30 June 2016

The Man's Birthday Weekend at Bluestone

It was the other half's birthday a few weeks ago so I decided to treat him (and the kids) to a long weekend at the lovely Bluestone National Park Resort in Wales. I'd noticed a lot of good reviews and write ups from quite a few different bloggers so thought why not give it a go and see what all the fuss is about. I'm glad we did as it really was fab.

Bluestone is a lot bigger than I thought it would be hence why I'm very thankful that we hired a golf buggy to drive around in before we arrived. You can book tons of activities and extras on the Bluestone website when you've confirmed and paid for your accommodation. It's well worth having a look and doing this prior to arriving as the park can get quite busy. I even purchased a food welcome hamper so that we would have something to eat for us in the self catering lodge. Someone forgot to put it in our lodge though for our arrival so after a few phone calls and a visit from a park ranger we were all good to go.

Luckily for us, the weekend we arrived, it actually wasn't busy at all and I'd only booked Logan into one activity but managed to book him in for lots more at his request. The staff at Bluestone are great and couldn't have been more accommodating, even to the point that the lovely Iwan (who was working in the Adventure Centre) went out of his way and stayed on after his shift to help Logan. The other half and I couldn't have been more thankful.

The food in the resort was lovely and not at all overpriced, the little shops were great if you needed any supplies and there was plenty to do and see including the fab Blue Lagoon swimming pool. All in all it was a fantastic weekend where the sun shined all day. It was actually like being abroad really. There was never a dull moment and we were all knackered by the end of our stay. 

Here's a few photos to show you what we got up to.

23 June 2016

Edinburgh International Magic Festival

There's something quite intriguing about magic and even from a young age children are captivated by it. I know the other half loves a good magic show and Logan's became more interested as the years have gone on. Luckily for us we have a magic festival right on our door step in Edinburgh of all places. Have a read on to see what's happening and since the school holidays are almost upon us it'll be a great way to keep the kids entertained and out of trouble!

You'll see that these magic events aren't just for children as well with plenty of shows and performances aimed at the older audience. There's even a Magic Hunt and a FREE event at Krispy Kreme! On 26th June in the run up to MagicFest, free ‘Magic Moment – Close-Up’ magic performances will take place at the Hermiston Gait Edinburgh Krispy Kreme store at 1pm, offering visitors a trick with their treat and a tour of the ‘Doughnut ‘Theatre to see exactly how Krispy Kreme doughnuts are made.


Seekers of wonder and amazement are invited to ‘lose themselves in magic’ this summer as the Edinburgh International Magic Festival celebrates its 7th magical year as the UK’s biggest festival of innovative and cutting-edge magic from 1st – 8th July.

Edinburgh will sparkle with an enchanting programme of world-class magic events, unforgettable performances, and jaw-dropping stunts from some of the greatest illusionists, mind readers and accomplished magicians from around the world.
  • Three day MagicFair at Summerhall – a brand new multi-space experience with family events and late night sessions
  • Matinee performance added to MagicFest Gala at the Festival Theatre
  • Magic School, Secret Room and Magic à la Carte Dinner
  • Grand Prix World Magic Champion Hector Mancha joins MagicFest line-up
  • The legendary Juan Tamariz (‘El Maestro’) performs live for the first time in Scotland
  • Show premieres from Kevin Quantum, Colin Cloud (as seen on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow), BBC’s R. Paul Wilson, and debut performances at the Festival from Vincent Gambini and David Gerard
  • Korean magic company from the world’s only magic college, featuring the Asian Champion of Magic
  • City centre Magic Hunt for children and adults, and FREE magic performances at Krispy Kreme stores in the run up to the Festival
Kevin McMahon, Artistic Director of MagicFest, commented… ‘This year we have arguably one of the greatest living legends in magic, Juan Tamariz, and one of the greatest up-and-coming stars, Hector Mancha, both featuring at the Festival. It’s our biggest line-up to date with the launch of MagicFair, free entry for under 7s, and the addition of a matinee performance at the Gala Show, allowing us to share magic and its top stars with more people than ever before. Watch out for surprises around the city too!'

MagicFair: 1st – 3rd July | Summerhall | From £12 | Morning - all ages | Afternoon 7+ | Lates 16+
This year’s MagicFest launches with a brand new three day MagicFair at Summerhall – a multi-room experience enticing visitors to lose themselves with a full spectrum of magic performances and watch up to 10 live shows all with one ticket across morning (10am-2pm), afternoon (2-6pm) and lates (7.30-11.30pm) sessions.

Family oriented morning sessions offer free entry to under 7s, who can enjoy Magic School workshops, wand-crafting, treasure hunts and six different live shows, while afternoon sessions offer visitors of all ages a mixture of close-up, theatrical, and stage magic with performances from Jango Starr, Gary Dunn and Tricky Ricky.

Evening sessions are more adult themed with late night horror magic from Luke Eaton in the Anatomy Room, a special VIP performance from BBC’s ‘The Real Hustle’ star R. Paul Wilson, and mind-experimentation with sell-out Scottish mind-reader Colin Cloud in ‘Psyche’ – a 20 minute, fully interactive and potentially life changing conceptual experiment held in the Dissection Room.

Between shows, festivalgoers can explore the Ribbon Maze, Magic & Circus Shop, Sam the Scam Banco Booth and enjoy spontaneous close-up magic, comedy, illusions and sleight of hand with food, drink and music in the open-air courtyard.

Magic and Variety Gala Show: 8th July | Festival Theatre | From £14 | Age 5+
Due to incredible popularity, a matinee performance has been added to this year’s MagicFest Gala, which brings the festival to a splendiferous finale at the magnificent Festival Theatre on Friday 8th July.

Believers and sceptics will be blown away by this two and a half hour variety of breath-taking performances from world champion illusionists, mindreaders, masters of the impossible and confounding magicians from Scotland and around the world. Highlights include South Korean Digital Time Traveller Hun Lee; Alchemist Young Min Kim, who deconstructs matter with the touch of his hand; Scotland’s mindreading equivalent to Sherlock Holmes and sell-out act Colin Cloud; Spanish magic world champion Hector Mancha; and mind-dizzying hula hoop artist Miss Polly Hoops. Funny, heart-warming, thrilling and always delivered with forensic attention to detail, visitors will leave feeling befuddled yet satisfyingly amazed!

The recipient of the Great Lafayette Award 2016, which honours magicians who have excelled in live stage performances, will also be announced during the evening Gala.

Magic School & Workshops: 4th – 7th July | Quaker Meeting House | £80/18| 7-10
The most mysterious summer school in the world! This 4-day course or 2.5 hour workshop will bring-out the inherent magic talents of budding young wizards, under the supervision of Head Master Gary James. Magic School students will learn, create and perform their own magic tricks, with each day focussing on a different area of magic and performance, from levitation to vanishing card tricks, with a graduation ceremony and magic show for family on the final day.

Magic à la Carte: 7th July | Tigerlily | £50 | Age 16+
Diners with a taste for the unexplainable can whet their appetite for mystery with a delicious three course meal in the glamorous setting of Tigerlily on George Street, complimented by private table-side performances from TV magic consultant Lewis Barlow, former Scottish Close-up Magician of the Year, Billy Reid and four times Scottish champion Michael Neto leaving guests’ brains baffled and taste buds tickled.

Secret Room: 5th & 6th July | Lauriston Castle | £20/£18 conc | Age 10+
Returning to Lauriston Castle after three years of sell out shows, The Secret Room transports its guests back in time to explore hidden passages and clandestine laboratories with three of Scotland’s finest magicians - Chris Dinewoodie, Drew McAdam and Michael Neto – as they animate the castle’s mysterious and colourful past with stories, performances and illusions.

Special Performances and One-Off Events:

Juan Tamariz: 9th July | George Square Theatre | From £16 | Age 10+
Renowned Spanish magician Juan Tamariz (nicknamed El Maestro for being arguably the most influential contemporary magic magician in the world) joins MagicFest to perform a live public show for the first time ever in Scotland. Juan, who has appeared on the biggest stages around the world, will seduce the audience into his world of wonder through misdirection, manipulation and befuddling card tricks, for which he is best known.

Kevin Quantum: 4th July | Scottish Story Telling Centre | £13/£11 conc | Age 7+
Magician/scientist hybrid Kevin Quantum presents his brand new show “Illuminations” – a showcase of stunning light-based illusions, including the slowing of time using flickering beams, floating will-o'-the-wisps above audience members’ heads and, for the first time ever, the creation of a rainbow live on stage! The Magic Circle magician tutored by Penn & Teller will leave onlookers questioning… where does science end and magic begin?

Colin Cloud: 1st – 3rd July | Summerhall Dissection Room | £18/£16 conc | Age 12+
Showgoers are advised to not think about anything they wouldn’t want Colin to know or reveal as the 5-star forensic mindreader attempts to survive a lethal injection, inviting the audience to join him after the show on the streets of Edinburgh in search of the life-saving antidote.

Colin commented… ‘Every year I work incredibly hard to write, create and perform the most astounding and impactful experiences I'm capable of and, after six successful years, I'm looking forward to sharing what I believe is my strongest and most daring work yet. I'm am also truly excited to have the world debut of my brand new show 'Exposé' at the Edinburgh International Magic Festival.'

R. Paul Wilson: 2nd & 3rd  July | Summerhall Anatomy Room | £13/£11 conc | 12+
Star of BBC’s ‘The Real Hustle’ and world-renowned magician, R. Paul Wilson is a leading authority on con games, cheating and the art of deception. ‘Impossibilia’ takes his audience on a tour through Paul’s repertoire of conjuring curiosities, scams and impossibilities, with stories and demonstrations gathered from a lifetime of study and passion for the art of magic.

Vincent Gambini: 2nd & 3rd July | Summerhall Red Theatre | £11/£9 conc | Age 12+
Award-winning magician Vincent Gambini presents ‘This is not a Magic Show’ – part performance-lecture, part deconstructed magic tricks – breaking down sleight-of-hand, revealing the secrets of misdirection and its invisible mechanics and its clichés.

David Gerard: 2nd & 3rd July | Summerhall Cairn Theatre | £11/£9 conc | Age 10+
Magic adventurists are invited to become a player in America’s leading mindreader David Gerard’s ‘Game Night’ – a one-of-a-kind mix of board games and mystery arts making use of Monopoly and Ouija Boards. Mixed with mental gymnastics and cunning wit, Gerard creates a truly thrilling experience his fans will remember long after the show is over.

21 June 2016

Review: Orchard Toys Mini Games

This year has been the year of travel and mini breaks for my family. It’s been fab visiting new places and making awesome memories together, Logan enjoys it so much in fact he’s been asking to have a break away every weekend! Although the breaks are great it’s often hard to think of which toys and games to take to fill in the down time between exciting adventures. Some toys and games are far too big and cumbersome so clearly not ideal for travel when you’re cramming in so much stuff as it is. For this reason I was very thankful when Orchard Toys offered Logan the chance to review one of their new Mini Games.

The mini games range was launched in May this year with 6 different small, portable and travel sized games to play and enjoy. Based on traditional family favourites, the range gives classic games a fun ‘Orchard Toys’ twist! Included in the range is Dinosaur Dominoes, Little Bus Lotto, Jungle Snakes & Ladders, Build a Beetle, Crocodile Snap and Penguin Pairs. Logan was sent the lovely Jungle Snakes & Ladders to review and I have to admit it isn’t a game we’ve played that often so I was looking forward to trying it out.

The game is jungle themed, as you can gather from the title, and is a mini version of the popular family favourite snakes and ladders. To play the game players must avoid the slithering snakes to climb the ladders to the finish line and join the cheeky monkeys which feature on the board throughout. It's aimed at 4-8 years olds for 2-4 players and the board itself comes as a 6 piece jigsaw which you have to build before being able to play. Also included are 4 different coloured counters and a dice. It’s simple and basic but really that’s what you want from a transportable game, the less pieces the less chance of anything being lost or misplaced whilst travelling. The game comes in a small thin compact brightly coloured box which hardly takes up any room when travelling so is perfect for popping in the suitcase, rucksack or hand luggage when on your journey with the kids.

Logan and I really enjoyed this game. It’s so easy to set up and play within seconds and the concept of the going down the snakes and up the ladders was grasped pretty quickly from Logan’s end. Each game that we played lasted about 10 minutes but we did the best out of 5 etc so you can keep it going for quite a while if you like. Of course if your child is younger (Logan’s 6) then the game may last a bit longer for you.

Here’s a little bit about the other mini games available: “Dinosaur Dominoes is a fun dinosaur-themed game with cute, colourful dinosaurs that both girls and boys will love. Featuring 28 colourful dominoes, children will enjoy talking about the different types of dinosaurs they can see on the cards! Little Bus Lotto is an animal-themed lotto game featuring 24 animal characters who all want to board the Orchard Toys bus! While children collect animal passengers, they will also love seeing and talking about what activities they are up to on the bus. Based on the classic game of Beetle Drive, Build a Beetle features four smiley and quirky beetle characters which children must match, body part by body part. Fun and laughter are guaranteed as players try to be the first to build their beetle! Crocodile Snap is a fun twist on the traditional game of snap, with quirky animal characters including superhero crocodiles and gorillas drinking tea! Players shout out ‘snap!’ for matching pairs, but when they spot a pair of crocodiles they must ‘snap’ their arms instead! Penguin Pairs features 32 colourful shaped penguin character cards to match. Suitable as a single player activity or a multi-player game, children will love matching the quirky penguin characters in their cool costumes from around the world!”

Each mini game is priced at a very reasonable £4.99 and I won’t hesitate to buy a couple more for our travels in a few months. The Jungle Snakes & Ladders game pays particular attention to developing children’s personal and social skills as well as encouraging number and counting skills. The social skills is a big one for Logan since he’s autistic so playing this game a few times and showing him he can’t win all the time is good for him. I’ll admit it’s not easy and he takes losing quite badly but I’m trying to teach him he can’t be good at everything and this game does help. It’s good to know that Orchard Toys design all their products with support from educational advisers including teachers, nursery practitioners, Early Years professionals and children themselves. It gives me confidence in the game and although snakes and ladders is a classic it’s handy having the familiar Orchard Toys characters that Logan’s familiar with. Orchard Toys are also one of the few British toy companies that still manufacture in the UK which I love and their games, puzzles and packaging are made using 100% recycled board.

Overall the snakes and ladders mini game was great, super colourful, well priced and perfect for our travels. I can’t wait to purchase and try a few more for our next trip.

I was given this Orchard Toys mini game of snakes and ladders in return for an honest review.

18 June 2016

What Gives You The Right

To the overly sensitive lady at the soft play centre the other weekend. What gives you the right to shout at my child as if you were disciplining your own? Did it make you feel big shouting and pointing in the face of a boy who’s probably a 7th of your age? So what if my child pushed your child off an arcades game. There wasn’t any money in it, it wasn’t as if your child was actually sitting and actively playing the game. These things happen all the time at soft play centres, kids will be kids and are just learning social boundaries which by the way are harder for my son since he is autistic granted you wouldn’t have known this. What happened to quite simply saying “now that wasn’t very nice was it, my son was going to play that game and you pushed in. Can you please come off so my son can have a shot.” Yes the chances are my son wouldn’t have came off the machine or even acknowledged you however I watch my son quite rigidly at soft play centres since I know he struggles and I would have came over to take him off the machine. That of course didn’t happen. Instead you literally shouted in his face hanging over him, pointing and accusing. It’s not right and it’s not clever. Yes my son can be a little sh*t at times but come on, are your kids so angelic they’d never push someone out of the way to get to something they wanted?

One time at soft play my 17 month old got pushed off a Peppa Pig ride on car and hit the ground face first. Did I yell and shout at the boy who did it, no, I simply consoled my daughter and told the little boy that although my daughter may be annoying him (as he put it) it’s not nice to push and by pushing that had hurt her head and she was now quite upset. The little boy’s gran was sitting close by and didn’t even come over to apologies but I didn’t care, she didn’t seem that bothered and I’d already said my piece (not shouted) so as far as I was concerned it was done and dusted. No need to freak out about it or hold a grudge. The little boy then trotted off to play with my son and all was fine. My daughter had a little bump on her head but is wasn’t something a quick ice pack and some cuddles couldn’t fix.

Luckily for my son and unluckily for you I was standing within ear shot. I immediately asked what the problem was however you proceeded to completely ignore me (not even any eye contact) and return to your table. Well that just isn’t good enough is it, not after you’ve shouted in the face of a boy who probably had no idea what you were even talking about. I could have been dignified in my words with you but your sheer rudeness meant I had to shut you down and give you a piece of my mind. And guess what, I’m not even sorry! I hope you learned a valuable lesson that day, I get it that your children are precious to you mine are to me, however you’re the adult. You’re the one that has to show responsibility as well as being accountable for you’re actions and you let yourself down. I’m not happy with the way I reacted either but after observing the way you were acting I thought maybe it’s the only reaction you’ll understand.

Hopefully next time you’ll think twice before you act.


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