Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Blythswood Square Glasgow Little Darlings Afternoon Tea

Imagine a six year old at end of the school February break. Throw in some snow, rain and the obligatory icy Glasgow temperatures. Then ask yourself what you could do together that would entertain the child and let you enjoy a touch of luxury. The answer I have found is the Blythswood Square Little Darlings afternoon tea in Glasgow.

We visited Blythswood Square, a five star hotel in Glasgow city centre, several times previously but always in the company of adults and to be truthful I wondered how the quiet ambience would suit a six year old. There was no need to worry. From the moment we arrived the staff were pleasant and helpful and made him feel like a very welcome and special guest.

Afternoon tea is served in the colonnaded salon overlooking the square itself, a beautiful room with elegant furnishings.

The waiter explained the menu to us and asked if there were any particular dietary requirements. Of course Blondie Boy was quick to mention his egg allergy but this didn't present a problem.

It was his first experience of afternoon tea and he loved being presented with his own three tier cake stand. As well as sandwiches which he had chosen from the Little Darlings menu, there were scones with cream and jam, cake and a candy floss cone filled with raspberry mousse which he loved. There were also fresh strawberries and he wolfed those down before even attempting cake. 

Blythswood Square Glasgow Little Darlings Afternoon Tea

Children's afternoon tea glasgow

The staff were attentive without being intrusive and we enjoyed the unhurried atmosphere. It was such a special end to the school holiday for us both and one we will definitely repeat. I'm sure some people might be doubtful about a five star hotel as a venue for a children's outing, but it was truly an exciting and memorable occasion and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Afternoon tea is such a British institution so I'm so glad it was an experience we got to have together.

The cost of the Blythswood Square Little Darlings afternoon tea is £12.95 which is more than reasonable for the surroundings and spread! 

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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Make your own Lego Movie with Lego Brickflicks at St Enochs

Take a deep breath... Our names are... and we're Legoholics... And exhale. It feels good to have gotten that off of our chests. 

My son and I share an addiction, fortunately he's too young for drink and drugs and wild women but I'm definitely living proof that you're never too old for Lego. We've built the toys, watched the movie and the TV shows, visited the theme parks and also visited exhibitions using standard Lego bricks to create anything from modern art to scale models of famous landmarks but we haven't been to anything like the Lego Brick Flicks Exhibition at the St Enoch's Centre yet. Running from now until the 17th of April, the exhibition features famous movie scenes recreated in brick form by Lego artist Warren Elsmore, from the Wizard of Oz to the Godfather and it's FREE to attend. As part of the celebrations, St. Enoch are also running a series of Bricks for Kidz events throughout the Easter holidays which will allow kids to get creative using Lego bricks. The workshops run from 4th to 15th of April and will offer a series of activities to encourage children's creativity through building with Lego. These sessions are free and run on a drop in basis from 11am to 3pm each day.

To celebrate the exhibition St Enoch's challenged us to recreate a famous movie scene using Lego and the Lego Movie Maker app, which is available on iTunes and the Google app store. Never one to turn down a challenge (particularly one involving Lego!) we jumped at the opportunity. We discussed a wide variety of options but I was never going to win an argument with a six year old, so we settled on a scene from Capture the Flag, which he saw recently and loved. In it two kids stow away on a space shuttle heading for the moon. We picked the scene where the kids sneak on to the shuttle and get a shock when it launches.

Here is our effort:


We're pretty far away from directing a new Lego Movie but the app was easy to use and we had a great time doing it.  I'm sure our next attempt will be better after we head to the exhibition for some inspiration!
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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Vileda Windomatic

Image result for Vileda WindomaticI don't know anyone who likes cleaning windows and as for mirrored wardrobes - aargh! Those of us who do have to tackle this chore realise that the hard part is polishing the glass to smear-free perfection. Then there is that sinking feeling when, having spent ages doing the windows, the sun shines and all the streaks are suddenly visible. No wonder everyone hates this task! Finally I have found a product that not only saves time and effort but also ensures that the windows are sparkling and streak-free in no time at all.The Vileda Windomatic is a cordless, handheld vacuum, easy to use and compact. It's lightweight with a flexible head and once charged the you can use the device for 20 minutes. 
After charging the product for an initial six hours, I tried it out on a glass door, sticky with children's fingerprints and the dog's nose! I favour the water spray and micro cloth method of cleaning. Instead of reaching for a dry cloth and spending ages polishing the glass, I switched on the Vileda Windomatic, pulled the rubber blade over the glass and, hey presto, the job was done, unbelievably quickly. The Windomatic literally sucked up the residue of water.
I tried it out too on our mirrored wardrobe doors similarly marked with the sticky fingerprints and the result was the same - sparkling mirrors. Condensation, particularly on the bedroom windows, was also no problem for the Windomatic. The water tank, capacity 100ml, was easy to empty and since the product is compact I had no trouble finding storage space for it in the kitchen. To be honest, I was initially concerned that the twenty minutes before the Windomatic would need recharged would be too short but that wasn't the case.

Image result for Vileda Windomatic
The main plus points for me are the time saved - I'm too busy to spend hours cleaning glass - and the superb result,  perfectly gleaming windows. If there is a downside to the Vileda Windomatic it's simply that you have to remember to charge it in advance. Not much of a drawback to what is overall a great product.

The Vileda Windomatic retails for approximately £40/45 and is available in most DIY Stores, as well as supermarkets and online. 
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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Glasgow Loves Christmas

If you've been in the city centre of Glasgow recently you've probably noticed the transformation of George Square into a winter wonderland, complete with christmas lights, a ferris wheel, the Winter Lodge bar and of course the ice rink around the statue of Sir Walter Scott.

Ice Skating George Square Wheel Glasgow

Blondie Boy has been quite a regular visitor to an indoor ice rink this year so he was incredibly excited to try skating outdoors on George Square. The day we visited was a fairly typical Glaswegian December day, with plenty of rain, but this didn't dampen our spirits at all. The sessions at Glasgow on Ice are half an hour long, so be sure to be there in plenty of time for your session starting to maximise your time on the ice. Since Blondie Boy is only five we chose an Under 8s session, which meant that the ice rink runs at reduced capacity, for only younger kids and accompanying adults so that little skaters can enjoy their time on the ice. There are also skating aids available for little ones who need a little help.

Child's skating aid Glasgow

 Remember that you are skating outdoors in a Glaswegian winter! Warm/ waterproof clothes aa must. Before visiting check the Glasgow Loves Christmas website in case the weather isn't suitable, in which case the box office can rearrange your tickets.

The weather wasn't great when we visited, so there was some water sitting on the rink and we did end up a little wet but we still had a great time on the ice. After our skate we went upstairs to the Winter Lodge for a warm drink to dry off. There is a full bar for adults and there are craft and storytelling sessions for kids. When we visited Blondie Boy took advantage of a storytelling session, which he loved.
Story telling sessions Glasgow

After our skate round the square we took a wander round to Princes Square for some lunch. As usual the decorations inside are exquisite: well worth wander round just for a wee look at them!

Christmas tree made out of baubles ornaments

We rounded off our afternoon with a wander round the Christmas market at St Enoch Square. There's the usual mix of craft stalls, if you're looking for a present for that someone who has everything, and stalls with all kinds of delicious and unusual food and drinks.

With six weeks of events running right up until December 31st it's easy to see that Glasgow really does love Christmas! Even if iceskating isn't your thing, there's bound to be something that's more up your street, whether that's shopping in one of the many participating malls to the Style Mile  or a night out at one of the many restaurants running Christmas dining offers. The hardest part is finding time between now and the end of December to squeeze it all in!

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Transatlantic Blonde were invited to experience Glasgow Love Christmas free or charge but all warm, Christmasy sentiments, and bruises from falling skating, are our own.

Santa at Hamleys, St Enoch Centre

In case you hadn't noticed, it's that time of the year again! Christmas songs are playing in supermarkets and every ad on TV seems to be for the latest toy craze. I'd like to say the streets are blanketed in a covering of crisp white snow but we all know it's been grey and rainy for weeks but hey, isn't that  the true Christmas weather of the West of Scotland?

Like most families with small kids one of the important dates in the festive calendar is the visit to Santa. This year we visited the big guy at Hamleys in the St Enoch Centre in Glasgow. With the weather as miserable as it could possibly be the first real benefit was the attached car park. It's so much easier shepherding a five year old and a one year old in a pushchair from an indoor car park than trying to organise them in the street and march them through the rain. We even left our heavy jackets at home so we looked our best for Mr Claus.

Children going to see Santa

'I met Father Christmas at Hamleys!' is an hour long experience, which begins when two of Santa's elves pick up the children and take them to Santa's living room. Blondie Boy was so impressed that he not only got to meet the real Santa but also got to meet real elves too! The children sang songs with the elves and then had some dinner together.

Boy and Christmas ElfBoy's Rudolph Reindeer Jumper

After dinner the children finally met the main man! Santa read them the poem 'Twas the night before Christmas', they played a game of 'Musical Snowmen' and then the elves helped them prepare the all important lists.
Children meet Santa Claus Father Christmas

Santa met them all individually, talked through their lists and posed for pictures.

Santa reading little boy's letterSmall boy and baby girl meet Santa

Each child received a goodie bag as a gift from Santa, the contents of which got played with immediately!

Baby Girl cuddling teddy bear

After meeting Santa the elves took the children out into the St Enoch Centre, where they used their magic to make it snow indoors!

Snowing indoors Glasgow Scotland

The whole evening at Hamlets in the St Enoch Centre was magical and the children loved it. The 'I met Father Christmas at Hamleys' experience costs £25 a child, includes everything listed above and must be booked in advance. You can find more information about festive events at the St Enoch centre here.

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Transatlantic Blonde was invited to visit with Santa free of charge but all magical experiences are our own.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Orkney: NorthLink Ferries

I've lived in Scotland for my entire life but I'm constantly embarrassed when I speak to people who've visited for a couple of weeks and have seen parts of the country that I've never gotten to. Prior to this week I'd never ventured further north than Inverness and hadn't made it to any of the Northern or Western Isles. With the big move quickly approaching there's a bit more urgency to see parts of the country I may not get a chance to visit for some time so this week we travelled to Orkney for a few days with NorthLink ferries.

NorthLink, which is part of Serco, offer a couple of different ways to get to Orkney, either from Scrabster to Stromness, or Aberdeen to Kirkwall. We sailed from Aberdeen which gave us less time in the car to get there, essential when you're travelling with a one year old! The sailing itself takes six hours, which seemed a little daunting in advance but turned out to be perfectly pleasant due to the amenities available.

Aberdeen harbour

We arrived at Aberdeen harbour a little over an hour before we were due to depart and rolled straight on to the boat. Once on board we found some comfortable reclining seats and settled in, although not for long! There was so much to see and do on the ferry that we were soon up and about again. The boy and I headed straight to the cinema, where we spent a couple of hours watching Disney's Inside Out. There were two more films showing afterwards, so it would have been possible to spend the entire journey catching up on the latest Hollywood blockbusters but there was plenty more to do.

Northlink ferry Aberdeen to Orkney

After the movie we all headed for dinner at the onboard restaurant The Feast. My expectation of onboard dining was not too high to begin with but it rose when I saw this:

TripAdvisor Northlink Ferry restaurant

4.5/5 TripAdvisor rating for a restaurant on a ferry? It didn't disappoint! Serco are justifiably proud that 85% of all food and drink onboard is locally sourced. My steak pie was delicious and Blondie Boy gave his kids fish and chips two thumbs up!

Kid's fish and chips in a boat

After dinner BB had a play in the kids area and completed a viking treasure hunt around the ship. A couple of games on the Xbox and we were ready to pack everything back up and prepare to arrive. We were lucky with weather throughout our trip and the sailing was smooth the whole way. The six hour crossing flew in and the time on the ferry was more like a part of the holiday than the journey.

As a family, we instantly fell in love with Orkney. We spent two days touring by ourself and one with a guide. There is so much to see and do, and everything is relatively close together, so no long drives between attractions, which is ideal when travelling with a young family. On day one we visited Skara Brae, the world famous (it's even mentioned in Indiana Jones) Neolithic settlement. Both my Mum and I studied Skara Brae in high school, so this visit was almost half a century in the making for her! The whole three generations enjoyed the visit and the lunch we subsequently grabbed in the cafeteria there was to set a theme for every meal we had in Orkney, the produce was great quality, well cooked and reasonably priced.

Skara Brae heritage Scotland ancient

On the recommendation of a friend we visited Brough of Birsay, which is a small island at the North West of Mainland. The island has been used as a fort by the Picts and the Norse and there are the remains of an 8th Century Norse church and settlement. The island is connected by a causeway which is uncovered for two hours either side of low tide, so even getting across to it is an adventure in itself! We walked across the slippery causeway, while looking in the rockpools at either side of crabs and shells.

Brough of Birsay low tide

On the way back to the hotel we stopped off at the Orkney Brewery and did the tour. I had to force myself to taste the beer too, for research's sake. It did not disappoint.

Orkney Brewery tasting flight

We stayed at the Ayre Hotel in Kirkwall and found it to be ideal. It is situated in the town centre, only a five minute drive from the ferry terminal. The rooms were modern and clean and the food was home cooked and tasty, with the Orkney lamb and breaded haddock being particular favourites. The staff could not have been more helpful, particularly saving our bacon when it turned out some idiot forgot to pack the travel cot...

Day two was spent on a tour with the wonderful Lorna from See Orkney tours. A native Orcadian, Lorna was both able to give us information about the points of interest and more general background on what it was like growing up on the island of Westray, even teaching us some local dialect. She was completely flexible about fitting in around the needs of the children, even finding a play park for us when the boy seemed to be flagging! With Lorna we visited the Italian Chapel, which has to be seen to be believed. Created from two huts by Italian prisoners of war, with little more than some concrete and some paint, the building is spectacular.

Italian Chapel Orkney

In the afternoon we visited two more Neolithic sites, the Ring of Brodgar and  the Unstan cairn tomb. The standing stones were spectacular and the preservation of the tomb was incredible. Lorna's local knowledge was second to none and really helped us make the most of our time.

Ring of Brodgar standing stones

In the afternoon and the next morning we spent some more time exploring Kirkwall. We were very impressed by the shopping in the town. It had everything you needed while still retaining it's local charm. There were lots of independent shops, many selling local goods. We had expected there might be a price premium coming from being on an island with the added supply costs but this wasn't the case at all. St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall was spectacular and the Orkney Museum was well worth a visit.

Our journey back was on the overnight ferry which had the benefit of giving us an extra full day to explore. With Orkney having spent as long as part of Scandanavia as it has as part of Scotland Blondie Boy was really enjoying learning about its Viking heritage. We spent the morning at Orphir learning about the Orkneyinga Saga and looking at the round kirk and Earl's Bu.

Orphir Scandanavian Scotland Orkney

In the afternoon we visited the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness. Blondie Boy took part in a workshop which was running over the school holidays and had a great time, while the adults had time to enjoy the unique collection of modern art, including the recently acquired Two Forms (Orkney) by Barbara Hepworth.

Children's workshops Pier Arts Centre Orkney

Being on the overnight ferry meant that we spent our day on holiday as usual and then instead of going back to the hotel at night we checked in to the ferry and went to bed there instead. The cabin was comfortable. At 6'3" I am well used to single beds which are too small for me but the bunk onboard was long enough and wide enough to be comfortable. The cabin was ensuite with a shower and had tea and coffee making facilities and felt more like a hotel room than a mode of transport. The bar seemed to be in full swing when we arrived but with the kids we were more interested in a good nights sleep than a night cap and we certainly got that. As well as being comfortable the cabin was quiet and we all dropped off in Kirkwall and woke up about fifteen minutes away from Aberdeen the next morning.

Double Cabin Beds Northlink Ferry

Our trip to Orkney was unforgettable for all the right reasons. There is so much to see and do there, the people are warm and genuinely friendly and the scenery is spectacular. The journey there on NorthLink Ferries felt like a part of the holiday, it was quick, easy and entertaining, even with a five year old and a baby. While I can't ask the baby her opinion, here's what Blondie Boy thought of his trip and the journey.


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Transatlantic Blonde were provided ferry crossing, accommodation and a tour guide for the purpose of this review. All adventures & opinions are our own.