Dad’s turn to choose the photo, so it’s a throwback to ski seasons past. One of the best parts of my ski day is stopping at the mountain restaurants for a beer and to enjoy the view. It never fails to impress.
Today we’re showing you how to make a model of an Anglo-Saxon house. You guessed it, another homework challenge! I absolutely relish these build at home challenges, but I’m aware that they make some parents (and children) cringe, so we’re here to help you!
Firstly, a very quick background history. The Anglo-Saxons came between the Romans and the Vikings in Britain. So around the period AD 400. They ruled England for 600 years, and formed the basis of its culture, language and borders.
They set up in mostly small settlements, and built their houses from wood with thatched roofs. The houses were one room, and had a hearth with a fire for cooking, heat and light. The fire had a metal cooking pot hanging from a metal chain above it. A small room next door sometimes housed the animals, and they were also kept outside the house in small pens.
Here, Hugo shows how he made his model:
Our model of an Anglo-Saxon house was not the best one presented. We should have perhaps used straw for our thatched roof, but it is difficult to buy in small quantities. It’s great if you have a horse, or keep rabbits or chickens though – you probably have plenty of straw to spare! We also made it quite small, using a cat food box, but Hugo insisted he wanted to use this as he liked the ‘flap’ effect to enable you to look inside. Some of the bigger ones were very impressive!
What have you had to make for your homework lately? Come and share it with us!
I’m sharing this photo of the ‘Mocktails’ I made my kids when I allowed them to stay up for New Year’s Eve. I didn’t use any fancy glasses (I wanted them to be safe!) but added food colouring and blackcurrant juice to lemonade! Simples!
Well, that’s Christmas and New Year done and dusted. Thoughts now move on to our next adventure as we start to get ready for our annual skiing trip. This year we’re returning to the other side of the pond, we’re off to New England. We got a great deal with Virgin holidays, despite the fact we’re going over the peak half-term week. The kids are no longer beginners, they are getting quite adventurous now, and I thought it was about time they spent some time on the slopes with dad. Somewhere not too difficult, but somewhere that non-skiing mum won’t be too bored either. Cal’s had a bit of a tough year, with continuing health issues, so a nice hotel with leisure facilities, adjacent to tax-free shopping, and with flights from our local airport, is just what the doctor ordered!
All of which got me reminiscing about the very first time I went skiing, back in 1978. A group of us had been away on holidays for the past couple of summers, and started musing about where to go the following year. In a moment of youthful impertinence, I suggested that perhaps we should do a winter trip instead and try skiing. After all, we used to go ice skating every weekend at Altrincham ice rink, so if you can ice skate, you can ski, right? To my amazement, everyone thought it was a great idea, and left me to make the arrangements.
And so, in the middle of a freezing January, we arrived at our rented bungalow in Aviemore, following a nightmare 24 hour journey through snow and freezing fog. I won’t bore you with every detail of our first time ‘on the slopes,’ but it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. The road to the ski runs was closed due to bad weather (Aviemore is about 10 miles from Cairngorm, no ski-in, ski-out luxury here…), so we took our first tentative turns on the dry slope, and I still have the scars to prove it! The mountain was shut most of the week, so the only snow we got to ski on was the dusting on top of the dry slope. It was rubbish. Little wonder that of the 6 beginners that made the trip, only 1 actually persisted with skiing in later life.
Of course, we’re all wiser with hindsight, so where would I have planned to go for a beginners’ ski trip nowadays? Well, with apologies to the Scottish Tourist Board, it wouldn’t be Scotland (unless you live close to the slopes, which is a different matter). Europe has literally hundreds of ski resorts to choose from, so how to choose one for complete beginners?
A few suggestions follow, but they all have similar criteria for inclusion.
They need to have ‘nursery slopes’ (runs to learn on) close to your accommodation – there’s nothing more dispiriting than long walks or packed bus trips from hotels to the slopes, and back again.
They need an extensive range of easy slopes for when you progress on to the mountain itself.
A good ski school that can communicate in English is a must (especially for children).
There needs to be plenty of non-skiing activities, just in case you decide skiing isn’t your bag.
And finally, there should be decent apres-ski. After all, skiing is not just about the skiing. Ask any skier!
So here’s my list, it’s not exhaustive, they’re in country order rather than order of preference, and I’ve not been to all of them myself, but they would certainly be on my short list if I had to start all over again…
Small, pretty resort in the Pyrenees, with wide open easy pistes into the village, and a good English speaking ski school. It doesn’t attract the speed freaks or tipsy revellers that neighbouring Pas de la Casa does. Great for a first ski holiday on a budget.
Nursery slopes next to hotels. Good apres ski. Uncrowded slopes through the week. English speaking ski school. We went there last year, and our kids really came on well. Toby could hardly stand upright on his skis at the start of the week, but was managing blues and reds by the end. Hugo was doing blacks, and actually wore the (Irish) ski instructor out to tears on the last day!
One of the prettiest resorts anywhere. Traditional Tyrolean charm, lots of nice walks and good hotels with leisure facilities for non-skiers. Easy tree-lined runs for beginners. Short transfers from the airport.
Arc 1800 is probably best for beginners, as the slopes adjacent to the accommodations are all easy and ski-in, ski-out. Les Arcs is well known for its excellent, progressive ski school, and whilst the resorts (as in much of France) are purpose-built and a bit lacking in charm, the apres ski and facilities are excellent. If you want a bit more charm (at higher cost), try Arc 1950.
5. Alpe d’Huez, France.
Huge beginners areas adjacent to the resort, excellent ski school. It is high and snow sure, and the town itself is quite large with plenty to see and do apart from skiing.
This is a good sized town, not purpose built, and has an authentic lived-in feel to it. The best ski accommodation is just outside the town in Campo Smith, next to the lifts. There are plenty of nursery areas, and tree lined green and blue runs for when you’re ready to take to the mountain proper. The food, both on and off the mountain, is as you would expect in Italy, fantastic, and plentiful. Don’t forget a grappa or bombardino at the end of the day!
Passo Tonale, Italy.
High and snow sure, with runs radiating out from the long village. Most of the runs into the village are easy, wide and sunny. Quite a large village, and much of the apres ski tends to be hotel based, although there are plenty of bars dotted about.
High and snow sure, surrounded by a spectacular amphitheatre of 4000 metre peaks and glaciers. The town itself is car free, you get to the lifts by small electric powered buses, or even a novelty train. The beginners runs are extensive, and once you’ve progressed to the mountain, there are long wide blue runs to bring you back to the village. Great apres ski, and plenty of non-skiing activities to keep you entertained, including a long toboggan run, a glacier that you can have a tour through, and the world’s highest revolving restaurant with spectacular 360 degree views!
Norway (most resorts, but especially Hemsedal, Geilo, Beitostolen, Trysil etc.).
A bit of a wild card this, but many Scandinavian resorts are particularly good for families first time skiing. Don’t worry too much about the lack of daylight in these northern climes, they are experts in floodlighting the runs. Night skiing is brilliant, you can see every lump and bump in the snow. A ski lift up a silent mountainside with the moon overhead is magical. The ski schools are fantastic and they all probably speak better English than you do! The only downside is the price of booze, but if you take your full allowance of duty-free (Norway isn’t in the EU), it shouldn’t be too bad.
Again, a bit of a wild card, but if you want to take the kids to see Santa, or want to see the Northern Lights, then why not combine it with a first time ski trip? Out of season (i.e. after Christmas), the costs come right down. Like Norway, the daylight is limited – but see above about floodlit slopes. It can be very cold (but a dry cold, -30C here doesn’t feel nearly as bad as it sounds…). The runs are mostly gentle, English is widely spoken, and the accommodation is top notch. Plenty of snow related non-ski adventures await, like snowmobiling, dog sledding, or ice fishing. Again, booze is a bit more expensive, but not prohibitively so.
Remember, I haven’t been to all of these places, so please do plenty of your own research. Good luck, and welcome to a lifetime of skiing fun!
I was a comper before I was a blogger. I would enter competitions every single day. Then I had to let it slide when we started this blog, as two time-consuming hobbies didn’t sit well with family life. Recently I started doing some comping again, so I’m sharing my comper’s wish list for 2017.
What is a comper’s wish list, and why do I need one?
Well, I’ve taken advice from the Queen of Competitions, Di Coke, who shares many comping tips on her website Superlucky Me. Focussing on what you want to win is a good tactic. It helps save time entering competitions for prizes you don’t really want, and encourages a positive mindset. You can search for the prizes you want or need, and are much more likely to be successful. It also makes your time more manageable and stops you feeling overwhelmed.
You can also record your success against your wishlist, which is very motivating. And if all else fails, you’ve got a great birthday or Christmas present wishlist!
I find inspiration from competition websites, where I can browse through and see the type of prizes on offer and easily choose which I would like to win. In the run up to Christmas my focus shifts to toys and other things for my family. I also add to the list anything I might need but can’t really afford at the moment (like a new bed), or things I know are on their way out (like a laptop).
I had a very lucky month in October, when I first started doing competitions again (which I wrote about here), but not much since. I’m not giving in easily though, I’ve made a long list of wishes here!
Robot vacuum cleaner
Nutri-Bullet style blender
Holiday – especially America – Florida, New York or Vegas, or Niagra Falls, or a ski holiday
Camera – especially one good for blogging
TV (preferably curved)
Laptop for Paul
Ride on Lawnmower (also a dream for Paul)
Raised flowerbeds or other garden decorative items
What are you wishing for? Have you made a list? Whatever it is, I wish you good luck!
Do you have a bucket list? A yearly one, or a ‘rest of your life’ one? I bet there are lots of travel options on there! Well, if you don’t have a travel bucket list, here are some ideas to get you started, otherwise, you might want to add some of them to your current bucket list!
Before I go further, let me just clarify that we have no hope of completing all of these, it’s just a ‘dream list’ really! Also, you may think there are some key places missing, but it may be that we’ve been there already – feel free to ask or make suggestions! We generally travel as a family, so most of our travel bucket list wishes are quite conservative and have kids in mind. We’re open to suggestions, though!
North Coast 500 – a fabulous trail of the North of Scotland, starting in Inverness and taking a big loop around the coast. Our boys were both born in Scotland and a large part of our hearts are still there.
London, including the Harry Potter tour (for the boys), London Eye, and a West End show (for Cal).
Legoland Windsor – No, I haven’t taken leave of my senses, this one is on here for the kids!
Lake District Tour – The Lake District isn’t far from us, and it’s a scandal really that we don’t visit it often. I sometimes drive through for work, and Cal lived there too for a while (lucky thing), but again the kids haven’t visited and we need a family holiday there together. Soon!
Paris, including a trip up the Eiffel Tower, and Euro Disney for the kids. They have been to Euro Disney once before, but have very little memory of it now as they were so young.
Rome – we’ve been before, but would love to show the kids this wonderful city
An old fashioned train ride on the Orient Express (without the kids this time, please!)
Austria – Lech, and neighbouring St.Anton, ski playgrounds of the rich and famous, but we can all dream. Skiing has been my big love for years, and the boys are following in my footsteps now.
France – We have a place in France which we rent out gites, Chataigne House, but we have a small obsession with castles, and would love to visit more Chateaux, in France or elsewhere.
Norway – Hammerfest/North Cape. The most northerly point of mainland Europe, with a chance to see the Northern Lights.
(Now we’re talking)
Niagra Falls – I’ve actually been, but it’s Cal’s number 1 dream, and I really want to show it to her and the kids.
Disneyworld Florida – who doesn’t want to treat their kids to the ultimate holiday in Florida? We’d also love to visit Miami, and Cal’s love of Art Deco could really be indulged here, as well as lots of glitzy beaches.
Yellowstone National Park – I’ve always been fascinated by this place, and would love to visit. In fact, what I’d really like to do is a grand America road trip, time and money permitting!
New York – again we’ve been before but would love to show the kids. It would blow their minds – it certainly did ours!
Safari – in Kenya maybe, with a hot air balloon ride too. Although I’m more of a safe traveller these days, but this is still there in the back of my mind.
Canada – Whistler or Banff for the skiing, of course! Stunning scenery too.
New Zealand – I’m a bit worried we’d never want to come back, from what I’ve heard about New Zealand. But this year it hosts a fabulous Rugby tour of the British and Irish Lions in June and Early July, so that would be the time to visit if you’re a rugby fan.
Bermuda – Would be amazing to visit at any time, but this year, Bermuda is hosting the 35th America’s Cup in June, which would be an amazing spectacle.
Many cruise lines are including Bermuda as a stop to coincide with the Americas Cup, which would be fabulous. Cruising is such a great way to see several places in one trip, and I love the idea of a Caribbean cruise especially.
Have you made a travel bucket list, or other bucket list? Would you be willing to share it? Have any of our ideas inspired you? We’d love to know.
Do you let your children stay up to see in the New Year on New Year’s Eve?
We don’t usually, but the boys are getting a little older now, so if they can manage it, I think we might let them stay awake. Otherwise, it’s just the two of us plus Jules Holland, and Cal falls asleep before 10.30, so it’s getting a little dull!
I always stayed up on New Year’s Eve when I was a child. All of the neighbours got together, including the kids who were all of a similar age, and went around each house having food and drinks, and doing the conga in between! If only things were so neighbourly these days!
I’m not sure what we did to entertain ourselves as kids back then. Probably spent time laughing at the adults! But here are some ideas if you’re spending New Year’s Eve together as a family, whether you stay up late or not…
Have fizzy drinks and mocktails – there are plenty of recipes out there, but try fruit juice mixes with lemonade or soda, or smoothies with cherries, umbrellas or sparkler decorations.
Watch fireworks – have some of your own fireworks in your garden, or join in with an organised display at a local hotel or park.
Crackers & party poppers – our kids go crazy for party poppers! For them, they are the ultimate permission to make a noise and a mess, and definitely say ‘celebration’. Crackers are another great pop and surprise – you may have some left over from Christmas, or could pick them up cheap in the sales. Alternatively, make your own.
Make a Photo Booth – grab a few props, silly hats, wigs and glasses, and have a fun photo shoot. Make some memories!
Dress up – see above. Dress up in something silly or fun, or dress up smart or in party wear. Whatever takes your fancy – anything goes.
Dance-off – have lots of fun dancing to your favourite tunes, or using your favourite video game maybe?
Make Resolutions – talk about resolutions, write or draw them, or maybe video them for future reference?
Games – board games or party games are always fun, especially when the whole family are together. I’m sure you’ve been given some for Christmas this year – what a great time to try them out!
Reminisce – look at photos from the past year, make a time capsule or a scrapbook of your year. Gather together any tickets, postcards or other souvenirs you have saved from special trips this year.
Have lots of glow-in-the-dark activities: glow sticks, a disco ball if you have one, flashing glasses and other cheap Pound Shop novelties, torches, glow balloons…you get the idea! Lights out, party on!
Finally, and most of all, have some fun together this New Year’s Eve!
Hello friends! Did you have a lovely Christmas? Are you still finishing off the leftover turkey and mince pies? Lounging on the sofa all bloated and full? I know, me too!!
It isn’t over yet! We have New Year to come. More alcohol, more naughty nibbles. Staying up late and over-indulging. It’s what this season is about, isn’t it? Then helping the kids with all those selection boxes, and dipping into another tin of Quality Street, followed by the guilt and the resolutions to eat better and get fit in the New Year!
In among the resolutions, please remember your gut! Think about what you’ve put your poor belly through recently, and make a resolution to make amends with your body!
In advance of the festive season, I made sure I was stocked up with Probiotics. I’ve often turned to yoghurts or yoghurt drinks to top up the good bacteria in my gut, but then I got a bug which made me not tolerate dairy products very well, and I had to rethink my strategy. So I was pleased to receive a sample of Nutri Advanced ProbotiX Daily 5 Live.
Have you heard of Probiotics? How much do you know about these tiny guys doing all the good work in your intestines?
Here’s the science bit:
Probiotics are ‘friendly’ bacteria that offer positive health benefits. Bacteria are essential for the health and function of your intestinal tract, which has a tremendous impact on your overall health. They play a crucial role in the gut’s ability to fight infection and support general digestion as well.
Many factors in our normal life can disrupt the balance of our good bacteria, leading to poor health. Do you recognise any of these?
Stomach medicines such as antacids
A high fat, high sugar diet (mince pies and Quality Street?)
A low fibre diet
Food & Water contaminants (Chlorine, pesticides etc)
Alcohol (oh dear!)
Stress (Oh deary dear!)
Well, no wonder I needed to crack open the ProbotiX at this time of year!
I took the ProbotiX capsules for the month of December. During this month we had a very busy time, and were also all fighting off a bug which threatened our family (and finally brought the little one down in the final week of school). Of course everyone’s lead up to Christmas is busy, and I also decided to take part in Vlogmas (which you can see week 1 & week 2 plus here), plus I was in hospital 3 times for procedures on my back! We also had the usual Nativities, School Discos, Football parties – all the pre-Christmas craziness.
The poor little probiotics were certainly put through their paces! I was lucky I even remembered to take them half the time!
How did they make me feel? I’ll be honest, at times it was difficult to say. Not surprising really, with the amount of pain relief I was taking and the number of sleepless nights I had. But I did feel a difference, the greatest amount when I took them right before bed. I guess when you lay off the mince pies for a while you give probiotics a better chance to do their thing! I awoke feeling much less bloated and looking much ‘flatter’, which also felt more comfortable. There was also less of the early morning nausea and generally grogginess I sometimes feel. That has to be a good thing, right?
At other times, even when I didn’t feel a massive difference, I still had the reassurance that my friendly little bacteria were keeping me topped up and doing their hard work for me, quietly and without complaint. Thanks guys!
Finally, we should ask ourselves what makes a good probiotic? They need to be scientifically studied, effective bacteria strains, have proven delivery and survival in the gut, guaranteed stability and quality, high potency, and clinically effective probiotic formulas. Did my Nutri Advanced ProbotiX have these? Why yes! The strains of good bacteria within ProbotiX Daily 5 Live have been chosen to work synergistically together, and provide over 5 billion good bacteria in each capsule. They help each other grow as well as creating an optimal pH range for good bacteria in your gut.
Disclosure – we were sent some ProbotiX Daily 5 Live supplements for the purpose of this review, but all opinions and experiences are our own. This is not a clinical trial, nor does it intend to replace the advice of a health care professional.
OK, I’m no Super Mum, but I’m trying my best! My kids are high as kites, and we need some activities which will capture their interest and keep them (relatively) calm!
If you are in the same situation, or are short on time or skill like me (!) here are two extra-easy yummy last minute treats to make with the kids for Christmas.
Chocolate Yule Log
This is so easy. Just take a ready-bought chocolate swiss roll of your favourite variety, and ice with chocolate buttercream icing. Then pull a clean fork through the icing in a slightly wiggly pattern, and decorate with ready made icing toppers or holly leaves, and sprinkle with icing sugar for snow. It’s a no-fail kid pleaser!
2. Chocolate Biscuit Houses
A great alternative to the gingerbread houses, much easier and much more likely to get eaten too! Take chocolate biscuits, put them in a triangle shape and stick together with icing. Once dried, put more white icing along the top and let it drip down like snow, then embelish with sweets, sprinkles or anything else your heart desires!