Choosing A New Family Car: As A Parent, Which Features Should Be Most Important To Us When Looking For A New Car?

Choosing a new car for the family can be an exciting experience – it’s also a great excuse for a day out with the kids! While they get excited climbing into the front seats and pressing all the buttons, it’s easy for us to get distracted from the things that should matter the most to us. However, over the past decade, have our primary concerns changed at all?

A recent study conducted by All Car Leasing – a UK based contract hire and leasing firm suggests that safety and reliability are still the most popular necessities to have in a new car. 30% of the parents surveyed in the study said that Safety was their primary concern, which really comes as no surprise if the car is mainly going to be used to chauffer the kids around, this is even further bolstered by the fact that (according to the study) one in four parents surveyed had been involved in a road traffic accident while their child was with them in the car!

Speaking of safety, there’s now a lot more to consider than back in the day – it used to be a case of how many air bags the car could deploy or how badly the car crumpled in a serious accident, but today there’s all sorts of new safety systems such as:

Autonomous Braking, which activates if the car senses a potential collision with a person or vehicle in front)

Lane Keep Assist, which alerts you if you are drifting out of your current lane without indicating (and on some vehicles, automatically apply steering to keep you within your current lane).

Blind Spot Detection, which is a little yellow/orange light on the car’s side mirrors which lights up if there is another vehicle driving in your blind spot.

Driver Drowsiness Detection, which often uses a small camera/sensor to monitor you as you drive and make sure you haven’t fallen asleep – if the camera sees signs of this it’ll often try to make you feel more alert by turning the air conditioning on or directing you to the nearest place that sells coffee, amongst other bings and bongs which safety features are known for.

All in all though, this study is a good sign that parents attitudes towards their choice of car hasn’t changed much for the sake of vanity or status! Be sure to check out the infographic on the full study below.

Baby Driver - Parents and their driving habits

Baby Driver by All Car Leasing


*This is a collaborative post

The Importance of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC)

Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) are a legal requirement for anyone building, selling or renting a property (with some exceptions). However, beyond simply being a necessity, they are actually very useful to help you understand how energy efficient your home is and what can be improved on. The certificates show clear action points, broken down into cost of investment. If the recommendations are followed, this in turn can help save money on energy costs and make your home more eco-friendly.

The Importance of EPCs title with EPC background image

You can look up EPCs of other properties, in order to compare energy performance with similar homes, for free on the EPC register. You will also have been supplied with an EPC for your own home prior to moving in, unless you have lived there since before they came into force.

I looked through mine, which is now due for renewal, as they expire after a decade. It is very informative. For example, my home is rated D (on a scale of A-G) which is average. It is good in some aspects, according to the certificate, but it is poor on main heating controls, for example. It then gives lower cost measures to improve my home, a list of non-cost simple actions that be done to save money and reduce environmental impact, and a higher cost recommendation to invest in a better central heating unit.

To better understand the importance of this heating unit recommendation though, bare in mind that in a typical UK household, more than half of the fuel costs are for providing heating and hot water. Therefore an efficient heating system is essential, and a key step to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, as well as your energy bill.

As is the case for many homes in the UK, mine is a central heating system, with a boiler that runs on mains gas. I use a clean energy company for both my gas and electricity too, to try to be more environmentally- friendly.

As well as recommendations written on the EPC, I found some further suggestions on Energy Saving Trust and other websites for further energy-saving improvements to gas central heating systems too:

• Replace your boiler with a newer model. This is especially important if you don’t have a condensing boiler, as these are most efficient.

• Make sure the heating control unit allows you to decide specifically where and when you want heat.

• Switch to renewable technologies for generating energy to your home, or at least choose a green energy company to supply your home.

• Make sure your home is well insulated and draught-proofed.

So whilst EPCs might seem like an inconvenience and unnecessary cost, they are actually very useful. Paying attention to the information, and perhaps making some investments, can offer long term gain on both reducing your bills and impact on the environment too.

*This is a collaborative post.

Top Tips For A Less Stressful Move

Most people find moving stressful. It takes time, money and energy. There are often mixed emotions and always plenty of practical considerations. Whether you are single, a couple, or a family of any size, there are ways to minimise the stress involved with moving….

Top Tips For A Less Stressful Move

Consider Costs

Moving home can be very expensive, so taking into account of the costs, and budgeting accordingly from the outset will prevent financial worries further down the line. If you are buying a property, you will need to remember stamp duty, solicitors fees and surveyor costs, amongst other things. For renting, you will need a deposit and there may well be agent fees to pay too. In either scenario, you will also have actual moving day costs, possibly as well as energy supplier and other services set up costs too.

Be Organised

Try to declutter as much as you can beforehand. Moving is the perfect opportunity to get rid of your old junk so you only take what you really need. Sell unwanted items, take them to a charity, or pop them on a freecycle site, to avoid contributing to landfill if possible.

Also, try to start packing your belongings you won’t need prior to the move into boxes as soon as possible. It often feels more manageable to do it in small stages rather than have mammoth task all in one go. (Unless you decide to pay someone else to do it of course!)

On the day, make sure your solicitor is available to receive the money and release the keys as early as possible if you are purchasing a property. If you are renting, ask the landlord or agent how early you can get the key.

You will also need to notify utility companies. It is likely that you might also need to get broadband and other services booked in to be set up asap too.

Get help

My advice is to get as much help as you can. Whether it is someone to entertain the kids, having friends round for a packing party or hiring professional assistance, extra pairs of hands will make the workload lighter.

If your budget will stretch, and especially if it is a big move, you might want to take a look at removal companies. For example, GetAMover will help you to find removals London and elsewhere, and other services to assist your move. This also saves time and fuel costs, which could be significant if you have a fair distance to cover and/ or would have to make multiple trips yourself. When you factor this in, it certainly goes some way towards countering the cost of hiring removals.

Key in hand at front door

Moving is rarely an easy time, but if you plan your budget, get organised and enlist some help, it can certainly minimise the stress for everyone involved.

What are your top tips for moving home?

*This is a collaborative post.

5 Ways To Tell When Your Sash Windows Need Servicing Or Repair

Do you have sash windows? If so, you might find it useful to know when they need service or repair. Here are five ways to tell…

5 Ways To Tell When Your Sash Windows Need Servicing Or Repair

1. The joints on your lower sashes

When considering the structural condition of sash windows, the first place to look is outside. Almost all wear and tare occurs externally. The most common points on a window to fail are the joints of the lower sash. These are mortice and tenoned together and bound by wedging and epoxy glue. This is a joint that can hold for more than a hundred years in UK weather conditions but will eventually fail. This occurs when paint begins to peel away and moisture penetrates under the rail. This swells the stile and makes it pull away from the lower rail. Also, the moisture helps to deteriorate the joint of glue and timber so it’s a double effect.

Fortunately there’s a simple solution to this. Make sure you keep the lower rail of your sash well painted to moisture can’t penetrate. Maintenance before repairs will save a fortune. The cost of replacing a lower rail in this situation is around £400 as the window needs removing, then the rail repairing, and then the sash needs refitting with new sash cords which is a lengthy process.

2. The sash cords are beginning to fray

Sash cords begin to fray after twenty years. This assumes they are high quality nylon core, lower quality cloth only cords might only last ten years. The problem with a sash cord that frays is the possibility of breaking panes of glass when the window is open. You open the window for some fresh air and then walk away, only to hear a loud crash and that dreaded broken glass noise. As the sash falls it lands on one edge first causing the shape to distort as timber has a lot of flexibility. Unfortunately glass doesn’t and this pushes the edge of the glass into the pins that hold it in or frame of the sash.

On the other hand if the glass was installed correctly with a 3mm gap around the edges and the putty holding glass to sash firmly then you might be lucky, the glass might not break and you’ll only need to replace the sash cords. Most sash window repair companies will offer this service for around £200. Historic England offer plenty of sound advice in their PDF with regards to traditional window care.

3. Sash window sill starts to look rotten

When sash window sills start to look weathered and rotten they can actually be replaced without replacing the window entirely. There are sash window repair specialists that can cut out the effective timber, treat the remaining section, and then splice timber back with a resin bond to ensure a lasting job. The repairs are then primed and undercoated. You might not ever realise your windows have been repaired if done properly.

4. Misted double glazed units

If you already have double glazed sash windows, which is perfectly normal since they were introduced twenty years ago, then you might be the first to have a glazing repair bill. Some sash window companies will simply remove the sash affected, replace the double glazed unit, and put the window back together. Other sash window specialists refuse to carry out these repairs and deem the window beyond economical repair, attempting to push more new windows. That’s fine if you’re happy with that, but certainly not necessary.

5. Flaking paint on the outside of your sash windows

When paint starts to flake outside its time to paint, as we mentioned in the first and third point it is the beginning of significant repairs and the basis to keeping your windows in tip top condition. If painting is kept up then you’re going to cut sash window repair bills considerably.

*This is a collaborative post.

Shopping for Big and Tall Men

Clothing for big and tall men is potentially frustrating. If you know someone who wears big and tall sizes, you’ll need to consider several factors. For instance, he might be tall, but he’s not big. Or it might be the other way around. On top of those problems, you might find a big and tall clothing store that simply doesn’t know the difference even though they sell big and tall sizes.

Shopping for Big and Tall Men

Determining Which is Right

Tall men usually fall in the category of 6’2” or above. These men are considered tall, but may not be big. Big men usually have larger hips, waists, and chests. This type of man might need a big shirt, but not necessarily a long one. Additionally, a big man might need a broader waist size, but don’t require a longer inseam.

It should be a straightforward exercise to determine which the man in your life needs. Does he have a short torso and long legs? There’s the potential that he can buy either his pants or his shirts from a regular clothing store, but might need to purchase the other from a big and tall shop.

Finding What He Needs

Keep in mind that knowing what you need and finding what you need are two different things. It can be difficult to find store clerks who can help locate exactly the right size. You might find a big size but not a tall size. Or vice versa.

Also, some clothing manufacturers have clothing sizes that don’t make much sense. Plus, sizes aren’t consistent across clothing lines which makes finding the right fit even more frustrating.

Going Well-Armed

The best thing you can do when shopping for big and tall clothing is to have the most accurate measurements you need. This gives you the ability to make better purchasing choices in a challenging area of clothing.

Rack of mens suit jackets

Remember, big and tall clothing doesn’t have to be confusing. Just be sure you’re armed with the knowledge you need.

 

*This is a collaborative post

Future-Proof Your Home And Reduce Future Costs

You never what is going to happen in the future. And that is especially the case in the home. There are lots of faults that could occur to the various systems in a property, and these could end up being very expensive to get fixed. Plus, small accidents could leave some furniture and other items in your home in need of repair or replacement. All of these little jobs might not seem like such a big deal when they occur, but over time all of that work and maintenance will eventually add up. When you look back, you might be shocked to learn just how much it’ll cost you.

That’s why it’s a good idea to think about ways you can future-proof your home. This just means that you protect it from things that could go wrong in the future. To find out more about this, read on to learn some great tips…

 Future-Proof Your Home And Reduce Future Costs

Get Your Heating System Serviced

It can be a real pain when a home’s boiler breaks down or has a major fault. You will need to find someone who can fix it as soon as possible, especially if it breaks in the winter months, and this might not be cheap. Thankfully, there is one way to reduce your risk of a fault with the heating. You just need to see your local HVAC contractor and see if they also carry out services. If you get your system serviced at least once a year, then any potential problem could be stopped dead in its tracks.

Make It Eco-Friendly

Lots of people are now very mindful about how their way of life impacts on the environment. As many more people are becoming conscious of this, lots of homeowners are now thinking of ways in which they can make their home more eco-friendly. For instance, you might want to replace your furniture with pieces made from sustainable or recycled materials. It could also be worth installing solar panels to your roof. Not only do they provide your home with greener energy, but you will find that they can also help you reduce your monthly energy bill as well.

See To The Gutters On A Regular Basis

One of the main jobs that gets neglected by homeowners is cleaning the gutters out. Even though this may not seem like such an urgent job, keeping on top of your gutters can help you prevent a lot of damage to the property. When gutters get blocked, the rainwater that collects in them can’t flow down to the drain. Instead, the gutters overflow and the water runs straight down the wall. Water damage is extremely expensive to repair, so you need to stop this happening by cleaning out your gutters on a regular basis!

 

Choose Easy To Clean Floors

Carpets may look nice, but they can be problematic if anything gets spilled on them. To make sure you don’t have to go to the expense of replacing a stained carpet, opt for easy to clean floors, like laminate or wood.

You really do need to look after your home well into the future!

*This is a collaborative post.

Dealing With Death: What To Do When Someone Dies

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my grandad died last year. This certainly isn’t the first close family bereavement I have had; my other three grandparents have also passed, and my mum died back when I was just 21, so around 18 years ago now. However, this time was different. My brother and I were next of kin, and so, for the first time ever, the practical side of dealing with death became our responsibility.

Now, I won’t lie; my brother took care of practically everything, due to my own difficult circumstances. (I have mentioned previously that the bereavement led to Squiggle having a full-on mental health crisis). However, I did pick up some useful information from him along the way, which might help other people going through the same thing…

Dealing With Death: What To Do When Someone Dies

Register the Death and Notify People

The first thing to do is report the death, and the coroner will come to take the body away. At this stage, you might feel overcome with emotion and struggle to see them leave, or you may feel entirely numb. Or anywhere in between. And whatever you feel, that is ok and normal.

You will also need to register the death within 5 days. To do this, you need the medical certificate and you will be asked some simple questions about their personal details. Taking a form of their ID along may help with this. You will then be given the death certificate.

In your own time, but sooner rather than later, you will need to let people know the sad news. As well as friends and family, you need to let anyone working with them – either through employment, volunteering, or carers – know too. Plus HMRC/ benefits, banks, housing, and bills, will all need to be notified as well.

With housing, depending on the situation, please note you may then be on asked to clear-out and vacate the property within a limited timeframe, so be mentally and physically prepared for this task ahead too. For example, my grandad was in a rented home run by a local charity and we were given a month to hand over the keys to an empty home.

Funeral Arrangements

If the person had pre-planned their own funeral, as my grandad had done, then this makes some of the arrangements easier to deal with. Make a note of any specific last requests for the funeral, which might be written, or simply in the form of information left with somebody. Things to consider are; type of funeral to hold (burial or cremation), type of service they would like (religious or not for example), arranging flowers (or donation to charity, or some other alternative), transport, any readings and song choices, and what to do afterwards. Some people also like some kind of memorial; words in a book or remembrance, a plaque on a wall, or even a bench, or a tree planted.

All of these aspects are very personal choices and so therefore there are lots of difficult decisions to make at this time. Funerals are also expensive, so cost might be a factor too. It can be a difficult time, but you need to be gentle with yourself and remember you are doing the best you can for them.

Legal Documents and Settling Estate

We found this more time consuming than expected, despite it being a relatively straightforward set of affairs in our case. A solicitor maybe needed depending on the circumstances; we did it ourselves. You will need various documents in order to close bank accounts, and make sure you check any relevant policies too. Any goods sold, including property sale if relevant, will then need to be added to the total amount to be distributed. The final amount should then be shared out as per stated by the testator. Depending on how much it adds up to, you might need to pay tax on it too so remember to notify HMRC.

Sunlife have also written a useful guide on what to do when someone dies, which includes handy checklists to help remember everything during this difficult time. You might find this very helpful to refer to.

Final Thoughts

It can be hard to process all the emotions when you are hit with a bereavement, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed with the practical tasks too. Be sure to reach out and ask for help and support when needed. Also consider seeking counselling if things get too much to cope with. Looking after yourself, and those around you, is important.

*This is a collaborative post.

Boom25 – Shop and Win Your Cash Back!

Boom25.com is a shopping site with a difference. When you purchase from particpating online stores via the website or app, you are in with a chance of winning your cash back!

Screenshot Boom25 - step by step how it works

The way it works is very simple; the site gets commission for every sale made, and it uses some of that to offer prizes; making it a unique and fun way to shop! The site is fully registered under UK laws, and has dished out hundreds of thousands of pounds in winnings so far, with over a quarter of a million registered users.

There are lots of well known stores taking part, so you can easily use it to shop at your usual places. For example; Ebay, Groupon, Superdrug, Asda, Moonpig and Tesco all participate, amongst many others. There are almost 900 shops currently, and counting.

Boom25 - a selection of popular participating stores

It doesn’t cost any extra to shop through boom25 cashback site and there are no hidden charges. The system works out the winner, usually every 25th person to shop at that store (although look out for specials too, there are sometimes more frequent winners on selected sites!)  and the winner is paid back the amount they spent by paypal.

It is a very simple idea, which puts extra fun and excitement into shopping! I personally think it is good for purchasing essential things that you need to buy anyway, as you never know when you might find yourself getting your money back!

Here is a video explaining it further:

So why not sign up and shop through the site; you might just find yourself winning back what you spent! Enjoy.

*This is a collaborative post.

Vegan Menu at City Spice, Brick Lane, London: Review

A couple of weeks ago I was invited along to City Spice in Brick Lane, London, to review their new vegan menu. As most of my readers will probably know, I am a vegetarian who regularly enjoys vegan food, and I took along with a friend who is vegan.

City Spice, Brick Lane, London
About City Spice

City Spice is a multi award winning restaurant in the heart of East London’s Brick Lane. Since being crowned as ‘The King of Brick Lane’ back in 2017, it has won several other awards and has a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor.

Vegan Menu

City Spice also offers an extensive vegan menu; the first of its kind to grace East London’s famous Brick Lane.  It has 14 delicious dishes, perfected by owner Abdul Ahad, and recently won Best Indian Vegan Restaurant award at the
Bangladesh Caterers Association Award, decided by a vote from the 12,000 member restaurants of the Bangladesh Caterers Association.

Owner, Abdul Ahad, developed the menu following a huge demand from Veganuary last year. The menu has proved very popular; resulting in a 170% increase in bookings for the restaurant in the two months following the launch.

Ahad used his experience and expertise from around the globe to create his delicious range of vegan offerings. “Having been in the fires for some time, the new dishes were perfected following my humbling visit to Sri Lanka, inspired by tips, tricks and recipes from some of the world’s most talented and award winning chefs, including Michelin-star chef Rupert Rowley. It’s time to show the vegan community, and those who favour vegan dishes, what the King is capable of.”

A selection of food from the vegan menu at City Spice, Brick Lane, London

Veganuary Founder, Jane Land commented: “2018 was Veganuary’s biggest year yet, with more than 167,000 people taking part, a whopping 100,000 more than last year – and that’s just the ones we know about! With societal eating habits changing, and forward thinking restaurants like City Spice reflecting this within their menus, it’s never been easier to go vegan.”

Vegan Menu at City Spice, Brick Lane, London: Review

Review

We visited City Spice on a Wednesday evening. We arrived earlier than our booking but they were very accomodating and were able to seat us immediately. The staff were warm, friendly and welcoming but not overbearing, and they assisted us efficiently.

The restaurant itself has seating on ground level and downstairs. The toilets are also down a flight of stairs, although I am not sure whether there are disabled facilities elsewhere for accessibility, or not. The facilities were basic and clean, and the rest of the restaurant also maintains a simple but clean feel about it. The restaurant was fairly busy for a weeknight and had a nice vibe to it.

For starters, I ordered Aloo Chat, which is a blend of potato and spices, and Liz ordered Vegetable Pepper. Both of these were delicious.

Aloo chat starter, vegan food, City Spice

For mains, I had Palani Potatoes, described as ‘fresh cubed pieces of potatoes are cooked with zesty cumin seeds and curry leaves, to provide a distinct, medium flavour, exemplified by a thick mouth-watering sauce’. Liz opted for a daal dish.

Vegan mains at City Spice, Brick Lane, London

Both dishes were full of favour and really tasty. My dish was noticeably milder, whereas the daal had quite a spicy kick to it. Both quite different choices but equally as mouth-watering! The servings were very generous; infact, we were unable to find room to finish our meals. However, this was no reflection of the quality of food, just the amount of it!

Palani potatoes, vegan food, City Spice, Brick Lane, London

We felt it offered good value for money. Our starters cost £3.95 for Aloo Chat and £4.95 for Pepper, our mains were £8.95/ £9.95, plus our side orders of bread and rice were £2.95 each. So in total, including soft drinks and tip, the entire bill was under £45 for two people, which we consider to be reasonable.

Summary

We both really enjoyed our meal, and our evening. It was good quality flavoursome food, with an extensive vegan menu, and nice atmosphere. We would recommend you give this place a try and see for yourselves!

To book a table at City Spice restaurant, or for more information, check out the​ website ​www.city-spice.london

*Disclosure: We enjoyed a complimentary meal for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely our own. 

 

 

Upgrading a Run-Down Property

Working on a property project can be very exciting, especially if you love DIY and styling your home. So when you’ve got a rundown property, here are a few ways to upgrade and improve it

Upgrading A Run Down Property

Set Yourself A Budget & Time Scale

Firstly you want to go about setting a budget for the project. Whether it’s working on one or two rooms or the whole house, it’s important to have a budget. Do your research and find out what the cost would be for materials and any other services you might need to pay for. Don’t go over your budget or set one that’s too high or you can’t afford.

It’s worth also having a timeline for your project. Of course, the inevitable and unexpected can happen, which can delay it, but it’s good to have a deadline of some sort.

Identify Any Permissions Needed

It’s important to identify any permissions that might be needed for you to proceed with any work. Planning permissions can delay a project, so be sure to sort this out before starting the work. Consult your local government or council in regards to the work and if needed, get a solicitor to help with any problems you may encounter along the way. When you’re building an extension of any sort, you also want to factor in your neighbors. At the end of the day, you don’t want to upset anyone, especially those living by you, so approach them regarding your plans.

Work On The Structure

The structure of a house is the most crucial because if it’s not, then it poses a danger to yourself and the household and will no doubt cost you considerably if something bad were to happen. It might be handy to get in a professional to survey the property prior to any work being done as they may be able to spot the damage you don’t see for yourself. Getting it fixed immediately is going to save you money down the line and will make it much more sellable if you decide to move on.

It’s handy to have roof inspections too as this is another part of the property, you won’t be able to see for yourself unless you want to brave it on a ladder. Make sure that any gaps or holes are filled in to prevent you having to call out pest control services. This is particularly important throughout the colder months as vermin, and other pests will seek warmth and find your home attractive!

Replace Old Windows And Doors

You might already have windows and doors that are functioning perfectly well, but after you’ve worked on the structure of the property, it’s a good idea to check just how beneficial they are in keeping your home warm and energy efficient. Double or triple glazing is recommended for windows to lock out the cold and keep in the heat. Your doors could be too heavy or perhaps might not be fireproof.

Insulate Before Decorating

Insulating your home is incredibly important because it will keep your home warm throughout the year and will also save you a huge amount of money over time. Check your wall cavities and roofing to see if there’s any insulation installed already and if not, make it a priority to do so. The materials come in various forms that are suitable for every budget.

Windows and doors can also be insulated such as hanging heavy curtains or thermal blinds. You can also install or have draught excluders attached to the doors to save on heating.

Style The Property To Suit You

The advantages of upgrading a run down property mean you can make it work for you, whatever way you’d like it to do. Whether that’s having open spaces or bedrooms with en-suites, design a property that suits your way of living.

Take advantage of any original features that might already be part of the house and emphasize these features. When picking out appliances and white goods, go for quality because they’ll last much longer than the cheap options.

When it comes to the decor of your home, this is the perfect opportunity to style your home just how you want it. From what kind of furnishings you have, the colours of your wall and whether you have underfloor heating.

Finishings

When it comes to finishings, one example are skirting boards. The paint you choose can set the overall look of a room. Over at Skirting World they recommend opting for a satin finish. This gives a solid colour that is also hard-wearing. Of course, there are also pros and cons to the other types of paint too, and it depends on personal preferences ultimately, but satin tends to offer the best of other choices.

See this as an opportunity to create your ideal home, exactly your way!

Working on a project like a run down property can be incredibly exciting. You can really transform a property into your perfect home. So if you fancy taking on something new, why not try your hand at a run down property?

*This is a collaborative post