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.

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. 

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….

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.

Planting a gobstopper tomato (Spring week at Wyevale Garden Centres)

Easter school holidays…many of us are into our last week of the vacation and there’s still a couple of days to fill with young children full of energy and raring to get out of the house.  Today it’s beautiful weather (for a change), making me think of gardens and the outdoors.

We’ve been doing a lot of work on our garden through the Autumn and winter ready for spring/summer.  We’ve been getting our two girls (aged 5 and 3) involved as much as possible, taking them with us to choose flowers, plants and shrubs and encouraging them to help us plant them.

Last week it was Spring Week at Wyevale Garden Centres across the country with many events taking place aimed at getting children involved in the hard and yet enjoyable work- the planting! Wyevale invited us to attend a ‘plant a gobstopper tomato’ activity at our local Wyevale centre in Altrincham.

What’s a gobstopper tomato I hear you ask? Turns out it’s a variety of tomato (and we’re looking forward to watching how they turn out!).

Our local centre is a great place to take the kids. It’s huge, has a soft play area and great cafe with packed lunch boxes for children.  We always take a trip there in the lead up to Christmas, when they have a huge variety of decorations available; they each get to choose one new decoration for the tree. They also love looking at the displays (there was a flashing unicorn last year which they were thrilled by).

The ‘plant a gobstopper tomato’ activity was well planned and we enjoyed it.  The girls were given their own pot and variety of stickers to decorate it with.  Once they’d finished this, they filled their pot with compost.

Then the best bit: they chose their gobstopper tomato plant, made a little well and hunkered it down.  Finally, they decorated and drew on a tomato ‘face’, wrote their names on and stuck this in the pot too.

We then left with two happy children with their own personalised tomato plants, plus some springtime colouring sheets.

I think it’s great to get kids involved in gardening.  It’s creative, it helps them to learn about their environment and surroundings and it gets them outdoors.

We’re leaving our plants in a sunny indoor spot while they get a bit more robust, after which they’ll be a welcome addition in our developing garden!

 

gardening tomatoes
Spot the rhubarb…and free space for tomato plants…

Disclosure: We were invited to attend Wyevale’s Spring week free of charge. All opinions are my own. 

 

Half term:Octopus Hideout at Sealife Manchester

sealife manchester

The plural of Octopus is, I can confirm, Octopus’ (i.e. “Octopusses”). Not Octupi or Octopod (however this is the word for a group of Octopus’).  I’m glad I got this one sorted as it was very bothersome to me…more on this later!

On Saturday, we were invited to Sealife Manchester to see the new Octopus Hideout.

My girls, aged 5 and 3, love going to Sealife.  It’s very accessible for us, too, being based at intu Trafford Centre just off the M60.

There’s lots for them to see and do.  We arrived early in the morning and began with Turtle Beach, where we heard the story of a new born turtle, brought to life with some fab technology that the kids found magical!

 

sealife manchester
Littlest one next to the magic turtle

Onto the main event…you travel on a journey around Sealife, seeing thousands of sea creatures along the way, with lots of interactive learning activities and fun stuff like this ‘Nemo fish tunnel’ as my girls call it, below.

sealife manchester
‘Nemo fish tunnel’

…and this tank that you could crawl under and feel like you’re swimming with the fish.

There are 11 themed zones and what I love as a parent about Sealife is the chance to learn about the environment the sea creatures live in and our own responsibility to look after our planet.  Visitors have the chance to hear about protecting local habitats, breeding vulnerable species and rescuing sea turtles for example.

The best bit for us is still by far the ‘shark tunnel’: a long tunnel under a giant tank with sharks and giant turtles.

 

Sealife Manchester
A shark I tried to capture as he swum by…

Onto the Octopus Hideout.  Hank the Octopus was a little shy on Saturday, clinging to the side of the tank in a desperate attempt to hide from my 5 year old’s battery of questions: “does he like to have friends?”, “what does he eat?”, “where does he live?”.  Dan the Octopus expert on hand told us that they unfortunately don’t like to have friends (he put it quite nicely in front of my 5 year old, but in short, if you put another Octopus in there, there would soon be only 1 Octopus again).  They eat crabs and only feed 3 times a week.  And he is a Giant Pacific Octopus.

Dan helped clear up my concern about the plural of Octopus once and for all.  Hooray. It’s also classed as a cephalopod and is quite brainy, with the ability to blend in with its surroundings and hide in small places.

sealife manchester
Hank. An elusive yet intriguing character

 

The children get the chance to stroke Starfish and other creatures, too.  They also get their own ‘log book’ to stamp at various stations throughout the centre as they complete each section.

Sealife is a great holiday activity of you’re looking for something to do. It’s open from 10am each day and has a programme of daily activities, including feeding times and educational talks.

And a chance to meet Hank the mysterious cephalopod.

Disclaimer:  We were invited to Sealife free of charge in return for this review.  All opinions expressed are my own.