Days Out: The Capybara Experience at Wild Discovery

Every summer the boy and I have a week at Ribby Hall in Lancashire. Since we started going there in 2017, we’ve been visiting the on site zoo, Wild Discovery. Each year we’ve watched it grow, visited their new animals; and every time we visit we spend at least a couple of days at the zoo, just hanging out and learning more about the creatures who share this planet with us.

Days Out: The Capybara Experience at Wild Discovery

Wild Discovery is a brilliant place, it’s really welcoming and very educational; we just love it. The last time we visited, we booked the capybara experience, so the boy could get up close and personal with these giant, and very adorable animals. The session costs £25 and you get to meet the capybara, help to feed them and put together some enrichment activities for them. You also get to spend lots of time with a keeper who will tell you all about the capybara and answer any questions you may have.

Days Out: The Capybara Experience at Wild Discovery

Capybara are a giant rodent native to South America and they are the largest living rodent. The capybara is a close relative of the guinea pig and they usually live in savannas and dense forests. They have webbed feet, which help to make them really good swimmers. They are a highly social species and can be found in large groups. Capybara are not a threatened species, but they are hunted for their meat. They are incredibly docile, which makes them ideal for meeting and greeting the public at Wild Discovery.

The three capybara at Wild Discovery (Mo, Curly and Larry) live in a good sized enclosure with their own pool. They like a good dip on a hot day and love nothing more than having a nice scratch.

Days Out: The Capybara Experience at Wild Discovery

We were welcomed by keepers, Alex and Grace, and we had to wash our hands and wear a mask before we could meet the trio of capybara. There were some safety rules to remember, which is important because they’re still wild animals. We were asked to sit on a log and wait for the capybara to come to us. We enticed them over with some chopped up butternut squash and we got to give them a scratch and feed them by hand, which was incredible.

The boy helped put together some enrichment activities; whilst keepers, Grace and Alex gave us the low down on all things capybara. We were the only ones booked for the capybara experience, so it felt like a really exclusive experience.

The boy was thrilled with his hour in the capybara enclosure. For £25 per person, you get a real once in a lifetime experience. Who else do you know who has given a capybara a good scratch behind their ears?

Days Out: The Capybara Experience at Wild Discovery

If you’re visiting Ribby Hall, or Wild Discovery, it’s well worth seeing if you can book in for one of their animal experiences. The experiences change throughout the year; but at the time of writing you can book onto the capybara experience or the tortoise experience.

We paid for our visit and experience in full.

Days Out: The Capybara Experience at Wild Discovery

Great Bakes: Rhubarb Drizzle Cake

There’s been rhubarb growing in my garden since I was a child. It’s a fruit which some people really love and others hate. It can be sour, but I think the sourness is why I love it so much. I’ve made rhubarb upside down cake over and over, and I’ve been puzzling on what else I can bake it with. Lemon drizzle is a real classic and given how sour rhubarb can be, I thought it might make a pretty drizzle cake. My rhubarb drizzle cake turned out incredibly well and it was so moreish!

Do not adjust your screen settings – it really is this colour!

Great Bakes: Rhubarb Drizzle Cake

I love getting my bundt tin out, it always makes the prettiest cakes, and if you’re baking something fairly simple it can make it look much fancier than it actually is. The great thing about a bundt tin is your cake is baked upside down, so if you’re adding fruit it will sink… but that’s fine because it sinks to the top of the cake.

Rhubarb Drizzle cake

For the drizzle (you need to do this first)
300g rhubarb – this was about 4 or 5 sticks
100g caster sugar
4 tablespoons of water

For the cake
250g caster sugar
250g softened butter
4 eggs
250g self-raising flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Great Bakes: Rhubarb Drizzle Cake

How to make your Rhubarb Drizzle Cake:

To begin with you need to poach your rhubarb for the drizzle. Chop your rhubarb sticks into approx. 2cm long. Put in a pan with 100g caster sugar and 4 tablespoons of water. Poach the rhubarb slowly until they have softened. With a slotted spoon remove the rhubarb and set to one side to cool, this will later go in your cake. The syrup you’ve cooked your rhubarb in needs to simmer for a little longer until it thickens slightly. Don’t cook it too long or it will go jammy, you want it to pour almost like maple syrup.

To make the cake; pre-heat the oven to 190° and liberally grease your bundt tin with melted butter.

Beat your butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, eggs, flour, baking powder and lemon zest and juice and give them a really good mix. Add the cooled rhubarb you cooked earlier and stir in gently.

Pour the mixture into your bundt tin. Smooth the top of the batter and bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. Once baked through, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes.

Once cool, turn out onto a suitable plate or cake stand and make up the drizzle icing. Do not even attempt to drizzle the icing on until the cake is fully cooled.

Prick your cake all over with a skewer and carefully spoon the rhubarb syrup over, try to get some of it down the little holes in your cake. Leave it in a cool place for the icing to set a little, then serve with a pot of tea.

It’s as light as a feather and an absolutely fabulous spring bake. If you don’t have a bundt tin, you can always bake it in a regular cake tin, just adjust the cooking time as you see fit.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like to try this rhubarb and ginger upside-down cake, this blueberry and lemon drizzle bundt or this lemon and ginger drizzle cake.

Great Bakes: Rhubarb Drizzle Cake

FREE England Euro 2020 Colouring Sheets

Last night England beat Denmark in a thrilling quarter final in the Euro 2020 tournament. My son is OBSESSED with the England team.  They seem like a great bunch of lads, and just the kind of role models my son and his friends need.

To celebrate the England team making it to the final (arise Sir Gareth Southgate), I’ve put together a couple of colouring sheets to keep my lad busy until the big game on Sunday.

I’ve made them free to download, so you can print them out too and get the kids to colour them in. Or you could colour them in yourself, no one is policing this!

FREE England Euro 2020 Colouring Sheets

You can download the pdf here. All you need to do it press print and find some colouring pens or pencils and you’re good to go!

Download your FREE England Euro 2020 Colouring Sheets here

FREE England Euro 2020 Colouring Sheets

If you enjoyed this, you might like to download this free football reading log. Just get them to colour in a football for every book or every 20 minutes they read for. Once the whole sheet has been completed they earn a reward, whatever that might look like in your house.

FREE England Euro 2020 Colouring Sheets


Pub Crawls: The Didsbury Dozen

It’s become something of a tradition on any birthday ending in a 0 or a 5 for me to do the Didsbury Dozen – a famous, or infamous pub crawl involving 12 pints in 12 Didsbury pubs!

I’ve done the Didsbury Dozen a couple of times before – firstly on my 30th birthday, and then ten years later when I turned 40. This year my birthday ends in a 5, so it’s time to put my drinking boots on again and prove I’ve still got what it takes (which I have, I totally have).

If the weather is nice there will be some excellent beer gardening opportunities and I’m hoping some of my oldest, newest, bestest and nicest friends will join me along the way. I’m hoping it’ll be a good day to remember and a nice way to celebrate my birthday.

Pub Crawls: The Didsbury Dozen

To make the most of the Didsbury Dozen, it’s really important to be disciplined with yourself and your pub crawl team mates. It’s easy to find a sunny spot in a beer garden and not want to leave, or to spend too much time in one place. Someone needs to marshal the troops, check no one is cheating and that you’ve visited 12 establishments before last orders.

My tip is to start early, get three or four pubs or bars under your belt fairly quickly, and then have a slow hour in a pub with a good beer garden. Then crank up the pace again, remembering to stop for a hearty bite to eat to soak up some of the booze and then power through to the end.

Of course Didsbury has lost some good pubs over the last few years, so each time I do the dozen I need to plot a new course. Each time I need to cross off an old favourite and add a new bar or two. It’s not the end of the world, just a sign of changing times.

This year the course I’ve plotted looks like this…

  1. The Woodstock
  2. The Railway
  3. The Metropolitan
  4. Slug & Lettuce
  5. The Station
  6. The Dockyard
  7. The Dog & Partridge
  8. The Nelson
  9. The Fletcher Moss
  10. The Royal Oak
  11. Ye Olde Cock
  12. The Didsbury

*With the option to swap one of these out for food and a beer at Expo Lounge.

Ten years ago Didsbury was quite a different looking place, pubs and bars have come and gone, some remain and will always be here, I hope.

This was the order I did the Didsbury Dozen in 2006…

  1. The Didsbury
  2. Ye Olde Cock
  3. The Famous Crown
  4. The Royal Oak
  5. The Fletcher Moss
  6. The Pitcher & Piano
  7. The Dog & Partridge
  8. O’Neills
  9. Saints & Scholars
  10. Cafe Rouge
  11. Hog’s Head
  12. Slug & Lettuce

And this is the Didsbury Dozen I did in 2016 –

  1. The Railway
  2. The Metropolitan
  3. The Greenfinch
  4. Slug & Lettuce
  5. The Station
  6. The Stokers Arms
  7. The Dog & Partridge
  8. The Milson Rhodes
  9. The Fletcher Moss
  10. The Royal Oak
  11. The Famous Crown
  12. Bourbon & Black

If you fancy having a go at the Didsbury Dozen, I wish you well with your challenge. The most important thing is to have fun, and a very good breakfast before you start.

Didsbury Dozen
This post was originally published in September 2016, but really needed updating, so I did.

Review: Foul Play Murder Mystery Card Games

We were sent the Once Upon A Crime and Manor House Murder card games by Foul Play Games for review. All images and opinions are our own.

When we were asked to play and review these card games, I was really excited, because I fancy myself as a bit of an Jessica Fletcher type. I do love a good whodunit. Foul Play Games have released two different game packs to play – Once Upon A Crime and Manor House Murder. So with a table of snacks at the ready, we pitted our wits and tried to solve the murders.

Review: Foul Play Murder Mystery Card Games

We’d heard that the Once Upon A Crime game was easier to understand, so we started with that. It seems quite rule heavy at first, but once the game play begins, it’s surprisingly straightforward. Firstly choose which type of game you’re going to play – good cop or bad cop and then following the instructions, lay out the crime scene in cards and deal each player their cards and away you go.

Once Upon A Crime is based on fairy tale characters you know and love; but they’ve turned bad, obviously because one of them is a murderer! Each pack contains 4 instruction cards, 8 suspect cards, 15 evidence cards and 28 action cards.

Review: Foul Play Murder Mystery Card Games

There are cards to trip you up, steal clues from your fellow detectives, block their moves or uncover evidence from the crime scene. Essentially you are taking turns to pick up and discard cards. To win you have to collect three evidence cards and the suspect card of who you think did the crime. Once you have those, you can declare that you have a suspect and then you present your evidence to your fellow detectives.

It’s fun, and once you’ve understood the rules, it’s fairly fast and you can quickly play a few rounds of this murder mystery game. I really enjoyed it and so did my 10 year old; though he was less keen on losing to Jessica Fletcher here. Sorry son.

Review: Foul Play Murder Mystery Card Games

Once Upon A Crime costs £8.95, it’s suitable for ages 8+; it’s suitable for 2-5 players and it’s really great fun. Each pack contains two versions of the game – good cop and bad cop, so it’s twice the murderous drama! As it’s the size of a regular pack of cards, it’s a great thing to pack and take on holiday, or for in-car fun on days out this summer.

We had a bit less success with the original game, Manor House Murder. The instructions were less clear, so it took us a while to figure it out. I suspect if they we re-written in the same style as the Once Upon A Crime game it would be easier to pick up. The game play is similar though, and once we understood that, we had lots of fun tracking down the murderer.

Manor House Murder costs £8.95, it’s suitable for ages 8+; it’s suitable for 2-5 players and like the other game, it’s good clean family fun.

Review: Foul Play Murder Mystery Card Games

Find out more about these Foul Play games by visiting their website.

FREE Printable: Football Reading Log

Help to motivate your kids to read with this handy football reading log. Just colour in a cute little football for every book they read, or for every 20 minutes they read for and reward them with a little treat for completing the sheet!

If you’re the parent of a primary school aged child you will probably be tasked with listening to them read each night. I love listening to my son read and I love reading to him too. I think of it as a special quiet time where we sit together and get transported to another world.

FREE Printable: Football Reading Log

It’s not all sitting on a magic carpet happily listening to a child read. Sometimes it’s a bit harder to get him to read, especially if he’s not interested in the books he’s been sent home with. In those situations I usually promise him that I will read a favourite book once the less exciting school reading has been finished. That way we get the best of both worlds.

My son is very motivated by rewards, it doesn’t have to be big; a sticker or 20p for his jar is very well received. If he reads for 20 minutes he gets to colour a football in. Or if he finishes a book within those 20 minutes he colours one in too.FREE Printable: Football Reading Log

Once he’s completed a sheet he gets a treat. Again it’s nothing huge, he might get to choose a Netflix film for us to watch with some popcorn; or he might get a trip out to his favourite local museum.

Download this Football Reading Log for FREE here

I’ve found that this reading log really does help to motivate and encourage him to read. I hope it helps you too.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like this simple children’s book review template, this FREE Pokemon Reading Log, this Dinosaur Reading Log or this Rainbow Reading Log.

FREE Printable: Football Reading Log


Purezza Manchester – Vegan pizza in the NQ

We were invited guests of Purezza Manchester. All opinions and images are our own.

Over the weekend, the boy and I went to the soft opening of Purezza Manchester; a new vegan pizza restaurant on the corner of High Street and Thomas Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The boy was excited because it was pizza and I was excited because I’m lactose intolerant and I normally can’t eat pizza without a generous side of lactase pills.

Purezza Manchester - Vegan pizza in the NQ

This new restaurant is part of a small chain of vegan pizza joints up and down the country. Purezza suits its spot in the NQ; it’s smart but quirky, with a set of swings and a cow seat available downstairs for Instagram posing.

On its soft opening Saturday night, the restaurant was buzzing, and there was a small smattering of families, as well as groups of friends and couples on dates. Something for everyone! For those with under 10’s in tow, there is a kids (under 10) menu where they can eat for free. Again this is all vegan and my boy (a confirmed carnivore) opted for the vegan pepperoni. The kids’ drinks were a choice of lemonade or cola, he opted for cola. I’d have welcomed some juice options on there, but that’s just a niggle.

Purezza Manchester - Vegan pizza in the NQ

I chose The One and Only, Parmigiana Party – a generously topped pizza with a red tomato base with smoked mozzarella, aubergine parmigiana, crumbled sausages, topped with a dusting of nutritional yeast. On the side I had a rocket and sundried tomato salad and we shared a portion of giant cheese filled doughballs. The doughballs were the best I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something!

Purezza Manchester - Vegan pizza in the NQ

The pizzas come with a choice of bases; wholemeal, hemp or gluten free. We went for the wholemeal and it was a good choice. Not a single bite of our pizzas felt like we were taking the healthy high road. It was just very good pizza made vegan. Even the boy gobbled down his vegan pepperoni and said he’d have it again; always a good sign from my slightly particular son.

Purezza has an interesting drinks menu. It’s been a while since I went out and showed myself a good time, so I treated myself to a Ginger Amaretto Sour; a lively mix of amaretto, ginger juice, lemon and agave. It was so good I had to have a second one just to be sure.

For pudding we just had to share the chocolate pizza. This is definitely a sharing dish and one only the brave or the very hungry could tackle alone. It’s essentially a huge puddle of melted chocolate on a pizza base, topped with some vegan ice cream. It was excellent, if a bit much on top of our slightly greedy main courses.

Purezza Manchester - Vegan pizza in the NQ

Would we go again? Yes, it’s a treat and a half for me to eat good pizza and not fret about taking my lactase pills. It’s also very good pizza. With the kids eat free option, my bill came to just £34; which for dinner, cocktails and a giant chocolate pudding (plus pizza leftovers to take home), made for a very reasonable night out.

Purezza Manchester can be found at 75-77 High St, Manchester M4 1FS for more information or to book, visit their website.

Recipe: Cheese and Wild Garlic Pesto Twists

Each spring the woodland footpaths here abouts are fringed with wild garlic. I often pick a handful of leaves on my morning dog walks. Sometimes if I’ve got some time on my hands, I’ll pick enough to make a jar of wild garlic pesto, if I make enough of it, I’ll freeze some for later in the year. Wild garlic pesto is a potent thing, and should be consumed with caution, especially if you’re planning a hot date later that evening.

If you’ve got a couple of tablespoons of wild garlic pesto going spare, then these cheese and wild garlic pesto twists are a simple but excellent way to use the pesto. If you have no wild garlic pesto at all, then they’re just as good with regular pesto.

Recipe: Cheese and Wild Garlic Pesto Twists

It’s pretty straightforward and if they’re keen to get involved, it’s a fun thing for kids to get stuck into making too.

Cheese and Wild Garlic Pesto Twists

You will need:
Wild garlic pesto, about 1-2 tablespoons
1 sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
50g grated cheddar cheese
1/2 a ball of mozzarella, torn into small pieces
Melted butter to brush over

To make your Cheese and Wild Garlic Pesto Twists:
Pre-heat your oven to 200c. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and assemble your ingredients.

Lay out your puff pastry sheet and cut it in half down the middle lengthways. Spread your wild garlic pesto over one of the halves and sprinkle the cheddar and mozzarella over the top.

Lay the other piece of pastry over on top of the pesto and cheese; press down gently and then using your fingers, pressing around the edges to seal them together. Cut into 8 strips widthways and when you lay them in the baking sheet, twist them. Make sure there’s space between them as they will spread out a little in the oven.

Recipe: Cheese and Wild Garlic Pesto Twists

Brush each one with melted butter and bake for 15 minutes or so in your pre-heated oven. They should be nicely browned and some of the cheese may have escaped and bubbled a bit. This only makes them more delicious.

Once baked, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool on the baking paper. The cheese will make them soft and prone to flopping and breaking unless you leave them to cool before moving them.

The finished twists make an excellent lunch with a pile of nice salad, or a great on the go snack for busy people. I usually bake two batches of these (double the quantity) because once they’re cool, they seem to disappear very quickly – always a good sign!

If you enjoyed this, you might also like to try this wild garlic focaccia or these wild garlic and cheese scones.

Recipe: Cheese and Wild Garlic Pesto Twists

24 Summer meals your family will love!

After months of longing, summer seemed to happen almost overnight here. We went from a diet of hearty stews and stick-to-your-ribs meals, to light and breezy salads almost overnight. It always seems like a handbrake turn change of pace, the change from winter to summer eating; so I’ve been quietly noting what we’ve been eating over the last few weeks and made a list of our favourite summer meals.

Catering to such a picky household can be a bit of a chore. I’m a lactose intolerant veggie and the boy is quite capable of eating several large portions of his favourites in one sitting. He is however pretty picky about what he will eat and quite definite about what he won’t. We try to strike a balance between not eating pasta with pesto every night, and offering fairly healthy balanced meals.

Over the last month or so I’ve jotted down my meal plans on my phone. There were some big hits, such as the veggie chilli nachos which I’ve made several times due to popular demand. Veggie chilli is also excellent for sneaking extra veg into a slightly reluctant 10 year old. He’s also discovered the delights of spinach and ricotta, so we’ve had that a few times too.

He’s also stepped up his martial arts training, so needs a good protein boost on his training days, so prawns are a winner; plus they are so quick and easy to throw together with a heap of chopped cucumber, peppers and sweetcorn.

I’ve been trying to eat slightly fewer carbs, so we’ve been having tortilla pizzas on evenings when I’m short of time and cooking inspo. A swirl of sundried tomato paste, a scattering of cheese and some extra pepperoni for the boy. They take ten minutes and they go down a storm.

24 Summer Meals For your family

Asparagus and broccoli risotto
Burger on a bun
Chicken curry/ pea and paneer curry
Fish and chips/ veggie pie and chips
Frittata and patatas bravas
Fry up
Hot dogs
Jacket potatoes or jacket sweet potatoes
Lamb kebabs or falafels with salad and pitta bread
Prawn salad
Quiche, potato salad and salad
Quorn mince tacos
Quorn roast dinner
Sausage casserole and sweet potato mash
Seitan stir fry
Spaghetti Bolognese
Spaghetti and veggie meatballs
Spinach and ricotta cannelloni
Spinach and ricotta lasagne
Toad in the hole
Tortilla pizzas
Veggie chilli and tortilla chips
Veggie sausage ragu

Of course, my menu isn’t entirely without stodge. We can’t exist on salady bits alone, but they’re all lighter and generally quicker meals which we all enjoy.

As for dessert, steamed puddings are out of the window and we are loving making and eating giant bowls of fruit salads which are such a healthy and colourful way to round off a family meal.

What are your favourite summer meals? Please comment below with your suggestions.

If you enjoyed this, you might also be interested in these 55 ideas for family meals.

24 Summer meals your family will love!

Giveaway & Review: NERF BUNKR Battle Cubes

We were sent a set of NERF BUNKR Battle Cubes for review. All images and opinions are our own.

My ten year old is obsessed with having NERF battles in the park with his friends. He has a large collection of NERF guns and likes to do target practice in the garden, NERF is important to him and if I’m honest, I enjoy joining in and having a little shoot-out with him too.

The latest addition to his NERF armoury is a set of the new NERF BUNKR Battle Cubes. They’re inflatable cubes which help to enhance your NERF battle play. You can create and customise you own battlefield with these big inflatable obstacles which provide great cover for NERF shoot-outs!

NERF BUNKR Battle Cubes

The NERF BUNKR Battle Cubes are easily inflated, especially if you’ve got a pump. First you put in some water, this is to provide the inflatable cubes with a bit of weight so they don’t blow away or fall over. Then you fill the cubes with air. They didn’t take very long at all to inflate and we managed to get them pumped up and in action in around 10 minutes.

NERF BUNKR Battle Cubes

It’s Nerf or Nothin’!

The NERF BUNKR Battle Cubes cost around £20 and includes four cubes. In the box you will also find some spare patched to repair any air leaks and a set of Nerf BUNKR Battle Game cards; with some strategy ideas and tactics to help your battle plans.

NERF BUNKR Battle Cubes

The Battle Cubes have an integrated water base for stability during outdoor play,  as well as integrated dart storage, which is very handy in combat! Once you’ve finished your battle, the cubes can be easily deflated and flattened for storage.

NERF BUNKR Battle Cubes are suitable for ages 8+ and my ten year old had no trouble inflating them and setting them up himself.

NERF BUNKR Battle Cubes

The NERF BUNKR range is available from Argos, Amazon, Very and Littlewoods. The NERF BUNKR range includes the Battle Cubes as well as the Battle Fort, Challenger Pack and Battle Switch.

win a NERF BUNKR Toxic Barrel & a NERF BUNKR Caution Crate

To be in with a chance to win a NERF BUNKR Toxic Barrel and a NERF BUNKR Caution Crate (rrp £9.99 each), simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

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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 be sent a NERF BUNKR Toxic Barrel and a NERF BUNKR Caution Crate (rrp £9.99 each).
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