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29.3.16

Dealing with the home improvement conundrum

Buying your first property is such an exciting time. There’s nothing quite like that feeling after having shopped around, gone to plenty of viewings, and all the back and forth, to finally set foot in your forever, dream home. Hopefully, the place of joy and fun-filled memories for you and the family for many years to come too.
That said, one thing I remember about jumping onto the housing ladder was the feeling of endless costs too, and a massive hole in the wallet. You always bargain for paying the deposit, but after coughing up for things like stamp duty, agency fees, legal fees, surveys, moving costs and all the rest, we were left feeling pretty skint!
The thing is, very few of us move into a place that feels like it’s the ‘finished product’, and it’s pretty normal to envisage changes and improvements to make it fit the image of a palace that you had in your mind when you bought it. But it’s worth having a good long think before getting the contractors in, or making any major changes.
What improvements add value?
It’s subjective, and of course it depends on your individual situation. But there are certain enhancements that tend to add more value than others, and you need to be sure that what you’re doing will have positive net value. A survey by the National Association of Estate Agents last year suggests that loft conversions, new kitchens, conservatories, central heating and adding an extra bathroom tend to be the biggest winners when it comes to return on investment.

Financing home improvements
Not many of us are lucky enough to have the funds lying around to cover the cost of such undertakings – particularly if you’ve only just bought the place - and home improvement finance thus becomes a necessity. For most people, the default response is to borrow more on the mortgage. However, it is seriously worth considering alternatives before doing this. True, because mortgages are secured against your home, and their interest rates are usually competitive as a result. But approval will depend on your equity, and recent affordability rules have made increasing a mortgage far from a formality.
It may thus be preferable to opt for a personal loan, which tends to be a far more flexible, hassle-free and sometimes cheaper option. For example, you can choose the amount you want to borrow, and the period you wish to pay it off – while most unsecured lenders will also waive any fees for early repayments. These are all things to consider when selecting your source of finance.
Quick and easy wins
Of course, not every house needs major surgery, and there are plenty of other simpler ways of adding value to your home. Little things like adding storage space (with DIY wire and laminate closet systems), putting in carpeting, replacing taps and doorknobs, giving appliances a facelift, buffing up the bathroom, replacing tiles, giving the garden some TLC, fixing leaks and boilers, improving lighting, putting in new wallpaper and even just giving the place a deep clean can make a huge difference – not only in terms of the look and feel of the place, but also the value. And jobs like these can largely be done on your own with a minimum of effort, cost and time.
One thing I found was that once I got started making little changes, I really got a clear picture of how I wanted things to look, and began to enjoy turning our house into a home more and more. Everyone has different taste and varying ideas about what best suits their abode, but I found it incredibly rewarding to see the benefits of the work put in.
Certainly though, it is well worth getting a second opinion before making any significant improvements. It’s not all about the money, and perhaps you may want certain things that could really make a difference to family life – regardless of the added value. But especially if you’re having to borrow to pay for it, get an expert to offer their two-cents’ worth, just to ensure that there is some degree of economic sense to what you have in mind. After all, if they give you the thumbs up, then you’ll have just the validation you need, and ultimate peace of mind as you take the next exciting steps.

Prom Night? Complete Your Look with Wearable Flowers

Although it is customary for your date to bring you flowers on prom night, there probably isn’t anything in the rules that says you can’t discuss with him what you’d like to wear. Of course, it depends on how solid your relationship is but if you have been dating for any length of time and feel comfortable talking about what you’d like to have in the line of wearable flowers, then by all means do so. If it is a new relationship or a first date, you could broach the subject tactfully but it can be done.
Perhaps have a friend throw a hint or you could throw a few not-so-subtle hints yourself. No matter what, if you have your heart set on something other than the traditional corsage, it is up to you to find a way to convey that message. Here are a few ideas for awe-inspiring wearable flowers that will set you apart from literally every other girl on the floor.

Floral Crowns

After choosing the prom dress of your dreams on sites like axparis.com, you might just want to consider wearing a floral crown that will make you look like the prom queen or princess. These are especially lovely when you wear your hair in an up-do, but are equally attractive with long, flowing curls. With matching or complementary colours to your prom dress, these can be the absolute perfect accessory to complete the look you are going for.

Ankle Corsages

Want to show off those shapely legs? Again, there is nothing in the rule books that say you must wear an ankle length dress, so why not go for a midi or a to-the-knee style? Then you can wear heels and an ankle corsage that will show off those shapely legs. This will be the talk of the prom and you will be the envy of literally every other female in attendance.

Floral Bags

Usually floral handbags are done up in silk flowers, but there have been a few made up of succulents combined with exotic flowers such as orchids. Some have an abundance of greenery with just a few hints of tiny blossoms whilst others are more of a mossy cover with a bit of bloom interwoven for effect. Actually, this is the absolute perfect handbag to carry to your prom and you needn’t tell your date anything at all because no matter what kind of corsage he brings, you will still be able to wear it well.

Over the Shoulder Corsage

Perhaps one of the most unusual types of prom corsages would be the over-the-shoulder corsage that is actually worn on the back. These probably would be difficult to wear on a sleeveless, strapless dress, but even on a gown with just a spaghetti strap over the shoulder would do nicely for effect. It would probably be best to wear it on the back of your right shoulder since he will be leading with his right hand on the left side of your back when you dance, but what an amazing way to attract attention with a highly unusual corsage worn literally on your back!
If you intend to buy your own wearable flowers, it really is perfectly acceptable to warn your date in advance. It is important that he knows exactly what type and colour of flowers you will be wearing so his choice of flowers doesn’t conflict with yours. Going for the perfect look on this very special prom date? Wearable flowers is where it’s at.

23.3.16

Want To Know How to Spend Less At The Supermarket?

There are plenty of things we have to pay for when it comes to providing for the family. Whether it’s school uniforms, direct debits, the mortgage or repairs to the family car, you can guarantee there’s something our hard-earned money needs to go on! Food bills are another inevitability, but did you know that you don’t have to pay as much as might have been up to now? The Money Advice Service recently commissioned a survey to find out how we’re spending our money in the supermarkets, and the results are something we’re going to keep in mind when doing our weekly food shop.


For example, 68% of us have already clocked the fact that bringing our own bags is worth the effort now that carrier bags are 5 pence each, but what you might not know is that 53% of us are unable to select the best deal when we’re presented with multiple offers to choose from! And, 58% of shoppers still aren’t buying own-brand, even though it’s normally cheaper. You can see the results of the full survey below, and pick up some handy cost-cutting tips while you’re at it. What advice from the Money Advice Service will your family take on board?





14.3.16

DC Super Hero Girls and a £100 VISA Gift Card giveaway.

If your kids are looking for action-packed girl power, look no further than DC Super Hero Girls. DC Entertainment’s latest animated series features a dynamic group of Super Heros on their journey of discovering the power of their unique abilities and friendships. With a variety of dynamic characters from strong and fearless to edgy and fun; there is a character for everyone, it fits in perfectly with International Women's Day which was celebrated last week!

The DC Super Hero Girls YouTube channel makes it easy for our kids to watch their favorite characters, on-demand, and from any device. 
For more fun, games, and downloadables visit the DC Super Hero Girls website.





13.3.16

The One Who Changed My Outlook

It's obvious to me now that my opinion and outlook on life is completely different to before, in so many ways.
It even shocks me.
My opinions on marriage, on love, on attraction especially. 

I was always pretty sure that I would be with someone older, the thought of a younger man never really appealed to me. I didn't "get" the whole younger man thing. 
I thought even men a year to two older than me were still "too young" for me.

And now, all of a sudden, I guess those men who I would have looked past, who I would have not even have given a second glance to and would instead have given an almost patronising "awww, he's handsome" look to have all of a sudden become more than that.
They have become more than just a quick look and instead have become appealing and noticeable. 

Before I sound too much like a cougar, let me explain.
I got my job. Plus point to that is of course working with men and that the majority of the customers are men. I soon found myself satisfied in having men to talk to, not in an attention seeking way but more because I always found it easier to talk to and to get along with men. And of course yes, a cheeky flirt isn't a bad thing.
As with most jobs, I think in my sector anyway, there are a variety of ages and there was a turning point of when I went from seeing those younger guys as people I wouldn't get on with to then being people I actually enjoy talking to and being around.
Obviously, this turning point was at everyone's favourite social event no matter where you work...the Christmas do.
Four of us left standing. Me, and three guys all in their early 20's (I know, go me right?!).
I guess from that moment I realised that it didn't matter that these guys were younger than me. We were all there having a good time. We were all enjoying a drink, a dance, and having a laugh and I couldn't remember the last time (other than at the Isle of Man obviously) that I had felt comfortable around men and that I was accepted. It didn't matter that I was this 30 year old mum of two, or if it did they certainly didn't show that it mattered.

And since then, yes there have been times I've felt old and I tut at the "youth of today" but similarly there have been times when I have felt younger than them.
But mostly, there are times when an age gap doesn't seem at all noticeable or relevant. You can talk everyday, and sometimes they will shock you and you see this mature side to them which almost blows you away.
And 7 years seems like nothing when they are the person you head to straight away when you need a friend. When you feel you can say anything to them, even if they don't have their mature head on.

I do believe that I have people coming in and out of my life to teach me certain things, about myself and about how I should be seeing life and people in it.
And I guess that person made me realise, not through anything they've done in particular but more down to common sense, that it's ok to be attracted to someone and to know that it will never be.
And that's ok.

12.3.16

Six life changes that make a big impact to your overall health

If you’re unhappy in life there’s never been a better time to make some positive changes that will change your state of wellbeing. These six alterations will give a lot more than they cost – and the effects could be beneficial for many years.

Giving up smoking
For those who do rely on tobacco, giving up will be one of the biggest decisions they can ever make, and certainly one of the toughest. However, the effects on your psychological, physiological, social and financial wellbeing are massive. From improved lung, heart and brain efficiency, to better breathing and improved taste buds, your life will practically change. There are a number of ways to progress, such as self-help groups and videos, nicotine patches and swapping the tobacco for electronic cigarettes.

Exercise
Even an extra 10-minute walk a day can boost the immune system but upgrading to half an hour will really show results within just a few weeks on your entire body. It will also improve sexual function and improve your mood and sleep.
Gradual steps are the key; get up slightly earlier and follow an online video, or have a brief job. Once you’ve spent a month or so adjusting to the new routine you might consider joining a fitness class or sports group, where you’ll add new friends to the ‘reasons to feel good about life’ list.

More sleep   
Most of us need 6-8 hours of sleep every night to function properly, although some immortals seem to function on far less. The problem is that many people seem to put barriers in place to stop themselves having a good night’s kip: factors could include too much caffeine, out partying, staying up with children; worrying, and addictiveness to Netflix and mobile devices. The latter in particular is a real issue, with no fewer than 91% of the so-called YouTube generation sleeping next to a smartphone. Get some more hours of shuteye and you’ll soon feel the benefits.

Healthier food
Heavily fried and/or starchy, carb-laden food will have a number of effects on the human body, none of them good. A surplus of calories will manifest itself in arteries, bellies hips, cheeks and other parts of the body, slowing us down and making us feel less good about ourselves. Blood pressure rises, we’re more likely to feel aches and pains around the body, and the risk of diabetes is higher. Dropping these foods in favour of high-fibre, high vitamin foods will soon reverse the process – and lead to rapid results.

Cutting down on alcohol
There’s a wide range of evidence to suggest that drinking one or two glasses of red wine a day can cut the risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, these studies never seem to show the same effect for beer or spirits, which are packed full of sugar and starch. Drinking five pints of lager adds up to 44,200 calories a year, the equivalent of 221 doughnuts – one can imagine the effect that such carnage would wreak on the body. Drinking in moderation and not every day is the way forward.

Diversity
Complacency, monotony, and boredom are self-destructive. So here’s a spring resolution: change your life. Ask for more or different tasks at work. Read a book you’ve always wanted to read; start saving up for that car, holiday, or piece of technology; take up a new hobby; visit a new bar or restaurant; take a course. None of these may apply, or all of them may. Whatever, change your life and a change in positive feeling should soon follow.

2.3.16

Debrief: The Past Six Months

Looking back to this time last year my life couldn't have been much different.
It seems so weird now to look back on how my life was because the visual and the reality were completely different.
I still feel almost like I can't talk about what was going through my head at that time. I kept telling myself that it wasn't right to feel the way I was feeling because I was a wife, a mum, I had this family I had to keep together. We were going to be celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary and I guess I kept convincing myself that it was my mental health that was ultimately making me feel like this.
I convinced myself that I was just tired, and that the stress of knowing that Harry going to school full time in September would ultimately mean me having to find a job and I wasn't ready for that.
I had decided to try and gain a social life and to make the most of friendships and this in turn made me feel guilty. I was always that wife who stayed at home and who didn't go out and socialise.
And then there was my planned trip to the Isle of Man which, in all honesty, did change my life. When I booked this I could tell that this was possibly going to be a make or break holiday when it came to my marriage.
I wasn't told that I couldn't go to the Isle of Man. But it was clear that my (soon-to-be) ex-husband wasn't thrilled about the idea. Which I can understand in a way, I was going on holiday somewhere which was going to be dominated by men. And I would be going on the back of my brothers bike everyday which worried him.
The emotionless (from both of us) goodbye as he dropped me at the hotel the night before my flight, the lack of contact that week, and the again emotionless greeting when he met me at the airport was pretty much the confirmation I needed that this wasn't just down to my mental health and the other things I had convinced myself was wrong.
Two and a half months then passed, we lived our own lives, spent weekends doing different things and one evening at the end of August I knew I had to take that step and make life easier for us both.

And that was that. My marriage was then officially over and now six months on my life is so different. In fact, mine and my exes paths are completely different. 
He is in a relationship and is happy and is making plans and, I'm really pleased for him. 
Whereas for me, it's all been a bit of "fun" when it comes to men. And as much as I've felt a bit disappointed that I haven't been or felt good enough to be in a relationship I've also realised (actually whilst writing this post) that a relationship is just not on my path at the moment. And for good reason. 
In six months I had to find myself a job, and thankfully I have one that I love and through that have made some fab friends, I've had to go through the process of putting our house up for sale, then going through the sale process, I've had to see a solicitor which felt incredibly grown up and have had to go through the divorce process. I've had to find a house to live in which I have been incredibly lucky with...to the point where I almost have to pinch myself with how it has all come about. And this in turn has also given me confirmation on what I believe in. 

I think now, I just need to relax and to not put pressure on myself on how I think my life should be. It's ok for me to break down and to feel I can't cope because I am going through a lot. And I am trying to be this super woman who can do everything but maybe I need to realise that I don't have to do everything. The only person who expects me to do everything is me. No one else. 

I have to remind myself that this is my path and this is the result of the decision I made. The decision that was right for our family and these hard times are not going to last forever. 
Soon enough the house sale will be through and complete.
The divorce will be complete. 
I will be in my house and will have the chance to make it our home. 
And a man, well he will arrive when it is my time to have a man in my life. Maybe he has already arrived and soon enough I will be in a happy relationship, or will just have someone to cuddle me and support me when I feel I need to be wrapped up in strong arms.

These six months might have been tough, but I'm getting through them and most importantly, through anything I've done in that time....including the decision for my marriage to end....I have no regrets.