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February 2014

Center Parcs in pictures…

Center Parcs in pictures…

by Clare Mansell

We’ve just returned from our short break at Center Parcs Longleat. I’ll have some video to share with you in a few days, but first I wanted to post some pictures before I get wrapped up in the start of our house renovations next week.

Things did not go entirely to plan (when do they ever?) as Theo picked up a bug on day 2 which resulted in us heading home early on day 3. But we still had a great time even if we only had a short trip to the pool on day 1.


What we liked….

The villa : The woodland villas are the original 60s design by Dutch architect Jaap Bakema, with fairlights in the kitchen and bathroom and large windows. They’ve all been given a contemporary makeover internally which is in sympathy with the original design. As a fan of 60s architecture this was a very unexpected perk of the trip!

The traffic free environment of the village : For young kids bikes really are a adventure of their own. Theo absolutely loved his kids bike trailer we had provided and it made any journey round the site fun.

The pool : Although we only had a short stint in it on the first day. The pool really does offer something for everyone. There is loads to do even for kids of Theo’s age, with a lovely children’s pool and a couple of good slides just for small kids. I am really sad we didn’t get to go back for another go!

The Pancake House : The Pancake House is a Center Parcs institution and we loved the way it was styled like an alpine ski lodge. A lovely cosy place to visit on a cold day!

What we didn’t like…

Being off-grid : There was very poor mobile reception (T-Mobile/EE) generally and no wi-fi in the villa. There also was no internal phone system in the villa for calls to site services. However we have been told though that they are working on upgrading wi-fi.

Being CP newbies : Center Parcs was overwhelming to begin with. It’s a huge site (particularly if you have no sense of direction like me) and there are more than 150 different activities you can take part in. We spoke to lots of people who come back year after year and I think knowing the routine, the activities and the geography would be a bonus.

We are Center Parcs Family Bloggers and received our trip to Longleat free of charge. If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning your own trip keep an eye out on this blog for details of the next Center Parcs monthly challenge.

CenterParcs Family Blog Club Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Win some Little Luxuries…

Win some Little Luxuries…

by Clare Mansell

Little Luxuries is the name of a foodie gift box from Serenata Hampers. It’s full of minature Epicurian delights and would be a great gift for all sorts of occasions. Better still, they offer incredibly speedy delivery guaranteeing next day delivery for anything ordered before 10pm the previous day.

So are you ready to feast your eyes on the contents? Don’t worry I’m not teasing you for no reason, you can win a hamper of your own at the end of this post…

Just a little one...please!!

Look, I lasted right till the end before a little finger couldn’t resist any longer! 
Please Mummy, just a little one!
So anyway inside the Little Luxuries Gift Box you can find…

  • Cheese Board Chutney 105g (not pictured)
  • Cotsworld Handmade Meringues
  • Luxury Chocolate Coated Peanuts & Raisins
  • Luxury Organic Bombay Mix
  • Godminster- Vintage Organic Cheddar Cheese
  • Godminster- Water Biscuits with Rosemary
  • All of which I have personally tried and tested and I can confirm they are delicious, particularly the meringues which had little bits of chocolate in them… M’mmm!

    So do you fancy winning a box yourself? (not this one I hasten to add, a fresh one!) All you have to do is enter via the Rafflecopter below and remember to bookmark this post and come back to check to see if you’ve won…

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    8/52 – The one where I try to get him to sit still
    It is getting harder and harder to get Theo to sit still for a photograph. Or just to sit still for anything. This is what being two and a half is all about, constant moving. 
    We should probably count ourselves lucky that he does actually sit still to eat, even in public places. I’m not sure if it’s because we exposed him to cafe eating from an early age or just because he loves food.
    This week we’ve had another milestone. He’s moved out of his Ikea highchair and in to a hand-me-down Tripp Trapp at the kitchen table. A small change, but one that has gently, but significantly tipped the family dynamics. I am trying to use this move to reclaim the table for family eating. I am guilty of having transformed into a sewing station and I think we’d all benefit from a space to sit together, not just to eat, but to spread out newspapers and do jigsaw puzzles. 
    My garden studio is being installed in a week’s time and though we have other plans for it in the short term, its arrival will mean that by the end of the summer, there will be a home for all of the sewing paraphernalia.
    living arrows

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    House renovation countdown and video tour…

    House renovation countdown and video tour…

    by Clare Mansell

    There’s only a week left until the builders arrive and the people building our studio, on the same day. That’s timing for you.

    I have moments of blind panic when I think of the logistics of all the furniture we have to shift and pile up in the two rooms that aren’t being touched and then when I get over that, I remember the stuff in the loft which has to come down and be stored in those rooms too… urrrgggh!

    Oh and don’t forget this build will be going on for six months, so those summer clothes (where are they again?) need to be accessible and not trapped behind a sofa, or something.

    We visited the council this week and paid the £195 fee for them to consider lifting the clause on our planning that says our windows must be a “subdued” colour (ie not white) and the £26 fee for them to approve the outside finish of the house. I’m hopeful we will get the stamp of approval, otherwise we have to go back and apply and pay again.

    So until the work begins I thought you’d like a “before” tour…

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    Warming Spanish Chicken Casserole

    Warming Spanish Chicken Casserole

    by Clare Mansell

    Co-operative Electrical are currently running a competition giving bloggers the chance to win £750 to spend with coopelectricalshop.co.uk.  My recipe for the competition is inspired by my childhood summer holidays to Spain. It’s both a recipe that warms with its ingredients and warms with the memories of sandy beaches and long summer days.

    So first of all the ingredients…


    Ingredients :

    2 tablespoons of olive oil
    A knob of butter
    6 boneless and skinless chicken thighs
    2 onions
    400g carrots
    4 celery sticks
    1 tin of Canneleni beans (rinsed)
    1 tin of chopped tomatoes
    3 tablespoons of tomato puree
    1/2 pint of chicken stock
    4 cloves of garlic
    A pinch of Cayenne pepper
    100g of chorizo (skin removed)
    A splash of red wine (optional)



    Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish, when very hot add the chicken thighs and brown on both sides. Remove the thighs from the caserole and add a knob of butter, add chopped onions and allow to fry for a couple of minutes.

    Add chopped celery, carrots and chorizo and cook for 5 minutes. Finally add remaining ingredients and return chicken thighs to the dish, bring to the boil and turn down to a low heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes covered.

    I haven’t tried this in a slow cooker yet, but I would imagine it would work very well. Serve with crusty bread and a hearty glass of wine.


    PS – If you want to see the less glamorous side of putting this blog post together. There is a photo here of me shooting the pics using our floor samples on our bedroom floor!


    Link up your recipe of the week

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