Quick And Easy Makeover for a Dark Bathroom

One thing  I’ve learned from living through a big house renovation project is to get advice and opinions from other people. It’s been a few years now since I completed mine, and there are a few things I wish I’d done differently, one is not taking out a few windows. I mean, seriously, what was I thinking? Thanks to poor decision-making (there may have been a good reason for it, but if there was I don’t remember) I have a windowless shower / bathroom room.

I’m not completely irrational, I did install a fan to help with the steam, but this also means that each time a person goes in there, which is fairly often being our downstairs loo, the fan goes on. Which can be quite annoying when that person forgets to turn the light on when they leave!

and guess what, I’ve found an easy fix for that problem……

We now have a new Lumino led illuminated mirror installed when we need a light in there but not the fan! And the easy thing about it is it’s battery powered so no need to call out an electrician to install it. Although I did call on my stepdad and his drill to help out.

It creates a subtle, cosy glow and a pride of place feature in our once stark and bare shower room. I used the opportunity to update the colour scheme in there too before the mirror was fitted, it’s amazing how quickly a room dates! Gone are the boring cream canvas and stark lighting, it’s been replaced with a cool, but modern olive green, making my white sanitary wear stand out, and warmed up with dark ornaments and wooden towel holders to warm it up.

Going green was a big leap of faith for me, I’ve been stuck in a grey and white phase for a few years now, but I fancied going brave in the bathroom, dramatic and cosy was my motivation, with a darker backdrop to help the illuminated mirror as the centre piece, as well as giving a classy feel to the room.

And I’m actually really, rather pleased with the results!

My super easy bathroom makeover with a new Lumino led illuminated mirror. And, even better, it's battery powered!

Disclaimer, 

This is a collaborative post with Lumino

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Clever Christmas Shopping With Hawkins Bazaar

Is there really any need for the Christmas rush?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the last minute dash into town to grab the last few presents, it’s part of the final countdown. What I’m not happy about is the lack of time to mooch around the shops at a leisurely pace and buy things as I go, that seriously kills my budget! Or then there’s getting to Christmas eve and having a niggling doubt that I’ve forgotten to buy for one of my 2 children (once you get past 2 kids, it’s easy to overlook one! Or that just me?)I (try) to stick to a budget for each of my boys, all exactly the same and this in its self is a whole maths game as I write down what I’ve bought and tot up the numbers, sibling equality is a HUGE thing for me, as it always was for my parents.

I (try) to stick to a budget for each of my boys, spending exactly the same of each of them which, in its self is a whole maths game as I write down what I’ve bought and tot up the numbers. Sibling equality is a HUGE thing for me, as it always was for my parents. And guess what! I’ve found a much seasier way of saving time, making sure you’ve got the spending all fair and square AND no child is going to wake up on Christmas morning eyeballing their brothers stocking fillers while they sit peeling their satsuma, muttering “worst Christmas ever” under their breaths.

(Should probably add, that’s never happened and that my boys haven’t been brought up to be like that, but it’s still something I’m conscious of)

Why Choose Hawkins Bazaar?

So anyway, that thing I’m hinting at is a Hawkins Bazaar pre-filled stockings. I’ve had a gander at the teenage boys and young boys sets and am feeling very smug right now that I’m well on my way to completing my shopping, giving me more time for Christmas movies and finding a new set of sparkly heels to dance away the festive season.

Weighing in at £25 each and filled with over £50 worth of stocking fillers it’s a no-brainer really. This shop has been my go-to for stocking fillers for many years, so I was fairly confident at taking the plunge and letting them choose what would be suitable for my requirements. In the past, I’ve spent time trying to find the best offers and make the biggest savings. Buying a pre filled stocking, with double the value contents saves all that bother.

What’s Inside?

The Teenager boys (14 plus) stocking came with some great little presents which were perfect for my Marvel loving boys as well as a few thing I wouldn’t have considered buying but actually, I think they would like. I forget about getting toys now they’re older, but in reality, I think they’d quite like the silly little things like the wind-up zombie and model plane kit. Chalk mug, mmmm, not sure I’m looking forward to seeing what they write on these!

Is there really any need for the Christmas rush? The Hawkins Bazaar pre-filled stockings made my Christmas shopping a breeze.

As for the boy’s 3 plus stocking, this is just what I would’ve bought, I’m not keen on the tattoos, have you ever tried to get those things off? but it’s not about what I like, is it! Great to see some old favourites in there too. No childhood is complete without watching a wooden, fluffy haired bird pecking his way down a metal pole. Same goes for the collapsing toy and I’m sensing some Christmas day races with these glider kits!

Is there really any need for the Christmas rush? The Hawkins Bazaar pre-filled stockings made my Christmas shopping a breeze.

Actually feeling REALLY smug right now, that was such an easy a way to get a start on the Christmas shopping! Next stop, sparkly shoes

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This is a collaborative post

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STAYING AT THE LOEWS ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT, ORLANDO.

Imagine traveling abroad on a (nearly) 9-hour flight, navigating your way around a sort of familiar airport, relaxing for 20 minutes in a luxurious airport transfer and stepping out to a hotel lobby that sparks the simple words “wow.” Well, I did that, along with my 3, 13 and 17-year-old sons and the hotel I’m talking about was the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando Resort.

Staff at the front, helping you unload your luggage and giving you that typical American warm welcome was a hint of things to come and if I’m honest, being on site on the Universal Resorts, I was kinda expecting a more well, gimicky, kid theme. Oh, how wrong was I!


It soon became apparent that not only was I to experience a taste of Floridian life, I also got a sampler of a South Seas Pacific holiday. think palm trees, elephant statues, colorful Balinese umbrellas and reflection pools, along with a distinct floral scent filled the air. All senses were in overdrive!


Checking into the vast, dark wood reception area, while the boys tucked into the complimentary lemon water, we were given with our room keys (which also acted as fast pass and early entry to Universal theme parks) as well as our flower lei leis. For a moment my fuzzy, jet-lagged brain toyed with the thought we’d ended up at the wrong hotel, maybe even the wrong country. But I liked what I saw so was in no need to question it!


Plus, it soon became apparent that this was just what we would need to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy theme parks nearby.

Facilities at The Royal Pacific

It depends on what your expectations are for a holiday, but for 2 teenagers and a 3-year-old, high light of the whole stay was and always is, the swimming pool. With free use of towels and chair covers, we set up base here as soon as we’d unpacked. I liked that the whole swimming pool area is gated off too, no chance of my lively little one darting off for an unexpected swim!


Once we found our spot, my favourite being in the sanded area where there was a very gentle slope into the pool, the boys were off! It’s safe to say that some of my best and happiest moments on this holiday were watching my 3 play together here. The younger 2 often went straight to the Royal Bali Sea interactive water play area, while the eldest chilled in the hot tub,(jealous me? Yep, big time!) but they regularly regrouped to mess about in the pool, watch movies or play water polo and with the Despicable Me beach balls provided. moments like these were priceless. It’s not often the 4 of us get to relax and have fun like this, I had total proud mum moments every time!

When I needed some chill time, the kid’s pool was the perfect spot. Gated off from the main area, it was shallow enough for my 3-year-old to play on his own while I read a book on the (very nearby) lounger especially with the bonus of a sandy area complete with toys. As a single parent holidaying without back up childcare, it was just what I needed, and while the thought of escaping off to the gym or the spa would have been my ideal time out, this was a much welcome 2nd choice.

There are several restaurants onsite too, we had pizzas at Jake’s American Bar and nachos poolside. Staff comes round regularly while you’re chilling by the pool, checking if you need anything. Being waited on hand and foot was simply divine and the food portion sizes were something else. Considering I have 2 teenagers with very big appetites, 1 nachos snack dish was enough for us all, with leftovers.

Being part of the Universal Resort, you also get complimentary water taxis to Universal City Walk which is where you access the theme parks. It’s a very gentle 5-minute ride, just what you need after a busy day, saying that, I really liked the walk to and from the hotel to City Walk. Either way, you go through security every time, there was never a moment I didn’t feel safe here.

 

There is also a small beach style area away from the swimming pool, using the same waterway that the water taxis travel. We never made it here on our stay, in an ideal world, we’d have had a couple more days to chill at the hotel and break our theme park days up a little. But the real beauty of staying on site, at a Universal Resort hotel, is that you can come and go as you please. When we’d burnt out at the theme parks, we simply headed back to recharge at the hotel. It was total escapism.

 

To stay on site at The Royal Pacific Hotel or not?

Not having to worry about parking was a huge plus, considering the type of holiday it was, with the thrills and spills of Islands of Adventure and all the experiences at Universal Studios, 10 minutes after leaving City Walk, you were on a quiet, relaxing stroll or ride back to your hotel. I can’t tell you enough just how much easier this was. It’s not the first time I’ve been to Orlando, my first visit we stayed offsite in Lake Beuna Vista and did car hire. This was by far much more convenient and although we didn’t have time on this break to get out and about, not having the stress of parking, and driving in another country meant it was a total stress-free break.

In a nutshell…..

Beds you can sink into after a long day, complimentary water delivered to your door every evening, quality restaurants on site, a gym, spa, arcade, kids club (sadly my 3-year-old was just too young to try.) evening outdoor movies played by the pool you can even bob away in the water while watching, or simply stretch out on a lounger. There was everything we needed for a luxurious break, without having to sacrifice a thing simply because it was a family holiday.

So did we enjoy our stay?

I don’t want to go home

– Ky age 13

I want to go back to our holiday home

– Ronnie age 3 ( every day since we got back)

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Part 1 of our holiday – Visiting Universal Resorts with a Preschooler is here if you’d like to read more 

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This was part of a collaboration between Mumsnet Bloggers Network  and Universal Orlando Resort

 

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Experiencing Universal Orlando Resorts With A Preschooler

If you’ve been watching my social media channels you’ll know the boys and I spent October half term enjoying the thrills and spills of the Universal theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Which, in a nutshell, was total amazeballs. My aim for this holiday wasn’t an opportunity to showcase some bragging rights though, I know how lucky we were but I also didn’t want to say ‘wow, look at how amazing our life is’ quite the opposite. My motivation was to show you all that a Universal Orlando Resort Holiday can be enjoyed by all, be that a preschooler, a teenager or a single parent.

You see, despite being a warrior mum with nerves of steel. I try to lead my kids at the helm, often fuelled with a dose of guts and determination so they can experience anything they would’ve if their parents were together. Yet every now and then, the reality of not having a co-pilot in parenting takes stock. Especially when we have to tackle a ‘first. If I’m honest, I nearly bottled it, I wasn’t entirely sure I could pull out the big guns to go through with taking my guys on a long haul holiday on my own.

The 2 teenagers were the easy ones, my biggest concern though, was making sure my 3-year-old preschooler got as much out of the holiday as he could. Could I do that on my own and make sure my teens had an amazing time? Spreading yourself equally among 3 kids is hard enough, my mum is amazing and helps make that possible but I would have zero help on holiday.

Starting with the flight, I packed my little man’s Trunki (which you can take on a hold luggage) with some essentials – books, change of clothes, small Connect 4 game, colouring pads, crayons, and iPad. Along with a backpack of small snacks and toys. Turns out we didn’t really need much if these as he was so engrossed by the novelty of the TV and films on our Virgin Atlantic flight along with the contents of his complimentary bag with goodies, so only a few of my prepared bits and bobs got an airing. I will say that pulling him through baggage collection on a Trunki really helped my panic at losing him too!

Kiddie pool and sand play area at The Royal Pacific Hotel
We stayed at Royal Pacific Resort Hotel which was part of the Universal Orlando Resort group and only a short complimentary water taxi or walk from the theme parks and Universal City Walk. I’m planning a separate post on the hotel so I won’t elaborate too much on the accommodation but one thing I will say is, staying on site is absolutely the way to go when planning a Florida theme park holiday, especially when you have a hotel with so much to do.

The water taxi
Theme park days can be exhausting for any age, there’s so much going on mentally and physically that having some time out in the hotel is a must if you’re going to make the most of your break. I’d say this was even more important when having a youngster with you. It meant we could pop back and chill by the pool or in our room whenever we (or he) needed. It also meant we could do things ad hoc and weren’t pinned down too much by a schedule.

Saying that, a schedule does help when holidaying here with young children, and while you typically think of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure as being perfect for older kids and teenagers (which it is, my 13 and 17-year-old went on every ride and needed time at the pool for chilling as much as their little brother did) there are areas of the parks which are perfect for younger children. The time difference meant we were up early so getting to the parks first, coming back to the hotel in the afternoon and then back out to City Walk early evening seemed the perfect plan for us all.

We started our holiday in the newest part – Volcano Bay. A water park where everything is thought of, right down to reducing queuing time in a cossie with the TapTap – a watch-style device which saves your space in the queue. This meant my boy and I didn’t waste a minute. We chilled on the beach, wandered around the park, played in the waves and spent most of our time in the fantastic kiddies play area with its smaller slides and varying watery activities. Life jackets are available for the lazy river ride which he was able to go on too.

 

All the Universal restaurants we went to cater for kids with gumption! Be it the guitar-shaped plates in The Hard Rock Cafe to the CowFish sushi burger bar with their hand sized mini burgers & mock sushi rice crispy pudding, complete with fish-shaped sweetie topping. Then there’s my favourite; the new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savoury Feast Kitchen which gives a whole new meaning to a milkshake, and pudding sizes…Wow! (Worth noting that food here exceeded all my expectations.)

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savoury Feast Kitchen
In Islands of Adventure, The Dr Suess area is the perfect area for any child and after watching his brothers scream their way around the roller coasters. Tthe play areas here, with train style rides, carousels, story style rides as well as wet (great when they need to cool off) and dry play areas were where he got to experience Universal at his own pace. There’s free WiFi throughout Universal so while the little one and I were busy, the older 2 could sit and catch up with friends back home. Should probably add that they were able to go on the rides but opted not to!

I also found that this part of the park, along with the Woody Woodpecker area were some of the quietest areas so there were no long wait times, although I would recommend upgrading your pass to an Express to avoid any queue times, it does make a huge difference.


Over to Universal Studios, we all loved the Animal actors show, mainly for the chance to sit down for 30 minutes. It was just long enough to keep my youngest’s attention before he wanted to go off for more fun. AND we got to see THE Marley from Marley and Me. Never thought I’d be star struck by a dog.

We all went on the Despicable Me ride, younger riders are confined to the stationary seats at the front, but still get to experience the 3D adventure, I did hold him very close explaining that the tense bits were funny and not scary, he was then captivated by the characters he’d just watched on the ride, dancing in the parade. (I’ll leave talking about the Awesome Harry Potter themed areas to another post, my preschooler has never seen the films, he still gawped at the fire-breathing dragon and snow-topped houses mind.)

visiting Universal resorts with a preschooler

The highlight of the whole holiday, however, had to be meeting Spiderman. It was on par to seeing your child visiting Santa, only my boy embraced the experience with both hands and not an ounce of nerves. In his world, Spiderman is THE ONLY man who saves the day, it is firmly set in his mind that he’s real. End Of. I can’t quite explain what was going through his mind as he watched all the Marvel superheroes who grace his clothing, books and toy box right walk through the park, right there in real life form (Although he wasn’t impressed to see his mum posing with Doctor Doom and the Green Goblin.)

Here's our experience of visiting all three Universal Resorts theme parks with a 3 year old preschooler, with hints & tips
Those guys were so realistic (I’m a mum of 3 boys, I’ve seen ALL the films) even I got a little star struck.

Which I guess, is what Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure do so well. You all get to experience a little of what you see in the movies, the books and all the paraphernalia which goes along with it, with no expense spared. It is quite breathtaking and stirs so many emotions. It’s also a holiday where you can ensure every age group is catered for.

And for that single mum, holidaying on her own with a 3, 13 and 17-year-old. It was one of the easiest, most stress-free holidays I have ever been on.

<insert relief face>

Here's our experience of visiting all three Universal Resorts theme parks with a 3 year old preschooler, with hints & tips

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This post is in collaboration with Mumsnet Bloggers Network and Universal. 

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5 ways to save your blog from a slump

Building a loyal following of regular readers will take time and effort, so when your blog falls into a slump, it’s very disheartening. The following tactics, from your choice of web hosting services to seasonal content, will help to battle the slump.

For many people, a blog is a digital journal where they can rant and rejoice about their day-to-day life, but for others, it has the potential to be an exciting career path. Either way, there’s no denying that a blog will need time, effort and a whole heap of creativity to be successful, you’ll find you’ll need a little tech knowledge too.

No matter how much content you write or how frequently you market your blog, there will be times that your site’s performance drops and fewer people are reading your posts. While this isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t mean your blog is doomed, it is something that you should be looking into and planning to rectify, even the most seasoned blogger will need to keep on top of there game. 

 The following tactics, from your choice of web hosting services to seasonal content, will help to battle the blog slump.

  1. Optimise Your Website for SEO

As a blogger or anyone else who spends plenty of time online, you will have heard of SEO. It stands for ‘search engine optimisation’ and includes the various marketing techniques used to make your website rank higher on search engines. Whether you’re a casual blogger or it’s your primary source of income, SEO is vital if you want people to be reading your content.

Including keywords in your writing that relate to your niche is essential. Keywords are the words and phrases you enter into search engines, so take a moment to think of keywords that relate to your blog and start using them more in your content, just make sure it sounds natural and in keeping with your tone of voice. 

Another important aspect of SEO is backlinks. These are hyperlinks in your blog posts to (ideally) high-authority websites which support what is being said. This demonstrates to search engines that your blog is a reputable source of information relating to the chosen topic.

 

  1. Write Seasonal and Relevant Content

If your blog is running a little dry in regards to topics and ideas, you should always take note of current events that relate to your chosen niche, as well as seasonal content. For example, Christmas is right around the corner, which gives you an enormous range of potential topics. With so many people searching for Christmas content online, there’s a good chance they’ll stumble upon your website. Don’t forget to create Pinterest style images with your keywords in the alt tags which will help send people to your site, seasonal topics are big searches on there. 

Current events and special days during the year also provide you with a multitude of angles to use. A great example is World Mental Health Day (October 10th) which has just passed. This not only allows you to write meaningful and engaging content, but you also know that many people will be searching for keywords regarding mental health around this time.

 

  1. Embrace Social Media

There have been many game-changers throughout the digital age, but the internet and social media are arguably two of the most influential to date. In their most basic form, websites such as Facebook and Twitter are an innovative way to communicate with people all over the world. But over the years, social media has also evolved into a powerful digital marketing tool.

As a blogger, you should be taking full advantage of everything social media has to offer. It gives you access to a worldwide audience and allows you to promote your blog content for free. Millions of people visit social media websites every day, so if you’re yet to use it for marketing purposes you’re missing out on a tonne of potential readers! (see above about Pinterest!) 

 

  1. Reevaluate Your Web Hosting Services

At some point you might want to purchase website hosting services , this allows you to get a blog online and provides you with the bandwidth and web space to maintain a website. Although now you may have invested some money into various aspects of your blog, in the early days, you may have understandably opted for the cheapest web hosting option to save a bit of money.

Cheap web hosting or inefficient website hosting companies can cause a variety of performance issues for your blog. One is slow loading times — which, because of the high-speed internet of today, isn’t something that people expect or tolerate from the sites they visit. High-quality web hosting gives you better site performance and keeps your readers happy and you’ll get access to support and customer service. 

Bad website hosting can also lead to unexpected downtime. Although slow loading times are annoying, your readers will be able to access your site eventually. With downtime, there’s no site to access until the issue is sorted. This will massively affect your site’s SEO, as well as your ability to make money through your blog.

 

  1. Explore New Avenues of Creativity

If your website has been recording fewer visitors recently, it could be because they’re bored, or that your content has become predictable. If this is the case, now’s the time to explore new topics, niches and other creative aspects of your blog. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t continue to write the type of content you have done previously, but mixing it up with brand new, unpredictable content will help immensely.

While the general consensus is that you should focus on one niche to be more successful as a blogger, adding another area of expertise to your repertoire will give your more topics to write about and expand the audience who will find your blog or website appealing.


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