Guest Post – The Pros and Cons of a Night Out

A night on the tiles – it’s a tradition that’s been around for decades. Friday and Saturday nights are made for letting our hair down, something I’ve done quite a few times! However, as I’m getting a little older and have all the responsibilities of being a mother to handle, I wonder whether going out is quite as fun as it used to be.


  • Nights out are great if you want a change of scenery
  • They allow you to meet new people, especially friends of friends
  • A night out could be anything you want it to be – a film, a few drinks at a pub/nightclub or even a football match


  • They can be expensive – taxis, drinks and takeaway food can cost over £50 a night!
  • They don’t always go to plan
  • They can be exhausting

The cons of nights out got me thinking – should I have nights in at home instead? I want to be closer to the kids, but I still want to have fun with my friends and a night in gives me the best of both worlds.

The perfect night in

Food – always have snacks prepared. Whether they’re simple like chips or something fancy like vol-au-vents, it’s important to have food prepared for a night in. I would like to see a platter or buffet that we can pick and choose from.

Drink – cocktails are fun, and they’re not that difficult to make if you find the right recipes online. However, I think wine’s better as you can just pick some up from the nearest corner shop and my friends can bring some with them too!

Games – again, head to the internet for ideas. I found online bingo to be a lot of fun, and everyone else can play at the same time, but puzzles are fun too. Board games are just as exciting, as they’re good for groups of friends.

Staying in for a change

It seems that I’m not alone in thinking a night in sounds like a great idea. A survey for Ladbrokes Bingo showed just over 66% of women would rather have a night in than a night out. I didn’t expect to read that, but it’s true!

The same survey also had some more bizarre pieces of data. I didn’t think, for example, that 30.8% of women worried about their tights falling down during a night out, but that’s part of what makes staying in so appealing.

Disclosure: This is a Guest Post on behalf of Ladbrokes Bingo

Are we nearly there yet? Car trip ideas for the family

I’m really pleased to have joined the Sainsbury’s Bank Family Blogger Network (look I have a shiny badge in my sidebar and everything!) and to have fab Guest Posts like this one to share with you. I was not paid to host this post.

To paraphrase Ferris Bueller: family life moves pretty fast – if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

One of the best ways of taking it all in is to go on a family road trip – but where to go and how to go about getting there? Here are a few answers to both questions.

As always the devil is in the detail and planning and preparation are your best weapons. Consider the following to get the best out of your trip:

  • Planning – get the calendar out, sit down together and agree when a whole day, or even an entire weekend, can feasibly be spent away from home.
  • Make the time – if at all possible try to make it between spring and winter and at a time that everyone else in the country isn’t on the move or you’ll either be spending the whole time looking for shelter, or in the car.
  • Having agreed on a date – you’ll have to defend it vigorously from birthday party invitations or last minute social suggestions –and you need to settle on a destination.

The country
Buy the Ordnance Survey map for the area you’re interested in and plan your day(s). With a little map reading and calculation you could easily fit in a walk, a site of historical interest or a sporting activity. Use Google Maps and Google Earth to check the terrain and travelling times if your map reading isn’t up to scratch.

The beach
Living as we do on an archipelago dominated by a long, skinny mainland, we’re all pretty close to the sea. Even if you live in Northampton in the centre of the land mass you can be in Norfolk in three hours. So it is perhaps more accessible than you think.

Remember that you have to look for the best in what you see, not for what you feel ought to be there instead. So try not to bemoan the absence of rugged cliffs or golden sand but rather celebrate the haunting atmosphere or the post-industrial oddness of the parts of our coastline you can get to.

The city
For people living in the country the city can become a place to be raided – at great speed and with utmost seriousness – for Christmas shopping or essential supplies.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Look for the best in the city, the history, the life, the culture, the heritage, the traditions, the things that set it apart and from which it takes its identity.

Having settled on a destination and planned your trip, it’s a good idea to:

  • Vary the pace of the day and make stops that are good for the soul as well as for the body.
  • Assess any risks you’ll face – particularly when dealing with the sea. Tide times, weather and traffic are you main areas of concern, but also make sure you’re covered by adequate car insurance.
  • If you put the effort in at this stage you’ll have a memorable experience for the price of the fuel it will use to get you there and back.

Remember, you’re on a journey exploring, learning and laughing – together.

Author Bio:
Joel Dowling writes for the Sainsbury’s Bank Money Matters blog on subjects as diverse as music, motoring, finance and the family. He spends many weekends on the road with his family.

Monkey Music ‘The Day Is Here’ Charity Single

Did you know that Monkey Music have recorded a special charity song to celebrate the fantastic summer of sport this year? ‘The Day Is Here’, which tells the story of running a race, is specially written for Monkey Music and performed by children aged 7-9. It will be performed in Monkey Music classes across the UK and is also being used to raise money for Nordoff Robbins, the music therapy charity.

Nordoff Robbins is a national specialist music charity, delivering 50,000 music therapy sessions a year to a broad range of people in schools, hospitals and care homes across the UK. Their qualified music therapists specifically help people with a range of challenges including autism, dementia, mental health problems, stroke, brain injury, learning difficulties, depression and in some cases clients have threatening or terminal illness, such as cancer.

Angie Coates, Founder of Monkey Music, said;

“Both Monkey Music and Nordoff Robbins offer children fresh opportunities and life changing experiences through music. We believe that by working together we can raise awareness of the benefits of music for everyone. It’s lovely to use 2012 and the summer of sport to engage the very youngest of children in the excitement of sport and the joy of music.”

Jo Carter, Director of Fundraising & Communications Nordoff Robbins said:

“We are delighted to be working with Monkey Music, to be sharing our mutual believe in the power of music and to help raise funds to continue transforming the lives of vulnerable children and adults across the UK. As a charity we rely entirely on voluntary donations, so the Monkey Music song released this summer is a great way to raise funds and awareness.”

Monkey Music classes will learn ‘The Day is Here’ during their Monkey Music classes over the coming weeks. Then, from the end of May the ‘The Day is Here’ will be officially released and available to buy online with all profits going to charity. I’v heard the tune and its a lovely track that I’m sure children will love to sing along too. Please consider popping over to the Monkey Music website to buy later this month 🙂

A New Way of Giving – Guess2Give

When Guess2Give got in touch with me to show me their site I was really impressed with their new charity fundraising idea. Guess2Give was founded by Mark Chandler and Tim Parkman, two keen sportsmen who were looking for a creative way to raise money for charity through the multiple triathlons they had lined up. Instead of asking for sponsorship for each one, they asked people to guess how long it would take them to complete each triathlon, for a donation, and the closest guess got some money back. What fun idea! Each guess costs £3 and 50p goes into the prize pot, with the rest going to the charity.

To promote their website, they have created a spoof film to highlight the challenges that charities face in the current economic environment. You can watch it here.

I was given the chance to interview the founders of Guess2Give and here is what they had to say.

Where did the idea for Guess2Give come from?

Co-founder Mark Chandler:  I was working at Marie Curie at the time, and had signed up to do three triathlons in 2009 before undertaking the ultimate challenge, Ironman Zurich in July 2010. I wanted to fundraise for all four events but knew I would only get one hit wit

h traditional online sponsorship. I needed a more engaging way of raising money and came up with the idea of a sweepstake, asking my colleagues, friends and family to guess how long it would take to complete each triathlon, with the competitive element that they could win some money back! I managed to raise an extra £300+ for the charity in three triathlons, and for each event one of my mates won a cash prize.  When I talked the idea through with Tim (Co-Founder), we quickly realised that making fundraising ‘competitive’ would resonate with lots of people and so decided to launch Guess2Give.

Can you give some examples different types of sweepstakes?

It’s a new spin on an age-old idea that charities have been using for years – guessing the number of sweets in a jar to win the jar of sweets – so it’s easy for people to understand and part of the British culture. Guess2Give simply takes it online.

Some examples of sweepstakes’ that have been setup so far on G2G: guess how much weight will be lost by a specific date; guess how many hoops will be scored by a basketball team from a total of 3000 shots; guess the total length of time played by 2 Swansea players over 4 Premiership matches; guess the number of steps made walking the Great Wall of China/ Kilimanjaro; guess the distance a paper plane will fly.

What fundraising challenges do you think charities are facing now, when many people are feeling the pinch?

Fundraising has become increasingly challenging in recent years, for charities and for individuals faced with growing minimum sponsorship pledges. 78% of larger charities are feeling the impact of the downturn and 28% are anticipating a drop in funds (Source: Third Sector, 13 July 2010). In the current challenging economic conditions, the need to maintain or increase funding income remains the principal worry for charities. Also during the economic downturn from 2007, voluntary income received by the 1,000 biggest charities has fallen more than a fifth from £11.2bn to £8.7bn – CAF

We are particularly excited by how Guess2Give can help charities engage with a completely new demographic. You might be aware of the challenges that charities face engaging with younger people, particularly young men. Pretty much every charity, big or small, has a demographic of their donors which is mainly female and over 40. A huge issue for the sector moving forward is to try and encourage younger people to give. In fact the male under 35 market is hardly tapped into at all. Guess2Give’s demographic of users bucks this trend, with over 70% under the age of 40.

In addition, more people are taking part in events and asking their friends and family for sponsorship and it’s not possible to sponsor everyone who asks. Now, people can support a wider number of fundraiser’s who take part in challenges whilst having a bit of fun, and maybe even winning a few quid.

How important do you think it is to come up with creative methods of donation?

It is hugely important for the sector to be innovative. In fact the Government officially recognised that there was a problem with fundraising fatigue in its ‘Giving White Paper’ published by the Cabinet Office in May 2011. Guess2Give has subsequently been given a grant by NESTAs ‘Innovation in Giving’ Fund which is there to support organisations pushing the boundaries of the fundraising sector.

The days of people only using paper sponsorship forms is gone as people are much more mobile and have networks that extend beyond their local areas. Fundraising now needs to be able to access those wider networks in a variety of ways to ensure charities can meet the growing demands for their services.

Do you think that fundraising on an ‘individual’ scale is as important as big national campaigns?

I don’t think it’s a case of one being more or less important. The point is that in the current climate charities are having to be more creative with their fundraising, and are having to look beyond traditional fundraising sources. This is fairly major shift in culture for a sector that has remained static pretty much since the introduction of JustGiving. Guess2Give is at the heart of this change and we believe we offer a new and important revenue stream to charities, and what is more, without fees or set up costs for each organisation.

A large amount of fundraising is done within personal networks by people who have been affected by a cause. Mobilising and motivating those personal networks is essential to raising funds for charities and Guess2Give offers people another way to do that.

What do you think about ‘chuggers’ and their role fundraising?

We don’t have anything against chuggers. It is up to each charity to decide whether or how to employ this practise. Our launch video lampooned chuggers but our intention was only to highlight that there is another way to fundraise.

How might charity fundraising continue to change in the future?

I do not pretend to be able to read the tea leaves better than anyone else but it seems clear that innovation must increase if the sector is to avoid stagnating. The simple fact is that charities, and individuals, are struggling to fundraise, and the more exciting and innovative platforms exist to help them the better.

Thanks to Mark for that really interesting interview. If you want to find out more just visit Guess2Give or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

Crack the Habit – Guest Post from Ecoegg

I met the team from Ecoegg at The Baby Show last month and am currently testing out an Ecoegg as a replacement for washing powder which I will be reviewing on the blog soon! Today I have a fab Guest Post from them just in time for Easter.

The Easter period has transformed from a once religious festival to a celebration of over indulgence. Easter has a negative impact on your health, your purse and the environment! Yes, it’s great fun, but do we really need to be so wasteful. Why not crack the habit?

A recent scientific study has shown that during a typical Easter period an average child will receive over thirteen Easter eggs and consume over 12,000 calories of chocolate and Easter goodies. That’s enough calories to keep them going for a full week! To burn of those extra calories, a child will have to run the equivalent of 56 miles. That’s the distance from London to Brighton! As the vast majority of children are unlikely to run 56 miles in order to burn of their over indulgence, they stand to gain up to four pounds in excess body fat. For many families, Easter has become nothing but a chocolate-eating fest.  Is it any wonder that obesity and diabetes is plaguing the UK?

An average British child under 12 will receive £24 worth of chocolate this Easter. Most children will receive one £3 egg from their parents and a further twelve from extended family and friends. Does a child really need thirteen Easter eggs? The price of Easter eggs is set to rise again the year due to the ever increasing price of Cocoa. The cost of eggs soared by up to 140% last year, and is set to increase further this year. Political unrest in the main cocoa producing countries and increased VAT are two of the main reasons for the ever increasing cost of Easter treats. With many families in the UK now officially in poverty, is £24 an expense most families can really afford?

A survey by Friends of the Earth has revealed that in some cases for every £1 spent on Easter eggs, consumers could be spending the same amount or more again on packaging. It has been estimated that 4370 tonnes of cardboard and 160 tonnes of foil waste was created by the packaging used to protect Easter eggs. Many of the leading brands are actively planning to reduce packaging on Easter eggs, but the majority still contain several layers of unnecessary unrecyclable packaging which inevitably ends up in landfills.

With delicious egg shaped temptations at every turn from February to April each year, it would be near impossible to fully resist the delights of a little Easter indulgence, but do we have to indulge on such a grand scale? As our little ones learn by example, we should be the ones to take the lead and show them that you can absolutely have a little treat to celebrate Easter but why eat chocolate to the point of nausea?

Why not crack the habit and swap some of your Easter eggs for one of these alternative Easter gifts:

  • Paint your own Easter egg kit- for around £5 you can keep your child occupied for a couple of hours and you also don’t have to worry about the calories they are consuming.
  • Ecoegg laundry egg- the revolutionary new way to do laundry, completely replacing laundry detergent and lasting for up to 720 washes, it saves families £000’s.
  • Buy a chicken for a family in Malawi- for just £10 you can buy a brood of chickens for a family in Malawi, allowing them to earn an income from selling the eggs. A guilt free Easter Egg!-
*This is a sponsored post

Healthy Start Vouchers – Guest Post from Mum and Baby Online

Image from

Money saving advice from

Have you heard of Healthy Start vouchers?

If you are pregnant or have a child under 4 years old then you may qualify to receive vouchers towards the buying of :

  • Plain cow’s milk – whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed. It can be pasteurised, sterilised, long life or UHT
  •  Plain fresh or frozen fruit and veg, whole or chopped, packaged or loose
  • Infant formula milk that says it can be used from birth and is based on cow’s milk.

You can claim between £3.10 and £6.20 per week which is a fantastic help when it comes to our weekly shopping. All you need to do is fill out a form online or speak with your Midwife or Health Visitor and they will give you a form to complete. To qualify you must be in receipt of at least one of the following:

  • Income Support, or
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
  • Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit unless your family is receiving Working Tax Credit run-on only*) and has an annual family income of £16,190 or less (2011/12).

You will also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits or tax credits.

And it gets better! As well as receiving vouchers towards these food costs you will also receive vouchers for vitamins every eight weeks. These vitamins will be for you as a pregnant mum but also for you child if they are aged from 6 months and they will continue to receive these vouchers until they are 4 years old.

Finally, please do remember to come along to where you can sign up to receive a host of  newsletters from people such as Pampers, Boots and Hipp Organic who will send through a whole host of vouchers and money saving coupons as well as budgeting tips, offers and opportunities to receive freebies from them. It’s great to start as soon as you find out you are pregnant as it will give you the chance to save lots of money right from the get go!

Weaning: Common Concerns Discussed by HiPP – the Weaning Experts

We weaned Pumpkin last year, starting just before she turned 6 months old. I remember feeling very confused, not knowing whether she was eating enough, did she have enough variety and so many other questions. The lovely people at HiPP have answered some common questions which many parents have. 

Weaning is an important stage in your baby’s development – it helps them to develop the skills needed to really enjoy eating food in later life – although it can be a messy business!

Below are some common concerns shared by mums during this time:

1. When do I start?

The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age and it is advisable to wait until then; however some babies may be ready earlier than this. Signs which suggest they might be ready include;

  • Hungry even after a feed
  • Showing an interest in food
  • Sitting without support
  • Puts toys/fist in their mouth

Weaning should never start before 17 weeks, even if these signs are present and should have started by six months. If unsure, get a professionals opinion.

2. How do I start?

The key is to prepare. You don’t need much equipment but you will need:

  • Bibs
  • Small baby bowls – or you can use cups, plastic lidded pots or ramekin dishes
  • Small, shallow, rounded baby spoons
  • Baby wipes, muslins or tissues
  • It’s easier if you can sit your baby somewhere such as a bouncing cradle or reclining highchair suitable for a young baby
  • Some suitable starter food.

Try to pick a time when it is quiet and your baby is content – after a feed is usually good.  Spoon a tiny amount of food out into a bowl and place your baby in a chair or on your lap. At this point a bib might be useful! Put a small amount of the food onto a plastic spoon – and offer it to them.

At first your baby will still be getting all of its nutrition from milk so don’t worry if they aren’t interested or don’t have too much.

3. Organic, non-organic, healthy, home-cooked – ARGH! What to choose?

Home-cooked baby food is often seen as the ‘gold-standard’ but some parents just cannot afford the time needed to do this. In this case shop-bought can be a good option as it is designed specifically for babies.

The decision regarding organic or non-organic is a matter of personal choice however we at HiPP strongly believe organic food offers babies a better start.

The most important thing is that you are happy with what you choose – and remember you don’t need to stick rigidly with one thing.

Obviously, foods for your baby should be healthy – with low levels of salt and sugar, no artificial colours or preservatives and plenty of fruit and veg.

4. How is this baby-led weaning different to conventional weaning?

Conventional weaning works on a principle of offering smooth, runny foods from a spoon to babies from the start; initially offering small amounts but increasing these as weaning continues; then introducing textures to provide a gradual transition from milk to family meals.

With baby-led weaning (BLW) the focus is on letting the infant learn to feed themselves from the start by offering a range of soft, well-cooked fruits and vegetables as finger foods and letting them suck, chew and swallow them at their own pace.

The benefits of BLW are that babies do it themselves, creating less stress for parents and the infant and the self-feeding encourages better hand-eye coordination. The downsides are that progression can be slow, which can cause babies to lack vital nutrients they are no longer getting enough of from milk.

The benefits of conventional weaning are that you as a parent can control the amounts eaten by your infant, and be confident that they are receiving the optimal nutrition they need to grow.

5. My baby is at weaning age but is showing no interest in foods

All babies are different. By six months most babies are starting to show an interest in foods. If they are not then try offering foods before a feed when they will be might be a little hungrier. Alternatively you can hand them a spoon and let them explore to gain an interest. Make sure they are at the table when others eat so they can learn from what others are doing.

Due to the increased amount of certain nutrients needed past 6 months it is important weaning has started by then. If you are concerned that this isn’t happening then contact your health visitor.

6. How do I move from smooth to lumpy foods?

Around 7 months is the time when lumps can start to be introduced. At first, start with softer lumps by mashing ripe fruit, cooked veg and fish. Some babies don’t like the lumps at first and can spit them out or look like they are gagging on them – but persevere as they will get used to them. Try fork-mashing foods first before trying foods with specific lumps in.

7. How much should they be drinking now that they are weaning?

Once weaning starts more fluids are generally needed.

Once your baby is starting to have 3 ‘meals’ a day the amount of milk given, and number of feeds, can start to be reduced and non-milk drinks given. As a guide, 6-month old babies will generally still need around 500-900ml of milk a day.

From 6 months unsoftened tap water is ideal for babies. Once weaning is well-established a milk feed can be swapped for fruit juice at a mealtime. It should be well diluted (one part juice to ten parts water) and given with a meal – as the vitamin C will help to absorb iron in the foods.

8. How much food should they be eating?

Babies are born with the ability to ‘self-regulate’ their intake – this means that they will know when they have had enough! Offer food three times a day as well as usual milk feeds and let them guide you. If they are giving obvious ‘enough’ signs, such as closing their mouth or pushing the spoon away repeatedly, then they have had enough.

9. How will I know about any allergies?

It is normal to worry about your baby having an allergy but luckily these are quite rare, however you should not be avoiding any foods for fear that they may cause an allergy unless your GP or dietitian has specifically asked you to.

If you feel your baby might have an allergy or intolerance then it is important to note down what was eaten and what symptoms occurred. Do not feed your baby any product with the suspect food in it until you have sought reassurance from your doctor.

10. Can I wean my baby onto a vegetarian diet?

Yes, babies can be weaned as vegetarians – however it is important to make sure the diet is well-balanced. This means making sure that they will be getting all of the nutrients which usually come from meat such as protein, iron and vitamin d, from other sources.

Weaning infants should, as a guide, be getting two servings of protein rich foods per day such as lentils, beans, tofu, soya or egg. If possible these should be eaten with a vitamin-C containing food or drink to help absorb the iron in these foods.

Thanks to HiPP for that fab weaning guide. Stay tuned for a review of their Stage 1 foods.

Guest Post – Carrie from Baby Swap or Shop

Today I am delighted to share with you a Guest Post from Carrie Webster at I hadn’t heard of this site until a few days ago but it looks fab and I’m sure it could be useful to many of you!

So over to Carrie…

Smart mums are recycling outgrown items to make room for the replacements as well as making a bit of extra cash to buy the next size up. This really is an eco-friendly way of meeting your families’ needs on a budget and knowing that you are helping other families too gives you a sense of satisfaction. As the recession continues, we are all feeling the pinch; particularly with growing children to cater for.

We are approaching that time of year when every penny counts as those ‘Dear Santa’ letters are drawn up and the children need warm coats and new shoes for the harsh winter to come. It can be a very daunting time when your children are pulling on your ‘heart-strings’ and guilt mixed with emotions makes us spend money we haven’t always got. is a caring community of parents and mums to be who are selling, swapping and buying new and used maternity, baby and toddler items, FREE of charge throughout the UK.

Shop smart here. You can add an unlimited amount of ads with photos to enhance your sales and a great description all helps, we just ask that parents are honest in the interest of child-safety and to use common sense when performing a transaction with somebody unknown to you.

We have a ‘wanted’ section for anything you are particularly looking out for and we have easy category and local areas search facilities. You can opt to have your ad appear on our BSOS main FB wall too for maximum exposure and re-post unsold items in just one click. It’s also worth signing-up so that you are one of the first to hear about new competitions and offers; at BSOS we always have our ears to the ground and are shouting out about baby products and services all the time – we hope to see you soon!

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