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.

Friday 18 September 2015

Whittard's of Chelsea Tea Tasting

I should introduce myself, I'm Katie, the London correspondent of the Transatlantic Blonde family. It makes me slightly further away from those beautiful babies, but I love London, almost as much as I love them. It also means that I get the chance to check out some cool London events, just like this one.

To add to the previously mentioned loves, I also love tea. I'm a green in the morning, white in the afternoon kind of girl, who still loves a good cup of builders. When the invitation came through from Whittard of Chelsea to join them for a private tasting session of their new range, I knew this was my kind of night out.

I went along to the Whittard Tea Bar on Regent Street on a cold, very rainy night to see what they had to offer. As I first stepped in and knew it was going to be perfect. The huge tea canisters that line the wall are beautiful, without even being opened. I loved the look of their range. At this point, I didn't know it was part of their very clever rebrand. They have updated the packaging of all the teas so you can find what you like, very easily. Each variety of tea comes in a different colour of packaging and each type (loose, tea bags, large leaf) in a different style.

Kate, the Whittard tea expert, met us and explained that we were going to taste one of each type of tea, one infusion (which is a fruit 'tea' to the rest of us, but actually contains no tea!), before being allowed to go wild and taste anything from the range. Kate was a brilliant host. She didn't just throw out lots of interesting tea facts, like black, green and white tea comes from the same leaf but is treated differently after picking, she has actually visited many of the plantations across the world, so she added plenty of little anecdotes along the way. Her enthusiasm made it hard not to be excited!

We tasted White Peony, Marrakesh Mint, Regal Blend and Mulled Wine. They were all delicious, and the loose leaves looked really pretty. My favourite from this bunch was the Marrakesh Mint. It was a great combination of a really fresh mint flavour, with a bit of a green tea kick. This has fast become my new morning tea of choice - it's a great wake-up when you are a bit sluggish! With each one, Kate showed us the differences in the leaves and gave us tips on the making the perfect cup. Interestingly, one of them was not make tea with boiling water, always to let the water cool slightly because the prime temperature for tea is about 75 - 95 degrees depending on the tea. Who knew?! It was also pretty cool to see the leaves before and after they've been brewed - I didn't realise some were so tightly rolled that they would end up pretty huge!

Aside from Marrakesh Mint, my favourites are Orange Blossom and Milk Oolong, which has an incredible slightly fudgy taste. All the teas have their own identification number with a quirky or cute story behind it, like Whisky Tea being 251 for Rabbie Burn's birthday or Coconut Truffle being 44 for the 1944 classic song, 'I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts'! So when you choose a new tea, make sure you ask for the story behind the number!

I could spend hours telling you about how amazing these teas were but instead, I'll just recommend that you get yourself to Whittard of Chelsea. There are stores across the country and all stores will allow you to taste tea before purchase so you can find the perfect tea and with the range increasing from 24 teas to 100, there is something for everyone. That doesn't even cover the coffee range or the new flaked hot chocolate, which looks and smells amazing. No surprise given that it's made from shaved pieces of chocolate instead of a powder!

I usually think that a book shop is the perfect place to spend cold, rainy autumn nights, but with beautiful setting, incredible smells and a massive list of tea I want to try, I think my new spot could very well be one of the Whittard of Chelsea Tea Bars!

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Transatlantic Blonde were provided a tasting for the purpose of this review but all opinions are our own. I mean come on who'd lie about tea?