Category Archives: Uncategorized

3 Apps That Will Simplify Your Life

1. Dropbox

There are lots of cloud storage options out there, but Dropbox is clean, simple and requires virtually no effort to use.

– There are a ton of uses.  For example, it will allow you to just plug your phone into your computer and have all your precious photos automatically uploaded to the cloud, plus you can choose whether a local copy to kept on your computer.

– If you want to share a photo with someone, like grandparents, you can just share the dropbox link to the photo rather than messing around the email attachments.

– You can also put documents in “shared folders” when you need people like your accountant to have access to some of your documents.

2. Your Bank’s App

Your bank’s app will allow you to take photos of checks you’ve received and submit them to your account, rather than needing to go to the bank. This saves both time and money. Bonus!

3. Price Check by Amazon

The Price Check by Amazon app allows you to scan any barcode and check the Amazon price. Combined with Amazon Prime (Moms can get a free 3 month trial), you’ll be able save both time and money. If you have to rush to the store to get something last minute, scan the barcode of the item you’re buying. If it’s cheaper and/or easier on Amazon, order a backup so you won’t need to run to the store next time.

You could also just can the barcode of any purchases you make to see if those items would be cheaper on Amazon.

There is also another app called Red Laser that will check prices beyond Amazon. It works the same – you just scan the barcode of any item. Sometimes it’s easier to just deal with Amazon, and the goal here is simplicity.

The Amazon price check app also makes it super easy to add the exact product you want to your Amazon cart.

photo credit: via photopin CC

How to Deal with a Child Who Doesn’t Want to Go to Pre-school

It can be very stressful when you have a child who doesn’t want to go to preschool and you feel like you really need the break.

These are tips for helping understand and overcome the issue as quickly as possible.

1. Identify the root cause.

Try to find the root cause of the issue. For example, if your child is toilet training, they may be worried that they’re going to have an accident at school. Other potential causes include that your child may be coming down with a bug.

2. Ask yourself – Has something changed?

Have you been arguing more at home? Did you recently move? Are you expecting another baby? Changes at home may mean that your child is having the instinct that they want to stick close to you.

3. Chat with their teacher.

Ask your child’s teacher open-ended questions like
– “How does my child spend their time when they’re at preschool?
– “How does my child cope when they need help from an adult at school?”

Don’t ask closed ended questions like “Have you noticed anything different?”

4. Is your child getting enough rest?

Is your child reluctant to go to school because they’re tired?

5. If your child is normally happy to go to preschool, listen when they’re telling you that they need a day off.

Even if you don’t know the exact cause of why your child doesn’t want to go to preschool, it’s probably better to give them that message that you will respond to them when they’re freaking out, rather than insist that they go. If it’s becoming an ongoing issue, you’re likely going to to need to try other strategies.

6. Invite kids from preschool to your house.

Arrange some playdates with kids from preschool. This will help you assess if there are any social issues that are causing your child to not want to go to school.

7. Reward going to school with attention.

Give your child one on one attention when you pick them up from preschool. For example, take them to lunch one on one, whether this be sandwiches in the park or out to a cafe. Make sure your child is getting enough one on one time with you. If you have other children, try to arrange for someone else to take care of them so you can spend some special time with the child who is having a hard time. Make sure you reward the wanted behavior of going to preschool.

photo credit: Biscarotte via photopin CC

The Top Electronics to Have in Your Car

With the fast-changing world of communication technology available today, gone are the days of travelling with a map book (if you are doing holiday or long-distance travel) and communicating from a phone booth at a roadside restaurant or hotel. Today, we navigate, communicate, and entertain ourselves electronically from the comfort of our seats and with direct efficiency and results. Here is a list of the most important electronic tools to have with you on the road:

– Mobile phone communication is virtually standard in South Africa, and you will not be travelling without your mobile phone. For safety and in compliance with road traffic ordinances, as a driver, your mobile communication must be hands-free, so you should look into installing a hands-free system in your car.

– Navigation today is electronically aided, and you should have a navigational system in your vehicle. Today, these are not just used for directional indication. Live traffic update systems allow you to be directed to your destination by avoiding areas of traffic congestion and accident warning, as well as road policing points, getting you to your destination in the shortest possible time.

– In-car entertainment is now a given when traveling on holiday or with the children for a weekend away. Mobile DVD players are popular, and a range of movies can be viewed on board. Alternatively, you can buy a touchscreen LCD with VGA for in-car entertainment too.

– Digital and portable music systems are always good to have. You can look at a 2-in-1 Bluetooth stereo audio receiver and transmitter for your speakers, on-board TV, mobile phone, and MP3 player.

– Buy an FM transmitter if you don’t have an AUX input into your car radio. This will deliver your iPod’s tunes over an FM frequency to your car stereo for on-demand tunes over a good audio system.

– You might also want to get a mobile digital TV receiver that connects to your car’s existing DVD player and can decode MPEG-2 and 4. Choose one with an HDMI output, a port for PVR, and duel tuner.

– For those times when you are unsure if you are safe to drive, you can have a digital alcohol tester in your car for peace of mind.

– You will need to charge these devices so why not have a power inverter in your car that turns 12v DC current into 220V AC current? You can charge and run your tablets and other devices while driving.

– Alternatively, you can buy a cigarette lighter-driven USB charger that will allow you to charge any of your electronic devices.

– For motoring safety, you can take a portable emergency jump starter in case your battery runs dead during the night.

Image by mroach under Creative Commons license.

Barcelona: a 3 day Itinerary

In terms of sophistication and European glamour, you don’t get more sparkling than Barcelona. Full of fancy eateries, cocktail bars, fantastic night-life, shopping, sports, and historic architecture, you can’t fail to be impressed by everything this Spanish city has to offer.

Having said that, how do you know what to concentrate on, and what to pass on if you only have a small amount of time to spend in one place? Well, below you’ll find a suggested three days’ itinerary, helping you to identify where you should go, and what you should do during your break in the (hopefully) sunshine.

Day 1

You will have heard of La Rambla, even if you’ve never visited Barcelona, and this is where you should focus your first day’s attentions. You will find winding, cobbled streets with picturesque coffee shops, perfect for a spot of people watching, as well as small eccentric-style shops, where you can easily pick up an unusual souvenir or two. Do beware of pick pockets in this part of the city however, so only carry what you really need.

Next it’s time to move onto the Gothic Quarter where you will find olde-world charm by the bucket-load. You will also find plenty of examples of Gaudi’s work around here, so for fans of history and architecture, remember your camera.

This should take you most of the morning, however the afternoon is about further sightseeing, by jumping on the famous hop on/hop off bus. This is the perfect way to see the major sights, such as the famous cathedral, without giving yourself blisters or getting lost.

Day 2

Whether you like sport or not, the Nou Camp has to be visited. The famous home of Barcelona FC, you can footballer-spot, although you probably won’t see one, and visit the famous trophy room. The size of the place will make your jaw drop, and if you have any sports loving fans in your entourage during your travels, then they will be enthralled by this particular activity.

After yesterday’s busy sightseeing, and your morning walking around the Nou Camp, it’s time to take it easy and line your stomach with some delicious Spanish food. Paella is fantastic around this part of the country, and the seafood is simply divine and fresh. Alternatively, tapas is hugely popular, and a good way to try lots of different dishes, and maybe find a few favourites. Then, head out and party the night away. Head back to the La Rambla area for busy, vibrant night-life.

Day 3

You’ve partied, you’ve shopped, you’ve done the sights, and you’ve probably walked miles, so it’s time to relax. Jump on the R1 train from Station Catalunya under the Plaza Catalunya and head to El Maresme, the coastline just north of the city centre. Here you will find a chilled-out beach vibe, with plenty of opportunity to kick back and relax, and soothe those aching feet, before heading back to the city for your last night of partying.

Photo Credit: Bert Kaufmann under Creative Commons license.

Mom’s guide to practical, sustainable living

We do hear a lot about the positive difference that can be made through sustainable living, but knowing how to live sustainably and practically is not always well understood. The good news is that practical, sustainable living is not as complicated as it may sound.

As sustainability experts know, changing your lifestyle and features of your home, brings you opportunities to enjoy cost savings, a simplified life and a healthier approach to living.

Even small steps towards practical, sustainable living can make a huge difference. Also, once you start to implement particular changes, others will logically follow and seem all the more easy and manageable to do.

So, how can you live in a more practical, sustainable way?

Examine your energy use and consider alternatives

Many people now enjoy the benefits of renewable energy by way of solar panels on the roof of their own home. With solar panels, not only do you help with the generation and contribution of a renewable source of energy, you will quite soon appreciate reductions in your energy bills. Although solar panels do involve a significant financial investment, many people find that they soon recoup the money paid to purchase and install their solar panels and sometimes never pay an energy bill again.

Opt for biodegradable

A very good way to live more sustainability is to stop, or limit, your use of plastic bags. Make the conscious change to biodegradable bags, as this alternative reduces future toxicity and involves the use of less petroleum.

Understand what is different about being ‘green’ and being ‘sustainable’

On many occasions, being green has little to do with sustainable living. It’s crucial to understand that being sustainable means taking the actions that cause the least impact, result in the least amount of waste and involve an indefinitely repeatable cycle that does not cause damage.

Limit and eliminate oil, gas and petroleum usage

It is increasingly understood that oil is a finite resource. Reducing and ultimately eliminating the use of anything that comes from oil, is absolutely vital to true sustainability. However, genuine, authentic sustainability requires elimination of all petroleum and fossil fuels.

Distinguish wants from needs

We are bombarded by marketing and advertising that tries to convince us that we absolutely need products. However, to adopt a sustainable lifestyle, it is essential to change this way of thinking. To live sustainably, products should only be bought when they are absolutely needed. This means, you should not own multiple numbers of particular items and you should learn how to properly care for the things that you have, rather than always paying for maintenance and repairs.

Reduce waste

Today, most individuals and households create far more garbage than they should. In order to genuinely reduce waste, changes across almost every aspect of life are necessary. It’s critical to look for areas of excess and implement changes in what you use and/or how you use it. For example you can reduce landfill and help the planet and your garden by composting your green waste.

Sustainable living is important and can also be very practical. The best thing about practical, sustainable living is that it simplifies and streamlines life, while making it more natural and healthy.

Photo Credit: Joi Ito under Creative Commons license. Neighbour’s Compost.

How to Negotiate Discounts

1. Ask if there are any ways of getting a discount

e.g., you may be able to get a discount on your car insurance if you take an easy online defensive driving course, or by giving them the details of the college where you received your degree.

Companies won’t offer these discounts until you ask!

2. Sign up to be a member of an organization that has prenegotiated discounts with the company you wish to purchase with.

This is outsourcing the process of negotiating the discount to the organization who has already negotiated it. For example, you can sign up to the Freelancers Union for free just by giving your email address. You’re then able to get discounts on Geico insurance among other perks. Once you know what you want to buy, Google around for organizations that have negotiated discounts with that company.

3. Show evidence of a better alternative offer.

If you can show evidence of another company’s offer you should be able to get the company you want to work with to match or beat that offer, provided that all the terms are similar. Sometimes you can get a company that offers better terms, offers, or perks to match a competitor’s offer. You get the price and the extras you want.

4. Get something extra thrown in.

If there is something you would need to buy anyway, you may be able to get this thrown in with your purchase, which is in effect a discount. Come to negotiations armed with things you are going to need to buy that could be included in your package by the supplier.

For example, someone who is selling you the filing cabinet should be able to throw in a box for files for you. Think about what additional items you would need to purchase immediately to make your purchase usable.

5. Do your research online first.

Car buying is a completely different experience these days because you can do all your research online, see who has the car you want available, and the play these dealers off against each other. Go in knowing the price you want to pay. If they will still make some profit on the deal, it’s in their interests to do the deal.

6. Just flat out ask.

For example, “Can I have a loyalty discount? I’ve been with this company for X years.” Or, emphasize your desire to do future business. Be specific i.e., I’ll be ordering again next month if we can agree on a price.

“Can you give me the wifi for free?” – This actually works at hotels I’ve found!

Sales people are experts in their jobs and you shouldn’t underestimate them. Wherever possible don’t go into situations without information about what discounts it’s possible to get. However when this isn’t possible, ask cold and hope you get lucky with a salesperson who is willing to work with you.

Always questions any assumptions you have about services where it might not be possible to get a discount. However also take care to not give service providers the impression you’re going to be e pain in the butt to work with.

photo credit: Unhindered by Talent via photopin CC

Car Camping For Families

Introducing your kids to camping is a great idea. We develop our comfort level for living based on things we are exposed to as children. For example, I’m still scared of dogs, partly because my own Mom is scared of dogs and we never had one as a pet.

While backpacking camping (where you walk with your gear in a pack) is a stretch for families, car camping doesn’t need to be any less comfortable than staying in a motel.

Car camping is also cheaper than backpacking camping as you don’t need to buy nearly as much specialized gear. Since you have more weight and space available to you, you can often make do with stuff you already have. For example, you might be able to use an air mattress you already have at home inside your tent. We usually chuck a regular old duvet and pillows in the car for cooler weather camping, instead of splashing out on sleeping bags.

You can also use gear you buy for camping when you’re back home. If you’re an occasional camper, focus on purchasing gear that is multi use like the air mattress.

If you’re new to camping, you might choose to borrow gear from friends and family the first few times you go rather than buying your own. It makes sense to see if you enjoy the experience before you outlay money on camping equipment.

Don’t be too brand loyal or store loyal when you’re buying camping gear. It’s easy to be sucked in by shiny showrooms and glossy photos of people living an aspirational lifestyle. Make a list of what you really need and stick to it. A good approach is to decide your budget and then say to yourself, “I’m going to get the best tent/camp cot/camping chair etc. on sale that I can buy under X dollars.”

The best types of camping holidays for families are where you find a nice campsite that has some easy walks and, depending on your locale, a beach or lake nearby. You want to be able to enjoy simply hanging out at the campsite, reading some books and playing some family games. Make sure you pack some playing cards! Go for a tent with plenty of room so if you get rained in you can live with needing to be stuck inside it for a while. Or, ideally go to a camping ground that has adequate common areas for people to mix and mingle if it’s raining. Encourage your children to talk to and play with other children staying at the campground. Take things like a ball and Frisbee to facilitate this.

You won’t need a camping cook set if you go somewhere that gives you access to a communal kitchen. Just take along your oldest pots and utensils from home.

Ideally go camping somewhere that’s only a 2-3 hour car ride away. You don’t want to arrive all grumpy when you get there. You’ll also go more often if you find places you like that are close to home. Having some games and special toys that your kids only get to use when they’re going on long car rides will help keep them occupied and content.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons, dsopfe

Multi-Generational Trips to Europe

What’s the big plus of multi-generational travel? Free child care!!

Of course, I also mean quality bonding time for grandchildren and grandparents, as well as for you and your parents.

But really, what I mostly mean is free child care, lol. Who can look past the potential benefits of free child care while traveling, meaning that you actually get some relaxation while on your vacation.

Bringing grandparents on your travels means you have the option of going out in the evenings as a couple since your kids can stay safe “at home” in your hotel or Airbnb apartment with Grandma.

If you’re going to go this route then there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind.

– Who’s paying? Families vary a lot in terms of financial resources. In some case you should accept that you’ll need to pay for the expenses of your accompanying grandparents. Hey, they changed your nappies and put up with your teenage goth phase, you owe them! At the other end of the spectrum, you may have parents who are financially comfortable and who want to pay for more than their share of the expenses. We know families where the grandparents come on the trip and insist on paying for virtually everything except flights. When they have more money than they can ever spend themselves, they seem to like to do this and it’s not particularly awkward. You just need to make sure you can comfortably pay your share if for some reason they deviate from their usual pattern.

– Grandparents may have some special needs. For example, consider their ability to walk up stairs. Some places in Europe don’t have elevators so think about that before you book a 3rd floor apartment or budget hotel. Since you’ll be doing more walking than usual, everyone will probably be tired and not have much energy by the end of the day. The types of trips that allow for more relaxation and less walking, are things like European river cruises.

– If you’re travelling somewhere with a hot and/or muggy climate make sure the apartment or a budget hotel you book has good air-conditioning.

– You will need to pace your days slower when traveling with young children and older adults. If your kids are still taking naps then this can be a good reason for everyone to have a siesta in the mid afternoon or for just a long leisurely picnic lunch back in your apartment.

– If you’re hiring a car, keep in mind that it might not be as easy for older people to squeeze in the back. It’ll probably be cheaper to book a large size car at the outset rather than upgrade at the rental car counter. Rental agencies will likely have much more inventory of very small cars in Europe since small cars are more common there than in the US. You’re therefore probably less likely to end up with a free upgrade to a large car based on them running out of small cars, as often happens in the US.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Dany13

Cutting Down Your Travel Costs When Travelling as a Family

When you travel with kids you’re going to need to expect that your costs will go up compared to travelling as a couple or as a solo traveller.

Here are a few things to consider:

– Hotels will tend to charge you for extra rollaway beds for the kids. In the US, you can usually book a room with 2 queens and make that work for a family of 4 by having 1 adult sleep with 1 kid in each bed. However in many places, you won’t have the option of two queens. A good solution is to buy a portable travel bed for your child and take it with you. Have them try sleeping in it at home so you can make sure they will sleep in it before you leave on your trip – that way you can return it if your child refuses to use it. There are quite a few options available from Walmart or Target and the like.

– Don’t forget annual multi trip travel insurance as an option for saving money if you take more than one international trip a year. Insurance is important as a solo traveller but it’s even more important when you’re travelling with kids. You don’t want to even think twice about whether you take them to the doctor or emergency room if any mishaps happen or they’re not feeling well. Make sure you shop around as there can be large differences in the premiums and coverage, what is best for one family won’t be best for another.

– Eating out. Kids usually don’t want to eat at a restaurant for every meal. In fact, we know lots of travelling families who don’t eat at restaurants at all when they travel because their kids don’t like to sit still and wait for food, and it’s more hassle than it’s worth. Overseas it may be harder to get a high chair at restaurants than it is in the US. Consider eating more meals in your hotel room, or stay in vacation apartments. You might also consider doing takeaway. If you don’t have access to cooking facilities, you can still usually make do with picnic style meals. Take some basic picnic supplies like plastic plates. Brainstorm some ideas for hotel room picnic style meals in advance. If your kids eat toast for breakfast every morning, you might even consider purchasing a cheap toaster for your room. If your kids like cereal, then make sure you book a room with a mini fridge.

– If budget is a big issue but you still want to travel, consider buying cheap camping gear at your destination. We prefer renting a car and bringing a tent to renting a camper van. Buying gear at your destination will often be cheaper than hauling it with you, but do the sums. Camping gear can be expensive in some places such as Australia and New Zealand. For some countries, bringing it is definitely the best option. If tenting is too rustic for you, you may be able to rent cheap cabins at campgrounds or book a family room at a hostel.

Photo credit: Creative Commons, Aidan

Paris for Families

Paris is known for romance, but can it also be a family travel destination?

– Pastries!

Just as for adults, food can be a trip highlight for kids too. Your kids will probably even find McDonalds in Paris entertaining because the menu is in French, but what kid isn’t going to love a trip to the boulangerie. Do a bit of research in advance to find out which pastry and baguette shops you are keen to hit.

No matter how old your child is, try to teach them a little bit of the language. Older kids can try asking for their baguette in the store. Younger children can learn how to say Bonjour and Merci. You’re bound to get a great response from Parisians if you’re kids are trying out their French.

– Falafel in the Marais.

Falafel in the Marais is another family-friendly meal idea. It’s delicious, healthy and inexpensive.

– Smaller Museums

If you’re going to take on a museum you might choose something like the wonderful Musee D’orsay over the Louvre. Now it’s not small, but it’s not as giant as the Louvre and the queues tend to be shorter. Make sure you pace yourself and don’t expect your kids’ attention span while travelling to be much longer than it is at home.

– The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is iconic enough that even most kids will be interested in seeing it. Going up to the top can involve long waits so make sure you’ve had some nap time if you plan to try going to the top of the tower in the evening.

– Disneyland Paris.

If you’re planning a trip to Paris and want to make sure you’re kids feel that their preferences are being taken into account, then Disneyland Paris is a no brainer. Shop around for your online for your tickets and find the price and package that works best for your family. It’s tempting to get a long multi-day pass since the cost per day is less but remember you don’t need to see everything on one trip. Disneyland is fun but there is a lot else in Paris that is worth devoting time to.

– Segway tours

If your children are 12 and over they’ll likely enjoy a Segway. You can even do night time tours. For younger children, you’re more limited to the hop on, hop off buses but bear in mind that there can be significant amounts of waiting involved with these too.

Our main tip for a trip to Paris is to plan to do much less than you’re thinking. Give your kids lots of chill out time so that they won’t be too tired or grumpy to tolerate waiting in line. Allow them to have some time playing on their computers or tablets at the hotel rather than expecting them to be on the go all day. Ideally, try to keep to the same schedule of bed, meal and nap-times that you do at home.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Jeremy Thompson