Friday, 15 February 2019

Advantages Of Using A Virtual Private Network (VPN)

If you use the internet on the go, you may have heard of a VPN and the benefits of using one but you may not know what it is, so, what is a VPN and, should you get one?


A VPN is a Virtual Private Network and is a useful solution to providing you with secure internet from anywhere in the world. It is especially useful for keeping your information safe and secure.  In this article, I will go into more detail on the main advantages of using a Virtual Private Network or VPN.

Security

A VPN allows you to create a secure network due to the encryption it uses. This means that bank details will be safe and your information and passwords will be secure. This is especially important if you have to use your computer whilst travelling, perhaps accessing your Paypal or bank accounts on the go. All data is encrypted from prying eyes, and a VPN helps keep your bank details out of the hand of criminals. It also keeps sensitive and personal information safe.

Anonymity

With a VPN you can browse the web anonymously. Now even if you are not doing anything scandalous, this has distinct advantages. Firstly, because you are anonymous then your information will be secure. 

Secondly, you can browse the internet in private. Normally your web browser tracks your cookies so that nothing is completely secret, tracking what sites you go to. This can then affect adverts you are shown as well as potentially pushing up prices of hotels and holidays when booking them, based on past browsing experiences. A VPN keeps your browsing history anonymous and secure and doesn't allow browsers to track you. So it's easier to grab a holiday bargain for one!

Streaming

Some online streaming channels are location specific. A VPN can allow you to watch your favourite local channels abroad. For example, did you know that the BBC Iplayer is not available outside of the UK?  A VPN can mask your location and make your location specific to the country you want. That means in practice you can set your computer's location to be from the UK, even if you are in another country and then BBC Iplayer will work. This is great if you want to catch up with a TV programme or event or if you are an Ex-Pat and you want to watch the channel you loved in the UK

Netflix is also different in various countries, so a VPN will allow you to access content in a different location, perhaps if you are on holiday, giving you more choice of programmes.

Business use

A VPN is great for sharing data with a group securely, as well as keeping sensitive information secure. This is particularly great for businesses. Data breaches can lead to fines and compensation claims so using a VPN makes good business sense. 

VPNs also give businesses the security to share their resources with employees and partners that are not based in the office at all times, allowing for flexibility of staff and remote working.

It's also cheaper to set up a VPN tha
n a physical private network so this can save a business money, and what business doesn't want to save money?!

So as you can see there are a number of advantages of getting a Virtual Private Network or VPN. If you want the reassurance of a secure network, can you really afford not to get one in this day and age?

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Wednesday, 13 February 2019

10 Email Marketing Do's And Don'ts

To have a successful business there are a number of things that are important.

Great quality products or an in-demand service is the first thing. Staff to make, sell and promote your products are the next thing. Then a marketing and promotion campaign for advertising and PR. This can include old school marketing such as leaflet distribution, newspaper and magazine advertising, as well as modern ways of advertising through a website to show your services and products, and perhaps sell your items. Another thing that is important is building a following on social media so that fans can see your products and offers. Many millions of businesses have a website and socials media these days and it's almost thought of as essential if you have a business. However, something that can often get overlooked is email marketing. 




Email marketing can be surprisingly effective if you grow your email list the right way. It's so important that your sign up form encourages people to opt-in to your emails. Give them a reason to sign up! Maybe that's the offer of special discounts and promotions, competition prizes, or content you won't get anywhere else. Look at segmenting your list for different purposes. Keep your newsletters and email promotions simply designed and eye-catching so people open your emails. Don't forget you have a captive audience! Here are 10 email marketing do's and don'ts to ensure your email marketing is always on point.

10 Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts - Infographic by Campaign Monitor
Source: 10 Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts by Campaign Monitor

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Monday, 11 February 2019

Improving the Exterior of Your Home

It’s worth remembering that you can add significant value to your home when improving the exterior of your home, but the work must be carried out to a high standard. However, there are certain home improvement projects that can add significantly more value than others. For example, these might include painting, render or even a new roof.



Whatever project you choose to undertake, it’s always best to walk the exterior of your home and adopt a different perspective, providing you with a more objective approach as to which changes should be made to the outside of the building in particular. You should consider exactly which parts of the house should be remodelled to add greater curb appeal.

Changing the Colour


Selecting a different colour scheme is probably the easiest way to transform the exterior of the house. Select colours that blend in with the overall theme of all the other houses in the neighbourhood. This does not mean your house has to completely blend in with everyone else’s, but you should be sympathetic to the overall colour scheme involved. If you are a bit more daring, then you can always opt for a series of complementary colours which can add an instant dramatic effect without being over the top in-your-face. Even a more mundane neutral colour can be accented with bright or dark complementary shades to achieve a bold yet not overpowering effect.

Monocouche Render

Monocouche render companies render your home with a type of decorative finish applied to the outside of your home. They are modern single coat renders which can be applied by hand or machine. Derived from the French and meaning mono or single layer. They can add a touch of class to your property providing both decoration and weather protection.

Roofing the House

It may be that the only thing that needs to be done to the exterior of your home is simply to have it re-roofed. This can (and should) be done by professionals, usually with just a few days of work. This particular change has the ability to alter the overall impact of the exterior of the home by selecting different roofing materials. For example, if the house has a shingle roof then why not consider a metal roof or architectural tile. Beware though, because before heavier roofing material (such as concrete tile) can be installed on an existing home, the roof system should be surveyed to ensure it can handle the load, and this can add significant cost to the overall project.

Decorative Touches

Adding shutters or window trims also make a dramatic impact on the aesthetic quality of the exterior of the home. Painting the porch might be all that is needed to add a decorative style to the front of the house, whereas, removing a clutter of landscaping, shrubs and bushes can quickly transform a garden and require nothing more than a bit of hard work to increase the value of your house.

There are many ways to improve the exterior of your home and help add value to it. The range of home improvement projects fall between easy do-it-yourself jobs and ones that requires the skills of a skilled tradesmen or contractor.


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The Benefits Of Online Couples Counselling

When a couple faces challenges in their relationship and feel they need help, they may decide to attend couples counselling. In recent years online therapy has become more popular and is a viable alternative to seeing a therapist in person and can really help get your relationship back on track.

Online therapy is, essentially the same service as provided in a therapists office but on the internet. In this article, I will look at the benefits of using an online therapist for couples counselling and to help resolve issues in a relationship.


Benefits of an online therapist




Privacy

Firstly, using online therapy through a reputable therapist can provide a high level of privacy and security. You can do it in the comfort of your own home, and no one will see you walking into a therapists office. All sessions are kept confidential in line with the therapist's code of conduct and kept securing on 

Comfort

Attending sessions in an office can be a stressful experience, being in your own environment can help you settle in, and open up quicker, making it easier to get to the bottom of your problems. Many people feel less intimated when talking to someone online than in person too, the lack of face-to-face communication can be a benefit if you are shy or intimidated easily.

You also do not have the added stress of getting to the sessions through traffic. 

Accessibility

Online counselling can happen any time of the day, within reason and can be completed across different time zones. This is very useful if you have a long distance relationship, live in a remote area, or don't want to see a therapist 'on your doorstep.'

Due to the nature of the work most online therapy sessions are super flexible, it is therefore very convenient and easy to attend,  perfect for those that work nights or shifts. 

If you are looking for a specialist in a certain area, for example, financial difficulties, adoption, or bringing up children then online therapy can bring the specialist closer to you.

Affordability 

Online therapy sessions are well priced, which is great for those that have a limited budget. This is often because overheads can be lower, a therapist may not need an expensive high street office. 

You also save on time getting to the therapist's office and having to take time off work, and you know what they say - time is money.

Documentation

Homework and information can be shared online at the touch on a button making everything very accessible too, and online therapy through live chat will give you documentation transcribed immediately. These transcripts can be useful to revisit what was said and to see how the relationship has improved over time.

As you can see there are many benefits of online couples counselling and this can really work whether you have been together 10 months, 10 years or more. Online couples counselling can be very useful to get your relationship back on track and should not be ignored as a therapy option that can really work. 

Let me know, would you try online couples counselling if your relationship was in difficulty?

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Sunday, 10 February 2019

Jana Reinhardt Jewellery Giveaway Ends 10/03

I must admit I like to support small businesses and craftspeople and we have some unique small businesses in the UK.  One such business is Jana Reinhardt Jewellery.  


Jana Reinhardt Jewellery is run by Jana herself and her husband Ross and was set up in 2006. The couple are both qualified goldsmiths and artisans who love creating unique pieces from their workshop in Worthing, West Sussex. Each piece is handmade, which is surprisingly rare these days, by a small professional team, using traditional techniques.

The jewellery is pretty and slightly quirky and includes many animal designs such as hummingbirds, unicorns, whales and frogs as well as tropical and flower designs. 

This pretty penguin necklace above is part of the Polar Nights collection inspired by Arctic creatures. Other designs in the range include polar bears and whales, much cuter embodied in jewellery than in real life!

This gorgeous penguin pendant is finely detailed, complete with a tiny beak and cute little flippers. It's highly polished, in sterling silver and comes complete with a matching sterling silver curb chain necklace. What I like about the chain is that it is adjustable so you can wear it at 16 or 18 inches (41 or 46cm).

This design above is the tiny polar bear necklace. Super cute, it can be ordered, like most of the designs in your choice of sterling silver, 24 ct gold plate or 24 ct rose gold on silver.  Again the chain is adjustable from 16inch to 18inches to suit your style. If you like the design but it's a little small, there is also a bigger polar bear available too that comes in gold vermeil and solid gold as well as silver.



Another gorgeous item is the whale pendant with the water spout. The water spout has pretty stones made of blue sapphires, iolite and topaz, adding a lovely sparkle to the pendant, making it perfect to wear out at night.

As you can see Jana Reinhardt has some lovely items of jewellery. They also make bespoke jewellery as well, so if you want something special made then this is the place to go.

Today on the blog I am giving you the chance to win a gorgeous penguin pendant in sterling silver worth £89. Entry is via the Gleam app below. It's easy to register and you can enter daily. Good luck!

Win a silver penguin necklace from Jana Reinhardt
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Friday, 8 February 2019

Letting Loose In Lille France




Sometimes you are blessed with a weekend to yourself without the little darlings. As much as it’s great fun for you all to go away as a family, occasionally it’s really special to plan something for just the two of you. If that’s the case, why not think about a trip to Lille France? It’s so easy from London, just hop on the Eurostar. It takes about an hour and a half, which is exactly the right amount of time to enjoy a pastry, a coffee and maybe a glass of fizz - perfect.

When it's just the adults that get to escape for the weekend, then my favourite way to start is with a thorough pampering. It can be tricky to find a truly relaxing spa in a city, but the Barierre Ribeauville resort is out of this world. Encompassing a state of the art spa, several classy restaurants and a world-renowned Casino, home to the PokerStars Festival, this resort was the perfect way to while away a dreamy couple of hours.


Feeling preened and pampered, your next port of call should be an easy lunch - save the fancy reservations for dinner time. La Cave aux Fioles is gorgeous, find it tucked away in the old town. The restaurant itself is ‘traditional’ in style with knick-knacks and antiques decorating the small dining rooms. There’s a small but well-chosen wine menu and the duck confit is a great way to properly fill up for an afternoon of shopping. The beef carbonnade is also rich and warm and wonderful (and a Flemish speciality, so one to tick off the list!)


If, like me, you’re also a shopaholic then, after lunch, you’re perfectly situated for a little retail therapy. The old town is home to all of the big retailers, but the charming little side streets have plenty of independent boutiques - as well as the top luxury brands. If you stumble into Hermès, try the perfume.

After an afternoon of mostly window shopping its time to get ready for dinner. Stay at L’Hermitage Gantois, which is a little bit naughty money wise, but so worth it. The hotel is absolutely stunning and decorated in a simple and elegant style, with marble bathrooms and sumptuous Persian rugs. If you can, try to book a room with a courtyard view, it costs a little bit more, but it is such a beautiful way to wake up.



After a quick freshen up, back out for dinner - I recommend making the most of every opportunity to eat, the food in Lille is fantastic! Try La Royale, a classic French bistro which uses only the freshest seasonal produce. Of course, only using very fresh produce means that the menu is small and constantly changing - a good sign, but difficult when it comes to recommending particular dishes! The highlights are the simple terrine, with crusty french bread and pickles. Following that try the cod cooked en papillote with leeks and a white wine sauce. A simple dish where the quality of the ingredients shine. Finish with a Merveilleux, a light whipped cream and biscuit concoction - scrumptious.




The next day should be dedicated to culture. We visited the Palais des Beaux Arts, which is often called the second museum of France, owing to its enormous size and incredible collection. Most pieces are from the 17th to 19th century and whilst a true art lover could easily spend days getting lost amongst the pieces in this collection, we spent just a couple of hours before moving on to more modern art. The ‘Lam’ as it's known, is home to an enormous collection of contemporary pieces and a sculpture park, which must be beautiful in warm weather. They always have events and exhibitions scheduled, with a particularly grand exposition of Alberto Giacometti’s work planned for later this year.

All of that art ought to more than fill up your final day, but please don’t board the Eurostar just yet, there is one more very important stop: Benoit’s Chocolate Shop. This cornucopia of sweets and chocolates is just incredible. Even if you just pop your head in to inhale the smells then it’s worth it, but of course, if you’ve left the children behind for the weekend, then a little box of goodies from here will certainly see you right back into their good books!

A weekend in Lille is full of great activities, shopping and culture, would you like to visit?

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Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Precious Pearls

There is nothing quite as classic, timeless and chic as a simple string of pearls or a pair of pearl drop earrings. They enhance any outfit and suit any occasion, from a professional business presentation to a sophisticated dinner party. They’re also a great traditional wedding gift or anniversary present, especially for a 1st, 12th or 30th wedding anniversary. Buwhere do pearls come from, and why have we been so in awe of them for so long?

Ancient beauty



Pearls have been captivating men and women for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks believed that they were the tears of their gods. The Chinese once thought that they fell from the sky during dragon fights, or that pearls were moonlight trapped in dewdrops. Julius Ceasar was even said to have invaded Britain to find them (though he didn’t go quite far enough north to Britain’s pearl beds on the River Tay).

The oldest pearl jewellery dates back to around 350BC, in what was then known as Persia. Known as the Susa pearls, the piece comprises a three string choker carrying 238 pearls. It was found in 1901 and has been on display in the Louvre ever since.

So just what is it about pearls that has cast such a spell for so long? Is it the unique lustre of the surface? Is it the rarity of these natural gems? Or is it the sense of adventure of finding a pearl in an oyster against all the odds? Perhaps it is the combination of all of these things that makes pearls the must-have adornment for royalty, the rich and the stars of Hollywood.

True Grit





Unlike gemstones and precious metal that must be mined from the ground, pearls can be found in both saltwater and freshwater lakes, seas and oceans all around the world. They are formed when grit gets into the shell of a mollusc. The creature then excretes a substance called nacre to protect itself from this irritant, which hardens in layers to form the pearl. The common misconception is that pearls grow from grains of sand, but they can be the result of a huge variety of debris, from tiny sea creatures to particles of shell. In cultured pearls, the irritant is usually a piece of shell from another oyster. This is introduced artificially into the recipient mollusc by hand. Cultured pearl shells can grow up to 20 pearls at a time, significantly reducing the rarity, and therefore the cost, of cultured pearl jewellery.


Rare gems 





Most pearls on the market these days are cultured or farmed, but historically, finding pearls took dedication, patience and mo
re than a little luck. In theory, any oyster can hold a pearl, but the odds are really stacked against you at a massive 12,000 to 1. To put that in perspective, you are nine times more likely to get the same number twice on the run when spinning the wheel at roulette, than you are to find a pearl in your shell.


That said, if you do find the right shell, it can be well worth the effort. The world’s largest pearl sold for a cool $62million in 2006. Known as the Pearl of Allah, it weighs in at over 6kg and is a quarter of a metre across. The largest so-called perfect pearl, La Peregrina, not only has a price tag of $11million but also has a fascinating history of owners, including Napoleon, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Taylor.

South Sea pearls

The rarer and more exotic a pearl, the higher its value. White and gold South Sea pearls are known for their exceptional lustre and their remarkable size, measuring up to 20mm or more. Black South Sea pearls, known as Tahitian Pearls, are also highly prized, although their name belies the huge range of mesmerising dark green and purple shades and tones that are available. Their unique colours and oily shine come from the volcanic chemicals in the Polynesian waters.

However, finding your pearls in the first place is only half the battle. Pearls have a huge natural variation in size and shape, lustre and colour and many carry natural flaws in their surface nacre. This means that you need to compare around 10,000 pearls just to find fifty that match. So if it wasn’t for cultured pearls, you would have to open a mind-boggling 120million molluscs just to make one perfect necklace. No wonder they have been held in such high esteem for so long.

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Monday, 4 February 2019

Planet Hollywood Review Disneyland Paris

In the heart of Disney Village, the dining and shopping complex next to Disneyland Paris is Planet Hollywood. This well-known restaurant chain lights up the sky with its neon signs and is packed full of movie memorabilia spanning two floors. As it was my son Jake's birthday when we were visiting Disneyland Paris recently, I decided to take him there and reached out to Planet Hollywood. This meal was complimentary and all opinions are my own.


We had timed it just right as we just made it to the restaurant around 7pm before everyone left the park after fireworks. We were taken to our seat, and we had a good view of the room, overlooking the balcony. 


Our server was great, unfortunately, we didn't catch his name but he had a London accent.


The dishes were a mix of the usual American / Tex-Mex food including burgers and steaks as well as salads, pasta and pizzas. I was impressed there was a gluten-free menu available so this is a good place to come if you follow a gluten-free diet. 

First, we ordered a coke float, which Jake enjoyed and just some water for me. 

For starters, Jake and I decided to share the nachos. On the menu, it said it was big enough to share between 2 to 3 of you and I must admit it was big!


They describe it as ' crispy corn tortillas piled high with shredded cheese served with pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. ' 

What we liked about the nachos was that the tortillas were warm and tasted fresh.  The toppings, however, were not as good as they could have been, The pico de gallo didn't have a lot of flavour and needed some seasoning and the cheese was super mild which was a shame. It just needed some zing, perhaps a topping of chillis would have helped.  If you have kids that don't like strong flavours though they would enjoy it.

For mains, I ordered the sirloin steak whilst Jake ordered the salmon teriyaki. Unfortunately, the salmon had run out so Jake went with the steak and prawn surf and turf combo instead. Jake's sirloin steak was described as '28-day grass-fed beef, chargrilled to order with a side of shrimps in a creole mustard sauce, mashed potatoes or fries and ratatouille.' Mine was the same without prawns.


Our steaks came out overcooked. Jake enjoyed his and said it was juicy, I ordered mine medium to well and it was very well done, no juiciness at all and dry. I do normally order it medium but heard that in France it often comes out rarer but this was not the case here.  

The fries were a mix of normal fries and curly fries, some with seasoning, some without. I think it would be better if they were all the same. The ratatouille served with it needed some seasoning and something to uplift the flavour. The prawns with Jake's dish were lovely though, nice and juicy with a hint of coriander. The creole mustard sauce was not overpowering, and only had a hint of mustard.


After our main courses I went to look at the movie memoribilia. 
I was impressed with the model of Arnold Swazenneger from the film Terminator. There was a couple of cool models around the restaurant. 



This was a model from the film Dracula, Gary Oldman played this character. A cool model if you have seen the film.


For dessert, we were getting pretty full but I managed to squeeze in a dessert plate of mini desserts called the Cafe Gourmand.

The Cafe Gourmand was very good. It consisted of raspberry sorbet which had a good sharpness, a mini Toblerone dessert cheesecake in a shot glass, a chocolate brownie and an espresso.  The Toblerone dessert was especially scrumptious and the chocolate brownie was rich and decadent, all topped off with crunchy balls of chocolate.  

The icing on the cake, so to speak, was when the dessert came out with a sparkler in it and the staff sang Happy Birthday to Jake. They then showed him on the big screen in the restaurant whilst announcing his birthday. I don't think Jake will ever speak to me again but it did make me laugh, and he took it in good humour. It's good to know they will help you celebrate a birthday like this.



Then it was time to ask for the bill. Although the meal was complimentary it would have come to 80 Euros.

To sum it up, Planet Hollywood is a cool restaurant experience for movie lovers. It would be great to see some new movie merchandise added and I think this is the plan in the future to update the restaurant. Whilst the food wasn't perfect, the desserts were a real highlight, the service was good and the food came quickly.  They also have a store attached where you can buy movie themed merchandise.   

Planet Hollywood Marne-La-Vallee
5 Disney Village

77700 Marne-la-Vallée Chessy
01 60 43 78 27
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Friday, 1 February 2019

Should You Consider Premarital Counselling Therapy?

Premarital counselling is becoming more popular in this day and age, but what exactly is premarital counselling and should you consider premarital counselling therapy?


What is premarital counselling therapy?

Premarital counselling therapy is suitable for anyone that is in a relationship that is not yet married but thinking of getting engaged or has become engaged. Premarital counselling gives you the chance to talk over issues that have come up or may come up in a relationship, the big important questions, and the smaller less so ones too. It is especially good where you have differing views. 

What sort of things can you discuss?

There usually are important questions you need to discuss especially so when you are thinking of getting married. You may have already discussed some of these but clarifying where you stand is a great idea.  These questions can relate to having children, religion, finances and careers for example. 

Some big questions




It's important to know where you and your partner stand on some of the big questions in life.


  • If you don't have children, do you want children? If you can't have children would you adopt or foster?
  • Do you share the same religion? If not could it be a problem and what will you do about it?
  • Who is financially responsible for certain bills? Will you have a shared bank account? Is the other person in any debt? If they are in debt, what are they doing about it?
  • Do you have any issues with the other persons family or friends? If so, can you look at ways to resolve this?
  • Are you happy in your jobs, would you move if you had to for work?
  • Where do you stand on politics and if you support different parties can you agree to disagree?


These questions are useful as a starting point.  Being open and honest at this important point in your relationship will lay the ground for a healthy relationship longterm. Premarital counselling can help resolve issues before they become a problem.

What does it cost?




Costs are per session and vary according to the practitioner. Often weekly sessions are agreed and 8 weeks is a typical plan, however, this varies according to need.  Typical costs in the UK can be £40-£60 a session.  

However, if you do not discuss these issues prior to marriage that the premarital counselling cost can be more than the monetary value and can impact on the relationship. Couples who do not talk, and work out their problems are less likely to stay together. In counselling therapy, you have the opportunity to talk and really listen to your partner, with the counsellor providing support and using appropriate questioning to help you come to resolutions together,  and that can only be a good thing.

Online counselling can be a cost-effective way of having premarital counselling but don't forget to check the qualifications of the counsellor. In the UK, look for someone that has had the relevant training and is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) or the National Counselling Society (NCS).


Would you use premarital counselling? What do you think of talking therapies?

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