Category Archives: Life

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 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

 

My can’t-live-without health and fitness tools

If you read my post Why Life Begins at 30, you’ll will have read that, following the birth of my first child, I got fit and lost weight. In fact, I got into the best shape of my life. This was mostly down to running. A lot.

I need goals and incentives to keep me on track so I signed up for a half marathon and trained, and trained, and trained. So, after the half marathon was over, I no longer had an incentive to train and my good habits slipped a bit. I’m not going to say I completely fell off the wagon – I didn’t decide to move my bed next to the fridge and just sit there binging on cheese, cake and chocolate all day……but I did get back into Nutella. In a big way.

As a result, funnily enough, I slowly started gaining weight again.

So I decided to get back on the fitness train.

After all, I believe that it doesn’t matter if you slip. You can get back on track provided you know HOW you have slipped and can identify which bad habits have crept in. Then you plan small, manageable steps towards a new, realistic goal. (I’m all about the goals as you will have seen in my post about money saving success.)

So I’m now well on my way to getting back to where I was and that’s without signing up for another half marathon (thank god.)

How have I done it? I have 5 of the most amazing health and fitness tools at my disposal and I would recommend that you investigate them because they are great.

If you’re struggling with your weight (and general fitness), these will change your life.

The Fitbit

I got a Fitbit Charge 2 three weeks ago and I’m already OBSESSED with it.

I chose a pretty looking one (as displayed in the picture above) so that I can wear it all the time even if I’m dressed up, but they come in a variety of colours so go have a look.

Fitbit (and associated app) features:

  • tracks your resting heart rate to monitor general health
  • tracks your heart rate 24/7 to identify when you are in fat burn or high intensity periods during exercise
  • counts the number of steps you take
  • tracks the calories you’re burning so you know how much you can consume and still lose weight. In other words, yes you can have that cupcake.
  • tracks how much good quality sleep you’ve had

So without you even needing to input any data, you’re able to monitor your health and exercise and set personal goals such walking 8,000 steps or burning 2,000+ calories every day.  The watch gives me lots of encouragement and the ability to link in with friends so that I can compare my movement with theirs try to out do them!

The motivation has been incredible because within days, I had changed my habits and was getting the stairs at work rather than the lift, walking to the shop to get lunch rather than driving, and I started to drink from a glass rather than a big bottle so that I would take more trips to the kitchen.

Also, side note – it’s really interesting if you’re a mum. I work four days a week and spend every Monday at home with my toddler who of course I chase about all day, as well as doing washing and other chores. And even though I don’t do any actual exercise on those days, I walk LOADS and burn so many calories which just proves that being a mum is phy-si-cal!!

The other thing is sleep monitoring. Why does that really matter in the grand scheme of things? Well it has some kind of psychological effect on me because if I wake up and think “Oh my god I’m exhausted” and the Fitbit says “Well actually you’ve had 7.5 hours sleep”,  something inside me goes “DONG! I feel better, I’ve had enough sleep and I’m ready to tackle whatever the day will throw at me!”

Possibly the best feature for me is how accurately it measures the calories I’m burning when I’m exercising. Most machines ask for your weight, gender and age and then give you a rough figure for calories burned but because the Fitbit measures your heart rate too, it’s factoring in how fit you are at that precise point in time and giving you the accurate data for  number of calories burned.

Myfitnesspal

The second thing that has helped me get back into shape is actually something that helped me last time, and that is an app that helps you monitor calorie consumption – myfitnesspal.  Not only does it have records of the calories, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and salt content of every food and branded item I think that probably exists (so logging a food diary is easy), but it also syncs with the Fitbit app so when I log what I’ve eaten in this app, my Fitbit records adjust accordingly!

It really works for me in terms of keeping to calorie limits (even with treats) and by recording my weight as often as I like, I can keep on track with my goal.

The spiralizer

While I do enjoy my vegetables, I don’t tend to eat a LOT of them. So a really good way of getting them into my diet and simultaneously replacing carbs (which is important when losing weight) is to use the spiralizer to cut them into pasta or noodle form!

There are so many incredible recipes using spiralized food at Inspiralized so I recommend you have a look.

Favourite spiralised dishes of mine are courgette pasta, carrot noodle salad, and sweet potato pizza bake.  YUM!

The spiralizer comes with a number of different blades so that you can cut your food in different ways and it really is very simple to use. Simply chop off both ends of whatever vegetable you wish to use, then position it inside the ‘contraption’ and rotate the handle until you’ve gone through the whole vegetable. It’s really quite satisfying….

Breakfast smoothie

There is a famous saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I can’t say I agree with that but it’s certainly the most important meal to me when I wake up.

To make sure I start the day in the best possible way, I’ve invested in a Nutribullet so my first meal of the day is in smoothie form.

In it I put:

  • frozen chopped spinach (for iron)
  • a few frozen berries (for antioxidants)
  • a banana (for potassium and energy)
  • some flaxseeds and goji berries mix  (for vitamin E and calcium)
  • baobab powder (for its vitamin C properties)
  • and Belgian chocolate flavour Diet Whey powder (for a protein boost)

This not only fills me up until lunchtime, but also gives me a big head start on my 5 a day. PLUS I can make it as I’m heading out the door in the morning and drink it on my way into work! Efficient or what?!

YouTube

The final piece of my health and fitness must have toolkit is access to Youtube. I don’t think I need to explain what this is but perhaps the extent of free fitness programmes and guides available on its archive will surprise you. You can get tutorials of every kind of fitness known to man on there!

While running will always be my preferred form of exercise, I recognise the value in doing a variety of others during the week to ensure I’m getting the most benefit from every move I make.

Here are two gems that I recommend you look into:

  • Yoga – Yoga with Adriene. She’s bubbly, GORGEOUS and a great yoga teacher. Highly worth trying.
  • HIIT – Jillian Michaels. You may know the name from TV’s Biggest Loser but she’s a very successful personal trainer in the US. Her dvd is actually available on YouTube and at 20 minutes a session, there’s no excuse not to fit her programmes into your weekly routine.

And that’s it. My must-haves and they’ve helped me a great deal. What helps you to lose weight and keep fit? Is there a new sport or kitchen gadget you’d recommend? Please comment below!

The 5 reasons why you don’t have more money in your bank account

It doesn’t make sense, does it? You spend your days trying so hard to be frugal, you plan your food shopping meticulously and you never … well rarely …. go out.  And yet, you find you get to a point each month where your bank balance is still far lower than you need it to be. Far lower than you feel it should be.

I am going to explain over the course of the next 200 or so words why this is the case. Why you don’t have more money than you do. But don’t worry, this isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s help on the way too!

You don’t have a clear target

We’re only human. We all need incentives to do hard work. That’s what wages are, after all. So you need to be really honest with yourself about what you need to save more money for.  The reason you’re not left with more money at the end of each month is because the end goal is not clear enough. Why do you want more money? Because life will be easier? WRONG. Not a good enough answer. Can you measure “easier”? Can you touch it? No? So try again. Set an end goal, define what having more money means to you.

Solution:

Once you’ve thought about why you need more money – and it’s something significant like paying off a debt, buying a car, being able to work less so you can spend more time with your kids or even buying five new pairs of shoes, once you’ve decided on your target, get obsessed with it.

Yup. Obsessed.

Imagine you’re 15 again, and your target is the person you have a huge HUGE crush on. Its photo is your screen saver on your phone and computer. You’ve photoshopped images of you with that “crush” and posted them up in your house. Every night, you go to bed thinking about what you’re going to do the next day to get one step closer to your “crush”.  Do that. Do all of that. (Or do the screen saver thing at least). It will keep you focussed and help you prioritise not spending over spending.

You don’t have a set deadline

To achieve a task is not just to do it. It’s also about doing it within a certain timeframe. If bills didn’t have payment deadlines, would we ever pay them? Er….probably not. Well, paying a bill is just like not spending money. It’s an unpleasant task that none of us wants to do. However, we do it because there’s a deadline. To miss that deadline means failing, getting in trouble and paying a fine. And paying a fine would take us further away from our saving goal, would it not?

Solution:

So let’s keep that fine in mind.

Don’t just set a deadline and keep it to yourself. I need you to publicise the deadline you’re setting yourself to save this money. Use Facebook, twitter, whatever. But set a deadline and make people aware of it. Then, as part of that promise, agree to face the consequences if your deadline is not met. And what are the consequences? You have to pay £100 of your precious cash on a challenge of your best mate’s choosing. And if your mate is a good friend, they’ll make it something you really  don’t want to do. (That’s the fine I was talking about.)

You’re aiming too high

Let’s be realistic. Unless you win the lottery or had shares in Snapchat, you’re not going to become a millionaire overnight. Also, if your savings target wildly exceeds your disposable income each month then you’re not going to meet your target either are you?

A really common mistake people make when trying to achieve a goal is they make that goal impossible. They set themselves up for failure before they’ve even started.

Solution:

To set a realistic goal, start by looking at how much money you have each month after your bills. What you can save each month will be a proportion of that. Then look at your bank balances and credit card statements and total up how much you spend each month on absolute non-essential you-don’t-even-think-you’ll-miss-them items. This could be 4 of the 5 coffees you buy each day. This could be your weekly trip to Primark where you come back with two full bags of clothes you never wear. This could be the after work wine which you don’t need because you’re trying to lose weight anyway….. Whatever it is, total up  the cost and make that your money savings goal for month one.

Be realistic about what you’re prepared to do and once you notice the difference a few small changes makes to your bank balance, implementing bigger changes will become a whole lot easier. You’ll have a lot more money before you know it!

You haven’t set yourself allowable cheats

You know why fad diets don’t work? They’re far too restricting. They ask you to cut out all the things that taste nice, and make you feel good, and they stop you from eating them forever and ever and ever again. Well that’s hardly a sustainable diet, is it?

Diets that work, and are sustainable for life, are the ones that allow you to treat yourself. To have something which is semi-naughty without the guilt so afterwards you can keep on with the food plan and don’t feel like you’ve failed and need to binge on crisps.

Well, think of money saving in the same way. If you can never buy yourself rewards for good behaviour, then you’re never going to stick to an effective money saving programme, are you?

Solution:

When deciding upon your end goal, and your deadline to achieve this goal, also set yourself some landmark dates. Perhaps they’re every fortnight. Keep them small but make sure they’re incentives. They simply need to be little treats you can spend money on but you only get them if you’re on track for your end of month target.

Treats could be £20 put aside for another of your spending goals or a massive slice of chocolate cake. Whatever floats your boat.

You’re not having to report your progress to anyone

Diet clubs’ most effective slimming tool is the weekly public weigh-in. You have to turn up and have your weight read out to a room full of strangers. It’s terrifying. And you feel awful when you haven’t lost weight.

On the other hand, when you have, you’re applauded. Your achievements are celebrated. It’s amazing.

But without that public display of your progress, you wouldn’t be incentivised to lose weight.  And that’s about pride and shame.

The same kind of applies for people that commit to achieving huge physical and sporting achievements for charity. Of course, 95% of the incentive for going through with the training and the challenge itself is to raise money for a good cause, but the remaining 5% is down to the fact that a lot of people know they’re doing that challenge and they don’t want to be seen to fail.

So when you start a money saving goal and you don’t report your progress to anyone, how can you expect to stick to it?

Solution:

Don’t just tell your mum or your mate what you plan to save. They love you. They’ll understand if you fail. Strangers on the other hand….they’re judgemental. They can be really cruel.

You need to commit to a group of strangers to save money and meet your financial goal. Where do you find these strangers? On Feast Style Thrive’s Facebook page, of course. From Monday 6th March 2017, the page will run a weekly money saving weigh-in where anyone looking to achieve a financial goal can report their target and their progress. We’re nice, we won’t be cruel but we will give a hell of a lot of praise to those  who are succeeding (and a lot of support and encouragement to those who aren’t).

So what are you waiting for?  Stick to those goals and come join us on Facebook to share your progress! The pathway to more money is here!