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Are SEO Agencies Still Relevant in 2017 and Beyond?

There’s no denying that SEO is hard, more so for an amateur. Nonetheless, for you to make any meaningful gains with your website, you must master the art of SEO. What if you don’t have the time? What if you just can’t wrap your head around SEO and everything that comes with it?

Well, that’s when you need to seek the services of an SEO agency. So, yes, SEO agencies will remain relevant in the years to come. But, what exactly will a professional SEO company help you (and your business) achieve?

You’ll get a Professionally Set up Website

As competition increases, your website’s has to be appealing to the visitors. The thing is, visitors need to know where to get what on your site. It has to be easy to navigate and responsive. The layout has to be easy to follow. Most importantly, an SEO agency will help give your site the exposure it needs to scale through the rankings. As a result, your website will attract more traffic and leads.

You’ll Benefit from the Experience of the Agency

Okay, you can decide to set up your website and learn how to rank it. If you’re a beginner, it may take you months to master the art depending on your ability to process information. An SEO agency will help speed up the process. Even better, it will help you avoid the common mistakes armatures commit when trying to rank their sites.

It is worth noting that not every SEO agency will deliver what it promises. You should, therefore be careful with who you trust to run your SEO campaign. Make sure that you choose a company with years of experience and excellent ratings. And you don’t have to spend lots of cash. You can read here about what it takes to find an affordable SEO agency more so if you’re on a tight budget.

You’ll Focus on Other Aspects of your Business

As stated, SEO is time-consuming. Thus, when you hire someone else to take care of it, you can shift your attention to growing other areas of your business.

In conclusion, it is even better if the company offers copywriting services. That way, you don’t have to look for writers for fresh content on your site. All you’ll need to do is to supply the agency with the keywords or topics, and you’re good to go.

first aid kit


5 Items Your Home Emergency Kit Needs

Disasters can happen at any time. Every family needs to be prepared in the event of a major power outage, storm or other event. While many families put off creating a disaster preparedness plan, there is no time like the present to get started.


Aside from writing out contingency plans for every type of disaster, homeowners should put together a small emergency kit to help them get through troubled times. In many cases, your emergency kit is going to consist of things you already own. This means there is no excuse not to know where these items are.


If you aren’t sure what items belong in an emergency kit, read this guide to get more information.


Flashlights, Lanterns, and Candles

Light is incredibly important. Whether you are without power for a few minutes or for a few weeks, you will need to be able to see in your dark house. Most families include a single flashlight and a few extra batteries in their kits, thinking that their smartphones will provide them with all the light they need. The problem is, batteries die after a few hours. If you are without power for a long period of time, you could wind up using up your light sources on the first night. Instead, pick up a few candles and a lighter at the store. Manual crank flashlights and oil lanterns also make much better alternatives to traditional flashlights.


Smartphone Battery Pack and Charging Cable

If disaster strikes and you’re at 1%, you might not be able to use a wall socket to charge your phone and call for help. Having a fully-charged extra battery pack and cable with your emergency supplies could make all the difference. If you live with family, consider including a pack for each member.


Air Compressor

Transportation can be vital if you are trying to evacuate your home. Whether you are escaping on bicycle or by car, you don’t want to risk tire problems. If the whole town is without electricity, your local gas station probably isn’t going to have an available pump. Not only are air compressors great for everyday use, small portable designs can go right next to the disaster kit in your home. You have to understand the details to realize just how important and versatile portable air compressors can be.


First Aid Kit

The first aid kit is something that every family knows to include, but few people ever do. A package of bandages and a bottle of aspirin can be helpful, but it certainly isn’t the same thing as a first aid kit. Don’t rely on pre assembled kits to get the job done. Grab a small box or bag and fill it with bandages, peroxide, medical gauze, safety pins, plastic gloves, tweezers and a small sewing kit. If there is room, a full-size bottle of aspirin or ibuprofen is recommended, but be mindful of expiration dates.



If there is an emergency, you need to be able to eat food and drink water. Selecting a few non-perishable goods, whether they be cans of soup or freeze-dried camping rations, and including them in your kit is a great idea. Keep a few gallons of purified drinking water and a rain catching kit just in case. Make sure you have a few days’ worth of supplies for each family member so you don’t have to venture out of the home if conditions aren’t safe.


Where to Put Your Emergency Kit

An emergency kit can go anywhere in the home, but make sure each family member knows exactly where it is. Many people keep their kits in the garage, as it makes it easy to use the air compressor or flashlight and then put it back. It also makes it easy to grab these crucial items if you are leaving the home in a hurry.

While it can be difficult to think about what we will do in the event of an emergency, it is important to be prepared. No one sees disasters coming, so it is better to build a kit and not need it. Make sure you and your loved ones are ready for anything with a disaster preparedness kit.



Gaming Mice Reviews Based On Data (From Amazon)

When it comes to gaming accessories, a lot of the decision-making comes down to your preferences. And no accessory is more important to a PC gamer than the mouse. Are you left-handed? Do you have expensive taste? Does size matter? Are you brand loyal? Do you prefer style over function or the other way around? All excellent questions that will help narrow down your search to the best mouse for your needs. We perused Amazon’s catalog of gaming mice to find the top five based on category and rating. Check them out below. If you’re looking for other choices, check out Armchair Empire’s Top 5 of 2017.

Average Rating

Based on most reviews and average 5-star rating, the EUKYMR Wired Computer Gaming Mouse with LED Optical USB hits the top of the chart. However, this is currently unavailable on Amazon’s site. Uniquely designed with a sleek size and stylish LED lighting, reviewers claim this mouse is perfect for the price range. Designed for right-handed gamers, this mouse leaves reviewers excited to utilize the extra buttons for plus/minus, forward/backward control. The ergonomic design and sliding rollers are one of the most highly praised features of the mouse. This product has 100% 5-star rating on Amazon. Want even more proof that it’s one of the best? The product only first appeared on Amazon on June 25th, and has already sold out, with 248 5-star customer reviews.

Want proof that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be? None of those reviews are verified purchases. Take that however you wish.

Current Price: Unavailable. But it could be restocked soon. The brand also turns up results on eBay.

Coming in second place is the EUKYMR Gaming Mouse Backlit Wired optical Gaming Mouse. With a price of $39.99. Also with 100% 5-star reviews, this mouse has similar boasts in the comments of its 225 reviewers, but has no verified purchases. Which means, coming in third place is The Optical Wireless Mouse by LseaM. For a price of $10.99, you can afford to take a risk on the third-place mouse on Amazon. With a 100% 5-Star rating, unlike the first and second place top reviewed mice, this product actually has 31 verified purchases of its 63 reviews. Hopefully you noticed, however that this is a wireless mouse. The top two best rated mice were wired, but, the verified purchase reviewers of this product claim that there is virtually no lag, and that the accuracy is amazing for a wireless mouse.

Amazon’s Choice

Think of an Amazon’s Choice product as the most well-rounded choice in the market. It is highly rated, a great price, and if available to ship immediately. Unlike our top-rated options from the previous category, the chances of being highly satisfied with this product are greater because you won’t have buyer’s remorse from spending too much money, or feel cheated if when you get the product it doesn’t meet your expectations (as you can tell, I’m awfully skeptical of high-rated products with no verified purchases).

Our Amazon’s Top Choice product is the HAVIT HV-MS672 Ergonomic Wired Mouse, with 7 LED colors, and 6 buttons, this product comes in at $20 for a regular price, but only $7.99 if you’re a Prime member. With free one-day shipping, you could be plugged in and playing right away. Blowing our competition away in the previous category, this product has a whopping 3,239 out of 3243 verified purchases. The average rating for this product t is 4.1 out of 5 stars (59% of reviewers left a 5-star review. A disgruntled buyer claimed that they bought two of the mice and they flat out didn’t work. Havit responded to remind the customer that the product has a 1-year warranty and that this case is rare, but they do have a no-return policy, which means you’ll have to use that warranty if you are one of the few who receive a non-working product.

The mouse has an amazing design and looks really cool. One of the best draws to the product is that you’ll have it the next day you purchase through Amazon. Many reviewers enjoyed the ergonomic design and its response time. Check it out for yourself–with high marks from reviewers, and Amazon backing the product, chances are you’ll be pleased with your decision.

Highest Price

It wouldn’t be fair for me to list off the top-priced items as they appear on Amazon, unless any of your are interested in paying $4000 for a mouse who’s newer model counterpart is only $50. Maybe it’s just me, but if you have that much money laying around, you might want to invest it something more worthwhile. There are cheaper products on the market that work just as well. Troll me if I’m wrong.

Scrolling down a bit and you’ll find products ranging from $300 to $800, all with only a few available, most from third-party sellers. Keep scrolling and you’ll find the Logitech G9x Programmable Laser Gaming Mouse with Precision Grips. For Prime members this price comes in at $238 and free one-day shipping. This mouse has interchangeable grips to find the best fit for your preferences, is programmable up to five ready-to-play profiles, and has lighting options to match your mouse to the rest of your system. Another bonus this product is verified by reviewers to work well on Windows 8 and 10. With 4.4 out of 5 stars and 490/490 verified purchase reviews, this is the best mouse on the list, if you’re looking to shell out some cash.

Bonus: Left-Handed Mouse

If you’re one of the many left-handed gamers who feel ostracized by, literally, everyone and every product, have no fear. I haven’t forgotten you. The Razer Naga Left Handed MMO Gaming Mouse is a wired gaming mouse and has 12 programmable thumb buttons, one-size-fits-all design for usability, and is responsive to your moves with an 8200dpi 4G laser. The mouse can be wired, or charged and used wireless. Priced at $79.99 with free one-day shipping for Prime customers, this product is a great buy, for a little extra cash. All 1,028 reviews are verified purchases, and the product has a middle-range of average positive reviews. At 3.9 out of 5 stars, most people enjoyed this mouse, while others were not sold on the one-size-fits-all design. Of the displeased reviewers, the consensus was that the size was too big and uncomfortable. Although many of the negative reviews claim that customer support was not helpful when they reached out, every reviewer had a comment from the company apologizing and seeking to make things right. All in all, this mouse seems like a great option for the south-pawed of the gaming world.

Need more choices? Armchair Empire reviewed and tested 41 and picked the 5 Best Gaming Mice of 2017. Check these out and compare them to what you see here.


The benefits and drawbacks of WiFi

Nowadays, everyone wants to be connected to the internet. Especially the millennials cannot imagine themselves without being connected to their favorite social media accounts. They keep updating their profiles with their photographs and news about their day. In fact, some people tend to exaggerate since even when they go out with their friends, they ask for the Wi-Fi password of the place they are in.

But, how many people do actually know and understand what Wi-Fi is? The answer is simple. Most people do not even know what Wi-Fi means. That is really ironic since you can use the internet (and thus the Wi-Fi) in order to find information on almost anything!

In this article, we will try to present the most important benefits and drawbacks of Wi-Fi in order to help you realize if it is actually good or bad for you and your everyday life.

Let’s start with the benefits of Wi-Fi:

  1. Easy Access

As the title suggests, connecting to a Wi-Fi network is really easy and it does not require any technical knowledge. Once the initial setup is in place, all you need to do is find your desired network and connect. Even when you are travelling or when you are in a café, it is really easy to connect to their Wi-Fi network. Just ask for their password.

  1. It does not cost much

The great thing with the Wi-Fi is that the initial setup does not cost much. In fact, most service providers will give you for free the router that you will need for your setup. Then the fee that you pay every month is relatively small considering that you can connect as many devices as you want.

  1. Productivity

After the introduction of internet, it is not necessary to be in office in order to work. You can be wherever in the world you like. Especially with the use of Wi-Fi it is possible to work in your favorite environment. Of course this increases your productivity since you can work from your convenient location.

  1. You can connect many devices simultaneously

As said before, you can connect to your Wi-Fi as many devices as you want. Of course this will have an effect on your speed, but still it is a great benefit. Imagine how much it would cost you to have a separate Wi-Fi connection for every device you own in your house! The cost would be really big anddeterring.

Now, let’s see some of the drawbacks of Wi-Fi:

  1. Limited radius of action

As you probably know if you have used Wi-Fi at least once in your life, the range of Wi-Fi is limited. With a standard equipment the typical range of a common network is only a few tens of meters. In fact, a typical home router with Wi-Fi in the room has a limited radius of action of up to 45 meters. In most houses, this range is more than ok, but if you have a big house with a yard, the simple router does not cover your needs.

  1. Security

For those who use Wi-Fi in public areas, the news is not so good. Wireless networks usually use the common encryption methods that are known to have major security weakness. Thus, you cannot actually know that you are 100% safe. This is really important for those who perform their financial transactions online since they can be potentially hacked.

  1. Quality Issues

As said above, one of the great disadvantages of Wi-Fi is that it has a limited range. Another issue, related to that is the fact that at high density Wi-Fi points that operate in the same channel, which usually happens apartment buildings and cafeterias that are very close to each other, these channels can interfere with each other and thus the end quality that the user receives can be significantly affected.

  1. Speed

It is a fact that if you test the speed of a wired network and a wireless one, the latter one will be significantly slower. In many cases, this difference can be very big. This can cause many other problems like lower call quality when you use the Wi-Fi from your phone in order to communicate.

Even though, the Wi-Fi technology is not perfect and has many flaws, improvements are constantly made in order to fix all the above issues.

Now, let us see one fun fact about the Wi-Fi. There are over sixteen 802.11 Wi-Fi protocols. The first one was established in the 1990s and some of them are proposed for the future. If you want to find out more, The Smart Future has tried to describe them as accurately as possible. It is always good to have a deep knowledge on everything that you use in your everyday life, right?


Cleaning tips for people who hate cleaning

Hate cleaning? You’re not alone. While a clean home is something pretty much everyone aspires to, many of us often put off cleaning our home until dirt and mess build up. This is especially true if you are busy, have kids or pets or are ill, stressed or depressed, although, ironically, many of these conditions can actually be made worse by living in a dirty home. Clutter and mess can make even a bright, spacious apartment seem cramped, dark and depressing. If you’re physically ill, they can also worsen your symptoms, making recovery even slower. It’s a vicious cycle that is difficult to get out of once the mess gets too much. The best way, of course, is never to get there in the first place, keeping your home relatively neat and tidy to begin with. We’ve collected a few tips to help you get into the habit of cleaning your home regularly. They’re based on things we’ve learned the hard way, so hopefully they can help you have an easier life!

Make cleaning part of your routine

If you watch people whose houses are always super clean, you’ll see that they often have one thing in common – they clean as they go along. They wash the dishes after every meal, they clean every spill as it happens and they sweep the floor every morning, evening, or both. If you hate cleaning, this may seem like an annoying process – why not clean once in a while and get it over with? But while it’s true that cleaning thoroughly once a week or even once a month can appear to save you some effort psychologically, cleaning as you go along helps keep your home clean constantly. On top of that, it only takes a few minutes each time, so is actually not very demanding.

Make it fun

Put some music on, open the windows and make cleaning into something you may actually enjoy. If you’re a part of a couple or a family, make it a family event where everyone is working together. You can reward kids for participating in a clean-up to make it something they associate with something fun. But why not reward yourself as well? Make a date with yourself to go out somewhere nice when you’re done or buy yourself a present every time you do a big clean-up. Maybe you’ll learn to associate cleaning with something fun too!

Use the right tools for the job

Cleaning with poor cleaning products or tools can be a drag. You want to use effective stuff that will make the job easier and, more importantly, quicker. Good products, tools like mops and brooms, as well as appliances such as hoovers, floor cleaners, etc. are among the main factors that affect your cleaning experience. Investing in a good hoover or steam cleaner, for example, can save you a lot of time and effort when cleaning the house and make the job look professional. A strong all-purpose cleaner can make cleaning kitchen worktops and bathroom surfaces a breeze. Make sure you research or try a few brands to see which ones work best for you and your home.

If all else fails – get help

If all else fails and you can afford it – get a cleaner. Many people have a problem with the concept of someone else cleaning for them, but cleaning is a job like any other and there is no shame in giving someone work. If you are too busy to clean your own space but still want it cleaned, this is the best way to go. Getting a cleaner needn’t be expensive. While it’s true that cleaners do charge an impressive hourly rate (depending on where you are), you don’t necessarily have to have someone clean your home every day or even every week. Getting into a routine of cleaning as you go along is much easier when you’re starting from an already relatively clean home. So why not get a cleaner every two weeks or once a month, then do the rest of the cleaning yourself? Having a cleaner come over once a month may not seem like a lot, but unless you have a particularly messy home, it could be more than enough.


Looking for a Cheese Knife Set? Here are Some Options to Consider

Cheese knives are special types of knives meant to cut hard, semi-hard and soft cheese. Different types of cheese call for different knives; the choice of the knife depends on the hardness of the cheese. Soft cheese knives deal with soft cheese, which usually contains high moisture content. Hard cheese knives are designed to cut through firm cheese. Different cheese knife sets give you a host of capabilities to handle the different types of cheese. Here are some of the sets you might want to consider.

1. Picnic Time Circo Cheese Set

The blades on the knives are made of stainless steel for resilience and strength while the handle is made of rubber wood for an easy grip. The set includes a cheese shaver, one hard cheese knife, a cheese spreader and a curved knife with a double-pronged tip. The cutting board gives you over 80 square inches of an ideal cutting surface. The board is specially designed with a moat running along the edge to collect brine or any liquids.  The board wipes clean very fast to allow you time to spend with your family.

2. Prodyne K-7-S stainless Steel Cheese Knives

This set comes with two open surface knives. The knives are differently shaped to give you all you need to handle all your favorite cheeses perfectly. The knives are ideal for slicing, cubing and cutting any cheese type. Each knife comes with a long handle to prevent slipping as you work, eliminating the risk of any accidents. The blade on each knife is made of brushed stainless steel so you are sure it won’t stain easily and will last you a lifetime.

3. Lenox L-22507 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set

This set comes with 3 cheese knives, each coming with a forged bolster to protect your hands and fingers from coming into contact with the stainless steel blade. You get a 5.5 inch hard cheese knife, 3 inch Parmesan cheese knife and a 5.5 inch soft cheese knife. The blades are manufactured from high carbon no-stain German stainless steel to give you a sharp edge that sharpens perfectly. The handles are forged and skillfully positioned to provide better leverage for effortless cutting.

4. DCI Cheese Knives

If you are out for color and functionality, this is the cheese set for you. Each knife comes with a label indicating the type of cheese the knife should handle. This is perfect if you are a beginner and you don’t know much about cheese. The blades are made of solid stainless steel, which, apart from being strong and reliable, is easy to clean. The knives are dishwasher-friendly eliminating the need to use your hands for the task. The longest knife in this set measures about 5 inches long, so they easily fit in your storage cabinet.

5. Jetty Homes’ 4-Piece Stainless Steel Cheese Knife Set

This set comes with each knife imprinted with labels so that you know what to pick for a specific task. The blades are made of brushed stainless steel which is durable. Best of all, the set is crafted inside an attractive box set that can act as a gift box for any occasion.

6. Wusthof Gourmet #8933 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set

This set comes with a soft cheese knife, hard cheese knife and a cheese board. The blades are laser cut from high-carbon German stainless steel plate and designed to suit your needs. Each edge has been individually laser-tested for durability and consistent cutting. The handle is made of tough poly material with triple riveting for strength. A full tang design provides a balanced and sturdy grip keeping your comfort level to the optimum.

7. Victorinox Swiss Army 3-piece Gourmet Cheese Knife Gift Set

This is the perfect set if you wish to offer it as a gift to someone special. The set consists of three knives. The hard cheese knife comes with a small blade and a long handle to apply more force to cut through hard cheese. The soft cheese knife comes with perforated blades to make the job easy as it goes through the soft cheese. The third piece is a semi-hard cheese knife that comes with a special fork tip.

The Bottomline

These knife sets are a result of advanced technology and craftsmanship. Each knife in a particular set is designed to handle a specific task in cutting cheese. To make a decision, visit http://www.cutitfine.com/ to find information on various knives.


Is There a Way to Make Your Cordless Lawn Mower Last Longer?

Changes in technology have resulted in the cordless lawn mower – whereby all you have to do is plug in the battery and you are ready to mow away. After choosing the suitable cordless lawn mower, you need to maintain it so that it can serve you better. Here are several ways to help you get the most out of your mower.

Pay Attention to the Battery

The cordless mower mainly runs on a lithium ion battery pack. This battery is rechargeable and comes as part of the mower package. Being the core and reliable source of power for your mower as they demonstrated, you need to take good care of it. Another rationale why you should pay attention to the battery is that it is costly to replace. Here are some tips to maintain it:

•    Never let the battery run totally flat. Draining the battery affects the storage capacity negatively.

•    Don’t overcharge the battery. Understand the charging mechanism and the type of charger you use. If it is a smart charger, it will detect when the battery is fully charged and disconnect. On the other hand, you have to keep an eye on the battery and disconnect it when it is full in case you use a manual charger.

•    Always check the charging components for wear and tear. Damaged charging systems can ruin the battery.

•    Store the battery for winter. When storing the mower for long periods, make sure to disconnect the battery and store it in a cool, dry place. This decreases the discharge rate of the battery.

Protect It From Weather Elements

After a mowing job, make sure you store the mower in a safe place, most preferably your garage or shed. Rain, sleet, snow and hail can lead to wear and tear of the mower’s components. This would be detrimental to the performance of the mower. Make sure you don’t pile other items on top of the mower as well. Some of the parts on the mower are breakable, and a little load can be detrimental.

Keep It Clean

Compared to traditional gas-powered mowers, cordless lawn mowers don’t require high maintenance tasks. You don’t have to change oil, nor replace plugs or air filters. However, make sure you clean the mower regularly to keep it in top shape. Do this every time you finish a mowing task, to make sure the mower works perfectly the next time you take it out to mow your lawn.

Always Perform a Pre-mowing Lawn Inspection

Always inspect the lawn you plan to cut before you carry out the job. The intention is to remove objects that might affect the mower. Look for items such as stones, hoses, sprinkler heads and toys. Passing the mower over these objects can spoil the mower blades.


It is apparent that just like any other machine, the way you take care of your cordless lawn mower will dictate how best and how long it serves you. Replacing lawn mower components is expensive and demanding. Regular maintenance helps to avoid some of these costs and gives you peace of mind knowing that you can rely on the lawn mower for the upcoming landscaping job.


Teach your children to look after themselves

The world is a hazardous place for kids and the sooner they learn to look after themselves, the better for everyone. The best time to start is early as good habits can become second nature quite easily, without resistance or forgetfulness. If you haven’t started early, be reassured that it’s actually never too late to learn.

Safety in and around the home is usually learned very early on, partly through the child’s own misadventures – they quickly learn how to avoid trapping their fingers in doors, banging their heads on the table and falling outside etc. through their own mistakes. Parents or guardians usually castigate and warn their children not to play with electrical sockets, the medicine cabinet etc. and not to climb up on the worktops. This is reinforced by the behavior the child observes in others – they never see adults or other children engaging in those behaviors and so they believe the warnings must be true and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Personal hygiene is best taught in a similar way, although some kids take a lackadaisical attitude towards this (as do some adults, unfortunately). By having everyone wash their hands before and after handling food, or using the bathroom, cleaning their teeth after eating, washing regularly etc. it simply becomes natural behavior to the child. At some point, especially if the child becomes lazy or begins to resist hygiene, you should sit them down and explain to them about germs and the dangers they pose and how we deal with them. Quite often, visual aids and videos are helpful for this purpose. You can also explain to them about plaque and decay if they don’t clean their teeth properly. Try choosing a nice electric toothbrush with them from http://www.toothbrushbest.com/ as part of the deal.

Next up, children need to start to learn how to do things for themselves. These things are often best learned as part of their household chores. For example, a very young child can begin to learn how to sort and even how to fold clothes and where to put them. They may not quite be ready to even dress themselves just yet, but these skills and this knowledge will come in handy when they do. As sorting clothes is similar to tidying up, this is another chore which can be taught early.

Once they are able to use the bathroom, wash themselves and dress themselves properly, plus tidy their rooms, you can start to set them chores in other rooms – setting the table, for example, and tidying up after a meal. You can also start teaching basic cleaning principles, but it will be a while until they can use chemical cleaners and cleaning appliances safely.

Tasks such as washing up and putting away cutlery and dishes are possible for young children, too, but their ability to perform the tasks will depend on other factors such as the height of cupboards and the sink. Don’t ask them to do anything which could result in an injury.

Once they are tall enough to get around the kitchen, you can begin to teach them about food safety and how to prepare simple snacks and meals. Lessons such as checking that food is safe to eat, what should be refrigerated and so on can be taught simply by showing a child what to look out for. In most cases they will be repulsed by the smell, but they need to be made aware of things like mold and bacteria which are easily missed.

The kitchen is perhaps the most dangerous room in the whole house, so every time you teach your child something new there, you need to supervise them until they have safely mastered the task. Once your child knows how to safely prepare a cooked meal, using blenders, knives, boiling water, frying oil and an oven, you can be pretty sure that they can handle learning about anything else in the house – although when you teach them about electrics, power tools, using ladders etc. you need to have them under strict supervision.

By instilling notions of self-discipline and responsibility in your child at an early age, you win half of the battle. If they approach everything they learn with those attitudes, they will mature into a sensible young adult without any problem.


You don’t always have to rely on Shank’s pony

Walking is a great way to keep fit and stay close to nature. When going to work or getting around the city, it’s often preferable to walk than it is to take the car. You don’t get stuck in traffic, it’s healthier and you are more connected to your surroundings. However, walking does, of course, have its limitations. You can’t take that much stuff with you, compared to using a car. Your range is limited, unless you use public transport, it’s repetitive and can end up being tiring and even result in injury. But getting around is far from a two-way race between Shank’s pony and the car. There are plenty more options.

Bicycles have been around now for nearly a couple hundred years and cycling is the main form of transportation in many parts of the world. Even in places with high-speed trains, autobahns and extensive subway systems, the bicycle is often preferred as a means of getting around. It’s cheap and easy to maintain, plus most problems that come about through heavy use can be fixed by the rider with no need to call out a mechanic. They’re much more affordable than most automobiles and represent much better value for money in the long term. On top of that they are much faster than walking, skateboarding or running and often don’t require much effort. They can, however provide great exercise when going up steep hills – this is seen by many as one of the disadvantages of the bicycle, however. In cities they travel just as fast as cars, don’t get caught in traffic much and don’t pollute the environment anywhere near as much as cars do. Lastly, it’s quite easy to find parking spaces for them and when returning home, don’t need to be kept in a garage or take up space on a driveway.

One of the major downsides of bicycles is that they, and their riders are not protected well against collisions. This fact, especially in cities, can make it a dangerous means of transport, as there are many reckless and thoughtless drivers on the roads of the world’s cities. It’s not possible to carry as much weight or bulk on a bicycle as it is in a car, and the car has a speed advantage over longer distances, although the bicycle can be used to get to and from the train station relatively quickly. As they require on the input of energy from the rider, they can cause people to sweat more and get dirty on the roads. This means the rider might need to wash and change clothes after a long ride, whereas a person driving a car can remain cool and relatively clean sitting in their car, driving with minimal effort and using the air conditioner. When compared with walking, cycling has many advantages and is certainly an affordable alternative.

These older methods of getting around have recently been joined by innovations such as the Segway. Segways are kind of like a cross between walking and driving – you’re standing upright and you’re out in the elements, but you’re not propelling yourself forward. You can also move much faster than you can walk. You’re not getting any exercise and most people probably think you’re just too lazy to walk, which you probably are. But if you’re not lazy and you have a leg or a knee injury, a Segway gives you a painless way to get around. You just won’t be able to get up and down stairs easily and you’ll have to find a place and a means of securing it when you want to sit down, let’s say, in a swanky restaurant.

Segways and bicycles can also be entertaining in themselves. Kids and childish people learn to do all kinds of tricks on them – just as those who get around on skateboards do. A lot of them are very impressive, they not something anyone can do the first time they try.

Then there are methods of getting around which will catch others’ attention – horse riding, riding a unicycle, riding a snowmobile (in snow, of course) and even getting to work in a microlight.


Helping your teenager start to make money

Families with teenagers are used to hearing about how expensive everything is for kids these days, how all the kids at school have got the latest sneakers, phone and so on. All of this usually comes out in a big build up to the real point of the conversation taking place: Will you increase my allowance?

Parents and their children seem to have very little understanding of what an allowance is about. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of discussion when it comes to the idea of earning an allowance, or what the allowance is to be spent on, or why they should get an allowance in the first place. It seems parents just accept it and kids demand it as a right, as if it were in the Constitution, or the Bible.

As it happens, there are perfectly good reasons why you should give your child a certain amount of allowance without any prerequisites. The main reason is to give them some money to spend at their own discretion, so you can see how it is spend and give them financial guidance. You hope that your child will enjoy a part of the money and set another part of the money aside in savings, either for a rainy day, or even better, to invest in other money-making methods.

Some parents set the amount of allowance according to their child’s grades. This is both fair and unfair, in that it acknowledges the fact that the child cannot work full-time to make money as they are told to prioritize their studies. On the other hand, it does not reward effort, simply talent or even cheating. So the amount should be fixed and not depend on grades.

When your child asks you for the allowance to be increased, you may consider asking them to do something for you in return. Don’t, whatever you do, pay them a wage for their labor, painting the fence, for example. This is reinforcing to them the idea that they should survive as wage slaves when they grow up. Instead, ask them to solve problems for you. Once such example goes as follows:

One January evening in Syracuse, NY, a teenage son asked his daddy what he could do to get a higher allowance. His father told him that he would pay him more if he agreed to wake up early every morning and clear the driveway of snow with the shovel. The boy thought about it. He hated shoveling snow. Then he asked his father to buy a snow blower – if he would agree, the boy wouldn’t ask for an increase in allowance, but would clear the driveway with the snow blower every morning anyway.

The father considered it to be a pretty good deal, but he hadn’t yet figured out why his son would be effectively offering to get up early every morning and clear the driveway of snow for no extra money. He could see how using a snow blower beats doing it manually, of course. So his son explained that he could likely clear around ten driveways with a snow blower in the time that it would take to clear the one driveway with only a shovel. He would clear his own house’s driveway and then set about clearing the neighbors’ driveways for five bucks a go.

Father and son got online right away and ordered the snow blower they thought would fit the bill. Dad got a new snow blower and his driveway cleared for free every morning. The neighbors also got their driveways cleared every morning at the very reasonable price of $5 a day. And the son got the extra money he wanted –a cool $900 a month on top of his regular allowance, all thanks to a flash of financial genius, sparked by his father’s response to being asked for money.

You don’t have to live in a winter wonderland to find similar opportunities for your child to earn money. Some children walk their neighbor’s pets, mow lawns, wash cars, wash dishes, fetch groceries and whatever else they can think of to make a buck. Remember that when your teenager asks you for a raise next time.


What to do when you can’t go outdoors

It’s a fact of life that some of the most lucrative jobs on the planet are to be had in the most inhospitable and even dangerous places. These jobs are often found in the energy sector or as part of scientific research teams. Take one of these jobs and you’ll probably save a lot more, too, as you won’t be able to find too many ways to spend your money. Just as submariners are paid more than their naval counterparts in the surface fleet, the trade-off is that they go for months at a time limited as to where they can go, what they can do in their free time, what they can eat and how they can take care of their health.

This kind of lifestyle will sound familiar to people who live in places such as Svalbard. An Arctic archipelago under the sovereignty of Norway, Svalbard is home to a couple thousand people, mostly working in the energy sector. With a harsh Arctic climate, winter averages of just of 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the constant dangers caused by co-existence with polar bears, plus the disorienting phenomena of two months of darkness and two months of uninterrupted daylight, it can be difficult to live what most of us consider to be a ‘normal’ life. In fact, even during the light months, if you want to leave the limits of your settlements and wander out into the wild, you are required by law to carry a firearm – usually a high-caliber rifle, to protect yourself for polar bears. The other side of the coin is that, should you wound or kill a polar bear in Svalbard, the case will be closely scrutinized by the police, as polar bears are a protected species.

In dark winter – one of Svalbard’s five seasons (the others being spring, summer, fall and light winter) – you’re not going to be spending much time outdoors. It’s extremely cold, there’s nowhere to go and even if there was, the perennial darkness, snowfall and threat of being attacked by bears makes it too dangerous to make all but the most essential trips. Faced with this situation for at least two months of every year, what would you do to stay sane?

People who live in such places will tell you that physical exercise is key to staying sane. In the light months, outdoor exercise can be exhilarating – sled racing, skiing, ice skating, ice hockey, snowmobiling and other sports can make you really appreciate the part of the world you live in. Even running is possible, using studded running shoes to cope with the ice. However, in dark winter all of these options become risky. Smart people have already had any home gym equipment delivered earlier in the year. Options may be limited, but you can go to Treadmill Trends to get an idea of what would suit you best. Using a combination of cardio and muscle-building exercises, you’ll give your body the work out that it needs to stay healthy. As exercise triggers the release of endorphins, you’ll also feel much happier for it, too.

You can find mental stimulation from reading and writing – one of the best ideas is to take online classes or learn a new skill at home – perhaps learn how to program, build a robot or build 3D models of things. This is all very good but there comes a time when you just want to relax. You’ve probably watched everything you wanted to on Netflix and you don’t want to spend every evening drinking (drinking alcohol every night for two months of night is not recommended at all – there are many reasons why this could be the end of you). Entertainment is such conditions requires a special level of creativity.

In some communities, bets are placed on the exact dates the rivers will break, i.e. the ice will crack and the river will begin to flow again. You can enjoy the beauty of the northern lights from the safety of your rooftop. In fact, you could get yourself a telescope and begin your hobby as a stargazer.

It’s a different way to live, but most people can survive two months of mostly staying indoors, knowing that the natural beauty gifted to them throughout the rest of the year makes up for it.


Things You’re Not Told Before Becoming An Adult

Life is one great big permanent progression and the easiest section of it definitely comes right at the beginning. From being born up until the age of around 13 the only things you have to worry about in the entire world is what’s for dinner and how late you are allowed to stay out with your friends. Your biggest problem is most likely to be which sweets you want from the shop or getting a puncture on your bike. Things are all going rosy. Then they begin to change. 

The next period of life is the teenage years. These are some of the toughest and most confusing years of your life. You don’t know what to like or what to do as both of these seem to change almost daily. Your teenage years are also some of the most important in your life as well as they form where you will be heading later in it. They may not have had as big of an impact as your teachers and parents told you they would, but they are still a big part of what points you in a particular direction later in life. These years take a while but eventually you will get through them. Then comes the tough part. 

Almost immediately after you leave university or school you are thrust into the adult world without so much as a warning. You better learn quickly all about the professional services there are out there and pick which job you would like otherwise you’ll be in trouble! Throughout the entirety of your younger life you were told “It’s ok, you have a loads of time to choose, don’t rush your decision” and then, without so much as a warning, it’s time to make that decision. Even if you are lucky enough to settle straight into a job, this is just the beginning of the things that are harder than you expect. 

Perhaps the biggest flaw in the education system today is with regards to teaching of everyday things that you will almost certainly need in your adult life. The best example of this is taxes. I could happily tell you that A2 x B2 = C2, but what would I rather know? Pythagoras’ theory or how to accurately submit my taxes? Well I can tell you that nobody has ever asked me to measure the sides of a triangle but I have had to worry about taxes so that should tell you a lot!

Adult life is essentially a permanent worry about money. This is the other thing you are not told before you become a fully functioning human being. Everything costs a lot more than you expected it would. When your dad wouldn’t buy you a PlayStation and you moaned, you probably see why he didn’t know. A quick rundown of the things that need paying for after the age of 18 reads like: a car, taxes, food, electricity, going out, water, gas, birthdays and just about everything else under the sun! It is a horrible catch 22 situation as you won’t have a lot of money when you start out but you will probably have a lot to pay for so something else to avoid is getting into debt! 

I don’t know why we all thought that growing up would be fun. Everyone is in such a rush to do it that they glaze over the fact that it might not be as good as they think it is. We need to ensure that future generations have a better grounding when they are growing up. We need to tell them about all of the important things we weren’t told. Let’s teach them how to do taxes, how to save some money, and most importantly the value of money! This makes it sound like our generation had no up bring which is not true, but things can always be improved. 

If we begin to think of these facts now then we can make sure that the future youngsters have it better than we did, and is that not what being human is all about? Let’s all just be a little bit nicer! 


Insider advice for expats going to live and work in China

China has exploded back onto the world stage over the last thirty years after a couple of centuries out of the limelight. An economy which stagnated for decades was kicked into gear and has seen the highest growth rates of possibly any major economy in history, meaning that the country now boasts the world’s second largest economy and its largest manufacturing base. As a result of China’s successful reintegration into the world economy, hundreds of thousands of non-Chinese nationals have made the country their home, as leaders in industry and commerce, international traders, bankers, teachers, students and countless other professions. But going to live in China isn’t without its challenges, and the experience can be very different from one place to another – the expat lifestyle in one of China’s super modern mega cities on its eastern seaboard is a world apart from life as an outsider in the country’s troubled rural western provinces.

Daily life in China as a foreigner is not particularly difficult, even if you don’t speak the language. Many young people know enough English to help you out and will often be thrilled to have a chance to meet someone from another country. In cities such as Shanghai you are just as likely to meet another foreigner as you are a Chinese person, whereas in rural parts you might be the only foreigner that has ever visited. As a result, don’t be surprised if the whole village comes out to take a look at you. You might have to get used to being stared at and having kids shout “hello!” before giggling and running off. In general, people mean well and will try to help you out if they can.

Having said that, in places frequented by tourists, there are a number of scams to watch out for, many along the lines of being invited to drink tea with a group of students or a pretty girl, only to find out that you are paying the bill and that a cup of tea in that particular tea house amounts to double the average Chinese worker’s monthly salary. These tricks are common in many major cities around the world and you shouldn’t have any problems in the smaller, less-visited Chinese cities.

A lot of China is either hot and humid or cold and humid. As a result it can be a pain drying clothes. Thankfully, laundry services are efficient and cheap. A majority of expats living in China probably never wash or dry their own clothes thanks to these services. If you have long hair, take care to blow dry it before you leave home. You can find a decent blow dryer at http://www.oomphed.com/. It can be so humid that your hair won’t dry a bit on the journey between home and work. In the far north, if you leave your home with wet hair in winter it will freeze instantly and could be seriously dangerous.

Traffic in most of the country is horrendous. Beijing and Shanghai have some of the best mass-transit networks in the world, but they are still at near breaking point all of the time due to the sheers number of people using them. To give you an idea of how crowded these cities are, let’s take a look at Shanghai. The city by itself has more people than the whole of Australia. Twenty minutes outside the city lies Suzhou, a city the size of London. A further thirty minutes out and you’ve got two more cities the size of London and one that is significantly bigger. It’s incredible that the Greater Shanghai Area doesn’t just sink under the weight of all those people. So be patient when it comes to traveling.

If you are planning to stay for a while in China, you should really make an effort to learn the language. Chinese grammar is relatively simple and you’ll get used to the tonal system by listening to the locals speak. As soon as you can have a short conversation in Chinese, the country and the people will really open up to you. There are cultural differences and annoyances that some expats never get to grips with. If you learn the language, you’ll understand the culture, too.


Stay cool when it snows

Despite the chaos on the roads, the long wait until you can get the grill out in the yard again and the boiler making decidedly unhappy grumbling noises, winter snow can bring a smile to pretty much everyone’s faces. It brings back memories of snowball fights, building snowmen, building igloos and that feeling when you come back to a warm house with a fire and hot food after a day out in the cold. It’s great for kids but it can be even better for grown-ups.

Unless you live in the flattest part of the country, there will be a hill somewhere around that you can get to. If this is the case, get down into your workshop immediately and start putting together a sled. You’ll just need timber, screws, a saw (have a look at these recommendations at Straight Kerfs) and a power drill. If you’re good with tools and want to come up with a fancy design, all the better as long as it can carry a couple of kids and a couple of adults down the snow. Good old winter fun without too much effort!

Two of people’s favorite activities when the white stuff has fallen are skiing and snowboarding. Towns like Ruidoso and Aspen get snowed under with tourists and prices skyrocket. Instead of heading for those famous resorts, why not head up to Minnesota and try out cross-country skiing? It’s a little bit trickier and it can be more hazardous, but it’s more satisfying than shooting down a hill and dragging yourself back up fifty times a day.

Perhaps counterintuitively for some, winter is a great time to have a bonfire outside. You can invite the neighbors over, keep warm (but keep the beers cold) and do some good old outdoor cooking on the fire. Throw in some fireworks (not into the fire) to make it more exciting for kids.

Another great idea for the daytime is to go ice skating. If you’ve known the area for a long time, you’ll know which lakes are safe to skate on. If not, go along to an organized event – it’s better for kids and there will probably be other youngsters there that they can play with while you hit the bar. Don’t go ice skating at night unless the area is very well-lit – it can be just too dangerous with kids to be out of the ice in the dark.

If you can, see if you can check out a dog-sled race. You’ll be surprised at how much fun they can be and taken aback at the scale of the event. Some of the races can go over a distance of a thousand miles – that’s the equivalent of racing from Wisconsin to Vermont. How fast could you do it in the snow?

If you’d like to test your speed in the snow, you could rent out a snowmobile or two for your family. You might just love it so much that you decide to sell up and move to somewhere in the Yukon where folks do their grocery shopping on snowmobiles. Now, wouldn’t that be awesome!

One fun activity which it’s probably better not to do with young kids is ice fishing. It’s totally different from regular fishing and takes a while to get the hang of. But the experience of sitting out, wrapped up in the cold, waiting to get a bite is unique. And if you’re lucky enough to take something home the first time, it’s going to taste so much better. If you can’t wait to take it home, you could try eating it raw with the ice, Inuit style!

Whatever you do, don’t spend all the winter indoors, hiding away. Sure, it’s great to come back home to a warm fire and some mulled wine but you’ve gotta earn it!

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