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  1. Don't forget these before boarding the plane!

    Is there anything better than going on a holiday? What with all the sun, sea and sand it’s the perfect way to relax. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a holiday won’t go to plan if you don’t do the preparation, especially a family holiday. They are notorious for going off the rails, which is why you want to do everything possible to make sure it goes smoothly. Thankfully, you can with these tips.

    Here are the five things you need to do before you board the plane.

    5 Things You MUST Do Before A Family Holiday

    Dig Out The Passport

    ‘Oh no, where’s my passport?!’ it’s the last thing you want to hear or say, but plenty of people do it on a yearly basis. The reason is that they assume everything is okay with their passport. Then, when they get to the check-in desk, they find out there is going to be problems. To prevent this clichéd pitfall, you just have to dig out your passport before you finalise the holiday. That way, you know that everything is fine and you will be able to get on the plane. Let’s face it – no one wants to book a vacation and find out their passport is expired.

    Make Sure You Have All Of Your Documents

    A passport is only the beginning. Before you land at your destination, you need to prove a few things. The first is that you have a return flight out of the country. It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed by how many people book a one-way trip. A good trick is to print off all the boarding passes and keep them in one place. The next box you need to tick is the visa. Do you need one? If so, contact your travel agents for advice and arrange one. Britons have had it easy because of Europe and Schengen, but far-flung countries have different requirements. Oh, and don’t forget a list of emergency contacts in case the worse happens. No one wants to be stuck in a foreign country if they lose their credit card and passport.

    Arrange Transport

    Going away is amazing, but getting to the airport is always hard work. You don’t want to miss your flight, which is why organising transport is a must. If you don’t plan on driving, pre-book a taxi that will take you straight to the terminal. Try and use a company you have previous experience of for extra security. Anyone that plans on driving to the airport needs two things. The first is a detailed map of the route so that you don’t get lost. The second is a parking spot in the airport car park. Whatever you do, don’t be late.

    Go Shopping

    Now it gets real! Shopping is a must before you go on holiday because you want to look your best. After all, you have waited for this moment for the past year. The thing is you don’t want to spend a fortune. The holiday itself is expensive, so there is little room for splashing the cash. Thankfully, the internet has your back with sites like Get the Label. These types of online retailers specialise in selling quality gear at low prices. And, they have clothes for all the family. With sites like these, there’s no need to buy clothes on the high street.

    Secure The Home

    While you’re away, the house is vulnerable. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but anyone can break in if they know no one is home. It’s not a nice thought, but it is one that you need mull over before you set off for the airport. Otherwise, you might come back to an empty property. Obviously, securing your home is essential, and it isn’t difficult either. An alarm is more than enough to keep burglars at bay and alert the neighbours. Some people even go as far as installing CCTV cameras because they scare thieves to death. Another tip is to ask a friend to keep an eye on the house.  Ask them to draw and close the curtains, leave the lights on, and just watch out for anything suspicious. They can even stay there as long as they’re tidy and leave before you return!

     

  2. Top tips for your skin, hair and clothes this summer

    Summer is by far the best time of year for having fun with your look. You can embrace trends and wear the clothes you want without having to worry about keeping warm, or wearing practical footwear due to rain and snow!

    With the hottest months of the year on the way, here’s how you can perfect your summer look.

     

    Skin

    Summer can be challenging when it comes to our skin. The sun’s rays combined with air con and being in and out of the pool or sea can lead to it feeling dry. But the last thing you want when it’s warm is to be piling on loads of greasy (albeit hydrating) moisturising products. To get around this, your best bet is to keep your daytime routine as light as possible. A light moisturiser, facial oil or serum will absorb quickly and sit under makeup without leaving your skin feeling clogged or looking oily.

    Then at night, opt for something much richer. It will soak into your skin as you sleep, and you’ll wake up feeling baby soft. Adding face masks to your routine is a great way to give your skin a boost of hydration when it needs it. And a gentle exfoliator will scrub off any dead skin cells and leave your complexion looking much more fresh and vibrant. And of course, it goes without saying that SPF should be applied every day. Not only does the sun cause premature aging and age spots, but can cause cancer too. If this is something you’re concerned about, you could visit a site like SkinHealth UK.

    Makeup

    During the autumn and winter, it’s all about the dark and vampy reds, plums and burgundies for lips and even eyes. During the spring and summer, it’s a time to lighten it up and go with something far fresher and more natural. A light foundation or BB cream will give a little coverage while allowing your natural skin to show through. Perfect if you have a bit of a tan and your freckles have come out- show off your beautiful sun-kissed complexion!

    Ditch the heavy contour, warm up the face with just a touch of illuminating bronzer on a big brush instead for a gorgeous bronzed goddess look. A neutral, light smokey eye with plenty of mascara will bring focus to your eyes and make you look bright-eyed and bushy tailed. For lips, go with a light pink or coral or something nude and neutral.

    Fashion

    Boho and festival fashion is always popular during the summer, and it’s something you can get on board with even if you’re not jetting off to Coachella! Cute denim shorts with an off the shoulder gypsy top is perfect for a casual summer day look. Finish with a fedora, a kaftan and gladiator sandals. If you want to get in a bit of that famous festival fringing, how about a fringed cross-body bag. Pop on your sunglasses, a statement necklace, and some stacked bangles, and you’re good to go.

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  3. Plus panormaic photos of our garden this year

    We’ve only been in our home three years at the end of May and have been pretty much non-stop doing it up!  I really wanted to buy a new home, but Ben was adamant they aren’t as well built as old homes so he convinced me to buy an older home.  The home we bought was built in the 1960s I think and it didn’t look in too bad condition.  We were quite naïve buying our first home together and even Ben thought all it needed was a lick of paint and a few jobs completed here and there.  

    His prediction was six weeks until we had it up to scratch.

    Ba ha ha.

    Three years on and we’re still working on the house!

    A panoramic photo of our garden and makeover progress

    A panoramic photo of our garden and makeover progress

    A panoramic photo of our garden and makeover progress

    We’ve changed almost everything indoors.  If it hasn’t yet changed, then it will be on our seemingly never ending list to do!

    Turns out we needed a lot longer than six weeks.

    This year I really wanted to focus on the garden.  We did a lot when we moved in such as removing a huge pond, replacing some patio and replacing a 2x15m overgrown border with grass, removing several trees and a path in the middle of the garden, but we still have a long way to go.

    Ben had some time off over Easter and thanks to lots of sunny weekends before this we’ve really managed to get out there and get loads done already.

    Here’s what we’ve managed to do so far this year and what’s left to do:

    • Shed – we were using the shed that was left here, but it was rotting and falling apart.  There is also a tree from next door which is pushing through our fence and was growing into the shed roof!  We’ve thankfully agreed with them to chop some down off our land as we need to replace the fence panels, but it’s in the way.  We bought a much smaller storage shed and got rid of a load of junk from the old shed.  We now have a much neater shed along the side of the garden.  It’s a metal green one and it was a pain to build, taking the best part of two days!  Ben did most of it, but I had to hold it and help tighten bolts, etc, as it was impossible to do it by oneself.
    • Chickens – Having removed half of the left hand border which came out up to 1.5m, I decided this would be a good spot for chickens.  We have talked several times about getting chickens since we moved in and decided now is the time to just go for it!  I ordered a coop and Ben has separated part of the garden for us to get four chickens.  He’s been busy adding different terrain, a bath, a swing and more.  It looks great and we’re off to buy chickens at the weekend.
    • Mud Kitchen – I’ve wanted a mud kitchen for the kids for ages.  Not only do they love the mud kitchens at playschool/school, but it will hopefully distract them from digging up my vegetables!  Ben used a bunch of left over wood and pipes from the old shed along with our old kitchen sink to create an amazing mud kitchen which they are already having hours of fun with!  It’s going to provide so much entertainment in the garden once the weather is scorching.
    • Grow your own – I’ve been busy planting seeds in my two vegetable trugs and have used all other available pots from the shed/garden.  This year I am growing almost everything from seed.  We have: pumpkins, courgettes, green beans, carrots, tomatoes and lettuce.  We also have strawberries, giant strawberries (apparently the size of a medium tomato), raspberries, apples, cherries, mulberries, pears and plums.  Quite a fruitful garden!  I look forward to seeing what grows and eating what does.
    • Trampoline – We’ve not done this yet, but want to put one of those in the ground trampolines in so it’s flush with the grass.  We have a good circular spot where we removed some trees and a circular path in the centre of the garden and grassed over.  It should hopefully still be fairly easy to dig up.  I do wonder why the in the ground trampolines are about three times more expensive though.
    • Garden room – now the shed is gone we have some rubbish left to clear at the bottom of the garden and all the fence panels behind it need replacing.  Then Ben wants to level the ground ready for a garden room.  If we can get planning we’d like to build a garden room with ensuite to let as a short term holiday let.  We’ll section off the bottom of our garden so they’ll even have their own private garden space.  I imagine adding a fire pit/chimnea and outdoor seating.  A cosy log burner inside the building.  It’s our idea for some extra income and I think it will be fun too.
    • Fences – we have lots of fences to replace and lots still to paint!  Our garden is 90 foot, so that’s a lot of fence panels!
    • Patio – I detest our patio.  It’s the cheapest yellow and beige slabs and it looks like a giant checker board to me.  Perhaps if it was a smaller area it would look better, but it’s huge.  We had the slabs professionally cleaned two years ago, but already they look so dirty.  I think that’s the main reason I don’t like them – because they look so dirty all the time.  I like things neat, clean and tidy, so these slabs bug me a lot!  Ben likes some slate slabs and I’m not sure about grey, but I guess they won’t show up the dirt or look bad for a long time?  We are considering an extension on the back of the house, so we won’t be looking to replace the slabs until we’ve decided what we’re doing house wise as an extension could cover half of them.  Maybe there’s such a thing as patio paint as a cheaper alternative for now?
    • Border – We only have a quarter of the original border left to sort out!  Hurrah!  It’s at the back left behind the chickens.  I’ve already pulled out the border edge (rotting wooden stuff) and Ben has lifted all the slabs which were the path next to it.  My fruit trees are planted here, but we’ll pull up all the weeds and level the soil out ready to grass over.
    • Log stores – Ben built an amazing triangle log store last year with left over fence posts from his brother and wood from B&Q.  It looks amazing!  We need 2-3 more, but it was quite time consuming to complete as he had to prep all the wood before, so we went ahead and ordered a flat pack for now as we have so much wood to store (and now a shed to chop up and use as log fire wood!)  Hopefully there will be some time to build more of our nice triangle ones at some point.  Ben even wants to sell them one day!

    Wow, writing it all down really makes me see how much we have achieved already this year.  But also how there is still so much left to do!

    Fingers crossed for great weather this spring and summer so we can complete as much as possible.  Then we’ll continue with the indoors. . .

    I think perhaps five years would have been a realistic expectation to complete our new home!

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  4. How to begin growing your own food

    Gardens are spaces that have so much potential; we can literally do anything with them. And yet, far too many of us lack imagination and fail to make the most of the outdoor space that we have been blessed with.

    What a lot of people forget is that gardens aren’t just spaces for relaxing and unwinding in, for anyone with a passion for food, they are so much more than that, or at least, they can be. More and more people are choosing to transform their gardens into spaces that focus mainly on food so that they can get that little bit more out of them.

    Traditionally, most gardens were used for growing food, so why should these spaces be any different today?

    For anyone who follows a plant-based diet, creating a garden that’s food-focused is a fantastic thing to do. It can help to make following a vegetarian diet easier and cheaper, plus it can mean being able to access organic foods more easily if you choose to grow organically, that is.

    To help you create an edible garden, below are some tips and ideas.

    Zone off your garden

    Obviously, you don’t want your entire yard to be food-focused because you will want areas to relax in and places for the kids to play. So it’s a good idea to separate your garden into zones, such as a relaxing area, a play area, and a produce growing area.

    In the play area, have a sandbox and play tower incorporated for your little ones.

    In your relaxing area consider building a deck, complete with deck lights, railings, and an incorporated BBQ, perfect for using to cook the produce that you grow. BBQ spicy veggie kebabs, anyone?

    Create an allotment

     growing carrots.jpeg
    Image from Pexels

    The first step to growing your own produce is to create an allotment. This can either be a raised allotment built in a wooden box or a floor-level allotment, depending on what you would prefer. There’s plenty of advice online about the best types of allotments, so it could be worth taking the time to do some reading up.

    As for what you can grow in your allotment, from root vegetables to lettuce, you can grow practically anything, just as you know what care each vegetable that you grow requires.

    Build a herb garden

    For a herb garden, what you want is a large pot of some kind. For one reason or another, herbs tend to grow better when potted up, rather than when grown straight in the ground. There are plenty of herb garden ideas on sites like Pinterest, so it could be worth having a browse for ideas. Pallet herb gardens tend to work well as they are grown horizontally, and so are ideal for gardens of all shapes and sizes.

    Plant fruit trees and bushes

    apple tree.jpeg
    Source

    Obviously, if you are going to grow your own produce, you don’t want to only grow savoury food, you also want to grow lots of delicious fruits. The best way to do that is to purchase a few fruit trees and shrubs - these can be grown in pots or in the ground, depending on what you would prefer.

    Some of the best fruit trees to get are apple, pear and plum trees, as for fruit shrubs and bushes, strawberry plants are great, as are raspberry bushes. You could opt to grow fruit from seeds, but it will take a long time before these trees and shrubs begin to produce edible fruit, so buying ready grown trees and shrubs is probably best.

    You'll be surprised at how quickly you'll be devouring your delicious home-grown foods and wondering why you didn't start sooner!

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  5. A sneak peek inside our family fridge after a weekly food shop

    Just over a year ago I posted a blog post ‘What’s in my fridge?  A typical week’s food in our household'.  It still gets a few comments when I share on Twitter, especially about the broccoli! 

    I always find it fascinating to see what other people are eating.  I love programmes such as Secret Eaters and there’s another one where they see what a typical family eats, then try to save them money and make them cook more from scratch.  The name escapes me.  Years ago I also read a magazine that showed the inside of a famous person’s fridge each month and analysed its healthiness!

    If you’re like me and love having a nosey at what people eat, then read on!

     Whats In My Fridge February 2017

    I thought a one year update would be quite interesting to see how our eating habits have changed.  The fridge this year actually looks pretty identical!  Though my beloved broccoli is still in its wrapper near the bottom and not in glasses of water.  I took this photo around one month ago and I can only assume Ben put this food shop away.  Ahem.

    I always take everything out of wrappers when I put it away and make things accessible and easy to grab.  So if I buy a pack of cans, I’ll remove the packaging and put the cans away so they’re ‘ready to go’.  Ben just puts everything away as it is.  Annoying!  I especially don’t like fruit/veg left in wrappers as it goes off a lot quicker and gets all condensation-ey.  I somehow missed that off my list of 5 Annoying Things My Husband Does, but maybe I’ll add it to another one!

    In my last fridge blog post I said I was thinking of cutting out refined sugar and this year I have!  I was thinking about it a lot towards the end of last year and thought of stopping in 2017, but wasn’t entirely sure I’d commit so kept it as an idea in my head.  After Christmas and New Year I decided I was going to give it a go and I’ve stuck to it all year, as far as I know!  I’d already cut out all sweet food containing added sugar last year and stopped eating any adult crisps/junk food.  Cutting out refined sugar completely seemed the next logical step and it’s been a lot easier than I thought.  Now I’ve done it, I don’t want to go back.  I’ve watched and read a lot about refined sugar and I really believe it is a poison that builds up over time in our bodies causing serious detriment to our health.  It’s also responsible for a lot of illness and disease in later life and I want to avoid this if I can. 

    To find out more about what inspires me to be healthy read my blog post Trying to be healthy?  Read this

    Our eating habits are pretty much the same as one year ago.  I do a weekly shop and the bulk of it is vegetables.  The one change is I now order a lot more online shops.  I started doing this to take advantage of all the cashback and offers at supermarkets on Top Cashback.  I worked my way through the list of supermarkets to get as much cashback as possible.  The new customer offers are really good and you can save a lot on your grocery shopping if you’re new to them online.  I saved loads with Waitrose as they gave me vouchers off my first five shops, up to £20 per shop.  Plus at that time they had a huge half-price sale on so we got more than usual for the same amount of money as our normal Tesco shop.  At the moment I’m shopping with Sainsbury’s.  They’re not on Top Cashback unfortunately, but they’ve sent me four vouchers for £10 off £40+ online food shops which is a great deal.

    We still get Little Yeos yoghurts and I’ve not noticed any other brands jumping on the sugar-free train with yoghurts just yet  That jam you can see in the corner of the picture in the fridge door is only made from fruit and is just as delicious as sugar filled versions, if not more so.  It makes me realise companies must just bulk food up with sugar to make more profit as half the time they don’t need to add it. 

    There’s a pizza in the fridge from Waitrose which has a wholemeal base and no sugar!  Wahoo!  It’s right up my street too as it’s a green vegetable pizza.  Ben doesn’t like this one (it’s not pizza enough for him), but I just love it.  I get seriously excited every time I find something new without added sugar!  There’s a green smoothie in there with parsnip which is quite an unique flavour shall we say.  A couple of pots of fresh soup and a cheese sauce.  Even many cheese sauces have sugar added, but fresh ones don’t.  I literally read the ingredients on everything now

    If you’re wondering why I’m harping on so much about added refined sugar read my blog post Why you need to reduce your refined sugar intake

    We’ve started eating loads of eggs.  Perhaps subconsciously because we are getting chickens this weekend so we could be preparing ourselves for an influx of eggs in our diets!  I love eggs though and so do the kids.  Bella’s favourite breakfast is a dippy egg.  She’ll polish off two no problem.  Eggs are so easy to whip up quick nutritious meals and we look forward to having fresh eggs from our garden very soon.  We’ve been ordering 36 eggs per week recently!  Bella can easily have two a day if we let her, so they disappear quickly in our house.

    Our meal planning is pretty much the same.  I loosely think about a week’s food and sometimes plan a menu, but most of the time I look on the day to see which fresh produce needs using up first or is starting to turn and invent a meal on the spot dependant on this.

    One of the things I was most upset about when giving up refined sugar was Heinz baked beans.  My favourite comfort meal has to be beans on toast with grated cheese and ketchup.  Luckily Heinz now has a No Added Sugar variety which is sweetened with stevia instead!  Hurrah!  I also visit Wholefoods to get some Real Good ketchup which is sweetened with xylitol instead.  There are two types of wholemeal bread at our local Tesco which doesn’t contain sugar, so I can still have my lovely beans on toast!

    Ooh next to the Country Life (one of the least ingredient spreads I can find) is Tesco avocado spread – yum!  Great for those cutting down/avoiding dairy and with not too many ingredients either.  It’s really yummy and now my spread of choice.

    I’m not sure if Ben was entirely convinced a year or so ago when I said I was cutting out the crap.  I’m sure he thought it would just be a phase, but I was deadly serious.  For me this is a lifestyle choice, not a fad diet.  I’ve watched too many things and read too much about how bad foods affect your body and health, especially in the long term (even if you feel fine now), so there’s no going back for me.  To be honest I don’t even miss the rubbish food and there are plenty of natural, raw, wholefood alternatives that are far more scrumptious in my opinion.

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