North East Family Fun

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - circus tent

We were provided with Press tickets to the Just So Festival in Cheshire this year and could not have been more excited. The not-for-profit festival focuses on family arts and seemed to offer something that little bit different to other festivals I've been to in the past. We packed up our tent and travelled along the A1, M62 and M6 and before we knew it we were there. We were able to camp for up to three nights and the campsite was very close to our car which was a blessing. Anyway, we fell head over heels in love with Just So.......here are few reasons why:

1 - We snacked on Corn on the Cobb

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - corn van

My kids love Corn on the Cobb and it was the first thing they spotted when we entered the festival site. It was sweet, juicy and really hit the spot - the perfect festival snack!

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - corn on cobb

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - corn on cobb

2 - The attention to detail was superb

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - lantern
The attention to detail at Just So was simply amazing - I have no idea how long this must take to put together but I am guessing they must already be starting on 2017. From the hand-drawn signs to the twinkly lights and bunting everywhere you turn. The detailing was well thought out and really added to the magic. 

3 - We could dance the night away

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - music on footlights stage at night

The footlights is the perfect place to set up camp, get the drinks in and dance the night away with new friends. A real highlight for us was the huge 'Zombie Congo' which snaked through the field one afternoon courtesy of the Baghdaddies.

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - footlights stage at night

4 - We were captivated by stories around the bonfire

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - bonfire bands and story telling in the woods

It's not often you get the chance to listen to stories by the bonfire and these were by real story tellers who had kids on the edge of their seats and the grown ups laughing at the jokes that went over the kids' heads. The tale about the boggles of Cumbria was or favourite.

5 - There's lots of space to chill out

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - sailcloth city by the lake

Sometimes festivals can be full on but at Just So there were plenty of spots to chill out whether this be by the lake, in Sailcloth city, during family yoga, whilst enjoying an Indian head massage or simply just under a tree. There were lots of places to escape the craziness which was appreciated. 

6 - The festival setting is beautiful 

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - Rode Hall Estate Gardens

The Just So Festival is set on the Rode Hall Estate in Cheshire. The grounds are beautiful and very well kept with lots of flowers, ponds, woodland and shrubs. 

7 - We learned all about bees

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - Bee Hives

I appreciated the hands on & educational aspect to the festival and my three loved lifting the bee hive lids hidden in the spellbound forest to learn all about these special creatures.

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - Bee Hives

8 - We composed our own song using pots and pans

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - pots and pans music

My kids were transported right back to their toddler years and composed their own song using nothing but pots, pans and crockery. Lots of fun!

9 - The staff were all fantastic

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - outdoor story telling

From the roaming actors who stayed in character the whole time to the friendly faces on the entrance gate to the parking stewards and volunteers helping us create our own lantern - all of the staff we encountered were happy, friendly and made us feel welcome and nothing was too much trouble.

10 - We joined the circus

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - circus skills

It's not every day you can join the circus! We loved learning new skills and by the end of our session we were all spinning plates with ease. What an achievement! 

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - circus skills

 11 - We discovered the magic of the forest

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - spellbound forest

The Spellbound Forest at Just So truly is a magical place - from the moment you step through the storybook entrance you can't help but be taken in by the twinkling lights, hidden theatres and secret trails. We even managed to bump into the Gruffalo!

 12 - We enjoyed contemporary dance

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - contemporary dance

Watching contemporary dance isn't something you'd normally find us doing as a family but we actually ended up thoroughly enjoying the performance.

13 - We were immersed in all things crazy

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - Les Enfants Theatre

A flying boat, egg heads that crack, stardust, robots, empty planets and vacuums.......all part of one of the truly crazy but funniest shows of the weekend.

14 - Mud and rain were dealt with and weren't an issue

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - wellies

Sometimes rain and mud can cause problems at festivals and hamper the fun - well not at Just So! There are plenty of spots to hide under cover, indoor activities and the mud was dealt with promptly with staff laying down straw to stop it getting slippy. Hats off to the festival organisers for being so well organised.

15 - It was an excuse to dress up

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - fox ears
Some of the costumes at Just So are AMAZING. From grown men in lion suits and dressed as Fantastic Mr Fox to babies dressed as frogs and full mermaid costumes, I REALLY need to up my game next year. Still, it was nice to walk around with a pair of fox ears all weekend and join in the fun. Steve has already started a Pinterest board with costume designs for next year! 

16 - The Tribal Leaders

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - Frog Tribal Leader

Before you visit Just So, you should align yourself with a tribe. With our red hair, we naturally aligned ourselves with the foxes. Every tribe has their own leader who spends time walking around the festival and entertaining everyone. The leaders were funny, over the top, always in character and took the time to speak to every single child. 

17 - Inclusive performances

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - woodland theatre

Most of the festival was accessible by wheelchair, there were accessibles loos and many of the performances were also provided with an interpretor and sign language if needed. I loved this inclusive feel to the festival - it felt like nobody was left out of the fun. 

18 - There was candyfloss

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - fairy candy floss
Candy floss is the one thing I'm not keen on my children eating - it is pure sugar after all. The candy floss at Just So though was just irresistible with it's magic fairy dust. We couldn't resist ordering some fresh from the two lovely ladies and indulging a little.

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - fairy candy floss

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - fairy candy floss

19 - We spent time with friends

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - North East Family Fun and Her Come the Hoopers selfie

Festivals are the perfect place to visit with friends - there is plenty to see and do so you aren't on top of each other but then there's also lots of opportunity to enjoy a couple of drinks together or catch a performance. We visited with our friends the Hoopers (who we actually hadn't met in real life until the festival - we were just internet friends) and it was lovely to have someone to share the experience with. 

20 - We camped under the stars

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - tent in camping field

Part of the magic of festivals has to be the camping - the pitches at Just So are very close to the car park (so no great distance to carry everything) and pretty close to the festival entrance. There are clean loos and shower blocks and fresh water is available too. Yes it rained (quite a bit) but there is definitely something special about just embracing the festival vibe. 

21 - There was FREE Soreen

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - free soreen

This was perhaps a little unexpected but we were handed free Soreen samples throughout the day. My eldest was in his element and we actually discovered he loved Soreen so will be adding a bar to his packed lunch when he returns to school. It turns out Soreen is the perfect snack to nibble on and keep you going between performances. 

22 - Something new to see everywhere we turned

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - heron

You could never be bored at Just So - there is something new to watch around every corner and you never know what to expect next from giant Heron's to galloping human horses. We were definitely entertained.

23 - We joined in with crafts

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - free craft, make your own placard

I'll be the first to admit I'm not at all crafty and crafts at home aren't really my thing so when the kids had the chance to create something fantastic at Just So, we really appreciated it. They loved making their 'Team Fox' placards and they now stand proudly against their bedroom wall.

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - make your own placard at the high seas

24 - A little healthy competition and rivalry

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - Tribal Tournament leaderboard

Throughout the festival you have the chance to earn special golden pebbles from actors and performers - you then must hand these to your leader and they are counted up at various points throughout the day before a winner is announced at the grand Tribal Tournament finale. Foxes took an early lead but sadly it wasn't our year. The healthy competition was lots of fun though, especially as rumours spread amongst tribe members about how to obtain extra pebbles. 

25 - There was GOOD coffee available from Little Espresso Co

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - coffee from Little Espresso Co

No weak tea or cheap coffee here - only the best for Just So parents which pleased me no end! It was blissful to grab a cup on Sunday morning and take in an outdoor performance with the kids. 

26 - We learned how to become spies

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - spy science

H&H enrolled in Spy Science and learned how to write secret codes using invisible ink - just one of the free spy school workshops available to book. 

27 - We joined in with a HUGE pillow fight on the Village Green

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - pillow fight on village green

The Village Green was home to an EPIC pillow fight on Sunday afternoon, It was so much fun to both watch and participate in and very well organised by the tribal leaders who ensured things didn't get too out of hand. Feathers everywhere!

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - pillow fight on village green

28 - There was time to sit back and watch the world go by together

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016

Sometimes the best thing about spending the weekend with your family is actually spending time with your family. We didn't charge our phones on purpose (there is a charging tent should you need it) and loved the time with our children away from technology and simply having fun.

29 - The Boy Who Cried Wolf

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - Animalia and The Fabularium performance of The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Animalia in the middle of the woods was home to the most fantastic theatre company (the Fabularium) we loved gathering around and listening to the beautifully performed Boy Who Cried Wolf.

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - Animalia and The Fabularium performance of The Boy Who Cried Wolf

30 - We tried something new together

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - acrobatics

I was well and truly pushed out of my comfort zone and joined in with an acrobatics class with Heidi - it was lovely to try something new and as always, fantastic for Heidi's confidence as she was praised by the staff for her flexibility and grace (me not so much - haha).

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - acrobatics

31 - We were captivated by the story of Reynard the Fox

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - Animalia and The Fabularium performance of Reynard the Fox

Another favourite from the Fabularium - the tale of Reynard the Fox. Young and old loved this performance and there were a few jokes in there just for grown-ups too. It was a definite highlight for Jack and I and we couldn't help but fall for Reynard's charm. 

32 - Indulgent treats for grown ups too

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 - festival food

Freshly made curries, fries topped with bacon and cheese, gourmet burgers, local ales and ciders, proper fish and chips......there were plenty of treats for grown ups to enjoy too. 

33 - We ordered our own pizza which was made to order

33 Reasons we LOVED the Just So Festival 2016 -  festival pizza

I love encouraging the kids to do things for themselves and H & H were proud as punch when they ordered and paid for their own pizza for lunch one day. It was delicious too! Most food vendors sold children's meals (typically £5 for a main, side and drink) and food wasn't too overpriced. 


In conclusion, the Just So Festival was everything we expected and so much more. It was fun, inspiring, creative and chilled......all at the same time. Once you pay for your ticket, everything apart from food, drink and concessions is included. I loved not having to put my hand in my pocket when the kids wanted to join a craft session or we signed up to family yoga. Because of this, the Just So Festival really is superb value for money. To get more of a flavour of the festival, please check out our short video below. I promise the pillow fight isn't as crazy as it seems! LOL



Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2017 (18 – 20 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 26 August at www.justsofestival.org.uk at special early bird prices of £120 (adults), £45 (child) for weekend camping, £70 (adult), £25 (child) for 2 day non-camping, £40 (adult), £15 (child) for day tickets. Under 3s free. 

Disclosure: We were provided with Press Tickets to attend the Just So Festival and write an honest review. 


Monkey and Mouse
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Win the ultimate VIP package to see Disney On Ice presents Frozen this October


Disney On Ice presents Frozen has announced the opening of an additional show for this year's icetravaganza at the Metro Radio Arena! Tickets go on sale from 9 am tomorrow, 25 August, for Tuesday 18 October at 6.30 pm, and to celebrate, we have an AMAZING prize to give away!

Win the ultimate VIP package to see Disney On Ice presents Frozen this October


Your Ultimate VIP Package Will Include:


  • 4 rink side seats to the show on Tuesday 18 October 2016
  • Pre-show hospitality
  • Goody bags for the kids
  • The chance to meet two of the stars of the show! 
  • And to make sure you get the full VIP treatment, we're going to transport you there and back in an amazing pink limousine! Whoo hoo!

Win the ultimate VIP package to see Disney On Ice presents Frozen this October

How To Enter

Simply enter via the Rafflecopter widget below - don't forget to pop back every day as there's an option to enter daily via Twitter. Good luck! See rafflecopter below for full t&c's. 


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How to choose the perfect first dance song

My blogging bestie is getting married soon and I can't wait to find out what her first dance is going to be. For some couples, the song that means the most to them isn’t always the best choice for a first dance at a wedding – perhaps it’s something that is an inside joke, fast paced or just not appropriate for your Grandma to listen to. 

My gorgeous friend Claire and her husband enjoying their first dance last month

If this is the case choosing a song to dance to as a newly wed couple can feel harder than agreeing on matching wedding rings or what colour scheme to go with for the day. I really regret our first dance song - I really wanted 'I believe in a thing called love' but the live lounge version by Lemar which meant a lot to us but I played it to my friend and she turned me against it so I went with something generic which I regret now!  So here’s how to choose the perfect first dance song, that will get your Mum tearing up and everyone smiling…

Choose a song that is easy to sway to

Unless you’re signing up for dance lessons before your big day you need a slow song that’s easy to awkwardly shuffle to (it’s not a wedding first dance if there’s no awkward shuffling!) Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking out loud’ is the top choice for wedding dance songs, according to a study carried out by music streaming service Spotify, with Etta James’s ‘At Last’ and Ray LaMontagne’s ‘You are the Best Thing.’ These three songs are all recognisable and easy to move to, making them perfect first dance songs. 

Pick something from a special moment 

For some people it was the first song you sang together, after realising you both loved the artist, for others it's more subtle – perhaps the song that was playing in the restaurant you went on a date to or that you first danced together to at a mutual friend’s wedding. Choose a song that evokes a happy memory together ('I believe in a thing called love' was the song that was always on the radio when we bought and decorated our first home together).

Don’t worry about it being cheesy

Most love songs are pretty corny, so if you both love Shania Twain’s ‘From this Moment’ don’t hide it – it’s your big day, your song and you should choose something you both feel works and represents you. Same rule applies for any Bryan Adams tracks, get those on! 

Find something a little different

You could skip the Ed Sheerans and the John Legends altogether and opt for something a little unusual. The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s acoustic version of their Wedding Song is a wonderful, soft tune to twirl to on the dancefloor while Regina Spektor’s Samson is a quirky but beautiful song for that first dance. 

Choose a song that reminds you both what you mean to each other, be sure to check the lyrics to ensure it is a love song and pop it on the DJs list for your big day! 

Collaborative Post


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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A Summer Afternoon at Gibside

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - walled garden entrance

So we FINALLY bought a car! Yeah! The very next day we had to plan an adventure and as the sun was shining we decided to head to one of our favourite picnic spots. Gibside is a National Trust property in Gateshead/Durham a few miles from the Metrocentre. Entry is free if you are NT members as we are. See website for non-member prices.

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Gibside Chapel

There is a HUGE variety of things to do at Gibside and our afternoon only just scrapes the surface. We were there to chill out and enjoy the sun. We did think about walking up to the stables but the kids were far too hot after an hour in the adventure playground so we knocked that idea on the head and are saving it for autumn.

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens.

First up is Gibside Chapel and the avenue. The grassy tree-lined lane goes on for as far as the eye can see. This is right next to the entrance and a fab spot for a picnic. In the summer there are often bands playing in front of the chapel and I always remember watching a fantastic steel pan concert here in 2011. Jack was just a baby, Heidi a toddler and we all had fun dancing the afternoon away.

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens.

If you walk around the chapel and past a field of cute cows, you'll find the Strawberry Castle play area which was the main reason for our visit. It's fantastic with mock castles and houses, a giant sand pit, water play (when in operation), rope swings, zip wires........plus it's own toilet block (although they need to increase the number of loos from 2 I think) and ice cream/coffee hut. It's the sort of place you could spend all day and I noticed a few mums had brought their books to read as the kids ran off to play - definitely what I'll be doing next time.

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - a field of cows

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - entrance to Strawberry Castle play area

It was super busy on the day we visited but we managed to find a good spot on the grass and enjoyed a little sunbathing session as the kids ran off to play hide and seek amongst it all.

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - picnic in the park

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Strawberry Castle Play Area

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Strawberry Castle Play Area

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Strawberry Castle Play Area

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Strawberry Castle Play Area

They returned after 45 minutes of playing asking for drinks/ice creams. Ice creams will set you back a cool £2 each and the kiosk does not take card payments. You won't be able to resist so make sure you plan ahead. Their coffee is lovely. I never used to understand how adults could drink coffee on a boiling hot day but now I get it......we need the caffeine!

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Ice Cream Kiosk

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Ice Cream Kiosk

Ice creams finished and after some more play, we packed up our picnic bags and headed to the walled garden. I am a sucker for walking around beautiful flowers and plants and the walled garden will not disappoint.

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Walled Garden

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Walled Garden flowers

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Walled Garden flowers

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Walled Garden flowers

There was an interesting exhibition in one corner of the garden.......

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Walled Garden washing line

There is usually always something going on at Gibside. In the past we've enjoyed a blindfolded team-building obstacle course in the woods, bushcraft activities, campfire cooking, den building and made bird feeders. Today's activity was to make your own salad tray. There was no additional charge for this and the volunteer helpers were lovely, taking the time to help H&J. It was really well organised and the kids were very pleased that they could bring their 6 herb and salad plants home......let's hope we can keep them alive!

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Walled Garden create your own salad tray activity

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Walled Garden create your own salad tray activity


Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Walled Garden create your own salad tray activity


Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Walled Garden create your own salad tray activity

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - Walled Garden create your own salad tray activity

We ended our afternoon with a couple of refreshing drinks from Gibside's tearoom. Their courtyard had some lovely shaded seats and it was a nice place to cool down before our journey home.

Gibside - A North East National Trust Property that's ideal for Picnics, Adventure Playground fun and beautiful gardens - tea room / coffee shop outdoor seating area

Need to Know




I'd love to hear about your favourite National Trust property :-) 

Disclosure: We paid for our own day out
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