Tengi - A New Way To Chat And Also Win Prizes

There's a new chat app in town. Move over What's App as Tengi is here. 

So what's this all about I hear you ask? Tengi is a free chat app that is easy to use and also allows you to win prizes. What does chat make - yes you heard it correctly PRIZES!

To get started it's incredibly simple - firstly you download it on the App Store or Google Play. It's free to download and there is no cost to you for using the app. For each day you use Tengi you get 1 ticket, for each hour you chat you get 6 extra tickets, each time one of your phone contacts joins Tengi you get 16 tickets. Then every Friday there is a draw and you could win anything up to £10,000.
Most messaging apps keep the profits to themselves but Tengi gives 50% back to its users through the advertising revenue it makes. Messages are completely free and are sent using wi-fi or your data allowance. You can send text messages, photos, video and audio, simply, easily. 

Copyright: LDprod Shutterstock

As a blogger, I am testing Tengi out with a group of my friends. You can have a group made up to 100 friends on Tengi, so it's great for a group chat. Maybe you want all your work colleagues in one group, or the mums from school in another, or your cocktail buddies in a third - just add them to separate groups.

If you want to try it out, download it now and as I said it's FREE on both IOS and Android. After you've completed your name you land on a welcome screen. At the bottom of this screen, you'll see "use a voucher" click here and enter BLOG in the pop-up box so they know where you heard it from. The more people that download it, the more prizes that will be won!

But it's not all about the cash, it's about socialising, easily, simply, chatting to work colleagues, chatting to family, chatting to friends, chatting to loved ones.

I'll let you know how I get on soon, maybe I will have a win to tell you about! Don't forget enter BLOG into the voucher code when you download it and if you do let me know below.

Let me know, do you use chat apps? Would you use Tengi?

*collaborative post

Beautiful Antique Jewellery From Berganza Jewellers

Berganza Jewellers is one of those hidden gems, (excuse the pun) - a family-run jewellers whose staff are knowledgeable and experienced in selling unique antique and vintage jewellery. Based in prestigious Hatton Garden in London, the well-known area at the centre of the jewellery and diamond trade in the UK, the store is a veritable treasure trove of sparkly treats.

Here you are almost always guaranteed to find that unusual ring that no one else will have due to the antique and vintage nature of the jewellery. 

They hold one of the largest collections of antique rings in the world showcasing the very best workmanship from each period, from ancient Greek and Roman betrothal rings to Medieval pieces, and a vast posy ring collection, to more recent Georgian and Victorian rings as well as 1940 to 1960s retro pieces.

Today there is a fashion for treating gemstones to hide imperfections, filling in cracks and heat treating to change the colour. At Berganza Jewellers, they ensure all their gems are natural untreated stones without enhancements, so you get the very best antique and vintage stones out there. 

Cushion shape old mine cut diamond ring, circa 1915
VVs2 clarity 5.26 ct total diamond weight approx

The unique nature of the jewellery cannot be underestimated. In past times, jewellers honed a craft, hand-making bespoke settings and selecting stones appropriate to the style of the ring. There was no mass production of jewellery and skills were learnt, passed down through generations of family jewellers and through time spent in a jewellers workshop. Berganza jewellers are proud of this jewellers craft so much so that they are sponsors of the prestigious Goldsmiths' Craft and Design Awards every year.

An antique sapphire and diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1890

A business is only as good as it's staff and in Berganza Jewellers everyone is passionate about jewellery, experienced and well trained in customer care as well as being extremely knowledgeable. Staff are members of the National Association of Goldsmiths as well as the Gemmological Association of Great Brita
in and the LAPADA -the associate of art and antique dealers. I think you will agree with me when I say they are true experts in antique jewellery.

A very rare Georgian diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire giardinetti ring, circa 1760

As you can see from the beautiful jewellery I have showcased above, Berganza jewellers, really do sell unique pieces. If you are looking for an item of jewellery to mark that special occasion, to pass down a piece to your children or even to buy as an investment Berganza jewellers are happy to advise you on this special purchase. 

Tell me, have you any antique or vintage jewellery? What do you think of the jewellery I have featured above?

*PR collaboration 

My Guide To Choosing A Sofa

A new sofa can be a big expense and therefore it's important to think about buying one carefully. Some points you need to think about include the style and aesthetics, the colour and pattern, the appropriateness for the environment and the cost. 

Style and Aesthetics 

Are you going to go for traditional or modern? A Chesterfield sofa is one of the traditional designs with the quilted leather, and buttoned back. Modern designs are altogether more sleek and minimalist, or you could even go for a retro 50 or 60's design.

The size of the sofa is a big consideration too - you may have a small room so a two-seater sofa would be perfect but if you have a larger room and a bigger family a three-seater would be better or a corner sofa. A corner sofa is great to lounge on and can even double up as a bed for those late nights when friends have had too much to drink. You could also consider a multi-function sofa bed especially if you are short on space.

Colour and Pattern

Plain, floral, stripes, or something bolder, the colour and pattern can mean everything. Whilst most of us go for a plain sofa for a simply chic look, floral is the next most common design.  

Don't forget though throws and cushions can help add interest and change the look of a sofa easily with minimal cost.


Whilst comfort is highly important for any sofa you also need to think how it will fit into your lifestyle and the space it has to fit into. 

If you have young children, domestic pets or a clumsy husband (sorry, I had to get that in!), it is probably essential that the sofa is easy to clean, if so you may want to go for a leather sofa or a fabric sofa that is treated with a stain guard. 


Cost it an obvious consideration, but there is something to be said for the quote, " You get what you pay for ". Quality, craftsmanship and design is certainly worth paying for, and with many people keeping their sofa for at least 10 years it's best not to scrimp on the cost if you can.

However, if you are on a tight budget, fabric sofas are generally cheaper than leather, and you can always personalise a sofa on a budget with accessories.

Below I have chosen three of my favourite sofas from Habitat and accessorised with items I love. Let me know what you think!

Three Favourite Sofa Designs

Grey Velvet Sofa

Bunny Hop Grey Patterned Cushion £12, Regency pink velvet cushion £25
Hendricks dark grey velvet 2 seater sofa £1400

I have chosen a simple grey sofa here and accessorised it with a splash of pink from the cushions and a feature bunny print cushion. 

The sofa is made of soft dark grey velvet and the low wide arms give a modern look. The seat looks supremely comfy too. The pink cushions are velvety soft as well - really touchy-feely and what a super bunny print cushion, I think I'm in love with this! A great sofa design for everyone.

Brown Leather Sofa
Jepsen red linen throw  £50, Topa panelled block rug £150, Riad multi-colour cushion £40, 
Spencer chocolate brown leather sofa with metal legs £3700

I have gone more daring with this look, with the block print cushion and rug in colours of browns, oranges and reds. 

The chocolate brown leather 4 seat sofa is a simple, classic design and easy to clean. The Riad cushion has a super block pattern that tones in well. The beautiful linen throw adds a dash of colour and supreme elegance.  The rug pulls it all together - a fresh modern funky look, suitable for couples or families.

Linen Fabric Sofa

Edric wool and silk throw £80, Trigas large multi rug £195,  'Dogs In Glasses' print £20
Higginson natural linen mix two seater sofa £1100

This natural linen sofa is classy, simple and beautifully designed with wide arms and a supportive high back. Perhaps not the most practical colour for those with young families, instead I see a stylish couple owning this sofa. 

Rather than going for minimalist accessories, I have added some bright fun items. The Trigas multi-coloured flat weave rug is a great accessory to this look and made from upcycled cotton, everyone is unique. When you want to change the look of the sofa add in the Edric wool/silk blend throw. The dog print adds a little quirkiness to the whole look. Who says simple has to be boring? 

The Most Stylish Accessories of 2016

If you love to stay in fashion but have a tight budget to work to, nothing beats splashing out on a few key accessories. Forget buying a whole new wardrobe to mark the changing of the seasons – all you need to do to is update your everyday look with shoes, bags and jewellery that reflect the latest trends. But how to choose the hottest looks for 2016? Check out our guide to the most stylish accessories of 2016.

Mismatched earrings

Copyright: Nadya Korobkova Shutterstock 

You know that drawer full of old, single earrings you’ve kept for years just in case the other one turns up? Now is their time to shine. One of the hottest trends on the catwalks this season was mismatched earrings – so get out your favourite pieces and wear them with pride. For bonus style points, use earrings that pick up different accents or elements in the rest of your outfit. For example, you could pair one fabric and one gold earring with a tasselled bag and a gold belt, or wear coloured earrings that match different parts of what you are wearing.

Bright colours
Copyright: Vitalii Tiagunov Shutterstock

Bright and beautiful will be a big trend this year, but going all out on some fluorescent orange trousers or pillar box red shirts might be too much for some people – which is why this is one fashion perfectly suited to accessories. You can add a colourful touch to any outfit with bags and shoes in bold primary colours, or add an even subtler touch with statement jewellery in your favourite bright shades. In the summer, colourful sunglasses are also a subtle yet stylish way to stay on-trend. You can find some of these chic accessories cheaper with a Debenhams voucher.


Copyright: Vitalii Tiagunov Shutterstock

Last seen as a bargain-basement accessory that graced the necks of all teenage girls in the late 90s, the choker is enjoying a big comeback. For a soft, daytime look you can choose fabric chokers made out of velvet or lace, in monochromatic shades. Or, if you want to add some glitz to an evening outfit, why not accessorise with a choker in silver or gold? For real drama and added bling, choose ones with precious stones or beads set into them to make a real statement this season. Shops like Debenhams have a great selection for you to choose from.

Body jewellery

No, we don’t mean that belly button piercing you had done when you were 18. This season’s hottest body jewellery is all about full-body chains and pendants inspired by Asian wedding jewellery. Perfect for special occasions, they go great with a simple little black dress – or worn over a swimsuit or bikini for a super-luxe look when you’re away on your holidays. For a great range of accessories including a selection of body jewellery, you can check out the low prices you can get using TK Maxx discount.

Leather belts

As a direct contrast to the feminine edge of the majority of 2016 accessory trends, leather belts are also very in fashion this year. Think thick, often embossed belts, used to cinch in the waist and create an hourglass silhouette. They look great used to smarten up a casual outfit for a day at the office or used to dress down an evening look. Studs and even rhinestones also graced the leather belts at this year’s catwalk shows, so it’s time to channel your inner cowgirl!

What accessories make your look?

* sponsored post

48 Hours In New Orleans

We recently returned from a road trip to the American 'Deep South' and New Orleans was one of the stops on our journey. Known for its partying atmosphere on Bourbon Street, New Orleans has much more going for it than that, including amazing architecture, intriguing history and being the birthplace of jazz and Mardi Gras. Here is my guide to what to see and do in New Orleans in 48 hours.

Jackson Square

Day 1


The French Quarter

Although New Orleans is much more than the French Quarter, this is where many of the tourists stay and if you are short on time it's the best base, to be in the centre of the action.

Start by orientating yourself to this lovely area. The French Quarter is popular for its collection of great restaurants, cool hotels, and happening bars. This area is also easy to walk around and is well known for its beautiful architecture. It's the oldest neighbourhood in New Orleans and the buildings are a mix of Spanish, French, American and Creole styles.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square is a historic park in the centre of the French Quarter. It's an area where local artists paint, play music and hang out. It's also home to one of the best restaurants in New Orleans - Muriel's. Check out the menu for tomorrow night and book in advance for the weekend.

While you are exploring this area be sure to head to its centrepiece; the stunning St. Louis Cathedral that holds religious services, cultural events, and even free concerts throughout the year.

The Presbytere

The Presbytere is a great little museum in Jackson Square that houses the thought-provoking Hurricane Katrina exhibition on one floor and the cheerful Mardi Gras exhibition on the other.  Entrance is a very reasonable 6 dollars with discounts for concessions.  

The Hurricane Katrina exhibition really touched me. The Coast Guard rescued over 34,000 people in New Orleans alone and nearly 2000 people died, many of dehydration and heat exhaustion waiting in their attics to be rescued. It really made you think about why in modern America, people were left for days with little food and water in the summer heat.

When you have finished in the Prebytere, stop for lunch in one of the many cafes and restaurants in this vibrant area. If you are still full after the hotel breakfast have a beignet - a donut covered in powdered sugar at Cafe Du Monde or Cafe Beignet. For something more substantial try a bowl of gumbo - a thick rich bowl of seafood or meat stew.


Royal Street

Royal Street is a lovely street in New Orleans known for its antique shops, art galleries, and upmarket hotels like the Montelone Hotel. Every afternoon part of Royal Street is closed to traffic and various street performers and jazz musicians play.  Spend time exploring, listening to the music in the street, browsing the stores and having a drink in one of the cafes or bars.

Back to the hotel for a relax by the pool and freshen up.


Bourbon Street

Directly in the French Quarter is Bourbon Street - New Orleans partying area. It's noisy, it's brash, it's colourful, it's a bit smelly, but it has to be done. We felt safe but if you are on your own or with kids beware of the odd drunk, strip clubs and dodgy characters. There are lots of clubs playing music, have a hurricane cocktail at Pat O'Briens for the true tourist experience.

Royal Street

When you've had enough of Bourbon Street, walk around the corner to Royal Street and stop off at Hotel Montelone for a Sazerac cocktail at the cool Carousel bar that rotates, then Mr B's Bistro, for quality Creole food in a smart but laid-back atmosphere.

Day 2

Take A Tour

There are many tour companies in New Orleans and we highly recommend Free Tours By Foot. This great little company has very informative and interesting tours. We took both the French Quarter tour and the Voodoo tour. You pay at the end with a tip and the tours are technically free.

The Voodoo tour was fascinating. The religion Voodoo and the magic hoodoo were brought over with African people who were shipped over as slaves. They had little to hold onto besides their religion and traditions. Voodoo, as it is portrayed in Hollywood films, is different to the religion that is practised then and still is today. It's a very spiritual religion and used for good mostly - the most popular potions used are love potions.

We managed to see where Marie Laveau, the Voodoo queen lived. You may have heard her name from the American Horror Story TV series - Coven. In reality, she was a very intelligent woman, a hairdresser to the rich of New Orleans, and she gained her power from listening to women gossip. She had a gift for showmanship and was also a Catholic. She was granted permission to complete her voodoo rituals behind St Louis cathedral and would remove curses, read minds and be a spiritual guide.

Stop for lunch in the French Quarter. For authentic food local to the area try a Po Boy, a French bread sandwich or a muffaletta - a round sandwich with focaccia-style bread filled with meats and olive salad.  To find out more, and for some tasty photographs read my blog post on New Orleans iconic food and drink.


The Garden District 

Take a tram, horse and cart or short taxi ride to The Garden District. A very historical residential neighbourhood, you’ll find yourself surrounded by grand trees, ivy, and of course plenty of gardens. Famous people who have homes here include Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage and Anne Rice who wrote 'Interview With A Vampire'. It's a pretty area to walk around and also houses the stunning Commander's Palace restaurant - with 25c martinis at lunchtime!

The National WWII Museum

If you want to take in a fantastic museum, the National Word War II museum is a further 15 minute walk from The Garden District, and well worth a visit.

Filled with original artifacts it covers the history of World War II from the start of the war, the world leaders, and the everyday men fighting for their country and the women supporting them. The Beyond All Boundaries 4D show narrated by Tom Hanks is highly recommended and moving and you can follow a real soldier through the war by his dog tag and find out what happened to him at the end. A place to make you think and an outstanding museum.


Bourbon Street

Take a stroll through Bourbon Street to see all human life. Cafe Beignet has a courtyard area where you can listen to jazz. 
New Orleans is widely regarded as the birthplace of Jazz, from the African American communities in the 19th century.

Frenchmen Street

For true authentic jazz, walk to Frenchmen Street for jazz clubs, live music venues, and cool restaurants. This is the place where all the locals hang out. Stop at one of the jazz clubs for a drink. Places like The Spotted Cat, or Snug Harbour are highly recommended to gain a true feel of the city’s culture.

Jackson Square

Take a walk back to Jackson Square and have dinner at Muriel's. This historic restaurant in a 19th century building has amazing food and cocktails and is perfect for your last night in The Big Easy. A special meal, in a special place, but watch out for the ghosts as it is reputably haunted.

So this is my 48 hours in New Orleans. Once experienced never forgotten New Orleans is a place full of culture, heart,
 amazing music and fantastic food. Unmissable. 

pin for later

We stayed at Hotel Le Marais
We ate at Mr B's Bistro and Muriels 

* We were given a pass to museums and attractions courtesy of New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau

Flying A Tiger Moth With Buyagift - The Experience

Last month it was my tenth wedding anniversary and so a couple of months before I started to rack my brains on what to get my husband. I wanted it to be unique and memorable. A card and a box of chocs would simply not cut it.

So I decided on a Tiger Moth flying experience from Buyagift. 

A bi-plane, the Tiger Moth was operated by the Royal Air Force from the 1930s to the 1950s primarily to train pilots. My husband is learning to fly and when I presented him with this Tiger Moth experience gift on holiday he was really surprised and very excited. 

A memorable experience, never forgotten.

Experiences like this last longer than material things, you won't be talking about the phone you bought in 2016 when you are old and grey but you will remember the time you went up in a Tiger Moth and did a loop and roll! Yes, this was what was in store for him.

The booking process was simple - he entered his details online and then rang the aviation company in Gloucester, Tiger Airways.  

So a month later we set off for Gloucester airport. Firstly he watched a DVD to know what to expect. The film showed you what not to touch, the basic controls and how not to put your foot on the plane! Yes indeed, something I didn't know was that the plane was made of wood and canvas! 

After meeting the lady pilot and going over a few instructions he donned a leather jacket, a hat and goggles like Biggles and climbed into the front open cockpit of the bi-plane.  A headset kept him in touch with the lady pilot and he was strapped in with a four-point harness.

After taxying on the grass airstrip, then picking up speed, they had lift-off, soaring like eagles gliding on the air.


When airborne and away from the airfield she let my husband take control of the plane to turn left, right and climb then she retook control and asked if he wanted to do a loop. So he did. He's certainly braver than me, flying upside down in an open cockpit plane, that's for sure.

So they went into a dive to pick up some speed and then they looped. The experience was, less scary that he thought before he knew it he was looking at the floor, then they were upright. 

After flying some more, the pilot asked if he wanted to try something else and they went into a victory roll. This is when you roll sideways in a complete loop otherwise known as an aileron roll.  This felt more like a ride at a theme park, except at 3000 feet rather than a few hundred, with the wind rushing past his face, a real adrenaline rush.

Then he took control again and was directed back to the airfield where she took control and landed the plane.

"It was a great experience, a bit chilly though but thoroughly enjoyable"

After the experience, he was given a copy of the photo taken earlier and there was an opportunity to have a DVD of the experience. If you think you or a loved one would like to try the Tiger Moth experience I would recommend you get it from Buyagift as the process of booking was simple and straightforward and they offer free exchanges too if you or your recipient change their mind.
Flying a Tiger Moth plane was one gift he will never forget, great memories that will last a lifetime.

I didn't manage to capture his acrobatics but here is a little video I made of the experience. Tell me, would you or a loved one like to try this? Have you ever given a gift experience?

* I was gifted this experience for an honest review

Top Things To Do In Amsterdam

Amsterdam with it's historic architecture, beautiful canals and laid back culture is one of the most famous cities in Europe. Being only a short flight from the UK, and with some world class museums as well, it's certainly an interesting place to visit.

Take a canal cruise

 Amsterdam has many canals

This will help orientate you for the city and I can't think of a better way to see the city than gliding along on the water. From this viewpoint you can see the beautiful architecture of the narrow houses, and watch the world go by. The canals are also home to the many gorgeous houseboats. In days gone by the poorest people used to live on the houseboats as they were used for transporting goods but now these structures moored on the canals are home to many people and are worth as much as some homes.

Visit the museums 

The houseboat museum

From the large world renowned museums like the Van Gough and Rijkmuseum to the small and quirky museums like the Houseboat Museum and the Erotic Museum, Amsterdam has something for everyone. 

The Kitchen Maid by Vermeer

The Rijkmuseum has the Night Watch by Rembrandt and The Kitchen Maid by Vermeer whilst the Van Gough museum has the famous Sunflowers. Find out how Anne Frank lived in the Anne Frank House, and if modern art is more your thing the Stedelijk museum houses art from Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. If you like lager, try the Heineken museum, where the history of this brew is examined. Did you know it used to be delivered on horse back? As you walk around you are given lager to enjoy and a souvenir glass to take away. 

 The Rijkmuseum

Experience the sex and drugs, from near or afar

I bet that headline caught your attention! Amsterdam is a very laid back city. You can't visit Amsterdam without at least walking down 'The Red Light District'. The sex shops, live sex shows, peep shows and doors with the red lights where ladies entice you in are famous around the world. If you are unsure about visiting, walk down during the day, when there are plenty of couples, coach parties and even the odd family around. Although during the day it feels safe, at night it has a different vibe and gets sleazier with stag parties and single men.  

The Red Light district

Amsterdam's coffee shops, where cannabis is openly sold for personal consumption, were legalised in 1980. There are now at least 250 in the city. If you want to visit one but are unsure check out the Timeout Guide on Amsterdam's drug laws and etiquette.  Staff are reportedly helpful and a menu is available if you are not sure what to order.

Eat local food

A Febo machine

From bitterballen (meatballs) to fries with mayo and stroopwaffle (a waffle with syrup inside), Amsterdam has many delicious street foods particular to the region.  The FEBO machine dispenses snacks such as meatballs, fries and hamburgers, whilst a number of cool organic cafes sell delicious salads, juices, cakes and sandwiches. Have a piece of warm apple pie with slagroom (cream), whilst people watching in a pavement cafe.

Amsterdam is famous for Indonesian food due to their link with the country and if you can, try an Indonesian rice table or Rijsttafel whilst visiting the city. A wide selection of small portions are served, sometimes up to 40 dishes, with the emphasis on different flavours and textures, and popular dishes being satay and rendang. 

There is also a great foodie scene in Amsterdam, with a number of upmarket and Michelin starred restaurants, for those that like their food stylish and refined.

Amsterdam in under 60 seconds from my new travel blog FlyDriveExplore

For tourist information check out I Amsterdam.  I was given the I Amsterdam city card for entrance to the many museums, and free unlimited public transport. It is worth checking out the card if you ever visit. Book your accommodation in Amsterdam now if you want to enjoy this amazing city.

So this is my guide to the top things to do in Amsterdam. Tell me, have you been or do you want to go?

Meet The Bloggers - Linda From Mother Distracted

Today in my Meet The Bloggers series, I am talking to my friend Linda from the blog Mother Distracted. Linda has a lifestyle and parenting blog and lives in South Wales with her husband and school age children.

Can you tell my readers about yourself and your blog? 

I write a lifestyle and parenting blog from the perspective of a woman who became a mum in her forties (twice). I cover a wide range of topics but particularly enjoy writing about relationships, health and parenting issues.

What inspired you to start blogging?

I left my job as a marketing director for a Cardiff law firm in 2007 to have my kids and, once they had arrived, although I found being a stay-at-home mum enjoyable, I needed sometime to keep my brain ticking over. I had a phase of being an avid comper (much to the Husband’s amusement) but now I just love to blog. My family just indulge me, although Caitlin (8) and Ieuan (6) really enjoy joining and will pose for a photo at the drop of a hat.

What are you favourite topics to write about and are there any posts you are particularly proud of?

I love writing about what it’s like for a woman in a corporate environment and how to survive the office jungle but my favourite post is my take on a Sherlock Holmes tale which I called The Curious Tale of Sherlock Holmes & A Mum’s Missing Career. I am rather fond of Benedict Cumberbatch and often drag the Husband to the local Bush Inn in St. Hilary where the “Hound of the Baskervilles” episode was filmed.

Tell me about your proudest blogging achievement? 

Just managing to blog consistently. Blogging is such a personal thing and there are so many great blogs out there.

What blogs do you like reading yourself?

All and any. I am as likely to read beauty haul posts as I am to read blogger how-to’s and recipe posts. I’m a real magpie.

What is your favourite blog post of 2015 and why? 

Linda's children

Probably this one from Raglan Castle - a great family memory. If you’ve ever tried playing hide ‘n’ seek in a castle, I’d advise taking a thermos and some sarnies. On that particular day, Ieuan had decided he was Usain Bolt’s son for some reason and was happily telling the other visitors about this surprising development in his parentage.

Do you have any specific goals for 2016?

I'm keen to grow my blog even further and to explore different styles of writing. I'd really like to write a crime novel so I may well test a few chapters on my readers!

Tell me have you read Linda's blog?

Surviving Long-Haul Travel As A Single Parent

This is a guest post by Fiona from A Mum Track Mind - a parenting, family and lifestyle blog.

Just The Two Of Us

Although I am now part of a ‘blended family’ (whatever that means), there have been many years as a single parent to my son, Zak. I don’t believe in sitting at home, being miserable because there is no partner/husband to go on holiday with, instead, we have used some of this time together to travel about a bit and see and do as much as possible.

We started off small, with short trips to my beloved London and after that quickly ventured off slightly further afield across Europe. However, our greatest adventure came last year when I bit the bullet and took Zak long haul, all the way over to Vancouver Island on the West coast of Canada. Not only was this his first experience with long haul travel, it was also mine and I had no idea what to expect.

To be honest, amidst the obvious excitement, I have to admit I suffered real trepidation and “Oh shit! What have I done?!” moments at the thought of travelling all that way with no other adult for backup. However, I am so glad I did because we had the most incredible two weeks away, exploring Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

Aside from the incredible memories made on this trip, I have definitely learnt a thing or two from the age-old trial and error process about long haul travels with children, which I want to share with you.

Here are my top tips for surviving and hopefully enjoying (!!) the experience.

Be Prepared

The Scouting organisation got it right with this one. Have all your travel documents (tickets / passports / visa’s / car hire details/ hotel bookings etc.) in a folder, organised into the order in which you are going to need them. This might seem a tad bit anal but it’s extremely useful when you are juggling a child/ren, bags, coats, unnecessary amounts of snacks and hysterics to have the right document at the right time at your fingertips.


You and your offspring are going to have an amazing, educational, culturally enriching time so you most certainly won't be allowing them to bring their iPad/DS/Tablet (insert your own handheld electronic device here) right? Wrong. Bring them. Bring them all because nobody wants to listen to your child whining about how bored they are on a ten-hour flight. Seriously. You NEED them and you don’t get educational parenting brownie points for doing without them. You might even get to read that book you’ve packed whilst they’re happily ensconced in Minecraft.

Get Organised

Spontaneity has no place on a holiday where you are solely responsible for getting small people around and keeping them alive. Create an itinerary and a plan of action for each day of your holiday before you leave. Google and TripAdvisor are your best friends here. 

Depending on the age of your child/ren you will need to factor in enough time to get where you want to go, see what you want to see and also enjoy some down time where you can just chill out. Don’t be over ambitious and aim to do absolutely everything because you’ll just end up stressed and everyone will be overtired and grumpy. Try to choose at least some child-friendly activities as well as the things that you want to see and do. It’s about balance and if you have a plan of action before you leave, you will find everything so much easier.

Jet Lag

I have been offered all sorts of advice on the subject, usually involving getting your child adjusted to the local time zone by keeping them up until the relevant hour. Perhaps somewhat controversially, I say ignore it. Who wants a miserable, overtired, cranky child as a holiday companion and anyway, have you ever tried to stop a child from sleeping when they are done for the day? It’s nigh on impossible and you’ll only make everyone miserable by trying. Take my advice; relax, settle in and let everyone get used to the time difference gently over the first few days. You’ll probably encounter a few sleepless nights but they’ll acclimatise quicker than you’d think.

Know What To Do If One Of You Gets Sick

This might be a fairly obvious one but for some people, being sick on holiday is the last thing on their mind and they are ill prepared (sorry) for it. Always have a basic first aid kit packed with you including the beloved Calpol and some rehydration sachets. Familiarise yourself with your travel insurance in case you need medical attention and find out who to call in the event of an emergency. Hopefully, you’ll never need any of these things but it’s better to have them just in case.

If you are thinking about plucking up the courage to travel alone with your kids then I say just do it! Follow my tips above, take the plunge and get out there and explore – you won’t regret it. I hope you enjoy these pictures from our Canadian adventures and wish you Bon Voyage wherever you may be going.

Investing In Antiques

Investing in antiques has become very popular in recent years. TV programmes like The Antiques Roadshow, Flog It and Cash In The Attic are never off the screen and low savings rates mean investing in antiques can be more profitable that putting your money into a savings account.

Money can be made in antiques as long as you realise that the return is not guaranteed, and this can fluctuate with supply, demand and even what is fashionable to collect. 

It's most important in my opinion to invest in what you like. Having a beautiful piece of art, jewellery or furniture can give lots of pleasure for years to come even if the value drops due to market conditions.

It's important that you enjoy the art you invest in like this painting by Albin Alemin

According to Deloitte, in 2014, 76% of art and collectibles were purchased for an investment. 

To determine the fair market value, of an antique, find the sale price of comparable works. Look at previous auction house sales, and speak to art and antiques specialists to help in estimating the potential price. For a free online valuation Barnebys is one site that can help.  Documented evidence of provenance (a history) for a work of art can help establish that it is an original and not forged, stolen or a reproduction. It can also help maintain the true value of the item. A collection of art is usually worth more than the sum of its parts as well, and this is important to factor into your investment.

A classic 18ct white gold ring with a 1.00ct diamond, will keep it's value

With jewellery, you almost can't go wrong with the major designer brands, that have the emphasis on craftsmanship. Tiffany, Cartier and Van Cleef and Arpels are particularly excellent makes that are highly collectible. Diamond jewellery with a large carat centre stone, that is of excellent quality also holds it's value well.

If you have an eye for modern up-and-coming designers that could make a profit in the future then artists at the Goldsmiths Fair are worth watching, being recognised as the premier showcase in the UK for contemporary designer jewellery. 

This quirky designed late 20th century sofa by Carl Malmsten, could rise in value in years to come

With furniture, well maintained pre 19th century furniture performs well. It's important with furniture to watch out for signs of restoration, and look for the original patina. If old furniture looks too new it will most likely affect the value, and not for the better.

Finally if you have found that exciting investment, and bought that perfect antique, don't forget to insure it, and keep an up-to-date valuation. Accidents can happen and you want the piece to continue to bring you pleasure in the future as well as increasing in value, so don't forget insurance.

In conclusion, investing in antiques can be profitable - study the market, take advice from experts, but most importantly buy what you like so you can enjoy it into the future.

* This article is for information only, always seek guidance from an industry expert. In collaboration with Barneby's auctions.