Making an Easter break special for your kids

16 03 2013

All of us like to take a break from time to time and Easter is the perfect opportunity to get away from it all for a few days and take advantage of the spring sunshine to enjoy a bit of time with your family.


Image via Flickr from Debbie

The great thing about Easter breaks is that they are often cheaper than going away during the summer months. Granted, the weather may be a little more unpredictable, but by the end of March the sun is usually shining and there are plenty of activities to enjoy and destinations to explore, whether you want to stay in the UK or venture a little further afield.

The thing you have to remember if you’re heading out on holiday with your family is that you need to keep your kids entertained. Yes, walking around a stately home and looking at beautiful paintings might be interesting for you, but they chances are your children will probably find this rather dull. All of a sudden, you’ve got bored, impatient youngsters on your hands who are yelling and making a fuss.

It’s important that you try and make your Easter break fun for your children as well as yourself, or neither of you will have a particularly good time.

One way to do this is check the hotel or accommodation you’re booking and see if it offers childcare or a crèche. By doing this you’ll ensure your kids will be entertained if you want to head out and do something else for the day.

Generally, when checking out accommodation you should ensure it’s child friendly – does it say its suitable for families on the website? If it’s more of a party hotel or one that caters for older individuals, the chances are your kids won’t make any friends on their break and will find themselves feeling a bit bored. Interacting with other children and taking part in activities organised by the hotel or resort are get ways for youngsters to meet new friends.

As well as looking for activities to suit you, consider finding something special for your youngsters as well. This doesn’t have to be an extravagant gesture, but if you find a local activity park, an animal farm or a leisure centre, you can surprise them with a treat that they will spend the day looking forward to.

You should also consider how long you’ll be in the car (or on other forms of public transport) during your holiday. If you’re planning to take a road trip to see some nearby sites then ensure you come up with a few ideas to keep your little ones entertained. No doubt they’ll be tired and sleepy on the way back, but on the journey there they will need some entertainment.


How to shovel snow safely

14 03 2013


Image from Flickr Creative Commons via Mash Down Babylon

Now that the winter has well and truly descended upon us, you could be forgiven for wanting to crawl back into bed and shut yourself away from the world for the next few months. However, this is a luxury denied to the vast majority of us. Indeed, millions of us will have to continue fighting our way through the cold, ice and snow, one way or another. But before you whip your snow shovel out and get to work, you should think carefully. As tempting as it might be to simply get stuck in, you should remember that there are injury risks associated with this particular task – so should you end up doing yourself a mischief, you could find yourself laid up for an extended period. This is an inconvenience relatively few of us can afford at the current juncture.

According to an article from, you’ll need to ensure that your snow shovel is up to the job before you start digging away. You should also be careful not to over-exert yourself. Think about your own physical condition before you get started. Shovelling snow can be hard work, particularly if there’s ice underneath it – so there’s a real risk that you could end up getting yourself injured. Be careful not to take any excessive risks. If, for example, you have a pre-existing health problem – such as a heart condition – your best bet is to simply avoid shovelling snow altogether.

As a priority, you’ll need to clear the snow from your driveway, any footpaths leading to your home and whatever other areas you’ll need to provide access. Make sure that you clear the snow thoroughly and chip away at any ice which may be lurking underneath – if you don’t get rid of this as well, you could end up suffering some sort of accident. Once you’re happy that you’ve cleared the snow away, it might be a good idea to lay some rock salt down to avoid re-icing.

An article from also makes a number of suggestions for staying safe when shovelling snow. It might be a good idea to perform a few moderate stretches before you go out, so that you’re properly limbered up. Should you simply get stuck straight in, you may end up injuring yourself, so you need to think about the pace at which you work. In addition, you should think about where you’re going to dump the snow before you get started. It makes sense to work in the direction of your chosen dumping ground, so that you have less of a distance to travel.

Also, try to maintain the proper posture when you’re shovelling the snow. Use your shoulder and leg muscles as much as possible, and hold the shovel as close to your body as you can. Make sure you keep your back straight as you move from the squat position to the upright position, or else you may strain it. You should also take care to avoid twisting your upper body as you throw the snow, because this may cause you an injury of some sort.

How to clean delicate or expensive outfits

12 03 2013


This image via Flickr Creative Commons from Ollie Crafoord

We all like to splash out on clothing from time to time – after all, the therapeutic benefits of a quick spot of retail therapy are well documented. But at a time when so many of us are feeling the financial pinch, it’s all the more important to ensure we get as much out of our clothing as we possibly can. There might be a great selection of ladies’ evening tops available, but you don’t want to have to keep replacing them all the time. It’s one thing to be a bit blasé about how you look after the less expensive items in your wardrobe, but when you really go to town and buy an item of clothing which you know is of genuine quality, it’s well worth making the effort to ensure it retains its charm and character for as long as possible. This is why you need to take great care when you clean expensive clothing.

An article from makes the point that unless you know how to take good care of fragile or expensive designer items of clothing, you could find they soon start to lose their allure. Unless you make the effort to keep your clothes clean and store them properly and in the right place, then they’ll start to look washed out, tatty or creased. This will basically render them unwearable – and there’s really no point going to the effort of buying expensive gear if you aren’t going to look after it. You could end up wasting hundreds or even thousands of pounds or your hard-earned cash, so you really need to think carefully about this.

An article from has a number of tips for those looking for advice on how to store clothing. Firstly, you need to remember that there is such a thing as excessive washing – of course you want to keep your clothes looking good, but washing them too frequently could end up having the opposite effect, so you need to be careful. Make sure you check your clothes before you put them in the wash and then assess what sort of condition they’re in. If your clothes are still fresh, then you can hang them up and wear them again. You don’t need to wash clothing after each time you wear it, although this is a trap many people fall into.

Also, if you notice any problems with your clothes then you should try to repair them straight away. Don’t procrastinate and put it off, because that’ll probably just make matters worse – and you may find that you either have to pay more to repair your clothes or that you have to buy new garments altogether. Needless to say, this could soon prove to be a pretty expensive affair. You should also ensure that you treat stains as quickly as possible. The longer you leave them, the more ingrained they’re likely to become – so don’t waste time and make sure you get them seen to.

It’s also well worth just following the instructions on the label of your garment as to how your clothes should be cleaned. It might be a good idea to check the label before you buy so you have an idea of what you can expect to have to do in order to keep your clothing looking at its best. Make sure you keep your more highly-prized items of clothing separate from the rest, so you don’t just end up flinging them all in the wash together.

What can you do to protect your card details online?

10 03 2013


Image from Flickr Creative Commons via Images_of_money

The use of various forms of payment card to buy goods and services in today’s online world has become so widespread that the highest echelons of public bodies have seen fit to introduce guidelines to help ensure that people and organisations can do so safely.

For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – a top-level forum used by national governments to promote policies designed to “improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world” – has looked in great detail into the increasing use of credit and other payment cards, with the aim of unifying laws designed to protect users when they pay for items bought online.

As the OECD points out itself, “under the laws of some OECD countries, you have no liability if your card is used online without your permission”. However, this exemption does not apply all countries, and this very inconsistency is one reason why it is best for the individual card user to take their own precautions.

Generally, online payments are protected by the fact that a website will use encryption technology when they handle such payments. Sites which do this are often denoted by a closed padlock in the area of the screen which also includes the URL, or webpage address. Encryption means that the card details transmitted between the buyer and the seller are concealed by a form of code which is designed to render the important information on the card – its individual number and the number of the bank account with which it is connected – unreadable by any outside source.

This form of protection is still considered adequate by a surprisingly high proportion of companies which accept credit cards online. But recent years have seen the emergence of a further level of security, which has been adopted by a number of payment card issuers. This entails the buyer negotiating a couple of extra levels of authentication besides that simply used when they make a payment simply by entering the card number.

The Verified by Visa system is the most widely used of such protection measures. Now used by more than 300,000 websites across Europe, it entails the user setting up a separate user name and password to that associated with the specific payment card they intend to use. Naturally, it can only be used in conjunction with cards issued by the Visa payment card company.

When they input the details of a card which is registered under the scheme, the user of this system will see a personalised greeting, so that they can be sure that the screen they are being shown is genuine. Then they will have to enter their Verified by Visa password in order to prove that they are the rightful holder of the card being used.

Such secure payment gateways are intended to provide two-way security – that the card user can be sure of the legitimacy of the retailer they are buying from, and that the retailer has an emphasis on protecting the data of its customers. In these times when making a card payment online can so easily be taken for granted, such measures designed to protect the card holder and their personal information should be taken advantage of by every cardholder.



The ultimate bachelor’s guide to ironing

8 03 2013


Image from Flickr Creative Commons via Shoshanah

It’s one of those domestic chores which are put off more than any other. But because so many of us depend on having well-pressed shirts, trousers, jackets and ties to wear for work, it’s a job which we have to consider essential.

Because ironing is one of those domestic chores which are impossible to dodge, though, it pays to have a proper plan to carrying out the task. This is especially true when you consider the amount of money which is often spent on clothing which requires ironing. Indeed, when the quest is to look good in lots of different circumstances, do we ever consider the fact that lots of the clothes we love will need to be ironed regularly to keep them in the best possible condition? The answer is probably not.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t love those clothes, and generally we will put up with the work involved in ensuring that they’re kept in as near pristine condition as possible.

The difference, though, between someone who wears classic and expensive clothes regularly, and someone who only has the occasional need to do so is that the regular wearer will – or certainly should – be aware of the work needed to keep them looking immaculate.

Ironing, though, is still an alien world to many men, even ones who aspire to look as smart as possible whenever they step out. Doing such tasks as effectively as possible, then, is often best when it’s broken down into easy steps. So here’s a step-by-step guide which will help make ironing seem far less intimdating.

1. Use a good iron: A cheapie from a supermarket will never do the job satisfactorily, so at least research which brands are generally the most trustworthy and buy the best one you can afford.

2. Read the ironing instructions on each garment: You can’t just assume that every one will look as good if you keep the iron at the same temperature. A denim garment certainly needs more heat to remove creases than a silk one. So be sure to re-set your iron’s temperature for each type.

3. Use the right motions with the iron for the area concerned: Wide, sweeping strokes work well on large expanses of t-shirt or trousers, but more intricate areas, around the fly for example, need closer attention.

4. Iron clothes inside-out. This will help a garment retain its colour, and help keep heat stains invisible.

5. Start at the waistband with trousers and work your way down.

6. With all clothes, place them on ironing boards in a way which best suits their shape.

7. Work around your clothes in a logical order, as this will help you ensure that you don’t miss any areas – around buttonholes or cuffs in particular.

8. Keep as much of the area of the item being ironed on the ironing board at any time, as you can then quickly put right any bits which crease while you’re working over them.

9 Finally, hang all your garments on a suitable coathanger – one which is appropriate for their weight – as soon as you’ve finished.

And the most important thing about the task so far not mentioned here which will help make it less daunting is to stay on top of the job! There’s nothing more disheartening than looking at a pile of clothes waiting to be ironed, and it’s guaranteed to get worse the bigger the pile gets. So set aside some time each week for working through it – you could even then reward yourself with a trip to the pub once it’s done to keep the motivation up!


How does Botox work?

6 03 2013


Botox is a brand name for the neurotoxic protein botulinum toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. If administered in large doses, the protein can cause botulism, a raare paralytic illness that is often associated with food poisoning. Botox became FDA approved in 2002 however, and has been used ever since in cosmetic medicine to treat moderate to severe brow furrow (glabellar lines), uncontrolled blinking, wrinkles, and facial lines. These procedures only use a small amount of diluted botulinum toxin to enable controlled weakening of muscles.

Botox is one of the most common cosmetic surgical procedures undertaken by both women and men throughout the UK, in a bid to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. But have you ever wondered how it really works? Read on for a more in-depth analysis about how Botox works.

The treatment consists of a small dose of Botox being injected into the affected muscle. The medication binds to the nerve endings and blocks the release of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that causes muscles to contract or move. When the acetylcholine is blocked, the muscle no longer receives the signal to contract and becomes temporarily paralysed. The effects can take anywhere from three to seven days to appear after each injection.

The good thing about Botox is that patients do not require anaesthesia and usually take just a few minutes to perform. The surgeon injects the protein into the muscle using a fine needle to minimise the patient’s discomfort and to ensure improved accuracy. Surgeons generally recommend that patients avoid alcohol for about a week prior to the procedure. To minimise bruising, patients should stop using aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicines about two weeks before the treatment.

The effects from Botox treatment for lines and wrinkles generally last between four and six months. As muscle action gradually returns, the former lines and wrinkles start reappearing and wrinkles need to be re-treated. The more often you have Botox, the less frequent and severe lines will appear because the muscles are being trained to relax.

However, it’s important to be aware that Botox is not suitable for everyone. Patients who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have a neurological disease should not use Botox. As Botox doesn’t work for all wrinkles, a consultation with a doctor is always recommended.

As with any surgical procedure, you have to bear in mind that there are possible side effects. Your surgeon should fully explain all of the possible side effects to you before you agree to the procedure. The most common side effect of Botox is temporary bruising. Headaches lasting 24-48 hours can occur but in rare cases. A small percentage of patients may develop eyelid drooping but this usually resolves itself within three weeks. It happens when the Botox moves around so you should try to avoid rubbing the treated area for 12 hours after a Botox injection or lay down for three to four hours post-treatment.

Adverse reactions to Botox have included respiratory failure and even death. In such reported cases, the reactions appear to be related to the Botox spreading from the area of injection to other areas, and were found mainly in children being treated for muscle spasm related to cerebral palsy.

As well as being used in a number of cosmetic medical treatments, Botox has other uses, which may surprise you. Warning, not all of these potential Botox treatments are FDA approved so if you’re considering any of them, it’s important to fully research them and talk to a professional surgeon first.

‘Gummy smiles’ are smiles that show too much of the gums and usually result from ‘excessive lip elevation’ where the upper lip rises too far above the upper teeth when smiling. By injecting Botox into the upper lip, the retractor muscles are weakened so it won’t rise as high and your smile will seem better balanced. The procedure takes roughly five minutes and can last up to six months.

Patients suffering from chronic migraines can now be treated with Botox. Traditionally, migraines have been difficult to treat in some patients as they’re typically accompanied by a variety of side effects including dizziness, nausea, light sensitivity and vomiting. Botox is injected into seven areas around the temples, forehead, neck and shoulders to prevent pain signals from reaching the nerve endings.

Finally, Botox can also be used to treat a condition known as axillary hyperhidrosis, or ‘excessive underarm sweating’. It has been proven to alleviate symptoms of all sorts of sweating, including underarms, hands and feet. It works by blocking the release of the chemical responsible for stimulating the sweat glands. It’s worthwhile noting however, that Botox doesn’t cure excessive sweating; it simply treats the condition for up to seven months.

Making sure that your family is well provided for in the event of your death

6 03 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from docguy

Making sure that your partner and children are well provided for is perhaps the most basic duty of any parent. Granted, it might not be something we particularly like to give a great deal of thought to – but nevertheless it’s important to be prepared. What you need to remember is that in the event of your death, your family could be left all at sea. It’s hard enough to cope with the loss of a loved one in any event, but even more so when there are various financial and administrative loose ends which need to be tied up. It could be of immense value to your family if you ensure that there’s a will, life insurance cover and funeral plans are in place should the worst come to the worst.

Having life insurance cover should ensure that your family’s finances are protected in the event of your death. There are many different plans for you to choose from, so you need to ensure that you find one that’s appropriate for your family’s needs. An article from offers a number of tips for those thinking of taking out life insurance. The first thing you’ll need to think about is why you need to take out life insurance, and what your dependents’ needs are likely to be in the event of your death. You should then think about your finances, and consider how much a life insurance is likely to pay out should the worst happen.

You can find out more about life insurance cover by searching online – there’ll be price comparison websites and other ways you can judge which policy would be most appropriate for you. Gather as much information as you can about the various policies on offer. This should allow you to then make a more informed decision as to which one is likely to be best for you. Make sure you obtain multiple quotes, as well.

In addition, you should also ensure you draw up a will to determine how your assets are distributed in the event of your death. Dying without leaving a will behind could result in long-running and traumatic legal wrangling between those closest to you, and it probably goes without saying that this is something you’ll want to avoid. Another article suggests that you should start this process by drawing up a list of your closest friends and relatives. If you have juvenile children, you’ll need to think about who you want to assume the role of guardian, and you’ll also need to name an executor.

When working out who you’re going to bequeath your property to, make sure that you’re as specific as possible to avoid the possibility of uncertainty. If you have young children, you’ll need to set up a trust and appoint a trustee to manage it. You might also want to get in touch with a funeral director to discuss how you want your farewell service to be consulted. There are plenty of funeral directors to choose from, and you can find out more about Co-op funerals and other options simply by looking online.