March 29, 2017

kaity hall
kaity hall


Hints & Tips ›

5 Reasons to take a Staycation this Easter

5 Reasons to Take a Staycation

The previously underrated staycation has been becoming increasingly popular in recent years.

This popularity has come about through a new-found enthusiasm to explore the areas of beauty that lie on our doorstep, paired with financial strain for many to afford trips abroad.

We often dismiss our home country and the UK more broadly as paling in comparison to the excitement of countries we haven’t yet visited in Europe or further afield.

However, it’s likely that there’s lots of hidden gems in the UK that you haven’t yet visited and may be pleasantly surprised by when you take a closer look.

While a trip abroad to Europe or America or even further out, may by default feel more appealing and exotic to you, there are many perks to staycationing. And Easter break is the perfect opportunity.

So, if you’ve been mulling over a UK staycation, read on…


1. Avoid Foreign Currency

Forget the last minute rush to the bureau de exchange and the disappointment at post-Brexit exchange rates. For a staycation you only need to save up your cash!

This means no embarrassing sifting through foreign coins and notes at checkouts and restaurants or worries that your debit card might get blocked when you need to use it. Avoiding the stress of foreign currency will mean you can reach a level of relaxation you just don’t achieve when you traverse lands afar!


2. No Language Barrier

Not all restaurants abroad are so accommodating as to have their menus in English.

If the thoughts of trying to decipher a menu in French or Italian and inevitably ordering the wrong meal has you in a cold sweat, at least that’s one thing you’ll get to avoid on a staycation.

The same goes for when you get lost and have to ask a confused looking local directions, in English, to where you need to go!

The biggest challenge that your staycation will pose will be deciphering local dialects whether that’s Northern Irish, Scottish, Welsh or the plethora of varying English accents; embrace the wealth of interesting accents the UK has to offer.


3. Cost Effective

Perhaps one of the main attractions to a staycation is how much cheaper it is than going further afield. This is likely to resonate strongly with large families and how costs multiply per person.

Staycationing will help in avoiding tourist traps and paying hiked up prices. Booking things in advance and making use of offers on Groupon will also help in making it into a cost effective trip.


4. No Long Travel Times

You won’t have to worry about the strife of impending jet lag after a long flight. You might even get to dodge the whole rigmarole of the airport if you’re going somewhere within driving or train/bus distance.

Getting to where you want to be for your staycation will, overall, be a relatively painless and quick process meaning you can get into the holiday spirit all the sooner!


5. Weather You're Used To

It's obviously fantastic to get away to a hot country and soak up the sunshine for a few days. And while you may not necessarily get the same level of warm weather on a UK staycation, at least there are no high expectations for the weather!

There's nothing worse than getting to a hot country where you're expecting long days of sunshine only to step off the plane into an overcast day.

You might be lucky and get some Spring rays but if not, make sure you have your waterproof raincoat and wellies at the ready!

February 08, 2017

kaity hall
kaity hall


Hints & Tips ›

5 Meal Planning Tips

meal planning tips

Whether you’re cooking for one, two or even more, figuring out what to have for your meals from week to week can be a difficult task. This is where meal planning comes in handy. Planning ahead and getting organised when it comes to meal times will save you lots of time, energy, money, potentially help you stay healthier by avoiding those takeaways AND minimise food waste.

The problem with meal planning is that many people don’t even know where to begin. To help you get started and inspire a few ideas we’ve put together a few meal planning tips that will hopefully make your life that little bit easier!


1. Get excited about cooking

Make a list of your favourite meals and start researching new recipes to supplement your old favourites. Pinterest is great for finding new and exciting recipes that you might not have ever tried before. Just looking at the photos of the meals and trying out new methods of cooking is bound to inspire you with meal planning ideas and get you excited about cooking. This will make the prospect of meal planning all the more manageable!


2. Make a Budget

Next up is to make a list of ingredients garnered from your recipe compilation along with prices which you can total off to see if it’s within your budget. Having this list ready to bring with you on your next shop will help to stave off impulse buys, detours to the local takeaway and keep you within your budget from week to week.


3. Put together a meal planning calendar

You have the ingredients now it’s time to start planning when you’re going to make the meals. Ask yourself what leftovers can be eaten for the next couple of day’s lunches and what can be frozen for future use. Sorting out all these details that you might have overlooked before you started meal planning will help you avoid discovering that forgotten bag of off potatoes or the out of date remains of a loaf of bread.


4. Cook components of meals

Preparing and freezing components of meals for future use is a great way of saving time when it comes to cooking meals. This could be preparing tomato sauces for use in pasta and lasagna dishes or having pre-chopped veg and herbs ready to be thrown into a dish.


5. Keep an eye on supermarket sales

Many find that they make savings by planning their meals each week around what’s on sale in the supermarkets. It can be worth keeping an eye on what’s on sale and if it’s a cheaper alternative to what you would usually buy then why not avail of the offer? However, it is dependent on your tastes, you or your family might not necessarily like what’s on offer one week or you might find the savings aren’t worth compromising on brands you rely on and trust.

July 19, 2016

Avril Keys
Avril Keys


Hints & Tips ›

Easy Summer Barbecue Recipes

alt="easy summer barbecue recipes

Well it's properly summer now and even though the weather has been a tad unreliable, I'm embracing barbecue season - we are well known for our indoor/outdoor BBQ's in this part of the world and never do we allow a bit of rain to change our plans!

We are all comfortable with throwing meat and fish on the barbecue but I'm always being asked for ideas about sides to serve that are just a bit more interesting (and filling) than a green salad and some coleslaw. What's great about a barbecue is that it encourages everyone to eat more in the way of salads... thereby cancelling out all the unhealthiness of sausages (and prosecco). Everyone's plate is a riot of colour - the rainbow of nutrition we're supposed to eat every it any wonder we usually feel so much more healthy and full of energy during the summer months?

So before I tell you my favourite dessert to serve at a barbecue, here are some of my sides recipes that the whole family will enjoy. Oh and the best bit is that they can all be prepared in advance and kept in lunch boxes to use for a couple of days afterwards too...


Puy Lentils & Roast Veg Salad

First up, a long time favourite of ours is this lentil salad. The balsamic and garlic in the dressing makes it so delicious... definitely a great way to get more pulses into your diet.


1 x bag of pre-cooked puy lentils (or you can cook from scratch also)

2 x peppers (any colour) 

1 x red onion

3 x garlic cloves with skin on

Balsamic vinegar and Olive Oil

Sprig of Thyme


Simply roast off the onions, garlic and peppers in a large tin for 40 minutes at about 180 C (tossed in the olive oil with the thyme sprigs thrown in too). 

Take out the thyme stalks and discard. Squeeze the soft garlic from inside the cloves into a bowl, discarding the papery skin. Mash this garlic with a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and add it and the roast onions/peppers to the lentils and mix.


Simple Thai Noodle Salad 

Half a pack of vermicelli rice noodles (about 150g) - cooked to the instructions, drained and cooled

1 x garlic clove, crushed

4 x spring onions, chopped

2 x red chilli's, chopped

1 x handful of chopped fresh coriander

3 x tablespoons of Thai Fish Sauce

1 x tablespoon of Sesame Oil


Put everything into a bowl and mix well... and that's it!


Cous Cous Salad 

This is one that the kids will eat so even though I'm not the biggest fan of cous-cous, I make it regularly


100g couscous

200ml vegetable stock

2 spring onions

1 red pepper

½ cucumber

50g feta cheese, cubed (optional...I usually leave this on the side as the kids don't like it)

2 tbsp pesto

2 tbsp toasted pine nut


Pour the boiling stock over the cous-cous and leave it to soak for a few minutes, covered but off the heat. Add the other ingredients chopped up however you like them.

But what about the kids I hear you ask? I know it's a real struggle to get them to all eat salads like these.

I find I have more success with kids if I serve up 'help yourself' bowls of individual items like pickled beetroot, hard boiled eggs, sliced cucumber, carrot sticks etc. It's sometimes the mix of items all on one dish that puts kids off.  Another tip is to insist that they're only allowed to have a sausage/burger if they chose at least 1 salad item....this has worked for me with my very fussy son who (very) reluctantly eats cucumber at a barbecue now. 


Pesto Pasta Salad

One salad (I use the term loosely) that I do find all kids eat for me (not just mine), is a pesto salad so I always make up some of the prettier pasta pieces (bows or twists) with some fresh pesto - Lidl make the BEST fresh one - and a sprinkle of parmesan and chopped fresh basil.

Sticky Chocolate Bananas

My final attempt to get one of the 5 a day into the kids at a barbecue comes in the form of dessert. Obviously at this time of the year, summer fruits are more affordable and the kids will generally devour them but if you've a few bananas that have gone over-ripe in the fruit bowl, this next one is sure to go down a treat.


1 x over-ripe banana

1 x chocolate Flake bar - crushed

Mini Marshmallows

1 x shot of a orange liqueur (adults only!)


Pop the banana onto a rectangle of foil and turn up the edges to make a parcel - you can peel or leave the skin on...either way works. Cut a slit down the length of the banana and with chocolate. For the adults, pour in a shot of cointreau and for the kids, sprinkle on some marshmallows.

Seal up the top of your banana foil parcel and put it on a low/medium heat barbecue until the banana has cooked and the chocolate is melted. Ice cream is optional!


Happy barbecuing and fingers crossed for a fabulous summer 2016!



April 05, 2016

kaity hall
kaity hall


Hints & Tips ›

City Break Packing Tips

alt="city break packing tips"

So, you're getting away for a few days? Hurray! However, is that thought of packing at the back of your mind dampening your excitement? Whenever you're unsure of what the weather will be like and only have a few vague plans in place, packing everything you'll need into the limited space of your carry-on can feel like quite the ordeal. Whether you're jetting off to explore a UK city or even further afield in Europe, we have a list of city break packing tips - designed to make fitting everything into that carry-on feel less impossible!

1. A Reliable Carry-on Bag

Make sure everything is in working order before packing. The last thing you want to discover in the airport is a broken wheel or half ripped handle. Also make sure it's a bag that you're prepared to haul around the airport with you and awkwardly stuff into the overhead on the plane. There's nothing worse than having a bag you aren't comfortable carrying around.

2. One Reliable Hand-Bag

No, you definitely don't want to bring that small bag with the dodgy zip just because it matched that skirt you probably won't even wear. You might be co-ordinated but at the cost of having a bag you can't fit everything you need into? Not worth it. Instead, bring just one spacious bag that has served you well on long days out in town shopping. These days where you walked about a lot will most closely match your city break experience so you can then gauge whether your bag will indeed fit the bill. Chances are that one that chafes on your shoulder for instance won't go down a treat. Remember, you want it to be spacious for all your essentials, durable and comfortable do you can get fully immersed in your surroundings!

3. Versatile Clothing

For instance, if you're going to pack a dress for evening wear then make sure it's a dress that can be dressed up or down - from daywear to evening wear. Having an idea of how you want to wear both looks will really help with this. Likewise, if you plan on wearing jeans during the day then make sure you pack a top you can dress them up with for evening time. There's no need to pack a new outfit for everyday/evening, simply get pieces that are easily co-ordinated to save space. Having versatile clothing will free up crucial space in your carry-on for more important things - like souvenirs! It's all about strategy when packing for a city break.

4. One Pair of Comfortable Shoes

Let's face it, nothing weights a suitcase down and simultaneously takes up an unforgivable amount of space quite like a bulky pair of shoes. And do you really need more than one pair anyway? The answer is most likely, no. Make the only pair you need the ones you wear to the airport. They're going to need to be both comfortable and, again, versatile - shoes that you can walk about in during the day and dress up for hitting the town in the evening. A pair of boots fits this description perfectly. And luckily knee high boots just so happen to be very fashionable right now. They will go with jeans, leggings, dresses and skirts. Above all though, they need to be a pair you trust. There's no point wearing a new pair to only find out that they are cripplingly painful after a half hour wearing them. Break them in first.

And there you have it, a few important tips to bear in mind before you start throwing everything into your suitcase. Happy packing!

March 04, 2016

kaity hall
kaity hall


Hints & Tips ›

Mother's Day Gift Inspiration

alt="afternoon tea mothers day"

That all too easily forgotten date (March 6th... You can thank us later) is edging ever closer, and the tendency to repeatedly put off finding a great gift is all too easy to fall into. Your Mum deserves better so we have compiled a list especially to get you feeling a bit more inspired about the potential of Mother's Day 2016!

1. Afternoon Tea... At Home

It might not be as decadent and refined as hitting a hotel or restaurant for afternoon tea but it will have a personal touch which can make all the difference when it comes to present giving! Stock up on you and your Mum's favourite cakes, biscuits and sandwiches. If you really want to go all out, check out this lovely Debenhams cake stand and teapot for a bit of added luxury.  

2. Lush Pamper Hamper

You can't go wrong with a hamper of bath/shower products, especially if they're Lush products. Filled with eight bright products that smell good enough to eat (don't, though) your Mum will get a present that will relax and rejuvenate!

3. A Notebook

This is a great choice for a Mum with a real penchant for organisation, stationary and list-making. Paperchase have some irresistibly gorgeous luxury notebooks that would bring a smile to her face every time she reaches for it from her handbag.

4. Chocolate... Gin?

Yes, chocolate gin. You read it correctly. A tipple and chocolate combined. What could be a more perfect combo for your Mum on Mother's Day? You can find Cocoa Gin at Hotel Chocolat.

5. A Cute Etsy Print

A great place to find unique and unusual gifts, Etsy has lots of gorgeous prints. From artwork to inspirational quotes and “scrabble” wall art, there's bound to be something to suit even the pickiest of Mums.

alt="mothers day etsy print"

6. A Book

It's difficult to go wrong with a book as they're something that many don't have the time to buy for themselves. And isn't that what presents should be all about, getting someone a treat they wouldn't usually get for themselves? Mary Berry's bestselling Foolproof has over 120 recipes and is sure to be a great choice for any Mums who couldn't take their eyes off the Great British Bake Off! For Mums less inclined for baking and cooking, why not try bestselling fiction titles The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton or Brooklyn by Colm Toibin?


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