How To Turn Your Home Into A Fun Space For Your Child’s Birthday Party

How To Turn Your Home Into A Fun Space For Your Child’s Birthday Party

You children aren’t going to be young forever. Pretty soon they will fly the nest, and their youth will be gone. For that reason, it’s vitally important you make the most out of your time together. Birthdays are always going to be special, which is why we thought it might be a good idea to publish a post that gives you some great ideas about transforming your home. While some parents choose to make party bookings at activity centres and the like, that can cost a lot of money. Considering that, we think it’s much better to hold your child’s birthday celebrations at home.

Take a few moments to read through some of the ideas we’ve listed below, and organising the perfect party for your child should become far simpler. We’ve done our best to make things simple for you. The suggestions in this post could help to make your home a much more fun environment for everyone who attends. While you could give their room a makeover for the big day, it’s, usually, better to keep the activities downstairs.

Get lots of party decorations

You might not get too excited by having banners that say, “happy birthday” all over your front door, but your child is guaranteed to love it. You can also get these for the walls inside your home. Perhaps it might be wise to get some streamers and other items too? You see, it’s all about getting them excited about their special occasion.

Design some personalised balloons

While most parents simply purchase a cheap multi-pack of balloons for their child’s birthday party, you could go one step further. Why not get some personalised ones with their name on. You could even have their face put on the balloons if you think they would appreciate it. Ten years ago, you might have had to travel long distances to make that happen. However, thanks to www.balloonsgalore.co.uk and other similar websites, you can now have them delivered to your door.

Put on a nice spread

There is little point in cooking posh meals for the children attending your party. Most of them will have no interest in sitting down to eat when there are lots of fun activities going on. With that in mind, you should make a buffet so kids can eat as and when they feel like it. Just do some sandwiches and nibbles! Remember though, some children will have different dietary requirements, and so it might be wise to speak with their parents beforehand.

Select a suitable playlist

Most children listen to the radio these days, and so everyone at your party should be familiar with songs that are currently in the charts. Even so, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t purchase a standard party CD. The hokey-cokey never gets old.

As you can clearly see, you have your work cut-out. Arranging a children’s party in your home is going to take a lot of time and careful preparation. However, everything should go to plan, so long as you start work straight away.

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My Kitchen Saviours: Don’t Cook Without These

My Kitchen Saviours: Don’t Cook Without These

If you love spending time in the kitchen, you should be interested in this post. I love spending time in the kitchen too, and over the years I’ve come across some gadgets I don’t think I could live without. The following items are my kitchen saviours…I won’t cook without them:

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Image Credit: Flickr

A Griddle Pan

The griddle pan is great for cooking just about anything. You can cook your bacon, chicken, steak; whatever meat you’re eating that day. The great thing about it, is that it locks in all of the flavour while getting rid of lots of the fat. This makes the meat much healthier than frying!

A Slow Cooker

The slow cooker is a great tool for days when you’re just too busy to cook. Simply throw everything into the slow cooker and later on you’ll have your meal ready made. There’s no need to do anything else. Simply enjoy the aromas filling the house and get on with your day.

A Sturdy Grater

Whatever you’re grating, whether it’s cheese, garlic or fruit; it needs to be a sturdy grater. I’ve had graters that snap when you apply the slightest bit of pressure.

Kitchen Scales

Kitchen scales make sure you aren’t going to cook too much and end up wasting perfectly good food. You’ll also make sure you get the amounts of your recipes perfect, so you can cook every dish down to a T.

A Great Set of Knives

With a great set of knives, you can chop through just about anything at lightening speed. Vegetables, meat, fruit…you name it. Blunt knives and regular knives that we eat with aren’t as sharp for a reason. They aren’t made for the job. You won’t regret treating yourself to a set of these!

A Herb and Spice Rack

The more herbs and spices you have in the house, the better! You can buy most if these complete with a rack too. Herbs and spices transform a boring dish into something spectacular.

A Hand Blender

Strong hand blenders can be hard to come by. However, it’s one of the most useful kitchen gadgets. If you can find one that has no trouble blending ice and frozen fruit, you’re on to a winner! Many of the cheap ones will get too hot when they are being used for this kind of job.

A Pestle and Mortar

The pestle and mortar not only looks great when displayed in the kitchen, it’s great for mashing up ingredients. When a recipe calls for crushing garlic, for example. It’s fun to do too!

Heavy Set Pans

Heavy set pans are quality pans. Cheap pans that feel flimsy and light won’t last a very long time and will become scratched easily. Not only that, they are never as ‘non stick’ as they claim. Real, heavy set pans are an amazing addition to any kitchen.

Now you know what you should have in your kitchen, here are some fantastic cooking tips. Let me know if there are any kitchen gadgets you couldn’t be without. Thanks!

Golfing Holiday in Italy

Golfing Holiday in Italy

Golfing holidays have been popular for a long time now, but if you are looking for something a little different than the average “golf by the sea” trip, you should really take a look at Castelfalfi.  Castelfalfi is 110 hectares of beautiful Tuscan countryside that features an 800 years old village within its borders.  The area had become something of a ghost town, as most of the residents left it and moved on in the 60s.  Since then and in the last decade or so there has been a great and inspirational renovation project to bring the area back to its former glory.

As well as being the perfect way to get a truly authentic experience of what Tuscan life is like; a stay at Castelfalfi will also give you the golfing holiday of your dreams.  As the area has a very balanced climate, it is ideal for golfers as you can play comfortably at almost any time of the year.  The courses within the estate have been built with the principles of sustainability firmly in mind, making it not only one of the most breath-taking places to play golf thanks to the views and landscape, but one of the most challenging places to play golf thanks to the way the courses have be devised.

There are a total of 27 holes across 2 courses and while expert golfers will find many challenges, beginners will also be able to hone their skills.  In addition to the 2 stunning courses, there is also a driving range where you can practice getting your swing just right, covered areas where golf clinics are often held and a small clubhouse with a terrace and a bar for when you need some refreshments after a game or 2.

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Both The Mountain Course and The Lake Course have been designed so that whether you want to play an 18-hole game or a 9-hole game, you always start and finish at the club house, meaning you can walk off the courses and into the bar for some refreshments.  The courses themselves have been designed by the award winning and renowned golf course designers Wilfried Moroder and Rainer Preissmann.

The Mountain Course

The 18-hole Mountain Course has been open for play since August 2010 and in a short time the 6.531 m course has become well known for the challenging game it offers players and the stunning views.  Beginners and experts are welcome on the course, which has a Par 72.  The course has been designed to naturally fit within the topography of the land in the estate and this provides natural obstacles and water hazards that you need to manoeuvre round.

This also means that each fairway for each hole has a very unique look and feel.  The 9th hole of The Mountain Course is one of the course’s highlights and is a particularly challenging par 3 that is set in a very green and scenic area of the course.

The Lake Course

The 9-hole Lake Course has been open for play since November 2011, so is a little newer than its mountain counterpart.  This particular course has been specifically designed with players of all levels of experience and handicaps in mind.

As you can see from the above, Castelfalfi offers golfers of any level and handicap a truly memorable and unique experience.

 

Reasons why you should look at investing in fine wine over shares

Reasons why you should look at investing in fine wine over shares

Investors know that it’s wise to diversify their portfolios, and many now seek to diversify beyond the standard stocks and bonds. One possibility which has gotten a lot of attention recently is investing in fine wines. If you’re willing to learn about the wine market, this asset class can definitely make a tempting investment.

Over the past 20 years, the demand for fine wine has escalated to a global degree. This aromatic beverage is no longer a mere object of enjoyment, and many see it as a viable investment commodity. Nonetheless, as a potential investor you must know that not all wines are investable. Only the best of the best will eventually bring extraordinary returns. Here are some things to consider about investing in fine wine:

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Tangible assets

The stock market has shown a lot of volatility, and that has made some investors seek tangible assets as an alternative. Investing in wine gives you a tangible asset with a finite supply that often does not move in sync with the stock market.

Strong returns

Fine wine can deliver some remarkable returns. During the years of 2009 to 2011, prices of fine wine, as tracked in the Liv-ex 100, the most popular industry benchmark index, skyrocketed. Of course that performance was exceptional, and like any investment class, prices can slump sometimes too. Nevertheless, these high returns showed what is possible.

Enjoying wine

Fine wine makes an ideal investment for people who enjoy good wine. If you like drinking wine, then you will enjoy the process of learning more about the industry and the wines you invest in. You may even choose to do some tasting of your investments, which can be a nice side benefit.

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How to invest in fine wine

Now that you’ve decided to invest in fine wine and give up shares, you must first adhere to some rule. Making money with wine is not that easy; always remember that any type of investment comes with risks. Here are some guidelines to help you make the decisions.

  • Use a wine merchant

Find a reputable wine merchant, who can sell you wines for investment. Be certain to use a well-established merchant with a stellar reputation. Otherwise, you may get someone who overcharges you for the wine you buy, or who steers you into making some bad investments because they make more profit on those. Wine merchants do not charge a fee or commission, because they already have a margin built into the prices of wine they sell. A good merchant will be able to give you some advice on what wines to purchase or avoid, but you should always do your own research and due diligence.

  • Wine funds

If you don’t want to do all the work to research, buy, store and sell your own wines, then you can invest via a wine fund. This is like a mutual fund for wines. A management team buys and sells the wines, making all of the decisions about what to purchase, and when to buy and sell different holdings. You buy shares in the wine fund, rather than owning the wine yourself directly.  One advantage is that this diversifies your wine holdings more than buying wine yourself. It is easier for you than handling research and transactions yourself. You also have wine experts making your decisions. On the downside, the fund management takes various fees for their services.

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  • Wine trading platforms

There are websites where you can buy and sell fine wines, such as Wine Owners and Caves. You can see pictures and videos of the wine before you buy, check price history, and monitor your portfolio. The pros are that it’s very flexible, and fees are low. The cons are that you need to do a lot of work yourself.

Wine investors should first and foremost buy wines with a track record. Just because you really liked a type it doesn’t mean its variety is good for business. First growth Bordeaux like Latour, Chateaux Lafite and others, have been offering great returns for decades. Start with those and move on with some other varieties as you gain experience. Don’t take unnecessary risks, and in time you will see that investment in wine can be more profitable than shares.

 

DIY – Why You Should Take Learning into Your Own Hands

DIY – Why You Should Take Learning into Your Own Hands

It may be something you have given thought to in the past, but ruled it out as being too difficult to organise and figure out; but, thanks to online learning, enhancing your current skillset or studying a completely new one has never been easier.  To help you decide whether or not an online course with a company like Computer Power Institute is right for you, in the article below we will briefly discuss 5 of the advantages of online learning.

Learning Online Is Usually Cheaper

In comparison to the price of similar courses at a physical education institute such as a college or university, you will find that most online courses are less expensive.  The downside, if you can even call it that, is that you may have to spend a much longer time studying on an online course than you would at a proper education centre.   All these factors will vary depending on what subject or type of course you want to enrol on.

Learning Online Are Orientated By Results

Unlike some courses that you may have attended or fear attending, where the lecturers and teachers run through pages of bland information and dry theory; online courses are usually devised in a way that you learn the things you need and want to know.  The majority of online course providers know that people are sending them money without meeting them, so it is important that they keep the structure and content of their classes and coursework aimed at helping you reach goals and have positive results.

Technology Enhances the Learning Experience

With online courses, you can say goodbye to those boring and dry 45 to 60 minute long lectures, as most online course providers try to keep lecture time to a minimum.  What you get instead is technology that can give you plenty of worksheets, access to discussion forums and interactive presentation which make learning easier and more far more enjoyable.

Classrooms Are Obviously More Comfortable

When you take an online course, you not only have access to all those resources that make effective use of modern technology; but also better seating.  Online courses, by definition, can be worked on form anywhere with an internet connection and a computer – including your bedroom, kitchen, dining room, living room or even garden!

You Get To Keep the Course Materials

If you sign up for an online course, you not only get full access to the advantages mentioned above, but you also get access to all your coursework and materials.  This is true even a long time after you have finished and passed it.  This is handy because you may need to refer to something to refresh your memory on a problem or issue you are working one.

We like to think of online courses, with this advantage in mind, as the gifts that keep giving.

As you can see from the above article, there are many good reasons why you should give serious consideration to enrolling on an online course.

6 Helpful Financial Tips for First Home Buyers

6 Helpful Financial Tips for First Home Buyers

If you are a first time buyer and considering your options when it comes to loans, like those offered by companies such as State Custodians, you may be feeling intimidated by the amount of choice available.  To help you out, we have put together 6 tips for finding the perfect home loan in the following article.

Consider Using a Mortgage Broker

Mortgage brokers are qualified and experienced people who are there to help match the right home loan to your own needs and situation.  As it is your first time buying, they can be helpful giving you the lowdown on what you need to know and features you need to consider.

Plan and Calculate Your Budget

This is the most important part bar none when it comes to finding the right home loan and right property, especially when you are a first time buyer.  You need to work out how much you can afford and stick to that budget.  As well as the initial, set in stone budget, you need to work out a revised version once you have your hands on the house keys.

Understand Your Limitations

It is vital that you do not buy what you can’t realistically and comfortably afford.  While it can be very easy to convince yourself that you only have to struggle for a short amount of time and then you will get that promotion and then everything will settle.  This may actually happen, but it’s important to think ahead and foresee the different outcomes because what if you didn’t get that promotion or something else came along and got in the way of this “plan”?  In that scenario you might lose everything.

Save Up the Biggest Deposit You Can Afford

Saving a deposit can help you in two important ways.  Firstly, it will show any prospective lender that you are capable of exercising discipline over your finances for periods of time and secondly, the larger the deposit you put into a property from the start, the more equity you will have in that property from the get go.

Apply Early For First Home Owner Grant

Ideally, you should apply for your First Home Owner Grant at the exact same time as you apply for your home loan.  You can apply for this grant through most of lenders, as long as they are an authorised agent and are able to receive and process it appropriately.  By doing it this way you ensure that it is processed much faster than it would have been if you had sent it directly to your Territory or State Revenue Office.

Get Rid Of Outstanding Debt You Have

It is wise to not make the mistake that many first time buyers make of applying for their first home loan while they still have outstanding debt.  Make sure you finish paying off your car, or sell and downgrade to a cheaper model and pay off any credit card debt you may have before you even begin looking at home loans.  By doing this, you ensure that your home loan will be your top priority.

4 Tips to Help You Find the Best Home Loan

4 Tips to Help You Find the Best Home Loan

With so many different lenders and loan options available, it can be hard choosing a home loan that is right for you.  If you are finding this process difficult, besides from using a good mortgage broker such as 1300 Home Loan, the following post will be of interest you as it covers 4 tips that will help you make the right choice.

It’s what’s Inside that’s Important

While it is very easy to be attracted to a perfect sounding interest rate, you need to look beyond that to find the nuts and bolts of a deal.  Low interest rates that appear in adverts can be compared to the sales racks placed in the windows of your favourite shops, to entice you to come in and have a look.  The thing you need to remember is that not all loans are equal and you need to be aware of the various charges and fees attached to a loan.

Consider What You Expect In Terms Of Service

While some customers have very simple requirements from their loan provider such as basic updates on the loan’s progress, very little face to face customer service and emailed statements; other customers need more and if you are either one of these, you need to pick the lender that is best for you and your service needs, even if it means paying a little more to get it.

How Quickly Do You Need A Loan?

As the real estate market can move very quickly, there have been times when buyers have found the perfect property, but have been unable to make a move on it because they did not have their finances organised properly.   This is why it is vital that you are crystal clear with a lender you are interested in about what your actual timeframe is, so that you know whether or not they can approve and finalise your loan quickly enough to get you a property you may be interested in.  One way to avoid delays in receiving the money you need when you need it, is to secure pre-approved finance.

Never Shy Away From Asking For Help

Loans can be confusing and you might not actually know what features are most suitable for your own circumstances.  This is where you have to be clear with the lender or broker as to what you want from your loan and let them help you find the most suitable offer.  It’s also worth remembering that mortgage brokers deal with lending for a living every day, so they know the loan process inside and out and know the different tricks that can make the difference as to whether your loan is approved or rejected.  They will also gladly help you with all the paperwork and submitting it on time, which means that you don’t have to worry about it and can focus more of your attention and energy on the more enjoyable parts of the house hunting process- the actual house hunting and buying part.

Can you do your own window treatments?

Can you do your own window treatments?

While day-to-day DIY tasks seem to be becoming more attractive to homeowners, many people who would willingly sand a floor or fit new handles to all their doors seem to be a little in awe of undertaking window treatments. If you are one of these people and you are worried about tackling an overhaul of the windows in your house, then think again. There are some great solutions out there just waiting to be explored. Here are a few of the simplest and best tips that will help you deal with windows, even so-called problem windows

Designing your solution

Consider the type of house you live in, window shapes and your preferred decorating style. Some treatments are eminently adaptable to all types, styles and ages of housing, such as shutters, while others can greatly influence the appearance of specific window shapes and locations. Problem windows may be long and thin, have an arched transom window above the main window or be circular, like a porthole in a ship.

Curtains and drapes

You can enhance windows that are long and thin by dressing an area that is wider than the window itself. For example, if you decide to hang curtains then make sure the curtain pole extends along the wall on either side of the window and is positioned close to the ceiling for maximum effect. Then use sufficient fabric to cover the wall as well as the window when the curtains are drawn. You can make your own drapes in any size that suits by sewing together more than one panel of the chosen fabric for each curtain, giving you lots of flexibility when designing the effect.

Shutters

Alternatively, install internal DIY shutters on either side of the window so that, when open, they make the window area look bigger. Paint them in a shade that contrasts with the rest of the wall and decorate the space behind the shutters in the same contrasting colour so that, when closed, there is an attractive frame around your window. Shutters are versatile and can be fitted very effectively to all types of window, even to circular ones, those with arched transoms and bay windows.

Blinds

If you have a narrow window on the back of a door, or if drapes are too fussy for your taste, you can easily make your own roller blind or Roman shades. Both are very straightforward and require some simple brackets, a roller in the case of a roller blind, and fabric cut to size, as well as the glue and pliers. It’s important to measure correctly before assembling your blind.

Window styles

If traditional window treatments are preferred you may want to consider floor-length drapes for living room areas, longer curtains that lie slightly on the floor to create more romantic effects for bedrooms, or sill-length curtains for a more casual approach. An extra layer of fabric at the back of a curtain will add privacy and insulation, and remember that shutters will give you complete privacy, additional security and control of light and shade.

There are window treatments to suit houses of every type and windows of all shapes and sizes. With a little thought and planning, and careful measurements, you can carry out these treatments yourself without needing to call in expensive professionals.

 

The London for Art Lovers and Literary Souls

The London for Art Lovers and Literary Souls

“London fogs did not exist until they were discovered by art.”

~ Oscar Wilde

Autumn in London brings to you a platter of exhilarating events and festivals, tailor-made for the art lover’s soul. While you are in London, consider choosing hotels in Kings Cross area, like Comfort Inn Kings Cross St Pancras London near Kings cross station in Central London, which offers clean and comfortable accommodation at budget rates.

Here is a roundup of some of the best festivals in the city which are personifications of beauty and wit.

Top 3 Festivals that you should Not Miss this Autumn

  1. London Design Festival 2014 (September  13 – September 21)

The London Design Festival will showcase several design trends at various locations across the city. The festival aims to celebrate the best creative talents, showcasing the same in an array of events. Leading artists from all over the world will congregate to exhibit their latest works. Ranging from seminars to exhibitions and workshops, over 300 events will be staged by hundreds of artists, covering a gamut of designs.

Events are staged at many landmark locations and unique spaces around the city for this festival each year, right from the Victoria and Albert Museum to many studios around the city.

In case you are looking for events around your hotel in Kings Cross, there are some that are hosted in the areas near the British library, London zoo and Regents Parks, which are within a10 minute drive of Kings Cross Station.

  1. Colourscape Music Festival 2014 (September 13 – September 21)

Colourscape has proved to be the perfect stage to bring contemporary music to the largest possible audience and increase the appreciation of creative music among audiences of all ages. This year’s event marks its 25th birthday, making the event even more special. It shows off a colourful maze of tunnels at Clapham Common. This enormous maze glows beautifully as the daylight casts a kaleidoscope through its walls.

A lot of guests arrive from Brussels and Paris to be a part of this event. If you are one of them, arriving at Eurostar London, Clapham Common is just a 30 minute tube ride away. You can choose to book a cheap and budget hotel near Kings Cross to leave your luggage behind.

Weekends see some talented musical performances, which tips the overall experience into a magical territory. This year’s “Pied Piper” takes the classic through the colourful labyrinth accompanied by a children’s choir, you can even join them as the action unfolds.

  1. London Literary Festival 2014 (September 30 – October 13)

The London Literature Festival celebrates justice, democracy and freedom this year, a tribute to the late Maya Angelou. There is an international line-up of poets and authors to celebrate the power of words, focusing on their ability to transform lives. It is hosted at the Southbank Centre, which is only 15 minutes away from St Pancras Station. A few highlights include personalities like Alice Oswald, Gavin Bryars, Richard Strange, Stephen Fry, Elif Shafak, John Cooper Clarke, Martin Parr, Hilary Mantel and Kate Tempest.

Central London offers an easy commute from hotels in Kings Cross to all the autumn festivals and events around the city. You can even consider getting to the Holborn and Euston tube station networks for better connectivity.

Things to Do in London at Night

Things to Do in London at Night

Known as a city that never sleeps, London is one of the favourite destinations among nightlife lovers. Although you may see some shops and markets closing early, there are places that are well known for nightlife activities. Maybe you want to party hard throughout the night. Or perhaps, you want to experience the serene beauty of the city at a moonlit night. In either case, London would not let you down.

All you need to do is to book your accommodation is a strategically located region, so that you can leave or reach your place conveniently even in odd hours. Acclaimed Heathrow Airport hotels like Master Robert Hotel are well connected with almost every part of the city, ensuring that returning to the hotel at midnight would not be a problem.

Tips to Explore London’s Nightlife

If you choose to stay near Heathrow Airport, you can easily explore some famous London attractions, such as, Twickenham Rugby Stadium, Windsor Castle, Legoland, and Middlesex. This also helps you participate in London’s after-dark activities. Here are some major options to choose from.

  • Visit the Thames – Visiting the River Thames would be a delightful experience. You can simply hire a private vehicle and travel around important places, such as, Tower Bridge, Tate Modern, and the Shakespeare Globe Theatre. Strolling through some of these places would enable you to watch the city from a completely different perspective. The night view of the popular attractions like Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and Big Ben would certainly enthral you.
  • Take Part in Pub Crawl – In London, some pubs get closed by 11pm. However, there are the ones that remain open throughout the night. You can start by visiting a traditional pub and then move on to some other so-called modern pubs. The idea is to get a complete British pub experience.
  • Visit Bars and Night Clubs – If you are young and energetic, you would perhaps like to experience clubbing at night. There are many bars and night clubs to choose from. And most importantly, you will find them open throughout the week. Most of the clubs are equipped with huge speakers. So, if you want move your feet with music beats, night clubs are the place to be. You will also get a wide variety of drinks. It is always to good idea to visit the bars and night clubs in a group, especially if you are new in the city.
  • Jazz Clubs and Cafes – If you are looking for a relaxing ambience, you can visit the jazz clubs and cafes in London. Some clubs organise entertaining events at night. For instance, you can visit a Poetry Cafe and enjoy poetry recitation over a cup of coffee.
  • Watch Theatres – You can also spend some good time watching plays and concerts at night. Most of the theatres are located in the western part of the city. If you book a London Heathrow Airport hotel, you can easily reach West London via public transport.

Some other interesting things to do at night include watching movies and having a candlelight dinner with your partner. You can easily find a Heathrow Airport budget hotel and book rooms in advance.