North East Family Fun

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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Frugal 2017 | Saving for Christmas 2017 with intu Metrocentre Savings Club

*This is a collaborative post

If you have been following my plan to save as much money as I can this year, you will know that at the beginning of the month I cancelled a few of my non-essential direct debits and managed to save £240 from my monthly outgoings.

Frugal 2017 | Saving for Christmas 2017 with intu Metrocentre Savings Club

A few of my readers were shocked to learn that I had cancelled my Park Savings direct debit and questioned how I was going to pay for Christmas 2017. My answer to this is that I sometimes get paid for blogging work in the form of gift vouchers and I was going to save these for Christmas but then I did start to worry. What if things changed this year and I didn't receive as many gift vouchers? Or what if I ended up spending them before Christmas? The last thing I would ever want is to find myself unprepared for Christmas.

When I spotted an advert promoting the intu Metrocentre Savings Club on my Facebook feed, I was intrigued to learn more. Steve and I always visit intu Metrocentre in the run up to Christmas and it's where we do our 'main' Christmas shop. I love that there is free parking and you can stay as long as you like (just make sure you get there early as it does get busy in November and December). It's probably the most convenient place to shop in the whole of the North East. We even stayed over in a nearby hotel in 2015 and made a weekend of it. To cut a long story short, after reading about the intu Metrocentre Savings Club, I knew it was for us and I signed up this week.


intu Metrocentre Savings Club | Benefits


  • You do not have to set up a standing order and save a set amount each month. This is perfect for people on flexible incomes like myself who don't want to commit to saving a set amount every month. When you do have some spare cash, you can top up your Christmas savings online or at any intu Metrocentre Guest Services desk.
  • You can top up with at little as £5 at a time.
  • If you would like the convenience of setting up a standing order and save a set amount each month, this is easy to organise (just ask for a form from Guest Services when you join).

Frugal 2017 | Saving for Christmas 2017 with intu Metrocentre Savings Club - christmas bonus

  • When you redeem your gift card, you can choose to put your whole balance on one card, you can take part of your balance at a time and keep some of your balance for another day or you can split your balance across multiple cards. I will be definitely be splitting my balance across multiple gift cards as an intu gift card is a nice and easy (and well-received) gift for the teens in our family.
  • You can spend your intu Gift Card at 1000s of your favourite brands in over 2000 stores, restaurants and leisure outlets. You can also use your card at intu's other 14 centres across the UK - perfect if you are planning a city shopping trip elsewhere or would like to visit intu Eldon Square in nearby Newcastle. You can even use your card at MetrOasis and Metro Retail Park.

intu Metrocentre Savings Club | How To Sign Up


It couldn't be easier to open an account. Simply call 0191 493 0219 or visit a Customer Services Desk at intu Metrocentre. You will need to take your passport or driver's license as identification. The whole process takes about 3 minutes and is super easy. There is no credit check and you need a minimum of £5 to open your account. You can open your account at any time throughout the year, but I think the sooner the better.

As a side note, I recommend visiting the Guest Services Lounge next to Wilko and Pizza Hut to open your account. This is what we did and the staff are so lovely and there are plenty of comfortable seats for your other half/kids to sit and wait for you.

Obviously, there are Terms and Conditions that you need to be aware of - you can check them out here.


I did enjoy saving with Park Savings in the past, but over the last few years I have felt really restricted and I was only able to spend my vouchers in a limited number of stores. With the intu gift card and savings club, I feel a lot less restricted and the scheme is a lot more flexible which suits me better. Plus I'm aiming to save £500 so should receive a £25 bonus which is a fantastic incentive. I don't know what I'll be buying the kids for Christmas yet this year but I do know I'll have lots of options. 

After opening our account Steve and I wandered through the malls and decided the Disney Store, H&M Kids, Grainger Games, Smiggle. Currys PC World and M&S will probably be our first port of call when we start Christmas shopping in November. I can't wait! It's never too soon to start planning Christmas 2017.  You can find a full list of stores here. 

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Frugal 2017 | Saving for Christmas 2017 with intu Metrocentre Savings Club


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What's On for Children and Families in the North East | 21st & 22nd January


Welcome to my weekly guide featuring lots of ideas for the weekend ahead. If you are still stuck, I have a dedicated section on my website (click here - North East Days Out) which features over 50 days out ideas in the North East and is worth checking out.

What's On for Children and Families in the North East | 21st & 22nd January



Friday 20th January | Wassailing Evening | Gibside

I know this is technically Friday but it's still the weekend and it sounds quite unique. This is your chance to serenade a tree and then douse it with toast and cider - all to encourage a good fruit crop. There will be local ales on tap plus wine and cider and food from Gibside's resident butcher and baker. The event is free. More details here.


21st January - 26th March | Seeing the Universe in all its light | Life Science Centre

This new exhibition opens at Life Science Centre this weekend. Featuring scale models of ground and space telescopes.  Read more here. While you are there, don't forget to check out Brick History (here's a review by Here Come the Hoopers which will give you a sneaky peek).


21st January | Play and Invent Robot Lab | Discovery Museum

Suitable for children aged 3-11 and their families, Play and Invent is the chance for children to design and make their very own robot. Tickets are £5 per child and £1 per adult (plus booking fee) and can be pre-booked here. There's a morning and afternoon session.


21st - 22nd January | Feed the birds weekend | Gibside

Learn how to make a bird feeder for your garden using items you'll already have at home. Free event but normal admission applies. See here for details 


22nd January | Know Your Birds Workshop | Souter Lighthouse

This free event is suitable for children aged 7+ and their families. There is no need to pre-book, simply turn up. There will be the chance to pick up some tips from local wildlife experts and learn how to identify various birds. Event begins at 11am. More details here.


22nd January | GIF it up | Newcastle Library

This free event (tickets need to be pre-booked) has been inspired by the GIF it up challenge. It is your chance to learn where to find usable images, how to edit them and how to create your very own GIFs. The workshop is suitable for the whole family but under 13s will need to be accompanied by an adult. Find out more and book here.

Don't forget to share your weekend photographs on Instagram using #OurWeekendAdventure and I'll pop along and give them a like and a comment.

What's On for Children and Families in the North East | 21st & 22nd January


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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Finding a job that fits around family life | My story and why more needs to be done

*This is a collaborative post

What are your chances of getting a part-time or flexible job? Take this quick quiz and find out. 

When Harry and Heidi were both young, I was really pretty lucky when it came to childcare. We lived a short walk away from Steve's parents (and his mum was retired and always happy to help) and my mum worked at home as a foster carer and childminder and was also available whenever needed. I decided that I wanted to work part time and luckily, my employers at the time were pretty flexible and we were able to work something out that suited us both. But then things changed.......

How to find a part time job that fits around family life. Join Hire Me My Way's campaign

When Jack was born we moved to Cramlington and my mum started an employed role as a carer and was no longer able to help as much with childcare. Steve and I were barely earning above minimum wage and we definitely could not afford childcare for three children along with all of our other bills. We really didn't know what to do.

If you are in a similar situation, please take this short quiz which will provide you with feedback on how easy/difficult it will be for you to find a part time job or switch to part time hours as well as provide helpful advice on what to do to improve your chances.

I was lucky and I was able to find a job that allowed me to work 2 x 12 hour shifts over the weekend and stay at home with my three children Monday-Friday. Steve and his parents would look after Harry, Heidi and Jack over the weekend and although it worked well, I did start to feel like I was missing out on a lot. Imagine spending just 5 weekends a year with your family - it's horrible and not something I wanted to continue. I didn't feel like I had a choice though as I couldn't find a single job that allowed me to work 9am-11am when Jack was at nursery or fit flexibly around Steve's 2 weekly shift pattern. It turns out I'm not alone and according to Hire Me My Way, there are 400,000 unemployed people who are unable to accept a job unless they can work part time/flexibly. It's really tough when you have kids and commitments.

As I was at home Monday-Friday, I was able to start building up my blog and start turning it into a business. I learned more about the earning potential of blogging and it seemed like the perfect solution - with three children at home, perhaps working towards being fully self-employed and working at home would be the answer for us.

After a bit of research and a pep-talk from my friends, I decided to formally ask my employer if I could work flexibly and reduce my hours. They agreed and over a period of around 16 months, I gradually reduced my working hours until I was only working 8 hours on a Sunday. Again, I was very lucky that my employer agreed to reduced part time & flexible hours. I often wonder what would have happened if they'd have turned my application down. My blog certainly wouldn't be where it is today that's for sure and I could still be working 2 x 12 hour shifts with no quality family time and feeling pretty trapped.

How to find a part time job that fits around family life. Join Hire Me My Way's campaign

The Hire Me My Way campaign really strikes a chord with me. If I hadn't have been able to start a career as a self-employed blogger, I would have been trapped working hours that weren't at all family friendly with no way out. 1.5 million people are trapped in part-time jobs below their skill level because it's just so difficult to find a new job that allows flexible working from the outset. I don't think I've ever come across a job advertisement that states a job can be flexible around you - it's always the other way around. In fact a lot of jobs these days state you must be available to work any hour of any day. Hire Me My Way are calling on employers to listen to people's needs and open up to part-time working and flexibility, right from day one of hire. I honestly believe that employers who do this will benefit in the long run as a happy workplace is definitely a productive workplace.

I think it's important to mention that the need for flexible and part-time working isn't exclusive to females and mothers. In a few years time, Steve would love to decrease his hours in order to fulfil some of his non-career goals and for us to travel more. I know it's going to be tough for him to do this and when the time comes, we'll definitely be using the advice and support provided by Hire Me My Way.

It did all work out for me in the end and every day I am thankful that I've been able to create a successful career for myself working from home. I can't ever imagine not having the flexibility that being self-employed provides. Self-employment does have it's own challenges though, and it's certainly not for everyone. If you'd like to learn more about Hire Me My Way and how you can add your voice to their campaign, you can sign up and learn more here.


Before you go, don't forget to take this quick quiz and discover your chances of finding new part-time work.

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How to find a part time job that fits around family life. Join Hire Me My Way's campaign


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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

How To Access the Fat Hippo's Secret Menu | Join The Herd

There have been rumours circulating the North East over the past week or two that the home of our favourite burgers (that's the Fat Hippo in case you didn't know) have launched a top secret menu. Only available to those in the know.

How To Access the Fat Hippo's Secret Menu | Join The Herd -  the Fat Hippo's NEW Loyalty Card

Well I'm pleased to confirm that the rumours are true and if you join The Herd, you'll have access too.

How To Access the Fat Hippo's Secret Menu | Join The Herd -  the Fat Hippo's NEW Loyalty Card - a burger


The Fat Hippo Secret Menu


Once you have signed up to The Herd via The Fat Hippo Website, you'll receive your very own membership card in the post and will be able to access a secret area of the Fat Hippo website which is the only place you can view the secret menu. Have a look and see if anything tickles your fancy (and why wouldn't it) and then visit any branch of the Fat Hippo, flash your membership card and let the staff know what you fancy. It's that easy! 

How To Access the Fat Hippo's Secret Menu | Join The Herd -  the Fat Hippo's NEW Loyalty Card - burger at festival

I won't ruin the surprise for you but the secret menu features lots of Hippo classics from the past as well as some special edition burgers that need to be seen to be believed. There is even a 6 x 6 burger on there - yep that's six 4ox patties with all the usual extras! wow! 


Points Win Prizes with The Fat Hippo Loyalty Card


Joining The Herd doesn't just give you access to the secret menu.....there's more! Every time you dine at the Fat Hippo you'll collect points and these can be redeemed against some fabulous treats ranging from a milkshake (50 points) to a 3 course meal in Hippo Hour (250 points) up to your very own Fat Hippo Hoodie (500 points) and then 4 burgers and 4 soft drinks (1000 points). Just like Nandos, your points aren't spent when you redeem them so when you spend them at the first level, you don't lose anything and can start building points to access the treats on the next level. Love it! 

How To Access the Fat Hippo's Secret Menu | Join The Herd -  the Fat Hippo's NEW Loyalty Card - black loyalty card

This is just the beginning


I was chatting with the Fat Hippo's owner at their recent 6th birthday bash and was really excited to hear future plans. Secret tasting events and the chance to be the first to try new menus are just some of the plans being discussed for the future of the herd. 

How To Access the Fat Hippo's Secret Menu | Join The Herd -  the Fat Hippo's NEW Loyalty Card - chocolate milkshake

Join The Herd and Access The Fat Hippo's Secret Menu & More - It's FREE


It's FREE to join The Herd and I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't. You can sign up to join The Herd here and access the secret areas of the website straight away. Your membership card will take 7-10 days to arrive but if you simply can't wait, sign up and then just let staff know your email address and that you're waiting for your card when you order and you'll still be able to access Herd benefits. 

Let me know if you sign up and order anything from the secret menu.

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How To Access the Fat Hippo's Secret Menu | Join The Herd -  the Fat Hippo's NEW Loyalty Card



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Monday, 16 January 2017

A New Sunday Morning Routine with First News


*This is a collaborative post

Steve and I are not ones to shield our children from the world around them and we always try and include them in our conversations if they're around. For example, they know which political party we vote for and why (although we always make sure they know to make up their own mind when they are older). I think talking to your children about life, world events and issues helps to ensure they grow up to be a more rounded and mature adult and it's really important to us that they understand the world they live in - good and bad.

First News Newspaper features and review. A fantastic resource to encourage discussion for children and young people aged 7- 14 years. Plus a special trial offer for our readers.

When First News got in touch and asked if Harry (10) and Heidi (7) would like to review their subscription service, I knew they'd be perfect for the job.

First News Newspaper features and review. A fantastic resource to encourage discussion for children and young people aged 7- 14 years. Plus a special trial offer for our readers.  - front cover

First News is a weekly newspaper for ages 7-14 and is designed to 'get young people talking'. Sunday mornings are a lazy affair in our house and I decided it would be the perfect time for us to all sit around the table after breakfast and read First News together. First News is usually delivered on a Friday so it's perfect for weekend reading. The layout of the paper ensures there are lots of little snippets of information that are really easy to dip in and out of. Heidi particularly enjoyed the 'Quick News' section and shared lots of fascinating facts.

First News Newspaper features and review. A fantastic resource to encourage discussion for children and young people aged 7- 14 years. Plus a special trial offer for our readers.  - 10 year old reading paper


First News is split into sections and it's very easy to navigate:

  • Quick News
  • Big News
  • The Week's News in Pictures
  • Home News
  • Good News
  • World News
  • Special Report
  • Science News
  • Animal News
  • Entertainment
  • Big Interview
  • Crazy But True
  • New Books
  • Competitions
  • Game Zone
  • Puzzles
  • Your News
  • Focus On You

Harry and Heidi are both very different in their likes and dislikes. Harry thoroughly enjoyed reading about world news, entertainment, game zone and crazy but true and his favourite section was definitely the science news where he learned all about Google's new Artificial Intelligence.

First News Newspaper features and review. A fantastic resource to encourage discussion for children and young people aged 7- 14 years. Plus a special trial offer for our readers.  - Harry reading news

Heidi preferred the quick news, animal news and this week's news in pictures. In our first issue we received an 'animal watch' poster which we're going to stick to our conservatory wall. It shows you which animals to look out for in your garden throughout the year and was a nice added bonus.

First News Newspaper features and review. A fantastic resource to encourage discussion for children and young people aged 7- 14 years. Plus a special trial offer for our readers.  - Heidi reading Quick News


Special Subscription Offer


If you would like to sign up and try First News for yourself, you can sign up using this special link and use code Blog17. This will activate a special reader offer of 5 issues for just £1 and then a 3 monthly subscription of £15.99 including delivery. You are under no obligation and can cancel at any time. 

First News Newspaper features and review. A fantastic resource to encourage discussion for children and young people aged 7- 14 years. Plus a special trial offer for our readers.  - Heidi reading


What I liked about First News:
  • Easy to read for both Harry and Heidi
  • Harry and Heidi both enjoyed the paper
  • It's very visual with lots of bright photographs
  • Engaging and discusses issues they are interested in
  • It got us talking! In the space of 30 minutes we had discussed Brexit, Donald Trump, the new £1 coin, Artificial Intelligence, DNA, Cancer, Poaching, the death of the world's oldest Panda, which movies we'd like to watch in 2017, how much sugar is in your breakfast cereal and more.......
Harry and Heidi really enjoyed receiving a newspaper just for them and I'm rather jealous actually! I might subscribe to a weekly paper and join them I think.

Harry would like to point out that he feels that some of the information in the paper was a little dated but I think this will always be the case with print media as you hear everything on the internet first. Despite this slight niggle, he would still recommend First News. 

We'd love you to take a look at Harry and Heidi's video review below:



I'm really excited to add First News to our Sunday morning routine and I'm sure as the weeks go on I'll be tweeting little bits of info that we've learned.


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First News Newspaper features and review. A fantastic resource to encourage discussion for children and young people aged 7- 14 years. Plus a special trial offer for our readers.



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Friday, 13 January 2017

Buy CHEAP tickets to Lightwater Valley for just £6 over February Half Term 2017


It's my mission to save as much money as I can this year but one thing I don't want to do is stop our adventures and fun. Across the year I'll be sharing deals to save money on attractions and our first is this cracker from Lightwater Valley.

Buy cheap tickets to Lightwater Valley  for just £6 this February Half Term 2017. Plus win a family pass.

From 16th - 21st February, you can visit Lightwater Valley for just £6 per person! WOW!


In order to give you the best possible deal, the park's opening hours will be reduced from 10:30am - 3:30pm and not everything will be open. There is still LOADS of fun to be had though including:

Activities:

  • Angry Birds Activity Park 
  • Angry Birds Space Indoor Play Area
  • Lightwater Falconry with over 50 animals and birds
  • Riggmoor mobile farm with animals for you to pet and feed including rabbits, pigs and alpacas
  • Shopping Village and Cafe

Buy cheap tickets to Lightwater Valley  for just £6 this February Half Term 2017. Plus win a family pass.  - angry birds outdoor play area


Rides Open:

  • Skyrider
  • Eagles' Creek Farm
  • Lightwater Wheel
  • Carousel
  • Eagle's Claw
  • Trauma Tower
  • Ladybug
  • Space Pirates
  • Clown Around
  • Noah's Ark
  • Human Cannonball
  • Indoor Soft Play
  • Bouncy Castle
  • Pirate Assault Course
  • Giant Slide
  • Pillow Bash
  • Ball Pool
Buy cheap tickets to Lightwater Valley  for just £6 this February Half Term 2017. Plus win a family pass.


Tickets MUST BE PRE-BOOKED online for this event and cannot be purchased on the day. Children aged 1 and under are free.


Giveaway - Win a Family Pass


Lightwater Valley have given us 4 tickets to their Fab Feb Family Fun Half Term event to giveaway to one lucky reader. They must be used between 16th - 21st February. You can enter via the rafflecopter below. Good luck! 


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Thursday, 12 January 2017

The First Hippo on the Moon by David Walliams makes it's North East Theatre Debut at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle

Children aged 3 and up will love 'The First Hippo on the Moon' - an explosively funny space adventure from best-selling children's author David Walliams which has been adapted for stage and is making it's North East debut at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House on Saturday 4 February. 

The First Hippo on the Moon by David Walliams makes it's North East Theatre Debut at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House , Newcastle | Saturday 4 Feb 2017 | 1:30pm plus ticket giveaway

The performance will see two fat hippos with one ENORMOUS dream - who can make it to the moon first? 

The First Hippo on the Moon by David Walliams makes it's North East Theatre Debut at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House , Newcastle | Saturday 4 Feb 2017 | 1:30pm plus ticket giveaway

Now I don't speak Hippo, so I thought it might be a good idea to learn a few key phrases before the show:-
  • Hippo-po-rocket | A rocket which hippos use to get to the moon. The rocket which Sheila uses to get to the moon is made from the biggest tree trunk she could find.
  • Hippo-po-step | The first ever step which Hercules the Hippo is about to take on the moon before he's interrupted by Sheila's crash landing.
  • Hippo-po-spacesuit | A spacesuit which a hippo wears in space. Hercules' is just like a human spacesuit whereas Sheila's is homemade.
  • Hippo-po-buggy | An expensive piece of space equipment which Hercules uses on the moon.
  • Hippo-po-trump | The bottom burp created by Sheila when she crash lands back on earth. 

If you'd like to read the story, you can buy The First Hippo on the Moon from Amazon here (affiliate).

The First Hippo on the Moon by David Walliams makes it's North East Theatre Debut at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House , Newcastle | Saturday 4 Feb 2017 | 1:30pm plus ticket giveaway

Tickets for The First Hippo on the Moon are available via the Tyne Theatre and Opera House website from £12 here. There is just one performance and that is on Saturday 4th February at 1:30pm and tickets are selling fast so be quick! 

The First Hippo on the Moon by David Walliams makes it's North East Theatre Debut at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House , Newcastle | Saturday 4 Feb 2017 | 1:30pm plus ticket giveaway


Ticket Giveaway


We are super excited to have been provided with a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children) to giveaway to one lucky reader. The ticket is valid to see The First Hippo on the Moon on Saturday 4 February at 1:30pm at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle. You can enter via the rafflecopter giveaway below. Good luck! 

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