Archives for March 2015

Great Reasons to Consider Buying a Family Home In St Albans

If you are looking for somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, there are many reasons why you should speak to the estate agents St Albans based firm Strutt & Parker.  As you will hopefully see from the following article, the Hertfordshire city of St Albans has a lot to offer new homeowners, particularly those who are looking to put down roots and start a family or who already have young children.

St Albans is a very idyllic rural city and obviously in part due to the picturesque quality of the city, it was recently voted 5th happiest place to live in Great Britain.  One thing that, like most other people who are planning on moving to a different city or town, you are probably interested in regarding St Albans is the transport links the city offers.

The St Albans City station provides a direct line to Gatwick and Luton airports and a line that takes you straight into the centre of London.  Also Heathrow and Stansted airport are not too far away and as the city has the A1 running through the east, the M1 running through the west and the M25 through the south of the city; it is easy to commute for people who are employed outside of St Albans.

As stated at the outset of the article, many prospective and new parents look to St Albans as a place to set down roots.  As a result of this, the city is very child and family friendly.  If you took just half an hour to walk around the city centre you would see a plethora of buggy’s and there are a great selection of plots of green, playgrounds and parks for children to play in safely and the vast majority of the cafes, restaurants and pubs are all family friendly too.

Another aspect that is worth noting about St Albans as a city is the shopping experiences it offers city residents and visitors.  In the city centre for instance, there are an interesting and diverse mix of national chain stores and independents and the local market is set up every Wednesday and Sunday.  For discerning supermarket customers who like a good choice, there is not only large Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s and Tesco branches in the city, but also three smaller sized Tesco Express shops and a small Waitrose too.

Although there is not a big department store that caters for St Albans residents, the Waitrose store features the John Lewis click and collect service.  If you want a large department store to shop in, you actually only need to venture out a little from the city to Colney Fields where there is a retail park that features a TK Maxx, Boots, New Look, Monsoon, Next, Sainsbury’s and Marks And Spencer.  While Brent Cross shopping centre is only a 30 minute drive outside of town.

As you can see, as well as the picturesque setting, there also many practical reasons why you should consider moving house there.

5 Key Benefits of a Health and Weight Loss Retreat


The popularity of the health retreat is growing as more people get on board with obtaining a balanced lifestyle. Because of this, there are now retreats that cater to every kind of lifestyle you’re looking for, from harmony and yoga, to weight loss programs. But, no matter what you choose, a health retreat such as Chi of Life is going to guarantee a full mind and body makeover as just one positive outcome. Below are five other key benefits of taking time out in a health and weight loss retreat.

1. Total Focus

One benefit of health retreats is that they are out of your comfort zone, quite literally. By removing yourself from your everyday environment, you are also removing yourself from all your usual distractions. You do not have to think about work, family demands, cooking, or any other scheduled deadlines that constantly pull you out of your balanced diet and exercising. You only have to think about you, which will help you to develop some serious health results.

2. Professional Guidance

If you’re someone that finds it difficult to get motivated, a retreat may be the perfect solution as you’ll have someone there pushing you along – someone that won’t let you get distracted or quit early. Having professional trainers, nutritionists, and health professionals on hand will mean you’re not only being inspired to push yourself further, but you are also being educated on what long-term health goals will work best for your body.

3. They Provide a Plan

At a retreat, you are provided with an accurate food and health plan based on what your body needs, what your dietary requirements might be, and what your fitness can handle in regards to weight loss. You do not have to waste time designing your own plan that you’ll end up struggling to follow.

4. Likeminded People

There is nothing that will drive you more than surrounding yourself with likeminded people who are just as driven to reach their goals as you are. Having professionals is one thing – they’re trained to push you – but people who are going through similar health and weight loss issues as you are can be an even bigger motivator to keep going when it starts to get tough.

5. Mind and Body Makeover

Being healthy is not just about having a healthy body; it is also about having a healthy mind. Going to a retreat will train you to think differently about the foods you eat and the lifestyle you live, and how exercise can actually make you happier. With a positive frame of mind, you will be better equipped to re-enter the real world and promote a balanced way of living for a long time to come.

If you’re someone that has never considered a retreat for health and weight loss, there is no time like the present to change that. Health retreats are the best way to get focused, get ahead, and get motivated to change your life for the better.

Have you or someone you know ever been to a health retreat? If so, what was the most important thing you took out of it? Leave your answers in the space below.

Easy Ways To Get Your Kids Growing – And Eating – Vegetables

Let’s face it, kids and vegetables are not a match made in heaven. It’s nothing short of a miracle if you can get the vast majority of children to even look at one without pulling a disgusted face. But if you can get your children to grow the veggies themselves, you could quickly see a transformation. Let’s get started…


Image Credit – Flickr

Start Indoors With Pretty Colors

Tomatoes and radishes are great starting points for growing veggies with your kids. And you aren’t restricted to growing them in the warmer months, either. In fact, growing them with hydroponics or indoor lights can make the experience even better for them. Companies like Hydrofarm or Canna are great for hydroponics, or you could try Led lighting from the likes of HydroGrow. Those lush colors will soon pique their interests – especially when the green tomatoes start blushing red.

Use Herb Boxes

Herbs can be a little strong for a lot of kids’ taste buds, but if you only use a small amount they can start getting used to different flavors. They also grow quickly and are easy to look after. Put the herb boxes somewhere that they can see them – bedroom window sills are ideal – and let your children water them. Once they see how fast they grow, they will be more than interested in finding out how they taste.

Develop Their Garden Skills

Once your child has got used to seeing things grow with their own eyes, they will find it easier to understand those that grow beneath the ground. Carrots, potatoes, and beetroot are the next steps for vegetable-avoiding kids. They take a while longer to grow – up to and around three months. It’s important at this stage to keep their interests up because  three months is a long time for kids to be waiting. Try keeping a photo diary so that they can compare the size of leaves. When they see what lies beneath the soil, they will be amazed.

The Green Stuff

Ah, the green stuff. Think you will never see the day your child doesn’t turn their nose up at lettuce, cabbage and cauliflower? Think again. Start with something simple and that they can see. Peas are ideal – and they may even like the taste more fresh out of the pod. Cabbage might take more work, but if you plant a red or purple variety they will be more willing.


All through the process of growing vegetable with kids, you should be educating them in the importance of healthy eating. It’s a good time to share the value of what each vegetable brings to the human body. Talk to them in their language. Vitamins mean nothing to kids, but carrots can help you see better? Wow! Come up with some amazing meals you can make with these simple tools and you will soon see an improvement to their veggie intake.

Don’t forget that not only are you planting seeds in the ground, but you are also planting seeds in their minds. Horticulture is such a valuable life skill, and with any luck, your child will be munching on veggies very soon – and for a very long time.

5 star hotels for all the family to enjoy

Some people, when they travel, only like to stay at the best hotels that each destination has to offer. These are people that only book 5 star hotels and will accept nothing less than the finest and most luxurious settings whilst also experiencing some of the world’s finest dining experiences. When these people look at a world travel blog, they are obviously interested in the many attractions that a destination may provide but, will not compromise their luxurious lifestyles but fortunately today there are luxurious 5 star accommodations at nearly all the tourist destinations and some additional destinations that are more exclusive and so the luxury traveller today, has no shortage of choices as to where to go for their vacations.

As with almost everything else today, there are of course internet web sites that these types of travellers can go to in order to assist them in finding the best hotels that each destination has to offer, among them would luxury travel blogs, 5 star alliance perhaps Forbes or similar sites as well, all of which cater to the more discerning traveller’s tastes and requirements.

When you book any 5 star hotels, you know that the standards which that hotel maintains are to the highest quality and can be relied upon to afford the most luxurious rooms. The service in these hotels, must of course be beyond reproach and be of a type that has no bounds in its ability to provide a guest with whatever they may need, whenever they may need it. This standard of hotel will obviously have details for the best in transportation during your stay in the destination and may well have their own limousine service. Often a hotel of this standard will have a restaurant to match, one that offers the finest in an assortment of cuisines, some of which may be their own renowned chef’s unique recipe.

Whilst not all of these hotels may have their own spas, the vast majority will have or will at least have connections with a local spa in the area, only ones though, that meet their own high standards in excellence. Although many of these hotels will cater for the more formal dining, some may also have facilities for more casual eating but, if they do, the hotel will always ensure that that too is of a high standard.

There is little doubt that when you book a 5 star hotel, you will get exceptional service and food that is of the highest quality but like everything else, the service and quality come at a price and so often these hotels are among the most expensive. For most people that stay at 5 star hotels though, the cost is not the major concern, they are far more concerned with getting luxury, elegance and a sense of feeling that they are being pampered to which, of course in most cases they are. The 5 star hotels pride themselves on their hospitality and so work very hard to maintain their standards which in turn, ensures that their guests get the best available.


Family breaks without the hassle in England

Yorkshire in North East England is well known for its own brand of hospitality and it can be seen at its best with the welcome you receive at the Clifton hotel Scarborough. The hotelis renowned for its warm Yorkshire welcome and the hospitality continues right up until the time you leave. Although in the 1960s claims were made that the town was first founded by Vikings, as yet no proof has been offered to support this claim but what is known about this historical town, is that during the English Civil War of the 1640s the town came under two major sieges and changed hands a total of 7 times, leaving the town in ruins. In 1660, after acidic water was found streaming from one of Scarborough’s cliffs, Scarborough became the first English seaside resort although not until 1735 did it receive the first of its rolling bathing machines. Travel blogging today claim that the Scarborough railway station, with its seat that is 139 meters long, holds a record for having the longest seat in the world.

The town is divided into two bays, the North Bay and the South Bay, by a rocky outcrop that is home to the ruins of an 11 century castle. The original town and harbour were located on South Bay, which today is known as the old town and has the main transportation hubs for the town. The Clifton Hotel is located in North Bay which although more peaceful, is ideally located for those that wish to visit the Japanese themed Peasholm Park. From this park a miniature railway runs through Northstead Manor Gardens and on to the Sea Life Centre. The miniature railway itself has a claim to fame as it is said to be the oldest of its type in the world, which still runs today. The Sea Life Centre is a popular attraction as it affords visitors the opportunity to pass through tunnels to see all the sea life without even getting wet. Of course, as a true depiction of the sea with all its diverse life, a visitor will have the chance to see many different things from shrimp to shark and can also witness some of the feeding processes. Other sea life of interest at the centre is the otters, jellyfish and penguins.

Another attraction that Scarborough has to offer is Playdale Farm Park. This is a park that has children in mind and gives them an opportunity to see many animals in the surroundings of a farm. Among some of the favourite animals that can be seen are Chinchillas, Alpacas, rabbits and pigs. As mentioned, this park has kids in mind and so there is also a play area which includes a tractor to ride on and underneath a covered picnic area, there is also a sand pit with buckets and spades.

Scarborough today, certainly has something for all the family and you can make the most of it by enjoying the hospitality of a hotel like the Clifton.

Why Moving To The Country Should Encourage You To Buy A Dog

If you are planning a big move to the country soon, you may already be dreaming about the complete shift in your lifestyle. Life will be quieter and probably slower paced. The types of activities you and the kids will be getting up to will probably change too. How you live your life will be completely different to how it was in the town or the city, and soon you will be living it up in some quaint country lane.

The thought of a roaring open fire, and muddy wellies outside the back door is enough to make anyone want to move to a house in the country. Of course, there will be many sacrifices to make. You may have to drive just to get to the supermarket instead of nipping to the corner shop. Your broadband may not be quite as fast as you are used to, and there may not be much of a mobile phone signal either. But the air is fresh and clean, the land is green and vast, and your kids are going to love being able to wander out on their own.

If you do move to the country, you may want to seriously consider getting a dog. They are great companions and make good playmates for the children. They are also excellent at alerting you should there be a problem. When you are living somewhere with no street lights outside it can be incredibly dark. Having a dog to alert you puts your mind at ease and helps save you from jumping at the shadows. When you walk along a dark country lane in the evening, the company of a dog can make you feel much safer.

Of course, getting a dog is a big commitment, but country life offers you a bigger house and land for them to run around in. Visit websites like K9 Stud to see if there are any bigger breeds you could give a lovely home to. They provide lots of love and big warm cuddles on a cold winter night! They are also great for encouraging you to get out there and explore all that wonderful countryside. If you are looking to get a dog, your children can benefit a great deal from pet ownership too.


This puppy pic is courtesy of Flickr

Owning a pet and looking after it well is a great life lesson for children. They quickly learn to behave like responsible adults when they have to care for another member of the family or the dog. Simple things like making sure the food is given at the right times, and cleaning up shed fur can be done by most age groups. Grooming and bathing is great fun too. Most importantly, they will need to consider the welfare of another being over their own wants and desires. Dog ownership certainly provides a wealth of good experience and life lessons for children. Your new house in the country will feel like home in no time once you have added a dog to the family number. Happy moving!

Advantages of Children’s Daycare

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It is understandable if you are skeptical about daycare. The mere thought of leaving one’s child, barely a few weeks old, in the hands of virtual strangers can be a little unsettling if not downright frightening. However, renowned institutions like the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of California at Berkeley have chronicled the social and psychological benefits of child daycare—for both the kids and their parents. Here are a few key ones:


By taking responsibility for your child, daycare centers take the pressure off you. They typically have clear-cut rules for you to follow. For instance, they tell you the times you can drop off your kid and when to pick him/her up. Also, you would be informed of the activities that the center has planned for your children. You won’t have to worry about your child’s whereabouts or scramble for someone to take care of him/her when you are away.

Structure and Stability

Daycare is particularly appealing for its formal, structured setting. Most centers are staffed with caregivers who are trained in early childhood education. So, they are optimally qualified to watch over kids and nurture their development. Also, directors usually supervise centers; they are responsible for ensuring the smooth operation of the environment. And if a caregiver is sick or is on vacation, it does not disrupt childcare, since centers typically have a robust staff that can efficiently handle any problems that may arise.


Daycare staff members are specifically trained to take care of kids. So, that places them at a huge advantage over nannies who may not necessarily have that kind of training. Indeed, nannies are hired based on the parents’ discretion, rather than on any solid set of requirements. With daycare centers, however, you are assured that your child is in good hands. Moreover, you get to see and meet other parents who are in the same situation, and they can also be a great source of support and information concerning daycare and babysitting.

Socialization and Communication Skills

Granted, you might be able to find someone to babysit your kids. However, placing them in a daycare center exposes them to more than just one person. It is the ideal environment for your children to meet other children and form friendships with their peers; developing life-long social skills. And children can also learn how to communicate with their caregivers, who teach them basic social skills that include sharing with others, meeting and interacting with new people, and resolving conflicts. Your children will also learn how to play with peers that are younger and older than them, and how to interact with figures of authority that are not their parents.

Higher Academic Achievement

By teaching them social and communication skills at an early age, daycare centers can help your children steadily develop into sociable, well-adjusted people in the long run. And that particular benefit is often manifested in academics. According to a 2010 Reuters report on study results from the NIH, teenagers who had been placed in childcare—particularly high-quality childcare—scored slightly higher on academic and cognitive tests than those with lower-quality childcare. Also, children who had received top-notch daycare were less likely to act out than their peers.

Sandwiches You Should Make with Your Child

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If your child is tired of the same old ham & cheese sandwiches or PB&Js, it’s time to get out of your rut. According to Berkel Sales and Service, introducing your child to many different flavor combinations helps them develop a varied palette and eat healthier when they grow up. For even more fun, cut the sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters or roll up the bread like a pinwheel. Here are some sandwich ideas that your child may enjoy when they’re feeling adventurous.

Increase the Vegetables

Fresh veggies like spinach or tomatoes add color to a sandwich. Think of using sprouts, avocado, or even chopped up broccoli to encourage kids to eat more veggies and introduce them to new flavors with other ingredients that they like. Pickles or olives make great additions to a sandwich as well. Try to not use too many different ingredients in the sandwich. Cole slaw is another easy addition that adds flavor and crunch.

Consider Fruits

Slices of apples or pears are great with many types of meats and cheeses. They would add crunch to an otherwise bland sandwich. According to Berkel Sales and Service, many chicken salad recipes include strawberries or raisins for a distinct flavor profile and your child may the refreshing change. You shouldn’t limit yourself to traditional sandwich ideas and fillings. Even dried fruits, like cranberries or raisins add a new flavor to your plain old sandwich. Mix them with cream cheese or mayo so that they don’t slide out. Jams or jellies are another fruity addition idea.

Change Up the Bread

There are a number of options to use as the bread. Think about biscuits or tortillas. If your child has never tried the Middle East versions of flatbread, like naan, they may enjoy softer bread that can be rolled up. Crackers would make a nice change of pace, as would hamburger buns. Think about using bread made of different grains, rye, oatmeal, or whole wheat. Your child gets fiber they need and learns to eat different things. Open-faced sandwiches are also a nice treat that looks very pretty on a plate. You could even make a type of filled sandwich with puff pastry. Put the ingredients between two pieces of pastry and bake.

Meat and Cheese Options

Just about every child enjoys pizza flavors like pepperoni and Canadian bacon. Why can’t you put those meats in a sandwich? Use a variety of cheeses, like Swiss, Gouda, or even cream cheese. Mix up veggies with ricotta cheese and make a filling that tastes good and is healthy. You don’t even have to use meat and cheese for protein options. There’s always peanut butter, almond butter, or even hummus. Refried beans are easy to spread on tortillas for a quick sandwich that’s healthy. Look around the deli counter for ideas.

Some Specific Combinations

If you need some great combinations that would work well together, try ham and cheese with slices of pear. If you’re having a vegetarian meal, use tomatoes, cucumber, sprouts, and avocado. Chicken salad with grapes, nuts, celery, and mayo is a fun choice. Take a page from Elvis’ recipe book and use crumbled bacon, peanut butter and bananas wrapped in a tortilla. Pepperoni and mozzarella with olives, peppers, and an Italian dressing on a Ciabatta roll will make you think of a pizza. Puff pastry filled with taco meat and cheese is a nice change of pace from the traditional tortilla. Apricot preserves with chicken and Gouda, served open face looks elegant for a tea party. Blackberries with cottage cheese on whole-wheat bread or grilled cheese with cheddar and apples are a fun way to encourage eating more fruit. The options are limitless!

Start Your Home’s Interior Design at the Front Door

picDid you know that your selection of a front door really sets the tone for your interior design? Your guests and friends will develop their first impression of your home once they arrive at the entrance to your home; this is why your choice is very important and why you should realise that it’s a reflection of your personality and your own statement of style. You can enhance the look of today’s new doors with side lights, hardware, and other features that highlight the elements of design that are important to you. Let’s take a look at how you can impress your friends and visitors with the selection that you make when you replace your front door.

  1. Once you develop a budget you should discuss your options with a team of professionals who can provide you with helpful information about today’s new composite doors, fire doors, and other exterior doors that add beauty and safety to your home. You should visit where you can find a gallery of doors that may suit your preference; you can also order doors to fit your specific requirements in case your home is an older model that has something other than standard sized doors throughout. You can also ask the professionals about the style of door you should choose to complement your home’s architectural design and that of your neighbourhood.
  2. Another bold step that you might want to take is to change the colour of your front door to a more vibrant one. You can research colours on the Internet to see what each colour represents and choose the one that is most like your personality; you should pick a colour that won’t make your home very different from the surrounding homes but you can express your own style with a reasonable colour choice.
  3. You can also enhance your front door with the hardware and surrounding features that you choose; you can select a more streamlined handle, locking features that add a layer of protection, and sidelights which add elegance to any door. There are a plethora of options available to you; simply ask your professional supplier for his recommendations and watch the magic happen right before your eyes.
  4. Finally, you should choose a door that is attractive but also one that is strong, durable, and requires a minimum amount of maintenance. The composite doors and other exterior doors that you’ll find in today’s market are constructed from quality materials that provide you with added security in a beautiful package that lasts for years.

Your front door is the first impression that your home will make upon guests and visitors; make sure that you carefully select what you really like, what matches the style of your home, and a door that will save you money with its energy efficient features. You can successfully begin your interior design right at the front door with a little research, some professional guidance, and a reputable supplier who is experienced and well-trained in his field.



Image courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/











Starting a Car Dealership as a Family Business

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So, you’ve decided to set up a car dealership as a family business, but don’t know how to start. Establishing one is not too complicated. All you need to do is pay attention to the business requirements that are unique to the auto industry, in addition to general guidelines that apply to all types of businesses. Here are some of the things that you should take into account:

Type of Sale

With car dealerships, you can decide on whether you want to go retail or wholesale. If you decide on retail, you will be selling cars to customers. On the other hand, if it’s wholesale you decide on, you will only be selling cars to other dealers. Regardless of the type of sale, you have the choice of going with new cars, used cars or a mixture of both.


According to DealFinder, a company that specializes in automotive BDC solutions, to set up a dealership, you would have to obtain a dealer’s license from your local Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) office. The license authorizes you to sell a certain number of vehicles for profit; without it, you cannot be a car dealer, and you could get into trouble if you try to be one without a license. To get the license, you would have to pass an exam that’s comprised of the automobile industry laws and practices.

Insurance and Warranty

Besides a license, you need insurance, which protects you from unsuccessful deals. Also, it is required that you have one of two types of warranties. As outlined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you can get a warranty of merchantability, which ensures basic functions of the vehicle; or a warranty of fitness, which applies to vehicles with specified functions, such as hauling or off-roading.

Consumer Rights and Safety Laws

The laws covered in the licensing exam are consumer rights and safety laws. Two of the most well known ones are the Federal Used Car Rule and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975. The Federal Used Car Rule stipulates that you, as a resident of any U.S. state except for Maine or Wisconsin, disclose vital information on every car you sell. Such information includes features and technical specifications, mechanical or electrical problems, and warranty status. The Warranty Act is more commonly referred to as the federal “lemon law,” which protects customers from vehicles that repeatedly fail to meet performance and quality standards.

Location and Inventory

Of course, you would also need to determine where your dealership will be located, as well as the amount of space you are allowed to have by law. You can start with your local zoning office or planning agency to guide you in terms of ideal site location, size, accessibility, and proximity to potential customers. For inventory, you can go to auctions to buy vehicles from wholesale dealers.

CRM Software

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has steadily become the dealership industry standard for integrating and streamlining dealership operations. It makes the dealership operate more efficiently, as managers and sales associates find it easier to accomplish core tasks, such as making and receiving phone calls, tracking inventory, and preparing financing documentation. CRM software also provides affordable direct mail, which can be used as a marketing tool for discount or promotional sales.