Sunday, 21 December 2014

Ice Skating at Selfridges, Trafford Centre - Review

Yesterday we set out pretty early doors to make our way up to the Trafford Centre.  We had intentionally booked the first skate session of the day on the basis that we really didn't want to have to face the traffic to get up there later in the day!  (If you're not local let me just tell you that you don't want to be going to the Trafford Centre on the last Saturday before Christmas unless you really have to!!) 

Of course, as ever, we hadn't told the children where we were going.  They knew we were going on an adventure and they knew Finley & Erin were coming with us - which made it even more exciting!  Ben was thrilled to be able to go with Finley in his car (which also meant that Dave & I were able to enjoy a rare car journey together too!)  On the way up to the Trafford Centre Ben and Finley were discussing what they thought the adventure might be - apparently suggesting we might be going to Blackpool to go to the beach!! Hmmmm.  Amazingly as soon as we pulled into the car park Ben announced we were going ice skating!  We were all stunned but he said he just remembered from last year and that he recognised the car park!!  

This year the rink is decorated with a green foresty theme, beautiful green toned baubles, logs, furs and fabulous golden paper chains strung from the ceiling.

The proper single blade boots for children start from size 11, and whilst Ben and Finley are both somewhere around a size 10 we decided to try them in proper boots and see how they got on as they'd worn them last year anyway.  The girls were in special skates which fastened over their normal shoes - these were much easier for little ones to walk about in as they had four smaller blades.  

Unsurprisingly nobody's skating skills had dramatically improved since last year so we were very glad of the seal supports! (These are hired in addition to the ticket price)  Chloe knew perfectly well that she couldn't skate and was more than happy to sit on the seal and be whizzed around the ice.  Ben on the other hand was determined to learn to skate - which basically meant he was insistent on standing behind the seal or even trying to get round by himself clinging onto the side!  He did manage a whole lap round clinging on bless him but wasn't able to use the seal support by himself as he just sort of slid his feet backwards and forwards.  The very friendly ice marshals are on hand to give a few tips should you need them too.

Initially we were disappointed to see that this year's food offerings were not Krispy Kremes but was in fact a Creperie however it makes perfect sense that this fits far better with the skating them!  Once we'd treated ourselves to biscuits and cakes we were pleasantly surprised!  The cookies were still warm and the cakes were moist, sweet and sticky.

The 45 minute skate session whizzed by with us taking it in turns to push the kids around - obviously we were considerably more tired than they were by the end of it!  Nobody really fell over, not even Dave who managed a fully independent "skate" around the rink.  There might have been a little racing going on during the more quiet moments on the rink too!  (As proved by the very blurred photo!)

The rink remains open until 4th January and is well worth a visit when you're looking for something different to do once the eating and Christmas films are getting boring!  Check here for the full range of opening times and ticket prices.


*Disclaimer we were invited to skate free of charge for the purpose of this review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Father Christmas at GreenWood Forest Park, Attractions of Snowdonia - Review

Welcome to the third in a series of posts about our festive weekend away in Snowdonia . . . 

Sunday morning arrived grey and miserable - I couldn't have been more glad that the activity Attractions of Snowdonia had planned for the day was to be indoors! 

Wet Sundays and soft play do rather go hand in hand don't they? 

GreenWood Forest Park, based in Snowdonia, has been voted as Best Family Attraction in North Wales and I can see why.  

We were booked to see Father Christmas at 11.30am, there was no queue and having followed the snowy footsteps round the the grotto we were greeted by a friendly elf and welcomed straight in to see the big man himself. 

The grotto was beautifully decorated and Father Christmas himself was lovely with a bit of personality.  He had a good chat with us, complimented Ben and Chloe on their special Christmas jumpers and asked them plenty of questions, we didn't feel at all rushed.  Chloe was much happier this time and was more confident in asking for her Frozen dolls!  As you can see in the picture Amy surprised me by being absolutely terrified! 

Once we had finished our visit to Father Christmas and received our gifts it was time to go and explore the soft play (at £7.50 for a visit to the grotto, a present and time to play in the Enchanted WoodBarn it was great value!) 

Now I don't know about you but my experience of soft play is not all that positive, we go because the kids love it but it's usually in a cold, vast warehouse space, with over-priced, poor quality food and just generally hard work.  Not so at GreenWood Forest Park.  There's nothing cold, cavernous and echoy about this beautiful cosy barn.  They've really thought about the parents here.  Of course the gorgeous comfy sofas next to the log burner were already taken but this was probably just as well as I think I might have just nodded off!  

The atmosphere was relaxed with groups of parents chatting to one another, but not ignoring their children.  The staff were also keeping an eye on what was going on and ensuring safe behaviour - particularly on the large, very fast, slide.  I got chatting to another mum who said she visits GreenWood Forest Park regularly loves it.

The play area was large enough to occupy Ben and Chloe but laid out in such a way as we could see them most of the time (if not hear them!) and the wavy slides were a big hit. 

Amy was in her element in the perfectly proportioned Under 3s area.  She was able to roam, clamber and explore to her heart's content whilst Dave and I enjoyed a hot drink at a nearby table.  She could see where we were and kept coming back to check on us then went off to play again.  It was lovely to see her enjoying a bit of freedom! 

We ordered some lunch from varied & fairly priced menu - rather than opting for meals from the children's menu we decided to order sausage butties for the kids, I had a breakfast butty (bacon, sausage, egg and a hash brown - oh yes!) and Dave ordered a burger with a side of onion rings (which, in his words, were superb!)

We could have easily sat there for a good couple of hours while the children played however the long drive back to Manchester was looming so we set off shortly after lunch.  I asked Ben what he thought of GreenWood Forest Park and he said "It's the best soft play I've EVER been too" and I can't say I disagree with him! 

I'd love to return in the Summer to try out all the outdoor offerings!

*Disclaimer - We were invited to visit GreenWood Forest Park free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions are our own*

Crazy Christmas Traditions!?

*In collaboration with Expedia* 

Christmas is all about traditions isn't it?  Those little things that you do each and every year, in exactly the same way.  Be it the food you eat or the little rituals you follow before bedtime, they're what makes it feel like Christmas. 

We have a special plate we leave out on Christmas Eve
for Father Christmas & the reindeer

When we were kids my Grandma H used to attach a little foil covered mouse from Betty's to our presents - one year she didn't do it as she thought we'd grown out of it . . . Nic and I soon told her how much we'd missed our mouse and she never skipped a year after that.  Right up till Christmas the year before she died when, in her 80s, she had taken herself off into town on her own to buy said mice and added two as she didn't think she would be able to do it again.  It's almost 6 years since she died and I still miss my chocolate mouse on Christmas morning.

This year we're having Christmas in our own home for the first time - and I'm torn between being excited about creating some new traditions and worrying that it won't really feel like Christmas if I haven't done all the things I usually do in York!  I'm definitely going to miss snuggling up in front of the big open fire on Christmas night.

Mum & Dad have THE best fire ever.

Expedia have been researching some of the rather more unusual Christmas traditions from around Europe and have put together a bit of a quiz so you can test yourself! 

Much as I was laughing out loud reading some of the traditions - hiding brooms so witches can't steal them?! - It made me think that some of ours are pretty daft too really like hiding a sixpence in the Christmas pudding to bring a wish to the person who found it (erm choking hazard?!) or more recently the Christmas Elf which seems to have been adopted from America.  I really like the idea of the German tradition of hiding the Christmas pickle in the tree for the children to find - though I'm not sure I could cope with them rooting around in my beautifully decorated tree to look for it!  I think by far the most bizarre though is the pooing Christmas log . . . oh yes you read that right, apparently in Catalonia children "feed" the log fruit, nuts and chocolates and it rewards them with Christmas gifts on Christmas day . . . there are no words for that one! 

What's the most peculiar thing your family does at Christmas?  


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bodnant Garden, Attractions of Snowdonia - Review

This is the second in a series of posts about our Festive weekend away to Snowdonia . . . 

After our trip to visit Father Christmas at Bounce Below we made our way over to the beautiful National Trust property of Bodnant Garden which was about half an hour's drive away through stunning Welsh countryside.

We had been invited by Attractions of Snowdonia to visit Bodnant Garden and take part in the Elf Workshop which is being run by volunteers on weekends through to Christmas.  We booked our time slot as we arrived and then went off to explore!  (The Elf Workshop is free but you must book to secure your appointment.)

Having not had any lunch we decided to get ourselves a bite to eat and a hot drink in the very cute Magnolia Tea Room - with hindsight we might have been better walking back up to the Pavillion Tea Room where I believe we would have had more choice however we bought a selection of the pre-prepared sandwiches at around £4 each.  Unfortunately the sandwiches were a bit fussy for the kids (yes salad in your ham buttie is a bit too high brow when you're 5 & Chloe wasn't amused at all by the pickle with her cheese!)  I can't say we particularly enjoyed our lunch however the lady working the Tea Room was absolutely LOVELY - especially when Amy decided to be sick down me! (She really does pick her moments!)  

Once we'd refuelled we started to make our way down to the Elf Workshop, exploring the gardens along the way.  Bodnant Garden is literally one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, even in the throes of Winter, so I can only imagine how stunning it must be in the Summer! 

Dave and I gasped and ooohed with every corner we turned and took a lot of photos! 

Chloe was especially excited as we were walking down to seek out the elves and kept looking everywhere to find them!  We didn't know exactly where we were going but had been told by some volunteers that we should just keep on going down and look for the smoke.  Eventually we stumbled across the "Old Mill". Ben and Chloe were enthralled with the fast running water and cute little bridge. I was pretty enticed by the warming real fire just outside the Old Mill! 

We had timed our walk down to the Elf Workshop pretty well and were able to go straight in.  The room was beautifully decorated with a very cottagey festive feel.  The sessions were being run by some really lovely volunteers who, despite the fact they must have been absolutely freezing, were cheerfully interatcting with all the children and helping them to create some Christmassy craft - Chloe enjoyed decorating a picture of a Christmas tree and painting an enormous pine cone, while Ben made a Christmas card with a snowman on. Once they had finished their crafting we enjoyed toasting marshmallows on the fire outside - what a treat!

We continued to explore, discovering mammoth trees, an impressive waterfall and any number of paths to wander.

I'm sure you can imagine we had two very tired children as we made our way back up to the Craft Shop and Garden Centre!  Having already seen Father Christmas at Bounce Below in the morning we decided not to take the children to see him again at Bodnant Garden in the afternoon, we did however take advantage of 20% off Christmas decorations to buy ourselves a Father Christmas ornament as a souvenir of our festive weekend away! 

If we were more local to Bodnant Garden I would be investing in a family National Trust Pass pronto, it's definitely high on my list of places to visit again in the future.  

*We were invited to visit Bodnant Garden free of charge for the purposes of writing this post however all thoughts and opinions remain my own*

Tried & Tested Tuesday

Welcome to Tried & Tested Tuesday! It means such a lot to us to have so many lovely people who join us almost every single week and, alongside those, new faces linking up.  One of the things we love most is how many different people with such very different blogs link up, meaning we are introduced to a fabulous variety of different products, days out and anything else that pops up!  We do our best to visit you all each week, but of course we can’t promise to get round everyone especially as the linky gets more and more popular!

 *We are going to be taking a short break from Tried & Tested over the festive season whilst we, and you, enjoy spending time with our families so this week will be the last Tried & Tested of 2014*  

If you’re new to this linky then welcome along! You can find out more about it and how to join in here. If you’re a regular then welcome to you too! Crack on, link up and share some commenty love – lets face it, that’s what makes linkys work. Each week, as you know, we like to feature two of our favourite reviews from the previous week. This week we have loved: #TriedTested featured blogger LUSH hair treatment review from Hayley from Home. It's such a detailed review covering a wide range of gorgeous looking products, and with some ideas for last minute Christmas gifts too!

  #TriedTested featured blogger wrapping paper review from Coombe Mill. We have never seen such amazing, personal paper, and we think it would look amazing under any Christmas tree this year.

If you link up please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment as well as a couple of others if you can – we know that people really, really appreciate the feedback! We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out.  (Additional posts will be deleted out of fairness).

We do our best to visit each post and leave a comment, as well as tweeting from @FamilyFever and @Lollinski but as we’ve mentioned we can’t promise to get round everyone every week. We would love it if you grabbed our badge and popped it on your post too!
We're going on an adventure

Monday, 15 December 2014

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with Fitbit

So it's December - the only time of year when it's acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast, the booze is flowing and general feasting is rife . . . Not really a time most of us choose to think about maintaining a healthy lifestyle I'm sure?  Better save that for January right?  

I've written a few times about the fact I could really do with losing a few pounds.  I want to get back to my wedding weight.  I lost quite a bit of weight before Dave and I got wed (3.5 stone in fact) but I lost my momentum once I didn't have a dress to worry about, I put a few pounds back on, I got pregnant.  I was back to the start.  Well not quite, once I'd given birth I discovered I had in fact lost 0.5lb over the course of my pregnancy but I soon saw to that with many weeks pinned to the sofa by my section recovery, high blood pressure and breast feeding.  

So what do I do to try and be more healthy? 

I don't really drink.  I do like the odd gin & tonic or a cheeky cocktail but for the most part I'm not much of a drinker.  Being drunk doesn't suit me and being hungover suits me even less.  I can't say I actively choose not to drink in order to be healthy, I'm not that virtuous, however its certainly a bonus side effect. 

Like I said - just the odd cheeky cocktail!

I don't smoke.  Aside from the fact that it's expensive, stinks and is generally very bad for you - I'm also really asthmatic so it would be somewhat stupid of me! 

I walk.  I've never been that good when it comes to exercise.  I hated PE at school (and I don't particularly enjoy teaching it either) - I love dancing and that certainly served as my exercise in the early twenties, I was a member of a gym in my mid twenties and loved going, managing to go pretty much daily however it was as much a social event as a work out as I went with my best friend!  (We did work hard too!)  But now.  Now its hard to find the time and money required for gym memberships, dance classes or whatever else I fancy.  My exercise comes solely from walking; pushing the pram and walking Thomas.  A couple of miles a day on school runs or trips to Tesco alone and I really notice the difference when I'm not doing that in the school holidays.  

Fitbit Flex
Fitbit Flex
I often use an app on my phone (Cardio Trainer) to keep a track of how far I've walked when I'm out and about but Legal & General recently sent me  Fitbit to try out.  The Fitbit is worn pretty much 24 hours a day, working like a super fancy pedometer - monitoring your steps, how many calories you've burned and even analysing your sleep patterns (though in fairness I don't really need an gadget to tell me I'm not getting enough sleep!)  The Fitbit syncs with an app on your phone so you can see how you're doing, comparing data from different dates, challenging you and motivating you to do just that bit more.  I've only had it for a few days so at the moment I'm pretty obsessed with checking it and it is definitely making me walk faster to see if I can meet my daily target of 30 "very active" minutes - so far I've not managed more than 14 but I'll keep trying!

What do you do to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?  Will you be making any changes in the new year?

*Disclaimer - I was sent the Fitbit free of charge for the purposes of writing this post however all thoughts and opinions are my own*

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