Thursday 28 January 2021

Tips for Planning a Long Weekend in London

Tips for planning a long weekend in London post covid-pandemic. How to ensure you have the best value and most enjoyable stay.

{This is a collaborative post}

January is my bookings month, it is when I make plans for the year ahead. Where will the family go on holiday? Will I treat anyone to a weekend away for a special occasion? Should my hubby and I have a romantic getaway? It's the same every year, the minute Christmas is out of the way I am on my mission; it is as if the next year feels better for having some trips away planned. 

Of course, last year turned out to be a series of disappointments on the going away front. I can't even begin to tell you how many wonderful occasions and trips were cancelled but I am feeling far more optimistic for this year ahead and being able to have some amazing times away from home. 

The one trip I missed the most was my annual mother and daughter trip to London for Mothers Day. My Mum and I have chosen to spend our Mothers Day weekend together for a number of years now, and we've decided that this year has to be bigger, better and longer to make up for missing out on our 2020 break. Realistically we're not going to have our break in March this year as who knows what will be happening with lockdown and tiers but I feel confident to book for a July break to tie in with my Mums birthday too. A double whammy celebration!

Here are my tips for booking a long leisure weekend away in London. I think we are going to have at least 3 or even 4 nights this year -

Book your Travel about 12 weeks in Advance

Once you have your dates set, think about how you'll be getting into London. My Mum and I always use the train, as it means we don't have to think about parking and we can travel from different areas and meet easily at one of the stations. I think one of the 1/3rd off discount rail travel cards are worth it if you'll travel a few times in a year and look to book your tickets about 12 weeks in advance, as you'll often find advance or super-saver return tickets then and can bag a bargain. 

I look forward to my hour train journey as the start of my stay away. A time when I can read a book and shake off the realities of home and work. 

Image Credit: SITU

Book a Serviced Apartment rather than a Hotel

When Mum and I stay away we always want it to be somewhere a little luxurious and not just a functional but boring hotel room. I'd really advocate checking out serviced apartments as somewhere to stay in London. Not only will you have a comfortable bed to lay your head at night but you'll also have a lounge area, well-equipped kitchen, clothes washing facilities, Wi-Fi and so much more. Serviced apartments are a home away from home and depending on the length of your stay they generally have a housekeeping service too. 

I spent a happy hour on the SITU website planning where Mum and I might stay in June and I was really surprised at the great places that came up. I had a budget of £100 per night in my head and didn't really expect to find anything nice, but there was a good selection within that price range and I am booking The Gloucester Road Escape apartment that came up at just £332 for 4 nights stay.  I think that's a great price. 

I've been very pleasantly surprised and I'll be using SITU again to choose an apartment next time my family all go to stay in London as they have a very large range with many multi-bedroom serviced apartments, not just in London but all across the UK and further afield too. Do have a look at SITU Serviced Apartments if you fancy staying in a serviced apartment in London. 

Saturday 23 January 2021

Surviving Home Schooling and Feeling Thankful #R2BC

Time to sit down and bash out my little dose of positivity. It's been a good couple of weeks, and I've managed to get out a couple of times - nowhere particularly exciting of course but it still counts and it's good for my soul.

I've been feeling really thankful this last week and that is amazing as it is like a drug to me, soothing me, reminding me that things will be OK, and we can all get through this. 

Here is a list of just some of my reasons to be thankful -

  • The girls are getting on with their homeschooling (in the main!) and the most frequent thing I have to do is jivvy them along and threaten consequences if they don't knuckle down and get on with the work.
  • You can tell the school/ teachers are now more confident with teaching remotely as most of their resources are in Google classroom and thus easy to access and the girls are having a few live lessons every day too.
  • My JJ is a treasure, he just gets on with his college work and is really self-motivated. He's such a good lad and is happy to help the girls too if they need it. That sure helps me as I have no idea bout most GCSE maths or science. 
  • Miss E is constantly on Facetime with a girl from school and they seem to be establishing a really lovely and deep friendship during this lockdown. I pray it continues when they return to school. 
  • We had to take the cat to the vets for a check-up as he was bitten last month and he is healing well, this meant Miss E and I got out and we could get a cheeky McDonalds drive-through.
  • We've found out some stuff that has been going on for one of our twins and it is difficult stuff (I won't go into it) but I am so pleased to now know and to be able to offer her support. We've talked more and spent more time together this week, which is very good.

Thursday 21 January 2021

Practical Tips for Living with Allergies

Sharing some practical tips for living with everyday allergies and highlighting the Klarify allergy home blood test kit
Photo by Brittany Colette on Unsplash

{This is a paid collaboration with Klarify}

With over 44% of British adults now suffering from at least one allergy (1), it is high time that we all had better information, support and help for our allergies. As a child of the 70s and 80s, it was literally a couple of kids in my class who had asthma or suffered from food allergies or that was certainly how it seemed, but now so many of my children's classmates seem to have sensitivities, intolerances and allergies. 

I do think it is good that we have much better information available to us nowadays and that product such as home allergy tests are so widely available. It is armed with good information that we're able to avoid the allergen triggers and help our homes remain a place of rest and respite. 

If you're suffering from the classic allergy symptoms of red, itchy and watery eyes, running or blocked nose, sneezing, wheezing or cough, your first step needs to be identifying the source of your discomfort and this isn't always easy. Many allergies such as pet dander, pollen and house mite dust can produce the same or very similar symptoms and without diagnostic tests, you'll never know quite what to do. This can be very distressing if you have a beloved pet and you are unsure if they are the cause of your discomfort. 

Talk to your GP initially and see if they are able to help, depending on the area and the severity of your symptoms they may offer testing such as skin prick or patch testing. If there is a long wait or they are not forthcoming you may choose to have an allergy blood test that you can perform yourself at home. This is a simple case of using a lancing device to prick your finger and 6 drops of blood need to be collected. Ths blood sample is then sent to the laboratory for analysis and within a few weeks, you'll have the online results that you can discuss with your GP and decide on an appropriate way forward to improve the comfort of your everyday life.

Friday 15 January 2021

Visiting Herstmonceux Castle and Gardens, East Sussex

Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex is a great example of moated castle & makes a fun day out for all the family

The castle gardens and grounds will re-open 13th February 2021.

We've lived about a ten-minute drive from Herstmonceux castle for over seven years and had never yet visited it. We've been talking about going for quite some time and finally, in early October 2020 my husband and I headed over there and I am so glad we did, as it is lovely. Just as nice as many National Trust sites I've visited before and a good price too.

We paid £7 per adult to visit the gardens and grounds, and it would have been £17.50 for a family of 2 adults and 2 children. Normally you can have a tour of the castle, which is used as a study centre for the Queen's University in Canada, but not at the moment during the pandemic. It didn't matter though as there are 300 acres to explore and in nice weather, you could spend a number of hours here.

An Amazing Slice of History

Herstmonceux castle really is a beautiful example of a moated castle. It started to be built in 1441 to replace the original manor house that stood here. On completion, it was the largest private home in the country. It was lived in as a private dwelling for the next 300 odd years and started to fall into disrepair. It was remodelled in 1776 and then parts of the castle became a ruin, until 1911 when a new owner started a restoration project, which was finally completed in 1932.

Friday 8 January 2021

Crispy Salt and Pepper Tofu Recipe

Photo by Cassiano Barletta on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post, this recipe has been provided to me for publishing}

Crispy salt and pepper tofu is an ever-popular Chinese dish that we absolutely love. The contrast between the crispy exterior and super silky interior of perfectly cooked tofu is hard to beat and the subtle, classic flavours of simple salt and pepper is always a winner in our books!

This delicious and easy crispy salt and pepper tofu recipe is an absolute breeze to cook and is on the plate, ready to eat in just 35 minutes (including preparation and cooking time!). 

The crispy outer coating is achieved with a 100% vegan-friendly cornstarch batter that gives an incredible flavour and texture to our favourite ingredient in health-conscious cooking: tofu. We think cornstarch is much nicer than frying tofu with flour and egg (not to mention that without the egg, this recipe is vegan friendly) as it provides a much lighter batter for a firm, crunchy crust that doesn’t overpower the tofu.

We also use white pepper in this recipe, commonly used in Chinese cuisine due to its milder flavour that’s perfect for a delicious yet light crispy salt and pepper tofu dish.

You can garnish your crispy salt and pepper tofu with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper, some red pepper flakes, and/or a sweet chilli dipping sauce, or eat them fresh out of the frying pan as you prefer.

Sunday 3 January 2021

Review: Ticket to Ride - Europe Board Game - Great for Teens

Review of Ticket to Ride:Europe board game. Great fun for all the family and especially good for getting your teenagers involved.

{As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}

I first played the original Ticket to Ride (#ad) board game about five years ago with some friends and I've been hooked ever since. I'm not quite sure why it took me until the first lockdown last year to actually buy it, but I am so glad I did as myself and the children have played it so many times. I am a bit dismayed that they can all beat me quite so easily but it is still a lovely way to spend time together.

There isn't that much that can bring all the family together for an hour or so, but this is one of them. Ticket to Ride Europe really is a hit with the teens, I suppose it is a game that is a great blend of strategy, fun and luck that only takes an hour or so.

Useful information

Recommended age: 8+ years

Number of payers:  2 - 5

Length of play: 30 - 80 minutes

Time to learn the rules: 10 - 15 minutes and the booklet is super easy to navigate

Time to set up the board: 5 minutes

Cost: You can normally pick the game up for around £30, although I notice it is sold out in many places as I publish this. The RRP is £39.99.

Aim of the Game: 

To score the highest points by collecting and paying the coloured train cards, so you can place your train pieces on the board and complete the routes on your route cards. 

I think having four players is my favourite for this game, as it offers a better level of challenge on which routes we all try to claim and makes the gameplay about an hour long. Basically, the gameplay on the Europe edition is the same as the original North America version but there are also a few added features like completing a tunnel, where you have to be lucky or you'll end up playing more cards than the train pieces you'll lay; taking a ferry, which requires you to have a certain amount of locomotive cards as well as the necessary coloured train cards; or using a station to give you access to a route that is already blocked by another players trains.