My Top Little Luxury for the perfect home office

I love that word – luxuries, it’s something everyone needs in their life. Not in a fancy car, huge house, safe full of diamonds kinda way, just a little pat on the back for your efforts, a little luxury to keep up the motivation to work and reap the rewards.

I’m slowly falling back into love with my home after putting it on the back burner while divorce stuff was being sorted, and now my home office (by that I mean desk in the corner of my dining room!) is a settled feature and a place I can type away with blissful abandonment, but I’ve also been looking at making it a more functional area.

Yesterday was spent having a sort through of all the paperwork and receipts which were building up, I work much better in a tidy environment and a tidy desk, for me, is key to a productive day. my littlest boy is in preschool an extra day so I’m getting my work buzz on big style.

I just need to make my workspace as productive as I possibly can so get the most out of those kindred work hours.

“So what about these luxuries Ali!”I hear you say.

So, say you’re typing away at home, a diary to your right (I’ve gone for a Stick To Stigu again this year BTW, love it) glass of water to your left. An inspirational quote at eye level, amazing smelling reed diffuser to stir those feel-good senses. It all seems pretty simple, right?

Yet there’s but one little thing missing; the coffee break. I don’t have the luxury (see there’s that word again) to pop out to a barista for the perfectly brewed latte, but if there’s one thing in life which I refuse to compromise on, it’s coffee.

So my top little luxury, the top of my list for all the above, the one which completes the perfect home office has to be a small yet funky coffee machine.  The type which will guarantee me the perfectly roasted caffeine hit at the touch of a button, my Dolce Gusto is one of the more a compact coffee machine with a minimalist design, which won’t take up too much room.

small luxuries for a home office

I simply don’t have the time to faff around grinding beans, measuring out, waiting for machines to heat up or pots to brew. I’d much rather walk 10 paces to the kitchen, pop in a pod, fill up the tank, press a button then get back to my desk and crack on. (And the great thing about a coffee machine is you can buy pods to suit whatever coffee mood you’re in, now the braces are off, I’m not tied to lattes.)

I draw the line at a water cooler though, I know they’re a pinnacle meeting point of most offices, it’s just I can’t argue that one,

what with having a tap and all that, which pretty much does the same thing!


This is a collaborative post 



3 Easy Ways To Keep Fitness Goals Going

I want to share a secret with you, I’m going to let you in on a little behind the scenes look into how I’ve gone from a sort-of fit / can manage a family bike ride / walk to the shops pushing a buggy mum, to one who’s embracing a holistic healthy lifestyle and reaping the benefits.

You’re welcome.

You see, after several stop-start attempts to get fit, usually on a sunny morning, feeling inspired to start running or waking up on New Years Day and deciding THIS was the year I’d complete that 10K challenged, in 2016 I finally took fitness by the horns and stuck to my plans.

No more excuses.

Spurned on by the realisation that as a single mum, my health was more important than ever and that there was a possibility, at some point some lucky fella would see me naked! So I let out my battle cry to sort mum-tum – the pressure was on, I needed to tone up, and fast.

I’d not had the courage to wear a bikini in years, although I’ve stayed a consistent size 8 – 10 between pregnancies, there was still the telltale signs of 3 babies and it was time to change that. I didn’t want to just accept that at 40 I should hang up my 2-piece forever, toning up and fitness became my priority and above all, it made me FEEL good.

and here’s how I did it;

Never underestimate the power of planking

Starting small, I began planking for 2 minutes every morning building up to a 5 minute morning-kick starter workout – 1 minute full plank (pushed up on your hands), a 30 second elbow plank, 30 second right side and a left side one, same again for leg planks, one left one right another 30 second elbow plank and a final 1 minute one. The results kicked in pretty quick luckily.

how to sneak fitness goals into everyday routines Set a steps goals

Next was to set 10,000 steps per day goal. My job can mean I’m sat down for long periods of time, yet it’s amazing how quickly you can notch up those steps in a day without trying, and I could make up for less active days as I knew how much I’d slacked out on. I started just using a step counter on my phone as I always had it on me, then bought a fitness tracker.

Moving on to a FitBit more recently meant I could add friends who also had one and we could challenge each other. My Charge2 also has a gentle nagging approach to getting me off my butt and doing a few extra steps when I’ve been sat still too long! It also makes you consider if a car journey is really necessary when you can walk it and notch up those numbers.

Retrain your brain – Exercise as headspace

I’m a huge believer in balancing your emotions and clearing out your thoughts ready for any unexpected upheaval. A healthy body and healthy mind go hand in hand and no matter how busy your life is, you need some time in the week away from social media, emails, TV, chores and any stresses in your life. Just some time to steady your thoughts, process your week and step away from the norm.

As well as using a guided meditation app (I use Headspace, it’s ace and more recently, my Amazon Echo.) I also find swimming is a perfect escape and I don’t get distracted. Even when I’m running or at the gym, I’m guilty of checking messages and emails. But armed in my Speedo swimsuit and I’m in the zone; right tools for the right job and all that, top tip – it always helps if you’re wearing the right clobber to mentally think you can do it. I now have a very healthy collection of sportswear! Think of it as a double work out for the mind and the body if you need extra motivation.

So there’s my secret, nothing too heinous, these are the bare bones of my fitness routine.

I top off all the above with a few classes at my local gym, but on stupidly busy weeks, where work deadlines take preference over BodyPump. Just doing the few things I mentioned means I don’t get that fit-guilt as I’m still sneaking little goals with minimum effort and still reaping the rewards.

how to sneak fitness goals into everyday routines


This is a collaborative post 


Making Memories At Universal Orlando Resort

This is my final post sharing our holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I’m ending on a big one! You’ve read all about the amazing accommodation, The Royal Pacific Resort and benefits of staying onsight. And I’ve written about how to do Universal with a preschooler now here’s everything you ever wanted to know about all three of their theme parks and City Walk. Starting with the newest, Volcano Bay. A water park with gumption!

Volcano Bay

Bearing in mind the boys and I are total water babies when it comes to holidays, you can pretty much guarantee that most of our time will be taken up in water of some sort, so spending the day swimming, splashing and on the thrills and spills of the water rides kicked off our break perfectly.

As with all the theme parks, staying in a Universal Orlando resort meant we had free transport to all the parks. While Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida were only a 10 minutes walk or water taxi ride from our hotel, Volcano Bay was a short bus ride away, or the Shrek bus as the youngest called it.

Now I need you to think of the downside of water parks;  endless queues at the rides right? Only Volcano Bay has tackled that problem by supplying all their guests with a TapuTapu a waterproof watch-like device which holds your place in a virtual line for one attraction at a time.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

Volcano Bay

Once inside, we headed to the lockers and changing rooms then found a spot to camp down on the beach area. With free loungers and life vests you only need a towel really, you can also pay for everything via their app so you can leave your valuables locked away. the boys and I headed straight into the water where the mighty Krakatau volcano is the centrepiece. It’s the hub of the park with various water slides, sand, wave machines, it really gives a holiday vibe of a Pacific isle rather than a water park.

The eldest teen soon disappeared, never to be seen for a couple of hours as he went on as many solo rides as he could (and possibly avoid babysitting duties?!) So the rest of us took a walk around the park which caters for all ages. We all rode the lazy river, an all-ages ride in rubber rings through gentle rapids and waterfalls. But the bulk of our time ended up in the kiddies splash areas and trying to prize the 3-year old away from the rides and splash areas was nigh on impossible. He loved having the independence of going down the slides himself.

Universal Studios Florida

Day 2 was all about getting up close and personal with the characters from our favourite movies, we started with a very intense day zipping through queues with the fast pass which you get automatically as a guest staying in a Universal Resort hotel and is well worth the upgrade if you aren’t.

Here, we got to dance with the minions in Despicable Me after a 3D ride helping Gru and the girls. One thing which I loved about all the rides was even the queues were entertaining and interactive.

We were lucky to  spend one of the days with fellow blogger Cornish Mum Steph and her family, which meant the boys were able to go on all the major rides and I got to see their faces when they got off; beams which were impossible to fake or hide summed it up.

During our post theme park chat they both decided that the Hollywood RipRide Rocket was their favourite, while I could’ve spent all my time in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Your senses go into overdrive here as you take everything. Even the shop windows come alive, and the giant fire-breathing dragon was something else, our little preschooler still talks about it now.

Even more amazing is the ride on the Hogwarts Express between theme parks, everything is so real it’s hard not to imagine you’re heading off to a term at Hogwarts as you look out of the window. I could harp on about how breathtaking this area is all day, and how amazing Butter Beer tastes. But it really is something you need to experience yourself. Although I did managed to capture a snippet of the ride on camera.

While the boys got their kicks on the roller coasters, there was no hanging around waiting for me luckily, with all various shows and street performances going on all around. I even got to join in with a singing contest (not sure I could call it singing, more shouting) with a group of cappella singers on the streets of New York.( I live streamed this on Instagram so you may have caught it?)

Best part of this park for me was walking through the different themed city areas of London, Hollywood and New York, the rides here are only a small part of the whole experience.

Islands of Adventure

Our days of getting up close a personal to all the movies and movie stars didn’t end in Universal Studios as we soon found out at Islands of Adventure! I’d say the teenagers probably prefer this park out of the 3 with it’s ultimate rollercoaster The Incredible Hulk, full on experience at Skull Island and my favourote, Harry Potters Forbidden Journey.

Along with even more of Harry Potter, you also get to see Marvel characters come to life on the streets of Marvel Super Hero Island. It was here that my 3 year old got a meet and greet with his idol Spiderman, a total heart-melting moment seeing him totally in the superhero zone.

Even walking around the Jurassic Park area was an experience, right down to the fossils embedded in the walkways and dinosaurs hiding in the bushes. The older kids got their water ride fix here while the youngest and I took a slower aerial view of the park on a Pteradon Fliers and ran around Camp Jurassic.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks


You can’t reach Universal Studios or Islands Of Adventure without passing through City walk, and  although not a theme park per say, it was pure entertainment with its many bars, clubs and shops.It was great to see the security and bag checks at every entrance. It’s sad that this is the type of world we live in now, where you need extra levels of security to feel safe and be able to relax at big public areas like this. Nonetheless, I felt much happier having to go through this each time we visited.

We dined out in the new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savoury Feast Kitchen, The NBC Sports Bar, The CowFish and The Hard Rock Cafe. Food was utterly amazing, with a good choice for all of us, including me as a vegetarian and portion sizes – wow! We left every restaurant with a carry home of some sort. Special mention has to be the milkshakes in The Toothsome Emporium, probably not the best choice of drinks for the teens as they struggled to make a dent in their meals.

You can order child’s meals in all the restaurants we went to at a fairly decent price, not sure I’d call them child portions mind! They’d have been fine for me to be honest.

Universal Resort Orlando In a Nutshell….

Totally and utterly amazeballs for all ages and all genders. The quality exceeded our expectations and left us speechless on many occasions. Go prepared with your camera, comfy shoes (wear trainers, it’s a lot of walking!) and get there early. My best advice is to start at the back of the park and get the big rides done asap then plan the rest of your day taking your time and don’t rush around from one area to the next. There are so many hidden extras and doing your research on the internet really helps. Little things like how to get the interactive cauldren to move in Diagon Alley, to spotting Kreacher the House Elf peaking through the window as well as the real-life characters popping up everywhere.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

This was one of those holidays which we hope to do again one day, but even if we don’t, the memories we made will last a lifetime and for anyone wondering if it’s do able as a single parent, or with children of any age or gender.

 It totally is. 

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

Universal Citywalk at Night


This is a collaborative post between Mumsnet Bloggers Network and Universal Resort Orlando


Christmas Shopping for Label Lovers

Try as you might, there’s no avoiding it, most teenagers will always want to go with the fashion or peer pressure having the right labels. My eldest 2 are no different, while they’re not so utterly consumed by keeping up with the Jones’ (no Kardashians here, it’s Devon. Give us a few more years and we’ll be there.) having the right trainers will always give them bragging rights. It’s just it can be rather expensive for us parents, don’t get me wrong, my eldest is old enough to get his own. But we’ve recently had that Christmas list conversation and gone are the Lego kits, it’s now all about the fashion.

If that sounds familiar, then keep reading as I’ve got a suggestion on how you can help tick off some of that Christmas shopping list without making a massive dent in your credit card. So let’s just say that your teen (or partner, should add that it’s not just confined to them) is throwing massive hints at a few designer clothes? Then I can totes recommend Get The Label for a starting point.

It’s like an Aladdin’s Cave of goodies which my boys went crazy for. I may or may not have indulged in a new gym outfit while browsing too, (believe me, if you’ve got the right tools for the job, it does help, starting with a pair of leggings which don’t fall down and a crop top that won’t ride up. True story.)

I've got a suggestion on how you can help tick off some of that Christmas shopping list without making a massive dent in your credit card.

My eldest teen has a thing for coats. You know that phrase about a woman never having too many shoes, (that is a thing isn’t it? or did I make that up? ) well his mantra is A 17-year-old boy can never have too many coats. And remember, you read it here first if that is ever quoted anywhere else. So anyway, I’ve indulged that thing with a new bomber jacket.

Middle teen isn’t so clothing label conscious, (yet)  it’s all about the trainers for him. We’re pretty much at the point where I can no longer fob him off with cheaper look-alikes, or sharpie markering a logo on a sensible pair (yes, I have actually done that.) Luckily he found a pair of Addidas trainers nearly half the rrp. I have no doubt we’ll be heading back over there next month as this boy grows like bamboo so I have a deep-rooted aversion to buying him things full price when he’s only getting a couple of months wear out them.

I've got a suggestion on how you can help tick off some of that Christmas shopping list without making a massive dent in your credit card.

And lastly my little wee man didn’t go without either, he’ll be looking dapper this Christmas in the cutest Ben Sherman t-shirt and jeans. I know he has no idea what a designer label is, and given the choice would rather be dressed as Chase from Paw Patrol. However, there are the odd occasions when I do like to make an effort with his outfit and not dress him like a typical 3rd child of a mum who’s happy for him to take full control of his outfit, just as long as it’s clean and weather appropriate.

To top it off, at the time of writing this, I’ve just noticed that there’s a great Black Friday offer over on the website too.

I've got a suggestion on how you can help tick off some of that Christmas shopping list without making a massive dent in your credit card.

This is a collaborative post with Get The Label


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)


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


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