Keeping the kids busy these holidays!

Start by sitting down with your children and working out some specific things that they would like to do during the break. It can also add some valuable structure to the holidays – by having planned activities on some days and interspersing these with more relaxed days at home. Aim to factor in time for extended family and friends. Above all, try to take a bit of time for yourself each day and remind yourself that the holidays will actually pass quite quickly – so enjoy them while you can!

 

Ideas for indoors

  • Have a treasure hunt! The “treasure” can include spare change you may have, lollies, or you can make vouchers for your children to redeem. Ideas for vouchers could include things like “challenge mom to a game of playstation” , “family to play board game of your choice” or “choose a treat to bake with mom” Give fun written or verbal clues for them to uncover the treasure. Get the kids to put on some of their favourite music and clean out their rooms and the toy cupboard/playroom. You may well find that they uncover some long lost or forgotten toys. Invest in some batteries to give new life to old toys and throw out or recycle those which are no longer needed. You can explain to your children the value of donating toys to $charity and helping to brighten another child’s day.
  •  Have a day dedicated to jigsaws, card games and board games. It’s surprising how much fun these games can be and it gets to children to use their brains and also promotes teamwork and sharing.
  • Don’t forget the value of the old favourites of “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?”, “Crocodile”, “Simon Says” and “Hide and Seek”. Even the older children often will have fun with these if they can be convinced to join in.
  • Make a photo album. Gather together all old, loose photos and place them in an album, with notations of names, places etc. If you have a camera (or even buy cheap disposable cameras), allow the kids to take their own photos and watch their delight when they see their printed photos.
  • Have the children write a letter to family or friends, photos or drawings could be included to add that personal touch.
  • Write a storybook together. Get your children to invent and develop a character each and have them think about the clothes they wear, what they look like, where the story is set etc. Work with them to develop the plot and basic storyline. Have them design the cover and write their names on the book as authors and illustrators. Encourage them to take pride in it and to share with family and friends.
  • Start a story by saying an opening line such as “On the way home from school, Ryan heard loud footsteps behind him. They got closer and closer until he turned around and saw …” and have the children take turns continuing the story. This is a great imagination game and can include scary or funny stories, stories based in your child’s school, etc.
  • Go through some old cookbooks and have the children pick out some recipes they would like to do together. Plan a baking day and get them involved in the cooking and decoration of their creations.
  • Have your children make invitations for a morning tea or lunch and invite grandparents, or a neighbour. They can help prepare the food and drinks and play host when the invited guests come around.
  • Put on some music of the children’s choice and dance! Have a dancing competition or play musical statues.
  • On really cold days, hire some movies and have a pyjama day where you eat a picnic lunch and/or buttered popcorn, grab all of your pillows and chill out while watching some of your favourite shows.

Outdoor Games/Activities

  •  Blow bubbles! The big tubs of bubble mixture (detergent also can work well) are cheap to buy and promote lots of outdoor fun. Children can have fun blowing bubbles and also catching them. Have a competition to see who can blow the biggest bubbles.
  • Make an obstacle course. Include things such as running, making tunnels (or chairs) for them to crawl under, areas for them to do starjumps, steps for them to run up and down, have them use a hula hoop or bounce a ball on a racquet (tennis or ping pong) five times without it falling down. They can also run backwards, do a mini egg and spoon race, or run with a balloon between their legs. Children can compete against each other, or if there is just one child, time them and see if they can beat their score the next time.
  • Make a volcano in your sandpit at home by building a large mound out of sand, making a hollow, putting in bicarbonate of soda, and pouring vinegar on top of it. The children will be fascinated when it bubbles and froths over the top. This is made even more fun by allowing them to use different food colourings or paprika mixed in with the vinegar
  • Have a day of discovering parks in your area. Pack a cricket bat, tennis racquet, a ball for hitting and a larger one for kicking, pack some bottles of water and a snack and off you go.
  •  Have a messy craft day outside with paint, glue, glitter etc, or better yet, see if there is an area outside that the children could do some chalk drawings or even paint. You can get washable paints and chalk if you want to ensure their artistic creations are temporary!
  •  Spend a day at the beach or playground flying kites, digging in the sand and playing hide and seek. Take a beach ball to add to the fun with games such as volleyball and piggy in the middle.
  •  Get together with friends for a picnic lunch or braai at a nearby park or forest. Pack sporting equipment or kites and allow the children to share the fun and food with their friends.
Beat the flu naturally this winter:
  1. Stay hydrated. If water is not appealing, try diluted fruit juice or herbal tea.
  2. Give yourself time off – rest is important in fighting flu.
  3. Boost your immune system with Vitamin C every few hours.
  4. Use herbs such as echinacea and goldenseal which are said to help with influenza, also try ginger tea to settle your stomach.
  5. Take slippery elm and marshmallow for an irritated throat and cough.
  6. Try to swallow 2 garlic pills 3 times a day; these act as an antibiotic and are said to cleanse the system.
  7. Inhale eucalyptus oil by putting five drops in a hot bath or a cup of water.
  8. Start with broth (chicken or vegetable) and dry crackers once you can tolerate food.
  9. Dissolve a zinc lozenge under your tongue every two hours, not only are these a great immunostimulant, they will also make your throat feel better.

Tips & Warnings

  • The flu is caused by a virus and cannot be “cured” with antibiotics. But if you are still sick ten days after its onset, or if you became very sick very quickly, you should see a doctor. It’s possible to have a bacterial infection along with a viral one, or to have an extremely virulent case of the flu.
SPECIAL MOTHER’S DAY IDEAS

Here are some ideas to replace the traditional, boring Mother’s Day gifts with something more memorable:

Replace cards with books: You can easily spend a lot on a greeting card that gets tossed into the garbage. Books, on the other hand, are lasting and can be chosen according to your mom’s interests.

Replace chocolate with a memory jar: Write out some of your best memories (a dozen or more) of mom or grandma on small pieces of pretty paper. Include things you’ve done together, favorite family traditions, things she’s done or said that made a difference to you, the best advice she’s given you. Fold them and put them into a jar so that she can “munch on them” over time.

Replace flowers with a photo bouquet: Collect special photos of mom or grandma, particularly those of the two of you from your childhood. Use duplicates or colour copies to create a collage. Or, glue two copies of each photo back-to-back (so the photo is visible from both sides). If you like, make flower shapes using coloured construction paper and glue the photos onto the centers. Slip the photos onto the plastic sticks used to hold the card in floral arrangements. Put the sticks into a flower arranging base at different heights and angles. Finish with some ribbon and a few fresh or dried flowers.

Replace the fancy dinner out with some quality kitchen time: The room in most homes that’s full of the most memories is the kitchen. We relax, smell, taste, talk, and learn things there. Maybe your mother or grandmother is older and not able to cook as much as she used to. Do a little role reversal and cook for her a special meal she used to cook for you. Get advice and tips from her as you cook. The meal will bring back memories for you both.

Replace buying new stuff with sharing “Old Stuff”: Dig deep into drawers, closets, and the basement or attic to find forgotten mementoes – your mother’s old “glam” earrings, an old teddy bear or holiday photos. Share the memories and feelings these keepsakes evoke for both of you.

Replace promises with coupons: Give mom a booklet of coupons or IOU’s with different chores and household tasks that you’ll do. She can “cash them in” whenever she likes. A great finale to the coupons? On the last one write, “I will be there whenever you need me – valid for the rest of our lives.”

Give mom a hug: Sound simple? It is. And moms say they love it.

Hide “love notes” around the house: Each note can have one reason on it that you love mom. Mom will find some of the notes on Mother’s Day, and the rest through the following week.

A great gift idea for new mothers  is a Mom-Aid Kit: Get a pretty box and into the box put the following items (write out a note explaining the meaning of each item):

  • A cottonball to soften life’s hard blows
  • A plaster to help heal hurt feelings
  • A battery to give you extra energy when you’re feeling drained
  • A toothpick to help you pick out the good qualities in your children (especially at those inevitable moments when they’re driving you crazy!)
  • A button to button your lip at those times when it’s the best strategy
  • An eraser to erase the mistakes you’ll make along the way
  • A candy kiss to remind you of the simple power of a kiss or a hug
  • A roll of Life Savers sweets as a reminder to offer help when it’s needed, and accept help when you need it
  • A candle to light your way when things seem darkest
  • A ‘calling card’ to phone your own mom (or a friend) anytime you need some advice, a shoulder to cry on, or a kind word

Start a special family Mother’s Day tradition, like running a marathon together or doing some other community service each year (save the dinner out with mom for another day when the restaurants aren’t so busy).

Take a family photo each year: Create a Mother’s Day scrapbook keepsake, in which children write their thoughts and feelings underneath each year’s photograph.

Mothers are never too old to need their own mothers: Make sure mom has time on Mother’s Day to be with or call her mother. Ask an older mother or grandmother whose mother may not be living if she would like to visit her mother’s gravesite on Mother’s Day, or do something else to remember her.

Easter Egg Games for the Kids

Sure, the traditional Easter egg hunt is an exciting event, but why end the outdoor festivities there? This holiday, let kids do what they love to do – play with their food -a little while longer, and add eggs to well-known games for fun that’s hard to beat.
The games are easy to set up and all of them use hard-boiled eggs to keep things from becoming too messy. With just a few other supplies such as balloons and spoons, you’ll be able to quickly get these games cracking.

Preparation: How to dye hard boiled eggs:
Protect your work area with paper towels or newspaper. Mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 20 drops of food coloring (use more to intensify color) in 1 cup of hot water in a heatproof bowl, cup, or jar deep enough to let you submerge an egg completely.

To create different tints of a color, vary dipping times: Submerge eggs for less than 5 minutes for light colors, and leave the egg in for 10 minutes or more for deeper shades. Using tongs makes handling the eggs easy.

To make a two-color egg, dye the whole egg first in a light color, let dry for 15 minutes, and then submerge half into a darker color (this idea works best for hard-boiled eggs)

Games:

1.  Relay Races
Turn your backyard into a racetrack. Divide kids into two teams. At one end of the yard, mark a starting line for each team with a set of balloons tied to a stake that you have driven into the ground. At the other end, drive a stake with another set of balloons into the ground for each team. Have the teams stand behind their starting lines, and give every child a plastic spoon and each team only one egg. The kids who are first in line should place the team’s egg in their spoon and hold the handle in their teeth. At the blow of a whistle, they must race to their team’s other set of balloons, around it, and back, passing off the egg to the next teammate in line (it’s okay to use hands for this). If an egg falls to the ground, it can be picked up and placed back in the spoon. The first team to have all of its members finish the course wins the game.

2.  Egg Bocce
In this version of the classic Italian lawn-bowling game, the object is to see which player can get his egg closest to the “pallino,” or in this case, a plain white egg. Each child should get two eggs that are the same color. To begin the game, one player throws the pallino underhand across the yard. Then that same player rolls or tosses one of his colored eggs in order to get as close as possible to the pallino. From the same starting point, the other players each take a turn, tossing one of their colored eggs toward the pallino as well. When all the kids have gone once, everyone gets to try again, this time with his or her second egg. Players can use their eggs to knock away the other kids’ eggs, moving them farther from the pallino, or to edge their own first egg closer. After all the players are finished, measure the distance of the eggs from the pallino to see which one is closest to it. If there is a tie, the player whose egg is in the best condition is the winner.

3.  Shell Crack
See whose egg doesn’t crack. Give each child an egg, then divide into pairs. At the starting signal, the children smash the eggs’ small ends together. The ones with unbroken shells advance to the next round. Whoever has the last uncracked egg wins.

4.  Memory
Play a matching game that tests who has the best memory. Make matching pairs of colored eggs, dyeing one side only. Set eggs face down in rows. The first player tries to find a match by turning over two eggs. If they match, he keeps them and goes again. If not, he turns them face down, and the next player is up. Kids keep taking turns until all the matches are found. Whoever finds the most wins the game.

Have a great Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank!

So the credit-card debt from December is still looming and you don’t want to make it worse by spending money on exorbitantly overpriced Valentine’s gifts, right? That said, you don’t have to appear cheap or forgo fun and romance altogether, either.
These tips can help you dream up an approach to this year’s celebration that is both meaningful and economical.

1. Get creative when it comes to dinner: You really don’t have to spend a lot on a romantic dinner at a restaurant. Why not have a nice candlelit dinner at home? You could even get all dressed up for it. If you know you’re going to be too tired to cook after work on Valentine’s Day, which falls on a Tuesday this year, order a special meal ahead of time and pick it up on your way home.

2. Enjoy a little ambiance: If you both really want to go out on the town together, you could have coffee or a drink and dessert at an expensive café, restaurant or romantic bistro. This is a way to savor the atmosphere — and your date — without emptying your wallet.

3. Seek out some silence: Here’s a potential date idea if you’ve both been stressed out lately: You could wander through bookstores with coffee shops that encourage browsing. Rediscover passages you love from your favorite books, and enjoy the quiet.

4. Have low-cost fun with food on Feb 14: You can pull out the cookie cutters and make heart-shaped cookies and even cut your lunch sandwiches into hearts. You also can make heart-shaped cupcakes by placing a marble inside each muffin tin on the outside of the paper cupcake cup.

5. Give thoughtful gifts: Most people stick to the same general gift themes on Valentine’s Day: flowers, chocolates, cards, maybe a piece of jewelry. Can you think of something different that might mean a whole lot more — and maybe even cost a whole lot less? Such gifts could include room made goodies or gift certificates for your services. The gift certificate idea might be just the ticket for you if you’re short on cash but high on love this Valentine’s Day. You could offer to run errands for your loved one, make a nice dinner, clean the house, repair the car or give a massage.

6. Reflect on that flower purchase: If you’re sure your special someone will be devastated without the gift of flowers, then you probably should get some. But once again, you don’t have to follow the herd. Everyone opts for roses at this time of year, but there are plenty of other gorgeous and neglected (i.e., less expensive) flower varieties to choose from. And red isn’t your only option, either. You also could choose peach, pink or yellow. What’s more, if you place your flower order early, you stand to save on your purchase. And here’s another detail to consider: Does your partner love to garden? If so, a beautiful outdoor plant that will keep on living might be more appropriate than cut flowers that will quickly fade.

7. Write down how you feel: Using any kind of paper — you could write out dozens of reasons why you love your partner. Leave the messages all over the house, in both noticeable and hidden-away places. This is a gift that could keep on giving for weeks or months to come.

8. A romantic getaway: Not the kind that costs a fortune! Instead, wow your Valentine by taking them to the first place you had a date, or the place you had your first kiss. If this isn’t possible due to geographic issues, recreate your first date, rent the first movie you saw together. This is for the creative minded and it will impress your guy/gal.

9. Plan ahead for next year: If Valentine’s Day is a holiday that matters to you and your significant other, make a mental note of how quickly it can sneak up on you after the big holidays in December. Think about realistic ways you can cut back on your spending so you’ll be able to use cash to cover Valentine’s Day without relying on credit cards and going into debt.

Take better photos this holiday season:

1. Get creative: Pay special attention to how you organize the various elements in each photo! Two important tips are to off-center your main subject and move in close, allowing smaller items to make an impact.

2. Take many pictures: The most important thing to keep in mind when photographing groups and families is to take many pictures in order to ensure the highest number of shots that you are happy with. Work quickly so as to keep the experience fun.

3. Shoot first, ask questions later: Be ready to press that shutter button at a moment’s notice in order to capture those fleeting special moments.

4. Don’t use a flash indoors where possible: Although the flash can be a real lifesaver, the burst of artificial light can cause harsh, flat light that is not complimentary to the subject. Where possible use naturally lit areas, or if taking pictures at night turn on indoor lighting to reduce red eye and harsh flashed-out subjects.

5. Use a flash outdoors: Even in bright sunlight, forcing your flash to fire can often mean the difference between a so-so snapshot and an eye-grabbing masterpiece. The reason is that this kind of bright day flash will fill in the shadows and even out harsh contrasts.

6. Look for reflections:
One of the quickest and easiest ways to add an artistic touch to your holiday photos is to focus on capturing reflections rather than the object itself. Simply keep an eye out for interesting splashes of colour reflected from Christmas lights and other holiday decorations.

7. Blur and zoom those Christmas lights: Try something new, set your camera to a slower shutter speed then purposefully move the camera while taking the picture. The idea is to blur the colourful Christmas lights.

For the zooming effect to look clean, you will want to mount your camera on a tripod to restrict movement while you zoom in or out during exposure.

8. Give the gift of a photo: A family photo is appreciated by all especially parents and grandparents.

9. Plan ahead: Charge batteries and clear memory cards or buy film to ensure you don’t miss any priceless moments with those you love.

Plant a summer Italian Herb Garden:

Fresh herbs add zest and flavor to everyday cooking. Plant five common Italian herbs and add color to your summer garden and zest to your cooking. Either purchase seed packets and start the plants yourself, following the instructions on the packets, or buy established plants. Plants are available at your local nursery, as well as home and garden stores and large grocery stores. These herbs can be grown in containers or planted into the ground.

1. Basil: Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow. It is known for its potent leaves and is a staple in Italian cooking. Basil grows best in warm conditions and likes plenty of sunshine, so place it where it will get a full day’s sun. To harvest, pick from the top of the plant first. Do not pick all the leaves; rather, pick a few at a time so the plant has a chance to regrow. It will get larger every time leaves are picked

2. Parsley: Parsley adds a fresh, clean flavor to meat dishes, as well as soups and salads. It is commonly served as a garnish. Place parsley in full sun to partial shade for best results. To harvest, cut the outermost stalks from the bottom of the plant. Both the stems and the leaves can be eaten.

3. Oregano: The oval, gray-green leaves of oregano are commonly used in marinara, spaghetti and pizza sauces, as well as beef or lamb stews, salads, and soups. Plant in full sunlight. Oregano is ready to be harvested when flowers appear, unless continuous picking of the leaves has prevented flower growth.

4. Sage: Sage is used in cooking rich meats, such as lamb and pork, as well as in sausage and cheese. Plant sage in full sun. To harvest, pick leaves prior to flowering.

5. Rosemary: A fragrant, shrub-like herb, rosemary is used extensively in lamb and chicken dishes, as well as breads. Rosemary grows best in full sun, but can tolerate some shade. To harvest, cut the stems with a sharp knife. Rosemary leaves can be taken off the stems for cooking, or whole stems and leaves can be used.

Fresh herbs are an easy way to add flavor and a dash of summertime to your cooking. With a little care, you can grow an Italian herb garden and have fresh herbs all summer long.

Planning A Successful Vacation!

It’s that time of year when we start thinking about what we are going to do for our summer holidays, so if you are going to go away then use our planning tips to help avoid unwanted vacation headaches!
1. Carefully organize: To save a lot of hassle, stay organized. Keep every confirmation number. Keep records of when you called places and with whom you spoke to. Documentation is the key to ensuring that you receive what you planned on getting.

2. Check out message boards: To make sure you are paying for something worthwhile, do a little online research. Searching the Web for message boards and hotel reviews can give you a good look at what you are getting yourself into.

3. Plan ahead: Odds are you will get better rates if you plan ahead. Airline tickets are expensive when buying them at the last minute. With planning, you can have time to research various hotel offers or package deals.

4. Consider a travel agent: There are many travel agents out there more than willing to help you. Often, they can give you information about locations that the average person might not know, like a great little bed and breakfast on the outskirts of town or a hole-in-the wall restaurant with the best cuisine you will ever eat.

5. Safety: Investigate the safety of the area you are planning on traveling to. Some parts of town may not be safe for you to explore. Be aware of your location and do not be naïve of current world issues.

6. Look into unexpected fees: Don’t forget about taxis, possible checked baggage fees, tips for services and other unexpected costs that you might encounter when you travel. Costs can add up quickly while traveling, and random problems like needing to buy a new suitcase might pop up. Add a little bit of extra cash into your finance planning to cover these costs and still stay on budget.

7. Consider quality vs. quantity: Before embarking on your vacation, set your priorities. What is more important to you on the trip? Where do you want to spend your money? Your priority might be taking luxury transportation like first class airline tickets, staying in nice hotels and or dining at expensive restaurants. Consider staying in hostels or bringing along your own cheap snacks instead of buying food while you are out and about.

8. Think about alternate means of transportation: Often traveling like the locals is the way to save money. Learn subway, trolley or cable car routes and save yourself cab fares. Ask local residents what they suggest for transportation.

9. Budget: Budgeting can make so many things possible. Start putting aside a small portion of your paycheck away or forgo a few little luxuries like expensive coffee each morning or manicures for a while and watch your money grow.

10. Don’t stress: Always remember, have fun while planning this trip and don’t stress. You don’t want to be bitter about the whole thing before you leave the house. Having the mindset of “wow, this sure better be worth all the hassle” is no way to begin a vacation.

Winter Weight Loss

Winter solstice has just past and that means the days will now start getting longer as we inch back towards summer! Make sure you are ready by using the next few months to get that waistline back under control! Follow these winter weight loss tips to ensure your weight loss is successful.

1. Reward yourself. According to some studies, people who diet by refusing themselves treats tend to gain way more weight than people who occasionally indulge themselves. This has to do with the psychological effect of pushing something out of your life that you want there. If you give yourself a reward or two when you deserve it, weight loss won’t have to control your life.

2. Park farther away. Every little bit counts, so take a farther away parking spot when you get to work or campus. The more movement in your day the better chance you have of losing the winter weight. Other ideas are to pace around while you talk on the phone or while at the office, try to give yourself a task that requires movement every twenty minutes or so. It’s the little battles that kill the calories.

3. Don’t try miracle diets. There are some diets that basically deprive your body of valuable nutrients, causing you to lose weight, and as soon as you go off the diet, your body tries to compensate and ends up packing on the kilos. Just stick to eating healthy; three decent sized meals or five smaller meals a day with healthy foods, no fast food, and moderate exercise, and you’ll be much happier and lose much more winter weight than with the quick fix diets.

4. Clean your house. When the weather is bad, walking around outside isn’t much fun but house cleaning can burn just as many calories, especially sweeping. Put on some music and clean house for twenty minutes or more every day. You’ll end up burning calories and you’ll have a clean house!

5. Cut out the extras. If you drink coffee black, it’s five calories, if you put sugar in it, you’re multiplying those calories. If you add milk, it’s even worse. Learn to drink black coffee, skip chocolates and other sweets unless it’s only an occasional thing, skip the cheese on your sandwich at lunch, skip the cold drink in favour of some tea, and in general try to cut out calories that you don’t typically think about. You’ll notice a big difference.

Really, this is all common sense, but that’s what good weight loss technique is: keeping yourself in a good state of mind and carefully weighing your choices and options. Watch yourself without getting too obsessive and you’ll shed the winter pounds steadily and permanently.

DIY Home Decor

While you are stuck inside this month why not give the house a new look using our budget pleasing tips to keeping things fresh!

1. Use what you have! Refurbishing existing furniture is a great way to get a new look.

2.  Shop online. There are local online classifieds with great deals to explore, second hand websites and store websites with specials for you to take advantage of. The best part is you can do it from home.

3. Learn to sew. Homemade is cheaper and gives you loads of options in terms of fabric! Check for inexpensive classes in your local area.

4. When choosing a paint colour, pick one shade darker or bolder than what you feel is safe. Go out of your comfort zone, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

5. Limited space? Buy multi-purpose pieces. An ottoman/coffee table/storage unit combination or a dining room bench/outside seating/table, are two examples of how to save space.

6. If you have the space, pull your couch away from the wall. A lovely console placed behind the couch will give your room more interest and a division of space.

7. Avoid the catalogue look. Don’t buy an entire matching living room or bedroom set from one store, personalize your space, buy unique pieces from different places.

8. Draped window treatments. Hang your drapery panels wider and higher than the actual dimensions of the window. You’ll create the illusion of a bigger window and make your room feel larger and more grand.

9. Keep your backdrop (walls and furniture) neutral. This is a great tip for those who like to switch up their colour schemes with pillows, candles and other small accessories. Neutrals, although black, white, grey and beige tones are also the lightest and most muted version of any colour.