How to find a good gardener is a question for many busy households. Perhaps you are juggling work and parenting and really don’t have time to commit to keeping your garden in good order. This can be an issue as it stops you enjoying your garden to the full and neighbours may complain it is become overgrown and ugly. Many older people struggle as they age to keep up with a garden that is their pride and joy. Gardening is regular household expense if you choose to take someone on so it is important to choose your gardener carefully.
Finding the right gardener
Ask around to see if any of your family or friends can recommend a good gardener. Be really clear what you want the gardener to do. Some areas of gardening require really good levels of experience and training. Small jobs may just require a gardener who is fit and healthy without any specific expertise. You may feel more reassured for more complex jobs if your gardener can show you paper qualifications. Ask for references or testimonials so you are absolutely certain you have picked a gardener you can rely on. Check whether your gardener has a public liability insurance certificate, which would cover any damage they caused to your property. Safe contractor or CHAS accreditation and evidence of a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check are other good signs of a professional business.
Clarity on what you want to be done
Some gardeners are very enthusiastic and might try to persuade you to take on services that you really do not want or need. Before contacting potential gardeners be very clear on the garden service you want them to do for you. Remember you are the customer so you should be calling the shots. Having said that ask them to use their own tools or you could inadvertently end up in an employer and employee relationship which comes with legal requirements.
Set a firm budget
As with all situations where you take on a tradesperson be very clear on what you can afford. If you over-stretch in any area like this, that leads to stress at best and debt at worst. Get firm quotes having set out specifically what you need and want doing in your garden. Make sure the quote is confirmed in writing so you can refer back to it in case of dispute. Check how your gardener wishes to be paid and how often. Although saving money is good, be realistic and question particularly low quotes which may indicate a lack of expertise or other challenging issues. Quotes may be per hour or per job particularly in the case of larger gardening projects. Check that quotes include waste disposal charges too if you want them to take the garden waste away for you.
What tips do you have for engaging a gardener?
When it comes to the time to buy your next car, will you choose a new car or go for a used one? Cars are one of the most expensive purchases families make so you need to ensure you make the right choice for your individual circumstances. You may be able to access finance or you may struggle due to credit difficulties. Car insurance and other costs need to be taken into account. Aviva’s insurance cover helps whether you go for a new or used option with cover for damage to your brand new vehicle or roadside repairs for an older and used car.
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of used and new cars.
Advantages of a New Car
My husband prefers new cars as they come with a warranty.
A new car is a good bet so long as you maintain it properly and carry out regular services. New cars come with better mileage rates and lower emissions. If you love your technology, new cares tend to hook up to your mobile phone and other devices that much more easily than used ones.
New cars also give you an ego-boost which an old banger just cannot do in the same way.
Disadvantages of a New Car
New cars are expensive. Not only that you lose money on them the minute you drive them off the lot. The depreciation costs in the first three years are huge. Always consider your other financial needs before investing in a new car both now and make some realistic predictions for your finances for the next few years.
If you take out finance options, do consider the terms and conditions carefully. In particular look at the total amount you will be paying back for that shiny ego-boost that you may come to hate in the future.
Advantages of a Used Car
The obvious advantage of buying a used car is that it is so much cheaper and you can set the budget you want to spend. You may be able to pay in cash which saves you laying out on the costs of finance. You can do research in advance and see if the model performs well or if it is known for particular flaws.
Insurance costs are likely to be lower on used cars so there is a financial saving there too.
Disadvantages of a Used Car
We all have horror stories about used cars. It is far better to take an expert with you to look at potential cars if you are not that savvy when it comes to car maintenance. Not doing so can result in so much stress and financial outlay. In extreme cases, there can even be a threat to life itself. Not every person selling a car has your best interests at heart. Just this week, my brother told me he bought a car on Ebay which broke down on the way home.
If you are buying a second-hand car, you may not get precisely the make, model or colour you prefer. You may have to be flexible about these things. It is arguable that a good history and mileage is far more vital than your favourite colour.
New or Used Car?
In the end the decision on whether to buy a new or used car has to be an individual one. Do talk to other family members and take their views on board. Do plenty of research before making that leap of faith whether you choose a new or used car. Ideally have a mechanic on hand to check over the car before you seal the deal.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Aviva
As the weather turns colder, it is good to start to think of ways to keep warm. With the holiday season over, many of us are also turning our minds to home improvement projects that we can get done before our minds to turn to all things Christmas. A friend of mine is looking into double glazing windows so today I thought I would look into the benefits of double glazing.
What is double glazing?
I remember as a child with very old sash windows thinking that double glazing was a luxury for a home. My mum took a while to be persuaded of the benefits and in those days so many people were scared of being scammed by double glazing salespeople.
I digress. Basically double glazing simply means you have two panes of glass instead of one. There is a slight gap commonly 16mm between the panes and inert gas such as Krypton, Xenon or Argon fills the space between.
Double glazing reduces bills
Double glazing is more energy efficient which means your heating bills will be that much more affordable. We are all keen to save money on our bills which seem to increase year on year so this is one very good reason to make the investment in double glazing for your home.
Reduction of noise
I do not handle noise well. Whether it is traffic, playing children or barking dogs, noise can really impact adversely on my mood sometimes. I live in the countryside now but even here I am regularly disturbed by the sound of farm machinery or a neighbour’s loud motorbike. Double glazing helps reduce the noise you hear from outside. That’s a big plus point for me.
So many of us worry about crime. The good thing with double glazing is that it can come with great locking mechanisms with fancy names like Espagnolette and SAC (Security and Compression) shoot bolt systems With reinforced hinges and internal beading, even if you are never attacked, your fear of crime will be that much more reduced when you have double glazing.
I hate the look of condensation and its impact on health and wellbeing. You get less condensation with double glazing so that’s yet another advantage.
Of course, double glazing is a considered investment and you can check out the double glazing cost easily enough online.
What are your top tips for keeping warm? There is little doubt it is that bit chillier particularly in the evenings so it is time to check your central heating systems are in good order. If you want to put off putting the heating on a little longer, here are my top tips for staying warm and happy in Autumn and Winter.
1. Boogie on down to housework
Put the music on full blast while cleaning and doing household chores. Not only will it make it more fun but it is likely you will do it faster too.
2. Rock an Eighties look
Wear eighties leg warmers through the winter months indoors and outdoors
3. Double up on duvets
If you are like me you double up on duvets when the temperatures hit freezing.
4. Love your layers
Wearing more than one layer of clothing can make such a difference.
5. Sleeping bags and blankets
My teenagers are more than happy to snuggle up in a sleeping bag on the sofa. You might prefer a blanket and if you have two like me, you can ensure you cover up your legs too.
6. Go undercover
Cover up your extremities with hats, scarves, gloves and don’t forget to invest in a warm coat before the freezing temperatures come around..
7. Hot water bottle
There is nothing quite like the comfort of a hot water bottle water bottle whilst on the sofa working from home.
8. Eat the right things
Cold weather means comfort food but stay away from the pies and enjoy healthier options such as soup. Indulge in plenty of hot drinks too – mine’s a hot chocolate with cream on the top.
Run up and down the stairs if you really can’t face the gym. Better still, go out for a walk enjoying the seasonal changes and appreciating the warmth of your home when you get back.
These are all tried and tested but don’t neglect checking out central heating boilers at this time of year rather than facing a horror story when the heating goes off unexpectedly.
How do you ensure you stay warm in the colder months?
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I worry about the impact of what I see as the over-use of technology in our family. I never really wanted my children to play video games and so on at all. That decision was taken out of my hands when my parents turned up with a games console one day for my oldest son. More followed and all my children spend a lot of time on screens with the boys particularly keen on video games.
In my childhood, I think some children did have games things but I was not one of them and did not miss them. Now, they are a part of our everyday lives. Parents have always struggled to find reliable ways of pacifying a child when they are upset, but now more than ever, many appear to be counting on smart-devices to entertain their children. I think this is a worrying turn of events. A smart device can distract but it can not provide the listening, counselling and hugging skills of a parent or other loved one.
Children now own their own smartphone by age 7; based on a survey of 1,500 parents – Opinium found that children also owned an iPad by age eight. This makes me feel our family is not so bad. My children were much older when they got phones and quite basic ones at that. I am not attached to my phone and so my children seem to have phones in their right place too. I am also never keen to buy the latest or more expensive item partly because I can’t afford them and also because I like children to value things and know that price is not always what matters most.
Have I used smart devices to calm my children down on occasion? Have I just wanted some peace sometimes and accepted that smart devices can act as babysitters allowing me to get to the loo or make a cuppa? Yes I confess I have done this. Sometimes juggling work, home education and housework means I have to hope the children can entertain themselves from time to time. At times like this, I can almost work up a love for smart devices.
If parents continue to use smart devices to entertain children, then in the long-term, it is unclear how this may impact a young child’s social and emotional development. As opposed to using more traditional methods, digital devices appear to be more convenient than human interaction, but only time will tell how much of an impact this will have on a child’s cognitive learning.
Infinite Playgrounds, specialists in creating wooden canopies and natural playground equipment, investigates just how much of an impact this is having on our children, and how we can return to more interactive forms of play in the future.
The problems with smart technologies and child development
Before the age of two, a child’s sensory play with objects or other people helps them to develop their problem-solving skills within unstructured play. A person’s capacity for empathy is derived from social interaction with others, so when a child plays with an inanimate object – such as a smartphone – this limits their ability to gain an understanding of others, as they don’t solve problems with others constructively. However, I know my children would argue that some video games involves team-working skills and that friendships can form online.
Every person has their own thresholds for sensory information; for example, someone who has a high threshold finds it harder to register sensory information, whereas others have a lower threshold – thus finding it easier.
Studies have suggested that smart devices compromise the extent to which these thresholds can be developed – limiting a child’s cognitive ability to register external stimuli that allows them to understand the world around them. However, more traditional forms of play, such as using building blocks, can ignite a child’s imagination and basic maths skills through interaction with physical stimuli. This is opposed to digital forms of entertainment that the child can’t touch. I think some of us parents have lost touch with the play we enjoyed as children. When I step back into traditional play the children love it whether den-building, crafting items for an imaginary desert-island or Lego which has always stood the test of time.
Can smart technology benefit a child’s understanding?
The simple answer is that there is no proof that smart technologies encourage or compromise a child’s learning. Studies have suggested that in children who are close to school age, children’s television programmes and smart technologies can help to improve vocabulary and reading comprehension, but this is only when children have already acquired the basic cognitive behaviours and skills attained from human interaction.
Parents can help by testing smart applications before they are given to a child, to establish whether they are worth handing over to their children for play in the first place. It strikes me us parents are facing huge changes and could do with far more support in this area.
The benefits of sensory play
The five senses, taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing, allow a child to evaluate and weigh up the world around them. These senses help build stronger cognitive abilities, whilst human interaction improves language development, gross motor skills, and teach children the basic principles of social interaction.
As well as producing cognitive benefits, traditional forms of play also produce physical benefits within a child. Heightened bodily awareness within the space they are in, and balance, are improved when children interact with the world around them, not a screen.
This is because this type of play refines their thresholds for understanding the five different types of sensory information that they will process. By making stronger connections with the brain, a child is able to retain more and learn more as a result. I have looked into how I might incorporate the five senses more when it comes to our home education adventures.
Although smart technologies have become part of an adult’s everyday life, this doesn’t mean that they need to be part of a young child’s one too. Research is beginning to reveal that smart technologies, as opposed to traditional interactive forms of play, can do more harm than good. Perhaps limiting a young child’s exposure to smart devices will allow them to make the most of their early-years learning, improving their cognitive understanding and the world they live in.
I may be old-fashioned but I still really do not like seeing babies and very young children on screens at all. Let’s get back to traditional forms of play and bond with our children rather than use the screen as a babysitter.