Top 10 things that signal Christmas is near in the UK

The Coca-Cola advert
The merry jingle and red lorry and lights really start to get us thinking that Christmas festivities with wine, cocktails and the inevitable soft drinks for the designated drivers are nearing. Its strange to think that its a marketing campaign that was thought up by Coca Cola because it has become so integral to the Christmas is nearing feeling.

Jamie Oliver Christmas cooking specials
Watching Jamie Oliver make incredible, tasty festive dishes is a sure-fire way to make you feel in the mood for Christmas. The only down-side is that whilst watching you will always feel hungry, so make sure you have some food to hand. Thankfully almost always shown on channels with adverts, so you can run to the kitchen for food top-ups every 15 minutes or so.

Mulled everything
If you can drink it, mull it. Mulled wine is the tip of the mulled iceberg when it comes to seasonal drinks in the UK. Cider? Is it December? You don’t want that cold do you? Of course not! You want warm mulled cider! If you can add cinnamon and orange to it, then its mulled. Yes, you can even get mulled beer. Re-enforce the mulled-ness by watching Nigella get tipsy when adding liqueurs to everything!

Cinnamon scented candles
Every supermarket and corner store becomes filled with Yankee Candles, and walk down any high street and you are sure to smell the wafting sparking cinnamon and winter berry combo’s. Ah the smell of Christmas.

Christmas jumpers
Seeing people walking around with woolly jumpers with snowflakes on them? That signals its November or early December. Everyone walking around in loud, green, red and sparkly wolly jumpers – its December, and if you haven’t started your Christmas shopping you should really get a move on.

Little oranges
Ah, the time of year when the fruit bowl empties of those summer fruits and is 90% clementine, satsuma and easy peeler oranges. Nothing signals Christmas so clearly as rejecting all other non-christmassy fruits in favour of the mini oranges.

Spiced coffees
In every coffee shop across the land you can now add flavoured syrups of everything cinnamon and berry related as well as other festive flavours. Dear help any coffee loving diabetics at this time of year as a single festive coffee or peppermint hot chocolate can contain twice the sugar of a can of coke.

All the dried fruit
Mince pies, mincemeat slices, mincemeat squares, mincemeat pastries, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding…. need I go on? If you don’t like raisins or dried fruit, good luck getting any baked goods that don’t contain them in the run up to Christmas.

Pigs in blankets
Mini-sausages wrapped in bacon. At no other time of year do we suddenly make little small portions of food we normally eat and then wrap them in another food. The variations are now huge, especially in hipster haunts where you can get small bowls of all different festive variants of these scrummy  treats.

Tins & tubs of sweets
Quality Street, Roses, Minature Heroes and Celebrations. If you don’t know what these are, then you have been living under a rock if you live in the UK.  There are lots of other new entrants too from Marks & Spencer, but the core 4 by Cadbury and Nestle are the staple sneaky snack and “I don’t know what to get you” gift. Every office and every home fills with these large tins of moorish sweets every December. Its almost like you can do a countdown to Christmas based on the number of tins/tubs that are around. Spot 1 tub somewhere every day, its the end of November or Early December. Spot 2 tubs per day, its most likely mid-December, and when there is one of each of the main 4 on the side, its Christmas Eve and you should be ready for the main event.

Sunday Afternoon Comic

I decided to try to document our Sunday afternoon in a series of cartoon images

Me, waiting for League of Legends to load, and having a lovely coffee
Its rather cold and wet outside, but our painted outside wall still looks fantastic
Nathaniel is loading a game of League of Legends too
Julian, being effortlessly cool as always chilling out and watching Rise Of The Guardians
Barbara relaxing, drinking a coffee and reading 
The corner of the living room, no fire lit today, everywhere still warm after it was lit yesterday
Thomas mid-game in League of Legends too – playing using the trackpad rather than a mouse. Yes, its ridiculous that he can do that.
Our cat “Meaow” – he is outside all night hunting so sleeps most of the day
The front lawn, showing pirate ship, catwalk, castle and swings.

Plugin Auto-Updates break my site

For the first time in over 10 years, my RMTWeb site was down for four days as I struggled to figure out what had completely broken my wordpress installation. A blank white screen was all that greeted any visitor to the site. Scouring through the server logs revealed the culprit – Google Analytics! There seems to be a conflict between it and one of the ReWrite rules created by the WPSecurity Plugin. So it seems I had a choice to make – keep Google Analytics or keep WP Security…..

I first tried removing WP Security, but it places re-write rules in .htaccess files throughout the wordpress installation, so this didn’t solve the issue. Removing the Google Analytics plugin by deleting the whole folder out of FTP did the trick, and the site was back up and running in no time!

Should I start my own business?

Since starting my own business back in 2006, its something that I get asked every few months by someone:

“Should I start my own business?”

It’s always a tricky question to answer because there are so many different types of business. I also get asked what’s the best bit about running your own business, and having been an employee and now an employer, that I can answer more clearly.

So whats the best bits about having your own business?

  • You get to make decisions that will affect your future and the direction of your business
  • You can change direction quickly and explore new ventures without having to ask permission from anyone
  • You can work flexible hours
  • You get to choose where you work from, particularly if you run a business where you can work from anywhere with a laptop. We occasionally run one of my businesses from a local coffee shop!

Ground Coffee Shop - January 2016

  • You can balance work and personal commitments much more easily
  • You can choose the way your business will operate, and follow your ethics

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

One thing that it is important to stress is that running your own business involves so many decisions every day that if you are an on-the-fence sort of person, this is going to be difficult!

You will make plenty of decisions that in hindsight were not the best decisions, and the most important thing is that you learn from the not so great decisions so as to not repeat the mistakes.

There are down-sides to having your own business though….

  • Those flexible working hours can easily slip into an all-consuming number of hours. You need a wife / husband or significant other to keep you in check. Its always good to have someone who says “you need to be home for dinner by 5:30”, otherwise it will be 10pm and you will still be working on “just one last thing!”
  • The money management can be stressful, particularly when it comes to sorting out your accounts at the end of the year.
  • You will get a ridiculous amount of paper arriving in the post. Its a complete chore to read it, so make sure you have a large recycling bin.
  • Banks are still operating on procedures from the last century and are a nightmare. It doesn’t matter what bank you choose, they still require you to go in and visit in person, and use several forests worth of paper to set up a bank account.

Things you need to know at the start

  • HMRC and government departments don’t work on normal calendar years like the rest of society, they work on a ridiculous Financial Year model, where their new year (and thus yours) starts on the first Monday in April each year and ends at a day on or after the 31st March the following year. There is added complexity that your financial year is different again with it beginning from the month that you started your company.
  • You need to file annual company accounts with Companies House once per year
  • You need to file a different version of the same accounts with HMRC once per year. (You would think that submitting them once would do, but no, that would be much too sensible and easy for a government department!)
  • You need to also file a personal tax return with HMRC once per year

Sole trader or limited company?

So, if you have decided that you should start a business, the next question is whether you should go self-employed or start a limited company. I think that there is an easy way to decide this.

Do you have expensive personal assets like a car, house (with a mortgage) etc. that you don’t want to risk loosing?

If your answer to this is yes, then you should consider setting up a limited company. For some of my companies I have used https://www.rapidformations.co.uk – they have an online form that you use to add all your details and it costs about £15 and takes a couple of hours. Once you have set up a limited company it costs about £15 per year (that you pay to Companies House) to keep it registered.

If your answer is no, then you are probably better being a sole-trader. This makes your accounts much simpler, and you have less “with my company owner hat on” juggling to do. You ARE the company. One very important thing is that you have a completely separate business bank account for your business transactions. Don’t just use your current account, as at the end of the financial year this will make your life exceptionally complex.

Your biggest challenge is…..

The biggest obstacle you face in running a successful business is the ridiculously over-complex processes and hoops that the government makes you jump through. There are deadline dates, and if you miss them, the fines can sink a small business very quickly.

Keep a digital calendar, with reminders and always add the important dates in to it:

  • The date you started the company, and make it like a birthday where it repeats annually
  • When you get told when you have to submit your annual return by Companies House, put it in your calendar with an annual reminder for a week before. If you can complete it before they have to chase you thats always a good thing

Annual Accounts can be done very, very simply

You can complete your annual accounts really easily, using an excel spreadsheet. The best way is to use Companies House. http:/www.companieshouse.gov.uk – you have to keep your limited company details up to date once per year on there anyway.

  • Keep a spreadsheet with this minimal information:
    Record all the money you get IN on one sheet,
  • Record all money OUT on another separate sheet in the same spreadsheet
  • On a third sheet of the spreadsheet, in one row, record the balance of your bank account at the start of your financial year
  • Add money in to this amount, then take away money out, the result should be the amount currently in your bank account. If it isn’t, then you have missed something!

Final small pieces of advice!

  • Don’t be afraid to say no, its better to turn down work and disappoint one potential customer than to over-stretch yourself and disappoint two customers by not delivering
  • If you don’t have it, don’t spend it. You cannot go bankrupt if you don’t owe people money
  • Don’t be afraid to say no, its better to turn down work and disappoint one potential customer than to over-stretch yourself and disappoint two customers by not delivering.
  • Get help from experts – find a local business group and go along and ask lots of questions!
  • Try to use as little paper as you can, paper accumulates and at the end of the year you will find your kitchen table completely swamped with a paper nightmare. The easiest way to achieve this is to not buy a printer, store everything digitally (take photos of receipts that you have added to your spreadsheet).
  • Invest in your business. If you are running an IT business, and you have some money, don’t go and tie yourself in to a lengthy BMW monthly contract for a nice new car that looks flash, get the best IT equipment you can afford. If your computer doesn’t turn on in 3-5 seconds, you need to get better equipment, you will be using this a lot, and if it is slow then everything takes a long time!

Get help getting started

Find a company like Venture Mosaic that helps business getting started with their branding, materials and web presence as well as .

Setting up WordPress on EC2 in 10 minutes

This tutorial does a complete walk-through on the basis of you using Mac Os to set up a new EC2 WordPress site. Once you get practiced, you can do this in minutes!

Log in to your EC2 Management Console (https://aws.amazon.com/ec2/)

Select a new  instance of Amazon Linux AMI (Free tier eligible)

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 13.35.35

Just leave everything un-changed on the next screen and press on the Next: Configure Instance Details button (NOT the Review and launch button)

Leave everything on the next screen un-changed too, and press Next: Add Storage

Again, don’t change anything and press Next Tag Instance

Give your new Server a name (name of the wordpress site/company?) then press Next: Configure Security Group

Add two new rules to allow http and https through the firewall

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 13.38.50

Click on the blue Review and Launch button

Press on Launch

Create a new key pair and give it a name (something easy to type)

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 13.40.19

download the Key Pair File file (from this point onwards referred to as nameOfKeyPair.pem)

remove the .txt extension

Open terminal and navigate to downloads folder (usually cd /users/yourYourName/Downloads/ )

chmod 600 nameOfKeyPair.pem

ssh-keygen -f nameOfKeyPair.pem -e -m per > nameOfKeyPair.pub

chmod 400 nameOfKeyPair.pem

ssh -i name.pem [email protected]

You will be connected to the new instance

Type the following, pressing Enter after every line

sudo yum update

sudo su

yum install httpd

service httpd start

yum install php php-mysql

yum install mysql-server

service mysqld start

mysqladmin -uroot create myblog

mysql_secure_installation

Press Enter (no existing password)
Enter new password (keep a note of this, you need to enter it into the wordpress config in a couple of steps time)
y
y
y
y

cd /var/www/html

wget http://wordpress.org/latest.tar.gz

tar -xzvf latest.tar.gz

mv wordpress myblog

cd myblog

mv wp-config-sample.php wp-config.php

vi wp-config.php

—press i for insert—

Make the following changes to the wordpress config file

Database: myblog
user: root
password: what you set it as during the security setup previously

press Esc

press wq to exit editor and save the changes

service https restart

browse to the new site and start configuring by typing http://yourinstanceipaddress/myblog

20 Crucial Pieces Of Life Advice From People Over 60

Recently, a question was posed to those over the age of 60. The question was this: “What advice would you give to those who are half your age?” While the question seems simple, the answers may surprise you.

1. People always say, “Make sure you get a job doing what you love!” But that isn’t the best advice. The right job is the job you love some days, can tolerate most days, and still pays the bills. Almost nobody has a job they love every day.

2. Years go by in the blink of an eye. Don’t marry young. Live your life. Go places. Do things. If you have the means or not. Pack a bag and go wherever you can afford to go. While you have no dependents, don’t buy stuff. Any stuff. See the world. Look through travel magazines and pick a spot. GO!

3. Don’t take life so seriously. Even if things seem dark and hopeless, try to laugh at how ridiculous life is.

4. A true friend will come running if you call them at 2am; everyone else is just an acquaintance.

5. The most important person in your life is the person who agreed to share their life with you. Treat them as such.

6. Children grow up way too fast. Make the most of the time you have with them.

7. Nobody ever dies wishing they had worked more… Work hard, but don’t prioritize work over family, friends, or even yourself.

8. You might live a long life, or you might live a short one – who knows. But either way, trust me when I say that you’re going to wish you took better care of yourself in your youth.

9. If you’re getting overwhelmed by life, just return to the immediate present moment and savor all that is beautiful and comforting.Take a deep breath, relax.

10. Eat and exercise like you’re a diabetic heart patient with a stroke – so you never actually become one.

11. We have one time on this earth. Don’t wake up and realize that you are 60 years old and haven’t done the things you dreamed about.

12. Maybe this one isn’t as profound as the others, but I think it’s important… Floss regularly, dental problems are awful.

13. Don’t take anyone else’s advice as gospel. You can ask for advice from someone you respect, then take your situation into consideration and make your own decision. Essentially, take your own advice is my advice…

14. Stuff is just stuff. Don’t hold onto material objects, hold onto time and experiences instead.

15. The joints you damage today will get their revenge later. Even if you think they’ve recovered completely. TRUST ME!

16. I would say to appreciate the small things and to be present in the moment. What do I mean? Well, it seems today like younger people are all about immediate gratification. Instead, why not appreciate every small moment? We don’t get to stay on this crazy/wonderful planet forever and the greatest pleasure can be found in the most mundane of activities. Instead of sending a text, pick up the phone and call someone. Call your mother, have a conversation about nothing in particular. Those are the moments to hold onto.

17. Pay your bills and stay the hell out of debt. If I could have paid myself all the money I’ve paid out in interest over the years, I’d be retired already.

18. Jealousy destroys relationships. Trust your significant other, because who else are you supposed to trust?

19. If you have a dream of being or doing something that seems impossible, try for it anyway. It will only become more impossible as you age and become responsible for other people.

20. When you meet someone for the first time, stop and realize that you really know nothing about them. You see race, gender, age, clothes. Forget it all. You know nothing. Those biased assumptions that pop into your head because of the way your brain likes categories, are limiting your life, and other people’s lives.

 

Original post by Babby Popovic, http://www.tickld.com/x/jaw/20-crucial-pieces-of-life-advice-as-told-by-people-over-60