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.

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. 

Fun at Geronimo 2016!

geronimo fest
Mr Tumble and more at Geronimo!
Last year I was lucky enough to be selected as a Geronimo ambassador.

Geronimo is the largest children’s festival in the UK and took place on the 29th and 30th May at Tatton Park during the summer half term.  It had a great line up packed with some of the biggest names in children’s entertainment and activities such as a fairground, circus zone, theatre and an adrenaline zone and much more.  

We went last year as a family and had such a great family day. This year, as we were unable to go ourselves, a friend of ours took her lovely family.  Here’s what she had to say:

“The day was fantastic – helped by the weather of course- for all of us. I was really surprised at just how much there was to do at any given time. 

We tried a couple of the shows, which were great at getting the children involved and keeping them entertained. Probably because of the weather, the indoor shows were easy to access and find seats for. The biggest queues were for the helter skelter (we queued for about 20 minutes) and the ice cream van (there was only one!).

Andy Day, Mr Bloom and Mr Tumble were fantastic and because it was such a gorgeous day, all we needed was a picnic blanket and we set ourselves up in a good spot to watch all three. 

I was impressed that the festival responsibly gave out free suncream (good stuff too!) and water for children. When I asked Anna (age 3) at the end of the day what she had enjoyed the most… Andy, Mr Tumble, Mr Bloom, the Helter Skelter, the harp workshop, the roller skating, the hammock, the gymnastics display, the fairground rides, the horse falconry, the hook a duck…and more! The pick n mix stall was her definitive answer, but the helter skelter, roller skating and Mr Tumble came a close joint second. 

It would have been fairly easy to spend nothing, in honesty – we took a picnic (to buy food would have involved a good deal of queueing and expense) and the only money we spent was on sweets, hook a duck and a bubble gun.”

Sounds like a fantastic day for all the family! We’ll definitely be back next year. 

geronimo
Disclosure: We were invited to Geronimo free of charge as ambassadors.  All opinions are our own. 

Roald Dahl adventures at Tatton Park

There hasn’t been a great deal of sunshine around so far in 2016.  When we are lucky enough to get a warm, lovely, bright day I think of getting our children outdoors to appreciate it before it disappears again!

Tatton Park is a great place to visit with beautiful scenery and so much to explore.  We paid Tatton a visit around a week ago during one of the rare sunny days. We had an amazing day – one of our best days out yet this year!

Tatton currently have a year-long programme of events based around the children’s literary legend Roald Dahl, as part of a host of activities throughout 2016 across the country for the Roald Dahl 1oo.  This is perfect for our 51/2 and 3 1/2 year olds who are just starting to discover the world of Roald Dahl through both film and literature.  We’ve read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory together recently and they love the film of Matilda.

Roald Dahl Tatton Park
As soon as we began our descent down the long driveway of Tatton, the girls were thrilled to see a giant ‘golden ticket’ chocolate bar adjacent to us and a range of other large sculptures based on Roald Dahl’s books.  I enjoy this drive into Tatton so much; you get a sense of perspective of just how huge and beautiful Tatton is.

We had a choice of activities through our family ticketwhich encompasses the Farm, Gardens and Mansion.  Each activity currently includes one or more Roald Dahl activities.  What’s great is that if you don’t use one element of your ticket, you can use this another day.  As we chose to explore the gardens, we can return and see the Farm and Mansion.

I cannot believe we haven’t visited the gardens before. They are so extensive, well-kept and beautiful, with so many different areas, hidey holes and things to explore.  We spent practically a whole day in the gardens and had such a good time.

As you can see from the photo above, the girls were thrilled to find The Twits living inside a tower…a very clever representation of some of Dahl’s most well-known characters and the mischievous antics they get up to.  Mr Twit was hanging upside down from inside the tower and all their household goods were also upside down!  The girls got the chance to try out their silly, different sized chairs, too and see their unkempt washing on the line.

Roald Dahl Tatton Park
Further along, we completed the Danny Champion of the World trail which was really well planned, with Danny and his Father’s house, shed, the fire station and other items, finishing with an activity trail made out of wood and tyres in different shapes and sizes.  This was really popular and I could see lots of children completing it and having fun.

We also say giant snakes and many other characters from books such as The BFG dotted around!

There are many other events planned for the year which we’ll definitely be attending, such as the Illyria outdoor theatre’s  performance of Danny Champion of the World in the spectacular setting of the Old Hall and a late summer evening screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder.

There’s much to see and do with the kids at Tatton – we’ll be returning there very soon.

Disclosure: I was invited to Tatton as an ambassador for Roald Dahl at Tatton Park.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Win tickets to Geronimo – the biggest children’s festival in the UK!

image

This year, I’m an offical ambassador for the Geronimo Festival which returns to Tatton Park in 2016 from May 29th – 30th and a new venue at Harewood House from May 1st – 2nd.

Geronimo this year sees a line-up jam packed with some of the biggest names in children’s entertainment, including TV favourites Justin Fletcher*, Mr Bloom, Andy Day, Alex Winters and Cook & Line from Swashbuckle.

Geronomites will also be able to enjoy a brand new theatre and literary zone with award winning productions and a second stage featuring live music. There’s also a craft marquee is bound to inspire and  Geronimo circus alongside 100 other crazy and unusual activities like giant Tortoise encounters, stone carving and a crime scene for kids to solve. Geronimo will also bring the beautiful woodlands to life with den building, high rope courses and a chance to tick off some of your “50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4”.

The whole programme is for the under 12s and tickets are on sale now priced £25.  Children under the age of two go free.

We’ve got one family pass (up to four people) to give away to one lucky family.  Enter using the options below:

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

T&C’s: The competition closes at midnight on Friday 1st April. We have one family pass to giveaway. Each pass admits 4 people, one person in the group must be aged over 18 (NB children under the age of 2 years do not require a ticket). The winning family can attend either on May 2nd (Harewood House) or May 30th (Tatton Park). The date must be specified at time of confirming the prize. Travel and accommodation are not included. The prize is non-refundable and no cash alternative will be offered. The prize is non transferable and ID will be required at time of collecting the ticket wristband upon arrival. The prize includes all events and activities at Geronimo but not food and drink from any stalls or bar. Winner chosen at random. 

*Please note, Justin Fletcher will be performing on Sunday 1st May at Harewood House and Sunday 29th May at Tatton Park only.

Coronation Street, egg painting competitions and a packed agenda!

tina o'brien coronation streetYes, you see correctly, that’s my 5 year old learning her life skills early:  learning to pull a pint with Tina O’Brien from Corrie.  Last weekend, we had a tour of the new Coronation Street set courtesy of The Drama Mob where my energetic 5 year old currently attends classes.

What a great experience for her, seeing the set of one of the country’s most famous and much-loved TV programmes.  She saw the whole experience, from the green room to dressing rooms, huge camera equipment and lighting.

I wasn’t sure if she would yet understand the concept of ‘pretend real life’ but she was really interested as we followed our tour of the individual ‘indoor’ sets of the Coronation Street Bistro, different houses (including my favourite: the Platt’s), the Kabin, sweet shop, beauticians, taxi place and of course the Rovers Return!

We also saw the very clever cobbled Coronation Street and Viaduct Street.   I remember doing the tour of the old set at Granada Studios and I can tell you that the new set is much, much bigger, incorporating The Bistro, Kebab shop, medical centre and more.

rovers

I’m unsure when you’ll be able to book a tour of the new set, but if/when it’s available I recommend it!   

coronation street set
My eldest at Corrie…she made herself at home!
 

Onto the Expression Confession household…it’s been a busy time recently.  After a quiet period post-Christmas, life suddenly exploded!

This morning, I was up at 6:15am helping my eldest girl complete her Easter egg-painting competition for school.  By 10am, now at work, I found myself thinking “Is it only 10am?!!” as I buried my face in yet another cup of coffee and contemplated a sugar treat to keep me going.  

I think tiredness has also sent me into a slightly delusional state, as I find myself checking my email every minute awaiting the weekly school newsletter to see if she won the ruddy competition we slaved over.  

egg painting easter
The best egg-painting competition entry EVER. FACT!
 

Easter is upon us already.  Is it me, or does it feel more like Christmas these days? Children seem to expect not only chocolate eggs, but gifts.  Family get annoyed if we don’t see them. Roast dinners and fancy desserts are expected. 

We’ll be doing some of the above, but I’m also looking forward to hunkering down as a family. Spending time together, working on our garden, going to church, family activities. It seems an age since Christmas, since we’ve had time to spend together.  Work, school, the day-to-day timetable of family life takes over.  I remember my new year’s resolution earlier in the year…to take more notice and be mindful.

Happy Easter!