Monday, 10 December 2018

7 festive activities for the whole family

It is only the beginning of December and we are already in full swing for Christmas over here! The snow came in and each day just feels magical. This time of year is all around so special and what I love the most is that it sets the perfect environment forextra family time and bonding. 

So I thought I’d share here 7 festive activities that you can do as a whole family: 

1. Watch Christmas themed movies
My family loves a movie night. Make it a Christmas-themed movie night and it is just that much more special. We love flipping on the indoor Christmas lights, settling in in the festive living roombaking some type of treat, getting cosy on the couch under some blankets, and watching a film all together. Luckily, there are plenty of Christmas-themed movies to choose from on sites like to sustain our Christmas themed movie nights that last the whole month of December

2. Make a gingerbread house
Making a gingerbread house brings everyone back to days as a kid, whether or not they even remember making oneIt is so fun to create and decorate a gingerbread house side by side next to your family and laugh along as everyone puts his or her own spin to the projectYou can even make some gingerbread men too and decorate them to represent each member of your family! 

3. Make your own tree ornaments
While Christmas trees are so often decorated by store-bought ornaments, my favourites are the ones that my kids have created for our tree. There are memories attached to them and when they are young adults, I know it will be a kick for everyone to look back on their creationsBe sure to write the year it was created on the bottom so you’ll always remember when each cute ornament was made! 

4. Volunteer/Donate to charity
This is the time of year for giving, so giving back is so important to remember and teach your kids. There are many ways to give back, have your kids think about a cause that is important to them and go from there. If your kids want to help the homeless population, for example, you can volunteer at a soup kitchen. Or you can donate some clothes, toysor money to a local shelter. There are plenty of ways to give back! 

5. Holiday lights tours
The holiday lights during this time of the year are gorgeous. You can pack up some tea or hot chocolate and set out for a fun filled tour to see all the holiday lights in your area. Many neighbourhoods have underlying ‘competitions’ for the best decorated home and there are often festive tours put on cities themselves, some even on a train! 

6. Sing Christmas carols
Christmas music is a great way to connect and have fun with each other and your community. You can go carolling around your neighbourhood or even head over to a nursing home to share the Christmas cheer.  

7. Write a letter to Father Christmas 
Writing a letter to Father Christmas gives kids the opportunity to be creative and think about what they want, while also giving parents the opportunity to teach their kids how to write a letter and encourage empathy and include other people (such as a friend or less-fortunate child) in their letter. Remember to have your kids plan ahead of time for what they want to put on their Christmas wish list. This way, they learn organisational skills and Father Christmas gets the letter in time with plenty of time to prepare!After all, he and his elves have millions of kids to prepare presents for! 

The memories you make as a family during this time of year will stay with your children forever. They will always have the “my family did ‘xx’ during Christmas”, so do all the festive activities you want, create traditions, and make memories that you will carry with you always. 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

4 Factors to Consider When Buying a Summer House Online

The rapid pace of online expansion seems it will go on forever, and there is hardly anything that can’t  e put in a virtual shopping cart, purchased, and despatched. Shopping online is, for many consumers, the only way to go, yet there are some important factors to consider before taking your virtual shopping cart to the checkout, and here are just a few. 

1. The Right Web Security – One thing you can instantly check is the website address, which should begin with HTTPS – and the S stands for “secure site”, which is one sign that the supplier has a registered business. The truth is, there is an element of risk when buying garden summer houses online, as you have not the opportunity to physically inspect the product prior to making the purchase, and the best solution to this, is to use the website as a guide, and if you like what you see, take note of the physical address of the company – if that is not visible, it should set off alarm bells in your head – and make an appointment to view the summer house when erected in an outdoor environment. 

2. Visit the Supplier’s Trading Premises – If the supplier has nothing to hide, they will advertise the fact that they have a bricks and mortar premises, where you can actually view the summer house in all its glory, and if, for any reason, this is not possible, simply move on, as there are established online suppliers who also have a large business premises where the customer can inspect the units.

3. Independent Customer Reviews – One cannot trust testimonials that are not verifiable, as anyone can make up a long list of wonderful testimonials and post them on their website. There are many independent review organisations that have no preference either way, and they typically work on a 5- tar rating, and you should look for anything above 4.5 to be sure they are as good as they say they are. This means that any company that is not up to scratch is easily identified, and as the supplier has no control over the ratings system, it offers the consumer some hard facts about the company’s overall service. 

There is an informative article that examines the importance of online reviews, which should help you to understand the need for this. 

4. Established and Experienced – Avoid any new companies, as there is a much greater risk of ending up dissatisfied, and a summer house is hardly a small ticket item. Ideally, their website would have a lot of useful information about how the units are made, including the type of timber used. Nordic timber is the best, as it grows very slowly in the cold climate, and this makes the wood very dense and less likely to split or crack. 

Buying anything online has an element of risk attached, and a summer house is something you really need to see assembled, and viewing a few images is in no way sufficient evidence of quality. While it is wise to start your search for a supplier online, this must be followed up with a visit to their premises, where you can actually experience the unit prior to making a decision.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Create a magical Christmas Eve for your children

UK Christmas Snow

Today is the 12th day of Christmas, and what a December it has been so far. The 10th day saw the snow arrive and 2 days later we are still nestling inside as the snow has turned to ice. There is something truly magical about snow falling in December, it doesn't happen very often, in fact the last time it did was 6 years ago while I was pregnant with Leo. I can remember it vividly, the snow stuck to the ground and there was still a blanket of it on Christmas Day, it may have been frozen into place but it was there nonetheless. 

This year I am feeling incredibly festive, whether it's because of the snow or because I have been so out of characterly organised... I don't quite know. All I do know is that this year, for the first time ever, the presents are almost wrapped (before Christmas Eve!) and my blog to do list is looking rather amazing. 

This means that my focus can now fall upon the magic of Christmas, and this will all begin on Christmas Eve. We have some annual Christmas Traditions in our house, they range from small to the not so small, and it will start with a trip on the Santa Express on December 24th. It is something that we have done since Leo was a little baby in arms (just shy of 6 months to be precise), and it is something that have done every year since (apart from last year because it all sold out very quickly!), but we are back for Christmas 2017!

Magic Santa Key

Leo doesn't know yet, it is going to be a big surprise that is announced on the morning of Christmas Eve. The tickets will be arriving by Elf (Emmanuel and Sam if you haven't already met them!), they will also return are magic key just in time for the man in red's arrival! If you don't have a chimney like us, then a key to let Santa Claus into your house is the next best thing, we leave ours out on Christmas Eve hung on our front door. It's a big old brass key that used to belong to my Granddad once upon a time, and now it comes out once a year (now covered in gold glittery paint), and it holds that extra special meaning, because although my Granddad passed away this year, he is still a big part of our Christmas.

You can purchase your own Santa Key at the Pesonalised Gifts Shop

Christmas Eve Box

I am in the process of preparing Leo's Christmas Eve Box, and this always includes something sweet so he can enjoy the festive television after a busy day out on the train, a new pair of PJ's to snuggle down in and a book for bedtime. This year will be no different, along with the train tickets and Santa Key, Leo will receive his Christmas Eve Pack by the means of Elf delivery. 

After an evening of watching The Snowman and the Snowdog (and whatever other Christmas television is broadcast), Leo will set up the little treats for Santa and his Reindeer. We then head upstairs and read The Night Before Christmas. This is another one of our little traditions that we all love, and to this day is still one of my personal favourite books. 

It won't be long before the big day arrives, and for me this year feels like it is the very height of the magic. I am determined to make it a very special one for my little man. He has composed and sent his Christmas list to Father Christmas and he is very much looking forward to opening his sleepy eyes on Christmas Morning. 

This year will definitely be one to remember, in the meantime though here is a flashback to last Christmas.

Creating a Blog Logo with Logojoy - Review

Blog Logo with Logojoy

The Life and Times of The working Mum is my original blog baby, I started writing back in 2011 when I was pregnant with Leo (who is now 6 whole years old!), it's quite scary where the time goes isn't it? I have always loved writing, there was a time during my school life where I longed to become a journalist, but somewhere along the way I talked myself down. 

My love for writing stayed strong though, and I continued to write. For me I have always found it hard to voice myself and have always found it easier to write my emotions instead of speak them. I don't know what it is? Whether it is because I have longer to think about what I want to say, or whether because you can delete what you have written once the words have been typed onto the document, where as once the words have left your mouth there isn't a fat lot that you can do to retrieve them (apart from apologise of course). 

I think ultimately it does come down to that, you can take your time when you are writing and if it doesn't reflect what you want it to say, you can amend it until it matches your version of perfect. That doesn't mean to say that it is perfect, but it is exactly what you wanted to say at that moment in time. I guess it is for this reason that I would much rather text or email than talk on the phone, because not only do you get that extra leeway in your correspondence, but you also have that paper trail that sometimes proves essential.

When you think about blogging though, you often don't think about the nitty gritty thinks that one needs to consider. When I started blogging (all of those years ago now), I only ever really though about the content that I was creating. I wasn't writing for anyone in particular it was just my personal space to write about all of those many thoughts that were running through my mind, mainly in regards to being a first time parent, and then eventually being a full time working Mum (hence the blog name!). 

Over the course of the last 6 years though, my working direction has taken numerous different courses, and in result of that so has this here blog. I have recently spent some time designing a new logo for The Life and Times of The Working Mum, and it got me thinking about the many new blogs that are popping up all of the time. It got me thinking about what I didn't know when I started, and one of those aspects was how important having a consistent brand behind you really is. 

I used Logojoy to create my new logo, it was very simple and straightforward to do so (and if I can do it, so can you). What I really liked about Logojoy was that you didn't need to know anything about graphic design (which I don't!), I found the process very simple and easy to navigate, and I am really pleased with the end product.

I wanted to keep the new logo simple and to the point, and using Logojoy meant that I could achieve that. I started out by simply choosing logo designs that I liked the look of, then I was asked to pick 5 colours and 5 symobols, this was then all spliced together in a way to generate personal logo designs based on my blog name and theme. 

These logos were all presented to me and I could look through them, add more, favourite ones that I really liked the look of and even go through to edit them and add my own personal touch. Once in the edit screen I could amend the font, the colours, symbols and much more. I kept it simple and to the point, I wanted the logo to reflect what this blog as been about over the last 6 years, and that is about being a working parent. 

The logo is simple but is what this blog is all about, and lets face we all need a bit of simplicity in our lives (especially in the midst of the festive season!).

Blog Logo with Logojoy

Once you are happy with your logo you can through to purchase it, I thought that the prices were all very fair and ultimately provided me a quality logo that I can use throughout my blog and social media channels. I opted for the premium package that gave me quite a lot for $65.00, and was exactly what I needed going forward.

If you are looking for a new logo design for your company, or like myself a blog logo. I can highly recommend Logojoy for the job.

Monday, 11 December 2017

The 10th Day of Christmas - Snow!

The 10th Day of Christmas - Snow!

On the 10th day of Christmas the snow arrived, we had been hoping and wishing that it would. It's been a long time since we have had any real kind of significant snowfall. Leo was looking out of the window and asking me 'Is the ground going to fill up now Mummy' with a real hope in his eyes, so when we awoke on Sunday morning to find a blanket of the white stuff, we knew that we were in for one hell of a snow day.

We awake early, it was still dark outside and the snow continued to fall out of the sky that was still full of powdery magic. Admittedly I was as excited as Leo, if not only because it was the first time that Leo would actually remember seeing snow, and of course be able to have a real play (not to mention for the first time since 2010 the snow had arrived on the right side of Christmas!).

Snow had only ever arrived once in Leo's 6 years of life, and at 18 months old he can't really draw on the memories. So the great snow of 2017 is what Leo will remember as his very first experience with snow, and it was the day that we all got outside (the dog included!) to build snowmen and make the most of the snow day.

We wrapped up warm, slipped on our waterproof trousers, Leo dusted off his snow jacket and I snuggled into my luxury David Nieper coat. When we were all ready for the freezing temperatures that had arrived just outside our front door, we traipsed out into what can only be described as Narnia. 

The 10th Day of Christmas - Snow!

The snow falling in December instantly put you into a festive mood, it felt like Winter and Christmas had both arrived at the exact moment that the first flakes started to fall. Being the big kid that I am, I was the first person to start rolling the snowball that formed the basis of our rather large snowman Bert, and subsequently Bernie his little brother. I would love to say that the two snowmen that you see pictured were formed part of team work, but that would a lie. 

It was all my handy work!

The snow fell all day, it was truly a winter wonderland out there, and as I type this the snow may be starting to melt but it is still cold and crisp, and you would be forgiven for thinking you were in the midst of a snow globe. 

Not only was it Leo's first real snow experience, but it was also Lux's (our 18 month old Dalmatian puppy!). I have to admit that I thought the snow might be too much for Lux, he hates the cold you see and refuses to go outside if the temperature drops too far, but snow was something he was willing to get cold for, and he expressed this by refusing to come back inside. 

We took Lux for a dog walk nearby in the fields resembling a christmas card winter scene. We went with a neighbour and her young dog, and ended up walking around with a neighbour and her labrador from around the corner. All of the dogs were having the most wonderful time, they played among the snowflakes and jumped into deeper snow. They were soaking and cold but the happiness was ranking high on any measure that could be taken. 

The 10th Day of Christmas - Snow!

We spent hours out in the snow, we were cold on the outside but warm on the inside. Snow at Christmas time is one those things that will always bring a smile to your face, and I absolutely loved the excitement that it brought to not only my family but also the entire street that I live on. The snow brought everyone outside, and there was not a single soul without a smile on their faces. Everyone was feeling festive and merry, and snowmen popped up all along the street. There were people out in force walking their dogs even though the snow was still falling at an incredible rate. 

It felt magic and it felt like Christmas had come early.

When we finally came back inside and warmed our cold bodies, we pulled out a family board game and sat around on the floor until it was time for Leo to go to bed. It was the most wonderful end to the most wonderful day.

The 10th Day of Christmas - Snow!

Today the snow is still here, I was supposed to be in work. I awoke early and got the snow off the car, I drank my coffee and just before I was due to hit the road, my phone rang and a snow day was declared. Today Leo and I have walked the dog and we are now off to find the sledge (and brave the roads). While we are out we are going to pick up some mulled wine and a rather large trifle, and then we will return for sledge fun and another board game.

Because if you can't at Christmas when the snow is thick ground, when can you?

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Shopping for the man who has EVERYTHING

In recent months I have discovered a wonderful website, Uncommon Goods, you may be familiar with it? If you're not then it is something that I highly recommend having a look at (especially with the run up to Christmas coming around so quickly!). For some reason this year, I am feeling a little more organised about the impending festive season, I am yet to make a start in the Christmas shopping, but I have started making lists, and putting aside some funds to make a dent in the shopping lists. 

I have definitely been taking inspiration from the UncommonGoods gift selection, everything is just so unique. This was of course the aim when it was founded back in 1999, they wanted to bring us unique and one of a kind pieces. 

The gifts such as the jewelry, d├ęcor, tabletop items and handcrafted presents have all been created in harmony with our environment and without causing any harm to animals or our fellow human race. They are proud to be a founding B Corp. B Corporations use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems around the world, this means that they meet a rigorous standard on a wide range of issues, including wage levels, environmental impact, and giving back to the community.

This work ethic just makes me more inclined to put my business with them, I love that they are helping put back into the world and make a difference. 

I have added a few gifts to my basket over the last few days, and I thought it would be nice to share those with you here, in the hope that it might give you some inspiration for Christmas. Especially if you have someone particularly tricky to purchase for.

My other half is one of those people who I always find it impossible to purchase for. If he ever wants something, he just goes right out and purchases it, so when Christmas or Birthdays roll around, it always feels like there is nothing left to gift him. It does mean that I do have to really look outside the box, and that is why I fell in love with this Deep Sea Sand Art - a rather unique gift idea if there ever was one. 

Uncommon Goods

Luke has always loved things like this, something that little bit different, and I could already see this sitting in his flat beside the big world wide map that is mounted on the wall. The beautiful thing about this piece is that it is forever changing, it always looks slightly different. You can watch as the golden sand shifts into deserts, mountains, clouds, rain, oceans and smoke, as they all flow and drift into one another. 

Uncommon Goods placed their first order with Klaus Bosch's Sand Art back in January 2008, and it's been so popular over the years it has become a firm favourite. It is handmade in Austria, which in itself is pretty amazing, because it is quite simply not something you come across everyday. 

If you are looking for something different for your other half, you can see more gifts for men here.

Christmas may be creeping up on me AGAIN, but I vow that I will not be rushing around in December. I am going to make sure that my Christmas shopping is all wrapped up by the end of November, and then the festive fun can really begin!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Caffeine: The Health Benefits of Tea

The Health Benefits of Tea

Caffeine. The reason I can physically get out of bed in the morning. 

I can't be alone in opening my eyes and not really feeling awake (or with it for that matter) until the caffeine has got into my system, it's almost as though it has magic properties that can not only hold your eyelids open long enough to get the kids ready and out of the door (in time for school! Win!), but it also paints a smile on your face. It should almost have a warning on the packet saying 'WARNING - May cause good mood'.

Tea is the second most commonly consumed beverage in the world, only losing out to water and it's many natural, health and wellbeing benefits. A new report generated by the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) has collected some rather interesting details, there have always been fears about 'drinking too much caffeine' (is there really such a thing as too much?), turns out that it's been overhyped, and actually “Drinking four cups of tea daily is associated with heart health benefits, in particular reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.” says Lynne Garton, dietitian and member of the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP).

“Tea contains polyphenols, caffeine, fluoride and L-theanine, and remains an important source of hydration,” she adds. “Tea’s heart health benefits are related to its polyphenol content. Tea polyphenols help to relax the blood vessels so leading to control of blood pressure, and they protect ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol from being oxidized, which makes it less harmful.

Caffeine has always seemed to have a bad reputation in one way or another, but I personally think that if you are sourcing your intake from natural solutions such as tea, is it really a bad thing? There was a point for me where I used to drink a well known caffeinated fizzy drink like it was water, empty calories that really were not doing me any good at all, but now that I have bid a fond farewell to that habit, I won't punish myself for enjoying a well deserved cup of tea.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, independent dietitian and member of TAP says that “Despite being found in 60 different types of plants, caffeine often gets a bad rap, and our latest report which we are just about to publish, CAFFEINE: THE HEALTH ASPECTS OF TEA INVESTIGATED, provides a review of the latest data with findings that may be surprising."

“It shows that caffeine improves mood, increases alertness, and reduces the sense of tiredness and pain. The weight of evidence is so strong that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) thinks that certain levels of caffeine in healthy drinks and foods should be able to make a series of health claims.”

Dr Tim Bond (member of TAP) continues: “All too often caffeine is linked in people’s minds with increased urine output yet research has shown that healthy adults would need to drink 5-8 cups of tea at once to experience bladder effects, such as more frequent toilet trips. In addition, EFSA has concluded that caffeine intakes from all sources up to 400 mg per day do not give rise to safety concerns for healthy adults in the general population.

“EFSA’s advice clearly shows that caffeinated drinks can be enjoyed by a wide range of age groups. That means that children aged 4 years and over can safely drink 1-2 mugs of milky unsweetened tea daily, while pregnant and lactating women can have up to 4 mugs of tea daily. Intakes of up to 400mg of caffeine daily are safe for adults enabling a maximum of 8 servings of tea to be consumed. This suggests that worries about moderate caffeine intakes from tea, particularly in pregnant women, new mothers or children, are unfounded.”

Dr Tim Bond adds: “Unlike many other sources of caffeine, tea only contains 40-50mg of caffeine per serving if using a tea bag. At this level of caffeine, a mild improvement in cognitive function would be expected without any risk of negative effects, such as sleep latency or anxiety which have been noted at higher intakes of more than 100mg per serving near to bedtime. Tea is also naturally sugar-free and is typically served with milk, making a small, but vital contribution to mineral intakes over time.”

Lynne Garton adds: “The health benefits of tea and its ingredients are increasingly well established. So, next time you put on the kettle for a brew, consider the amazing blend of natural plant compounds that you are about to drink, and the many benefits that science has unraveled for us.”

So next time you feel that you shouldn't have that one last cup of tea for the day, just have it, because if it makes you feel better why not?