Geronimo Festival, Tatton Park

This weekend, we were invited to attend the  Geronimo Festival at Tatton Park.  The festival was held over the Bank Holiday weekend and is the largest children’s festival in the North West.  I was really excited about it as I knew families who had attended last year and absolutely loved the range of activities and entertainment for children of all ages (and adults who admit to liking some of the CBeebies TV programmes!).

Cook and Line, Swashbuckle
My eldest was completely over the moon to meet Cook and Line from Swahsbuckle at one of the Meet and Greets.

There was a long list of activities to choose from, including a zip line, BMX display, petting zoo, bouncy castles, donkey rides, and most importantly for my two (aged 4 1/2 and 2 1/2) the main stage, with performances from some of CBeebies’ most loved characters and presenters, including Alex Winters, Mr Bloom, Katy from I Can Cook and Cook and Line from Swashbuckle. So  that’s where we headed first of course.  There was a lovely grassy areas where we could rest and picnic, just in front of the main stage.  Nearby, there were lots of food stalls (and a bar on a double decker bus!) so we had plenty of choice.

My girls totally loved seeing the CBeebies stars and it was so nice to see them so excited and happy!

CBeebies Alex Winters Geronimo Festival
My 4 year old enthralled by CBeebies Alex Winters on the main stage

Next we had a wander around to see what we could find.  First up – some spinning hammock type things! Despite there being lots to see and do we seemed to spend quite a while here. The girls thought hammocks were the best thing ever (er but we’re not having one or I’ll effectively not see my husband all summer).

The most exciting hammocks in the world?
The most exciting hammocks in the world?

Next we checked out the petting farm and donkey rides.  The petting farm involved a huge tent with iguanas, snails, tarantulas and tortoises which they were allowed to touch and stroke.  They also had a short donkey ride and treated those waiting in the queue to a rendition of “Hey ho, away we go, donkey riding, donkey riding…” about 10 times which I’m sure they loved very much (!).

"Hey, ho! Away we go!..."
“Hey, ho! Away we go!…”

Next we tried out the bouncy castles.  We adults got a nice sit down (it was a lovely, sunny day) whilst the girls bounced away some energy in the ‘inflatable village’.

We also had a look at some of the stalls which were selling handmade gifts and food such as cupcakes and chocolate crafts. The girls tried out chocolate covered strawberries and raspberries which they obviously loved and wanted even more of.

We had a great day out and I would definitely go back next year.  It’s a great family day out over the May bank holiday.  You can easily spend the whole day there and find lots to do.  Under 2s are free and a family tickets (for four) was £86 this year.  All activities are free of charge once you’re inside.

Disclosure: We were official Geronimo Festival Bloggers and were given free entry to the event in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

12 favourite blog posts of 2014

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for reflection and New Year’s resolutions usually. I’m not doing any resolutions this year (see point 1, below!) but I did take some time to browse my blog posts over the past year. It was an interesting exercise – I realised I’d written a lot more than I thought this year and also remembered a lot of activities or events I’d already begun to forget.

It’s been one of the best years of my life – the year I married the best guy ever on the planet and father to our two children. It’s also had its ups and downs with childhood (and adult) illnesses causing stresses and strife.

Anyway, here goes with the top 12.

– First up in January, I wrote about New Year being a bad time to make resolutions. There’s so much pressure to stick to them that people rarely do! In general I tend to say I’m going to be healthier in January but that’s mainly due to the Christmas excess – this year it seems to have been copious amounts of Prosecco and chocolate!
– In February I wrote a post on 10 things I do in the first hour after the childrens’ bedtime. A warm bath featured strongly, as it still does.
– In March, I wrote about my Best Mum Moments for Mothers Day. That was really lovely to reflect on. I’m sure I’ve added some more since then, for example my 2 year old telling me she loves me.
– April’s favourite was about keeping sane through childhood illness. I went through one of those periods where one child falls sick, recovers and then the other falls sick. Incredibly stressful for childcare cover and just generally keeping everyone happy.
– In May, I decided to look at 10 ways I know my girls love each other. At the time, my now 2 year old had only just started walking really (what a difference a year makes!) and it was nice to see the beginnings of their pretend play sessions and cuddles. Now they cuddle-fight-play over and over.
– June saw my thoughts on turning 38. Hmmm. Tomorrow sees the beginning of the year in which I turn 39. Argh!! I always like to double my age and see if I could live my whole life again and still be alive. It’s starting to push it a bit!
– In July I reflected on a stage where I felt I was reaching normality again. I used to find it difficult to leave the house on my own without leaving an itinerary for my husband. Suddenly it felt like I could – they were less reliant on me and much more independent.
– In August I was gearing up for our wedding, so I didn’t blog much but I did write this piece on vegetable eating in kids. The best part being cooking up a huge tomato sauce with loads of veggies in it and blitzing it with a blender.
– September’s favourite posts is of course our wedding. I keep meaning to update it with new pics so that’s a potential task for 2015. It was such an amazing day. I really wish I could do it again.
– There was lots going on in the latter half of the year: as well as our wedding, our eldest daughter started preschool shortly afterwards and I wrote about receiving her first learning journey from her school. I loved this – she still never tells me what she gets up to at school so this day by day diary with photos was amazing to read.
– November saw my fledgling action plan for dealing with gyrating females on TV and not wanting my daughters to become infiltrated by the image they’re portraying of women. I stopped short of buying them a biography of Kate Adie, but maybe that’s one for the future.
– December’s favourite was easily our daughter’s first nativity. Absolutely loved it – she was fantastic and it was so special.

I wonder what 2015 will bring? Happy New Year everyone!
IMG_5645.JPG

 

Why #blogmas went wrong

I had all the good intentions. I would blog every day at Christmas. It would be great – everyone would love my posts about nativities and Christmas crafts and how generally wonderful I am at Christmas at just about everything…

…and then basically “the shit hit the fan” as my Father would say and I got so busy and everything was such chaos that I didn’t even have time to look at Facebook (the horror), let alone blog every day. I’ve only looked at Twitter twice in the past week – twice!

At one point, I was shaking with sheer horror at the fact I’d set off to a party (late) and realised I’d forgotten the secret Santa presents, which would mean 2 children would be present-less if I didn’t immediately turn back for them.

We eventually got there and had a glass of Prosecco and everything was ok again.

However, amidst chaos there has been wonderment and joy- hooray! I fairly packed it in, didn’t I, our Christmas activity timetable.

It’s Christmas Eve and I thought I’d have a quick run through of what we’ve been doing over the past week or so as I thought it would be cathartic for myself it would be good to share.

The Winter Wonderland Experience

Last Saturday we took ourselves to Winter Wonderland at Event City at the Trafford Centre. The kids loved it- rides galore, sweet stalls, people dressed as elves and fairies dancing to Christmas tunes, a Frozen singalong session and a Sooty Show. It was very good actually- at the time we felt it was a bit pricey for basically an indoor fairground, but they did enjoy it lots.

Winter Wonderland, Trafford Centre

The eating of Lobster Thermidor

We are very, very lucky to have kind friends who invite us round at Christmas time to eat Lobster Thermidor. It was my first time eating this dish and I have to say it was really amazing. I can still taste it now – lovely cheesy béchamel sauce on top of amazing fresh lobster.

Lobster Thermidor

Many, many Christmas nights out

I never go out! And then suddenly I’m out like about 3 times a week. I’ve enjoyed it but at times I admit I’ve been on the floor with tiredness, craving a green vegetable juice. Below you can find myself and the very festive Hodge Podge Days after a tipple or two.

Liz and Jane

Ace Lantern Magic event at Chester Zoo

This was by far the best family activity we’ve done this Christmas, if not ever – Lantern Magic at Chester Zoo. It was really well organised and magical for the children. They entered an ice tunnel made from a big white tunnel-like tent and were greeted by elves who gave them lanterns and asked them to choose a colour of fairy dust to sprinkle over it. The adults got a big giant lantern, too. Then proceeded a walk through the zoo at night, with the trees magically lit with fairy lights. We were given glasses which made the lights take on the appearance of different animals. There were displays of animals lit up amongst the woods, a flying owl puppet, a visit to Santa’s grotto, a hot chocolate mid-way through the walk and a really good quality supper at the end. This is something I’d definitely do again next year.

Chester Zoo Magic Lanterns

Many, many children’s christmas parties

It’s one big party for the girls at the moment! Even today we are going to the Cristingle service at our church which for them will be like a big party with all their friends. We’ve had nursery party, playgroup parties and friend’s parties. They’ve had the most wonderful (and hyper) time.

Children's Christmas Parties

Today I’m busy preparing food so I can relax as much as possible tomorrow. Homemade cranberry sauce is done and I’m into parboiling potatoes. Merry Christmas everyone!

Putting the angel on the christmas tree

My fifteen festive favourites

Day 13 of #blogmas and I’ve been tagged to do my Festive Favourites by Hodge Podge Days. I enjoyed reading hers (bread sauce sarnie anyone?), so here are mine:

Favourite Festive Food. Camembert. You can often find a good, strong Camembert on a Christmas cheese board, but as I’m a vegetarian I have a whole baked Camembert to myself for Christmas dinner, dipping my roast veggies in as I go along. Nice.

Favourite Reindeer. I only know about Rudolph! So him. Why does he have a very shiny nose? I really don’t know. Which prompted me to find out. See later point on Christmas facts.

Favourite Day of Christmas. Christmas Eve. The anticipation, Cristingle service, stockings out and snacks for Santa and Rudolph, final preparations and a glass of fizz in the evening.

Favourite Christmas Song. I’m going to be really sad here. My 4 year old has been singing Away in a Manger a lot recently and it’s so cute, I’m going to have to say that.

Favourite Present: The best present ever would have to be my engagement ring from my husband (it was technically New Year’s Eve but we’ll call it Christmas! Still the festive season).

Favourite Festive Film. I’m not very good with Christmas films. I know Home Alone is on a lot and that’s always a winner. Groundhog Day is my favourite film of all time – pure genius – but I think that was actually released in February so doesn’t count. Erm…Elf?

Favourite Festive Cracker Toy. I like those little wine gem things that you hang off your glass. Never use them but they’re pretty. A bottle opener is always practical, too.

Favourite Cracker Joke. What do they sing at a snowman’s birthday party? Freeze a jolly good fellow

Favourite Christmas Decoration. Our Christmas angel, bought by my husband many years ago and now a deeply embedded tradition.

Favourite Christmas Candle Scent. Since having small children I’ve not used candles much and I love them. I’m now inspired to buy a Christmas candle! Something lightly spiced I guess.

Favourite Christmas TV Advert. I’ve not seen any – I’m always fast forwarding through the ads. Not even seen the John Lewis one.

Putting the angel on the christmas treeFavourite Festive Tradition. See favourite day of Christmas, above. Anything to do with that day!

Favourite Place to Spend Christmas. At home of course! It’s great for our two girls to wake up in their own home and excitedly dash about the place generally screaming.

Favourite Christmas Fact. Norwegian scientists have hypothesized that Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system.

Favourite Snowman Accessory. His scarf. It’s nonsensical. I like it.

I’m tagging the following to do their festive favourites and looking forward to reading them!

Wife, Mum and Student Bum

The Secret Father

Tattooed Mummy

Nativity play preschool Angel costume

First nativity (who’s the most tearful?…)

Nativity play preschool Angel costume
psssst…it was Daddy who was the most tearful…

Day 12 of #blogmas and after a few days’ hiatus due to the usual winter terror of preschool virus hell, I’m turning my attention to the subject of my 4 year old’s first nativity.

This morning, we watched her perform as an angel which was so lovely – a heart-warming experience. I’ve never watched children perform in a nativity play in my life, so watching our own daughter was amazing.

Reflecting on the morning, there are 3 things that I feel define the whole event.

Utter chaos. Getting to school on time is chaos enough in the morning, so imagine ushering eager relatives and friends into the school hall while you get your child into her angel costume in a small, packed preschool classroom with everyone else trying to do the same. It was interesting, but it worked!

Excitement. Everyone was just excited to be there – as parents we felt really proud to be at our little one’s first nativity play and grandparents and close friends who had set out on a cold morning to see her were also eager to see her debut. The prospect of mince pies afterwards also helped.

Comedy: My little girl does like to put herself forward a bit. She was an angel- one of around 6- but she ensured she was the very last to sit down when supposed to, standing up and waving for just that bit longer, and she also carried on singing Jingle Bells for an extra bar or seven, too.

Emotion. It seems so clichéd to say we were tearful but there’s something about your little one performing in a nativity that makes you blub like nobody’s business. It’s just unbelievably cute and lovely and adorable and all those schmaltzy words.

As I write, at around 8pm, 4 year old is still not in bed due to residual excitability from the event of the year. In fact, I can hear her bouncing on the bed shouting “I WANT ANOTHER BOOK, DADDY!” So she enjoyed it! And we’re looking forward to more nativity plays to come.

I’m blogging every day this Christmas. Having said that, I didn’t do days 7-11 due to being in winter virus hell. Read day 6 here.

Santa's Grotto - 2 minutes of magic

Santa’s Grotto – 2 minutes of magic

Santa's Grotto - 2 minutes of magic
They’ve been waiting for this all year…

#blogmas day 6 and you’re all getting sick of me and the Christmas ramblings, but I’m enjoying keeping a record of what’s going on for us this year.

Yesterday evening saw the school Christmas Fair and my 4 year old was just so unbelievably excited about it. All afternoon she was asking if it was “time yet”.

It was also my first School Christmas Fair as a parent and I dutifully roped myself in for a stint on the chocolate tombola stand (interesting activity – some children won like 6 boxes of chocolates, others none. It was hectic. I needed wine afterwards). The parents were so heavily involved, manning stalls for booze tombola (didn’t win anything – bugger, had my eye on the prosecco, obviously), handmade jewellery, usborne books, cakes (lots of), tuck shop (with mulled wine and beer for the adults), face painting, some more that escape me and…

…a Santa’s Grotto.

This is what they were waiting for, my two girls! It lasted for 2 minutes, but it was 2 minutes of magic for them. A room decked out in white sparkling sheets and handmade snowflakes, with an elf waiting for them at the door to usher them into Santa. They sat next to him and explained to him that they were ‘being good’ (news to me) and got a present each.

I take my hat off to Santa and his elf helper, who had their work cut out seeing many, many children yesterday evening!

Read #blogmas day 5 here.

Primark giraffe onesie

Christmas items I can’t live without

Day 4 of #blogmas and I’m reflecting on those items that are essential for me at Christmas. They are mainly food and drink related, with the odd onesie thrown in.

    • Mulled wine. Warming, comforting…and it contains alcohol! A perfect and most ingenious combination. It also makes your house smell nice if you gently warm some on the hob.
    • Warm mince pies with cream. Another brilliant combination, a warmed mince pie with double cream is sooooo nice. I have this lots at Christmas time. It’s a wonder that I don’t look like, to quote a Lancashire phrase, a ‘house side’.
    • Camembert cheese (a whole one). I’m a vegetarian. Vegetarians are generally a healthy bunch. Which is why at the Christmas dinner table you will find me eating a whole baked Camembert whilst everyone else eats their lean turkey.
    • Limoncello. Curveball. For some reason, I’ve got into the habit of drinking limoncello quite a lot around Christmas time. Maybe it’s because I tend to eat a lot and I believe this is an excellent digestif.
    • Sherry. Just realised the alcoholic theme going on here. I only drink sherry at Christmas but I love it. It’s certainly not a drink just for Grandmas – it’s lovely and we haven’t got any in *writes note in calendar to buy some tomorrow*.
Primark giraffe onesie
I have never looked better
  • Primark onesie. For some reason the cold, dark weeks leading up to Christmas bring out a tremendous urge in me to wear a onesie. It’s not something I’d want to spend a lot of money on, which is just as well as Primark do a surprisingly varied range.
  • Comfortable pair of slippers. I am 38 after all, which means I may as well give in and wear tweed slippers as much as possible. Actually mine are purple and fuzzy and very comfortable to pad around the house in, fetching more mulled wine and ensuring my camembert is in the oven.
  • Naf Christmas films to watch. Christmas is also a time to switch your brain off (once the Christmas shopping is over, that is). A naf film is the ultimate in Christmas meditation. Take ‘Elf’, for example. It didn’t win any oscars, but it’s mindless and Christmassy and a bit funny in parts. Brilliant.
  • Christmas pudding.  Not everyone likes Christmas pudding, but I do and my Christmas dinner wouldn’t be the same without it. In fact I may buy myself a couple of individual ones to have on my own, before the big day.
  • Sprouts. I’m also the humble sprout’s biggest fan. I keep a bag of them in the freezer all year round and have them with cheese on top. Sprouts dipped in baked Camembert for Christmas dinner is amazing.
  • Happy children. Of course the most essential Christmas items for me are my lovely, happy girls, excitedly sprinkling fairy dust on Christmas Eve and rooting through their stockings on Christmas morning.

 

Happy christmas children
What are your favourite Christmas items? I’d love to hear!

Favourite family Christmas traditions

Putting the angel on the christmas tree I’ve decided to participate in #blogmas14, which means I’ll be subjecting you all to a post a day during the 25 days of Christmas. They’ll be mainly Christmas-related of course, but I warn you that from time to time I may think “BORED” and write some complete nonsense.

So – day 3.  I thought I would write about our favourite family Christmas traditions.

My two girls are only 4 and 2 so our own little traditions are still emerging. But here are a few that we love:

Putting the angel on the tree

Yes, having said this is a favourite tradition, I totally forgot to take a photo of this epic moment this year.  So see last year’s photo, above!  The tree is a source of great excitement for my two – the choosing of it is undertaken by the girls and Daddy in a most diligent and exacting way, with careful consideration of the size and position of branches and the bulk of the needles.  This is even the case upon buying a fake tree, which we decided to do this year.  Then it’s the decorating, which includes handmade decorations by the girls and usually a decoration each that they’ve chosen from the fantastic display at the local garden centre.  And, after the girls have gone to bed, I dutifully move most of the decorations from the bottom third of the tree to the completely bare upper two-thirds.

The angel is the best bit, although I’m usually on pins as Daddy ascends the step-ladder, relevant girl in his arms to enable her to place it.  And voila!

Our cloth advent mouseAdvent Mouse

Most families will have advent calendars containing a chocolate per day – we have a cloth advent mouse with chocolate and small toys each day.  We have a very creative family member (i.e. not me) who made this for us and the girls are so excited to see what’s inside the pocket each morning.

New pyjamas on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is a time for cozying up, drinking mulled wine (adults only – ‘spiced ribena’ for the girls) and opening new PJs bought for each other. Or matching nighties in the case of my two, one of which has refused to wear trousers since she was 18 months old and that includes pyjama trousers. In the past few years, we’ve only bought these for our girls, but this year I’m extending it to the olds. We are each tasked with finding a suitable pair of PJs for the other. These are a pair of potentials for me.

Sprout stalk
Unexpected vegetable recipes

Let’s face it, the actual Christmas dinner can be dull. It’s basically a spruced up roast – there’s just more of it and it’s turkey instead of chicken. I like to spice it up a little with an unexpected vegetable side dish. Sometimes it falls flat on its face, and sometimes it’s a hit – but it’s a talking point either way. Last year’s was the ‘roasted sprout stalk’ which received mixed feedback (about half positive, half “wtf?”) and the year before some unusual butternut squash effort which one family member actually asked to take home seconds of. Undecided on this year’s (please leave any ideas below!).

So those are just a few of our own little traditions.  Obviously we do the usual stockings, present opening and general ridiculous amounts of eating and drinking.  What are your own family traditions?

An evening of bloggers and decadence with Co-operative food

number 1 Angel Place, Manchester
Was I actually in the future?

On Friday evening I was transported into the future by shape-shifting aliens who had the knowledge of worm-hole technology…ok not really. But I was at Number 1 Angel Place, the Manchester home of Co-operative Food and that was just as good.

What happens when you put a load of north-west bloggers who don’t get to see each other that often in a room with copious amount of sugar and prosecco? I would tell you the answer, but I may have to kill you. Let’s just say that it involved sending tweets to someone sat less than 1 yard from me saying “I’M BEHIND YOU!” and discussions on just how many glasses of prosecco we could nail in half an hour (in the end, the weary waiter didn’t even bother asking and just topped us up).

We did also try out some of the Co-op’s new range of  Christmas wares, watch a cooking demonstration of some of their new desserts and listen to some incredible bloggers, such as the gorgeous Jo Middleton of Slummy Single Mummy and Jordan McDowell of fashionrambler.com. And eat cheese and biscuits. Lots of it.

Co-operative Food Christmas
Chilli Brownies, how I love thee

During the cooking demonstration, we had the opportunity to try some delicious new desserts and snacks, including different flavours of popcorn and different types of brownies. My absolute favourite of these were the chilli brownies. I’m a big fan of chilli – and these had a real kick which you didn’t realise was there until roughly 30 seconds after eating them. Amazing.

The room was dotted with the Co-op’s latest range of Christmas goodies, including a Christmas Chocolate Toolbox which I thought would make a great stocking filler for my little ones.  The Champagne Truffles also looked particularly delectable and would make a great after-dinner coffee accompaniment on Christmas Day (MINE! ALL MINE!!).

I was generally impressed with their range of cakes and desserts, too, which obviously I ate a lot of during the evening (I was going straight out for a meal afterwards, too – Fatty Expression and Confession).  The flower-topped cupcakes were really lovely, and my two girls tried the marshmallow-topped chocolate cupcakes and loved them.

Co-operative Food Christmas
Co-operative Food Christmas wares…

The talks.  I did listen, honest.  To some of it.  I didn’t talk all the way through and top up my glass at all.  I certainly did not tweet @TheCooperative “what do you call a fly with no wings? A walk”.  That didn’t happen.  Or maybe it did in shape-shifting alien world, but in the real world, I was a picture of decorum, happily jotting down notes and making a useful task list which would aid the development of my blog in the future.

The one thing that did register in my mind was one of Jo Middleton’s 16 questions:  “why did you start this blog in the first place?”.  That’s one I’ll be reflecting on.  I’ve been blogging for nearly 2 years and it will be a good exercise for me to think about what I’m actually doing for once refresh my intentions regarding my blog.

This was a great event for bloggers in the North West and a great chance to try some good quality food.  We do often shop for bits and pieces at the Co-operative.  It’s handy as there’s a couple of stores in our area and I find them accessible – I wouldn’t do my full weekly shop there but definitely a ‘top up’ shop.  I’ll be more interested in their Christmas ranges and desserts in the future.

Disclaimer:  I was invited to this event by Co-operative Food but was under no obligation to write this review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Me and the lovely HodgePodgeDays (www.hodgepodgedays.co.uk), We don't always look like this.  Honest.
Me and the lovely HodgePodgeDays (www.hodgepodgedays.co.uk), We don’t always look like this. Honest.

Our letters to Father Christmas

letter to santa, letter to father christmas
To Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland…

Last week saw the annual ritual of posting our letters to Father Christmas. For us, it seemed to herald the beginnings of Christmas excitement and magic, stimulating my two girls’ imaginations as they posted their letters to Santa’s Grotto in Reindeerland.

My girls are 4 and 2 and got really involved with this activity this year. It’s also quite helpful as the children give me ideas on what they would like and I can in turn use the prospect of receiving those items as bribery fodder positive behavioural reinforcement tools.

Even better, having recently started preschool my 4-year-old can write her own letter this year and it’s great writing and language practice – ok it’s barely legible and contains some surprisingly gothic drawings especially thought up for Father Christmas himself – but it’s her own work, nonetheless and it’s one of the sweetest things I’ve seen her do.

Letter to Father Christmas
Dear Father Christmas…please don’t be afraid, but for Christmas I would like…

My 4-year-old is now of an age where she can list the items she’d like Father Christmas to bring her, and even my 2-year-old managed a “MORE STICKERS!” when I asked her what she would like.

How I’m going to get round some of the items my 4-year-old chose is going to be INTERESTING – “doggy”, anyone?? I’m assuming she meant a small, soft toy in the shape of a dog, wearing maybe a princess necklace (surely she meant that?). In fact, her list took a decidedly non-human form this year:

– a fish
– a rabbit
– a dinosaur
– a doggy

That’s doable, that list (HELP!!!).

If you want to write your own letter to Father Christmas, the cut off date for Royal Mail is Saturday 6th December so get your skates on, folks!

Here’s the address:

Father Christmas (or Santa),
Santa’s Grotto,
Reindeerland,
XM4 5HQ

Hope you get what you ask for!