11 Reasons to visit Cannon Hall Farm this spring

Nothing says spring like a visit to the farm does it?!  We first visited Cannon Hall Farm a couple of years ago with the Butlers and I’ve been dying to go back ever since.  I knew I wanted to go in the spring-time when we had the best chance of seeing lots of baby animals so was it featured fairly highly on our list of adventures for this Easter.

As luck would have it our Easter holidays are a little wonky this year so not a lot of people seem to have been off this first week – I know that schools in York and Sheffield haven’t finished yet which meant that a trip to Cannon Hall Farm in Barnsley was perfectly timed.  I had expected we would benefit from it being a little bit quieter but in all honesty it was far quieter than I could have ever imagined – which meant no queues for the toilet, no struggling to find somewhere to sit at the indoor play and a super view wherever we went, it was an all round win to be honest.  Well aside from being absolutely flipping freezing.  The spring sunshine finally appeared mid-afternoon but it would have been a much nicer day had it been a bit brighter from the off!

We're going on an adventure to Cannon Hall Farm

Eleven Reasons to visit Cannon Hall Farm:

It’s lovely and clean – my friend Hannah doesn’t like Cannon Hall Farm as she think it’s “too clean and sanitised” and not like a real farm.  I totally get where she’s coming from but honestly, when I’m visiting with three kids for the day – the cleanliness is a huge factor for me, it just makes it a much nicer place to be and an easier day out all round!

There’s plenty of space for picnics – there are a number of large picnic tables just outside the farm which we used on this visit and plenty of grassy space to sit on if the tables are full.  But, if you don’t want to picnic . . . there are several options for buying food on site and if you spend £10 on food in the cafe areas then your £3 car parking charge is knocked off.

The ice creams are lovely – it was too flipping cold for ice cream when we visited this time (we plumped for cups of tea and hot chocolate) but I do remember them being delicious last time we visited.

Milking display – for  Amy, who absolutely loves cows, being able to watch them getting milked is a bit special.  The milking display at Cannon Hall Farm is purely for demonstration – just a couple of cows are milked whilst a member of staff talks about the process.

Milking at Cannon Hall Farm

Actual real live lambing – we were lucky enough to see three lambs born on Tuesday, two with intervention from staff and one without any help at all.  This was a pretty special experience and something we’ve talked about quite a bit since.  ( I even managed to capture one birth on film – the video is at the end of the post if you want to see!)

Variety of outdoor play areas for different ages – the only downside to this is when you have three children and one more suited to a different play area than the other two!  Luckily because we had Aunty M and Granny with us we were able to split up a bit.

Play area at Cannon Hall Farm

Indoor play area – This is a relatively new addition to Cannon Hall Farm, it certainly wasn’t there the last time we visited a few years ago.  I loved that it meant we had somewhere to sit down and warm up whilst the kids burned off some energy.  It’s one of those soft play set ups where it can be quite difficult to see your children and I lost mine for a good few minutes but I’m lucky that they are of an age now where I can trust them to come back to wherever I’m sat if they’ve got a problem and they’re really good at keeping an eye on each other for me.

Raised viewing areas – for both watching lambing and milking the raised platforms were an absolute god send.  We were able to get a really clear view of what was going on without having to lift anyone up or get in anyone’s way.

Watching lambing at Cannon Hall Farm

Friendly helpful staff – all the staff we encountered on our trip this week were lovely.  They were all happy to chat to the kids about what they were doing, answering questions and even explaining right in the middle of lambing what was going on with a particular ewe who needed some help with giving birth because her lambs were in an awkward position.  This meant that the kids had a real understanding of what they were watching and were able to tell Daddy all about it later!

Baby animals – we loved being able to see so many baby animals of different ages, from fresh born that day through to months old.  Being able to see the animals being born or feeding with their mummies was a real talking point for us and all three children learned such a lot from seeing things close up

Piglets at Cannon Hall Farm

A family ticket for four cost us £26 this week (but is £30 during peak season) and by the time you’ve added parking, fuel, a picnic and hot drinks onto that it’s not a cheap day out but it was absolutely worth every single penny.  Next time we go back we’re taking Daddy too!

A birthday day out in Whitby

A trip to Whitby has been on my seasonal bucket lists for as long as I’ve been writing them.  Yet, until this weekend, I hadn’t been for five years.

Living in Manchester means that we are far closer to the West coast – to Blackpool, Southport or Lytham St Annes.  All places I love to visit for different reasons but none of which really feel like I’m properly at the seaside.  Each year Mich and I take the kids to Lytham for the day and we have a lovely time playing on the sand but there’s no paddling to be done as the sea is literally miles out.  In fact, it’s often so far out you can hardly see it.

It’s different on the East coast – Whitby, Filey and Scarborough are the seaside towns of my childhood and when I think of a day out at the seaside, these are the places that spring to mind.  I’ve been a couple of times with Ben and Chloe but not so as they would remember – the last trip had been on Mother’s Day five years ago – it coincided with Dave’s Stag Do so Mum & I took ourselves off to Whitby for the day with Ben and Chloe.  But, for one reason or another we just hadn’t been back since.

Mum & kids in Whitby

Granny & Amy in Whitby

Boxer puppy in Whitby

Daddy & Ben in Whitby

I decided that, rather than us all going out for lunch for my birthday as we often do, I fancied a trip to Whitby for a wander and to finally introduce Dave to the infamous Magpie fish and chips.  As luck would have it, the weather was flipping glorious.  To be able to wander by the coast with no coat on was about as good as I could have hoped for!  Of course the downside of the bright blue skies and warm sunshine was that the world and his wife had also descended on Whitby for the day!

The kids were all super excited when they realised we were going to the seaside and had to be reined in a bit that this wasn’t a sandcastles and paddling kind of adventure but they thoroughly enjoyed exploring Whitby with it’s little cobbled streets and swing bridge (which we were lucky enough to see opening).  I think the highlight of the day for the three of them was sitting on the rocks near the lighthouse and watching the waves rolling in.  The rest of the water seemed really calm but in this particular corner they were crashing noisily onto the rocks and the three of them were so excited to spot which ones would make a huge splash and which would come to nothing.  I realised this isn’t something they’d experienced before as their seaside days have been fairly limited.  Something I shall aim to rectify this summer!

Watching the waves crashing onto the rocks in Whitby

Waves splashing in Whitby

Of course no trip to the seaside would be complete without fish & chips and an ice cream would it!  I’ve been raving about Magpie chips to Dave for years and worried that, after making him queue up for ages, that they might actually turn out to be a bit rubbish.  Thankfully that wasn’t the case and in actual fact they were even more delicious than I had remembered – perhaps as a result of the fact we were all starving!  You can’t beat eating your fish (or sausage in my case) and chips out of the wrapper by the sea can you?

Amy and Grandad in Whitby

Girls eating chips from The Magpie Cafe, Whitby

Donkey rides on the beach in Whitby

Chloe's first donkey ride of the year in Whitby

Little girl enjoying a 99 ice cream in Whitby

I won’t be leaving it another five years before we return Whitby I can promise you that!

Chill Factore – The Snow Park

Last weekend we took ourselves off on a bit of an exciting adventure to Chill Factore, our local indoor snow destination!  As Amy and I watched the fun from the warmth of the Mont Blanc Cafe (and tried to take photos for you) I’m handing over to Dave for a full write up of the frosty fun!

Chill Factore - Ready to go play!

We love a good adventure here.  The clue’s in the name really!  So we were thrilled to be invited to The Snow Park at Chill Factore near the Trafford Centre in Manchester.  If you haven’t heard of Chill Factore it boasts the UK’s longest indoor ski slope at 180m of real snow where you can learn to ski or snow board.  Today however we were sliding around in a variety of fashions on the kids’ Snow Park.

Because of the age restrictions on The Snow Park, Amy wasn’t able to take part and we decided that rather than playing in Mini Mooseland on her own, she would stay with Colette whilst I took the big two.  Luckily I was joined by Chris from Team Custard to help.  Chris is no stranger to snowy adventures and he and Ben have a growing bromance so he was the perfect choice.  Aunty Custard (Kirsty) from Team Custard joined Colette in keeping Amy occupied while the big kids (Chris and I are definitely included in that statement) played in the snow.

On offer in The Snow Park are Downhill Donuts, Luge Slip ‘N’ Slide, Sledge ‘O’ Mania and the Snow Luge – it’s worth checking the age restrictions on each of these before you book.

Once you’ve paid for your adventure at Chill Factore you need your cold weather clothing.  Waterproofs are recommended as well as hats and gloves.  Luckily if you haven’t got such gear yourself you can hire waterproofs and buy gloves right there.  (Helmets and snow boots are provided.)  It’s good gear too.  The boots, trousers and coats me and the kids got were all really well fitting and comfy and kept us warm throughout.  Chris had his own gear, as you can see in the pictures, and very colourful it was too!  Very helpful for spotting him across the piste!

You book your time in the Snow Park in hour long blocks, which sounds like a long time but it flew by for us.  It’s worth mentioning that you really need to get to Chill Factore a good while before your session starts to give you time to get changed and prepared – getting those snow boots on can be quite time consuming!  Once you get inside the snow area a guide explains the rules of the Snow Park and what the various rides are and how to use them.  Once that’s done you’re unleashed!  We went straight for the Downhill Donuts first off.  To get to these you have to ride a travelator up the slope to the top before choosing your track back down.  The travelator takes a second to get used to, and getting off at the top was a little tricky for the kids in the beginning but they soon got the hang of it.  At the top of the slope there are two bumpy tracks and one which is a straight, smooth track.  This may sound boring but the operator at the top spins you round at quite a rate.

Chill Factore - Travelator

Chloe chose a bumpy track straight from the off while Ben went for the spinny one.  I thought Chloe might not enjoy the bumpy track as she can be a bit nervous but she loved it and Ben, as predicted, enjoyed everything the Snow Park could throw at him.  Even for big kids like Chris and I the donuts were good fun, and you do feel a bit dizzy once you reach the bottom of the spinny track.

Chill Factore - Little girl on donuts

We tried the Luge Slip ‘N’ Slide next.  To use those you pick up a tray at the bottom of the slope and walk it up to the top.  There are two Luge tracks to choose from.  One is for up-to sixteen year olds and the other is for six years and up.  Chloe stuck to the smaller Luge track and was very happy with it.  Ben used both but in the end I think he preferred the smaller Luge.  Chris and I were both restricted to the larger Luge.  It was very good though.  Plenty of speed with some good turns and a few drops which did a good job of stretching my spine out!  Both Ben and Chloe were smiling when they reached the bottom which is the whole point.

Chill Factore - small boy on Luge

Chill Factore - tall man on Luge

Chill Factore - Man on Luge

Lastly we tried the sledging.  Reluctantly I missed my turn so I could film from the bottom of the slope.  Chris took the two of them up to the top with their sledges (more trudging) and Ben and Chlo had a race.  Ben is very keen to point out that he won however, Chloe did travel further down the slope so I think they were both winners.  Chris and I didn’t attempt the sledging as the sledges were quite small, and I could well imagine myself getting thrown off a sledge which was approximately the same size as my backside!

Chill Factore - sledge race

Chill Factore - Sledging

So with everything tried the kids chose to go on the Donuts a few more times.  Trying out the different tracks over and over.  We all did the Luge again a few times and then there was just enough time for the kids to have one last go on the sledges before our time was up.  It really did fly by but Chloe was quite tired by the end of the session so I think it was probably just long enough!

Once we’d got the snow gear off and met up with Colette, Amy and Kirsty we went next door for Pizza at ‘Pizza del Piste’.  A solid ending to a fun morning out.  Anything that ends with pizza is a win in my book.  We managed to feed and water four adults and three kids for £60 which was fantastic value, especially considering there was pizza leftover to take home!

Ben and Chloe have been skiing once before and they both mentioned that they’d like to do it again while we were eating afterwards.  I think they’re about ready and judging by their Snow Park adventure I imagine they’d take to it very well.

*We were invited to try out the Snow Park and Pizza de la Piste free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

The Very Hungry Caterpillar at The Lowry – Review

The Very Hungry Caterpillar puppet

All too often I whisk the big two off to the theatre leaving Amy at home because it’s too late or too grown up.  Not this time. Tonight it was Amy’s turn for an adventure.  Tonight we went to The Lowry to watch The Very Hungry Caterpillar performed live on stage.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a literary icon.  A story I remember from my own childhood, one I’ve used in the classroom and one Ben could tell by heart at less than three years old.  It was in fact first published in 1969!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar show lasts for about an hour and is suitable for children from around the age of 2, or essentially when they can sit still long enough to watch the performance.  At three, Amy is getting much better at this and an hour seems to be a good length of show for her to manage.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - The Lowry

Of course it would be impossible to stretch out the tale of The Very Hungry Caterpillar itself over a whole hour.  The show is actually made up of four separate Eric Carle stories – The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, Mister Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly and finally, The Very Hungry Caterpillar performed with an array of large colourful puppets.

I must admit to not being overly familiar with the first three stories, I know of them but they’re not books we own and I don’t think Amy will have ever heard the stories before but that didn’t stop her being any the less entranced by the performance on stage.

Each of the tales is told through a mixture of music, dance, puppetry and reciting Eric Carle’s words just as they were written.  The puppets have been made beautifully and are so true to Eric Carle’s original tissue paper collages that they may as well have just leaped from the page.

Although the audience is of course very young, it was clear that they were all really enjoying the show as everyone was sat beautifully watching and listening, there was a lovely hum of chatter as children excitedly talked about the things they saw on stage, Amy included.  She spent much of the show sat on the edge of her seat utterly mesmerised.  (It was as much of a pleasure for me to watch her enjoying it as it was to watch the show itself)

The pièce de résistance of course, and what we’d all really come to see, was the final act.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Now I can pretty recite this story word for word, as I’m sure can most of you, so it was almost difficult not to tell the story along with the performers!  However nobody could resist shouting out the immortal words “But he was still hungry . . . !”

The Very Hungry Caterpillar puppet

As soon as the show had finished, Amy announced, “Oh, but I miss them!” – she wasn’t ready for the show to be over.  She chatted all the way home about the different things she’d seen, retelling bits of the stories and sharing her highlights.  I would say that our #MummyandBo Adventure was a roaring success!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar makes for a wonderful introduction to theatre – especially for being such a familiar story.  The show runs several times a day at The Lowry until Saturday 25th February.

*We were invited to The Lowry to watch The Very Hungry Caterpillar show free of charge for the purpose of review.  All thoughts and opinions remain our own*

SuperBooty at The Epstein Theatre – Review

Over the last couple of years we have become reasonably regular visitors to the refurbished Epstein Theatre in Liverpool – it’s such a lovely theatre to visit with the kids.  Last Friday night we were lucky enough to be invited along to the first night of a brand-new musical comedy, SuperBooty.  Written, directed and performed by the Epstein’s resident panto dame Michael Chapman – we knew we were in for a treat!

Ben and Chloe were thrilled to recognise some familiar faces on stage – in particular the talented Lewis Pryor who they’ve now seen in a couple of Epstein shows and the return of Jordan Davis (who in fairness adds little more to the show than his abs).

SuperBooty was billed as being “packed with non-stop knockabout naughtiness” – which it certainly was!  One of the things I love most about Michael Chapman’s performances is just how close to the line they are, there’s so much cheek and adult humour which is done really carefully so as to go right over the kids’ heads.  There were plenty of moments which had me roaring with laughter and then having to explain to Ben that it was a “grown up joke” which thankfully he just accepts.

A surprise highlight of the show for us was local Street Dance star Harry Barnes (aka Harry Popper) who absolutely wowed the audience with his popping and locking along with impressive performances from Anamal Dance Company.  Ben has been attending Street Dance classes himself for almost a year now and watched open-mouthed as children of his own age executed perfectly synchronised performances on stage.  He came away fully inspired to practice more.

One of the things I love most about taking my kids to the theatre is the conversation it generates over the coming days and weeks when they remember bits of a story or we talk about jokes that were made.  Since watching SuperBooty, Ben and Chloe have spent lots of time shouting about Kevin Defrostus and “dabbing” –  they’ve attempted to teach Amy with mixed results!

All in SuperBooty was a hit for us – and I’m only sorry that it’s short run has now finished so you can’t go and see it for yourselves!  However, I suggest you check out what else is on offer at The Epstein Theatre over the coming months and keep an eye out for the Easter panto, Sleeping Beauty.

2016 Winter Bucket List Update

Ice Skating

I realised the other day that I haven’t looked at our Winter Bucket List for some serious time, I think in part because it’s always so focused on Christmas and snow but as it’s almost time to start thinking about writing our Spring one I thought I’d better write a bit of an update!  As it turns out – I haven’t written an update at all during Winter so settle in for a bit of a long one!

1. Snow related fun

Typical there just hasn’t been any snow again this year.  Well I say that, we had a light flurry over night at some point in January which meant the kids went to school with their wellies on but it had all gone by lunch time.  There was certainly no chance for snowmen, snowballs or snow angels . . .  However this weekend we’re heading up to Chill Factore for the big two to enjoy an hour of sledging and so forth so I guess we can tick that one off the list!

2. See Father Christmas

We took our annual trip to Stockeld Park to see the big man at the start of December and had a great day out.

3. Write letters to Father Christmas

4. Festive up our house!

I must admit I was a bit lack lustre when it came to decorating the house for Christmas this year.  Everything got really busy and we ran out of time – I felt like we just chucked the Christmas tree up in a spare hour rather than doing a proper job!  I need to be more organised next year that’s for sure.

5. Buy new Christmas decorations 

We didn’t spend a lot of money on new decs this year but the kids did choose a new bauble each on our trip to Stockeld Park.

6. Watch nativities for all three children 

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the flexible nature of my job means I get to watch all three nativities – I don’t have any photos or video of the big two doing theirs for obvious reasons but Chloe did some great singing in the choir and Ben was a fab angel (interesting casting there!).  Amy had been asked to be Mary but she turned it down in favour of being an angel!  I think she preferred the costume.

Angel at nativity

7. Read Christmas stories 

We have quite a few Christmas books on the shelves in Amy’s room and we only read them in December which I think keeps them special!  Firm favourites this year were The Dinosaur that Pooped Christmas, How Santa Really Works and The Polar Express.

8. VLOGMAS! 

Vlogmas was some serious hard work but I’m so glad I did it – so many memories captured and I will definitely do it again!

9. Ice Skating

We love a good Butler / Burgess family tradition and ice skating is one we’ve managed for a few years now.  After a couple of years of skating at the Selfridges Ice Rink at the Trafford Centre, we tried out the one in town this time.  Ben was determined that he was going to be able to skate without support.  I really didn’t think he would be able to do it but he proved me wrong!  In fact by the end of the session both Ben and Chloe were having a good go at skating by themselves.  (Dave wasn’t able to go on the ice having only just recovered from a broken elbow.)

Ice Skating

10. A nighttime adventure to see the Christmas lights and markets in Manchester 

This was a bit of an epic fail – in part due to the awful weather through December and also just due to being really busy.  Typically on any night we happened to be free it was pouring down so we swerved this one!

11. Write Christmas cards

Erm. . . I bought them?  Whoops.

12. Pantomime fun!

Ben, Chloe and I had a great time watching Aladdin at The Epstein – it was a really late night but so worth it!

Watching Aladdin at The Epstein Theatre

13. Enjoy a Christmas back in York

Christmas just isn’t Christmas for me if I don’t spend it at my parents!

14. Enjoy Christmas films 

Whilst I think the kids watched quite a few Christmassy bits I didn’t really manage it myself.  I felt a bit let down by the selection on Netflix – how can you not have The Holiday or Love Actually?! Anyway, I didn’t really watch any in the end!

15. Our annual New Year walk in Heaton Park

Although in the past we’ve done this on New Year’s Eve, this year we did it a bit earlier in the week and then again on January 2nd.  Both times it was flipping freezing which made it hard work but it did us good to get some fresh air in our lungs!

Me & Mine - December 2016

So that’s it, the middle of February and we’ve pretty much nailed our Winter Bucket List despite me forgetting about it for weeks on end.  The days are getting longer and it feels like Spring is on the way, it was actually pretty much light when we got up at half seven this morning and I can’t tell how you excited I was by that!  I feel like we’ve pretty much hibernated our way through January, spending our weekends working on the house and our evenings snuggled up in our dressing gowns watching TV so I’m really excited to write out Spring Bucket List and start to think about getting out a bit more!

1. Snow related fun – I say this every year and every year the weather man fails me.  I just good couple of days of proper snow.  However, should that fail we’re planning a trip to Chill Factore in the new year so there will be some snow action!
2. See Father Christmas – Our annual trip to Stockeld Park (we’ve actually already done this, it will be written up this week)
3. Write letters to Father Christmas – again we’ve already done this and you can watch our video here
4. Festive up our house!
5. Buy new Christmas decorations
6. Watch nativities for all three children – it’s Amy’s first one this year!
7. Read Christmas stories
9. Ice skating – reinstating a Butler / Burgess family tradition
10. A nighttime adventure to see the Christmas lights and markets in Manchester
11. Write Christmas cards
12. Pantomime fun!
13. Enjoy a Christmas back in York
14. Christmas films
15. Our annual New Year walk in Heaton Park
*Collaborative post*

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

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has long been a favourite of mine.  I first read  devoured it some thirteen or so years ago as a fairly newly qualified teacher with more than a passing interest in autism.  I’ve read many books, both biographical and fictional, focused around autism but this one has really stayed with me.

Kirst and I saw a National Theatre live stream of  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the cinema in Leeds a few years ago and loved it but had yet to actually see it performed live on stage.  I may have squealed when the invitation to go and see it at The Lowry arrived in my inbox and I quickly emailed Kirst to see if she was free to come with me (sorry Dave!).

So, Wednesday night saw Kirst and I attend the opening night of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at The Lowry.  Mid-week gin and theatre with my best friend is always going to be a winner but when it’s to see one of your all time favourite novels performed on stage, hopes are high for a good night!

From the off the show is an assault on the senses – loud music, bright flashing lights and aggressive swearing litter the performance but this only serves to fully immerse you in the story and it’s powerful portrayal of what it is to be on the autistic spectrum.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Everything about the National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is incredible – the fast pace and frantic streaming of prime numbers up the dark walls of the set combined with loud music and spectacular acting from Scott Reid combine to allow the audience to really connect with the fear and frustrations Christopher contends with as he tries to solve the mystery of who killed Wellington!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

In stark contrast, the moments of quiet bring really powerful emotion to the stage and I felt tears trickle down my cheeks on more than one occasion.  Christopher’s teacher, Siobhan (Lucianne McEvoy) was a calming influence throughout the performance and reminded me of why I’ve always loved working with children and young people on the autistic spectrum.

Obviously I don’t want to go into details and spoil the story for you if you don’t already know it, but I implore you to go and see it if you get chance.  It’s a truly wonderful performance, fully deserving of the standing ovation received on opening night.  I laughed, I cried, I empathised.  I’d watch it again tomorrow given half a chance.

*We were invited to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at The Lowry free of charge for the purposes of writing this review.  All thoughts and opinions remain my own*

A Secret Garden Adventure with Energizer!

Ready for adventure - Engergizer

Over a month ago now Energizer sent Ben, Chloe and Amy a fabulous parcel of goodies to help them have a secret garden adventure!  Between illness, bad weather and generally having a really busy time of it, it took us absolutely ages to find an opportunity to get out together in the evening!

At the moment our own garden is something of a mud bath so we decided it would be more of an adventure to go to the local park.  Equipped with our bespoke adventure map and a range of night-time investigating tools we set off to explore the secrets the park at night-time!

Ready for adventure - Energizer Secret Garden Adventure

Our personalised map detailed four mini challenges for Ben, Chloe and Amy to complete with the help of their Energizer head torches and new Secret Life of Pets cuddly toys!  Of course just being out at night was exciting in itself but the three of them were keen to follow the instructions on their map and see what they could discover.

Exploring at night with Energizer Secret Garden Adventure

The first challenge was to turn off our torches and look into the night sky to see what we could spot – unfortunately we’d picked a really cloudy night and couldn’t really see anything at all except for the glow of the moon.

Energizer Secret Garden Adventure

Energizer Secret Garden Adventure - taking notes

Challenge number two was to estimate how many hops it would take for a bunny to cross the law and to do our own bunny impressions – the kids thought it was hilarious to have a hopping race across the park!  They looked especially comical with their little headlamps bobbing around in the dark!

bunny hops - Energizer Secret Garden Adventure

For our third task we were encouraged to use our adventure equipment to investigate under pebbles and leaves to see if we could find any creepy crawlies – despite our best efforts there was nobody to be found.  We decided it was probably just a bit too cold!

Searching for bugs - Energizer Secret Garden Adventure

Finally we used our “listening ears” to see if we could hear any nocturnal animals going about their business.  Nope. Not a single sound.  Just cars up on the main road.

Energizer Secret Garden Adventure - listening for noises

So our Energizer Secret Garden Adventure Challenge, whilst lots of fun, didn’t reveal any secrets of nocturnal animals in our local area – except perhaps that they’re super good at hiding!

night time in the park - Energizer Secret Garden Adventure

Energizer have teamed up with Secret Life of Pets to give you the chance to win a plush toy for your own secret adventures at home – just pick up a special promo pack from major participating retailers.

I’ve also got a Secret Life of Pets Blu-Ray / DVD & Duke plush to give away – just complete the Rafflecopter options below, ensuring to do this accurately to avoid disqualification.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Collaborative post*

Aladdin at The Epstein Theatre – Review

What’s Christmas without a panto? Not Christmas that’s what!  Last night, straight from school, I raced Ben and Chloe over to Liverpool to watch Aladdin at The Epstein Theatre.

Watching Aladdin at The Epstein Theatre

The LHK Productions version of Aladdin at The Epstein Theatre incorporates a great mix of well-known favourites from the Disney film and range of singalong pop songs finishing with a cracking performance of Atomic Kitten’s “Whole Again”.

From the off the performance is loud, lively and a full on assault on the senses with bright flashes and bangs of “magic” provided by pyrotechnics and strobes.

I remember the first time I took Ben and Chloe to panto (Beauty and the Beast at The Epstein Theatre last year), they were both quite reserved and a little unsure about it.  Last night however, from the moment the show opened with the wicked sorcerer Abanaza appearing on stage in a flash of evil green lighting both kids immediately joined in with some enthusiastic booing!

This year’s lead roles are taken by Natasha Hamilton (Atomic Kitten) who makes a beautiful Princess Jasmine, Sean Smith (X Factor) as Aladdin, Jordan Davies (Magaluf Weekeder) as Genie and Mark Byron (Big Brother) as Slave of the Ring.  Neither myself nor the kids were particularly aware of who any of the actors were but comical references to Atomic Kitten lyrics or reality tv helped me to make the connections!

Aladdin at The Epstein Theatre - Natasha Hamilton

Wishy Washy, played by the lively and comical Lewis Pryor, did a great job of encouraging lots of audience interaction – a particular favourite for Ben and Chloe was a manic chase scene which saw several members of the cast chasing each other through the audience!

My personal highlight was the return of the hilarious Michael Chapman as Widow Twanky – comical add-libs and innuendo aplenty for the adults with lots of slapstick for the kids.  I think the most memorable moment for me was Ben asking, “Mum, why is a mirrored ceiling funny?” Thankfully he was happy enough with my response that it was a “grown-up joke”!!  I’m sure it will come as no surprise that Chloe was completely in love with Princess Jasmine!

Aladdin at The Epstein Theatre - Widow Twanky

We laughed out loud, we sang along and we waved our arms in the air – it was a real joy to watch the kids really get involved with the show, I think at 5 and 7 they’re now the perfect age for this kind of thing and having been to a couple of pantos now they’ve clicked about the boos or “oh no it isn’t” choruses that we all expect in a good old traditional pantomime!  Aladdin at The Epstein Theatre is a cracking panto and well worth the late night trip to Liverpool (we didn’t get back to the car till 10pm, the kids finally made it to bed at 11.15pm)

The show runs until Sunday 8th January and tickets are available here.

*We received complimentary tickets for the purposes of review – all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Disney on Ice presents Frozen – Review

Disney on Ice - Elsa & Anna

You all know how much we love a good adventure, even more so if I can keep it a surprise!  Last night I picked Ben and Chloe up straight from school and whisked them off to Liverpool to see Disney on Ice presents Frozen!  They knew we were going somewhere exciting but had no idea what we were actually doing right up until we walked into the ECHO Arena and Ben suddenly recognised it from last time we saw Disney on Ice back in March.  With Amy having been so poorly recently we decided that the super late night really wasn’t wise for her so we used her ticket to take Ben’s girlfriend Ferne & her mum with us instead.

After a bit of stress over traffic, parking and an emergency toilet stop we arrived at the VIP meet & greet just in time to queue up and have our photo taken with Elsa and Anna!

Disney on Ice - meet and greet

When the time came to take our seats we couldn’t believe our luck – we had rink side seats, literally the second row from the side of rink.

Disney on Ice - rink side seats

The show began with a brief introduction from Micky & Minnie about love stories and introducing all the Disney “couples” – Snow White and Ariel were particular favourites for us.  (Props to Ariel who actually took quite a tumble during the opening sequence but was back up and on her feet so quickly that I’m quite sure it will have gone completely unnoticed by many)

Disney on Ice - Snow White

I think it’s a fair assumption that Frozen and Disney on Ice would be a match made in heaven.  But my word did it exceed all our expectations.  From the incredible costumes to the generous use of snow canons, this was just epic.  Helen described it as like “being inside the film” and she was right.  Disney on Ice presents Frozen is literally like watching the entire film played out in front of you on the ice.  It was pure magic.

Disney on Ice - Elsa

Disney on Ice - Elsa & Anna

Disney on Ice - Elsa dancing in the snow

I was torn between concentrating on the incredible show on the ice in front of me and just watching Chloe’s face – she was completely entranced by the fact her favourite film had come to life before her eyes.  She’s often a little shy at shows or pantomimes but not so this time – she loved singing along to all her favourite songs (as did I . . . it was basically a full on Frozen karaoke session!)  It’s such a shame we weren’t able to take Amy in the end as she’s fairly Frozen obsessed at the moment and I know she’d have adored every magnificent second of it.   I had worried that Ben might not be that bothered by the show as he’s not really a massive fan of Frozen but he loved it just as much as the girls and was even dancing in the aisles by the end of the show.  He told me his favourite thing about the performance was the songs except for “Let it go” which he listened to with his hands over his ears.  The cheek.

Disney on Ice - Chloe was entranced

Helen and I were just completely wowed by the incredible set design and the special effects – I guess as adults we are able to appreciate just how clever it all is.  By far our favourite costume of the night was Sven – Ben made me laugh as he felt the need to point out to me that there were indeed two people inside that particular costume but he was impressed by how hard it must be for the back person to skate!

Disney On Ice - Sven & sleigh

Disney on Ice - Trolls

Disney on Ice - Olaf

Although it’s a bit of a late night for a school night it’s absolutely worth it for the memories made and I can only apologise to Ben, Ferne and Chloe’s teachers this morning for the very tired children deposited in their classrooms this morning . . .

Disney on Ice will be at Echo Arena, Liverpool till Sunday 4th December and there are still tickets available if you want to make your own magical Disney memories this Christmas.

*Keep an eye on our VLOGMAS playlist for some cheeky video clips of last night’s show!
*We received complimentary tickets for Disney on Ice presents Frozen for the purposes of review.  All thoughts and opinions remain our own*