Category Archives: Blog posts

Budget better with apps

As we all know, budgeting is a way of planning how to spend our money. The budget lets us know whether we will still have more money to take care of things. It’s generally a good idea to plan in order to prioritise expenses and concentrate finances on the most important things to you.

Budgeting is sometimes viewed as a difficult necessity. This is where technology comes in, and boy do we need it sometimes! Recently apps have been developed and I would like to share so we can make use of them in other to help our own budgeting styles.

 

Goodbudget:
Goodbudget is based on the idea of envelopes, where you assign your monthly income to distinct categories of expenditure. This app allows access to the same account through different devices, so family members and spouses can manage a budget. Unlike other budgeting apps, Goodbudget does not have bank balances synchronized.

You attach account balances manually (which you can select from the website of your bank), and perhaps even cash and debt numbers. Once accounts and revenues are completed, you allocate money to divisions of expenditure, considered as envelopes. The free edition enables one account, two computers, and envelopes with restrictions.

YNAB:
YNAB is designed for one dedicated user; based on zero budgeting method, so users are expected to plan on every pound earned. This is a paid for app. Users can link bank accounts, set deadlines, donate to savings, and configure categories of spending. They can also access information, such as guides for app users, budgeting advice, and free workshops.

Mint:
Mint is the preferred budgeting app for some time: it monitors and classifies transactions automatically, providing an image of real-time spending. Users may add their own sections, break transactions, track bills, and set goals that will notify them when they reach their maximum threshold for spending. Credit scores and free credit score tracking are also part of the services rendered.

I hope that some of the budgeting apps mentioned help you with planning your money. Let’s make sure we can enjoy our hard earned money is not just frittered away.

Make money with cashback websites

Did you know that you can make £100s (and maybe £1,000s) a year if you make just one small change to your buying process? The only thing you need to change is to simply go through a cashback website.

How does it work?
If you’re wondering why these websites are providing cashback, this is how it works. The cashback websites receive a commission from the store when you purchase directly using their link and what they do is they give you a portion of these commission back to us, the purchaser.

Where do we sign up?
If you’ve not used cashback sites before, you need to start using cashback websites. In the UK, there are two major cashback websites: Quidco and TopCashBack.

Quidco say that they have the highest cashback guarantee, and they make sure it stays like that. Personally, I think they’re similar enough and so it may be that you go for the one that you prefer using. Both websites are straightforward and simple to use, so I would recommend that you sign up for both. If you want check the best deals, and if you sign up for both websites, you can do a comparison for the rewards as sometimes they have “daily deals” and additional promotions. One of them may list a retailer that the other one doesn’t.

Both websites are free to use, but they offer premium accounts that cost an additional fee, but they will give you more benefits and perks. Check if the premium accounts are worth it and if you would earn more even if you pay for the account.

Both Quidco and TopCashBack offer ways to trace your purchases but please be mindful that cashback is not always guaranteed, so only use these cashback sites if you were going to make the purchase anyway. And don’t let these cashback sites be an excuse to overspend too much- unless you really want to!

Stay on top of mental health during these uncertain times

The UK is officially in a recession. Who would’ve guessed back in January 2020 that we would be spending nearly 5 months in some form of lock down, resulting in a recession?

What’s a girl (or boy) to do in these unprecedented to look after our mental health? I’ve been on the cusp of losing my sanity and this pandemic and recession could well have tipped me over the edge. Thankfully I’m ok.

I wanted to put together some tips that have helped me stay on top of my mental health.

Stay connected with people
Keep in touch with family and friends via text/phone calls/video calls/emails/social media. Which ever works and whatever frequency suits you. Maintaining healthy relationships with people we trust really helps support our mental well-being.

Talk about your worries
It’s normal to be worried in the current situation but by sharing your worries with those you trust, it may lighten your load and may help the other person too.

Support others
Helping someone else can help you as well as them, so please try to be understanding of others’ concerns, worries. Perhaps think of things you can do to help those nearby. Is there a friend or family member local to you who you could help? Perhaps there local community groups you could join to support others?

Be prepared
it may help to work through any changes to government guidelines and mean for you- to help with being prepared and less concerned.

Look after you
Physical health has a huge impact on how we feel. If you are able to, perhaps find some exercise that will enrich your body and soul. I love yoga myself. Going for a 10 minute walk, run or bike ride are relatively fuss free and easy things to do.

I came across a useful post on mental health resources, and a fabulous post on how to feel better in 5 minutes.

Time with Dogs, the outdoors, gardening , and some time relaxing in front of the tv may help too!

Look after yourself, your money and your mind, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Bamboo

As bamboo is the food of choice for the beloved panda, I thought it would be appropriate to look at bamboo in a little more detail.

Bamboos are a woody perennial plant in the true grass family or poaceae. There are about 1,000 species of bamboo and they’re found in diverse climates from cold mountains to hot tropical areas.

Bamboo is technically a grass but many of the large bamboo look similar to trees and are sometimes called bamboo trees. The tropical bamboo (dendrocalamus asper) is the fastest growing planet on the planet. It can grow up to 1.2m in just 24 hours.

Interestingly the largest bamboo can reach 30 meters in height and 30 cm in diameter. The smallest ones have slight stems and are no more than 10 cm tall.

Bamboo usually grow at low elevations. Lots of species grow in mountain forests- perfect for pandas. The woody bamboo (technical name tribe bambuseae) have at least 1000 species. They make up the bulk of the bamboo group.

Bamboo has been around for a very long time. Being a primitive grass, it is thought that they have bene around for millions of years. It has been around long before humans and may well outlive us all. The bamboo can survive conditions from extreme drought to 6m of rain.

Bamboo has an important job in protecting the earth. It binds topsoil when there is instability or where land is eroding.

France has a bamboo attraction called the Bambouseraie. It is a very well run bamboo centre dedicated to the plant. The centre features a bamboo forest, a Laotian village, a dragon valley and a bonsai garden, amongst other attractions. I have visited the Bambouseraie several times and highly recommend it. It is a lovely day out for bamboo enthusiast and for families alike.

Pandas wee upside down

The giant panda is universally loved and cherished. Their iconic black and white fur-colour distinguishes them nicely from other animals. It’s difficult to deny that Pandas invoke true affection from humans everywhere in the world and in every generation.

Even their wee and poo habits are something of interest and less repellent than other animals.

Another interesting thing about pandas is that they (sometimes) do handstands when they wee. Sometimes, in order to mark their scent, the beloved panda will climb up a tree backwards. There has been remarkable footage showing wild pandas engaging in what appears to be gymnastics in order to mark their territory. They’ll climb up the tree backwards and end up in a full handstand position upside down. This allows them to leave their scent higher up.

The panda can poo up to 40 times a day. Adult panda produces more than 10kg (22lbs) of faeces a day. That’s a lot of waste produced. Pandas do eat a lot- after all. Sometimes they even poo while eating and while they sleep.

Some panda poo is being used as manure in order to grow expensive tea plants.

Another company is using panda poo to create toilet paper. Panda poo is fibre rich (due to the bamboo) and will be need to go through a 60 stage sterilisation process- which includes cleaning and steaming. Turning the waste into paper helps reduce environmental pollution too.

The company collects the droppings from basements at a panda center, which at one point had 273 pandas. The centre accounted for 60% of the world’s captive panda population.

The bamboo fibre makes the toilet roll a lightly easier process. Without the panda’s assistance, the company would have to get fresh bamboo and wait for the sugar to degrade. By using panda faeces, the animals’ digestive systems do much of the work. It takes pandas approximately 4 hours for pandas to excrete the fibre.   

Pandas and sleep

If there’s one thing that isn’t immediately apparent about pandas, is that they like to sleep. On average a panda sleeps ten hours a day. They can fall asleep on the forest floor, cozying up next to a tree or balancing on a branch. If there are few natural predators to be aware of, giant pandas are not picky when it comes to sleeping locations.

Much of their time is spent eating, so giant pandas sleep for best 2–4 hours at a time.

When pandas aren’t sleeping, they wander slowly through the wooded area, taking rests when they want to. Giant pandas do not establish domestic dens or protect territories; they’ll sleep in any whole tree or cave they find convenient.

Pandas’ favourite sleeping positions can include lying flat on their backs, lying on their sides, lying on their stomachs, stretching their paws and rolling themselves up into balls.

Like different bears, pandas spend most of the day ingesting and sleeping because bamboo is so low in nutrients, pandas eat quite a lot of it daily.

As I may have mentioned in another post, they can eat around 25 to 40 pounds of bamboo per day. If they can’t get their staple: bamboos; they prefer to consume honey, grass, flowers, vines, young corns, and rodents. Pandas can sometimes eat small birds and animals.

Unlike other species, large pandas do not spend their winters in hibernation. Pandas don’t take part in any kind of hibernation at all. Instead, they move down the mountains in search of warmer weather. They then move back to the cooler areas of the forest during the Summer. Pandas move around while never moving away from the areas where bamboo are in abundance.

Their bodies don’t like the cold. Surprisingly they actually have relatively little body fat to insulate themselves from low temperatures. They are also great tree climbers and capable swimmers.

How long have Pandas been around for?

Pandas have been around for a very long time. In fact they have been around for 2 million years. Fossils of pandas have been found in Vietnam and China on 1869.

It is thought pandas were about a meter tall (3 feet) tall or about half the size of the modern day panda. Apart from the panda’s size, its fundamental anatomy hasn’t changed very much over the years.

Russell Ciochon, a University of Iowa anthropology professor says the panda’s ancestor, Ailuropoda microta, “was very similar to the living giant panda in both the makeup of its teeth and the shape and construction of its skull,” He continued “Pandas have been ‘uniquely pandas’ for many millions of years.”

Caves in Asia were found to have teeth from Ailuropoda baconi- an extinct panda from the ice age. These teeth were found approximately 750,000 years ago. Very little is known about the Ailuropoda baconi. The Ailuropoda baconi was preceded by an even more poorly-known Ailuropoda wulingshanensis. Before the Ailuropoda wulingshanensis was a smaller species – Ailuropoda microta . Before this time is even more difficult to know.

The earliest possible member of the giant panda’s ancestry is approximately 2 million year old bear Ailurarctos.

Panda cubs start to eat bamboo when they are a year old. The average life expectancy of wild giant pandas is 15-20 years. The captive ones can live up to 30 years. The current record age for a captive panda is 38 years.

Pandas around the world

According to the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) there are 1,864 pandas alive in the wild according to a survey in 2014. In the past decade, giant panda numbers have risen by 17 percent.

21 countries have 27 Panda zoos. These areas include its homeland China, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, Scotland (UK), and United States. These countries have contracts with China to have the panda(s) for a few years. There are over 300 Pandas now in captivity which is part of the plan for maintaining the species.

China
The increase in panda numbers is a testament to the conservation work done by the Chinese government. Lots of amazing work is being carried out around the word helping giant panda conservation.

World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) say they are “pleased to witness this significant conservation achievement — the increase of both the wild giant panda population size and habitat area over last ten years,”. They continue “The survey result demonstrates the effectiveness of nature reserves in boosting wild giant panda numbers.”

Scotland
With regards to Scotland’s loan from China, they have Tian Tian and Yang Huang who are in the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. These two beautiful pandas return to China in 2021.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang have been put in enclosures designed by animal psychologists, which come complete with dens, private pools, a viewing platform and a room where the pandas will be given health check-ups.” In their Scottish habitats, the pandas have a climbing frame that allows them to see each other over the tops of their spaces. The design of the habitat is so that they resemble their natural, wild habitat. They have caves to sleep in and rocks where they can lay and partake in their favourite pastime; eating bamboo.

All the debate surrounding this endearing animal has resulted in a sudden increase in panda-styled fashion and accessories. Who can blame people for wanting cute panda merchandise? I’m a panda merchandise lover too!

Panda’s Habitat

The panda bears’ natural habitat is usually a cold, damp coniferous forest. The elevation varies from 4,000 to 11,000 ft high. They do not live in a permanent place. Instead, they locate new rock ledges and stumps where they prefer to sleep.

The large panda is quite distinct from other species of bears. They travel to low elevations away from the coldness to be warm. Once the climate turns warm, they pass to the high altitudes to stay cool.
The wild habitat includes some mountain levels on the east of the Tibetan plateau. They used to live inside the lowland grassy areas but they were cut down even though deforestation and farming which has recently been banned.

It is can regularly get misty and cool in their habitat. Often at some point of the summer, mist swirls around the conifer and through the valleys of the mountains. This with the rain and snow helps to hold the moist surroundings that is essential for bamboos to flourish.
This conjures up really lovely, beautiful imagery of pandas in serene, idyllic settings.

The panda’s habitat in the mountain may also have access to streams or lakes where they may drink after a session of consuming bamboo. The pandas will make brief dens in the bamboo forests where they may take a seat and eat bamboo for hours on end. Waterfalls and lakes are usually abundant in their habitat.

The panda’s habitat in the mountain may also have access to streams or lakes where they may drink after a session of consuming bamboo. The pandas will make brief dens in the bamboo forests where they may take a seat and eat bamboo for hours on end. Waterfalls and lakes are usually abundant in their habitat.

According to the WWF, many pandas were found in the mountainous bamboo forests near the Yangtze River in Southwest China. The area, covering thousands of miles through the China, this intricate system of rivers, lakes, wetlands and mountain forests provides a rich biodiversity and wildlife.

However, population growth and exploitation of natural resources is causing a decline in the natural forests that used to cover the region.

Pandas often rest beside rivers and streams in their habitat to hold power expenditure low. Since their food intake is low in nutrition they try to hold their energy expenditure to a minimum.

Panda’s Diet

Pandas are absolutely dreamy to watch!

They spend most of their day consuming bamboo; getting through approximately 40 kilos a day. A panda’s eating habit around the day involves eating leaves, shoots, and stems of various Bamboo species. Bamboo has (seemingly) very little nutrition so pandas can eat 25 to 50 pounds every day according to their needs. Bamboo is hard to digest and the pandas need to devour plenty of it to live to tell the tale.

Bamboo are members of the grass family, scientific name is Poaceae. Like other grass, bamboo have jointed stems and also small flowers enclosed. However, bamboo are the only major group of grass adapted to the forest habitat.

Scientists suppose the iconic black and white bears eat bamboo in part because it’s extremely abundant and that they don’t need to combat with other animals to get it.

Giant pandas within the wild will every now and then devour different grass, wild tubers or maybe meat within the form of birds, rodents, or carrion. Without bamboo (99 percent of the giant panda’s food plan), the animals could potentially starve. Interestingly however, panda’s ancestors had been carnivores but made the switch to a vegetarian diet 2 million years ago.

Pandas are so cute

The giant panda is universally loved and cherished. Their iconic black and white fur-colour distinguishes them nicely from other animals. It’s difficult to deny that pandas invoke true affection from humans everywhere in the world and in every generation. Pandas have received lots of publicity over the years as they were at threat of extinction.

A behavioural neuroscientist known as Edgar E. Coons thinks that humans find pandas so cute due to “hedonic mechanisms” their functions set off. Something about pandas possibly resembling babies! I quite often think my baby looks like a panda! They’re both so adorable and easily loved.

It’s all to do with our mind making us experience a positive love toward pandas. Any animal with fur seems to automatically be regarded as cute and with panda’s big eyes and perceived clumsiness, it’s difficult not to fall in love with them!

Pandas remind us of toddlers and teddy bears mainly with their big eyes (the eyes aren’t particularly massive however the black patches around their eyes make them appear larger), and spherical adorable faces.

In China, they name the Panda “Xiongmao” meaning Giant Cat Bear. Some people believe that Pandas have some special powers that make them away fend off evil spirits. They have been even kept as pets by the Chinese Emperors. Cute element about Pandas is that all panda’s work all day is to consume and sleep.

Wild panda numbers are increasing after years of decline. The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that pandas have been upgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable.” This is a huge feat for all the organisations involved!

Ten Facts about Pandas

  1. Panda cubs are born in the summer (July to September is the period which mother pandas give birth) and they may be about six inches long.
  2. An interesting fact about the child panda is that after their birth, the toddler pandas are blind for two months. They start moving and walking at the age of three months. Initially their bodies do not have any fur, but as soon as they start growing, their bodies produce it.
  3. The infant pandas weigh around half a pound and they suckle mom’s milk for the first six months. When the baby panda reaches the age of seven months, they begin to climb trees.
  4. They stay with their mom until the age of 3; after which they can begin living their own.
  5. When a mother panda holds her baby in her arm, it looks very similar to human mums cradling their babies. It is very exciting to watch pandas grow. During this stage, they like to jump, roll over, trip, and fall around.

  1. Female pandas ovulate as soon as one year old and are fertile for only 3 days.
  2. Pandas depend upon spatial memory, not much long term memory.
  3. Thankfully pandas are one of the animals whose bodies are no longer been used in traditional Chinese medicine.
  4. Wild pandas predominantly live only in a small area of land in south west China.
  5. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) are currently running an ‘adopt a panda’ scheme. Adopting a panda provides support to WWF’s work by helping to fund projects and keeping the panda (and other animals) work alive.

If you’re a panda lover and curious to see what a smooth newborn panda is like, you could visit a panda breeding & research base.

Wild panda numbers are slowly increasing after years of decline. The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that pandas have been upgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable.” This is a fantastic achievement thanks to the all the organisations involved.

Panda essentials

I felt very lucky when I saw some pandas in Edinburgh zoo (Scotland) in 2018. I managed to see the famous Tian Tian and felt very blessed that day. Penny from A Penny For Them has also seen and loves pandas too!

I thought I would put some blogs up about my favourite animal so that other panda lovers can also appreciate them!

Pandas are a type of bear who have primarily been found in the forests of China. The giant panda’s scientific name is Ailuropoda melanoleuca. That’s virtually impossible for me to pronounce so I’ll stick to saying ‘panda’!

Their black and white appearance makes them stand out when compared to other bears. The nose, ears, eyes, legs, and shoulders are blanketed with black fur, while the rest of the body is wrapped up with white fur. Because of this beautiful colour combination, it can be difficult to identify them in the forest, which acts as a great natural camouflage.

Male pandas weigh approximately 220 pounds. The female panda can weigh as much as 180 pounds and is called a sow. They are usually five to six feet tall and their lifespan is 15-20 years on average.

Pandas are masters at climbing trees and they can swim quickly to move away from predators. They use their wrists to help grip their food. They have strong jaws and massive molars that help them consume their favourite food: bamboo. They can eat around 25 to 50 pounds of bamboo per day. If they can’t get their staple: bamboo; they can consume honey, grass, flowers, vines, young corns, and rodents. Pandas can sometimes eat small birds and animals.

Pandas are shy; they don’t venture into areas where people live. This restricts pandas to limited areas.

Wild pandas live in remote, mountainous areas in China. Wild pandas should not be confused with captive pandas as they can behave very differently. Wild pandas have a dangerously powerful bite and have an intense sex drive.

The captive panda on the other hand is the fluffy, adorable, clownish, reproductively-inept stereotype that springs to mind.

Though they’re cuddly and lovely to look at, they can be a dangerous creature when provoked. Pandas like all bears love its solitary existence except while breeding or being nurturing mothers.