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It’s an all-too-familiar refrain, sometimes occurring as early as 20 minutes into a journey and lasting for hours: “Are we there yet?” Bored kids, exasperated parents. No wonder we dread long car trips with young children.


According to this Daily Telegraph article, researchers commissioned by Disney discovered that, of 5,000 parents contacted, more than 80 per cent gave their young passengers a tablet such as an iPad loaded with games, films and other entertainment to keep them amused on lengthy trips. Fifty per cent of those surveyed said that they got up to an hour’s unbroken peace and quiet as a result. 


Just 20 per cent enjoyed the same amount of happy silence without the help of apps and electronic devices, with traditional time-killers like ‘I spy…’ on the way out. Only 14 per cent of parents quizzed found such games useful.


There are many tips you can employ to prevent you pulling your hair out the next time you hit the motorway. You can start well before even planning the next family holiday. When it’s time to buy a new family car, take your kids with you. When you get to T W White & Sons or other such dealers, explain the situation: you take long trips together as a family, you’re conscious the children get bored, what do you recommend for young travellers?


You might find a new car with in-built entertainment systems, a novel seating arrangement or a glass roof eases long journeys for those in the back and front seats. Here are six more ideas to try.


Audio books: Lots of parents swear by these. You can turn every journey into one of discovery both inside and outside the car. As the story of the BFG unfolds or the world of Harry Potter is detailed, kids can become engrossed while remaining engaged with the scenery flowing past the car windows.


A tablet: Not the sleeping kind, we hasten to add, but the sort made by the likes of Apple and Samsung. It’s an expensive answer, but incredibly flexible and will offer multiple attractions in one small package. Films, favourite cartoons, ebooks, games, art apps, even educational pastimes - when they get bored of one, they can move on to another. Pro tip: invest in some noise-insulating headphones. 


DIY games: Your kids could use those iPads or smartphones to snap photographs throughout the journey, ticking off a list you made prior to setting off. Include famous landmarks, towns, other types of car and then offer prizes at the end of the trip depending on how many subjects they snapped.


Plan plenty of exploration stops: You’re going to need to make loo breaks along the journey, so why not combine them with something more interesting for everyone? You could pull up in a new town, at a National Trust or English Heritage site or simply a spot with a fabulous view. 

Filling snacks: Invariably children get more irritated when they are hungry, so keep a ready supply of snacks to hand - but go easy on the Haribos. Instead, choose something that’ll take time to eat and releases energy slowly. Dried fruits and, for older children, nuts are good choices.


A good old-fashioned colouring book: Even adults are getting back into colouring books, but for kids, they hold near endless fascination.

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Christmas dinner – the most eagerly awaited meal of the entire calendar year and yet somehow, quite often, it’s the most underwhelming. All that build-up, all that expectation, all that expense, for what is essentially a roast dinner but on a larger, waist-busting scale – meat, two veg (sometimes three) and potatoes. It’s tasty, of course, but sometimes it can feel a bit predictable; especially if you’ve been making Christmas dinner the same way for decades.


If this scenario sounds familiar, time to break the habit! This year, why not shake things up a bit by throwing in a few Christmas dinner curveballs and jazzing up the traditional meal? Here’s how:


Spice up your roasties


There are a plenty of theories regarding the perfect way too cook roast potatoes but not enough emphasis on how to make spuds more exciting. Try this Jamie Oliver suggestion, via the Telegraph – add olive oil, garlic and red wine vinegar OR butter, clementine zest and fresh sage to your Christmas Day potatoes. Beats just plain vegetable oil hands down.


Get adventurous with veg


Traditional Christmas dinner veg nearly always includes Brussels sprouts and for some reason it might be the only day of the year the family choose to eat them. They’re a veg which can literally divide the household – while some love sprouts, some loathe them. Cooking them with diced bacon or pancetta can completely change the taste. If you’d prefer to keep your vegetables meat free, in this article, chef Pedro Samper suggests cooking sprouts with whole gloves of garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. The AO Christmas cookbook has further cooking tips.


Don’t choose turkey


Turkey doesn’t have to be on the menu at Christmas. It’s a tradition but not a rule and while it’s a lovely, lean meat some find it bland. Why not consider other alternatives? Goose has a stronger flavour and doesn’t tend to dry out so easily, while guinea fowl – cooked with roasted chestnuts, sprouts and bacon – can be a real show-stopper. Other people pleasers include a large ham hock or gammon joint, perhaps glazed with honey and studded with cloves.


If you absolutely swear by turkey, get creative and transform the taste. Nigella Lawson has a great recipe here for turkey breast stuffed with Italian sausage and marsala-seeped cranberries.


Focus on starters


It’s possible to revamp Christmas dinner by leaving the main course alone and cooking and presenting that in the traditional manner. If you’ve got that down to a fine art and don’t want to mess with a tried and tested routine, why not show off some with very different starters instead? Food Network have these 101 Christmas Starters including an Asian Prawn Cocktail from Masterchef champion Shelina Permaloo and a delicious gorgonzola, fig and prosciutto di Parma Bruschetta. The beauty of many of these is that they be prepared the day before and stored in the fridge (if you need something larger before Christmas head to therefore removing much of the stress on the big day itself.


These are just a few examples and ideas of how to jazz up a traditional Christmas dinner. There’s no excuse for eating the same meal year after year!

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With childhood obesity on the rise and ever-increasing temptations of unhealthy deliciousness from high street retailers, the battle for children’s hearts and minds can be difficult. A child usually prefers a fattening burger and chips whereas a parent would opt for fruit or nutritious snacks. Here are six ways to fight this particular war.


1. Interest your child in fruit

There is no magic wand to make your child fall in love with fruit. You could spark their interest by taking a look at the fruit trees for sale on Ashridge Trees website and try to introduce your child to gardening and the pleasures of picking fruit from a tree in the garden. If you extend this exercise to planting strawberries and other soft fruits, and encouraging your child to have their own special garden plot they might forget about sweets.


2. Vegetables don’t have to be boring

A plate of soggy cabbage is never inspiring for anyone. Encourage your child to fall in love with vegetables by experimenting with cooking styles and different types of vegetables. Writing in The Daily Mail the nutritionist Annabel Karmel revealed that over half the kids in the UK don’t have any vegetables at all and only 44% don’t eat fruit on a daily basis. Always praise your kids for eating their vegetables; also a little bribery won’t go amiss!


3. Try not to react to the moans

Tantrums in supermarkets when mums won’t buy sweets or cakes, sulks and moans at home when a child doesn’t get its own way are familiar behaviour patterns to all parents. In order to try and overcome these problems many experts agree that it’s best if the parents try not to show any reaction at all. Stuffing sweets into a child’s mouth to keep them quiet is never a solution. You will have to develop the patience of a saint but the child is demanding a reaction and if you don’t play ball, then they will eventually stop moaning or screaming.


4. Include your children when cooking

If you include your child in your meal planning and cooking, then you can explain the importance of nutrition and let them cook their own healthy dishes. An article in The Daily Telegraph suggests the more a child is involved in this process, the greater understanding they’ll develop about the importance of fruit and vegetables. Introducing your children to different tastes will also help.


5. Make your own shakes and drinks

Fizzy drinks are bad for everyone. This isn’t just a matter of calories; the drinks offer very little nutrition. Show your kids how to make fruit drinks at home. Summer milkshakes can be great fun and will certainly be better for your child.


6. Make time

It’s difficult being a parent and many are busy working long hours in order to try to pay the bills. If you use a childcare service, insist that your child has access to nutritional snacks and meals. If you provide a lunchbox for school, try not to include crisps and sweets. Also talk to your kids and explain the perils of obesity and other conditions related to a poor diet; at least they’ll start to understand why they should eat healthily.

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Wedding site The Knot recommends setting aside 8% of your budget when it comes to floral arrangements including the bridal bouquet, and bouquets for bridesmaids, boutonnieres for the groom and groomsmen, corsages for mothers as well as table arrangements and centrepieces.


This is all on top of those wedding rings from 77 Diamonds, the wedding dress and amendments from the bridal shop in town and the cost of getting to and from the venues throughout the day.  


However, putting budget aside because this is one of the first issues you will discuss with your florist, how do you choose the perfect flowers for your big day.


Find your florist

Speak to people you know and trust about who they hired for their big day and choose two or three to visit and interview about what you want. Choose a florist with experience and who can show you their portfolio of high quality work.


Work out how much you need in terms of floral arrangements, so you can discuss this immediately with your florist as well as budget and also take along anything you’ve gathered together as inspiration – much like when you visit the hairdresser and take along a picture as a reference. It will help your florist come up with a better quote and ideas.


Settle on your requirements

Next it’s time to settle on the flowers themselves, from colours to working out which ones will remain fresh all day and travel well. These are the questions you need to ask your florist to determine which flowers would be perfect for your big day:


·      ‘Which flowers are guaranteed to stay fresh all day? Do these cost more?’

·      ‘Can you suggest the best flowers to use at the time of year of the wedding?’

·      ‘Can you guarantee the flowers will be fresh and arrive on time on the day? How do you transport them?’

·      ‘If I order specific flowers for my arrangements and they are not available how do you work out substitutions?’

·      ‘Do you offer any extra decorations or accessories with floral arrangements?’


Think about size and colour

Your wedding dress style and the size of your wedding party will make a big difference to the floral arrangements you choose. Therefore, it’s important you choose flowers that are going to complement the size of the dress and the colour scheme too.


Time of year is also important when it comes to choosing flowers for your wedding, think carefully before you pick out difficult to obtain peonies or a rare type of orchid, to save yourself disappointment on the day.


In the end choosing the perfect flowers for your big day essentially all come down to personal preference, budget and what is in season. Do your research before settling on a design and choose a reputable florist that will ensure everything you ask for is done for you. To get started on your search, here’s a quick inspirational guide to browse before setting up a board on Pinterest!

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We’ve all got an ideal home in our heads haven’t we? A place we’d love to be able to rest, relax and entertain to our heart’s content.


It’s one of the many reasons why property listings sites are so popular – it’s great to gaze longingly at dream homes and take a peak inside the properties of others to see what features and decorations we can aspire to.


But, there comes a point in your life when it really is time to stop dreaming. By that I don’t mean give up and accept your lot in life. No, there comes a time when you need to plan to make that dream a reality.


Firstly, you need a concrete plan. Push your dream as far as you can, while sticking within a realistic goal. Go back to those listings sites and get a gauge for just how much it’ll cost. These days, with property prices rising all the time, a dream home means millions of pounds and that means a sensible business plan to be able to achieve your goal.


It also means managing a series of investments carefully in order to get the best returns – probably over a long term period. Be prepared to be bold, thing big and play the long game and you can ‘live the dream’. Here are some ways to build up your assets to achieve that:


Property portfolio

It’s called a housing ladder for a reason and in order to climb to the top you may need to lift yourself up a few rungs by building up a careful portfolio of investments. Look at parts of the country where house price growth is strong, buy up properties, sell them on at a profit (with a target in mind before you purchase) and re-invest to build this up. Alternatively find somewhere where the rental yield is strong and get a regular income that can be saved towards your overall target.


It’s a strong form of investment and one that requires little prior knowledge and can deliver strong returns quickly. The further you get up the ladder the better the scope for strong returns. Set annual targets and push yourself to make the most from your portfolio.


Passion investments

Successful investments rely, to an extent, on putting your knowledge to use to purchase assets that will grow in price over a period of time. This doesn’t always mean complex financial accounts that require a university degree to fathom out. There is a way, for example, of putting your hobby to good use financially through ‘passion investments’.


The Coutts Index tracks the performance of such investments and showed how their value has risen 80% in the period from 2005 to 2014. All sorts of things qualify as passion investments – one of the most successful being classic cars, which have shot up in value by 400% in the 2005-14 period. As The Telegraph pointed out, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO recently sold for $38m (£24m) at an auction in California and while it’d be difficult to top that, there’s clearly plenty of opportunity to make money to put to that dream home here.



Depending on the scale of your ambitions, it’ll probably be necessary to supplement that investment through entering the stock market. The returns here can, if done correctly, be even higher than for properties – with the chance to make every £100 you invest worth almost four times that amount in just five years.


The trick here is to be prepared to accept risk and lock your money away for long periods. The longer the term and the higher the risk the greater the potential reward.



The best investors know that the more varied their assets are, the better chance they have to succeed. Things such as precious metals, like gold, are sound investments that are often able to withstand fluctuations to the market which can impact upon property prices and share values.


Set a big target and then set to work. Build up a property portfolio, consider any ‘passion investments’ you could snap up, make sound investments in shares and keep your assets varied to enjoy long-term success and the ability to afford the perfect property you’ve always dreamt of.

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Cleaning on a regular basis not only leaves everything sparkling but it can also kill harmful bacteria, eliminate dust mites and banish other irritating allergens which can lead to health problems such as asthma and eczema. There really is every reason to keep your environment glistening – both at home and work – so as well as the regular detergents and bleaches, here are eight cleaning essentials you didn’t know you needed.

1. Vinyl gloves
Sure, it’s possible to clean the loo or wipe the surfaces without wearing gloves but why expose yourself to harmful germs and bacteria when you don’t need to? These days there are many cheap and cheerful gloves available including disposable and latex-free varieties which are ideal for allergy suffers, so be sure to view more vinyl gloves here.

2. Lemon juice
Believe it or not, lemon juice is a wonderful, non-toxic cleaning agent that’ll leave your property spic-and-span. As well as being a great substitute for bleach, lemon juice can also be used to shine your taps and metal work surfaces and is ideal for removing nasty odours from your washing machine or dishwasher.

3. Baking soda
Like lemon juice, baking soda is another storage cupboard item that can be used for cleaning. It’s a natural deodoriser and when placed in a stinky fridge can help get rid of all those strong pongs. On a similar note, place a cup of baking soda next to your shoe rack and, again, it will disguise all those cheesy smells.  

4. White vinegar
If your drains ever get blocked, remove anything obvious you can see with your hands before spooning down four heaped teaspoons of baking soda and several glugs of white vinegar. Wait for the hissing and bubbling to stop and wash through with hot water – hey presto, your pipes should be clean and clear.

5. Olive oil
Why spend a fortune on furniture polish when you can use a few drops of olive oil instead? Simply pour a little oil onto a cloth and use it on wooden furniture to bring back the shine.
A tiny amount goes a long way and will leave your home lovely and shiny.

6. Newspaper
Got lots of old newspapers lying around? Haven’t yet been to the recycling bins? Then these can be used to clean your windows. All you need to do is squirt the glass with water, screw the newspaper up into a rough ball and get to work – easy.

7. Cucumber peel
Many shop-bought cleaning products contain a host of toxic chemicals which are not overly good for your health, so if you’re looking for more natural alternatives use cucumber peel to remove marks and stains from walls and mirrors. Similarly, if you don’t want your mirrors to steam up when you’re in the shower, rub them with cucumber peel first to keep them from fogging up.

8. Ketchup

As you can see, many food items double up as cleaning products and ketchup is no different. Rub this popular sauce onto any copper items that need cleaning, leave it for 30 minutes and you’ll see how it removes all the tarnish.


Cleaning is an important part of life, but there’s no need to break the bank on an array of sprays and concoctions when the above eight products will leave your home in tip-top shape.

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The constant battle to balance childcare, education and your working life can be exhausting. Solutions do exist though, and here are seven part time jobs that you might enjoy.


1. Call Centres

Call centres sometimes receive a bad press from the public, which is a shame because they can be great places to work. If you’re looking for call centre jobs in Manchester you’ll see that there is a wide variety of openings. Some are part time and others offer flexible working. You’ll also discover that you won’t be the only parent working in this environment.


2. Teaching assistant jobs

The perfect job that will fit around your children’ education is that of a teaching assistant. The National Careers Advisory Service states that you are supporting the qualified teacher in their lessons. You won’t be expected to teach a class, but you will be asked to help out where necessary. Teaching assistants’ hours generally are the same as the school day, which is perfect. Take a look at local school websites to get an idea of the type of qualifications that’ll be required.


3. School dining staff

Dinner staff endure in the popular memory and if you want to join the ranks of these wonderful people, it’s definitely worth going online and checking out the necessary qualifications. You don’t have to be a professional chef but you will have to have a DBS check before you can work in a school. Allow some time for this application as it can take up to 12 weeks.


4. Community care work

Whether you want to work for a private company or a national charity, you’ll soon discover that all agencies across the UK are crying out for more care workers. If you state that you only want to work a certain number of hours, you can find work. The website Net Mums has a variety of accounts of this type of role in its discussion forums.


5. Market research

Some market research is carried out in an office, some of it’s online and some of it is carried out on street corners. There’s always a need for market researchers and you can find part time roles that will suit your lifestyle and convenience.


6. Mystery shoppers

If you love a bit of retail therapy and want to get paid for the experience then look out for mystery shopper adverts. You’ll be assessing customer service, and you will then have to write up a report about your experience. If you enjoy a challenge and flexibility, then this role is perfect for you.


7. Blogging from home


There are numerous blogs on the net that carry advertising as well as articles, photographs and other pieces of information. Affiliate marketing will allow you to work part time but you should carry out some detailed research if you’re considering this option. For every first class blog, there are many that aren’t so good and won’t attract advertising so this option really does entail that you put in some work before deciding that you’re going to make an earning from it.



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If you want to improve the curb appeal of your home, but don’t have the budget for high cost maintenance and repairs – fear not. There are many things you can do to spruce up the exterior of your property without breaking the bank, so here are seven ideas to consider.


1. Give the roof a lick of paint
Want to give your property a lift? Then waterproof roof paint – which is often used for commercial and industrial purposes and is designed to be durable and hardwearing – could be just what you need. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do and with products like these repelling water and protecting your abode from the elements, you can’t really go far wrong.


2. Paint your front door
If you’re in the mood for a spot of DIY, then painting your front door could also be an option. Always been the house with the blue door? Then why not spice things up a bit and become the property with the purple or green door? Not sure what colour to opt for? Then apps like Front Door Paint will help you decide by giving you a sneak preview of what your paint job could look like.


3. Add a stylish doorknocker
Once your door has been painted, wouldn’t it be great to swap an average doorbell for a stylish doorknocker? Solid brass varieties, for instance, are sure to last for many years and come in an array of different styles with nautical-themed anchors being particularly popular. A brass crab would look fantastic on a seaside property with an aqua door and you’ll even find doorknockers in the shape of pineapples, Boxer dogs and keys.


4. Mow the lawn
The exterior of your property is the first thing that people see, so whether you’re trying to sell up and move on or simply want to impress the neighbours, make sure your front garden is well kept. Improving the appearance of your lawn should certainly top your to-do list with loosening hard soil, reducing thatch, putting down fertiliser and keeping your grass at about two inches long, taking priority.


5. Plant flowers
There’s nothing quite like a bit of colour to brighten up your outside space. Vibrant, eye-catching flowers such as viola, cowslip primrose, tuberous begonias and even sunflowers will make your garden that little bit more interesting and you could even plant an array of pots and hanging baskets to make your garden even more chic.


6. Wash your driveway
While you might not think your driveway is overly dirty, you’ll be surprised at how much grime comes off when you squirt it with a power hose. The results are often incredible, so it’s well worth putting some time aside one weekend, sweeping up any loose gravel or stones that might have unsettled over time and giving your drive a good wash.


7. Buy a name plaque for your house
If your house has a name such as Little Barn Cottage or Honeycomb Flat Number One, think about buying a name plaque for your property. These are available at a reasonable price online and will help make your home that little bit more polished and unique. Similarly, if you have a house number tile that’s seen better days, consider cleaning or replacing it to bring back the shine.


Improving the outside of your home is relatively easy when you put your mind to it and doesn’t have to be expensive either, so go ahead and give it a go.

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The important stuff is pretty important, but sometimes it gets missed to make room for other important stuff. You get the message – everything is important! With this in mind, here are seven ways to save time in your day, to ensure you never skip doing something important again:


1. Delegate

Ensure you never forget that item on your to-do list again and enlist the help of someone else! Cleaning the kitchen? That’s important. Hoovering? Pretty important. Changing the bed? Also important. Get a company such as Molly Maid Domestic Cleaning Services on board and never have to worry about cleaning the house again, leaving you a spare hour or so to do something super important.


2. Prepare

Struggle to get out of bed in the morning and get dressed? This is taking up valuable time that could be spent on those important things! Choose your outfit the night before and lay it in an easy to reach place by the bed to help ease the struggle.


The same goes for cooking, do you just hate preparing meals after a long day at work and think you could use the time for something more… important? Then set aside an hour on a Sunday and prep everything you’re going to eat for the week then chuck it in the freezer. Each day you can pull out what you fancy and sling it in the microwave for an easy, fuss free dinner.


3. Avoid

A controversial tactic, but some situations just aren’t necessary and could be avoided altogether if you are clever about it. Avoid saying yes to tasks that you simply don’t have time for. While it might be a nice gesture to pick up your brother from work every day he could get the bus and you could instead use that 20 minutes spent waiting for him to drag himself out of the office, to do something important.


4. Turn off your Wi-Fi

The Internet is one of the biggest time wasters you can combat, if you’re looking for ways of saving time for the important stuff. Cut down on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp time to grant yourself an extra half hour or more in your day (depending on how bad your browsing addiction is).


5. Reclaim gap time

If you commute to work and have to wait for a bus or train or find yourself waiting in the doctor’s surgery use this time productively and get some important things done in that time. It could be something as small as getting through a chapter of that book you’ve been trying to read for months or answering work emails.


6. Put the phone away

The average person now apparently spends more time on their phone and laptop than sleeping, equating to eight hours and 41 minutes, which is 20 minutes more than the average night’s sleep. This tactic is similar to biting the bullet and turning off the Wi-Fi, but has the same magic time creating effect. Stop looking at every social media platform you’ve ever signed up to and get stuff done.


7. Embrace the list

A to do list is one of the most important weapons against procrastination and time wasting (unless you spend too long writing your to do list, in which case there is no hope for you). Having a strict bulleted list to work through can help save organise your time better and get those important things done. Keep your list concise, targeted and in order of priority to ensure you don’t get bored halfway through and give up.


The important stuff will get done, eventually - it’s just up to you how quickly you go about attempting the task. If you put these measures in place you can save valuable time in your day.


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According to research by the AA Driving School, teaching their children to drive is one of the most difficult experiences parents go through. In fact, about one in twenty parents considered it the most difficult - even higher than giving birth for some.


The DVSA (Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency) says it takes a learner about 45 hours of driving lessons and some 22 hours of back up practise to pass their test. Therefore, theres much you can do to help your teen to pass their test such as supervising them outside lessons and revising for the driving theory test.


Should you help?


Some parents simply find it too difficult to actively help their offspring, or are keen to help but cannot remain calm enough to be effective. Its very important to be honest with yourself and assess whether you can be a help or a hindrance to your teen and, indeed, whether or not you have the time to play an important part.


If not, then a trusted friend or relative could perhaps help in supervising them. Theres no reason why you cant still help with aspects such as helping them revise the Highway Code and practice for the driving theory test just know your strengths and dont try to do it all if you cant.


How can you help?


Driving lessons obviously you can organise some, but make sure theyre with a reputable driving instructor. Check with friends and others for recommendations. You can offer financial support too if your child is struggling to fund them.


Practice (theory) - test your teen on their Highway Code knowledge. Help them prepare for the driving theory test by using online resources such as this one and acting as an examiner.


Practice (practical) - if you decide you will accompany your teen in the car outside lessons, then take advice from the driving instructor. Theyll likely have a view on when you should begin to go out on practice sessions outside of lessons.


Make sure you practice what your child has just done in their most recent lesson, and don't confuse them by trying to do things differently to how theyre being taught by their instructor. Remember that the instructor knows the up to date requirements for the driving test and will be teaching your teen accordingly. Your sessions should supplement those offered by a professional not replace them.


Dont overdo sessions - too long out on the road can fatigue anyone learning to drive. Encourage your child, but dont push them too far.


Brush up your knowledge - before starting to help you teen with their driving, make sure your knowledge is as up to date as possible. Its easy for knowledge to become a bit outdated if youve held a driving licence for several years, so check the Highway Code and maybe read up on practical driving methods.


Set an example - try to drive carefully and responsibly when youre behind the wheel and your teen is with you. Seeing you driving properly will rub off on them and establish good habits.


Vary your practice times - go out at different times of the day so your teen gets used to different traffic conditions. Unless its pelting down and especially dangerous, dont put sessions off just because of a little rain - after all, your teen may end up taking their test in a downpour.


Know the laws - for example, its illegal for you to use a mobile phone in the car when accompanying your teen. Even though youre not driving, as the supervisor youre considered to be in control of the car.


In order to supervise a learner, you have to be over 21 years old and have held a licence for the type of vehicle youre supervising in for a minimum of three years.


Your role


You can be an enormous help to your child when theyre learning to drive, but it pays to put in a little preparation. Proper focused support can really help them overcome the practical and theory tests in double quick time but go into this half-hearted and you could let your child down.


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Finding a new family home is a task that should be tackled with plenty of research, careful consideration and feedback - from smaller members of the group - involved. With this in mind, here are five things you must consider when looking for your next home, to ensure everyone settles quickly and isn’t too upset by the move:


1. A quick sale

Children seeing people walk around their childhood home, quietly criticising the décor and talking about where they can see their sofa in the living room, will start to concern them after a while.


It’s important that you talk to your children about the changes you are planning and to also try and make a quick sale on your home to avoid drawing out the disruption (and having to manically clean at 11pm when you remember visitors are coming the next day).


List your home for a price close to what it is really worth to ensure a quick sale or sell your house with We Buy Any Home, a company that will purchase your property for a cash amount with no hidden fees involved.


2. Location

Location is important for any homebuyer, but even more so for a family. You want to ensure you are in a catchment area for good schools but also somewhere a reachable distance from your workplace.


3. Outdoor space

Local parks and fields where kids can play are an optional extra, as well as a local coffee shop for those Saturday mornings when you want to catch up with friends but don’t want to manage the kids in a restaurant. However, it’s a good idea to look for a decent sized garden to encourage your kids to head outside and stay active.


4. Neighbourhood

Do some checks before viewing a property to see what it’s like in the area and whether it is a part of a Neighbourhood Watch programme. Sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla include area stats on their listings, or you can take a look at websites such as or, which should give you a good idea about the neighbourhood you intend to move into.


5. Size and requirements

You’re looking for a home you can see your family using and therefore you need to decide what criteria it needs to tick off before settling for something. One of the most important things to consider is the size of the property and whether it offers everything your family needs. Is there ample room for the kids as they grow, does it have a garden for playing in the summer and is the kitchen large enough for a dining table to sit round as a family?


However, if you can see that you could extend the kitchen in the future or that the loft space is large enough to create an even bigger area, then don’t write off smaller properties. If you love them still, you can always extend and grow the house as your family grows.


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After nine months of pregnancy, the pain of giving birth and numerous sleepless nights, new mums certainly deserve to be spoilt. Caring for a teeny, tiny person isn’t easy, so why not put a smile on a tired mother’s face with a unique, special and memorable gift? Not sure what to buy? Then here are five gift ideas for inspiration:

Personalised canvas
Anyone can run into a shop and buy a readymade present, but how about doing something a little more meaningful? Personalised canvases are the perfect way to turn a beautiful photograph into a sentimental keepsake, so it’s worth digging out a quality snap and checking out photo canvas printing by Helloprint for a great deal. Landscape, portrait and square designs are readily available and you could even put the finishing touches to the canvas by adding a frame.

Postpartum massage
No matter how much new mums love being with their babies, sometimes they just want to get out of the house and enjoy an hour to themselves, and that’s where a professional postpartum massage could come in handy. As well as relieving stress, reducing aches and pains and improving circulation, massage also has other health benefits including hormone regulation and decreasing swelling. Offer to babysit for the hour they’re away and you could be in their good books for a long time to come.

Beauty hamper
Often, new mums find it hard to shower let alone brush their hair, but when the buzz of having a new baby dies down a little and a routine is established they’re sure to appreciate a homemade beauty hamper – a simple yet effective idea that can be easily executed. Everything from bubble bath and moisturiser to hair conditioner and exfoliating cream will go down well and you could even throw in a few candles for an extra special treat. Find a lovely wicker basket to place everything in, wrap it all up with cellophane and ribbon and you’ll have a great gift to present.

Stylish backpack
When you become a parent, suddenly anything remotely practical becomes important.
Your mummy friend probably already has a changing bag to use for nappies, creams, spare clothes, toys and dummies, but it could be nice to buy her a ‘next stage’ backpack for when such a monstrous carrier is no longer needed. Before buying, however, make sure you really do choose a backpack and not a one-strap or across the body number, as this will be more practical with a toddler.

A snuggly blanket
While many people think to buy soft, snuggly blankets for babies, wouldn’t it be lovely to buy a supersized blanket for the new mummy herself? Not only is having something to wrap up in comforting, but many mums find themselves all over the house in the early hours of the morning (when it’s not particularly warm), so this a snuggly blanket will help keep that up-all-night parents toasty.

Babies are sure to be showered with gifts when they pop into the world, but make sure you spare a thought for the mums out there too. One final thought – a really nice touch is to design and send birth announcement cards in the days following baby’s arrival in the world.



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The living room is the centre of the home, the hub where everyone comes together after a long day to relax and enjoy each other’s company (or alternate between staring at a phone screen and the television for a few hours). If you’re signed up to Magazines Direct and browsing publications such as Homes and Gardens and Living Etc, looking for inspiration on how to make your space more inviting, then you’ll know that the rustic look is always on trend.


Here’s how to channel such a strong theme into your living space:


Distressed wood

Wood that appears distressed and worn is one of the easiest ways of keeping the rustic theme very much alive in your home. Rustic homes should appear lived in, they aren’t clinically clean, they bear the marks of the family who actively reside in them and are open and honest about what goes on, on a daily basis.


Therefore, don’t be afraid to get the sandpaper out and rub away at the pristine surface of your coffee table or paint that large mirror frame and then rub away the paint along the edges once it’s dried. Throw out the coasters and let the kids climb on the furniture.


Plush, comfortable seating

A rustic living room should feature a large, comfortable sofa for everyone to lounge on, with fabric seats and plenty of cushions and blankets to cuddle up to in the cooler weather. Grey, brown or cream are preferable colours for a rustic living space, with tones of red and teal incorporated in the accessories.


Mix textures

The rustic home has no strict guidelines when it comes to what materials can be used where. Try creating a living area with a leather sofa as the main focus. This sofa can then feature scatter cushions in a plethora of pillow case materials, from faux fur to cable knit to soft suede, and have it sit on a large shag pile rug with a distressed coffee table and side stands to accompany it. Mix and match your textures in the room to really hone in on the rustic theme.


Get the light right

Lighting is important in a rustic home; it should be soft and comforting in the form of lamps or dimmed central light fittings. Place your lighting in the corners of the room, to shed some soft light over the space and if you can incorporate a fireplace into your living area even better. Nothing says rustic quite like a crackling fire on a winter evening!


Artistic touches

Art prints are the perfect finishing touch in any home and when it comes to the rustic home you should look for pieces that have that ‘shabby chic’ element but also incorporate elements you like. Deer silhouettes, repurposed driftwood or pallets and anything with a nod to nature works well in a rustic themed living room.


When it comes to designing a rustic living area don’t feel restricted, simply choose what you feel best reflects your style of living and don’t worry about furniture looking pristine. Live in the space and enjoy it!



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There are many good things about buying or renting a smaller home. For one, less square footage usually means lower heating bills and a smaller mortgage. There’s also less to clean and as no room is too far away you can probably hear your phone ringing from every part of the house. That said, storage space can be an issue if your property is a little on the cosier side, but thankfully there are many solutions which will help keep things in order – and here’s a selection:


1. Hire a storage facility
If the benefits of downsizing are just too hard to ignore, you might decide to go for it, but what happens if all your belongings from the larger house won’t fit into a more modest abode? Well, you could always check out cheap storage in Heathrow and other parts of the country as many of the units available are safe, secure, reasonably priced and great for keeping personal property out of the way until you decide what to do with it. While some people hire these for just a few months, others keep them for months if not years, and treat them simply as another garage or storage room.


2. Furniture with hidden storage
“A place for everything and everything in its place,” is the perfect mantra for a small home as too much mess can lead to disaster with people tripping over shoes and ornaments just to get to the kitchen. So, if you’re looking to keep things neat and tidy it might be worth investing in furniture with hidden storage. Beds with secret draws, to desks with lift up lids, and foot rests with plenty of room inside to keep papers, magazines, DVDs and CDs, will ensure your items stay in order.



3. Think vertical storage
When it comes to space saving, it’s also a good idea to make the most of vertical space.
This means investing in tall, narrow bookshelves and display cabinets rather than wider, bulkier items to help free up as much room as possible. Similarly, when buying storage boxes (which are great for keeping everything from children’s toys to sports equipment, stationary and odds and ends), opt for stackable designs which can be placed on top of one another and pushed up against a wall rather than clogging up floor space.


4. Use the space under the stairs
If you live in a house with a stairwell, be sure to use the space under the stairs carefully. There are many things you can do to transform this into a unique and quirky storage area from installing a pull out coat hanger or shoe rack to building in a miniature office. Filling that space with adequate shelving which you can decorate with family photos or artwork can also work or you might decide to build a mini library. The choice really is yours but be as creative as possible and use every centimetre of room you have.


Making the most of your small space might require a little careful thinking and imagination, but with dedication and persistence you’re sure to create the living environment of your dreams.

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We know what it’s like. You’ve barely got a minute to pop to the loo, let alone get yourself fit. With kids, work and housework to juggle, it can be a nightmare trying to get any seconds to yourself.


It is possible, however, to create a plan that works for you and your workout. Simply ask yourself the following questions… and the answers should point you in the right direction.


What do I do every week?

This is the most important question of the lot. Make a note of everything you do in a week on a calendar. Be honest and include everything – this will be an important starting point to make your plan work.


What could I do differently?

Once you’ve got a full account of your week mapped out you can go through your activities, line by line, and look for ways to save time. That could mean, for example, doing your weekly shop on a different day or online to avoid it eating into your time too much.


Where could I make better use of my time?

Do you have a random hour to kill in between picking up the kids and another task? These are the fleeting moments that you can build into valuable time for a workout – possibly by snapping up some equipment and getting your exercise at home.


What do my friends do?

How do they fit in a fitness regime? Maybe they don’t either. Working out with a friend can be a great way to ensure you find the time for a workout within your week as, together, you’ll spur each other on and not let the other down. Pick a club, class or gym that suits your needs – or maybe even alternate at each other’s houses – to make your workout an intrinsic part of your social life.


How can I make my workout more convenient?

If you are busy then you can’t afford for your workout to be long winded. Don’t be afraid to ditch the gym and take charge of your routine at home. You could also build in a jog with a practical task – such as a nip to the corner shop.


Is my diet easy to manage?

A workout needs to be supported by the right diet – with the right intake of nutrients to fuel your activity, growth and recovery. You can balance this up much more easily – and save time - by using supplements to top up items you are not consuming enough of.


What do I want to achieve?
Your workout need not be as daunting as it seems. Set small, achievable goals and you’ll realise that even short, sharp bursts of exercise can help you to succeed.


By asking and answering these questions you’ll find it is possible to squeeze in even the most basic of workout plans. When you have a busy life the only true way to keep fit is to make this a vital part of your week. It might be tough but with a bit of determination it is possible and will be well worth it in the long run.

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Your garden provides a space for your kids to enjoy the outdoors – from water fights on a hot summer’s day to playing fetch with the dog, or hours of fun on their personal playground. But had you considered that, aside from this, it can also be a space for learning outside the classroom?


What better way for children to learn about your garden than wildlife? Aside from getting them away from the TV and out into the fresh air, it will be a fun way for them to learn transferable skills and knowledge. As well, of course, as teaching them about why it’s important to work with wildlife and not against it.


1. Design a wildlife garden

Sit down at the garden table and give your child a large sheet of paper and colouring pens. Then get them to draw your garden! Once they have done this get them to add additions that will be of benefit to the garden wildlife. As they (hopefully) draw a source of food, water and shelter – get them to explain to you why they have added each one in. When they have finished go over anything they have missed and see if they work out why it should be included. This is a good time to explain that wildlife needs support in the winter months when food, shelter and water is harder to come by, and in summer months when they have extra mouths to feed.


2. Care for wildlife in the garden

Get them to help you ensure your garden is wildlife friendly by implementing the above into it. Sit down and check out this wholesale bird food supplier – as well as choosing food, they can also help you find feeders, homes and other accessories that will help to care for garden creatures. Explain how different birds, mammals and bugs have different requirements and why. Then give them the job of topping up the bird feeders with seed and baths with water – so they have to keep checking on it and thinking about when it needs doing – learning responsibility as a result.


3. Discover their natural artistic talent

Search the garden for all the different creatures you can find, then take a seat and start to draw them. This way your child will understand that creatures big and small can come in different shapes, sizes and colours. Once they have drawn the creatures, use the images to explain the food chain (and lifecycle) by getting them to arrange their drawings in order.


4. Save the bees!

Educate your kids on garden friends that need your help. Many kids (and grown ups) fear bees and wasps – not fully understanding the difference between them. They are grouped together and seen not only as a nuisance that will disrupt your summer BBQ but also feared, as they are able to cause pain. However, bees are essential to pollinating the crops that form our food as well as those that provide food to wildlife. Your kids can learn about this, whilst you make your garden a place for them to thrive – by making a bee house, for example.


5. Create a worm farm

The earthworm is another good example of how something small and seemingly insignificant can play a big role when it comes to protecting our natural environment and helping it thrive. Worms tunnel through the earth helping plant roots get greater access to water, air and nutrients – helping the plant to grow.


Plus, they are natural recyclers, converting food scraps from the kitchen into compost for the garden. Your kids can observe these wriggly creatures at work in their very own worm farm. Make the farm and then have fun searching the garden for worms to fill it.



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Use of Garden is included with Rear Hall bookings, can be used for Bouncy castle / barbecue. Great for children/family parties.

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Are you fed up of your kids constantly asking to play on your iPad or iPhone? They don’t come cheap and all you can see is it being returned to you covered in sticky finger marks, a scratched screen, with deleted photos – and all that is the least of your worries when it won’t even turn on!


However, have you considered that allowing your child to play on your phone or tablet, if you set them up on the right apps, could actually provide them with a fun, but educational experience outside of the classroom?


Despite what we often hear about technology and staring at screens being ‘mind numbing’ – educational apps will keep your youngsters’ minds active outside of school – as well as keeping them quiet and entertained at the same time!


So, here are six apps you may want to download now:


1.    My First 101 Words - £1.49

This app is aimed at teaching toddlers their first words – 101 of them to be exact! A young boy and girl take the user through a series of videos that teach them different words. Each word has been carefully selected to include nouns and verbs found in resources supporting pre-school speech and language development. The words are either an object or action – that is demonstrated and spoken by the boy or girl, as well as being written on the screen.


2.    Justin’s World: Goldilocks and the Three Bears - £2.99

CBeebies star Justin Fletcher fronts this fairytale app – turning Goldilocks and the Three Bears into an entertaining fable about tidying up and being helpful. Packed with games, puzzles and activities to get your child laughing, thinking - and learning – including interactive activities to develop language, matching, sorting and counting skills. Plus there is also a video of Justin bringing the characters to life as he tells the story.


3.    DoodleMaths (Primary Maths) - Free

This app is perfect to improve 7-11 year olds’ confidence and ability in maths. Designed by leading teachers, DoodleMaths works by identifying your child's level, strengths and weaknesses, and gradually progressing them at the rate that's right for them. Kids will love the doodle book format and earning credits -who knew maths could be so fun?


4.    Comics in the Classroom – Free

*3 free demos – then 79p for each in-app purchase  

This app provides an exciting way to learn about history’s key figures and events. These digital comics don’t just let kids see how events unfolded – they enable them to get involved. Children fill in the speech bubbles to prove their understanding of subjects such as Pearl Harbour and Jack the Ripper.


5.    Kids learn Spanish with busuu – Free

* packs of lessons available as £1.49 in-app purchases


¿Cómo se dice ... en español? – with the help of this app your kids will be able to tell you! From online community busuu (which offers similar ones in Italian, French and other languages) this app teaches kids 150 Spanish words across 30 lessons. The mini-games and revision quizzes are aimed at 4 -7 year olds.


6.    Percy Parker – 79p

Do your kids know that learning times tables is fun? They will once they have been on this app! Children can join in with Percy Parker and his band as they sing entertaining and memorable songs for each times table.


Surely a potentially scratched screen is worth it, to further your child’s education? Especially when LoveFone can fix any problems you may encounter within an hour!



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Families are rather chaotic creations; sometimes the phrase nuclear is almost literal.

Parents are prone to have enough arguments and different ideas of their own, but it all becomes even more confusing when one throws in a brother or sister. And don’t even talk to us about grandparents and cousins…


How do you mobilise the troops into a solid unit, rather than a rag-tag outfit that misses important events and turns up late or inappropriately dressed when it does remember them? Here are four ideas to make family life flow a little more easily.


Practical ideas

Space is usually at a premium in the family household, especially when said space is cluttered with magazines, toys, gadgets, clothes and other items that could be tidied.


The key is using the space wisely, labelling, and teaching early in the process. If your child’s name adorns a cupboard compartment, for example, then there is little excuse for appropriate items not finding their way home.


Buzzfeed features a huge array of ideas in this piece, including creating a portable homework station, a ‘command centre’, and a plastic drawer set for board games.


Get a calendar

Whether you go for a printed version with pictures of your favourite people and memories – click here to find out more – or a 21st century digital delight that organises and streamlines everything in your life, it doesn’t really matter.


The important factor is that everything is saved, and that you use it! Look at it! Write ‘pre-reminders’ to tell you when something is coming up next month, rather than finding out that the event is cruelly imminent when you turn over the page.


Google Calendar is particularly effective as you can import weather predictions, sports fixtures, TV schedules and new Twitter followers, saving you the effort of writing or typing them out.


Foster a good relationship with the school

That doesn’t mean going out for coffee or hanging out at the same pubs. It means knowing roughly when events are taking place, or being part of the school’s social media network.


It means opening and carefully reading any letters that your little ones bring home, and immediately adding it to the diaries we’ve mentioned before. It means making sure that there’s always change somewhere in the home for Comic Relief or baking days or trips or anything else that needs cash at short notice.

If your children’s school sends out email newsletters, get yourself on the list. And whatever you do, make sure that Christmas plays and parents’ evenings are on that list and scribble out anything else at the same time.



No individual should be expected to do everything. If you’re not told about your other half’s works do or your son’s football practice, then how can you do anything about it in preparation?


If everyone fills in the calendars and uses their initiative the household order will be smooth and streamlined, with no room for excuses. Be assured that your teenagers will soon let you know if they need money, so it’s a pretty safe bet they’ll tell you about any upcoming trips or social events. As for your younger ones, get them in the habit of handing over notes, and try to teach them the art of give and take; if we do what your sister wants today, we’ll do what you want tomorrow. Yes, it’s not as easy as it sounds….

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Running out of space can be incredibly frustrating for homeowners. It means having to cram everything in together, throwing out items that you’d rather not part with and blushing every time a guest glances around at the masses of stocked clutter gathered in the corner of the room. Instead of fetching a black bin bag and parting with your precious possessions, there are certain things that you can do or incorporate into your home that will save space without sacrificing the limited floor space that you already have.

1. De-Clutter

The first step towards making more room in your home is to get rid of the clutter. Clutter can be anything from electronics to kitchen equipment or old magazines, for example. You must distinguish the clutter and decide which things are going in the bin and which things are better suited for storage rooms. Storage units are your answer to a more spacious home. You will have instant additional space in your home without having to permanently say goodbye to your cherished possessions, which means that you can easily take them in and out of storage however and whenever you please.


2. Stair Drawers

A fascinating method of ‘secret storage’ in the home is the invention of stair drawers. These are quite easy to install and work as a great space saving opportunity as you can store anything from towels to books inside your stairs, remaining virtually invisible to any guests or visitors that come to your home.


3. Shoe Racks

If your home is filled with random pairs of shoes dotted about the house, invest in a simple shoe rack which can be hung on the back of the wardrobe doors and used to store the family’s shoes in an orderly and easy-to-find fashion.


4. Magnetic Strips

Magnetic strips can be glued to your wall to keep smaller items in place. People regularly use these for their garages to hold onto nails, screws and other smaller magnetic items that are incredibly easy to misplace. They can even be used in the kitchen. Homes and Hues states that you can easily add a magnetic strip to the bottom of jars which can then be used to house spices or seeds etc. 


5. Under Bed Storage

The space under your bed usually provides a great source of additional bedroom storage. Use transparent boxes or vacuum bags to store out-of-season clothes, towels, bed linens and extra curtains, etc.


6. Windowsill Extension

According to Martha Stewart, a windowsill shelf extension is a ‘smart way to create a temporary extension for displaying arrangements, frames, and more’. They also add a great addition to your home décor, giving the room a more contemporary and modern design.


7. Velcro Tape

Organize your electronic cords with Velcro tape. This is especially useful if you have kids in your home who have a multitude of game consoles and remote controls in their room that tend to become tangled with each other. A Velcro tape will keep everything separate and well organized.


8. Shelving

Installing additional shelving in your home will provide you with more storage options. Shelves can be stored anywhere in the home, even above the doors and underneath windows, etc.


9. Dividers

If you find that the inside of your drawers are bustling with various items and gadgets, a simple dividing system will provide a more tidy space for storage. You can make DIY dividers with old cereal boxes and jewellery boxes, which work just as well as store-bought dividers.


10. Corner Bookshelves

People often forget about the corners of their home. A corner can have shelves or even a bookshelf installed to provide extra storage space for CDs, DVDs and books.

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