After a long day at work it's hard to resist going straight home to sit in front of the TV all night. In our fast-paced, technology driven world experiencing the great outdoors has taken the back seat in favour of Netflix, gaming and gyms. Granted, the weather might not always seem like it but getting outdoors has many important and valuable benefits. Simply taking half an hour or so each day for a walk even around the block can make a big difference to your overall wellbeing. Still need some convincing? Read on...
1. Vitamin D
Unfortunately, if you don't live in a regularly sunny location (ahem, we're looking at you UK...) then getting Vitamin D into your system can be pretty tricky. Especially as it isn't present in many foods. Vitamin D is important for your immune system and disease resistance so making the most of the sun while it's out by going for a walk or a cycle is vital in this sense. Apparently just 10 mins sun exposure is plenty to score your dosage of Vitamin D. So there's really no excuse to stay cooped up indoors all day!
2. Defeats Stress
The very nature of our technology obsessed, constantly moving world has almost normalised stress as being an accepted facet of our daily lives. Unfortunately, distracting ourselves with TV shows after a bad day really won't defeat stress, but simply bury it for a while. Getting out into the fresh air and experiencing outdoor surroundings can help us garner perspective and thus help relieve the pressure of our daily lives.
3. Improves Memory and Attention
Feeling a bit forgetful lately? Perhaps getting outside for a bit will help you with that. A recent study has found that having a nature walk can help improve your memory by 20%. So if you're struggling to remember what you went upstairs to get or just can’t remember what you're supposed to be typing into your Google search then maybe it's time to clear your head for a it. Even a short walk around the block for a bit will refresh your mind.
4. You Won't Be Looking At A Screen
The 21st Century has completely disregarded all mothers' warnings that watching too much TV will "make your eyes go square." In fact, in complete defiance we have surrounded ourselves with more and more screens to gawp at day in, day out. Although our eyes have not in fact gone square, too much time spent in front of screens is indeed having negative effects on our eyes. It also makes us less creative. In essence; too much time behind screens is turning us into zombies a bit. Along with improving memory and relieving stress, being outside and observing nature for a little while each day can do wonders for our creativity. And creativity must be in short supply if the amount of time we spend behind screens is anything to go by...
Yes, you really did read the title correctly. Love it or hate it, fashion for your furry friend is very on trend. With seemingly hundreds of pets becoming 'instafamous' for their cute, creative style, many dog owners are following suit with their own pet apparel. Indeed, you might be surprised by the sheer amount of dogwear websites. So, to save you sifting through these, we've brought you our pick of the best outdoor wear for your adventure partner!
Excellent pun aside, in the dog clothing market Ruffwear are in the lead (pun unintentional) in creating clothing designed specifically to withstand the wear and tear of you and your dog’s outdoor adventures. Described as having the same 'technical innovations as human apparel' Ruffwear's products range from collars to Grip Trex Boots! Who knew that dogs needed shoes, eh? If you've ever felt sorry for your dogs' lack of cover up on a particularly chilly walk then Ruffwear may just be the brand for you.
Pettecoats may not necessarily be the ideal choice for more extreme weather and walking conditions but where Ruffwear may lack in style, Pettecoats more than steps up. Pettecoats is for the fashion forward owner who enjoys a leisurely stroll around the block together to show off your pets' newfound fashion sense. However, if you're keen for more affordable waterproof clothing for your dog, Pettecoats does indeed have more affordable waterproof dog coats that have a bit more style.
3. Urban Pup
If you're a creative type who'd like to design your own dog shirt then Urban Pup should be right up your street. Perfect for special occasions and dressing your dog up as a novelty rather than for practical reasons, Urban Pup very much celebrates the internet's fascination with dressing up dogs. You can even buy 'bridal' wear just in case your pooch has a big day coming up...
Think of Doggie Style Store as the Primark of the dog fashion world. Doggie Style Store has the most affordable clothing with adorable jumpers starting at just £5.99. They have a wide variety of products ranging from slippers, socks and even sunglasses! Doggie Style Store is perfect if you want to pamper your pet on a budget!
5. Love My Dog
With designer dogwear tailor made for every breed, Love My Dog is a dog boutique, perfect if you want to bring a bit of luxury into your canine friend's life. With over ten years' experience in hand crafting dogwear and with more exact measurements for sizings than you might get with other dogwear sites, Love My Dog is a brand you can trust for quality. This is however, sufficiently reflected in the pricetag.
Mac in a Sac, our waterproof packable outerwear brand this week had a rebrand launching its exciting new website!
Of course, a fresh new look for the website means a fresh new look for you too with the launch of our new Spring Summer 2016 collection.
The SS2016 collection encompasses two new ranges - Mac in a Sac Origin and Mac in a Sac Neon. Available for ladies, men and kids, you can get the whole family kitted out in the same great waterproof jackets.
Origin has a broad spectrum of colours that range from the neutral, understated jet black, navy and khaki to the vibrant, electric blue, emerald and lime punch colours.
Neon, although a smaller range more than adequately compensates for this through its bright, eye-catching colours. Guaranteed to brighten up any rainy day spent jogging, cycling or even just walking the dog.
Although Mac in a Sac has become a global name through its packable jackets, the collection also includes packable overtrousers, ponchos and travel coats - perfect for camping trips, festivals and travel.
With the summer months upon us finally, you can find a reliable and convenient source of weather protection for those unexpected summer showers and monsoons! Just as handy as an umbrella but offers significant more coverage and waterproof properties!
Where will you take your Mac in a Sac this summer? Don’t forget to use our hashtag #macinasactravels to show us your photos!
I can't believe I'm writing this at the end of April while it snows outside - eek - but I know the longer warmer days of summer are ahead of us and what better thing to do on a bitterly cold day than to plan some great days out with the kids for the next month.
For us, May is the first month that we really start making plans at the weekends to get out and about. It coincides with lots of great events as well as two bank holidays so here are my picks for great family days out:
The Ballance House Spring Fair is an annual event held in Glenavy, just outside Lisburn, in the restored birth place of the 14th Premier of New Zealand, John Ballance. This year, the fun kicks off at 1pm on the 7th May and you'll find something for everyone including a great selection of craft, plant and produce stalls. There are also activities for children and delicious fare for everyone to sample.
Also on the 7th of May, The Hillmount Kids Club is a free gardening club that runs on the first Saturday of every month between 10am - 11am. It's perfect for kids aged between 4 - 11 who don't mind getting their hands dirty and want to learn about plants, wildlife and the environment. Oh and the coffee shop and restaurant is excellent here too so us grown ups have that to look forward to!
For more information Tel: 028 9044 8213 or visit www.hillmount.co.uk
Keeping with a gardening theme, A particular favourite of ours is the Alliance Garden Show Ireland which takes place in the beautiful Antrim Castle Gardens from 6th - 8th May 2016. As well as a visit from Show Patron Monty Don, this year’s event has plant & artisan food stalls, local craft and show gardens, live music, a dedicated kids zone with kite making, insect hotels and fairy houses, a tea dance, flower arranging competitions and much more. My kids had a great time last year and we even brought granny too! Incidentally, if you can't make it to the Garden Show, the Antrim Castle Gardens are a great place to take the kids on a day out - they have had a stunning restoration and there's so much to do and see.
It wouldn't be May without The Balmoral Show and this year sees the 148th event in Balmoral Park between the 11th-13th May 2016. If you've never been before, it's a feast of food, farming, family and fun with lots going on to keep the Family entertained. It's perfect for farm animal and machinery mad kids but I love to go along to watch the equestrian events...and check out the hundreds of trade stands (shopping opportunities!)
Staying in the Lisburn area and the 14th May sees the Mayor's Carnival Parade and this year the theme is 'Crowns & Coronets' in honour of the Queen's 90th birthday. The Carnival parade leaves Island Arts Centre at 1pm and makes its way around the town centre.
Running alongside, there's a family fun day in Wallace park, where following in the theme of the Parade, six magical Princes & Princesses will meet and greet the public. Attractions include a Fun Fair, Punch and Judy Magic Show, Crafts, Face painting, Bouncy Castle, arena acts by Trialstar, Boxing and the ever popular Dog Show.
Also on the 14th May, you can join a National Trust warden and a Lagan Valley Regional Park ranger for a walk around the picturesque Minnowburn area in Belfast. Learn about the wildlife, botany and history of this outstanding location. Children and dogs (on leads...the dogs, not the kids!) are welcome between 11:00 - 12:30. Further details on the Northern Ireland National Trust page.
Moving to the weekend of the 28th May when the 35th Portrush Raft Race Weekend takes place at the Harbour in Portrush. The full programme will be launched in early May, but the lineup includes The Wild Geese Skydiving Team landing on the beach, live music throughout the day, on-board tours of historic lifeboats, a rookie life-guard challenge for kids aged 10-15 and much more. A jam-packed bank holiday weekend of harbour-side family mayhem and fun!
This is one of the largest free charity events held annually in NI but it’s also an important annual event for the RNLI and the town of Portrush with all funds raised going directly to the local branch.
Finishing with a few events that run throughout the month of May (and beyond) and every Saturday and Sunday from 2pm-4pm, you can enjoy free family fun at Cockle Row Cottages in the quaint seaside village of Groomsport.
These lovingly restored fisherman's cottages open their doors each year from Easter to September and children will have the opportunity to join in on a range of activities including face painting, children's crafts, balloon modelling and much more. While you wait, you can enjoy live music and crafts.
Meanwhile, just outside Belfast in Colin Glen Forest Park, the kids can follow the popular story of the Gruffalo any day of the week. Each character from the story has been magically recreated by sculptor Andrew McIntyre and set against the backdrop of a stunning forest park this is one of the best family attractions in Belfast. From entering through the Gruffalo Archway, through the forest park to a beautiful Gruffalo themed seating area next to the cascading Colin river, your children will be completely amazed at meeting their favourite Gruffalo characters, whilst getting out in the fresh air - all for free! What more could you ask for. And I have it on good authority that even the older kids enjoy this one so I'm definitely taking the 12 year old with me!
Phew - I think that should keep us all entertained this month. Don't forget your raincoat!
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!