Our ‘us’ time

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Last week the hubby and I managed some fantastic ‘us’ time. I really think that its important to get away once in a while if you can, and enjoy some  time just being a couple. We are lucky because I have a great Mum, and we try and get out at least once a month for a meal or a trip to the cinema. For birthdays and anniversaries we like to get away, and a night away in a Premier Inn does us just fine. Well it was hubs birthday last Wednesday (he turned 43 if you are wondering), and as we had booked to see John Newman in concert in Manchester we just had to combine it with a night away. My Mum was booked in, and I was quickly on the Premier Inn website. We chose to stay at the Premier Inn at the Trafford Centre. Basically Lady Gaga was also playing in Manchester, and the prices of the hotels in the city centre were crazy. I have stayed at the Trafford Centre West around 12 times and love it there. I paid £35.00 which I was more than happy with.

So last Tuesday we set off around 1.30pm, and checked in at 2.00pm….. yep the official check in time. I am never one to waste some hotel time. We took the bags to ‘our room’…. Yes I have a favourite room and always ask for it !!! We went over to the bus station at the Trafford Centre as we were getting the bus into the city centre. Last time I was on a bus was in Disneyworld in Florida. As you can imagine, the sights were ever so slightly different. However, we did drive past Old Trafford (yawn) and also past the HUGE Hilton Hotel which has about a million floors, and for our 10 year anniversary we stayed on the 21st floor.

Hilton Hotel through the Manchester rain !

Hilton Hotel through the Manchester rain !

As I knew retail therapy was not on the cards (couldn’t really turn up to a concert with shopping bags in hand), the only other option was to eat and drink. We chose to go to Bem Brasil. This is somewhere where we had both wanted to visit for ages. I made sure we got in there before 4pm as the price before is £13.95, and after 4pm a whopping £26.95. Bem Brasil was amazing. The food was to die for, and after eating half a zoo we literally had to be rolled out of there, into the howling wind and rain. We walked up to the Printworks and indulged in a few more drinks, whilst people watching. Around 7pm we took a taxi over to The Apollo which is on the out skirts of the city centre. We were seated and enjoyed the support act, and then John Newman came on at 9.15pm. WOW what a concert. He was amazing live, and if you don’t know who he is please seek him out on you tube. After the concert we got a taxi back to the hotel and had a few more gins….. for the road of course.

Next day it was hubby’s birthday. I had only took one present to the hotel, as the kids wanted to be there when he opened his main presents. So I opted to give him this present. Yep having an ‘unique’ name meant I had to order him a special coke bottle with his name on. He was made up.

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Finally it was time for some retail therapy, and we had a day of wandering around the Trafford Centre to look forward to. Hubby had some birthday money which he spent, and I even let him have some ‘man’ time in the Apple Store ! It was time for some lunch, and as it was his birthday I said I would treat him to anywhere in the Trafford Centre. After a five second think he chose……… Burger King ! Lunch done and a few more hours of wandering and it was time to head home to pick the kids up from school. We had such a fantastic time, and I am really grateful that we get the chance to go away and have fun together. It was a blast and can’t wait for our next night away. Do you get the chance for ‘us’ time or even ‘me’ time ?

Sheridan Store opening at Cheshire Oaks

Sheridan Store at Cheshire Oaks

Sheridan Store at Cheshire Oaks

On Saturday I went along to a new store that was opening in Cheshire Oaks. Sheridan is a luxury bedding company which has recently launched its baby range, and has also just opened a new store in York. As we only live 20 minutes away from Cheshire Oaks, I thought this would be a great opportunity to visit the store on its opening day. I was greeted by friendly and welcoming staff, and the first 30 customers through the door received a goody bag. The store had also laid on a yummy breakfast with tea and coffee, and there was a fantastic balloon man entertaining the children.

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The store was well laid out, and the bedding sets looked amazing. In fact I could have just snuggled up in the bed that was laid out, as the bedding looked so warm and inviting. There were plenty of customers coming through the door, and the staff seemed really knowledgeable. As a guest I received some gorgeous bedding and towels to try. I put the new bedding on yesterday and you can instantly tell how luxurious it is. It has a gorgeous print on it which fits perfectly with our bedroom. It also has a slightly different print on the reverse for when you fancy a change. I was in bed last night at 8.45pm as I just could not wait any longer to try it out. I had a lovely nights sleep, and I think I need to go back to the store to purchase some sheets too.  I have not tried the towels yet, but they seem so fluffy I can not wait to use them after a nice hot bath one night.

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Thank you to Sheridan for putting on a lovely opening day at Cheshire Oaks and for supplying the bedding and towels.

Afternoon Tea in Chester

Afternoon Tea at The Mollington Bannastre Hotel

Afternoon Tea at The Mollington Banastre Hotel

Last Wednesday instead of doing the usual housework, I went out for Afternoon Tea with my best friend to Chester. Afternoon Tea is something I love doing, and first experienced it when I turned 30. It was another 10 years before I got to do it all again, and since November have been out for Afternoon Tea 4 times. Mainly to celebrate people turning 40 ! Oh and there was the time I took my husband with me. I can safely say Afternoon Tea is a ‘woman’ thing. When our lovely plateful of tiny sandwiches and mini cakes appeared, he looked around hoping that he too would get a plate, grumbling that those ‘teeny butties’ wouldn’t fill him up.

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Our view of the garden

So when I received a voucher to have Afternoon Tea at the Mollington Banastre Hotel in Chester, I knew that it wasn’t for hubby. I invited my best friend as I know she shares a passion for Afternoon Tea too.  I received the voucher for my 40th in January, and it had to be used by November. I booked easily on the phone and was told to bring my voucher on the day. We were booked in at 12.30pm so we had plenty of time to gossip before the school pick up. The restaurant was lovely and quiet, and we had a seat overlooking the gardens of the hotel. We were offered tea or coffee, and I chose coffee whilst my best friend chose tea. After around 10 minutes our Afternoon Tea was delivered to our table. We had a selection of sandwiches, scones and a choice of cakes. The cakes were of a good size and were delicious. As you can see there was nothing left by the end !

Nothing left !

Nothing left !

I had a lovely relaxed afternoon gossiping, eating cake and drinking coffee. Thank you to my lovely friend who gave me the voucher, and my best friend who came with me.

The price of Afternoon Tea does vary from place to place, and whether you have a glass of champers with it. Keep on eye on deals websites such as Groupon, as you can pick up some great bargains on there. Happy Afternoon Teaing  !!!

Mitsis Roda Beach Corfu

Mitsis Roda Beach Village

Mitsis Roda Beach Village

Back in July we visited the Mitsis Roda Beach Hotel which is in Roda, Corfu.  This was actually our first beach holiday abroad as a family. The children have been abroad 3 times to Florida.  We knew going on a laid back beach holiday would be something totally different to the fast pace of a Florida holiday. The reason why we decided to go to Corfu was simple. Our close friends were getting married over there, and we felt honoured they had asked us to go. After searching round for the best deal, we booked a package holiday with Monarch back in January to fly out on the 28th July for 1 week.

The flight with Monarch was excellent despite being delayed for an hour on the runway at Manchester. The Mitsis Roda is located on the North of the Island around 36km from the airport. The transfer to the hotel did take us around 1 and a half hours, and boy was I glad to pull up outside the hotel. We were greeted with the wonderful entrance and I was impressed already.

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Mitsis Roda Beach Hotel

We were quickly checked in and given our all inclusive bands, and the porter showed us to our room. We had booked a family swim up room and I was dying to see what it was like. We were located in the 900 block which was just across from reception but seemed nice and quiet. I was really impressed with the room especially the size of it. It was probably the biggest hotel room we had stayed in. The children had their own separate area, and beyond that was the balcony and then the pool. We could literally sit on our balcony and dangle our feet in the pool. We had a fridge with 2 large bottles of water in which were changed daily, and the bathroom was also spacious and modern. I LOVED it !

Our view from the balcony of our swim up room

Our view from the balcony of our swim up room

As we were hungry we decided to head to the restaurant, and also meet up with the other 20 people we knew staying at the hotel. I was really impressed with the main all inclusive restaurant which was located upstairs from reception. Yes it could get busy, but hey it was July going into August when we were there. You could order wine, beer and soft drinks from your table, and it was nice to have ‘proper’ tablecloths and napkins. There was a huge choice of food, and we never got bored. The fresh pancake station was always popular in the morning, and the pizza station was worth queuing for in the evening. As well as the main restaurant, there was a Chinese, Italian and a Greek restaurant. These were located on the beach, and you had to book them via a computer in reception.  We never had a problem with booking into the restaurants, and all 24 of us managed to get in both the Italian and the Chinese whilst we were there. The food and the service were excellent in all of these restaurants and I would highly recommend them all.

Enjoying the Italian Restaurant on the beach

Enjoying the Italian Restaurant on the beach

Obviously the fun part of being All Inclusive is the alcohol. Now I had heard some horror stories about All Inclusive drinks being that bad they just could not be drunk. I am pleased to report the alcohol was fantastic, and I certainly got my monies worth in gin. There was also a cocktail menu which again was good. There was a main bar area, and must evenings we would sit there or on the terrace after our evening meal. The hotel also had evening and daytime entertainment. I think because we were in such a large group, we didn’t bother with the entertainment. However it sounded good and varied. You also had the option of a beach bar which was nice and relaxed during the day.

Overlooking the main pool area and beyond that the sea

Overlooking the main pool area and beyond that the sea

Overall we had an excellent stay at the Mitsis Roda Beach. The children loved the laid back feel of a beach holiday, and we had many late nights and nice lie ins (even missing breakfast which ended at 10.30am one day). The hotel was very clean and the staff were all friendly and professional. We paid an extra £150.00 for a swim up room and this was SO worth it. Our swim up pool even had its own bar where you could get drinks and light snacks. The icing on the cake for us was seeing our wonderful friends get married in Corfu Town. So yes we all agreed we would return to this gorgeous hotel. We paid £2700.00 for 1 week with Monarch so not a cheap holiday, but I do think it was worth every penny as the hotel was stunning.

 

It pays to shop around

It amazes me how many people don’t shop around for bargains. Now I love a bargain, and spend a fair bit of time researching the internet for the best price. This time of year will see a lot of the shops go head to head as they compete for our business in the run up to Christmas. Argos already has their 3 for 2 toy offer on at the moment. Now my daughter has asked for an annoying thing a Furby for Christmas. Now the minute the kids go back to school I start thinking of the C word !!! Yep I am one of those annoying people who like to be all done and dusted by the 1st of December. So last night I started the ‘Great Furby Research’.  Its priced at £48.74 in Toys R Us (which is actually reduced from £64.99). People had posted that B+M were selling them for £39.99. The cheapest I can find it is £35.00 from Amazon with free delivery. That is a £13.74 saving !

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Next on the list was an iTunes voucher for the tween. He wanted a £25.00 voucher which of course should cost me £25.00. Quick google on the internet and I found Boots have them on offer for £20.00. A great saving of £5.00. It was also reported that Tesco were doing the same offer, but they were still £25.00 at my local Tesco.

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Another item on daughters list is the Lego Shopping Mall. Now this is not cheap and retails around the £80.00 mark. It did drop to around £60.00 a few weeks ago when Smyths Toy Shop had a 20% off weekend. Tesco is selling the set for £64.00 but unfortunately they are out of stock at the moment. This is a good price and means I can cash in some of my Clubcard vouchers making it even cheaper. Just hope it comes back into stock and stays at that price.

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Keep an eye on ‘Deals’ websites such as http://www.moneysavingexpert.com and also http://www.hotukdeals.com (hotukdeals have a great app too). Here you will find all kinds of offers and discount codes which are especially good in the coming few months. Happy bargain hunting.

 

 

 

 

Looking back at our Spring and Summer Bucket List

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Way back on the 25th March, I did a blog post about our Spring and Summer bucket list. I promised I would report back on how we did.  Looking through the list, there is alot of things which we didn’t get round to crossing off. Maybe I was a little too optimistic on some things, but hey the uncrossed things can always be carried over onto the Autumn and Winter list ! We certainly had a fantastic Summer, squeezing in 3 holidays in 3 weeks. Crazy but fun times for us all.

So here is my bucket list for Spring and Summer. Its mainly centered around the North West where we live, but we will be venturing down south too. So with a cup of coffee in hand, rain pouring down outside, lets look forward to Spring and Summer !

Places we want to visit

Thorpe Park – We did make it down south to visit Thorpe Park but thanks to a stomach bug we never made it

Chessington  

London

We have Merlin cards so we aim to travel down south for several nights and stay in a Premier Inn so we can do the above attractions

Blackpool Pleasure Beach (we visited in October and we loved it)

Blackpool Tower – Sea Life Centre – Madame Tussauds – Dungeon (all Merlin card attractions)

Legoland Discovery Center and Sea Life Manchester (again Merlin cards)

Alton Towers (yep you guessed it with Merlin cards)

Hire a beach hut for the day at Lytham St Annes

Monkey Forest at Trentham Gardens in Stoke

Chester Zoo

Knowsley Safari Park

Jodrell Bank

Make more use of Delamere Forest for walks and picnics

Go to an outdoor concert (am thinking posh picnic with champers sat on a rug in the glorious sunshine)

Go to the beach more often

Visit local National Trust properties – Tatton Park – Quarry Bank Mill – Dunham Massey

Things to do around the house

Tidy the garden

Paint the playroom

Get new storage units for the playroom from Ikea

Get sofa bed for the playroom from Ikea

I am sure will think of more things to do around the house which will please Mr Williams no end !!!!!

Whilst we didn’t do any work on the playroom, we did redecorate our living and dining room. This wasn’t even in our plans, but thanks to a nice bonus from Mr Williams work, we decided to do it. I love our new living room and was glad to see the back of the terracotta walls and dado rail !

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So there is plenty to carry forward for the next bucket list as we enter Autumn, and many days of fun and laughter with the kids.

Bye Bye Summer Holidays 2014

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I always get a little emotional at this time of year as we say goodbye to another Summer holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely craving the return of routines and the daily clock watching. But I must admit we have had a ball yet again during this Summer. I used to dread the long 6 week break when they were younger, wondering how I would fill each day with activities. But as they get older, they are pretty self sufficient, and the tween spends some time outside the house playing with hanging out with his friends. So what have we done to fill our time this past 6 weeks. Well in one word……. Holidays !!!! We have been lucky that we have managed to get away to 3 different locations during a 3 week period.

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First up at the end of July was our week holiday to Corfu. We had never taken the kids on an European beach holiday, and we knew it would be totally different to Florida where we have been for the past 3 years. We went to Corfu as our friend was getting married there. I knew I had to be there, and we chose to put Florida on hold for 2014, and head to somewhere new. Well we all loved Corfu and had an excellent holiday. There were 24 of us staying in the same hotel, and the kids always had someone to play with. As for us adults well….. we always had someone to chat with over an all inclusive Gin and Tonic. The wedding was perfect, complete with Greek dancers and much laughter till the small hours.

Gorgeous private beach in Scotland on the site

Gorgeous private beach in Scotland on the site

Home for a few days and then we headed to Scotland off to our favourite park near Dumfries. Scotland was slightly different from Corfu weather wise !!!!! Put it this way I had to pack for all 4 seasons. It was our sons 12th birthday when we were up there, and he went and did archery with his dad at a nearby activity centre. We had a really relaxing time up there, and the highlight was winning £90 on the bingo the first night…. Go me !!

Love feeding the birds at Chessington

Love feeding the birds at Chessington

Home again, this time for only 1 night. I was getting a whizz at unpacking and packing again by now. This time we headed down South to stay at the Chessington Hotel (which I have done a separate review for). Loved the hotel, and we spent 2 days doing the rides in Chessington. We have Merlin passes, and this was the last weekend before they expired. After having them for 3 years we are going to have a break from them, but they have been SO worth the money. The 2nd day we were booked into a Premier Inn in Cobham as were heading to do Thorpe Park. Unfortunately, my son got a terrible stomach bug and we ended up coming home after an ‘interesting’ night in a hotel room. Less said about that the better.

Inside the Chessington Hotel

Inside the Chessington Hotel

In between all the excitement of being away we have had plenty of PJ days and general just chilling at home. The past week has been catching up with friends (mine and the kids) before the routine takes over. Oh and hubby and I even got a night chilling in a nearby Spa. Totally relaxing after all the madness.

So there we have it. Goodbye to the Summer, and hello to central heating, comfy jumpers and school runs. Hope everyone else had a great Summer Holidays too.