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5 Steps To a Spotless Patio

5 steps to a spotless patio

It’s that time of year when the sun has started to make an appearance and we start to venture outside into the garden.  After a miserable winter there’s many jobs to attend to for our gardens to look ship shape but there’s one in particular that causes many people to reach for the cheque book and employ someone else to do it for them, cleaning the patio.  After a cold winter your patio may be covered in moss and lichen and looking far from its best.  But there’s no need to shell out on expensive patio cleaning companies, all of the required materials can be obtained at any well-stocked garden centre or DIY shop.  Follow these 5 simple steps and your patio will be looking super smart and ready for those summer barbecues in no time.

Step 1 – Preparation

It’s important that your patio is as clean as possible before you start work.  Start by giving it a thorough sweep with a stiff bristled broom. Removing any dirt or debris.  Trim back any plants growing around the edge of the patio and remove any furniture, plant pots or ornaments.

Step 2 – Get your hands on a good quality paving stone cleaner

Your local DIY shop or garden centre should stock a good selection of paving stone cleaners that are relatively inexpensive.  You are looking for a powerful, concentrated cleaner for removing stains and soiling such as algae, dirt, moss and stains.  If your patio is made of granite, it is important to make sure the product is suitable for granite paving stones as some can be particularly strong and leave stains on the pavers which is not what you are looking for.  Consult shop staff for advice and ensure you read the label carefully.  

Step 3 – Apply the paving stone cleaner

First things first, it’s important to ensure the patio is thoroughly wet so rinse the surface with a garden hose and sweep away any remaining dirt that this loosened by the water.  Let the patio air dry and while it is doing so refer to the instructions on the cleaning product.  

Fill a paint tray with cleaning solution and apply it liberally to each paving stone with a roller.  Start at the house side of your patio and work your way towards the edges making sure you apply an even coat to the entire surface.  Once you have coated each paving stone, leave the cleaning solution to soak into the stones for at least 15 minutes.

Step 4 – Pressure Wash

The easiest way to give your paving stones a thorough clean is by using a pressure washer.  Be careful not to apply the ‘narrow’ water jet to the paving stones as they will leave lines all over your lovely patio.  Use the ‘wide’, less powerful jet to rinse off the cleaning solution more thoroughly.  Once completely rinsed, allow the patio to dry for a few hours.  If you don’t have a pressure washer a good scrub with a wire brush or stiff broom and a rinse with the hose should suffice, but make sure you wear gloves and protective clothing.

Step 5 – Apply Stone Sealer

There are a number of stone sealers available depending on your patio type so consult your local DIY shop for advice.  An appropriate sealer will help protect the surface and restore it’s colour.  As with the cleaning solution, apply the sealer to each stone with a paint roller.  Allow it to completely dry before using the patio or returning your furniture.

Your patio should now be looking as good as new and ready for entertaining!

 

Written by Mike Pye

Top Tech For Better Time Management

Better Time Management

 

Modern life is hectic. There seems to be endless to do lists at home and at work and many of us feel that we are constantly spinning plates, trying our hardest not to let any of them fall to the ground. There are however a range of apps and tools that have been designed to help make life just a little bit easier, particularly if you feel like that your old fashioned diary, to do list or stack of post it notes just aren't effective for you any more.

To do list apps

There are dozens of both free and paid for to do list apps available and it can be a minefield trying to workout which ones are the best for you. Some are loaded with features while others seem bare and too simplistic to bother with. We’ve done the hard work for you with our top 5 to do list apps that have a range of features and allow you to get things done more efficiently. Whether you need to create a shopping list, manage multiple work projects or tick off your personal or professional to dos, these apps are for you.

Google Keep

Key features: Set location or time based reminders, share lists with others and watch jobs get ticked off, filter and search for notes, record images and voice notes, operates across phone, tablet or computer.

Any.do

Key features: Clean design, easy-to-use design, sync tasks across devices, Chrome extension, intuitive reminders, in app actions including call, text and email, attach almost any type of file.

Wunderlist

Key features: Organize and share your to-do, set due dates and reminders, assign to-dos, share your lists and work collaboratively on projects, works across all major devices, use hashtags to add context, print your list.

Todoist

Key features: Manage tasks and projects anywhere, available online or offline and across 10+ platforms including mobile devices, web browsers, inboxes, and more. Share unlimited tasks with anyone and collaborate in real-time on shared projects and goals.

Remember The Milk

Key features: Set reminders by location, collaborate and share with others, available across most devices and operating systems, create sub tasks, drag and drop reordering of tasks, colour coded tagging, task recurrence options and much more.

File Sharing

There are many apps that allow you to transfer content from your computer to other devices including Dropbox, WeTransfer, Sharefile, Google Drive or Onedrive. Most are free and easy to use and allow you to share important files on the go.


Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a brilliant way of exploring ideas, planning a project, or developing a plan. It’s also a great productivity technique and there are a range of apps and free software that help you to get more organized by focusing your thoughts. Be sure to check out Xmind, MindJet, Coggle, Freemind, Mindnode and Mind42.

Project Management

Project management software can help you work more efficiently no matter the size of project you’re working on. If you use emails to communicate with your clients, send documents or work on multiple to-do lists, project management software can help you be much more efficient. Having all your tasks ordered correctly and assigned to the correct person will help you be more organised and ensure tasks are completed on time. You can also communicate better with your team and quickly keep your clients informed on progress. Popular project management software to explore further include Basecamp, Teamwork Projects, ActiveCollab, Zoho Projects and Trello.

 

With so much technology available there’s always a solution to improving your time management. Stay tuned for more productivity advice with the the Time For Your blog.


Written by Mike Pye

Ten Tips For The Perfect Summer Barbecue

National Barbecue Month

The weather may not always agree but May is National Barbecue Month so in this week’s Time For You blog we are celebrating the great British barbecue!  Barbecues are great social occasions but all too often they are ruined by charcoaled sausages, undercooked chicken or the lingering taste of lighter fluid.  We’ve created the definitive guide to help transform your summer barbecues into gastronomic delights.

1.  Get the right barbecue

Though there’s nothing wrong with gas barbecues, charcoal really is the best as it gives you a great smokey taste to give your cooking extra flavour.  It’s also important to ensure you choose a barbecue with a lid as it will help you keep a consistent temperature and lock in flavour.

2.  The importance of marinades

Marinades bring a new level to barbecue cooking.  They help flavour the meat, create a delicious sticky outer coating and help protect it from the searing heat. Whether your marinade is simple olive oil and lemon juice or more complex barbecue or oriental flavours, it’s best to leave your meat to marinate overnight to ensure it really penetrates the flesh.  Most importantly, make sure you set some marinade aside for basting your meat every 10 minutes while it cooks.  This will help keep the meat moist, trap the smokey flavours and create a delicious, caramelized stickiness.

3.  Don't forget the veggies!

Many of us are guilty of thinking barbecues are only for burgers, sausages and steaks, and if we’re adventurous, chicken.  But don’t forget almost anything can benefit from the fiery smokiness of a barbecue.  Fish is delicious and vegetables take on a whole new taste and flavour.  Peppers, courgettes, carrots, aubergines and many more are great on the barbecue particularly when finished with a drizzle of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  

4.  Light the barbecue before the guests arrive

Firelighters or lighter fluid may be a quick way to light your barbecue but they can leave a nasty taste to your food.  Light your barbecue naturally using scrunched up newspaper with kindling on top.  When your kindling is on fire add a few lumps of charcoal.  Make sure all this is done way in advance so your guest arrive to the smokey smell of a hot barbecue and a few treats already grilling.

5.  Get organised

It’s important to be organised to ensure you can control the cooking of your food whilst making sure that cooked and raw meat is kept separate.  Make sure you have the right equipment, a good pair of tongues is invaluable!  Tongs give you the most control, and reduce the chances of dropping anything between the grills.  You’ll also need a good fish slice and a pair of oven gloves to make sure you do not get burned.  If you like cooking whole fish then a clippable fish grill is perfect.

6.  Bring your meat to room temperature

Make sure that your take raw meat out of the fridge around 20 minutes prior to cooking.  Bringing the meat to room temperature will help make sure it cooks through thoroughly, rather than being cold in the middle and burned on the outside.

7.  Grill, don’t burn!

The biggest mistake most people make when barbecuing is starting to cook when the grill is too hot.  Cooking when the coals are smoking or even worse, producing flames is a sure fire way to burnt food.  Here’s a simple way to find out how hot your barbecue is:

Hold your hand about 12cm/5 inches above the grill and see how long you can hold it there comfortably.

  • 6 seconds = low heat (ideal for food that requires low, slow cooking like ribs or pulled pork.
  • 4 seconds = medium heat (best for cooking chicken, sausages or fish that require cooking all the way through)
  • 2 seconds = Very hot (good for steaks that require searing on the outside, but kept medium rare inside)
  • 0 seconds = Too hot to cook!

8.  Control the heat

You want to be able to keep some food warm while the rest is grilling and the only way you can do that is by controlling the heat of your barbecue to ensure that some parts are hotter than others.  The easiest way is to divide your barbecue in two with the hot coals on one side and none on the other.  The empty side will still have enough heat to keep your food warm without continuing to cook it.


9.  Make sure meat is cooked through

To test for ‘doneness’, use a small sharp knife to cut into the centre of the meat.  If the flesh is cooked the knife should be piping hot to the touch and the juices of the meat should clear.

10.  It’s always best to rest!

Resting meat is one of the most important parts of barbecue cooking.  Meat directly off the barbecue will be tough and the juices will be released as soon as you cut into it.  If you leave the meat to rest in a warm place for a few minutes, covered in foil, it will retain its juices and relax the meat fibres, making it much more tender and juicy.

 

 

Written by Mike Pye




 

The internet’s best cleaning hacks revealed!


We all love having a clean and tidy house but who has the time to get it as perfect as we would like and keep it that way? Well we have scoured the internet for some of the best cleaning hacks.

Cleaning without chemicals: “I make up a 50:50 ratio of vinegar and water. You can wipe anything off with zero scrubbing or effort. Come to think of it. baking soda, vinegar, and or lemon juice can clean all things ever created!”


Tips for a spotless microwave: “Microwave a container filled with water and a squeeze of lemon for 2 minutes or so before cleaning it. It loosens up the gunk and makes it an easy wipe up to clean.”


Short, sharp cleaning shifts: “I set an alarm on my phone for 10 minutes every day right when I get home from work and clean as much as I can in those 10 minutes (dirty dishes into the dishwasher or clean ones away, take out the recycling, sweep the floor, make my bed, wipe down the counters...small things like that). It keeps the place tidy in between my weekly "big" cleans. 10 minutes is a really small commitment, so I can really make myself do it every day, and if I do it right when I get home from work I don't get too lazy like I would if I sat down first.”

Removing pet hair: “The best way to remove pet hair from furniture is to put on some cheap rubber kitchen gloves and wipe against the grain. This collects all the hair and other dirt neatly and you can vacuum it right up. It’s way more effective than lint rollers or only vacuuming. I just cleaned my whole car doing this, and while it takes some time and effort, it's totally worth it. It's no longer embarrassing to have people in my car!”


Newspaper tricks: “I use glass cleaner and newspaper to clean mirrors and windows. The newspaper doesn't leave streaks or lint behind, unlike microfiber or paper towels.”


Sock solutions: “Use your old socks to clean sinks and bath tubs. Put a sock over your hand like a glove and scrub the smooth surfaces and little crevices.”


Baby wipe winners: “I've recently discovered using baby wipes for dusting. So fast, and easy.”


Magic mopping: “When mopping timber floors mop in the direction of the planks, this makes any streaks less noticeable. Use hot water poured straight from the kettle to fill your mop bucket, this also helps eliminate streaks and floors dry in record time.”

Mouldy grout solved: “I swear by this. I squeegee baking soda into the grout lines, then moisten all the baking soda with hydrogen peroxide in a misting bottle. wait 20 minutes, then scrub quickly with an old tooth brush and then clean any residue with a damp sponge. “

1 fix wonders: “Every time you leave the room, fix one thing. Pick up whatever trash is there, whatever dishes are out, straighten one thing, dust one thing, whatever.”

Don’t forget one way to spend less time cleaning is to find someone reliable to do it for you. Time For You’s network of reliable, affordable and referenced house cleaners are nationwide. Find out if there is a Time For You house cleaner near you.

Written by Mike Pye

10 signs you’re suffering from stress

 

Stress is a condition caused by an inability to cope with mental or emotional pressures. It could be work that’s getting you down, money problems or relationships. Whatever the cause, stress is a horrible condition and can affect anyone. What is often clear though is that it affects people in many different ways; from physical signs to changes in behaviour, emotional symptoms to affecting cognitive health.

Our bodies are designed to deal with and react to stress in what many call our ‘fight or flight’ response. Stress can be positive, keeping you alert and ready to avoid danger but it becomes a negative force however when you face continuous stressors without rest. This allows stress related tension to build up and consume you.
10 warning signs to looks out for

1. Are you suffering from memory problems? Or perhaps finding it hard to concentrate?
2. Have you started making poor decisions or are you questioning your judgement?
3. Are you worrying about things constantly or have anxious or racing thoughts?
4. Do you feel negative about situations, depressed or generally unhappy?
5. Are you irritable, short tempered, moody, agitated or unable to relax?
6. Do you find yourself having unusual aches and pains or frequent colds?
7. Have you noticed changes to your body such as infrequent or frequent bowel movements or a feeling of nausea?
8. Have you felt chest pain or a rapid heartbeat?
9. Are you eating too much or too little? Or have you started drinking or smoking more than usual?
10. Have you seen changes in your sleep patterns? Are you feeling constantly tired or finding it hard to sleep?


If you have answered yes to any of these questions, or know someone who is showing any of these symptoms, it could be a sign stress is the caused. Many symptoms of stress are also symptoms of other medical problems, so to be on the side it is important to seek medical advice.

For information about stress and how to deal with it, there are more great resources on the Time For You blog such as our 10 Simple Strategies To Combat Stress and 5 Ways To relieve Stress In The Workplace.

 

Written by Mike Pye

Put your feet up…It’s National No Housework Day!

 

You may feel that you know someone, perhaps in your family, that thinks every day is ‘No Housework Day’! But did you know that April 7th is the official celebration of National No Housework Day? If you ever needed the opportunity to put your feet up and put all those boring chores to one side, April 7th is it. Perhaps indulge in some beauty treatments, go for a long morning run or spend some time with the family. Whatever you choose just make sure you make the most of it and use your time wisely to do anything but housework!
If there’s one quote that should summarise your approach to No Housework Day it’s this one; “today I will be cleaning, by that I mean drinking wine and spraying everything with fabreze!”


Plan ahead

If you’re a real clean freak make sure you get all those little jobs and must do chores done in advance so you can fully relax on Thursday without worrying about that pile of dishes or floor that needs hoovering.

How to Celebrate No Housework Day

  • Put those feet up! Whether you indulge in a movie marathon or have a date with your favourite box set, switch on, tune in and chill out.
  • Get out of the house. Enjoy a long walk in the countryside or a day out at the beach.
  • Hit the shops. If retail therapy is your thing, then what better time to go on a spending spree.
  • Take a relaxing bubble bath or a dip in the hot tub with a glass of your favourite bubbly.
  • Get lost in a book. With all that free time pick up a best seller and get lost in another world.
  • Treat yourself to a spa day. Whether you prefer a massage, a manicure or just relaxing in a hot steam, indulge yourself for the day.
  • Let someone else do all the work, treat yourself to lunch and dinner at your favourite restaurants.
  • Why not get together with all your friends and host a No Housework Day celebration?

However, you decide to spend the day, make sure you relax. You deserve it! Tell the family you’re taking the day off. Until April 8th that is!

7 light hearted jokes for No Housework Day

  1. Smith goes to see his supervisor. "Boss," he says, "we're doing some heavy house-cleaning at home tomorrow, and my wife needs me to help with the attic and the garage, moving and hauling stuff."
    "We're short-handed, Smith," the boss says. "I can't give you the day off."
    "Thanks, boss," says Smith. "I knew I could count on you!"
  2. Folding laundry with a toddler is like trying to straighten a desk full of papers while a fan blows on it.
  3. Thought about cleaning the house, then I thought, what’s the house done for me lately?
  4. Instead of cleaning I just watched an episode about hoarders, I didn’t realise how clean my house was!
  5. Our house is not messy, we just like obstacle courses.
  6. I get more cleaning done in 10 minutes before guests arrive than I do in a week
  7. Cleaning is just putting stuff in less obvious places

Don’t forget, every day could be No Housework Day with Time For You. Find out how we can help you get back that most precious of commodities, TIME, with our network of referenced, reliable and high quality house cleaners.

Written by Mike Pye

4 Easter themed activities to enjoy with the kids

With the Easter holidays just around the corner, you may already be scratching your head as to how to entertain the children for four entire days. Here are some excellent suggestions for spending some quality time with the family this bank holiday.

 

1 – Host your own Easter egg hunt

Easter egg hunts are a fun way to involve children of all ages. Simply strategically stash your eggs in safe areas around your garden, or indoors if it’s raining.  You can even invite friends and family around to get involved too, just make sure that you try and level the playing field by having separate hunts or colour coded eggs for the youngsters.  That way tantrums can be avoided!

 

2 – Get stuck in with Easter themed crafts

There are a million different types of crafts that you can make for Easter but one of the most popular is to decorate hard-boiled eggs. You can paint them, dye them, even knit a woolly hat for them if you desire, whatever you think will be the most fun! 

 
 
 
 3 - Bake some hot cross buns

Hot cross buns are an Easter classic and a lovely treat for breakfast or lunch. Baking is always an enjoyable experience for children and adults and the tastes, textures and smells are likely to make it a memorable one too.

 

4 - Get out of the house

The weather is never easy to predict here in the UK, but if it happens to be a sunny Easter weekend then there is likely to be plenty of things out and about to see and do.  Visit TripAdvisor or pick up a copy of your local newspaper to see what activities are taking place nearby to your home.

 

Related articles:

FREE Family Half Term Fun

Are you looking for some for some free and fun ways to entertain the family this half term?  Then look no further!  Time For You have put together our top 10 thrifty tips with ideas to keep your family entertained in any weather.

 

 

Written by Mike Pye

 

 

Cheat your way to Easter Sunday lunch

 

 

Like Christmas, Easter Sunday is the perfect occasion to get the family together for some quality time.  The bank holiday allows everyone to relax and if the sun is shining, what better activity than an afternoon easter egg hunt with the children?  We all love the opportunity to share some fun time with the family, but for many, feeding the 5000 is a real chore and for some it fills them with dread.  We have put together a handy cheat sheet to take the sweat out of preparing Sunday lunch, so you can make the most of your time with the family rather than slaving over a hot stove.

 

  1. Never wash a chicken.  Washing the bird spreads germs around your kitchen.  If you cook it properly any bacteria will be killed any way.  This both saves you time and avoids the risk of food poisoning!

  2. Work smart and multi task.  Bring your chosen meat to room temperature before cooking.  While it is doing so use the time to prepare your vegetables and accompaniments.

  3. Let the family serve themselves.  Plating up in the kitchen both adds time and risks food getting cold.  Better to serve hot food to the table in bowls or on platters for guests to help themselves.

  4. Super quick gravy. Scrape the bottom of the tin you roasted your meat in, dislodging all the stuck on bits, and pan juices. Put it on the heat and add half a handful of flour and some water. Then stir and stir and stir until it goes from lumpy to the perfect gravy.

  5. Cook everything together.  A large roasting tray will save you valuable time and effort.  Thinly slice some potatoes onions and root vegetables, enough to almost fill your roasting tin. Layer them in the tin with some butter or oil. Use a cake rack to rest your meat of choice on top of the vegetables. Pour half a mug of water over the vegetables and as the whole thing cooks, the vegetables will cook in the fat and juices from the meat and will be delicious.

  6. Get the kids involved.  They can help with the the easy but time-consuming stuff like peeling or grating. It keeps them busy and they will be happy to have helped make lunch!

  7. Get ahead with your preparation.  If you do all your time consuming jobs the day before such as preparing your veg, you can spend valuable time with your family instead of being stuck in the kitchen.

  8. Ask for help! There is no need to slave away on your own when there are plenty of spare hands around.  Many hands make light work!

  9. Have a late lunch.  If you have more time to prepare it will definitely reduce those stress levels!

  10. Avoid extra washing up! Boil veg together or use disposable roasting tins, which you can simply throw away when you’ve finished with them.  

 

Struggling for lunch ideas?  Don’t miss our recent blog post on seasonal fruit and vegetables for some great ideas on how to incorporate Spring’s delicious produce in your meal.

 

Written by Mike Pye

 

 

Reducing stress - the key to a happy life?

Sunday 20th March marks the International Day Of Happiness.  This really got us thinking here in the Time For You office about that age old, $1million dollar question, what is the key to happiness?  We had lots of ideas from spending time with the family to buying a new pair of shoes!  Everyone agreed however that to be happy one needs a life without stress and anxiety.  So, with that in mind we thought we would share with you our guide to reducing stress.

 

What is stress?

 

When you feel unable to cope with mental or emotional pressures, you may sometimes develop the symptoms of stress.  Stress can be caused by a wide range of life’s pressures but is most commonly caused by work, money problems or relationships.  All people react differently to these pressures, what one person find stressful, another may find motivating.

 

Why is it bad

 

Stress affects how you deal with these pressures and can have a number of symptoms including sleep problems, a loss of appetite, an inability to concentrate, acting unreasonably, drinking more or just simply worrying constantly.  Some may feel medical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tensions or dizziness. These symptoms are caused by hormones released in your body and cause what is often called our “fight or flight” response.  If you are constantly under stress these hormones remain in your body resulting in the symptoms described above.

 

10 Simple strategies to combat stress

 

1. Mellow music

This might sound really simple but if a stressful situation is taking over your thoughts try taking a break to concentrate on peaceful music instead.  Whether you listen to classical music or another genre you find mellow and relaxing, music has a positive effect on your brain and body and has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the hormones linked to stress.

 

2. Eat well

When we are too busy or overworked it can affect our diet as we tend to grab whatever is most convenient to eat.  This food is often a ready meal, convenience food or sugary, fatty snack foods used as a quick pick-me-up. Try to plan ahead to ensure you are getting plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet.  Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as tuna or mackerel and nuts have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress.

 

3.  Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins that can improve your mood very quickly.  You don’t have to flog yourself in the gym to receive the benefits of exercise.  A short walk around the office or a breath of fresh air can help immediately relieve a stressful situation.  

 

4.  Sleep it off

When you are stressed you often get into a vicious cycle of poor sleep.  Lack of sleep however can also be a key cause of stress.  Try to make sure you are getting 8 hours sleep per night which may mean changing your schedule.  Try to avoid watching TV or using phones/lap tops an hour before you go to sleep as this can stimulate your brain, making it more difficult to switch off.

 

5.  Be ‘mindful’

There are many relaxation techniques that can have a positive effect on reducing your stress levels.  Yoga, meditation and tai chi are all ‘mindfulness’ techniques combining physical and mental exercises to help you relax and can prevent stress in the first place.

 

6.  Lean on a friend

Taking a break to talk through your situation with a friend can be reassuring and help you put everything into perspective.    

 

7.  Talk yourself through it

Sometimes just talking yourself through the problem rationally can help.  Identify what is making you stressed and methodically go through how to complete the task at hand.  

 

8.  The power of laughter

As with exercise, laughter releases endorphins which both improve your mood and decrease the production of cortisol and adrenaline in your body, the hormones that cause stress.  Spend time with friends that make you laugh with or catch up on a box set of your favourite comedy.

 

9.  Ditch the caffeine

Caffeine may give you a quick lift but it also causes a short-term spike in blood pressure which can affect your adrenaline levels.  Opt for caffeine free drinks such as green tea, it contains healthy antioxidants and amino acids that can calm and sooth your nervous system.

 

10.  Don’t forget to breathe

 

Deep breathing can have a real impact on reducing your stress levels as it both oxygenates your blood and helps clear your mind.  Try 3 to 5 minute breathing exercises, breathing in and out slowly and deeply until you feel calm.

 
Written by Mike Pye