Mama Shelter:The Kidzcation

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 coverd 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 wonerful 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!

2020 In Pictures – You’ve Not Been All Bad

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…

Stop The Secrets And Start The Conversations

[AD] We all have a tendency to keep a few secrets from the ones we love – I mean does it really matter if you don’t own up to eating the last piece of cake, or maybe elaborate a little on the price after a shopping trip.

It’s human nature to keep little things to ourselves, but there are some situations that create more harm than good when we bottle them up and can have huge repercussions on us and our family’s lives.

I think now more than ever with the uncertainty and stresses that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic we need to have a real think about sharing everything with the ones we love.

Research by LifeSearch has shown that a huge 7 million of use are keeping mental health problems to ourselves, along with a massive 4 millions hiding physical health problems.

Sadly this isn’t the only problem that people are keeping to themselves. 1 in 10 people have money worries that they feel they can’t share and 1 in 20 are fighting a battle on their own with drink or drug problems.

These problems cause huge issues for the people suffering, adding anxiety and sleep deprivation to the problems that are already there. Also these issues will then have a knock on effect for their loved ones too if something should happen to them.

A fear of being judged, embarrassed or even the worry a relationship may break down are a few of the reasons people keep these things to themselves and incredibly a huge number would rather take these worries to the grave with them, rather than face them head on.

A lot of people, including myself, put off putting things in place to protect our future for so many different reasons, when this is in fact one of the most important conversations to have.

It was my sister that actually got us talking about this a few years ago and gave us the wake up call we needed to get our life insurance in place. So should the worst happen to me or my husband we now know that either one of us will be looked after as well as the children.

Even if you think you are covered and don’t need to let on about an illness you are dealing with, this could actually affect your insurance claim in the future, so this discussions need to be an ongoing thing.

Now really is a good a time as ever to open up these discussions, be honest with yourself and your loved ones and to get things in place that will give you peace of mind for the future and take the burden of your shoulders now.

Learning to open up and talking about feelings is something I try my hardest to instil into my children too, in the hopes that we can build a future generation that are comfortable talking about issues this generation seem to find so hard.

Messing About On The River With Go Boat

[GIFTED] I’m sure that anyone who has followed me for a while now will know of my love for water. Ordinarily the sea is my first passion, but anything that brings me close to the water makes me happy.

So as you can imagine when we went along to Kingston the other day to try out a trip on a boat with Go Boat you know how happy I was about this!

We regularly visit Kingston for a walk along the riverside and to grab a bite to eat and I have always seen the boats sauntering up and down the river and fancied getting onboard myself, so this was the perfect opportunity for me.

Go Boat is electric, self-drive picnic boat that has is situated along the Riverside Walk just on the edge of Kingston town centre.

Upon arrival we were created with a smile, lots of hand sanitiser and plenty of social distance markers which made us feel at ease right away.

All payments are contact free along with signing in and each boat is sanitised before each trip.

Safety instructions were given, life jackets were issued and we were shown to our boat. Each boat holds up to eight people and we took my Mum and Dad along…Dad was made to take the helm and become captain for the afternoon.

We all got comfortable whilst locating the umbrellas that were provided, and with the sun beating down they were very much welcome.

Our trip was for two hours which would allow us to get to Hampton Court and back but you can opt for just an hour or three hours which means you to take in both Teddingdon and Molesey Lock too.

With six of us in total there was still plenty of room to put your feet up and relax whilst taking in the sights of the stunning riverside houses, paddle boarders and swimmers and of course the grand Hampton Court Palace.

We took our own picnic with us which is a must if you ask me and I think if we had a return trip we would definitely go all out with this as the table really lends itself to this.

We ended our trip by passing under the bridge which the children absolutely loved – especially as I fell off the end of the bench trying to get a good picture!

The two hours absolutely flew by and my preconceived ideas about the boys being a pain were completely quashed. They loved sitting taking it all and helping grandad to steer and can’t wait to get onboard again soon, so I think the Paddington morning will have to be out next port of call!

Protecting Your Family With Life Search

[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.

Is this the kind of policy you would consider?

The Best Home Office Locations

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.

Good Connections – 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?

Three Destinations To Plan To Visit Outside Of Europe

[AD] Do you have a bucket list of destinations you’d like to travel to in your lifetime? Although our travel plans may be on hold for a little while, there is nothing to stop you from planning your next getaway as soon as you’re allowed to hop on that plan again! If you’ve seen and done Europe why not take a look at venturing further afield?

There are countless locations that could be on your must-see list, so to help to choose where to go next, here are a few of my favourite destinations.

Get Dazzled In Dubai

Home to the worlds largest mall, tallest building and biggest flower arrangement, there is nothing dull about Dubai.

With so much on offer – glorious weather, beautiful beaches and stunning skyscrapers to name just a few – there is no doubt that the glitzy UAE emirates will enable you to make memories to last a lifetime.

Experience The Hustle And Bustle In Bangkok

If you’re looking for a lively location, Bangkok if the place to be. Thailand’s capital is bustling, so be prepared to get involved in the chaos immediately!

From awe-inspiring temples to vibrant street food markets, there is something to keep everyone occupied here. If you’d like a little bit more peace and quiet there is always the option to hop on a boat to get to the idyllic islands such as Ko Samui or Ko Tao.

Search For Different Animals In Sri Lanka

From surfing to so worshiping there is not much you can do in Sri Lanka. If you have a particular interest in animals we know that you will love nothing more than being able to visit the elephants in Pinnawala, or volunteer with the sea turtle sanctuaries in Kosgoda. When you’re there you can climb sacred mountains, enjoy a cup of tea on a picturesque plantation or simply relax on the beach on the south-east coast when its time to unwind.

Once you’ve planned all the day trips you’d love to go on, sights you’d like to see and restaurants you can’t wait to experience, there’s still one thing you need to tick off your holiday checklist – the mode of transport to get you to and from the airport comfortably.

If you are departing from an airport such as Gatwick, opt to travel during less busy times and pic up and off-peak return ticket. Not only will you benefit from a quieter carriage, but your fare may be cheaper too!

Which destination would you like to travel first?

A New Way Of Life In Lockdown

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.

2019 – Our Year In Pictures

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.

The Cutty Sark:A Day Out For All The Family

[AD] I am ashamed to say that although the Cutty Sark is less than an hour away from us I have never visited, either alone or with the children. It’s one of those places that is so close I’ve simply overlooked it and never made the trip.

However during the half term holidays we were invited along and I was as excited as the children to have our first visit.

After a short journey that was made extra special with a trip on the Docklands Light Railway – another first that I highly recommend if you have little ones we arrived and were immediately taken aback with the sheer beauty and splendour of the ship.

There was no queue at all to get on which is always a bonus when you have children as hyperactive as mine. There is the option to take in the sights of a ship with an interactive guide that talks you though each and every step; but the boys are a little more hands on and decided they just wanted to go ahead and get exploring.

A big worry for me was that the whole set up would be more aimed at adults but this couldn’t be further from the truth. All three of the magnificent decks have been geared up for inquisitive little fingers which certainly placated my nerves.

The lower deck was the first to be explored and it gave you the first insights into the history behind the tea clipper and how and where it carried its precious cargo. It also allowed you to witness the skeleton of the ship and just how much detailed is in the inner workings. The boys were absolutely amazed by the length and the thickness of the huge chains that would have anchored the ship down all those years ago.

Next up was the middle deck which was definitely the area my boys enjoyed the most. There was a special bench that mimicked the movement of the ship, lots of wooden toys for tiny ones to get their fingers on, a chance to sail your very own ship and a whole host of interactive displays to explain what everyday life would have been like onboard.

For me it had to be the top deck that was most impressive. The beautiful glossy wood and brass fittings along with the masses of ropes the seemed to fill the sky really was an amazing sight to see.

The boys ran up and down the decking and exclaimed, “we feel like a Goonie”. They loved being able to get inside the sleeping quarters to try out the bunk beds, peep through the port holes and take a look at the grand dinning area and see where all the food would have been prepared.

The last port of call was to take a look under the boat. I was just expecting an area to take a look at the ship itself but it was in fact a really laid back, peaceful area where you can grab a bite to eat, sit down and take in the beauty on the boat or indeed the stunning views of London from the viewing gallery or take part in one of the many activities on offer for the children.

Whist we were there there was a big group of children all playing a game to help them understand a little more about the ship in a really fun way(you can check out the highlights on my instastories to see a little more).

My preconceived ideas of what the day was going to hold we’re completely smashed after our visit. I took on a whole host of knowledge from the trip as well as the boys and it is definitely well worth a visit.

There is so much for the children to see and do and if you check out Royal Museums Greenwich they will keep you updated on all the fun things on offer for the family such as toddler time, meet the captain and Cutty Sark characters and lots more.