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How to make some cash ahead of Christmas by selling your clutter

We could all do with a bit of extra spending money in the lead-up to Christmas. And having a clear-out will help to ensure there's plenty of space for all the new toys your little ones will receive on the big day. It will also help you to get your home in shape so you're proud to show it off when all your friends and family stop by. So, why not take the opportunity to sell some of your existing clutter to make some extra cash and create space for the new?

There are steps you can take to give your unwanted items the best chance of selling to make the most profit possible. I'm going to outline these here.

Know what's going to make you money

When you're having a clear-out with the aim of selling items to make money, it's worth finding out what's likely to sell ahead of time. This will save you time, energy, and space, because you can donate everything else and only save what's going to make you money.

Clothes, books, DVDs, CDs and shoes typically receive a lot of attention when sold second-hand, according to House Beautiful. You can also make a pretty penny by selling on cuddly toys, kitchen appliances and gadgets, records, and unwanted computers too. So, if you have any of these lying around — and they're in good condition — selling them online or taking them along to a car boot sale is likely to be worth your while. 

Choose the right places to sell your items

It's important you put plenty of thought into choosing where to sell your items, because this can have a huge effect on how well they'll sell, and how much you could make from them. 

If you're interested in selling online, it's best to use specialist platforms wherever possible. For example, if you have clothing in good condition, apps such as Depopcan be a goldmine. Similarly, if you have antiques or vintage items collectors might be looking for, Selling Antiquesand Vintage Cash Coware both great.

Many of us have old jewellery and scrap gold hiding away in our jewellery boxes and selling this on isn't always easy — especially if it's personalised, broken, or old-fashioned. In this situation, consider selling your gold to a pawnbroker, as this is often the quickest and easiest way to make a decent amount of cash. At H&T we even have a tool that allows you to enter what kind of gold you have and the weight, so you can see how much money we'll give you in advance.

Make sure everything is clean and in working order

When you're trying to make some quick money by selling your unwanted items, the last thing you want is for someone to ask for a refund. You should be able to avoid this by checking everything is in working order and by giving an accurate description of your items.

It's also a good idea to make sure all of your belongings are clean and in good condition before you send them to their new home. If you're selling online, giving everything a once over before taking your photos and then again before posting your sales should keep your customers happy.

All of us go through periods when we could do with some extra cash, luckily many of us are sitting on atreasure chest of unwanted items that we could sell on. As long as you choose what you're going to sell wisely, think carefully about which platforms you're going to use, and make sure everything's clean and in working order, you should have no trouble making some quick cash. 

Michael Ayres is the Valuations Manager at H&T. Here, he shares his top tips for making some money in time for Christmas by selling your clutter.

The top ten toys to buy this Christmas 2018

Cute, slimy, high tech, magical and scary – this year’s list of must-have toys has it all. So if you are wondering what the latest toy craze is this year, the annual top 12 toys list should be able to give you a few ideas for your Christmas shopping.

Barbie Ultimate Kitchen, by Mattel - £49.99

Cook up fun with a kitchen playset featuring lights and sounds, food moulds a sandwich maker and many more ingredients for imaginative play with Barbie.

Paw Patrol Ultimate Fire Truck by Spin Master Toys - £69.99

An ultimate rescue needs an ultimate vehicle! Save the day with Marshall’s Ultimate Rescue Fire Truck! This vehicle is equipped with an extendable 2ft ladder, flashing lights and sounds! Using the water cannon launcher at the bottom of the cab, you can send up to three water cannons (included) flying into the fire!

Cra-Z-Slimy - Super Slimy Studio by Character Options - £29.99

A kit to make your own amazing Super Slimy Creations! Includes everything you need to make your own slime combinations – glitter-effects, rainbow colours, plus much more. Mix, invent & create! Encourages STEM learning.

Fingerlings Untamed Jailbreak T-Rex Playset by Jazwares/WowWee - £24.99

A ferocious T-Rex in a cage for you to release and try to tame if you dare. This interactive character has glow-in-the-dark eyes and of course, being a Fingerling, sits on your finger.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall, by LEGO - £89.99

This present idea combines two crazes that are never going to go out of fashion! Build your very own great hall with a fireplace, benches, tables and reversible house banners, plus the Grand Staircase tower with a spiral staircase, potions room, treasure room, sorting hat, Mirror of Erised and lots of magical artefact accessory elements. This fantasy role-playing castle toy includes 10 minifigures and buildable Basilisk and Fawkes creatures, plus Hedwig and Scabbers figures.

Harry Potter Wizard Training Wand by Jakks Pacific - £24.99

Learn 11 different spells with the help of this interactive training wand. Each wand includes five modes of play: two modes of standalone play and three modes to play with a friend. The light-up button allows them to select which mode to play.

L.O.L. Surprise! Pop-Up Store by MGA Entertainment - £39.99

This is a three in one playset, display and carrying case. Take your dolls out on the town! Play areas include chic café, fashion boutique and pizza parlour. The display holds over 55 dolls and accessories. Set includes an exclusive L.O.L doll.

L.O.L. Surprise! Under Wraps, by MGA Entertainment - £14.99

Each doll has 15 surprises. Unbox the spy glass to find codes and unlock surprises. Each doll is dressed in a mystery disguise, unbox each layer to discover who's inside. The disguise becomes multiple fashion accessories. Mix and match outfits for tons of looks.

Lazer X Twin Pack by Character Options - £49.99

The ultimate high tech game of tag! Play inside or out, day or night. Works up to 60 meters away with pinpoint accuracy. Gameplay allows unlimited players. As you are blasted your receiver vest will gradually change colour, hit ten times and you’re out!

Monopoly Fortnite Edition, by Hasbro - £21.99

In this edition of the classic game, players claim locations, battle opponents and avoid the storm to survive. The gameplay, design, and components of the board game include elements inspired by the video game including Fortnite locations and loot chest cards. Instead of MONOPOLY money, players earn health points.

Boxer – interactive AI robot toy, by Spin Master toys - £79.99

Equipped with multiple IR sensors, Boxer responds to hand movements and interacts with you using real-life responses, funny expressions and sounds.

Poopsie Surprise Unicorn by MGA Entertainment - £49.99

Poopsie Surprise Unicorn magically poop slime! Each time you feed your surprise unicorn and sit her on her glitter potty, she creates surprise, collectible unicorn poop (slime)! Transform your unicorn poop over and over again with Unicorn Magic! Over 20 magic surprises included with each Surprise Unicorn!

Please note the prices are all the RRP and you may be able to find different prices, deals and offers.

The top 12 list has been compiled by Dream Toys - the official toys and games Christmas preview. The Dream Toys Association represents the majority of the toy trade.

How to make the most of Black Friday Deals

With Black Friday finally here, the temptation to surrender to the shopping gods is sometimes too hard to resist. For many, it is an opportunity for tactical early Christmas shopping and receive mega discounts from some of our favourite brands. Many will be sitting on their phones and tablets deliberating over the extra pair of shoes that they may (or may not) need. Behold, we want you to maximise your spending and saving and here are some of our top tips to make the most from Black Friday deals. 

It’s only a saving if you were going to buy it anyway

Do not give into the lure of Black Friday sales and spend just for the sake of spending. If you desperately needed a new pair of trainers or jeans, then this is a sensible time to buy. However, if you are now buying things that you never considered, this is where you are going to get sucked into the Black Friday deals and spend more than you needed to.

Ways to avoid impulsive spending including setting yourself a budget of x amount and not leaving the house with any more. Equally, you can prioritise various things such as gifts or a new jacket, and therefore not give in to any other temptation. 

Do research

Good research online is key to maximise your savings on Black Friday. It is worth looking at a range of different websites because the actual deals and savings available will range from retailer to retailer. In fact, some retailers will also match prices too – so if you want to buy everything in one place such as John Lewis or Debenhams, be sure to check their price match policy. 

If you are a keen Amazon customer, use free comparison sites like camel camel camel which can show you if the same product is cheaper elsewhere. 

Use cashback

If you find that you are doing a large order with one specific provider such as Amazon or ASOS, try using your cashback account too. There is no reason why retailers will not include cashback and this could give you an extra 5% on your overall savings, which on a £1,000 purchase would give you £50 back into your account (source: allthelenders). 

Buy online, give yourself space and time

One can feel pressured to buy on the spot when in a beautifully decorated store. But if you buy in person, you may not know whatever deals are available elsewhere or if further discounts are available online. Take time and buy online – this is a good mantra!

Treat products with caution 

Some products, specifically tech and electronics, will be cheaper on Black Friday for a reason. Maybe because they are outdated or very unknown brands – but again, this should not be something that you should be drawn into. Consider the life cycles of various tech products like mobile phones, speakers and headphones and if new ones are being released in January or early next year, they will likely fall in price anyway and by even more than the Black Friday discount.

In addition, be cautious of any counterfeit brands trying to jump on the Black Friday bandwagon. New websites and adverts will pop up on your Facebook and Instagram but do not be seduced. Be sure that they are not too cheap for a reason (such as being knock-offs) and make sure that any website you use is secure.

Check the return policy 

It’s one week later and you’ve received that you bought shoes that don’t fit well and you have completely overspent on pretty much everything. Before any large purchases, double check the returns policy since some companies may not accept returned items that were purchased on Black Friday. Check what options you have available to you in house you want to return any goods.

Some of the best deals:

John Lewis: Will be price matching any deals you see from any other retailers.

Nike: Will be discounting all of their shoes by 30% this Black Friday

KFC: Will be handing out free portions of chips if you download their app

How to spot fake deals on Black Friday

Black Friday in the UK is big business and spending by British consumers is expected to pass £2bn this year. But, with so many deals and offers, there are a lot of retailers jumping on the bandwagon and they are not always the safest or best options for customers. With this in mind, we give any frugal Mums and Dads some tips on spotting fake deals this Black Friday.

Beware of unusual websites

You may see adverts on Facebook or Instagram promoting different Black Friday deals for things like shoes, jackets and electronics. Whilst there are several legitimate e-commerce stores out there, you should approach every new website that you click on with caution. Certain things to look out for include:

  • Is the site secure? Does it start with https? This is essential for encrypting your personal and payment details and protecting it from fraud.
  • Is the URL well-known or does it use a lot of words? e.g black-Friday-deals-uk.com 
  • Does the website have a UK address or appear to be local? Some websites looking for a quick buck will avoid using a real address or be based overseas.
  • Does the website have any UK reviews or followers on social media? This is a good way to see how other people have used the site, positively or negatively.
  • Does the website have a phone number? The UK’s best retailers will always have a customer support team who you can ask raise questions with. If there is no phone number, it may not suggest a legitimate operation.

Beware unusual brands

Some items are only cheaper for a reason, perhaps because they are less known or less popular or indeed counterfeits. If you know the most well-known TV brands and there is a deal on an unknown one, this is a good opportunity to check reviews of the product or see if it in person before buying.

There has been a common issue with Canada Goose jackets on sale for £200, but they are typically 3 or 4 times this amount. The reason for the discount is because they are just copies of the well-known brand.

On this note, it is important for Mums to check the life cycle of various products, specifically tech and electronics. This is because these type of consumer goods will typically go out of date very quickly such as headphones, speakers and mobile phones. Could new versions be coming out in January? Would they be significantly cheaper than any Black Friday deals

Check return policies

This is essential for any deals you claim and any purchases you make on Black Friday, from well-known and less well-known websites. You want the flexibility to be able to return any items that you did not like or want – since some companies can be restricted when it comes to Black Friday.

If you find that a product you have purchased on Black Friday is shoddy or a clean counterfeit, you can speak to your credit card company or use Paypal as a way to reverse the payment and receive a refund. It is also an opportunity to raise the suspicious website with your card provider.

Information extracted from Payday Bad Credit

Pantomimes and Christmas shows in Surrey 2018

The custard pies are being made, sequins being sewn on and lines are being learned – panto season is on its way.

For many of us, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a good pantomime: a few cheesy songs, silly jokes, slapstick humour, chants of he’s behind you a loveable baddie and of course a happy ending.

There are plenty of pantomimes to see in Surrey, as well as some lovely Christmas shows for the little ones as well as a nativity play.

Strictly Come Dancing star Craig Revel Horwood, TV’s Michelle Gayle and Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon are among the stars appearing this year.

Here’s our round-up of shows – don’t forget to book your tickets early.

The Big Enormous Present – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Mill Studio, Guildford, Nov 17 SOLD OUT

A mysterious present has appeared in the school playground. Who can it possibly be for? Jack, Dot or Polly? What could be waiting inside? The Big ENORMOUS Present explores the pressures of fitting in, where we find happiness and how giving can sometimes feel as good as receiving.

More info: https://www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk/production/the-big-enormous-present

Dear Santa – Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking, Dec 5 – 24

Santa is determined to deliver the most fantastic Christmas present to Sarah. But he doesn't get it right straight away! With the help of his cheeky Elf, he finally settles on something ‘perfect', just in time for Christmas Eve. This is an ideal introduction to theatre for those aged 2 to 7 years old. There is an opportunity to meet Santa himself after the show.

More info: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dear-santa/rhoda-mcgaw-theatre/

Cinderella – New Victoria Theatre, Woking, Dec 7-Jan 6

You shall go to the ball next Christmas with the spectacular family pantomime Cinderella starring the fab-u-lous Craig Revel Horwood as The Wicked Stepmother and Paul Chuckle as Baron Hardup. Featuring laugh-out-loud comedy, stunning scenery, beautiful costumes and plenty of boos and hisses.

More info: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/cinderella/new-victoria-theatre/

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Harlequin Theatre, Redhill, Dec 7-31

Huge helpings of laughter with a generous serving of traditional pantomime audience participation, mixed with stunning scenery, spectacular costumes, a dashing prince and the fairest Snow White of all. Add in seven dwarfs full of mischief and merriment, sprinkle with Woodland Fairy magic dust and it’s all the winning ingredients for a pantomime that’s simply wicked, simply wonderful and simply must be seen!

More info: http://www.harlequintheatre.co.uk/whats-on/pantomime

Peter Pan – Richmond Theatre, Dec 8-Jan 6

Join high-flying hero Peter Pan as he transports the Darlings on an adventure they will never forget, filled with evil pirates, a very hungry crocodile and the meanest man in Neverland, Captain Hook (BAFTA, Tony Award and two-time Olivier Award winner Robert Lindsay). Joining Robert will be Comedy Impressionist and Britain’s Got Talent finalist, Jon Clegg, West End star Rachel Stanley and Harry Francis as the boy who never grew up, Peter Pan.

 More info: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/peter-pan/richmond-theatre/

Santa’s Christmas Party – Epsom Playhouse, Dec 8-24

Christmas is the busiest time of year at the North Pole, when Father Christmas makes presents to deliver across the whole world…and when everyone gets ready for Santa’s Christmas Party! But this year somebody has been up to mischief…Dotty the Elf’s decorations have gone missing, Dasher the Reindeer’s party games are broken, and what has happened to Pompom the Penguin’s Christmas music?

More info: http://www.epsomplayhouse.co.uk/shows/santa%E2%80%99s-christmas-party

Sleeping Beauty - Camberley Theatre, Dec 10 - 31

A brand new adaptation of the classic fairy-tale Sleeping Beauty with singalong songs, high energy choreography, beautiful scenery and a host of side-splitting jokes!

Note: An accessible performance takes place on December 28 with a BSL signer, no pyrotechnics or loud noises and softer lighting.

More info: https://www.camberleytheatre.co.uk/new/whats-on/pantomime

A Christmas Carol – Nomad Theatre, East Horsley, Dec 11-15

The famous tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from miserable miser to generous benefactor. Exciting, terrifying, amusing and always moving; this story is a wonderful prelude to Christmas.

More info: http://www.nomadtheatre.com/a-christmas-carol/

Santa Claus and the Night Before Christmas – G Live, Dec 12-24

It’s Christmas Eve and whilst most children are hanging up their stockings, there are a few boys and girls who are not! They don’t believe in Santa and, with Christmas morning fast approaching, cheeky elves Charlie and Kara must help Santa prove that he is indeed real! With magic tricks, songs and stories, can they make them believe before it’s time to board Santa’s sleigh and deliver the presents?

More info: https://glive.co.uk/Online/tickets-santa-claus-and-the-night-before-christmas-guildford-2018

Cinderella - The Harlington, Fleet, Dec 12-28

Packed full of song, dance and fun for all the family, Cinderella is a traditional pantomime fit for 2018! With a fabulous cast, beautiful costumes, and spectacular live band, you’re all invited to party in the palace at Prince Charming’s Royal Ball!

More info: http://www.theharlington.co.uk/_Pantomime.aspx

Nativity Play – Wintershall, Dec 12-16

Experience the Christmas story in a barn with a large cast of players and animals. The show lasts for 90 minutes with mince pies and hot drinks available before the show.

More info: http://www.wintershall.org.uk/nativity-playww.wintershall.org.uk/nativity-play

Snow White on Ice – Guildford Spectrum, Dec 14-16

Spectrum Ice will be transported like never before by a magical fairytale wonderland as the popular pantomime Snow White takes to the ice. The festive ice show will feature performances by some of the region's rising skating stars, along with some special guests!

More info: http://www.guildfordspectrum.co.uk/ice-skating/snow-white-on-ice/

Jack and the Beanstalk – Epsom Playhouse, Dec 14-Jan 6

A thrilling tale of adventure... magic beans... a mysterious land way up in the clouds... a hidden treasure.

More info: http://www.epsomplayhouse.co.uk/shows/jack-and-beanstalk

Beauty and the Beast – Dorking Halls, Dec 15-29

Expect plenty of fun, laughter and audience participation. Packed with sensational songs, dazzling dance routines, spectacular sets and fabulous costumes, this is a tremendous treat for all the family.

More info: http://www.dorkinghalls.co.uk/index.cfm?articleid=26639

Peter Pan at The Electric Theatre

Peter Pan – The Electric Theatre, Dec 20-22

Join Peter Pan and Wendy in their adventure against Captain Hook and his pirate crew. Follow Tinkerbell, the Lost Boys, a giant crocodile, mermaids and redskins to a world where anything is possible and where dreams and imagination have a power all of their own. Performed by 5-18 year olds.More info: http://themaninthemoon.co.uk

Aladdin – The Leatherhead Theatre, Dec 20-30

Can the urban urchin Aladdin win the heart of the beautiful Princess Jasmine? With plenty of sparkle - and a truly amazing set with plenty of jaw dropping illusions - this marvellous mix of magic, comedy, puppets, music and adventure will provide some good traditional panto family fun.

More info: https://www.theleatherheadtheatre.com/aladdin

The Night Before Christmas – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Mill Studio, Guildford, Dec 20 – 26

On the night before Christmas, Emma stares out of the window, hugs her teddy and waits excitedly for the morning, while in the corner a little mouse called Eddie can’t understand why only humans are allowed to celebrate and get presents. So he sets off in search of Father Christmas to find out for himself.

More info: https://www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk/production/the-night-before-christmas-4

Cinderella – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, Dec 7 – Jan 6

This year’s pantomime features recording artist, actress, songwriter and author Michelle Gayle as Cinderella’s fairy godmother. She is joined by cabaret performer Kit Hesketh-Harvey as Dandini, Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon and his partner in Panto crime Nick Barclay as the Ugly Sisters and Jamie Brook as Buttons.

More info: https://www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk/production/cinderella-0

The Big, Enormous Present – Haslemere Hall, Haslemere, Jan 5

A mysterious present has appeared in the school playground. Who can it possibly be for? Jack, Dot or Polly? What could be waiting inside? Find out in this 50-minute play for the age range 3-8. The Big ENORMOUS Present explores the pressures of fitting in, where we find happiness and how giving can sometimes feel as good as receiving……

More info: http://www.haslemerehall.co.uk/theatre/the-big-enormous-present/

Cinderella – Haslemere Hall, Haslemere, Jan 11-19

All the glitz, glamour and spectacle which have come to be expected from Haslemere’s favourite pantomime will be present, not forgetting the fun, jokes and audience participation!

More info: http://www.haslemerehall.co.uk/theatre/cinderella/

Have a great time and don't forget to join in!

How to spend like a savings pro this Christmas

The season of goodwill is breathing down our necks and if you have mixed feelings about Christmas because of the penurious January and February, it’s time to get a handle on your finances.

Too many people let their spending get out of control, or they give into impulse purchases that they’ll “…pay for next year…”. It’s also common to forget how much the little extras, like wrapping paper and gift cards cost and this all adds to the big bill.

Make this Christmas different

This year, you’ll tip the balance between seasonal spirit and new year regrets by getting your finances in order. You can start by heading to Creditfix and using their handy budget calculator to plan your spending – right down to the last penny if you need to.

Once you’ve done that and you know how much you’ve got to play with, you can start spending like a pro – cutting corners, sniffing out bargains, thinking ahead and bringing home the goods with money to spare. It can be done – here’s how.

Don’t forget your loyalty cards

If your loyalty cards tend to languish in the darkest recesses of your purse, then get them out, shake them off and put them to work! Chances are there’s already a few pounds on them so if you watch out for points promotions when you start shopping, you’ll probably be able to earn enough to afford a few extras nearer the big day.

Think about next year as well

The most convenient thing about Christmas is that it’s predictable – December 25, every year! If you don’t manage to accumulate loads of loyalty points this time around, start next year’s campaign! Similarly, buy your wrapping paper, cards, ribbons and gift tags in the January sales and stash them away, ready for action in 12 months’ time.

Make a very strict list of presents

This list might as well be carved in stone. Do not deviate from it unless you see something that’s better and cheaper! Don’t make any impulse purchases because such-and-such a person will love it, unless you’re prepared to cross them off the list.

Book train, plane or bus tickets as soon as you can

People can focus too much on the presents and the food at Christmas and forget about the travel expenses. If you’re travelling to see relatives, or you pay for someone to come to you, then book as soon as you’ve got your dates so you can get cheaper fares. The nearer Christmas gets, the more prices shoot up, so don’t hang around!

Try a bit of benign neglect

If there’s a branch of the family that you don’t see until after Christmas, or for New Year’s Eve, then don’t bother rushing to get their presents. The Boxing Day sales can offer some deep discounts, so if you can hold your nerve and be ready to take a bit of a chance on the items you had planned still being available, then you could be on a saving streak. You’ll have to be more flexible with your ideas, though, as not everything you wanted will still be on the shelves, but…savings!

WIN a family ticket to The Night Before Christmas at G Live

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED.

We've teamed up with G Live to offer you a fantastic chance to win a family ticket (4 people, minimum 1 adult and 1 child) to their adorable show, The Night Before Christmas. The lucky winners will be able to attend any performance between 12 and 14 December 2018.

Santa Claus and The Night Before Christmas is a simple studio show, it lasts an hour as it is specifically aimed at keeping the attention of pre-schoolers. Be prepared to join in with the story, the songs and the dances throughout the show and at the end each child gets to meet Santa and receives a present. To enter, use the form at the bottom of this page.

A bit more about the show

Santa Claus Returns to G Live, Guildford following last year’s smash hit Christmas production. The next tale in the Santa Adventure series, Santa Claus and the Night Before Christmas, will take to the Bellerby Studio between Wednesday 12 - Monday 24 December.

It’s Christmas Eve and whilst most children are hanging up their stockings, there are a few boys and girls who are not! They don’t believe in Santa and, with Christmas morning fast approaching, cheeky elves Charlie and Kara must help Santa prove that he is indeed real! With magic tricks, songs and stories, can they make them believe before it’s time to board Santa’s sleigh and deliver the presents?

This fun-filled adventure promises to be the Christmas treat you won’t want to miss. A truly unforgettable experience which includes the magical moment when snowflakes fall over the audience – a guaranteed white Christmas at every show.

To enter, answer the following question:

Which is NOT the name of one of elves in the show?

a) Charlie b) Martha or c) Kara?

To enter, use the form at the bottom of this page.

Terms & Conditions

  • One entry per family.
  • Prize is for 4 people, including a minimum of 1 adult and 1 child.
  • The prize winner can choose only one of the following performances: Wednesday 12 December at 2pm or 4pm, Thursday 13 December at 10.30am (relaxed performance) or 2pm or Friday 14 December at 10.30am, 12pm or 2pm.
  • This competition closes at 8pm on Sunday 25 November 2018.

https://glive.co.uk/Online/tickets-santa-claus-and-the-night-before-christmas-guildford-2018

Improving the pelvic floor after childbirth

Childbirth is a beautiful thing, but the aftermath of birth, and the changes to the body which a vast number of women will experience is often far less talked about. Nine months of pregnancy and then labour puts a lot of strain on the body, particularly the pelvic floor muscles, which weaken as a result.

If you are experiencing bladder issues following childbirth, know that you are not alone. 1 in 3 women who have given birth notice bladder weakness afterwards. Thankfully, this is not usually a long-term problem, and the pelvic floor muscles which control the bladder can be strengthened through exercise, diet and lifestyle changes.

We spoke with top gynaecologists, The London Women’s Centre, who have several practices across London and Surrey, to discover the best ways to improve the pelvic floor after having a baby.

What happens to the pelvic floor after birth?

Giving birth is quite traumatic on the body; the weight of the baby can damage the bladder, whilst the pelvic floor becomes stretched and weakened. This is normal, and simply a result of the body naturally making room for the baby to enter into the world. However, common problems occurring as a result include stress incontinence and pelvic prolapse. 

Stress incontinenceis where you leak wee when sneezing, coughing or laughing - an extremely common problem faced by new mums, but one which can easily be improved, by carrying out daily pelvic floor exercises, which many of us know as “Kegels”. 

Another relatively common issue after childbirth is pelvic prolapse, which is more likely to occur after a particularly traumatic birth experience, or after multiple births, resulting in a severely weakened pelvic floor. Prolapse happens when the pelvic organs (the womb, vagina, bladder and bowels) are not being supported properly due to weakened tissues, causing a dragging, heavy or bulging sensation.  

Again, this a problem which can, in most cases, be remedied through self-help methods, including pelvic floor exercises, diet and weight loss. 

Rebuilding strength in your pelvic floor

Kegel exercises are the simplest method in helping regain the strength of the pelvic floor. Ideally, you would have started doing these before falling pregnant and during pregnancy, but if you didn’t, it’s never too late to start!

The good news is, it’s perfectly safe to begin daily pelvic floor exercises straight after giving birth, as long as you feel comfortable and well enough to do so. You can carry out your Kegels in any place and at any time - nobody even has to know. 

The method is simple – just lie down on your back or side (or have a relaxing bath, if more comfortable right after birth), then squeeze your pelvic muscles, as if attempting to stop peeing while mid-flow. Try to refrain from holding your breath or tightening the muscles in your stomach, butt and thighs at the same time. Hold this squeeze in for five to ten seconds while breathing normally. Repeat this 10-15 times in a row daily. Once you’ve got the knack for it, you can start doing quicker squeezes in a row, and more frequently. 

You probably won’t feel like you are doing much for a while, but bear in mind that it typically takes 6-12 weeks for the pelvic muscles to strengthen, which is why persistence is certainly key to results!

Other ways to improve the pelvic floor

Kegels aside, there are plenty of other ways you can help to improve the pelvic floor after birth. Having a good diet and generally watching your weight not only contributes to good overall health, but it also means less weight and stress is put on the pelvic floor. Exercising regularly is also important, as is drinking lots of water and eating a well-balanced, high-fibre diet, helping to prevent constipation, which can, of course, put significant strain on the pelvic muscles. 

Reducing or eliminating alcohol, caffeine and sugary soft drinks may also help, since these are known to dehydrate the body more quickly, irritating the bladder. Likewise, avoiding acidic and spicy foods (citrus fruit, tomato) whilst experiencing bladder issues is wise, as they can make your problems more difficult to manage. 

You should also get into the habit of only going to the toilet when you feel like you absolutely have to, since going too often can cause your bladder capacity to shrink, meaning you will eventually have to urinate more frequently.

When to see a doctor

If you see no improvement after several months following the self-help methods mentioned, it might be necessary to visit your doctor, who can refer you to a women’s health physiotherapist. 

The specialist will assess your issues and individual needs and then come up with a tailored plan that is personal to you. These people are specially trained experts whose job it is to help women improve their pelvic floor, through one-to-one rehabilitation techniques and exercises.

Get started today!

Having a strong, toned pelvic floor is beneficial to women before, during and after childbirth. Not only does it greatly reduce problems such as stress incontinence and pelvic prolapse, but in many cases it will allow women to enjoy a better and more satisfying sex life. 

Besides, the pelvic floor will naturally weaken as we age, which means there really is no time like the present to start making the simple diet, exercise and lifestyle changes necessary to help strengthen the pelvic muscles.

Get inspired at Christmas fairs and markets in Surrey 2018

Looking for something a bit different to buy your loved ones this year? Surrey has some lovely Christmas fairs and markets, selling a range of unique crafts, gifts decorations and food to give your festive season a special touch.

This can be a lovely way to do your Christmas shopping – with many events also offering music, entertainment, refreshments and an opportunity to taste before you buy. A few even have guest appearances by Santa!

Here are the fairs and markets we have found so far, but please check in advance to make sure your event is still going ahead and do tell us about any we have missed. 

Rural Life Centre Christmas craft fair
Date: November 10
Venue: Rural Life Centre, Reeds Road, Tilford, Farnham, GU10 2DL
Times: 10.30am-3pm
Description: This fair showcases crafts such as woollens, wood, jewellery and jam and also includes some craft demonstrations. Refreshments will be available. Admission is FREE.
Website: http://www.rural-life.org.uk/html/Events/Christmas-Craft-fair.html

Royal Kingston Christmas fair
Date: November 15-December 24
Venue: Grounds All Saints Parish Church, Clarence Street, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 1JS
Opening times: Monday - Wednesday 10am - 7pm, Thursday to Saturday 8pm, Sunday 6pm
Description: Event includes a craft marquee, Alpine wooden chalets, a bar area, live entertainment, outdoor heating and seating and food stalls.
Website: http://www.edencrafts.co.uk/eventdetails.asp?ev=833

Loseley House Christmas Fair
Date: November 15-18
Venue: Loseley Park, Guildford, GU3 1HS
Times: 9am-5pm (4pm on Sunday)
Description: Fashions and accessories, leather bags and belts, jewellery, soaps and skincare, candles, platters and bowls and tasty treats. A Specialist Food area offers cakes, wines, cheeses, meats, olives, dips, chutneys and preserves.
Website: http://www.ruralcraftsassociation.co.uk/Crafts-for-Christmas.html

Guildford Cathedral Winter Market and Fair
Date: November 16-17
Venue: Guildford Cathedral, Stag Hill, Guildford GU2 7UP
Opening times: 10am-4pm
Description: Christmas gift ideas, food and drink, and festive decorations.
Website: https://www.guildford-cathedral.org/events/christmas-gift-fair-2018

Garsons Christmas food market
Date: November 17-18
Venue: Garsons, Winterdown Road, Esher, Surrey, KT10 8LS
Times: 10am-5pm
Description: A marquee and farm shop offering seasonal food and drink from the local area as well as festive gifts, decorations, lights and trees,
Website: https://www.garsons.co.uk/what-s-on/view/esher-christmas-food-market

RHS Wisley Craft and Design Fair
Date: November 21-25
Venue: RHS Garden Wisley, Woking GU23 6QB
Opening times: Saturday, 9am-6pm, Sunday 9am-4.30pm
Description: Shop in the stunning surroundings of the garden and buy beautiful crafts for your loved ones. Free entry for RHS members or normal admission charges apply.
Website: https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley/viewevent?EFID=604&ESRC=CMS

Weald and Downland Christmas Market
Date: November 23-25
Venue: Weald and Downland Museum, Singleton, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0EU
Opening times: 10.30am-4pm
Description: Find that perfect gift and enjoy a great day out at the museum at the same time. Stalls will offer arts, crafts, food, unusual gifts and more. There will also be festive music and seasonal treats to sample and buy.
Website: http://www.wealddown.co.uk/events/christmas-market/

Priory Farm Christmas food festival
Date: November 24 & 25
Times: Sat, 10am-4pm, Sun 10.30am-4pm
Description: Priory Farm Christmas Food Festival has become a firm fixture on the foodie calendar, with artisan producers offering tastings and chatting to visitors about their speciality products. Festival-goers can look forward to award-winning pies and naturally-seasoned crisps, West Country ciders, jams, jellies, condiments and much more. Father Christmas also pops in at the end of the first day to greet visitors.
Website: https://www.prioryfarm.co.uk/whats-on/christmas-food-festival/

Godalming Christmas Festival Market
Date: November 24
Venue: Godalming town centre
Opening times: 10am-6pm
Description: The town centre will be filled with festive stalls selling a range of gifts, crafts, decorations, festival food and drink. The Christmas lights will be switched on and local pantomime stars will make an appearance.
Website: https://godalming-tc.gov.uk/christmas-festival-2018/

Shooting Star Chase Christmas and Craft Fair
Date: November 24
Venue: Bourne Hall, Spring Street, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 1UF
Opening times: 10.30am – 3pm
Description: An ideal opportunity to buy your Christmas presents and stocking fillers.
Children can also visit Father Christmas and there will be raffles, face painting, gifts, cakes, crafts and a tombola.
Website: https://www.shootingstarchase.org.uk/christmas-and-craft-fayre/

Mytchett Community Centre Christmas Fair
Date: November 24
Venue: Mytchett Community Centre, Mytchett Road, Farnborough GU16 6AA
Opening times: 10am-2pm
Description: A variety of stalls including art and craft, beauty, gift and jewellery stalls. There will also be refreshments, mulled wine, cake stalls, tombolas, a raffle and a chance to visit Father Christmas.
Website: https://themytchettcentre.co.uk/FLEventsSpecial.htm

Christmas Fair at Farnham Maltings
Date: November 28 & 29
Venue: Farnham Maltings, Bridge Square, Farnham, Surrey, GU9 7QR
Opening times: 1pm to 9pm on Wednesday and 10am to 8pm on Thursday
Description: A bustling marketplace with over 150 stands specializing in handmade gifts, unique stocking fillers, crafts, vintage, food and drink.
Website: http://craft.farnhammaltings.com/portfolio/christmas-fair/

Reigate Business Guild Christmas fair
Date: December 1
Venue: Church Street, Reigate
Times: 12noon-5pm
Description: Market stalls, donkey rides, street food, live music and the Christmas lights switch-on ceremony.
Website: https://www.facebook.com/ReigateBusinessGuild/

Ashstead Park Garden Centre Christmas Shopping Evening
Date: November 30
Venue: Pleasure Pit Road, Ashstead
Times: 6-9pm
Description: An evening of Christmas shopping and mulled wine supping, with 20% off your purchases. Choose magical Christmas decorations, lights, gifts and gardening goodies.
Website: https://www.ashteadpark.com/christmas/late

Haslemere Christmas Market
Date: December 2
Venue: Haslemere town centre
Opening times: 10am-4pm
Description: There will be stalls in the town centre, Haslemere Museum and the Georgian House Hotel. Other attractions include a Santa’s grotto, refreshments, festive entertainment.
Website: http://www.haslemere.com/christmasmarket/

Ripley Christmas Fair
Date: December 3
Venue: Ripley High Street
Opening times: 12noon – 4pm
Description: Music, rides, over 90 stalls on the High Street, a grand procession with Father Christmas (3.40pm) Christmas lights ceremony and more.
Website: https://www.ripleysurrey.co.uk/event/ripley-christmas-fair-2017/

Christmas Market for Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice
Date: December 1
Venue: St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Frensham Road (opposite The Bourne Club), Farnham
Opening times: 10am-1pm
Description: Stalls selling Christmas gifts, decorations, cakes, handbags, homemade preserves, tombola, raffle, silent auction, toys and much more! Entry donation of £3 includes tea or coffee and biscuits – children free.
Website: https://www.farnham.gov.uk/events/christmas-market

Enjoy your shopping – we hope you find some lovely presents and enjoy a bit of Christmas spirit!

Five ways to create a child-safe garden

As digital technology continues to take over more and more of our lives, there are becoming fewer and fewer reasons to spend time outside. This is particularly important for children, who reportedly now spend less time outside than prison inmates according to the Guardian.  

These days there are increased concerns about letting the little ones go out and play on their own, and this is understandable, but your kids can still get plenty of outdoor play in your own garden. With that in mind, we've put together five ways you can create a child-safe garden.

Childproof everything

While it is never good to wrap children up in cotton wool, it is a wise idea to spend a bit of preparation time to make your garden hazard-free. Try and think from your child's perspective and look at your garden in terms of what might present a danger to them. Any tools or equipment should be locked away in a secure location; the same goes for any building materials. 

Children are curious by nature and not very good at assessing potential risk. Any nails, branches, or rocks sticking out and creating hazards should be taken care of before allowing them to play. If you have a pond, consider installing grids or netting over it. 

Solid boundaries

The kind of garden fence you install will vary depending on your needs, but when children are involved, safety and security should be a top priority. If you have kids regularly running around your garden, you need a solid boundary that will prevent them from venturing into next door's non-childproofed garden, or worse, into nearby roads. 

Wooden fences have been traditionally preferred for aesthetics, but they are easily damaged, and broken panels and splinters can pose a risk to children. UPVC fences are a cheap solution to this problem, but a metal fence will look better.

Create a child-specific play area

Now that you've gotten most of the obvious things out of the way, it's time to create a child-specific play area that can be a total safe zone. Giving the kids their own sectioned-off play area is a great way to put your mind at ease, allowing them ample space for independent outdoor play, while being in a controlled environment. 

The space can be as large or as small as you like, but it should have a mix of interesting and fun activities for kids to partake in. Wyevale Garden Centres offer a fantastic range of outdoor play equipment that you can incorporate into a safe space to keep them playing for hours.

Child-friendly surfaces

Hard surfaces such as stone and brick can be good for riding bikes, but may not be the best choice for garden play. Grass and bark provide a softer alternative that allow children to crawl, run, and fall over without getting hurt. Gravel should be avoided altogether as it is painful to land on and not very comfortable to crawl on. 

For an added bonus, consider installing artificial grass instead of the real thing. Not only is it durable and tough, but you don't have to worry about it getting slippery and muddy — and it'll make doing the laundry a lot easier. There are a surprising number of different artificial grasses available, so check out Artificial Grass Direct for a free sample.

Child friendly flowers

Take your eyes off them for a moment and your small children will have disappeared, eagerly exploring and discovering new things to touch and put in their mouths. For this reason it is important to be aware that some flowers and plants can pose a risk. Stinging nettles and thorny plants are obvious causes of harm to curious children, but there are some plants that you may not know about. Common flowering plants such as lily-of-the-valley and philodendron can cause irritation, while every part of the English yew is poisonous.

Having children doesn’t mean you can’t still have a fantastic garden. By following the five tips above you will be able to create a beautiful — and safe — outside space can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.