How to make the most out of the Summers evenings

Summer – it’s definitely one of the best times of the year. The evenings are longer, the sun is (mostly!) shining and everyone seems to have a spring in their step. Let the good times roll…. for the time being. We’re soon to be faced with the dark, dreary monster that is… WINTER.

When Winter rolls in and you find yourself dreaming about long summer evenings, don’t live in regret having spent your sunnier days curled up re-watching episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix!

But do you need some inspiration? Don’t fret – Bark have got you covered, with some of the best ideas for Summer evening activities. It’s time to make the most of the season, creating some special memories with your mates along the way.

Park life – Want to boost your mood and physical energy? Then ditch the gym membership and get yourself to the park! Even the experts agree; according to Jo Barton of the University of Essex exercising in the fresh air could be “life-changing”. Yes – life changing! And not only that, exercising in nature also “lifts your mood and boosts your self-esteem”. Still not convinced? Why not bring the world of the gym outside with you by hiring the best personal trainer to put you through your paces? Sign us up – ASAP!

Break a sweat in the great outdoors
Break a sweat in the great outdoors

Awaken your inner adrenaline junkie – Use the Summer to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Why not take a trip to the UK’s first inflatable sports aqua park? Or enrol in Flying Trapeze School? Take the plunge and do something a little different – it will give you something new to chat about in work on Monday!

inflatable aqua park
Take the plunge!

Host a garden party – We’re all for parties at Bark.com. Any old excuse will do! While we’re all too used to partying indoors, Summer gives us an opportunity to take the fun (and the dancing) outside. With the help from a Bark.com gardener, turn your garden into the perfect party paradise. Simple touches can help set the vibe – be it themed décor to ambient lighting. White holiday lights are perfect for a Summers evening; string them along fences and wrap around small bushes. If you really want to impress your pals, why not hire a bartender to keep the drinks flowing all evening? It’ll be the party your neighbours wish they had organised…

Garden party
Make your neighbours jealous…

Visit a rooftop bar – Taste the high life by relaxing with friends at a rooftop bar long into the Summer evening. These top rooftop bars across the UK are perfect for a sunny tipple, often with fantastic sights and views to boot!

Dance the night away – Let’s face it, the British weather is very unreliable. We can’t enjoy the great outdoors when the rain is pouring down in the middle of July, but we can still act like the sun is splitting the rocks – right? Why not get your sunny disposition straight to the dancefloor? Not only will you increase your exercise levels, but you’ll have fun and meet new people at the same time. Happy mind, happy body. With the rise in popularity of TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing, many people across the UK are taking up ballroom dancing lessons. Maybe one day you’ll be so good that you’ll perform at events, or feature in the next series of Strictly? Your dancefloor awaits you…

dancing class
Get your dancing shoes on!

A Summer well spent brings a year of content – so make the most of what is left of yours!

For more Bark.com top tips, why not check out our other blogs?

Have our suggestions inspired you? Or have you found a quirky Summer activity? Let us know what has been memorable this Summer!

Food For Thought: What’s Filling Plates At This Year’s Summer Parties?

Here at Bark, we’re all food fanatics. Not a lunch can go by without somebody suggesting a stroll to the nearby food market to sample the somewhat absurd variety of cuisine there is on offer.

Interest in food has sky-rocketed in recent years, perhaps down to the explosion of ‘Food Porn’ imagery that is posted across social media each day. In fact, in the UK alone last year, the word ‘food’ was mentioned 155 million times by social media users, whilst the hashtag #foodporn was included in 50 million images on Instagram. From Poutine to Martinis, here’s what you’ll likely be dining on at this year’s summer parties.

The Reinvention of the Burger Ask anyone and they’ll say the same thing: ‘The Burger is a staple of any memorable summer party’. Yes, it’s usually overcooked to the point of oblivion and resembles more a hockey puck rather than something even remotely edible, but why complain? It’s just a beef burger, right? Wrong.

Pork Belly Burger. New burger trend
The burger will undergo a makeover of sorts this summer

Whereas sliders and posh burgers have dominated summers past, this year the twist is centred on what animal the burger on your plate actually derives from. Duck, lobster and pork belly are all vying to be the meat of choice in your burger this year, meaning you may need an animal picture chart to identify what you’re eating this summer.

Poutine: So what’s the perfect accompaniment to the burger? Chips, off course! Once again, much like the burger, there’s a twist on a Great British favourite this summer thanks to our Canadian friends across the pond. Put simply, Poutine is chips, cheese and gravy and it’s delicious. Its versatility is key; add something extra to it like pulled pork; your taste buds will forever be in your debt…

Poutine: Summer food trends 2015
The new accompaniment to a summer party

Love Your Lobster: Here’s something to sink your claws into: The UK is going cray-zy for Lobster. The rise of the likes of Burger & Lobster has made the food a lot more accessible and affordable, and we’re making the most of it. The Capital is slowly becoming packed full of Lobster pop-ups, market stalls and kitchens, and it makes for a perfect addition to a summer party. So next time you’re at a summer party, jump on the bandwagon and go for a mouth-watering Lobster Roll, the ideal summer seafood dish.

Lobster
Jump on the Lobster bandwagon this year

A Bitter Twist: No summer party is complete without a cocktail or three, and with that in mind, we’ve taken a look at what your party attendees will be sipping on this summer. Out are sugary cocktails such as your appletinis and your daiquiris; in is something a little more bitter. If you’re hosting a party soon, we suggest stocking up on Amaro and Campari. The bitter, the better, it seems.

Keep an eye out for Vermouth too; that’s also enjoying a moment, especially with its biggest advocate, Mr. James Bond, hitting our screens once again in his latest film, Spectre, this October. Anyone for a Martini? Shaken, not stirred, of course…

Bitter Cocktails Summer 2015
Cocktails this summer: The bitter, the better

Get The Scoop: So we’ve talked mains and what tipple to wash it down with, but what about dessert? There’s only one option to satisfy our sweet tooth this summer…Ice Cream. Homemade ice creams and sorbets are the scoop of the summer and they’re easy to make. Try to include fresh fruits such as raspberry or blueberry; the sharp, sweet flavour will clash nicely with those bitter cocktails we’ve just discussed, and the chilled texture will offer perfect respite to the summer heat. We can’t think of a more refreshing and cooler way to see out a summer party.

Home made Ice Cream and Sorbets
The scoop of the summer

Let’s Get Digital: Perhaps not quite a food trend for a Summer Party, but your smartphone is about to become a valuable dinner partner. This year has seen an upturn in the number of restaurants going digital. Be it paying for your meal via your iPhone, or booking a table or settling a bill amongst friends, your phone will make your dining experience a very interactive affair. And what kind of summer party is it if you don’t have a dedicated playlist? Apple’s newly launched streaming service, Apple Music, will help you here. Just leave the cooking to the expert.

Digital interaction is on the rise in dining
Digital interaction is on the rise in dining

Thinking of hosting a summer party this year but panicking at the thought of putting it altogether? Why not hire a caterer to do the job for you? All you’ll have to do is play the gracious host…

For more Bark.com tips and insight, why not check out our other blogs?

What are you hoping to see grace your plate at your summer party this year? Let us know

7 quirky ways to keep the kids entertained this summer

The school summer holidays are upon us – but while for some they spell a moment of blissful rest and relief, for those with young children, the very concept can seem daunting. After all, finding enough fun and exciting to activities to fill six weeks isn’t easy.

So what do you do when you’ve exhausted the obvious options – you’ve taken them to the beach, the swimming pool, you’ve tried clowns and magic shows and you can’t quite take any more Peppa Pig on repeat? Here are seven of our favourite, more unusual recommendations to make planning the summer holidays a breeze.

1. Build a tree house – have a lonely tree in your back garden? How about giving your children the chance to really go ape by building a tree house and letting their imaginations run wild. If you’re not quite as DIY-savvy as you’d like to be, there’s plenty a carpenter available on Bark.com to help turn your shrubs into a palace.

treehouse
© Copyright Paddy Griffin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

2. Watermelon smashing – the Japanese version of a piñata – but instead of whacking a donkey full of sweets, players are challenged to hit a watermelon while blindfolded until it explodes.A great, healthy summer treat with a dollop of messy fun for good measure.

Watermelon Smash

3. Arts and crafts with a difference – we’re used to picture collages and tissue paper flowers, but how about going a step further and trying out pottery classes or sewing lessons, allowing your children to create things that are more lasting and stand up to the wear and tear of use? We have some fantastic professionals listed on Bark.com, so check out who’s around in your local area.

4. Make snow ice creams – grated ice with a bit of syrup on top? So simple and easy to make, but perfect for joint-kitchen fun without the mess and stress – just watch your fingertips!

5. Hire a bouncy castle – kids and grown-ups love them too! Share the cost between friend and make a day of it – a couple of hours of bouncing and your children will be tuckered out and ready for a long nap, leaving the big kids free to open the wine and relax!

Bouncy Castle

6. Learn a language – the more exotic, the better, though if you’re planning any trips abroad in the near future, perhaps a language that coincides with the destination, allowing your children to take control of communication and show off their newly-developed skills.

7. Take on an international student during the summer months, international students flock to the UK for short summer courses in English, and local schools and colleges look to house them with local families. Why not give your kids someone new to get to know over the summer (and someone to help entertain them!). You can find loads of information over at UK Guests.

For more Bark.com top tips, why not check out our other blogs?

Like our suggestions? Have some of your own? Let us know if you have any unusual methods for keeping your children entertained during the long break!

Can you plan your Wedding with Bark?

My wife reminded me the other day that it’s coming up to our 4th anniversary and I got to thinking how much easier planning a wedding would have been if Bark.com had existed.

I thought I’d take a look at the categories on Bark to ensure we have everything needed to ensure couple’s special day goes off without a hitch.

Wedding Catering

It’s vital to have the right catering for guests. Many may have travelled for hours to the venue, waited for the bride, sat through the ceremony, drank the welcome Champagne or Bucks Fizz and be starving by the time food is served. Often a round of canapés after the ceremony while the couple is having their pictures taken is a good idea, followed by the wedding breakfast and whether it’s buffet style or a 3 course silver service meal we can help you choose the best caterers from over 35,000 available.

Wedding Decorations

Often weddings will have a theme – mine was “red” but I’ve heard things like “Frozen”, “flowers” or even “Places we’ve been”. If you’re like me and have the creative flair of a mole then you may need a professional to help bring your vision to life. I’ve seen some fantastic examples at the weddings I’ve been to (I’m at that part of my life where it’s a few weddings every Summer) and some of them must have had professional decorating help from one of the 1500 Wedding Decorators or 1000+ Florists Bark can connect you with.

Wedding Bouquet, Wedding Flowers

Wedding Photographer & Videography

One of the best bits of advice given to me was not to scrimp on a wedding photographer and to do some test shoots to see who made you feel most comfortable and therefore got the best shots. I’m so glad we did as the photographer we ended up choosing was just awesome and we were so happy with the eventual pictures. If we ever have a renewal of vows party I’ll either use the same one again or choose from one of the 1000s of expert Wedding Photographers on Bark.

Increasingly couples are using videographers to capture the day and use it to send to relatives around the world who can’t be there in person or to keep for when you’re older to remind you of how slim you were once. Fortunately you can make sure you’re only captured from the best angle by choosing from one of almost 4000 Videographers Bark can connect you with.

Wedding Cakes

The centre piece of the Wedding Breakfast and generally cutting it is the cue to start dancing like a crazy family. Getting the right cake maker can cost a few hundred to a few thousand pounds, but it’s worth it for the intricate icing work and attention to detail you can get. Many cakes are then personalised to the couple – I recall one of my friends having the bride and groom figures in a Costa mug (where they met) and with my own Cake we’d secretly arranged for the colours of the Mauritian Flag to be layered through the top tier in honour of my wife’s family – quite a surprise when it was cut. Bark wasn’t around then so we found Magical Cakery through a friend but if Bark were around we’d have had a choice of over 500 wedding cake makers

Wedding Cake

Dance Lessons

I can’t dance – everyone knows it. That made it really awkward when I had to dance with my new bride in front of all my friends and family and ended up looking like a demented octopus. If this is you too you could either ensure the videographer’s gone home, ban videos and hope your friends and family have had too much of the wine you paid for to remember, or you could use Bark to get some dance lessons and come out looking awesome. If your wedding is very traditional you could even go for Ballroom Dance Lessons.

Wedding Band or DJ

Whether it’s a band for the ceremony, a classy String Quartet or an evening DJ for helping your family cast some shapes on the dance floor Bark can help find that too. As a little tip ensure you order an extra meal for the band members and the DJ – always makes them feel good, doesn’t cost too much, and you’ll get a better service from them too.

Wedding Planning

Bark can take the pain out of finding the best local wedding suppliers and leave you in control of coordinating the gig. If you want even that taken care of, and let’s face it there is a lot to do, then we can also find you a Wedding Planner from the 6000+ we have available.

And so much more

There’s so much more Bark can help with too from designing and printing the invitations to engraving the rings to hiring transport for the day – I’m exhausted just thinking about all the work I did for my wedding and wish Bark was around to do the leg work for me back then.

Wedding Car

What do you think? Have I missed anything off that helps make the perfect Wedding? Let us know.

Author: John Oberlin-Harris

Gardeners top the rankings at Bark.com this weekend

You don't always need to find a professional gardener

With June now upon us it’s the first week of summer already. Customers across the country are thinking about their gardens once more with gardening services the most searched for on Bark.com last weekend.

During the Spring planting season, which runs between March and May customer searches are focused on planting and garden design ideas with frequent trips to the garden centre to buy compost, fertiliser and gloves. By the end of May attention focuses on the RHS Chelsea flower show that gives everyone loads of ideas to copy with experts all wanting to show off their creations.

By June searches for garden furniture and BBQs rise as do searches for garden lighting – us Brits just love to enjoy a nice evening outside on the 2 days a year the weather is actually warm enough. Wimbledon, Pimms and Strawberries just make it even more enjoyable.

Whether it’s planting, weeding the grass, cutting the lawn or just clearing out the shed there is always something to do and whether your garden is big or small and it’s always nice to find a local gardener in your town or nearby who can help out.

Bark.com has a wide variety of professionals from handymen to gardeners to carpenters and even landscape garden designers who can help keep your garden looking great this summer, whether it’s a rooftop garden in London, a courtyard garden in Birmingham or a landscape garden in Glasgow. We even have suppliers of water feature and with the recent improvements to the site’s look and feel it’s now even quicker and easier to find the expert you need.

Why not create a Gardening Bark now to get some quotes for your garden from local specialists