The Great British Staycation

I think it is fair to say we are a family that likes to travel. We like to see new things and visit new places. We are not fussy though; we are happy to explore overseas, but equally content to travel around England. During the last 12 months, we have holidayed in Calvados, Paris and, most recently, Bournemouth.

20140601-200942-72582201.jpg

I must say, I think the latter trip was perhaps the most enjoyable for us all. I am not sure whether it was because there was no language barrier, because it didn’t take very long to get there or just because Bournemouth is so darn pretty, but we had our best family holiday to date.

20140601-193201-70321506.jpg

Choosing to stay in the UK, rather than venturing further afield, can be a smart choice for a number of reasons, particularly for those with small children. The top reasons are listed here on the Park Resorts blog, and I agree with them all, though I think my favourite reason for staying in the UK is that nowhere is very far away. Having spent countless hours on a coach from London to Paris, with a restless three year old and bored five year old, I am more than happy to substitute far-flung destinations for something a little closer to home.

This summer, we are heading to the beautiful New Forest for a camping holiday -our first as a family of four – and I cannot wait. Sure, the foreign travel will resume before long, but while the children are still so small, I can think of nothing better than experiencing the great British countryside with them. We hope you will continue to join us on our adventures here on the blog.

 

Published in conjunction with Park Resorts

 

Classic Watch Styles For Different Family Members

Since the first world war – when men began taking pocket watches and strapping them to their wrists so they could easily tell the time without compromising the use of their hands – people have been gifting wrist watches to one-another. These days, they are no longer expensive family heirlooms but instead are affordable and often semi-disposable. Going slightly out one’s way to buy a watch that will last decades, not years, can make a great impact as a birthday/graduation/retirement present, so I’m going to break down some of the best styles to look out for.

The troublesome kid

Download 1pic.jpg (97.5 KB)

f you have a child who is always bouncing off the walls, getting covered in mud, and inexplicably falling into swimming pools, then there is only one watch you should be aiming for. The G-Shock range comes in a multitude of colours and styles, in both analogue and digital varieties. They are almost indestructible and come with water resistance as standard. They tend to have fairly bulky bodies – so they could be difficult for some school uniforms to wrap around, but generally they are seen as a safe bet for children –and they are certainly popular with kids themselves.

The Infant

Download 2pic.jpg (49.5 KB)

A great watch for a child who has only just started telling the time is a Flik Flak. They are Swiss-made and have fun characters on their faces. Most importantly, they are also light weight with simple straps that are easy to adjust on small wrists. They won’t break the bank but they also aren’t so cheap that your child won’t foster any appreciation for a sense of time/punctuality!

The Dad

Download 3pic.png (292.5 KB)

Now dads come in all different varieties, so I will try to choose a watch that covers the majority of bases by being both, not too casual and not too flash while also displaying just the right level of gadgetry to keep your average man interested. And the winner is: An Omega Seamaster. Of course it’s an Omega. Because of the new Bond films, these watches seem like one big gadget. They have a fairly classic design and solid looking bodies, but come with a hefty price tag so – for many – these watches will have to remain stuck within a spy fantasy. Good condition 2nd hand Omegas aren’t hard to come by though!

The Mum

watch

This would have to be something elegant but also robust enough to deal with the rigours of motherhood. No bits that could easily be broken off, but something that also looks good when dressed up to the nines. And the winner is: The Cartier Tank Solo. It has a durable body made from solid steel and a small watch face that is unlikely to crack or smash. It would look elegant wearing almost anything and the simple colour scheme makes it a malleable accessory.

So there you have it. A few ideas for the kinds of designs to look out for. For more inspiration, check out the latest from Geneva, an article featuring the 10 New Watches for Women from Forbes. Find more styling ideas with Elle and their fabulous collection of the latest in designer watches and accessories for ladies this season.

Our Summer Bucket List; Number 5 – Swimming In The Sea

This summer, we have set the children a number of simple challenges, presented in the form of their very own summer bucket list. Yesterday, we took to the beach and Miss J ticked off activity number 5 – swimming in the sea.

20140721-202133-73293725.jpg

Miss J is something of a water baby so needed absolutely no encouragement to get stuck into this one. We have paddled a little this year but found the water to be startling cold. Happily, this was not the case yesterday. In fact, the polar (pardon the pun) opposite was true. Miss J began by paddling and jumping over waves.

20140721-202401-73441476.jpg

20140721-202359-73439042.jpg

 

20140721-202400-73440072.jpg

However, she was soon swimming properly, with Daddy by her side.

20140721-202528-73528446.jpg

We are loving summer so far and it is great to see the children start to tick challenges off on their lists. We hope you will join us as we continue our summer adventures.

20140721-202631-73591506.jpg

Miss J’s End Of Term Teacher Gifts

We are big believers in homemade gifts over shop bought here at Smiles and Trials. We love to receive them and we love to give them, particularly to older family members and, pertinently, to teachers.

For Christmas, Miss J presented her teachers with small organza bags filled with homemade fudge, which seemed to go down very well. So, when I asked her what she would like to give them as end of term thank you gifts, it came as no surprise that she chose another edible treat.

Homemade chocolates. These are simple to make and the process can be achieved by young children under adult supervision. We found a silicone chocolate mould and bought 300g each of white and milk chocolate.

To make the chocolates, we started by melting the milk chocolate over a pan of simmering water. We added a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil to make it a lovely silky texture rather than allowing it to become grainy.

20140721-193747-70667271.jpg

Next, Miss J spooned the mixture into the silicone mould. We allowed this to cool before refrigerating for two hours. Once set, we turned the chocolates out on to a plate, washed the mould and started all over again, this time with the white chocolate. We melted the white chocolate in exactly the same way as the milk but lined the mould with sprinkles to give these chocolates a little something extra.

20140721-194046-70846593.jpg

Finally, we allowed the white chocolates to set for another two hours before dividing all the chocolates between three gift boxes. They turned out really rather well.

20140721-194437-71077322.jpg

As well as the chocolates, Miss J made cards for her teachers. These were made from folded photo paper, originally intended for printing your own greeting cards. Instead, Miss J drew pictures on the front of the cards and wrote personal messages inside. This was all her own work and I am very proud of the thought and effort that she invested.

20140721-194834-71314054.jpg

20140721-194835-71315559.jpg

There you have it – homemade greetings cards and homemade chocolates. What do you think? Is homemade best when it comes to thoughtful presents, or would you rather buy something instead? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Making Money Online

If your children are anything like mine, you will be familiar with the speed at which they grow out of clothes, shoes and toys. Often, items will be barely played with or used before they are discarded in favour of something else, or become too small. In the past, I have donated the majority of these things to charity shops or to friends with younger children, but eBay has recently come to my attention as an excellent way to turn the kids’ unwanted gear into cash.

eBay is simple to use, easy to navigate and contains handy hints and tips for sellers along the way. It is quite often free to list items and free to relist if something doesn’t sell first time round. The only slightly time-consuming part of the whole process can be packaging items ready for delivery, though investing in a tube of brown paper and a roll of packing tape helps ease the pain a little. Finally, let TNT do the hard work when it comes to delivery and then sit back and enjoy the sound of pennies falling into your bank account.

eBay is probably the easiest way to make money online, particularly for parents because, let’s face it, there is always something to sell when you have young children. Right, I’m off to sort out the kids’ toys….

Published in collaboration with TNT

Remembering magical moments