Thursday, 22 December 2016

Gardening Tip to Make Your Neighbours Look Over the Fence (And Be Green with Envy!)

Gardening Tips

Maintaining your garden to a high standard so that it gathers admiring glances from all quarters is high on the list of serious gardeners. Take a look at these gardening hacks from Rattan Direct and make your neighbours green with envy at your gardening prowess.

#1 Know your garden, the soil and the climate

Cacti survive in arid desserts for a reason, which is why having them in a garden in a wet and windy corner of the UK will not see cacti thrive.
Knowing your patch of soil, whether it is acidic or alkaline and how you can change this, as well as making the most of the climate will help in deciding the best plants to buy and plant, as well as the best spaces in your garden for these plants to flourish.
Camellias, for example, prefer a north-facing wall in a court yard and an acid soil, so there is no point planting them in water-logged, alkaline soil with continuous cold draughts irritating their tender stems.

#2 Water

Water is not a sustainable resource - cue downpours that last says, with flooding and horror stories, and yet we are told there is not enough of the wet stuff.
But, one of the key elements that turns drooping pansies into a flowery mass of colour is water. Whilst your neighbour’s lawn and borders become ever more parched during a drought, you can carry on watering your luscious blooms because you have water butts catching rain from all your down pipes.

#3 Remove pesky weeds as soon as they dare pop their heads above the soil

They are a nuisance. They are everywhere. One minute, they are a tiny head, just popping above the soil surface and the next, it is running rampant across flower beds, anywhere where they can get enough of a foothold with their shallow roots. Weeds are not a gardener’s friend.
But this is the good news: it takes only a few minutes to whip these pesky weeds out of your soil before they get chance to not only become established, but turn to seed and spread them across your entire garden.

#4 Complimentary accessories

We are used to thinking of our gardens as place to be admired – from the house. We look out, admire the dancing blooms in the summer breeze and yet, we spend little time actually enjoying the fruits of your gardening labours.
This is because we don’t make it comfortable for us to enjoy. And when we do, we move back into the house as soon as daylight fades and the temperature drops.
Make your neighbours green with envy with not only beautiful plants, but fantastic accessories;
·         Garden seating – from a practical garden bench to functional outside sofas, there are all kinds of options when it comes to garden furniture that suit all tastes and budgets.
·         Rugs, throws and cushions – ramp up the style and add splashes of fantastic colour with rugs, throws and cushions made from special material for the outdoors that don’t fade, shrink or spoil in the occasional rain shower or bright, bleaching sunshine.
·         Lighting – solar lighting has come on leaps and bounds since the first dim, last-no-more-than-30-minutes solar powered fairy lights from decades ago. There are all kinds of solar lights that make for a bright, romantic garden when the sun drops.
·         Fire pit – want to enjoy the night time garden with its scents and rustling wildlife but don’t like the cold? The fire pit is the perfect addition. Watch the flames dance and out of the corner of your eye, note the admiration in the eyes of your neighbours…
·         Water – gentle running water caresses the soul. After a busy day at the office, talk a walk in the garden and sit by your water feature, enjoying its soothing tones. Build a full-scale pond and welcome a whole new raft of wildlife in your garden or have a water feature, with water trickling down playing its soul-soothing tune.

#5 Plant in pots

Planting in pots is the perfect way to add colour, form and texture to a garden, softening corners and adding interest.
Keep garden pots of similar colours and shades to get a coherent colour palette running through the garden. Take time to consider the plants you will use in these pots too. Potted plants will need a little more attention, including a daily water – twice daily if the summer is hot – and bedding plants should be regularly dead headed to keep them putting their energy into flowering and not making seeds.

Rattan Direct have a range of garden accessories and furniture, perfect for dressing your garden and accentuating its glorious plants and design.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Brits should get scores in shape now to avoid Christmas credit hangover

One in five (21%) British households are already worrying about festive expenses and nearly a quarter (24%) say they will take out a new financial product – such as a credit card – to help manage the cost of Christmas. 

But while 70% will visit a price comparison site before applying for a new card, and over one quarter (27%) turn to trusted news articles to find the best deals on the market, only one in five (23%) will check their credit score. In fact, less than half (45%) of card-carrying Brits have checked their score in the last year and 30% have never checked their score.

Brits should be taking simple steps to boost their credit score now if they want to reduce the cost of Christmas borrowing. Yet 42% of people don't know their credit score can affect how much credit card interest they pay, according to new research from ClearScore1.

A person’s credit score is one of the most important numbers you have. A poor score can affect someone’s ability to access the best financial products. For example, the difference between a ‘low’ and ‘excellent’ score could mean £20,000 in extra interest repayments across a lifetime – nearly the equivalent of a year’s annual take-home salary.2

Despite this, 44% don’t realise their credit score affects their chances of being accepted for a credit card and less than half (42%) know the interest rate they're offered is also impacted by their financial history. Brits don’t check their credit report because they don’t want to pay to access their data – 34% cited this as the main reason.

Justin Basini, CEO of free credit checking service ClearScore, said: “For many people, Christmas inevitably involves some level of short term borrowing as a way to spread the costs, often using a credit card. The important thing is to keep that borrowing under control and pay as little in interest as possible. Lenders reserve the lowest rates for those with better credit scores, so it pays to start improving yours now."

An analysis of the credit history of ClearScore’s 2.6 million users since 2012 shows that January is consistently the most popular month for credit card applications, meaning there is plenty of time to boost your credit score.

To help people track and improve their credit score over time, ClearScore has built the free Timeline tool, available at, which allows people to track their debt levels and credit score.

How to improve your credit score:

By actively managing your credit score, you will ensure that you get access to the best products on the market – here are Justin’s top tips for improving your score and saving yourself a tidy fortune:

  1. Sign up to see your credit score – you can get can your free score and report at ClearScore and track your progress using our handy Timeline. 
  2. Check your report thoroughly, regularly and always before applying for credit – report and correct any mistakes you see as this could be damaging your score.
  3. Make sure that your bank and any credit providers have your correct address.
  4. Ensure you’re registered on the electoral roll – this is a very simple way of boosting your score.
  5. Make sure that your name is on some utility accounts – the greater the evidence that you borrow and repay your credit regularly, the better your credit score will be.
  6. Your score will increase if you use a smaller percentage of your available credit limit.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Preparing for Christmas

Christmas Dalmatian

Christmas is fastly approaching and I am still at a loss to where the Summer went? It was only August 5 minutes ago and now all of a sudden it's December and the big day is looming. Did I fall asleep for 4 months and miss the weeks falling away? 

Don't get me wrong, I do love Christmas but it's always such an expensive month. I tell myself that I will plan ahead each and every year, but every year I never feel prepared much before Christmas Eve. I do start shopping around September time each year, just so I can spread the cost, but never the less I am still shopping well into December. 

I am actually really looking forward to Christmas this year, Leo is at the best age. He's 5 now and he is completely caught up in the magic of everything, and I guess I am just appreciating it all the more this year because I have realised that Christmas's like these really are numbered. He is coming home every day and telling me something that his school friends have told him, the latest being that Jack Frost isn't real... and I can tell you now that if anyone starts trying to ruin the magic of Christmas, I will not be held accountable for my actions.

We have family that live out in the states and every year since Leo was small, they have arranged for a special letter from Santa to arrive all the way from Arizona. I remember the first year it happend (Leo was only 5 months old) and they denied all knowledge, I was left completely baffled as to where it had originated from. It's been a lovely tradition that has only grown with excitement as Leo has grown up, and it's something that we always look forward to.

As Christmas is such a busy time we don't always get to see everyone that we would hope to, so this usually means that we have to courrier Christmas Presents by TNT to make sure that they make it there on time. That is something that we have been looking at this week, I like to make sure that we get everything sent out so that it arrives in plenty of time before Christmas.

Christmas Tree

I really am excited about getting all of the logistics sorted so I can begin focusing on just enjoying this time of year. There is always so much work that goes into Christmas, and once the hard graft is behind us, everything is sorted and all of the gifts have been delivered or arrived at their assigned destinations, it's nice to pour a large glass of mulled wine and await the Christmas Day feast.

This year is my first Christmas in my new home, and I have to admit that before we put the tree up at the start of December, I wasn't really feeling it. I thought that I would be beyond excited at getting everything in order this year, but when the time came I didn't know if I could even be bothered enough to put the tree up. When the time came though my Christmas spirit kicked in, and now I hate to think of the house without all of the glitter and lights.

You will see me in January fighting to keep it up all year round!

Now... there is an idea!

Friday, 9 December 2016

How To Sell Your Used Family Car

If you’re getting ready to sell your used family car, the entire process can seem a little scary. It involves things like cleaning the car, marketing it, and, of course, discussing money. But, a little time and effort to get the car right will ensure you get the most profit for it. Here’s how to make sure you get the most money for your used family car.

Get the Car Looking Great

People prefer clean cars. Crumbs, dirt, and stains are just going to make your car look cheap and give the impression that you haven’t looked after it. And that’s the most important thing: you want to convince buyers that your car has been looked after. If your family car is old, there are a few things you can do to make it more attractive:

·         Get it detailed
·         Replace old floor mats
·         Reconsider modifications you may have done a while ago
·         Get it serviced
·         Have obvious flaws repaired

You might be asking yourself: What’s my car worth? Contact Sell My Car to find out today. Sell My Car is one of the vehicle buying services that offer free car valuation. Contact them for more details.

Want to Make a Profit? Have Your Records In Order

If you are able to show potential buyers that all your service and maintenance records are in order, it gives them huge peace of mind. If you don’t actually have all the records, try to write them down to prove your car has never been involved in an accident.

Set a Realistic Price

You need to be realistic about your asking price. Dealers will give you an honest assessment of your vehicle’s condition and give you an accurate asking price. Take a look online at similar cars and use them as a comparison. You may want to add a couple of hundred dollars extra just to give yourself a little bargaining room.

Get a Car Buying Service to Sell Your Car

Trading your used family car in at a dealership doesn’t always give you a great profit. While it is certainly easier and less daunting than trying to sell the car on your own, a car buying service is a great way to go to get the most money for your car.

Be Wary of Potential Buyers

Finally, if you are insistent on handling the car showing and final transactions yourself, always make sure you stay safe. Insist on meeting buyers in public places and don’t allow them to test drive the car on their own. Also, ensure that you accept a money order, cash or a certified check for payment before you go ahead and transfer ownership. You may want to complete the transaction at the bank first in order to verify payment.

While it probably sounds like quite a bit of work, selling your used family car, just like buying one, is a huge financial transaction and it pays to be prepared so that you can make the best possible profit.

Ditch doing it all yourself and deal with a car buying service who will give you the best possible price!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Holiday Thoughts

Family Travel

People are always asking me whether Leo is going to be an only child, and to be honest I don't really know the answer to that question as this moment in time. Maybe? Maybe not? It really could go one of two ways, but there are a lot of positive points in my eyes to Leo being an only child at this moment in time and one of the points that jumps off at the page at me is travelling.

Leo is at an incredible age, he is 5 years old and it means that we can run off and do all sorts as a family of 3, we can go and enjoy the rollercoasters at a theme park or do something that would be more tricky if not impossible if we had a baby in tow. It was just the other year that we took Leo off road quad biking while we were on holiday in Tunisia!

We may be on the cusp of Christmas, but we can't help thinking about our next family adventure. I flew off to New York month with the girls, and as soon as I was back we were discussing what we were going to do next just the 3 of us, and as the discussions go on, we keep coming back to the same point... We are loving the idea of a Disney Cruise!

A Disney Cruise has to be the ultimate family fun adventure, and if we are going to do something like this, it needs to be now... Leo is not just growing up physically, his tastes are growing up. He has had me boxing up old toys that he now deems are for babies, so I want to make sure we give him this magical experience before he is too old. 

We have been having a look at Iglu Cruise who are the UK's largest independent cruise agents with great deals to over 3,000 ports in 30 destinations. There are 4 Disney Cruise ships:

- Disney Dream - Largest in the fleet and carries over 4,000 passengers, which is about 40% larger than the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder.
- Disney Fantasy - It joined the fleet in 2012. The sister ship of the Disney Dream, the Disney Fantasy is a 128,000 tonne cruise liner carrying around 4,000 guest per cruise with 1,250 staterooms.
- Disney Magic - Combines a sleek exterior which echoes back to the golden age of cruising, with a modern twist of innovative facilities and the enchanting wonder of Disney.
- Disney Wonder - The sister ship of Disney Magic is 83,000-tonnes across ten passenger decks and will comfortably take 2,400 passengers. 

The Disney Cruises go from all over depending on the ship and package that you choose. You can board at Dover, or travel by plane and board in warmer climates. 

The more I think about it, the more I want to just get my credit card and book it right up, we are still discussing the finer details but it looks to be a popular idea between myself and the better half. Even Luke is partial to some Disney magic whether he will admit it or not, and I have a great photo of him somewhere with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears upon a trip to Disneyland Paris back in 2009.

So maybe Leo will stay an only child, maybe he won't, but I will never take for granted the amazing trips and holidays we can plan by being a family of 3. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Holiday Cards

Family Photoshoot

December has arrived, and I have to admit that I have left it pretty late thinking about this years Christmas cards. We like to do something a little different and personal for friends and family, because anyone can send a Christmas Card and I think it is important to make an effort with what we send out. When I spoke to family members it became apparent that they would much rather receive a photograph of the whole family, so I decided that it would be nice to make our very own holiday cards. 

There are two options when it comes to getting the photos done, we can use pre-existing images that we have taken throughout the year, or we can hire a photographer to take charge of a shoot. I love getting family photographs taken, and it's nice to have the opportunity to be in the photos with someone else behind the lens (I rely on my camera timer far too much!). 

Of course it can be tricky at times to find the right person for the job, so when I heard about Bidvine recently I was really excited to give it a go. Bidvine puts you in contact with professionals in your local area who can help you with your personal projects, such as getting photos taken for a holiday card, or even find a cleaner for your home. You simply select your service and start receiving quotes for that specific project. 

I connected my Facebook account which meant I didn't have to fill out a form to sign up, and I started the process to start receiving quotes for my Christmas project. I wanted the photographer to come to the house, I set the budget I had in mind and even how I wanted the finished photographs made available to me.

You can decide how you wish to be contacted and have the quotes presented to you, whether you would prefer to have the quotes phoned through to you or text. I opted for text as I like to have them in one place so that I can refer back to them if I need to. By having the quotes sent via text, it meant that all I needed to do was log in to my account and open them up at my leisure. 

I put a top budget in at £300.00 and asked that I be able to have the images on a CD or USB so that I can use them for my Christmas Card project. The best quote I had back came in under budget at £250 - This included the photographer travelling to my home, taking the photos, editing the photos and finally receiving the photos in the form of digital download from the photographers website.

I had a number of photographers contact me which was brilliant, it meant that I only needed to put my requirements down once and then all I had to do was pick the person who I felt was best for the job. I liked that it introduced me to photographers and businesses that I wouldn't have known to consider if I was putting in the leg work myself. 

I will definitely be using the Bidvine service again.

5 easy ways to teach kids to save water

It’s easier to learn good habits when you’re young, and one really good habit to get into is saving water. In the UK, especially in winter, it’s easy to think that there’s too much water around anyway, but the fact is that globally we do use too much water. Learning how to save water in our everyday lives will help us, and our children, to conserve one of Earth’s most valuable natural resources.

Here are five simple ways that you and your children can save water every day.

1. Turn Off the Taps
Whether you’re washing your hands or brushing your teeth, don’t just let the water carry on running down the drain. If you turn the tap off while you’re not actually rinsing your hands or your toothbrush, you can save most of the water you would otherwise use.

2. Turn Off the Taps Tightly
Make sure that when you do turn the tap off, it’s off! Leaking and dripping taps can waste large amounts of water over time, especially if you don’t notice them at first. Get into the habit of checking the taps are tightly off before you leave the bathroom, and teach your children to do so too.

3. Bath Time for Babies
When it’s time to give your baby a bath, use only an inch or two of water. For safety reasons, you shouldn’t be giving your babies a deep bath anyway, so this is a great way to save water and to be really safe. As your children get older, encourage them to have quick showers, not baths - filling up a bathtub takes a lot of water. Set a good example by having showers yourself. Children will follow their parents’ example in all sorts of ways.

4. Save “Old Water”
Encourage your children to collect water from almost finished bottles, half-finished drinks or from boiling eggs - once it’s cooled down, of course. You can use this saved water to water your grass and your garden instead of using your sprinkler or your hosepipe. There’s a reason we have hosepipe bans in hot dry summers - they use a lot of water! If you save up your old drinks and cooking water, you will soon be keeping your garden green without breaking any bans. Also, using old water in a watering can is much more efficient than using a hosepipe.

Install a water butt under your drainpipe. You can’t drink the water (although the animals will), but you can use it to wash your car, water the plants and even wash your windows. Dirty water pumps can get water out of ponds, ditches and rain barrels to be used efficiently on your garden.

5. Don’t Flush
Sometimes you have to flush! But modern toilets are fitted with two sizes of flush to begin with. So train your children to use the lighter flush if they’ve only had a wee. If you have small children who use the toilet frequently, they don’t have to flush every time. Flushing your toilet uses up to five gallons of water every time, so frequent flushing can use up a lot of water, especially if you have a young family. You can also get a “cistern displacement unit” to fit in your cistern to reduce the amount of water used each flush. These are available from your water provider.

Using less water is energy-efficient. It takes a lot of energy to clean wastewater, or “greywater” as it is known, once it’s in the sewage system. It takes a lot of energy to heat water, so it makes sense to be frugal with your hot tap. If you’re on a water meter, then these five simple tips can save you a surprising amount of money.