Meeting Santa at Chill Factore

A visit to see Santa Claus is an essential part of Christmas preparations for many families. This year we stepped the tradition up a notch by visiting Santa in the ‘real’ snow covered wonderland created at Chill Factore in Manchester. We even indulged in a sledging session to ensure we were truly in the festive mood.IMG_5945

We’ve never visited a snow dome before and I have to confess it’s several years since I last took to the seat of a sledge, so I was somewhat apprehensive as we arrived. After navigating the slightly confusing car park (signage was small and we ended up accidentally parking in the overflow area) we walked into the building not really knowing what to expect.IMG_5974

As a family we’d dressed in warm clothes with gloves, however you can hire a set of waterproof clothing for £6 in the changing village. Snowboots and helmets are available free of charge which was great for the kids but my Dad had to swap his pair as they were wet on the inside! I wore my own wellies and didn’t find they hindered me at all, so that’s definitely an option if you’d rather wear your own footwear. Next we made our way to the waiting area where our instructor met us bang on time.IMG_6234

I’ve completely forgotten our instructor’s name but she was absolutely wonderful! She talked the kids through the basics of using their sleds and off they went… expect my youngest had a complete meltdown at the top of the slope and was terrified. The instructor coaxed him onto a sled and took him down slowly with her hand firmly attached to the side. Unfortunately his brother had other ideas and against safety protocol decided to come down straight after and knocked my youngest over. No one was hurt but as you might imagine my youngest was not going to be convinced back onto the slope and I worried that his afternoon had been ruined. Unfazed our instructor asked if he would like to go into the snowplay area instead and he had a wonderful time in a much smaller environment. IMG_6097

Both my Dad and myself were rather apprehensive about sledging but jollied on by the children we gave it a whirl and had a fantastic time. In the wild (aka outside) I’m always nervous of sleds hitting rocks or tumbling out and whacking my face. In the controlled environment of Chill Factore with the safety equipment and instructors on hand it’s easy to enjoy an activity like sledging as if you were once again a care free child, purely enjoying the thrill of racing down across the snow.IMG_6226

Our time was up before we knew it and we made our way back out to the changing area before walking over to see Santa.

IMG_0070Santa’s grotto is located in the snowplay area and as you walk towards the door his elf pops out to greet you. Santa himself was attentive and friendly, however his grotto is teeny tiny and fitting everyone in was cosy to say the least. Santa made time to talk to each of my children and they all left feeling very excited. You can’t take photos inside the grotto but Santa has his very own camera to catch the special moment which you can then buy for £3. There are also several other photo packages, we were given a snow globe photo frame and large print which would normally cost £15.IMG_0072

Final Thoughts

We had a fabulous time at Chill Factore and can’t wait to go back, my son would like to learn to ski and this seems like a great location to give it a go. The thing that really struck me about our visit was how much I felt we hadn’t merely had a day out, we’d had a real experience to treasure and remember! The staff were all extremely attentive and friendly and obviously enjoy their work, children are welcomed and catered for as well as adults. It’s a great family location and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking to get into the festive spirit!

Details

To find about more about Chill Factore or to book visit their website here.

Full details of Santa’s grotto area available here.

Hampergifts review

IMG_5220‘Eat, Drink and be Merry!’ If ever there is a time when this phrase can be said to be true it’s at Christmas. Traditionally we fill our tummies fit to burst and drink wine and punches as we play host to family gatherings. Of course selecting and purchasing many and varying treats can be time consuming, and buying a hamper either for yourself or a friend is the perfect way to relax and enjoy the season. I was lucky enough to be sent a Christmas hamper from the good folks at Hampergifts to review.

IMG_5191While I adore wicker baskets and use them for storage, I’ve never actually bought or received a real food hamper before. So when the Christmas Celebration hamper crossed my threshold I was over the moon! On opening I was greeted by this wondrous beauty filled to the brim with delicious treats and wines.

IMG_5202The hamper itself was beautifully constructed from willow with leather straps and a lined fabric interior. There is something quintessentially British about hampers and to me they conjure up images of the Wind in the Willows with Ratty boating along with his companion Mole. However at the end of the day the contents is just as important as the presentation.IMG_5203

The hamper contained:

  • Bottle of Sandeman Fine Ruby Port 75cl
  • Bottle of Coteaux d Aix-en-Provence, Château de Beaulieu, France, 75cl AWARD WINNER
  • Bottle of Beaujolais La Cle Saint Pierre, France, 75cl
  • Bottle of White Burgundy Bouchard Aîné Fils, France 75cl
  • Baronie Assorted Belgium Pralines 200g
  • Cairnsmhor Crushed Black Pepper Crackers 150g AWARD WINNER
  • Chocolaterie Diane Praline 75g
  • Cottage Delight Cheese Maker’s Pickle 115g AWARD WINNER
  • Edinburgh Preserves Port Wine Jelly For Cheese & Pate 227g
  • Alice McPhersons Petticoat Tails Luxury Shortbread 150g
  • 4 x Deep Filled Iced Mince Pies 300g
  • Dark Chocolate Coated Crystallised Ginger 150g
  • Cherry & Coconut Flapjack 120g
  • The Wooden Spoon Cranberry & Orange Sauce 113g
  • New English Teas English Afternoon Tea x 10 Envelopes
  • Traditional Brandy Christmas Pudding 100g
  • Hand Made Olive & Sesame Biscuits 100g
  • The Wooden Spoon Wholegrain Mustard & Spitfire Ale 42g
  • Triple Chocolate Gourmet Cookies 100g
  • Edinburgh Tea & Coffee Co. Medium Roast Coffee 56g
  • Lewis & Cooper Savoury Mustard & Coriander Biscuits Tin 200g
  • Lindt Excellence Mint Intense 100g
  • Olives Et Al Chilli & Garlic Olives 150g AWARD WINNER

 

IMG_6314Everything arrived exactly as described on the website, I felt like Christmas morning had already come! I am simply in awe of just how beautiful this hamper is inside and out! The tea is wonderful, the Triple Gourmet Chocolate cookies are amazingly moreish and the shortbread is like Christmas on a plate. I haven’t made it through all of the wine, but the White Burgundy Bouchard Aîné Fils is extremely smooth!IMG_6318

Would I recommend this product?

I fail to see how any recipient could even begin to be disappointed on receiving this hamper and I would whole heartedly recommend it.

Delivery

Delivery was extremely quick and the hamper was handled with care by a very polite courier.

Value for money

At £135 this hamper may seem a considered purchase, but Hampergifts stocks other festive hampers ranging from £21.50 – £249.95 so cost needn’t be an issue. Saying that I do believe this particular hamper represents good value for money. The hamper basket alone would cost a significant amount elsewhere, when you add in the individual bottles of alcohol the hamper starts to seem like a really brilliant gift.

I’ve also been keeping my eyes open when I’ve spotted hampers elsewhere (such as highstreet stores) and this basket contained significantly more products every time.

Could it be improved in anyway?

I’d love to see a personalised hamper option where I could swap out certain items and replace with others of a similar value. As an example I don’t personally eat mince pies, so it would be wonderful if I could swap them for a Pandoro or Stollen instead.

Ten Tips for the Christmas Cheeseboard

I love cheese at the best of times but at Christmas it’s a must have! Judging by the popularity of the current competition to win a Vintage Organic Cheddar round from Godminster I think it’s safe to say that most of you love cheese too, so you’ll love this Guest Post from cheese expert Juliet Harbutt and Port Salut.Christmas Cheeseboard-(low-res)

Ten Tips for the Christmas Cheeseboard

End your Christmas dinner in style this festive season and earn yourself a reputation for creating a truly memorable cheeseboard with the help of Port Salut and cheese expert Juliet Harbutt. Here are her top ten tips for pulling together a show-stopping centre piece this Christmas:

• A slate or marble cheeseboard is great for creating a lasting impression

• Avoid dressing with grapes and instead decorate your cheeseboard with a few autumnal leaves or sprigs of holly for a festive feel

• Ideally a cheeseboard should have 5 – 10 magnificent cheeses, preferably at least one from each of the seven categories and at least one goat or ewe

• Offer a range of shapes – logs, wedges, cylinders, squares – and cut blocks of cheese into different shapes for an attractive finish

• Order your Stilton weeks in advance, as you would a turkey and ideally buy cheeses you have tasted and had cut at the deli from the original cheese. Buy your soft pre-packed cheeses as near to their best before date as possible for the best taste

• Before serving ensure all the cheeses have come to room temperature – a slither will take 5 minutes and whole Brie will take at least an hour so best to serve similar sized portions

• Avoid very brittle or strong flavoured biscuits as they can overpower the cheese; instead serve with oat cakes or rustic breads that allow you to experience the full texture and tastes of the cheese

• The accompaniments should complement not over power your cheeses, so try pickled walnuts, savoury (not over sweet) or spicy chutney, nuts, dried fruit or fresh apples or pears

• As well as wine, beer & cider also go very well with most types of cheese so encourage guests to have fun experimenting with their pairings

• Ideally store your cheese in a larder otherwise keep them refrigerated in a sealed plastic box, wrapped in their original wrapping or greaseproof paper

For more helpful tips: 

Visit the Port Salut website at www.portsalut.co.uk for Juliet’s downloadable cheese guide, listing all her cheese recommendations for the perfect Christmas board.