Tuesday, December 11, 2018

5 Ways to Improve your Outdoor Living Space

Image Source: Unsplash

Summer is almost upon us and if you haven’t already carried out a garden makeover, it’s not too late. Let’s face it, we spend a lot of time on the terrace in the summer and after a period of relative inactivity, the garden is ready for some TLC. If you are ready to make a few improvements but don’t know where to start, here are some great ways to make your garden more appealing.

1. Declutter – More often than not, there are many items lying around that make the area look cluttered. If you don’t have a garden shed, now is the time to invest in a secure (and attractive) garden shed. If you search online, there are garden sheds for sale from established manufacturers, who have a range of designs and sizes to accommodate every garden.

2. Shading and Screening – Both essential for a comfortable ambiance, if your shading has seen better days, there are several ways to go. If your budget stretches that far, you could have a customised retractable roof installed – which is a permanent fixture that will increase the value of your home. Failing that, why not buy a couple of cantilevered umbrellas, or perhaps an awning?
Image Souce: Unsplash

3. A Summer House – If you have the space, you could put a nice log cabin in the garden. There are online suppliers of garden sheds and summer houses who have a wide range of units, giving you and your family additional living space that can be used all year round. The unit could be furnished, ideal for overnight guests, and if your children need a quiet place to do their homework, the summer house is ideal.

4. Power Clean the Patio – This can be done in a morning – simply hire a water pressure cleaner from your local hire company and your terrace will look like new. There are many surfaces that this can restore – paths, driveways, even the side of your house, making it good value for money. Remove all that moss on the pathways and restore your paving in a single session with a power cleaner.

5. Add Some Greenery – A visit to your local garden centre should result in a transformation, yet before you set off, spend a little time thinking about the locations and also what you are going to plant. Make sure the trees and shrubs are suited for the ground conditions and take into account growth and maintenance. If you happen to live in Australia, there is a list of Australia’s top ten shrubs, which might help with choices.

Renovating the outdoor living area has many benefits and if you are planning to entertain, it is important to have the right features. You might also want to assess your garden lighting, which can have a dramatic effect on the overall ambiance. With an attractive garden shed in place, all of your gardening tools have a safe place to be stored and you can keep your BBQ in there during the winter, along with bikes and other items you might have. Once completed, your garden will be an attractive place to spend those long summer evenings.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Eiffel Tower Lift Ride

It takes 1,665 steps to climb all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower. But we opted to use the lift and paid 30+ euros for three of us. The elevator itself takes 2-3 minutes to the second level, then the second elevator to the top takes another 4-5 minutes.

Friday, November 30, 2018

5 Ways to Encourage Your Child's Early Learning

Photo by li tzuni on Unsplash

Children soak up so much in their first few years of life. Studies have shown that increased neuroplasticity in our early years allows for faster learning thanks to the ease with which a young brain can form new connections. It therefore stands to reason that what happens in a child's early years sets the scene for the rest of their lives, so invest in your child's future right from the start.

Socialization is Key
An excellent way to ensure your child will have a bright future is to socialize them early. Studies have shown that children who are around others from an early age have higher emotional intelligence. Not only will this allow them to handle relationships more easily throughout their lives, it also sets the foundation for skills such as empathy and self-awareness. A simple way to help your child with this is to enroll them in a quality child care center. While it may be hard to part with your baby, you don't necessarily have to send them every day, and they will benefit from any interaction no matter how short. Many playgroups and early learning centers also encourage parental involvement so the “separation” may not be as hard, or as severe, as you expect.

Apart from being a great bonding exercise for parents and children, reading to and with your child will give them a head start at life. Although we're all learning from our environments every day, reading can be a great way to learn about things that we may not necessarily interact with. This means that teaching your child to love reading early on in life will greatly improve their future because, as we all know, knowledge is power. Learning to read early can also promote a lifelong love of information which will benefit your child greatly throughout their schooling and into their careers.

Quality Time
This tip may seem like a no-brainer but the value that quality time with family adds to a child's life cannot be underestimated. Children who know they are loved develop higher self-worth which will allow them to deal with negativity far more rationally than a child who has lower opinions of themselves. Having fun with your child will also assist with their brain development which is of utmost importance at young ages.

Be a Good Role Model
Children learn by example, so letting them see you enjoying healthy food and activities will help them foster future healthy habits. Likewise, modeling skills such as empathy and self-respect will help your family’s newest member become a well-rounded individual. Be sure also to teach your child the importance of self-care. This will help you as well as them as it can difficult to look after others if you are neglecting yourself and taking time to be introspective together can be a wonderful bonding exercise.

Teach Them STEM Skills
STEM skills are increasingly important in today’s society. Even if your child does not explicitly need them for their future career path, they will add value to your child’s life and support them in other areas of learning. The science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries have stepped into the spotlight and shown that they are the way of the future but they are also important life skills. Science and mathematics will help children better understand the world around them, technology has become omnipresent and basic forms of engineering are just good to know.

Most importantly, love your children and enjoy their existence. You bought them into this world for a reason and there is nothing more rewarding than having a good relationship with your child.

5 Quick and Easy Snack Ideas

Photo by Charles "Duck" Unitas on Unsplash
Feeling the munchies coming on? Thanks to many modern cafes and bakeries, we are so spoiled for choice when it comes to our culinary options that even our snack choices are extensive! From the pastries that are perfectly paired with coffee to timeless classic movie snacks with a modern spin to the homey delights you can buy and customize for pocket change - here are five quick and easy snack ideas to satiate your cravings.

1. The Ever-Versatile Bagel

Whether you fancy something sweet, something savory or cannot seem to make up your mind, you will always win with a freshly baked bagel. Take your pick from various seed toppings and you can enjoy your doughy delight as it is, with a spread or accompanied with your fillings of choice. Scout around for the best bagels in your area and no matter what your order, you will always be satisfied.

2. The Delectable Doughnut

Some enjoy them by the dozen; dusted in cinnamon while others indulge in more sumptuous doughnut varieties that are iced, glazed and sprinkled excessively and some like them hot and oozing with jam. These inexpensive sweet treats are timeless and easily acquired from your local bakery, or that trendy local cafe that may have even hopped on the cronut bandwagon.

3. The Humble Toastie

You can prepare this quick classic snack at home or even at work in just a few minutes. All you need is a sandwich press, bread and your fillings of choice. The traditional cheese toastie makes a great breakfast on-the-go item or savory late-morning snack. You can include tomato, sliced veggies, spinach or deli meats for a more substantial toastie or get creative with banana slices, Nutella, peanut butter or other conserves for a sweet one!

4. The Spiced Bowl of Popcorn

Try something a bit different; spice up the movie concession stand staple and sprinkle your popcorn with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, vanillin or any spice of your choice. For richer flavors, you can melt toppings like honey, maple syrup or caramel and mix them into your popcorn before spicing. This delicious snack is ideal in large amounts, so cook as much as you want. If you somehow end up with leftovers, they can easily be packed as a light and tasty snack for school or work.

5. The Guilt-Free Protein Balls

The more fitness-conscious cousin of Christmas rum balls or truffles, these little bites are not hard at all to spot in your local supermarket or cafes. The beauty of creating your own protein balls or bliss balls is that they can be made from a very wide variety of ingredients. You simply need to choose a few base dry ingredients, with options including cocoa, any kind of nut flour or crushed nuts, protein powders, crushed biscuits, fruit chunks and more.

Then, you’ll need binding ingredients like peanut butter (or any other nut butter), oils, honey or maple syrup to help your protein balls hold their final form. Now, you can enjoy them as they are or finish them off with a delicious decorative top coat by rolling them around in desiccated coconut or sprinkles and these delightful snacks are ready to eat!

These are just some popular snack ideas to get your creative juices flowing and your appetite prepared. When in doubt, nothing beats a snack that you can customize to your heart’s desire, like a toastie or a fresh, authentic bagel with all your favorite fillings. Sometimes it’s best to trust our instincts.

So, what is your gut telling you?

5 Tips for Saving Money on a Low Income

Photo by @zdeal on Unsplash

Everyone knows about the rising cost of living. For many, this can pose a challenge to having extra funds accessible for leisure activities, goals and savings. The good news is, your salary alone is not what dictates your final bank balance. It’s your spending habits that play a major, more decisive role. Here are five ways you can regain financial control and increase your savings even if your income is limited:

1. Know Your Emergency Plan

Even if you're a crack financial planner, life will sometimes throw curve balls our way and set plans off course. It's a good idea to have an emergency savings fund to tackle unexpected costs like repairs and medical expenses. However this isn't always possible. Instead of racking up debt on a credit card, consider taking out a small loan, purely to help you cover the costs of your emergency bills. Talk with lenders who offer low interest loans for low income earners as they are safer and more affordable, meaning you can pay them off as quick as possible.

2. Carefully Manage Your Meals

Be conscious of your meal sources and avoid the extra costs of dining out. Even cheap fast food is not worth your money considering the impact it will have on your health long-term! Focus on consuming mainly home-cooked meals and cut costs by:
- Buying what you can in bulk or on sale.
- Have a supermarket strategy - Plan your grocery list and never shop hungry.
- Grow your own herbs - Parsley and basil will spread around your yard all-year-round!
- Cooking one-pot items in large quantities - Enjoy fresh and refrigerate leftovers for later use.

3. Reconsider All Subscription Services

It’s 2018, many people have Netflix or Spotify and won’t think twice about it. While most subscription services charge generally low fees, they do accumulate in the same way utility and phone bills do; adding potentially hundreds of dollars to your ongoing yearly expenses. Sharing an account with friends and splitting the subscription fees is an easy way to reduce these expenses.
Make sure anything entertainment-related you pay for is worthwhile. If, for example, you know you have a busy work month ahead, put a pause on your subscriptions so you’re not paying for movies you’re not watching.

4. Home-Made Cleaning Solutions

You’d be surprised by how many store-bought cleaning items you can replace with DIY cleaning products made from inexpensive items like vinegar, baking soda, citrus fruits, salts, and essential oils. You can also take this same approach and create your own bathroom or makeup products like natural cleansers, hand soap, and moisturizers.

5. Durability Over Single-Use

Save money and reduce waste by banishing single-use items from your life, for good. Don’t spend your cash on something you will throw out in a day and consider the following.
- Your kitchen: Use spare cloth or old clothes instead of paper towels
- Your bathroom: Replace disposable items like shavers, makeup wipes and even baby nappies with durable alternatives - they’re more eco-friendly and economical in terms of cost-per-use.
- Out of home: Refill your water bottle or thermos for free rather than buying bottled water. Drink coffee from home in a reusable coffee cup or seek cafes that offer BYO cup discounts!

You don’t have to overthink or spend a lot of time cutting down any of the above-mentioned costs. All tips are based on sustainable lifestyle choices rather than encouraging high-maintenance habits and changes to things you will truly miss. So why not start today with whatever is easiest for you to implement and see for yourself!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

5 Things to Look for When Renting a New Home

Photo by @mgrandcourt on Unsplash

Few people enjoy the roller coaster stress-machine that is house hunting. Even worse, though, is running the risk of having signed your contract, paid your bond and moved into your new address only to realize that you overlooked an important detail and your home is not right for you! The best way to avoid ending up in this situation is to have a clear vision of what you want in a home while you’re searching. Here are five things to look out for when you’re looking to rent a new home:

1. A Modern Kitchen

We spend a lot of our time in the kitchen, so it's important to make sure your rental kitchen is up to date and fully functional. Check for cleanliness, whether or not appliances work and that there is enough storage space for your kitchenware. If there's an induction cooktop, you are in luck! These cooktops are popular in commercial kitchens because they’re safer, energy-efficient and heat meals faster than any alternative. Be aware in advance though that you will need to get induction friendly cookware for it to work.

2. Heating and Cooling

This doesn’t just mean having a split system (although that is always an appealing feature). When looking at your next potential home, be aware of how the property type and its location will impact its indoor environment. High-rise apartments quite commonly overheat because of their height and small-size. For these properties, having a proper air conditioner or quality insulation is ideal. Take notice of building materials: brick homes naturally insulate better all year round, unlike wood-based properties which leave you warmer in summer and colder in winter.

3. An Ideal Location

Make sure to thoroughly research the location of every home you are interested in before going to an inspection so you can narrow down your options based on your needs. If you commute via public transport, don’t waste time on homes that aren’t near any; if you’re a retired couple, your ideal home is probably not surrounded by university student accommodation. Get informed on any neighborhood or locale in which you’re considering living so that you have an idea of what to expect.

4. Security and Privacy

This is especially important if you’re going to be living in shared accommodation with housemates or looking at a home that is extremely close to, or shares walls/yards with neighboring properties. Check for working locks on all entry points and bedroom doors as well. If you require a car space, ensure that it is accessible, fits your car and is secure. Extra security features like an alarm system, security access pass to the building or smart door locks are always a bonus just make sure that they are in working order!

5. Sufficient Space

When you’re looking at a potential new home, consider how you would furnish it and take a close look at the size and room available for your belongings. There’s no harm in bringing your measuring tape along to a house inspection. If you are going to be moving furniture like beds, desks, and tables into a new space, you’re going to want to make sure they that they will fit.
Don’t settle for renting a home that’s below your standards. With a bit of research and taking all of the above points into consideration, you are bound to find your ideal home and maybe even add a bit more fun to your search process!

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