Total Bliss at Cowley Manor C-Side Spa

December has been a buy old month, a family trip to London , a new job and saying goodbye to my 30’s has left me feeling pretty dazed and exhausted. A Spa Day at Cowley Manor’s C-Side Spa was precisely what the doctor ordered. A few hours on my own, being pampered in luxurious surroundings is something that I don’t get to experience too often so my plan was to savour every minute.

From the moment you pull up the drive at Cowley Manor it starts to feel festive, with an amazing light display around the hedges and the house. You feel a bit like Alice whisked away to an enchanted Christmas Wonderland.

The Spa is set away from the main house and is incredibly modern in design compared to the rest of the surroundings, but like everything else at Cowley Manor, this eclectic approach makes it seem even more of a unique place. Think 1960’s Bond villain lair meets noughties design elements and you get the mix.

Cowley manor

The spa has both an indoor and outdoor pool (but this being December I chickened out of taking a dip outdoors, but others were) with the temperature inside so warm and cosy that I nearly fell asleep before my treatment I was so relaxed.

Cowley Manor swimming

All the treatments at the  C-Side Spa use products from Green & Spring which I am slightly obsessed with since our first stay at Cowley Manor a while back. My treatment was the signature Green and Spring Facial which takes about an hour.

Designed to repair and rejuvenate, the facial begins with a process of intense cleansing to stimulate and increase blood supply to the skin. This is followed by an energising scrub and secondary exfoliation with the unique Green & Spring Gentle Face Refiner which scavenges dead skin cells and brightens. Soothing local honey and skin-clarifying milk are massaged into the skin with a hot, herbal compress filled with lavender, calendula and wheatgerm to heal and remove toxins. A deep, toning and nourishing face massage is given followed by application of an antioxidant face mask to help heal, nourish and repair leaving the skin glowing and youthful.

Cowley manor Spa

Before your treatment starts you are offered a menu of the music you would like to listen to. It is these little touches that make the whole experience of visiting the C-Side Spa a really magical experience.

I have recently been reading Finding Your Way in a Wild New World by Dr Martha Beck  (Martha is Oprah’s Life Coach) Martha Beck

Finding Your Way in a Wild New World reveals a remarkable path to the most important discovery you can make: the knowledge of what you should be doing with your one wild and precious life. It’s the thing that so fulfills you that, if you knew what it was, you’d run straight toward it through brambles and fire. Martha guides you to find out how you got to where you are now and what you should do next, with clear instructions on tapping into the deep, wordless knowledge you carry in your body and soul.

This book is a fascinating read and I have been trying hard to ‘quiet my mind’ and be less verbal, which is much harder than it sounds! My day at Cowley Manor’s C-Side Spa certainly helped me to relax and achieve a sense of peace and calm I haven’t experienced for such a long time. By the end of my day at C-Side Spa the only thought I was having was trying to work out when I could come back next……

 


Family Weekend in London – part2

Last week I wrote about our family weekend in London, staying at The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington and enjoying great things to do with 2 for 1 offers using The Entertainer app.

 Read Part 1 here

On the Sunday we borrowed Micro Scooters from the hotel and spent some time scooting around Kensington gardens. I haven’t been on a scooter since I was about 8 years old so this provided much hilarity for Ed and G. We also visited the Diana Memorial Playground which was just as amazing as ever, a truly magical place for children in the heart of the capital.

IMG_1369 After building up an appetite in Kensington Gardens we  met up with some friends for an early supper. Our friends live near The City so using The Entertainer app we looked for restaurants with offers near to them. We chose to go to Belgo in Holborn (about to undergo a major refurb) as I can remember reading once that they had a great menu for children.

Belgo

G absolutely loves mussels since our holiday to the Ile D’Oleron  so anywhere with them on the menu is always going to be popular. The food at Belgo was superb and a big hit with the 5 and 3 year old of our party. They also have a great range of beers for the grown ups too (but be warned an awful lot of them are very boozy!) The 2 for 1 offer with the app meant we received one main course free when we used the code and paid for one.

Using the app was really easy, you simply look up the offer you would like to use, input your unique code (that you create when you purchase the app) then hand it over to the vendor who has their own key. These two codes then generate the code for the vendor needs to apply the deals to your bill. A meal for 6 of us (4 adults, 2 children) with two courses and drinks came in at £80 which we all agreed was superb value for such an excellent meal. The next time we are in town we will definitely be going back to Belgo.

We were able to spend some quality time together during our family weekend in London, catching up with friends and family and creating some amazing memories. We were able to pack so much in and save money too, which is always a bonus. So are next issue is when can we fit in our next weekend away?


Family Weekend in London – part 1

We spent this weekend in London enjoying my prize from the blog post I wrote back in April on A Day Enjoying London Life. Our prize was a 2 night stay in an Executive Room at The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.

The hotel was fabulous and we were treated like royalty! We were upgraded to a suite with the most fantastic views over Kensington Garden (which my iPhone could not do justice through the glass). We had so much space that we each had our own little living area. The view was mesmerising and we all just sat for ages watching the coming and goings of life in Kensington Gardens.

Royal Garden Hotel suite

Kensington, London

Kensington, London

london

One of the really special touches from The Royal Garden Hotel is their children’s rucksack that is packed with goodies. G was thrilled with his and we had to take it all over town with us!

Whilst we were in London we took the opportunity to try out the new ENTERTAINER London app which is being launched in 2016 but has a selection of the buy one get one free offers that the app will be packed with in 2016.

We chose an Open Top vintage bus Christmas Lights tour with Premium Tours who were offering a 2 for 1 ticket price with the ENTERTAINER London. Although we know London pretty well (I lived there in the late 90’s) we had never done one of these tours and thought it would be a fun way to take in the Christmas Lights. the tour was extremely informative and we found out loads of really interesting facts about London, the famous sights and some of the less famous but equally fascinating sites.

IMG_1315 - Copy IMG_1318 - Copy

A few of the pictures from the tour…….

London eye Premium tours

London at night, Thames

Oxford Circus Xmas LightsLondon lights

untitled (25 of 25) London lights


The ENTERTAINER London App

App logo JPGThe ENTERTAINER London 2016 – www.theentertainerme.com/London – is a new app featuring over 900 Buy One Get One Free offers for restaurants, bars, nightclubs, attractions and spas across the capital. Whilst my nightclub days in the big smoke are well and truly behind me the rest of the offers certainly piqued my interest.

Although the app may seem to be for those living and working in the city, The ENTERTAINER London can bring a ton of savings to those visiting the capital too, especially families. (Check out my post on money saving ideas for enjoying London life here)

TOP 20 Merchants

With a one off payment of £40, the ENTERTAINER London 2016 is valid for one calendar year with no weekend exclusions.

Over 50 of the available buy-one-get-one-free offers on the new app have an estimated savings value that is higher than the cost of the app itself, so it is pretty easy to make your money back by redeeming just one or two offers.

London App Face

We trialled some of the features of the app this weekend and have to say that from the two offers we selected we already saved the price of the app itself. (My next post is going to be about the fab time we had whilst in London this weekend.)

London-merchants_benefit-banner_emarsys

The app offers customers a location-based search to find the best deals close to them and a savings calculator that shows how much cash has been saved throughout the year.

the ENTERTAINER London 2016 product is available to download from the App Store, Google Play and Samsung Apps.

Another great part to purchasing the ENTERTAINER London 2016 is that you will receive a free copy of the ENTERTAINER Travel, which features over 300 ‘Buy One Room Night, Get One Free’ offers in hotels including Fairmont, InterContinental, Shangri-La, Hyatt, Radisson, Sofitel and Sheraton throughout the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia & Indian Ocean and North America. These are all redeemable through the same app.

With each offer being Buy One Get One Free, the app is a real money saver so you can enjoy spending time with friends and family making your cash go a lot further during your time in the city.

The ENTERTAINER London 2016 is available to download for free from the App Store, Google Play and Samsung Apps websites now. For further information please visit www.theentertainerme.com/London

(DISCLAIMER; We have been gifted a subscription to the app)

 


The Guild – Bromsgrove

The GuildBromsgrove

A few weeks ago we were invited to try out the newly refurbished ‘The Guild’ in Bromsgrove, part of the Brewers Fayre chain. I have to admit that we haven’t eaten in a Brewers Fayre before so were unsure as to what to expect. As my Dad and step-Mum now live in Bromsgrove we thought it would be good to try somewhere different and one of the features of The Guild is that it has a large children’s soft play area. (Garth loves soft play so we knew it would get the thumbs up from him!)

soft play Brewers Fayre.

Fun for all and all for fun! Our brand new, Dennis the Menace themed, fully supervised play area will be the highlight of your kids’ trip to Brewers Fayre. There’s a totally amazing tree-house play area, new toddlers zone for your little ones, and daily activities Monday to Friday.

Open Sunday to Thursday 9.30am – 8pm and Friday to Saturday 9.30am – 9pm. Only £3 per child for 90 minutes of play.

The Guild has recently undergone a big refurbishment with the bar and restaurant area having been updated with a makeover of the interior in general. Booth style seating has been introduced which makes it easy for a large family to sit and eat comfortably. Our table was in an area which looked over the soft play area (through a sound proof window) making it really easy to watch over Garth in the play area but also be able to chat and catch up without having to jump up every 5 minutes to check on him.

As I said we hadn’t eaten in a Brewers Fayre before so were not entirely sure what to expect and I have to say we were pleasantly surprised. We all enjoyed our meals, with the sharing platter starter ‘Combo Feast’ a real hit! Although this was for two people it was plenty for three adults and our mains were just a good a size. the Guild Bromsgrove

One of the other great value aspects of the restaurant was the soft drinks machine where you can have unlimited soft drinks that you can mix with one of five Teisseire syrups. Teisseire syrups are one of our favourite things when we are in France and I haven’t really seen them here in the UK before so this was a big pull.

228

Overall we had a really enjoyable visit to The Guild. Anywhere with a large children’s soft play area is not going to be a fine dining experience, but what this most definitely was, was a family dining experience. Garth absolutely loved it, he made friends with other children and we were able to relax and talk knowing that he was happy and enjoying himself. Couple this with great value for money we will definitely be returning for a family dining experience soon.

brewers fayre

We were invited to try The Guild as guests of Brewers Fayre on this occasion.

 

 


Being born a Brummie – Birmingham an Evolving City

December 2015 sees me turn 40, eeek. I arrived here 40 years ago on December 10th at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.  Although my parents were living in Cheltenham at the time my Dad had insisted his first born arrive in Birmingham so the story goes that my parents decamped to my Grandfather’s house in Birmingham.

Birmingham, UK - January 30, 2013 - Night scene in downtown Birmingham, UK on January 30, 2012 with the parish church St. George in the Bullring and the Selfridges Department Store.

Birmingham, UK – January 30, 2013 – Night scene in downtown Birmingham, UK on January 30, 2012 with the parish church St. George in the Bullring and the Selfridges Department Store.

This picture of the 22 Bus evokes so may memories for me of growing up in Birmingham!

no 22

When I was 9 years old I moved to Birmingham, living in Harborne and started going to school in Edgbaston. I would say this was when I became a ‘proper Brummie’. Growing up I have always loved history and one of my favourite books to look at my Grandpa John’s house was a book full of old pictures of Birmingham.

Butchers shop Birmingham Soles

This photo is a picture of my Great Grandfather  (in white ) and my Great-great Grandfather on the doorstep of their butcher’s shop in Birmingham probably taken around 1912.

I have always been really proud to be a Brummie and have grown up in such a vibrant and amazing city. Today when I go back though I feel like a stranger in my Birmingham of the 1990’s as there has been so much redevelopment and change that I haven’t been around to see happen gradually. Travelodge have put together a really comprehensive destination guide to Birmingham on their blog which is really helpful to find some of those off the beaten track gems that I no longer know about!

Another feature on the Travelodge site are some fascinating interactive photographs of Birmingham in a now v then format called EVOLVING CITIES. You can see how familiar Brummie landscapes have changed over time. My favourites are the Jewellery Quarter picture and the Bull Ring Picture. I still can’t get over how the Bull Ring has regenerated and become such a smart shopping destination. When I was a teenager we were allowed into Birmingham as long as we didn’t go to the Bull Ring!

So in the month I turn 40 I am pretty sure that a visit to my home city will be on the cards but let’s not mention The Villa………

 

 


Wendy & Peter Pan at The RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

Wendy & Peter pan RSC

A few weeks ago an email arrived in my inbox with a special offer of £5 tickets to see Wendy & Peter Pan at The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. With Ed working most evenings I thought why not take G and do something different on a Friday night, rather than sitting in and watching Coronation Street! (Not that I don’t like Coronation Street but sometimes it is good to shake things up a bit!)

I don’t always appreciate how fortunate we are to live only 30 minutes away from such an amazing place as Stratford-upon-Avon and The RSC. I went a few years ago to see David Tenant in Richard II and promised to myself then that I would try and bring Garth as soon as he was old enough.

audience Wendy & peter panThis was Garth’s first visit to the theatre at night to see a ‘grown up’ production. Ella Hickson has written a play that is packed with girl power. The play is very much Wendy’s story and is a fantastic portray of girls being just as strong and powerful as boys (an maybe a little bit smarter too). This is not a Wendy yearning for Peter Pan to propose, she goes after the fight with Captain Hook herself! She is brave, fearless and clever but sensitive and caring too. If I had a daughter this would be just the role model I would want to choose. Tink (erbell )too is a sassy and quick witted female and Tiger-Lilly shows Wendy how to fight and be brave. Even Mrs Darling is doing her bit for early 20th Century girl power.

Wendy & Peter Pan set The RSC

Wendy _ Peter Pan production photos_ 2015_2015_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_179201Wendy _ Peter Pan production photos_ 2015_2015_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_179262

Captain Hook is menacing without being over the top and frightening and his sidekick Smee had some of the best lines in the play.

Wendy _ Peter Pan production photos_ 2015_2015_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_179294Wendy _ Peter Pan production photos_ 2015_2015_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_179189

 

Wendy _ Peter Pan production photos_ 2015_2015_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_179194

Wendy _ Peter Pan production photos_ 2015_2015_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_179309

 

The production was exquisite in every aspect. The set was beautiful, the acing was amazing, the play hit the right note between an adult and child audience. The flying scenes are wonderful with aerial performances from the actors that made it look so easy. From the moment the lights went down Garth was captivated and hardly moved during the performance. At the end he was really upset that it had finished!

Another aspect that made this such a special visit was the friendliness and customer care we received from all the staff at the theatre. They were so knowledgeable about all that The RSC has coming up over the next six months and what they have suitable for children.

Garth has been getting really anxious about performing in his Christmas production at school but came away from the play saying he wanted to be in the theatre when he grows up so he wasn’t going to be worried about the nativity anymore!

A 5* performance that I would recommend to anybody young or old. A wonderful evening that will whisk you away to Neverland from the moments the lights go down.

(images of the production courtesy of The RSC)

 

 

 


A Very Cowley Christmas with Cowley Manor

christmas tree image

cowleymanor_full_logo_rev-5One of the signs that Christmas is around the corner is the annual charity fashion and shopping event held in November at the fabulous Cowley Manor near Cheltenham.

CowleySnow

This year the event is being held on Wednesday 25th November 2015 from 6pm – Midnight when the whole of Cowley Manor is transformed into a boutique shopping venue with each of the hotel bedrooms being taken over by various sellers and businesses.

Garden Room 2

Showcasing …

We have a cosy feel to the show this year with luxurious silks and sumptuous knits and a decadent food hall filled with gourmet delights, from wine tasting and artisan chocolate to cocktail masterclasses and much more.  Perfume counters, antique fine jewellery and inspired beauty sparkle are sure to get everyone in the spirit of things, alongside gorgeous Christmas wrap, crackers and floristry… there’s really no place like A Very Cowley Christmas!

HEADLINERS

HARVEY NICHOLS

MARY BERRY KITCHENWARE * THE HAMBLEDON * WILLIAMS CHASE * KNIGHTSBRIDGE ROCKS * HIPANEMA * BOTTLETOP * JESSICA FLINT RUSSELL* WILDASH * LAW & COMPANY and many many more

 

Not only is this is a great chance to do a spot of Christmas shopping and catch up with friends but it is also one of the few chances you can have to wander around this amazing hotel and if you are anything like me, enjoy having a nose around some of the finest hotel rooms in the Cotswolds!

Exceptional Room Best Room (2)

This year the charity that is being supported is Winston’s Wish the leading child bereavement charity in the UK which was founded in Gloucestershire in 1992.

Tickets

General admission tickets are £5 in advance or £7.50 on the door, with all proceeds donated to Winston’s Wish Children’s Bereavement Charity.

Tickets to ‘A Fashionably Late Feast’ at 10pm with 3 courses and a fashion show – £45 per person.

To book, email tickets@cowleymanor.com or call +44 (0)1242 870 900.

Information and images courtesy of Silver Ball PR


#MilkDrinkersMilk Challenge with Cravendale

Cravendale Milk

We recently got involved with the #MilkDrinkersMilk Challenge with Cravendale.

We get through a lot of milk in our house. I am an avid tea drinker and G will often have a glass of milk instead of squash or water. One thing I noticed, especially in the summer was how quickly our milk went off. I always keep an eye on the best before date and am a big fan of ‘the sniff the milk to see how it is’ test.

Cravendale is filtered for freshness, if I am honest, I had always read this and never really understood what this meant.

With this post in my mind I decided to dig a bit deeper  and find out exactly what this meant and how this made Cravendale different (and if I am honest more expensive) from the other milk on the supermarket shelf.

What Cravendale do differently is that their milk is passed through ceramic filters to remove the bacteria that turns milk sour, so we end up with purer milk that stays fresher for longer, without additives or preservatives. 

As a child I loved drinking milk but as I have got older I have forgotten how good a cold glass of milk from the fridge tastes. G has started having a glass of milk more often too, not just before bed and for breakfast but asking for a glass when he gets home from school too.

Cravendale and biscuits

I can definitely say that Cravendale is staying fresher for longer than other milk we have used so our experience is definitely backing up their claims of the 7 day freshness.

(Although Cravendale is best enjoyed in it’s purest form I did rather enjoy it with my tea too!)

cravendale

Emma Bridgewater dots

This post is an entry for BritMums #MilkDrinkersMilk Linky Challenge, sponsored by Cravendale who you can follow over on Twitter by clicking here.

 

 


Bedroom Makeover with The Yorkshire Linen Co – UPDATE

Yorkshire Linen

 

A month or so ago I posted my top picks for a Bedroom Makeover with The Yorkshire Linen Co. So I thought I would share my update with you all now the fab products have arrived.

As you can see out bedroom was pretty uninspiring to begin with.

Yorkshire Linen

 

The items I chose were;

Yorkshire Linen’s knitted charcoal throw

Catherine Lansfield Wasting Time Cushion  from Yorkshire Linen

The Warwick King Size Duvet Cover set from Yorkshire Linen

and a superking undersheet from Yorkshire Linen in crisp white

 

IMG_1205 IMG_1204 IMG_1203

Sadly the throw wasn’t quite big enough for our bed but it is so warm and cosy that we are fighting over who has it on their side of the bed! The bedding is so soft and when we put it all on the bed G got in it and exclaimed that ‘it was just like a hotel bed’ which is high praise indeed from our own little hotel junkie!

A very big thank you for our Bedroom Makeover to The Yorkshire Linen Co, it has been a real treat to have some fantastic new bedding and also to finally find a good quality, well priced undersheet that doesn’t keep coming off! I will definitely be buying a few more of these as we have been struggling to find a decent undersheet since we upgraded to our superking size bed.

The Yorkshire Linen Co have put together a Christmas Shop over on their website too which has some really stylish linens for Christmas wrapping, bedding and table styling. Definitely worth a look.