I actually can’t remember when we last had a hoilday without a trip to Hever Castle. Our love for it never falters and I would find it hard to tell you what season there I love the most…well actually that’s a little lie as it has to be Christmas. With that said though whatever time of year you visit you are in for a treat and for us the other day was no different.
As I’m sure you have noticed the weather this summer hasn’t exactly been the best, but there is always something to see and do at Hever. We headed straight for the playground as this is always one of the boys favourite areas. Frankie is reaching the age where is sometimes gets a little bored of playgrounds now, but we spent a huge amount of time in here with the boys playing chase and making new friends in a huge game of hide and seek.
Next up we plotted up by the water to feed the ducks and have something delicious from the BBQ. Hever is perfect for picnicing and we normally do a mixtutre of both. Taking snacks and drinks to keep us going and then treating ourselves to something nice – which always includes an ice-cream!
We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the children were keen to stay outside, but it is definetly a must if you are planning a visit. Instead we ignored the weather and went straight to the water maze. For me this is such a pretty feature to the already stunning grounds, and something I have never seen anywhere else quite like it.
There are still covid restrictions on this attraction, but the queue was short and we still had a heap of fun.
We sadly missed the times for the falconary exebitions that run twice a day, but we spent the rest of the day enjoying all the little hidden walks around the grounds whilst the boys tried to spot as many naked statues as they could – something else they never seem to get bored off and mananged to meet one of the birds of prey on our way round.
We had yet another fantastic day and can’t wait until our next trip.
Honolulu is the largest city in the state as well as the capital of Hawaii. It is located on the south shore of the Island of Oahu and is considered the gateway to the chain of islands that make up the Hawaiian Islands. With an average high temperature of 85 and an average low of 71, spending time on the beaches is popular in Honolulu.
Taking the family to Honolulu is a fantastic idea whatever time of year it is because the weather is warm and sunny all year. Even in December and January, the average temps are about 75 degrees. Wherever you decide to go with the family, be sure to drop off your backpacks and heavy bags at a luggage storage site in Honolulu first.
Check Out the Fishes at the Waikiki Aquarium
Founded in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is one of the most popular attractions on the island. What started with 35 fish tanks and 400 plants and animals has expanded to over 3,500 plants and animals in almost 500 species. In fact, in 1978, it had the first display of Pacific corals in the US.
The aquarium is divided into 15 sections. The Amazing Adaptations exhibit has a collection of pipefishes, sea dragons, and seahorses and is one of the most popular. The Giant Clams and Coral Farm exhibits are also pretty popular. But the 7,500-gallon Edge of the Reef outdoor aquarium is the main attraction.
Visit the Animals at the Zoo
If you want to see some land animals, take the family to the Honolulu Zoo at the 300-acre Kapiolani Park. The zoo boasts more than 1230 animals on the 42 acre s with numerous exhibits to explore. See them all from the huge Asian elephant to the zebras from the African Sahara and everything in between.
The zoo was opened in 1916 with several lion cubs, a sun bear, a monkey, and a handful of exotic birds and today houses a huge variety of creatures in several different sections. The African Savannah is the most popular, featuring lions, baboons, African painted dogs, black rhinos, chimps, and meerkats.
Swim with the Dolphins
At Kahala Resort, their Dolphin Quest program is more than just swimming with a few dolphins. They have their own group of six dolphins that you and the family can meet in person up close. The Dolphin Adventure lets you spend an hour with these beautiful creatures swimming and touching them. The Premier Experience offers a private session for just your family to swim and play with all six of the dolphins. These adventures are only for those five years and older though so if you have a younger child, try the Wee Family Fins and Fun where even the tiny tots get to meet, feed, and play with the dolphins.
Play for the Day at Sea Life Park
Another great place to hang out with the animals, Sea Life Park celebrates the local sea creatures by providing the public the chance to get up close and personal with some of them. First, visit the Hawaiian Reef Aquarium, which is a 300,000-gallon tank with 2,000 marine animals like sharks, turtles, and stingrays.
They also have the Hawaiian Ocean Theater, where the park staff hosts many shows displaying sea lions, penguins, and dolphins. You will get a chance to feed some of them at the Sea Turtle Pool and Stingray Lagoon. But do not miss the Hawaiian Monk Seal Habitat where you can see these amazing animals.
See the Bottom of the Ocean on the Atlantis Submarine
For those of you who want to go deeper and see more wildlife at the bottom of the ocean, check out the Atlantis Submarine. You and the family will take a shuttle ferry to the submarine location in Waikiki. The Undersea Adventure takes you down in a real submarine in the comfort of AC and cushy seats.
For approximately one hour, you will descend 100 feet where you will all get to see marine life up close in its native habitat. The coral reef was rebuilt in 1988 to revitalize the area and it has become a treasure trove of fishes, turtles, and vibrant corals. See two sunken airplanes and sunken ships teeming with wildlife.
Get Some Sun on Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is the most well-known and popular beach on the island of Oahu, and you will know why when you see the gorgeous crystal-clear turquoise waters and two miles of white sand. In the 1800s, the beach was a private space for Hawaiian royalty but today it is a public adventureland.
But Waikiki has several beaches stretched out along a huge section of Waikiki Bay stretching for miles along the southern side of the island. One of the best sections of beach for kids is Prince Kuhio Beach, which is also known as The Ponds because there are two walls that offer calm and shallow water to play in.
Learn More About Hawaii at Bishop Museum
Teach the kids about the history of Hawaii while you are in Honolulu at the Bishop Museum. It’s the biggest museum in Hawaii with the largest collection of Polynesian artifacts in the world. The exhibits of Hawaiian life and culture are thanks to Charles Bishop, who founded it in 1889 to honor his wife, Princess Bernice. Some of the permanent exhibitions include the Kaimiloa Expedition of 1924, the Falls of Clyde from 1968, and the Jhamandas Watumull Planetarium, the oldest planetarium in Polynesia. With 25 million items, each with its own story, you could spend the whole day there and not see everything there is to see.
While you are in Honolulu, don’t miss out on trying the local foods like Poke bowls, Kalua pig, Lomi salmon, and of course, shaved ice. Some of the best places to eat with kids include Mac 24/7, the Honolulu Burger Company, Hula Grill, and Duke’s Waikiki. And for dessert, try Island Vintage Shaved Ice or Liliha Bakery.
Stepping out of the cab with the blistering sun burning down on us, we could have easily been on an LA strip and not in the centre on Hackney when we arrived at Mama Shelter.
The grand, black building and striking canopies gave the hotel that immediate ‘wow’ factor, which also fills me with dread when it comes to travelling with kids! Little did I know though my worries were soon to be quashed.
We made our way past young couples sipping cocktails in the sun and entered the entrance hall where we were greeted with a ecletic mix of clashing, colourful prints and luxurious fabrics that were a feast for the eyes; but I think the game changer for us all was the arcade game sitting right by the reception; which imedietly put my mind at ease about the children being there and gave them something to do whilst I checked in, in peace.
I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome. I was told everything I needed to know and the children were asked what they were looking forward to during thier stay.
Our stay was going to see us experience Mama Shelter’s ‘Kidzcation’ which means that when you book one room you get one half price which is interconecting if avaliable so the family are all still together.
Our rooms consisted of a double bed and two singles which worked perfectly for us. There was plenty of room to move around and all the little essentials you need such as an area to make drinks and gorgous own brand bathroom goodies.
Screen addict Frankie homed straight in on the TV and was over the moon with the huge array of free movies on offer…I think he would have been happy to stay there all weekend. Another lovely little extra were the sweets on the kids beds and the super cute Looney Tunes masks that the boys kept on for the majority of their stay .
All settled in we made our way down to dinner. The restaurant was buzzing and had a fantastic atmosphere. There was a heated debate over who was sitting on the sofa which resulted in a full on meltdown from Oscar. Normally this would make for a fraught evening, but thanks to our wonderful waiter the crisis was divered and his kinds words telling me what a fab job I was doing with the kids meant so much!
We feasted on the best burgers I have ever tasted and finshed off with a variety of puddings from cookies and milk to brulee’d pain perdu.
The children’s menu mirrored that of the adults which is always somthing I like, instead of the usual beige offerings. Mine all wolfed down their meals and I had the chance to sit and enjoy a G&T in peace while the boys played on the super cool football table.
A check out time of 12pm meant that we could have a really lazy morning which is always welcome when you have numerous little ones to get ready. A few coffees, a bit of TV watching and a long relaxing shower later we went to fill our bellies once more. Children under 12 eat free for breakfast and they get to choose from the main menu which has a great variety. We are definitely a pancake loving family and couldn’t turn down the fluffy panckes dripping with syrup and covered in crispy bacon.
Full to the brim the boys made full use of the arcade machines before we headed to the karaoke room. Tucked away at the bottom of the hotel are two karaoke rooms where Oscar was in his element. The disco lighting and iPads to select your favourite tunes were a fantastic addition to an already wonderful stay.
If you are looking for a stay that caters perfectly for the kids whilst still giving the parents something special then Mama Shleter is the place to be!
As a parent it’s not only a backpack full of stuff we carry around on our shoulders – we carry the weight of everyone’s worries.
Just as the countless snacks and water bottles weigh us down, so can all the mental pressures that raising a family can bring.
So on mental health week I just wanted to say that it’s ok to acknowledge things are getting on top of you, it’s ok to have a good cry and let it all out, it’s ok to have that extra long bath to get away from things for five minutes, it’s ok to close the door and take yourself for a walk to get that much needed alone time and most importantly it’s more than ok to let others know you are felling like this.
We spend a great deal of time checking in on everyone else and it’s ok to check in on ourselves too!
2020 will most certainly go down as a year to remember. Sadly this will be for all the heartache and loss it has brought to us all. But as with every bad situation you need to look for the good and for us there had certainly been some wonderful, simple moments that I will cherish forever, and as always I’m going to show you these in pictures as they convey the fun much more than my words ever could…
[AD] There are a whole host of things to consider when we think about starting a family and to be honest it can be a bit of a daunting prospect.
Are we at the right stage in our life to bring a little one into the world? Is our relationship strong enough to deal with the responsibility? Have we got a good support network in place to help us out? Are we in a good financial position?
But it is this last question that I want to talk about today as most people take into consideration the financial position they are currently in, but don’t think more long term or consider what would happen if you or your partner were no longer around.
This is where life insurance is something we should all consider, no matter how old we are as sadly no one knows what could be round the corner and if you have the security of life insurance then this allows you to have a safety next if the worse should happen; and peace of mind that your loved ones will be looked after financially.
So what is life cover? – to round it up it is a payment made to your loved ones if something should happen to you. This is usually made as a one off payment, but some companies such as Life Search offer a family income benefit policy which in my opinion is a much better way of receiving payment.
Family Income Benefit is a bit different to other life insurance products in that it doesn’t pay out a lump sum to your loved ones should you pass away, but instead provides the beneficiaries with regular, tax-free income – either monthly or quarterly, to help cover household and living costs when the main earner isn’t around anymore.
When you take out a Family Income Benefit policy, you choose how long you want your term to last. For young families, this could be until the children are financially independent and would no longer need the income payments.
Loosing a loved one if one of the hardest things anyone could go through, so making the financial side of things easier gives you one less thing to worry about.
More than ever at the moment people are having to find ways to work from home – with many finding this could actually be a better and more efficient way to work going forward.
We are currently struggling at the moment as I am ordinarily the one working from home and I’m happy with my workspace in the dining room; but due to my husband having to move his business online and numerous children trying to create workspaces we are all having to move and adapt to cater for everyone.
This has really got me thinking about how we could make room for extra office space at home and below I have listed a few of the things I find of upmost importance when planning your home office:
The Perfect Space – First up of course is where are you going to position your office. Have you got a spare room you could utilise? Could you make room in a guest room? Could you transform an area in your dining room? Could you factor in the cost of a loft conversion?
Home And Work Life Balance – For me it’s crucial to strike up a good home and work life balance, making sure there is a definite divide between your work space and your living space. Sprawling out on the sofa is great for when you’re relaxing but it’s not really conducive to being productive when working.
GoodConnections – Good connections to the outside work are vital so when planing your space you need to ensure there are plenty of plug sockets situated around your desk and there is a good internet connection.
Lighting – If you can make sure there is a good amount of natural light which is good for a whole range of things. Getting the right artificial light is also imperative to ensure you don’t strain your eyes whilst trying to concentrate on the screen.
Colour – Colour can evoke a whole range of emotions so when choosing a colour theme for your office you should choose colours they are going to stimulate your imagination and motive you.
Greenery – Plants are known to promote happiness and give you that feel good factor so go ahead and fill your office with plenty of plants.
Tidy House, Tidy Mind – This is a moto I always follow and I think it is just as important when it comes to your workspace. Make sure you have plenty of folders and boxes to store things away so that your desk space doesn’t become cluttered and overwhelming.
What tips would you have for creating a home office?
It was only a few weeks ago that I was moaning at my husband for not wanting to get on the tube due to the Coronavirus outbreak – fast forward to now and I have just had sweaty palms and my heart beating out of my chest as I prepared to leave the house to do the weekly shop.
In such a short space of time the world has been turned upside down in a way none of us could have imagined, at times it feels like we are living in a movie scene.
I feel grateful that for us it’s being confined under one roof and financial battles that are our only problems as I know that there are far worse situations going on around us and this helps me gain some perspective when things get on top of me.
I developed a cough and felt unwell around a week before the official lockdown and we are now approaching our third week of social distancing.
I’m not going to lie, the first few days were pretty horrific. We went from a family that are like ships passing in the night for the majority of the time, to being with each other twenty four hours a day was a huge shock.
The dining room has had a bit of a turnaround and for the best part of the week is now a training area for my husband to train his clients via Zoom(something neither of us had heard of before) and get some exercise for himself…I need to utilise this more!
With the youngest two I found early on that structure was key and a loose plan was put in place for their home learning was put in place. This hasn’t been without its tears and tantrums, but on a whole making sure their work is complete before they get free time has been working well. Dad comes into play with the teaching for an hour with a PE session to allow me time to get the house in order and I have been fitting my work in before they wake up, during their break times and once they are all in bed.
The teens are a bit of a mixed bag and Izzy has been knuckling down independently, getting her set work completed and busying herself with cooking, crafts and helping me with the boys. Archie however has been less compliant. Getting him out of bed is a challenge in itself and trying to get him to work is impossible. I have my fingers crossed that by working together with his teachers we can get things on track after the Easter holidays.
Food has been a battle ground as for the first two weeks none of us could leave the house and we had to rely on wonderful friends dropping things to us. I have had to ration what we are all eating and it hasn’t gone down well at all. Trying to explain to the children that only having two biscuits a day isn’t going to kill them really isn’t going down well but they are learning to get used to it; as after a very nervous trip to the supermarket, full of people taking little notice of the distance they should be keeping it’s not something I want to be doing to often.
Trying to keep in touch with the outside world is something I’ve been trying hard to keep up and daily FaceTime calls to family and friends are the new normal. We have a very close relationship with our extended family and not seeing my parents, eldest daughter, grandchildren and my sister has hit us all hard, but keeping in touch virtually is a something we are very thankful for.
None of us know when this is going to come to an end, but the importance of following these guidelines to protect everybody else is of the upmost importance and if we all hang in there and get this done then hopefully it won’t be long before we can all get back outside to embrace our love ones and enjoy those simply pleasures we are all guilty of taking for granted until now.
I have been reflecting on the past year and kicking myself for not doing as much as I should, achieving as many goals as I wanted and generally beating myself up which isn’t a good thing at all.
After flicking through my camera roll I had a word with myself and realised that I am eternally grateful for my happy and healthy family and all the things we have accomplished in 2019 and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 brings us.
[AD] Dinner times in our house are only what can be described as chaotic, more like a chimps tea party at times and are more often than not a pretty stressful time of day.
Since moving through we have gained a dining room and I have been making it my mission to bring back dining as a family as often as we can and making it a place we all want to congregate, eat good food and enjoy each other’s company.
More often than not for ease I stick the little ones at the breakfast bar to eat, the older ones eat as and when they feel like and my husband on his lap when he gets in from work. For us the importance of eating together as a family has been completely lost.
Over the past few months though we have been really making a conservative effort to all get around the table, leave all our devices elsewhere and connect as a family. We allow no distractions and just enjoy each other’s company…well aside from one or two arguments of course!
I have compiled a little list of things I have done or plan to do to get the dining room just how I want it to make a place that is used as much as the other rooms in the house rather than just when people come round.
Benches – When we bought our new dining table we opted for benches feather than chairs for a more laid back feel. With a large family it also allows us to squeeze more people around the table as there is more often than not an extra one or two joining us!
Rugs – We have wooden flooring throughout the downstairs of the house and this can often look and feel cold so I am currently looking for something to go under the table that will add a splash of colour and a little warmth to the room.
Practicality – This is a big one for me as the room needs to work for us all so practical furniture and furnishings are must. As with the benches as I mentioned earlier furniture that can utilised in different ways is so helpful to make the area work on a daily basis.
Lighting – Good lighting always sets the mood and allows the space to be used for a range of different activities. The children can set up at the table during the day for play and getting homework done when the lighting needs to be bright and through the use of side lights you can create a relaxed a calm feel for an evening with friends.
Art – Filling the walls with beautiful, personal pieces of art and photos is probably one of the most important things for me. It’s great to be able to sit back and gaze at something beautiful.