North East Family Fun

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

What's on in the North East for Kids & Families | 25 & 26 November 2017

Yeah for the weekend! We're going to pop down to Manor Walks on Saturday for their Christmas Light Switch On and will be heading to the coast on Sunday - fingers crossed for no rain! If you're looking for more ideas for days out in North East England - why not join my FREE North East Days Out Facebook Group here. Whatever you're up to, have a good one!

From 23 November | Robinson Crusoe at Gala Theatre Durham | Find out more here

25 November | Manor Walks Christmas Light Switch On | Find out more here

25 - 26 November | Olaf's Frozen Adventure Weekend (various cinemas - check your local for details)

25 - 26 November | Get Crafty - Create a stocking at Souter Lighthouse | Find out more here

25 - 26 November | Ouseburn Open Studios Monster Making | Find out more here

26 November | Durham Christmas Lights Switch On | Find out more here

26 November | Sunderland Diwali Festival | Find out more here

26 November | Make Christmas Cards at Seaton Delaval Hall | Find out more here

26 November | The Polar Express at Moonlight Drive-in Cinema, Darlington | Find out more here

Other ideas for the weekend: 


Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack Review, Parent's Guide & Giveaway

*We were sent this item to review

Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack Review, Parent's Guide & Giveaway

What is Lightseekers?

I'll be honest with you when I say I hadn't heard of Lightseekers until we visited Forbidden Planet in Newcastle recently and there was a huge Lightseekers display in their window and all of the staff were wearing Lightseekers t-shirts. It may not be big with us uncool parents but when it comes to gamers, Lightseekers is a pretty big deal.

Lightseekers is an adventure role-playing game which you play via a free app on your smartphone or tablet. There are worlds to discover through adventure or action game modes. It kind of reminds me of Avatar a little bit. But Lightseekers is so much more than just a game, there are real smart figures to collect which can sync up with your phone or tablet and actually become part of the game. There are trading cards to collect and scan which increase your character's in-game abilities and a comic series too.

What is included in the Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack? 

The Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack contains everything you need to get started (well actually you also need a smartphone/tablet with 1GB available memory, WiFi and Bluetooth but you know what I mean) . There are comprehensive instructions that even a technophobe like me can understand,  5 augmented reality trading cards, hero cards, 2 weapons, a charging cable (you'll be pleased to hear that Lightseekers DO NOT require batteries) and of course the 7" Mari Smart figure. 

What else can I buy and collect? 

If you check out the Lightseekers Store on Amazon, there are SO many add-ons you can buy and collect. I think a Lightseekers Starter Pack would be a good game to buy a 7/8-year-old and then you can buy add-ons and additional figures for birthdays/future Christmas' ect.....

There are also stand-alone games which compliment the online game - one example is this Storm Card Starter Deck Game. The game includes over 385 Lightseekers cards which you can use to battle your friends with and scan for in-game abilities. At under £20, this is a nice little add-on to the main game I think and perfect if your children's friends at school or siblings are all Lightseekers fans.

What did North East Family Fun think of the Lightseekers Starter Pack? 

Lightseekers is aimed at children aged 8+ but to be honest it is Jack (aged 6) who loves this game the most. He plays it on our old iPhone after school and I would say it's actually replaced Minecraft as his favourite game. Jack's spent many hours playing iPhone games and could pick up the instructions without any help from me. Jack likes that you can explore lots of different levels and the hub world and loves that you can link up the figures too. There was part of the game where he had to fly the figure through the sky in his hands and this corresponded to the game on the screen in front of him which he found to be super cool. As a parent, I love that there are no in-app purchases or adverts too. This game has not been a one-hit wonder for Jack and he enjoys playing it for an hour after school.

Harry (11) likes that you can add in characters from real life in this game (it reminds him of Skylanders) and likes the challenge of exploring new worlds - there is always something new to discover. He doesn't play it as much as Jack but does definitely enjoy it and when I asked if his friends would like it too he said yes. 

Anything else I need to know about Lightseekers? 

We struggled to download the game at first as did not realise it required 1GB of available memory - we cleared some space on our phones though and managed it so it wasn't too much of an issue.

You can check online here if your phone or tablet is compatible with Lightseekers. Amazon Fire tablets are a bargain at the moment if you're looking to upgrade.

You can learn more about the Mari Starter Pack in this YouTube video:

I really liked that the game is free to download and you can play it without the figures too - maybe try your children with this first and see if they like it before splashing out on the add-ons and starter kits. I also really appreciate that despite being free, there are no in-app purchases or adverts which provides excellent peace of mind.

Lightseekers has been tipped as one of the top toys for Christmas 2017 and I can definitely see why. The adventure game element, the fact that you can play for free on a tablet or smartphone and all of the characters and cards you can purchase to enhance your gaming experience is a winning combination.

Win a Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack

Enter our giveaway for your chance to win your very own Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack. You can enter using one or more options below and daily entry is available via 'Tweet about the giveaway' if you'd like to increase your chances. Good luck! 

**Prize is one Mari Lightseekers Starter Pack. UK entries only. Prize will be delivered to a UK mainland address. No cash alternative. No refunds. Prize is non-transferable. Employees of Lightseekers and North East Family Fun are not eligible to win. Giveaway ends at midnight on 10 December 2017. One random winner will be selected from all valid entries and notified via email. Judges decision is final.** 


HP Sprocket Photo Printer White Gold Gift Set - A Must-have Christmas Gift for Teens with EVERYTHING included

*This item was sent to us for review and features affiliate links

Picture the scene on Christmas morning - you receive a fun instant printer on Christmas morning only to discover it needs batteries or you need to buy ink or a special type of paper. This has happened to us with all sorts of gifts so many times and it's actually rare that gadgets like this can be used straight from the box. Nothing is more disappointing than opening a gift and not being able to use it straight away - well with the HP Sprocket Photo Printer Gift Set, you can. This instant photo printer gift set contains everything you need to print fun, instant photos and stickers and more. It's this year's must-have gift for ages 13-24 and I can see why. We've been putting an HP Sprocket Photo Printer Gift Set through its paces and have been really impressed - it's one of those products that just works. It does exactly what it says on the tin with no glitches, errors or disappointments. 

The HP Sprocket Photo Printer Gift Set offers much better value than the stand-alone Sprocket Printer. First of all, the box it is all packed into is beautifully designed and I think this sets the tone for the entire gift set. Inside the gift set, you'll find an HP Sprocket Photo Printer, 10 sheets of HP Zink Paper (the Sprocket does not use any ink at all - the technology is in the paper), a USB charging cable, a photo album, a carry case and a voucher which can be used to customise your Sprocket Printer. 

I love the clean simplistic design of this printer and the carry case is super cute too. The HP Sprocket Photo Printer is actually smaller than most mobile phones (it's smaller than my Google Pixel Phone) and is super portable (especially in it's own carry case). It's perfectly designed to slip into your bag and instantly celebrate those special moments with friends, parties, days out, special occasions and more.

The HP Sprocket Photo Printer is super easy to use. Simply download the app (Android or Apple), connect to your phone via Bluetooth and then instantly print photos or stickers from your phone camera roll, Facebook or even Instagram. Photos are completely dry as soon as they're printed and you can customise and add emojis or fun borders, text and art to your photos using the Sprocket app before printing too. There are no wires needed for printing and it all works seamlessly.

We used our Sprocket to #reinventmememories from our trip to Florida this summer and printed some of our favourite photos straight from my phone. Print time was around 10 seconds and we were all impressed with the quality. The photos are a similar size to a credit card and perfect for keeping in a wallet or purse as well as sticking into a photo album or using as a sticker to customise just about anything.

I also like that the HP Sprocket Photo Printer encourages teens to be sociable. Multiple phones can easily connect to the printer so you're not restricted to using just one phone or device. Perfect for those moments when your phone dies but you still want a photo to remember a special moment - connecting another phone (as long as they can download the app and have Bluetooth enabled) is super easy.

I normally try to find negatives in my review posts but I'm really struggling to find any if I'm honest. At a push, I would say that buying Zink Photo Paper after you've used the initial 10 sheets is a touch on the expensive side (currently £7.26 for 20 sheets) but I think considering the fact you don't need to buy ink and the level of technology involved, this isn't too bad. For comparison, I remember buying a disposable camera for £7.99 not that many years ago.

Watch the HP Sprocket Photo Printer in action and discover how easy it is to use here:

You can find out more about the HP Sprocket Photo Printer here and purchase an HP Sprocket Photo Printer Gift Set here. For a gift that will create lots of smiles on Christmas Day morning and beyond, I really can't recommend enough. I can already see ours being used to record our Christmas Day moments - from carving the turkey to dad falling asleep by the fire - I can't wait to have fun printing special memories from Christmas Day and beyond.....


The Ultimate Guide to Christmas Markets & Fairs in North East England | December 2017

It's almost Christmas! Yeah! I Love, Love, Love the month of December and will be visiting as many Christmas Markets as possible. I've put together a list of some of the best Christmas Markets, Fayres and Shopping events happening across the region throughout December. Let me know in the comments if you know of any others.

The Ultimate Guide to Christmas Markets & Fairs in North East England | December 2017

20 November - 10 December | Newcastle International Christmas Market at Monument | Find out more here

1 - 3 December | Tyneside Winter Wonderland at the Linkskill Centre | Find out more here

1- 3 December | Christmas Market at Azure Garden Centre, Cramlington | Find out more here

1 - 3 December | Durham Christmas Festival | Find out more here

1 December | The Grainger Market Christmas Shopping Night | Find out more here

2 December | Christmas Cracker at The Sage | Find out more here

2 - 3 December | Blyth Christmas Markets | Find out more here

2 - 3 December | Alnwick Christmas Market | Find out more here

2 - 3 December | Christmas Bazaar at Preston Park | Find out more here

2 December | Kells Lane Festive Food Market | Find out more here

2 December | Whitley Bay Station Christmas Fayre | Find out more here

4 - 9 December | Seaham Christmas Market | Find out more here

9 - 10 December | North Shields Victorian Christmas Market | Find out more here

9 - 10 December | Woodhorn Christmas Market | Find out more here

10 December | Berwick Christmas Market | Find out more here

11 - 17 December | Newcastle Christmas Market | Find out more here

If you love Christmas, make sure you join our FREE Facebook Group for North East Christmas Lovers - it's a fab place to chat about all things Christmas and make recommendations/ask for advice.


Why you should plan some downtime into your December (and how to do it)

Looking at my December schedule I want to cry. We're reviewing no less than 8 pantos, visiting 4 Christmas events, organising a Christmas meal for 10 bloggers and another Christmas meal for 50 friends and family, it's my birthday, it's Jack's birthday, there are three different Christmas shows to watch at school, another nativity at church, school parties, Christmas parties....AND I'm nowhere near finished Christmas shopping or wrapping. Ahhhhh! I'm not complaining as I love this time of year and adore Panto and Christmas days out so I am really looking forward to December. I know it's the busiest month of the year though and I know I am very likely to have multiple meltdowns if I don't plan ahead, get organised and plan some chill time too.

I know I'm not alone and most parents will feel frazzled at this time of year so here are 5 ways to take some down time - I urge you to prioritise yourself this December and indulge in a few of these activities to help the festive season run as smoothly as possible.

1 - Christmas Wrapping Party

Oh my days I HATE wrapping gifts. It's so annoying, goes on forever, feels a little pointless at times and it hurts my back! Steve hates it even more than I do. This year I'm going to try and make this chore as fun as possible and I'm heading over to my mams house for a Christmas Wrapping Party. We're going to order a takeaway, put some Christmas tunes on, open a bottle of Prosecco and wrap together. I'm hoping this will make the chore a lot more fun and less stressful. Another idea would be to get together with a group of friends and turn it into a girls night - get the dads to take the kids out somewhere so you can all do it in peace.

2 - Watch your favourite Christmas movie alone

When the kids are at school and Steve is at work I'm going to switch off my laptop and phone, make myself a hot chocolate and snuggle up on the sofa to watch Love Actually in complete silence. Utter bliss!

3 - Watch a family Christmas movie 

Likewise, I think it's important for the kids to have some down time too and if we've had a busy weekend I'm planning on bringing our duvets downstairs and watching some of our festive favourites together with no distractions. I've already stocked up on popcorn in anticipation.

4 - Take a non-festive walk or trip to the beach

Sometimes at this time of year it can feel like your brain is going to explode with all things Christmas and I think it's nice to plan something with the family that is not festive at all. There's an added pressure of attending a festive event I think and it's nice to enjoy a day out in December without this. Why not try one of these woodland walks or take a winter walk along the coast and stop for fish and chips - we did this recently at Blyth Beach and loved it. There was no pressure, it was nice and simple and the fresh air did us the world of good.

5 -  Treat yourself to some expensive bath oil

I know, I know, you'll probably receive bath products for Christmas but honestly, you need them far more in December than January. Treat yourself to a proper bath when you can - bath oil, candles, relaxing music, face mask - the works. December is a month made for slow living and not the time to be taking quick showers every day.

I bet you're reading all of this nodding along and thinking YES - I should do this! Well, it's no good reading about it - you need to actually do it too. Get your diaries and calendars out and find a time to schedule some down time - write it into your diaries so nothing gets booked in its place and when the day comes around, make sure you actually prioritise your downtime and make sure it doesn't get overlooked.

I'd love to hear your ideas for downtime in December too. 


Wynyard Hall Christmas Shopping Event - One of the Best Christmas Fayres in North East England

*This is a collaborative post

This year, Wynyard Hall kindly invited us along to their Christmas Fayre. Taking place from 16-19 November, I'd heard good things from stallholders and attendees who mentioned that this was an event not to be missed. Unfortunately though, it was not meant to be and it turns out that the fayre was taking place on a weekend Steve was working - I think it's practically impossible to travel to Wynyard Hall from Northumberland via public transport so with we sadly had to decline. Luckily my friend Vicci was able to attend in my place and after reading her review I know this is going to be an event that I don't want to miss next year. Over to Vicci.....

 When an opportunity arose to review a Christmas fayre for North East Family Fun, I knew it was right up my street. As an avid food and craft fayre visitor generally, I jumped at the chance as I had not been to Wynyard Hall before and had been promised it was one of the best.  Well I was not disappointed and can recommend it within my top 3 Christmas fayres within the North east.  

As we drove into the estate of Wynyard Hall, this morning’s crisp clear sunny skies truly magnified the grandeur of the Hall, standing proud, within its surrounding beautiful picturesque landscape. Cars were streaming in, but with the well organised car parking attendants, it did not take us long to get parked up, to be welcomed by the friendly Darlington town crier and walk straight into the main marque. On entering, we were given a useful guide on where to find the stalls distributed around the estate and the name of every exhibitor here today. The main marque hosted a magnitude of Christmas décor and tree decorations, clothes and accessories, artwork, jewellery and children’s toys to name a few. The merchandise were of the highest quality, often unique with plenty of choice for those special Christmas gifts and treasures.

Walking around the bustling aisles, I was particularly encaptured by ‘Zibizi’, a baby gift store from Yarm, selling high quality functional wooden toys for all ages. I was like a child in a sweet shop, let alone my two young boys and the exhibitor was much obliging in letting them look at everything.
Once we had finished perusing the marque, we walked along an avenue of outside market stalls towards a trio of Christmas teepees.  Inside, we took an opportunity to have a rest on haystacks whilst purchasing a gorgeous hog roast bap and warm up by the firepits, whilst being entertained by some very talented live singers.

Afterwards, as we wandered down to the Hall itself, we were all mesmerised by stilt walkers and some Scottish dancing to a bagpipe. The boys were enthralled, particulary when swords were involved.
Walking through the Hall’s entrance, you were immediately drawn to the beautiful interior design. Together with the Christmas décor of the exhibitors, it created a festive atmosphere as each corridor lead to another room full of stalls. It made the experience of going shopping with two young boys more adventurous as it became a game of who could find another room to explore.
They were especially happy to find the conservatory, a large room of food stalls selling a variety of Meats, cheeses, Gins, Whiskies, chocolate and fudge  . . . . . . . . . . . .  I could go on another paragraph!

The boys thoroughly enjoyed trying delicious samples of a wide variety of foods they wouldn’t have normally have batted an eyelid over. In particular, Yockenthwaite Farm impressed us by explaining how oats were made from corn by allowing the boys to demonstrate this process and then giving them a sample of ginger flapjack and a nutty granola.  
My favourite had to be the Magnificant Marshmallow Company. They sold a selection of handmade marshmallows with flavoursome twists. The choice was tantalising ranging from orange choc chip, mint, various berries and gingerbread.  I treated myself to the 3 boxes for £10 deal but I assure you, choosing which flavours was the hardest task of the day. I just wanted them all!

After we had finished looking around the Christmas Fayre stalls, we took the opportunity to explore the grounds of the estate. We walked around the beautiful walled gardens with its fountains and intertwining paths. Near the glasshouse, a resident shop at the top of the gardens, we found some wicker reindeer, teepees and houses for the boys to play around in the leaves and have a chance to run off all their energy. 

Before heading back to the car, we walked past Wynyard on Ice, an outdoor ice rink situated within the parkland. Advance tickets at £8 a person, £9 on the door, for a 45 minute session, we found it bustling with eager adults and children trying to show  off their acquired skills in skating. Both my boys haven’t quite found their skating feet as yet, so they were more interested in the nearby children’s rides where they were quite happy to show me and my husband how fast they could go round in the teacups.

We left the Christmas fayre, laden with bags towards the car, chatting about what are best bits were of the morning. We all agreed we would be back again next year to do it all over again.


The Reindeer Retreat Cafe & Feeding Reindeer at Azure Garden Centre, Cramlington

*This is a collaborative post

Reindeer have been visiting Azure Garden Centre in Cramlington for the last five years or so. Situated in the outdoor section (near where the fish used to be) until Christmas Eve, they are nicely settled in now. You don't need to book to visit the reindeer and there are food dispensers (£1) and handwash stations situated nearby as well as a photo station to capture the moment. 

As well as visiting the reindeer, there are so many pretty lights and Christmas displays to look at in the centre - little ones will be captivated. My three are quite cynical and have seen a lot of Christmas displays in their lives but they loved walking through the lights and admiring all of the Christmas decorations. It really got us in the mood for Christmas! Here's just a tiny peek at what's on offer: 

The Reindeer Retreat Cafe |  20 November - 3 December 

The Reindeer Retreat Cafe is an additional event to the regular reindeer feeding on offer and must be pre-booked (you can pre-book online here) and is available until 3 December. Sessions can be booked at the following times: 
  • Weekdays 3:45pm & 4:45pm
  • Saturdays 12noon, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm
  • Sundays 12noon, 1pm, 2pm
Tickets cost just £6 per adult (including a roast beef/turkey sandwich and hot drink) and £5 per child (including a children's meal, drink and packet of reindeer food). It's a massive bargain and perfectly priced for an after school treat I think. 

The Reindeer Retreat is a cosy pop-up tipi and it really quite special inside. I was expecting it to be cold but it was lovely and warm with heating (my kids even had to take their coats off). Everyone sits on hay bales and the tipi is lit up with fairy lights and filled with soft toy polar bears and reindeers. Lots of photo opportunities so don't forget your camera.

Food and drinks are pre-ordered on booking and are brought out to you soon after arrival. The whole event was very well organised and run with precision. You wouldn't guess it was their first time. Due to the inexpensive cost, I really didn't have high expectations for the food but we were honestly pleasantly surprised. The kids all enjoyed their children's meals and Steve and I devoured our hot beef sandwiches. The hot chocolates were delicious too and didn't taste cheap (which is so often the case at these kind of events). 

Everyone was in high spirits as we tucked into our food and I commented how Christmassy it all felt. Father Christmas does not visit as part of this event but in a way I think that's nice - sometimes too much pressure comes with a Father Christmas visit and I know many parents like to visit him just once which means the reindeer retreat is a nice and chilled out affair. Our trays were cleared and then John from Azure introduced himself to us. John shared lots of reindeer facts with us that were fascinating for both kids and grown-ups. I had no idea they stamped their hoof in water before drinking it (I'll let John tell you why they do this) and why male deer lose their antlers before the females do. There was a chance for questions too and I found out that they think two of the deer are currently pregnant and Jack asked if the deer named Greedy was actually greedy. Once we were filled with enough reindeer facts to call ourselves official Reindeer experts, we were all handed some special moss from Norway (which is exclusive for Reindeer Retreat guests) to feed the reindeer with. Apparently, this moss is their favourite food. We left the tipi and headed towards the reindeer enclosure where we fed the deer through the fence. They loved the moss and were super cute! 

As the sun was setting, the tipi looked even more magical......

I have to say I think this event was so well executed and I'd recommend to families who are looking for an inexpensive festive treat with a difference. 

Local Christmas Markets at Azure Garden Centre, Cramlington 

During our trip to the Reindeer Retreat, it also happened to be a Christmas market weekend (it runs until 19 November this time and then again 1 - 3 December). The market supports local traders and we picked up some local wildlife photographs from Far Horizons, some cheese from Northumberland Cheese and Game Terrine from Hadrian's Game Larder. It was also fabulous bumping into Handmade by Lolla Mac who create the most beautiful jewellery. If you're looking to support local businesses this Christmas, pop along to the Azure Christmas Market and you won't be disappointed. 

We spent around 90 minutes are Azure and it was completely stress-free which is so unusual for us! There was just no pressure, the atmosphere was lovely, the event was well-paced and organised and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 

Let me know if you plan on visiting the reindeer at Azure this year.

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