Week 16 of 2014

sea life centre birminghamSo it’s been one of those ultra busy weeks again that I like to set up for myself and then moan about how tired I am during it.  It was a lot of fun though, so sometimes it’s worth it.  This was the first week of the school Easter holidays for H.

On Saturday we’d arranged to go to see the new penguins at Sea Life in Birmingham.  We took H and his friend along and they had a lot of fun.  Every time we go I’m amazed at H’s knowledge of the animals that live in the sea (all down to Octonauts I think).  H’s friend was pretty knowledgeable too and they spent a lot of time discussing sea horses and rays.  For some reason we’d never been to the 4D cinema there on previous visits, but this time we went in as a showing was about to start.  The boys thought the Sponge Bob film was really funny and they loved been sprayed by perfume during the performance.

Zoom and SketchThankfully, Sunday was a quieter day as we needed to store up some energy for the week ahead.  On Monday we went to Birmingham Airport for a blogger event and tried out Frankie and Benny’s restaurant at the airport.  H enjoyed meeting Zoom and Sketch, the airport and restaurant mascots, and naturally he posed for his picture with them.  I think the biggest highlight for him though, was getting to meet up again with his friend from ET Speaks From Home again.  The boys met up a couple of times last summer at events and were clearly glad to see each other again.

little devilTuesday saw us heading east to Leicester to go to the Next Kids event at Next Head Office.  We both had a lot of fun there.  I got to browse around the new collection of clothes in peace while H played.  There was plenty of time for me to catch up with fellow bloggers too, including some who had travelled quite a way to come.  H made some new friends quickly and was soon in full-blown construction mode conjuring up all sorts of creations, with the various bricks and things to hand.  It’s lovely the way a seven-year old boy can make instant friends with another, especially when they have interests or a shared task in common.  We were even able to do some multitasking by watching a film we were reviewing in the car on the way to another blogging event.

Children with the Easter BunnySo on Wednesday we decided to crank up the pace even further.  We started the day meeting up with friends at Blist Hills Victorian Town in Ironbridge, Shropshire.   We had a lovely day exploring there and eating fish and chips in the sun.  Mid afternoon we set off for our second appointment of the day: Tea with the Easter Bunny at a nearby garden centre.  We really enjoyed the tea and I think we might well book to go again next year.

By Thursday we were worn out and badly needed some time at home to recover.  So Thursday and Friday were quieter days, but we did fit in some activities at home: hot cross bun baking and Easter egg making.

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Making Easter Eggs With Stay in Devon

Homemade Easter EggsEaster wouldn’t be Easter without eggs.  We’ve never made our own Easter eggs before, but this year Stay in Devon very kindly sent us a kit to help us with making Easter eggs.

I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it all was.  We melted the chocolate and  coated the mould with several coats.  Each time you need to wait for the chocolate to set and we popped ours in the fridge for a few minutes.  We were making hot cross buns at the same time, which is also a bit bitty, so we could get on with making the hot cross buns as we were waiting for the Easter eggs to set.

making easter eggs - using moulds to make chocolate eggsOnce the shells are complete, you remove them from their moulds – this was very easy as we’d coated the moulds with a little sunflower oil before we started.  The next thing to do is hold them for a second or two face down on a hot baking tray.  This melts the chocolate slightly, so that you can join the two halves together to make your whole egg.    We did something similar with the sweets we added onto the egg to make a face.  The heat melted the sweets just a little so that they stuck to the chocolate.  Making Easter eggs has been a lot of fun and we’ll be keeping the moulds for next year, so that we can make some more.  I can see it becoming an Easter tradition.

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Blist Hills Victorian Town Review

Blist Hills Victorian TownSo this week we paid a visit to Blist Hills Victorian Town to see what we thought of it.  The idea behind the museum is that it gives you a chance to experience life as it was over 100 years ago through the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a recreated Victorian Town. In the various cottages, shops and workplaces, there are Victorian characters who will give you an insight into Victorian life.  It’s a great place to teach children about how life was lived in the past as history is brought to life with working machines and friendly, talkative staff.

Our first stop was at the bank to exchange our modern money into pounds, shillings and pence to spend on the site.  You don’t need to do this if you don’t want to as modern money is accepted too.  Either way, the bank is worth a visit to get an insight into how financial services worked in the old days.

old fashioned sweetsFor us a shop that couldn’t be passed without a visit was Blist Hills’ old-fashioned sweet shop.  H picked out some dew drops and some rainbow drops or nonpareils (those chocolate discs with hundreds and thousands on them).  Naturally, I didn’t want to be left out, so I opted for that Black Country delicacy: Herbal Tablets. They are an acquired taste, but I think they’re my favourite sweet.

vintage chip fryerH is a bit of a fish and chips monster, so it was pointless trying to bring a picnic with a traditional fish and chip shop on site.  Blist Hills cook the fish and chips in beef dripping, which makes them taste fantastic.

Another culinary delight at Blist Hills is the bakery.  Just walking inside the door is enough to make you feel hungry because of the delicious smells.  We bought a fruit loaf to take home and it was really nice.  It didn’t last long at all because it was snaffled up very quickly.

playing outside at Blist HillsBlist Hills is quite a big site with its 52 acres of grounds.  We went for a walk to burn off all those chips from lunch.  Strolling alongside the canal on the towpath, you soon feel like you are in the middle of the countryside with birds and butterflies dancing around.  We walked as far as the impressive Hay Inclined Plane which was used to transport boats down a steep slope with a  63m drop.  H and his friends found plenty to play with in the woods on site and various games involving kings, queens and knights were played.  I hadn’t expected so much open space on a museum site, so the amount of woodland at Blist Hills was a very pleasant surprise.

swings at the fairH and his friends loved the Victorian fairground.  You can go on the swings or the merry-go-round.  H always likes the games where you can try your hand at hitting or scoring or whatever to win a prize.  So we had a go at the coconut shy and a few others.  Every child gets some sweets, which is just as well because some of those skill tests are really difficult.  The staff really made it too and even produced stools for children to stand on to have a go.

We didn’t get around all the activities at Blist Hills: you can make a multicoloured candle; get your picture taken in Victorian dress; and see skilled workers plying their trades.  Some of these involve an extra charge.

steam engine at Blist HillsThere’s a lot to do and see at Blist Hills Victorian Town.  We were there for over 4 hours and didn’t get round everything.  It can easily be an all day trip, especially if the weather is good and you can explore the site fully.  We have a passport ticket which cost £27.50 per adult and £16.50 for a child.  This gives you the chance to visit all 10 of the Ironbridge museums over a 12 month period, so it can work out to be pretty good value.  You can also pay individually for access to specific sites.  H is keen to visit the Enginuity museum next, so I might be reviewing that very soon.

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Next Kids Summer 2014

Next Kids Summer 2014 This week Next invited us to their HQ in Enderby, near Leicester to get a sneak preview of this year’s summer collection for kids.  Over the years H has had a lot of Next clothes and I’ve always found them to be not only hard-wearing and comfortable, but stylish and smart too.

The event started off in a large room set up as a shop with the Next Kids Summer 2014 range on the racks.  H and I had a wander round before he settled down to some serious construction work with the other boys his age.  Anyway, we were both particularly taken by the range of T-shirts from this year’s range.  One of our favourites was this Lego one, but other faves included a great Kermit the Frog T and a Plants v Zombies top that H loved above all else.

Next CrocsI hate it when boys clothes are boring.  Thankfully, there’s no danger of that with this season’s Next Kids offerings.  Don’t you just love these fun ‘crocs’?  They’re just the sort of thing H would love to wear.  I’m regretting that I bought ahead on the crocs front last year now as H already has a pair for this summer, so I can’t justify buying these.

It was lovely to walk around to have a really good look at the clothes while H was fully occupied with his various construction projects.  Generally, through the whole collection, there’s a 1950s retro vibe going on with polka dots and pinafores for the girls and chino shorts and polos for the boys.  The ice cream pastels dotted through the range really complement the theme.

Putting pizzas into the ovenBut, the day wasn’t just about the clothes, great though they were, it was also very much about having fun.  For lunch we went onto a local pizza restaurant and took it over.  H got to go into the professional kitchen and make his own pizza with the help of the chefs there.  Then of course he got to eat the pizza he’d created.  I had some of his too and I have to say it was pretty tasty.


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Saturday is Caption Day: Little Devil

little devil

This week we had a lovely day out with Next along with a number of other bloggers.  While we were at the event, I took this cheeky snap of H, but I didn’t realise at the time about the pushchair and the handles in the background.  This wasn’t the picture I wanted to take: that was one of my boy with a smile on his face, but I think this one is a bit more fun.  Can you caption my little devil?

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