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Planning a Family Holiday on a Budget ~ GP

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Life can get a little hectic sometimes. Remembering to breathe and take a break now and then helps with productivity as well as with your own mental health. In a world where everyone is trying to do everything in terms of work, looking after children, socialising with friends and visiting family, it can be easy to forget that we all need time to relax. So, why not take a minute to step off the work/life balance beam and book a family holiday?

Magazines can often fall short of catering to families, with pictures of women in glitzy bikinis and inserts on how to get the perfect beach body. Unfortunately, tips for saving money on family holidays or how not to bankrupt yourself on ice cream and lilos can sometimes be few and far between. Here, we’ve compiled a list of five tips to help you plan a family holiday on a budget.

1. Flexibility is key.

Researching and comparing different holiday types, holiday durations and airports online is one of the best ways to find a bargain. There are also a variety of websites that can help you out in your quest for saving money and finding cheap holidays, even over the impending Easter break. Be flexible and you will find a great deal.

2. Use a budget planner.

If you want to afford more than a postcard on your family holiday, you need to budget and save. Using an online budget planner will help you sort out what you are spending and where you can save money. Lose the luxuries now and treat yourself when you’re surrounded by sunshine!

3. Travel to somewhere different.

Family resorts and holidays to popular countries can often work out a lot more expensive. Some destinations that may not immediately strike you as family spots can turn out to be great, with sun, sea, safety and several delicious cocktails! Be open-minded about your destination and you can find some amazing bargains.

4. Go all-inclusive or full-board.

It may work out more expensive now but, with multiple people to feed and water, choosing to go all-inclusive is a great option for families. It means you don’t need to worry about having enough spending money or dipping into your savings. More importantly, you know the kids can run to the hotel staff for an endless supply of sugar rather than you!

5. Research tourist deals.

Family days out are a must on holiday, so researching zoos, aquariums and water parks can be beneficial. Looking for tourist deals online or vouchers for excursions is a fantastic way to save money before you travel, and you don’t get hit by expensive charges when you reach your destination.

Thanks to these tips, your last minute family holiday doesn’t have to break the bank. You can manage to find a fantastic deal and plan out your break on an affordable budget. With you and your family happy, it’s time to get back on the work/life balance beam and start crossing off the days until departure!

Image credit.

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A bit of an Animal….

Dyson Animal that is. Dirty buggers.

Now, before I start this post I would like to make it known that I am not the type of person who likes to clean. No. I can think of a million more things I would rather do with my time than clean my house. I do, of course, like the end result and sometimes I can REALLY get into it and go mad with the whole thing, but for the most part, no. Cleaning isn’t my thing.

After moving from a ground floor flat to a three storey house I also discovered how much I hate vacuuming stairs. I mean. There’s no easy way of doing it is there? Balance the vacuum with your head and use the weird shaped attachment, or, use a small handheld vacuum and run out of power before you get to the top. And oh my god do our stairs attract fluff and dust and everything else two kids and two dogs can distribute around the place. Loom bands, sequins, small pieces of lego that you can’t actually see but will dig into your foot like a razor blade? Check. I always said I needed two vacuums, one for downstairs up, and one for upstairs down. But you know, never actually got round to it. Until, last month, the new Dyson Animal DC41 available from John Lewis arrived on my doorstep. Queue lots of excitement from C, he’s definitely not his mothers son, that kid *loves* cleaning for me!

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Once the beast was put together (it’s not really a beast, it’s just what we nicknamed it, cos we’re crazy like that) I obviously had to road test it. Now, it was late February when it arrived (ish) so I was already starting the little spring clean I like to do each year, nothing mental, but it involves getting the bloke to change the entire front room round for me so it feels lighter, brighter and more ready for sunshine. We fluff up the sofa and cushions, dust everywhere (nearly wrote everyone then, that would be interesting) get rid of wintery stuff and replace it with spring like goodies. The heavy scented candles go away and I gently hint about the room needing some pretty flowers to brighten the place up. That kind of thing.

So, I’d already given the whole living room a serious vacuum, as much as I dislike cleaning, I’m not going to live in filth, so when furniture moves I am right there sucking up every last bit of dust before it’s replaced. After using the Animal for 5 mins downstairs, I wondered if maybe I’d vacuumed with a toy instead. The amount of  crap it picked up was incredible! Which then meant I had to do the entire house just to make sure it was clean!

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The animal isn’t the lightest of vacuums, but it’s a hell of a lot lighter than my other one, and the huge rollerball in the middle meant it swivelled off in all sorts of directions without even a grunt of effort. The size of the ball does mean you can’t get under furniture but that’s where one of the many attachments would come in handy. It switches between carpet and wood easily and the lead stretches to 9 metres before you have to hunt down another plug socket. The suction power on it is insane (it boasts the strongest suction, largest bin capacity and longest cable length of all Dyson upright vacuums) I was giving the downstairs loo a quick once over and it was still on max, which meant I was practically stuck to the floor! It really does live up the Dyson name, I know so many people who say they wouldn’t look at another vacuum, but being so expensive (albeit worth it) it’s not something everyone can invest in outright. Owning this baby now, I can see why people love them. I’m also imagining I’ll save a fortune on vacuum cleaner repairs as it doesn’t seem to be a brand that crumbles after a few uses!

The DC41 Animal comes with a Tangle-free Turbine tool. It’s meant to be the only turbine tool that doesn’t tangle, with counter-rotating heads with brushes remove hair and dirt from carpets and upholstery. There’s no brush bar for hair to wrap around. But, I have serious amounts of hair, and it has got wrapped around the bristles but that’s nothing new, I just grab the scissors and cut it out!

So, back to the one vacuum upstairs, one down, the Animal is living downstairs with us, where we use it on the whole downstairs, the stairs, the 1st floor (yes, I know I sound like I live in a mansion but I really don’t!) and then it goes all the way up to the top. If for some reason H decides she wants to vacuum her room (NEVER going to happen) she grabs the oldie out of the cupboard up there to save time.

Look at me, cleaning-phobe and I’m in love with a vacuum. Who would have though it!

Disclosure: I received the Dyson Animal Upright Vacuum for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions and images are my own!

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Luxe chill out time with Christy Candles

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had an obsession with candles. Back then, it used to be about the best shaped candle I could get my hands on, so I was all about the tacky ones, in shapes of buildings, animals, random, weird things that candle makers thought looked good. I had them. A huge shelf in my bedroom full of crazy candles. And I didn’t light a single one.

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Now, as a woman in her 30’s (still not mid 30’s, not for another year) I am still obsessed with candles, but now they can only be in heavy, glass jars. Burn for a good 40 hours+ and make my house smell amazing. I do have the odd Ikea candle dotted about here and there, just for effect, but the ones that matter take centre stage on either my dining table, bedside table or bathroom. Because those are my three favourite rooms, and they have to be luxury candles. I will happily pay between £30-£50 for a decent candle. It’s one of my things and they last long enough to make it feel worth it.

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Christy sent me one of their candles last week because it was half term and they knew how crazy busy my week was, with two kids, work and family life so they wanted to give me something to use when I got a bit of ‘me time’. The candle I received was No.3, which is a blend of rose pepper, layered with bergamot on a base of wood and vanilla. It’s their relaxing candle, and it was bloody perfect timing! We had an amazing half term, filled with activities and seeing friends and family but by the end of the day, entertaining an almost 6 year old and an almost teenager while trying to do all the usual stuff I do when they’re at school, I was absolutely knackered! A hot bath & trashy mag called to me each evening!

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The candle itself is in a simple, stylish dark grey glass container, smells amazing. It’s not overly flowery or floral, it’s almost a masculine smell, which I prefer, and it melts evenly – a sign of a good candle – none of that melting down the middle leaving a pool of wax either side that never burns away. Christy Candles are made using high quality wax, and it’s obvious in the way it burns and smells.

I’ve bought the candle downstairs now, and have it burning next to me while I’m working at the dining table. Our downstairs space is pretty much open plan, so the scent from the candle carries pretty much round the entire ground floor, it takes a while to build up, but once it’s filled the room, it lasts for ages. After the smells of Christmas candles, heavy, cinnamon/clove based scents, it’s lovely to have something that’s so different.

I’ve also been a Diptyque or Neom girl but I think Christy will be making their way into my list of faves now!

PR Sample.

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A trip to Paris with Febreze

I think it’s fair to say it’s a pretty well known fact how much I love Paris, so when an invitation popped into my inbox asking if I’d like to travel their for the day with Febreze to see if I suffer from #NoseBlindness – well – it’s obvious what my answer was isn’t it!

Explaining the term ‘noseblind’ might help before I whittle on (autocorrect tried to change that to nosebleed by the way!) Noseblindness is a nasal condition where individuals gradually become acclimated to the odours around them, thus blinding them to those stinky smells. It’s a very real issue that can affect most people worldwide, with the potential to ruin social lives. So, in very basic terms, it means you don’t notice the smells that you live in, because you’ve become so used to them.

I am very conscious of how my home smells, I have two dogs, two kids and a man living here, so it could be smelly if I didn’t open windows, burn amazing candles and spray everyone to death…. (joke) But there’s nothing worse than walking into someones home to be greeted by the stink of trainers in the hallway, cabbage cooking in the kitchen, or wet dog all over the furniture!

So, with that in mind, I travelled to London to get the Eurostar to Paris with four other bloggers to find out about the ‘condition’ and take part in a top secret Smell Walk. Yup…..

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Once we’d arrived in Paris (Business class darling, always) we met Kate McLean. British Olfactory Experience designer who was going to lead the walk and fill us in on what was actually happening. Imagine a group of bloggers and writers wandering round the streets of Paris smelling flowers, fruit stalls, bakeries and even bins (I may have dodged that one, I’m quite happy remaining blind to that scent!) we were quite a sight! But, what we did learn (there was learning involved!) is that we tend to ignore a lot of the smells around us on a day to day basis. If you walk around town, you pay attention to what you can see, very rarely do you stop an notice what you can smell. Unless of course it’s amazing, or, disgusting!

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After our walk, we were taken to the most amazing Parisian house I have ever seen, it was, we were told, in the region of three million euros. Stunning. Once there, and warmed up with champagne and nibbles we were given a talk by Pieter Hommez, the Research and Development scientist for Febreze who explained how it works, by converting the structure of the odour, locking it away and neutralising it by changing the pH levels. Which is how Febreze products eliminate odours rather than masking them with another layer of perfume.

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I have to admit, I always liked the smell of Febreze, and it’s one of the products I have in my cupboard to spritz around when I want to freshen things up, but I didn’t really believe all the “eliminates rather than mask” jargon before, however, after listening to the science behind it and watching it in action with various tests and trials, I have to say, it makes sense, and it does what it says on the tin so to speak.

A huge thank you to Febreze & Saamia for inviting me along to my favourite city in the world for the day, I wasn’t there for very long so it just made me desperate to go back, even if it’s for another day trip. I’m sure I should have been born Parisian!

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I was very lucky to be invited on this press trip, but as always, all views, words and images are my own. 

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Life Inspired

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This past week I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what I want from life. I’ve always thought I wanted it to be a certain way, and it turns out, perhaps I don’t.

I’m not always sure of myself, of my abilities or talents and I can spend a lot of time worrying about things, most of the time things that will never happen but lets be honest, that doesn’t make it easier not to worry, if you’re that way inclined. Where does it get me though? Does worrying about something change the outcome? Does it mean what route I was going to take will suddenly change direction and lead me elsewhere? In a word, no. It just means I waste my time and energy thinking about what might happen instead of just taking the steps that need to be taken and getting on with life.

I could have missed an amazing opportunity yesterday if I had carried on being Little Miss Worry. I would have lost out on the chance to have some really good chats, see my favourite city and travel business class, drinking champagne and laughing my head off. How ridiculous is that?! (More on yesterday in another post!)

This isn’t one of those “Get Inspired” posts. This is more about me inspiring me. I don’t need to do what’s expected of me, because the only person who expects it *is* me. Life does not revolve around routine, it doesn’t thrive on worry, and it certainly doesn’t enjoy being disappointed. Life is for living, seeing new things as often as you can, creating memories, for both me and the babes, for taking risks and loving with a passion. This blog started out as a diary for me, it’s changed direction over the years, but it’s going to go back to it’s roots, more posts about actual life, and who wants to read (or write) about a boring life. That’s inspiration right there.

It’s too easy to get sucked into the normal, day to day activities that become pretty mundane, obviously we all have to work (well, most of us do!) but outside of work, you need to grab life by the balls and see where it leads you. Who knows where you’ll end up but I’m pretty sure it will be more exciting than it would have otherwise been. Who wants to be one of those people who spend their days saying “what if……..” I bloody don’t!

Yes, money is always an issue unless you’re a lucky bastard and have unlimited amounts, but do you know what? Money isn’t the centre of the universe. What good is money if you have no one to share it with? There are only so many ‘things’ you can buy before you realise you’re still lonely.

Without trying to sound like a whole post of cliches – life really is too bloody short. I don’t want to spend mine regretting, wishing and worrying. There is too much out there to see and do, too many good things to experience without being dragged down by crap and bollocks. And yes, I did need to swear, it’s my post, I can say whatever the hell I like.

From now on, I’m going to step outside the comfort zone, enjoy the chances I’m given and make the most of my life. Not for anyone else, purely for me and my little family. How others choose to live their lives is none of my business, but if they’re going to be negative arses then I’m not interested.

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#ARWOMAN – Who inspires you?

Atterley Road are running a campaign to find out which women inspire us. It could be someone famous, someone from work, someone in your family, the options are totally open, it just needs to be a woman who makes you feel inspired and empowered.

There are a few women in my life who inspire me, the first being my amazing mum. She manages to give out so much care, love and support, no matter what is happening in her life, along with a never ending supply of patience, which is something I lack! I don’t remember her losing her temper with me when I was growing up, she was always my friend as well as my mum and I watch her with my kids now and see the same thing happening, she just has this aura about her. So my mum would be number one in my Inspirational Women List.

Then there are two women in the celebrity world who embody power, success and talent but still manage to do it with incredible style and class, Jenna Lyons, the J Crew creative director and Sali Hughes, journalist & make up artist. Both of them are *seriously* good at and love what they do – the passion shows.

Jenna has a sense of style nailed, red lips, big bold glasses, clashing prints, denim, if you know her, you know what she wears is spot on. She has been the Creative Director and President for J.Crew since 2008 and 2010, she’s been nicknamed the “Woman Who Dresses America, and her creative force and style have been named as the reasons that J.Crew has turned into a cult brand with its profits more than tripling in a ten year span. All this while being a mum to her son.

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What Sali doesn’t know about make up and beauty probably isn’t worth knowing, and if you haven’t bought her book,  Pretty Honest,  yet, you’re missing out. Sali started out as a jobbing make up artist, but now writes for magazines and newspapers and is also a regular contributor on TV and Radio. She has written features, for Grazia, ELLE, Red, The Guardian, The Observer Glamour, Stylist, Shortlist, Top Santé, NOW and Cosmopolitan. Since January 2011 she has also been the Guardian’s resident beauty columnist, featuring weekly in their magazine and online video tutorials, as well as running her own beauty site, writing her book and being mum to her two sons!

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See the theme? All three of of my inspirational women have created theses amazing lives and careers at the same time as being a mum. That’s what inspires me.

Atterley Road want you to join in the conversation and tell them who is your #ARWOMAN. Post a picture on Instagram, tag them and use the hashtag. Why not nominate some friends to do the same? The only goal is to get women celebrating and supporting other women.

You’ll find more information on their blog.

They will be following up the campaign with interviews from some really interesting AR Women, the first is cinematographer Tasha Beck, who has made a name for herself in a very male dominated industry. You can read Tasha’s full interview here.

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