Family Life With Tweens | Days Out | Holiday Ideas

Christmas has officially started:- Fenwicks Window 2013

A visit to Fenwicks window really signifies the start of Christmas celebrations in the Rickelton house. It is the first festive thing we do and we usually visit one night after school in the last few days of November (it is so much nicer in the dark) whilst the continental market is in town.

This year, the queues were really quite longer than normal. The children waited patiently though (Lego Santa kept them company).

The theme of Fenwicks window changes every year and I'm delighted to say that we loved this years 'fairytale' theme. Every window featured a different favourite tale. As always, the attention to detail is outstanding. We loved spotting the little mice in each scene. Here are a few of our favourite parts:-

We particularly loved hansel and gretal, little red riding hood and Rapunzel.

One thing does annoy me with Fenwicks window and that is the people that don't know how to queue like the rest of us and think it is ok to push in! Or even worse push in and take 10 minutes taking photos of their children while they hold the whole queue up! Hmmm I guess this just highlights some of the rudeness in our society. Hope they get coal in their stocking!

The continental market in Newcastle is on until 30th November. It is based around Grey's monument. It's not huge and there isn't a lot of selection gift wise but there are a couple of lovely food stalls and a good few options for eating food on the go. These meringues caught my eye - we bought a lemon one for supper.

As part of our tradition we usually let the kids choose some sweets from the market. There wasn't much choice though (unless you liked fudge) so we decided to end our evening with a trip to nearby hotel chocolat for a reindeer lollipop. 

So that's it, our festivities have officially started! Next is a trip to York Christmas market, a trip to the under 6's panto at Northern Stage and then decorating the house, putting our tree up and the arrival of elf on the shelf&advent calendars on the 1st December. Have you started your festivities yet? 


How do you like your bath?

It is rare for me to enjoy a bath to myself. As I'm sure many parents can agree with, as soon as your supposedly sleeping children hear you climb in the tub they suddenly need the toilet, or feel the need to start crying for you/fighting with their siblings or worst of all decide to climb in with you! When I do get the chance to relax by my myself I am still surrounded by children's bath toys, lego (which my children love to build in the bath) and bath squirters.

I do still really enjoy a bath though and a child free bath is top of this list of things I like to do when my children are otherwise occupied.

So what makes a perfect bath? For me it is the following:-

*The water needs to be as hot and deep as possible
*I need to wear a face mask
*There needs to be some sort of relaxing bath product added to the water
*The lights need to be dim
*I need to be in complete silence!

Now my perfect bath is pretty hard to achieve every day, but is such a treat when I do get the chance.

We were recently asked to sample a product from  Quinessence aromatherapy. I decided to try their Relaxing bath soak with organic Rose, Geranium and Sandalwood.

This is a luxury bath soak enriched with organic essential oils which have been especially blended to help you relax. You only need a few drops of the product so the 200ml bottle will last a long time.

As soon as you add a few drops to your running bath you start to relax and can smell the essential oils already working their magic.

There are no bubbles with this product, however a few drops of this bath soak turn a pretty normal bath into something special. It really left me leaving feeling de-stressed. I also liked how the scent lingered on your skin long after your bath. Quinessence bath soaks are priced at £9.99 each which I feel is an excellent price for a luxury product. You get great value for money as a bottle would last a very long time and I would certainly recommend them as a gift for anybody in your life who deserves a little pampering.

Check out Quinessence bath soaks and their other luxury aromatherapy products here:-

Disclaimer:- we were sent a product of our choice from Quinessence for the purpose if this review. All views are our own.


Paying your restaurant bill with your iPhone!

My iPhone is like an extension of my hand. I love it and it always amazes me with something new. When I read about being able to pay your restaurant bill at prezzo with the prezzo app it was definitely something I wanted to try.

We love prezzo as a family-friendly restaurant - I have previously blogged about their fantastic children's menu here.

The app is free to download and the registration process is super easy. It only takes a few minutes, then you are ready to go.

The home screen offers a few different options - you can find your nearest prezzo and book a table, view the various menus and sign up for the latest offer. Everything is smooth and flawless. The table booking function was particularly great and it immediately added the reservation to my iPhone calendar.

You can even create a facebook event straight from the booking page and invite your friends.

When you open your tab at the restaurant you need to tap 'pay bill' and you are given a unique code to show to your server. Then you can close your phone for the evening or if you are a bit if a control freak like me you can check your bill throughout the night and watch as the drinks and food you order magically appear on your virtual bill.

As always we thoroughly enjoyed our meal at prezzo. We enjoyed starters of calamari and tricolore salad.

Unusually, everybody ordered pizza as a main course and everybody devoured it all! 

We managed to save a little bit of room for one of prezzo's delicious desserts. I was really spoilt for choice as many of my favourites featured on the menu. In the end I opted for a mini raspberry cheesecake and espresso (I love how you can buy mini desserts and a hot drink for £4.95). Hubby opted for the Lemon torte from the November specials menu and the children chose ice cream.

Now the fun part - paying the bill! All you need to do is simply tap 'pay bill' through the app on your phone. Everything that you have ordered is itemised for you to check. You can even easily split the bill between friends using the 'split bill' function which is very nifty. What I liked most about using the app is not having to wait around to catch a waiters eye and ask for the bill - you can just do it all in your own time.

You can also add a tip and use the slider to change the percentage you'd like to leave - the app automatically works out the amount for you.

To pay, you simply tap on whichever pre-saved card you would like to use and that's it! A detailed invoice including a VAT number is even emailed to you straight away.

In summary, the prezzo app is definitely something I will use again. It was very simple to use and I liked being able to see a detailed list of everything we'd ordered as we ordered it- it is a great way to keep an eye on your budget when you are eating out. Prezzo Cramlington even has free wifi available so we didn't need to use any of our data allowance.

The prezzo app is available to download now from the App Store.

Disclaimer:- we were given vouchers in order to try and review the prezzo app. All views are our own.



Ahhhh! The first snow of the season has arrived and I am not a happy bunny!

I hate snow for the following reasons:-

1- It is cold and slippy
2 - Driving in snow just fills me with fear
3 - I need to get out if bed half an hour earlier to get car ready

Honestly I really don't know what there is to like about it? Well apart from it makes my festive book display look more festive!


Center parcs family blogger challenge - November

Isn't Autumn just a beautiful season? It is our favourite time of year to wrap up warm and get out and about for a walk. I love how the air is crisp, there is lots of colour and nature for the children to explore and it is great coming home to a lovely mug of hot chocolate.

This month, center parcs challenged us to write an Autumnal poem. We took some inspiration from Emma Tapp who is the conservation and wildlife expert at Whinfell forest. She provided some top tips to make the most of the weather. Our favourite is:-

"Play outside – Despite the drop in temperature, it’s great to wrap up warm and get outside in the fresh air. The sound of the leaves crunching as you stroll through the park or play in the garden is bound to get you and your children inspired, so why not head outside for a brisk autumn stroll before setting to work on your poetic masterpiece?"

So we did just that. Autumn is my favourite season for taking photos as the sky always seems to be so blue! When we went to the beach, it was absolutely full of dog walkers, families and their were even a few swimmers! You would not believe it was November!

Here is our poem, I hope you like it:-

Let's put our wellies on and walk to the park
We need to do it quick before it gets dark

Lots of Autumn colours outside,
Getting ready for the animals to hide.

Pine cones to collect and conkers to play
The air is crisp throughout the day

Red leaves start to fall from the trees
They're piled high right up to our knees

Our hands are cold and cheeks are red
Time to dig out our gloves and put hats on our head

We spot a robin eating some berries
It's breast is all red and it looks nice and merry

Crunches and crinkles under our toes
Lots of sounds to explore as our journey goes

Time to go home when we tire 
All snuggled up with hot chocolate by the fire

Autumn is a lovely time with lots to do
Before winter comes all white and blue

‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and will be visiting Whinfell forest village with my family. If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go the challenge page to find out how’


Date night - Valley Junction and As U Like It

Last week we celebrated 7 years of marriage! This sort of accomplishment definitely deserves a nice meal out and a few drinks. We really fancied something spicy and somewhere that was easy to get to so decided on the Valley Junction restaurant in Jesmond.

The Valley Junction is owned by the same people who run the infamous Newcastle-Corbridge curry train. The restaurant in Jesmond is stationery but the train theme is still there - in fact half of the restaurant is a converted train carriage!

There is plentiful free parking outside. Valley Junction has an upmarket feel and it is the sort of place you would go for a special treat - it was mostly couples and a few large groups. 

The service throughout was just fantastic.   From the waiter promptly taking our orders, to the manager circulating and checking all of his guests were happy to the way all of our food was brought out at the same time so there was none of that awkward waiting around. We really were made to feel like a guest and not an inconvenience.

The food was also delicious, we ordered popadoms and dips to start - lovely to see the dips were in plentiful supply and then I ordered chicken madras, pilau rice a garlic naan. Everything was perfectly cooked - the naans were nice and fresh, chicken very tender and the sauce was hot and full of warmth but not so hot that it makes your eyes water! 

Hubby ordered his new favourite dish - chicken dupiaza with mushroom pilau and garlic naan. He describes the dish as being full if flavour with a spicy kick (but not overpowering).

We also enjoyed a couple of large cobra's each to wash our meal down with. The bill was just short of £50 which is on the expensive side for what we had, however as it was a special occasion and the ambience, food and service were all faultless I think this price is absolutely worth it. There were lots of little touches at the end such as chocolate business cards, hot towels and free coffee refills at the end of the evening which are all lovely touches to end a special treat.

You just need to cross the carpark to find yourself at 'as u like it' which is a bar, restaurant, function room and terrace. We have been a few times and really like it here. There is a good mix of people and you don't feel out of place when you're nearly approaching the grand age of 30 like you might feel in some of the bars in town. On the night of our visit there was a live band playing a selection of soul and groove music mixed with a DJ playing disco hits from the 70s through to present day. The bar was busy, but we still managed to get a table and enjoy our night.

When I visit a cocktail bar, I have to order a cocktail! I think the menu could have a little more variation and I was disappointed to hear that the frozen cocktails were not being served that evening due to a problem with ice. There went my raspberry daiquiri! Instead I ordered a toblerone cocktail which was enjoyable, however there was no sign of a honey float and our waitress obviously did not attend charm school! We seemed to be greatly inconveniencing her by asking her to make us a cocktail!. 

Next, I decided to try a piña colada, which I was expecting to arrive in a pineapple as described on the menu! It appears I was short changed though as there was no pineapple in sight (well apart from a token pineapple leaf used to decorate my glass) This cocktail was delicious though and it is nice that it was freshly made rather than pre-made like many piña coladas are these days!

We only managed 2 drinks before it was time for our taxi to take us home. Overall we had a lovely night and will definitely be visiting this area of Jesmond again soon - think we'll stay away from the cocktails though and maybe opt for a bottle of wine at as u like it instead.


Family breakfast at wetherspoons

Breakfast at Wetherspoon's is served until 12 noon and is an inexpensive place to take the family for a treat. Our half term was extended last week with a teacher training day tagged onto the end of it. Our week had been pretty hectic and we wanted a nice chilled day so decided to start the day with a leisurely late breakfast at our local Werherspoons pub.

The breakfast deals are simply fantastic value and have some lovely new additions. 

decided to try the tropical fruit salad with Organic Greek style yoghurt with honey. You could order this to include a drink as part of a meal deal. It was a
chilly day and as I was having a very healthy breakfast I decided to treat myself and I chose a hot chocolate to accompany my fruit (which was served with whipped cream at no extra cost)

 At only £2.19 for this lovely hot chocolate and the delicious fruit salad it felt like the bargain of the century! The fruit salad consisted of orange segments, cubed melon and red grapes. All fresh and juicy!

The kids love wetherspoons pancakes with syrup and at only £1.99 I love them too!

Hubby had the best intentions of enjoying something different for breakfast but he could not resist the full English and a cup of tea for less than a fiver.

Wetherspoons provide coloring packs for children and they have plenty of high chairs and baby changing facilities are available. I've always found service to be super speedy and consistent. It is for these reasons we return for breakfast again and again.

Disclaimer:- we were given vouchers to try the new menu at wetherspoon's. All views are our own.

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