What’s not to love about Christmas? The gifts, the turkey feast and the magic of Father Christmas, his elves and Rudolph; all of it contributes to that happy glow that seems to radiate from family homes throughout December and early January.
The festive period is perhaps the one time of year when families can really enjoy each other’s company, with the kids free from homework and mum and dad off work for even a few days. It’s when dusty old board-games are dragged down from the loft, or the latest computer game is brought out for everyone to have a go at. Cinemas too are suddenly filled with parents and their kids, all desperate to see this year’s festive smash hit – and with that in mind we’ve rounded up the best films for everyone in the family…
Best for little ones: Tinkerbell And The Secret Of The Wings
Fairies and Christmas go together like yin and yang, making the release of Tinkerbell’s fourth animated story, her first in 3D, a sure fire hit with youngsters this December! Tinkerbell And The Secret Of The Wings sees Peter Pan’s favourite fairy lead a group of hibernating animals to the forbidden Winter Woods where her wings start to sparkle, much to her delight. However, her presence in this new world breaks strict fairy law and throws the seasons out of balance, threatening the survival of the wondrous Pixie Dust tree. However will she fix it all?!
Tinkerbell And The Secret Of The Wings is in cinemas from Friday 14th December.
Best for tweenagers: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
It goes without saying that there’s a lot of anticipation for this first instalment of Peter Jackson’s new Hobbit trilogy, based on the success of the preceding Lord of the Rings films. Part one is set sixty years before the events that were played out in Lord of the Rings and sees Gandalf task miniature hero Bilbo Baggins, supported by an army of thirteen dwarves, with defeating a dragon named Smaug to reclaim dwarf kingdom Erebor. Gollum makes an appearance, as do a whole host of other creepy creatures. Will Bilbo be able to defeat them all?
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is in cinemas from Friday 14th December.
Best for teens: Pitch Perfect
If your little girl has asked for singing lessons and a karaoke computer game this year, you can bet she’ll love this fun US flick which revolves around a singing competition at Barden University. It sees new girl Beca being forced to join the University's all-girl a cappella group by the pushy Aubrey, who overhears her singing in the shower. Beca goes on to revolutionise the group’s somewhat dull repertoire and encourages them to perform some risky mash-ups (the big thing in music right now, if this season’s X Factor performances are anything to go by…), but will it be enough for the mismatched singers to triumph?
Pitch Perfect is in cinemas from Friday 21st December.
Best for grownups: Les Misérables
As far as epic musical-to-film adaptations go, Les Misérables looks like it’ll be up there with the best (see this trailer if you don’t believe us!). You ought to know the story by now; paroled prisoner Jean Valjean is trying to right his wrongs and bring good to civil war-torn 19th century France, but this version brings with it an A list cast comprising Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne. It’s been directed by Oscar-winner Tom Hooper who insisted that all the stars sang live on-set. Will this one be the best version yet?
Les Misérables is in cinemas from Friday 11th January.
Best for grandparents: Quartet
King of the big screen Dustin Hoffman turns director for the first time in this story of the reunion of four retired opera singers. And, this one has another all-star cast, featuring the likes of Billy Connolly and Dame Maggie Smith. It’s set in middle-England, at a retirement home for musicians, and sees famous soprano Jean Horton join the ranks with a bang, having previously been in a quartet with four of the residents, one of whom she married and then divorced. Will her diva-like behaviour threaten the home’s annual performance?
Quartet is in cinemas from Friday 4th January.
This Christmas The Body Shop has got an extra special festive treat – Joy Vision, a fun online Christmas personalisation photo booth that will give your pics a sprinkle of seasonal cheer.
Renowned illustrator Serge Seidlitz has created a festive dressing up box filled with a host of Christmas inspired goodies. Choose from Santa’s coat, reindeer horns and elf hats to baubles, tinsel and lights, and a whole lot more. A time for sharing, Joy Vision also includes a simple to share feature. So you ccan spread a bit of joy with your creativity to friends and family through Facebook, Twitter or email. You can even directly embed the picture to a blog.
Available on Facebook and www.thebodyshop.com, you can try Joy Vision here - http://www.thebodyshop.com/_en/_ww/christmas/joy_vision/?
By William Gray, editor of the new 101 Family Holidays website (http://www.101familyholidays.co.uk)
Your idea of a great holiday might be a week spent horizontal on a sun lounger beside a pool with a paperback in one hand and a long cool cocktail in the other. Unfortunately, your kids might have other ideas.
Whether they are toddlers, teens or somewhere in between, children rarely like to relax by doing absolutely nothing. They prefer to run around and burn up energy like it’s going out of fashion. Even teenagers who don’t emerge from their rooms until midday will often demand the chance to go surfing or zip-wiring.
So if you can’t beat them - and believe me, you can’t - then perhaps you should join them. A family activity holiday might sound daunting to the overworked, time-poor parents of modern Britain. But it can be great fun and send you home feeling energised and refreshed, rather than needing another holiday.
Here are my top 10 suggestions:
1.PGL (known as “Parents Get Lost”) earned its stripes offering summer camps for kids, but it now also offers holidays for families in 13 bucolic locations including Devon, the Dordogne and the Isle of Arran. These are great value with endless activities on tap, swimming pools and simple but comfortable accommodation.
Book with PGL (http://www.pgl.co.uk/pglweb)
2. Learning to scuba dive is a great family bonding experience and a holiday you will be able to do together for years to come (even grumpy teens will not say no, once they are hooked). Kids can qualify for a junior PADI certificate from the age of 10 and even 8-year-olds can experience the beauty of the deep on a PADI Bubblemaker Course.
Book with Tropical Sky Family Diving Holidays (http://www.familydiving.co.uk/)
3.Budding Beckhams and Mini Murrays should head to La Manga, a handsome resort on the coast of Spain that boasts three championship golf courses, a 28-court tennis centre and junior academies in golf, tennis, cricket, football and dance. The coaching is top drawer and it’s perfect for those tricky half-term weeks in February, May and October.
Book with La Manga Club (http://www.lamangaclub.com/)
4.Unleash your inner cowgirl on a dude ranching holiday in America’s Wild West. Whatever the age of your children, and whether are experienced riders or new to horses, you can saddle up and hang out with the ranch hands, enjoying cook-outs, fishing and hiking trips.
Book with Western & Oriental (http://www.wandotravel.com/region/ranch/north-america/)
5.Head to the Alps for a budget summer activity holiday. Resorts make most of their money during the winter ski season so can afford to drop prices during the sunny months. Stay in a hotel or in a catered chalet, some of which have child care included. The mountains are not humid so you’ll have lots of energy for hiking, biking and white water rafting.
Book with Esprit Alpine Adventures (http://www.espritfamilyadventures.com/)
6.The Caribbean is not just about lazing in the sun. Head to the Cayman Islands, a safe and easy family-friendly destination with lots to occupy youngsters including swimming with dolphins, kayaking through mangroves, kite-surfing plus visits to pirate caves, an iguana reserve and a submarine expedition.
Book with Turquoise Holidays (http://www.turquoiseholidays.co.uk/)
7.If you want warm weather, the great outdoors and lots to occupy the kids, arguably the best bang for your buck is a holiday village in France. Built in beautiful locations beside beaches or lakes, these self-catering parcs offer comfortable accommodation, huge pool complexes, free kids clubs, activities and entertainment.
Book with Siblu Villages (http://www.siblu.com/)
8.If your kids aren’t happy splashing about in a pool all day, take them on a group adventure tour where they can learn a new skill or activity. You could join a photographic tour of India under the tutelage of a professional snapper, or go stargazing in Egypt with an astrologer.
Book with The Adventure Company (http://www.adventurecompany.co.uk/)
9.Staying on a working farm in Italy is a lot more glamorous than its British equivalent. On an agroturismo, you could be staying at an olive farm in Puglia with a huge pool and spa, or in the rolling hills of Umbria with a riding school and tennis courts on site.
Book with Real Holidays (http://www.realholidays.co.uk/)
10.Holiday options for single parents can be decidedly limited, but The Kids and Me provide exciting group adventure trips to destinations as diverse as Morocco and Swedish Lapland. You could try sea-kayaking and bushcraft on the Welsh coast or a more gentle tour of Corfu.
Book with The Kids and Me (http://www.thekidsandme.co.uk/)
William Gray, Editor of 101 Family Holidays website
William is one of the UK’s leading travel writers and authors and a regular contributor to the Sunday Times Travel and Wanderlust magazines, plus other publications. He was voted Travel Writer of the Year in 2002.
After leaving Durham University with a zoology degree, William worked as a volunteer on Heron Island, a coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef. It was there that he had the idea for his first book, Coral Reefs & Islands – The Natural History of a Threatened Paradise, published in 1993 and commended in the Conservation Book Prize.
William went on to become a prolific wildlife and adventure travel writer, then with the arrival of the twins, Joe and Ellie, turned to family travel writing. His family travel guide books include the award-winning Travel with Kids – the definitive guide to family holidays worldwide. In 2009, William scooped both Travel Photographer of the Year and runner-up Travel Writer of the Year at the British Guild of Travel Writers’ Awards. The following year he was voted 4th in the Press Gazette’s Top 50 Travel Journalists.
William’s favourite destinations include South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Cornwall and Iceland and he enjoys sea kayaking, cycling and walking Holly, the family Labrador.
With the summer holidays just around the corner, many families are already packing sun creams, swimsuits, passports and hire car documents. But if you are going to drive abroad this summer, here are some great tips on staying safe on the road:
Matthew Tomlinson, who heads up the Foreign Claims division of RJW’s Road Traffic Accident Unit recommends a simple check list:
- If you’ve arranged a hire car, no matter how tired you are spend at least ten minutes familiarising yourself with the car’s layout: indicators, lights, windscreen wipers etc.
- If you’re in your own car, you MUST have the full quota of European driving essentials, including a reflective warning triangle and high visibility vest. Hire cars should supply the full kit
- If you’re in your own car, make sure you’ve got a GB sticker on your car and you’ve fitted a headlamp beam adaptor, and
- Stick to the main carriageways. In a right hand drive car, you’re sitting in the wrong place to spot potential hazards when you’re driving on picturesque, winding roads. Ditch the view, stay safe
- Plan your route and don’t rely on Satnav to get you to your destination. There are plenty of tales of people ending up hundreds of miles away from where they wanted to go because they didn’t bother to look at a map but just did as their Satnav told them
- If you don’t speak the language of the country you’re visiting, at least learn a few key phrases. In an accident, time is of the essence and you shouldn’t assume everyone else speaks English
If you are unlucky enough to be in an accident caused by the other party, many people mistakenly believe they must file their claim for damages in that country. “You can bring your claim back to the UK,” said Matt, “and you’d be well advised to do so, as in the UK, the insurers of the person liable for the accident will pay you damages and your legal costs. If you bring your claim abroad, yes you get damages, which are assessed in accordance with local rules, but your costs may well be paid out of that sum”.
Russell Jones & Walker employs over 440 staff (over 229 lawyers) and is renowned as the leading national firm of solicitors in protecting the rights and legal interest of individuals and those who represent them. RJW has a network of regional offices and includes those in the following centres: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Wakefield, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
For most mums-to-be wondering when your baby is going to arrive is a cause for excited speculation; but for those at risk of delivering early it can be a source of great concern. However, a new screening test for both groups of women can offer all mums-to-be additional information about their likelihood of delivering early, and for most give them reassurance and confidence to enjoy their pregnancy.
The ground-breaking test, known as Premature Birth Screening, is the first to analyse known risk factors and screen for the chance of early delivery. It acts as an early warning system, particularly for those with a known risk of having a preterm birth. Suitable for women between 22 – 35 weeks of pregnancy, the screening gives healthcare teams an accurate prediction of delivery within the two weeks following testing, and further indication of whether delivery will be before 30 or 35 weeks (before full term). This prediction can then help tailor care to expectant mums’ specific needs and give welcome reassurance to at-risk mums-to-be. The Premature Birth Screening has three components:
1. Review of medical history
2. Fetal Fibronectin test and cervical ultrasound
3. Analysis of the results from the fetal Fibronectin test, cervical ultrasound and medical history and discussion of any next steps
Whilst ultrasound and taking a medical history are common practice, fetal Fibronectin testing is available only in selected NHS hospitals. The Premature Birth Screening, which uses new technology in the form of specialist computer software, known as the Preterm Predictor, is the first to analyse all the elements, and is unique to The London Ultrasound Centre and to a research programme funded by the charity Tommy’s that is currently underway at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
Premature Birth Screening:
· For further information contact The London Ultrasound Centre on 020 7935 4450 or book an appointment online at www.thelondonultrasoundcentre.co.uk
· Premature Birth Screening costs £400 at The London Ultrasound Centre
· For women with a negative result labour is not likely to begin in the 2 weeks after testing. For women with a positive result it is a good indicator that they may go into early labour in the 2 weeks after screening
· Premature Birth Screening consists of a review of medical history, ultrasound scan and a test for fetal Fibronectin – a glue-like protein found in the cervix in the lead-up to birth. When analysed using the Preterm Predictor, these can provide an accurate prediction of due date, with significant improvement of and impact on patient management3
· The Premature Birth Screening is not a diagnostic test. The test tries to identify low risk from high risk women but it cannot guarantee that women will not go into early labour
A new survey by Sainsbury’s has found that 37% of Brits cite cooking and entertaining for guests as the most stressful part of celebrating Christmas.
A further 42% are worried about the costs of cooking for extra numbers, and 20% say that gluten - free is the trickiest diet to cater for – beating vegetarianism and veganism. With 1 in 4 Brits now suffering from a food intolerance or allergy, more UK households than ever will prepare different meals on the big day for guests or abandon Christmas favourites like Christmas Pudding altogether.
This year, with a range of over 200 products, help is at help from Sainsbury’s freefrom range which contains allergy and intolerance free versions of Christmas favourites, so no recipe is off limits – freeing cooks from buying and preparing two sets of Christmas favourites, and making sure that nobody feels left out of the celebrations. The retailer has worked with experts to develop products which taste just as good as standard versions and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Sainsbury’s food intolerance expert Mary Scott-Morgan said, “We know how difficult Christmas catering can be, both for people with food intolerances and those cooking for them, so we’ve developed the freefrom range of products to help everyone enjoy a traditional Christmas meal.”
Mary adds; “Dishes for food allergy sufferers don’t have to be any more difficult to make than standard recipes. For example, our festive freefrom bread sauce can be made in around ten minutes. Simply simmer soya milk and a peeled and quartered onion in a pan for five minutes, remove the onion and stir in a few slices of crumbled freefrom white bread and season. Simmer until thickened, then sprinkle with cinnamon and serve. Easy!”
Anne Taylor Designs is our latest find for lovely, personalized gifts for children and grown-ups. We are in love with their hand decorated kids chairs and plaques. Here is a bit more about this unique shop, where we would go any time for memorable, lasting presents.
Anne Taylor Designs specialises in personalised, individually hand decorated gifts, home accessories and furniture with a special interest in pattern and colour. They are all made of wood and decorated with non toxic paint.
Products include adorable gifts for children; attractive and practical gifts for dog lovers;and classical monogrammedboxes for special occasions.
A few words from the founder:
I began Anne Taylor Designs in 1992. I originally trained as a textile designer, and worked for many years as a designer and design consultant in the textile and home interiors industry, which I loved.
I set up the current business because I have long been interested in personalised and individual designs, and because I love painting designs on furniture, walls, boxes and so on. My interest in textiles and graphics, especially retro and art deco, and my love of 1950s children’s illustration has been a big influence on the style of my work, on my use of patternandcolour.I originally sold through independent gift shops and galleries, and by exhibiting at gift trade fairs but I am now selling mainly though my website, www.anne-taylor.co.uk
You can buy awide range of items which are available to buy or order from my on-line shop.
These fall into three groups:
Personalised gifts for children. These include photo-frames, pegboards, plaques, keepsake boxes and toy boxes and chairs.Designs themes include country animals and farms, contemporary checks and stripes, soldiers and castles, transport motifs, Noah’s ark and jungle, flowers, pirates and seaside. Customers say that they make lasting gifts to celebrate Christenings and Birthdays.
Dog Designs. I love dogs in all their shapes and sizes, so I am happy to produce a range of gifts for dog lovers. My wooden pegboards are of different shapes and sizes and feature naturalistic dog motifs – in most breeds. They are ideal for hanging collars and leads.I can customise the colour and markings of a dog at a customer’s request.I have also incorporated dog motifs into designs for chairs, mirror frames and boxes.
Monogrammed boxes. This is a collection of classically themed boxes, which are personalised to include initials, names and dates. The dates are written in Roman numerals, to emphasize the classical theme. They make fantastic Wedding, Christening, Anniversaryand Birthday presents.
I am always happy to discuss commissions for furniture and special one-off pieces. I can supply small boxes, toy boxes, stools and chairs, but I am also willing to paint the customer’s own piece, whether a new or a much love older piece.
Customers always like the fact that, following a commission, I email them “mock up” designs for their approval before I start work.
Anne Taylor Designs
Email: contact @anne-taylor.co.uk
Tel: 020 8748 9279
Well-known health and beauty brand requires REAL women to appear in their new campaigns.
We are looking for women from all ethnicities and ages, but most urgently seeking women from Indian or East Asian background. Territories we need to cover are: India, Thailand, Korea, Japan, etc (Pan Asian look). Ages 28-40yrs.
This brand no longer uses actresses or models in their campaign, preferring REAL women, so you don't need any experience.
All we require is an outgoing personality & gorgeous skin.
We are also looking urgently for women over 48 yrs for another advertising campaign.
If you're interested, please send a few snapshots in to us, together with your contact details: email@example.com, or call the office for more details: 020 8981 4184.
Corsica was not on top of our list when we set about planning our summer holiday. It’s not a popular family destination and there are reasons for that: flights to Corsica are few, the family resorts are pricey and roads on the island can make even the bravest think twice before setting off in a car.
I and my husband went there in 2007 for our honeymoon and we spent the most wonderful two weeks, but travelling with a 3 yr old is a completely different proposition.
Or so we thought before we found a pretty villa tucked in the mountains in western Corsica and fell in love with the idea of spending a week there. Our villa, set in the Bay of Valinco held promises of a relaxing family holiday lounging by the pool, exploring the nearby fishing town of Propriano or bathing on pristine beaches.
Getting to Corsica required careful planning. Although British Airways flies to Corsica, a 6 am start from Gatwick didn’t appeal much. So we decided to fly to Nice first and then take an internal flight to Ajaccio (Air France flies every day and prices are quite reasonable).
This meant we could spend a few days in the south of France getting to know the glamorous bit of the French Riviera.
When we finally got to Corsica we were already feeling rested and relaxed and ready for the more adventurous bit of our trip. The first challenge to overcome was the trip to our villa on winding mountainous roads. It was only 60 km but took us over one and a half hours. Thankfully my daughter had a nap throughout and missed the worst part.
Our ride was well worth it when we saw the spectacular Bay of Vallinco with its breathtaking views.
We fell in love with the place – it was peaceful, beautiful and serene – one of the few remaining corners of the Med left untouched by mass tourism.
We had a fantastic stay which we’ll remember for years to come. Here is what we learnt and wanted to share in case you decide to head that way any time soon:
Travelling around – the Bay of Valinco is spectacular with a string of fishing villages to explore: Campomoro, Tizzano, Filitosa (don’t miss the ancient stone menhirs dating back to 3500 BC).
Word of caution: roads are very mountainous and can be testing even for experienced drivers. Avoid if your kids get motion sickness.
Do you speak French? Well if you don’t, you’d better make an effort to learn a few words and stack up on patience as the locals are not keen on speaking any other languages but French.
What Internet? Internet is not a given in Corsica, so if you are counting on checking on your emails regularly, find a nearby hotel with free broadband connection (we stopped by the Lido every once in a while)
Food – avoid the main tourist strip alongside the Propriano marina. It’s worth exploring the restaurants further down the beach.
We came across some excellent spots with fresh seafood – Oasis was our firm favourite!
Relax and enjoy – life is going at a slower pace in Corsica and nothing happens in the early afternoon when shops and a lot of restaurants break for a siesta.
It took us a couple of days to get used to, but once we did we had the most enjoyable time!
Mums Like You - a guide for mums
First things first
The website has two areas: public - for all visitors and non-public - for members only. If you are just passing by, you can still have a look at our groups, blogs, polls and the online forum. In order to participate or view the non-public sections you will have to register or log-in. The signup process is simple, we don't ask too many questions, just a minute of your time and you are in.
Once you've registered, you can look for your mum friends or mums that live nearby by using the Advanced Search
tab at the top of the page. Also if your friends are not there, you can easily invite them to join the network - just click on Invite your friends
The first page you will always see when you log-in is your home page. It's like a wall with all the latest activity on the website - who has signed up, who has posted new stuff, new friendships etc.
On the right you can set your preferences as to what you want to see - maybe you want to be notified only when people comment or contribute to your content, maybe you don't want to see any news, whatever your preferences are, you can set them here
On this page you can check whether you have new messages, who else is online, reminders of your friends' birthdays as well as what the weather is going to be like over the next week (at least according to the BBC)
From then onwards you can do one of two things - browse the site by choosing one of the tabs on the main menu, or you can create your own content by clicking on the My Content menu.
For example if you go to a good playgroup in your area and want to let other mums know, choose the Events
tab and post your entry. Once you have done it, you can invite other mums to join, post comments and share photos. So it is a great way of doing things together and the more you share, the more helpful this area will become for all mums in your area.
You can also use Events
to organize a birthday party, a mum get-together and pretty much any type of group event you are planning.
If you want to share with other mums your recommendations on the buggy you have just bought, or a local school or nursery, go to the Reviews
area. Here you can post your views on all that matters to you and over time we hope this will turn into a great database of mum tips and advice.
Then there is the Marketplace
- the area for small ads for mums and businesses. Let's say you want to sell second-hand baby kit - click on Create Listing
and you will see a screen where you can create and post your small ad. This is where you can advertise to buy, sell or give away baby equipment you no longer use. You can also look for a babysitter or any other house help, jobs suited for mothers as well as raise awareness for your charity of choice. And the best part is that it is all FREE for mums
There are many more practical tools on this site, but I'd rather leave something for you to discover. Of course don't be afraid to ask, if you have a query, email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you enjoy being part of the network and I look forward to seeing you online
A mum like you