Thursday 30 May 2013

The New SEA LIFE Centre, Trafford Park, Manchester

We've been looking forward to the new SEA LIFE Centre in Manchester's Trafford Centre opening for a long while. We've followed their progress via their Facebook page with anticipation, and on our last two visits to Legoland Discovery Centre we've stopped and looked at the advertising boards excitedly.

SeaLife Trafford Centre Manchester Review

It was brilliant to find out that Blogs Up North had managed to secure a visit BEFORE it even opened to the general public, and during half term week too!

The Brick Castle On Tour
Six Children And Me - On Our Way
Legoland Sea Life Centre Barton Square Car Park
The impressive full wall of artwork that greets you in the Barton Square Car Park
When we arrived we were a little early, and it was lovely to get together four Izziwizzi Kids Toy Testers in one photo, including two who I have never met - Tami from Mummy Of Two and Zoe from My Mummy's World, plus Pippa from Red Rose Mummy

Manchester Bloggers

We were even joined by Alex Winters, the CBeebies presenter and his family, and if you ever get the chance to meet him then please do because he is an incredibly patient and lovely man, and he told me off for suggesting that boy no.3's curls need cutting!

Alex Winters Of CBeebies meet and greet

In the foyer, where you may have to wait for entry, are a map and a big tank to whet your appetite...

SEaLife Manchester foyer fish tank
A really impressive tank, and this is only the foyer!
Map showing the tanks and display areas in the SEA LIFE Centre, Trafford Park

After entering you immediately go through to a long room where a really accessible and fun talk is given about Turtles, their eggs and hatchlings. It's all done with fantastic lighting effects and was very impressive. The children are encouraged to join in and, when we asked him to tell Daddy about it tonight, even my 3 year old could explain how the city lights make the baby turtles go the wrong way looking for the sea!

After the show you enter an amazing round room with a tank running all the way around it. There is a huge shoal of fish which constantly swim through the water. It was stunning.

SEaLife Manchester huge circular fish tank aquarium
Collage of images SeaLife Manchester Trafford Centre
There are an array of different tanks, windows and tunnels

And even a talking turtle who will answer your questions

Unfortunately the soft play area wasn't quite ready for us but, if the Legoland Discovery Centre next door is anything to go by, it's certain to be a hit!

The walls are full of information and great artwork
Square Ray Tank aquarium SeaLife Manchester Trafford Centre
There is a huge square tank full of Rays....
Sea Horse SeaLife Manchester Trafford Centre

Touch Pool SeaLife Manchester Trafford Centre
And a fabulous Touch Pool where we looked at Hermit Crabs and Shore Crabs
Something to excite my youngest...
Conger Eel SeaLife Manchester Trafford Centre
....Conger Eels!
 The SEA LIFE Centre in Manchester have a special focus on rescued turtles and they have a collaboration with the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece (Archelon)

 The SEA LIFE Centre was still in the final stages of preparation when we visited, but one of our children spotted something very exciting....

A Green Screen for special effects filming
The Sealife Centre, Manchester entry cost is £16.20 or £12 online per adult or child and combi tickets with the Legoland Discovery Centre are also available. It is open from 10am until 7pm daily, with last entry at 5pm.

Glass tunnel tank SeaLife Manchester Trafford Centre

Manchester SEA LIFE Centre will also be the first SEA LIFE Centre in Europe where you can experience SEATREK - with the use of a special dive suit with a waterproof helmet actually getting into the tank with all of the sea life!

"The SEA TREK experience will cost £60 per person (including admission to the attraction) and is available
to guests aged 8 and over.  The experience will last for approximately one hour with 10 minutes under the
water.  A maximum of five people can be in the tank at one time and they will be accompanied by support divers at all times.
All wet suit equipment is provided, guests just need their own swimming costume and towel.

I'm not certain it's for me, but I know a few people who'd jump at the chance - how about you?

Before we went back to the van we had to return to Cadwalladers 3 doors away for another ice cream. Today they were selling a child's cone in any flavour for only 50p! You can't ask for more really. The perfect end to a perfect afternoon.

We were given free preview entry to the Sealife Centre, Manchester in order to review.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Potters Crouch Candles

Being a Mum to all my lot does mean that often I miss out on the niceties because there isn't the time or money or I'm too tired! One of the things I do like to spoil myself with is candles. I love to fill my house with the smell of Cinnamon or Vanilla, Toffee or something more exotic. Because we're over-run by young men florals don't go down so well in our house, but I can even get away with them sometimes.

I jumped at the chance to review two candles from Potters Crouch, a company who sell most of their candles online. All candles are handmade in the UK (in Hertfordshire to be exact). Each candle burns for around 50 hours and there are 70 different varieties to choose from in 4 different fragrance ranges - Fruits & Flowers, Fragrances Of Yesteryear, Fragrances Of The World. and Christmas Candles.

They are certainly very beautiful. I chose Sea Breeze and Summer Fruits, avoiding my more obvious favourites and trying something a bit different. The candles are presented in a tin, the lid of which serves as a stand to protect your surfaces. They tins are decorated with gorgeous paintings which are full of colour and fascinated my children, and are all original water colours painted by Jo, the person behind the company.

Inside the tin the candles themselves are also special. They have sparkly treasure and the Sea Breeze candle even has 3 little shells embedded into the wax. I also got to smell them for the first time. Both were very promising.

On the back of each tin were the care instructions, which is always handy, rather than having to remember where you put a small scrap of card.

Potters Crouch hope that you will have different smells for different rooms, you don't just fill your whole house with one anonymous scent. Each smell has moods and connotations and its own place in the house.
 I tried Sea Breeze first and found that in our huge living room the smell was lost. That was never my intention anyway, so I took the candle into the bathroom and let it rest for a while before I went in there to bath the little ones.

Sea smelling wax candle

The smell was reminiscent of the sea, and perfect for a bathroom, but it did have a soapy clean smell, so it might be that the bathroom would be the only truly appropriate place to keep it. I don't mind, I've booked an hour in the bath at the weekend and it can keep me company!

The second candle we tried was Summer Fruits...

Fruity berry smelling wax decorative candle

Summer Fruits was already deemed gorgeous before I even lit it. The smell is incredibly fruity and really bold without being sickly sweet or heady. It's fresh and juicy, but thankfully doesn't make you feel hungry! It was an all round hit and all of the children liked it as well as the adults.

The flame even has a slight pink tinge, which is soothing and warming, and the smell filled my living room much better than the Sea Breeze. This candle is gorgeous, we love it and I definitely recommend it for a living room, kitchen or hallway.

Each candle costs £8.50 and I think this is very fair for a 50 hour candle with a great range of different scents and such beautiful presentation. They make an excellent gift to give to other people (and not only to yourself because you've been so very, very good). Potters Crouch will also supply bespoke candles and candles for special occasions. Postage is very reasonable and starts at £3.50 for up to 4 candles. ...

I was sent these two candles free of charge in order to review

The Foodies Festival at Tatton Park

I get to do some great things being part of Blogs Up North, and last weekend we went to Tatton Park Foodies Festival.

The show itself was fantastic.It had a genuine festival feel and everyone was chilled and relaxed. There was live music all day and a huge array of stalls with all kinds of fantastic, quality foods. It would have been impossible to go home without a bag of treasure, especially as so many of the producers and vendors were giving out tempting samples.

Foodies stalls
Some of the specialist food producers
There was a massive choice for lunch!
We loved being out for the day in that atmosphere and not being limited to soggy chips or greasy burgers for lunch. I let our lot have a good look round and find what they wanted to eat and their choices ranged from Ribs, Gourmet Burger and Jerk Chicken to Spring Rolls and Thai Noodles. I had a meal with my VIP ticket and chose vegetable curry, which I have to say was the only disappointment of the day. It was nice and I ate it all, but it was made using frozen diced mixed veg, which I wouldn't use myself, and I wouldn't have expected to find it at a foodies event.

It was nice and busy, but definitely not overly full, so we could relax about not losing any of our 6 children we had with us. The weather was warm enough for t-shirts, but not warm enough to burn, so absolutely perfect for my pasty family.

We caught a snippet of  Steampunk baker Emilly Ladybird giving a demonstration

We even got to play in the Children's Theatre, with soup and roll making and a few science experiments too!
I was given a VIP ticket and a standard ticket, which cost £38 and £12 respectively. The VIP ticket gave me access to the VIP tent, a glass of champagne, a meal in one of the 3 main 'restaurant' stalls and a goodie bag which had a recipe book,a litre of juice and samples of California Prunes from some of the sponsors. I have to say I think the VIP ticket was overpriced, although the weather was very kind to us and had it been raining and I could stay in the comfort of the VIP tent then I might think differently.

Because feeding my lot costs a fortune I took a pack up for teatime, but I think I did us proud - they all seemed delighted once they'd filled their chosen cobs (I'm from Derby, that's what we say) with salad and cheeses and.....erm.....crisps....

There really was something for everyone, and including playing on the park after leaving the festival, we stayed all day until gone 5.30pm. We all had a really great day.

Watching the deer
Enjoying the drive home
The Foodies Festival is on tour and will be at London Clapham Common next from June 7th to 9th. For full information please see their website

Foodies Festival Tour Dates and Locations

London Clapham Common June 7, 8 and 9
Bristol Harbourside July 12, 13 and 14
Edinburgh Inverleith Park August 9, 10 and 11
FEAST Battersea Park August 16, 17 and 18
Oxford South Parks August 24, 25 and 26

I was given 1 VIP and 1 Standard ticket in order to review the festival.

Sunday 26 May 2013

My Life According To...

As soon as the gorgeous Tami from Mummy Of Two invited me to take part in this meme I knew it was a challenge worth facing as music is a real passion of mine. I don't pay attention as much as I used to, but we always have music in the house and most of the children can bash out a tune on one instrument or another.

It's really simple - answer a set of questions using song titles from a band or artist. Tami chose Pulp and had some terrific answers, including describing her partner as 'Master Of The Universe'. The only tricky bit is choosing the artist(s)....

Initially I chose The Cure because with a back catalogue of 28 albums there was an awful lot of choice, but it's kind of cheating. It also occurred to me that if I chose The Stone Roses it would be hilarious to have 'I am the resurrection' or 'I want to be adored' for  question 2 or 3, but I'll just leave that one to chuckle to myself about. I also considered umpteen others, but in the end I've settled for Bjork/The Sugarcubes....

Are you male or female…?
Possibly Maybe
 Describe yourself…?
Army Of Me
 How do you feel…?
 Describe where you currently live…?
Hidden Place (no-one can ever find my house first time)
 If you could go anywhere…?
 Your best friend is…?
 Your partner is…?
Venus As A Boy
What’s the weather like?
 Favourite time of day…?
 If your life was a book, what would it be called…?
Earth Intruders
 What is life to you…?
All Is Full Of Love
 Your last relationship…?
Human Behaviour
 Your current relationship…?
 You fear…?
 How would you like to die…?
Violently Happy
What is the best advice you have to give…?
Be Thankful for What You've Got
 Thought for the day…?
It's In Our Hands
 Your motto…?
 Your favourite form of transport…
The Comet Song
How you feel…?
Big Time Sensuality
 Your favourite colour is…?
If you could change your name, what would it be…?

Apologies to my partner that I couldn't find a description as superheroic as Pulp provided for Tami!

To carry on the meme I have chosen 3 bloggers who I think will enjoy the challenge - but if you don't want to do it right now, that's fine too...

Tina from The Soup Dragon Says
Sim from Sims Life Blog

Saturday 25 May 2013

Baa Baa by Orchard Toys

As with all Orchard Toys games and puzzles this is designed and manufactured in the UK from strong 100% recycled board. It has really bright colours, modern pictures and chunky pieces that don't bend or come apart during even quite boisterous play. It is built to be played with, and built to last.

Baa Baa retails at £9.50. It is suitable for 2-4 players and the suggested age range is 3-12. It is brilliant for nursery or pre-school aged children who are learning colours as it introduces several less obvious colours. It teaches turn-taking and basic game play, and the concepts of winning and losing

The game is really simple. You have a card with 6 differently coloured spots, a spinner and a whole flock of sheep wearing various clothes. Spin the spinner and if one of your colours is shown then you take a sheep wearing an item of clothing in that colour. Stand a sheep on all six spots first and you are the winner!

My 3 year old thinks it's really excellent and he has instantly picked up on grey and purple, which are both colours that he wasn't confident with before. My 4 year old definitely struggles with this game at times because he is colour-blind, so for him at least a game such as Orchard Toys Pirate Shapes is better, as it's not only about colour, but each part also has other visual clues as to where it should locate.

I think the age range is a little out, I can't really imagine older children playing this game without younger siblings as it is very simplistic, and I also think that the lower recommended age is purely because of small parts, in my opinion most 2 year olds would also be able to play this game very competently and get a lot of enjoyment from it - you'd just have to watch they didn't eat it instead!

We really like it, especially my 3 year old. We give it a 4/5

Orchard Toys are available direct from Orchard Toys, or if you prefer to shop offline you can find your nearest stockist on their website

We were given this game for the purposes of this review, but the views expressed are ours.

Singalong Music In The Van

I really jumped on the opportunity to do this post, I think it's a great topic that has been chosen by Carcraft.

I get very little chance to choose the music when we're travelling, what with my partner's love of Radio 4 and our troupe of teenagers having their own specific beliefs about what we should be allowed to play in public, but on the very rare occasions when I'm alone I can indulge myself and sing along with the best of them.

I used to drive a lot of 80 mile trips between North Manchester and Derby, and I'd play Snow Patrol mostly (very girlie I know). I think I was a bit tired and emotional at the time and it showed. Usually nowadays I'm travelling between North Manchester and Macclesfield, mainly on the motorway and fast back roads, and I love to listen to Faithless. Insomnia has everlong been my theme tune, but for driving I choose We Come 1 because you can belt it out to your heart's content and it always makes you feel good - plus there's bound to be a remix long enough for any journey!

If there's one thing you probably shouldn't listen to when driving, it's Firestarter by The Prodigy, and if you want to ban entire albums, ban anything that's specifically recorded for kids.....

This is a sponsored post, however the musical taste is my own

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Pyrex For Versatility ~ Your Chance To Win

Before we started our collaboration with Pyrex I knew I liked it, I've always had a few pieces, but I genuinely hadn't realised just how user-friendly it was. I expected to spend a few weeks making bizarre and interesting meals to showcase the Pyrex, but in fact I don't even need to do that. I can just cook my regular meals.

Lack of time and sheer idleness means I haven't yet cleared a space for my Pyrex in the kitchen cupboards. With it always on view I've found myself using it for all kinds of things that I previously wouldn't have even considered, including steaming vegetables, reheating foods and pretty much all of my general baking. I've been using my Pyrex a lot.

I've found that the best thing about Pyrex is the versatility and convenience. I can cook solids or liquids in the oven or microwave, put leftovers into the fridge and then reheat in the microwave. I can cut my pie or tart with an actual knife and stir with a metal spoon without scratching. It has pretty much a similar level of non-stick as silicone, but it's much easier to handle especially when you have batters and runny mixes. I can  microwave things like baked beans and it won't pit or discolour. Best of all I can put it in the dishwasher and forget about it and it comes out sparkling.

I'm really enjoying using Pyrex in my everyday baking and cooking, I have already (much to my partners delight) thrown away all of my old plastic microwave dishes with their orange tinge and delaminating plastic. I've not poured Yorkshire pudding batter down myself at all - which I've managed twice now with silicone because it is floppy. I don't have to re-wash like I do with metal baking trays because it cleans so well first time.

I'm a definite convert and so can you be because on Monday 10th June from 10.30am until 11.30am I will be joining with the 3 other bloggers from #Healthysnackchat to host a Twitter party sponsored by Pyrex.
We'll be discussing cooking convenient but healthy family meals, sharing tips and ideas, and of course there will be the opportunity to win plenty of prizes!

The party will be hosted by me (@TheBrickCastle), Eileen (@etspeaksfrom) from ET Speaks from Home, Pippa (@redrosemummy) from Red Rose Mummy, and Anna (@theplayroomblog) from In the Play Room

Pyrex are kindly offering 4 prizes of £25 worth of Summer dining essentials – making £100 worth of Pyrex in total.

Have a look here to see what we've thought of our Pyrex so far: 

We would love to see you all at the Twitter party! 
Date: 10th June 2013
Day: Monday
Time: 10.30 - 11.30 am
Using #CookWithPyrex to tweet us to win prizes!
Please make sure you follow us on twitter!
Pyrex is a trademark of Corning Inc, used by permission

If you like to know more, please visit their: 

Twitter: PyrexUKOfficial

Thanks to Anna for putting together all of these links and letting me copy :p

Monday 20 May 2013

Cursing and Swearing

My 4 year old has been experimenting with cursing and swearing recently, introducing words to get a reaction and test how 'naughty' they are.

After nursery this morning he told me he knew a swear, but he wasn't going to say it. I told him this was good, I don't want to hear it. He ran off shouting, "I won't say it, but it begins with foll".


I can't think of a single swear word that begins with 'foll', and I tried to ignore it and carry on with the washing and forget about it, but it was bugging me. Ten minutes later and against my better judgement I resumed conversation about swearing and bad language, in the hopes he'd just mention it without my asking. He again referred to the swear word he knew that starts with 'foll'. "Are you sure it starts foll?" I asked as casually as I could. Yep, he replied "fuh...oh...ol" and off he went again. I really had to drop it now.

Making tea in the kitchen is thinking time and I carried on trying to work out what he could be on about. I couldn't think of anything that fits. I'm more grown up than that, I should be able to let it drop and talk about anything else, but it really was bugging me. What if he had a swear word that I don't even know exists? I can't let the teenagers get one over on me, I have to know what everything they talk about is referring to at all times, it's a defensive measure. I might lose control and then everything could come crashing down on us and anarchy would reign. Convincing myself I now have to know because it's vitally important I called him into the kitchen.

"You know that word you didn't say earlier?"
"I can't remember what it was, can you remind me please?"
"It was two words. It was foll-locks"

"Thanks, that's it. Thank you for reminding me. Thank you also for reminding me that you are only 4, because for a minute there I think I never say it again, will you"...."I won't Mum, pinky promise"....

I think that may just be one 4 year old promise you can keep to....

Wot So Funee?