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Thanks to everyone for the Es, always appreciated even if I haven't had the chance to thank you. Also write under the same name elsewhere.

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since 07/09/2009


Disney's Art of Animation Resort, Orlando 21/01/2013

The Art of Making Us Happy!

Disney's Art of Animation Resort, Orlando Our arrival at Art of Animation didn’t start too well. We found it hard to find as it didn’t seem to be on many signs but we decided to follow the signs to ESPN sports as I thought it was near there and we managed to pick up signs then. It was dark and all the signs in the hotel are hard to read in the dark so struggled to know where to park. We then queued for about 20 minutes to check-in as everyone took ages, when we were called they seemed to have to type everything in again including all our names, address etc even though it was all on the booking form. The CM said it was the new computers and it was driving them crazy! We were on the 5th floor (4th to us Brits) in the number 5 building in a Finding Nemo Family Suite. Building 5 has a brilliant location overlooking the Big Blue Pool and right next to the Animation Hall where we could fill up our drinks cups. This was particularly useful for hubby and me as we do like a cup of tea in the morning and there was no way of making that in the room. The other suite rooms are either in the Cars section or the Lion King, both areas have stunning outside theming. The Little Mermaid section houses standard hotel rooms and they are wonderfully decorated too. There are two other pools besides the Big Blue Pool. The corridor had wonderful wave like carpet which incorporated Hidden Mickeys too. Our room was very colourful but also really practical too. The colours are so bright I thought i would get a migraine but you soon get ...

Disney's Old Key West Resort, Orlando 14/01/2013

Not The Best Bit of Disney!

Disney's Old Key West Resort, Orlando We stayed 4 nights at Old Key West in a 1bedroom villa. It is one of the Disney Vacation Club Resorts so we stayed free using our points but ane bedroomed villa is usually abot £250 a night in high season. First Impressions We checked in at 8am to collect our Keys to The World as we had the Dining plan and were told we had a room in block 50 but they couldn’t call us when it was ready as we were using a UK mobile. I felt this was ridiculous, I am sure WDW have many International travellers and I didn’t think I should be inconvenienced just because I was not a US resident. We were given a number to phone at about 3pm as we were told our room would probably be ready by then and it would definitely be ready by 4pm. We left our luggage with bellhop and went off to the parks for the day. At about 4.30 we were leaving Animal Kingdom and phoned the number we were given only to find our room was not ready. Not terribly impressed we made our way back to the hotel and to reception. Once again we were told our room wasn’t ready but when I pointed out that we had checked in ages ago the cast member agreed that t want acceptable and started making phone calls on our behalf. I have no idea what happened to our original room but we ended up being allocated a room in block 52 instead but this wasn’t all sorted out until nearly 6pm so I was not very happy. Our Villa Our room was on the 2nd floor (1st floor to the Brits). We have stayed in –beds before but the first thing that struck me ...

Best Western Gateway-Santa Monica, Santa Monica 07/10/2012

A Great Base

Best Western Gateway-Santa Monica, Santa Monica We arrived at the Best Western Plus Gateway at Santa Monica after an 11 hour flight but luckily the hotel was really easy to find after a 25 minute drive from LAX and the free self-parking was well signposted and was directly under the hotel. We were greeted quickly and pleasantly at reception and were dealt with very efficiently and within minutes we had our key and were on our way to our room on the top floor. The corridors are painted in a very dull beige and green colour scheme with brown and green carpet which looked terribly dated but they were clean which was important to me. The hotel is completely non-smoking which also meant that there was no lingering stale cigarette smoke in the corridors. Our room looked brighter than the corridor with beige walls and bright orange throws on the beds but once these were removed it did look a bit dull. The room was an average size with two queen beds. It also had a fridge, coffee maker (which strangely is stored in the bathroom) and a safe. The bathroom was plain with a sink set in a worktop but with no storage and not a lot of places for towels either. Considering that there were four of us booked in to the room I felt that there were not very many towels, 2 bath towels and two hand towels. The only mirror in the room was in the bathroom and since the extractor didn’t work well this was steamed up as soon as anyone had a shower so this wasn’t very convenient. The hotel offers free wireless internet access in the rooms which ...

Las Vegas Platinum Hotel Suites, Las Vegas 21/09/2012

Quiet, Spacious but not Clean

Las Vegas Platinum Hotel Suites, Las Vegas As part of our Californian Road Trip Adventure I knew that we would need to make a stop in Las Vegas. I know a few people who had travelled there and I took on all the information that I could and came to a few conclusions. I knew that we would prefer a hotel that didn’t have a Casino, I am not bothered by gambling but I had found out that the casinos get very smoky and the hotels can smell because of it. I prefer to self-park so wanted a hotel that would give that option rather than just valet parking. I also felt that I wanted to be quite central and near the Strip as lots of hotels seemed quite a way out. The final consideration was that with a teenage son and daughter, the option of at least 3 beds would be good rather than me having to share with my wriggly daughter and my husband sharing with my bed-hogging son. After spending hours on Trip Adviser and other such sites I eventually opted for the Platinum Hotel which is on East Flamingo Road. It didn’t appear to be too far from the Strip and looked centrally located. The hotel offered free self-parking and also had the advantage of not charging a Resort Fee which is quite common for many hotels which can easily add $25-$50 a night to the bill. This is a suite hotel so we opted for the middle range room which was called the Princess Suite as it had two queen beds and a sofa bed. Arrival Driving in to Las Vegas was an experience like no other, there were cars everywhere and obviously most people had no idea where they ...

Comfort Suites At The Barstow Outlets, Barstow 30/08/2012

Overnight Comfort

Comfort Suites At The Barstow Outlets, Barstow The drive from Sequoia Forest to Las Vegas was going to be a long one so we decided to look for a stopping point along the way and the first one that jumped off the map was Barstow, this is also a great stopping place between LA and Vegas too. We simply wanted an overnight stop and were not very interested in the location as long as it was easy to access from the main road so doing a quick internet search led us to boking the Comfort Suites. The main appeal was the fact that the room came with two beds and a sofa-bed so it meant that I wouldn’t have to share a bed with my teenage daughter. The comfort Suites was very easy to spot from the road, its garish orange paintwork certainly stood out at what was basically a truck stop in the middle of the desert. Its location didn’t look terribly inviting but after a long hot drive we were just keen to get in to a room with air-conditioning and a chance to make a cup of tea! The hotel has a large car-park which is free. Once we had parked we went in to reception and were immediately disconcerted by a sign telling us that “materials used in this building are known to cause cancer in the State of California”. However we soon realised that we would see this sign all over California but no-one would ever be able to give you information about what it actually meant. When we arrived at reception there were several people working there. However some appeared to be training and it took a while to check us in as about 4 people had a go at ...

Joshua Tree (California) 24/08/2012

"In God's Country"

Joshua Tree (California) In the late 80s I remember seeing the exotic landscape behind U2 on the cover of their legendry album Joshua Tree. There was no way that I could visit California without seeking out the Joshua Trees so we decided to head to the Joshua Tree national park whilst travelling between Las Vegas and San Diego. We stayed overnight in twenty-nine Palms so it was only a few minutes’ drive to reach the Utah trail by the Oasis Visitor Centre. We didn’t stop at the visitors centre as we were only planning a few hours in the park but if you are planning on doing more intensive hiking or need to camp then this is the place to go. We progressed to the North Entrance Station where we paid $15 entrance fee for the car and were given a map. I am sure we were told that the entrance was good for a week to re-enter but I am not sure as we knew we wouldn’t be able to return. The terrain was very barren dessert with small cacti and Mojave Yucca plants. Every now and again there was a pull-in with an information board. Some of these boards were very relevant to the place that we had stopped and some just seemed random and told you general information about the park. The receptionist at the hotel we were staying in had suggested that we didn’t bother going right down towards Cotton wood Springs as he said that due to the time of year (mid-august) there was not a lot to see and that we would be better off just doing a loop and coming out of the Park at Joshua Tree and re-joining route 62. This cut ...

Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, San Diego 22/08/2012

Great Staff but not Great Stuff!

Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, San Diego My husband travels a lot with his job and accumulates Hyatt points which we have never used. Whilst planning our trip to San Diego we decided we would try and use some of these points. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get our first choice of hotel at Mission Bay but we opted for the Hyatt Regency at La Jolla instead without doing much research first. First Impressions The hotel certainly looks impressive in its photographs and first impressions when we drove up where very good; it looked just as good as the photographs. I am not a fan of valet parking as I always feel rushed out of the car so we had already decided that we would prefer self-parking. The sign was quite well hidden but luckily we spotted it and made our way down the side of the hotel to the car park. There were a few speed ramps here that are probably the worst I have ever driven over, certainly not suitable for anyone with back problems. We took a ticket from the oldest, noisiest ticket machine I have ever seen and drove into the gloom. We immediately realised that all of the best parking spaces had been reserved for valet cars and we had to go down quite a way to find a space that would fit the large car we hired. The car park was terrible claustrophobic with very low ceilings and quite a walk to the lift. You then have the option of “Lower Lobby” or “Lobby” which all seemed quite confusing, if you are checking in you want the Lobby. From the carpark lift you then have to walk in to the main building and ...

Holiday Inn Express Suites, Porterville 17/08/2012

Cheap, Clean and Comfortable.

Holiday Inn Express Suites, Porterville We were driving from Los Angeles and needed somewhere to stay overnight before spending a day in the Sequoia forests and decided that Porterville looked as good as anywhere for a quick overnight stop. We opted for the Holiday Inn Express as it was offering free accommodation for children with adults which suited us fine as a family of four. We had one night for £73 for the four of us which was good value considering that we were in the peak of the holiday season. The Sat Nav took us straight to the right location where we found a large free car park. On entering we were greeted by a lovely receptionist who checked us in and then asked if our trip was to visit the Sequoias. When we confirmed that it was she gave us lots of information and some leaflets to help with our visit. The hotel seemed quite new and our room was lovely and bright and very clean. It was a little larger than some of the other twin rooms we had stayed in. Along with the beds and desk there was also a nice comfy chair and footstool which gave us an extra place to sit rather than always having to perch on the beds. Unfortunately, like all of the beds we came across in America it was made up with a quilt in-between sheets which I always find must uncomfortable as it all gets tangled up but it seems to be standard. The room also had a microwave, fridge and coffee maker. The room also had free wireless internet access which was quick too. There was a TV in the room but since we never watch television on ...

Wolfgang Puck Express, Orlando 02/07/2012

We Love Wolfgang!

Wolfgang Puck Express, Orlando There are countless restaurants around Walt Disney World in Florida and they are split between Table Service and Quick Service outlets. The Table Service establishments usually require reservation and since these can be made 6 months in advance it can be a bit tricky to eat in them at short notice at popular times. For this reason we usually opt for the Quick Service dining options i.e. fast food. This is alright but it is easy to fall in to the rut of having fries and burgers all the time so on this last trip I was determined to find some, healthier and more interesting alternatives. I had heard about Wolfgang Puck Express at Downtown Disney on a Disney forum and was keen to give it a try. Wolfgang Puck Express should not be confused with the Wolfgang puck café which is a table service restaurant in DTD and rather expensive. When we arrived at DTD we had a look at the map and realised that there were actually two locations for the Wolfgang Puck Express, one in Marketplace and one in Westside. Since we were in Marketplace we decided to opt for that one rather than walking across the site. The restaurant was easy to find, it is just next to the Christmas Shop. The menu is clearly displayed outside with all of the prices. I hadn’t realised that it had quite an Italian theme to the menu but that was fine by me as I like pasta and pizza. There was also a selection of grilled sandwiches and wraps. On entering the restaurant we immediately noticed that the inside seating area ...

Disney Vacation Club 22/06/2012

Disney's Best Kept Secret

Disney Vacation Club As a family we have been lucky enough to holiday at Walt Disney World in Florida several times and on many of these trips we had noticed billboards and badges promoting “Disney’s Best Kept Secret”. In all of the parks there have been stands with Cast Members handing out flyers emblazoned with the same statement under the title of Disney Vacation Club (DVC). For years we walked past these brightly coloured offerings without a second glance and didn’t think anything they were promoting could possibly be of any interest to us. What Is DVC? After searching for some information about Park opening times on the internet I came across a Disney Forum and ended up reading the information posted there about DVC. This scheme is actually the Disney version of Timeshare and the more I read the more interested I became in the idea. We had some money set aside which we had thought of using to help us move house but since there didn’t seem to be anything for us to buy that ticked all the boxes we had decided to stay put whilst the children were at school and the money sat in the bank. I thought that DVC might be a good, long-term use for the money but I decided that I really needed to do my homework first. I spent a long time researching on the internet about owner’s satisfaction as well as how the scheme worked and then eventually ordered a promotional DVD from Disney. To order this I had to give my phone number and the next day I got an unsolicited (but not unexpected) call from ...

Dyson DC 40 Animal 13/06/2012

It Really is an Animal!

Dyson DC 40 Animal A few years ago I got given a free vacuum cleaner as a tester. I was quite pleased with it but over time a few features about it had started to annoy me so I decided to donate it to my parents who needed another one and I would buy myself something that I was happier with. There were some things about the old vacuum that I liked, namely being an upright (I had used cylinders for several years) and the transparent dust collection (something I had always avoided previously) so I did wanted these features in my new machine. I have a friend who swears by Dysons and I must say that I have always been impressed with how old her vacuum was and how well it worked so I decided to look at the Dyson machines first. I was amazed how many different variations were on the market and it took me a while to narrow down the choice to something that would be suitable for me. One of my biggest problems is the fact that I have two dark haired cats who I really think should be completely bald considering the amount of hair they leave all around the house. I have pale carpets and I can always see hairs and I wanted something that would be suitable to keep those clean. Dysons pride themselves on their”Radical Root Cyclone Technology” and their latest offerings tend to incorporate a large ball as a means of steering. I decided to look at the Dyson “animal” range of upright cleaners and found there were several to choose from but they were all very expensive. In the end I opted for the DC40 Animal ...

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick 12/06/2012

Lovely Lustrous Lipcolour (for a while!)

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick Like many women I am always on the hunt or my perfect lipstick. I never seem to be truly happy with the colour, the formula or the longevity so I will often treat myself to a new product to see if I can find the illusive, perfect product. When I was last in Boots I was having a look at their make-up range as I had plenty of points on my Advantage Card and I had decided to use them on a new lipstick. Revlon is not a brand I tend to buy makeup from frequently but I was not very happy with the colours I could find in the other ranges so I gravitated towards the Revlon stand eventually. I do use Revlon Nail Varnish and have always liked those so I decided the make-up would probably be an acceptable quality too. I tend to us a long-life lip stain product when I am at work but I was looking or a more gentle product for everyday use instead. I do find the stains a bit drying so I was after a more moisturising lipstick instead. Revlon seemed to do several different lipsticks but I was drawn to the Super Lustrous Lipstick as it said that it had silk and vitamins for a smooth, conditioning colour. This sounded exactly what I was looking for so I had a closer look at the colour range. There seemed to be lots of colours in the range going from subtle, barely-there hints to some really bright colours. I wanted a natural everyday shade so I opted for Blush which is a pinky brown colour. The lipstick was selling in Boots at about £7.50 which is about what I am willing to pay for a ...

Tesco Spring Fresh Concentrated Fabric Conditioner 07/06/2012

Spring Fresh?

Tesco Spring Fresh Concentrated Fabric Conditioner I am always amazed at how much laundry products seem to cost these days so I have been trying some own brands to see if there is really any difference. When shopping in Tesco I spotted the Tesco spring Fresh Concentrated Fabric Conditioner on special offer at 60p for 750ml. I felt I really couldn’t go wrong at that price so I purchased a bottle. The packaging is very much standard for a fabric conditioner. It is a slightly squarish clear bottle with a blue screw cap. I like the fact that the bottle is clear with a pale coloured label as it means that it is easy to judge how much is left. Some of the more expensive brands now have dark labels over the whole bottle and it is difficult to judge when a replacement needs buying. The lid is quite narrow but it is ridged and easy to open and fits securely, I have never had any problems with leakages although I do store it upright. The manufacturers state that this fabric conditioner has “scent release” which means that the fragrance should be released with every touch. Bizarrely the lid holds 36ml. The recommended amount for a normal wash is 35ml and a large load or extra softness will benefit from 55ml. The cap seems a bit strange to measure these amounts out. I am used to a larger lid with markings to say how much is needed. Upon opening the bottle I wasn’t terribly impressed by the scent. Spring fresh would not be my description, it smelt very much of chemicals and there was no hint of freshness or flowers, in fact I ...

Avon Planet Spa African Shea Butter Hand and Cuticle Cream 05/06/2012

Well at least it Smells Nice!

Avon Planet Spa African Shea Butter Hand and Cuticle Cream Last Christmas I received a tube of the Avon planet Spa African Shea Butter Hand and Cuticle cream as part of a gift set which included cotton gloves as well. As someone who seems to suffer a lot with dry skin on my hands I am always on the lookout for effective hand creams and I love to try new ones so I was pleased with my present. I do not suffer dreadfully with dry skin but my hands do often feel tight and as I am getting older they look drier. I suppose it is a combination of things that cause this but I am dreadful at remembering to wear gloves whilst using household chemicals and since I work in a healthcare environment I wash my hands a lot during the day as well which probably doesn’t help. The cream is presented in a soft 75ml plastic tube which is a rather uninspiring beige colour with a small white pattern. I have not seen any other Planet Spa products but I presume the whole range is packaged in a similar way. The manufacturers claim that this cream will sooth dehydrated rough skin and soften cuticles. The extensive ingredient list is on the back and this product does contain methyparaben which is a common allergen. It also contains denatured alcohol which surprised me as alcohol is a drying agent on the skin so I wouldn’t expect to see it in a hand cream. The shelf life once opened is 12 months and the packaging is suitable for recycling if facilities exist. The tube has a clear, flip-top lid. I always prefer my hand creams to have a flip-top lid as they ...

Fifty Shades of Grey - E L James 30/05/2012

Fifty Shades of Boredom (*Spolier and Content Alert*)

Fifty Shades of Grey - E L James Although I am a 40 something mother of two I still enjoyed reading the Twilight series. I wasn’t really the target audience but who can resist a good love story. A little while ago I heard mention of Fifty Shades of Grey. I saw it in Waterstones and it was positioned near the Teen fiction. Having heard that this was based on Fan Fiction related to the Twilight Saga I thought I would give it a try. I decided to buy it for my Kindle as it was cheaper that way. I also downloaded the second book in the series too as I had only heard positive comments. I like Science Fiction and over the years I have read quite a bit of Fan Fiction based around the Blakes 7 series. This was usually really well written and I loved the twists on a theme so I expected to be impressed with what a fan had produced around Twilight. Anastasia Steele is just about to Graduate and move to Seattle with her best friend Kate. She has never had a boyfriend although she isn’t short of admirers but they just don’t seem to be her type. Whilst doing a favour for a friend she meets the secretive, young, multi-millionaire Christian Grey. Christian is immediately drawn to the awkward young lady but she seems oblivious to how he feels although she is immediately taken with him. The story progresses as a rather predictable love story until we start to find out a little more about Christian and his lifestyle. Suddenly the story takes a dramatic twist and we wait to see what Anastasia makes of her new discoveries ...
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