Featured Post: Teaching Your Children How to Care for Your Family Pet

A couple of years ago we decided to get a family cat, it was one of the best family decisions we have made. The cat has enabled us to introduce looking after pets and given the children something to do and focus on when they feel stressed.

If you are planning to complete your family with a pet then the first thing you need to do is decide which one would be best for you and your current circumstances. You want your children to have an active role, so make sure you keep them in mind when making your decision.

Consider the age of your child and to what extent they will be able to help, as well as how much time and money you have and where you live.

Pets can teach children a lot as they grow up, but depending on the answers to the above questions, you may be better off adding a goldfish or hamster rather than a cat or a dog – for now. If you are in a position to get a four-legged friend with a wagging tail, then think carefully about which breed would best suit your family – perhaps you should be looking at french bulldog puppies as opposed to a border collie, for example.

Once you have chosen the pet for you and your children and introduced it into the family, you need to teach them how to care for it. So, first things first…

Talk to them…

Before you do anything else it is important to sit your children down and explain to them what having a pet will entail – why it is so important to care for them properly and what this will involve. Talk them through what a typical day might involve depending on the pet you get – what their needs will be and how you (and they) can and will fulfil them. Make sure they understand they must help with this and why.

Allow them to ask questions…

You will probably find that they have a lot of questions and it is best to answer as many as you can now. Maybe encourage them to make a few notes so they don’t forget anything important.

Walk them through it…

At first you should make sure you are completing all the day-to-day tasks with your child. If you have gone for a hamster, sit together and get him or her out to have a run in the ball, clean out the cage, fill up the food bowl, water and so on.
If you have a dog then go out for a walk and make the dinner together – ensuring you include ample time for play and teaching them new skills.

Start off simple…

Once you have done this together for a while you may start to give them jobs that they can do for themselves. Start off simple; perhaps with the hamster it is their job to fill up the food bowl, or with the dog then maybe this could be the water bowl. Understand that they may make some mistakes. If they do ensure you sit down and explain why they have and what they need to do to make sure they don’t do it again.

Create a chart of chores…

A chart that includes everything your pet needs in a day will help your child to remember. It will also ensure your pet doesn’t miss a meal because you have left it to your little one to do the feeding! Split the tasks up between you and the kids – maybe alternate the one they are in charge of. Encourage them to cross off the task when complete and then if you see it doesn’t have a cross you can check whether this is because they forgot or haven’t done it.

Of course, their level of involvement with the pet will be dependent on their age and the animal that you have. But the older they get the more involvement they can have and the more they will learn.

10 Fun Activities to Do with the Kids This Winter

Winter can be a tricky time to be a parent. The weather is often poor, the days are short, and money can be a little bit tight after Christmas. So, what are you going to do with the kids at the weekend or during a half term? Well, here are ten fun activities you could try to stave off a serious case of cabin fever…

  1. Go on a treasure hunt

Fresh air is the perfect remedy for children who are feeling little cooped up, so head out into the great outdoors having devised a ‘treasure hunt’ of sorts. Make them a checklist of things to find, such as a spider’s web, a bird’s nest or a frost-laced leaf.

  1. Do some baking

Kids love to help in the kitchen, and getting them involved in a spot of baking is a great way to develop their confidence in the kitchen and start teaching essential life skills. Whip up a batch of muffins (they’re pretty forgiving if your little helpers are a bit heavy handed), or help them make some gooey chocolate chip cookies. Delicious!

  1. Walk along the beach

If you’re lucky enough to live near the coast (or want to bundle in the car for the weekend), why not head out to the seaside? A blustery winter’s walk on the seafront is great fun, and the kids will enjoy leaning into the wind and watching the waves crash on the shore. Treat yourselves to fish and chips after and remember to take photos to capture those happy memories.

  1. Build a snowman

With any luck winter brings a dusting of snow for the kids to enjoy, so if you happen to see any settling where you live, head straight out to build a snowman. Little ones might need some help to roll the snow, and children of all ages will love rummaging round the house for carrots, scarves and pieces of coal (or failing that, small potatoes) to make the snowman come to life. Just make sure you’ve kitted the kids out in warm stylish clothing before they play in the snow – a warm coat, a sturdy pair of wellies and a pair of gloves are essential items if they’re going to enjoy themselves.

  1. Make a winter campfire

Children love to watch a fire crackling as much as adults do, so why not build a winter campfire in your back garden? Be sure to build your fire safely, and then pull up chairs for some quality time as a family. You can swap stories, toast marshmallows and sip hot chocolate together.

  1. Build a fort

Remember how much you loved building forts when you were little? It’s a lovely thing to do with the kids, so sacrifice those just-washed bed sheets and drape them over the arms of the sofas. Pull in some pillows, add a string of battery-powered fairy lights and let the kids camp out there for the day. They can play games, eat their lunch in there and perhaps even take an afternoon nap…

  1. Play in the forest

It’s impossible to get our kids off their computer screens entirely, but you can certainly get them using their imaginations outdoors if you suggest a stroll through the forest. Encourage a bit of imaginary role play: wizard wands have been fashioned from many a twig, and a good branch doubles as a sword to do battle with any roaming dragons or bad guys…

  1. Have a dance party

Having a boogie round the house is a great way of exercising and improving everyone’s mood: no mean feat in the depths of winter! Find a good playlist, turn up the volume and encourage the kids to let loose. You can always throw a game of musical statues into the mix if you want to keep them at it for a little while longer.

  1. Host a film festival

There’s nothing nicer than being tucked up inside on a rainy winter’s day, so why not watch some films together? Add an extra element of fun by theming the films around food – a particularly good trick if you want to get your little ones to try a new dish. For instance, serve steaming bowls of ratatouille while watching the Ratatouille film, or tuck into spaghetti and meatballs while watching Lady and the Tramp.

  1. Get crafty

Finally, there are thousands of craft ideas to do with children if you look online, but one that’s particularly fun and requires little in the way of materials is this one. You’ll need basic supplies such as paper plates, paints, glue and elastic (all of which will be available at a well-stocked supermarket for instance), and so long as you don’t mind the kids making a bit of a mess, you’ll keep them entertained for hours.

So, which of these fun ideas will you be doing with the kids this winter? Let us know!

Featured Post: Don’t forget the dinner: Get your Christmas Day plans in order

What’s your Christmas Day routine? Do you get up nice and early to see if Father Christmas has deposited some presents down your chimney? Do you welcome relatives around to exchange presents? Is there a festive playlist or film that tickles your fancy? Do you never go without seeing the Queen’s Christmas message?

Whatever your day looks like, there’s one thing you simply cannot afford to forget – the dinner. This is a showpiece moment of the biggest day of the year – the time you and your family stop, gather together and tuck into turkey and all of the trimmings.

No pressure then.

How do you ensure that everything goes well? The key thing is to have a plan in the first place, one that can guide you through exactly what you need to do and when. Look no further than this one, from the team at AO.com, which can ensure that you have no Christmas catastrophes in the kitchen…

The Step-By-Step Christmas Dinner Cooking Guide
Provided by AO.com

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.