Thursday, 29 December 2016

Lapland - Seeing the Real Finland

We visited Lapland before Christmas and many people have been surprised we went for a full week as it is 'so expensive isn't it?' Well yes it is if booked as a package and we did this 6 years ago but we got a last minute deal then so it was actually really cheap.

This time we wanted our own log cabin - it's so much more authentic and romantic than a hotel and also the hotel was all inclusive and we didn't think much to the food. We like to try the local food when we go on holiday.

So here is some more info on how we did it.

Accomodation in Akaslompolo which is a great central place to be:

Flights to Kittila:

We had a 6 person log cabin for about £600 for a full week, 7 days. Flights were £300 each. The airport was about half an hour drive away.

We stopped in Yllasjarvi by the Sport Resort as we ski but I would say Akaslompolo has more activites that run from there so if you stop there you are more central but Yllasjarvi is only a 15 min drive.

Regarding activities:

Huskies were €55 each:

Santa Village is free, you see santa for free but can't take photos and they want €40 for their photo:

Reindeer Sleigh at €18 each:
Do this at Santa Village

Santapark is €33 adults, €27 kids - this includes seeing santa where you can take photos. Make an elf, go to elf school (the elves are fab!), watch the elf show (my daughter loved this the most!), visit the ice bar, decorate gingerbread (a couple of euros extra) and go on a ride through santas workshop. It was all set in a cavern and really really magical.

Pony ride through the snowy forest is lovely and is €30 for half an hour:

Kids Snowmobiles are €20 for 10 laps at Santa Village and were slightly cheaper at the same place as pony ride.

If you want to try skiing then Yllas Y1 is great for beginners and they do taster sessions.
We hired a car and it really allows you to explore the real Lapland and it wasn't tricky driving as the cars all have winter tyres.

At the Sports Ski resort around the other side from Yllas Y1 is a purpose built sledging slope which the children love.

Eating out is quite expensive but if you are in a log cabin you could stop in and cook. We did all inclusive with Thompson and didn't think much of the food so preferred the flexibility.

Alcohol is very expensive and difficult to get hold of so take it with you!

Monday, 21 November 2016

MakeTime2Play App

Mumsnet selected me and several others to review the MakeTime2Play app, they say: “Whether you have a newborn or a 12 year old there is so much to explore with our updated app; it’s free to download, available on iOS and Android devices, and has over 400 play ideas! You can filter the play ideas to fit your needs by choosing between location, age of children, number of children and time.”

“The app isn’t just about fun play ideas, it also provides information on the benefits that children receive when playing. There is a page detailing the physical, emotional, creative, social, behavioural and inquisitive benefits of play. Symbols on each play activity page will tell you which of these benefits your child is receiving from each game they play.”

I used this app for my 3 year old daughter.  

I wasn't impressed and I don't think I would recommend the app.  For my daughter she was in the 2+ section so a lot of the games suggested were a bit basic like 'roll a ball to each other' and I had to scroll through the ideas to get something suitable. When I did I found that you had to make 12 cards with different animals on them and get lots of plastic boxes, I wasn't really sure exactly what they meant tbh so photos would have been good. Some games such as Big Bird required ingredients I hadn't got so need planning. Under travelling games one suggestion was get them to bang a rhythm on an instrument, I wouldn't appreciate this while I am driving, I don't think others would appreciate on public transport. I looked at some of the suggestions for older children indoors, really for me there were too many boisterous games listed that we wouldn't allow in our house.  Also this game was listed in 2 years plus but it talks about encouraging crawling!  My daughter was walking at 12 months.
The front screen could be a little more obvious as to the button you click to then navigate to the next screen for the ideas. Perhaps the Play Ideas button could be really big and the other buttons a bit smaller around it otherwise the navigation was easy and easy to select the age range, activity type - indoor, outdoor or travelling and length of time the activity lasted.

There is a share and a favourite option for each activity, these are good features, however they just need to be a bit more obvious, both the share button and the favourites are blue and blend into the skyline at the top so it took me a while to find. If I hadn't been looking for them I wouldn't have noticed them there.

I didn't think there are enough play ideas for the age group I was searching for, they were either too basic (for a younger age range) or required too much preparation.

I would like to seem more activities which require no preparation, to me this is more of a spur of the moment app you click on when you think you have a bit of time and don't know what to do. So it doesn't make sense that some of activities take a lot of planning - collecting toilet rolls, boxes, empty bottles etc.

The Bengals!

I set up a little photo shoot with the cats over the weekend, it's been a while since I took any photos and they have grown such a lot!

Here's Shady the baby, he is such a laid back boy but also very playful and loves a game of fetch. 
Here's Solace, the man of the house, you can tell that from his first photo below!  He loves a good play, he isn't a lap cat but he does love a good back rub!
Tweed, she is the one who has a great grandad who is an asian leopard cat.  Tweed is the purriest out of all of them, she is very much attached to me and will sit on my lap all night long.  She is such a sweet, gentle little soul.
And Spec, Spec is such a funny cat, she really does make us laugh.  She isn't a lap cat either but she does love a nice gentle chin scratch, she loves her routine and her Da Bird toy.  She has a lovely kind temperament and I have never once heard her growl at the other cats.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Clays of Broseley, Shropshire

I had wanted to try Clays of Broseley for my mum's birthday but wasn't overly keen on their menu when I looked at their website, I fancied steak so I sent them a message and to my surprise they replied and said yes we can put some steak on the menu, what sauce would you like and gave me a choice!  Wow, how is that for service!!

We parked in the public car park which was only over the road as the restaurant doesn't have parking.  The front of the restaurant is welcoming with a nice canopy.  We walked in and it is lovely and bright and clean and contemporary however we were seated downstairs which was a bit of a contast.  Lovely bare brick walls, with nice mood lighting, really cosy and welcoming yet still contemporary.

We started looking at the menus and there on an extra sheet was the special for today which was the steak in a red wine sauce I had spoken to them about.  They also had venison on their regular menu which is my favourite so hubby and I ordered one of each and swapped half and half :)  They also didn't have a childrens menu however the waitress advised that they could do smaller portions of anything on the menu for my daughter.  

We had crositini with olives and goast cheese for our starter which was beautiful and so tasty, they brought out a basket of bread with some stunning sundried tomato bread.  My daughter had mini fish with mashed carrot and swede and mashed potato and they were good enough to bring this out with our starters.

The venison and the steaks were cooked to perfection, they really were, we couldn't fault them and not an ounce of fat on them.  The sauce was beautiful and tasty and plenty of it.  We both had the baked white chocolate cheesecake for dessert which came with raspberries and raspberry coulis, this was beautiful and fluffy and tasty. I finished off with a baileys coffee which came with a lovely little meringue with a chocolate coffee ganache running through the middle.  

All in all a lovely meal, fantastic personalised service, lovely setting, I really could not find any fault!

Monday, 5 September 2016

Our First Cat Show

I decided I wanted to enter some cat shows to learn more about the Bengal breed and the standard judges are working towards and what they were looking for.  What they thought of my cats etc.  If I am breeding I feel I need to know more, I know what I need to be testing for health wise, they are all genetically clear for a couple of issues bengals can suffer with (kidney problems and eyes).  When they are old enough they will be heart scanned, so all those boxes are ticked, I just feel I need more ‘real life’ experience of what is going on in the Bengal world!  I had entered a show in July but Spec broke her tail the week before, so I entered the Wyvern show in the hope her tail had healed, I also entered Solly for experience as he is a little shy and needs to get used to being handled.
I had found the schedule out and entered a breed class for them each along with 3 side classes each for them.  It is quite easy to understand the schedules and entry forms, I did have to look up their breed/colour code though for the entry form.  The night before the show I clipped their claws, people always say their cats hate this but mine are fine.  I have a tube of squeezy cheese or pate which my husband feeds to them whilst I go round their claws clipping them, I don’t tend to need to do their back claws as they stay short so it is just the claws on their front feet.  They don’t like their ears cleaned though, I can do them quickly while they are at the food so I have to do a little bit at a time.  I gave them a quick brush and that’s our preparation done!  I gathered all our ‘stuff’ together so that I can just pack the cats in the morning.  I had two pieces of white vet bed, 2 litter trays, 2 water bowls, 2 feed bowls, a water bottle, cat food, cat litter, brush, ear/eye wipes, disinfectant wipes, their vaccination certificates and a trolley to transport everything!  Never would have thought you needed so much.

Show Day!
Spec having a look around!
I decided to get to the show fairly early so I could settle the cats in. So I got there at 8.15 (it opened at 7.30 and closed 9.15 I think).  There wasn’t much of a queue, I just followed what everyone else was doing so I went to the first table to get our little card which you then take to the vetting in table and the vet signs to say they are okay.  I was concerned about Spec’s vaccinations as they are in her passport and it’s difficult to understand what is what, the vet didn’t know either so she had to ask the main vet who said everything was okay.  So both cats went back in their boxes and the card was signed.  I looked at the card and assumed the number by each cat was my pen number so I went off to find the pens.  I found Spec’s pen first, wiped it all down and put her bedding in, litter tray, food, water and a toy followed by Spec.  Off I went to find Solly’s pen which was a little way away from hers.  Once the cats were in, Spec looked quite happy but Solly seemed a little overawed by it all so I went to a stall to by a feather teaser.  I spent a bit of time with him and he gradually came round and seemed to feel happier.  I walked over to Spec’s pen and played with her a little, she didn’t seem fussed in the slightest and I thought she would freak out!  At 10am we’re asked to leave the hall so the judges can judge the breed classes, you have to remove food from the pens and any toys.
I waited patiently, had a couple of coffees, gave in to an adult colouring book and did a few puzzles.  
 At 1pm we were allowed back in but they were running late as they had lost a cat in a mechanical seating set up that sort of looked like a false wall!  So Solly’s breed class hadn’t been judged, Spec’s had and she had a lovely big 2nd place rosette.  When I entered her I didn’t expect her to do that well as had been told GCCF aren’t keen on the dark colour, but I had checked with the office before and they had said I am okay to show her as she is registered as a seal lynx nothing more.  Her side classes were done and she had two firsts and a third in those, I was really pleased but super disappointed just to get place cards, people said you do normally get rosettes for the side classes, the entry fees are expensive, you are talking almost £50 a cat so I did expect a bit more.   
Solly’s results came in and he had a 3rd in breed (judge said he was just a bit young compared to the other kittens) along with a couple of 2nds and a 3rd in the side classes.  However he didn’t get any rosettes as they weren’t giving anything for 3rd.
This show was also doing little rosettes that had ‘I like your cat’ written on them and the idea was you go and put it on another cats pen (not your own which I saw people doing!)  I thought it would be fair to put mine on a different breed, I have always liked Tonkinese so I put mine on a particularly lovely Tonkinese’s pen which actually ended up winning several big rosettes.  Someone put one on Solly’s pen so at least he did get a little rosette lol!
I was pleased with those results given it was their first show and Spec is only just out of kitten and Solly is still only young.  What I was impressed with was how they coped, Spec just loved it, she was so chilled out which I would never have expected as she is so naughty at home.  Solly got used to the environment and relaxed nicely too.  Some cats really don’t look like they are enjoying it and you do have to wonder whether it’s fair on them, I didn’t think I would show Spec again but she loved it so I will enter her in another show.  Tweed needs to mature a bit before she goes to a show but I know that she won't find it stressful as she just loves attention and is a really confident kitten so I don't feel I need to rush her into the show ring.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Our Bengals

I did a little photo shoot with the felines the other day and thought I would show them off.

Here is our beautiful blue eyed snow from Sumarum in Czech Republic, this is Spectrum (aka Spec).  She is almost a year old and genetically clear from PRA and PKD, she is from generations of heart tested cats and am keeping my fingers crossed her heart test will be clear too.  She has such beautiful deep blue eyes and loves to run around with her 'Da Bird' feather, she is the loon of the lot!

Here is Solace (Solly) from Spice's breeder, he is PRA and PKD genetically free.  We had intended to have another girl but when we saw the litter we were just so taken with Solly we couldn't resist him.  His markings are getting nice and dark, not massive rosettes but they are some small rosettes.  He has a lovely quality coat and his tail is wonderful and short and fat.

And here is my little Tweed! Tweed's great great grandad is an Asian Leopard Cat (Sarez Little L).  This might sound a little scary but she is the friendliest cat I have ever known and I have owned lots of cats over the years.  She is the purriest little thing and loves nothing more than a good cuddle.  We had gone out to buy a nice brown rosetted bengal but I saw her photo and fell for her wild looks with her big nocturnal eyes.  Her pattern isn't great and I hope to improve on this with a good boy.  She is such a superstar though, nothing bothers her, she walked into our house at 13 weeks old like she owned the place.

And finally our original, here is the beautiful Spice who is a spayed pet and will always hold a very special part in our hearts.