10 reasons why February was awesome

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Well February went in the blink of an eye as it seems to do every year. I loved doing my 10 reasons why January was awesome post, so I am going to continue this and do one at the end of every month. So here are my 10 reasons why February was awesome…..

1) Hubby and I enjoyed a fantastic Sunday lunch at the gorgeous Cottons Hotel in Knutsford. The 3 course meal was courtesy of a Twitter competition I won back in December.

2) We enjoyed a day out at Chester Zoo. Even though we only live 20 minutes away, we hadn’t visited for around 4 years. We will definitely return again when the new attraction ‘Islands of Chester Zoo’ opens in the Spring.

3) Katie got ‘cub of the week’ and enjoyed bringing the trophy home with her. She absolutely loves cubs and I know she tries her hardest when she goes.

4) Half term was mainly spent chilling out with the kids, and meeting up with friends. After a crazy busy January it was just what we needed, no plans and plenty of PJ days.

5) I became Cruella for one evening, daughter was my Dalmatian, and hubby became the Doc from Back to the Future. All in the name of celebrating a friends 30th birthday. We had a great evening, and it was fantastic to see how much effort everyone had made. My personal favourite was Alan from The Hangover films.

Fancy dress fun in the photo booth

Fancy dress fun in the photo booth

6) At the beginning of the month we went and got our new budgie. It was 5 months since our last one flew to budgie heaven, and we felt it was time for a new pet. We chose an all yellow one and named her Annabelle. Its lovely to see the kids spending so much time talking to her.

7) I enjoyed a great evening at the theatre with my best friend watching Rita Sue and Bob too. The play is based on a film which was aired in 1987. We had actually seen the very same play, in the same theatre 21 years ago !

8) We enjoyed a night out with our close friends whilst my mum looked after the kids. I love our nights out, chatting, laughing, eating and drinking (though we were all on soft drinks).

9) Hubby and I enjoyed a lovely Valentines meal at home, and even better he did the cooking.

10) After ‘accidentally’ changing the theme on my blog, I decided to stick with the new theme I have now. I then decided to design my own header, and I am really pleased with it.

Looking forward to seeing what March has in store for us. Hopefully some warmer weather and lighter nights.

Our muddy fun perfect day out

 

As regular readers of my blog will know, we love going out for family days out. These include theme parks, the beach, the zoo, waterparks or a simple trip to the park. However back in October we encountered a different day out, a day out which saw us covered in mud, LOTS of mud.

Myself, my best friend and our 4 children went to Manley Mere which is just outside Chester. Now I had been to Manley Mere a few times, and enjoyed a nice leisurely stroll around the lake followed, by a nice cup of coffee. But this time would be different. This time would involve going into the outdoor adventure trail…… an adventure trail filled with mud and water……

As it was October we made sure we were all layered up. A change of clothes was packed, together with towels, and a bin bag to put all the dirty clothes in. We met my friend, paid our admission fee, signed a form and then we were ready for our adventure to begin. I could write about how much fun we had, and how muddy the kids got, but instead the pictures speak for themselves

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It was a day full of adventure, watching the kids being fearless and pushing their boundaries, mud, water and above all lots of laughter and smiles. It really was our ‘perfect day out’.

I have written this blog post as I would LOVE for my family and I to become Crocky Trail Ambassadors. The Crocky Trail is situated on the outskirts of Chester, and is less than 30 minutes from where we live. It is similar to Manley Mere (but much better I believe), and as you can see from our pictures we embraced the activities and mud on offer. Having a 9 year old girl and a soon to be teenage boy, I really struggle to find days out that they would both enjoy. Manley Mere ticked all the boxes for us, as I am sure The Crocky Trail would too. Thank you for reading our ‘muddy perfect day out’

 

Free Starbucks with Amazon Local

Our 'free' Starbucks

Our ‘free’ Starbucks

Amazon Local is currently offering a voucher for either a FREE bakery item or a FREE kid’s hot chocolate when purchasing an Espresso drink at Starbucks. This deal is valid for the next few days until Friday 27th February 2015, and can be used after 2pm. The espresso drinks on offer are lattes, macchiatos, cappuccinos, americano, lattes, flat white or espresso of any size. You can choose a bakery item, or a hot chocolate for the kids.

As I am not one to refuse free cake, I quickly logged onto Amazon Local at the weekend. I downloaded both vouchers, as me and hubby would be purchasing a hot drink each.  A quick 5 minute journey and we were at Starbucks.

The cheapest drink you can purchase on this offer is £1.60. I decided to go for a cappuccino, and my daughter chose a nice slice of Rocky Road. I used a Starbucks gift card I had been given for my birthday, so total cost up to now £0.00. Hubby then went up and ordered a flat white for £2.20, and daughter had the hot chocolate. The voucher is meant to be for a kid’s hot chocolate, but she was given an adults one. She was in chocolate heaven after ! So our afternoon in Starbucks cost a total of £2.20 for 3 of us.

You can download your vouchers from Amazon Local by searching for your nearest city. Be quick though as you only have until Friday.

 

Our February half term 2015

 Well that half term seemed to go in a blink of an eye. I think we had a good mixture of ‘doing days’ and ‘chilling days’. Here is what The Williams got up to

Friday – This was the day the kids broke up, and I had a lovely get together with 3 friends. Wine was consumed together with laughter and chatter.

Saturday – Hubby, daughter and I headed to Chester Zoo. The tween stayed behind as he wanted to go to his media course, which my mum took him too. Had a lovely day wandering around the zoo. In the night time hubby cooked a Valentines meal complete with champagne.

Our official Chester Zoo photograph

Our official Chester Zoo photograph

Sunday – Hubby and I went to a hotel in Knutsford for Sunday lunch. I had won a competition on twitter back in December, and we had a lovely meal there and will definitely return.

Monday – I was working so my mum looked after the kids. In the night they both went to their clubs (karate and cubs). This was a first for half term as cubs is not usually on. Bonus was hubby coming back with home made muffins from daughters friend.

Tuesday – This was our ‘sociable day’. Started with meeting a friend for coffee. Took daughter as she was happy with the ipad and a Costa hot chocolate. Then in the afternoon we met for lunch with my best friend and our children. We had a lovely catch up and a giggle with the ‘tweens/teens’. Then it was straight to my mums for pancakes.

Wednesday – Daughter had her friend round to play for a few hours. They had a great time, whilst the tween stayed out of the way !

Thursday – Chilled morning followed by lunch at subway as requested by the kids. Makes a nice change from McDonalds. In the afternoon it was coffee and catch up with my friend before we headed to Slimming World.

Friday – Kids had a PJ day today. In the evening we went out with our friends to Frankie and Bennys. Great night filled with nice food and fantastic friends.

Saturday – We had planned to go for a walk but it was pouring down. We opted for Starbucks instead, and we spent a lovely hour chatting with the kids. There was not an iPod/iPad/IPhone in sight.

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Sunday – A totally chilled out day was had by all. Caught up on a few jobs around the house, and tackled the mountain of ironing. Back to the school runs and routine tomorrow.

Looking back on our half term, it was fairly chilled out. January had been really busy for us, and I think the kids were craving some down time. I always think the kids should be out doing things, but in reality they are just as happy to be at home. What did you get up to this half term ?

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Chester Zoo

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At the weekend we decided to go to Chester Zoo. We are only 20 minutes away, but hadn’t been for around 5 years. I booked the tickets online, and for myself, husband and daughter we paid £45.00. Our tickets gave us the option to fast track at the entrance, and they were also valid until April. This is a great idea for eventualities such as sick children or the great British weather letting us down.

Chester Zoo is signposted from the M56, and is only 5 minutes from the motorway. Parking was well organised, and we were quickly through the gate, thanks to our fast track tickets. The whole entrance has changed from the last time we had visited, and is more welcoming. We were given a map and the 9 year old decided we should head for the monkeys first. It gave much amusement to see the monkeys fooling around with each other. Inside the Monkey House there were little games you could play, and the usual facts and figures about the animals. After the monkeys we headed to the bat cave. Now I have to admit I am not a fan of things flying around my head. I tend to just look down in the cave and quickly shuffle towards the exit, whilst husband and daughter take in the bats.

Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo

 

We then followed the map and took in the other animals, stopping for lunch in the main restaurant. There was a good choice of food and we easily got a table. However we did get in there before 12pm and 30 minutes later it got very busy. If you choose to take your own picnic, there is plenty of tables dotted around the zoo

One of the highlights of the visit was the butterfly house. My daughter loves the colours of butterflies, and she was really excited to get inside. I was thinking ‘oh great more flying things around my head’. And what happened next was the highlight of the day…. for daughter not me. A butterfly landed on my head and decided to stay there for a good 5 minutes. 5 minutes of me wanting to run around flapping my arms in the air, whilst in reality I stood still with a strange grimace on my face.

No day out is complete without a trip to the gift shop. And we got away with only spending £1.99. Still not too sure how that happened. However we made up for it when we purchased the photobook at the exit. Very clever marketing play, as the books are all complete with that lovely family photo, which was taken at the very start of your day.  The book was priced at £12.00, and includes 3 photos and also lots of facts about the animals at the zoo. You also get an online code, which allows you to share your photo on social media. Considering you pay around £8.00 for a photo at a Merlin attraction, I thought £12.00 was a good price.

Our official Chester Zoo photograph

Our official Chester Zoo photograph

We spent 5 hours at the zoo and had a great day. The zoo was clean and tidy, and there were lots of staff on hand to ask questions. Its great to see them reinvesting money, and this Spring will see the Islands of Chester Zoo open. You will be able to explore 6 South East Asian islands which will add 1-2 hours to your day out. This sounds a great addition, and looks like we will be visiting again in the summer. Chester Zoo is great for all ages, and 2 and under are free.

 

Sunday lunch at Cottons Hotel in Knutsford

Cottons Hotel in Knutsford

Cottons Hotel in Knutsford

Something miraculous happened back in December….. I WON a twitter competition. My prize was a 3 course Sunday lunch for 2, at the gorgeous Cottons Hotel in Knutsford. I had stayed at Cottons back in June for a girlie night away, and loved the hotel. I knew my hubby would love it as much as me, and we decided to book for the 15th February as a late valentines meal.

Cottons Hotel is part of the Shire Hotel chain, and is situated just outside the gorgeous market town of Knutsford. We were booked in at 1pm, and we were seated at a lovely table in the window. We were handed the menu and quickly decided what we wanted, and hubby and I had exactly the same things. No stealing a forkful of his food ! We had The Cheshire Tasting plate for starters, lamb for mains and chocolate and caramel pudding.

Sunday lunch at Cottons Hotel

Sunday lunch at Cottons Hotel

The Cheshire Tasting plate was amazing ! There was a huge range of ‘Cheshire’ foods to choose from, such as smoked salmon, cooked meats and pate. The whole display looks so appetising, and I could not wait to try the delicious foods on offer. Its definitely a different starter, and it would be my first choice every time. For mains we both had the lamb, and again the food was delicious. The lamb literally melted in your mouth. After our mains were cleared we had a short break before ordering dessert. Again we chose the same, and had the chocolate and caramel pudding. Oh my word, this again was amazing. I am sure it had zero calories in it ! No Sunday lunch is complete without 2 glasses of Prosecco.

We had a fantastic Sunday Lunch, and the atmosphere at Cottons is lovely and relaxed. The price for Sunday Lunch is 2 courses for £15.95 and 3 courses £19.95.  For an extra £4.00 you can get a glass of Prosecco. I think this is fantastic value, considering the quality of the food and attentive service you get. We will definitely return for Sunday lunch, and I also have my sights set on The Afternoon Tea which looked delicious.

Roaring fire in the bar area

Roaring fire in the bar area

As we were completely full we rolled ourselves into the bar area, before heading home. Thank you to Cottons Hotel for the fantastic twitter competition. This was held daily in December with a range of prizes and questions to answer. I won by being 3 away from ‘How many mulled wines did they sell in December 2013 ?’….. Go me ! Cottons Hotel we WILL be back. Thank you.

Part of the restaurant in Cottons Hotel

Part of the restaurant in Cottons Hotel

Doubletree Hotel Chester

images (11)For my birthday in January my lovely husband surprised me with a night away. He even booked my mum in to have the kids ! So last Friday we headed to the Doubletree Hotel in Chester, 20 minutes from where we live. We had been to the Doubletree twice before to use the spa facilities but never stayed over. First thing I loved about the hotel is warm cookies at check in. How ace is that. We were directed to our room on the ground floor and I was met with this

Oliver Suite at the Doubletree Chester

Oliver Suite at the Doubletree Chester

Top brownie points awarded to the husband. Our suite was lovely, and had a large living area with settee and a smart TV. There was a fridge to put the all important bottle of wine in, plus we got 2 bottles of water and spa robes and slippers. We quickly unpacked and headed off to the spa. The spa is fantastic here, and I especially love the bubbly pools. To be honest we spent most of the time in them, just chatting and relaxing. We headed back to the room around 6pm to get ready for our evening meal.

The TV in the suite

The TV in the suite

We were booked into The Brassiere restaurant which was part of our package. There is also a Marco Pierre White restaurant in the hotel, and to be honest the prices looked fairly reasonable. Will love to try there next time. We were seated in The Brassiere and the server explained we could have the 3 course menu, or order from the main menu up to £19.50 each. We both decided to order from the 3 course menu as this seemed good value. I ordered prawn cocktail and hubby ordered pork belly which he said was divine. Main courses were mushroom gnocchi and chicken in a curry sauce. Dessert was cheesecake. I have to say the food was absolutely delicious, but we did have to wait a while between courses. We enjoyed a few drinks in the bar before we headed to our room.

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After a really good sleep thanks to the wine the really comfortable bed, we headed back to the restaurant for breakfast. It was the usual self service, and we enjoyed the breakfast even though there were no mushrooms. We had a lovely Saturday morning of not running the kids around. All to soon it was 12pm and time to check out. We had such a great night away. We chilled, we ate, we drank and we laughed.

Doubletree is part of The Hilton chain and its well positioned being only 5 minutes by car from Chester. It is also close to Chester Zoo for family trips away. Hubby paid £170 for the suite, meal, breakfast and access to the spa, which I think is good value. The same package in a standard room would cost £120 when we stayed in January.

Thank you to my amazing hubby for surprising me, and the Doubletree Chester for a great night away. Oh and my fantastic mum for having the kids.

Photo courtesy from the Doubletree website

Photo courtesy from the Doubletree website