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Managing money can seem like daunting task. In fact, it’s so scary for some of us that, when failing to manage it properly, we end up in serious trouble. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can manage your money effectively, and feel in control of your finances. Here’s how…

 

1. First, set yourself a budget. Setting yourself a budget is going to take a little bit of effort, but it’s a really good idea as it will give you a clear idea of what’s coming in and what’s going out. Making a budget means you’re less likely to be caught out by day to day costs, as well as unexpected emergencies and will help to keep you out of debt.

 

The best way to do this is to use a budget planner. It will require that you know your income after tax, and enable you to see you how much you’re spending on things like household bills, living costs, debts and travel expenses. At the end, you’ll get to see how much (if anything) is left over, and which areas are costing you most of all.

 

2. Next, you need to find a way to stick to your budget. If you’re currently spending more than you’re earning, you’ll need to find ways of scaling back your expenses. For instance, you might need to cut down on the amount you eat out of the house, or cancel some TV subscriptions, gym memberships or expensive habits.

 

Once you’ve scaled back your outgoings so that they’re in line what you’re bringing in, get yourself some apps to help you stay on track. For instance, make sure you have access to online banking, and use a budget tracker app to help you manage your money. The convenience of technology means you’re far more likely to manage your budget properly than if you had to rely on printed bank statements alone!

 

3. Then, prioritise paying off your debts. It’s not unusual to have some kind of debt, and under some circumstances, a loan is the solution – in fact, the average total debt (including mortgages) per household in the UK in 2015 was £54,296! Good budgeting, however will make room for paying off the debts you owe so that interest doesn’t accumulate, helping you avoid falling into serious financial difficulty. Pay at least the minimum on your credit cards, as well any other loans and your mortgage.

 

4. Finally, don’t forget to add savings to your budget. It can be really hard to find surplus money at the end of every month, but even £30 a month will amount to a larger sum over time. Pay some money into a separate savings account, however big or small and resist the temptation to dip into it. Savings can be used in emergencies, to top you up when you’re earning less (such as when you’re on maternity or paternity leave), or to help you buy things such as cars without having to take out finance.

  

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Kids love visiting places where fun never stops rolling. Parents however love taking them where a safe environment prevails for their merrymaking. It’s however never easy to find such a place that comes good on the expectations of both, parents and kids.

 

Trampoline parks have emerged a great option when it comes to bringing risk-free fun to kids, or also to people of all age-groups. They have won the trust of millions of parents worldwide and brought them respite from having to keep an eye on their kids at a venue.

 

Let’s look at some of benefits of being at such a park:

 

  • Tots will have a special area dedicated to them where grown-ups are not allowed an entry

 

  • Trained staff are there to attend kids under 5 and help them understand the meaning of fun

 

  • Tots are set free to do whatever catches their fancy as the soft surface beneath means they will do all what the park expects them to

 

  • Kids can jump non-stop, using as much vigour as they can muster up and they can hop from one trampoline court to anther

  

  • Jumping between trampolines can keep tots busy and hooked for hours for sure

  

  • Music, dance, toys, all will be there for kids to have much more fun than they could get elsewhere

  

  • Kids are allowed a specific time-slot to jump and it’s often the time when all present there indulge in the same activity

  

  • Fun apart, kids get to benefit from some small fitness drills suiting their age and body, and imparted under the supervision of experts only

  

  • The purpose of these classes is to let tots learn and explore things at their own pace by detached from the area meant for grown ups

 

  • Apart from jumping, kids can also bounce and fly as and when they feel like doing that

 

  • With a foam pit around full of soft cubes, kids would surely find it hard to resist the temptation of throwing the body away

 

  • There will be a variety of food items to gorge on and let the delights turn double for sure

  

  • Such a place is very helpful from health and fitness perspective as rebounding is bring a lot of benefits to the body

  

  • Nowhere else can tots get to enjoy fun and fitness together as here.

 

In a way, parents should understand the value of toddler classes Leeds as this is where exploration is encourage. Tots get to showcase their creative side and indulge in all those activities that are helpful in their growth and development.

 

Such classes are designed specifically to let tots have fun at their own pace and learn a lot of valuable things along the way. For parents, such classes present a great opportunity to take their tots there and contribute in their overall development.

 

In overall, a visit to Trampoline parks means a lot to gain and parents understand that well. They know the tastes and preferences of their kids and that’s why don’t delay taking them there.

 

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Picture your lush, vibrant garden dripping with greenery, scented with blooms and teaming with wildlife. The lawn is an emerald carpet and the flowerbeds buzzing with drowsy bumble bees, and all manner of birds are tweeting and chirping somewhere up in the canopy of your trees. But, as you look around at your little oasis, you notice that the contents of your bird feeder is looking precarious, just waiting to be snaffled up by an opportunistic squirrel!

 

Should I keep squirrels out of my garden?

Squirrels aren’t bad garden visitors, and in fact, anything you can do to help your local eco system is fantastic! However, red and grey squirrels love nothing more than raiding a bird feeder, seeing it as a ready packaged meal dangling from a branch - understandably, it’s simply too easy and delicious to resist devouring!

 

What’s the problem?
Well, (aside from the obvious problem that the more food squirrels steal from your bird feeder, the less food local birds are actually going to get) they’ll leave a mess behind and deter birds from visiting your garden.

 

Every time a squirrel steals from your bird feeder, it’s telling birds that it’s a squirrel territory, which ultimately drives them away from the area you want them to visit. This is bad news for gardeners, as birds are an essential part of the food chain in your garden: as they gobble up pests and insects that would otherwise feast on your flowers, fruit and vegetables.

 

So what can I do about it?
The best way to stop squirrels raiding your bird feeders (in a way that’s safe and humane) is to make the bird feeders squirrel-proof. Squirrel proof feeders will force them to give up visiting your garden for a free dinner, and it wont take long before they move on to a new source of food and leave yours for the guests you intended to feed.

 

What type of bird feeder do I need?
If you’re determined to keep squirrels from demolishing the contents of your bird feeder, choose one that is weight activated, baffled or caged:

 

Weight activated: this kind of feeder is clever as the feeding port closes up tightly when an animal heavier than a bird gets close enough to eat from it.

 

Baffled: these are designed with dome barriers that squirrels have difficulty crossing because they can’t grip it with their claws.

 

Caged: these feeders are enclosed in a mesh cage that is too fine for squirrels to enter, but easily allows access for smaller birds.

 

Which squirrel proof feeder should I choose?

The feeder you choose will depend on the species of birds you want to see in your garden. For example, caged feeders and weight activated feeders will inevitably keep out larger birds such as rooks and jackdaws, so might not be suitable if you want to provide for bigger species.

 

And, some types of squirrel proof cages work best with particular kinds of feed, so make sure you give some careful consideration to the types of bird you want to encourage into your garden. If in doubt, speak to a bird feeder supplier – a site such as wildbirdfeeders.co.uk is a good place to start - as they’ll be able to advise you which squirrel proof feeder is right for your garden.

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Like it or not, social media is here to stay. It’s a part of our daily lives and, as a result, it’s a part of the world that today’s young people are growing up in. Campaign body Internet Matters recently found that children as young as 11 post as many as 26 times a day on social media.

It’s impossible to swim against the tide when presented with those numbers. Yet, teachers needn’t even try to rail against this. If children react well to social media then why not embrace it, bring it into the classroom and encourage it to be used safely and productively?

Here are three examples of how that can work:

Sharing work socially

The great strength of social media is in the title: it’s inherently social and can foster a sense of community. This ability was in full effect when Anna Divinsky created a ‘massive online course’ (MOOC) for art. This course allowed students from across the globe to share their work and organically form their own communities and study groups. By using the common hashtag #artmooc students were not only able to share their own work with a wider community, but were also able to see work produced by others in their age group. This not only built a community but helped to inspire students to improve their work.

Staying up-to-date

Social media is one of the easiest ways to keep everyone up-to-date with what is going on in a busy school. Starting a Twitter account or Facebook page and encouraging students and parents to ‘follow’ and ‘like’ them helps to boost communication within the school. That way, parents can know what time their little one is due back from a school trip, when special themed days are on and what they need to do to prepare and allows them to see pictures and videos of their child’s work.

Social media can also help to keep teachers ‘up-to-date’ when it comes to the latest news from their industry. They can share lesson ideas with fellow teachers, follow links to blogs written by others in their job and find out about any job opportunities.

Using hashtags on Twitter such as #ukedchat and searching out sites such as EduStaff and coolcatteacher will ensure a teacher has their finger on the pulse and delivers the best lesson they can.

Take the classroom online

The rise of social media means that it is natural for children to use such platforms. By pulling in these forms of communication into an online classroom, you can ensure you are talking to children in a way that will capture their imagination.

Companies like Edmodo specialise in creating ‘social media style’ online classrooms. These have the ability to inspire and engage the next generation in their lessons as well as fostering the sort of collaborative learning that may become commonplace across different schools in a multi-academy trust, for example.

 

Whether it’s collaborating and working with others, staying up to date (as student or teachers) or learning ‘socially’ there are great benefits to be had from embracing the social media revolution.

 

 

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For those who love to craft, the right tools are essential for completing a job quickly, easily and to a high standard. But what tools are ‘must haves’ that require a special place in your craft kit and you know you will need for those regular crafting jobs? Here are six to get you started:

 

High quality scissors

Scissors should be in every crafter’s arsenal; they will more than likely be used for every project you ever undertake. Choose the non stick variety so they don’t get jammed cutting fabric one day and duct tape the next.

 

Strong pliers

These will come in handy for so many projects, from picking up small gems for a piece of jewellery you’re working on to bending wire, they should definitely be in your tool kit.

 

Craft punches

For those making cards or paper crafts, punches are essential and allow you to create beautiful, intricate cut out designs with ease. Simply pick up a basic punch and then swap out the designs depending on what you’re creating. You’ll discover seasonal designs, generic floral and shape designs as well as being able to commission custom designs. Check out Home Crafts, where you’ll find a huge range of craft punches to choose from.

 

Measuring tape  

Many crafts require measuring lengths of fabric, strips of paper or ensuring patterns are perfect before cutting begins. This is why a small measuring tape is an essential tool in your craft supplies box and you’ll discover you need it often. Alternatively a long rule should also do the trick if you are working on smaller projects.

 

Hot glue gun

How did we ever cope before hot glue guns became available to the masses? These handy tools are great for sticking stones to jewellery pendants (or even making the pendants themselves as this tutorial shows), paper to cards and for securing tricky elements of a model in place. You can easily find refills online or in your local craft shop to stock up on if you’re undertaking a big project and there are numerous glues for various jobs so you should never run out of sticking power.

 

Craft blade and mat

Besides scissors you’re going to need a super sharp craft knife and a thick mat to cut on. Choose a mat with grid lines for precise measurements and to ensure you get perfectly straight lines every single time.

 

When it comes to crafting, the tools you use can make all the difference between a great project and a mediocre one!

  

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Are you putting off moving house due to the huge amount of stress it is bound to cause? Despite the fact we do it an average of eight times during our life, it is one of the most stressful things we can undertake.

 

Research by Money Supermarket discovered that 86% of recent movers believed the process was stressful and almost half (46%) felt they weren’t in control. It is considered more stressful than bankruptcy, divorce and even the death of a loved-one. The comparison site found that this major life event impacts on people’s health, wealth, relationships and careers.     

 

However, with that being said, there are ways to guarantee your move is stress-free. Take a look at these five tips, and you might find yourself ringing the estate agent to organise the quick sale of your home. And if you are looking for a handy checklist that covers everything from essentials to necessities plus a few fun upgrades to help you make the most of your new home.

 

1. Organise Storage

The biggest task on moving day is getting that house full of belongings to your new home. Why not organise a storage unit, like these at Ready Steady - then the items you don’t need right away can be kept here, enabling you to do it in stages? This also provides you with a back up plan if anything should go wrong (fingers crossed it doesn’t) with the removal company on the day or you discover at the last minute your favourite sofa won’t fit through the front door.

 

2. Start packing early

The research by Money Supermarket also discovered 71% of people believe packing up belongings in their home is one of the most stressful parts of moving house. This is why you need to start packing early! The earlier you start, the longer you have to sort through your belongings and get rid of anything you don’t need because there is no point wasting time moving these items.

 

Start boxing up the items you use the least and work down to the essentials. Make sure you label the boxes with what room they are for and the contents. This may make the packing process longer, but it will make the unpacking process much easier.   

 

3. Save and budget

Two-fifths (39%) of recent movers said the cost was more than they anticipated and spent, on average, £5000 more than they had expected to. To foot these costs, movers had to dip into savings, put it on a credit card or rely on their parents. Not having enough money can be incredibly stressful, especially when it is such huge amounts you can’t avoid.

 

So, for a stress-free move ensure you have plenty put aside for it – create a spreadsheet of costs and make sure you budget. It is better to spend less than you think and then have extra pennies to spend on furniture for your new home, than to not have enough. 

 

4. Create a ‘to do’ list

There is so much to do when you are moving home, that even the most important tasks, such as organising a removal van, can get forgotten. Create a ‘to do’ list of everything that you need to do in the order that it needs doing. Then you can tick it off as you go and ensure there are no unpleasant surprises on moving day.

 

5. Prepare a ‘Moving Day Survival Kit’

Whilst you are packing, prepare a separate box that will be your ‘survival kit’ on moving day. This will hold all the essentials you will need as you leave your old house and enter your new one – the kettle, for example. The last thing you want is to be desperately searching through the boxed up contents of your home when you are gasping for a cup of tea!

 

 

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Decisions, decisions. How do you actually take the plunge and make a decision on the career you want to pursue? It’s a daunting choice but it’s one that we all face – from fresh-faced school leavers and graduates to world-weary employees looking to change course.

 

Many of us have passions, hobbies and interests that we’d love to follow, but have no idea how to get a job from them. The trick to getting your career choice right is in choosing something you have a flair and passion for and then working out which job will welcome those skills. Here’s our guide to four interesting careers, and what to do to get a foot in the door…

 

Airline pilot: This is one of those aspirational careers that attracts more than its fair share of prestige. As Oxford Royale highlights, you don’t have to have a degree for this as you can go straight into an airline training school. There is a lot involved in this – with exams and practical tests - so it is best to throw yourself into the training as early as possible. You’ll basically be working towards an Airline Transport Pilot’s License (ATPL), followed by further, more specific training that is sometimes sponsored by an airline. The salaries – and job satisfaction – should be worth the effort.

 

Industrial design: This is a career that is the perfect fusion of creative and practical. Taking an eye for artistic design and putting it to a use in the world of engineering, this is about thinking big – from dreaming up industrial structures to deciding on the look of planes and trains. If you’ve always been creative then this is a way of graduating from paints and artistic materials from a craft shop and into an Airblast AFC blast room. Chances are you will need a degree to break into this, but you’ll probably need more to get your foot in the door of the best companies. Build a portfolio of work on your own website to showcase your talents and search out internships to give you the chance to impress employers.

 

Journalist: While the way we consume our news and media output has changed rapidly over the last few years, there is still a call for people to make sense of the world in journalist roles. Traditionally journalists would take a degree – often in a different academic sphere – and then work towards a job on a local newspaper with a view to rising through the ranks. That avenue still exists, but journalists these days need to be able to cater for the digitally-focussed modern reader. Run a blog, contribute copy where you can and take up a volunteer stint at a news organisation to add experience to your qualifications to get onto this career ladder.

 

Personal trainer: Is fitness ‘your thing’? Do you have a passion for the gym and would prefer not to drag yourself away to the office? Becoming a personal trainer could be a great way to combine your hobby with a paid position. But, as with any attempt to make money from a hobby, you have to take this seriously to succeed. You need to build on your specialist knowledge with the right certifications, training and insurance to be able to deliver results for others. After this it’s all about word of mouth. Run classes and sessions, build up a bank of clients and spread the word. It’ll take as much dedication out of the gym as within but it can bring success.

 

The above four careers are all very different but one thread runs throughout: if you are serious and work hard enough then your talents can be put to use in a career that you’ll cherish. With any career you need to find out what the entry requirements are and think long and hard about whether you can meet them – both in terms of talent and effort. If that’s the case, then your dream can be achieved and that daunting decision becomes an awful lot easier.

 

 

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We all have been in the situation where we are faced with a seemingly massive task that requires many steps and some effort to resolve. Perhaps it’s a pile of papers to sort through, maybe it’s a list of drawers to clean around the house or maybe it’s a project to design a flyer for your business. Whatever it is, looking at it in its entirety can be very daunting – and this can often lead to you delaying in even attempting to complete it as you anticipate it will need a lot of time, which you are pressed for in the best of circumstances! So in the end the pile persists, the to do list remains unchecked and the project is a nonstarter– and all the time you are filled with a looming sense of burden in your mind till it can get done.

I have been there a few times but as a lover of “Getting Things Done, I’m always open to trying approaches to conquering the to do list. Recently I was inspired to try a new approach to attacking a burdensome task that had been on my to do list for a long time. It worked so well that I would love to share it with you too!

 I had a task to do that was not something difficult – I needed to sort through a collection of items that had accumulated on my dresser over some time. It was a box consisting of a broken bracelet, a lone earring, perhaps a broken clasp that needed fixing- that kind of stuff. I found it really challenging to find the time -and energy, to just knuckle down and sort through it all and each time I laid eyes on the box, I felt a sense of dread and annoyance which wasn’t pleasant- and I knew wasn’t healthy for me either!

So I tried a newly inspired “One-A-Day approach”. Here are my findings:

Old approach: Wait for a day where I could commit two hours to sitting down and sorting through the box.

Result: Weeks went by, and I wasn’t able to find the time to tackle the task.

New One-A-Day approach: Break the task down into steps (in this case divide the box into 10 items that needed sorting/packing away) and do just one thing a day in that task. For me, that meant putting away just one thing from my box away a day. No more, and no less.

Result: I enjoyed having a much smaller task to focus on a day. Putting away one thing meant only committing five minutes in my day, which was much more manageable. After ten days, my box was empty and my task was completed! And each day seeing the pile getting smaller was a great mental boost.

 So whilst this took ten days to finally complete, at least it finally did get completed! Perhaps at the outset ideally I wouldn’t have wanted to wait ten days to do the job, but in reality if I waited to get it all done in one day I would have waited way more than ten days!

I now do this for anything I have to complete – like watching a series of clips from a recorded conference or talk, cleaning my study desk, or studying material for a course – it can be applied to anything!

All the best with trying the One-A-Day Approach and do let me know how you get on.

 

 

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Image: Happy and pretty 

Your garden offers you the chance to really make your mark on your home, it’s the perfect space to test out your DIY skills and in turn create a beautiful outdoor space perfect for spring (that should hopefully be arriving soon!) However, if you’ve been wondering where to start here are a few ideas that you can try out this month:

 

Start with your bulbs

If you’re a savvy gardener, you’ll have planted those daffodils and tulips in your raised border between September and November and are now reaping the rewards as you watch them bloom day by day. However, if you didn’t get round to planting spring bulbs in autumn you can pick these plants up ready to go from your local garden centre or an online supplier such as Bakker Spalding Garden Co

 

Make a beautiful outdoor space by ensuring these spring flowers are in your garden and creating a fun display of colour that should last for a few weeks. Then you can get started planting those summer bulbs – here’s some help when it comes to what to plant and how; preparation is key!

 

Spruce up furniture

If your garden furniture is looking a little tired you could simply swap it for a new set or you could grab a paintbrush and get busy with some fun coloured paints. Turn that bench from a boring brown to a bold blue, or that deckchair could be more appealing with a spritz of bright postbox red spray paint.

 

Install a water feature

Remember Ground Force? And how (braless) Charlie Dimmock would always have to install a water feature in any garden the team were renovating that day? You should do the same. The soft sound of running water and a pretty feature will definitely enhance your outdoor space for spring, provide an important water resource for local wildlife and still look great once summer rolls round.

 

Take some landscaping inspiration

Check out last year’s RHS Chelsea Garden show entries for inspiration when it comes to setting out that border bedding or where to put the pond. The Homebase garden is a great example of how you can create a garden anyway, even in a dominantly urban space, while Morgan Stanley and Chris Beardshaw’s ‘Healthy Cities’ garden was all about creating a sense of community, with vibrant plants working in harmony with one another and structured hedges creating a clear path for people to take to enjoy the beauty of the garden.

While your motives behind doing some DIY in your outdoor space might not be as artificial perhaps as those behind these gardens, they can still serve as great inspiration.

When creating a beautiful outdoor space think about what you will use it for - dedicate sections of your garden to stunning plantlife, helping wildlife and for socialising – and if you don’t shy away from colour and definitely get your hands dirty you should have no trouble creating a stunning space to enjoy this spring.

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Being a mother of two tiddlers myself, G (3) and B (1.5) I know how hard it is to occupy the little people on a rainy afternoon and how it is harder still to occupy them with something that doesn’t involve Mr Tumble or the delectable Mr Bloom and actually has some meaning (educational value -haha).

In addition to being Mummy to G and B, my other ‘day job’ is teaching secondary school Art.  Every September I am excited by how much the enthusiastic little eleven year olds that come in to the first year LOVE Art and think it will be the MOST fun lesson (well most of them think that anyway)! But I am often a little disappointed by the knowledge they have gained of ‘Contemporary Art’.  They are great at using bright colours, painting really fast, scrunching tissue paper into little round balls and listing the Impressionsists.

Having spent another enjoyable hour watching G and B splatting paint at the kitchen table, merging the three primary colours together and smearing the resulting sludgy brown through their hair… I came to the conclusion that our Afternoon Art Activities needed to be more structured and have a purpose!

Being married to an Art Teacher as well as being one myself has meant that as a family we have never been shy of taking G and B to galleries.  G was particularly taken by the Lichentenstein and recent Matisse Cut-Outs.  I was reminded of my teaching practice reading list…. ‘Seeing comes before words’…  So in a gallery I talk to G and B about shapes, forms, composition, narrative but at home let them splash paint for no reason at bland sugar paper.  I wouldn’t let my eleven year old pupils get away with such unplanned work so what has made me think it is OK for G and B (apart from my need to have five minutes to boil the kettle and slurp some tea) at the their most sponge like time of life?!?

I have decided to take my tiddlers on an Art journey… Being introduced to artists work and creating ‘something’ themselves in their style. We don’t have inexhaustible art supplies or a big budget so most materials will be found or recycled…. Some activities will be 10 minutes long, some a whole afternoon but all will be achievable in your kitchen (or garden if you prefer creativity to happen outside) and all will be tested before I post them so I can encounter the pit falls and you and your toddlers can produce your master pieces (hopefully) problem free!

Follow us on Twitter @Tiddlerart  on Facebook: Tiddlersartstudio or on the blog!

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As with so many safety-related issues, reducing risk often means taking common-sense action preemptively. Installing a 360-degree camera or anti-collision alarm from a specialist supplier such as Brigade Electronics, for instance. Or perhaps something more obvious - and cheaper - like slowing down on the road. However you choose to do it, you’ll cut the chance of coming to harm in your vehicle and maybe even save money on your motor insurance along the way.

 

Here’s where to start.

 

Reduce your speed 

Not only will driving within the speed limit reduce the chance of an accident occurring by giving you and other road users more time to react to situations as they unfold, it also lessens the impact of one should the worst happen. You’re twice as likely to die if you’re hit by a vehicle travelling at 35mph as at 30mph. Across Europe, 12,000 lives and 180,000 injuries could be prevented every year by sticking to the speed limit and wearing seatbelts, according to insurer Allianz.

 

One new idea currently being tested by a number of car manufacturers is Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA). The system registers the speed limit of the road you are travelling on and uses audio and visual alerts to let you know when you breach it.

 

Wear your seatbelt

It shouldn’t even need highlighting, given that it’s a legal requirement in the UK, but the use of a seatbelt greatly increases the chance of survival in a car crash. In fact, you’re twice as likely to survive one now than you would have been 30 years ago, thanks in part to seatbelts becoming mandatory. According to the World Health Organisation, seatbelt use reduces the risk of death among front seat passengers by 40 to 65 per cent.

 

Driver assistance aids

As well as ISA systems, a multitude of innovations are helping to make driving safer than ever. Motion sensors, driver health sensors and even alcohol detectors are beginning to make their way into new cars. Cars that can communicate with each other are on the way too. As well as cutting accidents, this could have a huge impact on congestion.

 

Self-driving cars

Autonomous vehicles take much of the technology that exists today and go several steps further, removing the need for human hands on the wheel. And since human error is a factor in the vast majority of road accidents, that means less opportunity for us to miss a vital indication or carry too much speed into a bend.

 

Increase visibility

Whether it’s a glancing blow from a lampost or a serious collision with another vehicle, a lack of visibility follows on from human error as a major cause of accidents. While you can’t account for roads that are poorly lit, you can make sure you have the appropriate lights on in dark or foggy conditions, and you can plan your trip so that you stick to major, better-lit roads as much as possible.

 

If you prefer two wheels to four, you can ensure others see you. Reflective clothing, running lights, lamps and reflectors can all help other road users see you, especially on winter nights. 

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When it comes to dressing for a winter wedding there are a few key things to keep in mind before you hand your debit card over to the cashier or type your digits into the form online. Here’s the lowdown on dresses for a winter wedding, that should keep you looking stylish but also ensure you aren’t a shivering mess.

 

Let’s start with a coat and go from there. It’s winter, so a strapless dress that falls just above your knees isn’t going to cut it when it comes to photos outside, which is why it’s a very good idea to choose a gorgeous coat first, to wear over your wedding attire.

 

A structured duster coat, a belted mac with a fur collar or a camel coat are all great options and will look smart and stylish in the photos with your heels and ankles on show (be careful what coat you choose if you know you want to wear a long length dress. Throw your coat casually over your shoulders for a really chic look - if it’s not too nippy outside.

 

When it comes to the dress itself, a longer sleeve is a good idea and can be incorporated via lace or sheer material, alternatively a stretchy, form fitting wrap dress with a long sleeve is a flattering look and perfect for exuding glamour at the reception later (plus it can easily be worn again for that work Christmas party or posh meal out.)

 

If the winter wedding is a festive occasion you can’t go wrong with a vibrant red dress or an emerald green to tie in with the Christmassy theme. Dresses featuring a gorgeous leg veil and modest long sleeved bodices are popular now for those of us who like to show a little leg but enjoy a little cover up. Something like this dress Chloe Moretz wore to the premiere of The Equalizer would work well for a winter wedding. It’s the perfect combination of sophisticated glamour, with a little veil for those exposed limbs.

 

When you think of winter, what weather type first comes to mind (okay, we know you live in the UK so probably immediately think of wet, windy days stuck inside but let’s use our imaginations)? It's snow, of course! And what better way to tie in the winter theme than with an outfit featuring plenty of shimmering glitter. Either go for a full-on sequined design or opt for subtle diamante details on an elegant maxi dress and finish off with a faux fur stole or shrug.

 

Alternatively, throw out the dress altogether and rock a structured jumpsuit or even a co-ord. You can pick these up in classic black designs or a bold print; we love this belted, off the shoulder jumpsuit from Warehouse, which exudes effortless glamour and would look amazing with a colour popping clutch and heels.

 

When it comes to winter wedding style, you can’t go wrong. Start with the outerwear first and work in and remember to leave anything white in the wardrobe! 

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Most people spend at least 40 hours a week or more at their place of work.
The chances are that if you work from your house, you’ll probably spend even longer in your home office. It’s important not to create an office that’s purely functional -  after all, you’re your own boss, no one’s going to moan about flowers, music or other enhancements so make your office a place of beauty as well as function.

 

Furniture first

A comfortable office chair is important, especially if your work entails hours at a computer. Make sure that the chair is the right height, well upholstered and castors from Tente will help you glide from one part of the room to another, if necessary. Your desk should be able to accommodate your computer, some pens and a notebook and must be at the right height. This doesn’t mean that it has to look dull. You can always renovate this piece of furniture with a coat of paint so it blends in with the rest of your colour scheme.

 

Colour and design

When painting your home office you don’t have to stick to stark white, or monotonous magnolia. Select a colour that you find relaxing, perhaps paint the ceiling in a light green or blue to reduce your stress levels. Incorporate some art into your office. Having some paintings above your desk, or photographs that you love will always add a personal touch and improve the look of the room in general. The Fresh Home Ideas blog has some innovative ideas that you might want to incorporate.

 

Important essentials

Some people can work against a backdrop of music or radio; others find the additional sounds too distracting. If you do work from home you’ll also have to learn to relax and take breaks in between keeping up with your emails and carrying out your profession. A good sound system with all of your favourite downloaded tunes as well as some effective speakers might be a great idea to help you relax. Music played through speakers does sound better than through earphones.

 

Encouraging creativity

If you love flowers and plants, then introduce these to your office. Alternatively you could keep a window box on your windowsill. The flowers will grow as the seasons change and will add some additional colour to your surroundings, watering them and nurturing them will act as a displacement activity when the ideas aren’t flowing.

The Guardian suggests that your home office should be practical as well as comfortable, and that any personal accessories that will make it easier for you to work are to be encouraged.
 

 

Comfort is important

Whether you have a design business, work as a freelance writer or carry out any other job from home, the addition of a comfortable chair for relaxation in your office is important. A chaise lounge is ideal in a perfect world for this purpose but most people don’t live in a perfect world. A well-upholstered armchair covered in your favourite fabric will fit the bill perfectly and will provide an ideal space to catch up on some reading, plan your work or organise your schedule.

 

Working from home can be difficult, but as long as you have stamped your identity on your office, then it might be a little easier to get started every day!

 

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If you are a keen gardener, the icy temperatures, frost and potential snow of the winter months doesn’t have to prevent you from gardening.

  

You may not want to tackle the elements to be outside and there is very little you could do out there anyway - however, what you can do is continue gardening from the comfort and warmth of your house!

 

Pick up a few pots and seeds, then start growing these seven plants indoors this winter, ready to transfer to your garden (if you wish) when the weather improves:

 

1. Tomatoes

 

Tomatoes are perfect to grow indoors this winter and will be delicious when added to your dinner plate.

 

You can place your tomato seeds on the windowsill in a 6-inch pot filled with good potting soil – and add fertilizer and plant stakes as they start to grow.  

 

2. Polyanthus

 

These are easy to grow and come in a variety of colours. They are supposed to be planted in winter bedding, but you will get the flower for a lot longer inside.

 

Polyanthus like high humidity, so ideally you need a coloured glass container and cover the base with a bed of pebbles in water, then your pot can be placed on top. Ensure you mist-spray the leaves to maintain humidity and water frequently.

 

Polyanthus need bright but indirect light – a sunny, south-facing window ledge with daytime temperatures is ideal.

 

3. Cyclamen

 

The small-flowered varieties of cyclamen are ideal for the winter months. They like bright, indirect light but don’t like it too hot – so it is best not to keep them in the kitchen or by a radiator.

 

4. Spring Bulbs

 

You can bring a bit of colour to the cold and dreary winter months by forcing spring bulbs to bloom inside. You can pick up spring bulbs from You Garden – the most common for winter include; Crocus, Daffodils, and Tulips. Once you have your chosen bulbs the process of forcing the bulbs will need careful thought and timing – the perfect job for the keen gardener!

 

5. Herbs

 

Herbs are perfect to plant inside during the winter and are ideal to add to your cooking! Place them on a windowsill, where the light will keep them happy and healthy until you can plant them in the garden again. The perfect herbs for this include; basil, bay, chervil, chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme.

 

6. Carrots

 

There are plenty of vegetables you can grow inside during winter, which can be mixed with the tomatoes on your dinner plate. The seeds can be planted in a pot or window box that is at least a foot and a half wide and placed on the windowsill or near to a window. Plant the seeds one inch apart in rows that are six inches apart from each other. Keep them well watered and they should start sprouting within two weeks.

 

7. Begonias

If you already have begonias in your garden they need to be brought inside before the frost or they may be lost for good. Once inside, with a little light and space, they can continue to be grown over the winter months. They will need to be kept moist, fertilized, and perhaps use a pebble tray for extra humidity. Be aware that they may need some time to adjust to being moved indoors – and this may mean dropping and re-growing some or all of its leaves.

 

 

 

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It’s an all-too-familiar refrain, sometimes occurring as early as 20 minutes into a journey and lasting for hours: “Are we there yet?” Bored kids, exasperated parents. No wonder we dread long car trips with young children.

 

According to this Daily Telegraph article, researchers commissioned by Disney discovered that, of 5,000 parents contacted, more than 80 per cent gave their young passengers a tablet such as an iPad loaded with games, films and other entertainment to keep them amused on lengthy trips. Fifty per cent of those surveyed said that they got up to an hour’s unbroken peace and quiet as a result. 

 

Just 20 per cent enjoyed the same amount of happy silence without the help of apps and electronic devices, with traditional time-killers like ‘I spy…’ on the way out. Only 14 per cent of parents quizzed found such games useful.

 

There are many tips you can employ to prevent you pulling your hair out the next time you hit the motorway. You can start well before even planning the next family holiday. When it’s time to buy a new family car, take your kids with you. When you get to T W White & Sons or other such dealers, explain the situation: you take long trips together as a family, you’re conscious the children get bored, what do you recommend for young travellers?

 

You might find a new car with in-built entertainment systems, a novel seating arrangement or a glass roof eases long journeys for those in the back and front seats. Here are six more ideas to try.

 

Audio books: Lots of parents swear by these. You can turn every journey into one of discovery both inside and outside the car. As the story of the BFG unfolds or the world of Harry Potter is detailed, kids can become engrossed while remaining engaged with the scenery flowing past the car windows.

 

A tablet: Not the sleeping kind, we hasten to add, but the sort made by the likes of Apple and Samsung. It’s an expensive answer, but incredibly flexible and will offer multiple attractions in one small package. Films, favourite cartoons, ebooks, games, art apps, even educational pastimes - when they get bored of one, they can move on to another. Pro tip: invest in some noise-insulating headphones. 

 

DIY games: Your kids could use those iPads or smartphones to snap photographs throughout the journey, ticking off a list you made prior to setting off. Include famous landmarks, towns, other types of car and then offer prizes at the end of the trip depending on how many subjects they snapped.

 

Plan plenty of exploration stops: You’re going to need to make loo breaks along the journey, so why not combine them with something more interesting for everyone? You could pull up in a new town, at a National Trust or English Heritage site or simply a spot with a fabulous view. 

Filling snacks: Invariably children get more irritated when they are hungry, so keep a ready supply of snacks to hand - but go easy on the Haribos. Instead, choose something that’ll take time to eat and releases energy slowly. Dried fruits and, for older children, nuts are good choices.

 

A good old-fashioned colouring book: Even adults are getting back into colouring books, but for kids, they hold near endless fascination.

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Christmas dinner – the most eagerly awaited meal of the entire calendar year and yet somehow, quite often, it’s the most underwhelming. All that build-up, all that expectation, all that expense, for what is essentially a roast dinner but on a larger, waist-busting scale – meat, two veg (sometimes three) and potatoes. It’s tasty, of course, but sometimes it can feel a bit predictable; especially if you’ve been making Christmas dinner the same way for decades.

 

If this scenario sounds familiar, time to break the habit! This year, why not shake things up a bit by throwing in a few Christmas dinner curveballs and jazzing up the traditional meal? Here’s how:

 

Spice up your roasties

 

There are a plenty of theories regarding the perfect way too cook roast potatoes but not enough emphasis on how to make spuds more exciting. Try this Jamie Oliver suggestion, via the Telegraph – add olive oil, garlic and red wine vinegar OR butter, clementine zest and fresh sage to your Christmas Day potatoes. Beats just plain vegetable oil hands down.

 

Get adventurous with veg

 

Traditional Christmas dinner veg nearly always includes Brussels sprouts and for some reason it might be the only day of the year the family choose to eat them. They’re a veg which can literally divide the household – while some love sprouts, some loathe them. Cooking them with diced bacon or pancetta can completely change the taste. If you’d prefer to keep your vegetables meat free, in this article, chef Pedro Samper suggests cooking sprouts with whole gloves of garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. The AO Christmas cookbook has further cooking tips.

 

Don’t choose turkey

 

Turkey doesn’t have to be on the menu at Christmas. It’s a tradition but not a rule and while it’s a lovely, lean meat some find it bland. Why not consider other alternatives? Goose has a stronger flavour and doesn’t tend to dry out so easily, while guinea fowl – cooked with roasted chestnuts, sprouts and bacon – can be a real show-stopper. Other people pleasers include a large ham hock or gammon joint, perhaps glazed with honey and studded with cloves.

 

If you absolutely swear by turkey, get creative and transform the taste. Nigella Lawson has a great recipe here for turkey breast stuffed with Italian sausage and marsala-seeped cranberries.

 

Focus on starters

 

It’s possible to revamp Christmas dinner by leaving the main course alone and cooking and presenting that in the traditional manner. If you’ve got that down to a fine art and don’t want to mess with a tried and tested routine, why not show off some with very different starters instead? Food Network have these 101 Christmas Starters including an Asian Prawn Cocktail from Masterchef champion Shelina Permaloo and a delicious gorgonzola, fig and prosciutto di Parma Bruschetta. The beauty of many of these is that they be prepared the day before and stored in the fridge (if you need something larger before Christmas head to ao.com) therefore removing much of the stress on the big day itself.

                                                       

These are just a few examples and ideas of how to jazz up a traditional Christmas dinner. There’s no excuse for eating the same meal year after year!

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With childhood obesity on the rise and ever-increasing temptations of unhealthy deliciousness from high street retailers, the battle for children’s hearts and minds can be difficult. A child usually prefers a fattening burger and chips whereas a parent would opt for fruit or nutritious snacks. Here are six ways to fight this particular war.

 

1. Interest your child in fruit

There is no magic wand to make your child fall in love with fruit. You could spark their interest by taking a look at the fruit trees for sale on Ashridge Trees website and try to introduce your child to gardening and the pleasures of picking fruit from a tree in the garden. If you extend this exercise to planting strawberries and other soft fruits, and encouraging your child to have their own special garden plot they might forget about sweets.

 

2. Vegetables don’t have to be boring

A plate of soggy cabbage is never inspiring for anyone. Encourage your child to fall in love with vegetables by experimenting with cooking styles and different types of vegetables. Writing in The Daily Mail the nutritionist Annabel Karmel revealed that over half the kids in the UK don’t have any vegetables at all and only 44% don’t eat fruit on a daily basis. Always praise your kids for eating their vegetables; also a little bribery won’t go amiss!

 

3. Try not to react to the moans

Tantrums in supermarkets when mums won’t buy sweets or cakes, sulks and moans at home when a child doesn’t get its own way are familiar behaviour patterns to all parents. In order to try and overcome these problems many experts agree that it’s best if the parents try not to show any reaction at all. Stuffing sweets into a child’s mouth to keep them quiet is never a solution. You will have to develop the patience of a saint but the child is demanding a reaction and if you don’t play ball, then they will eventually stop moaning or screaming.

 

4. Include your children when cooking

If you include your child in your meal planning and cooking, then you can explain the importance of nutrition and let them cook their own healthy dishes. An article in The Daily Telegraph suggests the more a child is involved in this process, the greater understanding they’ll develop about the importance of fruit and vegetables. Introducing your children to different tastes will also help.

 

5. Make your own shakes and drinks

Fizzy drinks are bad for everyone. This isn’t just a matter of calories; the drinks offer very little nutrition. Show your kids how to make fruit drinks at home. Summer milkshakes can be great fun and will certainly be better for your child.

 

6. Make time

It’s difficult being a parent and many are busy working long hours in order to try to pay the bills. If you use a childcare service, insist that your child has access to nutritional snacks and meals. If you provide a lunchbox for school, try not to include crisps and sweets. Also talk to your kids and explain the perils of obesity and other conditions related to a poor diet; at least they’ll start to understand why they should eat healthily.

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Wedding site The Knot recommends setting aside 8% of your budget when it comes to floral arrangements including the bridal bouquet, and bouquets for bridesmaids, boutonnieres for the groom and groomsmen, corsages for mothers as well as table arrangements and centrepieces.

 

This is all on top of those wedding rings from 77 Diamonds, the wedding dress and amendments from the bridal shop in town and the cost of getting to and from the venues throughout the day.  

 

However, putting budget aside because this is one of the first issues you will discuss with your florist, how do you choose the perfect flowers for your big day.

 

Find your florist

Speak to people you know and trust about who they hired for their big day and choose two or three to visit and interview about what you want. Choose a florist with experience and who can show you their portfolio of high quality work.

 

Work out how much you need in terms of floral arrangements, so you can discuss this immediately with your florist as well as budget and also take along anything you’ve gathered together as inspiration – much like when you visit the hairdresser and take along a picture as a reference. It will help your florist come up with a better quote and ideas.

 

Settle on your requirements

Next it’s time to settle on the flowers themselves, from colours to working out which ones will remain fresh all day and travel well. These are the questions you need to ask your florist to determine which flowers would be perfect for your big day:

 

·      ‘Which flowers are guaranteed to stay fresh all day? Do these cost more?’

·      ‘Can you suggest the best flowers to use at the time of year of the wedding?’

·      ‘Can you guarantee the flowers will be fresh and arrive on time on the day? How do you transport them?’

·      ‘If I order specific flowers for my arrangements and they are not available how do you work out substitutions?’

·      ‘Do you offer any extra decorations or accessories with floral arrangements?’

 

Think about size and colour

Your wedding dress style and the size of your wedding party will make a big difference to the floral arrangements you choose. Therefore, it’s important you choose flowers that are going to complement the size of the dress and the colour scheme too.

 

Time of year is also important when it comes to choosing flowers for your wedding, think carefully before you pick out difficult to obtain peonies or a rare type of orchid, to save yourself disappointment on the day.

 

In the end choosing the perfect flowers for your big day essentially all come down to personal preference, budget and what is in season. Do your research before settling on a design and choose a reputable florist that will ensure everything you ask for is done for you. To get started on your search, here’s a quick inspirational guide to browse before setting up a board on Pinterest!

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We’ve all got an ideal home in our heads haven’t we? A place we’d love to be able to rest, relax and entertain to our heart’s content.

 

It’s one of the many reasons why property listings sites are so popular – it’s great to gaze longingly at dream homes and take a peak inside the properties of others to see what features and decorations we can aspire to.

 

But, there comes a point in your life when it really is time to stop dreaming. By that I don’t mean give up and accept your lot in life. No, there comes a time when you need to plan to make that dream a reality.

 

Firstly, you need a concrete plan. Push your dream as far as you can, while sticking within a realistic goal. Go back to those listings sites and get a gauge for just how much it’ll cost. These days, with property prices rising all the time, a dream home means millions of pounds and that means a sensible business plan to be able to achieve your goal.

 

It also means managing a series of investments carefully in order to get the best returns – probably over a long term period. Be prepared to be bold, thing big and play the long game and you can ‘live the dream’. Here are some ways to build up your assets to achieve that:

 

Property portfolio

It’s called a housing ladder for a reason and in order to climb to the top you may need to lift yourself up a few rungs by building up a careful portfolio of investments. Look at parts of the country where house price growth is strong, buy up properties, sell them on at a profit (with a target in mind before you purchase) and re-invest to build this up. Alternatively find somewhere where the rental yield is strong and get a regular income that can be saved towards your overall target.

 

It’s a strong form of investment and one that requires little prior knowledge and can deliver strong returns quickly. The further you get up the ladder the better the scope for strong returns. Set annual targets and push yourself to make the most from your portfolio.

 

Passion investments

Successful investments rely, to an extent, on putting your knowledge to use to purchase assets that will grow in price over a period of time. This doesn’t always mean complex financial accounts that require a university degree to fathom out. There is a way, for example, of putting your hobby to good use financially through ‘passion investments’.

 

The Coutts Index tracks the performance of such investments and showed how their value has risen 80% in the period from 2005 to 2014. All sorts of things qualify as passion investments – one of the most successful being classic cars, which have shot up in value by 400% in the 2005-14 period. As The Telegraph pointed out, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO recently sold for $38m (£24m) at an auction in California and while it’d be difficult to top that, there’s clearly plenty of opportunity to make money to put to that dream home here.

 

Shares

Depending on the scale of your ambitions, it’ll probably be necessary to supplement that investment through entering the stock market. The returns here can, if done correctly, be even higher than for properties – with the chance to make every £100 you invest worth almost four times that amount in just five years.

 

The trick here is to be prepared to accept risk and lock your money away for long periods. The longer the term and the higher the risk the greater the potential reward.

 

Others

The best investors know that the more varied their assets are, the better chance they have to succeed. Things such as precious metals, like gold, are sound investments that are often able to withstand fluctuations to the market which can impact upon property prices and share values.

 

Set a big target and then set to work. Build up a property portfolio, consider any ‘passion investments’ you could snap up, make sound investments in shares and keep your assets varied to enjoy long-term success and the ability to afford the perfect property you’ve always dreamt of.

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Cleaning on a regular basis not only leaves everything sparkling but it can also kill harmful bacteria, eliminate dust mites and banish other irritating allergens which can lead to health problems such as asthma and eczema. There really is every reason to keep your environment glistening – both at home and work – so as well as the regular detergents and bleaches, here are eight cleaning essentials you didn’t know you needed.

1. Vinyl gloves
Sure, it’s possible to clean the loo or wipe the surfaces without wearing gloves but why expose yourself to harmful germs and bacteria when you don’t need to? These days there are many cheap and cheerful gloves available including disposable and latex-free varieties which are ideal for allergy suffers, so be sure to view more vinyl gloves here.

2. Lemon juice
Believe it or not, lemon juice is a wonderful, non-toxic cleaning agent that’ll leave your property spic-and-span. As well as being a great substitute for bleach, lemon juice can also be used to shine your taps and metal work surfaces and is ideal for removing nasty odours from your washing machine or dishwasher.

3. Baking soda
Like lemon juice, baking soda is another storage cupboard item that can be used for cleaning. It’s a natural deodoriser and when placed in a stinky fridge can help get rid of all those strong pongs. On a similar note, place a cup of baking soda next to your shoe rack and, again, it will disguise all those cheesy smells.  

4. White vinegar
If your drains ever get blocked, remove anything obvious you can see with your hands before spooning down four heaped teaspoons of baking soda and several glugs of white vinegar. Wait for the hissing and bubbling to stop and wash through with hot water – hey presto, your pipes should be clean and clear.

5. Olive oil
Why spend a fortune on furniture polish when you can use a few drops of olive oil instead? Simply pour a little oil onto a cloth and use it on wooden furniture to bring back the shine.
A tiny amount goes a long way and will leave your home lovely and shiny.

6. Newspaper
Got lots of old newspapers lying around? Haven’t yet been to the recycling bins? Then these can be used to clean your windows. All you need to do is squirt the glass with water, screw the newspaper up into a rough ball and get to work – easy.

7. Cucumber peel
Many shop-bought cleaning products contain a host of toxic chemicals which are not overly good for your health, so if you’re looking for more natural alternatives use cucumber peel to remove marks and stains from walls and mirrors. Similarly, if you don’t want your mirrors to steam up when you’re in the shower, rub them with cucumber peel first to keep them from fogging up.

8. Ketchup

As you can see, many food items double up as cleaning products and ketchup is no different. Rub this popular sauce onto any copper items that need cleaning, leave it for 30 minutes and you’ll see how it removes all the tarnish.

 

Cleaning is an important part of life, but there’s no need to break the bank on an array of sprays and concoctions when the above eight products will leave your home in tip-top shape.

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