Tag Archives: Manchester

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival, Dunham Massey

Throughout August The Lost Carnival has pitched up just south of Manchester, in the gardens of National Trust property, Dunham Massey in Cheshire. We went along to find out more about the carnival and to explore the beautiful gardens at Dunham Massey.

This is the third year The Lost Carnival has been in town, having previously been located in Bury and Crewe. The carnival is the brainchild of Wild Rumpus, the arts company specialising in unique outdoor productions which both children and adults can enjoy, such as the famous Just So Festival.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

This interactive circus carnival almost seamlessly ties in with the current exhibition in the house, Dunham’s Lost Years – A Victorian Tale of Love and Abandonment. The exhibition uncovers the controversial marriage of daring circus performer and beauty Catharine Cox to Dunham’s young heir, George Harry. The link is that the performers from The Lost Carnival will be rehearsing across the summer at Dunham “under the invitation” of Catharine Cox.

We arrived at Dunham Massey and parked in the vast car park (£6, free to National Trust members) and made our way to the visitors reception and picked up our tickets to the garden (adults £8.60, children £4.30, free to National Trust members). The Lost Carnival itself is free, but you need to buy a ticket to enter the garden area).

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

When you enter the garden (if you’re lucky like we were, you might spy some of the deer roaming the park) you are handed a Lost Carnival map which helpfully gives you some background to what’s going on and highlights the carnival areas for you to locate. Naturally we put our six year old in charge of the map and he guided us through the gardens expertly.

The Lost Carnival attractions are nicely spaced out around the gardens. I recommend you first head to the “Chant” area, where a carnival performer will teach you the chant, the actions and give you some clues about what you need to do while you’re there. From there we moved on to explore Popou’s Caravan. This is a gorgeous caravan filled with trinkets, maps and clues for kids to explore. It was very busy so we only managed a quick look inside. When my son emerged he only had one word – “wow”!

Part of the fun is spying carnival attractions through the trees and discovering secrets and clues in the gardens. I was enchanted by the zoetrope, one of those devices where you turn the handle and watch through the slats to see a horse galloping and an acrobat performing stunts on its back. 

Wandering through the gardens to the “Dressing Room” we met a glamorous carnival seamstress who whispered secrets about the missing star-crossed lovers Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue. She asked us to help her out finishing a beautiful costume. We sewed a bright button onto a wedding dress (I wonder who that is for) and had the chance to try on some of the carnival costumes.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

Further down the gardens in The Orangery we stopped to write a letter to the heads of the rival carnivals (and those star-crossed lovers) Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue, imploring them to return to the carnival. After we’d had a little sit down while he wrote his letter, we wandered through the gardens to find hula hoopers hooping, so the boys had a little go.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

There was enough carnival activity to make things interesting for my son; but not too much that it overwhelmed the tranquility and beauty of the gardens. Apart from the carnival itself, we had a great time exploring the extensive gardens which have formal and informal areas. We were lucky that the weather was so sunny and kind to us. The gardens are equally fine on rainy days. There are plenty of sheltered spots under the trees if it’s really pouring.

Immerse yourself in the world of the two of the greatest carnival families, the Birds and the Ingenues and see if you can help them bring the heads of the rival carnivals Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue back to their families again.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

The Lost Carnival is on until 30 August, from 10.30am – 4.30pm daily at Dunham Massey. Parking and entrance to the garden is free to National Trust members. For non-members a charge applies – visit the website for more information.

We were invited guests of The National Trust. We were given complimentary tickets and parking in exchange for this write up. All images and opinions are our own.

Back to School: Tough school shoes from Jake Shoes

Year One has been HARD on my son’s school shoes. I have no idea what he does during his school day, but he’s worn through the top of every single pair of shoes he’s had this year. Admittedly they’ve all been cheap supermarket shoes made of pretend leather, maybe that was part of the problem. Some pairs barely lasted a month, I think I’ve been making a false economy on the school shoes front. This year I’m trying a different tactic, I’m going to see if a pair of virtually indestructible Kickers from Jake Shoes will survive the year, or at least a term.

Back to School: Tough school shoes from Jake Shoes

We chose the “Kick lo velcro kids” from Jake Shoes. They are a mini version of a of the classic Kick Lo shoes. The Kick lo velcro kids have velcro straps so he can get them on and off easily. They are made from really good quality black leather and have a thick, grippy sole. The leather is really thick hard leather so they will need to be broken in over the summer. He will wear them for a couple of hours here and there and they should be just right by the time he starts back at school in September. 

Back to School: Tough school shoes from Jake Shoes

I think they look really smart. He is really pleased with them and was desperate to get them on and run about in them. With the shoes being made from real leather we will need to give them a polish every so often to keep them looking good, especially with his habit of scuffing the tops of his shoes.

What I like about them is one shoe has a green label and the other a red label on the shoe, which will help him to remember which shoe goes on which foot. Something he does still struggle with when he’s not concentrating on what he’s doing. 

Back to School: Tough school shoes from Jake Shoes

Jake Shoes have two high street stores, one in the Manchester Arndale Centre and one in Stockport Town Centre. Both of them are local to me, but for convenience I ordered online. It’s good to know that they do have high street stores so close to me, sometimes it’s good to be able to get his feet measured and have him try on a few pairs before we choose a favourite. 

The Jake Shoes website is really easy to use, the shoes were delivered quickly and in perfect condition. We chose the Kick lo velcro kids shoes in size 13.5 kids and they cost £53. The price varies depending on the size, starting from £45.

Jake Shoes are specialists in kids shoes. They stock a large range of school shoes, including Kickers, Geox and Timberland, as well as other popular kids shoes like Converse, Vans and Lelli Kelly. Will these Kickers survive the rigours of life on the feet of a six year old? I have high hopes that they will!

See the full range of Jake Shoes school shoes here.

Back to School: Tough school shoes from Jake Shoes

Note: We received these shoes for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

A couple of weeks ago to celebrate two friends getting new jobs, a group of us went for afternoon tea at Cocoa Cabana in West Didsbury. To my shame I’ve never eaten there before, but I’ve bought and eaten plenty of their chocolates over the years. I was interested to see what their chocolate afternoon tea would be like, plus it seemed like a bargain at £16.99 each, so I needed to check it out properly. 

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

Cocoa Cabana in West Didsbury is a small chocolatiers and cake makers. They have three small tables inside and on nice days you can sit outside on Burton Road and watch the world go by. There were eight of us, so we took up all of the inside tables. Because of the size of Cocoa Cabana and the work involved in making an afternoon tea you do have to book in advance. 

My friend Sarah had done all the booking and had arranged for us to take some celebratory prosecco with us to have with our tea. There was rather surprisingly no corkage to pay for this. The afternoon tea comes with unlimited tea or coffee, you can have hot chocolate but there is an additional charge for this.

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

We were served pots of good tea and we chatted as our sandwiches were brought to us. I was one of two vegetarians and our sandwiches were brought on separate plates. I thought that was a nice touch as the carnivores often snaffle the veggie sandwiches before I get to them. The sandwiches were freshly made with seeded bread and good quality fillings. There were nice egg sandwiches, cheese and pickle and ham and mustard amongst others.

More tea was poured, prosecco corks popped and a procession of sweet treats were brought to our table. The freshly made fruit scones came with lashings of cream and a salted caramel sauce; a real twist on the classic but one I really enjoyed. It was a little sweet for a couple of my friends, but the sauce was a winner for me.

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

The chocolate tarts were much coveted. Crisp pastry filled with chocolate ganache and topped with a red berry. The tarts were excellent, but very rich and very intense. Most of us managed half a tart each (you can take what you can’t finish home if you’d like).

Following the chocolate theme, there was also a large plate of chocolate brownies. I am not much of a brownie fan, but I shared one with a friend and it was perfectly crisp on top and gooey in the middle. 

What did turn my head was this little plate of prettiness. Tiny eclairs, a teeny banoffee pie, a bite-sized cheesecake, little raspberry chocolate pots, a miniature lemon meringue tart and the lightest, most magnificent pistachio macaron ever.

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

As with every afternoon tea I’ve ever had, there was far too much food, which is probably a good thing. Afternoon tea should not leave you wanting more and the staff at Cocoa Cabana were clearly used to boxing up leftovers. 

The Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana is just £16.99 per person, which is really excellent value. We didn’t feel rushed and the service was attentive but not intrusive. I did need to go home and have a nap directly afterwards, but that is my greed and not a comment on the quality of the food. I liked the separate veggie sandwiches; and the macarons I will dream of for a while yet. I do think the salted caramel sauce should be sold in jars.

The verdict? A good afternoon tea, with some real highlights at very reasonable price, I’ve paid upwards of £25 in Manchester for very average afternoon teas and the Cocoa Cabana afternoon tea was better value and much better quality. Plus the service was accommodating and attentive. It’s nice to have afternoon tea (and chocolate) of this quality available outside of the city centre. Go on, treat yourself (and me).

Cocoa Cabana 128 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2JQ

Visit the Cocoa Cabana website for further information http://cocoa-cabana.co.uk/

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

Note: We paid for our Afternoon Tea in full.

UK Wine Hour – Wine Tasting Event in Manchester

Last week I was invited along to the first UK Wine Hour event in Manchester. It took place in the beautiful (beautiful is a wild understatement here) and ancient surroundings of the Baronial Hall at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. It was a small but perfectly formed event in a stunning venue, with lots of new and interesting wines to try.

UK Wine Hour is a “Twitter Hour” where interested people chat along on Twitter, swapping wine tips, asking questions and generally celebrating wine. UK Wine Hour runs 7-8pm on Thursdays with the hashtag #UKWineHour. This was the first UK Wine Hour Live event in Manchester, there have been others in London, but Northern wine lovers got their turn last week.

UK Wine Hour - A Wine Tasting Event in Manchester

The Baronial Hall was packed with wine merchants, large and small, offering their wares for tasting. Some had just two or three wines to try, some had a fairly large number of bottles to choose from. Personally, I found myself drawn to the merchants with just a few well chosen bottles. 

I had decided to start with fizz, then white, red and then fortified wines. I was pleased to see English fizz represented by the Exton Park Vineyard in Hampshire, but my favourite on the day was a Viña Pomal Rioja Cava which I don’t think is quite yet readily available in the UK, but worth pestering your local wine shop about.

UK Wine Hour - A Wine Tasting Event in Manchester

We were spoilt for white wine on the night, I think most of the room were quite taken by the Hungarian wines from Disznókö – one of the largest estates in the Tokaji region of Hungary, located in the shadow of the Carpathian Mountains. The Dry Furmint 2016 (£14.99 from Oxford Wines) was a real find.

I loved all three of the wines offered by Didsbury-based Reserve wines. This delicious Oliver Zeter Nussriegel Riesling Trocken 2016 (above) at £15.99 was a real favourite and one I will be seeking out next time I’m on Burton Road. 

UK Wine Hour - A Wine Tasting Event in Manchester

In terms of good reds, I was drawn to the wonderfully named Gnarly Head from California Wines which was described as having “rich, dark berry flavours with layers of plum, pepper, cola and chocolate”. It certainly packed an enjoyable punch!

I’m not normally a sherry or port drinker, but I was persuaded to try two ports, including a rather good 10 Year Old Tawny, £22.99, available from Waitrose. I also tried an astonishingly rich wine – Marques De La Vega Pedro Ximenez which tasted like Christmas pudding in a glass. I believe it will sell for around £15 a bottle once it reaches the UK. It is utterly delicious, a very good bargain and it’s on my Christmas list already.

I’m no expert, but I enjoy tasting and learning about wine. I didn’t feel even slightly intimidated by the event, it was so friendly. It was just the right size, with approximately 60 different wines in the room, so plenty to try but not too many that you’re overwhelmed. I think I tried around 20 different wines and discovered some real gems. UK Wine Hour Live events don’t happen on a very regular basis, but at £15 a ticket, a selection of some really great wines and a really friendly atmosphere I know I’ll be going to the next one.

Find out more, follow UK Wine Hour on Twitter. Join in the #UKWineHour chat on Thursday evenings, 7-8pm.

Blooming beautiful – Didsbury in Bloom 2017

Didsbury village always puts on a fine display for Didsbury in Bloom judging day. We have a small army of volunteers who plant up tubs and flowerbeds throughout the village all over the year, but as judging day for Didsbury in Bloom 2017 approached, more volunteers and residents rolled up their sleeves to make sure Didsbury showed off how blooming beautiful she is.

Blooming beautiful - Didsbury in Bloom 2017

On 4th July this year the judges arrived to inspect the village for Didsbury in Bloom 2017. I live on one of the roads which is judged so we’d spent some time making sure our front garden looked the best it could. Over the weekend everyone down our lane pulled out their green bins and set to work making sure everything was tidy, swept and neatly trimmed. It looked a treat.

This year Didsbury in Bloom celebrated our connection to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The RSPB was founded by Emily Williamson in her home in Didsbury in 1889. Today you can visit where the first meetings were held at what is now the Alpine Tea Room in Fletcher Moss Gardens.

Blooming beautiful - Didsbury in Bloom 2017

On Ford Lane the volunteers had spent a lot of time building and making a Bug Hotel. The Bug Hotel is a fine addition to the green on Ford Lane, creating a little wildlife haven for birds and bugs was a great idea. Some of the local children lent a hand to help build it and we hope it will become a permanent fixture on the lane.  

Blooming beautiful - Didsbury in Bloom 2017

Ford Lane is fringed on one side by a strip of woodland and has tidy grass verges with planters which are planted with bulbs and bedding plants. In spring the lane comes alive with blousy blossom. It’s a real wildlife corridor and we have all kinds of birds visiting our gardens throughout the year. We also have a family of foxes, plus owls, bats and we’ve seen more butterflies about this year than I can remember.

Blooming beautiful - Didsbury in Bloom 2017

I really love this hanging ball of pine cones, made with two hanging baskets joined together. It’s huge but it looks great hanging from one of the ancient trees which are on the lane. Clever isn’t it?

After the judges had moved on to other parts of the village, some of the volunteers and helpers gathered for a much needed cup of tea and homemade cake. It was a good opportunity for neighbours to mingle and chat for a while. Even the cat found time in her busy schedule to join us.

Blooming beautiful - Didsbury in Bloom 2017

Didsbury in Bloom is a lovely community thing to be part of. We are very lucky to live somewhere where many of the residents have such pride in their area. We can’t always help out as much as we’d like, but we try to keep our front garden looking neat and tidy, and we help out on community days when the green bins, hedge trimmers and sweeping brushes come out. 

The Didsbury in Bloom 2017 team won’t know the results of the judging for a little while yet, but we have high hopes of repeating the success of previous years.

Read more about Didsbury – Five fabulous things about Didsbury Village.

Big thanks to Ted’s Garden Shed who worked really hard to clear the scruffy wilderness of our front garden and create something rather lovely in its place.

Five fabulous things about Didsbury Village

Didsbury Village in South Manchester is a pretty special place to live and I’m lucky enough to have been born here. I’ve been thinking about why Didsbury is so special. Is it the parks, the people, the pubs, the sense of community or something else? 

You will have probably seen Didsbury on TV, it’s where Cold Feet is set, and it’s popped up on Queer as Folk, Coronation Street and loads of ITV dramas. Some days you can’t turn a corner without tripping over a film crew. 

Family legend has it that my family have lived in Didsbury village for over 400 years. I am not descended from titled landowners, but from carters and labourers, servants and shop workers. Didsbury is part of me, and I am part of Didsbury. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. But what’s so special about Didsbury Village?

Five fabulous things about Didsbury Village

Is it the pubs?

Didsbury is home to one of the best pub crawls in Manchester, the Didsbury Dozen. I have done it several times and it’s something of a tradition for me to do it on milestone birthdays. 

Didsbury has some great pubs, my favourite of which is the Fletcher Moss in Didsbury Village. It used to be called The Albert and my Grandad and his pals went to war from there. There are several ancient pubs in Didsbury which have in recent years been joined by glossy bars serving £10 gin and tonics and an array of frothy cocktails and craft beers. 

But the pubs in the village are among the longest running businesses in the area, The Royal Oak, The Famous Crown, The Didsbury and Ye Old Cock as well as The Station, The Dog and Partridge and The Nelson have all be serving pints to the good people for Didsbury longer than living memory serves.

Is it the parks?

Didsbury is a leafy suburb of South Manchester, fringed on one side by the River Mersey we are never short of places to walk our dogs. We have Fletcher Moss Gardens, with its untamed meadows, nature reserve, botanical gardens and woodlands to explore. Didsbury Park, a dog walking haven with a newly refurbished and extended playground, Didsbury Park is a hub of community activity. As well as Fog Lane Park, Cavendish Park, Parsonage Gardens and Marie Louise Gardens. We are spoilt for green spaces and when the sun shines we make the most of them.

Didsbury Village

Is it the people?

Didsbury has a great sense of community. Didsbury people have always looked after their own, be it the great benefactors who built schools and libraries in the area, to smaller community groups which help and support local people.

Despite our well heeled reputation, most of the imported millionaires who live here tend to lock themselves away in gated communities, ordering their shopping from Ocado and keeping themselves to themselves.

The streets of Didsbury weren’t always paved with gold, and if you look behind the polished facade you’ll find plenty of normal, every day people who have normal jobs and do what they can to support the local community. From the Didsbury in Bloom volunteers (who are currently planting up the flower bed near my house ready for judging day), to Didsbury Good Neighbours, the WI, Didsbury and West Didsbury Civic Societies as well as local churches and the mosque who collect for the local food banks and other charitable causes. 

There are plenty of opportunities for local people to get involved in their local community throughout the year. As well as the previously mentioned Didsbury in Bloom, there’s the Didsbury Festival, the Didsbury Beer Festival, the Didsbury Arts Festival and West Fest – a celebration of all things West Didsbury. Didsbury Traders support and advocate for local businesses, which in turn try to do their bit to keep Didsbury a thriving place to live and work.

The Shops in Didsbury Village

Didsbury has a strong independent streak, it’s an area which encourages and supports independent businesses. From Didsbury stalwarts such as Axons the butchers, The Cheese Hamlet, Evans the fishmongers, Peter Woolley Printers and Morten’s Bookshop who have been there for generations. To more recent and equally loved businesses like Giddy Goat Toys, Harriet & Dee, Healthy Spirit, Jo Padmore Opticians, Fresh Save and the new butchers – Three Little Pigs.

Didsbury is also known as a great place to go bargain hunting in our many charity shops. Most of my friends have at one time or another stumbled across a designer bargain or two. We are lucky to have a great range of shops and small businesses in Didsbury, but in order for them to survive we need to support them. Go forth and shop local!

Is it our Public Transport?

Reason number five to love Didsbury is our public transport. Yes I know how silly that sounds, but I don’t drive, so buses, trams, trains, planes, cycle lanes and safe pavements to walk down mean a lot to me.

From Didsbury I can hop on a tram and be sat in a bar in town in less than half an hour. I can get a bus, tram or train to Manchester, Stockport, the airport, the Trafford Centre or a hundred other destinations. The Metrolink tram system has opened up Greater Manchester to us and far-flung outposts such as Bury, Oldham and Eccles are just a tram change away. 

Didsbury Village straddles the busiest bus corridor in Europe. Wilmslow Road – the busy artery which runs from the Cheshire border to the university fringes of the city literally is the lifeblood of South Manchester.

Without the buses, trams, trains, planes, cycle lanes and safe pavements of South Manchester, it’s entirely possible this thriving and popular suburb would be nothing but a dusty neglected one horse town with nothing of note to wave a flag about.

Didsbury is a beautiful and historic suburb with lots going for it and so much going on. It’s my home and my history and hopefully my future. What do you love about Didsbury?

Five fabulous things about Didsbury Village

Thanks to Didsbury Traders for the map above.

PCA Predict are experts in email validation and are running a Postcode Pride campaign to find out why people are so proud of their postcode. This is why I’m proud of mine.

= This is a “collaborative” post =

Preview: Refract at Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

Long time readers of this blog will know that I’m partial to a spot of culture and the arts. I’m a great believer in encouraging my son to enjoy them too, which is why we often go to the theatre, or visit a gallery, or do something to broaden his creative horizons. This summer Refract is coming to the Waterside Arts Centre, Sale. It’s a ten day summer programme bursting with experiential performance, music and events to challenge visitors of all ages to see things differently.

Refract runs from Friday 21st July to Sunday 30th July, and brings together a carefully curated programme of arts, music, performance and thought provoking wonders. With highlights including performances from inside a giant bird’s nest and inspirational theatre on a trampoline, thought-provoking and intimate shows inside a static caravan and interactive gaming on a mega scale.

Preview: Refract at Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

We’ve picked out some unmissable performances from the Refract:17 programme. But you can find out more about the full programme of events here.

BBC comedy stalwart Jan Ravens is previewing her brand new Edinburgh Fringe Show on 21st July. Enjoy an evening of stand up with Jan Ravens where she will be impersonating The Queen, Kirsty Wark, Fiona Bruce, Theresa May and many others.

Join acclaimed comic poet genius John Hegley (22nd July 7.30pm), for an evening of laughter. Local legend John Hegley is one of the country’s most innovative comic poets. He has several best selling volumes of poetry to his name.

Other Refract delights include Dylan Thomas’s timeless masterpiece, Under Milk Wood and Waterside favourites Comedysportz, plus drop in activities for all throughout the ten days.

Music lovers will be in their element at Refract this year, with Salford starlet Ren Harvieu appearing on 22nd July as well as Eduardo Niebla on 24th July. Bringing in the Blues, King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys kick off the party on Friday 21 July with one rocking night of jazz, swing and blues. Not forgetting The Shee, The Demon Barbers XL and Nick Cope’s Family Songbook

Preview: Refract at Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

There’s something a little different for little people too.  Flock to Flit, Flap, Fly; An extraordinary squawking adventure set inside a giant bird’s nest. With live music, audience participation and birdsong, follow a young bird’s frantic and funny journey towards independence.

Enjoy a charming and comic tale complete with clangs, boings and unbearable hope to make our spirits soar with Anyday. This bouncy trampoline based theatrical performance is bound to put a spring in your step! Get one of your five a day with Goblin’s Peter and The Wolf featuring musical vegetables and puppetry in this hilarious performance. Tiny tots might enjoy Aleena’s Garden. Join lovely Aleena tends to her garden from the first days of spring to the short snowy days of winter.

Preview: Refract at Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

Smartphone addicts will love WiFi Wars.  Not only are mobiles and tablets welcome, they are an essential part of this live interactive comedy game show.

For older kids and young adults (and maybe not so young adults too) there’s Mobile.  Part theatre and part life lesson about class in modern Britain; this intimate, visual and powerful show is staged inside a caravan. Explore your sense of home, belonging, aspiration and the realities of social mobility.

There’s really something for everyone at Refract this year. With lots of free and low cost activities, performances and shows for visitors of all ages. It’s a real community arts festival and it’s all happening directly opposite the Sale Metrolink Tram stop. So it’s very easy to get to from wherever you are in Greater Manchester.

Full listings and information are available on the Refract website.

Blog Birthday Giveaway! Win a Pixie Unicorno Plush Toy

Today is the 4th anniversary of the day I started my blog, HodgePodgeDays. It’s been four fantastic years with lots of highs, some lows and a lot of learning along the way. Getting to my 4th year seems like something of a personal triumph, looking back many of the newbie bloggers I started out with are no longer blogging and I feel like something of a veteran these days. An old hand if you will. 

Still, four years is worth celebrating, so I’ve put together a few giveaways as a thank you to my readers. To see what else I’m giving away this month, visit my giveaways page.

Giddy Goat Toys

I’m really, really pleased to be giving away a Pixie Unicorno Plush Toy from Giddy Goat Toys in Manchester. Giddy Goat Toys is a brilliant, traditional and independent toy shop in South Manchester. I shop there a lot, mainly because it’s my local toy shop and because their selection of traditional toys, games and craft kits is fantastic. Plus I shop there because I really believe in supporting local businesses.

Blog Birthday Giveaway! Win a Pixie Unicorno Plush Toy

Giddy Goat Toys have a wonderful range of toys, but I’m really drawn to the Pixie Unicorno Plush Toy (£12.99) from Tokidoki’s unicorn character range. Pixie is super cute and collectable too!

“The unicorns were once simple little ponies that were out trotting and wandered into a magic waterfall. Passing through the waterfall, the ponies transformed into unicorns and found a hidden magical kingdom. The unicorns live between the magic kingdom and our world.”

WIN A Pixie Unicorno Plush Toy WORTH £12.99

To be in with a chance to win a Pixie Unicorno Plush Toy worth £12.99, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:

1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will receive a Pixie Unicorno Plush Toy worth £21.99.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 5th July 2017.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
11. Your email address may be passed on to the promoter for marketing purposes, you may unsubscribe at any time.
12. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Manchester, so much to answer for (and all of it ace)

Mancunians are a pretty special kind of people. I know I’m biased because I am one, but its clear from talking to incomers to the area just how much this fine city gets under your skin. Manchester is a beautiful city, inside and out. Its people have more heart that they know what to do with and I’m blessed to have been born and bred here, and I’ve always felt that way.

Mancunians are a breed apart, different in outlook and temperament to their cousins in Liverpool and across the Pennines into Yorkshire. The rivalry may be fierce, but it is for the most part good humoured and affectionate. 

Manchester is an industrial city. It blossomed, bloomed and boomed during the industrial revolution and was known as Cottonopolis. From Manchester came the first passenger railway, the first computer and the invention of graphene. It was the birthplace of the Pankhurst’s and Karl Marx lived here for a time. We created a whole genre of music, and we’ve got famous actors, poets, writers and artists coming out of our ears. But what makes Mancunians special (apart from absolutely everything)?

Manchester, so much to answer for (and all of it ace)

© The Manchester Bee Company, 2017

We bloody love Manchester. We really bloody love Manchester. We’re incredibly proud of where we’ve come from and what a glorious, inclusive, cosmopolitan, historic, forward-thinking city it is. We love that we’re good at music, sports, science and the arts. We love our industrial heritage and our industrious nature. Manchester is awash with entrepreneurial spirit, we are grafters, thinkers and doers. We are rich in social history and compassion. 

Manchester is a city filled with many different kinds of people. City fans, United fans, indie kids, goths, we have a beautiful LGBT community who bring more to Manchester than I think even they realise. We have people from all over the world coming to live and work here. We have several huge universities and it seems that most people who come to Manchester to study never really go home again afterwards.

Mancunians are not generally intrusive people, but if someone is looking lost, upset or in trouble, we will step in and offer to help if we can. We are an incredibly kind people, sharing what we have with those we meet with no expectation of a reward beyond thanks.

We make eye contact on public transport, we talk to our neighbours and our neighbour’s neighbours. We’ll nod hello to strangers on the street. We rally round when people need us, we join together to show the world our collective strength. We are Manchester. 

Mancunian women have a reputation for being strong, some people call us battleaxes. Well, we are strong, we can be fierce, but we’d do owt for anyone and woe betide anyone who looked at our kids the wrong way.

Manchester is a diverse and wonderful city. Its people are full of good humour, with notable funny Mancunians including Les Dawson, Steve Coogan, Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne, to name just a small handful.

Music has always been important to us, but we’re not *just* all about Oasis and The Stone Roses. The Halle Orchestra are resident here, and we have the world famous Chetham’s School of Music in the city. But yes, you’re right, we do love a bit of indie around here – Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Happy Mondays.

Tony Wilson is often quoted as saying “But this is Manchester, we do things differently here.” And we do.

We have beautiful green spaces, great parks, botanical gardens, wonderful architecture. We are a city and a people looking forward to the future, whilst embracing and taking pride in our industrial past. 

Pride is important to us. We are Proud Mancs. We’ve always been Proud Mancs. We are proud of our roots, our achievements, our attitude and our compassion. We are proud to be from this amazing city. This gorgeous, gleaming metropolis we call Cottonopolis. Its streets packed with history and hidden gems, its eye always on the future. 

I asked my friend Bob about what he thought made Mancunians special. He gave this lovely answer…

“Going to Love Train at the Ritz. Rubbing shoulders with goths and beardy old leather-clad rockers in Jilly’s back in the day. We’re such a strong community, even the venues have their own personalities. They come and go, Jilly’s and Hacienda have gone, but still loved and never forgotten. The city itself is our extended family. The City of Manchester stadium as the train pulls into Piccadilly. Beetham Tower on the horizon as the bus approaches Salford. It’s iconic from every angle and every time you pass a ‘Welcome to Manchester’ sign it’s a homecoming, whether you were born there or are adopted by the city, its people and its heart.”

Mancunians. We’re brave, bold, funny, kind, loving, we have heart and soul in spades. Int that right r kid?

5 things to do during Whit week half term 2017

The Whit Week Half Term falls under the sad shadow of the Manchester bombing. I live 5 miles away from the arena, and we’ve felt the emotional reverberations of the atrocity. The mood is defiant but subdued. Everyone I know wants to stay at home, holding their kids close where they can keep them safe. But generally kids don’t always love being stuck at home and will want to do something over the half term regardless.

For us our half term fun will be had on the fringes of the city. Whilst I’m happy to visit the city centre myself; for the next week or so at least we won’t be going in as a family. I know we can’t wrap our children up forever. We can just make sensible, informed choices and get on with life and live it well.

If you’re keen to avoid the city centre with your kids for now, I’ve selected a few out of town things to do in Manchester over the Whit Week Half Term. I’ve not included them here, but there will be lots of things to do over the Whit Week Half Term in the city centre, at the Whitworth Art Gallery, the Museum of Science and Industry, and at the People’s History Museum. However you choose to spend half term, enjoy it.

Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

We will be going to see The Three Musketeers at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale on Friday 2 June. Presented by The Three Half Pints;  Fresh from Justin’s House and Spot Bots, we will be joining CBeebies’ favourites in this hilarious new slapstick adventure of chivalry, swordplay and suddenly falling over!  For ages 5+

5 things to do during Whit week half term 2017

For ages 3+ catch Julia Donaldson’s famous book The Scarecrows’ Wedding, brought to the stage by Scamp Theatre. Running on Friday 26, Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 May. Scarecrows Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay decide to get married and Harry sets off for their wedding day essentials. This truly heart-warming adaptation promises wit, drama and wedding bells!   

On Thursday 1 June, Waterside will be screening Sing-a-long Trolls.  Bring the kids and sing your socks off to Trolls hits such as Can’t Stop The Feeling and True Colours.  Come along in Troll-themed fancy dress or costumes in bright rainbow colours. Prizes will be given out for the best outfits!  Tickets just £5 (or £2.50 for Family Club members).

Based on the fabulous new book by Steven Lee and with magic designed by Paul Daniels, Don’t Dribble on The Dragon is a spectacular musical adventure about growing up and the importance of family is the perfect feel good show.  For ages 3+ on Saturday 3 June.  Steven will also be signing copies of Don’t Dribble on The Dragon after the show.

Salford Quays Culture’s Summer Showcase

Over half term, endangered species from land and sea migrate to the metropolis of MediaCityUK, in the form of four gigantic sculptures for Quays Culture’s Unnatural Borders exhibition, which will run from Saturday 20th May until Monday 29th May. 

Four large sculptures represent endangered species – Polar Bear, Whale, Red Squirrel and a Bee. By day the sculptures tower over the public on large separate plinths. When the sun sets at 9pm they are illuminated with stunning visual projections, bringing a magical show of light and illusion to these 3D animals and their location. Day or night, these sound pretty awesome and worth seeking out, especially if you’re visiting Media City for other reasons too.

5 things to do during Whit week half term 2017

Catalyst Science Discovery Centre

Ok, so this means a bit of a drive to Widnes, but the boys go here often and they really enjoy their visits. This amazing science centre has three interactive galleries to explore as well as a stunning rooftop observatory. During this half term they have two interactive workshops for budding scientists to enjoy.

Ludicrous Liquids – A chance for young scientists to get some hands-on fun in the lab, experimenting with interesting and surprising liquids. How many colours can you get into your rainbow straw and do you make a lava lamp? Hands-on workshops at 11am and 2pm

Fantastic Plastic – One of their most popular hands-on sessions. Enjoy working with an amazing plastic material to make a keyring to take home. Hands-on Workshops at 12 noon and 3pm

For more information about the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, visit their website.

Wythenshawe Community Farm

Join the Junior Farmer’s Club and learn how to care for the animals on the farm. Groom and feed Pip the friendly pony, feed and muck out the pygmy goats and collect the eggs from the chickens. Available on Thursday 1st and Saturday 3rd June from 1-3pm. The cost of the session is £10, for more information or to book phone 0161 946 0726.

Read about one of our previous visits to Wythenshawe Community Farm here.

Wythenshawe Community Farm

SHIFT Digital 

Over Whit week half term, Shift Digital will be running a series of free events in libraries and other venues in Cheshire. If you’ve got kids who are into coding, computers or science, it’s well worth taking them along.

Join Shift for Superhero Sewable Circuits on Wednesday 31 May at the Electric Picturehouse, Cross Street, Congleton. Make your own light up superhero mask. Learn the basics of e-textile sewable circuits and stitch light up LEDs onto felt to customise and create your own design. Ages 7+ FREE Places limited – to book call  01260 270908.

Minecraft fans should go to PatternCraft at Congleton Library on Tuesday 30 May  – 10am-12noon / 1-3pm. Go along and create 8 x 8 punchcard designs; feedback your card into the reader and by the magic of python code converting the physical holes in to binary files of 0’s and 1’s, build it on a minecraft map. Drop In – FREE – All Ages Call 01260 375550.

At Holmes Chapel Library on Thursday 1 June 10am-12noon / 1-3pm, learn to program the Micro:bit LED display and create interactive bitmap art that responds to movement and button presses. Ages 7+ FREE Places limited – to book call  01477 689550.

The full SHIFT programme – including talks, workshops, professional training, tech meet ups, art installations, family events and drop-in coding sessions – is listed on their website: www.shift-digital.co.uk

We hope you have a great Whit Week Half Term. If you’ve got any ideas for other fun things to do, please do mention them in the comments below!