Saturday, 31 December 2016

1284 Miles

At the start of 2016 I challenged myself to cycle 1000 miles in the year. I wasn't sure if I would manage it but as the year went on and we ate up the miles I was confident that we would get there by the end of the year. We had a slow January, the weather wasn't great so we only managed 15 miles but February, March and April were better with around 90 miles per month. In the winter months we only managed to get out at weekends but with the lighter evenings in May we covered a lot more miles. Dad was in hospital in June so we didn't go out very much but we made up for it in July and August with 458 miles over the two months. I reached 1,000 miles at the beginning of September which I was really pleased with and even though I had reached my target we kept on cycling to see how far we could cycle in a year. A mild October meant we clocked up another 158 miles but the dark nights in November meant we hardly went out and only managed 15 miles. December has been better and we have been out a couple of times adding 51 miles to the final total. 


We are very lucky having lots of quiet county roads to cycle on and we have such beautiful scenery on our doorstep. We have plenty of choice for rides, if we turn left at the top of the drive we have a hilly ride and turning right gives us a flatter ride if we want to cover more distance. We haven't done many long rides this year, the majority have been 15 to 20 miles with an odd 30 mile ride in the summer. Next year I would like to do a couple of 50 mile rides and I will increase my target to 1,500 miles!





Thursday, 29 December 2016

Winter Walk



When we woke up this morning it was a lovely crisp morning so we decided to go for a walk on the fells. Everyone else obviously had the same idea as there were loads of people up on the fell! Normally we rarely see anyone but today we saw lots of people including William's old teacher and a couple of friends.



It was cold but we had wrapped up well, the boys had new Canada hats and I tried out my new ear-muffs which were lovely and warm.







Monday, 26 December 2016

Christmas



I bought a lovely tree on Friday and it looks perfect in the lounge. I love the smell of Christmas trees but unfortunately this one doesn't have any scent at all!

Jack and the Beanstalk - Preston Guild Hall

A What's Good to Do Review

It’s that time of year again; little girls get out their party dresses, dads dust down the Christmas jumpers and families head out into town to see a pantomime! We were invited to to the opening night of Jack and the Beanstalk at Preston Guild Hall and took two very excited boys with us. I used to go to the pantomime at Preston Guild Hall with my grandparents so I was really looking forward to taking Luke and Charlie. I still remember the excitement of seeing my first pantomime there which starred Stu Francis of Crackerjack fame and I hoped they would enjoy the pantomime as much as we used to. 

This is the second year that Phil Walker has written a pantomime for the Guild Hall, his production of Sleeping Beauty last year received rave reviews so we had high hopes for Jack and the Beanstalk. Multi-talented Phil also directs and plays the title role of Jack in this magical show, packed full of singing, dancing, pantomime jokes and traditional family fun. 



From the moment the fairy, played by Linda Nolan, arrived on stage and we heard the Fee-fi-fo-fum of the giant we knew this was going to be a great pantomime. The special effects and illusions by The Twins FX were simply outstanding and among the best we have ever seen, I would even go as far as to say that they were far superior to some of the bigger shows that we have seen in much larger theatres. Over the years I have seen lots of Jack and the Beanstalk pantomimes but what made this pantomime memorable for me was seeing a real giant on stage. Usually all you get is a booming voice from the wings so we were all really impressed with a real giant! 



There were five main cast members who were all very talented. Phil Walker as Jack really carried the show along and his humour especially shone when interacting with the children. Local girl Charlotte Dalton as Jill was brilliant; I knew she was a singer but it turns out she can act too. The villain, Fleshcreep, was played by CBBC’s Marvyn Dickinson, who managed to add creepiness without being too scary.





















Linda Nolan is obviously the most well known (at least to the adults) and was well cast as the good fairy guiding the story along. Every pantomime has to have a dame and Ian Good, with 40 years’ experience is obviously well practised at playing the pantomime dame. He was everything a dame should be, big makeup, big hair and just a little bit saucy. There was a slight technical hitch with his microphone but he just took it in his stride, made a few jokes and got on with the show. The cast worked very well together, this was the opening night and the rapport between them was obvious.



The dancers were very skilled and the junior dancers from Sanham Fitchett Dance School deserve a special mention, they all performed perfectly and you could tell they were enjoying being part of the show. 
The pantomime had something for everyone, the boys especially loved the jokes and were singing the “One Smart Fellow Felt Smart” song all the way home and I’m sure they weren’t the only ones!  It wouldn’t be a pantomime without audience participation and with a packed theatre it was good to see everyone joining in.
We had a fantastic night out; it was the best pantomime we have seen for a long time. Jack and the Beanstalk is showing at The Guild Hall until Thursday 5th January and is well worth a visit.



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

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Top DVD gifts for Christmas

Grab the mistletoe and get ready to find the perfect gift for that special someone this Christmas.

Warner Bros. has the ultimate selection, whether you’re looking for him, for her, or for festive favourites to get the whole family in the Christmas spirit.

Now the boys are getting older we like to have a film night on a Saturday, electronic gadgets are banned for the duration of the film and we take it in turns to choose the DVD.  

It is easy choosing DVD's for our family but I still look at HMV's gift guide when I need a little inspiration, they have a good range of DVD's that would make excellent Christmas gifts.

I like watching musicals and the Must-See Musicals 10 Film Collection’ DVD Box would be a great gift for me. The boxset includes a great mix of films, 42nd Street, Meet Me in St Louis, Easter Parade, Annie Get your Gun, Singin' in the Rain, The Band Wagon, Calamity Jane, A Star is Born, High Society and Gypsy. 




William has always enjoyed the Harry Potter films so the Harry Potter complete 8 film collection would be perfect for him.





Luke has been working his way through the Roald Dahl's books so The BFG would be a great choice for Luke. 




We went to see The Hobbit at Williamson Park this summer so The Hobbit trilogy would be a great gift for Mark.




Warner Bros. have a great selection of films so you should be able to find one for everyone!


Disclaimer - This is a sponsored post.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Horrible Histories - Horrible Christmas, The Lowry


We recently went to see Horrible Christmas at The Lowry, Salford.  As reviewers we have seen a lot of pantomimes over the years so it made a nice change to see something completely different. We set off straight after school and had tea at The Real China restaurant at The Lowry Outlet. We enjoy the Chinese buffet and it is great as you can eat as soon as you arrive. I always find the drinks add up when we are out for a meal but at The Real China you can get free refills on soft drinks which saves us a lot of money. The Real China also offer a 20% reduction on your food bill if you show your theatre tickets which was an added bonus.




December is always hectic so it was nice to have the opportunity to spend some time together and have a nice meal followed by a theatre show. We visit the theatre a lot for What's Good To Do but the boys stay at home so it was good to have a review that they could come along to. We have a couple of the Horrible History CD's and I have seen the TV show occasionally so I was looking forward to seeing the Christmas production. Horrible Christmas is written by Terry Deary and the play is performed by The Birmingham Stage Company, it is currently showing at The Lowry Theatre until the 8th January. 






So what is Horrible Christmas about? In a nutshell as I don't want to spoil it - Christmas is under threat from the evil Sydney Claus, ably assisted by his most famous reindeer Rudolph. We follow them as they travel through history in an effort to get Christmas cancelled for ever.  What they don’t reckon on is the determination of Wendy Watson (Rebecca Livermore), who overheard their plans and teams up with super sleuth Shirley Holmes (Lauryn Redding) to save Christmas.


William and Luke have always enjoyed reading the Horrible Histories books and watching the TV shows so they were both really looking forward to the play. I was expecting a light hearted educational look at our Christmas traditions and was pleasantly surprised when the show included so many of the elements of a traditional Christmas pantomime. There was plenty of humour, appealing to both children and adults and of course the all-important toilet humour that I have come to expect from Horrible Histories. On top of this were plenty of catchy songs and all in all it was a winning formula that had everyone laughing from start to finish.

During the course of the evening we met a host of important historical people, I especially liked Charles Dickens and his maid. Charles Dickens was writing his famous book, A Christmas Carol, and his maid was trying to help him get over his writers block. We also met a rapping Charles II, Oliver Cromwell, Henry VIII and many more characters from the history books. As you would expect from Horrible Histories the play is full of interesting facts presented in a fun and exciting way. Whilst we knew the basic historical facts we never knew quite which way the story was going to take us, making it all the more entertaining.


The main four actors remain as the same character throughout wearing the same costume but the other four switch costumes and roles almost continuously. Chris Gunter is brilliant as Sydney Claus and Neal Foster is outstanding, playing the main historical characters, we all loved his rap when he was playing Charles II and the boys especially liked him as St Nicholas in Turkey.

The time travel takes place on Sydney’s special time travelling scooter and there are plenty of lights and special effects, these were very bright but worked well and Luke especially liked that bit.

We really enjoyed the play and it made a refreshing change from a traditional pantomime. 
Mark has got to the age where he likes nothing better than booing the baddies, laughing at fart jokes and singing along with the children to the turkey song and I think he enjoyed the show more than some of the children did!

We will certainly be looking out for other Horrible History productions as we never stopped laughing all night!





Disclaimer We received 4 tickets to Horrible Christmas for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are our own

Monday, 12 December 2016

Christmas Cacti


For the last couple of years my Christmas cacti have flowered really early and by the time Christmas arrived the flowers had all died. This year the flowers are just opening so hopefully they will last another two weeks. 




Friday, 9 December 2016

Pinocchio

Last Friday What's Good To Do asked us to review the Christmas production of Pinocchio at The Dukes, Lancaster.



Daisy was really excited about seeing Pinocchio, she was chatting about it in the car on the way to school and when I picked her up after school she kept asking "how much longer?" Luke wasn't quite as excited but that's Luke for you!

Christmas is such a magical time of year and we love going to The Dukes to see their Christmas production as it is always something special. This year was no different, Pinocchio is a fantastic production, adapted for the stage by Christopher William Hill and crammed full of laughter, music, and songs.  

As we all know Pinocchio is is easily led and has a tendency to lie to wriggle out of trouble. In the story when Pinocchio tells a lie his nose grows, I did wonder how his nose would grow in the play, I’ll not spoil it but it was very well done and the children loved it! ! Pinocchio can be a rascal but his heart is in the right place and he is very loyal to Geppetto. 

At the start of the production Pinocchio is being expertly carved from wood by Geppetto (Russell Richardson), skilfully animated by the cast and seems almost lifelike. Lucas Button then takes over and brings Pinocchio to life without losing any of the mannerisms of the marionette. He portrayed Pinocchio expertly and was loved by the audience. Lucas attended The Dukes Youth Theatre whilst growing up in Lancaster so it was nice to see him returning to his roots.
Russell Richardson was outstanding as both Geppetto and puppet master Ackerman. Whether playing the downtrodden Geppetto or showman Ackerman his presence filled the stage and enthralled the audience.
Ben Tolley and Josie Cerise were a great double act playing a number of roles and adding lots of humour to the performance.
Ella Vale as Lena was fantastic, guiding Pinocchio and eventually reuniting him with Geppetto. 

The cast of five seamlessly switch between characters; the layout of the theatre enables the cast to enter the stage from all four corners which means no one in the audience misses out on any of the action. The gallery area is also utilised which adds height and realism to the performance.
The lighting was well designed with the stars and fireflies especially effective which my children particularly enjoyed. 
There were plenty of children in the audience and the smiles on their faces at the end of the performance were the ultimate indication of how good the show was.  

Luke and Daisy both enjoyed the performance and we had a nice quiet journey home as they both fell asleep in the car the minute we left Lancaster!

Anybody looking for something different to do with the children this Christmas should really make a visit to The Dukes to see Pinocchio which runs until the 7th January.






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

Working in the garden

Last weekend Mark and Luke put up a new fence in the garden to create a what he said would be a small compound area. Having looked at it I wouldn't call it small but it will tidy things up as it means all the wheelbarrows and pots that have finished flowering can be stored there.



The area is at the bottom of the garden and is next to the sub-station. There is a border but it is a bit overgrown and the trellis that the roses grow up is rotten and needed replacing so it was the ideal opportunity to rethink that area of the garden.

We will move the plants and the roses in the Spring and Mark has taken the turf off the area in front of the new fence ready for a new border.



Luke was a big help, mixing mortar and barrowing it down to the bottom of the garden.






The new border has been edged with edging stones and it will look really nice next summer when it is planted up.