Garden Makeover Ideas For Spring 2017

landscaped garden

landscaped gardenGarden makeover ideas based on requirements, commitment to garden care and limitations of the space such as too much shade or being overlooked. Choosing help wisely.

Transforming an outdoor space to suit individual tastes and requirements

Creating a garden to suit specific requirements and complement the look and feel of a property is a highly popular home improvement. In the wake of various garden and home makeover television programmes, magazine articles, and the growth of specialist landscape gardening specialists, more people are becoming inspired to make better use of their garden.

From simple and inexpensive alterations to major overhauls, there’s much scope regardless of garden size.

The decline of the ‘flat grass’ garden

The time honoured garden, often the type laid down in new build homes, is the bog standard lawn with maybe a little hard standing somewhere near the back wall of the house and a few borders around the perimeter of the garden.

Many find this somewhat limiting; for one thing, a lawn is out of action for large parts of the year when heavy rain and frost strikes, and it can be a rather uninspiring look compared to what’s possible with some imagination and design expertise.

Deciding on a change

Choosing from a wealth of options for a garden makeover can be narrowed down when deciding what is wanted from a garden and how much time will be devoted to its upkeep.

Requirements

Is creating a genuine outdoor space to spend time in desired? If so, hard surfaces such as decking, patios and paths may be worth considering along with types of garden furniture.

Is low maintenance required due to lack of time (or even interest in spending time tending to the garden?). If so, ‘low maintenance’ plants and shrubs should be considered – and this makes an even stronger case for removing all or part of a lawn that requires mowing, seeding, watering and fertilizing, from time to time.

Are there any limitations? For example, is the garden in the shade much of the time, thus precluding certain types of plant from flourishing or preventing grass from getting enough sunlight? Is the garden overlooked? Is so, is it practical to improve privacy with taller plants, young trees or building a wall?

Budget

This will obviously determine how far a makeover can be taken. It’s important to direct funds where they’ll make the most difference. For example, if planning some hard standing or paving, then top quality stone is important. Once down it will be there for years, and compromising on quality is a false economy.

Finding an experienced, specialist supplier of popular stone types such as limestone paving, as opposed to the off-the-shelf route via DIY stores is key.

Levels and pathways

A popular and effective way to transform a garden is through the use of different levels and the use of paths to make more use of what may have been just a large lawn. A good garden designer can soon show you what alternatives are possible and, along with making for a space more adaptable and enjoyable to spend time in, make your garden look more interesting. This can be achieved by perhaps the use of curves in pathways, maybe a water feature if you’re prepared to maintain it, and careful positioning of certain plant types so the colours complement each other and the space in general when they bloom.

Lighting

Carefully placed lighting can make a difference and make your garden usable in the evening during the warmer months. A wide choice of lights to accentuate water features, outdoor sculptures and certain plants or small trees is available, and a good designer can suggest where might be a good place to position them.

Choosing help wisely

There are a number of garden designers and landscape gardeners around, but choosing a suitable one needs careful attention. Recommendations from friends and people you trust is an ideal starting point, but if that’s not possible then online research and checking their websites – they’ll often have a web presence with photos of their work is the ideal way forward.

Kent Wedding Venues

Wedding in Kent

Wedding in KentThe Perfect Wedding Venue Might Not Cost as Much as You Think

Choosing the right venue is one of the most important wedding preparations. By hiring in what you need, you can have everything just as you want it.

Every wedding planner will tell you that choosing the venue can be among the most difficult and sometimes frustrating decisions that you have to make. With such a wide range of choices, depending on preference, budget, availability and the number of guests, some couples can feel completely overwhelmed before they even start.

After the information overload, most couples come up with a “wish list” of what they want from the venue, and then find that the choice has reduced from hundreds to zero. Nowhere seems to tick all the boxes, or anywhere that does so is far too expensive.

However, there is an alternative. Once you have found the perfect location, you can then add the extras that you need. There are specialist suppliers from whom you can source the right caterers, DJs and even hire a bar in Kent and the home counties.

Reviewing the venues

There are hundreds of wedding venues throughout the county, from Leeds Castle, in its 500 acres of grounds, to small secluded barns and outdoor venues dotted around the Kent countryside. You will start out with an approximate idea of the sort of venue you want, along with an idea of budget and the number of guests, but even this will bring you a short list that is far from being short!

Now is the time to open a spreadsheet and collate some key information. The following list is not exhaustive, but these are the points you are likely to want to consider and compare:

  • Name
  • Website / contact
  • Location
  • Type (e.g. barn, hotel, etc.)
  • Price – this will be approximate at this stage
  • Availability
  • Capacity
  • Facilities on site
  • Accessibility (for example, what is the parking like, is it near public transport)
  • Restrictions (e.g. relating to children, end time, etc.)

Narrowing it down

Reading through the information you have gathered above will allow you to start narrowing down the options. Some might be immediately discarded for practical reasons, for example if the price, size or availability does not meet your requirements, and others will fall off the list for the simple reason that you do not like them.

This is more important than anything. If it does not feel right, rule it out. As mentioned above, most things can be tailored by bringing in external suppliers, but one thing you cannot change is the overall “feel” of the location, so it must be right.

The final decision

Once you have narrowed down your selection to a manageable size, you can start visiting some of the sites. This is where the fun really begins, and you will feel like you are getting somewhere. While practical considerations such as price and facilities are important, do not lose sight of the main consideration – is this the place where you and your partner really want to celebrate your wedding?

This is also the time to meet up with other suppliers, such as entertainers, caterers, mobile bar suppliers, DJs, etc. and to bring it all together for the wedding day of your dreams.

Brexit Britain Prompts Return of Home Sewing

Viking sewing

Viking sewingWhy You Should Get Stitching

In the face of uncertainty, we’re finding enjoyment in traditional pastimes and hobbies like sewing again.

A few years ago, making your own clothes and home accessories was nowhere near as popular as it is now. With the rise of shows such as The Great British Sewing Bee, craft TV channels and sewing publications, there’s so much out there for amateur sewists to engage with and be inspired by. The world is now changing rapidly, and more and more of us are finding enjoyment in hobbies like sewing. Is it a way of escaping the uncertainty of the world around us, or a nod back to that great British tradition of making do and mending? Whatever the reason, we just can’t get enough of it!

Sewing boosts your mood

Gaining a skill can renew your optimism and confidence. For those who are feeling a little unsure of what the future holds politically, picking up sewing is a no brainer. On the other hand, the new opportunities that could lie ahead of us post-Brexit are making many people feel excited about the future. Whatever your views on what’s going on in the world, gaining a skill is a really good way of channelling all your passion into something productive.

How to start

Getting started is easy. There are so many different tools and resources out there to help you out. Whether you like to watch tutorials on YouTube or prefer to practice with the use of books and patterns, you’ll have so much to learn from and enjoy. Social media is full of sewists too – so you can get inspired and make friends. It’s worth investing a good machine too. Bernina sewing machines are some of the most popular ones on the market, and it’s not hard to see why. A brand with a long history, their machines are reliable, easy to use and really help you to unleash your creativity.

Easy on your wallet

As we all tighten our belts, we become more conscious of what things cost. Thankfully, sewing is a pretty cost effective hobby. Once you’ve bought a machine, you’ll find that the cost of fabric and other materials is much less than you’d pay for something from a shop. Yes, it may take more time to make a dress than it does to buy one, but you’ll have something that costs less, suits you more and really stands out.

Building your skills

Why not try a few small projects and then go from from there? Customising your clothes is a great way to get started, as you can be as ambitious as you like. Things like cushion covers and pincushions are really easy little projects that will equip you with vital skills too. Just have a look online and see what catches your eye. Whether you’re making something for your home or for you to wear, the only way you’ll get better is with practice.

Make 2017 the year you start sewing

Right now, it looks as if our national obsession with sewing is showing no signs of abating. Along with baking and other crafts, this traditional hobby is a great way to not only indulge your creative side, but gain a valuable skill too. So if you’ve been wondering whether you should give it a go, just do it! You certainly won’t regret it.

The Best Wood Burners for Conservatories

wood burner in conservatory

wood burner in conservatory

Why You Should Invest in One

Wood burners are great for those who want to keep energy bills down, and they’re a super stylish addition to a room too.

We think of conservatories as places to enjoy during the summer, but there’s no reason why they can’t be utilised all year round. Yes, they do get chilly in the winter – there’s no getting around that. While they don’t retain heat as well as the other rooms in your home, they can be heated though. If you invest in something like say, a wood burner, you can keep your conservatory warm and toasty all throughout the colder months. So, to help you get the most out of your conservatory this winter, here are some of the best wood burners out there.

Flavel Arundel Wood Burning Stove

Flavel-Arundel-Multifuel-Stove-Mk2-CU

Now, when you picture a wood burner you’ll more than likely have a traditional piece in mind. The Flavel Arundel Wood Burning Stove is far from old-fashioned though. The large glass pane and sleek, minimal design give this wood burner a really modern feel. It will fit right in with a more contemporary conservatory as well. The result? You get the best of both worlds!

Mendip 5 SE Claret Enamel Stove

0001889_mendip-5-se-claret-enamel

Want to bring a little bit of retro charm to your conservatory? Then go for the Mendip 5 SE Claret Enamel Stove. The most eye-catching aspect of this wood burner is the traditional hand enamelled finish. Available in a wide range of colours, the most striking of which is bright red, this will be a really stylish talking point in your conservatory.

Morso 7648 Wood Burning Stove

morso7648

If you’re trying to add a little Scandi style to your conservatory, then you’ll love the Morso 7648 Wood Burning Stove. This stylish cylindrical stove is ultra-modern and will look great in the centre of a room thanks to its eye catching pedestal. It’s DEFRA approved too, making it the perfect addition to a conservatory with serious style and efficiency aspirations.

Chesney’s Shoreditch XLS 4 Series Stove

the-shoreditch-xls-4-series

Last but not least is Chesney’s Shoreditch XLS 4 Series Stove. This stove is the perfect combination of modern and traditional designs. The log store in the base gives it a rustic feel, but the clean lines and cool grey colour are very much contemporary. As a result, this is a wood burner that would fit into any design scheme.

Why choose a wood burner?

Wood burners are great at warming up a room quickly – and you just can’t beat a real fire for that cosy feeling. It’s important that you have your wood burner installed by a professional and that all current regulations are adhered to. If you live in a smoke-controlled area, be sure to check that your new wood burner is DEFRA approved. As long as you pick carefully, there’s no reason why you can’t add one to your luxury conservatory.

Which one is right for you?

Investing in a wood burner for your conservatory means that you can heat the room quickly and efficiently. They’re also incredibly stylish, and make for a great focal point to build the design scheme for the rest of your conservatory around. Whether you’ve got a traditional conservatory or a modern glass winter garden, there’s no reason why keeping it warm means sacrificing on style. So, which one will you go for?

How To Build Your Cleaning Business

cleaning equipment

cleaning equipmentPoints to consider when starting and growing a cleaning business. Assessing the market and marketing, considering franchising and ways to expand and diversify.

Starting and establishing your enterprise and moving to the next level

“Where there’s muck there’s brass” is an old saying very appropriate to the cleaning trade. It’s a huge industry with one national franchise operator estimating it to be worth in the region of over £2.8 billion a year; it’s an expanding industry with no signs of a slow down.

Expanding market

Indeed, with more people having less time, albeit with more income, many domestic chores are being sub contracted, with cleaning high on the list. Commercial cleaning is booming, too; the need to comply with ever more stringent health and safety requirements means cleanliness levels in the workplace must be of a high standard.

There’s scope for newcomers to the industry; some research undertaken amongst householders revealed that, of those who don’t use an outside house cleaner, some 20% say it’s simply because they can’t find one.

Getting started

Cleaning is a relatively simple business to make a start in; a handful of cleaning products and some flyers and you’re good to go – but it’s not quite as simple as that. Some pointers to consider:

Competition is rife: there are many involved in cleaning, from one person doing it part time for a handful of friends’ houses, to major national companies operating through a franchise model.

Demand: can people in your locality afford a cleaner? Assuming you’d look to start locally, check if there are potentially enough households to be your customers. If you’re leaning more to offering commercial cleaning, are there enough businesses of the right size locally?

Be aware that larger businesses probably use an established, specialist commercial cleaners and may not consider using a startup. Smaller businesses might though.

Set prices carefully: research the competition by posing as a potential customer and asking for prices, and maybe ask a few friends to do the same.

Budget carefully: while initial costs can be low, you’ll still need to invest to a degree – and don’t overlook marketing costs. Looking professional will be a big help so properly printed flyers and business cards are basics.

Marketing: while you may get a start with a few people known to you letting you clean their homes, the hard work is building up a sustainable customer list. Some activities you might consider:

  • Flyers – put them through the doors of your targeted homes and maybe businesses – and repeat regularly. Doing it once is counter productive
  • Classified advertising – worth a go with your local newspapers but, as with flyers above, you need to advertise consistently before judging it as people often need repeated exposure to advertisements before taking action
  • Online presence – a website is worthwhile and adds credibility. It needn’t be expensive. Also set up a Facebook page for your business.
  • Online advertising – your website could help you be found when people are searching online for cleaners, and options such as pay per click advertising may be worth considering (especially if you’re offering a niche service such as carpet cleaning)
  • Door knocking – fills many people with terror, but it does work and some people may respond better to at least putting a name to a face
  • Branding – not restricted to multi-million corporations, good branding and a business identity will help you to establish and grow your business. Logos and a consistent typeface you use in your printed materials is a good move – and good quality designs are available very competitively priced online through freelance sites such as Fiverr.

Once you grow a little, branded clothing such as polo shirts and so on can reinforce your professionalism and joining trade organisations requiring a certain standard from its members shows competence.

Franchising

If the idea of setting up from scratch doesn’t appeal and you have some money to invest (or can borrow some) then the franchising route may appeal.

Franchising is a popular business model in the cleaning industry with many options to choose from, including specialised cleaning sectors such as oven cleaning, kitchen hygiene cleaning, heating duct cleaning and chimney sweeping. If you invest in a franchise, you operate under the franchise name using their corporate identity and running a business often exactly to their prescribed ‘blueprint.’

Along with the initial costs there are usually further fees to pay in the form of a share of your profits along with maybe having to buy certain items such as marketing materials through them or their suppliers.

You may find it attractive from a business ‘done for you’ point of view, but you’ll still likely have to find your own customers. The franchisor should help with marketing support in terms of printed materials, maybe a centralised mailing campaign and online help such as providing you with a website.

Question of price

It’s tempting to focus on price especially when starting up, but this isn’t the best course to follow. In most businesses there’s always someone willing to ‘do it for less’ and it’s important to have a business that makes a realistic profit.

Once your business gains some momentum, you’ll require support from professional suppliers and service providers. For example, you’ll need access to and fast delivery of supplies and equipment, so choose a supplier of professional cleaning products carefully.

Legislation and licenses

There are no specific licences or stipulations required to start a cleaning business, but it’ll show professionalism and put your potential customers’ minds at rest if you undergo a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check. If you go on to employ others at some stage, then getting them DRB checked will be worthwhile.

Developing and growing your business

If you start off providing domestic cleaning you may be happy simply expanding your customer base and recruiting more cleaners as business grows. Alternatively, you may seek to move into other areas – maybe offering commercial cleaning services – or operating in certain niches such as carpet cleaning.

How you grow and maybe diversify will likely be informed by what your local market needs. As you become known and knowledgeable about the local market conditions, maybe you’ll be aware that people are crying out for good carpet cleaners and it’s an under-served market, for example?

You may prefer to be more of a manager than a hands-on cleaner in time, so might look to expand to the point where you’re recruiting and running a team of cleaners.

Tough but worthwhile

Starting any business is tough of course, and a cleaning business even in a high demand area takes some hard work. The low barriers to entry often mean many individuals and one or two person startups ‘have a go’ so you’re up against them along with the established local and national companies.

After a while though, if you build a solid reputation and become established then you could have a profitable enterprise with interesting possibilities for expansion and diversification.

Pancake Day 2017: 5 Gadgets You Need to Make the Best Flipping Pancakes

pancakes

Pancake Day is a day for gorging on the sugary, fried batter goodness, but did you know there are gadgets out there to make your pancake experience easier? We’ve rounded up the best pancake-making gadgets for you to use this Pancake Day:

A Quirky Stem Juicer

A stem spray is just the gadget for those who don’t like peeling zesty limes or citrusy lemons! To use this nifty little gadget, simply pierce the fruit and then press down on the top of the stem spray to mist your pancakes with a delicious hint of zest. It’s mess-free, quick and easy!

Egg Cracker

Crack or separate eggs in one easy squeeze of the handle, this egg cracker allows you to crack eggs easily, without having to fish out those annoying shell pieces. It’s a good little gadget if you’ve got a bunch of eggs to crack, and your hands will stay super clean in the process.

Twin Pan

We’ve all been there – you’ve got the perfect looking pancake, but it’s time to flip it to crisp up the sides. You flip the pancake and suddenly, it’s dropped out the pan and splashed everywhere.

Well with a twin pan, you won’t have that problem any longer! The non-stick coating will allow your pancake to crisp up evenly on both sides, and save you the hassle of having to do a messy flip.

Flexible Pancake Turner

If you do fancy flipping your pancakes this Pancake Day, why not try the OXO flexible pancake turner? This handy little tool is an essential for flipping and transferring your pancakes from pan to plate in one piece.

Pancake Creator

If you fancy getting creative, why not try a pancake creator? Bring out your inner artist and design unique pancakes for everyone to enjoy! There are plenty of YouTube tutorials if you fancy following a detailed design.

 

Hopefully these gadgets will help your Pancake Day run smoothly and leave the kitchen in a much cleaner state than last year!

12 Month Jail Sentence For Landlord Who Failed To Provide Fire Safety

slade lane - manchester evening news

slade lane - manchester evening newsManchester Landlord Put Lives at Risk in “Death Trap” Flats

A property landlord has pleaded guilty to 14 fire safety breaches relating to a network of flats above commercial premises in a deprived area of Manchester

The Manchester Evening News reported an interesting case of a landlord who was fined after failing to provide adequate fire health and safety in his properties.

Kamarat Hussain owns a number of connected properties on Slades Lane in Longsight, Manchester – these are commercial shops housing travel agents, a butchers and other small businesses, with eight residential flats above them.

Fire safety officers found numerous problems, including an absence of fire escape signs, missing or broken fire extinguishers, blocked fire exits and faulty wiring.

Child at a window

A hearing took place at Manchester Crown Court in December, at which Prosecutors reported that a fire officer was passing Hussain’s premises by chance in July 2015, when he noticed a child at an upstairs window and became concerned. On entering the building, he immediately saw numerous dangerous problems, prompting an official investigation that would last for months.

The officer issued an enforcement notice within weeks, and over the subsequent 14 months, he made 12 follow up visits in an attempt to bring the building up to standard. Despite this, little had been done when he made his last visit in September 2016.

Hussain was also unable to produce a fire risk assessment, despite repeated reminders and the fact that he claimed to have spent £700 on having one conducted.

Cost cutting

The Prosecutor described Hussain’s “flagrant disregard” for the safety of his tenants through cost cutting measures, that placed them at risk of death or serious injury in the event of a fire. All this, in spite of the properties generating more than £7,000 for Hussain in rent every month.

Hussain’s defence lawyer pointed out that he has had recent health and financial difficulties. He also stated that Hussain recently spent £2,000 on improvements and had not been deliberately cutting costs.

The ruling QC, Judge Patrick Field, disagreed and said there had been deliberate cost-cutting. He noted Hussain’s previous convictions for food safety breaches, and remarked that he has a “tendency to disregard the law regarding the safety of others”.

Hussain was ordered to serve a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, with 200 hours’ unpaid work and £11,025 costs.

In agreeing to the suspended sentence, he remarked that Hussain was fully aware of the consequences for him if he failed to make the necessary improvements.

Bullish

Hussain was bullish in his own defence after the hearing, although his word of choice was slightly different.

He told the Manchester Evening News: “This case is 100 per cent bull****. They’ve done this to me because I’m a young man with a big building. I have done everything they told me. This building I’ve bought is a very big building, and I’ve worked hard for it. I’m not worried about prison because I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s a 100 per cent bull**** – and I’ll come back and prove it.”

Is Golf The Next Business Team Building Trend?

golf team building

golf team building

Golf is less solitary than you think so makes a good team activity

When people think of golf, they often think of it being a ‘self-centred’ game with one person playing against many others. This view may be influenced by the amount of big ‘singles’ competitions such as the US and British Open that are part of the four major tournaments played each year with one person beating the field to win.

That said, golf can be a team game – witness the USA versus Europe Ryder Cup played every two years – and it certainly can make for a very sociable gathering.

Golf for team building

There are many corporate golf days and charity events, so golf lends itself to team building days. A day out in the fresh air, and various ways of competing including team configurations such as a Texas scramble, turn the game into a genuine group activity as opposed to ‘singles’ play. To top things off, there’s often the chance for everyone to get together at the end of the day’s play for a drink or maybe a meal.

The only drawback is that golf can be enjoyed better by those who play at least occasionally. It’s maybe not a game non-golfers can enjoy beyond crazy golf or pitch and putt level, and there’s the need for participants to be suitably equipped.

It’s not just the golf clubs (which can probably be hired), but other essentials such as proper footwear, as many golf clubs won’t allow people to play wearing trainers or similar. Many golf clubs also stipulate some type of dress code that must be adhered to on the course and possibly in certain areas of the clubhouse.

For a group of people who are all keen golfers, what better way to help team build and enhance morale than taking to the links for the day? If, however, not all the team play then taking a look at many other team building activities may be preferable and appropriate for a more diverse group of people.

Finding a golf club in London that may be happy to host possibly a large number of novice golfers may prove difficult in any event. Many might insist on players not only possessing a valid playing handicap, but one no higher than a certain level.

Other options

Getting ideas from a specialist organiser for a corporate team building event in London is an ideal first step. Choosing an activity that will appeal to your mix of personnel is key to everyone having an enjoyable time along with something appropriate to the time of day and year.

For example, a casino evening or a murder mystery might be just the thing for a winter’s night whereas a GPS treasure hunt or an ‘It’s a Knockout’ could be a great idea for a summer’s day.

A time honoured quiz is always fun, but expert events organisers often offer more than just a bunch of questions on a list. Interactive rounds using video and various options to tailor the quiz to suit the number of people and the time slot can be created.

A bit of fun mixing (literally) with something creative and mildly competitive can be achieved with a cocktail masterclass. Your people split into teams and, with the help of expert mixologists, create their own cocktail and compete with other teams to see who comes up with the most appealing drink.

As seen on TV

Activities inspired by successful television programmes such as ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘The Great British Bake Off’ can be undertaken to help your people have fun and cooperate in a team environment, as can a series of pub games. Everyone splits into teams and completes a circuit playing a variety of pub style games while totting up their scores on each and seeing how they fare against their colleagues in other teams.

Seasonal activities

Rather than simply organise an office party or take staff out for a Christmas meal, team building activities run by expert organisers can be given a festive twist if desired.

It’s not just golf

While golf is certainly a popular team building activity and has long been a favourite corporate entertainment option, the innovation in team building and corporate entertainment in the hands of a professional events organising company means there’s much else to choose from whether in or outdoors.