Friday 29 July 2016

Husqvarna AutoMower - Part 4

One of Mark's concerns before we got the Husqvarna Automower was that it did not pick up the clippings but mulched them instead. This week Mark raked the lawn to see just what effect the mulching has had.

Husqvarna are also running a competition this month for the video with the most likes on Facebook. Please have a look at the Bakes Bikes and Boys Facebook page here and if you like Mark's video please add your like on Facebook. Thanks

Monday 25 July 2016

Pedal repairs

On Friday we went out on our bikes, William hadn't fixed his bottom bracket so he used Mark's old road bike. Unfortunately the crank fell off a few miles from home but luckily we knew somewhere that would have just the right tools to fix it!

Whilst they were fixing the pedal Luke had a quick chocolate fix!

Saturday 23 July 2016

The Garden

The garden is looking very colourful at the minute, a few days of sun and a bit of rain has given all the plants a boost and they are looking great.

Painting the hen cabin

Mark wasn't at work this morning so he has been busy cleaning out the hen cabin and then he painted it with Luke.

They kept the hens at the other end of the pen whilst the paint dried and treated them to the moss that Mark had raked out of the garden. The mower is doing a great job as there was nowhere near as much moss as normal.

Monday 18 July 2016

Colt Express

Last year we tested a couple of toys for the Rainbow Toy Awards which was great fun.This year they have have asked bloggers to write a blog post about your favourite toy and they will select testers from the submitted posts.

It was quite hard to decide on our favourite game as we all enjoy playing board games and have quite a collection but I finally settled on Colt Express which is a game we all love.

Set in New Mexico in 1899, Colt Express is a board game without a board! Instead you move around a 3D model of a Wild West steam train, complete with carriages. The wooden figures represent the bandits, who travel through the train collecting as much loot as possible, whilst avoiding being shot or punched either by other players or the local Marshal! Each bandit has a special skill to help them gain more loot than the other players but their destiny is decided by the cards so it doesn’t always go to plan!

Whilst the instructions say that players should choose their character, we think it is more fun to draw the character randomly as each one has their own special abilities and it adds more variety to the game.

Each round of the game is played in two parts, first the Schemin’ and then the Stealin’. Players use strategy and concentration as well as luck to win the game. During the schemin’ phase players place action cards onto a central pile, with the intention of moving their bandit through the train and picking up loot on the way. The reality is not that simple, other players will use their own action cards to thwart your best laid plans! To make things even harder, some of the action cards are laid face down (when going through tunnels) so everybody is in the dark about what the other players are planning. These actions are then played through in sequence during the stealin’ phase of the game. Actions include moving through the train, climbing along the roof, stealing loot and punching or shooting the other bandits. To complicate matters the local Marshal is also on the train and is trying to stop you, guided by the other players.

The game can be played with 2 players but is definitely more fun with more. No two games are the same and as a game only lasts about 30-40 minutes it is the perfect length for school nights.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Support Team GB with Aldi this summer

We always look out for the Aldi special buys when it is cycling gear as they have a great range at very reasonable prices. Between us we have various tops and leggings as well as hats, gloves and socks and we have always found them to be very comfortable to wear and very high quality. The advantage of buying cycling gear at Aldi is that it is a fraction of the price of the main cycle brands and you can pick it up when you are doing the normal weekly shop. 

Being keen cyclists we were asked if we would like to try out the bicycle tool box and the track/floor bike pump, this was perfect timing as after our bike ride with the Scouts William realised he had a problem with the bottom bracket of his bike and when he looked at it with Mark when we got home, they decided that it needed replacing. This gave us the opportunity to put the tool kit to the test with a real challenge! There are a good selection of tools in the kit, some we already had and others that we didn't and the advantage of this kit is that all the tools are contained in the box. Mark does the majority of our bike maintenance and he was very impressed with the quality of the tools and the price and said there is every tool you could need when maintaining your bike. He gave William a lesson in bike maintenance, using the bike maintenance stand (bought from Aldi a few months ago) and showed William how to use the bottom bracket tool and crank extractor to remove the bottom bracket. He has now ordered a new part and the tools will come in handy when he replaces the damaged part.

The track/floor bike pump is a real handy piece of kit and a bargain at just £5.99. We always check the tyre pressure on the bikes before we set off on a bike ride and have been using a small compressor which does the job but needs turning on each time and is quite a faff to use. This new pump is so much easier to use and much more portable and the pressure guage is very clear and easy to read.


The bicycle tool kit and the track/floor bike pump are in store from the 8th July and I would suggest that you get there soon as I find that the cycling gear tends to be very popular. You can also view all the current cycling deals on the Aldi website here.

We received the tool kit and pump free for the purpose of this review and all words, opinions and photos are our own.

Picking berries

Today we have been working in the garden and picking the first of the blackcurrants, redcurrants, whitecurrants and gooseberries. It is a very tedious job but with three of us picking them it wasn't too bad.

We collected quite a lot of berries and will freeze the majority but we did make a couple of redcurrant pies, one for tea and one for the freezer. It tasted delicious and there is some left for tea tomorrow!

Saturday 16 July 2016

Nature Names

We have been doing lots of fun activities at Cubs recently and one of them was getting the Cubs to spell out their name using, leaves, flowers and twigs. I was really impressed with how much care the Cubs took and the way they created the letters making up their name. This is definitely an activity I would do again as everyone really enjoyed it.

The Hobbit - Williamson Park, Lancaster

A What's Good To Do review

We have been going to watch the Duke's play in the park for many years now and each year they just get better and better. Over the years our favourites have been The Jungle Book, The Three Musketeers, Merlin and Oliver Twist. This year The Hobbit takes over Williamson Park and transforms it into Middle Earth.

Published in 1937 and written by J. R. R. Tolkien this classic children’s fantasy adventure has recently been adapted into three Hollywood movies by Peter Jackson. Hollywood needed three films and many different locations to retell the famous story yet The Duke’s only needed the beautiful Williamson’s Park and a very talented team to do the same!

It is thought that Tolkien was inspired to write his fantastical books by the Lancashire countryside which he visited during World War Two when his son was studying for the priesthood at a seminary which is now part of Stonyhurst College in the Ribble Valley. Tolkien taught some lessons there and is believed to have worked on The Lord of the Rings, the follow-up to The Hobbit, while staying at Stonyhurst which now has a library named after him. Many years later, the blockbuster films adapted from his books starred Andy Serkis as Gollum who began his professional career at The Dukes 30 years ago and appeared in its very first outdoor production in 1987.

Williamson Park is situated on the site of a former quarry and open moorland to the east of Lancaster. With 54 acres of beautiful parkland, woodland walks and breathtaking views it really is the perfect setting for Tolkien’s classic children’s fantasy adventure The Hobbit. Walking around the park from scene to scene really adds to the atmosphere and the team cope with the challenge of moving the entire audience and cast seamlessly and always have a smile on their face. 

The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, who after meeting wizard Gandalf is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Joining a company of dwarves, led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the poor twisted Gollum and eventually wins his "precious" ...a magical gold ring that helps Bilbo succeed in his quest.

The opening scene is Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit hole in Bag End, The Shire. The painted wooden house looks amazing with a neat veranda and smoking chimney and all is quiet and peaceful until the dwarves arrive. Gareth Cassidy is outstanding as Bilbo Baggins, he is funny and likeable and we all loved his furry feet! Showing invisibility in a live performance was always going to be tricky but Gareth pulled it off perfectly in this magical show. His dry northern humour works very well in the play and gave us plenty of chuckles. This is Gareth's third outdoor performance for The Duke's, he has previously starred in Hansel & Gretel And More Tales From The Forest and Peter Pan and he was also in the CHristmas production of Beauty and the Beast. I like that the same actors appear in different productions and you get to see them in a number of different roles. 
Led by Russell Richardson as Gandalf the small cast, assisted by members of The Duke’s Young Company, manage to portray a huge number of different characters. For a start the opening scene calls for 13 dwarves as well as Bilbo and Gandalf and most of the cast have multiple roles to play. This is very smoothly done with dwarves disappearing and reappearing as elves and trolls without the audience really noticing. It does mean some very fast costume changes are required though.  

The use of the Ashton Memorial as the dragon’s lair was absolutely brilliant; from the pile of bones at the front to the eerie red lighting the memorial was completely transformed. I will never look at it in quite the same way again, it was brought to life in such a clever way and the smoke billowing from the entrance just added to the magical experience. We had wondered how the Duke’s would bring a terrifying dragon to life but having seen previous plays we knew they would come up with something impressive. We were right, the dragon was fantastic and moved incredibly well considering its size and this scene was my favourite of the evening.

As night fell and we walked to the last scene the way was lit by lanterns, which added to the atmosphere of Middle Earth. The climax of the story is the battle of the five armies which considering the obviously limited number of actors was very cleverly portrayed. 
Looking around the audience I saw nothing but smiling faces and walking back to the car at the end of the night the main topic of conversation from everyone was how much they had enjoyed the show. Obviously with only five scenes over three hours Tolkien’s story was somewhat abridged but this was very well done and with the exception of the spiders all the main parts of the tale were still there. Personally I am not a fan of spiders so missing them out really didn’t matter!

The park is well signposted from the A6 and parking was just £1 for the evening. The play starts at 7.15pm so we had a quick tea before we left but many families take the opportunity for a picnic in the beautiful surroundings. Seating varies at each location, sometimes there are benches or logs to sit on and in other locations the audience can sit on the ground. I would recommend taking a mat or blanket to sit on, especially when it is wet so you are not sat on the ground. The play continues whatever the weather so it is definitely worth checking the forecast before you leave and dressing appropriately. 

We had lovely time visiting Middle Earth out and can’t wait to find out where we will be transported to next year. 

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

Scout Bike Ride

Today we went on a bike ride with Mark's Scouts, fortunately it stopped raining and we actually saw some sun for a change! They set off at quite a pace and I wasn't sure if they would be able to keep it up but at the end of the ride Mark's bike computer said we had averaged 10mph which was pretty good considering some of the children hadn't cycled this distance before. Steve and Dave who are the other Scout leaders are very keen cyclists and had cycled around The Trough in the morning but we just settled for this ride. We rode to the meeting point which is just over 4 miles from home so we added an extra 8 miles to the trip which ended up being 30 miles. Luke did really well as he normally rides on the back of the tandem so 30 miles was a good ride for him. 

We stopped for a well deserved ice cream at the park and it was nice sitting in the sun and enjoying the ice creams. We were surprised how quiet the Guild Wheel was, it was a lovely Saturday afternoon and although the park was busy we hardly met anyone on the route.

The last part of the ride was a steep climb which everyone walked up before getting back on their bikes for the final half mile where the parents were waiting to take the Scouts home. We had a great ride and it made a nice change that all the Scouts turned up with reasonable bikes, normally Mark, Dave and Stephen end up spending time pumping up tyres and oiling chains before we start but today everyone's bike was ok.

Monday 11 July 2016

How to survive the school holidays

Lots of people I know dread the school holidays as they need to entertain their children for 6 weeks and end up spending a fortune doing so. I actually look forward to the holidays as even though I have to work I find the holidays so much easier as the normal weekday routine is thrown out of the window and we can just do what we want (within reason of course). No chaotic mornings making packed lunches, checking homework has been completed and ensuring everyone has the right kit for school.

Here are my top five tips for maximising fun in the school holidays

1. Put bedtime back - my sons love staying up later and it means we can go out for walks and bike rides after tea. 

2. Get out the board games - We have a huge selection of board games and in the holidays I get one out each morning for the boys to play, they don't know which it will be until they get up and it is on the kitchen table! They have to give each game a fair try and play one round and then if they enjoy it we will play it again later.

 3. Spend lots of time outdoors, my boys love climbing trees and being outdoors and it doesn't cost anything,

4. Do some baking - My children both enjoy baking, William makes lovely cakes and Luke's chocolate biscuit cake is a perfect snack when we are out walking or cycling.

5. Get the children outside in the garden and grow fruit and vegetables. It's fun and mine love eating what they grow.

What are your tips for making the holidays fun?

This post is an entry for BritMums Confessions of a Summer Parent Challenge, sponsored by Anchor