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Some of our best family holidays have been spent camping in Wales and we’re always eager to come back again year after year, even if just for a weekend.

Living in the North West, it couldn’t be easier for us to get to North Wales for a weekend getaway – simply grab the kids and the tent, pack up the car and go. Like most families these days, money can be quite tight but camping is a great way for us to get away without breaking the bank.

We used to spend most of our camping holidays on parks dedicated to campers but a few years ago, a family friend had a fantastic holiday at Greenacres and told us there were tents there too. That was the turning point right there – I picked up a brochure from Asda and we’ve never looked back.

We’ve always loved the North West coast but camping in Wales at Greenacres really took holidaying here to the next level. We still had the same great access to Snowdonia National Park and the beautiful Welsh beaches, but we also had access to a mountain-load of on-park activities.

One stay at Greenacres and ‘we never looked back

After years of rough and ready camping as a child, the heated shower block is an absolute dream. And being so close to the park’s facilities – just a two minute walk – means the kids can have a bit more independence to go and do what they want (which is perfect now they’re getting a little bit older).

We’d heard of Black Rock Sands beach before but had never been. Turns out it’s just a short walk from Greenacres - you couldn’t get any closer to this beach without actually being on it.

Ariel shot of Greenacres

What really sold the park to us though was the video on the Greenacres website because the scenery really speaks for itself. Once you’ve crossed the Welsh border, there are great views all the way…so much so that our kids even put their gadgets down to look out the window from time to time!

View of bay

This year we’re thinking about timing our visit with the Llangollen International Eisteddfod – it’s a bit of a drive from Greenacres but it’s a charming one and we think it’ll be well worth it. This year it’s from 9th – 14th July so we’re planning on getting one last trip away in before the summer holiday rush starts.

That’s the same weekend as Wakestock – ‘Europe’s largest wakeboard music festival on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales’. We’ve never been before but we’re hoping this will give the area a young, laidback atmosphere that our older kids will appreciate.

Making plans for the summer

For our big summer holiday we don’t usually mind travelling a bit further afield if it means going somewhere good. That’s why we’re also thinking of trying South Wales soon as it’ll be a taste of what we know and love, combined with a bit of something new.

My husband and I usually share the driving so with the kids occupied by their iPads and smartphones in the backseat, we expect we’ll get there with no fuss.

We’re particularly excited about going to The Big Cheese Festival – my husband in particular after he found out it was free entry.

The event promises some great food, drink and music in the town of Caerphilly and we might even try coaxing the kids into taking part in the Great Cheese Race – an annual fun run in and around the grounds of Caerphilly Castle.

If you get a good park on the Welsh coast, you can’t go wrong. But now that we know you can stay in yurts and safari tents at some of the Haven touring caravan sites beyond Wales, we might just pluck up the energy to travel as far as Cornwall next year.

This is a guest post.

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It is that time of year again, when we start planning our barbecues and summer garden parties, which means creating the ideal outdoor entertaining space. It may be that you haven’t touched your garden for a while or that you have just moved into a new home and you are looking to create the ultimate relaxing area for you and your family. This will take planning, which is where it can get confusing, so to help you out this year, here are some of the best tips for decorating your outdoor space in 2013.

Start with the appliances and seating

By starting with the larger items first, you can then develop the rest of the space around these items. Gas bbqs and outdoor seating will most likely be the largest and most expensive items you will be purchasing for your space, so by getting these first you will know exactly what you have to work with. Plus if it’s a warm day and friends come over, they will need somewhere to sit.

American style gas barbecues have been in focus for the past few summers, mainly due to their ease of use and stylish look. Gone are the days of trying to light a charcoal barbecue in the British summer weather, now we have the ability to eat amazing food at the switch of a button. This example of a traditional gas bbq from Littlewoods, is the perfect size for entertaining family and friends, has a clean and stylish exterior and side tables, so you will have plenty of extra room whilst cooking. There are many colours available also, so if you are planning to create a garden with a certain theme, such as red roses, then you will be able to find a barbecue to match your theme.

Seating is equally as important and much like the barbecues, there are hundreds of styling options available for outdoor seating. What you choose will really depend upon your personality and style, but you could choose a round sofa, wooden benches or even swinging seating.

Lighting and atmosphere

If you are planning to host day to night events in your garden then lighting is definitely key to both setting some atmosphere and offering your guests some beauty. Fairy lights are a great way to highlight certain aspects of your garden, draped through your trees or along the front of your home. There are a huge variety out there to pick from, from multi coloured LED’s through to stark white, once you know the theme for your party then you can easily find some to match.

Another much loved option is the humble solar powered lighting. The great thing about purchasing separate solar powered garden lights, is that you can place them at different heights, scattering them around your outdoor space. They tend to give off a dull light, so it is recommended that you get your hands on a few to create enough light for comfort.

Finally there is the do it yourself lighting, candle in jars. I know this sounds simple, but they can look effortlessly rustic in the summer sun, especially if you are having a vintage themed party. Obviously, be careful if you do buy garden candles and make sure they are placed away from anything flammable etc.

 Disclosure: This is a guest post.

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I've often said before that I can't shop.

Really, I think the problem is the stuff I like, clothes in particular, are way beyond my budget.  I also have no idea whether so-called fashionable items would suit me.  Not even just in an appearance sense but in a "me" sense.

I do dream of going to awards functions or black tie dinners with the ability to wear have the opportunity to wear something truly fabulous.  The most fabulous I have ever felt was on my wedding day.  Well actually my blessing.

I got married in Paphos, Cyprus and the temperature was something like 35c.  I had spent the previous week being paranoid that my nose would resemble that of rudolph so whilst I happily tanned my body, I insisted on Factor 50 for my face.  I hadn't bought any special make up so my regular make up had well and truly sweated off by the time we took our vows.  To this day, I am convinced I looked like a ghost.  On the day of our blessing, back in the UK however, I really did feel like a million dollars and at times, I wonder if the designer dress (and matching price tag!) had something to do with it.

I have always hated my legs, even when I was a lot smaller than I am now.  They scar and bruise easily.  As such, I have always preferred skirts with tights (even when it is warm) or a maxi dress.  I don't often pay attention to fashionable trends but I have to say I do like the recent trend of a chiffon style maxi skirt, with a split revealing shorts or a skirt underneath, rather like this one below by Barbara Casasola.  Now, if only I could afford the price of it and had a suitable event to attend!

Barbara

Disclosure: This post contains content for which I have been paid.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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In a previous life (ie pre-Harry) I could be found regularly at various bars and pubs in Bournemouth.  To me, there was no better way to let my hair down after a week at work than to hit a particular few bars in my favoured area called Westbourne.  My biggest worry was often what to wear though!  Whether it be a new dress, top, skirt or shoes (with 5 inch heels!) I frequently wanted to wear something new.

These days I get little opportunity to head on a night out but, with my sister due to complete her GCSE exams in the next few weeks, we want to take her out to celebrate her hard work and she has been working very hard!

This has lead me to the age old dilemma of what to wear!  She is 16 and has little interest in drinking, so I suspect her "reward" of choice will be a girlie meal out followed by a trip to the cinema.  So rare is my opportunity to get out, that I would like to have a new top as the bare minimum.  When I bought clothes on a regular basis for myself, I would frequently head to New Look and check out their range of affordable going out tops and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are still indeed affordable, although I don't recall being able to purchase on-line before!  Perhaps in my pre-Harry days I was a more confident shopper than I realised.

I think my choice would be this lovely red one.  I know red looks good on me and I know that this style usually works, just as long as I don't eat too much bread or carbs!

Red New Look

 

I hope that teaming this with my slim fitting black trousers, which I have yet to wear, will make me feel dressy but not too dressy.  Only a girl can know what I mean by that!

I do also quite like this necklace.  With a neckline like that I think this top is crying out for one!

New look necklaceIs this a bit of an OTT choice for a more casual night out or have I got the balance right?!

Disclosure: This post contains content which has been paid for but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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There is something so effortlessly cool about the humble short suit, back again for another year and we are glad to see their return. This season however, they have had a revamp, no longer just for women we are set to see an increase in sales of menswear suits sky rocket. For us ladies, keep your eyes peeled for the bright, bold and beautiful - yes we do mean very, very bright!

One of the best features of this classic suit with a twist is that they can be worn for a whole host of summer situations. They are perfect for city breaks, they look effortless for summer weddings and will quite literally take you from day to night in a few simple steps. Their versatility definitely pays you back for the initial cost, but most importantly, as they are made up of separates you have the chance to really have fun with your look.

The Short Suit For Men

This seasons men's shorts based suits are seeping their way through to the high street as we speak, whether you choose to buy a full suit or an array of separates, you will have no problem finding the perfect pieces for you.

To get creative with your look, then it is advisable to go for separates rather than buying a standard, single tone suit. Pay most attention to your shorts and shirt combination. These slim combat shorts from Private White are great for giving you a relaxed tailored look; perfect for strolling through the city on a summers afternoon. They are lightweight enough to keep you cool and white is the perfect shade for summer 2013.

slim-combat-shorts

In terms of shirts, I would always chose a mixture of long sleeved, short sleeved, colours and patterns, this will give you a well rounded wardrobe for summer. Classic tailored shirts are a must have his season and there has been a recent boom in shirts made in the UK, making these classic staples even more special. A slight hint of pattern, like the subtle stripes in the shirt, is perfect for giving you a clean day to night look.

shirt2

For blazers, I would advise you to go as bright and bold as possible, remembering that they can be removed during the day and just added when the chilly nights set in. This blazer from Fashion Beans is a prime example, not for the faint of heart, but fun and great for warm, sunny weather.

blazer - fashion beanz

For the Ladies

Suits have a stigma attached to them, that just sees us wearing suits for work and nothing else, now is the time to break this vicious cycle and begin to view the humble suit differently. The catwalks of S/S 2013 were filled with high quality tailoring, blended with fun and fresh patterns. Unlike men’s versions, women's short suits look great as a full set.

Now, I am not suggesting that we can't intermix jackets, to create different, miss matched looks, but the pairing of patterns in women's wear is a massive trend this year. This example by Lipsy, is fun, fresh and very summery. Perfect for teaming with white shirts, accessories and hand bags it will definitely see you from the beach to bar with ease.

 short suit women

If you do want to play with your look, whilst keeping your jacket and shorts matching then why not get creative with your jewellery, shoes, hats, sunglasses etc. The beauty of a shorts suit, is that it can work for a wide variety of fashion styles. If you love retro, vintage prints with minimal jewellery then you will find the right pattern for you. If you love boho chic, then why not add in layer upon layer of jewels to your look, like this necklace from Topshop.

topshop necklace

 

Disclosure: This post contains content for which I have been paid for.

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Our current "home" (and indeed the house where we previously lived) is not carpeted but has laminated flooring.  Whilst this is practical with a toddler (actually, can a 3 year old still be a toddler?) who frequently spills drinks and throws his food, we do find ourselves constantly on our hands and knees cleaning.  We did have a mop but the husband finds them unhygenic and is always wary about how clean they are, no matter how frequently I would bleach it in boiling water.  So he decided to throw it out.  Naturally, when we do our twice weekly big clean, he is the one who does the floors.  I am dammed if I am prepared to damage my back further due to his dislike of mops!

I have seen a lot of tweets and online chats about steam cleaners so I took to Twitter, asking for views about them and was met with a resounding "Yes" and comments like "Ours is used a lot and it dries the floors too " and "Much more hygienic".

Whilst they may seem pricey, after talking to the husband, he thinks it's something worth saving for.  I am not sure whether that is because then I might actually help with the floor cleaning or because they seem to be more hygienic.  I suspect it is probably a bit of both!  For me, I enjoy any new gadgets and anything that makes life easier or household chores quicker is always likely to get a big thumbs up from me.

So, I want you to tell me what you have in your home that makes chores easier and quicker?  What else do I need in my home?

Disclosure: This post contains a link which has been paid for.  However all views and opinions are my own.

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Several weeks ago my husband took a bus (well, two) over to the lock-up we rent.  We pay a substantial fee each month to store the majority of our belongings until we are re-housed and have more than one room to call our own!

The main purpose of my husband's trip was to collect Harry's smart trike.  We were hoping that we would be due some nice weather soon and so we wanted to ensure that we'd have the trike to take Harry out for rides or for him to play with in the garden.  Now that Spring appears to have arrived at long last, we are making the most of the weather and taking Harry to the park more frequently.  He has also taken to asking to go to nursery (or school as he proudly says) on his trike.

However, whilst he was at the lock-up, the husband had a browse through the numerous boxes, suitcases and bin-liners we have in there and was surprised by just how many old clothes we have kept.  I don't just mean old, worn items either.  I mean things that, quite obviously, will never see the light of day again; like my size 6 linen trousers or Harry's baby clothes.  Who am I kidding to honestly believe I will ever fit in them again?  As for the baby clothes, we definitely will not be adding to our family any time soon, certainly not in the next couple of years.  Since most of the lock-up seemed to be taken up by the bags, the husband couldn't help but feel that it is a complete waste of money paying a large whack of our very tight income to store things that we no longer need.

Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

A couple of weeks ago we went back over to the lock-up and sorted out what we wanted to keep and what we knew would no longer be worn by ourselves and we were surprised by just how much we had!  Whilst it may sound incredibly selfish of us, we didn't want to just give the clothes to a charity shop and we desperately needed some extra cash as, despite what certain media outlets and politicians would have you believe, life on benefits for most is a huge financial struggle, although I do appreciate just about everyone is struggling at the moment!  So I decided to have a look at selling clothes online and once again, I was surprised but this time by just how many people sell (and more to the point) and buy second hand clothing online!

After selling our old clothes, we have been left with using just about one third of the lock-up and so are currently trying to sort out getting the remainder of our items stored with family in order to save us some money!  What did we do with the money we made?  We went into town and bought ourselves some key items of clothing for Spring/Summer, should it ever return!  If you sell your old clothes, I hope you manage to treat yourself as well.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and therefore contains a link which has been paid for.  However, the story is true and all opinions expressed are my own.

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In this age of austerity, it has never been more important to set yourself a family budget; whether it's to help you pay for a much needed holiday, or simply to help you get through the month. This year is set to see the price of fuel, food and rent rise, much like it has for the past few years, so every cent that can be saved is important.

There are many small lifestyle changes that we can all make, that will help us save small amounts that will soon add up to larger savings. This could be anything from switching from paying for the gym, to jogging for free. So, here are the top tips for budgeting this year.

Start with your outgoings

Starting a budget is by far the hardest part, but once it's done you will have a clearly defined budget that you can work with. the main thing to remember when starting your families next financial step, is to be honest. Write a list of all your outgoings, this could be mortgage payments, utility bills and car payments. this will give you an idea of the payments that have to be met each month and will help you to see where the rest of your money is going. It may be that you spend small amounts each day on food or coffee, these small payments will show up here.

If you are really struggling, right now and class yourself to be in an emergency situation, then you may want to look at short term financing to help you back above water. There are many small emergencies that crop up, always it seems at the most inopportune of moments and financial crisis can be extremely hard to manage when you don't have the finances to stretch out. Online Payday loans are appropriate for this type of situation, just remember to make sure you can pay the loan back in full and you know the interest rates up front.

Look at how you shop

Our shopping habits do have a dramatic reflection upon our monthly budgets. Although discount shopping and coupon collecting have a stigma attached to them, now is the time to shake this off and get saving every time you shop.

When you have hungry mouths to feed, our weekly shops can become astronomically expensive. There are many great tips to save you some dollars each time you do your food shop and here are some of the best.

  1. Look at the time of day that you shop. the majority of supermarkets will reduce their stock last thing in the evening, great for stocking up on goods that can be frozen at reduce prices.
  2. Choose a basket over a shopping cart. Ok, so not appropriate if you are doing a large shop, but if you need to buy the basics then choose a basket as you have to carry the weight of the food. A nice way to avoid buying items you don't need.
  3.  Save your coupons.. Coupons are great for saving you dollars off your families favourite food goods. Whether you will get a 'Buy one get one free' offer or simply money off, this will all add up in the end.
  4. Collect rewards points. Many superstores and clothing stores are now offering their customers points cards as an incentive to keep you shopping with them. These points are then used towards paying for goods. Great if you have younger children who need new clothes very often.

Finally, Look at your personal spending

This is usually the hardest part, as we all love a coffee on the way to work or regular lunches with our friends, but these small payments add up. If you take that latte on the way to work, as an example; you will be spending about $5 per day which doesn't seem like a lot, but over the course of a month that could be an expenditure of an extra $100. Just think where that money could go to in order to help your family each month.

Good Morning America even suggests naming your money to help you understand how you are using it; it is these simple ideas that can help you to save for the future.

*Disclaimer* This is a commissioned post.

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Apparently organisation is key in the home, or at least that is what people tell me!

I have the best of intentions, honestly but frankly staying organised just seems boring to me.

I have one of those divider wallet things, where you are meant to seperate all of your paperwork but it all just ends up getting shoved into section.  I buy pretty notebooks, each one being assigned for a different purpose (blog ideas, shopping lists, to-do lists) and nice pens to go with them but they all end up mixed up with pages ripped out.  I have purchased a shoe rack before only for shoes to still end up in the porch at the old house and dumped into the wardrobe here.

The supermarket shop causes no end of disagreements and frustrations each and every time.  Where the husband thinks I am being fussy, preferring to have similar things in the same bags, I tell him I am being organised and it will save time when we unpack it.  Then he points out that I am rarely organised and rarely help unpack the shopping!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

The thing is I do like being organised.  I get cross when the husband puts spices on the same shelf as the tins, or when he puts the colander in the cupboard with the plates.  I like writing lists and crossing things off and the sense of achievement that brings.  So why can't I maintain it?

I have a short attention span, I know that and it seems to be common amongst those that suffer from conditions similar to my own.  I get easily distracted even with simple tasks, I can be stood at the sink washing the dishes, pop to the toilet and come back into our room with no idea what I was doing 2 minutes before.  So, it stands to reason that being organised would be incredibly useful particularly for me.

How can it be that I enjoy the act of actually getting organised and yet I simply can't keep it up?  Do you have any tips that would help me keep it all up?

Disclaimer: The above post has been commissioned.

From trade shows to nursery schools, the name tag is a common sight. These simple inventions have become an integral part of society, necessary to not only identify strangers but also to designate and organise our own property. When taking a closer look at how name labels are used, you'll find that there are several types to choose from. A special mum is certainly aware of the different purposes for which tags are used and will take advantage of them to keep things under control.

Labels for Children

 If you ask your mum, she will answer that labels are important in a classroom. Indeed, school name tags for uniforms are essential if you don’t want that your child is coming back home with someone else smock. These name tags can also be used to mark school supplies, desks, and cubby space to provide children with a sense of personal space.

With such a wide variety of applications, it's no wonder that labels are a bestselling supply in many industries. Consumers can choose from sticky labels or iron-on labels to best match their needs.

Name Tags at Home  

A special mum can use name labels in a similar way at home. Although you won't need to wear a name tag for identification purposes, these sticky labels can be quite useful for spring cleaning and organising the kitchen. Label children's boxes with their own tags so that they know where to put their toys away. You can also put them to good use within the kitchen, to mark spice jars and baking supplies. A great time-saving tip for families is to make large batches of favourite meals, and put them in the freezer for an easy weeknight dinner. These frozen meals can be clearly marked with name labels, which will easily withstand the cold environment. A special mum knows that keeping things under control is crucial in her family that is why she will try to use every mean (even the simplest one) to do so.

* Disclosure* This post contains content that has been paid for.