Back with a BOOM!

So I’ve not been around for a while due to some family stuff, but I am back with a boom, and I am not the only one…

Basil Brush is back with a true, on form BOOM (BOOM)! I love Basil Brush. He is a star with an outstanding ability to entertain and make people of all ages laugh and smile. He’s cheeky, irreverent, charming, naughty, quick-witted, scheming and foxy, but at the same time he’s kind, caring and affectionate! For those who remember him, Basil Brush is an iconic children’s classic tv personality who is a fictional anthropomorphic fox, best known for his appearances on daytime British children’s television. He is primarily portrayed by a glove puppet, but has also been depicted in animated cartoon shorts and comic strips. The character has featured on children’s (and later adult) television from the 1960’s to the present day!

A mischievous character and a raconteur, Basil Brush is best known for his catchphrase ‘Ha Ha Ha! Boom! Boom!’ used after something he finds funny, and also for speaking in a ‘posh’ accent and manner referring to himself as a ‘fella’. Basil Brush claims to dislike puppets, and says his most prized possession is his ‘brush’, this being the traditional name for a fox’s tail. The original Basil Brush glove puppet was designed by Peter Firmin, in 1962, for a BBC television series, and was voiced and performed by Ivan Owen until his death in October 2000.

In 2002, after the death of Ivan Owen, Basil made a comeback performed by a new puppeteer in a children’s BBC sitcom, again named The Basil Brush Show in which his new comic foil, Stephen, is played by Christopher Pizzey. Now, Britain’s most loveable fox is back on the road across the UK along with his TV chum Mr Stephen (aka Chris Pizzey). Together they will take you on a journey of laughs, storytelling and song in a brand new specially written ‘live’ stage show packed with fun and excitement! Hitting many locations up and down the Country, he is sure to be appearing a theatre near you soon!

We are VERY lucky to be reviewing the show in July, so watch this space to hear all about what we think!

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So if you fancy joining Basil and friends on his tour this year, why not take a look at the Tour details listed here

You can also find further details about the new Basil Brush Tour on Facebook & Twitter

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The Launch of Eco-Energy Bradford

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Last week I was invited to the launch of a very special local company, Eco Energy. It involved complimentary drinks and buffet so I was sold straight away! Not much happens in Bradford blogging-wise at least and so I was intrigued to see who this company were and more importantly what they do and offer their customers, which by absolute chance was about to be me because our rental property’s boiler had just broken and we needed a reliable boiler that was eco-friendly and also cost-effective!

The Eco Energy ‘Is Your Home Fit for the Future’ campaign aims to make homeowners aware of how they can reduce carbon emissions and ensure their property is the best it can be this is something we can all relate to. Eco-Energy is part of the family run Redmond Group that has been operating since 1997 and turns over around £5 million so it’s pretty clear the directors of the company know how to run a successful business and also have the experience and knowledge needed to ensure their customers are well looked after too!

Eco Energy certainly know how to organise a launch party too, with champagne and a fantastic buffet on offer! I had a great time at the launch party and having a keen interest in renewable energy it was great hear all about how Eco Energy’s boilers are much more efficient and therefore save up to 1200 C02s a year. I was also surprised to hear that our boiler usage adds up to 55% of our energy bills in the UK and so it’s never been so important to ensure our boilers are reliable and cost-effective. Eco Energy are fully accredited and Green Deal compliant which was great to hear too, ensuring our living spaces are kept super green and warm!

Local MP David Ward was in attendance at the launch party, which was held at the company’s head office which is on Blanche Street in Bradford. He spoke at the event saying ‘We need businesses like Eco Energy that are creating jobs and leading on the issue of sustainable and green thinking. Through schemes like the Green Deal and Energy Companies Obligation, we have ensured that over one million homes across the country have received energy efficiency measures which help reduce climate change and more importantly reduces energy bills, often for the most vulnerable’

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At the launch I learned that the solutions Eco-Energy can offer homeowners include underfloor heating, replacement boilers, central heating and air source heating exchanges. They also carry out A-rated boiler installations, and design and install underfloor and central heating systems. By selecting Eco-Energy you will not only be working with a team of experienced professionals that have been installing cutting-edge energy-saving solutions in domestic properties in West Yorkshire since 1997 you will receive quality service and also be helping the environment!

Scott Redmond, who is Managing Director of Eco-Energy thanked us all for kindly attending the event and expressed his feelings about looking forward to working hard to deliver sustainable solutions to homeowners in Bradford and beyond, securing a bright future for us Yorkshire folk!

Eco Energy’s fully insured, accredited and Gas Safe registered heating engineers serve Bradford and the West Yorkshire area, covering Shipley, Keighley, Halifax, Brighouse, Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Leeds. If you are looking for any local and reliable gas engineers, why not check them out? Flexible payment plans are available too, so contact them for a free, no obligation quote today!

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KWVR Santa Special 2014

We love a Santa experience, and if it includes a train ride then we are absolutely sold on attending as we have two train-mad toddlers. Today we rode on the Santa Special today and had a fabulous time, both Gabriel and Willow loved every second of it and it’s so great to combine two of their loves- trains and presents!

We are really lucky to live so close to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (KWVR) and as Haworth station is just a mile or so away from our house, it seemed the perfect choice three years ago when we first chose to have a ride on the ‘Santa Special’.

The Santa Special at Oxenhope, Haworth or Keighley Stations is a ten-mile return journey on a steam train, which lasts around an hour. I wanted something special to become a tradition on Christmas Eve with the children and so when I realised I was able to book this train journey I jumped at the chance! This has been our third Christmas Eve Santa Special and each year it has been fantastic!

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Although not cheap (£16.50 each for over threes or those requiring a seat!) I love how KWVR decorate the coaches, play festive music and really get you into the mood for Christmas! Before setting off to prepare for his night ahead, Santa and his elves visit each child during the train journey, delivering presents. (Which I have to say, are the best quality gifts I’ve known from similar experiences!). The child also receive a souvenir badge, all of which we have kept and put in their memory boxes for them to remember the train journeys by!

The grown ups aren’t forgotten either, because as the train departs they are served with a mince pie and seasonal drink (sherry, a large portion!) which is in my opinion the perfect way to begin the Christmas preparations.

The Santa Special also has a buffet car serving real-ale, hot and cold drinks and also have festive entertainers on board to make sure you get the most out of your day, and the children leave with a smile on their face!

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The entertainers are wonderful and soon have everyone singing along to carols and playing along with the mini ‘pantomime’. The volunteers really work hard to make each child’s experience special and I cannot applaud them enough for this. Gabriel and Willow especially loved the show this year, having previously been a bit ‘unsure’ of the Scrooge character. He has us all laughing with his silly ‘I hate Christmas’ jokes and the children were even happier to see Santa than usual!

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The ticket for the Santa Special also allows free travel on the connecting diesel services on the same line, so it’s a great way to visit to local area. If you live within travelling distance to the KWVR I would wholeheartedly recommend visiting the Santa Specials. They are a lovely, festive day out for all the family. I will most definitely be returning year after year. Just remember to book early to avoid disappointment!

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Winter Wonderland Manchester

On Monday night Gabriel and I were very lucky to be invited to Manchester’s attraction of the moment, the amazing Winter Wonderland which is held at Event City, a stones throw away from the Trafford Centre.

The Winter Wonderland is essentially an indoor themepark, with added snow, Christmas fun and also lots of entertainment too. Also, if you know any Frozen fans, they will also be entertained with characters from the film appearing throughout the day at the event. There are rides for adults as well as children, so there really is something for everyone. The event is going to be on until the 4th January 2015 so there is still plenty of time to experience the fun!

Gabriel and I arrived at 7pm just in time for the entertainment before we entered through the curtain which unveiled the exciting Winter Wonderland! Gabriel loved the build up, as did all the kids around us. As we entered through the falling show and Christmas songs, it was wonderful to see all the lights and the rides and in turn, the children’s smiling faces!

Prior to heading to Manchester I had looked at the entry prices of the event and to also see what was in store. Over threes pay £25, the same as the adults, which I initially thought was a bit steep, but actually once inside all the rides and entertainment shows are included in your entrance fee, and so I now think it’s pretty good value.

There are a lot of rides, and shows inside and whilst many of them are aimed at younger children, there are plenty of adult rides too. Plus adults can ride most of the rides as a family, which is useful if you have a small toddler or demanding child! There are plenty of car-type spinning rides, but if that doesn’t appeal there are also many bouncy castles, mazes and there is even a simulator machine which is showing the iconic Snowman film. This enables you to ‘fly’ with the snowman! Gabriel and I particularly enjoyed the simulator so I would recommend you queue for that one!

We wandered around, Gabriel was in his element. He loves fairground rides and I think he went on everything he could! Here’s a few photographs of him ‘testing’ the rides!

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We spent three hours inside the Winter Wonderland and I’m not sure where the time went! We had a truly wonderful time and I thoroughly recommend visiting especially if you have toddlers and young children, the Winter Wonderland is bound to bring a smile up their faces!

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Towards the end of the night Gabriel and I stumbled upon the Sooty Show, which because Gabriel has never seen the show, I wasn’t sure he would be that interested. I was wrong, he LOVED it! The show was fantastic and the audience festive style participation was so much fun! Gabriel particularly loved the game of musical statues giggled along as Sweep misbehaved! The finale of the show was brilliant and I really enjoyed the snow, and the huge Sooty balloons that appeared! So magical, and Gabriel was so excited!

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Before we left we decided to grab a bite to eat. This for me was the only slightly disappointing area of the event. There was a small variety of food, and as vegetarians this meant chips or noodles. Which is fine, but perhaps this could be improved for next year. I do recognise of course that more food outlets would most likely mean less room for rides and entertainment, so I appreciate this is an issue up for debate! The attitude of some of the staff at the ‘burger van’ was also disappointing, which I felt didn’t really fit with the fun, happy event, which left me a little sad. But- we sat and ate our chips and they were fine, which was the main issue.

After we had eaten Gabriel told me he wanted to go on one more ride. I asked him to choose, and he pointed at the ‘fun house’. I felt a little panicked as I thought it was perhaps a little old for him, so decided to go inside with him. (Plus, it was getting late and so wasn’t too busy).It was lots of fun, although I do admit even I became a little lost in the glass maze! (So, so confusing!!) Gabriel loved it and after I fought my way out he carried on running about laughing and enjoying the huge slide too!

We left the Winter Wonderland with huge smiles on our faces and we had a fabulous three hours having fun. So what are you waiting for? Head over the the Winter Wonderland website for more information and ticket purchases!

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Stockeld Park: The Christmas Adventure

Winter Wonderland style attractions are slowly becoming a growing market here in the UK but unfortunately as so many of these attractions are of a temporary nature this leads to problems. The well documented issues at ‘The Magical Journey’ hit the headlines in the last few weeks and in years past, various attractions have come and gone never to be seen again. Usually letting families down, and wasting a lot of their hard-earned money too, which at this time of year is not great!

But what if there was a Winter attraction that wasn’t just thrown together from badly disguised portacabins and fake snow? Step forward The Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park, which is located between Harrogate and Leeds, which offers much more than you’d expect from a temporary seasonal attraction.

Stockeld Park is a vast and beautiful estate that is tucked away just off the A1 at Wetherby, near Leeds. It’s well signposted and very easy to find (I managed it in the dark, without Google Maps!) I was invited there to review the Christmas Adventure last weekend, I arrived just as the sun was setting (which I would thoroughly recommend) for a magical adventure in the beautiful woodland!

Price wise, at this time of year you’re looking at £65 for a day pass for a family of four (based on 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children) and this will give you unlimited access to all of the activities and adventure zones namely:

The Illuminated Enchanted Forest
The Illuminated Fun Filled Maze
The Real Ice Rink
The Nordic Ski Trail

You can pay £18 or £16 for additional adults and children for a day pass, however the passes don’t include access to Santa’s Grotto or the 4D Cinema. These cost an extra £10 per child for the grotto and £6 per person to get into the 4D Cinema. So a family day out with all the extras will cost you £109. Although certainly not cheap, it is not overly expensive in my opinion and in line with similar attractions. The activities will certainly keep your family entertained for hours, and I think for the experience it’s worth the money, I had a fabulous time!

The prices above are obviously without paying for food, which is available from the Woodland Café, which is a purpose-built building that has a bench style seating, offering a varied selection of food and drink. It’s all very clean and pleasant with a small play area in the corner for excitable little ones. The café also houses the toilets which are of an excellent standard and great for families.

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So onto the attractions! We took a stroll through the Enchanted Forest first, and it really was a fantastic way to start. The forest and the ‘Enchanted’ inhabitants are wonderfully lit, perfect for a winter’s evening, as you stroll round music and sound effects accompany you. There are some interactive elements too for children to play with, these did seem to be a bit of a ‘pinch point’ to proceedings with little pockets of children collecting around them! There are also several play areas too, although these shut after dark, so bear this in mind. The Forest although aimed at children, is really lovely for adults to enjoy too, and actually to attend without children would not be problematic in my opinion. You will have a great time!

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My favourite part of the Enchanted Forest was the Lake area, it reminded me of visions I’ve seen in Thailand. The lighting and music set a fantastic tone and an air of enchantment. It’s beautifully done and worth the walk for that alone. The path is suitable for buggies and is nice and wide for even the busiest of days, this has clearly been well thought out, bravo Stockeld Park!

The only negative,(and this really is a tiny moan) was what I found was at one of the refreshment cabins halfway round the walk. I fancied a mulled wine to warm me up which they had, but it was being warmed on a coffee machine and wasn’t exactly warm, so I was slightly disappointed. The staff were lovely and did explain that this was due to them only recently began hearing it. Thankfully I got some at another stand that housed a proper ‘cauldron’ keeping my favourite festive tipple warm so I sat and enjoyed it watching the outdoor ice skating, it was magical!

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The Nordic Ski Trail follows alongside The Enchanted Forest – personally it’s probably best to do one or the other, unless you have lots of time (and energy!). I really enjoyed The Enchanted Forest, it would be interesting to try it again during the day to see how magical it all feels!

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The next activity I was keen to try was The Real Ice Rink, as it says – it’s a REAL Ice Rink. This means proper ice, no plastic sheeting at all, it’s fantastic! I really enjoyed going around the ice, it was busy, but not too busy as it’s fairly large! There were helpful ‘penguins’ for little ones to use and ‘marshals’ on the ice to help those who fell. (And there was a lot of falling!). I spent about thirty minutes on the ice in total and had so much fun, you can’t beat a spot of ice skating to Christmas music to get you in the festive mood. This was, by far my highlight of Stockeld, the music coupled with the beautiful backdrop of the forest was like something out of a festive film Stockeld Park have mastered this are perfectly!

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The staff on the whole were friendly and kind, they were happily taking photos for groups of people and were generally smiley and happy. It was getting colder (wrap up warm!) and I was keen to try the final attraction before I left ‘The Fun Filled Maze’. I entered with slight trepidation – they have a map on the outside with a suggested route and a telephone number to call for assistance if you get stuck. I would recommend you take a picture of this..I’m glad I did! I’d started the maze trying to memorize the map, but it is massive and very disorienting, so before long I had my phone out and was ‘cheating’ a little to find my way! The maze is well maintained and looked after, I suppose my only criticism was the random ‘Tardises’ (what is the plural for a tardis?!) and Wild West elements didn’t feel Christmassy, but that said it was a lot of fun to complete I really enjoyed it. After half an hour of slight panic I was very relieved to find my way out with only a little help from the map!

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Soon it was time to leave, and not before visiting the gift shop, which thankfully isn’t forced upon you, or the only way to exit the attraction (I hate that!!!). The store is very big and has an incredible selection of Christmas goodies and gifts, the prices were very reasonable too. I think my only disappointment was there was very little in the way of ‘Stockeld Park’ branded items, I would have loved to have left with a little Christmassy fridge magnet to remember the day by as I collect them! But again, this wasn’t that big an issue.

I left Stockeld Park feeling very happy and festive – it’s a fantastic seasonal attraction that feels like it’s permanent and I’d thoroughly recommend going. The price might seem off-putting, but when compared to other attractions it’s pretty similar and I’d happily pay a bit extra for that slightly more ‘permanent’ feel that Stockeld has.

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So what are you waiting for? Head to Stockeld Park this festive season, you won’t regret it. I will certainly be returning next Christmas!

The adventure remains at Stockeld until the 5th January 2015, so there’s still plenty of time to join in the fun! There really is no need to visit Lapland this year, just head to Stockeld!

You can find Stockeld Park on Twitter Facebook and on their website Stockeld Park are also on Google+

*Disclaimer: I was offered day passes in exchange for a review of the Christmas Experience at Stockeld Park, all view and words are my own*

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Our Visit to Yummy Yorkshire

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A few weeks ago we were invited by Yummy Yorkshire to visit their amazing homemade ice cream cafe, and have a tour of their fabulous making facilities!

A few months back, we were chosen to become one of their ‘Yummy Yorkshire Families’. This means attending five of their events, reviewing then providing constructive feedback to help ensure they are absolutely family-friendly! Perusal of their upcoming events has meant difficulty for us though! We are struggling which four events to choose as they ALL look fantastic. Tasting sessions, bistro type adult’s events, play schemes, cinema nights in their amazing barn and much more!

Now. We all love ice cream, who doesn’t?! I knew before our visit that the range of flavours Yummy Yorkshire produce were original, quirky and often, quite intriguing! So I was quite keen to have a look round and of course sample a few scoops! On arrival to Yummy Yorkshire, I was surprised just how sweet the place looks. The ice cream parlour/cafe/diner is set on a lovely picturesque farm (very Yorkshire!) and even though it was raining, it remained charming. The location is rural, but easily accessible and even though it took us over an hour to get there, I know it will become a regular attraction for us, simply because we HAVE to try all the ice cream flavours, for assessment purposes, obviously.

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We had a few minutes to wait before we were ready for our tour of the dairy farm so we took a seat in the cafe and the lovely staff ensured Gabriel and Willow were kept entertained by handing them some colouring in to do; I was really grateful of this and it was great to see that the farm is so toddler-friendly.

Soon it was time for our tour, we were shown around the farm by Lou who personally makes all the ice cream, creating the flavours, and ensuring everything runs as smoothly as it should! First we went into the area where Yummy Yorkshire’s very own cows are milked and shown how the milk is transported into the kitchen areas for storage and pasteurisation.
I was quite sad to hear that due to the larger supermarkets, and niche organic branding, the production and marketing of their own milk is limited, but the good thing is that the milk IS being used to make all the yummy ice cream!

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Yummy Yorkshire have an array of flavours to tantalise your tastebuds. Salted caramel, Jaffa cake, peanut butter, lemon meringue, chocolate Oreo, coconut and mango, garlic and
dark chocolate. The list goes on! Lou explained she is always looking for inspiration and new flavours are constantly being planned (and taste-tested).

Hearing about the ice cream making process was fascinating, I was if I’m honest rather taken aback with all the different processes the milk and ice cream go through before it wand up in our freezer! The tour was really fun, and Lou obviously knows her stuff. The kids were extremely excited to meet Lou’s husband too, a real-life farmer! Back in the cafe, we were offered the opportunity to sample some of the ice cream. It was only 11am but we were all willing to assist! Gabriel chose chocolate (he loves all things chocolate), Willow went with strawberry, Dave had dandelion and burdock and I devoured the Sicilian lemon and ginger.

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We were really impressed! The ice cream tasted delicious and really fresh tasting. It was refreshing to taste ice cream with unusual flavours and knowing exactly what had gone into the ice cream, mainly from locally sourced ingredients was really nice to know. It was great fun having our ‘behind the scenes’ tour of Yummy Yorkshire and the kids especially loved seeing the cows and the machines at work!

We are really looking forward to working with Yummy Yorkshire over the next year, and watch this space for more yummy family fun!

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The Tale of the Brave

On Wednesday we attended a very special blogging event held at Drayton Manor the home of Thomas Land. As you can probably imagine, with two train mad toddlers here this has caused much excitement in our house for the last few weeks. They LOVE Thomas (and all his friends) so I knew this was the perfect event for us. The blogging event was to celebrate the release of the latest Thomas film ‘The Tale of the Brave’ and as part of our visit to Drayton Manor, we were asked to watch the film in 4D at their special cinema on site, then we got to explore Drayton Manor and of course check out all the Thomas Land rides!

The night before I decided to book into the local Travelodge (Tamworth) which is just a few miles from the park. It’s a great location and I’d recommend it, although if you did want to splash out, Drayton Manor Hotel have the most fantastic looking Thomas themed rooms, which I think I will book our next visit, as it’s placed a stones throw from the park, they host have Thomas character breakfasts and entertainment is provided in the Summer months, which sounds fun!

After a few hours drive to Tamworth, the kids were very excited about Thomas Land, this photograph was taken at 10pm, with no sign of them going to sleep. They just looked like Bert and Ernie in their little beds!

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So the morning finally arrived and after a stop off for coffee and breakfast we landed at Drayton Manor. We collected our tickets and then headed to the cinema to meet the lovely PR team. We were a little early and so had twenty minutes at the zoo area first. The kids loved the monkeys, the reptile house and the meerkats. (They have been obsessed with meerkats ever since my Mum presented them with a baby Oleg last weekend!)

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Then it was time to enter the cinema. We were given popcorn and drinks, and the kids had some time to play with and sample some of the Thomas toys whilst I chatted and met some of the other bloggers. Then the Fat Controller arrived! All the children loved it, and he posed for photos, chatted to all the guests. When it was time to enter the cinema he lead us inside to the cinema, and we noticed the steam (frozen ice) on the stage. It looked fantastic! The kids loved it and it really whet our whistle (excuse the pun) for the new film!

The visit to Drayton Manor cinema was a first visit to the cinema for both our children. I admit I was apprehensive about them becoming fidgety and possibly noisy! But actually as the film is only an hour-long, and it was something they are really interested in, they really enjoyed it. They sat really nicely in the auditorium (the seats were mega comfy too, which helped) and watched the film to the end. The Tale of the Brave is essentially a modern-day fable. I will not spoil the plot for you, but after seeing some footprints at the local mine Thomas is worried that there are some monsters living there, and becomes understandably frightened! Thomas and his friends attempt to deal with the situation and hit a few hurdles along the way. They all learn some valuable lessons though! Ultimately the moral of the story is that being brave isn’t about how scared you are, it’s about how you deal with and act when feeling scared, and the film highlights that we can always help our friends when they are scared by being supportive and offering advice! The story was perhaps a little complex for my two (age just 20 months and just three) but they still really enjoyed it, and loved the whole cinema experience. I would certainly feel happy taking them again anyway! We haven’t seen any of the previous Thomas films, but after seeing this one, we will also be seeking them out, perhaps Father Christmas will bring some in a few months too.

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After being handed out fantastic goodie bags packed with LOTS of Thomas fun including DVDs, chocolates, toys and of course trains! We were all set for a few hours in Thomas Land. The park was not busy at all, and this meant no queuing at all! It was great. We were pleased to see that there was plenty of room to leave prams and pushchairs (we happily left ours with the changing bag until we needed it later) and walked around Thomas Land taking it all in! Early this Summer we visited Cbeebies Land at Alton Towers and although we had a fun day, I genuinely think that Thomas Land is better. Simply, because it has been thought out. Thomas Land isn’t a set of rides that have been re painted and renamed, the rides are quite clearly original and Thomas themed, the spacing and order of the rides didn’t go unnoticed. All the vehicle rides together, and the pretend docklands and Cranky ride next to each other. The design of the perimeter wall of the helicopter ride was a great idea, the fronts of each of the characters had their own ‘photo opportunity’ area, it was a great use of space and we were impressed. I think that it makes it extra special for children, when they can learn and notice these types of things. We also loved the Drayton Manor train, and the lovely little train ride, spotting all the friendly animals en route!

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Outside of Thomas Land there are plenty of rides for toddlers, which again is well thought out. Gabriel didn’t mind leaving the Thomas area, because he spotted the Carousel! We took a ride on a chicken (random but hilarious!) and even posed for a quick selfie! Willow had a nap and slept whilst we had a good walk around the park and the lake. Gabriel loved watching all the ‘big’ rides and found the log flume hilarious to see, I think he was rather baffled about why people wanted to get so wet! Willow enjoyed being outside all day too and when it all became too much for her, it was nothing a few chocolate digestives couldn’t solve!

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The kids really enjoyed exploring Thomas Land and we will certainly return. The trains are colourful, great quality and the park itself is extremely tidy and fun. Gabriel and Willow adored seeing Thomas, and their little faces when they saw the trains were truly magical! We went on every ride in Thomas Land and the kids enjoyed them all. Gabriel even rode his first ever rollercoaster, which was an experience. I do not think he realised just how fast ride would go, and we sat right at the back, you can guess the rest (and see from the photograph below)! He did say he liked it afterwards though!

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Another great point about Drayton Manor and Thomas Land is that there are plenty of rides suitable for all the family. I think there were just a few that Willow could not ride (she is 80cm ish) and we just decided to do those when she was napping to avoid any difficulties. We also took our own lunch, for two reasons. Firstly because I know from experience that theme park food is expensive, and I also feel it often wastes time eating in cafes or restaurants at busy lunch time periods. So, we had a picnic on one of the many benches available at the park. I did notice however that there were plenty of eateries and they were not far from the rides.

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Overall, we had a great day at Thomas Land Drayton Manor. It’s not as action packed as Alton Towers or Thorpe Park, but now we have children those white knuckle rides are not necessarily what we are looking for anymore! Don’t get me wrong, I love rides, but this day out was about the kids and their love of Thomas and Friends! I did however get the chance to go on ONE adult ride. The Shockwave! It was a little like Nemesis at Alton Towers, and it was fun! Here I am in the photograph below with my new friend!

I purchased a set of four photographs from Drayton Manor for £20, which included digital downloads codes, which I thought was reasonable. The quality isn’t fantastic, but taking photographs on the rides is sometimes rather difficult, and so I thought it was worth it!

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If you haven’t been to Thomas Land at Drayton Manor I would highly recommend it, especially if you have toddlers or young children. There is however, plenty to do for everyone! So why not pay them a visit? Drayton Manor have some very special Christmas events planned this year where you and your family can hang out with Thomas and his friends with Santa! Visit their website for more details

I also spied lots of building work and updates being made to Thomas Land, so watch this space for a bigger and better Thomas Land for 2015! We are VERY excited!

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Disclosure: We were invited to enjoy a complimentary visit to Drayton Manor and to enjoy the new Thomas film ‘A Tale of the Brave’ at their cinema in return for a review, all views and opinions are my own. I have not been paid to write this blog post.

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The One When They Realise Friends Began TWENTY Years Ago

I’m a firm believer that age is just a number. It doesn’t mater how old you are, it’s how you live your life that’s important, but last week I have to admit I did have a small shock and for a few hours, felt ANCIENT. The reason? Because I was told the tv series Friends was twenty years old.

TWENTY years though. I mean, really?! I thought maybe ten years… or at a push, fifteen. But twenty? That makes me officially old I guess! I remember when the series began, it was the talk of the school every single Friday without fail! All the girls wanted Rachel’s hair and all the boys were torn between wanting to be as funny as Chandler, and wanting Joey’s confidence and sex appeal. No one wanted to be Ross of course but, he had a cool monkey, and his fair share of drama that kept everyone’s attention! As for Phoebe. Well, she’s just Phoebe isn’t she!

The reason Friends was on my radar, was because I just happened to be invited to a very special blogging event, organised by the very healthy and smiley people at Simplyhealth the event involved a trip to the very cool Everyman cinema on Leeds, for a special showing of the first four episodes of the show. Simplyhealth are a health and dental insurance company, who provide cash back plans towards healthcare bills. They’ve been helping people access affordable healthcare for over 140 years! (Now that’s ancient!)

Why Friends? I hear you cry! Well, the answer is pretty simple. They wanted to make us laugh. Laughter is extremely important in keeping us healthy and Simplyhealth insurance recognise this. So much in fact, that they want to spread the word and keep the UK smiling and healthy! Laughter is clinically proven to reduce stress, improve mood and also relieve anxiety. Even better, is shared laughter. As this promotes positive feelings and in turn, improved social bonds. So THIS was why Simplyhealth wanted to create a room full of giggles and laughter!
You can read more about their very special campaign here

So back to the event, Dave and I met after work and headed for some dinner at Trinity Kitchen, the food was good, but it was more satisfying to be able to eat a meal without two toddlers hanging off us to be honest! Soon it was time to make our way to the cinema.

We had a small row over who the Mexican snacks belonged to..

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This is one of my most favourite silly jokes, so thanks to Simplyhealth, they had made a good start at making me smile!

Now the way to my heart is through wine (well, and with goats cheese, but it’s not readily available in cinemas, sadly..) Any will do, but my most favourite is a good Cabernet Sauvignon. Again, Simplyhealth did not disappoint. I was BEAMING. I had wine, AND it was free. Double boom!

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Dave has a beer. It was German, he was hoping for his favourite Thai beer, but luckily he wasn’t too much of a Sauerkraut.

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We made our way into the cinema. It was ace! All arm chairs and sofas, it was like a huge living room, and there were NO TODDLERS to be seen! It was heavenly. We took our seats and after a quick introduction from the lovely ladies at Simplyhealth and an explanation about the idea behind the event, be began our mini Friends marathon. We were at this point also handed a goody bag, containing a Friend’s mug, some popcorn, sweets and some other goodies. I’m not entirely sure what happened to my popcorn, I can only assume Dave scoffed it when I wasn’t looking! (I won’t make a joke, that would be just too corny..)

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There was also a competition running, for attendees to tweet their favourite Friends quotes using the #SHHealthysmile during the event, and the best chosen by the team would win a prize. At this point, I eyed up the prizes, and spotted a ceramic Friends travel mug. I NEEDED it. So I sat and thought about it. My mind was blank, I couldn’t recall any one liners, that would fit into a tweet anyway!

Then, during the show, Ross made a joke in reference to Monika’s past weight problem. I had it! My most favourite episode was the one where they find the old prom video tape! It makes me laugh just thinking about it. Ross’ hair, the way he sits and plays on his keyboard because that Summer he is ‘just gonna work on my music’! Rachel’s nose, the whole beginning of Ross’ crush on her and the heartbreaking end where Ross was going to save the day and take her to her prom when her date didn’t show up, but then they leave without him!

It is however, Monika that is more hilarious, she’s rather huge, and tells a shocked Chandler, ‘Everyone knows the camera adds like 10lbs’ to which he replies, ‘So how many cameras were actually ON you?’

THAT line, and the whole episode is just the best in my opinion! So, I tweeted it. And, I won. Yay! I was extremely happy, and it was a lovely surprise after a fun evening. Layla from This Day I Love also won a prize for her tweet!

At the event we watched:

The Pilot
The One with the Sonogram at the End
The One with the Thumb
And
The One with George Stephanopoulos

I’ve always found Friends funny. It’s easy to watch and thanks to Channel
Four I suspect I have seen every episode at least ten times. But sometimes it’s good to just take some time out, sit and do nothing but watch something funny and LAUGH. After all, people say laughter is the best medicine, Friends must have cure many illnesses across the world in that case!

I will of course forever want Rachel’s layered bob, I’m just waiting for the fashion to return (should be next year I’m guessing- seen as we’re currently on dungarees and platform shoes) it’s been so great to have a refresher into 1994! Thanks so much to the team over at Joe Bloggers network and of course, Simplyhealth for organising such a fun evening! I’ve already had about ten coffees out of my travel mug, so it’s been pretty useful :)

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Beacons Festival: THE Family Festival of 2014!

We’re quite seasoned festival goers here at the Crowtherclan, just when we were asked to review this year’s Beacons Festival we jumped at the chance!

Beacons is an intimate, but quality festival which is held on Heslaker Farm in Skipton, North Yorkshire over four days from the 7-10 th August 2014.

We attended the festival last year and had such an amazing time so we’re already really looking forward to it this year. Willow was just seven months and Gabriel two when we attended our first ‘proper festival’ together. We drove to Skipton armed with Banz ear defenders, we took an Ergo baby carrier and also a Smart Trike and our Toddlebike for easy transportation of the babies. We didn’t regret it, it was great fun! There really is nothing like the magical aspect of a festival for young and old alike after all! The kids loved the entertainment, the attention they received from other festival goers and also the ability to be able to just ‘run free’ in the beautiful Yorkshire surroundings.

Just look at how tiny our little ones look last year!
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The festival really gets a good balance of kids and adults needs. We may be parents, but we still want to hear great bands and dance to djs in the dance tents later on (taking it in turns obviously!). Beacons Festival doesn’t compromise on this, it’s small enough to just ‘nip’ to the tent, gourmet food areas or kids fields, but also large enough for the festival experience loud music and also, like many of us love to do at a festival, have a good old wander!

The year Beacons is looking better than ever, with a dedicated kids arena and family camping it looks great. The kids arena ‘Hunter’s Field’  boasts a 7am kids cinema club for early risers, plus puppet shows, storytelling and morning play sessions, all available from 8am! THIS I am excited about, our children wake early, especially when camping with the blaring sun on the tent so I think this is a great idea.

As Gabriel and Willow are both under five (19 months and just turned three) it’s also great to see that for under fives, facilities are plentiful. There’s dedicated children’s toilets, a toddler library, ball pools, toys and also loads of soft seating and baby changing facilities available. For those ‘gasping for a cup of tea’ parental stress moments, there also a ‘pay as you feel’ tea stall for parents and carers.

For older children, there is the ‘Ladybird Tent’ this is an incredible hub of performances, workshops, shows and games for kids, parents and everyone in between. This year the Ladybird is open 9am-6pm each day for high engagement play, great workshops and glittering performances, all led by the dazzling ladybird crew!  Also in the evenings from 8pm there will be more family focused party times (because the folk at Beacons know no-one goes to bed at 6pm when it’s not a school night!). At Beacons each day has a different fancy dress theme with associated activities, including the amazing bottle rockets, circus Olympics, the carnival dance off, the Kids vs. Parents Tug-O-War, the Ladybird’s Fantastic Family Friendly Cabaret on Friday at 8pm, and the Animal’s birthday party on Sunday which I think sounds amazing!!

Elsewhere in the field, you can find more fantastic provision for families too. This year Beacons have a completely free village of inflatables for everyone up to fourteen years old to enjoy to their heart’s content! There will also be the inaugural ‘Kids vs Parents or anyone else’ 5-a-side tournament, which includes a raft of great prizes including free pizza and beer vouchers for redemption at some of the gourmet food outlets within the arena, and the grand prize of tickets for Beacons 2015!

Last year one thing that was clearly obvious to us was the cleanliness of the Beacons site. Litter pickers were out in force daily, ensuring the gorgeous Yorkshire setting remained just that. The family area is open to everyone to enjoy, and to make sure it is extra welcoming and comfortable for families, Beacons will also be running extra litter collections, have extra stewarding and helpers on hand to help maintain the safe environment for everybody. I think that reassurance like that, is a wonderful, wonderful thing!

Something else that really surprised me last year was the cleanliness of the toilets. I never used a ‘bad’ toilet all weekend, I bet not many people can say that after attending a music festival!

Music wise, this year’s festival line up is looking pretty cool, with headline acts from:

DAUGHTER / DARKSIDE / ACTION BRONSON / DUSKY / THE FALL / DIXON / JON HOPKINS/ NENEH CHERRY WITH ROCKETNUMBERNINE

Plus, special guests BRITISH SEA POWER

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The food is also the best I’ve had at a festival outside of Glastonbury. Really great quality street food, rather than a poorly cooked veggie burger or a pile of chips that have seen better days. The bars also sell some great ciders, lagers and beers and wine. Everything is also reasonably priced too which as a family, is refreshing!

In short, if you are looking for a family-friendly festival, with clean toilets, good quality food, great music and ease of amenities, then Beacons Festival is your answer. For further information on the Beacons Festival, please visit their website.

Beacons Festival tickets are available here and cost a very reasonable £109 per person.  Children aged six-twelve pay just £16.50. Children under six are free! Day tickets are also available.

You can find Beacons on Twitter and Facebook  so please give them some festival love!

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A Mini-Break With My Boy

A few weekends ago Gabriel and I went on our first ‘mini-break’ together. Since Willow was born, I’m very aware that whilst its great to spend time as a family unit, it’s also good, useful and refreshing to spend time in ‘twos’ (or, alone!!!) too. I often take Willow shopping, for walks in the pram or to friends and Gabriel stays at home playing trains with or goes to play football with his Daddy. This arrangement works well as I love having Mummy-Daughter time with Willow, but I also want to have time together with Gabriel. So, when an opportunity came up to travel to London and review the In the Night Garden Live tour at the 02, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to do just that. Although I was sent a family ticket, Dave and I agreed that Willow was too young for the train and the tubes without the pushchair. So, it was decided.. Gabriel and I would go it alone!

We booked the 7am train to London (this one is direct for us, saved pesky train changes at Leeds, plus we needed to be at the 02 for early afternoon) and sat at the station awaiting our train Gabriel was very excited! We perched on the bench waving at passing trains and some very grumpy commuters! We had our trolley case, but Gabriel also had his dinosaur Pink Lining rucksack with him to carry all his ‘essentials’ for travel. (Note: essentials for toddler travel include Cbeebies magazine, my mini iPad and two packets of mini cheddars). As we waited, we decided to pose for a quick ‘Team Piggle’ selfie too.
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The first few hours were fine, Gabriel was very excited about the prospect of being on a ‘choo choo train’ and as we’d bumped into a very old friend of mine (whom I have not seen since the years of dancing around to Samantha Mumba, age eighteen) at the station travelling to Leeds for work, we sat and chatted to her for the first twenty minutes, which was good. Gabriel became slightly restless for the last forty minutes, so I was glad to arrive in London! We made our way to the tube at Kings Cross. Gabriel did really well, and apart from insisting climbing and stepping down each (and every single) step by himself, it was actually a rather quick and effortless journey. Well, it was until they shut the Central Line. Cue spending about two hours hopping on and off tubes trying to make our way to the 02! It felt like everything was against us, at one point I considered jumping into a taxi (sorry, cab!) but the possible cost frightened me too much! So after two DLR trains and a short walk, we eventually (and thankfully) made it to the 02 on time!
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We had about forty-five minutes before the show started so I decided to go to Zizzis, after a quick scout of the menu and spying a suitable kids menu (which was excellent for vegetarians!) we took a seat and relaxed for the first time in hours. I ordered wine, not entirely responsible, or appropriate but after the morning’s stress, I felt essential. Gabriel did really well with his lunch, I was impressed! He’s not the greatest water in the world, so well done Zizzis, my son is obviously a connoisseur when it comes to Italian dining!

We made our way to the show dome and had a fantastic time. We reviewed the show here but Gabriel really enjoyed it, I had thought he was growing out of In the Night Garden, but it turns out he still very much likes it if the singing and dancing along with the characters is anything to go by! (Our full review is coming to the blog soon!).

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After the show we went to Starbucks for coffee and for, as requested by Gabriel chocolate cake. Sure enough, he ordered and put away the hugest piece of chocolate cake! Sat with a face full of smiles and excitement we had loads of chatter and fun.We were sat watching the Emirates cable cars outside, so I asked Gabriel if he’d like to ride on them. He responded with a very excitable yes, so off we went to queue and after a scan of my Oyster card we climbed on-board. The ‘ride’ travels over the Thames (from Greenwich to the Royal Docks), and as it was a gorgeous day, the view albeit rather industrial, was beautiful! We waved at passing cable cars and watched the trains and boats travelling below. Gabriel LOVED it! Being a soon to turn three year old, who loves all types of transportation, you can imagine the squeals of excitement!

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Another reason for heading down south that weekend was that I wanted to attend the Baby Tilda Barn Dance which was a charity event being organised by my lovely friend Jennie in memory of her daughter Matilda Mae, in order to raise funds for The Lullaby Trust. The event was held in Kent, and having done some research (and asking Jennie) I worked out that we could catch the train from Victoria to Hollingbourne in Kent, and stay overnight there, so we could attend the barn dance. So that’s what we did!

So, after a couple DLR trains and then a tube to Victoria Station it was time to head to Kent to our hotel. It was Friday peak time, and so very busy, but we managed fairly well. We boarded the train to Hollingbourne and after an hour or so, and a short taxi ride, we arrived at our hotel. We stayed at the Great Danes Mercure hotel, and I was really impressed, it’s a gorgeous hotel with good facilities for toddlers. The room was spacious and suitable for our running- out chasing each other needs!

After a quick bath, we went to bed ready for the next busy day ahead. Gabriel told me as I tucked him in that the day had been ‘fantastic Mummy’ and I may have cried a bit, but perhaps I had something in my eye. We went to sleep in true Bert and Ernie style. It was a great day, and I went to sleep feeling pretty happy!

I woke up the next morning to a giggling Gabriel tickling my feet. After a few laps of the room attempting to convince Gabriel to wear his t-shirt for breakfast, we went downstairs to eat. I was extremely pleased to see the Nutella on the breakfast bar, as it’s Gabriel’s favourite thing (you may remember the chocolate toast post!). We sat as ate our breakfast like a married couple. It was bizarre and brilliant all at once. 20140619-001446.jpg

We went to get ready, and we waited outside in the sunshine for Kip to pick us up. We arrived at the barn dance in the sunshine and had a lovely afternoon catching up with (and meeting!) my lovely blogging friends, eating a delicious afternoon tea, playing in the sunshine and also winning (yay!) some fabulous prizes on the raffle. (My post coming up about the Baby Tilda Barn Dance explains more about that!).
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Soon it was time to leave, we had a wonderful afternoon and after our goodbyes we headed back to the hotel. I had planned on taking Gabriel swimming, but it was too late unfortunately, so we went for dinner in the hotel restaurant instead. We sat by the windows and during our meal were visited by the most gorgeous peacocks and rabbits, it was lovely!

After a bath, a Skype to Daddy and some tv, it was time for bed. We woke up the next morning, and after a leisurely breakfast (yep, more chocolate toast) it was time to say goodbye to Kent.20140619-093935.jpg

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The next few hours were sadly horrendous. I won’t dwell on this too much other than to thank profusely the lady at Victoria tube station that possibly saved Gabriel’s life by scooping him up for me and lifting him high, and onto the packed tube whilst I struggled with my bags. He was being stamped on by people that can only be described as animals, that were too impatient to wait two more minutes for the next tube. I must have been emotional as I think I cried most of the journey to Kings Cross! Gabriel had calmed down quite a lot by this stage and so we went and located a strawberry milkshake to encourage the bruises on his arms and legs to go ‘bye bye’ quickly. We boarded yet another manically busy train back to Leeds, and after a quick coffee we caught our final train home. Here’s our last mini-break selfie. Knackered, emotional but grateful and happy.

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Thank you to my little man for one of my best weekends ever! Next time, we’ll avoid the tube maintenance dates though..

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