Wahaca Oxford Circus - Family review

16/02/2024

7 comments
Wahaca


When it comes to travel and eating out with kids, you want to go somewhere that is within a reasonable budget (which isn't always easy in London) and you know there will be something for everyone and balances dishes with depth for adults and fun favourites for kids. This is where Wahaca comes in, it offers up a delicious and creative take on Mexican food along with great choices for younger diners and it's one of our go-to places in Cardiff so we decided to try out the Oxford Circus location on a recent trip to the capital. 

Close to Oxford Street and Oxford Circus Station, its central location is perfect after a long day of adventuring and offers a relaxed and cool place to recharge and refuel. I would advise especially in the summertime to book in advance although in the quieter months, you can usually find a table, which is what we did and the staff were really friendly throughout the meal. 


nachos


What I love about Wahaca is the array of nibbles and small plates, making it a bit of a sharing experience which is perfect when you have kids. We always opt for some nachos and guacamole to start and we all dive in. I also treated myself to one of their delicious virgin mojito mocktails which I highly recommend. 

The menu also has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options with black beans and three cheese quesadillas and sweet potatoes and feta taquito being favourites of mine. The kids opted for the "build your own taco" bowl which is great for kids who want to try new things or are picky eaters as they can create their own taco's just as they want them. 


build your own tacos


You really can't go to Wahaca and not finish the night by dipping some delicious churros into chocolate sauce, which once again also makes for a great sharing dessert.

Wahaca is perfect for families, adults can enjoy some cocktails or mocktails, kids can build their tacos and the food is always fresh and tasty so everyone wins. 


Churros

Disclosure - Wahaca invited us to try their menu. Words and opinions are 100% my own 


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10 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Life Right Now

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positive changes



Many of us as focused on making small improvements, to help both our mental and physical well-being and recognise that small, intentional actions can significantly impact our overall health. Each step, no matter how minor it might seem, propels us forward to a more fulfilled and happier existence.

I'm hoping this guide will help to cut through the noise, offering clear, actionable steps we can all make to help improve our lives in tangible ways. Whether you're looking to bolster your health, deepen your relationships, or find more joy in your daily routine, the key is to start small.

As we grow older we all start to realise the importance of setting achievable goals, prioritising mental health and nurturing relationships. It's something I am constantly working on, even if it's a bit of trial and error, we learn and grow which is always a positive so let's embark on this journey together, with the understanding that every step forward is a step towards a better version of ourselves.

1. Set Realistic Goals Educate 

Goal setting is a powerful tool for personal growth and improvement although we have to learn how to be realistic. Start by defining clear, achievable objectives that motivate you to move forward. Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to track progress more easily. For instance, if your goal is to become more physically active, start with short, daily walks instead of committing to running a marathon right away. Celebrate each small victory along the way. This approach not only keeps you motivated but also creates a habit of success. 


goal setting

 


2. Educate Yourself when it comes to your Health

One of the most empowering actions you can take today is to educate yourself on health matters. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to understanding and managing health conditions that could affect you or your loved ones. I live with a heart condition, knowing my triggers has been a huge help as well as gaining knowledge on what is best for me to eat, how to stay fit in a safe and healthy way and it also means I feel less anxious and more in control.  Perhaps you or a family member are dealing with a chronic issue, learning about it could be really helpful. Take Mesothelioma, for example, a rare but severe cancer often linked to asbestos exposure. Organizations like Mesothelioma Hope provide invaluable resources, offering information on the latest treatment options, patient support services, and ways to connect with expert medical professionals. By familiarising yourself with such resources, you not only prepare yourself to make informed health decisions but also become an advocate for your well-being and that of those around you. Remember, staying informed about health issues is the first step toward prevention, early detection, and effective management.


3. Prioritise Your Mental Health

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. In today's fast-paced world, taking time to care for your mental well-being is essential. I've found incorporating mindfulness practices into my daily routine to be helpful and things such as yoga, or deep-breathing exercises can be useful tools. These can help reduce stress and increase your overall sense of well-being. Don't hesitate to seek professional help if you're dealing with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. Therapy can provide the tools and support needed to navigate life's challenges more effectively. Remember, prioritizing your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness.


meaningful friendship



4. Foster Meaningful Relationships

Humans are social beings, and our relationships play a significant role in our happiness and quality of life. Make an effort to strengthen bonds with family and friends by spending quality time together, communicating openly, and offering support during tough times. Additionally, expanding your social circle by meeting new people can introduce fresh perspectives and enrich your life. Whether it's joining a club, volunteering, or attending community events, engaging in social activities can lead to meaningful connections and a sense of belonging.

5. Improve Your Physical Health

Improving your physical health is about fitness and not weight loss, diets or doing anything that is going to have a negative impact. Hydration is also key, so drink plenty of water throughout the day. Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, whether it's a daily walk, a dance class, or weight training at the gym. Exercise not only improves your physical health but also boosts your mood and energy levels. Lastly, ensure you're getting enough sleep each night. Adequate rest is essential for recovery, cognitive function, and overall health.

Eating a balanced diet is also key and the best way to do that is to keep things simple and aiming to purchase good quality produce is the way to go. Why not set up a weekly food delivery so you are not tempted to overspend on food you don't need, you can enjoy big savings on big brands and more at Ocado, which provides fresh food to your door. 


woman hiking



6. Learn a New Skill

Expanding your knowledge and skills is a rewarding way to improve your life. It can boost your self-confidence, open up new opportunities, and increase your engagement with the world around you. Start by identifying a skill you've always wanted to learn, whether it's a new language, playing a musical instrument, coding, or even gardening. The internet offers a wealth of free and paid resources, such as online courses, tutorials, and workshops, making learning more accessible than ever. Dedicate a small amount of time each day or week to this new pursuit. As you progress, you'll not only enrich your skill set but also enjoy the satisfaction that comes with personal achievement.

7. Manage Your Finances Wisely

Financial health is a critical aspect of improving your life. Educate yourself on basic investment principles to grow your savings over time. Consider consulting a financial advisor for personalized advice tailored to your situation. Managing your finances wisely relieves stress and builds a foundation for future security and opportunities.

8. Embrace Positivity

Adopting a positive mindset can transform your outlook on life. Surround yourself with positive influences, including people who uplift and inspire you. Limit exposure to negativity, whether from social media, news, or toxic relationships. Remember, positivity is a choice that can lead to greater happiness and resilience in the face of challenges.

9. Give Back to the Community

Volunteering and contributing to your community can provide a deep sense of satisfaction and purpose. Look for local organizations that align with your interests and values, and dedicate some of your time to supporting their causes. Giving back isn't limited to volunteering; it can also include small acts of kindness, like helping a neighbour or supporting a friend. These actions not only make a positive impact on others but also enrich your own life, fostering a sense of connection and shared humanity.

10. Take Time for Yourself

In the hustle of daily life, it's important to carve out time for self-care and relaxation. This might mean engaging in hobbies, reading, or simply taking a moment to breathe and be present. Respecting your need for downtime is essential for maintaining balance and avoiding burnout. Personal time allows you to recharge, reflect, and nurture your well-being, ensuring you have the energy and mindset to pursue your goals and face life's challenges.



Florence



Improving your life is an ongoing journey, not a destination. By learning new skills, managing your finances, embracing positivity, giving back, and taking time for yourself, you can create a fulfilling and balanced life. Each step, no matter how small, moves you closer to the life you envision for yourself. Remember, the power to change your life lies within you. Start with these actionable tips and watch as your life begins to transform. Embrace the journey with an open heart and mind, and enjoy the progress you make along the way. Improvement is a personal and unique path for everyone—celebrate your achievements, learn from setbacks, and always strive for a better tomorrow.
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A budget family guide to Turin, Italy

13/02/2024

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Turin
Standing in front of the Roman gates


The first overnight stop on our Interrail trip, leaving London was Turin in Italy as we wanted to make as much ground travel-wise on the first day as possible and felt London to Turin via Paris was more than doable. We had a rather eventful journey after leaving Paris with a train in front of us breaking down inside one of Europe's longest tunnels, the Fréjus Rail Tunnel, which left us stuck at Modane train station in the Alps, for over 3 hrs, while they rescued the train inside the tunnel.

Despite the delay, the staff were excellent throughout and we were given food and drink while we waited although this did result in getting into Turin at around midnight with two overtired children but we were safe and quickly caught a taxi the travel hostel. 

Waking up in Turin the next day is really when our European adventure began, we had arrived at our first destination, ready to explore. We would be heading to the coast the next day so wanted to make as much of our only full day in Turin as we could although of course within the small budget we had, which throughout our trip meant focusing on things to do for free with the odd paid attraction we felt worth it, street food and soaking up the culture. 

Our accommodation Combo Turino, a very hip and cool backpacker which offers great private rooms for families, was within easy walking distance of the old town and after breakfast, we headed straight to Porta Palatina which was less than 2mins away. 


Turin backpacker
Our room at Combo Turino Hostel


Porta Palatina 

The Palatine Gate is an impressive Roman city gate and is one of the world's best-preserved 1st-century BC Roman gateways and is completely free to explore and I imagine a lot of locals enjoy picnics on the grass, under it's red bricks in the summer. There are also two bronze statues depicting Augustus Caesar and Julius Caesar which were placed in the 1930's. While this is not the largest ruin it's still rather breathtaking and worth a visit. 


Porta Palatina


Piazza Castello

A quick walk on and we found ourselves in the beautiful Piazza Castello, a large and open city square lined with several landmarks, museums and cafes as well as monuments, sculptures and water features. From the Piazza Casello you can also get a great view of the Royal Palace and is well worth a visit for the free photo opportunities found here. 

The Museo Egizio

The kids and I decided together which museum we would pay admission for and The Museo Egizio and Egyptian Museum came out on top, with over 4,000 years of history and archaeology housed within its walls we knew we wouldn't be disappointed. It actually houses one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities in the world and receives nearly 1 million visitors a year making it highly popular although it really didn't feel crowded in any way and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. I would allocate 2-3hrs for this museum as there is simply so much to see and do and you don't want to rush through it.

 The adult ticket was roughly €18 and children under 14yrs are €1, with under 5's free. 


Museo Egizio


Riecco Focacceria

After a fair amount of walking, we were ready to sit down and try some much-anticipated Italian street food. After we left the museum we stumbled on to Riecco Focacceria down one of the side streets and I always think when you see a place filled with locals you know it's going to be good. It sells an array of focaccia and pizza, you can get beer to go as well, find a seat outside if you're lucky and take in the bustling atmosphere. 

Right opposite Riecco, to the kids delight was a Gelato shop called Grom, so it only made sense to stop off and try some of their delicious flavours before taking in more the city. 


Gelato


 Italian Job film locations

We had spotted a film location at Piazza Castello but wanted to tick a few more off and made for a fun and free way to explore more of the city. We stopped off at Palazzo Carignano, another beautiful piazza filled with beautiful buildings and statues and also where in the film we see a lot of angry Italians banding on huge oak doors. 


While we could have seen more, we had hoped to get to Borgo Medioevale, a medieval reconstructed village, we felt for our first full day on the continent this was a great start and well-paced for children. I know lots of people bypass Turin for more popular destinations but we really enjoyed our time here, it also was very reasonably priced unlike some of the other cities we visited later on and despite only scratching the surface we would love to come back and would definitely recommend a night or two here. 


Turin Italy


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The Benefits Of Upcycling

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vintage furniture



In the hustle and bustle of refreshing our living spaces, old furniture often finds itself on the less glamorous end of change. But wait, don't be too quick to say goodbye to those trusty old pieces! Keeping and storing old furniture, rather than discarding it, can be a surprisingly savvy move.

Let's explore why holding onto those pieces might just be a stroke of genius.

A Nod to Nostalgia

First off, old furniture is a treasure trove of memories. That coffee table isn't just a coffee table; it's a silent witness to countless family gatherings, late-night chats, and lazy Sunday afternoons. Each scratch and dent tells a story, adding a layer of warmth and history to your home that simply can't be bought off the shelf.

By storing these pieces, with the help of secure and convenient personal storage options like Safestore, you're essentially keeping a tangible piece of your history alive, ready to tell its tales to future generations.

Quality That Stands the Test of Time

Let's talk craftsmanship. Many old furniture pieces were built to last, with attention to detail and quality that's hard to come by in today's fast furniture era. The wood used in older items often comes from mature trees with denser, more durable wood grains, meaning these pieces can often outlast newer ones.

Storing these items, rather than discarding them, means you have access to quality furniture that can withstand the test of time.

Eco-Friendly Choices

We live in an era in which sustainability is more than just a trend – it’s a dire necessity. As a result, keeping and storing old furniture is a great way to go green. It reduces waste and the demand for new furniture, which in turn diminishes the carbon footprint associated with manufacturing and transporting new items.

Plus, giving furniture a second life, whether through upcycling or simply reusing, is a fantastic way to contribute to a more sustainable planet.


record player



The Joy of Upcycling

Speaking of upcycling, old furniture offers a blank canvas for those itching to unleash their creativity. With a bit of imagination and some DIY skills, that outdated dresser can be transformed into a chic statement piece.

Storing these items gives you the opportunity to breathe new life into them at your own pace, turning a weekend project into a rewarding and personalised addition to your home.

Financial Savvy

Believe it or not, keeping and storing old furniture can also be kind to your wallet. High-quality pieces, especially antiques or unique finds, can appreciate in value over time.

Instead of buying new, cheaper items every few years, you can invest in maintaining and eventually restoring old furniture, which not only retains but can also increase its value. Storage ensures these pieces are preserved until you're ready to use or sell them.

Flexibility for the Future

Life is full of changes, and what doesn't fit your space now might be perfect for your next home. Storing old furniture gives you the flexibility to redecorate and reconfigure your living spaces without the need to constantly purchase new items.

Whether it's a future move, a room repurpose, or a growing family, having a selection of furniture on hand can make transitions smoother and more cost-effective.

A Unique Style Statement

Lastly, blending old and new creates a dynamic, eclectic style that sets your home apart. Old furniture adds character and a sense of uniqueness, making your space a reflection of your personal journey and taste. Stored pieces can be reintroduced into your decor, lending a timeless charm that new furniture often lacks.

Before you decide to part ways with old furniture, consider the myriad benefits of keeping and storing it. Not only are you preserving a piece of history and embracing sustainability, but you're also opening up a world of creative and practical possibilities.

So, give those old pieces another glance – they might just be the unsung heroes of your next home makeover.


upcycling


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3 products that never fail to get your kids outdoors

11/02/2024

6 comments
kids outdoors


It's getting harder and harder to pull kids' attention away from screens these days but here are 3 things that are guaranteed to do that and are well worth the small investment (they also make great birthday gifts). While screens can be very educational as well as fun, we all know that children need a balance of both indoor and outdoor play. Here are 3 things I have tried and tested with my boys, so I know they work and in all honesty, they are fun for all ages so even adults can relive their childhood days as well. 

1. Den Kit

Who doesn't love building a den? It taps into that real sense of adventure, building and independence and kids love it. My boys have used their den kit so much over the past few years and it's still going strong. What is great about these kits is that it brings people together, siblings can have a go at putting up their own den or parents can lend a hand as well. Once it's up it's great on a summer day, my boys each have their lunch and supper inside their den and have hours of fun as it really helps to spark the imagination. 

They also learn useful skills such as choosing the right place to build their den, what tools they need for the job, planning and ensuring they have supports for the tent cover and using the wooden mallet safely and effectively. 


Den kit


2. Trampoline 

If you have the space then investing in a well-made trampoline can bring years of joy and outdoor play. You will also be pleased to hear that most step-ups today have improved safety features and enclosures, which are essential and as standard with 6ft and 8ft models. The magic of a trampoline lies in it's ability to captivate children's attention for hours and can offer an array of activities, games and challenges as it combines both creative and physical challenges.  For smaller gardens, the compact 6ft trampoline with enclosure is an ideal choice and its enduring appeal makes it a great asset, especially during school breaks and summer holidays as well as when they have friends over. 


Beyond the obvious joy trampolines bring, they are also powerful tools for promoting physical health. Regular use helps children improve their cardiovascular fitness, enhances balance and coordination, and strengthens the body's core and limbs. For those with more space, you could go for the 8ft trampoline with enclosure which is large enough to grow with you child and even adults can have a go. Of course, it goes without saying that adult supervision is a must as well as being aware of basic health and safety before using a trampoline. 


trampoline



3. Binoculars and a birdwatching log

What is great about binoculars is how portable they are and kids love using them! You will be surprised how fun birdwatching is even for young children and total beginners and it's something my boys and I do together. Having a purpose when we go outdoors gives a real incentive and something to look forward too rather than just an aimless walk - if I incorporate things like bird watching, bug hunting and geocaching they are far more receptive to wanting to spend time outdoors. 

You also don't need a really expensive pair to start with - we have a basic pair we picked up from Go Outdoors for around £15 as a starting point. It also means they they can get knocked about when we are outdoors and it's not the end of the world. We also have a copy of The National Trust Bird Spotter book which is great for beginners and children to get excited about identifying birds we find in the UK. 


Of course, there are lots of other ideas when it comes to getting children outdoors but these are three that have worked well for me and while we should always aim to keep things simple having a few tools to help encourage children to spend more time outdoors is never a bad thing. 


binoculars



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Diving Into Style - Essential Picks for Spring 2024

10/02/2024

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spring fashion



When it comes to new trends, firstly I try to make my existing wardrobe work and if not any new purchases need to be practical and long-wearing while still having some seasonal flair. With the Spring 2024 collections unwrapping, it's clear that designers are blurring the lines between classic elegance and bold, contemporary aesthetics. This season, it's all about embracing versatility, with swimwear, suits and sandals stealing the spotlight. 

Spring 2024 Fashion Essentials

Black and Bold Swimwear 

As the mercury rises, the call of the beach becomes undeniable. This season's swimwear is a nod to both the bold and the beautiful, with designs that promise to make waves. Think high-cut one-pieces and bikinis adorned with unexpected details like ruffles and ties. These pieces aren't just for a dip in the ocean—they're crafted to double as statement tops under sheer blouses or open knitwear. For those seeking inspiration, look no further than the vibrant selections from UNE PIECE and Zimmerman, where swimwear is redefined as a cornerstone of spring fashion.



suit



The Reinvented Suit

Forget everything you know about suits because Spring 2024 is about reimagining this classic silhouette. Moving beyond the office, suits now come in a plethora of colors, patterns, and materials, making them a versatile choice for any occasion. From pastel linens for a casual day out to sleek satin for evening events, the suit is your canvas for personal expression this season. Brands like Oxford and Hugo Boss are leading the charge, offering suits that effortlessly blend sophistication with style.

Statement sandals

Footwear this spring is all about making a statement. Heels and sandals are not just accessories; they're conversation starters. This season's favourites include sculptural heels that defy expectations and sandals that combine comfort with chic design. Think bold colors, intricate straps, and unexpected materials. Whether it's the architectural heels from Amina Muaddi or the elegantly crafted sandals by Jimmy Choo, your footwear can elevate any outfit to a work of art.


sandals



Spring 2024 is shaping up to be a season of bold choices and reinventions, with each piece offering a unique story. Whether you're drawn to the allure of the beach or the sophistication of a suit, there's something for everyone. Remember, the key to embracing these trends is to find pieces that speak to your personal style, allowing you to navigate the season with confidence and ease.

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7 Free things to do in Cardiff Bay, Wales

01/02/2024

9 comments
Cardiff Bay


If you are heading to the Welsh capital, then you need to make time to visit Cardiff Bay. This fantastic waterfront development is only a short train or bus ride away and has plenty to see and do, you can easily spend a whole day here. 

There is always a great atmosphere in the bay, all year round, with the old docks lined with buzzing foodie spots, bars and independent shops as well as intertwined with historical buildings and heritage and while there are a lot of activities that are well worth the admission fee, there is plenty to see and do for free and here are 7 of our favourites.

1. The Pierhead Building 

This Iconic red brick Grade 1 building which looks out across the Bay is well worth a visit and is completely free to wander around and take in the stunning interior and architecture along with its informative exhibition and gallery space which tells the story of the building.

2. The Senedd 

The main public building of the Welsh government and Centre for Democracy is an interesting place to explore for all ages. You can go into the public galleries, have a tour of the building, pop upstairs for a cup of coffee, which also has an area especially for children to play with puzzles and games. They also regularly have performers, singers and special exhibitions. 


The Senedd


3. Cardiff Bay Barrage Skatepark

If you or your kids are into skateboarding, BMX or scootering, heading over to the Bay Barrage Skatepark on a sunny day is always a good idea. The walk or skate to the park is predominantly along a smooth cycle path, taking in the views across the bay. The actual skatepark is spread out with an urban concrete feel and has both small and big ramps, stairs and rails and is suitable for all levels. It's open all day and is free to enjoy although I would recommend wearing a helmet. 


4. The Bay Barrage open-air gym and basketball course

This free outdoor sports facility can be found opposite the skatepark and is designed in the shape of the London 2012 Olympic logo. It comprises various fitness stations, a small climbing wall area, and a basketball court. This open-air gym is popular with not only gym-goers but also families and teens who make use of what is on offer. 


5. The Bay Barrage Pirate Playpark

The walk from Cardiff Bay to Penarth along the Barrage is a lovely buggy and wheel-friendly path and is suitable for young children to do and knowing there is a fantastic play park to stop off at along the barrage certainly helps. The sandy adventure play park is great, with a huge wooden pirate ship to climb and explore and plenty of space for kids to run around. There is usually a coffee stand open nearby as well for parents to get their coffee fix.


6. Free Art Installations across the Bay 

There is a huge array of art and installations to spot across the Bay and Barrage from the huge Celtic ring to the beautiful mosaic Captain Scott Memorial and the moving Merchant Seafarer's War Memorial or the bronze sculpture of "people like us", among many more, there are plenty of stunning artworks to see and get up close too. 


Cardiff bay Wetlands
Exploring the Cardiff Bay Wetlands


7. The Cardiff Bay Wetland Reserve

I'm always surprised by how many people don't even know about this little wildlife haven and it's only a short walk from the buzzing waterfront. The reserve covers around 8 hectares of former salt marsh and is the perfect spot for keen bird watchers. There is also a boardwalk that extends out over the water with fantastic views across the bay. 


A few more free and low-budget ideas

It's worth popping into the Iconic Norwegian church which you won't miss as this traditional wooden church really stands out and also frequently has free art exhibitions as well as a lovely cafe. 

Depending on the day the Welsh Millenium Centre holds free performances, events and craft activities in the Glanfa aka open public reception space, so do check out their website to see what's on. 

If you are a Torchwood fan then no trip to Cardiff Bay is complete without a visit to Ianto's shrine which can be found on the boardwalk in front of Mermaid Quay. 

If you fancy getting on the water at a budget-friendly price then why not take the Aquabus otherwise known as the Water taxi from Bute Park to Cardiff Bay. The trip takes 25 minutes and is £7 for adults and £3 for children 3-15yrs and children under 3 go free. 


Cardiff Bay


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