Lifestyle and Parenting blog based in Surrey.

Friday 4 October 2019

Our Family Holiday to Mark Warner Paleros

Back in February when Chloe was a bump we were looking at booking a Mark Warner holiday and were then asked to act as Mark Warner Ambassadors and my family of 4 were given the opportunity to visit Paleros free of charge. My in-laws then paid to come on this holiday wth us.

This was out 4th Mark Warner holiday - we went to Levante when Sophie was 14 months, (see post on this trip here) then again the following year with my parents and sister family (another blog post!) and we’ve been on a ski holiday (and I wrote about that too...). Its a winning formula for families as everyone has a fabulous holiday.

When you book your holiday you book the time slots for your childcare, we opted for mornings; Sophie in mini club and Chloe in baby club, both 9-12.30. We weren’t sure how much wed actually use the baby club for chloe as she was the minimum age of 4 months when we arrived. However, the nannies were really lovely, the room cool from air conditioning and lots of toys to keep her happily entertained so she went to all of her mornings.
Sophie LOVED the mini club, she wasn’t sure on the first morning for the first 5 minutes, but the nannies quickly got her engaged in the activities, she made new friends and everyday was really excited to go to ‘club’. She was also given amazing opportunities to do water-sports, going windsurfing, kayaking and sailing which was also supervised but the beach team as well as the kids club nannies. We went and watched Sophie on the water and it was fantastic to see her confident in a new environment with her little pals.
Knowing the girls were happy and enjoying themselves meant that the grown ups got some time to ourselves too. My husband had ACL knee reconstruction a few weeks before we went away, so unlike out previous Mark Warner Holidays were we did loads of activities (guided cycle rides, paddle boarding, sailing, windsurfing) we opted for a more chilled out week, which was just what we needed having a young baby!
Most mornings went to breakfast then I popped the girls to their clubs, returning to have another coffee and a pastry with my husband and my in-laws before heading to the pool and reading my book (The Rosie Project - which I LOVED if your looking for an uplifting easy-read thats not trashy!). I also loved the fact that everyone around the pool had generally had kids, so I felt much more relaxed in my swimwear with my post-baby body.

As the resort is really close to the local beautiful greek town of Paleros we hired bikes (included in the holiday) and cycled the 5-10 mins along the coast one morning where we had Lattes at the beautiful Yacht Club and explored. 

Another morning we borrowed Kayaks and enjoyed being out on the water - luckily nothing was wrong with my husbands arm muscles to I took on more of a ‘steering’ role! The fact that the actives were all included meant that we could just take the equipment out for a short amount of time rather than paying for a whole day which might have put us off, especially as we weren’t sure how my husbands knee would be. The beach staff were also amazing at helping us launch and get the boats into the beach - nothing was too much trouble.

As the breakfast was so large we could have pushed through until dinner (with a daily ice cream obviously!) but Sophie needed a proper lunch so we went to the in resort taverna which was really reasonable, only a few euros for a kids meal and we tended to order only two meals for the grown-ups to share as the portions were so generous.

As we’d had some time to ourselves in the morning we were really up for playtime with the girls in the afternoon which was ALWAYS spent by the pool. Sophie had only learnt to swim at the beginning of the summer on our trip to France and it came on so much on this trip as well. Hours spent playing mermaids, swimming to the bottom of the pool to pick up sinkers and playing with baby Chloe in the water are certainly memories that I’ll treasure forever. I certainly parent better when I’ve had a bit of time to myself and found that I had much more patience with Sophie, having such happy afternoons together.

In the evenings Sophie would have kids tea at 5/6pm then we all headed back to our room for baths and PJs for the girls and we got ready for dinner too before heading to the beach bar for happy hour bubbles and helping Sophie with her sticker book. (she loves the Usborne dolly dressing up books, I took three that we did on the flights and on holiday!) Then Sophie went to the kids movie night, again, she LOVED going. In the kids club they set up little camp ads for each of the children with sleeping bags and they could either watch the film (think Moana, Rratatouille…) or go to sleep. 

We’d then go to dinner with Chloe in her pram (she could have gone to the baby sleep club but I thought shed prefer to stay with us) and collect Sophie after the film had finished and then we had an early night. There was lots of evening entertainment, but with broken nights sleep with Chloe I was always ready for bed at 9.30!

We only took our Baby Zen Yoyo with us - which was AMAZING, it reclined enough for Chloe to have her naps in it happily and we were able to take it on the plane as hand luggage as it folds up really complactly.

The holiday includes breakfast every morning and dinner five of the nights, the other two allow for you to go and explore the eateries in Paleros, which is a €5 taxi ride. We went back to the Yacht club for drinks and sampled the water front restaurants. There is also the option to stay at the hotel where there is a poolside BBQ.

At the end of the week, we’d have happily stayed for another week, I really felt the most relaxed I have in 4 years! However, Sophie was starting reception the following week so we made the return home to the start of autumn, be feeling ready to tackle it full on after a week of recharging our batteries!

Obviously this trip was free of charge as part of the ambassador programme, but I’ve raved about it so much that my sister has booked to go to Paleros (this resort) in October half term. The 25 minute transfer time is also a total win and social flight times make it perfect for families. I also loved the fact that everyone in the resort and flight (as Mark Warner charter a flight from BA) had kids, so when Chloe was crying her ears hurt on the plane we got ‘I’ve been there looks’ rather than disapproving stares, all which helped us feel more relaxed, adding to the holiday experience.

As I mentioned, we had previously visited Levate (another Mark Warner Greek resort) and whilst we were away I was asked a few time which I preferred. I still can’t decide. Paleros is smaller so we soon recognised and spoke to lots of families, the activities also seemed a bit more relaxed than Levante which, due to its size had more equipment, competitors etc. So I think if you are a serious sailor, tennis player, cyclist maybe Levente is more geared towards you, but if you’re up for trying a bit of everything and want a more chilled holiday I’d opt for Paleros.

Friday 30 August 2019

Our Summer Holiday What I pack for small children

Contains affiliate links and gifted items marked with *

In a few days away from heading off for the second time this summer as a family of four to the new Mark Warner Paleros Resort in Greece as one of their ambassadors (which I am so excited about!) and as I delay the packing marathon I wanted to share what I found really useful on our 1st trip this year and what I’m planning to take away this time.

Most airlines allow you to pack your children’s car seats on board, but obviously this adds massive bulk onto what you have to carry and if your travelling to resort by couch a baby’s car seat may not even fit. Our local taxi company have been really helpful, looking after our car seats for us, so we’ve taken the girls to and from the airport in their normal seats. Sophie also has a Bubblebum* seat that we’ve taken to use for short journeys whilst we are away which deflates to save precious packing space.

When Sophie was tiny we took our full pram away with us, which was really useful as we used the bassinet for her to sleep in rather then a travel cot that seemed so big for her! But it is big to shift around, and as it has to go in the hold it can get easily damaged. When we went to France we borrowed my sister’s Bugaboo Bee which was much smaller and on our upcoming holiday we are taking the BabyZen YoYo* which folds up so compactly that you can take it as carry on luggage, so you don’t have to worry about how to get baby to luggage reclaim when you get off the plane. As it also lies flat we will also be able to use it to take Chloe to the evening childcare for her to snooze in peace whilst we have our dinner.

Both girls will be going to morning childcare to give us a chance to enjoy the water-sports, cycling and chill out time, so Chloe will hopefully be having a morning feed whilst she is at the creche. Luckily Mark Warner are able to provide a steam steriliser for her bottles and pump so I don’t need to worry about packing these! When we went to France, I didn’t want the hassle of bottles, but during this 2 week break, Chloe decided that she didn’t like bottles and then I had a battle trying to get her back on them, so if I wasn’t going to a resort that was able to provide a steriliser I’d take the ‘self sterilising’ bottles that you can use a microwave to sterilise them in a few minutes. I’m also packing a bottle brush and mini bottle of washing liquid to was then our sink first.

As we aren’t going to take our big pram for Chloe to sleep in, I’m going to pack her Sleepyhead* which she loves and makes a travel cot much more cozy for her and hopefully she will sleep well making us all have a better holiday!
In our villa in France we didn’t have AC or fans(!) so Chloe just slept in a vest, but as the rooms at Mark Warner have air con I’m also going pack her two light (1 tog) sleeping bags. During the day I’ve packed cotton rompers for Chloe to wear and a couple of UV swim outfits for both girls to go swimming in and a baby float* for Chloe to bob around in.
Although Mark Warner provide pool towels, I’m taking the girls hooded towels from JoJo Maman Babe* so they can we super snug when they get out of the pool.
Sophie is much easier to pack for (although much fussier about what she will wear!) I’m packing 4 sets of shorts and t-shirts to wear to kids club and a backpack and water bottle to take to club. I’ll also throw in a coupe of her sundresses as she loves them and can wear them on the two nights we are having dinner out of resort or to children’s tea which is earlier than the main dinner service. I’ll also be packing a few pair of PJs for her as we’ll take her in them to evening childcare after her bath ready to watch a movie and go to sleep in the little camp beds they have for the younger children.

I am also going to take some of her favourite snacks from home that will survive the heat, such as dried fruit so I’ve got something when she is hungry in the afternoon. I think it is unlikely that she will want to have a nap in the afternoon, but to help her have some quiet time I’m packing some sticker books, I’ve ordered some of her favourite Usboune Dolly dressing up books that she loved doing with her cousin in Greece along with a few small toys and that she will choose in her trunkie* to take on the plane as well as the ipad which we will load up with some her favourite programmes that she can watch on the flight.
We love our tea/milk and biscuits in bed at the weekend and on holidays, so I’m going to pack a packet of (non chocolate - melt risk!) our fave biscuits and tea bags (they are never the same abroad are they!?) for the mornings and a non spill cup for Sophie. Mark Warner supply UHT milk for kids which Sophie drinks happily.I’ve also packed some 1st aid things, plasters, antiseptic wipes, painkillers and indigestion remedies so we’ve got them to hand if we need them!Lets hope we've got everything we need!


Thursday 23 May 2019

Our Kitchen

When we first walked into the house when we looked around with the estate agents, the  gorgeous living space is what sold it to us. We knew the layout wasn’t quite right for us, the kitchen was positioned at the front of the house, which had the darkest aspect and the window looked out onto the drive and the road. As the kitchen was falling apart and none of the appliances worked properly (having said that my husband still cooked a mean roast in an oven where we had no control over the heat!) we had no qualms with pulling it out.

There was also a side extension that housed a utility, cloakroom and conservatory which was the lightest part of the house and looked out onto the garden. It had been added to the house nearly 20 years ago but lacked insulation and was Baltic in the winter. So with the help of our architect and my amazing dad who did all our structural design we decided to take down the wall between the extension and the original house and use this space to located the new kitchen. One of the main design features we chose in he house was the crittal style full height windows with French doors out into the garden. Crittal is an insane price, so we opted for a more affordable option in Aluminium and this is one of my favoured parts of the house. Although it is contemporary, it also feels like it fits perfectly in our Victorian home.

I’ve been yearning for a Neptune Kitchen since the store opened in my local high street back in 2015. They had their Suffolk kitchen painted in Charcoal in the window and I fell in love. So when we started looking for a new kitchen Neptune was my first port of call. 

We looked around all the different kitchen designs, but I knew the Suffolk was the kitchen I really wanted. The timeless shaker design is paired back to give an elegant and  sophisticated look. The units are all solid wood which also lines the cabinets which makes them feel even more luxurious.

Unlike other kitchen designers, we didn’t sit through hours of drawing up the space and putting the units in on CAD, instead after meeting with one of the Weybridge directors, Chris and discussing the key features we were after - we gave him the dimensions and did the design work, sending us the plans and renders to see what the kitchen would look like in our space.

We were pretty clear about what we wanted, having designed and lived in a new kitchen 5 years ago there were the features that we loved and wanted to recreate, and others we wanted to do differently. A show-stopper island  that was as large as possible was high on the list with seating round a corner, which is much more sociable than on a single edge was the main design feature to build the rest of the kitchen around. We wanted to position the sink in the island, making washing up etc more sociable. We wanted a butler ceramic sink (doesn’t show the water marks!) with two full size basins, as we found the half basin at our previous home quite unusable. This also gives us the space to ‘hid’ washing up in when we have guests, keeping the island clear. We were also keen to keep our american fridge-freezer that we moved with. My last kitchen didn’t have enough small draws for tea towels, kitchen foil ect, so getting a good ratio of draws to cupboards was vital for effective storage.

We had a steaming water tap at our previous house that I had to persuade my husband that we needed to have - and it we LOVED it. So this was an essential in our new kitchen, this time we opted for the Quooker fusion, so only needed one tap that did everything. 

After changing our minds once or twice, we perfected the design on version 11(!) This was mainly due to wanting a range cooker initially before deciding that a more contemporary stack of ovens, warming draw and separate induction hob would not only suit our lifestyle better, but also look more contemporary. After looking at having two oven units side by side, felt it took up too much of the workspace, so in the Neptune stake unit we could fit a standard size oven and a compact oven and one of the lower draws could, with some clever carpentry be used for a warming draw I went to the SMEG store in London to choose the ovens. We decided to go for the Linea range, as it was simple and classic with a range of features, like the pizza ‘stone’ at the bottom of the oven. For the compact oven, we opted for a combination with microwave features, as at the moment we use a microwave a lot at the moment with Sophie liking her milk warmed up - but we never used a microwave a huge amount before she came on the scene, so didn’t want to waste space with a stand alone and having two ovens is so useful when hosting. 

Originally I had wanted a dark kitchen, either in the Charcoal that had been in the Neptune Weybridge window when it originally opened, or in navy. However, the Suffolk kitchen comes in standard colour of Driftwood and Chris at Neptune made an excellent point of why not get the kitchen in the standard colour rather than paying extra for it to be painted, then when it was in place, then making a decision on whether we wanted to paint it. Oh, I’m so so pleased we followed this advice. I love the colour and the neutral shade of Driftwood looks so timeless, whereas I think a dark colour would have looked a bit imposing in the space.

For the worktops I had also fallen in love with the worktop in the Neptune showroom, which is Neptune Old English White from Rock Revelations - a quartz with a subtle marble effect. It is as beautiful as I had anticipated, but it does mark very easily - although I’ve been able to get them all out so far. To finish the look we also chose the kitchen lighting from Neptune. We wanted glass not to spoil the view across the kitchen which also becomes the dining and lounge space.

One of the design features of the Suffolk kitchen is the beautiful larders, in the showroom there is the most beautiful double larder unit. Sadly we couldn’t fit this in with the symmetry we were trying to achieve, but we opted for a single larder one side of the fridge and it is really useful. The inner shelfs are perfect for storing herbs and spices that I used to have to rummage for and the inner draws are handy for storing cans and sauces accessibly too.

We had a bin unit in our last house for refuse and recycling, which made for a much sleeker look but I also wanted somewhere to put the food waste rather than having to duck under the sink. Our design incorporated a really large bin and then two smaller bin draws, one that we use for recycling and the other for compostable waste, leaving the under sink cupboards free.

We chose to have the units around the fridge freezer recessed into the walls - another idea that we stole from the show room. Which looks really stylish and also stops that sticky dust that collects on top. We also did this above out hob hood to look a bit more like a chimney. As the other wall units stepped in and out for the oven housing we decided not to do the same for this section and I think this really works with our space, making the kitchen look more designer.

Typically, after designing the Kitchen around the american fridge freezer, it decided to die on us! Luckily we really loved the finished design and decided to get a very similar looking replacement, but opting for a really reliable brand - Siemens. Having a chilled water and ice dispenser we loved in our last house so it was a no brainer to go for this again. We opted for the iQ500 which has hyper fresh boxes keeping meat, fish and vegetables fresher for longer and Wifi connectivity so we can monitor and control remotely.

We love love love the space we have created and the kitchen makes me smile every time I walk in and has to be my favourite part of our home. 

Thank you to Philly Photography for the the of many of the images in this post


Monday 20 May 2019

Spring day out with the family

Written in paid collaboration with Lansinoh but all thoughts and opinions are my own

Spring is an amazing time to have a baby, although I haven’t got much to compare it too as both Sophie and Chloe were born in April. The last night-feed doesn’t seem too bad when then sun is starting to rise and you can hear the birds singing - you don’t feel like you’re the only one awake at that ungodly hour!  Another amazing thing is that it’s getting warmer, getting out of the house is much more achievable, so getting plenty of fresh air and sunlight (all that daylight is meant to boost serotonin and help baby sleep better at night!). We love outings to National Trust venues and RHS Wisley which is just down the road where Sophie can run around, explore and burn off some energy. The coffee is strong and the gorgeous seasonal flowers make it the perfect backdrop for all the Instagram shots too… 

Last weekend we headed to Wisley to see one of my best friends Victoria and her family for them to meet baby Chloe. The picnic was packed, but as I am elusively breastfeeding all we needed for Chloe was the changing kit. 

I have mentioned previously that I haven’t found breastfeeding easy, for either Sophie to Chloe, so getting the best products to help has been important to me. I have used Lansinoh nipple cream religiously to prevent and treat cracking and their nursing pads have always been my go to, so so much more comfortable that any of the competitors, it is one of the times that the top brand IS so much better than others (I have had to get rid of pack of chemist own brand as I couldn’t bear how synthetic an uncomfortable they felt). When Lansinoh approached me to ask if I would like to try their new Washable Nursing Pads I was really keen. I hate how much waste new babies create so they seemed an excellent idea. I was so impressed at how comfortable they are, even more so then their disposable versions - I also think they are less visible as the shape looks more natural.

I wore the Washable Nursing pads all day, playing in the playground with the kiddies, our picnic lunch when I also fed Chloe then a walk to burn it off, stopping at the wisteria and rhododendrons to get all the pretty pictures! 

It was then time for Victoria’s family to head back home to Eastbourne (I really, really, really want her to move back to Surrey!!!) and we headed to my parents for a family BBQ to celebrate my Dad’s birthday. My parents have the most beautiful garden (you can see some picture of it here from Sophie’s 3rd birthday party!) so Sophie played with her cousins before we feared on all of the food before heading home for bedtime.

My bedtime is shortly after Sophie’s nowadays to try at get a few hours in before the first night feed. I swapped the Lansinoh Washable Nursing Pads for a fresh pair overnight and again found that they were super comfortable overnight. 
I can’t comment on how absorbent they are as I don’t tend to let down until I’m feeding, I wear the pads for the security of knowing I won’t get wet patches and to have a soft layer close to my skin to prevent irritation too.


Thursday 14 March 2019

Mothering Sunday Spa day

This spa day experience was kindly gifted to me by Macdonald Hotels in return for a media review of the experience
If Mothering Sunday isn't an excuse for a bit of pampering - I’m not sure what is! So when I was invited to spend the day at Macdonald Berystede Hotel and Spa with some of my favourite insta-mum pals - well I was in!

When we arrived we were escorted to the spa to robe up and get ready for our treatments. We were indulged with an amazing massage - just what I needed as I’m getting so uncomfortable in the last few weeks of pregnancy, followed by a facial based on our individual skin types.

After our pampering we chilled out chatting and reading magazines in the relaxation room before heading out to enjoy the other spa facilities. As they skies were blue, we headed outside to the hot tub where the non pregnant ladies had a dip and the three expectant mothers dangled our legs and had a good catch up.

Once dried and glammed up we headed to the restaurant to enjoy afternoon tea. A traditional tea tray laden with finger sandwiches, scones and pastries was presented along with a chocolate puzzle to decode before nibbling at that too. We chatted away the afternoon underneath the beautiful tree inside the restaurant before we were too full to eat anymore!

I wish I’d been able to spend the rest of the day back in the spa, but I’d promised I’d be home to take over Sophie duties so my rugby mad husband could go to watch the six nations with his buddies, but I came home totally revitalised and energised. If that isn’t what every mum wants for Mother’s Day, I’m not sure what is!

The Hotel are currently running a Biotec Spa Day which is available until 30th April at Berystede from £54.50, which includes use of the spa, a 55 minute facial treatment and a sparkling cream tea. Macdonald (Berystede) Hotel and Spa are also offering a special Afternoon Tea on Mothers Day starting from £28 with live Harpist. Contact the hotel to tailer your perfect day. If you’re interested in knowing more about Macdonald hotel and Spa days visit their website
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