All posts by poppy

Traveling with Kids in Asia

One of travel’s biggest challenges – how to travel with children

Travel broadens the mind, the soul, and also empties the pocket a little, but come on, it’s so worth it!

Experiencing new cultures, languages and customs is one of those things in life that can’t be bought, so it makes sense to open up your children’s eyes to as much of the world as possible. Despite these good intentions, child-friendly travel is not one of the easiest things in the world to master.

Here are a few ideas on how to travel to Asia in particular with your little darlings, and all the problems you may encounter along the way.

Feeling hot, hot, hot

Asia is hot on the whole. In fact, an Asian heat wave can feel like the hottest depths of hell on a particularly hot day. You’ll be thinking all the lucky stars in the cosmos if you have air con, but sometimes this isn’t possible. If you have it, use it, because a hot and bothered child is prone to tantrums. If you don’t have it, get a fan and point it in their general direction.

Stay hydrated

Going hand in hand with keeping cool, make sure your keep your little ones hydrated with water and juice. Try and avoid too many fizzy drinks because a) they’re not so great for you anyway, b) they’ll get hyperactive, and c) it will make them bloated, prone to complaining, and won’t hit the hydration button quite as well as a cool bottle of water will.

Sun-cream + hat = sun protection

Another one where the weather is concerned, and this is common sense. Protect against the fiery ball they call the sun. Sun-related health problems can always be prevented by staying out of the sun during the hottest hours, wearing a hat, using sun protective swimsuits, drinking plenty of water, and keep applying sun-cream.

Stay indoors wherever possible

You’ll find lots of indoor activities if you seek them out, such as cinemas, indoor malls, indoor playgrounds etc, and for a break from the heat and sun, especially if they’re air conditioned, this will break up the day, and keep everyone cool and occupied.

Get marker pen savvy

If you’re travelling through a particularly busy Asian airport, and we all know how huge and busy they can get, it’s all too easy for everyone to get split up. Immediate panic ensues so it’s best to keep a hold of hands and don’t let go under any circumstances. Before this, write your mobile telephone number and name on your child’s hand, just in case they do get lost, and that way your precious cargo will return to you much quicker.

Do your hotel research

If you can find a hotel with a connecting room, or a separate room within a suite, then your kids can settle in their own surroundings and sleep much calmer than if you’re all crammed into one room. Do your research accordingly.

Keep your eyes open

Whilst travelling around Asian countries you might find that your children have their hair touched etc, and this is because of the difference in appearance. This can be a little scary for children, however it’s just curiosity and rarely anything to be alarmed about. It’s a good idea however to keep your eyes open and limit this wherever possible, to keep your little ones as calm and happy as possible.

Don’t attempt an on-land expedition

The key is short distances. Asia is huge, and kids don’t stand up well to huge distances all at one time. Keep it in bite-sized chunks and everyone will be happier as a result.

Happy, healthy children = happy, less stressed parents!

Want to read more about traveling for parents?

See this post from our friend Bethaney who has awesome tips on traveling while pregnant.

Options for Family Travel to Dubai

Picking family travel destinations can be tough as it’s rough to arrive at a nice hotel and find it’s not particularly welcoming to children. Dubai is a good destination if you’re seeking family friendly accommodation.

Many hotels in Dubai welcome children with a range of fantastic facilities. Kids can enjoy entertainment such as computer rooms, play areas and activity groups. Children and family friendly swimming pools are also available which include exciting water slides and games. Several family hotels in Dubai even offer all inclusive deals which is perfect for a family holiday as well as providing a shuttle service to and from shopping areas and/or exclusive landmarks to make life easier when travelling with children. For your peace and mind, baby-sitting services are also accessible in most hotel grounds which can prove to be very useful if you wish to take a break from the kids to pamper yourself. Below is a list of things that you can do with kids in Dubai:

Children’s City is located at the Dubai Creek Park at Bur Dubai. It consists of over 80,000 square feet of educational area with attractions for kids, ages from 2 to 15 years old. It blends activities on nature, space, science, culture and the human body and kids will love the flight simulator and the other interactive exhibits.

Ski Dubai at Mall of the Emirates – for a reasonable fee you can do skiing and snowboarding, or just throw snowballs. You can even sign your child up for ski or snowboard lessons! Do book in advance for lessons, to be assured of a spot.

Go to the beach:

Al Mamzar Beach – The sea here is crystal clear, and there are fish close to shore and it is great for snorkeling. There are five beaches in the park, but beach Four has changing/toilet facilities and volley ball nets. The sea here is sheltered, and fairly safe from currents.

Satisfying the desires of the little ones it’s not easy, and a holiday is always a challenge when it comes to the food and how they adapts to the new environment. In Dubai there are restaurants specially designed to welcome juniors with healthy surprises, playgrounds and comfortable seats. Below is a list of such restaurants.

Beachcombers (Jumeirah Beach Hotel) serves a range of delicious dishes with Asian influences plus a selection of international dishes carefully cooked for children. There is a well-supervised area for kids that offers all kinds of artistic activities and crafts, juggling and face painting. Kids may participate in fun contest called Monster Feet. Also, play in sand with buckets and blades. The restaurant is open for brunch, which costs on average £47 (adults) and £22 for children up to 12 years. Kids under 5 years free.

Nomad, Jumierah Creekside: it is an airy and relaxing style family brunch that offers a wide range of international cuisine and attentive service. You can ask only one fruit for your children and get a bowl of sliced ​​berries and a sliced ​​fruit platter all prepared especially for them. For older children, the restaurant serves pasta, beautifully decorated, cupcake-and fun in the inflatable castle or at tennis – all activities are carefully monitored so that you can relax. Open for brunch, which costs £31 for adults, children under 12 are free.

Raffles Roast, near Wafi Mall: If you are a family who likes meat delicacies, then at Raffles Roast find roast beef and turkey with liners. Puddings are amazing, as well as apple pies and fresh berries. There are plenty of activities for children including video games and cartoons, workshops for baking pizza and cakes and the possibility to feed the goldfish at the restaurant’s pond.

Mazina restaurant at Dubai Marina, where the children have their buffet in the center of the restaurant stocked with dishes suitable for them and a chocolate fountain. They can watch a movie while sitting in small chairs or choose face painting and jumping in the inflatable castle.

This page has some more info on Dubai Family Holidays. Although Dubai sometimes isn’t considered as a family travel destination, there is lots to do there for kids.

photo credit: M.A.J Photography via photopin CC.

Poppy Mom’s Guide to Simple Shopping

I love to live simply but it’s impossible to completely avoid the need to shop for clothing and the like. Here are the tips I use to stop the shopping experience from driving me crazy.

1. Only go into two stores in a single trip.

If I go to a giant mall, I only visit two stores. I keep this rule even when I’m visiting an outlet mall or somewhere I’m only going once and that will have potentially amazing deals. Two stores and I’m done in terms of my patience for shopping.

2. Scan the barcode by throwing away the box or tag.

I tend to stick to the same products e.g., I just buy the same sneakers over and over. Before throwing the box away I scan the barcode into my Red Laser and Amazon Price Checker apps so that I can easily reorder the same item when I need to replace it. Often I get last year’s model to save even more.

3. Know your criteria for buying an item.

For example, I love hoodies. When I look for a hoodie, I want it to meet the following criteria

– 100% cotton
– full zip
– Women’s XL or Men’s Medium. I buy oversize so that I can throw it in the wash and not be bothered by shrinkage.
– Not grey.
– Under $50.

Once it meets this criteria, I buy it. If you know your criteria, you will know to say yes to a particular item rather than continuing to look around to see if you can find something better.

4. Have a replacement schedule.

For example, I replace sneakers every 6 months. I like summer style sneakers, even in winter – they’re more breathable and I like summer colors better than winter. Therefore I know to shop when summer items are going on sale. Flip flips are another items where I know I regularly wear out an replace these.

5. Buy the cheapest.

I will usually always buy the cheapest for things like microwaves or other small appliances, and basic items like band aids. If I find out the brand isn’t any good, I’ll just avoid that brand next time. The vast majority of the the time, the cheapest brand is just fine. I’m not brand loyal or particular about brands that pay celebrities or sports people to advertise for them.

6. Shop online where possible.

Where I live, stores are option out of the item that I want. It’s very frustrating to go to the store to find that they don’t have the item I went for. Shopping online solves this problem because you’ll now instantly whether they have the item or not.

7. Don’t stock up.

There’s little to no reason to stock up, unless you think you’re going to need to replace a seasonal item before it becomes in-season again.

8. If I only need the item for one thing, don’t buy it e.g., one occasion or an ingredient I’ll only use in one recipe.

If I only need a fancy dress or something like that for one occasional or less than once a year, I’ll just do without it and find another solution. That might involve being slightly underdressed for the once a year I need some type of fancier clothing.

If I need to buy an ingredient for a recipe and don’t think I’ll use that ingredient in any other recipe, I won’t generally make the recipe.

Family Holidays to St Lucia

It is hard to choose a place for a holiday when you travel with kids. One option could be going to St. Lucia. This is a small island in the Caribbean which offers low-key fun for families.

If you yearn for calm water you could chose accommodation closer to Castries, but if you have younger children, however, give some serious thought to an all-inclusive resort in the south near Vieux Fort, a quiet area where several properties have wonderful children’s activities that leave you free to lounge in the sun all day. The resorts have beautiful pools and supervised water parks that are probably a better choice for little ones—and they can still build sand castles.

If you travel with teenagers you can try windsurfing in the south and east coast. Novices will need to plan for a two-day set of lessons before going out on their own.

Many hotels / resorts in St. Lucia provide supervised children’s activities, with an emphasis on rainforest and marine education.

St. Lucian food, as with much Caribbean cooking, features quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, protein from poultry and fresh seafood, and aromatic spices. The kids can enjoy fresh squeezed juices or fruit-flavoured water; adults should take the opportunity to sample the local cocoa tea, as well as island-produced rum.   

The hotels and resorts, especially the all-inclusive, have plentiful food available at all hours. But for a real taste of Caribbean cooking, you’ve got to get out and get to town. There you can sample dishes like fried plantain and breadfruit, curried chicken or fish, and a side of mixed grains. Take the kids to one of the open air markets in Castries, Soufriere, or Vieux Fort for tropical fruit, freshly extracted coconut juice, and sweets made with locally grown cocoa. Remember to take cash, as these kinds of small vendors rarely take credit cards.

What to Do

Snorkel in the Caribbean Sea: this is a fun activity for even small children if they are confident swimmers. There are dozens of colorful fish species, turtles, and other marine life to experience, and the crystal water makes for excellent viewing. The Caribbean side of the island has much calmer water and more sheltered inlets.

Ride a Zipline Through the Rainforest:  At least two different outfitters, Rainforest Adventures St. Lucia and Treetop Adventure Park, provide canopy tours for adrenaline junkies. These tours are appropriate for adults and older children. Rainforest Adventures excursions start at £41, and have a minimum age of 12.  Treetop Adventures asks for a minimum height of 50”, and fees range from £29-35. For families with children as young as 3, Treetop provides a “Treetop Adventure Tour” that skips the zipline, but includes a mini-course with suspended bridges and safety equipment.

A visit to the Planet Centre: This interactive site offers a wide range of fun but educational activities where kids can learn what it is like to be inside a hurricane, view the earth from space, and much more.

Rainforest Hike: There are a variety of trails to choose from, including some that are perfect for families with smaller children.

Pigeon Island National Park: the ruins of the fort would be a good place to let the kids run free and blow off some steam.

Horseback riding: you can find tours that last from 1/4h up to 2 h and the minimum age is 5 years old. Be sure to bring towel, swimsuit, cash and camera. Prices start from about £36 for adults (2h) and the children can ride with you.

Tip: Look for St Lucia family deals outside of peak school holiday periods if you have any flexibility on that front.

photo credit: DOTCALM9 cc

7 Types of False Economy Around Your Home


1. Cleaning your house yourself.

If you work full-time then cleaning your house yourself makes no sense. People who work full-time end up with so little relaxation time. The last thing anyone wants to come home to on a Friday night is come home to a dirty house and a giant list of jobs to do.

2. Any DIY job involving the word “stripping.”

“Stripping” should be left to the professionals, hehe. Even if you quite like the idea of doing painting yourself, you can get someone in to prepare the surfaces.

Let someone else strip your wallpaper, old paint over wood, or wooden flooring that needs revarnishing.

3. Any DIY job that involves purchasing specialized gear.

When considering doing a job yourself, it’s easy to forget to figure in the costs of paint brushes, sand paper etc etc, and the gas and time involved in going to make these purchases.

Try to work with a handy man who will pass on discounts he has negotiated with stores to you.

4. Staying home from work to meet a tradesperson.

In most cases it makes sense to pay an after hours fee to preserve your vacation time.

5. Attempting to do a task without the most efficient tools or supplies.

Life is to short to endure the frustration involved in attempting to do home improvement or home maintenance tasks without the specialized, time saving tools that the professionals use.

Another issue is using cut price cleaning supplies that don’t do the job nearly as well as a better product. One area where I avoid the dollar store is when it comes to cleaning supplies – I’ve had too many bad experiences e.g., of sponges that fall to pieces when you try to use them.

6. Attempting to do your own taxes.

Attempting to do more own taxes was probably the worst decision I ever made. Not only did it take an extraordinary amount of time, but I ended up being over cautious with deductions. Now that I am using an accountant I can see that using a professional would’ve saved BOTH time and money.

7. Anything that would cost you less than $20 a hour to have someone else do.

If you earn an average salary, then $20 an hour is an non extravagant level at which to be valuing your personal time. You might not immediately know how saving that money would allow you to claw it back on other ways but chances are (a) you will, and (b) you’re not considering some of the savings that will come from someone else doing the task for you, such as saving gas money going to buy supplies, as previously mentioned.

photo credit: wwarby via photopin CC.

Top 3 Apps for Moms

1. Google Plus – Location Sharing – Free.

Google used to have a product called Google Latitude that would allow people to share their location with select others in real time. My spouse and I used this service so we knew when the other had arrived home, was on the way home from work etc. It saved phoning each other when we were driving etc.

The latitude product has been discontinued but essentially has been folded into Google Plus. Download the Google Plus app onto your child’s phone. Set them up with a Google Plus profile, and set it up so that they are sharing their location with you.

Why? – For safety. An older teen will know how to just turn it off if they want to get up to mischief but, if your younger child has a phone, then it’s a good bet. For older children and teens, you could also make having a phone contingent on them having the location sharing turned on. This app turns the phone into a safety device.

2. Find My Iphone or the Android Equivalent

If you are purchasing a phone for your child and they lose the phone, you can use Find My Iphone to find it. The app is also good for busy Moms or Moms whose kids like to play “hide my phone.”

3. Gas Buddy

As a Mom, you probably do a lot of driving around running errands and driving your kids around. With the touch of one button, the Gas Buddy app will tell you the gas prices of stations near you and the distance. This app is great if you want to fill up while you’re waiting for your child’s sports practice to end, or just to check out gas prices in different neighborhoods you visit.

I could’ve really used this app on a recent road trip when I got gouged at a gas station at a highway rest stop and then realized there were gas stations less than a mile down the road that were charging over 50c a gallon less. It was a little bit naive of me to pull into the first gas station at the exit and not realize I’d be paying a premium at the first gas station off the exit. I didn’t trust my instincts that there would be another cheaper gas station down the street and instead thought “well, there are lots of other people fueling up here.” Turns out there are lots of other stupid people!

photo credit: DaveLawler via photopin CC

7 Painless Ways to Save $50-100

Here are 7 ways you can acquire an extra $50-100 without any sacrifice. You could use these to, for example, travel an extra day a year. Try working through all of these at the rate of implementing one suggestion a week for 7 weeks.

1. Eliminate all ATM fees easily.

A Charles Schwab checking account will reimburse you for any ATM charges you get for using any ATM anywhere in the world.

If you get caught out a couple of times a month that’s at least $5 in “other bank” ATM charges you’ll be paying, or $60 a year. If your spouse does the same thing, that’s $120 a year you’ll save. There’s also no monthly fee on the Charles Schwab account so if you’re currently paying a monthly fee, you’ll save on that too. Frequent travelers swear by this account.

2. Cancel one recurring subscription.

Most people can identify at least one $5-10 a month subscription, or an under $100 a year annual subscription that they’re paying for but not using. Sometimes it’s only the hassle of canceling that gets in the way of canceling. When every day is busy, it can see like $5 isn’t worth taking that 15 mins to do the cancellation. It’s easy to think “I’ll do it next month.”

3. Sell one unused item.

Virtually everyone has at least one unused item that they could sell for $50-100 second hand. Put that sucker on Craigslist or just do a Facebook blast to your friends to say you have it for sale.

4. Take one less trip a week to the store.

If you can take one less trip a week that costs $1 in gas, you’ll save $50 a year. Try keeping a list in your glove box for a month. Each time you have to take what’s probably an unnecessary extra trip, write it down. Over a month you’ll notice any patterns and any extra trips that could easily be eliminated. For example, by using you bank’s app to deposit checks, or putting an item on an Amazon “subscribe and save” vs running out and needing to go to the store.

5. Renegotiate your insurance.

Spend a few minutes on the phone to try to knock $100 a year off your insurance bill. As a starting point, let your existing company know what you’re trying to do and see if they’ll work with you to find those discounts. Possibilities include things like taking an online defensive driving course, which will cost you around $20 and a couple of hours but will save you around $10 a month typically.

An alternative is to ask your most frugal friend who they’re insured with.

6. Let Other People Contribute

For one event a year where you would invite people for dinner, make it a potluck.

7. Do any one thing that will save you $1 a week.

This suggestion is a bit like the suggestion about taking one less car trip per week. Do anything that will save you $1 a week or $50 a year.

It could be ordering toilet paper online at a discount or buying something you use often in bulk.

photo credit: Unhindered by Talent via photopin CC

10 Tips for Getting Your Child to Eat Healthy Food

1. The Chicken Nuggets Principle

The Chicken Nuggets Principle is to make your child’s food dip-able. For example, if you’re going to feed them an apple, give them something to dip it in, for example some yoghurt or some cashew cream.

2. Don’t prejudge what they’ll like and not like.

For example, my 3 year old loves Japanese food!

3. Show yourself to be eating healthy food.

Kids tend to want to eat what their Mom eats.

4. Don’t let them get a taste for sugar, but don’t sweat their food fads too much.

Try not to let your child get a taste for sugar. However beyond that, don’t get too stressed if they go throw phases of refusing to eat or having very limited variety. If they’ve not been eating enough for more than a few days, focus on them eating enough rather than what they’re eating – sugary foods excluded.

5. Hide it under cheese or peanut sauce.

All adults know that almost any vegetable is delicious if it’s coated in cheese or peanut sauce. All your child to have vegetables, rice and rice noodles with cheese or peanut sauce.

6. Arrange for them to eat at other people’s houses.

If you have friends or play date parents who have more success in getting your child to try new foods, get them to go to dinner or lunch there. Ideally they should bring home a doggy bag so they also get used to eating the foods they tried out at home.

7. Traffic light sandwiches.

Make traffic light sandwiches with foods that are red, yellow/orange, and green. Use a small round cookie cuter to cut windows in the bread.

8. Make sure your child isn’t constipated.

Kids will often avoid eating if they’re having trouble going to the toilet. Who wants to eat if their bowels are packed solid with poos or if they know that expelling the food is going to be uncomfortable.

9. Make healthy versions of unhealthy food.

For example, low sugar froyo instead of icecream, popcorn with just a little salt/fat/icing sugar (or none), homemade chips or crisps, homemade chicken nuggets make out of better chicken etc.

10. Grow food at home.

Let your child have their own tomato plant, let them plant potatoes etc. Watch them become fascinated by the process of food growing before their eyes. Buy them their own watering can that they can use to water their plants.

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin CC

My favorite Posts I’ve Read this Week.

– Christine from Holistic with Humor writes about 6 Ways to Stop Glorifying Being Busy. She writes about we bring on excessive busyness by not setting good boundaries and by an attitude of “I’m totally full of myself and think the world revolves around me?”

– Around the World Food has a feature about how she has made the switch to traveling with carry on luggage only, after never believing that would be possible. She even includes an item by item list of everything that’s in her very tiny bag. Bravo on the simple living! What’s in my Bag?

She has another feature about how she snags amazing bargains by being flexible and having a sense of adventure. Here is her story about saving over $400 by using Priceline’s name your own price feature to book a transcon flight the day before her travel.

– Psychologist Mary E. Pritchard, Ph.D writes a very personal post about her own eating disorder. Quite a big confession from someone who is a professional food researcher.

– Happiness writer Gretchen Rubin writes a post classifying “Are you a satisficer or a maximizer?
Satisficers are people who will stop researching when they have found an option that meets their basic criteria. Maximizers are people who keep doing endless research before they want the absolute best option available.