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Simple Ways to Make Money Online

With a young family to support, finding ways to save and, more importantly, make money is always at the top of my to-do list.  Making money online is one of the quickest and easiest ways to boost a household income.  I have tried a number of things in the past; here are some that have worked for me:

Setting up a blog – If you have something to say and are looking for a platform, setting up a blog could be the way to go.  Making money in this way takes time, effort, patience and tenacity; it certainly won’t become a profitable business overnight.  This means that you really need to start by being keen to write about things that interest you.  This could be parenting, travel, arts and crafts, anything really – if you are passionate about your subject, the readers, and subsequently the financial rewards, will follow in due course.

Being a secret shopper – sign up to a secret shopping agency and regular opportunities to undertake assignments will drop into your inbox.  It can be anything from enjoying a meal in a pub to asking for mortgage advice – no two assignments are the same and there is a fee available for completing each one.  Granted, it isn’t a huge amount of money, but every little helps!

Selling clothes your children have grown out of – whether it be via a Facebook group or eBay, selling preloved children’s clothing is a huge market.  Investing in higher quality items for your little ones, such as clothes from Next, Boden and Little Bird by Jools, can pay dividends when it comes to the resale value; excellent condition second-hand Boden clothing, for example, can sell for almost as much as they cost new.  However, bundles of non-branded clothing in good condition can also sell really well, so the key is to take care of any items your children wear (easier said than done, I realise).  It is perfectly possible, and relatively easy, to set up a profitable online business buying and selling preloved clothing, though there are a couple of salient points to consider first.  Initially, it is useful to research delivery options; regularly sending packages means that you really need a fast, reliable and cost-effective service (I use TNT Express and can highly recommend).  If you are making money in this way, you will also need to register as self-employed in order to declare your earnings.  Read up on this here.

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Do you have any other suggestions?  I would love to hear them!

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London With Children – Ten Things to Do

We love our visits to London and are lucky to live about 90 minutes away by train so can easily go up for the day. Yes, it’s always busy and can be hectic if you have to navigate the underground at all, but every trip is worthwhile.  Here are ten of our favourite things to do in London with children.

Ripleys Believe It Or Not

Fun and funky, there’s something for everyone at Ripleys, with the new Alice in Wonderland segment, crazy art gallery, unusual history room, and lots of record breakers.  Tickets are on the expensive side and it’s not an activity that will fill a whole day, but it is definitely worth a visit.

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Paddington Station

Worth a photograph if you’re passing through, particularly if your little ones are fans of the furry fella.

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Buckingham Palace

Standing outside the Queen’s house is invariably a highlight of every London trip, so the time we actually went inside (well, into the courtyard, anyway) was a definite hit.  A short visit ideal for kids aged 5 and over.

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London Aquarium

If you can, try and visit off-peak as queues here can get ridiculous, meaning once you’re inside there’s little scope to actually stop and looking at anything due to the sheer volume of visitors.  Miss J loved doing the behind the scenes tour last year, and the sharks are always a highlight for the boy.

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National Portrait Gallery

Great for budding artists, this gallery often has free family activities – when we visited, Miss J was given a sketch book to draw her favourite pictures in.  It kept her nice and quiet meaning I could actually have a good look round too!

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London duck tour

If you ever want to amaze your children, surprise them with a ride on one of these buses – the look on their faces when it drives into the water will be well worth it!  We did this at the weekend and had a great time.  Our guide was very funny and informative though admitted he deviated from the usual speech as his only audience was us (two adults and three children) and two Italian girls who didn’t really understand him anyway.  Both he and the driver were very patient with the children who wanted to ask lots of (not always sensible) questions and move around to see out of various windows.
Prices for this start at £24 for an adult.  Thoroughly recommended to see the sights and learn a bit about them along the way.

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Imperial War Museum

Free entry and no queues make this museum a popular choice for families.  Obviously, some of the subject matter is not suitable for younger children (there is currently a holocaust exhibition with a recommended minimum age of 14) but there are plenty of things for them to do regardless.  Unfortunately, we only had time to explore one area when we visited last weekend, and that was the WW1 exhibition.  There was lots of learning to be done for us all, including several interactive displays for the children.  One of their favourites parts was the dress up area.  We have already decided to visit again soon as there are many, many more areas we would like to see.

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The Shard

Another expensive attraction, but one that offers the best views in London in our opinion.  Shorter queues than the Eye and easy to get to with little ones as it is situated right by the nearest tube station.

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Ghostbuster Tour

A bus tour with a difference where you will learn all the dark and horrid secrets of London!  Our tour was specifically for children though I am unsure if regular tours are suitable.

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Thames River Cruise

I love a good river cruise, having enjoyed them in Paris and Amsterdam, and London is no exception.  The guides are generally fun and informative and love to answer questions from children.  Discount London has some great deals and is well worth a look if you’re in search of a bargain.

river cruiseI would love to hear your suggestions of things to do in London with children; if you have any that differ to ours, please leave them below.

3 Benefits of Gardening

Gardening can enhance many different aspects of life for different people; for some, it’s an opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise, others may use it as a social tool (allotments lend themselves to this aspect rather nicely).  In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about encouraging children to grow their own food to educate and promote healthy lifestyle choices; this also comes under the gardening bracket.  Here are three major benefits of gardening:

Health benefits

The physical health benefits of gardening have been publicised at length for a number of years now, and are just as relevant as ever, while the mental health benefits are lesser known. Gardening is proven to lower stress levels, which can aid sleep, reduce the effects of anxiety and depression and can even help lower the risk of dementia by 36%!

Saving money

Growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs can save a lot of money and is also a healthier option as you know exactly what you’re eating.  Cooking from scratch is a great way of saving money, as opposed to relying on packets and jars, and using homegrown, fresh produce means you are more likely to go down this route in the kitchen.

Community and social

Lending your green-fingered skills to community projects is a fun way to meet new people and, you never know, maybe even make new friends!  If you don’t have a garden, taking on an allotment is also a good way to make friends with like-minded people with whom you share a hobby.  Getting children involved in allotment gardening is also a fantastic way to bring the family together and close the generation gap between grandparents and grandchildren.

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All of the evidence points to gardening being a brilliant hobby – what are you waiting for?

Camping with Kids – the Essentials

Camping with kids can initially sound like a crazy thing to even attempt; I mean, several days spent in the countryside with zero screen time, a bed filled only with air, reduced meal options and potentially questionable facilities – why would you?

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Well, it’s cheap and cheerful, for starters, and there are a thousand stunning places to explore in the UK alone.  Getting back to nature is proven to help children learn and focus, lots of fresh air means they are more than ready for bed at bedtime, and spending quality time as a family, without the distractions that are abundant at home, provides an excellent opportunity to bond as a unit.

To make the whole camping process run as smoothly as possible, it is important to do like the Scouts and be very well prepared.  Here, I have collated a number of essential items as well as a few extras that can make a whole World of difference:

SLEEPING

A good night’s sleep, I’m sure we can all agree, is a must for any holiday.  After all, nobody wants to deal with cranky children when they’re struggling to stay awake themselves.  Camping is, obviously, not going to be quite as comfy as staying in a hotel or being in your own bed at home, but there are ways of making the best of it.  Use a ground mat topped with a good quality air bed and finally a sleeping bag and pillows.  For children, I would recommend a Snuggle Sac or Grobag.  The Snuggle Sac is a warm, cosy sleeping bag with inbuilt pillow case, perfect for camping.  The Grobag, suitable from birth to 6 years, are great for keeping little ones safe from suffocation and can even be worn in the car, with space for the seat belt within the material.

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Battery-operated night lights or fairy lights are a must for children, as well as torches (head-torches are genuinely amazing for camping!) for those night-time wake ups and toilet trips. Remember to pack any teddies or blankets that help your child to settle at night too, as well as a plastic box to keep them dry when they aren’t being used.

COOKING

A gas stove is a camping essential alongside extra gas canisters.  There are a huge range available but, for a weekend away, something basic is absolutely fine.  With a double ring, you would be amazed at what you can actually cook on a camping stove – from beans on toast (yes, you can get a camping toaster) and hot dogs right the way through to full English if you fancy it!  You can also pick up a camping kettle (perfect for that early morning caffeine fix) from as little as £6. Don’t forget to pack pots and pans, cooking implements, oil and seasoning, and plastic storage tubs in case you want to cook something up one morning to take out on a picnic that day.

EATING

Tinned food (and drinks; hello gin in a tin) are ideal for camping and it is advisable to base as many meals around cans of food as possible.  Avoid any perishable food items where possible and freeze milk and drinks before you leave; this will not only extend their own life but they will act as extra ice packs in your all-important cool box.  Invest in a sturdy folding table and chairs for mealtimes and pack a couple of picnic blankets for extra dining space.  Plastic cutlery, plates, bowls and cups are must-buys too, while a drinks dispenser, like this one from Tesco, would certainly come in handy for the kids to help themselves.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

A first aid kit is an absolute must when camping at all, but particularly with children.  Add plenty of liquid paracetamol and ibuprofen, Dioralyte, Bonjela, extra plasters, bite and sting relief sprays, insect repellents and lots of sun cream.  Remember to pack sunhats for everyone as there may not be a lot of shade available (particularly if you are camping by the sea or at a festival) and take portable water bottles so you’re never without a drink.  It is also advisable to find out the details of the nearest A&E to where you are staying, just in case…

MISC ESSENTIALS

  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Dry shampoo
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Washing up liquid, scourers and a tea towel
  • Waterproof table cloth
  • Storage boxes to house items overnight to avoid them getting damp
  • Towels and shower gel
  • Travel board games/books/audio books/MP3 player/pens and paper/other games in case boredom sets in
  • Portable power banks to keep mobile phones charged up
  • Blankets/shawls in case of cooler weather
  • Matches
  • Mallet
  • Lots of loo roll…

Have I missed anything out?  I would love to hear your “camping with kids” suggestions in the comments.

End of Term Teacher Gift Ideas

In a fortnight’s time, my chicks will be back in the nest for the summer; a notion that fills me with equal measures of warmth and dread.  For now, though, their days are marked by reports and sports days and special assemblies and choir practices.  This means that there is not much time left to source a special teacher gift.  Now, you may not buy gifts for your child’s teacher, and that’s fine, but definitely hang around as some of the items I’ve found are great for other occasions too.  And if you do like to send along a token of your appreciation on the last day of term, and you’ve yet to find a suitable offering this year, I’ve found a handful of beauties.  I’ll start with the gifts I’ve chosen for the teachers of my own children and finish off with a few other gems.

Personalised Wine Label from Milabel (Etsy)

These labels are one of the best discoveries I’ve ever made online and their appeal never dulls.  I’ve bought two of these this year – one for my son’s teacher and one for his TA – and they are just brilliant.  Amusing, cute, very, very true and you attach them to a bottle of wine; what’s not to love?

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These cost £3.50 each or £6 for two and arrived the morning after I ordered them, making them absolutely ideal for all your last-minute panic-buying needs.  The wine is obviously sold separately and can be tailored to individual tastes as these labels will fit any standard bottle.  Order them here.

Personalised Print from Corkymandle

For Jasmine’s teacher we went for something a little more traditional with a beautiful personalised print from Corkymandle.

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Excuse the poor quality picture, it is a million times nicer in real life, just tricky to photograph.  There are a number of hairstyles and colours to choose from as well as the choice of shorts or skirt and seven jumper colours.  The text can be personalised to reflect your child and their teacher and the overall effect, I think, is lovely.  The print is on the more expensive side; an email copy will set you back £18 with a simple mounted print (what I went for) costing £25 and framed prints going all the way up to an eye-popping £58.  I would suggest going for the mounted print and framing it yourself.  These prints can be ordered here.

Sweary Pencils from Proper Post

To supplement my son’s teacher’s wine, I have bought a pack of sweary pencils from Proper Post natch.  I personally think that every adult gift should include these stationery essentials and would actually love a set of my very own.WhatsApp-Image-2016-11-22-at-18.40.27-600x600

Tell me you don’t love them too?!

Each pack costs £6, which I think is excellent value, and can be purchased here.

Grammar Pencils from NewtonAndTheApple (Etsy)

If you think that the mere sight of a fuck or bollocks will propel your child’s teacher into a state of shock or disgust, you may prefer to consider these, frankly amazing, pencils instead.  Each one features a common grammar mistake and the entire set costs £7.50.

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I am considering grabbing myself a set of these, self-confessed grammar nerd that I am.  They would be a good addition to any child’s back-to-school stationery haul as well, though I personally think they’re much too good for children 😉

These beauties can be bought here.

Other Stationery

I’m not a teacher (obviously) but I imagine they get through a shit load of stationery every year; diaries, notebooks, pins and clips, pencils, pens, paper, etc.  And even if they don’t, everyone likes pretty new stationery, right?

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I don’t think you can go far wrong with anything from Paperchase or, if you like your pens and pencils scented, Smiggle.

Citrus Potted Plant, Ikea

For something a little different, a succulent or other houseplant could be a nice option.  I particularly love this citrus plant from Ikea; it’s just £20 and looks gorgeous.

Happy Gift Hunting

 If you have any ideas to add to my suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.