I have a feeling that this post may be a little superfluous. I there anyone who doesn’t love Cornwall?

We hadn’t visited Cornwall for a while though, so Belle and I were really looking forward to heading off to Retallack Resort and Spa for a couple of days last weekend. Belle loves a good lodge. We just stayed for two nights, but it was a well-timed break and a great reminder of just how lovely Cornwall is.


Here then, in case you were in any doubt, are four reasons to love Cornwall. View Post


I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels over the past couple of years. Initially it’s exciting, spending the night somewhere different, snaffling the free toiletries and watching TV in bed, but after a while it can become a bit boring – there are really only so many white bedrooms and smiley yet blank receptionists that you want in your life.

Our stay at the Bella Vista in Weston-Super-Mare then was the perfect antidote, just what we needed to balance out all the sterile chain hotels we’ve endured. We were checking them out on behalf of Approved Family Friendly, and so had our best hotel inspector hats on, but really found it difficult to fault them.

We were welcomed by owners Bev and Tim, who took on the Bella Vista two years ago, and it became immediately obvious that the couple have a genuine love of children and a desire to give families a wonderful holiday experience. The Bella Vista is a classic seaside town hotel, but with a personal touch and friendly welcome that you just don’t find in many places.

Bella Vista hotel Weston-Super-Mare Bev and Tim acknowledge that the accommodation is a little dated in parts, but the Bella Vista is a work in progress, with the eight bedrooms in the process of being brought up to date. We stayed in a comfortable family room with one double bed and one single, and had the chance to check out some of the other rooms too. The rooms that have been redecorated have been very tastefully done and there is plenty of space for families, with some rooms sleeping up to five people.

Bella Vista hotel Weston-Super-Mare

What’s lovely about the Bella Vista is that families really do come first – if you can think of anything at all that you need, Bev and Tim will do everything they can to provide it. Belle had an absolutely lovely time and when we left was already talking about wanting to go back again, and thinking about the home made presents she could take with her to add to the seaside themed décor.

If you’re looking for a comfortable, affordable family friendly hotel then the Bella Vista really should be top of your list.

Bella Vista hotel Weston-Super-Mare

Disclosure: We spent a night at the Bella Vista for the purposes of this review and to carry out our inspection.


As you may have seen from the snazzy badge in my sidebar, Belle and I are Butlins ambassadors this year. This essentially means that we get to go to Butlins for a holiday in returning then for writing about how we got on.

Wave hotel Butlins Bognor Regis

Part of the reason I applied to be part of the scheme is that I don’t have particularly fond memories of Butlins. In fact, my enduring memories are of tedious days out, deserted windswept fairgrounds, barbed wire topped high fences… Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of.

Butlins has had a bit of a makeover over recent years though, and I wanted to see if the concentration camp vibe I remember from my youth is now a thing of the past.

We rocked up for four nights in the Easter holidays to the Wave Hotel at Bognor Regis and were pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t 5 star – I don’t think they would claim to be that – but the hotel itself was excellent, the staff very friendly and we enjoyed the break. Of course Butlins is all about the kids, so I thought the best thing to do would be to hear what we thought from the horse’s mouth.

And by horse I mean Belle.

Disclosure: We are Butlins ambassadors. 


For Christmas last year Boyfriend’s parent bought me an English Heritage membership. (Jolly nice of them wasn’t it?) I’ve been a National Trust member for years, lured in mainly by the cream teas, but had never really got into English Heritage apart from a visit to a castle with Belle on the Isle of Wight last summer.

Now though, I am a convert. This week my new handbook and magazine arrived, giving me the perfect excuse to turn off Twitter for a few minutes, make a cup of tea and read some real words on actual paper. You know, the old fashioned stuff, made of trees?

English Heritage

As part of my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40, I plan to visit every county in England, and I thought that English Heritage would be an ideal way to make sure I did something wholesome along the way, rather than just stopping in every county for a cake. I’ve browsed my brochure and come up with five English Heritage sites I would love to visit on my travels:


A bit of a classic this one. I have driven past it a few times, and have a vague memory of visiting when I was small (although it could have been anywhere really – perhaps the stones just looked big because I was little?) but I would love to visit properly.

There is just something so magical about it isn’t there? Seriously, those stones are massive, how did they even get there?? Please do take a quick look at the video – it’s really short but just beautiful.

Bolsover Castle

The East Midlands generally is the region of England that I have visited least, so I thought I should pick out a couple from this area. I was drawn to Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire as it’s described as a ‘fantasy castle of frivolity’ – ‘a uniquely preserved example from an age of extravagance.’

Well, I’m always up for a bit of extravagant frivolity as you know, so what’s not to love?

Bolsover Castle

Peveril Castle

Also in Derbyshire, I thought this one would make a nice contrast to Bolsover, as it used to be a prison. Call me morbid if you will but there is something very evocative about a ruined prison. Gazing out over the Peak District I imagine getting a real sense of what life may have been like as a prisoner – the vast, sparsely-populated landscape stretching for miles.

It hasn’t always been a prison mind you – mentioned in the Domesday survey, Peveril Castle is one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses. Pretty cool.

Peveril castle

Whitby Abbey

Having lived near Glastonbury for the majority of my life I have a bit of a soft spot for ruined abbeys and Whitby Abbey looks particularly beautiful. In fact, its gothic splendour is said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula – spooky stuff. There are even sometimes live performances, helping you to get into the Dracula spirit of things, which is always fun.

Whitby Abbey

Audley End House and Gardens

When you think Essex you might not immediately think stately homes and sites of historical interest, but Audley End House looks like a cracker and Essex is on my list of counties I’ve never been to. Reopening this spring after a huge redevelopment project, Audley End House promises the whole upstairs downstairs thing – showing the contrast between how different members of the household lived.

I always love seeing the kitchens and servants’ quarters in old houses as I think these create much more powerful, relatable stories.

Audley end house and gardens

What are your favourite English Heritage sites?

All images apart from the one of my cup of tea are courtesy of English Heritage.


I had quite a few people comment on my post about our family ski holiday in the French Alps with Snowbizz and say that they’ve never really fancied skiing, so not considered a ski holiday before. Now this might seem like an obvious thing to say, but actually there is potentially a lot more to a ski holiday than just skiing.family ski holiday activities Snowbizz

It might be a little bit silly to book a ski holiday if you have no intention of skiing whatsoever, but if you are married to a skier for instance and aren’t so keen yourself, there is no reason why you can’t take the kids away for a ski holiday and enjoy all the benefits of being away from home whilst your other family members take to the slopes. I have a friend and fellow blogger who regularly does just that – her husband and children ski and she enjoys the time to herself, reading, relaxing and drinking hot chocolate. Sounds like a pretty decent holiday to me.

Here are some of the things that Belle and I recommend on our Snowbizz ski holiday:

Go out for breakfast

There is something about eating breakfast out that is much more exciting than any other meal. I don’t know if it’s because you have things that you would never normally eat at home, but breakfast is always one of the best bits of going away for me. I love hotel breakfast buffets and the challenge of eating as much as the possibly can (not really the point I know, but it’s included in the price, so you have to do your best) and in Puy we loved going down to one of the cafes for crepes. You can’t go to the French Alps and not eat crepes can you?

Go sledging

If you’re not a fan of skiing but still want some snow action then sledging is a great option. For starters, you are already on your bum, so there’s no risk of losing your feet from underneath you. (I say that, but Belle still manages it in this video.) There are loads of sledges available to borrow from the Snowbizz team so you don’t need to worry about taking one or buying one. Other standard snow activities include snowball fights, snowman building and snow angels.

Try a sirop

If you’re done with the usual soft drink offerings in UK pubs and cafes, check out the range of crazy syrup flavours in the cafes in Puy. Not only did Belle learn a lot of useful French vocabulary, but I got to have a drink that tasted of parma violets. Awesome times. It was such lovely weather when we were there that we could sit outside with our exotic syrups playing ‘Go Fish’ in just t-shirts. Don’t say we don’t know how to live the rock and roll lifestyle.

Eating and drinking at Puy st Vincent

Swim outside

The outdoor pool at Puy was open from 3pm everyday and if you arrived early enough there was a good chunk of the pool that still had the sun on it. You might not think that being outside in water and surrounded by piles of snow would be the most relaxing of experiences, but there was something very magical about having part of your body in warm water and the rest in the cold air. Belle loved the pool and we went most days. We made up several very entertaining dances and played a strange game that was either called ‘Rabbi Dolphin’ or ‘Rabid Dolphin’ – I was never really sure.

Go shopping

Although it’s a relatively small resort, (I think, never having been on a skiing holiday before), there are plenty of little shops selling sports and ski gear, outdoor clothes, souvenirs and sausages. In fact, our apartment had a sausage and cheese shop underneath it, so the delicious smell of garlic and cheese filled the air for the whole week. I bought back a rather extensive cold meat selection and now every time I open the fridge I get a whiff and imagine myself surrounded by snow. I also just had to add to my ‘adorably tacky holiday fridge magnet’ collection.

Snowbizz ski holiday Puy St Vincent fridge magnet

Watch a film or read a book

You don’t have to be skiing, sledging and swimming all day long you know – a holiday is meant to be chance for a rest as well. We had a DVD player in our room and the Snowbizz office had loads of DVDs to borrow, so we really enjoyed having the time to watch a few films and generally veg out a bit. Belle’s favourite was About A Boy – a Hugh Grant classic. If you wanted a more authentic French experience there is actually a small cinema within the resort. We spent a bit of time on Amazon before we went too and chose a couple of new books each for the Kindle, and picked up some magazines at the airport.

What are your favourite things to do on holiday?

Disclosure: We went on holiday as guests of Snowbizz – thanks Snowbizz!




Skiing hey? Me, the woman who sometimes loses her balance standing at the stove stirring a pan of beans. You might think that I’d be a bit hopeless at skiing.

You’d be right.

When we set off to the French Alps with Snowbizz on March 9th is was with high hopes that by the end of the week I would be the next Eddie the Eagle, but unfortunately my natural cackhandedness won through and it was not to be. When I stepped out on to the snow that first day in my ski boots and immediately fell flat on my back it was a sign of things to come. You’ll notice that there aren’t any pictures in this post with actual skis in – this is because I didn’t trust myself to carry a camera or phone of any kind whilst my skis were within a 100 yard radius.

Snowbizz family ski holiday

Fortunately, my lack of natural skiing ability definitely didn’t stop Belle and I enjoying the stunning scenery, beautiful weather and copious amounts of meat and cheese. Seriously, it was gorgeous – 17 degrees every day by 10.30am and stunning deep blue skies as far as you could see. I came home with an entire suitcase full of clothes I didn’t wear at all because it was so hot.

If, like me you’re a newbie to skiing and want to compare destinations, you can always check out Bluehouse Skis for help picking your ideal ski holiday.

Snowbizz family ski holiday

Snowbizz family ski holiday

We were met at the airports by two ‘Pink Ladies’ – the name given to the girls working with Snowbizz, running the crèche, and supervising our activities. They were all absolutely adorable – so sweet and enthusiastic that you felt you could ask them anything at all. When I dropped Belle off at ski school on the first morning and was too scared to walk down the slopes in my boots I barely felt stupid at all asking Lucy for help.

“Don’t be silly,” she said sweetly, “it feels weird for everyone to start with. Even I have bad days still, it’s nothing to worry about!”

We stayed in a two bedroom apartment right in the centre of the resort, with brilliant views out over all the action from our balcony. In the morning we were woken by the crunching of snow under dozens of pairs of ski boots and by night we were treated to an array of fairy lit, snow covered buildings. Our balcony was also a great sun trap, making it the perfect spot for relaxing with a cup of tea and a magazine.

Our apartment was simple, but had absolutely everything we needed and lovely touches like bottled water and a litre of milk in the fridge waiting for us. (Top tip: check the facilities before you pop to the resort supermarket – we bought four ‘bake in the oven’ baguettes and then got back to discover we only had a hob and a microwave! There was a dishwasher though – an essential for any relaxing holiday.)

Snowbizz family ski holiday Puy St Vincent

Snowbizz family ski holiday

The instructors were all excellent too, and extremely patient, especially with me. Our instructor spent most of his time skiing backwards, holding both my hands, while I made squealing noises, but not once did he tell me to grow up and stop being such a baby. They were really brilliant with the kids too, especially the younger ones in the snow garden.

Belle and I had a private lesson one afternoon to try and boost our confidence and our instructor was very swift to untangle us and stand us upright when I accidentally skied at speed into Belle, knocking her to the ground. Belle was very brave and only bought it up about 27 times during the rest of the week. I did apologise, (I yelled ‘SORRY SORRY SORRY!!! as I ploughed into her), and she was very forgiving.

Snowbizz family ski holiday

As we seemed to spend most of our time on our bottoms, sledging felt like a much more natural option for us. The Snowbizz team had a big stack of sledges for visitors to borrow (as well as DVDs for when you needed to put your feet up afterwards) and Belle really enjoyed digging out tracks for herself and getting good and snowy. I enjoyed the sledging too, although was a little put out at the heartiness of Belle’s laughter as I rolled like a screeching heffalump whizzed gracefully down the slopes.

Snowbizz family ski holiday

Snowbizz family ski holiday

Another thing I hadn’t expected were the relationships you could quickly build up with the other skiers on the trip. I don’t know if it’s because Snowbizz is a family run business, and this rubs off on the group, or because of the fantastic personal service, but it’s very easy to get to know other people in your group. The other families staying at the same time with us were all very friendly and supportive, giving a lovely extra dimension to the holiday.

Because I’ve never been skiing before it’s difficult for me to compare Snowbizz to other ski companies I have known. I did meet one woman in the pool though, who told me a bit about her experiences.* This woman had skied the world. She was a properly hardcore skier, who had learnt as a child and skied through blizzards in Canada. She told me that it was once so cold on a trip to Canada that if you lifted your head up out of the hot tub, your hair immediately froze solid. That’s serious commitment.

This was her third trip with Snowbizz and she had nothing but positive things to say about the resort, the staff and the skiing. If this woman has come back three times, I figured it must stack up pretty well against the competition.

Snowbizz family ski holiday

*It was a tricky conversation as I was trying to get that difficult balance between being low enough in the water to stay warm, but not so low that my boobs bobbed awkwardly out of my inappropriately low cut swimming costume. I don’t think she noticed though.

A huge thank you to Snowbizz for having us as their guests for the week!


If you’re as old as me you’ll probably have a preconceived notion of what timeshare is all about – it’s people losing ten of thousands of pounds buying shares in Spanish resorts that end up never being built right?


Turns out that over the last 20 years timeshare has evolved into an altogether more viable option, not just for semi-retired 50-something couples, but also for young families. Did you know for example that you can buy a five year timeshare with Disney? Every year for five years you get to go and stay in one of their resorts, saving you money compared with paying for each holiday separately.*

Another thing that I didn’t know about timeshare is that you aren’t committed to going to the exact same place at the exact same time every single year. This sort of holidaying doesn’t appeal to me, as I like to try out new things and visit new places, but through a company called RCI you can swap your holiday for someone else’s. Essentially your holiday is worth a certain amount of credits, and you can trade these in for other holidays of a similar value. You might want to swap your week in peak season Italy for example for two weeks in low season in South Africa. It’s all very flexible and not half as daunting as the idea of having to return to the same place year on year.

With timeshare holidays becoming ever more popular, we wanted to put timeshare to the test and see what all the fuss is about. RCI very kindly obliged. A couple of weekends ago then we jetted luxuriously drove for hours to sunny rainy mid Wales to the Plas Talgarth Holiday Resort.

Belle and I are no stranger to UK mini breaks and were very happy with the facilities on offer, including indoor and outdoor swimming pools, spa, steam room, and all the other usual suspects. We didn’t eat in the restaurant, (we stayed in our apartment, ate pizza for the nearby Co-op and watched The Voice on Saturday night, as we are super cool), but it looked lovely. All of the staff we met were very friendly and helpful, and our living room and kitchen were very spacious. One wall of our living room was a huge window, with views out over the Welsh countryside, and we even had a private sauna!

Because we were only there for the weekend we didn’t get to try out any of the weekly activities, as these happen Monday-Friday, but from the information we were given it looked like there was plenty of choice, and I can imagine that this would be a good way to get to know regular visitors and other timeshare owners, particularly if you were coming back for the same week every year.

Plas Talgarth timeshare RCI

On reflection, despite the nice accommodation, our destination was probably a poor choice on our part, as it turns out that mid Wales is basically closed in February – no kidding, entire high streets were simply shut – but trying to keep our minds in the ‘a change is as good as a rest’ zone, we set out to explore the area.

Thankfully not absolutely everything was closed and on Saturday morning, accompanied by blue skies and not even a little bit of drizzle, we paid a visit to Devil’s Bridge Falls. For a small looking place the main waterfall was actually very impressive, and the walk around it was beautiful, although not one for anyone with a fear of steps.

(I actually looked this up and ‘Bathmophobia‘ is a fear of slopes and stairs. I can’t read it though without thinking it’s a fear of bath mops. Not that a bath mop is even a thing.)

Devil's Bridge Falls timeshare RCI

During the weekend we also squeezed in a visit to Constitution Hill in Aberystwyth, a lovely drive along the Welsh coast and a trip to Powis Castle. You can always rely on the National Trust for a cream tea and a gift shop, whatever the weather or time of year. There were plenty more attractions that we would have liked to have seen had they been open, but despite being a little heavy on the driving front, we did have a lovely weekend. Perhaps a change really is as good as a rest.

Things to do in mid Wales timeshare RCI

*Timeshare isn’t an investment in the same way that you might buy your own property abroad and then resell it – it’s more like the Costco of holidays – buy in bulk, get a great deal, and know that your holiday needs for the next x number of years are taken care of – ideal for anyone who likes to visit their favourite resort every year and wants to make sure they bag the best times and accommodation.

Disclosure – our weekend away was courtesy of RCI. 


As you know, Belle and I are off on a ski adventure in a few weeks with family run ski company Snowbizz. 

Snowbizz prides themself on being welcoming and friendly, especially for families, and the Snowbizz team are always at the end of the phone happy to answer any questions, to make sure that everyone has a fantastic time on their ski holiday. To prove this point, I wanted to share with you a letter sent from Wendy, founder of Snowbizz, to Belle. Belle likes to know the details about things, and so Wendy took the time to let Belle know exactly what was going to happen on the trip. Wendy didn’t just write this because she wanted to impress us – this level of personal care is absolutely genuine and is what keeps people coming back to Snowbizz for their family ski holiday year after year.

Snowbizz family ski holiday

View Post


With actual skis on real life snow!

I have never ever been skiing before, but in around six weeks Belle and I will be jetting off to Puy St Vincent in France as the very grateful (if not slightly clumsy) guests of Snowbizz.

Snowbizz are family ski specialists and pride themselves on their very own kids’ ski school and fantastic personal service. I can vouch for the fact that ever since we were invited to go on a family ski holiday with them, Wendy and the team have bent over backwards to make sure all of our questions are answered and that we feel totally prepared for our very first adventure on the slopes.

It’s a good job, as Belle has a lot of questions.

“What will happen when we get there?”

“Well, after we land we will be met by a coach,” I reassure her.

“How big will the coach be? How long will it take to get there? When we arrive, where do we need to pick up our ski boots from?”

“I don’t know,” I say, “I’ve not been there before.”

“What’s the adult to child ratio in the kids’ club?”

“I’m not sure, but I can find out.”

She’s big on details. View Post


So here I am, back in the UK.

After what felt like a very long journey over the weekend, during which I managed to lose my glasses and my train tickets, I am home again.

It has been an incredible week, and I have plenty more stories to share yet, but I fear it is that time, after someone you knows comes back from abroad, where you have to sit through a slide show. The beauty of this one is that I’m not actually in your house (unless you are Boyfriend or one of my children) and so if you skip to the end I’ll never know. It would be polite not to though. Just saying.

Best get comfy… View Post


Do you remember the famine in Ethiopia in 1984?

I was six at the time, but I remember seeing the coverage on the television. I remember too that my Auntie Jill bought me the Band Aid single for Christmas. What I don’t remember though is being able to connect the images I saw on the screen with actual people. The people dying were a thing, a concept, rather than individuals. At six years old exactly how would you get your head round it otherwise?

Of course the problem was that they were real people.

On Wednesday we drove around 350km north of Addis Ababa to the Antsokia Valley, where in 1984 around 15-20 people were dying every day because they didn’t have enough to eat.

Zewde Mulatu took her four children to a feeding centre in Antsokia in 1984. All of them survived.

Zewde Mulatu took her four children to a feeding centre in Antsokia in 1984. All of them survived.

Can you even begin to imagine how that must have felt? The initial unease as the rains fail to appear, a growing sense of panic about how you will feed your family, turning to hopelessness as you realise there is nothing. It’s impossible to imagine, with our supermarkets on every corner, being able to walk for miles and simply not be able to find food.

What’s amazing, if you think of the coverage of the famine, is that anyone survived at all. The pictures I remember seeing of children, skin and bones wrapped in dirty blankets, certainly didn’t inspire hope. Those affected at the time definitely weren’t hopeful. Thanks to aid organisations across the world though, most of those who experienced the food crisis, who could see no way out, lived to tell the tale.

Today we met with Aschalu, a daughter of Zewde, who was a child at the time of the food crisis. She was 10 she tells us, and is 35 now. It doesn’t quite add up, but then a lot of people in Ethiopia are hazy about their age as they’ve not been officially registered at birth. Amongst women particularly there in a tendency to lie – everyone wants to be younger. It seems some things are the same wherever you go.



Stepping into Aschalu’s beauty parlour is a bit like stepping into a sauna. The small shack is sweltering, the heat having built up over the day from the sun, the driers that stand against one wall and the two pairs of curling tongs that sit over an open flame. A woman sits in curlers under one of the driers and a young girl perches on a chair in the middle of the room, her bare feet dangling, steam rising from her unruly hair as it is straightened.

Aschalu's beauty salon

Aschalu’s beauty salon

I'm not sure what the Ethiopian equivalent is of 'been anywhere nice on your holidays?'

I’m not sure what the Ethiopian equivalent is of ‘been anywhere nice on your holidays?’

Tongs. Ouch.

Tongs. Ouch.

We sit in chairs along one wall, sweating quietly.

Aschalu tells us her memories of the famine of 1984. “I remember walking, looking for food,” she tells us, looking straight at the camera, her face passive. “Along the way many people were leaving their dead babies and children at the side of the road.” It’s an image I can’t bring myself to dwell on for long – families with no choice other than to simply throw their loved ones to one side. “I remember being fed with a spoon,” she tells us, “with porridge.”

Aschalu is just one of many people we meet in the Antsokia Valley who are proof that there can be life even after so much death – both in terms of people and the environment. When World Vision arrived nearly 30 years ago Antsokia was completely barren and dry. Nothing could grow and the land could not support life of any kind.

Now though, thanks to both aid and training and to the incredible determination and resilience of the area’s inhabitants, Antsokia is thriving. The local school teems with excitable, smiling faces. Local farmers have developed improved farming methods and irrigation systems, and women like Aschalu have created sustainable small businesses that provide an income for their families.

We know though that Ethiopians are nothing if not ambitious and Aschalu won’t be settling for one small salon. Like every single person we have spoken to so far, she has very clear hopes and dreams for the future, and Aschalu not only plans to expand her beauty salon business, but also wants to branch out into photography, opening a studio where people can come and have their portraits taken.

When you see the changes that have been made in the last 30 years, you can’t help but feel excited for the future of Ethiopia.

If you’ve been moved by this story, please consider signing up to support the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign – it only takes a minute.



This is one of my favourite pictures of the trip so far. It really captures the things I am growing to love about Ethiopia already – the colours, the smiling faces and the warm welcome we receive everywhere we go.


Yes we stick out like a bit of a sore thumb, but whereas in some places this might make you feel uncomfortable, here it makes you feel special – everyone really does want to be your friend.

Picture by Kayla Robertson, World Vision. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more photos and updates.