Daddacool - "Britain's premier parent blogger" Sunday TImes.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
I'm Alex, the daddy to three nippers. The boy is 8 and the lass who is six but is often mistaken for his (non identical) twin. On New Years Day 2012, Ned (AKA Danger-it's his middle name) joined us, so now we're a family of five!
With the fitness industry rising in popularity over the last few years, more and more people are heading their way down to the gym. It is no longer just a place for the veiny, ripped guys and girls built like steel. The average Joe Blogs can now be found in gyms near and far.
The problem is, for most Joe Blogs-a-likes, they may make it seem like they know what they are doing, to anyone else they look perfectly comfortable, but in reality, they are just winging it. If this is you, then here is the ultimate guide to working out for the average, casual, work-out participant.
Full Body vs. Body Part Focused Routine?
So, on one side you have the lean, mean CrossFit machine who can throw up 60k in the air, drop it back down, twist it round and round, and so on. We call these full body workouts. On the other side, you have your Arnold Schwarzenegger, shoulders like boulders, who can be found in front of the mirrors at the free-weights section- his routine looks although he is just working on one body specific part at a time.
Which should you do? Like anything, there are pros for both. It completely depends on your overall goal, as well as how much time you have to devote to training.
Full Body Workout Pro’s
This type of exercise routine is made up of compound exercises; these work multiple muscle groups simultaneously by requiring movement at two or more joints. These types of exercises make your heart rate jump up and you’ll burn more calories than part focused routines, making them ideal if you are trying to lose fat.
This type of workout is perfect for someone who is time limited in the gym. It means you can just spend 30 minutes in the gym and still have an efficient workout. It also makes it irrelevant if you miss a workout, opposed to body part focused exercises which split up muscle groups per day (miss one of these and you could potentially not be training a specific muscle group for 2 weeks in total!)
What Are Full Body Workout Moves?
Full body workouts can be made up of compound exercises, these exercises involve more than one muscle group. An example of a compound move is a deadlift because it uses hips and knees to perform the lift, working several different muscle groups including quads, hamstrings, lats, traps and core muscles.
Some more examples include squats, dumbbell lunges, barbell bench press, wide grip pull ups/pull downs and lunges. Many functional training rigs found in gyms can be used to perform these routines.
Body Part Focused Pro’s
Training muscles isolated is when you focus on one specific muscle using only one joint in the body to perform the lift. An example would be a bicep curl, the only joint in use is the elbow and it is specifically targeting the bicep. This type of training is usually split over days so one day dedicated to each of the following; biceps, triceps, chest, back, legs and shoulders.
Training body part specific is a great way to focus on targeted body parts. If your goal is to get broader shoulders, you can focus on this area of the body and build up mass here to achieve the results you envision. These kinds of workouts are also generally less exhausting and help you maintain a training regime for the long haul. It also allows you to lift greater loads and performance is heightened, which in turn will have a positive effect on building up strength and size.
What Are Body Part Focused Moves?
The majority of isolated lifts are performed on the weight machines you find in the gym. These are great for body part focused moves and they hold the rest of the body in place so that you can just solely target the specific muscle group. You can perform them with free weights, but you have to be careful not to bring other muscles into play. Your body will naturally do this to assist, so if you choose to perform isolated moves with free weights, really focus on only using the selected muscle.
So the verdict, if you’re looking for overall fat burning, overall mass building and generally just getting stronger, full body routines made up of compound exercises are best for you. If you don’t have much fat to lose, but you are looking to sculpt certain areas of your body, isolation is the route to go down. If you’re looking to do both, incorporate both into your regime.
Sooner or later, the time will come when one of your kids asks for a pet. How you handle this request is up to you of course, but bringing a furry friend into your household can help to teach your child about empathy, responsibility and can even increase verbal and social skills, so it’s an idea that’s at least worth considering.
The therapeutic and developmental benefits of caring for pets from a young age are well documented. However, introducing an animal to the household is not without its challenges, so you need to know that the whole family is ready for the commitment. Here are five tips to help you teach your kid how to look after a pet.
Teach Non-Verbal Cues
Before you bring a pet into your household, consider whether your child is old enough to read and understand non-verbal cues. As much as we love animals, there’s no denying that they can be unpredictable; some pets (including certain dog breeds) can become aggressive if they feel scared or threatened, so teaching proper communication is vital for the safety of both the pet and your child.
Start by teaching your kid to leave dogs and cats alone while they’re eating or sleeping, and to understand your pet’s body language. Behaviour such as growling, lowering their tail, hunching down or hissing indicates that an animal is feeling frightened or upset, so children should know to leave pets well alone if they act this way.
Get Your Kid Involved
Teaching your child to look after a pet is one of the most rewarding things you can do, and getting him or her involved can help increase confidence, awareness and empathy. Let your child help you feed and groom your pet and come with you to vet appointments. Young children can also help clean out litter boxes or cages to understand the less-than-fun responsibilities that come with owning a pet.
Teach Pet Health
Studies indicate that when children become educated about pet health and wellbeing, they are more likely to treat them kindly. Find a good healthcare provider for your pet that will help put your kids at ease when your pet gets ill or has to have vaccinations; that way, your children will see that medical appointments are nothing to be afraid of. Visit thevet.co.uk for affordable, experienced pet care with no appointments necessary.
Teach Pet Safety
As well as keeping your kids safe, you also need to know that you can keep a pet safe before you bring one into your home. Make sure your kids abide by basic safety rules, such as not letting a dog out into the street and not feeding human food to pets: this is especially important, as some foods like grapes and chocolate can be poisonous to dogs.
It sounds obvious, but make sure your kids know that they should never yell at or hit a pet. It’s best to supervise smaller children interacting with dogs, cats and other household pets at all times.
Don’t Shirk Your Responsibilities
While it’s important to teach your kids to care for animals, you should keep in mind that the ultimate responsibility lies with you: the parent. Don’t assume that your child or teenager has fed or walked a pet, and always follow up to make sure. Having a pet is incredibly rewarding and can be beneficial for all areas of human health, but you need to know that the whole family (including you) are up to the task.
It’s a universally held fact that music was better in the day. It doesn’t matter which day you’re talking about, it was just better. Our parents complained about the rubbish we listened to, and no doubt their parents did too, just as we think most of the guff our kids generation is in to is rubbish.
So, over dinner the other night, preempting the 10 year old’s any questions session, where he likes to go round the table and ask people an either/or question, I decided to ask the kids what their favourite song was.
The boy, aged 10
I was impressed. I thought he might go for some Nerdest (they do songs based on videogames and are particularly popular on YouTube) or some bloke in a white suit with a plastic bin on his head called Marshmello but he actually picked Wonderwall by Oasis. Wonderwall is 23 years old now, and if a ten year old me had to pick a 23 year old song, it would have been from 1962 and probably If I had a Hammer by Peter Paul and Mary.
Oasis - Wonderwall - Official Video - YouTube
Fifi, aged 9
I have to admit I had no idea what to expect from my daughter. She quite often puts on My Old Man’s a Dustman by Lonnie Donegan, and does a little dance to it. Equally she likes current pop and rock. She initially gave one song but then changed it to another, so I’m going to include both here.
Dido - White Flag (Official Video) - YouTube
Bobby Vee - The Night Has A Thousand Eyes (1962) - YouTube
Dido I can deal with in the sense that it’s a nice song. Bobby Vee’s Night of a Thousand Eyes though?! It turns out her granddad gave her an iPod Shuffle that had both songs on it and those are the two that she really liked. How awesome is that? Not least because the Bobby Vee video is a bit bonkers.
Ned, aged 6
Although Ned has now progressed to the “confident reader, aged 5-8” section of Waterstones, getting things like song titles out of him still remains a challenge. And it was no different here as his choice was “the song with an elephant in the video”. That doesn’t narrow it down much, so we had to fire up the TV and let him browse the YouTube music videos. Just as well we did as I’m not entirely sure we’d have got to Paradise by Coldplay on our own.
Coldplay - Paradise (Official Video) - YouTube
There is something very cool about hearing a 6 year old sing along to pop songs.
The runners up
We spent the rest of the evening playing our favourite songs on YouTube, taking it in turns to pick a song out and make everyone else listen to it.
The kids came up with some great songs:
Bastille by Pompeii (or the aaaa,aaaa,aaaa song as Ned calls it)
Symphony of Destruction by Megadeth (the boy was born to this, it’s his anthem)
Wolves by Selma Gomez and Marshmello
The Chain by Fleetwood Mac
All the Small Things by Blink 182
And we had an entire evening without television!
The best thing about the whole impromptu music evening was the lack of really contemporary music, because lets face it, music today is rubbish…
At times, the legal world can seem daunting. There are many things to keep in mind, especially when the terms “settlement” and “litigation” are used. As an employee, a settlement agreement is also known as a compromise agreement. It is reached between a business and an employee. The employee agrees to settle, or resolve the issue, and the business offers payment, and on occasion, other benefits to end the dispute. As an employee who may encounter a settlement agreement at some point in your working career, here are some things you need to know about them.
A settlement agreement is not just a piece of paper; it is a legal document that is signed by both you, a representative of your place of employment, and a solicitor. If the terms that are agreed upon in the agreement are not being met by either party, the others can enforce it. Sometimes, a settlement agreement is a way for an employee and the company to part ways in a clean break. Other times, a settlement agreement is a way to negotiate differences of opinion that you may have with your employer.
Must Be Written
In this legally binding document, everything must be written down. All the details of the agreement, any clauses or references must be included in the document. If things are not included in the written document itself, it is not part of the settlement agreement. Many companies have their own, unique, templates for the settlement agreements that they have. In these cases, it is more difficult to forget to include a portion of the settlement, both for the employee and the employer.
Right to Negotiate
Settlement agreements can seem intimidating, but it is important to remember that you have the right to negotiate your settlement agreement. Often, negotiating virtually can be very helpful, allowing you to spell out what you need, but there are also specialists trained to help you. Settlement agreement solicitors can help you identify the things that you want to negotiate your settlement agreement, and then assist you in working toward those goals. Some organisations require their employees to seek counsel from a solicitor when a settlement agreement is being drafted.
A settlement agreement and any negotiations that occur are confidential. You cannot discuss the situation with anyone other than your legal counsel and your employer. Additionally, neither of you can use the same information in the event of an Employment Tribunal. If the agreement is signed, and ‘without prejudice’ is marked, the information cannot be used again. This protects you because your employer cannot use this event against you in the future, and it protects them for the same reason. Typically, there is a clause in the settlement agreement that lays out the terms of the confidentiality arrangement.
Settlement Agreements can be used for a variety of instances, whether payroll, holiday, or termination. In each case, it is important to remember that you, as the employee, have rights and are not under any obligations to sign it. You have the right to examine it, to negotiate, and to call a solicitor to get their opinion.
We went to the Royal Opera House to see some ballet at the weekend and I thought I’d share my top tips in case you want to seem some exciting ballet yourself as part of a programme of self improvement and culture. We love culture in our house, we’ve dragged the kids round more museums, galleries and theatres than you could shake a stick at in a no doubt stylised ritualistic fashion, and they’re even beginning to enjoy it now.
So without further ado, these are my top tips for attending the ballet with your children. Or without them, it’s entirely up to you. It’s cheaper if you leave them with their grandparents. Should that be a tip? Who knows…
If you have vertigo, don’t book the upper slips. They might be (relatively) cheap but if you have to spend two hours feeling the clarion call of the void pulling you towards a long drop to oblivion, it’s probably not worth it.
Take the time to find out how the ballet you’re attending is pronounced. For example Giselle isn’t pronounced like chisel and you’ll get some funny looks if you repeatedly get it wrong in front of people who aren’t in the cheap seats.
Take some time before you go to read up on the story. Ballet is at best interpretive dance and at worst just people prancing around on a set. What they dance doesn’t give much away of what is actually happening and I’ve yet to decode what a chap jumping up with his arms by his side, scissoring his legs frenetically actually means in the context of story/emotion or anything else.
Ensure you find out where all the toilets are and make sure any accompanying children have been toileted three or four times before the ballet starts. The seats are quite closely packed and the amount of tutting that will ensue if you have to get up during part of the performance is astonishing but rest assured, if you do have to go out, you won’t miss anything critical to your understanding of the story; it’ll just be some prancing about and funny jumping, which whilst nice isn’t critical to your enjoyment as the whole thing is made up of prancing about and funny jumping.
The ladies doing ballet get to do all the cool stuff and the men look a bit daft. All the chaps get to do is the aforementioned jumpy thing (like a posher form of Riverdance), some long strides and a few lifts. The ladies get to do all the spinning around, graceful jumping and stand with their leading foot at a funny angle.
The ballet we saw was around 100 minutes (with an interval in the middle), followed by about 2 hours of applause and bowing, presumably on a pre-agreed rota to give the performers a chance for a cup of tea or a wee, which meant that the troupe had about 45 seconds before they had to do the performance all over again for the next bunch of punters. Try to moderate your applause or your hands will sting and you’ll swear all you can hear is clapping for the rest of the day.
We had a lovely time, even if Ned, 6, asked in a loud whisper at one point when were they going to start talking because he couldn’t work out what was happening. There is also a nice sandwich shop round the corner that’s good for lunch.
Do you want to buy the perfect gift for a food lover? You might be wondering about the perfect item for their kitchen, and whether there’s any equipment that they’re missing. If so, you don’t need to look any further. Simply read on to find the six perfect items for a passionate foodie.
A Non-Stick Bakeware Set
Food enthusiasts will feel right at home inside their kitchen, as you can guarantee they’ll spend most of their time thinking up and creating delicious dishes. One item that will never disappoint is a non-stick bakeware set, which is ideal for cooking and baking delicious dishes and treats. It’s an essential set they’ll always turn to in the kitchen.
An Ice Cream Maker
Add a little fun and flavour into a foodie’s kitchen by treating them to a reliable ice-cream maker by VonShef, which will allow your loved one to experiment with different ingredients in the kitchen. Never again will they need to turn to branded ice cream, sorbet or frozen yoghurt, as they’ll love to create and taste delicious homemade flavours. Also, as they will have complete control of the ingredients they add into their ice cream, they can enjoy healthier alternatives to supermarket-bought treats.
Cast Iron Dutch Oven
A cast iron Dutch oven is a versatile item of cookware that can be used in the oven or on the stove. It’s also a pretty dish that can be served straight from the oven and onto the table. What’s more, its heavy construction means it’s harder to burn a dish, which is a food lover’s worst nightmare. Whether they want to cook, braise, bake or fry, you can guarantee this useful item will never let them down.
Most people never choose to buy a carafe themselves, but it is one item a loved one will be most grateful to receive. It can beautifully present various drinks, such as water, orange juice, and cocktails – and it can even be a stunning focal point on a shelf, which will prove to guests they have a passion for both food and drink.
The most passionate cooks will fall head over heels in love with a mandoline slicer (like this one from VonShef), which will improve the preparation process and the artistic presentation of their dishes. It’s also ideal for cooks who lack professional knife skills but still care about a meal’s aesthetics. Not only can a mandoline make straight slices, but many can also create waffle or wavy slices or julienne cuts. What’s more, it will feature a food holder for safety during use. It’s certainly one item they’ll pick up when cooking a feast in their kitchen.
A Steak Knife Set
Most foodies have an appreciation for a perfectly cooked steak – and the right utensils to cut and eat it properly. Therefore, investing in the perfect steak knife could be enough to satisfy their food cravings. A luxury item such as a steak knife will make eating such a culinary delight far easier and more satisfying.
Given how often we have to do a weekly food shop, and the frequency we prepare meals for ourselves, you’d think we’d all know which ingredients should and shouldn’t be stored in the fridge. But, there are actually a handful of foods that many of us are routinely storing incorrectly. So, if you want to be doubly sure that you’re storing food correctly, here are five you may not have realised should be kept in the fridge…
Pure maple syrup
If you’ve bought yourself some high quality pure maple syrup (the kinds that doesn’t contain preservatives and chemicals), you’ll need to store it in the fridge once it’s open. At room temperature, the lack of preservatives can cause it the syrup to spoil… a devastating occurrence if you’ve rustled up a stack of pancakes on a Sunday morning! So if you know it’s going to take you a little while to get through your maple syrup, pop it in the fridge.
Soy sauce won’t do you any harm if you’ve opened it and returned it straight back to the cupboard, and that’s due to the fact it contains such high levels of sodium. But, there’s a good chance it will lose its freshness if you don’t refrigerate it, which will eventually change its flavour too. So, if you think it will take you longer than a month or two to finish off a bottle, put it in the fridge as soon as it’s opened.
Lemons, limes and oranges can be kept in the fridge if you want to preserve their shelf-life a little longer. But if you’re going to do this, consider investing in a fridge that has a fruit & veg drawer that separates into two. A single fruit and vegetable drawer can result in your ingredients contaminating one another, causing both to spoil much quicker than they otherwise would in their own compartments. Retailers such as Fisher & Paykel sell fridges with separate drawers – and it’s especially worth investing in one if you’re a keen cook or someone who’s passionate about good quality food.
You probably already know not to store avocados in the fridge, especially if you’ve bought the ‘ripen at home’ ones. But, you should be refrigerating them once they’ve ripened to the level that you think is tastiest. Moving them into the fridge will halt the ripening process, and the same is true for bananas too. Just note that refrigerating bananas will turn their skins brown.
If you live alone, you probably won’t consume an entire pack of butter quickly enough before bacteria has started to grow. So, don’t leave your butter on the worktop – particularly if your kitchen is lovely and warm. Instead, take out a small quantity from the pack at a time, keeping it in a butter dish with a well-fitting lid. Leave the remainder of the pack in the fridge and take out a little more as and when you need it.
Have you been storing any of these foods incorrectly? And is there anything in particular that you think should be kept out of the fridge, rather than inside it?
Up until now I don’t doubt that the Xbox ecosystem has been much better than Sony’s Playstation set up when it comes to parental controls for kids using their own profiles. This is however about to change quite dramatically, you can read the full details of this change and all the others, in the following PS blog:
Play Time Management
We’re introducing Play Time Management, which will allow family managers (and adult family members who are set as guardians) to manage PS4 playtime for child family members on family on PSN. Managing Playtime is easy; go to Settings > Family Management on your PS4, or log into your PlayStation account on your web browser from your PC or smartphone, to check and manage your child’s playtime each day. If needed, the family manager/guardians can apply playtime restrictions to make sure that the child is only playing for a set amount of time or within set playable hours. Notifications on PS4 will be sent to the child during gameplay so that he or she knows when they should save and quit. The family managers/guardians also have the option to add extra game time via their smartphone or PC. In addition, the family manager/guardians can choose whether or not to automatically log the child out of their PS4 once their playtime is over.
This is big news for parents, and finally lets us exercise the sort of control over access without it coming down to a fight every single time.
Heck, my most sure fire way of ensuring my eldest gets ready for bed usually involves me messaging him on the PS4 via the Playstation app on my phone, so the addition of another weapon to my arsenal that he can’t actually completely ignore is only a good thing.
The PS4 already has some good age related restrictions but being able to set time limits per day is a real killer function, even though I can see it leading to some tears and arguments. It’s a heck of a lot better than stealing the controllers and hiding them somewhere (and forgetting where you put them)!
MS already have a family timer on the Xbox One, so now I just have to decide the split between the two for the kids…
Whether it’s Christmas Day spent putting triple As into toys that will only be used over the Christmas period, my smartphone battery anxiety as I head out for the evening with only 35% charge left, I’m increasingly becoming a slave to batteries. Even my watch needs charging every couple of days for goodness sake.
I’m spending a couple of hours out this morning, going straight from extra maths for the boy to guitar for Fifi. I had my laptop with me, left on to charge overnight, so I could catch up on some email, do some admin and done writing. Except that the wall switch wasn’t turned on so I was faced with 3% battery and a morning off sitting around twiddling on my phone. It’s not the end of the world but it’s a waste of a couple of hours where I can guarantee that I can’t feel guilty about what I should be doing and won’t be interrupted by kids.
Battery technology hasn’t improved inline with other technology. This has led to a lot of technology starting to stagnant in terms of actual processing power as they focus on keeping the power level constant while improving the battery life. I’m a heavy tech user and on a “bad” day I’ll need to charge my phone mid afternoon, despite every mainstream review saying that they get a day easily out of it. The obsession with thin hasn’t helped this; add three or four mm to the thickness of my phone, it’ll make it easier to hold and give me better battery life.
I’ve written this on my smartphone and the one thing it’s taught me is how badly I’ve ruined the predictive text with lazy thumb movement.
I was invited to take part in Scottish Friendly’s Payday Mayday challenge this January. Scottish Friendly is a British financial services group. Their mantra is to make investments more accessible to everyone.
January is a bit of a nightmare month generally, as most of us get paid just before Christmas, spend a good chunk of our salaries on Christmas (and the sales!), before having to survive January on a meagre pittance. It’s small wonder that apparently 44% of of people make a New Year’s resolution to spend less then.
We were challenged with reducing our discretionary spending by 25% (that’s after the mortgage, which is our biggest outgoing and not something we can change as it’s about as cheap as we can go, and other fixed costs!) and although that’s something that sounds daunting, we were up for the challenge.
There’s a bit in Terry Pratchett’s Mort where the titular character has to clean out the stables (it’s a parody of one of the 12 Labours of Hercules, but you probably guessed that), and Mort uses a tried and tested system to break down the task into smaller bits:
“After a while he got into the rhythm of it, and started playing the privet little quantity-surveying game that everyone plays in these circumstances. Let’s see, he thought, I’ve done nearly a quarter, lets call it a third, so when I’ve done that corner by the hay rack it’ll be more than half, call it five-eights, which means three more wheelbarrow loads …. It doesn’t prove anything very much except that the awesome splendour of the universe is much easier to deal with if you think of it as a series of small chunks.”
Rather than baulking at the fact we’ve got to economise by hundreds of pounds, we decided to look at lots of little ways to save a few pounds here and there. So without further ado, here are my top tricks and tips for saving and cutting out that unnecessary spending.
Firstly we took the time to install the Hertfordshire County Library app on our iPads and tablets. Most counties do something like this as part of the library service but they don’t advertise it very well. As you can see the choice of magazines you can borrow is staggering, and given that magazines can cost £5.99 and more each, this has probably saved us over £30 a month on casual magazine purchases. A small step but one that takes us in the right direction.
Secondly, and one that appeals directly to my DIY ethos, we’ve made a pact to ditch all those coffee shop coffees. I got a bean grinder from my parents for Christmas (although if you want to buy one, it’s only the cost of a few Americanos). If you’re addicted to say your Starbucks, you can actually buy the beans in the supermarket (£3.55 for 200g of Starbucks house blend medium Arabica coffee). 50g of beans is enough to make a litre of coffee, so 200g should get you about 4 litres of coffee. A tall coffee is 350ml, and costs £1.95. Your £3.55 of beans can make 11 cups of “tall” coffee, against the coffee shops price of £21.45. That’s a saving of almost £18 for ever 11 coffees you make at home! If you pick up a coffee every day on the way to work, that’s going to save you about £35 a month per person, and a lot of time queuing!
Encouraged by the fact I can now sip a freshly home-brewed coffee as I walk through the sleet and snow to work, we decided to move on to the other big daily cost, lunch. Neither of us particularly ever made a packed lunch, preferring to grab a meal deal or something that tickles our fancy. That’s £3-£6 each every working day, and that soon adds up over the course of a month- £120-£240 for the pair of us. This is it chaps! The opportunity to save a huge wodge of cash!
Enter Hugh “Fearlessly Eat It All” Fearnley-Whittingstall. A quick look on the River Cottage website showed his DIY pot noodles. They looked absolutely yummy, and about as dirt cheap as you can get to make. Yes, actual Pot Noodles aren’t expensive but they’re not filling either, these DIY ones can be big enough to constitute an actual meal and leave me deciding on a sandwich for tea. Some sliced carrot, spring onions, cabbage, chilli, ginger and (obviously) noodles are we were good to go. The cost was minimal, especially once we’d twigged stopping off at the market on the way home.
That’s three changes we made and we’re already over £300 a month up (and at best £350), without having to ruin the kids (or our) quality of life either!
The biggy that I wasn’t sure I was ready to make though was losing my gym membership. It’s increasingly difficult to go enough to get value for money as the kids have so many clubs and activities they go to. Even though it was our local authority gym and I get a discount through work, making it less than half the price of some of the premium gyms in the area, it was still £40 a month. I’ve made a promise to myself to do the four mile round trip to work on foot and have installed Couch 2 5K on my phone (as well as Runkeeper) and I’ve got my 9 year old daughter training me. It’s a good bit of father daughter time, even if she has to constantly stop to let me catch up!
So there you go, four changes, almost £400 a month saved. The trick will now be keeping up with it, otherwise I’ll have to cancel my sports TV package to make up the difference, and if anyone ever needed an incentive, that would be it!