Saturday, 30 July 2016

Why we chose a Mark Warner holiday - Part Two....

So, if you read my last post you'll have seen our main reasons for choosing a Mark Warner holiday which was childcare, but once the kids are sorted what is left for the mums and dads to do?

I will openly say I am not a water sports person. My ideal holiday is sitting on a sun longer reading a book, sleeping and drinking cocktails whilst I people watch. Tom, unfortunately doesn't share the same interests and it's a bit like having a big kid, he needs to be entertained.

Every holiday I will laugh whilst Tom eagerly packs his "gym gear" and tells me that he will go to the gym or at least a run. Bravo to him as he usually does it. Lemnos however, did not have a gym so Tom was slightly scuppered in that department but when I suggested he go out on an "early morning run" with one of the energetic activities staff he looked keen but in between getting the kids out and up to breakfast it never happened.

One of the beauties of a MW holiday is that you really can dip in and out of the vast activities on offer. For the super sporty you can be kept occupied for hours from aqua aerobics, to HIT sessions, to tennis and to mountain biking, and that's before you've even ventured to the waterfront to dip your toe in the HUGE selection of FREE watersports available to you all included in the cost of your holiday.

What we LOVE about our MW holidays is that you just seem to make new friends with very little effort, it helps that Lemnos is a small and intimate resort where you are seeing the same faces at the pool, restaurant and bar but I can't tell you how it happens, you just make friends. We have been very fortunate to have made friends on both holidays and are still in contact many years on. It's also through these friends that you can experience new things. As I mentioned I am not a water sports person and it's because of this that Tom was lacking in the water sports buddy department but after a couple of days a few dad's found each other and before you knew it he was off taking out a Catamaran with a new found friend.

Now that said, despite me not being a water sports fan I felt obliged to don a life jacket and try my hand at a bit of paddle boarding. Well who knew I would be a natural - ok maybe not a natural as I fell off twice but after that I was going great guns and had great fun. Unfortunately there was no photo evidence as Tom was minding the kids.

There is one water sport that you MUST do and that is the sea sofa! This is basically an inflatable sofa which seats 4 people and gets dragged around at very fast speeds on the back of a speed boat - it cost 16 euros and was such fun!!!!!

With our new friends Lauren & Adrian before the sea sofa!

Ok, so here's a few good to know facts about the resort which I wanted to know before I left....

- Water - 1 litre bottles - 1 euro

- Soft drinks - Cokes, Fanta etc - 2 euros (330cl)

- Local beer is 5 euros for a large and 3 euros for a smaller one

- Ice creams are available at the beach and pool bar and prices are from 2 euros

- There is a little shop selling sweets, crisps, inflatables this is CASH ONLY

- You can charge everything to your room including extra babysitting and watersports

- Happy Hour is every night in different bars at different times which saves you 30% off alcoholic drinks in the bar.

- The sofa which gets dragged around the sea by a speed boat is a MUST - this was 16 euros per person and was worth every cent!

- You don't need to bring beach towels as they are all provided

- As mentioned previously there are loads of steralisers and baby equipment available 24/7 in the kids club

- The WiFi is only available in the reception area

I really hope we get to go on another MW holiday but what would we change next time? Honestly, nothing the only thing we would do differently is go for two weeks as one week just was not enough time!

Nathalie x

NOTE: This was NOT a sponsored post and all the thoughts and opinions written above are my own. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Why we picked a Mark Warner Holiday - Part One

So, we've just returned (if you follow my Instagram page you'll have seen me bombarding you with sunshine shots, no hot dog legs mind you!) from the beautiful island of Lemnos.

We traveled to our first Greek island with Mark Warner. I had heard of Mark Warner through ski seasons of the past and now since becoming a parent decided that it was time to put them through their paces for a family holiday. This is our second Mark Warner holiday having traveled to Turkey with them two years back. We booked back in October and after a lengthy telephone conversation whittling down the resorts to which best suited our needs, opted for Lemnos, a three hour flight from Heathrow and a half hour coach transfer - perfect when travelling with two children under 5!

Mark Warner exclusively charter a British Airways plane so you are guaranteed the excellent customer service that one expects from an airline like themselves, and this is a nice touch - no running on board to secure seats together. Being a chartered airline we benefited from a whopping 92kg (23kg free with every infant) in luggage allowance - even I could not take that many shoes!!

We knew from our previous MW holiday that we needn't take that many clothes for the kids as they would be hanging out in swimmers and t-shirts during the day and because of evening childcare (I will come back to that later on) really only needed pj's for the evening.

We had an 0830am (a good get up and go flight) from T5 (the holy grail of airports!) and pre-booked breakfast at Gordon Ramsay Plane Food for breakfast. After some pretty hideous delays through security we arrived and had a quick breakfast filling our bellies for the flight ahead. It's one of the restaurants where kids eat free! Check out my post here for more tips on flying with little people!

We boarded the flight and off we set! Within moments Hector was out for the count and we enjoyed a peaceful 1hr 40mins of him sleeping - always a bonus and before we knew it we'd touched down at Lemnos airport.

The transfer to the resort takes less than half an hour and were greeted at the airport by the Mark Warner representatives and informed us that when we got to the resort that our keys to our rooms would be in the doors and we could head straight there where our bags would be with us shortly. Once our bags had arrived (less than twenty minutes after we arrived) where we donned our swimmers and headed straight to the pool! We had room 210 which was on the second level just before the steps which was ideal as we didn't have any steps to negotiate with the buggy but still had a cracking sea view.

A real bonus for the smaller people is the "baby pool" as we called it (bottom right). Hector spent all week cruising around the sides playing with his Happyland!

Firstly, let me explain why WE chose Mark Warner for our family holiday. One reason and one reason alone. CHILDCARE.

Tom and I both work so when we go on holiday we also look for a place that offers sun and the facilities with childcare for both the children. Charlie (4) is entitled to morning or afternoon childcare free of charge and we paid £180 to put Hector into childcare, this gave Tom and I three whole hours to enjoy to ourselves and to dip our toe in the sea for some water sports or even just to hang out at the beach bar and soak up the surroundings knowing the children are all sorted! All nannies that work for Mark Warner are fully qualified and British - it's like a home from home nursery which is very reassuring as a parent!

The Mini Club (3-5) that Charlie went into with Kelly (who was fab!), enabled him to experience water front sports that he's never done before and before the week was over his confidence for being in the sea had gone through the roof, especially with a new found love for sailing!!

Hector attended Toddler Club (12 months -2 years of age) and given that he had pooped himself out at the pool all morning, the nanny Sasha listened to his needs and paced the grounds in the pram whilst he snoozed. There was a full activities schedule for this group but he was only one of two that week and luckily they tailored the activities around extra sleeps!

Don't worry Tom was just out of shot!
After kids club there is a High Tea for the children which is served in the main restaurant at 5.30pm so every evening after we dashed up to fill up the small bellies ready for a pre bedtime/evening childcare swim. That brings me onto the food for the kids. Now, don't get me wrong - the kids food is not cordon bleu - but it is the types of food that kids typically eat and at the end of the day when they are hungry and mine can be notoriously picky and I am just pleased they will eat something. Lunch and breakfasts are fab with loads of choice and with pancakes and spaghetti bolognese on offer everyday I knew the kids would at least go through the day with full bellies.

High chairs, boosters and plastic cups and plates are available but what I would suggest bringing is plastic cutlery and bibs for the smaller people as these are not provided. Hector is still on formula milk but there is a parents kitchen in the Kids Club where you can get cows milk, soya milk (on request) and sterelise all your kit so don't worry about bringing steraliser and washing up liquid etc.

After our late swim we headed to the room to get ourselves ready for dinner and the kiddos ready for bedtime. At 7:30 we would drop the boys down to the evening childcare (included in the price) where they would watch a movie and then when bedtime came pop them in little camp beds or travel cots for them to drift off to sleep and where you could then pick them up at 10.30pm. On our last night we paid for an extra couple of hours childcare after so that we could enjoy our last couple of hours before we headed home - this was 14 Euros and available upon request and you can charge this to your room. After drop off, Tom and I would head to the main bar for a pre dinner beverage and to watch the sun set which really is quite beautiful.

Pre-dinner photo shoot!

All set up ready for evening childcare

Children are settled after the film in the little beds above

The childcare at Mark Warner really is second to none. The ability to book a sunshine family holiday knowing that for half the day the children will be looked after with nannies who's aim is solely for the children to have fun and make the most out of their holiday, whilst at the same time leaving you to recharge the batteries and have some "me" time really is priceless for us.

In my next post I will focus on what we as parents got out of our holiday, but in the meantime if it's got you thinking check out their website, you never know you might even find yourself bagging a last minute deal!

Nathalie x


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

This Surrey Mummy Bakes - Rhubarb, Raspberry & Custard Cake....

Our vegetable patch at home is awash with glorious rhubarb and plump raspberries at the moment and it's at this time of year that I make one of my favourite cakes, my rhubarb and custard cake, but this year I've decided to throw in some raspberries as they are just too delicious not to use!


- 400g Rhubarb
- 50g caster sugar#
- 250g softened butter
- 250g  self raising flour
- 250g golden caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- handful of fresh raspberries (not frozen)
- 200g Ambrosia (or shop bought) ready made custard


Firstly, roast the rhubarb!

Heat your oven to 180C and trim your rhubarb into about one inch chunks. Place in a roasting tin and scatter with 50g of caster sugar and give a good old shake. Pop in the oven to roast for 20 mins or so or until its soft and juicy, set aside to cool slightly.

Now for the cake!

Reserve 5 large tablespoons of the custard in a bowl.

In a separate bowl pop in all the other ingredients and mix together. 

Get your round tin (I use a spring release one) and line with baking paper and grease with butter. Add 1/3 of the cake mix and then dot some of the cooked rhubarb on top and then add a few dollops of the reserved custard on top. Repeat with two more layers until all the batter and the custard has been used. On top then dot the handful of raspberries on top in hap hazard way!

Now it's time for it to head to the oven to cook for 30/35 minutes or so. Once the buzzer goes loosely cover with foil to prevent it burning. Return to the oven and keep checking every ten minutes or so until a skewer comes out clean!

Cool and then cut into big fat slices and serve with either hot or cold custard and a large cup of tea!


    Nathalie x


    Wednesday, 6 July 2016

    10 Tips For Flying With Little People...

    As you know if you are a regular reader that we are soon to be off on our travels for our family holiday. In my eyes travelling with children can be one of the most stressful things you will go through with a young family (been there, done that, got the t-shirt!) but there are some tips that can make travelling with little uns'  that little bit easier. 

    1. Plan your flight times

    In an ideal world book flight times that reflect when your little people have their naps, evening flights are always a winner. This year we have a morning flight when Hector usually takes his first morning nap so I am hoping and praying that he will sleep but naturally he's just started to drop his nap so no doubt he will be wild on the plane with everything new to look at and see! 

    Plan your flights around nap times

    2. Bring a rucksack

    Invest in a rucksack. Ever since having Hector and trying to manage the mountain of crap that Charlie insists on taking with him every time we go out I sacked off my beloved old changing bag in favour of a much more practical solution. By using a rucksack it frees up both hands making it easier all round to cope with little ones. Baby bags have taken a bit of a U turn in terms of design and now there are some pretty cool brands out there developing changing bags in the form of rucksacks. Cath Kidston have a really pretty range out and I was kindly sent the blue spotty one which not only super useful with excellent pockets also compliments my yellow pram and brightens up any dull day! 

    Cath Kidston - £65.00

    If you are looking for a more grown up unisex rucksack then look no further than a really cool brand that launched about six months ago called Tiba and Marl. They have created a range of contemporary, trend inspired parent changing bags and you'd struggle not to fall in love with one of their latest range. Don't you just love their Elwood Quilted Backpack?

    Tiba & Marl - £115.00

    3. Got milk? Got sweets?

    Hector is still on milk feeds, albeit only twice a day I always make sure that if I am flying that I always have baby milk on me. Charlie suffered terribly with his ears and I always found that an extra bottle of milk on take off and landing helped alleviate any potential ear dramas mid air, now that he's not on milk a good old packet of boiled sweets should do the trick. As you probably already know, airports are super strict on carrying liquids over 100ml through security so if you are planning on taking milk be prepared and think ahead. 

    Make sure to order your baby milk before your flight and collect airside after security!

    Formula milk is really easy to buy ready prepared now and rather than lugging it through security and risk having to gag and vomit if the security people insist on you trying it to prove its not poisonous why not buy it airside? Boots offer a click and collect service so you can buy the right amount of milk that you need (always best to buy a couple spare in case of delays) order online and collect airside which takes away all the hassle of buying before you head to the airport. 

    4. You can never have enough snacks!

    I don't know about you but I always whenever we go on any journey I always have enough snacks to feed an army. Whilst it may not be the done thing the power of a packet of chocolate buttons is incredible when trying to tame a screaming toddler! My theory is keep the snacks coming. It's a flight it's not an everyday occurrence and if it's keeping them quiet then just keep 'em coming! 

    If in doubt pack a pouch! Photo courtesy of Anna Brain

    5. The iPad - need I say more?

    Let's be honest - how an earth did we travel before iPads? Yes we all know that too much screen time is bad, it's rammed down our throats daily and we all know it, however, I challenge you to walk up and down that plane isle and not see the majority of kids using them and you know why? Because it keeps them occupied and quiet - and cards on the table, when I am flying it's stressful enough so I am definitely out for the easy life! Download, download, download! I will completely be rinsing my download allowance for this month on Justin's House, Swashbuckle, Peter Rabbit, Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol ensuring that I have at least 4 hours worth downloaded for the flight. Forget the stigma - join the crowds. 

    6. Kids Eat Free at Heathrow Airport - fill up their tummies before the flight!

    From July 14th certain restaurants at Heathrow airport will be giving free kids meals (with every adult meal purchased). Think ahead, book ahead if necessary and make sure to fill little tummies and yours too so that you are not having to negotiate toddlers, little people and trays on a cramped plane (unless you are flying First Class in which case dine before and definitely dine on board!). More information here

    Kids Eat Free at Heathrow in 2016

    7. Airport soft play - er yes please!!

    Did you know that at certain terminals 2,4 and 5 of Heathrow they offer free soft play for your little ones to burn off some energy before the flight?

    FREE Heathrow soft play!
    Grab something to eat, get your coffee and head here before the flight - or better so, leave the kids and your partners and head straight to duty free for some last minute totally unnecessary shopping!! 

    8. Change bums and do a wee!!

    Picture the scene. You are just about to take off. You've spent 15 minutes trying to get the kids to sit down, iPad out, books out, you are all strapped in, just as you hear those four dreaded words - "I need a wee". I feel your pain, we've all been there. Get the wees and nappy changes out of the way before boarding the plane.

    Save the dramas, wee before take off!

    9. New toys!

    Kids love new toys and what better way of occupying their attention than by whipping out a brand new toy (de-boxed and ready to play!). They don't have to be expensive but keep a few by to keep things new and exciting especially for the little ones as the older ones will be lured by the love of the iPad. So, what's good for the really little ones?

    Buckle buster toys keep babies amused for five minutes - worth every penny!

    Buckle toys! These keep babies amused for five minutes or so but the older ones amused for much longer - hell even the mums and dads will have a play clipping in, clipping out the buckles. They do a huge range and are well worth the money - you can buy the sweet caterpillar for £14.99 from Amazon

    Hector loves Happyland so naturally I will be stocking up on my Happyland Surprise Bag (£2.00 each) for the flight - he can play with the little figures and rustle the packaging - happy days!

    Happyland Surprise Bag - £2.00 each

    10. Forget everyone around you.

    This is number 10 and probably the most important tip for travelling with kids. Just forget everyone around you. Yes it can be hard when that woman from isle 6a is rolling her eyes as you are negotiating a toddler who is buckarooing whilst doing his best crying impression of a chainsaw to tell her politely to f**k off but just ignore her. On our first family holiday abroad to Turkey Charlie screamed the WHOLE WAY there and back. I wanted to cry and die at the same time. No one wants their baby to cry. No one wants to spend an entire flight pacing up and down the isles like an expectant father. Inevitably babies will cry, toddlers will moan.


    I like to approach each flight with kids (and now I have two) fully expecting them to scream, cry, run up and down the isles like feral animals and generally irritate every single passenger, so, if in the event (of a miracle) that they only do one, two or none of the above combinations of scenarios then you've had a great flight. 

    Just think once the flight is over you'll be heading to the nearest bar for a large drink whilst watching the kids making memories that you'll cherish for years - either that or you'll be heading home to face two weeks washing and a smack in the face back to reality swearing that "you'll never take the family abroad on holiday EVER again" knowing fully well that you will as next year they will be older and as we all know as they get older it does get easier. 

    Would love to know you find travelling with little people - have you any tips?

    Nathalie x

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