This week I’ve spent the most incredible week in Barbados enjoying the Crop Over festival. I’ve got so much to tell you, from the glorious sparkly, feathery costumes at the Grand Kadooment Day Parade to a heavenly day spent lazing on a catamaran in an ultramarine sea, and an encounter with a turtle! More of this later. The other thing that these sorts of blissful holidays do is make me take stock: reassess how my life is going, and suddenly see what I really want (generally this happens reading a magazine by the pool, or entranced by the passing scenery from my seat on the coach). Is this just me, do you think? Or is it some kind of universal truth of holidays: the lightbulb moments an inevitable result of unwinding and really having time to think? Read more
Whenever I travel, I use a company called APH parking. I’ve mentioned them before, and I love them, because you basically just drive to the airport, where they meet you, whisk your car away, then keep it safe while you travel. On your return, you give them a bell when you’ve picked up your suitcase and hey presto, your car’s waiting for you outside at the airport ready for you to drive home. No muss, no fuss. They’ve recently published a really interesting article about flying when you’re pregnant and I thought I’d share some of the key facts. It makes interesting reading and is a great guide if you’re preggers and considering flying.
So last time I told you about project kitchen refurb, the wall was down, but not a lot else was done. We’ve moved on a little bit, and in an effort to feel like we’ve made a little progress in all the dust and rubble, Mr E finished the dining room side and painting it a beautiful shade of blue. The kitchen is awaiting our poor kitchen fitter, who is currently stacked out, to come and fit new wooden worksurfaces, and then all it needs is a bit of tiling. Which brings me neatly on to my first wishlist item:
Shopping (and window shopping, as we’ve currently run out of money) continues for our new kitchen. I love a gadget and there are TONS of great gadgets and appliances on the market at the moment. Here’s my current gadget/appliance wish list:
One of the many things we do really well in this country is make beer. To celebrate this fact, The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is once again organising the UK’s biggest beer festival. The Great British Beer Festival takes places at Olympia from 11th to 15th August and features all sorts of real ales and ciders (not just British ones, there are plenty of beers from all over the world to discover). If you’re tempted to go along and join in, here’s what to look out for:
Last night we were talking about graduating. Sam’s got a couple of years left, but when the time finally comes and you’ve completed your degree and ultimately, completed your academic career, we reckon you should mark the occasion in some way. All too soon, it will be time to enter the big wide world of work, so before that happens, there should be a moment (or longer) of celebration. Something that you’ll always remember. Here are my thoughts:
Glastonbury has ushered in festival season good and proper. I watched all the BBC coverage with mixed feelings. My boys love it, but I’m still not sure I’m a festival person. Still, there are still a good three months of quality festival action all over the country to make us change our minds, so book tickets to the one you fancy as soon as possible – I’m seriously considering Blogstock actually. I think it’s probably quite easy to do a festival badly, you know, assume it’s going to be sunny every day or you just bring bottles of wine and find out at the door (as my boys did) that no glass is allowed on site. So here are my top festival tips for making the most out of the experience.
Every time I go abroad, I come back with a little ‘holiday baby’ – a couple of extra pounds due to all those yummy dinners and cocktails. I find it quite hard to eat healthily and I never know whether a couple of dog walks a day is enough exercise, so when Kiqplan asked me if I’d like to review their digital training coach app, which promises to change the way you look and feel in 12 weeks, I jumped at the chance. Here’s how I got on.
I love a holiday snap. As you know, my own philosophy is ‘snapshots not stuff’ – I’d rather spend my money creating a lovely memory than spend it on more stuff to clutter up our already busy lives. This is my favourite one of ours – on the beach at Val André in Brittany stuffing our faces with ice creams:
The Channel Islands, closer to France than they are the UK, yet a part of Great Britain, are interesting for a number of reasons. There are eight inhabited islands in the archipelago, but tourism is mainly focused on Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Helm and Alderney. Each island provides a charming, laid back holiday option. The mixture of French and British culture is captivating and the islands have some truly captivating scenery.
Here are a few facts about the islands which are worth knowing before you plan your trip:
Colourful Telephone Boxes and Post Boxes
One sign that you are no longer on the mainland is the presence of the identical classic British telephone and post boxes painted royal blue on the island of Guernsey.
The 1.5 mile long island of Herm has a ban on cars and bicycles. This adds to the quaint unpolluted atmosphere of the place.
Jersey Legal System
Jersey famously has it’s own legal system. With influences from French civil law, English common law and Norman customary law it is an interesting mix which represents the island’s rich history.
The Nazi Occupation
The darkest period of that history would possibly be the wartime years of 1940 to 1945 when the Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazi forces. The islands, demilitarised as deemed without strategic importance, were invaded by German planes which bombed harbours in Guernsey and Jersey. The island’s Jewish population were deported, many of whom died in concentration camps.
Dark Skies Status
Sark celebrated being the first island in the world to be given ‘Dark Sky Status’ in 2011. Visitors to the tiny island can enjoy black skies unimpeded by light pollution to get excellent views of the stars at night. This is great for the island’s tourism industry as visitors now have a reason to visit during the wintry months rather than only when it is warmer.
Residents of Alderney have the questionable privilege of being handed some rather strange nicknames over the island’s history. Traditionally named vaques (after the cows) and also lapins (on account of the many rabbits on the islands) while the ones which the residents assumingly prefer is Ridunians from the islands Latin name Riduna.
Exile in Guernsey: Victor Hugo
One of literature’s most celebrated authors, Victor Hugo made Guernsey his home for 15 years when he was in exile from his homeland. Les Miserables and a host of other famous titles were written during this stay and it is said that you can read his and his lover Juliet Drouet’s initials engraved somewhere in the granite walls of Victoria Tower.
The Channel Islands make for great holiday destinations which do not cost a fortune. UK Breakaways run regular trips to Guernsey and Jersey. Many people also enjoy island-hopping and seeing what the majority of the islands have to offer.
So this is fun – especially if you’re as obsessed by toast as we are. Teenagers seem to have a special affinity with toast and I’ll often pass one of the boys on the stairs carrying a teetering pile of buttered toast (and Marmite, for preference), mentally waving goodbye to yet another plate that could potentially fester in his bedroom until it’s unearthed at my next mucking out session.
Back to toast, though, Breville have joined up with Warburtons to launch a ‘bespoke’ toaster, which is a perfect fit for the Warburton’s Toastie loaf. It’s specially designed (the bread slots are both deeper and wider) to toast the entire piece of bread right up to the top, which means no more flabby strips at the top of your slice of toast.
Breville have even made this lovely video, just in case you’re not 100% clear:
There are two toasters in the range: a 2 slice and a 4 slice, and they actually look really stylish too, with a stainless steel finish, variable browning controls and a very clever ‘lift and look’ facility that means you can have a peep at your toast without cancelling the cycle (which always leads to putting it back in and burning it). Add to this all sorts of defrost/reheat and mid-cycle functions and it’s a pretty good all rounder. Oh, and you don’t HAVE to buy Warburtons if you don’t want to. But then, it’s a perfect fit, so why wouldn’t you?!
This clever toaster is now available at Breville.co.uk and Amazon, priced £34.99 for the 2 slice or £59.99 for the 4 slice. I think they’re quite cool (well, hot!).
Not being one to moan (ahem) I’m trying to remain chipper, but HOW DIFFICULT is it to get a builder to come and do work on your house? Our kitchen/diner plans have completely stalled as the builder we thought was the best one is really busy (and also much more expensive than the others). I understand the whole paying more to get good quality thing, but it seems everyone else does too as he’s rather in demand.
So, Grandad English has a biiiiig birthday coming up. I won’t mention it otherwise I might get one of his customary ALL IN CAPITALS emails (he’s a regular reader). Thoughts have naturally turned to an epic pressie to celebrate the big day – maybe a joint one between us all. And of course, being me, the first thing I thought of was that old thing about life experiences and not things – snapshots, not stuff.
I remember one of our very first holidays – to St Lucia – Sam was about three and Charlie was about 9 months old. Little Sam’s legs were just the perfect length to make sure every time he moved, he kicked the seat in front of him. As much as I tried to get him to sit still or distract him, the poor lady in front eventually turned round and gave me a right earful – leaving me in tears. Luckily, things have moved on from those days and you’re more likely now to have a lot more gadgets and technology to keep the kids diverted and make family travel much more stress free than it was 15 years ago (and maybe even encounter some more sympathetic fellow travellers!)
This is so interesting. The time when children left home at 18 (like me) to begin a life of their own is over, as rising house prices coupled with the soaring cost of living are forcing adults to remain at home with their parents. Those who do manage to move out often have to rely on support from their parents, facing a lifetime of renting.
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.
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