24 January 2016

Taking a toddler skiing

I was quite excited to book a ski trip for 2016 as I love going and have been most years since I was little. However, the last time I went skiing, I wasn't married, I had no children and I was about a stone lighter. (Hysterically, I just re-read the blog post I wrote at the time when I complained about children and screaming babies...)  
My (then) fiance and I
in Les Coches the last
time we went skiing

With the booked ski trip now just around the corner, I have started to panic. Not only do I need to lose that aforementioned stone or none of my ski equipment is going to fit me. We also now have a one year old child.

So, weight loss aside, what do you do with a 18 month old child on a ski trip? Strap him to my back? Pull him along on a sled? Put him in front of the iPad while I drink Vin Chaude. I'm joking of course, but I hadn't really thought this through.

We are staying in Courchevel 1850 in catered accommodation booked through Powder White called "Chalet Oscar". And, we have now booked a nanny service through t4 Nanny who we were recommended to us by a friend. So, I know the basics will be looked after and at least he will be fed.

What I'm mainly worried about is as follows:
My husband drinking in jacuzzi
(last time we went skiing)

  • What clothes do I need to take for him? It'll be fairly late in the season, but presumably he will still need to be fairly wrapped up. Are the snow suits that I have from TU and Next going to be warm enough or do I need something more performance? Plus, the chalets are generally boiling, so I guess therefore I'll need quite a mix of clothing types? 
  • He is walking now, but I don't know how he will fare on the snow. Is there any point in taking the buggy? (We have a bugaboo cameleon).
  • I remember chalets being boiling at night. So presumably only a fairly lightweight sleeping bag? Or will I need the 3.5 tog?
  • What about eating out at restaurants? I know he will eat frites, so I guess he won't starve. But do ski-side restaurants have kiddy menus? But, maybe a few Ella's Kitchen pouches in my rucksack- just for safety?

I'm not sure I'll be drinking wine in the
hot tub this time I go skiing! 
Basically, I'm looking for a bit of advice!

If any of you have been skiing with a young toddler before, I'd love to hear about it. Do you have any hints and tips? Have you used t4 Nanny before? If so, perhaps you can offer some guidance about how to get the most value out of their time. And, how to prevent separation anxiety when we leave him with people he doesn't know. 

Thank you in advance for all your help!

13 January 2016

Christmas at Center Parcs

After a tough few months, we needed a holiday. But, just before Christmas, you have to fly quite a long way to get guaranteed weather. We'd had some fairly difficult flights with our little one, so after some research we decided to stay on British soil with a trip to Center Parcs just down the road from us at Longleat Forest.

We knew it might rain all week (which it did!) but it looked as though the whole resort was set up for activities both indoors and outdoors. And, we got a pretty good deal on a two bed executive lodge because we booked a mid week break (Monday to Friday). So, I ordered a case of wines from Naked Wines and a week's worth of food, bundled it all into the car and we were all set.
The living area of our executive lodge

I was reasonably sceptical beforehand. I was concerned that it would be a bit like a middle class Butlins in the forest, with loads of naff and forced activities. I was also worried that it would feel like we were in close proximity to hundreds of people (apparently the place can hold 4,000 people at a time) and that the huge crowds would stop it from being relaxing. 

When we first arrived, I thought my worst fears had materialised. We had to queue up to get into the car park. It was impossible to find a space. And, when we arrived at the Plaza (the main shopping centre area) it was absolutely heaving with people. It was seriously stressful.
Relaxing with a glass of Champagne

Plus, we had paid extra for an early check in for our Lodge, but when we got there, it wasn't ready. The cleaners were still in there and when we asked how we could complain, we were told we couldn't complain because technically we could get into the Lodge, even though it wasn't ready. And, because we'd started putting our stuff into the lodge, they couldn't mop the floor. The cleaners finally left half an hour after the early check in time. Not a great start.

However, once the cleaners had gone, the fire was lit and my bottle of Jean Philippe Moulin Champagne was opened, it was a different story. It was actually really nice.

My son playing in one of the
many soft play areas
The lodge was pretty spacious and nicely decorated. It was also well equipped with a huge shower, a cute little chalk board to write messages on and even a wine fridge. You also couldn't tell there were 4,000 other people wandering around outside. It was quiet, private and pretty calm.

Overall, I'd say we had a really nice week. The whole place is well geared up for families with kids of all ages and it was perfect for my one year old. Most of the restaurants, cafes and pubs had soft play areas where my son could play while we enjoyed a coffee or a glass of wine. You couldn't walk for five yards without coming across a play park so he was constantly entertained (meaning we were more relaxed!). 

Everything was in walking distance and easy to get to. And, it was nice for us not to have to worry about cars and traffic (although I've never seen so many bikes in one place and some of the cyclists were pretty crazy!).

The Park looked really nice with all
the Christmas lights
The whole park looked lovely too with all the Christmas decorations, the winter wonderland with Santa's Grotto and the reindeer. It was just magical for all the kids.

A few things definitely needed improving though.

Because cars weren't permitted in the park, it made getting into and leaving your accommodation a hassle and absolute chaos. And, because everyone has pretty much the same check in and departure times, it means there are cars parked all over the place during those periods, turning the park into a massive car park.

It would be better if check in and departure times were staggered to avoid the mass rush to get in and out. It would also make it easier if there were more car parks as our car was parked over 20 minutes walk away from our lodge.

Also, if guests are going to be charged extra for an early check in, then the accommodation needs to be ready on time or a refund offered.
The road outside our lodge
on departure day

We did have some OK meals while we were at Center Parcs. But it would be great if there were one or two more high end restaurants. There were a lot of pubs, chain restaurants and fast food places, but nothing really special. We went out for dinner one night and we ended up going to the Indian because it looked the nicest. It was fine, but not really that special.

I'm hoping to go to Center Parcs Longleat again in the future. It'd be nice to see the resort in something other than rain and I'm sure the village in the forest looks lovely in the sunshine. I'll let you know what summer is like in the Park!

10 January 2016

Getting sloshed with Port Sippers

For my birthday, my friends at Hintons Home gave me a set of four Port Sippers. I'd never seen these beasts before, but frankly, I was very excited as I love port and I love fancy glasses.

I waited until New Year's Eve to try them out. We were spending the evening at my brother's house, who, frankly, loves a good drink. So, I took them to his house with a bottle of Montaria Tawny Port from Naked Wines and brought them out with some delight after lunch. 

We were all a bit sloshed by then anyway to be honest (as you can probably tell by the quality of the photos!) and they were met with some hilarity (especially as they look a bit like some apparatus you might choose to use for illegal activities!). 

My brother had also bought a bottle of Tawny Port from Berry Bros which we ended up drinking instead of mine. So we filled up our glasses (to the top!) and off we went.

The first thing I would say is that the capacity of these glasses is quite large. And, filling them to the top was, perhaps, an error of judgement! Hence why we all got so drunk! 

The blurb said that the sippers were supposed to bring out the flavour of the Port. "By sipping port from the bottom it reduces oxidisation and greatly improves the taste of your tipple." Well, the Port was delicious, but I honestly couldn't tell you whether it tasted better or not. We were all too drunk to remember.

However, I would say it was hilarious drinking out of the little spout and, like sipping it through a straw, it slipped down rather quickly. We laughed all the way through the experiment! 

I will definitely use my Port Sippers every time I drink Port from now on. They are a bit like a kid's sippy cup, but for adults! And, I promise to do a proper taste test in the future. When I'm not so drunk. And can remember what the Port tastes like! 

The Port Sippers are available from Hintons Home online  and they also have a lovely shop in Broadstone in Dorset.

Oh, and drink sensibly and that....

7 January 2016

What I drank this Christmas

I'm currently having a dry January, so I thought I would reminisce about some of the fabulous wine I drank this Christmas. 

I always find that everyone tends to splash out a bit more over the Festive Period (including me!) and this one was no exception. So I thought I'd make a little note of all the ones I enjoyed the most.

At the beginning of December, I wrote about how I'd ordered the Christmas mixed case from Naked Wines. Without a doubt, my standout bottle from the hamper was the Hacienda Don Hernan Rioja Crianza 2012Smooth, fruity and full of vanilla. We all absolutely loved it and I loved having something so rich and dark coloured in my glass. And, not too expensive at £13.99 a bottle.

Many of you may have read that I got married in Italy. My brother, who has fabulous taste in wine, bought all of the wine for after the meal. And, as usual it was all delicious. He'd originally been to Greve in the Chianti region to buy the wine, but on New Year's eve he produced two bottles of the red as a surprise for my husband and I. What a treat. The Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva was as yummy as I remembered, all fruity and rich and brought back wonderful memories of our wedding day. Available from Berry Bros for £24.99. 

It wasn't just red wine that I particularly enjoyed. I had quite a few delicious bottles of white wine too. My favourite was almost certainly this bottle of Saint Clair Pioneer Block Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Marlborough which is £19.99 from Majestic. It just tastes expensive and I can assure you it is worth the extra pennies (and you get it a bit cheaper if you buy six bottles or "mix six" as they like to call it). Dry, elegant and packed with gooseberry fruits. Seriously slurpable. 

I can't talk about Christmas wines without mentioning a fizz. I drank a lot of very poor sparkling wine over Christmas, I really don't know why people buy cheap Champagne, because IMHO, it is nearly always rubbish. You're much better off buying a Prosecco or English Sparkling wine. As an example, I was sent a bottle of Valdobbiadene Prosecco Spumante DOCG as part of my membership of the Aldi Wine Club. At £7.49 a bottle, it is an absolute steal. Light, fresh and creamy - you honestly wouldn't guess this was so reasonably priced nor from a no frills supermarket. I also really enjoyed the Sacchetto Prosecco Col de L’Utia Brut 2015 from Naked wines at £14.49 a bottle.

Finally, a sticky! On New Year's Eve, we enjoyed the William Pickering, 20-Year-Old, Tawny Port from Berry Bros (£26.95). A fairly sweet and nutty port, with notes of caramel. Dangerously drinkable. We had a lot of fun drinking it with our Port Sippers from Hintons Home. I'll review these in a later post, but they are fab! 

Anyway, these were just a snapshot of the wines I drank over Christmas. And, as my birthday was just before, I can assure you, there were many, many more! My liver hurts! Hence why I am now having a dry January! Did you have any wines over Christmas you'd like to share? Just let me know.

2 January 2016

The Aldi Wine Club - how I've found it so far

In November, I wrote about how I was lucky enough to be selected as a member of the Aldi Wine Club. I've now had three little parcels of joyful wine sent to my door, so I thought I'd write an update on my experience. 

At the start, I was slightly sceptical in all honesty because I don't buy that much supermarket wine and I was worried I'd end up drinking lots of wine that I didn't like that much. 

But, I've loved receiving the emails to tell me my latest batch of wines to taste is on its way. And, then waiting for the special little parcel to arrive at the door to try. 

Two Pinot Noirs I was sent to try. The one from
Marlborough was particularly good
As well as the excitement of new wines to try, I've been pleasantly surprised to enjoy drinking nearly all the wines that I've been sent.

My particular highlights have been the New Zealand Pinot Noir which is from their Exquisite collection. At just under £7 a bottle, this is a pretty classy Pinot Noir at a really affordable price. I also really liked their Prosecco Superiore which tasted much more expensive than you'd think from the actual price point. 

I'm a creature of habit when it comes to buying wine, so I often end up buying the same thing or wines I know I'll probably like. So, the best part about being part of the Aldi Wine Club has been getting to try lots of different wines that are slightly out of my purchasing comfort zone. For example, I would never have gone and bought a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. But I was sent one as part of a special Aldi Wine Club package and it was really different and delicious. We drank it with a mild chilli and because of the lime notes, it went really well.
Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc? I'd never
tried one before either

There have been a couple of wines which I found a bit average (although actually really drinkable) but I guess some of that comes down to personal taste and you're not always going to love everything.

Overall, I've loved it. I think I get kicked out of the club at some stage as they constantly refresh members. And, I've noticed they're currently advertising for new recruits so if you're interested, then why not give it a go?

In the meantime, I'll wait to see if I get another little surprise in the post! And, hope I don't get kicked out just yet!