Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A Review of the Freesat+ box with free time

A couple of week's ago I was lucky enough to be sent a 500GB Humax Freesat+ box to review by the fab Mumsnet Bloggers Network. This couldn't have come at a better time for our family as we are in the process of a serious review of our household bills which seem to be spiralling out of control. With our money needed to cover the ever increasing fuel bills we just can't justify luxuries like the £50 per month we spend on Sky TV, so the appeal of the subscription free Freesat is HUGE, even with the initial outlay of the box within 6months we would be saving money when compared to our Sky subscription!

Unwrapping the box!
I am completely clueless when it comes to technology (I still call DVDs 'videos'  and CDs 'records' to the embarrassment of my children), so wasn't looking forward to the task of setting the box up!  A week and a bit ago a box arrived containing everything we needed to get going with Freesat. The actual Freesat box itself is about the size of a DVD player and actually pretty good looking (if you like that sort of thing that is!). Despite my technical ineptitude, the box was actually really easy to set up (though I did enlist the help of my other half to do the plugging in!). You literally just turn the box on and follow the on screen directions at each step. We were up an running within about 10 minutes maximum. Marvellous!

Setting the Freesat box up - testing signal strength

So, what do I think of it? It does everything it says in the blurb:

"Freesat believe you shouldn't have to pay a monthly subscription to watch and listen to 180 channels of the best comedy, drama, sport, lifestyle, music and news. We offer free HD services from ITV, the BBC and Channel 4; freesat+ to record pause and rewind, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand5; and all subscription free."

Freesat launched 'freetime' last Autumn which includes a Roll Back TV Guide that allows you to watch programmes you've missed from the previous seven days across 21 channels, a new showcase section providing top TV picks chosen daily by Freesat's reviewers, on-demand services and enhanced recordings."

So 'thank you' Freesat, we now have a fab array of *free* channels (195 to be precise - see below!) to watch with no costly monthly fees (hooray - we can turn the central heating on!). My kids are happy that they still get to watch their favourite programmes and my husband is getting stuck right into the 'on demand' section. It's mad to think we would pay £600 per year to Sky for a similar service!

195 free channels!

Happy smiles all round - thank you Freesat!

Freesat is a subscription free service and Freesat+ boxes are available to buy from a range of retailers - RRP from £226. Humax are offering, via GlutenFreeChild, an exclusive discount code to purchase a 500GB Humax Freesat+ box for £199, a saving of £30. Just enter the code: FT30 when ordering.

Note: I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Congham Hall Spa - A Very Special Offer Autumn Retreat for Frazzled Parents in Norfolk

Please Note - this is a sponsored post.

A glorious English summer has come to an end and the onset of Autumn ushers in a new season. At Congham Hall in the heart of beautiful Norfolk the leaves are falling, and turning from a crisp green to lush shades of copper, bronze and crimson.

If you are looking for an Autumn break, somewhere to get away from it all, to truly relax and unwind, then you'd be hard-pressed to find somewhere more peaceful than Congham Hall Spa Hotel
Winner of the Best UK Small Hotel at the International Hotel Awards this Georgian country house is home to a hotel, restaurant, bar, spa and renowned herb garden, and set in 30 acres of gardens, lawns, parkland and orchards.

The beautiful Congham Hall Spa Hotel

The 26 unique bedrooms are individually decorated, 15 are in the main house and 11 between the house and Spa each with its own private terrace overlooking the glorious gardens.
The gardens play an important role in the life of Congham Hall, providing homegrown produce for the restaurant tables. The hotel's restaurant aims to locally source the majority of its ingredients from within a 20-mile radius with the kitchen garden providing a variety vegetables as well as herbs.
Enjoy a drink in a relaxed, informal atmosphere at the hotel bar, library, lounge or outside on the terrace before or after sampling the new menu in the restaurant.

While staying at Congham Hall dip into the Secret Garden Spa and enjoy a swim in its stunning 12 metre swimming pool. The tranquil atmosphere is the ideal place for 1-2-1 swimming lessons. Lessons are available for complete beginners, stroke technique improvement or to improve fitness through swimming and water based exercise.

The Secret Garden Spa Pool at Congham Hall

The pool area is also home to two experience showers, a Finnish style sauna, a bio-sauna, and a steam room. There are also foot baths, an outdoor hot tub and, within the pool itself, various massaging jets.
Still need to relax? Then book one of the fabulous treatments from the Spa team who have incorporated some of the seasonal herbs and fresh blossoming flowers to create a unique treatment  menu. Congham Hall Signature treatments, include an elemental herbal facial and a rosemary muscle melt massage  to replenish and restore your body and mind.

A spa room at Congham Hall

Additional facilities at Congham include the newly refurbished tennis court (tennis rackets and balls are available to borrow and coaching can be organised in advance at £20 per hour) a trampoline, putting green and croquet lawn. The hotel will also provide you with DVDs, books and games, not to mention Dubarry boots should you wish to go on one of the many circular walks available from the grounds or explore further afield: the splendid sandy beaches of the North Norfolk coast, bustling market towns, nature reserves and the Queen’s beloved Sandringham Estate (open till the end of October), are all within easy reach.

Congham Hall is conveniently close to the Sandringham Estate.

The fabulous Houghton Revisited exhibition has been extended, by popular demand to the 24 November.

So what are you waiting for! Book now for a Congham Hall Autumn break. Their 'mid week TWO night Autumn Break available Sunday to Thursday till 19th December 2013 is a great deal!
Better and Best Main House Rooms including breakfast are available at £399 including dinner on both nights (with a £35 per person allowance for dinner).

All Garden Rooms including breakfast are available at £499 including dinner on both nights (with a £35 per person allowance for dinner).

Congham Hall still has a handful of rooms available over Christmas and New Year and plenty of special events planned including; mulled wine and mince pies in front of the log fire; carols round the Christmas tree; champagne cocktails and 7 course tasting menus. (include link)

Please Note - this is a sponsored post.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Coeliac in Spain - Gluten Free at Cambrils Park, Salou & PortAventura

We spent this August at the fantastic Cambrils Park resort. Before we left I spent hours on the internet researching gluten free food options and didn't find much. I asked Cambrils Park themselves via their Facebook site if we would be able to eat anything and whilst they replied "you will be able to find gluten free food here" I was more than a little concerned due to my lack of google findings.

After a disappointing experience flying with British Airways (BA) to Barcelona airport (where there were no gluten free food options available on board) and a long bus journey we finally arrived at Cambrils Park just before 8pm, exhausted and starving. After checking in we headed straight to the onsite supermarket, with 10 minutes left until closing time.

I can't tell you the relief we felt when we turned down the second aisle and came face to face with an impressive gluten free selection - everything from bread to cakes, pasta, biscuits, flour and even frozen gluten free pizzas and baguettes!

Coeliac Gluten Free Food From Cambrils Park On Site Supermarket

On the off-chance we wandered over to the poolside bar restaurant and asked if they had any gluten free items. At first the waiter was confused as his English was not so good (but far better than my Spanish!), then he had a lightbulb moment and said "ahhh menu celiaco, I bring menu celiaco", I could have cried when he returned with a whole menu just for coeliacs! It wasn't very huge, but had enough to keep us happy. We ordered a ham and cheese pizza and whilst it was very small it was delicious. We also ate the rotisserie chicken a couple of times which was gorgeous and gluten free (though the chips were not) So a big thumbs up to Cambrils Park for their gluten free offerings, my only complaint is that I was disappointed not to be able to eat their paella.

I hadn't read good things about Port Aventura's gluten free catering and having been to Universal in Florida (they are owned by the same company) and experiencing their shockingly awful gluten free catering (which is pretty much non-existant) I wasn't holding out much hope. When it came to lunch time we decided to try the Mexican restaurant (Restaurant La Hacienda) as we figured we may be able to eat the nachos if nothing else. I thought it was worth a short asking if they had a "menu coeliaco" - instantly the waitress said "Si, si" and appeared a minute later with a dedicated gluten free menu. We opted for a pizza (again! 11 year old boys aren't so adventurous!) with a side of gluten free fries from a dedicated fryer, though the menu did have a lot more choice.

Gluten free food Port Aventura

I had heard a rumour that McDonalds in Spain serves gluten free buns so whilst waiting for our flight home from Barcelona El Prat airport we popped into the airside McDonalds. Thankfully they had automated ordering machines with English translations so we didn't have to try to explain what we wanted and lo and behold - gluten free bun options! I have to confess they weren't the nicest buns, typically dry and powdery, but it really was a treat to be able to get a burger in a bun!

Gluten free burger bun from McDonalds Barcelona

So - in summary, if you're heading to Cambrils, Salou, Barcelona or Port Aventura as a Coeliac, don't panic, there will be plenty of options available.

Happy Holidays!