitchen but what if you don’t even know where to start? Will you need to spend a fortune on completely overhauling the place?

Before you start splashing out big sums of money on expensive changes it is best to think of the basics which can make the difference.

The Right Kind of Lighting

The type of lighting you use in the kitchen is vital to making it a pleasant room to be in and to cook in. Your first step should be to check out some ideas using chandeliers, recessed lighting, under cabinet lights and all of the other kinds which are available now. Once you know what the options are you can work out which ones would fit in best to your room. In general terms, a mixture of different types of lighting is best, although this might not be the case in a particularly small kitchen.

The Pots and Pans

Of course, the kitchen is a room we cook in and this means that you need think about the basics required for doing this right. A good example here comes with the saucepans from Lakeland. Buying a few of these will give you practical pieces of cookware and will also ensure that you have attractive pots in the room as well. You will find other ideas for useful basic items on the site at By stocking up well on these things you will make it a nicer room at little cost.

The Colour of the Walls

There are some highly popular colours used in many kitchens and others which aren’t so highly recommended. The exact tone you would be best using will be determined by factors such as the style of the kitchen and the size of the room. If you aren’t sure which colour to use then a good idea is to buy a few of those little sample pots and paint small areas of the walls with different colours. After you have lived with the different tones for a few days it should a lot easier to work out which one to choose for the whole room.

The Space

One of the most common complaints which people make about their kitchens is around the lack of space. If your kitchen is too small or cramped then cooking is probably more of a problem than it should be. This might seem like an issue without a solution in some cases it could be but there are some tips to help you get a bigger working space in most types of kitchen. The first and simplest one is to clear out anything you don’t use on a daily basis. This can make a lot of space and help the room look better too.

How to Encourage Kids with Low Self-Esteem

With a ‘Team Challenge’ obstacle course, orienteering, raft-building, bushcraft – even circus skills – kids have the opportunity to take Moss’s advice to heart by learning “how to safely take risks for themselves in a safe and secure environment.” The Kingswood website says kids “learn to work as a team, demonstrating support, tolerance and encouragement for others; time away from home encourages confidence and independence; key life skills development includes decision making, leadership, initiative and problem solving.”

Or you could look into Forest Schools, based on a Scandinavian concept that puts an emphasis on “child-led learning, based on small, achievable tasks.” The Green Learning Forest School in Cornwall states that its positive outdoor experiences “raise levels of self-esteem…develop skills in co-operation and listening, empathy and enthusiasm for learning.”

It’s difficult to see your child struggling with low self-esteem. If they’re not ready to clamber up the branches, maybe just finding a nice tree swing is a start.

How Do I Care For My Laminate Flooring?

How Do I Care For My Laminate Flooring?

Any mum will tell you that keeping a tidy home is no easy feat. From tackling the bathroom and kitchen to reminding kids they need to make their beds and pack away their toys, cleaning the home is a full time job.

One area which can sometimes be overlooked in our quest to get everything spick and span is the floor. Laminates are a practical solution for the family home – but how should you care for them?

1. Sweep Daily

Sweeping your laminate floors daily will help to keep them clean and free of grit which could damage the floor. Some people choose to clean their floors by sweeping them, while other people use the hard floor attachment on the vacuum.

Whichever you use, the important thing is that the job is carried out regularly. Regular sweeping or vacuuming will mean that your floors need to be washed less often, saving you lots of time and effort.

2. Use A Damp, Flat Mop

When you do wash your laminate floors, you don’t want to use a dripping wet mop as this will leave stains on your flooring and could potentially seep through to the floorboards underneath, causing damage and possibly rot. Therefore, when you are washing your laminate floors, use a mop that is as dry as you can get it.

3. Pay Attention To Manufacturers Suggestions

Every laminate flooring is different and they all need to be looked after in a different way. Always follow the specific instructions you’re given carefully to ensure you don’t cause any unnecessary damage to the flooring.

4. Trial And Error

Often with laminate floors, people ask what they should clean them with. Very often, this is trial and error and varies depending on what people like and feels cleans their floor best. Some people prefer to make up their own floor cleaning solution, although this can be risky if you don’t know what you are doing. Opting for a dedicated laminate floor cleaner instead is a great option and guarantees your floor will be cared for properly.

Caring for laminate floors doesn’t have to be a hard or lengthy job, providing that proper precautions are taken. Your floors are expensive and you’ve worked hard to be able to afford them, so you might as well look after them to the best of your ability as they will be costly to replace in the future. Not caring for floors properly can lead to permanent damage, spoiling them forever.

Top 5 family cars

Top 5 family cars
The purchase of a new car is a major outlay for most families, and like the choice of a new house, it’s critical to get it right. The three criteria most frequently mentioned by purchasers as influencing their choice of make and model are safety, reliability and economy. Beyond those three key considerations, size of family and the age of children influence the choice of car.
As with all major purchases, planning ahead will ensure that you make the choice that’s right for your family. Budget, the use that you will make of the car – mileage, equipment that you need to carry, and environmental considerations – will all be factors to take into account. Of course subjective elements come into play, like design and style, but being sure of all the important demands that you will have of a family vehicle is the first step in making an informed choice. Use comparison sites on the internet to identify the best models within your budget, and read up on the relevant Which? Magazine reviews.
To get you started, Allianz Your Cover ( provides you with the top five family cars currently on the market:
• Family hatchbacks : the Hyundai i30 won the Car Buyer Best Family Car award for 2012, commended for the amount of space in the stylish family hatchback, and the equipment that comes as standard with all models – Bluetooth hands-free phone connection, air-conditioning and i-Pod socket. The car gets top marks for economy, the 1.6 CRDi diesel engine returning up to 70 mpg. And for peace of mind, the car comes with a Triple Care guarantee which is backed by an unlimited mileage warranty cover, free mechanical health checks and roadside assistance over a period of five years.
• Another popular family hatchback is the Volkswagen Golf, which has been completely redesigned to give it a modern and attractive interior, more boot and interior space than its predecessor. It provides the most demanding driver with the fun that they might miss in some of the more staid family cars on the market, whilst offering very high levels of safety and reliability. It gains a whopping score of 4.6 from Car Buyer for running costs, the 1.6 diesel version returning an average 88.3 mpg.
• For the larger family, MPVs have for a long time been the logical choice, and they have graduated from the rather sluggish and bland to the latest stylish and fun family vehicles. The Peugeot 5008 is the favourite choice of many, having won the What Car? Car of the year award for the combination that it offers of high-level equipment, economy (the diesel version offers an average of 62 mpg), and practicality. The interior seating is easy to adjust and reconfigure, and there is all the space that any family could need for luggage and shopping. The Peugeot is also very reasonably priced compared to some of its competitors.
• The Ford Grand C max is another favourite, with generous seating and great access to the rear of the vehicle provided by the sliding doors. It boasts an impressive level of equipment, including rear view camera for accident-free reversing, Bluetooth with voice control, and a power start button.
• The Volkswagen Touran is one of the most eco-friendly family cars on the market, being equipped with the VW blue motion technology for improved fuel efficiency. It has been judged the car in its class likely to make motorists cash go the furthest, and the level of equipment in all models is high, with air-conditioning, speed control, and an 8-speaker sound system that the kids will love!

Enjoy a Warmer House and Save Pennies!

Enjoy a Warmer House and Save Pennies!
Winter is dragging on, as it always does, and spring still feels far, far away. Britain is gripped in the limbo that hangs between Christmas and pink blossoms, with the weather getting colder, snow falling erratically and skies looming grey overhead. It certainly highlights the stress of having a draughty, chilly home. Many struggle on with old, clapped out boilers and single glazing windows, knowing they simply cannot afford the upfront cost of having them replaced. Draught excluders look pretty, but they aren’t doing much to keep out that February chill and the kids are moaning that their onesies aren’t blocking out Jack Frost’s nip.
So, what on Earth is one to do?! All hail… The Green Deal, a government scheme aimed at making properties across the UK more energy efficient at no upfront cost to homeowners. The initiative was launched on Monday 28th January, much to the bemusement of many homeowners that haven’t even heard of it. However, not to worry, the government plans for this scheme to gradually develop over the coming months and years, shaping Britain into a greener place to live.
There are many measures that come under the Green Deal Scheme, which include things such as the installation of new boilers, insulation and double glazing. Any property that registers its interest in the scheme will undergo a Green Deal Assessment, in which an accredited advisor will survey the house and inform the owners of which measures could and should be taken to make it a more comfortable place to live.
This work will then be carried out by Green Deal Installers, and financed through a Green Deal loan. Heck, it’s green, green, green! The loan will be attached to the property, not the person, and will be paid back through the property owner’s energy savings. A charge for the work will be added on to energy bills, but will never be allowed to exceed the amount of money the owner is saving due to their home improvements.
It’s a win-win situation and has been designed to help the government reduce the country’s carbon footprint, whilst simultaneously tackling the problem of rising energy prices and fuel poverty. The perfect scheme for families who struggle on through British winters but can’t afford to renovate their homes, the Green Deal is also a great way to get on board with helping the environment.

How to ‘Downscale’ Your Groceries Bill 4

How to ‘Downscale’ Your Groceries Bill
British families have been hit hard by the rising cost of groceries, with food prices reported to have risen by 32 per cent since 2007 (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Households are understandably struggling to find the extra on their grocery bill, with the average coming to over £4000 per year.
However, there are ways to easily slash your groceries bill, bring down the total at the till and struggle no more. See if you can apply any of the following suggestions to your weekly shop, and ‘downscale’ your shopping bill.
Price Promise
Some supermarkets offer a price promise, which means that your shopping basket is guaranteed to cost less than at any other supermarket. When you buy your groceries online at you can take advantage of the ASDA Price Guarantee, which means that you’ll save at least ten per cent on your shopping bill, compared to Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. If this isn’t the case then ASDA will give you the difference, meaning that you just can’t lose.
It’s easy to use the ASDA Price Guarantee online – all you need is a receipt. And as the calculator is powered by independent website, you’ll have peace of mind.
One way of instantly making savings in the supermarket is to ‘downscale’ your brand choices. For example, if you usually buy the most popular branded products ie Heinz Baked Beans, you would simple ‘drop down’ a level and try the Premium supermarket brand instead.
Likewise, if you usually buy premium supermarket brands, you can downscale to regular supermarket brands, and then to the basics range.
Downscaling your shopping basket has to include an element of trial and error, while you discover which items you are happy to downscale on and which you simply can’t compromise on. However, simply downscaling on some items can save a considerable amount on your groceries bill.
Meal Planning
Planning your meals is one way to ensure that you don’t overspend on food that will end up getting wasted. With the average family estimated to waste around £500 of food per year, simply ensuring that you buy only what you need could save you around £50 a month!
Buying your groceries online makes it easier to stick to a shopping list, as it eliminates the temptations presented when walking around the supermarket. It’s also easy to search for the specific items on your list, making your shopping experience quick and easy.
If you usually cook the same meals each week, the ‘Favourites’ function means that you could have your shopping checked out online in mere minutes – saving that other precious family commodity – time.

With a little thought there are ways to easily trim the grocery bill, making increases in food prices far less painful. Choose a supermarket such as ASDA that prides itself in offering great value across all of its ranges – and puts its money where its mouth is with the ASDA Price Guarantee!

Amateur astronomy from your loft 1

You are one of 7 billion humans on earth – the densest planet in a 4.6 billion year old solar system. You are in a galaxy spanning around 110,000 light years, in a universe containing an estimated 9 sextillion stars. With the right technology you could see over 142,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilometres into space. Humans have been practicing forms of astronomy for centuries, but the developments we have made from the 19th Century onwards have been particularly illuminating, and we now know more than ever before about the universe.

It’s no wonder that people are so fascinated with what lies beyond our humble planet. The most exciting part is that star gazing is now a pastime that is available to everybody with a desire to learn more about our solar system.

Not only is amateur astronomy a fascinating hobby, it’s also a great way to spend time with your kids and bring what they learn in school to life. To make stargazing a truly rewarding experience, you’ll need a telescope and a good place to spot the stars. While there are plenty of stargazing spots in the great outdoors, having your very own indoor observatory is even more convenient.

If you have a loft , this can be the perfect place to set up. Not only is it convenient to star gaze in the comfort of your own home, but it is also a good way to make the most of your loft and save it from becoming a dumping ground and a wasted space. It’s common for lofts to go unused, and this is one way to ensure you’re getting value out of every room in your house.

However, you might need to do some renovating to ensure it’s the perfect stargazing space you’re after. If you have a sky light, or are thinking about adding one for star gazing, it may help you to get more use out of your loft as an additional room during the day too. You might want to consider making it a bit more comfortable with some seats, a carpet and maybe even a lick of paint.

Budgeting for this project may take a bit of planning. Whether you save up to pay for your loft-turned-observatory, or look into whether a loan may help you cover the costs, it’s best to sort out the budget ahead of time.

In addition to stargazing among the comforts of your own home, you’ll probably have an Internet connection handy and can easily find out what you’re looking at. This will also allow you to check if there is anything particular to look out for that night. Sites like are great for finding out what’s happening each night in theUK, and you get the satisfaction of understanding what you’re looking at and learning how to find different planets, stars and other phenomenon.

Some exciting sights to see from your loft over the rest of 2012 include a lunar eclipse in late November, Jupiter reaching its closest point to the Earth in early December and the Geminids Meteor Shower in mid-December. So, get your telescope at the ready and head up to the loft for some magical views of the night sky.

TV, computer games, internet, mobiles: are kids being exposed to too much technology? 9

There are also growing concerns over the type of content that children now have access to, with violent video games and inappropriate websites just a few clicks away, and the softening of television and film age ratings. Horror stories in the news have only heightened these concerns in recent years, leading some to believe that children should have their access to technology limited to just a few hours a day, giving them more time to spend outdoors or interacting with other children.

Whilst these concerns are all valid, it is important not to lose sight of the innate value of technology to today’s youth. The recent Olympic games are a prime example of the benefit of television to children, with 90% of the entire UK population having tuned in to watch at least 15 minutes of live coverage over its two week duration. The ability for children to find out more about and interact with positive role models such as the Olympic summer heroes is made possible by access to technology.

It has also been suggested that technology has revolutionised the way in which children learn, giving them access to innovative educational resources by way of newly developed apps, or by making revision fun with programs such as the BBC’s GCSE Bitesize series. The benefits of technology can also be seen in the development of children with educational difficulties, with websites and other resources available to help children with conditions from mild dyslexia to extreme autism.

Overall, the question of whether children are being exposed to too much technology remains extremely difficult to answer in a general sense. With parents able to limit the time spent in front of the television and monitor or restrict online activity, it is arguable that technology has become an invaluable educational and developmental resource for our young, allowing them to witness global events and take part in new experiences from their own homes.

Feel strongly about this topic or have an experience to share? Then please leave your comments below.