North East Family Fun

A family of 5 with a zest for life, love of good food & passion for travel

Organise a hassle-free will online in just 20 minutes with Farewill

*This is a paid collaboration

Steve and I are now well into our 30s and married with three children yet until a few days ago, we still had not sorted out a will. It's such an important job but something that we'd keep putting off as we imagined it would take lots of time, involve us rummaging through paperwork and cost a fair bit of cash. A few recent events in our family have really brought home how important wills are - even if you're married and I'm ashamed that we were one of the 1 in 10 parents in the UK who had no official guardian appointed to look after Harry, Heidi and Jack if needed. So when Farewill contacted us and asked if we'd like to try out their online will service and offered a fantastic discount code for my readers, I was keen to collaborate and see just how hassle-free the service actually was. 

About Farewill

Farewill is a tech start-up based in London made up of lawyers, designers and engineers. They are just over a year old and have already grown to be the biggest will writer in the UK. Their wills cost £50 up front (£85 per couple) plus an optional £10 per year if you'd like the ability to amend your will if your situation changes. I love this simple pricing structure! If you enter NEFF30 at checkout you'll receive a 30% discount off the up front cost too which takes the cost down to £35 for an individual or £59.50 per couple. Bargain! 

Why use Farewill?

  • It's quick and easy
  • It uses the correct legal wording so you don't need to worry about this
  • It can save you money - the cost of dying without a will is around £9,700
  • You can appoint legal guardians for your children and be the one who decideds who will take care of them if needed
  • You can leave specific gifts to certain individuals or charity 
  • You can leave instructions for your funeral
  • You can even include wishes for the family cat or pets
  • You can access an excellent FAQs here
  • The will is checked over by legal experts 
  • Farewill has an excellent 5* rating via Trustpilot
  • There is an online chat facility to help with any specific questions 

My experience using Farewill

My will is pretty straightforward if I'm honest and the whole process took around 15 minutes for me. Farewill say it should normally take 20-30 minutes. There is no complicated jargon and everything is explained perfectly. The main concern for me was appointing guardians for Harry, Heidi and Jack - this was super easy to do. I just needed the person's name and either their address or date of birth. The process explains what happens at each step of the way too - for example, I chose to leave 100% of everything I own to Steve and then ticked a box to say if he dies, this will go to his children. You can also split up your estate into percentages so I could leave 33% to each child if they were my wishes. 

I like how there's the option to leave specific gifts to specific people - I could leave a precious piece of jewellery to Heidi for example or may wish to leave something I received from my own grandparents to my brother and there's also a section where you can leave your funeral plans and wishes for your final resting place too. 

Once completed, your will is checked by a legal expert which takes around 5 days and once approved, you simply download your document, print and then sign with two witnesses (instructions for who to use as a witness are provided). Your will is now legally binding. It's important to store your will in a safe place and let your executors know where it is. You can also view your will at any time online via your account. 

Honestly, I had in my head that it would be a little bit of a chore to complete but Farewill really could not have made the whole process any easier. Don't just take my word for it though, Farewill has received 350+ reviews via Trustpilot and has a 5* excellent rating

Exclusive Farewill discount & costs

I already think that Farewill's pricing is super simple - £50 per individual or £85 per couple up front. If you enter 'NEFF30' at check out before 31/5/18 you'll receive a 30% discount off this price which offers such fantastic value and £35 (or £59.50 for couples) is such a small price to pay for peace of mind. As part of the upfront cost, you'll receive 12 months worth of free updates. After this, you are charged £10 per year for the ability to make changes and for experts to check things over but this can be cancelled at any time via your account (I've checked this out and it's super easy to do). I've decided to stick with the £10 maintenance fee as it's less than the cost of a cinema ticket but I like the fact that I can update my will easily should I need to.

Farewill Wills for Couples 

Before signing up to this process I'd heard of 'mirror wills' before and when Steve and I eventually got around to it, this is what we were going to go for. Mirror wills are virtually identical wills where one half of the couple will leave everything to the other and vice versa. Farewill doesn't offer one mirror will but does offer a discounted option for couples. The restult is identical but gives you more flexibility in that you can offer personal gifts, messages and wishes. Find out more via the Farewill couples will page.

Is there anything I should know? 

Farewill is only suitable if you live in England or Wales, do not have a disabled dependent and do not have a complex property estate (eg property outside of the UK). 

I only ever endorse products that I've tried and tested myself and I'm happy to recommend. I've been really impressed with Farewill so far - it's such a simple platform to use, jargon-free, inexpensive and I only wish I'd signed up sooner. It's also nice to finally have that nagging feeling that I must get a will sorted taken away once and for all. 

Let me know if you've organised your own will yet and if Farewill's simple service appeals to you. 

A festive staycation in Newcastle with Malmaison

*This is a collaborative post

My birthday falls in December and Steve and I normally celebrate with a special weekend away somewhere. Quite often we'll stay in the North East and other times we'll venture further afield. This year there seemed to be so many new places I fancied trying in Newcastle that we decided to stay close to home in our favourite city. Newcastle has recently been named as the world's top travel destination by Rough Guides and I can certainly see why. I could never ever get bored of Newcastle and can't recommend taking a little staycation by the Tyne enough.

My festive staycation started with a trip to Hadrian's Tipi. I'd been dying to visit and had tried and failed on two occasions as it's always so busy! It seems that mid-week lunchtime is the perfect time to pop in and although we still couldn't find a seat, there were plenty of spots around the fire pits. Hadrian's Tipi is pretty expensive (£10 for 2 mulled wines - they are £3 each at the Christmas Market across the road) but worth it for a little treat. Drinking mulled wine in a tipi with twinkling lights to the backdrop of Christmas music and firepits feels very festive indeed. I'd recommend popping in if it's not too busy. 

I'd missed out on the Botanist's Winter Wonderland roof terrace launch so we decided to head along there next. I was surprised to discover we practically had the place to ourselves! It is chilly up on the roof but there are covered areas and blankets to snuggle up in. The views and twinkly lights make it worth braving the cold for. I could sit and watch the people below for hours. 

We walked down towards the Quayside to Tiger Hornsby for festive cocktails next where it appears I forgot to take any photographs! They had around 6 festive tipples to choose from and the setting is beautiful. This bar was nice and quiet in the early afternoon and I'd recommend for people like me who enjoy a decent drink with a seat! They were playing Home Alone on their big screen and apparently often screen free festive films in the afternoons. Tiger Hornsby is super cosy and a lovely place to sit down and relax with a nice drink.  

Onto the Malmaison.......

Time was getting on and we decided we should probably check into our hotel for the evening before getting to carried away with Christmas cocktails. Newcastle Malmaison is perfectly located on the NewcastleGateshead Quayside and is right next to the iconic Millennium bridge. 

We've stayed at the Newcastle Malmaison on a couple of occasions now and I'm always super impressed with the value their rooms provide. It's always worth checking out various special offers with Newcastle Malmaison throughout the year. At the moment you can enjoy a stay for two with dinner and wine from just £89 per couple which is a bargain! When you take into consideration the cost of taxis, dinner and drinks, it's almost rude not to stay over! There are also deals to book a room from just £49 and I love the Date Night Special which offers Champagne, dinner, bed and breakfast and is perfect for a special occasion. 

Rooms include complimentary toiletries, a very tempting (paid for) mini bar, Sky TV, the most comfortable beds we've ever slept on, power showers,  magazines, spa access and more.

Our room was so comfortable we almost didn't want to leave but our dinner reservation tempted us downstairs into the hotel Brasserie. A quick change and we were ready for the evening. 

The Mal Brasserie is fancy without feeling stuffy. The sommelier was actually younger than us and very approachable and friendly. He recommended starting the evening with a glass of Mal Champagne which seemed like a perfect idea to us. If you're lucky, there are a few seats in the restaurant offering perfect views of the River Tyne and bridges below.

We were staying at the hotel on a DBB deal which allows you to choose 3 courses from the Prix Fixe Menu or use a £25 allowance against the a la carte. As it was December, the Prix Fixe Menu featured festive options so we both decided to opt for this one.

I started with Roquefort and Mulled Pear Salad - deliciously light but packed with flavour. I loved it.

Then onto a traditional turkey dinner. I'm not exagerrating when I say the Mal's Christmas Dinner is the best I've ever eaten. The turkey was moist and succulent and served with both bread and cranberry sauce, the vegetables were beautifully caramalised and the roast potatoes were simply perfect. Add the delicious gravy and I just couldn't fault this dish at all. It even trumped the Turkey Dinner I enjoyed at Jesmond Dene House a few nights later.

I could barely squeeze in dessert but opted for a Sticky Toffee Pudding with caramel sauce and pecans. This pudding was nice and light but I was so full up I sadly couldn't finish it all. Our sommelier recommended a dessert wine to accompany our dish and I have to say it's not something we'd normally order. We went with it though and were really pleased we did. It felt like a real treat.

I contemplated a festive cocktail in the Mal bar which was nice and lively but in all honesty, I was so full of food and drink that I needed a lie down. We retired to our room and enjoyed a restful night's sleep. Considering it's location, we weren't bothered by any noise in the slightest - they must have invested in decent insulation! 

We woke the following morning as fresh as a daisy. We decided to go for continental breakfast in bed as had plans to dine out for lunch later in the day. I was expecting a couple of croissants in a grab and go bag.....not this fantastic selection that really surprised us. 

Wow breakfast really exceeded our expectations and paired with a late check out and morning TV was the perfect way to relax before braving the crowds of Newcastle to finish our Christmas shopping. 

My festive weekend in Newcastle could not have been more perfect. I honestly love our city and can't think of a better place to spend my birthday. If you'd like to watch more of what we got up to, check out my Vlogmas video below:

I've linked this post to #CityTripping - check it out here

10 Family-Friendly New Year's Eve Parties & Events across North East England 2017/18

What to do on New Year's Eve if you have kids? It's a question I'm asked a lot so I decided to do a little research and answer it. Here are 10 family-friendly events happening across North East England on 31 December that will help you to see the New Year in with style. Let me know what you're up to in the comments:

1 - New Years Eve Family Event - Village Hotel Newcastle 

Expect kids party games, a buffet and disco at this family-friendly party at the Village Hotel which runs from 7pm until 2am.  Find out more & book here

2 - Pantomime

If you're looking for a family night out with lots of laughs, why not plan an early evening trip to the panto? Theatre Royal, Northern Stage, The Customs House, Whitley Bay Playhouse, Gala Theatre, Tyne Theatre & Opera House and Sunderland Empire all have seats available on New Year's Eve.

3 - Hebburn Sports Club Mini New Year's Eve Party 

This special mini party takes place from 2:30pm - 5:30pm. Wristbands are just £2.50 per child and the fun will include a mini disco and fireworks.  Find out more & book here

4 - Family NY Eve Party at Beamish Hall 

Join Beamish Hall in their Winter Gardens for a family-friendly party from 6:30pm - 00:30am. Expect a three-course meal for grown-ups plus a party buffet for kids followed by party games, face painting, balloon modelling and a disco. Find out more & book here or call 01207 233 733 for details.

5 - New Years Eve Family Party in Traders Restaurant, Holiday Inn Washington 

Get together with family and friends to see in the New Year with this family-friendly event. Expect a buffet, children's entertainment and disco from 6pm. Find out more & book here or call 0191 418 9419

6 - Family New Year's Eve Party at Evan's Bistro, Whitley Bay

Join Evan's Bistro for their FREE family buffet and get together with a cash bar serving drinks throughout the evening.  Find out more here

7 - New Year's Eve Skating at Life Science Centre

Pre-book a New Year's Eve outdoor ice skating session at Life Science Centre before 5:45pm. Find out more and book online here. 

8 - New Year's Eve Family Party at AMF Bowling

With a glass of bubbly on arrival, unlimited bowling, unlimited nachos and a drink to see in the New Year, AMF Bowling looks like a fantastic option for families with older kids.  Find out more & book here

9 - Family New Year's Eve Party at Blue Flames

The annual New Year's Eve Family Party at Blue Flames is back. There'll be a disco, buffet, bouncy castle and more from 7pm until late. Find out more & book here

10 - New Year Family Fun at Alnwick Garden 

Alnwick Garden are hosting a family party in their pavilion from 5pm - 8pm which sounds perfect for little ones who may not make it to midnight. Tickets include mini golf, ice skating, entry to Alnwick Garden, food and drink stalls, street entertainment and more. Find our more & book here.

Let me know what you're up to this New Year - I hope I've provided some inspiration if you've been a little stuck for ideas. 

How would you spend the money you save by switching energy tariffs?

*This is a paid collaboration

If you were given £200 to spend on whatever your heart desired, what would you buy? This was the question posed to me by E.ON recently. Lots of options entered my head - new clothes, a new camera lens, a weekend away, a spa day.....with £200 to spend, there are so many options available! 

The Ofgem national average UK household could save up to £200 by switching energy suppliers so I decided to put this to the test and compared gas and electricity tariffs with E.ON to my current supplier. This online tariff comparison tool is super straightforward to use and you don't need to sign up for anything to find out how much you'd save. It turns out I'd save £120 per year by switching to E.ON which is not to be sniffed at! 

After giving it some thought, I decided I'd spend the £120 I'd save by switching energy suppliers on a family day out to a UK theme park next summer. After our holiday to Florida this summer, both Harry and Heidi were really taken with the thrilling rides and have yet to experience the white-knuckle rides that the UK has to offer too. They've been nagging me non-stop to visit another theme park and I think if I don't plan a big trip this summer I'll be in serious trouble! 

We all loved the river congos at Busch Gardens and would love to find a UK park with this kind of ride so we can relive the experience - we had SO many laughs on this ride and it's a memory we'll all treasure forever. I would love to hear if you have any recommendations for UK theme parks with thrilling rides that the whole family can join in with like this? I'm thinking it will probably be Alton Towers we visit but I'm open to ideas. 

Theme Parks are notoriously an expensive day out and definitely the kind of thing you keep as a treat rather than an everyday experience and I think £120 would just about cover our entry to a park at the beginning of the school holidays as an end of term treat and would be something the whole family would look forward to before Harry starts High School in September and will no doubt want to start doing this kind of thing with his mates rather than his family. 

If theme parks don't tickle your fancy, you can check out a few other suggestions by other UK bloggers here. I love that Lindsay would save the money for her wedding, Helena would buy a flight to Spain to visit her mum and Jen would treat her family to more trips to the cinema and regular fish and chips (yum). 

Family days out aren't usually cheap and I'm always looking for ways to make our money go further during day trips. Switching energy suppliers just didn't register as a way I could save money and have fun with the family too. I don't think you can put a price on memories with your children and days out are always going to be the place I choose to spend my spare or extra cash. 

Check how much money you could save by switching energy tariffs with E.On here and let me know in the comments what you'd spend the extra money on. 

This post was sponsored by E.ON, to help advertise their wide range of tariffs. Although I was paid for this advertisement, all views are my own


Tyne Theatre & Opera House Panto 2017 - Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs with Michelle Heaton | A Review

*Press Review

I'm sure I'm not the only person in the North East who was left feeling a little sad at the end of last year's panto when they announced that Newcastle Panto Company would not be returning to the Tyne Theatre in 2017. Watching Newcastle Panto Company at Tyne Theatre & Opera House year after year was always one of our family traditions and I was firmly in the camp of why change something that doesn't need to be fixed? It was time for a change though and Newcastle Panto Company now has a new home at Gateshead International Stadium and Enchanted Entertainment were brought in for 2017's pantomime at Tyne Theatre & Opera House where they promised big name stars with a brand new production. 

The big name stars turned out to be pretty good and I think Enchanted Entertainment delivered on their promise - Michelle Heaton plays the evil Queen, Britain's Got Talent Winner Matt Pagan from Collabro is the Prince, ITV Tyne Tees Rachel Sweeney plays the magic mirror and Britain's Got Talent finalist Danny Posthill is Dame Dotty Donut. It's certainly a talented cast! 

We took our seats in a packed theatre with open minds and were excited to watch the story unfold. 

This pantomime is definitely one that's aimed towards kids rather than grown-ups. There was far less innuendo or jokes for grown-ups than any of the other panto we've watched this year and the audience was mostly made up of families or groups of kids. That's not to say grown-ups won't enjoy it, it's still fun but you'll be laughing with your kids rather than above them.

There were lots of elements we loved in the show - Michelle Heaton was superb as the evil Queen and I was always willing her to be on stage in the next scene. I loved watching her perform and she's a natural on stage with excellent singing and dancing. The Liberty X number was the highlight of the whole production. Similarly, Matt Pagan's voice was superb and his solo numbers were top class. It was lovely to see local lads Charlie Richmond and Lewis Denny and they had a fantastic chemistry with the audience. The Seven Drawfs were also super endearing and you couldn't help but have a soft spot for them. There are a couple of songs from the Disney movie too which we all enjoyed.  

I don't know if it's because this was our 5th panto this year but Harry in particular found some of the jokes to be a little repetitive - the Ghostbusters scene has been part of the Whitley Bay panto for as long as we can remember and it was disappointing to see it repeated (and not as well) at Tyne Theatre and the classic 'If I were not a.......' song seemed a lot funnier at the Theatre Royal this year. Enchanted Entertainment promised a brand new production for Newcastle this year but to me, this wasn't the case at all and it did seem very 'samey'. I'm also not sure why they repeated the same scene with the ghosts in the forest twice - I don't think this was needed and it just felt like it was padding out the show rather than adding anything to it. I guess if this is the only panto you watch it won't be an issue but next year I'd love to see more unique content and for this panto to really set themselves apart from the others. 

I wasn't keen on the panto dame either and if I'm honest, I missed Lottie and Dottie Stottie! For me, Dame Dotty Donut didn't really add anything to the show and I think the talented impressionist could have been used in other ways - the magic mirror perhaps? 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is full of music and the production is accompanied by a live orchestra which really makes the evening feel special. There are plenty of 'boos', 'he's behind yous' and of course, the bit that everyone loves where some lucky children will get up on stage and provide a couple of laughs that you wouldn't be able to write in the script. 

Snow White & The Seven Drawfs is what I'd call a good all-rounder. There's live music, all of the elements you'd like to see in a good panto, fantastic singing, big-name stars and I always think Tyne Theatre & Opera House is the most beautiful theatre in Newcastle. Michelle Heaton, Matt Pagan, Charlie Richmond and the Seven Dwarfs really were all a joy to watch and I loved it when they were all on stage. 

I don't think this production pushed themselves in terms of any 'wow' moments though and really think they need to start thinking about offering something unique and taking a couple of risks next year if they'd like to set themselves apart - there's some tough competition in Newcastle.............

Scores on the doors

Sam - 7/10
Steve - 8/10
Harry - 6/10
Heidi - 10/10
Jack - 10/10 

All you need to know
  • 4 x Pepsi, 1 x Capri Sun, 3 x bags of sweets & 1 x large bag of crisps = £11
  • Ice cream is available at the interval
  • Flashing toys available for £5
  • Tickets are priced from £14
  • Performance is 2.5 hours long including a 20 minute interval 

Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs continues until 31 December. Find out more and buy tickets online here.

Check out our other 2017 Panto Reviews here: 


What to do in Northern Spain - a guide for active families

*This is a collaborative post

Spain is a destination we’ve travelled to with our children more often than all others and definitely has a special place in our heart. Northern Spain is super easy to get to from the UK, especially as you can now take the ferry to Santander or Bilbao with Brittany Ferries but is still often overlooked in favour of the more well-known destinations along the South coast which is a shame. There is so much to do in Northern Spain, especially for active families who enjoy sport and outdoor pursuits and today I’m sharing a few ideas you may wish to try during your next holiday. 

1 - Water sports at Sardinero beach 

Sardinero beach in Santander is the perfect destination to try your hand at kite surfing, sailing or surfing. The perfect golden sand goes on for miles and the promenade is lined with pretty cafes where you can enjoy a spot of lunch. A private surf lesson with Escuela de Surf Sardinero will set you back around 50 euros per person and lessons are available from age 4 years+.

2 - Explore Altamira Cave 

Altamira cave is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for it’s rock art. The stunning cave has very limited access if you’re aged 16+, you can apply to visit the cave as a small group of 5 every Friday from 9:30am. Details are available here.

3 - Take a stroll through Dona Casilda Park

Dona Casilda Park is Bilbao’s largest green space and perfect for walking. Expect water fountains, live music, a play park, ducks and peacocks. 

4 - Take the Funicular to the top of Mount Artxanda in Bilbao 

The Funicular is an inexpensive (less than 2 euros each way) ride which will take you to the top of Mount Artxanda in Bilbao and will reward you with stunning views. 

5 - Bear watching Picos de Europa 

For something a little different, why not join a local guide and take the family Calabrian Brown Bear spotting in the Europa National Parks. Bears are best spotted at dawn or dusk when they are most active. As well as bears, you can spot golden eagles and peregrine falcons in their natural habitat in the mountains here. 

6 - Paddle Boarding in La Concha Bay

Teens will especially love this activity in San Sebastian. For around 12 euros per hour, you can hire a paddle board and explore the bay with complete freedom. 

7 - Snow park and Dog sledding in Formigal 

Formigal is a modern, purpose-built ski resort suited to all ages and abilities in Northern Spain. Families can choose from over 30 slopes, let loose in a snow park, enjoy dog sledding, try skidoo and more! 

Northern Spain really does have it all! Let me know if you’ve ever visited or if there are any activities mentioned that have particularly caught your eye. 

What's on for kids & families in North East England | 9 & 10 December

Steve and I are heading to North Shields Christmas Market on Saturday - it's my favourite Christmas Market and definitely one of the best in our region then we're packing our bags and heading to Jesmond Dene House for the night where we're meeting some friends for a lovely Christmas meal.  On Sunday we're heading to Tyne Theatre & Opera House to watch Snow White - I am SO excited to watch Michelle Heaton as the evil Queen! Let me know what you're up to.

What's on for kids & families in North East England | 9 & 10 December

5 - 10 December | Enchanted Parks at Saltwell Park | Find out more here

9 December | Elf Yourself Animation Workshop at Gateshead Library | Find out more here

9 December | Family Christmas Wreath Making at Gosforth Central Park | Find out more here

9 December | Children's Christmas Party at The Linksill Centre | Find out more here

9 December | Mince Pie and Mulled Wine 2.5 mile Ranger-Led Coastal Walk | Find out more here

9 December | Rocking Robin Craft at Great North Museum | Find out more here

9 & 10 December | Seaton Sluice Singers at Seaton Delaval Hall | Find out more here

10 December | Christmas Carols at Walker Park | Find out more here

10 December | The Polar Express at Discovery Museum | Find out more here

10 December | The Muppet Christmas Carol at Tyneside Cinema | Find out more here

10 December | Santa Dash at Gibside | Find out more here

10 December | Make a Reindeer Gift Bag at Seaton Delaval Hall | Find out more here

Other ideas: 

Catch up with my Christmas Videos and Vlogmas

I'm publishing a short Christmas video every day from 1 - 20 December as part of Vlogmas. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel here and catch up with my previous videos below: 

Welcome to Vlogmas:

The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater Review:

Where are all the Tree Toppers? 

Love Actually vs Die Hard - the big debate

A quick walk around Manchester Christmas Markets 

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