The Benefits of Renting as a Family

10.2.20

Some people might think that renting when you have a family is an odd concept, but the reality is that it's the norm for many families in the UK today. Getting on the housing ladder feels near enough impossible as most families don't have the large deposits needed, and with house prices and the cost of living rising (and let’s not even mention how expensive raising a family can be), home ownership is out of reach for many people. For us we had no choice but to rent, so now find it extra difficult to save any money with high rent prices and three young children to care for.


I think that it’s time to change the way we see this lifestyle choice though, and instead think of the positives of renting! Of course many families (like mine) will still aspire to eventually buy a house, but until that day I think it's important to stop thinking about renting as a ‘dead money’ pit stop before the good stuff. There are many benefits of renting that get overlooked in favour of the benefits of homeownership. I’m working with CIA Landlord Insurance to make more people see that renting as a family - whether it’s long-term or not - can actually be a good thing.

Long Term Contracts
A lot of people think of renting as being temporary and constantly changing. But actually this doesn't have to be the case! A lot of rental properties offer long term contracts, meaning you can make it feel like your home. Of course it’s important to plan for the future, but make sure you appreciate the ‘now’ in your rented house and make it really feel like home too.

If you find yourself looking around your rental property and thinking about all the things you’d do differently if you owned it, why not ask your landlord if you can make some changes. The worst that they can do is say no! Swap out those curtains for your favourite colour, paint the walls white or see if your landlord will let you grow your own vegetable patch in the garden. Whatever it takes to make you feel more settled, try and do it.

A house is just bricks and mortar - it’s who and what is inside that counts. Put your children’s pictures on the fridge, scatter family holiday photos in every corner, and make your space reflect your family. That’s what makes a house a home at the end of the day isn't it?

Less Responsibility
Buying a house is a very expensive process. Not only must you find the money for your deposit, but there’s also the stamp duty tax and solicitors fees to think about (and none of those come cheap). Not only that, but running a house is also expensive. You’re responsible for all of the bills, mortgage repayments, repairs, council tax, maintenance and the costs involved with selling up and moving!


These costs are an accepted part of home ownership, but when you compare that to the price of renting, the difference is significant. You pay a deposit when you move in and your rent each month, perhaps also a couple of bills, but maintenance costs and repairs are usually your landlords problems. If a boiler breaks or you encounter a bad leak, it’s not you that has to go without money for a few months to pay for the repairs (unless the damage was your fault of course). One of the biggest benefits of renting is that all the big responsibilities and financial ties sit with your landlord - not you. This alleviates some of the stress of being a home owner, and means you can save that money towards a house deposit in the future.

Flexibility
Another reason why some families prefer to rent, is because it's a much more flexible way to live. If you or your partner work in a job that means they regularly move around the country (or even to another), it's probably easier to not be tied down to a property. Renting gives you the freedom to move to different locations and properties - especially if you only sign a short lease contract.

Do you rent as a family? Would you add any other benefits?

This is a collaborative post.

Our Month - January 2020

3.2.20

This year I've made myself a goal to share more personal, 'back to basics' posts on my blog. I feel like over the last few months my blog has lost it's way, and I do really miss sharing posts that I can look back on in the future! So I thought a great way to start would be to share a monthly round up style post, sharing some of my favourite things that we've got up to, or I've enjoyed over the month.


January felt like the longest month, especially as the weather really wasn't on our side for most of it. But we did manage to have some lovely days out and celebrated some special birthdays too. We saw in the new year with a trip to Brighton - exploring the pier, penny arcades, playing on the beach, and of course ending the day with yummy sugary doughnuts. There's something about the beach that makes me feel so much more relaxed and happy, so it really was the perfect start to the year.



The first of three birthdays in January, we went ice skating for my nephew's 6th birthday at the beginning of the month. Lilah turned two on the 14th, and we celebrated with a trip to soft play, lots of gifts (and cake!), and a lovely meal out as a family. I also had a rare night out for my sister's birthday at the end of the month too. We went out for tapas and ice creams and although we weren't out late it was such a fun evening!




Something I've really enjoyed this month is taking Lilah to new playgroups. I was never really a fan when the big two were little, but now they play a big part in my weekly routine. Lilah absolutely loves them, and I enjoy watching her play and interact with other little ones her age. We started a new one this month and it's quickly become a favourite. Jack's managed to come along with us a few times this month too which has been extra special (although I did feel a bit like a third wheel those weeks!).


A definite highlight of this month for me has been getting back on track with Slimming World. I took a bit of a break over Christmas - because hello all the food - but getting back to plan and healthier meals has made me feel so much better. Fitting into some of my old clothes again has been a huge confidence booster, so I'm extra determined to get to target before our holiday in May now!


I'm so excited to see what February brings for us as family already, I just hope it includes sunshine and nothing else breaking down!

How to Make Travelling with Children Easier

22.1.20

It may only be January, but that hasn't stopped me thinking about the Summer already. I shared our family holiday plans for this year a few months ago (we're off to Turkey and I cannot wait!), but as it's our first holiday abroad since the big two were very small, I'm of course feeling a little nervous about it. With planning and preparing, I know it'll be amazing though. So I thought in this post I would share some tips we've learnt over the years, that make going on holiday with children not only easier but really enjoyable too!


Make sure to Pre-book Everything
This can cover a whole selection of things, but pre-booking before you travel will make travelling a whole lot easier. This starts when booking your holiday. Paying to pre-book seats on the plane can seem like a waste of money, but trust me when I say it saves you a lot of stress - no one wants to turn up and find out the whole family is dotted all over the aeroplane! A lot of hotels will also allow you to pre-book family essentials such as cots, highchairs, sterilisers and even pushchairs before you travel too. This will save you space in your suitcase, and mean you can relax a little knowing everything will be ready for you when you arrive.

If you know you'll be going on days out or excursions during your trip, it's always a good idea to pre-book tickets before you travel too. For example, you can find the best value universal studios tickets if you book before travelling - plus pre-booking usually saves you queuing in extra queues while there too!

Only Pack the Essentials
It can feel like you need to pack everything but the kitchen sink when you travel with children, but you really don't! As long as you aren't going to an obscure country, then wherever you're travelling to will have shops where you can buy items such as nappies, snacks and beach toys. Packing just the essentials (and a few spares) will also make the airport easier to navigate, as you won't have endless suitcases to keep an eye on.


Relax your Expectations
A holiday for most is a special occasion, so it can feel like you really need to make the most of the time you have. However, when travelling with children it's probably easier to relax your expectations. Don't try and go on every excursion, or fill every day with adventures and exploring. And if you're trying to stick to your usual routine from home, it's probably best to throw that out the window too. We've always found it easier to take every day as it comes and to let the children decide what they want to do each morning. And if you feel like you need 5 minutes of relaxation, there's always kid's club!

What tips would you add?

This is a collaborative post.

Home Layout Mistakes to Avoid

8.1.20

If you are renovating your home or even building your dream property from scratch, then you are most likely planning to customise it's layout so it meets the needs of your family. This is obviously great, but there are a few common mistakes you need to make sure that you avoid.


Bad Design
You may think that your plan looks great on paper, but sometime mistakes only become apparent when you move in. For example, if your kitchen is too far from the main entrance to your home then this means that you will have to carry your groceries further when you bring them in through the front door. If you want to make sure that your layout is perfect then imagine various scenarios, or think about your daily routine. Will your new layout create any potential challenges? If so, then it’s time to hit the drawing board again.

If you host guests on a regular basis, then don’t think about removing the downstairs bathroom. If you have an outdoor space, then make sure that it can be accessed comfortably via the living room or even the kitchen. If you add obstacles, then this will make it harder for people to move through your home and this can be frustrating when you have guests.

Open Plan
Open plan is great if you have children, or if you have a lot of people in your home on a regular basis. But it can feel difficult to keep the spaces feeling separate and tidy.. You could break up the space by adding cheap large rugs to your living room, and you can also experiment more with bright or bold colours too. Open plan designs can often mean that your home loses more heat too, so definitely something to consider before taking the plunge.

Poor Space Allocation
It doesn’t matter if you have a large home or a small one, because a few centimetres of wasted space in one area, could make a huge difference to another room. Corridors are a prime example here. You have to make sure that they are attractive but at the same time, you also need to think about fire safety and comfort. Your architect should be able to help you meet the minimum requirements here.

Lack of Storage
Storage is essential when you own a property - especially when you have a growing family. No architect or planner will be able to tell you how much storage you need, because only you know your lifestyle more than anyone. If you want to help yourself here then you should know that you can’t put a price on adequate storage, as it will help you to avoid clutter and keep your home looking streamlined and organised.
This is a collaborative post.

Find the Best Childcare for You with Childcare.co.uk | Review

In collaboration with Childcare.co.uk

With Lilah turning two next week *sob*, Jack and I have both been thinking a lot about what childcare route we're going to take with her. We've experienced both the nursery and preschool routes before with the older two, but there are actually a few more choices we could make. A website that has been created to help with this kind of decision is Childcare.co.uk - an award winning online social networking platform for parents, childcare providers and private tutors.


What is Childcare.co.uk?
The idea of the Childcare.co.uk website is to perfectly match parents with the right childcare provider for them. They are the UK's largest childcare website with currently over 2 million users (a mixture of both parents looking to find childcare, and those looking to find roles in the childcare sector). From nurseries, registered childminders and nannies, to babysitters, private tutors and even private midwives, it really is the number one place to go for any childcare needs.

How does it Work?
The website is incredibly easy to understand and navigate. If you just want to do a quick, simple search, then the handy dropbox at the top of the site is where you want to head. All you have to do is pop in what you're looking for and your postcode, and within seconds results will appear. I was able to find 18 nurseries with 10 miles of our address - some of which I had never heard of which is really helpful. And if we wanted to go down the childminder route there are 144 within 10 miles - I didn't even know these existed a few years ago!
If you are a parent or childcare provider who has a very specific search in mind, then joining the Childcare.co.uk website as a member would be the best option. This is completely free and allows you to create an advert which showcases what you're looking for / providing. As a parent you can then read reviews, browse profiles and chat to potential carers in a safe space. If you are a childcare provider there's also access to over 200 online training courses from leading training providers.

Is it Worth it?
What I really like about the website is that you can be really specific with your searches. You can filter searches to include only those who are Ofsted registered or have first-aid training, pick just a specific gender, and even whether they are a smoker or not. It's these extra steps really help to connect parents with their perfect childcare provider. I definitely think Childcare.co.uk would be helpful for anyone who is looking for childcare, or someone like Jack who works in the childcare sector. It's definitely worth signing up to, even if it's just to get some fantastic childcare advice, as they have lots of that too!


Have you used the Childcare.co.uk website before?

Is a Reverse Mortgage for You?

7.1.20

Retiring gives you the opportunity to enjoy some hard-earned relaxation time. However you might feel far from relaxed if you are in a state of financial hardship. It is possible your retirement income does not provide you enough money to live comfortably month to month. Or you may be comfortable, but lack the funds you need to enjoy a lot of extras or pay for unexpected financial emergencies. Regardless of which situation you are in, a reverse mortgage could provide the financial protection you desire.


What is a Reverse Mortgage?
As you may know a traditional home loan triggers a certain process. As part of that process you have to repay parts of the mortgage on a regular basis beginning soon after you initially borrow the money. The problem with during retirement is that you are likely trying to find a way to reduce your bills - not adding to them. A reverse mortgage is a mortgage that does not require such partial repayments to be made on a scheduled basis. Instead the payments are made on your schedule (as long as you continuously meet the other requirements of the loan).

Other than staying in your home while the loan is active, there are some other basic rules you must follow. You must be at least 62 to apply, and it is also necessary for you to continue paying property taxes and other upkeep costs for as long as the loan lasts too.

What are the Benefits?
The reverse mortgage process is so different that it can feel for a time like you do not have a mortgage at all! Due to how how reverse loan contracts work you can spend the money you receive your way. You are free of the worry of making repayment in a set amount of time, as a reverse mortgage does not have a loan period, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead the loan lasts for as long as you remain the primary owner of and a resident in your house. So in theory it could last forever as long as you don't move house.

Another great benefit of a reverse mortgage is you can select how you want to receive your payments. You can choose ongoing equal payments for a period of time, a line of credit you draw from as needed, or a one-time large payment. The latter option is handiest when you have a major immediate expense to deal with, such as car issues or an injury. In some cases, you can use a combination of those options, meaning that you have total borrowing freedom and can choose what suits your current situation!

This is a collaborative post.

Our Year, 2019

4.1.20

Happy New Year, and happy new decade!

I love to start of every new year with a round up of the previous year, so of course the year 2020 is no different. You can read my roundups of 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 here, and of course read on to read all about our rather wonderful 2019!


January

We started the year with a very exciting celebration as Lilah turned one! We of course did our tradition of a cake smash for her 1st birthday, and spent her actual birthday opening presents and feeding the animals at a little farm.


I didn't even remember writing this post with my goals for the year. I achieved a couple of them - taking Lilah to a toddler group, completing the Me and Mine and Siblings projects, and I definitely saved as much as I could. But I think the fact I forgot about it speaks volumes... I won't be setting any goals this year for sure!

February

We worked with Gousto a couple of times in 2019. The boxes definitely sparked something in me and Jack and we've cooked *mostly* from scratch ever since. Probably not anything big for most, but we were definitely stuck in a rut of jars and convenience, so it made a huge different for us.


We successfully took our Me and Mine pictures in our 'spot' for the 4th year in a row. We've come down to this fallen tree in Knole Park for the last 4 years now, and you bet we'll be back next month to take it again. It's such a fun way to watch our family grow.

Valentine's Day of course falls in February, and Jack and I had a weekend away to Reading in 2019. It was mostly baby free, Lilah came with us for the trip and was actually really well behaved.

March

March was a relatively quiet one. I worked with one of my favourite brands Jo Jo Maman Bebe, had a super chilled Mother's Day, and we joined in with our very first World Book Day. Indie was Kittie Lacy the Fairytale Hairdresser which was so simple to do but Indie absolutely loved it. Not sure how I'm going to be able to create two exciting costumes this year!


April

The very beginning of month we celebrated Jack's birthday - a game of bowling that will always be remembered for Lilah crying throughout.


Over the Easter holidays we went on a big family holiday to Somerset. Haven holidays are some of my favourite memories of my childhood so it was amazing to take my little family along with both of my sisters and their families. It was chaos at times, but definitely a holiday that we will remember for years to come.

We actually had amazing weather over the Easter weekend, so we had an egg hunt in the garden, headed to the beach (where the tide promptly came in and ruined our sandcastle plans), and hosted a family bbq complete with paddling pool. Perfect!



May

Of course one the most exciting parts of the year was bringing home our kitten Belle. I remember Jack bringing her home and surprising the littles, and all of us falling in love with her instantly. She's settled into our family so well and grown a whole lot since May.


We went down the woods to hunt down the bluebells for our annual Siblings photos in May too. Always a highlight of the year!


June

I'm not sure I've mentioned it on here? But in June we of course spent the most amazing 5 days in Disneyland Paris! Rides, food, fireworks, and all the Disney characters. Of course it was exhausting, but I already want to go back.




I started my weight loss journey with Slimming World in June too. I'm not sure what gave me the push, but I'm so glad I did it. I've lost over 2 stone so far and already feel so much more confident and happy within myself. I've still got a little bit further to go, but I'm excited with how far I've come so far.

We were also lucky enough to a fab weekend away at Alton Towers as part of our work with Konfidence this month too. All 5 of us absolutely loved splashing about in the water park, and the weather was absolutely amazing during our time in the theme park too. A special whirlwind trip for sure.




July

Indie completed her first year at school and Parker finished Preschool forever in July. It felt like the end of an era when Parker left preschool, as he's known everyone there since he was 1. Lilah will be starting there by the end of the year though which is actually a little crazier to think about!

With the summer holidays upon us, we of course created our Summer bucket list. I love these as it gives the littles and I things to look forward to over the 6 weeks (especially as I usually cheat and just add things on there that we already have planned). We only missed one thing this year which I think is pretty good going.


We (mostly) enjoyed the heatwave during the end of the month too. We made the most of the garden and ate all the ice creams, but as always, it was a little bit too hot wasn't it?

August

We celebrated Parker's 4th Birthday with a trip to Chessington and a party at a trampoline park with his friends. I turned 26 and celebrated with a weekend away and a trip to Colchester Zoo - someone we NEED to visit again in 2020.

We had so many amazing days out over the summer holidays, including The Transport Museum, outdoor cinema, Kent Life for ice creams, strawberry picking, the maize maze, National Trust properties, and all of the parks. Indiana completed the reading challenge, and we enjoyed many lazy pjs days at home.





August was also a very difficult month for our family, as my beautiful nan passed away in August. The last few weeks of the month were a bit of a blur, but actually rather wonderful as our whole family rallied together to support each other. She's now twinkling in the stars watching over us, and both Indie and Parker love pointing to the brightest star and saying it's great nanny saying hello.

September

September was a very exciting month as Indiana started in year 1, and Parker started school! With him only just turning 4 a few weeks earlier it was such a different experience to when Indie started the year before. But he has settled in so well, has a lovely group of friends and is really into learning already.


With both of the big two at school full time, it's just been me and Lilah for most of the week since September. It's so lovely getting quality time just the two of us, and I've finally started taking her to a toddler group too.

October

Jack and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary on October 2nd, with plenty of yummy food and a rare date night - it's not often someone volunteers to have all three overnight so this was huge and extremely appreciated.

Of course October marked the true start of Autumn so of course we enjoyed allll of the delights - crunchy leaves, cosy days at home (it rained A LOT), and lots of puddle jumping. Jack was off over half term too, so we had a super busy but amazing week. We went our annual trip to the Pumpkin Patch, enjoyed Halloween at Kent Life and Godstone Farm, and of course went trick or treating - Lilah's very first time!



November

We celebrated Bonfire Night by doing our very first sparklers at home - who knows, maybe next year we'll do our own display!


Indiana turned 6 at the end of the month, which was actually timed perfectly with the release of Frozen 2. I took her and a few friends to see the film, and then we had lunch and cake out after. It made me realise just how grown up she's getting, especially seeing her giggling with her girl friends.


We also kicked off the Christmas festivities by visiting the Bedgebury Christmas Light Trail again. Such a magical evening, and although I didn't think it was as good as last year, we all still absolutely loved it.


December

We had all the festive fun in December that comes with having school aged children. Putting up the tree and picking new decorations, watching Indie and Parker's school nativity, writing and posting our letters to Father Christmas (and seeing the big man himself), and of course eating all of the yummy food!

This was then followed by the best Christmas ever. All three of the littles were really into everything this year and it made everything just that much more magical. I'm not sure how long we can keep them all believing, but I hope it's for many more years to come.




And this year we ended with a National Trust walk at our favourite place Knole Park. We then came home for yummy food, let the big two stay up to watch a movie (and last years fireworks on the tv), and saw in the new year on the sofa with snacks. It was low key but lovely.

It was a mostly wonderful year, packed full of so many wonderful memories and milestones. We lost someone incredibly special, but I think that has just spurred me on to try and enjoy every single moment. Time passes far too quickly, and my little family is growing and changing every single day! I'm not sure what 2020 has in store for us yet, but I know it will be an adventure - one I look forward to sharing just like this next year!

Dealing with Different Types of Pain Effectively

There is no denying that no one likes being in pain. Even just the slightest discomfort can make a huge difference to how you are feeling both physically and mentally, and can really ruin your day. In this blog post I am going to take a look at 3 common types of pain, and share some simple ways to help you to cope with them.


Trapped Nerves
Trapped nerves can be a great source of discomfort to anyone that is suffering from them. The use of the word ‘trapped’ can be quite misleading though, as the nerves do not actually get trapped in the way the language leads us to believe, rather they get pressed on, inflamed or irritated. This then produces a wide variety of symptoms including pain, weakness, numbness and pins and needles, all of which tend to occur in the leg or the arm.

It is vital to book an appointment with an experienced physiotherapist as soon as possible if you think you are suffering with this, as they will ensure the pressure on the nerves is released quickly, preventing anymore damage and pain. You can also click here to find out more about the different types of medication that are available to help as well. 

Professionals use a wide variety of approaches to ensure pain is alleviated, this includes strengthening exercises, stretching, flexibility exercises, electrotherapy, massage and much more. This combined with medication is typically the most effective. Your specialist will also provide you with all of the advice and education you need to manage the condition effectively at home, as self-care is one of the most important aspects when it comes to any type of recovery.

Groin Strain
A groin strain occurs when one of your groin muscles has been ruptured or torn. There are several signs and symptoms you should look out for if you think you could be suffering from a groin strain, including groin tenderness, groin pain, pain when stretching, muscle tightness and muscles spasms. 

Again the best thing to do is get in touch with a specialist physiotherapist. There are several different techniques therapists may use when treating a groin strain, including strengthening exercises, ice or heat application, flexibility exercises, massage, electrotherapy and more. Once the treatment has been carried out, you can expect the physiotherapist to provide you with all of the information you require to manage the condition effectively at home too. They will also answer any questions you may have and give you an estimated timescale for recovery too. 

Sports Leg Injury
There are generally two ways that people can suffer a sporting injury to the leg; the first is a traumatic injury (a fall or another type of sudden incident), and the second type is pain that occurs because you have placed too much strain on your tendons or muscles (through overuse, repetitive activities or too much force). Whether it’s an overuse injury or a trauma injury, there are many different ways your condition can present itself and there are many parts of the leg that could potentially be damaged, which is why the diagnosis stage is so important. 

There are a whole host of different techniques you can use during the treatment of your leg, including deep tissue massage, strengthening exercises, flexibility exercise, joint mobilisation, dry needling, ice or heat application, core stability exercises and much more. Of course again, seeing a specialist is the best way to a smooth and quick recovery.

This is a collaborative post.


Achieve the Perfect Themed Wedding

2.1.20

A large amount of effort and money goes into turning your wedding dreams into a reality. So of course you want to make each and every aspect of your big day is super special. A great way of making sure everything is special and works together, is by choosing a theme for your wedding. Whether this is based on a certain colour, season or style, it can be as extravagant or low key as you like. 

This it will not only make everything look good together, but it also makes decision making a lot easier too. So, if you want to know more about how you can stick to a theme for your big day, then read on as I'm going to be sharing some top tips for picking the theme of your wedding. 


Outfits and Accessories
The outfits and accessories that you, your partner and guests opt for can either add to or subtract from your overall theme. The colour you choose can be tied into your big day within the bridesmaids dresses, flowers, ties and pocked squares, and of course table linen. You can even ask your guests to stick to your chosen colour or theme, by giving a strict dress code within your invites. Don’t be afraid to do this as after all it’s your day, and they will no doubt be more than happy to help you make the most of it.

You can also make an effort to style yourself in the appropriate way with accessories and such, for example adding a luxurious white faux fur shawl to your outfit for a winter wonderland wedding, or adding a vintage hair piece for a 1920s style wedding. It’s likely that you also have control over what your bridesmaids will be wearing, so be sure to search for bridesmaids dresses with varieties of colours to find out what will really boost your theme. 

Styling your Venue
The venue that you choose and the style changes that you make are so important. Opting for a blank room and not providing or requesting any specific design changes will definitely ruin any theme you have gone with. Alternatively, finding an extravagant location that goes perfectly with your chosen style, such as a castle for a fairytale wedding, will be such an amazing feature that really improves the overall experience for both you and your guests.


Adding some extra features to your venue will help you to create a more unique and enjoyable space. Whether this be in the form of elegant chair covers and personalised name place cards to take dining to the next level, or disco lights and other party features that can help you to get the night started. Whatever you do make sure to be consistent throughout. There's no point picking a certain theme and then not really going for it - go big or go home I say.

Perfecting your wedding theme couldn’t be simpler when you make the most of the creative steps detailed above. Start with your outfit and accessories, and continue with your venue by making your own design changes. And have the most magical day!

This is a collaborative post.