Friday, 26 May 2017

Let There Be Light… but Not Too Much!


When it comes to letting in natural light, windows are probably the most valuable source. It’s easy enough—you just draw the blinds or curtains and let the light in! However, with summer coming up, too much light can be a problem because the sun is blazing into our homes and those solar rays are quickly going to heat up the air around us, causing us to sweat, cry and get frustrated at the weather. We can try all we want to cool ourselves down, but there are plenty of methods that don’t provide enough relief.


Air conditioning is expensive

Crank up that air conditioning unit and you’ll find your bills shooting up as well. If you can afford this then that’s good for you, but if you’re living a frugal lifestyle or want to save money, then you may want to consider other options to reduce the temperature in your home. Not only is air conditioning expensive, it also requires regular maintenance to fix and keep in good working condition so that it’s not blowing around dust and other particles that could lead to respiratory issues. There are cheaper options, such as installing a ceiling fan, but it’s always a good idea to tackle the heat at the source: the sun!

Turning to windows

This is why we look towards our windows for relief from the sun. The most basic way to reduce the amount of light and heat that comes into our home is to block it out using thick curtains. This essentially stops all of the solar rays, reducing the heat inside of our homes but also reducing the amount of light we get. The solution to this is grey uPVC windows with special glazing or tinting. The tint can reduce the heat from the solar rays, making our rooms much cooler while at the same time not compromising the amount of heat that we let through.


Not only are special window treatments great for stopping sunlight, it’s also great for retaining heat during the winters. This is why some windows now have energy ratings—it’s so that you know which window and glass manufacturers focus on energy savings and not just style. Next time you give your living room some love, remember that you can improve or replace them before the main summer heatwaves arrive so that you can stay nice and cool.

Spreading light around the house

Not everyone is lucky enough to have windows that let in plenty of light all over the house. Most of us are going to have dark spots in our homes that simply don’t get enough light because of the sun’s trajectory. To combat this, you need to find ways to reflect light around the home, and this usually comes in the form of decluttering and reflective surfaces. By placing large mirrors in strategic places, it can reflect light around the room, brightening up even the most secluded corners. This takes a bit of planning, but it’s a fantastic way to spread the natural light around your home at a low cost.



*this is a collaborative post

Leaf Insects - The Ultimate Allergy Free Pet!

 

     Are you looking for an interesting, unusual and easy to keep pet? A leaf insect may be just the creature you are looking for. True, you can’t take them for a walk, stroke or cuddle them, but once you start to delve deeper into the fascinating world of the leaf insect you are in danger of becoming addicted to the many different types, colours and behaviours of these amazing creatures.  Leaf Insects also have the benefit of being pretty much allergy free!

     Leaf insects belong to the family of insects called phasmids of which there are over 2500 types, stick insects belong to the same family. Leaf insects are naturally found in south Asia, south east Asia and Australia They are fascinating creatures that look just like leaves. Leaf insect is the common name for several species of insects with leaf- like enlarged legs and abdomens. Leaf insects mimic the leaves of the plant that they live on so closely that their predators have great difficulty in spotting them. In some species the edge of the leaf insects body even have the appearance of bite marks to look like damaged leaves. When a leaf insect walks it rocks backwards and forwards to mimic a real leaf being blown in the wind, the nymphs (young) of some species have even developed a rather cute “cartwheel” action along the branches to escape predators.
     Most female leaf insects can reproduce by laying eggs without a male. This biological miracle is called parathenogenesis which means that all the subsequent leaf insects  born will be female.
     Leaf insects are insects which undergo incomplete metamorphosis, thereby they miss out the vulnerable pupae stage in their growth cycle.

The leaf insects growth cycle is:-
Egg- nymph - adult

     One benefit of incomplete metamorphosis is that the nymphs (young) resemble mini adults and therefore eat the same food as the adults. Any dangers that may be encountered in the need to travel distances to look for the next stage of food are eliminated. Another benefit of incomplete metamorphosis is that if a limb is lost due to injury or difficulty in shedding its skin it is possible for a new limb to be re grown. This exceptional ability can only occur whilst the nymph sheds its skin as it grows larger, therefore if your fully grown adult leaf insect loses a limb a new limb will not be re grown.
     A leaf insect nymph will shed its skin many times before it reaches full size.
  

Leaf insects as pets


     Leaf insects are relatively easy to keep as pets and are ideal pets for children (with adults closely supervising). In comparison to other pet choices leaf insects don’t smell, they are clean, quiet and attractive and don’t require training and social interaction! Another bonus is that they don’t have fur and feathers, which are the cause of allergic reactions in many people. However as with all living creatures leaf insects do need the same commitment from their owners to feeding, care and maintenance.

     The key to keeping leaf insects successfully is to try to mimic the conditions that they would naturally experience in the wild and feed them foliage as close to what they would naturally eat as possible.


Housing


     Leaf insects need to be housed in a clear glass or plastic aquarium that is taller than it is long, about 30cm in height should be sufficient. A large sweet jar is ideal. They need to be kept fairly warm at a temperature of 21-24 centigrade, the temperature can be allowed to decrease at night. The best way of maintaining the correct temperature is to keep them in a warm room. Some of the more delicate species may require a supplementary heat source, which could be in the form of a heat pad or lamp. Caution is needed when using lamps as they can cause the atmosphere in the cage to become too dry. If the cage in which the leaf insect lives becomes too dry the nymph may struggle to shed its skin effectively during moulting which may result in a limb being lost.

     The opening to the leaf insects cage should be covered by fine netting, to ensure that the insects don’t escape and also to provide adequate ventilation. The floor of the cage can be covered with paper for ease of cleaning. Light coloured paper will enable the eggs of the leaf insects to be seen most easily.

     It is very important that a moderate level of humidity is maintained in the cage, this can be easily achieved by spraying the leaves of the food in the cage once or twice a day. Spraying the leaves will also ensure that the insects have enough to drink, however be aware that too high a level of humidity may promote mould growth, which could be detrimental to the leaf insects health. Too much water pooling in the cage may also cause the insects to drown.

     Leaf insects are very clean creatures and cleaning them out once a week would be sufficient to maintain a healthy environment, unless any water spillages occur.

Feeding




     Almost all species of leaf insects will eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, which are available even in winter in sheltered places. Alternatives include oak and eucalyptus leaves. When sourcing leaves for food it is essential that they have not been sprayed by insecticides and herbicides which are lethal to leaf insects, for this reason it is best to avoid collecting food near busy roads.
     When the food has been collected wash it and place in a jar of water inside the cage. Cover the neck of the jar with fine netting to prevent the insects from falling in and drowning.
     Spray the leaves sparingly every day and replace the leaves as necessary to keep fresh.
     Occasionally very young leaf insects can become reluctant to feed. Try cutting the edges of the food plant leaves to reveal more tempting fresh, tender leaf edges.

Handling




     Leaf insects are extremely delicate especially when young and if handled too roughly they may easily shed a leg. If it is necessary to handle your leaf insect gently coax them to walk onto your hand.

Breeding


     Female leaf insects breed very easily and with luck may do so within a couple of weeks of reaching adulthood. As previously discussed in most species of leaf insects the females do not require the presence of a male to breed.

     Each female will lay approximately 40 eggs each at the rate of 1-2 per day. The eggs will probably be found on the base of the cage. Eggs should be collected and placed on moist sand in a plastic box, the box should then be kept at 20-25 centigrade. The eggs may take 2 months- 1 year to hatch. When the nymphs (young) hatch place them onto fresh bramble leaves with the edges cut to stimulate feeding. 


Where to buy


     It is best to buy leaf insects as nymphs if possible otherwise you won’t know how old they are or indeed how long they have left to live. If you buy the insects as eggs you may have a long time to wait as they can take up to a year to hatch!

     Lots of breeders advertise on the inter net and pet shops should be able to give you details of reputable local breeders.

In conclusion what are the pros and cons of  leaf insects as pets?


Pros


- They don’t smell and can be kept anywhere in the house including a child’s bedroom.
-They are cheap to house and feed.
-They don’t require social interaction or taking for a walk!
- They don’t cause allergies.
- They are prolific breeders.
- They teach children about growth cycles, shedding skin and the value of life.
- There are many different species of leaf insect each with their own colours and behaviours.

Cons


- They are delicate to handle especially when young.
- They can easily lose limbs.
- Too high humidity may promote mould growth.
- They are prolific breeders, so you may have many insects to re home.


   
  
  


Why Your Living Room Deserves Some Care And Attention

After a busy day at work, we often run in, grab some food and, instead of dining like grown-ups at the dinner table, we go and sit in the living room to eat our noodles. Our living room is often our first port of call when we want to do a multitude of things, so it deserves some love from us.

It Shows Off Your Personality

An interior space is the perfect way to show off our personal style and taste, so it’s worth putting some time and effort into designing rooms that reflect who we are. Maybe you have a favourite colour that everyone knows you for, in which case, you should bring that hue into your living room, ensuring everyone who walks into it will instantly feel that they’re in your home. You don’t have to go as far as painting a wall or whole room (although, why not be brave); you can add rugs, cushions, and throws, to bring in colours and patterns you love, so the look of your lounge can be easily changed when your personal style evolves.


Another way to portray your personality is through wall art and photographs. If you spend a lot of time in your lounge, it’s comforting to be surrounded by happy memories that pictures often bring to a room. You can create a feature wall, full of items, photography and trinkets that you’ve collected over the years, which will make a beautiful talking point and ensure your living room feels like home. Take a peek at Pinterest  for some feature wall inspo for your home.

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It’s Where You Hang Out

The living room is usually where we end up gravitating towards each evening and on weekend-days when we’ve decided the rain is not going to stop anytime soon. Therefore, creating a cosy and comfortable haven to hang out in is a smart idea. If you’re sat with your feet up, reading Vogue, you want to have invested in a sofa that you can relax on, and that doesn’t skimp on your personal interior style. Whether you choose a charcoal-grey modern couch, or you’re more of a brown chesterfield sofa kind of a girl, it’s worth putting some thought into what will suit you and your living space the best.

woman-girl-remote-watching.jpg
Image via PEXELS

It Looks After You

The more you take pride and care in your living room, the better it will look after you. It’s worth the effort of getting the interior design just how you like it, so you’ll always look forward to being in there whether you’re eating, online shopping, or having a movie night in with friends. It’s important in our busy lives to feel like we have a sanctuary to return to after work each day, so all the stresses can ebb away. Giving your lounge some care and attention will ensure it provides a relaxed environment for you to chill-out in, and the more time you spend in there, the happier you’ll be. Now; Netflix and chill.
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Image source here




*this is a collaborative post














Bidvine Review - my search for a professional cleaner

As a busy mum of four, I sometimes feel like there simply isn't enough time in the day to spend quality time with my children. Questions such as, "mum can you play with us?" are too often answered with "when I've finished cleaning the bathroom, kitchen, hoovering, ironing etc. etc ..."

Hiring a professional cleaner has been at the back of my mind for a while. I spent a short time in the past cleaning for my ill Father in law, so I know that just a couple of hours a week can help to get on top of large cleaning tasks. Also, although having a cleaner seems very extravagant, a couple of hours a week is actually doable with regards to cost and the amount of time saved.



 Bidvine - a fantastically useful concept!




As I am a natural procrastinator I hadn't given the idea of hiring a professional cleaner anymore thought, until I came across the site Bidvine, which is a fast and free service, enabling you to receive competitive quotes from professional service providers in your local area. Bidvine cover lots of services including music tuition, photography, handyman services, painter and decorators, personal training, yoga, professional cleaning, to name a few. It's a bit like having an interactive local advertising magazine at your finger tips!

How Does Bidvine Work?



On first entering the site you are asked the simple question "What service do you need?".

I typed in domestic cleaning and was then asked a series of questions specific to the cleaning service I required. I was asked if I wanted a standard clean, deep clean or moving out clean. I chose a standard clean. The next question asked if I would like any additional services, such as the fridge cleaning, an oven clean, interior window clean and laundry. Optionally I could let the cleaner know if I had any pets, or would prefer only eco products to be used. I went on to stipulate the times and days I would like the cleaner to work.



An account was then created, specifying where I lived and my email address to receive bids.

Bidvine then send your job request to trusted local professionals who can help with your service requirements. Bidvine work hard to perfect the match between jobs and local professionals.

Following setting up an account and answering the questions, you sit back and wait for local professionals to contact you via email.



I found the process to be extremely simple and user friendly. So much easier than trawling through phone numbers and waiting for people to turn up to give quotes.

It is comforting to know that Bidvine only deal with professionals and they have a review process whereby customers can read reviews and are also encouraged to leave reviews.

I was most impressed by the specific questions asked, as it eliminates people from contacting you that can't meet your individual requirements or work on particular days.  

I wouldn't hesitate to use Bidvine again to search for other local professionals in my local area. Hopefully I'll now have lots of free time to spend with my family!   


-This is a sponsored/collaborative post. All words and opinions are my own



Monday, 22 May 2017

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules Review

I have been struggling a little lately, with low energy levels, so I was very pleased to accept the opportunity to review Pharmaton Vitality Capsules.

Last year I struggled with low iron levels and although my iron levels are now back to normal, I'm still experiencing a post lunch dip in energy levels at around 2 pm. To be perfectly honest given the chance I would sleep for at least an hour!

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules are clinically proven against tiredness and energy and are designed to be taken for short periods of time. I was happy to review them for 30 days.

What are Pharmaton Vitality Capsules and what are they used for?

Pharmaton Vitality capsules are a multivitamin, mineral and ginseng supplement.
The capsules are designed for relief of short periods of daily fatigue associated with a busy and hectic lifestyle. Pharmaton capsules work by enhancing mental and physical performance through the combined action of Ginseng, vitamins and minerals on the metabolic process. suitable for adult men and women, not children.

The tablets are quite large and need to be taken with lots of water, either with or straight after food. I would imagine nausea would be a problem if you didn't do this. They were easy to swallow though and didn't leave any after taste. They remind me of the vitamin supplements I used to take when pregnant in their size.

I have now completed a 30 day course and have to say I was surprised and pleased that after the first 5 days of taking them I had much more energy! The desire to curl up on the sofa in the afternoons definitely diminished. I have also felt as though I have more energy in the evenings too, managing to stay up until 11pm rather than 9pm.  

Like all medicines and supplements there are possible side effects to taking Pharmaton Vitality Capsules, although they are usually mild. Whilst taking the tablets I did develop a headache over a few days, however I am prone to headaches, so I couldn't say if it was caused by the supplements or not. I stopped taking them for a couple of days and restarted once my headache had gone. There was no reoccurrence.

I would definitely recommend taking the supplements for short periods and may do so myself again in the future, however always read the information on how, when and when not to take the supplements. They are available to buy at Boots for £9.45





Pharmaton Vitality Capsules (£9.45, Boots) contain ginseng G115 as well as the vitamins and minerals needed to relieve symptoms of tiredness leaving you feeling mentally and physically alert! Pharmaton Vitality Capsules effectiveness are supported by clinical studies.




For the purpose of this post I received a 30 day sample of the supplement and received no payment.   



Friday, 19 May 2017

Dairy Free Style Your Breakfast With Vita Coco Coconut Milk Alternative




I accepted the dairy free style your breakfast challenge, with Vita Coco Coconut alternative, with a little bit of trepidation and a great deal of curiosity!

I have used milk alternatives in the past, with varying amounts of success. I have used many varieties of soya milk and goats milk, trying to convince myself that the porridge really does taste good or that my coffee doesn't really taste disgusting - does it?!




I have a love of coconut. Coconut ice cream, cake, biscuits, sweets - the list is endless. However I have never tried coconut milk as an everyday milk alternative. So many people these days have food intolerances and allergies, dairy products being one of the main culprits. I have read so many news articles in the media regarding the negative impact on our health of consuming too much dairy products, that finding a non dairy alternative that tastes great is appealing. The great thing about Vita Coco Coconut Milk Alternative is that it's dairy free, gluten free, soy free, has no added sugar. There's also the benefit of added vitamins and calcium.    


  

I was very impressed when my parcel containing two full sized bottles of Vita Coco Coconut arrived. I particularly love the cool bag.  

The challenge set was to design an original recipe idea using Vita Coco Coconut Milk Alternative.
So here is my recipe as an entry to the Dairy Free Style Your Breakfast challenge with Vita Coco and Foodies100.co.uk . See more great breakfast ideas at http://vitacoco.com/uk/

As a busy mum of four children of varying ages, mornings can sometimes feel like I'm running a B&B! Everyone chooses different things, so I tried to come up with a recipe that everyone would love, with minimal preparation time.



We have had an unusually warm spell recently, so I came up with the idea of making ice-lollies packed with fruit and used Vita Coco as the liquid, it's a bit of an alternative to the smoothies that my son loves. I used frozen berries and oats with just a sprinkling of sugar and froze in cute little ice lolly moulds. They went down a treat with the little ones. I was surprised that although the Vita Coco is sugar free, it has a natural sweet taste which is a hit with the kids (and myself!).







Now, as much as I love an ice lolly as does my husband, I felt that for breakfast we needed something a little more substantial and less messy! So I also made porridge, using exactly the same ingredients as went into the ice  lollies - Vita Coco Coconut Milk Alternative, frozen berries, oats and a sprinkle of sugar. It was delicious and my teenage son also enjoyed it.




I have been pleasantly surprised by the outcome of this challenge. To be honest the Vita Coco tastes so nice, I don't think you can go wrong with using it as a milk alternative. It even tastes nice on it's own as refreshing drink, reminds me of summer holidays. So unless you hate coconut or have an allergy to it I would definitely recommend that you give it a try!

  

Monday, 15 May 2017

Today my eldest son starts his GCSE exams!

When I first started writing this blog back in 2009, my intention for it was to create an online diary of my families life. In 2009 my eldest son was 8 years old, he has now turned 16 and today is the first day of his GCSE exams!

 His last official day at school was last Friday and although he's pretty much in school full time until the end of June with exams and revision sessions, it was still the end of "official" school. It was a day of mixed emotions for me. I thought about his first ever day at school, the day when I took him looking very smart in his brand new uniform, new shoes and clutching his brand new, but empty book bag. I think I was as nervous as he was, although I needn't have worried as he went straight to the computer, turned off whatever was already on there and put a game that he liked on (he was pretty adept at computers - even at four!).

So continued another 12 years of school, the change to high school went well and he's just taken every stage of his life in his stride. A couple of blips along the way, but that's to be expected  - kids are not robots, despite the way some schools process kids through the system.

My son's"last" day at school was in complete contrast to his first. Scruffy (but cool) hair, muddy shoes, shirt hanging out and a rucksack stuffed with revision notes, empty drinks bottles and dare I say it - a manky banana skin! He's also about a foot taller than me now. He hung out with his mates after school and came home with a shirt covered in signatures, messages and interesting (to say the least ...) drawings!

I suppose he's now reached the stage in his life where as a parent you can only advise and give them the equipment and tools to tackle what's ahead. I haven't been able to help with his maths homework for years! We've designed an exam timetable, bought all the revision guides and designed a workspace for him. I encourage him to have early nights and this morning he's gone off to school after porridge for breakfast! He's got loads of water and snacks and a clear plastic bag full of stationary - about 15 pens and pencils, just in case they all break! The plastic bag thing, was the same when I was at school.

I wish him all the luck in the world for his exams and as long as he does his best, I really don't mind about the results (ask me again in August). I think he knows that the whole of the last 12 years at school were all geared towards the next few weeks and however well he does I am very proud. The main thing though, is that he has grown into a well rounded, happy young man with lots of friends. The next step will be sixth form, followed by whichever path he chooses. Exciting times!

What's truly fantastic (if a little daunting) is that I'll be doing it all again for the other three children!