Good, Safe Fun At Hever Castle

[PRESS TRIP] For those of you that follow me regularly you will know that we are all big fans of Hever Castle and we were delighted when they opened their doors again after lockdown.

As with anything we have done since restrictions have been lifted, we approached our first visit back with caution, but from the get go I needn’t have worried.

Pre-booking is essential, and time slots need to be selected to allow for small streams of people to enter at one time. This worked really well and we were able to get in quickly and easily.

Once we were inside the grounds there was plenty of room to run free and take in the beauty of the gardens.

All of the usual attractions aside from the maze are open with limited numbers allowed in for 30 mins at a time. Once your time is up there is a clean down before the next group of people are allowed in.

Of course this meant there was some waiting around and we didn’t get to spend as long as we usually would at each section. But I was happier to know that we were going into a place with limited numbers that was clean rather than having to stress about trying to social distance the children like I have at other places we have visited.

The play area is actually split into two sections and we manage to fit in two trips to both whilst we were there, with a cooling of session in the water maze in between which is always a favourite of ours.

We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the weather was just to glorious to miss so unfortunately I can’t comment on how long it was to get inside. However we did sit for a good while watching and feeding the huge fish!

Along with lots of other people we took a picnic and plotted up next to the water so the children could enjoy feeding the ducks whist we ate.

There were still plenty of food options if you prefer to eat there and of course lots of ice cream stops which we had to partake in!

It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to finish the day with a stroll through the wooded area which we always fine super quiet and the boys love as the can go off track, play by the steam and of course get covered in mud!

I can honestly say I was more than impressed with all the measures that have been put in place at Hever Castle to allow you to still have so much fun, whilst keeping you safe.

The castle will be getting its coating of autumnal leaves now and we can’t wait for our next visit to see this!

Understanding Reverse Mortgage Terminology

[AD] Retirement is one of the most sort after phases of life; it is a period where an individual may have several life goals and can now sit back and reap the rewards of their efforts. However this beautiful dream can become a nightmare when there is no financial safety net. Most would-be retirees come up with various plans to live a hassle free post-retirement lifestyle, including opting for a reverse mortgage.

A reverse mortgage offers a certain level of financial security. So if you are considering this path, then you should familiarise yourself with its terminology, which I’m going to explain to you now.

What Is A Reverse Mortgage? – Do you know how a standard home loan works? Yes! Such loans come with monthly repayment options right? Now think of a reverse mortgage as being the opposite of that. What I’m trying to say here is that instead of repaying the loan under a regular loan, you receive monthly funds from an approved reverse mortgage loan.

Does this mean their are conditions to access such a long term loan option? For starters your home should be your permanent place of residence, which serves as collateral for your reverse mortgage. With this loan option you can access funds, depending on your agreement with the lender.

Reverse Mortgage Terminology – HECM: HECM stands for Home Equity Conversation Mortgage. What does this mean? Despite the similarities it bears to a standard reverse mortgage, a HECM has a distinct feature. This mortgage comes with a government insurance, whereas lenders issue a reverse home loan. An example of such lenders includes banks.

Reverse Mortgage Calculator – Lenders use reverse mortgage calculators to determine what options are available to a borrower. It evaluates the total home value and uses the information to rates the borrower’s financial status before the approval of the loan application. Here are some of the factors the lender will consider in your home:

• Age

• Condition

• Physical location(address)

By law homeowners cannot access loans based on the total market value of their home equity. Notwithstanding the calculator helps to estimate what amount(percentage) can be made to a borrower. And yes, individuals with an outstanding mortgage will have to settle them first before they can receive payments from the reverse mortgage balance.

What Ways Can I Receive Funds? – A reverse mortgage comes worth various payment options, depending on the borrowers needs and preferences. first off you can receive payment on a lump sum; this is ideal for retirees with several, immediate and demanding projects that need financing. Another option is create a line of credit which provides access to funds at any time. Finally you can opt for monthly loan payments, which is similar to receiving a pay-check. This option makes it easy to predict earnings and execute monthly plans.

You can select any one of these options, depending on your financial status and needs. However it is essential to discuss your options with a reputable lender to get the best deal. This type of mortgage is perfect for people in need of financial security once they retire.

The Best Home Improvements To Increase Value

For many of us, home improvement is currently top of our agenda. Wether you have moved to a new house and are keen to put a stamp on it, or you home is simply up for modernisation, there is always something on the to-do list.

Most of us however don’t have the time to do everything at once and have to prioritise carefully. Below are a few things to improve your home’s long term value and appeal.

Fix Your Roof – There is nothing more off-putting than a dodgy roof. The idea of paying out for roofing costs is something that puts off many potential house buyers. Additionally a poor maintained roof will lead to problems such as damp, water damage and heat loss. This is why roofing repairs should be top of your list of home improvements. As with any job requiring the professionals, make sure you get plenty of quotes so you can compare prices.

Add Solar Panels – Once you’ve got the roof repaired and the scaffolding is still up, it’s worth looking at installing solar panels. Not only is it environmentally friendly, it will also future proof your home and save you money on your energy bills. adding solar panels may seem like a lot of hassle, but once they have been installed they are surprisingly low maintenance. Do check online to see if there are any grants available before you start.

Install New Windows – Making sure your windows are up to scratch will not only make sure your home is more energy efficient but will increase its value. There are plenty of other reasons to install new windows in your home too. Older style windows often only provide one or two opening panes, whereas good quality modern windows will come with options to slide, swing or tilt and turn. Choose a design that will suit your needs and complement your homes character and age.

Get A New Front Door – You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but a home will be frequently judged by its front door. Therefore a new front door is a quick and worthwhile improvement to make. Older homes may benefit from a traditional wood style door, but a good quality composite door with a wood grain effect can work just as well. New build homes will often have a standard white uPVC door. Switching this for something modern and stylish will make your home standout from the rest.

Filling Those Walls With Poster Store

[GIFTED] When we moved into our home a few years ago now, one of the things that I fell in love with was the high ceilings. They make each and every room light and airy and create an illusion of lots more space. That being said this also brings with it vast expanses of walls that need filling to make it less clinical and really put our own stamp on it.

Art work as your know can be pricey so I always look for companies that offer good quality, different art at affordable prices; and this is where Poster Store really fits the bill.

Poster Store is an online company that supplies a huge range of Scandinavian inspired posters and frames to compliment your chosen work.

Their prints cover a whole range of interests from photography to modern art, fashion to maps and much more. The variety means that you can find anything to suit any taste or home design.

I was actually really surprised that their collections drew my eye towards black and white prints which is not something I would ordinarily go for…well I did sneak a bit of colour in too!

The coloured print was actually my favourite and it complimented the drinks tray perfectly as there has been a few evenings where I have felt like this after indulging!

My husband always says I don’t consider him when it comes to styling the home and I have to admit it is made up of pretty much all my tastes. So I the dining room I have selected some of his favourite things and made a gorgeous collection of black and white photos.

Lastly was the landing which is still definitely a work in progress. I wanted to keep it more calming as downstairs has a lot going on and anything to help the kids become more restful at bedtime is a bonus.

I absolutely love the simple lines and flowing designs of these pieces and now all I need to add is a few plants for a little bit of colour!

The black frames really make the designs stand out and the quality of them is outstanding.

I always opt for a black frame, but they offer a great range in black, white, silver and gold and also if you like a natural look with a wood finish there are also oak and walnut available. They all come in a range of different sizes to fit the prints perfectly.

The amount of different choices can be a little overwhelming if you don’t have a definite idea in your head, so Poster Store has given lots of hints and tips and inspiration pages that can help you towards picking pieces that are right for you.

So head over and take a look and let me know what you think. If something catches your eye you can save 30% on all posters (excluding Selection posters and frames) until 13th September using code thejoyoffive30

Treads – The Indestructible School Shoe

[GIFTED] It’s that time of year when parents are frantically trying to get ready for the return of ‘back to school’ labels are being stuck in, trousers are being taken up and for me the dreaded shoe shop is taking place.

With years of school shoe shopping under my belt I still haven’t found a stress free way to keep the kids happy and me sane whilst getting what we need.

So when Treads asked if I would like to try out their online shoe shop I was immediately drawn in as the prospect of hitting the shops was something I had been avoiding – especially in the current pandemic.

Treads specialise in durable school shoes for children aged 6-16 using a combination of top quality materials and clever technology to turn construction style footwear into school shoes.

The boys sat with me and happily scrolled through the shoes and selecting them for themselves. There wasn’t a huge range which for me was much better as they came to a decision really quickly.

Frankie went for the smart, Velcro option with the Sydney shoe and Oscar went for a more casual, lace up with the Boston.

Children are in school shoes for a good six or more hours a day, so fitting is important to me and is the only reason I usually opt to go in store for this. However Treads have a print out paper gauge that allows you to take the measurements and then enter online to get the perfect fit. They also come with a dual fitting system which means you can take out one of the inner soles to give you a wider fit.

The biggest pull for me though was their ’12 month indestructible guarantee’ which means if they don’t meet their high standards they will replace them for FREE.

My youngest two have been known to ruin shoes in a matter of weeks so I’m eager to see if they can stand the rest of time with them and by the sounds of these shoes they should have their work cut out trying to get through these!

A special Strobel technique is used which means the upper part of the shoe is placed into the mould and then the sole is injected around it – making it come complete entity. As well as this, the heels are reinforced to prevent splitting so they really have covered everything.

I will of course keep you updated and let you know if the demolishers manage to break through…I have high hopes for these though!

The Week Junior – Current Affairs For Kids

[AD] It’s been months now since the children have been in any kind of formal education, and with the summer holidays drawing to an end it is time to start thinking about the return of school and getting those clogs ticking over again.

Lockdown learning wasn’t easy for us at all and I found myself finding ways to keep the children engaged that wasn’t based around endless piles of black and white worksheets, as they glazed over as soon as they were confronted with this. Instead I tried to use things that were going on around us to spark their thirst for knowledge and this is where The Week Junior has been a great help.

The Week Junior is an award-winning current affairs magazine for children aged 8 – 14 that brings together news and facts from all around the world.

Like most children mine are naturally curious and The Week Junior allows them to find out about current affairs such as COVID-19 and the Beirut explosion in a safe and easy to understand way, which I sometimes find hard to convey to them.

There is a section that encourages their ability to engage in debate….this isn’t something they normally struggle with though to be honest! Quizzes, puzzles and crafts to keep restless fingers busy, sport and entertainment that Frankie absolutely loved and so much more.

We received our first copy just before going away for the weekend and came across a section all about Stonehenge. We have driven past numerous times before and the the youngest two had never really shown much interest. I was so pleased as we passed this year though as they had recalled many facts they had read up on and were over the moon to see it in all it’s grandeur.

Frankie also took inspiration from the ‘photos of the week’ and used my camera to try and get a little more creative with the way they see things though the lens.

This magazine is a fantastic resource to feed inquisitive minds, getting them talking about a whole host of different topics as well as discovering new ones and allows them to build critical skills.

You can join the other 90,000 families that already receive The Week Junior by subscribing HERE and getting your first SIX copies free!

Messing About On The River With Go Boat

[GIFTED] I’m sure that anyone who has followed me for a while now will know of my love for water. Ordinarily the sea is my first passion, but anything that brings me close to the water makes me happy.

So as you can imagine when we went along to Kingston the other day to try out a trip on a boat with Go Boat you know how happy I was about this!

We regularly visit Kingston for a walk along the riverside and to grab a bite to eat and I have always seen the boats sauntering up and down the river and fancied getting onboard myself, so this was the perfect opportunity for me.

Go Boat is electric, self-drive picnic boat that has is situated along the Riverside Walk just on the edge of Kingston town centre.

Upon arrival we were created with a smile, lots of hand sanitiser and plenty of social distance markers which made us feel at ease right away.

All payments are contact free along with signing in and each boat is sanitised before each trip.

Safety instructions were given, life jackets were issued and we were shown to our boat. Each boat holds up to eight people and we took my Mum and Dad along…Dad was made to take the helm and become captain for the afternoon.

We all got comfortable whilst locating the umbrellas that were provided, and with the sun beating down they were very much welcome.

Our trip was for two hours which would allow us to get to Hampton Court and back but you can opt for just an hour or three hours which means you to take in both Teddingdon and Molesey Lock too.

With six of us in total there was still plenty of room to put your feet up and relax whilst taking in the sights of the stunning riverside houses, paddle boarders and swimmers and of course the grand Hampton Court Palace.

We took our own picnic with us which is a must if you ask me and I think if we had a return trip we would definitely go all out with this as the table really lends itself to this.

We ended our trip by passing under the bridge which the children absolutely loved – especially as I fell off the end of the bench trying to get a good picture!

The two hours absolutely flew by and my preconceived ideas about the boys being a pain were completely quashed. They loved sitting taking it all and helping grandad to steer and can’t wait to get onboard again soon, so I think the Paddington morning will have to be out next port of call!

Top Quality Meat Straight To Your Door With Meatpac

Lockdown had seen a whole host of new changes to people’s lives and I would say that how we shop would definitely be one of them.

We saw panic buying with the supermarkets being ransacked, to people not wanting to leave their homes and frantically trying to book home delivery slots that were like gold dust. A lot of us also turned to local small businesses that really came to the help of so many in this time of need – one of these was Kenneth Bashford who formed Meatpac which is a home delivery service, providing quality meats at reasonable prices.

They supply a huge range of different packages from family to granny, breakfast to BBQ, roasting to steak and many more so there really is something for everyone.

The other week I received the family pack that was delivered straight to my door with a smile and before I had even looked in the bag I was hit with the gorgeous smell of herbs that had been added to the pack which was a lovely touch.

We are a larger than average family and I was thinking this pack would probably be on the small size for us but I was shocked at how much there was…definitely value for money and a great variety.

I took some meat and put it straight into the freezer for later in the week and then pondered over what to do with the rest.

I decided that due to the great quality of the meat I would keep it simple and just enjoy the flavour with a mixed grill which went down very well with my lot!

The meat was flavoursome and I got no shrinkage like you do with supermarket meats.

There no better time to support local businesses and when the quality and value for money is as good as this then what can you possibly lose!

An Overnight Escape To The Hut – Deal

Lowdown has meant seeing a lot of our own four walls or taking trips to out local green spaces. I am extremely grateful that we have a lovely home and plenty of places to choose from when it comes to getting out and about, but after months of end not going to far afield and not seeing friends I was delighted when the lovely Hanna from The Savvy Mummy asked to meet up at her beautiful hut in Deal – Kent.

It’s only just over an hour from us and I was so happy to see a beautiful, smiling face greet us and the peaceful Kingsdown Holiday Park.

The park is home to a collection of stunning wooden huts, set in the middle of a beautiful green space just a stones throw away from the beach.

The park has so much to keep the children busy from mini golf to tennis, a well equipped play area to table tennis and the ability to allow you to let the kids roam free and find their own fun.

The Hut itself is a real home from home with a warm feeling as soon as you step in. The ground floor has a well equipment kitchen and a living space with a dining area which you sometimes don’t find in places such as this. There is also a good sized bathroom a double bedroom and a super cute children’s room complete with bunk beds and a disco ball light that kept the boys very amused!

My favourite part was the mezzanine floor that had bunting draped from each and every banister and had two good sized double beds. The cute triangular windows also have toy a gorgeous view of the grounds and the sea!

The Hut really is a tardis and is deceptively more spacious than than it looks. We are a big family and it could house us all with ease.

After exploring everything the park had to offer we jumped back in the car and took a short drive into Deal town centre to get some chips and have a dip in the sea before Hanna and the girls headed home.

If we had more time we could easily have made the walk into town as there is a wide a flat promenade that is perfect for the kids to scooter on and is definitely on our list for a return trip.

After a sad goodbye we headed back to the hut for the evening and the boys were eager to head out on their own around the park. This kind of thing always fills me with anxiety – not so much because I am worried about their safety as I felt completely space there, but I know how my youngest two have an extreme ability to annoy and I don’t want them to impose on others!

After a while and with regular checks from their big sister I relaxed a little and was able to have a cup of tea in peace whist they enjoyed their new found independence.

I’m not one to sit still for to long though and I was getting itchy feet, so I took Oscar on the few minute walk down to the sea front. This section of beach had a row of pretty cottages and two pubs which I have heard serve great food and have benches on the beach where people were enjoying a glass of wine whilst watching the sunset.

Me on Oscar however headed( pj’s on) down to the sea to see what we could find in the rock pools. My ever inquisitive youngest had a bit of a shock though when he got a sea urchin sucker onto his finger!

A little bit wet and weary we went back and enjoyed chocolate dipped marshmallows and got an early-ish night!

The next morning Frankie was up by the front door at the crack of dawn trying to spot his new found friends. For me lockdown has meant he has wanted to do very little aside from be stuck in front of a screen, so seeing him back to his old self and wanted to get out and about was amazing.

We brought a few of our own supplies for breakfast, but Hanna has left the kitchen well equipped with all the essential such as tea, coffee and cereal which was most unexpected and very welcome.

Toast, and a tidy up and it was time to say fair well to our over night home and head back into Deal to see what else there was to offer.

I had come across Deal Pier Kitchen whilst having a look online and had made it my mission to visit before we left.

I didn’t even realise Deal had a pier and unlike the usual fairground filled piers this was just home to the restaurant that sat right at the end.

The pier has a brutalist feel to it which I love and the restaurant has been built in keeping with this, keep the exterior dark, with plenty of glass to take in the stunning sea views.

There were lots of delicious choices on the menu, but being early we grabbed skinny fries and cake…great for the waistline!

Izzy was desperate to have mooch around the shops, I was not so much so with all the COVID regulations in place, but we window shopped and Deal had a good variety of your usual suspects as well as some pretty homeware and gifts shops in a pretty lame type setting.

I really felt we made the most of an overnight stay and packed in as much as we could with The Hut being the perfect place for us to do this.

The location was perfect to relax in and just let kids be kids and it allows you to do as little or as much as you want.

We had a wonderful stay and hope to be back very soon!

What Families Look For When Renting A Home

[AD] The rental market is growing all the time, with a lot of people having to stay due to not being able to get on the property ladder and many just opting to stay in rental properties due the the flexibility it gives them.

Whatever the reason there is a whole host of things to consider when moving with a family and some things are often overlooked by both tenants and landlords; so I have compiled a few top tips for you below to make these decisions a little easier:

Schools – One of the top priorities for most families is the location of the nearest public and private schools and how well they perform.

Recreation – Having parenting groups, open space, playgrounds, libraries etc that are easily accessible is a big must for many families.

Crime Rate – We obviously all want to keep our families as safe as possible so one factor would definitely end to try and find an area with a low crime rate.

Community – This isn’t something everybody would find important, but a lot of people like the opportunity to be able to be part of a wider community for support, finding friends and getting together at different types of events for the whole family to enjoy.

Parking – Coming from someone that has only just found a property with good parking this is a big priority – especially when you have a young family.

Having to drag your shopping along the street with small children in tow is never fun and can add additional stress to your day.

A Safe Home – You could find a beautiful home that completely fits the bill in many ways, but there is a banister free stair case or a sheer drop off of the patio area that simply would be safe for your family. This is something that both tenants and landlords should consider.

Pets – Pets can be a important part of the family so with many landlords not accepting pets this is something you most look into.

Gardens – Gardens are an extension of the home and something a lot of people look for in a property. With small children you need to ensure this area is safe and can work with outdoor toys etc.

Insurance – This is import for both the tenant and the landlord to get right as for a landlord there are many more things to factor in being able to compare landlord insurance to ensure things such as theft, loss of rent and malicious damage are a must.