21 Sep 2015

10 Reasons We Love Family Holidays To Florida.... & COMPETITION


We're heading back to Florida next Easter 2016 for our family holiday. It'll be the 4th time we've been over there, although it'll be Harry's 3rd time and Sophie's 2nd. We've considered many different holiday locations around Europe, but the US wins every time for us.

Here are 10 reasons why we love our family holidays to Florida......

1. Reliable weather - Throughout the whole year, the average number of hours sunshine per day is between 7 and 10 hours. During the months of December and January, the temperature can fall to an average of 16 degrees C (61 degrees F), which is t-shirt weather! Not a bad idea for a Christmas get away!

When it rains in Florida, more commonly during the mid-Summer months, the shower is over really quickly and it's actually quite refreshing! There is also something super special about a Floridian sunset, which even silences a toddler!

2. Beaches - The beaches in Florida are amazing. We've been to beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, St Petersburg, Treasure Island/St Pete's Beach and Clearwater. All feature the same fine white sand and warm turquoise water. 

One thing about visiting the coast of Florida, is you're a world away from the hustle and bustle of major the theme parks.

3. State Parks - Another way you can you find peace and green open spaces is to visit one of the many state parks dotted all around the country. 

4. Shopping - Shopping is a pleasure in Florida. Everything is so big and spacious and most often cheaper than it would be here in the UK. I do try to go with plenty of space in my suitcase, knowing it'll be full by the time we head home. There are shopping malls everywhere and lots of really great discount outlets too, which are called Premium Outlets.

5. Food - Yes, there is an abundance of fast food restaurants, but if you plan ahead, there are loads of great places to eat. The fish, especially on the coast is amazing. The Americans definitely also know how to make a good burger and I'm not walking Burger King or Wendy's here. We've actually had few really good, freshly made, quality burgers in Florida. There is also no worries in finding your nearest Starbucks too !

Portion sizes are more than generous too (you don't have to eat it all though!).

6. Sports - If you visit at a time when there is a Baseball, Ice Hockey or American Football game on, I'd highly recommend you go! We have only managed to get to a Baseball game so far. We watched the Tampa Bay Rays vs New York Yankees. It was such an amazing experience and such a fun night out.

7. The People/Pace of Life - The Floridian people are soooo friendly. The customer service, anywhere you go is excellent. You will always be greeted with a smile and friendly conversation. Nothing is ever too much trouble. Their pace of life is so relaxed too and most places are very casual. It's a flip flops and shorts for breakfast, lunch and dinner kinda place!

8. Language - Call me lazy, but I personally find it so much easy, especially with young children to have everything available in English.

9. Natural Wildlife - It's true that everything is bigger in the US. Where we get dogs, cats, squirrels and pigeons, Florida has Alligators, Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Manatees and Pelicans. A few times now when we've stayed in Treasure Island where there are intercoastal waters, we've seen wild dolphins swimming right up to the waters edge.

10. Theme Parks and Zoos - I've got to mention the theme parks in this list haven't I?! To be honest we've not been yet as a family, although I did go a couple of times when I was a child.  I think Harry (4) and Sophie (1) are too young for it yet and having researched it, it's not cheap either so it's best to plan to go when you're going to get the most out of it.

Near Orlando, you've got Disney World including the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and the Water Parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. However, you've also got Universal Studio's, Legoland, Sea World and Gatorland etc.

Other places to visit include the Kennedy Space Center, which is 45 minutes from Orlando on the East coast.

In the other direction, on the West Coast, you've got Busch Gardens Park & Zoo, which is just over an hour from Orlando. There is also a really great Zoo near Tampa called Lowry Zoo (and it's a fraction of the cost of Busch Gardens). If you are going to go for the 'Disney experience', make sure you do lots of research into multi-park tickets!

For your chance to win a fab goody bag, courtesy of Ocean Florida, just comment on this post telling me one reason you would like to go to Florida. Remember to leave your name in your comment and in the competition box below to register your entry!

A Family Chatter Ocean Florida Goody Bag Giveaway

This post has been written in collaboration with Ocean Florida. I received a free goody bag, but all words and opinions are my own.

MummascribblesYou Baby Me Mummy

16 Sep 2015

Letterbox Cakes by Baker Days - A Review

Last month, just before Harry's fourth birthday, Baker Days kindly offered to send us one of their unique letterbox cakes. Due to the timing, I chose one of their birthday themed cakes.

Baker Days make cakes, including cupcakes for every occasion possible and you can even fully personalise any cake of any size. The letterbox cake is a 12cm diameter, 2.5cm high cake, which is packaged perfectly to fit through any standard sized letterbox.  

The cake arrived in a protective cake tin, which was packaged in a cardboard box along with a gift card, balloons, candles and a party blower.

There was so many themes to choose from, but as Harry has a particular love for The Hulk at the moment, I chose this pre-designed Superhero cake.

 Harry though it was really funny getting a cake through the post and it was a nice surprise. Needless to say, we had cake for breakfast that morning!

The letterbox cakes can be used for literally any occasion or celebration. They would make really unique party invitations, as well as an alternative to thank you cards or even birth announcements!

Baker Days letterbox cakes are priced from £14.99. Additional costs of between £1.50-£3.00 apply for chocolate, fruit, gluten free or dairy free sponge.

11 Sep 2015

A Letter To Harry - "Your First Week at School"

Dear Harry,

I think we both started the Summer full of concern and worry about you starting 'big school'. Your experience of your induction session wasn't how I hoped it would be, but despite being only 9 weeks ago, you were so much younger then. Seeing you so upset and unsettled on that day actually made me question if you were ready for school. 

I know how much you enjoyed pre-school and how much you loved all your friends there, but as soon as you turned 4 a few weeks ago, something happened to you. It's like you recognised you were becoming a big boy. Not only have your grown physically so much over the last few weeks, but you have shown more maturity and understanding.

We spent lots of time together in the week leading up to you starting 'big school', talking about your uniform, discussing what you are going to learn about at school and how many new friends you were going to get! I know it's also been quite confusing for you that your new school actually hasn't finished being built yet and that you were going to a temporary building, but I'm really impressed by your acceptance of this. It hasn't phased you at all and it's quite funny how you shout at the builders every time we drive pass your school, complaining how slow they are!

The evening before your first morning at school, you were so excited. You were so ready to start school. I was relieved you went to bed at a reasonable time and I got all your uniform laid out ready. I packed your pumps and water bottle in your bag and everything was prepared!

On the morning of your first day at school, you woke up just before 6am and you were dressed in your uniform by 7am! You had four slices of banana bread for breakfast, which was usual for these growth spurt times! It made me so happy to see your proud little face in your new uniform and it's amazing how much older you looked wearing long school trousers compared to your pre-school shorts.

Following dropping Sophie off at nursery, and waving to your old teachers at pre-school, we made our way to drop you off at school.

We pulled up into the car park where lots of other children dressed in purple were making their way with their nervous parents to the front gate. We were let in for the first time and we found your peg to hang your bag and coat.

I remember you looking around at all the new faces and then recognising the one friend you had already made. Once in the school, there was so many new things to see, that you ran in by yourself. I spoke briefly with your new teacher as she remembered the trauma of the induction day, but as I had to actually find you to say goodbye that first morning, I knew you would be absolutely fine. I left with the biggest smile on my face and couldn't wait to here all about it when I picked you up at lunchtime.

Without wishing any time away, I'm looking forward to you all moving into your proper school building nearer Christmas and seeing how you progress over this next year. I can't wait to search through your bag at the end of each day and read all the messages and homework you bring home. You have already picked up so much in the few hours you've spent there this week and it's been so great to hear you mentioning a few names of your new friends and what you did together that day.

At the end of your first full day at school on the Friday that week, I saw you waiting in the cloakroom area as I approached the school gate. You weren't talking with anyone at the time, but you were standing there with your backpack on your back, with a beaming smile on your face. You literally couldn't stop talking in the car and you totally stopped me in my tracks when you almost fully recited a story that you had obviously read about that day.

Your experience of your first week at school has been has made me so proud. It actually felt at one point like you were the first and only child to ever be starting school. It was like we were doing something out of the ordinary. However, although you are one of the babies of the class, you have settled in and transitioned so well into your new adventure.

This is such a milestone for us as parents too and to have this responsibility to support you through school is such an exciting time. I literally can't wait and I look forward to savouring every moment!

Tons and tons of love,

Mummy xxx

28 Aug 2015

The End of Nursery - A Whole New Kind of Sad

Today is Harry's last day at nursery. I helped him get dressed into his pre-school uniform this morning for the final time.

He started at nursery when he was almost 11 months old and I'm not quite sure where the last 3 years have gone....

This is a whole new level of sad which I've not experienced before.

I'm not sad because I'm angry.

I'm not sad because I'm stressed.

This isn't a devastating kind of sad either.

You know that kind of sad feeling you get when you're walking out the door of your hotel room for the last time when you're returning home from a holiday? Well, what I'm feeling now, is a much stronger version of that kind of sad.

I don't feel stressed or like something is out of my control. Just unsettled and proud at the same time that my little boy has reached such a milestone.

I'm sure I will have a tear (or few) in my eyes when I pick him up after lunch later but I also don't want to totally embarrass myself and make Harry upset. 

He's aware that it's his last day today, but I not sure he REALLY knows. However, it's not like we're never going to go back there as he will be coming with me to drop Sophie off in the mornings!

Crazy Mummy emotions!

I think I might take them both for a treat after lunch later, although I think I'm the one who's going to need cheering up!

19 Aug 2015

Harry's Birthday Number Four!

Last week my baby boy turned four! 

Four whole years old! 

We had such a great week which was kicked off with a day at Drayton Manor with our friend and her daughter, Naomi, who despite being a few years older than Harry, is his best friend. They bicker like siblings, but that's half of what makes them so close.

Drayton Manor is about a 50 minute drive from us so not too long and we only suffered with "Are we nearly there yet", for the last five minutes of the journey. 

We had such a magical day and it made me so happy to watch Harry running around from ride to ride with a huge smile on his face. He was jumping with excitement all day, even 6 hours later as we walked back to the car. His favourite rides of the day were Harold the Helicopter and Flynn's Fire Rescue, but here's a video I've put together of all the highlights of our day...

The Zoo at Drayton Manor was an appreciated quiet escape from the madness of the main park. We had a slow walk through the animals just before lunch, then it was picnic time next to Spencer's Outdoor Adventure Play.

The following day, we had a lovely time with family and a few friends, just playing in the garden. Harry spent the morning opening presents and playing with his new Avengers toys and punch bag!

We had all the hula hoops out in the garden and played a few games of pass the parcel, musical statues, and musical cushions (my adaptation of musical chairs). 

Winding down into the afternoon, Harry spent some time with his Uncle putting together his new Hot Wheels loop-the-loop track and sorting through his new truck full of cars. A little boys dream....

We all had a perfect weekend celebrating Harry's fourth birthday along with an evening out for dinner on his actual birthday which fell mid-week.

Now onto the next chapter in three weeks time, which he is becoming more excited about...... School!

3 Aug 2015

Bedroom ideas for a 4 year old boy.....

With Harry on the cusp of turning 4, we've decided to spruce up and organise his bedroom a little. He's really into the Marvel characters at the moment, but I wanted to make the decor long-lasting too. Who knows what characters he's going to be into in a few months time and we are not going to be re-styling every 6 months! 

We haven't touched the wall colour since we moved in 3 years ago and we've decided to leave it as it is for now until we're 100% sure of what to do on the walls. I really like these wallpapers, but I'm not sure which one I prefer, whether to put the same on all four walls, use both, or have an a feature wall with the other three plain.......
We've gone mainly for a red and blue 'stars and stripes' theme, which I'm happy is both 'boy' enough for him as well as being something he can't really get bored of as quickly as a TV character! 

I was keen to keep the room looking bright and airy, so the bed covers are quite a pale shade of blue and the walls are fairly light. Lots of navy blue could quickly turn a room very dark.

The toy box, which we've recently moved from the living room is also acting as a bedside table at the moment, but I hate the cables on show, so a proper bedside table will have to go here at some point. I love the idea of a mid-sleeper cabin bed for him one day too, which will enable us to use the space under the bed for a desk and to store toys or maybe a small chest of drawers.
When the toy box was downstairs, the entire contents were constantly being emptied out and left trailing through the house. Being upstairs we've found we can rotate his 'downstairs toys' and put the others in the box. Being upstairs now, we've noticed that he is less inclined to keep emptying it! This has also stopped him getting bored of certain toys as when they disappear for a while, he's excited about them again when they come back out.

I've recently bought these 3 star rugs from Next. They break up the carpet a bit, and are really soft and machine washable. He had a rug previously with a train on it, but apparently it was for "babies"!

More fab toy storage from Next... I love this huge bag, which I've used to store the million soft toys Harry has which were previously just piled in the corner of his room. I also got the red star boxes, which have served well to store all his cars, planes, trainers and the little random toys that he's collected.

Harry has quite a lot of Lego, so instead of the finished articles being put straight back into the Lego box, we've displayed them on a shelf above his bed. Again, he's less inclined to keep getting them down and leaving pieces trailing through the house. He's not quite old to build them himself yet, so having them up on display also avoids the frustration of him not being able to re-build them if they get broken.

I made this personalised Superhero picture for him myself using Pic Monkey, and framed it in a square picture frame. There are many internet stores that do many variations of this type of picture, which read 'Boy's are superhero's in disguise', but I wanted to personalise something myself by adding his name.
This funny picture I bought some time ago and I think that's where my idea of stars came from...

I think he would really love this Marvel canvas too, which we may get him for his birthday....
All of Harry's books which we tend to read at bedtime are stored in these square shelves at the moment. I found them really great at storing books as they keep them all upright and tidy.

This Stars and Stripes theme is definitely going to last him a while. Luckily it currently reminds him of Captain America, but it would also suit older boys too. Toy storage is a real must in his room as I want to avoid it looking cluttered. I think it's important that at bedtime we can put everything away and make his room a calm place for him to sleep.

what katy said Let's Talk Mommy

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.

27 Jul 2015

Home Appliances - reducing the cost of your energy bills...

Becoming more energy efficient, is not only good for the environment, but in the long term it can save you money. Even taking small steps in your home, can make a significant impact on your annual energy bills.

As well as switching plug sockets off when not in use, not overcharging devices, and using energy efficient light bulbs, we can all also make energy savings with our larger home appliances.

How many of you leave TV's, DVD players, microwaves etc. on standby? 

By turning them off totally, can save you around £80 per year! That's easily equivalent to a nice family day out together.

The EU energy efficiency label is now a legal requirement on all appliances, so look out for the scale from A+++ to G, with A+++ being the most energy efficient. Fridge freezers have the hardest job of all as they have to stay on all day every day. So why not consider choosing an A+ rated fridge freezer and save around £190 per year?

Did you know that older appliances actually drain more energy than newer more energy efficient appliances? A new energy efficient fridge freezer uses a third of the energy compared to that of a 10 year old model. 

As a Mum (and Wife!), there are often times I need to do an emergency load in the washing machine. Has yours got a half-load option? This setting will only use the amount of water required for half a load. Also, what temperature are you washing you clothes at? Washing at 30 degrees will wash your clothes just as well and will save you cash!

Microwaves often provide a much more energy efficient way of cooking small amounts of food than in the oven. This is because microwaves use energy to directly heat the food, whereas electric ovens also have to heat to air inside the oven!

How do you make savings on energy in your home? Please share this post if saving energy and consequently saving money off your annual bills is important to you and your family.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Panasonic.

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