When did you last really properly just listen to music?

King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King

I love music. Properly love it. I’ve always had a wide and varied interest in different genres of music, as you may have read about already. I’ve been itching to get on the vinyl revival that’s been going on for a few years now but the cost has put me off. I don’t think splashing out £100 on an all in one turntable would make economic sense, so that brings us to separates. I’d want some upgrade path so I’d be looking at a couple of hundred pounds for a decent but budget amp (Pioneer or Marantz) and probably as much again for a turntable. So that’s £500 before I start looking at speakers and cabling, which is too much for a hobby purchase when we’ve got three children and a cat. My Amazon wishlist of HiFi parts is so old, the manufacturers have stopped making half the things on it. View Full Post

Wax on, wax off, starting out with karate

When the boy was four or five, I signed him up to karate lessons at a local school. They were after school on a Thursday and were an unmitigated disaster. We went for a month or so of Thursdays and all the boy did was cling to my leg for half an hour. He tried all the moves out at home but wouldn’t join in while we were there. At the time I thought it was a terrible waste of potential as he had such good coordination and core strength compared to every single other child there. Bless the karate school for not charging us for the lessons, they said they couldn’t in all honesty take the money from us for what we got out of it.

Fast forward 5 years and the boy is now back on the karate thing. On Sunday he had his blue belt grading, which went well, imbuing him with a bit more confidence. I suspected that he would find karate easy because it plays to his strengths; he has exceptional pattern recall abilities (he uses this to coast his way through his drumming and guitar), good core strength and very very good coordination.

All the skills he brings to karate mean I probably won’t have to get him to wash the car or paint the fence, which is a shame!

Parents evening

Last night was parents evening and whilst it offered three very different meetings to discuss three very different children, what shone through was a united desire to make us proud of their efforts.

Whether it was the boy and his unbelievably (high) Gothic take on writing an imagined diary for Lady Macbeth, or Fifi’s determination to show us every “well done!” written in all her books (for the record this is the 5th year on the trot that her teacher has told us she is a joy to teach and genuinely delightful), or Ned’s pride at how his handwriting is developing, it did show that they’re all engaged enough in the education system to want our approval. With that as motivation, all the drudge of not wanting to go to school gets put in to a little context I suppose. View Full Post

Holi Festival of Colours with Kingfisher

The festival of Holi is upon us! As part of ensuring our kids have a rounded world view, we tend to discuss big festivals from outside the Christian realm, and this year we decided to give Holi a look. Kingfisher, the premium Indian lager offered us the opportunity to have a closer look at Holi from the comfort of our own home.

The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships. Holi is also know as the festival of colour for a very good reason. Part of the two day festival, called Rangwali Holi involves covering anyone that moves with colourful paints. This was the part of the lesson the kids were interested in:

We found out there are such things a special Holi coloured dry paints, and after covering the kids in old vests and shirts, we made sure they had an experience to remember.

Kingfisher have also teamed up with Urban Rajah to come up with a top Holi feast, which is also part of the festival. The one thing we’ve learnt looking at different cultures festivals is how important the part that food plays in it all actually is.

I’ve put Kingfisher’s picture up because my attempts didn’t look anywhere near as appetising but they tasted good!

The special inks washed out of the kids and the clothes (and the cat didn’t tread them absolutely everywhere), so there is little in the way of a physical reminder of our celebration but it is something that the kids will remember for a long time and has opened them up to another culture, which in these times of more inward focusing introspection as a nation, can only be a good thing!

Learning to Invest Online – a Winner for Your Finances and Your Family

Everyone wants to boost their income, whether it is for short-term spending like holidays or for long-term revenue such as retirement. There are plenty of options when it comes to increasing your wealth. However, it is crucial to look not only at the risks and rewards but also at the level of time-commitment involved. This can be particularly important for parents, as while growing money is essential for financial security, it should not come at the cost of sacrificing time with your family. Here we will take a look at some of the most popular ways to boost income and how they stack up in terms of initial cost and time-commitment.


Investing in property

A perennial investment option is property. Although there continues to be caution in the market following the global economic crisis, bricks and mortar remain a reliable method of growing money. Common property investment types include buying to let and renovation projects with the objective of resale. Unfortunately, property investment requires a lump sum of cash up front, mortgage eligibility and time. For buy-to-let investments, money has to be reinvested for upkeep and time is needed for the administrative aspects of being a landlord. There may also be periods without income between tenancies. You’ll need to be available to answer tenants’ queries, arrange maintenance and vet new tenants. Although letting agents remove much of this time-commitment, their costs eat into your profits. With renovation projects, thorough research is necessary to ensure returns are viable. You’ll need to investigate local property prices not only within the region of potential properties but also in the particular streets on which vacant houses lie. Cash and time are essential components as you will need money for the property purchase and the renovations upfront. Even with the most stringent planning, renovation projects frequently exceed costings and scheduled timescales. Due to the outlay and time constraints of property investment, it might not be a savvy way to boost income when you have a family.


Running a small business

People with entrepreneurial drive have the potential to grow their money by running a small business. Selling wares or services is a great way to utilise personal talents alongside a full-time job. There are numerous options for the type of small business you could run. You could sell products online or at physical outlets. Products could be items you have made yourself or those which you have purchased for less than retail price. A small business selling wares is a good choice if you’re competent at sales and marketing and have a bit of spare space in your home or garage for storing stock. If you have a trade background you could run a business offering services like plumbing or provide more generalised help as a handyman. For those with an interest in sport or fitness, becoming a personal trainer could be an option. If you’ve got corporate experience you could sell your services in fields such as accountancy, business management or even life coaching. Sadly, there’s no escaping the huge time-commitment a small business demands. A successful enterprise can be established on a relatively frugal initial budget, but the time and dedication needed will likely infringe on family life too much to make it a satisfactory option.


Learning to invest online

Learning to invest online has become a popular way of boosting income without sacrificing family-time. If you are unfamiliar with terminology and how it works, investing in the financial markets may seem like a daunting way of growing money. However, it is really easy to learn and this type of investment can provide the highest returns in the shortest amount of time. You don’t need to invest a lot and some forms of online trading, like spread betting, are even tax-free. Assuming that investing online is not your only source of income, the profits you make through spread betting are exempt from Capital Gains Tax, Stamp Duty and commissions. There are lots of resources on the Internet which can teach you the basics, and the best places to learn how to invest online are the financial dealers themselves. These companies facilitate online trading and are fully regulated. As such they offer some of the best learning resources, getting you familiar with all the terminology and different ways to invest. For example, CMC Markets has guides to walk you through areas like spread bet

ting, CFD trading and forex trading and offers a free demo account so you can practice what you’ve learned with virtual funds. Once you have learned how to invest online, you are able to manage the process from your computer or mobile phone, meaning you don’t have to sacrifice time with your family.

Incessant musical indoctrination DOES work!

The eldest has been learning the guitar for a little over a term now. The waiting list for classical guitar was enormous but the teachers at the music school were falling over themselves to teach someone electric guitar, so his wait was minimal if not quite nonexistent.

At Christmas his grandparents kindly bought him a 3/4 sized guitar as my full size (and mostly unused) one was a little too wide in the neck department for him. He started off learning how to read guitar tab and then moved on to learning a few riffs. The addition of the 3/4 sized guitar was a revelation for me, as I was able to manage the main riff from 7 Nation Army without moving any fingers myself! View Full Post

Nozstock The Hidden Valley 2017 Festival announcements

If you were to search Nozstock on my blog, you’d find some brilliant stuff. Like this or this or maybe even this picture:

Nozstock is a boutique festival, which in practical terms makes it much more family friendly- as some of the reviews out there say, it feels like you’ve been invited along to a private party, it’s properly intimate and you don’t get ripped off with the food.

Nozstock 2017, 21-23 July, is shaping up to be one of the best yet with some great acts already announced like Seasick Steve, Happy Mondays, General Levy, Ocean Wisdom, Mungo’s Hi-Fi, Beans on Toast, Rodney P & Skitz, The Correspondents, Dabbla Illaman and DJ Frosty, Land of The Giants, Stiff Joints, and Chainska Brassika

But if you want an idea about what to expect, have a watch of this:

Review: Honda Civic Tourer 1.6 DTEC

I’ve had my Civic Tourer three months now, so when I read this review in the Guardian was a highly entertaining read! The Guardian is, in my humble opinion, almost completely wrong in it’s assessment of the car. Although I’m writing a review of the Civic Tourer, I’d like to make it clear that this isn’t facilitated in any way by Honda, they’re involvement only went as far as building the thing.

Our old family car was given a few months to live. It was a 53 plate 1.6 Vauxhall Zafira that we bought with 31,000 miles on the clock, added a further 67,000 miles to and were told that the crankshaft needed replacing, which given the age of the car, probably wasn’t worthwhile. View Full Post

It’s time to reclaim World Book Day

Not great for dressing up inspiration

Sitting next to me on my desk is a multi-coloured fluffy monstrosity. It’s in a bag fortunately, for if it wasn’t I fear my both my sight and sanity. It is Fifi’s reward for reading an entire chapter book over half term. We love reading and try to encourage our kids to grow their love of it by bribery.

And yet as World Book Day approaches, my Twitter timeline is full of retailers hawking Disney Princess costumes, Darth Vader suits and comic book superhero costumes for the inevitable “school dressing up day” that seems to be what World Book Day has become. View Full Post

Fun ways to teach your kids DIY

Part of the pleasure of having kids is seeing them learn and grow, and the bags of fun that they have along the way. Spending time with your kids to experience this is an essential part of parenthood, and there is no reason why you can’t combine seeing your kids learn and develop with the mundane household tasks that need to be regularly carried out.

Teaching your kids how to do DIY while you go about your job of taking care of the family home is an excellent way of educating your children. Many life skills are contained in DIY tasks, and kids can learn about a great number of topics, ranging from counting and measuring to the important safety precautions that adults take without thinking twice.

These are some of the DIY tasks that you can use to teach your kids.

Painting a room

An easy task and an enjoyable one, this could be a good place to start teaching kids the value of taking a DIY approach to home improvement. Leave your kids to fill in the large areas needing painting while you concentrate on the delicate finishing. The pleasure of seeing a fresh and complete new room should help your kids to develop a desire for DIY.

Using a bubble level

This is a fun device to use, and it’s safe to play with even for young children. You can teach your kids how to make surfaces level and straighten artwork easily by means of a bubble level, while also giving them a casual physics lesson if you feel up to the task.

Pulling weeds

An unkempt and overgrown garden is unattractive, so teaching your kids how to take care of a garden is an excellent life lesson. Instead of simply pulling off the tops of weeds, show your kids how weeds should be removed by the roots. If they are old enough, you can also show them how to apply weed killer in areas where plants are not supposed to grow.

Hammering and removing nails

Every homeowner needs to fix something to the wall every now and again, and the earlier that your kids learn to do so, the better. Teach them how to carefully and patiently remove existing nails appropriately with the back end of a hammer, and if they are strong enough, help them to tap in a nail safely and patiently.

Holding a ladder

DIY safety is very important, and correctly using a ladder is a key point here. When completing tasks that involve the use of a ladder, you should show your kids how a ladder is correctly and safely positioned. Asking them to hold it in place can help them to feel that they are contributing to the success of the task.


Installing window shutters


For a lesson in planning a project, show your kids all the steps involved in buying and installing wooden window shutters. Kids can learn how to measure the space where something is due to be installed, how to purchase items of the correct size, and how to drill holes correctly to fix items in their desired places.


Wiring a plug

This is another common DIY task that is simple but needs to be taken on with great care. Teaching your kids to wire a plug correctly from an early age will make sure that they never get it wrong as an adult. It will also teach them a sense of respect for the dangers of electricity, which to young minds can be an invisible force.

Building a PC

If you’re good with technology, you might want to show your kids how to build a computer from scratch so that they get a good idea of how the individual components of a computer fit together. It will also teach them how to handle delicate equipment safely and how to make sure that all the necessary elements for a finished project is in place.

Clearly, you can bring your kids along for the experience while you complete your DIY tasks. Another excellent way of engaging younger children is to buy child-size tools. Though they may not serve any practical purpose, these toy tools are great fun and can make your kids feel more comfortable handling the real tools when they are older. Remember that part of the reason for getting your kids involved in DIY from a young age is to ensure that they are as good, or even better than you, at keeping their future homes in excellent shape.