Prepare your home for the winter weather

Preparing your home for the winter weather

Winter might come around every year, but it can still come as a shock when you wonder where the year has gone and start to worry about how much you have to do.

Protecting your home against any future temperature drops might seem like additional chores you don’t need at this busy time of year. But, taking even a small amount of time to get your home winter ready can save you from a lot of trouble and expensive emergency repairs.

Here are a few handy tips that will help your home feel safe and secure no matter how bad the weather outside the window looks. 

Clear your gutters

During the Autumn months, all those golden coloured leaves may look beautiful as they fall to the ground, but they can cause you trouble. If your gutters become clogged up, then they will not give your home the drainage it needs.

If water overflows from the gutter and cascades down your exterior walls, this can create huge problems with damp. Treating a damp wall can be costly, and if it is left untreated, a damp house can create health problems for a home’s occupants. So, it is worth it to get the ladders out and unclog those drains. 


Treat any exterior wood

If you have any exterior wood as part of your home or garden design, then you will need to treat it for the winter. If you do have external wood surfaces, you should note the difference between woodcare and paint. Wood needs to be cared for to prevent it from rotting or warping with lousy weather.

This does not mean putting a fresh layer of paint on every year, but a coat of wood preserver or decking oil will prevent the wood from deteriorating. 


Stock the freezers

Statista announced that online grocery sales were the fastest-growing purchase channel in the UK in 2019. All evidence indicates it will have grown even more in 2020. However, this convenience can quickly be interrupted by a bout of bad weather.

It is always worth having a couple of meals in the back of the freezer, just in case the grocery store lets you down and your delivery doesn’t arrive. 


Prepare for power cuts

According to the IPU Group, power cuts are more common than we think. If a lengthy power cut was to occur in your neighbourhood, you should be prepared.

Make sure you know where your torches, candles or camping lights are kept. You don’t want to be rummaging through every nook and cranny of your house in complete darkness. Consider your heating options as well. It is worth having a spare blanket or two kept around the house to keep you warm. 


Your home will likely be your sanctuary in the winter months.

It will keep you feeling warm and cosy despite the frightful temperatures outside. It is worth taking the time to make sure your home is well stocked and prepared, so that whatever the weather may bring you will have peace-of-mind.

With just a little bit of care, if the weather outside is frightful, your home will still feel delightful.


Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

How can you manage your finances with a new baby_

How do you manage your finances with a new baby?

As genuinely wonderful and exciting as having a new baby can be, there’s no doubt that it also comes with a certain amount of stress as well.

From a lack of sleep to screaming fits, having a baby is certainly not all fun and games, (just mostly fun and games.) However, there’s one thing that can end up causing more stress than just about anything else. Something that, ironically, has very little directly to do with your new baby at all: money. Having kids can be expensive and that’s something that leaves a lot of parents pretty worried.

However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to keep your finances in check when you have a new baby.


Know what’s essential

The first thing you need to do when budgeting around a new baby is to make sure that you know what you actually need. Your baby needs clothes, they need a place to sleep, they may need bottles if you’re not breastfeeding.

These are the basics that all new babies need and honestly, there’s not much else. Aside from these the only things you really need are ways to get out of the house.

This means that you need a car seat and a buggy from somewhere like Besides these things, a lot of the money people spend on their baby really isn’t necessary.


Know what’s not essential

The biggest stumbling block for a lot of people is that they think of certain things being essential when they’re not.

Clothes are essential; expensive clothes that make their baby look as cute as possible are not. Sure, these kinds of things are nice and there’s nothing wrong with them.  However if you’re looking for ways to more carefully manage your finances, these are the places to start.

A little treat now and then is great, but if you’re constantly buying that stuff then it’s really no wonder your bank account is being drained.


Keep a careful budget

Keeping a household budget is always important but it becomes even more important when you have a family. With a bigger family, you will have more and different outgoings, and being able to keep track of them all can become very difficult.

Because of that, having a detailed budget that tracks all of your income and outgoings is the best way to make sure that you’re never falling into a situation where you’re spending more than you can actually afford.

This is just good financial sense in general but is absolutely essential when you have a baby.


The reality is that a lot of the things that you need to do in order to avoid letting your finances spiral out of control when you have a new baby are similar to the kinds of things you would likely be doing anyway.

It’s just a matter of taking that financial common sense and applying it to your new situation. That way you can get on with all of the wonderful parts of parenting that you actually care about.


Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

resources and tools to manage your family finances

14 resources and tools to manage your family finances

Keeping on top of your family finances is no picnic!   With mounting bills and expenses, rising prices and debts, it’s easy to get stressed out.

To take the stress out of managing your family finances, what you need are the right tools and resources.

Whether you’re looking for apps, podcasts or websites, you’ll find all the great advice you need right here.

Apps to manage your finances 

1 . Spending Tracker 

Spending Tracker is a type of personal finance app, helping users to save money and create a workable budget. With the Spending Tracker app, you can monitor your budget on a yearly, monthly or weekly basis. It’s simple to check out your spending history, export transactions, and keep a log of your income. Users can organize transactions by the date, amount, or name. The app also offers interactive charts and reports to give you an overall picture of your spending habits. With a spending tracker, you can put a fixed budget in place, and carry extra funds over to the following period. If you’re looking to reduce monthly expenses for your family, Spending Tracker is a great tool. 


2. Mvelopes 

Mvelopes is a budget system based on the concept of ‘digital envelopes’. The envelopes represent different categories for your budgets. It’s easy to customize these envelopes, track your transactions, and assess how much you’re spending. With the Mvelopes app, you can manage your debts, and prevent yourself from overspending. It’s simple to sync transactions, view your accounts, and save. The app helps you to access an accurate budget, with info on exactly how much you have left to spend.


3. Mint 

Mint is one of the leading finance apps, and it’s just perfect for family finances.

With Mint, you can link all your accounts in one place, and even get your credit score. The app separates your spending, using various categories, supporting you to create a budget that works. If you happen to have an investment portfolio, you can also view this directly in the app. To start saving money, Mint is a fantastic tool; here you’ll get savings tips, helping you to improve your credit, budget and savings. With Mint it’s simple to reach your financial goals and keep track of your net worth too.


4. Clarity Money

Clarity Money is an excellent app for saving money and budgeting your family finances. Using this application users can track their spending, and manage their money with ease. Clarity Money also allows you to access your credit score, supporting you to visualize your finances. It’s a free tool which uses AI to assess your finances and make handy budgeting suggestions. With Clarity Money, you can make changes to your savings, investments, and savings. Budgeting is one of the most important aspects of improving your family finances. Without a proper budget in place it’s impossible to keep track of your finances and make savings.


5. Wally 

Wally is a budgeting application which can support you to make savings and monitor your spending. Using Wally, you can track your earnings, set up frequent payments, create groups, or organize your joint account. The app allows you to create personalized categories to design a budget that works for you. With Wally, you can access two years of history, to assess your spending patterns. Using the application, you can seek to improve your net worth, track your balances, and organize your foreign currency.



Podcasts for financial tips

6. It’s Your Money

Tune into the ‘It’s Your Money’ podcast to get all the latest info from financial journalists Sam Broadbeck and Laura Miller. The show includes plenty of interesting conversations about money, including improving your career, retirement, family finances and student loans. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to invest your money, yet you’re not sure where to start? If so, Laura and Sam have got all the investment tips you need. Whether you want a ‘non boring guide to insurance’ or money-saving travel hacks, you’ll learn plenty here!


7. So Money

Renowned financial strategist Farhoosh Torabi created the ‘So Money’ podcast. Be sure to check it out for some winning money strategies, brought to you by business minds, Influencers, and ordinary people. Expect to hear about a wide range of topics including saving money, passive cash flows, starting a business, or getting out of credit card debt. Each show includes plenty of inspirational stories, with insightful philosophies, failures and successes. Looking to get back on your feet after a financial setback? Want the lowdown on money and relationships? The ‘So Money’ podcast has got you covered!


8. The Dave Ramsey Show

The Dave Ramsey Show is a top financial podcast, helping listeners to take control of their money. Here you’ll get plenty of straight-talking advice on money and on life! Every week millions of people tune in, to get the financial tips they’ve been searching for. Dave helps people from all walks of life to improve their financial future, and reduce their debts. Recent episode themes have included ‘Don’t Carry More Weight Than Your Bank Account Allows You To,’ and ‘How To Weigh Up The Pros And Cons Of A Job Change.’


9. The Financial Well Being Podcast 

The Financial Well Being Podcast is brought to you by financial planners Chris Budd and David Lloyd. It’s a podcast about money and happiness, and how the two can work in harmony. Lately, the guys have explored topics such as ‘mental well being and money,’ ‘well being in retirement’, and ‘the personal brand’. Many of us have anxieties about money, especially when we are providing for a family. The Financial Well Being podcast will help you learn how to overcome those anxieties and make practical plans for the future.


10. Cash Chats

Cash Chats is a podcast by finance expert Andy Webb; if you’re looking for some great advice about how to get clever with your money, Andy’s got the tips that you need. Recent episodes have tackled ideas such as, ‘getting the best price when shopping online’, ‘helping food banks and fighting poverty’, and ‘slashing your energy bills’. Grab a pen and your notebook and get ready to learn some seriously savvy money tips. It’s not always easy to see how you can improve your financial situation; but sometimes, all you need are a few pointers to inspire you.



Websites for financial advice

11. The Mortgage Calculator 

The Mortgage Calculator UK website is a handy resource, including a mortgage borrowing calculator. Simply input your mortgage amount, interest rate and terms, and press calculate. You’ll access info on your full monthly repayment, interest-only, months, and total interest payable. The site also presents you with a ‘home mortgage repayment’ chart as well as a yearly capital and interest breakdown. Perhaps you’re buying a new home, or remortgaging your current property? If so, Mortgage Calculator UK is a fantastic tool.


12. Money-Saving Expert

Martin Lewis created the Money Saving Expert website; here you’ll find money-saving tips across a huge range of categories including household bills, cards and loans, bankings and savings, mortgages and loans and income and budgeting. There are plenty of great articles, covering a variety of topics from ‘Coronavirus Employee Help’, to ‘Cheap Energy Providers’. You can learn all about income tax, Christmas deals, and saving money on family days out. Next time you need a little bit of financial advice, be sure to head on over to Martin’s website.


13. Money Magpie

Money Magpie is a ‘self-help money site’, for those who want to improve their financial health. Here you’ll find a plethora of resources for making money, saving money, and managing your money. Find out where you can sell your stuff, and get plenty of ideas about making money online. Whether you’re looking to save money on holidays, travel or tech, Money Magpie has got plenty of ideas. There are lots  of articles to inspire, including, ‘When To Save And When To Splurge’ and ‘9 Things You Can Swap To Save Cash.’ With the Money Magpie website managing your finances no longer has to be complicated.


14. The Simple Dollar 

The Simple Dollar is a one-stop-shop for all the financial advice that you’ll ever need. Here you can research your best options in terms of credit cards, investing, banking, and insurance. Want to know which are the best Roth IRA accounts, or the best credit cards? Need advice on COVID-19 financial support, or debt management? Whatever your financial issues are, you can rest assured that The Simple Dollar has the answer. It can be challenging to know where to find the best deals, and with The Simple Dollar, you’ll no longer have to spend ages doing research.


To start managing your finances right, it can be helpful to set yourself a few goals. With a goal or two in place, you’ll improve your efforts and give yourself the motivation that you need. Your goals might involve saving, debt, investments or budgeting. Whatever your goals may be it’s useful to set a deadline, to stay on track.


Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Small changes to save you money

Small changes that can save you money

If you’re looking to save a bit of money, whether it’s because your income has dropped thanks to the coronavirus or because you want to be able to splurge a bit at Christmas, one of the best approaches is to look at all the different little changes you can make.

These little things on their own might not make a huge difference to your finances, but when you add them all up together they can really make an impact.

If you’re not sure where to start though, here are some ideas for small changes you make that can save you some money.


Make sure you need what you’re paying for

Spend a bit of time going through your bank account and looking at the direct debits that are going out each month.

It’s possible you’ll find that you’re still paying for something that you don’t really get your money’s worth out of, like a gym membership for example.  Cancelling these sorts of things can save you a nice bit of money each month.

You can then go a step further and look at things like your mobile phone contract.  If you’re nowhere near using up all your call time, messages and data each month then give your network a call and see if you can switch to a tariff that suits you better.

Make sure that you really need and get full use out of everything you pay for, and think about cancelling or reducing things that you don’t get your money’s worth from.


Shop around when your insurance is up for renewal

You most likely will have a few different insurance policies that you need to pay for each year.

From car insurance and home contents insurance to care insurance for your pets, these are all things we need but there are often ways to bring the cost down.

The best thing you can do is use a service like protect your family to compare prices when your insurance policy is up for renewal.  This way you can make sure you’re getting the best possible price for what you need.


Change the way you shop

I think most of us have already changed the way we shop in one way or another this year, either using online deliveries more or heading to the supermarkets alone where we normally go as a family.

When it comes to food shopping there are other changes you can make that will also help save you some money.

If you’re able to go to the shops yourself then think about switching to a supermarket like Aldi or Lidl that often come out cheaper than the other big supermarkets.

You can also save money by shifting down from brand name products to own-brand ones.

And while there’s no need for panic buying, if you have the space to store things at home you can save some money and build up a little stock of things by buying a few extra of your favourite items when they’re on a special offer.


Hopefully these tips will help get you started on saving some money that will soon start to add up.

Do you have any other great money saving tips?


Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Light the spark of creativity in your little one

Lighting the spark of creativity in your little one

We all love to see our children find their passions, and we want them to excel at them or to at least explore them with as much energy and depth as their little hearts can muster. But how do you do it right?

Here, we’re going to look at tips to help encourage the spark of creativity in your child, to see what it might grow into with the right help.


Try new outlets for them

For a lot of children, they might have a natural creativity that they’re bursting to let out, but they might not have found the way that’s most comfortable for them yet.

As such, you can help them try out new types of art forms, whether it’s finding fun photography projects for them, having a storytelling and writing session with them, or preparing a crafty activity for them to get their hands on at home.


Give them room to explore

Sometimes, all you need to do is make sure that your child has the resources that they need, sit them at a desk, and watch them go. To that end, if your child loves drawing and writing, for instance, then little gifts like party bags can come with all of the art supplies they need to go under their own steam for weeks and months to come.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much more than that.


Ask if they would like lessons

Some art forms, such as music, are not as easy to get into alone, even with online tutorials and the like. In other cases, your child might already have an interest but want nothing more than to improve their abilities to turn it into a real passion.

Ask if your child would be interested in taking lessons to learn. Don’t pressure them into it and, if they change their mind, accept it. However, many will be glad to jump at the opportunity.


Give them what they need to be bored

There is a certain amount of ability to hold one’s attention that is necessary for pursuing any interest. If your child is bored, give them what they need to quell it themselves.

Giving them books to read, music to listen to, art to enjoy can help them explore a dimension within themselves that they haven’t before, which can deepen their appreciation of the arts.


Don’t force it

You can always encourage, but you should never force your child to engage creatively when they aren’t feeling it.

It simply doesn’t work that way. If they’re not interested in a certain activity, keep that in mind and try to find those that are closer to what they’re already interested in. There is no easier way to turn a child off a pursuit that they might be curious about


Encouraging your child is about being on the same page with them. Don’t try to push them too hard into creative pursuits, simply be there to help usher them along in the same direction they want to go.


Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

More tricks for a tidy home

5 more little tricks for a tidier house

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about 5 little tricks you can try to get a tidier house, if you’re not a naturally clean and tidy person.

If you liked that post, then hopefully you’ll enjoy this one too.

Here are 5 more things you can try to trick your way to a tidier house.


1. Create a cleaning playlist

There are two main reasons having a cleaning playlist can help you on your way to a tidier house.

Firstly, if you pick upbeat, cheery music it’ll help to get you moving and motivate you to start cleaning.  In fact, the first song on your playlist could quite quickly become your trigger to start tidying up, which is something I wrote about in the previous post on this topic.

The other great thing about having a set list of tracks that you listen to when you tidy is that it gives you a natural time limit.

You only need to clean for the duration of your playlist.  And that in itself can be enough to help get you going.


2. Bribe yourself

Ok, maybe bribe isn’t quite the right word.

But make a deal with yourself that if you get the washing all put away you can sit and have a cup of tea and a biscuit afterwards.

Or if you get the lounge all picked up, dusted and hoovered then you can watch 2 episodes of the show you’re binge-watching later on.

The rewards don’t have to be much at all, but giving yourself something to look forward to once the tidying is done can help get you through it and get the job done.


3. Work with the way your life works

Stop fighting your habits and work around them instead.

So if you always plonk your keys down on the table when you get home, instead of hanging them on the key hook, then make a point of actually designating the table as your ‘key spot’.  Get a nice little bowl or dish that can live on the table where your keys, small change, hand sanitizer and so on can all go when you get home at the end of the day.

Spend a bit of time thinking about the things that always get left out in your home, and then work out if there are better homes for these things that would work better for you and your habits than the homes you’ve currently designated for them that hardly ever actually get used.


4. Light a lemon-scented candle

This is an interesting one based on a study carried out in 2005.

A group of Dutch researchers gave people really crumbly cookies to eat, either in an unscented room or a room that smelt lemony.  They found that the people in the citrus-smelling room stopped eating the cookie several times to clean up the crumbs they’d made, while the people in the unscented room, on average, only did this once.

What’s really interesting is that only one person actually mentioned noticing the lemon smell in the room, the others seemed unaware of it, and none of the people in the study said that they were concerned about tidying while they were eating the cookies.

So it seems like the decision they made to clean up the crumbs was completely subconscious.

Behavioural scientist Paul Dolan explains this by saying, “the brain looks to make associations to assist in decision-making.  So the smell of cleanliness primes the desire to be clean.”

Most of us do associate a fresh lemon scent with cleanliness, so lighting a lemon-scented candle or using a lemon wax melt to fill your home with that scent may well prompt you to start cleaning.


5. Create a sense of urgency

If all else fails and you still can’t get motivated to tidy and clean, then find something to create a sense of urgency for yourself.

Normally this would be something like inviting someone over to your house who you wouldn’t want to see the state it’s in at the moment.  With all the lockdowns and restrictions this year though, this might not be an option.

So see what else you can do to create that motivation to tidy up.  Having a zoom meeting might be enough, if you don’t want your cluttered lounge to be in the background of the call.


What do you find motivates you to get up and tidy up, when you really don’t want to?

Which of these tips do you think will help you the most in keeping on top of the tidying when you’re not a naturally tidy person?

Simple and tasty white rolls

Easy soft white rolls recipe


I could never follow a low-carb diet – I love bread way too much.

The smell of freshly baked bread is one of my favourite smells in the world, and I could happily eat bread in one form or another with every meal of the day.

I always thought it was quite hard to make though, so most of our bread came from the supermarket until quite recently.

Then we started trying to really limit our trips to the shops during the first lockdown, and decided to try making our own bread to keep us going between visits.

This recipe for beautifully soft white bread rolls is one Steve has perfected over the last few months.  We’ve used it time and time again and it hasn’t failed us yet.


The main thing we’ve learnt about making any kind of bread is that it’s really not hard, but it does generally take time.  You have to know in advance that you want to make it, so the dough has plenty of time to do its thing before baking.

These rolls need proving twice, so the whole thing from start to finish takes a few hours, but it is so worth it!

If you want to give them a go yourself, here’s what you need to know:



  • 450g plain flour
  • 7g instant yeast
  • 35g sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 42g butter (melted)
  • 1 egg
  • 240ml warm water


Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a big bowl and stir together.
  2. Add in the melted butter, egg and water and mix.
  3. Bring the dough together in the bowl and then tip it out onto a floured surface.
  4. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it’s soft and elastic.  The dough will be a little bit sticky but shouldn’t get stuck all over your hands.  If it feels too sticky then add a little more flour.
  5. Gather the dough up into a loose ball and pop it back in the bowl.
  6. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or some cling film and leave it somewhere warm to rise.  You want it to double in size which generally takes between 1 and 2 hours, depending on how warm the room is.
  7. When the dough has doubled in size tip it out again onto a floured surface.
  8. Gently pat it down to knock some of the air out of it, and then divide it into 8 equal-sized portions.
  9. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper or a silicone baking mat.
  10. Form each of the portions of dough into bun shapes, gently tucking the ends underneath so the tops look nice and smooth, then place them spaced out on the baking tray.
  11. Dust them lightly with flour and cover loosely with a piece of cling film.
  12. Leave to rise again, for about an hour.
  13. Pop the oven on at 190° (170° fan oven)
  14. Sprinkle the buns with a little more flour and then bake for 13-15 minutes.
  15. Once they’re baked and lightly browned on top, take them out of the over and leave them to cool slightly on the baking tray.
  16. Gently separate the buns if they’ve joined together during baking and move them to a rack to finish cooling.



I know this looks like quite a few steps but honestly it is so easy.

It’s basically a case of mixing the dough together, leaving it in a blob for a few hours, dividing it into 8 buns, leaving them to rise again for an hour, and then baking.

So don’t let the number of steps or the length of time needed to make these put you off.  It might take a few hours for them to be ready, but you’re only actually doing something with them for about 20 minutes of that.

And these buns are so worth the wait.

They’re perfect to use at lunchtime instead of sandwiches and are also sturdy enough to dip in a bowl of soup.

The fact that they’re slightly sweet also means they’re amazing split in half and toasted the day after you make them.  They taste like english muffins to me and are so good with proper butter and marmite.

We use these buns for burgers too, and if you want to make them into more classic burger buns you can brush them with an egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top before baking, instead of dusting them with flour.

Easy soft white rolls

These rolls are perfectly soft and great for sandwiches, dipping in soup or to have with burgers for tea.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Proving time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 35 mins
Keyword: Easy dinner rolls, Floury rolls, Rolls, Simple rolls, Soft white rolls, white rolls
Servings: 8 rolls


  • Big mixing bowl
  • Big baking tray
  • Greaseproof paper or silicone baking mat
  • Tea towel or cling film
  • Weighing scales
  • Measuring jug


  • 450 g plain flour You can use strong bread flour if you like, but these work really well with simple plain flour
  • 7 g instant yeast
  • 35 g sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 240 ml warm water


  • Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a big bowl and stir together.
  • Add in the melted butter, egg, and water and mix together.
  • Bring the dough together in the bowl and then tip it out onto a floured surface.
  • Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it's soft and elastic.  The dough will be a little bit sticky but shouldn't get stuck all over your hands.  If it feels too sticky then add a little more flour.
  • Gather the dough up into a loose ball and pop it back in the bowl.
  • Cover the bowl with a tea towel or some cling film and leave it somewhere warm to rise.  You want it to double in size which generally takes between 1 and 2 hours, depending on how warm the room is.
  • When the dough has doubled in size tip it out again onto a floured surface.
  • Gently pat it down to knock some of the air out of it, and then divide it into 8 equal-sized portions.
  • Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Form each of the portions of dough into bun shapes, gently tucking the ends underneath so the tops look nice and smooth, then place them spaced out on the baking tray.
  • Dust them lightly with flour and cover loosely with a piece of cling film.
  • Leave to rise again, for about an hour.
  • Pop the oven on at 190° (170° fan oven).
  • Sprinkle the buns with a little more flour and then bake for 13-15 minutes.
  • Once they're baked and lightly browned on top, take them out of the over and leave them to cool slightly on the baking tray.
  • Gently separate the buns if they've joined together during baking and move them to a rack to finish cooling.


Don't be put off by the number of steps in this recipe - it's really not as complicated as it might look at first!
It's basically just mix the ingredients and knead the dough, leave it to double in size, split the dough into 8 equal pieces and form them into bun shapes, leave them to rise again on the baking tray and then bake.
You can make these into more classic burger buns by skipping the part about dusting them with flour before baking, and instead brush them with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with a tablespoon of milk) and then sprinkle with sesame seeds.