Tag Archives: holiday

An eco holiday at Owl Barn Retreat

In line with trying to become more eco-focussed this year, we decided that we wanted our holiday to follow the same principles, so we chose to stay at Owl Barn Retreat. This is a delightful barn conversion in a rural location about a mile from the village of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant in Wales. It is a sustainable and eco-friendly holiday cottage which has achieved a gold award from the Green Business Tourist Scheme. This was how we discovered the cottage. I’m particularly impressed with the kitchen work surfaces having been constructed from recycled glass bottles.

Owl Barn Retreat

Owl Barn Retreat

From here, we were able to do several walks to the nearby villages of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant and Penybontfawr, plus most magnificent of all, a longer walk from the cottage all the way to Pistyll Rhaeadr, the tallest waterfall in Wales which is in a remote area of the Berwyn Mountains. And of course we had to take a trip to CAT, the Centre for Alternative Technology, my third time there. We also enjoyed a walk from Lake Vyrnwy to a nearby smaller waterfall.

Pistyll Rhaeadr

Centre for Alternative Technology


Stepping Stones near Lake Vyrnwy

We were provided with Faith in Nature toiletries and Ecover, Ecoleaf and Method cleaning products, along with a tasty welcome pack of local food. We continued to try to buy locally with produce from the village butcher, Oswestry market, Llynclys Hall farm shop, plus Honeysuckle whole foods shop in Oswestry and Down to Earth in Llanfyllin. Zero trips to the supermarket on this holiday.

Recycling and composting are key at the cottage with separate clearly labelled bins for each type of recycling. I’m already aware how recycling varies from county to county. Here in Powys, there appears to be no recycling of tetra packs or metal jar lids. We did consider the possibility of bringing those back home but decided there probably wasn’t space in the car. But we did head home with an eco brick half filled.


Owl Barn Retreat

And I loved relaxing in the wildlife garden watching the butterflies and listening to the birds. We’ve also seen rabbits, squirrels and a fox. Son2 has enjoyed using the telescope when it has been less cloudy and has spotted Arcturus. He also loved playing in the maze, which is another great area for wildlife with all the long grass and bracken.

Owl Barn Retreat

It was a great feeling to be on the same wavelength as the owners. Anne phoned me a few days in advance of our holiday and told me things like there being a fishmonger at Oswestry market on Wednesdays. Just like I do here at home, Anne takes her own boxes to the butcher and fishmonger to avoid plastic. She was quite happy to leave me a supply of boxes to use, so we didn’t have to pack those.

We loved it so much at Owl Barn Retreat, that we have already booked two future stays there.

I’d love to hear your eco friendly holiday suggestions and tips please.

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Our House swap to the Pyrénées

Regular readers may remember when I told you about the benefits of house swap holidays. Well I am delighted to tell you that we had an excellent house swap to France this summer and have now scheduled another to Germany, both arranged via HomeExchange.com. Let me tell you a bit more about our experiences with this website and our French holiday.

The website is simple to use. You set up your profile with a description and photos of your home, making sure to include all the basics like how many bedrooms and whether pets are welcome or not. You may optionally list specific dates that you are interested in a house swap and whether your car is available for use or not.

Then you can either browse around the 65,000 listings or sit back and wait for others to contact you. We didn’t have a specific destination in mind initially, so we opted for the latter method. The first couple of replies were nice houses in Spain and Italy, but both families wanted to travel 2 weeks prior to us. And of course, my dates aren’t very flexible, as I need to fit it around my shift pattern. But we hit the jackpot with the third reply and it was still less than a month since we registered with the website. A lovely house in France on the edge of the Pyrénées. Whilst we were finalising the details with the other family, I had a bunch of other enquiries that I had to turn down. All we had to organise were our flights and car hire.

Pyrenees holiday

Roll on a few months to the summer and it was holiday time. I made sure our home was clean and tidy. We flew to Lourdes, where we may have unknowingly passed our host family in transit. When we arrived, a tasty welcome meal was waiting for us. Most appreciated. We looked after our host family’s cat, who I’m sure was totally confused by the change of people.

Pyrenees holiday

We packed plenty of sightseeing and fun activities into our holiday. We visited the nearby towns of Pau, Lourdes, Nay, Tarbes and Bagnères-de-Bigorre. We did karting, crazy golf (2 courses), swimming (3 places) and caving. And son2 celebrated a birthday there.

Here are a few of our holiday photos.

Pyrenees holiday - karting

Pyrenees holiday - crazy golf

Pyrenees holiday - crazy golf

Pyrenees holiday - caving

Pyrenees holiday

Pyrenees holiday - water park

Pyrenees holiday

Pyrenees holiday

Pyrenees holiday - Chateau de Pau

A fab time and now we’re looking forward to doing it all again in Germany. I’d love to hear about your favourite holidays.

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Disclosure.  I have not received anything for this post.  All opinions are my own.


Keeping the bugs away plus giveaway

At this time of year, I find that I can be plagued by mosquitos and other biting insects whether walking through the woods, having a picnic near a lake or just in my own garden, so I was pleased to be offered a selection of natural insect repellent or relief products free to review.

Whilst waiting for them to arrive, I heard that familiar whirring buzz of a mosquito whilst trying to go to sleep. Luckily it didn’t bite, but it brought back memories of tropical holidays pre-kids with citronella candles and sleeping under mosquito nets.

Bug fighting essentials

I received the following four products, although I had been expecting Mosquitan patches rather than spray.

Bug Balm
Vie Mosquito Repellent
Mosquitan Spray

So obviously the first ones to try out were the repellents to ward off the bugs before they got in biting distance. I started with the Vie spray. It is all natural, DEET-free and suitable for all ages including babies. Easy to apply and does the job as no bites. This is available in 100 ml size currently at £7.95 from Vie healthcare.

Bug fighting essentials - Vie anti mosquito spray

Then the next day I tried the Mosquitan spray. This was a very similar product to the Vie spray and equally effective at keeping the bugs away. Also simple to apply. Again it is a natural DEET-free product suitable for all the family. This is available in 100 ml size currently at £8.95 also from Vie healthcare.

Bug fighting essentials - Mosquitan

The Zap-It wasn’t required until I was actually bitten, so I had to take a pause from applying the repellents in order to reluctantly get a bite. This is a small handheld device which you press against a bite, then squeeze the button, which causes it to emit a safe electrical discharge. I found about 2-3 clicks were needed. The idea behind this product is that this inhibits histamine release, which means less itching and swelling.  But I found that you therefore do need to use it asap after being bitten to improve how effective it will be. It is available in several different colours from selected health stores, pharmacies, garden centres, Asda, Lloyds Pharmacy, Superdrug and Amazon, and currently retails from £5.95. One Zap-It is sufficient for up to 1000 bites, based on 5 clicks per bite.

Bug fighting essentials - Zap-It

I didn’t need to try the bug balm until I unfortunately succumbed to another bite, which I didn’t then zap in time. The balm  was easy to apply and soothing for the itchiness, which is great as it is important to try to avoid scratching bites. I did need to reapply over the next couple of days until the swelling disappeared. This product came in a small 30g tin, so a nice size for keeping in your bag and it currently retails at £7.95 from Skinshop. And it is 100% natural, containing a concentrated extract of liquorice root. Suitable for adults and children.

Bug Balm

So in summary, I was very happy with all these products, although I would have liked the opportunity to also try the patches, as I don’t need two sprays. They are definitely all travel essentials with peak holiday season upon us. Also I’m glad that my review is now complete, so that I don’t have to deliberately wait to get bitten. I hadn’t realised quite how dedicated I was to my blog! But at least now I’m ready, if I get bitten again.

Zap It mosquito bite relief

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a Zap-It to one lucky winner.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your top tips for avoiding or dealing with insect bites.

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Family Fever

Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.




Home Exchange including giveaway worth £100

So what do you usually do for holidays? Hands up who has ever tried a house swap. Here’s son1 outside one of the lovely homes we swapped to.

House swap

We had a couple of fantastic holidays via this method four years ago before son1 was diagnosed with leukaemia. He has now just finished chemotherapy last month, and hopefully by next year, will have completed other associated medical interventions. So I have my fingers crossed that we may be able to arrange a similar type holiday again next summer. We didn’t feel we could do one whilst he was on chemo, as if he ended up in hospital, it wouldn’t have just been our holiday at risk of cancellation, but potentially another family’s too which just wouldn’t be fair.

Therefore it felt a very good omen when HomeExchange.com contacted me offering a year’s free membership. And an even better bonus when they kindly suggested deferring the membership to next year.

HomeExchange.com is a global community of 65,000 like-minded people around the world across 150 countries. Members’ homes come in all shapes and sizes, from cosy apartments to sprawling estates and everything in between.

It means that other than the cost of getting there, a holiday anywhere in the world doesn’t have to cost anymore than staying at home, and the benefits of exchanging with a family are numerous.

It’s incredibly fun and cheap and means you can go anywhere, live like a local, and stay for free. Over half of the homes on HomeExchange.com are also family friendly, so there’s plenty to choose from and nearly 90% say they will accept children. Plus plenty of the listings have baby items available too.

Let me share 10 of the top benefits for families we discovered when we did house swaps.

PACKING IS EASIER as there will be linen, lots of toys and equipment waiting for you, so you don’t have to take it all with you.

AVOID LAST MINUTE WORRIES as everything is in one place and ready for you; the same as when you visit the grandparents.

ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY and stay for free knowing you can keep to your family’s usual routine, just the same as if you were at home.

SLEEP WELL AND RELAX without the concerns of staying in a hotel where your loud and boisterous children may annoy other guests.

GET MORE SPACE as children and parents have their own rooms; no more stays in a cramped hotel room.

AVOID TIME PRESSURES as there’s no need to rush downstairs to catch the hotel breakfast.

HAVE A WELL-DESERVED BREAK and enjoy meeting new friends by venturing beyond your neighbourhood, your exchange partner may even introduce you to their own friends with kids.

SHOP AHEAD by organising an online grocery shop to be delivered on arrival.

GET INSIDER TIPS from your exchange partner on the best child friendly activities and venues.

PEACE OF MIND knowing your own home should be more secure since it is occupied whilst you are away.

home exchange.com

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a year’s membership to HomeExchange.com worth £100 for free holidays to 1 lucky winner. Open worldwide.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear about your ideal holiday.

Visit Yet Another Blogging Mummy on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram

Disclosure. This post mentions a membership I will receive for free next year. All opinions are my own.

Beach holiday giveaway

Are you off on your summer holiday soon? Then read on for details of a great prize.

win a beach holiday prize bundle

I’m hosting a giveaway to win a beach holiday prize bundle which consists of:

· £10 to spend at Amazon online for books, ebooks, or essentials like suncream and bikinis.
· A Twister Picnic Blanket (in carry case and with playing board)
· Bar Bingo – bingo cards for you and your friends to play at the cocktail bar.

Bird and Bug Bingo

These prizes are supplied by http://bingo.paddypower.com
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear where you’re going on holiday or your holiday dream place to visit.

Visit Yet Another Blogging Mummy on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram

Disclosure.  Although I am hosting this giveaway, I have not received any products.  All opinions are my own.

Our Norfolk holiday


We have had a great holiday in Norfolk this summer. Son1 has been remarkably well during the maintenance phase of his chemotherapy, so we felt confident enough to book a holiday in advance rather than leaving it to the last minute. We booked a cottage in Norfolk, an area of the country I have not visited before in memory. Although my mum told me I had been to Cromer aged 3.

We stayed in Snettisham in the north of Norfolk and from there visited nearby places and attractions including Hunstanton, Sandringham, Kings Lynn and Wells-next-the-Sea. Our favourite beach was at Holme, sandy rather than stony. Being more remote, it was quieter than most. We discovered that beach by following a previous guest’s recommendation in the visitor’s book at our cottage. One of my top travel tips is to research your holiday locality by checking out the leaflets at the tourist information and I always read visitors books for ideas.

tourist leaflets

Fun on Holme beach

Fun on Holme beach

We were staying within walking distance of Snettisham Nature Reserve. It was lovely wandering round the lake, seeing the geese and wild plants. Although the anglers and bird watchers may have preferred it without our two loud boys’ presence. And the boys enjoyed having a few early blackberries as we walked.

Snettisham Nature Reserve

Snettisham Nature Reserve

Our favourite attraction in Kings Lynn was Lynn Museum. There was lots to occupy the boys giving us time to properly read about the exhibits. I found it fascinating to find out all about Seahenge there.

Horse ride at Lynn Museum

Horse ride at Lynn Museum

At Wells-next-the-Sea we walked from the town to the beach. And afterwards whilst I walked back, the boys loved riding back on the miniature railway. They also enjoyed eating pancakes on board an old sailing boat, The Albatros which has been converted into a restaurant.

Harbour Railway, Wells-Next-The-Sea

Harbour Railway, Wells-Next-The-Sea

Our cottage was small and cosy, but well equipped with plenty of games and toys to entertain the boys, and lots of books for me. We didn’t know that in advance, so I had followed my other usual travel tip of packing small things like balloons, bubbles, beach balls, colouring for the boys. There was no WiFi at the cottage, so it was great to spend less time online.

The boys had great fun on the beaches, paddling, building sandcastles and collecting shells. And when we got torrential rain, there were indoor play areas, museum, ten pin bowling, swimming pool and arcades.

Son1 was overjoyed to win a toy at kids Bingo at one of the nearby caravan sites.

And it was a delight to see the ducks and chickens wandering round outside from the small-holding behind the cottage. There were even alpacas.

I’ve written a separate blog post on the wonderful lavender farm at Heacham also encompassing Farmer Fred’s Play Barn, a favourite of the boys. I also intend to blog about our lovely day at Sandringham , so watch out for that.

Norfolk fun

Norfolk was wonderful. I certainly want to go again. Where do you love visiting most in the UK?

A holiday in Margate

During February, son1 seemed to be doing quite well with his chemotherapy treatment, so we decided to take a chance and book an Easter holiday in Margate. We can’t get travel insurance, so we knew this was a risk, but it is nice to have something to look forward to. Roll forward 6 weeks to a few days before we are due to go and son1’s temperature spikes to 38 deg. Luckily he wasn’t neutropenic last week, as the temperature threshold for hospitalisation reduces by 0.5 deg to 38 deg in that scenario. And the morning before we were due to go, he was sick, but he bounced back later in the day. He was fighting off some sort of bug, but we had his 3-monthly appointment with the hospital consultant on the morning we were due to travel and she was okay with us going ahead with the holiday.

So we drove down to Margate last Monday in horrendous rain, but at least son1 was feeling better and he remained well for all the holiday. We enjoyed a complimentary cream tea on arrival at our hotel. And the weather improved. A blustery start to Tuesday but no more rain. After getting cold at the Viking play area, we retreated indoors for a game of ten pin bowling. And by the afternoon, the sun came out. One of our newly purchased buckets lasted all of 10 minutes before the handle broke and by Thursday had split entirely.

Our room had a sea-facing balcony and we had fantastic views of the sunset. I wasn’t expecting that with Kent being on the East. What a bonus, especially as the sun remained with us for the rest of the holiday. We even got a little pink from the sun, as we had packed winter coats, not sun hats and sun cream.

Sunset from our hotel balcony

Sunset from our hotel balcony

As well as paddling (no I didn’t venture into the freezing cold water myself) and building sandcastles, the boys had fun at the kiddies beach playzone and we enjoyed playing crazy golf a couple of times. Son1 beat me by one point. We had huge breakfasts at the hotel, so didn’t bother with lunch. Then we found some nice places for either tea or a very early evening meal, as son1 has to take his chemotherapy each evening an hour after eating. Our hotel also had an ice-cream parlour. My favourite flavour was the salted caramel. We gave the Wimpy Bar a miss, but seeing it brought back memories of my Saturday job over 30 years ago, as the branding looked pretty much unchanged. I didn’t even realise that Wimpy Bar still existed.

Wimpy Bar - a blast from the past

Wimpy Bar – a blast from the past

And all too soon we were heading home today, but it was lovely to have a break. And we also visited Broadstairs and Ramsgate, plus a visit to Reculver Roman fort.

Reculver Roman Fort

Reculver Roman Fort

Travelling with young children – House Swapping

Mark Warner are challenging bloggers to share their experiences of travelling with their little ones for the first time or any precious family holiday memories. This challenge is in association with Kiddicare.

mark warner

This is an ideal opportunity for me to blog about house swapping which I’ve been meaning to post for ages.

House swapping is ideal for families with young children, as you can choose to swap with a family with similar age children. This means that all the equipment that you need like cot, highchair, etc will be there. Plus loads of toys. Also you can make personal arrangements with the family you are swapping with regarding linen etc. And you can organise an online grocery shop. So you don’t have to try to squeeze all this stuff into your car. And you’re going to have loads of space at your destination – not cramped in one hotel room.

Without extra luggage squashed around everyone in the car, makes for a much more comfortable journey to your holiday destination. But another top tip is to stop frequently enroute. We always stop about every 90 minutes to prevent my eldest son from getting travel sick.

Other benefits of house swapping are that you have no accommodation costs, so budget friendly. And your own home should be more secure as it is occupied whilst you are away. But you must let your insurer know.

We did a couple of house swaps in 2012 to Scotland and Lincolnshire whilst my husband was out of work and we thoroughly loved both these holidays. We also had another planned in 2013 but sadly we had to cancel, as it was scheduled only 3 weeks after my eldest son was diagnosed with leukaemia.

We have some lovely family memories of our house swap holidays. One memory is of my youngest son deciding to explore the water feature outside the Scottish Parliament. He got thoroughly soaked and I dread to think how dirty that water was.  And he had to dry out in the sun, as we were nearly an hour’s journey from our accommodation.

Son2 outside the Scottish Parliament

Son2 outside the Scottish Parliament

So if you are interested in the idea of house swapping, register online on a house swapping site. There are a number of these. We did it through the NCT, as we were already members. Then take some photos of your home and upload these to your page along with a description of your home and local attractions. Put together an information pack including instructions booklets for your appliances, local fliers etc.

Browse the house swap site to find a few families that you might be interested in swapping with. Then send a message to the first one on your list, specifying the dates you are hoping to swap. Bear in mind that Scotland has an earlier school summer holiday than the rest of the country. Also there may be geographical variations in half-term dates.

Or if a potential swapper contacts you, do them the courtesy of replying within say 7 days with a definite yes or no.

Once you’ve got a house swap arranged, then flesh out the finer details. Arrangements for swapping the door keys. Send a map and directions. Do you want to lock away your best china? Care of pets or plants? Leave a spare key with someone nearby that you trust.

Then just beforehand, do a good spring clean of your home. This is extremely important for hygiene reasons. Remember to empty stuff out of the fridge. Make space in the wardrobes, freezer, etc.

At the end of the holiday, leave their house as you found it. If anything got broken, then replace it. Accidents do happen with young children around. Replace anything you used like teabags and coffee. If you swapped towels and bed linen then please put a wash on before you leave.

Update – 20/8/16
I currently have a giveaway running on my blog until 14th September to win membership to HomeExchange.com for a year’s worth of free holidays. They have about 65,000 properties registered all over UK and worldwide.

Water walking

Britmums have challenged bloggers to share a story of their child’s holiday learning experience. Regular readers of my blog may remember that we’ve only had one holiday during the last 18 months, due to son 1 being diagnosed with Leukaemia last May. But we did manage a week away in October half term.

I wanted to wrap son 1 in cotton wool, especially as he now has a port implanted in the side of his chest. But he saw something that he wanted to learn to do – walking on water in the Water Walkerz. So I bit my lip and let him have some fun. He loved it and had a ball, if you’ll pardon the pun. Son 2 thought it looked scary and didn’t fancy trying it.

Our holiday was in Brighton but Wales is also a great destination for kids to have new adventures and learn new skills. Wales is made for family holidays. There are castles to explore, sandy beaches, spectacular scenery made for walking and action and adventure too. Mountain biking, riding, surfing, walking, food festivals — it’s just waiting to be discovered.

This post is an entry for the Visit Wales #Wales4Kids Family Holiday Challenge. Wales is the perfect place for a fun-filled family break.


Half term holiday fun in Brighton

We decided at the very last minute that son1 was well enough for us to go on holiday for half term.  A break was well overdue as we hadn’t had a family holiday since October last year, having had to cancel our planned trips for May and the summer, due to son1’s leukaemia.  Most places were fully booked but luckily we found a nice mews property in Brighton.  And our hospital liaised with the Royal Alexandra Childrens Hospital at Brighton to let them know we were in the area in case son1 got poorly.  But he did incredibly well at this stage in his treatment with not too many aches and only a routine visit to the Brighton hospital to check his blood count.

Our first day coincided with the really windy weather, so I was concerned reading friends’ facebook posts whilst we were away about power cuts of 60 plus hours and fences down. What would we find when we got home.  I was envisaging having to bin contents of freezer and a tree through the bedroom window.  But no the worst we suffered was garden bench fallen over and plenty of scattered twigs to clear up.

Although out of season, there is loads to do in Brighton.  We went to the Sealife aquarium, on the Brighton Wheel, on the pier, visited Brighton Marina for ten pin bowling, boating, water walkerz and visited Hove museum and Brighton fishing museum, plus had several meals out. And of course, we were there for Halloween, but I’ve written a separate post about that.  The boys loved the magical Wizard’s Attic at Hove museum.  And there are several more museums if we go back again.

Here are some of our holiday photos.

A windy start to the holiday

A windy start to the holiday

This is heavy

This is heavy

At Brighton Marina

At Brighton Marina

Water Walkerz

Water Walkerz

Son2 is more reckless than son1 boating

Son2 is more reckless than son1 boating

Does he have sharp teeth?

Does he have sharp teeth?

On the Brighton Wheel

On the Brighton Wheel

In the Wizard's Attic at Hove Museum

In the Wizard’s Attic at Hove Museum

Brighton is just one of so many fabulous holiday destinations in the UK. Anne shares some other great places for holidaying in southern England here.