[AD] While international travel is once more a possibility, the lingering spectre of Covid adds extra layers of risk and expense that may mean it remains unattractive for some. That means lots of families are still looking at staycations in 2021 and even into 2022. Today we’re here to convince you that your next family trip – whether it’s a day out or a full blown holiday – should be in Manchester!
Manchester has a rich history to discover from its settlement by Roman invaders of Britain as Mamucium to its rapid expansion and economic dominance during the industrial revolution and into the Victorian age. Unfortunately that same rapid growth and success obliterated the ruins of the Roman fort that had stood outside the city for the previous thousand years. If you’ve got history buffs in your family, they might enjoy a visit to a reconstruction of the original city walls, gatehouse and other buildings in Castlefield Urban Heritage Park.
If you’re interested (or want to get your family interested) in the history and heritage of the city, then you might want to try a Manchester treasure hunt, and race through the streets of the city, learning about its buildings, inhabitants and famous happenings to solve the clues and find the answers you’re searching for.
After you’ve built up an appetite exploring, you’re going to need to eat and Manchester offers some world class restaurants.
Mana is the only Michelin starred restaurant in the city and well worth checking out if you’re interested in fine dining. It’s rigorously contemporary restaurant using the very best ingredients from right across the British Isles – and by no means the most obvious ones. Have you ever tried Reindeer Moss from the Isle of Sky?
Kids might enjoy the Cafe Football – the sport soaked casual restaurant overlooking Old Trafford. Specials include the Nicky Butty and the Mara Doner – it’s a must for the hungry football fan.
For many people, Manchester is followed automatically by the word United – and for others of course, by City. Fortunately both groups of fans (be they die hard followers or casual supporters from afar) are catered for in the city, with tours of the teams’ respective stadiums and fullmuseums dedicated to their history. Even non-sports fans will find a lot to reward them, if only in the sheer scale of the enterprise and the clear passion of players and supporters down the years.
Although we are Londoners, being South of the river means going into central London is still always an exciting experience. The hustle and bustle, the towering buildings, the eclectic diversity of everyone there is always food for my sole and something I will never tire of – and it’s something I encourge my children to enjoy too.
What is even better than a day trip is an over night stay, and we were lucky enough to experience a night at Andaz London Liverpool Street. Andaz London Liverpool Street is a short walk from London Bridge station and a stones throw from the Shoreditch District, which is certainly one of my favourite parts of London.
Andaz London dates back to 1884 and was formally known as The Great Eastern. My Dad who is a born and breed East Ender, remembers the hotel from his childhood, and I’m glad to stay the original features have been mixed perfectly with a modern twist, giving it that feel wow factor.
Upon arrival a glass of very welcomed glass of Prosecco was placed in my hand after a slightly fraught journey with two over excited boys! We checked in with ease and made our made upstairs to check out our room. We had an interconecting room which allowed for plenty of space to chill out, infact the rooms were some of the most spacious I have stayed in. The soft, cosy beds were super inviting and the simplistic decor made for a very calming atmosphere.
The little notes back to the hotel’s East London roots with art from a local tattoo artist were the perefct touch, and the boys were even left some tattoos to try on themselves!
The black and white, clean lines of the bathrooms were beautiful and complemented the rest of the room perfectly.
We wanted for nothing inside the room as there was a fully stocked mini bar…much to the boys delight, tea and coffee facilities and of course robes and slippers that we slipped into as soon as we settled in.
The boys unloaded their toys and I sat back and relaxed until it was time to head down to dinner.
Every evening there are complimentary drinks in the lounge between 6 – 8pm. I was a little hesitant about going along with the boys, but they thoroughly enjoyed listening to the music and taking in the atmosphere.
Our room was located directly next to Liverpool Street Station and I was worried about the noise, but we didn’t hear a peep from outside and we all slept really well. The 12oclock check out allowed us to have a lay in and enjoy our room before heading down to breakfast.
Breakfast while we are away is always a highlight for the kids, and if it is a buffet style they are even happier. So their eyes lit up when the saw the plethora of food on offer. There was everything from cereals and fruit, continental style treats to a full english or there was the option to order from the menu with favourites such as pancakes and eggs Benedict – we really were spolit for choice!
Sometimes I find you are ushered out as there is a big turnover of people, but the kids were uncharacteristically relaxed and we sat for a good while, enjoying the delicious food and each others company.
Andaz London is perfect if you want a centeral location, a touch of luxury and good food with a quirky twist. A family friendly hotel with all the little touches to make it a great stay for the adults too!
After being restricted with travel for so long due to covid, having a trip planned was even more exciting- and it was actually the travelling there that I was getting most excited about!
Being able to travel by another means than just a car was such an exciting thought and something the boys hadn’t done until our trip on board the Red Funnel Ferry to the Isle Of Wight the other week.
It was an early start for us as we were only staying over night and I wanted to pack as much in as possible. This was easily done as the Red Funnel ferries run from early hours of the morning until late in the evening.
We had a priority booking slot that meant as we arrived at the port in Southampton we had plenty of time to get our car in line and pop to the on site shop for a toliet stop and to grab a few snacks.
I’m a pretty nervous driver to say the least and the thought of boarding the ferry was leaving me filled with a little dread to say the least! I needn’t have worried though as it was such a well run boarding I was on and parked before we knew it. The kids couldn’t wait to get out of the car and do some exploring; so we headed up to the lounge, found some comfy seats and I relaxed with a coffee in hand as we set sail.
There was an array of hot and cold food on offer, as well as plenty of snacks and even toys to keep the kids busy, although mine were too busy taking in the view as we sailed along. After a while they got itchy feet so we headed to the top deck where the sea breeze hit us and I honestly could have sat there taking it all in for the rest of the trip.
The hours journey flew by and before we knew it we were heading back down to the car where departing the ferry was just as pain free as the boarding.
We headed straight to our first destination of Robin Hill County Park when we arrived, which is only 15 mins from the port and comes hightly recommended from us.
Our return voyage was a night time booking and I’m really glad we got to experience this as the coasttime and the cruise liners we passed where so beautifully lit up it gave us a completely different kind of journey on the way home – and of course being dinner time the boys couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have some sausage and chips to fill their hungry bellies!
We have so much more to discover on the Isle Of Wight and we certainly wouldn’t want to get their any other way!
Christmas is fast approaching and it’s time to start thinking about what we are going to be putting under our tree.
As always my guide is a one stop shop as I like to think we all have different likes and tastes and its hard to put these all into one box – so I’ve got sweet treats to naughty tipples, things to help you sleep and things to help your creativity. Take a look now and let me know what you think:
Doing It For The Kids – I have a little selection of some of the top toys this christmas, as well as some beautiful personalised pieces.
Count With Peppa: Who doesn’t love Peppa Pig. I know each and everyone of mine have been huge fans and you can now learn to count with the new Count With Peppa toy. Peppa comes with a purse full of coins that once promoted by Peppa you can slide them into her purse ,she will recognise it and then reply.
As well as being great fun, this toy helps will fine motor skills and colour and number recognition.
Barbie My Ice Cream Shop: Follow recipes, blend different colours and flavours and make delicious ice creams to share with your friends and family with the Barbie My Ice Cream Shop.
This set comes with everything you need to prepare, create and then serve to your family and friends.
Fuzzikins: These super cute characters have been popular for a while now and are avaliable in a whole array of different options. The Home Maker sets are great for stocking fillers and let you draw and decorate the house time and time again due to its easily wipeable surfaces. Another popular set is the Doll Set that comes with three gorgeous cats and the accessories you need to customise them.
Wonderbly Books: Now I have been a fan of Wonderbly books for a long time now. Wonderbly is an online personalised children’s book company with over 40+ personalised books. Their easy to use website allows you to create a perfectly unique book for that special little one in your life, and I have to say I have really fallen for their Christmas collection.
Something Pretty – We all love a little sparkle at Christmas and here are a few thing to help you shine!
Bloom Boutique Christmas Necklace: Bloom Boutique offer beautiful,delicate jewellery and gifts and I have enjoyed many pieces over the years. This Christmas they have a gorgeous range of christmas gifts, including this stunning Secret Star Birthstone Personalised Bracelet.
A Bit Of Beauty – Christmas is a time to receive treats to make us feel special and pampered, so here are a couple of gifts that fit the bill perectly.
Something Silky: Silk is well known for being a luxurious fabric and This Is Silk have some amazing gifts made from the softest silk. This silk pillowcase would make a wonderful present for anyone looking to tame their tresses and be kind to your skin during the night.
Shaving In Style: For those guys that like a traditional shave, this plant based shaving brush will allow for a good shave as well as being kind to the environment – so what’s not to love!
Night, Night: Help getting off to a good nights sleep is something I know I would love and I know that a few sprays of this Echor End Of Day Pillow Spray is a great way to drift of. The gorgeous combination of lavender, geranium, eucalyptus and sweet orange will have you counting sheep in next to no time.
Scrub Up: I love nothing more than getting rid of a days full of dirt and grime with a good facial exfoliator, and this one from Forever Living gently works its magic to reveail soft and healthy looking skin.
Kissable Lips: This time of year plays havoc with the skin, especially our delicate lips; so giving someone something to protect their lips with would be most welcomed. Lansinoh Linolin Lip Balm is 100% natural so as will as soothing the lips, many Mums use it to treat nappy rash or dry skin on their little ones.
Something For The Foodies – Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a foodie treat or two, and I have a few to check out now.
Choccies: You can’t go wrong with chocolates can you, and a classic such as these Guylian Belgian Chocolate Seashells are a luxurious treat for sure. The hazelnut praline covered with luxury Belgian chocolate makes for a winning combination.
Chin, Chin: Along with a lot of others, gin is my tipple of choice. This outstanding gin from The Secret Gin Distillery is made with a combination of different herbs that have been lovingly grown in the garden of a herbologist who is the brainchild behind the brand.
Their Christmas gin is a heady combination of christmassy herbs and spices and would make for a wonderful gift for any gin lover. And their miniatures give you the chance to sample a range or different flavours so you get the chance to pick your favourite!
Get Prepared: Christmas is definitely party season and with party after party this can put a lot of strain on our bodies, so the best thing we could do is give them a little prep before we put on our dancing shoes.
Inside Out drinks are a combination of water, hibiscus, cranberry, goji extract, stevia, milk thistle, potassium sorbate and gree tea extract that helps to support your liver and prevent the dreaded hangover!
Keeping Healthy: Swicily is a day to day natural sugar that melts easily into food, tastes great and is low in calories- making it a great substitute for sugar and a brilliant stocking filler for those looking to improve their health.
Experiences – Gifts don’t always have to be something physical, and I am actually a big fan of creating memories through gifted experiences, and here are a few for you to take a look at.
Racing Ready:Team Sport Karting have 35 indoor go karting tracks across the county and would make for a fantastic day out for any adrenaline junkie. They have a great range of gift vouchers that you can choose from to give someone a very special gift.
Tech Fans – This section is for all those tech fans out there.
I Love Music: Wireless headphones are a great fit for so many people. These TES1 pro true wireless stereo earbuds are noise cancelling, Bluetooth connectable and have a huge 42 hour playtime which is a fantastic feature.
Something For The Home – Something to enhance the home is always a welcome gift. From a simple vase to a beautiful throw, nobody would be disappointed with a gift for the home.
Beautiful Signs: A stunning number to identify your home makes a real difference to the exterior of your home and Village Green Signs are just the people for this. They create beautiful, traditional handpainted house signs as well as more modern acrylic and slate signs – so there is somthing to suit every taste.
Getting Crafty – This is one for all the crafty people out there!
Get Painting: This art palate from mouth and foot painting artists is designed so that people can get creative when they need to use either thier hands or mouth, but it can also be used by hand if wanted.
Looking After Yourself – Here are a few pieces for those people that are conscious of looking after their health.
Getting Organised: Thoses big clumpy pill boxes are now a thing of the past and slick elegant designs have taken their place with pill cases like this lovley tabuu case that is waterproof, durable and fits up to six tablets. Perfect for popping in your bag and taking anywhere you need.
Everyone Getting A Good Nights Sleep: In our house it is me that is the snorer! I get no sleep as my husband continually wakes me up and of course neither does he! Mute could be the answer to these problems with 78% of people breathing better, 75% snoring less and 73% of partners reporting a reduction in snoring.
A small device that sits inside the nose is a hastle free way of getting better sleep so it is definetly worth giving a try.
Mute is available from Boots, Amazon or www.mutesnoring.com starting at the trial pack to find the right size rrp £12.99.
[AD] Who’s in for dinner tonight? What clubs am I picking up from? Who’s house do you need dropping to? These are all of the questions I am shouting as we are leaving the house in the morning. Once these problems are solved I then need to throw in the logistics of work and housework, and somewhere in the middle off all this I need to think about what I’m going to feed everybody for dinner.
Time is always limited during the week, but I always like to make sure the children have a wholesome, hot meal each evening, especially during the colder months which is sometimes easier said than done when you are pushed for time. So I was intrigued when I was asked to try the new Richmond Toad In The Hole Kit. With the promise of only 5mins prep and 40 mins cooking time I wanted to put this to the test as normally for me toad in the hole can be a little faffy and something I save for the weekend.
The compact box comes with 10 sausauges and a packet of batter that you simply put into a bowl and add 200ml of water to. Not an egg or milk in sight, so I was keen to see how this batter was going to turn out. The meal is meant to feed a family of 4, but we easily stretched it to 5.
Sauasages browned, batter mixed and poured on and sides all ready I was super impressed at how quick and mess free it had been to prepare.
Now for the taste test! Sadly my batter took a beating as the kids all gobbled it down, exclaiming it was so much lighter and fluffier than mine. So well done Richmonds, you have made a fuss free, mess free dinner that has pleased the whole family and we will certainly be going back for more.
One of my resoultions for 2020 was to travel more with the kids – the Covid pandemic hit and all my plans were put on hold. One thing it did do though is to open my eyes to the amazing places we have here. Somewhere I haven’t been since I was a child is the Isle Of Wight, so when I was asked to visit I jumped at the chance.
I didn’t have any recollection of the Isle Of Wight and certianly didn’t remember visiting Robin Hill.
We got off to an early start and after a couple of hours drive we boarded the ferry and before we knew it we arrived in the Isle Of Wight. It was an easy 15 minute drive to Robin Hill where we were greeted with smiles and shown what was going own. With the map firmly in our grip we headed off to explore.
Robin Hill covers a huge 88 acres of beautiful parkland and woodland that has been transformed into a fabulous adventure area that is more than sympathetic to it’s stunning surroundings.
Frankie has reached that akward age where he thinks he is to grown up for most things I suggest these days. He’s too big for the park, he doesn’t want to go for county walks – the list is pretty endless. So when I saw him leap through the treetop canopy walkways to get to the Jungle Heights my heart was already won over…as was his.
High up aroungst the trees is Jungle Heights which was definitely the highlight of our trip. It is an collection of netted areas set amongst the woodland that you can run, climb and bounce on to your hearts content. As well as this there is a lovely little cafe area nestled away where the adults can grab a drink, sit back and watch the fun. Relaxing music is played through large speakers which made for a really calming atmosphere and I honestly could have sat there for hours.
Around this area is the Squirrel run where the little ones can start from the bottom and weave their way up to the top of the treetop walkway.
From here we headed over to the toboggans. Frankie took to these alone whilst I went on with Oscar. Frankie speed off into the distance while poor Oscar had to creep around the run with his nervous mother!
This was something the boys had never done before and they absolutley loved it. Next to this there were also some huge slides that the boys spent a lot of time working out how to get down them as fast as possible. The addition of sitting of their coat seemed to be the winning combination.
A liitle further along a jouney we stopped off at the huge ponds which were also home to the suspended bridges. It was so tranquil there and whist I enjoyed the beauty of the surrounding the boys weaved their way across the floating bridges.
Dotted around the park there are lots of little extras to keep you entertained, such as falconary exibitions which we sadly missed and a circus play area which was great place to stop and warm up under the shelter of the tent whilst they honed their circus skills.
To end our day we decided to hop on board the tractor ride so we could spot anything we might have missed. It was turing to dusk by now and it was beautiful to see the park as the sun was coming down. It was also an opportunity to see the lights coming on for the evening event that was just going to start. I was gutted the boys were too tired to stay as it looked like such a fun filled evening – it does however give us the excuse to return next year.
All tired out we made on last stop at Colossus, which is a huge ship ride that the boys went on countless times – I honestly don’t know how they weren’t ill.
Robin Hill was more than I had expected it to be. They offer a place were kids can just be kids alongside stunning scenery that the adults can enjoy too. You really can make a whole day of it and we loved it so much we made a return trip the very next day!
[AD] They say that moving house is up there with the top three most stressful things in life alongside the loss of a loved one, divorce or loosing a job – and I would have to say I agree to a point. Although with a bit of forward thinking and organising a lot of this stress can be alleviated and made into the exciting new adventure it should be.
Moving house puts strain on you both physically and emotionally. The expense of it all, the packing, the trying to fit everything into a tight schedule, along with cutting emotional ties can be overwhelming. But if we sit back and think of the exciting new journey ahead and set a plan to minimise the stress then moving can be turned into a much more positive experience.
Below I have left some of my top tips for getting ready for the big day and I hope they will be of help:
Book Your Removal Firm – The majority of people try to move over a weekend, which means that slots for good removal firms such as The Removal Man – House Removal get booked up well in advance. Different companies offer different packages so you need to make sure that the one you chose fits your specific needs.
Checklists – Start to make a list as soon as the ball starts rolling on your move. The list can start with things that can be done well before your moving date, right up to the big day and beyond.
Declutter – This is one of those things on the list that can be done well before moving day. You will be suprised by how much stuff you have collected over the years and for me getting this sorted is always a huge weight off of my mind.
Start by sorting things that can be sold on selling sites or given to charity and then sort the rest by taking stuff to the dump or even hiring a skip.
Packing – Label, label, label. One of the most infuriating things is moving into a new home and having to root around hundreds of boxes looking for things are they have been randomly packed or not labelled.
Think of each room separately and keep the contents in the boxes solely for that room. As well as labelling it for the said room also add an idea of what each box contains i.e. plates, kids clothes, bathroom accessories.
Sort Paperwork – Make sure that all paperwork is stored in the same, safe place that is easily accessible. Once this is sorted go through everything and make sure all the people such as banks, doctors etc know about your move. It is also a good idea to use the Royal Mail redirection service to make sure nothing gets missed.
We learnt the hard way with this and had a huge credit card bill run up by a new card going to an old address!
Utility Bills – Getting things like this sorted early makes for less of a headache. Making sure that things like broadband providers are booked in to your new adress in plenty of time means you haven’t got to wait to get things going once you are moved in.
Take all your meter readings for gas and electricity so that final bills can be met and you can start a fresh in your new home.
And most importantly of all enjoy it! Embrace the new start, look forward to your new journey and take it all in as you go!
[GIFTED] None of my children have been avid readers and it has always taken a lot to get them into a book. Most of the time it’s a lot of trial and error and even then it can be a battle to get them to sit down and read. So when I was asked to try out the reading subscription box from The Reading Adventure Club I was eager to see if this would help to build a love of books.
The Reading Adventure Club was set up by nine year old twin brothers who have a love of both reading and opening presents and thought it would be a great idea to combine the two! The idea is that you read the book that is sent and throughout the story at different points you get the opportunity to open a special gift that has been loving wrapped and put inside the box too.
For me the clever part of this though is the gift can only be opened once the child has answered a question on the story. All the questions are listed and tucked away in a envelope that is marked – To be opened by responsible Grown Up only.
The presents are a good mix of useful items, mainly linked to reading as well as fun stuff and if you’re really lucky you might even find some sweets in there!
The books have all been loving selected and road tested by the boys, so you know they are going to be something perfect for the age range selected.
All you need to do to get started is to choose your subscription period and your box will be lovingly packed and sent off for it to arrive on the 15th of each month.
This box would be perfect for avid readers and those less inclined to read alike. The boys loved reading the story; and knowing there was a prize coming after a few pages kepted them engaged and wanting to really take in the story rather than just skimming the pages to get the book finished.
It comes with a big thumbs up from us and I would love to know if you are keen to give it a try.
[PRESS TRIP] As a family we have a huge love of festivals and a huge love of Chessington World Of Adventures, so can you imagine how excited we were to find out these two had been combined to come up with Wilderfest – a festival within Chessington World Of Adventures itself, and during the summer holidays we were lucky enough to go and check it out.
We arrived to singing and dancing whilst we queued, which was great for getting you into that festival vibe and a good distraction for the little ones. After a very short queue we made our way inside and it was that tough choice of what we were going to do first. As I only had the younger two we opted to take advantage of the smaller rides, check out the animals and soak up the atmosphere of Wilderfest.
A lot of people think that its all about thrill seeking rides at Chessington World Of Adventures, when in fact some of the days we have chosen to enjoy the smaller attractions and these have been the best ones.
We headed straight for Sealife which we haven’t done for a long time now and we absolutely loved spotting all the different fish and getting the opportunity to hold a huge African snail – well I did as the kids chickened out!
From here we passed by the penguins that were relaxing in the midday sun and made our way to the monkey enclosure where the boys absolutely love the play area. This gave the adults time to take five minutes whilst they played.
Staying on an animal theme we hopped onboard Zufari which is one of my favourite attractions. The big Jeep takes you past a whole host of animals such a Rhinos and Giraffes and then gives you a pretty big surprise at the end, but I won’t spoil that for you.
Feed and watered we hit the rides, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the best idea as sugar doughnuts and fast rides aren’t exactly the best combination! We flew down the log flume at Tiger Falls, got soaked again on the chair swings and plummeted into the ground on the all new Croc Drop which called for some time to chill out at Wilderfest.
Throughout the day we were treated to music that popped up all across the park and lots of characters milling about and introducing themselves to the children, but there was also a whole area dedicated to Wilderfest where you could join in with funfair sytle game, grab some steet style food or just chill out.
The higlight for Oscar though was definitely meeting the baby panda and hippo – even I had to do a double take as they were so life like.
All in all Chessington World Of Adventures didn’t disappoint again and for me the thing that pulls me back time and time again after being a visitor for over thirty years is the fact one trip is never the same. They are constantly evolving to create a different and magical experience each time you vist.
Now I need to wait and see what they have in store for Halloween!
[GIFTED] The past couple of years have been such a shake up for us all, and for me going through everything the pandemic has brought us, it has been a time to really reflect on me. As mothers we always leave ourselves at the bottom of the pile and this can often lead to us loosing who we really are and what we really want.
After months of sacrificing myslelf for my families needs – something I dont regret at all as lets face it who would have ever thought we would have been in this situation, I’ve decided it is time to reclaim me and I have been helped on this journey by the amazing Abundant As A Mother by Ashley Butler.
Ashley has created her two-step abundance manifesting program that allows you to live a full and abundant life by switching off to the noise from social media, friends, and the endless juggling.
So much of what Ashley speaks of rings true with me. After twenty plus years of parenting I would like to think that I’ve got things down pretty well when it comes to managing the family. I’m a clean freak and always go with the saying ‘a tidy house is a tidy mind’ but in reality I may seem to have have everything together on the surface but not everything is as it seems.
A lot of my worries are then stored in my head and this is definitely more problematic than having an untidy home and this is one of the sections that Ashley covers.
She teaches you how to let you of all those comparisons we put on ourselves thanks to the constent content being thrown at us through the use of social media. I’m sure I’m not alone in comparing my life to those we are constanly shown on those little squares on our phone!
A big change for me is going to be learning to say no. I’m a people pleaser and always find it hard to say no as I have a fear of letting people down, even if this is detrimental to my own sanity. Ashley teaches us that its ok to say no to anything that doesn’t serve us.
For me the stand out comment was ‘If you aren’t happy with your life right now its kinda on you’.
Stop competing with others, put your own needs first and most importantly go out and get the life you deserve through manifesting a happy and abundant life as you are the only one who can make these changes.