Featured Post: Why vintage diamonds are worth the high price tag

One of my interests in my day job as a museum curator is costume. I spend a long time looking at dress and jewellery and I’ve really enjoyed including costume in various exhibitions. From suffragette jewellery in an exhibition about the Edwardians through to beautiful Ancient Egyptian inspired jewellery in an Ancient Egypt exhibition. 

A friend of mine collects vintage jewellery and is always telling me about the amazing finds she makes. Until fairly recently I was astonished to find out how much cheaper it is than new jewellery. Its actually well worthwhile buying a piece just for the diamonds which you can then have made into an item of your choice. I’ve been sent some information about vintage diamonds which I thought was of interest, because, you know, Christmas is coming and its not all about stuff for the kids is it!

 

Vintage diamonds are worth the price tag because they were not mass produced when first designed and made and the cuts are unusual compared to modern diamond cutting techniques. Vintage diamonds were generally cut by hand, which means no stone is the same and offers a uniqueness to a piece of jewellery that you will not find anywhere else.

However, these irregular shaped diamonds were once rejected or downgraded by specialists but are now revered and used as a symbol of authenticity when it comes to vintage stones. They allow us to hold on to a little piece of history in the form of something beautiful we can adorn ourselves with or have on display.

Vintage diamonds are also worth the price tag because they come with a story. In the 1900s wealthy families would travel and collect diamonds from countries they visited, which they would then have made into stunning pieces of jewellery to show off at extravagant parties. These pieces are then handed down throughout the generations, gaining in value and exhibiting a variety of cutting styles as methods were adapted and refined over time.

Diamonds owned by a famous person for a long time are also very popular. Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond jewellery was sold for an incredible $137 million at an auction in 2012 while a ring supposedly owned by child star Shirley Temple was auctioned for between $25 million and $35 million but failed to sell.

Lab grown diamonds are more common than ever now in the diamond jewellery market and their presence could be encouraging a push towards authentic diamonds as buyers wish to hold onto the craftsmanship that went into their creation. It’s safe to say, vintage diamonds will continue to attract investors, gain value as the years go on and will be put up for auctions over time where the highest bidder will take home a slice of history to share with others and hand down to future generations.

Featured Post; How to Make Your Family Car Greener

 

car1There comes a time when you need to ditch your current car. This has literally just happened to me as the cam shaft has broken on my trusty Zafira. It comes at quite a good moment in many ways as I have been considering ways to make my motoring cheaper and greener. We’ve decided to go down the route of leasing a low co2 emission car.

It’s well documented that cars are a major contributor to environmental pollution. Legislation in terms of city congestion charges, vehicle excess duty rates and the advent of alternative power such as electric is designed to minimise the effects of fossil fuels. While diesel was considered the better environmental option when the focus was purely on CO2 emissions, there has been something of a backlash in the light of concerns over the particulates emitted by diesel engines.

There are lots of ways which you can save some cash and make sure your car is as environmentally friendly as possible. I’ve been sent the following suggestions which I will definitely be taking on board (excuse the pun!)

Regular maintenance

Keeping your car in tip top condition will help. Regular servicing at a competent and trustworthy garage includes the replacement of items such as air filters; a new, clean one helps burn less fuel so the car runs cleaner.

Your fuel consumption could be around 25% less with regular tune ups, emissions checks and regular servicing.

Check tyres – wrongly inflated tyres, especially under-inflation, causes a car to burn more fuel due to the extra resistance under inflated tyres exert. Regular surveys undertaken by Michelin revealed over 60% of cars on the road had incorrectly inflated tyres, causing the emission of an extra 538,000 tonnes of excess CO2.

Your driving technique – criticising someone’s driving is akin to heresy in some quarters, but many of us could drive more economically. Here are a few pointers:

  • Anticipate more – sudden braking as opposed to natural slowing down wastes fuel (braking effectively wipes out the amount of fuel you’ve used to build that momentum).
  • Use high gears – change up in good time and drive in the highest gear possible, but don’t let the engine labour.
  • Excess weight – remove items from the car you don’t need for that trip; riding around with your golf clubs in the boot all week wastes fuel over time.

Change cars – an extreme step you may think, but it could be worth considering especially if yours is ageing and something of a ‘gas guzzler.’ Maybe your running costs are expensive in terms of fuel, maintenance and tax so a newer, more fuel efficient, environmentally friendly model could be worth considering.

There are various ways including leasing (both for business and personal users) to put a new, cheaper to run and greener car on your driveway at a reasonable cost.

Your car use – can you use your car less? Perhaps you could combine smaller trips into one? Maybe sometimes you could bike or walk to work or share lifts with others on occasions? Combining, say, a trip to the supermarket on the way back from work is better than taking a separate trip where your car is starting from cold.

Overall, shorter trips should be minimised as far as possible. Your car is less efficient as it’s not running at its optimum temperature so uses more fuel, and shorter trips cause faster wear and tear than longer ones.

Car equipment – when driving, try to use the minimum in-car equipment you can; air conditioning increases fuel consumption as do electrical items such as heated rear windows and lighting. Switch them off when possible.

Plan trips – getting lost and wasting fuel on dead adds to your carbon footprint, so plan trips as far as you can using maps and keeping your sat nav mapping up to date.

Greener is possible

With just some basic steps, not all of them even costing money, you can at least make your present car greener to help the environment.

 

 

Featured Post: How to attract birds into your garden

Its a really good idea to try to give children as many opportunities as possible to interact with wildlife. This is important for their mental well-being, to enable them to appreciate and gain an understanding of the environment and also simply to learn about different types of birds. We love to experiment making bird feeders and wildlife friendly things for the garden.

In terms of feeding birds we have a bit of a hit and miss relationship in our household. I must admit that we don’t really want to attract lots of pigeons and we have to be careful about attracting the ‘tamer’ birds like Robins as our cat is a fearsome predator.

I’ve been given some top tips on  how to attract three specific types of birds in to your garden.

Dunnocks

Dunnocks are small and inconspicuous birds that reside in gardens across the UK with a preference for staying close to the edge of flower beds, bushes and hedges. They’re renowned for their shuffling, almost nervous gait, preferring to creep along the edge of vegetation rather than be out in the open.

Food for dunnocks: As well as eating worms, spiders and insects, dunnocks will be grateful for seeds provided in bird feeders – especially in the winter when food on the ground is more scarce. It’s worth remembering, however, that they do prefer dense cover when they’re eating.

So, if you want to attract them into your garden, make sure you position your bird feeder on the fringe of a thick hedgerow or close to a patch of vegetation. Dunnocks will eat fine seeds such as millet, and will be likely to visit your garden if you provide them with crushed or grated nuts.

Greenfinches

Greenfinches are frequently spotted all over Britain – in country gardens and urban gardens, in farmland and in parks. As they’re often found close to woodland and hedges, the only place you likely won’t see them is in an upland area without trees or bushes.

Food for greenfinches: Greenfinches will eat bird seed and insects. They’re not fussy, but they do particularly like peanuts and black-oil sunflower seeds. During the winter, they’ll happily take whole nuts and seeds from your bird feeder to bulk out their diet, but watch out – they’re sociable and will squabble with other birds at the feeder if there’s something they want!

Just be sure to avoid any seed mixtures that contain dried rice or dried beans – only larger species can eat this kind of seed, and therefore it isn’t suitable for a bird the size of a greenfinch.

Goldfinches

Goldfinches are beautifully coloured birds with a bright red face and a patch of yellow on their wings. You’ll find them all over Britain, except for in the far north and west of Scotland. Their highest numbers are generally recorded in the south of England.

Food for goldfinches: In the summer, goldfinches will eat insects and seeds, but in the winter they’ll rely on your bird feeder to help support them through the colder months. Goldfinches will eat most types of seed, although they’re very partial to small, black nyjer seeds. The high oil content of this food makes it attractive to goldfinches, but bear in mind that you will need a special type of bird feeder if you want to supply it. Nyjer is a very small seed and will need a dispenser that is capable of administering the right portion sizes.

If you’re looking for more information then there are lots of resources on line including the RSPB (of which we are members) website which has lots of fab information.

 

Featured Post: My Tips for Financially Surviving Maternity Leave

 

babygymOne of the things which you’ll come to realise quite soon after your pregnancy sinks in is the financial implications! I was employed throughout my 3 pregnancies and was very fortunate to have good a good maternity scheme where my money was gradually reduced to the statutory amount over a period of weeks. There are loads of caveats to maternity pay and its worth thinking about them ideally before pregnancy- for example to qualify you have to have worked a certain amount for 26 weeks before the 15th week before the baby is due. You can find out about them here on the money advice service website.

One of the problems with being off on maternity leave is that you have lots more time to spend money and lots more demands on it. For example, if you want to socialise or just get out the house you’ll find yourself going to coffee shops, playgroups and other activities. These are really important for your mental health, but come at a cost to your pocket. So just how can you save some pennies?

I know that for your first baby you’ll want everything new and lovely, however buying second hand and accepting freebies will save you a fortune. One of the things I’ve learnt is that babies grow very quickly, you wont need all those 0-3 month clothes, there will be stuff they don’t even wear. Babies and small children have no idea what they are wearing, I’d buy one or two nice new outfits and beg, steal and borrow the rest. Also buy quality items if you can (that doesn’t necessarily mean designer)- workhorse clothes which are well made from good fabric will wash and wear so they are always more economical. My third child is wearing the first child’s wardrobe and it looks a good as new!

The same principle applies to all the baby equipment. There is no point in buying an expensive top of the range pram, everyone ends up with a Maclaren. A change mat on the floor is better than a changing unit which they’ll only fall off and will take up loads of space. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can sell it all for big bucks once you’ve finished with it- the kids will trash it all and no-one will want it.

Toys will be a real temptation. Avoid at all costs. They only need one or two and the rest will become clutter and the bane of your life. If you enjoy books with your child (very important), then curate a small bookshelf and make the best use of your library.

The other thing which will save a fortune is to try to make the most of all the free activities out there. Baby rhyme time at the library is brilliant, many museums offer great free children’s activities or why not start a craft group with like minded mums at your house?

I loved my periods of maternity leave and loathed them in equal measure. It can be very empowering becoming a parent, but at the same time very difficult when you experience a massive loss of income and to a certain extent a loss of personal status. Getting to grips with your finances before the baby comes will give you a brilliant start to parenting, after all a happy mummy makes for a happy baby!

 

Featured Post: Summer Holiday Brain Drain

With my eldest now in year 5 i’m getting very familiar with the concept of ‘brain drain’. Its basically where your child can go backwards  in terms of their reading, maths and general school stuff during school holidays. I think some of it is related to lack of use- if you don’ t keep doing something then you easily forget it, it happens to us all. However, its a good idea for children’s confidence to try to maintain their levels over the holidays. Hope Education have provided me with the handy infographic posted below which provides some great ideas.

One of the things which I do is to buy the children a new notebook and get them working on a project of their choosing. We also have special themed days such as our India Day and special book club days to keep them reading. The other brilliant thing to do- highlighted in the infographic below- is to get them to keep a diary. This encourages literacy, comprehension and loads of skills including maintaining their fine motor skills. The other day the 9 year old found the diary he wrote when he had finished reception and he was delighted to have a look at it.

If you haven’t discovered it yet there are also some fabulous apps which can keep the kids thinking and learning. We like Reading Eggs, Scratch and Minecraft (surprisingly educational) here but there are loads to choose from.

Its only three weeks until half term, now is the time to start thinking about how to keep the children educated and using their brains. I must admit, I’ve come to realise that for me its best if I plan activities so we will be having a halloween themed book day, a trip to a railway museum, some cookery and possibly a theatre trip.

I’d love to hear your ideas for preventing brain drain; what do you have planned for half term?

 

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