The Busy Person’s Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals in 2017

There’s something about the end of the year that inspires people to dream big; making heartfelt, and often quite drastic resolutions to improve their lives. From crash diets to plans for a career change, somehow anything and everything seems possible; yet as winter marches on, and the demands of everyday life take priority, those ambitious dreams fade into the background, along with the turkey and tinsel.

The good news is it’s not too late to turn things around. If you are keen to make some life changes but are not sure where to start, take a look at these useful tips and ideas, which will help you both set and achieve the goals you need for success.

Be Realistic

How often do you hear people talk about how their lives would instantly change for the better if only they could win the lottery or halve their bodyweight overnight? Dreams like this rarely make it any further than idle fantasy simply because they are just too huge to tackle.  

It is almost impossible to make life changes that last without clear goals that break down the process into achievable pieces or stages. It’s hard to imagine a dedicated couch potato suddenly jumping up and running a 5k, but entirely possible if they follow a program with short term goals, designed to achieve and build on stamina and ability.  

Harness the Power of Visual Images

Fight that initial reaction to setting goals by grabbing a pen and making lists, as contemporary evidence suggests plans made using visual images are more likely to come to fruition. If your goal is to grow and makeover your hair style, try creating a mood board with images of the looks you hanker after. By adding pictures of various hair lengths you get the chance to experiment and explore possibilities, along with the inspiration to keep going until you reach the end goal.

Get Help to Set Goals

Many people have a clear general goal for the year ahead, but no concrete ideas on how to break that down into achievable stages. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and giving up, why not make use of online resources to help you with this part of the process?

Take for instance the Ladbroke’s Bingo Card Game. Simple to play – you just need to add your first name and choose the area of life you’d like to focus on, and within seconds you have a personalised bingo card with twelve achievable goals waiting to propel you towards success. Simply print it and place it somewhere you will notice it every day, and then plan to cross at least one bingo square off every month.

Some tasks may be easier than others, but overall they combine to harness the power of small, achievable steps presented in visual form. Make this the year your long held dreams become reality, as you show yourself, friends, family and the entire world if you choose to, just what you are capable of doing and being.

Review: Dirk Gently’s Detective Agency, a Netflix Original

While the kids have been enjoying the Netflix original Middle School, I’ve been working my way through another Netflix Original (in association with BBC America), Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

On the face of it Dirk Gently’s should be terrible. The Douglas Adams books are ace, the BBC adaptation with Stephen Mangan was good, if not stellar, keeping within a 100 miles or so of the source material but shifting the whole thing to America, introducing loads of other characters, a CIA undercover programme and my fourth favourite Hobbit, Elijah Wood, as the new sidekick, takes it a million miles away from the books and should be a recipe for disaster. View Full Post

WIN a family ticket to screening of Arsenal v Liverpool on 4 March AND more!

On Saturday, March 4, Arsenal’s family screening returns and YOU can win a family ticket to the screening of the Arsenal v Liverpool game at Emirates Stadium!

This event is an exclusive event for Junior Gunners- Arsenal’s young members, but this competition is open to any of our readers aged between 0-16 years.

The youngest age group that Arsenal do junior membership for is the 0-4’s, under their Welcome to our World banner.

The Junior Gunner Family Screening will be packed with fun activities where you will get to:

  • Watch a screening of the exciting away clash against Liverpool 
  • Try out fun football challenges for you to test your skills 
  • Get arty with Arsenal’s arts and crafts sessions
  • Challenge yourself with football skills sessions, hosted by Arsenal Soccer Schools
  • Meet Gunnersaurus
  • And much more!

Enter via the rafflecopter give away below, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions

The winner gets to bring three guests to the event and the guests do not need to be members but one must be over 18.

Prize is non transferable, no cash alternative is offered, if the winner does not respond by Friday 3rd March, an alternative winner will be chosen.

You will have to provide your own transport the the stadium and the competition is open to residents of the UK only

The prize is offered by Arsenal Football Club, Highbury House | 75 Drayton Park | London | N5 1BU and the promotor, Daddacool, shall not be held responsible for their failure to supply the prize.

Review: Middle School, a Netflix Original

Make a note in your diary folks, the small screen adaptation of James Paterson’s excellent Middle School books starts on February 10 (today) with a movie adaptation of Middle School, the Worst Year of My Life, made by and exclusive to Netflix.

The Middle School series are wildly popular with primary school kids, sitting in the same genre as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Tom Gates books. Middle School has a slightly darker edge to it, but this aspect of it is handled with sensitivity and it’s also good to see the main character, Rafe, in a single parent family, better reflecting the different family lives that we all live now (not me I hasten to add, I’m married with 3 kids).

On the surface of things, following a family bereavement, it looks like it’s Rafe’s little sister who has gone off the rails but as Rafe starts YET another new school, and his buddy Leo pulls faces behind the headmasters back, it seems like Rafe might have a bit of trouble with authority.

As the story unfolds, we see Rafe and Leo set about systematically breaking all the excessive rules the school’s headmaster has in place, with often hilarious effect. Tempering the humour is the story of Rafe and his loss, because even when we find out Leo is Rafe’s imaginary friend, that still isn’t the entire story…

Like any good kids movie, the villains (the head, the potential step dad) are larger than life, exaggerations of what you would expect to find but like a great kids movie, the main character, played with great charm by the awesomely named Griffin Gluck, comes across as almost the only normal person in the movie. The performances are great, they’re working from good source material and the whole film hangs together really well. My two eldest kids have read a selection of Middle School books and they both loved the movie (we went to a screening last Sunday). They’ve been waiting impatiently for the 10th because they want to watch it again!

Review: LEGO 70908 The Scuttler

Scuttler

While we all know what the Batmobile looks like, and even reviewed it in LEGO form, but the new LEGO Batman Movie has plenty more up it’s sleeve than old favourites. Thankfully, they decided not to make a set out of the Batshuttle or the Batsubmarine that featured in the trailer (Batman is a man after my own heart and loves gadgets, he just happens to be a billionaire so can afford more than me!).

The Scuttler is one beast of a set. In fact its literally a beast, a giant bat in fact. There is quite a lot of Technic type LEGO bricks in the set, which facilitate the Bat like movements- all 4 legs/wings move. It has a Net Gun and it has a compartment with a JetPack for Batman (although the boy currently has Robin piloting the thing because for some reason, Robin is the best thing ever).

The front legs are on rails and extend, letting the Scuttler rear up over whatever Batman (or Robin) is pursuing. It’s a complicated build with a big fat book but it is pretty sturdy once built. It kept the boy occupied for a few hours in terms of building and he’s been playing with it since without it requiring any major rebuilding work.

 

Scuttler

The Scuttler is out now to buy, with a recommended retail price of £84.99 and is available to buy from good retailers including Amazon.

Philips Centrifugal Juicer snack challenge

When Philips asked me if I’d like to take part in their healthier snack swap challenge by getting the kids to substitute an unhealthy snack with something whipped up in their Centrifugal Juicer I almost said no outright because everybody knows fruit juice isn’t as good as eating the fruit itself- most of the fibre gets lost, which just leaves you with sugary flavoured water. Yes, it’s fructose, not sucrose, but sugar is sugar. But, they countered, there’s a button that lets you increase the fibre content, so you can have your apple and drink it.

In the end my love of gadgets and the possibility of making after hour cocktails in the thing won me over and I graciously agreed to have one. I’m good like that. Philips, bless them, went one better and sent a supermarket voucher with the Centrifugal Juicer so we could stock up with ingredients.

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Hair raising adventures with Just For Men

Growing up in the 1980’s, Just For Men ads were up there with good old Victor Kiam’s “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company” line in electric razor adverts. For my generation, a well chiselled, grey haired, Pierce Brosnan  look a like badly acting his way to better hair was the stuff of most Saturday tea time ad breaks. Well guess what? Just like razors have had a bit of a make over and aren’t quite as cheesy as Victor made them, so has Just For Men. In fact they’ve got a new product which they asked me to try out. While their old adverts pointed out that not having grey hair would let you get a better paid job and send your kid to college, we’re not in the 80’s now and things are a lot more sensible. I’m not sensible but I thought I would take them up on the challenge to see if it changed my perceptions (and my hair).

Just For Men Control GX simply aims to gradually reduce grey hair through use over a period of several weeks. When Just For Men emailed me and asked if I wanted to give it a spin, I have to admit I was mostly driven to say yes by a sense of nostalgia and how I would be able to have a chuckle with my work colleagues. It turns out I was more than a little wrong though, as a month later, even my five year old has noticed the reduction in grey hair!

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Bikes through the decades, which was your favourite?

Born slap bang in the middle of the 1970’s, my first bikes were all very much hand me downs from my older cousins and nothing particularly noteworthy. It being the late 70’s, they were pretty much twice my weight and if I’m being generous made out of steel, if I’m not, cast iron recycled British Leyand Princess’s. My first new bike was an early mark II Rayleigh Grifter and it was magnificent. It had three gears, blue, green and red, operated via a gripshift that meant you could pretend you had a motorbike (with the prerequiste playing card stuck to the frame of course). It was almost impossible to lift it through the gates at either end of the New River footpath because like I said, bikes back then weighed many many tons.

While my Grifter doesn’t appear on the Halford Bikes Through the Decades infographic you can see below, it’s main nemesis the Chopper does. The Chopper was the bike that the cool kids in our class had- the ones who were reading the Dempsey & Makepeace books and pointing out the swearwords to everyone else- but it wasn’t practical enough for my dad to agree with, so I got a Grifter and my brother got the junior version, the Strika. View Full Post

Ways to make extra money after an expensive Christmas

How much did you spend on Christmas this year? A few hundred pounds? Five hundred pounds? Well, according to this article, the average British family spends at least £800 pounds on Christmas, which can really make things feel a bit… tight… when January rolls around.

If you felt under pressure to spend more than you could really afford to (which is nothing to be ashamed of, by the way – the Money Advice Trust’s National Debtline have found that a significant number of us use our credit cards to get through the Christmas season), here’s how you can make some extra money…

Clear out the loft

Most of us return our Christmas decorations to the loft once we’ve taken them down in early January, so why not set aside a weekend to tackle the mountain of junk you’ve got stashed up there? There’s probably a lot of stuff you’re not using – nor ever will use – so dust it down, photograph it and flog it on eBay or Gumtree.

Pick up extra hours at work

If selling things isn’t your cup of tea, might it be worth having a chat with your boss? Let them know that you’re looking to take on extra hours for the next few months.

You don’t have to let your manager know that you’re under financial pressure (and in fact, starting the conversation that way might make your manager feel guilty if they refuse you), but if you can raise the issue of money troubles in a tactful way you might find you’re front of the queue when they’re dishing out extra shifts.

If you work in an office, ask if you can pick up extra work for an increase in salary; managers may be happy to give the work to you rather than the freelancers they usually rely on, and they’ll doubtless appreciate your loyalty and enthusiasm to help the company along in whatever way you can.

Take on a second job

No extra work to be had? Well, why not take on a second job? Sure – time is short and fitting in childcare, chores and exercise can be a harder challenge by working even more hours, but if you have a good support network or a family member who can take on some extra duties at home, an additional part-time job could be the solution.

For instance, working as a cleaner could be a good idea as it’s flexible enough to fit around your other commitments. Companies such as Molly Maid provide you with equipment and pay at or above the National Living Wage, so is worth looking into.  

Do any of these ideas sound like things you could put into practice? Try to set yourself a goal to make it more palatable: how much extra do you need to earn to clear those credit card bills, get out the overdraft of build up your current account again? How many hours’ work is that? Having a clear picture of what you’re doing it for will help to take the pain out of finding the extra cash.

Are you Using The Right Soil? The Beginner’s Guide

Are you struggling to grow plants or perhaps discovering later down the line that they aren’t thriving? This isn’t necessarily an issue with your green fingers, but could be down to the soil you are using. Certain plants need a particular type of soil and so before you go buying the prettiest ones and just planting them, you need to find out the different soil types. There is no point buying beautiful flowers if they have no chance of blossoming. Here are the different soil types to be aware of and what grows best in them:

Clay

Clay soil feels lumpy and sticky when wet and rock-hard when dry. Clay drains poorly and has few air spaces. It warms slowly in spring and is heavy to cultivate. This may sound like planting in clay soil is impossible, however, if drainage is improved plants grow well as it holds more nutrients than many other soils.

Hardy plants do best in this type of soil such as Helen’s Flower, Aster, Weigela, Bergamot and Flowering Quince.

Sandy

This soil is free-draining and gritty to the touch. It warms up quickly in the spring and is easy to cultivate, but it also dries out rapidly and may lack nutrients.

Plants that you may want to consider if you have this soil include; Tulips, Tree Mallow, Sun Rose, Hibiscus and Broom.  

Silty

Silty soil is smooth and soapy to the touch. It drains well and retains moisture and is much richer in nutrients than sandy soil. It is also easier to cultivate than clay and heavier than sand. The soil structure is weak and easily compacted, but ultimately if it is managed well it is a very good soil.

Mahonia, New Zealand Flax, Ornamental Vine and Tobacco plants are all perfect for this soil.

Peaty

This soil contains a much higher proportion of organic matter because the soil’s acidic nature inhibits decomposition, but this also means there are fewer nutrients. It is dark in colour and, like sand and clay, warms up quickly in spring. It is highly water retentive and may require drainage, however it is ideal for plant growth if fertiliser is added.

Heather, camellia and rhododendron are all great for peaty soil.

Chalky

You can quickly recognise chalky soil because it is usually stony and often overlays chalk or limestone bedrock. It is Alkaline, with a pH of 7.5 or more and is free draining. Some minerals are unavailable to plants through this soil which can cause poor growth however this can be remedied by adding fertiliser.

Chalky soil is suitable for the likes of lilac, weigela and Madonna lily.

Loamy

This is the perfect soil – it has a good structure, drains well, retains moisture, is full of nutrients and is easy to cultivate. It warms up quickly in spring and doesn’t dry out in summer.

Wisteria, delphinium and rubus are just a few of the plants that will do well in this soil.

Not sure what soil you have? You should have some idea by comparing it to the descriptions above or by putting it into a large glass jar filled with water and seeing how it looks after it settles. But you can also test this to find out more such as the pH, just don’t forget to test the soil from different areas as this can vary enormously. You can also improve your soil by incorporating organic matter, such as manure or home-grown compost.