Thursday, September 24, 2015

11 Fabulous Family Sun Holiday Destinations

Ok so I know we are heading toward winter, but I for one am already thinking about next years sun holiday (you have to dream right?). 

Choosing a family holiday can be confusing - especially given that every family has different likes, dislikes and expectations. So I've gathered some great posts by some great bloggers who have tried and tested some fabulous destinations to help you make that decision a little easier (or possibly harder - so much to choose from!)

The only reason I didn't collapse with jealousy and longing while writing this post is because I'm heading of to Martinhal Resort in Portugal next week for some last minute sunshine. I have a very strong feeling I'll have a new favourite destination to share by the time I come back - so don't go booking anything just yet!

The Middle Ground
All inclusive in Corsica - Older Single Mum 
Along with the provision of qualified childcare and tuition for any age and level for water sports and tennis or skiing - all of which are included in the price - there is also the friendly and professional nature of the management and staff, which, in the intimate environment of the San Lucianu Hotel in Corsica, noticeably came to the fore.
Spanish villa in Costa Blanca - The Crazy Kitchen 
The views from the villa were stunning, especially at night, during a full moon, however, within a few minutes drive inland there were even more stunning views of the coast, mountains, vineyards and the rock of Calp in the distance. Whilst we did visit quite a few places during our stay, we spent the majority of days lazing around the pool, and evenings having a bbq, relaxing, listening to music and playing cards. That's what I love about villa holidays.
(*Note - I used to live hear and can second all of the above!)

Growing up, I visited Lanzarote a fair few times and knew it was a great place for a week of easy going family fun in the sun, so we decided on there and found the perfect villa for us - Villa Ventura. Ventura was situated in the main resort of Puerto Del Carmen, but in a quieter location, just a stones throw from the beach with sea views and it’s own private pool. It also stated on the website that due to the location you didn’t need to hire a car and being that we just wanted a week in the sun without particuarly having a thirst to explore, that sold it to us and we booked it up, counting down the days until it was time for our holiday.
Adventuring to Egypt - Mummy Central
We assumed we’d have to wait until the boys were a bit older. We were wrong. Many hotels in Egypt have their own waterparks. Being such a dry and arid country, it’s how the tourism industry attracts the younger families.

4 Star Fun
A family cruise - Space in your case
There are lots of benefits to enjoying a family cruise over a beach holiday, but for us the most important are:
  • You get to visit lots of exciting destinations in a single trip
  • It’s so easy if your kids fussy eaters: cruise ships have so many restaurants, there’s always plenty of choice for everyone.
  • Family-friendly cruise ships offer a resort’s worth of activities and entertainment in one easily navigable space.

I try not to think about the last time we travelled to America. With a baby and a two-year-old. By the end of the flight I wanted to gouge my eyes out, especially when someone, as she was disembarking, looked at me with shining eyes and told me that she had been ‘praying for me’.
(Worth it though!)

Everything you could ask for family resort in Rhodes - Mummy Mummy Mum
I never thought I’d be the type of person to return to the exact same holiday destination year on year, but I can honestly say I hope with all my heart that we have many more family holidays at Levante Beach Resort. The resort itself is spotlessly clean and beautifully laid out with  great restaurants, wonderful staff and all the facilities you could hope for.
Disney World Florida - Kate Takes 5 
Typhoon Lagoon is great for all but just perfect if you have little kids. There is a dedicated area for the smallies with special rides just for them - no big guys allowed! Something the four year old greatly appreciated.

5 Star Lux

Europe finest family resort - Martinhal, Algarve, Portugal. 
Choose between designer villas, 5 star hotel or a selection of beautiful houses. We're off to test out the facilities and accommodation next week and will be back with a full report!

You-won't-believe-it luxury villa (with staff) - Space in your case
You’ll be sitting by the pool, with your legs dangling in the cool water and you’ll turn around to find a cushion has been placed behind you, in case you fancy a lie down. Mid-morning, you’ll be thinking that you’re feeling a little peckish and your host will appear with a snack and homemade fruit cooler. As soon as you wake up, you’re asked if you’d like a tea or a coffee. 
We had 2 breathtaking rooms with inter-connecting door, which worked perfectly since, in the evenings,  the kids could go to bed and Trey and I could sit out on the terrace, listening to the waves.  We even had roof terraces over each suite so we could watch the sun set.  TOTAL bliss!   It was seriously the closest thing to family Nirvana I've ever experienced! 

So, which would you choose?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tahini Espresso Cups - These are Amazing!

When I was 16 my best friend in the world moved to Australia. There was much weeping and wailing and cries of 'but we'll never see each other again!' 

Since then 25 years have past (holy shit!) - and we have stayed in touch over ever changing forms of medium, from letters and phone calls, to Facebook, Sykpe and Instagram. There was even a decidedly odd patch where all her old gang would gather together and record actual tapes filled with inane chat about..... what were they about Jen??! In those years I've also visited her multiple times, lived with her once, and she's been back home to see all of us here. Strong friendships never die!

Right now she lives a most enviable life filled with sunshine, paddle boarding and great local Aussie food. Did I mention she's an incredible cook too?

Today we're lucky enough to have a guest post from her with a recipe for these amazing Tahini Expresso Cups. 

My friend knocked on my front door today with one of these little beauties to try. Of course I accepted! They are so good that I made a batch this afternoon for myself. 

The original recipe comes from Emily Von Euw but has been Tweeked by my gorgeous friend Timenah, who inspires me daily to step out of my comfort zone.

So here it is, it makes 8-10 medium size cup cakes. My tip is use silicon cupcake mould, only fill in total half way and don't over heat your coconut oil.

1/2 cup tahini
3/4 cup coconut oil - melted
1/2 cup raw cashews

Blend the tahini and cashews, slowly add the coconut oil until mix is smooth. Pour into a jug and fill up little moulds just a little. See the photo for a better idea of the desired thickness of the base. Pop in the freezer for 20 minutes or until they are set.

For the centre surprise !
1/2 tbsp raw cacao
175g dates
118 ml strong coffee (I used 4 shots!!)
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (additional extras to taste Maca, lucuma or mesquite)

Blend this mix until smooth.Add a tsp of date mix on top your set tahini mix.Pour remaining tahini mix over and put them to bed in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Last thing.... Try to share with friends. They are so delicious , that it would be easy to devour them in an afternoon!

You can find lots more inspiration from Jen on The Jenerous Life on Facebook and Instagram. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

I'm done

At the start of the summer I set myself some fitness goals. The kids were still in school, my training was going well and the smugness factor was strong.

I started on a nice easy 10k mini marathon in June with a PB and thought I had it all nailed. July was to see my first aquathon, August a Triathlon and 2k sea swim, and September the terrifying Hell and Back Adventure race.

Fast forward a few weeks, the kids are no longer at school, no training is being done and chaos has broken out.

The aquathon was skipped amongst sore throats and missed deadlines, and I cursed my smug mug daily.

The only thing that was progressing well was the sea swimming - a haven of frozen torture in a summer of rain and no childcare.

Triathlon day arrived and with it an orange weather warning. Wonderful. I set the alarm for 5.15am and spent most of the night listening to the torrential rain. Silently I vowed to myself never again. Again.

But I made it. Wet and happy. 2 out of the five ticked off the list.

A week later the sea swim was completed. Easier than expected and actually enjoyable.

Smugness was rising.

With only one event left I skipped out the door on Saturday to do the Hell and Back adventure race.  'Back in a couple of hours' I called out as I dashed off.

I'm not sure there's much point in describing what came next. Mud, mud, and more mud. Ditches, rivers and swamps to wade through. Walls to scale, logs to carry, mountains to run up, electric shocks, ropes, and sure lets thrown in a bit more mud for good measure.

Two and a half hours later these guys hooshed me over the final wall and we were done. Bloodied, bruised and well, just a little bit muddy.

So that's me done. Finshed. Complete.

Oh, and never again.

A team of over 200 took part in Hell and Back for the Gavin Glynn Foundation. Thanks to all who sponsored me for this great cause. Photos by Alan Rowlette Photography.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

For the love of bread

I can't believe I'm writing this post whilst I'm in the middle of a seven day clean eating detox.

Hmm, now that I come to think about it I'm probably only writing this post because I'm in the middle of a seven day clean eating detox....

More on that later. For now - bread.

There's something so wholesome and nurturing about proper bread. Food for the soul that has been vilified in recent years, partly no doubt because of the array of fake sliced rubbish weighing down our supermarket shelves. Hardly bread at all. Just a soft, tacky sponge that last for 86 weeks. Or thereabouts.

But real bread... Oh how I miss you!

Luckily there are more and more artisan bakers popping up all over the country these days. One such wonderful establishment is The Firehouse Bakery, originating in West Cork and now well established in Delgany, Co. Wicklow. 

They are spreading the bread love with their bread school - but they also do incredible pastries, breakfasts, lunches and pizzas in their cafe. (Plus there's a to-die-for deli attached too). 

It's well worth a visit if you're passing - though be warned - you may never go back to supermarket bread again. Not that that's a bad thing.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Take my hand

I lay awake for hours last night. Curled up in bed beside my little boy who tossed and turned as I held his hand. 

I lay there in the dark picturing another little boy, a little boy I don't know, a little boy that we all now have etched in our minds.

I lay there wishing so hard that I could have reached out to him in the darkness, told him to take my hand, so that I could have pulled him from that cold water and hugged away his fears.

'Mama' my boy called out.

'I'm here darling'

'Mama, I have a blocked nose'

'I know you do sweetheart'

'Can you die from a blocked nose?'

The poignancy of the question raised a sad smile - for these are our gentle realities. 

I wonder if that other mother heard her little boy call out to her that night. I wonder if she was able to tell him that she was there for him. I wonder how many other mothers are listening to their children calling for them in the darkness, allaying their fears with empty words and promises they can't keep. 

And then I have to stop wondering or the tears will never cease.

The more you see and read about the refugee crisis the more you want to turn away. I understand that. But what I've noticed is that whilst people like us are trying desperately to find ways to help these people, most governments are grappling to find reasons to keep them away. 

Why are they not listening?

Iceland hit the news this week because over 10,000 of their citizens have pledged to open their homes to a refugee in need. Wouldn't you do the same? Wouldn't you want to reach out and help that poor little boy? Meanwhile their government says they can accommodate just 50.

In the UK David Cameron has taken a hard line stance but is coming under mounting pressure to reverse it. His answer so far seems to be to build higher fences and employ more people to patrol them.

Germany thankfully is leading the way in the other direction. Under Ankela Merkel who says that 'To receive them well is not only in our interests, it is fundamental to an idea of what it means to be human" - they are welcoming them in. In fact one town sent so much help and goods that they had to be told to stop - and yet they still kept it coming. In the past 12 months Germany has received 300,000 asylum claims.

And Ireland? Ireland needs to step up to the mark. 600 people over two years are who we have offered to help. I'm actually embarrassed. Horrified and embarrassed.

What can we do?

Please sign this petition to Enda Kenny to tell him that as a country we choose to offer more. Then share, share and share again. It is only by people power that a difference can be made. Be one of those people that chose to make a difference. Take the hand of that little boy. 

Irish Parent Bloggers all over the country are staging an online blog march in support. You can read some of their post below. 

You can also join us on a world wide virtual coffee morning to raise much needed funds. Join up here and encourage your friends to do the same. 

If you feel you can and need to go further here are some more links to way and campaigns you can help.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What makes your heart sing?

Last weekend I sat in a packed room full of strangers listening to an old guy playing on a guitar. As I leaned forward with an involuntary smile on my face, all the stresses of the week fell away, my heart soared and I realised THIS MATTERS.

For me music is one of those things that makes my heart sing. Whether it's live music, car blaring music, drunk dancing music - it's one of those Life things that are just important to me.

Which got me thinking - what else makes my heart sing?

Before the thought even finished I'm in the cold sea on a hot day, surrounded by blue hues and a strange peace. Man I love the sea. *heart sings*

What else? Running? Running downhill. Running downhill in a forest. Check. The joy of the crest of that hill and how you suddenly come alive as your heartbeat thickens.

Travel. Not necessarily the getting there travel but the being there travel. New country, new scenery, new culture to explore. I've been lucky enough to have visited London, Dorset, The Peak District, New York and even Lapland in the past year - and am looking forward to adding Portugal to that list in a few weeks time.

Mountains. The pinnacle of The Great Outdoors. Where you get to throw your arms out wide and hug the world. I think I may have passed this particular joy on to someone else...

Obviously my kids make my heart explode with love daily, but that's a different kind of heart singing - it's a low, slow lullaby of love rather than a 'Yeah! This is living!' kind of high five to life. Maybe that's just me though... Of course those moments that you actually engage and watch and listen - those are the moments that matter. And sleeping - kids sleeping are definite joy makers.

Anyway, the point is that I think we all need to ask ourselves these questions more often.
Life can be one hard slog if we let it, so stop and ask ask yourself now - What matters? What makes my heart sing?

Then go forth and fill your life will more of it. Happy heart - happy you - happy life. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Science4You Soap Factory - A Review

We were recently sent a soap making kit from Science4You to test out and review. Science4You produce a range of scientific and educational toys that allow children to learn about scientific matters in a fun way. 

When is arrived in the post Kaya actually did a little happy dance and claimed that she had wanted to try soap making for YEARS. Who knew...?

With her brothers safely packed off out of the way she dived straight in. 

The Soap Factory  provides you with all you need to make a selection of soaps like a seahorse, a fish and a shell, adding different colour combinations and even glitter and different perfumes.  All of the products come with a 36 page educational booklet which delves into the basic concepts of science and how it applies to our everyday life. The booklets are all linked to the UK science curriculum.

As a parent of three kids between the ages of 6 and 11 I have seen a number of these type of kits come through the house - though this is the first Science4You product we've used. Quite often kits are supplied in big boxes which, once opened, produce a disappointing return. I can honestly say that this is not the case with this kit - which included solid soap, colouring, glitter, perfume, pipettes, gloves, moulds and even ribbons and wrap for gifting the finished product.

Kaya and her cousin tested out mixing colours, turning a solid soap into a liquid one and designing their own creations. They absolutely loved it, and although parental supervision is recommended I let them at it themselves - with strict instructions about using the microwave and lots of paper towels for mopping up spilt food colouring.

Science4You prides itself on designing toys that encourage education, fun and quality time with the family and I'd say they definitely hit the mark with this soap factory. 

Each of the Science4You products retail at £19.99 which isn't cheap - but it's a great bonding activity to do between friends, they learn and have fun doing it, and you could even factor in a gift for grandma or their teachers out of it. 

The girls had a really fun morning experimenting and there are lots of products left over for a second go. Plus we now have a lovely new glittery soap in the bathroom to use!

I am a member of the Netmums Blogging Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team to review products and brands on their behalf. I may have been paid expenses, and have been supplied with a product sample for this review, but retain all editorial control. All my Netmums Reviews will display the Netmums logo within the post
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