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.

Easy Ways To Save For Your Family Adventures

Family adventures are great, but unlike the ones you read about in books, they cost money. Whether you like to plan for big trips or days out, it’s nice to have a little rainy day fund to help you pay for your adventures. A family has a lot of expenses, making it hard to put money away, but thanks to these clever savings ideas you can help your family save easily for your next adventure…

Easy Ways To Save For Your Family Adventures title. Sunset beach image with family on pier.

Don’t Buy Anything Without Checking For A Voucher First

In the age of internet shopping, it is possible to find discount codes for almost anything – including days out. It only takes a few minutes to do a quick search, but you could save a lot of money on things you were planning to buy anyway.

Vouchers from supermarkets, clothes shops and other places could help you save a few extra pennies to put towards your family adventures. Sites like Groupon are great for family dinners, and it’s worth signing up to VoucherCloud and other discount code websites too. Always do a price search and see if you could save yourself some money.

Sell Your Unwanted Items

Each Christmas or birthday helps you realise just how little space there is in your home, and how much stuff doesn’t get used. Instead of just letting unwanted items clutter up your home, sell them. If you’ve got streaming subscriptions, you can easily save yourself some money by selling off your old DVDs and Blu-Rays, while unwanted clothes and toys are perfect for eBay. If you want an easy way of posting your items, https://www.shiply.com/ is a great service to make shipping your items a breeze. Having a regular clear out not only helps you to make a bit of money but will keep your house in order too.

Keep A Forfeit Jar

Many families have swear jars, but if your family tends to be good on the bad language front, you might want to consider a different kind of forfeit jar instead. You could have one for anytime someone forgets a household rule, or whenever someone leaves a light on in the house. Keep it up and at the very least, you’ll stop some bad habits, while the best you can expect is a nice healthy sum for your savings pot.

Cut Your Bills

It’s becoming more common for people to switch providers for everything, including your utilities and banking. It’s worth ringing other providers for a quote and seeing if your current provider can match it. There are some great ways to haggle with service providers that can at least get you a temporary saving. Put the difference into savings and watch them grow month after month.

Saving money can be a fun and rewarding challenge for all the family, helping you to afford those little extras. Looking for some more great money saving tips? Check out this useful article on how to what to do when you need money fast. Enjoy finding ways of saving money with your family so that you can look forward to creating many more happy memories together.

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

4 Eco-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions

Make sure that you give yourself the best possible chance of achieving your New Year’s resolutions in 2018 and do your bit for the environment at the same time with some green, eco-friendly resolutions!

The end of another year is fast approaching, and we all know what that means – it’s time to make your New Year’s resolutions!

Of course, we all know that making the resolutions is the easy part. When it comes to keeping them and staying on course, many people find it too difficult and give up before really giving themselves a chance.

The trick to sticking to your resolutions is to choose something which is realistically attainable and that really matters to you; you need to be motivated to succeed! So go for something that is personal to you and pick something that you really want to achieve, as then it will provide that little extra boost of motivation to get you through if you start to waiver.

The usual resolutions like visiting the gym, eating healthily or giving up smoking are all great, as long as you are truly motivated and determined to stick to it. But for 2018, why not go for something a little different and work to incorporate a greater level of eco-friendliness into your life?

To provide some inspiration and get you thinking, here are four green New Year’s Resolutions perfect for starting 2018 in the right way…

Title 4 Eco-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions with faded background image of jogger outdoors

Greener Parties

Whether it’s a birthday, a New Year’s bash or a kid’s party, the vast majority of parties and special events are simply not sustainable. Just think about how much uneaten food gets wasted! Add to this the massive amounts of single-use paper (or worse, plastic!) cups and plates being thrown away, and it’s no surprise that many parties could do with an eco-friendly boost.

Commit to making any parties or special events you host in 2018 much greener affairs – buy fully recyclable wholesale party supplies to cut down on waste and make sure not to go overboard on the food itself. You could even go for a full-on green theme to really push the boat out!

Reduce Waste

In the UK, 1.9 million tonnes of food and drink is wasted – every year. While we, as individuals, have little sway over the habits of the food industry, we can do our bit to cut down on waste by being sure to only buy things we need or that we know will get eaten. Try and cut down on impulse buys (this resolution will also be beneficial for your bank balance!) and plan out any shopping trips before leaving the house.

Similarly, try to opt for organic produce, locally-grown or sourced food and items with recyclable, and less, packaging wherever possible. Just this one small lifestyle change will help you become healthier and benefit the environment and local industry at the same time!

Sticky note saying reduce reuse recycle pinned to wooden board

Head Outdoors

How often do you use the car to travel somewhere within easy walking distance? Reduce the impact of vehicle emissions and help yourself keep fit in 2018 by committing to using your personal car less, wherever possible.

Even if you can’t walk to your destination, have you considered using public transport? For work, it may also be worth finding out if any colleagues live in your area and wouldn’t mind setting up a car-sharing scheme.

Quality over Quantity

A key part of sustainable living is cutting down on what you buy, how much you buy, and the amount of waste that you generate. While it is probably food that first comes to mind, there are actually many other ways in which you can resolve to cut down on low-quality items and waste.

Just think – how many times have you picked up a few pieces of cheap or low-quality clothing while out shopping only for them to disintegrate within weeks or shrink in the wash? Instead of continually buying large quantities or poor-quality clothing, commit to choosing fewer pieces of high-quality clothing that will last throughout the year.

Are you ready for the New Year? What green, eco-friendly resolutions are you planning?

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Win A Neyland Star Tartan Fabric Wingback Tub Chair

Tub chairs are a popular option for alot of people because they fit relatively easily into a room, as far as seating options go. They are a particularly versatile investment because they would work equally as well in a nursery or guest room as they do in the living room.

They can also be moved around easily too to fit in with changing layouts, such as if you decide to rearrange your furniture to create a fresh new look. Or they can even be positioned to create a more social atmosphere in a room when needed, such as having guests over for example. Great for this time of year!

Personally I think there is nothing better than having your own little space to curl up in and read a good book or chill in front of the TV.

Neyland Star Tartan Fabric Wingback Tub Chair in a cosy corner of a living room

They are stylish too; I mentioned in my recent post ‘How To Create A Cosy Winter Home’ that tartan is a great design choice for this season, so the one in this feature is perfect to create the look! Plus you can paint the legs to match your room, and the latest trends, too. There are several other lovely fabric design options too though, so do take a look at their website.

Win A Neyland Star Tartan Fabric Wingback Tub Chair

Better yet, Tub Chairs are giving away one of these awesome chairs in their twitter competition! To be in with a chance of winning a Neyland Star tartan fabric wingback tub chair (worth £245) all you have to do is RT the status below and follow them on twitter at @Tub_Chairs

For further details, as well as T&Cs, go to Sloane & Sons Tub Chair competition page. The competition is open to UK residents only. Ends 31/01/2018. Good luck!

*Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Sloane & Sons.

Name A Star: Review and Giveaway 

Are you looking for a last minute gift idea? Or do you get stuck when looking for presents in general? Or perhaps you are simply on the hunt for something abit different? I love finding thoughtful gifts; something handmade, personal or unique in some way. But sometimes it can be difficult to come up with the perfect idea. Until now…

Naming star, own star, star name registry, gift ideas, outdoors, stargazing

Star Name Registry is the UK’s number one online registry company who offers this unique gift. There are a variety of packages to choose from, with prices ranging from £14.99 for a standard star to £69.99 for a binary star gift set, as well as several other options inbetween. Their gift set version of each package comes with a framed certficate beautifully presented in a silver box, whereas the regular version comes in an envelope. If you need it in a hurry, you can choose to have it sent via email for an extra £4.99 (sent within 12 hours of order received) or £6.99 for next day delivery (paper version). Gift sets can also be sent via next day special delivery for £8.49. So handy to remember as a last minute present too!

I originally found out about naming your very own star with Star Name Registry earlier this year, when I was contacted by their lovely team to review their extra bright star gift set and host a giveaway. It really is such a fab gift idea! It is ideal for the person who has everything, anyone with an interest in stargazing or outdoors in general, or for someone who just likes something that bit different!

This lovely set includes your very own star that you can name, and choose which constellation you would like it to be located in too. It also has an explanation of the star, free download of software, map and framed certificate in a gorgeous silver box. It does make a really unusual and very lovely gift.

Star Naming Registry Uk, name star, own star, gift ideas, outdoors, Living Life Our Way

For my original review, I took quite sometime trying to decide on the name of my star and considered a couple of different options; for example, I thought about naming it after my daughter, or even her nickname ‘Squiggle’. But then I came up with the perfect idea: I chose our family name, because then the star represents all of us together. Wherever any of us are, we can look up at the night sky and see our star, and know we are together. It even includes our furbabies! Perfect.

This time, I didn’t have to think so hard because I knew it would make the perfect gift for a family member! So I named it after them, along with a short personal message to them to show our gratitude for all they do.

But that’s not all… I have another Bright Star gift (enveloped version) to give away! If you would like the chance to win your own star, enter my rafflecopter giveaway below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Competition closes 7th January 2018. Open to UK residents only. Winner will be able to name their star and will receive Bright Star Naming certificate (enveloped version). Other T&Cs apply.

Star Naming Registry UK, name star, own star, gift ideas, outdoors

*Disclosure: I was gifted the Extra Bright Star free for the purpose of this review. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Best Last Minute Christmas Holiday Destinations

Christmas is edging ever closer, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still time to change your plans! If you fancy doing something a bit more exciting this Christmas, why not book yourself a holiday overseas? There are plenty of last minute deals available, and you are bound to have a Christmas to remember by choosing to take advantage of one of them. So, let’s take a look at some of the best places to visit this Christmas…

Faded Christmas festive background with title 'Best Last Minute Christmas Holiday Destinations'

Tromso

There is only one place to begin, and this is with the most magical place in the world for a Christmas vacation: Tromso. Known as the capital of the Arctic, there is nowhere better to capture the magical festive spirit. Of course, you can see the Northern Lights from Tromso, which is the main attraction, but there is so much to experience in this magical location too. The Polar Museum is a particular highlight. You will find out about the Arctic explorers who have passed through the city. For the ultimate Christmas vacation, there is nowhere better.

Maldives

If your purpose for wanting a Christmas break is because you are in desperate need of some sun (aren’t we all?!), then why not head to the Maldives? The Maldives is drenched in sun at this time of year; there are plenty of resorts that are idyllic and perfect for families. With scrumptious festive packages available, you can embrace the Christmas spirit in a unique environment. Imagine Christmas carols across white sands instead of snow. There are also plenty of themed activities going on too, including festive beachside parties.

A picture of a beautiful empty sandy beach with gorgeous clear blue ocean.

Nuremberg

Nuremberg, in Germany, is a place to behold at Christmas. You will struggle to find somewhere with a better festive spirit. This largely stems from the Christkindlesmarkt, which is known all over the world. This Christmas market sees 180 stalls, so make sure you save a bit of Christmas shopping for when you arrive. You will find everything from gingerbread treats to trinkets and toys.

An image of Christkindlesmarkt
Image from Wikimedia

A bit closer to home

If you don’t want to take a trip abroad, you don’t need to. You can still have a magical Christmas vacation in the UK. There are plenty of stunning places across the country, from Edinburgh to the Cotswolds. No matter where you go, there are bound to be plenty of fun festive places you can visit, many of which are free of charge.

Copenhagen

Finally, we have Denmark’s Copenhagen. This is an affordable and vibrant city, which is small but very welcoming. Pre-Christmas activity is a lot easier to navigate here because people set the pace, rather than cars. The Tivoli Gardens are a highlight, with half a million lights transforming the space.

So there you have it: some of the best places to visit this Christmas if you are planning a last minute trip away. But don’t worry if you can’t book one of these fantastic places this year; there is always next year, and these destinations will be just as fabulous in 2018!

*This is a collaborative post.

How To Live More Sustainably: My Top Tips On Easy Ways To Become More ‘Green’

Would you like to find out more about living a more eco- friendly sustainable lifestyle? Are you looking for tips on Green Living so you can be more environmentally friendly? Then this post is for you! Read about my top tips for green living and overview of different ways you can live more sustainably…

I have talked alot about green living previously and regularly discuss ways that we can all help to protect our environment. But more often I cover specific aspects in-depth, therefore I thought it would be useful to pull it altogether into a post about my top tips for green living. So here is an overview of different ways you can live more sustainably…

Background image of wind turbines with title How To Live More Sustainably: My Top Tips On Easy Ways To Become More 'Green'

Go Electric

Have you thought about buying an electric car? There are many factors when choosing a car generally of course and some specific considerations when it comes to choosing an electric car. One of the biggest concerns – aside from the retail price, which is in the longer term offset by the low running costs and also is dropping dramatically as they become more common anyway – is the availability of chargepoints. However, as electric cars grow hugely in popularity, the distribution of chargepoints has become far more widespread. You can also get a NewMotion chargepoint to charge your vehicle safely at home too.

Electric car at charging station

Home

From a full renovation to simply changing a light bulb, there are lots of ways you can make your home more eco-friendly. Using LED lightbulbs, changing your shower head and toilet flush to low-flow and turning your water temperature down on your boiler are all fairly cheap and easy minor changes you can make. When it comes to buying new appliances, choose environmentally- friendly models with high energy efficiency ratings. Also opt for eco-friendly, ideally natural, products to clean your home so there are no nasty chemicals!

Switch To Clean Energy

I mentioned above switching away from fossil fuels in the context of vehicles; the same applies to your home. Install solar panels if you can or switch your supplier to a green energy company.

Zero Waste: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse (then Recycle)

The term zero waste sounds daunting I admit! But really the aim is simple – to reduce the amount of rubbish you create. Especially waste that ends up in landfill in particular. Key elements for achieving this are actually quite straightforward:

  • Refuse single- use plastics, especially ‘the big four’ (straws, bags, cups and bottles).
  • Reduce your waste by trying to choose items that have less packaging, especially plastic, when shopping generally. Try to reduce your amount of food waste too.
  • Reuse items. Invest in reusable bags, straws, coffee cups and bottles. Use long-lasting reusable containers to store food too.
  • Recycle as much as possible of whatever rubbish you do create. Don’t throw anything into the landfill bin that doesn’t belong there!

And an extra point on this subject…

  • Upcycle and Repair. Try to mend before discarding things. Upcycle old furniture and other items if possible. If you have any household items, toys, clothes etc… that you have finished using yourself, pass them onto someone else to use.

Graphic of bottle, bag, straw and cup with caption 'I will say no to plastic's big 4'

    Slow Fashion

    Fashion has alot to answer for in terms of environmental impact. With ever changing trends, there is a high consumer demand for cheap fashionable clothing. The problem is, this throwaway fast fashion culture has a high price on the environment. Make a capsule wardrobe with high quality pieces made from natural materials your new latest trend instead.

    Reduce Meat Intake

    Whilst not everyone necessarily has any desire to become vegetarian, or vegan, a plant based diet is better for the environment. Even reducing your meat intake by having just one meat-free day per week is a step toward living a more sustainable life.

    Picture of a delicious healthy vegetarian meal.

    What are your top tips for living a more sustainable life?

    *Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

    Carmel Industries Review – Paint Markers, Paint Crayons and Damp Erase Markers

    Carmel Industries got in touch with me to see if I would like to review some of their range of markers. Since we do alot of creative activities at home, I was more than happy to test them out!

    Selection of Carmel Industries Paint Markers, Paint Crayons and Damp Erase Markers.

    Initially I thought these would be child-friendly wipe clean markers that Squiggle could use, that we would be able to use for educational purposes. However, when they arrived, I realised these are not intended for children; they are actually heavy duty industrial ones! So I reviewed them myself from a more general creative perspective. Here is what I thought…

    Faint picture of markers as background to title 'Carmel Industries Review - Paint Markers, Paint Crayons and Damp Erase Markers'

    Paint Markers and Paint Crayons

    These can be used on a range of surfaces. For example metal, wood, MDF, concrete, stone, plastic, rubber, glass, cardboard, canvas etc… They can mark surfaces regardless of whether they are rough, oily, wet, dirty, or rusty, and work on all temperatures too. Both come in a variety of colours.

    The permanent water- based markers are very easy to get started and use. The paint comes out well with a good flow and the colours show up bright. They would be ideal for rock painting! The crayons don’t show up as brightly in comparison to the markers, and the darker colours are far more visible than the light coloured crayons. However, this is the case for crayons vs markers generally so is no surprise!

    Demo of green and red water- based permanent paint markers.

    Wide Tip Wow Markers

    These are large chunky wipe clean markers with a thick marking nib for bold lines. They are intended for glass. They flow easily and show up in beautiful vibrant colours. They wipe off very easily with a damp cloth. They come in a selection of bright colours.

    Demo of Carmel Industries WOW wipe clean chunky markers for use on glass.

    You will need to phone or email Carmel Industries (based in Canada) to find out product prices and make an order.

    *Disclosure: I was sent the items free for review. All opinions are my own.

    Free Festive Fun: Places To Visit (Hertfordshire and Beyond) 

    We have visited lots of garden centres and a few shopping centres this season to enjoy the festive displays. So I thought I would write a round-up of some free places to visit this season. Ideas range from places to pop to briefly when you are short on time, to places where you could easily spend several hours, or even make it a whole day out… and it won’t cost you a penny! (Except parking in some cases).

    Please note additional activities such as ice skating, grottos etc… mentioned are NOT free, there is generally a charge for these activities.

    So here are our suggestions…

    Christmas display with title 'Free fun festive places to visit (Herts and Beyond)'

    Garden Centres

    Crews Hill, Enfield

    This is a whole row of garden centres, most of which have some festivities. One in particular has a large display, an ice rink, snow globe, grotto with train ride and real reindeer. Crews Hill is somewhere that you can easily spend most of the day if you wanted. You can also soak in the atmosphere in an hour or two though if you are pushed for time.

    An interactive elf display at Springtime Crews Hill

    Christmas lights at Springtime Crews Hill

    A Christmas display at Crews Hill, Enfield

    Van Hage, Great Amwell

    This is another of the larger garden centres. It has an ice rink (bookable in advance), grotto and lots to see generally. It also has an animal garden onsite too.

    Christmas display at Van Hage

    Snowman Christmas display at Van Hage, Great Amwell

    Notcutts, St Albans

    Great for popping into briefly if you are passing or are nearby. The giant snowman is fab! Have tea or breakfast with Santa has a fun alternative to a grotto. (Book in advance, costs apply).

    Notcutts, St Albans, Christmas door display

    Notcutts Christmas section

    World’s End Wyevale, Wendover (Bucks)

    We visited this garden centre for the first time recently. There is a mini funfair and a huge Christmas shop, plus a grotto and winter wonderland (entry charges apply). Even if you don’t pay to go into the wonderland, as we didn’t, it is still worth a visit. It has a nice Christmassy feel generally.

    Worlds End Wyevale Garden Centre Christmas display

    Vanstone Park, Hitchin

    This is a fun place to pop to if you have a short time to spare for a quick whizz around. There is a woodland train ride too.

    Vanstone Park garden centre snowman festive Christmas display

    Burston Garden Centre, St Albans

    We popped here for the first time a couple of days ago. Cute displays, worth a brief visit for a little while.

    Christmas door Burston St Albans

    xmas display at Burston with Christmas trees and seals

    Colourful festive Christmas display Burston Garden Centre St Albans

    Aylett Nurseries, St Albans

    This has lovely displays and some nice little interactive activities too. It is perfect for soaking in the festive atmosphere while on a time limit.

    Aylett Nurseries St Albans xmas display

    Aylett Nurseries festive display

    Aylett Nurseries Christmas small world display

    Aylett garden centre xmas festive small world display

    Shopping Centres

    St Albans

    St Albans centre has a nice little display in Christopher Place, a traditional style Christmas Market in the Vintry Gardens next to Abbey Cathedral (with a timetable of events and activities), and there is a fun Nutcracker Trail across the city too.

    Santa in a sleigh with reindeer and christmas tree in Christopher Place festive display St Albans

    Centre MK, Milton Keynes

    Whilst many of the activities here are at additional cost, such as carousel, train rides, grotto and helter skelter, there are also some pretty displays and a brilliant festive atmosphere generally. Plus a little snow area!

    Centre MK festive display with igloo

    Centre MK festive train ride

    Squiggle playing in fake snow at Centre MK Milton Keynes

    The Marlows, Hemel Hempstead

    I have saved the best until last! This is my top pick this season because I love the theme; Santa’s Waste-Not Workshop focuses on recycling and green living. With awesome displays and cool activities that educate and inspire during what can be a very consumer-based and wasteful time of year, I think this is genius! Squiggle loved lighting up the tree using energy she generated from cycling – such a clever idea. Well done to whoever came up with this, it gets a big thumbs up from us!

    Squiggle cycling to light up clean energy Christmas tree The Marlows, Hemel Hempstead

    Santas Waste-Not Workshop, Marlows, Hemel Hempstead

    Upcycled festive display at Santas Waste- Not Workshop, Marlows, Hemel Hempstead

    Snowman display at Santas Waste- Not Workshop, Marlows, Hemel Hempstead

    Seasons Geetings everyone!

    Where is your favourite festive place to visit?