The Photo Gallery 205: Talent

playing keyboard The Photo Gallery 205: Talent
learning keyboard The Photo Gallery 205: Talent
keyboard practice The Photo Gallery 205: Talent

There is a new sound in our house. Loud and played at ungodly hours and constant.
I have absolutely no idea whether Mia will be a talented keyboard player. But she’s taken up lessons and she adores it.
One week after starting we were at a car boot sale and she stumbled on an electric keyboard for sale. £15. The owner had emigrated to Australia and her grandmother had offered to sell it for her just to ‘get it out of the way’.
Because, seriously, it is a bit of a monster.

I have never seen Mia so animated. She asked for it’s full history, what books came with it, was it suitable for her age, were all the cables included – and all without me.
The first I knew of it was when she ran back to our car all breathless, wide-eyed and arms flailing, trying to tell me everything she had discovered in one long, unpunctuated sentence.

She ended up buying it with her own money (her brother managed to barter them down to £12) and it has been an eyesore in our house ever since.
But she sits there with that look of total concentration. She congratulates herself with a little smile when she gets the notes right and, my most favourite thing of all, her toes wiggle and flex and intertwine underneath the chair seat when she’s concentrating.

feet The Photo Gallery 205: Talent

I have no idea whether she will be a keyboard great, but I love that she’s trying.
And everyone has to start somewhere, right?

This post is for week 204 of The Photo Gallery: The theme is: Talent.
If you’re new here and want to know what The Gallery is, go and read here, and then come right back and join in!

 You can also pick up The Gallery code if you want too, though it’s not a requirement for joining in.
And you could also subscribe to this blog to make sure you never miss a theme; they are posted here every Friday.

Now go forth and show some big blog love. Visit other bloggers, comment on their post if you feel moved to do so, and be inspired.
This virtual gallery of photographs is about enjoying each other’s work, so go make someone’s day. You will get out of this whatever you put in.

The link stays open until Tuesday so you have plenty of time to join in.
And absolutely ANYONE can join in.

You can also find The Photo Gallery on: Pinterest Google + Follow Tara Cain’s board The Photo Gallery on Pinterest.

See you over there x



Posted in Mia, The Gallery | 6 Comments

What to buy a 12 year old boy for Christmas

Christmas gifts for older boys What to buy a 12 year old boy for Christmas

Stop with the eye rolling, you’ve got to start thinking about these things now.
Because, far be it from me to panic you, Christmas is a mere 10 weeks away.

And at nearly 12 Dan is getting harder and harder to buy Christmas presents for. He does love a stocking from Santa under the tree. You know, those little exciting things that will deliver a big surprise. I’m finding it quite difficult to surprise a pre teen!

So, here is my little list to help out incase you’re having the same problem as me. They’re not all stocking fillers obviously, but things I hope will bring a smile to their faces come Christmas morning.
Let me know if there is anything you would add.

  1. Wolverine movie poster from MoviePoster.com, £5.11.
    Perfect for the superhero nerd. They stock a whole range of other posters too so it’s easy to find a good fit.
  2. Red Metal Top Secret Box from Dotcomgiftshop, £19.95.
    I love this, it’s like the boys version of a lockable diary!
  3. Bananagrams from John Lewis, £15.99
    A brilliant/infuriating game for learning words and spellings. Learning while thrashing them *ahem*
  4. Fat Face set from Boots, £10.
    They are definitely getting to ‘that’ age! And with all the sport Dan does, it’s an essential.
  5. Trapper hat from Gap, £7.95
    My dad moved to Canada recently and pretty much lives in a hat like this which Dan covets all the time.
  6. Army Camouflage Face Paint from Dotcomgiftshop, £3.95
    This is definitely the age for running around a forest armed with a Nerf gun and a leaf in your hat for camouflage.
  7. Selection of books from Waterstones, starting at £5.99
    I can’t recommend books highly enough for kids of this age. It has really helped Dan with his school work, vocabulary and sentence structure. It doesn’t matter what they read as long as there is variety.
  8. Lava Lamp from the Discovery Store, £14.99
    It was cool in the seventies and it’s cool again now! A night light with pizzazz.
  9. Wallet from SuperDry, £14.99
    It’s all about the labels these days. Thankfully Dan isn’t the slightest bit bothered but this wallet is grown up and essential for all that pocket money he earns by doing his chores *ahem*.
  10. Desk Globe from Amazon, £16.99
    A great way to help them learn about the world we live in. Dan has a world map on his wall and whenever we hear a story about a country in the news, we look it up.
Posted in Christmas, Dan, Lists | 10 Comments

Mary Berry Scones

Mary Berrys Scone Recipe Mary Berry Scones

If there is one thing my 11 year old loves when he gets in from school, it’s slightly warm scones with lashings of real butter and jam.
His eyes light up and he does that ‘mmmmm’ which, let’s be honest, makes me feel like the best mum in the world!
It’s the little things.

I know many people stress about the size of their scones and how much they’ve risen, but honestly, for me it’s all about the taste.
These Mary Berry scones are my favourite. So very simple, few ingredients and you can even freeze them if you can’t manage to eat them all icon wink Mary Berry Scones

One thing you need to know is that the less you handle the dough the better. Sticky is good. It’s hard to work with but it will pay dividends and rise for you.
So, slightly tacky and sticking to your fingers and you get a spot on scone!

It’s also best you eat them on the day they’re made. For a REAL treat spread with real butter, strawberry jam, cream and sliced strawberries. Mmmmmmm

mary berry scones1 Mary Berry Scones

mary berry scone recipe Mary Berry Scones

Ingredients
450g self raising flour
2 rounded teaspoons baking powder
75g cold butter
50g caster sugar
2 eggs
about 225ml milk

Method
1. Lightly grease two baking trays and pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C.

2. Put the flour, baking powder and butter into a bowl and rub with your fingers to make a breadcrumb texture. It’s best you don’t try to soften the butter in the microwave as too warm butter can lead to heavier scones I’ve found.

scones rubbing in method Mary Berry Scones

3. Stir in the sugar.

4. Beat the eggs together and then make up to 300ml with the milk. Put about two tablespoons to one side to use for glazing the scones later.

5. Gradually add the egg/milk mix to the dry ingredients until you have a soft dough.
It will seem quite sticky, but a slightly ‘wet’ dough which sticks to your fingers will rise better when cooked.

6. Turn the dough out on to a slightly floured surface and either flatten it out with the heel of your hands or use a rolling pin to get it to a thickness of about 2cm (1 inch). To be honest, I’ve tried both and find using my hands much better because it just sticks to the rolling pin and drives you slightly mad! Handle the dough as little as you can, it just needs to be pulled together, you don’t need to knead!

mary berry scones egg wash Mary Berry Scones scones egg wash Mary Berry Scones

7. Using a 5cm cutter, stamp out your scones in the dough (don’t twist as this can stunt the rise) and lift them out to place on the greased baking tray, quite close together.
Gather the left over dough together again and repeat until all the dough is used up.

8. Glaze each one with the egg/milk mixture.

9. Bake for 10-15 minutes near the top of the oven or until they are well risen and golden.
Cool on a wire rack and cover with a clean tea fowl to keep them moist.

These are best served a fresh as possible, cut in half and spread generously with jam and a big blob of cream.
You can also freeze any you don’t use as soon as they are completely cooled and thaw at room temperature when you need them again.

mary berry scones recipe Mary Berry Scones

Taken from Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook. 

 

Posted in Recipes | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Photo Gallery: Week 205

Gallery logo The Photo Gallery: Week 205Hello and welcome to week 205 of The Photo Gallery.

I have quite a challenge for you this week; the next Gallery theme is: Talent.

We all have one be it sport, music, cookery, creative.
But here’s the thing; we usually don’t like to boast. So here is my invitation to you to boast. Boast about yourself, your kids, your parents, your friends.
Show us their talents.
Then come back on Wednesday and link up.

I set up the Photo Gallery back in 2010 because I love photography. And I wanted to give everyone else an outlet to share and encourage and write really interesting posts around them.

It has always been about being part of a community of like-minded people. It’s about sparking your imagination, being inspiring – and inspiring others.

But remember, you will get out of The Gallery what you put in, so try to visit as many of the other entries as you can, say hi, discover new people, welcome them in when they discover you, be generous with your comments.

See you on Wednesday when it’s time to link up x

Remember, you can also share your entry via:
Twitter by using the hashtag: #TheGallery
Or by joining in the Gallery communities over on Pinterest and Google +

NEW HERE? NOT SURE HOW TO ENTER THE GALLERY?

If you’re new here and want to find out what The Photo Gallery is all about and how to enter visit here.
And if you want to make sure you don’t miss any prompts or entries in future, make sure you subscribe to Sticky Fingers and get all prompts delivered directly to your in box.
Go on, clicky click away, you know you want to …

If you want to join in with The Gallery and showcase your photos, come back on Wednesday and when my Gallery post goes live, add a link to your post on the Linky below mine.
The link stays open until the following Tuesday, so you have plenty of time to join in.
And ANYONE can join in.

Posted in The Gallery Themes | 1 Comment

Creating a personalised photography gift for Christmas

A couple of years ago I was totally stuck for a Christmas present for my inlaws.
I mean totally stuck. Gnawing on my knuckles, biting my bottom lip, nag nag nagging the husband for an idea ANY idea of what to get them.
That kind of stuck.

And then I had a brainwave. Or actually I stumbled on Pinterest and tapped into one of the brainwaves on there.
I made a unique photo gift.
The children and I came up with a very simple prop, had a good giggle one afternoon staging the photographs and this is what we came up with.
You can see the whole tutorial for this personalised photography gift here.
It went down an absolute storm.

homemade photography gifts Creating a personalised photography gift for Christmas

This year the children are a few years old and I’m looking at ways of updating this and sending something a little different.
I’ve once again been trawling through Pinterest for ideas and inspiration for photographs to take for the project.
And there are some gorgeous ideas – from how to take portraits and family shots, to how to think a little bit differently for a more unique photograph.
Have a look at my Pinterest board here with some ideas.

Follow Tara Cain’s board Photography inspiration on Pinterest.

Of course, once you have your photograph you will need something to frame it with.
These lovely frames from Personalised Gifts Shop offer you the opportunity to have your own words added, which is a lovely idea for grandparents, friends or relatives.

personalised christmas gifts Creating a personalised photography gift for Christmas

The words at the top of the frame are set, but you can have whatever you want written at the bottom; it’s such a lovely way to send something really personal that shows you’ve put a lot of thought into a gift this Christmas.
There are a whole host of different frames available (I really like the big chunky oak ones) – visit the website for more information or further details on all of the styles available.
There is also a whole host of other personalised gifts for sale on the site, from stationary and pens to jewellery, sweets and chocolate and kitchenware.

This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with Personalised Gifts Shop

Posted in Christmas, Craft, Sponsored | Leave a comment

The Gallery 204: Autumn

acer The Gallery 204: Autumn

Every year it amazes me that nature can produce such a vivid display of colour in my garden.
The season when things are slowly withdrawing, shedding and sinking back into the soil, is also the season when this bush does a virtual “Tah Dah” in the most dramatic fashion and almost glows red.

Like a performer from the Moulin Rouge, she hoists up her skirts, puts her face to the sky and shows off.
An Acer Bloodgood: Everyone should have one in their garden to bring some autumnal cheer.

This post is for week 204 of The Photo Gallery: The theme is: Autumn.
If you’re new here and want to know what The Gallery is, go and read here, and then come right back and join in!

 You can also pick up The Gallery code if you want too, though it’s not a requirement for joining in.
And you could also subscribe to this blog to make sure you never miss a theme; they are posted here every Friday.

Now go forth and show some big blog love. Visit other bloggers, comment on their post if you feel moved to do so, and be inspired.
This virtual gallery of photographs is about enjoying each other’s work, so go make someone’s day. You will get out of this whatever you put in.

The link stays open until Tuesday so you have plenty of time to join in.
And absolutely ANYONE can join in.

You can also find The Photo Gallery on: Pinterest Google + Follow Tara Cain’s board The Photo Gallery on Pinterest.

See you over there x



Posted in The Gallery | 14 Comments

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

Oasis of the Seas Photographic Tour Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas is a truly magnificent ship.
She boasts 16 passenger decks, can hold 6,360 guests and is the world’s biggest cruise ship.
Her sister ship, Allure of the Seas, is slightly longer by mere centimetres but Oasis holds the title of biggest.
Onboard she has theatres, an ice skating rink, two surf simulators, a zip wire, numerous restaurants, bars, lounges, pools and places to hang out. She even has trees.
Just look at her – huge, beautiful, inviting.

Oasis of the seas Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tourMy family and I spent a week cruising onboard this Oasis class ship – a vessel very much designed with families in mind.
The ship boasts amazing facilities, extensive kids clubs and has the Dreamworks family of movie characters onboard.
But is it a floating entertainment palace? Is it going to put many people off all that noise and all those kids and the crowds?
These are all questions we asked ourselves, so I know other families will be asking them too.
We’re not really into big crowds. We kind of like our own space. Don’t get me wrong, we like to go to shows and attractions etc. But we also like to retreat to our own little corner too. Can you even do that on a cruise ship of this size?

My children are notoriously difficult to please on holiday. They want to be doing doing doing all the time. They want to see things and experience things and for their holiday to be ‘cool’ and they want to be able to do stuff with us, their parents.
And at 11 and 9 they want a degree of independence.
That is a difficult holiday to find!

But find it we did.
As an ambassador for Royal Caribbean it would be easy for me to wax lyrical about cruising and the company and the fleet of ships and the destinations.
However, as a mother I know exactly what it’s like when you’re looking to spend your money on something for the whole family. And let’s face it, your main 2-week family holiday is expensive. Especially if you have school-aged children and have to take your holidays during the most expensive times.

So I’m going to take you on a tour of the Oasis of the Seas to see what you think.
As a tour guide, rather than a brand ambassador. And with lots and lots of photos. I love photos and because that’s what I’d want to read if I were in your shoes.

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

A ship this vast needs to be easy to navigate your way around or you would spend most of your time in elevators and walking along corridors, and so Oasis is split into distinctive ‘areas’.

We travelled on this ship for 7 nights to the Eastern Caribbean in July/August and barely touched the sides of what is on offer to do.
And we did a LOT of stuff.
Trust me when I tell you, there is no way you will ever be bored on this ship. Your kids will never whine: “what can we dooooooooo?”!

Here’s why:

overlooking Oasis of the Seas central park Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

CENTRAL PARK
My absolute favourite part of the ship; there are actual trees and vines and shrubs growing here.
Although it’s at the heart of the ship (on deck 8), clever engineering means you are actually sat outside, so you can sit in a cafe, eating cookies (all inclusive) while a gentle breeze teases at your hair.
It has three restaurants (which you need to pay an extra cover charge to eat in) Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table and the prestigious 150 Central Park where you can also enjoy wine tasting. I’ve eaten in both Chops Grille and Giovanni’s Table and they are well worth the extra. It also has a wine bar and a floating bar (it literally drops through the floor to the deck below!)

As a family, we ate a Giovanni’s Table and enjoyed the most wonderful family meal with super friendly (and Italian) staff, the rustle of leaves over our heads and the twinkle of lights snaking down the walkway.
We really could have been in Italy.

Oasis of the Seas central park sign Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour Oasis of the Seas Giovanis Table sign Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour Oasis of the Seas 150 central park Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tourOasis of the Seas central park bench Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour
If you’re not sure about any of the restaurants you can just pop in and ask a member of staff to see the menu, how much the cover charge is and what sort of food they serve.
We found them supremely helpful – especially when asking about the suitability for children.

Oasis of the Seas boardwalk from above Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

THE BOARDWALK
This is essentially a seaside pier. Again, it’s an outside space, with a handcrafted carousel (yes, I know, on a ship!), candy floss, an ice cream parlour, face painting and supervised deck games for the children to play. I particularly loved the display of how a carousel horse is crafted and things like the Zoltar fortune teller machine (anyone who ever saw the movie Big will know exactly what I mean!)
Restaurants include the Seafood Shack and the Johnny Rockets diner (both of which again incur a cover charge).

Oasis of the Seas carousel horse Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour Oasis of the Seas carousel Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour Oasis of the seas Zoltar Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tourAnd at the end of the Boardwalk is the impressive Aquatheatre (more on that later) which sits right at the back of the ship, and the two climbing walls which rise up both sides of the Boardwalk right underneath the staterooms above them.

car on Promenade of Oasis of the Seas Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

ROYAL PROMENADE
This area is indoors and is very busy and bustling and full of life.
As it’s name implies, it’s a long promenade and is home to the ship’s shopping as well as coffee bars, cafes, a pub, a pizzeria, bars and the Cupcake Cupboard (where they not only make tempting cakes, you can also sign up for cupcake decorating classes there too – at an extra charge).
It’s a very busy area and it really comes to life during the evening where professional photographs are taken, spray-on tattoos can be bought and the milling around reminds me of a posh nightclub district! There’s even a vintage car to have your photo taken with.

Oasis of the Seas Pub Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tourAt certain times during the day there is also a Dreamworks Parade, when the movie characters make their way down the promenade in a colourful dance show. Don’t expect any adults to make way for your kids during the spectacle; they love it just as much as the little ones do!

Oasis of the Seas sport zone Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

SPORTS DECK
I have very sporty kids who gravitate towards areas like this as if there were invisible magnets drawing them there!
The sports deck on Oasis is magnificent. I say that with no hesitation whatsoever.
You can surf on one of two FlowRiders – the Royal Caribbean surf simulators which sit at the back of the ship.

flow rider oasis of the seas Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

Back of the Oasis of the Seas Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

Oasis of the Seas Zipline Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour Rock climbing on Oasis of the Seas Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tourYou can zip wire eight stories above the Boardwalk. It’s a relatively short crossing at 82 feet, but it’s a loooooong way down!
You can play miniature golf, table tennis (in two purpose built ‘rooms’), basketball, football, or go for a light run on the jogging deck.

Oasis of the Seas H2O zone whirlpool Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

THE POOLS
There aren’t ‘just’ five pools onboard; they all have a theme, a purpose.
There is the H2O Zone for children (below), with squirting water cannons, huge multicoloured sculptures looming overhead to hide behind, a covered ‘Jacuzzi’, a whirlpool and lots of place to play.

Oasis of the Seas Busy H2O zone Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tourAn adults-only pool, the Solarium, that’s very tranquil and private and very much feels like a private spa.
A beach pool (below), with deck chairs and a sloping ‘beach line’ to mimic being by the sea.

Oasis of the Seas beach pool Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tourThe main pool, is for every day use and the sports pool, which while we were there seemed to have volleyball on the go much of the time. And consequently it’s rather noisy around here!
The pools aren’t huge so during busy times it can feel quite crowded. We found the chairs around the H2O Zone really busy, but then obviously parents need to be close to their kids while they’re in the pool. Luckily there is another tier of chairs just one deck up, overlooking the H2O Zone, so that’s where the husband and I decamped for much of the holiday. And from where we sat we could actually see what was going on in the pool reflected in the windows of the ship, so bonus!

Oasis of the Seas pool in the windows Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tourThe children absolutely loved their pool. It did get busy on sailing days at certain times, but on dock days it was almost empty!

Oasis of the Seas teen Manicure Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

THE SPA
It’s huge. You walk into the reception area and you think wow, this is really big with it’s juice bar and nail bar and shop.
Then you are told to go down the stairs at the back and it opens out into this massive other area that’s even bigger.
I couldn’t believe how big it was and my therapist (I had the most wonderful facial) who was from New Zealand said they had a very steady stream of people for the whole cruise – and not just the women. Botox is very big business onboard too!
Mia had her very first manicure with a very friendly lady from Jamaica who massaged and creamed and buffed until Mia felt a million dollars.

Oasis of the Seas ice show Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

THE THEATRES
There are two main theatres – the double decked Opal Theatre in which the free stage shows are held. It also doubles us as a 3D cinema.
And there is Studio B, where the ice shows are staged – and you can also go for ice skating sessions yourself.
The shows are superb. They are all free but you would be happy to pay for them, they are so good. We saw Hairspray (which is a shortened version of the Broadway hit), Frozen in Time (a spectacular ice show with stunning costumes), Come Fly With Me (an acrobatic, fast moving show with music, people walking up walls – very creative) and Oasis of Dreams which was a high diving acrobatic show in the outside Aqua Theatre).

Aqua show oasis of the seas Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour Oasis of the Seas outdoor acrobatics Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour Oasis of the Seas diving show Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tourAnd at the back of the ship is the Aquatheatre, a water-based entertainment area, where you sit in deck chairs to watch the show in the open air. The pool is something like 17 foot deep and shows feature divers and acrobats and it’s very visual and dynamic.
Oh and by the way, no I didn’t take that top photo of the man’s bottom diving into the pool below. I’ll go to great lengths for a good photo but not THAT high! I just wanted to show what we got a taste of so borrowed a picture from Royal Caribbean!
There are various smaller venues where comedy shows, music acts etc are staged.

Oasis of the Seas Adventure Ocean sign Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

YOUTH ZONE
Or the kids clubs. A word that strikes fear into my children’s hearts; they really don’t like kids clubs. Don’t like that they don’t know anyone there. Don’t like that they are usually quite boring. Don’t like that the leaders either ignore them or tell them off all the time.
I can honestly say they loved it at the Oasis of the Seas Ocean Adventure Club. Suitable for children aged 3 and 17, they are SO well thought out, the facilities are amazing and, despite the vast array of nationalities, they made friends quite easily.
For my age kids there were PlayStations, air hockey, karaoke, sports tournaments, talent shows, pool parties, scavenger hunts, discos.
And for younger ones there painting, musical activities, pirate night, soft play.
Alongside the regular age-appropriate rooms, there is also a Science Lab, a cinema and an Imagination Studio for arts and crafts.
And all of it is inclusive (except if you want to leave your children at the club late at night and then a charge does apply).
Superb and very very well thought out programme.

Opal dining room oasis of the seas Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

RESTAURANTS
Besides the speciality restaurants where you have to pay a cover charge, there are places you can eat where you don’t need to pay extra. Or complimentary dining.
If you don’t want to dress up and like to eat quite informally, the Windjammer is a self service buffet with a HUGE selection for even the fussiest of eaters.
It does however get very busy, but there are staff helping with seating so you’re never waiting for too long.
It’s a great place to eat lunch or breakfast.
If you like formal dining, or something a bit special, the Opus dining room is a gorgeous three-tiered spectacle of a dining room with a huge chandelier at the heart of the space. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
My kids loved seeing where the waiting staff were from (their name badges show their nationality) and we found those from India, the Philippines and Jamaica particularly friendly and attentive.
There are lots of other places to eat if you want something quick and easy – such as Sorrento’s for pizza, Solarium Bistro for healthy options or Park Cafe for make your own salads.
Or, if you’re feeling really decadent, order in room service and sit on your balcony watching the sea slip by!
Oh, and donuts. Freshly made donuts on the Boardwalk . . .

On top of ALL of this there is a casino, a gym, loads of very different bars, a library, nightclub, teenager zone, conference rooms – even a chapel if you fancy tying the knot onboard.

Oasis of the Seas Ship navigator Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tourTo help you find your way around all of this, they’ve installed very clever touch-screen maps outside every lift – just type in where you want to go and the screen maps it out for it. Absolutely brilliant.

top deck on Oasis of the Seas Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

So did we find that much desired corner to ourselves? Did we find it crowded, overbearing, busy?
Well yes, we travelled on the ship at peak holiday time so it was busy. But there was always always somewhere to find peace.
This is the deck the husband and I favoured most days at sea – there’s barely anyone there! And we had THE most stunning views over the ocean.

View from oasis of the seas Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. A tour

Would I fork out my own money on a Royal Caribbean cruise? Is that what you’re asking?
Yes I would. As a family we don’t mind paying a lot for a holiday as long as we get what we pay for. We want quality, to be treated well – very well – and we want to go home with amazing memories.
And that’s exactly what we got.

Posted in Family Holiday, Travel, Travel Review | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Premier Inn’s Sleep, Park, Fly

Premier Inn Heathrow Terminal 5 Premier Inns Sleep, Park, FlyWhen you’re travelling with children, it is a whole world of stress.
When you’re travelling without children it’s a whole world of stress too, but adding children to the mix just ups the ante!
It’s all the questions and ‘are we nearly there yet’s and they’ve forgotten their tablet, favourite teddy, all their underpants for the next two weeks away.

In July this family embarked on the most amazing two-week holiday. We flew to America to board the world’s largest cruise ship as part of our ‘jobs’ as Royal Caribbean blog ambassadors.
But before all the excitement, came the travelling to the airport bit. The bit that tires you out, makes you mumble under your breath for them to JUST. BE. QUIET. The bit that comes just before you board a plane for another nine hour journey.
As our journey to London Gatwick was a two-hour drive we were really not looking forward to it that much!

But what if you could get an overnight hotel package that costs just a few pounds more than the fortnight’s parking you were already forking out for?
You’d bite their hand right off for the wonderful gift of convenience.
That’s when we discovered the Premier Inn Sleep, Park, Fly package.

And so, the day before our flight, we made a stress-free journey to the Premier Inn, Gatwick at Terminal 5 where an overnight stay for a family of four, overnight parking   AND two week’s car parking cost just £170
Airport parking alone was going to cost us £110.
Not only that, the parking is a ‘meet and greet’ service; which means you drive your own car to the airport terminal, leave your car with the parking staff, climb into the lift to the departure gates and there you are. No looking for parking spaces, no getting on a transfer bus. You’re right there outside your terminal.
So there was no getting up at the crack of dawn to be at the airport in time on the day of your flight. No getting onboard a transfer bus with kids and bags and suitcases in tow.
It ticked every one of our boxes!

The hotel itself is as you’d expect from any Premier Inn. Comfortable and quiet. The staff were really friendly and helpful (and mindful that nearly everyone staying there is travelling somewhere nice so they delighted the kids by asking them what they were going to be doing on their holiday).

And after a lovely leisurely breakfast we jumped in our car, drove to the airport which was about 5 minutes away and started our holiday with smiles on our faces instead of lines furrowed in our brows.

We were given a Sleep, Park, Fly package in return for writing this post however all opinions are my own.
The package is available at other branches of the hotel chain and you can choose from 2-4, 5-8 or 9-15 day parking packages
The package is also available 365 days a year right up until 24 hours before your stay.
Check the website for details as prices and offers can change depending on the hotel.

Posted in Reviews, Travel, Travel Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Photo Gallery: Week 204

Gallery logo The Photo Gallery: Week 204Hello and welcome to week 204 of The Photo Gallery.

I have seen so many gorgeous photos on blogs, on Twitter on Instagram over the past couple of weeks. The sunsets, the weather, the flaura and fauna, puddles, rainbows, leaves, conkers, dog walks.
So this week I’m tapping into all that beauty to bring you the next Gallery theme: Autumn.

It’s as simple as that. Show me what autumn looks like where you live be that near the sea, in the city, in another country, in your back garden.
Then come back on Wednesday and link up.

I set up the Photo Gallery back in 2010 because I love photography. And I wanted to give everyone else an outlet to share and encourage and write really interesting posts around them.

It has always been about being part of a community of like-minded people. It’s about sparking your imagination, being inspiring – and inspiring others.

But remember, you will get out of The Gallery what you put in, so try to visit as many of the other entries as you can, say hi, discover new people, welcome them in when they discover you, be generous with your comments.

See you on Wednesday when it’s time to link up x

Remember, you can also share your entry via:
Twitter by using the hashtag: #TheGallery
Or by joining in the Gallery communities over on Pinterest and Google +

NEW HERE? NOT SURE HOW TO ENTER THE GALLERY?

If you’re new here and want to find out what The Photo Gallery is all about and how to enter visit here.
And if you want to make sure you don’t miss any prompts or entries in future, make sure you subscribe to Sticky Fingers and get all prompts delivered directly to your in box.
Go on, clicky click away, you know you want to …

If you want to join in with The Gallery and showcase your photos, come back on Wednesday and when my Gallery post goes live, add a link to your post on the Linky below mine.
The link stays open until the following Tuesday, so you have plenty of time to join in.
And ANYONE can join in.

Posted in The Gallery Themes | 1 Comment

Win a personalised cake tin from Jonny’s Sister

personalised cake tin Win a personalised cake tin from Jonnys Sister

There is never cake in my house: because the minute I make any someone has come home from school or work and scoffed it all.
But now I have somewhere to hide it; somewhere I can store it that tells everyone it’s MY cake!
This fabulous enamel cake tin is a lovely teal colour (sorry my photo doesn’t really show that off) and has been personalised just for me.
I absolutely love it. It’s from a quintessentially English online company called Jonny’s Sister which makes wonderful gifts from bunting and fabric letters, to personalised signs, kitchenware and dog bowls. As well as the personalise cake tin.

And as you can see, I was on the case straight away making a Victoria Sponge to go in there.
This recipe is a Mary Berry Victoria Sponge (in celebration of the Great British Bake Off!) and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s so simple to make and tastes light and buttery.
It never ever lasts more than two days in this house. Perfect with a cup of tea or for adding to lunch boxes for a little treat.

mary berry victoria sponge Win a personalised cake tin from Jonnys Sister

mary berry victoria sponge cake Win a personalised cake tin from Jonnys Sister Personalised cake tins Win a personalised cake tin from Jonnys Sister

How to enter

So, my personalised enamel tin, how would you like to have one too?
To mark the final of the Great British Bake Off I have teamed up with the lovely people at Jonny’s Sister to offer one of these tins to one of my readers.

They make the perfect gift for anyone who fancies themselves as a bit of a Mary Berry, or you could just keep it for yourself!
The tins are all hand painted by local sign writers in Somerset, so you can guarantee if you win your tin will be unique! They retail at £37.75 each.

Check out the Jonny’s Sister website for the two different colours the tin comes in and the style of lettering you can have.
You can also check out the other enamel goods they have which can be personalised.

So, to enter this giveaway all you have to do is fill in the Rafflecopter entry widget below.
Ready, set, BAKE!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rules: The competition is open to residents of the UK only (sorry rest of the world).
No cash alternative offered.
The prize is 1 personalised enamel cake tin from Jonny’s Sister worth £37.75.
Entry is via Rafflecopter.
Make sure your contact details are easily available.
The competition closes on Saturday, October 18 2014.
One winner will be chosen at random from all the entries after the closing date.
The winner will be asked to provide their full name and address for the prize to be sent to.
If a prizewinner does not respond within a week of being contacted, the prize will be re-drawn and a new winner will be contacted.

Posted in Competition, Food | 33 Comments