Friday, 27 January 2023

Food and drink at Champneys Forest Mere - what is included, menus, photos and timings

Before my recent spa break at Champneys Forest Mere I was really interested to find out more about the food that would be on offer. The Champneys website wasn't very helpful, and so I thought I'd share some of my experiences with the food - what was included, timings, photographs of the food that we tried and also some photos of the menus. I hope that it is helpful if you are planning a stay at Champneys Forest Mere! Scroll to the bottom to see a few menus.

We stayed at Champneys for three nights and so our stay included three breakfasts, two lunches and three dinners. There is additional food and drink available to purchase in the café during the day and there is also a kettle along with tea and coffee in the hotel rooms, as well as plenty of drinking water stations.

For breakfast and lunch dining you are welcome to wear casual clothes, including your robes and flip flops, but for dinner the dress code is smart casual. When we visited all our meals were served in the same restaurant.

Meal times do need to be booked in advance. You can book your first meal when you arrive, then you can book a meal or two ahead each time you arrive to eat. We had no problems booking the slots that we wanted. We were given the following timings - Breakfast 7.30am - 10am, Lunch 12pm - 2pm and Dinner 6.30pm - 8.30 pm however the restaurant did in fact open at 6pm for dinner. We usually ate early so it wasn't very crowded, but later slots seemed to be busier. It's worth arriving a few minutes early to avoid a queue when you arrive to check in for a meal.

Champneys flavoured water station

The only included drinks with meals were still or sparkling water, apart from at breakfast when there was juice available. If you want something more interesting to drink (including alcohol at both lunch and dinner) then that will cost extra at bar prices that I would say are on the expensive side. 

Breakfast

Breakfast was served as a buffet with lots of cold choices, if you want a cooked meal then that is at an extra cost. There was a selection of healthy cereals, fruit and yoghurt, a bread station with different breads, spreads and a toaster, along with juice, tea and coffee. One morning there was a smoothie available, and you could also request a generous portion of hot porridge as an included choice. 

Lunch

Lunch was served as a sit down meal with starter and a main, with a dessert station with three or four small desserts to help yourself to. Sometimes there was a bit of a wait for the desserts as they disappeared quickly - they were admittedly quite small and so lots of people were enjoying more than one! We found the lunch menu was definitely as filling as a main meal. The only dessert that wasn't a hit was the vegan chocolate mousse (bottom right) which didn't taste of chocolate at all! The other desserts were much nicer, and don't let me put you off the vegan chocolate torte on the dinner menu which was delicious! The soup of the day for a starter was always a vegetarian soup of some kind and was very good.

Champneys Forest Mere Lunch menu - mains, starters and desserts

Dinner

Dinner was a slightly more formal meal, with larger portions than lunch. Some of the meat, the more indulgent dessert and the cheese board cost extra. It seemed that they alternated menus, so we had the same menu for the first and last night of our stay. There were also a few dishes that were repeated on both menus.

I enjoyed all of these meals. The samosas (top left) and the halloumi Caesar salad (top middle) were particularly good. The only one that I wasn't keen on was the vegan plant burger (centre) as it was too 'meaty' for my liking, I'm not keen on meat replacements that taste like meat. But everything else was delicious! All the meals had plenty of garnish and were well presented. They were large portions but not too big, and it was a good opportunity to try out some different foods that I wouldn't prepare or eat at home. I've never eaten so many pumpkin seeds in my life!

Champneys Forest Mere Dinner menu - starters, mains and desserts

I tried to take some photos of the menus so that you can see the different choices and what is included with the cost of a stay.

Champneys Forest Mere Lunch Menu One:

Champneys Forest Mere Lunch Menu one

Champneys Forest Mere Lunch Menu Two:

Champneys Forest Mere Lunch Menu two

Champneys Forest Mere Dinner Menu Two:

Champneys Forest Mere Dinner Menu two

Champneys Forest Mere Dinner Menu Three:

Champneys Forest Mere Dinner Menu three

We were all very pleased with the range of food on offer. Admittedly we are mainly vegetarian and not big eaters. I could imagine that if you are used to eating more meat and larger portions then you might not find it as satisfying. But as part of a health conscious break then I found that it was perfect (and of course there is nothing to stop you bringing your own extra food and drink to enjoy in your room!)

We enjoyed trying out some new things and found plenty of interesting choices. Additionally the service in the restaurant was very good with plenty of helpful staff, and plates were cleared promptly. All in all we had an excellent dining experience on our spa break at Champneys Forest Mere!

Thanks to my family members for help with the photos!

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

A museum day out in London

Harry loves a museum, so when we were planning a day out for his birthday a London museum trip was the obvious choice. We last did a family London trip in January 2020 before Covid, and we were also keen to visit the British Museum to see the real Parthenon Marbles after our holiday in Athens last year. 

We decided to spend the morning at the British Museum and then head to the Science Museum for the afternoon, another favourite that we've visited many times over the years. We booked free tickets online for both of these museums but it didn't seem too busy, so I think you can probably visit without booking especially if it's first thing or later on in the day.

At the British Museum we started with the Egyptian collections. There's a lot to see! Although currently some exhibits like the Rosetta Stone have been temporarily moved to a paid exhibition. We saw the mummies of course, before heading to the Greek sculptures. The Parthenon Marbles exhibition area is nicely done, but you can't help thinking that the marbles should probably be back in Athens. 

Parthenon Marbles at The British Museum in London

I can see the argument both ways, because if they hadn't been removed to the museum then they probably wouldn't be in such good condition now. But now that there is an excellent new Acropolis museum in the very shadow of the Parthenon, with spaces for the missing marbles, it really does feel as though they should all be displayed there together. 

Parthenon statues at The British Museum in London

We stopped for a quick sandwich and then headed to the Science Museum. Mia isn't such a museum fan, so my husband took her to the shops for a break while I made a start with Harry. When we arrived I asked Harry where he wanted to start and he answered 'with the boats!' I couldn't work out what he meant until I realised that he was talking about the play area in the basement of the museum - The Garden - where there is a huge water play table with boats. He spent many happy hours playing there in the past when he was tiny! But sadly I had to break it to him that it's only for ages 6 and under - he was so disappointed!

Luckily there is plenty to see at the Science Museum and so he wasn't sad for long. We started with a new temporary (and free) exhibition - Injecting Hope: The race for a Covid-19 vaccine. It was really good, very approachable with just enough science to make it interesting without being overwhelming. There was also lots of memorabilia to see like home testing kits, signage from vaccine centres, even the penguin T-shirt worn by the first lady to receive the vaccine! I must admit that it did bring back quite a lot of emotions to see the timeline to a vaccine laid out like that and remembering all the anxiety that was around, especially in the early days of the pandemic before the vaccine was developed.

Covid vaccine exhibition at The Science Museum

Then we walked back through one of Harry's favourite areas, the Exploring Space area. We are pretty familiar with this area as we've visited it many times over the years, but there are still lots of interesting things to see. I like all the areas about daily life in space and the future of space travel. Then I was starting to get quite tired legs, so I was happy to have a sit down and let Harry wander around the Mathematics gallery before we headed up to Flight. Harry can spend ages here, so I had to speed him up a bit! My favourite exhibit is the cut-through section of a Boeing 747 showing two floors of seating and the cargo hold. It's fascinating, I can stand looking at it for ages!

We did a quick sweep through some of the other galleries but we couldn't possibly see everything and we were all a bit museumed out. It was time to head home, despite Harry's longing glances as we walked past the Natural History Museum. We'll have to save a visit there for another day! 

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Home projects that you shouldn't attempt by yourself

This is a collaborative post

Most homeowners like to think that they’re more than capable of fixing things around the house. Given the recent rise in the cost of living, it is more tempting than ever to reach for the toolkit and look for a how-to guide on YouTube. But there are many problems in the home that need a professional to avoid accident, injury, or damage to the property. Here are just a few of the most important.

Anything to do with the boiler

If you have any concerns about your boiler, you should always call a professional. Making a mistake with any appliance that involves gas or electricity, and which also involves water, is asking for trouble if you do not know what you are doing. You may be risking your safety and your family’s if you try to fix it yourself, so get an expert involved.

Fixing the roof

The statistics for people who have hurt themselves while up on their roofs trying to fix a tile, a leak, a gutter or even the TV aerial are pretty staggering. There are so many ways that you could injure yourself if you do not know what you are doing. You may also only end up fixing a symptom of a larger problem. Finding roofers near you can be easy. Visit MyBuilder to put your project out there and receive quotes from their local roofers. You can read reviews from their previous clients and compare bids to find one that’s right for you.

Men repairing roof
Photo credit Raze Solar via Unsplash

Serious electrical repairs

We are talking about more complex issues than changing fixtures here. Even if you think you know what you are doing, there are so many ways for things to go wrong when you are dealing with electrics. If you think that you need to break out some power tools to handle it, then you should always consult a professional. It only takes something very small to go wrong to end up with a terrible electric shock.

Major plumbing issues

There are a lot of problems with your sinks, bathroom fixtures and loo that you can probably fix yourself. Everyone has had to pick up a plunger or tighten a tap at some point, but there comes a time when you need to admit that you need a plumber. It is easy for you to start doing damage to the pipes (putting chemicals down on top of a blockage is a classic example). And you may also be unaware of an issue that is out of sight. For example, if tree roots, frost or flood damage have impacted a pipe as we saw a lot of over Christmas, it will wreak havoc on everything else. Call a plumber to avoid making any situation worse.

Gas fittings on ovens

If you are moving anything that involves a gas fitting, you are taking a serious risk. Even if you think you have put it back the exact way it was, you can never know for sure. A gas leak is one of the most dangerous things that can happen in your home. All it takes is a spark. Or you and your family could be breathing in toxic fumes without you knowing it. It is always better to call a professional. 

Friday, 20 January 2023

A relaxing spa break at Champneys Forest Mere

Last week I was lucky enough to enjoy a fantastic three night stay at Champneys Forest Mere Health Spa. My Mum very kindly treated me, my sister and sister-in-law and we all had a wonderful time. As well as being a nice relaxing break it was also a lovely opportunity for us to all spend some time together.

Champneys Forest Mere spa break review

I've had a couple of spa treatments over the years but this was my first spa break, and I really loved it. It was a great chance to get away from my daily life for a little while, enjoying a change of environment with some lovely company. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts in case it's helpful to anyone else thinking about a Champneys spa break!

Champneys Forest Mere spa review

The room

As a group of four we had two adjacent twin rooms. The rooms were clean and large, with plenty of space for the four of us to spend time together in the evenings. We had a lovely view out over the grounds including the lake and outdoor swimming pool, and the room was always quiet. There were tea and coffee making facilities and toiletries provided. 

Champneys Forest Mere twin hotel room

Things to do

There are plenty of activities included as part of your stay which can be booked either the day before at a small cost or on the day for free if there is space. There are also some activities that cost extra, for example yoga and meditation. You can view the activity schedule on the website before your visit to get an idea of what is on offer - the classes range from low intensity stretch classes to higher intensity circuits and HIIT classes. There are also short guided walks around the local area.

I had intended to go for a run on the footpaths nearby but I was advised that the suggested hiking routes were very muddy (wellingtons were available if you fancied a walk!) Instead I took myself down the single track road leading from the resort to the main road. It was about 4k return and was a lovely run past the lake and through the trees. There are also bikes available to borrow. For a change or if it's raining there is a gym with the usual gym equipment and weights.

If you want a less active time then there are plenty of places to sit and relax both indoors and out. There is the large swimming pool area with saunas, hot tubs and so on. Around the pool there are a couple of peaceful rooms set up with waterbeds where you can read or sleep. There are also a couple of lounge areas, including the café with food and drink available to purchase and the piano room with beautiful views across the lake.

Champneys Forest Mere activities and things to do

Treatments

My Mum very kindly let us choose three treatments each which were wonderful! My first treatment was the Champneys Spa Heaven Cocoon where I was exfoliated all over, moisturised, and left to rest on a heated bed while my feet and my head were massaged! I was a bit nervous about taking off my clothes but it was all very discretely managed. I did struggle with the paper pants though - I couldn't work out which way round they went!

Then I had the Champneys Radiance Renewal Facial which was amazing. It was so relaxing, with a face mask applied and then some kind of heavy blindfold while my scalp was massaged. It really was fantastic and I felt so chilled out afterwards. I finished with a Champneys Manicure which was again very good. My favourite part was the heated mittens which I was left to sit with for a little while, and it also included a hand massage.

Champneys Forest Mere treatment suite and treatments

Food and drink

I've written about the food and drink in a lot of detail which I'll be sharing here on the blog shortly. We were really impressed with the food available, there were lots of healthy choices and interesting things to try. It was very different to the sort of food that I eat at home as I tend to go for simple meals without too many ingredients, and it was a real treat to be cooked for! We did take our own drinks and nibbles to enjoy in the room together during the evening, but we could have managed without as we all found the food very filling.  

Champneys Forest Mere review dinner menu options

If you are looking for a spa break then I can definitely recommend Champneys. I know that it's not cheap, but it's worth looking out for special offers as they come up throughout the year, especially for a less busy time or mid-week. You'll usually have to pay extra for any treatments but as long as you keep an eye on the other extras (the more indulgent food, alcoholic drinks, a trip to the shop and so on) there is plenty included in the cost of your stay. I'm hoping that we will have the chance to return soon!

Thanks to my family for some of the photos!

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

A craft to try if you...

...don't have much time - keep a sketchbook, pen and eraser handy and you can always work on a quick sketch. Sometimes it's better to work quickly on a drawing so that you don't overthink it, and get too fixated on trying to make it perfect.

...want to recycle or upcycle something - try some tin can lanterns. All you need is a tin can, a hammer and a nail, and I decorate mine with some beads threaded on wire around the top. They are great for using both indoors and outdoors.

Tin can lantern craft

...want to spread some happiness - make some painted rocks and leave them around your area for people to find and take home. There is probably a local Facebook group where people can share rocks that they have found and tell people where to look out for their creations. I've used acrylic paint and paint pens to decorate rocks, and I finish them with a quick coat of varnish.

Painted rocks with unicorn

...want to make some gifts - try making some soap. You can make lots at once and a beautifully packaged bar of homemade soap makes a lovely gift.

...might get interrupted - I've always found cross stitch a good craft to work on a little bit at a time. Whether you are working on an area with lots of stitches that are the same colour, or smaller areas with lots of colours, it's easy to pick up and put down if you need to attend to something else. 

...want to craft while watching television - knitting or crocheting a scarf is a simple project whether you follow a pattern or make it up as you go along with different colours of yarn. It doesn't take up too much space while you are working on it, and because the rows are short you can still concentrate on what you are watching as you don't need to have your eyes down for too long.

...want something mindless to get into flow - a simple striped or wavy crochet blanket. If you are looking for some inspiration I would highly recommend the Attic24 blog - there always seems to be a new blanket or crochet along taking place and you can buy kits containing everything that you need.

This is a photo of the Sky Blanket that I made a few years ago. A simple repeating pattern means that you don't need to concentrate too much and they work up really quickly.

Crochet blanket in stripes

...want to make something useful - try some knitted or crochet dishcloths. There are lots of free and really simple patterns available, all you need is some dishcloth (cotton) yarn which is very cheap. You can also wash them easily rather than having to buy disposable alternatives.

Knitted dishcloth on the tap

...want to craft alongside children - of course I'm going to recommend Hama beads! I love sitting down with a child and each working on a different Hama bead pegboard. It's a craft which you can easily adapt to the age and skill of the crafter and it's great for developing fine motor skills.

Monday, 16 January 2023

Things I enjoy at this time of year

I'll be honest and say that I don't much enjoy this time of year. It's cold and dark, and most of the time I just want to stay indoors hidden under a blanket. So in an effort to cheer myself up and think of the positives I thought I'd write about all the things that I really do enjoy at this time of the year!

* Sitting with my back against a radiator. When the heating is on that is where you will find me with a book or my Kindle. Best if the radiator is piping hot, but even if it's only slightly warm. I've always enjoyed having a radiator next to me, and when I was little my bed was next to a radiator which was lovely!

* Making and eating soup. I love my soup maker, it's so easy to use and I always enjoy the soup that I've made even when I've just made it up as I go along. It makes a lovely warming lunch with a couple of slices of bread.

* Feeling cold and putting on a pair of fluffy socks. It makes me feel warmer instantly!

* A mug of hot chocolate. I do drink hot chocolate all year around but it's especially comforting in winter, especially with a few marshmallows.

* A hot shower after a cold run outdoors. The run itself isn't the most pleasant thing but I always feel so good afterwards and a hot shower is the best reward.

* Family time together as we all flock to the warmest room in the house, usually the living room. Often we are all in separate rooms but in winter we are much more likely to congregate in one place together.

* Those glimpses of winter sunshine - the sun is appreciated so much more at this time of year than in the summer! The back of our house is south facing and the sun streams in through the windows of the kitchen which is lovely when I'm preparing food or tidying up.

* Heated seats in the car. Our current car is the first one that we've had with heated seats and I'd find it difficult to do without them now! It's so much nicer heading out for the school run in the car and knowing that I'll be toasty warm.

* Seeing both the sunrise and sunset in a day. We don't have any windows that face east or west, so I often don't notice the sunrise or sunset. In the winter they usually align with the school run so I get to see both and it's really lovely.

* Going for a walk in the frost and walking (carefully!) on frozen puddles.

What do you like about this time of year?

Frost on the front hedge

Friday, 13 January 2023

How to conquer the "to be read" pile in 2023

I always like to have a lovely big to be read pile, and I very rarely run out of things to read. But sometimes that big pile of books by the bed and those free downloads lurking on my Kindle can start to feel a bit overwhelming.

Recently I've been making a big effort to tackle my unread book mountain, and I thought I'd share a few tips, in case tackling the tbr pile is one of your New Year's resolutions!

Firstly, start by making a list of all the unread books. I made a page in my bullet journal where I wrote down the title, author, and whether it was a Kindle book or a physical book. I track my reading in Goodreads and so I also added my unread books to a bookshelf there. This was especially helpful for the Kindle books, because it made them seem more real when they were written down where I could see them. Also make sure that all physical books are gathered together in one place.

If even the thought of adding all the unread books to a list seems overwhelming then it might be time to have a cull! Think about whether there are some books in the pile that you are not realistically going to read, maybe ones that were recommended by friends or that you picked up for a good price. Feel free to pass those along, I regularly take bags of books to a local charity shop.

Begin with books that belong to other people. If you don't fancy a book that someone has lent you either be honest and say it wasn't for you, or give it back saying thank you and that you enjoyed it - they probably won't ask for specific details!

Then I like to start with the low hanging fruit. These are short and easy books that I know I can read very quickly in a day or two. It's very satisfying to tick books off quickly!

Open book reading on lap
Photo credit Clay Banks via Unsplash

Mix it up - sometimes I find that some of the books on my tbr pile have similar themes, for example I seem to end up with lots of 'inherited house romance' stories and they can all get a bit samey so I spread them out a bit. I also try to alternate short modern stories with a longer classic. 

Don't persevere if it's not for you. I select my books carefully but I often start reading ones that just don't grab me. I either stop reading when I realise I'm not bothered about what happens next, or I skim them to get a sense of the story.

Put the books away when you've read them - either shelved on the bookshelf or passed on to a friend, family member or charity shop. Then you can enjoy all the new space that you are creating!

And of course probably the most important thing - stopping adding new books to the pile! Avoid bookshops and the library for a few months, don't hunt out those free Kindle books, and politely turn down any books thrust upon you by friends and family. Easier said than done!

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