The best Christmas story ever, by a 6 year old 

Every day, I empty the school bags of my 6 and 4 year old girls.  Usually, alongside school notes and such, there are colourful drawings and scribbles a-plenty.  Nice as they are, I can’t keep all of them and find myself trying to stick them all on the fridge until we can’t reach the milk without fairy drawings falling on our heads.

Occasionally, there’s an absolute gem in those bags.  

This one will certainly get a re-telling by my husband one day in the future – forming part of his father-of-the-bride wedding speech.

Written by my 6 year old, it’s a heart-warming story of the magic of Christmas.  I hope you enjoy. 

Santa needs a wee

One day, Santa was riding his sleigh. But it was so fast, it made Santa need a wee and he didn’t notice he was doing the wee already.

A little bit of the wee came out of the sleigh hole already.  When Santa had finished, his pants were wet.  After a few minutes, the Christmas magic made his pants dry so he lived happily ever after. 

The end.

Half-term fun at Legoland Discovery Centre, Manchester 

Legoland Manchester half-termYesterday my 2 girls and I had a fun packed day out at Legoland Discovery Centre, Manchester.

We enjoy going to Legoland.  It’s easy to get to, jam packed with activities and you’re well placed in the Trafford Centre to go shopping or to one of many restaurants afterwards.  

There’s lots on this weekend, both for half term and Halloween.  The indoor lego playground, has been transformed into the world of Ninjago to celebrate the Ninjago adventure Day of the Departed! Children can also build their own Ninjago Eye Mask, take part in the Ninjago Laser Maze Challenge, and build a Ninjago vehicle in the Build and Test area. 

We arrived and were greeted by Professor Brick as usual and were given a limited edition Halloween Lego brick in return for helping him get his machinery working again.  My girls (aged 6 and 4) are always thrilled to meet Professor Brick (mainly because they get to jump up and down like lunatics to get his ‘Legoo’ machine working!).

We then took a ride on Kingdom Quest – a shoot em up ride during which we saved the princess from Orcs. 

Then we passed through some amazing Lego builds – including a fab Blackpool Tower with a firework display – straight to the main area.  My two headed straight for their favourite ‘pink kitchen’ area complete with karaoke machine, which was perfect as this meant I could sit and drink a Costa while they blasted away at the mic! 

Legoland Manchester half-termThey then took a turn on the 2 soft play areas for a good while, made their eye mask and did some colouring,  before we met one of the stars of the Ninjago series, ‘Kai’, the Red Fire Ninja, who is at the Centre every day until the 31st October. He’s a mean looking Ninja!

We also saw the new 4D film experience starring the Lego Nexo Knights.  This is a great interactive experience.  We wore 3D glasses for the film, and experienced wind and even a spot of rain (note: sit at the back if you don’t want to get wet!). 

We also had lunch at the cafe. As Merlin Annual Pass holders we can not only visit a number of attractions – including the SeaLife Centre which is just next door – but also get 20% off food.  The girls had a kids lunchbox with 4 items each, I had a sandwich and (another) coffee and the whole thing came to £12.95.

Legoland is well worth a visit if you’re still looking for something to entertain the kids today.  Great half term activity!

Disclaimer: Lucky us- we’re ambassadors for both Legoland and Sealife, trying out their Merlin Annual Pass in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are our own. 

A Frightsome Halloween at Tatton Park 

Halloween is exciting for 6 and 4 year old girls. So imagine Halloween coupled with Roald Dahl’s The Witches!  Then: imagine Halloween coupled with Roald Dahl’s The Witches AND Tatton Park!

Yesterday we had a half-term day out at Tatton Park’s A Frightsome Halloween, based on Roald Dahl’s The Witches.  This year, Tatton has had magnificent Roald Dahl themed events and activities and they’ve been amazing entertainment for the children.  Check out my previous posts on Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures over the summer holidays and Easter holiday adventures with The Twits. 

A Frightsome Halloween Tatton ParkWe began our day at The Old Hall, converted into The Hotel Magnificent for the event.  We had a great time just in the hour or so we spent here.  The girls were given an activity sheet to assess clues and find all the ingredients of The Witches’ horrible potion that turns all little children into mice. 

These clues we’re hidden around and in the Old Hall itself.  There were games and carousels outside (including pumpkin skittles!) and a fantastic storytelling event. The storyteller was one of the best I’ve ever seen.  She acted the part of Grandma in The Witches, telling a captivated audience how to recognise a witch. 

I’ll never look at any woman wearing gloves in the same way again.

Inside, the hall itself was completely transformed into quite a scary haunted hotel.  It was really well done, to the extent that my husband jumped out of his skin at one point.  I have to add a little caveat that some children may be scared: ours were fine, however! 

We searched for clues in the scary, dark hotel met by figures dresses as witches and ghouls along the way.  The freakiest part for me was the green model skeleton with chattering teeth!

The girls also got to make their own witch mask at The Old Hall and face-painting was also on offer.  There was lots to do – it was great fun. 

Next we had lunch at Gardener”s Cottage at Tatton, next to the gardens and mansion.  This is a great addition to Tatton and the already popular main Cafe area.  Set slightly to one side, the Gardener’s Cottage is quiet, has (you guessed it) a beautiful garden and really good food.  We had the deli boards- one dairy board and one gamekeeper’s board. They were both well presented, contained lots of cheeses and meats, their signature ‘plant pot bread’ and contained extra touches such as little pies and homemade scotch eggs. The girls tucked into hot, buttered toasted teacakes and were treated to ‘posh lemonade’ (or Rose Lemonade!).


After the restaurant we headed to the gardens where we have spent quite a lot of time this year.  Already the girls have enjoyed seeing The Twits in the Tower Garden, including pulling silly Twit faces and trying out The Twits’ oddly sized chairs and walking sticks.  We’ve also completed a Danny the Champiom of the World adventure trail and seen the BFG and Enormous Crocodile in the conservatory area.

For Halloween, there were also Frightsome witches strategically placed around the garden. This was fab fun for the girls as they shrieked with delight whenever they spotted one! The amazing pumpkin display in the greenhouse area fascinated them.  Who knew there were so many different types of pumpkin? 

The girls always spend a good amount of time running around the gardens and enacting imaginary play in the bushes.  For adults who like gardens and gardening, Tatton Gardens are an absolute must.  They are so well kept with burst of colour at every step, all year round.

We didn’t manage to get to the Halloween activities at the Mansion and Farm – hopefully we’ll get to those over the weekend, too. There’s so much to do here it’s hard to fit it all in!

We’re looking ahead to Christmas and A Glorumptious Christmas Mansion which we’ll definitely be attending! We’ve really enjoyed all the Roald Dahl events at Tatton this year and it will be great to end with this sparkling Christmas Mansion event.

A Frightsome Halloween continues this weekend – be sure to try it.  You won’t be disappointed!

Disclaimer: we are ambassadors for Roald Dahl at Tatton Park and attended this event free of charge. All opinions are our own.

Pizza Express, Didsbury (review) 

Hot on the heels of our review of the flaming hot Etna pizza with Pizza Express/Deliveroo, we were invited back to Pizza Express in Didsbury, Manchester this weekend to sample their new Autumn menu.

The new Autumn menu includes some much loved PizzaExpress classics, including the Rustichella Romana, Basilicata Romana and Cannelloni.  AND – the new melting Chocolate Fondant.  

Pizza express Didsbury
Our local restaurant is just around the corner from us, so we enjoyed a lovely autumn walk on the way there. Pizza Express restaurants are always a good family choice, as they are great with the children meaning the olds can have a relaxed meal while they’re entertained with colouring and activity sheets and crayons. 

The kids menu is really reasonable: 3 courses for £6.45.  Our excited girls had the dough balls which came with an inviting pot of garlic butter and a separate pot of vegetable sticks. 

They then had their own mini pizzas (1 la reine with olives, ham and mushrooms, and 1 marguerita).  They loved these and got to take the remainder back home (in their own ‘special box’, no less). 

For pudding, they were delighted to tuck into chocolate brownies and a bambiccino – a nice touch which was thrilling for them!

Pizza express Didsbury

Onto the adults, where we were trying out the hearty Autumn menu.  We each had the mozzarella and tomato salad to start which was refreshing and light enough to make room for the mains.  My husband had the Basilicata Romana which was topped with lamb, mint and chilli meatballs.  I had the Canneloni, stuffed with spinach annd ricotta and topped with loads more cheese and a delicious tomato sauce. Both were really tasty – and filling!

Despite this, we still managed to squeeze in pudding.  We just had to try the melting chocolate fondant.  It was soooo nice! All warm, melty, chocolatey gooiness.

We enjoyed or lunch at Pizza Express.  It’s a great local family-friendly restaurant for us and we’ll definitely be returning. 

Disclaimer: We were invited to try the Autumn menu at Pizza Express free of charge.  All opinions are our own. 

Pride and Prejudice at The Lowry (Review)

 

Pride and Prejudice Regents Park Theatre Lowry
Tafline Steen and Benjamin Dilloway as Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy

There was a period of time in my late teens when I discovered Jane Austen.  I remember my welcomingly thick Collins compendium of her works, which still sits in a box of my University books somewhere, waiting for the moment when my two girls are old enough to begin to appreciate them.

Ever since, Pride and Prejudice has been one of my favourite novels.  The journey of Lizzie Bennet as she discovers her love for the distantly brooding Mr Darcy (“Until this moment, I never knew myself” – cue flutterings of the heart!) amidst the surrounding comedy of a highly-strung Mother of 5 girls and the hapless Mr Collins mesmerised and stayed with me.

Last night, I was invited to see Pride and Prejudice at the Lowry in Salford.  The invitation seemed to arrive at just the right time; Pride and Prejudice has influenced so much of our culture, including the fantastic 1995 BBC TV series and the subsequent Bridget Jones series which cast the same Mr Darcy.  I went to see the latest Bridget Jones film featuring Colin Firth’s Darcy just last week – so I feel I’ve had a double dose of Darcy!

The play is a Regent’s Park Theatre adaptation by Simon Reade, with a cast that includes Matthew Kelly as Mr Bennet – played brilliantly (he is so tall!).  We had a few laughs at Mr Bennet’s withering comments to Felicity Montague’s Mrs Bennet.

Pride and Prejudice Regents Park Theatre Lowry
Matthew Kelly as Mr Bennet

It’s hard to top Jennifer Ehle’s Miss Bennet in the 1995 TV production.  However Tafline Steen did a good job.  A little more carefree than the Ehle version, the proposal scenes were nevertheless pleasingly tense, with Benjamin Dilloway’s Darcy delivering his declaration of Elizabeth’s inferiority convincingly.

He didn’t emerge from a pond with a wet shirt at any point in the show, however.

Pride and Prejudice Regents Park Theatre Lowry
Steven Meo as Mr Collins

By far the most enjoyable character to watch last night was Steven Meo’s Mr Collins.  He was just so funny!  His silly dancing – I need to try and emulate this at the next wedding I go to, just for fun.  I could have spent the entire evening watching just Mr Collins.

However, Montague’s Mrs Bennet was a close second.  Clinging to the banister at one point (half way up) in an attempt to convinced the escaping Mr Bennet to force Lizzie to accept Mr Collins’ marriage proposal, she was absolutely hilarious.

I enjoyed the evening and would recommend you go and see Pride and Prejudice. It’s at The Lowry until Saturday 15th October, and further tour dates and venues are listed here (or follow @DarcyOnTour on Twitter).

Outside the Lowry
Outside the Lowry

The Lowry is a great venue, for both adults and children.  It’s easy to get to and is an impressive building, with lots of eating and drinking places.  The play was in the Lyric theatre. it’s spacious, comfortable and we had good stalls seats with a decent view.  We ‘retired’ to the Circle bar in the interval for drinks which is really nice – low lighting, comfortable tables and seats and view of the theatre. I’ve also seen previous shows in the Quays Theatre, which also has a great bar adjacent to it overlooking the Quays.

We’re looking forward to our next trip to the Lowry.  I’ll be looking at what’s on in the next few months and the lead up to Christmas.  I may also re-read Pride and Prejudice!

Disclaimer:  We were invited to watch Pride and Prejudice free of charge.  All opinions are our own.

Flaming hot pizza with Pizza Express & Deliveroo

We love hot food here in the Expression household.  The hotter the better for my husband and I – plus our girls (now aged 6 and 4) got used to a bit of spice in their food from an early age. 

What else is a favourite? Pizza of course! What family doesn’t love a cosy Saturday evening in with a big fat pizza? Even better, a big, fat, HOT and SPICY pizza? 

This is exactly what we did last night.  Strictly was on TV (yes, after years of holding off our 6 year old is now smitten with the sequinned, spinning wonders parading before us) and we ordered the Pizza Express Etna pizza which is currently available via the Deliveroo app or site. 

Apparently, Pizza Express fans have been clamouring for the return of the flaming hot Etna pizza recipe, which was removed last year. It’s now back – exclusively via Deliveroo. 

The pizza contains spicy ‘nduja sausage paired with sweet and spicy roquito chilli peppers.  We added the Romana base (bigger, nice and thin) and also a side of formaggi dough balls. 

Pizza Express Etna deliveroo
I forgot to mention that wine was also involved

I can report that this was a big hit with the family. I was variously told “nice sausage”, “hmmm, spicy” and “hmmm, melting cheese!”

The deliveroo service is also really handy for those evenings when you just can’t be bothered to go out and yet would still like restaurant quality food.  We’ve used deliveroo quite a few times, for local independent restaurants as well as the larger chains such as Pizza Express.  Our pizza arrived within 30 minutes, nice and hot and delivered by a very friendly chap. 

The Etna recipe  is exclusively available for customers to order by logging on to the Deliveroo mobile app, the Deliveroo website or the Pizza Express website. 

Disclosure:  We were invited to try the exclusive Etna recipe free of charge.  All opinions are our own. 

Me time: Volair Spa, Knowsley

It’s hard to find time to relax as a parent of young children.  Even those times when you do have a few moments to yourself, you can find that your mind goes into overdrive with a mental list of tasks you ought to be either doing or thinking about.

As Mum to nearly-6 and 4 year old girls, I was delighted to be invited to the Volair Spa in Knowlsey this week for a pampering spa day.  A whole day just for me? Doing lovely, relaxing things? Unheard of!

Volair Spa Knowsley
I set out to Knowsley this Tuesday with my fellow blogger HodgePodgeDays anticipating some serious Zen time and we got just that – and more. 

The spa is set within a multi-million pound leisure complex so we had a nosey around there first as we approached the spa. There’s a huge swimming pool for example, coffee shop and welcoming sculpture and art work.

In the spa, we were greeted by the lovely Hayley and her team, who I must thank as they looked after our every need all day.  Hayley showed us to the spa’s relaxation room which was so inviting- full of cosy chairs, squishy beanbags, fleecy throws with dimmed lighting and chill out music.  Every spa should have one of these. 

We had a welcome drink (I chose a fiery rhubarb and ginger tea) and pastries and Hayley explained that our group would be split into two, experiencing the thermal suite and cleansing/facial interactive demonstrations in turn.

Volair Spa Knowsley
HodgePodge and I experienced the thermal spa first, which consists of jacuzzi, sauna and steam room.  But first, a member of Hayley’s team gave us some beautiful-smelling body scrubs to try.  These were by Lycon and I tried the lavender and chamomile scent which made my skin feel so soft and exfoliated – great to do before a sauna/steam.  

As you can see from the above, we spent a lot of time in the jacuzzi! The thermal area is really nice, with beds you can also relax on as you move from room to room, detoxifying.

Volair  Spa  Knowsley
We had to shift ourselves out of the tub however and move to our buffet lunch, followed by the demonstrations.

Here Hayley talked us through how to cleanse and take off makeup effectively – with a real handy hints and using AromaWorks products.  We tried their cleanser, toner and facial oil range.  I do like to use a facial oil on some evenings of the week as I find my skin can get quite dry.  The AromaWorks oils smelt gorgeous, with lots of essential oils to treat the skin.  

Hayley explained that it’s best to cleanse twice, particularly in the evening as the first cleanse will loosen the grime and pollution of the day and the second will then take away any final traces and allow any oils to penetrate the skin. Also, using a wet cotton pad to apply toner means you will use less product each time.  Finally, tapping the skin lightly with your fingertips as you apply moisturiser will ensure the cream is applied evenly and also help the circulation, helping the moisturiser to sink in. 

Our group then watched Hodgepodge have a CrystalClear microdermabrasion facial.  Fascinating! This used an electric tool which gently exfoliated the skin using very fine crystals.  The result was very good- take a look at HodgePodge’s site to see the results.

We felt really looked after at Volair Spa.  I’d certainly go back there (already booked in, in fact).  It’s a lovely, small spa with a personal feel to it.  If you’re in the area and have time for a pamper- give it a go.

Disclosure: We were invited to Volair Spa, Knowsley free of charge.  All opinions expressed are my own. 

Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park 

Roald Dahl Tatton Park
The fairground and exploring the beautiful gardens.

Hot on the heels of my recent posts bemoaning the end of the summer holidays, I wanted to sneak in a piece about our recent trip to see Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park.  As ambassdors for Roald Dahl at Tatton Park (hooray!!) we couldnt’ wait to visit again. Our last visit in April this year was a huge success; we loved every minute.

The thing is, this summer has been so wet! Luckily, there’s still lots to do at Tatton and particularly with the Roald Dahl activities and events, such as Matilda at the Mansion house and Fantastic Mr Fox at the Farm.  However, we really wanted to wait for a terrific sunny day so that we could spend time in the gardens once more.

Roald Dahl aside, as you can see from our photos, Tatton is always a great place to visit.  Last week, there was a mini-fairground adjacent to the adventure play area, so we began our day with carousel rides and ice cream.

Moving onto the gardens (via coffee at the excellent cafe/tea rooms – a recurring theme of my posts!) I always take the opportunity to take lots of photos of the girls (aged nearly 6 and nearly 4) here.  They really are beautiful and looking so amazing at this time of the year.  A big favourite with my girls is the rose garden, where they smell the different varieties of rose and avidly watch the pond for creatures and critters!

The girls are already huge Roald Dahl fans, which is great as I used to love his books when I was young (and still do).  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a big hit with them, and on that note they were overjoyed to see the huge replica of a ‘golden ticket’ chocolate bar adjacent to the entrance road as we drove towards the parking area.

In the gardens you can find activities and exhibits relating to Danny Champion of the World, The Twits and the BFG.  A big favourite here for my girls is the Twits – check out the Twits grumpy faces my youngest is pulling.

Roald Dahl Tatton Park
Pulling silly Twits faces, getting smaller, The BFG and The Twits in the Tower Garden.

I don’t think I could do better myself!   The Twits’ House is set in the Tower Garden and really well done, with the silly  Twits dangling upside down from the ceiling and mirrors, pictures and the like also upside down.

They also love the Twits’ oversized and undersized chairs…because of course a silly trick is played whereby Mrs Twit thinks she is shrinking (might try it on the husband).

There’s lots to get through just completing the Road Dahl activities in the garden alone.  The Danny Champion of the World trail is amazing, with lots of well crafted huts, a wooden adventure trail and fire station.

We found the BFG hiding in the conservatory – peering out from the tall tropical plants, surrounded by snakes and other various creatures.  We also saw where he kept the dreams of children – suspended from multicoloured jars from a colourful tree.

We spent the best part of an entire day in the gardens, in part because the Roald Dahl exhibits (see his own writing hut, below) fired the girls’ imaginations meaning they spent a long time at imaginary play.  It was lovely to see.  I got a nice sit down too, of course, as they ran in and out of the bushes, pretending they were in their very own writing hut.

Roald Dahl Tatton Park
Roald Dahl’s writing hut

 

Next up is a Frightsome Halloween from the 22nd – 3oth October, based on The Witches! There’ll be activities galore in the Mansion, Old Hall, Farm and Gardens.  I really can’t wait for that.  I love a good spookfest! A family ticket for all of these activities is £27.50 which I think is really reasonable.

Well, summer is over, but autumn is here.  Happy new term everyone!

Disclosure:  I am an official ambassador for Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park and was given a free pass for my family.  All opinions are my own.

Summer fun at Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester

Well that’s that, the summer holiday period is over (boooo!) but there’s lots to look forward to (hooray!) as we settle into a brand new routine.  My eldest girl (nearly 6) enters Year 1 this September and my youngest (nearly 4) will be skipping into Pre-School.  She can’t wait – but I admit I’m feeling a little tearful at the thought of my littlest sausage-loving pink princess leaving me.

I wanted to make this summer really special and as you’ll see from some of my posts, we’ve been keeping ourselves active and getting out as much as possible. Luckily for us, Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester and Sealife Manchester have very kindly provided us with a year of fun via an annual family pass!  We’re feeling very lucky; my girls love both of these great attractions.  We had such a good day viewing the Octopus Hideout at Sealife during the Easter holiday back in April – the girls could!n’t stop talking about it.   They’re also accessible and easy to get to – located at Barton Square in the Trafford Centre. Great parking and ease of access, which is always a bonus if you have young ones and you’re lugging prams and bottomless ‘Mary Poppins’ changing bags around.  Luckily, we left that stage behind, only to be replaced with “bottomless snack rucksack” (however, Legoland has a really good cafe…more on that later).

Last week, after much deliberation (Legoland or Sealife? Both in one day? Or savour one at once?) we settled on a trip to Legoland again.  Recently, and after 6 hugely successful years the Legoland Discovery Centre has welcomed its 2 millionth visitor!  I was excited to hear that Thomas and Rebecca Stevens alongside their father Andrew, and his partner Karen, were welcomed into the attraction in a fanfare of balloons and prizes on Friday 26th August and were also awarded with an annual family pass.  Have fun guys – it’s an invaluable family bonus and you’ll find yourself using it lots.

Legoland Manchester
Mr Brick and his Brick-ettes

Inside Legoland we were greeted by Dr Brick, a really friendly character the girls were immediately in awe of! He explained to the girls how the Lego bricks are made, with his colourful machinery. I thought this was really magical for the girls. They had a chance to engage with Dr Brick; he asked my 6-year-old to pull some levers, press buttons and jump up and down and out popped some special Legoland bricks!  My girls like nothing better than jumping up and down.

We then entered Legoland through a set of huge colourful doors and made our way onto our first interactive ride – shooting the baddies with laser guns and saving the princess!   They were so thrilled and would have had about 80 turns if we didn’t have so much else to see.

When you enter the main area you are immediately struck by how much there is to do here!  There is over two million Lego bricks, with many impressive models for the children (and adults!) to view including a Manchester themes Miniland.  The centre provides an opportunity for children to explore and learn through interactive play, with huge vats of differently coloured bricks and different modelling stations (including a car-building area). Alongside the Lego, the centre offers a 4D cinema with different films on rotation and rides including, the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride and Lego City: Forest Pursuit.
Legoland ManchesterThere’s a cafe, where we had lunch. I found the pricing here reasonable. We bought a kids lunch box (sandwich, drink, fruit and crisps), the obvious latte for me and a toastie and we shared the lot which came to £12.99.  I can also report that there is nice coffee – not easily found in family attractions.
There’s a Lego kitchen area which was a BIG hit, particularly because it’s mainly pink and contains a karaoke machine.  There are also great soft pay areas – one for very young children and one with a climbing frame and slide.

My two had a great time. I think it’s well worthwhile checking out their offers on their website, both for family tickets and annual passes if you’re looking for a regular attraction you can reply on for your children, in school holidays, rainy days or just when you’re stuck for something to do.

 

We’re planning to visit at half term – and possibly before (I still get half days with my youngest as she’s pre-school and not yet in full-time education – yay!!).  As an ambassador for both Legoland and Sealife, I’ll be looking forward to telling about all the latest news and events.


Disclosure: I am a blogger ambassador for Sealife Manchester and the Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester.  I have been provided with an annual family pass by Merlin Entertainment.  All opinions are my own.

Forget-me-not-Friday #71

My husband was recently complaining that I haven’t done my Forget-me-not-Friday in a while – whereby I simply pick a funny thing my children have said that week.

So here’s a quick one from my youngest, age 3:

I’m happily relaxing in the bath after a busy day, whilst my husband finishes off bedtime with my two girls.

3 year-old barges into the bathroom, index finger held aloft.

3 year-old: “Mummy, I’ve come to wash my finger.”

Me: “Why?”

3 year-old: “Because it’s all trumpy.”

Me, not really wanting to ask why it’s ‘all trumpy’, but feeling like I should: “Why’s it all trumpy?”

3 year-old: “Because I sat on my trump.”

Okay….