Friday, July 29, 2011

Money Saving tips

My husband is working away at the moment, he is working very hard and earning pretty good money.  My job back at home is not to spend it all as fast as possible, although it is occasionally tempting, having not had disposable income for a long time!  But to save it, as much as I can.  I like saving money, it gives me a sense of achievement and security.  And my bank account would have been looking very rosy now if it wasnt for two recent events, one of which was desired and needed, the other not so much but had to be done.  So now, we are on a 'super saver run'

Here are my tips, which help me

1. Discount Vouchers - there are several sites where you can find discount vouchers off various brands, such as or most of the supermarkets have loyalty cards which give discounts, decide carefully how to use those to the most advantage.

2. Recycle gifts - obviously they need to be in the original packaging and dont just pass on tat, decent stuff that maybe you didnt need as it was duplicate.  This last birthday, Sophie was given something which she already had and would have been a great gift to recycle, but before I knew what it was the kids had ripped up the box, there was no way I could pass it on after that.  I always remember my mum having this drawer full of unused gifts, to recycle as needed.

3. Take showers, not baths and short ones.  This saves a lot of water, although I read some people boast about having a two minute shower, but frankly if Im washing my hair is impossible.  To be honest, probably most mums practise this already in the pre-school rush of a morning!

4. In summer, when its hot and you really dont want to be at a hot stove, do no-cook meals like salads or cold quiches etc.  This saves on the gas/electricity used.

5. Use supermarket / internet budget meal ideas - cut down the food costs by doing budget meals.  Most supermarkets now have great ideas for tasty, good value family meals.  I would recommend this route if possible, as whenever I try to do a cheapy meal, it just ends up tasting bland and boring. 

6. Use leftovers - we are notorious in our house for leaving leftovers and throwing them away, although if we made smaller meals that wouldnt be necessary but that isnt always possible.  But leftovers are easy, just re-heat and off you go, can be abit boring and puts some mums off as it means more work, if people are having different meals but its not really.  And dont you hate wasting food?

7. Cut down the treats / impulse buys - these days I rarely treat myself, unless I feel I really can and I deserve it.  But it is all too easy to buy those extra little things for the kids, a pack of sweets here, a magazine there.  It was a friend of mine, who started this and made me realise how much we spend a year of these things and its true.  It can run into hundreds.

8. Keep a record of fuel readings - this way you dont get any surprises, you know what you are spending and it can help you identify ways to cut it down.  You can identify the peaks, when you are using high or extra amounts and this can help you reduce them, because you dont always realise how much all the appliances use and some can be switched off when not used.  I have effectively reduced my electricity bills this way.

9. Avoid expensive snacks, like Doritos or other big snack brands, instead buy fruit and yogurts or make your own snacks.  This is a 'no-brainer' and probably healthier for you and your children.

10. Make birthday cards, you can go online or to a craft store such as, Hobbycraft and buy a card kit which will make up to 10 cards and cost you the price of 3 if not less.  It makes it more personal and you can get creative or make simple, attractive cards in a few minutes.  I always find people appreciate the effort more than a bought card and my problem was, here in Portugal, cards are very expensive and not very good.

11. Meal planning - make a weekly meal planner and buy everything you need in one go, this cuts down on impulse buying and overspending.  I have found the more times I enter the supermarket, the more I spend, so now I try to get everything bought in one or two trips during the week, helping me reduce what I spend overall.

I hope these money saving tips may help you, if you have any you find particularly useful, I would love to hear.  And watch those pennies stack up, even if its only a small saving, over time will make a big difference.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Being a WAHM

I used to be (in my pre-children days) a hotel manager and I enjoyed it.  The shifts didnt bother me, working weekends didnt bother me, just meant my weekend was when everyone else was working!  I met my husband through work and so our schedules ran in parallel. 

But when I had Sophie, some 5 years ago, before she was born I did want to go back and knew it would be difficult with both of us in the same 'unsocial' industry.  But being in a managerial position I hoped I could make it more stable hours and be able to do both.  At first I started to look for a childminder, as I wanted her to be cared for in a 'family environment' and it was flexible to my job.  Not surprisingly when I looked for a flexible hours childminder, I think there was two.  So I went to visit both, one was completely unsuitable and the other was a possibility but I wasnt thrilled with her.  But looking back now, (considering I had been a mother for all of 5 mins, not literally) I was CRAZY to think I could do both.  I think I was still holding onto the idea of what motherhood and working 'would' be like, rather than what it 'really' was.  Also a factor into this crazy thinking was, my boss would not agree to stable or flexi-hours (something I later found out came from 'above'), I would still have to continue the 'as necessary' shift work.  So I ummed and arred and stressed for a while.  Until I finally woke up and realised it was just not possible to do the job I did before, trying to work childcare around those crazy 'unsociable' hours just wasnt going to do it.  So we decided I wouldnt go back and would work part-time instead, which actually benefitted us financially more.  Once, I made that decision there was a wave of relief over me and I was relaxed as I went to give my notice, and I knew it was the right deicision.  As much as I didnt want to give up or delay my career, this was the best thing.

From then, through various sources I started reading about Work at Home Mums and people who were doing their own thing whilst being there for their family.  That was what I wanted to do, but didnt know how. I tried a few things with ebay and surveys etc but it never went anywhere and was all more effort than it was worth.  I was working part-time and so got to spend the afternoons and weekends with my daughter, which was half way there.  Then I got made redundant and my husband got offered a better job here in Portugal, so off we went.  At this time I was thinking of trying to go back into 'regular' work in Portugal but nothing to rush as we were financially ok with me at home.  Finding a job in Portugal is not easy, sorry bloody hard and learning the language even harder, not to forget the now terrible financial crisis we are in.  Then we had our second daughter and so even more I wanted to be a WAHM, doing my own thing. 

Late last year, I got the opportunity to start working with Tots to Travel and the wonderful, Wendy Shand, inspirational Mumpreneur.  So now I feel I am on my way, but Im not there yet.

But being a WAHM is not perfect (for me at least), it is hard work, you must be self-motivated and that is not very easy with little people running round the house, calling mummy, mummy, mummy or chasing you round when you are trying to talk on the phone.  There is a certain amount of guilt I feel for not being able to give them my undivided attention, even though we are here together, but I havent been doing this very long and so need to learn some more skills to balance things better.  And sometimes I honestly do wonder if working for someone else would be easier, yes probably it would be easier, but then I would lose something more important - time with my children.  And a chance to work on 'my terms'.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The power of 'No'

Such a little word can wield so much power and have huge effects.  Children seem to be born with the inate power to wind you up when you are at your 'weakest' or most vulnerable, the times when you are tired, or ill or just plain busy and stressed out.  They always know when to 'strike'.  But even more powerful than this is the power of No both for the parent and the child.

Think about it, the times you have said no and the times you have heard no, coming from your child's mouth. 

This small word which has the power to start almighty tantrums, screaming fits and arguments, from both sides. 

This small word which brings defiance and independence.

But on the other hand, it can be such a small word to be easily missed, or rather ignored by little people.  I have days when Im sure half my vocabulary is spent on NO.  (No big word scores for me there).

One of the most annoying things for me as a Mum, is saying no to something and being ignored, so the question or request refused gets asked again and again.  Resulting in the same answer, like that little no, will just magically change to yes if asked enough. 

But it works both ways, think about it, when you ask your child to do something, or normally NOT to do something and are greeted with a NO.  Can make you see red and want to commit a crime on a bad day, but then exactly as that little mind of your child works, now your challenge is how to change that NO to a yes or at least compliance without committing a crime! (on a bad day).  Normally resulting in the use of negotiation and bribery techniques honed by most mothers.

Ah the joys of motherhood and the power of a little word.....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer has arrived!!

Despite what the newspapers say, as far as Im concerned the Algarve has been quieter than usual.  Although I dont live in the big resorts of Albufeira or Lagos, it is normally still reasonably busy for our small resort areas, but this year it seems the visitors are not coming.  In the East Algarve, the main visitors are the Portuguese and Spanish and for the Portuguese I know who holiday in the Algarve, many are not taking holidays this year with the crisis. 

But guaranteed August will be mad, even if numbers are down, the huge numbers which still remain will flood the area. So with that in mind, I have been preparing myself for the influx Im sure will come from next weekend, but apparently it started early. 

Yesterday, I went to the supermarket, expecting it to be a bit busier, but it was full.  And this is a large supermarket.  Summer has arrived and from now it will only get busier until the beginning of September when it seems like overnight everyone disappears, its the strangest thing!  So now, it will be wall to wall people everywhere, traffic queues at beach leaving time.  But it is such a contrast, around here, it is quiet in winter, steady the rest of the year, nothing is too busy, no traffic (ever) unless there are roadworks.  But summer becomes something completely different, an unrecognisable place, which makes me want to crawl into a cupboard but on the other hand, it is good to see so much life and activity in an usually laidback, peaceful place. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

A road trip with not much road!

Last weekend, we went to visit my husband who is working in Porto on the Douro River.  From where we live, that is an almost 350 mile drive each way.  So on Saturday morning, me and the girls set off for our 'road trip', with a couple of stops it was supposed to take five and a half to six hours.  I was looking forward to it, to see my husband of course, and to do the drive was a challenge for me and gave me a change of scenery.  But travelling so long with two young children made me a little nervous. 

The drive up was fine, mostly motorway, was easy until we reached the city of Porto, where I proceeded to get lost, frustratingly I could see where I needed to be, but couldnt get there.  After driving up and down and round and round, crossing the river and back again, I got there.  After that we had to go to the hotel, which was about 3 miles away, this again took half an hour of being lost.  All this with directions, that apparently I was incapable to follow!!  We stayed for the weekend and on Monday heading back towards the south, getting out was easy. 

We decided to stop in Lisbon on the way to visit my inlaws for a night and continue onto home the next day, this was not to be.  As I was nearing the city, the car broke, would not go.  Here I was stuck on a very busy part of motorway about 15 miles from my inlaws, with two tired children.  Very lucky for me, with my brother and mother in law's help, we managed to get the car towed into the city.  So now what, what happened to the car, how would we get home, how long and how much would it cost?  I was very worried. And crazy to get home like never before, all I wanted was to go home.  No reflection on my inlaws, but I just wanted to be home.  

Luckily the work wasnt too major and was done in 48 hours, so we hit the road again and made it home, cautiously wondering if the car was going to make the 180 mile trip, but it did.  So our four day road trip turned into a six day road trip, but I have never been so happy to be home.

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Summer Mission

Maybe this should be called my 'late summer mission' as we are almost half way through summer already! 

I wanted to 'do something' this summer that I would enjoy and that I could share with others and maybe even provide some assistance.  At the moment, there are two things I am loving - going to the beach with my girls and the area I live in. 

With my husband's new job, we were considering to leave the area where we live and move to another and it suddenly made me realise what a beautiful place I live in and I wanted to capture that, for myself and also as a record of my children's childhood home.  When you live somewhere I think often you can under appreciate it, you see it everyday but you dont really 'see it'.  There are many beautiful places around where I live in the East Algarve, that I have never seen and I dont want to miss.  And what better time to do some sightseeing than in Summer.  So with my loved camera,  I am on a mission to capture some of the Algarve region.  I love photography but dont do it enough and need the practice ;-) 

My second mission is to visit as many beaches in the area, I want to try them and find a good beach for me and my children.  Until now, I have generally used the same beach but maybe there is a better one.  What I am looking for is, easy access with decent parking, good facilities on or near the beach and shallow, calm waters.  Watch this space....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My best birthday ever!

Today is my birthday. I am 33 today, I know still a chicken.  Age is not something that bothers me, I didnt dread 30, nor will I worry about the next decade.

But I would like to share with you my best birthday memory, it was on my 30th.  We had just moved to Portugal just a few weeks before and were living in the hotel my husband was managing.  Firstly I got a present of something I had always wanted, a digital SLR camera.  Then my husband had arranged a surprise day out, we got picked up and taken for a tour of Tavira, then we got a private boat tour along the coast which Sophie loved, it was really nice.  Then we got dropped at one of the Islands, where we had a really long, relaxing lunch, just the three of us!  Later we went back to the hotel where I had a big bunch of flowers and chocolates.

It may not sound like much, but Im not much of one for birthdays, so for me this was a lovely day of treats and relaxation in a lovely place, with my two most favourite people in the World!!

What more could I ask.

Sophie having her first Clams.

What is your favourite birthday memory?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tavira Beaches

Tavira has some great beaches.  In the area of Tavira are at least six main beaches, some on main coast, some on the Ria Formosa islands. 

The Tavira coast is at the Eastern end of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, which is a series of barrier islands, some of which are inhabited. It is a beautiful area, with fantastic beaches which are flat and spread as far as the eye can see.

From West to East starting with:

Praia Barril - just on the edge of the village of Santa Luzia, near Pedras D'el Rei touristic complex.  It is situated on one of the Islands and can be acccessed by a small train or by walking the mile or so to the beach.  The beach facilities are located in a converted tuna fishing village.    It is quite picturesque beach with the unique addition of a 'anchor graveyard' a throwback from the golden and prosperous age of Tuna fishing.

Ilha Tavira - this is the main beach from Tavira town, huge numbers of people and campers visit this site daily from the town by boat.  There is a large, well-equipped campsite here just a couple of hundred metres from the beach and plenty of bars and restaurants.  The beach is large and stretches for miles, where you can walk from one beach to another along the expanse of the Island.

Ilha Cabanas - another island beach, accessible from Cabanas village by small boat.  This is another popular one but smaller than Ilha Tavira, they have a couple of restaurants and facilities on the beach with concessions.

Fabrica - this is a hidden treasure which I only found last year, quite by accident.  It is not one of the popular ones but is growing in popularity.  I think this was probably a 'locals beach' but now has been discovered. It is situated in a tiny 'village' off a country lane.  But this is a unique beach, it can be accessed by local boat but most people actually just wade across (at the right tide) to the beach.  There are no facilities but it is gorgeous, like something out of the caribbean.  There is a restaurant near the water, where they do great seafood, which again is not very advertised but very busy.

Manta Rota - my personal favourite and most frequented by us.  This is the first beach which can be accessed directly.  Situated in a small resort town with good facilities, it was given a facelift about 4 years ago and is very nice.

Last but not least

Praia Verde - this beach is situated at the bottom of a hill with good access.  Good beach for children with shallow waters and some facilities.  Lovely place to come for dinner as well!  Not overly crowded.

These are the main Tavira beaches, there are other small, local ones and of course, the 'Ria beaches', the beaches found on the banks of the interior of the 'Ria Islands.'

Monday, July 11, 2011

Would you like to run your own business with Tots to Travel?

Do you want to make a change to get the life that YOU want?

We’re looking to grow our team of Holiday Property Experts across the UK and mainland Europe; our team of successful 'business mums' are out and about meeting owners, visiting properties and advising on the best possible ways to market to families.

There is a strong team behind Tots to Travel, all sharing in our exciting growth, of which you could be a part.

The latest additions to our team of Europe-wide Holiday Property Experts are now settled in and enjoying their new businesses with Tots, having completed their training programme in May this year.

Now, with the school holidays fast approaching, we're beginning the preparations for the next round of training in September 2011.

Could it be you joining our team?

Our proven 'Business In A Box' opportunity allows you to choose when you work, how hard you work, how much you that you can do the things that are most important to YOU.

Here's what one of our new Experts has to say about her experience with Tots so far...

"Joining a family run business is a refreshing change from my former corporate life! I love working with such motivated and creative people, and everyone supports each other in a way that you don't really find with a big corporation these days. The geographically widespread team shares a forum which is a very supportive place - I haven't yet felt daft for asking a question!

The biggest and most enjoyable learning curve for me has been all about online marketing and social media. I am finding it thoroughly is clearly the key to the success of the business. On a more hands-on level, I am finding loads of excuses to go and have a ´family day out´ in order to get some lovely photos and blog content, and am re-learning why I fell in love with Andalucia in the first place!

My goal is to build a successful portfolio of properties on the same scale as the´Tots Veterans´ in France who are a real inspiration to anyone starting out. I have wanted to start my own tourism based business here for a while, in order to be more in charge of my own destiny, and I want to help get Andalucia firmly on the map for good quality family friendly holidays, which is nothing less than it deserves!"

Lindsay, Holiday Property Expert, Andalucia

The May training also saw 3 fab new UK agents come on board, but we're still in need of more so if you're feeling motivated and ready to make a step change in your life, why not take action now and get in touch?

There are no geographical boundaries to our Experts; we are keen to bring on board more properties in:



■North of England


■Greek Islands (Corfu and Crete in particular)


■The Balearics

■The Canaries

■The Alps

■The Cote d'Azur


So if you live in, can travel regularly to or know anyone who lives in those areas and might be interested, why not get in touch or pass this on?

Find out more...

Here's a link to a video about the Tots business opportunity, including a little more from our new team members....


Once you've watched the video, drop us a line any time on and we'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Now's the time to make that leap to secure the new life that YOU want...before the school holiday season is upon us!

Original blog post and further details can be seen at Tots to Travel Blog

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mr Money and Me!

Mr money is a fickle friend

He comes and he goes

I would like to see Mr money more but he does not come around

Sometimes I expect to see mr money but he does not show up

Sometimes he does come but leaves soon after

He is illusive and complicated

One day I hope to be good friends with mr money and he will come and stay a while.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Portugal in tough times

Today I feel saddened by the news of Portugal's ratings slipping down to the lowest level.  I dont pretend to know or understand too much about this rating system and its affects, but one thing I do know is that these rating agencies have far too much affect and influence on these things. 

I feel sad because I have become protective of my adopted home of three years, and feel this is a low blow that it really didnt deserve as it tries to get back on its feet.  Portugal is a great country full of pride and tradition and it has had a long and impressive history.  It was once one of the strongest countries in the world, with the biggest empire and most discoveries.

They have asked for help and been given it, they have a new government who are already making changes and setting plans in motion to turn things around.  They havent even been in power two weeks and before they can even do anything, show even the smallest progress, they get this blow.  The measures being put in place are tough, very tough and no doubt will push Portugal to the limit, but they are backed by the other European leaders and the IMF, so why did this rating agency feel the need to push them more.  Surely they deserve a small chance, how can a rating agency make this decision so soon.  It almost seems they are trying to crash the Eurozone.  And what about Greece, surely they should be in this situation, after one attempt to sort themselves out they are needed more help!  Portugal deserves a chance before you condemn them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tots to Travel 'Just Go' Awards

Last week after several weeks of shortlisting and testing, Tots to Travel announced the winners of their inaugural 'Just Go!' awards.

Each category identified a product that help parents have a stress free holiday and travelling time.  All the products chosen are small, lightweight, easy to pack and value for money, and can be used throughout the year, not just on holiday. 

There were six categories of For the Journey, Fun & Games, Sleeping, Safety, Feeding and Special Commendation. 

The winners chosen were:

For the Journey - Bubblegum Inflatable Car Booster - what a fantastic idea!

Fun & Games - Fuzzoddles

Sleeping - Snoozeshade

Safety - Milton Sterilising Tablets

Feeding - Totseat (I have one of these, invaluable!)

Special Commendation - Morrck Splasher (a hooded towelling wrap)

For full details of the winners and the finalists, go over to the Tots to Travel Blog

Enjoy your travel time with less stress with Tots to Travel

Monday, July 4, 2011

Frustration of technology

I have had one of those weeks where I have felt like I have got nothing done, I end the day feeling like I am not producing everything, yet spend hours 'doing' stuff.  Today, I realised the reason for that feeling of 'unproductivity' was my computer.  Technology is wonderful when it works, but when it doesnt or is not doing what you want it can be the most frustrating thing and wears you out fighting with it.  That's what I feel like this week, like I am battling with my computer to get anything done and everything feels like a chore, even blogging! 

It is not really my computer's fault, my laptop is an old man, he is nearly 5, yes five years old, which as you know in laptop terms is very old and in the last two years has been used for thousands of hours of job searching, chatting, networking etc. He is just getting too tired, but at the moment I dont have the means to replace him and hope he will last until that time, which I hope to be very soon.  This week he has slowed down a lot and countless times overheats and switches off, (the hot weather not helping) only to take another 5-10minutes to start again once cooled, half an hour lost everytime this happens. Simple tasks take ages or get cut off midflow.  Loading webpages can take from 2 - 5 minutes, think about how any webpages you load in a day, all this becomes tiring and very frustrating.  Leaving me feeling like I am making no progress, I am but it is extremely slow.

I hope this week may be better, but Im prepared to be slow