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Monthly April 2017
Missed out on a place in this weekend’s London Marathon? Book now to take part in the ‘London Marathon Walk’ instead!

The 26.2-mile London Marathon Walk, with challenge specialist Discover Adventure, is a special one-day event taking place on 23 September – and provides the perfect chance to tackle your very own marathon event.

Taking in famous landmarks and lesser-known corners of the historic capital, this entertaining walk will be Cockney-themed and there will be the chance to learn some fun rhyming slang along the way. The route includes the church of St-Mary-le-Bow, centre of London’s Cockney heritage, so pull on your ‘daisy roots’ for a fantastic ‘ball of chalk’ this September!

There will lots of fun-filled elements to provide added entertainment throughout the day, including lively music along the route and a draw with amazing prizes from Cotswold Outdoor.

The perfect opportunity to fundraise for a charity of your choice, or simply to enjoy a wonderful day in the capital city, this is an event not to be missed.

This one-day challenge, usually priced at £75 pp, has a special offer price of just £50 pp until 26 April to celebrate ‘Marathon Month’. The price includes a hot drink and breakfast bap at the start of the walk. There is also the choice of a ‘Half Marathon’ (13-mile) route.

For further information, contact Discover Adventure on 01722 718444, or visit www.discoveradventure.com

 

Why Fairy Stories Are Good For Children

We all like some things that aren’t good for us, especially when we’re children. Children love to do slightly naughty things, they love to eat all the chocolate, they love to stay up late… In fact, we all like to do things that aren’t particularly good for us when we’re adults too – we still like to do slightly naughty things, still like to eat all the chocolate, still like to stay up late (although we regret it in the morning)…

So if things we like tend to equal things that are bad for us, where do we stand with fairy stories? Children adore them; give them a prince, a princess, some talking animals, and a happily ever after and they’re over the moon. And adults have a soft spot for them; they are a reminder of our childhoods.

Which would mean that they are bad for us – that they are bad for our children.

The funny thing is… they’re not. Not in the least. In fact, that are good for children in a number of specific ways.

Imagination

There is nothing quite like the imagination of a child. Even the most imaginative of adults can’t come close to the weird and wonderful minds of prepubescent kids, and being able to make up stories and games is an essential life skill. It can go so far as to define the kind of career they have in the future. So listening to fairy stories, and going on later to read them, can play a big part in the lives of children and the adults they grow up to become.

Morals

Parents do their best. They give children a moral compass and information about right and wrong, but it is the fairy stories that cement it in the little ones’ minds. Fairy stories have a strong moral message – good versus evil, good wins out and so on – that it is easy for children to remember. That coupled with the knowledge they have already been given by mum and dad means that children are going out into the world with a good moral sense behind them.

Critical Thinking

It may sound surprising, but fairy tales can help children with their critical thinking. They can see the consequences of any actions or decisions that may be taken in these stories. They know that the choices they make can have serious implications, so it is best if they stop to think before acting (or reacting) in haste.

Emotional Health

We often hear in the news that younger and younger children are having mental health issues. We’re not saying that fairy stories can prevent this, but they can perhaps allow children to have a good idea of how to deal with internal conflict – something that can cause mental stress. Children identify with the main character in a fairy story, and those characters tend to win out in the end, even if they are going through hardship. They do it with the help of those around them, whom they have confided in. It’s a good lesson and one that children can easily apply to their own lives.

Just Because…

Children are children for such a small amount of time. They will have enough time to be sensible and grown up. They will have enough time for worries and life to take over. So when they are little, they need to have fun. It will give them a good base for the rest of their lives, and with strong foundation they are sure to grow up to be good people. So even if for no other reason than children love them and they are fun, they should be read fairy stories.

 

 

Hire a Canal Boat for Father’s Day at Drifters’ New Day Boat Centre

Ratty’ from ‘Wind in the Willows’, famously pronounced ‘there is nothing half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’.

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to treat Dads with a fun day out on the water, nourished by a pint and a pub lunch along the way – and with a new day boat centre opening (26 March 2017) at our canal boat hire base at Gayton in Northamptonshire, Drifters (www.drifters.co.uk) now offers day boat hire at 16 of its bases.

Full tuition is included so those new to canal boating can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.  Boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of Drifters’ day boat hire centres, routes and prices for 2017:

  1. Cruise to the Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne – from Drifters’ new canal boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around an hour to chug along to the pretty canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, passing through the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel along the way. Once there, moor up and take time to visit the intriguing Canal Museum, whose stories, films and collections give visitors a fascinating look at the history of Britain’s canals.  There are plenty of places to eat in Stoke Bruerne, including the Boat Inn, Navigation Inn and the Museum’s Waterside Café. ****Day boat hire aboard Gayton’s new day boat ‘Daylark’ which can carry up to 12 people, starts at £130 on a weekday, £165 on weekends and bank holidays

  1. Historic pubs in the heart of the canal network – from Drifters’ base at Braunston on the North Oxford Canal in Northamptonshire, day boat hirers can enjoy lock-free boating and a choice of historic canalside pubs. The quiet village of Hillmorton is a delightful seven-mile, three-hour cruise away, where boaters can stop for lunch at the canalside Old Royal Oak, or take a short stroll into the village to the Stag & Pheasant.  Alternatively, head south along the Oxford Canal to Napton on the Hill for lunch in the village at The Crown or King’s Head Inn, or canalside at The Folly.  Again this journey is lock free and takes around two hours. ****Weekday boat hire from Braunston on ‘Water Ouzel’, which can carry up to 12 people, is £135, £170 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – Drifters’ base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours. ****Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. Catch a lift on the lowland canals in Scotland – from Falkirk at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland, day boat hirers can travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first rotating boat lift and along the Union Canal to Polmont, where they can moor up and enjoy a short walk to The Claremont Inn. Or continue on to the canalside Bridge 49 café bar and bistro, next to Causewayend Marina. ****Day boat hire on the ‘Jaggy Thistle’ which can carry up to eight passengers, is £220, Friday to Sunday.

 

  1. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Drifters’ base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift. This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, looks like some giant three-storey-high iron spider and provides a 50-foot vertical link between two navigable waterways – the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.  From Anderton, the canalside Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge), offering home-cooked pub food and cask ales, is an easy day trip away. ****Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £99 for up to 12 people.

 

  1. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ****Day hire from Goytre starts at £99.

  1. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way), and enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn and a visit to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden’s Farm. ****Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Wend your way through Wiltshire – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to the waterside Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, cafes and restaurants. ****Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £99 on a boat for 10 people.

  1. Experience the rural North Oxford Canal – from Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, cruise north through open farmland to the pretty village of Ansty with its pottery and Rose & Castle pub. Or head south, travelling through quiet woodland to the village of Newbold, and enjoy home cooked food at the canalside Barley Mow pub.  ****Day boat hire from Rugby starts at £180 for a boat for 12 people, £220 on weekends and bank holidays, £200 on weekdays in July and August.

 

  1. Chug along the Staffs & Worcs Canal – from Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal near Stafford, cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the delightful Wolseley Arms at Wolseley Bridge. The journey there and back takes a total of six hours.  ****Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Crewe, cruise north past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge. With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs en route, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat.  ****Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Hopwood. The route is lock-free but there are three tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel. ****Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. Discover the beauty of Berkshire – from Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire, day-boaters can travel east to Tyle Mill Lock in just over two hours, and take a ten-minute walk to The Spring Inn in the pretty village of Sulhamstead for lunch. Up to eight people can enjoy a day out on Aldermaston’s day boat ‘Wyvern’.  ****Day hire at Aldermaston starts at £125.

 

  1. Visit Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic Foxton Locks Inn. Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Victorian Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there at the tiny little museum dedicated to it.*****Day boat hire at Market Harborough starts at £150 during the week for up to 12 people, £200 at weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Enjoy a Shropshire rural idyll…from Whitchurch in rural Shropshire, day boaters can head west along the beautiful Llangollen Canal, reaching Whixall Mosses National Nature Reserve in two hours. For a longer journey, continue on to Bettisfield Mosses, travelling through unspoilt countryside straddling the Welsh borders.  There are no locks, but there are four easily-operated lift bridges along the way. ****Day boat hire at Whitchurch starts at £99 per day for 10 people.

  1. Perfect picnicking on the Llangollen Canal…from Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can head east to Whixall Moss, one of Shropshire’s truly remote wild places, and a mecca for a diversity of wildlife with plenty of lovely places to picnic. Or head West, passing a series of farms, small villages and distant hills, to the Narrowboat Inn at Whittington, with Real Ale and a delightful canalside garden. ****Day boat hire at Blackwater Meadow starts at £99 per day for 10 people.

 

For more information about Drifters Waterway Holidays call 0344 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk For more information about visiting the canal network, go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

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Blog Writing

A blog is an essential tool in ensuring your website is seen. I can create regular blog posts that will move you up the rankings and give you a better placement within your industry.

Ghost Writing

Have you ever wanted to write a novel, memoir or short story but don’t have the time? Do you have the ideas, but the words don’t flow? I can help. Contact me for a confidential chat.

Articles

I am happy to carry out research, conduct interviews, and write/edit articles of any length. Contact me for more information about my rates and services.

Web Content

From your home page to your about me details and everything in between, you want a website that has snappy, interesting, high quality content. Let me create it for you.

Sales Letters

If you have a product that you want others to know about, you need a sales letter that is going to get attention – and keep it. I can write that letter for you.

Emails

Are you thinking of starting an email campaign but don’t know what to include? Or perhaps you want to send a special email to that special someone, but you can’t think of the right words. Contact me and we can discuss exactly what I can do to help.

Product Descriptions

Selling products online can be an excellent way of making a business, but if your products sound boring and your descriptions are dull, no one will want them. I’ve written thousands of products descriptions, and I can make your products shine.

Copy Editing & Proofreading

Have you written something that needs that extra level of checking? With my years of experience I can proofread or copy edit your work so that it’s the best it can be.

Social Media Management & Digital Marketing

Getting your digital marketing and social media strategy right is essential. I can provide and implement a social media marketing plan that works for you. Contact me to find out more.

About MeAbout Me

I'm a content writer

Excellent work by Lisamarie, on time, great quality and constant communication. Would not hesitate to recommend and in fact use again as soon as opportunity arises.

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Andreas K

Lisamarie was great to work with - she did a fantastic job that completely met the brief and was delivered before the deadline.

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Lisamarie is a very good writer and is very easy to work with. She reacted well to my guidance and provided me with content I'm very happy to use. I look forward to working with her again soon.

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REVIEWS

I started writing in my late teens but it was only with the birth of my daughter that I decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision in 2010, I have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.

Find out more about my publications on my Amazon Author Page.

I am the features and online editor for insideKENT and insideSUSSEX magazines.

I am also a freelance writer who has ghost-written hundreds of blog posts, articles, reviews, fiction, and more.

I live with my husband, daughter, and a cat called Cheryl in the Kent countryside next door to a field full of horses.

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How To Choose The Right Accounting Firm For Your Business

If you run a small business then it’s important to hire an accountant to help you. Even if you have a good head for figures, the time that doing the accounts will take up is valuable time that you could be spending on other elements of the business. Therefore, you should look into hiring an accountant as soon as you can, so that you’re not suddenly having to look for one without being able to do all the important groundwork first. There are certain things that need to be considered before you start paying an accountant, and we will go through them here.

Location

In the past, it was essential that a company accountant was located near to the company’s office. They had to be able to visit when they needed to, to go through files and papers. Today, however, location isn’t necessarily a factor that will make a difference. There is cloud accounting and online discussions that can be used instead of physically having to be in close proximity. This can make your search for the best accountant for your business much easier, as you are not limited by location, although you will need to ensure that they understand the specific tax laws that relate to your business and your geographical area. If, however, you like the idea of someone coming to your place of work and being able to ask you questions face to face, then you will need to look more locally; you will also need to ensure that the accountant works in this manner, as it is becoming more and more unusual. Before choosing an accountant, you will need to have this decision firm in your mind.

Certified Accountant

Accountants are regulated by professional bodies. These bodies also provide qualifications and maintain professional standards, so finding an accountant who adheres to these standards, and who has these qualifications is important. If something does go wrong, you as a business owner will have some recourse to complain, and potentially take things even further, to court if necessary. If you have narrowed down your search to a small number of accountants then you should look into what specific qualifications they have. They should have a degree, plenty of experience, and of course the certification as well. When it comes to accountants, it is worth hiring the best you can afford right at the start, as it will serve you well and potentially save you a lot of money down the line.

Expertise

However you go about searching for an accountant, you should engage someone with the relevant expertise to work in your business. Not only should they have experience working in a business of a similar size and with a similar turnover to yours, but you’ll also ideally want someone who has worked in a business in a similar sector too. There are many different quirks and changes in tax laws that can affect specific businesses, so hiring an accountant who will already know about any changes, or be able to access the information, can save you time and money. An accountant who understands the unique needs of your business is all-important. You might also want to consider whether the accountant has worked with businesses that are bigger than yours. That way, if and when you do grow, you will be able to keep your trusted accountant with you.

Word Of Mouth

As with anything, word of mouth and a personal recommendation can be the best way to engage any kind of professional services. Ask around your friends and family, ask your business connections and your suppliers, find out who they use and how happy they are with them. Discuss the pros and cons of working with that specific accountant, and talk about how much they are charging. Although discussions like these many not be the most interesting in the world, or the easiest since you will need to talk about money, they are essential. You may find the ideal accountant this way, but remember that engaging an accountant does need to be a personal decision, and shouldn’t be done just because a friend suggests a name. It’s better to take those names and carry out the relevant research before committing to anything.

Software

Most accountants will have their preferred professional tax software to work with. There could be many different reasons for this, and it is entirely their decision. Where it could potentially be an issue is when you are using different software in the day to day running of the accounts. There might be problems when it comes to sharing information, and although there are some programs that allow for exporting and importing data from other systems, it can be a time consuming thing to do. Therefore, find an accountant who uses the same software as you do. If there aren’t very many of them, and it limits your choices, it might be time to ask yourself whether the program you are using is outdated, or simply not good enough. If this is the case, you should upgrade or change entirely. Again, this is time consuming, but once it’s done it makes organizing your finances and paying your taxes much easier.

Look For Money Savers

Some accountants really don’t do much more than complete your tax return and check through your accounts to make sure everything is as it should be. That’s fine – it’s what you are paying for – but there are other accountants to spend a little more time going through those accounts, and who can find ways to save you money. It might only be a little, but it could be a lot, and so it is something that you will definitely want your accountant to do for you. The accountant should also warn you of any pitfalls when it comes to these offsetting ideas as well. For example, there is a chance that a tax will be levied on your home when you come to sell if it you declare that you are using it as a business premises. There is a lot to consider, which is why hiring an accountant who looks at all aspects from every side is important.

The Best Use Of Time And Money

Unless you secure a fixed price deal, most accountants prefer to work and charge by the hour. Therefore, you may not want to have them do the day to day data entry tasks that need to be completed; these don’t have to be done by someone with accounting qualifications, so if you have an administration assistant, secretary, or office manager, they could do the job and save you money. You could even do it yourself if you set aside a specific amount of time per week to get it done. Make sure you do get it done though, otherwise it’s the kind of job that will just get bigger and more complicated over time, and if that happens you will probably hire an accountant to do it anyway. Having great accounting software can make a difference here; if it is intuitive to use then you will be more likely to do the work. If it is a huge effort, you’ll keep putting it off.

Interview Your Accountant

When you start to reach out for accounting assistant, you’ll receive a number of different offers. Don’t just accept the first one you see, or the one with the best price. It’s important to read through each proposal carefully, taking the time to note all the important parts that will make your life easier, and save you money on your taxes where possible. Once you have done that, you should interview each prospective candidate. This may not be possible to do face to face, but over the phone, or through a video chat, is just as useful. It’s essential that you feel you can work with the person you are hiring. Although you may only be in contact a few times a year, that contact should be polite and not something that either party dreads doing. Better – and more – work will be done if everyone gets on well.

Negotiation

There is no single method that accountants use to work out their fees. You might pay by the hour, on a ‘per job’ basis, or perhaps a monthly retainer. You might even be charged a percentage of your turnover. No matter which way it is done, you should always try to negotiate a better deal. Get written quotations from any accountants you are considering and then compare them carefully. One fee structure might make perfect sense now, but will it still work in your favor when your company grows? Or will you be spending more money than you are happy with? When you have determined what you want to pay, and to whom you want to pay it, you can begin your negotiations. It might be best to use a combined method of paying, or something on a sliding scale. The accountant may not agree to your proposals, so ensure that you have a backup plan should that happen.

4 Ways To Ensure Your Customers Don’t Stop Thinking About You

When you run a business, the last thing you want is for your customers to forget about you. You need to be the first company they think of when they need to buy whatever it is you are selling. How can you keep yourself at the front of their minds, and ensure they never stop thinking about you?

Social Media

Thanks to the leaps and bounds made in today’s technology, social media is now something that everyone has access to. For businesses, having a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Instagram account that is regularly updated with interesting and useful information is a great way to keep in your customers’ minds. Your customers will be checking their social media accounts on a regular basis (studies show that the average person looks at their accounts 46 times a day), so you need to be there, telling them about your great offers or why they should buy your goods and services as much as you can. However, just being on social media is not enough – you need to make sure you’re using the right platform (if your goods appeal to the older generation, Snapchat might not be the best account to open, for example). You also need to be consistent, and update your account every day if you can. Plus you need to interact with your followers.

Emails

Email is an efficient and relatively easy way to send out marketing information to your customers, and ensure that they remember who you are and what you do. Just having information, however, no matter how interesting it may be, is the surest way to get people to unsubscribe from your mailing list. As well as the information, make sure there are discount codes, and giveaways. Make sure that the reader knows they will only get these treats because they are signed up to your emails – they will be more likely to stick with you for more.

Blogging

Blogging is a wonderful way to keep your audience engaged on their terms, which can be the difference between success and otherwise. You get to show off what you know about your industry, or let people know about special offers and so on, but you can also use the blogs as part of your social media strategy. These can be the basis of your posts, making them shareable. Blog regularly and consistently well, and people will come to you when they need advice because they will know you know what you’re talking about.

Be Synonymous

Being synonymous with something is a huge advantage. If you want to see a ballet at Christmas, you immediately look at ticket sales for The Nutcracker. If you need ketchup for your burger, Heinz is the name that comes to mind. Think of the phrase ‘Just do it’ and Nike will be the result. If you can create a brand that becomes synonymous with whatever it is you are selling, then you won’t have to work so hard to obtain new customers. Of course, it’s still important to make an effort, but the hard work will already have been done. This will take time and money, of course, but if you do everything else on this list, you could well get there in the end.

4 Reasons Why Exeter Is Perfect Weekend Getaway

Now that Christmas is over and the new year has started, you may be thinking of a long weekend away somewhere, to brush away the cobwebs and begin 2018 in the right frame of mind. Where better than Exeter for this fantastic getaway? Here are my reasons why Exeter is the perfect weekend getaway.

Walking
If one of your new year’s resolutions was to get fitter and healthier, why not start with a mini-break in Exeter? The area contains 368 square metres of forest and moorland, and is sprinkled with gorgeous villages that are ideal for exploring and discovering. You can get to Dartmoor National Park very easily too, or the Jurassic Coast where you can walk along the cliff paths. Or maybe you’d like a guided walk of the city itself – just book yourself onto one. What’s great about walking in Exeter and its surroundings is that you can take your beloved dog away with you on your break too.

Beaches
Exeter is close to dozens of wonderful beaches. Sidmouth, for example, is known for its clean air, and the lovely pebble beach there leads out to calm water – great for kids. If you prefer sand, then you might want to try Exmouth. It can get busy there, as it’s such a great spot, but if you don’t mind the crowds and want to try your hand at some adventurous water sports, this is the beach for you. If fishing is your thing, Beer Head at Lyme Bay will be perfect for you, as you can watch the fishing boats draw right up onto the sands (there is no harbour). Whatever you’re looking for in a beach, Exeter can offer it to you.

History
Exeter is an amazing place for history buffs. The city has a Norman cathedral which features outstanding Gothic architecture – it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. The historic quayside is an awe-inspiring mix of historic buildings and contemporary design, filled with boutique shops and independent cafes. You can even visit a museum to find out more about the area; the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery is free to enter and will give you many hours of enjoyment.

Outdoor Pursuits
As well as walking, there are many other outdoor pursuits for you to follow in Exeter. Why not hire a bike and ride out along the gorgeous riversides or along the cliff paths? Prefer something a little more alive? Horse riding is a great way to explore the area around Exeter, and there are plenty of places to book an hour or so, with a guide if you prefer. Or you could try your hand at kitesurfing, sailing, diving (there are many wrecks in Lyme Bay, for example, and with expert help you can dive down to them to explore), or windsurfing.

How To Keep Your eCommerce Site Secure

If you had a physical, brick and mortar store in a shopping centre, for example, you would make sure it was secure. You would have CCTV and high-tech locks. You would have shutters and alarm systems. You would never leave it unattended or accessible to thieves or vandals. A website, however, is often left wide open, allowing those will less than savoury ideas to go in and destroy it, stealing customers’ payment details while they are at it. Your business is ruined, and your customers are put in severe difficulties. How, then, can you keep your website as secure as a store in a shopping centre?

eCommerce Hosting

Spending money on the right kind of hosting for your website is a great start. You will have paid a professional to create your website, make it look wonderful, make it look like somewhere that people want to buy from. Placing that fantastic website on a cheap, unsecure hosting platform is where things can go badly wrong. You wouldn’t buy a top of the range mountain bike or sports car and fit it with cheap tyres, so don’t buy cheap when it comes to secure eCommerce hosting. Look around at the best websites, where people buy high-quality items such as theatre tickets or jewellery, and you’ll get an idea of the kind of hosting company to look into.

HTTPS

Every website URL begins with the letter HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol). If you want your entire site to be secure, change to having HTTPS instead. This used to be reserved for just the payment part of a site, but now you can use it on all your web pages, and that makes it even more secure and safe. In fact, having HTTPS in your URL will even help to boost your search engine rankings, as the more secure your site is, the higher it will appear in searches.

Secure Your Admin Area

Having a secure site that your customers are happy to use is essential, so you need to secure every aspect of your site, including your admin area. Most eCommerce platforms will have a default admin area, which can make hacking your site easy – hackers will be able to guess what your admin details are. Changing the username and ensuring that you have a password that’s difficult to guess will make hackers think twice. Why would they waste their time and effort trying to get into your site when they can easily get into another that hasn’t had the admin details upgraded?

Make Regular Backups

Should the worst happen and you wake up to find that your site has been hacked, what are you going to do? Well, if you have a backup of your site you can at least restore it, and start working again. This will limit any downtime you might have. You will still need to deal with the rest of the problems that a hacker has caused for you, but at least your site will be up and running and you won’t be losing too much revenue.

How To Dress For A Court Appearance

There are many reasons why someone might need to go to court. They might be a witness. They might be a juror. They might be the plaintiff or the defendant. Whoever they are, they need to dress appropriately. Here are some ways to work out your wardrobe for this kind of occasion.

Inspiration

You may not know someone who has been to court – after all, it’s an unusual thing that not many of us will get to experience – but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek inspiration when it comes to the clothing you should wear. Courtroom dramas have been around for decades, and if you pick something modern to take a look at, you’ll see the kinds of things that are suitable for wearing in this kind of situation.

Plain And Simple

Whatever you do, don’t wear anything that is distracting. The jury, the judge, and the lawyers all need to be able to listen to the experts, and everyone needs to concentrate. Any kind of clothing that looks out of place, is too bright, is too garish or ‘avant-garde’ will take their attention away from the person they should be listening to. If that person is you, then you definitely want them to listen to what you’re saying, not looking at what you’re wearing. Although fashion is made to be enjoyed, in a courtroom setting, that is not its function – it needs to be smart and tidy and show authority and responsibility.

Colour Splashes

Although you don’t want to distract anyone with your choice of clothing, wearing dark colours such as black, blue, or grey and then adding just a small hint of colour (perhaps a coloured tie or blouse or a pocket square) will lift the outfit and make it look even more professional and tidy. Just the right amount of colour that isn’t a crazy pattern or too bright will work perfectly, giving you the right air of restraint and reliability.

You Don’t Have To Buy New

It’s always nice to buy new when you can, but when you can’t there are ways to make an older outfit look current and smart. A suit never really goes too much out of style (unless it’s decades old, of course!) and this is a safe bet for a court appearance. Pair it with a smart shirt or blouse and shine up your shoes and you will already be looking great. If possible, make sure that your clothes are dry cleaned, or at least laundered before the big day, and please do iron everything that needs ironing. It’s these little things that really can make the difference.

Shop Carefully

If you are planning to buy a new outfit, then shop carefully. Yes, you’ll need to hunt for something appropriate for court, but if you can also make sure that it’s ideal for other occasions such as work, or job interviews, or going out for the evening as well, then it will save you money and it can be work more than once.

5 Ways To Calm Your Anxiety Naturally

Sometimes, life makes us anxious. It can be anything – big or small – that pushes our buttons and makes us feel nervous, unwell, as though we want to hide from the world. These great ways to naturally calm your anxiety will definitely help you out.

The Great Outdoors

If you are inside and the crowds or the situation is making you feel anxious, then remove yourself from that situation, and step outside. You don’t have to have a reason to go, you don’t have to have a purpose to take a walk, or simply take five and breathe the fresh air. Find a quiet location where you can sit (a park bench is great, a fence, a wall, a patch of grass) and breathe deeply. Completely fill your lungs with that crisp, fresh air. Look around you and ground yourself. You will feel serene and much calmer almost immediately.

Ask A Question

It’s important to work out what it is that’s making you anxious so that you can really work on ways of either avoiding it, or learning how to manage it. Even if those things seem small to others, they feel big to you, so you need to acknowledge them, ask yourself why it is causing such a problem, and go from there.

Take Me Time

We have all heard of ‘me time’ – the chance to literally get away from it all and be by yourself, whether that is being pampered in a spa or just having a little lie down in peace and quiet – but how many of us actually take the opportunity to do it? More of us should, as this is a wonderful way to de-stress completely naturally. Forget the chores that still need doing, don’t worry about what others will think, and just enjoy that time alone, doing something you wouldn’t normally do that relaxes you. A bubble bath, an episode of reality TV, the next chapter of your book… you’ll feel so much better afterwards.

Eat Well

Did you know that a poor diet could be making you feel more anxious than you would if you ate a little better? A good diet affects our bodies positively, and it does the same for our minds too. Foods that are bad for you may well be enjoyable at the time of eating, but afterwards you’ll feel heavy and sluggish, your mood may change, and you’ll feel irritable. Good food, however, will have the opposite effect, and you’ll feel energized and ready to take on the day, no matter what challenges it throws at you.

Smile More

Although you may not feel like smiling when you are stressed and anxious, that simple act can help you immensely. Just by smiling you’ll release endorphins into your body which relax you and calm you. Then you’ll want to smile even more.

How To Turn Your Hobby Into A Profitable Business

Hobbies are there to bring us joy, to help us to relax, and to generally make life a little better (and easier). Work, on the other hand, can often feel like the complete opposite – it’s hard, and it’s boring, and it’s just something we do to pay the bills and get through. If only there was a way to make our hobby into something that pays, and pays enough to give us a good living. Perhaps even start our own business. Well, there isn’t just one way that that can happen; there are many.

Goals

Having a goal – or goals – is essential when you start thinking about turning your hobby into a business. With no solid plan in place, and no end result in sight, you may find that you start well but fall at the first hurdle. To start with, what kind of scale are you looking at for your business? Will it be a full-time job so that you no longer have to work in your current day job? Or will it be a ‘side hustle’ so you can make money doing what you would have been doing in your spare time anyway? The more income you want to make, the more work you will need to do, so knowing in advance is important as you can then set aside the right amount of time to make your business successful, and the right amount of money too.

It’s Not Just The Obvious…

If your hobby isn’t something you think you could make a business out of, think again. Literally. Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper (do this the ‘old fashioned’ way for the best, most organic results) and start brainstorming your hobby. What are the ways it can bring you an income? Start with the most obvious, and let your mind really be free to make associations from there. Don’t be afraid to use the internet to see what other people are doing in the same or similar field. Once you start, you will soon discover that there are many different ways to make your hobby make you money. As a start, if you make something, you could sell it. Could you also, however, teach others how to make it? Could you create designs for others to follow? Could you sell accessories that go with whatever it is you’re doing?

Hobby Is Fun, Work Is…

You enjoy your hobby because it’s fun. You enjoy it because you’re good at it. You enjoy it because it gets your mind away from work and the office and all those business type things that seem to take up so much time. So, the big question is, will you still enjoy your hobby as much if you’re making money from it? Answer this question truly honestly, otherwise you might find that you have spent time and money creating a business only to be in the same position as you were when you were working elsewhere, except this time it’s you having to pay all the business costs and ensure salaries are dealt with. You could test the waters by starting off part-time.

Practice, Practice

Just because you enjoy something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at it. Hopefully it does mean you have a little skill, but it’s not always the case. So before you quit your day job and plunge yourself headlong into your new enterprise, make sure you really are the best that you can be. Practice, practice, and practice some more. Take extra classes, go the extra mile. Learn all there is to learn about whatever it is you’re doing so that you can be an expert, and people will trust you with their purchases. This is also the time to really learn about business, and ensure you’ve got all the skills and knowledge in place to get it right from day one. You will need accounting software and office equipment, and you’ll need a way of publishing reports so you know where you’re going and how far you still have to go.

Business Plan

No business can really make a successful start without a business plan. Not only is it useful for your bank, lender, or investors (whether you need them at the beginning or you think you might want to utilise them in the future), but it’s also important for you. An honest business plan will help you to see where the strengths and weaknesses of your idea lie, and will show you whether your hobby really can be a viable business. It will also show you how much money you might need to get your idea off the ground, and how much you’ll make in the first year (and the subsequent three to five years, all being well). If your business plan shows that you’re not ready to begin your new adventure, don’t worry – you know what you need to get to that point, and you can work towards it.

Marketing

Starting up a business is a wonderful thing. It’s exciting. It is – in some ways – freeing. However, if you don’t know about marketing, you may find that you don’t get as far as your business plan predicts. You don’t have to be an expert, but having the fundamentals of marketing in your mind will be a good start. Read some marketing books, search online for hints and tips, and generally get marketing ready before you launch. Once you are making enough money, you can bring an expert on board who can push your business even further (and give you more time to concentrate on the running of it), but until then, you will be responsible for everything. Your marketing needs to be good at the start, or finding those first customers will be tougher than it needs to be. A good way to get going in marketing is to network and make connections. You will be able to learn from these people, and you may even get referrals.

 

The Essentials To Pack On A Family Day Out

Having a family day out is one of the highlights of any weekend or holiday. Whether it is something that has been planned for months, or it’s a spur of the moment decision to go out to a museum, a theme park, a playground, or any other kind of attraction that everyone will love, there are some things that you will definitely need to take with you – here are our suggestions for the essentials to pack on a family day out.

Extra Clothing

The weather can often be unpredictable, and so can kids. By taking a spare change of clothes with you, you can be prepared should anything happen. It might rain and everyone gets wet, or it could be muddy and a change of outfit is required before getting back in the car to go home again. Or it might be something to do with dropping ketchup or ice cream all over themselves! Whatever the reason, having clothes for them to change into is a good way to keep everyone happy and comfortable.

Custom Clothing

Custom clothing is a great way to keep an eye on everyone. Whether it’s just you and a couple of little ones, or there is a big group of you, having everyone wear clothing that matches is a handy way to spot everyone quickly – ideal for when you are going to a busy place and there are going to be lots of crowds. If anyone does get lost, it’s also easy to describe what they’re wearing – and those looking will know when they have found them.

First Aid Kit

Accidents do happen, so having a first aid kit that has plenty of sticking plasters and antiseptic wipes is always useful. Patch up any cuts and scrapes immediately, and you can continue on with your fun day out.

Journey Distractions

Sometimes, the best days out will take a while to get there. If the kids tend to get bored on long journeys, it’s best to have a few distractions up your sleeve so that they arrive happy and contented (and so do you!). A fully loaded tablet, for example, with plenty of games and movies is great. If you don’t like the idea of screen time, why not get some exercise books that have puzzles in them, or colouring or sticker books to pass the time? Another idea is to look up some games to play before you leave home – spotting certain items as you drive along is a good one, as is counting the number of yellow cars, for example.

Snacks

Even if the place you’re going to has stores or stalls to buy food from, having extra snacks (and drinks) with you is never a bad idea. The kids might get hungry before you were planning to sit down and eat, and giving them something to keep them going will save any change of plans. Snacks are especially important, however, if you’re going somewhere that might not have anywhere to get food, they’re even more important. If everyone is fed and watered, you can enjoy your day even more!

How Can Water Help You Lose Weight?

One of the quickest and easiest ways to lose weight (when you combine it with a healthy diet and an exercise regime) is to drink lots of water instead of sugary carbonated soft drinks. It is said that women should drink about 90oz (11 cups) of water a day, and men need 125oz (15 cups) a day to stay fit and healthy. Our bodies need water, and here are some great ideas on how to get enough.

Set A Timer

Drinking a lot of water isn’t always easy. Sitting down to drink 11 or 15 cups at once is all but impossible – and it will put people off drinking water in general if they get overwhelmed by having to have that much, even if it is going to keep them healthy or help them to lose weight. Instead of trying to consume as much water as possible as quickly as possible, spread your water intake out throughout the day. Set a time on your smartphone or watch for every two hours, and make sure that you take a drink of water when the alarm sounds. This will help you get enough water without having to drink it all at once.

Add Flavor

Water is refreshing, and it’s the best thing you can drink for your body to stay healthy, but it’s also pretty dull, which is why soft drinks and juices are often chosen instead – at least they taste great, even if they are bad for you. You’re supposed to be drinking water, though, so why not add flavour to it? Steer clear of fake sugars and sweeteners, and use natural flavourings instead.

Sparkling

For some people, it’s the fizz of a soft drink that they crave rather than the sugar or the taste, so if that’s the case for you, choose sparkling water instead. Carbonated water is the ideal alternative, but if you are on a low sodium diet check the sodium content of the sparkling water before you start to drink lots of it – some have high levels. If you’re unsure, you can buy a Soda Stream and make your own at home using tap water.

Fruit

If you are really not keen on the idea of drinking lots of water, you might want to consider eating fruit to make up for what you’re missing. Some fruit contains a lot of water (watermelon is 92 percent water, for example, and strawberries, cantaloupes, and grapefruits all have a high percentage too) so do some research first so you can choose the fruit that will do something good for you, and have a snack and a glass of water at the same time, effectively doubling up on your intake.

Green Tea

If you want a hot drink but also want to keep up with your water intake, try green tea. It is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, and these can boost your metabolism. You can even drink iced green tea (and the ice is another way to have more water) if it’s a hot day.

How To Have A Greener Business

There are many reasons to ‘green’ your business and become more environmentally friendly. One is that it’s good for the planet. Another is that it will make you stand out in a highly competitive commerce space (either on or offline). Thirdly, going green really can help your bottom line and save you money. With so many good reasons to have a greener business, here are some ways to get started.

Post-Consumer Waste

Post-consumer waste (PCW) is about using recycled goods as much as possible in your business. Not just paper (although paper is a huge part of PCW), but other items as well including cardboard, ink cartridges, plastic items, furniture and anything else that you can buy recycled, upcycled, or otherwise previously used. PCW is a regulated way of buying recycled goods. Unlike a container that simply has the recycled symbol on it, which may not have been recycled to proper guidelines, if you buy PCW items then you can be sure that you are buying the right thing.

Biodegradable Cleaning Products

Exchange your office’s harsh, toxic chemical cleaning products for green, biodegradable ones. There is no need to rush out right now and buy more products if you haven’t finished using your current ones, but once they are done, you can buy much kinder new ones. You can even buy in bulk, which will save you money.

Do It Yourself

Unless you are in an absolute emergency, try to do as much around your office by yourself as you can. This could be anything from fixing a printer to decorating to planting a small garden in an outside space. You can even create your own logo online with DIY Logo. The point is, if you can do it yourself, you won’t have to call anyone out to help you, thus reducing vehicles on the road. It’s a small gesture, yes, but if everyone did it as much as possible, the world would start to be a cleaner place.

Use LED Lights

LED lighting does cost more than standard lighting – but that’s only to begin with. They last significantly longer than normal bulbs, and they use a lot less energy. So by the end of its working life, your LED light will have saved you money, and will have helped the environment too. In fact, studies show that LED bulbs (or compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting) can save you as much as $200 over the life of the bulb.

Buy Energy Efficient Equipment

When you need a new computer monitor, printer, shredder, even a microwave or refrigerator for your break room, make sure you look for its green credentials before making a purchase. The better the energy rating, the better the appliance is for the environment, and your bank balance. Remember also to dispose of your old appliances safely and responsibly, and don’t just take them to the landfill or – even worse – dump them somewhere. If you are unsure how to dispose of these items properly, take a look online or contact your local area representative.