3 Years of Chaos, Laughter and Learning

This August I will have been a parent for 16 years, I’m a different person now compared to the person I was when Lucie was born.  I’d never expected to be a parent again, I was happy with the life I had and the family that we were.  When I found out I was expecting Arthur back in 2012 my world was turned upside down, Lucie was almost a teenager and I wasn’t prepared for the whirlwind that was to be Arthur.

Arthur turned 3 a couple of weeks ago and I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell anyone who thinks they won’t be able to cope with an age gap of 10+ years between their children that you can and you won’t regret a moment of it.

I won’t lie, sometimes having a teenager and a pre-schooler in the same house can be like parenting two toddlers, at times it is complete and utter chaos but I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Arthur is the most caring, considerate, intelligent and funny little 3 year old I have ever met, of course everyone says that about their own children but I’ve noticed how different he is to how Lucie was at this age. Lucie could not entertain herself but Arthur will happily play alone for small periods of time, it’s when it goes quiet that you have to worry!

I find it hard to believe that 3 years have passed since Arthur was born, when people tell you to enjoy every moment of your childs life they are not wrong, it flys past you in the blink of an eye.  Next year we will be applying for a school place which fills me with dread because I love our days together when we explore and learn.

Arthur’s perfect day is traveling to London on the train to visit the Natural History Museum which is something we do twice a month, he loves to learn about animals, planets, vehicles and history and he takes everything in.

Dunkin Donuts

Like most children Arthur has developed a sweet tooth although he doesn’t get to partake in said sweet things all of the time, this is one of those occasions where moderation is brought into force, we did make one exception to this rule though when Arthur requested Dunkin Dounuts instead of a birthday cake.

Arthur eating Dunkin Donuts Arthur eating Dunkin Donuts

Slow down little boy, I’m not quite ready for you to grow up just yet, I wonder what the next 3 years will bring?



What is a Virtual Assistant? How Do I Become One?

I’ve been working as a Virtual Assistant or VA on and off for the past Ten years now, working remotely suits me and my family because it means I can pick my own hours, set my own rate and work from home meaning I don’t have to rely on full time childcare.  There are of course downsides to this way of working, I don’t get paid for holidays, I don’t get paid for breaks, If I’m ill or my children are poorly I can’t call in sick and it can get quite lonely when you’re the only person in the company.

What is a virtual assistant and how do I become one?

This post is aimed at people who are thinking about dipping their toes into the world of being a freelancer or VA but don’t know where to start. There are hundreds of posts like this on the internet and tons of websites and facebook pages offering VA training courses but this post is drawing from my own experience and what worked for me.

Before you start it’s always good to sit down and work out how much time you can dedicate to clients, do you have enough savings for those times when you may be in between clients or just starting out? When I first started my business I already had a client who wanted me to work 20 hours a week so there was never a period of time when I didn’t have an income, I know of a few VAs who have waited 6 months for their first paying client so you need to work out if you can afford to be without work for that length of time.

Do you want to work for yourself as a VA or do you want to be an associate? Running your own business can be daunting especially if you have never been self employed before, not only do you need to have a solid background in the services but you also need to have the skills needed to run your own business. The most important skill a VA needs to possess is the ability to attract and maintain clients.  It’s very rare that a client will seek you out so you need to be aware that a big portion of your time will be spent marketing your services and attending networking events.

Fear not as there is a solution if marketing is not your forte, Virtual Assistant Associates work in the same way as a Virtual Assistant, you’re still self employed and responsible for your own tax, national insurance, business running costs, etc but your clients are virtual assistants themselves who pass on some or all of their work to Associates. One thing you need to remember when working as an Associate is that the clients are not yours, try to poach them and you will find yourself in court.

Anyone who works from a computer or a desk can be a Virtual Assistant, one big misconception people seem to have is that VAs only offer admin assistance.  I know VAs who are designers, seamstresses, voice over artists and writers, if you can offer your services virtually you can be a VA.

Know your worth.  Most VAs charge between £20-£35 per hour, Sarah Banks from Banks Business Solutions recently wrote an article about knowing your worth and why we charge what we charge for our services.  One quote that stood out for me in this article is when Sarah quite rightly states “If someone is cheaper – Why? Is it because they are new and unsure what to charge or are they cutting back on things like insurance?”

Sites like People Per Hour, Freelancer, elance, Fiverr all have their place but should you really price yourself at an hourly rate like £4/5 just to get a contract? When you use a site like these you will never be able to compete with foreign workers who can charge a low rate even if they are offering substandard work, most people are not bothered about that and just want a quick turnaround.

So what are the next steps?

  1. Research – Look at other VA sites, decide what services you want to offer, find out which networking events are taking place in your area, work out if you can afford to go freelance.
  2. Work on your branding – You will need a name, logo, website, social media sites, business cards.
  3. Legal Stuff – Register with HMRC and register for NI contributions.  are you going to be a sole trader or limited company? Do you need a business bank account? Which accounting package will you use? Who are you going to use as your insurance company?
  4. Niche – What is your niche area? Are you going to specialise in one particular type of work or industry?
  5. Rates – Are you going to charge by the hour or offer retainer rates?

 

Further help and information is available on the multiple VA facebook groups and websites.  Like I said at the beginning everyone has a different story and will give you different information, it’s always best to do as much research as you can,  take what you find useful and ignore the rest.  I’m more than happy to help answer any questions where I can so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like any advice.



How to Make a Dragon With Your Child

I would like to start off by saying that if you arrived here looking for a Jurrasic Park kind of experiment with dragons I’m afraid you’re at the wrong place, there was no DNA extraction going on here and to be perfectly honest the thought of someone wanting to create a dragon scares me a little.  Anyhow if you would like to know how to create a dragon with some odds and ends you may have lying around the house you are in the right place and I’m about to show you how to create an awesome dragon that can be used as a facemask or as part of a larger display.

how to make a dragon

You can use the dragon face either on it’s own as a mask or by sticking it on to a paper cup you can turn it into a dragon display as shown above, the dragon egg can be made using the same method as I used in the Easter crafts only this time I used silver drawing pins.  The body of the dragon is just some green felt wrapped around an empty box of chocolates and the tail is made from some corrugated cardboard but you can use any supplies you have around the house.

dragon crafting pieces

To make the dragon face you will need: 1 A4 piece of green card or funky foam, 1 A4 piece of white card or funky foam, 1 A5 piece of red card or funky foam, a pen, scissors, glue and eyes.

Dragon cut out

Using your pen draw the outline of your dragons face, you can be creative here and make it any shape you would like, cut the shape out and put to one side.  If children are using scissors make sure they are supervised.  Cut out shapes for the facial features and the flames which will come out of the nose.

dragon face

Using glue or glue dots, stick your eyes on to the dragon and repeat for the facial features.  To make the nostrils you can use a pen or my 3 year old’s preferred tube of glitter glue and stick down the flames.  You can now attach some elastic to turn this into a mask or stick it to a paper cup to use as part of a larger display.

dragon

Your dragon is now complete and ready to protect your belongings.

*Some of the craft items used in this post were provided as part of the on-going Bostik Bloggers campaign


Easiest Way To lose Weight For Women

I’m going to start off by saying that there is no easy way to lose weight and maintain that weight loss.  I’ve been a yo-yo dieter since my late teens which took a turn for the worse when I was diagnosed with several gastro conditions which doctors told me was most probably from years of fad diets and slimming pills.

lose weight

I have several friends who swear by slimming world, they were unable to lose weight on their own and find it easier to make their lifestyle change with the help of a group.  We know a couple of people who have tried the Cambridge diet which has worked well for them, one friend will not have a bad word said about Weight Watchers and their ready meals and that’s totally fine because you have to do what works for you.

Classes, paying subscriptions and eating a low fat diet does not work for me, I’m currently doing something that I’ve never tried before and it’s having a positive effect on me and my family.  I’m doing a mixture of counting my daily calories, watching my carbs, increasing my protein and not eating artificial sweeteners or low fat products.   I walk over 50km each week consistently, run each week, do an hour of yoga and Pilates each week, do lunges, squats and free weights in the house and an hour of cardio each week.  I’m not totally strict with the fitness, some weeks I don’t feel like doing something and some weeks I feel like doing more.  I do what works for me.

I won’t go into what I eat, everyone knows what they should and shouldn’t eat. Eat a whole cake and a multipack of crisps for dinner without doing exercise and you’re probably going to pile on the pounds, eat a balanced diet utilising all food groups and do some exercise and you will notice a difference in your weight and health.

weight loss

I haven’t lost a great deal of weight, I was 14st 8lb when I started on my weight loss journey on January 1st 2016 and I now weight 13st 5lb meaning I have 1 stone to lose before I’m my goal weight of 12st 5lb and in the healthy weight/height bracket.  If I had joined slimming world I probably would have reached my goal by now but I’m confident that the way I am managing my weight will be long lasting and it has also meant that I don’t need to change what I eat, I just have smaller portions.

I’m now wearing a size 14 on both top and bottom which is something I’ve not done since 2010/11 I don’t mind if my dress size doesn’t change anymore but I would like to get rid of the spare tyre around my middle before the end of my weight loss journey so I can ditch the spanx pants.  I have an NCT ball to attend in May and it would be fabulous if I could reach my goal by then or at least have lost my muffin top (wishful thinking).

I do think it’s always worth remembering that blog posts such as this one are very personal to the individual, what works for one person won’t always work for another, everyone seems to have advice when it comes to weight loss but I think it’s best to do what works for you as an individual as your health and fitness needs will always be different and if in doubt always speak to a nutritionist as they are always willing to discuss what macros you might need based on your lifestyle and how active you are, weight loss isn’t a one size fits all change.

If you have any tips about getting rid of a muffin top I would love to hear them!

 



Fingerprint Easter Card

Recently we have been doing a lot of Easter related crafts at home, trying to keep Arthur entertained on the days that he isn’t at nursery is becoming harder and harder and he is no longer content to be sat down in front of Cbeebies or a jigsaw – he wants interaction so I’ve been putting an hour aside each day to do art and craft work which is fine as long as each craft doesn’t exceed 10 minutes.

fingerprint easter card

This week we have been making a few of this particular Easter card design to send to say thank you to family members who have sent him money, clothing or chocolate.  I always think it’s nice to thank people for the gifts that they give my children because they really are thankful for what they receive.

Craft supplies

The Easter card is incredibly simple to make and all you need is a piece of card, paint and a felt tip pen.

Fingerprint card

Get your child to put their thumb in the darker coloured paint, this will turn into your bunny rabbit, using your child’s peter pointer finger place it in the yellow paint and press three times on to the card to make your chicks.  Don’t worry about the print looking really neat as it adds to the design.

fingerprint easter card

Using a felt tip pen write your message and draw ears, whiskers a face and a fluffy tail on the bunny and draw a beak, eyes, legs and wings for the chicks features and you’re ready to send your Easter card.

easter crafts

If cards are not your thing you may prefer to make our Easter tree decorations that were featured last week, they are a great alternative to chocolate eggs if you’re doing an Easter egg hunt with children.

Will you be making any cards or crafts this Easter?