Sunday, 19 November 2017 £5 Christmas Challenge

With Christmas only 5 weeks away I think I am reasonably organised for once and have a good idea what to buy everyone. One of my favourite parts of Christmas shopping is finding nice gifts for the boys stockings so when I was asked if I wanted to take part in the #SDFiverChallenge with and BritMums it was an easy decision but once I had accepted the challenge I then had the difficult task of choosing gifts for £5 or less from Sports Direct. I only say difficult because when I looked online there is such a huge range available that it was difficult only choosing a few! is not somewhere I had really considered for stocking fillers as we only tend to buy outdoor gear, walking shoes and footwear from them but having taken part in the challenge I will definitely be using them much more!

We are an active family and spend a lot of time outdoors so when I saw these Karrimor hiking socks I knew they would be perfect for William. I have always found Karrimor socks to be very good quality and 3 pairs for £4.50 was a real bargain. With our Snowdon trip planned for next year I think I will be placing another order for other family members. 

Luke keeps borrowing William's small dry bag so I thought the Karrimor XXS dry bag would be a good stocking filler for Luke. As you can see from the label the bag was half price and was perfect for the challenge

It was very easy to place an order and I was very impressed with the regular progress updates. I placed my order late on a Thursday night and the parcel was delivered first thing Saturday morning which was very fast! 

This post is an entry for BritMums Christmas #sdfiverchallenge, sponsored by Sportsdirect.com

We received a Sports Direct voucher in exchange for this post, however all opinions are my own.

Friday, 27 October 2017

The sheep have arrived!

Luke was very excited on Tuesday night because when he came home from school he spotted the sheep in the field. We have overwintered sheep for many years now, these sheep have come from a farm on the fells and they usually arrive at the end of October and stay until March. Since Dad has been ill Luke has taken over looking after them and goes down the field on the quad to count them every other night. He also checks that they are all ok and none are stuck in the hedge. He really enjoys looking after them and we all like seeing them in the field.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Monster Island

Last weekend we looked after my younger niece and nephews whilst their Mum, Dad, sister and brother went to an early Halloween event. They all enjoy watching films so we decided to have a film night, normally they chose a film from our vast selection of DVD's but as I had just received a copy of Monster Island it seemed the perfect opportunity to watch it. 

Monster Island is an animated film about a boy called Lucas who finds out he’s not really a human and the news changes his whole world, especially since his first monster transformation happens in front of the most popular kids at school! After unreasonably blaming his dad for keeping his identity a secret, the angry and embarrassed Lucas runs away from home. His search for Monster Island and his real roots take him on a fabulously scary journey that puts him face-to-face with more tentacles, fangs and far-out situations than he can shake one of his new wings at. Ultimately Lucas learns that being a freak, isn’t freaky - it means you’re a member of a brand new type of family, you can proudly call your own.

All the children loved the film, they sat transfixed throughout and the only sound was their laughter which is always lovely to hear. It is a fun, entertaining film with a few good witty lines that is perfect for the whole family. 

With a PG rating, Monster Island is an animated film from the producer of Top Cat Begins, and the writer of box office hits Madagascar and The Jungle Book. The film features voice talent from Despicable Me and Khumba: A Zebra's Tale.

Half term and Halloween are fast approaching so if you are looking for activities to keep your children occupied in the school holidays why not make some popcorn and have your own film day with Monster Island which is available to buy on DVD from the 16 October 2017.

We received a copy of Monster Island for the purpose of this post.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

#ChileanEasyPeelers Challenge with BritMums

When I was a child we always loved autumn because Mum started buying tangerines. We used to get through so many she ended up buying them by the box and they always kept well in our pantry, much better than they do these days where you can guarantee that at least one fruit in the bag will be mouldy after only a couple of days. I was quite impressed that none of the Chilean Easy Peelers went mouldy so I will certainly be looking out for these in the shops as I hate wasting food. These days tangerines are available all year round but I find they can be quite tasteless out of season so I only tend to buy them at this time of year. 

My children have always enjoyed eating fruit and vegetables and they both enjoyed eating the Chilean Easy Peelers. The demand for Chilean easy peelers is growing in the UK as the convenient, seedless fruits are sweet in flavor and a hydrating snack, perfect for families. With year on year growth of 32% in tonnes sold in the UK, the amount of Chilean mandarins sold last season reached over 2,000 tonnes. The predictions for this year’s crop are even greater. Available in supermarket shelves from September to November, the delicious fruits are the ideal snack for back to school season.

Both boys take a packed lunch and the Chilean Easy Peelers are great to include in their lunch boxes. Luke also had one with his breakfast so the box we were sent to try didn't last long! I find they are great to take to work and stop me reaching for the chocolate when I hit the mid afternoon munchies!

Chilean Easy Peelers are great for children for as well as being low in calories, fat and a good provider of vitamins and minerals they help to provide children with fibre, folate, vitamin C, potassium, calcium and magnesium. They are also a great source of water being  about 87 per cent water and eating foods with a high water content may help to keep them hydrated too. 

This post is an entry for the BritMums #ChileanEasyPeelers Challenge, sponsored by Chilean Citrus Committee

Saturday, 9 September 2017

What's Growing in the Greenhouse?

As well as the usual tomatoes and cucumbers Mum likes to grow a few different fruits, she has been quite successful with pineapples over the last couple of years and we have had two this summer. She is also growing a couple of different types of melons, they are not ready yet so we could do with a bit more sun to help them grow!

Rain Rain Go Away!!

It has done nothing but rain the last few days and there is a huge amount of water on the road which is running down the farm drive and making a real mess of it. This morning the drive was completely flooded and as the water is bringing lots of fallen leaves and mud with it the drain by our house was full of leaves which meant only a small amount of water could get into the drain. Mark had cleared it a bit before he went to work and then I scraped the rest of the debris away later meaning more water could get into the drain. 

The water has been running down the drive all day and there is still a huge pond at the top of the drive, hopefully we won't have any more rain over night and then it can drain away.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Sister Act Review - Blackpool Opera House

A What's Good to Do Review

I was really excited when I found out we would be reviewing Sister Act. It is one of my favourite films and I was really looking forward to seeing the stage show at Blackpool Opera House. Located within the famous Winter Gardens it is one of the UK’s biggest theatres and has seen a cast of thousands tread its boards since it first opened in 1939. It seats almost 3,000 and from what we could see most of these seats were full for the opening night of Sister Act. Whilst many modern theatres have quite small stages, this one is large and wasn’t cramped by the large set and cast. The theatre has a couple of bars but being situated in the centre of Blackpool means there are plenty of options when it comes to pre-show drinks or meals. There is ample parking nearby either on ground level or multi story car parks. We paid £3.00 to park on a car park that was only a few minutes walk away from the theatre.

Based on the hit 1992 film, Sister Act is directed by Craig Revel Horwood and the music is by Alan Menken with lyrics by Glenn Slater. It did come as a big surprise when we realised that the hit songs of the film weren’t featured in the stage show as for me the music was the most memorable part of the film. 

We first meet Deloris singing in boyfriend Curtis’s nightclub. X Factor winner Alexandra Burke had a very hard act to follow stepping into Whoopi Goldberg’s famous shoes, but she really pulled it off. There is no doubting that she was the star of the show, demonstrating the quality of her voice throughout. We also thought the actors who played Sisters Mary Robert and Mary Patrick, Sarah Coggin and Susannah Van Den Berg were excellent. They really seemed to be enjoying themselves and their performances were really close to the characters in the film. All the music for the show was performed live with most members of the cast playing instruments as well as singing.

Most of the story takes place in the convent and the set was very good with a balcony that cast members could move to when playing their instruments, unfortunately this was always in the background, so for some inexplicable reason the organ was still on stage when the plot had moved elsewhere. For the finale the set split in two and a great illuminated staircase was revealed for the final number.

The story did follow that of the film, albeit in a very much abbreviated form. Unfortunately it was very slow to get going and it was only with the final song of the first half that the pace started to pick up. The second half was better with a few more songs but these were almost all sung by individual cast members rather than the choir. The show finished with an upbeat finale and the audience, who all seemed to enjoy the show, rose to their feet. 

This is a difficult show to review, Alexandra and her fellow cast members all performed well but we felt the storytelling lacked depth and relied on the audience already being familiar with the film. The main theme in the original film is Deloris taking on the training of the choir and this is only briefly alluded to in the stage version. For a film that is remembered for a high energy choir singing popular hits - the stage show really missed the mark. Having said that, the audience loved it and on the way out there were plenty of smiling faces. 

Sister Act is running from Tuesday 22nd August to Sunday 27th August 2017 at Blackpool Opera House. It is definitely worth booking tickets quickly as Blackpool is full of holiday makers at the minute and judging from the full house for the first performance it is looking to be an extremely popular show.

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

Day at Southport beach

Last weekend we decided to go to the beach at Southport, the huge advantage of Southport is you can drive onto the beach which is so much easier than having to carry everything.

Luke dug a huge hole, it doesn't look huge in the picture but it was about 5' deep! He took his metal spade as it is much stronger and happily dug for the whole time we were there. There was a family next to us with 4 young boys and they were all fascinated by the hole and kept coming to watch! They even made their parents come and look at the "amazing hole."

We took a disposable barbeque and had sausage, burgers and a tuna steak for tea. We have never had much success with portable barbeques but this one cooked the food perfectly.

We had a lovely relaxing time and will definitely be visiting again.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Trevor the Tortoise

At the beginning of the school holidays we looked after Trevor the tortoise who belongs to one of Robbie's friends. Robbie was looking after him but they went away before Adam was back so we were asked if we would look after him for a couple of days. He was really easy to look after, he just needed bathing in a morning and we gave him lettuce to eat. He didn't really do much but I think he was recovering after a week of being constantly picked up and poked by Daisy and Westley!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Colour in the garden

I love this time of year in the garden as so many plants are starting to flower and there are some gorgeous colours and shapes. Here are some of my favourite flowers which are all in shades of pink and purple!

Walk around Great Tower

William recently attended the County Explorer Scout camp at Great Tower Scout Activity Centre, we took him up there and then had a wander around the site.  

We walked up to Tower Rock first which is where you get the best views, it was a lovely evening and despite there being so many Explorer Scouts on site it was actually very peaceful sat at the top. 

The path from Tower Rock to Ghyll Head was quite overgrown with bracken, Luke enjoyed hiding in it!

The crate stacking is in what was the old conservation area, it was strange not seeing the fenced off area as it has been there for as long as I have been going to Great Tower! 

There was a good selection of fungi growing on the trees and a lot of dead wood that really need clearing. Whilst the campsite is looking better for not being used as much, we did feel that it does need a bit of forestry work to keep the site safe for the children using it.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Treasure Island Review - Williamson Park Lancaster

As a reviewer for What's Good To Do we are very fortunate to visit the theatre on a regular basis. Of all the shows we see The Dukes annual outdoor production is always the highlight of the year for us. Williamson Park is such a beautiful location and has transported us to many different places over the years. The Dukes have been using the park for outdoor productions for the last 30 years and whilst we haven't been going quite that long we have been going over 20 years! We saw Jungle Book back in 1995 and have to say that the shows seem to get better every year. 

This year Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, Treasure Island has been given a thrilling new twist by the award-winning team behind last year’s sell-out production of The Hobbit. We were delighted to hear that The Hobbit won the 2016 UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children & Young People and were all excited to see what Debbie Oates’ adaptation of Treasure Island had in store for us.

The first scene was set in the newly renovated children’s play area, with members of the Dukes Youth Theatre entertaining the audience before the play started. Jem Hawkins played by Natasha Davidson discovers a treasure map in her uncle’s book and desperate to escape her home life decides to go in search of the treasure. To do this she needs a ship and crew and sets sail from Fleetwood Docks on the Hispaniola. The problem is – she’s picked the wrong crew: an opinionated parrot, a bunch of pirate buffoons and the terrifying Long John Silver! 

Performed with a cast of seven it was nice to see some familiar faces, Gareth Cassidy and Victoria Brazier have starred in previous park productions and Natasha Davidson played Belle in Beauty and the Beast. The play is suitable for all the family and includes plenty of humour; we especially liked the scene where Gareth Cassidy as pirate Tom Morgan had to retrace his steps which was incredibly well done and hilarious to watch. 

The play was split into six different scenes, each set in a different location in the park. There really can’t be a better place to stage an outdoor production; Williamson Park has beautiful parkland, woodland walks and breathtaking views. With the impressive Ashton memorial and lake very little additional scenery is needed. Walking around the park from scene to scene adds to the atmosphere and there is a friendly team to guide the audience safely to the next location. As night fell and we walked to the last scene the way was lit by lanterns, which added to the atmosphere and excitement of the night.

Putting on a show of this size takes an enormous amount of work; the technical team are amazing setting up the lighting and sound at each location and then moving on ahead of the audience between each scene. Special effects, background music and sounds add to the experience and we could clearly hear the dialogue. The words were perhaps not quite as clear when the pirates sang their songs however the words were printed in the programme so you could sing along if you wanted. The use of flags to represent the sea and the sails of the Hispaniola was also very effective. 

The costumes are striking, the tracksuited youths from the playground becoming the brightly dressed pirate crew and Jem’s brother becoming Long John Silver complete with wooden leg. Puppets, mainly operated by the younger cast members, also added to the show with a cat, giant lizard, shark and of course a very talkative parrot!
With Treasure Island it wasn’t difficult to include the lake into the play. As the cast escaped from Treasure Island and sailed away across the lake they were joined by unexpected extras…. in the shape of the resident ducks. It was quite obvious that the ducks were not happy that their lake had been invaded as they were settling down for the evening and the resulting loud quacking was an entertaining end to a brilliant evening.

Lasting three hours this is family entertainment at its best, with plenty of laughter, singing and smiling faces this is a lovely way to spend a summer’s evening. 

Williamson Park is easy to find, it is signposted from the A6 and parking is just £1 for the evening. The play starts at 7.15pm however many people take a picnic to eat before the show. Seating varies at each location, sometimes there are 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 wet ground! The play continues whatever the weather so it is definitely worth checking the forecast before you leave and dressing appropriately. 

The show is at Williamson Park until the 12th August but with such a loyal following, some dates are already sold out so get your tickets booked soon! 

We received free tickets for the purpose of this review.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Luke's first night hike

Mark has been waiting for a nice Saturday night to take the boys on a night hike and he also thought they could sleep on top of the fells. He looked at the forecast for Saturday and as it was going to be warm they decided to go then. They got all the equipment together, mats, rucsacks, sleeping bags and food and a stove and packed it into the rucsacks, Luke was very excited about sleeping on the fells and couldn't wait to get started.

They left just before midnight, they were waiting for William, who was working until 11pm, but when he arrived home he was shattered so decided to stay at home and get a good nights sleep! 

Luke normally moans when we go on a walk but Mark said he didn't moan once and they didn't stop for a rest as Luke was keen to get to the top!

They managed a couple of hours sleep before they woke to watch the sun rise.

Once the sun was up they cooked breakfast and used the Trekmates Flameless Cooking System to make a hot drink.

Whilst they didn't get a lot of sleep Luke had a great time and has already asked when they can do it again!

A Day out at SEA LIFE Blackpool

Popular wildlife and children's TV presenter Lizzie Daly is supporting SEA LIFE Blackpool, as it launches a conservation campaign highlighting the importance of bugs and insects to the world’s rainforests.

To showcase the project, SEA LIFE Blackpool has unveiled an amazing new display, featuring an array of creatures, such as Giant African land snails; hissing and death head cockroaches; praying mantis and giant grubs.

It is the latest in a wide range of conservation and awareness work being carried out at the popular Blackpool visitor attraction. Its aim is to highlight the vital role insects play in our rainforests – described as ‘the lungs of the world’ – where their habitat is under increasing threat and many face extinction.

The new drive will also include educating people looking to buy exotic creatures as pets about the complex challenges that brings, with the aim to get them to think twice.

Unfortunately we were unable to visit SEA LIFE Blackpool on the day Lizzie visited but we were able to go a few days later and see the new Rainforest area for ourselves.

Luke always enjoys visiting the SEA LIFE Centre and was looking forward to seeing the new Ranger Table and the new insects and creatures. He was quite keen to look at the Giant African land snails and the giant grubs, I wasn't quite as keen!!  

This new section in the Rainforest area is a great place to look at creatures and is full of fun, interesting facts. Whilst we were there we were talking to Sam, one of the staff and he was very knowledgeable about the creatures and Luke was very interested in everything Sam was telling us.

Matthew Titherington, general manager at SEA LIFE Blackpool, believes the new Rainforest Ranger Table display will also broaden people’s understanding of the peculiar and captivating creatures that play such an important role in rainforest eco-systems. Amongst other things, they act as a food source for other animals, increase the fertility of the soil and also help pollination.

Matthew explained: “We want people to find out more about where they live and what’s happening to their natural habitats. The new ranger table we have set up will for the first time enable visitors, especially children, to hold and get really close to these wonderful creatures under the watchful eye of SEA LIFE experts, who’ll be on hand to guide and talk about the different species.

I would always advise arriving at Blackpool SEALIFE early as it does tend to get busy, especially in bad weather. We were there just after it opened at 10am and walked straight in without needing to queue. We love it when it is quiet as you can take your time looking at everything and spend more time looking in the rock pool without feeling rushed. The rock pool has recently been re-furbished and as before you are encouraged to put your hands in the water to touch everything in the water. This is one of my favourite parts as I love looking at the starfish and seeing the crabs scuttle across the bottom of the pool.

As you walk round there is plenty of information about the areas you are in and screens with facts about the creatures you are looking at.

It is quite dark in places and because of this the lighting effects work really well, one little boy was just as interested in the dancing light octopus as he was the real creatures!

Luke's favourite section of SEALIFE is the Stingray Adventure, he loves watching the stingrays swim around the tank and the viewing ports are great for getting a closer view.

The amazing ocean walk-through tunnel gives you the chance to see life under the sea. SEA LIFE Blackpool have bred and raised sharks for 25 years and you can see Black Tip Sharks, White Tip Sharks, Stingrays, Bowmouth Guitar Sharks, Shovel Nose Sharks, Nurse Sharks through the large viewing window and watch them swim over you when you walk through the tunnel.

We had a great time at SEA LIFE Blackpool and I am sure we will be visiting again soon. If you are looking for something to do in the school holidays then it is well worth a visit. 

Disclaimer - We received free entry into SEA LIFE Blackpool for the purpose of this review.