Friday, 17 February 2017

Winter Cycling




To reach our target of 1,500 miles I think we need to try and cycle at least 100 miles every month over winter and then increase the miles in the spring and summer when we can go out after work. We have done a couple of rides in the dark which have been fun and once you get out in the countryside it is fascinating seeing all the stars. We have plenty of lights so no one will miss us in the dark! It is half term this week so we have been out a couple of times, well wrapped up as it has been quite cold. I have been wearing my bib tights with another pair of leggings on the top, two pairs of socks, a thermal vest, jumper, gilet and cycling top and I have been just the right temperature! I have a fleece headband that I wear under my helmet which keeps my ears warm and I also wear a neckwarmer and gloves. 


We have been out on some beautiful days and are so lucky having such lovely rides on our doorstep, the countryside around us is so stunning and you get such a good view on the bike. We can head out to the coast for a flatter ride or head for the hills for a tougher challenge - both are fun and it is nice to have a choice of rides.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The garden in February



February has been cold but dry so we have been moving the climbing roses to the new bed and replanting some shrubs and bulbs. There were four large climbing roses so Mark trimmed them back before we moved them. I was in charge of digging the holes but luckily the roses didn't have huge roots so I didn't need to dig too deep!







Once the roses were in place Mark fastened wires to the fence for them to grow along and then fastened the stems to the wires. He gave them a good prune so hopefully we will have a good show of roses this summer. 





The chickens were quite interested in what we were doing and came to the fence to watch us!





Friday, 10 February 2017

Miles Jupp Songs of Freedom Review


A What's Good to Do Review

When William was younger he loved watching Balamory and I am convinced we saw every single one of the 254 episodes! Miles Jupp has come a very long way since his time playing Archie the Inventor who lived in the pink castle. I certainly never thought that 13 years later I would be choosing to watch him again, this time sat in a packed theatre waiting to see his Songs of Freedom tour. Balamory is now a source of amusement and the butt of several jokes, although I did suspect a large proportion of the audience had never been forced to watch a single episode and wouldn't have a clue who Archie was! 

These days he is more often seen on “Mock the Week” or heard chairing “The News Quiz”. With a couple of well-aimed comments he makes fun of his stereotypical Radio 4 audience wearing “beige trousers and silk scarves” and adding “I thought I’d died and gone to Waitrose” this was probably quite accurate and got a few early laughs. 

Now a 37 year old father of 5, living in Wales, he starts with a comment overheard whilst leaving a previous show that he is a “Nice enough bloke but what unexpected things to talk about.” Despite a promise to turn this statement on its head to bring us an “Unpleasant man banging on about things that are utterly predictable” Miles, never quite succeeds at being unpleasant and instead takes us on a rambling tour of his life, keeping the audience entertained with subjects as diverse as the unacceptable temperature of soup, being mistaken as a train-spotter, Duchy Original biscuits, being too polite and inaccurate signage.

The second half continues in much the same manner as the first, with Miles talking about his victory in Celebrity Mastermind, and then not being recognised as a celebrity by his removal man. 

Miles obviously has a great following, almost filling the large Lyric Theatre, and the audience certainly enjoyed the show with laughter throughout. Whilst amusing, we did feel that the performance lacked focus and we struggled to identify a theme for the evening. In reality it was more a collection of witty comments and observations loosely strung together with no real highlights. 




We received free tickets for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are our own.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Bowling Party

This morning we went to Hollywood Bowl for Daisy's birthday party. Luke has been wanting to go go bowling for a good while so was very excited about the party.



Daisy's friends bowled together and Luke bowled with Charlie, Westley and Isabelle. They were quite competitive and didn't expect Westley to do quite as well as he did!


It's a good job the barriers were up as I don't think they would have done as well if the bowling bowl hadn't ricocheted of the barrier quite as much! Westley used the metal guider and was got excited when the pins fell, he had a huge grin on his face and was jumping up and down with excitement.



Luke was thrilled when he managed a couple of strikes and there were stickers for everyone who got a strike or a spare.


The children all had a great time and once they had finished bowling it was time to go to the party area for food. Everyone had a puzzle sheet and for a couple of minutes everyone was quiet whilst they solved the puzzles. Unfortunately the quiet didn't last long as they started a balloon fight and everyone was running around the room!


The children had a choice of burger, hot dog or chicken nuggets and chips which was soon eaten. Isabelle had made Daisy's birthday cake, a multi coloured D cake which everyone enjoyed.



Once the obligatory party bags had been given out it was time for home. Luke really enjoyed bowling and can't wait to go again. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Chef Show, The Dukes



Last Friday night we went to The Dukes to see The Chef Show. We were told it was a combination of a play and a cookery demonstration so I have to say we were intruiged! We enjoy going to the theatre and Indian food so this sounded like a winning combination.

The Chef Show is written by Nick Ahad and stars Rohit Gokani and Kamal Kaan and is currently touring the North. We were invited to the opening night of the 2017 tour at The Duke’s Lancaster. 

Before we arrived we really weren’t sure what to expect, a two man play about life in an Indian restaurant, with a real chef on stage cooking during the play; how would it work and more importantly would we be able to taste the food! We liked the sound of it and when we walked into the Round Theatre there was a lovely atmosphere as Rohit and Kamal were mingling with the audience and chatting, making everyone feel very welcome.

The idea of the Chef Show came to Nick at a curry night in a village hall near his home and now we have seen the show we feel it was a fantastic idea and wonder why no one had thought of it sooner!. The chef cooks whilst the play carries on around him but at a couple of points in the play the dialogue stops and he talks about what he is cooking and we learn a little about the food and his own experiences of life in the restaurant trade.

The set was very simple but the presence and skill of the cast meant they needed few props. Rohit plays Abdul, who emigrated to England with just £12 in his pocket and now owns a successful Indian restaurant in a small village in Yorkshire. His son, played by Kamal, thinks his dad, who isn’t in the best of health, should transfer the running of business over to him. What he doesn’t appreciate are the various relationships that have been built up with the locals over many years. The events of the play teach the young man that there is more to running a restaurant than just cooking and serving food.

The two actors play a great many roles, from other staff members to the various stereotypical customers (both male and female) switching seamlessly from one to another. The problem with actors playing multiple roles is that it can be confusing but the characterisation was so good that we were never unsure as to what was happening.  Whilst dealing with some more serious themes like racism there is also plenty of humour, we especially liked the portrayal of the drunken hen party and the couple on their first date. Whilst the set was minimal, the sounds of cooking and the delicious aromas of spices really drew us into the story and placed us right into an Indian restaurant without using a single piece of flock wallpaper! 

The chef changes with every venue, Nurrul from Lancaster’s Bombay Balti was our chef for the evening and his food was excellent, we tasted a vegetable bhuna during the interval and a chicken shatkora, a traditional Bengali dish, at the end of the night.

We really enjoyed this production at The Dukes, and would definitely recommend that you go and see the show on its 2017 tour. It’s a great night out, something a bit different from the norm and there’s even food provided!




We received free tickets for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are our own

Monday, 2 January 2017

Write Size Pencils Review



Whilst Luke is very good at doing his homework his handwriting is atrocious, he just doesn't care what his writing looks like as he is more concerned with getting the homework finished as quickly as possible, rather than what it looks like. Since he started doing cursive writing I think it has got worse, so with him starting high school in September I have been trying to encourage him to take more care with his writing. I was thinking of ordering some handwriting pencils but with Christmas I hadn't quite got round to it so I was very pleased when Write Size sent us some of their pencils to review as they were just what Luke needs! 

Write Size say "we buy the right size shoes, the right size uniform and bags for our children, yet the most important tool in their pencil case is the wrong size for their hands making learning and perfecting the art of writing harder, with Write Size pencils they will have better control and better results."



After reading this statement on Write Sizes's website I know exactly where they are coming from, it's not something I have had thought about before but they really have hit the nail on the head. I have watched many Cub Scouts over the years struggle with the simple task of holding a pencil and now I can see why!


The pencils are available in three different sizes and are designed with smaller hands in mind. 

Ages 2-6 – These pencils are engineered to perfectly fit 2-6 year-old hands. Children can learn to grip the pencil correctly, whilst developing control and letter formation.

Aged 6-10 – These pencils are less chunky than the age 2-6 pencils and help improve confidence in their writing, easing the strain on a child’s whilst increasing ability in quality cursive.

Aged 10+ – Ensuring clearer handwriting to deliver good grades, by making writing easier to read for teachers, exam invigilators and peers.



We received a pack of the age 2-6 pencils and the age 6-10 and after a bit of persuasion (Luke wasn't impressed at having to write anything in the school holidays!) Luke sat down and tried out the pencils. He said that the pencils are much easier to hold and aren't top heavy like a normal sized pencil which make it more difficult to write. The pencils were easy to write with and Luke said they didn't snap as much as the pencil he uses at school does. He said he prefers theses pencils and will be taking them to school with him next week.

I asked my niece Daisy (aged 6) to try out the smaller pencils, she enjoys writing and drawing and was much easier to persuade to do some writing than Luke had been. She agreed with Luke that they are easier to hold and write with and was really excited about having some new pencils.

The pencils cost £3.99 for a pack of 5 and I think they are well worth the money.



Discalimer - we received two packs of pencils for the purpose of this review but all words , images and opinions are our own

Gardening

Whilst it has been dry Mark has spent a couple of days in the garden, he has trimmed the laurel hedge which was getting a bit overgrown and also dug over the new border ready to move the roses. 






He has re-tied one of the roses to the trellis, this is the only rose that we are leaving in it's original spot as it was already trained to go up the trellis and we will still be able to see it when it starts flowering. 



There are plenty of signs of new life, the magnolia is just starting to bud and there are buds on the camelia too. 





Mark also cut back a lot of the shrubs so they look much tidier and will be a more manageable size this year, everything had got a bit overgrown last year so we decided to cut everything back and keep the shrubs smaller this year. 


There is still plenty of work to do which will keep us busy in the coming weeks!

Baking Day

Today we have been baking, we made 24 small chocolate buns and some mini meringues that we dipped in chocolate. Luke helped mix the cakes and William made the meringues so it was a real family effort!