27 Jul 2017

The Tiger Who Came to Tea at The Lowry

Does anyone else think it is feeling more like the Indian monsoon than a British summer? As if the incessant downpour wasn’t a dampener enough, there are these mystery viruses doing the rounds and making life miserable. I have no wish to be hunkered down in bed during the summer holidays, but going by the sore throat I woke up to this morning, that seems to be a distinct possibility.

Viruses and rain notwithstanding, J and I headed to the local library to register him for this year’s reading challenge. This is his fourth year doing it, and I am so proud of how far he has come with his reading (more on that later).

We next went to The Lowry for what was undoubtedly the highlight of our day. It was warm, but J had insisted on wearing his tiger onesie for one reason alone. We were going to watch The Tiger Who Came To Tea and he wanted to look and feel the part.

26 Jul 2017

Refract:17 and Anyday at The Waterside Arts

Should I be surprised that the first day of our summer holidays was nearly a complete washout? All plans for the morning were put on hold as rain took over our lives. So J and I spent the day baking a batch of banana and walnut muffins, improvising on the recipe as we went along since we only had one ripe banana.

Refract:17 and Anyday at The Waterside Arts

The skies brightened by mid-afternoon and after a quick meal of creamy vegetable pasta that M rustled up in under 15 minutes, we headed out to the Waterside Arts to watch a performance of Anyday.

Anyday is Max Calaf Seve’s one-man trampolining act that is part of Refract:17, a festival of experiential performances, music and events that are being showcased at the Waterside till the end of this month. It is about seeing things differently, being challenged and inspired.

“There is no gravity on that stage,” my six year old exclaimed in incredulous delight as we watched Max perform one stunt after another. Quickly followed by, “I wish I could do that,” in response to Max’s ingenious use of props and mid-air somersaults on the trampoline.

Grill in the Park at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

M and I hardly ever go on dinner dates. We have managed the occasional child-free lunch date when J was at school and M had the day off. But evenings out without a child in tow are a rare occurrence since becoming parents. I am not complaining, for I really do enjoy being accompanied by my son when out and about. I also have nothing against date nights at home. To be entirely honest, it is a lot less effort to curl up on the living room sofa with wine and cake in my pyjamas than sorting a night out.

Grill in the Park at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

But every once in a while, it just feels nice to put on something pretty and step out with my husband. So I did, and we headed to the Grill in the Park at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club to sample their new menu.

24 Jul 2017

Manchester City Bike Ride : The How and Why

Leading by example to motivate your child to bigger and better things is what parenthood is all about.

The Challenge

When his parents took on a cycling challenge in the new year and went on to complete it, six year old J was keen to follow suit. He wanted a cycling challenge of his own.

J has been on his Islabike for a year and a half now, growing ever more confident with his cycling. We have been out cycling as a family a couple of times, mostly on holiday, but had never done a competitive bike ride before.

Why We Chose The City Ride

Not that the HSBC UK Manchester City Ride is competitive. Far from it. It is touted as a family-friendly bike ride around the city, with roads closed to traffic along the route. It is open to people of all ages and abilities and you can choose to cycle on any type of bike. You can even hire a bike for the day if you don’t have one of your own.

20 Jul 2017

How the Internet Revolutionised Blogging

Can you imagine life without the Internet? Where would we be without it? I wouldn't be writing this blog nor would you be reading it if it were not for the Internet. 

As a blogger, Internet forms an integral part of my working life. The entire idea of an online journal stems from the premise that I have unfettered access to the World Wide Web, and I can call one tiny iota of it my own.

How the Internet Revolutionised Blogging

17 Jul 2017

10 Things You Need on a Road Trip with Kids

We recently went on a road trip from the north west of England up into the Scottish Highlands. We have successfully travelled long haul with our child, and we have been on a train with him on more than one occasion. This was our first time driving long distances as a family. 

A six hour journey along beautiful northern roads, where cruise control is of no use and you need your wits about you to handle the road, teaches you a lot about preparing for road trips with children.

Here is what I have learned about going on a road trip with kids.

10 Things You Need on a Road Trip with Kids

12 Jul 2017

This Girl Can!

It was early in the New Year when I signed up to do a charity bike ride along with a group of friends. 5 months of training culminated in the big ride this Sunday. I haven’t blogged about my progress in training, but there are snippets of my journey on my Instagram feed. Do pop over for a look.

Starting from Manchester, cycling 100 kilometres (60ish miles) to Blackpool and raising money in support of The Christie Charitable Trust was nothing if not challenging. I am pleased to say I did it!

As always, intense emotion makes me spout poetry. So here is a poetic take on what was undoubtedly my biggest physical challenge to date.

7 Jul 2017

Fantastic Mr Fox Live at The Lowry

An a capella quartet of birds is not how I imagined the opening of Fantastic Mr Fox. Having read Roald Dahl’s book and watched George Clooney preen as Mr Fox on screen, I wasn’t really sure of how this live stage version was going to unfold.  It was a delight to witness this rock/ jazz musical take on Dahl’s fascinating story of a fox and his struggle for survival against hostile humans.

Fantastic Mr Fox Live at The Lowry

3 Jul 2017

Digital Kids Show -10% off Tickets!

The Digital Kids Show is a unique family day out of techtastic family fun including everything from live shows with YouTubers to the latest family games and internet safety workshops and it is coming back to Event City in Manchester on the 18th and 19th of November this year. It will be my first visit to the show and I am so looking forward to it.

It promises to be a great day out for all the family. A dedicated family gaming zone will provide gaming fun for the whole family, including a Gamer Bus, Minecraft Hub and family friendly gaming, Augmented Reality and VR.

28 Jun 2017

Air Hogs Foot Powered Jet Rocket Review


Now there's a reaction every parent aspires to get from their child when they are presented with a new toy.

And that is precisely the reaction we got from our 6 year old after he had launched the Air Hogs Foot Powered Jet Rocket.

Air Hogs Foot Powered Jet Rocket Review

This toy from Spinmaster wins on so many fronts.

26 Jun 2017

Despicable Me 3, 100 Piece Puzzle Review

My son adores the Minions and Despicable Me. So much, that his fourth birthday was Minion – themed, complete with a Minion cake, candles and decorations.

To be honest, M and I enjoy the cute little blue and yellow characters ourselves and have watched the first two offerings of Despicable Me a good few times. We now eagerly await the release of Despicable Me 3. It won’t be long before we queue up to watch Gru and his gang take on another super-villain.

Who else loves The Minions?

We have watched the trailer of the new film. I don’t wish to spoil any surprises, but be prepared to meet Dru – allegedly Gru’s twin brother, only he has a head full of hair.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          These two, along with a pair of Minions, are the characters that make up Ravensburger’s new XXL 100 piece jigsaw puzzle. It retails at £7.99 and is suitable for ages 6 and above.

25 Jun 2017

Tonka Tinys Car Crush Escape Review

We had heard lots about Tonka’s (you would, seen as they have been around a really long time and are celebrating their 70th anniversary this year), but this was our first time playing with Tonka Tinys.

                  Tonka Tinys Car Crush Escape Review

For those of you new to the world of Tonka, they are a range of vehicular toys that are now available in miniature as Tonka Tinys. They are available either as three packs or individually as interlocking surprise blind box garages, each housing one of 20 miniature vehicles.

Also new to the range are a pair of Tonka Tinys playsets available to buy now from Amazon.

18 Jun 2017

It's Not Cricket!

There is no disgrace in defeat, but in the manner of succumbing to it. 

                 It's Not Cricket!

You can't win them all, but when you fold in and give up without a fight, it's simply called 'taking the p***'.
That's exactly what the Indian cricket team seemed to do today in the final match of the ICC Champions Trophy. 

The stage was neatly set
For an enthralling game of cricket 
The sun shining in a cloudless sky
On what seemed the perfect wicket.

16 Jun 2017

Fabulous Family Fun at The Lowry this July

There’s always something amazing going on at The Lowry, and this July is no exception. There is an incredible line-up of family shows, with something for everyone no matter what your age or interest.

Here is a sneak peek at all the family-friendly shows on at The Lowry in July. 

The unmissable brand new production of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox (Wed 5 July - Sun 9 July), the classic tale of The Railway Children (Tue 25 - Sun 30 July), The Tiger Who Came To Tea (Thu 27 - Sun 30 July) and winner of the 2017 Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family The Red Shoes (Tue 11 - Sat 15 July).

The venue also hosts it first ever dementia friendly performance in the form of The Mikado on Weds 26 July at 2pm.

Although not yet confirmed, adaptions to The Mikado for the dementia friendly performance can include things like looking at the pacing of the story, if there are quick plot developments they may look to slow things down and make more obvious references to changes in the story. There may also be a lot of repetition so that theatregoers are able to follow along with the story.

As a theatre The Lowry can make adaptions like keeping the lights up in the auditorium so that theatregoers are not in complete darkness; having an open door policy so that theatregoers can see all exits and are free to leave when they need to; having extra trained staff on hand to help out with individual’s needs.

In the galleries, Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 (Sat 10 June - Sun 24 Sept) and the permanent display of LS Lowry: The Art & The Artist continues daily.

Why not head over to The Lowry website and book tickets to your favourite performances now?

Images courtesy The Lowry

13 Jun 2017

5 Things to do in Glencoe When You Are 5

Our first ever road trip with J and we decided to head north of the border into the Scottish Highlands. The village of Glencoe on the southern shores of Loch Leven was to be our base as we rambled, explored and looked for adventure. The weather was predictable in that rain alternated with sunshine in an unpredictable pattern. But we were prepared; we were geared up to make the most of our half-term break no matter what the weather. Glencoe was just as stunning as I remembered it from seven years ago. The only difference this time was that I was seeing things through the eyes of my five year old son.  

5 Things to do in Glencoe When You Are 5

Here are our top 5 things to do in Glencoe when you are five:

31 May 2017

Ready Brek - a Smooth, Nutritious Start to Your Day (Giveaway)

I have always been a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A good, substantial breakfast sets you up nicely for the rest of the day. This holds true for any normal day, but the real significance of a hearty breakfast becomes glaringly obvious when you set off on a challenging ramble or a bike ride.

Ready Brek - a Smooth, Nutritious Start to Your Day

Needless to say, a routine breakfast in our home includes porridge. Oats are an excellent source of slow-release carbohydrates, releasing energy gradually and keeping you fuller for longer.

30 May 2017

5 Good Reasons to Visit London with Your Little Ones

We continue the theme of touring London with families on the blog. Today, I have a guest post by Max.

Born in England, Max is a freelance writer who enjoys writing articles for blogs and news websites. Passionate about cinema, music, arts, politics, and french food, Max is an avid family man. Here is Max’s take on visiting London with little ones.

5 Good Reasons to Visit London with Your Little Ones

21 May 2017

The Case of The Vanishing Mane

When I first met M all those years ago, he had a head full of thick hair that he preferred to wear long. Not quite the mullet, but an all-over long style. I prefer neatly trimmed short hair on a man, so duly gave him grief over it.

The Case of The Vanishing Mane

Things change, styles transform. And so it happened that by the time we got married, M was wearing his hair beautifully clipped. It was still quite thick, but neat and short. This new hair length had nothing to do with me, I hasten to add, for M is not one to give in easily to any amount of nagging. It was short of his own free will and perhaps a need to conform to the accepted norms at work.

As luck would have it, his hair started thinning quickly in the very first year of wedded bliss.

16 May 2017

Can Introverts Make Successful Bloggers?

When I started blogging, it was more as a creative outlet for my thoughts. Blogging gave me something to do to preserve my sanity and sense of self after I had made the decision to be a stay-at-home mother to my baby son.  

Can Introverts Make Successful Bloggers?

It was also something akin to the culmination of a life-long dream of becoming a writer. Writer, blogger, it was two threes and sixes as far as I was concerned.

I could not have been more mistaken. 

15 May 2017

Family-Friendly Things To Do in London

We love London! And not just because it inspired my award-winning blog-post, Summer Dreams.

London is one of the most popular destinations in the world with millions of families visiting each year. With a plethora of family friendly spots and attractions on offer to suit every age and every budget (check my post on visiting London on a budget), it is easy to see why. 

Family-Friendly Things To Do in London

With the summer holidays fast approaching and kids left without any lessons to attend for six weeks, it is the time of year when families plan days out and breaks. 

Here are some great reasons why London should feature in your holiday plans - a list of popular family friendly things to do in London.

13 May 2017

An End

This is it. My last plea for help. I can face it no longer. The demons in my head. The tears that stream down my face. Relentless, like the rain that thuds on the window panes.

An End - a short story inspired by the sea

I cannot go on like this for long, torn between a sense of duty and fear. An ache in my belly at the very thought of facing another day. A day that holds no promise and brings little solace.

10 May 2017

How to Relieve Stress the Natural Way

Feeling stressed out? Who isn’t! Stop before you wolf down a whole pizza or reach for that bottle of wine. Many healthier alternatives exist that may help you cope effectively with stress.

Keep in mind that everyone is different, but one of the best and most reliable ways to stamp out stress is by engaging one or more of your senses - sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. As every person is unique, you will need to find out what works for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

How to Relieve Stress the Natural Way

9 May 2017

Things You Will Need on a Family Ramble

It doesn’t matter if you are a novice at rambling or an expert, whether you are planning a short trek or a long walk, there are certain essentials that should always be a part of your rambling gear. This is especially important if you are rambling as a family with children, though the same rules apply to any walking expedition.

I talk from the experience of past mistakes. There were times when M and I strayed from the beaten path, without a compass or a map and lost our bearings. We wandered for hours, climbing up rocks and sliding down muddy banks, before finally finding our way back home. This was before the era of smart phones and advanced GPS technology (I know, we are ancient relics, almost).

Things You Will Need on a Family Ramble

We are older now, and dare I say, wiser. So here is a list of things that you will need on any family ramble. I recommend never leaving base without all of these.

2 May 2017

5 Family Walks in The Lake District

For parenting reasons that deny all logical explanation, both M and I led extremely sheltered lives as children. We were brought up in families where outdoor pursuits were actively discouraged in favour of academic excellence.

Unbeknown to us, both of us harboured a sense of adventure deep within our geeky bosoms. This innate, dormant personality trait manifested in the form of a love of rambling at the first available opportunity.
Thus began our love affair with The Lake District (Lakeland, The Lakes). Nestled in the north-west and often referred to as the most beautiful corner of England, The Lakes have served as a back-drop for many a memorable family ramble.

5 Family Walks in The Lake District

For despite our sometimes differing parenting styles, we concur on one important point.  As parents, we need to lead by example when it comes to leading a well-balanced life.

26 Apr 2017

What Do You Really Want?

I want to cry! I really do. I am forty odd years old and I have yet to find my calling in life. I don’t know what I want, what I need, where I have to go or what I wish to be.

What Do You Really Want?

There are days when I want to go back to being a scientist. Some days, I want to make it as an author or change tack and be a medical writer. Then there are days when I have visions of owning my own business. I am so inconsistent with my goals, my dreams, my passion, that I have no idea where to begin, what to do to, or where to go with any of this.

21 Apr 2017

Are You an Irregularly Regular Blogger?

Apologies to those of you who expect me to write and wait in anticipation for my next post.

I haven’t been very regular with my blog. I could easily cite lack of time as a legitimate excuse. It would be a very good excuse, especially since I have taken up cycling as a serious pastime.

Are You an Irregularly Regular Blogger?

But there is more to it than that. 

17 Apr 2017

Brand New Kazoops Airs on CBeebies

My 6 year old and I watched the brand new episode of Kazoops together, and J very succinctly summed it up with, “Kazoops is fun to watch because it helps your imagination get bigger.”

14 Apr 2017

5 Golf Myths Busted!

Golf is not something I naturally think of when it comes to pursuing a sport. I succumb to the cliché that golf is but a hobby.

Online Golf is a website dedicated to all things golf. They have taken it upon themselves to introduce this often overlooked sport to youngsters.

Now the only golf I have ever played is crazy golf. But I am not averse to giving something new a try. With a bit of encouragement, neither is my son. He plays cricket and has tried hockey, so why not golf? We decided to support this venture and agreed to be part of an indoor golfing event. 

5 Golf Myths Busted!

The pros were on hand to help us as we made our way around the 6-hole indoor golf course and tried to harness our latent golfing talent. The aim was to introduce families to golf and basic golfing techniques, and bust some golf myths along the way.

11 Apr 2017

Six Things To Do in Tenerife When You Are Six

Tenerife has been on our list of places to visit ever since a friend went on holiday there a couple of years ago. Not content with taking her word for it, we have been doing our own research into why Tenerife is perfect for a family holiday. And what could be better than to base our expeditions out of a beautiful private villa in Tenerife.

Learning need never be boring. Family travel is a great opportunity to widen horizons and broaden understanding, age notwithstanding. So our top six things to do when you are six feature a mix of entertaining and educational attractions. A balance of natural wonders, architectural gems and fun days out that aim to capture the essence of Tenerife.

Six Things To Do in Tenerife When You Are Six

Here are our top six things to do in Tenerife when you are six.

3 Apr 2017

Lego Ninjago at Legoland Discovery Centre, Manchester

Isn’t it amazing how clued up children are when it comes to contemporary play characters? I had no idea what Ninjago was, but my nearly 6 year old son had this twinkle in his eye at the mere mention of the possibility of a family day out involving Lego Ninjago. I have obviously underestimated the role of peers in my child’s quest for knowledge!

So it was that J gave us a discourse on all things Lego Ninjago as we headed to the Legoland Discovery Centre to be part of the launch of their new Lego Ninjago City Adventure play area.

Lego Ninjago at Legoland Discovery Centre, Manchester

21 Mar 2017

Fun Science with Gazillion Giant Bubble Mill

My son, like most kids his age, adores bubbles. There is something entirely too fascinating about orbs of glistening liquid, shimmering with rainbow colours, floating up and away in the sky. Or popping as soon as they are formed.

J has spent many a day chasing bubbles in the garden. Or popping them at birthday parties. He has even recommended purchasing bubble makers as presents for his friends!

We had seen giant bubbles being made on our visit to The Science Museum in London, but had never quite managed to recreate them at home.

The promise of enormous bubbles got us incredibly excited when the Funrise Gazillion Giant Bubble Mill arrived home.

17 Mar 2017

In Pursuit Of Perfection

Like beauty, perfection lies in the eye of the beholder. Imperfections become irrelevant when you learn to look beyond them and fall in love with what you see.

In Pursuit Of Perfection
Not all experiments are perfect. The results can be intriguing, nevertheless.

This is an extremely difficult ask for a perfectionist to whom nothing ever seems perfect! When you are forever grappling with the mediocrity that surrounds you.

I am a perfectionist. One locked in a constant struggle to overcome the habit. For I see my pursuit of perfection as nothing short of a vice.

15 Mar 2017

The Snow Maiden at The Lowry

I have never been to the opera. The only time I listen to opera is on TV or on radio. And most of it seems to be in Italian.

So when the invitation came to visit The Lowry to watch a performance of The Snow Maiden, I was both intrigued and petrified in equal measures. Intrigue won and I am glad it did.

13 Mar 2017

Emergency Phone Card for Kids

I was very poorly a couple of weeks back. So unwell that I couldn't even sit up for more than 10 minutes at a time. A good friend of mine was helping with the school runs so I could stay indoors and keep warm. Is when I thought about doing the "emergency drill" with my five-year-old son.

Emergency Phone Card for Kids

I asked J, "Do you remember what to do in case Aai becomes very, very poorly?" I asked if he remembered because we had been over this when my son was three years old. They had practised at his nursery school as well, where they had sessions practising emergency situations and the number to call. But like I said, this was two years ago.

J comes up with, "I need to call an ambulance." Excellent response from my little one.
"And how will you do that, hun?" 
"I need to call 9......"

9 Mar 2017

The Secret Mother

The Secret Mother by Victoria Delderfield is the survival story of a young Chinese girl and her struggles as a mother of twin daughters.

28 Feb 2017

What is In Our Holiday Bag?

This is my entry to become a #MarkWarnerMum. If selected, I will get to collaborate with Mark Warner Holidays as part of their Family Ambassador Programme. Exciting stuff!

I have penned down these verses to illustrate our top ten travel must-haves. Hope it gets you in the mood to creating your own holiday. 

What is In Our Holiday Bag? Our holiday essentials in verse

Here are all the travel essentials that M, five year old J, and I just cannot do without on a family holiday.

26 Feb 2017

Rhino 800ml 'Camouflask' Vacuum Flask Review

I have always wanted a nice vacuum flask to carry on our rambles. That’s right. We love to go rambling as a family. Our favourite destination is The Lake District, where we have spent many holidays making wonderful memories.

Although most of our rambles happen in the summer, we do occasionally wander out in the winter sun. So ideally, I would love a flask that holds both hot and cold drinks, depending on what I fancy on a given day.

Rhino 800ml 'Camouflask' Vacuum Flask Review

Audacious Rhino is the new kid on the block when it comes to vacuum flasks. We were offered and agreed to put the 800ml Rhino Camouflask through its paces. Here’s what I think of it.

23 Feb 2017

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show at The Lowry

It is not often that you get to see a favourite book brought to life on stage.

J and I were both delighted to visit The Lowry to watch The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show at The Lowry

20 Feb 2017

Schleich Wildlife Starter Set Review

J has been learning all about animals at school this last term. When Schleich got in touch about their new Wildlife Starter Set that includes a zebra, elephant, monkey and lion, it was the perfect opportunity to extend his play-based learning.

Schleich Wildlife Starter Set Review

2 Feb 2017

The Australian Open Men's Singles Final 2017 (a review in verse)

"Tennis is a tough sport and we don't have draws but if I could have shared it today with Rafa I would have taken a draw."
– Roger Federer, Australian Open Men’s Singles Champion 2017

The Australian Open Men's Singles Final 2017 (a review in verse)

A clash of the titans
History will be re-written
Perhaps past their prime?
The pundits dare question.

31 Jan 2017

How to Keep Your Heating Costs under Control

Hands up if you like your home nice and toasty through the cold of winter.

I, like many of you, can’t bear to be cold in my own home. 

But I'd rather not waste my hard earned cash on paying  high heating bills. I keep on harping about it, but really, it is not that difficult to save money on your energy bills.
There are a few simple things you could do around your home that can help. 

Here's how you can keep your heating costs under control through the cold season:

How to Keep Your Heating Costs under Control

29 Jan 2017

I've found a New Love

You wait for something to happen all your life and all it takes is one drunken night of bravado to change everything.

I have found a New Love

And so it was with me. I was at a New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s place. The kids were all merry, the grown-ups relaxing over a couple of glasses of this and that. I got chatting to a friend over a glass of G&T (which, btw, was the best ever). The conversation went something like this:

27 Jan 2017

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I was back at The Lowry last night, this time to watch The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The guidance for this show is 11+, so J did not accompany me. Neither did M. I went with a lovely friend instead. It was her first outing to the theatre, so the pressure was on!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at The Lowry

24 Jan 2017

Crochet Hat for Beginners (with free pattern)

When you have an unusually large head circumference like I do, it becomes incredibly difficult to find a nice hat that actually fits. I also like my hat to come down and cover my ears. There is nothing worse than cold ears to give you a runny nose in my experience!

Crochet Hat for Beginners (with free pattern)

So what do you do when you can never find a nice warm hat to fit your specifications? You pull out your crochet needle and make your own beanie hat.

23 Jan 2017

How to Crochet a Ruffle Flower in Minutes

The big Sky Blanket crochet project is done, and I am in no mood to snuff out my re-kindled passion for the craft. I don’t want to take on another marathon project this year. What I intend to do is crochet a wide range of crochet clothes and accessories instead.

Starting with this beautiful uneven ruffle flower. It is super easy to make, but can add that extra dimension to most anything.

How to Crochet a Ruffle Flower in minutes

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