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:
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:
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.
Can you believe that the Olympic Games are coming up in August? It seems like only yesterday that the boys and I cheered ourselves hoarse at the London 2012 Paralympics. We’ll all be glued to the telly, as usual, coincidentally on our DFS sofa (it’s new – we love it). I also love that so many great British (or should that be Great British companies get involved as partners of Team GB, supporting them in loads of different ways to make sure they’re at the very top of their game.
If you read the title and those chunky clog-like shoes appeared in your mind, well, they did mine too, so when Crocs asked if I’d like to have a look at their spring range I was a bit hesitant. I think the original Crocs are a bit like marmite – you either love them or you hate them. We have a couple of pairs by the back door as they’re great for slipping on for gardening, or taking the dog out, but I could never really see myself wearing them out. It turns out, though that they have some really cute new spring shoes that are perfect for the warmer weather and holidays too.
Every since we spent one single day there after our Disney Cruise back in 2013, I’ve been desperate to go back to Barcelona. Way back then, we were lucky to be with some lovely friends, Dave and Drew, who go to Barcelona a lot and could cherry pick all the best bits to show us in a single day, but even so, it’s impossible to cover in a day. Next time we’re back (which I think is in September), I’ve got so much stuff I want to see.
We were talking the other day about the last time we deliberately bought something labelled ‘low fat’ or ‘low sugar’. For us, it’s been a really long time. I think we’ve deliberately moved away from things with bits and bobs taken out, to more natural, healthy products: proper wholesome, whole milk yoghurts; proper bread from the bakery (yes, I love to make my own, but I don’t always have time and who wants to live on squishy plastic bread?), and mature cheddar. We’re never going to be a hard-core healthy family that lives on quinoa and chia seeds and gives up sugar, salt and dairy – that’s not my style at all. I’m an ‘everything in moderation’ person when it comes to food, and as a family we embrace everything, even treats in small amounts. But even with treats, I’d rather the boys were scoffing homemade cake than handfuls of sweets packed with artificial goodness-knows-what.
So the start of this week was ‘blue Monday’ apparently – the most depressing day of the year. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll see my post about how I keep happy, basically by always having something to look forward to. Yes, I know I go away a lot so this is quite easy, but often, and especially when I don’t have a trip planned, it can be something as simple as having a page in my notebook where I jot down ideas for our lovely new en-suite (when we can finally afford it), or planning a family night out, or a drink with a girlfriend pencilled in the diary. As long as there’s something lovely to look forward to, or something that needs planning, I’m a happy girl.
- A night out at the Gourmet Picture Company, Marlow December 10, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: festive fun with Love Layla Designs December 9, 2017
- Christmas crumble muffins with the Kenwood Chef Elite December 7, 2017
- Christmas gifts for the man in your life December 6, 2017
- Shopping and pampering with Trainline’s new voice app December 5, 2017