Friday, 29 November 2013

Damaris Lingerie Competition

Ahh lingerie, lingerie (pronounced linger -ee obviously).  How I remember those days of matching underwear, silk and lace... Nowadays I'm lucky if I have time to slurp a cup of tea down before the school run, never mind seek out matching bras and knickers from the ironing pile (not that I iron underwear you understand, it just seems to be where all the clean washing sits until I can find a spare half hour to sort it out).

So anyway, how nice would it be to throw away those saggy, greying nanna knickers that are still in the drawer despite promising myself they'd be chucked out as soon as my c-section had healed (what? They're comfy!).  To finally bin those breastfeeding bras - it's not like I wap my puppies out much these days.

To go on a spending spree and fill my drawers with new drawers...

Well, Damaris are running a fabulous competition where you could do just that. One lucky lady (or gent for that matter - I've spied some rather lovely Liberty print men's boxers on their site.  What? I was looking for research purposes) will win £1,000 worth of their choice of items from the site.

And, one blogger will win £500-worth - that's the blogger who has the most reader entrants, so please head over and enter and then kindly leave a comment below saying how you've entered and leave me your Twitter/Facebook/Instagram handle so they can verify it.  The more different methods you use, the more entries you'll have - and so will I!

So let me quickly share with you some of my favourites.  For the purposes of clarity, because I know it's hard to tell us apart, all these photos are models, not my actual self...

Sugar Plum Silk Tulle Bra

Sugar Plum Collection - Silk Chiffon Bow Back Knickers

Narnia V Bra
Narnia Silk Chiffon Sea Shell Knickers
Seriously, what are you waiting for? Get entering, and the more social media channels you enter with (Instagram; Twitter and Facebook) the more chances you have - and me too!  Make sure you're done by 20th December 2013, and pretty please remember to leave a comment here with your social media handle to say you have so I stand a chance too!  Mwah!

Here's what to do knicker-lovers:

Facebook valid competition entries: Follow Damaris (Mimi-Holliday) and share something they like on their timeline from the Damaris page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mimi-Holliday/111856215570884

Twitter valid competition entries:  Follow https://twitter.com/TheMimiHolliday and tweet: ‘@TheMimiHolliday I have entered the competition #MimiKissmas’  

Instagram valid competition entries: Follow Damaris (mimiholliday) and Regram something they like from the Damaris Instagram http://instagram.com/mimiholliday

You can use all three methods for three entries - but only each entry type once ie don't go spamming their wall, it won't get you any extra points!

Damaris will choose at random one entry as the winner of £1,000 worth of Damaris lingerie on the 20th of December from all their Social Media entries. Damaris will also choose a further 5 runner-ups for £100 worth of Damaris lingerie.  The winners will be notified on the 20th of December. It is up to the winners to reply with their wish list straight away so the items get delivered on time for Christmas. (Please note no liability will be accepted if there are some postal delays and the prizes are not on time for the 24th of December 2013). Terms and conditions can be found on www.damaris.co.uk.

For your information, Damaris will also be offering until the 24th of December free delivery worldwide and a promotion of £100 free when you spend £300 or more in one transaction.

Oh, and don't forget to comment here that you've entered and how so I might get a chance to win too!

The Stick Man comes home to the forest!


We love the Stick Man here, it's such a Christmassy book. It has everything you could want from a children's book - fabulous witty sing-song words by Julian Donaldson, brilliant illustrations from Alex Sheffler, suspense, love and a happy ending!

The Forestry Commission have teamed up with this iconic book, and this winter are hosting lots of events at their locations nationwide.

There are 13 different trails where you can hunt for clues; build dens; draw and create your very own Stick Man.  The activities are designed to engage children, help them learn more about the forest and the importance of wood in our daily lives - just like in the book.

Rachel Giles, Learning Manager at the Forestry Commission says:

"We are launching the Stick Man trails to encourage children into the natural world by taking a favourite character that they might read indoors back out into the forest where he belongs.

“We hope our Stick Man Trails will inspire them to use the forest as their playground and create their own stories, all while learning vital skills that will aid them in their development."

We have great fun going on Gruffalo hunts in our local wood, and re-telling Little Red Riding Hood and other fairy tales, so we're really looking forward to this new adventure.

Check out the website for a list of dates, venues and loads of great printable activity sheets.  Also, if you sign up to the newsletter, you could win a special Stick Man goody bag!  Most trails are on from now until January, so it's the perfect Christmas holiday activity.

Pop over and have a look to see if there's one on near you.


Disclosure: I am an official Forestry Commission blogger and receive an annual Discover Pass.

Cash in your Festive Fortune with Coinstar


We all know that this is a pricey time of year.  Careful shopping; planning; thrifting and tightening our belts can stretch our pounds further, but actually, maybe it's the pennies you should be worrying about...

Apparently, we have over £1.5 billion in loose pennies rattling around down our sofas; in discarded purses; money jars; kitchen drawers...


You might remember we recently tried out a coinstar machine for the first time when Ruby spent some of her savings from her piggy bank.  Well, the machines are so easy to use and conveniently located in over 1,900 outlets including many supermarkets, you could easily use the money converted to go towards your Christmas shop.

Nearly 70% of households have loose change lying around their home that never even makes it to a savings jar and on average, this amounts to a whopping £60 in change in every house.  Take a look at the infographic above and see what you could spend it on if you liberated it!

Nick Harris, Director, Coinstar, says: 

“It’s surprising how much the nation ‘throws’ away in coins every year. There have even been instances when I’ve seen youngsters chuck their loose change in a bin! Given the fact that we’re a nation used to tightening out belts, we should be looking after the pennies so the pounds look after us.”

Why not have a rummage around and see if you really are sitting on a festive fortune, then pop it into a Coinstar machine and see how much you've got.

Disclosure:  This is a featured post in association with Coinstar.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Quick and easy 'homemade' teacher gifts

End of term creeps up on us in stealth mode, descending before we know it, and often before I've had time to sort out a 'thank you' gift for the teacher.

It's lovely to be able to give a thoughtful handmade gift, but sometimes time (or the necessary skill!) is against us, so here are 6 easy ideas which can be made quickly at home, but will still have that "I've spent hours making you a unique and individual present vibe".

easy homemade teacher thank you gifts

Personalised wine.

This is my chance to off-load gift bottles of my home brew, and I've added a fun label that our early-years teacher will hopefully enjoy.  Repeat after me everyone "W is for wine".  You can of course give shop bought wine and soak or steam off the label and replace it with a customised one with a message of thanks or season's greetings.  Search online for free printable bottle labels, or knock one up yourself in a picture editing programme.  Let's face it, what teacher doesn't deserve a bottle of plonk at the end of term?

Drinks coaster.

Hopefully the wine won't be consumed in the staff room, but these coasters would be ideal for their tea or coffee mug.  I bought this perspex magnetic heart photo holder from Ikea and turned it into a coaster with pretty paper (get creative with wrapping paper, wall paper, decoupage paper, old maps or a piece of your child's artwork) and a little motto. You can also buy blank coasters at Homecraft to make similar, and get a neat little gift box too. These take minutes to make, simply draw round, cut and secure in place.

Memo holder.

If teachers get a fraction of the letters; notes and memos that us parents do, then they'll appreciate somewhere stylish to keep them all organised.  This little memo holder is made from an upcycled picture frame with hessian folded into pocket flaps and stapled on the reverse.  You could adapt it with printed fabric instead, and paint or spray the frame white or a colour if gold isn't your thing. Check out the full how-to here.

Shabby chic bird feeders.

This is a pretty upcycled gift that the kids can help to make.  Pretty china cups would work well for an end of year gift given in the summer, but I fear they may not survive the freeze in the winter, so for Christmas time opt for some old enamel ware such as this little teapot.  Tutorial is here.

Infused oil and vinegar.

This is basically a repackaging job, but it still gives the appearance of a thoughtful gift with a homemade vibe. Decant olive oil and/or vinegar into a pretty bottle, add herbs such as rosemary or thyme or chilli peppers to flavour it and add a bit of style to their kitchen worktop.  At yuletide try infusing white wine or cider vinegar with Christmas tree needles for a festive pine flavour.  It tastes amazing, but the needles need to be removed after about 3 weeks or it will start to cloud, so add a label with instructions.

Body scrub.

A super easy and thrifty gift you can knock up from your store cupboard.  Grab a big mixing bowl and get the kids to help with scooping and stirring.  Add some essential oils to make it smell delicious and you have a lovely exfoliating and moisurising shower scrub.  The full 'recipe' is here.


So there you go. There's no excuses for gifting a box of supermarket chocolates, when even the least crafty person can knock one of these up.

For more great teacher gift ideas check out:

Domestic Goddesque's Coffee sets.
Blue Bear Wood's Apple Crisps.

Linking up with:


Amazing value gift ideas from Aldi

Bargainistas will be familiar with Aldi already.  Perhaps for the weekly shop, maybe for some low cost luxuries like chocolate or toiletries.  They've come up trumps this Christmas with a range of winter warmers and low cost gift ideas which will help spread your budget further this yuletide.

As with all Aldi's special buy items, they are in store for a limited period and when they're gone they're gone, so get yourself down there to snap up these bargains:

From 28th November:

Men's Winter Warmer Selection including this super-snugly fleece dressing gown at only £9.99. Available in grey, blue, black or burgundy.

Or this 100% lambswool jumper with zip at only £16.99.  This comes in a choice of beige; dark chocolate; denim blue or charcoal grey and would make a great Christmas gift.


There's also cosy cotton PJs, leather gloves socks and slippers all at low prices, so grab them while you can.

From 12th December:

Ladies don't fret!  There's plenty coming to keep us warm and snug too!

Leather gloves for only £6.99; Sherpa fleece booties at £3.99; onesies at £8.99 and Angora blend wool socks for £3.99.


There's tonnes of stylish home ware; decorations; gadgets and tableware to choose from as well as speciality Christmas foods, so it's well worth a trip even if it's not your regular supermarket.

And just a final heads-up for those of you with girls.  You know those ridiculously over-priced fashion shoes that are advertised on the kid's TV channels?  You know the ones - where your daughter begs "pleeeeeease can I have those for my school shoes, pleeeeeeease?"  Well, get down to Aldi on December 19th where their girl's fashion shoes are back by popular demand.  They went down a storm last time and at only £8.99 a pair instead of around £50 for the brand names, you can see why.



Disclosure: We were sent a selection of products from Aldi.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Christmas wine recommendations



I was recently invited by Sainsbury's to their Winter Wine Tasting event at the Oxo Tower.  Result right?

Ummm. Well yes, but as soon as I entered the room housing what looked to me like the country's biggest array of bottles I realised I was somewhat out of my depth.  There were lots of very professional people purposefully striding up and down the rows of bottles.  The room was dotted with huge statuesque metal spittoons and there was much sniffing, swilling and spitting.

Ummm.  In my humble opinion it's a waste and frankly quite rude to spit out perfectly good wine so it was clear I'd need some guidance here before I got horribly drunk.

I grabbed one of the very lovely buyers who took me under her wing, told me the insider tips for the best tipples, and taught me a whole lot in the process.

Now, I like a bottle glass of wine as much as the next person, but I know what I like and I like what I know. So it's really handy that Sainsbury's wines have a colour coded label flash on the bottle so you can easily identify them by type. You can then safely invest in a different grape from the same group, fairly certain that you'll like that also.



Anyhow, without further ado, here's the low-down on the best* wines to add to your basket this Christmas.

Whites:

1. Taste the Difference Chablis 2012 (£10.49)

Won IWC - Bronze and IWSC - Silver in 2013. Available now in 599 stores.

Simple, elegant with fresh, crisp, citrus fruits.

2. Winemaker's Selection by Sainsbury's South African Chenin Chardonnay 2013 (£5.99)

New, available from 15th November in 550 stores - exclusive.

Soft and fruity.  Ripe exotic fruit flavours and grassy aromas.

3. Seifried Estate Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (£9.00)

Aromatic and fresh Sauvignon Blanc flavours.

4. Leasingham Magnus Clare Valley, Reisling 2009 (£9.79)

Fresh, floral, lemon and apple butter bouquet.  Fresh and bright.

Sparkling and Champagne

5. Sainsbury's Blanc de Noirs Brut NV (£21.99)

Won IWC-Gold, IWCS-Silver and Decanter-Silver in 2013

Rich; biscuity and complex. (sounds like a guy I once knew)

6. Taste the Difference English Sparkling Brut 2007 (£19.99)

Produced in Surrey.

Fresh; elegant; crisp apples.

Reds:

7. Taste the Difference Cotes du Rhone-Villages 2012 (£6.99)

Aromas of red fruit, sweet cherry ad spice.  Generous, rich peppery palate and soft velvety tannins.

8. Winemaker's Selection by Sainsbury's Chianti DOCG 2012 (£5.69)

Won IWC-Bronze; IWSC-Silver and Decanter-Bronze in 2013.

Smooth and mellow.  Ripe cherry, soft blackberry flavours, velvety tannins ad a fresh acidity.

9. Taste the Difference Douro 2011 (£8.49)

Won IWC_Bronze; IWSC-Silver and Decanter-Commended in 2013

Dessert and Fortified:

10. Taste the Difference 12 Year Old Sweet Pedro Ximenez 50cl (£7.99)

Won IWC-Gold; IWSC-Gold; Decanter-Gold and Sweet Sherry under £15 Trophy in 2013.

Dark, mahogany sherry, lusciously sweet and syrupy with intense caramel and prune flavours.

11. Grahams 10 Year Old Tawny Port NV, Douro Valley (£21.20)

Won Decanter-Bronze 2013.

Deep, rich tawny style with nutty aromas, combined with sweet notes of honey and figs.  Mellow, complex raisin and fig flavours with a luscious fruit and caramel-flavour finish.

12. Taste the Difference Vintage Port 1999, Douro Valley (£24.99)

Concentrated black cherries, plums and wild Douro berries.  Intense, fine grained tannins with full bodies structure.


*All these wines were suggested and recommended to me, and thoroughly tested and approved by me.  I enjoyed them all, but extra special mention has to go to the Blanc de Noirs fizz and the Sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry which I immediately went out and bought several bottles of.  It's pure nectar and is now my current drink of choice.  And before you call me an old lady, sherry is where it's at I'll have you know, it's what all the cool kids are drinking.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the wine tasting event with Sainsbury's, but went at my own expense, with no obligation to write about my experience.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Magpie Monday - Traditional Christmas Puddings

Yesterday was 'Stir it Sunday', the day traditionally where families make their Christmas puddings and cakes. The last Sunday before advent would see the family come together to all get involved in the baking, and each would have a turn to stir the mix and make a wish.

Sainsbury's asked me if I'd get involved and sent me the ingredients to make our own puddings - the recipe is at the end of this post if you want to make your own - it's not too late!

Making the puddings gave me a chance to use some of my favourite vintage cookware that I've collected from thift stores and sales over the years.

I have LOTS of traditional Mason and Cash pudding bowls, and to be honest they only get used at this time of year - except maybe for the odd summer pudding.

I also got the chance to use my MASSIVE TG Green mixing bowl.  I've got a few of these, but this one is by far the biggest.  It's enormous and I like to think it was used by a cook in some grand house in years gone by.

For me, using vintage is not just about re-use and saving money.  It's about the history and back story.  As we make our own family memories, I wonder how many Christmas cakes these bowls have seen.  Have they been used to mix family wedding cakes, and then birthday cakes for years to come?  Did they go through the war years and see mixes stretched with extra additions to compensate for rationed items?

Will they stay in my family for years to come?  Will I mix my own wedding cake in it?  My daughter's?  Who knows...






Sainsbury's classic Christmas Pudding recipe


-          385g Sainsbury's mixed dried fruit
-          80g Sainsbury's ready-to-eat dried figs, roughly chopped
-          75g Sainsbury's glacĂ© cherries, roughly chopped
-          100ml basics brandy, plus some for flaming
-          1 small cooking apple, peeled cored and grated
-          1 small orange, zest and juice
-          100g shredded suet (vegetarian if you wish)
-          3 med British free-range Sainsbury's Woodland eggs, beaten
-          100g Sainsbury's ground almonds
-          200g soft muscovado sugar
-          140g self-raising flour
-          20g Sainsbury's almonds, halved
-          1 teaspoon ground mixed spice by Sainsbury's
-          ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon by Sainsbury's

Method

Grease a 1 litre pudding basin. Put the mixed fruit, dried figs and glacé cherries into large pan with the brandy and bring to the boil; turn down and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and leave to soak overnight.
Mix together the cooking apple, orange juice and zest, suet, beaten eggs, ground almonds, sugar, and flour in a large mixing bowl.
Stir in the soaked fruit, almonds, mixed spice and cinnamon. Pour into the greased basin. Cover the basin with 2 large circles of greaseproof paper and one of tin foil and secure around the top of the basin with string. Make a handle across the basin with the string.
Place the basin in a large saucepan, with a lid, and pour in boiling water until it comes half way up the basin. Cover with the lid and steam for 2 hours. Allow to cool, then wrap the whole basin in foil and store until Christmas (see tip).
One hour and 30 minutes before you want to serve the pudding, place into a large saucepan, as before, and steam for 1 hour and 30 minutes until cooked through and springy to touch.
To serve, pour over a couple of tablespoons of brandy and light the pudding. Serve with brandy butter, cream or vanilla custard.
Cook's tip: This pudding will keep in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months.




Do you have any vintage items you've thrifted in your house?  I'd love you to link up your second-hand finds and grab the badge below.



 


Also linking up with the Great Blogger Bake Off Christmas Edition with Mummy Mishaps and The Crazy Kitchen.

mummy mishaps

Friday, 22 November 2013

Craft ideas for Christmas - Guest Post from Red Ted Art

Today I have the absolute pleasure of welcoming Maggy Woodley the brains behind Red Ted Art over here on my blog.  So do make her feel welcome while I pop off and put the kettle on and rustle up some biscuits for her...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lovely! This is possibly one of my favourite times of year for crafting – nothing quite a fresh, chilly Winter’s day, come in after a long walk and sitting down to a cozy craft with the kids with a hot cup of cocoa. We love making all sorts of things this time of year – but we especially love Christmas Ornaments and making gifts for family. A crafting session and thrifty gift in one!

I would love to share 5 of these ideas.

Loo Roll Snowmen

I love crafting with “Loo Rolls” – they are plentiful and surprisingly versatile. If not loo rolls, use kitchen rolls or at this time of year the cardboard tubing inside a roll of wrapping paper. Then turn your loo rolls into Snowmen Craft or Santa Crafts or better still an adorable Rudolph craft. Job done. Kids delighted! We play Snowman Bowling with ours!

DIY Advent

There is still time to sort out a quick DIY Advent Calendar – especially if you use this little idea – yep, just get some festive or pretty paper cups and you are almost done! Check out our Advent Calendar hangout for ideas of “what to put in” – it doesn’t always have to be chocolate!


Saltdough Ornaments

Check out our easy and reliable Salt Dough Recipe and make Christmas Decorations with them. We made some simple hearts using cookie cutters. But the possibilities are endless (or at least as endless as the number of cookie cutters you have at home!). We love using hearts, Christmas trees and gingerbread men to make ornaments. Too cute.


Felt Hearts

I love these felt hearts, as they can EITHER be a simple Christmas Tree Ornament OR they make for a great gift – use them as a key ring or a book bag decoration. Fill them with lavender to make them extra special. A super easy project and a great way to introduce sewing to kids. Read more about them here.


No Bake Gingerbread Houses

After all that hard crafting, I now think you deserve a treat.. and an EASY treat… Love Gingerbread Houses? Always wish you were the “parent that made these”, but in reality don’t have the time (who does?!). These MINI No Bake Gingerbread House, will DELIGHT the kids, are seriously easy to make and will make you king or queen of the holiday (no) baking!!


I do hope that you are feeling a little bit inspired and that you are tempted by some of the crafts shared today. We have lots more Christmas crafts over on Red Ted Art if you are looking for inspiration. Why not take a look at Red Ted Art, Cute and Easy Crafts for Kids. The book has a number of Christmas crafts in, but also crafts for all year round. A great book to keep you busy over the years to come and an even better book to give as a gift!

This year we are going to give “The Gift of Creativity”. The idea is to create “Basic” and “Jazzed up” Craft Kits that you can put together yourself – both original and different! What do you think? You don’t need much in a basic craft kit, especially if you add recycled materials and finds from nature…. I love to add pine cones, stones and recycled fabric to our basic craft kit to get the kids think creatively about things they can find and reuse.





About the Author: Maggy Woodley, is a crafty mum of two! 

She loves everything about crafts and loves nothing better to recycle and forage for craft materials –making crafts economical and fun. 

Maggy also writes at Life at The Zoo about cooking with kids, gardening and sciency “stuff” and Theatre Books and Movies for well, theatre, book and movies! Red Ted Art, is also now being translated into German, Spanish and Russian for more people to enjoy! Do check them out!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Find out what sort of shopper you are - and win!

Do you have a particular shopping style?

Well, according to research carried out by Brunel University, and commissioned by Barclaycard Freedom Rewards, we all fit into one of four different categories.

What's more, the economic climate has had a long-term effect on how we approach our spending and saving.  In recent years we have become much less loyal, preferring to shop around for the best deals rather than sticking to favourite stores.

However, we still use and rely on loyalty and reward cards despite not showing loyalty to one brand over another.  88% of us own at least one loyalty card – I know mine's so stuffed full of them, there isn't actually any room for any cash! 

Research also suggest that rather than spending our points on treats or luxuries for ourselves, many use them to stretch the weekly budget for essentials further.

Craig Evans, Director of Partnerships at Barclaycard, said:

We know that people like to shop around, nearly half of the UK population (42%) shop at more than one supermarket chain to get the best deal. Because of that, we’ve designed the Barclaycard Freedom Rewards credit card with the modern shopper in mind. Like some other rewards cards you get points wherever you shop but as we know the weekly shop and petrol spend takes 30% of average family’s weekly budget, we give double points at any UK petrol station or supermarket. So wherever you shop, you get the best value. 

“We also recently opened the online Freedom Rewards store where people can earn triple points shopping with over 50 favourite brands. Plus, with over 70 redemption partners Freedom Rewards gives you the broadest range of high street brands, big online names and great places to spend time with your family, to choose rewards from.”

Take the short questionnaire and find out which of the four types of shopper you are.


It probably won't surprise you to hear that I've been identified as a 'Bargain Hunter Gatherer'.  According to my profile, I am:

"an expert at collecting the best tools, voucher codes and loyalty cards to make your budget go as far as possible, week in, week out. While the kids are doing their homework, you're doing yours - grabbing the best savings for your family."

I think that's pretty accurate don't you?  I rarely buy anything without comparing the price online.  I always search for a voucher or discount before making a purchase, and use cashback sites to make further savings.
Take the test yourself, and leave me a comment below and I will randomly draw one entrant to win £60 Amazon voucher courtesy of Barclaycard Freedom Rewards.
Complete the rafflecopter below to verify your entry.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to UK entrants only.  The winner must provide an email address so the voucher code can be sent to them.  Giveaway closes at 12:00 on Friday 29th November 2013.  Winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries and must respond within 5 days or I reserve the right to re-draw.

Disclosure:  The prize is supplied by Barclaycard Freedom Rewards and I have been compensated for this promotion.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Kids are Important at Menzies Hotels

There's a fine balance for hotels and the tourism industry in general when it comes to making children feel welcome and valued.  Over-do it and you end up with theme park style hotels with peculiar mascots dressed in animal suits, under-do it and you have stressed parents, bored kids and annoyed fellow guests.

Menzies Hotels seem to have stuck a very good balance with their MIK (Menzies Important Kids) scheme. Children under 16 can stay free (see the terms for full details), and there's a whole host of things they do to make your stay family-friendly.

We were invited to stay at the Derby Mickleover Court Hotel last weekend.  I have to say, the Menzies hotel I an more familiar with is Flitwick Manor, which is a stunning Georgian country manor house furnished with antiques and period features so it took a bit of getting used to seeing the modern decor of Mickleover Court.

Menzies Derby Mickleover court Hotel interior

But whilst the style wasn't to my taste, I can honestly say that everything else about our stay was faultless.

The check-in was friendly, courteous and prompt- the desk clerk was obviously on an internal telephone call when we strolled up to the desk, but she quickly finished the call with a chirpy "I'll call you back in a moment" and tended to us straight away - what a refreshing change!

Ruby was issued with her own MIK wristband which made her feel uber important and gave her access to unlimited free fruit juice from reception.  She was also offered a complimentary ice cream which kept her happy while we got our bags from the car and found our room.

Free ice cream for kids at Menzies Derby Mickleover Court Hotel

We stayed in the Millbank suite which had a large bedroom with an enormous king-sized bed, an ante-room with a comfortable sofa bed made up for Ruby and a huge en-suite bathroom.  Everything was spotless, fresh smelling and welcoming. The air conditioning in the room could be independently controlled so we were able to switch it off at night and not hear it.

I was very impressed with the amount of space we had.  Often in 'family rooms' there's just a camp bed crammed in at the bottom of the parent's bed with barely enough room to swing a cat.  It also usually means you're forced to either go to bed when the kids do, or talk in hushed whispers all evening.  But not here, we were able to put her to bed after dinner, happily snuggled down watching TV as a treat, while we watched our programs in the other room.  There was even a balcony, and whilst the view over the main road outside wasn't much to write home about, at least I could get some fresh air without having to go all the way downstairs.

The beds were certainly very comfortable, and the room was well equipped with iron and board; TVs, tea and coffee facilities; hairdryer; mini bar; phone; cosy bath robes and slippers and lots of soft white towels.

Suite Bedroom at Menzies Derby Mickleover Court Hotel

Family Room Bedroom at Menzies Derby Mickleover Court Hotel



The bathroom was again spacious and clean, with double sinks, a bath with shower over and separate multi-jet power shower cubicle.  There was a good selection of quality toiletries, and the only improvement would be if the ample towel rail had been heated - it would have saved us using so many towels.


I had a relaxing bath while Ruby and her Dad went off exploring and to check out the pool.  She declared it to be like 'paradise' and was absolutely in love with the fountains and the jacuzzi. I got the chance to use the pool with them on Sunday morning.  The Romanesque styling was a bit too much for me, but we had great fun. There's a large shallow part to the pool, perfect for kids, but also a big enough deeper section if you want to swim some proper lengths. There's also a steam room and of course the jacuzzi which was a lovely way to start the day.

The changing rooms were ample big enough with cubicles capable of fitting in a parent and child.  A nice touch was free lockers and free towels offered at the leisure suite check in (there's also a well equipped gym and beauty rooms). If you don't fancy a swim, you can take coffee in the bar overlooking the pool and watch the family.  Note that as with most hotels, there is no lifeguard though so clearly children can't in go unattended.

Swimming pool  at Menzies Derby Mickleover Court Hotel

Leisure facilities at Menzies Derby Mickleover Court Hotel

The food at the Menzies Mickleover Court was also excellent, and here you can see their dedication to keeping their little guests (and parents) happy.  At dinner we were seated at a table in the corner which was great because I didn't need to feel embarrassed when she decided to move seats a hundred times throughout the meal as is her want, or run around the table, or indeed, sit under it!

She was promptly presented with some activity sheets, colouring and crayons and entertained herself with word searches and mazes while we looked over the menu.

Kids activities at Menzies Derby Mickleover Court Hotel

It made such a wonderful change to have a really substantial children's menu offering lots of choice and there was only one dish featuring chips and beans, unlike a lot of restaurants where that's pretty much all that's on offer.  She chose vegetable crudites and dip to start, followed by pasta then ice cream (obviously!) despite me trying to coax her towards the fresh fruit and yoghurt option - there are some disadvantages to her new-found reading skills!  Best of all, children aged 5 or under eat free.

Children's menu at Menzies Derby Mickleover Court Hotel

The adult meals were also very good, generous portions and very well cooked. I'd say the quality and style of food was on a par with a decent gourmet pub.

Dining at Menzies Derby Mickleover Court Hotel

Dining at Menzies Derby Mickleover Court Hotel


Breakfast the following morning didn't disappoint either, with a vast array of hot and cold options, there was everything you could possibly want to set you up for the day - full English; kippers; porridge; cold meats and cheese; fruit; pastries; toast; cereal...

We had a lovely stay and it made a very nice change for children to feel genuinely welcomed and catered for.

The Mickleover Court hotel is ideally situated for Alton Towers (check out the special packages); and for visiting the pretty Derbyshire town of Matlock and tourist attractions such as the Heights of Abraham and the Tramway Museum.

Do also follow Menzies Hotels on Twitter or Facebook for special deals and discounts such as their current 7 day sale - rooms for only £35.

Disclosure:  We were accommodated on a dinner, bed and breakfast inclusive package free of charge for the purposes of this review.  However, all images, words and opinions are my own and are an honest reflection of our views.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Movie Night Gift Hamper Ideas



Way back in the January sales, I bought a load of these retro popcorn buckets and I've been saving them up in the gift cupboard.  You can get these on Amazon (image affiliate link at the end of the post) or, use a brightly coloured plastic serving bowl to both hold the selection of gifts and to use to serve the popcorn.

A DVD is a fairly standard present idea - lots of people I'm sure will have at least one to buy for someone, but by making a movie night hamper, you're taking the gift up a level and giving not just the film, but the whole experience. Some thoughtful additions and your recipient will have a lovely evening to remember.

It doesn't need to cost you a lot of money, you can re-package some popping corn in a pretty cellophane bag with a ribbon and that's much cheaper than the microwave variety. Add some homemade cookies, or some individual sachets of hot chocolate which only cost around 40p each.  There's no reason why you can't thrift some of these items too.  The mugs I've included cost me £1.99 the pair in a charity shop, and you can re-gift your favourite films too - just be sure to check that they play ok first!


Disney Fairies Movie hamper (for my 5 year old daughter)

Great for a Christmas or birthday gift. Theme it around their favourite film or characters.

Contains:


  • Tinkerbell DVD
  • Tinkerbell magazine with free gift
  • Popping corn
  • Pink onesie
  • Disney pink candy canes
  • Sparkly bracelet


Romantic Movie Night idea (for a couple)

Great for Christmas or an anniversary gift.

Contains:

  • Romantic film
  • Gourmet popcorn
  • Bottle of wine
  • Small box of chocolates
  • Scented candle - ooh-la-la!


Teen/Tween Girl idea

Great to double-up some of these items for a sleepover hamper.

Contains:

  • Girly movie
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Jelly beans
  • Face pack
  • Nail varnish
  • Fluffy socks
  • Mug with hot chocolate and marshmallows




I asked some of my fellow bloggers to suggest some themes too:

Kids Chaos suggested one for her mum which would have a Downton box set; a bottle of sherry and a box of Turkish delight.

Love Chic Living wanted one for herself and her best friend which would have a bottle of Cava, a Chinese Takeout (you could add a Just-Eat voucher), a Bridget Jones movie and lots of liqueur chocolates.

The Ana Mum Diary thought it would be nice to make one for her blogging friends with Julie and Julia DVD, some post-it notes, an ipad cover and a personalised mug with their blog logo on it.

Mummy Never Sleeps suggested one for the guys - DVD box set of The Sopranos or The Wire, some beer, Empire Magazine, a take-out voucher and some pyjama bottoms.

Cheetahs in My Shoes fancies a guilty pleasures one for herself - boxed set of New Tricks, roasted veg and goat's cheese pizza and cookie dough ice cream (not sure how you'd wrap that!) and some gin in a tin.

Maris World has suggested one for Aly from Plus 2.4 - any film with a beardy guy in and some bottles of real ale.

Kiddy Charts thinks that Dad would love this - A detective series like Morse on DVD, a bottle of whiskey, a classical music CD and some fish and chips (a Just-Eat voucher again maybe?)

Cakes Photos Life has suggested one for a mum and grown-up daughter - Champers, chick flicks, hot chocolate, a blanket to share and some gourmet popcorn.

Thrifty Home has come up with a lovely one for grandparents - some shortbread biscuits, hot water bottles, White Christmas DVD, a Nat King Cole Christmas CD, Turkish Delights, homemade marmalade, a photo album full of pics of the grandchildren and a rose named after them.


2 large popcorn buckets - £2.49

What movie night hamper ideas would you come up with?  What would be your favourite to receive?