Friday 31 August 2012

Anticipating Mintfest 2012

If you have been in Kendal recently you wouldn't have failed to notice the huge banners and all the advertising for Mintfest 2012. This is one of the highlights of the year in Kendal that we were introduced to in 2010 not long after moving here.

It is the international festival of street theatre and the town centre will be full of sights such as these:

Things kicked off tonight in the rain but tomorrow from 12 the main event kicks off. I will be there with my children to enjoy the free entertainment and soak up the atmosphere. Here is hoping the forecast is correct and it stays dry....

Thursday 30 August 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful: End of Summer ( #R2BC )

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Thanks everyone who joined in when I hosted last week's linky this week the host is Angie so please go and check it all out over there! Back to my reasons to be cheerful this week:

1) Toys R Us Toyologists

My family have been picked as one of the 24 families to review Toys R Us toys and games in the run up to Christmas. You will be able to read our views here  on the blog, on the Toys R Us Toy Box and the Toys R Us UK Facebook page. We are looking forward to putting toys for 4-6 year olds through their paces so you can get a heads up before Christmas.

2) Girl Time

I don't often get time to spend alone with my daughter as her brother always seems to want to tag along! So it was fabulous to have a whole afternoon this Sunday just with her. It was a super girlie fest with lunch at Pizza Express, watching Brave at the cinema in 3D (whilst holding hands), listening to a live band at the Brewery before walking home. Being just the two of us was truly lovely:

3) Paralympics

The end of the Olympics left a bit of a gap and was a let down after all the excitement. My son is still aspiring to be the next Usain Bolt (or Jessica Ennis) so I hope that 2 more weeks of top sporting action will keep him going! The opening ceremony was incredible so let's hope the action lives up to that!

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Wednesday Review: Schleich Bayala Elves

Sponsored Post

We were sent a set of the new Bayala Elves and mystical character from Schleich for my daughter to review. They are aimed at girls aged 4-8 so perfect for her. We have previously enjoyed several Schleich models and these lived up to their expected standards of detail and quality.

These are the characters we were sent:

Magnolia Elf (around £5)

The magnolia elf loves dancing across the lovely summer meadows with their wonderful blossoms. She knows every flower in the meadow and forest. She likes to gather them up into beautiful bouquets. Her soft wings gleam in the sunlight when she flies around her flower house.

Feya (from £2.40)

When she laughs, the whole world beams around her. The flowers bend their blossoms towards her and the birds excitedly sing their loveliest songs. When, with her best friend, the proud princess Eyela, she flies across the sun-drenched expanses of their realm, the pair appear more graceful than the loveliest butterflies. Feya’s golden hair and pink dress merge in flight with her wonderful laughter. When she strolls across the meadows in front of House Summergreen, she captures the hearts of all.

A Magical Asian Being (from £7.99)

The world of Bayala is full of magical and mysterious creatures. The magical Asian being can only be seen on clear, moonlit nights in the white forests of the Dragon Mountains. Sometimes, on very rare occasions, it shows itself to the elf children. Just how it gets to the elves' meadows unseen will likely remain a mystery for ever.

She instantly loved them and she and her brother were inspired to build a magical forest for the characters to play in:

This gave a real outlet for imaginative play.

It was great that it allowed them to use their creative skills to make the little fantasy world using a surplus floorboard and nature items they collected on a walk.

If you look closely the elves appear very lifelike when seen through the various plants!

These three are just a small part of the fantasy world of Bayala that a child could easily build up saving up their pocket money or as presents. Definitely a hit in our house and I'm sure they will be asking for new additions to the collection for birthday and Christmas.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

North Wales Part 2: Industrial Heritage

Finally got time to follow on from Part 1 of what we got up to in Wales. That was all about castles this time we its about the parts of the Welsh Industrial Heritage we visited on our holiday.

Ffestiniog Railway

This was a day out for all 3 generations as the Ffestiniog Railway takes you on a steam journey up through Snowdonia from Porthmadog on the coast to Blaenau Ffestiniog in the heart of slate country. There are some lovely views on the way including a distant view of Snowdon itself:

The journey took about an hour and 3/4 and has a few stops at little stations on the way. Many of them looked tempting to get off and explore the wonderful woods and walks in the National Park but we were on a mission to visit the slate caverns at Llechwedd outside Blaenau. 

When we got off the train in the pouring rain and used a mini bus taxi to get to the slate caverns.

Llechwedd Slate Caverns

Llechwedd is a working slate operation but they have opened up the old underground workings as a tourist attraction. You can wander around the surface for free but to go underground you have to buy a ticket. We opted to do both the tramway and the deep mine tours.

The tramway took us into the old workings so we could see the conditions that the Victorian miners had to cope with for 12 hours a day 5 days a week (only 6 on a Saturday!). They gave us a talk on how they extracted the slate and the lives of the quarrymen who generally died by their early 40s due to the lung diseases caused by stone particles. It was cold and damp in the mines and it must have been a very tough job.

We then explored the restored little village on the surface and had lunch in a pub made out of 2 former miner's cottages. There was a little quiz for the children that needed answers from many of the buildings in this area including a sweet shop:

Then we queued for nearly an hour to take our Deep Mine tour, luckily my daughter made friends with the children behind us and my son played games on the iPhone. It was well worth the wait though as we descended deep down approximately 500 feet below the ground. It was even colder and damper down here and they keep the lighting to a minimum to show you what it was like:

Down here there were more factual displays about miners lives and events. It all made for an interesting tour and there were also some lovely water filled areas. 

It was then back to the station for a return train ride:

This time we had a good chance to look at the steam locomotive which pulled our train as it needed to re-fill with water after a fast ascent up from Porthmadog:

They are double ended as they needed the extra power to pull the loads of slate down to the coast from the slate works. It was a drier journey back down to Porthmadog with more lovely views of woods, mountains and even Harlech castle in the distance. A lovely journey back in time and the railway and the stations have been wonderfully restored by the volunteers:

All in all a wonderful family day out for all the generations and a peek at the industrial heritage of North Wales.

Monday 27 August 2012

Monday Toy Review: Ravensburger Mini Memory

Sponsored Post

Memory games with cards are something that I have enjoyed since I was a little child. Ravensburger have brought out some character versions of these games:

  • Mike the Knight
  • Moshi Monsters
  • Thomas and Friends
  • Minnie Mouse
  • Hello Kitty
  • Disney Princess
We were sent the Thomas version for me to try out with my son:

The cards are smaller than standard playing cards (hence the name Mini) and there are 24 pairs to try and find. Each pair is a different character from the Thomas and Friends stories and between us we could name all of them.

A quick and simple game to play and learn. I did have to stop my son from cheating though! He wasn't too keen on the fact that I won either but I was happy about it. I am sure that with practice he will start to beat me and its a great brain training tool.

Each set retails for around £4 though this seems to vary between retailers. A great stocking filler or small gift for a child that is fun for all the family.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Saturday Review: Scatter Brainz

Sponsored Post
My son was sent an 8 pack and a 3 pack of a new collectable for boys called Scatter Brainz:

They are highly designed to appeal to boys and make their mums go yuck as they are little darts with sticky brains that you throw at a target (apparently they can leave marks if thrown at painted walls):

With 64 in the collection they are also designed to be swapped with your friends. There is a handy chart on the back of the target to tick them off:

The initial pack comes at about £9.99 which would be a stand alone set. You can also buy a mental storage case for approximately £19.99 or a bazooka launcher for £14.99.

My children enjoyed throwing the darts with their friends and checking out the characters on them. For us the 11 darts are enough but I'm sure that many boys would want to add to their collection and my son may well do as he gets older. They are new on the market at the minute so not all of them are available everywhere yet.

Friday 24 August 2012

Friday App Review: Peppa Pig's Sports Day

Sponsored Post

If your child is a Peppa Pig fan and inspired by the Olympics then this is a perfect app for your iPad or iPhone. It includes a range of sports events, ice cream making and rosette design. As an app aimed at young children all the controls and games are very simple,

Up to four players can choose their favourite characters to take part in the events. Then all they need to do is tap in their little circle to either make them go faster or jump.

The events are obstacle race, long jump, cycling and tug of war. After each event the winner is announced:

And trophy awarded:

For the ice cream making they have to tap on the ingredients and then stir:

My 5 year old played this at a party with lots of other children aged 2+. They all really enjoyed having a go together. This would definitely be a good addition to your apps collection if your child is the right age.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful: Wales edition ( #R2BC )

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

It is with great pleasure that I am hosting this week's Reasons to be Cheerful whilst Michelle has some well earned family time. Next week the host will be Angie so don't forget to go there! And now here are my reasons to be cheerful this week:

1) Family Holidays

I have had a lovely week away camping with my children and my parents at a campsite at Cim near Abersoch on the Lleyn Peninsula in north Wales. It was wonderful to be on a quiet little tucked away campsite with my family. Camping has to be the best way to spend a relaxing family holiday (apart from putting up and taking down the tent!). The campsite was about a 20 minute walk from a very quiet and beautiful beach:

2) My Children

They can be such a delight to be with when we are having a holiday together. Sharing the pleasures of new and exciting experiences with them really puts a smile on my face.

3) Welsh Family History

For the first time I got to visit the place (Trefriw) where my great grandfather Owen Evan Jones was born in 1875. Walking down the roads and seeing the church where he may have worshipped as a child was a wonderful feeling. Not enough time to try and find any of the homes he or his ancestors lived in but at least I have a feel for where he spent his early days:

So what is making you cheerful this week? Please join in!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

North Wales Part 1: Castles

Life Unexpected

The north west of Wales is chock full of wonderful medieval castles built by Edward I to suppress the Welsh and control Snowdonia. They are amazing examples of the high point of castle building. We were lucky on our holiday to visit and see a few of them.

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle is one of the most well known of Edward's castles as it is associated with Princes of Wales. The castle is maintained by CADW and so free to English Heritage members.

The castle has 13 towers to explore with plenty of spiral staircases to exercise the legs:

Passages to explore:

And battlements to discover:

There is also the museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers with plenty of fascinating facts and memorabilia:

All in all a brilliant castle for all 3 generations to enjoy, we will be back!

Criccieth Castle

We didn't get a chance to get into this castle but we passed it several times and had one chance to stop and get some photos:

Definitely on my hit list for a return visit!

Beaumaris Castle

Built on Anglesey to guard the northern end of the Menai Strait and the grain crops on the island this is a double ringed castle:

The castle was never completed to its full height as money ran out but the outer battlements were still high enough for defensive purposes:

The castle must have been very impressive when completed with its Inner Ward on a scale like this:

Another great trip for all the family.