29 December 2018

Why I Refuse To Make A New Years Resolution



I don't believe in making resolutions at New Year.  I don't see the point.  Change, if it is something that you really want, comes in its own time and at the right moment.  It cannot be forced.   

What I am doing this year and what I think we all should do, is look back over the past year and look at the positives in it.  Look at the happy moments, look at the things that you have learnt throughout the year, be it about yourself, about others or more about what interests you.

I don't see the point in putting pressure on yourself to lose weight, change your personality, change your love life status, change who you are.  Change, if you wish change at all, has to be organic, natural and must come from the heart.  That is where happiness starts.

What is the point is ending a year telling yourself that you are not good enough?  That you need to change?  Work on yourself and change (if you want it) will happen.  You are always good enough.

There have been changes in me in the past year.  All have taken time, all have come organically through learning, self reflection and thought.  I know myself so much better at the end of this year than at the start of the last.  

These changes in my outlook, personality and life came slowly.   None were planned and as is so important in change, I only realised the difference in myself after the journey.

  
So looking back at the past year, have I changed?  Absolutely.  I have learned things, I have worked on my soul and my mental health.  I am happier.

This is my positivity list for this year.

  • I swept away previous bad experiences with online dating and found the courage to try again, being wholly me this time (I had feminist in my description instead of just the usual "friendly, happy, sometimes funny" rubbish).
  • I have (with the help of inspiration and motivation of a certain gentleman), embraced the body that I have.  I have explored my sexuality and become a more confident person because of that.
  • I have had less and less anxiety and depression issues as the year has progressed because I have looked inward at the causes, the triggers and talked more when the episodes have happened; instead of hiding them away.
  • I have debated and talked about my thoughts and stances with others and in some cases, changed what I thought as a result, through learning.  I have grown.  See my post on non platforming
  • Though I will always support women, support causes and talk about change and effect for women, I no longer identify as a feminist.  Something I never thought I would say.  This is an ongoing change which may well be reversed in time.  But as it stands, conversation has to be open, not regulated and regimented.
  • I am going back to my roots.  I am writing, slowly, more opinion pieces of what I really think.  It is what makes my happy, feeds my soul and helps me to collect my thoughts, my ideals and what I believe.

None of the above could been achieved with a New Year's resolution.  They came through learning, through reflection and through my heart.  

So instead this year, instead of vowing to join a gym, find a boyfriend or change your personality; celebrate you.  Celebrate your achievements, however small, throughout the year. All this "New Year, New You" rubbish is just that, rubbish.  It brings you down, not raises you up.

The most important journey of your life is to learn who you are.  Learn what makes you happy.  That is the best and most significant thing you will ever do.

xxx 

16 December 2018

Battlefield V - When Inclusivity Goes Wrong


Photo Credit
I am not a gamer.  I think that the last game I played was Mortal Kombat back in the 90s which mainly consisted of hitting a lot of buttons with no idea what I was doing.  (Worked for me though, I had a good success rate!)

The guy I am dating is a gamer.  I was interested to see how games have progressed over the years, in terms of graphics, how realistic etc etc.  My first introduction was the new Spiderman game and I was amazed at how far games have come along.  You could literally learn your way around New York just playing the game.

My next viewing was Battlefield V.   I wasn't sure a first person shooter game was going to be something that interested me, so he showed me the promo video as a taster and I was shocked to see that one of the first people I saw was a woman.  On the front line, in a WW2 game.

Women were not on the front line in WW2.

The Russians, I agree, had women in active duty, such as Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the famous Soviet  sniper.  But were there American and British women on the front lines of battle in hand to hand combat against the Nazis?  No.  

Featuring women on the promo posters and showing them predominantly in the game for me, is an insult to both the men who actually served on the front, but also, the women who contributed to the war effort, many dying in the process.



Have we reached a place where inclusivity prevails over historical accuracy? 

Now in 2018 women can serve in any branch of the military as a man.   If you can pass the same physical tests that men undergo, there is no reason to stop a woman who wishes to serve her country and be at the front line of battle.  Women are already doing this now and have died doing so.

But in WW2 this was not on the case.  Not in battle.  This is where EA DICE have fundamentally screwed up.  Including women in this game is completely historically incorrect and to me, is so wrong.

While women were not subject to the draft and were not called to the front, women did contribute to the war effort, some sacrificing their lives in the process.  They worked in munition factories.  They drove ambulances.  Ferried planes.  Nurses joined the war effort in their thousands, stationed close to the front and helping wounded soldiers.  Some died in the process.

Women were recruited for and joined the resistance, became spies and operatives; risking their lives to share information and derail the Nazis.  They fought.  They shot and just like the men who they fought along side, some were captured, tortured and died.  

Women like Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who saved over 2500 Jewish children from the Nazis in Warsaw.  She was captured, tortured to the extent that her legs and feet were broken, yet she refused to provide information.


American Virginia Hall, called "the most dangerous of the Allied spies" by the Nazis.  Despite only having one leg, she helped to train the French resistance and caused chaos for the Nazis with cutting supply lines and gathering vital information, all the while being hunted by the SS/

New Zealander Nancy Wake aka "the white mouse" as she was called by the Germans who on occasion, killed Nazis with her bare hands.

Violette Szabo, who worked as a British operative and resistance fighter and fought against the Nazis.  She was ultimately captured and despite several escape attempts from the concentration camp, was ultimately executed.  She was the second woman to ever be awarded posthumously the George Cross. 

There are so many more.

My point?   EA DICE did not need to pander to inclusivity by including women in the game, featured in places where they did not fight.  Because although not at the front lines, women served their countries in many ways, dying in the process.

You want to include women in WW2 in a game?  Make a game about the resistance, about spies in WW2, where women served alongside men.  Don't just include them in a game to appease gender equality.  Women played their own, active and vital part too.


11 December 2018

The Snowflake Generation

What is a snowflake? 

A snowflake is a unique.  No snowflake is ever alike.   Depending on the temperature it can either melt on impact; or join other snowflakes and create snow.   Snow that can be moved and coerced into a different shape, or frozen so hard that it can sink the Titanic. 

Why am I talking about snowflakes today?  Someone posed a question recently that has been whirling around in my head.  

Why is this generation called "Generation Snowflake" when in fact, it is the older generations that just can't handle confrontation and question of their thoughts?  

But the thing is, it isn't just the older generation that uses the term.



Where is the age line drawn and is it an age line at all?  I am 39 and am regularly called a snowflake; usually for calling out a behaviour or rhetoric that I didn't believe in or found offensive.  Yet I have been called a snowflake by both people in their 50s and 60s and by people in their early 20s.

So the line isn't an age thing.  It is a believe system, borne as a result of how and what you educate yourself in, the family you are born into and what they believe, the circles you move in and your own moral code and beliefs.

For me, it comes down to fear and insecurity.  

In terms of misogyny and sexism, it also comes down to entitlement.  In the 50s and 60s you could get away with slapping the bottom of your secretary or paying women less than men for the same job.  Men grew up for centuries believing that women were (in decreasing terms over the years, slowly) property, second class citizens, objects.   The fact that women now can demand the same wages, control of their own bodies and the right to touch them is something that generations of men are not used to, whether in lived experience or what they have grown up to expect.

I see many articles now after the #metoo movement of men saying that you cannot brush past a woman without being accused of sexual assault and that rape accusations are mostly "regret of actions".  Yet we have rape trials in 2018 where what type of underwear a woman was wearing is called into question.  Where her past sexual experiences is somehow relevant.   Where a man can be given 90 days house arrest for the rape of a child, yet a woman killing someone she was "given to" at 16 to rape at will, in order to escape, is given a 51 year sentence.



If you are truly scared that a woman is going to accuse you of sexual assault for brushing past her, then I am truly scared of you, because it reveals what you truly think you are entitled to.

When it comes to racism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia; this is when it turns to fear and insecurity.  

Not that long ago you could listen to that man, or woman, in the pub spouting off about how they thought that being gay should still be illegal, that black people were (somehow, I don't understand it, will never understand it) worth less than white people, how transgender people were "looking for attention".  

People would nod, smile and agree with this person in public, while at home, completely disagree with their views.  No one would question the rhetoric.  Thinking that their views are disgusting but showing support/compliance in public but disagreeing in private.  So who is scared exactly?

The so called "Generation Snowflake", which actually compromises all ages, is not afraid to call people out on antiquated beliefs and thoughts.  They question, argue, reason, debate.  Yet we are called the weak generation for daring to rock the boat that believes that Christian straight, white men (and the women who follow them) should and do rule the world.

I truly believe that people should be able to say what they want, with the exception of inciting violence.  Let them stand on their pulpits and shout their views to the world, let us see just how small, how scared and insecure they really are.

If I call you out for something that you have said, asking you to defend your statement and all you retort back is "snowflake" and "are you triggered?" then you have no platform based on anything other than lack of education, hate and bigotry.  

If you are so scared of being argued with, are you the true snowflake?

5 December 2018

5 Secrets to Whiter and Healthier Teeth




We all want to have a beautiful smile that dazzles everyone we meet. Whether it is a coworker you run into in the elevator or an old friend you happen to meet at a wedding, the way you smile affects the rest of the interaction.

You must not forget that the beauty of your smile depends a lot on the health of your teeth. Brushing your teeth every day isn’t enough to keep dental problems from creeping in. To maintain the beauty and health of your teeth, there are a few extra things you need to do.

Watch What You Eat

Watching what you eat can help prevent dental issues from ruining your smile. Some food items and drinks can stain your teeth and take away some of their beauty. Some of these food items are easy to avoid. Others – like red wine or tea – are food and drinks we consume every day.

The simplest approach to this challenge is brushing your teeth after every meal. You can also use a straw to prevent drinks like coffee from leaving a stain on the front of your teeth.



Try Flossing

As mentioned before, brushing your teeth alone isn’t enough. Use a mouthwash after brushing your teeth and try flossing more regularly. Flossing is really not as bad or as cumbersome as it seems once you are used to it as part of a routine.
Alternatively, you can chew sugar-free gum that contains fluoride and xylitol to help reduce bacterial growth inside the mouth. The gum also helps increase the production of saliva, which is also good for your teeth and mouth.

Regular Treatments

It is also highly recommended to see a dentist every three to six months for regular checks and treatments. When your teeth are maintained properly, a visit to the dentist is more fun than you think. You can even start exploring the possibilities of using treatments like teeth whitening.

Dr. Sarika Heggannavar, the lead dentist at the famous dental care facility Orlando Smile, recommends regular teeth cleaning and scaling every three months. The latter helps eliminate tartar buildup and prevent black plaque stains from appearing.

Drink More Water

Water is good for the teeth. It keeps the mouth moist and limits bacterial buildup. Besides, water is also good for your skin and your body, so drinking more water more frequently is highly recommended.

What you want to avoid are soda and other high-sugar beverages. Even when you brush your teeth after drinking soda, you can still end up with a lot of sticky, sugary substance in the tiny gaps between your teeth. That sticky substance is exactly what bacteria needs to grow rapidly.

The Right Mouthwash

Lastly, make sure you use the right mouthwash. Avoid products that make your mouth dry or ones that contain high levels of alcohol. What you want is a gentle mouthwash that kills bacteria while keeping your mouth fresh and moist.

These tips will help you maintain the beauty and health of your teeth. When your teeth are white, stain-free, and beautiful, you will have the confidence to smile more.   


*collaborative piece

28 November 2018

Interior Design Trends to watch out for in 2019


The New Year brings a fresh start as well as a bunch of new inspirations. Interior design is no different, but what can we expect to see in the new year? Read on to find the trends that will work their way into our homes in 2019. 

Colour of the year

Neutrals have long remained popular throughout home interiors, but 2019 will see us shift from cool grey tones to new neutrals. Dulux’s Colour of the Year for 2019 has been revealed as “Spiced Honey” – a warm, cosy amber tone. Dulux colour experts team up with design and societal trend forecasters to the select the colour of year, “Spiced Honey” reflecting a new mood of positivity for 2019.

The trend for barely there, warm earthy tones is set to dominate home interior palettes, from wall colours to décor and creating warm, positive atmospheres. This is one trend that can easily be incorporated into your home without fear of being too bold.


Go over to the dark side

On the opposite end of the colour spectrum, expect to see matt black make a bold appearance in homes and interiors. Introduce this trend into your home through lighting, home décor objects and sideboards to create a sense of drama and edge.

Matt black interiors can give your home a high-end feel, bringing sophistication and elegance to your space. Black is great for enhancing features – objects placed on a black background often stand out, which is perfect for showing off your stylish interior décor.

Divide and conquer

The popularity of bifold doors and windows looks set to continue into the new year, even making its way into our home interiors as room dividers, walls and showers.

This trend could completely open up a space, letting in more light and giving your home versatility and a modern edge. Opting for aluminium bifold doors minimises the amount of shadows that are cast into your home as a result of their slim frames.

Their chic, contemporary style will see them become a common feature across homes in 2019 as more of us seek open-plan living.



Technology is everywhere

It might come as no surprise – after all, it is everywhere in our lives – that technology in interior design is set to progress in 2019. The rapid progression of the smart home has seen multifunctional products flourish, and they could soon provide multi-purpose home décor.

Use of 3D modelling and virtual reality could even transform the whole interior design process.

Sustainability

Items made from natural fabrics and materials such as rice paper will become mainstream in 2019 as sustainable living becomes a responsibility. The move towards eco-friendly options has gained momentum over the past few years, with 66% of people admitting that they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods.

Look out for this trend in upholstered furniture, cushions, throws and tapestries as people search for more ways to incorporate natural elements into their homes. Embracing sustainable interiors will no doubt add style to your home and is perfect for anyone looking to connect with nature.



*Collaborative piece

26 November 2018

Seeing the Sights in Manchester

This weekend I did two things that I have always wanted to do in Manchester.

Usually when I am staying in hotels in Manchester it is for  special occasion, a night out or a shopping trip; I tend to stick to the same areas, bars and restaurants.  But there is so much more to Manchester that you can go and see.

So this weekend I decided to visit the Christmas markets (my first ever visit) and also to check out the Manchester Cathedral.  Although I am not religious or even a believer in any way, it does not mean that I cannot appreciate the architecture and the beauty of the place. 






How beautiful, right?  The height of the columns, the intricate detailing of the stained glass windows and have you seen that doorway??

I would also recommend seeing the John Rylands Library, the Bridgewater Hall Concert Hall and Calatrava Trinity Bridge.

After the Cathedral it was on to the Christmas markets.  Just a tad busy as you can see!


We decided to do the tradition thing and get a mulled wine to start our shopping out on a warm and fuzzy note.  £8 got us two delightful mug fulls of delicious and warming mulled wine and really got our shopping trip on to a lovely start.


After our mulled wine it was time to hit the food stalls located around the Town Hall and check out the welcoming Santa Claus!


Full of food, and one more mulled wine, it was time to start Christmas decoration shopping.  We were looking for some feature pieces to dot around the house rather than Christmas tree ornaments which we have in abundance.

The stalls had so much to offer!  What we quickly noted that it is worth shopping around to find what you are looking for as the prices differ, sometimes quite vastly, from stall to stall so it is worth checking everything out before making your purchases.






Although there are some gift based stalls, the Christmas markets are primarily for food and drink stalls as well as the usual Christmas decoration stalls so this is something that you need to bear in mind if you are looking for Christmas presents.  This beautiful Santa Claus is what we ended up bringing home, for the amazing price of ten pounds!




The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

23 November 2018

Memorable fitness fads from the past decades


There is always some sort of weird fitness fad taking the nation by storm. Can you recall these four strange fitness crazes — or have you got involved in any of them while working out?


What do you think of barefoot jogging?
In the early 2010s, a group of runners began to wear a form of running ‘sock’ as opposed to their running shoes. Those who supported the fitness fad said that running in trainers or running shoes can make you more prone to injury, as it encourages running with unnatural form. It’s also said that running barefoot strengthens the tiny muscles found in feet, ankles and legs which can also reduce the risk of injury.

Although barefoot jogging isn’t as popular as it once was, it does still have a few supporters. Experts have said that switching to barefoot running without properly transitioning makes you prone to injuries though. Therefore, only try this one if you’re willing to practise walking barefoot before running. 

What do you think of hot barre?
Like many fitness fads that become popular, hot barre started in New York and Los Angeles. This craze involves doing classical ballet moves in a room heated to 40 degrees, and it took off around 2015. Advocates of the fad say that hot barre encourages you to gain a deeper stretch while helping you release toxins and feel detoxed. Then, as the body has to work hard to cool itself down, you can expect your metabolism to boost and number of burnt calories to increase.

Although hot barre isn’t as big as it once was, there are some derivatives of the exercise such as hot yoga. This is where classic mindfulness movements are performed in a heated pod — a guaranteed sweat stimulator whilst acting as a way to ease back pain.  

What do you think of plogging?
This exercise is something that has only became popular this year. However, some people haven’t looked back since. It’s a Scandinavian-based trend that encourages people to pick up litter while out running — improving health and the environment.

Where did the word come from? ‘Plogging’ is a mixture of the word jogging and ‘plocka upp’ — a Swedish phrase which translates into English as pick up. The exercise part comes from running with intermittent squatting and lunging so you can pick up rubbish from the ground. It is an effective calorie burner too — fitness app Lifesum estimates that a typical user will burn 288 calories from 30 minutes of plogging.

Looking to get plogging inspired? Check out your social media feeds. Head to Facebook or Instagram and don’t be surprised to see images of people in running gear with plastic bags ready to fill with litter. Could we see this trend become widespread sometime soon?

What do you think of high-heel workouts?
It might surprise you but wearing high heels when doing a workout has been found to offer a variety of benefits. Research has suggested that even walking in high-heels (below three inches) can shape the calves and improve muscle tone and shape.

Why not slip on some heels during your next workout? It is likely you’ll begin to see your balance get better. It hasn’t been fully determined whether wearing high heels for a workout can result in weight loss, but it can help you learn how to walk better in them.

As 2019 approaches, we have to wonder just what next year’s strangest yet popular fitness trend will be…


*Collaborative piece 

19 November 2018

Let's Talk About Tattoos



I was counting up the other day and I worked out that I have 10 tattoos dotted around my body.  Everyone chooses an tattoo for one reason or another whether it be purely on impulse, something that means to them or just because they have found a decision that they love.

The first 3 tattoos I got were in my early twenties.  Sold by a shop that proclaimed that they would only last 3-5 years, I ended up with a few Chinese symbols and a design around my belly button.  15 years later, a little faded but yes, still there.

I don't mind them given their placement and lack of visibility, but if I had the option to make them disappear with ease, I probably would.

A few years older and hopefully wiser, I was a little more careful with my design choices and placement.  My stars on my left foot (see above), a little butterfly on my wrist which reminded me of my confidence transformation; birds in flight on my other wrist to remind me to always move forward; a commemorative symbol on my ankle for my dad and step dad.

Then, I made another mistake.  Thankfully, hidden behind my hair 99% of the time, so no one normally sees my tattoo mistake.

Tacky, isn't it?

I have thought a few times over the years about laser tattoo removal and for something like that, you want to go to the best.  Somewhere that is very professional, recommended and of course, does an incredible job.  I came across Pulse Light Clinic London during my research and was impressed with their client recommendations and the effort that they put in to show you the process, and the expected results.  Check out their video below.



Operating since 1991, Pulse Light offer three different tattoo removal lasers - Q-Switch Rev Light, PicoSure and PicoWay.  All skin colours and all tattoo colours can be worked and even tattoos that other clinics have tried and failed to remove can be dealt with.

I worked out that one of my tattoos to remove, sized at around 2x2 inches would cost around £270.00 which for something that effectively safely removes a tattoo from your body is good value.  They also offer interest free credit on all of their packages and also offer a free consultation so that they can assess your tattoo, give you a price estimation and how many sessions you would need.

This is something that I will definately be thinking more about doing with 1 or 2 of my unwanted tattoos.  Thankfully the unwanted tattoos are hidden from the visible eye when wearing clothes or covered by hair, but you yourself always know that they are there.

Do you have any unwanted tattoos?

13 November 2018

How To Cut Down On Your Car Budget



Whether it is needed your daily commute, ferrying the children around to various schools and activities or just for day to day life, a car has become a necessity to 21st century living.  

It does not matter if you live in the suburbs or in the city, a car is a convenience that wins over public transport every time in terms of convenience and speed to destination.  My journey to work for example takes 10 minutes by car, 30 by bus.

I am currently getting back into the car market after a long spell of public transport and I cannot wait to get behind the wheel again.  That said, I am conscious of the costs that come with buying, maintaining and fueling a car so I have been looking around for some tips to help bring down the costs.

Buy Used

If you are looking to be economical and don't want a car that costs the earth, the best thing to do is buy a used car.  I am in the process of looking at second hand cars in Brighton to find a car at an affordable price.

With buying second car, your choices also open up much more and you are more likely to be able to afford a model that you could not afford new, but a version just a few years older that you will love just as much.


Find a Reliable Garage


Whilst in the process of looking for a car, I am also getting advice and tips from friends and family in my locality for a great and reliable garage.  Maintaining your car, making sure that it is serviced regularly and properly (without it having to cost the earth) is one way to keep costs down.

You want to find somewhere that has been recommended by at least three other regular users and look out for comments on pricing etc.


Save on Fuel

Aside from insurance and maintenance, one regular expense for your vehicle is petrol.  There are many ways that you can save money in this area just by following a few of the below tips:


  • Slow down - did you know that accordingly to AA research, dropping just 10 miles an hour on speed on the motorway can save you up to 25% in the cost of your fuel?
  • Reduce the weight - do you need all the stuff in the boot of your car?  Do actually use that luggage rack on top?  If the answer is no, get rid of it.
  • Be economical with the air conditioning.
  • Keep an eye on your tyre pressure.
  • Drive a manual car - automatic vehicles reportedly use 10 - 15% more fuel than a manual car.

Cut Down on Unnecessary Trips

How many times have you nipped to the shops, the supermarket or local town to buy something, only to return home and remember something that you forgot to buy?  I do it all the time.

To save making unnecessary journeys, pin a simple shopping list on your fridge and keep adding to it.  When you have 5-10 items on the list, go shopping and TAKE THE LIST WITH YOU!

How do you save money on your car budget?



*Collaborative piece

31 October 2018

Tips For Preparing Your Garden For Winter


Whether you have a large garden or a small one, there are still things that you need to do to prepare for when winter is on its way.

You do not have to be an expert gardener to make your garden ready for the cold and make sure that it is in the best condition possible for the spring the following year.  But it isn't just about your garden, you need to take care of your equipment too.

Do a Pre Spring Clean

After months of mowing your lawn with grass getting clogged up every time, don't just store your lawn mower in the corner of the garage for months on end.  Give it a good clean, clean out the grass and soil and if you have an older mower, maybe get a service done so that it is in perfect working order when you come to use it again.

Clean up your shears, forks and spades.  Make sure that everything is dried properly and oil the metals parts so that you are not greeted with rust in spring.

Use the Leafs Pro Actively

Where we live we are surrounded by trees, not only close around the property but also with large trees across the road when seem to shed their leaves and deposit them all over our garden, paths and patio.

Cleaning them up is such a chore (especially when they aren't even your trees!!) and then there is the question of where to put them.  Your gardening bin can be filled within a couple of days.  But there is an answer.

After doing some reading last year, I found out that leaf mould is a great way to give structure and organic matter to your soil which will in turn help your plants to grow again in the spring.  All you need to do is find a corner and create an open bin using mesh and a few wood posts.  Shred down the leaves a little, put in your bin, pour water over them and then use leave them.

Once the leaves get mulchy (technical term!) and crumbly, you can then cover your soil and borders.  This is a long time process that can take a couple of years to complete but it gives you somewhere to put your leaves and will benefit your garden in the long run.


Cold Protection

Protecting the plants outside that are in pots is easy.  Simply wrap the pots in sacking and tie up the leaves.

Check out the wooden elements of your garden such as gates, fence posts etc and see if anything needs repair or replacing before the snow, ice and gales hit.  Wooden can degrade quickly if not properly protected and you don't want to have to start fixing things like garden gates and doors in the depths of winter.

Cut back any trees with overhanging branches to enable them to properly grow again in the warmer months and whatever you do, stay off your lawn once the weather turns wet and icy.  The footprints and mess that you mess will still be there in spring and will a mess.  Trust me.


Hire a Gardener

If you are not green fingered or are not sure how to properly protect your garden in winter, hire a gardener  They will be able to tell you what plants you can use during the cold, what plants to put away, what plants to leave and also give your garden a good clean up and tidy so that you are in a great place when the lovely days of spring arrive.

We pay someone to come for 2-3 hours just when autumn arrives so that we are in the best time for making any changes and doing what needs to be done.  

If in doubt, hire an expert!!

30 October 2018

The Unspoken Rules of Giving Gifts




As the most festive time of year is inching ever closer, the mind immediately wanders towards gift giving: what to buy your friends and family, and more often than not, the gifts you yourself would like to receive too. There are some unspoken rules when it comes to buying presents for your nearest and dearest, though – and can even cause anxiety – is your present expensive or sentimental enough? Should you have just stuck to joke gifts? Who are you expected to buy a gift for?

Gift Giving Rules to Live By
Why is it that these rules never discussed? It would make life so much easier, don’t you think?

We have all been there – having bought someone a gift card last minute and then receiving an incredible gift that you adore in return. Avoidthe awkwardness and create some hard and fast rules to live by, for Christmas, Easter and beyond!
  • If you know someone is buying you a gift, be prepared and make it reciprocal
  • Set a cost limit for gifts – either with the individual or as a blanket across the board so that you don’t get blindsided
  • Be consistent with the people you buy gifts for, year in year out
By making the most of gift-giving etiquette and these rules for buying presents for your loved ones, you can easily avoid any awkwardness and potential conflict. And we can all agree that this will only ever be a good thing!

Finding a Suitable Gift
Knowing how to find the right gift is something that many people struggle with, but it doesn’t have to be. You just need to know where to start.

Firstly, do some research. Have a look through their social media – what have they been talking about, or is there something they are excited about but haven’t bought already. Instagram and Pinterest – and even Amazon wish lists –are a great starting point.


Make a list of all the things you know and love about your loved ones and use this to help when looking for inspiration. It doesn’t even have to be a gift, organising something you can do together is also a great way of spending some quality time together.

Finally, make it personal – while buying something the person wants or needs is a great start, be sure to add a personal touch. Does your loved one love cheese boards? Put together some of your favourite cheeses and crackers for example.

It’s cliché for a reason, but being prepared in this way can really make gift giving an easy task, and you will go down in history as someone who gives the most thoughtful and generous gifts – and that’s never going to be a bad thing!

Alternative Ideas
These days, knowing what to buy as a gift in itself can be difficult. You always run the risk that you end up buying something they already own or buying something they simply won’t ever use. A great alternative to getting around this is to opt for something less physical; perhaps a donation to a charity or sponsoring an animal, a gift with real value to the recipient. These kinds of gift are so easy to organise and really demonstrate how well you know your friend or family member, and always go down well.

With just a little bit of planning and forethought you can be the gift giving queen or king that you were always destined to be. Follow the rules and you can’t go wrong. It is always worth remembering, though: Christmas is but one day of the year. Don’t get yourself into debt for this one day, your family and friends really will understand if you can’t afford it this year, and more importantly, they will still love you on Boxing Day!

25 October 2018

Top Tips When Moving Home

When I walk my dog at the weekend my steps always seem to take us past my childhood home.  I lived there from birth to the age of 16 and I have many wonderful memories of living there.  

The garden where I spent many an hour on the swing.  The sitting room where we all used to vie for our favourite seat on the couch (I never seemed to win).   The built in wardrobe and shelves in my bedroom that my dad built for me.  The cherry blossom tree from next door that used to tap on my window on stormy days and that I used to spend hours sitting on the large window ledge staring at (think gloomy teenage years!).


I was utterly distraught when we moved from that house and despite moving since, it is and will always be, my favourite house in the world.

Each time you move house you learn something different about how to do it better.  Can arranging a house move be anything less than stressful?  Well yes, it can, but it takes planning and forethought.

Declutter

When you decide that it is time to move house, the first thing that you should do, before you start looking for a new home, is declutter.  Be ruthless and go through everything.  From clothes that you haven't worn for the past ten years to the five whisks in your kitchen that you have accumulated (yes even that one you've had since 1994 that is somehow sentimental but belongs in a museum).

The longer you live in a house, the more that you will accumulate.  

This will not only help with the packing process but when it comes to the time when you sell your house, a decluttered, tidy home will sell faster and hopefully, for a better price when the buyer can see what they are actually buying.

Save the Memories


This isn't a tip for moving home, it is preserving memories.  Be ruthless in your declutter, but save your photographs.  All of them.  The silly ones, the old ones, the ones with your family where you hate the way that you look.

5, 10, 25 years down the line, you will miss them.  Put them in a box for attic storage in the new house.  Your future you, will thank you.

Removals

Order your removal company ahead of time.  Get as many removal quotes as you can and get recommendations.  Everyone you know will have moved home at some point and everyone has a different experience.  You want a good price with a recommended firm that won't break your valuables and won't take all day with the removal.


Notify Everyone

Sounds obvious doesn't it?  Which it is, albeit very, very time consuming.  But we live in 2018 now, not 1960.  Embrace the power of the internet and use a website like I Am Moving where you can put your details in and notify all the companies you use.  Utilities, credit cards, internet shopping providers like Amazon, subscriptions and insurance.

Create a Fact File & Ask For The Same

Pay it forward by creating a fact file for the buyers of your home.  Things like reliable trades people, who your utilities are with and when you last changed them, what make your boiler is, the best local takeaway, when the rubbish is collected; where the best place is to walk your dog nearby and most importantly, which is the best local pub.

Have a conversation with the people you are buying your new home from.  Ask for the same and mention you are doing this for your new buyers.  Maybe even offer a cash incentive.  In all the costs of moving, what is another £50 to gain this sort of information at your fingertips when you first move in? (Particularly the best local takeaway when you are surrounded by boxes and losing the will to live and cook).

Create a Survival Box

That first night that you are in your new home you are going to be exhausted, bewildered, tired and hungry.  Get a big plastic box that you can transport on your lap to the new house.  Put in tea, coffee, sugar, a kettle, milk, toilet rolls, a DVD (if you manage to set up your TV system), scissors, warm socks.  Yes I said socks.  Working out the heating system on the first night, if the owners didn't leave you a fact file, may be confusing and you will be cold.  Socks.  Trust me.

Lastly

The obvious things.  Don't over pack your boxes and LABEL.  Label everything.  Try and get a good night's sleep the night before.  If you are working full time, hire a company to pack for you.  Again, someone reputable and recommended.  Have a glass of wine to calm the nerves of moving (the night before, not on the day!).  Breath.  Just breath.  You are organised.  You will be fine.



*Collaborative piece