A family of 5 with a zest for life

Tanfield Railway | Britain's Oldest Railway & a Picnic at Causey Arch

Step back in time to August 2012 and we visited Tanfield Railway to celebrate my mam's 50th birthday. We packed a picnic and really had a wonderful day - in fact, it's a day out we've talked about on many occasions since. I can't believe how little the kids look in this blog post and how quickly the years have flown by (alongside how much my blog has clearly improved since those early days).


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5 Reasons to Visit Future Homes Newcastle with Kids


*This is a paid collaboration with Newcastle Building Society 

The Great Exhibition of the North has had its ups and downs for me (which you can read about here). One thing I have loved about the exhibition is that it's forced me to discover new places in our city and learn about projects that I wouldn't have otherwise known about. One of those projects is Future Homes Newcastle.


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Danny and Clive - Cirque Du Hilarious | The Magical Mischief Tour Visits Tynemouth

*This is a collaboration with Cirque du Hilarious


I swear Danny Adams is the kids' hero. They absolutely LOVE him. H, H and J watch the panto at Newcastle Theatre Royal every year with school and if you've been along in the past 10 or so years, you'll be more than familiar with Danny & Clive. Their silly, slapstick and often close to the knuckle humour is adored by kids (and many grown-ups alike) and I'd go as far as to say the Cirque Du Hilarious are legends on the local theatre scene. I'm so chuffed that Danny and his brother Mick have been given their own CBBC show - it's going to be great. 

Danny and Clive - Cirque Du Hilarious | The Magical Mischief Tour Visits Tynemouth
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How to plan a trip to Puy du Fou with kids from the UK who don't speak French

*This is a collaboration with Puy du Foy

I am so excited to share with you our trip to Puy du Fou theme park in France. We spent *the best* two days here and I really would recommend this trip for all ages. Entrance fees are really very reasonable when compared to other top theme parks around the world (see here for details) and I'd recommend a short-break and staying on-site for 1/2 nights to get the most out of your experience (see here for details). Grab a coffee, because this is a LONG post - it's been a tricky task trying to capture the magic and scale of Puy du Fou and just how incredible it is but I hope this post will give you a flavour of what to expect. 

Puy du Fou Theme Park, France - Gladiator Stadium

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10 Reasons to Visit Seaton Delaval Hall

*This is a paid collaboration with Seaton Delaval Hall

Seaton Delaval Hall is a Grade I listed house in Northumberland. Situated just a few miles from my home in Cramlington, I remember driving past as a child and being told to look out for the infamous white lady who allegedly haunts the property - a girl who fell in love with the Heir to the Hall but died with a broken heart as the marriage was forbidden. I am sure I spotted her looking out of a window once! The hall was closed to the public during my childhood and it was one of those places you'd pass time and time again and wonder if you'd ever set foot inside. 

10 Reasons to Visit Seaton Delaval Hall

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A Luxury Family Staycation at Rockliffe Hall Hotel

*This post is a collaboration with Rockliffe Hall

Rockliffe Hall is a five-star luxury golf and spa hotel. Nestled in a quiet village on the edge of County Durham, I really believe this resort is one of the North East's best-kept secrets. You may remember we spent the most blissful spa day at Rockliffe Hall last year and I still stand by the fact that I think the spa here is the best in our region. I was delighted to be able to return this summer, but this time with kids in tow......

A Luxury Family Staycation at Rockliffe Hall Hotel

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Encourage Engineering in Children with The Holiday Makers

*This is a paid collaboration with Britmums and The Year of Engineering

We love getting out and about and exploring over summer - I'm a strong believer in learning through experience and really think that travel and days out help to broaden the horizons. It's impossible to plan a day trip on every day of the holidays though and we like to balance time at home with time out and about. However, I will admit that often it is more of a struggle to keep the kids entertained at home and I am guilty of resorting to using the Xbox as a babysitter in the holidays a little more than I'd care to admit. I am always on the lookout for free and educational games or activities that will inspire the kids and allow them to get creative so when I heard of The Holiday Makers, I knew it was something we'd like to get involved with. The Holiday Makers is a brand new hub packed with fun activities and challenges that will help entertain and inspire children and keep their minds sharp all summer long. 

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Les Ecureuils Campsite, Vendee - A Eurocamp Site near Puy du Fou (Full Review)

*We stayed at Les Ecureuils as part of a press stay in return for this review

Our main reason for staying at Les Ecureuils was its proximity to Puy du Fou. We were visiting the theme park for three days and wanted somewhere we could stay to extend our holiday and relax a little as a family. Les Ecureuils is around a 90-minute drive from Puy du Fou and was available during the dates we wanted. It seemed ideal so we booked up for 4 nights. 

Les Ecureuils Campsite, Vendee - A Eurocamp Site near Puy du Fou (Full Review)

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Win a skating workshop with the stars of Disney On Ice presents Dream Big

*This is a paid collaboration with Disney On Ice and contains affiliate links

Ever fancied skating with the stars of Disney On Ice? For the third year in a row, the Disney On Ice team is offering children aged 5+ the opportunity to win an hour's training session with professional skaters from the show.


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5 holiday experiences my children will never understand

*This is a collaboration with Hello Canvas

During our recent trip to France, I couldn't help but reminisce with Steve about what holidays used to be like for us in the 1980s and 1990s and how much times have changed for our own children. The holidays I experienced during my own childhood were never flash or expensive but were definitely from more a simple time and I hold many special memories from weeks spent in Scarborough or Cornwall. 

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FREE Nature Trail at Derwent Waterside Park, Consett

*This is a paid collaboration with Northumbrian Water

FREE Nature Trail at Derwent Waterside Park, Consett  - play park

I have been LOVING this gorgeous weather we've been experiencing lately. I'm definitely not the kind of person to complain about the sunshine and will never moan that it's too hot. Last week, we spent a beautiful summer's evening at Rockliffe Hall. I checked the weather forecast as we were packing our overnight bags and the warm weather was all set to continue. We planned to visit Derwent Waterside Park after our stay at Rockliffe Hall and I did not pack a coat for myself and Steve. In fact, I packed a lovely summer dress and sandals for myself and after watching Nomipalony's beautiful sun-filled Instagram stories from a visit to Derwent Waterside Park the previous day (you can read about Nyomi's visit here), I was looking forward to a gorgeous day of sunshine.

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Anyone else hate water parks?

I am one of those parents who will openly admit that I hate taking the kids swimming. I just don't find dipping my body in cold water filled with other people's body fluids to be that appealing if I'm honest. But if I've learned one thing in my almost 12 years of parenthood, it's that you can't be selfish when you have offspring and every now and then I grin and bear it for their sakes.

Anyone else hate water parks?  Atlantic Toboggan Vendee Water park pictures and review
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Durham University Botanical Gardens with Kids - A Review

*This is a guest post
Today we have a guest post from Helen who visited Durham University Botanical Gardens with her children this week. It's somewhere I've not visited myself but it looks lovely (and inexpensive). Let me know if you'd recommend. Over to Helen......

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Camping at Deer Shed Festival with Kids


*We were provided with press review tickets

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Love Super Wings? Check Out #SuperSummerMissions & Enter Our Giveaway

*This is a paid collaboration with Super Wings

Super Wings is a popular action-packed animation series aimed at children aged 3-5. The show aims to encourage problem-solving skills and explores different parts of the world. My almost-3-year-old nephew is a huge fan of the show and as Harry, Heidi and Jack are besotted with him, they often watch along together. I was therefore delighted when Super Wings asked us to be one of their official ambassadors this year and I can't wait to get involved with their #SuperSummerMissions across the holidays.


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FREE Woodland Adventure and Mud Kitchen at Beamish Hall

This Summer I am going to mix it up a little and I'll be sharing reader reviews alongside my own. First up is this review by Claire, featuring a new Alice in Wonderland Adventure experience at Beamish Hall. I love that it's free to visit (activity packs are an optional extra at £4 each). Over to Claire who attended the launch event......


FREE Woodland Adventure and Mud Kitchen at Beamish Hall

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Hidden Treasures - A FREE Arts Trail in Stamfordham Village , Northumberland

*This is a paid collaboration with Helix Arts 


Stepping foot inside of Stamfordham Village is like stepping back in time. With its Instagram-worthy rows of pretty cottages (which gave me serious property envy), a village green, a small pop-up shop inside of the village pub and a real community theme, living somewhere like this is a real dream. We spent the afternoon exploring the village last weekend and just spending a few hours here allowed our pace of life to slow down a little (helped by the lack of decent phone signal of course).

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6 Tips to Raise Financially-Savvy Kids

*This is a collaborative guest post

If you’re a parent, you’d likely do anything to ensure that your child has a bright and secure future. And while being good with money isn’t taught in schools, it is undoubtedly one of the most important skills a young person can learn. What’s more, the earlier they start, the better. This is especially important to us now that Harry is moving into Secondary School and will manage his own mini-budget and lunch money. The fact that he spent £6 on his transition day does not bode well! 


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Meet your favourite Hotel Transylvania characters at McDonald's this summer

*This is a paid collaboration with McDonald's and Britmums


McDonald's restaurants are hosting free, family events, featuring characters from everyone's favourite Happy Meals up and down the country across weekends and school holidays this year. Each event will last for 90 minutes and includes lots of activities, dancing, photo opportunities, games and fun for all, plus they're a great opportunity to bring the family together. The events are free with no booking required - simply drop in! You can find your nearest event by clicking the link below:

http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/familyevents

McDonald's are putting on over 2,600 events throughout the rest of the year (ranging from Family Fun Days to Character Visits), so there are loads of chances to get involved.

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Exploring the Northumberland Coast with Arriva North East X18 Sightseeing Bus Tour

*This is a paid collaboration with Arriva North East


Regular readers will know that we're a one-car household and as Steve uses our car for work, I often resort to using public transport during the school holidays. I am also finding that more often than not, even when Steve is with us we'll catch the bus into Newcastle as it often works out cheaper, we're not restricted by time, we don't have to stress about parking and now the kids are a little bit older we can often have one or two drinks in a bar/pub/restaurant during a family day out too. A lot of people are in the same boat as us and I am asked time and time again by readers to feature days out by public transport so today I am doing just that and sharing how you can explore the entire length of the beautiful Northumberland Coastline by bus. 
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Disney On Ice presents Dream Big - Newcastle Ticket Giveaway

*This is a paid collaboration with Disney On Ice and contains affiliate links

Disney On Ice presents Dream Big is this year's 'must-see' show at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena. Families can watch this all-new ice show at the Metro Radio Arena between 2 - 7 October 2018. Tickets are selling fast and available to buy online here.



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Win a 2 night family stay at a Yelloh! Village - Luxury Camping in Europe


*This is a paid collaboration with Yelloh! Village

Glamping/Lodge holidays seem to have the best of both worlds - lots of fresh air and nature but with home comforts. We're huge fans and have stayed in this kind of accommodation in Europe on many occasions. I love how staying on a campsite abroad forces you to naturally slow down and it's also the perfect way to make the most of the glorious weather too. 




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The Highs & Lows of the Great Exhibition of the North so far....

The Highs & Lows of the Great Exhibition of the North so far....

The Great Exhibition of the North is in full swing now, yet it seems like a huge proportion of us still don't know what on earth is going on. Basically, NewcastleGateshead has been chosen as the city to showcase Northern innovation, design, art, music, culture and engineering and there are hundreds of events, exhibits and workshops across 80 days celebrating just what the North can do (in this case, North seems to mean anything above Sheffield).
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The Ultimate Guide to What's On in the North East for Kids | Summer Holidays 2018

The Ultimate Guide to What's On in the North East for Kids | Summer Holidays 2018

Summer 2018 is going to be one to remember! As always, we have lots of plans but I've also planned lots of down time too. We're kicking things off with a trip to DeerShed Festival near Thirsk as official ambassadors before heading to France for the week. This Summer we're hoping to visit Derwent Reservoir, Alnwick Garden, Tanfield Railway, Seaton Delaval Hall, Tynemouth Boating Lake, Nethermined, Cirque Du Hilarious, take part in more of the Great Exhibition of the North and hopefully visit a theme park somewhere.

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Visiting Jarrow Hall Museum & Farm with a Toddler

I normally take every Wednesday off work and go out with my brother and 2-year-old nephew for the day somewhere. Evan is starting nursery in January so we're keen to pack as much fun into our days as we can before days out like this are going to be restricted to school holidays. I posted in my North East Days Out Facebook group asking for recommendations and although WWT Washington came out top (we'll be visiting there soon), a couple of people recommended Jarrow Hall as being perfect for toddlers. Jarrow Hall is closer and cheaper than WWT Washington so we decided to give it a go. 




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10+ Places you can book Children's Afternoon Tea in North East England


10+ Places you can book Children's Afternoon Tea in North East England


I am regularly asked for recommendations for places to take children for afternoon tea around North East England and it's a question that pops up time and time again in various Facebook groups so I decided to do a little research and share 10 places in our region which serve this treat. The list may grow as time goes on so let me know if you have a recommendation and I'll add it to this post.

Prices and menus are correct at time of writing (June 2018) but may change - always check before booking. Most afternoon teas will require pre-booking and some are only available during certain times of the year so please always call these venues well ahead to discuss booking.


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Great Exhibition of the North - What's On For Kids & Teens | Gateshead Quays

*This is a paid collaboration with Gateshead ALive

If like me, you've found the whole Great Exhibition of the North programme a little confusing and are not exactly sure what's going on or what there is for kids and families to experience, fear no more. I've teamed up with the Gateshead ALive to share 20 fabulous events taking place on Gateshead Quays for kids, teens and families as part of the exhibition across the summer. Grab your diaries and get planning a fabulous summer to remember. The Great Exhibition of the North is a one-off event and I'm of the personal belief that we should get out there and enjoy it. All events are FREE and drop-in so no booking is required. Events take place on Gateshead Quays in the space between Sage and Baltic unless specified otherwise.

Great Exhibition of the North - What's On For Kids & Teens | Gateshead Quays
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How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids

*This is a paid collaboration with Visit Genoa

You'll find Genoa in Northern Itlay. This bustling port is the sixth largest city in Italy and known for its art, culture and historical landmarks. I didn't know much about the city before our trip but I am so pleased we had the opportunity to explore. We spent just 48 hours in the area which I'd say is enough time to get a feel for the place. You could easily spend longer here though. I made the trip by myself with Harry, Heidi and Jack as Steve had to work and couldn't take any holiday (booo). This was to be a weekend of firsts - my first trip to Italy, my first trip abroad just myself and the kids and my first time taking an interconnecting flight. I honestly found the whole trip to be absolutely stress-free though and I think Genoa's laid-back nature, safe streets and glorious sunshine really contributed towards this.



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Let's Talk About Picnics

*This is a paid collaboration with Summit International

I am not the most house-proud of people. I mean, my home is nice but I would say it's definitely more functional over stylish. I much prefer to spend our hard-earned cash on days out, making memories and holidays. There is one exception to this rule though and that is my addiction to buying picnicware. I swear I have a problem!

Collapsible picnicware by Summit - Review & Demo #NationalPicnicWeek



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Cirque Berserk Review 2018

*We received complimentary press night tickets


Cirque Berserk is residing in Newcastle's Tyne Theatre & Opera House this week. A show like no other - it's a feast for the senses that will have you laughing, gasping, cheering and hiding between your hands. The fast-moving show is brought to you by the world famous Zippos circus and very much feels like you're watching all the very best bits from Britains Got Talent live in front of your eyes.


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Start Planning your Summer with Our Guide to Great Northumberland

*This is a paid collaboration with Great Northumberland

Have you heard of Great Northumberland? Northumberland County Council has put together a summer of fun with over 40 events across 56 days celebrating the arts, heritage and culture that Northumberland has to offer. If you're interested in hearing more, I highly recommend signing up to the FREE member's club here for exclusive access to competitions and events across the summer.


There are over 40 events to choose from (see the full list here) and many of the events are free of charge (see here for a full list of free events). Today I'm sharing my top 10 Great Northumberland event picks. If you fancy any of the events mentioned, make sure you pop them in your diary now.



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Kynren 2018 with Kids - Video & Spoiler-free Review

*We were provided with complimentary tickets to attend a press preview

You'll remember that we attended Kynren last year and absolutely loved it (click here to read our review and top tips for visiting with kids). In fact we loved it so much that we bought tickets for this year's show as soon as they went on sale. We're also taking Steve's parents along as a special birthday present. We bought our tickets for Septemeber when the shows finish a little earlier (it is a late night for kids) so when the opportunity to attend a press preview came along, I decided to decline as I didn't want to ruin our experience in September. Luckily for us, the Hoopers attended on our behalf. Here are their thoughts on 2018's show......


Kynren 2018 with Kids - Video & Review


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Disney On Ice presents Dream Big | Where to Buy Tickets - Newcastle October 2018

*This is a collaborative post and includes affiliate links
Moana, Maui and Friends Embark on Triumphant Ice Debut in Europe
Every Story Begins with a Dream!

See this all-new ice show at The Metro Radio Arena from 2-7 October 2018

Audiences will set sail with the wayfinder Moana as she makes her European debut live on ice in Disney On Ice presents Dream Big. This all-new production, produced by Feld Entertainment, assembles a collection of inspiring stories connected by a cast of characters with a desire to explore the depths, heights and horizons of their dreams. Alongside Moana and demigod Maui are eight tales of courage and heart, including Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Tangled. Plus, arrive early to celebrate 90 years of Walt Disney’s “true original,” Mickey Mouse. The production will premiere in Glasgow, Scotland in September and play at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena from 2 – 7 October before continuing the UK tour and then travelling throughout  Europe.


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Sully from Monsters Inc. has taken up residence in South Shields - here's how to meet him (for free)


I have a huge soft spot for Monsters Inc. Released in 2001 when I was just 17 years old, I was obsessed with this film and still have my Sully soft toy my mam bought me from the Disney Store to this day. It's a film that has stood the test of time and my own children now love it just as much as I do. When I heard that Sully himself was going to feature in the Word's new Monsters exhibition in South Shields, I visited ASAP. Unfortunately, I made the rookie error of not checking Facebook first and the exhibition was temporarily closed for the day. I was gutted! So we tried again during May Half Term and this time, our trip was more successful. 



The Monsters exhibition continues at The Word in South Shields until 6 January 2019. It's completely free to visit and easy to get to with ferry, metro and bus links very close by. The exhibition is just on the right as you enter the building and I was honestly jumping for joy as I realised there was actually a mock-up of Boo's room. So cute! We visited during half term and it wasn't overly busy - plenty of opportunities to take photos.


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Sunday Lunch at The Coach House Otterburn (with kids)

*This is a collaboration with The Coach House Otterburn

We celebrated Father's Day a week early this year as Steve is sadly working on the official day (plus I'm heading off to Genoa with the kids for the weekend so we won't actually be in the country). We spent Saturday strawberry picking at Brocksbushes (watch our video here), eating ice cream at Wheelbirks and watching the football. Steve is the chef in our house and does 95% of the cooking so we thought it would be nice to head out somewhere a little special for Sunday lunch after a leisurely lie in. 

Sunday Lunch at The Coach House Otterburn (with kids)

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Why you should visit Alnwick Garden when the kids are at school


I love visiting Alnwick Garden. It doesn't matter when you visit, there's always something new to see, do and admire. The garden's hard-working team of gardeners seem to work non-stop and the garden is ever-changing with the seasons but always pristine and beautiful.

Why you should visit Alnwick Garden when the kids are at school


In the past, I've nearly always visited Alnwick Garden during the school summer holidays with Harry, Heidi and Jack and usually some of our extended friends or family too. It's such a fantastic place to visit with kids on a sunny day and the Grand Cascade makes a wonderful backdrop for your picnic. Little ones love playing with the water features in the serpent garden and the garden of fairy tales trail is always lots of fun. 


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10 of the best Northumberland beaches to visit with kids

We're so lucky living in Northumberland. One of the reasons I love it so much is our miles and miles of unspoilt coastline. We really are spoilt for choice and sometimes it can be tricky trying to decide which beach to visit for the day. I've put together a guide featuring 10 of our favourites (it isn't a comprehensive guide - just some of the places we personally love). Let me know if you'd like to visit any of the beaches listed or if you have a favourite.




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What happens at Durham Passport Office during an urgent lost passport appointment

So I lost my passport. The last time I physically used it was during our trip to Florida last year. I keep all of our passports together in a safe place and when I went to that place to check some details recently, mine wasn't there. I do remember that I needed just my own passport for something a couple of months ago and it was in my handbag for ages. Then I took it out and put it on my coffee table and then I vaguely remember moving it somewhere before our cleaner arrived. I have no idea where this place was though! I've searched high and low to no avail. I think it's probably in a bag somewhere (despite me checking every bag I own) OR it has ended up mixed up with some papers in our bin. I won't be making that mistake again and as soon as I've used my passport in future, I'll make sure to pop it straight back where it lives. I'd advise anyone to do the same!

What happens at Durham Passport Office during a lost passport appointment


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What's On for Kids in North East England | June 2018

June is a busy, busy, busy month in the North East. Not only do we have the launch of the Great Exhibition of the North and the impending launch of Great Northumberland to look forward to but we also have the hoppings and Father's Day to celebrate too.

What's On for Kids in North East England | June 2018



Events & days out to enjoy across June
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Harry's last term in Primary School - How we're preparing for the transition to Secondary School

*This is a collaborative post

Harry's last term in Primary School - How we're preparing for the transition to Secondary School

It honestly does not seem like two minutes ago that I was that nervous first-time mum visiting nursery school for the first time and worrying how Harry would get on without me. How would he manage the toilet? Would he make friends? Would he enjoy school? So many questions! How sweet does he look on his first day though! It's always tough when your child starts a new phase of their life but I think it's even more so when it's your first-born as it's all new to you as a parent too.


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Visiting Bamburgh Castle with Kids - Cost, Parking & Picnic Spots


Bamburgh Castle is a real stunner. As you approach the coastline, it's imposing and grand and you can't help but be impressed. The castle originates from 420 and was inhabited by Anglo Saxons from 590. The pesky Vikings invaded and destroyed the castle in 993 after which the Normans re-built a new castle which forms the basis of the castle we see today. These days, the castle is owned by the Armstrong family and is open to the public. You may recognise the castle from the films Ivanhoe, Macbeth, Elizabeth and Transformers: The Last Knight.

Visiting Bamburgh Castle with Kids - Cost, Parking & Picnic Spots

I'm ashamed to say it had been a number of years since our last visit (close to five I think) and over Bank Holiday weekend, a re-visit was definitely on the cards. The castle was holding a special Viking Invasion event which I won't go into too much as this was a one-off but if you're interested, you can check out my short video from the event below (and catch a glimpse of the epic drive up to the castle).


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Gangsta Granny On Tour - Newcastle Theatre Royal | A Review

*We were provided with press tickets in order to write this review

Gangsta Granny On Tour - Newcastle Theatre Royal | A Review

We are huge fans of David Walliams - don't tell the other judges but he's our favourite on Britain's Got Talent, our bookshelf is packed with his best-selling books and ever since Rat Burger was on our screens over Christmas, it feels like we've been watching it on a daily basis. So when we heard that Gangsta Granny was heading to Newcastle's Theatre Royal, we jumped at the chance to review the show. David Walliams has an incredible ability to tell stories that appeal to the whole family and I was confident we'd be in for a fantastic night. We took our seats in a packed out theatre and waited for the 2 hour 15 minute show to begin (as a side note, I love how the Theatre Royal has booster seats available for kids - simply ask a member of staff if you'd like one).


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A Family BBQ at Ingram Valley, Northumberland National Park

Ingram Valley in Northumberland National Park is somewhere I have fond memories of visiting as a child. We used to visit every summer and spend the day with friends and family. I loved it. It's one of those places I've been meaning to take my own children for so long but have never got around to it. I predict it has been around 20-25 years since my last visit and decided we couldn't put it off any longer. We set off on a sunny Saturday in hope of finding this spot I remember so fondly. 

A Family BBQ at Ingram Valley, Northumberland National Park


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Half of British Parents have given up trying to get their kids to eat five a day

*This is a paid collaboration with Beko

Everyone wants the very best for their children and we all know it's important that we encourage our kids to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg per day but often, it can be a real struggle.

Encouraging children to eat more fruit and veg with #EatLikeAPro and Beko

During the week, Harry, Heidi and Jack usually enjoy a piece of fruit during their morning break at school, another portion or two with their packed lunch or school dinner and then again with their evening meal. I would say they do manage to eat pretty healthily through the week when I'm usually at my most-organised.


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Sambuca Cramlington Happy Hour Menu Review | Will it be a success?


There has been a lot of buzz around Sambuca Cramlington opening up in my hometown. I was planning on visiting on opening night but managed to contain myself and waited a few weeks until they had 'bedded in' to their new surroundings. We turned up on a sunny Monday lunchtime without a reservation and it's fair to say we received exactly what we were expecting - a cheap and cheerful and speedy lunch in nice surroundings. My experience was 100000% better than anything I ever experienced in the Glasshouse and I would say this restaurant certainly has its place in our town.

Sambuca Cramlington Happy Hour Review | Will it be a success?


It's a shame the Glasshouse failed

Like most of Cramlington, I was so excited about the Glasshouse opening in Cramlington. A decent cocktail bar was just what we needed. The refurbishment was gorgeous and the bar and restaurant looked fantastic - it was clear a lot of money had been spent. Which is why it baffles me that higher management and the owners just seemed to abandon the place once it had opened. I visited on three occasions and experienced extremely bad service and a clear lack of leadership including a rather embarrassing 2 hour wait for a sausage and mash when there were only 5 other tables in the restaurant. If the Glasshouse was my baby, I know I'd be running front of house 99% of the time until the staff were up to speed and constantly checking the standards were there. It baffles me that this didn't happen. My experience mirrored most of Cramlington and it all ended in tears with rumours of bailiffs removing stock, services like card payments being withdrawn and staff not being paid and making a big public fuss including putting handwritten notes on the restaurant's windows. Yikes! The whole thing just seems like one huge waste of time and investment which is a shame as it could have been so good and had huge potential.

I waited 2 hours for this dish at The Glasshouse

Sambuca opening in Cramlington is a good thing

I will be honest - I used to be a complete Sambuca snob and turn my nose up at the chain but after I visited the Blyth branch with my mam during her foster carer meet-ups a few years ago, I changed my mind. I'm not exactly a regular customer, nor will I say they serve a decent pizza BUT there is a clear gap in the market for cheap and cheerful happy hour pizzas and pastas for families who are on a budget but still want to go out and enjoy a lively restaurant experience. Cramlington doesn't really have a restaurant like this so I think opening a Sambuca here really will fill a gap and I do think it will be a success.



Sambuca Cramlington Happy Hour Review

I visited at 12noon on a Monday lunchtime. Monday lunchtimes are notoriously quiet in the restaurant trade and I know if we'd have walked past nearby Prezzo, there wouldn't have been a soul inside. Yet Sambuca seemed to fill up pretty quickly and by the time we left at 1:15pm, pretty much every table had been taken. I have to say, we were in shock! How do they fill every seat on a Monday lunchtime?? The clientele seemed to be young couples, older couples, families and friends meeting up. I am guessing the reason Sambuca is so popular is their £5.95 for 3 courses lunchtime special which on the surface, seems like a fantastic deal and I agree, is very tempting.


The restaurant had a very good atmosphere, it was nice and livley with the front of house sporadically shouting out random words in Italian (I think??). The staff were majorly on the ball and our drinks order was taken within a minute of us sitting down and our food arrived quickly. I've heard a few people mention the restaurant can get a little noisy but even when it was full it was fine for us - sometimes there is a live singer performing which judging by a few Facebook comments I've read can be a bit much! I think with Sambuca, you get what you pay for. We were expecting something cheap and cheerful with good service and that's what we received.

The Sambuca happy hour runs from 12noon - 5pm Monday-Friday and 12noon-3pm on Saturdays. For this you can choose potato skins or soup of the day, pizza or pasta (excluding premium toppings) and then coffee or ice cream. Panuccis in Smithy Square serves this same offer for £7.45 so there's no denying Sambuca is cheap as chips.


I ordered potato skins to start. The portion was larger than I expected but the presentation left a lot to be desired. I loved the garlic mayo but was amused to also find a dollop of Marie Rose sauce on my place. Not a natural accompaniment to potato skins - I think BBQ sauce would be a better idea. The skins weren't as crispy as I like them but they were perfectly edible.


My dining companion ordered vegetable soup and again, it wasn't anything special but it wasn't the worst soup in the world either.


Onto our pizzas and I went with my favourite (and some would say boring) Margharita. It was cooked from scratch in house so that's a start and the tomato sauce was lovely. The base was very thin and I've heard rumours that Sambuca use fake cheese on their pizzas - I don't know whether this is the case but it was certainly a bland offering. Although it was bland, I did still actually think it was nice for the price point and it's the kind of pizza that my kids would wolf down in no time. Because it was so thin I expected to leave feeling unsatisfied but I was actually full up and even left a few crusts. For the price, they're never going to use the finest ingredients so don't visit if you're a pizza connoisseur but if you fancy a quick and cheap pizza lunch that will leave you feeling satisfied, it's ideal.



We ended our meals with two Americanos. Again - they weren't the best we've ever tasted but like the rest of our meal, they were adequate and did the job.


£5.95 for all of that - you can't really complain can you?

Does Sambuca Cramlington offer good value?

On the surface, you think you're getting a good deal, but that's all due to clever marketing. In reality, you're actually not getting as good a deal as you think. The mark-up on non-happy hour food is horrendous. A Sirloin Steak was on the menu for £19.99! Now Sambuca and quality don't go hand in hand so I'm guessing their steak isn't coming from an Organic farm or anywhere special. To charge this price when you can order a steak with all the trimmings from the Hungry Horse a few doors done for half this price seems ludicrous to me. I'm guessing they come from a similar standard of supplier. There is also a huge mark-up on drinks. A bottle of Prosecco is £19.99 - I wouldn't pay this price when I can buy one for £9.99 in Wetherspoons around the corner. If you ask for a coke, they'll bring you a large one which at £2.50 is an expensive add-on - unlimited soft drinks are available for £2.20 from Nandos next door.


Speaking of Nandos, I know a lot of people comment that they think it's expensive (I'm not in that school of thought - we love it). A meal there for 2 adults and 3 kids plus drinks will normally set us back £50 and we're left feeling stuffed! There's no children's menu at Sambuca Cramlington (that I could see anyway) so if the five of us ordered 5 x £5.95 happy hour plus 5 x £2.50 soft drinks at Sambuca, the cost would be £42.50 - just £7.50 (or £1.50 each) less than Nandos. When you look at it like this, it's not as good a deal as you first thought. In fact, if we dined at Sambuca outside of Happy Hour, I am pretty sure our total bill for the family would be higher than many places in Cramlington.


Sambuca Cramlington - would I return?

It may seem that this review is fairly negative but do you know what, I will return to Sambuca. Probably time and time again. I'm not likely to visit for date night any time soon but I can certainly see that it has it's place - if we fancy a pizza before the cinema on a Saturday lunchtime or if I'm looking for somewhere to take the kids after school for a treat - Sambuca will tick those boxes. They also run a few drinks promotions in their bar (I noticed an offer for a glass of Prosecco and a slice of cake for £5.75) and as the bar area is really lovely, I can imagine popping in for a drink with the girls or Steve. They also seem to have an ice cream stand with ice creams to take away which I'm sure will be nice to pop in for with the kids when we're visiting the newly refurbished Seven Oaks Park across the road.


I have a feeling it's going to do really well in Cramlington and as one of only a few local businesses in Manor Walks, I wish them every success.

You can find Sambuca Cramlington in Manor Walks next to Frankie & Benny's and Vue Cinema. Here's a link to their current menu or you can view below.

Let me know if you've visited yet and your thoughts.......

Sambuca Cramlington Happy Hour Menu Review | Will it be a success?

Sambuca Cramlington Happy Hour Menu Review | Will it be a success?

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