Elf Adventure Challenge at the Ice Cream Farm

Saturday, 15 December 2018

We were invited along to do a review of the Elf Adventure Challenge at The Ice Cream Farm.

We kept the Challenge a surprise for the kids today. Their Elf on the Shelf was found sledging with some mini elves this morning and then left them some hats and a note to say that it was their turn to be Elves today! Little did they know that they would be training as Elves!

On arrival at the Tipi tent, we were greeted by Grandpa Elf and issued with our tickets. Then we were taken inside and introduced to Baubles and GlitterBella.

The first thing was to learn the Elf March. Be warned that it is quite catchy and will get stuck in your head!

Parent participation is expected as you work as a team to complete the challenges. I won't give too much away about the activities as it will spoil the experience, however you might be able to get the gist from the pictures.

There are 4 Challenges to complete and the Elves keep up the chatter and banter throughout. They are very animated and energetic which is great. The time goes really quickly as you get absorbed in trying to help the kids complete each activity. The Challenges are interspersed with some singing and the Elf March again at the end.

The children had great fun taking part in all the activities. I think their favourite was the one with the snowballs! They got fully involved with it all and it was so fun to watch them. I loved their dancing and singing!

There was the chance for photos at the end before leaving the Tipi.

The kids took part in this Challenge last year as I booked it as a surprise for them on Christmas Eve. It was fun to do it again as Master R could get much more involved this year. The games have been refined and improved for this year. The space is much better in the Tipi tent and was well decorated with some lovely trees and props.

Afterwards we went for an obligatory ice cream! Well, ice cream for the kids and hot drinks to warm the adults up! Despite the fact that it was absolutely freezing today, the kids still wanted to play outside so we bundled them up in their snowsuits and let them run around using the countdown clock on the Ice Cream Tree to mark when their time was up. We were the only ones mad enough to be outside in the play area!

Find out more about the Elf Adventure Challenge at The Ice Cream Farm and book online. Tickets cost £11.50 per person or £40 for a family. All children receive a free copy of the storybook 'Sprout's Elf Adventure Challenge' and a Graduation Certificate. It is a fun experience that the kids will remember. Miss A came straight home and told our Elf on the Shelf that they had Graduated as Elves like him! So if you're looking for something slightly different to do with the kids this Christmas then I would definitely recommend the Elf Adventure Challenge.

Disclaimer:  We were kindly provided with free tickets for the Elf Adventure Challenge in return for this review but all opinions are my own.

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Elf on the Shelf 2017

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Last year was our first year of Elf on the Shelf and it was so fun seeing the kids' reactions every morning!

I thought I'd do a quick summary of what our Elf got up to last year. So if you're looking for some Elf on the Shelf ideas then maybe these might inspire you!

Day 1: Our elf arrived along with the kids advent calendars. Miss A named him 'Elfie the Welfie' and we watched The Elf Story DVD which was a good introduction for the kids.

Day 2: All aboard the Shoe Shoe Train! Miss A found this really funny and the first thing she said was 'Elfie has been up to mischief!'.

Day 3: The kids were off to a soft play party today so Elfie thought he'd join in with his own ball pit! Master R particularly enjoyed the ball pit that Elfie left for them in the bath!

Day 4: Miss A told Elfie off this morning as you're not allowed to play on the stairs!

Day 5: Elfie didn't get up to any mischief but instead brought everything needed to write a letter to Santa.

Day 6: They're grrrrrreat! Elfie was trying to impersonate Tony the Tiger this morning!

Day 7: Miss A was naughty yesterday so Elfie was sad and didn't get up to any mischief. Instead there was a letter from Santa asking her to be good (one for Master R too about his sleeping in the night or lack of it!). Miss A was a different girl that day!

Day 8: Elfie was back up to mischief! Miss A thought it was hilarious that he'd photocopied his bottom!

Day 9: Elfie knew that we were going to get our Christmas tree so he had a drive and found his own one. He'd also brought with him a magic tree for the kids to grow.

Day 10: Spider-elf! Miss A was off to a superhero party so Elfie decided to try being Spider-Man and brought Miss A a costume to wear! She was thrilled and the costume went straight on over her PJs!

Day 11: Snow ball fight! Elfie re-enacted what he saw Miss A and her Daddy doing in the garden the day before when we had snow!

Day 12: Elfie put his wrapping skills to the test in our living room! He not only wrapped the TV, but the remote control and the cushions on the sofa!

Day 13: Miss A was an angel in her school nativity play and Elfie wanted to try being one too! He'd even evicted our Christmas tree angel who was found sulking on the shelf!

Day 14: Elfie managed to tame the dinosaurs and decided to take them for a walk! Master R particularly enjoyed Elfie's antics on this day. I was amazed that he didn't really touch Elfie or if he did then he was really gentle with him.

Day 15: Gone fishing! Elfie thought he'd have a go at a spot of fishing.

Day 16: Elfie was found hosting a reading group for some of the toys.

Day 18: Zip wire fun for Elfie. He didn't make an appearance the day before as we struggled a bit with Miss A's behaviour as she was just so tired from school. So he made a dramatic reappearance on a zip wire!

Day 19: A Christmas bath awaited the kids. He left them a message in the morning and then whilst they were out he got busy decorating the bathroom. They also had some Christmas bath toys to play with. Miss A's reaction was brilliant and she wanted a bath straightaway!

Day 20: Christmas Jumper Day at school so Elfie thought he'd try everyone's on for size. He did have his very own new jumper to wear for the day too!

Day 21: Sprinkle angel! Elfie left some nice sweet treats to make.

Day 22: Sledging with some very special new friends! By far my favourite Elfie antic. I love the mini elves of Miss A and Master R.

Day 23: When Elfie got stuck up the chimney, he began to shout! You boys and girls won't get any toys, if you don't colour this in... Or something like that! He bought a fab play house for the kids to play in.

Elfie was extra kind as along with the colour-in house in the morning, he left some popcorn and his favourite movie for the afternoon. Have to admit I'd never seen the film Elf and I've still only see some of it but Miss A enjoyed it.

Day 24: North Pole Breakfast and a goodbye letter from Elfie with tickets to an Elf Adventure Challenge in the afternoon. Going to miss the little guy!

It's safe to say that Elfie is here to stay as Miss A started talking about him as soon as we started mentioning Christmas. We'll be having lots of fun with Elfie again this year. I'll do a round up of what he gets up to - can't promise that there won't be some repeats but the kids don't seem to mind!

Would love to know what's been most popular with your kids and your Elf on the Shelf? Let me know in the comments.

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Buying a Real Christmas Tree at Delamere Forest

Thursday, 6 December 2018

We were fortunate to be invited along to do a review of the Real Christmas Trees that are for sale at Delamere Forest.

We weren't sure if we were going to have a real tree this year and did purchase an artificial one in the January Sales. However when the Forestry Commission contacted me about a review, then it helped us decide that it would be nice to have a real tree again!

Going and picking a real tree is a fun experience for the kids. And the kids had a really great time tonight. It was a great opportunity to go as it was late night opening and was quite quiet. 

We actually bought our tree from Delamere last year. It was quite different as it snowed that day. I remember we had a really dicey drive there, slipping and sliding around on the roads. It was lovely to see all the trees covered in snow and made the whole sales centre quite magical. We didn't want to stay around too long though as it was very very cold and we had to brave driving back home in the snow!

When we arrived the kids had fun being elves, reindeer and snowman whilst we waited for Mr MoaB to meet us from work. 

We then took a walk around the Sales Centre and headed towards the festive Tipi. This really is beautiful inside with a fire burning and lots of fairy lights. It's so inviting. 

To the kids great delight we found Father Christmas and they had the most amazing chat with him. He was the loveliest Father Christmas we've met.

Father Christmas was making a special appearance for the late night opening. There is a Santa's Grotto on-site which is open at weekends. You don't need to book for this, you just turn up and queue. This is priced at £8 per child and £2 per adult. 

Delamere Events are providing the food and drinks in this Tipi. Mr MoaB was starving after work so grabbed a portion of chips to tide him over! There are lots of hot food and drink options including mulled wine. 

It was then time to choose our tree! We'd already decided that we wanted to get a Nordman Fir Tree. We found this section and then worked our way up the sizes before settling on the 5ft trees. There were a lot to choose from so we randomly picked a few out for inspection. The kids just enjoyed running up and down amongst them all. The site is well lit with floodlights so you can have a good look at the trees even when it's dark as it was tonight. Staff are on hand if you need help with selection or carrying your tree. Miss A proved really helpful with carrying ours!

Prices for trees start from £30, depending on the size and species of tree. All are sustainable UK-grown trees. With every tree you buy, you receive a free Christmas tree sapling so you can grow your own!

The whole experience was really easy. Once selected we took it to be netted up and then it was time to head home. We'll be decorating our tree at the weekend. 

Find out more about the Christmas Trees at Delamere Forest. We know the forest well so you could easily make a day of it by going for a nice walk, maybe finding the Gruffalo statue, then stopping to buy your tree on the way home.

Disclaimer:  We were kindly provided with a free Christmas Tree in return for this review but all opinions are my own.

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Santa's Grotto at Bridgemere Garden Centre - Review

Friday, 30 November 2018

We were fortunate to be invited along to do a review of the Santa's Grotto at Bridgemere Garden Centre near Nantwich, which is part of the Wyevale Group.

We used to make an annual visit to the Winter Wonderland at World's End, Wendover and it became a bit of a family tradition. Then we moved away so we couldn't visit anymore. I jumped at the chance when we were invited to meet Father Christmas and review the experience.

The Grotto is situated amongst all the Christmas decorations and displays. You do need to book in advance for the Grotto and full details can be found on the Wyevale website. We arrived 10 minutes or so before our chosen time slot and collected a time card then took a little wander around the Christmas decoration displays before heading back at 2.30pm. There was a small queue of other people with the same time slot. I think the maximum number of children per group is 10 accompanied by a maximum of 2 adults per booking. I don't think you'd want anymore than that.

I was impressed that it was running pretty much to time so we didn't wait long before being welcomed in to Mrs Claus' kitchen. She was there with her Elf assistant.

If you don't want too much of a spoiler, then please skip this paragraph! Mrs Claus' spoke to the children and then there was the opportunity for each child to 'plant' a magic bean. The kids were each given a plant pot, then some paper tinsel as soil and a white bean to plant. They wrote their own names on plant markers to identify each child's pot. These were then put in to the 'Magical Sprouting Chamber'.

The room was beautifully decorated. My only feedback was that Mrs Claus' spoke quite quietly so you had to listen very hard in the room filled with people and small children. Also the characters could have been a little bit more animated to really engage and enthuse the children.

Another Elf appeared and took us to be introduced to Father Christmas. The room was quite large with lovely decorations. Father Christmas was in one corner next to a a beautiful tree. Along the back wall of the room were displayed all the present toys which the children could choose one from.

You don't actually get a personal experience with Father Christmas but the kids just take it in turns to have a chat with him. He was really lovely and spoke nicely to the kids asking them questions. I was conscious that other people were all watching and waiting for their opportunity but it didn't feel like you had to rush too much. There was plenty of opportunity to take your own photos and unlike a lot of other Grottos, there's no official photographer. We took some pictures just of the kids and then asked another family to take some family photos of us. I'm really pleased with how they've come out!

The kids then moved away to the toy shelves to pick from the wide range of toys available for all ages. It was quite hard to make a decision, particularly for Miss A. In the end, after a lot of deliberation, she chose a Reindeer soft toy and we helped Master R choose some toy cars with a play mat.

I was expecting this to be the end of the experience but then we all lead into another room where we met a third Elf in the Elves Garden. We had to repeat the magic spell and Miss A got to hold the magic wand so she was chuffed! The Potting Shed was then opened to reveal real mini magical Christmas trees which had 'grown' from the magic seeds. This was a really nice touch as each had the child's name marker on it.

The space around the potting shed was quite tight and felt a bit cramped for the children to see and then it suddenly did feel a little rushed to leave at this point. I would have liked to have a little more time to look at the lovely displays in this room. A lot of work has gone in to them and nice detail, but I think our time was up. As we left, the kids were presented with a paper bag filled with decorations for their trees. Some baubles, ribbons and thin tinsel. The kids set straight to work decorating their trees when we got home - here's the finished result!

We spent some more time looking at the decorations and gave the kids the chance to pick a new decoration each for our own tree at home. Plus bought a few other decorations. Each weekend the Garden Centre have additional Christmas activities on. That day it was face painting but the lady was just packing up by the time we passed her table. It's worth looking at the Bridgemere Facebook page for details of what's on. As well as the Christmas displays, there is also a Snow Globe. They also offer the chance to book Breakfast or Tea with Santa.

I hadn't really planned where we were going to go to see Father Christmas this year so was very grateful for this opportunity to see him at Bridgemere Garden Centre. I deliberately hadn't looked at too much information before our visit so I could give it a fair review with not too many expectations.

The Grotto costs £10 per child but you don't have to pay for accompanying adults, which is good. Initially I thought the toy value was a bit low compared to our experience a few years ago at World's End. However, I was impressed that the kids not only got a toy but a mini tree plus a good amount of decorations so I think you do get your money's worth. 

Find out more about the Christmas Grottos at Wyevale Gardens Centres and book online. Each Grotto is different. You can also read more about our experience of the Christmas Grotto and Winter Wonderland in 2016Winter Wonderland in 2015 and the Winter Wonderland in 2014.

Disclaimer:  We were kindly provided with free entry into the Christmas Grotto in return for this review but all opinions are my own.

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Living with Cancer - 2 Years of Treatment

Friday, 23 November 2018

2 years ago today I had my first chemo treatment so I thought it was time for another update on what's happening with me as I continue to undergo cancer treatment.

For those who aren't familiar with my personal story, I have incurable cancer. I was diagnosed at the end of 2016, just 6 months after our 2nd child was born. We relocated to Cheshire after my first round of treatment and I've been under the care of the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre ever since. I am currently on a drug called Kadcyla and I have had 20 rounds of it.

I originally went public with diagnosis in February 2017 and you can read more about this in my original Living with Cancer post. Since my last update after A Year of Treatment, I am in a pretty good place. I've had a year of no changes to my treatment so I know what I'm dealing with each time. My treatment is still every 3 weeks and thankfully I have very few side effects apart from fatigue for about the first week. I know that this is not always the case and others have a whole variety of side effects. I am definitely fortunate. Having looked back, there are very few 'cancer' pictures of me from the last year. I think that just goes to show that other than treatment days, it's having minimal impact on my day to day life.

Following a scan back in May, I found out that there had been slight progression which was so disappointing to hear. I find it so hard to get my head around that this disease is doing it's own thing inside my body and yet I don't have any symptoms. I know this is a very good thing and I dread the time when I start having symptoms. However, after discussion with my amazing Doctor, we decided that I would stay on my current drug and I was more than happy with this as I know this drug and how I feel on it. I just wanted to get to our Wedding at this point!

On 15th September we had our Big Day!! It was such an amazing day and we couldn't have asked for it to be any better. I thought I would an emotional wreck on the day as it's so hard knowing that I will definitely make Mr MoaB a widow at some point in the near future, but instead it was such a happy occasion. We were surrounded by our nearest and dearest. So many people traveled so far to share our day and make it so special. The kids had an absolutely fab day and were so good. We were so proud of them on the day. It's so nice to now share the family name with them. So many happy memories from the day.

The kids continue to keep me going and I am cherishing all the time I am given to see them growing up and their characters developing. Of course, I couldn't get through all this without the support and love of Mr MoaB and I'm so happy to now be his wife. A massive thank you to Mr MoaB for everything.

On 28th September I did a 10 kilometre walk around Liverpool in support of Maggie's. This charity helps and supports people like me with cancer, along with their friends and families. I am lucky that there is a Maggies' Centre at Clatterbridge. Treatment days for me are always really long, sometimes up to 6 hours, most of which is just spent waiting. I spend more time in Maggie's than on the actual treatment ward. It is my haven on these days and keeps me going with the endless supply of tea & biscuits on offer. I have met so many lovely people there, some that are now dear friends. It's somewhere I can talk openly and know that people will understand. I am so grateful that Maggie's is there and the door is always open and I'm so glad I was able to help raise funds for this amazing cause whilst I still feel well and able to participate in the experience. Thank you to all those who sponsored me and helped me to raise over £900.

I continue to surprise people when I tell them about my cancer for the first time. They are always shocked as you really wouldn't have any idea from the outside! That's a good thing. I obviously never look that ill even on my off days! In March I started going to yoga classes again. I've always enjoyed yoga and it's so nice to have a few hours each week where I focus on me.

I have 2 more rounds of treatment this year. My Doctor has postponed any more scans etc. until the New Year for which I am very grateful as it means we can enjoy all the festivities of Christmas without any scanxiety or tough decisions to make about treatment etc. I'm so looking forward to Christmas this year.

So that's where we're at 2 years down the line of having incurable cancer. The majority of the time I go around in my little bubble and it's quite easy to forget I have the horrible disease inside me as I'm so well and able to live life normally. There are times when it hits me like a brick and I have moments of dreading what lies ahead and having to face getting more poorly and leaving everyone behind, but for now I'll stay positive and do what I can to make the memories for Mr MoaB and the kids.

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Me & Mine - October 2018

Joining up with the Me and Mine Family Portrait Project with these photos of our family for October.

October Highs:
  • - xxx

October Lows:
  • - xxx

The Me + Mine Project - Dear Beautiful

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Half Term Fun at The Ice Cream Farm

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Following our visit to the Ice Cream Farm in the summer holidays, we were invited back again this week to see the new Playhouse Show.

We arrived when the Farm opened today. It was nice and quiet which meant the kids could have a really good run around outside and play in the outdoor playground. This area is always a hit with the kids. It's the main area of the Farm that is totally free to use. Most of the other areas you need to pay for either with cash or a Play Pass.

We met a few family members at the Farm so went for a coffee in The Pantry and then back outside for another play. We then took a wander to see the animals. The kids then wanted a go on Marshmallow Mound - the inflatable pillow. We used our Play Pass for these and as per last time. the kids spent more time on the larger pillow with the big kids than on the smaller one!

We headed back to The Pantry for a spot of lunch and then it was our Playhouse show time so I took the kids to the Tipi Theatre to see Betty Butterscotch's School of Magic. Miss A immediately recognised the characters from when we saw the Summer show. The kids really enjoyed the songs and particularly the dancing at the end as all the children were invited up to the area in-front of the stage to have a dance. Miss A was trying really hard to copy the dance moves of the actors.

The performance is just 35 minutes which is a good length for Master R in particular. It was nice that the cast offered to have pictures with the audience members at the end.

See the Ice Cream Farm website for details of Playhouse show dates and times. The show is a nice addition and something different to do on your visit, particularly if you have been to the Farm before. It's fairly priced at £4 a ticket for children, £1 for adults. It's worth booking online in advance as you get a Single Play Pass worth £4.50. Also, if you wear fancy dress to watch the show then you are entered in to a draw to win a VIP Pass worth £100.

With all the talk of Ice Cream in the show, we met back up with the rest of our group and went to the Parlour for an ice-cream. It's always a hard decision what flavour to choose! A final play in the playground and then it was time to for home with Miss A asking when she can go back to the Ice Cream Farm again!

Along with tickets to the show we were kindly gifted a Play Pass to use for some of the activities. I paid for all our food and ice creams.

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