Features

How to Take Control of Family Finances

If your finances have taken a bit of a battering over recent months, you’re certainly not alone. Belt tightening has almost become a national pastime. One we hope won’t go on for too much longer.

On the positive side, it’s first class motivation for finally sitting down and sorting out your money: where’s it coming from, where’s it going, and how you can keep hold of it a bit longer.

No Complicated Tech Needed

It doesn’t come much simpler than a pen and notebook. Armed with a recent bank statement (one for each of your accounts if you have more than one bank account) you can start right now getting to grips with spending and saving. Unless you’re a whizz at mental arithmetic, a calculator might come in handy too.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you firing up the computer and opening a spreadsheet if that’s how you like getting things done. But, if you use a small notebook you can carry it around with you and jot down purchases as you make them.

Whichever method you choose, you’ll need five columns with these headers for the information they’ll contain:

  1. Date: The date the transaction took place. It might be a cash or debit card purchase or a direct debit or standing order. If you run a credit card, make a separate sheet for this, then note down the repayments to that card on this main sheet that’s tallying your main bank account.

    laptop

    Pic Credit: Pixabay

  2. Item: What you bought, be it grocery shopping or coffee and cake with friends.
  3. Income: Record where income came from. Salary, for example.
  4. Cost: How much was it?
  5. Balance: At the very top of this column, write your current bank balance from your up-to-date bank statement. Now each time you make a purchase, subtract the amount from the current balance and write the new balance in the column. When you’re recording income, add it to the balance.

You can have a new page every week or create a fresh page at the start of every month. Write your bank balance from the previous month or week at the top of your balance column to get started. Don’t forget to add direct debits or it’s easy to think your running balance is bigger than it is.

 

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Fairy Travels

Finland travel restrictions update

reindeer in Finland

Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

We have been to Lapland (Rovaniemi- Finland) twice and are still cautiously optimistic about our trip at the end of January 2021. My post on diy Lapland still gets huge traffic as does my dressing for Lapland post. I get a lot of DMs and emails asking whether I think we will be able to travel this Winter season and the truth is none of us really know. It’s a constantly evolving situation and can be difficult to keep on top of the changing situation. As it stands (end September 2020) I have set out what the current situation is looking like. I will do my best to keep it updated as time goes on but please always rely on the official advice. I will set out the key websites below.

Finland Travel restrictions 

Post November 23rd

  • If your home country has less than 25 cases per 100,000 you can travel with no restrictions.
  • Greater than 25 cases the following are the key parameters:
    • If your visit is less than 72 hours you can travel with proof of negative test which itself is no older than 72 hours.
    • If your visit it more than 72 hours the above applies plus you will need a second test locally after 72 hours and self quarantine until you get the results.  The logistics around this are still being firmed up but this is the indicative guideline at the moment.

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Fairy Travels

A weekend in the Volkswagen California Camper

On a Friday at the end of August, just prior to the schools returning, I earned the best accolade!! Officially declared the best mammy ever! Why you might wonder…….

Well, I announced that we had been kindly offered the use of a Volkswagen California for a weekend. I am sure the squeals of excitement could be heard for miles! I mean what is not to love, the freedom of being able to hit the road and stay pretty much where we wanted. It didn’t take too long to formulate the plan of where to go. The kids wanted to show their cousins so it was decided pretty quickly we would head for quite possibly our favourite place….Donegal.

As luck we have it, we happened on possibly the only weekend where the weather was akin to a mini heatwave.  We packed up Friday after the oldest had finished soccer camp and we were off down the N3 with everything but the kitchen sink, and some very happy kids and adults.

The Volkswagen California 6.1

The model we had the use of was the California 6.1 – 2020 so brand-new version with the very eye-catching two-tone paint work.  That copper bronze is really fab! It has a 2-litre diesel engine with automatic transmission. I am informed that the annual road tax is a very reasonable €102.

Some initial thoughts on the spec

  • The way the space is designed is impressive, a very clever use of space. There is a decent size fridge (42l), 2 ring gas hob, sink, cutlery drawer and an abundance of storage. The front seats swivel around, and the table is pulled up to make it the perfect dining/ chill out space. I could ramble on about this for ever, it’s the little details.  The outdoor table is stored in the sliding door frame, the chairs literally in the boot door. No space is wasted. It’s so ergonomically designed and its ease of use I feel is a big selling point.
  • Its deceptively spacious, from just looking at the outside I didn’t expect to have so much space inside.
  • The kids went wild for the sleep set up. The roof rises (push button electric) and there is a decent size double up there and the two back seats lie flat to form the other double.  Plenty space for 2 adults and 2 kids. The base of the bed can also be pushed up into the roof to allow standing room too. Each window has blinds including very cleverly designed front windscreen blinds.

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Mamma Reviews

Smoothie Recipes we love

My kids aren’t always great for eating sufficient fruit and veg however one thing I can get them to eat/ drink with no complaints are smoothies. With Winter not far away and the added pressure of Covid I have been making a huge effort to up their fruit and veg nutrient content.  For me anyway I find smoothies a huge help to get the little people in our house to eat vegetables.  Surprisingly one of the big hits is a beetroot smoothie.

Beetroot-berry-kale-and-banana-smoothieI’m not particular about the quantities so roughly to make two children’s portions of the Mamma Fairy beetroot smoothie I use:

  • 2 cooked beets
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 apple
  • 3 small celery stalk
  • cup of water to give it a lighter consistency
  • some ice

There are so many variants of this smoothie based around beetroots for example substitute the apple and carrot for banana and kale. For us that’s half the fun trying out what works.

 

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Fairy Travels

Lapland in the summer time – Midnight Sun

reindeer

Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

Its no secret we totally fell in love with Lapland, the people, the culture, the scenery, its just spectacular.

We have been in 2018 and 2019 and depending on how Covid pans out of the coming months we are planning to return in 2021. I think we leave a bit of our hearts there each time. The kids are lucky enough to have seen a lot of the world but Lapland (Rovaniemi) is the only place we have returned to a second and hopefully a third time. That’s saying something.

For some tips on Lapland on a budget – I have written this post and I also have this post on our 2019 trip. Both posts are packed with details on getting to and enjoying all the best that Rovaniemi has to offer.

However, one thing that we have been toying with is to see Lapland in the summer time – to see the Midnight sun. The concept fascinates me.  I saw an email from last week which contained a youtube clip on a 3 day Lapland trip and if this doesnt inspire you to visit and see it for yourself im not sure what will!! There is tonnes on Visit Rovaniemi who have a dedicated page on Summer 2020 if you do need any more information.

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Fairy Travels

Rediscover the beauty of Ireland with Google Maps

As we journey into Phase 3, people are ready to escape their back gardens and are looking for a holiday. As Government advice continues to advise against all non-essential foreign travel now is the time to plan a staycation and rediscover everything Ireland has to offer.  Whether you’re planning a staycation at home with day trips to local sights or  going further afield for a longer trip, Google Maps is on hand to help staycationers rediscover the best of Ireland.

From isolated beaches to breathtaking mountains Ireland has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world and our cities, towns and villages are filled with museums and attractions that can keep all the family occupied for days. Google Maps has everything you need to plan the ultimate road trip at your fingertips, with Local Guides advice on hand along the way to help find the best route, best view and best place to have dinner and drink after a long day of sightseeing. Google Maps is the ultimate travel companion whether you’re driving across world famous routes like The Ring of Kerry, discovering the soaring Cliffs of Moher, braving the Wild Atlantic Way, uncovering the history of Newgrange or spending a day delving into Irish history through the many museums in the Capital.

 

These Google Maps features will help people have a staycation to remember this summer:

  • Create lists so you can keep track of your favorite places and share them with friends.
  • Find hidden gems: Use the Explore tab find the best restaurants, sights and events happening in the area.
  • Find things to do and places to eat based on your unique interests and preferences.
  • Go Handsfree Keep your focus on the road by using voice commands on Google Maps. Just say “OK Google, find petrol stations” or “ Show alternate routes” to get the information you need, hands free.
  • Offline maps: No data? No problem.
    iphone

    Pic Credit: Pixabay

    You can still find your way even if you have spotty reception or an expensive data plans. You don’t need data on a road trip, you can download a map of an area so you can see directions and use turn by turn navigation even when you can’t get online.

  • Plan activities as a group: With group lists in Google Maps, planning travel with others is simple and efficient, giving you the ability to create an itinerary together by adding places to go and things to do as a group.
  • Plan ahead: Look for restaurants doing takeaway, dine-in or delivery. COVID-19 has forced many restaurants to change their operating models or even temporarily close, which makes planning ahead even more important. With Google Maps you can look for local restaurants around you that are open, offering takeaway, delivery, or no-contact delivery.

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Fairy Travels

The Canary Islands with Kids

The last few weeks have been a strange mix of emotions. I am thankful we are all well but I am aware it is not the same for everybody. I have been wiling away many hours pouring over family holidays. With both of us working out of the house full time to now both working in the house full time, we are acutely aware of how valuable time is as a family. I have only realised how much I looked forward to our trips away together, exploring, adventuring and educating ourselves on cultures and ways of life. My kids just love travel and its been an fantastic education for them to be able to have such experiences so young. So……as the world begins to re-open to travel, now is the perfect time to start planning your next trip with the kids!

From beautiful long beaches and glistening shallow water to theme parks and watersports, the Canary Islands has something for even the most demanding mini traveler. My pair are total water babies so this is right up their street!

Read on to find out more…

Siam Park, Tenerife – The World’s Top Artificial Waves

water slide

Siam Park

Tenerife’s Siam Park is one of the most popular parks in the world, according to TripAdvisor, and it’s easy to see why! Siam Park has a huge variety of pools, fun aquatic rides as well as a wave pool with some of the world’s best artificial waves. Siam Park also offers thrilling daredevil rides such as the Mekong Rapids, a fast-paced water slide ridden on a rubber boat, or the Dragon, a vertical funnel for up to four persons boasting a vertical zero gravity experience – perfect for keeping the bigger kids entertained! Wind down after your action-packed day on the white sand of Siam Beach, home to beautiful clear turquoise waters.

One day tickets for Siam Park begin at €25 for a child and from €37 for adults. Find more information at www.siampark.net.

Leap around like Tarzan in the Forestal Park, Tenerife

Leap off Tarzan Swings or fly down ziplines at the gates of Teide National Park. Forestal Park, Tenerife, offers a truly unique adventure for kids, both big and small! The park is surrounded by canary pines as well as a landscape full of biodiversity in the protected area of Las Lagunetas. Forestal Park consists of three different modules ranging in difficulty to suit all ages. Find out more information at www.forestalparktenerife.es.

Camel Rides in Fuerteventura

Oasis Park Fuerteventura is one of the biggest animal parks in the Canary Islands and is also the largest camel reserve in Europe. It differs from a classical zoo by allowing visitors to view the beautiful fauna from the top of a camel! Visitors sit on a saddle perfectly adapted to the camel, which arrived in the Canary Islands from Africa in the fifteenth century. With an option to take a short or long trip, inside and outside the park, this is one experience not to be missed! Visit www.oasiswildlifefuerteventura.com for more details.

Lanzarote – Dolphin and Whale Spotting

kids in a boat

Whale watching

Dolphins, whales, and turtles are all species which can be seen in the waters of the Canary Islands, on a number of different environmentally friendly tours offered around the islands. Kids will enjoy it as much as adults, and there’s no better way to learn about marine animals and how to respect them than seeing them in their natural habitats. In Lanzarote, there are even submarine trips to the seabed!

Discover the Volcanos in the Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote

There’s no better way to introduce the kids to mother nature and the world of volcanoes than visiting the Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote. The little ones are sure to enjoy the unique Martian-looking landscape – broken land and rusted, iron-red earth, as well as learning about the history of the park, which is centred around the volcanoes active during the island’s six-year Timanfaya eruption from 1730-1736. These eruptions covered a quarter of Lanzarote in lava, burying 11 villages and forcing the entire population to flee. To this day the heat of the ground and the sulphurous chemicals render it almost devoid of life; there are small bushes and lichens, but even three centuries later there are no grasses or forests.

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Fairy Travels

My Favourite Travel Apps

My favourite Travel Apps

For anyone from frequent fliers to travel amateurs, there are plenty of travel apps out there available for easy download to make planning your next trip easier than ever. Whether it is an app for finding the nearest bathroom on the road or alerting you when flight prices drop, there is no doubt that traveling is becoming easier and easier.

Hopper

Hopper is an app used for analyzing different prices of flights and hotels daily, alerting you when prices are starting to drop. You type in your dream destination, and it will let you know if prices are low and you should book it, or if you should hold off until prices start to drop a little more. This app saves users so much money on trips that could have cost them thousands of dollars more.

Kayak

aeroplane wing

Pic Credit: Pixabay

Kayak allows users to filter flight airlines, departure times, hotels, and car rentals, while also allowing you to change locations and dates. After booking your vacation, the app alerts and updates you on your flight’s status, security wait times, and where your airport terminal is. For these perks, Kayak wins the best app for filtering hotels and airlines.

Airbnb

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Mamma Musings

Homeschooling resources we love

The current normal if you could even call it that is almost surreal. If you told me this time last year in a years time I would be working from home full time, home schooling my kids as the schools are closed and delivering my lectures all online. I probably would have either laughed or fainted or both. Covid has turned the world as we know it upside down. We have had to quickly adapt to this new world and to be honest I have to hand it to my kids they are the unsung heroes of the moment. Not a moan or groan. They are getting on with life and homeschooling. Not every day is full of enthusiasm for it but we are all doing the very best with it.

I thought it might be handy to compile our favourite home school resources and share them in a post as they have proved invaluable for us in helping our kids continue with their learning in these strange times. Back in 2018 we did a huge renovation and I insisted on a home office which was fully kitted out including a HP Deskjet 3720 printer which may have been little used up to now but not lately!! It is quite literally in every day use. One of the things I will say is bookmark a link to your reputable ink cartridge site like Cartridge Save trust me you will thank me later.  Ink has been a very much used and loved commodity in this house.  We buy the HP Ink cartridges and on average get around 300 pages per cartridge. My printer has a double sided print function which we use all the time. Its very handy to to save on paper.

Our current favourites are below, but if you do know more leave them in the comments below and I can add them later:

Twinkl

I cannot speak highly enough of this resource. We use it every day and it is suitable for the whole school ranging from pre school upwards covering the entire spectrum of  subjects.  There are many options from printable’s to power points on certain topics. There has also been themed resources such as Easter or summer packs which cover a range of activities from colouring sheets, to word searches to quizzes. I would literally be lost without it.

The Gruffalo

My little man loves the Julia Donaldson books, I think I can quote many of her books off by heart at this stage.  Particular favourites are The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child.  The above link is a treasure trove of themed material so if you have a fan in your house this is a fantastic resource for printing themed worksheets. We have downloaded The Gruffalos 20th Anniversary worksheets to work on this week.

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Fairy Travels

The Canary Islands that everyone is talking about

Its a strange new world that we are day by day getting used to. My kids have been travelling since they were months old.  They are very lucky despite being so young to have seen so much of the world.  However it has been very hard for them to process this world where they cant see their friends or hug their grandparents. It such a huge departure from the free range life they lead. One of the things we have been doing as part of our home schooling is making an effort to learn more about the countries we are hoping to visit in the future. This week prompted by a very interesting press release we turned our attention to the Canary Islands. I was very interested to see the islands of La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa or, the “Covid-19 free” islands, are leading Spain’s de-escalation from the Covid-19 lockdown.

With my interest well and really grabbed, I wanted to delve deeper into these three islands……..

La Gomera – The Magical Island

La Gomera was awarded UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve status in 2011 thanks to the pristine nature of its marine and terrestrial ecosystems. La Gomera is known as the most magical of the Canary Islands and is home to species that cannot be found anywhere else. It’s also renowned as a hiker’s heaven! The islands highest peak is found in Garajonay National Park – UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The park is covered in low-lying fog which creates a perfect microclimate for one of Europe’s last remaining cloud forests. This green paradise stands at the heart of La Gomera’s 650km network of beautiful walking trails.

Situated just 40 minutes by ferry from the southern coast of Tenerife, La Gomera is home to a perfect combination of lush green forests, black lava palm-studded beaches, ancient forests and banana plantations. Its capital, San Sebastián, is full of history and is famous for being Christopher Columbus’ last port of call on his voyage to America.

One of the most captivating features of La Gomera is the Silbo Gomero, its unique whistling language. Recognised as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Humanity, this pre-Hispanic language has been used on the island since ancient times to communicate over long distances.

El Hierro – The Sustainable Island

El Hierro aims to become the first island in the world that will be 100% sustainable within the next four to eight years. For now, El Hierro, the westernmost island of the Canaries has already set a world record. In Summer 2019, the island reached the milestone of covering the entire population’s energy needs for 24 days using only renewable energy.

El Hierro is the second smallest island of the Canaries and is world famous for its spectacular underwater scenery and wildlife. La Restinga Marine Reserve is an international acclaimed diving sanctuary frequented by numerous animal species. The volcanic eruptions that took place between 2011 and 2012 led to a regeneration of the seabed that gave rise to a very interesting biodiversity. El Hierro boasts the best diving area in the Canary Islands, where you could find dolphins, turtles, stingrays, barracudas, peaceful white sharks and more.

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