Monday 25 December 2023

Smart family travel - How to save for your next big adventure

This is a collaborative post

Dreaming of your next family holiday but also looking to avoid any big expenses?

We hear you, moms! As difficult as it may seem to simultaneously enjoy a family vacation and maintain a budget, it’s actually doable with the right financial strategy. From timing your travel holiday during off-season to redeeming free rewards from the right institutions, you can save hundreds of dollars of travel costs without the stress of overspending. That said, there are many ways to save money even before the travel period itself. And you don’t have to make any major lifestyle changes to achieve your dream holiday either.

Here are some useful tips to help you reduce your expenditures when planning for your next big adventure.

1. Refrain From Satiating Impulsive Spending Habits

It can be tempting to dine out in that newly-opened restaurant with your family and friends, but if you’re short on cash, it may be better to hold off on that activity for the time being. Dining out—among many other recreational activities—is a sure fire way to drain your savings account, delaying your travel fund goals. If you’re set on taking a flight or cruise out of town, then it’s essential to curb your spending habits through as many avenues as possible.

That doesn’t only mean dining out less. It also means limiting your shopping fund and indulging in less-costly activities before your intended travel date. If possible, bring the rest of your family in on this saving habit too. Eat at home, pack lunch, and consider cooking budget-friendly meals for the rest of the family. 

Furthermore, if your or your family’s usual hobbies are costly, consider substituting recreational activities for less costly ones for the time being. This way, you’ll be able to save more money and be able to truly make the most of your trip when it happens.

2. Save Your Change

Every cent counts, and if you find yourself with extra money at the end of every bill cycle, you should save it and allocate it into your travel fund. If the temptation to spend is too strong, you can make it easier for you by setting up an automatic savings system with your bank account. This way, you can get a guaranteed portion of your income to your account. This can then be later used to fund your travels with your family.

In addition to that, you can also set specific saving goals at the end of every period to work towards, whether it’s a week or a month. You can set it as a shared family goal or even game-ify it with your children to see which family member gets to save the most every month. Saving enough is understandably difficult if your living pay check to pay check. However, if you’re raising a family, it’s incredibly important to have some money for a rainy day.

If you find it hard to stay in the loop of your financial health, you can use budget trackers using simple spreadsheets to see and evaluate your expense breakdown.

Related: Savings by Age

3. Shop Smarter

Let’s face it: you have life priorities to juggle outside your travel goal. Things like paying for utilities, healthcare, and grocery expenses don’t just disappear when you’re working towards building your travel budget.That said, it’s more than possible to adjust your spending to lessen the financial squeeze. 

For example, you can take advantage of credit card rewards to purchase your appliances and home furnishing. This can save you hundreds of dollars, assuming that you’re making timely payments on your credit card. Certain credit cards also come with many travel perks, such as free flight upgrades and hotel bookings. You can redeem these things and save a lot of money during the trip itself, all while living in luxury during your vacation.

Besides these reward systems, you can also be on the lookout for shop-specific promotions like discounts and cashback offers. This can save you a couple of hundred of dollars over time, thereby reducing the amount you’re spending for virtually the same thing. It’ll come with extra work on your part scouting for these discounts, but it’s generally worth it.

4. Sell Your Old Items

Do you have a bunch of old items accumulating space in your garage or attic? Have clothes wasting away in your closet? Is your child’s room filled with toys they no longer play with or use? Instead of letting them accumulate dust, consider selling these items to your local community. You can consider setting up a garage sale and displaying your items in your front yard for your neighbours to peruse.

Alternatively, you can consider putting up these items on online marketplaces like eBay or Facebook Marketplace. This way, you can reach a broader audience and potentially connect with interested buyers more quickly. Not only will you be earning a quick buck from these ventures that can fund your travels, but you can also do some spring cleaning to your home. Set aside a free weekend to display your belongings out in the open for purchase—your wallet may thank you for it!

Woman putting money into a piggy bank
Photo credit Sasun Bughdaryan via Unsplash

5. Develop a Travel Budget Goal

It’s important to be realistic about your financial health before embarking on a family adventure. Spending more than you can afford can set you back for months, if not years, so don’t even think of attempting to bite off more than you can chew.

One way to avoid compromising your finances is by setting a budget goal specific for travelling. Get a total cost ceiling of your trip and stick to it. Calculate a breakdown of how much you should spend for food per day, souvenirs, and other miscellaneous expenses during your trip.

Afterwards, inform everyone in the family about how much they’re allowed to spend on the trip. For kids, you can give them a fixed allowance to spend on things so that they’re not entirely deprived of fun. For parents, it’s important to balance having a good time on holiday and spending too much.

While many people enjoy going with the flow when planning a trip, families will need to have some semblance of an itinerary. This way, they won’t go overboard with their budget and will be able to easily bounce back to working on actual goals once the trip is over.

6. Make Early Bookings

Most frequent travellers already know this, but this can’t be reiterated enough: book your plans early. From flights to hotels, many travellers are rewarded with better prices when they make early bookings. In fact, you can save up to hundreds of dollars by just confirming your reservations a few months in advance. This is especially true if you book early during off-peak season or during weekdays, as it’s likely that demand is low for bookings and there won’t be much reason for hotels and airlines to drive prices up.

Of course, early bookings come with the risk of decreased flexibility, so be 100% sure that the dates you intend to travel are truly feasible for you and your family. Once you’re set, having early bookings can give you and your family ease of mind during the travel itself, knowing that your shelter and transportation are all taken care of at a prior date.

Friday 22 December 2023

The 2023 Gingerbread Houses

I must admit that every year I approach the annual gingerbread house with some trepidation. But I've been making at least one house every year for about ten years now and I've now got it down to a fine art. This year's was the easiest yet!

A few years back I bought some gingerbread house cutters, and they are brilliant. I've been using the same gingerbread recipe for years which is an old recipe from Tesco, it's not even online anymore. I've simplified it, and also worked out the exact quantities that I need to make two houses from my cutters with a small amount left over.

Here's the recipe that I use for two houses. Melt together the wet ingredients (375g butter, 300g muscovado sugar, 9 tbsp golden syrup) then add to the dry ingredients (940g plain flour, 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 3 tsp ground ginger, 3tsp mixed spice) and mix together into a dough. 

I roll the gingerbread out directly onto baking paper, cut out the piece, and then lift the paper straight onto the baking tray so that the pieces keep their shape. This year I remembered to start with the largest pieces first, because it's easier to cut out the smaller pieces towards the end when you don't have as much dough left. The pieces bake in the oven at 180 for about 9 minutes. I make the gingerbread a couple of days before I assemble the houses so that they have time to harden a little.

To assemble the houses I use royal icing sugar and an icing syringe and nozzles set. First I put the walls together, making sure to put plenty of icing under the pieces on the base. Then I leave for a few minutes before putting on the roof and holding in place with plenty of icing. Finally it's time to decorate with more icing and sweets. 

Here are this year's efforts, decorated by the children!

Family gingerbread houses 2023

I make two houses because then the children have one each to decorate. This does however mean that I only get to do the building of the houses and not the fun part of decorating, so I think that next year I may make three houses so that I get one to decorate too! The gingerbread keeps for ages, certainly as long as we need it to, and after a couple of days I break the houses up and put them into cake tins.

I always say that I'll make gingerbread houses throughout the year for different occasions like Easter but when it comes to it I can never face it. Maybe this will be the year, as they are delicious if I say so myself! 

Tech Etiquette 101 for Travellers

This is a collaborative post

Have you ever been seated on a plane next to a child who’s watching videos on their iPad without headphones on? If you’re trying to sleep, it’s probably more than a bit of a challenge. Next, raise your hand if you’ve been annoyed by a know-it-all who keeps Googling travel facts while your tour group tries to listen to the official tour guide. These are just some of the unpleasant scenarios that may happen when you travel abroad or to local destinations. If you don’t want to be that annoying traveller that people avoid, it pays to learn a thing or two about tech etiquette.

Tech etiquette refers to the set of guidelines and socially acceptable behaviours governing the use of technology in various contexts. It emphasises consideration, respect, and responsible engagement with devices in both public and private settings. While traditional etiquette focuses on polite and respectful conduct in face-to-face interactions, tech etiquette extends these same principles into the digital realm. 

In a country like Singapore, etiquette is highly regarded and is perceived as a sign of respect and intelligence. So, on top of doing an exhaustive SIM only plan comparison and finding a data plan that works for your trip, take the time to review a few etiquette tips when it comes to technology.

Here’s a list of basic tech etiquette guidelines you can practise if you want to be looked at by others as a considerate traveller and visitor: 

1) Wear Headphones When Using Your Gadgets

In any public space you visit, whether it’s a bustling market or a serene garden, you’ll want to respect other people’s experiences of it and not be responsible for any loud and disruptive noises. The rhythmic beats of your favourite tunes might be a source of joy for you, but those around you may want to enjoy their tranquil environment.

To that end, always wear headphones when listening to music, watching videos, or making calls in public areas. This simple act of courtesy will be appreciated by your fellow travellers and locals alike.

Person wearing headphones walking down busy city street
Photo credit Ross Sneddon via Unsplash

2) Turn Off Scheduled Alarms

The echoes of a loud alarm piercing through the air can be quite disruptive, especially in confined spaces like public transportation or crowded attractions. Before immersing yourself in the cultural richness of a country like Singapore, take a moment to check and adjust the settings on your devices. Turn off scheduled alarms that may inadvertently disturb others. The goal is to create a harmonious atmosphere where everyone can enjoy the sights and sounds of a public space or tourist attraction without unnecessary interruptions.

3) Be Mindful of Other People When Taking Photos and Videos

You may be able to discover a country not only through its stunning architecture and lush landscapes, but also through the rich tapestry of its people. But when capturing any of these on camera, you’ll want to be mindful of the privacy of those around you. 

Seek permission before taking photos of any local or fellow tourist, especially in close-up or intimate settings. This will guarantee positive interactions with the people around you and ensure that your happy travel memories don’t come at the expense of someone else's privacy.

4) Avoid Tagging People in Posts without Prior Approval

In an era dominated by social media sharing, it's essential to respect the privacy and cultural norms of the destination you're exploring. Before tagging any individuals in your posts, especially locals or fellow travellers, seek their approval. 

Identity theft and credit card scams are also prevalent in this age, so it’s understandable if some people would rather remain private and not have their photos tagged, along with any location they’ve been in. Respect their wishes and only tag when you have their tacit permission. 

5) Turn Down Your Screen's Brightness

When travelling on a plane or staying at a hostel, it’s considered good manners to turn down the brightness of your screens. In aeroplanes, dimming your screen reduces the potential disturbance to other passengers, especially during night flights where the ambient lights are lower. 

In hostels, where shared spaces and close quarters are common, lowering your screen brightness helps maintain a peaceful environment. This allows fellow travellers to rest without being affected by the glow of a bright screen. 

6) Don't Be Tempted to Fact-Check Your Tour Guide

Travelling may be such an exciting experience that, sometimes, you may initially forget to mind your manners. One such occasion where you could slip in the etiquette department is during guided tours. 

While it's natural to want accurate details, resist the temptation to fact-check your tour guide in real time using your device. This can disrupt the flow of the tour and diminish the experience for both you and your fellow travellers. Instead, trust in the expertise of your guide and, if needed, conduct additional research post-tour.

A considerate traveller will be mindful of others’ capacities to get to know and enjoy the country they’re in. Follow these tech etiquette guidelines to contribute to a positive and respectful travel environment for everyone around you.  

Thursday 21 December 2023

Forest holidays UK – What you need to know

This is a collaborative post

Embarking on a forest holiday in the UK is a nature lover's dream come true. 

Imagine waking up to the gentle rustle of leaves, breathing in the fresh forest air, and immersing yourself in the serene beauty of the woodlands. 

Well, you don’t need to just imagine it - with forest holidays UK based, you can experience it.

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a family seeking adventure, or a couple looking for a romantic getaway, a forest holiday in the UK offers a unique and rejuvenating experience. 

In this article, we will explore what makes forest holidays so special and provide essential information for those considering this immersive escape into nature.

Tranquil retreats amidst nature's embrace

Forest holidays in the UK provide an unparalleled escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Nestled in secluded woodlands, these retreats provide a calming environment where you can unwind and connect with nature. 

Just picture it – you’re strolling through ancient forests, where towering trees create a natural canopy overhead, allowing rays of sunlight to filter through and create a mesmerising play of light and shadow.

Family walking along forest path
Photo credit Alberto Casetta via Unsplash

Accommodations tailored to your preferences

One of the many highlights of a forest holiday is the diverse range of accommodations available.

From luxury cabins to secluded lodges hidden in the environment, these accommodations are designed to immerse you in the beauty of your surroundings. 

Picture yourself enjoying a morning coffee on the private deck of a cosy cabin, or stargazing from the comfort of your very own outdoor hot tub. 

Each accommodation is equipped with modern amenities to ensure a comfortable stay whilst maintaining a close connection with nature – perfect!

Outdoor adventures for all ages

Forest holidays also cater to a variety of outdoor interests, making them an ideal destination for families, couples, and solo travellers alike. 

You’ll find several great hiking trails that wind through the forests, offering opportunities for exploration and wildlife spotting. 

Adventure seekers can also try their hand at activities like archery, cycling, or even zip-lining through the treetops. 

If you’re bringing your family, many locations provide children's play areas, ensuring that even the youngest members of the family can enjoy the natural surroundings.

Sustainable practices for a greener future

Another benefit of a UK forest holiday, especially today, is that multiple parks are committed to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. 

From using renewable energy sources to implementing waste reduction initiatives, these retreats aim to minimise their environmental impact. 

By choosing a forest holiday, you can enjoy an unforgettable holiday experience without compromising on your environmental values.

Seasonal delights and unique events

Whether you visit during the vibrant colours of autumn, or the lush greenery of summer, UK forest holidays offer a unique experience in every season. 

Many locations host special events, workshops, and themed activities throughout the year, enhancing the overall holiday experience for every member of the family. 

For instance, you can enjoy things from foraging expeditions to wildlife talks. These events provide an opportunity to learn more about the natural wonders that surround you.

Forest holidays in the UK offer a magical escape into nature, providing a perfect blend of tranquillity and adventure. 

Whether you're seeking a romantic retreat or a family-friendly break, these woodlands beckon with their timeless beauty and endless possibilities. 

So, what are you most looking forward to enjoying on your trip?

Friday 15 December 2023

A few favourite Christmas scenes from classic children's books

As Christmas gets nearer and nearer I thought I'd share some of my favourite books that have a festive scene that always sticks in my memory! I always feel nostalgic at Christmas time, and going back to old favourite books is definitely comforting when it's cold and miserable outside.

These are all children's books that I have read over and over, both as an adult and as a child, and I'm sure I'll read many times more. They are all classic children's books, and if you are interested they are available to read for free online or to download thanks to Project Gutenberg

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

The book begins with the memorable opening line "“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug." and we are introduced to the four March girls as they contemplate a Christmas without presents and their father away, serving as a chaplain in the Civil War which has made it a difficult time for many people. The girls give their Christmas breakfast away to a starving family, but they still manage to have an enjoyable day performing a Christmas play, and later on they receive some treats from their wealthy neighbours.

"There was ice cream, actually two dishes of it, pink and white, and cake and fruit and distracting French bonbons and, in the middle of the table, four great bouquets of hot house flowers."

I love reading about how they are able to make the best of things and share what they have with others even though they don't have much themselves.

What Katy Did - Susan Coolidge

Katy is a young girl when she is confined to bed after an accident on a swing which damages her spine. At Christmas she is starting to come to terms with the fact that she isn't going to get better straightaway, and she wants to make Christmas special for her family. I love reading about the presents that she chooses for everyone and how they all write their Christmas wishes to send up the chimney. 

"Then they all sat down round the fire to write their wishes on bits of paper, and see whether they would burn, or fly up the chimney. If they did the latter, it was a sign that Santa Claus had them safe, and would bring the things wished for."

Then she helps her father and aunt fill the stockings.

""What's that?" asked Dr. Carr, as Aunt Izzie rammed a long, narrow package into Clover's stocking." A nail-brush," answered Aunt Izzie; "Clover needed a new one." How Papa and Katy laughed! "I don't believe Santa Claus ever had such a thing before," said Dr. Carr. "He's a very dirty old gentleman, then," observed Aunt Izzie, grimly."

This part always makes me smile because I used to receive useful things in my stocking, and so do my children!

Open book on a Christmas festive themed table
Photo credit Sabina Sturzu via Unsplash

What Katy Did at School - Susan Coolidge

A few years later the older two girls, Katy and Clover, are away at boarding school and aren't able to come home for Christmas which has made them and their friends feel miserable. Then on Christmas Eve a box from home is delivered for them which is filled with the most wonderful Christmas gifts and treats. I love reading the description of everything that is included and how everyone at home has remembered them.

"What fun it was opening those bundles! The girls made a long business of it, taking out but one at a time, exclaiming, admiring, and exhibiting to Rose, before they began upon another. They laughed, they joked, but I do not think it would have taken much to make either of them cry. It was almost too tender a pleasure, these proofs of loving remembrance from the little one; and each separate article seemed full of the very look and feel of home."

"Never was such a wonderful box. It appeared to have no bottom whatever. Under the presents were parcels of figs, prunes, almonds, raisins, candy; under those, apples and pears. There seemed no end to the surprises."

Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder

In the first book in the series the family are living in a cabin in the woods, and although they are isolated they still have family that are close enough to visit occasionally. At Christmas their Aunt, Uncle and cousins come to stay just for one night, and the the children have fun playing in the snow and eating all the delicious food. 

"In each stocking there was a pair of bright red mittens and there was a long flat stick of red-and-white-striped, pepper-mint candy, all beautifully notched along one side. They were all so happy they could hardly speak at first. They just looked with shining eyes at those lovely Christmas presents. But Laura was happiest of all. Laura had a rag doll."

Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder

The creek has risen and the children know that now Santa Claus won't be able to reach them. And reading as an adult you can see that their parents are also sad that they aren't going to be able to give the girls any Christmas gifts. Then at the last minute their friend Mr Edwards arrives at their house and tells the girls that he met Santa Claus in town and has brought their gifts. 

"They had never even thought of such a thing as having a penny. Think of having a whole penny for your very own. Think of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny. There had never been such a Christmas."

I'd love to hear of any Christmas scenes from books that I've forgotten!

Thursday 14 December 2023

Brain Boosters: Five simple activities to improve your creativity

This is a collaborative post

Creativity isn’t a talent limited to artists, writers, or musicians; it's a skill everyone can cultivate and improve. In our day-to-day lives as adults, getting caught up in routines stifling our creative thinking is easy. But fear not! There are simple and enjoyable activities that can spark your creativity and give your brain a much-needed boost. From diamond art kits for adults to doodling, let’s explore five activities that are fun and great for enhancing your creative prowess.

1. Diamond Art Kits for Adults

First on our list is the increasingly popular craft of diamond art. Diamond art kits for adults offer a satisfying and immersive experience that combines the joys of creativity with the benefits of a concentration exercise. These kits involve applying tiny, shiny resins onto a coded canvas to create vibrant, mosaic-like artworks. The process is not just meditative; it also sharpens your focus and pattern recognition skills, which are crucial elements in creative thinking. The best part? You end up with a stunning piece of artwork that's a testament to your patience and creativity.

Van Gogh Starry Night diamond painting completed

2. Journaling and Free Writing

Writing, particularly free writing or journalling, is an excellent way to clear your mind and let your thoughts flow freely. This unstructured form of writing encourages you to express your ideas without the constraints of grammar or logic. It’s a space where your imagination can run wild. Regular practice can enhance your ability to think creatively and articulate your thoughts better. Plus, you might stumble upon some unexpected ideas or solutions hidden in your mind's recesses.

3. Sketching and Doodling

You don't have to be a seasoned artist to benefit from sketching and doodling. These activities are wonderful for boosting creativity because they are free-form and open-ended. Doodling, especially, is known to improve concentration, memory, and focus. It’s a form of visual thinking that helps process information and ideas in a unique way. So, grab a pencil and start doodling; you’ll be surprised at how it can help untangle complex thoughts and spark creative solutions.

4. Crafting and DIY Projects

Engaging in crafting activities, such as knitting, woodworking, or DIY home decor projects, can immensely benefit your creativity. These activities require you to visualize an end product, plan the steps to achieve it, and execute those plans. This process stimulates problem-solving skills and innovative thinking. Moreover, the satisfaction of creating something tangible with your own hands can be incredibly fulfilling and inspiring.

5. Exploring Photography

Photography is another accessible and enjoyable way to enhance creativity. With a camera or a smartphone, you can experiment with composition, lighting, and perspective. Photography encourages you to see the world through a different lens (quite literally) and notice details you might have otherwise overlooked. This practice of observing and capturing moments can significantly improve your ability to think creatively and appreciate the beauty in the ordinary.

Boosting your creativity doesn’t require extensive resources or radical changes in your lifestyle. Simple activities like working on diamond art kits for adults, journaling, doodling, crafting, and exploring photography can significantly enhance your creative thinking. These hobbies provide a creative outlet and help develop skills like focus, visualization, and innovative problem-solving. So, why not take some time out of your busy schedule to engage in these activities? Your brain will thank you for the creative workout, and you might just discover a new passion in the process.

Wednesday 13 December 2023

Enjoying the last busy couple of weeks before Christmas

I'm sure I'm not the only one that can't wait until the school Christmas holidays! The last couple of weeks of term are always so busy, and even though I try to cut back on things as much as I can after learning from the mistakes of previous years, we still seem to have a full calendar.

Last week Mia took part in her school production of Bugsy Malone. She played a reporter and a dancer and the show was brilliant. She's never done any kind of dancing before, and they had a dance instructor come to the school to teach them. I was so impressed when the curtain went up and she was there dancing away with her friends all wearing their sparkly outfits! She also had to read several news reports by herself on the stage, some of them in an American accent, and she did so well. I watched three of the four performances and loved every one.

Our village always goes all out for Christmas. We have a group of village yarn bombers that put up decorations for all sorts of celebrations throughout the year and they have excelled themselves this Christmas. As well as the traditional post box topper we have a knitted ice skating rink, sleigh, decorations in all the shop windows, hanging knitted ornaments from the trees in the village centre and knitted ornaments tied along any available stretch of railing or bollard. I love spotting them as I go on my regular runs through the village, and it's really nice that people respect them and leave them in place.

Christmas knitted post box topper

Yesterday we had the school Christmas Fair which was as chaotic as always. They have a new system for payment which is very clever - when you arrive you exchange money for tokens which can be used on all the stalls. This means that they don't need to worry about keeping a float of change for each stall. Also the tokens could be bought using a credit card, which is useful for people like me that don't carry much cash. The most popular stall is always the chocolate tombola, and the children did pretty well!

Next week we have a few dates arranged with friends and family, including an evening Christmas meal out for me, and I'm also looking forward to some chilled out family time, doing some crafting and making our annual gingerbread houses. 

I hope that you are all enjoying this festive time of year!

Monday 11 December 2023

Some of my favourite Christmas felt crafts

As I was putting out my Christmas decorations this year I realised how many of them are things that I've crafted over the years and have enjoyed bringing out year after year. Many of my favourite homemade Christmas decorations involve felt, and so I thought I'd share a few here. 

These Felt Christmas stocking decorations are the very first Christmas decoration that I made, it must be over twenty years ago now! I remember making a special trip to town to buy the felt and the beads as I had just moved out of home and hadn't yet built up a craft stash. I still have some of the beads left and they crop up from time to time in my projects, like the felt star ornaments at the bottom of this post.

They were copied from ones that I remembered my Mum making when I was little - they are designed to hold a small funsize bar of chocolate and hang on the tree as an alternative to chocolate foil decorations. The children used to use them as mini stockings for their soft toys!

Felt Christmas stocking ornaments

Next, this Embroidered felt Christmas bunting has hung over our mantlepiece every year since I made it. It was very easy to make, just pendants of felt and some simple embroidery (using an outline drawn on tissue paper, sewn through and removed). 

Embroidered felt Christmas pendant bunting

I made this Cross stitch snowflake felt bunting using snowflake designs from my free simple snowflake cross stitch patterns. They were very quick to make using scraps of Aida fabric and oddments of thread. I then cut and sewed together simple felt circles to frame them. 

Simple cross stitch snowflake and felt Christmas bunting

This Felt Christmas tree and bauble bunting is formed of four small felt Christmas trees and four decorated baubles. I loved hunting through my stash to find ric rac, ribbon and beads to decorate them with and they look lovely hung in my office window. 

Felt Christmas bunting with trees and baubles

My Felt star Christmas ornaments were a felt stash busting project, using up felt in different colours that I had remaining from various completed projects. Initially I had them on display in a bowl in the living room, but I've since added some coloured thread so that they can be hung from the tree.

Felt star Christmas ornaments

Finally, a few years ago I received some festive ornament felt kits to review and they were lovely to do, simple enough to be completed in a few crafting sessions but challenging enough to still be interesting. If you don't have a craft stash to work from then buying a kit with everything that you need is a great alternative, and they are often very reasonably priced!

I hope that you enjoy your Christmas crafting!

Friday 8 December 2023

Hama bead snowflakes using the midi beads

A couple of years ago I designed some free simple cross stitch snowflake designs and patterns which I used to make a snowflake embroidery hoop piece. I also adapted the pattern so that it could be used for Hama beads, and I used the mini Hama bead snowflake embellishments to decorate a pretty winter snowflake lantern.

Mini Hama bead snowflake embellished lantern

This year I thought I'd have a go at making some Hama bead snowflakes using the larger midi beads. As a reminder here's my Hama bead snowflake pattern - it is made using white beads for the snowflake and then transparent beads in the gaps so that the snowflakes can be easily ironed.

Free Hama bead snowflake design and pattern

The Hama bead snowflakes made with the midi beads measure about 5-6cm in diameter and are very sturdy. 

Hama bead snowflakes with midi beads

These snowflakes make great Christmas decorations. I can see them hanging from the ceiling or in a window, or simply stuck across a window with a glue dot.

Because of the hole in the bead they could also be hung with ribbon for a tree ornament, they could be glued to a name card for the Christmas dining table, they could be used as gift tags or to decorate a gift bag, they could be popped inside a Christmas card for a festive surprise. 

They are so simple to make that it would be a great craft to keep children occupied over the Christmas holidays and of course there's no need to stick to white, you could use beads of any colour, maybe glittery beads or in contrasting colours.

Have fun with your Christmas crafting!

Thursday 7 December 2023

Ten tips to enjoy your family vacation with kids

This is a collaborative post

Planning a family vacation can be both exciting and a little stressful, right? Especially when you have kids, you need to think about so much more than just your flight and hotel. That's why places like Pigeon Forge are such a hit for families. Located in Tennessee, Pigeon Forge offers a unique mix of fun, relaxation, and adventure. It is not surprising that it attracts around 10 million visitors annually. 

Whether you love the thrill of amusement parks or the serenity of nature, this place has something for everyone. So, let’s look at some tips that will make your family vacation in Pigeon Forge not just good but great.

1. Opt for Family-Friendly Lodging

First things first, where you stay matters a lot. Sure, you might be tempted to go for the cheapest option, but remember, you're traveling with kids. Places like Pigeon Forge offer a wide variety of accommodations like cabins, condos, and hotels. 

Look for cabins that have amenities like a swimming pool, play area, game room, hot tub, and, most importantly, a fully equipped kitchen. These features can make your stay way more comfortable. And let's be honest, if the kids are happy, you're happy.

2. Be Weather-Wise

Nothing can ruin a vacation quicker than being unprepared for the weather. Pigeon Forge has four distinct seasons, and each has its own wardrobe requirements. If you're visiting in summer, you'll need light clothing and plenty of sunscreen. But in winter, you'll need layers and perhaps even some snow gear. Always check the forecast before you pack so you're not caught off guard.

3. Visit Paula Deen's Lumberjack Feud

When you're in Pigeon Forge, Paula Deen's Lumberjack Feud is a must-see. Think of it as a show and adventure rolled into one. What makes Paula Deen’s dinner show even more special is that while you’re watching the feud unravel, you can indulge in a BBQ camp-style supper that includes delicious BBQ sandwiches, baked beans, coleslaw, and a cookie. 

It's fun, engaging, and something a little different than your usual theme park experience. 

4. Indoor and Outdoor Activities

One of the best things about Pigeon Forge is that you can have a blast both indoors and outdoors. So, make sure your itinerary has a good mix. Take your kids to the local museums or indoor amusement parks on days when the weather isn't great. And save the outdoor adventure parks or nature trails for sunny days. A balanced plan will keep everyone in the family engaged and excited.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Photo credit Milly Montoya via Unsplash

5. Don't Miss Dollywood

If there's one place you absolutely must visit in Pigeon Forge, it's Dollywood. With the wide variety of entertainment options it offers, it’s no surprise that so many vacationers visit Dollywood throughout the year!

This amusement park is perfect for families and offers a range of rides that even little kids can enjoy. From thrilling roller coasters to carousels, there's something for everyone. Plus, the park often has shows and parades that are super entertaining for kids. Trust me, you don't want to miss out on this.

6. Explore the Great Outdoors

If your family loves nature, you're in luck. Pigeon Forge is right next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You'll find plenty of family-friendly trails where you can hike and explore. It's a fantastic way for the family to spend quality time together while taking in some of the most beautiful landscapes you'll ever see. 

But that’s not it; you also get to experience wildlife in its natural habitat. Be prepared for sightings of black bears, deer, elk, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes. Oh, and don’t forget to pack some snacks, water, and perhaps a camera to capture the perfect moments you make with your family.

7. Savour the Local Food Scene

Who doesn't love good food, especially on vacation? Pigeon Forge offers a variety of dining options that'll satisfy even the pickiest eaters in your family. From Southern comfort food to classic American dishes, there's a lot to choose from. Look for family-friendly restaurants where kids can enjoy special menus or play areas. Remember, happy tummies make for happy vacations!

8. Plan Your Budget (But Leave Room for a Few Treats)

Vacations can get expensive, particularly when you're traveling with kids. That's why it's a good idea to set a budget beforehand. Decide how much you're willing to spend on lodging, food, and activities. Once you have that sorted, feel free to set aside a small 'treat fund.' Whether it's for a special souvenir or an unexpected attraction, having a little extra cash can make your vacation feel even more special.

9. Take Advantage of Discounts

Nobody likes to pay full price when they don't have to, right? Luckily, Pigeon Forge offers plenty of ways to save. You'll find discount coupons for restaurants and attractions in local guidebooks, at your hotel, or even online. Some places also offer family packages that can save you money on admission prices. 

10. Keep the Schedule Flexible

When you're excited about your trip, it's easy to jam-pack your itinerary. But here's a tip: don't. Kids are unpredictable, and you never know when you'll need to take an unplanned break. Plus, some of the best moments happen when you stumble upon something unexpected. So, by all means, have a plan, but also leave room for some spontaneity. It'll make your trip a lot more enjoyable.


So, we've covered a lot of ground here, from choosing the right place to stay to making sure you take time to explore and eat well. But most importantly, remember that vacations are all about creating wonderful memories with your family. Pigeon Forge offers a multitude of ways to do just that. Whether you're riding roller coasters, hiking through beautiful landscapes, or simply enjoying a meal together, the time you spend with your family is what will make this trip truly unforgettable. 

Follow these ten tips, and you're well on your way to a fantastic, stress-free vacation in Pigeon Forge. Safe travels! 

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Our new project - Cathy's Flower House kit from Rolife

A few months ago while out shopping we spotted these miniature kits from Rolife. We spent ages admiring all the different tiny model kits and wondering what they would be like to have a go at. A few days later I was having a browse on Amazon and I added a couple to my wish list so that I could check the prices. When the one that we were most interested in came on special offer a few weeks later it felt like fate, and so we bought one as something that my husband and I could work on together.

The price of this kit is around £40, and when you realise what's included it's not a bad price at all. I don't even want to think about how long it's going to occupy us for, but we've spent at least 10 hours on it already and aren't even a third of the way through, and that's with two of us working on it! I thought I'd share our progress so far, in case you've also seen these kits out and about and are wondering what they are like and what's involved in building one.

Rolife Cathy's Flower Garden miniature kit review

The kit includes a decent glue, paint, tweezers and all the materials that you need. We are also using our own wire cutters, pliers (small nosed ones are best if you have them), a scalpel and cutting mat and a ruler. I think we may need other tools like a screwdriver later on. It's a good idea to have a box or tray ready to store the finished pieces while you work your way through the instructions.

Rolife Cathy's Flower Garden kit contents

When we visited our local garden centre the other day I found a completed version of the kit on display. It's a little faded but I was able to have a good look at it and see what we are aiming for!

Rolife greenhouse kit model completed

The first step was to paint some of the larger wooden pieces that form the base of the greenhouse. Then you start by building the the items of furniture, shelves, boxes and so on. This is followed by the smaller accessories, like the bird houses, plant pots, books and baskets.

The instructions are pretty good with clear step-by-step pictures. There are some translation errors and a couple of items in the wrong numbered bags, but with a bit of common sense it's easy enough to work out. Sometimes you do need to use your initiative a little bit, and I'm expecting that when we get to putting all the pieces together there may be some room for personalising it.

Rolife review Cathy's greenhouse pieces completed

Currently we are working on the plants, and there are so many of them in this kit! They are made in various different ways. Some like the plants below have pre-cut leaves which are pressed out and then glued to green wire before being fixed into a large plant pot shaped bead. There are some made from thinner tissue paper that needs to be folded, cut and positioned before being glued down. These plants have been very fiddly to make and the glue goes everywhere. We've been sitting down together for a couple of hours and managing to produce just five or six between the two of us!

Rolife greenhouse kit flowers and plants

When we've worked our way through the plants then we can start to assemble the greenhouse and arrange everything inside it, which I think will be the most fun part. I'm hoping that the electrical wiring part of the greenhouse isn't too tricky, and we'll need to make sure that everything is firmly glued into place, as once the walls are in place I don't think we'll easily be able to open it up again to make adjustments!

It's been a really fun project for my husband and I to work on together and we are already thinking about our next kit! There are some lovely pieces in a 'Book Nook' range which are designed to fit between books on a bookshelf, they have a cleverly angled mirror to make it look as though they extend back further than the shelf. Watch this space!

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Smart travel tips for smart travellers - Don't leave the house without them!

This is a collaborative post

Welcome to our guide on smart travel tips! As a savvy traveller, you understand the importance of being well-prepared. Whether you're jetting off for a business trip or a relaxing holiday, our expert advice is tailored to make your trip smoother and more enjoyable. From packing efficiently to handling jet lag, we've got you covered. This article is your go-to resource for practical tips and tricks that will enhance your travel experience. So, grab your passport, and let's dive into making your next adventure the best one yet!

Researching Destinations Like A Pro

Before you set foot in a new place, it's wise to do some research on your destination. Understanding your destination goes beyond just knowing the tourist spots. It's about immersing yourself in the culture, customs, and everyday life of the locals. Start by reading up on the area's history; this not only enriches your visit but also helps you appreciate the significance of landmarks and traditions. 

Check out local blogs or forums to get a feel for current events and hotspots favoured by residents. This insight can lead you to hidden gems and authentic experiences that aren't in every travel guide. Don't forget to look into local laws and societal norms to ensure your trip is respectful and hassle-free. Remember, your aim is to blend in, not stick out.

Open pink suitcase filled with pink items
Photo credit Arnel Hasanovic via Unsplash

Effective Strategies And Sleep Aids

Jet lag can be a real challenge, but there are ways to tackle it effectively. Start by adjusting your sleep pattern a few days before your flight. If you're heading east, go to bed earlier; if west, a bit later. On the plane, try to sleep according to the time zone of your destination. It's tempting to watch movies or read, but resting will pay off. Once you arrive, resist the urge to nap immediately if it's daytime there. 

Engage in light activities and soak in some natural light; it helps reset your internal clock. Consider using jet lag tablets that aid sleep, especially after long flights, to treat your temporary insomnia. These can help you sleep during your new night time but remember to use them judiciously. Finally, stay hydrated and avoid heavy meals or caffeine before bedtime.

Understanding Cultural Nuances

When you're exploring new destinations, being mindful of local customs and traditions isn't just polite, it's essential. It's all about diving deep into the cultural fabric of the places you visit. Get a head start by learning the basic do's and don'ts – these can be as simple as the right way to greet someone or appropriate attire for different settings. Keep in mind that everyday norms that you’re accustomed to might be quite different elsewhere.

Paying attention to dining etiquette is particularly important, as sharing a meal is often a gateway to understanding a culture. If you're lucky enough to be invited into someone's home, be aware of any specific customs, like removing your shoes or the etiquette around gift-giving. This level of respect for local ways not only enhances your travel experience but also builds bridges of understanding.

With these smart travel tips, you're ready to make the most of your adventures. Remember, good preparation is key to a stress-free and enjoyable trip. Embrace new experiences and respect local cultures and your travels will not only be memorable but truly rewarding. Safe travels on your next journey!

Monday 4 December 2023

The elves are back!

It's easy to forget when your child is a tiny toddler that those elves are now committed to returning year after year! With the magic of Christmas still fully alive in our home, our elves have returned to join us for the festive season. They are renamed each year, and so this Christmas we have Holly (a conventional name from Mia) and Wernher von Braun (an unusual choice, named by Harry after his favourite rocket scientist). 

Two elves sitting in the Christmas tree

In years past they have arrived with a ring on the doorbell, but as it's quite cold this year they just appeared underneath the Christmas tree next to a gift bag containing the Advent calendars. Usually both children just receive a chocolate Advent calendar but Mia has been pestering for a fidget toy Advent calendar for years so we finally gave in. Harry wasn't that fussed about a fancy calendar so we bought him a new book about space instead. They also both have a chocolate one (as do I!)

I remember being so excited on the 1st of December each year when we were given our Advent calendars and they were hung up on a nail in the hallway. The early ones were just a picture, although I do remember progressing to the chocolate ones when they were more readily available! I actually would quite like a traditional Advent calendar with no chocolate, but they are more expensive than the chocolate ones!

And so the countdown to Christmas has begun!

Friday 1 December 2023

Why I love a Christmas jigsaw

I've just finished my first Christmas jigsaw of the season! This puzzle is a brand new one which I bought with my birthday money. It's a 1000 piece puzzle from Ravensburger called Magical Christmas Market (affiliate link) and it's lovely, an illustration of a Christmas market with a starry sky and pretty snow covered houses in the background, festive stalls, and a variety of different people out and about doing their Christmas shopping. It was just the right level of difficulty too - easy to get the top half of the jigsaw completed and then a little more challenging in the middle. I loved and it's definitely becoming a permanent part of my jigsaw puzzle collection!

Christmas Market jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

I love doing a jigsaw (or several!) at Christmas. It brings back many happy memories of working on a puzzle when I was little, and it's a great solo or family activity. They don't all have to be Christmas themed - a couple of years ago I bought an Animal Crossing jigsaw which the children enjoyed helping with - but it is nice to work on one with a festive theme.

I have a few other Christmas jigsaws which I will be working on over the next couple of weeks. I have a set of two 500 piece vintage style jigsaws which I like as they are quite easy to do, and I also love the Ravensburger Christmas Library puzzle (affiliate link) which I received to review a few years ago. 

Ravensburger Christmas Library jigsaw puzzle

I'm also hoping that I might be lucky enough to receive a puzzle or two in my stocking this year, and I have another birthday money puzzle waiting for me to complete in the New Year once the dining table has finished its Christmas dinner duty - watch this space!

Wednesday 29 November 2023

How I use Amazon wishlists to plan my Christmas shopping

I am currently in the middle of my Christmas gift shopping, and I try to keep things as simple as I can. Luckily all the people that I buy for are of the same mindset, and so I don't have too much stress when it comes to thinking about what to buy! But I do like to make sure that I'm finding the things that people want at the best price possible, and so I make great use of the Amazon wish list facility to keep me organised.

All of my family members have their own Amazon wish list which they keep updated. Well, apart from one who has migrated over to a website called Things To Get Me, which lets you add things that can't be bought on Amazon. I have several lists of my own - I have a main public wish list, a shopping list which contains things that I am tracking but would hope not to receive as gifts (boring things like laundry tablets) and a private wish list for things that I'd like but that are a bit personal.

I have a public list for each of the children to share with others, and a private list which only I can see. If I'm browsing on Amazon and spot something that I think they might like I'll add it to this list so that they get some surprises. I can also view and shop from the lists of my family and friends.

Amazon shopping box under the Christmas tree
Photo credit Wicked Monday via Unsplash

I find all these lists really useful in many ways. They keep me organised, and help keep track of things I've spotted that I am interested in, either for myself or for others. If anyone asks me what I'd like for birthday or Christmas I don't have to worry about trying to come up with something because I already have a list of things ready to go.

But the main way that I use my lists is to track prices. I know that Amazon can be very sneaky with their prices and you do need to be a bit careful, but it will say next to an item if it has reduced in price since you added it (not if it has increased of course!) and there's also a red flag if it's on any kind of deal. I always check the price history on CamelCamelCamel because sometimes the special offer price is higher than the usual price, but it's a good way of spotting something that might be a bargain.

Over the last Black Friday week I went through my lists several times a day to see if anything was reduced and was pleased to save a few pounds here and there on items that I had been tracking. Although some did increase in price, so I'm holding off to see if they go down again before I buy!

I don't do all my Christmas shopping on Amazon of course, but my system has definitely been a big help to me over the last few years!

Monday 27 November 2023

My currently incomplete cross stitch projects

I've recently picked up some cross stitch again after a generous gift from a friend (see below!) and I'm really enjoying stitching away. Unfortunately it's not the only long term cross stitch project on my hoops, I also have a few others on the go. I thought I'd share the cross stitch projects that I'm currently working on, in the hope that it might inspire me to get a couple finished!

My cross stitch travel map will probably never be finished, as I won't even want to think that I won't be doing any more travelling! In fact I've just realised that I need to update it after visiting Sweden over the summer, and there is plenty of work that I can do to fill in all those white gaps. 

Cross stitch travel map in progress

Another map that I'm working on is the Olde World Map from Janlynn. This is a very large piece, and as I've discovered it is very challenging. There are lots of similar colours to work with, and it can be very difficult to distinguish between them when stitching busy areas. So I've not worked on it for a while, which is a shame because it's a lovely kit. I need to come up with some kind of system to help me, possibly making a copy of the pattern and using a highlighter to mark off areas as I complete them. 

Vintage world map cross stitch in progress

A couple of weeks ago I unpacked this Christmas Be a Light kit from Dimensions which I bought on our most recent trip to the US. It's a lovely design worked on navy blue Aida and I thought that it would be a nice Christmas project. 

Christmas cross stitch kit with lantern jars

But then! I met a friend a couple of weeks ago and she very kindly passed on this cross stitch kit - The Christmas Nutcracker from Bothy Threads. I was going to put it aside for future Christmas crafting but I couldn't stop myself from making a start, and now I think this will be my Christmas project instead. It's a very easy kit, there are a limited number of colours and the Nutcracker at least is symmetrical and formed of large blocks of colour, so you don't need to follow the pattern too closely. It's a great design for working on in front of the television or when you only have a few minutes before you need to put it down.

I won't be finishing it by this Christmas, but there's a chance that it might be complete before the next one!

Bothy Threads Christmas Nutcracker cross stitch kit in progress

In my stash I also have one other cross stitch kit which I've not even taken out of the pack yet. It's quite a small one, a sort of cross stitch cat, which I'm saving to take away on the sort of holiday which will give me some stitching time. 

I'm thinking that I need some kind of challenge to help me make some good progress on all these projects. Maybe I can incorporate something into my New Year's resolutions!

Thursday 23 November 2023

Six savings tips for navigating the cost of living crisis

This is a collaborative post

With the cost of living continuing to rise, there is no wonder why people are struggling to make ends meet. Households are experiencing a rise in high energy bills and inflation of food and rent prices that are soaring. 

Finding ways to save on expenses will relieve people in a financial bind. The cost of living crisis has led to people dipping into their savings far sooner than expected and using whatever money they have to cover the rising costs. 

To save on utility expenses, you can find a better domestic energy deal by using this online comparison tool that allows you to compare prices of energy deals from their suppliers. 

This article offers practical tips on how to strategically cut daily expenses, providing a roadmap for individuals to weather inflation and build a more secure financial future. From budgeting and selling unused items to debt management, savings strategies, and energy efficiency, these actionable suggestions empower readers to make informed financial decisions, ensuring their hard-earned money works for them even in uncertain times.

Putting money in a piggy bank
Photo credit Sasun Bughdaryan via Unsplash

Rise in Cost of Living 

The current economic climate has led to people paying the highest interest rates the UK has seen. 

The majority of people have no safety nets and cannot afford to start one as they just aren't able to meet their daily expenses and save money for a later stage. 

For UK consumers and parents, who are concerned over the financial implications of raising children, who at least see the worth of their money, they need to start looking for alternative ways they can save money and still afford to cover all their expenses. 

Tips to Save on Daily Expenses 

Having a concrete plan to cut expenses and use your money for the essentials while saving for an emergency is the only way you can beat inflation. 

Here are some tips for you to start saving on your daily expenses and cut out unnecessary costs. 

Have a budget

Creating a budget will help you with overspending or spending money on unnecessary items. A budget will show you exactly how much you are spending and how much you can save. 

Using a budget can help you plan for things that are not needed immediately but could be saved for and added into the budget over several months until you have enough money or included in another budget where you can afford it without putting yourself in debt. 

Sell items you no longer need or use

Look around your home for items you have that are no longer in use. If they are just taking up space, you can make money from them. 

The money you make from selling these items can be included in your next monthly budget or be put away for a rainy day. 

Spend wisely 

It can be tempting to spend money when you have it. However, spending wisely will get you through those tough times should they arise. 

Use the rewards from your credit cards or other programs to pay for the things that you would take money out for. 

Cancel unused subscriptions to magazines, clubs or streaming services you are no longer using but still paying for. 

You also need to be mindful of when you are out shopping. Spending out of habit can turn into regular purchases, such as getting a coffee or buying a pastry, which can add up to a lot of spending at the end of the month. 

Clear debt

Owning different stores and paying large amounts of debt every month can cut your budget and give you less spending money for essential things such as food and utilities.

Try to clear your debt by getting a debt consolidation loan to pay off your debt, and then you only own the loan back, which will give you peace of mind and help you start saving for a rainy day. 

Start a savings fund 

Having money saved up in case there are emergencies is important. When tough times arise, it is good to know you have some money to fall back on. 

You can automate your savings through your bank app or start investing money where you can get some returns to add to your emergency fund. 

Become Energy Efficient

Being more energy efficient means you can save money on electricity. Turn off lights that are not needed and switch to energy-efficient products to help save. 

Ensure all appliances are switched off when not in use, and plugs are switched off at the wall socket to prevent energy usage when the appliance is not in use. 

Fix any leaks or cracks in your home to prevent heating and cooling systems from working over time. 


Not being able to enjoy your money or afford the necessities can frustrate those working hard. 

To summarise, having a budget, selling unused/unwanted items, spending wisely, clearing debt, starting a savings fund and becoming energy efficient can help save your money. These tips can help you cut expenses and start saving more. 

This article highlighted practical strategies for consumers to safeguard their finances and find avenues for savings amid daily expenses. From the fundamental discipline of budgeting to the resourceful practice of selling unused items, prudent spending habits, and debt consolidation, each tip serves as a building block toward financial resilience. Encouraging the establishment of a savings fund and promoting energy efficiency further fortify one's ability to weather economic uncertainties. By implementing these tips, readers can not only survive but thrive in the face of rising costs, emerging more financially empowered and prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead.

Visit to discover further useful tips to help you navigate the cost of living crisis. 

Thursday 16 November 2023

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, Islamorada, Florida

I've shared a couple of posts recently about places that we visited on our recent stay in the Florida Keys, and today I wanted to write about Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park in Islamorada, a perfect place to stop and stretch your legs as you drive through the keys.

The park is really easy to find - it's on your right as you drive down the Overseas Highway and it's well signposted. There's a large car park, and on the day we visited there were only a couple of other visitors. Do check the opening times as it's currently only open Thursday-Monday. It costs just $2.50 per person to visit, there are toilets, a water fountain, a museum, and several short self-guided trails. There are also some guided tours available, check the website for details. 

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, Islamorada, Florida map

We spent about an hour and a half here. We would have spent a little longer, but it started to rain quite heavily so we headed for the museum! We had plenty of time to walk all the trails at a leisurely pace and to spend time in the museum afterwards. There are picnic benches dotted all around, so it's a great place to stop for a packed lunch.

We started with the Hammock Trail which takes you through a tropical hardwood hammock. There are all sorts of interesting trees and plants to see, as well as various wildlife, like these huge spiders that greeted us at several corners!
Spider seen at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

You can borrow a guide book to take around with you if you are looking for detailed information, or else there are plenty of informational signs to explain the things that you are seeing. The trails were well marked and pretty easy to follow, the area covered by the park isn't that large so you are unlikely to get very lost.

Twisted tree at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

As you walk along the paths you notice that they are lined with small rocks filled with fossils. This area was used as a quarry which was still active into the 1960s. The trains running through the Keys were used to transport the fossil covered stone back to the mainland. There are remnants of the quarrying equipment remaining across the site, and plenty of information to help you understand the quarrying process.

Vines hanging from trees at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

A couple of trails take you through the old quarry itself where you can see the vast walls of rocks, marked with lines from the drilling equipment. It's fascinating to wander past these rock faces which are covered in beautiful fossils. You can see stand among the fossil corals and realise that once all this was underwater.

Fossils in the wall at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

After a quick rush through the downpour to the Visitor Center we spent some time in the museum. It's a mixture of the geological history about fossils found in the park, and the industrial history of the area including the quarry and the railway. Although small it's really well done with plenty of information.

Small museum at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

If you are driving down through the keys then Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park is a great place to stop for a break, and also a really good introduction to the history of the area.

If you are looking for other activities to do in the Florida Keys then you may also be interested in these posts: