Care for your car when you're not driving it much

How to care for your car when you’re not driving it much

How often do you use your car on a normal week?

You might be like me and use on a daily basis for quite short journeys, like the school run, and then maybe a longer trip out for a family outing at the weekends.

Or maybe you have a 45 minute commute to the office 5 days a week and then a trip to the big supermarket on a Saturday.

However much you normally drive your car, I’m betting you’re actually driving it way, way less now.

And if your car is spending most of its time just sitting outside your house, you need to make sure you’re doing all the things you need to do to keep caring for it.

 

Whether your car is a brand new shiny Audi, a Vauxhall lease car or a well-loved family Ford, you need to keep looking after it while it’s off the road, so when you do shift back to a more normal routine it’s ready and raring to go.

Here are some things you might want to do:

 

Give it a good clean

Spend a bit of time cleaning your car on the outside and the inside.

Washing away things like tree sap and bird poo will help keep the paint job in good condition.

And as for the inside, make sure you clear out all the kids’ mess from the backseats and check there’s no bits of food left behind that will go bad and leave the car smelling terrible.

 

Fill up the tank

Even if you won’t be driving for a while it’s a good idea to fill the car’s tank up.

Having a full tank will help reduce condensation that can build up in the tank as a result of fluctuations in the weather.

 

Keep the battery happy

One of the biggest issues people face when they don’t drive their car for a while is the battery going flat.

So even if you’ve not actually got anywhere to drive to, try to take your car out for a 20 minute run now and then to keep the battery happy.

A great side benefit of doing this is that you’ll also then have a chance to keep the gearbox moving and brakes sharp.

 

Keep an eye on your tyres

Make sure your tyre pressure is still right and that the tyres haven’t started to go flat while the car’s been idle, before heading out any where.

You can check them yourself at home with a tyre pressure gauge or you can do it at the local petrol station when you go to top up the tank.  Taking the car out for a short drive to keep the battery topped up will also help stop flat spots on the tyres, which can happen when they’re left in the same place for as little as a month.

 

Keep track of your car admin

When you’re not driving your car regularly it can start to become a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, but you need to make sure you’re keeping track of important things like when your MOT is due, when you need to renew your car tax and any other car-related payments you might need to make.

Sit down and work out when these things need to be dealt with and then put them in your calendar and set up reminders on your phone to prompt you to get them sorted.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you keep your car well-looked after during the times when you’re not driving it as much as normal.

So when you do get behind the wheel a bit more again things will still be running nice and smoothly.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

_have the perfect girl’s night in

How to have the perfect girl’s night in

Now that the lockdown has lifted and we can all go out again, you might suppose that it’s time to rejoice, and to take advantage of the opportunities to paint the town red. But the appeal of a night in with the girls hasn’t actually gone anywhere – and the novel coronavirus still poses a substantial risk, even if it’s one that most of us would rather not hear about.

Being as we’ve spent most of our time alone over the past few months, the prospect of getting together with a few good friends might appeal more than a trip outdoors. But exactly what goes into a perfect girl’s night in?

 

Get rid of the men

If you’re going to be able to truly unwind, then you’ll want to remove distraction from the room – and ideally, the house. Persuade your other half to plan a boy’s night in, and arrange a rota system so that someone will always be looking after the kids.

 

A theme

Picking a theme can help to distinguish any given girl’s night from all of the others that you might be holding over the months and years to come. This will make it a great deal more memorable. The theme should extend to everything from your choice of food and drink to the activities you’ll be planning and the music you’ll be listening to.

It’s also a great chance for everyone to flex their creative muscles in coming up with ideas that are in keeping with the theme. As part of the theme, you can present everyone with some of the personalised chocolate gifts uk-based online retailers are now providing.

 

Cocktails

Going for the same old drinks can be a little bit tedious. Mix up a punch that matches the theme, and that’s a little bit different to what you’re used to. Don’t go too sweet or too dry, and don’t be tempted to drown everyone in liquor – you want everyone to be cogent later on in the evening!

 

Make it a dinner party

In normal circumstances, you might be tempted to resort to a variety of snacks that everyone can dip in and out of whenever the fancy takes them.

But in an age of enforced social distancing, sharing snacks can present a risk of contagion, and thus you might instead go to the effort of preparing a sit-down meal for everyone. If you don’t rate your chances, here, then just tell everyone they’ll need to eat before they show up. 

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Simple lemon curd flapjacks

Lemon curd flapjacks recipe

Lemon curd is one of those random things that, every now and again, I get a craving for but then when I buy it I struggle to use up the whole jar.

So I started thinking about different recipes I could use lemon curd in.  I considered trying a lemon curd version of my peanut butter and chocolate oat cookies, but didn’t think it would quite work.  Then it dawned on me that what would work is a lemony take on flapjacks.

I used my simple flapjack recipe as a base, added in a layer of lemon curd and hoped for the best.

And oh my word the result is so good.  Don’t take my word for it though, rescue that jar of lemon curd from the back of the fridge and give these lemon flapjacks a go yourself.

 

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 250g oats
  • 2-3 spoons of lemon curd

 

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 7 x 9 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper
  2. Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a pan and melt it all together over a low heat
  3. Once all the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and stir in the oats
  4. Mix everything together really well so all the oats are coated in the buttery, syrupy mixture
  5. Tip about two thirds of the mixture into the lined tin and press it down really well with the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula
  6. Spoon on the lemon curd and spread it over the mix as well as you can
  7. Add the rest of the flapjack mixture to the top and press down with the back of the wooden spoon
  8. Bake at 180 degrees for 18 minutes
  9. Leave to cool for a few hours, or even better, over night
  10. Cut into squares and enjoy

 

These flapjacks are perfectly sweet and chewy with just the right amount of lemon flavour for us.

If you want to up the lemonyness a bit though, you could try adding some lemon zest into the flapjack mixture.  Or make some lemon icing by mixing up some icing sugar and lemon juice and then drizzle that over the top of the flapjacks once they’ve cooled.

Lemon flapjacks

A lemony twist on a classic flapjack recipe
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time18 mins
Total Time28 mins
Course: Snack
Keyword: Flapjacks, Lemon

Equipment

  • Scales
  • Large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • 7x9 inch baking tin
  • Greaseproof paper

Ingredients

  • 125 g butter
  • 125 g brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tsps lemon curd

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 180 and line a 7 x 9 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper
  • Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a pan and melt it all together over a low heat
  • Once all the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and stir in the oats
  • Mix everything together really well so all the oats are coated in the buttery, syrupy mixture
  • Tip two thirds of the mixture into the lined tin and press it down really well with the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula
  • Spread 2-3 spoonfuls of lemon curd as best you can over the mixture
  • Add the rest of the flapjack mix on top of the lemon curd and press down well
  • Bake at 180 for 18 minutes
  • Leave to cool for a few hours, or even better, over night
  • Cut into squares and enjoy
Photograph the everyday moments

Photograph the normal moments too

On the 10th of every month I take 10 photos.  10 photos that capture life as it is on that day.

Some months it feels like a struggle.  It seems like there’s nothing ‘worth’ photographing about that particular day.

That day is nothing special.  There’s nothing about it that’s different than the day before.  The routine is the same as it was the day before and the same as it will be the day after.

But that is exactly why it’s worth photographing.

Because who knows when the day will come that looks completely different from this one.  So every month I push through that struggle and take 10 photos.

Photos of our routine, mundane, everyday life.  Photos that a year from now I’ll be so grateful that I took because of how much has changed.

I think so often we focus on photographing the big moments.  The special ones.  The pretty ones.

We take photos that will look good on Instagram.

We hide the clutter and mess and realness.

We edit the life out of our photos.

Don’t get me wrong, I do it too, and I won’t be stopping any time soon.

I love the posed photos in front of birthday cakes.  The first-day-back-at-school pictures by the front door.  The highlight reels from our days at the beach and the park.

These photos make me happy.

These moments are worth recording.  These photos will make me smile so much in the future.

 

The thing is, life is so much more than the highlights.

The milestones.

The main events.

What I want to make a point to record is all the in-between moments.

The mundane, everyday routines that we almost stop noticing because they’re so mundane and routine.

Those times that, when we’re in them, feel like they’ll last forever.  And then they’re gone.

These are the photographs we’ll be really grateful for when we’re older.

 

Photos like this one of Nerys reading to Steve in bed.

When our children are little it feels like we’ll always be in that bed, reading the same stories over and over and over again.  Then they get a bit bigger and start reading out loud to us.  And it feels like this is the way it’ll always be.

Then they get older again and don’t need us as much any more.  They happily read to themselves in bed.

It happens so slowly, you don’t notice things changing.  Then one day you realise that you can’t remember the last time they curled up next to you, to read their book aloud with you by their side to help them sound out the tricky words.

That’s when photos like this take on a new importance.

One day we’ll find this photo again and all the memories will come flooding back.

How Nerys’ reading suddenly took off during lockdown, when we found a few of these Fairy Animal books amongst a pile of books someone had left outside their home for passers-by to take.

How she used a little post-it to mark, not only her page, but her place on the page when she had finished reading each day.

The way she would steal my spot in bed in the mornings, to read with her dad, during those slow mornings when we weren’t in a rush to get out the door for school.

 

It’s the same with the school run routine.

Day in day out, week after week, it’s the same.

Well, it was the same.

For years we did the same thing, walked the same path, saw the same people, followed the same routine.

It’s such a regular part of family life, for such a long time, that you don’t really think to photograph it.  It feels so boring.  So mundane.  So un-photoworthy.

But when you actually stop and look at the little details of that routine, there’s so much to document.

Like, we have a little ritual of sorts when we say goodbye to each other.

After a hug and kiss we’ll make a heart with our hands, blow a kiss and wave.  At school drop off last year Nerys and I would do this through her classroom window to each other.

It was only on the last day before the schools closed that I thought to photograph it.

 

Even now, just a few months later, I am so pleased that I took this photo.

So much has changed since I took it.

At the moment the children are due to be going back to school in a few weeks, but it won’t be the ‘normal’ routine when they do.  I won’t be able to hang around the classroom, making sure the children are settled before leaving.  I’ll have to move along, out of the way of other parents, instead of waving and blowing kisses and making heart shapes through the window.

Something that we did so many times over the last year is already just a memory.

 

So here’s my advice.

Take a bit of time and look around your life.

Think about the routines and rhythms of your day.

Find the things that you do so often that they feel boring and humdrum.

These are the things to photograph.

I know it might not feel like it when you’re in the trenches of round the clock feeding with a newborn, or chasing a toddler round the park for the 10th time that week, but you will look back at these times with a sort of nostalgia when they’re older.

I’m not saying cherish every moment, but I am saying notice them.  And record some of them.

Get someone to take a photo of your feeding your baby, pushing them in the buggy or wearing them in a sling.

Photograph your weekly walk to baby group or the library.

Take pictures of your child feeding the ducks and going down their favourite slide at the park.

 

Right now feels like a particularly important time to record.

And at the same time it’s been a particularly hard time to photograph, in all its groundhog-day-ness.

But if you can take a step back and think about the things that are part of daily life now that won’t be in the future then you’ll find plenty to take photos of.

 

Look beyond the big moments, the milestones, and the main events.

Photograph the in-between.

The slow mornings in pjs.  The socially-distanced meet ups with friends.  The zoom calls with family.

Photograph the highlights, sure, but photograph the normal moments too.

Stop summer learning loss

How to keep children learning over the summer

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links

 

I know that after months of trying to do school work at home with your children the sense of relief when the summer holidays arrived was most likely incredible.

And I don’t blame you if you never want to look at another workbook or try and coerce your child into practising their times tables ever again.

The thing is, for my family at least, the return to school in September will be a huge shock to the system if we abandon learning altogether over the summer.  So if you want to keep your children ticking over with their learning then here are some things you can try doing with them (and lots of them basically involve learning through play).

 

Take on a summer reading challenge

The last few years we’ve signed up for the summer reading challenge at our local library and it’s been a great way to encourage the children to keep reading over the holidays.

If your local library is still closed at the moment, like ours is, then you can still sign up for the summer reading challenge online.

Another idea that would be fun for avid readers is to set up a family book club.  Decide together which books you’ll read, then sit down together each week to chat about them.

 

Dig out the board games, card games and chess boards

These kinds of games are a great way to sneak some learning into the summer holidays.

Things like chess teach them how to think strategically, as well as boosting their memory, spatial awareness and problem solving skills.

If you want to work on their spelling and language skills then games like scrabble (or junior scrabble for younger children) and boggle will get them thinking while also having fun.

We’re big fans of Orchard games for games that are simple and fun to play while still being quite educational.  They cover all sorts of things from times tables to telling the time in a way that makes learning just feel like playing.

 

Keep a bit of structure

If having a bit of a routine works best for your family then you might want to pick up, or carry on with, some of the structure of doing home schooling.

There are loads of workbooks you can buy that cover all sorts of subjects for children of all ages, that they can work through at their own pace.

You could also look at using Twinkl resources to find worksheets to print off for them to do.

If you’re happy with them working on the computer then you could use the resources from BBC bitesize, there’s loads on there from when the schools were closed, covering various topics.

We’ve also been using The Maths Factor for a few months now to support the maths work the children were given from school to do at home.  Rhys and Nerys both really enjoy doing their daily sessions and I’m a huge fan of the way Carol Vorderman uses all sorts of tips and tricks to help them understand different maths problems.  I signed the children up for it when it was free during the school closures, but they were getting so much out of it I’ve paid for subscriptions for them now and can see us sticking with it for quite a while.

 

Make the most of screen time

If your children would happily spend hours on end in front of the computer or iPad then try using that to your advantage.

There are all sorts of things they can do on tablets or computers that are really fun but also educational.

A great place to start is with games that teach them the basics of coding.  Rhys was asked to do some Disney hour of code activities as part of his school work that we did at home last term, and it was so much fun Nerys ended up doing it too.

 

Get creative

One of the skills that I’m really aware that my children don’t practice much over the summer holidays is handwriting.

So any activity that gets them writing, while still having fun, is a win.

Writing postcards to send to friends and family is a great place to start.  Even if you don’t go away anywhere, you should be able to find postcards in your own town to send.  Or you could make your own.  The beauty of postcards is there’s only a small amount of space to fill with writing so it doesn’t feel overwhelming for the children.

Another idea is to make a scrapbook of the things you get up to over the summer, with the children writing down memories and stories by hand to stick in with photos and drawings.

 

Have fun in the kitchen

Baking is a great way to practice all sorts of skills.

Following the recipe helps with reading and comprehension skills.  Measuring out the ingredients involves maths skills.  And watching how the ingredients work together to create something delicious teaches them about science.

So let them pick out a recipe and take the lead in cooking up something yummy.  We use this 2-4-4-4 fairy cake recipe a lot, and have down since the children were really little because it’s so easy but makes really tasty cakes every time.

 

Have a foreign holiday at home

If your children are learning a foreign language at school then help them practice during the holidays by pretending you’re visiting another country for the day.

You can pop to the supermarket and get foods from the country to try, and then have conversations in the language they’re learning as you sit and eat.  You could also go on a virtual tour of the foreign country and look at their famous landmarks and see what they’re called in their native language.

To really immerse yourselves in the language you could try listening to a radio station from the foreign country or even watch a foreign-language film in the evening.

 

Give some STEM activities a go

There are so many fun things you can do that sneakily introduce children to the basics of science, technology, engineering and maths.

One thing we’ve had a lot of fun with is making flipbooks, which also happen to be a great way to introduce children to the idea of animation.  Once you’ve got the hang of flipbooks you can try making stop motion videos too.

I use the stop motion studio app on my phone to make these with my children and it’s really easy to do and so satisfying to watch the end result.

 

Things are definitely going to be strange when the children go back to school in September, and it’ll take us all a while to readjust to the routine of it all.

But hopefully these tips and ideas will help keep your children in the habit of learning, even if they don’t quite realise they’re doing it, over the summer break.

Things to think about as your parents get older

3 things to think about as your parents get older

It’s not something any of us really want to think about.  But at some point we all need to accept the fact that, as we’re getting older, so are our parents.

Once you come to that point you realise that there’s a lot to deal with, to understand and process emotionally, and to plan for.

Here are 3 of the things you might want to start thinking about as your parents get older.

 

Coping with complex emotions

When you start to process the idea of your parents getting old you’ll probably feel a whole range of emotions.

You might feel scared when you think about what the future holds.  You might feel a sense of grief as you let go of the young and healthy people you’ve known them as your whole life.  There could also be feelings of sadness, anger, frustration and guilt.

All of these emotions are completely normal, and will take time to process and work through.  Be gentle with yourself, try and give yourself the time you need to deal with the way you’re feeling, and talk through it all with other people.

Our relationships with our parents changes at various points in our lives, and this is another big change that is worth talking about with them if you can.

Another useful thing to try and do is let go of the parts of the situation you can’t control, and focus on the things you can.

 

Think about the practicalities

One of the things you can have some control over is planning for the practicalities involved in your parents getting older.

Sit with them and talk about things like where they’ll live.  Are they planning on staying in their current home or are they thinking about downsizing?

And while it can be a touchy subject, it’s worth discussing care options for the future.  If you’re not in a position to provide care for them yourself then you’ll need to come up with a few ideas for alternative options.

Most people want to be able to stay in their own homes for as long as possible, and experts like Country Cousins can help with that.  You can arrange for a live in carer to help take care of all their needs while enabling them to stay in their own home.

 

Focus on finances

Another big thing to be thinking about is the family’s finances.

Talk to your parents and make sure they have wills drawn up that they’re happy with, that cover all of their assets and belongings.  It might be worth having a family discussion about the contents of their wills, to save any potential disputes and upsets further down the line.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your parents sort out a power of attorney.  This means that if they become unable to make their own decisions about their finances and so on in the future, the named person will be able to make these decisions for them.

 

There is a huge amount to think about and process as our parents get older, but hopefully the points I’ve mentioned will help you work through them and let you then get on with enjoying as much time as possible with the people you love.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Activities for quality time with elderly relatives

7 activities for quality time with elderly relatives

I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everything has changed in one way or another over the last few months.

One of the biggest changes we’ve all had to cope with is not having contact with people outside our own household.  Now things are starting to ease and we can spend time with other family members and friends, although still not in quite the same way we used to.

If you have elderly relatives then you possibly still aren’t really able to spend quality time with them, which can be really hard to cope with.  So looking to the future, when we can start to safely get together more, here are 7 ideas for fun ways you could spend time with your elderly relatives.

 

1. Have afternoon tea

Collect your relative and bring them back to your home for a few hours of little sandwiches, cups of tea and plenty of cake.

There’s something about afternoon tea that feels a bit special, and more of a treat than just have a cuppa and a biscuit.  And you can make it even more special by playing music from their favourite decade so you can chat and reminisce as you eat.

 

2. Get out for a day trip

There are so many options for places you head out to for a fun day trip.  Experts in mobility products Fenetic Wellbeing have got some great suggestions on their website for places you can go with a family member in a powered wheelchair.

So even if mobility is an issue you don’t have to feel like you have to stay too close to home.

 

3. Sort through old photos

Dig out the old family albums and the boxes of mixed up photos and spend some time looking through them.

Your relative will love looking back over old pictures, and you’ll get to hear all sorts of stories from their life that you might not have heard before.

It’s also a great idea to write on the backs of the photos who is in them and roughly when they were taken, so future generations can enjoy them too.

 

4. Get in the kitchen and bake

If your relative has the facilities where they live then baking together can be a great way to enjoy each other’s company.

You can look through some magazines together and pick a new recipe to try, or ask them to teach you how to make an old family favourite.

I asked my grandmother to send me her amazing chocolate cake recipe years ago, and I still use it several times a year for birthday cakes.  It makes me smile every time I make one, knowing I’m using the recipe she always used.

 

5. Challenge your minds

Have some fun together and help keep their mind sharp by doing a jigsaw puzzle together.

You could also enjoy crosswords, word searches, sudoko and all sorts of other puzzles.

There are so many benefits to doing crosswords and other puzzles, from improved memory to boosts in concentration and confidence.  So you’ll be helping your relative in loads of ways as well as keeping your own mind active!

 

6. Take a drive and enjoy a picnic

If your relative spends most of their time at home then pick a location a little way away and drive the scenic route to get there.

Depending on where you live you could head to the beach, or a spot in the country and then enjoy a picnic lunch together outside.

Spending time in nature has so many benefits and a change in scenery is a great way to boost everyone’s mood.

 

7. Have a mini book club

If you both enjoy reading then try picking a book that neither of you have read before and then discuss it the next time you get together.

Another way to do this is to each choose a favourite book that the other hasn’t read before.  You can re-read it, and they can try it for the first time and then you can have a great discussion finding out what they think of it.  This is a lovely way to get to know each other in a different way, finding out even more about each other’s tastes and interests.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post