Every year, as you know, I write a round-up post looking back at all my travel experiences from the last year. I’m so lucky to have a job where I get to travel, and the photographs from my travels really are some of my most treasured possessions: mementos of experiences, people and places that I’ll keep forever (and happy memories are something we all need today, ‘Blue Monday’, traditionally the most depressing day of the year!). One of the things that always strikes me is how my blog photography has changed (hopefully for the better). I recently spotted the CEWE Photoworld ‘Top Ten Most Instagrammed Places’ campaign and it made me even more determined to keep travelling the world, and try to tick a few more off them off my list. It also inspired me to compile a list of a few of the things that I’ve learned over the years: little tips and tricks that I keep in mind when I’m travelling. Now, I’m no photographer (I’m mostly #iphoneonly), and I’m still on a bit of a learning curve when it comes to photos, but I genuinely think that these few things have helped me improve. So here are my top ten blog photography tips. See what you think:
What. A. Year. I’ve got plenty more to say about the joy and sadness that was 2016 in my first piece of 2017 (for us, as well as everyone else, it seems, it was a year of huge highs and massive lows), and my plans for 2017. But for now, I want to stay with the joy and take a look back at the highlights of a year of travel and adventure. Here’s my 2016 roundup.
We all absolutely adore Christmas, but the funniest thing is that while we were all sitting around the fire, Christmas Radio Times on hand to pick the best Christmas movies, sipping on a Baileys, talk actually turned to planning for the summer holidays. I was telling them that the fab villa holiday company, Villa Plus had asked me to talk about our holiday plans for next year, and, as a family with older children, it’s sometimes difficult to pick a holiday that suits everyone. As we were chatting, it was interesting to hear what the boys want from a family holiday. Whereas Jim and I really both want somewhere comfy to lounge and read a book and some sunshine, the boys have different ideas:
This weekend is one of my favourites of the whole year. The first weekend in December (or possibly the second, depending on timing) is tree decorating day. The men of the house go out and forage (okay, not exactly forage) for a Christmas tree, and we spend a lovely day with Christmas songs blasting, digging through all the decorations from the loft (they always bring back memories, don’t they?) and decorating the house. This year, as it’s the first year we’ve got our lovely new open kitchen/diner, I really wanted a kitchen Christmas tree and the boys did a fabulous job finding me the perfect one. To celebrate all this hygge activity (remember hygge? The Danish concept of warmth and family and cosiness), we decided to invite some lovely friends and – with a little help from Simply Beef and Lamb – found the perfect festive recipe: slow roasted lamb in sloe gin.
Do you wonder what the future holds for you? Are you one of those people who firmly lives in the present and doesn’t really even think about it, or are you a planner, with your whole life’s course already plotted? Maybe you’re like me: a bit inbetweeny – vaguely aware that the choices you make now will affect you in later life, but happy to leave it to some hazy future time to actually sort anything out. Recently, Aviva challenged me to have a bit more of a proper think about my future, especially how we’ll manage financially. They have an online tool called ‘Shape my Future’ (more of this later) which can give you a rough estimate of how much you’ll have to live on when you’re older. It’s been an eye opener, I can tell you.
I’m home!! Oh we had such a lovely time on our cruise (if you’ve been following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you’ll have seen all the fun), and I’m literally back for one day before Erica and I head out to Walt Disney World Resort, Florida to check out everything new in the world of Disney dining (and to whizz around on a few rides, of course). I was delighted to come back to a fabulous delivery in the shape of new Ryvita Lunch Packs, so as Erica’s staying before we head off to Gatwick, we though we’d have a little play and concoct some quick and healthy snackage to set us up for our long flight.
Talking to your children about stuff like child abuse is really, really tough. I can remember feeling really worried about broaching the subject, but also really wanting to let them know that they can always talk to us, especially if another adult ever made them feel uncomfortable or wanted them to keep a secret. Enter the NSPCC’s very clever Pantosauras campaign. I know this is a bit off topic for me, but I just thought the campaign was SO brilliant, it really deserves to be shared.
So, you’re about to set off on your first proper adventure at sea? Exciting! Cruising can seem like a strange and foreign world, and many first-time cruisers will be wondering all sorts of things: how they’ll spend all that time on board/whether they’ll get bored/lost//fat/feel sick/spend loads of money/whatever. Rest assured that cruise ships today are better equipped than ever before, with exciting activities, delicious food and top notch tipples right at your fingertips. In order to give you more of an insight into what you can expect from your time at sea, here’s my slightly tongue in cheek rundown of what to expect on your first cruise, particularly your first 48 hours at sea.
As usual, I’d like to start by saying that I’m not ‘reviewing’ these restaurants. I don’t see myself as any kind of food critic, we just love to eat out and share the experiences that we’ve had. We live quite near Berkhamsted: one of the prettiest towns in the Chilterns (if you’re in London, it’s literally half an hour from Euston and full of lovely places to eat – you should come!) and often visit the market (fruit and veg on Saturday is amazing) and for dinner at one of the fabulous restaurants.
If you’re thinking of visiting Berkhamsted and the surrounding Chilterns, or just generally heading to the south of England, do check this really useful interactive south of England travel map, complete with loads of ideas for attractions to see, activities to do, and more suggestions for places to eat too.
Here are our top five foodie experiences in Berkhamsted:
This week, Mr E and I travelled to the lovely Soho Hotel in London (have you been there before? It’s SO funky! Plus we saw beautiful Kate Beckinsale chatting away with a couple of mates in the lobby and she gave me the most gorgeous smile). Anyway we were in London to find out more about Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, Florida.
On his recent trip to Barcelona (great fun had by all, nobody died or got hurt or fell of a balcony, phew) Charlie was travelling with cabin baggage only, so we very carefully checked the baggage sizes allowed by the airline for his suitcase. He was on a pretty tight budget anyway, so he didn’t want to risk any extra charges. Trouble is, then we completely forgot about the liquids restrictions and he got all the gorgeous Ultrasun UK suncream that I gave him confiscated. ARGH! My sister in law told me a story recently of her Mum treating herself to a hideously expensive Crème de la Mer moisturiser and then completely forgetting about the restrictions and getting it taken away. Can you imagine?
Ahhh, this is so lovely. So Marks and Spencer contacted me recently about their new campaign: Decades at School celebrating over a century of helping parents get their kids ready to go back to school. They’re showcasing their back to school archives, focusing on the evolution of everything from uniform to packed lunches.
Those lovely bags of fries. They’re the nation’s favourite, aren’t they? A staple for any classic British meal. Quick, easy and tasty, the faithful oven chip has never let us down. It’s simplicity is its strength, because it goes so well with so much. Steak and chips, egg and chips, fish and chips, and so on.
However, chips are still far from reaching their full potential, and there are, it seems, plenty of quick, easy and mouthwatering ways of preparing a bag of McCain fries that we need to try. Some of these may seem unexpected, but they may just be your new favourite way of eating Britain’s favourite side dish. Here’s how I got on with my research:
This weekend, Royal Caribbean’s new mega-ship, Harmony of the Seas came to Southampton. Sadly, I missed it as I was away on Carnival Vista, but lots of press, bloggers, vloggers and other folk were invited to sample life on board the largest cruise ship in the world on a weekend mini sailing.
So we all know about the beautiful ski resorts of the French Alps: Val D’Isere and Morzine are on everyone’s skiing radar. But what about in the summer? I’ve noticed that a lot of friends are heading off to these types of resorts in the off season too, and after a bit of research, I’m definitely ready to join them.
While we were at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida last week, I was lucky enough to catch a press conference about everything that’s new and coming up at the parks. There’s exciting news of two new lands: a Star Wars themed land, and a new Toy Story land, plus more information on Pandora: The World of AVATAR, which is coming in 2017. We also had some sneaky peeks of attractions and shows that are due to open, including Rivers of Light and new nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris. Step this way for all the news (by the way, I had to write really, really quickly while people were talking so please excuse any errors or omissions):
- Vanilla breakfast muffins January 19, 2017
- Landmarks and lessons: my top ten blog photography tips January 16, 2017
- Amelia Island: the coolest place you’ve never heard of January 13, 2017
- The hush sale is here! January 7, 2017
- Revive and relax: a new night time beauty outlook for 2017 January 5, 2017