Best Beach Holidays in Europe for Families

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White sand. Wave sounds. Fresh sea air. Ah, beaches. There’s a reason why many of us choose to holiday near them – they can help us to unwind.

And they may even benefit our health. Experts confirm that natural water sites could improve our emotional wellbeing. Even better, trips to the seaside often help families to bond.

So, where in Europe is best for a healthy and happy beach vacation?

Look no further than our guide to find out.

Algarve, Portugal

Beaches? Check. Culture? Check. Activities for the whole family? Check. Yes, the Algarve region in Southern Portugal boasts an array of delights.

Even better, its coastal areas are usually very clean. And many provide water sports facilities. So, you can unwind by the sea while the kids safely have fun.

With a specialist like Villa Plus, you won’t be far from your lodgings, either. It could take just a matter of minutes to walk back from the beach.

Its rich history and sites also make it a fascinating – as well as attractive – destination for adults, teenagers and children alike.

Here, everybody in the family stands to enjoy their holiday.

Split, Croatia

Within the past few years, Croatia has become a popular holiday spot. It’s easy to see why.

Aside from its beauty, it’s one of the sunniest places in Europe. And its beaches are superb. Especially those in Split, on the Dalmatian coast. From ancient archaeology to the national theatre, it brims with culture, as well.

In addition, it provides a cheap option for UK travellers. Since having become an EU member, it has retained its currency (the Kuna).

While the pound has suffered a decline in value against the dollar and the euro, its exchange rate remains fairly strong against Croatian currency.

For large groups and families, a trip to Split can offer affordability, intrigue and some of the best views imaginable.

Sicily, Italy

Greek temples. Baroque buildings. Norman churches. Sicily is a tapestry of European history. But let’s not forget its beaches, many of which stay quiet throughout the year. 

If you seek a more private family holiday, why not venture here?  If you do, you’ll be able to explore its cultural gems and enjoy beach relaxation in relative solitude.

Fancy team games on a secluded beach? The island could provide just that. What’s more, you’ll be holidaying against a dramatic backdrop: the one and only Mount Etna.

On the Italian island, you whole family can simultaneously enjoy the sun and culture. And you’ll be able to unwind by the Mediterranean Sea, of course.

Holidays can free our minds. They can also bring us closer to the people that we love. So, it’s only fitting that the destination should appeal to everyone. Particularly if you plan to travel as a family. Once you know how a vacation could benefit each member, all that’s left to do is book it. And then you can start looking forward to it

Should I pack a Swimsuit or Bikini?

With last week being so sunny, my thoughts have well and truly turned to summer! I couldn’t help but start planning our holidays! Last year we spent our holidays in France and Spain, and the holiday was split between beach and pool. Most days we spent the day at the beach, then ended up having a dip in the pool before dinner. Essentially our holiday packing included plenty of good beach and swimwear!

Swimsuit or a Bikini?

Every year I try to pack practical swimwear for use in the pool and a couple of bikinis to wear at the beach. I used to worry, should I wear a swimsuit or a bikini? But now, I know I need both! I choose both as I like having the versatility of different options to wear. Also, I don’t want to contaminate the pool with sand from the beach!

This year, I’ve already been shopping for swimwear thanks to UK Swimwear. I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking at sports bikinis. I love the Gottex Profile Sport collection, my favourite the Cosmos Bikini would be great for aqua-aerobics too! But I settled on a Speedo Swimsuit, in a brightly coloured pattern which screams summer fun!

The LavaFlow Digital Powerback is a high cut swim suit made in a lightweight fabric which is quick drying. The fit is great, although I must admit it fits a little smaller, so if you’re between sizes I’d go up a size. I love the fit of the suit, the high leg is quite flattering on my thighs and it really does look great on! I will be wearing this to while I swim for fitness not just on holiday!

Why spend on a bikini?

When I was younger I used to gasp at the cost of a bikini, and always look for a cheaper alternative. The problem was the inevitably the bikinis were unlined, un-supportive, and not made to do anymore than look good poolside. Invest in a good, well fitting bikini and you will be comfortable, supported and able to swim in it too! I’m a huge fan of Moontide bikinis, they’ve been my go to brand for many years. They seem to fit my figure well, especially on the bottom! I opted for the Moontide Cruise Versailles Braided Bandeau Bikini as the pattern is striking, and I love a bandeau style!

The bikini top can be worn strapless, or as a halter neck. If you have children who love to cling onto you while you swim, that halter neck strap is essential! The bikini top is comfortable, and generously sized. I think the pattern is so pretty, and it goes well with all my accessories!

So, I’ll be packing both swimsuits and bikinis this summer! I think they are both essential as part of my holiday wardrobe. Do you prefer bikinis or swimsuits?

Re-usable Nappies

One of the best things we have done to reduce our single use plastic waste was switching to reusable nappies. I have to be brutally honest, I don’t use them at every nappy change. Over night we still tend to opt for a disposable nappy, but that’s just as I like to put the nappy wash on over night. I know I am still creating waste, but I have minimised my waste!

Are re-usable nappies easy to use?

YES! I find once you get used to putting the nappies on your baby, they are easy to use! I found I had to try a few brands before I liked one in particular which I then bought several of! I find the nappies with Velcro fastening work best for us, they’re so simple. My favourite is Bambino Mio, you can even buy them in some supermarkets. I use a disposable nappy liner, this means they catch the worst bits, and make washing the nappies easier.

Washing?!

Ok, so re-usable diapers do create washing! I have a wet bag which I stash soiled nappies in, and then I stick the nappy wash on as soon as the children are in bed. I have my own little routine for rinsing and washing nappies. I love to line dry nappies, but in the UK that’s not always possible – although when I want to strip wash nappies I don’t think anything beats leaving the rain to clean them thoroughly on the washing line!

Re-usable nappies are expensive

Are re-usable nappies worth the cost? One of the things which made me reluctant to try re-usable nappies was the initial cost to buy them. One reusable nappy can cost more than a packet of nappies. But, that one nappy can be re-used time and time again. Which rapidly makes them quite cost-effective. Ok, so there’s the cost of washing the nappies, but I think it still works out cheaper than buying disposables in the long run. Especially if you re-use them with your subsequent children!

I didn’t use any re-usable nappies with my first child, as bluntly I didn’t know where to begin! But with each of my subsequent children I have added nappies to our “nappy stash” and now I wonder why I didn’t brave them with my first child. They look much nicer than a disposable – especially in summer!

A Guide to Buying a Road Legal Quad Bike for You

This article is published in partnership with Mediabuzzer.

Image Source: Pexels

If you are looking to purchase a road legal quad, there is much to consider. Any quad that is going to be ridden on the UK roads must comply with the stringent rules and regulations, and with so many makes available, it is a good idea to do some online research before making any commitments. The first question that needs to be addressed is what you plan on doing with the quad, as this will help you to determine the make and model that best suits your needs.

Full Car Driving Licence

Some people mistakenly think that you can drive a quad on a motorcycle license, when in fact, you must be in possession of a full car driving licence, which does make sense as the vehicle has four wheels, not two. If the road legal quad for you is purely for recreational purposes, there are specific makes and models that are designed for fun riding, while others are primarily used by farmers as a work horse. Any quad bike that is more than 3 years old will require an MOT, which can be carried out at an approved garage, with the exception of quads that are registered as agricultural vehicles.

Online Suppliers

The best place to begin your quest for the best quad bike is with an online search, which will land you on the website of an established quad bike supplier who would stock a wide range of new and used machines. Buying your quad from an online supplier would likely save you a little money, as the dealer does not need costly retail premises, and the warranty is identical.


Image Source: Unsplash

New or Used?

Some might say you are better off starting with a second-hand quad, at least until you become proficient, while others would recommend hiring a few to get the feel of the different models. If you are sure about which make and model you want, buying a new machine is fine, but do make sure that you have adequate insurance cover if you are planning to ride the quad on the roads. While it is not compulsory to wear a crash helmet in the UK, you are strongly advised to, along with suitable protective clothing, and it is worth noting that riding a Quad in Northern Ireland does require you to wear a crash helmet.

Vehicle Weight

There are three main weight classes, the first being 350kg, which is ideal for the young rider, while the 400kg class is ideal for adult recreational use, and the 550kg quad would be best suited for agricultural work.


Image Source: Pixabay

Engine Capacity

If you are not an experienced rider, you would be best suited with a 450-500cc engine, which is less powerful that the 750-1,000cc bike, and it really does depend on how comfortable you are with riding a powerful machine. It takes a while to be able to control a quad properly, by using a combination of steering and shifting your weight, and you are not advised to go fast until you are a competent rider.

By taking all of the above into account, you should make the right choices when purchasing your very first quad, which will hopefully be the start of a long love affair.

DreamWorks Dragons Dawn of New Riders – XBOX One Game Review

The boys are both avid gamers, and have been fans of How to Train Your Dragon for longer than I can remember. Dragons Dawn on New Riders game has released to tie in with the new film. We were sent a copy of the new game to review, and so I decided to let my 10 year old let you know his thoughts on the game.

Review by B aged 10;

The game is played initially as Scribbler, a new character who hatches and develops a dragon a Chimeragon, called Patch. Later in the game you actually play as Patch – which was amazing as you could stand back in battles but still have force (and who doesn’t want to be a dragon anyway!).

As you go through the game you gain powers. To gain powers you need to complete a temple.The temples are places with puzzles to complete, which unlock doors which eventually lead you to a battle. If you win, your Dragon may evolve which will give it a new power. You can have up to three powers at one time, however you can only use one at a time. You need to select which one is best to use for each challenge.

I like the mix of characters between new and old familiar faces. Especially the new character Scribbler as he’s strong and determined. It’s great that the new dragon Patch evolves. At the end of the game we thought he was going to die, but he has another surprise in store! I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars, it was great fun to play.

Parent View

Graphically I was quite impressed with the game, and I think the boys were too. The puzzles were easy to understand and solving them was fun and straightforward. My 8 year old especially enjoyed the game, as he didn’t find himself getting frustrated! I really liked the fact the game encouraged them to read – as they needed to in order to move on through the game. (My 8 year old is a reluctant reader – so anything to help him is a bonus!) The only thing I would have preferred would have been to add in the option for 2 player so they could play together.

Buying Leather Shoes? Read this…

Have you ever considered how your leather shoes, or bags are tanned?

You may have heard companies using phrases like “chrome-free” leather. I had no idea until I started to investigate, that chrome may be used in the tanning process of leather. Actually, I had very little clue about how leather is produced at all.

What’s the alternative to chrome?

Vegetable tanning is a “chromium-free” way to tan leather,without using harmful chemicals. The process uses natural tannins found in bark, wood and plants to turn animal skin into leather. Vegetable tanning doesn’t subject workers to high levels of toxic chemicals, and those chemicals are not then carried into the supply chain.

Why don’t all shoe manufacturers use vegetable tanning?

The Vegetable tanning process can apparently take up to 12 months! This long tanning process inevitably has a cost implication when the leather reaches retailer. It also uses more water than chemical methods of tanning. BUT the water is not polluted so when it is put back into a river there is no damage to the environment, unlike with chemical tanning processes where the water is heavily polluted.

I know many people who were shocked by the Stacey Dooley Investigates programme on fashion last year. It really was an eye opener just how badly the planet is being polluted by our desire for fast, cheap fashion. So we do all need to start thinking about what we are buying.

I think the real beauty of vegetable tanned leather, is each piece is unique. Colours will be very subtly different. So, it’s good for the worker, good for the environment and looks good too!

Another Way…

I joined in with #FreeTheShoes over on Instagram this weekend. A protest organised by shoe manufacturer Po-Zu – who I’m a great fan of. They are appealing this week, during London Fashion Week for more to be done to ensure shoes are made using ethical processes. Po-Zu are going to be 100% Vegan from A/W-19, using sustainable materials such as Pinatex. Having just got my first pair of Pinatex shoes, I think I am prepared the admit that maybe there are great alternatives to leather.

It’s not always easy to know how fashion has been produced, and I think fashion brands have a responsibility to be more transparent. I have to be honest and say it’s kids shoes I really struggle with. I love the Po-Zu Star Wars kids shoes but I really need suggestions of brands who produce school shoes in an eco-friendly way. That’s my research for the week planned…

Spring Home Make-over

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Spring is the time when I start to think about all things home. I know lots of people Spring Clean, but I feel as though I almost start nesting in Spring! I think it’s because over the winter months we spend much longer indoors. Things don’t get put away properly, and everything begins to look tired. Our living room needs some serious TLC!

Declutter

Firstly, I need to declutter the entire room! Toys need to be put in a toy box or back into the children’s bedrooms. I think I need to consider if we need as many DVD’s as we currently seem to have accumulated too!

Plan a colour scheme

I really like the grey and yellow colour schemes which have been popular for a while. However, I’m not sure it will really work in my home. Unless I go for a more subtle take on it. My plan is to keep the walls a very neutral cream colour, then add some light grey and mustard yellow accessories. Cushions and throws are relatively inexpensive and I think they’re a great way to quickly try out a colour scheme – without spending a fortune!

One problem with choosing a colour scheme can be getting your flooring to work with the colour scheme! I’m quite lucky that our carpets are a good neutral colour which works with most colour schemes, although I could buy Cheap Carpets if ours needed to be replaced. Another quick fix might be to look at adding a rug in the right colour way.

I like to replace curtains and blinds in Spring too, it’s a lovely way to refresh a room with new colour! I tend to opt for bold coloured curtains which add brightness to the room when they are drawn in the evening. If you’re not replacing them make sure you clean your current curtains or blinds! It really does make a huge difference to have fresh curtains hanging in a room.

Spring Clean!

Before you start, empty out as much of the room as you can and give it a really deep clean. If you need tips there are some great cleaning blogs out there –  like Queen of Clean. If you don’t already get your windows cleaned regularly consider getting them done, or write them onto your calendar to do weekly yourself if you’re able! Another job which is vital to my Spring makeover is cleaning the lampshades! It’s one of those jobs I tend to forget, so they gather dust over the winter, though maybe I should replace them this year?

Finishing Touches

Finishing touches to a room for me are a beautiful bunch of spring blooms in a tall vase. I also like to choose a candle with a “summery” fragrance – a move away from the spicy fragrances I’ve used all winter! These finishing touches are a really important part of a Spring makeover to me, they are such a simple addition to a room, but do make it feel “finished”.

How to Increase the Value of your Home

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If you are looking for a few ideas to help you increase the value of your home you’re in the right place. Websites such as https://www.dinodecking.co.uk/ can help you add some value to your home but before we consider those options let’s take a look at a few of our own:

Convert your Loft

If your loft is fully insulated you may want to think about converting it. Adding some more room to your home will make it more attractive to prospective buyers. Teenagers and anyone who need privacy will love nothing more than to spend time in the loft.

While you may need planning permission to covert your loft, depending on where you live, a house with more rooms than the rest of the street is attractive. Consider adding a few windows to increase the amount of light that comes into the loft.

Update your Kitchen

Very few people want to buy a home that has an old kitchen in it unless the price is reasonable. If you want to make as much money as possible from the sale of your house you may need to make improvements.

Rip out your old kitchen and add a more modern one that has plenty of cupboards. Use corner cupboards, wine holders and any nook and cranny that could be filled with cupboards. The more kitchen units you add the more appealing it will be.

Don’t forget to leave plenty of space for a cooker and a washing machine. You may also want to leave room for a dishwasher too. If your kitchen is big enough, you could always build a wall and add a utility room. This will add a bit more appeal to your home and value too.

Build a Conservatory

It would be lovely if you could add a large conservatory but this may not be possible. Even if you can only add a small conservatory it’s worth doing. Some people love to sit in a conservatory, whereas others are happy to grow plants. A conservatory is considered to be an extra room and is, therefore, very valuable to have. Don’t forget to add a few sockets so electrical items can be used.

Consider adding a curtain or some blinds to the conservatory so it’s ready to use. The more appealing your conservatory is the more likely someone will want to buy your home.

Build some Decking

Now we’re moving the home improvements to the garden which is an area people often overlook. When it comes to your garden you may find that you need to do a bit of work. If your garden is quite large or you may want to add some decking. Composite decking will not only break the garden up a little but it will also add a bit of value. This is because it makes your garden look much more attractive. Anyone who comes to look at your home will notice the decking and imagine what it would be like to use it.

You may want to stick some furniture on your decking as it adds that special touch. Decking can be used for all sorts of things such as parties, barbecues and sunbathing.

Don’t forget to keep your garden as tidy as you can. A tidy garden will appear to be cared for and is much more attractive than a messy one.

Update your Bathroom

There’s nothing quite like a new bathroom suite. If you would like to impress anyone who is looking around your home you may want to invest in a new bathroom suite. Suites that are typically more than 10 years old can start to look outdated. The good news is if you do decide to replace your bathroom you don’t have to buy the most expensive suite. A clean, white bathroom suite can suffice, just as long as it’s big enough for the bathroom.

Have an Open Plan Living Area

If your living area and your dining room are divided by walls you may want to rethink things. An open plan living area not only lightens the place up but it adds more room. You want prospective buyers to think your home has a lot of room. You can pull this off by knocking down walls and opening the living area up. You may need to call in a few professionals to help you do this but you could add more value to your property.

Increasing the value of your home is easy when you know how. You may have to spend a bit of money on your property but it could be worth it. Try to look at your home from the point of view of a prospective buyer and see where you would make some changes. A little bit of work could go a long way.

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Counting the days to Half Term..

Homework. parent meetings, school trips. A variety of medical appointments. Plenty of out of school activities. A growing collection of bills. Oh,  all the germs seem to have wanted to visit us this term. This is why I’m counting down to Half Term.

While a little bit of routine is wonderful. I already miss the freedom of the holidays.

It’s fair to say that most of the stress of school days is actually my fault. Poor planning, or specifically trying to get too many things done in too few hours. I have crammed so many jobs into the last week, dashing from one place to the next. It’s led to a week of feeling utterly exhausted. Why do I do it to us? I’m not sure, but I need to change it.

Learning to pace ourselves.

My stress contributes to the mood of the children. If I’m happy they are happy. When I am stressed, they are generally grouchy. It’s time for us to stop and take a breath.

Certain things I put in place to help us all. Homework, we look at it as soon as it arrives, not wait until it is due. Music practice, 5 minutes every day is better than fighting to practice at all over the week.

Lunchboxes.. the boys empty them and leave them by the sink. I write a meal plan for lunch boxes, this helps with shopping for and packing them!

Half-term at home.

February half-term is always a tough one for us. The weather is always mixed, and money is not in great supply as it’s not long since Christmas and two Birthdays! So, February half-term is always spent at home. The first few days usually everyone wants their freedom. Then they get bored! So I always plan indoor activities to do in the holidays.

If the weather is good, we will pack up a flask and get out and about. I must admit I’m longing for Spring to arrive when it is easier being outside with all the children together!

One year old baby update

I had forgotten how tiring a one year old is. He is on the go all day, any mischief he can find himself in, he will. At the moment his favourite thing appears to be climbing. Perhaps one day he is destined to climb mountains, as at the moment nothing seems to high for him to clamber. I take my eyes off him momentarily and instantly find myself having a heart in mouth moment as he is precariously clinging to the top of a curtain or something.

How on earth I have a one year old I don’t know. 2018 was lost in a blur of grief, ill health and frankly confusion. I will forever be in debt to those friends who reminded me of school trips, dress down days, and school closures. They allowed me to use what energy I had to enjoy my baby, my now one year old.

One year check.

We had our one year check with the health visitor, which went really well. He is doing OK, I was reassured that he is biding his time to talk, it will come. To be honest I’m not entirely sure he ever gets a chance to speak with the others around, and I probably speak more than I should to him. But, I’m sure we will get there, eventually. I like the one year check as it gives you a chance to double check that your child is about where they should be developmentally. He’s the first child I’ve had who hasn’t got a dummy at the one year check – he threw it out his cot aged 5 months and wouldn’t have it back. Another reminder that each child is very different.

Food

Food is one of those things which I hoped we would not have any issues with. However, little N has other ideas. He is already starting to fuss and has developed an absolute aversion to rice. So anything with rice in gets launched across the kitchen. Cleaning up rice isn’t much fun, so I’m torn between keeping it off the menu and adopting the approach of keep trying (but keep the broom and mop handy..).

Sleep.

Pah, sleep is for the week. This boy of mine likes to sleep in the comfort of the Superking sized bed. Though so far for two nights this week he has actually stayed in his own bed all night…so perhaps he is starting to make improvements with his sleep? We will see. It was nice to have two proper sleeps this week! He has a good bedtime routine, and so I’m hoping soon we may get a little more undisturbed sleep,

Play

He loves toy cars and spends time pushing them along. Other than that he loves the chickens and ducks. Oh, and climbing. He’s not quite walking but will walk if I hold his hand, and happily coasts around the sofas.