Insuring your Pets as Part of the Family

I can always remember having a pet. My earliest memory is going to pick up our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, Dodger when I was 3 and him rather excitedly nibbling my chubby fingers with his deceptively sharp puppy teeth. I took it personally and we took a while to get over that first meeting, well, it seemed like a long time to a 3 year old me, I most likely forgot about it by the time we got him in car to go home because “OMG PUPPY PUPPY PUPPY!”

He was such a dude, with his comical, overly expressive ginger eyebrows and completely laid back, “No worries, I’m just gonna lay here while you clip dozens of bows onto my gloriously long ears, you strange child,” personality. He was my mate, my first pet and I really loved that dog, even if he did get dog food on his ears and it was a bit gross.

When we had Noah, we were living in a flat so we weren’t allowed pets cos of silly rules and stuff, but once we moved into a house with a proper garden when he was 1, I was all over getting a dog. Until a lost-looking little tortoiseshell kitten appeared in the garden, rubbed against my leg and casually wandered into the house as if she already lived here. And she never left. I felt a bit uneasy, what were we supposed to do? Was this OK? I asked around if anyone knew where she came from, I put a note up in the corner shop down the road, but no one knew anything about her. It took about 6 months until she really felt like our cat and that we hadn’t just committed a heinous crime of catnap, so much so that we didn’t get to give her a proper name, she’s always just been known as “Kitty”.


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We didn’t plan to get a cat, we didn’t chose her from a litter, but for some reason, she chose us to be her family and we didn’t know it at the time, but she completed our little family. Noah’s first memories will hopefully be like mine, of this little furry creature friend, who likes to appear all tough and independent but has a penchant for curling up on his pillow next to him while he sleeps. He constantly sneaks her too many cat biscuits and she’s never happier than trying to sabotage him playing football in the garden by pouncing on the ball and trying to kill it.

Being an insatiable bird hunter, we’ve had a few horrible scares with Kitty, most notably the swan-dive-out-of 30-foot-tree fiasco of 2012 where we thought we were going to lose her. On the rush to the vets, cradling a very sad, floppy cat, we didn’t know what the outcome would be. Broken bones, surely? Would it be too much for her, would we have to have her put to sleep? It was terrible waiting to hear the vet’s diagnosis, but at least one less worry was that we had cat insurance to deal with the costs as apparently cats don’t really think about how much money you’ve got in the bank before attempting to take flight after a pigeon at a great height.

Luckily and rather remarkably she hadn’t broken anything, she just had a tiny seizure from the shock of the fall and needed to be kept in overnight for observations. But it certainly confirmed that the monthly direct debits where worth they’re weight in gold and that we truly couldn’t imagine being without her.

Do you insure your pets?



How to Clean and Freshen Your Mattress

Mattresses need a good clean, otherwise you’re exposing yourself to dust mites and allergies. Think about any spillages and stains that you’re sleeping in, after all we do spend a third of our lives in bed! A simple clean of the bedsheets might feel fresh and welcoming but it won’t get rid of the underlying problem- your mattress.

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Give your mattress a vacuum, this is a great way to get rid of most dust mites. But ensure you use a HEPA air filter because these remove 99.97% of particles, if you use a regular hoover, all you will be doing is pulling out dirt, which will bring it closer to the surface, clogging up fabric but remaining trapped inside the mattress, making matters worse.

  1. 1. Remove bedsheets, pillows, blankets and anything else you might have- such as a mattress cover.
  2. 2. Start from the top of the mattress and work your way down, using the hose end of your vacuum and an upholstery attachment, vacuum slowly ensuring you are getting rid of all dirt, dust and waste in general.
  3. 3. Flip the mattress over and give the other side an extensive hoover too.

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Eliminate odour and stains in a few simple steps, after all nobody wants to come home to a smelly mattress!

  1. 1. Apply baking soda to the mattress.
  2. 2. Let it sit for a few hours.
  3. 3. Vacuum it off.
  4. 4. Flip the mattress and repeat steps 1 to 3.

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If your mattress has seen better days and you’ve had it for a while then you could consider buying a brand new one. By following the steps above you can ensure to keep it clean from when you purchase it, so it lasts longer. With such a great range on offer including, pocket sprung, memory foam, latex and open coil, there has never been a better time to treat yourself!

Choose from a range of mattresses; pocket sprung, memory foam, latex, open coil and more- there are so many you can pick!

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If you don’t have time to give your mattress a thorough clean, flip it over! This helps provide extra durability and is recommended to do every 3 to 6 months.

  1. 1. Pull the mattress away from the headboard.
  2. 2. Spin the mattress around.
  3. 3. Flip it over, so that the top is now at the bottom.

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If you are looking for ways of providing extra protection then you could consider adding a mattress protector to your bed. This will help guard your mattress against those horrible everyday spills and assist in prolonging its lifespan. There are a range of mattress protectors that you can choose from depending on your bed and the design that you require. See more at: My Next Mattress



Savvy Saving to Start a Family

Is it just me, or is there a mini baby boom happening at the moment? It seems everywhere I look, I see another birth announcement, another blossoming bump and another brand new tiny, pink bundle in a pram… Every time I see another new baby, my ovaries have a little moment. I get an almost light-headed feeling while my head and my heart have a tiny battle all in the blink of an eye. I want that again. I want another baby.

But how? There’s always something that we need to do first. I’d like to be healthier. We’d like to more secure financially. Would we need to move? How would Noah cope with a sibling after having us to himself for so long? So many questions. But people do it every single day, right? And they’re coping OK, aren’t they? All these questions make me think back to when we were expecting Noah, how did we do it then? Because we sort of had to, didn’t we?

First of all, we opened a separate savings account to scurry absolutely any spare cash we had. Obviously check over interest rates, minimum monthly deposits etc so your money works as hard for you as possible. Whether you’re looking to save money for the travel system you’ve been hankering over, or you’re looking at long-term savings such as an ISA, Junior ISA or NISA (a junior cash ISA or junior stocks and shares ISA) to help with your child’s driving lessons and uni fees – do your research. Or perhaps you’re looking to go beyond that with some investments? A great place to start would be with L&G Investments – where everything is explained to get you started.

We also thought about things we could live without – big or small –  to save some extra pennies. Can you forego that holiday and save the money instead? How about the satellite TV subscription? Some juggling around, and indeed shopping around can help you see that bringing a brand new little person into your lives is more than possible with a bit of forward-planning. Switch to a cheaper supermarket for your groceries, sign up to baby clubs for free gifts, samples and coupons, even having a clothes swap with some friends or family to get some baby clothes and blankets (always try to get neutral colours to make things easier if you plan to have more than one child) etc – it all helps in the long run.

Don’t forget the Child Trust Fund and to set up a children’s savings account once your baby arrives and to renew your life insurance.

How did you save to start a family?

Father’s Day in Style

As I’m sure you know, Father’s Day is just around the corner and if you’re anything like me, may be just a little unprepared for the occasion. Be it for your husband or indeed your own dad, Father’s Day can be a little difficult to get right for that special person.

Do you go down the coffee mug / keyring / teddy bear / socks proclaiming BEST DAD EVER and other such sentiments road? Even though you know they’re kind of tacky and kitsch and your loved one will mostly likely hide them somewhere to never be found again once opened.

How about the slightly more highbrow road? A custom print or their favourite photo on a canvas for instance? Or some male grooming products? Again, it’s risky, but there’s perhaps a bigger chance these sorts of items will actually see light of day after the initial “oooh! ” and “ahhhh!” present opening moments.

But what if those sorts of presents just don’t suit the man in your life? How about going a bit left-field and buying some clothes? Do they have a favourite clothing brand perhaps? Is their beloved hoody looking a bit sad and tired? Or have the trainers they’re never seen without really seen better days?

I’ve decided this year to make the sentimental, kitsch gifts and pictures and cards  and countless other trinkets with our son this year, and rather than buying things I know he really won’t like or use, to get him some new trainers from Scotts Menswear – a haven of casual menswear from brands you don’t normally find in your average sports clothing store.

So, has that given you any last minute ideas? I personally find it really liberating to realise that I don’t have to buy the obvious Father’s Day gifts and that we can still celebrate it together as a family, by buying him something he’ll actually love and use.

What are you buying for Father’s Day? Don’t worry, I can keep a secret!

DIY Home Decoration – Giving Your Furniture a New Lease of Life

Most people these days have to be mindful about their expenditure, with household budgets already overstretched and many struggling to keep on top of financial commitments. Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which you can save money or cut costs, such as using DIY home decorating ideas for those on a budget. By doing this you can save a considerable amount of money when it comes to getting your home decorated.

There are many different ways in which you can give your home a fresh new look, from giving the walls a fresh coat of paint through to giving your old, worn furniture a new lease of life to save on the cost of replacements. From using a colourful spray paint on your shelves and wooden furniture through to improving your worn bed frame with a stylish new headboard from retailers such as Bedstar, there are many quick and simple ways to make your old furniture look great.

Tips to refresh your furniture

You will be surprised at just what a difference you can make to the appearance and practicality of old furniture with just a few simple steps. Some popular ways to carry out a DIY job on your home furnishings in order to improve them include:

l Paint old cabinets: You can get wood paint and spray paint in a wide variety of colours these days. This is a great way to brighten up and improve old chest of drawers, wooden cabinets, and bedside tables. If you have younger children, you can really enhance the look of their room by using vibrant colours in order to refresh this type of furniture.

l Use throws: If your settee or armchair is looking tired and worn, don’t go to the expense of buying a new one. Instead, you can invest in some quality throws that will not only instantly transform this type of furniture but will also enable you to opt for a different colour if you fancy a change. Plus you have the added benefit of being able to put the throws in the wash when necessary.

l Use contact paper for your coffee table: In order to transform the look of your old coffee table with minimal effort, use contact paper to cover the surface. You can choose from a range of colours and designs and it simply sticks to the surface so the transformation takes very little time, effort or money.

l Replace the hardware on kitchen cabinets: Kitchen cabinets can start to look tired and dated over time but you don’t have to go to the expense of replacements. You can simply replace the hardware on your cabinets, such as the hinges and handles, and this will help to give them a fresh, contemporary new look.

These are just a few of the simple yet very effective ways in which you can help to refresh your old furniture and bring it up to date.

What are your top tips for updating your home and furnishings?

Organised Chaos: Keeping a Clean Family Home

For many busy families, keeping a home clean feels as unattainable a goal as walking on Mars. Kids are brutally messy: from their perpetually muddying garments to the way they throw everything they ever touch on the floor. It’s tough keeping them on-side too. But your home needn’t descend into squalor just because you have a busy life. Here are some ideas for getting back your domestic bliss, one room at a time.

The kitchen

At the end of every meal, make it a policy to do the dishes. If you have to, hang a rota for designated washers and dryers, and establish a family routine. You can make cleaning and tidying pots easier with dishwashers, as long as you empty them at the end of every cycle, and have a rule that every dish is rinsed and racked, not left on the side. Be sure to read up on the things you can put in the dishwasher, you might be surprised to learn that the baby’s high chair tray can go in, along with any forsaken plastic toys found under the dining table.

The living room

You can prevent carpets and rugs from getting destroyed by controlling the amount of dirt that can be trailed through from outside: operate a strict no-shoe policy. As for the sofas, if you have rambunctious little ones or pets, use throw covers during the day to minimise fabric damage over time. Forget dusting: save time by hoovering everything. With the right attachment you can bust allergens from upholstery, curtains and bookcases.


The bathroom

Keeping the family bathroom clean is a constant job, so instead of trying to find time to give it a thorough blitz once per week, adopt a clean-as-you-go policy. Leave a sponge in the bathroom cabinet and wipe over the sink and any surfaces while you’re cleaning your teeth. Store some antibacterial wipes by the toilet to swipe over the handle and rim before you use it. You’ll soon see how easy it can be to maintain a germ-free WC.

The bedrooms

If the kids’ bedrooms have become biohazards, it’s time to set a good example and give them a bedroom cleaning checklist. Expecting them to attain spotlessness is a little unrealistic, but they should at least be shown how to make their beds and hang up their clothes once in a while.

A clean home is a haven everyone can look forward to at the end of a tough day, so instil some house-pride in your kids, remember not to put off the little tasks which can become monstrous, and you’ll soon see an improvement.

Image by abbamouse, used under Creative Commons license 

And Repeat

A year ago, to the day in fact (thanks to that smug little animated dinosaur that prances onto my phone to merrily remind of my annual failings each and every morning) I wrote this post. It was nothing special, but the point is I could’ve written dozens more exactly like it. The ominous assessment, the dreaded GP review, the painful therapist appointment. Where the texture or tone or composition might be slightly different, but they’d still essentially be a snapshot of the exact same thing.

Me, perched on the edge of a padded chair that’s too low to the ground in grey room, panic racing through me, eyes darting methodically. The generic box of tissues. The certificates on the wall. The grubby mark on the wall by the door. My fingernails. Dust motes dancing in the ever decreasing sunlight creeping through the vertical blinds. The ill-chosen printed artwork on the wall. Back to the tissues.

And repeat.

The doctor / therapist /  psychologist / psychiatrist (delete applicable) absent-mindedly twirling to and fro in their swivel chair, fingers poised over their keyboard and mouse, ready to type unknown words I can’t see or churn another prescription out.

I ask for help. I say the things I don’t want to say. I nod silently.

I’m handed another prescription with a disingenuous head-tilt, complete with what they’re probably aiming for as empathy in their tired, slow eyes. I’m given instructions to call 999 if “things get bad”.

I leave.

I go home. I hide in my bed. I refuse to speak.

And repeat.

This well-trodden and anti-climatic routine led to “things getting bad” with a crescendo of me having a breakdown and being admitted to a psychiatric hospital last summer which I’m only starting to process now. Apparently, a breakdown isn’t a fix. It’s not a cure. It’s not the excuse to surround yourself with inspirational quotes and self-care and cross your fingers really hard that the same thing won’t happen again.

It’s a huge, ugly, jagged event that towers above everything else, where you start to remember things Pre-Breakdown and Post-Breakdown. You can’t talk about it because, well, if you’ve had a breakdown, you’ve got it out of your system now at least, yeah? Now let’s change the subject. There’s no “Sorry about your breakdown” cards. You’re just surrounded by concerned eyes watching you when they think you’re not looking, an avalanche of *hugs* and more dissatisfied appointments in grey rooms.

In the Post-Breakdown haze, the local crisis-team visited me at home. Although, they weren’t really the proper crisis team, I’d have to wait months for that, these people were more the mildly problematic team. I didn’t want to talk to them. I no longer trusted myself and felt if I said a trigger-word, they’d be sectioning me. They intimated that I might be dealing with more than just your common house depression.

The words “personality disorder” seeped through before my defenses shot into the atmosphere. I didn’t listen to another word they said.

The private psychiatrist I paid over 150 quid to see for fifteen minutes, shrugged off the suggestion while my other half saw a chance of getting somewhere, a breakthrough and I refused him it.

I didn’t know what to think, who to trust, denying that anything was wrong. The words, the lingering, leading questions were invisible rain, sinking through my protection, my clothes, making me colder and colder while I pretended it was OK as my teeth chattered and my skin was covered in goose-flesh.

Until one night, I told my best friend. I told her about the exhausting, unpredictable switches in mood. The compulsions. The sensory overload. The panic I felt at being asked if I was OK, because honestly, I had no idea. I told her the seemingly tedious details. I told her everything.

She’d asked questions, she’d said the scary Personality Disorder words, she asked if I was sure I was just dealing with depression, but it was OK. I realised then  that it was alright to listen to other people’s opinion and myself, that a personality disorder didn’t have to be a terrifying unknown.

From next week I’ll be going back to the grey rooms with the dirty marks on the walls. I’ll be asking to be re-diagnosed, for a second opinion. Most likely I’ll be nodding silently, leaving with a prescription pressed into my palm and not much else.

And repeat.

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