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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

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!

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.

5 Ways I Keep Cheery in Winter

I am the first to admit that winter is my least favourite season- unless there is snow! The thing about snow is that it makes everywhere feel very bright, and I really do think the brightness helps! But on days like today when it is just cold, and miserable, I would rather hibernate. Seriously, I would much rather be on a hot sunny beach. So, here’s how I beat my winter blues and stay happy over winter.

Baby it’s cold outside.

Wrap up and get out there! Baby carrier or buggy, getting out in the fresh air always helps me feel brighter, and wears N out a bit too – perfect if I want a quiet coffee afterwards! I’m trying to do this every day!

If I get a child free day I pick up the pace and try to walk to somewhere specific. It gives me thinking time, which benefits everyone later in the day! When the children are off school, we head out on a family friendly walk, which keeps us all busy and we’re happy when we get back in the warmth!

Hot Food and Drinks

A comforting hot mug of tea, or luxury hot chocolate sometimes give me the boost I need to take a miserable winters day in my stride! I’m still making my own take out coffee and avoiding the coffee shops too! Swapping my lunchtime sandwich for a bowl of comforting soup, or hot pasta really helps too! It sounds silly, but in summer I enjoy sitting outside with a salad so I’m trying to enjoy the benefits of being inside cosy with a bowl of soup.

Pamper

Yes, ok this one is rare! I am awful at giving myself a bit of pamper time! But seriously, whether I get my hair cut, or just paint my toe nails taking a little bit of time to pamper myself always makes me less frustrated at these cold days! I think I have a tendency to try to hide under thick socks and hats in Winter, but I should still make a little time to pamper myself! Someone once told me your summer skin is created over winter. I have no idea if that is true, but certainly a good excuse for me to treat myself!!

Embrace it!!

It’s cold. It’s miserable. Yes, but the days are already getting longer! Embracing the winter, treating myself to a new ridiculous winter hat, or an extra thick pair of socks – the perfect way to stay warm and accept that Spring will soon be on the way, just not yet!

Escape..

I would love to jump on a plane and escape to somewhere a little warmer right now. Unfortunately time and budget are stopping me from doing that! But, I can escape by starting to plan a break! I’m looking at a long weekend in Cornwall, not quite a tropical paradise, but a change of scenery will help pass the winter months!

Small changes to reduce bathroom plastic.

I have to admit that I was a little horrified when someone mentioned that my bathroom was full of plastic waste. It was a throw away comment, but got me thinking. I hadn’t really thought about the every day things which created small amounts of plastic, very regularly. But the more I looked at our bathroom products the more I realised just how much plastic waste I was creating.

I think it’s really important to remember that small changes are really important. If you try to change everything at once, it will cost a fortune, create more waste, and you’ll set yourself up to fail. So, little steps. These are ours so far in the battle against plastic bathroom waste.

Deodorant

Deodorant, so this one I have already changed. I made the switch from my old deodorant which had a plastic lid, to Earth Conscious which comes wrapped in cardboard – it is truly plastic free. You can read my review of Earth Conscious, but I will say after having used it for several months I am impressed with how well it lasts.

Facial Wipes

I haven’t used face wipes in years, last owned c. 2008 when I tried them briefly. But, Cotton Wool Pads, I have never used many of these, but have always kept some in. They come wrapped in a plastic bag – not good. So I’ve switched to Fulfilled Reuseable Face Wipes. These are great as they come in a pack of 7, so one each day. Use them, then stick them in the wash. Great for washing your face!

Toothbrush, so plastic handled tooth brushes are a nightmare. I have tried bamboo, but I have struggled with them. I need to try a few more different ones to see if I can find one which really suits me. Until then, does anyone have any suggestions for replacement heads for my electric toothbrush which may be more eco-friendly?

Shampoo, while shampoo bottles can be recycled, creating the waste in the first place when I don’t need to is the problem. So, as a family we have switched to a shampoo bar. This has actually turned out to be beneficial in many ways. The boys are quite keen to wash their hair using the bar, where they hated shampoo. Apparently the bar is easier to use – it is certainly less messy!

Shower gel, initially we started buying refills. Now we have switched everyone to a soap. I was worried that soap would dry out my skin, but so far so good! There are so many bars of soap available, there are plenty to try! One brand I’m about to try is Primal Suds, I’m just about to place an order so I’ll let you know how we get on in a month or two!

Some Interesting Facts You May Not Know About Orthodontics

This article is published in partnership with Mediabuzzer.

When it comes to having braces fitted to your teeth, some people do not mind the concept, and in parts of Asia, it is considered a fashion accessory. There are cases of people having braces fitted that they do not really need, just so they can be seen as fashionable.

ImageSource: Pexels

You can read more about the subject of using braces as a fashion accessory from articles available online, and below are other interesting facts about braces that you may not already know.

Braces Are Older Than You Think

Although we may make braces using a modern material, braces have been used on teeth for almost 300 years. Although the technology has changed a lot, the principle has not. The first form of braces was a flat piece of metal which was connected to the teeth using a bit of thread.

Braces Do Not Only Straighten Your Teeth

Braces will help to straighten your teeth, but there is also another benefit to wearing them as they can assist in fixing your bite as well. They can assist in lining the teeth up so that when you bite down, your front teeth on the upper jaw cover the lower teeth and the cusp of your molars do not touch each other so that you have the perfect bite.

Image Source: Pexels

Made From Space Age Technology

You find that the Newtown orthodontics service offered by Sydney Park Dental and other dental practices will often use a nickel-titanium wire in the braces, which is a metal that was first made for NASA. As with a lot of other technology that we take for granted, this alloy which is heat-activated was first developed for the American space program but has a lot of applications in our everyday lives.

You Can Have Braces At Any Age

Braces are not something that is exclusive to spotty teenagers, and a person of any age can wear braces to help align their teeth. There are millions of people that are over the age of eighteen that wear braces around the world. You do tend to find that the older people who wear braces are doing so for a specific purpose other than the aesthetic look of their teeth.

There Are Over Ten Different Types Of Braces Available

You may think that all braces are the same, but you could not be further from the truth. There are over ten different types, but not all may be suitable for you. Your orthodontist will evaluate your teeth and go through the various options such as invisible braces, porcelain or mini braces. You can then decide which option will be best for you.

Fixing Some Myths About Braces

There are various myths about dental braces that people think are true, when in fact they are not. For example, dental braces will not set off a metal detector, and you can still safely play sports when wearing them. Braces are not magnetic and nor do they affect radio waves in any way. Another myth is that if two people that wear braces kiss they could get locked together, but this would not happen.

ImageSource: Unsplash

If you are considering wearing dental braces, speak to your local dentist and see what they recommend as the best option for you, and they will also be able to answer any questions that you may have.

Christmas and making the most of your home.

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Ahh Christmas, the time when many of us have family and friends over to visit. I’m the first to admit I love entertaining, but as a bigger family, we have a lot of “stuff”. Christmas always adds to our “stuff”. The Christmas tree, decorations, gifts… it is all stuff. So how do you balance having a wonderful Christmas with having a wonderful home? 

Rid yourself of clutter Pre-Christmas

So, for me the de-clutter pre-Christmas is an on-going process! I am going through outgrown clothes, toys and unwatched DVDs. Then dropping them off at the local charity shop. I get a tidy home, they get new stock – everyone is a winner! It’s a great time to clear out, and you may even be able to sell some of your unwanted items via local selling sites too.

Storage is an investment!

The children have toys which I can’t get rid of, so I have discovered finding nice storage really helps to keep us looking tidy! It doesn’t need to be expensive or flat packed, we have a great vintage mini trunk which looks great and is a godsend at storing LEGO! Choose storage with care to suit the style of your decor and it will work well for you!

Consider how to best use your living space.

Our kitchen is quite roomy, and I have worked out that using the kitchen as a living space is vital to having a happy home! It has meant thinking carefully about making sure it feels homely, but it really works for us!

Moving furniture around to maximise floor space can help, I’ve moved a sofa to the opposite side of the room to create a less cosy but more roomy sitting area for the Christmas holidays!

One option for next Christmas if you have space, could be a garden room, which would be ideal as either an extra playroom or a grown up space! Perfect to keep for entertaining friends or just when you need somewhere quiet to hang out!

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs Panto – Basingstoke Hampshire – Review

Disclaimer: Tickets received for review

Theatre is very much part of our family Christmas. So we were excited to get the opportunity to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at The Anvil, Basingstoke.

Leading lady Dani Harmer played a charming Snow White, and the Dwarfs were brilliant!

The Anvil, Basingstoke. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Christmas Pantomime 2018. Photograph By: Sean Dillow. www.TheBigCheesePhotography.co.uk

Supported by jester Muddles (Chris Pizzey) whose comedy double act with pantomime dame Dolly (Jamie Steen) had us in fits of giggles. There were jokes for children and more subtle ones for adults too. Some were hilarious and others verging on naughty! The slapstick nature of the comedy is all part of a traditional pantomime though, and it was fabulous!

I could write a whole review of the fabulous costumes, Dolly’s wardrobe alone was spectacular! Causing much laughter and chatter from the audience.

The Anvil, Basingstoke. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Christmas Pantomime 2018. Photograph By: Sean Dillow. www.TheBigCheesePhotography.co.uk

The Wicked Witch played by Kirsty Sparks, was for me the star of the show. Her voice was superb as she effortlessly tackled versions of Queen’s “Killer Queen” and Brittany Spears “Toxic”. She was scary as the Wicked Queen without being too terrifying – ideal if you have a younger child with you!

The Anvil, Basingstoke. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Christmas Pantomime 2018. Photograph By: Sean Dillow. www.TheBigCheesePhotography.co.uk

The pantomime is great family fun, my 4 year old did struggle a little sitting through the show. But she has asked if we can go back to see Snow White again, so I think it was a success!  

Book your tickets here.

Last Minute Gift Ideas For Children

If you’re looking for some last minute ideas for what to buy under 11’s look no further. We have listed our favourite gifts to buy last minute for tough to buy for children!

Messy Play

Slime is a huge hit with children of all ages! Slime Baff means children can have fun with slime, but the mess is contained to the bath tub! You can also use it as a messy play or small world play activity. Gelli Baff is a similar product which turns bath water into goo! Great fun for the reluctant bather! Our favourite though, was SnoBall Play!

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Sno Play turns water into a snow like product! My children thought it was great fun, it could be moulded, and importantly thrown! It easy to clean up and I think it is a great little gift!

Pokemon

Last year our house was Pokémon crazy, and little has altered this year! With a great variety of branded gifts including Pokemon headphones, there are plenty of gift ideas for Pokemon fans!

We like the Pokémon beaker with straw as it’s a fun, functional gift. Certainly one which will get a lot of use! Especially over the festive season – catching Pokemon is thirsty work after all! This could also be a lovely gift for adult Pokémon fans too!

Puzzles and Games

Puzzles and game are firm favourites in our house. Puzzles allow a little bit of quiet time, and games encourage everyone to sit together! We love Tumble Tower from Jaques of London, it has already provided hours of fun for all the family. It’s unusual to find a game we all play happily together. This is a great after dinner game, perfect to play on the dining table!

Gruffalo!

If you have a pre-schooler you must know exactly who the Gruffalo is! Popular with children everywhere there are a great selection of Gruffalo products on sale. We love the Gruffalo Dinner Set which includes a bamboo plate, bowl  and cup set! A great alternative to plastic kids plates, and it is a gift which will be enjoyed time and time again!

Of course if you’re not sure what to buy, consider buying an experience gift instead. Something like Panto tickets, or a contribution towards an annual pass to a local attraction.

Disclaimer; Some items received for inclusion.

Truly unique dining experiences

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Whether you’re after Michelin-starred restaurants or exquisitely exotic cuisine, the UK has it all. And if you’re seeking a dining experience with a difference, where should you head for and what should you expect?

With this in mind, here are four unique dining experiences that promise something out of the ordinary but still offer top-quality cuisine.

1. Events in the Sky (various locations)

Fancy a dining experience that gives you a whole new perspective – and some serious vertigo while you’re at it? Suspended 30 metres in the air, Events in the Sky offers foodies a magical meal to remember with stunning views of the skyline while they’re at it. The menu itself presents a host of delights, all prepared by executive chefs whose culinary creations look as good as they taste. Yes, you’ll be wearing a seatbelt. And yes, you’ll be attached to a crane, but as you sip your Champagne above the pulse of the city below, all fears will be firmly forgotten.

2. Dans Le Noir, London

Sounding like a posh French perfume, the food at Dans Le Noir in London smells good…and tastes just as wonderful as well. The concept involves diners eating in total darkness, with only the merest of guidance from their hosts to ensure they navigate the space without bumping into the furniture! The lack of light results in a sharpened sensory experience, where cuisine and curiosity combine. All meals are prepared using a variety of locally sourced ingredients that merge flavours, textures and tastes.

3. The Treehouse, Alnwick

Situated in the glorious Alnwick Garden, the Treehouse Restaurant takes ambience to a new level. From wooden walkways and bridges to twinkling lights and roaring log fires, it boasts a beautiful backdrop. As a region, Northumberland boasts a plethora of tasty produce, including locally sourced seafood and meat. The menu aims to reflect seasonal changes through its dishes, too – the Lindisfarne mussels and Alnwick sausages are particularly worthy of note. In addition to the hearty cuisine, there are regular live music events, where expert flautists accompany the memorable meals.

4. Dinner in the Great Hall, Leavesden

Another magical dining occasion is Dinner in the Great Hall at the Harry Potter experience in Leavesden. On arrival, guests are greeted with wine and canapes before entering a winter wonderland featuring original props from the film. The dining tables are a spectacle in themselves; guests can expect all manner of delights, such as flaming puddings and striking red carpets. Regal trees are bedecked in beautiful golden baubles shaped like partridges and moons, providing a charmingly quirky take on Christmas traditions. Your seats for the occasion will be on the same set that was used during filming, with dinner and all the trimmings to follow.

While the food is important, it’s the atmosphere that makes the occasion. Whether you’re seeking an innovative sensory experience or an alternative take on Yuletide traditions, all four venues provide a truly unique dining experience!