Dreaming of Disney World Florida….

A few months ago, I had this sudden light bulb moment that maybe a trip to Disney Land Paris would be a good idea. I started looking at reviews, and quite frankly it started to appeal to me less and less. But then I had a ridiculous thought that maybe, just maybe I should have a sneaky look at Disney World Florida….

Now I knew it was going to be expensive, but as I am a bit of a gluten for expensive taste, I am a splurger, I like expensive things, I didn’t let this put me off. I joined some Facebook groups for British people wanting to visit, and I have been amazed just how cheap the amazing dream of DisneyWorld actually can be. But did I want a cheap holiday of a lifetime? No, I want to have an amazing holiday where I can enjoy it and not worry about money, but at the same time try and bag myself a huge bargain without compromising the quality.

So mentioning the thought of Florida to my sister, she decides she wants to go, and of course she has a man and a child. A family holiday, never done one of those before! Then my mother decides that she would love to go too…so far we have quite a clan going. Which is cool, and means a bigger villa will be even cheaper if we split the cost. Looking at accommodation, I found that many of the properties out in Orlando are owned by Brits who use it as a source of income, many are on gated developments that are purchased purely for renting to tourists. These are SO reasonable in prices.

But then I opened up a Disney World brochure and saw the amazing hotels, and the Art of Animation looked amazing! It is everything my kids (and me!) would dream for, but the price was still way too high for my liking. It is literally a case of it costing more to stay there than it would for our flights! So I went back to the villa idea, and that is where I sticking at the moment. I seem to have been taken down a bug, a Disney planning bug. My spare time has been dedicated to reading peoples trip reports, searching prices and even looking up the best places to eat. So I decided I am going to start blogging right here, share my daily findings, my plan, my savings and hopefully someone else might benefit from it too.

So my current plan is 2019, dates have been a huge stumbling block as my son is due to start his GCSEs, and there is no way I can take him out on his last year of school. I thought July would be good, as his exams will be over, but I have read that July is the WORST time to go. This is peak season for American school holidays, the heat is at its worst too. I just don’t think this is a sensible decision to make, but I am waiting to speak to my sister to get her thoughts. September was my next thought, but my eldest starts college for the first time, and there is no way I would stop that as I believe those first few weeks will be vital for him to find his feet with others in a similar position. So my current plan is October, to coincide with the half term holidays.

So where do you start planning a holiday? I have come to the conclusion that villas should be the first thing. As flights are not released for sale until 11 months before travelling, and even then you shouldn’t buy them straight away as they go down in price. I have a fair bit of time to be able to work out when the best prices are so stay tuned for a blog post on my findings.

Oh and I have started saving… this beauty was in Clintons for £5.99. It’s ceramic and has no stopper, so it’s a serious savings pot that I hope I won’t smash before I have to change it up for dollars! *keep everything crossed*

Guest Post: Historic days out for the whole family

You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a great family day out. The UK has a wide range of attractions suitable for all ages.
Historical days out can be educational as well as enjoyable and there’s so many interesting places you can head to. Here you’ll find a selection of the best country houses, castles and museums in the country.
  1. Knole
The 1,000 acre Knole Tudor house is one of the most popular attractions in the UK. Featuring a medieval deer park, the house was once owned by Elizabeth I. She gave the house to Thomas Sackville, her cousin, in 1566 and it’s been in the family ever since. The famous ‘Orlando’ novel written by Virginia Woolf is actually based upon the Sackville family.
The kids will love seeing the graceful deer grazing around the property. Meanwhile inside there’s a great collection of Royal Stuart furniture, as well as paintings from artists such as Van Dyke and Gainsborough. This is a great attraction to visit all year round. Many people have actually been inspired to update their own home after visiting this impressive property. Why not update yours with beautiful timber Victorian doors. 
  1. Bodiam Castle
Based in East Sussex, the Bodiam Castle is one of the most magnificent examples of a medieval castle in the world. Your kids will love arriving at this stunning attraction. Like something out of a fairytale, the castle is more than 600 years old. Once owned by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, this castle was actually designed more for its style than anything else. Don’t miss the impressive spiral staircases and the extremely impressive gatehouse.
  1. Windsor Castle
If it’s castles you’re interested in, the Windsor Castle is an absolute must. It’s the biggest and oldest occupied castle in the world, not to mention the main residence of the Queen. It has a history that dates back more than 1000 years. There’s a drawings gallery, St George’s Chapel and Queen Mary’s Dolls House to explore. The rooms in the Castle are absolutely stunning. You’ll walk away in awe at how exquisitely the castle has been designed.


Top 3 Superheroes For Fancy Dress

A great way to add fun to any party is to add a fancy dress theme, and these days there is no escaping one particular dressing up favourite. Superheroes have risen to prominence in all aspects of culture, with massive blockbuster films like The Avengers and The Dark Knight ushering in a new age of geek dominance. Just take a look at George at ASDA’s fancy dress range to see the huge choice of dress up available to choose from at great prices and see how big superheroes have become. But what are the best characters? While it may be slightly cool to know and follow lesser-known characters, having no one recognise your costume is no fun, so here are the best options to keep you identifiable and show off your great taste in costumed adventurers!
Everyone knows of the X-Men but not everyone knows all the X-Men. Iceman was one of the first five to be recruited to Charles Xavier’s school for gifted youngsters and receive training to use his chilly mutation to become a superhero. His costume has been all sorts from his conception to present day, from standard issue X-emblazoned jumpsuit to leather jacket and jeans. This one ticks the dressing up fun box of painting yourself a new colour too. Paint yourself an icy shade of blue, gel your hair all spiky and you can be Bobby Drake – The Iceman, with ease!
He may be over-exposed, but what true comic book fans know is that it’s for a very good reason. Very few other characters boast the amazing library of stories that Batman does and his presence in pop culture is rock solid. Due to his mass appeal, Batman crops up all over the place, with incarnations suitable for all ages and therefore this is a fancy dress costume for all occasions. The caped crusader has many looks from brooding gravel-voice Dark Knight style to Adam West super-light-hearted adventurer and there are costumes to match any of these.
So you want to be an Avenger for your superhero party? An Iron Man costume will look more like underwhelming-cotton-man, you don’t fancy getting all painted up for Hulk, Captain America is a bit lame and Thor has too much hair? Only one man on this team is a super badass spy who needs nothing but a bow and arrow and a leather vest to fight off an alien invasion. This conveniently also makes him quite easy to dress as and his fame has skyrocketed since appearing alongside his super-powered friends in The Avengers.

These are just a few of the huge roster of superheroes there are to choose from to dress up as to make any occasion that much more memorable. Comic books and graphic novels offer some incredible stories and brilliant art but when it’s time to party their best feature is providing some awesome characters with cool costumes to dress up as while you have a fun filled night!

5 Places To Spend Quality Family Time On The Weekend

As a working mother of four beautiful children, my weekends are precious family time. During the week there is little time to relax and enjoy each others company, it is a mad whirl of school runs, work and housework. As Friday approaches there is always a happy feel, and I really try to get the kids out and about every weekend. It doesn’t have to be for expensive days out, I am a firm believer that some of the best memories come from the simple things. 

1. A trip to the park. I love exploring new parks with the children, our local park is pretty good but there is always something more exciting about visiting a new one. The children love finding new equipment, trying it out, and I love that  I can join in and revert back to being a child. Best of all, it’s free! Take a look at local villages and towns, you might be surprised. 

2. Swimming. In the summer there is nothing better than visiting the outdoor splash parks. In winter I have found it great to visit the local indoor pools. There is normally a fun session at weekends, and the average price for a family ticket is only about £10. It wears the children out lovely. 

3. A weekend away. As the ultimate treat UK holiday parks are great for a weekend break, it’s a real chance to escape the everyday life of domestic chores. You get to eat out, not look at the washing pile and even treat the children to some night time entertainment which hopefully tires them out and gives you a lay in. A lot of the UK holiday parks are near beaches too, so there is plenty of exploring to be done. 

4. The Zoo. I find the winter months even better for a trip to the zoo, summer time always seems too hot. During the summer I find the animals are hiding from the sun whereas in the winter they seem to come out and embrace the weather. Simply wrap the kids up in waterproofs, and off you go. There is lots of activities put on during different seasons by the zoo’s, so check the website of the one you plan to visit beforehand. 

5. Steam Train rides. A visit to the local railway museum can be very exciting, especially if you get to ride on an actual train. Take a look at local ones, there is events happening all year round, with santa visits and Thomas the Tank Engine rides too. Some other railway centres also have additional features such as a miniature railway too. 

What’s your favourite weekend activity?

How Much Do You Ask The Kids To Muck In With Chores

Let’s face it: as a busy mum, sometimes you just can’t get all of the household chores done yourself. Whether it be making the kids’ beds in the morning, wiping down the kitchen countertop for the umpteenth time, or doing an emergency load of laundry to get the sauce stains out of your daughter’s favourite white dress, you can never quite cross every item off your list of chores. Wouldn’t it be great to have a little help around the home?

If you’ve begun to feel more like a maid than a mum, you might want to consider asking the kids to muck in with the chores. The most obvious pro to assigning chores to the kids is that the more helping hands you have, the less work there will be for everyone to do. Assigning your kids two or three age-appropriate tasks to do every day will significantly reduce your own workload. Have them make their own beds, tidy up their rooms, fold the laundry, or take out the rubbish so that you can focus on more important responsibilities. Older children will be able to help with more complicated tasks; they could help prepare meals, mow the lawn, wash the car, or sell my computer games over the internet to help reduce clutter in the home.

Kids who do housework also learn some important life skills, such as responsibility, accountability, and teamwork. These skills will prove valuable in other areas of their life, such as school and work, so instilling these values now can help your children to become more successful adults in the future. And even though your children will likely complain about doing chores, they’ll ultimately feel a sense of accomplishment when they lend a helping hand.

On a more practical note, learning how to keep a tidy house is an essential step to your children becoming fully functional adults. The sooner they learn how to sweep the floors and water the plants, the better off they’ll be when they move out of the house and try living on their own for the very first time. While your kids won’t understand this benefit until they’re older, it’s important to start helping them establish their independence now.

Of course, you should be prepared to remind the kids often of their responsibilities, as they’ll likely be reluctant to join in with the housework. Consider developing some sort of incentive system for your kids when they go above and beyond the call of duty as well.

What do you think? Do you ask your kids to help with the chores and if so, how many chores do you think are appropriate for them to do? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!

When your eldest starts Secondary School

Next year my son will start secondary school, and that is a scary thought! I remember starting High School myself, and I remember how scary it was. But only this is different, Jordan has learning difficulties. Starting High School and being the youngest ones there is not good, you feel vulnerable, you feel exposed, and lets face it, kids can be cruel. I remember kids being picked on from everything from the shoes they wore, to the bag they were carrying, or even what they looked like. I wasn’t immune from the bullying, and I had the odd moment where people said nasty things, and in all honesty the worst kind of time for me was my third year in high school when I got really awful acne. No word of a lie, my hormones must of been in overdrive and my back was covered. It didn’t help that we had to do swimming, in costumes that showed all my spotty back. I would of tried any acne treatments available, and I even ended up on a long course of tablets from the doctor to help it. But that of course didn’t stop the comments and remarks. Instead I found every excuse possible to get out of swimming, from my heavy period to sports injury. The teachers would just give me an hours detention if I didn’t do the swimming, it didn’t bother me, I would of rather spent an hour stood in the sports hall than even spent a minute exposing my back to the world. 

But my acne problems disappeared after a while, and it made me stronger. It made me also realise how other kids feel, and I made more effort to talk to the kids who were not as popular and even some who were bullied worse than I ever was. But what about my son, he is not as strong as me mentally, he has Autism, he has ADHD and he knows he is different. What if the kids pick on him? He has feelings too, and I won’t be there to protect him from them and stick up for him. That is the hard part. 

The health benefits of drinking coffee

f you have a cup of coffee or two every morning, you’ll probably already know that it can make you feel great and get your day off to a good start.

What you may not know is that drinking your daily cup of coffee can have a range of other health benefits, and by brewing up your hit of caffeine you could be protecting yourself from a host of future illnesses.

Though it’s difficult to know all of the benefits for sure, here are the top reasons why drinking your cup of coffee could be saving your life:

It reduces the risk of type II diabetes

A recent study showed that a compound found in coffee helps to block a substance in the body that plays a role in the development of type II diabetes, a disease often caused by lifestyle and dietary factors.

It reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease

As the first and second most common neurodegenerative disorders in the world, reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease is incredibly important.

Studies have shown that regular coffee drinkers lower their risk of developing the diseases by up to 60%. A considerable margin for such serious disorders.

It reduces the risk of oral cancer

So far there hasn’t been too much research on the links between coffee drinking and cancers, but recent research has shown a link between drinking coffee and a reduced chance of contracting oral cancer.

In fact the more you fire up your Tassimo coffee machine the better, as those who drank four cups a day showed the biggest reduction in developing oral cancer.

It increases cognitive performance

You may well already know that drinking coffee helps your short-term memory recall, but it can increase your cognitive performance in lots of other areas as well.

Research designed to test cognitive reaction showed that those who drank coffee on a regular basis had faster simple reaction times, choice reaction times, verbal memory and reasoning.

It can reduce your chance of death

Ok, well, coffee can’t reduce your chance of death altogether – but it can help to delay the inevitable for as long as possible.

Drinking three of more cups a day will help to stop you succumbing to heart disease and range of other life-shortening conditions, and surprisingly it didn’t seem to make a difference whether the coffee was caffeinated or not.

So whether you’re trying to increase your brain power, protect yourself from disease or cheat death altogether, get yourself some coffee beans, fire up the kettle – and get drinking.

Toddler Fashion Wishlist

Toddler Fashion Wishlist
Some say that kids are becoming fashionable too early but when it comes to self-confidence, the earlier style is developed the best. We’re always told to express ourselves and while guidance is needed, outfit choices should always be there for your toddler. Let’s take a look at this summer’s fashion list.
Children’s Hunter Wellies. With 150 years experience behind them, Hunter of Edinburgh is a global brand with diversity and style. Whether you’re taking your toddler to their first festival or you’re expecting some muddy adventures during the summer months, embrace on-trend wellington boots with a pair of these for your child.
Converse All Stars. It’s been some rise to fame for these sneakers, and it’s time your toddler made a statement with a pair this summer. Perfect for walking through the woods or to take on holiday, treat your child with some top footwear that you can design yourself if you wish!
Christopher Fischer, Pink & Peach Cashmere Cardigan. Soft to touch and a joy to wear, your little girl will love this item from the latest line of Christopher Fischer. Complete with a mini teddy bear, this will be great for the evenings when the temperature drops a bit or for those milder days out.
Gingham Shirts. Whether in long or short sleeved, these are great easy to wear and cost effective shirts for summer. Going to a special occasion or need to smarten up for a weekend? These are the ideal complement for cords or chinos for your little boy.
Tommy Hilfiger Beige Chinos. Speaking of chinos, these classics would mix perfectly with shirts for a smart occasion. But, the versatility of chinos means they’re perfect for a casual day out too. Elastic waistband means they are a comfortable fit for your boy.
Oh Baby London Leggings. Fun and cost effective, these pieces are great for your girl’s wardrobe. Soft and stretchy, they are a comfortable and bold addition to any ensemble. Popular in diagonal stripes and leopard print, there are plenty of others to choose from.
Bermuda shorts. Great for boys and girls, Bermuda and cargo shorts need to be part of any wardrobe. Semi casual, they are perfect for holiday wear and comfortable to be walking around. In various colours, they can be found everywhere but alexandalexa and Old Navy have a particularly nice range.
Benetton waterproof jackets. These lightweight jackets are available in bright blue, red and navy and are crucial for British summertime. We’ve learnt to not trust the weather in Britain and these are great to have in the boot of the car or in a bag when out and about.
Junior Gaultier Black Suit. If your young man needs a sophisticated look for a wedding or other occasion then this has to be on the wishlist. A pricey number, it is complete luxury that is tailored faultlessly.
These are some of the best fashion pieces on offer this summer. There a plenty of other options in the collections that are cute and useful for you boys or girl. Start them on their way to style with a new wardrobe this season.

Graco Evo Mini Review – Guest Post.

This post is by the lovely and awesome Liz, who blogs at http://www.hartofthemunchkinpatch.co.uk/

Pushchairs are for big girls too, mummy …!

Since our Graco testing began a few weeks ago, all of or focus at the Munchkin Patch has been on how much Beastie is loving it and how perfect it is for her. I think someone has been feeling a little left out! Munchkin has asked on a number of occasions if she can “have a ride in the orange buggy“. As a rule, Munchkin doesn’t use a pushchair any more. She walks everywhere. However, she does get very tired when she does a lot of walking, and therefore, we were delighted that the Evo Mini was a pushchair that could comfortably accommodate them both. Therefore, I couldn’t let our testing period end without Munchkin taking it for a proper test drive. After all, the Graco Evo Mini is suitable up to 15kg, so plenty big enough for my 13kg bundle of fun!

This week, Munchkin’s nursery held a ‘Bedtime Stories’ session from 5-6pm. This was held on a non-nursery day for her, so she was very excited at the thought of going into school on her day off (crazy child!!) The idea was she would go to nursery at 5pm dressed in her pyjamas and slippers, accompanied by a favourite cuddly toy and they would enjoy an hour of bedtime stories whilst sharing milk and cookies. I suggested she could walk to nursery in her shoes and change into her slippers at nursery …

No way! Slippers would be worn both to and from nursery! And a dressing gown would replace a coat too …!

Her solution was that she would ride in the orange buggy to save her slippers from getting dirty. I didn’t argue with her idea. It made sense. She had insisted on taking her new friend, Pinkie Pie, along to Bedtime Stories with her, who is almost as big as she is. Therefore it would save any encounters with muddy puddles and prevent me from being lumbered with a huge cuddly pink bundle in my arms for 85% of the walk!

As you can see, our Evo Mini is plenty big enough for both Munchkin and Pinkie Pie!

It was also a very windy evening which bothers Munchkin immensely! She does not deal with the windy weather well at all. As soon as we stepped outside and she jumped into the seat of the pushchair, she said, 

“Oooh, mummy, my orange buggy shuts all of the wind out!!”

Of course, the Graco Evo Mini’s hood does not act as a complete wind shield, but she clearly felt the benefit of being in there straight away. She claims that the wind couldn’t get to her because …

“… my orange buggy has the biggest hood in the world!!”

As you can see, there is no discomfort here at all. She fits perfectly well into the seat without feeling cramped. On the way home, she even asked me to put the seat into the reclined position so she could test that out, and then announced that she was planning on having a little sleep!! That told me she must have been comfortable!! When I asked her what her favourite bits about the Graco Evo Mini were, the first thing she pointed to was the foot rest! I asked her why that was the best part and she replied, 

“It just feels nice on my feet, mummy. That’s all!”

I am very used to pushing Beastie around in the Evo Mini and was wondering how much heavier the pushchair would feel with Munchkin in the seat. To be honest, I hardly noticed a difference! The Evo Mini still felt really lightweight and easy to move around. It felt just as smooth as it moved along the pavement and Munchkin and Pinkie Pie were very comfortable! The harness was not a problem and adjusted easily to fit around her, and I was pleased to see how much head room she had.

Huge thanks to Danielle at The Family Express for sharing our thoughts about the Graco Evo Mini with her readers! If you would like to read more about our Graco Evo Mini testing, take a look at our other posts HERE.
We have been sent the Graco Evo Mini for the purpose of an ongoing review and are competing for the title of ‘Graco Ambassadors’

Legoland Windsor NEW Legends of Chima 4D Movie Experience

LEGOLAND Windsor is a favourite day out for the whole family, so when we were asked if we wanted a sneak peek of the park a week before it opened to the public, we jumped at the chance!
We were excited to be reunited with some of our favourite rides, and also a great chance to see what was new for 2013.
One of the big main attractions for 2013 is the Legends of Chima 4D Movie Experience

  legoland chima 4d movie 

  Take the whole family on a trip to Chima, where powerful tribes of animal warriors fight over the precious energy source CHI. You and your young animals will join a wild chase through Chima, becoming entwined in a battle for CHI between Laval the Lion Prince, and Cragger the Crocodile Prince.

The film was amazing! Filled with action, clever lighting, fire (in safe distance) and even snow! It was a complete 4d experience which bought the brilliant story to life. The children were gripped, and so were the adults. A must see for all visitors, old and young. It brought the Chima Characters to life, and inspired their imaginations massively

. lego chima lion 

 There is plenty of other attractions, it is sure to be a complete day out for all the family. There is the amazing Atlantis ride, which takes you on an underwater adventure, visiting the new baby bamboo sharks and plenty of fish too…

This year Marky was old enough to get his very own driving license…he takes his responsibility very seriously…

 LEGOLAND Windsor is a brilliant day out, with restaurants, kiosks and amazing baby changing facilities, there is everything you could need on the site and much more besides.  There is even more planned for 2013, with the opening of DUPLO Valley Splash and Play which opens May 2013, one we can’t wait to see. You can buy tickets online, check out all of the rides, attractions, new and lots more at www.legoland.co.uk