3 Fun Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy

Having a family of your own is likely an experience like none you’ve had before. It’s a chance for you to pass on family traditions, create some of your own, and raise kids with values that you hold dear. One objective that many parents hope to achieve for their family is instilling healthy habits when it comes to food and fitness. It can be challenging considering the number of outside influences such as sweets and junk food, but it’s definitely possible. One of the most practical ways that you can achieve it is by making healthy living a lifestyle. On that note, you’re going to find three fun ways of keeping your family healthy below.

Set Fitness Goals

When attempting to keep your family healthy, one of the first places that you should start is in the area of goal setting. Look at your health presently and think about what you’d like to achieve in terms of healthy living. This could be having more energy, managing a condition better, or losing weight. In terms of the latter, there are several ways to lose weight which include trying shakes, creating a diet plan, clean eating, and exercise. This will more apply to you as parents than it will your kids but seeing as though you should lead by example when it comes to healthy living; it’s equally important. Overall, you should try and set goals that will help improve your health as a family and that are both realistic and attainable.

Have Family Fitness Days

When looking for fun ways to keep your family healthy, you should definitely think about having family fitness days. This could include physical activities such as riding your bikes around the neighbourhood on the weekend, having a dance competition at home for an hour or two, or watching a family-friendly work-out routine together. You can also try other fitness activities at home such as exercise games, yoga, store-cupboard fitness, as well as running. To make it inclusive and give everyone something to look forward to, try asking everyone what their favourite activities are and take turns doing them.

Create Meal Plans Together

Meal planning is another fun way to keep your family healthy as food is a significant aspect of your daily lives. Also, health has a lot to do with what you eat, so healthy eating is key. You should, therefore, think about meal planning as a family and finding healthy alternatives to some of your favourite foods. In case you need ideas for healthy food swaps, you can swap whole milk for semi-skimmed, white bread and rice for wholegrain varieties, unhealthy snacks with nutrient-filled ones, and swap the frying pan for the grill when cooking meat.

Healthy living can be less of a chore and more of an adventure if you take the right approach. This is why making it exciting, providing rewards and incentives, as well as setting goals, so you have something to look forward to is key. By doing these things, you could increase the likeliness of keeping your family healthy and having loads of fun in the process.

Teaching Your Kids About the World of Motoring

Every parent will want to encourage their children to learn to drive as it will provide them with so much freedom and independence (plus it also means that you no longer have to taxi them around!). Every parent will also be very cautious as driving is a huge responsibility and can be very dangerous. With this in mind, there are a few things that it is worth teaching your kids about motoring before they reach the age where they can get behind the wheel.

Road Safety

The most important thing to teach them from a young age is road safety as the roads can be highly dangerous for both motorists and pedestrians. They should be taught how to be safe when walking and crossing the road from a young age, but it is also important to teach them how to use the roads safely so that they will be an intelligent and aware driver in the future. You can do this by explaining exactly what you are doing and why when you are driving. In addition to this, it can also be a valuable experience to cycle with them on the roads so that they can begin to get confidence on the road and understand the rules.

Vehicle Maintenance

It is also important to teach a youngster about how to properly look after an automobile. Vehicle maintenance is crucial for making sure that the car runs properly and stays in a good condition for years to come. It is worth teaching them how to inflate the tyres, change the tyres, change the oil, clean the car and other similar maintenance jobs. They should also be taught about following the service schedule, taking the car in for an MOT and how to get repairs at a garage.

Buying a Vehicle

Teaching them how to buy a used car is also a smart move as this is something that many adults struggle with and it could end up costing them. This can be done whilst purchasing their first car and you should show them how to research for cars online at places like AA Cars, how to speak to a dealer, how to examine the vehicle and what to look for on a test drive. You can then teach them about negotiating, the important paperwork involved, how to find the right insurance policy and other options like extended warranties, GAP insurance etc.

The world of driving can be fantastic and the majority of youngsters will want to learn how to drive when they are old enough. This should be encouraged as a parent, but there are many aspects that they should be taught from a young age so that they can start to learn with a decent amount of knowledge of how to be a safe and responsible driver.

Navigating the maze of electricity use with British Gas and their smart meter maze game

Our house was built in the 1960s and one of the ways we get an insight every day to how different things are in 2018 to 1968 (Happy 50th Birthday house!) is the aggravation we inevitably have when it comes to plugging stuff in. Each room has at most two plug sockets, which in this day and age simply isn’t anywhere near enough. And boy do we have things plugged in- from computers to grills, to smart speakers, everything seems to come with a power brick and a plug today. Ironically, even the 1970s stereo we’ve recently inherited needs two plug sockets, which suggests that power strips were pretty common in the 70s too.

And it is true for us that almost every plug socket has a power strip on it, with various devices and chargers plugged in. Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up in a cold sweat wondering how much electricity half our stuff uses on standby and whether cumulatively it would be enough to put one of our kids through university. Both our bigger tellies (50 and 60 inch respectively) don’t even have a physical on/off button; they’re either in standby or switched off at the wall and since the cables are tucked away from sight, turning them off at the wall every night is a bit of a chore, especially when one of the kids wakes you up at 6am because the TV doesn’t work.

British Gas have developed a game to let you see what uses electricity and how, with the idea that it creates an awareness of the things that use a lot of electricity. Much like a smart meter will let you see what is being used, and make you conscious of what needs turning off or using sparingly to save you money. I have a friend who was shocked to see the electricity usage of his big plasma TV after he got a smart meter fitted. He went away and looked up the actual power consumption and worked out that if he bought a similar size modern LCD TV the saving in electricity between the two would actually pay for his new telly before the warranty on it ran out.

The British Gas Smart Meter Maze game lets you get an idea of how much simple things like turning off lights or game consoles will save you, all wrapped up in a lovely retro pixel art style. I particularly like the way it shows the kids running around and turning everything on ALL THE TIME. It’s very realistic in that respect.

That’s the beauty of a smart meter really. It won’t magically save you energy on its own but there is something about seeing a £££ move that focuses the mind and makes you more energy conscious. I even did the experiment of setting our TV to ECO mode to see what difference it would make. Initially the screen looked a lot dimmer but since we mostly watch TV in the evening with the lights off, we soon adjusted as the saving, although small, was another step towards being more frugal with our energy usage.

And in case you’re wondering, I scored 23,000 on the Smart Meter Maze game. Try and beat that if you can!

 

This post is a promotional feature in association with British Gas® but all thoughts are my own

Owning my fears with AXA PPP healthcare

And so my journey to owning my fear of an early death is drawing to an end and also entering a new and exciting chapter. My six months of blog posts and support calls from Becky at AXA PPP healthcare are drawing to an end but the process of empowering myself to continue the journey is ongoing.

When I started my journey back in January I was more interested in tips, tricks and shortcuts to getting my health back on track; I was hoping AXA PPP healthcare and Becky would be able to give me the professional equivalent of those “one weird tip the experts don’t want you to know” adverts you see out there, but as I began to buy in to the process, I realised it was as much a change of attitude as it was in the record-able metrics of what I wanted to achieve: setting myself up to fail by designating a weight loss target as the goal wasn’t a great idea because it ignored the reason for it, and the reason (wanting to be there for my kids) was more important and required a change in thinking, not just in eating.

I’m going to sound like one of those old hippies but in this instance the journey was definitely more important than the destination. And I say this with some authority, as the man who once reviewed a Slendertone in a not entirely serious manner much to the irritation of everyone who found it on the front page of Google for several years.

Once I entered the mindset of owning my fear of a premature death, I was liberated in that I could face the elephant in the room and do more than a desultory attempt to address it because lets not forget, a fear pushed to the back of your mind and not properly acknowledged won’t be dealt with properly and will demotivate you all the way as you try to change things.

There are four key things in the Own your fears campaign that worked really well for me:

  1. Admitting to myself that I had a fear and it needed facing in the first place;
  2. Embracing the positivity that the admission created and using it to drive change;
  3. Having practical help in terms of support and guidance from Becky; and
  4. Having someone to be accountable to.

Going forwards, now that my series of coaching calls has finished, I can still manage one and two, three is okay as I’ve got the practical help sitting in my G Drive, but point four was always going to be the issue- just who do I find to hold myself accountable to?

In the end the answer was obvious and staring me in the face for the whole time. After all the reason I decided to own my fear in the first instance was for my children, and the two older children are of an age that they can hold me accountable but also encourage me. I may have had one two many enjoying the football on a sunny Friday afternoon recently- when I got back home, my two eldest told me off. The younger made me drink two pints of water and the elder did an impromptu quiz (what’s the weight of Saturn? Is diamond harder than titanium? You know, sensible questions) to ascertain how naughty I’d been. He even wrote down my results and rated me. That’s the kind of being held to account I need, although he’d have done better had he removed my dinner plate from me before I decided to have a quick nap.

The best thing about owning my fear is I feel light. Weight wise I haven’t lost as much as I hoped to but that’s not really what I’m talking about. It’s about the metaphorical weight that’s been taken off my shoulders.

Taking that first step is hard though, but with AXA PPP healthcare there to help, you don’t have to do it on your own. Go on, what are you waiting for? This could be the start of something special!

Let there be light!

 

With a summer (so far) filled with wall to wall sunshine, thinking about lighting is probably the furthest thing from most peoples minds. We however are not most people and have just had some rather nice shutters installed in our bow window (a bow window is similar to a bay window but has more equally sized panes in case you were wondering). This has led us to reconsider the lighting we have in the dining room and sitting room because the amount of natural light has changed and we’ve also been lazy, having effectively the light fittings that were in place when we moved in 12 years ago. I’ve done a lot of DIY since we moved in- last week I was sanding and re-varnishing the parquet flooring that’s been hidden under carpet for a decade- but the lights are the one thing we’ve not really looked at.

We’ve decided to get a modern pendant style light to hang over the dining room table, preferably with height adjustment, so we’ve been looking on various websites like Lights to see what we can get for a reasonable price that is still stylish (hey, those shutters weren’t cheap you know!).

The problem is, once you start looking at lights, it’s quite difficult to stop looking at them, it’s really a case of going down the rabbit hole. Yes, we started off looking at light fittings for the sitting room and dining room but soon enough we were looking at something for the hallway and the landing.

In no time at all the techy in me was pouring over the smart lighting too- it’s seldom that you see a website that deals with traditional lighting AND smart lighting well, it’s usually one or the other in my experience.

I think we’re often in danger of spending too much time thinking about redecoration in terms of wallpaper, wall colours, carpet and furniture, without remembering that lighting is the one thing that can make a massive difference, and doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The only worry I have is the six year old swinging on the lamp like Tarzan, which if you knew him you’d sympathise with me!

 

Five must-see sets at Warner Bros Studio Tours

Five must-see sets at Warner Bros Studio Tours

If you or someone in your house is a self-confessed Potterhead, you will probably already be considering a Warner Bros Studio Tour, but proper planning is key!

Offering a huge variety of attractions, interactive exhibits and a shop that will see money magically flying out of your pocket, the tours are something else, but it’s the sets that are truly spectacular. Around every corner, something recognisable from the films is waiting to be explored, but to get the very best from your day be sure not to miss our top five must-see sets.

The Great Hall. Do you remember how in awe of the Great Hall all the first-year Hogwarts students were in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? Well, prepare to feel exactly the same way when you first lay eyes on the immense set!

We won’t give anything away, but needless to say, once you are in the Great Hall, everything will demand your attention, from the immaculate student place settings through to the fireplaces and costumes of beloved teachers. The hall is usually decorated to be seasonally appropriate, so you might like to consider a Christmas visit. Don’t forget to get some snaps of the House Points Counter, too – it’s a work of art!

The Forbidden Forest. Sinister, spooky and seriously intriguing, the Forbidden Forest set has fast become a real favourite with adult and child Potterheads alike.

Filled to the brim with enormous trees, ethereal lighting and curious mists, the forest also plays home to some wonderful magical creatures that you’ll definitely want to get pictures with. Keep your eyes peeled for Aragog, as he tends to pop out when you least expect it, among other mystical beings, but whatever you do, don’t forget to bow if you find Buckbeak! You remember what he did to Draco Malfoy, right?

Platform 9 ¾. The place where Harry’s Hogwarts journey really began, the platform is an immersive set that allows you to feel as though you’re on your way to the premier school for witches and wizards.

You’ll be able gird your courage and run at the platform wall, with a trolley, for the ultimate photo opportunity, before boarding the train to take a look at the carriages that your favourite characters have sat in. To complete the experience, you can pop into the platform shop to ‘take the lot’ in terms of sweet treats, just like Harry did when he first met Ron on their inaugural Hogwarts Express journey.

Diagon Alley. If you remember the joy of shopping for new school stationery ahead of every September, you’ll understand how thrilling a walk down Diagon Alley will be! It’s even more special, thanks to the atmospheric lighting and the inherent sense of anticipation.

Lined with all of the most memorable shops from the franchise, including Ollivanders wand emporium, Gringotts Bank and Mulpepper’s Apothecary, you’ll feel as though you’re stocking up on all your back-to-school supplies, but with a magical twist. If only Hagrid would strut around the corner, clutching an owl that he’s bought for you, as that really would be the dream!

Potions Classroom. Finally, to get a feel for just how detailed and imaginative the film sets were, the Potions Classroom is a must-see exhibit.

Yes, there are the self-stirring cauldrons that make children squeal and adults ponder on how useful they would be in real life, but it’s the sheer volume of aged bottles and decanters, not to mention parchment papers and creepy ingredients that really bring the set to life. It’s impossible not to imagine being yelled at by Professor Snape or attempting to whip up a batch of Polyjuice Potion in this moody and atmospheric set.

Of course, there are numerous other, smaller, sets to immerse yourself in too, such as Dolores Umbridge’s office, complete with kitten wall plates, a section of the Ministry of Magic, the cupboard under the stairs and Harry’s Gryffindor dorm room. You can definitely see it all in one day, but you’ll no doubt fancy a second visit, just to make sure you didn’t miss anything the first time around!

If one or more of these set descriptions has sparked an undeniable urge to see them in real life and you’re sick to death of waiting for your owl to deliver an official Hogwarts invitation, take matters into your own hands and reserve your tickets today. Just make sure that your camera is fully charged and ready to go, because you’re going to love zooming in and discovering props and details that you may have overlooked in person.

Blasters at the ready, we’re Lazer M.A.D!

On a baking hot Saturday a couple of weeks ago the boys and I drove down to Greenwich to sweat a lot in a concrete basement. I sweated so much I had to change every single item of clothing I was wearing. It turns out, having fun in the heat makes you sweat and we had so much fun playing Lazer M.A.D. that I must have lost a couple of pints of fluids.

Lazer M.A.D. is a blaster game that you can play in an underground bunker in Greenwich but you can also play at home, in your garden, or in the office (if your boss is understanding). I have to admit Ned’s enthusiasm and excitement as we headed to the event was probably matched by my scepticism- “toy” versions of almost everything tend to turn out to be rubbish, from low megapixel cameras, to drones that crash or fly off and get lost, the market doesn’t have a very good track record in making stuff that is good in anything other than an advert.

I have to say though that two weeks after the event, and two weeks playing quite a bit of Lazer M.A.D. at home with the kids, I’ve been proved pleasantly wrong.

Lets start with the equipment. In each pack of Lazer M.A.D. you get two blasters, with various modular attachments that affect the range and the rate of fire. you also get a little harness and a target (much like you would if you went to an actual Lazer Tag venue). The first thing that impressed me was the durability of the blasters and the add-ons. I could see that they had a bit of heft to them and didn’t look like they would break that easily. Build quality (and general style) is fairly similar to everyone’s favourite dart propelling blaster system and that’s no bad thing in my book. Each of the add-ons snicks on positively and after a few weeks of play haven’t i) been lost or ii) become loose.

Of course, like all these devices, the Lazer M.A.D. blasters aren’t really lasers, they use an IR transmitter that is pretty powerful and pretty focused. As a chap who has been on several 9/10 year old laser tag party teams, I really couldn’t tell the difference between the Lazer M.A.D. stuff and the “professional” gear.

Given that you can use the blaster in different modes, it’s great that you have to reload it (there is a pump action slider on the top, so you too can be Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2 and do it one handed if you really want to be). The target also shows the number of lives you have left, which is handy too.

Although there are no real set rules, since you can set the blasters and targets to “friend” or “foe”, it’s possible to play team games and also, if you set everyone to the A team on the blaster but the B team on the target, you can also play last man standing, or Fortnite in real life as the kids termed it.

Even with the two player advanced battle ops set we played with (and bought home with us), which retails for £59.99, you can have a lot of fun, although if you’ve got a few friends with a set, the fun exponentially increases. The price isn’t prohibitive either if you do want to add more sets to your collection and join in with your kids.

Ned, our six year old, loved Lazer M.A.D. more than I can really articulate. It took him most of the drive home to calm down, and the next hour or so getting excited about playing on his very own set. I was surprised and impressed too. Have I mentioned how hot and sweaty I got playing Lazer M.A.D? Yes? Well that’s probably testament to how much fun we had playing!

From Parent to Grandparent, Making the All-Important Transition

Being a parent and being a grandparent are two very different jobs, meaning the transition to the latter is not as easy as it might seem. However, it is not a hard transition to make, either. What it is, is important. Transitioning from parent to grandparent, for the sake of everybody involved, is an essential thing to do, and you need to get it right.

To find out how to make the all-important transition from parent to grandparent when the grandkids arrive, be sure to heed the points below.

Think twice before giving advice

As a new grandparent, as you see your son or daughter circumvent the early stages of having a child, it’s easy to want to shower them with parenting advice. You’ve been there, you’ve done it, and there’s no denying that you know what you’re talking about. Advice when it comes to parenting, however, is not always welcome. Even from their own parents, new mothers and fathers do not always feel the need for advice, and they certainly don’t like it to be given unceremoniously.

Think twice before you feel the urge to give advice, and unless your child comes to you for it regarding how to raise their own, try to keep a distance. It doesn’t mean that you should refrain from helping them, it means that you should refrain from telling them what to do based on assumptions that you make about their parenting skills.

Follow the rules set by your children

You may have been the one to set rules for your children in the past, but now they have children of their own, it’s up to them to set them. It’s up to them to set any rules they see fit regarding the upbringing of their children, and it’s up to you to follow those rules. Not doing so is a pitfall of grandparenthood that you don’t want to fall down.

If this means not allowing your grandchild a certain treat, then refrain from treating them in this way, or if this means not disciplining them in a certain way, even if you think it is the right way, then simply don’t do it. Your children are in charge of the way they bring up their children, and all, including you, should follow the rules they set to do so.

Put old on hold to do things with your grandchild

Your children will need a break from their kids at some point, and that’s when you should step in. You should offer to look after your grandchild whenever you are called upon, and you should make the most out of every chance you get to spend with them when you are. If this means joining the amazing over 50s putting old on hold to do things you were doing 20+ years ago in order to ensure you and your grandchild have as much fun as possible, then do it! You will not get the time you spend with your young grandchildren back, and, therefore, should squeeze as much out of the time you spend together as you can.

As important as it is to take a back seat and to allow your children the space they need to raise their children their way, you still always need to be there for them. Mastering the art of knowing when to help, and when not to help, is the key to making that all-important transition from parent to grandparent in the right way.

3 Reasons to Try A New Sport Today

Life can get pretty repetitive especially when you’re juggling making time for yourself with also being a parent. To keep your sanity, it’s likely that you have a set routine that you and your family follow on a daily basis, the danger of this though is that things can get boring quite quickly! In order to keep things interesting, it’s important that you consider trying something new every now and again. If you are one of those people stuck in your comfort zone, or feel you are too busy to add anything new to your schedule, it is definitely worth a try! Something you should consider is fitness activities as you’ll be able to both keep fit as well as do something social. In case you’re not convinced about why you should try something new, you’re going to find three reasons why you should give it a go in the following article.

Enables You to Keep Fit

Fitness is something that will likely never get outdated as it is central to healthy living. In light of this, trying a new sport is an excellent way for you to keep fit and make healthy living an easy lifestyle choice. To refresh your memory, some benefits of exercise include reducing your risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as helping boost your self-esteem. It is also advised that you try and do at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through various activities of your choice.

It’s a Chance to Meet New People

Another reason that you should consider trying a new sport is that it’s an opportunity for you to meet new people. There are many benefits to meeting people that you don’t usually see every day, such as learning new things, gaining new experiences and learning about different cultures. By joining various sporting activities on HulaHub.com for instance, you’ll get a chance to try different fitness activities with people who share similar interests to you.

It’s a Chance for Family Bonding

Aside from the many benefits of trying a new sport on your own, trying a new one as a family can also provide an opportunity for you to bond more as a family. Seeing as fitness is so important to general wellbeing, learning a new sport with your loved ones is also an opportunity to make fitness a family affair and a regular bonding activity in your household.
Doing it this way helps encourage fitness as it makes it into a lifestyle choice for all the family rather than just a one-off occasional activity. Some sports to consider playing with family are ultimate frisbee, ice skating, table tennis, horse riding, kayaking, and going to trampoline parks. There are many others as well suitable for anyone to partake in, so it’s up to you as a family to debate and decide!

To recap: you have nothing to lose when trying a new sport as there are endless benefits that come with it. Aside from the many mentioned above, it’s also an opportunity to gain a new experience and, in some instances, perhaps find a new hobby you enjoy. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll be motivated to try a new sport sooner than later.

A Mini House Buying Guide

There’s more to buying a house than sending over the deposit and receiving the keys. There are many hurdles and processes you will need to undertake and bills you will need to pay. Deciding what you need, packing your possessions and trying to juggle every can lead to many stresses. However, if you’re wondering how to buy a house without much stress, read the following advice for buying a house.

A Mortgage Arrange Fee

In addition to paying a deposit, you should expect to pay your lender an arrangement fee, which is typically £1,000. Unfortunately, this fee can be non-refundable if the purchase of the property falls through.

A Valuation Fee

Lenders will also charge a valuation fee to identify if your property exists and is secure for the loan. While lending costs will vary, you should expect to pay approximately £300.

The Cost of Legal Fees

Every budding homeowner will need to pay legal fees when buying a property, which often ranges between £850 to £1,500, including VAT of 20%. You will also need to pay between £250 to £300 for a solicitor or conveyancer to perform local searches, which will identify if there are any local plans or issues.

Paying Stamp Duty

If you purchase a property for more than £125,000, you will need to pay stamp duty land tax on top of the purchase price. The only way you will not need to do so is if you’re a first-time buyer and the property is lower than £300,000.

Property Survey

Once an offer has been accepted for the property, you will need to have a property survey completed before you exchange contracts. The average price of a survey costs between £400 to £700, and homeowners will need to pay for additional surveys if the property falls through. It might, therefore, be wise to budget for two or three to ensure you are financially stable when buying a property.

A Smooth Removal Process

On top of arranging the mortgage, you will have the stress of packing boxes, cleaning the property, and moving into your new home. You will want to enjoy a smooth, hassle-free experience. For example, you can hire respected removal services for a smooth house move, declutter your belongings prior to eliminate stress, and can colour-code boxes for a fast and efficient transition.

A Fund for Essential Household Repairs

Unfortunately, your dream property might not appear so perfect once you officially move in. You could experience plumbing, electrical, or cosmetic problems you will want to resolve immediately. You should set some money aside to pay for any potential DIY work, so you will not need to dip into your savings or go into debt to make the necessary repairs.

Furniture and Decorative Accessories

Of course, you will want to put your own stamp on your new home once you arrive. You must have money in the bank to pay for essential furniture, such as a sofa, bed, and dining table and chairs. You may also want to pay for carpets, hardwood flooring, lawnmowers, linens, decorative items, plus so much more. Doing so will make feel right at home in your new address once you’ve moved into the new address.