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7 Ways Owning A Pet Can Be Good For Your Health

There are many reasons why owning a pet is a good idea, and one of those reasons is that they can be good for your health. Studies have shown that there is a definite correlation between having a pet in your home and feeling fitter and healthier. It’s good for you on an emotional level too and can even improve your immunity. Here are some of the ways that owning a pet can be good for your health.

Less Stressed

Being able to be with a beloved pet can reduce our stress to a more manageable level. This is because, when looking after or playing with a pet, we are fully in the moment, feeling utterly present in our lives and not thinking about anything other than what we’re doing right now. Therefore, those stressful moments that might have been worrying us won’t be in our minds. When we do come back to the ‘real world’ after being with our pets, we’ll be feeling calmer and happier, so those situations that were causing us concern won’t seem so insurmountable anymore.

Stress can be the cause of many other illnesses, so having less of it in our lives is a good thing.

Lower Blood Pressure

Having a pet has the potential to lower our blood pressure, which is hugely beneficial to health. This links to the point above about decreasing stress, as when you are stressed you have higher blood pressure. This can cause many problems including strokes, heart disease, heart attacks, and even type 2 diabetes. Remember, however, that if you have seriously high blood pressure over a prolonged period of time, it could be a good idea to see your doctor as pets alone might not be enough to keep you healthy; you may also need medication.

Less Pain

If you suffer from chronic pain such as that experienced with arthritis or migraines, for example, a pet could help you feel it less. When you are in pain, you feel more anxious. Unfortunately, that anxiety actually makes pain feel even worse, and then you feel more anxious. This can go on and on until you make yourself feel incredibly unwell.

With a pet to take care of, you’ll feel less anxious, and that means that the pain you are feeling will be lessened too. A dog, cat, or other kind of pet won’t cure you, and it won’t take away the pain entirely, but it should help a little.

You’ll Feel Happier

Owning a pet will make you feel happier in general, which has a hugely positive effect on your mental and emotional well-being. Having a pet means that you will always come home to someone who loves you unconditionally, and this alone can boost happiness levels. When you are feeling happy in one aspect of life, you’ll most likely feel happier in other aspects too.

Clinical depression, of course, is another matter entirely, and although pets can help in some respects, this is another time when an expert is essential in order to get to the root of the problem. If you experience any mental health issues, or try to stop any form of self-medication and start to feel signs of alcohol withdrawal, we recommend booking an appointment with someone who can help. You’ll get treatment and your pet will thank you for it because you will be able to take care of them properly once again.

You’ll Socialize More

Owning a pet will give you many more chances to socialize with people, and since studies have shown that spending time with people you like is good for you, and can increase your health and happiness, it’s a good thing. A dog is the best pet for socializing as you need to walk them at least once a day and this means going out and seeing people. You might bump into the same people walking their dogs each day and strike up a conversation. Even a simple hello is better than nothing.

Other pets can also enable you to socialize. You might join local groups, for example, or go to workshops that teach you how to care for a certain type of animal and meet people that way. You could add yourself to an online group or forum and find people to chat to there. Or it could simply be a matter of having something in common with someone you’ve met for the first time.

Can Improve Immunity

It may seem like the logical thing to say that if someone is allergic to animal fur, they shouldn’t have a pet. However, studies have shown that actively being around these animals can improve immunity towards them, particularly for children. This can mean that allergies become less severe or even disappear altogether. Studies are still ongoing as to whether this can help an adult who suffers from pet allergies, however.

Another benefit of owning a pet is that your immune system can be improved in general, and not only in relation to pet allergies. That means you’ll be less likely to catch colds and other illnesses so you’ll feel more healthy all year round.

Helps With ADHD

If a child has ADHD it is difficult for them to express themselves properly. An animal can help them to focus and give them something to talk to when they need help. Simply being able to tell their problems to a pet can make a big difference in the lives of children suffering from ADHD and similar conditions, and it is especially helpful if they are unable or unwilling to communicate with their parents.

Pets offer a predictable, safe routine which can be ideal for ensuring that these children feel more at ease and confident. The simple act of holding an animal, of stroking and petting them, can be a soothing sensory experience. If you’re unable to have a pet due to work commitments or other reasons, then a visit to an animal shelter can also be of help to a child suffering from one of these conditions.

How To Choose The Perfect Restaurant For Dinner

How To Choose The Perfect Restaurant For Dinner

We’ve all been in that terrible position of picking what looks like a great restaurant only to find that the food is tasteless, the service is slow, and the prices are far higher than they should be. It can make us worry about picking another restaurant for dinner, or, perhaps more importantly, for a special occasion.

You shouldn’t worry too much, though. There are some useful tips on how to choose the perfect restaurant and if you put them to good use you shouldn’t ever have another problem with one of your picks.

Where Do The Locals Eat?

This tip is perhaps most useful when you are in a foreign country, or even somewhere other than your hometown, but it is a good one to think about nonetheless. Ask a local where the best restaurant is and make sure to find out why they think it’s good; everyone’s opinion is subjective, and what they like about somewhere (loud music and pizza) might not be what you like (quiet jazz and steaks). It’s best to ask someone who isn’t going to be earning any commission from their recommendation either; otherwise you won’t find an entirely unbiased response.

If there is no one to ask you should walk or drive around and see which restaurants have the local people in them. Those are the ones to try out.

Avoid The Tourists

No matter where you are, there will be some restaurants that cater specifically for tourists. That’s a definite no if you’re a local, but even if you do happen to be a visitor these places should probably be avoided. They tend to have a more limited menu (which won’t necessarily be authentic if the restaurant serves foreign cuisine) but the prices are much higher than elsewhere. They might also have a theme or be gimmicky. They will be fun, but for good food at good prices you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Read Reviews

Thanks to the internet it’s now possible to read restaurant reviews on the go. If you want to know what a certain place is like before you step inside, check it out online. You’ll have a whole range of opinions because, as mentioned above, what people enjoy is subjective, but by reading them you should be able to decipher what the restaurant is really like and whether you think you would like it in there.

If you have no idea where to even start, that’s not a problem either. You can search for ‘the best steakhouse in New York’, for example, and find the information you need that will help you make a decision.

Look At The Menu

Before you make a decision whether to eat in a restaurant or not, take a look at the menu. You can usually do this online, but if not you might find the details in the restaurant window. If it is nowhere to be seen you might be best moving onto the next place on your list, unless you want to go inside and ask to see it before making your decision. This can be difficult, though, as you may feel obligated to stay even if you don’t like the look of the food being served!

When you are looking at the menu you are looking for a few different things. One is whether there is enough choice for you and whether you would eat what is served. The next is the price; does it seem reasonable? Too expensive? Too cheap? What about the drinks? If you are taking your whole family out for dinner does the restaurant cater to children with a special kids’ menu, or will they need to choose their meal from the main menu? Are there dishes that you’ve never heard of before? If so, this could mean that it is an authentic place to eat because they have real dishes from the country the cuisine comes from rather than those that have been changed to meet the local palettes.

All of these things need to be taken into consideration before you step through the door and ask to be seated.

Watch For A While

Stand at the window (assuming there is one) and watch the goings-on inside the restaurant for a while. Don’t put anyone off their food by staring, of course, but just take note of how the food is being served; do the waiting staff seem rushed or unhappy? Are they pleased to be doing their job and making customers feel at ease? Does the food look appetizing? This is perhaps particularly important. If people are really tucking into their meals with a smile on their faces that’s great; if they’re moving food around their plates and not really enjoying what they’re eating you should absolutely turn away.

If you spot staff idling around, looking bored, making everything seem like an effort when it comes to actually doing their jobs, that’s not a good sign. If you spot staff that look grubby and messy, that’s not a good sign either. What you want to see are clean, tidy, happy people who are making their customers’ meals a thing to remember (in a good way).

Employ Your Sense Of Smell

A really good thing to take note of is how the restaurant smells. Can you detect delicious aromas coming from the kitchen? Great! That means the food is cooked freshly to order (plus a delicious smell usually dictates a delicious taste).

Trust Your Gut

Gut instinct is something that all humans have, even if we do try to repress it at times. In situations when you’re trying to make the right decision, allowing your immediate gut response to help you is a good thing. If there is something about a place that, even though the menu looks appetizing, the staff are happy, and the prices are reasonable, tells you not to eat there, you’re probably right. The same is true if you like the look of a place even though it doesn’t quite match up to all the requirements you have set for a perfect meal.

10 Amazing Benefits To Losing Weight

Losing weight is excellent for your overall health; it reduces the risks of developing certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, for example. However, losing weight has many additional benefits that you may not think of straight away but that are just as important as improving your health. It’s incredible to think that weight loss can have such an effect on your body and mind but it’s absolutely true, and if you’re struggling to find the motivation to shed those unwanted pounds, this list may give you the perfect reason to do it.

More Energy

When people first start to lose weight they will notice a huge boost in their energy levels. That’s because, when you are not as heavy, you don’t have to use all your energy up just to move around. You’ll have excess energy so you can do more. Plus your oxygen efficiency will improve so you won’t be out of breath when you climb the stairs or run for a bus.

Better Memory

Studies have shown that after losing weight the brain is more easily able to store memories. The brain actually showed more activity. Although research is still ongoing as to exactly why this would be, it could be linked to the point above regarding more energy. If the brain has more energy available to it, it can do more – including storing more memories and recalling them more easily.

Less Risk Of Cancer

There are many things in this life that can increase your chances of developing cancer including smoking, too much exposure to the sun’s rays, and radiation. Obesity is another cause for some types of cancer (such as breast, bowel, pancreatic, and liver), so losing weight will reduce your risk immediately. Losing just five percent of your body weight should have a positive effect on your health levels.

Working Out Is Easier

Doing exercise is necessary for losing weight; when you burn more calories than you are taking in, the weight disappears. However, when you are overweight exercise is a chore. It’s hard to do because the body has less energy and less mobility, and it is often de-motivating to go to a gym or a workout class and see other people who are slim and fit. As the weight comes off, however, exercise becomes easier – it even becomes fun. That means we’re more likely to go out and do it, so weight is lost more quickly.

You May Get A Raise

In a 2004 study published by Health Economics, it was shown that an obese person’s pay cheque came in at around 2.5 percent lower than a ‘normal’ sized person’s. There may be an unconscious (or even conscious in some cases) bias from bosses towards people who are overweight, with stereotypical ideas of laziness coming to the fore, and therefore they may be paid less. Losing weight in these cases could get you that raise you’ve been wanting.

You’ll Sleep Better

When you are overweight it can be difficult to sleep. Getting comfortable in bed is the first obstacle and then, when you are finally asleep, breathing can be an issue. If you don’t get enough good quality sleep you can become ill, developing conditions such as heart disease, increasing your risk of heart attack, and being more prone to developing depression. Losing weight will make getting to sleep (and staying deeply asleep) much easier, which in turn has amazing benefits for your overall health.

Fewer Aches And Pains

Being overweight takes a terrible toll on your joints, muscles, and bones. They are doing a lot more work if they need to carry more weight around, and this can mean that you are more susceptible to aches and pains, and even debilitating injuries. Losing weight will ease the pressure on your joints and bones, making them a lot less painful and resulting in fewer injuries. If your back pain doesn’t get any better after losing weight, or if it is causing you major distress it is best to get advice from an expert.

More Fertile

If can be difficult to become pregnant when you are overweight, so slimming down can certainly improve your fertility. Not only that, but if you are slimmer during your pregnancy you will be healthier throughout, and so will your baby. A mother’s weight during pregnancy has been linked to the health of her child, so it is in both of your interests for you to lose the excess weight. However, dieting in pregnancy is not recommended, so it is best to lose the weight before you become pregnant.

Better Eyesight

For many people, losing weight can actually protect their vision. Obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes can cause blindness, or at least reduced eyesight, so it is far better to lose weight before this becomes a problem.

Seasonal Allergies May Disappear

If you develop seasonal allergies that make your spring and summer something of a misery because you are always sneezing and rubbing your itchy eyes, losing weight might help you. When you are overweight your adrenal glands and respiratory system can be strained making allergy symptoms much harsher. Losing weight will reduce that strain, and you may be able to combat pollen and grass seeds much more easily.

10 Reasons To Try A Vegan Diet

A lot of people are choosing to eat a much more vegetable based diet and for many the next logical step is to incorporate a vegan diet into their lives as well – or even instead of the vegetarian or omnivorous one. Diet is hugely important in our lives and getting it wrong can result in a variety of life-limiting diseases and conditions. Get it right, however, and you can live a long and happy life. Veganism makes it much easier to get that diet right, which could be why so many people are enjoying it. There are many reasons to try a vegan diet; here are some of them to think about.

Prevents Some Conditions

Heart disease and type 2 diabetes are most often the results of bad choices in our diets and they are the most common chronic diseases in the world. When you realize that these illnesses are not something that anyone necessarily has to suffer from if they just changed their eating habits you’ll see how vital a vegan diet can be. It can even reverse some cases of cardiovascular disease if the changes are made properly.

Reverses Some Conditions

Just like cardiovascular disease mentioned above, a vegan diet can have a hand in reversing all manner of other nasty diseases. Studies have shown that vegans have lower cancer rates, fewer strokes, less chance of type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and even fewer reported cases of Alzheimer’s disease. A plant-based diet can help a lot more than any kind of medication or surgery, so it really can’t hurt to at least try it for a while to see if any improvements are made.

Lose Weight And Keep It Off

Vegans tend to have a health body mass index (BMI) which means that their weight is perfectly in relation to their height and body shape. For those who eat meat, it’s much harder to maintain this kind of BMI without a large amount of exercise. This is because animal products are much higher in fat and have more calories than any vegan product. These things are converted into fat in the body, which is then difficult to remove. Vegan food, however, has more carbohydrates which are converted into energy instead of fat. That’s why vegans are able to lose weight and keep that weight off easily.

It’s Kind

This may not be the kind of argument that works for the majority of meat eaters; they like to eat meat and will continue to do it. However, for some it is reason enough to try vegan food. Showing kindness and compassion to animals is something that many vegans feel passionate about, particularly because animals are innocent sentient beings and killing them just to eat them doesn’t seem very fair at all.

Good For World Hunger

There is a huge demand for food all over the world and a lot of this is fueled by the need for animal products; although there is a lot of meat around, when it is produced in emerging and third world countries the majority of it is sent to first world countries, leaving those in the country of origin to be hungry. Not only that, but over 70 percent of the grain grown in America is used to feed livestock, even though that grain is enough to feed 800 million people. If more people were vegan, there would be more food available for everyone and world hunger would be severely reduced, if not eradicated altogether.

Vegan Food Is Cleaner

Vegan food has a lot fewer instances of bacteria, hormones, antibiotics, and other toxins found in it whereas meat and dairy products do have a lot of these within them and they can cause health issues in people. This includes food poisoning which affects 75 million people each year; and it can be fatal. Vegan food can be eaten without these issues and those who enjoy this kind of diet won’t have to worry about falling ill because of it.

Good For The Environment

Somewhere between 18 and 50 percent of manmade pollution comes through factory farming for the meat industry. The more people who cut meat out of their diet, the less need there will be for this kind of industry and the better that will be for the environment.

Fantastic New Flavours

Did you know that there are more than 20,000 kinds of edible plants in the world? Although not all of them have been ‘domesticated’, there are roughly 200 different types that are farmed in the Western world today (and you’ll discover even more if you go traveling). This means that there are always new and exciting flavours and recipes to try; if you love cooking then cooking vegan recipes is something that will keep you happy for a long time to come. You’ll certainly never get bored!

Better Concentration

If you need to study for an exam, or generally be more productive at work, changing to a vegan diet can really help you. People who eat vegan food are much more focused with better concentration. Whether you want to be able to complete an escape the room game, work out a tricky crossword puzzle, or bring in a huge contract for your company, you’ll need to be able to concentrate so ditch the meat (at least for a while) and see the difference it will make.

Get Fit

Although you may think that switching from a meat-based diet to a vegan one will leave you sluggish and without energy it’s the opposite that is true. It can actually boost your energy levels and help you reach your fitness goal much more quickly. This is because you’ll be enjoying a lot more healthy protein in your diet. Not only that, but with a vegan diet almost all of the food is able to be used within the body in some way. In an animal-based diet much of the food is removed as waste, and really not required at all.

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 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 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.

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.

 

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Magazine Writing & research per 1000 400
Magazine Editor per day 250
Magazine Sub-editing per 1000 120
Magazine Fact checking per day 200
Newspaper (regional) Writing & research per 1000 220
Newspaper (regional) Sub-editing per 1000 95
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Newspaper (national) Writing & research per 1000 700
Newspaper (national) Sub-editing per 1000 450
Newspaper (national) Fact checking per day 200
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Online/digital media Fact checking per day 200

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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.

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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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81 Castle Drive, Kemsing

£399,000 

http://thegoodestateagent.co.uk/property/castle-drive-sevenoaks-tn15/ 

Kemsing is one of the loveliest villages in the Sevenoaks district. Quiet and unassuming, it has everything that anyone could possibly want; a great primary school (OFSTED rated good in 2017), a post office, local shops, close to the main transport links and yet tucked away in the Kent countryside. Step out of your front door in Kemsing and you will be greeted with village life, the chance to go for a refreshing walk across the Downs, and the kind of community that helps one another out.

Kemsing

So now that 81 Castle Drive is on the market, this could be your chance to become part of a true Kentish village with all the amenities you could ask for. As for the house, you can move right in and not have to lift a finger when it comes to refurbishment or redecoration; the current owners have cared for this property well in the 14 years they have lived there.

Castle Drive is a sought after location in Kemsing. Just off Childsbridge Lane which will take you to Seal and on to the M20, or Sevenoaks and the M25 or A21, yet still within walking distance of those wonderful walks we mentioned earlier, as well as the local shops which include a convenience store and takeaways, you are well placed to enjoy everything Kemsing has to offer.

81 Castle Drive itself is a three bedroom (two double and one single) semi-detached house built in 1950. It has been sensitively re-decorated by the current owners to become a bright, light, modern home which includes a large garage in the back garden for storage (or perhaps for use as a studio if that is what you need) and a conservatory, currently used as a utility area, but which would be a beautiful suntrap in the summer months.

The kitchen is well-equipped and it leads to the dining room to make family meals an easy task. From there you can enter the living area, which in turn leads out to the hallway and back to the kitchen. Upstairs are the three bedrooms (the master has a built in wardrobe) and a good sized family bathroom with a bath and shower over.

The back garden is a delight. It is a great size and has not only a lovely patio area, but also plenty of lawn and a decked area too. It’s ideal for entertaining, enjoying family time together, and it is easy to maintain.

The house also benefits from off street parking on a driveway to the front with room for two cars, and plenty of street parking (with no restrictions) if more is required.

Plus, there is no onward chain.

The property is marketed through The Good Estate Agent (Sevenoaks Area) who can be contacted on 01732 617066, or via www.thegoodestateagent.co.uk.

Property ref: 7730

4 Ways To Stop Your Children Being Bored This Summer

It’s really not many weeks now until the long summer holidays are upon us – your children (and possibly you) will be counting down to that last day of term with a huge amount of excitement and endless possibilities of the fun they can get up to flashing through their brains.

But, whether you have six, seven, or eight whole weeks of time away from school, not every day is going to be a fun one. There will be homework to do, chores to complete, not to mention the fact that going out all the time is both exhausting and expensive. So yes, there will be times when boredom creeps in, no matter what other plans you might have. In order to prevent this from happening as much as possible, or at least diminish the impact, here are some great ways to stop your children being bored this summer.

Build A Fort

Building forts out of furniture and bed sheets may have fallen out of fashion due to the plethora of tech that children have to play with these days, but there is nothing quite like the fun and giggles that building one can give you, so why not give it a try? If it makes a mess, does it really matter? Everything can be put back when the kids are finished enjoying themselves, and no harm will have been done.

children

They might want to turn it into a den for watching a film – another good distraction for a little while, allowing you time to do the housework, catch up on emails, or simply sit with them and have a rest – or colouring, or playing with their toys. You don’t need to spend any money to create it, and it will amuse them for hours.

Go Outside

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden at home, spending some time in it will do the children good, and they’ll even get some exercise (without realising it!) when they’re running after a ball or playing chasing games.

children

A paddling pool and some shade for hot days, a good imagination for all days, a few garden toys, and they’re all set. They can even invite friends over and not disturb you if they’re playing in the garden all day. Give them a picnic lunch and keep them topped up with drinks and that’s it.

Rearrange The Bedrooms

We’ll admit, at first glance this idea does sound like more of a chore than a fun thing to do to stop children being bored, but this is not just tidying up – this is complete reorganisation, and that can be exciting.

children

Try working out different ways to have the furniture in the room to maximise space or make it more comfortable. It might be that the bed is where it is because that’s where the removal company put it when you moved in, for example, but is there a better spot for it? This is hard work and should be planned out before any furniture is moved, but it can be a worthy thing to do.

Do Some Baking

Baking is always a fun thing to do, and since you end up with a sweet treat at the end of it, it’s even better. This can be messy – the younger the children the messier it tends to be – so be prepared for a tidy up session at the end (get the kids involved in that, too). This can be a fantastic bonding experience, and it will all start with choosing exactly what you are going to bake, shopping for the ingredients, and then putting it all together.

children

Check out this website for some great baking ideas.

Exercise For Mental Health

The idea of exercise is always a positive one. The reality, of course, is often far different. By the time we get home from work we’re often exhausted or too busy to do any meaningful exercise. And it’s not just in the evenings that we have trouble getting it done – exercise is the thing that most often falls to the bottom of the to do list.

Yet knowing how important it is and how it can actively improve your mental health might be what makes the difference and gives you the impetus to do just half an hour or so of good exercise each day. Read on to find out just what it is about working out that keep your mental health positive.

mental health

Stress Relief for Better Mental Health

Studies have shown that exercising is good for reducing your stress levels. Stress can take a terrible toll on your mental health, and everyone is stressed to some degree. Some stresses might be small, easily dealt with, short term problems, and these are completely normal.

Others, however, might be much more dangerous. Long term – chronic – stress can cause many different health issues including:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Organ failure
  • Ulcers

But it’s not just physical problems that long term stress will cause. Your mental health will suffer too. You could develop depression or anxiety, for example. So ideally you will want to reduce your stress as much as possible, and if you can do it without taking medication then all the better.

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. When you are concentrating on working out, playing sports, taking a brisk walk, or however else you want to exercise, you aren’t thinking of the problems that are causing you stress. Even if it’s just for a little while, your work issues, relationships, money worries, even your health situation, can be forgotten, and if you can do that, your stress levels will reduce.

Better Social Life

Loneliness is a condition that is bad for your mental health if it goes on too long (although a little ‘me time’ every now and then can actually help you feel better). If you join a gym or go to a regular exercise class, or if you go running and get to see other people, for example, you can alleviate that loneliness for a little while.

Even for the most introverted of people, this brief moment of connectivity could be enough to make your loneliness disappear.

mental health

Anger Control

Some people have a problem controlling their anger, and this can make them become stressed which, as mentioned above, has a lot of problems associated with it. It can also cause problems with relationships, leading to loneliness, and it can make work difficult.

A good exercise regime will help to quell those feelings of anger, keeping them under control and allowing you an outlet for your emotions. When you get back to ‘real life’ you will feel happier, healthier, and find it easier to let things go rather than become angry over small issues.

If you find that your anger issues are more deep seated and exercise helps but only temporarily, then seeking expert advice is always the best course of action – your life is important and you need to be happy for as much of it as possible.

Conclusion

Exercise is something that we should all try to incorporate into our lives when we can. It might not be every day, it might not even be a regular occurrence to begin with, but getting started in the most important step. After that, as with anything, the more you practice the better you will get and the better it will feel.

Is Your Workplace Toxic?

Work takes up a huge amount of every day, so it makes sense that it should be a good place to be – you should enjoy your work, and your workplace, otherwise every other aspect of your life is going to be affected. You might even develop mental illnesses such as depression and stress, or your unhappiness might manifest in physical ways; heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, ulcers, and much more can all come about from working somewhere unpleasant.

Not enjoying your job is one thing, but what if you are actually working in a toxic workplace? This is when the situation becomes desperate, and finding a new job should be a top priority. Here are some of the signs that your workplace is making you not just unhappy, but potentially unwell.

workplace
Is your team supportive?

You Dread Going To Work

On occasion (usually on a Monday morning after a lovely weekend at home), everyone is going to ‘dread’ going to work. But is it really a dread, or is it just a feeling of preferring not to? When you actively dread heading off to your workplace in the morning, and that dread is there every single day, then there is clearly a problem. Your workplace could be a toxic one.

You should never feel this way about your job. Life is too short, and there are many opportunities out there for you; you may have to retrain or think laterally about where your skills can take you, but being happy is the main thing and that is what you really need to consider.

You Don’t Feel Appreciated

Getting feedback at work is crucial for anyone to develop and become more successful. If you never hear a word from your boss about how you are doing, or you’re always the one doing the chasing when you want some kind of critique on a project or assignment you have been doing, then you are sure to feel under-appreciated.

When this happens, you might become less productive; what’s the point in bending over backwards if no one cares that you are working hard and going the extra mile? Something that you used to think matters will now how a much lower place in your heart and mind.

That’s not right.

You should be able to love what you do, feel appreciated, and feel good about the work you are carrying out. You should be able to work in a supportive workplace. Not even being acknowledged is a bad sign and one that you shouldn’t ignore.

workplace
Workplace stress is toxic

Your Workplace Worries You Even On Days Off

When you have a day off from work, what do you do? Do you enjoy it, not think about work at all (or if you do it’s only to determine the next step and what you will start with when you get back to it), and relax? Or do you constantly worry about your job, finding it frustrating and irritating? Does it make you angry? Are you unable to wind down?

If the latter is the case for you, it’s time to get out. It’s true that work is important, but it’s not everything – you need to make time for yourself and your family and anything else you want to do. If work is taking up all of your rest time as well as your work time, something’s wrong.

Conclusion

If something feels wrong about your place of work, whether it’s something tangible or just a gut feeling, and if that place of work is making you miserable or even ill, you need to leave. Yes, that can be easier said than done, and finding a new job isn’t always easy, but if you don’t start the search then you’ll never find your next – happier – position.

DODGY DÉCOR FAILS ARE COSTING HOME SELLERS CASH INVESTING JUST £300 CAN ADD UP TO £10K ON TO YOUR HOUSE VALUE
  • Aldi teamed up with interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, to makeover a home in under two hours for just £300 adding an average of over £8k to the property’s value
  • One in five buyers say that hideous décor is one of the biggest turn-offs when looking for a house
  • Nearly half (44%) offered less for a property because the interior was not to their taste

New research released by Aldi has revealed that almost one in five (19%) Brits claim that dodgy décor can be one of the biggest turn-offs when house viewing. Aldi surveyed 2,000 UK home owners to celebrate their Kirkton House range, which features a choice of quality interior products at everyday amazing prices.

Following the research, Aldi challenged home interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, to add value to a property with a budget of only £300, and using just the Aldi Kirkton House interiors range. The three bedroom, semi-detached home in Dartford, Kent, was evaluated by three local estate agents, before and after the makeover, and the property’s value increased by up to £10,000 across each valuation* – simply thorough decluttering, furniture rearrangement and the addition of stylist interior accessories. Watch the video on https://www.aldi.co.uk/kirkton-house.

According to the survey, quick upgrades can make a big difference for 34% of home buyers who say that stylish furnishings make them more likely to buy. The kitchen came out on top, with almost three quarters (72%) stating it’s the most important room to look good during a viewing. Real estate turn-offs were dark rooms (50%), awkward layouts (36%) and overgrown gardens (32%).

After seven viewings sellers consider making changes to their home to help shift it, with desperate owners splashing out on average £900 to finally make a sale. When it comes to age, image-conscious 18-34 year olds are spending over five times more (£3,131) than the thrifty 55+’s, who on average part with just £543 to shift their property.

Home interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, comments: “Together with Aldi, we’ve proven that you don’t need to break the bank to spruce up your interiors and help make that sale. We spent a third of what home buyers think they need to spend and increased the property’s value by an average of over £8k! It’s easy to invest a small amount and make a big difference. Here are some tips from the makeover to try at home:

  • Define the space in each room. A beautiful woven rug can indicate how a room should be used and brighten up a space in one easy step – try placing a colourful option in the centre of the living room to create a fun colour pop like the Aldi Kirkton House flatweave rug in navy blue
  • Make sure your rooms look spacious, appealing and homely. Consider the layout of the room and whether it feels welcoming to walk into – decluttering is a must and try shuffling the furniture around to experiment with different arrangements. Aldi’s Kirkton House Adjustable Desk Lamp will help to light up any room and add a warm feel
  • For house viewers, the kitchen is key – make sure your dirty plates aren’t still in the sink and set-up table places and crockery to show viewers what your home would look like to really live in it. Aldi’s wide range of quality Kirkton House cutlery and dinnerware can help to set the scene
  • Think about the overall interior design in your house – do you have personal items on display that perhaps don’t match the décor? Take down a few personal pictures here and there for a slicker look. Aldi’s Kirkton House storage baskets will come in handy here!
  • Make first impressions count and don’t forget your hallway! Place a nice welcome mat down and tidy-up shoes lying around in the space – Aldi’s Kirkton House Designer Lounge and Hallway range has hallway-specific show stoppers from a stencilled, geometric-design mat to a fun cactus hallway doorstop
  • Make the most of your outside space and opt for bright colours for the garden – colourful, patterned cushions and garden dining ware will come to life against the organic backdrop of green grass and bright flowers. Aldi’s Kirkton House Printed PVC Tablecloth in lemon print and decorative glass balloons will look fantastic in the sunshine and spruce up any garden”

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi, said: “As the housing market is so uncertain, we’re happy that we can offer the security of consistently low prices in the Kirkton House home range. With a choice of quality and everyday products, the range can help you upgrade your home on a budget.”

THE UK TOUR OF LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

Lucy O’Byrne and Mark Moraghan are to join the cast of the quirky off-Broadway hit musical Little Miss Sunshine for its UK tour which begins at Churchill Theatre, Bromley on 16 May 2019.

Irish actress and singer Lucy O’Byrne will star as Sheryl, the matriarch of the eccentric Hoover family. Lucy shot to fame on The Voice (BBC) in 2015 and was the runner-up that year. Her theatre credits include Eva Peron in the Evita UK tour which ran at the Churchill Theatre in July 2018, Fantine in Les Misérables (Queen’s Theatre – West End), Maria in The Sound of Music (UK and Ireland Tour), River Woman in Therese Raquin (Park Theatre) and Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof (Gaiety Theatre-Dublin).

Mark Moraghan will be Grandpa (the role that won Alan Arkin an Academy award).  Mark recently appeared as Tim Richards in Emmerdale and is perhaps best known for his roles as Adrian Mortimer in Coronation Street, Owen Davis in Holby City, Ray Wyatt in Dream Team, Greg Shadwick in Brookside and Eddie Quinn in London’s Burning.

Busy Times…

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on my blog, but I do have a good reason (excuse?) for that… I have a new job.

Although freelance writing is what I love to do, it just doesn’t pay the bills, plus it has meant that I haven’t written any fiction – my favourite thing – for a year or more. So I had to find something else to do; something that would suit my lifestyle, allow me to continue to write, and (hopefully) bring in some more money. Because, let’s face it, as much as we might like to, we can’t live without it.

I joined The Good Estate Agent, and I’m now covering the Sevenoaks area. Here’s a little video of what I do:

 

How To Ensure Your Employees Feel Valued

If you have a job that you don’t feel appreciated in and you feel that no matter what you do your efforts are just not noticed, you will begin to feel as though you shouldn’t bother working so hard anymore. You will feel as though you should even look elsewhere for a job where you can work with people who will appreciate you more. If you are an employer, this is not something that you want to happen; you want your employees to stay with you and help your company grow. To do this, they need to feel valued, so here are some ways to ensure that they do.

Talk To Them

One way to ensure that your employees feel appreciated and valued is to talk to them. This can include work details, of course, but that would happen anyway – to go the extra mile you need to talk to them about themselves. Find out about their family and their hobbies away from work, where they live and what they enjoy doing. When you speak to them again, remember what they said and bring it up in conversation where possible. This will show that you listened and that you took in what was said – and, of course, that you remembered it all.

It can also be beneficial to organize days away from work where you can get to know your employees better. These team building days are great for discovering exactly what your team is really like, and what they can do, plus they’re fun and can be seen as a reward.

Praise Them

It’s all too easy to just accept that someone has done a good job and then give them something else to do without saying much (if anything) about it. However, that won’t leave them feeling very valued, and can even make them think that you are taking them for granted. Therefore, when someone does something good, praise them. This could be simply saying well done, and acknowledging that they have achieved something, or you could go further and include the good work in a newsletter, or award employee of the month or similar.

You can also share good client feedback about a member of the team. Although it’s great to get praise from a manager, for example, it can feel even better to get it from someone from outside of the company.

Give Them Challenges

Another way to show someone that you value their input into the business is to challenge them. Giving them easy work to do all the time can get rather boring after a while, and if they don’t feel happy doing their work because they are bored, they may still want to look elsewhere. If you can give them a challenge out of their usual remit such as cold calling customers, or even designing a page on the website, they will feel as though you value them because you believe in them enough to ask them to do something they wouldn’t normally do. On top of that, they will learn something new too – and that is never boring.

5 Ways To Offer Your Customers Added Value

Running your own business isn’t always all about what you want to do; sometimes (most of the time) it’s about what your customers want, which means that you need to work out how to give them everything they need in such a way that they will return time and again. Offering something of added value, whether online or in a physical store, is one way to do that.

Giving your customers added value will be hard work initially, but once you have done it (and you have systems in place to allow you to continue to do it) you will make more money, have better profits, and your business will thrive because of it. Not only that, but you will be ahead of your competition, which is always a good thing. Take a look at the following ways of adding value to your business and see which ones you can implement.

Quick And Efficient

It used to be the case that people were happy to wait for whatever it was they had ordered. It could take weeks, perhaps even months, for their purchase to be ready and for it to be dispatched. Today, no one wants to wait that long – no one really wants to wait at all. Therefore, when someone orders something from you, whether it’s a product or a service, they expect it as soon as possible. Some even require it on the same day, and most would prefer next day delivery where they can get it. If you can promise that you will deliver on the next working day, your business will stand out and you will find that more people choose to use your services.

What will really add value for your customers is getting this speedy service without having to pay for it. Whereas some companies will charge for next day delivery, you could take on those costs yourself. Although it would be a higher initial cost, over time you will find more customers so it would be canceled out. It’s important to do this because you are equating your business with efficient, inexpensive service.

The Best Quality

It’s not always possible to beat your competitors when it comes to pricing; if you start to price your goods too low, you will stop making a profit (and you might even make a loss). So if you can’t stand out due to your pricing, you will need to look at other ways to do it and the best way is to provide items or services that are of exceptional quality. If you do this, the higher price won’t matter because people will be willing to pay for something that is above average.

Remember that determining something’s quality is all down to the customer; if something is of high quality it is because the customer believes it to be do. Therefore, you will need to carry out market research to work out what it is that your customers want (and need).

Give Them A Gift

Everyone loves a free gift and if that gift happens to be able to do some advertising for you at the same time, then it is doubly useful. You don’t have to give something away to every customer who buys something from you, but if you choose to give, for example, iPhone cases to the customers who spend the most with you, or who refer their friends, or even who write a glowing testimonial, then they are going to receive even more value for money. This will go a long way and although you will need to spend at first, the return you get on this kind of investment should be excellent, and well worth the initial cost.

Choose something that has your name and logo on it, and the more the gift is used, the more your name will be noticed. This adds value to the process for you too, which will help you with lowering your marketing costs.

Be There

If you can be available as much of the time as possible, you are automatically offering your customers even more added value. You will need to be as responsive to emails as possible, and reply to comments on social media as quickly as you can. Answer the telephone within two or three rings and this will all ensure that your business appears to put the customer first. These may only be small acts when you look at the big picture, but these are the ones that can make the biggest difference.

Of course, you can’t possibly be around 24 hours a day to answer emails and comments quickly, and this is where you can utilize new technology to your advantage. You could include a chat bot on your website so that questions can be answered at all times of the day and night, or you could make an app that is intuitive and allows customers to work through the process without having to get in touch in the first place (another bonus for them).

Fix Problems

Added value comes in many forms, and one of those forms is being able to fix problems when they occur. No one is perfect, and issues will arise through no one’s fault (or sometimes a genuine mistake has occurred). What the problem is is far less important than how it is solved and what happens afterwards.

Every company is going to work hard towards fixing any problems that occur, but will every company offer something to any customer who has been inconvenienced by the problem? The answer is probably not, but you can and that will make you stand out and give your customers added value. You could give them a discount on their next purchase, or coupons that they can use or give away to their friends, for example. You might go even further and ask them to come in to take a look around your workspace to see how things are done, if that is something that would interest them.

How To Have A Debt Free Retirement

If you truly want to retire, you will need to pay off all of your debts before you stop working – if not, you may have to delay your retirement plans and continue to work just to service those debts. When you reach retirement age, you will want to enjoy life and see and do as many things as possible – the things you couldn’t necessarily see and do when you were working. So being debt free is something you should work towards. Here are some ways to do it.

Save

The simplest way to pay off your debts is to save money. Open up a separate savings account and put all your ‘spare’ money into it. When you have enough to pay off a loan or credit card entirely, you can take the money out and do so. At the same time, you will need to stop borrowing, so lock the credit card away (for emergency use only) and don’t take on any more finance or loans, otherwise as quickly as you pay one thing off, you’ll have something else to save up for. It’s far better to buy things outright, even if you have to dip into your savings to do so, than it is to borrow because when borrowing you will have to factor in interest, and that can make things very expensive.

Once everything is paid off, continue to save and use that money to fund your retirement plans. If you start early, you will have plenty of money to enjoy some exciting trips and start some wonderful new hobbies.

Start Investing

Investment is another good way of paying off debts and funding your retirement at the same time. If you do your research first and learn as much as possible about what you are doing when it comes to investment, you can make a good return on your initial payment, and pay off your debts much more quickly. You can invest in almost anything including stocks and shares, property, and other businesses. Once you have decided where you want to put the money, finding a broker is a good idea so that you can make the most of your investment.

Downsize

If you own a property and you’re paying a mortgage on it, will that mortgage be paid off by the time you come to retire? This can be the biggest debt you owe, but you may not consider it a debt and it may not figure in your plans. However, if you’re not working, are you going to be able to continue to pay your mortgage? If not, downsizing is a good option. When you downsize, you sell your current home and buy something cheaper (and usually smaller). That way, if you choose wisely at the right time, you may not have a mortgage left at all – and you might even have money left over, which can be used to pay off any remaining debts.