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Travel checklist

Planning for a trip is exciting, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t also stressful. There’s always a lot to remember and the chances are that you’ll have a list of stuff to sort out that’s as long as your arm. But we’re here to help.

Safety is always most important, and it’s vital that you remember to lock up and protect your house as much as possible – coming home to an empty house will definitely ruin any post-holiday wellbeing.

It’s always worth remembering to cancel deliveries, record TV programmes and empty the fridge too – perhaps arrange for a neighbour to pop round and visit, just to make sure that everything stays OK.

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 Image courtesy: RickshawTravel.co.uk

Your health should always be in your head and for many people it’s never more important than during trips away. Travel sickness is incredibly common and remembering medications can make things a lot easier.

Be sure to check where you’re going to see if there’s anything you should take, and also be sure to stock up on allergy treatments and things like sun cream if you know you’re going to need them.

Remembering to stock up and making a list of the things you need can save you time, money and, in the case of medication, potentially a lot of discomfort. Hopefully though, if you remember to check our guide you can avoid any bad experiences!

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Image courtesy: OnlineClinic.co.uk

Am I missing something important? Which checklist do you follow while travelling? Please let me know in the comments below.

The March #foodiephotoaday Instagram challenge

Instagram foodie photo a day challenge

So I was just saying to Mr English recently that I really like Instagram.  It’s such fun following people and seeing what they post, and everyone is chatty, friendly and supportive.  So, in an effort to meet new people to follow and to foster a bit of creativity, I’ve come up with a little challenge for you.  Here are 31 prompts – one for every day of March – so if you feel you’d like to join in, just post a photo on Instagram inspired by the daily prompt (be as creative as you like!) and tag it #foodiephotoaday.  Take the challenge and do every day, or just whenever the mood takes you, and click on the hashtag to see what everyone is up to and meet new people. Simples!

Rich chocolate cake

Rich chocolate cake with easy chocolate frosting

So there I was, minding my own business, working hard at the dining room table whilst refereeing the dog and cat because Mr E is painting the lounge ceiling, whilst also, y’know, keeping an eye on social media, when someone went and mentioned cake.

Then that was it.  I couldn’t concentrate.  I just wanted cake.  And the more I tried to concentrate, and stop the dog and cat wrestling, and come up with interesting ways to say ‘amazing’ without using the word 20 times in one article, the more my brain was going ‘cake… cake… caaaaake…’

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Grouting and chai tea

Refurbishing your home on a budget

So we’re cracking on with our plans to freshen up our house.  It’s basically had nothing done to it except for basic maintenance for quite a few years as it’s been rented out, so it’s looking a bit tired.  We started by going round the house with a notepad and pen and listed down every single thing that we think needs doing – new bathrooms, new carpets, new kitchen, flooring… Then we went back over the list to see what we can afford to do now, what will have to be put on hold until budget allows us to start work and how we could freshen up bits and pieces until they can be replaced.

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Marauders

The parenting update – 10 things I’ve learned about parenting teenagers

I think your parenting style changes as your children go through different life stages.  I’ve been thinking recently about how my parenting has evolved as the boys have moved into their older teens.  Our household has always been pretty laid back, but a few wobbles recently have made me fall back upon the rules that I’ve always leant on to give the boys boundaries.  Here are my current thoughts on my very own ‘best practice’.

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First glimpse

My Disney Dream diary part one – Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Oh, the Disney Dream.  The delightful, delicious, delovely, delectable Disney Dream.  Regular readers will know that I adore all the Disney Cruise Line ships, but there’s something about Disney Dream in particular that makes my heart sing. I think it’s because my first ever Disney Cruise was on board the Disney Dream.  I just love everything about it – the restaurants, the fabulous AquaDuck water coaster, the gorgeous restaurants, the gorgeous cocktail bars, the sumptuous spa…  So, if you’ve ever wondered what a cruise holiday on board a Disney Cruise Line ship is like, wonder no more.  Sam (my oldest son) and I kept a diary during our cruise trip last week, and here’s part one.

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Autumn caramel and apple cupcakes

From red velvet to winter sparkle – easy seasonal cupcakes

Everyone loves making cupcakes, don’t they?  Flora have a really easy peasy cupcake recipe on their website, which is perfect for everyday baking at home.  But how do you ring the changes?  Maybe you’d like to make some cupcakes as a gift for someone special, or for some sort of celebration?  Flora challenged me to create four seasonal cupcake recipes to give you some inspiration for your own home baking throughout the year, so here, for your delectation, are my four very easy but good enough to share seasonal recipes:

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Wholemeal pizza

How to make healthier pizza at home – step by step

So I’m still suffering from hideous jetlag after our recent trip to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream (much more of this coming up).  We got a night flight back from Orlando and it was practically empty, which meant we could all spread out and I spent most of the flight spread out across a row of four seats, snoozing blissfully, and only woke up when they started opening up the blinds and tidying up ready for landing.  Still, I’m now suffering that weirdness that crossing timezones always seems to bring – for me, this means an increase in my usual clumsiness, a general heavy tiredness, and a craving for junk food.

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My savings past, present and future

I’ve never been good with money.  It’s one of the things we’ve tried really hard to talk to the boys about because (and I know you’re not supposed to do this but, hey…) I don’t want them to make the same mistakes we made.

We were married with a child by the time I was 25 and, back then, it was pretty easy to buy a house with two incomes.  It makes me realise just how lucky we were.  My parents were generous with their help and by the time Charlie came along, we’d moved into a bigger house that needed some work and were slowly doing it up.

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Diddy hamper

Win one of two gorgeous mini hampers with Abra-ca-Debora pancakes! *CLOSED*

So Pancake Day (or Shrove Tuesday) is coming up fast!  The lovely chaps at Abra-ca-Debora make scrummy ready made pancakes, so even if you’re not in the mood (or simply don’t have time) to make your own pancakes, there’s no reason why you should miss out.  Abra-ca-Debora do three different products: the plain ones are great for all sorts of things including savoury crepes, the sweet ones are perfect for drizzling with honey, or rolling up with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sugar, and then there are some cute new fluffy little sweet ones, ‘diddy’ pancakes (known in Holland as poffertjes), which are fantastic for dipping in all sorts of lovely, sticky things.

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Bedroom lamp

Happy February!

I’m SO glad that January’s over.  It’s always such a long, miserable month, and with added cold weather and post-Christmas cashflow it can make you feel really low.

Happily today it’s February! My first trip of the year (on the gorgeous Disney Dream) starts next week so I’ll be getting some sun, and we’re carrying on with a few bits of house refurbishing. It’s amazing how much difference little things make.

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Seven Seas Perfect7

On test: Seven Seas new Perfect7 – the results!

So before Christmas, I told you that I was going to be trying out Seven Seas new Perfect7 Woman – it’s a blend of Omega-3 rich marine oils, and vitamins and minerals especially formulated to provide benefits for women in 7 key areas such as skin, nails and air, as well as supporting hormonal activity, brain function, vision and heart health.  So how did I get on?

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The cable car to the summit of Mt Teide

My top five Canary Island experiences

If you’re planning a family holiday this year, you can’t go very far wrong with the Canary Islands.  The climate is beautiful year-round, and around this little archipelago just off the south west coast of Morocco, there’s a holiday, and a hotel, to suit you. Whether you’re looking for peace and quiet, or for a bustling party destination, there really is something for everyone.  Here are my top five Canary Island experiences:

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Rosie serving bowl, Anthropologie

Wishlist: kitchen luxe

Happy Monday! Hope yours is going well.  I spent most of the weekend dreaming and drawing and planning (oh and making yummy barbecue pulled chicken too). We’ve been working and saving really hard for our upcoming kitchen refurb and it’s lovely to think that this is the year that we’ll actually be able to start making our dreams become a reality.  I spend so much time in the kitchen, it’s one of the places that I’m really looking forward to starting work on.  We want to knock the wall down between the kitchen and the dining room to recreate a larger, more sociable space – something that really hit home to me during our New Year’s Eve party, when I was stuck at the sink clearing plates between courses, listening to everyone having fun in the next room.

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Shredded barbecue chicken

Slow cooked barbecue pulled chicken

I love a feast.  A proper, gather round the table heaped with dishes, everyone talking at once, help yourself, kind of feast.  My favourite one recently was our huge Middle Eastern feast for New Year’s Eve. when the table was heaving with all sorts of different things ready to tuck into.  We talked, we laughed, we drank lovely wine, we stuffed all sorts of different things into pittas, and then into our faces.  A real joyful night.

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Habitat sofa

My home wishlist

I can’t believe we’re finally going to refurbish our house!  I’m so excited and seem to be spending hours (okay, more hours than usual) on Pinterest and various home websites, planning and plotting and dreaming about how our home could look.

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Disney Dream

Gorgeous new luxe foodie experiences on board with Disney Cruise Line

As regular readers will know, I’m a huge fan of Disney Cruise Line. DCL’s fleet comprises four beautiful ships: the first, the recently reimagined Disney Magic, originally set sail in 1998, closely followed by Disney Wonder in 1999, both with the capacity to welcome 2700 guests on board.  Then DCL launched two larger ships, Disney Dream in 2011 (my first, and favourite – with the incredible ‘AquaDuck’ – the world’s first ‘watercoaster’ at sea), and the Disney Fantasy in 2012, both longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall, and with a maximum occupancy of 4000 passengers.

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Stags Leap Chardonnay

The best of the January sales

Happy Sunday!  I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend.  We’ve mostly slobbed around, eaten cake, signed the contracts ready to exchange on our house (YAY!), splurged in Majestic Wine  (this Stag’s Leap ‘Karia’ Chardonnay was buy two, save £10), stroked our gorgeous little furball family and started prepping for our next painting project: Sam’s bedroom (feature wall dark grey, other walls silvery grey).

I’ve got my first trip coming up very soon, a cruise on the gorgeous Disney Dream – one of my favourite ships, so I thought it would be a good time to stock up on some of the summer stuff that’s inevitably in the sales:

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