We put a lot of emphasis on relationships with that ‘special someone’, while friendships can often get neglected. We take them more for granted perhaps, or we gather some good friends when we are young and then we stick with them, knowing we don’t have to make too much effort.

A friendship is just like a romantic relationship though, especially as you get older. In school it’s easy – you just HAVE to hang out with people every day – and if you work somewhere with lots of people you like then that’s great, but if you work for yourself and don’t have any babies to take to groups any more, then making new friends can be hard. It takes some work, some investment.

Fortunately I have no shame, so the initial stages are not too tricky for me. I went to a party before Christmas for instance and got chatting to a woman at the bar and really liked her, so I invited her for brunch and now we go out every month. BOOM.

It was similar with my friend Rin.

Rin and I met in an online forum for journalists and decided, as we lived only about an hour from each other, that we’d have brunch. (Brunch is the key to most of my friendships.) Within about half an hour of meeting in person we realised that we both liked Nancy Drew mysteries and that was that. We even ended up running a business together for while, mainly I think as an excuse to hang out with each other for a day a week.

There is a step though in a friendship, just like in a relationship, that feels like taking something to the next level.

The MINI BREAK.

Rin has two year old twins now, (#RinsTwins – couldn’t have planned that better if you’d tried), and so when The Olde House in North Cornwall asked if I fancied coming to stay for a lambing weekend, how could I not think of Rin? I did try to get Belle excited about it, but it’s pretty hard to get her exciting about ANYTHING right now, especially farmyard animals. I knew though that Summer and Harmony (how cute?) would be well up for it. I packed some wine and hot cross buns, Rin packed some pretzels and two enthusiastic toddlers and we were set. All the mini break bases covered.

The Olde House is a development of holiday cottages set on a 550 acre working farm in North Cornwall. If the phrase ‘working farm’ makes you nervous and you feel like that sounds a bit ‘rural’ for your tastes then don’t worry, it really isn’t. The cottages are proper big houses – the one we stayed in was bigger than my actual house – and they have everything you need for a proper home away from home. There are over 30 cottages on the farm, ranging in size to suit families of all sizes.

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Despite the title of this blog post, it’s actually freezing outside at the moment – a thick layer of snow and ice. Yuk.

I’ve got the heating up on full but even with all three cats on my lap I’m still far from warm. Just the thought of a sunny holiday in the Caribbean is making me feel a little bit cosier, but seriously, isn’t it supposed to be spring now? I’ve seen lambs being born and everything. Wearing a scarf and gloves everywhere just isn’t fun when you’re not wandering a Christmas Market with a hot mulled wine in hand.

Sunny holidays are, inevitably, something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve been on work trips as far as USA and Vietnam, but I’ve never been on a really luxurious summer holiday in the sunshine. I’ve always kind of liked the thought of going on a really luxurious resort holiday, either on my own or with Bee and Belle somewhere really exotic that I would probably never go to again. The Caribbean seems like somewhere only people on fancy cruises go to, but I guess there’s nothing to stop me browsing a few Jamaican retreats as options is there?

Cool things to do in Jamaica

Jamaica is a world so far from our own in terms of the culture, the scenery, the weather, the food, everything. I think I’d have a really good time there. It’s a really interesting place. Did you know that Jamaica is home to over 200 species of exotic orchid, or that it was the first Caribbean country to launch its own website? Thanks Google. View Post

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I saw something on Twitter a week or so ago.

‘We are now entering the third month of January,’ it said.

It took me a minute, but God, that’s how it felt this year didn’t it? It became a thing for us to all talk about, as a nice distarction from the weather.

‘January’s dragging isn’t it?’

‘When is January going to be over?’

‘How long even IS January this year?’

Needless to say that Belle and I were very much looking forward to a night away at The Belfry Hotel and Resort over the last weekend in January. It came a couple of days after a slightly stressful parents’ evening, and was generally much needed.

The Belfry Hotel and Resort was incredibly easy to get to, which is always a nice start to a mini break. We whizzed (sensibly) up the M5 and the M42 and there it was, just a few minutes off the motorway.

First impressions were ‘blimey, this is a massive place isn’t it?’ And it is. The Belfry resort is huge, with over 300 rooms, a large restaurant, separate bars, a huge golf shop, indoor pool, spa and of course, a golf course. I was expecting January to be quiet, but the place was buzzing with people. (Hence some of the images in this post being provided by the hotel, as I couldn’t find anywhere to take pictures without people in them!)

Belfry Hotel Lobby

This is just the lobby!

First things first, we checked in and dropped off our stuff in our room. This was a little bit of a mission as the place is so big that our room was a good walk from the reception, through some corridors, the golf bar, and then up in the lifts. We found it in the end though and only had to stop for directions once. View Post

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It’s been a while since Belle and I have been on a mini-break.

After we got the kittens, I think we were a bit reluctant to go away and leave them on their own, and so the weeks and months passed and suddenly we realised we’d not been away anywhere for ages. With the evenings being a bit dark and gloomy, it was obvious that Belle was beginning to get a bit twitchy at home. She seemed more anxious than usual, and I was definitely feeling like we’d got stuck in a rut.

It was time to blow away some cobwebs, and what better place to do that than at the seaside?

We’ve got some good friends down in Bournemouth, so we headed down to the south coast. Our accommodation was The Beach House in Milford-on-Sea, which is part of the Hall & Woodhouse group. I was a little bit unsure of what to expect, as sometimes bed and breakfasts that are part of chains can be a little on the naff side, but The Beach House was anything but.

It was dark when we arrived, as we’d not set off hugely early. Partly because Belle likes to sleep until about 1pm, partly because I had a massive hangover. I’d had a couple of friends over the night before for ‘a couple of drinks’, which had degenerated rather unexpectedly into about 14 drinks and a poorly thought out live Instagram broadcast. It’s a long time since I have felt that bad and so I needed to leave it as long as possible before driving for two and a half hours.

The front of The Beach House looked beautiful as we pulled into the car park, as it has some really lovely stained glass windows. I love a bit of stained glass. Inside it positively oozed character. The reception area is also a bar, and there was a real fire roaring, and loads of unique details – books, paintings – and plenty of wood, which is exactly what you want in a winter weekend away. Lush.

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Berridon Farm Devon Superdrug

I have very fond memories of Superdrug in the 1990s. When I was a teenager, with nothing to spend my pocket money on other than hair dye and lip glosses, I would spend a lot of time hanging out in Superdrug. We lived in a small town with not a lot of decent shops, but for some reason we had TWO Superdrugs – one on the High Street and one inside the Angel Place shopping centre.

Trips into town would generally be for a couple of hours after school, and more often than not we’d start in one Superdrug, head to the second to see what different stuff they had, and then end up back at the first one to buy whatever it was that we’d seen in the first place. Belle is a big Superdrug fan now. It’s a Superdrug legacy.

When Superdrug asked if we fancied a weekend of glamping at Berridon Farm in Devon, at the same time as trying out some Superdrug products… Well, what’s not to love about that? A wood burning stove, beautiful views, AND a big stash of make up??

Hell to the yes. View Post

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Every since I got back from my trip to Croatia with James Villas a few weeks ago, (read about it here), I’ve not been able to stop thinking about our trip to Brijuni National Park.

Brijuni National Park

Can you see why??

Brijuni National Park is a cluster of 14 islands, just off the Istrian coast. If you’re flying into Pula and staying in that part of Croatia then you really MUST visit, even if it’s just for the day. There are hotels on the main island too – Veliki Brijuni – and it would be a very quick and easy transfer if you wanted to stay in the national park itself.

Brijuni National Park

Easy peasy lemon squeezy

We were staying in a James Villa right up in the northern part of Istria, but even then it was still totally doable as a day trip. They have plenty of properties nearer to Pula too though, so worth checking out. View Post

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When my taxi driver arrived at my Croatian villa to pick me up to take me back to the airport he looked perplexed.

‘Just you?’ he asked, in his best English.

‘Yep, just me,’ I said. (I was getting an earlier flight to Bristol, so everyone else in the group had gone truffle hunting.)

He looked at me:

Croatian villa holiday James Villas

Very important to wear a hat in hot weather you know.

He looked at the villa:

Croatian villa holiday James Villas

‘How you pay for this place?’ he asked me.

Rude.

I wanted to say ‘because I am a successful woman of independent means’, but I wasn’t sure how that would translate. Also, I was staying as a guest of James Villas, so actually I didn’t pay, although I could have if I had wanted to.

‘I didn’t,’ I said, ‘I write about it.’ I mimed using a pen. I don’t think it helped.

Anyway, my point is that a villa holiday in Croatia is NOT AS EXPENSIVE AS YOU THINK. Read on… View Post

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You might think that the weekend just before a big house move would be a BAD weekend to go away, but a couple of days at Bluestone in Wales, away from boxes and bubble wrap, turned out to be just what we needed to recharge our batteries.

I mean come on, who could fail to feel reenergised looking out at this beautiful view?

Bluestone Wales review

Bluestone Wales review

I’ve not done any editing at all to those photos – I wanted you to see how lovely the light was in the evening as the sun started to go down.

It helped that we were staying in one of the upside down lodges, so the bedrooms were on the ground floor and the open plan kitchen and living room space was on the first floor, taking advantage of the view of the lake.

It wasn’t our first trip to Bluestone – we visited a couple of years ago around Christmas time when I made Belle dress up as an elf – but we were keen to come back again in warmer weather to try some of the outdoor activities. Bluestone is set up in a similar way to a CentreParcs style resort, but I actually prefer it to CentreParcs as it’s a lot smaller and easier to get about. The resort centres around a ‘village’, which includes pubs, restaurants, a cafe, shop and spa, plus there are outlying areas for activities. Everything is within easy walking distance although you can hire golf buggies for the duration of your stay if you want to. (Belle was DESPERATE to do this, but they were a bit on the pricey side I felt.) View Post

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A little while ago Belle and I went for a weekend in Newquay, Cornwall. From the beach we could see a large building out on the headland.

Headland Hotel Cornwall

Can you see it?

‘What’s that do you think?’ Belle asked at the time.

‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘but it looks a little bit creepy doesn’t it? Like it could be an abandoned asylum, staring out to sea.’

Turns it out wasn’t an abandoned asylum at all. It was The Headland Hotel, as we discovered when we pulled into the car park in front of what, in fairness, does have a very grand, traditional feel to it. (I did ask and although it was purpose built as a hotel, it was used as a hospital during World War II, so perhaps I just sensed the ghosts of patients past.)

Inside was very far from hospital chic. Instead it had a very classical, opulent hotel feel. Proper chintz, but in a good way, if you know what I mean. Big comfy sofas and swooshes of curtain, framing gorgeous sea views from what felt like every window.

Headland Hotel Cornwall View Post

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When your children are really little, going on holiday is hard work physically, but at least you know what makes them tick. Keep the ice cream flowing, car journeys to a minimum and abandon all hope from day one for doing anything that you actually want to do, and chances are that everything will go pretty smoothly.

Holidaying with teenagers is a little more complex.

Being a teenager can be heart-breakingly difficult – you can barely understand your own emotions from one day to the next, let alone anyone else’s. One minute they will be clinging to you, desperate for attention, and the next they will be mad with rage because you dared to suggest that they might like to hang out with you at the beach instead of spend all day in the hotel room on Snapchat.

It’s hard work for sure.

Here’s a casual sunset view from a Villa Plus villas, just to inspire you and make you believe it IS worth it.

Much like toddlers though, if you plan ahead and cater for their needs, you CAN all have an amazing holiday, I promise. Their needs might be slightly different – they are far less likely to be bothered about whether you cut their sandwiches into squares or triangles for instance – but they should be easy to satisfy with a little pre-holiday preparation.

I started off by asking Belle, 14, about the things that were most important to her in a holiday, and whether there were any things that she absolutely couldn’t do without in her suitcase.

Villa Plus then chipped in to help me to come up with some tips to help you pack teenage essentials and choose a holiday destination that will hopefully minimise tantrums. (Yours AND theirs.) Villa Plus has over 30 years of experience  when it comes to holidays, with handpicked villas in some rather gorgeous locations across Europe. Their aim to create your dream holiday – a time together as a family that you will ALL love, no matter what your individual needs. They have friendly, bi-lingual staff in each resort too, so peace of mind for you knowing there is someone experienced on hand should – heave forbid – the worse happen, and the wifi stops working. View Post

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Ooer. That sounds a bit creepy doesn’t it?

We weren’t up to anything suspect, I promise, we were just test driving the Hyundai i30. (Although I will say that if you DID want to transport bodies, the Hyundai i30 has excellent boot space.) We wanted to give it a proper test in a good variety of conditions, so we took it down the M5 until the motorway ran out and then drove our way down to stay at a Forest Holidays place in Cornwall.

It was PROPER RAINY that weekend, but I didn’t mind because I really like being in the forest in the rain. Everything smells so lovely and fresh when it rains in the woods, plus our lodge had a hot tub, and there is something very decadent indeed about being outside in the cold, with your whole body in the warm water, sipping a glass of cold white wine.

Belle had really enjoyed the drive down as Fiancé was coming down to meet us from London on the train, so she got to sit in the front. In the Hyundai i30 this meant two things for her.

  1. She got to plug her phone in to the Apple Play thing and make me listen to songs sung (badly) from the girls from Dance Moms.
  2. Every five minutes or so she could casually switch on my heated seat and wait for me to worry that I had wet myself as I felt the spreading warmth.

Both of which she enjoyed thoroughly.

Hyundai i30 review

Looks like butter wouldn’t melt doesn’t she?

Being in the Hyundai i30 made it a lovely drive for me too, especially as I’m used to driving an ancient, mouldy smelling Seat that has done over 110,000 miles and has a driver window wedged closed with cardboard. I could say that anything would seem good by comparison, but I am a genuine fan of the Hyundai i30. In fact, I used to drive one, and so I speak with two years’ experience. View Post

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Why romantic honeymoon destinations? A lot of things I read about weddings tell me to remember that your wedding is just one day, to not spend too much money, that it’s the marriage that matters, blah blah blah…

Sure.*

How about the honeymoon then? That’s at least seven whole days, so it figures that I can spend seven times as many hours daydreaming about it, right?

Absolutely.

After much selfless browsing then, all in the name of research, I’ve picked out six of my favourite romantic honeymoon destinations. Take a look, if you dare, but don’t blame me if you get sucked in and spend the next hour dreaming about having a pina colada in your hand.

Beach-front villa in Paje, Tanzania

When you think honeymoon, this is what you think, isn’t it? It’s sun, sea, sand, panoramic roof top terrace – what more could you want? This villa is one of 11 as part of an exclusive complex, so when you’ve had your fill of secluded lounging you can make use of the restaurant, spa or kitesurfing centre.

romantic honeymoon destinations View Post

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