Tag Archives: Manchester

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!

We are Manchester. This is The Place.

Scrolling through Twitter on Monday night, I was already tucked up in bed when a minute after the Manchester bomb I saw a tweet saying something was going on at Victoria Station. We often get these “I heard a big bang, what was that?” kind of tweets in Manchester, so at first I didn’t think much of it. But I decided to dig around Twitter to see if there was anything else in it.

Within minutes it was apparent there was a real situation unfolding at the Manchester Arena. I got online and started chatting in a Facebook group with some friends, all of us scrolling and searching for info. We all hoped against hope that it was a popped balloon, that it was a speaker which had exploded, that no one had been hurt.

We all stayed up, screenshotting and sharing statements from Greater Manchester Police. We checked as far as we could that people we knew weren’t there. We realised in the darkness of our early hours chat that this was deliberate, this was timed for maximum impact and it was designed to hurt children.

The swear words and tears flowed. This was our city. Our beautiful, cosmopolitan, inclusive city and someone wanted to hurt our children. It was about as low an act as it could be. We couldn’t do anything but re-tweet and share information. Helpless and despairing we all went to bed at 3am knowing we would wake up to terrible, terrible news.

Tuesday brought a whole range of emotions. Anger, pride, sorrow, love, anger again and fear. We all hugged our little ones close, were extra vigilant when we were out and about. They started to give names to the dead and the missing. All young, vital, full of joy and promise. I’ve wept for every one and each of their mothers too. 

We heard tales of bravery. We were scared and brave and bold and devastated in equal measure. We watched the vigil. We wept with pride, passion and sorrow when Tony Walsh known as Longfella, a local poet and Mancunian legend read his poem, This Is The Place. 

We are broken. 

Less than 48 hours after the attack I am numb. My heart is broken for the children and families caught up in this atrocity. My heart is broken for my friends who are sat by hospital beds with their poorly babies. My heart is broken that someone could do this to my city. My home town. To our children. To our people.

I love my city. Manchester gets under your skin and flows through your veins. It fills your heart with pride. I’m a Proud Manc. I could never be anything else but a Proud Manc. Those who want to divide us will only ever unite us further. 

This is Manchester. We are Manchester. This is The place. Our place.

We are Manchester. This Is The Place.

Can you dig it? The new JCB Kids glasses at Specsavers

Over the weekend the boys went off on an adventure. They were invited to Specsavers at Manchester Fort for the launch of the new range of JCB Kids glasses. It was the promise of getting up close and personal with a real JCB which tempted them; but a free eye test for the boy was also a big draw.

Eye health is something we take pretty seriously as a family. My husband has worn glasses since he was a child and I started wearing them last year. We know it’s likely Ben will need to wear them at some point. Regular eye tests are important for a lot of reasons; not least because having them checked may alert you to a health problem you didn’t know was there.

Can you dig it? The new JCB Kids glasses at Specsavers

Children’s eye tests are available for free from Spacsavers (on the NHS). If they need glasses, they get an under-16s’ NHS optical voucher to put towards new glasses. Kid’s glasses have come a long way since when I was a child. Although the thick NHS specs we dreaded back then are all the rage these days.

Matthew and Ben arrived at Specsavers and were both excited by the real JCB backhoe loader outside. It was even wearing its own giant pair of glasses. Ben was especially excited by the JCB Transformer. Who wouldn’t be? It was an actual Transformer which changed from a JCB to a walking hero in front of his eyes!

Can you dig it? The new JCB Kids glasses at Specsavers

Aside from his school eye test, Ben hasn’t had a proper eye test with an optician and it’s been on my list of things to do for a couple of months now. I was a bit worried that he’d make a fuss and not co-operate with the optician, but he was great. He sat beautifully in the chair and did everything that was asked of him. It helped that the optician who was testing him was fantastic and patient with him. We’ll be back next year!

Thankfully his eyesight is absolutely fine for now. We’re so glad we got him tested, it’s a weight off my mind at least.

Can you dig it? The new JCB Kids glasses at Specsavers

I’m a bit envious of these JCB Kids glasses, they make my sensible glasses look a bit pedestrian. The JCB Kids glasses from iconic British brand JCB are tough, cool and created with adventure loving boys and girls in mind. All of the JCB Kids frames come with single-vision lenses including UV filter and are part of their kids 2 free pairs offer. You can view the full range here.

Can you dig it? The new JCB Kids glasses at Specsavers

Looking after your eyes is so important. I’m so glad we got him tested, it’s reassuring to know that his eyes are ok. We’ll be taking him back next year for his annual test. It’s worth remembering that children’s eye tests and almost all of their glasses are available on the NHS free of charge.

You can find out more about children’s eye tests and the JCB Kids glasses range on the Specsavers website.

We were invited guests of Specsavers and JCB Kids glasses. We received a goodie bag and a voucher towards eye-care as a thank you for attending.

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

This week I’ve noticed a hint of spring in the air. The evenings are much lighter, the trees are starting to get blousy with blossom and everything just feels a bit hopeful. With a spring in my step, I met my friend Bob for lunch at Jamie’s Italian Manchester. He’s moved away, so we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like, so we were ready for a proper catch up.

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

We arrived at Jamie’s Italian Manchester, a huge grade II listed building on King Street in the city centre. Inside it’s imposing and grand, with dark wood and marble everywhere. It’s a beauty.

We were shown to our table and we checked out the Super Lunch menu. Since I was last in the menu has had an update to keep pace with the changing seasons. The super lunch menu is a hearty mixture of winter warmers and vibrant spring flavours. It’s keenly priced at £12.95 for two courses, or three courses for £14.95. It is available 12-6pm from Monday-Friday.

To start I plumped for the Tomato Bruschetta made with slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, buffalo ricotta, basil and extra virgin olive oil. I’m a sucker for ricotta, so this was a deliciously light start to the meal. My only tiny quibble was that the tomatoes still had some fresh from the fridge chill to them, I’d prefer them closer to room temperature, but that’s me being very fussy.

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

Bob opted for the Fritto Misto, crispy fried sustainable fish & squid tossed in fennel-spiced flour with garlic and lemon aioli. This was a hit, the aioli was perfectly garlicky and the delicate fish well cooked. There wasn’t quite enough squid for his liking, but the plentiful helping of chunky fish made up for that. This is a dish he would order again.

Moving on to the mains, there were only two veggie options and only one I was able to eat, so that’s what I had, the Classic Super Food Salad, a combination of avocado, roasted beetroot, mixed pulses & grains, sprouting broccoli, pomegranate and spicy seeds with harissa dressing & cottage cheese. To say it was delicious is an understatement, every fork full was bursting with flavour, I couldn’t fault it and despite my initial hesitation over ordering this, I would do again in a heartbeat.

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

Bob plumped for the Italian Steak and Fries, marinated skirt steak, flash grilled & served with garlic butter, aged Parmesan, slaw and fries. This had a £3 supplement. The skirt steak was heavily topped with garlic butter with one side seared on the grill, Bob thought it was a good steak, though not the best he’d had. However, the skinny fries were perfect, crispy without being overcooked and a good portion size. I snaffled a few and they were good.

I was stuffed after my salad, but we were determined to do the new menu justice, so pudding was ordered. Choosing the light option, I ordered the Blood Orange Sorbet, which was topped with fresh mint and lime zest. It’s not listed as suitable for vegetarians on the Super Lunch Menu, but I checked and it definitely is. The sorbet was so good, it was just about perfect and the flavours in the citrusy sorbet were enhanced by the mint and lime, and it was only 72 calories too.

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

Bob still had some room, so he ordered the Epic Chocolate Brownie with chocolate sauce, salted caramel ice cream and caramelised popcorn. It looked spectacular, he kindly let me try a corner. I’m not usually a fan of brownies, but it had a lovely crispy top and it was a very, very good brownie. I loved the ice cream, but the popcorn was the winner for me. It was a fine end to our lunch.

We had both had a cocktail, soft drinks, a three course lunch and coffee and our lunch time treat came in at a few pence over £56. We both felt it was really good value for what we’d had. I’ve had lunch at Jamie’s Italian Manchester with friends a few times now, and never been disappointed and always impressed with the value and service. 

Review: The Super Lunch Menu at Jamie’s Italian Manchester

You can find out more about Jamie’s Italian Manchester and the Super Lunch Menu on the website.

We were invited guests of Jamie’s Italian Manchester. All images and opinions are our own.

Five things to do in Manchester over February Half Term

The February half term is almost upon us (ours is 20-24 Feb 2017). I’m starting to plan some activities to keep me and the small boy busy. In Manchester there is so much to do, but here are five things to do in Manchester over February half term which have tickled my fancy.

Steam, Sweat & Spinners at MSI

Over February half term, experience the sights, smells and sounds of steam with thunderous steam engines demonstrations at the Museum of Science and Industry. Discover the steamy side of Victorian Manchester with Steam, Sweat and Spinners. Find out about the hard work and sweat which went into working in a mill and get hands on with our Goo in the Loo workshop.

Five things to do in Manchester over February Half Term

Join in with the Cotton Mill Circus story time. Work in a factory by day and circus by night and make your very own stories and tales with the magic lanterns workshop. Strike a pose in the Victorian photo booth or gather round the old Joanna for a good old-fashioned sing-along. Plus ride the 1830 Express find out how Manchester changed the world via an exploding balloon and a flying beach ball. There’s also a Victorian-style funfair in the upper yard – see the world from the top of the Big Wheel, win at Hook-a-Duck, and ride a magical carousel horse.

For more information about what’s on at MSI this half term, visit their website.

The Waterside Arts Centre

The Waterside Arts Centre in Sale (very near the tram stop) is one of my favourite places to visit with the boy. It’s easy for non-driving me to get to, it’s small but perfectly formed and they always have an interesting selection of things going on, from theatre, live music, workshops, films, comedy and much more. It’s all on their website.

Enjoy the timeless tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice on 17th February, brought to life with an irresistible blend of music, puppetry and storytelling. Or young ones might like Lolly Pops and Circus Props on Sunday 19th February, listen to the exciting stories of Lolly – as she runs away from the circus to embark on new adventures in the big world.

For older kids, who fancy a spot of CSIing this half term. Join experienced and professional forensic scientists in Forensic Science in Action. This is suitable for ages 7-11 and is on Monday 13th February, from 10am to 3pm. You bring the packed lunch and see if you can solve the crime!

Mini movie fans have two great films to choose from on Monday 20th February, with Shaun the Sheep Movie and Flushed Away. Not to mention Puppet Masters Return with Aardman Studios, running until April 1st. This fantastic exhibition is packed full of original props, puppets and production artwork from many of Aardman’s most famous films and characters. Entry is free.

Half term cooking kids club at intu Trafford Centre

The intu Trafford Centre is running daily cookery events for children during February Half Term. With different activities such as crepe stations, banoffee pie making, mocktail classes and gyozo-making sessions taking place at intu Trafford Centre every day, there’s lots to keep the kids occupied.

Five things to do in Manchester over February Half Term

With most of the activities taking place from 12-5pm outside Topshop, Upper Regent Crescent – it’s worth checking out the website to see what’s available and when. In addition to the food and craft activities, there are limited places on these free restaurant based cooking classes. Book a place and learn to cook WagamamaTampopo or Coast to Coast

All of the activities are free for all the family and are open to all ages. Visit www.intu.co.uk/TraffordCentre to find details of what’s on and opening hours.

Stockport Hat Museum

One place I’ve been meaning to visit for ages is the Stockport Hat Museum. It’s very much on the agenda this half term. The Hat Museum is an award winning museum with two floors of interactive exhibits, taking you on a journey through the history of Stockport’s once thriving hatting industry.

The museum is home to a recreated hat factory with 20 fully restored working Victorian-style machines. Not to mention a fantastic collection of over 400 hats from around the world. Over February Half Term try your hand at a different craft each day, including felt making, decoupage and easy lino print. Suitable for ages 7+. Booking essential. 

For more information about the Stockport Hat Museum, visit their website.

Media City & Salford quays

On a fine day the boy and I love a visit to Media City. It’s easy to get to on the tram and there’s so much to do there. From shopping in the Lowry Outlet, popping over the bridge to the Imperial War Museum North, exploring the Blue Peter Garden, watching a show at The Lowry or going for lunch somewhere. 

This February Half Term we will be heading over to Media City for the day, having some lunch, doing a spot of shopping and then going to The Lowry to watch The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show which will be on from Wednesday 22nd to Saturday 25 February.

Five things to do in Manchester over February Half Term

Media City and Salford Quays is a great place to visit. It’s largely traffic free so there’s plenty of space for the kids to run about and burn off some energy. There are more places to eat than I can count, and there are lots of interesting places to visit and things to do. My two favourites are The Lowry and IWM North, check them out, you won’t regret it.

What are you plans for this February Half Term?

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

One of the best parts of a night or two away in a hotel is the breakfast. At home I rarely eat breakfast and if I do it’s usually just toast or cereal. A hotel breakfast is a real treat, and like most people I like a big breakfast to set me up for a day of shopping, sightseeing or adventure. This week we were invited to the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club to try out their award-winning breakfast.

In November 2016 the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club was voted as having the best breakfast in the North West by Trivago. We were invited down to put their breakfast to the test. It was a great excuse for a proper family breakfast to see us right for a wintery walk later that day.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

Breakfast is served at the Grill in the Park from 6:30am -11am on weekdays, or 7am – 11am on weekends. Hotel residents can add for £10 upon check in for breakfast. For those not staying overnight, breakfast is available at £16 for the buffet and £12 for continental.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club includes a selection of continental meats, cheeses and smoked salmon; fresh fruit and yogurts; muffins and pastries; cereals, toast and hot cooked breakfasts with a choice of freshly cooked eggs, local sausages, bacon and all the trimmings. They also have a chef on hand to whip up a fresh omelette for you and freshly made waffles, more of which later.

The Grill in the Park is a comfortable but stylish setting for breakfast, and on Saturday morning it was busy with families and couples having breakfast with plans to visit the nearly Trafford Centre, or Legoland, or like us got for a long walk in the country. 

Breakfast is self service, though a friendly waitress offered us tea and coffee and the small boy had a hot chocolate. The service was efficient, with waitresses clearing plates away and generally being very helpful. I chatted to the chef whilst he cooked my omelette and he and the waiting staff were great to chat to if you needed some advice about things to do locally.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

Breakfast began with a selection of juices and fruit. Hubs went for a very lovely looking porridge with jam and bananas.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

The small boy loves fruit, so he had a big bowl of his favorites with some yoghurt. They also had a good selection of cheeses, meats and smoked salmon; as well as bread, muffins and pastries for those wanting a continental breakfast.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

I’d heard that the omelettes were excellent. They’re one of my favourite things, so I had to give them a try. There were about 8 different fillings to choose from, but I opted for cheese and tomato – all freshly cooked in front of me. When I got back to the table there was such omelette envy, we had to go back and get another for the boy.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

My husband opted for the more traditional fry up. He particularly enjoyed the sausages and the poached egg. I had a slice of fried bread with baked beans – a rare treat. It was so delicious I was sad to finish it. The small boy, true to form opted for a side of sausages to go with his omelette. He said they were the best sausages ever!

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

A special mention must go to the freshly cooked waffles. I love waffles but I rarely eat them. I’m so glad I insisted we share a waffle and maple syrup (for breakfast dessert). It was the lightest, airiest waffle I’ve ever eaten. It was a joy. If you go to the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club for breakfast, you must try the omelettes and the waffles.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

We’d eaten and eaten well. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we all felt that the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club had nailed it. It was very, very good, with lots of choice and everything was well made and well cooked. 

I can see why the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club won best breakfast in the North West. If I was staying in the hotel I wouldn’t hesitate to book myself in for breakfast, but it is the kind of place we’d pop in to fuel up for the day if we were passing on our way to another adventure. Delicious.

For more information about breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club, visit their website.

Breakfast at the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club

We were invited guests of the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club and our breakfast was complimentary. All images and opinions are our own.

My Four Favourite Foodie Experiences of 2016

When I look back over 2016 there are very low points and very high points. Inevitably for a greedy person like me, many of my highlights involve exceptionally good plates of food, very good gin and some very special bottles of wine. I’ve picked out four of my favourite foodie experiences of 2016 for no other reason than to remember them makes me smile.

This year I turned 40 and as a very special birthday present my husband booked us into The Midland Hotel in Manchester. He treated me to an exquisite meal at The French. The French is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a couple of years and our amazing 9 course taster menu did not disappoint.

Foodie Experiences - The French The Midland Hotel Manchester

One of my favourite courses was the “salad” which was a beautiful (in every sense) plate of potato, ramson caper, black garlic & chestnut. The meal, the night, the weekend, it was all perfect. We’re looking forward to winning the lottery and going again some day.

In November a giddy gang of food bloggers descended on River Cottage HQ for a River Cottage style evening of fine dining. It was fresh, seasonal, local, beautifully cooked and expertly presented. River Cottage is by far (by far, even including the other amazing places I’ve dined this year) my favourite place to eat. If you can go, you really should.

Foodie Experiences: Dining at River Cottage HQ

Every plate was a delight, the prettiest was my starter of ravioli with celeriac purée, wild mushrooms and sage. This was a deceptively filling dish, perfectly autumnal and as pretty as a picture.

The next day we couldn’t resist swinging by the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster for a spot of lunch before heading home. We were not disappointed. I ordered a couple of small plates – a casual lunch of soup and a simple but incredibly memorable plate of roast celeriac, cauliflower and pickled ewes cheese with salsa verde.

River Cottage Canteen

Every mouthful was perfectly balanced. I can’t believe I only paid £6 for something which somewhere swisher would charge four times that at least. Amazing food at incredibly accessible prices – a rare thing indeed.

Back home in Manchester, I’ve eaten in a hundred different restaurants. Whenever I’m in town in need of a quick bite I almost always end up in the same place eating the same thing. It’s a favourite haunt of my North West blogger chums, it’s Wagamama.

Wagamama Spinningfields

Every time I visit I order a steaming bowl of yasai itame. It’s a big fragrant bowl of rice noodles in a spicy green coconut and lemongrass soup with tofu and vegetables, stir-fried beansprouts, red and spring onions, bok choi, peppers, mushrooms and chillies, garnished with coriander and lime.

It’s fresh, hearty, delicious and it feels healthy. I usually team it with one of their fresh juices so by the time I leave I’ve had about 800 of my five a day. It’s probably lucky I live a 45 minute bus journey away or I’d turn into a bowl of yasai itame.

I’ve spent a little bit of time scrolling through my Instagram feed and looking at some of the amazing dishes I’ve eaten this year. I’ve eaten in some really wonderful and memorable places, but these are probably four of my favourite plates, all for different reasons. All have stuck with me and have my mouth watering again just thinking about them.

Where I’ll eat and what I’ll eat in 2017 is yet to be seen, but in terms of good food, 2016 will be a hard one to beat. What were your most memorable dishes of 2016?

My Four Favourite Foodie Experiences of 2016

Review: Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester

Over the weekend we popped to the Trafford Centre to run a few pre-Christmas family errands. I sent my husband in to do battle with the hordes of shoppers and I took the small boy for a look around SEA LIFE Manchester, a calm oasis in a sea of Christmas chaos.

We arrived very early and we were the first people through the door. We had our Merlin passes scanned and we headed off to explore. We are regulars at SEA LIFE Manchester, and we always enjoy our visits. The boy loved being first in and it seemed like we had the place to ourselves (we didn’t, other people were a couple of minutes behind us).

Review: Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester

We quickly sought out some of our favourite sea creatures. I love the jellyfish and we spent some time changing the coloured lights in their tank and seeing how different they looked in the different lights. I also love the stingrays, they glide so gracefully through the water, they’re really calming to watch. 

Review: Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester

The boy is a big fan of the turtles, so we watched them swim in their tanks and learning more about them. He’s also very keen on seahorses and “Nemo fish”. Although he’s not keen on touching, we did spend quite a lot of time in the rockpool area. The staff were very helpful and told us all about the sea creatures which live in the tank. Some of which we might find in a rockpool in the UK.

Review: Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester

We had a lovely explore of SEA LIFE Manchester, it felt so peaceful and it’s the perfect antidote to the busyness of Christmas. We’d spent an hour or so peacefully chatting about all of the creatures. We learned a little more about them and wondered what they’d be having for their Christmas dinner.

Review: Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester

I can absolutely recommend SEA LIFE Manchester if you want to do something with your family this Christmas that isn’t full of flashing lights and fake snow. It was an absolutely delightful way to spend the morning.

What’s on at SEA LIFE Manchester this Christmas?

This Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester, guests can take part in a festive fish hunt. Come face to fin with a Snow Flake Eel, Humbug Fish, Angel Fish, Star Fish and even a Turkey Fish! 

Excitingly, during the evenings of 17th, 18th, 22nd and 23rd December, visitors can see beautiful diving mermaids in the tropical ocean tank. The Mermaids will grace the water in a spectacular dive with the sharks and Ernie, the giant green sea turtle. 

Find out more about what’s on this Christmas on the SEA LIFE Manchester website.

I am a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I was given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I was not paid to write this post.

Giving back this Christmas – Our Reverse Advent Box

This December we have been taking part in Reverse Advent and it’s been a wonderfully heartwarming family task. If you’ve not heard of Reverse Advent before, it’s where you take a box and each day you add something to it with the intention of giving the box away to someone in need.

I chose to donate our box to our local foodbank – Chorlton and Didsbury Foodbank. The foodbank opened in 2014 and last year gave over 1000 people and families three-day emergency food supplies. 

Although we’ve never been at the point where we’ve needed to get a referral to a foodbank, there have been times when the cupboards have been bare and I’ve not had the money to buy food. There have been times where I’ve skipped meals to make sure the boys get food in their belly and I’ve wondered how I’ll feed them their next meal. As frugal as I am, sometimes the money just doesn’t always stretch as far as I’d like. 

In late November the Co-op sent me a big blue box and some ideas for my Reverse Advent. Every time I popped to the shops I’d put a few extra tins, jars, or packets of dried food in my basket and when I got home I put them in my box.

Giving back this Christmas - Our Reverse Advent box

I knew my local foodbank would appreciate the box of food supplies before Christmas, so I did cheat a little and over the weekend I filled my box, packed it up and it’s ready to be delivered to the foodbank.

As a blogger we get sent a lot of things over the year, some of which we use, some of which we give away to friends and family. I’d saved a big bag of children’s books and lots of craft kits (the kind where everything you need is included, so you don’t need extra glue or paint, or things people may not have). So I’ve donated those to the foodbank too. They’ll be given to the children attending their Christmas party and I can’t think of a better home for them.

Putting the Reverse Advent box has been really easy. Buying a couple of items each time I popped to the shops was a doddle and didn’t make a huge dent in our budget. When you first get your box it can be hard to think of what you could fill it with. So I’ve put together a suggested shopping list (below) if you need some ideas to get you started…

Giving back this Christmas - Our Reverse Advent box

The Reverse Advent box is definitely something our family will be embracing as a family tradition. We know how fortunate we are to have food in the cupboards and a warm house to live in. It’s only right that we give a bit of what we can, when we can.

For more information about the Reverse Advent campaign with The Co-op read their blog. To find your nearest foodbank and to find out more about their work, or how to access their services, visit the Trussell Trust website.

Merry Christmas xx

Where can you learn to play Ice Hockey in Manchester?

I’ve been an ice hockey fan since the mid 90’s and I’ve loved going to watch my local team, Manchester Storm play ever since. Last Christmas we took the small boy along to watch Manchester Storm play their arch rivals, The Sheffield Steelers. Now he is six, we’re starting to think about cultivating a bit of on ice confidence in him. Starting off with learning to skate, and maybe eventually picking up a stick and wanting to learn to play Ice Hockey for himself.

The overprotective mother in me does have a slight moment of panic at the thought of him wanting to learn to play Ice Hockey. Its a rough tough sport and not for the faint-hearted. But I’ve been around ice hockey long enough to know that the players are really well protected and serious accidents are thankfully very rare.

Just down the road from us, at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Altrincham, they offer skating lessons as well as a whole range of skating sessions. We think this would be a good place to start him off, especially as he’s familiar with the rink from when we go and watch Manchester Storm games. It’s a friendly rink with a great family friendly atmosphere and lots of community spirit.

Sport: Where to learn to play Ice Hockey in Manchester

I’ve been doing a bit of reading and in order to learn how to play ice hockey, you need to be able to skate at level 5 or above. The course at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Altrincham is approved by the English Ice Hockey Association. There is a lot of equipment and kit involved in ice hockey, but hey will be able to provide you with some equipment such as a helmet / neck guard and a stick to start off with, but you should have your own skates at least.

In the UK there are some specialist companies like Proline Skates who stock specialist ice hockey skates, protective wear and equipment, as well as lots of other general and specialist skates and skating equipment.

Their ice hockey lessons at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Altrincham are currently £10 per session, and they will teach you more advanced skating skills, balance control, puck control and shooting. 

Ice hockey is a growing sport in the UK. There is a lot of love for the game and the grassroots support for ice hockey is huge. It’s a little bit niche, but I think that’s probably why it’s so well loved. I would love it if my boy would like to get involved too.

– This is a collaborative post –