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How to make the most of London this autumn/winter.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

With the winter on its way, the chances are that you’re spending your evenings snuggled on the sofa with a hot cocoa and a blanket - but there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. 

One of the very best cities to check out during the Christmas season is London – so below, we’ve rounded up ways to make the most out of a trip to our capital city.

Book accommodation in advance

There’s no denying that accommodation in London can be expensive – if you want to stay in The Lanesborough’s luxurious suite, for example, you’ll need to cough up £26,000 a nightTo get the best deal on your visit, you should make sure you book your hotel in advance. 

You can do so by checking out the bed and breakfast London section of the Toprooms website. There, you’ll find quality bed and breakfast rooms that don’t cost the earth and allow you to explore the sights and sounds of London on a budget.

Explore the Christmas markets

If you want to get into the festive spirit, then consider the Winter Wonderland, which is one of London’s biggest Christmas markets. With an open-air ice rink, more than 200 wooden cabins offering gifts and food and the Giant Observation Wheel, which rivals the London Eye, there's something for the whole family to do. 

Taking place throughout November and December, this free-entry market is a must-do on your next visit to the capital. Elsewhere in London, you'll find markets in Leicester Square, Southbank Centre and Clapham Common.

Take in a musical

It doesn’t make sense to visit London without taking in a musical, and with November and December being particularly busy times of the year for the West End, you should consider buying your theatre tickets now to avoid disappointment. 

The good news is that there is a whole host of musicals to consider, whether it's The Lion King, Aladdin, Les Misérables, Thriller or Matilda. Musicals are fun for the whole family and can be a great afternoon out.

Go shopping

Markets are great for finding trinkets and gifts for friends and family, but if you want to get prepared for Christmas, then London is the place to be. Not only can you find a whole host of stores on the capital's famous Oxford Street, but you'll find unique shops, such as Alice Through the Looking Glass at Charing Cross station, which offers Alice in Wonderland-inspired items. 

On Baker Street, you’ll find The Beatles Store which, you guessed it, stocks t-shirts and 1960s memorabilia, while Cyberdog on Camden’s Stables Market stocks fluorescent and futuristic clothes and accessories to get you ready for a night of raving.

There you have it – some of the best ways to make the most out of your next visit to London. 

There’s so much we didn’t mention, like creating a map of your activities and booking bus and tube fares in advance, so the best thing to do is explore the city on your own terms. 

Whether it’s your first time or you’re a veteran, have fun!

We had a great time in Florida - despite a minor car accident!

Friday, 10 November 2017

Back in 2013, we were incredibly lucky to spend 3 weeks in Orlando Florida and had an absolutely amazing time.

We visited some fantastic places like Disney's Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Aquatica. We swam with Stingrays, scuba dived and swam with Dolphins at Discovery Cove, visited a fantastic beach and made lots of amazing memories.

My top tips are: before heading off on holiday, always make sure you have plenty of snacks and things to keep the Children entertained, make sure your tyres are correct for the climate you will be driving in. Use a trusted company like www.tyreplus.co.uk, and always make sure you are fully ensured or take out full insurance on hire vehicles. You will understand why as you read on!

As well as Liv and her Daddy we also went with my Aunty and Uncle and their Son and Daughter, a true Family holiday.

Things didn't start too well though when, after a 9 hour flight we got through the airport and arrived in the car hire area and were presented with a very small, 7 seat 4 by 4. Trying to stay positive in the sweltering heat, we went ahead and tried to squeeze everyone in along with a car seat for Liv, 7 suitcases, 7 lots of hand luggage and a stroller. Twenty minutes later we had to face facts, it was not going to happen in a million years!

So after a chat with a representative of the car firm, we were given another set of keys and sent off down the forecourt to our only other option, a 14 seat bus. Yep an actual BUS. My poor Uncles jaw hit the floor wondering if he would be able to not only drive on the opposite side of the road but also manoeuvre this beast around safely. It was on that thought that he disappeared back to reception and quickly upped the insurance to fully inclusive (for about £6 extra!) better to be safe than sorry.

We really had no option but to take the bus (literally) so the boys started to load the immense amount of luggage through the back doors while I was tasked with installing Livs car seat.

That is when we hit upon a little problem - to get in you had to be a gymnast as the floor of the bus was about 3 feet above the ground, I am hardly short at 5ft 10 inches but only just managed and only one of our group was taller than me. While everyone fell about laughing at my attempts to get in I was convinced there would be some steps inside once I managed to get in, surely . . . . . .

Yes, you guessed it NO steps. So after a lot of laughing and heaving and hoeing we managed to get all of the shorties in and we were all ready to begin our Orlando adventures. 

First stop - Walmart for some steps! We left these in the bus when we returned it but I expect they were removed, I wouldn't be surprised if they have a stock room at the back filled with unwanted used steps.

We quickly got used to the bus and it actually ended up being a godsend having all the spare seats to spread out on when the heat started to get to us. Liv had her travel DVD player strapped to the headrest of the seat info t without it bothering anyone. We kept a box of toys and books on a spare seat to help keep her entertained on particularly long trips.

It was also very easy to pack everything we needed in when travelling for an hour or so each way to a park or beach, especially with a young toddler in tow.

As it turned out, the insurance was also a Godsend as reversing the opposite way off the Villa's drive for the first time just three nights before we left, my Uncle misjudged the distance between the bus and the mail box across the road . . . . . .

All of our jaws dropped as we heard a loud bang/smash/scrape of metal. As it turned out he had only smashed the rear light, the bulb was still working and the mail box hadn't budged so we cleared up the mess and carried on our holiday wondering how much we would be charged when we returned the bus.

Three days later the lovely Gentleman that signed it off didn't even look at the damage before declaring "Sir with your insurance coverage you could have driven it off a cliff and we wouldn't have charged you!" It gave us all quite a giggle!

The latest list of home improvements.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Last year we did a lot of redecorating and home improvements last year, including insulating the loft and turning a walk in wardrobe into more of an extension of our bedroom. It was really hard work and led to a lot of decorating but it was definitely worth it.

We are now working our way through the never ending list of jobs, upgrades or improvements we have left. This is the plan for the rest of the year.

1) Paint the kitchen.

Our current paint has cracked on the walls so we are planing on using this Pollyfiller SmoothOver before re-painting, it sounds very easy to use and should prevent us the cost of having to get a plasterer out. Our kitchen is very small so one tub should be enough to complete this job, although how efficient we will be is another matter!


2) Finish the loft.

We insulated the loft last year which meant moving it's entire contents to one of my Mother in Laws spare bedrooms.

We now need to buy some more stilts to lay the boards on, shelving units for storage and eventually installing double sided ceiling insulation to help keep us warm in Winter and cool in Summer. 

Work up there stopped for several months as my Husband injured his back and shoulder, unfortunately for him that gave me plenty of time to look at some beautiful roof Windows and even found an article about how to choose the right blinds for them on the roof window store's website. This would give a beautiful finishing touch to the previously unused space, I may even venture up there too!


3) Upgrade the living room TV.

Okay so we know this isn't essential but we have been meaning to do it for a while now. We have looked at so many different kinds and have finally decided on getting something from the rather fabulous Panasonic 4K TV range. We very rarely go out to the cinema or for a meal anymore so a bigger, better TV would get a lot of use and we deserve a treat! 

4) Make our yard more Child friendly.

Sadly, our only outside space is a tiny little cemented yard at the back of our house. 

We are hoping to lay some artificial grass to make it a safer space for Liv while still allowing us to access the manhole.

Since we sadly lost our beloved King Charles last year, Liv now has the yard to herself with her own little trampoline, sandpit and outdoor toys, it's just the rough cement flooring that is an issue now.


5) Replace all of the light switches and sockets.

We currently have white plastic ones at the moment but would love to upgrade them to some lovely matt silver ones, I believe the finishing touches really do make all the difference, don't you think?


6) Update the living room wallpaper.

I still love the teal colour scheme we have but after looking at the same dated flowers for the last 6 years I think it's time for a change.

So that's our most recent list. What jobs are you planning on doing next?

Our dream Winter home - going away for Christmas?

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

After a sudden spurt of Family and Friends announcing they are going on holiday to warmer climates this Christmas, my Husband and I found ourselves musing over the idea too.

It turns out that we both agree - we hate the idea - thankfully!

Now don't get me wrong, we love a good holiday soaking up the sun we never seem to see here in sunny Wales, however Christmas to use screams wrapping up warm in your new knitwear while getting a red nose and cheeks from playing in the snow.

After a long chat involving a glass of wine or two, we have decided that the absolute perfect Winter home for us would be in Alaska.

Picture Christmas day like the Wham video for Last Christmas, opening presents from under the beautifully decorated real Christmas tree, next to a roaring log fire. Followed by making snowmen and snow angels in the crisp white snow, hot chocolate in front of the fire to defrost, while the Children excitedly play with their new toys and you all sing along to Christmas songs in the background.

Next up a home made turkey dinner around a huge dining table, lovingly made in the spacious kitchen with an Aga of course! A traditional nap in front of the Queens speech with the Quality Street to follow.

Then after an exhausting day full of eating, drinking and generally being merry, curling up into beautifully luxurious bedding from Julian Charles to watch the Northern lights above as you drift off to sleep - absolute perfection!

How beautiful is this?
Copyright Julian Charles

I genuinely cant even imagine how Christmas day would work in a country where it is boiling hot! Imagine being covered in sun cream on the beach on Christmas Day, eating a salad for lunch! Now after Christmas would be a whole other story!

Have you ever thought about going abroad for Christmas? What would your dream be?

Brought to you in collaboration with Julian Charles.

The best car for new drivers.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Now I am starting to learn to drive - at the ripe old age of 31 - I have been getting a lot of advice on the best first family car to buy.

This is all very welcome as I don't mind admitting that I am absolutely clueless about anything and everything relating to cars.

You see my Husband doesn't drive either so I have no experience at all of what size or type would suit us, which brands are most reliable, the difference between petrol and diesel and don't even get me started on how I wish I had paid much more attention to my Dad (who is a mechanic) when I was growing up, but  I'm afraid I was a stereotypical Girl who far preferred applying make up and buying new clothes to helping him mend the cars!

Anyway, I digress. For the last few weeks I have been doing some research based on the advice I have been receiving from Family and Friends and I have found that Skoda's are very highly recommended for new drivers.

A Friend of mine from Scotland has been helping me search and found an excellent local Skoda dealership selling both new and used cars in Scotland so I think it may be time for a visit! 

This is our favourite so far, a quality second hand Skoda Citigo which costs less than £45 a month (PCP)

We have decided we would definitely like 5 doors as it makes things far easier when getting Liv in and out of her car seat.

It is also important that whatever we buy is isofix compatible so that we can easily and quickly install Livs seat and also my Neices when she comes to stay, saving a lot of fiddling around and stress too!

If anyone has any more advice I would love to hear from you!