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since 04/10/2006


The Melting Pot 25/08/2010

The Melting Pot - Fondue Fun For All The Family

The Melting Pot **What is The Melting Pot?** The Melting Pot is a chain of fondue restaurants primarily located in the USA, although new restaurants are due to open in Canada and Mexico in 2010. The first restaurant was opened in Florida in 1975 but has expanded to include 145 restaurants across 37 states of America. As evidenced by the name the restaurant specialises in fondue meals, with starters, main courses and desserts all being served in the form of a fondue. **Our experience of The Melting Pot** **Arrival and Seating** Our family visited The Melting Pot in San Diego in July 2010. It was a spontaneous decision to eat there so we didn't have a reservation. However, it was early evening so although the restaurant was reasonably busy, we only had to wait around ten minutes for a table to be available. Reservations can be made either online or by phone and I would recommend making a reservation if you wish to eat there on a weekend or between seven and eight o'clock. Our family comprised of myself, my husband, one teenager, one pre-teen and one toddler. Although the restaurant itself is fairly smart, children were made more than welcome. The restaurant itself was very attractive in an understated way. The clientele when we visited comprised of a variety of customers including families, groups of women, business people and celebratory parties. The staff were smartly dressed and polite. We were seated at a booth table with two hot plates in the centre. We were ...

Wonderworks 26/04/2009

An Upside Down Science Centre - Wonderworks, Orlando

Wonderworks On our first ever visit to Orlando we were advised not to overdo things by visiting a theme park everyday. Naturally, assuming people who had already been there knew better than we did, we planned our holiday to have several "rest days" on which we didn't visit any theme parks. The only problem was we began to be quite bored on these days; we're not really swimming pool people and needed somewhere to go to fill the time. This was how we came to visit Wonderworks in Orlando. The children had noticed Wonderworks several times during bus journeys through Orlando. It was difficult not to notice it. It looks as if the building has been built upside down and slightly lopsided. It's certainly a very striking sight and I'm sure it's appearance has attracted a lot of visitors that would otherwise have overlooked the attraction. The official "story" is that the building was once a top secret laboratory from the Bermuda Triangle that was uprooted by a giant tornado and carried to Florida where it was deposited upside down on International Drive. It's an inspired if somewhat bizarre idea but the children liked the idea and were desperate to visit. That's how a hot, humid day in August found us plodding along International Drive, sweating profusely in the Florida heat. We could have caught an I-trolley as there's a stop very close to Wonderworks but my husband likes to have a daily walk and being on holiday doesn't stop this. Interestingly, there were very few other people walking ...

The Magic Kingdom, Disneyworld 23/03/2009

It's not called MAGIC Kingdom for nothing

The Magic Kingdom, Disneyworld When many people think of Florida theme parks the one that springs to mind first is often Magic Kingdom, the oldest of the Orlando Disney parks. **OVERVIEW** Magic Kingdom first opened its gates to the public in 1971. Apparently it is the most visited park in the world so don't expect it to be quiet! Visitors to Disneyland Paris will find this park familiar as it has a very similar layout and many of the same rides. Like many of the Disney parks, it has a long narrow corridor entrance, then several lands which can be accessed via a central hub. **GETTING THERE** This very much depends upon where you're staying. Visitors staying at the Disney hotels, the Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian can get there directly via the monorail. Guests from the Wilderness lodge and Villas or Fort Wilderness Campground can either take a boat or bus. Other Disney guests can catch a bus directly from their hotel. If you're not staying on Disney territory you need to park in the Magic Kingdom Transport and Ticket Centre; from there you can catch a monorail or ferry to the park gates. We took the ferry. It might have taken slightly longer but it was a lot calmer and provided a nice extra experience for the children. Just a word of warning, the car parks are huge; a good tip I've heard is to take a photo of the name and number of the block where your car is parked on your phone or digital camera each morning, then just delete it at the end of the day. **THE DIFFERENT ... 21/02/2009

A scrumptious mix of yummy snacks One of my saddest confessions is that I love getting post. I mean really love it! If I'm not at work I keep out a constant watchful eye for the postman and moan when he's late. When I'm away on holiday one of the things I really look forward to is getting home to a huge pile of letters and it's a really bad day when I see the postman walking by without stopping at my door. I know, it's pathetic! But I do admit that the quality of the post received is just as important. It's quite depressing to be greeted by an interesting looking pile of mail to discover that it's all for The Occupier or is offering loans at extortionate interest rates. So I was quite excited this week to read a review of a site called This is a website that offers to deliver a selection of healthy snacks to your doorstep or place of work, therefore combining two of my favourite things - food and mail - into one brilliant bundle. I just had to sign up! SIGNING UP Signing up was easy. Simply go to the website and fill in the usual details, name, address and suchlike. Then choose what day or days you would like the box delivered. It is possible to have a box delivered any day between Tuesday and Saturday. Monday deliveries aren't possible as need to post the day before to ensure that fruit is still fresh and Sunday deliveries aren't possible as there's no postal service on a Sunday. WEBSITE Going straight to the website showed an offer of half price for your first box. ...

Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Pull Along Chatter Phone 20/02/2009

Ring Ring! It's for yoo-hoo!

Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Pull Along Chatter Phone Having just had Christmas and a first birthday only three weeks apart, my youngest son now has a small mountain of new toys to choose from. The one that is currently receiving the most amount of attention, and quite frankly the unexpected favourite, is a Fisher Price Chatter Phone. This toy was something that I, oops I mean Santa, decided upon at the last minute after seeing it in Home Bargains at the very reasonable price of £2.99. I was immediately attracted to the phone as I could remember owning one myself back in the 1970s and the design doesn't seem to have changed in the slightest. I have seen photographs of a more modern version with buttons to press instead of a dial but I liked the idea of the original version. Hours of fun can be had poking a finger in, turning the dial and listening to the ringing noise as the dial goes round. The phone is made of moulded plastic and is very bright and colourful. It has eyes that wobble up and down as the phone is pulled along on its wheels which makes my son giggle as it pulls towards him. The phone also has cute rosy cheeks and a little, smiley mouth. It is a toy that works on more than one level; at the moment my son can pull it along and spin the dial. He can also hold the phone to his ear although he doesn't talk yet. For an older child it can be used to hold pretend conversations, promoting speech and language skills and encouraging imagination. It could also be used in role-play situations. I've noticed that ...

VTech First Steps Baby Walker 19/02/2009

First steps to walking

VTech First Steps Baby Walker THE BACKGROUND In 2008 I had my third baby, nine years after having my second baby. Needless to say, in the years in between I had sold and given away every baby toy we ever owned so needed to start again from scratch. This was a little annoying as we've probably owned every toy known to the western world at some point, but at the same time all my own fault so I can't complain too much. I decided that this time I wouldn't buy toys just because I liked the look of them (the number of things that I've thought would be fun, but have been completely ignored while the children played with the toy that came in a Christmas cracker is beyond belief) but instead would buy ones that other babies seemed to like. So when the time came to invest in some play equipment I asked for recommendations on a popular online parenting board. The overwhelming response from nearly all parents was to buy a V Tech First Steps Baby Walker. I've got to say I was a little bit dubious, especially as my firstborn had one (14 years ago) and it was little more than a dust-catcher. It certainly wasn't played with. However, fast forward fourteen years and the V Tech walker has changed - hasn't everything? WHAT FEATURES DOES IT HAVE? One of the nice things about the V Tech walker is that the front of it will completely lift off the walker and can be used as a toy in it's own right. This panel features * a puppy that will give instructions for Simon Says * a set of interlinking cogs ...

Lumley Castle Hotel, Durham 19/02/2009

Lovely Lumley

Lumley Castle Hotel, Durham In the run up to my husband's 40th birthday last year I was repeatedly warned that I wasn't to arrange any form of celebration - no party, no balloons, no embarrassing picture in the local newspaper, no banners hanging in our town's marketplace. No, if I wanted to still be married the day after his fortieth, I was advised to completely forget that it was his birthday at all. Of course, I couldn't do that and in the weeks before I began searching for somewhere we could go for the night that would be a bit special but not too far from home. After extensive research... ok then, asking a few friends, it appeared that place was Lumley Castle Hotel. Lumley Castle Hotel is a 14th Century Castle, named after its creator, Sir Ralph Lumley. It is situated in the town of Chester-le-Street, near Durham in Co. Durham and is situated very close to Durham Cricket Ground. The castle is owned by the earl of Scarborough but is managed as a hotel by No Ordinary Hotels. Booking the hotel was fairly easy. The hotel has a fairly comprehensive website giving details of a variety of packages, information on room types, several information video clips and a virtual tour (although this is quite slow to load). I wanted something quite memorable for my husband's birthday so I chose the Knights of Lumley package which included a one night stay, including dinner for two, full English breakfast and a bottle of champagne. When finally the big day arrived, my husband was both surprised and ...

Member Advice on Bereavement 17/02/2009

I wish I didn't have the experience to write this

Member Advice on Bereavement I have been toying with writing this for a few days and to be quite honest, I'm still not one hundred percent sure I'll even press the Submit button at the end. Even thinking about writing it my heart is pounding and I feel ever so slightly sick. I'm not the greatest writer in the world and I'm not entirely sure that the words I write can entirely describe my feelings, but I'll give it a go. I was very lucky to reach the ripe old age of twenty six without really having experienced death in any form. My Grandad died when I was four, but to be honest, I didn't really understand and I don't really remember much about it except for the fact that my parents were upset and I wasn't sure why. After that, I remained largely unaffected by death for many years. Yes, I vaguely knew people who died and yes, it was very sad and occasionally shocking, but I was cushioned from any real hurt by the fact that they were just acquaintances. All that changed in October 2000. My very much loved, kind, cuddly, wise, beautiful Grandma had been very ill for a while and was growing weaker and weaker by the day. She spent her final week in hospital and while no-one really said anything, I think we all knew she was nearing the end. She begged repeatedly to be able to go home and when the doctors finally allowed her to go home she died that very night. I think the worst thing, even worse than my Grandma actually dying was seeing my Mum so upset and knowing that I couldn't really help. ...

Early Learning Centre Click Clack Track 16/02/2009

Click Clack Down the Track

Early Learning Centre Click Clack Track The ELC Wooden Click Clack Track was a toy I bought for my best friend's 19 month old son for Christmas. Imagine my surprise then, when three weeks later on my son's first birthday we opened the exact same gift from her. As she noticed the confusion on my face she explained that it wasn't that she was giving the same gift back to us (and for those cynics among you their family do still have their own version!), it was just that they had so much fun with it they thought it was a good present for any baby. She went on to say that not only did their toddler like the toy, so did his older brothers aged five and six. Appearance What I most like about the toy is that it's made of wood and needs no batteries, unlike the whole host of flashing, beeping, talking plastic toys we seem to have. It's quite simple in design with four slopes zig-zagging down to the floor. It has obviously changed in design since the photo that goes with this article as the version we have is more natural in colour and has curved edges instead of the straight ones shown. The four cars that come with it are about an inch long, just the right size for little hands. They have little metal wheels and come in four different colours. Playing with the toy The toy is very simple and it might be thought that children would easily get bored but there seems to be something addictive about putting the cars on the track and hearing the click, click, click as it passes down to the bottom. It is one of ...

Beamish Open Air Museum, Durham 16/02/2009

Go Back In Time For The Day

Beamish Open Air Museum, Durham Beamish Open Air museum is a favourite place of mine, a great place for school trips and a really interesting day out for everyone from toddlers to OAPs. I've been there many times and still haven't got bored with going there. Where it is Beamish is in Co. Durham, in the north-east of England. It is approximately eight miles south west from Newcastle and twelve miles north west from Durham city. It is really well signposted from the A1M, Junction 63 and as I can drive there myself and I'm not the most confident of drivers, anyone can do it! You can also catch a bus to the museum entrance from Newcastle or Chester-le-Street. What is there to do there The museum has a number of exhibits, but what I really like is that rather than being just cabinets full of objects, the museum is a living museum, built to look like towns and villages of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. What is really great is that the majority of the buildings used are authentic old buildings that have been carefully taken down, transported to Beamish and rebuilt. Each one is full of artefacts and historic objects and peopled by costumed staff who talk to you as if they are actually from that period in history. It gives the whole place a lovely atmosphere and is a lot more interesting, especially for children, than looking at objects in glass cases and reading information cards. On entering the museum gates the first thing you will discover is the car park, where parking is easy, and ...

Disney's Animal Kingdom 15/02/2009

Animal Kingdom - A Giant Disney Style Zoo

Disney's Animal Kingdom Animal Kingdom is the newest of Disney's four major theme parks in Florida. Opened in 1998, it offers a mix of animals and conservation messages, plus several rides adding up to a fantastic Disney experience. The park, like most Disney parks is comprised of a central "tunnel" entrance, in this case called the Oasis, followed by several lands coming off a central hub. THE LAND The Oasis This is the area where you arrive when you first get to the park. It is a tree covered area where you can see lots of different species of animals. Most people (and I would include my family in this statement) tend to rush through in order to reach the more popular rides quickly, but if you care to stop and look you could see deer, parrots, iguanas and more. Discovery Island This area is the hub of the park from which there are paths to all other lands. Discovery Island is home to the Tree Of Life which is the symbol of the park, a huge carved tree covered in carvings of hundreds of different animals. We had great fun trying to spot as many animals as we could; some are only visible close up, others only visible from a distance. I defy anyone to be able to find them all! Inside the Tree of Life is the 3D cinematic show IT'S TOUGH TO BE A BUG! based on the film "A Bug's Life". This is a great show and a truly interactive experience. I don't want to give too much away as it's best you don't know what's going to happen!! Apparently the bugs are too much for several ...

Easyvision All Day All Night Disposable Contact Lens 15/02/2009

All Day and All Night Lenses - perfect eyesight at last

Easyvision All Day All Night Disposable Contact Lens Having terrible eyesight has plagued my life as far back as I can remember. All through my early school life I couldn't ever read what was on the blackboard, even when sitting at the front of the class and when watching TV at home my nose would be almost touching the screen. Looking back, it's amazing that my poor eyesight wasn't ever noticed by a parent or teacher, but my first experiences with an optician was when I finally confessed to my Mum that I didn't think I could see very well when I was aged 13. After a hastily arranged trip to a local optician I was prescribed a pretty strong pair of glasses (so strong that my Mum paid extra for specially thinned lenses for I didn't have the proverbial jam jar bottoms!) and immediately the world came into focus. All those fuzzy areas of colour suddenly became trees and signs and people's faces with eyes and noses and mouths! It's a bit sad but it was a wondrous day and I spent the bus journey home staring agape out of the window astounded at the detail I could suddenly see! Now my new glasses were fantastic for improving my eyesight but were not the most glamorous of contraptions and I spent the next couple of years begging for contact lenses. However, even when I finally got some they were less than impressive, uncomfortable, irritating to the eyes and I absolutely hated inserting and removing them. Although over the next few years I dabbled in wearing them - usually just for special occasions or going out - for the vast ...
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