Celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary!

Friday, 22 June 2018

Apparently, although I'm not quite sure how, we have been married 10 years in September and together for 14 years! Back in 2004 when I was just 19 years old, I would never have imagined I had just met the Man I was going to buy a house with, marry and have Children with.

We decided last year that we would like to make a celebration out of this anniversary, silly I know but it feels like quite a milestone in a way!

After deciding that a vow renewal, while lovely, just isn't our style, we decided to go for a nice Family holiday instead.


The wedding in 2008!

I have been looking for a while now with lots of ooh's and ahh's from the Mr but nothing really stood out. That was until I came across Alta Vista Property and found the stunning Santa Maria Village in Marbella - pictures below!

Copyright Alta Vista Property

Copyright Alta Vista Property

Copyright Alta Vista Property

We have both absolutely fallen in love with the look of the apartments and the amenities. We are hoping to get everything booked next month. How exciting! I still can't quite believe we have been married 10 years, how time flies.

Our top 3 things to do in Marbella:

1) Vineyard tour and wine tasting at Vina & Bodega Remsamen. We did something similar on our honeymoon so are very much looking forward to this!

2) Art Museum - Museo Ralli. A small local Museum, we are hoping to visit one afternoon and spend a few hours soaking in some culture.


3) One for the kids (and the big kids) - Pirates Park! Ideal for Children up to 9/10, Liv is very excited to spend the day enjoying the rides and shows.


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Two top tips when travelling abroad.

1) Always make sure your whole party are fully covered with Medical travel insurance . Any kind of illness abroad can prove to be very costly, even a simple ear infection - as we discovered a few years ago in the Dominican Republic.

2) Another must is full vehicle insurance for rental cars, again something we have unfortunately experienced! I shared our story of fearing a huge bill after a minor bump back in Florida 2013, you can read it here.

Do you have any tips to add or recommendations of places to visit in Marbella? If so I would love to hear them!

5 Cleaning Hacks for the Busy Family Home

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Keeping a family home clean is no easy feat. In fact, it’s pretty darn difficult. 


Whether you’ve got young children or a house full of teens, your home is bound to get untidy. Keeping on top of the mess is half of the battle; but there are ways to minimise the struggle. Use these cleaning hacks to make your life a little easier next time it’s time for a clean.


Use duct tape on pet hair


As you may know, pet hairs get everywhere. There’s no escaping them sometimes, and they can be a nightmare to clean up. Even with the strongest vacuum cleaners, pet hair can appear to be unfazed. 



To pick up pet hairs with ease, all you need is a roll of duct tape and a paint roller. Wrap the duct tape around the roller, with the sticky side facing outwards.


All you have to do then is roll it over the pet hair and you’ll see it being picked up with no issues at all! This works perfectly on couches and car seats. 


Bake using foil


This is more of a preventative measure, but once you try it you might never go back! 


Cleaning food residue from baking trays is one of the worst parts of cooking. By covering trays in tin foil, you can simply dispose of the foil once the food is cooked. 


Whilst you might find yourself going through more rolls of foil, the time you’ll save can be significant enough to make it worthwhile. 


Use lemon to clean your chopping board


The importance of keeping you chopping board clean and bacteria-free cannot be understated; especially if yours is wooden. 


By using generic cleaning products, you can be accidentally leaving chemical traces all over your food preparation area. 



For a more organic solution, cover your chopping board in kosher salt and then chop a lemon in half. Rub the inside of the lemon over the chopping board, which will disinfect the surface and leave it perfectly clean for the next time it’s used.


Organic microwave cleaning


A well-used microwave can soon see a build-up of dirt and spills. For an effective cleaner, fill a jug hallway with boiling water and add a slice of lemon. 


Put the jug in the microwave and set it going for 30 seconds. This will let the steam cover the inside of the microwave, which you can then wipe away to reveal a good-as-new looking microwave!


Ditch the carpets


Carpets can easily become the biggest headache in your home. Not only do they collect dust and dirt, but they’re also incredibly susceptible to staining. You could spend hundreds on new carpets, only for them to be ruined with one clumsy spillage. 



Getting rid of your carpets will also prevent allergies from flaring up; especially as we move into summer. Replacing your carpets with wood or laminate flooring makes maintenance much easier, and small spillages wipe straight off. 


What other home cleaning hacks have you got?

Family time, holidays and weddings!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Sicily is one of the great holiday destinations for families.

It offers some of the best sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, magnificent coves and bays, breathtaking coral reefs, a diversity of flora and fauna, and some of the worlds best landscapes. Thus, it is not surprising that it was called “Jewel of the Mediterranean” by the ancients.


That is why some Friends of ours have decided to get married there this Summer. With a "Garden party" theme I have been searching for an outfit for Liv to wear and have found the sweetest designer dress from OD's Designer Clothing! 






How adorable is that? 

We are so excited to experience the wonderful places that the Sicilian coast has to offers.

We have been advised that counter clockwise from Palermo, we will find Mondello’s sandy beach which has always been a favourite destination of people from the capital. It can be a bit crowded in peak season, so it is best to visit between September and June. Moving west, you can also find the sandy beach of Castellammare del Golfo which begins from Scopello and LoZingaro Nature Reserve offering scenic views, beautiful coastal walks, clear waters, and a series of pebbly coves - sounds idyllic!






Traveling further west we are hoping to visis the long sandy beach of SanVito Lo Capo, arguably the best in Sicily which is popular to both tourists and locals of Trapani.

Further down the coast to the south-eastern most tip of Sicily is an endless spread of more sandy beaches from Scoglitti to Marina di Modica. Then the southern-most point of Sicily is the Isola delle Corenti that offers a very African vibe. 


You can even watch migrating flamingos and nesting turtles by heading further just around the point at the Vendicari Nature Reserve.

Have you ever been? Any more tips would be most welcome!

Will I always regret refusing braces as a Teen?

Way back when I was 14 it was recommended I have a brace fitted on my top teeth to bring down my left canine. As you can see it is quite obviously higher than all of my other teeth because it grew through while my baby tooth was still firmly in place.


I steadfastly refused as I didn't want to wear a bulky brace and be made fun of, all for one tooth! I can live with that I told myself!

However the older I've got the more it bothers me, I'm quite conscious of it when I smile and subconsciously find my head slightly turned to the left in most pictures.

Needless to say I wish I had agreed to have them back then and got it out of the way when I was younger easy to say now I'm not a a Teenager in secondary school!

As we are thinking of heading to London for my Birthday later in the year, I thought I would do some research on alternatives.

While I am still not keen on the idea of a brace, I am open to other cosmetic dentistry options. I have been more and more conscious of it lately so while browsing what is available I was pleasantly surprised when I came across Harley Street Smile Clinic.

It was only then that I realized options like gum sculpting and porcelain veneers could both work better than braces. I am particularly keen to find out more about porcelain veneers because it is described as a quick dental procedure to help you get straight teeth (without having to wear braces) I would also be interested to hear about gum sculpting as I have a particularly gummy smile too!

With you only having to attend what is described as two pain free approximately 90 minute long appointments, I am hoping to finally have a dazzling smile to be proud of!

After all what better gift could I have than a bit more confidence and a nice straight smile!?

Making the Most of the Family Budget: How to Save for a Holiday

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Dreaming of a week on the beach with the kids, or even a long weekend exploring some distance land in the sun?

 


Holidays can be a wonderful way to bond with your loved ones and create memories that last for a lifetime. Of course, they're not always the easiest thing to afford. When you're struggling to stretch the family budget far enough as it is, it can feel as though you'll never have enough cash for a holiday. 

The good news is that you don't necessarily have to give up on a family holiday if you're trying to cut back on your spending this year. Instead, all you need to do is think about how you can adjust your budgeting techniques to make your adventure more affordable. Here are a few tips to keep in mind. 


1. Consider Getting Some Extra Help

One of the biggest problems that families have when it comes to booking a holiday, is that we only have certain times in the year when everyone is available to travel together. Whether you're just taking a trip with your immediate family, and you need both parents to be off work, and the kids to be away from school, or you're traveling as a group, it's hard to make the schedules match up. 

Then, when you do find a time that seems to work for everyone, you may find that it doesn't give you enough space to save up your income for long enough to afford the trip. If that's the case for you, a little help could be the best way to go. A personal loan means you can enjoy your vacation worry-free, and then finish paying it off at a time that suits you. 


2. Look for Ways to Make Extra Cash 

If you're worried about having enough money for your family holiday, or you simply want to make sure that you have enough left over to splurge on souvenirs, then you might want to consider finding additional ways to make extra cash. For instance, there are plenty of websites online these days where you can go to offer up your skills as a freelancer. 

On the other hand, you could always consider a more traditional side-gig, like taking on a part-time job or becoming a dog walker for the people in your neighbourhood


3. Save Wherever You Can

Before you even start saving for your family holiday, it's worth sitting down as a group and going through your budget. Look at how much cash you have coming in and going out each month and ask yourself where you might be able to cut back. For instance, would you be willing to sacrifice your Netflix subscription if it meant a dream holiday? 

Sometimes, you may not even have to sacrifice anything. Making simple changes like consolidating your debts or switching to a different energy supplier can save you a lot of money every month. The key is to find as many ways to save as possible, then focus on funnelling all of your left-over cash into your "holiday fund".


4. Choose a Budget-Friendly Trip

Your decision of where to travel is sure to have an impact on how much you spend on your family holiday. For instance, it's probably not a surprise that a budget trip to Spain is less expensive than an all-inclusive adventure around Disney land. Choosing a place that's both appealing and affordable will make your holiday goals more accessible. Additionally, it helps if you can be flexible when it comes to dates and airfare. 

For instance, if you can pick a day for your flight that isn't a peak time, you can save a serious amount of money on your plane tickets. Even driving a little further so that you take off from a different airport can help to make your journey cheaper. 


5. Travel with a Group 

Another great way to save money on your booking? Travel as a group. You can save a serious amount of money just by telling your travel agent that there are 10 or more people going with you. Additionally, if you get everyone together for a trip at once, you reduce your risk of spending extra money on entertainment for the kids when you're at your destination. More people means more opportunities to have fun, bond, and avoid the boredom. 


Just make sure that you choose a group you feel comfortable spending time with for a week or two.

Modernising our tiny kitchen.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Back in 2006, after 2 years together, Barry and I took the plunge and contacted AFL Wealth Management to see if we could get a mortgage. After a meeting with a helpful Financial Advisor we finally got the green light - exciting times!

After contacting some local estate agents p, we quickly realised there really wasn't a lot available in our local area, so we knew we were going to have to sacrifice some aspect of our "dream house" in order to stay in the village we both grew up in.

After viewing for a few weeks, we finally narrowed our viable options down to two.

The first option was a lovely two bed terraced house complete with a quirky attic bedroom, newly fitted (albeit super tiny) kitchen. It was decorated in neutral colours throughout, including the carpets and nothing really needed doing before moving in. The only downside we could see was the garden was completely separate from the house. You literally had to go out of the back door, walk 2 minutes until you came to a big patch of grass separated into sections by chain link fencing. No privacy at all and unsurprisingly the majority of them where over grown and generally not looked after. Not ideal at all.

The second was again a two bed terrace, slightly bigger than the first - even the kitchen! Also decorated neutrally throughout with lovely flooring and a small, attached back yard - bonus!

This is where the fun started, Barry liked the first house purely because of the quirky bedroom, while I argued that as we wanted a Dog and a Family someday, not only would the attached yard be better but also the wooden flooring.

Of course he finally saw sense and I won the debate! We placed an offer and bought a house! We still live in the same house now and I must say it has served us well.

Over the last few years, a dog and a Daughter later, we have painted, wallpapered, added and taken away many things but one thing that we have never really been happy with is the tiny kitchen. We are under no illusion that extending is an option - we know that is way out of our budget and would also take up the only garden area we have. Instead we would love to start with a blank canvas and design the space ourselves as we honestly believe the space although small could have been utilized in a much better (and modern) way.

After much deliberating we have decided to finally start putting our ideas into action, so I have started spending my evenings scouring the web for modernising and space saving solutions.


Finding ideas is the easy part, making the fit the budget is another story! A cash loan is always an option, we know we can pay it back, it's just getting the lump sum that is difficult, something else always comes up doesn't it? 


Here is my favourite option so far, light and airy - perfect for our tiny kitchen, while not being so modern that it will need redoing in a few years. What do you think? 



If anyone has any experience with maximising a small kitchen I would really appreciate any suggestions or tips.

Happy Easter!

Easter crafting and baking - which is your favourite?

Easter with Liv!

 Does your Family have any Easter traditions?
We always went off to my Nana's static caravan for Easter when I was Younger, armed with lots of chocolate from aunts and grandparents of course!
We have always done Easter crafts and an egg hunt with Liv. As she has so many people buying for her, some of the family get her little gifts instead of eggs. So far she has had some play make up and nail polish, a bunny teddy bear and a voucher for Chester Zoo, lucky girl she is!
She is off to my parents caravan for Easter this year so we have already started her Easter bonnet and fabulous chick glasses, what do you think?


We usually make some biscuits or chocolate nests with mini eggs in, but this year I have found three AMAZING looking Cadburys Crème egg recipes from Georgia's cakes. We have decided to give the cheesecake a try - it looks fantastic but fairly easy too with me not being the best baker!

Which would you like to try?


Cracking Creme Egg Macarons by Georgia’s Cakes




Makes 20-25 macarons

Ingredients:

5 large Cadbury Creme Eggs
125g icing sugar
65g ground almonds
60g egg whites
12g caster sugar
10g cocoa powder
100g double cream
100g dark chocolate, chopped up

Method:

· Sieve together almonds, cocoa powder and icing sugar into a bowl

· Whisk up egg whites and gradually add sugar in stages

· Whisk eggs until stiff peaks have formed

· Fold the egg white into the dry mix in 3 stages

· Fill a piping bag attached with a round nozzle

· Line a tray with baking paper and pipe £2 coin sized circles, leaving about a 2cm gap in between
 each one

· Leave for about 20 mins to skin

· Dust with a small amount of cocoa powder just to achieve a slight pattern on the surface

· Turn on the oven to 135°C and bake for 10-12 mins

· Make the filling by heating the cream and pouring it over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted in

· Leave the ganache to cool and thicken (stir every now and then)

· Once the macaron shells have cooked, remove from oven and leave to cool completely before taking them off the tray

· Heat up a knife in hot water and slice the Cadbury Creme Eggs widthways into 5-6 circular pieces

· Once ganache has thickened and is at a spreadable consistency, fill a piping bag

· Pair up the matching macaron shells

· Place a piece of Cadbury Creme egg into the centre of one side of the shell, and pipe a ring around it with ganache

· Sandwich the other side onto it to form the macaron – and voila. Delicious cracking Creme egg
macarons


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Cadbury Creme egg cheesecake by Georgia’s Cakes






Ingredients:

· 10 Cadbury Creme Eggs
· 6 mini Cadbury Creme Eggs
· 150g digestive biscuits
· 75g melted butter
· 750g full fat cream cheese
· 150g icing sugar
· 1 vanilla pod
· 300ml double cream
· White chocolate, melted
· Dark Chocolate, melted
· Caramel sauce


Utensils

· 8 inch cake ring or spring form tin
· Acetate

Method:

1. Line the inside of the tin or ring with some acetate - this will make it easier to remove the cheesecake after it’s been set

2. Crush the biscuits into fine crumbs and stir the melted butter in

3. Pour into the cake tin and press around the bottom of the tin so the whole surface is covered and compact

4. Put in the fridge to set

5. Chop 5 of the Cadbury Creme Eggs up into small chunks and set to one side

6. In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, vanilla seeds from the vanilla pod and sifted icing sugar

7. In a separate bowl, whisk the double cream until it’s just started to firm up

8. Gently fold the cream into the cream cheese mix until it’s combined

9. Add the chopped up Creme Eggs and mix in

10. Take out the cake tin with the biscuit case

11. Cut the remaining Cadbury Creme Eggs in half - length ways - and arrange them facing out around the sides of the cake tin (use the goo to make them stick to the sides!)

12. Pour in the cheesecake mix and flatten off the top with a spatula or palette knife

13. Set in refrigerator for at least 1 hour

14. Once set, take out the fridge and remove the tin being careful with the outside of the cake

15. If applied, remove the acetate too

16. Drizzle over some white chocolate, dark chocolate and caramel sauce in a criss cross pattern

17. Cut the mini Creme Eggs in half - length ways and - arrange around the outside of the cheesecake



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Chocolate Crème Egg cake by Georgia's Cakes


Serves 20

INGREDIENTS:

· 5 Cadbury Creme Egg halves to decorate
· 250g butter
· 250g caster sugar
· 200g eggs
· 225g self-raising flour
· 25g cocoa powder
· 1tsp vanilla paste

For the buttercream
· 150g softened butter
· 60ml milk
· 425g icing sugar
· 75g cocoa powder

For the chocolate drips
· 50g double cream
· 40g dark chocolate


METHOD (FOR THE CAKE)

18. Melt the butter and mix in the caster sugar
19. Add the eggs and mix through
20. Then add the flour and vanilla and mix until incorporated
21. Divide equally into 2 x 6 inch lined cake tins and bake at 180°C for 30-40 minutes until they are cooked through
22. Leave to cool on cooling racks


METHOD (FOR THE BUTTERCREAM)

1. Beat together the icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk
2. Keep beating until the mixture is light and fluffy

METHOD (FOR THE ASSEMBLY)

1. Level each cake off on the top and cut both in half so you have 4 equal layers of cake. Make sure you save one of the ‘bottoms’ as the last layer

2. Spread a layer of buttercream onto one layer and place the second layer on top

3. Repeat on the second and third layer. When you get to the fourth, make sure the top layer is facing down so you have the flattest side on the top

4. Place the last layer on and encase the whole cake with buttercream

5. Scrape off the excess buttercream and leave in the fridge/ freezer until the buttercream is set firm

6. Heat up the cream and pour over the dark chocolate and mix until it’s melted through

7. Pour this melted chocolate mixture over the cake and push towards the edges with a palette knife. Let it gently drip down the cake

8. Use the leftover buttercream to assemble the top of the cake, placing 5 Cadbury Creme Egg halves on top alongside meringue kisses

I found a quick video for this one which may help if you are giving it a try.

Please share your work if you do attempt any of the recipes!

Happy Easter!

Five small changes to improve your life.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

We all want to improve our quality of life, but making changes can often be more trouble than they're worth. Here are five quick and easy ways you can improve your life, instantly:

1. Join a new club... alone

As we get older, we often forget the fun we can have trying new things and making new friends. Whether it’s a book club, a weird new sport, or an art class, your life can be dramatically improved by taking the plunge and trying something new. You never know, you might uncover a talent you never knew you had!

If you’re brave enough, resisting bullying a friend into doing it with you can make a huge impact. You might feel nervous and shy at first, but it can allow you to be free to socialise with strangers (just friends you haven’t met yet!) without worrying about leaving someone out. 


2. Keep a diary

It might sound a bit sappy, but it’s been proven that writing down your thoughts and emotions from the day before bed helps you get a good night’s sleep and generally makes you happier. It’s a brilliant way of processing stress and anxiety, and can be a wonderful memento to look back on years later. Every day things that you take for granted now may seem wonderfully quaint or special fifty years in the future!

3. Spend less time in phone queues!

Using Contact Number UK will save your precious time being wasted in phone queues listening to cheesy music. They aim to provide you with a quick way of getting through to all of the UK’s major companies and organizations, ranging from Sky or Amazon, and even HMRC. By using the numbers found on Contact Number UK's site you will be able to start talking with customer service much quicker, leaving you with more time on your hands - who doesn't need that?!

4. Listen to new music

Discovering new artists or even genres can be a wonderful experience. Going outside of your comfort zone and picking a different radio station to have on in the background while you’re de-cluttering your house or cooking dinner is a simple way of broadening your musical knowledge. Good for pub quizzes, great for general happiness. 





5. Move more

It would be lovely if we all had a passion for exercise, but if we’re honest the sofa is kind of better. Even so, gradually increasing exercise into your everyday routine can be an effective way to improve your life and general health. From half an hour copying pilates videos on YouTube, to enthusiastically dancing while doing the hovering (combine number four, perhaps?), just a little extra movement every day can create big changes!


The secret to keeping kids entertained

Thursday, 22 February 2018

“I’m boreeeddd”

 

Eughh, those words. Are you desperate to find 6 weeks worth of activities to keep the kids occupied this summer? You’re not alone because as we speak there are plenty of other parents desperately surfing the internet trying to find the best affordable and exciting family adventures. So to save you time, we have found some of our favourite ideas to give you and your family the best summer yet.

 


 

DIY fun

 

● Build a treehouse! OK, this may sounds like a lot of effort and a lot of money, but it’s a great way to get the kids involved, plus they’ll love you forever after you made the coolest outdoor fort! See it as more of an investment, not only is the process of the big build exciting, think of the amount of fun they’ll after, not just lasting the summer, but many years to come. For some inspiration and advice, read here.

 

● Get Baking! Baking is great fun, it might get a little messy but that just makes it even more fun. Let the kids choose what they want to bake from a recipe book and take them shopping with you to get the ingredients. They’ll love the sense of responsibility and will be so proud with the finished pudding - you never know, you might have the next Mary Berry living under your roof!

 

● Especially if it’s a hot day (i know that’s rare but you have to be prepared) water fights are SO much fun! I suppose they aren’t really DIY as such but it doesn't cost much to buy some cheap water guns and water balloons! Get the swimsuits on and the water running. It’s great for some outdoor activity away from those screens!

 

● Finally, make your own treasure hunt! Whether you choose to hide clues to follow, or give them a map at the beginning, they’ll love running around and figuring out where the treasure is! Alternatively, you could get them to create the treasure hunt themselves, allowing them to get creative and arty!

 

 

Day trips 

 

● For the ultimate adventure, why not go on a fun family day out at Port Lympne. Your little ones will get to meet some of their favourite animals like never before! This safari experience is perfect for your little explorers and after a busy adventure you can have a tasty treat at one of our restaurants. To make the day even more unforgettable, why not try one of our exceptional experiences, for example you could be a keeper for the day!

 

● If you’re a family who love sporting activities, the Chill Factore could be the answer for you. You can go skiing, snowboarding, tubing and even indoor skydiving and if you’ve never hit the slopes before - don’t worry because they offer lessons for everyone! Plus, they also offer a range of party packages for your little one’s birthday falls in the holidays.

 

● For more of an underwater experience, visit the Sealife centre, with locations all over the UK, Brighton, Blackpool, Manchester, London and Loch Lomond (just to name a few!) you don’t have to travel too far! Get close to all the exotic sea creatures like never before, seahorses, jellyfish, turtles, sharks, rays and so much more!

 

 

What are your plans for the holidays? Do you have any tips to keep the kids from murmuring those dreaded words?