Five Fabulous Reasons To Go Skiing

I have a confession. I am 38 and have never been skiing. It was never high on my list of my priorities to be honest. (Although I suspect this might be because my parents tried to convince me I wouldn’t like it when I was growing up, due to the expense!) However, Squiggle has asked me several times to go skiing and it has got me thinking… am I missing out? More to the point, I don’t want her to miss out; surely I should provide her with the opportunity to try it out if she desires? So I asked some friends and fellow bloggers why they love skiing and what the benefits are. And it would appear there are several great reasons to go skiing…

5 fabulous reasons to go skiing title with beautiful scenic picture of skiing underneath.

THE VIEWS!!!!

This has to be at the top of the list. It was an almost unanimous response from everyone who was asked what they love most about skiing. And I can understand why. You only have to google the word skiing to see a whole mass of phenomenal scenic photos. Who could resist those glorious picturesque views?

“The views are incredible, the air is so incredibly fresh, the sound of skis on fresh powdery snow is one of a kind and I love how skiing makes you feel so free and exhilarated!” ~ Hello Baby Blog

It’s An All- Inclusive Sport

I am sure we all know why doing any sport is good for us and carries a range of benefits; certainly I have written before about why sports are so important. Skiing however, as a sport has its own unique benefits. As Blissful Domestication points out, it is a sport you can take part in just once a year and still improve on!

It is also good for SEND children (and adults), as Tickets, Passports, Kids explains: “I believe it’s rather sensory… I believe the snow takes the edge off the sounds he hears, plus the helmet makes everything quieter. I believe he hears the world so loudly, that the snow makes it easier for him to hear. Plus, it’s not a team sport.” Indeed, I can see exactly why it might be so beneficial for some autistic people for these reasons.

As I read and speak to people about it more, I do notice that whilst skiing and other snow sports might not seem like obviously the most SEND-friendly sport to take part in by nature, in reality it is quite advanced in its level of awareness and is therefore very accomodating; alot of effort has been made to make adjustments and adapt the sport to meet a wide range of needs and disabilities. (This is a generalisation of course, as with anything, individual’s experiences will vary greatly).

In summary, skiing is an inclusive sport that is suitable for all ages and abilities. Awesome!

Skiier skiing down mountain slope with beautiful scenic snow mountains in background.

The Recreational Side of Skiing

Another popular reason to go skiing is actually not about the activity itself; people often value the recreational aspect of it just as much. Cosy evenings in together, sharing a bottle of wine whilst surrounded by breathtaking views or enjoying a hot chocolate in the open air – there is far more to skiing than just… skiing! It is even a good opportunity to make new friends too!

Travel Opportunities

Having a passion for skiing also then sparks the desire to travel to ski resorts in beautiful new locations that you might otherwise not have a chance to visit. Travelling for a specific purpose, such as skiing, offers a great incentive to get saving for the next trip!

Life is an Adventure

Last but not least, skiing is an adventure! Discovering new places, trying new activities, exploring new locations… it is all part of the wonder and excitement of living life to the full! And there is no better reason to give it a try than that!

A close up picture of a skiier skiing on snow

Things To Consider

Skiing can be expensive but even if you can’t afford to go to a fancy ski resort, there are lots of indoor snow centres around where you can still take part in the activity on real snow. Some people like to try it out or have a few lessons before their first ski trip, so it might be worth checking if there is one near you. Of course, there are still dry ski slopes around too as another alternative. I hear some people say this doesn’t quite compare to skiing on real snow, which I can imagine is very true. But it is another option nonetheless.

In most places there is equipment available to hire. But even if it doesn’t become a serious hobby, you will still need some essentials in order to be dressed for the weather, so of course you will need to invest in the right gear! If you are looking to buy ski clothes and accessories, Simply Hike have a lovely range of ski wear and accessories, including some gorgeous womens ski jackets. Don’t forget those googles too!

A lady (blogger Kiki Blah Blah) standing outside in the snow in her ski outfit.
Kiki Blah Blah

Happy skiing!

Thanks to The Money Whisperer, All About A Mummy, Pink Pear Bear, Kiki Blah Blah and Truly Madly Kids for your helpful insights and contributions to this post.

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Eco- Friendly Periods: What’s So Amazing About Menstrual Cups? A Guest Post by Jackie Bolen

Here’s something that I have some serious regret about…

Not knowing about menstrual cups until I was in my early 30’s. I’m not sure how I didn’t figure it out until then. Maybe I wasn’t hanging around the eco-friendly crowd, or maybe it was that menstrual cups weren’t so popular back then. Whatever it was, I’m happy that I did eventually hear about them from a friend of mine. I went out and immediately bought a Diva Cup, and have been using it ever since.

I do regret all those wasted year though. Imagine how much money I could have saved, and how much trash I could have not thrown out?

I’m going to share with you what’s so amazing about menstrual cups, and offer some advice if you’d like to make the switch yourself.

Eco- Friendly Periods: What's So Amazing About Mooncups? Image of 4 confident womens silhouettes against a sunset background.

More Money in the Bank at the End of the Month

I’m sure you know this already, but disposable pads and tampons are expensive! I know that I always feel a bit of sticker shock every single time I walk down that aisle at the drugstore. According to the Huffington Post, people spend an average of 13 pounds a month on feminine hygiene products. That’s a lot, especially considering that it’s an expense we incur every single month for around 40 years.

In the UK, tampons and sanitary towels are taxed at a rate of 5%. This has changed a few times during the last 40 years, but it’s currently at the lowest rate possible. It’s still too much.

Although menstrual cups cost around 20 pounds, they can last for years with proper care and cleaning. The best news is that you’ll recoup your costs in only a couple of months, when compared to disposable pads or tampons.

Less Waste Going to the Landfill

Estimates vary, but it’s thought that the average person uses between 11,000 and 16,000 tampons during their lifetime, resulting in 100-200 kg of waste from sanitary products. A portion of this waste is plastic which is not biodegradable. Although tampons and pads are not a big part of the larger waste problem, this is waste that can be avoided by making the switch to a menstrual cup.

Menstrual cups generally last for 5-10 years, so over a lifetime, a person will need only 4-8 of them. This is significantly less waste than thousands of pads and tampons. And there’s more good news—depending on where you live, menstrual cups can often be recycled.

Reduce your Exposure to Chemicals

Pads and tampons often contain trace amounts of pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Manufacturing companies aren’t exactly upfront about what’s in their products, and legislators have been slow to require this. Although there are no long-term studies about what effects these chemicals have, it’s thought that exposure to them might be linked to things as serious as cancer.

I hope that governments will pass legislation that requires companies to disclose what’s in pads or tampons, and/or companies will work to eliminate these harmful things. In the meantime, it makes sense to use a menstrual cup instead.

As long as you get a top-quality cup (avoid the cheap ones from China), it’s made from medical grade silicone that is safe to use inside your body. It will not leak chemicals into your bloodstream and you’ll be able to have a safer period experience.

No Risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome

To date, there has been one reported case of Toxic Shock Syndrome that resulted from using a menstrual cup. With tampons, there are thousands of cases every year. Menstrual cups are not without risks, but it seem that the risk of this very serious condition is far lower than when using tampons.

Ready to Make the Switch?

Are you ready to have a cheaper, safer, and more environmentally friendly period? Then it’s time to consider choosing menstrual cups instead of disposable pads or tampons.

If you live in the UK, an excellent place to start is the MoonCup. It’s a company based in Brighton that makes one of the most popular menstrual cups in the world. MoonCup has been around for years, and people that try the cup really seem to love it.

You can buy the MoonCup directly from the cup for around 20 pounds, and shipping is free in the UK. Check it out here: MoonCup’s Website.

Image of hand holding mooncup with box and bag also in photo. Photo by Dylan and Me.Image Credit: Dylan and Me

Author Bio

Jackie Bolen is a tree-hugging, friend of the Earth who can usually be found on top of a mountain, paddling the rivers, or drinking coffee around Vancouver, Canada. She hopes that one day, a menstrual cup will be found in the hands of every single menstruating person in the world. This has the potential to make it a much better place.

*This is a guest post.

Children Are Our Future: Setting Them Up For Success

As parents, our number one goal in life is to raise happy and healthy children with a bright future. We want to know that we’re doing everything we can to do what’s best for them, and once you have a child this little person is suddenly the most important thing in your life, you value it above your own. But knowing what we need to do to make sure we’re setting our children up for success can be a struggle, after all, no one knows what the future holds. However with that being said, there are a few things we can do that will always benefit our kids in later years, regardless of the direction they go in. Here are some ideas…

Children Are Our Future: Setting Them Up For Success title with black and white image of child sat on adult's knee in a living room reading a book.

Teach Them The Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle

We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. The leading cause of death in the third world is heart disease, which for the most part is preventable with a healthy lifestyle. Therefore teaching our children about the importance of health and setting a good example for healthy habits is crucial. Keep processed food, sweets and junk out of the house as much as possible, and try to avoid using them as treats or rewards, as this teaches children a bad mindset towards these things.

Cook healthy and delicious meals at home- include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and other fresh raw nutricious ingredients. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for family friendly meals, and if you’re pushed for time you could try batch cooking at weekends. That way you have access to lots of frozen, healthy meals you cooked yourself and are far less likely to buy something convenient yet unhealthy and expensive. Also, numerous studies have shown that families that eat together raise happier and more balanced children, who tend to be slimmer and healthier. So if you currently feed the children and adults in your house separately it’s worth making a change.

Exercise is also very important, kids are naturally energetic so it shouldn’t be difficult for them to get in the hour of moderate to vigorous activity they need a day. The trick is to make it fun, avoid it feeling like a chore. You could go on family hikes or bike rides together at the weekend. Or take them swimming, trampolining or to a class they enjoy, such as dance or martial arts. Even hire a bouncy castle or buy a large trampoline for your back garden and they’re sure to have hours of fun activity with very little input needed from you. Getting into these healthy habits and seeing exercise as something that’s fun and enjoyable is something that will most definitely set them up for future success.

Think About Finances

Starting out as a young adult can be difficult. It’s more of a struggle to get onto the property market now than it ever was- and it’s set to get worse. By planning for your child’s future, you can give them an advantage once they’re older. Some money towards a mortgage deposit could help them onto the property ladder which might have otherwise been impossible for them. You could either put money into a savings account, or make a smart investment such as buying some property. A studio apartment or small flat wouldn’t be too expensive, you could then put away the money you earn from it each month into savings for your child. When they’re older, they could even live in it while they get established with their career or attend a local college or university. This would save on fees for halls or renting a student house, but still give them the independence they will be craving at that age.

Keep Them Curious

Children are naturally curious about the world, and keeping this magic alive is what will give them a great capacity to learn and do well in their education. Take them to galleries and museums, go on woodland walks with fun worksheets from Pinterest where you tick off the things you see. Take them rock pool fishing and teach them about the creatures they catch, go to the farm or zoo and tell them all about the animals. Learning doesn’t have to happen in a classroom or with books, keeping kids curious and giving them a thirst for knowledge is a fantastic way to set them up later in life. With a passion to learn they’re more likely to do well in future, and a good education paves the way for gaining the skills they need to later on enjoy satisfying career that they love.

Read to your kids often, sing songs, make up stories together. Do puzzles, teach them how to bake or sew. It’s all new, fun and exciting for kids and you help them to develop passions and hobbies that can help them meet new friends and develop their skills.

Photo of a happy laughing family having a water fight with buckets of water

Encourage Them To Be Empathetic

Empathy, being able to see things from another person’s perspective and feel genuine emotions towards them seems like the most human thing in the world. However this is not a trait we are born with, those who grow up without learning how to empathise don’t show it later on, their brains do not develop in the same way. Being empathetic, sensitive and able to understand the emotions of others helps people to develop meaningful friendships and later on relationships- it helps them to become a good person.

Encourage empathy by praising empathetic behaviour, avoiding anger and encouraging kids to talk about their feelings. Being able to label your own feelings as a child is very useful, as when others speak about how they feel the child is able to understand what it means and feels like.

One option for teaching kids empathy is to take them volunteering. Feeding the homeless, helping out at a children’s hospital, volunteering at an animal shelter or at a care home can all allow them to experience different emotions of others, and learn how it feels good to help. Growing up in touch with their emotions as well as being able to perceive others will allow them to create meaningful and lasting bonds with others.

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Rainwater Harvesting: Advantages for Your Home and Garden

It need not be said that water is an essential resource for all of us. We can live without a day of electricity, and there are many undeveloped places in the world that make do without its convenience; but everyone in the world, regardless of where they are, needs water. It is a necessity to all life.

Some of us are privileged to have instant and convenient access to water anytime we want. But not all of us appreciate this privilege; in fact, a lot of us take it for granted. We think all the water that we have at our fingertips -literally – is unlimited. But it’s not. Already, certain parts of the world are experiencing drought, and if we remain heedless about how we consume our water supply, this drought will become a global problem.

It becomes crucial then that we find ways on how to save on our water usage. For one thing, we should fix leaks around the house, as leaks are one of the top causes of wastefulness in the home. You might think all those drips don’t amount to anything, but over time, they accumulate to a sizable quantity of water. How sizable? Approximately ten thousand gallons per year. So get in touch with a professional plumber and stop those leaks before they give you problems.

Another thing you can do is to upgrade the faucets and showerheads in your household to more modern and more efficient ones. For instance, when brushing your teeth, do you really need a faucet with a really strong, pressurized flow? You are much better off with a low-pressure flow for these activities.

Finally, the practice of harvesting rainwater can help to cut down your monthly water consumption as well as your bills. Rainwater harvesting is the habit of making use of one of nature’s free resources – rain – and harnessing it for our own various household uses. This practice can bring about several advantages for your home and garden…

Rainwater Harvesting: Advantages for Your Home and Garden title with image

It reduces the risks of soil erosion and flooding.

This sustainable habit can benefit the environment in a lot of ways. For one, it can help to prevent erosion around your property as well as reduce storm water runoff. It can also decrease incidences of flooding in your area. In incidents of a torrential downpour, there’s a lot of excess rainwater that doesn’t get soaked into the ground and only ends up flooding your area. It would be much better if you made use of this water instead.

It reduces your water bills.

Harvesting rainwater can also help you reduce your monthly water consumption. Imagine if you were to use rainwater for your various household needs and tasks like doing the laundry and washing your car. You would not need to consume that much water from your tap like you normally do. Ultimately, you get to save on your water bills each month.

It can give you a backup supply.

There may come a time when your water supply gets cut off due to various reasons, like when the water company is doing major repairs or when there is simply a drought in your area and your community needs to ration their water use. In these instances, the rainwater you harvested can serve as a useful and necessary backup supply.

It eases the demand for ground water.

Although the Earth is covered with water for about 71 percent of its surface, more than 96 percent of that water is ocean-based and thus is unusable. Disregarding inaccesible fresh water found in icecaps and glaciers, we thus only have access to 1 percent ground water. Consider the fact that entire Earth population relies on this 1 percent and you can realize the extreme demand that is continually put on our limited supply. Once we start harnessing the power of rain, we can greatly reduce the demand that our population exacts on ground water.

Rainwater can be used for a variety of purposes.

We use water in our household for a variety of purposes, such as doing the laundry, washing the dishes, bathing and showering, flushing the toilets, washing the car, watering our plants, among many. All these tasks require a large amount of water in total every single day. While rainwater is the softest kind of water there is, it is also versatile in that you can use it for all these different purposes. Because it has no chemicals, it is better for your hair and skin and your plants and it also requires lesser amounts of detergents when washing clothes and dishes.

Now that you know all about the advantages that rainwater harvesting can bring about for your home and garden, you might want to invest in quality containers that a reputable company like Rain Water Tanks provides. Just a little cost upfront will help you save a lot on your water consumption and bills in the future.

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored guest post.

Fun Ways to Get Children Active Outdoors

In this day and age, children have grown up with technology. Smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and instant access to the internet is completely normal to them – meaning it’s a different world from when we grew up. While technology is fantastic, it does mean it can be difficult to get kids outdoors. When they have the world at their fingertips they’re less interested in running around outdoors than previous generations have been. But it’s so important to get them away from their devices and outside, learning about the real world and what matters. Here’s how you can go about it…

 Fun Ways to Get Children Active Outdoors title with image of child throwing leaves

Get Them Involved in the Garden

Gardening is an active hobby, and also teaches children patience. It shows if you work hard now, something fantastic will grow later on. It shows them the importance of daily care and nurturing of the garden, helping to develop empathy for the natural world around them. They will also learn about things like soils, types of crops, fertiliser and much more.

Since the growing season is relatively short in most places, it’s worth investing in a greenhouse to stretch this out as long as possible. If you have an old dilapidated one in your back garden, you could bring it back to life with some new sheeting for your greenhouse and a good clean. Choose some crops that are easy to grow in your climate zone, and then work your way up to more difficult ones. Children are more likely to try foods that they’ve grown too, so could be a good way to encourage healthier eating.

Take Them Camping

Camping is a cheap and cheerful vacation that all the family can enjoy, and is a great way to get kids outdoors. From putting up tents to building dens, and generally running around and having fun, it’s a great way to get kids outdoors and away from their screens without it feeling like a chore. You could stay in a tent, an RV or more of a glamping experience in a ‘pod’- check out local campsites and see what kind of things are available. If you go away with friends and their children it could be a fun bonding experience too.

Two children outdoors studying something on the ground next to a pond.

Go on Hikes

Hiking is a great way to keep your family fit; even if you have younger children you could simply pick an easier hiking trail. You get to observe nature, you could print out fun worksheets from Pinterest and do a fun nature trail, take photos or look at birds and wildlife through binoculars. You could collect items such as feathers, pine cones and interesting pebbles, then use them to craft with later on. Or see if your local area does rock hunting even!

Make these walks fun, keep the conversation light and upbeat, and encourage them to really get into it. Even during the colder months, simply wrap up warm and wear wellies to keep your feet dry. If you have a dog you could take them along too, or alternatively you could all take your bikes out and follow biking trails instead.

Find An Outdoor Sport Or Hobby

There are lots of outdoor sports and hobbies that encourage children to have fun outdoors. From water sports and team games, to geogaching or traditional orienteering, there are many examples of lovely activities that will inspire children to spend time outside.

Another example is fishing; this isn’t just a fun hobby, there’s plenty that it can teach children. One of the main being patience, this isn’t a skill many children (or adults for that matter) are blessed with, and it’s something that could come in useful to them throughout their lives. Learning that good things come to those who wait and practicing calm and patience during uncertainty is a fantastic lesson.

*This is a collaborative post.

Relaxation Tips For Children: Dealing With Stress and Anxiety

This post has been written at the request of Squiggle. She specifically asked for advice from other children, for dealing with stress and anxiety, and strategies to help her to relax. We do alot of work on this already and have lots of strategies in our toolkit. But sometimes you just need fresh ideas, or to hear them from someone else! So here are some tips for kids, by kids…

Relaxation Tips For Children: Dealing With Stress and Anxiety. Title written on image of child smelling flowers in a sunny field.

Keep a gratitude jar or list where you write positives, achievements and things you are grateful for to look at when you feel low. ~ Nomipalony

Kids self-help books can be really useful. As can therapy apps. I have written about these here.

My nine year old said a spa day – I feel I’ve taught him well! ~ Twinderelmo

My 3.5 yo just said going outside makes him happy – so guess he’s right, everyone in our family loves to be outside, being close to nature. It’s also proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels. No wonder all kids love to be outside! ~ Captainbobcat

Writing and drawing her own stories helps to alleviate anxiety.

My six year old daughter says spending time with loved ones and her animals makes her happy, relaxed and feel lucky and appreciated. Particularly dog walking and exploring new countryside areas. ~ Family Travel With Ellie

My twelve year-old suggests putting a nice film on and then fall asleep with a blanket. ~ Edinburgh With Kids

My son says to do some mindful breathing! ~ Pink Pear Bear

Music – whether it is singing, dancing, listening to it or playing it – is very therapeutic.

My children have both said reading, they like to read before bed and I have found them with books in their hands while fast asleep… they are 7 and 6. ~ Mummy Cat Notes

I write a reasons to be cheerful post everyday on my Facebook page ~ Monkey Footed Mummy

Yoga with the kids! I have 5 and 7 year old boys and even though their attention span on yoga is about ten minutes, it is ten minutes of calm and recentering before we’re onto the next crazy activity. Well worth giving it a shot. ~ Motherhood Diaries

My 5 year old said to eat lots of chocolate! ~ Five Little Doves

Treating yourself can really help, as long as the child understands the need for balance and to moderate.

My 8 year old suggests going to your room and finding your favourite music. Then dance until you feel better! ~ Household Money Saving

My nearly 7 year old has struggled with anxiety over the last few months. We’ve introduced a ‘worry bag’. Every day, she takes a few minutes to write down any of her anxieties on pieces of paper. The paper goes into the worry bag at bedtime and we put the worry bag away. Then once every few days (can be more or less frequent depending on how she’s feeling) we open up the worry bag, and go through all the worries, and work out how to manage each worry. We throw each worry away once we’ve tackled it.

She’s found this really helpful, and is sleeping better and is happier at school as a result. I think the symbolism of writing the worries down, putting them away / throwing them away once we’ve tackled them really seems to help. ~ The Mum Conundrum

Incase anyone else relates to this or finds this information useful, my daughter finds writing down her problems distinctly unhelpful. She described it as making them even more concrete and real. I included the advice anyway because I think it is generally a great strategy for the majority of children and her reaction/ way of looking at it is very rare!

Our 8 year old says, “music, reading and being with her pets” helps her to relax and chill out. ~ Virtually Allsorts

Child sat outside on the grass in sunshine reading a book.

My daughter (10) likes to read her favourite books and escape into imaginary worlds through them. ~ Starlight and Stories

My son likes to draw and paint so he takes the pen or paint brush whenever he feels stressed. It let him pour out his emotions through art expression. ~ My Parenting Journey

Getting enough sleep is essential for a healthy mind.

Playing outside or going for a walk. Great for kids and grown ups alike. In my teens I always put on headphones and laid in bed listening to music to relax. Always slept with my headphones on. Also, hugging someone you love. ~ Mum of 2 point 5

My son gets very anxious alot due to his autism. When he is like that, he loves to organise his train collection! Anything to feel he is in control and it relaxes him. Also, we read books about different feelings to help him understand why he is feeling how he is. Lastly, he says playing football in the park helps him alot! ~ Mother Gets Lippy

When you feel like it’s bubbling up inside, try and stop yourself, close your eyes, take a very deep breath (or two) and see if that changes your immediate response to a situation. If you manage to do it often in the day, you find yourself being more positive or receptive to life’s everyday situations. Hard to do at first, but it can become a (good) habit! ~ Mind Your Mamma

Self-care, including healthy eating and plenty of exercise, really helps.

I just asked my five year old and he suggested Netflix and a duvet with chocolate fingers! From Mammys perspective I find his interest in sports is which causes him to be less stressed, that coupled with minimal screen time; I find it drives them wild! ~ The Mamma Fairy

My 7 year old daughter says bubble bath and quiet time. She loves being by herself to block out noise and just chill out! ~ Country Heart and Home

Totally immerse yourself into a hobby. It can be absolutely anything, from crafts to music, to baking or sports. Getting better at something and seeing the results of your efforts help gain perspective and a more positive outlook on life overall. ~ How To Rock At Parenting

Thank you to all the children who contributed to this post!

Blog Self – Assessment: Blog Highs and Lows of 2017

Happy 2018 everybody! I am a little late writing this post now, as it is a reflection of 2017 that I intended to write just before the new year began. However I took a much needed rest from blogging this past week so I am just catching up on this now!

I was tagged by Rambling Through Parenthood to complete this blog self- assessment; a fun way to reflect on my blogging achievements from the past year. Here it is…

Blog Self - Assessment: Blog Highs and Lows of 2017

Posts Published

I published 270 posts last year. That is actually more than I thought, not bad going!

Top-performing Post

My Sylvanian Families Cake Shop Review went down extremely well – I suspect that is also because there was a lovely giveaway involved too!

Post That was Difficult to Write

I tend to find posts more difficult to write generally if I haven’t posted in a few days. Also when I am sleep deprived, and Squiggle is finding life difficult, it is hard to find the motivation. So for me personally, it tends to be other factors that make writing difficult at times, rather than the post itself!

Post I Hope Will Make A Difference

I would say any of my mental health posts, but in particular the one I wrote for Mental Health Awareness Week about anxiety.

Post That Struck a Chord

Aside from the anxiety post that I mentioned above, I really enjoyed finding out about Grace’s Scuba Diving story. I also loved writing the #RefuseTheStraw campaign post, because it is something I feel passionate about.

Post That Fell Flat On Its Face

I wouldn’t say any posts really fell flat (well, hopefully not anyway!) because it isn’t always just about numbers – if the post was read by someone who found it useful or it struck a chord with, then that has made a difference and served a purpose.

Surprise of the Year

I have had several lovely opportunities this past year that came as a very welcome nice surprise!

Have you done a blog self- assessment for 2017?

Over to you Tantrums To Smiles, Jaki Jellz, Dot Makes 4, Mrs Mummy Harris, Bumps Babies Tots and Teens Mummy Diaries, Mummy Cat Notes, Better Together Home and The Growing Mum.

Happy New Year 2018 everyone!

Christmas Tag #2

Wow… Christmas is done for another year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas; whether it was fun-filled and chaotic, or quiet and peaceful – I hope it was whatever type you wished for!

I have been tagged in the Christmas Tag post again, this time by The Pram Shed. I have copied my answers from last year, as there is no point in rewriting the same responses obviously. But let’s see if anything has changed! Here we go…

Christmas Tag #2 title on a Christmas themed background with candy canes and sweets.

What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

Last year: Love Actually. I have already watched it several times this month! I used to love Santa Claus: The Movie when I was a child. The bit where the reindeer finally does the super duper looper to save the kid always made me cry bucket loads. Every. Single. Time.

This year: Same answer but I have just watched The Holiday and I love that too!

Have you ever had a white Christmas?

Last year: Not that I can remember. Perhaps when I was a child, maybe? I’m not sure.

This year: I had a quick google at old data and it would appear I might well have had a white Christmas in the early 80s when I was a young child.

Where do you usually spend your holiday?

Last year: At home. I have never been away for Christmas. When I was a child we used to go round to visit my grandparents on Christmas day but they were local (well, same county anyway!) But that’s the furthest I have ever been for Christmas lol!

This year: Same answer. I am not sure how I feel about being away for Christmas – part of me suspects it wouldn’t feel quite right but part of me would love to! I don’t think it would suit Squiggle though to be honest.

What is your favourite Christmas song?

Last year: Merry Christmas Everybody – Slade

This year: Yup. That’s the one!

Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

Last year: Of course not, how could we? Santa won’t have been yet! 😉

This year: No, but we did buy some wish list items ahead of Christmas this time because Squiggle finds the anticipation challenging (to put it mildly!)

Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

Last year: In a word… no! Erm, Rudolph obviously. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Blitzen…  How many are there? Oops, I think I just failed the parent test. Oh dear….

This year: As above then there is also Donna, Comet and erm… argh!!!

Which holiday traditions are you looking forward to this year?

Last year: Making our gingerbread house together on Christmas eve.

This year: As above. But I miss my own childhood traditions to be honest. Visiting my grandparent’s on Christmas day afternoon – a home filled with all our family – happily surrounded by many cousins of different ages, all playing games and opening presents together. Memories filled with so much life, laughter and love. They were a stark contrast to the very quiet, low key Christmas we have now, to try to make it work better for Squiggle. Times change and we grow older, of course. But I do look back on those days with both fond memories and a wistful longing too.

Is your Christmas tree real or fake?

Last year: Fake. It’s child size, blue and decorated by an 8 year old. What could be better than that? (Do not answer that! 😂)

This year: Same tree. This time decorated by a 9 year old!

What is your all time favourite holiday treat/food/sweet?

Last year: I can’t think of a specific answer to this really. But I loved the vegan meal we had last night for our Christmas do, it was delicious!

This year: I haven’t really had any. I do keep meaning to buy some vegan Baileys though, that used to be my Christmas tipple.

Be honest, do you like giving or receiving gifts better?

Last year: Giving. Honest answer.

This year: Still giving.

What is the best Christmas present you ever received?

Last year: Anything from my daughter!

This year: Not a Christmas present, but my daughter making me a cuddly toy version of herself definitely has to be the absolute cutest gift ever!

What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?

Last year: New York would be high on my list, definitely.

This year: I would still love to visit New York. But I am also going to say Iceland.

Are you a pro present wrapper or do you fail miserably?

Last year: Terrible, I fail miserably. I hate it and I suck at it. Fact.

This year: Yeah, same answer!

Most memorable Christmas moment?

Last year: There are lots of memorable moments! My daughter spotting ‘Santa’s sleigh’ in the sky for the first time a few years back, that was magical!

This year: I think memories from my own childhood are up there too. But yes, as I said last year, lots of memories with Squiggle.

What made you realise the truth about Santa?

Last year: I have no idea what you’re talking about… 😉

This year: 

What makes the holidays special for you?

Last year: Spending time with family.

This year: This is a weird one. Because actually I enjoy spending time with my family anytime and haven’t done so any more, or differently, over the holidays. So I am finding it hard to relate now to my own answer from a year ago. But that’s ok. I guess I was feeling differently then!

My answer this time is going to different places to see all the Christmassy-ness. (Nope probably not a word! But anyway!!!)

So there you have it! Whilst most answers are pretty much the same, I have tried to do my homework abit more this year lol! And I am feeling somewhat nostalgic over my own childhood Christmas memories too.

Now over to ISABLOG, Peacocks Can Fly, Tantrums To Smiles, All About A Mummy and Spinnin’ Plates to tell us your answers! I look forward to reading them…

Merry Christmas, everyone! xxx

Dicovery Channel Smart Phone Telescope and Smart Phone Microscope Review: Educational Resources – STEM Science

Over the past couple of days, we have been having fun trying out two Discovery Channel products; a smartphone microscope and telescope. I was kindly sent both of these items to review from Paladone. Here are my thoughts…

Dicovery Channel Smart Phone Telescope and Smart Phone Microscope Review: Educational Resources - STEM Science

Discovery Channel Smartphone Telescope

RRP £19.99 (Buy here via Amazon)

Description

Capture images from a greater distance than ever before with a standard smartphone or tablet camera using this 11.5cm telescope with an incredible 10x zoom. The Discovery Smartphone Telescope can be easily clipped onto the phone/ tablet and has a mini stand to steady it further.

Review

I found this abit fiddly to use with my particular phone (Samsung Galaxy S8+) as it took a few minutes to get it aligned. When I tried to adjust the lens it then slipped again. However, perhaps it is easier to use on different make/ model phones or other devices.

Discovery Channel Smartphone Telescope

I was abit disappointed to discover it didn’t seem to work in the dark, unless I was doing something wrong maybe? But I did expect a telescope could be used at night to study the stars to be honest.

However, I decided to try to spot Santa in his sleigh indoors under artificial light instead, to see how it fared under those conditions. I used the telescope from about 5 metres away and found it zoomed in very well, it lost a fair amount of quality to say the least, but it did the job of making it seem closer up.

I think it would probably be better to invest in an actual telescope but this does make an interesting novelty item. It is ok for exploring the principle of telescopes and discussing how they work.

Dicovery Channel Smart Phone Telescope in use - photo on phone vs telescope

Discovery Channel Smartphone Microscope

RRP £9.99 (Purchase from Amazon here)

Description

This microscope smartphone lens captures images in microscopic detail and is compatible with most smartphone cameras. The lens has a powerful 30x zoom, enabling you to capture images with your camera phone in great detail.

Review

I really liked this smartphone microscope. It aligned easily on my phone and worked well under a range of conditions, including in the dark. See the photo below for an example; it is of ice particles and was taken outdoors at night under the microscope.

Ice particles under the microscope

I tested it out using different items, including man-made materials and natural items too. I compared it to the zoom on my phone and was really impressed with the detail and quality!

Discovery Channel Smart Phone Microscope: comparison of photo taken on phone with no zoom, zoomed in on phone vs microscope.

In summary, I think this is really good value for money and works very well. It is definitely worth buying in my opinion!

Discovery Channel Smart Phone Microscope - leaf under the microscope.

*Disclosure: I was sent both of these items for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Top Family Vacation Destinations 2018

Are you looking for inspiration for your next family holiday? Or maybe you feel swamped by the many choices available and are struggling to narrow it down? When travelling with kids especially, picking the right destination really makes all the difference. So I asked some travel experts and fellow bloggers for their top travel destination picks, and tips, for this coming year. Here are some great ideas for your 2018 family vacation…

Top Family Vacation Destinations 2018 image of beautiful clear blue water, blue skies, mountains in background and green evergreens bordering the edge of the photo.

Top Tips For Choosing Your Destination

The one thing that came up again and again is to choose a location that matches your family interests and consider carefully what there is to actually do locally. Family holidays often flow better and are more relaxing when there is a balance of activities available, as well as plenty of room for downtime.

Whilst children don’t generally need entertaining all day, and I am a firm believer that so much can be gained from even very simple (and often free) experiences, it is helpful to put some thought into what options there will be and how you can spend your time there. So focus on researching the sightseeing opportunities and other activities available when choosing your destination, and consider how they match up to your own family’s interests.

Along similar lines, alot of families pick a destination with a wealth of different culture to explore. There is no better way to teach children more about the world than to immerse them in it! For example, A Strong Coffee To Go is heading to Thailand with her boys this year to show them something different to usual.

My Parenting Journey suggests exploring a place you particularly love at different times of year. For example, they have already spent Christmas in the Philippines and discovered their wonderful Christmas traditions. Now they want to explore nature in the summer time and spend time on their beautiful white beaches. Money Saving Journeys had a similar idea too. Having visited Venice at different times of year previously, they are looking forward to going back in summer this time.

Even if you opt for a general beach holiday, think about what you can do when you aren’t lazing around on the beach, such as some gentle sightseeing. Or if you prefer something more active, participate in some watersports. While you are enjoying the therapeutic affects of being outdoors by the ocean, you could even consider doing a quick 2 minute beach clean to help protect it for our future generations too!

Please Leave Nothing But Your Footprints sign by beach

Where To Stay

With sites in France, Spain, Holland and Italy, as well as 6 other European countries, Eurocamp is extremely popular for families. These tend to have great facilities and camping holidays generally are often perfect for children, as they offer plenty of time and space outdoors. And they are a relatively economical choice for families.

Centre Parcs also have several European sites, which also come highly recommended too. Household Money Saving points out that they are far cheaper than their UK sites and also suggests that kids might love travelling by tunnel as a great alternative to flying.

Popular Destinations

Spain is a top choice for families. This is unsurprising given there are cheap, short flights from a range of airports, a range of family-friendly accomodation options, and a huge variety of lovely locations to choose from. Whether you opt for the castles and history of Granada, or somewhere more obvious such as Malaga, Alicante or Barcelona, you are sure to find somewhere ideal for your family. Neighbouring Portugal is also a good alternative, loved by many families. Or The Spanish Islands, in particular Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, are also just as popular.

Greece and the Greek Islands are another preferred option for families. Filled with history and culture, beautiful scenic views and friendly tavernas, it is understandable why these are a strong contender for alot of families.

Other European countries are also a firm favourite with families for similar reasons. One example is Amsterdam, as suggested by Autism Kids On Tour, who has this on the list as one of their 2018 travel destinations. I have written about some of the fab things to do in Amsterdam before.

Last but not least, Copenhagen got a very enthusiastic mention from several families too. Yet another great place for families!

Beautiful Mediterrean buildings by a clear blue sea.

Staycations

When it comes to Staycations, Centre Parcs is a clear favourite for a number of families. Holiday homes are also very popular, either on independent sites or at well-known holiday parks, such as Haven. Of course UK camping (or glamping if that is more your thing!) is also a winner too!

Lamb and Bear also recommends Bluestone Wales. They reviewed it a couple of years ago and can’t wait to go back! She said it’s perfect for families and gives lots of options to keep the kids entertained.

For something abit different, Monkey and Mouse suggest booking a cottage up in Isle of Mull. This beautiful Scottish Island is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. It has stunning scenary in a tranquil setting with a range of attractions. A lovely choice to enjoy some peace and an abundance of outdoor beauty, as are the other islands surrounding it.

A row of colourful beach huts.

Packing Essentials

For the journey, especially if it is a long one, a little busy bag full of interesting items, games and activities that are compact and easy to do in a confined space is really useful. Wrapping them up to make it more exciting can be a handy tip too!

Whilst on the beach you might be mainly in swimwear, it is handy to have something lightweight and simple to throw on just to get there and back, or incase you go for a wander in between soaking up some vitamin D. A stylish kaftan is perfect for this and can help shield your skin from too much sun too. For kids, I recommend investing in SFP swimwear and hats. This helps protect them, especially when they are in out and out of the water.

Remember to take a favourite toy or two, especially if your child/ren would benefit from the familiarity. And anything else needed for routines, bedtime and so on. If any of your children are quite picky about food and you are travelling abroad, taking a small selection of their usual snacks if possible might also be useful.

Last but not least, don’t forget your usual toiletries etc… too of course. And meds if any of the family needs it. Sometimes the obvious things get missed in the excitement!

A picture of a stunning empty beach with clear water and blue skies.

Thanks to the following bloggers for contributing to this post:

The Money Whisperer, Captain Bob Cat, Life With Boys, Me Him The Dog And A Baby, Katy Kicker, Lylia Rose, Mummys Diary, Mummys Knee, Our Fairytale Adventure, Sinead Latham, Five Adventurers, Back With A Bump, Five Little Doves, From Rachael Claire, Battle Mum, Trips With A Tot, Yorkshire Wonders, LesBeMums, Reo Life.

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.