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Dear Daisy, It is your first day at school...

Save Money This Winter, Be Sensible, Thrifty & Sustainable


Christmas is looming and we all know it can be a struggle with the old bank balance, Christmas also feels to be coming a lot earlier this year. I think we with the impending Black Friday and cyber monday the pressure mounts up far earlier than in previous years. All of the gifts you need to buy, the special food, clothes and all of the additional funds you need for the special events that come with it like your Christmas party! It’s never easy especially when you throw children into the mix.



These are my top ways of saving a bit of money to help lighten the load a little this year.

1- Meal plan. I’ve talked about this before and how it really does help us a family to not only be organised and know what we are doing each evening for food but it also cuts down on waste and trips to the shop. We try to go for dinners that we can bulk and stretch out to at least two days, sometimes even three. For example if I’m doing a chilli then I’ll throw in some extra veg (what ever is lurking in the fridge) or an extra tin of beans or lentils to bulk it up and make it go that bit further.

2- This is more about utilising what you’ve got to free of funds rather than dipping into your bank account. Start working your way around the house room by room and minimalise. Do you need everything, love everything or have a use for it all? If not, sell it! That way you not only free your house up of unnecessary clutter but you also make some £ to spend on things you do need to buy or to put away for a rainy day!

3- Think free! At a weekend it’s so easy to pop out for the day with the kids and before you know it you’ve bought lunch, a coffee, parking, a present the kids have begged you for and so on. Instead go for a walk or a bike ride, visit the library and take some snacks with you or aim to be back home by meal times. It may not feel much of a day out to you but the children will barely notice, or at least mine wouldn’t who are just 2 and 4 years old. All they want to do is be out and about. Basically if you avoid opportunities to spend then you won’t! A prime example of coffee shops for us, it’s so easy to spend way over £10 on two coffees and a snack so I try to avoid it where I can because they all add up.

4- Sleep on it. With this I am talking about impulse buys. The internet is a wonderful yet very tempting place, it’s makes shopping that bit too easy! Instead of clicking buy now on that new pair of boots or what ever it may be leave it in your basket for 12-24 hours and then have another look, is it really necessary?

5- Be a bit thrifty. Not everything you buy has to be brand new. I know some people will stick their nose up at this but what’s really wrong with looking around a charity shop or eBay for that particular toy your after for your son? I have picked up a few retro transformer toys and bits for Alex, he will have no idea they are not brand new! Or maybe you’ve a thing for Joules or Boden clothing, then there are a ton of Joules pages on Facebook where people are selling either brand new or almost new items every single hour and you could pick up a bargain!

6- Voucher codes. I used to be the person laughing at those others who would scour magazines and things for coupons to save that bit of money on their shopping. Now I’m not as In to it as that but if I’m buying online then I do a simple Google searching for vouchers for that particular store and quite often I’ll find a voucher of some kind such as free delivery of 20% off if you spend £20 etc. It’s always worth a look. 

Shopping Small This Christmas... II

As a little reminder..,

This year (and last actually) I aim to be more sustainable, thoughtful and I also aim to enjoy the experience a little more.

When purchasing gifts (which I do actually love to do) I am trying to shop small or local. Local where possible but sometimes you just can't find a specific thing locally and have to put out a wider search, but in those instances I want to find small businesses where your purchase makes a difference to those selling as well as receiving.

I am going to start sharing local gift guides, businesses and ideas with you over the next few weeks. If you know of anywhere then please do let me know as I would love to have a nose and perhaps share any secret gems that we find along the way.

So on to my second installment...

First up is not a business that is local to me but one I stumbled across on Facebook and one I have already shopped from for my children's Christmas stockings this year. Potionfizz...  The business is run by a lovely lady called Molly and she handmakes all of the beautiful bath products that you can find over on her etsy page. Handmade bath bombs are the most beautiful, thoughtful gift, they can be used and loved and can make that person feel special whilst using. No waste and vegan!

All images belong to Molly:



handmade vegan bath products

Next up is again a business I have had the pleasure of meeting, trying and buying from. And That is Shire Gin, The Shropshire Distillery.

My mum has a Shropshire mobile bar business and as part of that and some events we have attended we have met the lovely owners Emma and Gareth and got to have a good look at their products. The Distillery is a family run business with with the gin all made in-house with no third party involvement with every batch and bottle hand numbered and signed.


Shropshire Gin, Shire Gin
Image: Shire Gin

So there you go, 2 more small "local" businesses to feast your eyes on this Christmas. One being very local to myself.

I would be very content receiving gifts from either and I know that my friends and family would be the same! 

Again if you know of any small businesses that you think I should take a look at then please do let me know!

Hayley x

Shopping Small & Local This Christmas

Christmas is a time when we all inevitably go out and purchase more than our usual monthly spends. Those of you that are well organised and prepared do so in advance and a lot of thought goes into finding the right gift for the right person, on the other hand some of us rush about in panic mode finding a gift for someone that may not necessarily be the right gift for that person.

This year (and last actually) I aim to be more sustainable, thoughtful and I also aim to enjoy the experience a little more. Last year I tried to do as much as I could that would give that person an experience in some way. Think theatre tickets, spa breaks, afternoon tea etc. Creating memories rather that giving goods. I probably achieved this in about 25% of the cases but i do want to work on that this year again.

When purchasing gifts (which I do actually love to do) I am trying to shop small or local. Local where possible but sometimes you just can't find a specific thing locally and have to put out a wider search, but in those instances I want to find small businesses where your purchase makes a difference to those selling as well as receiving.

I am going to start sharing local gift guides, businesses and ideas with you over the next few weeks. If you know of anywhere then please do let me know as I would love to have a nose and perhaps share any secret gems that we find along the way.

Most of you will know I am from Shropshire and so my search will begin here but then as I go it will go wider.

First up has to be this gem that I found earlier on Instagram: Primrose And Lily. Offering beautiful, luxury tweed clothing handmade in Shropshire. I will share a couple of images because their items are really beautiful, all images featured on their Instagram page as tagged above.

Tweed gifts shropshire, shop locally, shop small business, local shrewsbury business

Tweed gifts shropshire, shop locally, shop small business, local shrewsbury business


Next up for today's post is Washed Up Wood. A business I have heard of before and have known friends and family to buy from but somewhere I haven't actively seeked out until now.

A  small family run business based in my home town of Shrewsbury. Washed Up Wood offers a gorgeous  collection of quirky and useful products that are all hand crafted. The use the combination of hand collected driftwood and also locally sourced vintage cutlery, and they aim to bring an element of rustic charm with a modern feel into your home. The perfect quirky gift!

 They offer the perfect mix of contemporary and vintage finishes. I already have my eye on a few pieces including some of their gorgeous coffee spoon rings! I will pop a few images below for you to see for yourself, all images taken from their website as linked here.

Washed up wood handmade gifts, shop local, shropshire handmade

Washed up wood handmade gifts, shop local, shropshire handmade


An honest review of Club Farret, with Eurocamp*

We were lucky enough to be invited to stay at Club Farret at the end of the summer season this year with Eurocamp for our family holiday. We have visited France with Eurocamp previously but a different site, Le Brasilia. Club Farret is in the same region but a slightly different part.

club farret France review


It's been a couple of weeks since we returned home from our week away at Club Farret campsite with Eurocamp and autumn has well and truly hit here in the UK, heading to France at that time in the season was a lovely way to end our summer adventures.

As a family we absolutely love France and it really suits our holiday lifestyle. The slow pace, good weather, beautiful beaches and amazing food is all we ask for on our week away and France ticks all of our boxes, as did the campsite we chose this year. When we were given the chance to choose a stay with Eurocamp, I knew straight away that France was our best option  - I mean the flight time has a big part to play in that but also we are never disappointed. The last time we visited we paid for the whole visit ourselves and knew we would return one day.

Vias plage france


Club Farret looked great because it looked like it had something for everyone, I was particularly drawn in by the pool which has a roof that closes when the weather isn't so great. With us going at the end of the season there was a fair risk that it would rain so knowing we have something to do if it did was good. And actually it did rain on our last day - so it was a good job!

Accommodation

We stayed in one of Eurocamp's newest mobile homes which is called the Azure. It has 3 bedrooms, separate shower room to toilet and I have to say we were really impressed.

The mobile home had a large airy living area that was really spacious and certainly big enough for our family of 4. We had a small double bedroom and 2 twin bedrooms, each of the kiddies had one each which suited us perfectly as they have their own room sat home and it saved them waking each other up.

The bathroom was great too, although because we aren't used to it, it did take some time to get used to the toilet being in a separate room. You know what children are like as soon as they hear running water!! But it was fine, no issue at all.

The mobile homes are equipped with everything you need for your holiday and that includes the kitchen area which has an oven (Gas by the way, it took me a while to realize I needed to ignite it!!),  fridge with a mini freezer, microwave and all the utensils you would need.

Outside there is a large decking area outside which the kids really made themselves at home with. It had a BBQ, dining table and chairs and also the clothes airer for all those soggy swimsuits and towels you will have! This also had a gate you could shut which was great for roaming toddlers!

The Location

This site is only around 12 miles from Beziers airport so even though we personally did you wouldn't need to hire a car to get there from the airport. We actually flew into Perpignan as the flights were half the price and even that was only an hour away in the car.

This site is located on the coast with direct access to a large beach. The beach was beautifully clean and really wide and open, plenty of space for the kids to run and roam about. There are plenty of shops nearby and there is actually a shop on site too that was pretty good too, obviously a little more expensive as you would expect.



The pools were amazing on this site and were the absolute highlight for Daisy and Alex.

 We moved around the different pools each day to mix things up a little but one thing we did love was that each day at the Pirates Beach pool there is an aqua fitness class which Daisy absolutely loved!

Tao Beach and the Aquadome were our closest pools only a few metres away. The Aquadome is the pool wit the sliding roof and all of the water slides by the way!



As well as the great pool areas there are a few play parks around the site too. There is one attached to the kids club (which I can't comment on as we didn't use t this time!) and there was also a big play park behind it with loads of sand too.  There were swings, climbing areas, slides and a massive pirate boat climbing frame. Also by the other pool closer to our home there was a small play park area which was more suitable for pre-schoolers with a slide and climbing frame. It was a bit little for Daisy but they didn't complain.  Everything on the site was really well maintained and looked in good condition.

You can also catch up on a short video I put together of our trip here. Please do let me know of any other sites that you have loved and watch our for more photos shared over here in the coming weeks.





*Accommodation was gifted in return for honest coverage but all travel etc was paid for by ourselves. 

Le Brasilia Campsite with Eurocamp

We will soon be heading off to France with Eurocamp and thought it would be a good time now to share our last experience with you.

Last time we headed to a site called Le Brasilia after flying in to Perpignan. It was a short transfer to the site, which was a massive bonus for us. I should also mention that our last visit was not sponsored in any way, we paid for the whole trip ourselves.

So on to the review:

First up if we were to look for a self - catering holiday location we always go for the option where you have space. Space for a young family to run about, explore and well, be free. We sometimes opt for Villa holidays and other times we love this kind of mobile home camping holiday.

Tempted By Eurocamp? | La Brasilia France

This time we stayed with Eurocamp in one of their Aspect units. We opted for a two bedroom holiday home which was plenty big enough but for sleep arrangements (with a baby who was dead set on waking up their older sister) we do wish that we had booked the 3 bedroom. Next time we will, for the small price difference it would have been worth it for us. We ended up with the travel cot plonked in the living area, which wasn't a massive problem, but it would have been better tucked away in their own bedroom.

The holiday home is kitted out for everything you may need. We also were provided with not only the travel cot but also a bed guard for Daisy, a potty (not that we needed it), a high chair, a step for the toilet and also a baby bath. The bath actually was brilliant, it was big enough to sit in the shower tray and not only bath Alex but also Daisy (3 year old!). She was able to sit in it and wash away the sand from rummaging around on the beach all day.

You can see on the photo above that the decking area is also really spacious and what we loved most was that it was all enclosed. So they could roam about with us worrying they were going to fall down the steps or escape! It meant we could keep the sliding doors open any time we were back there.

Tempted By Eurocamp? | La Brasilia France

Not only was our home spotless and well equipped but the park itself was beautiful. I actually think La Brasilia was the nicest campsite that I have ever stayed on. It somehow didn't look like a campsite, it seemed a bit too "fancy". You can see by the pool areas how nice it was, the spa looked beautiful (from the outside, I wasn't lucky enough to give it a go!) and the restaurants and shopped were great.

It was only when you went to the mini supermarket and the entertainment disco area that you were reminded it was a campsite. The supermarket and take away etc was not cheap but I think you expect that in this kind of establishment, like anywhere when you are holidaying really. We used to go to the hypermarket up the road and do some shopping for our lunches and a few evening meals and it actually worked out quite reasonable, we brought home a fair few euros for our next trip!

Tempted By Eurocamp? | La Brasilia France

Aspect Eurocamp

Aspect Eurocamp

Eurocamp france

Le Brasilia Campsite with Eurocamp


Hayley x

Camping Bella Italia in Lake Garda Review

Italy is somewhere that was always on my wish list of places I would love to go one day, it didn't really matter where as it all looks so beautiful. 

Ben and I decided to go a few years ago and visit a few places while we were there to make the most of it. We would fly to Venice, move on to Lake Garda and see a few towns there and then do a trip to Verona before heading back to Venice. 

As excited as I was for the trip I did feel a little apprehensive of what it would be like with a toddler in tow. Daisy would have been around 20 months old so not always the easiest time for her to travel. I wondered how she would be in Venice where she couldn't just run free when ever she fancied, how would she take the train journeys between places and how would we entertain her? Never mind feed her when she was just turning into the worlds fussiest eater! We really didn't need to worry Lake Garda is a lovely destination for children of all ages. There is plenty to do with a little planning and most things are accessible. We didn't get to sit and enjoy the cafe patios with an Aperol Spritz quite as much as we would if we were there as just a couple but we still had a fantastic holiday and had plenty of gelatos! 


Camping Bella Italia in Lake Garda Review

We got one of the high speed trains to the Lake from Venice and although I am not a big fan of train journeys back home these are a different experience altogether. They run to the minute, aren't late, are clean and comfortable. As well as being speedy of course! The train journey was around 2 hours long and with a bit of help from Peppa pig it went smoothly. 

We stayed in Peschiera del Garda which is a town in the Verona province and stayed at a campsite called Camping Bella Italia. The town is set within the walls of an island fortress surrounded by quaint canals. Hidden behind the town walls you'll find the pedestrianised centre with cobbled streets and plenty of pavement caf├ęs and restaurants. It's a quiet, pretty town that won't take you long to wander around but with give you a nice sense of being in Italy. 

We stayed in a Canvas Holidays lodge but there are lots of options on this site. It is based right on the front of the lake and had all the amenities you would need like restaurants, supermarkets, pool etc. We first started considering the camping option because it was something completely different from our few nights in Venice and also is so much more affordable than a hotel. You also get that degree of independence too, which is always good when you have a small child that needs space to tear around in!

Bella Italia is much more of a holiday complex than a campsite in the way regular campers would be imagining, it really is all geared up for famillies. The site is well laid out with great signage across the site. There’s a fair bit of walking due to the pure size of the site. 

The site has a little  central square with a green grocer, supermarket, gift shops, tourist info centre, restaurant, ice cream shop, bar with live music and a takeaway. The supermarket was really well stocked, we would visit in a morning to get our breakfast bits and bobs! 

It was perfect for families as lots to do including things like bike hire and a kids club. We actually did hire bikes on one of our last days here which was great fun! Something we hadn't done before so it was memory I will keep forever. 

I should note that we travelled in October and so it was out of season and the park was half empty, I am unsure if I would love it quite so much if it was really busy and hot. Although both Ben and I both said how nice it would have been to swim in the lakes if it had been warm enough, maybe something for the future. 


From Peschiera we were able to get the boat or bus from the centre of town to a few places such as Sirmione and Lazise. It was a great location for travelling about. The transport there is punctual and easy so there is no excuse not to see more of the Lake. They were completely child friendly too so you don't need to worry about that. We did find though due to the nature of cobbled streets and tight little alleys and hills to walk up that the child carrier was much easier to use than a pushchair! 

So I will let the photos do the talking now...

Campsites on lake garda






Camping Bella Italia











We would certainly travel to Italy again with our children and travel about to see as much as possible. We found October to be a great time to go as it was warm and dry most days but not uncomfortable to walk around in, it was just right for Daisy.

To see the site you can find the link here.

If you have any further questions please feel free to ask,

Hayley xx

Please do not copy photographs without our permission

Hotel Low Down: Millennium Hilton New York One UN Plaza


I have been missing thinking about our trip to New York and thought a good way to bring that back was to do a hotel review. We stayed at the Millennium Hilton New York One UN Plaza.

Sun Rise from the Millennium Hilton UN Plaza


Finding a hotel was without a doubt the hardest part of booking our trip, the choices are endless. All come with good and bad reviews, pros and cons in terms of location and facilities. Our biggest draw to this hotel was the location. It is set across from the United Nations Headquarters adjacent to the River, based in the Midtown East it was perfect to get about.

Times square was around a 10 minutes walk away, Chrysler building and Grand Central Station just a few minutes and just a few minutes walk from the water taxi harbor to get over to Brooklyn. We really made the most of the location and were really pleased we went with this hotel and location.

We had breakfast a few times in Grand Central Station and it was definitely a highlight, it felt a little like we were in the movies!

The room sizes were another point that got our attention, they were double the size of some rooms you get in NYC, and although it didn't feel huge when we were there it was definitely adequate and we had enough space. There was only 2 of us travelling and we traveled fairly lightly.

The views from our room were incredible. To the right we could see the city skyline with towering skyscrapers and to the left the river with the bridges going over, it was gorgeous. Especially at sunrise, which we seemed to see a few of, thanks to Jet Lag!



The hotel and room was impeccably clean and the beds comfortable, just what you needed after very exhausting days!

We only had one negative experience/ thought about this hotel and sadly it was right at the end of our trip as we were leaving the hotel. We had checked out, paid our tips and said goodbye to the amazing security team at the hotel with their gorgeous labrador dogs and then the doorman (I am sorry if that isn't the correct terminology) threw the door open and basically snatched our bags from us to put in the taxi. We told him we were okay as we only had small hand luggage cases but he decided to ignore us and do it anyway, making us feel slightly awkward. He then started demanding tips for himself and his colleague who apparently don't get paid to do their jobs and tips make sure they can have a home and eat! When we said we had just given our last dollars to the concierge team he was furious. We got into our cab feeling a little intimidated and sad that he had ended our trip in that way, when we had not come across any sign of negativity in the whole week we had been there.

 I did make a complaint to Hilton and they were very apologetic and I understand that perhaps these things happen. It is no reflection on our stay at this hotel and we would definitely return.

You can find loads of reviews and photos here at Trip Advisor.


*Affiliate links may be used in this article

How To Survive The Summer Holidays

Firstly I should say this is slightly tongue in cheek. I value the time the children have off school, I wish I could have more time off with them rather than working but I also won't deny that it isn't easy every single day. It can be expensive, tiring and a day can feel like a week sometimes. And that can flip the other way too.

Thrifty summer holidays


My top tips for surviving the school holidays:

(1) Wear them out as much as possible in the morning. If you are lucky enough to have the children for the day during the holidays tire them out. Run them about, go to open spaces so they can be free and run around burning off pent up energy. I find the outdoors always wears them out that little bit more. Children that have exercised and are worn out tend to be more relaxed later on and hopefully will get nice early nights or give you quiet, relaxed, content afternoons.

(2) Exercise. This kind of links into the the first tip where the main idea is to tire them out a little. But Exercise, it stimulates them whilst also being beneficial for them and also yourself. Swimming is a hit in our house as in cycling, scooting, splashing in muddy puddles and so on. Even a walk into the woods getting them moving. When I sadly have to work around them this is something i will always do, I won't feel so bad then if they spend the afternoon drawing, playing or even having a little screen time.

top tips for the summer holidays


(3) Plans. Always make plans. This fills the time they have, it gives them something to look forward to but also yourself. You won't feel so alone if you plan to do some play dates down the local park etc. The key to this tip is to plan ahead and not on the day!

(4) Quiet Days are fine. Don't feel like you have to fill every single day with an activity. Children need down time as much as you or I. A day at home does everyone the world of good, so I couldn't do more than this usually as cabin fever strikes but time at home doing "jobs" (Think of things like watering your plants, washing up, doing the laundry and so on), crafting, play dough and so on is just what they need at times. Not to mention it will save you money!

(5) Look up free activities. There are lots of local groups and clubs that run activities during the holidays such as a reading competition at the local library, rock painting and so on. Make the most of free local activities near you, even if it only take up an hour or so.

free kid activities


(6) Pinterest Everything! That place is blooming wonderful for ideas, especially if you have crafty children like Daisy. Think painting rocks, making paper plate faces, pasta art and so on! The lists are endless and more often than not, cheap. Just google Pinterest kids craft ideas or similar and you will have hindreds of results pop up if you don't have the app yourself!

(7) Watch the weather!  If a week of rainy weather is forecast, phone round like minded friends and arrange a few play dates or organize rainy day plans such as the cinema! If it is sunny plan to do your free activities like long walks by the stream or camping out in a field to let the kids just roam free.


5 things to do in Shropshire this summer holidays

I have done this kind of post before and it has been taken really well. I mean we are all in this together aren't we? We have to entertain the kids far more during the summer holidays, some of you full time, others working around childcare and so on.

None the less some days out can be expensive so I have tried to find things that aren't massively dear or have short cuts to being a bit tighter on the money situation!

5 free things to do this summer
Image Source: Me and my Shadow


Cosford Air Museum

This is actually free of charge so should be on everyone's to do list this holiday. There is lots of hands on activities to do as well the obvious huge aircraft memorabilia that is dotted around the space.

*Worth noting there is a charge for the carpark though!



Ludlow Castle

These are some impressive ruins of Ludlow Castle which was once home to plenty of royalty. So if your little one fancies themselves as a princess of perhaps a king then this could be a great free day out. Take yourselves a picnic and you're bound to use a full day!

Lots of space to roam about here too for the littler ones.

Although it is free there is a request for donations :)

The Quarry Park

The Quarry park is a huge space to accommodate lots of people even on its busiest days. It is a great place to head if the weather is good because again there is plenty to do. Spend some time walking the river, rambling about the dingle, picnic on the field, maybe an ice cream and the play parks that recently went under a renovation.

British Ironworks Centre

This is one of our favourite spots in Shropshire to keep both kids and adults entertained! It has the biggest display of decorative metalwork in the UK. The cafe is really good too ut a watch out is that it can be pricey!

Carding Mill Valley

This is another attraction where you would visit if the weather was nice enough. You would ideally want it to dry here as there isn't much shelter to hide from the elements here. But it is great to just burn off energy.

This is a beautiful place to visit on a good day,  for half a day or a full day. The valley caters for a whole range of walks and activities, whether it be paddling in the stream, taking a gentle stroll to the reservoir, or a more strenuous walk to the waterfall.