Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Five Frugal Road Trip Tips with Children

Travelling with kids- three words to strike fear in anyone's heart!

We recently went on a quick road trip to see family, and as it was over a long weekend we knew we would have to be prepared as most shops were closed and motels were booked up.

Planning a road trip on a budget and with kids doesn't have to be hard- I am sharing five tips today to help your journey go smoothly.

Set a budget and pay cash
It is tempting to pay for your entire vacation using your credit card, but making a budget and paying cash where possible will make your finances a lot easier in the long run. Set a budget for petrol, accommodation, entertainment and food and stick to it! Letting your whole family know of the budget will stop everyone from asking for extra coffees at the petrol station and kids asking to go to certain attractions. In fact, getting the kids involved with planning your journey will help avoid any last minute melt downs. If they know in advance what the itinerary is, they can request where they want to go and you can work it in if the budget allows. This is also a great idea if the family all wants to do different things- planning an itinerary and a budget can help avoid arguments and the stress that comes with last minute decisions. For instance, I wanted to go to the new Cadbury Cafe for a hot chocolate so we knew to budget in a morning tea stop there.

Visit the library
The library is a fabulous place to find some guidebooks on your destination, as well as find some magazines and books to keep the kids entertained on the road. Another great idea is to get out some audiobooks to listen to during the journey, or even a new CD of a favourite musician or band.

Take your own food
One of the largest factors in our budget is food. As someone with a food allergy, it makes it hard to stop in at a fast food restaurant and order off the menu, but the convenience of ready to go food is a lifesaver on the journey. I sit down with a calendar and plan what we will have for each meal while we are away. I check each motel for kitchen facilities- if they have a toaster then I know to take a loaf of bread and some peanut butter for breakfast! In fact, I don't stay in accommodation without a kitchen- just my personal preference but it definitely saves money. I make my grocery list in advance and go shopping, sticking to the list! Packing your own fruit salad, making muffins and re-bagging bulk snacks make travel easier, rather than stopping at each food place on the way to pick up something. Nut mixes, home-made granola bars such as these ones from or a delicious smoothie are all ideal for healthy snacks on the road.

Plan ahead for the car ride
To stop the "are we there yet" and fighting, I like to create a fun bag of activities to be earned during the car ride. Snacks are a great distraction for kids in the car but mix it up with activity books, little toys and other things to keep them entertained in the backseat until you reach your destination. I simply used these cute printables and laminated a sheet with all of the tasks. Each time the boys ticked off one of the ovals, I gave them a bag.

Visit free attractions
Even though you may have some bucket list destinations on your budget, it is great to space these out with things you can do for free. Simple bushwalks, a visit to the beach or a stroll into the city centre all cost nothing and fill in time. Museums, landmarks and playgrounds all work well with children too, as stopping there to give them a run around works well after being cooped up in the car!

I hope these tips help you to have a fun, frugal family holiday in 2016.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Safe and Secure- Know Your Street!

Where I live, break ins are uncommon but have still been known to occur. From small amounts of damage to traumatic home invasions, every instance has been talked about by our community and discussed. It got me thinking- what would you do if your house and loved ones were threatened?

I am lucky to live in a community where the neighbours know one another, and we look out for each other. Getting to know the people in your area is one of the best ways to feel secure, as they can keep an eye on your place and let you know of any suspicious activity if you are away on holiday. Having a neighbour with a spare key and your contact phone number is rare these days, but it gives me peace of mind. If you go away, make sure to have a friend or neighbour take in your mail. Piles of junk mail signal to a burglar that the home is unoccupied at the moment.

Neighbours are also one of the best to talk to about suspicious activity in your area- my neighbourhood even has an online forum where we can talk about things that are happening such as car break ins, people behaving strangely and other issues. 

Interestingly, one of the biggest tips I have picked up from Simplisafe is to make sure the outside of your house is in good condition. It is something I rarely thought about- I keep my locks maintained and do a check of the house each night. But having large trees to provide access to windows, or tall hedges that block a view of your back door from neighbours, can be a deciding factor during a break in. Keeping your home and garden well maintained and putting away any toys or tools that may be lying about, locking the shed and keeping your garage door closed are all simple steps you can take to make your property more secure.

Contrary to belief, a lot of burglaries happen during the day when thieves can pose as door-to-door salesmen, tradesmen or other professionals who have a reason to be in your area. Having a relationship with your neighbours will help them keep a closer eye on your home and the people who come and go from your property- they will then know if you plan on moving or having house maintenance done, and they will take notice if items are being taken from your home. We recently had new carpet put down and the workmen were approached by my neighbour as they worked. Far from being annoyed, I was grateful that they had the insight to check that these people were who they said they were and that they were allowed on my property. 

If, despite your best efforts, a break in does occur, your neighbours are usually the people you will want to talk to after you have rung the police. Not only will they be able to tell you if they saw anything suspicious, they will also appreciate knowing that a break in has occurred. It can also be helpful to talk to someone about what has happened, as you may be feeling unsafe or violated. 

Home security systems are one of the best options for peace of mind, as at the end of the day your community can only do so much to keep the area safe. Investing in a wireless security system can be a great choice for families to provide a simple solution to protect your home.

Do you have any tips for keeping your home secure? I would love to hear them!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Date Night outfit

Date nights for me and my husband are few and far between, and even more scarce when they involve going out with other couples! We have been trying to remedy this though, and so we accepted a recent invitation to go out for drinks on a Saturday night. No kids, no distractions, just good friends and some wine.

I wanted to go with a classic black and white colour combination, and so I paired this black skirt with a cream knotted top and some black heels.

To add interest, I layered with a gold music note necklace and my cord jacket, as we were sitting outside in a courtyard area and I wanted to be warm!

This outfit was comfortable, warm enough for an Autumn evening, and it made me feel relaxed enough to enjoy a night out without worrying about how I looked! Black and white is always a classic combo, and works perfectly for a date night, catch up with friends or any other evening event.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Our St Patrick's Day Roundup

Last week we were celebrating all things related to St Patrick's Day!

Our first activity was to put together a rainbow project from a Make It Now option on my Cricut. This was a brilliant option as it only required glue and cardstock- no paint or messy items on our new table!

The finished creations were very cute, complete with a pot of gold each.

We made some delicious Pot of Gold cupcakes, complete with rainbow icing and shamrock wrappers.

My six year old got a green lunch on St Patrick's Day, complete with another shamrock wrapper around his sandwich. He also had some yoghurt, pretzels, green jelly and some diced grapes and kiwifruit.

While my six year old was at shcool, Mr 3 set about making some St Patrick's Day playdough. We used a basic playdough recipe  and added gold glitter:

3 cups flour
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup salt
few drops green food colouring
water to mix

After school, it was time for some printables from Gift of Curiosity- this is a wonderful site for printable resources! The boys loved the mazes and colour matching games, and my six year old wanted more pages to complete!

Dinner was inspired by Irish fare, with baby carrots, mustard rissoles and colcannon. My whole family wolfed this down and my kids have now declared that they love mashed potato and cabbage mixed together.

Dessert was one of our cupcakes, and everyone loved finding the gold inside!

Lastly, while the boys were in the shower a little leprechaun came to visit and left a treasure hunt (printables by Love Grows Wild) with some treasure under their pillows.

The boys loved having some themed activities again, as I have been a bit slack lately due to all of my health issues. I remembered how much fun I had planning these activities, and I am excited to keep up with some more themed weeks with my boys.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

WCW- Slow Cooker Broccoli Beef

With my recent diagnosis of coeliac disease, I have been on the hunt for meals that
  • are gluten free
  • are kid friendly
  • take less than 30 minutes to make or can be slow cooked
  • incorporate vegetables
  • use everyday ingredients
I think I may be on to a winner with this Slow Cooker Broccoli Beef!

Slow Cooker Broccoli Beef
500g beef chuck pieces
1⁄4 cup soy sauce (gluten free if required) 
2 tablespoons apple juice  
1 tablespoon brown sugar  
2 teaspoons sesame oil  
1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets
300g spaghetti noodles (gluten free if required) 

Place the beef in the slow cooker, and add the sauce ingredients over top. Cook on high for 4-6 hours.

Turn the heat down to low for the last hour of cooking. take the meat and shred it or dice it into small pieces, then stir through the sauce to coat. 

Steam the broccoli in the microwave for 3 minutes, then add to the slow cooker. 

Cook the gluten free spaghetti according to packet directions, then drain and place in the bottom of a bowl. Top with the diced beef and broccoli, spooning extra sauce over top. 

My boys have miraculously decided that broccoli is their favourite vegetable, and I can see this on high rotation at our house as it was so easy to let the meat cook all day then do the finishing touches when we got home from after-school activities.

I am now on the lookout for more gluten free slow cooker dinners- if you have any great ones let me know in the comments!

Linking up with Tatertots and Jello and Diana Rambles!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Shaking up my Style

Recently, Nikki from Styling You suggested 35 tips to help shake up your style. Here are six of the tips that resonated with me, and how I am implementing them.

Treat yourself to a new lip colour.
I tend to shy away from bright lip colours, going with muted browns and some purples. However, when I saw this lipstick I had to have it. Apple Berry is the perfect colour for autumn with warm purple tones and it adds a great pop of colour to your face on gloomy days.

Be consistent with your home skin care routine.
After Christmas, I purchased a Cleansing Brush and this has totally changed the way I use my skincare. I enjoy washing my face now, as silly as that may sound! It is like having a mini facial every morning, and because I can use the brush in the shower it is so easy to cleanse my face properly.

Always wear sunscreen. The pay off will come over time.
I have always put sunscreen on my face since I am outside so often. However, I must admit I neglect my neck, shoulders and limbs a lot. Even after my melanoma scare, I have sometimes been in a rush to leave the house in the morning and have shrugged it off, but since January I have been slathering on the sunscreen every day.

Take daily photos of your outfits and save to a folder on your phone.
I fell off the #everydaystyle bandwagon while I was ill and recovering from my surgery and subsequent hospital stays, but I am now back sharing my daily outfits on Instagram. I sometimes feel a bit weird sharing my outfits, as I am by no means a model and I worry what people will think, but I must admit it has been a great way to meet other fashion-minded women and also create a visual diary of outfits I love.

Commit to spending more on the types of shoes you wear more often.
This resonated with me as I am on my feet all day, walking to and from everywhere, and yet I continue to spend $20 or less on shoes that fall apart after one season. I have always felt guilty about spending money on shoes, but now my poor feet have decided that enough is enough. I have been enjoying my Mox shoes, and these Grosby comfort boots feel like heaven to walk on! My feet are certainly a lot happier since I have started investing in quality shoes.

Wear horizontal stripes.
I have well and truly embraced the stripe in my wardrobe, and have worn horizontal stripes on a few occasions since reading this suggestion. I am now on the hunt for some striped long sleeved tops for autumn and winter.

To see the full 35 tips, click here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Mini Golf- a fun lesson!

Have you ever taken your children for a round of mini golf? Not only is it great for their hand eye coordination, it also helps then with patience, strategy, numeracy and good sportsmanship.

We set off to an outdoor mini golf course, and once the boys had picked their clubs it was time for some instruction on how to hit the golf ball. Patience was needed for both the little and bigger boys!

There was a discussion on whether to hit the ball hard, softly to work your way up the course, and of course the tricky obstacles that were in the way didn't help! The boys learnt to work out where the ball needed to go in advance, and time their swings right.

We did need a few breaks while other groups were finishing up their turns, and the boys were very patient at waiting and checking out the course scenery. Is that Nessie in the background?

Both of my boys were very good at counting each hole as we made our way around the course, and they also had to keep track of how many times they had hit the ball. We talked about some of the golf lingo such as a hole-in-one, par, and putting, and so this was also a chance for the boys to expand their vocabulary.

At the end of the round we all had to tally up our final scores, and the boys had big smiles on their faces.

Mini Golf is such a fun way to learn whilst having fun; the boys did an amazing job keeping score and perfecting their aim. If you have young kids, I highly recommend it as a fun family activity, and if the weather is not cooperating you can always find an indoor course. Here is a list of mini golf courses in Christchurch.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Spin The Pin March Outfit

Jo over at iCurvy hosts a fabulous outfit link-up each month, with bloggers putting their spin on a Pinterest inspired outfit.

This month I loved the Pin, and set about making it work for me!

The striped shorts made me try out this striped skirt that I hadn't been brave enough to wear yet as I thought it was too short. However, by wearing a longer length blouse and pulling it down a bit, I was happy with the length.

The buttons on the front and sides of the skirt were also a great match for the buttons on the side of the shorts in the inspiration image.

I paired this with my white sandals- not as high as the original image but perfect for a day walking around the neighbourhood! I also added some fun leaf earrings and a bright lipstick similar to the one shown above.

Thanks Jo for this month's Spin the Pin inspiration, and I can't wait to wear this outfit again.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Poppins Book Nook- Ponds, Lakes and Rivers

Welcome back to the last installment of the Poppins Book Nook for 2015-2016.

This month's theme is Ponds, Lakes and Rivers!

My boys love any books with ducks in them, such as One Duck Stuck and Little Quack.

Ducks are everywhere in our street, and we regularly have them as visitors in our driveway and at my dad's house nearby, where they always come to say hello!

We are lucky to have some lovely ponds and lakes in our suburb, and we took a visit to one of the bigger ones in the weekend to see the ducks in their natural home.

Feeding the ducks is always fun, and there are so many great spots to get right up close to the water.

We talked about why the ducks would like to live here, and about the other types of birds that live at the lake such as the swans and seagulls.

The ducks are always happy to see us!

At home, we each made a duck pop up card using some craft supplies we had around the house. We used glitter paint, washi tape, buttons and pipe cleaners.

The finished cards looked great!

We had a fun time feeding the ducks and visiting them in their natural environment. Click below to see how other members of Poppins Book Nook were inspired!

 Clip art by MelonHeadz.

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