Eureka! Children’s Museum & Little Live Pets

This Summer we were invited to visit the wonderful Eureka! Museum in Halifax. Eureka! has been on our ‘must see’ list for some time and I was really pleased about being invited along.

Louis and Ted were busy that day, so Rowan and I went with the scrumptious Finn and his mum Emma from Not Such a Yummy Mummy.

Museums when I was a child were a bit, well, boring. I have taken the children to some wonderful museums over the past few years though and Eureka! is definitely up there with the best of them. It’s bursting at the seams with educational, fun and engaging exibitions.

We had spend the previous day at a festival and Rowan was quite tired, so although we saw everything we didn’t get to spend as much time in each section as we would’ve liked. Nonetheless, we had a very interesting day and we will definitely be back.

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Timeline of day Eureka

While we were at the museum, we were invited along to a hands-on demonstration by Little Live Pets. These cute interactive birds and butterflies respond to touch and will also record and repeat whatever you say to them. They come in co-ordinating cages and appeal to both boys and girls. Rowan was particularly taken with the birds. They retail at around £10 each or £20 for a pet in a cage.

There are six designs of bird available, which can be housed in cages which come in two different designs. The butterflies also come in six different designs and their butterfly houses in two pretty designs. Rowan played with them for quite a while actually, though the room was noisy meaning the recording and playing back of our voices proved a little difficult. I’m sure that had we been at home it would have worked beautifully.

Little Live Pets

We had a wonderful time at Eureka! and I will go again with both of the children because there really is something for everyone to learn – even adults. For more information you can check out their website, or if you’d like to know more about Little Live Pets their website is available here.

If you have visited Eureka! be sure to let me know in the comments section and tell me what you thought.

Disclosure: We were invited to Eureka free of charge for the purpose of reviewing the Little Live Pets.

Boat Hire on Lake Windermere

This week we’ve been staying at Bay View Campsite in Carnforth, near Morecambe. Yesterday we went for a drive up to Cumbria, which took considerably less time than I expected! In around about half an hour, we got as far as Bowness-on-Windermere. It’s one of my favourite places in the lakes because of the quaint little shops, the wonderful views of the lake and the delicious cafés.

We arrived and parked a little out of town, giving us a lovely relaxing walk into the centre. Stopping for an ice cream, we strolled along the lakeside until we arrived at the hire centre.

£28 for an hour’s hire was enough for us – prices were per hour and per adult too. So after a brief, er, brief, we set sail in our electricity-powered day boat. She was called Naomi, which tickled me since that’s the name of my sister in law!

What a lovely way to spend some quality time together. Ted tried to do most of the driving, but we had a boat-jacker!

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Rowan and Louis took it in turns to drive us around and when not being slaves to the wheel we did some rather lovely wonderful chilling out and pretending to live the high life!

I think, given the option, I’d have added a chilled glass of prosecco and Louis would have probably asked for a glass of coke (prohibited unless on special occasions) but alas, they forgot to supply a mini bar.

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The views from the lake are stupendous. I only had my phone to take photos with, but you certainly get the idea.

The mountains in the lakes are truly beautiful, and no matter how many times we visit there’s always something new to see, a new place to explore or a new adventure to be had.

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I can highly recommend hiring a day boat on Lake Windermere. There are several places you can hire from and most seem to be around the £30 per hour mark. It may seem a bit steep, but honestly – you’ll have a lovely time.

Unless of course you’re our dog, who we were clearly keeping awake …

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There are a kazillion other things to do in the area – see the Lake Windermere Website – but our favourite yesterday was the boat.

Camping at Red Bank Farm, Bolton-Le-Sands

A couple of weeks ago I was blogging from one of my favourite camp sites. Red Bank Farm is a quiet site, right by the sea. It’s location is Bolton-Le-Sands, just a few miles from the seaside town of Morecambe in Lancashire.

With a shower and toilet block that’s kept lovely and clean, a little petting zoo and reasonably priced laundry facilities the site has everything you need for a relaxed stay. Not to mention the wonderful on-site cafe which is really more like a restaurant with it’s wonderfully tempting menu and truly welcoming atmosphere.

We weren’t originally going to stay here this weekend, to celebrate my sister’s birthday. We had actually made arrangements to stay elsewhere but due to a change of plan found ourselves pitchless! On the off chance, we phoned Red Bank and they’d had a cancellation! Hooray!

The site is a working farm and part of camping on this farm is sharing your field with some very tame chickens. The kids loved the novelty of having chickens around and immediately asked if they could have one at home (No.).

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With us being right on the ‘beach’ it would have been rude not to take advantage of the loveliness that is walking the dog in the fresh, crisp morning air at 6am. (I definitely wasn’t nursing a hangover. No, not me!) The peace and quiet was just lovely.

I was armed with wellies – you definitely need them - and the dog was as happy as a … well, as a collie in a salt marsh!

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As I said, the beach is actually salt marsh and not really suitable for building sandcastles, though that didn’t stop the kids having a ball when their auntie and uncle took them yesterday afternoon.

There’s nothing more appealing to my four year old as something as tactile as muddy sand! He had a whale of a time and didn’t want to come back to the tent.

All of the children needed a full change of clothes when they got back but the smiles on their faces were worth it.

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The children (and some of the adults) spent much of the rest of the day playing football, cricket and rounders. One of the things I love about Red Bank is that the tents are all pitched around the perimeter of the field and there is lots of space for play in the middle.

As the day drew to a close we borrowed a huge BBQ from Red Bank and fed (what seemed like) the five thousand. From chilli-season mackerel and reggae reggae chicken through to the mandatory burgers and sausage, we were all stuffed full by the time we’d finished and there was still some left!

I love getting together to eat like this, where everyone brings something different and then we eat as though it were a buffet. Such a relaxed way of dining.

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We sat around the fire, toasting marshmallows, chatting and laughing. How much time do you actually spend ‘together’ as a family? We are often guilty of being in the same room but not communicating. I’ll be on the laptop, husband maybe watching a film, kids playing in the bedrooms. We are quite good at remembering to treasure our time together, but we could do more.

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And then, with full tummies and happy hearts, we slept. We slept until those pesky chickens woke us up. It was lovely.

Quality time with friends and family is absolutely priceless. What a weekend.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Family Friday

How Home Bargains Keeps Me Sane

Home Bargains didn’t have to ask me to write this post. I am more than happy to promote them because I owe my sanity to them. That, and the fact that I’m not (quite) penniless.

Just today, for example, I have:

  • Made the boys a packed lunch in their very cool lunch bags (with matching drinks bottles). They cost me around £4 each.
  • Left the dog in the house for a couple of hours with her favourite chew toy – a ball she can’t wreck (unheard of) filled with peanut butter. Keeps her quiet for ages. It cost me 99p.
  • Had a shower using body wash, shampoo and conditioner all from Home Bargains. Less than £1 each.
  • Driven the children to a play date 20 minutes away without them driving me mad in return. How? Home Bargains craft supplies priced between 50p and £1.50 each.
  • Made chicken balti with poppadums, nan bread and chutneys – all ingredients from Home Bargains – for less than a fiver to feed four of us.
  • Bathed the kids using Monsters University shower gel (99p), Monsters University soap sponge (49p – and also in the pound shop for … a pound!), Mike the knight facecloths (29p) and Mike the Knight wash mitts (29p).

Can you see why I love this place?!

It’s my go-to haven for kids party bags, stocking fillers, back to school stationary, fancy dress, cleaning products, PJs - everything but the weekly shop (and even that gets partially purchased there!).

You know that invitation stuck to the fridge for some kid at school you’ve never heard of? A fiver should cover it. Decent toy for £3.99 (less if you’re lucky) and a 29p birthday card!

Christmas presents for the kids of that couple who used to live next door but still buy your little cherub a gift even though they moved 5 years ago? Home Bargains will see you through that, no problem!

What about the woman at work who is going on maternity leave? You can get everything you need to put a beautiful gift hamper together for both mum and baby – and I bet it costs less than £15 – including the basket!

You might think that because things are cheap, they’re not much cop. You’d be wrong though. I have always found anything I buy from Home Bargains to be made to as high a standard as any other store. The colouring books don’t have wafer thin pages, the crayons don’t fall to bits, the markers don’t run out after five minutes. It’s really simple – you spend less for the same quality product.

One of our favourite toys from Home Bargains at the moment is the Sports Stars Football collection. I have included some photos below. We paid £15 for a pitch and 3 players when we were on holiday, only to discover that Home Bargains sell the very same thing for £3.99. I could’ve kicked myself! So now we’re building up our collection of players, one 99p box at a time …

In case you don’t believe how blinkin’ brilliant this shop is, I took a few photos to show you…

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Cushions that perfectly match the wallpaper: less than £20 for 5 *** Dog toy that keeps Betsy entertained for hours: 99p *** Transformers dressing up outfit: £3.99

Colouring books, activity book, stamp pens and sticker book - all less than £1 each *** 'Karen' Pen and notebook 39p each *** waterpaint palette 69p

Colouring books, activity book, stamp pens and sticker book – all less than £1 each *** ‘Karen’ Pen and notebook 39p each *** waterpaint palette 69p

Sports Stars pitch and figures: ranging from 99p - around £5 (and absolutely the best value for money) *** Lunch bags sent to us by Home Bargains: around £4 each including bottles *** An example of the Sports Stars Football figure: 99p for two 'surprise' players ***

Sports Stars pitch and figures: ranging from 99p – around £5 (and absolutely the best value for money) *** Lunch bags sent to us by Home Bargains: around £4 each including bottles *** An example of the Sports Stars Football figure: 99p for two ‘surprise’ players

These are just the things I have taken photos of today – I’m sure there are LOTS more things around the house from HB!

Basically, if you don’t live near enough to a Home Bargains, you should move.

 Disclaimer: I was sent some products to review (the lunch bags and some of the craft stuff) but I’m sure you can tell from this post that I’m a genuine fan of Home Bargains. All opinions are my own.

Family Holidays Abroad & How To Plan A Good One!

We haven’t been abroad for five years and ten months (not that I’m counting) but we have promised ourselves that next year we WILL board an aeroplane and spend some time by a sun-drenched swimming pool. Holidays aren’t cheap though, so we really need to plan ahead.

So far, I’m thinking that these things should be considered …

1) Book well in advance. Unless you want to save up some pennies then get a last second deal (the very notion makes me queasy) I’d book well in advance. That way, you know exactly how much your holiday will cost and you also have plenty of time to pay for it.

2) Go all-inclusive. For me, all inclusive is definitely the best option. It can put a downer on your holiday if you’re budgeting per day for food and drink. I like First Choice for this because all of their holidays are all-inclusive. If you’re all inclusive, things like that are paid for within the cost of your holiday as well as snacks, kids activities, evening entertainment – you should always check the details of an all inclusive deal though as different hotels offer different packages.

3) Pack light. I am as guilty as the next person for packing twelve weeks worth of clothes for a two night stay – ‘just in case’. You really don’t need that much stuff! Take clothes you can mix and match and shoes that will go with three or four different outfits. Flip flops take up barely any space and you can get some really pretty ones for us girls. My husband will probably just have black. Goes with everything.

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4) Check the small print. Linked to packing light, one of my worst fears is getting to the airport and being told my case is too heavy! Likewise, I’m not sure what I’d do if my hand luggage was too big or if I’d brought a suitcase for the kids that I hadn’t paid for. Make sure you know exactly what your allowances are and be careful to stick to them.

5) Use a holiday provider you trust. Whilst I’ve seen some good deals here and there on the internet, I’m always wary of companies I don’t know. Whoever you travel with, make sure they are a reputable firm. You can find all ABTA registered companies here.

6) Think carefully about how far you want to go. We took our eldest on his first (and only, to date) holiday abroad on his first birthday. We went to Barbados which is an 8 hour flight. With him only being one, it wasn’t too much of a struggle to keep him entertained. There were lots of us and we had a portable DVD player so that In The Night Garden could fill in the gaps where pass-the-baby failed. I wouldn’t try to take my four year old on an eight hour flight now. No way. I think we’d probably be best going to somewhere like Spain. All the feel of a holiday, reasonably priced and not far away!

What are your fail safe holiday tips? I’d love for you to share them with me in the comments section.

Race For Life 2014

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Heroes wear trainers.

I’m no hero, but I wore trainers on 13th July.

Like most other people, I hate cancer. I hate it with all my might. So when Scottish Power offered to sponsor me to take part in the Heaton Park Race For Life last month I was going to drag my sorry, slightly-larger-than-I’d-like backside around that 5k course come Hell or high water.

I’m no runner. I did download the couch to 5k app once. I even completed days one and two. On day three I had a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate and I’ve never looked back.

I did take part in RFL last year (probably the last time my trainers saw any action). I walked round with my dog and my children. We had lovely weather and I was proud of my non-exercising self for completing the course.

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With my boys after finishing RFL in 2013

Karen Betsy

This year it was just going to be me and my dog!

This year the weather forecast looked a bit dodgy, so I set out to the park without the boys or my husband. This year it was to be me and my dog. Except … When I got to the start line, there they were! My sneaky husband had brought the boys along to cheer me on. I may have cried a bit – RFL is a very emotional event anyway so it doesn’t take much to set me off!

RFL BOARD

After the race, people left their stories on a huge board.

The most emotional part of RFL is reading the signs people wear. Some are in memory of lost loved ones, some tell of friends and family who are still fighting or who have beaten the disease, others tell of their own battle. A poignant one for me was seeing two sisters running together. One was fighting cancer. They had a photo on their backs of them together. I was overwhelmed by them. I thought of my sister and how crushed I would be if anything was to happen to her. How much I would worry about my loved ones if anything was to happen to me. I thought of how cancer takes it’s toll not just on the people who have it, but everyone around them.

Inevitably, I thought of my friend Ashlee. 31 years old and not likely to see her next birthday. A mother not going to see her daughter grow up. A wife not growing old with her husband. A friend to so very many, who will leave us broken hearted.

I took part in the Race For Life for her. For myself. For us all.

Thank you, Scottish Power, for donating to Cancer Research UK. Thank you for helping to fight this evil disease.

All we can do is try. Try to find a cure.

Raise money to fund research and keep hope alive. Keep us alive.

Diggerland Yorkshire

Not so long ago we visited Diggerland in Yorkshire. Priced from £16.99 per person – including three year old Rowan – it isn’t the cheapest day out and I was apprehensive. How much fun can you have with a few diggers?

The answer to that is: LOTS.

We had an amazing day. Everyone enjoyed it and we stayed all day. We didn’t get bored, there weren’t any huge queues, the staff were pleasant and the rides were great!

You can drive diggers, dig with diggers, get raised (very high!) into the air by a digger, ride in a digger train … there’s a lot more to diggers than meets the eye.

Here are some snaps from our visit to give you an idea of what you can do when you’re there.

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The highlight of our day was the fun ride in the bucket of a digger!!

The attraction the boys enjoyed the most was Spin Dizzy! Even the nursery teddy bear (who was staying with us for the weekend) enjoyed himself!

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Diggerland is definitely worth a visit – even more so if you go this weekend – 9/10th August 2014! This weekend they are offering entry for FIVE POUNDS EACH! All you need to do is print off the voucher from their Facebook page, which you can find here!

CbeebiesLand & Alton Towers

Last weekend we were invited by Cbeebies Magazine to meet with them at CbeebiesLand at Alton Towers. Read about their fantastic Kids Go Free offer in my post about it from July, which details all the attractions and available vouchers.

We started the day with some activities including stories, making, colouring and some throwing of teddies!

Louis was a little bit too old to join in with these activities, but Cbeebies Magazine kindly gave him some other magazines to entertain himself with while he waited for his brother.

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Just before we left to go into the park, we had a visit from a very special friend. Postman Pat and Jess came to see us!

Rowan was a little bit shy, and so was E who’s mummy writes My Mummy’s Pennies. So they joined forces and were brave together!

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Rowan was very proud of his certificate, and extremely pleased with his lovely goody bag too.

We had a wonderful day with the Cbeebies Magazine team and will definitely be using some of the brilliant vouchers on offer this summer.

Thank you Cbeebies Magazine!

*disclaimer: we were invited to CbeebiesLand for a complimentary visit. The account of the day is from my own point of view*

The Maritime Museum, Liverpool

Yesterday I took my grandma and the boys to Liverpool for the day. My grandad used to take us to Albert Docks when we were children and Gran wanted to go back there to see what it’s like now.

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Grandma & The Boys

We managed to park right by the water (car parking charges aren’t too bad – we paid £6 for just over 4 hours) and wandered around the dock. Mostly filled with shops and restaurants, you can sit and look out over the dock whilst having lunch – it’s very pretty.

The highlight of our day though was the Maritime Museum. Of course there were several different types of boat on the dock, including a couple of ‘pirate ships’ and these interested the boys so we headed inside to the museum. I figured it would kill an hour and they might get something educational out of it. We had our first photo opportunity before we even went into the museum.

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The anchor from HMS Conway, a Merchant Navy training ship which was moored in Liverpool for more than 80 years.

We spent two and a half hours in the museum! There was so much more we could have looked at too but time was against us by then. Here’s a little insight into what’s beyond those revolving doors … The Maritime Museum shares its home with the International Slavery Museum. The former is on the first floor, so that’s where we headed. The museum is much bigger than I expected it to be and positively brimming with interesting facts about life at sea. One very large section of the museum is dedicated to three ships: Titanic, Lusitania and the forgotten Empress.

A model of the ill-fated Titanic, made at the same time and in the same place as the ship itself.

A model of the ill-fated Titanic, made at the same time and in the same place as the ship itself.

photo 1_4 Louis had a never-ending stream of questions about this model of Titanic/Olympic and about the story of the Titanic. ‘Did all the people on the ship die?’ ‘How did they get off the ship?’ ‘Why did it sink?’ ‘How come they didn’t see the iceberg?’ ‘How many people survived?’ It was lovely to see him so animated and enthusiastic about a topic and we talked about it for the rest of the day. When daddy got home from worked we talked about it some more! The best thing about the Titanic questions from Louis was that there was someone to answer them apart from me – an expert! In ‘Learning Zone 1′ a very lovely member of the museum staff was telling the children the story of the Titanic. She wasn’t telling the story we know - complete with Kate & Leo - she told us a story that had been written by a real survivor from Titanic for her son, Douglas. Some of the children listening to the tale of adventure were invited up onto the stage to dress up as characters from the story and really take part in the story. We joined the story a few minutes after it had started and the boys went to sit on the floor near the front. I could tell that Louis was itching to be asked up to join in with the story, so it was little surprise when he ended up as Captain Louis!   Captain Louis

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From left to right: Douglas – the main character, his mum, his dad, a boy in a life jacket, Douglas’ grandma and Captain Louis!

Another highlight is the wonderful way the people at the Maritime Museum have recreated the inside of a ship in their section about emigration.

Did you know that between 1830 and 1930 around forty million people

left Europe to find a better life?

This is one of many, many facts I learned yesterday. Forty million people leaving Europe over 100 years. It got me wondering why they left, where they went to, how they got there … I find it fascinating! The boys enjoyed walking through a ‘real ship’ … Recreation There is so much more to see at the Maritime Museum and I will definitely take the boys back so we can spend a whole day there. There’s another learning zone that we didn’t get to see, a section about customs and excise, a section about art and the sea – and LOTS more! Linking up to Red Rose Mummy’s ‘What’s Happened? What’s Hapenning?’ Linky, where you can get inspiration and learn about new places to go!

What's Happened? What's Happening?
and also, a new linky I’ve stumbled across called #FamilyFriday by dad blogger DannyUK
Family Friday

Camping on the Yorkshire Coast

Last week we spent seven nights under the stars (well, under the canvas) in North Yorkshire. Not exotic, some might say, but we had a lovely time!

The weather was really REALLY good to us which made the experience so much more enjoyable.

We stayed on a Haven site which meant that there was plenty to do each day. What we found, however, was that we didn’t use anywhere near all of the facilities on offer because we were too busy enjoying ‘proper’ outdoor fun.

One day that sticks in my mind is the one I dedicate this post to: Kite Flying.

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We had a blummin’ wonderful time up on the cliff tops that afternoon. Everyone was happy, the sun shone, the breeze blew, the dog tried to catch the kite and made us all laugh … it was perfect.

The kite cost us £16.00.

The memories are priceless.

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Linking up with Coombe Mill’s #CountryKids