The Pros and Cons of the Best Inflatable Hot Tub

Quite a few years back, I decided to look into buying an inflatable hot tub back when this kind of gadget first came out. It was either this or the proper tub that usually needs to be built into the ground. At that time, I decided not to buy this because the quality and the overall appearance wasn’t as good as the built-in tubs. These however, required allowed of money to make the purchase and for the installation process. For this reason, I decided to delay everything and wait for a little while.

A few years later and the market has completely changed because inflatable hot tubs have becoming very popular in homes everywhere. There are a lot of pros of buying this when compared to the built-in tubs and this is the subject that will be the focal point of our discussion today.

Buying an inflatable hot tub has both pros and cons.

The portability is massive with these kinds of gadgets and a blow up hot tub really excels when it comes to this. There are a lot of models that can be deflated and carried around wherever you go and this includes for picnics in the countryside with the entire family. This means that you can get that spa experience almost anywhere you go. This includes using this product inside your home or even outside in the backyard or a warm summery day. In comparison, a built-in tub must remain fixed in one place and must be used indoors in a bathroom or another specific area.

One of the main reasons that the so many people are looking for the best inflatable hot tub is the fact that you can save a lot of money when compared to a proper tub. Usually, even small in-ground tubs can cost from £5000 to £10000, which is quite costly. Larger and more luxurious tubs can cost up to £20000. This will seem like a fortune for some people and at the end of the day, most of us just want to relax in some hot water for a little while. The inflatable spa provides the perfect solution because you can buy a very good model for around £500. If you want to turn it into a luxurious setting then I’m sure you can buy and use a lot of different decorations to make the area seem ultra-modern and luxurious.

In addition to the portable nature and savings, there are some added benefits too. For example, some people like to use their their blow up hot tub in specific seasons. If you want to do this, you can easily shut it off and store the deflated version away for a couple of months until you are ready to use it again. In addition to this, the overall material might resemble that of a kiddies’ pool but this cannot be further from the truth. The material is highly durable and has extra cushion to it. This means that when you use your inflatable hot tub, you’re bound to experience a very comfortable hour of relaxation. On top of this, you can do this without worrying about damaging the inflatable spa. Honestly speaking, the material is fantastic and depending on the number of people, you should be able to enjoy the spa experience.

There are some cons however, and these need to be discussed as well. Firstly, there aren’t any specific seats and this aspect might put off some people. More importantly, the heater is a bit of an issue because it does take some time to heat up the water. Sometimes this can even take more than 24 hours unless you warm the water separately. This heating aspect can also use up quite a bit of electricity and this can increase your bills in a different way.

Regardless of which inflatable hot tubs you look for, you should note the different pros and cons of this gadget. This might vary according to different models and you should focus on this quite a bit before making the purchase.

In overview, I would say that the best inflatable hot tub would definitely be worth buying because it provides a complete spa experience with jets and streams of hot water but at a very affordable price. This massaging effect is provides fantastic luxury but at a price that can be afforded by most people.

Fun Ideas to Keep the Kids Busy

If your holidays have been a wash out and you’re counting down the days until the kids have to go back to school, don’t worry you’re not alone. But until that time comes, here are a few ideas on how to keep the kids happy and you sane.

  1. Choose some old photos you don’t mind parting with – The funnier the better. Get the kids to stick them onto thin card, and then laminate them. Chop them up into puzzle like pieces. The kids seem to like that bit, as it seems like a naughty thing to do. Then let them have hours of fun piecing together the puzzle. I usually try and get at least one picture of each member of the family, mixed in with a few family pets. They never tire of making up my body with a dog head and chicken legs!
  1. Write down on a piece of paper all the jobs that the kids can help you with. For example, tidying up their room, matching up odd pairs of shoes, sweeping etc. Then underneath each task add a money incentive 10p up to 50p (Depending how generous you’re feeling). Fold the tasks and add them into a big bowl. Let each child select a specific task and work their way through each task. It’s a good way for them to earn some pocket money and for you to get odd jobs done.
  1. Collect some old magazines and let the kids go through them cutting out anything they find interesting. You can make a collage of colour (for example all things blue) or my sons favourite – cutting out girls’ faces then drawing spots and moustaches on them.

Here are some fun things you can do with your kids in these holidays.

  1. Get the kids to try on all their clothes and whatever doesn’t fit goes to a younger sibling or into a charity bag. In order to stop a full-blown war, it helps if you can choose the particular clothes that you think won’t fit and let them be found in one particular pile, rather than letting them ransack all your drawers.
  1. Make something – get old cardboard boxes, foil, pens, glue, glitter and let the kids make whatever they want. Magic Power Ranger wristbands, Spiderman web-blasters with silly string, Barbie hair clips, High School Musical diaries can all be made – you just have to use your imagination. Next time you’re at the supermarket ask them for a couple of large boxes – you’ll be amazed at how long your kids will play with them. Get them to decorate them. Ours always turn into a ‘Secret Boy Club’ or ‘Girls Only Gang’. Encourage them to make club cards, signs, and a club flag. Keeps them busy for ages.
  1. Get the kids to go through old videos (remember them?) and scratched DVDs. They’ll love watching all that TV. Make them create 2 piles – one that they don’t watch anymore (or that are broken) and another they want to keep. Pass on ones they’ve grown out of on to younger friends or sell them on eBay.
  1. Gather all your plants into the kitchen or bathroom. Arm the kids with a water spray gun or water guns work just as well and give them a soft cloth. Let them spray the plants and wipe off dust. They’ll love it and it will give your plants a good dose of TLC. Just make sure the plants don’t have thorns or sharp edges.
  1. Choose some old clothes you don’t want any more and let the kids help you decorate them with stick-on gems stone, pens, glue etc. They’ll love doing it. Encourage them to design their own outfit, which they then have to present to you in a catwalk show later on.
  1. Cook something. Kids love cooking. They’re loads of recipes you can get off the Internet. Fairy cakes are always easy, biscuits are good fun for shaping and cold dishes like mousse always goes down well. When making fairy cakes I always mix up lots of different coloured icing, and have bowls of things to add on top such as sweets, raisins, nuts, chocolate chips etc.
  1. Get out lots of old sheets, blankets and cushions and let the kids build their own cubby house in their room. Don’t try and tidy up until the end of the day – simply accept that they are having fun. Help them fasten sheets to curtain rails, door handles and ties. They’ll love making their own place to play.

Cost Effective Summer Home Ideas

With this chopping and changing weather it’s hard to tell what the weather’s going to be like from one day to the next. Annoying? Yes. Don’t you just hate it when you’ve finally planned that family picnic, with relatives coming from far and wide then it pours down with rain? Even though it’s not your fault, you know people secretly resent eating their soggy sarnies, inside your living room, trying to pretend for the kids’ sake that they are having a good time. The good news is, that even though summer outside can be unpredictable, inside your home is a different matter. Here are our top tips to bring the outside in, and how to make your home more ‘summery’.

1. Fresh cut flowers make you smile. If you’ve got green fingers, then pick your own blooms and add vases of them round your home. Just seeing them will remind you it’s summer (even if it is raining outside). I also like to add a big vase if flowers in my bedroom, so when I wake up that’s the first thing I see. Bright colours work well in plain rooms, whereas plainer more simple flowers can be used in more busy rooms. I also like to add a vase of flowers at the sink where I wash up. Not only can they take away nasty whiffs of any leftovers, but it can be quite therapeutic to look at the flowers before you wash up. Local fruit shops and supermarkets all sell a range of flowers to suit everyone’s budget. If you go just before they close you can often pick up a few bunches at a fraction of the price. They tend to come with flower food that you can add to their water which will help them last longer. Don’t forget to change the water every few days, so it doesn’t smell.

2. A big bowl of seasonal fruit. Strawberries, plums, cherries are all great summery fruits. Add a big bowl to the centrepiece of your table. Not only will it look nice to have all the bright colours around, but it will also remind you that you should be having up to 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day. It also makes a great after dinner dessert. Chop up lots of different fruit and get the kids to load them up on a wooden skewer. Fruit kebabs always go down well with kids. Tinned pineapple, strawberries and grapes all sit really well on the skewers. Give them a quick blast in the freezer to make them a cool snack.

3. Make your own ice lollies. Even if it’s raining, it still feels muggy, so why not refresh your palate with an ice lolly. Simply pour fresh fruit juice into ice lolly containers (available in all good supermarkets_, whack in a couple of ice lolly sticks- or sometimes the come supplied. 2 hours later you can be sucking on your very own ice lolly.

4. Tuck away all the winter duvets and get out the lighter blankets. The togs on winter duvets are much higher than winter ones and can make you feel restless. Have them dry cleaned and store them ready for next winter. You can buy great storage from Argos that sit under the bed, or if you’re tight on space try the suction bags they sell. Simply put your clean duvet in the bag, sealed it as directed then suck the air out of the bag with your vacuum, couldn’t be easier. All you’re left with is a flat package that can be safely stored in your loft or anywhere else you have room.

5. Thick jumpers, woolly tights, and heavy winter coats should all be put to one side. If you have time, storing your winter clothes will make you feel as if summer has arrived. Either hide them away in another wardrobe or bag them up and out them in the loft. That will make plenty of room for your floaty summer dresses, gladiator sandals, T-shirts and maxi dresses! Waking up and seeing you summer wardrobe will encourage you to think summery thoughts.

6. Update your make-up. In summer there’s no need to hide behind thick layers of foundation. Choose a lighter foundation with SPF protection in it. Add a flick of bronzer to your cheeks and lip-gloss for a lighter summery look. Don’t forget the fake tan if you are going to dare to bare all on the beach.

7. Give rugs a good airing. Know is the perfect time to pick up any rugs that you may have on wooden or stone flooring. Before you store them away hang them on the line outside and give them a good beating. I use an old broom handle to whack mine. You might want to cover your mouth with a piece of material (bandana style) and where your shades as it can get really dusty. You might get some funny looks off your neighbours but when you see all that winter dust flying away you will see that it is all worth it.

8. Open all the windows. Summers a great time to air out your home. Simply open the windows and let the clean summer air detox your home of all the winter blues.

9. Update your summer furniture. If you’re wooden outdoor furniture is looking a bit drab, sand it down then add some varnish to seal it again. I’m no expert so ask a helpful person in your local DIY store for advice. Or if you’ve got some spare cash why not treat yourself to some new outdoor furniture? Alfresco eating on a warm summer night is always nice.

10. A lick of paint. Light colours always make your room seem so much bigger. Summers a great time to redecorate as concrete sets quicker, paint dries faster and there are more hours of light to get the work done. Even if it’s just a small job, like painting your kitchen or your hallway it will make you feel like summers arrived.

Our Easy Guide to Planning your Kitchen

It’s so important that your kitchen serves you (and your family) well. Whether you’re having your whole kitchen re-done or just re-organising, here is our guide to helping you make sure your kitchen is an organised, safe and flexible environment to be in.

It is true what they say – 3 is the magic number – especially when it comes to planning your kitchen. Following 3 easy stages could help you get the kitchen you dream of.

  1. First and foremost you need to carefully measure your room, so you know what size you’re working with. I suggest you draw a plan on some graph paper. Include all wall plans as well as a floor plan. It helps to note where your lights, electrical sockets and water pipes are if you’re just re-planning a kitchen. All kitchen units are made in metric sizes so measure in mm, as it will save your lots of hassle later on. Measure everything – from the floor to the ceiling for wall elevations, size of windows, doors, radiators, boilers etc. The more detail you put in the more accurate your kitchen will fit.

Read our guide to re-organising your kitchen.

  1. Think about where you want all of your appliances to go – in accordance with your electrical/ water supplies. Are you having internal fridge/ freezers or do you have to plan for them separately? Try and imagine working in your kitchen and plan it around your day – for example it makes sense to have the dishwasher next to the sink so you can just pop plates in it once you have rinsed them. Draw it all on your plan making sure you add the exact measurements to scale. Things you need to think about are – where you store your food, where you prepare your food, where you cook your food, where you eat your food and where you wash it all up. Break it down into those key areas and you’ll soon have your plan ready. Think about lighting as well – is there sufficient light from the window or do you need to make it bigger? Do you want spotlights underneath top cupboards so they light up your worktop?
  1. Find your perfect kitchen. There are a lot of on-line retailers who sell kitchens at cost price, but I do suggest you visit a showroom first. Local DIY stores are great as well and you can see the kitchens on site. Many offer the full package of installation and planning. Or if you feel like tackling the job yourself, just ask them lots of questions to make your life a little easier. You may find it cheaper to hunt around and source your appliances and cupboards yourself – if you have the time. If you intend on using your own appliances make sure you have measured them exactly and incorporated them into your plan.

Other Top Tips

  • Don’t plan for a door to be opposite the cooking area – accidents do happen. Cooking with hot pans and banging doors don’t work well together. Have space on either side of the cooker to put down hot pans. In fact, make sure all doors that go into the kitchen are hinged to open outwards. Check that they don’t have to be safety doors as well.
  • Obviously don’t position cooker near a fridge or window. Make sure they have a vent and extractor fitted as well.
  • If you’re keeping existing appliances make sure they fit under your new worktop – you would have measured it all already so I’m sure you won’t have that problem.
  • Fridges and freezers don’t really do corners, as you won’t be able to open the doors properly. There’s nothing worse than trying to clean your fridge properly and not being able to get the trays out, as you can’t open the door enough (based on bad experiences!)
  • Position tall units on the end of a run of units.
  • Don’t forget to leave room for your light switches.
  • Think about if you want a sink with a drainer to the left or right – it will affect your layout.
  • Don’t forget all the little extras- waste disposal systems are all the rage and are a great way to reduce waste.

10 Tips to Declutter Your Home

Most of us have too much stuff. Whether it is a pile of junk mail on the kitchen table, or a closet stuffed full of old board games and broken toys, clutter is insidious. The worst part is – once you get used to it, you don’t even see it anymore.

Tip 1: Throw out 50 things

Grab a box and do a fast sweep of the house. Grab empty cans, junk mail, unused toiletries, bits of paper with scribbled notes on the back, out-of-date food, anything that’s broken or unused. Don’t give yourself time to think: just clear that clutter now!

Tip 2: Get everything out

To streamline your kitchen, your office, or your bedroom, pick a day when you don’t have much else planned and pull everything out of the cupboards, closet, wardrobe and drawers. I did this with my bedroom recently, and it was a little scary to see how many random t-shirts I had acquired, most of them advertising things.

Put the most essential items back – so put a good knife back into your kitchen, and put your clean underwear back into your bedroom. Put everything else in a box. If you need it, get it out and put it back into the kitchen (or kitchen). After six months, give the box to a charity shop – without opening it.

After all – how many of us use paperclips anymore? How many times have we actually used that juicer? How many socks do we actually wear in a week?

If you don't know how to declutter your home, have a look at these tips.

Tip 3: Do 15 minutes a day

Many cleaning blogs recommend spending 15 minutes a day decluttering. You can also get rid of one item a day, or do one drawer a day, or whatever small decluttering action you feel happy with. The key to this decluttering technique is little and often.

Tip 4: Get rid of Storage

It’s a harsh measure, but it works. Get rid of your sideboard, your free-standing wardrobe, your second fridge. Move to a smaller house. By forcing clutter out from the dusty drawers and dark spaces you force yourself to confront it. You might be amazed at what you find. Old pez dispensers, expired medication, bits of lego?

Tip 5: Scan It

We live in the digital era, and whilst digital clutter can be a problem in itself, it had to be said I’d rather my paperwork was virtual. Don’t print off every email and file it – send your files to your email.

PDF scanners like the ubiquitous ScanSnap can turn all your tax returns, receipts, utility bills and other documents into PDF files.

I have one of these at work, and it’s pretty awesome. But if you don’t have a lot of paperwork, then don’t get it.

Even better is to opt out of paper-statements, bills and so on. Most companies let you get your bills and statements via email now – and they will often give you a bit of a discount for saving them the cost of postage.

Save a tree. Ditch your filing cabinet. What could be better?

Tip 6: Swap It or Rent it

One way to avoid getting clutter in the first place, is to rent or swap for what you need. Bookhopper is like PaperbackSwap for those in the UK. It lets you exchange your books with other readers, thus ensuring that you have both a plentiful supply of reading material, and you don’t have a big pile of books cluttering up your house.

Renting is often easier than buying. Renting a car, for example, can be cheaper than owning one – especially if you only use your car occasionally. Renting a TV over the World Cup period would work out cheaper than buying one, if that’s the only thing you’ve watched in the last four years.

Tip 7: Organise your Food

Many of us buy ingredients for dishes we end up only cooking once. The expensive pantry ingredients often sit around afterwards, taking up space and otherwise turning themselves into clutter. If you hated it, or it’s faded into something unusable – get rid of it. I once bought a spice jar of saffron for a specific dish, and it was so expensive I never used it again. The result was that the taste faded and it ended up going in the bin. A total waste!

For any ingredients you have left, find some meals you can use them in, and then use them! Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Buy your food once a day and buy only what you need. Keep your fridge clean and mostly empty, and you’ll never end up looking into it and seeing a pile of junky salad dressings but nothing to eat.

For your dry staples, get only what you know you will eat. Porridge oats are awesome to have – unless you never eat porridge. We all have four or five meals we always end up cooking – and it’s usually beans on toast, not duck l’orange.

Tip 8: Replace Multiple Devices with a Multi-Purpose Device

If you own lots of equipment, and you use that equipment, it may be worth upgrading to a multi-purpose device. Instead of having an mp3 player, a digital camera, and a mobile phone, you combine the three and get a smart phone.

Instead of a scanner, a printer and a photocopier, you get a combination all-in-one device.

Be careful with this one – it’s easy to get sucked into ‘upgrade’ mode. I have a mobile phone and a digital camera, but I don’t want the monthly fees associated with a smart-phone, and I don’t use my phone often enough to make it worth replacing.

Tip 9: Share with Someone

If you read a lot, share your books with someone else who likes to read a lot. Not only do you combine your libraries, you also get someone to talk about your latest read with.

Share camping equipment with another outdoorsy couple, share fitness equipment with another fitness fanatic. Get a communal lawnmower for the neighbourhood.

Tip 10: Don’t Replace Things

When your jeans finally get just too many holes in to wear, or your washing machine leaks all over your floor, get rid of it. But don’t replace it. Learn to live without your jeans, and start using a laundromat or washing your clothes in the bathtub.

When you shampoo runs out, see if you can make-do with baking soda.

When your tent poles snap, go camping with a poncho instead.

When you spill beer all over your laptop, unplug. Internet cafes and libraries can fill the void, and you may find your life substantially better for not being able to check your emails every five minutes.

For every ‘time-saving’ device there is usually a cost. The cost of storing, cleaning, maintaining, replacing. If we went back to (some) of the labour intensive methods, we might find we don’t need to work 80 hours a week just to afford all of our time-saving toys.

What’s the hardest thing to get rid of for you? What have you decluttered today?