|Raglan Castle, Monmouthshire|
Now when you have an extra teenager (lovely cousin Georgia) staying, as well as my very own Dennis the Menace and Minnie The Minx (Ieuan and Caitlin), it’s nice to find somewhere that caters for all tastes and appetites.
This is particularly important since Ieuan has the eating habits of an 80 year old, toothless dowager duchess and Caitlin is still in the throes of her ‘ice cream with everything’ phase. (Please remain calm dental hygenists – the riot act is read regularly about the risks to your teeth about enjoying desserts a little too much).
Happily we were invited by Brewers Fayre to reacquaint ourselves with our local restaurant just a stones’ throw (unless you’re rubbish at throwing, like I am) from Barry Island (or Barrybados as we almost locals like to think of it). It is also, handily, right next door to a Premier Inn.
What I like about this particular Brewers Fayre is that it is spacious, immaculately clean and the staff are friendly, upbeat and genuinely look like they are happy to be there. The restaurant is designed with clearly designated areas, a ‘zone’ for coffee or fizzy drinks, a large bar and a separate area for the carvery.
The menu is vast and it took us a good quarter of an hour to decide what we’d like. This was also because the kids were happily colouring their Beano Comics and regaling us with the jokes inside.
Because it was a Saturday, the weekly meal deals were not available but even so, everything was reasonably priced.
The kids menu is very good value and, sensibly, is priced according to the number of courses. Given the generous portion sizes, this means that you’re not ordering food that then goes to waste. You can have a main meal for £3.99, 2 courses for £4.49 or 3 courses for £4.99.
Caitlin chose a strawberry Starslush (like a Slush Puppy) and Ieuan had a chocolate Yazoo (which, 80’s pop fans, made me think of Alison Moyet). Caitlin had tomato soup with crusty bread as her starter and Ieuan had the Gn-achos, cheesy nachos with a tomato dip.
Is it just me or do other parents only discover their kids’ tastes in meals have changed when they go out to eat? Caitlin’s soup was rapidly dispatched whilst I sat there saying “but you don’t usually like soup”. “Well,” she announced, “I have had it before you know”.
For main courses, Caitlin had Popin Chicken (chicken, chips and baked beans) and Ieuan had the Cod-apult (love the Dennis The Menace inspired names) which was crispy cod bites, chips and beans (substituted for peas). Both meals came piping hot and with a generous portion size.
Cousin Georgia chose the Ultimate Sausage & Mash from the main menu which was a giant Yorkshire filled with Smithfield pork sausages, mash and caramelised onions, all served up with cabbage and gravy (£8.29).
The Husband had Hand Battered Atlantic Cod & Chips, the fish being hand battered to order and served with tartare sauce and a choice of garden or mushy peas (£8.99). The fish came wrapped in its own paper which I thought was a fun touch.
I was feeling rather delicate and it was one of those days when only comfort food would do so I chose Sausage, Egg & Chips, 3 sausages, 2 fried eggs, chips and garden peas (£6.49). The sausages were good quality and meaty and the eggs fried just the right side of runny.
For dessert, Caitlin had a strawberry sundae (of course) and Ieuan has the Tricky Mini Doughnuts which came with a dish of melted chocolate sauce and a dish of sprinkles (or hundreds and thousands as we used to call them before we unfortunately had to go metric). This was also a surprise as, usually, nothing but a chocolate brownie will do.
Georgia had been beaten by the Ultimate Sausage & Mash so I had a cappuccino and was allowed to share the Husband’s treacle tart which came nicely warmed and was served with vanilla ice cream (£3.99).
We also had a Diet 7-up, a Diet Coke and the Husband had a pint of Stella. My Diet Coke came with unlimited refills, as did my cappuccino (which was a Costa coffee).
|Ieuan pretending to be Usain Bolt.|
The total bill came to £54.17 which, for 5 of us was very good value indeed.
If I had any quibbles at all, it would be that there are a couple of vending machines aimed at kids which meant that Ieuan had a minor strop because we wouldn’t let him play with them, and the radio is piped into the Ladies Toilet quite loudly which is ever so slightly off-putting, although singing along to Katy Perry is a bit of a novelty in that situation.
I would definitely recommend Brewers Fayre as a no-fuss, clean and welcoming eaterie for the family – including the kids! Good food and great value. We’ll be back.
Further information is available on the Brewers Fayre website at www.brewersfayre.co.uk, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/brewersfayre or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brewersfayre.
We were invited to dine as guests of Brewers Fayre but all opinions are our own.
Back to school time is nearly upon us and, together with the kids’ excitement about returning to see their friends and starting a whole new academic year afresh comes the threat of a set of potential visitors who are not welcome in the slightest. Yes, it’s time to battle those nits with a head lice treatment.
Yes, when children come back together, it’s a great opportunity for head lice to thrive and just one or two lice can start an infestation off.
Sharing hats and brushes can also spread them as they can survive 8-12 hours off the body but generally, they are spread by physical contact – i.e. head to head.
I’m sure we’ve all felt our heart sink as our little ones run out of school brandishing the “slip of doom” saying that one of their classmates has been adopted by those nasty little varmints, head lice.
We’ve all heard the homespun advice about combing through conditioner before we wash our children’s hair and the theories about plaiting hair to keep head lice away.
We’ve questioned whether head lice prefer dirty hair rather than clean and given our kids’ scalps a cursory examination to see whether we can spot anything.
|A Head Louse – Source: www.nhs.uk|
But once you’ve done that, what do you do? Apart from crossing your fingers and hoping?
There is a new weapon of lice destruction on the high street from Vamousse – Vamousse Protective Shampoo which is proven to break the cycle of infestation.
You see a commonly held frustration by parents is the belief that other parents are deliberately sending their kids to school with head lice and causing the spread.
Actually, most head lice infestations are spread by undetected infestations that take over a month to discover. Head lice are the hidden enemy!
A head lice infestation takes time to develop. In its early days, an infestation consists of young lice (nymphs) that are too small to be seen by the naked eye and eggs that do not cause symptoms such as itching/a crawling sensation.
To stop an infestation taking hold both adult lice and, later hatching lice (nymphs) emerging from eggs need to be killed, thereby breaking the cycle of infestation.
Research carried out by Vamousse found that most parents are too slow to take action, often waiting for visible signs of lice before whipping out the detection comb and using a product for protection or treatment. (For more information on head lice prevention and treatment with the Vamousse range, check out their website here.)
So, you’ve received the dreaded ‘nit slip’. How does Vamousse Protective Shampoo Work?
When used regularly as part of a family bath-time routine Vamousse Protective Shampoo can stamp out an infestation before it takes hold, by killing the lice that have unknowingly been contracted and later killing lice as they emerge from eggs that have been laid.
It’s easy to use – simply apply a generous amount of shampoo to wet hair, work into a lather and massage into scalp. The leave the shampoo on hair for at least 3 minutes and Rinse.
For best results, it is recommended that you use the shampoo daily for at least 2 weeks. Hair is left clean and fresh and you can use a conditioner afterwards.
Best of all it’s pesticide-free and suitable to use on children aged 2 and over.
If you do find head lice, in other words, there is a visible infestation, then you need to use Vamousse Head Lice Treatment before using this shampoo.
It is non-toxic and pesticide-free and kills 100% of the lice AND eggs within 15 minutes of contact.
So what did we think? We are not currently under threat of an infestation but I wanted to test the shampoo for ease of application, smell and its effect on a child’s scalp and hair.
The shampoo is colourless and quite runny.
It is recommended that you really massage Vamousse Protective Shampoo in well to blitz any lurking eggs or lice.
Then rinse and condition as normal. Caitlin’s only comment was that the shampoo had a stronger smell than her usual one.
Her hair was left clean and actually had quite a nice shine to it – although that might be because I was liberal with the use of conditioner, conscious that she had had a stronger product on her hair than normal.
You are advised, by the way, to make sure that you don’t get the product in your eyes or near your mucous membranes as it may irritate or sting but that probably applies to many other shampoos.
Vamousse Protective Shampoo retails at £9.99 and contains sufficient for around 20 washes in the bottle. Vamousse Head Lice Treatment costs £14.99.
Both products are available to buy at and the products are available to buy on Amazon and at Boots, Superdrug, Ocado and your local pharmacy.
Week 5 of the Summer holidays and we are now all living in a simmering state of restrained hostility. Caitlin is showing all the signs of galloping puberty or is permanently auditioning for Hollyoaks – I can’t tell over the sound of harumphing, slamming doors and “none of you understand me”.
Ieuan is admitting to getting “a little bit angry” which is akin to saying Kim Kardashian is quite fond of cameras.
I have exhausted my repertoire of bribes, threats, cajoling, wheedling, pleading, stropping, sighing and outright emotional blackmail. I have hidden in my bedroom and taken mid afternoon showers to shut out the thunderous sound of bickering which erupts over something world-shattering like the wrong placement of a Lego brick or the refusal by one or the other of them to play their longstanding (and weirdly entertaining) game of Puppy and The Incredible Hulk.
I have taken them out to run free on our nearby common or to explore the local beauty spots. They have iPads, books, TV, a safe garden, bikes and scooters and Lego which appears mysteriously like damp in the various corners of the house but they still require entertaining. I’ve read to them (which lasts the length of a shortish chapter till they get bored) and they have enough craft materials to build a space shuttle. I have eaten so much pizza I’m starting to resemble Gino on the Go Compare advert.
But I have a new thing. I’m calling it “Turbo-Calm”.
It’s where you are rendered speechless by rage or irritation. It’s the replacement of shouting with silence. It’s when you finally think”enough of this nonsense” and take yourself out of the argument equation in order to defuse it. And, surprisingly, it works quite well.
Expecting a spectacular explosion of maternal nagging, the kids find an icy calm exterior. I become one with the universe and my mind is like a computer. I am Mrs Logic. I show no emotion. Oh no.
Now, I’m not entirely sure this is a healthy method of interaction but it does at least create a space for everyone to calm down a bit.
My mother used to send me to my room to fester and then appear with a cuddle about half an hour later. I’m guessing today that would be referred to as positive time out.
There’s no escape when you’re a parent though, is there? You can run but you can’t hide.
When it all gets too much, hit the turbo-calm button. And break out the biscuits.
While you’re carb-loading you may just remember that you love the little menaces after all.
And if you’re lucky, the kids will remember they quite like you too – and come for a cuddle.
Cadw, the Welsh Government’s Historic Environment Service (or, as I like to think of them, the guardians of some of Wales’ most beautiful heritage sites), are running a summer campaign this year at Caerphilly Castle which asks us to ‘pack your imagination’.
We were invited to go along for a double bouncy / non-bouncy castle experience!
There is a variety of exciting family fun activities in Cadw sites around Wales and we were very happy to hear that, at Caerphilly Castle, this includes a bouncy castle and Lego workshops.
So, on a satisfyingly bleak and rainy morning (I like a bit of ‘bleak‘ as you know), we drove the short distance from Cardiff and, armed with the customary Fruit Shoots and Tunnocks Caramel Wafers, prepared to explore.
There is ample quite cheap car parking, by the way, in the nearby long-stay pay & display car park and the castle itself is very well signposted.
The first thing we noticed was the geese and ducks who grace the surrounding river. There were loads of them!
Mindful of the fact that the Romans allegedly used geese as guards we walked somewhat gingerly towards the imposing silhouette of the castle.
Isn’t it funny how you can live in a place for decades and completely forget how fantastic the places on your own doorstep are?
For some reason, despite the fact that I had visited Caerphilly Castle as a child, I had forgotten how big and strikingly majestic it is.
In fact, Caerphilly is Wales’ largest castle and the second largest castle in the UK (the largest being Windsor Castle).
It is also very well set out for visitors, with a site office/gift shop and toilets (very important for us family explorers).
There are also art installations, exhibitions and great use of projection (for example, to create a portcullis or a roaring fire) which help to bring the castle alive.
Caitlin and Ieuan loved the many towers and halls and were fascinated by dark corridors and foot-worn turret stairs.
The views over the castle ramparts are spectacular – even shrouded in the kind of misty murkiness only South Wales seems capable of producing.
Caerphilly Castle was begun in 1268 by Earl Gilbert de Clare who was a rich and powerful English nobleman.
His new home had to weather its first attack in 1270 whilst still under construction.
The castle had rings of stone and water defences to repel an attack.
In its huge Great Hall, it is probable that King Edward II was entertained there in 1326 on the run from Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer.
And, as another point of interest, the south-east tower out-leans the Tower of Pisa.
We enjoyed the art installations, although I’m not too sure this interpretation of “the wife” is all that flattering.
The story of Caerphilly Castle is very well documented by Cadw and it is easy to get a sense of how hard life must have been then.
For a start, life expectancy in 1268 was 31, although if you managed to get to 20 you stood a good chance of living to 45.
The daily focus must have been on survival. How different must it have been for families then!
The “Pack Your Imagination” Campaign is a great opportunity for little ones to put themselves in their ancestors’ shoes to bring one of the hardest (and one of the gruesomest) periods in our history to life.
After a great hour or so exploring, the kids could resist the lure of the bouncy castle no longer and, ignoring the drizzle, had a great time bouncing like Tigger on a sugar rush. (I managed to restrain myself from joining them).
I can heartily recommend a bouncy castle as a quick method of tiring your kids out.
As long as you can then withstand the inevitable “I’m tired, I’m hungry” etc.
There was only one thing for it – off to the Black Cock Pub on Caerphilly Mountain we went for a lovely pulled pork madras and freshly cooked fish goujons and chips for the kids.
The pub is also just a stone’s throw from another Cadw site – Castell Coch built by eccentric genius William Burges for John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute. But that’s a tale for another day.
Entry to Cadw sites is free if you are a member (a family membership is £66), otherwise, a family ticket is £16.50 (2 adults and all children under 16). If you join Cadw at the site, there is a £10 reduction in the membership fee.
For further information about Caerphilly Castle go to www.cadw.wales.gov.uk.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon today so we extracted the Husband from his working quarters (our loft) for a lunch at one of our favourite family eateries, Zizzi Cardiff Bay.
Now, hands up, I did intend to do a more thorough review than this but we were, in all honesty, hungry and anyway, it will be no hardship at all to return to Zizzi’s.
Anyway, this should give you a flavour of the place and because it seems to be a little quieter in the day than neighbouring Pizza Express, it’s well worth having Zizzi’s as what I like to think of as a reserve in your “will put up with your offspring” restaurant arsenal.
Zizzi Cardiff Bay is to be found in Mermaid Quay and is bright and airy with a fabulous view over the Bay. I love it when the sun sparkles on the sea. It makes the Bay feel quite continental.
With his usual quest to sit somewhere with the most risk to his personal safety, Ieuan decided we’d sit on the high backed, blue pastel chairs but they were surprisingly comfortable and, happily, he didn’t fall off.
The children’s menu came on a printed sheet with colouring and puzzles to keep them occupied.
I think the barman may be coveting Ieuan’s Power Ranger.
The kids’ menu is £6.75 for three courses and both our two opted for the mini pizza.
Caitlin’s latest masterpiece. Ieuan did his customary Incredible Hulk green angry scribble.
The children’s starter, dough sticks, come with carrot and cucumber batons. Yes. That really is Ieuan eating carrot.
The Husband chose the bruschetta as his starter and had polished it off before I had a chance to wield the camera! I can tell you it was light and fresh with sweet baby tomatoes and a generous helping of cheese.
My main course was the Skinny Pizza Pollo Roquito – chicken, roquito chillies, Fior di Latte Mozzarella, sliced asparagus, baby watercress and fresh oregano. Under 550 calories (still quite high but still…) plus 25p of the cost of the pizza (£10.25) goes to Cancer Research UK.
It came with a lovely fresh side salad with spiralized beetroot and radishes.
One slight oddity about the online menus is that you have to click to bring up the prices and select your local restaurant. I’m not quite sure why the prices just aren’t displayed next to the dish unless there is considerable regional variation in prices across the country, which I can’t imagine a chain such as this doing.
The Husband chose Strozzapretti Pesto Rosso (£9.95) – spicy piccante chicken, red pesto, creme fraiche and spring onions which were creamy and delicious with just the right amount of ‘bite’.
Caitlin had great fun decorating her mini pizza with her chosen toppings of olives and ham.
This is where the cunning plan went a bit wrong. Just as I was about to reach for the dessert menu (and the kids could have chosen ice cream or a Zizzi Bambini Cone), the pair of them vanished out of the door, having spotted the Cardiff Bay Beach with its fairground rides.
This left me to pay the bill whilst the Husband legged it after the miscreants. We have just invested in a Tastecard which gives 50% off the bill or, here in Zizzi’s 2 for 1 on main courses. The total bill came to £44.40 which included one large glass of rose wine, a small beer, a glass of milk and a diet coke.
Now you see them, now they’ve legged it to the fair.
Oh well, never mind. I will just have to go back to check out the desserts. All in the name of research of course.
Further information: Zizzi’s in Cardiff Bay is based in Unit 8, Mermaid Quay, CF10 5BZ. Tel: 02920 462232. You can tweet Zizzi @WeAreZizzi and they are on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wearezizzi.
This is a completely independent review. You can find more of our restaurant reviews here.
After another year of ‘record’ A level results in which pictures of leaping teenagers filled the papers, the collective sigh of exasperation from those of us churned out by the UK Education System in the 70’s and 80’s could probably be heard on the continent.
The arguments about the dumbing down of examination standards and the number of ‘silly’ subjects offered in colleges and universities continues apace (a degree in Fashion Knitwear anyone?) but actually, does the subject really matter that much anymore?
If most students are leaving with multiple A grades, how are universities and employers supposed to select the most appropriate candidates for courses and jobs? What is the point in an examination system which does little to aid selection?
Of course pupils have worked hard and in no way do I want to detract from their efforts and the stress they have just gone through to achieve their grades.
But, really, I can’t escape the feeling that somehow, somewhere, we are letting them down. That something is not quite right.
If you wanted to be cynical, you could say that it is in the Government’s interest to keep pass rates high so that our children are funnelled through the system to Universities where they do not impact on unemployment figures.
But isn’t this just deferring the problem? Where are the apprenticeships which teach a trade? Can’t we find something better to offer those kids who don’t really want to go to university than shift work in a call-centre, shovelling fries or a ‘zero hours’ contract from retailers who treat their employees like a cheap and endlessly replaceable resource?
And what a start to your working life to be saddled with a huge student loan and debts from the cost of living added on to boot.
The irony, of course, is that in a few years nobody will give two hoots about the A Levels achieved. The focus will be on degrees and experience.
An employer who needs to fill a vacancy quickly is more likely to choose the candidate with previous experience than the bright young star with a shiny collection of A Grades.
Past experience supervising work experience candidates and trainees has also taught me that even if they are well qualified, sometimes kids have absolutely no concept of what it is to work – even the basics like dressing appropriately, turning up on time, meeting deadlines and treating seniors with respect.
I could tell you tales of interns caught watching adult websites on the office PC or playing computer games on their Nintendo DS when they thought the boss wasn’t looking.
Perhaps an increased focus on getting our young people ready for work (for those opportunities that actually do exist) would be more useful than the A Level pressure cooker which produces one seemingly homogenized candidate soup.
I think the ‘record A Level results’ celebration which happens every year now is a massive smoke screen.
And when the smoke finally clears, there’ll be far fewer young people jumping for joy.
Caitlin had a friend over to play today and much fun was had by the two girls. Ieuan, on the other hand, floated about like the spectre of death at a wedding.
I have to admit, attempts to get in touch with his friends haven’t been that successful but, by and large, I haven’t worried about it too much, figuring that time in the loving bosom of his family (cough) should suffice. How wrong I was.
Now we are at the arsenic stage of the summer holidays when kids are really missing their school pals and the novelty of late nights, iPads and probably far too much junk TV is wearing thin.
Yes, yes, before you say it, I know we should have been up at dawn, covered in goose grease and ready to yomp up the Brecon Beacons, all gung-ho Bear Grylls stylee with the enthusiasm of an excited Louis Spence thrown in for good measure. But we weren’t.
The Husband is off doing something technical in London again and so it’s my paltry attempts at single motherhood with all the good humour of Anne Hegarty on ITV’s “The Chase”.
Ieuan wandered around with his best ‘devil child’ pout. “I want friends overrrrrrr. I want to play with the boys. They’re leaving me out” (They weren’t). So, what do you do when one sibling is left out on a playdate? Tricky.
I offered him numerous forms of entertainment and items containing sugar but these found no favour.
He flounced, he stropped, he did some Rupert Everett style languishing. All he needed was a silk dressing gown and a dry Martini (actually that’ll be mine) and he’d have had the look off to a tee.
I have explained that Caitlin will want time to play with her friends as he would want time with his when they (hopefully!) arrive.
It’s always difficult to know how much supervision is required on play-dates. I avoid being Mary Poppins on Speed – you know the type, the crafting scissors are out before you’ve taken your shoes off – in favour of someone a little more relaxed (obviously I struggle) and willing to let the kids enjoy themselves without being stifled by someone with an unholy fear of them burning the house down.
By and large, I think I have the balance right. But entertaining ‘the spare’ on a playdate must be many a mother’s challenge, particularly in the school holidays.
Eventually, the situation was rectified by the early arrival of The Husband who took Grump Junior off for a hair-cut and a lolly.
But I think I’m going to need a better future strategy than that.
Otherwise, Ieuan’s going to end up bald.
How do you cope when a child feels left out on a playdate? You’ll save me a fortune in hairdressing fees if you share!
Much as I love my two, I swear that as soon as their father goes off to work for a couple of days and the door closes behind him, they both hatch the latest plot entitled “let’s you and me make mummy get mad and shout”. Yes, disciplining kids is a right old challenge, isn’t it?
The basis of this game involves:-
* pretending not to understand basic life skills such as applying toothpaste to a brush, remembering to flush the toilet or brush their hair
* adopting “the voice” – a cross between a wheedle, a whine and a bleat. It’s like being accosted by melancholic sheep wherever you turn.
* shouting for me at the top of their lungs like a machine gun “mum,mum,mum,mum”. This is always done outside for full effect.
* having to be told at least 5 (count ’em) times to do anything
* completely ignoring the last 5 instructions and, when confronted, smirking – smirking!!! A red rag to a, er heffer, that one.
* developing weird physical symptoms and claiming to be in the throes of some odd fever or sickness. This is usually announced by “my tummy feels weird” and then behaving like an auditionee for Holby.
* endlessly (and I mean endlessly) using all those words that make you wince (especially when announced in the library). These words are often helpfully strung together – viz “bumfoofytodgetodgeboobiedoobiebum”. N.B. trying to pass this off as the New Zealand Haka rarely works.
*appearing approximately 90 minutes after being put to bed, still wide awake but claiming to have had a dream in which somebody somewhere in some guise or other was being something or other and had upset them.
* announcing that nobody in this house loves them and they are leaving home. (So soon!)
* refusing to leave home before their bedtime milk and cuddle and then deciding to stay after all.
I know that they are testing the boundaries and that discipline (correctly applied – and no I’m not talking about physical discipline) should help them to feel loved, protected and safe but why does nobody tell you how awful it makes you feel?
After a day like today, I feel totally wrung out and like I’ve failed. Again. All those helpful childcare tomes focus on the desired results of disciplining kids but rarely do we receive advice about what to do when your kids make you feel like Mother Gothel in Disney’s Rapunzel.
It is an endless battle which we parents never know if we’re winning or not because as soon as you feel the little darlings are behaving or they have an exemplary day, you can bet it will all go pear-shaped the next day.
Sometimes I wonder what on earth I’m teaching them. Do I actually believe the rules I’m setting are right, valid or effective? But then I remember that society needs us to bring our kids up right so that they are not screaming little banshees running amok in Tesco or irritating plane passengers. It’s about encouraging individuality whilst ensuring our children fit in. Because, make no mistake, a lot of success in life boils down to ‘fitting in’.
If I stop and listen, of course, the voices I hear are those of my parents. We’re all just doing our best, aren’t we?
Occasionally I wish I could be one of those chilled, macrobiotic types who operates entirely through the focus of mindfulness and universal love.
But I can’t bear mess on the carpet, wet towels on beds and why in God’s name does nobody EVER replace the toilet roll.
All is peaceful at the moment. There is a lull in hostilities while they snooze and I sit on the sofa and reflect how much I love them. The little buggers.