My Sunday Photo: Happy!

We did some chalk art on Friday, & Ellie & Jake seem very happy about it!

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OneDad3Girls
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DIY Palette Bar

Can you think of anything better than having a bar in your own home? It sounds like an expensive project, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a guide on how to make the perfect bar to suit your social needs.

Building

Gather your chosen palettes and position them in the way you’d like your bar to sit. Choose the correct height and width of the bar and, if necessary, saw the parts off that you don’t need. Use another palette and saw off each section so that you’re left with numerous wooden slats.

Concentrate on building the front of the bar first, select a couple of slats to nail onto the top of the palette, this section will be the top of the bar.

Next you need to attach the palettes together, again using nails hammer the sections together, giving you the frame of your bar.

When positioning your bar, remember to make sure that behind the bar is enclosed, leaving an open section to enter and exit from.

Believe it or not, you’ve don’t the hard part. You should now have your assembled bar.

Touching Up

Now that you’ve built your bar, you need to consider maintenance. The last thing you want is for your bar to only last a few months. Start by sanding down the wood, removing any possible lose bits that could cause splinters. Then use a varnish to cover the wood, this will help maintain the life of the bar, as well as making it practical to use in the garden too. Now you’ve done this messy bits, you can concentrate on the exciting part, the details.

Detail and Alcohol

How you decide to design your bar is entirely down to personal preference. If you’re hoping to use the bar to entertain guests, why not display some nice spirits on the bar top along with some photographs or gimmicky items. If it’s more personal use, get all of your favourite beers or wines and position them neatly on the bar, next to a couple of glasses or maybe even a decanter for added effect. If you’re wanting to use the bar outside, which is a great option especially when it comes to summertime, think about adding lights around the outskirts of the bar. This will add character to the bar, and if used outside will help create the perfect social area for you and your friends. One thing to remember if using the bar outdoors with lighting, install yourself a weatherproof junction box, this simply ensures that the cable for the lighting can be outside without any risk or potential dangers.

Now you can sit back and enjoy your hard work, why not crack open a bottle of wine or pour yourself a well-deserved pint.

Written by Jasmine Smith

A Parent’s Guide for Knowing Your Credit Score

Credit score (1)Accessing credit and loans, especially for big items such as a mortgage or a car, are of course a regular feature of family finances. Applying to lenders and hoping that they will agree to your request can be a stressful experience. However, it can be made a whole lot easier simply by better understanding how a potential lender might assess your application.

The key question for any lender is the chances that you will repay a loan in full and on time. By assessing the risk involved as best they can, lenders can make an informed decision. As a result, most lenders will refer to a credit score constructed by one of the UK’s three registered credit reference agencies. Your credit score is a snapshot of your credit status. It isn’t too difficult to understand your credit score – It is based on a 0-999 scale and the higher the number, the lower the risk.

So, how do the agencies assign your score? A major although not the only factor is your credit report. This is compiled by credit reference agencies from a whole range of available information to paint a picture of your financial reliability. Whether you know about it or not, there is a credit report on you and you can expect it to be the first port of call for any potential lender.

Credit report (1)Your credit report includes personal information such as date of birth and address. It also contains details of your credit accounts and money you have borrowed and your repayment record during the past six years. Although it may seem trivial, even if you have paid a mobile phone bill late or missed an electricity bill, it may appear on your credit report and have a detrimental impact. It is therefore important to make sure that you and your family pay bills in full and on time. If you haven’t listed yourself on the electoral roll, then do it. This is one of the resources used by credit reference agencies and gaps in your residency may seem suspicious. Another thing worth noting is that if you are making mortgage overpayments, make sure that you don’t miss out on an entire monthly payment. Even if you are overpaying in order to reduce outstanding debt or guard against interest rates, a missing mortgage payment could be a red flag on your credit report.

Thankfully, it is very straightforward to check your credit report and it is advisable to do so regularly. You can simply request it from any of the credit reference agencies who will likely post it to you within a week. Once you receive the report, make sure that you check it thoroughly for accuracy. If you spot any mistakes, then you should contact all three agencies to have the report rectified. If there is an error connected to family members with whom you have no financial link, then you can ask to be “disassociated” from them through the agencies. If there is an inaccuracy concerning your credit record, then your first port of call should be the creditor who can update their records and then inform the agencies. If the creditor does not agree to amend their records, then you are entitled to attach a 200 word “Notice of Correction” to your file, explaining the disagreement.

Hopefully though, your credit report will need no corrections, in which case you are well advised to simply check it regularly and make sure it remains up to date.

 Written in collaboration with David Taylor, finance writer from Leeds

6 Reasons Why You Should Get Started on Your Dream House Today!

It is good to have dreams, but at some point you have to take steps to make your dreams come true. Whether it is a big home on a large plot of land, a flat in the middle of London, or a modest cabin on the edge of a nature reserve, now is the time to find your dream home. If you have been dreaming about the home of your future, why not take steps to make your dream a reality?
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1. If you don’t start now, you might never start.         

Sure, it’s easier to sit back and be content with what you have. Maybe you are renting and you are simply complacent, paying the mortgage off for your landlord. The time to start reaching for your dream home is now. You will never be any younger or more motivated than you are today to start the process of getting into your dream home. Start investing in your own future by finding a property you love and making it your own.

2. Mortgage rates are at an all time low.    

Mortgage rates are incredibly low throughout the world and in Australia, rates are as low as 2%. With the expectation that home prices will remain stable and economic growth will occur in 2014, Australia is a great place to find your dream home and make your dreams come true. With the help of 1300 Home Loan you can own the home of you have always wanted. The only place for mortgage rates to go is up and as rates go up, home affordability goes down.

3. It is still a strong buyer’s market.            

Prices are stable throughout the world and buyer’s still have an advantage just about anywhere over home sellers. The markets have enough supply unless you are looking in a city such as London, and with lower mortgage rates homebuyers can purchase homes that were once considered above their means.

4. Foreclosures are still going strong.

Homeowners are still trying to get out of bad mortgages and are unable to keep their large homes. You will be able to get a better home for your money, but not for long. The rate of foreclosures is expected to decrease as the market continues to stabilize and the economy remains in a pattern of growth.

5. Confidence in continued economic growth is high.

No matter how you look at it, economic growth is happening and is expected to continue. We’ve all been living in a period of economic decline for years and the economy is taking a turn for the better. Home prices are low and only expected to rise. Job security is strengthening for employed workers and most experts agree that now is the time to buy for the best return in your investment over the years.

6. DIY Home Restoration and Interior Design Is Easier Than Ever

Whether you are tuned into HGTV or regularly check websites like Fine Home Building, the knowledge is out there on how to do redesign projects and make the changes you want for your dream home. It will save you money, so if you’re holding back because of a few thousand dollars, you can make up the money when it comes to the design aspect of your home.

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My personal circumstances have changed dramatically recently – more on this later! – so this is particularly relevant to me at the moment.

Written in collaboration with David Taylor, a finance writer from Leeds, England, who also spends time in Melbourne, Australia.

Blackberries

DSCF3876For the first 2 years of your lives we all lived together in our big house in the Midlands. The “big old house”, with the big old garden.

You don’t remember it. I do.

I remember how I was your full-time, stay-at-home Daddy. For your first year with Mummy, and for your second year by myself when Mummy went back to work, with reduced hours.

034I remember it all so well. You don’t.
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Saturday is Caption Day: A New Superhero?

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Captions please!

For more captiony opportunities just click the pic:

The Joys of Being Comfortable

In what now feels like a former life – the one before I became a stay-at-home / hands-on Dad – I used to go out to work, a lot of the time to work in an office.

I did the usual.

I carried a briefcase. I’m not really sure why: most of the time it only contained a newspaper & (sometimes) my lunch.

I had shiny black shoes. When it was cold I wore a big, thick overcoat. When it rained I carried a black umbrella & wore a (usually beige) raincoat.

No bowler hat though – what do you take me for?!
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Space or stuff – can I have both?

I’ve written before about how frustrating it is here to have so little space; the house is fine for 1 or 2 people but add active young twins and it’s just way too small. I have to admit ‘though that with twins running around we found space to be a problem even in our old home. I expect we will too even after we move; we could always do with a little more space.

A lot of the things the twins had when they were babies I’ve given away or taken to charity shops. A lot of it is still in storage! I could really do with selling some of the larger things, but it’s difficult when most of it is in another country!

It’s not as if we don’t need the money. We’ve been paying the mortgage on an empty house for a year, as well as full Council Tax now: thank you Mr Cameron. I know that times are hard, and saving money is a necessity. These adorable little 3-year-olds of ours just won’t stop growing – I’ve asked them to stop really really nicely but they just won’t listen – so we’ll always need to buy new stuff for them. 1-DSC00565

With them having just started pre-school, for instance, we don’t need reminding that children’s gear can be pretty expensive. We’re always on the lookout for places where we can get hold of inexpensive stuff that will last ages so a competition where you can win loads of stuff has to be worth a look.

Bounty itself also seems worth having a look at, if only because of the community; there is a lively community board there full of great advice for both new & experienced parents, & lively debate. I’m quietly smug now that I can actually answer a fair few questions, as well as ask them.

Every month, Bounty offer a prize draw with some pretty amazing prizes. This month you could win £2000 worth of baby products. All you need to do is sign up to become a member of the site, which is easy enough.

With twins you need two of everything! That’s not just food – nappies, prams, cots. It’s double the trouble – but to be fair, double the fun. Mostly. Anything that could save me money has to be a good thing, so if anyone comes across any more competitions and the like that might be of interest to Dads of young kids just let me know!

Disclosure: in association with Bounty

Memories

When I’ve spent time at the old house* I usually come back in a somewhat reflective frame of mind.

Take this picture, for instance, which I posted back in June & meant to explain but never did:

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I was working really hard: clearing, cleaning, supervising tradesmen, sorting, throwing out rubbish, organising storage & removals, trying to get leaking roofs fixed or replaced in torrential rain, sanding & revarnishing the 100-year-old wooden floorboards: that was a nightmare! I was desperately trying to get the place ready to go onto the market as soon as possible. I needn’t have bothered, as it turned out: despite dropping the price a lot – too much, I think – we still haven’t sold it.

One of the jobs then was cleaning the chalk off the back wall. This wall. It was some of Jake’s & Ellie’s first attempts at art, at making shapes. It will eventually lead to writing, drawing, who knows what else.

To wipe it all off, to erase it from existence, to remove their precious scribblings: it  just seemed wrong. I really didn’t want to do it. But I had to.

1-DSC00326Everywhere I go there I see memories. The big garden I loved so much: we had so much fun there, especially in their second year when they were more mobile & playful & I was their main carer. They loved messing about with sand & water with the play-tables, & playing with the hose. Jake never ceased to amaze me with his ability to find & pick the ripest & juiciest blackberries from the vines which were threatening to dominate all else there. Sometimes we’d just sit on the seats & watch our world go by. Other times we’d climb around & explore, & be fascinated by the insects, birds & frogs we might find. We weaned them in that garden, & would eat outside as much we could in the warmer months. In the house there are toys still there that we haven’t had room for in our little, supposedly temporary house.

1-DSC00325So many memories! They’ll never leave us, of course, but the house feels empty; just memories there now. I feel like it should be full of the sounds of laughing, running children – but it’s still, & quiet. Too quiet.

And it got me thinking : some of the most precious moments that we as parents will carry with us will be from these times: when our young loved ones were 2 or younger.

The age up until which we human beings are meant to have little or no memory of anything that happens to us.

So things that we’ll carry with us & that will be some of our most treasured memories will be things they’ll know nothing about?

I can already see myself reminiscing with Jake the teenager about the blackberries, & getting: “Oh Dad, stop being so soppy!”, before he runs off to his room to play some very loud music. Via his Ninsamyo Holodeck, probably.

Just one more of parenting’s, & life’s, ironies I guess.

I wonder what else this Daddying lark has lined up for me?

Now, if I could just remember where I put my keys…

* A year ago we reluctantly moved from our home in the Midlands to Wales because of work. We had a little place there which we had been renting out, & the plan was to move in there for a few weeks while we sold the old place, then buy a new family home in Wales. But we haven’t been able to sell & we’re still living in a house which just isn’t big enough for 2 adults & active twin toddlers. So we’re stuck. But we do have a Plan B.