Wednesday, 23 September 2015

How Safe Is Your Home?

Sadly this time of year sees a peak in the rate of burglaries. The closer we head towards Christmas the more at risk our homes are.

Legal and General are trying to highlight ways in which our lifestyles make us more vulnerable to break ins which then has an impact on your home insurance premiums.

According to the ONS, there were almost seven thousand household crimes in the last recorded year, with certain areas of the UK more vulnerable to crime than others.

Their report makes for some surprising reading. For example, did you know that the majority of burglars enter properties through doors, many knocking first to ensure no one is home and tend to spend on average 8-12 minutes in a home.

I must admit  that we had been rather laid back in our home safety precautions in the past. We lived in a little bubble thinking our neighbourhood was relatively safe. However, after a string of garden thefts in our area last year we began to take home security little more seriously.

If we can make a few simple changes to make our home look less inviting to a burglar then it is worth making them.

Here are 5 things we have done to increase security; 
1.     Removing the keys from the doors – We used to leave the keys in the door once it was locked. However, it seemed burglars were managing to get the keys through the letterbox, let themselves into homes and make away with valuables and also cars. They are now kept out of reach and sight.

2.     Fitting window alarms – our garden backs onto fields. A determined burglar could soon hide in the fields and escape detection. We bought cheap window alarms from e-bay and fitted them to all downstairs windows and the patio door. Once the door/window is opened an alarm sounds. (its also rather good at letting me know when the children think they can escape to the garden without doing homework/chores first).

3.     Putting valuables out of sight – I am sure many people are guilty of this one. I-pads left on kitchen work surfaces after putting it there to follow a recipe, handbags in hallways after grabbing your purse to pay the window cleaner or garages full of bikes left open while you cut the grass. All of these things highlight what you have to any passing would be burglars. This means they then know what and where to come looking next time you are out or asleep. 

You can not completely remove these items from your home but if you can at least make them a bit harder to locate and less opportunistic to grab then you are  deterring the burglar and possibly stopping a break in.

4.     Securing the garden – our garden is accessed via the side of our house. We have never had a gate on this. However, after local thefts Mr C built and fitted a gate to hopefully deter any unwanted visitors to our garden (sadly this also included the post man and he can no longer leave my parcels in a safe place). 

We also moved the wheelie bins to the garden side of the fence to prevent burglars from using the bins as a way of getting over the new fence.

5.     Be friendly with the neighbours – speaking to your neighbours and being at least friendly enough with them to say hello really helps in keeping an ear to the ground for any trouble. We are fortunate in that Mr C will talk to anyone and knows all of our immediate neighbours. It was this neighbourly relationship which made us aware of last years thefts and prompted us to be more vigilant.  

If we hear their alarms going off we would not hesitate in going to check on their homes and hope they would do the same for us.

Do you have any simple security tips that you have implemented in your home?

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Hammamas Towel Review

We were recently offered a Hammamas towel to review. At first glance I wondered how amazing could a towel actually be? However, on reading what they were all about I discovered that they were claimed to be quick drying, super absorbent, light weight, super soft, cotton towels which can double as beach towel, sarong, picnic rug, beach towel and much much more.

We are a very out and about sort of family. We have 3 swimming lessons a week between the children so I seem to be forever drying towels. We are also huge lovers of picnics at any/all opportunities and also live by the sea so spend a lot of time at the beach or seafront sand pit. 

By the time I have packed a cardigan for me (its breezy at the beach), something to sit/lay on and towels for the boys I am soon left with bags of things to cart around. If I could find something that did the job of cardigan, blanket and towel and save me all of that luggage space then I would be happy.

The towel measures 180cm by 100cm, The one I chose is from the reef range and is the aqua/daisy print. There were plenty of lovely designs and colours to choose from.

When the towel first arrived I was impressed that it comes in its own zip up storage bag. It is barely much bigger than a packet of baby wipes when folded and packed into its little bag. Already I was impressed with how much space it would save me.

For our first Hammamas towel outing we headed for the beach. I left everything else at home and went with just our buckets, spades and Hammamas towel.

First up we tried it out as a beach blanket, it was plenty big enough to perch a four bums on while we got socks and shoes off and once the boys went off to explore I had lots of room to lay down and read.

When it got a bit windy I draped it around my shoulders to keep the breeze off. 

It can also be tied into more attractive styles to cover up swim suits but it wasn’t really warm enough to be in my swimwear on our beach trip. I can see how it would work though. Their website also shows you lots of ways to use your Hammamas towel.

Once the boys were all worn out from making sand castles and exploring it was time to go home. We just had the issue of sandy feet to sort out before shoes were put back on. 

(It has washed fine too)

The towel did a great job at getting the boys clean enough for the car. The blanket folds back away into its pouch to go home to the wash or back into our out and about bag ready for another day. The Hammamas towel sells for a price of £25 plus £4 postage.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

First Day At School & Back To School

Today has finally arrived. Munchie has his first day at school and Snaffles moves up to year 4!

I remember this time last year, I was worried that Snaffles would not manage the new responsibilities of junior school and I was sadly counting down the days that I had remaining with Munchie before he started school.

Snaffles has done well in juniors and settled well. Their classes were mixed up a fair bit when they moved up and I think the reduction of friends in his class did him good. He has really got his head down and developed a lot in juniors. He is back in a class with more of his friends this year so I hope can continue to keep his head down and not become too distracted. 

This is his " I really cant be bothered to have my photo taken pose"! 

While one boy will dash into the playground confident and keen to see his friends again the other is much more nervous. 

As I pack my little Munchie off to school I feel the same apprehension as I did 4 years ago with Snaffles. I may even feel more nervous for Snaffles was such a very different little boy. He strode in on his first day and didn’t really look back. Munchie has had very mixed feelings about starting school. He has moments when he is brave and confident and tells others of the things he will do at school and then there are the moments he hugs me and asks me to promise I will not leave him. What do you say when you cant make that false promise they are looking for? 

We have had lots of chats about the good things he will do at school, who he can go to for help and who will be collecting him each day.

Munchie is more than ready for today. He is ready to be learning more and I think the routine of school will do well for him. He likes to know what he is doing and when. Structured days work for him.

He still seems far too little at barely 4 years old, to be hearing off to school. He did well this morning, he was excited and chatting about things at school. He very proudly got himself all ready, we dropped Snaffles off and he hugged him goodbye. He then showed us where his playground was and showed us bits in the playground before abandoning his bags and going to play. 

Everything changed when the doors opened though. He made his way to the door and then just froze. He would not take his bags and he wouldn't step over the threshold. The other children filtered into class past him leaving their parents at the door. I had to physically take Munchie in, we headed to the carpet and tried to sit with the other children. He sobbed, cried, grabbed onto any part of me or my clothing that he could and begged me not to leave him.  It was so very hard to leave him but I know that I must. I gave him my best kiss and hug, wished him lots of fun, put on my bravest face and then left the classroom and burst into tears. 

I know that his little personality will win over the teachers and children. Helpfully he finds his feet and can let this shine out despite feeling overwhelmed by it all.

Starting school is really really hard. I hope all of you with children starting school faired better than we did. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Munchie Starts Big School

Today was Munchie's last day off. Tomorrow will be his first day at school. He has experienced a real summer for the first time. He finished nursery when school ended for summer and we decided to keep him out of nursery and at home for the summer given that we were off with Snaffles already. I know he was pleased to leave nursery. I know the break and the family time have done him the world of good but I hope that the break to his routine does not make starting school harder than it needs to be. 

He has become a total Daddy's boy this summer and follows him around doing everything with him. He also loves having Snaffles with him all day. The few times Snaffles has gone out with friends over the summer Munchie has cried for him and says he misses him. This is not just a 5 minute thing when he leaves, he asks for him constantly all day (yet the second Snaffles is back Munchie punches him one!)

I started new work hours before summer to allow me to do school pick up more often once they go back to school. They will now only need to go to a child-minder once day a week and will be collected by either myself or my mum on the remaining days. The realisation that Munchie was doing 10 hour days at nursery really struck a chord and also made sense of many other behaviour related issues from him. I did not want that to continue. Those couple of hours to finish earlier will really make a big difference to our family time and help me feel more involved with them and maybe get more than "I cant remember" when I am asking them at 6pm what they did that day. 

Starting my new hours in August also meant that I got to spend more of their summer with them. Being at work and knowing they are at home having fun is really hard. Knowing that come 2:50pm I can join them really helps make the day go faster and lets me share some fun in the sun with them for the afternoon. 

I will miss both boys when they go back to school but with Snaffles I am used to it now. When he started school I still had a little 4 month old Munchie at home that needed taking care of. When my maternity leave ended and I returned to work I still had Fridays off with Munchie and he filled my days. My Fridays off have always been to spend time with him, it was rare that these Fridays were used for housework. Food shopping had to be done but that was my limit, the rest of the days were spent doing things with Munchie. 

Not having him with me on Fridays any more will be a big shock.  

He is my little helper, my baker, my beach buddy, my den builder, my Lego builder, my cuddles and kisses in the day, my lunch date and picnic buddy, and my company. Days off will be very quiet indeed.

I really have not got a clue how tomorrow will go. Some days he is bold and excited about school and will proudly tell people his class and teachers and what he will do at school. Then there are nights like last night where he will hold on to me and cry and ask me to promise not to leave him on his own. 

He is ready for school, he is bold and daring and ready to be taught more than I can provide for him but he finds change, new people and experiences very hard. All of his bravado washes away when he has to venture into new experiences. I would be nervous starting somewhere new so I can see why at barely 4 years old he would be. I really hope that all of our positive talk of school and reassurance will pay off tomorrow and that he can enjoy his first day at school without feeling too overwhelmed and upset.

I shall cross my fingers for tomorrow and hope all of you facing first days at school are brave too. We can all sit and sob together over tea and a biscuit at 9:01 tomorrow morning.