2021 Staycation planning

This post is in collaboration with hotels.com but all opinions remain my own

I realise that I could be tempting fate here given what has (or rather more pointedly has not) happened in 2020. However, I am sitting here and looking out to my frosty garden dreaming of getting away. Yes we are in tier 2 here in Cambridgeshire so things have begun to reopen locally but I still feel like my wings are clipped.

One of my favourite things to do is to get away with my family and top of our list for 2021 is London.

I’m not gonna lie, the thought of sun drenched beaches is tempting. Honestly though, I can’t help but to err on the side of caution. I am thinking a UK break will be just what we need.

Moose has been learning about London landmarks at school. He asked me the other day if we could go for a visit to see Big Ben. I think it would be so much fun to take the kids down to the capital. Maybe stay in a nice family friendly hotel close to the museums?

Earlier this year and before all of the madness began. I took Bess down to London for the day. We had lunch on Leicester Square, went to see the Be More Chill musical and took funny selfies at Trafalgar square. Afterwards we also venture to Camden Market which Bess absolutely loved. Exploring the markets with a teenager was great fun.

We all know that outdoors is best

It would be great to go and explore some of the parks. I think that there are so many things to do outdoors in London that it would be a great choice for a post Covid 19 restrictions trip. We will all still be a bit more careful of course so I would imagine that some practical social distancing rules will remain. That’s quite reassuring to me.

High up on my list of places to take Moose will be Big Ben and of course the Natural History Museum. The Science Museum will be a big hit with him too. I think we will also book a trip to The Sky Garden. Moose would love to explore the gardens and the views would be fabulous from up there!

I will definitely be travelling by train. We are only 45 minutes by train to London!

Further afield?

The thought of dealing with foreign travel is not a pleasant one for me at the moment. I would be up for going back to Guernsey on holiday though. All the charm without the hassle. You don’t even need a passport to go!

We stayed on Guernsey last year and it was so beautiful. It was my return to the island after spending many idyllic childhood holidays there. It did not disappoint.

 

How to financially plan for Christmas

It’s no secret that Christmas can be one of the most expensive times of the year. With presents to buy and huge food shops to tackle, the festivities can put strain on your bank account. If you’re keen to manage your finances well this Christmas, you’re in the right place. Here, we’ll explore how to plan your spending and top tips for cutting costs.

festive table

Be realistic with what you can afford

Many people feel tempted to splash the cash during the festive season – from indulging in luxury food to buying expensive designer gifts. But spending more than you can afford may put you in financial difficulty, particularly if you build up debt. The key is to be realistic with what you can afford to keep your finances healthy through Christmas and beyond. To do this successfully, you need to set yourself a budget for food, gifts and any other festive things, which we explain below.

Set yourself a budget and stick to it

When it comes to successfully managing your finances at Christmas, you should set yourself a spending budget and stick to it. Take a look at your finances and see how much disposable income you have to spend, or any savings you’ve got that you’d be happy to use over the festive period. It’s wise to follow the 50/30/20 budget rule, which divides your income into 50% for essentials, 20% on debts and savings, and 30% on anything else. If you follow this, you could use 30% of your income over the festive season on tasty treats, presents and other goodies.

shopping bags

Cut costs by making homemade gifts

Are you keen to cut costs this Christmas? With many people across the country facing financial strain due to the coronavirus pandemic, you’re certainly not alone. One simple way to cut costs is to make your own gifts this year, rather than fork out on expensive presents. You could bake homemade cakes or cookies. Why not create a piece of artwork if you’re particularly creative, or even make your own candles in your kitchen. The options are almost endless!

Shop around for the best deals

Another easy way to save money at Christmas is to shop around for the best deals. If there’s a specific item you want to buy as a gift, look at various retailers. See if they have any offers you can take advantage of. Of course, this doesn’t only apply to present shopping, but food shopping too. If you have time, check out any deals supermarkets have on your favourite festive treats. Maybe you can get what you need for the best possible prices.

By effectively managing your money over the Christmas season, you can enjoy the festivities without having a financial hangover to face in the new year.

10 Benefits of Board Games

Family games have always been a feature of downtime for us and especially at Christmas when we have lots of time to relax together. We love nothing more than grabbing a board game and having good old fashioned family fun. 

This year has really been the year of the board game. From old favourites to new educational games. It really does feel like we have played them all this year. We have definitely had the time to! 

Now that I have started shopping for Christmas gifts for my family I will definitely be looking at The Works for great board games gifts as well as books! There are so many ways every member of the family can benefit from board games and here are just a few of the best reasons to start playing together

Board games are a great way to unplug

Sometimes you need to reconnect. A great way of doing that is to put away the screens. The complete lack of technology required by most board games makes them a great tool to help bring people together. Not only do you have to sit together to play a game but everyone benefits from the emotional connection of playing together.

Board games give kids an opportunity to teach adults

You can really only teach something if you know it well enough yourself. Let your child teach you how to play a game. Not only will you have fun but it will really help to build their confidence. 

This year for Christmas I have bought Moose a game of Downfall and also Perfection. I love these games from my childhood but he doesn’t need to know that. I plan to let him teach me how to play both of them. 

Board games teach kids how to be (good) losers

There are always going to be hard lessons to learn and not many of us have made it through life without having to lose sometimes. Yes, playing a game of Monopoly together can be tense but learning how to lose is a really important life skill to have. 

Board games promote literacy

Most board games involve reading. Whether that is questions on a card, instructions to learn how to play or something else. There is always something to read. Why not encourage little ones to hone their skills by reading aloud to other players.

Board games encourage teamwork

A massive plus point of board games is that often they are suitable for different ages. Being able to work as a team with others from different age groups is a skill that your children will need over and over again throughout their life.

Board games help with Maths skills

One of our favourite board games this year is a maths based game called Sum Swamp. It is a very simple concept but in order to move around the board you have to do sums. Games like this one are incredibly educational. It’s great to see kids enjoying maths and now we also incorporate sums into older games too. For example, when we play Snakes & Ladders we use the sums dice from the Sum Swamp game. Suddenly Moose has had an easy 30 minutes of Maths with zero effort.  

Board games help kids to understand how others think

Most board games involve tactical thinking. A lot of them cannot be played without thinking ahead. Playing board games together is a great way to show children that not everyone thinks the same way and that’s a lesson that will come in handy over and over again.

Whether it’s by perfecting their poker face or thinking ahead these are excellent skills to have. Games like Chess are classic and are awesome for building on tactical thinking skills.

Board games are a good alternative to time out

Sometimes when children act out it is a sign that they need you. In fact, I would say that sometimes is a bit of an understatement. Of course there are situations where a time out is absolutely appropriate. However, it makes sense that the more you use a particular method of discipline, the less impact it has. 

The next time your children are playing up why not try getting a game out and switching off distractions and just seeing what kind of an effect it has on you all. Most games have a level of structure to them so they act as a great opener for better communication too.

Board games help build the attention span

I think screens are generally a positive thing for us and our children. However. One of the massive downsides is the sheer number of distractions. The result of this is a notable decrease in everyone’s attention span. Not just children, adults too. 

Playing a board game from start to finish without allowing distractions from phones or tv most definitely helps to increase concentration and in turn it will also help to lengthen anybody’s attention span.

I love this Ted talk about the brain benefits of playing games

Review| Retro fun with Lite Brite

We received this product for the purpose of writing this post. All opinions remain honest and our own.

Back in the 1980s I wanted a Lite Brite so much! I never got one for Christmas but my best friend did and I have vivid memories of playing with it for hours in her room. 

I always thought of it as an ’80’s toy but apparently it’s quite a bit older than that. It goes all the way back to the 1960’s! 

What’s in the box?

  • A Lite Brite Ultimate Classic Board
  • 200x coloured pegs
  • 6x Art Templates
  • Full instructions
  • Art Guide

How do you play?

Easy and fun for all ages, follow the pre-designed pattern or create your own bright & colourful masterpieces, to create beautiful pictures that glow! Creates 4 different light shows to enhance your art – from blinking, pulsing, steady and random.

Built for travelling, this is a perfect take along for any car ride, road trip or out of the house activity needs. The Lite Brite takes 3 AA batteries – it is worth noting that you can play without the batteries, it just obviously won’t light up. 

What did we think?

I think I was far more excited to play with the Lite Brite than Moose was! What I hadn’t bargained on though was this being a hit with a teenager. 

Moose had a grand old time following the template for the mountain scene – there are 6 to choose from. He seemed to really enjoy following the guide and took great pride in getting it exactly right. I thought this was brilliant for his cognitive skills and I think he would have really benefitted from something like this perhaps toward the end of his reception year. 

Bess had a go at the unicorn template and enjoyed that but what she really liked was being able to let loose her imagination and create something unique! Anything which puts a smile on a teenagers face is fine by me.

They were both impressed with the light up element of the lite brite. It has 4 different light mode shows and there is a stand on the back of the lite brite so that you can display your creations. 

As well as being a great toy to play with at home I would definitely bring the Lite Brite along when we are allowed (finally) to take a trip. I can see this toy being a hit at Grandmas house because it’s a nice quiet way of playing.

The Lite Brite retails at around £19.99 and is available from Smyths

 

Review| Cool Maker Go Glam Nail Salon and Hollywood Hair Extension Maker

Disclaimer – we were sent both of the Cool Maker products featured in this post free of charge in return for an honest review.  All opinions are our own

If there is one thing I know about girls is that no matter what else interests them, they all at some point want to be just like their Mum. Maybe not for long and almost definitely not in front of their friends but at some point they will copy what you do or what you say and hold up a mirror to your own self in a way that only daughters can.

With this in mind. It makes it all the more important that you show them good habits and there aren’t many places easier to do this than by teaching them to take time out for self care.

Self care can mean vastly different things to different people. Some might just need a good book and a comfy spot, others a clear space and some music to move to. My sister Jo, along with writing at The Knight Tribe also enjoys taking care of her hair and nails and as little girls do, my nieces love to play with her pretty nail polishes and hair bits and bobs.

When I was asked to review the Go Glam Nail Salon and Hollywood Hair Extension Maker I just knew that my Sisters girls would love them. I was not wrong..

Go Glam Nail Salon

The GO GLAM Nail Salon is really easy to use.

First, choose a pattern and pop it into the machine. Next, paint each finger or toenail with one of the non-toxic GO GLAM nail polish base coats (two colours included).

Then place your nails under the dryer, switch on the button and wait five minutes for nails to dry. Lastly, insert each nail one at a time into the machine and press the button to stamp. Remove your nail from the stamper to reveal a perfectly patterned nail. Paint on a layer of shiny top coat (included) and GO GLAM with your squad.

For even more nail polish and pattern combinations, look for the GO GLAM Pattern Pack and Mini Pattern Pack refills (each sold separately) and never run out of ways to style your nails. The GO GLAM Nail Salon is a fun sleepover party activity and is a great gift for birthdays or special occasions for kids aged 8 and up.

My sisters nails always look lovely so I wasn’t too surprised that the Go Glam Nail Salon was a massive hit with her girls too. They loved it. I think it will get used a lot.

even though this is a toy it is such a neat piece of kit. I cannot wait for lockdown to be over so that I can visit and have a go too!

Hollywood Hair Extension Maker

Design, create and style your own hair extensions! Customise a hair ribbon with the included markers or choose a printed design. Load your ribbon into the Hollywood Hair Extension Maker. Next press the button and watch as it magically transforms into a stylish hair extension! Use the heatless curler to create beachy waves, tight curls, sleek straight looks and more!

It was so cute to see how invested the girls were in designing their very own hair extensions. I love that you could choose ribbon in any colour or pattern to create a unique look.

Both of the sets are £19.99 and are available from Smyths and Amazon.