My Summer Holiday

Stunning hotel overlooking harbour

Wow! What an incredible summer holiday it turned out to be. Way back when I booked the holiday I thought this trip was going to be fun but Cape Town was everything I imagined and so much more! Not only is it one of the most stunning cities I have ever visited, but it just has so much to offer. In fact, I would need another week there to see everything that I set out to at the beginning of my stay.

And don’t get me started on the food…

The mother city

As the first city established at the tip of Africa, Cape Town is affectionately known as the mother city. The inner city itself is filled with historic buildings all nestled under the epic beauty of Table Mountain. Although it is only 1000 metres high, I really don’t think I have ever seen anything like it before. I even took a cable car ride to the top for the most stunning views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean out in Table Bay.

Boats in cape town harbour

But it’s the little gems you find in the city itself that actually threw my itinerary into a tizz! So many small shops selling the most incredible curios of all sorts. I particularly liked the handmade jewellery. I found so many incredible pieces, including a brooch that I brought back home for my mother. Not only is it made using local sea shells, but it must have taken days to complete, it really is so intricate. Turns out that the owner also exports them to an online store that supports her as well.  My mother loves it of course (she has an enormous collection of brooches) and wants more, a great reason to return to Cape Town.

There is so much to see outside the city itself, from the stunning valleys of the wine regions in Paarl and Stellenbosch to the slower, more idyllic way of life found up the West Coast, where tranquil fishing villages are in abundance. Fresh fish, shellfish and the delights of the sea abound, and I found myself eating seafood morning, noon and night.

rolling green hills

A crying child leads to an unexpected discovery

colourful knitted baby blanketIt was while I was in the town of Paternoster that I came upon another great gift, this time for my sister. I was walking through this small fishing village and kept on hearing the sound of a crying child. I decided to investigate and found a boy on the side of a fishing hut. He had a massive thorn in his foot which I helped remove. I asked him where lived and he pointed to a small home at the end of the street. Naturally I took him there.

There I found his granny knitting the most amazing baby blanket I had ever seen. It was a multitude of colours and so tightly woven that you could almost feel the warmth it would provide. She explained to me in broken English that she made her living this way. It was such a weird coincidence as I had already picked out a similar blanket that I had been planning to buy for my sister who is expecting a baby. I bought one immediately – no worries of any credit card fraud here, everything is paid for in cash.  In the rest of Cape Town, however, it pays to be vigilant at ATM’s and whenever you swipe your cards, but this is true in most cities isn’t it.

My sister loves the baby blanket, but none more so than her little newborn Emma who sleeps under it every night.

I wonder if in her dreams she sees Cape Town. I know I do, and I want to go back!.

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Buying living room accessories online

If you are an avid reader of my blog, you will know that I pretty much buy everything online. A week after coming back from my holiday, I decided to really put my online shopping to the test.

We had such fun on our bar project we wanted to have another go. This time I wanted to give my living room a nice makeover. Nothing too major, but just replacing a few things here and there.  After much deliberation, I finally decided that I wanted a new side table, new cushions for the sofa and a few new lamps. 

Wooden side table

Refreshing my living room with cushions

Whilst on holidays I actually met a really charming guy named Ben from New Zealand (or NZ as he kept referring to it). He was actually an interior decorator and had an amazing life where he travelled the world to fit out people’s homes with the latest in home decor and accessories. We got talking about a lot of things; rugby, beer and my project to makeover my living room. He was really forthcoming with suggestions on how I could do this efficiently without blowing my budget. He was the one who actually put me on to using cushions to decorate with. He swore by them and said they were his secret weapon on most of his projects. He told me about the latest colours and styles to look for and even showed me how to arrange them. He also put me on to a cushions store in NZ that he always buys from because of their extensive range.  Turns out Ben had some great advice!

Now if I am honest, although I like shopping online, I prefer if I can get all the things I want at one place if possible. I knew that with my current project, this was not going to happen.

So I started out looking for cushions. Firstly, I was amazed at how many online stores just sell cushions. Secondly, I was startled by the fact that many of them do not have any forms of security in place at all. In fact, quite a few didn’t have SSL certificates, privacy or refund and exchange policies in place.

stylish cushions in turquise

Now as I have told you before in previous blogs, steer well clear of these. Although they might be legitimate online stores, there is no security measures stopping other malicious parties from getting your credit card details. I really should know better than to even click on a website I have never heard of, but I guess I was still pretty much in holiday mode.

Lesson learned! Stick with what you know! Ben’s great online store that he recommended was called Simply Cushions NZ, so I went and checked them out. They had all their security in place including the all-important SSL certificates, as well as a comprehensive return and privacy policy. Not only that but they had a variety of secure payment methods. But back to the cushions! I ended up going for a few cushion covers in a beautiful turquoise that will just compliment my sofa perfectly.

Next, it was on to the table. I didn’t want anything too boring here. A really nice place to put your cup of coffee while you read a book on the sofa. I struggled to find something elegant at first. Everything seemed far too simple and all of the tables had added storage space, something I didn’t want. What happened to all the nice looking furniture? Eventually, I found what I was looking for. coffee table with wooden top and iron legsA stunning dark wood product with fancy iron legs. There was only one left so I ordered it immediately.

Last but not least was the lamps. Those were not a problem and I quickly found three different lamp types I liked. I wasn’t going to go for all three but they were pretty cheap, so I ended up using my debit card again.

lamp on top of surfaceAs my blog is about online safety, I thought I would give you another useful tip. Punch in your credit card numbers using the calculator found on your computer. This allows you to use the mouse to click on a number instead of typing it. Then cut and paste that into the area where you credit card number needs to be placed. This eliminates typing so should you have any key-logging malware on your computer, it could not be able to record your credit card details!

Happy online shopping!

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Booking a holiday

This year I will be going on an overseas holiday and I have decided to handle all the bookings myself in a bid to cut out any involvement from a travel agent.

I am going on a summer holiday!

Therefore I will have to book all flights, accommodation and rental cars and obviously online is the easiest way to go about this.  I think I should be able to research and book all of those in one day!

Yesterday I bought myself a nice picnic rug online. I purchased it here from a store called Bask and I am so happy with it. It forms part of today’s plan where I am currently sitting under an old oak tree at my local park, on my new picnic blanket, with a nice little lunch for later but for now I am ready to research and book my holiday.

holiday-park-website-on-tablet[1]

So, where am I going to go?  Well I have always wanted to go to Cape Town in South Africa.  I have a couple of friends who have gone there and they loved every single minute of their visit.

I am planning on going for two weeks, with one week in Cape Town itself and one week travelling up the Garden Route, which is from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay.  I have done a little research about this section of South Africa and it has some of the most beautiful coastlines in the country so of course I will be packing my camera and taking many pictures.

I want the best deals possible, so I will be checking out a few options online.

Something to carry my passport

Another important purchase for my holiday is a travel wallet.  They are so convenient and perfect for me to keep all my important trip documents, tickets, my passport and money. Having done some travel in the past, there have been numerous times that I have lost important documents such as tickets so I know this is a critical buy.

In the past I have used money belts when I have travelled but I have found them to be very uncomfortable and not practical at all. There are so many other options out there that are far more stylish and a friend recently put me on to a company called Drift whom he purchased from earlier in the year (I really like the look of these). Being able to keep everything in the one place and knowing that it is secure will help me to enjoy my trip!

Tickets booked

I found a very good price with South African Airways, but before jumping in I just need to double check a few things to ensure that I am on their official site.

I always check the following before putting in any credit card details:

  • There must be a secure “lock” symbol on the web page… check!
  • The web address must start with https:// not http://…check!
  • The website should contain a verification badge from either Verisign or Thwaite… check! The SAA website uses Thwaite.

A few clicks, entering of credit card details… as easy as that, I have flight tickets to South Africa. Reminds me of my other big purchases that have been surprisingly easy.

bigstock-Beautiful-sunset-with-airplane-44205484[1]

The next thing I need to book is a rental car as I plan to drive myself around, especially up the Garden Route.  There are a number of car hire websites that I have been advised to use and I have chose the one my friends used while they were in South Africa.   They offer excellent rates, much cheaper than if I had used a travel agent.  Again, I am making sure that all of the security checks are in place exactly in the same way as I did when I booked my flight tickets…rental car booked!

Accomodation

Lastly, I need to book accommodation.  For my stay in Cape Town, I am staying in the city centre at the Cape Sun hotel.  I have popped off an email to them asking about rates and if they have a room available on the dates I am in Cape Town.

For my trip up the Garden Route I will be booking into guesthouses, backpackers and bed and breakfast establishments.  I am not too concerned about organising all of that now as I can do it in the week I am in Cape Town.

Incurring-fees-by-booking-006[1]

Just received an email back from the Cape Sun, they have a room for me on the dates I requested.  Again I will pay online, using all the security checks as for the flight tickets and car rental.  Accommodation in Cape Town is now booked!

Well, that was not too bad!  It was easier than I expected but still took a good few hours!  I suppose reporting it real time on my blog slowed me down a little but I wanted to give you an idea of how I work through these purchases.

 

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Some important considerations when buying home decor online

I often buy homewares online and today I wanted to take you through some of the thoughts and decisions I generally go through when purchasing. In the past I have run into a number of issues when buying from online retailers and this has made me a cautious online shopper. I’ve run into issues with shipping, faulty products, incorrect payments being charged to my card – you name it, I seem to have experience it. But to be honest, despite all these issues I don’t think I would ever return to doing all of my shopping at traditional bricks and mortar stores. Online shopping is just too convenient and as technology improves and customers become more switched on to buying online, retailers have upped their game and many of these issues have reduced. In saying that though, there are a number of things you can do to mitigate potential problems and I want to show you these by taking you through a purchase I recently made for a wall clock.

I’m not the best at being on time to events so recently I decided that I needed to buy a large prominent clock for my home to help keep me on time and to help keep my friendships!  But clocks can do more than just tell the time and they have really become small pieces of art themselves these days. There are hundreds of different options, all at different price points and this where the start of my adventure as a customer begins.

Choosing the right wall clock

buying clocks onlineBuying a piece of home decor online presents us with the first issue of choice. There are numerous different retailers of clocks online and a simple search for the product yields an enormous list of results. Then there is the sheer number of products that these stores have. An online store such as Purely Wall Clocks has a massive range with categories for clocks that I didn’t even know existed! With so many choices available, the wise buyer needs to first get clear about the product that they actually want. If you don’t so this, you’ll more likely find yourself being swept away by different models, prices and options and you will lose sight of what you actually need. For me this meant considering what kind of clock I needed.

Some things I needed to consider:

  • Where will my timepiece hang? I wanted to buy a clock for bedroom as I felt that was where I generally organised myself for the day and where I get changed. Because of this location I needed to think carefully about the options available. My first thought was that I needed to know if the clock was going to tick. There would be nothing worse than buying something that was going to keep me up all night. I hate noise when I’m trying to sleep so this was a very important factor in my buying process.
  • Next I thought about the actual face and the size of numerals. This was going to be important because I actually have a very large bedroom and my bed is located a long way from where I wanted to hang my new timepiece. This meant that I had to look out for faces that had very large numerals and ones that were bold. Again this was another important factor in my product selection.
  • Next was aesthetics. You should never buy a clock, or anything that you’ll hang on your walls, without considering the colour theme of your home. If you have neutral coloured walls then buying something that is bright may work ok. For me, I needed to find a product that did not have loud colours as I have some artwork that is pretty out there and I think this would clash with another bright pierce. I also needed to consider the lighting in my room. I recently purchase an amazing lamp which throws light at the wall that I’m planning to use. This meant I wanted a clock that didn’t have a bright reflective cover.
  • Finally I needed to think about quality. It’s important that you buy a brand that is known for its quality and durability. I didn’t want to go to all this trouble only to have the things break on me in a month’s time.

Deciding on the right place to buy from

Choosing a safe site

There some important factors to consider when picking the right place to make your purchase. These are some of the aspects I considered:

  • Firstly the safety of the site that you want to buy from is crucial. You need to find out if it has an SSL certificate and you can discover this by checking their checkout page. Sites with SSL certificates have a “https” instead of http on their checkout page. You can see an example of this at Simply Cushions who are a store I purchased some new covers from recently and who had great payment security. Seeing that padlock in your browser bar gives you the confidence to go ahead with your purchase so I found a store that had all of these safety indicators.
  • Find out what their return and exchange policy is. I always do this as it safeguards you in case you purchase a product only to find that it doesn’t suit your needs. You should therefore go for those online stores whose purchase conditions allow for return and/or exchange of the item with ease. Many companies offer 30 or 60 day returns policies but always read the fine print. I found a store that had a good policy and they covered the cost of shipping the return.
  • How will your product be shipped? I wanted to know what would happen if my clock breaks on the way before reaching me. This information can again be found on the returns or exchanges area of the site but it may be an idea to look at the shipping information to see how your product will be shipped. The company I chose express shipped my order and it was fully insured all the way.

So these were my main considerations. With all of them checked IO then went ahead and purchased. Only a few days later my new wall clock arrived and boy am I impressed! I think I might ned up keeping my friends after all as I haven’t been late since its arrival! If you want more tips for buying online, be sure to check out and read this article.

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Top tips for shopping online safely

safe online shoppingOnline shopping is becoming increasingly popular as the digital world changes the way we do everything. Not that long ago, many of us were terrified at the thought of handing over our personal details and submitting important financial data like our credit card to some website that we knew little about. Fast forward and online shopping is becoming a huge industry and is predicted to accelerate in growth over the coming decade.However, online shopping still provides a number of challenges and the consequences of these can be quite significant.

I’ve put together a list of my best tips for how to safely shop online in this modern age below. I hope they’ll help keep your money safe and make your online experience a good one!

Tips for shopping online safely

  1. First and foremost, trust your instincts! Only shop at online stores that you feel comfortable with. If something feels fishy, it probably is so steer clear.
  2. Use familiar websites – you can be safe in the knowledge that sites like Amazon or Target will be using best practises and treating your information safely;
  3. Buy from shops that have an SSL certificate. The easiest way to check this is to see if a site has https on its checkout page. This will also be accompanied by an icon with a locked padlock. You can be sure than these sites have encryption installed.shop safely
  4. Use secure payment methods like PayPal, BPay or your credit card. Avoid any site asking you to make a direct debit or money transfer as their is no recourse to refund your money if something goes wrong;
  5. Don’t give too much away – if a site is asking for too much detail about you, this is a sign that something is wrong. If information like your birthdate or social security number provided with your credit card details then your identity could actually be stolen.
  6. Check the refund, return and exchanges policy and only shop at stores which allow you to change your mind if you don’t like the item. Shopping online means you don’t physically get to see the item until it arrives at your house so you want the opportunity to exchange or refund if it’s not quite right.
  7. If you order from a computer that is available for others to use (ie library or work etc) then make sure you clear the cache and browsing history before you log off.
  8. Check the seller has a physical address. If it is a purely online business with no listed address then a red flag should fly high and you should avoid this retailer.
  9. Check the privacy policy – sounds boring but it’s worth it. You want to know if the retailer might on-sell your private details to a third party.
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How to set up a home bar – tips for buying products online

My husband had a brilliant idea to set up a bar at our home few days back. We love to socialise and often have friends around. Often we use the usual spots, our living room and our outside area but we have become a little bored with these options. When he first told me about his idea, I panicked a lot. He has lots of ideas like this and they don’t always turn out well. So I decided this time to get involve and offer my support. This way I might be able to avoid a repeat of his backyard pizza oven disaster. That’s a story for another time.

So after doing some quick research online, I started to gather various ideas for our new bar. There were two items in particular that I found shopping online for to be a great experience. For us, our bar had to have great bar stools and it definitely needed a record player.  I thought I’d my experience in shopping for these items here. If anyone else finds themselves in this situation they might find some useful ideas below.

Different types, designs and styles of bar stools

I decided to buy bar stools first! Bar stools are available in a variety of shapes and sizes but I soon discovered that your choice of these is important (bar stools are very different to counter stools – don’t make that mistake!).  With so much choice, I’ve put together a few tips below that will help others in this search:

buying bar stools online

  • Bar stool seats have an average height of about 30 inches.Whereas a counter stool has an average seat height of 26 inches.
  • Spacing is also another important factor when choosing the right bar stools. There should be enough space to facilitate easy movement so don’t buy too many and overcrowd your bar. The standard is about 26-30 inches between each stool.
  • Wooden and leather bar stools are well suited with darker wooden décor whereas a lighter wood is ideal for sunny outdoor settings. Don’t forget to purchase comfortable cushions if you are going for non padded wooden furniture.
  • While choosing bar stools, also look for their design and colour to match with your existing colour platte.

Vinyl record player – the perfect sound system for a cool bar

We love vinyl records so having an amazing sound system was really important for our new bar. I  was assigned the job of  researching and buying a vinyl record player. This was perhaps the best part of the whole process. I spent ages trawling through websites trying to find the perfect one to surprise my husband with. He has an old collection of records that he hasn’t played in years so he was extremely excited to get them out and play them on his new record player.

When shopping for a record player online, make sure you know what speed your collection of records play at before you start browsing. Most will be either 33, 45 or 78 and the vast majority of record players will be able to play at all three speeds but make sure you check! Another important thing to check is whether or not it has preamp. If your a newbie at this then you will want to make sure the one you buy has a preamp so you don’t have to buy one separately.

Setting up a bar at home for sure is a daunting task but with effective research and planning you can make it quite easy. Make sure you adhere to all my tips on shopping online safely and you will be fine!

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Hunting for huge Homewares-How to shop for large items online

Hunting for huge home wares: How to shop for large items online

Who wants to spend a weekend trolling through furniture shops? The world is rapidly changing; more people are finding the traditional shopping method inconveniencing, time consuming, expensive and sometimes end getting you items that don’t match your needs. The growth in online shopping appears unstoppable and the advantage it offers makes it more and more popular.

Online stores have also grown tremendously making it easier now to get an item you want right in the comfort of your living room. Many people still think it’s not possible to shop for large items, such as furniture, online but they couldn’t be more wrong. There are stores that specialise in every single item under the sun and they are completely online. Take things like coffee tables or bedside tables for example, traditionally you would have traipsed into a shopping centre or large complex along with every man and his son to view a small selection at one store. If you weren’t happy you would have to continue this soul sucking process until you found one you liked. Now, however, the internet allows us to search for almost anything and anything with just the click of a button. Take these two examples above, you can find a speciality store that only sells coffee tables or a store that specialises in bedside tables. These shops will have a huge range and are sure to know what they are talking about.

stores

Advantages of Shopping Online

Online shopping has never been more popular. But it’s also important that you know your online way round to be able to get the best of your shopping.

There are several advantages that are endearing shoppers to shopping online. Buying large items by the traditional shopping method sometimes is challenging because it is difficult to easily balance the factors such as colour, space, etc with the item you’re buying. In this case sometimes you end up with an item whose colour does not blend nicely with the colour of the room you intend to put it in. For example, we recently had to buy some bar stools and it was so much easier shopping from within the room they were intended for so we could easily colour match.

This is where online shopping is more attractive. It is much easier to shop for your homewares while sitting in the room it’s intended for. This is because:

safe buying online

  • Colours: You can easily see the colour palette of the room, balance and match it with that of the item you intend to purchase before ordering for the item.
  • Space: When you’re buying online you have the opportunity of taking measurements of the space the item is intended for before ordering. In this case you are able to match the size of the item to the space you have available for it.
  • Convenience: You have the convenience of shopping at a time that suits you and not when you are able to fit in a visit to the shop or during hours that that particular shop operates.

Important Things to Remember When Shopping for Large Items Online

Like any shopping, shopping online also calls for care and vigilance. You should make sure that you remember the following things when shopping for large items online:

  • Shipping Policy: You must check on the online shopping store’s shipping policy. What are the conditions that govern, for instance the condition of the item at delivery, the timing and costs of shipping, etc.
  • SSL Certificate: Make sure that the online store you buy from has a SSL Certificate. This is important because the information you’ll be sending to the online store; such as your credit card number, passwords, etc could be at a risk and land in wrong hands if the store does not have an SSL to safeguard such information.
  • Returns Policy: Knowing the return policy of the store you’re buying from is crucial just in case you have to return the purchased item. Check out what is required from you in order to return the item; receipt, email confirmations, conditions of packaging, your identification, etc. Check out also what the exchange policy of the store is. Once you have returned the item what is needed for that item to be exchanged.

If you’re well armed with information you need to shop online, you’re able to enjoy the experience of getting your items right at the comfort of your living room.

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Tips for buying lighting online

Buying lighting online can be a tricky business but it’s actually no tricker than buying an a physical store. I think the actual act of buying lighting is the tricky bit! There are so many different variables when it comes to lighting – the size, shape, colour, fixtures, wattage… the list goes on! But… lighting can have a dramatic effect on your home and so the best way to approach this task is to do your research and find out exactly what you need before you start shopping.

pendantsDifferent types of lighting
Lighting can be categorised by its uses; general lighting refers to overhead lighting that lights up an entire room, accent lighting draws attention to a certain area such as a lovely painting, many people use pendant lights such as these for this purpose and task lighting lights up a workspace so a specific task can be performed, floor lamps such as these make a great choice for task lighting.

So, first figure out what type of lighting you are going to be buying. This will narrow down your field and you can actually find stores that only sell that particular style of lighting.

Measure up

floorMeasuring your space is the single most important thing you can do before you start shopping online for your lighting. You need to get out the tape measure and write down exactly what size range your lighting needs to be in. If you are buying pendant lighting then you need to determine how low they will hang before you start shopping. You don;t want o buy some that are so low they wi;; hit your husband in the head every time he walks by!

Style

When deciding on the style of lighting to get you need to think about the existing style in the room and ensure that it is in line with this. That’s one of the reasons online shopping is such a good idea, you can sit in the room your lighting is intended for while you a browsing online. So, if you have a traditional styled room and you want to stick with this style and go for something that compliments it. An example of this can be taken from floor lamps. The modern styled arc lamps will not work with traditional styling, they are better suited to a minimalist style. Instead, a floor lamps with an actual lampshade is a much better choice and will really enhance the look and feel of the room.

If you have a modern or contemporary style room you want to stick with simple and streamlined designs. The aforementioned arc lamp is a wonderful example but you could also explore contemporary pendant lighting. Industrial pendant lighting with streamlined light fixtures will work excellently in a minimalist styled room.

lighting online

The store

Lastly, make sure you do your research on the store you will be buying from. It’s important that you only buy from a trusted retailer and there are a few things you can check to make sure you know your purchase will be safe. For more advice on this, check out this post.

 

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Our brand new website is coming soon!

Welcome to the early beginnings of the Safe Network, the essential guide to helping you make the best choices when shopping for your home and garden. We intend to bring you all the information you need to be a wise consumer in the 21st century.

The way we shop and make purchases has changed significantly over the past few decades, and consumers need to be armed with an array of knowledge to keep themselves both protected and capable of choosing wisely.

I can’t wait to share all of may valuable information with you, but in the meantime, please check out this amazingly helpful video. It’s a taste of what’s to come!

 

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