Monday, 27 June 2016

Win a summer holiday essentials kit with Project Shout

Summer holidays are fast approaching, and we're starting to plan for our summer break.  We're getting away for a few days in Cornwall, and I can't wait.

So it was timely that Project Shout, the national campaign to raise awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning, got in touch with their summer holiday essentials, and I thought it was a good time to blog about our holiday essentials.


In the past two years, 40 people have been killed or injured by carbon monoxide whilst staying in a tent, caravan, holiday cottage or boat in Britain in the last two years.  Packing a carbon monoxide alarm in your suitcase is quick, easy and because it's so compact, your case will have plenty of room for other essentials too.  And let's face it, when you have kids, the 'essentials' list is huge isn't it!

Whether you're going abroad or staying in the UK for your next holiday, a carbon monoxide alarm will alert you and your family to CO emisions from boilers, cookers, BBQs and other fuel burning appliances.  Taking one with you on holiday is a no-brainer really!

So here are my essentials for our summer holiday in Cornwall, and a great chance for you to win them too.


A beach towel is essential for sunny days at the seaside, I love this soft velour towel from Wilkos which is a great size for kids.  Sun block is essential for our fair skinned family and this Garnier Ambre Solaire Very High 50+ travel size sun cream is perfect for throwing in your bag for a day out.

No holiday is complete without toys, and this Project Shout inflatable beach ball and bucket and spade from Wilkos will keep my kids amused for hours.

Finally, the FireAngel CO-9B carbon monoxide alarm is portable, lightweight and perfect for taking to our holiday lodge for safety and peace of mind.

You can try and win these holiday essentials by completing one or more of the Rafflecopter options below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


TERMS AND CONDITIONS
  • You must be resident in the UK to enter. Prize will be sent to a UK address. Elements of the prize may be sent seperately.
  • Competition runs from 27 June 2016 until 23:59 on 10 July 2016.
  • Entry is via one and/or more of the methods in Rafflecopter widget.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  Winning entries will be checked and must be current at time of checking.
  • There is one 'summer essentials' prize.  The prize consists of: one Wilkinson beach towel in blue, one Garnier Ambre Solaire travel size 50ml 50+ high protection lotion, one orange bucket and spade, one Project Shout beach ball and one FireAngel CO-9B carbon monoxide alarm  There is no cash alternative. In the unlikely event that the prize becomes unavailable an alternative may be offered.
  • The winner(s) will be contacted by email or on Twitter (if appropriate) by 17th July 2016 and asked to confirm their delivery address within 48 hours.  If no reply is received, a new winner may be chosen.
  • Winner's details will be passed to Project Shout's PR team, so elements of the prize can be sent.
  • The winner's name, as registered when logged into Rafflecopter will be displayed after the end of the competition.
  • Me add three’s decision is final.
Competitions at ThePrizeFinder


Sunday, 26 June 2016

Hidcote lavender is #MySundayPhoto

Well the weather has definitely been a bit hit and miss this week, the usual start to a Great British summer!

Our recently landscaped garden is loving the rain and sunshine mix though, and I have three Hidcote lavenders that are looking and smelling gorgeous and thriving in the mixed weather.

This very British plant, with its dark purple small flowers and strong (without being overpowering) lavender scent is my very favourite.

I love to sit by this particular lavender which is next to our patio, and run my hands through it.  The scent is just lovely.


Friday, 24 June 2016

Family visit to Resorts World Birmingham

Resorts World in Birmingham opened late in 2015, and bills itself as a leisure complex with designer shops, stylish bars, a boutique hotel, luxury spa and much more.

The website looks high-end, promising 'sparkle', 'exhiliration' and 'dazzling nights'.  The architecture clean and modern.  The location very close to Birmingham airport and the NEC.  So far, so DINKY.


Does it work for families I wondered?  Obviously the casino and genting hotel are out of bounds for us (at least with the kids in tow), but could we spend an afternoon as a family, getting some lunch and doing a spot of shopping keeping us all occupied?

Well, yes.  And in some style, it has to be said.  A week or so ago, we stopped off at Resorts World Birmingham initially for a bite to eat.  The family friendly Pizza Express pulled us in to the overall complex, safe in the knowledge the kids would be happy to eat there and occupied with stickers, hats and colouring.

Just off the motorway, Resorts World is easy to get to and we parked easily.  We headed straight for lunch walking through the shops. There were a few I wanted to get back to!

I was really impressed how spotlessly clean everywhere was, and the general feeling of space around the shopping centre.  I was very surprised that there weren't more people about, but the flags indicate the football was on, so perhaps everyone was watching it on the big screen just outside the centre!


The range of shops was fab, and most of them were outlet stores.  I loved the Next Outlet, Nike Outlet and Lego clothing outlet.  I got some fab winter coats for the kids, reduced from £90 down to just £20.

While I was off looking buying some new shoes in the Sole Trader outlet store, husband kept the kids occupied.  Next to this fab Hungry Caterpillar soft play area which toddler girl loved was a table football table.  This meant he could keep both of the happy and in his sight.


The facilities for the centre were also great, and I thought the phone chargers should be available in every shopping centre.  With wi-fi throughout, what a great idea these stations are for staying connected - especially with the hotel and spa so close by - for everyone.






We really had a great afternoon at Resorts World Birmingham.  There was enough for the kids to do while husband and I took turns to look in the shops we wanted to, without having to drag them round.  The range of shops was fab too, and there were plenty of bargains to be had.

We ended our visit with a trip to the Lindt outlet shop, and our kids chose some pick and mix from there.  They left happy, we had a lovely lunch and I bought some great bargains.  Stress free and easy.  Lovely!

Have you visited?  I'd love to know what you think.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Aldi pizza oven and essential rain cover

Aldi Special Buys are always worth keeping an eye on.  I couldn't believe it a month or so ago when I saw a pizza oven coming up for just £100. The oven on offer came with a pizza stone, oven and can be used to cook and smoke food.

The next cheapest one I could find was about £150, and I really wanted one for our newly landscaped garden, so off we went to get one from our local Aldi.  Bargain!

It was really quick to assemble, very sturdy and looks absolutely great in our garden.  I love the temperature gauge at the top so you know when it's ready to cook.


With it being such a bargain, it didn't come with a cover and I knew we'd need one with the British climate.  I had a look round for a specific Aldi cover but there didn't seem to be one.  The next nearest I could find was a cover for the very similar looking La Hacienda steel multi-function pizza oven which is available at Argos.


La Hacienda pizza oven rain covers (item code 60546) are available on Amazon, and is made of a strong waterproof fabric.  The overall dimensions are 165cm top to bottom, 63cm wide and 50cm deep.  This is a good fit for the Aldi pizza oven, if ever so slightly big.


There's a handy drawstring at the bottom of the cover to pull it in and stop rain dripping down and pooling around the bottom of the skirt. 

In our weather, this is an essential addition to our Aldi pizza oven and in fact, we haven't had chance to take it off in the last couple of weeks since we bought it!  Ours cost £24, which is a lot but worth it to preserve the pizza oven.

Let me know if you have one of these ovens and if you order one of these covers for it.


Monday, 20 June 2016

Moroccan quinoa and vegetable bake

This simple vegetable and quinoa bake can be made a day or so in advance of cooking, and makes a very simple and tasty side dish.  It's syn free and contains lots of speed food on Slimming World too.

I had lots of veg and bits and bobs to use up in the fridge, so feel free to change any of the veg to suit what you have.  The Moroccan spice mix gives it a bit of a spicy heat, so feel free to adjust quantities up or down according to your taste.

This recipe easily serves 4-6 as a side dish.  I saved half for the next day's meal, when it tasted even nicer.

Ingredients


One red, yellow and green pepper, cut into bite size pieces
Two courgettes, cut into 1cm thick slices
One tin chickpeas
Two sweet potatoes, diced
Small butternut squash, diced (I cheated and bought prepared squash and sweet potato)
Two tins plum tomatoes
One tablespoon harissa spice mix (I use Barts)
Approx four tablespoons dried quinoa, rinsed

Method

Put all the veg with the quinoa in a large roasting tin and mix through.  Add the rinsed quinoa and Moroccan spices and stir through again. You could cover this with cling film and put in the fridge for tomorrow at this stage.


Bake for around 30 mins at 200 degrees, turning everything over half way through. Check everything is cooked through, but the veg still has a little 'bite' before serving.  It may need another 10 mins or so in the oven.


Easy peasy, tasty and filling.  Perfect!  I'd love to know if you have a go at this..

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Think your 90s oldskool dancing days are over? Not with Clubbercise

It's been quite a while since I went out dancing on a Friday night, so long in fact that I had forgotten about the alcohol induced sweating, feet aching and exhilaration that is a good all-night danceathon celebrating the weekend.

I had genuiely forgotten this, until last Friday night when I attended my first Clubbercise class at my local leisure centre when the memories came flooding back.



Clubbercise bills itself at the simple, fun dance fitness routines using glowsticks and club anthems from the 90s, in darkened rooms with disco lights.

Sounds terrifying, right?  Well, yes.  I was slightly scared as I entered the fitness studio, wondering what to expect.  When the lights went out though, and the glow sticks lit up, the smiles gradually took over (along with my unco-ordinated moves and sweating).

The warm up, with its grapevine and boxsteps, was a bit more aerobics than danceathon.  The pace was quick and the music as they say, was pumping.  Once the warm up was over and I was nicely out of breath, the real workout began and I could see why the class was called Clubbercise. 

With lots of high energy jumping, turning and stepping to tracks like Jump Around by Kriss Kross and The Prodigy No Good I was quickly sweating even more and concentrating very hard on the neon-clad instructor to try and master all the moves.  The glow sticks really added to the session and it was great to see them all moving around.

After 45 minutes of almost non stop aerobic dancing I was very hot, sweaty and my feet ached.  Suddenly the memories of nights in the 90s returned!

I felt like I'd had a great workout that was also brilliant fun.  Did I get the moves right?  No.  Did it matter?  No, the lights were off and no one could see.  Did I ache the next day?  Yes, but in a nice 'that was a great session', rather than 'how am I ever going to walk again' way.

It was a great class and I will definitely be back for more.  See you there?


Monday, 13 June 2016

Renting a cabana at Center Parcs Woburn Forest

If you're planning to go to Center Parcs and wondering if a cabana is worth it, read on.

We go to Center Parcs regularly, and always get a cabana on the last day of our holiday.  They provide a great 'base' while you're off exploring the Subtropical Swimming Paradise and come with some nice extra bits and bobs to make your day more comfortable.


During our stay at Woburn we booked the largest cabana available, mostly because it was the only one still free at the time of booking!  It came with eight seats, but with the footstools available mean it would easily accommodate 10 people.  


One of the things I love about hiring a cabana is the towels you get included in the rental.  This saves lugging towels around with you all day, especially useful if it's your last day and you've left your villa.  You also get a TV with lots of channels, although we only found the kids channel as that's all our two will watch.


The safe is easily programmable and great for storing valuables you don't want to leave in the main lockers or carry round with you.  There's a Starbucks and The Canopy hot food outlet in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise at Woburn and if you want to pay by card it's handy to have it with you.  There are a few soft drinks available in a fridge too, we had two bottles on water and a selection of Pepsi and 7up.


Speaking of food and drink, if you do order from The Canopy, they will deliver your meal directly to your cabana - perfect.

There are also a range of magazines to read, and a general feel of privacy and being away from the crowds when in there.  Note that it isn't completely private though, the wood slats the cabana is made from have gaps which can be seen through if someone really wants to.

The cabanas at Woburn are all in a row and slightly away from the pools, so if you'd like to sit in yours and watch your children in the pool this isn't possible.  They are a lovely base to arrange to meet up if everyone goes in different directions, and somewhere nice to eat a meal in relative privacy. 

Center Parcs will provide a basic cot for babies and toddlers who still need a sleep in the day, and the cabana is the perfect place to watch them and put your feet up at the same time.

I'd definitely recommend a cabana over the stay of your holiday, but especially on changeover day.  It always extends our last day by a few hours and we leave feeling like we've had a great last day.

Our cabana at Center Parcs was booked for three hours on a Monday afternoon and cost £75.  This included towel hire, safe and drinks.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

A tree against a blue sky is #MySundayPhoto

The weather we've had this week in the Midlands has just been wonderful.  Our new garden is looking lovely, and our seating area is fab for warm sunny days.

But I think my favourite picture is of one of our two cherry trees against a beautiful blue sky.  Every week there are more leaves on this tree, and it won't be long before we start to see the cherries emerging.  I can't wait to harvest them later in the year.



Do you have a favourite tree in your garden?

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Shearing House restaurant at Woburn Center Parcs review

We recently spent a few wonderful days at Center Parcs Woburn Forest.  It's the first time we'd been to Woburn, and it made a nice change to our usual CP haunt, Sherwood.

While there, we visited The Shearing House restaurant, which is exclusive to Woburn Forest Center Parcs.  Tucked away on the first floor of the main sports plaza, it seemed quieter than most places when we walked past with lots of space and modern interior.


We went for lunch on a Monday and I booked the table in advance, although I didn't need to as it was very quiet when we arrived.

The restaurant interior was welcoming and modern, the tables and chairs a nice mismatch across the restaurant and there was a good feeling of space.  The restaurant was quite big, this picture shows the front third and the bar area.  The feeling was of an upmarket British pub, with a nice relaxed vibe.


We sat on a table which overlooked the main square, it was lovely to look out of the window and see people coming and going outside the sports plaza.  The big windows added to the light in the restaurant and really helped the feeling of being 'in the forest'.


The menu was very much as you'd expect from a British gastro pub.  The main menu had a nice amount of choice, with a good balance of light bites and mains.  Prices were on the high side of ok, given the location and surroundings.


The kids' menu was attached to the puzzle and colouring sheet they both received, and again had a decent selection of gastro pub type meals which they were both happy with.



On the main menu, I went for the lighter bite homemade fishfinger sandwich with tomato and tartare sauce.  The fish looked freshly battered and cooked, and the bread was also freshly made too.  It didn't come with chips, but the onion rings more than made up for this.


The sandwich was very tasty, and a hearty lite bite.  The lettuce was crispy, food hot throughout and the fish very flaky amongst the batter.  I could've done with a smidge more tartare sauce on the bread though!

Husband went for the chicken burger on focaccia bread with mayo, onions, beef tomato, lettuce, chips and relish, which also arrived hot and fresh. 


Husband polished the lot off and said it was very nice and the chicken was nicely cooked.  The portions were a good size for lunch and both meals presented really nicely.

Both the kids opted for sausage, mash and beans which they both liked.  I thought it was a huge meal, especially for our three year old daughter.


Overall the meals were good quality, tasty and fresh, but we found the service slightly let the place down.  Lots of soft drinks weren't available, we asked for water which never arrived, our meals weren't checked on as we were eating (which meant we couldn't re-ask for the water) and it took a good while to receive the bill.  Not exactly show stopping in terms of our enjoyment, but it did take the edge off and meant we didn't want to stay for dessert.  As we went on a changeover day, and it did get busier as time went on, I feel sure these were minor blips.

I'd recommend the Shearing House for a nice lunch with good British food.  The surroundings were lovely, and it is different if you've been to other Center Parcs' restaurants. I'd probably say not to go if you're on a tight deadline though, just in case the service is slow again. Let me know if you visit!

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The Shearing House at Center Parcs in Woburn Forest is open from breakfast time until late.  You can find out more at Center Parcs' website.  This review is my own views and was not requested by, or written in collaboration with Center Parcs.