Give your kids more independence – it could be the best bit of parenting you ever do

Our children are the most important things to us. So much so that we’d gladly wrap them up in cotton wool and never let them out of our sight. The thing is, though, what if our parents had done the same for us? Would we have become the people we are today? And what damage are we potentially causing our kids by being so protective?

My hopes for my kids

I want my children to be confident, healthy, inquisitive, street-smart and sociable. Are they going to get all of that from me? Well, as much as I’d like to say yes, I know it’s not quite the case.

They’ll get that from playing outdoors, doing things without me, making decisions themselves and playing with friends (in the real world; NOT via a computer!).

We try to keep our kids protected because we love them. But also because we’re fearful of the threats in the world around us. The thing is, those threats existed before, we’re just more aware of them now because we have so many 24/7 news sources at our fingertips.

The problem

What we’re doing by worrying about these threats is we’re making our children worry about them too. We’re actually making them fearful about going out alone. At the age of 5-6, that’s acceptable. But at the age of 11, it’s definitely not. And this is why we took action and got a My Gator Watch.

Before I tell you what that is, let’s look at the issue some more.

Our childhood vs our kids’ childhood

Think back to when you were a child. Throughout the latter years of primary school, I remember spending time straight after school and in the holidays playing with local friends. I’d come back home each evening filthy, with a new bruise or scrape, but full of stories and smiles. I was living and having a ball. What was yours like?

These days, playtime is more controlled. Kids are transported to and from their friends’ houses and it’s a struggle to get them outside in the first place as the pull of the TV, and other computer games, is so strong. It’s little wonder stories about childhood obesity and vitamin D deficiency are hitting the news so often.

If you have kids, how much independence do they have? And how does it compare to what you had?

If you asked them if they wanted to go to the local park on their own, what would they say? And how does their answer make you feel?

We’re bringing up the next generation of businessleaders, parents, teachers, politicians, etc. But how much are we helping or hindering by being so cautious about their wellbeing?

What’s a My Gator Watch?

The My Gator Watch is a GPS tracker and phone within a watch for kids aged 5-12. No internet, games or texting – it’s all about you knowing where they are when they go out. It’s designed to be simple and give kids independence to start exploring the world on their own.

I first came across My Gator Watch when my company Upmarketry was asked to do a rebranding exercise for them. I don’t always have the luxury of trying my clients’ products, but the more time I spent working with the company, the more strongly I felt that they were solving a really big problem affecting society today.

We got my 11 year old stepson one as we’d realised that he never went anywhere on his own. We drive him everywhere, he doesn’t have school friends in the local area and we’d never thought to send him on errands like we were made to do as kids.

What had this protective parenting achieved? We’d made him uneasy about going anywhere without us. And as he’s just months away from secondary school, we knew this had to be fixed.

How does the watch work?

Activated with a monthly phone contract, the watch is connected to a mobile phone app which allows parents or carers to monitor their child’s location and call them when needed. Kids can store and call a set number of phone numbers, leave voicemails and there’s an SOS button in case they wish to get hold of you urgently.

The idea is that, with the watch, you and your kids will feel more confident about the idea of them going out alone. Whether that’s to walk to the school bus, fetch something from the local shop or meet friends in the park. You know where they are. They know that you’re watching them.

Not only can you see where they are at any time, but you can also track where they’ve been.

Incredibly easy to use, the phone has only four buttons, which make it really simple for your child to power on and off, make and answer calls, and receive voice messages.  It’s splash proof, has a battery life of four days, and you can even set safe zones so that if your child goes outside of that area, you are automatically alerted.

Does it make a difference?

Yes. Within one day of getting the watch, my stepson had walked to the shops on his own to get milk. A mile from the house. On his own. He was a little nervous but so unbelievably proud of himself afterwards.

(The fact that we realised five minutes after he’d left that he’d forgotten to take money with him made us put the phone feature of the watch to good use too. Kids, huh? *rolls eyes* )

How much does it cost?

It’s £99 for the watch – which you can buy here – and it’s £9 a month for the phone contract. This may seem pricey but I honestly can’t think of anything of better value for your kid’s wellbeing, confidence and development.

And it’s perfect for this blog – living life to the full, 100%.

Is it for my child?

My stepson is a marvel. I know every parent is proud of their children but Thomas is incredibly smart. He’s very articulate, keen to learn about the world around him and a delight to spend time with. As Head Boy of his primary school, the teachers have high hopes for his future. And as his parents, we all have a duty to do whatever we can to help him reach his full potential. Keeping him overprotected indoors is not it.

What are your children going to be? Help them get there.

How to spend less on fashion but get more – mend and make ‘new’

Love clothes shopping? But fear you spend too much? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to spend less on fashion but get more. Well, welcome to part 3 on the series of how to enhance your wardrobe on a budget. If you haven’t read the guide on saving online or the one on saving money on fashion in store, go check them out.

In this post, we’re focussing on how to enhance your wardrobe by refreshing what you already have or creating new items. New clothes without having to shop!

If you’re like me and you love a bargain, then I’m willing to bet you’ve experienced one or two shopping fails. By that I mean, hems coming down on skirts or buttons coming off when you really could do with looking SHARP.

Why does this happen? Well 50% of the time it’s down to the fact that you’ve worn that precious piece of clothing to death and the other half of the time it’s probably because it was cheaply made. Yup. That’s the problem with buying clothes at primani….they won’t last.  Anyway, it’s a good job you’ve found this guide on how to make your clothes last longer! So let’s begin.

Mending

The first reaction when clothes rip, buttons fall off or zips break is to throw them away and replace but it’s so easy to fix them, and even make them look BETTER!

Hems

We’ve all been there. Hell, at school we ALL suffered from the issues of a loose hem. Well, the problem now is that we don’t have our mums to rely on to fix it. Some of you now even have daughters whose hems need controlling! Fortunately, unlike your parents, you have a bit of genius technology on your side to make this problem so much easier to fix. Hem tape.

This amazing product means you can do without a needle and thread and fix a loose hem in minutes, all while doing the ironing!

All you do is snip off a piece of hem tape a little longer than the area to be re-hemmed, slide it into the area, and iron over it. The adhesive on the tape melts with the temperature of the iron and sticks the material in place, wash after wash!

For a great guide on how to use it, check out Brit + Co.

Buttons

Your button falls off, and typically, it’s at bra level. Damnit. You could chuck the top/shirt/jacket/dress away OR you could replace that button….and the rest of the buttons and make it look even better that it did before.

This is where a trip to John Lewis is called for. Yup. Yes they’re great at Customer Service, yes their electronic prices are the best you’re going to get offline, but they’ve also got one of the best haberdashery sections you’re going to find. Period.

Take the garment you have in mind to ‘re-button’ and let yourself go wild with options. Just bear in mind the size of the buttonhole.

Different buttons could make the clothing look so much better as shown below by the AMAZING Tilly and the Buttons. If you want to learn anything to do with making and mending clothing – from the very basics to creating your own wardrobe – she is your girl.

Courtesy of Tillyandthebuttons.com

Another great guide on stitching buttons can be found at the lovely site Plum Deluxe.

Ripped seams

Maybe you ate too much? Or you wore a bra that gave too much ‘oomph’? Or you simply caught what you were wearing on something and it ripped? If it’s along a seam, then it’s very easy to mend. You just need a needle and thread that matches the colour of the fabric.

Cut a length of thread, thread it through the needle until it’s halfway through and tie both ends together several times over so you end up with a big thick knot. Then when you stitch it through the clothing, each stitch will be twice as secure. For tips on how to sew different items, check out this great article from thespruce.com.

Fixing faded clothing

It’s so easy to pick out a person’s favourite clothing. For me, it’s black skinny jeans. I wear them to death, and with a 2 year old, I spend a lot of time chasing him around on all fours so the knees are pretty worn. Rather than replace them, a quick cycle with some black fabric dye makes them as good as new.

‘Un-shrinking’

Did you know you could even do that to clothes? If you’re like me and you’ve done some proper damage to a lot of the wardrobe by using the tumble dryer too often, then you should read this guide from the Tips Bulletin. It covers every type of material and there’s a lot of great advice in there.

But it’s not just a case of mending, dye is great for making clothes look better and that brings me nicely on to my next section on how to enhance your wardrobe even further….

Enhancing

A few years ago I bought a royal blue dress off of eBay. It was from Oasis, it fit me well but it was very frilly and bright and I wore it once.

A few months ago, I used fabric dye to change it to black and now I have a dress I love that’s just the right level of understated, that I can wear for work and out and it’s bang on trend with it’s frilliness.  And it probably cost me little more than 20 quid.

But that’s not the only way to make your existing wardrobe look even better.

Cut offs

If you’re shorter than average like me, you have a great advantage as you can buy long length clothes and make them edgey by cutting them to the length you need and fraying the ends.

This is very simple to do. Just cut to the length you need with fabric scissors, or super sharp kitchen scissors, and then pull at loose threads to create more of a frayed effect.

For a more detailed account of how to do it, check out InStyle’s guide here.

Sequins and embellishment

Slogan tees are hot right now but there aren’t that many in the high street so if you find one, chances are you’ll meet someone wearing the same thing pretty quickly. So, why not create something of your very own?

It’s so simple that I first did it when I was 12 years old. Simply get a t-shirt that you like, a long length of sequin trim and some fabric glue. Then, and this is the most crucial stage, find a SIMPLE pattern or phrase that you’d like to spell out on the top.

Draw it out on a sheet of A4 paper (any bigger and it’ll be too big for the top), cut out the shape and then use that as a guide, by placing it on the tee. Using a fine pen, draw out the pattern and then starting at one end start to glue on the sequin trim. You may need several layers to create the desired effect. Once complete, use a needle and thread to stitch a few key sequins in place to secure the embellishment, and then you’re done.

Another way of doing this, and with slightly larger sequins, can be shown by the lovely A Pair and a Spare here.

And if sparkle isn’t your thing, you can do simple embellishment of clothing to MATCH designer clobber with my save or splurge guide here. How to enhance your wardrobe (and trick people into thinking you’ve spent a fortune!).

Finally, there are plenty of ways to extend the life of your wardrobe just by pairing oldish clothes with new accessories. Becky Goddard-Hill over at Family-Budgeting.co.uk has a fab guide here that’s well worth reading.

So next time you’re tempted to throw something away because you think it’s past it, and pull out the credit card, see if your creativity can save you a bit of money.

How to make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last four or so years, you’ll be very aware of the shopping madness of Black Friday. With Christmas gift-buying currently burning a big hole on your to-do list, and ‘70% off‘ emails flooding your inbox, it’s very easy to go wild. But, if you don’t want to be left skint and full of regret on the morning of the 28th November when this current wave of sales is over and your house is full of stuff you don’t actually want very much, follow this guide to ensure you shop smart and make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

But first…..

What is Black Friday?

Scheduled on the day after Thanksgiving in the US, it’s the retail industry’s way to boost sales by kicking off the Christmas shopping period early. Even though the UK doesn’t mark Thanksgiving, the craze has caught on here in a big way. Brands go gaga for it with some slashing prices over a week before. And we respond BIG TIME. According to a study by Voucher Codes and the Centre for Retail Research, Brits will spend £1.8 million per minute snapping up deals!

Where can I find the biggest Black Friday savings?

Every retailer worth its salt is running a Black Friday promotion but some will be far better than others. So, helpfully, a number of media titles have pulled together a list of the best ones:

The Mirror

The Guardian

The Radio Times

(They cover a lot of similar stuff with a few different points so it’s worth looking at all three.)

How will I know if it’s really a good deal?

Please, PLEASE, don’t get tricked into buying something just because the discount is huge. If you do find something that tempts you, do the following before you open that wallet:

  1. Do a quick google search to check the item isn’t cheaper elsewhere
  2. Also check that other retailers aren’t offering it at the same price indefinitely. If they are, then you don’t have to buy it during Black Friday and can give yourself a bit of thinking time to decide whether or not you really do want the item after all!
  3. Make sure you’re not buying a poor quality equivalent of something you do want just because it’s cheap. I.e. if you really want a new tv and there’s one available online at 70% off the RRP, check the reviews and star ratings as it may not be worth it.
  4. Check the returns policy or warranty offered by the retailer. Some retailers are better than others so if there’s only a small difference in price between the two, it’s still better going for a name you can trust should something go wrong.

How can I save even more?

I wouldn’t be a very good money blogger if I didn’t give you advice to make sure you save as much as you truly can. So here goes:

  • Set a budget and stick to it. Heck, why not go as far as putting the money you’ve allowed yourself to spend into one account and then giving all your credit cards to a partner or best friend for safe keeping until the 28th when the sales are over. You can only spend the money you have.
  • Cancel any evening plans you have for the 23rd and prep. Although many retailers have already started their sales, Amazon and John Lewis among others will kick off from midnight on Friday 24th, so do your research on Thursday night. Then arm yourself with coffee and stay up late to grab the bargains as they appear. Because once they’ve gone, they’ve gone.
  • As part of your Thursday night prep session, make a list of what you actually want and need. Then move some of those items onto a list for friends and family to buy you as Christmas presents (yup, you know you’ll get asked).  Then, armed with your list of what you can buy in the sales, ONLY buy what’s on the list. Do not deviate!
  • Before you put anything in your shopping basket, go to Quidco first in case you can acquire cashback on your purchases. Thousands of retailers offer cashback through Quidco so it’s a very worthwhile step to take! PLUS, if you sign up with the link above, you’ll be awarded £5 free in cash once you’ve earned your first £5 cashback! (For more information on how the process works, click here for my cashback guide.)

Any other advice?

  • Before pressing ‘Buy’, go through each item and check how likely you are to use it. If any of the following thoughts run through your head, put it back.
    • I’m sure I’ll find a use for it someday
    • Who cares if I’ll use it, it looks really cool
    • So what if I hadn’t heard of it before today, it gets a lot of good reviews
    • Oh god I shouldn’t be doing this but oh well you only live once!
  • Seriously. Don’t buy it.
  • Also check for discount codes before you buy anything. There may be a code for free delivery and returns. This will come in handy if you haven’t bothered to follow my previous point.
  • The best place to look is Voucher Codes. Last year, its team of deal hunters saved shoppers a staggering £780,000 over the Black Friday weekend.

And that’s my advice on how to make the most of Black Friday! Don’t go mad, I hope you get some lovely things and do comment below as I’d love to hear about them.

How to make an Espresso Martini

It’s fiiiinnnnallly Friday. Wow, it’s taken a while to get here.  A few hours from now, you’ll want to go out and celebrate the start of the weekend but you might be knackered after a big long working week.

Or you’re staying in tonight after a big night out last night and need a pick me up to stop you falling asleep on the doormat as soon as you get home.

Well I suggest you start your evening with an Espresso Martini.  It’s a powerful cocktail but it also wakes you up and prepares you for the night ahead.

espresso martini2

Ingredients

For this you will need,

A cocktail shaker

Ice

Some coffee beans

2x 25ml shot of freshly made espresso

2 shots of vodka

1 shot of kahlua

1 shot of hazelnut liqueur

A fancy glass

espresso martini

Method

Pour all the liquid and ice cubes into the cocktail shaker and shake for your life.  This will mix it well, chill the mixture and give your arms a good workout.

espresso martini3

Pour into cocktail glass and top with coffee beans.  One Espresso Martini. Done.

(Don’t drink it too quickly though – like I said, it’s POWERFUL.)

What’s your Friday night tipple of choice?

Ikea Hacks: 8 websites that do the hard work for you

Whether you’re preparing to sell your home, have just moved house, or have decided to stay put, there’s nothing like a bit of interior decorating to make things look better. But if you can’t afford to splash out at Heal’s or Habitat, and you fear Ikea’s stuff is too recognisable to others, how do you create a look of your own that’s still REALLY cheap? With Ikea hacks!!

Read on if you want to update your home with some cheap items that you’ve upcycled EFFORTLESSLY by taking advantage of a few tricks of the trade! 

I’m in one of my interior decorating phases. What this means is that you can barely walk anywhere in the house without tripping over a house magazine, I have a ga-zillion web pages open at different interesting sites I’ll get around to reading at some point (i wish) and every conversation with my husband starts with me saying “So you know how we need to change our [insert name of room/furniture/curtains]…”.  I LOVE this phase but my husband does not.

Anyway, in my search for inspiration, I’ve been to Ikea a couple of times and identified a load of items which I’m going to “enhance”. I’ve found countless DIY lessons but a lot of them seem too damn complicated and time-consuming for a busy mum like me. So here’s some helpful companies that will do a lot of the work of ikea hacks for you!

1 Pretty Pegs

Pretty Pegs makes snazzy replacement legs for most of the main ranges of Ikea furniture. This means that you can quickly and easily add a new colour to your items without breaking open the paint, or customise them to suit other pieces in the room. Your tables, chairs, bookcases and cabinets will never look dreary again.

A unit can be transformed for approximately £60 plus shipping.

2 Panyl

As the name suggests, Panyl lets you change the panels of your Ikea pieces. Take your Billy bookcase (come on, we all have one) and stick on a range of bright and attractive colours to brighten up the unit without the hours of painting! It’s self-adhesive paper like you had for your books at school but it’s ultra durable. Possibly one of the easiest Ikea hacks there is.

They also do a range of aluminium and wood effects (as per the picture above).

You can decorate a small bookcase from about £15 plus shipping.

3 Superfront

So I have to confess, I’m presenting you with a problem here. Superfront sells the most BEAUTIFUL door fronts (+ sides and tops), handles and legs but it isn’t cheap. Therefore, you may only be able to look and long for what they sell. But with stuff this gorgeous, looking is still good fun, right?

Wardrobe fronts cost about £200 plus shipping and handles are about £20.

4 Etsy

Who doesn’t love Etsy? Not only is it great when you need to buy quirky part decorations, or gifts for people who already have EVERYTHING, but it is also giving small businesses across the world a platform to promote and sell their wares. Epic.

Anyway, if you go on the site and search for Ikea, you’re presented with a load of different businesses that sell covers and accessories for Ikea products. The above picture is for HipicaInteriors which sells Klippan sofa covers for £20 each!

5 Bemz

Bemz sells new covers for most of Ikea’s beds, sofas, chairs and cushions. And there are HUNDREDS of covers to choose from. Any colour you fancy, any pattern you like and a range of fabrics too. They even send samples to you so you can test it out in the room before you buy.

For the Ikea Jennylund armchair, new covers start from £55 plus shipping.

6 Mykea

Another company that sells stick on covers for Ikea furniture, Mykea has gone to town with cartoons, prints and bright colours. While they only focus on a few of Ikea’s ranges, they do make sure they can accommodate any item within that range which means you can pimp your whole bedroom suite should you wish.

This place is particularly good for kids’ rooms and they do wall decal too.

Prices start from £5 plus postage.

7 O’verlays

This is quite possibly the cleverest hack of all for Ikea furniture. Forget self adhesive paper that entirely covers the furniture so that it looks like you’ve painted it. O’verlays completely changes the style of the furniture and would fool anyone into thinking it was worth a fortune. The products are decorative fretwork panels, available in several patterns and sizes. They are light weight, paintable and easily attach to furniture, doors, walls and glass.

Sets start from approximately £20 plus shipping.

8 Wilko

Courtesy of Livet Hemma

I thought I’d leave this one to last as it’s a surprising one! Wilko is actually a fab find for Ikea hacks. Like Panyl, it sells self adhesive paper with a wood grain effect on it so you can make a plastic shelf look a lot better. But it also sells marble effect self adhesive paper and it’s blooming gorgeous. Add it to the back of your mobile phone cover, your window sills, or even your coasters – the possibilities are endless. And if you cover the top of a cheap Ikea table with it, it looks FAB!

A few metres of paper will only cost you £5 and there are no shipping costs because it’s local. Cheap ikea hack or what?!

What do you think of this collection? Do you have any other great ways of upcycling Ikea furniture with minimal effort? Please let us know x