Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Half Term Fun in Salford and Trafford for #FamFest14

This half term, the arts are staging a take over in Salford and Trafford bringing some great entertainment to families.  The Lowry have partnered with major local attractions, including Media City UK, Ordsall Hall, Sea Life Centre Manchester, Lowry Outlet, Manchester United Museum and LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre to deliver some exciting activities to the region up until November 3rd.

Family Arts Festival

We were invited to come along and see some of the attractions for ourselves, which is fabulous for us as both my older daughters Ella and Megan live in Manchester.  It was the perfect excuse for some half term fun and an opportunity to see the girls.  We booked into the newly refurbished Travelodge at Salford Quays ready to experience #FamFest14.

With pop-up workshops, activities and performances taking place, there is a whole host of things to choose from, from arts and crafts, to theatre to literature.  While in Salford Quays you can enjoy shopping at the Lowry Outlet where they  have a free Halloween Trail that takes you around the shops collecting stamps. Once you collect them you can exchange your card for a really cute bag of Halloween sweets!  Kids can enjoy some Halloween crafts from 12 - 3pm on the 31st October in a free workshop.


The Big Family Play Date, on Sat 1 November, sees venues  popping-up  with activities from 10am – 5pm.  The cast of acclaimed new comedy Peter Pan Goes Wrong head to intu Trafford Centre, before their run at The Lowry this Christmas, for a shambolic photo-shoot at Sea Life Centre Manchester! The Octonauts are also appearing at Sea Life Manchester until November 30th and there is a downloadable Kids Go Free voucher on the Family Arts Festival website.

Best-loved children’s books come to life, with music, drama and audience participation at the Lowry Outlet (Sat 1 November) with interactive readings of  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt! and Emily Brown and The Thing.  

Emily Brown and The Thing also has its own stage show which runs at The Lowry until Sunday 2nd November.  It's a great show for children aged 3 and up, taking place in the smaller Quays Theatre in the Lowry.  We had tickets to see the show, which is based on the much loved children's book by Cressida Cowell and Neal Clayton. .

theatre, The Lowry

It tells the story of Emily Brown who is trying to get to sleep, but keeps being disturbed by The Thing who wants her to help him at bedtime.  Along with her toy rabbit Stanley, Emily goes on some amazing adventures to find his pink cuddly, his bedtime milk and his green medicine. But Thing just can't seem to settle.  Will Emily ever find out what he really needs?

The show is really kid friendly with lots of music, action and fun.  The cast of three give their all in their energetic and comedic performance, getting totally into character and delivering the story brilliantly. It's a lovely introduction to the theatre for young children. Freddy loved it, especially when Emily demonstrated her ninja moves! He laughed and joined in with the audience participation.  It was perfectly pitched for little ones.

The global phenomenon STOMP! are bringing their signature style of percussion, humour and dance to the Lowry Theatre until November 1st.  I was lucky enough to have tickets to the show and took my girls for a night of STOMP! action!

STOMP, the lowry

The show sees the super talented cast playing their tunes on anything and everything they can lay their hands on...including the kitchen sink!  From matchboxes to Zippo lighters to their trademark dustbins, the eight highly energetic performers create the most incredible rhythms with some insane choreographed routines.  The cast never miss a single beat in their fast, fresh and very funny performance.  It is a truly brilliant, inventive and entertaining show.  The talent of the six guys and two girls as they make their own brand of music on drain pipes, shopping trolleys, buckets, brooms, balls and plastic bags is really breathtaking.  The humour that runs through the show is really engaging, with perfect comic timing complementing the amazing routines.  The scene with the Zippo lighters is simply incredible and quite beautiful, quite unlike anything I have ever seen before.  The whole audience seemed as enthralled as we were and the standing ovation at the end was completely deserved!

The ferocity of the banging and jumping did kick up a lot of dust into the air, which actually triggered my eldest daughter's asthma, so if you are asthmatic, don't forget your inhaler!!  It's also very loud so be prepared for some noise.  


We had a fabulous couple of days in our favourite city.  It is a great place to visit as a family with so much to see and do.  You can find out all the details of what is going on by checking out the Family Festival website.  You can check out what's coming to the Lowry at or follow them on Twitter @The_Lowry.

Asda Up To Half Price Toy Sale

If you are looking at starting your Christmas shopping early, you could bag yourself some real bargains in the Asda Up To Half Price Toy sale, which is in store now. Over 100 branded toys are reduced by up to 50%.  Big names such as LEGO, Duplo Nerf, Hot Wheels, Little Tikes and Play-Doh can be found among the special offers.

Here are just a few of the special buys, which would be perfect Christmas presents for the kids this year.

LEGO Duplo Creative Building Cube contains 75 pieces including a wagon base, windows and flowers for creative building.  Children are free to make what they want out of the chunky, colourful bricks and it is a great starter set for toddlers and pre-schoolers. £25 RRP reduced to just £12.50


Nerf N-Strike Elite Rapid Strike is the fastesest firing Nerf Elite Blaster ever, firing at a rate of 3.2 darts per second and sending them up to 75 feet!   It comes with 18 darts in a see through clip and uses motorized rapid firepower at the touch of the trigger.  We were sent one to try out and we're looking forward to some Nerf gun action at Christmas!  I've ordered some extra darts in readiness because the speed and firepower will inevitably lead to some disappearing darts. £40 RRP reduced to £25.

NERF guns

Monster High Wolf Gift Box contains four dolls from the Wolf family, Clawdeen, Howleen, Clawd and Clawdia.  They are all dressed in their fashionable best and are a perfect gift for fans of Monster High!  We love the Monster High dolls, they are so detailed. £60 RRP down to £30.

Asda toys

My First Baby Annabell Time to Sleep Doll is a 36cm functional doll that wriggles and babbles as she settles down to sleep.  She comes with her own snuggly sheep pillow.  It is £30 RRP down to £15.


Play-Doh Ice Cream Sundae Cart lets kids create all sorts of cool ice cream treats from Play-Doh. The set includes some very special mint choc chip and reaspberry choc chip Play-Doh  as well as some Play-Doh Plus for adding whipped cream to th sundae creations.  Everything stores on the cart, for hours of calorie free ice cream fun.  It is just £9.

asda, play-doh

Fans of Frozen will adore the Disney Frozen Four Character Gift Box.  It is an Asda Exclusive that includes Anna, Elsa, Sven and Olaf.  Anna and Elsa are dressed in their coronation gowns ready for some storytelling fun and a few inevitable renditions of Let It Go!  The gift box costs £30 which is half price!

asda, frozen, Elsa, Anna

You can find these and other cut price toys online at and in your local store (subject to availability) in the Asda exclusive up to half price toy sale.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Some Halloween Fun from Love Brands

We received a great Halloween Hamper from Love Brands full of lots of goodies for us to have some seasonal fun!  With products such as Nestle Milky Bar, Smarties, Yorkie, Hartley's Jelly, Shredded Wheat and Lyon's Golden Syrup, there was plenty of scope for getting creative.

Halloween hamper

The Smarties tubes are great for arts and crafts.  Freddy made a scary spider using green pipe cleaners wrapped around the tube to make a furry body and legs.  Googly eyes completed the amazing arachnid!

smarties tube

Smarties tube

After doing some crafts we headed to the kitchen so Freddy could make his favourite chocolate crackle cakes.  He decided to add some extras such as chopped marshmallows, Jelly Tots, chopped Milky Bar and sprinkles to the melted chocolate, syrup and crushed Shredded Wheat mixture to make Witch's Cauldon Cakes!

chocolate crackle cakes

Apart from heating the chocolate and golden syrup in a pan, Freddy was able to do everything himself.  He loved crushing the Shredded Wheat with his hands and stirring through the melted chocolate.  He added sweeties to the mix and topped each individual portion with some sweets and sprinkles.  You can add marshmallows, dried fruits, nuts or any jelly sweets to the mix.

Halloween cooking

This is a great no-cook kitchen activity for even the youngest child to participate in.  They love getting messy and can experiment with the ingredients.  We use cooking a an opportunity to brush up on maths skills; weighing, measuring and counting.

The Witch's Cauldron Cakes are left to set and then can be enjoyed as a Halloween treat!

Halloween cooking

A great tip to make a scary jelly treat is to oil the inside of a clean rubber glove and use it as a mould. Pour in the liquid jelly, tie a knot in the glove and leave to set. Cut away the rubber glove. The resulting jelly hand is a truly terrifying and tasty centrepiece to add to any Halloween party table!

Whatever you make this year, have some fun crafting and cooking!

Monday, 27 October 2014

My Favourite Halloween Things - including Wingflatables from Asda!

The half term holidays have begun and we are looking forward to an action packed week, culminating in some Halloween family fun!  To get us in the mood for some spooky fun and games, I've been checking out what is on offer in the shops this year.

Asda are selling one of my favourite items this Halloween and they are wingtastic!  Asda's exclusive Wingflatables are unique, novel and something completely different this year.


The self-inflatable Halloween bat wings look really impressive.  They are battery operated and quick and easy to inflate with the flick of a switch on the power pack which can clip to a pocket or waistband.  The wings are lightweight and easy to wear and make a fancy dress costume come alive!

wingflatable, halloween

Freddy thought they were "cool" and "the best thing ever".  They looked brilliant on him and he could use them independently, popping them up and down for maximum effect!  He loved them because they stay up and hold their shape, unlike the usual floppy wings on the market. The silver spider webbed pattern on the inside of the wings looks really good and will go with a whole host of outfits for both boys and girls.  The fan makes a bit of a noise as they inflate, but it won't be too noticeable at a Halloween party, disco or while out trick and treating.

The Wingflatable Bat Wings are available at Asda in store or online for £8.00.  They are definitely a great buy.  The adult ones are £10.00 and there are various styles and colours available.

Check out for further details.

Poundland is always a great place to pick up bargains with everything from tableware to decorations to fancy dress accessories, all at just £1 each.  Trick or Treaters will be kept happy with Poundland's range of top brand Halloween sweets from Maom, Haribo and Swizzels.  They even have DVDs and books to keep your little monsters entertained all day long.


Poundland is a great one stop shop making it easy to budget for your Halloween celebrations.  You can make an awesome looking party table centrepiece complete with a cauldron full of sweeties, spider's webs, spooky lights, Halloween tinsel and creepy lace table cloth all for less than a tenner. The kids will love it (and your purse will too!)

Halloween, Poundland

Check out what's on offer at and get some inspiration for seasonal ideas!

Freddy is absolutely loving this Halloween Activity Book from Buster Books.  It is packed with puzzles, activities and other creepy things to do this Halloween.  There are blood, guts, gore, brains and severed limbs aplenty throughout the fully illustrated book that little monsters will adore.  The creepy creatures featured are more cute than scary and Freddy loves them all, but especially the zombies.  Anything that gets him interested in books or reading gets a big thumbs up from me.

At £5.99 it is great value and will provide hours of top quality Halloween fun this half term.

Face painting is an activity that 12 year old Kizzy is really getting into...and she is very good at it.  So I bought a pack of Snazaroo facepaints from Wilkos for £10, to unleash her creative side.  This is one of her creepy Halloween creations, a scary doll!

Halloween doll

Scary dolls are something that freak me out a bit since watching The Conjuring and its spin off film Annabelle!  I love a good horror film and thoroughly enjoyed both of these movies.  Ian and I did a day time date while the kids were at school to watch Annabelle at the cinema.  There was just us and an old couple who sat there without removing their coats and with packets of boiled sweets on their laps at the 10.30am showing.  It was a bit surreal!

We did enjoy Annabelle although it wasn't as scary as its predecessor The Conjuring (which remains the scariest horror film I've ever seen!)  The scary doll thing is really making a resurgence.  I am looking over my shoulder whenever I go in the kids' rooms, just in case any of their toys get any funny ideas this Halloween!

horror films

Sunday, 26 October 2014

We've Been to the Disney on Ice 100 Years of Magic Show

We love ice skating and we love Disney on Ice really is an incredibly appealing combination for me and my family.  So being invited to the NIA in Birmingham to watch the new Disney on Ice 100 Years of Magic show was such a treat for us.

The show features 65 favourite characters from 18 different stories and has a fabulous soundtrack filled with Disney classics.  Mickey and Minnie introduce the cast taking families on a magical adventure.  The Disney Princesses with their princes star in a moving celebration of love Disney style.  The Mulan sequence includes snowfall and an avalanche scene, which was beautiful.  Freddy loved the Finding Nemo scene which featured some absolutely brilliant shark costumes alongside Nemo, Dory and Marlin. Pinocchio saw the Blue Fairy fly in from the sky and an assortment of wooden toys dancing.  When Monstro the Whale arrived on to the scene it was really impressive!  A homage to the famous Disney ride "It's a Small World" saw a parade of lights and sparkling floats along with characters representing all the nations of the world.  Other sequences featured Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Incredibles, Mickey's Band, Lion King and Toy Story: each one perfectly choreographed and beautifully presented.
Disney on Ice, NIA Birmingham

To say we loved the show is an understatement!  I actually sobbed at how wonderful the Disney Princess's ice dances were.  Kizzy said it was "like Dancing on Ice but better because the skaters are good and it is Disney!"  Each pair danced to their signature love song and the lifts and moves were simply magical.  Breathtaking stuff!

Merchandise was pretty expensive.  We bought a snowcone in a presentation cup and it was £9!  But the kids did love it.  Freddy had a light up spinning wand that we bought from a vendor outside and he loved waving it throughout the show.

The finale came complete with pyrotechnics and starred all the skaters together in a wonderful routine.  Seeing all the characters together on the ice was quite a spectacle.  The costumes are all so colourful and look amazing.  It is such a lovely show that will be enjoyed by Disney fans young and old.  There are some really incredibly talented ice dancers who bring the stories to life.  How they manage to skate in full costume I do not know!

I would not hesitate in recommending the Disney on Ice shows to families.  The audience were all enthralled, even the little babies on their parents' laps were sat spellbound by the lights, sights and sounds.  Freddy, whose attention span is not great, was mesmerised by most of the show especially Toy Story with the marching soldiers, Finding Nemo and whenever Mickey was on the ice.  Kizzy, who is 12, found it very emotional and beautiful to watch. Like me, the Disney Princesses were her favourite part of the show and she said they were just perfect!  Even Ian thought it was visually fantastic and said it gave him that warm, familiar feeling of Disney Magic.  He liked how they kept each segment short, condensing the stories and keeping even the youngest member of the audience interested and focused.

The show is on at the NIA Birmingham until November 2nd.  After that, you can catch it at the following venues:

Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield – 5th – 9th November 2014
The O2, London – 24th December 2014, 26th – 29th December 2014 and 3rd & 4th January

Coming in Spring 2015 is a brand new show, the Magical Ice Festival, an enchanted adventure into the worlds of Frozen as well as Tangled, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.  It looks phenomenal!! Tickets are available from November 7th.

To discover more about Disney On Ice, go to

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Adventurer - The Curse of the Midas Box Film Review

In THE ADVENTURER: THE CURSE OF THE MIDAS BOX, 17 year old Mariah Mundi's life is turned upside down when his parents disappear and his younger brother is kidnapped by an unknown enemy.  With the help of Charity, his father's friend and partner from the secret government Department of Antiquities, Mariah discovers a world of ancient mysteries and powerful evil as he follows the clues to the Prince Regent Hotel where Otto Luger is searching for a long lost and very powerful artifact, the Midas Box.

Mariah takes on an undercover cover role as a porter at the hotel.  He has the fate of his family and the world in his hands as he faces his quest, where he discovers the mystery of a child stealing monster and what really goes on within the majestic Prince Regent Hotel and on the island upon which it stands.

With an all star cast featuring Sam Neill, playing the awesomely evil villain who will stop at nothing to find the Midas Box, this is an entertaining if not slightly hammy romp into steam driven Victorian England.  It has the feel of a Saturday evening family TV drama (a little old school Doctor Who-ish but without a Tardis or aliens!)  It's quite dark and scary in parts, with guns, fighting, kidnap and dark magic aplenty, but still kid friendly enough for older children, with the promise of hidden treasure and magic amulets to keep up the intrigue.

The Adventurer - The Curse of the Midas Box

Charity, played by Michael Sheen, is a quintessentially British eccentric who hunts the powerful and potentially damaging artifacts from around the world, keeping them out of the hands of the sinister bad guys.  His role adds a splash of colour to the darkness of  the Victorian era.  Lena Headey plays a wonderfully wicked role as Monica the hotel manager. Keeley Hawes plays Sasha who finds herself embroiled in the adventure and ultimately becomes Mariah's love interest.

The very final scene in the film throws a big twist into the tale and opens the door to a potential sequel.  It's all quite tongue in cheek and never takes itself too seriously, making it an enjoyable film for the whole family to enjoy on a winter's evening.

The Adventurer is out on DVD and digital download from October 27th 2014.


The Snow Queen - Film Review

The Snow Queen is the magical fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson that inspired the hit Disney film Frozen.  This new release from Signature Entertainment brings the beautiful, original story to selected cinemas from October 25th and to Blu-Ray, DVD and digital platforms on November 3rd, to warm the hearts of children and melt even the coldest of hearts!

Snow Queen

Gerda, a little orphan girl, embarks on a perilous journey across an icy wonderland to defeat the evil Snow Queen who has taken over the kingdom and kidnapped her brother Kai.  They are descendants of a wizard Master Vegard, who according to the prediction of a magic mirrior, had the power to defeat the Snow Queen. Accompanied by her pet Ferret Luta and Orm the Troll (one of the Snow Queen's minions who comes good) Gerda faces danger in her race against time to save Kai and bring warmth back into the hearts of people across the land.

The Snow Queen

Gerda and Kai are lovely characters, nicely animated and with lot of appeal. They both possess special powers and good hearts.  Orm and Luta are great sidekicks adding lots of humour to the adventure. There are some great laugh out loud moments to break up the tension. There are a lot of heartwarming and emotional moments, but also a great deal of mild threat and peril.

This version of a much loved story is definitely a little dark in parts.  Gerda and Kai's parents are taken by the Snow Queen's polar wind and ultimately killed by the Snow Queen in the opening scene. The head of the children's home where the children live is really horrible and Gerda encounters lots of people on her travels intent on destroying her mission.  The ice beasts and ice trolls are quite fearsome and the Snow Queen herself is really evil and so this may be a bit frightening for the very young or very fainthearted children. But slightly older children will love the adventure and the thrills of the movie.

The Snow Queen

The finale of the film is quite intense and a little bit scary, but we find out the truth about the Snow Queen and see good triumph over evil. Gerda's bravery, along with the spirit of her family in her heart, defeats the evil of the queen and we see peace and warmth restored to the kingdom. The Snow Queen learns that having hatred in her heart helps no one and Gerda and Kai are reunited.  So there is a happy ending for everyone.

This is a great take on the traditional story and a perfect film in the lead up to Christmas.

Here is an activity sheet that can be clicked on and printed to entertain the kids!

The Snow Queen


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