Monday, 29 April 2019

Our Family Adventure at Coral Island, Blackpool - A Review

What a difference a week makes, as only seven days ago we were enjoying a day trip to sunny Blackpool and it finally felt like summer had arrived. We had a lovely family walk along the promenade, ate some delicious ice cream on the sea front and visited the largest free admission attraction in Blackpool, the fabulous Coral Island!

Unfortunately this weekend was comparatively different with gale force winds and heavy rain instead. Therefore our trip to Coral Island last weekend is a recent memory that is firmly on our minds, with the kids already requesting to return very soon. It is a great place to visit whatever the weather and is guaranteed to provide you with a jam packed day of family fun, with a whole host of fun games, rides and family dining options on offer.


When we travelled from our home in North Wales last weekend, we set off at around 8:15am in an attempt to avoid any traffic. Our decision proved to be a success and we arrived in Blackpool at 9:30am just as Coral Island opened. We parked in the nearby car park just across the road and my children immediately spotted the huge parrot on the outside of the building. We hadn't had time to eat before we left, so I told the children that we could have a walk around inside first to see all the games and rides that were available, before visiting one of their on-site restuarants 'Peggy's Snack Bar' for breakfast. I thought that this would be a lovely way to start the day and would also put any hungry tummies to rest for a few hours, so that we could enjoy this wonderful attraction.


The first thing that we found out about Coral Island is not only is it the largest free admission attraction in Blackpool, but also that kids eat free, all day, every day, in every single one of their restaurants. There are five dining options available which are The Buccaneer, Captain Jacks, Peggy's Snack Bar, Big Fish Trading Bar and The Traditional Chippy. One child under 10 eats free with every adult's meal purchased, which we think is an absolutely fantastic deal and helps making eating out affordable, especially for larger families like ours where eating as a family of five can often prove to be quite expensive.

The Buccaneer Bar & Restaurant looked fabulous with a Pirate Galleon theme and serves family favourite meals, along with a three meat Sunday carvery every Sunday. Captain Jack's is the go to place for stacked burgers, ribs and delicious family sized desserts, whilst both the Big Fish Trading Bar and The Traditional Chippy offer award winning fish & chip meals. If you are also looking for a great choice of hot and cold meals, then Peggy's Snack bar has plenty to offer with prices starting at just £4.75 for breakfast and £4.95 for main meals, with the option of daily specials also being available.


We visited Peggy's Snack Bar for breakfast and my husband opted for the Big Breakfast. This costs £6.75 and includes 2 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausages, beans, tomato, hash brown, mushrooms and fried bread. I chose to have a Full English which comes at a price of £4.75 and each of my children had a kids breakfast which consisted of toast, beans and then a choice of sausage or bacon. Drinks are extra but are very reasonably priced with both hot and cold options available. My husband and I both chose a cappuccino and my children selected some bottled juices which all accompanied our breakfast nicely.

There was plenty of seating available for customers and it all appeared to be tidy and well kept. We noticed that tables were cleared quickly when guests left and the staff all seemed to work really well together to ensure both the serving and cleaning was managed effectively.

Our food was really tasty and we all enjoyed our meals. Personally I would have preferred it if I could have had toast instead of fried bread, but that would just be my personal choice and there is the option to purchase toast as an extra should you wish to. The sausage and bacon seemed good quality and the eggs were cooked just how I like them, so along with the well cooked hash browns and beans, it was the perfect meal to start our day. My children all cleared their plates and my youngest son said that his bacon was delicious!

Once we had finished our drinks, we made our way into the arcade which was probably the most challenging part of the day as we simply couldn't decide where to begin! With so much to choose from, the children all wanted to head in different directions, but eventually we were all able to agree where to start and we began to play on some of the machines to build up our collection of tickets.


Tickets can be won on a large majority of the machines and you can collect these tickets to exchange them for something at the prize shop. There is such a huge range of prizes to choose from, so you can swap a small amount of tickets for something small like a packet of sweets, or build them up to exchange for a much larger prize. Some of the items we saw ranged from footballs to toys, bubbles to caps and soft toys to superhero merchandise. There was definitely something for everyone!

Emma took a chance on one of the ticket machines and managed to win over 200 tickets from just 10p! She was absolutely delighted and couldn't believe her luck, which certainly put her in a great mood for the remainder of the day. Ben and Riley also enjoyed playing on the ticket machines and both of them managed to build up a nice amount of tickets to exchange later in the day.

After a short while, we moved onto the 2p machines which provided plenty of entertainment for the kids for quite a lengthy amount of time. They loved looking around the machines to try and find some that had prizes on the edge so that they could try to win them. Before long we had already managed to win numerous keyrings much to the childrens delight.

There were a couple of times where coins became lodged or prizes we had won became stuck, so we had to try and find a member of staff to assist. We did have a bit of difficulty the first time, but afterwards we simply went to one of the cash desks and they would radio for assistance. This seemed a good process and was much easier than walking around trying to find someone. When the staff did arrive to assist, this was done promptly and courteously so that we could continue with our prize quest. The staff seemed to work really hard and we also regularly saw the manager walking around ensuring that the whole attraction was being run safely and effectively.


One thing that really stood out to us, right from the very beginning, was how clean and tidy the whole arcade was in appearance. We expected that we might see tickets or sweet wrappers on the floor, especially in a place so big, but this was not the case at all. All the machines seemed well maintained with everything neat and in it's place. If a machine got low on prizes then these would be topped up, if something ran out of tickets then these would be replaced and if a member of staff did spot something on the floor then this would be picked up straight away. We were very impressed with the layout and how well organised everything appeared, which is obviously a credit to the manager and staff involved in the day to day running.


After a couple of hours of playing on the machines, the camel derby caught my children's attention. I remember playing on similar donkey derby's as a child and I knew that my children would love a game on here. The concept is really easy and you simply roll some balls and try and get them into the coloured holes. The more balls you roll and the more colours they roll into, then the faster your camel runs across the race. It is so much fun and we saw people of all ages enjoying this and trying their luck to win. Unfortunately my family and I weren't very good at it and didn't get a single win amongst us, but that certainly did not deter from the fun we had.


Following on from the excitement of the Camel Derby, we moved to another part of the arcade to play prize Bingo. My very first job when I was 14 was working in an arcade and I used to work on the bingo calling the winner's numbers back to the announcer if someone made a claim. I remember how much the customers used to love the anticipation and excitement of only needing one number and hoping and waiting for it to be called. I was therefore really looking forward to enjoying a game with my family.

Coral Island Prize Bingo has digital screens and has been well and truly modernised. There is still a bingo caller, but gone are the days of having to turn your number over as you now simply need to press on the screen to have your card marked. Unfortunately the numbers were called far too quickly to look for them and so instead you simply just tap on the screen after each number is called and the cards are automarked. Whilst this is great for ensuring that you don't miss a number and also helps the younger players, it does take away some of the excitement. However, we still really enjoyed it and I did in fact win my very first game! My eldest son also won a game and we each received 120 points. I believe that the prize points increase depending on the number of players and whether it is a jackpot game and then these points can be exchanged for bingo prizes.


I gave my points to my youngest son and there was actually a really good selection of prizes to choose from. I didn't expect him to get much since I had only won once, but after much deliberation he chose a Batman bubble wand, a gold motorcycle toy and some sweets. I have to also commend the lady that was serving here as she was so kind and patient whilst my son tried to make his decision. She also gave him some suggestions as to what he could get with his points and didn't try to rush him at any point. He was delighted with his choices in the end and we were also provided with a Coral Island bag to place everything in.

As we took another walk around the arcade we noticed a small crowd of people near one of the entrances, so we decided to be nosey and take a look as to what had interested everyone. Much to Riley's delight there were some superheros meeting and greeting guests and Riley was over the moon to be able to have his picture taken with Thor, Iron Man and Captain Marvel.


Before we knew it, we had already spent over three hours in the arcade and yet we still hadn't seen everything that Coral Island had to offer. I asked the children what they would like to do next and they all asked to take a ride on the Pirate Flyer.

The Pirate Flyer takes you on a tour of the arcade onboard a mini Pirate ship that travels along a monorail track. This is a superb place to get a good view of everything and to also spot any games that you may have missed. It costs £2 per rider or £3 for 2 riders which I thought was a reasonable price. My youngest son Riley absolutely loved this ride, so much so, that he insisted on riding on it again. He loved trying to search for things as we moved along and enjoyed waving at other riders as they went past on the opposite side of the track.

Keeping with the theme of rides, we then made our way to the Ghost Train. My daughter and I found this hilarious, as I am quite jumpy, so even though I know exactly what to expect, it still made me jump out of my seat and scream. We literally laughed the whole way round and my son and daughter decided to go on it again straight afterwards a couple more times.


My husband then spotted something that he hadn't seen in an arcade before, which was a Virtual Reality experience than could be played with one or two persons. My daughter jumped at the chance to join her dad on a virtual reality adventure so they spent a moment getting the headsets set up, before travelling along an underground track avoiding obstacles along the way. This costs £3 per person, which may sound a little expensive, but it is quite a unique experience that lasts quite a while, so I would say that you do get good value for money.

There is also a large screen located above the participants, so people can also watch your adventure on the monitor. It was really funny watching my daughters reactions to things and she didn't let go of the bar the whole time. It was quite entertaining just watching them enjoy the experience and by the time it had finished there were several other families wanting to have a go.

We all decided that we would like to try and win some more tickets before heading over to the prize shop to redeem them, so we spent some further time playing on the basketball and throwing games, along with the ticket slot machines. My children won quite a few tickets on these and kept winning free spins, so this helped to build up their ticket collection.

Once we had spent all of our budget for the day, we made our way to the ticket eaters. There are numerous machines that you guide your tickets into and it will count them all automatically, before printing a receipt that shows how many you have obtained. You then simply take this receipt over to the prize desk to choose your prize. I hadn't expected the children to come away with much, but they each averaged around 500 tickets which meant that they could actually get quite a few decent toys. In the end they each came away with a bag full of goodies that contained everything from sweets to Fortnite character figures. Riley also managed to get an Avengers juice cup with built in straw that he was really happy with.

As our day was coming to a close, we decided to enjoy a fish and chip dinner before setting off on the journey home. We had noticed that The Traditional Chippy had been busy all day which showed us how popular it was with visitors and we couldn't wait to try the food for ourselves. My two boys decided to opt for chicken nuggets instead, but my husband, daughter and I all tried the fish and chips which were absolutely delicious and very reasonably priced too!

You can choose to take these away if you fancied eating on the seafront, however we chose to eat in their seating area which like the rest of the attraction, seemed very clean and well maintained. It was busy, but not crowded and the staff worked hard to ensure that tables were cleared quickly. We all really enjoyed our meals and it was the perfect way to end our visit to Coral Island in Blackpool.


Overall we had an absolutely fantastic day at Coral Island in Blackpool. None of us could quite believe how much there actually was to see and do, all inside one building. A lot of thought has clearly been put into this attraction, in creating somewhere that is extremely family friendly and plenty of fun too. We all saw games there that we had never seen before and we enjoyed the mixture of both new and old arcade favourites. The VR Experience was great fun, along with the Pirate Flyer and Ghost Train ride which were suitable for all the family. Every single member of staff that we came across were both friendly and courteous, though a special mention has to be made to the staff that work in the prize shop who all exhibit great patience and professionalism when visitors take some time to choose their prizes. We found Coral Island to be an absolute TREASURE of an attraction and there is no doubt that we will be returning again very soon!


*Disclaimer - We were invited to visit Coral Island as guests, for the purpose of writing an honest review of our experience at the attraction. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Family Fun with Googly Eyes by University Games - A Review

Keeping my kids occupied during the school holidays can sometimes be quite a task. Whilst we enjoy regular days out, our budget will only stretch so far, therefore it means that occasionally we need to find some ways to entertain ourselves at home.

This is when I find that board games can be a great source of entertainment and they also provide you with the perfect opportunity to spend some family time together. University Games have a great selection available in the shops and when we were recently offered the chance to review their Googly Eyes game, I knew that the Easter holidays would most certainly provide us with the chance to try it out.

Googly Eyes is described as 'The drawing game of wacky vision!'. All of my children love to draw, so as soon as I discovered that there was an artistic element involved, I quickly realised that it would be the perfect game for us.


Googly Eyes by University Games comes in a brightly coloured and interesting box. There is a clear plastic window where you can see the glasses inside, along with some images of the contents and someone drawing a picture. This gives you a slight hint as to what the game involves.

On the reverse of the box there is a great contents picture which shows you everything that is included in the box. There is also a basic sentence that gives a simple idea as to how the game works which reads 'Put on the wacky vision-altering glasses and race against time to draw your team to the finish.'

The full contents include:
  • 1 x Gameboard
  • 1 x Pair of Wacky Oversized Glasses
  • 3 x Sets of tinted, interchangeable lenses
  • 4 x Plastic playing pieces
  • 1 x Drawing Pad
  • 1 x Pencil
  • 1 x Dice
  • 1 x Timer
  • 54 x Challenge Cards (this equates to a total of 162 challenges)
  • 1 x Instructions
Setting up the game was easy and was simply a case of removing all the items from the box, placing the board on the table and putting the cards in a neat pile. I then read through the instructions for everyone so that we had a clear understanding of how to play before we began. Each of my children were desperate to try on the glasses, so we actually spent ten minutes just wearing the glasses and seeing how the different lenses compared. Once we had taken some funny photos we made a start and Riley excitedly threw the dice.


To play the game the first player rolls the dice and moves their counter along to the corresponding colour. This can be green (easy), yellow (medium) or blue (difficult). Once you have landed on a space, you then select a card and need to draw the item that matches the colour your counter is on. Each colour is also allocated a set amount of time for your to do your drawing, with green having 15 seconds, yellow having 30 seconds and the most difficult of blue being given 45 seconds.

The players team mate(s) then need to try and correctly guess what is being drawn against the clock. Of course this sounds quite simple, but the glasses make the task quite tricky, especially if you are unlucky enough to land on the blue space where you also have to switch hands. This means that you have to wear the most difficult of lenses, whilst also drawing with the opposite hand to which you would normally use.

The glasses fitted Emma (12), Ben (11) and myself really well, however my six year old did need to hold them in place at times. Funnily enough he chose not to hold them in place when he had the blue lenses in, so I am convinced that he could see through the gap, though he would never admit to this. I really liked how it encouraged my youngest child to think how he could draw things, so for example he had the challenge of drawing a tree house, so he quickly thought about this and drew a separate tree and then a house next to it, which made it easy for me to guess.


If the team player guesses correctly then you roll the dice again to move along the board. The winner is the team that reach the Finish point first.

I seemed to find the blue lenses far more difficult than the children and some of my drawings were hilarious as I literally could not see what I was doing.

Overall we had a fantastic time playing Googly Eyes and it provided plenty of laughter. It is a great game to play as a family and would also be the perfect game to bring out at a party or family gathering. It is simple to understand and my six year old son grasped the concept of the game instantly without the need for much explanation. The contents were all good quality so I had no need to be concerned about any parts breaking. One thing that I particularly liked was that everything fitted back into the box really easily, which I have found can be quite a challenge with some other games and smaller parts often go missing. However with Googly Eyes, everything has its own place in the box so it is easy to store away safely ready to play again another day. My family and I would happily recommend this game to others and we have already decided that it is going to become our new travel game to take with us when we go on holiday.

The game has an RRP of £19.99 and is recommended for children aged 7+. It is available to purchase from most good toy retailers including Argos, Smyths, Sainsburys, Debenhams and Amazon.

For further information on Googly Eyes or other University Games, then please visit their website or social media pages which can be found on the following channels:

Website - www.university-games.co.uk
Twitter - @ugamesUK
YouTube - University Games


*Disclaimer: We were sent the Googly Eyes game free of charge for the purpose of writing an honest review of the product. All thoughts and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. This post contains an Amazon affiliate link which means that I may receive a small commission should you choose to purchase from this retailer.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

The Indoor Funfair at Liverpool Exhibition Centre - A Review

With the ever changing weather at the moment, it is great to have the option of some indoor attractions. We were therefore really excited to learn that the Indoor Funfair was heading to Liverpool, which was perfectly timed with my children's school holidays. On Tuesday morning we caught the train into the city, to visit this brand new event and find out what was on offer for some family fun.

We travelled on the train from our home town via Chester and onwards to James Street station in Liverpool. I used our family and friends railcard (which has already more than paid for itself) and managed to get a return ticket for one adult and three children for only £9.40. Once we arrived at James Street we had an enjoyable walk along the waterfront towards the Indoor Funfair and it took approximately ten minutes at a steady pace.


We were booked in as guests for the 10am til 1pm slot and we arrived shortly after the start time at approximately 10:10am. Due to our slightly late arrival, there were absolutely no queues outside and we walked straight into the building. The first thing that I noticed were that there were good security measures in place and several security staff were on the door conducting bag checks. We also saw another patrolling the corridors to the attraction entrance and several more in the main hall, which I found to be very reassuring at a family event.

We collected our wristbands and made our way into the Indoor Funfair and my children were excited to see what rides were available. I saw that the cost for guests was only £10 per person, or £2 if just spectating, which for unlimited rides for three hours sounded great value for money. Under 3's are also able to visit free of charge, but understandably their are quite limited rides available for that age group.

Directly opposite the entrance were a selection of 2p machines which my children love, so before we even had the chance to walk around, my son had already put a pound in the change machine to try his luck at winning some sweets and chocolate that he had spotted on the edge. Once they had each played on here for a short while, we started to take a good look around the hall and had a walk around before choosing where to start.



It was slightly smaller than I expected and initially I was unsure if there would be enough to keep all of us entertained for three hours. However I needn't have been concerned, as it actually turned out to be the perfect length of time to enjoy everything a couple of times and my children had a great choice of rides to go on. Our only slight disappointment was that there were no dodgems, which is my eldest sons favourite, but he soon got over this after finding plenty of other fun things to do.

We started with the mini Dragon Coaster which was my youngest sons choice. This is basically a mini rollercoaster that travels at slow speed, making it ideal for little ones. Fortunately my older two children enjoy spending time with their little brother, so they were also happy to go on the smaller rides with him to keep him company.

We then moved on to the large inflatable slide which is recommended as being suitable for ages 5+. The member of staff running this controlled the queue well and would only allow one person up the slide at a time to ensure safety. My daughter also tried to go on this, but was slightly taller than the height limit so was turned away and although she was slightly disappointed, I was happy to see that safety rules were being followed and enforced. My two boys loved this slide however and travelled down really fast numerous times.

As Emma had been unable to go on the slide, I told her to choose where she would like to go next, so she picked the large swing chair ride and enjoyed a couple of goes on that whilst her brothers went on the mini train ride next to it. She then moved on to something a little more fast paced and hopped on to the waltzers, whilst her brothers had a second turn on the train. Before we knew it the first hour had passed so we decided to grab a seat and have a drink.


The food and drink costs would be my only complaint about the event as they were expensive. Obviously you dont HAVE to purchase anything and this is optional, but in three hours most people are likely to need a drink and I was a little annoyed at having to pay £2.50 each for a can. The food was also overpriced, but luckily my children have a good sense of value and refused to let me buy anything hot, instead suggesting that we went to a bakery on the way home to get some sausage rolls and cakes. I did however buy two bags of candyfloss for them to pick at throughout the morning which cost £2 per bag.

Once we had finished our drinks we continued around the funfair and Riley went on the Mini Miami which he absolutely loved. It would have been nice to have also had a full size version of this, as it is always a popular ride, but Riley absolutely loved the mini version and was even brave enough to put his arms in the air (well for a millisecond anyway)!

Other favourites included The Frogs, The Helter Skelter and The Funhouse, which my children went on numerous times. Again time had passed quickly and we soon realised that there was only half an hour left, so we made our way over to the Energiser Assault Course. This is an absolutely huge inflatable which took up an entire wall of the exhibition hall and is packed full of obstacles and slides. My children thought this was fantastic and spent the entire remainder of our time at the attraction on this inflatable, taking it in turns to race one another.


Overall we had a great time and felt that the £10 entry fee being charged was very reasonable for what was on offer. We have been to travelling funfairs before that tend to charge around £2.50 per ride, so considering that you can go on the Indoor Funfair rides an unlimited amount of times in three hours, it really is great value for money. I felt that the event was well organised, secure and safe which are all essential elements when organising a family event and all of the staff that we interacted with were friendly and helpful. My only criticism would be the costs of the food and the games because whilst these are optional expenses, it is highly likely that children are going to want to try them at some point during the visit.

The Indoor Funfair will be at the Exhibition Centre in Liverpool until Monday 22nd April. There are three times slots available each day which are 10am til 1pm, 2pm til 5pm or 6pm til 9pm. Entry costs £10 per person for unlimited rides, £2 for a spectator and Under 3's go free. Height and age restrictions apply to some rides and there are also additional charges for the games and food stalls.

For full information on this event or to book tickets, you can visit the Indoor Funfair website or their social media pages on the following channels:

Website - https://indoorfunfair.org/liverpool
Twitter - @indoorfunfairuk
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/IndoorFunfair/
Instagram - @indoorfunfair


*Disclaimer - We were invited to this event and provided with complimentary wristbands for the purpose of writing an honest review of our experience.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at Storyhouse, Chester - A Review

Having studied music from an early age, I have been very fortunate to have seen some of the most fantastic musicals from all around the world. Whilst in school I had an outstanding music teacher who would often arrange trips to some of the touring productions, as well as ensuring that our choir also performed regularly in shows. I remember learning several of the songs that feature in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, yet despite regular visits to both the West End and Broadway, I have bizarrely NEVER actually seen the show in full before.......that is until now.


Last night the touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat wowed the audience at the Storyhouse theatre in Chester, with an exciting, enjoyable and skillful performance of the well known musical. As the lights dimmed we were treated to an overture that had guests clapping along before the show had even began. When the curtain rose I knew we were in for a great evening, as we sat back to enjoy this interpretation of the story of Joseph, his brothers and of course his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat!

The lead role of Joseph is played by Jaymi Hensley, a member of the boy band Union J. He provides an outstanding performance that was truly a delight to watch. I had been slightly sceptical beforehand, as to whether a young pop voice would be powerful enough for a leading part, but he absolutely shines like a star right from the very beginning and throughout the entire show. His vocals were strong and powerful, yet he was also able to apply plenty of emotion when required, which was particularly evident in scene six during 'Close Every Door'.

Image credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Trina Hill stars as the narrator, who does a stellar job of bringing Joseph's story to life through song.  Her vocals were impressive and a delight to listen to and her musical experience was clearly evident as she uses her skills with great effect.

The actors playing Joseph's brothers brought a great sense of fun and vibrancy to the stage, with each of them delivering impeccable choreography and drama. The comical element of their performances were amusing and they all exhibited a keen passion for their roles. Two particular standouts for me were Alex Hetherington playing the part of Benjamin and Lewis Asquith who starred as both Simeon and the Butler.

Image credit: Pamela Raith Photography

The handmaidens played by Amber Kennedy, Eve Norris and Gemma Pipe work extremely hard, undertaking a variety of roles and costume changes. In the second half of the show one of the handmaidens performs an excellent tango routine which was fascinating to watch, although admittedly I was slightly confused by the Eiffel Tower background whilst this took place, given that the story is based in Canaan and Egypt.

One of my favourite parts of the show, was when we were introduced to the Pharoah, played by Andrew Geater. My family and I have seen him in several other productions before, so I was already aware of his vocal capabilities and acting skills. However, he impressed me on a whole new level last night and certainly brought plenty of smiles and laughter to the audience with his humorous and powerful portrayal.

Image credit: Pamela Raith Photography

A special mention also has to be made to the Joseph Choir, which was provided by students of the local Chester Stagecoach School. My daughter used to attend this theatre group, so I know how much effort the students, staff and principals all put into their work. Several of her friends were in the production last night and so it was great to see the choir delivering some stunning supporting vocals, in what I am sure is a wonderful opportunity for all involved. During the show they were seated on raised steps, which added an element of simplicity and also ensured that the stage setting was never too crowded or over complicated.

Both my husband and I loved the sound quality and lighting design which complemented each of the scenes superbly and highlighted the performers well. The final moments of the show during the Joseph Megamix brought the skills of both the technical teams and performers together to an exceptional level and it was great to see the audience appreciate these efforts with not only a standing ovation, but a good old song and dance too. In turn this created a truly wonderful atmosphere and the most perfect way to end our evening.

Image credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Overall we had a fabulous time watching Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and it far exceeded my expectations. It is fun, fast paced and most importantly entertaining, so it is sure to delight audiences both young and old. I would absolutely recommend this show as being ideal for an enjoyable family trip to the theatre and I cannot wait to see it again in the future.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is currently embarking on a UK tour and will be in Chester until Saturday 20th April 2019. For further details on how to book tickets, please see the listing details below.

Listing Details

Show: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
Venue: Storyhouse, Hunter Street, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 2AR
Dates: Wednesday 17th April to Saturday 20th April 2019
Times: Wednesday and Thursday 2:30pm & 7:30pm / Friday 5pm & 8pm / Saturday 2pm, 5pm & 8pm
Booking: This can be done online at www.storyhouse.com, by calling 01244 409113 or by visiting the ticket kiosks at Storyhouse, Hunter Street, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 2AR

For further details you can visit the Storyhouse website, or their social media pages on the following channels:

Website - www.storyhouse.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/storyhouselive
Twitter - @storyhouselive
Instagram - @storyhouselive

Image credit: Pamela Raith Photography

*Disclaimer - We were provided with complimentary tickets to the press night performance, for the purpose of writing an honest review of the show. Thoughts and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Our Visit to the Salford Museum and Art Gallery and Ordsall Hall - A Review

On Sunday we were invited along to the Salford Museum and Art Gallery, as well as the beautiful Ordsall Hall, so that we could experience two lovely family friendly attractions and have an enjoyable day out together. We have never visited either of these places before, so we were a little unsure as to what to expect, as we set off on the short journey along the motorway. The best thing about both of these attractions is that they are free places to visit (excluding parking/additional activities) and so they are ideal to keep families occupied during the school holidays.

We travelled to the Salford Museum and Art Gallery first, which opens at 11:30am on a Sunday. We thought that it was easy to find and the post code we entered into the sat nav took us straight there with no issues. I did notice that there were also plenty of signs showing the way as we got closer, so we could have also relied on these if we had needed to. 

We arrived shortly before it opened, so parking in the small pay and display car park was no problem, however there are limited spaces, so I would definitely recommend arriving early during peak periods to ensure that you can park. I do believe that there are alternative car parks nearby, though I am unsure of the exact location of these.

On entering the museum, my son decided that he would like to start upstairs first, so we made our way to the galleries. My daughter is a keen artist, so she was looking forward to seeing some modern art, whilst Riley finds really old paintings fascinating and likes to imagine what the people in the portraits were like. It therefore seemed an ideal place to begin and we entered the first hall.


We thought that this was beautifully presented, with a huge selection of art work featured on every wall. There was also a fun activity for children to enjoy, which involved selecting a hat and then trying to find a painting which had the same hat in it. Riley loved this and it really encouraged him to look at the pictures in detail. It would be great if more hats could be added to the collection as I am sure Riley could have spent quite a long time enjoying this activity.

Riley also spotted a large painting behind the Queen Victoria photo opportunity, which he was mesmerised by. He kept looking at it and noticing something different each time, whilst repeatedly calling me over so that he could show me his new discoveries. I had been a little unsure as to whether Riley would enjoy the art gallery initially, but he really loved it and had much more fun that I had expected him too. This gallery was also the perfect setting for an epic game of eye spy and he loved trying to find something really difficult for me to guess.


We then made our way to the next gallery which had a wide range of different art from over the years. My daughter Emma is a very talented artist, so this part of the visit really appealed to her. The art ranged from the beautiful to the peculiar and again Riley enjoyed looking at everything. One thing that I particularly liked about the museum, was that in each area, there would be a hands on activity for children to enjoy, so Riley liked trying these throughout the morning.


The last gallery we visited whilst upstairs was the A-Z exhibit, which featured a great range of items ranging from A to Z. We had fun looking at them all and Riley found some very fun and strange objects whilst we made our way around the room. It was an easy exhibit for children to understand and we really liked the way that everything had been displayed.


After spending a good length of time upstairs, we made our way down to Lark Hill Place, which is a replica Victorian Street. It really is a treat and my children absolutely loved looking through the shop windows and observing all the objects and clothing on display. As you walk up and down the street there is a great range of shops and living rooms all available to view and you could be forgiven for thinking that you had genuinely travelled back in time. 


My son's favourite part however, was getting dressed up in traditional Victorian clothing and visiting the sweet shop, where a lovely lady weighed out some sweets for us. Riley is really inquisitive so he spent some time asking lots of questions and looking at the weights and the choice of sweets available. He chose some white chocolate mice in the end, whilst my daughter selected a mixture of sweets. There is no specific price for the bag of sweets and instead visitors are asked to make a donation instead, which I thought was a lovely idea.


There were also some other hands on activities such as weighing out fruit and vegetables, but on the most part my children just really enjoyed looking around and imagining what life must have been like in the Victorian era. If you are up for a challenge though, then there are also some activity cards at the entrance to Lark Hill Place that give you some tasks to try and they are a great idea to get children interested and involved.

Once we had finished in Lark Hill Place we decided to enjoy some lunch and visit the onsite cafe, which provided some lovely light bite meal options, such as baguettes, sandwiches, toasties and soup. I chose the tuna mayo baguette with a cappuccino which was absolutely delicious. My husband chose the same, but with a slice of Victoria sponge cake too, whilst my children opted for the kids lunch box pack that included a nice variety of items such as a sandwich, biscuit, fruit juice and crisps.


After leaving the Salford Museum and Art Gallery, we made the short journey to Ordsall Hall. Distance wise, this isn't too far away, but due to the one way system in place and the traffic, it took us approximately 10 minutes to get from one site to the other. Initially I thought we were in the wrong place as it looked like we were heading into an industrial estate, but as we continued, I was very surprised to suddenly see the magnificent building and grounds right in the middle.

The car parking was pay and display again, but there were plenty of spaces available so we had no issue with finding a spot to park. It was then just a short walk over to the main entrance, which allowed us to view the exterior of Ordsall Hall on our way.


As we entered the property we were greeted by a lovely lady who asked us whether it was our first time visiting. She then proceeded to show us a map and also advised us on the best route to take and told us a little bit of history about the hall. However, Riley had decided that he wanted to be our tour guide and so the advised route was soon forgotten, as we were taken on a little adventure by our six year old. 

He absolutely loves pretend play, so he was in his element pretending to show us around and tell us some made up history. Fortunately there were plenty of display boards throughout the property so we were able to obtain the correct factual information in between Riley's little talks. It was great to see him enjoying himself and he had the opportunity to get dressed up again whilst in the great hall and enjoy a pretend feast.


We all found the property really interesting and despite it being busy, we were able to make our way around and enjoy the attraction without any issues. We also saw many families taking part in the Easter trail, where you had to search for some Easter bunnies and win a prize at the end, which we thought was a really good idea.

Once we had made our way around Ordsall Hall, we stopped in the small cafe for a drink and snack. My husband and I both enjoyed a caramel shortbread, whilst the kids opted for a muffin and a cookie, along with some cold drinks. Tables are limited indoors, but in the summer months I  would imagine that you could make use of the seating outside and enjoy the lovely surroundings. 


Overall we had a wonderful day out in Salford, especially as we were visiting two attractions that we had never been to, or actually heard of before. Both sites are places that we would definitely visit again in the future and we would most certainly like to return to Ordsall Hall on a warm sunny day with a picnic. I also believe that there are activities held at both venues throughout the year, so it will be great to see what is on offer during the summer holidays. We would recommend a visit to both venues, for a low-cost and interesting family day out.

For further information on the Salford Museum and Art Gallery or Ordsall Hall, then you can visit their website or social media pages on the following channels:

Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Address - Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Peel Park, The Crescent, M5 4WU
Twitter - @SalfordMuseum
Instagram - @salford_museum

Opening days and times vary, so please check the attractions own website in order to obtain the most up to date information prior to visiting.

Ordsall Hall

Address - 322 Ordsall Lane, Salford, M5 3AN
Twitter - @OrdsallHall
Instagram - ordsall_hall

Opening days and times vary, so please check the attractions own website in order to obtain the most up to date information prior to visiting.


*Disclaimer - This is a collaboration post with Salford Leisure. All thoughts and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. 

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Zog Live on Stage at Storyhouse Chester - A Review

My youngest child Riley absolutely loves a trip to the theatre and since introducing him gradually to various kinds of shows over the past couple of years, it has become one of his favourite activities to do as a family.

We are very fortunate to have the beautiful Storyhouse venue only ten minutes away from our home and it has been great to see Chester welcome some wonderful productions since it's opening. Their calendar this year has everything from musicals to comedy performances, but this weekend we were very excited to attend a family friendly theatre production of Zog, based on the bestselling book by Julia Donaldson, with illustrations by Axel Scheffler. The show has been produced by Freckle Productions and Rose Theatre Kingston and features puppets that have been designed and created by Little Angel Theatre co-founder Lyndie Wright.



On our arrival to Storyhouse in Chester, we found it bustling with families, all ready to enjoy the show. There were children everywhere excitedly waiting for the performance to begin, some of whom had brought their own copies of the book or cuddly toys with them. It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere and I was aware of the fact that for some of the children, it could be their very first time at the theatre.

As we entered the auditorium, my children were provided with a Zog sticker each, which Riley was particularly happy with. So much so, that he also asked his brother and sister for theirs too! We found our seats in the middle of Row P which offered a fantastic view, so we had no issues at all with Riley not being able to see and we also did not require a booster seat.


The stage adaptation of the book is suitable for children and families of all ages. It tells the story of Zog, who is large in size and very keen in nature. He is eager to win a golden star at Madam Dragon's school, where dragons learn all the things that dragons need to know. Zog tries so very hard, perhaps too hard, and he bumps, burns and roars his way through years one, two and three. Luckily the plucky Princess Pearl patches him up, ready to face his biggest challenge yet.......a duel with a knight, Sir Gadabout the Great.

Zog has been produced by Freckle Productions and Rose Theatre Kingston, featuring puppets that have been designed and created by Little Angel Theatre co-founder Lyndie Wright. It has been adapted and directed by Mike Shepherd and features an original folk score by Johnny Flynn and designs by Katie Sykes.

Riley found the stage show to be a magical adaptation and from the moment the show began, he was mesmerised as both actors and creative puppets came to life with a lovely musical accompaniment. The puppetry was imaginative and the musicians both comical and skilled, as we were gradually introduced to Zog's world and his quest for the golden star. My son Riley hadn't expected to hear singing throughout the show and when Princess Pearl (Emily Benjamin) began to sing, he quietly whispered in my ear "Well that was a lovely surprise!"

Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

The cast featured Elliot Mackenzie in his professional debut as Zog; Emily Benjamin (Bat Out of Hell) as Princess Pearl; Robert Ginty (Salome and Coriolanus, Royal Shakespeare Company) as Sir Gadabout the Great; Euan Wilson (Stick Man, UK Tour) as Madame Dragon; and Dixie McDevitt (National Youth Theatre alumni) as Ensemble.

All of them were funny and engaging, as well as being highly talented, as they provided an entertaining performance consisting of drama, music, dance and puppetry. Children amongst the audience were giggling right from the opening scene, which soon turned into loud laughter later in the show, once we were introduced to Sir Gadabout the Great. He delivered an hilarious act along with a memorable song, that my son Riley has been singing at home ever since.

There was an equal combination of the use of puppets and actors and I felt that this worked well. The actors ensured that there was a connection with the audience, as well as interaction in parts, whilst the puppets added a magical element that delighted the children, especially when the dragons began to fly. The puppets themselves were absolutely stunning and have clearly been created with care and attention to detail, with striking colours and friendly faces.

One thing that I particularly enjoyed about the show, was the way that it had been paced. It was fast moving and entertaining, which ensured that even the youngest of children could remain focused and interested in what was happening on stage. I have found in the past that Riley can become disengaged if there is too much dialogue, but this show provided the perfect mix of words and song, which meant that any potential for boredom, was kept firmly away.

Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Overall, we found this show to be a wonderful adaptation of a book that we know and love. It is the perfect introduction to theatre for children and we saw plenty of babies and toddlers in attendance too. The running time is just short of an hour, which means that it is the perfect length of time to keep children interested and amused. The cast are an excellent example of skilled performers who ensure that the story is told in an entertaining and comical manner, as well as presenting themselves as very likeable characters. My six year old loved it and is looking forward to telling his friends all about it!

I would also like to add that from a venue persepective, I was very impressed by how attentive the Storyhouse staff were to the children in attendance. From welcoming smiles, friendly chats and the handing out of stickers, we found everyone to be extremely courteous and professional in providing a family-friendly theatre environment.

For more information on Zog Live and the upcoming tour locations, you can visit the Freckle Productions website or their social media pages on the following channels:

Website - https://www.freckleproductions.co.uk/
Facebook - facebook.com/FreckleProductions/
Twitter - @Freckle_Prods
Instagram - @freckle_productions

To find out more about Storyhouse then you can visit their website or social media on the following channels:

Website - www.storyhouse.com
Facebook - facebook.com/storyhouselive
Twitter - @storyhouselive
Instagram - @storyhouselive

Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary tickets for the purpose of writing an honest review of the show. All opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. 

Monday, 1 April 2019

L.O.L Surprise!™ Fuzzy Pets Makeover Series - Toy Review

As you may have seen from our previous blog posts, my youngest child absolutely loves the unboxing of items and the revealing of surprises, whether this be watching someone else do it on YouTube, or discovering the toys for himself, it certainly provides him with plenty of entertainment. Therefore when the opportunity recently arose to check out the new L.O.L Surprise!™ Fuzzy Pets, he was more than happy to assist.

These fabulous little toys allow you to unbox seven surprises, with this all new product from the series. Each item provides a little hint as to the pet that is hiding inside and which fuzzy animal you are likely to receive. Not only are there plenty of surprises inside, but these gorgeous little pets can also be customised, by applying your makeover skills to change its appearance and remove the outer layer of fuzz. It is a fabulous addition to the L.O.L range and is sure to bring plenty of excitement to any L.O.L Surprise!™ fans.


My youngest son Riley is aware of the L.O.L Surprise!™ range, but has not played with any of the products previously. However, as an animal lover with a great sense of creativity, he was really eager to take a closer look at the Fuzzy Pets series and find out some more about the toys. As soon as they arrived in the post, he was very keen to begin unwrapping the packaging and discover exactly what was inside.

The product is aimed at children aged 3+ and each set comes complete with a fuzzy pet, a magic mirror, a feeding bottle, a secret message, a pooper scooper, an accessory, and an outfit. All of these items come presented in a shampoo shaped bottle, which is also multi-purpose, as this can later be used as the bath for your new L.O.L pet, or as a fashion accessory.

Riley began to open his first fuzzy pet packaging, to reveal a shampoo shaped container. Inside this were numerous blind bags, which Riley excitedly ripped apart. The first items he came across were a secret message (which his elder brother helped him to decipher) and a glittery mirror. For an adult the secret messages are very simple, but for the age range that they are aimed at, it really encourages children to get thinking and my son was really pleased when he managed to figure it out. If you do have any trouble though, then the answer is written upside down underneath.



Riley continued to open the packets and the next items he came across were a drinks bottle and a pooper scooper! He found the idea of a toy pooper scooper quite funny and as we have not played with these toys before, we were unaware at the time that we would get to use this later on. Further packets revealed what we initially thought was a bracelet (but soon realised was a carry handle), a fashion accessory and of course a fuzzy pet.

At the bottom of the shampoo shaped bottle there was also an oval shaped container and Riley was very keen to see what was inside. My first thought was that it may contain slime, which seems to be a common theme amongst toys at the moment, however we were both pleased to find that it was actually kinetic sand, which has been a favourite of all of my children over the years. We put this to one side initially, whilst we set about removing the fuzz from the pet.


The instructions explain that you can also customise this by drawing your own patterns on to the fuzz with a wet cotton bud, however Riley was more excited to try and reveal the pet beneath the fuzz, so we went along with his preference and set up the shampoo bottle bath. It is important to remember to add the handle to the bottle at this point, as this closes two of the holes which are at the side of the bottle and prevents any water from leaking out. The handle also makes it easy to transport it to the sink and bin, once the fuzz has all been removed.

The removal of the fuzz is a really simple and fun activity and you just need to fill the shampoo bottle bath with water, then place your pet inside and rub to remove the fuzz. Riley really enjoyed this part of the process and enjoyed watching the colour of the water change too. The tub is quite small when the pet is placed inside, so if you did find this too fiddly then you could always use a large bowl as an alternative.


The bottle has a clever draining system, which I thought was a great idea, as this means that you can remove the lid at the bottom of the bottle to release the water into the sink, but the fuzz remains captured in the sieve type contraption. You can then simply empty this into the bin, making it really easy to clean after use. Something which is always a benefit to parents.

On reading the instructions, we discovered that there was also a further treat hidden amongst the kinetic sand. We did not know this originally, so it was an added bonus and Riley was delighted to have the opportunity to use the pooper scooper to dig out his treasure. Once the hidden accessory had been discovered, it meant that Riley could also play with the kinetic sand, which gave another element of play to the toy.

Riley decided to remove all of the fuzz on one of his pets, but on his second one he decided to try something a little different and chose to only remove the fuzz from the head, leaving the blue fuzzy body in tact. This means that he can change it in the future if he wants to, but he was determined to have a blue pet, so has decided to keep it that way for now.

The pets can also squirt water from their mouths or cry, once they have been fed some water from their bottles. Riley really enjoyed squirting water at us and it provided plenty of laughter throughout the afternoon.


Overall, we had plenty of fun with the L.O.L Surprise!™ Fuzzy Pets and the whole family were involved when it came to removing the fuzz. We had such a good laugh and a giggle whilst Riley revealed the pet and I found that the product was actually far better than I had initially expected it to be. With an RRP of £13.99, I think that these are great value for money and they certainly kept Riley entertained for quite some time. I would be more than happy to purchase some more of these for Riley in the future should he wish to expand his collection. Ultimately I would recommend this product to others for some fabulous L.O.L Surprise!™ fun.

The L.O.L Surprise!™ Fuzzy Pets Makeover Series, can currently be found at good toy retailers including Smyths Toys, The Entertainer, Argos, Asda and Amazon. For further information on this product or others in the L.O.L Surprise! range, then you can visit the L.O.L Surprise!™ social media pages on the following channels:

Facebook: facebook.com/LOLSurpriseUK
Instagram: @lolsurprise.uk


*Disclaimer: We were provided with two complimentary L.O.L Surpise! Fuzzy Pets, for the purpose of writing an honest review of the product. All thoughts and opinions are our own. This post contains an Amazon affiliate link, which means that I may receive a small commission should you choose to purchase from this retailer.