Monday, 14 October 2019

3 Things that are worth investing in for your first house

THIS POST CONTAINS GIFTED PRODUCTS

There's no escaping the fact that buying your first house is an expensive time in life, not only have you got the price of the actual house plus solicitors fees to think about but you've then got to fill it with furniture, electricals and other bits and bobs... believe me it all adds up! But I think it's well worth knowing what's worth investing in to last you a while:



Pans and Cookware - Trust me, decent pans are well worth investing in. You need to looking for non-stick ones with a non-metallic handle (because the handle gets unbearably hot if it's metal!!). Prestige sent me one of their new Thermo Smart frying pans* and I'm so impressed with it. Their Thermo Smart pans are diamond infused to give them the perfect non-stick surface and they come with a 5 year guarantee.

I can confirm that it's perfectly non stick, sturdy and is just big enough for everything I need. The first time I used it was when I was cooking a Gousto recipe and looking at the ingredients my main fear was that it was going to be such a pain to clean up but actually it was amazingly easy to clean; nothing stuck on it whatsoever and the green indicator on the handle was a great tool for knowing when the pan was ready to cook on. I made the mistake of buying my other pans without giving it much thought and they've got metal handles and have started to lose their non-stick coating I think so I really need to invest in some new ones - Prestige is definitely somewhere I would look and would recommend to anyone!


Sofas - realistically, you're probably going to be spending a lot of your spare time on your sofas so you obviously want them to be a) comfortable, b) attractive and c) fairly hard wearing. Which believe me is a difficult trio to find. Mine is the Next Stamford Sofa and in all honesty, as much as I love the look of it and it is comfortable; it's not hard wearing at all even though I've rotated cushions, plumped cushions etc. so I'm afraid this one isn't necessarily one I would recommend purely for the fact that it hasn't worn well but this is kind of a word of 'warning' if you will - that sofas really are something you need to shop around for and do your market research.


A good TV - again, the functional stuff is important but let's face it your TV is something you'll probably spend a fair bit of time in front of. I went for an LG 4K smart TV because I think their TVs are good quality and I like how user-friendly they are. Now I'm not saying that you need to invest in the latest 3D TV, but a 4K TV with smart capabilities is a good place to start - it means you don't have to mess around with any additional boxes to or plug ins to watch things like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

What would be your priorities in your first house?

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Wednesday, 9 October 2019

How to get your home ready for an easy sale

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There are many things that can impact upon how easy the sale of your house is, but the actual aesthetics really do play a massive part. Even if your home is on the market without furnishings, the way that you present the space will give potential buyers an inspiring vision of what they could achieve in each room. Getting the place ready for hopeful investors to come sweeping through doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think, as there are some simple and handy hacks that can make the process a breeze. Are you looking to sell your house and want to know more about what you can do to bag a quick sale? Then read on to uncover the best top tips that you can implement today!


Create A More Minimalistic Canvas

Though you may be an eccentric and individual character, the patterns and colours that you adore so much may be another person's absolute worst nightmare. To suit every kind of buyer, the best thing that you can do is create a more minimalistic canvas that provides no glaring designs or standout crazy features, with soft vanilla or ivory white toned walls and a complete lack of clutter. You can retain aspects like sofas, beds, and other accessories even if they are potentially a little different, but allow the viewer to imagine themselves within the space with their own belongings. You can make your mark in your new home, just as they can make their own mark in your old property if they choose to make a purchase. 

Don’t Forget About Kerb Appeal

The way your home looks from the outside has a huge impact upon the likelihood of a sale, as it is essentially the first impression that buyers get of the property and this can immediately influence whether they want to invest. Allowing your home to become overrun with tall grass and wild weeds will make it look run down and unkempt, instantly putting even the most positive of buyers off entering. Give walls a fresh lick of paint (or power wash over bricks) to make it look fresh and inviting rather than old and drab, and add a few homely accessories or decorations such as a ‘welcome’ mat and pot of beautiful flowers at the door. 

Take The Advice Of Your Estate Agent

If you have done your research and found a trustworthy business like Movv estate agency to handle your sale, then take their advice no matter what. Estate agents operate with the main goal of selling your property as quickly as possible for as much money as possible, and with their masses of previous experience they truly know what steps to take to make it all happen smoothly. Ask them to visit your property and listen to all of the comments they have to say, as these will help you to grab a super quick and hassle free sale. 

Getting your home aesthetically ready needn’t be a chore!

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Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Gousto Box Review

I'm not usually a fan of anything that requires a subscription other than Netflix; I've tried Birchbox before and I totally agree that they're nice as a luxury but it's not something I feel I could sustain or justify for a long period of time. So when some of my work friends mentioned that they were using (and loving) the Gousto Recipe Box, naturally I was a bit sceptical. After digging a little further I found out exactly how it works (because I don't know about you, but I like to know all the facts before I commit my money!)

So, firstly you can choose whether you're catering for 2 or 4 people, you can order 2, 3 or 4 meals per box and you can also set the frequency of deliveries to either weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Then there's the fun part... choosing from over 40 different recipes!

They have 40 different recipes to choose from with new ones every week so if you're a longer term subscriber, you're not going to get bored quickly. You can also filter according to dietary requirements, speed of cooking or healthy choices which makes selecting appropriate recipes so easy if you do have specific needs where food is concerned - they do vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free options and there's plenty of choice in each category.

This week I chose our menu so I went for creamy haddock linguine with tomatoes and chilli, cheesy pepperoni pasta bake, extra special bangers 'n' mash and creamy chicken potato topped pie... next week it'll be Kev's turn so we'll see what he goes for!

You can arrange delivery for a day that suits you which is free if you agree to have it delivered anytime (you can pick a time but you pay extra) they are willing to leave it in a safe place which is ideal and there's no need to worry because the food is well packed and all the chilled food is kept cool with a huge ice pack.


I'll be honest and say that I was worried that the food would come and it'd be battered and just at its best because let's face it that's one of the drawbacks of ordering your groceries online; it's picked out by someone else and ultimately it's not always what you would have picked yourself.

However, I'm pleased to report that everything was perfectly packed and in great condition when I eventually opened it up at 6pm. The fresh veg was still fresh and the ice pack still had hours left in it by the looks of it. You could say the packaging is a bit over the top but I genuinely think that if any less was used, this could compromise the quality of the products when it reached the customer.

What I love about Gousto is that they send exactly what you need for those particular recipes which means that you can try new things without having an oversupply of whatever tiny bit of seasoning it required. The first meal I cooked was the haddock linguine and this is what we had to make it with:

I'd be lying if I said that this was a super-easy meal to make, because it wasn't but what I can say is that all the instructions on the recipe card are really clear and the fact that you don't have to measure anything out also takes off some of the time it would normally take. Obviously if you don't want to spend as little time as possible then you'd filter for the 10 minute meals when you're choosing your recipes.
After nearly choking myself and Kev with chilli flakes, the meal was complete. The portion sizes are slightly smaller than what we are used to but I honestly think that it's me that usually over-does it rather than these actually being small portions.


It was so tasty and really great to have something different. We tend to get stuck in a rut of eating the same things on repeat every single week and don't even get me started on how much I hate shopping and then planning and deciding what to eat. Gousto box takes those steps away and means that midweek meals are so much easier.

The usual price is £34.99 which is expensive and I will question my subscription when the price goes back up but my first one had 60% off it and I'll get 30% off for the rest of the month so I'm happy with that. Follow my link If you'd like to try a box with 60% off (cancel the subscription at any time) if you do buy a box through my link I get £15 so if you'd prefer not to use that link then this is the affiliate-free link to the Gousto website.

Please let me know via Instagram if you do decide to try - let me know what you think!

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Monday, 30 September 2019

HOW TO GET FREE TICKETS TO BE IN THE AUDIENCE AT TV SHOWS

Ever wondered where the audiences come from when you see them on TV? Would it surprise you if I told you that these people probably haven't paid a penny to be there?

If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen that last weekend I went to see Jack and Michael Whitehall film their Christmas special 'Christmas with my Father' for Netflix at The London Palladium. The tickets we got were absolutely free of charge from Applause Store. You can pay a subscription fee to get 'priority tickets' but I honestly wouldn't bother with it unless you plan to attend lots of shows because priority tickets still are not guaranteed seats. 

I wanted to write this blog post to explain the process a little bit more clearly as it is quite vague on the Applause Store website (and to be honest, even on the day there was a fair bit of uncertainty for us) so I wanted to take you through it step-by-step. 


I've been registered with Applause Store since 2014 but I have never actually applied for any tickets up until now because as with many things, most TV recordings happen somewhere in the London area so it's not the quickest of places for me to travel to. However, they do have tickets to most of the big TV shows such as Britain's Got Talent, Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, Michael Mcintyre's Big Show, Celebrity Juice, X Factor, The Grand Tour and absolutely loads more (see here for other TV audience tickets. Once you've registered your details you're good to go in terms of either registering your interest for tickets that aren't available just yet or for putting your name in the hat for tickets that are available.

Once you request tickets they will email you at least 48 hours before the event if you have been successful which again, if you live miles away from London, isn't ideal but I figure that if you're down there for one reason or another anyway it might be worth seeing what's on around that time and you can just chance it - if you get tickets, bonus, if not, you've not spent a fortune planning a trip down there for nothing. 

But here's the important thing to remember: e-tickets do not guarantee entry.

Because there are a lot of 'no shows' to each recording, they have to oversubscribe on tickets to account for this (which is fair enough, after all; their job is to populate an audience not leave empty seats!). So this is where it gets a bit uncertain and it means that you could be in for a long wait depending on the show you're wanting to see. 

If you have got a ticket there will be an 'arrive by' time. Plan to arrive well before this time. As an example: our tickets said 'arrive by 5pm' - we arrived at 12pm and apparently people had been queuing since 10am that morning. (The Palladium is slightly different as they offer a 'ticket exchange' which was where we had to wait in the queue for them to exchange our paper e-tickets for a seat number but from what I understand, most other shows are a case of waiting and then being admitted into the studio.) Admission/tickets are all given on a 'first come, first served' basis and there really is no way of knowing whether you will be given a ticket. There were people who were left disappointed when they got to the venue 10-15 minutes before the 'arrive by' time but it does clearly state on the ticket that everything is first come, first served. So my advice to you is to get there as early as you are prepared to wait. You do receive 'priority tickets' for another Applause Store show of your choice if you have to be turned away. 

We were actually really lucky in that we only queued for about 30-45 minutes and our e-ticket was exchanged for real seat tickets in the Royal Circle (seats which would have cost £100 if we were seeing a West End show!!). Once we had our tickets we could leave the area to do as we wanted as long as we arrived back for 6.30pm but I think for most other studio recordings there isn't an exchange you just go in and it's recorded pretty much immediately. What you also must keep in mind is that not all seats will be the most amazing view, remember that these are totally free tickets and you really aren't in a position to argue about where you're sat - you get what you're given basically.

Moral of the story for any experience with Applause Store - keep in mind that nothing is guaranteed and have a plan B if you're travelling a distance, also, be prepared to wait and dress accordingly. But I can assure you that if you manage to bag a seat in the audience for free it's an amazing experience!

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Friday, 27 September 2019

MULTI-CENTRE HOLIDAYS WITH ESHORES

When I went to this event in Leeds, hosted by eShores, I was reminded of the fact that I've now had this little piece of internet for 8 years!! I do occasionally get invited to lovely events like this one where we enjoyed a taste of 3 American destinations - San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Until being invited to this event, I'd never heard of eShores for tailor made holidays so I was intrigued as to what they offered.

When booking with eShores you'll get a personal travel consultant who will guide you through the booking process from identifying exactly what you want from you holiday right through to your return back to the UK. Once they know your requirements they'll give you the best options on the market for the best price - which totally takes the hassle out of organising multi-centre holidays because as soon as you start talking internal flights and all that I get a bit confused and worried I'd do it wrong if I were to do it myself.

Just for being a Girl Up North reader, you get an exclusive discount of £100 if you quote USA/LeedsEvent when you make your booking! If the event they organised is anything to go by, their holidays will be absolutely fantastic!

I had a fabulous time at Lambert's Yard in Leeds where we were treated to cocktails (I had to have non-alcoholic because I was driving *sad face*), a 3 course meal and some amazing entertainment from Sebastian Walton (BGT magician)

All photos were kindly taken by Elouisa of https://www.elouisageorgiou.co.uk/




San Francisco inspired cocktails made by www.mixandtwist.co.uk - I know it's not quite San Francisco but I loved finding out what's worth seeing when you're over there (San Fran has been on my bucket list for years, I've just never got round to it!). Out of everything I would really love to cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge and visit Alcatraz... oh, and I'd love to go and see Mrs Doubtfire's house!





For the past couple of years I've made a pledge to myself to become more of a 'yes' person and I've not regretted it for one minute because although I was nervous about attending this event, I was able to catch up with Remie, Mary and Lucy who are vintage bloggers like me (sorry ladies, I mean that in the nicest possible way! haha) as well as meeting some new like-minded people.



We were treated to an amazing 3 course Los Angeles inspired meal which was a Tuna Poke bowl (I've never tried a poke bowl before but this definitely won't be the last one I have because it was delicious!). Abigaile Fried Chicken with Maple Syrup Sage Biscuits which took me right back to being in America, finished off with a Greek yoghurt martini with raspberry and pomegranate. It all came with paired wine but unfortunately I wasn't able to partake in that bit!





The final part of the evening was the Vegas segment - brought to us by Sebastian Walton who had been circulating the tables for most of the night, showing us the tricks he had up his sleeve. Not only was he a very clever magician, he was also incredibly funny and entertaining in general. If you follow my Instagram you'll have seen that I got well and truly caught out by one of the tricks!

I can't thank eShores enough for the invite, we all had an absolutely amazing evening and I know exactly where I'll be headed to book a multi-centre holiday!

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COSMO WORLD BUFFET SHEFFIELD REVIEW

Gifted Meal

All you can eat buffets are a funny thing I think; you either love them or hate them. I've had mixed feelings about them through previous bad experiences and the thought of them can also conjure up images of the basic, beige food that was available in hotels abroad in years gone by but thankfully my experience at Cosmo restaurant in Sheffield was far from beige.

Cosmo promises to offer a 'world kitchen' for food with dishes from around the globe; everything from Chinese, Indian and Japanese to a pizza, pasta and a good old English carvery - I do think you'd have to be a hugely fussy eater not to be able to find something that tickles your fancy. They also have live cooking stations with teppanyaki chefs ready to take your order and cook it fresh in front of you. And not forgetting the huge selection of desserts and ice creams.





We were greeted by friendly staff at the door and shown to a booth (which I have to admit, I do prefer to the seats in the middle of the room) - service was swift and we were soon brought our drinks of choice: a Mojito for Kev and an empty glass for me to fill up with a soft drink of my choice from the self-service refill station. I much prefer self service drinks because I do tend to drink a fair bit with my meal so it's much more convenient for me to just go and get it myself.

The next decision I had to make was where to start - the choice is slightly overwhelming so I decided to have a walk round first without a plate just to see what there was (there's nothing more gutting than filling up on the food you've seen without exploring first and then realising you haven't got any room for a hidden gem thats at the other side of the buffet!). What struck me was how clean everything was kept, and anything that was empty was swiftly replaced - they also had a very visible hand washing station which is encouraging. One thing I did notice, though, was that it was incredibly difficult to get any good photos of what was on offer because ultimately, food has to be stored on a hot buffet in a way that maintains heat so the aesthetics do go out of the window to some extent. In person, however, everything looks and smells delicious - it just doesn't photograph well!



I did try and get round as much of the food as I could and I think I did quite well - I managed to polish off around 4/5 plates. Although I have to admit, I don't pile my plate high because I prefer to keep things separate.

I started off with duck pancakes and other Chinese starters (anyone else much prefer Chinese starters to the main courses?! The duck was plentiful and I managed to restrain myself to 3 pancakes but I could have definitely polished off some more - I did have to wait a few minutes for some fresh cucumber and spring onion but the empty bowls were soon replaced. I tried a few other bits from that area like prawn toast and squid rings and I put a little bit of sweet and sour chicken on my plate as well.



Yep, that second plate is pretty much a plate full of fried food. If you can't eat like that at an all you can eat and not feel guilty about it - when can you? I then moved on to the Indian curry section and tried a little bit of Tikka Masala and a little bit of Korma - I avoided the rice so as not to load up on carbs (the prospect of desserts was in the back of my mind) but I did have a few small pieces of naan bread. I thoroughly enjoyed the Korma because it's not something I order a full meal of due to it being quite rich and creamy but I loved just being able to have a little bit. The only thing I was slightly disappointed by in this case was the Tikka Masala - it was quite spicy compared to what I expected it to be; I even went back to check that it definitely was what I thought because it had such a bite to it. 

My fourth and final visit to the savoury counters was to grab a slice of pizza - I was approaching my limit but the pepperoni pizza looked too good to miss. It was probably one of the most popular and therefore constantly replenished dishes on offer and I can totally understand why - the base was perfect with just enough crunch and the cheese to base ratio was just right!

I had a few minutes in the booth and went back for desserts. Again, there's loads of choice of different desserts: hot puddings with custard, to popcorn, ice cream, profiteroles, cheesecake and a chocolate fountain. As much as I do feel slightly weird about the chocolate fountain and the prospect of people sticking their fingers in it - I did try some with marshmallows on a stick and it was delicious. Unfortunately I was underwhelmed by the other desserts; yes there's a huge choice but they are not as tasty as I'd hoped - lots of cream on most things which gets a bit much when you've overdone it a bit on the savoury side!


Overall, I did thoroughly enjoy the meal, especially the savoury course(s). I would definitely recommend Cosmo if you're looking for a filling, casual dining experience and you love to try little bits of different things. There's no danger of plate envy at Cosmo because you can just go and get some on your next visit to the buffet!

If you do fancy visiting in Sheffield, you can find the restaurant in the City Lofts Towers on St Paul's Place - basically right in the centre of the city which makes it perfect for a lunch break when shopping or some sustenance before a night out. Also, if you're travelling by car, park in the Q Park right near it on Charles Street and you get a 25% discount! 

Have you tried Cosmo?

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Monday, 22 July 2019

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU BUY A HOUSE

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Buying a house is one of the longest and most stressful tasks you will do as an adult. During the time it takes you to buy a house there are a lot of factors and steps involved which many of us simply aren’t aware of until you actually go through it for the first time and by that point it can be a very daunting experience.

Establish costs

When moving into a house for the first time it is important for you to know your worth from the off. Buying a house can be an expensive business and it is not as clear cut as you might think. As well as the deposit for your home, you will need any of the following:
  • Solicitors fees 
  • Stamp duty 
  • Money for bills 
  • Money for moving
  • Money for furniture 

There are a lot of things you need to invest in for a house and you need to be sure that you can gather all of the supplies you need as well as pay bills without going out of pocket.

Find out how much you can borrow

Once you know how much money you have as a deposit it is time for you to see what price of house you can afford. Most lenders will have a mortgage calculator on their website so you will be able to input your income information and this will allow you to see how much you can buy. You can then look at getting secured homeowner loans from Evolution Money or a bank.

Start searching 

Once you have that value in your mind of what you can afford, it is time to take this budget and start looking for a house which fits it. Searching for a new home is an amazing thing and it will be one of the most fun parts of the journey. Narrow your search to a few options and drive around to them to see what they look like from the front. This will allow you to see things such as amount of light in the house, the neighbourhood, and how busy the area is.


Arrange a viewing

Once you have decided on a few houses that you really like, it is time to arrange a viewing inside the home. A viewing can be an exciting part of your home buying process and it can be tempting for you to run around the house and simply find excitement in the process. But also remember that you are here to make an investment and you need to inspect the home for things such as damp, cracks and subsidence. These are all common issues and ones which can drive up the cost of your work when you move in. Make sure that the house is up to scratch before you jump in.

Make an offer

As soon as you are happy with a house you should make an offer straight away. It is always best to try and haggle to start off with on a new house because you will be able to save yourself some money. Try asking for 10,000 under what they are asking for and see what they say. If they say yes, great. If they say no, go up to 5,000 below and see what happens. Sometimes a buyer won’t budge from the asking price but it is always worth asking to see if you can move them.

Find a solicitor

Once an offer has been accepted through the estate agent it is time to get a solicitor. This is the point where you will need to sit down and give your information so that the solicitor can draw up a contract. Make sure every piece of information you give is accurate.


Complete the application 

The application for a mortgage will take a few weeks to go through and in the meantime they will run a homebuyers report on the property to ensure that it is safe and secure for you to move into. Once this part of the process is done you can relax and start to really plan for the rest of the process.

The contract 

After a while you will be sent a contract through from the seller’s solicitor and this is the contract for the ownership of your home. It is important here that you take the time to read through the document again and again and make sure that everything is correct before you sign it. Once signed you can send this off and you will now wait for the exchange of contracts which will often give you a moving in date.

Planning the move 

Once you have signed the contract and prepared everything else for the home it is time to pack up and get ready to go. If you live with parents you likely won’t have white goods and furniture of your own but it is a good idea to buy some before you move. Hire a self storage unit for a month or so and start to collect things you will need for the home. This is something which is super important because it will allow you to plan out the move and settle in within a few days with everything you need to live comfortably.

Get the keys 

The final stage of the home buying process is the day you go to pick up the keys. Moving day is an important thing and it is advisable for you to head to the home before you start moving items in so that you can clean the home top to bottom ready for your items. Get family and friends to help you move in and this will be the most amazing couple of days of your life, and it will mark a whole new chapter of your life. Get in and enjoy, and make sure to read the meter before you start using energy!


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Thursday, 18 July 2019

GO APE, TEMPLE NEWSAM (LEEDS) REVIEW

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Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be invited to try the Go Ape Tree Top Challenge just on the outskirts of Leeds city centre in Temple Newsam. For the last couple of years I've been much more of a 'yes' person so I couldn't turn this opportunity down (particularly as my mum has done it before, if she can do it - I definitely can!). I've seen Go Ape challenges in a few forests up north (namely in Sherwood Pines and Dalby Forest) but never tried it before so I was really excited to see what it was like. 

Go Ape is actually for all ages with a minimum height of 1 metre as there's two different adventures; The Treetop Adventure is a great family course where you can choose your own route depending on how much challenge you want; there are different crossings and bridges as well as a zip wire to the bottom so there's definitely something for varying levels of daringness! 

The Treetop Challenge is the ultimate experience, and what we went for. It definitely requires an element of bravery and endurance as the courses are more challenging and physically demanding with 50ft high platforms, long zip lines and the opportunity to do a Tarzan swing from a 36ft platform into a rope ladder. Definitely for you if you want exhilaration, fun and challenge all rolled into one!



Having looked online before we arrived, we decided to buy a pair of fingerless gloves from the Go Ape shop just to make sure we were both comfortable as we were climbing around; we also made sure to wear long trousers so that our legs were protected, especially at the bottom of the zip wires! I can definitely recommend either taking gloves with you or buying some there because we heard others on the course saying they wish they had bought some when they saw ours because you do spend quite a lot of time gripping, as you can probably imagine.


Once we had got our gloves and signed the waiver, we were taken over by our instructor to get our harnesses fitted. From the word go I was really impressed by the enthusiasm shown by all the staff on site - they were also very knowledgable and made us feel very at ease when explaining the risks but how we could make sure we were safe at all times. 

Before going 50ft up we were taken on a practice run closer to ground which got us to grips with how the wires work that kept us safe. We were taught out to manoeuvre around the course and had a bit of a practice run on a small zip wire. 



(above photos are of the Treetop Adventure)

Once we had completed the short guidance trail we were let loose on the 4 courses (there's usually 5 but one was closed); connected on by the member of staff at the bottom we were then left to make our way 50ft up! 

If you watched my instagram story on the day you'll have seen some of the challenges and crossings we faced up there (it's now on my highlights if you'd like to take a look). It was honestly the most enjoyable, exhilirating experience I've had since I did a bungee jump a few years ago; it was hard work, don't get me wrong but the feeling of achievement at the bottom of each of the zip lines was amazing! 

Each of the courses has its own challenges and you can often hear the trees creaking as it's so quiet up there! One of the courses has lots of zip lines from platform to platform which gives you a bit of light relief from the upper and lower body strength needed for the other parts. The most challenging part for me was the Tarzan swing; as much as you know you're attached at all times, it goes against all human nature to just step off something so high but I was incredibly proud when I'd done it! 

By the end we were both shattered and exhilarated in equal measure and I certainly ached the next day because I'd used muscles I've not used for many years! Here's me looking very proud of myself at the end -


If you're looking for something to do at the weekend or in the summer holidays, I would definitely recommend Go Ape Temple Newsam - what's even better is that there's currently a discount code you can use to get 20% off your booking by using the promotional code ADVANCED when you book online.

Let me know if you decide to Go Ape!


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Wednesday, 10 July 2019

5 CLEANING HACKS YOU NEVER KNEW YOU NEEDED

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Whether you love or loathe housework. It's a universal truth that there are hundreds of cleaning Instagram accounts that will likely tell you that you need a cupboard full of products in order to keep you house clean with various different methods and for using them. I've been trying to cut down on the actual work that it takes to clean a house from top to bottom as well as cutting down the amount of products I have. I

There are always ways to maximise resting and relaxing over actual housework; it's just a case of knowing where you can make cuts to your routine and taking them on. It's when the house is a mess, or the dog has shed a ton of hair that you remember why choose vinyl plank flooring - it's so much simpler to clean. So, while that was a cleaning hack you didn't know you were already using, here are five more to make life in the house much more comfortable, allowing you to be lazier for longer.


Lint Roll The Dust
You might use a lint roller on your clothes but did you know that it's SO easy to clean dust and crumbs in the house when you have one at home? Run the roller over the lampshades for a finished look without even trying.

Line Your Refrigerator
You want to keep costs down while spending less time cleaning, and the best way to do that is to line your refrigerator shelves with plastic food wrap. Any leaking bottles or spills from the sauce jars can be caught quickly, and all you need to do then is peel the layer of plastic off and start again! You'll never have to clean the refrigerator deep because your cling wrap trick will keep it fresher for longer.

Squeegee Your carpets
Rugs and carpets in the house can get ingrained with hair. From pets to people, hair is the most annoying thing to have in the fibres of the carpets in your home. If the vacuum cleaner isn't picking it up, grab a squeegee. The rubber will pull up every bit of hair and stops you from needing to vacuum so much!

Dryer Sheet The Blinds
Feather dusters are always advertised for cleaning wooden blinds, but dryer sheets get into every corner without destroying the blinds. Plus, they smell good, so they could easily be used to clean the blinds down and dd some scent to the living area.

Go Traditional
More traditional methods and products are definitely making a come back, The Secret Cleaner's home made degreaser is so easy and cuts down the need for buying so many products which ultimately add up!

Take ten minutes with these hacks and your house will be clean in no time at all.

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Wednesday, 3 July 2019

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE SPACE IN A SMALL HOUSE

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As you'll probably know, I have quite a small house. It kind of makes sense to me at the moment because there's just me and Kev (with a dog on the way!) but it does still create some problems with having enough places to put things. New builds are notorious for their small rooms and lack of storage space. So here are some tips if you're in a similar position to me: 



Do away with the clunk
The first thing to do is to rethink the ostentatious, overly large furniture that can take up a lot more space than it needs to. If the room is compact, you need to think compact with your d├ęcor as well. Space saving furniture with slim profiles, exposed legs, and a more minimalist appearance can create the illusion of a lot more space than there actually is and make things look less cluttered.

Let there be light
Nothing can make a room feel smaller, more cluttered, and more uncomfortable than dark shadows going every which way. Upgrading the home to make the space brighter can help give it a much more relaxing vibe and stretch out the space that’s there. I'm lucky enough to have patio doors in my living room but if you don't have that luxury, using lighter blinds and curtains to let in more natural light, layering accent lighting on top of the main fixture, and using mirrors and brighter colours to better reflect that light can all help. 

Find your focal point
If you use the common tactic of dotting around a lot of smaller decorative pieces, it can quickly make the room look a lot more cluttered. Instead, considering making one or two big statement pieces to serve as a focal point and thematic knot to tie the room together. Creating a table-top vignette is a highly effective way of doing just that if you don’t already have a natural focal point, like a fireplace. I've used my TV as my focal point and bought a nice white TV unit to go across the whole of the wall backing onto a geometric feature wall and I find that even just doing that has made the space feel more open and brighter.

Define your spaces
A little contrast can go a long way in creating the illusion of more space than there actually is. You don’t want to go overboard with soft furnishings but adding small rugs can help the room feel more complete. It also zones off one area of the room from the other that doesn’t have a rug, so there’s a distinct feeling of different parts of the room, rather than it all just being one little box. This is particularly important for me as my house is completely open plan downstairs so that contrast between kitchen and living room is really key.

Get sneaky with your storage
Good storage is essential if you want to avoid making a small room look cluttered up. However, having an entirely separate standing piece of storage furniture might take up more space than you need to. There are plenty of hidden storage ideas you can incorporate in your home, such as multitasking furniture that comes with extra drawers and cubby holes that you can use to keep those essential items out of sight.

A smaller room does have a few more limitations to fight against, but that doesn’t mean that it’s completely without a chance. Hopefully, the tips above show you how to make better use of any space, no matter what size it is. 

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Tuesday, 25 June 2019

HOW TO DESIGN A CLASSIC VINTAGE LIVING ROOM

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When you get the opportunity to renovate your living room, the possibilities of what you can create are seemingly endless. Flicking through interior design magazines or scrolling through social sites and blog posts, you’re bound to see all of the latest and greatest features and furnishings that are on trend right now. However, these styles come and go so often that within a month a whole new look will be spread across every page, so taking inspiration from elsewhere might be a better option for something that remains timeless. Sticking to a classic theme with some unique vintage touches will allow you to ensure that your room never feels outdated for the wrong reasons, and can stay in fashion through every shifting season. A classic look is perfect for any homeowner, from families with children to think about to younger residents with entertainment in mind, so read on to discover how you can design the perfect living room with ease.

The Walls & Floor

The main focal point of your living room when you enter will be the walls and floor. In a typical classic style, going for natural materials and autumnal colours seems to create he beat warm atmosphere to create a strong base for the rest of your design. Wood creates the perfect foundation, as you can choose any kind of shade or tone to suit your preference whilst still maintains a more rustic feel. A rug will tie the whole room together, and a Persian imitation should definitely be considered in order to achieve that perfect classic vintage look. If you would prefer a carpet of some kind to create a softer surface for little feet, opt for a simple shade without an overwhelming pattern to ensure you don’t try to include too much and make the room feel cluttered when you add other accessories. When it comes to the walls, choose a light but warm tone - always avoid going for white. White walls can create such a cold and uninviting atmosphere, so staying away from this will help you achieve the feel you want. Think about what you might want to add to your walls in the future, and factor this into your design now to ensure that it all fits together aesthetically when you continue decorating in the future. Always use a very good quality paint brand, and test the various colours out before committing to any of them. There’s nothing worse than beginning to despise the colour after a few months or start to see problems or poor quality features, as you will just end up spending more money in the long run whilst trying to fix everything and make it more palatable.


Choosing Furniture & Decor 

Finding the right pieces for the actual content of your living room can be an absolute minefield with the sheer volume of different things on offer. When it comes to choosing the right seating you will most definitely be faced with a wide array of choices, but opting for luxurious leather sofas is the best decision you can make to tie in with the classic vintage style. Your couch is the most used item in you living room without a doubt, so investing in one that is both aesthetically pleasing and also wonderfully comfortable is a must. If you want to upgrade your relaxation and take it to the next level, be sure to purchase a matching footstool to take the weight off after a long day. If you share your home with your family, it might be an idea to get some soft throws and cushions to add to the sofa during the winter months to keep your little ones warm and cosy as they should be. Another key feature of your decor is the light fittings, as they can really impact upon the overall vibe of your room. For the light bulb itself, avoid super bright LEDs and opt for a softer, more orange alternative. Lamps, shades and chandeliers can all be found in vintage forms, and having a few unique bursts of brightness can make a great addition to any classic space. Add to the individuality by hanging different pictures and pieces of art on the walls, surrounding them with ornate frames in regal colours like gold and deep red. Try to keep to a maximum of 4 differing colours in your living room, as any more than this can cause the space to become too hectic and disorderly. Include any other accessories you want to spruce the place up, and visit local charity shops and car boot sales to find some vintage gems, as you are unlikely to ever see the same decoration twice and get it for a great price too. Try bringing the outside in with some potted house plants, or test your horticultural skills by growing a bonsai tree that will add an amazing finishing touch to your living room.

Designing a classic vintage living room that you and your family will be able to utilise and appreciate for years to come shouldn’t be as difficult as you may seem. By following the steps above and using your own creative flare, you can work to create a feeling of luxury in your home in no time at all, and easily achieve that all important final product of a unique and beautiful lounge. Steer clear or bright and garish colours as much as possible, instead opting for a couple of key colours and experimenting with their different tones. Classic rooms tend to lack an excess of clutter, so stick with a few main pieces that tie the room together and look great while doing so. Use your own imagination and requirements to mould your space into the best it can be, and don't be afraid to go bold with art work and other wall hangings. With all of the bases covered, you will be able to create an amazing room at top speed with the passion and drive needed to pull the design off properly.

Do you prefer vintage or modern styles?

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Monday, 24 June 2019

SMALL BATHROOM DESIGN IDEAS

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You might have seen if you follow me on Instagram that I absolutely hate my bathroom and it would absolutely be the first place I would renovate because it's really small and I made some bad choices when I first bought my house as a new build. The bathroom should be a part of the house which we all enjoy using at the end of a long day to wash off and relax after the stresses of life. It is also one of the rooms in the house which is often forgotten about and taken for granted and this can sometimes cause us to end up with a boring and dull room with no life or style (which is exactly what's happened to me!)

So here are a few things that I'd love to be able to do to turn my bathroom into somewhere I love rather than loath!

Use a shower curtain



My bathroom is small and one thing I have noticed has made quite a small but significant difference is a change of shower curtain; I did have a Primark one but I recently changed to this grey one and I much prefer it - a slight change in colour has made a really difference to the whole look of the room. In my opinion, they're also much easier to keep clean than a glass screen!

Under sink storage

In a small bathroom it's all about making the most of the space you have so using under the sink to put a little cupboard it the perfect place because it would be otherwise unused space. I got mine from Argos but you can also get them from places like B&M - just make sure you know your measurements!

Integrate the toilet 

One of the ugliest elements you can have in the bathroom is the pipes which come from underneath and behind the toilet. These pipes can build up with dust very quickly and they make the space look clunky and unfinished. This is why many modern bathroom designs have a feature which integrates the toilet into a small cabinet so that the pipes are hidden and all you can see is the basin. This makes the bathroom look so much better and it will also make cleaning a hell of a lot simpler too.

Use huge tiles 

The tiles are my real bugbear in my bathroom I should have had a totally different colour and style. When tiling the bathroom the best thing you can do to make it feel expensive and luxurious is to use the biggest tiles you can find. Big tiles will not only take less time for you to fit onto the wall but because they are vast it will give your walls the illusion that it is a never-ending pattern which can make it feel much more expensive than it really is. For a bit of fun, you can add a darker toned tile to the bottom third of the wall and white above for a two-toned effect which will look stunning.

Use mirrors

Mirrors have to be the best use of your space in the bathroom if you want your room to look modern and vast. A mirror is an ideal way to bring in the illusion of space as well as to fill a blank space on the wall. It is always a great option for this room because you will be able to reflect light from outside and this will illuminate the whole room.

Add pops of colour 

The best thing you can buy for your bathroom is some wholesale bath towels from Richard Haworth in bold colours. Whether you have a white, black or neutral bathroom, a pop of colour is incredibly important and can breathe life into the room. For example, if you have a white and light brown bathroom you can add some yellow or orange tiles to the bathroom to add character and fun to the space.

Think copper

How can you make any bathroom look modern and contemporary in an instant? Add copper to the room. Whether you choose to add copper taps and towel rails, copper accessories or a copper bath (which is the absolute dream for me!!)… this will add some amazing depth and class to the space. Copper is a colour which is associated with class and luxury so adding this into your bathroom this year can be the perfect way to bring your room into the 21st century and make it feel like a spa from heaven. It will be the best decision you make for the bathroom this year!


What are your top tips for making the most of a small bathroom?

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Wednesday, 19 June 2019

9 SUMMER WARDROBE ESSENTIALS

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With summer just around the corner (well, I hope it is anyway!!), we’re all beginning to think about all the fun we’re going to have. There will hopefully be trips overseas, road trips with friends, and lazy afternoon BBQs with the extended family. Really, is there a better time of year?! And with the weather so fine and everyone looking so tanned, you better believe that pictures will be taken left, right, and centre. As such, you’ll want to take steps to ensure that you look your best! This can prove a little bit trick during the summer, when it’s oh so bright, there are a million and one social events, and we don’t have a big coat to hide behind, like we do in winter.

If you’ve got the right clothing in your wardrobe, however, you’ll always be able to look the part, no matter what the equation. Below, we take a look at some of the tried and tested essentials that every female needs to have in their locker.

The Go-To Plain T-Shirt

Now, this might not be the most exciting item in the summer wardrobe, but that’s essentially the point. A high-quality, plain white t-shirt can be worn with anything, and also again and again without people beginning to ask “why do you wear that t-shirt all the time?” Keep in mind that the emphasis should be on high-quality. There’s a subtle but obvious difference between low and high-quality t-shirts. The versatility is this option’s greatest strength. When you don’t know what to wear, you’ll have a go-to option just sitting there.

Funky Designs

Though of course, let’s not forget that summer is a time for fun and colour, and all those other things that make the season so enjoyable. As such, you’ll want to invest in a few more funky t-shirts. These can have logos, bright colours, or just in some other way be unique. It is recommended that you take the unique angle though -- you’ll get more positive reactions if you have a t-shirt that no-one has really seen before.

Source: www.cavells.co.uk

Denim Everywhere

Denim is your friend in the summer. It can serve multiple purposes. First, let’s think about the denim jacket, which is an essential item for the summer. Whatever you’re wearing, you can throw a denim jacket on top, and take your look to the next level. Another denim option is the jumpsuit. Jumpsuits are making a comeback in a big way, and with good reason -- they offer a little bit of everything, all rolled up into one neat package. They’re especially recommended during the summer because they keep you warm, but not so warm. They’re the perfect, stylish option for those hot, but not quite baking, days. 

For Those Chilly Evenings

Even on those baking days (which we’re hopeful we’ll at least get a few days of), it’s always important to remember that things can change a lot when the sun goes down. When it does, you might find that the fun summer’s day outfit you were wearing is no longer doing the trick. When that happens, you’ll be grateful that you invested in a warm sweater. The trick is to find something that’s thick enough to take the chill out of the night, thin enough that you don’t end up too hot. Indeed, this is one item where it’s wise to have a couple of options -- plus, it’s also nice being able to offer one to a friend who’s cold when they’re around at your place. 

Light Footwear

When the weather is oh so warm, you’ll want to be able to just put on a quick outfit, and get out and enjoy the sunshine. At least, there’s usually one aspect that can undo all the good work you’ve put into your outfits: the footwear. You simply can’t keep the same shoes you’ve been wearing throughout the winter and spring. They’ll be too clunky to be worn with shorts, or too warm. As such, take a look at investing in some light footwear options. It’s well worth buying some light, high-quality sandals, or some light sneakers. They’ll go with everything and will be a God-send when the sun is shining.

White Trainers

While we talk about light shoes, it’s worth noting that one of the biggest footwear trends isn’t light at all: indeed, they’re anything but cool. White trainers have become all the rage, and can be worn with skirts, dresses, shorts -- all your summer outfits, essentially. Plus, they’re comfortable, so they’re especially great if you like exploring during the summer months.

Beach Dresses

There’s nothing better than a trip to the beach, is there? Even in the UK, the beaches can get pretty busy on those warm summer days. And then there’s the matter of those journey to the best beaches in Europe, which you’ll hopefully get to experience this summer. When you’re there, you’ll want to be weight some light and airy, something that’ll invite those cool summer breezes. This is where the beach dress or maxi dress come into their own. They allow you to get into that easy summer vibe, they’ll keep you cool, and they’ll protect large areas of your skin from the sun. It’s win-win-win. 

Accessories

Because we’re showing so much skin during the summer months, we have so many opportunities for accessories. In your wardrobe, you’ll want to have options such as bracelets, necklaces, summer watches, and a hat. Or rather, multiple versions of all of these options. For your hats, it’s all about mixing style with practicality.

Everyday Sunglasses

And finally, let’s not forget those sunglasses. These are really important when it comes to protecting your eyes, but they can also be a fashion statement. Like your other accessories, it’s recommended that you have multiple pairs -- the classy ones, the beach ones, the ones you don’t mind losing. The most important pair in your locker will be the everyday glasses, however, the pair that you put on every day. They’ll be with you all along the crazy and fun ride that is summer. 

What are your summer wardrobe essentials?

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Monday, 17 June 2019

WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING YOUR 'FOREVER HOME'

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A few weeks ago, Kev moved in with me after being together for just under two years; everyone else said it was a huge step to take but to me, it was just 'natural progression' - I'd never put pressure on him to make the move or anything like that, I was quite happy to move at his pace but I know that it's not always as plain sailing as it seems to have been for us. Obviously I've got my own house that I bought as a first timer buyer 18 months ago so the house we moved into wasn't in the equation. However, I've always said from day one of buying this house that it's not a 'forever home' and we're both keen to find something else when the time is right.

We've done some property searches and sorted our 'non-negotiables' such as the kind of area we want (and don't want!) to be in, having at least 3 bedrooms, a decent garden etc. but it's so difficult to find that perfect property and waiting for the 'right' one to come up can be so frustrating if you're not careful. We've both said that we need to be as relaxed as possible about it otherwise what should be quite an exciting time could turn into an unnecessarily stressful time.


Be Patient!

To be honest, when you've got your heart set on something the last thing you want to be is patient but unfortunately, the property market is a dynamic and unpredictable force, especially as a buyer. There's so many things to consider when buying a new property and we both know that we need to remain calm and collected during this process. There is every chance we will have our heart set on a property only for it to fall through due to miscommunication from the sellers. There’s a chance that you’ll be at the final stage of the process only to reveal in your house inspections that thousands of pounds worth of damp damage occupies the bathroom, and was somehow hidden expertly during your viewings. Obviously these would be unfortunately if they were to happen but it's important to appreciate that, especially if you and the other buy is in a chain, they can happen.

Be Realistic

There’s a careful tight-rope walk we have to balance ourselves to complete when searching for a property. On one hand, you’re looking to the future. For that, we'll naturally be searching for the best and most idealistic property and lifestyle we can hope for within our budget. This can help identify the good properties, and also fight for the things that we truly want, such as going to the highest end of your budget to secure a house you love. But at the same time, despite this idealism, we know we need to remain incredibly realistic. For us, a property at the top end of our budget would need to have the perfect kitchen and bathroom because they'd be the things that we would need to spend money on if they weren't right.

A property that needs a lot of work doing to it isn't our idea of a perfect property, although we can see potential in some of the most beautiful renovation projects the hours we work are too long to consider coming home to a building site for a length of time when we move into the house. Any new home is a project to an extent which does take work to get it where you want it so this is definitely something we will be considering when we buy our home together.

Know what you want

As I mentioned before, we already have ideas of our non-negotiables which can make house hunting much easier in terms of excluding the properties that you know you definitely don't want. But it's also worth considering what you don't mind compromising on. For example, you might be more willing to accept a driveway in deep need of repair if the kitchen is spacious and has great natural lighting and ventilation. This is where writing a list of your most important priorities, your ‘must-haves’ and ‘would-likes’ can be a great idea.

On the flip side, it might be worth considering a new build which tends to be a more custom solution with extras and additions that you can choose to suit your needs. Professional home builders such as Redrow can potentially offer you this, with new builds and design services to truly help you find the best of the best within your budget.

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Thursday, 13 June 2019

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO MOVE ACROSS THE WORLD

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We all want to explore the world in our own little ways. We want to see what’s out there, bask in the sun of the warmest countries in the world, and walk through forests and up mountains we’d never ever see back home. It’s a big and beautiful place that us human beings call home, and there’s a lot more than just your own neighbourhood for you to absorb!

But when it comes to falling in love with your wanderlust, a lot of us want to relocate permanently. We want to wake up in another country, and go to bed on a timezone different from our own. We want to experience life from another angle, and get to know the climate and culture that’s often opposite to what we grew up with. We want to make friends and settle down on new soil, and most of us can’t afford to take the regular holidays that would enable us to do that!

Moving across the world is going to take a lot of preparation, but you already knew that, didn’t you? You just need to know where to start and what to prioritise during these initial planning stages; moving house within your own country is expensive enough, so you cannot afford to make mistakes when uprooting on an international scale!

(My personal dream move would be to Florida)

First of All, Make Sure You Can Afford To!

It might break your heart a little to learn that you’re not yet in a position where you can afford to move across the globe, but it’s going to be a necessary step in your moving plans. After all, money is everything when it comes to an opportunity like this, and if you’re not moving for work and having most of your expenses covered by the company, you’ve got an almighty bill to foot all by yourself.

Not to mention what it’s going to cost you to buy or rent accommodation whilst you’re out there. No matter where in the world that you go, you’re going to need to fork out for shelter. It’s a human necessity for a comfortable and healthy life, but it does cost the bulk of your finances in the long run. Of course, it’s going to be a lot cheaper in some countries and a lot more expensive in others, so the budget you’ll have to work with ultimately depends on where you’re dreaming of settling down.

So make sure you use something like the loan calculator propertyguru before you make any concrete plans. This is mostly for those of us who want to move out to another country and have our own house to live in whilst we’re there; you’re still going to need a mortgage to be able to afford this privilege.

Knowing what you’re likely to be able to borrow, stacked up against the cost of the house you’ve got your eye on, means you’re in a better position to get pre approved for an overseas mortgage. You might be able to get it from a bank where you currently live, or you might be able to look to a bank abroad - check the rates of each option and see which one would be more practical for you.

Then You Need to Find Yourself a Home

And get it locked down, before you do anything else; it’s definitely not worth it to actually move halfway across the globe only to find out the apartment you thought you paid 6 months upfront rent for has been passed on to someone else. Because once you know for sure that you’ve got somewhere to live, and that you can move in straight away, and that all your facilities and amenities are going to be present and usable, you’re going to be just fine in your new home country.

After all, when you have a shelter, it’s likely you’ve got clean water to drink and wash with, and you’ve got a reliable source of food nearby… a.k.a., you’re in a neighbourhood not far from a supermarket, and you’ve already got an account with a water company to rely on. It’s a lot easier to use normal utilities like these, as an expatriate, than to collect river or rain water and boil it constantly.

Know Where to Find Medical Aid

Next up is settling down in an area with hospitals, pharmacies, regular drug stores, and any other kind of medical amenity nearby. If you’re going to be moving across the world, your healthcare should be of utmost importance - you’re going to need to know who to call, what times these services are open, if they ever close, and if you’ll have reliable and safe access to them.

Ask yourself these questions before you think about putting down a deposit: Is the healthcare free or publicly funded, or will you have to pay for it via the use of insurance? Is there a non-emergency phone number to call when you don’t need to go to the hospital? How far out is the home you’re looking at from the nearest medical centre?

And Keep Your Luggage Light Too

If you’ve finally made up your mind, and you know you have the funds to afford it, feel free to take the leap and move across the world to a new home! But make sure you’re packing light as you go; you don’t want to be lugging around three suitcases onto multiple long haul flights, and then have to pay for a bigger taxi or rental car to transport everything you have with you once you touch down.

So only take what cannot be easily replaced once you touch down. Special clothes and outfits that were part of a limited run, necessary medications you’ll need to register and put a prescription in for, your glasses or contacts etc. Fill up your suitcase with items like these and you’ll probably not even need to pay airline fees!

Moving across the world takes a lot of courage, and a lot of practical thinking!

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