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Friday, 20 January 2017

Soreen Lunchbox Loaf Bars | An Ideal Healthy Snack for Kids


*This is a collaborative post

I often remember my own childhood weekends and think how on earth did my mum manage? Every Sunday would start with a cooked breakfast, followed by a homemade Sunday lunch and then a proper Sunday tea featuring pies, cakes and treats. I also think where did we put it all?? That's a lot of food for one day.

Soreen Lunchbox Loaf Bars | An Ideal Healthy Snack for Kids that is low in saturated fat.

One thing that always makes me feel nostalgic is remembering the loaf of Soreen that would always form part of our Sunday tea. Back in those days we used to cut it into thick slices and cover it in butter. Every time I eat Soreen now I am transported back to Sunday teas from my childhood and filled with nostalgic feelings and memories. It's weird how one single bite can do this.

Fast forward to 2017 and Soreen still forms part of our life but in a very different way. We were reintroduced to Soreen at the Just So Festival in the Summer of 2016. I think Soreen were sponsoring part of the event as they were giving away hundeds of boxes to the happy campers. We were on a strict budget and the kids were excited at the prospect of 'free' food. These Soreen bars were individually wrapped and because they didn't need refrigerating were perfect for us to just pop into our rucksack and give to the kids when they needed a pick-me-up or were watching a performance at the festival.

Soreen Lunchbox Loaf Bars | An Ideal Healthy Snack for Kids that is low in saturated fat.

It's fair to say that since that weekend, Harry especially has had a real thing for Soreen and I love that my special memories have been re-created for him.


Why We Love Soreen

  • Soreen lunchbox loaves are individually wrapped and super easy to pop into a lunch box or carry with you for a snack during a day out.
  • Each loaf only contains 95 calories and just 0.3g of saturated fat.
  • Soreen meets the Government Nutritional Standard for Schools and supports Change 4 Life.
  • Harry feels like he's eating cake so it's like a treat (but a lot healthier than traditional cake) and I don't feel guilty or have to worry about adding a mini loaf to his lunchbox.
  • There are no crumbs! I hate it when the kids eat cake and get crumbs all over or I open their lunchbox on an evening for it to be filled with crumbs - gross! With Soreen, you just don't get this. 
  • You can freeze Soreen - this was so useful when we headed home from the Just So festival with boxes of the stuff. You can freeze Soreen for up to 3 months. 
  • They are the ideal snack for grown ups too - I've been enjoying a bar at my desk for elevenses every day this week. A snack that is low in saturated fat and doesn't get crumbs all over my keyboard gets the thumbs up from me and Soreen goes surprisingly well with coffee. 

Soreen Lunchbox Loaf Bars | An Ideal Healthy Snack for Kids that is low in saturated fat.  - with coffee

I was kindly sent a selection of Soreen loaves to hand out to my friends and family in return for their honest opinion. I was hit with an overwhelming response with lots of positive comments such as:

'My boys love the banana lunchbox loaves' - Leanne

'I love them, they are good for grown-up lunch boxes too' - Sharon
'The banana is so good - we have some in our cupboard right now' - Cathy

'I love the stuff' - Harriet 

'We love the banana loaves as they are dairy free - perfect for my little one with allergies and my daughter has one nearly every day' (always check the label) - Karen

It's fair to say, I've been a popular lady this week and suddenly everyone wants to be my friend! After a bit of research, I found that Soreen loaves are not just popular with my own friends but 9/10 Mums recommend the miniature loaves as a healthy snack alternative for all ages (Mum Panel). High praise indeed. 

How Could Soreen Improve in the Future


Soreen Lunchbox Loaf Bars | An Ideal Healthy Snack for Kids that is low in saturated fat.  - banana loaf

Along with 95% of mums, myself and my own children would recommend Soreen but there is always room for improvement so here are a few ideas:-
  • Soreen individual loaves are available in banana flavour or original, I am not a fan of anything that's flavoured with banana and think it would be fantastic to see more flavours - I am thinking honey or winter berry? 
  • Although a good source of fibre and low in saturated fat, Soreen do not count as one of your 5-a-day.
  • Compared with a biscuit, I've always found Soreen to have a shorter shelf life.


Love Soreen? Here's How to WIN some fantastic Soreen Prizes


1 - Answer these 3 questions for your chance to win a year's supply of Soreen and a Soreen goody box. Competition closes midnight 27th February 2017.

2 - Join in with the @SoreenHQ Twitter party on Friday 20th January at 1pm. Simply follow @SoreenHQ, join in with the chat and use #Lunchboxheroes in your tweets across the hour for your chance to win lots of Soreen goody boxes and treats. I'll also be joining in with the party (find me at @NEFamilyFun)


Let me know if you add a miniature Soreen loaf to your children's lunchbox. 

I have been paid by Soreen to produce this post - all thoughts and love of Soreen are my own.


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Soreen Lunchbox Loaf Bars | An Ideal Healthy Snack for Kids that is low in saturated fat.



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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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What's On in the North East for Kids | 14th & 15th January


Yeah! It's the weekend. Let's hope for calmer weather and that the predicted snow doesn't make an appearance. There are a few events and new exhibitions this weekend. Take a look.....

What's On in the North East for Kids | 14th & 15th January


14 - 15 January | January Blues Half Price Entry | Kirkley Hall Zoo

Kirkley Hall Zoo are offering half price entry this weekend. There's no need to book - simply turn up! That means grown ups are just £3.50 and kids £2.50 which is a bit of a bargain. More details here


14 January - 23 April | Brick History | Life Science Centre

Brick History opens at Life Science Centre in Newcastle this weekend. Over 50 of the most pivotal moments in history have been recreated in lego. From the big bang to the sinking of the Titanic and even the Apollo moon landing - this exhibition is included in admission and I think it will definitely be worth a visit. More details here. 


14 - 15 January | Make Your Own Masterpiece | Woodhorn Museum

Be inspired by the David Watson exhibition and create your own masterpiece. You can even make your own mini easel. Free event but donations are welcome. More details here



14 January | Saturday Storytime & Afternoon Craft | Great North Museum

Join the Great North Mouse for story time and rhyme followed by free crafts at the museum in the afternoon. More details here. 


14 - 15 January | Play & Invent - Timecraft | Discovery Museum

Suitable for children aged 7-14 years, this event allows children and young people to re-build Newcastle through the ages with the help of Minecraft. Tickets are £6 each and can be booked here.


14 - 15 January | Snowdog Story Party | Seven Stories

Join Seven Stories for a special Snowdog party with songs, games and stories. Recommended for under 4's, tickets are £4 each and can be pre-booked here.


14 - 15 January | Wellyteering Weekend | Gibside

There's a special welly trail around Gibside this weekend. Pick up trail maps from Gibside's entrance and mark your trail sheet with the stamper inside as you find every one.  More details here

If you're looking for a nice winter walk, how about the FREE art trail at Plessey Woods?  Whatever you're up to, add the hashtag #OurWeekendAdventure to your weekend Instagram pics and I'll pop pop by with a little comment and like.



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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Baby No1 vs Baby No3


If I turn back time to 2006 when Harry was born, I really wouldn't recognise myself. Aged just 22 and with no parenting experience at all (I hadn't changed a single nappy), it's fair to say I was a little out of my depth. During that first pregnancy, I would spend hours online reading everything I could about babies and parenting from how to correctly fill a baby bath to weaning methods and crib mattress ratings. I think I purchased around 8 pregnancy books. Yikes! Fast forward to December 2010 when Jack (baby no3) was born and things really couldn't have been more different. It's amazing what 4 years and a bit of 'on the job' experience can do!

How my parenting style has changed from Baby No1 to Baby No3.

So today I thought I would take a bit of a tongue in cheek look at how my parenting style has changed over the years. I'm sure parents of multiple children will recognise themselves in a few of these.

Pregnancy & Birth


As mentioned, with baby no1 I bought around 8 pregnancy and parenting books. There wasn't a thing I didn't know about the stage of pregnancy I was at or the latest birth techniques. Of course I bought myself a full pregnancy wardrobe and followed the advice from my midwife to the letter. I wrote a birth plan and had strong ideas about the kind of birth I wanted. I spent 4 days in hospital which I hated and I always regret that I didn't have the confidence to get the sort of after-care I needed.

For those that don't know, baby no2 (Heidi) was unexpectedly born at home with just Steve there to catch! So by the time baby no3 came along, I was prepared for anything. There was definitely no birth plan and I was just ready for whatever happened. I didn't re-read my pregnancy books and to be honest most of the time I forgot how many weeks pregnant I was and would just hazard a guess. When you are pregnant and looking after a one year old and three year old, you don't have time for such things. Jack's birth was my most difficult labour (he was back to back) but I'm pleased that I had the confidence to push for a 3 hour discharge from hospital as I knew we'd be happier at home and it was right for us. 


Parenting Style


I always smile to myself when I look back at my time with Harry as a baby. I think I was borderline neurotic! I had a schedule for everything and made sure everyone would stick to it. I knew exactly what time his nappy would be changed (and even by who - haha), I wouldn't let anyone come within 10 metres of him with a mobile phone and I always made sure he had the best of everything - there is no way you would have caught me buying nappies from Aldi back then! 

Fast forward four years and I was a very different parent with Jack. I was very laid back and just went with the flow. I had nursery and school drops offs to juggle with nap time and it was far easier for Jack to just fall into our routine than for us to try and create any sort of routine for him. By then, social media had been invented too and lets just say I wasn't so paranoid about him being near a mobile phone. 

Clothing and paraphernalia


We bought Harry a whole new wardrobe before he was even born and he was always wearing cute dungarees and beautiful outfits from Next. By the time Jack came along though I had learned a very important lesson - buy baby clothes that are super easy to wash and dry. Cotton babygrows and jogging style bottoms all the way for Jack - I seriously did not have time to iron anything so clothes that I could tumble dry without ironing were the way forward. You will also notice by the time baby No3 comes along that you won't receive as many gifts and there definitely isn't a baby shower as you've kind of been there and done that.

Harry had every piece of baby equipment going from a baby bath to bath thermometer, bottle warmer, nappy dispenser, top and tail bowl......you name it, he had it. By the time Jack was born I had learned another valuable lesson - you don't actually need all of this stuff. A normal bath is fine (and actually easier), you don't need a specific top and tail bowl and you certainly don't need a special machine that will dispense nappies. Plus, by the time you're onto baby no 3 you are definitely feeling the pinch on the purse strings and probably can't afford to buy all of these non-essentials again anyway and your priorities for spending money have certainly changed. 

Feeding


Harry was weaned at 4 month (as per guidelines at the time). I would puree my own food and buy him Organic baby food. It was a stict routine of milk and weaning and I felt as if he always had something in his mouth! By the time Jack was born, baby led weaning was all the rage and I tried that. It was a far more relaxed approach - not really starting until 6 months old and just giving him some of our food when we ate. It was so much easier this way. Incredibly easy in fact. I didn't need to give any thought or put any time into time into baby meal prepping. He just ate when we did - it really was that simple. 


Anyone reading this might be thinking poor baby no3 - they seem to get a bad deal and are perhaps are a bit neglected. But as any second/third time parent will tell you, that's not it at all. With baby no 1 it is your first time going through pregnancy and birth and you listen to the advice from the 'experts' as that's all you know. By the time it comes to baby no3 you are older, wiser and more experienced. You know that it really doesn't matter if your baby wears Aldi nappies and doesn't have a wardrobe to rival Prince George. By baby no3 you have the confidence and experience to realise that as long as a baby is well-loved and cared for, they'll thrive. Nothing else matters. You are also more relaxed and able to make the most of your time with your baby without so much worry too.

I'd love to hear if you have also changed your parenting style as you've had more children. Let me know in comments.


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How my parenting style has changed from Baby No1 to Baby No3.










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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

18 tried & tested tips for travelling with young children

*This is a collaborative post

Whan Harry, Heidi and Jack were small, I honestly used to worry so much about travelling with three children under the age of 5. When you are outnumbered by children, any type of travel can be daunting (even a trip to the supermarket used to fill me with fear - does that count as travel?). I have never been one to let this fear put me off though and have always been a strong advocate of travelling with your children when they are small - trust me when I say this, holidays will never be this cheap again and you need to make the most of it.

18 tried & tested tips for travelling with young children

There are things you can do to make your life easier though and I have put together some top tips that have been tried and tested by parents to help you enjoy an as stress-free travel experience as possible.

My number one tip would always be to thoroughly research your holiday destination before booking anywhere. In my experience, if the kids are happy, the grown-ups will be too. We always opted for self-catering villas or apartments when our three were young as this offered us the space and flexibility we needed. Specialist websites such as Tots to Travel can provide lots of advice and provide a range of accommodation choices that have been hand-picked to suit the needs of families with young children and are definitely worth a look before booking up anywhere.

18 tried & tested tips for travelling with young children


1 - 'Make up nappy sets by putting a nappy & couple of wipes within a nappy bag so you can quickly grab what you need without rooting through your whole bag' - Sprog on the Tyne

2 - 'Only pack the nappies you need for the journey (plus a few extra). You can buy nappies at your destination and it's one less thing to pack/carry' - My Boys Club

3 - 'When flying, check in online and pay for fast track security. Queuing and toddlers don't usually mix and paying for this service is so worth it' - Nomipalony

4 - 'Bring the grandparents along - they will keep the kids entertained for you'  - Here Come the Hoopers

5 - 'Olbas Oil works wonders for blocked ears (always seek medical advice first)' - Monkey Feet

6 - 'Put together a backpack with lots of little toys - crayons, colouring books and snacks. It's amazing how long this will keep little one's entertained' -  Country Heart and Home

7 - 'Always have 3 boxes of raisins in your car glove box for emergency 'NEED EAT DADDY' moments' - Gavin Forster

8 - 'Finger puppets are a fantastic travel toy' - Amanda Christenson-Goerd

9 - 'Start travelling with children from a very young age so it just becomes normal for them - even if it's just car journeys across the UK to begin with' - Five Adventurers

10 - 'Make sure you call your airline ahead and request a bassinet if you're travelling on a long flight with a baby. There are a limited number available on each flight so it pays to reserve one if you can' - Yorkshire Tots

11 - 'A Tupperware box filled with lego can save the day' - Leanne Rosa

12 - 'When travelling solo with a baby, leave the pushchair at home and use a sling so you have both hands free to carry luggage' - Life According to Mrs Shilts

13 - 'Choose somewhere that welcomes babies and provides cots and highchairs free of charge' - Kiddieholidays

14 - 'As well as a spare set of clothes for your child, take one for yourself. If they are sick, chances are they'll hit you and no one wants to travel in soiled clothes' - Jill Farmer

15 - 'Buy travel steriliser bags for cheap and easy sterilising' - Sally Oliver

16 - 'If you are flying, take your own car seat as the quality cannot be guaranteed when hiring abroad. Most airlines will let you take a car seat for free. Buy a car seat bag to protect it in transit'. - Kiddieholidays

17 - 'Minimise contact with germs on board planes - never let your children chew or bite on things on board, especially flight safety cards or magazines as these are rarely replaced. As an extra precaution, wipe down your table and seating area with an anti-bacterial wipe as soon as you board the plane' - Travel Loving Family 

18 - 'When flying, pack over-the-ear headphones for your toddler as often in-ear headphones are the only type provided by airlines (which aren't very toddler-friendly)' - Babyfoote

Another rather unconventional tip from a couple of my child-free friends was to just leave the kids at home - if only it was always that easy ;-)


Let me know if you have any trips planned with your little one's this year.


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18 tried & tested tips for travelling with young children from parents who know including leaving the pushchair at home, how lego can save the day and always be prepared with at least 3 boxes of raisins

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48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review

*This is a collaborative post

Harrogate is a place we love but don't visit nearly enough. When heading to North Yorkshire we nearly always favour Harrogate's big sister York for some reason which is a real shame. We last visited Harrogate in 2014 where we enjoyed treats at Betty's Tearoom and a delicious evening meal at the Yorkshire Meatball Co. (both recommended - you can read more here). After staying with Harrogate Serviced Apartments in Richmond last year, we were delighted to be invited back to stay in one of their Harrogate properties last weekend and couldn't wait to explore more of this beautiful town with the kids.

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review

January's a tricky month - you are usually counting the days to payday, may feel a bit of the January blues and summer still seems so long away. I honestly think it's the perfect month to plan a mini break and chase those blues away. Our home for the weekend was St George's Five which is one of four apartments available to hire in this building and one of 18 properties available to rent in Harrogate through Harrogate Serviced Apartments.

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - St George's Five Entrance

The apartments on St George's Terrace are perfectly located for exploring Harrogate on foot. Some of the apartments have their own allocated parking space (like ours did) and others can park on the road with no restrictions. Harrogate town centre is only a 12 minute easy walk (along one straight path - it's almost impossible to get lost) from the apartments, there are a few nice independent stores at the end of the street (including a fab little wine shop) and West Park Stray where you can enjoy coffee and pick up a few treats from Weeton's Deli before a nice walk in the park is around a 5 minute stroll from the apartment. Perfect! I honestly cannot think of a better location. So.......what did we get up to during our stay?

Friday Night


48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - St George's Five Living Area

We arrived in Harrogate at around 5:30pm on Friday night after travelling straight from school. The apartment was nice and easy to find thanks to comprehensive instructions sent prior to our stay. We unpacked the car Steve got to work in the kitchern cooking the kids pizza (for quickness) and us a lovely steak baguette with wedges.

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - St George's Five Kitchen

One thing we LOVED about St George's Five was just how well-equipped the kitchen was. It has been furnished to a very high standard and was much nicer than our kitchen at home! Expect a top of the range cooker with touch screen controls, a wine fridge, dishwasher, built-in waste disposal and a coffee machine amongst other things. We are trying to save as much money as possible in 2017 so planned to eat in our apartment for the whole weekend but this kitchen actually made this a joy rather than a chore. 

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - pizza at the breakfast bar

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - steak baguette

We settled down to watch a movie together (thanks to the two 50" SMART TV's) before climbing into our beautiful beds for an early night and what turned out to be a wonderful night's sleep.

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - St George's Five double bedroom with en-suite

Saturday


Last year I made a promise to myself (and my family) to try and live life a little slower. I used to be guilty of packing so much into our weekend that we didn't have any down time and that wasn't good for anyone. So although we were away, Saturday morning in Harrogate was a lazy affair for us. We popped a movie on the TV, drank several cups of coffee (the coffee machine made this all too easy) and shared brunch on the breakfast bar. We made use of the apartment's free WiFi too which easily managed all five of our devices surfing the web.  It was the perfect start to our Saturday. 

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - coffee machine

When we finally decided to get dressed we realised it was lunchtime so I prepared us a nice batch of tomato soup and made some of my legendary homemade sausages rolls which went down a treat and were again, super easy to prepare in the well-equipped kitchen. I love the flexibility that staying in an apartment lets you have - you couldn't do this in a hotel room.

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - st Georges five breakfast bar tomato soup

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - making sausage rolls in St George's Five kitchen

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - homemade sausage rolls

After our lazy morning, we were ready to head out and explore. As mentioned earlier, it's a super easy walk to the town centre. The weather was nice and mild so we decided to head to Valley Gardens which is a free place to visit and around a 25 minute walk away from the apartment.

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - West Stray park

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - Harrogate town centre

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - Valley Gardens Harrogate

Valley Gardens is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon and obviously very popular with locals. There are stunning gardens to walk through, a skate park, a mini golf course, a lake specifically designed for toy boats, a paddling pool (in the summer months), a cafe and more. I bet it's a fab spot to bring a picnic and spend the full day in the warmer months. We spent a couple of hours here walking around the grounds and playing games in the park - such a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon with the family. Next time we will definitely bring our scooters.

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - Valley Gardens Pump House Harrogate

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - Valley Gardens play park aeroplane

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - Valley Gardens Play park

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - Valley Gardens Musical Instrument

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - Valley Gardens in winter

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review

As the sun started to set we couldn't resist a walk through the town centre before heading home. At night, Harrogate is lit up with thousands of twinkling lights and when combined with the town's stunning architecture, it feels very magical. The town centre is packed with gorgeous boutique shops and I've already pledged to re-visit later this year (without the kids) for a girly shopping trip with my mum. 

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - Harrogate tree lights

As we walked back to our apartment in the dark along a twinkling tree-lined street, it almost felt as if the magic of Christmas had been extended. 

Back at St George's Five, we made our own fajitas and settled down to watch Saturday night TV. We'd brought along some of our board games and enjoyed playing Beat the Parents, Chess and Snakes and Ladders. 

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - make your own fajitas

When Harry decided we should start work on his 500 piece Maraunder's Map jigsaw I knew it was time to make a quick escape. I managed to hide in our en-suite bathroom (there are three bathrooms in total in the apartment) and enjoy a mega hot bath with my book and a glass of wine completely undisturbed - a much needed rare treat for me and I loved every second. 

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - marauder's map puzzle

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review - St George's Five bathroom

Once the kids were tucked up in bed, Steve and I weren't far behind them. All of that fresh air had left us exhausted! We enjoyed another restful night's sleep before one last family breakfast in the kitchen and a departure at 10:30am on Sunday morning. 

48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review
Credit | Harrogate Serviced Apartments
48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review
Credit | Harrogate Serviced Apartments 
We were really impressed with both Harrogate Serviced Apartments and Harrogate as a destination to visit with your family. The apartments are furnished to a very high standard, well-equipped and feel like a real home from home with a few added luxuries. Harrogate is a compact town with lots of green open spaces, street-side cafes and points of interest. We are lucky to only live a few hour's drive away and will definitely make a point of visiting again soon.

If you'd like to see more, check out our Live Facebook Tour around the apartment below and visit www.harrogateservicedapartments.co.uk for more information and booking enquiries.

Disclosure : We received a complimentary stay in return for this post. 

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48 Hours in Harrogate with Kids | Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review. Includes a town centre stay at St George's Five - a luxury apartment with free on-site parking plus a visit to Valley Gardens .

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