Monday, 18 December 2017

5 Ways you can save money without even trying

5 Ways you can save money without even trying

With the cost of living going up, more families are looking for ways to save money. So, we’ve compiled a list of some of the easiest ways you can save money, put it away for a rainy day, or put it towards something worthwhile. Not all of these will be life changing, or perhaps apply to you, but a step in the right direction can change your financial habits for good! 

Obviously, if you have issues with your plumbing or gas appliances then of course you need to get a professional in. But when it comes to the little things, it may be much more cost effective to do it yourself? Take your skirting boards for example, if they’re looking tired and need replacing then you can speak to your local skirting board specialist about the most cost effective way to replace them. 

Or you can break out the brushes and freshen them up with a lick of paint – it really is that simple. You don’t need to hire an expensive tradesman to do it for you. 

Make your own gifts 
Ideal with Christmas or any birthdays that might be around the corner. If you want to save money while also giving generously, creating your own homemade gifts is one way to accomplish both goals. You can make food mixes, candles, fresh-baked bread or cookies, soap, and all kinds of other things at home quite easily and inexpensively. 

These make spectacular gifts for others because they involve your personal touch — something you
can’t buy from a shop — and quite often they’re consumable, meaning they don’t wind up filling someone’s drawers with rubbish! 

Make a list – and stick to it! 
One of the easiest ways to save money is to only shop when you have a list. Because when you’re without one, you typically end up making impulse buys and unplanned purchases – all things that cost money. Creating a list before you go to the supermarket is especially important. Not only can it help you buy items that fit with your meal plan, but it can also help you avoid buying food you might waste. 

Always create a list and, more importantly, stick to it! 

Staying in is the new going out 
Going out to eat or “out on the town” has a way of completely destroying both your food budget and your entertainment budget in one fell swoop. It is always cheaper to stay in with friends and come up with your own entertainment. So, try hosting a meal with your friends where they all bring some food, play a board game, watch a film or just sit and reminisce! You’ll all save money – and have a blast. 

Entertaining the kids
Remember the saying that kids would rather play with the box? Its true! Most children, especially young ones, can be entertained very cheaply. Play in the garden. Head to the park. Bake something. What your children want is your time, not your stuff, and you’ll find money in your pocket and joy in
your heart.

Great New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

Great New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions for yourself this year (which you always break, of course), why not create some more achievable ones for your home? 

From giving those tired-looking spaces a fresh lick of paint to completing those bigger jobs you’ve been meaning to do, the New Year is the perfect time to get stuck into your home design projects. 

Here’s how: 

Create an Impact with Accents 
Instead of giving your whole home an overhaul, you can refresh existing schemes with some striking soft furnishings and accessories. Give your lounge or bedroom an instant update with new cushions or bedding, opting for a pop of colour that lifts the room while still complementing your existing d├ęcor. Throws are also the perfect way of bringing an additional texture or colour to your room and they double up as cosy accessories when the temperatures dip, too. 

Plan for Bigger Projects 
Granted, installing a new kitchen or bathroom isn’t cheap, but if it’s something you’ve been meaning to do for a while, it’s a good idea to plan for this next year. For example, if you’ve been wanting a new family bathroom for ages, start by planning this out, making sure there’s plenty of storage for all your toiletries, you’ve got all the facilities you need for the kids (i.e. a large bath) and you’ve picked out the colour scheme for your tiles. Don’t forget to shop around for the best deals, too, checking out places like Travis Perkins for special offers on bathroom suites, furniture and accessories that’ll help you complete the look in style. 

Breathe New Life into Your Home with Paint and Wallpaper 
Even painting or wallpapering one wall in a new colour can give your home a new lease of life. Look around for inspiration as to what colours are on-trend next year (rumour has it this will be subtle pink blush, vibrant reds, shades of purple, statement blacks and understated pastels) before working out how you’ll incorporate this into your existing design scheme or whether you’ll go for a completely new look. You could even introduce this colour on the walls at the start of the New Year before gradually building up a base of accessories, soft furnishings and complementing items throughout the year. 

This won’t just help you spread the cost of redesigning your room but will make it feel as though
this space is constantly evolving, so there won’t be any need to update it again the year after!
So, as we head into 2018, take some time to think about those must-dos you’ve been putting off
over the last few years and make sure next year is the year you achieve some of your New Year’s

5 Reasons It’s Great to Involve the Kids in Fruit and Veg Growing

5 Reasons It’s Great to Involve the Kids in Fruit and Veg Growing

It probably goes without saying that the great outdoors offers us plenty of benefits, from breathing in fresh air to getting some much-needed exercise. But did you know there are also some developmental benefits to getting the kids involved in gardening?

Here are five reasons why you might want to get the kids growing their own produce, even in

1. It Enhances Their Senses 
Your kids’ senses are incredibly sensitive, which is why this is one of the best ways for them to learn. For example, when they’re knee deep in dirt they can touch the vegetables, seeds and soil; they can smell the fruits of their labour and they can see all of the different shapes, sizes and textures of the veg. 

By making sure their senses are engaged, this helps you ensure your children know what gardening entails while also enabling them to understand the science and maths that go into it. 

2. It Encourages Them to Eat Healthily 
There’s nothing quite like tasting food you’ve gone to the effort of growing yourself, and that’s exactly what your children (and you!) can do when you have your own veggie patch. Having them grow a number of different healthy foods will make them keen to taste what they’ve planted themselves. This not only encourages them to eat those greens but it also adds to their eagerness to grow new things to see what unique flavours these have too. 

3. It Allows Them to Explore Scientific Concepts 
Gardening’s fun, which is why it’s an interactive way of introducing kids to biology, chemistry and botany. Once they’ve planted their seeds they’ll be intrigued as to what will happen next, then they’ll monitor how these things change and develop, and these processes give them an understanding of a number of scientific concepts. Equally, by getting specialist equipment from places like Premier Polytunnels, you’ll be able to show them how different things can influence how their plants grow. 

4. It Adds to Their Fine Motor Development 
From picking out seeds to digging up dirt and pouring water on plants, there’s plenty of fine motor control needed in gardening. Therefore, as your children get to grips with the garden, they’ll develop these crucial skills, which will ultimately enhance their schooling, including cutting, typing and writing.

5. It Provides You with Important Family Time 
Finally, when you and the kids team up to grow things in the garden, it provides you with plenty of heart-warming family time. As you grow things, you and the kids will get a great sense of achievement, and it also provides you with the perfect opportunity to try new recipes using the fresh ingredients you’ve produced. 

Gardening needn’t take up a lot of space, time or money but, as you can see, it’s got so much to
offer you and your children.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Don’t panic! Five great last minute gift ideas

Christmas Gift Ideas

Long-term fans of The Simpsons might remember the first ever Christmas episode, in which Homer has been entrusted with the task of buying gifts for all the family. Naturally, we get to witness his initial confidence slowly give way to blind panic as he runs out of time and finds himself searching the wares of a late-night fuel station and choosing between car air fresheners and bottles of brake fluid as family gifts.

We laughed, but we also felt a pang of connection with the yellow cartoon character. After all, most of us have been there – or at least, if not there then somewhere in that direction, and that is really what great observational humour is all about. This was the episode that brought us Santa’s Little Helper, the gift that kept on licking, and for The Simpsons, a Christmas disaster was averted. Here are our tips for some great last minute gift ideas that will not involve you searching the 24-hour forecourts of the animal rehoming centres:

1) A Homemade Voucher

A DIY gift voucher is more personal than a shop-bought one, and can be created in a few minutes. Just ensure you are stocked up with coloured paper and envelopes, pick up some spare HP or Epson ink cartridges at Printerinks and you are ready for anything! There are plenty of free templates you can find online, or simply let your imagination run riot.

2) Amazon Prime Subscription

Amazon is the third largest retailer on the planet – in the past two years is has risen from sixth – and is a company that everyone uses from time to time. Prime membership delivers a variety of benefits to members, including free express shipping and access to millions of online boxsets, movies and music. The really clever bit is that you can buy it online, and if the recipient is already a member, your gift automatically converts into a gift card.

3) An Experience Day

Another gift that you can purchase and print in next to no time is an experience day. There are so many to choose from, ranging from a fine dining experience to a helicopter lesson, so you are absolutely certain to find something that is just right for even the most difficult friend or family member.  

4) Spotify

Everyone loves music, but it is such a personal thing, it can be a hazardous road to go down when buying a gift. Spotify gives access to an astonishing 30 million tracks, so you really can’t go wrong. A month’s subscription will set you back £10, and longer options are available.

5) A charity e-card

This is a gift that any socially-responsible person cannot fail to love. Oxfam gives you the option to make a charitable donation on behalf of someone else. They will send the recipient a card, letting them know what you have done and giving an idea of how the money will be spent, helping those who are most in need. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review

Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review

I never thought I would be one of those obsessive people who vacuums multiple times a day, but that was before we welcomed our Dalmatian puppy home in August 2016. I could spend a good hour talking to you about just how much Dalmatian's malt. You might not believe me, but you wouldn't be the first people to doubt me, because people can't get their heads around how a dog with such a short coat, could shed hair 365 days a year. 

But they do. They really, really do.

People joke that Dalmatian's shed once a year (because they never stop). This brings me to just how much I have to vacuum the house, because as much as I love him, I am not a fan of the daily fur offerings that quite frankly end up everywhere. These days I have to hoover out my washing machine, and this is after I use the lint brush to soften the blow on the machine. Upstairs is now out of bounds because I cannot face the dog hair up there, and downstairs we just have to make sure we are on top of the hoovering. 

Until Lux came home though I had never really worried about how good my vacuum was, but when that little bundle of fun arrived in our home, that suddenly changed. Over the past 16 months I have discovered that my current cleaning regime was not sufficient for our spotty dog. If it wasn't the dog hair floating around the house, he was busy bringing outside inside. 

Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review

Over the past few weeks I have been putting the Shark Lift-Away NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner through it's paces, and quite honestly it really has been put to the test in this house. I have been intrigued by the Shark brand for a while now, so I was really excited to see how the reality lived up to the expectation.

And here is how we got on....

Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review
This rug was clean before Lux came out of the kitchen, but within a few moments was covered in dog hair. As you can see the Shark did a fantastic job cleaning it back up again in no time at all.

The Shark arrived from quickly and promptly as always (AO are my personal go to for appliances), and it was very easy to get everything up and running. I was impressed with how well equipped this model came, as it's not a designated pet vacuum cleaner but in the box I found:

- The Shark Pet Power Brush

- The Upholstery Tool 

- The 2 in 1 Duster Crevice Tool

It was easy to piece the Shark together and only took a few minutes, and then it was just a case of removing all of the plastic packaging that was still attached, plugging it in and giving a trial run. As soon as I turned it on and the headlights lit up my dark carpet I was really impressed. As I pushed the Shark forward I could feel the sheer power at the helm, it's not heavy to push but you certainly know that you have it (and I like that). 

Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review

There is nothing quite so satisfying as seeing all of that Dalmatian hair being sucked up and away, I could see straight away that it was doing a rather splendid job.

The Shark Lift-Away has a very clever double brush design that allows it to capture all types of dirt on both carpet and hard floors, and it took on Lux's fluff with no issues at all, and what I really liked is that it is bagless cleaning, which means you dont need bags! All you need to do is make sure you empty it after each use, and this is something that I have been ensuring that I do, because it is definitely having to work hard in our house!
Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review
Below: Dalmatian covered rug. Above: Shiny clean again.

Another aspect of the Shark that I just love is that you can actually take the cylinder off the actual vacuum to hoover the stairs, this is a great feature as it means that you don't need to lug the entire weight of the appliance with you, you can just take what you need, ultimately turning your vacuum into a portable handheld appliance! That is where the very generous 8m cord comes in very handy! 

This has made cleaning my stairs so much easier and I don't think that I could ever go back!

How has the Shark Lift-Away NV800UK Performed?

Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review
The contents of our very first Shark Vacuum session! I was impressed with how much it picked up, especially since I had vacuumed that very morning!

What can I say, I absolutely love this machine. I can't think of anything that I don't love on it to be honest, it does exactly what I need it to do, it's light and easy to steer around. I love how compact the head of the vacuum is, it allows me to get into the tighter corners (which is essential with a dog around the house), and it actually performs. It does exactly what I need it to do, and it has surpassed my expectations for a vacuum that is not designated for pets. In fact it's completely topped my actual pet vacuum by another brand and I am over the moon with the Shark NV800UK!

Disclaimer: I was sent this product for the purpose of this review All views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.


Remembering Granddad with Jewellerybox

Great Granddad - Gerald Asbury

A patriarch has fallen.

A man who has been around since my earliest days has died. 

My Granddad. 

It's the way of the world, it happens to us all one day, we were not built to last forever, but you can't help feeling the emotions that come with this fact. 

Receiving the phone call that you knew would one day come, but still the shock and resounding feeling of your stomach falling down and down, as though you were riding the loops of the world's largest roller coaster just keeps your stomach churning even after the call has come to an end. 

Explaining death to your child and how he won't be around any more, only for him to then start pondering why people have to die at the young age of 6 years old. It's been a question on his lips since I had to break the news to him. 

His response to the news that his Great Granddad had passed was one of the sweetest and most innocent things he could have said, but that is my boy all over.

Great Granddad - Gerald Asbury

He's right, he is wise beyond his years, and we do have to remember him the way Lightning McQueen remembers Doc. We have to remember the family holidays, the funny things he did and said, his love for books and local history and we have to remember that he is now at peace. 

He is now free from the regular falls.

He is now free from Alzheimer's. 

Remembering is the most important aspect of it all now, and I am beyond glad that I had the time and the freedom to make those weekly visits to his care home. He always seemed surprised that I had not only found my way there, but had driven there myself, but he never ever forgot who I was and he always seemed happy for my visits. 

We sat with a cappuccino and put the world to rights, we had similar conversations each and every visit, and he tried he darndest to get his head around what a blog was each and every time. In hindsight I was very lucky that he knew who I was, because that could have vanished at any given time, but he remembered those closest to him for his entire life. 

Right up until the very end.  

Great Granddad - Gerald Asbury

He might not know where he was most of the time, but he knew us. His family. 

One visit he was convinced that we were at the airport and he was flying off somewhere for a long weekend, and he thanked me for waiting with him. Another time he thought that the care home dining room was a restaurant and he suddenly worried about how we were going to pay the bill, and instead of upsetting him I told him that it was all fine and I would sort it. 

Alzheimer's might have made the here and now confusing for him, but behind that hazy mist was my Grandad just as he had always been. Clever, witty, funny, strong, independent and stubborn (it's a family trait). 

Behind my Granddad was a family who had his back, just like he had ours all of those years. 

Now it is all about remembering. I am lucky enough to have a few of his trinkets scattered around my home. Photographs, the glass drink coasters and some of the furniture he had to pass on before he went into care. 

I have been thinking about ways I can help my family remember, while we were cleaning out his room back in October I was looking for a particular family photograph, it was one I had gifted him only a few short months ago, but it wasn't to be seen.

You see my Granddad was always packing his room up because he thought he was going to be leaving (he didn't know where, but he was adamant all the same), and in one of those moments he had packed all his photographs away. It was found by my younger sister, and I felt awful asking for it back, but I had set my heart on having the frame back at home with me. 

I could see my request had upset her, I felt a tinge of guilt. Since then I have wanted to make it up to her, and when JewelleryBox got in touch I knew exactly what to do.

I picked out 2 lockets, one for Alice and one for my Mum. Inside I have chosen a picture of them with our Granddad, I chose the lockets based on what they would personally choose. My Mum loves Angels, and I picked my sisters based on something that she could wear with absolutely everything.

The finished lockets couldn't be more perfect, and each of the recipients were so happy with their individual gifts. 

JewelleryBox Locket

JewelleryBox Locket

JewelleryBox Locket

The shock has started to subside, but I still find it hard to believe that he is no longer a short drive away, he can no longer tell me about his younger years and he is no longer around for a cappuccino to put the world to rights. 

What I find rather incredible, and I was lucky enough to receive over the weekend was a document that my Granddad had compiled over the years, a document filled with his memories and our family history along with stories and facts that I never knew.

It's all about those memories now, and boy do we have some amazing memories. 

Logojoy Review - How to Create a Blog Logo

Logojoy Logo Design

When I first started blogging I didn't really have a clue about any of it, that applies to all forms of blogging. Composing the content, displaying the content and even blog design. I wasn't well versed in Photoshop (that still goes today, but I atleast have a basic idea of some forms, even if that only applies to photo editing). 

When I think back to my very first blog design I cringe. It was as basic as you could possibly imagine and I changed it regularly. I didn't promote an overall brand if you will, and those of you who do blog will realise just how important that is. As I started to learn the ropes, this resonated with me and I decided to pay someone to do the blog design for me, I figured in the long run this would be an investment, and over the years this has definitely proved to be true. 

Starting a blog is very similar to setting up an online business, I didn't think about it like this back then, but the years have demonstrated this to be true. Over the years I have made a living out of my blog and I have been lucky enough to have some larger than life opportunities all because of my little slice of the world wide web. For any of this to have been possible though, I needed to make sure that my brand and my blog resonated and appealed to not only my niche of the market and readership, but also to the brands who I could potentially be working with. 

Creating a blog design needs to be professional, clear, concise and appealing. You need to make sure you look and act the part otherwise why should a brand/SEO work with you? Why should they send you their product or pay you £££ to feature them? You see even though my little blog started out as a hobby, there has been a crossover between the hobby aspect of it into a little business.

If you have found this post because you are thinking about starting a blog, and like I was back in 2011 are finding the design aspects of it difficult, then I highly recommend having a look at Logojoy.

The logo that you see at the top of this post was created using Logojoy, and it was incredibly easy and simple to make (and better yet you don't need to be versed in the great art of graphic design because they DO IT ALL FOR YOU!).

I achieved this result in 5 very easy straightforward steps.

1. I entered my blog name and then picked 5 different logo styles, 5 different colours and icons that I liked, I kept my ideas as close to my blog and theme as I could. They have a whole library of different icons, and you can use the handy search bar to look up terms and words that might fit with your theme.

 I liked the idea of the dice because the result is always unexpected (as is life!), so it seemed a great fit to symbolise my little space of the interweb. Once you have selected the above, Logojoy use this as inspiration to help form the basis of your new logo!

2. The next step is to have a look at the logos that have been created for you on the details that you input in step one! They create pages of different designs, each different and ready for you to run with.

3. You can favourite designs that you like and add your own personal touch to any that you really like the look of. 

4. Make the logo yours - For my logo I went into the edit screen and had a play around with the colours, I wanted to find a blue that was similar to the blue that I use on my blog design already. 

I also made the font and dice bigger.

In this part of the logo design you can change the font, colours, layouts, symbols and really make the design your own. Editing your logo is really simple and straightforward so you don't need to worry about it being overly complicated. 

5. Download your files and you're ready to go! There are 3 different package options that give you a range of different privileges. I opted for the Premium package.   

Logojoy Logo Design

The premium package gave me my logo in a few different colour ways, I really liked this as there are times where you wouldn't need/want the full colour option (see below).

Logojoy Logo Design

Logojoy Logo Design

I spent about 20 minutes perfecting my logo design from start to finish, and I have to say that I am really impressed with the finished outcome. I feel like it really reflects my brand. There is an option where you can add in a tag line below your company/blog name, but I wanted to keep the logo as clean and uncluttered as possible. 

When you start a blog it really is important to make sure that your design looks smart and professional, and this is even more true if you are hoping to use it for commercial purposes at some point in it's lifetime. I would say that even if you are just writing for you, but attract a readership, the blogs over all design and look is still a very important factor, so if you're like myself and struggle with the design aspect, definitely have a look at what you can do.