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LIFESTYLE: PREPPING YOUR SUITCASE FOR A FAMILY HOLIDAY



If you’ve ever been on a road trip, a weekend away or just popped off to stay with your folk for a few nights, you’ll know parenting rule #12 is absolutely true: kids are not famed for traveling light. This is a problem that us parents have to try and overcome, quickly finding a solution to fit all the bits and bobs they need without a) sacrificing all the stuff you need and b) having to pay the super-hefty price for going over your luggage allowance at the airport.


We know this sounds crazy and impossible and more fabled than a polka dot unicorn, but you can do it. The trick is nailing the preparation stage of the process. Sure, having a few heavy duty combination padlocks on hand to keep the lid closed, knowing how to pack light and making total use of your hand luggage are all going to help in their own little way, but the prep stage is still the most important. So, without further ado, here’s what you need to know:


1. Get The Notepad
The first thing you need to do is grab a pen and a piece of paper (or just open the note app of your smartphone) and create an individual “what to pack list” for every person in your family. This will help you get a pretty solid understanding of what each person needs and how to best make it all fit. To really be on the ball, make sure you highlight any items you’ll need to keep out until right before you leave; things like your kids’ favorite toys, any electronics you use, chargers, toothbrushes, snacks -that sort of stuff. Then make a copy of this and call it your “everything we took list” to help you on your return.


2. Lay It All Out
The next step is the most cliched one of all, but it works. You need to lay everything out on your bed, and we mean everything, and then make individual piles for your different family members. The reason for this is a slightly psychological one: by seeing everything you’re planning on packing in one place you’ll be giving yourself that “whoa, that’s a lot of stuff” and that will help you avoid over-packing. Once laid out, try and reduce the amount by a third and pack some non-liquid laundry tablets instead.


3. Divide and conquer.
This is where the art of packing really starts to unfold, and it’s about dividing your kid’s stuff up. So, what you need to do is try and sort out your children’s outfits by day and then pack them into separate ziplock bags. You can even stick on a sticky white label if you fancy. That’s one way to do it. The other thing you can do is pack things that are similar, like shirts with shirts and dresses with dresses and so on, popping them into separate vacuum-pack bags. Oh, and as a general rule of thumb: always pack an extra day’s outfit. Trust us on that one.

LIFESTYLE: FAMILY FRIENDLY VACATION IDEAS FOR NEXT SUMMER

Sadly, the summer is pretty much over now and it’s time to start looking forward to the fall, and then eventually the winter time. However, that doesn’t mean that you can begin thinking about your next summer vacation. When you’ve got a family, there’s so much more to think about when you want to take everyone away for a nice break, so planning this far in advance makes sense. Not only that, booking something now would give you the chance to save enough money in time for your vacation, while also giving you all something to look forward to. Take a look at these family friendly vacation ideas for next summer and see if any of them take your fancy!

Photo by Yanguang Lan on Unsplash

Hoburne holidays

If you’ve not already heard of Hoburne, they are a company with a series of caravan and lodge parks all over the UK. With beautiful destinations and many locations all over, you’re sure to find a park near you that can offer the perfect stay for you and your family. The parks are super family orientated, with a play area for the children, indoor and outdoor pools, entertainment for both adults and children in the evenings, and even pedlows! Each park of course, may vary slightly, so take a look and see which one fits your needs and wants the best! Our recommendation is the Cotswold Park as it’s got all of the above included! They also give visitors wristbands so that they’re able to enter the on site luxuries for free.

Adventure holidays

Perhaps your children are that little bit older and you’re all up for the idea of something a bit more adrenaline pumping? While there are many different adventure holidays to consider, a personal favourite of ours is the Great Barrier reef tours from Hamilton Island as you’ve got different packages that you can choose from. With the options of scuba diving, exploring the great barrier reef, glass bottom boats, flight tours of the beautiful area, and even sailing, you’re sure to all have a wonderful vacation that will not only feed your adrenaline, but leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed too.

Sun, sea and sand holidays

Sometimes, all you need from a vacation is the sun, the sea, and plenty of sand. We couldn’t decide a destination here, so here’s some suggestions to give you some ideas:
  • Sunny beach in Bulgaria. An up and coming tourist location that fits the bill perfectly. Another bonus? It’s super cheap out there and the locals are very friendly.
  • Albufeira in Portugal is another amazing destination for families. With villas dotted around all over the place, imagine having your own private pool within a stones throw of the beach!
  • Salou in Spain is somewhere else to consider going as it offers plenty of eating out places, markets to buy nik naks, and an incredible white sandy beach that goes on for miles.

Which one has taken your fancy? Consider planning now for an easy to afford and super amazing vacation to look forward to next summer!

REVIEW: ESCAPE HUNT BIRMINGHAM - BLACKBEARD'S TREASURE

BLACKBEARD'S TREASURE LAUNCHES TODAY!
FRIDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER

We went along to Escape Hunt Birmingham on Wednesday for their press night to try out their new escape room game, Blackbeard's Treasure. Clint came along with me as neither of us have done an escape room before, we were super excited to take part and try the new room. I didn't really know what to expect, all I knew was that it was a pirate theme and that we would need to try and escape the room. 

We arrived at the press event and had a glass of Prosecco and some nibbles before we went into the room.

We had to put all of our bags, phones etc into a box outside the room, which is then locked so you can't use your phone etc whilst in the room.

I won't go into detail about inside the room because I don't want to ruin it for anyone who's interested. 

It was quite hard, as I said i've never done an escape room before so wasn't too sure what we were going to need to do. We got inside and just started by having a good sweep of the room! 

It was really fun and I loved it! It was really challenging but in a fun, exciting way! 

You can have as many clues as you like, we didn't ask for clues but was given a few as we went along which was really helpful and helped us progress through the room. 

You get 60 minutes to complete the room and we managed to do it with 13 seconds to spare!!!! 
The last 5 minutes were so exciting because we were rushing to try and complete the room. 

We had such a lovely time and we definitely want to go again and complete one of the other stories! 
I think we are both addicted to Escape rooms now and can't wait to do another one. 


Games are auitable for players age 10 and over. Anyone under 16 must be accompained by an adult. Blackbeard's Treasure opens today, Friday 14th September costing £25 per person for groups of two or three, and £20 per person for groups of four to six. Book Now- www.escapehunt.com/Birmingham





* we were invited along to the press launch at Escape Hunt - Blackbeard's Treasure. Our visit was complementary. I have not been paid for this blog post. 

LIFESTYLE: SO YOU'RE PREGNANT, NOW WHAT?

Finding out that you’re pregnant could be the most exciting and most terrifying experience or your life. That is especially the case if you didn’t plan the baby, and the entire thing has come as somewhat of a shock for everyone involved. Still, you will soon become the mother of a healthy baby boy or girl, and so you need to start thinking about your plan of action. There are some suggestions below that should help you to prepare for the arrival of your baby. Use this information as your starting point, and keep working until you’re confident you’ve left no stone unturned.


Move into a more suitable home

If this is your first baby and you’re still quite young; you probably don’t live in a home suitable for little children. Maybe you rent a flat or something similar because it’s cheap? Well, now is the time to start looking for a more sensible place to bring up your kids. Remember there are lots of costs involved, and so you will need to create a budget. Do not overlook the cost of paying estate agent fees, dealing with end of tenancy cleaning, and kitting out your new house or apartment. Try to do everything as cheaply as possible, so you have lots of money left over to spoil your little one when he or she arrives.


Arrange your maternity leave

At some point; you will have to tell your boss that you’re pregnant and arrange some maternity leave. In the UK at the moment, women are entitled to up to 39 weeks of maternity leave. However, you won’t get your full salary for the entirety of that period, and the situation varies in different countries around the world. So, make sure you research the process ahead of time to ensure you understand the ins and outs before mentioning it to your boss. That will give your employer enough notice to ensure they can arrange some cover too.


Attend some parenting classes

You might think that you’re excellent with children and you don’t need parenting classes. However, the reality is that you will reduce your anxiety levels and limit any mistakes you make with the child if you go to at least a few of those sessions. You will spend time with other mothers in the same situation as you, and so you can ask each other questions, and seek advice and support. Search online for suitable classes in your local area and attend them as soon as possible.

The advice on this page is an excellent starting point, but you need to do a lot more to prepare for the arrival of your child. With that in mind, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you will reach your goal eventually. If you’ve only just discovered that you are pregnant; you have another eight or nine months to sort everything out. So, don’t rush yourself too much and try to do everything at a steady pace.

Good luck with becoming a mommy! You’re going to do great.



*collaborative post

LIFESTYLE: MAKING THE TOUGH DECISION ON GROWING YOUR FAMILY

Due to the way our lives pan out in the modern day, couples need to make tough decisions all the time about their family. From the everyday choices about what kind of food to buy pertaining to any diet goals, all the way to the very hard choices of where to live, medical treatments, and financial planning. Couples have to constantly be thinking about the future, unfortunately, there is no other way of raising a family other than to be vigilant about how your lives are changing. However, when you are in a committed relationship and you truly want to raise a family together, then making the decisions of how, when, where are merely formalities that have followed the ‘if’ and the ‘why’. So when you can relax and feel satisfied that you are both going to have children, provide a home and stable family life, the only thing left to do is, to do it. The mentally exhausting bit is over, and now although it will get tiresome at least you now have a set path that you have both agreed to follow. After a few years, you have children, the home is being financially paid off, you’re both still in love with each other just as much, and you’re both living fulfilling lives. What if you want more children? What if you’re wanting too much? How should you decide on whether growing your family beyond the size it is now?






It's just getting started


Before you jump to any kind of long drawn-out thought process about having more children, ask yourself are you steady enough right now? If you have had more than one child, after the first few years of parenting, things can become monotonous. This is because you’re used to your children’s cries, their feeding and naptime. However, soon they will be old enough to go to daycare and or the very early stages of school. A whole new world of parenting challenges will then begin to befall you. Helping them with homework, taking them to school after getting them dressed and fed will be a new lifestyle for your family.


In other words, it's just getting started. Your parenting skills are going to be put to the test as your children leave their infant years and head into being toddlers. If you were to have another child, could you balance the newborn and your existing children? It isn’t just the fact that it's a new child, you’re back to square one again. Somebody will need to be on call 24-hours a day, ready to attend the crying baby all throughout the night and day. Can you and your partner juggle these responsibilities right now if you were to bring home a newborn tomorrow? If not, what could you do to make preparations? Is your home ready? What about your finances etc?







Are you both aligned?


In the beginning, when you and your partner decided to have children, it was because both of you shared a similar goal in life. You both wanted to start a family, but now that your family is here and life has since normalised, does that flame still burn in both of you? One of you may want more children, but the other may not. This is a tough and rough road to drive on when you’re both in a committed relationship and marriage. You don’t want to bring a child into the world without both parents actually wanting it to be born. Right from the beginning, the child will be lacking two strong loving entities. In other words, there may be regret in one or possibly even both of you if you have a child that wasn’t wanted and or planned.





Occupational security


Newborn babies cost a lot of money, not just to look after, but to accommodate for their lives in the home. The crib, cot, clothes, food, medicines and more can slice a portion off your monthly disposable income. Many families that have infants and or toddlers, will have one parent work full-time while the other parent stays at home and looks after the children. If this is the case with your household, then you need to have a serious talk with each other regarding job security. Say you had a new child, would you and your partner’s current job be stable enough for at least 5 years or so?


Economic downturns come around every two decades or so, and sometimes even earlier. Is the job you or your partner has, secure in this regard? Everyone is replaceable at their work, but some more so than others. Do you have a senior position which is important to the company that will be one of the few jobs that aren’t looked at for cuts? Does the job offer bonuses for targets met and good team leadership of any kind? As long as the occupation of the person that will be needed to fund the new baby is secure, then that is one less thing to worry about when he or she arrives.





Are you capable?


When women get passed a certain age, such as over 40, it becomes harder and harder to have a baby safely. The biological clock is ticking and the best years to have a child are in your early 20s to your late 30s. It's a fact of life that you need to accept and not argue with. If you do, it could put your life or the baby’s life in danger as the stresses and strains are sometimes too much on the body. However, some couples opt for the man to take measures and not be able to impregnate anymore as they get ‘the snip’. If this is something that is relevant to the father in the relationship, consider the vasectomy reversal cost after the operation. It's a frequently asked question, whether or not it can be reversed so the man can perform again. However, it's a case by case basis and not everyone is going to have the same chance. The simple answer is, if one was to get this kind of operation done in the first place, it's best to treat it as something that will be permanent, so as to not run any risk of regret or possible medical complications when trying to turn back time.





The family harmony


The family dynamic is also an issue that needs to be carefully considered as it will be the most affected in the short and long-term. The psychology of the family dynamic is not very well understood by many parents, and this can cause rifts. Children are all vying for the attention and affection of their parents. The child or the children that you already have, know where they stand in the family hierarchy. The parents are going to be at the top, while siblings will be in another group. If you have brought them up equally, there won’t be much rivalry as they’re both worth the same to you, is how they will see it. If you do treat them differently due to age, responsibilities and or anything else for that matter, there will be a bit of figurative pushing and shoving to receive your attention. If a new baby is injected into this, now the children will feel as if they are second to the newborn. So if you are going to have a new child, it's best to sit your children down and inform them of how life is going to change for the family.


Do you have the room?


Chances are that you will have to move your children in together into one room if you can. Most family homes are 3-bedroom, which means that if you have two children you’ll have to move them into one room so the baby can be on his or her own. Consequently, will you be selling the beds of the children, and getting a bunk bed instead to save room? What if you simply don’t have enough room in your home to have a new child, what are you other options? The only other ways are to save up for a home that does have more than three bedrooms, or possibly, extend your current home, such as making a spare bedroom in the attic or basement. Bear in mind that you should be planning for the home to have enough room for growing children, as one day that little baby will one day be like your other children that need space to themselves.


To grow or not to grow, that is the question. The thing is, that many parents had a plan, they followed it and only later did they realise that they underestimated themselves. And, now when deciding on whether or not to have another baby, there are a whole new set of circumstances. The first and most importantly for your safety is, are you still physically capable of having a baby? Don’t put yourself in unnecessary risk if you are heading toward 40. However, if you’re younger, then factor in all the possible issues that could make life harder for you before going through with anything.


*collaborative post

FASHION: HOW TO STYLE DENIM FOR WORK





Wearing denim in the office

Dress codes might be more relaxed in the office these days, but sometimes you want to look a little sharper at work. Smart dressing can sometimes set your mind for a productive day after all, where a comfy baggy shirt might be a little too relaxing to your motivation. Denim can be a difficult one to balance in the office in this regard, but when used right, it can be the holy grail of smart, yet comfortable. Here to guide you is leading retailer of women's straight legged jeans, Trilogy Stores:


Picking jeans

Black denim is a safe bet for work. Worn with a patterned shirt tucked in, black high-waisted jeans can create a more fitted look than black work pants. The high-waist element of the jean can elongate your legs — perfect when matched with your favourite pair of heeled courts. Buy a pair of black jeans with a playful hem to add an edge to your outfit that’s still smart.

Some on-trend culottes are another fantastic choice for a smart look. Black or indigo jean culottes paired with a smart blouse, oversized jacket, and peep-toe flats is one outfit that would look summery yet work-appropriate. Tuck your blouse in to neaten up your outfit and add heels when heading out for after-office drinks.

You can pair cropped leg jeans with loafers and a cami-blouse for a summer-friendly office outfit. If you feel like adding a pop of colour to your look, but don’t want to go too loud, opt for a pastel palette. Lilac or sky-blue denim can complement a smart shirt well — ideal for keeping it bright and cool when the sun is shining too.

You can smarten up a pair of blue classic jeans too. With a sleeveless white shirt tucked in and a checked blazer, you can create a fashionable ensemble that’s anything but boring. Slip on your point-toe pumps and begin your commute.

White jeans also have a place in a smart office outfit. Worn with a dark or pastel shirt, white denim can be work-appropriate — choose a pair with a slim-leg to create a smart, summer look.

Going with a denim skirt
The office go-to: a pencil skirt and shirt. It’s one way to feel feminine without revealing too much and can look uber stylish as part of a power suit. Why not trade in your black midi garment for a denim skirt?
Denim skirts in a dark-wash are super-popular this season. Avoid distressed denim and light-washes as these can appear more beachwear than workwear, and steer clear of any pieces that sit far above the knee. Instead, a pencil-style skirt in navy or black denim worn with a ruffle shirt is a go-to outfit. Pair with a fitted jacket to replicate the power-suit, or with a floaty blazer for a less formal look. For added embellishments, choose one with subtle press studs down the centre and leave the bottom stud undone to create a leg split. Alternatively, an A-line denim skirt can be a smart look, paired with a long-sleeved crew-neck and heeled ankle boots.

Be bold with daring colours. Similar to when wearing denim jeans, pastel coloured fitted skirts are a fun go-to for the warmer months — tuck in a chiffon blouse and wear with heeled sandals or pointed ankle boots. Or, if you’re feeling more daring, opt for a bold red or green denim skirt and wear with a classic black V-neck to tone it down. Co-ordinate your outfit with a complementing coloured cross-over or tote bag.


There’s really no reason why denim can’t work in the office. Make sure that this dress-code is accepted in your office before you start wearing jeans to work, and if it is, there’s no need to hold back! From stylish indigo culottes to studded pencil skirts, bringing denim to the office can keep you fashionable and well-dressed. Don’t forget to accessorise appropriately too, cross-body bags are a good way to inject some colour into your outfit and a tailored blazer is





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LIFESTYLE: WINTER DECOR UPGRADES FOR YOUR HOME






Is that a slight nip in the air you can feel? Has the sun decided to take some respite after the summer season? These are both signs that the longer nights are coming in, and pretty soon you will be faced with the highs and lows of the winter season. Before Jack Frost trundles along trailing his chilly fingers around your home, it's time to add to your winter wishlist. The following home decor additions may be considered indispensable in the weeks and months to come, so start to prepare your home for the chilly season now.





Winter Decor Upgrades For Your Home




  • Something for your feet. If you have hardwood flooring around your home, you need to purchase something warmer to sink your feet into. A plush sheepskin rug would make a great addition to your living room or any one of the wide varieties of carpet at Carpet One. You might also consider investing in underfloor heating if your budget can stretch to it, or at the very least, a soft pair of slippers to keep your feet nice and toasty.

  • Something to warm your bones. There's nothing better than putting your feet up in front of an open fire during the colder months, or at the very least, an artificial one. Your radiators and electric heaters just don't provide the same feelings of cosiness, so have a look at the fireplace suites on offer here. Whether you go for marble, limestone, or a beautiful stone effect, choose something that matches your budget and current home decor.

  • Something to snuggle into. Cosy up your furniture by adding some soft and warm fleece blankets. Snuggle into them when you're sat on the sofa watching your favourite Netflix box sets, or lay them across your bedroom duvet to give you added feelings of warmth when you're snuggled up in bed. Again, choose a design that matches the decor in your home, and you will have something that won't look out of place, wherever you decide to lay your blankets.

  • Something to give you a warm feeling. To add atmosphere in your home, invest in warm lighting to enhance your living space during the winter months. And by warm, we are referring to lanterns and candle designs that can offer you an extra source of heat, and light choices that blaze with warm colours to evoke a cosy mood when you're sat at home during the evening. Take a look at these warm indoor lights, and see what takes your fancy.

  • Something to provide a warm winter welcome. Decorate your porch in time for the winter season. From fruit displays and wreaths on your door to evergreen trees and plants in hanging baskets, consider these winter porch decor ideas, and provide an attractive entryway into your (hopefully) warm and cosy home. Just the thing when you want to get into the wintry mood before you shut the door and settle in for the evening with a glass of mulled wine.






What do you think? Do any of these ideas appeal to you? Do you have any winter decor ideas of your own to share with us? Let us know, and help us all get ready for the chilly season.






*collaborative post