Juggling all the aspects of my life with some baking, writing and good old fashioned ranting thrown in

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Butlins: The Review

Yesterday we returned from our five day holiday at Butlins, Minehead. About three weeks ago, we upgraded to a silver bungalow so that we would have two bedrooms, a kitchen/dining/living area and a bathroom plus guaranteed ground floor. We also paid for the basic food court dining and pre-booked a few nursery sessions for our daughter.

Upon arrival at roughly 1:30pm, we were checked in quickly and left our luggage at reception as our accommodation would not be ready until 4pm. Although this was something of a nuisance, we were warned in advance that this would be the case and one can see the necessity of cleaning the accommodation after previous guests vacate.

At first, we went to the Skyline Pavilion, where a number of arcade games kept us entertained for a while, although at quite a large price (around £1 per ride). Luckily, we soon discovered Bob the Builder's Yard, an indoor funfair specifically designed for under 5s. Our two-year-old loved it. There were various merry-go-round type rides with all different vehicles - from aeroplanes to ladybirds, a long slide, a mini waltzer and a train ride. The queues were short, the children are allowed unlimited rides and, best of all, it was completely free of charge! We spent most of our time there before heading to our accommodation.

The bungalow was clean and everything appeared as we expected. Unfortunately, the television only received three channels, one being the Butlins information channel. The signal was so poor that we could barely read the information anyway and the other channels could barely be seen at all. We reported it to a cleaner that was around and she assured us that someone would come by to look at it. Later we also discovered that the toaster and heaters were also broken.

Heading to the food court at dinner time, we were happy to see the variety of choices. I had sliced roast pork, carrots, boiled potatoes with herbs and gravy. While I wouldn't say it was the best meal I've eaten, it was certainly of a reasonable standard and about what I expected for the price we paid. My daughter had fish fingers, carrots, peas and gravy, which she enjoyed. My husband wasn't so happy with his choice of a beefburger and chips as the meat was quite dry and there was no cheese on offer to go in the burger. Other than that one meal, we all enjoyed everything else we had in the food court. At breakfast times, we were offered cooked food such as eggs, bacon and sausages and also fruit and cereal. I would definitely recommend the dining plan, especially as it saved me lots of time in preparing food and washing up!

For lunchtimes, we prepared small meals with food from the on-site shop. The prices were very high and I think if we decide to return next year, we'll take more of our own supplies such as tea and sugar and make the trip to one of the supermarkets in Minehead for the rest of our food and other necessities.  The only other restaurant we used during our stay was the Pizza Hut, which offered the same service and quality of food you would expect from any Pizza Hut.

One of the highlights of our stay were two trips to the swimming pool. With ample changing facilities, many slides, a lazy river, wave machine, small pool and shallow areas for smaller children and non-swimmers, it was probably the best pool I have ever been to and we all enjoyed it immensely. It is best to check times though, as we found one morning that we couldn't go straight in as premier guests were offered a separate session.

Another very useful facility was the nursery. Our daughter attended the free session on Tuesday, a late night session on Wednesday evening and two daytime sessions on Thursday. She enjoyed every moment of it and it gave me and my husband some time alone together, something we have gone without since she was born! On Wednesday evening, we had a wander around the arcade games, went for cocktails in Bar Rosso then collected a small pizza from Pizza Hut before picking our daughter up. The nursery staff were brilliant; very welcoming and friendly. I could barely drag my daughter away at the end of her sessions there!

Another problem we had was arranging activities. My husband went along to the leisure hub on Tuesday, hoping to take part in some archery. He was told that he needed to pre-book this activity, something we hadn't been previously told. Although annoyed, he arranged and paid for us both to do archery on Thursday morning, while our daughter would be in nursery. However, when we turned up, our names were not on the instructor's list and we had to produce a receipt to prove that we had paid for it. He included us in the group but we were very much tagged on, always shooting last and feeling as though we were holding others up. It was a fun session, despite being a little soured by the difficulties in arranging it.

After all of the problems we experienced, we did complain and were visited by a manager, who brought us a new toaster, had the heaters fixed and gave us Butlins vouchers to spend on resort as a good-will gesture. We were pleased that the problems were eventually dealt with but it has put us off booking again a little.

We didn't attend many of the shows, simply because they weren't to our tastes. I took my daughter to a Mike the Knight show, a Pingu show and a Puppet Show, which were all entertaining and enjoyable. I also took her to one of the under 5s discos, which she really loved, dancing around with the other children and playing games such as musical statues. The redcoats organising these events were engaging and entertaining.

We are still deciding whether or not to book again with Butlins for our holiday next year. Our daughter had a brilliant time and we did enjoy aspects of it too. For anyone who is planning a holiday there, I have a few pointers:

  • Check if you need to pre-book any of the activities you wish to take part in before you go
  • Pre-book any sessions in the nursery you wish to make use of
  • If you're self-catering, take along some supplies and go to the supermarkets outside of the resort
  • Make good use of the free facilities such as the swimming pool, shows and fairgrounds
  • Carefully plan what you want to do each day so you don't end up rushing from place to place!

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Start of Something

Knowing that my Open University materials were going to be dispatched today, I checked the website this morning, wondering where they were on their long journey to me. I have been worried that they would arrive next week, when I shan't be at home to receive them. So it was with surprise that I discovered they were dispatched a day early and had already gone to and from two different depots.
But I had to go out. Our playgroup's first meeting of the new term was this morning and I knew that my Little Monster would be distraught if she missed it. In truth, I was eager to see my friends again too. So I risked leaving the house.

On arriving home, I felt a sudden panic that there would be a card from the delivery company and that I would have to spend ages on the phone to beg them to redeliver tomorrow. But there was nothing there was I opened the front door. So I waited.

Finally, at about four o'clock, the buzzer sounded and I collected the books I have been excited to see for months. Having new big textbooks full of new information has always excited me, though perhaps not with maths or physics, my least favourite subjects. To be honest, I get a tiny thrill just from opening a package, even though I usually know what packages contain if they arrive for me. Sometimes, usually around Christmas, a package will arrive in my Other Half's name and I'll wonder if it's really for me. It usually is - he prefers to shop online.

Ripping off the wrappings, I immediately checked that the parcel had everything it should: a letter welcoming me to the course, a collection of audio CDs, an assessment guide, a thin text which is the study guide and a thick textbook which is the workbook I have heard much about from past A215 students.

I have already flipped through some of the study guide and read in detail the first week's schedule of work. I have read the Index of the workbook and can barely stop myself from starting on it's activities. This is my third course but I was not nearly so excited to start either of the others. This is exactly what I want to be doing. I want to be a writer.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Finding a nursery school: The search continues

Many months ago, I filled out a preference form for my Little Monster nursery place. We chose a place that is about a twenty minute walk from our current home and which had a good inspection report. The form only allowed for one preference to be noted.
This week, I finally received the letter I have been waiting for: A letter from our local council, telling us whether or not our daughter has been a given a nursery place. It did not contain good news. Due to other applicants living closer to the nursery than we do, she does not have a place. Despite there being nothing else I could have done, I feel guilty that she might now miss out.
And so, the search goes on. The council helpfully sent a list of nurseries with places still available. Two were in the area we're probably moving to. We are now on the waiting list for one, as it is now full, and have applied for a place at the other. The waiting has now started again as we wait to find out if she has a place at this new nursery.

To those who were lucky enough to be given a place at a nursery, I congratulate and envy you. For those of you who are now waiting as well, I sympathise. I recommend calling any potential nurseries as soon as possible as the remaining places seem to be disappearing very quickly.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


With a weekend of organising, catering and playing host at a family gathering behind me, I still find that I have tons to do. The housework has been terribly neglected since my Big Clean last week, we need to find a new place to live after discovering that our landlord wants our flat back and, until yesterday, I had done no writing in a week! 

Now trying to get back on track, there's a load of laundry in the washing machine, I'm viewing a flat tomorrow afternoon and I have just posted another instalment of my short story on my Wordpress blog. Plus I had another story idea yesterday so quickly jotted it down on paper to avoid losing it to my rather poor memory. 

Added to all of this, I am eagerly awaiting a letter to hopefully confirm the Little Monster's place in nursery for next January and the delivery of my Open University materials ahead of beginning A215 Creative Writing at the end of this month. 

I am going to try not to neglect this blog as much as I have been. To that end, I hope to post a rather brilliant film review later today so watch out for it! 

Why is it that everything seems to come at once? 

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Recipes from the Hairy Dieters

It was a bit of a shock when the Hairy Bikers, my favourite television cooks, appeared on the One Show looking much slimmer. They described their new programme, Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight, and I was immediately interested. 

Having watched a few episodes, I have decided to try out a few of the recipes. Today, we had Toasted crumpets and warm spiced berries with yoghurt and honey and for lunch, a tuna Ni├žoise wrap. I did change the recipes a tiny bit by using a mix of frozen berries in the breakfast and by leaving out the olives in the wrap, as I don't like them myself. 

I defrosted the frozen overnight in my fridge then, as that didn't quite do the job, cooked them for a little longer than suggested in the recipe. Both myself and my Little Monster (aged two) loved this dish, it was delicious. The ingredients go together very well. The mix of crunchy crumpet, smooth yoghurt, soft fruit and sweet honey is an utter delight. Plus, it's on 257 calories per portion! 

The tuna ni├žoise wrap was also delectable. Again, the different tastes and textures really complimented each other; crunchy from the beans and spinach, soft eggs and lovely taste of the fish. I was surprised to find how full I felt afterwards too, especially since it only contains 325 calories! 

These two recipes are fantastic examples of healthy yet tasty food. I look forward to trying more from the programme - particularly interested in the healthy pie recipe! 

Here are the recipes if you want to try them too:

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A short story, a novella or a novelette?

Despite having a novel on the go already, I decided to start writing a short story as well (there will be some shameless self-publicity for this at the end of the post). This is mostly because I have been writing this novel for quite a while and I know it's not going to be finished for a long time yet - I'm only roughly halfway through the first draft! 

But after showing my new work to my Other Half, he suggested that this story could be made much longer than a short story. Knowing that I have not got the time to start a whole new novel, plus that would risk the old one being forgotten, I wondered how long a short story could really be before it becomes something else. So I turned to my old friend, Google. It turns out, a short story is generally anything below 7,500 words. More than that, and it becomes a "novelette", something I had never even heard of before. A novella, which I ignorantly thought was just another, more fancy way of saying short story, is anything above 17,500 words. I had no idea that literary genres were so complicated! 

If you're interested in reading the first part of my short story, it can be found here: http://ameliaappletree.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/short-story/

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Doctor Who Experience: My Review

"A Madman with a box"

Being a family of Doctor Who fans, we were very excited to visit the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay yesterday. Unfortunately, the day began with a problem - there are very limited instructions on how to find the attraction. However, I made a quick call to the helpline, spoke to a very helpful advisor who gave me some useful directions. 

On arrival, we found there was quite a lengthy queue but this is to be expected at such places. Of course, the Little Monster was not too thrilled about it but we managed to keep her quiet and distracted - it helped that clips from the programme were being shown on screens in the foyer area. 

TARDIS set from the Tom Baker years
Eventually, a friendly guide ushered us through the doors and into the interactive portion of the Experience. The Doctor then guided us through an adventure, including a ride in the TARDIS and encounters with a few of his worst enemies. Our own Little Monster was a little scared by the daleks but afterwards said that they were her favourite part of the whole thing! Smoke and lighting effects, 3D video, interactive controls and moving floors all helped to create a very exciting atmosphere and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. 

After the adventure was over, we were led into an exhibition of props and objects from the programme, including various costumes, monsters and even some of the different TARDIS sets. 

The Doctor's Worst Enemy: The Daleks
All in all, we found the Experience to be a brilliant day out and well worth the ticket price, which initially may seem expensive. Definitely must for any Doctor Who fan!