What to do on your family holiday in Portugal

If you’re looking for somewhere to spend your next family holiday, look no further than the Algarve on Portugal’s southern coast. Here, the stunning golden beaches and friendly towns offer endless activities and entertainment for you and your kids no matter what their age.

The key to keeping the kids entertained, of course, is variation. A day at the beach is essential, but spend too long and you’ll be battling boredom and sunburn. Portugal holidays promise plenty of fun if you know where to go, so here’s some inspiration for what to do on your trip to the Algarve:

Zoomarine

There’s a reason why Zoomarine is the Algarve’s biggest attraction. As if dolphins, seals, and an impressive aquarium weren’t enough already, the park offers a daily schedule of presentations and shows. At the same time as enjoying a fun day out, the kids might even learn a thing or two here – and so will you!

dolphinleap4

Image by Jonathan Pagel, used under the Creative Commons Licence.

Slide & Splash

This is the Algarve’s largest water park, and kids who like to swim will love it here. The slides, rides and pools will keep you entertained for hours, and there is even a designated area for younger kids. If you need a break from the water, the park is also home to some impressive birds of prey, and shows are held throughout the day.

Mini golf

Whether you like real golf or not, there’s nothing like a round of mini golf to stir up some friendly family competition. At the Family Golf Park in Vilamoura, near Faro, you can play your way around two 18-hole courses. The picturesque park is themed on ancient Rome, and afterwards, you can visit some real Roman remains in Vilamoura.

Karting

If your kids want do to something a little more fast-paced, spend an afternoon at Hot Wheels Raceway, an indoor karting course in Albufiera marina. There are ordinary and junior karts on offer to suit all ages, and you can choose from 10, 20, or 30 minute time slots.

Lagos Zoo

No matter how many times you bring your kids to the zoo, it never really gets old. The small but well-maintained zoo in Lagos is home to over 100 different animal species, so there is plenty to see. Time your trip carefully, and you will even get to watch the primate and meerkat feedings.

Grivet Monkey Family Grooming

Image by Eric Kilby, used under the Creative Commons Licence.

This taster of what the Algarve has to offer is enough to see that southern Portugal’s famous holiday destination is just about as family-friendly as it gets, so why not give it a go?

What are your favourite things to do with the kids on holiday? Share your suggestions in the comments below!

Love wins – playing parenting good cop bad cop

At 3am this morning the screaming and shouting started. The small boy had woken up and was engaged in complex negotiations with his dad about returning to bed and going to sleep. The small boy has a bad cold and is what can only be described as incredibly overtired.

I lay in bed and listened to the back and forth between father and son. After 20 minutes or so of tantrums and tears I intervened. It was clear it was my turn to play bad cop, so I marched in, confiscated the Lego he was arguing over at that moment and threatened to put all of his toys in bin bags unless he got into bed.

This did not work, he sat on his bed cried a bit harder. I went back to my room and waited for the next stage of negotiations to fail. This is ridiculous, he’s perfectly capable of going to sleep and I’ve never heard him behave like this for so long. I thought about it while I listened to them.

It was my turn to play good cop. My boy was poorly and tired. When I’m poorly and tired I want someone to cuddle me, stroke my hair and sing soft kitty to me. I warmed up his hottie, made a little nest for him under the blankets on my bed and welcomed him in for a cuddle and some love from his mummy.

Within minutes his tears had dried and his breathing was slowing. I squeezed him a bit tighter and told him I loved him and that I’d always look after him. He was asleep and snoring quietly to himself soon after. What’s more he slept past his normal 6am wake up and right through to 8am which is tremendous.

Today I resolve to love my son a little bit more and give him the things that I want and need. Love, friendship, consideration, affection, laughter, happiness, safety, freedom and respect. Last night at 3am I lost sight of the poorly little boy with needs and was more concerned with getting the household back to sleep. This is not a licence for him to get away with 3am tantrums every day, but a reminder to me that I need to think about why he’s behaving badly and deal with the cause and not the effect.

Today we’re having a lazy day with lots of cuddles and calpol. Tomorrow is a new and hopefully brighter day.

Good cop bad cop

My Sunday Photo 26.6.16 – Ironbridge

This week I needed to get away and give myself some head space. I managed to escape to visit a friend in Telford. We had a glorious evening of putting the world to rights with a few glasses of vino collapso.

We had a pootle down to Ironbridge for a wander round the shops and a spot of tea and cake. I love Ironbridge. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to and I always, always get cross with myself for not taking my camera.

I can’t go to Ironbridge without crossing the actual bridge. It’s like some unwritten rule. The River Severn looked glorious, the sun was shining on it just so, a few fishermen dotted the banks and at one point a small group of canoeists paddled downstream. It was idyllic.

Built in 1779, the bridge is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a pretty major tourist attraction in the area. Ironbridge is dripping with history and I have been visiting with my family since I was a little girl. It’s a lovely place for tea and cake as well as spending time visiting and exploring the various museums in the area. It’s well worth a visit, trust me.

This is a picture of the River Severn taken through the iron bridge. It’s not a great photo, but the memory makes me smile and to me that’s what My Sunday Photo is all about. 

Ironbridge

My 24 hours away did me the power of good. I hurried home in time to vote and it’s kind of been downhill ever since. Oh well.

Have a great Sunday xx

EU Referendum – We have to make the best of it

I’ve seriously hated the EU Referendum campaign. It’s been incredibly divisive and damaging as a whole and it’s inspired tensions and vitriol on both sides. I voted to remain, I believe that being part of a bigger thing is the best thing for the country and for my family and our future. I am incredibly saddened to be part of the minority of 48.1% who voted to remain part of the EU.

I do not profess to be an expert. I am not an economist, nor a lawyer. My background is in journalism. As I sit and write this the value of the pound has dropped alarmingly and the stock market is experiencing a significant slump. The Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned and it looks like Boris Johnson is likely to take his place. Everything inside of me is screaming End. Of. Days. but we have to make the best of it.

Since the EU Referendum result was announced there’s been a lot of wailing and gnashing on social media, some gloating, some nastiness, but to what end? These are the cards we’ve been dealt so we need to play them. Complaining about them and finger pointing isn’t going to do anything practical to make things less tempestuous.  

For me I’ll be knuckling down doing practical things. A recession seems likely, so I’ll once again start recession-proofing our family finances, looking for small household economies and cutting back even further on expenditure. I’ve always said that despite my disability I’m too proud to apply for the benefits I’m entitled to, but I just can’t afford not to any more. I’m trying not to think about the future for my son. It’s hard to speculate without becoming maudlin about it all. 

We have to make the best of it. Whatever happens this is going to be a turbulent few years and as a nation we’re all going to have to work harder and smarter than ever and we’re going to have to try and do it together. 

However you voted, at least you voted. That’s democracy. Now let’s go and do this thing.

EU Referendum

Review: Exclusive new Pip Ahoy pyjamas

When I was a little girl nightwear was really boring and generic. It was plain or patterned nighties or pyjamas and that was about it. I think my little brother had a slightly better deal. By the time he arrived “character pyjamas” were just about available in the shops. No self respecting little boy would be seen at bedtime without his Spider-Man pjs.

My boy is no exception. He loves his character pjs and likes to just wear them to hang out around the house in, as well as for snuggling up in bed. The latest addition to his PJ collection is a lovely pair of Pip Ahoy pyjamas. These pjs are available in 59 out of the 88 Toys R Us stores across the UK. They are priced at £9.99. The Pip Ahoy pyjamas come in sizes sizes 2-3, 3-4, 4-5 and 5-6.pip ahoy pyjamasThe boy is a big fan of Pip Ahoy and couldn’t wait to get into his pyjamas. The short sleeved pj top is a familiar picture of Pip and all of his friends from Salty Cove. The bottoms are a lovely blue with a Pip Ahoy badge on the hip. I really like the PJ bottoms as they are a skinny leg PJ which is a style I much prefer on my boy.

 

A photo posted by HodgePodgeDays (@hodgepodgedays) on


They were really comfortable and he snuggled down to sleep in them with no problem. They were easy for him to pull up and down when he went to the loo in the night and he looks so cool in them.

He’s had them a few weeks now and they’ve been in and out of the wash a few times and they still look as good as the first day he wore them, they’re great quality, well made and the colours are still vibrant. These Pip Ahoy pyjamas are a must for any Pip Ahoy fan who dreams of having adventures down at Salty Cove.

Pip Ahoy pyjamas

     Click here to be in with a chance to win a pair of Pip Ahoy Pyjamas. Ends 6/7/2016

Note: We were sent these Pip Ahoy pyjamas for review purposes. All opinions are our own.

Our first Craft Class at Little Miss Bee Designs

This year I made a promise to be a bit kinder to myself. One of the things I’ve chosen to so is join a local craft group. I’m no great artist, but I really enjoy doing crafts. When you are crafting or doing something creative you can’t, no matter how hard you try, think about anything else. I come back from my monthly craft group feeling refreshed and like I’ve switched my brain off for a few hours. I know it’s unlikely that I’d ever sit at home by myself and do some crafts, so craft groups and classes are for me the way forward.

Last week a couple of my crafty friends and I booked a craft class at Little Miss Bee Designs in Failsworth in Manchester. The craft classes are run by Bernadette, a teacher and major craft enthusiast. The sessions are held in a lovely summer house in her garden which is known as “Bee Cottage”.

Little Miss Bee Designs

We booked to make paper flower wreaths. This class cost £10 per person with everything included. Generally the Little Miss Bee Designs craft classes cost between £10-£15 per head. The classes include everything you’ll need for the session, plus refreshments. Little Miss Bee Designs offer craft classes for all levels of expertise and experience. 

Bernadette talked us through every stage of the wreath making process, from covering the hoops with decorative papers, to constructing the flowers and curling the petals. She let us make all of our own design decisions, and gave helpful tips and advice every step of the way.

Little Miss Bee Designs

We all had a really good natter and agreed it was the perfect way for our group of busy working mums to wind down a little in preparation for the weekend. I totally switched off from all of my worries and concerns and just focused on making my wreath and chatting to my friends.

Bernadette at Little Miss Bee Designs is really knowledgeable and lovely, she gave us a little tour of the studio and talked us through all the crafts she does and the classes that she runs. I ended up buying some of her jewellery because it was so pretty and unique.

We thoroughly enjoyed the class and we think the Little Miss Bee Designs craft classes would be great for groups of friends looking for something crafty to do. There are lots of different craft classes to choose from and Little Bee Designs are releasing new class dates all the time. 

For more information and to find out more about Little Miss Bee Designs visit their website.

Review: The Baby Annabell Brother Doll

My five year old is a lovely kind boy (he has his moments of being a horror, I’ll not gloss over that). One of the nicest things about him is that he’s brilliant with younger children. He is very caring and likes to “look after” them. He helps them up when they fall over, he will cuddle them if they’re upset and as a result he’s very popular with his friends little brothers and sisters. Alas he is destined to be an only child, but we were sent the Baby Annabell Brother doll to play with and he’s been in his element ever since.

Baby Annabell Brother Doll

I don’t think I’ve ever had a doll like this before. The Baby Annabell Brother from Zapf Creation is incredibly lifelike. The doll, which he named “Samuel” gurgles, coos and cries, sucks when he’s drinking or sucking his dummy, he cries real tears, drinks real water and can be soothed by rocking him and patting his back or stroking his face. Not only does he blink but he closes his eyes and snores when he’s asleep. It’s incredibly lifelike.

Baby Annabell Brother Doll

My son loves it, he coos over it and tries to soothe it when he cries, feeds it and tucks it up to sleep in his bed. He’s very proud of baby Samuel. The Baby Annabell Brother doll actually responds to whatever is happening around him, rather than just making noises at random. Whatever technology is inside it to make it be like a real baby is very clever.

Baby Annabell Brother Doll

The Baby Annabell Brother doll comes with a baby-grow, a hat, a bottle, a dummy, a bib and a heart shaped pendant. You can play with the doll without the batteries in, but without them it won’t interact with you. It takes 4AA batteries and there is an on/off button just below the back of his neck, which is useful for when you need it to stop.

Baby Annabell Brother Doll

The Baby Annabell Brother doll is suitable for children aged two+ and you can buy extra accessories for the baby if you need to. The doll is widely available for around £50 and given how much it gurgles and interacts with you, this is a very special doll indeed.

You can find out more about the Baby Annabell Brother doll on the Zapf Creation website.

Note: We were sent the Baby Annabell Brother doll for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: Kinetic Sand Build – Crash ‘Em Cars

Working in a toy shop I’m very aware of the allure of a box of kinetic sand. It’s been one of the biggest sellers since before Christmas and people are fascinated with how it feels and behaves. It’s 98% sand and 2% silica oil and behaves a bit like playdough but without the sticky horror if it gets walked into your carpet. It’s a real winner for me and the small boy can’t keep his hands off it when he visits me in the shop.

kinetic sand

We were sent one of the newer kinetic sand products to try out, the Kinetic Sand Build – Crash ‘Em Cars. The kit comes pretty much ready to go and contains moulds to make the cars and cones, two car bases, a couple of ramps and two packs of coloured sand – red and blue. Always tough colours to choose from in a Mancunian household.

We opened the box, the inside of which is a colourful track and we began to build our vehicles. You press the sand into the plastic moulds and then put them onto the chassis. This takes a little bit of time, but it’s fun to do because you’re playing with the colourful and tactile sand. 

Once you’ve “built” your cars and made your cones then it’s up to your imagination to run wild with it all. The boys raced around the track smashing into the sand cones and crashing into each other. There was lots of giggling and fun being had.

kinetic sand

The kit had them thoroughly engrossed building and racing their cars for a good hour or so, and they’ve gone back to it several times since, though the different colours of sand are all mixed up now. I think kinetic sand is brilliant. It’s nice to have a kit to play with and do something more than build and shape with it. Kinetic sand continues to be incredibly popular and you only have to play with it for a few minutes to understand why.

The Kinetic Sand Build Crash ’Em Cars set is priced around £14.99 and is available in toy shops and online now. To find out more about the Kinetic Sand range, visit the Spin Master Toys website.

kinetic sand

Note: We were sent a set of Kinetic Sand Build – Crash ’Em Cars for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

My Sunday Photo 19.6.16

By any stretch of the imagination it has been a turbulent week. I’m riddled with anxiety and the news and the current political climate isn’t helping. The awful, awful murder of Jo Cox MP this week has shaken me to the core. By all accounts she was a lovely woman who fought for the underdog and loved her babies above and beyond anything. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

This week I’ve wanted to pull my baby closer to me, to protect him from everything evil in the world and to hug him until he really understands how much I love him. Because anything could happen to any of us at any moment.

I was fiddling about with my camera whilst the boy was getting ready for bed. I snapped a couple of pictures just to test the settings. The boy started posing, he was pulling the most incredible smiles he rarely flashes for the camera these days.

Quite by accident I took this rather lovely father and son picture, which seems fitting because today is Father’s Day. It’s not technically brilliant, but it’s very them and I love it.

My Sunday Photo 19.6.16

Happy Father’s Day xx

Broody but broken – Why I can’t have a baby

I have a son, he was planned. He is an only child, that bit wasn’t planned.

I’d always thought I didn’t want children, I think I thought that because I’d always felt that I probably wouldn’t be able to get pregnant and if by some miracle I did, I’d probably be a rubbish parent anyway, that it wasn’t worth considering. I was wrong on both counts.

I got pregnant quite quickly; I was 34 when I had my baby and the pregnancy was the polar opposite of plain sailing. Despite the fairly terrible time I’d had, I knew as soon as I held him in my arms that I wanted more babies.

Life doesn’t give you do-overs, but looking back, I should have started trying for another baby as soon as I was physically ready, maybe a year after he was born. I waited, I regret waiting, and now I always will.

Fate intervened and put me flat on my back for the best part of a year. I couldn’t look after myself let alone my child. Two back surgeries, enough codeine to sink a battleship and a slow slide into depression scuppered pretty much everything in my life. I had to give up my job and change the way I lived almost entirely.

I look back at my old career and at times I do feel a tiny twinge of regret at its loss. In many ways I’m much happier now doing what I do. The thing I regret most is not being able to have any more babies.

My ovaries are screaming at me all the time. My body wants to be pregnant as much, if not more than my brain does. The getting pregnant bit probably wouldn’t be too much of a problem, it’s the being pregnant, the birth bit and then the looking after the baby bit afterwards. I’m 39 and some mornings I need help getting dressed.

My son is an only child, my accident has robbed him of a fully functioning mother and the chance of having siblings. I feel incredibly guilty about that and I worry that he’s lonely at home without someone more of his own age to play with.

So many of my friends are pregnant or they have new babies and I am delighted for them. I think most of them are sensitive enough to know that I’m struggling with this a little bit, and they’re kind enough to let me have extra cuddles with their little ones.

It’s a strange feeling knowing that everything that you need to get pregnant is fully functioning and raring to go, but that the rest of the body around that it is broken and incapable. I try really hard not to let my physicality get me down, but this, this is the one thing that bothers me the most, and the only thing I ever cry tears of self pity about.

I want a baby so much, I’d love to have that lovely round belly again, feeling little kicks inside me and sharing the excitement of the growing baby with my son. It’s a feeling I know I’ll never experience again and I could kick myself for leaving it so long to start a family. But what’s done is done. I’m just grateful that I got it right first time and made (to my mind anyway) the most beautiful boy in the world.

I can't have a baby