When I was in my 20’s pre-children and pre-mortgage I used to spend most weekend evenings out and about in Manchester. I loved it, theres so many different areas and vibes. However there was never anything like the night out I experienced on Friday! I can’t recommend it enough to make a change to your usual night out or with a group of friends, it really is fab!
Can you BREAKOUT…?
If you’ve never heard of it before Breakout is an escape room. For those of you who remember the crystal maze, its like that but with your friends and for a whole hour!
When I was first asked to go and experience a breakout room and write about it I did wonder how I would write about it if we didn’t get out……
But now I know, even if you don’t get out they let you out….phewwwww
On arrival we made sure to get there 10 minutes before as we had been instructed to for our briefing! We were going in the room called Facility X!
The secretion goes a little bit like this:
You arrive at an unknown location for a once in a lifetime opportunity; a conference held by the critically acclaimed, Dr. Andrews. His work is widely known throughout the research circles, but he has remained hidden in the shadows for years. What you don’t know, is that Dr. Andrews has gone mad, creating a string of tests that have gone disastrously wrong. He has brought you here for his final experiment. You have one hour to escape his maze of tricks and games, before a deadly virus kills you all.
Right ok we thought, what could we be facing?
If you thought that was a picture inside the room, sorry it’s not! This was just to entertain us while we waited for everyone to arrive!
The anticipation built and before long we were ready to go.
We were told bits and pieces about the room, mainly that we can touch and explore everything unless it had a do not touch sticker on. This was for things that were not part of the game i.e. live plugs!
I am not here to spoil it for anyone who wants to play Facility X so sorry if you came looking for clues!
Each room has a clock which counts down the hour for you from being locked in (and don’t worry there is always an escape button if you need to leave so you can if you have to, but obviously thats cheating!) There is someone from the behind the scenes team always watching you via the cameras but they can’t hear you. Every so often if they think you need help they will pop up a cryptic clue on the screen.
The room fits 5 so I took a snap of the team in action…sorry still no clues! But you can see we still had 30 minutes 44 seconds to go!
Do these look like happy faces?
Thats because they were happy faces that we escaped! With just 3 minutes to spare we actually cracked all the clues and escaped the room, we were on a massive high! We could not believe it! We did it! We will now call ourselves the A team!
To celebrate our brain power we headed off for cocktails.
We had an amazing time at Breakout, it really surpassed my expectations as a night out! I’d love to give you some clues but it would spoil the fun. We all brought different strengths to the game, had a laugh working together to get out and were elated that we made it out before the hour (just!)
Breakout prices vary but the more players you have the less it costs per person. Breakout now have two sites in Manchester so be sure to check which one you are playing at after you have booked. You don’t want to arrive late and feel flustered thats for sure. Bring your brains and find a great team to go with. We are already planning out next night out there, to a different room of course! Check out Breakout Manchester for more information.
Thanks to Breakout Manchester for inviting us to try the room!
This week we were excited to be asked to take the Bunny Jump game from University Games for a test hop!
My boys love simple games and especially the eldest. As any mum of a 4 year old knows they often get enthusiastic about the thought of playing a game but by the time it’s set up and you’ve explained the rules they have lost interest and gone to do something else. This is a big pro for Bunny Jump, the set up time is seconds. Even the first time you open the box, theres no complicated instructions, nothing to put together, just straight out of the box and off you go.
The other great thing about Bunny Jump is that you don’t need batteries! Hurray no batteries to replace, no sifting around in the bottom of ‘that’ kitchen draw (everyone has one, full of random stuff) for a tiny little screwdriver to open the battery compartment! It seems so rare these days to have a toy that doesn’t need batteries or charging frequently so that for me is a great big thumbs up!
The boy was very excited to be playing a new game, and its’ just so simple to play. The recommended age is 5 years old and upwards but I let both my boys play supervised by one of us and they are 4 and 2. There can be up to 4 players for each round.
The aim of the game be the person with the most carrots in their basket. The game starts with all 12 carrots buried in the ground and bunny sat on the top of the hill. Each player takes it in turns to spin the spinner and remove the number of carrots shown, unless its a miss a turn! Everyone takes it in turns to spin and do what the spinner says until the bunny jumps in the air! When bunny jumps everyone need to try and catch it, if anyone does catch it then that person gets two bonus carrots, those two carrots can make the difference between being the winner or not!
Now so far in all our games none of us have managed to catch the bunny, even my camera can’t capture it in action as proved here when I tried to catch the bunny jumping!
So in order to try and show you I’ve had to mock up the next photograph!
But that is about how high the bunny jumps, however when your not expecting it and you don’t know which way its going the reality of actually catching it is very different, especially for a 4 year old!
Overall we have loved playing Bunny Jump as it’s easy to set up quickly, requires no batteries and games are short which engages little minds, it’s something that can easily be put away to so a game or two before the school run is very do able! Thumbs up to Bunny Jump form us!
Bunny Jump is available to buy from lots of toys shops including Argos and Amazon.
Traditional boys toys consist of cars, construction and weapons. Walk down the aisles of the toy store and there will always be a sea of blue and a sea of pink. Where did these colours come from? Originally who decided that these will be boy and girl colours?
I’ve always been an advocate of gentle parenting, I try my best to use positive language around my boys, trying very hard to give them boundaries by talking them through things they can do rather than things they can’t. My boys are chalk and cheese with their personalities, the eldest is very emotional, gentle, a worrier. The youngest so far has seemed much more confident, nowhere near as risk averse, I’d go as far as to say he’s a bit of a risk taker. He’s never seemed to attach to anything toy wise until very recently when he’s started understanding the concept of ‘mine’. A new word in his vocabulary has meant that he’s been going to bed with a whole host of random house items that he considers to be his. Last night we had a bed full of items which we later (once he was asleep) sneak into remove, things that included a kitchen spatula, a book, a metal car and his toothbrush which was not leaving his tight little hand no matter what! And as I fancied an easy bedtime I thought the best course of action was to just go back later and retrieve them.
So when we were asked if we’d like to take part in ‘National Baby Day’ on May 2nd and give some more traditional girls toys a try I thought it might be something my youngest would love and I wasn’t wrong. I have never censored the toys they have to play with I’m not at all bothered if they don’t want to play with boys toys, two of the most played with items in our house is a pink tea set and the wooden kitchen. The tea set was the choice of my eldest when he was two years old, since then they have both enjoyed playing with it. This tea set was clearly aimed at the girl market with its vivid pink and purple cups, tea-pot, spoons and sugar bowl.
The other day we were excited to receive a ‘My Little Baby Born’ (Supersoft) and stroller by Zapf to test out which aren’t traditionally thought to be boys toys.
Along with ‘mine’ he also knows the word ‘open’. I hardly had chance to open the wrapping before he was pulling at the packaging to get the baby out. We set the stroller up very quickly in just one click and he was away!
The doll itself is 32cm tall and is aimed at ages 1+
It comes with a dummy attached to a ribbon which is then attached to it’s outfit so that it can’t come off, and given the amount of tugging and pulling both the boys have done with it I can safely say it’s stuck on there! From the moment he wrapped his arms around the baby to give it a cuddle he hasn’t let it go. Baby has gone everywhere, in or out of the stroller.
He’s not bothered that it’s pink, or that it’s aimed at girls, all he’s bothered about is that baby is with him all the time! Baby has even gone to bed tonight!
Now I know the stroller is only meant for dolls but when you walk out of the room and walk back in a few moments later to find the 2 year old sat in the stroller giving loving cuddles to the baby I couldn’t bear to tell him it was wrong!
I want my boys to grow into caring adults, if they chose to have children are gentle parents, who are loving and kind, with patience and understanding. I don’t believe in the gender stereotypes and I hope I can teach them that they are free to choose anything in life that interests them and that they enjoy. The dude absolutely loves the doll and stroller from Zapf and I’m grateful for now that he’s enjoying something that he can call his own……..’mine!’
St Helens Theatre Royal – Peter Pan – Easter Pantomime
This afternoon we were invited down to see a fabulous performance of Peter Pan starring Ray Quinn at St Helens Theatre Royal, and what a treat we were in for!
The boy and I set off to the theatre full of anticipation for a family afternoon out and we weren’t disappointed the Easter pantomime was made up of all the elements any great pantomime should be! There was boo’ing at Captain Hook, singing along, shouts of ‘He’s behind you!’ and dancing in the aisles!
Ray Quinn (X-factor and Dancing on Ice) is the star of the show with his great portrayal of the magical boy himself Peter Pan! Nobody is left disappointed by his flying high magical entrance! He stars along side Claire Simmo (Radio City) as Tinkerbell. Liam Mellor who plays Smee and wrote the pantomime had the audience in stitches with his jokes suitable for children and adults alike. The boy particularly enjoyed the visual slap stick comedy with Captain Hook, Mr and Mrs Smee.
I’d not been to St Helens before but the theatre itself was really easy to find and there was lots of parking locally as it’s right in the town centre. What a fabulous Easter holidays trip out suitable for all the family! The show runs from now until Sunday 17th April and tickets can be purchased from St Helens Theatre box office or online at www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com
We were recently invited to spend a couple of nights away as a family courtesy of Travelodge. It couldn’t have come at a better time. With the stress of moving house we were all more than ready to take a break from the boxes piling up around us making us feel quite penned in. Our chosen city was Gateshead, neither of us had been before and after some research and some fabulous tips kindly given by Lindsay from NewcastleFamilyLife we made a plan, packed a bag and set off. We left straight after school on the Friday evening, the journey was not to bad, with a stop at a lovely services for tea we had arrived by 7:30pm to check in.
Arriving at Travelodge
The hotel (Travelodge Gateshead) was very close to the giant metro centre and is easily reached by car. There was lots of available parking so we parked up and headed in. Upon arrival I was a little nervous about our stay.The lobby was full of people who were already enjoying drinks and waiting for taxis, it was pretty noisy and I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so full of people who were heading for nights out, as it wasn’t in a city centre. Never the less the boy was super excited to be staying in a hotel so we went up to find our room. We had been given a room on the third floor at the very end of the corridor. This was good because it meant we wouldn’t have people banging past the room at all hours of the morning and waking up the children. The room itself was as expected, basic but lovely and clean. I’m not sure there’s anything that turns my stomach more than a dirty hotel room.
Travelodge – The room
The bathroom was sparkling as were the units, the floor was spotless and the beds looked cosy. I had requested a family room with a bed for the boy and a cot for Flixster. It was just perfect. The cot had even been put up and made, which doesn’t always happen when you request one at other hotels. The staff had also thoughtfully put down an extra layer on the cot base to make it soft. The boys got to work exploring every nook and cranny of the room, but we didn’t stay up long as it was already past their bedtime and we wanted to get out exploring in the morning without cranky children! But of course they were both excited to be somewhere new.
The report from the boy was that his bed was very cosy!
The boys settled quickly because they were tired, so hubby and I read in bed for a bit before hitting the sack ourselves (these 5am wake-ups get to you after a while!)
Flixster sleeps with white noise on so we had that running next to his cot, this thankfully masked most of the noise in the night-time. I heard a few banging doors and some shouting but not enough to wake the children, I’m just a light sleeper.
Exploring the North East – Angel of the North and Beamish
The next morning as usual the boys were up early and raring to go. The hotel had given us a printed sheet of information upon arrival so I knew that the breakfast options were a choice between two different types of breakfast box. As we had two mornings there we decided to try one each day. I left this mornings choice to the boy who accompanied me downstairs at 6am to pick up 4 of the ‘Good Morning’ boxes which we took back to the room.
Can you tell they were watching television!
They had a rumblers pot (which was cornflakes and milk) a muffin, a nutri-grain bar, a bottle of orange juice, a packet of sugar (which I guess was for the cornflakes if required) and a mento. I thought the mento was a nice touch, especially if you’re in a rush and have already left the hotel, it’s nice to freshen your breath! The boxes were a massive hit with the boys, the eldest loves packed lunches and so to him to start the day with one was a treat. I think he mainly likes the pick and mix choices. He can be put in charge of his own food choices which he loves!
Can you tell they were watching television!?
I love a full hotel buffet breakfast but with children this is almost impossible as someone at the table is always popping up and down to fetch things and you just don’t get to enjoy it. Plus as anyone with little ones will know as soon as they have finished they want to get down so these boxes were ideal for us. They could eat in the comfort of the room, get down to walk around whenever they wanted and we knew they were safe so we could enjoy ours. The only thing that was lacking for us as grown ups was a really nice coffee. A massive bonus would have been a real coffee machine in the lobby, however we made an instant and enjoyed that with our boxes.
Once we were finished we tidied up and headed out of the day, it was still early so we had lots of time. Our first stop Starbucks (which is super close to the travelodge and a drive thru!) for our coffee hit. Don’t judge us we are sleep deprived coffee loving parents! It also warmed us up as even just the walk to the car across the car park from the travelodge had proved to us it would be a bitterly cold day, it had lightly snowed over night so wooly hats, scarves and gloves it would be today!
Our second stop was the Angel of the North, something I’ve always wanted to see. I was not disappointed. It wasn’t far to the Angel and as we got there we discovered that there was some free parking close by which was handy for us. The ice was thick in the car park though so with steady step we made our way over to get close to her. Is ‘her’ the right way to describe the Angel of the North?
The skies were bright blue as we arrived which made for some beautiful shots but just during the time we spent there (which wasn’t long due to the biting cold) the grey snow filled clouds quickly gathered which made half the photos look like another day completely. The moody sky came in so quickly! I was glad we’ve been though and seen it in real life. I couldn’t come all that way and not touch the angel to make a wish. I’m not sure if it’s what other people do but to me it seemed like the right thing to do at that time. So wish made we headed back to the car with numb hands and freezing faces!
Our third and final stop for the day was a museum called Beamish, again it was really close by and its something that holds childhood memories for me.
I last went to Beamish when I was about 7 years old and I always remember it. We were on our first ever family holiday to a caravan on the North East coast, my parents took us. I loved it, I don’t remember much about it except remembering it was a great day out, so I was excited to return as an adult.
We weren’t disappointed, I had read on the website before hand that there would be some festive activities going on. We got to meet Father Christmas which was the first time this year for the boys. I think the boys favourite thing was getting to feed the reindeer. Hubby enjoyed the coal fuelled beef dripping authentic fish and chips. Beamish is advertised as an outdoor museum which tells the story and recreates life in the North East in the 1820’s, 1900’s and 1940’s. It is set out as separate village areas of different era’s. There is transport around the various areas although if you take a buggy you will need to fold it up. As Flixster was pretty tired, getting him in and out of the buggy all the time wasn’t going to be great for him so one of us walked while the other got the transport (tram, bus etc) around the various areas. It is easy to walk around but the transport was a novelty which the boys loved.
We went over to the 1900’s town first on recommendation of one of the drivers. We knew we wouldn’t see everything is one day so chose to just see a few things. The good thing was that the tickets we bought are valid for 1 year so we will be going back to explore the rest next year without a doubt.
I loved the town, I loved the festive touches.
The brass band started playing carols in the park bandstand as we were there which was fabulous. I would have loved more time to explore the village but the boys weren’t for looking in detail like I wanted to so I just enjoyed what I did get to see.
The stop for lunch as I already mentioned was a hit with everyone, everyone gobbled it down and it was a very popular stop with lots of visitors that day.
Even Flixster the fussy eater (well for me anyway) probably ate more than I did!
The afternoon was spent exploring the mine area and going to find Father Christmas, I think this with the reindeer food was a massive hit with the boy. I thought he’d be shy once we arrived at the big man himself but he sat on my knee and confidently asked about how he knew we were moving – Father Christmas played along beautifully!
That’s the cones of reindeer food in his hand, I love the excitement in his face and the apprehension in Flixsters, who you’ll note had taken off his socks and shoes as usual!
After a quick trip to the gift shop we were soon making our way back towards Travelodge to warm back up and get some rest. On the way back we decided to head to the Metro Centre for some tea since it was so close to the Travelodge and Travelodge Gateshead didn’t have any meal facilities. The great thing about Travelodge Gateshead is that it is so close to lots of restraints, not only is the metro centre within a few minutes drive there are also a couple of restraints within walking distance. As it had been my birthday on the Friday we went to Pizza Express to celebrate a day late. We know how family friendly Pizza Express is and once again we enjoyed a great meal with good service.
A quick look around a few shops followed before getting back into the car to go back for bedtime.
Sunday morning was again an early rise for the boys (I’m very used to it) and this morning we tried the other breakfast box but this time we took it to the car to eat on the journey as moving day was now only 48 hours away and we had SO much to do. I spoke with the lovely friendly lady on the desk as we checked out from Travelodge as she was asking how our stay had been, she explained as we were chatting that sometimes at the weekend the hotel can be a little louder but they try their very best to separate family groups from people who may be out for a good night out so that everyone is happy. It had certainly worked for us, being on the end had stopped a lot of traffic passing by our room. She said that during the week it tends to be contractors who stay and so for families with younger children a weekday stay is probably a better option. For us that’s not possible but despite this we had a good stay at Travelodge.
The way home took longer as part of our route was closed for routine work, on one hand this was frustrating as our journey length was much increased, however the journey was beautiful and we took in some fantastic scenery in the lakes which were covered in snow. We even stopped at a tiny village to take in the scenery.
When we got home, reality really bit, it was now only 36 hours to moving day and we had a lot to do, it was all hands to the pump. Well more like one of us had to coral the children whilst the other attempted to throw some things in a box! We will defiantly be returning to Gateshead and Beamish, we loved it and the two nights away was just what we needed!
I was recently sent some ‘Nappy Grab Bags’ to have a look at and review. I was quite excited by the concept as I am a person who likes to plan for every eventuality, I love packing the nappy change bag and making sure we have everything so these are a great idea. It’s a small package that comes wrapped up complete with one nappy, four wipes and some cream. The packet turns into the change mat as well as doubling as a disposable bag.
As a mainly cloth nappy mummy it’s important to me that the plastic used is biodegradable which it is. Once you open the perforated seam at the back, the packet is unwrapped to reveal an eco-responsible Naty by Nature Babycare nappy, 4 Kinder by Nature Natural Wipes and a small sachet of Weleda Calendula nappy change cream.
The grab bags are available to buy currently from Ocado, Waitrose and Amazon and can be purchased in size’s 1 through 6.
As a baby wearing mummy I think this will lighten the load on short trips too, I won’t even need a bag now that I can slip one of these into my back pocket and off I go! I made a short video so that you can see mine being unwrapped, I think this was the best way to show the contents.
Becky Mantin has offered one lucky reader of my blog the chance to win a months supply of nappy grab bags, just enter below!
Wow, just wow. I actually don’t know the best way to start this blog post. I have so many thoughts running around my head about the ‘Dine around the Dome’ event I was very grateful to be invited to attend last Thursday evening. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I certainly didn’t expect the culinary taste teasing tour that we were treated to.
We were told to meet at 6:30pm at the Circle 360 champagne bar on the upper level of The Orient area in the Trafford Centre. Anyone who knows me personally will know how often I frequent the Trafford Centre. It’s almost my second home. I love the place. As a family we spend quite a lot of time there because living in the Manchester area we aren’t blessed with the best weather so the convenience of having a covered area which has everything you need in one place and free parking is the perfect solution. I love that it has entertainment, Odeon cinema, ten pin bowling, adventure golf, Legoland and Sealife to name but a few. As well a massive variety of shopping and so much choice when it comes to food. No matter what your taste they’ll always be something to suit you there.
Before the boys came along and it was just the two of us we would head to the Trafford Centre on date nights to try new restaurants, any special occasion would be marked with a meal and a few drinks. We’ve had many great nights there and worked our way around many of the eateries. So when thinking about dining around the dome I wasn’t sure how many new things I’d discover.
A little before we were due to meet up at the Circle bar I met with my good friend and blogging inspiration Jenny from Lets Talk Mommy. I haven’t seen her in a while so it was great to have a quick catch up together. We headed up to the bar and signed in. I love meeting new people and chatting but I felt a little nervous at this event as I knew it would be a small gathering and thought that perhaps everyone would already know each other. Over the course of the evening I got to know quite a few people and everyone was so lovely. I certainly have quite a few new blogs to add to the list to read now!
At the bar we were given an Elderflower martini which as the description said was dressed dirty with a twist of lemon. As I was driving I was very careful to just take a little sip to sample the flavour. It was at that point I instantly regretted not being able to drink the whole thing. Wow, what a start to the evening, it was beautiful! I could have sat there and sipped the whole thing, if the evening had ended there I would have been a happy lady. I haven’t stopped to have a drink at the bar before. It always looks like a fab venue. Having young children it’s never been possible to just take time out to sip on a champagne but next time we have some couple time there together I am adding it to the must do list! I often walk past and see couples or friends sipping and chatting there, taking a break from shopping. The bar staff were lovely and I can’t wait to return and sample some more of the menu!
Jenny and I sampling the Elderflower Martini at Circle 360 Champagne Bar
After a few introductions we were off to our first stop on the tour Cafe Rouge. Now although I have eaten in Cafe Rouge a couple of times I’ve never considered it to be one of my top choices of food venues. I’m not sure why, maybe I’ve just not had a dish there that has wowed me. Everything changed last night. It was our first stop on our tour but they certainly set the bar high for the rest of the evening. We were served ‘Ceviche de Saumon’ which although originally from Peru consisted of Atlantic salmon slices cured in lime marinated with chilli, red onion and spring onion served on a bed of crisp baby gem lettuce. It was drizzled with Valles des Baux EV olive oil and finished with fresh coriander. It was delicious!
I love sea food more than I love meat so this was my idea of a great starter. I loved the way the sharpness of the lime worked with the heat of the chilli. The salmon itself had a lovely light flavour and the crunch of the lettuce made sure that it wasn’t a heavy carb laden starter which ensured we had lots of room to carry on with the rest of the tour. I do love bread but if I start with it when I’m already hungry I tend to eat too much then there’s no room for the fabulous main course.
The food was paired with a white wine called ‘Saint Etalon Sauvignon’ again I just had a sip but it was crisp and tangy and I thought it was in my own description quite sharp. Cafe Rouge said that it was a perfect accompaniment to a lime marinated fish. I’d defiantly agree with that. I enjoyed a lovely chat with my new-found dinner mates and all too soon it was time to move on.
So from France we headed to Italy in what was probably the quickest hop from country to country ever! So within minutes we’d hoped over the border and were seated in Carluccio’s which is located on the ground floor of The Great Hall at the back of The Orient in the Trafford Centre.
This time as most of the food was to be served cold the table was already laid with the dishes and was a fabulous sight it was to behold! Beautiful wood serving boards decorated with thinly sliced Italian meats from Carluccio’s own deli. Palma ham, Mialno salami, Napoli salami and herb roasted ham were amongst the selections decorated with olives, caperberries and home backed focaccia.
I love a pick and mix style meal so I was in my element with all the different things to try. By far the hit of the table was the Caponata.
Caponata as I found out was a traditional Sicilian dish of aubergine sweet and sour stew, served cold with toasted sliced focaccia for dipping. This dish took me by surprise. Looking at it you expect it to be a warm dish. It was chilled to perfection and it really works. It was so juicy and flavourful. This is something that I wouldn’t hesitate to order in future. I’m hoping that the recipe can be found in one of Antonio Carluccio’s cook books though as I really think the boys and hubby would enjoy the dish. It seemed to be a hit with everyone!
Shortly after we were seated the warm dish of the evening Pepolata Arancini was served to out table. Pepolata Arancini is a crispy fried pepolata and mozzarella rice balls served with a pepper mayonnaise for dipping. They were delicious, when you cut into them the outside was crispy and the inside a melted gooey mixture of the cheese and rice. I could defiantly see myself returning here for more of these little bites of heaven!
This beautiful dishes were accompanied by an Aperol Spritz which I had never heard of. As I learned on the evening Aperol Spritz is a classic Venetian aperitif of Prosecco, Aperol and soda. It is a drink that was invented in 1919, it apparently took off like wildfire outside of Italy in 2014 but I must have missed this being in the new baby haze of life. It is set to be a must-sip drink of summer 2015. I for one can see myself getting on board with this! Although again I only had a sip it was really refreshing. I can see myself ordering a glass of this next time I head to Carluccios’s which I imagine will be soon after the wonderful taste tingly samples I had on the evening!
From Italy we headed much much further west to latin America, Las Iguanas to be precise (which is only 30 seconds walk away!). Las Iguanas is one of my ‘go to’ restaurants when we are at the Trafford Centre. I love the flavours there. I thought I knew the food pretty well but as I discovered on the evening I haven’t branched out enough with the menu and was excited to be sampling dishes I haven’t had before.
On the menu was a fantastic selection of foods. Adorning the table as we arrived were some Totopos which are Mexican spice-dusted corn chips with tomato salsa, served with Peruvian olives.
Olives are like Marmite in that I think you either love them or you hate them. I used to hate them but after many years of trying them over and over again I now love them. The olives served at Las Iguanas were particularly nice! If you’re a lover of olives I’d recommend sampling those. Along side the corn chips and olives there was also a salad. It was a Mango and Pecan salad with avocado.
This was the only sample of a salad on the evening, it’s a good job though that it was as this one would have won hands down! The soft sweet mango was perfectly complimented by the crunchy candied pecan nuts, the baby spinach was lovely and fresh as were the peppery rocket and piquant peppers. This was the sort of salad that I wouldn’t necessarily choose normally but having tasted this one I would certainly look out for something similar in the future. As far as I could tell this was a hit up and down the table. I also loved the way it looked, very pleasing on the eye it made a great visual dish.
The cooked food selection was soon with us and we were once again in for a treat. At Las Iguanas we were served Churrasco Skewers which are mixed marinated and flame-grilled skewers of honey glazed chicken and halloumi, served with Manioc root cassava fries with home-made tomato salsa. I tried the fries first. I hadn’t pre-read the menu so I assumed they were normal potato fries. I was in for a pleasant surprise. I’ve not had cassava before so I was keen to look it up and discovered it is the third largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and maize. It was really nice, quite sweet not dissimilar to sweet potato. The salsa was a lovely accompaniment to the fries too.
I’m a big cheese fan and halloumi is up there as one of my favourites, especially when its been flame grilled so I was looking forward to the skewers and they didn’t disappoint. I only tried a small bite or two as I wanted to make sure I had room for all of the other delights of the evening. I can tell you thought that’s it defiantly a dish I’d add to the list of foods I’d like to go back and have again.
The last item to be added to the table was Empanadas which are crispy “street-style” pastries served as either brie and mango or tender lamb and mint varieties. Where I was sitting we were served the brie and mango ones so I didn’t get to try the lamb and mint although I heard the others talking about how nice they were. I cut into my empanadas which was steaming hot and looked lovely, I tried some expecting a sweet type of dessert taste given that it was brie and mango but it wasn’t that sweet at all. The brie complemented the mango perfectly. I’m not sure I’ve ever had warm mango that I can remember but it was really tasty. I almost wish I could have eaten the whole thing but given that we still had a couple of stops on the tour I didn’t want to fill up too soon.
The food at Las Iguanas was accompanied by a Mango Collins drink. Mango Collins is a cocktail I’ve had before at Las Iguanas so I already knew that I loved it. For anyone that hasn’t tried it it is a refreshing cocktail of Absolute Mango vodka, triple sec blended with orange and mango juices topped with lemonade which gives it a gently sparking taste on the tongue. It was a great pairing with the summary foods we’d been served and if I wasn’t driving I’d have indulged in a glass!
All too soon it was time once again to switch countries this time we were headed back east to Japan and Korean. The restaurant we were going to is called Wokooshi. Out of all our stops this one was new to me. Wokooshii can be found at level 1 of the Orient in the Trafford centre. It was founded by Gerry Yeung who is also the founder of Manchester’s famous Yang Sing Chinese restaurant. We were delighted to be served by Gerry himself who explained all about the family ethics of the restaurant. He is passionate about bringing the Japanese and Korean flavours to the diners.
Wokooshii has been open since early 2012 and the word Wokooshii, amalgamates the words wok and oishii, which means ‘delicious food’ in Japanese and the description couldn’t fit the food any better. I love how involved Gerry is with running the restaurant he explained all about the sourcing of ingredients for the menu and how everything is made in-house from scratch. Nothing is bought in pre-made at all so you can be assured all the flavours are authentic.
On the table as we arrived was a cup-shaped lettuce leaf for each person, we joked that we’d eaten so much so far that we really could only mange a leaf. Thankfully though the staff of Wokooshii had other ideas and within moments they had brought out Beef Bulgogi to our table. This was beef marinated in Korean soy sauce, sugar and black pepper to enhance its tenderness. It is traditionally served with a side of lettuce which is used to wrap the cooked meat to add crunchiness. We all picked our pieces of beef, added a hot sauce and tucked in. I have to admit beef isn’t my favourite meat so I was very pleasantly surprised when I found myself finishing the whole leaf wrap. Gerry explained that Bulgogi means ‘fire meat’ in Korean. The dish is listed 23rd in the ‘Worlds 50 Most Delicious Foods’ poll. The meat was historically grilled on gridirons over a brazier, but now it is also popular to pan-cook the meat. Wokooshii Bulgogi is cooked on a sizzler or hot plate.
We didn’t have to wait long to taste the flavours ourselves. We were first served a Japanese dish of Salmon Teppanyaki which was a succulent salon fillet cooked on a teppan (hot plate) with butter, garlic, sake and Japanese soya sauce accompanied by mild peppered teppanyaki vegetables and rice. The dish was accompanied with sizzling seafood udon noodles with scallops, king prawns and squid. The noodles were served on a sizzler with a lively Japanese soya sauce.
The salmon was perfect, so moist with lovely flavours of the sauce, the vegetables were crunchy and matched the salmon well, I didn’t try the rice as I wanted to leave room for a sample of the noodles as udon noodles are my favourite and I wasn’t disappointed! I couldn’t just try the noodles thought without trying the seafood too. I’m pretty much in love with any foods from the ocean, I much prefer them to meat so I went in and helped myself to a king prawn and some scallop. I always think scallops can be a dangerous choice when eating out, it only takes a little over cooking to make them rubbery and not nice to eat. Wokooshii scallops however were as near perfect as I’ve ever had, a delight to eat and perfect with the king prawns, squid and udon noodles. I was sure to only have a small sample though as I knew we were going to be also lucky to try the Korean food.
The Korean taster was something I’ve not heard of before Spicy Chicken Bibimbap which is a signature Korean family dish made up of steamed rice served in a hot stone bowl topped with chicken, carrots, kimchi, black wood mushrooms, bean sprouts, seasonal greens and topped with an egg. This dish is mixed at the table with chilli fermented soya bean paste.
I particularly loved the way this dish was presented, Gerry himself mixed it for us after adding the sauce while explaining the elements of the dish.
The dish was accompanied by Sho Chiku Bai Nigori Sake which is one of the oldest style sakes. It is coarsely filtered and milky white in colour, which gives it a full pleasantly sweet complex flavour which is best served chilled.
I have sampled Sake before and yet again this had surpassed my expectations, it was something I will be going back to enjoy some time soon in the future it was a great companion to the Japanese and Korean food. We were also given a sample of Asahi Premium Japanese Black Lager. I am not a regular lager drinking I much prefer a wine or spirit based drink so I wasn’t sure I was going to like this one. As it was poured due to its dark colour I expected to be tasting something similar to a stout based drink which I’m not keen on but was very pleasantly surprised when I tried a sip. I’m glad I did as it was much much lighter to drink than its appearance made out.
As the saying goes don’t judge a book by its cover and this is very true in the case of this lager! It was very smooth. Asahi means rising sun and it is made using only the purest water along with the finest hops.
One of the things I loved most about the Wokooshii restaurant was the seating layout. There are so many different sized tables available, whether you are having a romantic evening out or dining as a large group there’s sure to be the right size table for your party. As we were a large group we spread out over two large round tables which made for great conversation and the meeting of new friends.
The last treat in Wokooshii was the sampling of a particularly nice sparkling sake, this was not something I’d had or even heard of before but is now on my must have again list. The bottle is came in is particularly beautiful.
I can see myself having to revisit Wokooshi quite a bit just to repeat all the fabulous flavours! Sadly before long it was time to move on to our 6th and final stop of the night, the dessert surprise!
We had been told that dessert would be a lucky dip, we’d be given and number and then asked to sample the dessert that corresponded to that number. In reality we all sampled each others, which was fab! The desserts were provided by a section of restaurants from around the Trafford Centre. There were far too many to be able to list them all. I’m a dessert lover so this was my idea of heaven! This was the sight that greeted us as we entered The Captains Table room looking out over the orient open eating area.
My number corresponded to a delicious lemon cheese cake, I was so busy sharing it around I didn’t even get to find out where it was from. I did however find out that the fabulous chocolate dip accompanied churros were from La Tasca. They have also been added to my list of places to dine for those beautiful treats alone!
The desserts were accompanied by Espresso Martinis provided by the 360 Champagne Bar, it was as though we had come 360 degrees ourselves, finishing off with drinks from the place we started! This was the drink that I wished I could have finished the most out of all the sips I’d had that evening. As a coffee lover this was an amazing find.
Coffee to accompany dessert was also served by Nespresso who were showcasing their new special edition coffee Peru Secreto an intensity 8 with an intense sweet round espresso flavour. As with all the special editions they won’t be around long so if it’s something you are interested in then get it while you can!
Before long it was time to say farewell to all my dining companions and new-found friends. Just before we all left we gathered for a group photo.
What an evening we’d been treated to, from far east to far west via France. So many wonderful flavours to tingle the taste buds. So many new finds to add to the list of places to visit. I can’t say that one dish stood out above the others because it didn’t, they were all so fabulous. I can’t compare country to country, like for like it wouldn’t be fair. I can say though that there wasn’t a dish I tried that I didn’t like, no actually love!
We can often be found at the Trafford Centre as a family and from now on I can see that we’ll be working our way around the restaurants too. The only problem we’ll have is agreeing which one to go to!
If you’re still with me at the end of that epic blog post then thank you for reading and I hope you’re not feeling to hungry now!
Picture credit for some of the images to Jason Lock Photography of Carousel PR
Thanks to the Trafford Centre for organising the ‘Dine around the Dome’ event. I was not paid for this blog post but all the food and drinks were complimentary on the evening.
I know we’re already in February but I do feel like 2015 holds lots of promise for us as a family, I feel excited and happy to be looking forward to the future. We really hope to move house in the next few years too, so that certainly will be a big change. In order to move though we need to do a few odd jobs around the house first as well as a big de clutter. De cluttering is something I love doing but never seem to nail it. Even when I spend ages doing it, a mere few weeks later the house is always a mess again. So this time around I needed a different approach and as if by magic the solution may have presented itself. I was browsing around Amazon as you do and up popped a book suggestion that intrigued me. The title was “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying” by Marie Kondo.
I was interested immediately, how could tidying up be life changing? I’ve always been a tidy person. I love nothing more than coming home to a tidy house, I love the feeling of looking around and everywhere being clean and tidy with all my things in the places they should be! So I clicked on the book and headed straight to the reviews, somewhere I always looks before I buy things. Four and a half stars from over 200reviews, this looked promising! Without further ado I purchased it (in kindle form obviously as I didn’t need more clutter in my life!) and read it pretty quickly over a weekend. It’s not that long and an easy read. It’s main theme being that all the things you own in life should bring you joy, if they don’t then you don’t need them! It deals with how to get rid of things that you feel guilty about getting rid of. For example presents from loved ones that you don’t actually like! There are a few far out principles in the book, but on the whole I really enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to get started applying the principles. The book suggests that although the the process can happen quickly it would take an average of six months to complete a whole house, this timescale did surprise me but it didn’t put too much pressure on either. Within a few days I had already got rid of two bin bags of clothes (that’s just mine!) and a big box of other items. Things I’d held on to for years but that actually brought me no joy, things that I thought one day I may use but who knows when that day will come.
The book also describes how to fold you clothes in your draws, I had to read the description a couple of times to try and get the hang of it. I also went to youtube to try and find some info videos. There are a couple but I thought perhaps that I may also be able to do one now that I’ve got eh hang of folding. I didn’t take a picture of the draws before (something I should have done!) But heres a picture of how mine and hubbies draws look now that I’ve finished folding them.
I’ve also made a start in the boys room too, it already brings me pleasure to look inside and see exactly what we can choose from.
Back to the book, is it life changing? I’ve yet to be able to comment on that as I haven’t finished the process. The author describes the exact way you should go about tackling your house starting with your clothes as they are the easiest thing to part with. Followed by books. I can’t remember the exact order of the rest but I’ll refer back to it when I need to. I know that sentimental things such as photographs were last on the list. I’m still working my way through clothes. I’m due to tackle the underwear any day now and I know there will be lots of bras to get rid of. Whats the point in keeping the ones that are too big or too small? I do feel that the progress I have made though has been great and I get great pleasure from going into the bedroom and it felling a whole lot less cluttered already.
If you’d have asked me if I thought I’d be reading books in my 30’s about tidying up I’d have laughed a lot but here I am doing it and acting on its principles!
I will be going back to amazon to review the book as I think it’s always good to put your own review on if you rely yourself on reviews and I’d be giving it 5 stars and would recommend it if you seem to never be able to part with things or your life feels cluttered. I do want to mention also that I have no association with the author and I haven’t been paid to write about the book. I paid for my own copy after just coming across it, but I’m glad it found me and hopefully it really will be life changing!
The first I heard about Winter Wonderland was when I saw an advert for it last year. the boy was only 28 months though and so I thought he’d be a bit too young for it. When I was invited to have a preview of this years event I thought I’d go and see what it was all about. As it was an evening event I didn’t take the boy because he’s usually asleep for 7pm but I will defiantly be buying some tickets to take him to a day time session, he’d love it!
Its advertised as ‘The Uk’s Largest Indoor Christmas Theme Park’ and its located within the Event City complex which is right next to the Trafford Centre. Event City does have its own car park but it’s easily walkable from the Trafford Centre itself so a combined trip is very possible. The sessions run from 11am-3pm or 4:30pm-8:30pm most days from now until Sunday 4th January. You can book online or pay on the door.The entrance ticket includes all the rides and attractions as well as visit to Father Christmas. There are also some pay to play fairground games. On entering I was surprised at how much there was to do. I have been to other shows at eventcity and hadn’t realised just how much floor space there is available. You certainly couldn’t see all the rides and attractions from the entrance area. I was given a map which was nice although you wouldn’t need it to get around. I liked how much space there was between rides and attractions, I can’t imagine it would ever feel crowded in there. There was defiantly space to bring a pushchair if younger siblings were to attend. Under 3’s are free which is great to keep families together, I’m really not keen on places that charge for babies who wouldn’t be able to go on any rides. I wasn’t able to count how many rides there are as there were so many. There is something suitable for all ages, adults too! I know the boy would have been able to go on quite a few rides there and he’s now 3 years and 4 months. He would have loved the carousel and the bouncy castle amongst others.
I did wonder if the food choices would be limited to burgers and fast food but I was pleasantly surprised to see there was lots of choice including a noodle bar and wild boar burgers! There was a coffee hut and a bar selling mulled wine, if I hadn’t been driving I’d have got into the festive spirit and enjoyed a nice hot mulled wine! There wasn’t a huge amount of seating but there’s far too much to be seeing and doing to sit down for very long and since its indoors even if all the seating was taken you could always picnic on the carpeted floor!
I didn’t get chance to check out the toilets but when I’ve used them in the past there, they have been lovely and clean. I did pop my head in the baby change area and noted it had a sofa which would be ideal for breastfeeding if you wanted to get away from the main hustle and bustle.
I’ve not even mentioned the attractions yet, there is a love Sooty show, a large circus inside a traditional circus tent and princess meet and greet. As I was walking past the princess meet and greet they were singing the songs from Frozen which the children were very much enjoying, I could barely see the characters as it was very popular, so I’d advise getting there early if your children are fans! The times for each show are displayed on a board on the way in.
I certainly can’t wait to go back and take the boy, I love that it won’t matter what the weather is like because it’s all under cover!
I was given two tickets to the press evening but most importantly all the opinions are truthful and my own.
When the boy was a baby over 3 years ago, sleep time was a massive source of anxiety for me. I’d not had much experience of babies and I certainly wasn’t prepared for how little sleep was involved. Other people had warned me but I never really knew what sleep deprivation was like until I had a baby! The worse piece of advice ever given to me was “Sleep when the baby sleeps”
So the few minutes that he decides to nap if it’s not when I’m driving then it means the only time in the day when I can eat, drink, go to the toilet, tidy up a few things as the house usually looked like an explosion in a nappy factory. So sleeping when the baby sleeps in my case was impossible. A couple of my mummy friends were blessed with sleepy babies, meaning I hardly ever saw them awake. Now that really would have been like a ‘dream’ for me! I had the opposite, my baby was always awake! Like always! He’d occasionally nap in the pram if I was pushing it – so again no sleep for me! And if I dared to stop pushing it then he’d be wide awake again…..within seconds. The same with the car, he’s eventually fall asleep and as soon as the car was stopped, even at traffic lights then he’d be awake. It was whilst reading a baby book when the boy was little that I came across the idea of using white noise to help babies sleep. So I got an app on my phone and tried it one day, it certainly had a calming effect! The problem came of course that it wasn’t just the boy who could hear it, it was everyone. And the second problem was that it was my phone. I needed the phone so couldn’t leave it in the pram or in his bed at night, I wish the Gro-hush had been out back then!
When Flixster came along I was prepared. I was prepared for the lack of sleep this time, I was prepared for the lack of daytime napping and so I embraced it. Instead of worrying about when and how he was going to nap if he looked tired I’d pop him in a baby carrier or sling and let him nap on me whilst I got on with regular everyday stuff and while he was still small this worked like magic. It was great to be able to know where ever I was I could just pop him in the carrier and he’d have a nap. No he’s older though I’d really love him to go for naps in his cot so that I can do things a little easier. I’d also like him to sleep in his cot at night, which he currently doesn’t as we co-sleep.
I am however not open to the idea of cry it out or any type of ‘sleep training’. I am and always will be a gentle mummy who believes in patience and very gentle ways to help my babies sleep. I know in time that this phase with Flixster will pass and until then I will be there for him whenever he needs me. At night-time we have always had white noise playing beside the bed from the phone so he is used to hearing that sound. When I was offered the chance to try the Gro-hush it made perfect sense to me. I loved the idea that it was portable and especially that only he would be able to hear it, I didn’t actually believe that claim but having tried it quite a few times now I can testify that it’s true. It really can only be heard by the baby and no one else! It comes packed inside a lovely travel box which is not much bigger than the unit so would fit easily into a changing bag. It uses 3 x AAA batteries to make it work which aren’t supplied with the unit. They are fitted under the removable cover and you’ll need a screwdriver to install them. I was pleased to see the soft cover is washable, a great feature in my opinion. Its super easy to operate and only has three buttons with an elastic strap to hold it gently to babies ear.
I didn’t even need to read the instructions to see how it worked. There are a choice of three sounds, white noise, heartbeat and rain on a tin roof. Once the button is pressed the relevant button is illuminated by a gentle white light and the sounds begins playing, once pressed the sound then continues for 10 minutes before stopping and the unit turns off.
Now for the big question – does it work?
It’s called the Gro-hush baby calmer rather than a sleep device and I think this is a genuine description. It really has managed to calm Flixster down. I’ve been giving it a good try over the last few days in various situations. As Flixster has been getting a little moany and groany the way babies do when they are tired, sometimes crying a little, I have reached for the Gro-hush putting it up to his ear and the distraction combined with the soothing sounds has given him the opportunity to relax himself and gently ease him off to sleep. It’s certainly shortened the time its taken him to drift off. I love also that it’s so portable. I’ve been able to use it in the car at times when I am unable to pick him up for a cuddle. At the moment I sit next to him in the back seat when we travel as without being able to see someone he screams, so it was nice that when he got a little upset I was able to soothe him gently while still continuing our journey.
Blurry action shot!
I love how soft the brushed cotton cover is and I know given the level of sound that it’s not doing his ears any damage. I have certainly been surprised at how well he’s taken to it. The Gro-hush can be used perfectly safely from birth, I think it would make a great new baby present and I wish I’d know about it back when Flixster was a newborn, I think it would have made the early night times a little easier. Even while using it on my lap one night this week I was still able to hear the television, something I wouldn’t be able to do with other white noise. It’s far easier than trying to use an app on the phone that’s for sure!
I was given a Gro-hush for the purpose of this review but most importantly the opinions are truthful and all my own.