Heat Stroke in Summer Can Be a Killer, but What Is It and How Can We Avoid It?

With the summer temperatures in the northern hemisphere topping the 100°F (38°C) mark in many countries, I thought it appropriate to reissue my blog on heat stroke, first published on Baby Knows Best in July 2019.

This post was sparked by an article about a single mother in Canada whose 3-year-old child suffered heat stroke and died while sleeping in her bedroom. How could this have been avoided? Read on to find out.

Poolside bar
Going on a Summer Holiday?

Often, heat stroke occurs at home, not when you’re on holiday. And it’s children, particularly babies, who are most at risk.

It is not just extreme temperatures that make this period critical but sustained high temperatures over several days. With little respite during the night, the body doesn’t get the chance to lower its temperature naturally, increasing the likelihood of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

What is heat stroke?

When the body temperature reaches 104°F (40°C) and cannot cool down, you suffer from heat exhaustion, feeling nauseous and tired. This is very dangerous as it could lead to a heat stroke.

When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 107°F (41.7°C) within 10 to 15 minutes. At this point, the body temperature control mechanism shuts down, causing major issues with the nervous system, resulting in brain damage and, ultimately, death.

But how do you see this in your child, who may be sleeping at the time? Children and babies cannot regulate their temperature naturally, so they are most at risk during extended periods of high temperature.

Protecting a car from the sun
Keep your car cool


It is vitally important that you spot the symptoms and act quickly, as heat stroke can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs and can even result in death if not treated immediately. Here are some things to look for:

  • Redness in the skin
  • Heavy sweating
  • Irregular or heavy breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Goosebumps


If you suspect your baby is suffering from heat stroke, you should:

  • If your baby is unresponsive, call an ambulance or get your baby to a hospital straight away
  • Remove any outer clothing and bed linen
  • Turn on a fan or air-con unit (should have been on in the first place if you have one!)
  • Immerse your baby in a cold-water bath
  • Use a wet towel to dampen the skin—pat, don’t rub
  • Concentrate on the back, neck, armpits, and groin areas—use ice packs if available
  • Check the body temperature to see if it is reducing

How to prevent heat stroke

Knowing how dangerous heat stroke is in babies and toddlers, prevention is better than any cure. Here are some tips for keeping your baby cool this summer:

  • Your baby needs plenty of fluids—water flavoured with lemon and other citrus fruits is good, but you can also give your baby watermelon, which has excellent nutritional value. Avoid icy drinks as these may cause stomach cramps.
  • Loose, lightweight clothing allows the skin to breathe, preventing overheating.
  • Playing in water is a fun way to cool down, but be sure to protect the skin from the powerful UV rays of the sun.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible
Fruit in a pacifier
A great way to give fruit to your baby

As an adult and a parent, you also need to be aware of the potential dangers of sitting out in the sun all day during long periods of sustained high temperatures. Take these extra precautions to avoid heat exhaustion:

  • Avoid alcohol during the day. This affects the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
  • Caffeine makes you lose more fluids than you take in, so don’t overdo the coffee. Surprisingly, a single espresso has, on average, half the caffeine of a cup of Nescafe,
  • Take extra precautions if you are on medication such as diuretics, sedatives, or heart and blood pressure tablets. Ask your doctor if your meds increase the risk of heat exhaustion.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise in the afternoon when the temperature is at its highest
  • Monitor the Relative Humidity (RH) as well as temperature. Your body sweats to cool down, but when RH reaches 60% or more, you sweat less, which causes your body to overheat.
  • Remember, when you sweat, you lose salt, so you will need to replenish your salt levels as well. Sports drinks containing electrolytes are good for this.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen! Use an SPF of 30 or more and apply regularly. If your skin burns, your body cannot cool down as fast.
Water melon cutter
Watermelon is great for getting nutritious fluids into your body

I hope you found this helpful and we at Baby Knows Best would like to wish you all a happy and safe summer.

Mike O’Toole, July 2019

Halloween – Where Did It All Begin

Halloween is a great time for kids to dress up and go Trick-or-Treating, but what is it all about? Well, Halloween is a shortened version of All Hallows Eve, which means the evening before All Hallows (or Saints) Day in the Christian calendar. However, the origins of Halloween as a night of celebration date back to medieval times with the Festival of Samhain, an ancient Celtic tradition when people would dress up to ward off evil spirits.

light landscape sky sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Halloween was introduced to America by Scottish immigrants in the early 1900s, and thus began the commercialization of the occasion. It died off somewhat in Britain and Europe, just as the celebration of All Saints Day on the 1st November became just another date on the calendar.

However, as with many things and mainly thanks to Hollywood, what happens in the States one year will happen in the UK the next (or in this case half a century later) and Europe inevitably follows.

Trick-or-Treating also has its origins in Medieval Britain, when the poor would beg for food and in return, they would pray for the dead on All Souls Day, which is the 2nd November. Again, this all but died off until it appeared in America in the 1920s when the Scottish tradition of “guising” was introduced. This was when children disguised themselves as something frightening (to reinforce the “Trick” or threat) and went from house to house demanding “Treats”, usually sweets or candy.

The decorating and placing of pumpkins outside the home may seem a very American thing to do, but again, this was brought over by Irish immigrants in the late 19th century.

Halloween turnip

Back in Ireland, they wouldn’t have used pumpkins though. It would most likely be a turnip or a potato, hollowed out and carved into a face.

A candle was placed inside to provide the light and they called it Jack O’Lantern (as in Jack-of-the-Lantern).

Halloween pumpkin

Nowadays, people are quite creative in their carving, turning it into quite an art form.

So, contrary to what many people think, Halloween, trick-or-treating, pumpkins and dressing up is very much a British and Irish tradition that was introduced to America by Scottish immigrants, and then taken on board again by the Brits in the late 80s. early 90s.

6 Most Essential Power Tools for Use Around the Home

Although most jobs can be undertaken using hand-tools, there is no doubt that a bit of power makes a job quicker and easier. So, which power tools should you go for?  

If you have a workshop, the possibilities are endless, however, if you only have a small part of a cupboard under the stairs to store your tools, you have to be a bit more selective in your choice. Here are our top 6 essential power tools for your DIY projects.

1. A Cordless Drill

This was included in the last blog post on essential tools, and I make no apologies for including it here once again. Whether you are putting up shelving or building a backyard shed, the job will seem so much easier with a cordless electric drill.

There are lots on the market so chose wisely. These are the key elements to look for.

  • Power. If you are drilling into concrete or brick, some drills will “die” on you part way through your first hole. You will need a drill with around 50Nm of torque and one with a spare battery so you always have one on charge.
  • Versatility. A drill with multiple settings, such as hammer, drill and screw, will give you just about everything you will need. A hammer setting to drill into concrete, a drill setting for wood, and a screw setting for, well, screws, obviously.
  • Variable speed. If your are going to be using the drill for different purposes, it is important that you can vary the speed to suit.
  • Cordless or plug-in? Most professionals these days go for cordless to avoid trailing leads everywhere. They are much safer on site, especially outdoors where you also have the weather to contend with.
Cordless electric drill
Cordless electric drill

2. Electric Saw

These can be grouped into two types—hand-held or bench-mounted. Bench-mounted tools tend to be best suited for those with a workshop of some kind, although some benches can be folded for easy storage. You can find a good range of these and other electric saws on the SawingProws website.

Of the hand-held variety there are four types you might want to consider:

Reciprocating saw cutting through dry-wall

The reciprocating saw. This saw uses a push-pull action to cut through anything from wood to metal. They are heavy and you need two hands to operate it—more suited to demolition and cutting through dry-wall.

The jig-saw, for a fine cut and circular work. Ideal for cabinetry and for cutting out shapes.

The circular saw. This is a versatile woodcutter, good for cross cuts and rip cuts and it will also cut through plywood. The bench-mounted version is known as a miter saw which cuts in a downward motion making it more accurate but far less versatile.

The chain saw. This is a beast and is usually associated with cutting down trees and lopping off thick branches. However, with proper training and the right PPE, it can be a useful tool to have around.

You won’t need all of these, to begin with, but your choice will be governed by the types of project you may be undertaking.

3. Electric Screwdriver

Even though you may have a screwdriver setting on your power drill, it is always useful to have a dedicated electric screwdriver to hand. These are much smaller and easier to use than the drill but obviously, not as powerful. You can quickly change the heads as most simply push in and pull out.

Buy one with a short magnetic extension piece—this will hold the screw while you offer it up to the hole, enabling you to do some small jobs with one hand. Always use the correct bit for the screw, otherwise, you will strip the screw head, and gently squeeze the trigger to control the speed.

4. Planer

A planer is used to take off a skin of timber, the thickness depending on the setting, to reduce the size. It is usually applied to an edge rather than the flat surface, for example, to ease a door that won’t close properly.

Make sure you apply even pressure with each pass, otherwise you will take more off on one side than the other.

Warning: these things are extremely noisy so you may want to consider wearing ear protection. Also, think about others who might be in the vicinity.

5. Sander

A sander can be used to reduce the size of timber by small increments to ease a door for example, but the main use is to smooth down a surface. As such, they can be used over large areas such as a table-top or a door.

Mostly the choice is between an orbital sander or a palm sander. Orbital sanders, as the name suggests, are circular in shape and the sanding heads move in a circular motion. They are more aggressive in the way they sand down a surface than the palm sander, which is better for a fine finish.

Although these come with a bag to collect sawdust, a lot still gets into the air so you should wear a mask and goggles while working.

The other type you might come across is the belt sander, which uses a continuous strip of sandpaper to work the surface of any piece of wood. They are a heavy-duty option for sanding and leveling surfaces such as floorboards. Not something for the average DIY enthusiast, but ideal for a renovation project.

6. Rotary Multi-Tool Kit

I just thought I would throw this one in as a wildcard. Often referred to as a ‘Dremel’ – which is just the trade name of a popular make – this tool comes with many accessories including a flexible attachment that allows you to get into awkward spaces.

Some might regard this as one for specialist craftwork, but these kits work in all kinds of ways, like cutting through pipework in awkward areas, smoothing off rough edges on metalwork and removing paint splashes.

Safety First

Whenever you are planning a project, always remember the rules on Personal Protective Equipment. See my post on Essential Hand Tools for more.


Thanksgiving Day is a day for people in the US to give thanks for what they have and it takes place on the 4th Thursday in November. The celebration dates back to the mid 18th century, although the first Thanksgiving is said to have taken place in October 1621, when the Pilgrims played host to around 90 Native Americans.

It is a time when families and friends get together for a meal, traditionally comprising a roast turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Well, you have to get rid of that pumpkin somehow after Halloween!

This year will be different to previous years because we have… COVID-19! Yes, there will be rules governing how many can attend, what you must and mustn’t do, and where the party should be held.

Each state will have different rules but in California:

  • Gatherings can not have people from over three households. This includes anyone present at the gatherings.
  • Keep the households you spend time with stable. Don’t mix into multiple gatherings.
  • The host should collect names and contact information of attendees for contact tracing.
  • We must hold all gatherings outside. People can go inside to use the bathroom.
  • Gatherings “may occur in outdoor spaces that are covered by umbrellas, canopies, awnings, roofs, and other shade structures provided that at least three sides of the space (or 75%) are open to the outdoors.”
  • Gatherings of over three households can happen at a park or outdoor space.
  • Don’t attend a gathering if you feel sick.
  • Keep physical distance from others and practice hand hygiene.
  • Wear a face mask when you can.
  • Gatherings should only be two hours or less.
  • “Singing, chanting, and shouting are strongly discouraged.” Those who take part in those activities should wear masks.

If after all this you still feel like celebrating this wonderful tradition, here are a few tips and ideas.

What to take as a gift

Thanksgiving is not traditionally a gift-bearing occasion, but if you are invited to a friend’s house you shouldn’t go empty handed. Here are some ideas for things to take along.

  • An appetizer, side dish, or dessert. If you were invited to a potluck*, you’ll probably be bringing one of these things anyway
  • Wine, whiskey, champagne, cider, or your home made punch
  • A flowering plant or table centerpiece (Not flowers, see below)
  • An edible treat for the next morning
  • A small gift for the avid cook.

Things to do – or not.

  1. Don’t show up early. The hosts will have timed everything and you will have been told when to arrive. Getting there early means they have to break off to entertain you.
  2. Bring utensils. If you’ve made a dish that needs special utensils to serve up, bring ‘em along.
  3. Don’t hang around in the kitchen. This is a very stressful time for the host, with lots to do. Having you there telling them what an awful journey you had will not help. Save that for the small talk later.
  4. Eat a snack beforehand. You may have to wait a while for everyone else to arrive and for all the formalities to settle down.
  5. Most people like wine and everybody likes flowers. But here’s the thing about flowers. They have to be put into a vase and possibly trimmed first. Imagine turning up with a fine bouquet and the hostess is up to her elbows in flour or turkey baste and now she has to clean up, go find a vase and arrange it all into a nice display. If alcohol is off the menu then take a flowering plant. It’s already set in its own pot and nicely wrapped this would make a great gift. A poinsettia works well this time of year and will flower right through to Christmas and beyond.

Why not go for Potluck?

These days a lot of people like to share the cooking, and it can be more fun with a great variety of dishes.  This takes a lot of the strain of cooking off the host, but it still needs to be organised.

Here are just a few tips on what you need to do.

1. Create a sign-up sheet

You can set up a spreadsheet and share it on Dropbox or Google, or just email it. Ask everybody to grab something from one from these categories:

2. Develop a menu that is fun for everyone.

Include traditional dishes from other cultures.

Remember to check if anyone has any allergies or other specific dietary needs. Maybe they can provide food that suits them or other dishes tailored to make them more inclusive (like using gluten free products or avoiding nuts).

Don’t forget the kids!

3. Figure out how much food you need

This is perhaps the most challenging aspect. You can cope with too much, but too little? Well, Subway should be open if nowhere else is.

Here is a useful guide stolen from dish.allrecipes.com

  • Appetizers or snacks should consist of two to three bites per person
  • 3 ounces of dip (about 1/3 cup) per person
  • 1 cup of soup per person (less if it’s a thick soup, like chowder)
  • 3 ounces of salad (about 1 cup) per person
  • 6 ounces of meat or main entrée per person
  • 5 ounces of starch (potato, pasta, or rice) per person
  • One and a half pieces of dessert per person

4. Send gentle reminders

Include in the reminder

  • Plan how to transport hot dishes. You can find padded casserole carriers in houseware stores or online. A cooler works well for keeping dishes warm, too. Wrap the dish so it is solidly set into the container. Use plastic wrap and aluminum foil generously to ensure the dish is airtight.
  • Check with your guests to see if they’ll need oven room for reheating dishes.
  • Provide cards so guests can label their dishes, especially if there are dietary concerns in your group.
  • Provide serving utensils, or ask guests to bring them.

5. Create a holiday vibe

Light some candles, set the table, create a playlist.

6. Set a time for dinner to be served

Arrival time and sit down to eat time

7. Ask for cleanup help

That group activity after dinner helps battle that post-turkey tendency to crash on the couch and slip into a food coma. It’s also a great way to make room for dessert. Remind everybody to grab the dishes and utensils they’ve brought to the party. Portion out the leftovers into disposable containers so you can share the bounty.

8. Go for a sweet finish

Why not finish by setting up a sweets table?

Assign one of those non-cookers to be in charge of coffee and tea or after-dinner drinks.

Ideas to keep the kids amused

The way we see it, these Thanksgiving activities for kids aren’t just for, well, kids. They’re also an easy, stress-free way to give your grown-up guests some space and time to enjoy themselves during your delicious Thanksgiving feast. And if you happen to be hosting this year, you’ll be glad to know that our ideas will give you the freedom to check on your famous pie recipe.

Of course, if you’re looking for an excuse to spend time with, and not away from, your kiddos, we’ve got you covered there too: From simple, no-mess crafts to low-key (read: quiet!) games, nearly everything on our list can prove fun for kids and grown-ups alike, should you choose to take a trip to the kids’ table. After all, we know from personal experience that Thanksgiving activities for families to do together are in high demand too.

Last but not least, we’ve also made sure not to forget the littlest ones! Our list includes a ton of cute Thanksgiving activities for preschoolers, too, so that you can keep your toddlers occupied until the turkey is carved and ready to eat. There’s only one thing left to worry about: Other guests might start requesting seats at the kids’ table. You’ve been warned!

Thanksgiving Coloring Placemats

Encourage your kids to share their gratitude and express their creativity with these cute placemats

Gratitude Jar

Have little ones—or everyone!—share what they’re thankful for by placing this jar, strips of paper, and a few pens at the table. After dinner, wrap up your feast on a sweet note by having kiddos read the slips aloud while dessert is served.

Thanksgiving Coloring Pages

These Thanksgiving-themed coloring pages cost next to nothing to prepare thanks to this blogger’s free set of printables. Set them out with crayons and consider your prep work done.

Colorful Pumpkin Seeds

Every kid at the table will love this creative Thanksgiving project. Plus, it’s the perfect way to use your leftover pumpkin seeds!

Each pumpkin has around 500 seeds, so when you’ve toasted some, planted others, why not use what’s left to create artwork?

Whatever Thanksgiving you go for, don’t forget what it is all about. Giving thanks.

And on that topic, I’d like to give thanks to Rebekah Lowin and Jill Gleeson for their contribution on Country Living.

Bonfire Night – What Is It All About


Tonight, all over England (and perhaps other parts of the UK), people will be lighting fires and setting off fireworks in celebration of . . . What?  Well, we know that on this day, the 5th November, many, many years ago, a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament was thwarted, and the perpetrator, a certain Mr. Guy Fawkes, was arrested and sentenced to death. A rather macabre thing to celebrate, but we’ve been doing it for so many years now, the actual meaning of Bonfire Night is somewhat lost. Read on to learn more.

Who was Guy Fawkes?

Guy Fawkes was born on or around the 13th April 1570 in York, England, into a well-to-do family of Protestants, although his mother came from a staunch Catholic family. This may be what drew him to Catholicism after his father died when he was 8 years old when his maternal grandparents took more control over his education.

He fought in the 80 Years War for Catholic Spain against the Protestant Dutch and in 1603 he returned to Spain to seek support for a rebellion against King James I. However, the King of Spain was reluctant to enter into further conflict with England and refused to help him.

So, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

The Gunpowder Plot

Having joined a group of English Catholics who were plotting to murder the King and replace him with Princess Elizabeth, Guy agreed to take 12 of the group down to London, where they would hatch a plot to blow up the House of Lords. They met in a pub known as the Duck and Drake, sadly no longer standing, and discussed how they would go about it.

Guy had taken on the name of John Johnson at this time, and he managed to get a job as a caretaker to the house of the keeper of the King’s wardrobe. This gave him insight into the comings and goings of Parliament, and he discovered that there was a room that had a cellar that stretched right under the House of Lords. Contrary to popular belief that a tunnel was used to gain access (although this may have been part of the original plan), they bought the lease to the room and used the cellar to store 36 barrels of gunpowder.

Something else not many people know is that all this took place in the summertime, as Parliament was scheduled to open in July. However, due to the threat of The Plague, the opening was put back until November. If not for that we would be setting off fireworks in mid-summer!

Guy Fawkes’ Arrest and Interrogation

The plot began to fall apart when one of the conspirators wrote to a Catholic Lord warning him to stay away from the opening of Parliament as it would “receive a terrible blow” that day. Lord Monteagle thought that it might be a hoax but decided to show it to the King, who immediately ordered a search of the undercroft to the House.

Poor old Guy was caught red-handed, literally as he had a slow-burning match in his hand ready to light the fuse at the allotted time. He was arrested and taken to the Tower of London for “questioning”.

At first, he refused to give his real name, providing instead his assumed name of John Johnson, but after torturous interrogation, he signed his confession as Guido Fawkes, Guido being his Italian nickname given to him by his comrades in the Spanish war. He was subsequently sentenced to death along with the co-conspirators.

His death is often misquoted. He did not burn at the stake, and, unlike his co-conspirators, he was not hung drawn and quartered. In fact, he took his own life by jumping from the gallows as he was being led to meet his gruesome fate, breaking his neck in the process. The date was 31st January 1606. Despite him being dead, they still cut his body up and “cast his limbs to the four corners of the Kingdom”, to warn others of the consequences of treason.

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

A year later, the Observance of the 5th November Act, 1605 was passed, designating that day as a day of Thanksgiving, and people were encouraged to light fires across the country. Fireworks became a part of the celebration in 1650 and in 1673, the first effigy was burned, although back then it was meant to represent the Pope!

Over the years, many a politician or celebrity have been portrayed as the effigy, but the use of Guy Fawkes is the most endearing. It is only in relatively recent times that Guy has been used as the focal point, maybe to make it less political following the repeal of the Act in 1859, when children were encouraged to parade around the streets shouting “penny for the Guy”


So, when you set fire that rag filled suit of old clothes, give a thought to the person who has been described as “the last man to enter the Houses of Parliament with honest intentions”.

It seems ironic that, in this day and age, Guido has greater political influence than at any time in our history, and it stretches right across the globe.

Does this mask look familiar?

Fancy Dress – Why is Dressing Up So Important in a Child’s Development

Where did it all begin?

All kids like to dress up. Many adults do too but that in part is because we never lose that sense of fun in being a different character for the night. Playing out a role, rather like the Masquerade balls of the 15th Century, is something of a tradition in most countries across the world, even in remote parts of Africa where tribesmen dress up as animals or mythical creatures as part of a ceremony.

The painting on the left depicts a fancy dress charity ball, which was held at the Theatre Royal in Manchester in 1828. Painted by Arthur Perigal, it now hangs in the Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

Costume parties in America really took off in the late 19th Century amongst the elite, where no expense was spared in the elaborate costumes, which were mainly based on European Royalty (having no real history of their own to relate to at that time and a lot being of European descent).

This developed further in the 1940s with the advent of fan conventions, where ordinary people would dress up as their comic book heroes. Halloween became another good time for grown-ups to don costumes based on horror fiction, being too old for Trick-or-Treating.

In the UK, we prefer the term Fancy Dress parties. These became popular in the last quarter of the 20th Century, as many Britons saw what was happening in the States and wanted to replicate it. Halloween was never seen as a party event until the 1990’s and only in recent years has the rest of Europe and Australia taken it on board.

Early role play in children

It is not entirely clear when children started to wear fancy dress costumes, but imaginative (or pretend) play has always been a part of a child’s development. From 18 to 24 months, toddlers start to notice what you do and will mimic your actions, like talking on an imaginary telephone. They are pretending to be you!

Very soon, your child will take on more complex roles. These will be people they have seen, probably on the television, but sometimes in real life, like when they go to the doctor’s surgery.

At first, they may be generic roles, like a fireman or a nurse (not always gender-specific, though) and then they may become a particular character, like Bob the Builder or Anna from Frozen. Here (right), Jack is dressed as a pirate but he’s watching Pirates of the Caribbean, so in his mind he is probably Jack Sparrow.

These days, there are lots of fancy dress ideas for kids. Baby Knows Best has a great range covering virtually every generic occupation for girls and boys, from a doctor to a construction worker, policewoman to a nurse. Even pirates, like Jack. Or, you can choose a character fancy dress costume like Superman or Wonder Woman.

So why is Cosplay important?

Dressing up in order to act out roles helps develop lots of skills. First, in taking on that role, your child is thinking how that character would act and speak. If it is a film character, they will be remembering lines from the film. Musicals are great for this, as they will know the words to the songs even if they don’t fully understand the meaning.

When children play together, they have to decide who will play who. Who will be the goody and who will be the baddy? What will the rules of engagement be? With a boy and a girl, it isn’t really important who plays the doctor and who plays the nurse, but you must let them decide. It is their pretend world, not yours and gender is not an issue at this age (see my blog on raising kids in 2020).

Children often pick heroes as their role models, not necessarily superheroes like Spider-man or Wonder-woman, but those everyday heroes who put out fires, make sick people better. They may tell you that’s what they want to be when they grow up. Already they are thinking about what that job entails and it is sparking their imagination further.
So encouraging your child to dress up and play at being their favourite character will help their cognitive skills, vocabulary, creativity, as well as keeping them active.

A little more about Halloween

Halloween is a great time for kids to dress up and go Trick-or-Treating, but what is it all about? Well, Halloween is a shortened version of All Hallows Eve, which means the evening before All Hallows (or Saints) Day in the Christian calendar. However, the origins of Halloween as a night of celebration date back to medieval times with the Festival of Samhain, an ancient Celtic tradition when people would dress up to ward off evil spirits.

Halloween was introduced to America by Scottish immigrants in the early 1900s, and thus began the commercialization of the occasion. It died off somewhat in Britain and Europe, just as the celebration of All Saints Day on the 1st November became just another date on the calendar.

However, as with many things and mainly thanks to Hollywood, what happens in the States one year will happen in the UK the next (or in this case half a century later) and Europe inevitably follows.

Trick-or-Treating also has its origins in Medieval Britain, when the poor would beg for food and in return they would pray for the dead on All Souls Day, which is the 2nd November. Again, this all but died off until it appeared in America in the 1920s when the Scottish tradition of “guising” was introduced. This was when children disguised themselves as something frightening (to reinforce the “Trick” or threat) and went from house to house demanding “Treats”, usually sweets or candy.

The decorating and placing of pumpkins outside the home may seem a very American thing to do, but again, this was brought over by Irish immigrants in the late 19th Century. Back in Ireland, they wouldn’t have used pumpkins though. It would most likely be a turnip or a potato, hollowed out and carved into a face.

A candle was placed inside to provide the light and they called it Jack O’Lantern (as in Jack-of-the-Lantern).

Nowadays, people are quite creative in their carving, turning it into quite an art form.

So, contrary to what many people think, Halloween, trick-or-treating and dressing up is very much a British/Irish tradition that was introduced to America by Scottish immigrants, and then taken on board by the Brits in the late 80s. early 90s.

How to raise your kids in 2020

Top 6 Tips For Parents

Gender Identification

A number of parents have asked, “should I raise my child gender-neutral”?. In a word, no! Gender is a simple thing and parents should not try and complicate matters. Unless born with ambiguous or atypical genitalia, your baby is either a boy or a girl. At some point in the future, your child will become old enough to decide whether they are comfortable in their bodies.

The overriding fact is this: The vast majority of children grow up either male or female and remain that way for the whole of their lives. They may not like their body; some may want to be slimmer, some may want bigger boobs, most men will regret losing their hair, but on the whole, they remain the same sex as when they were born. So why is it now a big deal?
Why are some parents raising their child as “gender-neutral” or even worse, “gender-fluid”?

One answer to this is because of the desire in certain people not to cause offense and not to pre-judge a person based on sex, religion or color. This is all well and good, but as a parent, you have one duty in life, and that is the well-being of your child.

Pink for Girls, Blue for Boys?

Of course, this does not mean you have to follow gender stereotypes. If you want to paint your little girl’s room gray and dress her in blue, that’s fine. If you want her to play with building blocks rather than dolls, that’s ok too, but if she sees her friends playing with Barbie and she wants to do the same, let her. Don’t force your political agenda on a child barely able to speak let alone express a view.

However, there are boundaries that should not be crossed, and that is in clothing. Once they reach the toddler stage, when they become more aware of themselves and their surroundings, it is not a good idea to put your little boy in a dress. This only serves to confuse him and others as they become more inquisitive.

So what is important?

A report published in 2016 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), states, “Having a safe and loving home and spending time with family―playing, singing, reading, and talking―are very important. Proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep also can make a big difference.”

Another report published in Leisure Sciences states “Consistent and continued involvement in family leisure remains important to family cohesion, adaptability, functioning, and satisfaction with family life; however, more emphasis should be placed on creating satisfying family leisure experiences rather than simply high levels of family leisure involvement.”

These are the top six opportunities to share as a family.

  1. Meal time.

This is an opportunity to discuss the day’s events and talk about plans for the coming days ahead. Ban mobile phones and other forms of communication from the table. This is a time for the family to share between themselves, not with others. As soon as your baby is old enough, bring him to the table to eat with you

  • Reading.

Read to your child when they are young and introduce them to suitable authors as they get older. Books are better than electronic devices as they are more tactile.

  • Get involved in community events together.

This gives your child a feeling of belonging to something bigger than the family unit. Why not get sponsored at the same time and raise money for a local charity?

  • Share musical interests.

You might not like your kid’s taste as they grow older so make the most of it when they are young. Introduce them to musical instruments at an early age and the chances are they will learn to play, even if you can’t. Sing together as well – it can be a very uplifting experience for you all, even if you are tone-deaf.

  • Participate in physical activity

You don’t need to join a gym. Go cycling or running together, or just join in with their play activities. They may seem happy playing with their Peek-a Boo teddy bear, but they will enjoy it all the more if you join in. Laughter is something that is best shared.

  • Watch films or TV together.

Young kids love bright colors so cartoons are great for keeping them quiet for half an hour, but as they get older, they will want something more challenging. Discuss the programs you watch, find out what interests them and why.

Changing Family Dynamics

As a society, we need to understand the meaning of family. The concept of mummy and daddy with 2.4 children is a thing of the past. Single parent and same sex families are now very common, as are families of mixed race. However, the same rules apply. Whether you are an extended family that comprises three or four generations or a single Mum struggling to balance a job with raising a child, if you follow those six rules you won’t go far wrong.


Parenting is progressive so there is no one single thing that helps you deal with everyday issues. You start with a baby who grows into a child and then through puberty to adulthood and what works with one phase will not work for the next. However, patience and understanding got me through a lot when my two were growing up. As a child grows they become more inquisitive and you need to take the time to understand what they want to know and then respond in a way they can comprehend.

What Hand Tools Do I Need For DIY Projects?

Nothing is more satisfying than completing a home improvement project successfully and getting that nod of approval from your partner. Whether it is putting up a shelf or fixing a leaking pipe, as a DIY enthusiast, you need to turn your hand at pretty much everything. Something you’ve never done before? Well, that’s just another challenge thrown down to you.

Originally posted on Decporama.shop, this is the ultimate guide to hand tools.

Essential tools

For every job, you need the right tools and materials. Anything that makes the job easier is a must-have, but if you’re on a limited budget or you’re just starting out, what are the best, most essential tools to have in your tool shed?

1.      Screwdriver

Perhaps the single most important tool you will own because pretty much everything has a screw or two in it. The multi-bit screwdriver is the most versatile and if the head wears—which often happens with crosshead bits—you simply throw it away and grab another one. Look for one with a chunky handle and a ratchet action—this allows you to use one hand to drive home the screw or loosen it.

2.      Claw hammer

If it’s not screwed the chances are there’ll be nails in there so a claw hammer will help you prize them out. Choose one with a one-piece head and shaft—these are the strongest. You don’t want the head flying off as you hit that nail, which can happen with the old wooden shaft type hammers. A good, cushioned handle is also desirable for both grip and comfort. A 450-gram (16-ounce) head weight will suit most jobs from knocking in panel pins to hammering home a 4-inch nail.  The length is also a factor in determining power—the longer the shaft the greater the lever-arm, so look for one around 30 to 35-centimeter (12 to 14-inch).

3.      Allen keys

You will probably end up with dozens of these as they tend to come with every flatpack that uses Allen or hexagonal head bolts and screws. They fit within the head of the bolt and because you get surface contact on six sides you can really get some pressure applied without the risk of stripping the head.

It is always good to have a set of Allen keys of varying sizes in your toolbox because there is a regular need to tighten the fixings on furniture that gets used a lot such as beds.

4.    Adjustable wrench

Spanners are used to tighten conventional nuts and bolts, but you need the precise size for the head, which means carrying a lot of metalwork around with you. An adjustable wrench is good for any size. I recommend two wrenches, one light duty, one heavy, so that you can use them together—one to hold the bolt and one to tighten the nut.

5.    Socket and ratchet set

Usually more associated with automotive maintenance, these hexagonal socket sets are useful around the home too. As with Allen keys, you can apply a lot of pressure without stripping the head, provided you use the right size. Find a set that has an attachment for a power drill—this will be useful one day.

6.    Spirit level

You are going to need a spirit level if you want to hang pictures on a wall. There is nothing worse than stepping back and looking at a cock-eyed photograph. A 60-centimeter (24-inch) level will work in most situations and will enable you to set out fixing positions accurately and to measure verticality. It is useful to have a 15-centimeter (6-inch) one as well for checking shelves. Some levels come with adjustable vials, which work at any angle, but I have never yet found a use for this. Still, it’s there if you need it.

7.    Tape measure

A must-have for every DIYer. Always remember the adage, “measure twice and cut once”. Also, “what measures a lot will measure a little”, so go for a 5-meter (15-foot) lockable metal tape that retracts on release. These just clip to your belt, so it is always at hand when you’re working.

8.    Adjustable square

This will ensure your cut is square or at 45 degrees for mitered joints. The adjustable steel rule enables you to measure accurately. Get one with a built-in spirit level—sometimes referred to as a combination square—for maximum versatility.

9.      Handsaws

You will need more than one handsaw, depending on the types of project you undertake, but if you only get one to begin with, make it a 30-centimeter (12-inch) hacksaw with plenty of replacement blades. These things cut through wood, plastic and metal and are pretty good at detailed work.

For woodwork, there are several types of specialist saws such as the tenon or back saw for making fine, accurate cuts, and the crosscut saw for quick, rough cuts, but for most carpentry work, the rip cut saw is the choice of many.

10. Utility knife

There are two types, one has a single replaceable blade and the other has a continuous blade that can be snapped off as it becomes worn. Both can be retracted for safety when not in use. Generally, the single blade type has a bigger handle, which makes it better for heavy-duty cutting. The snap-off type is better for repetitive work as there is always a sharp cutting edge available.

The Box-cutter

11. Pliers

Pliers are extremely useful in a number of ways. You can grip things with them, cut and strip wire, pull out nails—not the finger variety although that has been known—and bend metal if you need to. There are lots of varieties, some more specialized than others, but for general use, you need side cutting, or Lineman’s pliers, and long nose pliers for handling smaller objects.

It is also good to have adjustable utility pliers for gripping pipes and tubes, and end cutting pliers for nail heads and wires close to the surface.

2. The drill

Although this article is about hand tools and not power tools—that is for another time—the one tool that you will need to be powered up is the drill. Before the days of electric power tools, holes were drilled into walls using a jaw brace, which relied on brute strength and body weight to drive into the structure. These types of drills are still useful in areas where you cannot use an electric drill, and the wheel brace is very good for small carpentry work. However, for speed and ease of use, a good power drill is an essential part of your tool kit.

There is a lot to choose from but if you want one drill to do most things go for one that has variable settings for screwing, normal drilling and hammer drilling. You will need the latter for drilling into brick or concrete. Each setting will have variable speeds—it’s important to set it at the lowest speed necessary to do the job to avoid damage to both the drill and the object you are working on.

Your next choice is cordless or plug-in. Cordless drills have the advantage of being more portable and you don’t have trailing leads across the floor. However, they are not all as powerful as you might like, and some will struggle with concrete, so make sure you go for one with a good maximum torque—around 50Nm—and two batteries so you always have one on charge.

13.  Protective clothing

Health and safety is often neglected when carrying out DIY projects, but it is essential that you understand the hazards involved when using hand tools. There are three main areas to consider:

  • Hands: chose gloves suitable for the project to avoid splinters and cuts. Also, to protect from chemicals and adhesives.
  • Eyes: Plane safety glasses or goggles should be worn when cutting.
  • Respiratory system: A simple respirator that covers the nose and mouth may suffice when cutting boards or knocking down walls to prevent particle intake, but when you’re using solvents or mixing chemicals, you should consider a full face mask that fits tightly against the skin. Always do this type of work in a well-ventilated space.

For larger projects you should also consider:

  • Ears: Power tools create a lot of noise and continued use can damage your hearing. The use of earplugs or even full earmuffs will reduce this risk considerably.
  • Head: A hard hat will protect from falling bricks and other materials.
  • Knees: If you are going to be doing a lot of kneeling down, you will need knee pads or a kneeling stool.

Always bear in mind that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be considered as the last resort. At the start of any project, large or small, assess the risk and look at alternative ways of doing things safely without the need for, or limited use of PPE.

In the next article, I will look at some of the power tools available to the DIY market.

How We Built Our Place In The Sun

Sunset in Pentati

The start of a dream

The journey to our place in the sun began in June 2016. My wife Diane and I had been thinking of moving abroad for some time. We were both unhappy in our jobs, somehow finding ourselves working in socially deprived areas full of cheap bakeries and charity shops.

Where I worked, even Poundland was considered elite. Not that there was anything wrong with those places. It just wasn’t where we’d envisaged ourselves working just a few years earlier.

In May of that year we set off for our annual holiday in Corfu. I’d been going to the same place, Stevens on the Hill, since 1999, and Diane since 2003. Sometimes we went twice a year if we didn’t have any plans to travel further afield. That year, we’d already booked a 3-week vacation in New England (a story for another time!), so when it came to leaving, we knew we wouldn’t be returning for another year.

That was always a sad time because the people there were so nice and many had become our friends. We always said on arriving at the airport at the start of our holiday, to be greeted by Costas, the same taxi driver every year, that it felt like coming home.

The pool at Stevens on the Hill, Ag. Gordios

The view as you turn the bend overlooking the resort of Agios Gordios is staggering, and we’d often stop off at “the balcony”, a layby off the road, to take a photo. The various shades of blue, the iconic Ortholithi rock jutting out of the sea, and the tiny village of Pentati nestled in the hillside to the left, all combined to make this a picture we would treasure until our return.

The view from The Balcony, overlooking Agios Gordios

This visit was different from previous holidays though. For one, it was just the two of us, no friends to distract us, and two, my job was really getting me down. I wanted to quit. So, it should come as no surprise that the principal topic of conversation was selling up and moving abroad.

Strangely enough, the destinations we talked about didn’t include Corfu. Didn’t even include Greece, although we did have friends who had made the move to Crete several years earlier. In some ways, Alan and Pauline were our inspiration. They did it and they never looked back.

No, our conversations centred around the TV program A Place In The Sun, always a favourite of ours, especially on those cold, wet winter nights. A bit of escapism, really. For some reason, the people on the show never wanted to look at the Greek Islands. It was always Spain or France, sometimes Italy or if in the States, Florida. All of those sounded great and Diane was constantly on Rightmove, looking for somewhere that might appeal to us both.

With only a couple of days to go before returning to our mundane lives in Manchester, Diane was on her phone, as usual, looking at properties. We were sat in The Black Rocks, one of our favourite beachfront bars, when Diane said “Hey, Mike, you’re not going to believe this. There’s a house for sale in Pentati! Right there, across the bay.”

I looked up. From where we were sat, you could see the village towards the top of the hillside overlooking the Ortholithi.

From The Black Rocks looking towards Pentati

Diane passed me her phone. The pictures of the house weren’t great. It looked like it needed a lot of work, but the thing that stood out above everything was the view from the bedroom balcony. It was practically the reverse view we had at the Black Rocks.  

Without hesitation, I dialed the number of the agent selling the property and tried to arrange a visit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to do this before we left for home, so we had to shelve the idea, for a few weeks anyway. This was probably not a bad thing, because it gave us time to talk about it.

View from the house in Pentati

More to follow soon

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