Winter can be a lovely time of year to get out and get active.  The crisp, cold days can be really beautiful for walks on the beach or through the woods.

For a lot of people though, the thought of going out in the cold and wet is enough to make them hide under their blankets.  I really do believe though that we shouldn’t let the weather stop us getting out and staying active though.

It really is all about having the right kind of clothing to suit the weather.  Which is where Simply Hike come in.

They have a fantastic range of clothes, footwear and accessories to keep you outside and active this winter.

 

 

Keep active this winter with Simply Hike

 

I’ve been taking a look at their Jack Wolfskin collection in particular and have found some gorgeous cold weather pieces that would be brilliant for wearing on winter walks and hikes.

 

The first thing you need if you’re heading out on a long walk in the winter is a good pair of walking boots.

These Jack Wolfskin boots are waterproof but still breathable so they’ll keep your feet warm and dry whatever the weather.  The sole is soft and cushioned so they’d be really comfortable to wear for everyday outings like the school run, as well as on long walks in the countryside.  They have excellent grip too, so they’re great on uneven terrain and would be perfect for when it starts to get a bit icy.

Jack Wolfskin womens walking boot

 

Another cold weather essential for getting out and staying active is a good coat.

There are loads of options to choose from but I love the look of these two from the Jack Wolfskin range.

Jack Wolfskin men and womens coats

 

The women’s Selenium down coat is a gorgeous midnight blue and would keep you so snug and warm while out in the cold this winter.

It’s wind proof and water resistant and has a detachable hood and adjustable hem.  And honestly, it looks like it would feel like being wrapped up in a duvet while still looking socially acceptable.

 

The men’s coat is a really versatile 3-in-1 jacket.  It has a microguard-insulated inner jacket that you can wear by itself, or zip into the waterproof outer jacket.  So whether it’s cold, wet or both you can adjust the coat to suit your needs.

 

With coats and boots sorted, the only other things you need are a nice warm hat and some gloves.

These stormlock gloves for men and women look like they would be brilliant to keep hands warm during the winter.

Jack Wolfskin men and womens gloves

 

They’re really cosy with a soft fleece lining, and the stormlock material keeps out the wind and rain.

What I really love about these is that they look really warm but not too cumbersome.  I think they’d be great for winter hikes as well as for keeping your hands warm while out pushing the buggy to the shops.

 

With all your bases covered you can stop letting winter weather be an excuse for not getting out and about.

With the right footwear, coat and accessories you can keep warm and dry whatever the weather.

 

Disclaimer: I was sent some products from Simply Hike for the purposes of this post but all words and opinions are my own.

Christmas may well be the most wonderful time of the year.  But if we’re not careful it can also be the most ridiculously expensive time of the year too.

Between the presents, the food, the decorations, and festive activities it can be so easy to spend far too much money at Christmas.

With a bit of planning and some creative thinking though, you can still have a great Christmas without spending a fortune.

To get you started, here are 17 ways you can save money this Christmas.

17 ways to save money at Christmas

 

1. Instead of buying new decorations, if last year’s are looking a bit tired, try making your own or seeing what you can find in nature to decorate your home.  Pine cones, holly and mistletoe should all be quite easy to find on a winter walk, and all look lovely and festive.

 

2.  Make a comprehensive list before you go food shopping, and stick to it.  Don’t be tempted by all the special offers on extra treats that you’ve not budgeted for.

 

3.  Make use of your various loyalty cards.  If you don’t spend your points throughout the year you’ll most likely have a nice amount to spend on Christmas gifts or goodies, in places like Boots, Tesco and Sainsburys.

 

4.  Give the gift of your time or skills, instead of buying something, for people who might appreciate it.  You could make a fun gift voucher to give to them, offering a few night’s of babysitting, or your very own subscription service where you bake them a batch of something yummy every month for a few months.

 

5.  Take advantage of any early offers that you see at the supermarket on things that will keep until Christmas.  So tins of chocolates, Christmas pudding and alcohol, that sort of thing.  Just hide them away so they actually last until Christmas.

 

6.  Before you head out Christmas shopping make sure you’ve had enough to eat, so you don’t end up splashing out on a coffee and a snack while you’re out.

 

7.  If you’re hosting Christmas dinner this year, think about asking your guests to bring something along with them, like a box of crackers or some after dinner chocolates.  Most people will be happy to contribute and to take some of the pressure of hosting off you.

 

8.  Get crafty and make as many presents as you can.  Homemade gifts and yummy home-baked treats always go down well and are often more thoughtful than generic shop-bought presents.

 

9.  Don’t get into the ‘one for you, one for me’ mentality!  There are so many lovely things in the shops at Christmas time, but have some control and don’t go buying things for yourself.  Instead make a note of the things you see that you like, or snap a photo of them on your phone, and then when people ask you what you would like for Christmas you know what to say.

 

10.  Get creative and put cheaper items together in pretty boxes or small hampers to make lovely, personalised gifts that don’t break the bank.

 

11.  If you have a lot of friends or family members to buy presents for, ask them if you can agree on a set budget for each other.

 

12.  Another option for a group of friends, colleagues or family members is to do a secret Santa, so each person only has to buy for one other person in the group.

 

13.  If there are people that you know you won’t see until after Christmas, then think about waiting till the Boxing day sales to buy their presents.

 

14.  Check online price comparison sites before you buy anything to make sure you’re getting the best possible price.

 

15.  If you and your siblings all have children you could do what my family have done, and agree to only buy Christmas presents for the children and not for each other.  Or you could give a ‘family present’ like a new board game and a big tin of chocolates rather than giving presents to each individual family member.

 

16.  Get organised and write your Christmas cards nice and early.  If you get them done before 18th December then you can use second class stamps, rather than paying out for first class.

 

17.  Start buying presents early, and as much as possible stick to a list.  This should help to avoid last minute panic buying which more often than not involves spending more than you planned.

 

How many of these things do you do already? 

Do you have any other money saving tips for Christmas?  Please do leave a comment and let me know if you do!

 

This post is linked up with KCACOLS.

It might not technically be winter quite yet, but it is really starting to feel wintry around here.

The weather has definitely turned colder and we’ve been digging out the hats and gloves to wrap up warm on the school run.  It’s getting colder in the house too, which I really notice as I’m here working during the day.

If you’re like me and feel the chill when you’re at home, here are 5 ways to stay warm this winter.

5 ways to stay warm at home this winter

 

1. Put the heating on

I know it’s stating the obvious, but this is the best place to start to warm the house up in the winter.

Most homes now have central heating systems which are nice and efficient in heating the whole house, so when the weather turns really cold pop the heating on to warm the place through.

 

2. Layer up

Dressing in warm layers isn’t just for when you’re going out in the cold.  It’s also a great way to feel warm and cosy at home.

Wearing a few light layers like a vest, long sleeved t-shirt and thin fleece top will keep you warmer because air gets trapped between the layers and acts like a type of insulation.  If you’re like me though and love big comfy hoodies and cosy loose knit jumpers then go ahead and pop one on over the top of your layers to feel really snug.

 

3. Keep out the draughts

There’s not much point in having our central heating boilers going all the time if we then just let all the heat disappear and allow cold draughts to creep in.

You can buy draught excluders that you can fit to the bottom of doors, or you can make a snake-style one yourself pretty easily.  Don’t stop there though.  If cold air is sneaking in through your keyhole then buy a little cover for that, along with a cover or brush excluder for your letterbox.

 

4. Close the curtains as soon as the sun goes down

During the day it’s best to have your curtains open to let any possible warmth from the sun into the house.

As soon as the sun starts to disappear though get those curtains closed.  This way you trap as much heat as possible inside.

To really help keep the house warm you can get some new heavier curtains for the winter months.  Or go for a cheaper option of hanging a blanket over the curtain rail on top of your existing curtains.

 

5. Drink plenty of warm drinks

Warm yourself up from the inside out by drinking plenty of hot cups of tea or coffee.

Make your meals nice and warming too.  Switch your lunchtime sandwich for a hot meal like a carrot and lentil soup.  And in the evenings pick good comfort food like stews or cottage pie.

 

With a combination of these tips you can make your home a wonderfully warm and cosy place to spend time in over the chilly winter months.

Do you have any other ideas for staying warm at this time of year?

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

When was the last time you sat in your house in complete silence?

I honestly can’t remember a time that my house was absolutely silent.  Even when the children are at school and I’m home alone there are still so many noises in the house.  The computer whirrs away as I work, the fridge hums, the washing machine is inevitably spinning and sounding as if it’s about to take off.

After a while you just get used to these noises, but are they ultimately making us stressed?

noisy home making you stressed

 

Studies have found that even sounds we’re not really aware of can have a negative impact on our well-being.

The president of the International Commission on the Biological Effects of Noise, Mathias Basner, explains that “The easiest way to define noise is “unwanted sound” and prolonged noise can cause us to release stress hormones, such as adrenaline, which can raise cholesterol”.

It’s been found that our risk of heart disease can also increase as noise levels increase.

 

The thing is, it’s not just obvious loud noises like the children running around playing or the TV blaring that we deal with in our homes every day.

A lot of the time it’s lots of different noises that all add together to make a far from peaceful living environment.  One of the issues is that a lot of homes these days are quite open plan, so noises aren’t contained to separate rooms.

Have you ever had that thing where you’re trying to watch TV but the kettle boiling in the kitchen is so noisy that you end up having to turn the volume up, making even more noise?  Gloria Elliot,  chief executive of the Noise Abatement Society, points out that it’s this cumulative effect of noise upon noise that makes our stress levels rise.

Keep this in mind next time you go shopping for a new kettle or potentially noisy appliance, and look for one that has the noise abatement society’s ‘quiet mark’ on it.

 

There are a few other things to consider to try and reduce noise levels in your home.

If you notice a fair bit of noise coming in from outside your house, like cars driving past or loud neighbours coming and going at all hours, then look at replacing old windows with new uPVC windows.  And then block the noise out even more by putting up nice thick curtains, preferably ones that go all the way down to the floor.

 

To help you sleep more soundly at night you should try to reduce noise levels in your bedroom as much as possible.  According to the World Health Organisation one in five people in Europe are regularly exposed to sound levels during the night which could damage their health significantly.

You can put rugs down and add more soft furnishings like cushions and blankets to your bed to help absorb noise.  It’s also worth putting thick curtains on the windows in the bedroom too, to block outside noise.

It it’s at all possible then think about moving your furniture around to help reduce noise from next door neighbours.  Putting a big wardrobe or bookshelf by a ‘noisy’ wall can help to reduce the sound levels coming through.

 

Along with these ways to reduce noise levels in your house, it’s also a good idea to reduce stress by building some quiet into your life in general.

 

If you’re going to a meeting or an appointment then leave in plenty of time so you can sit quietly for 5 minutes before you need to go in.  And when you’re at home try and find a 5 minute window to just sit quietly.  This might be when you first come home from work, or after you’ve put the children to bed.

Try to resist the temptation to just put the TV on and instead find a quiet part of the house, like the conservatory if you have one, or the dining room and just sit still and breathe for a few minutes.

 

Our lives are so busy these days, and so noisy too, it’s no wonder we end up feeling stressed and overstimulated at times.  

It really is worth doing whatever we can to reduce the sound levels in our homes, so that on those rare occasions when the children are quiet the house is actually quiet too.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

If you went and had a look in your freezer right now, what would you see?

If it’s anything like mine, there’ll be oven chips and potato waffles, some frozen veg and fish fingers and a pile of ice pops.  And I think we’re missing a trick here, and not making as much use of our freezers as we could be.

Especially in the lead up to Christmas.

There are things that you can prepare ahead of time and pop in the freezer to save time later, and things that you can stock up on and freeze to save frantic trips to the shops.

Here are 7 things you might be surprised that you can freeze:

7-surprising-things-you-can-freeze-and-5-things-you-cant

1. Roast potatoes.

This is a really great way to make life a bit easier for yourself if you’re the one cooking lunch on Christmas day.

Peel and cut up your potatoes, then parboil them until they’re just tender.  Drain the water and then put the potatoes back in the pan to steam dry a bit.

Add a bit of vegetable oil to the pan and toss the potatoes to cover them evenly.  Then spread them out on a baking tray, cover the tray with cling film and pop it in the freezer.

You can then cook them from frozen at 220 (200 for a fan oven) for about 45 minutes.

 

2. Baked goods.

If you’re planning on baking some cookies or cakes to give as gifts for Christmas then it’s great to know that you can make them advance and then freeze them.

Make sure they’re completely cool after baking, then wrap them well and put them in the freezer.

 

3. Spice pastes and pesto.

If you make up too much spice paste or pesto, or have half a jar left over, then you can freeze these too.

Grab a baking tray and line it with clingfilm.  Then put spoonfuls of the paste or pesto on and open-freeze the whole thing.  Once the paste is frozen then you can take the blobs off the tray and put them into freezer bags and pop them back in the freezer.

 

4. Wine.

Now I know for a lot of people the idea of leftover wine is a crazy one, but it does happen now and then!

And if you do have some left in the bottle that you know you won’t get round to drinking, then all you have to do is pour it into ice cube trays and pop in the freezer.  Once the cubes are frozen you can pop them out of the tray and put them into a freezer bag.

You can also do the same with gravy and with stock.  One quick tip for stock though is to reduce it a bit to concentrate the flavour before you freeze it.

 

5. Bananas.

If you find you have bananas that are ripening faster than you can eat them, you can peel them, cut them into chunks and freeze them.

These frozen banana chunks are perfect for using in smoothies or banana milkshakes.

You can also whizz them up with some greek yoghurt and a bit of honey to make a healthy alternative to ice cream.

 

6. Cheese.

Hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan can be grated and frozen ready to use in recipes or to top pizzas and gratins.

This is worth keeping in mind if you spot a great offer on cheese at the supermarket.  Take advantage of cheaper prices and stock up a bit, knowing you can freeze what you won’t eat quickly.

 

7. Milk.

You can freeze plastic bottles of milk, and then simply defrost them at room temperature and shake them well before drinking or using it recipes.

Keep in mind that whole milk doesn’t freeze quite as well as semi-skimmed due to the fat content.  And don’t try and freeze milk in glass bottles as there’s the risk that the glass will shatter as the milk expands as it freezes.

It’s handy to have a bottle of milk in the freezer over the festive period, along with a loaf of bread, so you have your basics covered and won’t have to do any emergency runs to the shops.

baked goods and milk

 

Now you have plenty of ideas for things to pop in the freezer, do keep in mind that there are some things that really don’t freeze well:

  • Meringues.  This is one type of pudding that just doesn’t really freeze well.  Unless you’ve made them into a roulade, and filled them with whipped cream and fruit, in which case go for it.
  • Icing.  Buttercream is ok to freeze, but pretty much all over types of icing tend to go sticky once defrosted.  The best option is to freeze your cakes un-iced, and then ice them once they’re defrosted.
  • Soft cheese.  Cream cheese and cottage cheese, as well as egg custard and mayonnaise tend to separate if you freeze them.
  • Jelly.  Gelatin based puddings like jelly don’t cope well in the freezer.  The structure breaks down and they ‘weep’, which isn’t what you want at all.
  • Watery vegetables.  Things like avocados, cucumbers and lettuce which have a high water content break down in the freezer.

 

Did you know all of these things were suitable to put in the freezer?  Are there any other things you store in your freezer that might surprise people? 

Please do leave me a comment and let me know!

We’ve all been there.

Our brand new kettle, or flat pack cabinet or even dolls house for our child arrives, and with it a big instruction manual.

Some people will crack open that manual and read it all from cover to cover before doing anything else.  Those people are absolutely in the minority though, and possibly have too much time on their hands.

Most of us will have a flick through the manual to get a rough idea of what we need to do and then just dive in.  Possibly dipping back in now and then when things get a bit tricky.

But why is this?  Why don’t we like to read manuals and follow instructions?

Why don't we read manuals and follow instructions_

One of the main reasons we don’t read manuals is that we don’t have time.

Or more likely we don’t want to spend the time it would take to sit down and read a manual properly.  We would rather just get stuck in and see how we get on.

Sometimes this approach works, but so often it doesn’t and we end up wasting more time than if we’d just read the manual in the first place.

A lot of the time we think the manual is going take longer to read than it actually would, because the same instructions are repeated in multiple languages.  If we would just take a minute to open up these multilingual manuals we would realise that the instructions are shorter than we first thought.

 

Another reason we don’t read manuals is because we think we already know enough to manage by ourselves.

If we’ve had a stereo or microwave before we think we’ll be able to work out how to use a new one without reading the instructions.  A lot of the time with this we’re right, although it does still often end up taking us longer to figure out than if we’d just read the manual.

 

Our past experiences also make us wary of reading instruction manuals.

So often in the past we’ve tried to make sense of them but they’ve been written so badly that we just give up.  And then the next time we have a new product we decide not to even bother trying with the instructions.

Especially because these days we know we can quite easily find videos online to help us if we get stuck, or we can just call the company’s helpline and let them talk us through it.

 

What we really need are manuals that are concise and clear, not overly complicated and long-winded.

More and more companies are starting to realise this, and are making quick-read versions of their instructions alongside the full manuals.  This means that we can use those to get started with our new items as quickly as possible, while still having all the detailed information and technical documentation on hand should we need it later.

 

The thing is we’re all so busy these days, we don’t want to spend valuable time reading an instruction manual.  

But this is one time when it’s worth slowing down a bit and taking the time to at least try to follow instructions properly.  As long as they’re well written, clear and concise then reading them can save us a lot of time and stress down the line.

 

Do you read manuals and follow the instructions, or do you prefer to just dive in and try to figure it out on your own?

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

I think it’s safe to say that the UK is a nation of D.I.Yers.

Every bank holiday you’ll find people all over the country getting stuck in to redecorating their living rooms, refitting their kitchens or building flat pack furniture for the bedroom.

But why is this?  What is it about doing it ourselves that we seem to enjoy so much.  Turns out there is some interesting psychology behind why we love to D.I.Y instead of paying someone to do these home improvements for us.

The psychology behind why we love D.I.Y

 

When we look at our homes and see big jobs that need doing, like repainting, changing the kitchen units or putting up new fencing in the garden, why do we decide to do it ourselves?

With these kinds of things, and especially with really big jobs like extensions and loft conversions, it would make more sense to hire professionals to do the work.  It would, in theory at least, be done much more quickly and efficiently.  And you would know that the work was done safely and to a good standard.  With sites like price your job it’s really easy to find tradespeople too.

 

So why do we choose the D.I.Y option so often?

A lot of the time it comes down to the fact that it can be a lot cheaper to do it ourselves.

Other times though, it goes a bit deeper than that.

 

A paper written by Moisio, Arnould and Gentry found that our lifestyle and what we do for a living can impact our desire to do D.I.Y jobs at home.

For people who work in high-powered jobs where they tend to sit at a desk all day, doing home improvements at the weekends is a way of feeling more connected with their inner craftsman who likes to get their hands dirty.

On the other hand, someone who does a more hands-on job earning less money might use D.I.Y as a way of reinforcing their identity as someone who cares for and provides for their family.  Giving them the home they want without having to spend a fortune to get it.

 

What’s also interesting to know is that we put more value on things we’ve built ourselves.

Even if it’s just a piece of flat pack furniture that we assemble at home.  We tend to have more attachment to these items and feel they’re worth more than pre-built pieces.  The same goes for decorating around the house.

We take more pride and see more value in rooms that we’ve taken the time and effort to paint or wallpaper.

 

The thing is, according to a survey or around 2000 people, almost half of the D.I.Y jobs we start don’t get finished.  And 25% of the time that’s because we don’t have the expertise needed to complete the job.

So before you get caught up in the excitement of home improvements, take a few minutes to decide if it’s really something you can do yourself or if you’d be better off calling in the experts.

Do you like doing D.I.Y jobs at home?  Do you have any tips for making a success of it?

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post