Friday 30 September 2016

Footloose The Musical

A What's Good to Do Review

The famous 80’s movie Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon, has been skillfully adapted for the stage by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie and is currently touring the UK. We went to see Footloose at the world famous Blackpool Opera House, an impressive theatre seating almost 3000 in the centre of Blackpool. The theatre is quite close to where we live so it doesn't take long to get there. We park on a nearby car park which cost £3.00 and it was only a quick walk to the theatre.

Produced by the Sell a Door Theatre Company, the big names in the cast are Gareth Gates playing Willard and Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore, the reverend’s wife. The play, based on a true story, follows teenager Ren McCormack, (Luke Baker), after his move from Chicago to Bomont, a small Midwestern town where dancing is banned. He is soon spotted by Ariel, the rebellious daughter of strict minister Rev. Shaw Moore and courageously battles to abolish this unreasonable ban and succeeds in staging the first high school prom. The entire cast was very strong and performed their roles with energy and enthusiasm. The show was very well choreographed by Matthew Cole, making full use of the set for some impressive dance moves.

The real stars of the show for us were Luke Baker and Hannah Price playing teenagers Ren McCormack and Ariel Moore. Footloose is Hannah’s first professional role and judging by her performance she is certainly someone to watch out for in the future. Her voice was clear and her singing was fantastic. Surprisingly Gareth Gates, who gave a strong comic performance as Willard has the lead in only one song. Where Luke plays the role of a determined worldly wise young man Gareth is excellent playing the naive country boy. It was good to see Gareth's acting skills but we were expecting more songs from such a famous singer.

Music is obviously central to the show with around half the numbers from the original film and the rest written by Tom Snow with lyrics by Dean Pritchard. The cast play all the instruments on stage, which whilst undoubtedly impressive was also distracting at times. At the out of town dance it makes perfect sense to have a band on stage but why would the characters be playing instruments at the town council meeting? 

The Opera House has a large stage and this was filled with the excellent set which quickly transformed from church to school to burger bar and back again. Costumes were great bringing a real 80’s feel to the night. The highlight of the show for the women in the audience had to be the part where Gareth is stripped down to just a pair of tiny denim shorts in the Bonnie Tyler song Holding out for a Hero. 

We did feel that the show was a little slow to get going, probably more to do with the story than the performance of the cast. Following the interval the pace began to step up culminating in an energetic finale where the entire cast took to the stage for the high school dance. The audience finally got into the spirit of the night and rose to their feet for a final rendition of Footloose. 

We had a great night out and it was great reliving our teenage years and hearing all the 80’s songs again!

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

Friday 23 September 2016

Working in the garden

The weather has been lovely recently so we have been able to get some work done in the garden. Mark has been altering the raised beds so they now run alongside the hedge and he has put a row of flags around them which not only makes them look much tidier but makes picking fruit much easier. The raspberries and strawberries have been replanted and seem to have survived the move quite well.

Luke has been in charge of mixing the cement, a job he really enjoys!

Luke has also repainted my black pots, they were starting to look quite shabby but they look like new now.

There is still plenty of work to do but not having to mow the grass anymore, thanks to our Husqvarna Automower has meant we have had much more time to do jobs in the garden this summer.

Sloe Gin

Every year we have a walk down the field to collect sloes. Luke loves picking them so we collected a bag full ready to make some sloe gin.

Sloe gin is really simple to make and tastes amazing. I'm not a fan of gin but the sloes transform it into a lovely dark-red fruity liqueur that’s delicious!

Recipe - this will make 2 bottles of sloe gin

1lb Sloes
6oz sugar
1 bottle of gin

Choose ripe sloes and wash, dry and prick them. We put them into a demi-john along with the sugar and gin. 

Put a cork/stopper on the bottle and store in a reasonably warm place for 3 months. 

Shake the bottle every week

After 3 months strain the gin through muslin and then decant into clean, dry bottles, seal and label. The sloe gin is now ready to drink but will improve and mature over time. 

Sunday 18 September 2016

GroCycle Gourmet Mushrooms

When I was growing up we always had lots of mushrooms growing in the fields and we used to love picking them in the summer holidays. I rarely see them now which is a real shame but I do remember a couple of summers where we had a stall in front of the house and we sold mushrooms to people passing the farm. Mum said we if we could make enough money we could go to Blackpool Pleasure Beach so we made a big sign for the top of the drive so people knew about the mushrooms and waited for customers. We were up early each morning picking mushrooms and most days we sold out. We made enough money for us all to go to Blackpool and there was even enough for fish and chips on the way home! We did this for a couple of years and had a few trips to Blackpool Pleasure beach but the mushroom supply started dwindling and in the end we gave up.

When I was asked if we would like to grow some oyster mushrooms I jumped at the chance, we love growing our own food and eating it and I liked the idea of growing mushrooms again. GroCycle very kindly sent us everything we needed which includes the mushroom growing kit as well as a great educational booklet for children and a pack of dried oyster mushrooms that you can eat whilst you are waiting for your own to grow!

GroCycle is a project launched by Fungi Futures CIC, an innovative social enterprise based in Devon, UK. They have been growing Oyster mushrooms from waste coffee grounds since 2011, and are still hugely inspired by the scale of the opportunity. They have created the easy to use Mushroom Grow Kit to enable you to grow your own gourmet mushrooms at home from waste coffee grounds.

The kit contains grounds from 100 cups of coffee and this project aims to keep coffee waste out of landfill which sounds good to me.

The kit is really easy to use and has very clear instructions, Luke couldn't wait to get started and soon pressed out the cardboard from the front of the box ready for the coffee grounds to go back in.

Once he had made the hole in the box he put the coffee grounds back in so he could cut a cross in the bag in the right place.

Once the bag was cut we submerged it in a bucket and used a pan to weigh it down. We left it overnight and then drained it and put it back in the box.

We sprayed it with water twice a day and after 2 days you could see that something was starting to happen. I was initially a little unsure how much water they needed so we gave them a few sprays of water morning and night and it must have been enough as they soon started to grow.

After 4 days 

After 6 days

After 8 days

After 9 days 

It really was amazing watching them grow, you could see a huge difference from morning to night.

I used the mushrooms to make a mushroom soup which tasted lovely.

Once you have harvested your mushrooms you leave the kit for 2 weeks then soak overnight and repeat the cycle 1-2 times. We harvested ours and were surprised to find mushrooms growing again after 10 days, we hadn't soaked the kit again so just started watering the mushrooms again and we have just harvested our second crop which will be used in a risotto tomorrow night.

The mushroom kits are available from the 16th September from the Grocycle website here and cost £19 with free delivery.

We received the Grocycle Grow your own oyster mushrooms kit for the purpose of this review. All opinions, words and photos, are my own.

Heat Holders – The Ultimate Thermal Sock and Snugover Review

A What's Good To Do Review

I recently received a Heatholders Snugover and pair of thermal socks to review. Being the only person in our house who feels the cold these were perfect for me as everyone else will be walking round in t-shirts and I will have a jumper and body warmer on and still be cold. It doesn’t bother me putting lots of layers on; I was brought up in a cold, draughty farmhouse with no central heating and if you were cold you either sat in front of the fire or just wore more clothes. I am spoilt now living in a centrally heated house but if there is only me in the house it hardly seems worth putting the heating on so still rely on jumpers to keep warm. The Heat Holders Snugover arrived just as the weather changed so I was able to try it out immediately.

The luxurious Heatweaver fur like thermal fleece has a 1.4 tog rating to keep you lovely and warm, even on the chilliest of evenings. It has a funnel neck which you can tighten with drawstrings to keep you cosy. I am 6’ tall and I like my jumpers to be long enough to cover my bottom and the men’s L/XL Snugover did just that.  It was a good length and the drawstring enables you to custom the fit to your body shape. The Snugover has two front pockets; they are perfect for keeping your hands warm but not deep enough to really put anything else in, apart from maybe a tissue. They weren't secure enough for a phone as whenever I moved it fell out. The snugover is quite baggy but this means you can wear a couple of layers underneath.

I did find the drawstrings let the jumper down, there was nothing to stop the cords from going inside the jumper and on more than one occasion I lost one end of the cord and had to try and pull it out using a safety pin. I ended up tying knots at the end of the cord to try and stop the cord from disappearing through the hole, which worked.

Designed for warmth rather than style the Snugover isn’t a jumper that I will be wearing out of the house but it is perfect for popping on whenever you are feeling cold. You soon warm up once you are wearing it and it will get a lot of use this winter. I will also take it next time we go camping as I can either wear it for bed or just in the evenings when it starts to get chilly. 

The Ultimate Thermal Sock

Luke's favourite socks are his Heat Holders so when I received a pair for myself I was finally able to understand his excitement about them. He wears his in his wellies or just to keep his feet warm in the house. On initial inspection they look like any other thick black boot sock but on closer inspection they have a lovely fleecy inner face to the fabric. This soft brushed inner maximises the amount of warm air held inside the sock for all day warmth and comfort. The socks have tog of 2.3 which means your feet are kept lovely and warm, even on the coldest days. The socks are quite thick so best suited to wearing in wellies or boots. The socks wash well, Luke has had his for a couple of years and they still look as good as new even though they have been worn and washed many many times.

If you want to save a bit of money on heating this winter and still stay warm and cosy why not knock down the thermostat a couple of degrees and get a HeatHolders Snugover and a pair of thermal socks and you will be toasty warm this winter.

I received the Heatholders Snugover and a pair of Heatholders thermal socks for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Autumn Fruits

I picked Luke up from school on Wednesday and as it was such a lovely afternoon he suggested that he took me for a ride around the fields. The hedgerows were full of colour with lots of different fruits.

There are plenty of sloes this year, we picked some last weekend and Mark and Luke made some sloe gin this week.

There are plenty of berries on the hawthorn, the red berries really stood out against the green leaves.

The berries on the holly are just starting to turn from green to red. There are lots of berries so hopefully there will still be plenty of berries at Christmas and we can use some to decorate the house.

Mum has been picking the blackberries so there weren't many left, we picked what we saw and ate them! 

There were also a couple of hedges with lots of rosehips, we used to have a lot in the back garden and Mum used to pick them and make rosehip syrup. I can't remember what it was like so maybe it is something to try when I have a bit more time!

Monday 5 September 2016

Lemon Buns

Inspired by The Great British Bake Off we have been trying out some new recipes and this week we made lemon buns. I was expecting them to taste like a Danish pastry but they were heavier and more like an iced bun. They didn't last long and I think we will be making these again!

Swimming in the hydrotherapy pool

Ed has a six week slot in the hydrotherapy pool at Derian House so me and Luke went with him this week for a swim. It is a lovely pool with lots of room for Ed to get changed and has been built for children with disabilities. We could leave his wheelchair at the side of the pool which meant we didn't need to carry him to the water. Ed loves being in the water but taking him to a normal pool is just too hard work and once he gets in the water he gets cold very quickly. At Derian House the changing facilities are next to the pool and the water is lovely and warm so he doesn't get cold.

There are plenty of toys to play with and our hour soon went, it was difficult persuading the boys to come out but the promise of lunch out finally helped!

Friday 2 September 2016

Rainbow Toy Awards 2016 - Banagrams Party Edition

We were thrilled to be selected as testers for the Rainbow Toy Awards 2016  and were very excited when we received the new BANAGRAMS party edition to review. We already have the original BANAGRAMS game which is great fun so I was interested to see what this new version was like.

BANAGRAMS Party has been launched to celebrate BANAGRAMS 10th birthday and has a RRP of £14.99. The game can be played by 2 - 8 players although if you have more you could play in teams. The suggested age is 10+ but Luke, who is 10, has been playing BANAGRAMS for a couple of years now and does really well. I always find word games can be adapted to your children and they are great for helping them learn to spell.

The game is in a fabric banana shaped bag which makes it very portable, we always take BANAGRAMS on holiday with us as it can easily be put in your bag or suitcase and doesn't take up much space. 

The party edition has an additional 14 tiles, some make the game more challenging and others are guaranteed to make everyone laugh!

The game is played in exactly the same way as the traditional BANAGRAMS with the ultimate aim to be the first to use all your letters. The game starts with each player selecting a number of letter tiles from the bunch, the total taken depends on the number of players and is listed in the easy to follow instructions. Once everyone has their tiles the party tiles are added to the bunch  and mixed in. You play with as many of the party tiles as you like but we tend to find it is much more fun to have them all in play.

The game starts with one player shouting "SPLIT" and everyone turns over their tiles and tries to make words in a crossword style, very similar to Scrabble but without a board. Everyone plays at the same time so there is no waiting for your turn. Whenever a player has used up all their tiles they shout "PEEL" and everyone collects another tile. You can re arrange your tiles as much as you like to use all the letters. If you have a handful of tricky letters like "Q" "X" or "Z" you can choose to swap them by saying "DUMP" and putting them back in the bunch - you have to take three tiles for each one you dump. I find this can be quite helpful at the start of the game.

When you draw a party tile it must be used immediately, some tiles have a one off action like stealing a tile from another player or swapping places with a player and taking over their grid. Others continue until you have used all your tiles, these tiles can be quite distracting for both the person doing the action and his opponents. Luke especially liked it when William picked the Flamingo tile which meant he had to stand on one leg for the rest of his hand!

When the bunch has fewer tiles than there are players when you put the last letter in your grid you say "BANANAS" instead of "PEEL." Your grid is checked by the other players and if any grids have misspelled words or unacceptable words then the others shout out "ROTTEN BANANA" and you are out of the game. The tiles are returned to the bunch and play continues until "BANANAS" is called again. The winner is the person who uses all their tiles first and has a grid full of acceptable words. A dictionary can be useful at this point in the game!!

We really enjoyed playing BANAGRAMS party and it has been played lots of times during the summer holidays. The addition of the party power tiles means the game is less serious and more appealing to children and great when you have lots of people to entertain. We would certainly recommend this game and it is a fantastic addition to the BANAGRAMS family. 

Disclaimer - We received the BANAGRAMS Party edition free of charge to enable us to review it for the Rainbow Toy Awards 2016