September is the new January… improve yourself and your skills with Bark.com

Forget New Year, September is the perfect time for new beginnings. Summer has been and gone, the days are getting shorter, the evenings are getting darker and the air is cool as winter slowly sets in.

There’s something different about September, which makes it more of an annual turning point than January. September sees the start of a new academic year, and even though the Bark.com team have been out of school for quite a while, we always feel a sense of renewed determination and eagerness as September sets in. We think of September as a clean slate, a time of self-evaluation and a time to start a new project. With that, we’ve put together the top ways to improve yourself and your skills this September – all with the help of Bark.com!

Learn a language

Have you ever thought about learning a second language? Learning another language not only opens your mind and teaches you about different cultures, it also makes you stand out in a competitive job market where skills are key; think amazing job opportunities and salary increases! Need more convincing? Research the cognitive benefits. Many physiological studies have noted that the brains of bilingual people operate more efficiently than single language speakers, particularly in the areas of decision-making, multitasking and memory. Find French lessons, German lessons, Spanish lessons or even Chinese lessons, you’ll at least have some fun bragging rights by the time you become fluent!

Find language lessons
The world is your oyster!

Conquer the fear of public speaking

What’s your greatest fear? Do Spiders scare you? Are heights not your thing? Do you avoid deep water like the plague? All of the above are amongst the top 10 greatest fears across the world, but what was number one in the USA? You guessed it – public speaking! As Jay Leno once said ‘I guess we’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy’. If you’re one of those people who can’t stand the thoughts of speaking in front of a group, then take the fear into your own hands and find public speaking lessons this September – you won’t regret it!

Find pubic speaking lessons
Get ready to take the mic!

Channel your creativity through photography

Are you Instagram crazy, a filter fanatic so to speak? Did our latest photography blog inspire you to unleash your inner photographer? Search for photography lessons this September and go from amateur to pro. From shooting to editing, this is a fantastic creative outlet to explore before the year is out. You’ll have your own studio before you know it…

Find photography lessons
Channel your creativity through photography

Protect and empower yourself with self defence

Feeling empowered is a great feeling, particularly when it comes to safety. I’m sure many of us would like to feel safer on our streets as we go about our daily lives. The numbers of people, especially women, taking the necessary steps to feel more secure is increasing. Self-defence classes are popular, as students can learn how to predict, prevent, identify and avoid violence. When we think of self-defence we immediately think of just martial arts, but the crucial difference is that self-defence combines situational awareness into the mix. Find the self-defence classes which teach you the skills you need to keep yourself safe in this big bad world!

Find self defence classes
Be prepared, protect yourself!

Dance like no one’s watching!

Looking for an activity that is good for personal fitness and is enjoyable at the same time? Get your dancing shoes on! Creativity is one thing that dancing can provide that regular gym exercises can’t. As Contanze Mozart once said: “Dancing is like dreaming with your feet”. This type of exercise is also both aerobic and anaerobic, so you will always get a full body workout. Whether you like ballroom dancing, tap dancing or hip hop dancing, there’s a genre for everyone. Side step to Bark.com to find the best dance lessons in  your area.

Find dance classes
Express yourself through dance

We hope we have motivated you to improve your skills this September. If none of the above are for you, then browse our lessons and training page for more inspiration. Let us know which one you choose and remember; Orange is the New Black, Tuesday is the new Thursday, and September is the new January.

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

Gone with the Wind – how to make the most of your autumn garden

By Andy McIndoe, Gold Medal winning Chelsea designer for the last 22 years

The highlights of the autumn garden are some of the most heart-warming and surprising and can represent a great opportunity for garden projects. Maybe it’s the rich fall colours that seem to glow even on dull days. Or perhaps it’s that lush burst of growth of the grass, encouraged by morning dew and more frequent rainfall. The gardening and landscaping year is far from closing, there’s plenty that you, or your gardener can do to make the most of the season and prepare for the future.

Grass Blades morning dew
Morning dew in the garden

There is a treasure trove of seasonal plant material on sale in garden centres and nurseries. Even if it’s still alive, get rid of summer bedding from those patio containers and pots. There are lots of wonderful autumn and winter container plants that will really brighten up the patio and doorstep: violas, pansies, heathers, heucheras, cyclamen and a host of foliage subjects. Many of these will stay looking good through winter.

There are also all those lovely spring flowering bulbs to plant in preparation for another season. Plant any small bulbs such as snowdrops, iris and fritillaries as soon as possible; they deteriorate quickly if left out of the ground for long. Hold off planting tulips until late autumn as if planted too early they can suffer from frost damage or the disease ‘tulip fire’. Daffodils and narcissi can be planted at any time.

Spring daffodils plant anytime
The signal of springtime!

Leaves are falling, so keep gathering them regularly and do not leave them lying on the grass. It’s best to mow them up with the mower on a high setting if possible. This chops the large ones coarsely and adds a few green grass cuttings that help the composting process. It is certainly much less backbreaking than raking – quicker too – so if you don’t have the right equipment, ask your local lawn care professional for advice.

Remember, if you’re looking for help around the garden, autumn is often the best time for planting trees and shrubs, and can be a good time of year for general garden maintenance, as well as removal projects once barbecue season is over. Some shrubs will give instant impact if planted now and they can also benefit wild birds that visit your garden. Cotoneasters are a great choice – tiny white flowers in spring that attract bees and other pollinators, scarlet berries in autumn and winter that the birds really enjoy. If you are thinking of a planting a tree, think beyond spring blossom. Sorbus and malus both have colourful fruits that provide winter food for birds, if you can tempt them to something organic away from the bird feeder.

Red Pommes of firethorn Pyracantha
Autumn Beauty

If you choose just one shrub to plant it has to be a hydrangea: these have gone from being old fashioned to super-trendy in the past couple of years. They are at their best in autumn when their brighter colours fade to something far more sophisticated and beautiful, before they turn parchment in winter. For flower arrangers this is the time to cut them and dry them to preserve their faded beauty.

Whatever you have planned for your garden, ground preparation and careful planting gives the best results. So fork over the ground and mix in plenty of garden compost or shrub and tree planting compost. analysis of website . Dig a hole that’s plenty deep and wide enough and plant firmly. Always stake and tie any new trees securely.

While summer is unfortunately drawing to a close, this is certainly no time to abandon your garden. Taking care of your garden now will reap rewards all through autumn and winter and give you the chance to play host when others can’t!

Andy McIndoe
Andy McIndoe

Follow @AndyMcIndoe on Twitter for more expert insights.

Andy is MD at Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centres, as well as a tutor and blogger at the online gardening school MyGardenSchool.

 

 

Want to leave it to the professionals? Leave it to us to get you gardening quotes now

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

Plumbing Conundrums – five things to think about when getting work done on your pipes

In our first of a series of guest blogs from experts across Bark.com, Charlie Mullins, Founder and Managing Director of London-based Pimlico Plumbers, the capital’s biggest independent plumbing company, shares his top tips for healthy waterworks.

Whether you’re boiling your kettle, doing the laundry, having a soak in the bath or warming the house on a cold, crisp evening, we do use a lot of water simply going from day to day, with our plumbing quietly working away in the background to transport it from A to B.

kettle boiling
Cup of tea anyone?

But making sure we get the most from our pipes is not always that simple – if you’re working with existing networks, they aren’t always as flexible or adaptable as we’d like them to be, and if you’re starting from scratch, there are a number of building regulations to consider. So if you’re thinking of doing any tinkering, here are a few top tips to help you ask the right questions, get the right solutions and perhaps most importantly, the right quotes for your plumbing.

1. Where’s my water going? – Out of all the rooms in the home, the kitchen and bathroom – in other words, the rooms that involve the most plumbing work – are the most commonly renovated. So before you read up on your feng shui and start rearranging layouts, think where you’re going to put all your water items (by that, I mean sinks, bath, washing machine, loo, dishwasher etc.) as their position may well be determined by where existing waste and soil pipes are. It is often extremely pricey to move them even a few inches, so make sure you factor in their exact locations when discussing your design. If you’re not sure what’s possible and you’re looking for a tradesman to do the job, why not ask your local bathroom or kitchen fitter for advice before buying? It could save you a lot of hassle further down the line

2. I don’t understand my water pressure – We’ve all experienced the disappointment of a bad shower, whether that’s the embarrassing trickle that drips from the showerhead or the vicious spikes and drops in temperature when someone turns a tap on elsewhere. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you carefully consider where your water tank is positioned and match the shower to suit it. Generally, your supply will come from one of three places – a header tank in the attic, with a hot water cylinder in an airing cupboard; a pressurised system using the pressure from your mains water supply in the road; or a combi boiler system heating water on demand. Again, it’s worth consulting a specialist shower installation professional before you get too attached to the idea of a ceiling mounted rain shower head – beautiful in theory, but not always practical.

Rain shower head
Spectacular, spectacular – but only if you’ve got the right tank!

3. How do I get the most from my boiler? – Boilers can take up a lot of precious space in a crowded kitchen or bathroom, so many people opt to move them somewhere more secluded in the home. If you’re thinking of doing the same, there are a few things to consider – firstly, how readily accessible will your boiler be? Unless you have a converted loft, bunging a boiler in the attic will only give you and your (CORGI registered) boiler engineer headaches when it needs to be serviced, so aim for somewhere on the ground floor like a shoe cupboard or utility room. Then, think about how far any heated water needs to travel – the shorter the distance, the quicker you’ll be able to run your bath. Finally, don’t forget about the flue (the vent for the boiler) – there are several building regulations that can limit where it can be positioned, and therefore where your boiler can be installed.

4. And my radiators? – If you haven’t replaced your radiators in a while, you’ll probably find them situated under windows or on external walls – and there is some logic to this as before double glazing came into play, this helped cancel out cold draughts entering the room. Nowadays though, radiator positions don’t need to be so prescriptive, so feel free to play around with locations (perhaps with the help of a handy heating professional). Just watch out for blocking them with furniture or hiding them behind long curtains as that will trap the heat.

5. What about the pipes themselves? – Going underground seems to be a growing trend with all manner of piping to keep rooms looking clean and clutter-free. And that’s fine – but make sure you find yourself a plumber you trust because the move will be delicate. Any drilling or notching to floor joists needs to be done with care to ensure they can still support weight, any pipes buried in concrete floors need to be protected from potential chemical reactions with tape or plastic casing, and pipes shouldn’t be randomly placed anywhere – otherwise, tradesmen further down the line could easily hammer a nail in to your network or make an incision accidentally.

Burst pipe
Water in the hole – or is it hole in the water?

Whatever your plumbing need you can find the best local plumbers on Bark fast and free.

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

Have you got your own plumbing tips to share? Have you ever been caught out by the above? Give us a Bark and let us know!

The Top 5 Photo Apps to Download Now!

Set the scene – It’s the 90s. You’re just back from your 2-week holiday in Spain, booked through your trusty high-street travel agent. Spain was beautiful – the sun was splitting the rocks, the food was to die for and the drinks were flowing. Thank god you bought a trusty disposable camera to capture the memories! When you arrive home you will develop your pictures, put them into an album and share them with your friends and family over a cup of tea…

A must have for a 90s Summer holiday
A must have for a 90s Summer holiday

My, how times have changed! We’re more likely to find a travel agent online, to book our trip at the click of a button. We’re also bombarded with imagery daily. People communicate by capturing immediate experiences and moments as photos and sending them directly to their network of friends all over the world, using social channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Digital cameras and mobile phones with built-in cameras have been popular for a long time now. Nowadays we also have the added benefit of high spec cameras and sophisticated photography apps, which can be used while on the go. Not everyone is a skilled or talented photographer, but we can at least try to be!

With thousands of photo apps available, it can be difficult to know the best ones to use. How can you make the most our of your smartphone’s camera? What’s on trend? And more importantly – what will help you get the most likes on Facebook? Whether you’re looking to shoot, edit or share with the world, we’ve compiled a list of photography apps you need to download now!

  1. Facetune

Create a selfie Kim Kardashian would be proud of with this photo-editing app! As per the name, this app allows you to tweak photos of your face, whether you want to hide your blemishes, whiten your teeth, disguise your wrinkles or hide bags under the eyes. It’s really easy to use, and Facetune even provide more than 20 in-app tutorials to help you make the edits look natural. Don’t overdo it though! A little tune up is fine every so often, particularly after a long night on the tiles. But remember your friends have met you in person…

Facetune your blemishes!
Facetune your blemishes!
  1. Instagram

So you’ve got your outstanding #selfie… but where are you going to share it? If you haven’t already hopped on the Instagram bandwagon, you need to do so as soon as possible. Instagram is a photo and video focused social networking service, which allows you to share your life through visual content. Instagram say they “imagine a world more connected through photos”, and that’s exactly what they have achieved. In 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for a staggering $1 Billion and according to recent data released by the social giant, there are now over 300 million people on Instagram each month – including all the celebs – Taylor Swift, David Beckham and Barack Obama to name but a few. There is also a hashtag functionality, which allows you to browse and follow according to your interests. What will your #PicOfTheDay be? One day you could be insta- famous – better get those modelling lessons in!

Become a filter fanatic!
Become a filter fanatic!
  1. FrameMagic

Already on Instagram but want to enhance your #InstaExperience? Then download FrameMagic. FrameMagic allows you to compile your favourite photos and videos into one single artwork; be it a photo collage, video collage or video slideshow. A picture says a thousands words, so why not try 5 pictures in one! It’s really simple to use, with a variety of layouts, colours and patterns to choose from. The creative possibilities are endless, and your piece of work can be easily shared across a variety of social networking sites. Leave the actual picture framing to the experts though. Creating for Instagram and creating for above your fireplace are too different things…

  1. Retrica

Many photo sharing apps have a filter function available, which essentially allows you to enhance colours and tones to customise the photo how you please. Filters are a big hit on Instagram, but the range of filters available is limited. If you’re a filter fanatic, then you need to download Retrica. From 70s inspired themes to a regular black and white, Retrica has got over 100 to choose from. You can even use real-time filters, where you can preview how your photo will look before you even take it. Simple!

Make your photos pop!
Make your photos pop!
  1. Snapchat

There is no app more instant that Snapchat. Users can take photos, record videos, add captions and drawings and send to a defined list of recipents, and even set a time limit for how long recipents can view the snaps! Other functions within the Snapchat app allow you to create your ‘Story’ which can be viewed by your friends for 24 hours* and also the ‘Discover’ feature; a storytelling format which allows you to explore stories from a variety of world-class leaders in media, including Sky News, Cosmopolitan and Buzzfeed. We’re tipping this one to become bigger and better as the time goes on… watch this space.

*Note: when you’ve had a few too many at a party, step away from Snapchat. You don’t want to feel like you were the hired clown entertainment the next day…

Did your favourite app make our list? Or maybe you’re feeling inspired to create your own app? Remember, “the best camera is the one you have with you”. Try out the apps we suggested and share the images with us on Twitter – we’re @barkteam. Let your creativity do the talking!

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

Five Features of Windows 10 You Need To Know

Microsoft Windows 10 start sceen
Windows 10 sees the return of the Start menu

After close to a year-long wait from beta to launch, Windows 10 was released to the public last week amid much anticipation. Three years on from Windows’ last major operating system launch, Windows 8 in 2012 that received mixed reviews at best, Windows 10 has so far been praised for its more familiar interface and ease of use.

If you’re a devout Windows user, an upgrade is probably a no-brainer; it’s free to download, as long as you do so within the first year of its launch. For non-Windows users, the new operating system is due out at the end of August,  and an as-yet-confirmed price will be attached.

So, if you’re still undecided about whether or not to take the plunge and upgrade, here’s five features that may help you make up your mind:

1. Gain the Edge

Being frank, it’s about time Microsoft decided to ditch Internet Explorer and adopt a new web browser. Having once enjoyed a virtual monopoly when it came to web browsing, the rise of the likes of Google Chrome, Firefox and Mozilla left Explorer looking like that annoying person who refuses to leave the party.

Edge is Microsoft’s fresh attempt to take on the might of Chrome and Firefox, and so far, things are looking positive. With the help of Cortana, your own virtual personal assistant (we explain further down), Edge allows us to ‘ditch the distractions’ and ‘do-more faster’.

A new rendering engine means Edge is much faster and more responsive than its predecessor and in terms of security, Microsoft has pulled out all the stops to ensure we don’t fall victim to hackers and other nefarious cyber-threats.

What does this all mean in comparison to Chrome, Firefox et al? It seems to be a case of ‘close, but no cigar’ for Edge. Yes, it’s a massive improvement on the dinosaur that is Internet Explorer, but it still lags somewhat behind the leading browsing stalwarts; Chrome is still probably the best performing browser currently out there.

Microsoft Windows 10 Edge web browser
Trying to gain an Edge on Chrome and Firefox.

2. ‘Appy Days

One of the major selling points of Windows 10 is the universal app feature. Put simply, Windows Apps will now work on any Windows 10-supported platform, be it your PC, tablet, smartphone or even your Xbox One. This could be a major pull for developers, who can know create a one-size fits all app any machine, as opposed to having to re-write them for each platform, like the bad old days.

The hope for Microsoft is that this move will help to close the app-gap on Google Play and the Apple Store, the mammoths of the industry. For the typical user, convenience is the keyword here. That one change you forgot to make to that presentation on your PC earlier this morning can now be made from your phone on the way to the meeting, or that photo you took with your mates earlier today will be waiting for you on your Microsoft Surface tablet when you get home. Yes, Google Documents and Apple Continuity offers the same service, but Microsoft may have stolen a march with its ease of use.

Windows Apps will now work on any Windows 10-supported platform.
Windows Apps will now work on any Windows 10-supported platform.

3. Hey Cortana

How rude of us; here we are explaining the features of Windows 10 and we haven’t even introduced you to Cortana yet… Your own personal assistant, Cortana will never leave your side for as long as you use Windows 10. Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, may be familiar to Windows Phone users, but this marks her debut on PCs and tablets. Simply stating: ‘Hey Cortana’ will awaken your digital assistant, and she will provide you with anything from leading news stories to weather updates. Just don’t expect her to make the coffee…

The more you use Microsoft 10, the better Cortana gets to know you and the more refined and personal information she can offer you. This can be very beneficial on Edge, as Cortana will monitor your browsing habits to make researching quicker and seamless. Want directions to that new restaurant in town? Just ask Cortana. Writing a university essay and struggling to comprehend that ridiculous-sounding term? Don’t fret, Cortana will explain all.

She’ll even tell you a joke, if you ask her nicely. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Cortana Micrsoft Windows 10
Cortana: your trusty personal assistant

4. A Fresh Start

A major reason for the launch of Windows 8 falling like a lead balloon back in 2012 was the dismantling of the Start screen. Instead, Microsoft opted to ‘modernise’ and use tiles instead, which only served to bamboozle its audience. Windows 10 sees the return of the popular start menu.

Tiles still exist in Windows 10, but they’re more of an accompaniment rather than the main event. Tiles can be organised into different groups, so your business-related folders and programs can sit together, or all of your gaming features can be found in one neat place. Put short, it’s a world away from the headache of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 and a successful attempt at going back to basics.

As simple as it sounds, the return of the Start button might just be the clincher to you deciding to download Windows 10.

Microsoft Windows 10 start screen
Windows 10 sees the return of the Start menu

5. Down to Business

Microsoft has seemingly gone to great lengths to win over businesses who were left disappointed with the complicated Windows 8. One failure of that operating system was the lack of businesses that made the switch; most were more inclined to stick with Windows 7.

Should your business make the switch to Windows 10? Early signs suggest you should. Windows 10 is smarter and safer than its predecessors. As we mentioned earlier, the new operating system is hot on making the service as secure as possible. Feature such as Microsoft Hello will require fingerprint readers and infrared cameras in order to authenticate devices. In terms of productivity, Universal Apps encourages businesses to store apps of interest in one area, allowing easy access for your employees, whilst work-mates can share content with each other through peer-to-peer delivery.

What’s more, gone are the days of waiting years for upgrades to your system. Instead, Windows 10 will offer regular updates to ensure your system is working at full capacity.

If all of this has gone over your head, why not grab some advice from an expert? Even better, knowledge is power

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

Is Windows 10 a new dawn for Microsoft, or is it a case of more of the same? Let us know

How to conquer Britain’s unpredictable summer weather

We all look forward to the summer holidays, but like many things, they don’t always live up to our expectations. Particularly when we think about the infamous, unpredictable British summer weather. Ever switching from one extreme to the next, we go from sunshine and to a gloomy winter-like day in a split second.

Accommodating such weather conditions can be a challenge – but Bark.com are here to relieve some of that pressure. Whether it’s helping to keep the kids busy on a cloudy day, or planning that summer party with a big dark cloud lurking over you, or simply finding a new summer hobby, we’ve selected our top picks to conquer the unpredictable British summer.

Kick up a sweat: Summer is a great time to start thinking about getting into shape. However, while a refreshing jog in the park to get you beach body ready can seem like a great idea, the fun tends to come to a halt when the heavens open. If that’s the case, why not try some indoor fitness activities such as Pilates, Yoga or even Zumba if you’re in the dancing mood? Taking part in one of these classes is also a great way to meet new people. Find local Zumba classes here.

Zumba dance lessons
Zumba classes in full flow!

Get hands on: If even just the thought of getting active gets you breaking out into a cold sweat, then perhaps something recreational is a bit more up your street. Whether it’s taking a cookery class using seasonal produce or learning how to paint or sculpt, the unpredictable weather could give you a creative kick-start! It’s the perfect time to pick up a new hobby. If you’re keen to know what is filling the plates at this year’s summers parties then check here!

Arts crafts painting
Get crafty!

Grab the popcorn: If you’re more of a ‘night-in’ than ‘night-out’ person and don’t want to opt for an activity that requires a lot of energy, why not try a drive-in film club? As well as the great sense of nostalgia, it’s a perfect activity for both warm, dewy summer evenings and cloudy, rainy ones. Sit in your car or on the bonnet and sing along to classics such as Grease or Hairspray.

Drive in
Drive-in cinema

Host(ess) with the mostess: Whether for a special occasion or just for the sake of it, summer lends itself well to merriment, so while a spot of rain might be seen as a dampener on your barbeque garden party, there’s no need to cancel because the weather’s not playing ball! Make sure you prep in advance for all eventualities – renting a marquee for the evening will protect you from any rain as well as adding a professional touch to your soiree. Bark can easily help you find a DJ to spice things up inside or a magician to keep the kids (and the adults!) entertained. Don’t let the British weather rain on your parade.

Perfecting staycations: Most of us dream of exotic holidays abroad, but summer is also the perfect time to explore what’s right under our noses. Britain is brimming with its own fantastic attractions and landmarks so why not take the time to stroll around a museum or go on a guided tour to see and learn a bit more about ole Blighty (ideally choose one that takes place undercover!).

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

Got your own suggestions for beating sudden summer downpours and thunderstorms? Give us a bark and let us know!

5 tips to run further than you ever have before

As summer getaways edge ever closer and the thought of digging out bikinis and swimming trunks long forgotten becomes increasingly daunting, many of us turn to the treadmill or the road to get ourselves feeling fit and confident for the holidays.

But whether you’re a complete beginner or a regular runner upping the ante, it’s important to understand your limits, just as much as when you should push yourself, to run faster and further than you ever have before. So, here are some of our top training tips to help you kick start your new fitness regime.

1. Don’t run before you can walk: This might sound counterintuitive, but often when you’ve been bitten by the running bug, the natural urge is to spend hours on your first ‘gentle jog’. At the risk of causing yourself serious injury or punishing your body so much you end up hating it, this is probably one of the worst things you could do to yourself. However, ailments and problems to arise, sometimes without fault, if this does happen, a recommended physical therapist will be able to nurse you back to full running health.

runner-712458_1280

Slow and steady wins the race could not be more fitting. Take your time and slowly build up the miles in your legs. If you’ve never run before, start with a mile, or if you’re a regular runner, run a distance that you know you can finish. Once the aches have subsided (which can be helped through a qualified masseuse) from your first attempt, try and do the same distance again, but quicker. Only when you’ve mastered speed should you think about upping the distance.

2. You take care now: Whether you’re an amateur or a pro, it’s easy to twist or sprain something when attempting to add distance to your runs. Listen to your body – when it hurts, stop. A tight hamstring, aching calves or a niggling ankle means it’s time to take a break and let your body heal itself before hitting the road again. The same goes for simple fatigue – your body needs to rest after you exert yourself, so don’t be afraid to put your feet up!

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3. It’s good to talk: One of the most difficult things to judge when starting out is how quickly to run or how hard to push yourself on those longer jaunts. A quick and easy rule is that when you’re running at marathon pace, you should still be able to hold a conversation without being out of breath. Why not find a running buddy to test yourself? Not only will your running improve, they’ll also be a welcome distraction from the road ahead.

4. You are what you eat: Nothing impacts your energy levels and performance during a run more than what you fuel yourself with, so avoid indulging on heavy foods such as red meat and fatty fried foods beforehand (though feel free to treat yourself in moderation afterwards!).

According to nutritionists, the best sources of energy are slow-release carbs like brown pasta or bread, cream cheese, white protein (a.k.a. chicken) or sweet potatoes, but beware – even the good stuff can give you stitches if you don’t give your body enough time to digest and absorb the nutrients. Two hours is normally a good gap to leave.

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It’s also essential that you keep hydrated during your run, so take some water or an energy drink with you*.

*Note – they won’t make up for a lack of energy.

5. Spice things up: Even for the most experienced runners, a few hours of the same scenery can get a little monotonous for anyone. To help you stay focused, not to mention giving yourself a chance to develop different running muscles and improve performance, change things up. Sprints on a treadmill at the gym or in a park and hill running to boost incline performance are just as helpful as a quick jog around the block to warm down after a long run.

There are some great experts available on Bark.com too if you want a little extra help!

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

Got your own suggestions for getting in shape this summer? Give us a bark and let us know!

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!