Monday 29 May 2017

Arckit Review

Back on the 10th May I posted about ARCKIT's Kickstarter Campaign which you can read about here. Luke loves LEGO and building things so was thrilled when I told him that ARCKIT were going to send one of their building kits for us to review.  

ARCKIT is a freeform architectural modelling system that allows you to physically explore designs and bring your ideas to life with speed and precision. Based on modern building techniques and a 1.2m/4ft grid to scale, the ‘click and connect’ modular components make it possible to create a vast range of structures that can be quickly assembled, endlessly modified and finished to perfection.

ARCKIT is designed for children aged 12 and up, so at 11 Luke was just under the recommended age and once he had worked out what to do he didn't seem to have any problems building the house. 

We received the ARCKIT GO PLUS kit which contained 175+ pieces, 5 pre-printed A5 sheets and an instruction sheet. As we had never built with ARCKIT before Luke used the instructions to make the model pictured on the box. 

The instructions were shown as pictures however Luke did think that the steps could have been explained a little better. Some of the pieces were very similar and it was difficult to know if you had selected the right piece. He ended up taking his model apart a few times before he completed it. He said that the pieces were easy to connect together and he enjoyed building the house once he got the hang of it.

We think it is a great building toy and it has kept him busy over the weekend, he has already asked for another kit so he can build more models!

We thought this is a great set for keen builders and budding architects It's educational and there's even a STEM education programme using ARCKIT for schools.

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

Rugby BBQ

On Saturday we helped my brother with his rugby club bbq. There was a bouncy castle, slide and sumo suits for the children to play with and pitches were marked out for rounders and cricket.

William and Luke both had a go with the sumo suits although Luke wasn't much of a match for William. Whilst Charlie fitted in the suit, once he fell over he couldn't stand up again and had to be helped up but he still enjoyed it!

The children had lots of fun and when they were hungry there was plenty of food for them. We catered for about 100 people and had two huge gas burners with giant frying pans to cook on. They worked really well and with four of us cooking we quickly got organised and made sure all the food was ready at the same time.

Everyone had a great time and it was the perfect way to end the rugby season.

Comedy for Kids - Preston Guild Hall

Yesterday afternoon we had a review to do for What's Good To Do. I like doing reviews of family shows as it makes a nice change taking the boys out to a review and they always enjoy the shows. William was busy revising so we borrowed Charlie and drove to Preston Guild Hall to see Comedy for Kids. 

Hosted by local comedian Phil Walker, the show was around two hours long, including a short interval and starred El Baldiniho and Howard Read. We both enjoy comedy shows but this was the first time Luke and Charlie had experienced a comedy show. They both enjoyed the Christmas pantomime that Phil wrote and starred in so we thought this would be a good way to introduce them to comedy and a nice way to spend a bank holiday afternoon.  

Phil welcomed the audience and got everyone warmed up with a quick game of Simon Says and a rendition of Cry Me a River that the children loved especially as it involved spraying half the audience with water! Luckily we were far enough back not to get wet although I suspect Luke and Charlie would have liked it if we had!! Phil was very entertaining and I could have watched him all afternoon, he was great with the children and made everyone feel very welcome.

The first act of the show was EL Baldino a “larger than life” magician. The boys thought his opening trick, pulling a great length of ribbon from his mouth was really impressive. Some of his jokes went straight over the children’s heads which may have been intentional but helped keep the adults interested. Moving quickly through his tricks he encouraged audience participation bringing one excited boy onto the stage to assist. We thought this was one of the funniest parts of his act and had our boys in fits of laughter too. 

Prior to the interval Phil invited the children to come to the stage and write their favourite jokes on a piece of paper. Almost every child in the theatre ( apart from ours who were both too shy) rushed down to share their joke and then after the interval four jokes were drawn and the children invited up onto the stage. Phil had a great rapport with the children and really pitched his act at their level. The children were so excited being on the stage and I am sure they will remember the experience for many years to come.

Howard Read then took to the stage and started with a game of “real” Guess Who. During the interval he had chosen a couple of members of the audience at random and drawn cartoon versions of them. We all had to stand up and the children narrowed down the options by asking questions - “does he wear glasses?” “Does he have brown hair?” etc. This was really fun and encouraged everybody to take part in the show. I really liked this game and it would be a great game for Cubs and Scouts to play. 

Howard continued with more madness including plenty of the obligatory fart jokes which had the boys and the rest of the children giggling loudly. The children enjoyed every minute of his act and decided he was their favourite.

This was a great show and both our boys really enjoyed it.  It was a great introduction to comedy and we all had a really good time. Phil has created a great show that will appeal to both children and adults and with more shows planned for the summer holidays it is a great way to keep the children entertained.

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

Saturday 27 May 2017

Working in the garden

Over the last few weeks we have been busy tidying the garden, Mark has created an area for storing the wheelbarrows, wood, empty pots and any bits and pieces that we want to keep but haven't quite got a home for!!

He has built a store for wood with a cover to keep it dry. There is a new fence to separate it from the rest of the garden and I put some plants in it a few weeks ago. It didn't take long for weeds to appear so I spent last Sunday weeding!

We have a bed that is full of lupins which are just starting to flower now, we have lost a few plants over the winter so I need to buy a couple of new plants to replace them.

We have decided to create a new patio area next to the raised beds so I have been tackling the weeds today. I managed to clear a lot of them before it started raining so I will finish it tomorrow. 

Mark replaced the rotten trellis with some new fence panels and ran some wires for the honeysuckle to climb up. Hopefully by the end of the weekend we will have cleared everything and will be ready to start looking a flags for the new patio area.

Evening walk

We are planning to climb up Snowdon later this year so have been getting some practice in on the local fells. 

It was a lovely evening and the fells were deserted, the boys decided that it would be fun to both climb up on the trig point, they managed it with a little help from Mark.

Making silage

We have had lovely weather for the last couple of days and it has been perfect for siloing. They cut the grass on Thursday and managed to collect it all by lunchtime today. Luke sat on the stile at the corner of the field to watch them and picked up the grass they had missed, putting it on a different pile so it would be collected. My Grandad would have been proud of him as that's what he used to do!

Friday 26 May 2017

Bake Off

Luke's school had a cake sale and baking competition at school this week.

William helped Luke bake a chocolate cake and then Luke decorated it with some green and white cake decorations. It looked really good and I asked Luke to bring a piece home but unfortunately it all sold so I didn't get to try a piece! Luke said it was nice as he managed to keep a piece for himself!

Thursday 18 May 2017

Aldi Cycling Gear Special Buys

This week, on Sunday 21st May Aldi, are launching their latest cycling range. We always look out for their cycling clothes as they are great quality and a fraction of the price of gear from specialist cycling brands. We still wear the jackets and leggings that I bought a couple of years ago and the boys have a couple of tops as well. Considering the number of times they have been worn and washed they are still looking good with plenty more miles of cycling in them. 

The new women's range looks great, I love the berry stripe on the shorts and it goes well with the black. The big advantage of the colour is that no one will "borrow" my cycling gear as it's too girly for William and Mark!! I especially like the bib shorts, I wear my bib tights a lot but they are a bit warm for summer so I will be going to Aldi on Sunday to buy these.

I received the Crane ladies printed cycling shorts and the ladies all weather cycling jacket to try out. The printed 4-way stretch cycling shorts have an elasticated waistband with a drawstring and are very comfortable to wear. The all important Dolomiti seat pad has a perforated gel insert to help absorb the vibration of the road and the shorts are suitable for 4-5 hours' riding which is ample for me. They have reflective details on the leg which I like as we do go out at night on our bikes so these help ensure we are visible to other road users. The shorts are available in M (size 12-14 ) and L (size 16-18) and cost £7.99.

The jacket is available in S,M and L and is perfect for this time of year when you need an extra layer for cool mornings or a lightweight breathable waterproof "just in case". It comes with a handy pouch that you can stuff it into once you are warm which easily fitted into my bike bag. A lightweight 2.5-layer cycling jacket it is windproof, waterproof and breathable and has taped seams and a reflective print. There is a zipped pocket on the back, it isn't huge but will easily fit a phone or snack in it. The elongated back means you don't get that annoying gap between top and bottoms which being tall tends to happen to me a lot. I have worn the jacket on a couple of short rides this week and it is really comfortable to wear, I haven't been able to test it out in the rain yet but I am sure I won't have long to wait! I am confident that it will be fine as my other Aldi jacket is great in the rain so I have no reason to think this will be any different. It costs £19.99 which I think is very reasonable for a jacket.

As well as these clothes there are some other great offers this week that cyclists should be checking out. 

Softshell Cycling Jacket (£16.99) available in black or red for men and or berry for women

Cycling Jersey (£7.99) comes in blue and red colour varieties with a reflective detail.

Aldi’s Child and Adult Helmets (£9.99)

Rechargeable Bike Light Set (£9.99) with built in 5x 0.5W super bright white and red  SMD LEDS

Premium Floor Pump (£14.99) 11 bar gauge (160psl), twisted lock and a choice of carpet or rubber options

Disclaimer - I received the jacket and shorts for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

The Wedding Singer - Manchester Opera House

On Monday evening we attended the opening night of The Wedding Singer At Manchester Opera House to review the show for What's Good To Do 

Based on the 1998 film of the same name the musical is about Robbie Hart, a wedding singer, whose heart is broken after being jilted at the altar by his fiance Linda. He befriends waitress Julia who asks him to sing at her upcoming wedding. As Robbie spends more time with Julia, he begins to fall in love and must somehow win her heart.

Set in 1985 the show uses just about every 80’s cliche you can think of from the huge mobile phones, jump suits complete with shoulder pads and Glen as the shiny suited, womanising Wall Street trader. Particularly effective in setting the scene was the use of 80’s film trailers before the show started which got the audience in the mood for the nostalgia ahead. 

I haven't seen the original film but I am told it is full of chart hits from the 80’s. Unfortunately the musical version doesn't have these popular songs but does have original songs brilliantly written by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. Whilst these were great and fitted the story perfectly, it did mean that the show lacked that “sing along” dimension that audiences love. I really enjoyed the song “Single” in the second act, not only were the lyrics funny but the visual comedy of the men all standing at the bar was hilarious.

X Factor star Cassie Compton played waitress Julia Sullivan with Jon Robyns playing the title role of Robbie, the wedding singer. Cassie’s beautiful voice filled the theatre giving, for me, the performance of the night.Tara Verloop’s performance as Julia’s best friend Holly came a close second. We also enjoyed Ray Quinn’s portrayal of Glen Gulia, a stereotypical 80’s yuppie bringing a slightly darker edge to the story. The rest of the large cast were also very talented with Hi- Di-Hi star Ruth Madoc especially well received by the audience.

A musical about a wedding singer was bound to include lots of wedding parties and this gave director and choreographer Nick Winston the chance to make the most of the talented cast. We really enjoyed the high energy, sometimes raunchy, dance numbers, the whole cast were fantastic and seemed to be really enjoying themselves on stage.

We drove to the Opera House, which is easy to find on the western edge of Manchester city centre. Like many others we parked at the nearby modern Spinningfields multi-story carpark which costs £7.50 if you arrive after 6pm. 

Full of dance, music and comedy it is a brilliant night out and is showing at Manchester until the 20th May with the national tour until October.

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

Sunday 14 May 2017

Evening Walk

Mark and Luke have been away this weekend on a Scout expedition so after William had finished his revision we went for a walk up Parliick and Fairsnape. It was a lovely evening and we only saw three other people whilst we were there which was quite surprising as when I went up Parlick with Luke and Mark on Wednesday evening there were lots of people around, William said everyone must have been watching the Eurovision song competition! We had a good natter and put the world to rights whilst we were walking, it was nice to spend some time with William on his own and have time to chat.

Friday 12 May 2017

Turning Tears Into Smiles with Elastoplast

I have always been a firm believer that children should spend a lot of time outdoors, growing up on a farm we were always outdoors, helping Mum and Dad or playing on the farm. As a Cub Scout leader I have always encouraged the Cubs to do lots of outdoor activities and when boys and girls are playing outsides there are always a couple of cuts and grazed knees to deal with. With my own children a kiss from me or their Dad was generally enough to calm them down and Luke would always insist on a plaster because he didn't like the sight of blood. I soon learnt that it was very useful to keep a few plasters in my bag as he would cry until his cut was covered. It's perhaps a good job these Elastoplast Star Wars plasters weren't available when he was younger or he would have found even more reasons to need a plaster!

With the Cubs I find one of the best ways to turn tears into smiles is distraction, telling off the stone that tripped them up or the branch that scratched can generally raise a smile, even from a very upset child. 

I don't generally give the Cubs sweets however when we are outdoors on a walk or on camp it is always useful to have some sweets just in case someone falls as it can help distract them from the injury and they are soon off playing again.

These Star Wars and Frozen plasters are great and are bound to cheer up an injured child, they will be perfect to keep in my first aid box ready for any minor cuts and scrapes.

Elastoplast has been around since 1924 and is sold in six countries across the world: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Since its founding, Elastoplast products have been renowned internationally for their quality. 

More than 200 tried and tested products and innovations are sold around the world under the brand names Hansaplast, Elastoplast and Curitas. Apart from plasters and wound dressings, their product range includes well-tried as well as original products that offer relief from foot problems, sport injuries, pains and strains.

This post is an entry for the BritMums #TearsintoSmiles Challenge, sponsored by Elastoplast. I received the plasters for the purpose of this blog post.

Harlech Beach

When we were in Wales last weekend we went to the beach at Harlech,  it was a bit breezy so it wasn't busy and we had a lovely walk collecting shells and playing in the sand.

The Ffestiniog Railway

Last weekend we had a lovely weekend in Wales, breaking from tradition we stayed in Porthmadog rather than Harlech which made a nice change. Whenever we go to Wales we take a trip on the Ffestiniog Railway and usually start from Ffestiniog but as we were staying in Porthmadog it made more sense to walk to the station and do our trip in reverse!

The Ffestiniog Railway is the world's oldest narrow gauge railway with almost 200 years of history. The trip is 13½-mile long starting from the harbour in Porthmadog to the slate-quarrying town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. 

We first took the boys on the train when Luke was about 2 and we have been almost every year since. I did wonder whether the boys would be fed up of doing the same journey but they both agreed it was now a family tradition and they love going on the train.

Usually we sit in one of the open carriages so we can enjoy the scenery however there were no open carriages on the train. We asked one of the staff who said they only use the open carriages in the summer when the weather is better so we had to make do with a normal carriage. 

Another part of our tradition is that we buy a sandwich from Jessie's sandwich shop and then eat it in the park before catching the train back to Ffestiniog. Originally we thought we would buy them on the way to the station and then eat them in Ffestionog but when we looked at the timetable there was either a 15 minutes stop there or a couple of hours. We decided to take the earlier train which brought us back to Porthmadog at 12.45 so we bought the sandwiches on the way back which was much easier and meant we didn't need to take a box to put them in on the journey.

We had a lovely time and will be back again next year!