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since 19/03/2014


Premier Inn Crewe West, Crewe 19/05/2017

A reasonable room at a reasonable price

Premier Inn Crewe West, Crewe ~~~ Where is it? ~~~There are two Premier Inns in Crewe – one is very close to the station; one a little further out on the outskirts of town. On a recent visit to Crewe for work, I was advised by locals to book into the Premier Inn Crewe West. I took 10 minute taxi drive from the station to the Inn which is at the junction of the A530 and A532, 9 miles from Junction 16 of the M6. The hotel is set in nicely maintained grounds with a decking area outside for warmer days and adjoins a Beefeater. Prices start at £44 but this will depend on how far you book in advance and whether or not want a flexible booking; my room with breakfast was booked through my employer’s booking system and cost £86.99. ~~~ The rooms ~~~I was checked in efficiently and directed to my room on the first floor. Premier Inn rooms are available from from 2pm on the day you're due to arrive and check out is by 12 noon. When I’m travelling for work, I always feel relieved when I’ve been booked into a Premier Inn. I know what to expect – good basic accommodation that may lack some of the luxuries that other establishments offer but I know that there will be a decent enough room with a comfortable bed which means I’ll get a good night’s sleep. Premier Inn make rather a thing about their beds and the marketing appears to be working. Most colleagues say the same thing – Premier Inn has a consistent offering with rooms that have a good bed at a very reasonable price. In fact they offer a ‘Good Night Guarantee’ ...

Snozone at Xscape, Milton Keynes 13/05/2017

On the piste again

Snozone at Xscape, Milton Keynes 25 years ago, indoor snow slopes were unheard of. What you could do was go to a dry ski slope (they are still about) where you could do something like ski-ing on dry matting which was unpleasant if you fell on. However, slowly indoor slopes with ‘real’ now started to appear with the Snozones in Milton Keynes and Castleford being amongst the first. Over the years I have spent a lot of time at the Snozone in Milton Keynes and after a trip there this week, I thought it time to write about my experience. ~~~ Finding it ~~~So first things first, where is it? The Snozone is in the Xscape Centre in the centre of Milton Keynes. Because it has to accommodate the ski slope, Xscape has a distinctive shape and you can see it from afar. As well as hosting the Snozone, there is a cinema, lots of shops (many of them snow sports related), restaurants, bowling alley, climbing wall and next door to the main building there is now an indoor skydiving centre. Getting there is pretty straightforward but as always in Milton Keynes, there are lots (and I mean lots!) of roundabouts to circumnavigate. If approaching Milton Keynes from the MA (leaving via Junction 14) you need to take the A509 towards Central Milton Keynes. Xscape is well signposted (look for the brown signs of a downhill skier) and after 6 or 7 roundabouts, you will find yourself near the entrance. Although there is a large car park, getting a slot can be quite difficult at peak times – I’ve been there at the weekend and found cars ...

Skin Republic Foot Repair Mask 05/05/2017

These boots aren't made for walking

Skin Republic Foot Repair Mask Skin Republic ~~~~~~~~~~~ Allegedly South Korea has been dubbed by industry experts as the world’s new skin care super power (well it has according to the Skin Republic website). Sheet masks certainly originated there and have given South Korea a reputation for developing innovative skin care products. Skin Republic offers a skin care range of products all developed in South Korea. Their range of 19 products apparently combine “the latest advances in skin care with nature’s restorative properties” and are focussed on the face, neck and décolletage, hands and feet. The Skin Republic range is cruelty free and not tested on animals. It is hypo-allergenic and laboratory tested by dermatologists. Sheet masks ~~~~~~~~~~ Skin Republic products target skin concerns such as aging, loss of firmness, uneven skin tone and problem skin. Sheet masks use something called a “Transdermal Delivery System” which sounds a bit like gobbledygook but apparently allows the serum to absorb into the skin more efficiently than traditional masks and creams. I’ve used the anti-ageing face mask and been really impressed. My skin really soaked up the serum and I could feel the benefit for a number of days. I had bought the mask at a spa shop and at the same time picked up the Foot Repair packet. I always moisturise the soles of my feet but I noticed recently that the skin on top of the foot was quite dry and with a few days hoefully in the sun coming up, I thought I should give me feet some attention. ...

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock 01/05/2017

The gardens alone are worth a visit

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock I was expecting this to be an Afternoon Tea review, but in fact it’s more about the wonderful outdoors at Blenheim. Please note that this not a review of the Palace itself. As a group of ladies, we have got into the habit of celebrating our birthdays by a collective outing and afternoon tea often features. So, when a friend celebrated a landmark birthday earlier this year, we gave her a voucher for an afternoon tea at a venue of her choice. I have to admit that I was somewhat taken aback when she suggested Blenheim Palace but the others all seemed up for it so we agreed a date and decided we would allow a little time before hand to explore the gardens and booked afternoon tea at the Orangery. ~~~ Getting there ~~~Blenheim Palace is eight miles north-west of Oxford just on the edge of Woodstock. It’s on the A44 Evesham Road and is signposted from Junction 9 of the M40. If using satnav, you’re advised to use the postcode OX20 1PS. We set off in two cars, both using the advised postcode and both being directed different ways! Coming from Northamptonshire, we had a relatively easy journey taking the M40. Although Blenheim Palace is signposted off the M40 our satnav took us on rather a circuitous route and clearly not the signposted one. We definitely took the back roads ending up going through the lovely little town of Woodstock, which is charming and worthy of a visit in its own right. In the event both cars arrived within 5 minutes of each other and we met just outside the ...

Sanctuary Spa Body Scrub 24/04/2017

For a gentle exfoliation

Sanctuary Spa Body Scrub With spring is in the air, it seems the time to step up the beauty regime and get the skin ready for a little more exposure to natural light. I’m thinking here in particular arms and legs which tend to be well covered during the colder winter months. The first step in the process is for some exfoliation with the time of getting the skin looking more radiant and healthy. I try to exfoliate once a week in any case, but now need to increase frequency to really get ready for the sun. The Sanctuary Scrub is gentle enough to use very day. Why bother? ~~~~~~~~~~~ Using a scrub encourages a good cell turnover so that as surface skin cells are damaged, they are replaced. Skin generally renews itself once a month but this slows down significantly for those of us who have hit the 50 mark, So stimulating that sluggish skin renewal is even more necessary. The Sanctuary Spa Gentle Scrub ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~ The 200ml tube of orange exfoliator looks like a typical Sanctuary product. The clear tube has an orange flip top from which it is easy to squeeze the require amount of scrub onto hand or whatever method of application you choose. To use The directions are to massage gently onto wet skin in a circular motion and then rinse off ‘to reveal velvety skin’. The therapist’s tip (which I ignore) is to ‘Finish your shower with a blast of cold water – as cold as you dare - to tone your skin, close pores and awaken your senses’. I know I probably should, Mr P does and tells me it’s very ...

Boots Cucumber Cleansing Wipes 18/04/2017

Wiping away the grime of the day

Boots Cucumber Cleansing Wipes When I’m at home I normally use eye make-up remover and a regular cleanser to take off make-up at the end of the day. However, when I’m travelling for work or on holiday I use cleansing wipes as I find them more portable. I’ll continue to use them when I get back home to finish off the packet before the wipes dry ou. However, generally I prefer to use a cleansing lotion which I think is kinder to my skin. But in clearing out my mother’s cupboards recently after helping her and my father move into a luckily very nice care home, I found packets and packets of Boots Essentials Cucumber Cleansing Wipes. So not wanting them to go to waste, I thought I’d give them a try. Product details ~~~~~~~~~~~ So, the wipes come in a simple light green package with a pull back adhesive flap in the centre which should reseal to keep the wipes fresh. Like most packets of wipes, I do find that the seal doesn’t last as long it should and I therefore keep the wipes in a small plastic bag to ensure that they do keep fresh. The wipes aren’t the largest of wipes – they actually measure 7.5 inches x 7.5 inches . For me at least that seems just about the right size. Anything bigger always seems to be surplus to requirements and I have to resist the urge to pack them away and use another day. The wipes also don’t seem as moist as some but rather than bigger a negative, again I think this is an advantage. I find some wipes just too wet with the result that they actually seem quite cold to use and I ...

Skin Republic Collagen Infusion Face Mask 12/04/2017

Infused with collagen infusion

Skin Republic Collagen Infusion Face Mask At a recent stay in at a Spa, I noticed this face mask from Skin Republic on one of the shelves in the beauty shop. It was one one of the least inexpensive items in the shop at £4.99 so I thought I would give it a try. I also thought it would be useful to take on holiday with me in the somewhat misguided hope that I would have some time for a little pampering. The Collagen Infusion is an anti-ageing face mask that promises firmer, younger looking skin with improved elasticity and smoothed wrinkles and fine lines. It is actually a sheet mask rather than the type of mask that you smear on to your skin. The beauty therapist I occasionally visit in a neighbouring village had used a sheet mask on my face a few weeks beforehand and I thought I could save myself some time and money by trying this d-i-y version. Sheet masks ~~~~~~~~~ Sheet masks are a thin piece of cloth or paper that have been saturated in all sorts of ingredients designed to be beneficial to your skin. You place a sheet over your face, with holes pre-cut for your eyes, nose and mouth and leave it there for a pre-determined time to allow your skin to soak up the ingredients. The idea of the sheet mask originated in Korea and indeed this one is made in Korea. They are supposed to be cheap and fun and a very portable. Of course they vary hugely in price and what they promise to deliver. What’s in it ~~~~~~~~~ The Key Ingredients of this particular mask are: • Collagen – to maintain skin elasticity and ...

Inn on the Park, St. Albans 09/04/2017

A surprising find amongst the Roman ruins

Inn on the Park, St. Albans We have recently moved my parents, both well into their 90s, into residential care in St Albans. Not an easy but an increasingly necessary decision. After a slightly shaky start (and nights of worry for yours truly), they have settled well into what is a really super home with fantastic staff. Over the three months that they have been there, we have seen them flourish in their new environment which offers them lots of stimulation. It has greatly reduced my mother’s stress levels as she no longer has the responsibility and struggle of caring for my now pretty much wheelchair bound father while being painfully aware that with her own eyesight is failing rapidly along with her memory. You may be wondering why this is relevant to a review about a café in a park but bear with me, it is. Mother’s Day panic ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I guess I’d been rather pre-occupied so Mother’s Day this year seemed to creep up on me suddenly. We usually spend the day together as a family; this year my son was overseas working but I knew that my daughter would want to spend the day with me but most especially her grandmother to whom she’s particularly close. Sadly, gone are the days we can get my parents over to us for lunch so a trip out seemed the best bet. There are lots of places to eat in St Albans (indeed the city is one of several that claim to have the most pubs) so I started to ring and email round to see if I could get 5 of us in somewhere for lunch or afternoon tea. Everywhere was fully ...

Boots No 7 Lash Impact Mascara 07/04/2017

Where's the impact?

Boots No 7 Lash Impact Mascara So I can’t remember when I got this mascara or how much I paid for it. It will definitely have been as part of an offer, possibly one of those No 7 lovely free gift packages. However, had I paid the full price I would have had to forked out £13.50. It’s a very pretty sparkly tube that looks very festive. So, the packaging certainly has an impact but does what’s inside? According to the blurb, the No7 Lash Impact “adds intense volume for dramatic lashes”. The 7ml of mascara comes in two colours – black or brown; I have the black. Using the mascara ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The mascara comes with a wand style fibre brush that is designed to apply the mascara smoothly and without clumping. The hypo-allergenic formula also apparently contains peptides to help natural lash growth. There is a video on the Boots website which demonstrates how to apply the mascara and the effect it achieves with one and then a second application. In other words, for more dramatic lashes, use 2 coats. Although I’m lucky to have long eyelashes, they are light coloured so I do need mascara to make them visible. Even when I’ve had my eyelashes tinted, I have to apply mascara before leaving the house. For some ladies it’s lipstick that they reach for, for me it’s mascara. I do feel naked without it. That said, I’m not at all precious about the brand I use and I have quite a collection of freebies from Boots waiting for me in my bathroom cabinet. In my experience, this is an ok mascara but not much more. On ...

Murakami, London 03/04/2017

Izakaya comes to London

Murakami, London ~~~ Murakami Magic! ~~~As a birthday treat, my daughter and I had a night out in London. I got the theatre tickets (Kinky Boots which I definitely recommend) and Ms P arranged the pre-dinner eat. We both enjoy sushi, so I wasn’t surprised when a Japanese restaurant near the theatre was booked. Ms P has a tastecard (a clever little card that for around £3.99 a month, gives you up to 50% discount at lots of restaurants) and Murakami in St Martins Lane was one of several restaurants in the theatre district which came up as offering a discount on food with a tastecard. Murakami specializes in Izakaya style cuisine. Literally translated, Izakaya means ‘the roof with alcohol’ but in practice is a bit like a Japanese version of a gastro-pub where customers go for a ‘grown-up’ drink (Japanese beers, whiskey and of course sake) accompanied by food. The interior of the restaurant is impressive. Arriving relatively early, there were few other diners (although it quickly filled up) so we could see the full impact of the interior design which represents the five elements of Japanese philosophy: fire, water, earth, wind and metal. The tables and chairs are wooden but there is an abundance of chrome and we sat by a very green wall which looked alive. ~~~ Starting with the drink ~~~So, drink is clearly important at Murakami and the wine list had a selection of Japanese beers starting at £4.50 for half a pint as well as 7 Japanese whiskeys ranging from £4 to £12.50 for a pub measure; so ...

Otex Express 28/03/2017

Love me, love my funny ears

Otex Express So not a particularly nice subject, but ear wax is a good thing. It keeps ears healthy and acts as a protective barrier against infection. It is produced by tiny glands in the ear canal and excess wax is usually lost from the ear without us knowing much about it. However, if too much wax is made, it can accumulate and harden in the ear. This can be pretty unpleasant; not only can it make it difficult to hear, it can affect balance. Funny ears ~~~~~~~~~ Apparently I have funny ears. As a child I often suffered from ear ache and I remember being given some form of powers to help relieve the pain. As I got older I often experienced hearing loss when my ears felt blocked. A hideous experience of having my ears syringed (it took several attempts), scarred me for life with the difficulty being put down by the doctor as my ‘funny ears’. What the doctor alluded to was that I apparently have very narrow, twisty ear canals. Someone has since told me that this could be connected to my being a premature baby and having now down a little research on t’internet, I believe there may some truth in this. Anyway, over the years I’ve tried various remedies to keep by ears from getting blocked including hopi candles (hollow tubes made of cotton or muslin, soaked in beeswax, honey or paraffin that are meant to draw out the wax.). The best advice I’ve had is to soften the wax with drops or olive oil again by a medic who suggested that I had ‘funny ears’. A friendly pharmacist recommended Otex. ...

Jawbone UP2 23/03/2017

My Smart Coach keeps me on the right track.

Jawbone UP2 In the last 15 months or so I’ve gone through 3 fitness trackers. I was unlucky with my Fitbit Charge which turned out to be something of a misnomer; it clearly had a dodgy battery as it didn’t actually keep its charge for more than 48 hours. I returned it within a month but by then had decided to try the Jawbone 24 which I really liked. However, after quite bit of abuse – and sorry to put this rather indelicately – it lost one of its ends. Not the end that most people seem to lose (one end has a removable cap to enable it to be plugged into a USB connector for charging), but the other end that needs to be depressed in order to access all its functions. So on to number 3, the UP2 which 6 months in is doing okay. ~~~ So, what does the UP2 do? ~~~Well according to Jawbone “UP is not just an activity tracker—it's a revolutionary, integrated system that incorporates advanced hardware, sophisticated algorithms and data science to better understand your behaviours and habits.” Which is rather a fancy way of saying that it tracks your activity and sleep and through its Smart Coach apps will give you tips as to how to improve those behaviours and habits! The UP2 is a step up from the Jawbone Move but doesn’t have all the features of the UP3 which includes a heart rate monitor. For me, however, it does all I need it to do and probably a bit more. ~~~ Hi good looking ~~~One of the reasons I was keen to go for the UP2 is that it looks rather attractive. Indeed, one of its straplines ...

TRESemme 24 Hour Body Shampoo 17/03/2017

Not so much body with TRESemme

TRESemme 24 Hour Body Shampoo ~~~ TRESemmé ~~~I think that TRESemmé’s marketing is pretty effective. It styles itself as a range of hair care products that are used by professional hair stylists. For years, I believed this; now I’m not so sure. It’s certainly not on the shelves or by the basins of any hairdresser I have ever been too but the marketing messaging did sink in and I’ve always thought of TRESemmé (part of the Unilever family) as being a step above other popular brands of shampoo and conditioner. When the children were at home, I would buy those big bottles of TRESemmé shampoo and conditioner, thinking that I was spoiling them and to be fair, I never got any complaints. However, my recent experience of using the TRESemmé 24 Hour Body shampoo and conditioner has been disappointing. I like to use shampoo and conditioner that adds volume to my hair and makes it easier to style. I have my favourites that suit my hair but unfortunately none of these are available in small travel size bottles which are so useful when travelling. So, when I saw small travel size bottles of TRESemmé shampoo and conditioner at my local supermarket, I bought one of each thinking they would be ideal to take on a recent holiday. The 100ml bottles are widely available for £1.49. ~~~ 24 Hour Body ~~~According to their website “Big hair is back! Get voluminous, voluptuous styles which last the distance” using products which “will help to take you from lank and limp to full and fabulous”. Sounds good but in my experience, ...

Delonghi KBJ3001BK 12/03/2017

The quite brilliant Brillante

Delonghi KBJ3001BK Kettles in our household seem to last no more than 3 years. We live in an area of very hard water and we probably don’t descale the kettle as often as we should. This may have been a contributory factor in the demise or our last kettle. Our married daughter on a visit home noticed that the automatic cut off when the water was boiling took longer than it should to work – in other words, the water boiled away vigorously for quite a while before the kettle cut itself off. Mr P and I just accepted this but the former Miss P took it upon herself to present us with a new model at Christmas. The Delonghi Brillante kettle The new model is a rather fancy looking black cordless kettle with a removable lid, water level indicator and a 360 degree base with cord storage. Apparently the Delonghi Brillante kettle is inspired by the crystal artwork of Varisco (an Italian glassblower from Murano). Personally I can’t see this – I guess there must be a grain of truth in the statement but whatever the marketing hype, it does look rather different. The plastic moulding gives the kettle an unusual 3-dimensional finish with a diamond like pattern. The kettle comes in black, red and white – we have the black model. The full features are listed as: • Rapid boil at 3kW • 1.7 litre capacity • Plastic faceted finishing with chromed details • 360° swivel base • Water level indicator • Flat, stainless steel concealed element • 3 level safety protection: - Auto shut-off when water begins to boil ...

Giraffe Restaurants 06/03/2017

Exploring world cuisinewith a giraffe as a guide

Giraffe Restaurants Giraffe is a restaurant chain that I know from stopovers at Gatwick airport. They actually have 52 restaurants in the UK and 4 outside of the UK. Giraffe operates under franchise in a number of airports including Gatwick (South Terminal) and Heathrow, Terminals 1 and 2. If we ever have an early start from Gatwick we usually spend the night before at Gatwick in order to take the stress out of the next morning. This means getting something to eat at the airport and to be honest there’s not a lot of choice landside. For sit down meal at South Terminal, it’s a choice between Giraffe and Wetherspoons. We’ve now been to the Giraffe a couple of times and found it to be a good place to eat. It’s bright and breezy but does perhaps lack a bit of atmosphere. You couldn't describe the place as cosy but we’ve always had a warm welcome and good service. At Gatwick, breakfast, lunch and dinner is served with opening hours of 6 am to 9 pm and being at the airport, there are screens showing all the latest flight information. ~~~ So what’s on offer at dinner ~~~The full name of Giraffe is Giraffe World Kitchen and this is reflected in the menu. The wide variety of dishes offer a taste of many cuisines. They say “There’s a whole world of food out there just waiting to be explored” – a world of spices and colours, sizzles and smells. And indeed the menu offers a wide range of food from lots of different parts of the world. Just the sort of interesting food I enjoy. ~~~ To start with ...
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