Tag Archives: Merlin Annual Pass

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

We’re currently holidaying in Cornwall, and keen to make the most of our Merlin Annual Passes, this week we had a drive down to Gweek to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary which this year is celebrating 60 years of seal rescue, rehabilitation and release.

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is part of the SEA LIFE group of attractions and set in the picturesque Helford Estuary, by the village of Gweek, in Cornwall. It’s probably the most southerly Merlin attraction in the UK; but well worth remembering to pack your passes for if you have them.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

One of the most exciting reasons to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary was that I’d spotted on their website that it was dog friendly. It’s harder than you’d think to find attractions which are genuinely dog friendly, so were delighted to get through the door and see so many happy dogs on days out with their families.

The sanctuary is located on the fairly steep side of the Helford Estuary. There is a safari bus to take people from the top to the bottom of the steep hill, but it isn’t by their own admission the most accessible of attractions; though they’ve tried their best and help is always at hand if you need it. Me, being unsteady on my feet took the safari bus option with my son, whilst my husband walked the dog down to the bottom. He beat us there and back both times, but the bus is brilliant for little legs, or unsteady adult ones.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is the first port of call for local seals who have been injured or who are ill. Each year around 50 seals are taken in by the sanctuary and given the care they need to get better. Most go on to be released back into the sea, but some have life changing injuries or conditions which can be best managed at the sanctuary.

At the sanctuary you can find common seals, grey seals, penguins, otters, sea lions as well as ponies, sheep and goats. There is also a rockpool area to explore and a wildlife walk through the woods. There’s a lot of learning to be had, from conservation work, to things we can do at home to help the plant. We found this very interesting and a great talking point.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

The self-led tour begins at the seal rescue hospital. We skipped the hospital as there were no seals in there, which is a good thing and carried to the bottom of the hill where there are a number of different pools; the common seals were in a new-ish looking pool next to the nursery pool which held the youngest pups in the sanctuary.

There were various talks and experiences throughout the day. The feeding sessions seemed to be the most popular; watching the resident seals in the convalescent pool get fed their fishy lunch whilst we were given a talk about the seals and what had happened to bring them to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary was especially interesting. The feeding of the penguins was also great fun.

The woodland walk was a really great addition. There’s a 500 metre walk to Otter Creek, but along the way there are lots of signs with facts and activities on. It’s also great for dogs (on leads) to stretch their legs in the cool shade of the woods.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

There are both permanent and temporary residents in the seal sanctuary, so the number of animals to visit can vary. However it is really well done, there is always a programme of events and a permanent selection of seals, penguins, sea lions and otters to see and learn about. The wildlife walk was great, very informative and a great place for kids to run off a bit of steam.

We were also really impressed with the cafes on site. They were not wildly expensive and we enjoyed a good lunch, though you can take a picnic if you’d prefer.

We had a really enjoyable and informative visit to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. It’s a genuinely dog friendly family attraction in Cornwall which we all really enjoyed visiting.

Find out more about The Cornish Sea Sanctuary by visiting their website.

Disclosure: We are Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors this year. All images and opinions are our own.

Capture the good times with a Merlin DigiPass!

We are Merlin Annual Pass ambassadors and our Premium Passes give us so much family fun each year, they really do pay for themselves over and over. Recently Merlin have added an extra bonus for Premium Passholders, read on to find out more about the DigiPass.

Normally £50, the free DigiPass enables Premium Passholders to get unlimited action shots of themselves having a blast on awesome attractions, such as the brand new Wicker Man at Alton Towers Resort, Tiger Rock at Chessington World of Adventures Resort, The Walking Dead: The Ride at THORPE PARK Resort and the LEGO NINJAGO Ride at The LEGOLAND Windsor Resort. What’s more, existing Merlin Annual Passholders can also get an additional £20 off all Premium Merlin Annual Pass renewals as well as the free DigiPass if they renew before 1st September, so it’s about time everyone was in the frame!

Capture the good times with a Merlin DigiPass!

A DigiPass enables passholders to get unlimited action shots on specific rides at Merlin theme parks – Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, LEGOLAND Windsor and Chessington World of Adventures.

The Merlin Annual Pass opens the door to 32 incredible attractions around the UK; so wherever you live, you’re guaranteed to have the ultimate passport to fun! Passholders can enjoy the Coca-Cola London Eye, which shows breath-taking views of the capital; SEA LIFE Aquariums and Sanctuaries with creatures from all around the world; Madame Tussauds, where visitors can take a selfie with A List celebs and national icons, and so much more.

Capture the good times with a Merlin DigiPass!

My friend Jen from My Mummy’s Pennies is a huge fan of the DigiPass. She’s kindly let me use some of her DigiPass photos for this post so you can see them in action. They’re great momentoes of the day. The photos are available for 12 months, so once you have them taken, don’t forget to download them.

The DigiPass sale starts at 10am on Thursday 14th June and will be ending at midnight on Saturday 1st September; so don’t wait around; snap up this offer so you can enjoy a summer of memories before the summer holidays disappears in a flash!

For more information please visit www.merlinannualpass.co.uk.

Capture the good times with a Merlin DigiPass!

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I was not paid to write this post.

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

When we heard that SEA LIFE Manchester were unveiling a new exhibit, we had to go down and check it out. SEA LIFE Manchester is one of our favourite places to spend a few hours and we were keen to meet the new resident –  a Japanese Spider Crab!

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

Japanese Spider Crabs can measure over 5 metres claw to claw, and can live to up to 100 years old! There are three Japanese Spider Crabs at SEA LIFE Manchester in a huge new tank area. Given they can grow up to the size of a small car, even though they seem huge, they still have plenty of growing to do.

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

The hard shell of the Japanese Spider Crab helps to protect them from larger predators such as octopuses, but giant spider crabs also use camouflage. The crab’s bumpy shell can help them to blend into the rocky ocean floor. They really are incredible creatures. Almost nightmarish in appearance, but apparently they are quite placid creatures. It felt really special to see these deep-sea creatures close up.

SEA LIFE Manchester has been given a bit of a makeover since we were last there just before Christmas. A few things have been moved about or refreshed, with, I’m pleased to say, another jellyfish tank in the building. You can crawl through the fluorescent world of the floating moon jellyfish in their brand new 360-degree doughnut tank. I adore jellyfish and we always spend lots of time watching them swim about. They’re very relaxing to watch.

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

We also stopped by the Jurassic Ranger area to have a look at the fossils. The Ranger expertly told us all about the fossils she had on display and let us touch some. She also gave the kids a sharks tooth each to take home with them as a souvenir. It was really interesting to find out more about sharks and sharks teeth, especially as that’s one of his topics at school this year.

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

SEA LIFE Manchester is one of our favourite places to visit. I’m pleased to see it’s been given a little makeover in parts. The centre is packed full of beautiful, weird and wonderful creatures; it’s well worth a visit for a few hours if you’re wanted a few hours of wonder and awe.

Find out more about what’s on at SEA LIFE Manchester on their website.

Meeting the Japanese Spider Crab at SEA LIFE Manchester

Disclosure: We are Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors this year. All images and opinions are our own.

Five things you could get your Dad for Father’s Day

Dad’s are easy to buy for aren’t they? A snazzy pair of socks and some beer and they’re happy. But surely we can do a bit better than that? Dad’s are brilliant and if you can’t treat them on Father’s Day, when can you? I’ve got a few nice ideas for things that aren’t socks to give your dad this Father’s Day.

If Dad is a fan of Star Wars, then he might like everyone’s favourite wingman, Chewbacca as a present. Posh Paws have recently released their Chewbacca range, featuring lots of our favourite characters from Star Wars.

Star Wars Toys: Posh Paws Chewbacca Collection

If Star Wars isn’t this thing, then Hallmark have a really huge selection of Itty Bittys to choose from. Last year the boy painted a Superman mug for his Dad and we put a Superman Itty Bitty in it. They’ve got Marvel Itty Bittys, as well as  Disney, Star Wars, DC Comics, Super Hero Girls, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Wizard of Oz, Peanuts and Wedding itty bittys.

Five things you could get your Dad for Father's Day

We got one of these brilliant MANCUNIAN t-shirts for my other half last year. It was by far his favourite present of the year. From The Manchester Bee Company, this t-shirt is just £15 and is about the coolest thing a Manc can wear. They also have loads of other Manchester Bee themed gifts and t-shirts for Proper Mancs.

Five things you could get your Dad for Father's Day

We love making memories, so a Merlin Annual Pass would make fora brilliant Father’s Day present. Whether you fancy the thrills and spills of Alton Towers or Chessington World of Adventures. Or if you love a bit of LEGOLAND or spending time at a SEA LIFE Centre, the Merlin Annual Pass is just the thing to help you and your family make memories.

Merlin Annual Pass launches its BIG January sale

If your Dad is more of a foodie, what about a nice hamper? A foodie treat always goes down well in our house. This hamper from hamper.com is a lovely celebration of Australian food and drink, it was a real Father’s Day treat for my better half. Plus it’s just the thing to get delivered if you’re not going to see Dad on Father’s Day.

Father's Day Gifts: A hamper fit for a barbecue king!

Lastly, don’t forget to buy your Dad a card. Hallmark have some lovely Father’s Day cards this year, something for every Dad, whatever he’s interested in. Personally the boy has plumped for the card with the badge on, because cards with badges are the best kind of cards!

Five things you could get your Dad for Father's Day

What will you be buying the Dads in your life for Father’s Day? Have you got any exciting ideas planned? 

Merlin Annual Pass launches its BIG January sale

For the last two years we have been proud owners of a Merlin Annual Pass. So whenever the mood takes us we can jump in the car for the day and head out for some family fun. We’re not alone in this; research by Merlin Annual Pass suggests that many families have made a New Year resolution to spend time making memories together.

The great news is, for those families who want to spend some thrill-seeking time together, the Merlin Annual Pass sale is now on! A Merlin Annual Pass opens the door to 32 magical worlds across the UK. Wherever you live, you’re guaranteed to have the ultimate passport to fun! You’ve got until midnight on 12th February to pick up a Merlin Annual Pass, giving you 52 weeks of family fun. Passes are priced from just £109 per person in the spectacular New Year sale!

Merlin Annual Pass launches its BIG January sale

2018 looks set to be a bumper year for Merlin as they welcome some exciting new additions. Alton Towers will launch its brand new wooden roller coaster experience. The first wooden roller coaster to be built in the UK for more than 20 years will be revealed this spring; with a globally unique twist and a fantastic theme, which will make Alton Towers a must visit attraction in 2018.

Family favourite, Chessington World of Adventures Resort, will be opening its new, multi-million pound Land of the Tiger. This features an innovative enclosure and Europe’s first overhead big cat trails; all set to welcome a family of four endangered Amur Tigers this spring. As the foursome roam with a cat’s-eye view of the Land, guests will be able to wander underneath the tigers, before making a splash at Tiger Rock – the exhilarating log flume.

Merlin Annual Pass launches its BIG January sale

Birmingham LEGOLAND Discovery Centre opens its doors this summer. Featuring a 4D cinema, Kingdom Quest laser ride and Merlin’s Apprentice; plus the chance to see all of Birmingham’s top attractions made from LEGO in their MINILAND display. Keen LEGO builders can learn building tips from their Master Model Builder Workshops – sounds fantastic!

The BIG New Year Sale in now on and ends at midnight on 12th February. So don’t delay, grab your Merlin Annual Pass and start your 12 months of fun today!

For more information please visit www.merlinannualpass.co.uk.

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I was not paid to write this post.

Merlin Annual Pass

Discovering our Blue Planet at SEA LIFE Manchester

I don’t know about you, but Sunday evenings are Blue Planet time in our house. We all snuggle on the sofa and spend an hour being wowed by the wonders of the deep. With SEA LIFE Manchester virtually on our doorstep, we decided to take a trip and discover some of the amazing creatures who live in our oceans.

Discovering our Blue Planet at SEA LIFE Manchester

SEA LIFE Manchester is our nearest SEA LIFE Centre and as such we tend to go there quite a lot. It’s great to spend a couple of fairly chilled hours there. We’ve met most of the creatures in the centre before, but this time there had been a couple of changes.

I have my own favourites, namely the jellyfish, this time they were much smaller, so I think these were new to the centre. It was quite interesting to see their relatively small bodies floating and undulating in the water.

Discovering our Blue Planet at SEA LIFE Manchester

Te other big change was that Ernie, the huge green sea turtle has found himself a lady friend – Cammie. I think the hope is that they will find love and produce some baby turtles of their own.

Despite us being regular visitors to SEA LIFE Manchester, we did manage to experience a few things we’d never seen or done before. The boy felt brave enough to touch a starfish in the Rockpool Zone. Then I put my hand in to say hello to a shrimp. I was told the shrimp would nibble my fingers, taking away dead skin and it found a nice meal and gave my finger a bit of a tug I wasn’t expecting. I may have squealed in a most unnecessary way.

Discovering our Blue Planet at SEA LIFE Manchester

We also spent quite a lot of time talking to some of the Jurassic Rangers who were on hand to talk about fossils and show off some specimens. The boy is a massive dinosaur fan, so this was a bit of a treat for him.

Best of all, towards the end of the day we managed to catch the Ray Talk. We watched them being fed while a very knowledgeable man told us all about them. There are three species of ray at SEA LIFE Manchester including the lovely Blue Spotted Stingrays. The Ray Talk is well worth catching if you’re interested in these graceful creatures.

Discovering our Blue Planet at SEA LIFE Manchester

The boy went all around SEA LIFE pointing out creatures he’d seen on Blue Planet and telling us a bit more about them. The same is true when we’re watching the TVseries; every so often he pipes up “I’ve seen that at SEA LIFE”!

If you’re a fan of Blue Planet then a visit to your local SEA LIFE Centre is a must. It’s really helped to connect the dots for my son. Seeing things in real life that he’d seen on the TV suddenly made everything extra wonderful and real for him.

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

 
I’m 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.

Days Out: Visiting Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

Over the summer we travelled down to North Devon for our two week holiday. We knew that the weather would not be fabulous, so we tried to plan a few wet weather activities. With that in mind we took our Merlin Passes and decided to choose a rainy day and drive over to Weymouth in Dorset to visit the Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park.

What we’d not realised (and a quick visit to their website would have told us this) is that Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park is a largely outdoor attraction and on rainy days you will get very wet. 

Days Out: Visiting Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

It was a 2 hour plus drive from our holiday cottage, but we arrived late morning and promptly got soaked to the skin as we walked to the entrance. The fast track queue which Merlin Annual Passholders use was outside, so by the time we got into the park we were completely sodden. 

Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park is separated into several zones. Some of which are indoor, some are outdoor. As you can imagine on a very wet day the indoor zones were particularly crowded. 

Days Out: Visiting Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

The zones were – Harbourside; Nursery; Penguins; New Ideas Zone; Breed Rescue Protect; Ray Lagoon; Rockpool; Turtle Sanctuary; Seals; Rainforest; Shipwreck; Otters and Ocean Tunnel. In addition to these attractions, there is also a Wetlands Conservation Trail, a Splash Zone and Caribbean Cove – an outdoor adventure playground. 

We love Sea Life Centres and we’ve seen a lot of the indoor habitats before at other Sea Life Centres. Once we realised there were other exciting attractions we’ve never seen before, despite the heavy rain we made a beeline for them. Ben loved the penguins and the seals. The Turtle Sanctuary was in its own building complete with a huge turtle over the entrance. 

Days Out: Visiting Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

The otters which are Asian Short-Clawed Otters were a big hit. We both really enjoyed watching them run about, diving in and out of their pool and the dashing inside to tumble about in their beds. 

We were particularly impressed with the outdoor Rockpool area. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The indoor Rockpool areas at other Sea Life Centres are usually a series of supervised tanks you can put your hands in and touch the creatures. The same is true here, but it’s outside, partially under cover and every so often an artificial tide crashes out and floods the area. There is a warning, so you can step out of the way and not get wet, but it’s a great addition. The Rockpool area is home to creatures native to the UK, including starfish, shore crabs, anemones and sea urchins.

Days Out: Visiting Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

The outdoor areas were brilliant and a real treat. There was so much to see and do and we learned such a lot. On a dry day I know we would have made so much more of them. It was such a shame it was so wet, but that didn’t seem to bother the penguins, seals and otters quite as much as it did us.

We would absolutely visit the Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park again, just maybe on a dry day. 

For more information about Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park, visit their website.

If you’re visiting Weymouth you could also visit the Jurassic Skyline Tower which we reviewed here.

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I have been given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I wasn’t paid to write this post.

Days Out: Jurassic Skyline Tower, Weymouth

We’re on holiday in Devon this week and the weather hasn’t been great. We’d brought our Merlin Annual Passes with us, so when a wet day was forecast we decided to drive to our nearest SEA LIFE Centre in Weymouth. We were also drawn to Weymouth because we wanted to visit the Jurassic Skyline tower which promised 360° views across the Jurassic Coast. 

We arrived at the Jurassic Skyline tower which is on the end of Weymouth Pier. The staff in the ticket office did warn us that due to the weather we wouldn’t be able to see much, but we’d driven for three hours (130 miles) to get here, so we had to try it. Unsurprisingly given the weather, there was not a queue. We showed our Merlin Passes and we were waved through to a sheltered area where we waited for a few minutes for the gondola doors to open. 

Days Out: Jurassic Skyline Tower, Weymouth

We were ushered in and we were the only people in the Jurassic Skyline gondola. The gondola has a bench to sit on and windows all around, so on a clear day you should be able to see for miles. Sadly it was raining heavily and visibility was very poor. Apologies for the really dull, dark photographs, but they are a true representation of the day we visited.

Days Out: Jurassic Skyline Tower, Weymouth

The Jurassic Skyline gondola rises smoothly up the tower and does a full 360° rotation twice with an informative commentary throughout. You can buy an information pack for £1 which can help you pinpoint the sights along the coast and it gives you some more information about the Jurassic coastline.

Days Out: Jurassic Skyline Tower, Weymouth

It costs £7.50 per person and the whole experience took around 20 minutes. On a good clear day I think it would absolutely be worth the money. If I could have seen more of the coastline I probably would have done it twice just because I enjoyed the experience so much. The ride up the tower was smooth and even though I’m quite scared of heights I felt perfectly safe, even with strong winds buffeting the tower.

Days Out: Jurassic Skyline Tower, Weymouth

It’s a shame the weather was so bad and the visibility so poor on the day we visited the Jurassic Skyline. Better luck next time!

For more information about the Jurassic Skyline in Weymouth, visit their website.

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I have been given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I wasn’t paid to write this post.

Days Out: Blackpool Sea Life Centre

The small boy and I love visiting Sea Life Centres. We share a love of jellyfish, stingrays and sharks so wherever we go in the UK, if there’s a Sea Life Centre nearby we will be there! Earlier this year we had a couple of days in Blackpool and while we were in town we took the chance to visit the Blackpool Sea Life Centre. 

Days Out: Blackpool Sea Life Centre

Blackpool Sea Life Centre is on the promenade, about five minutes walk down from Blackpool Tower. There are ticket deals to be had, so if you’re planning to go buying tickets in advance, or multi-attraction tickets are a good bet. We have a Merlin card, so we just showed those on the way in and we were given a guide and waved through.

Like all Sea Life Centres, Blackpool Sea Life Centre is laid out in zones – Rockpool, Atlantic Depths, Quayside zone, Stingray Adventure zone, Kingdom of the Seahorse, Submarine Explorer, Rainforest Adventure zone, Shark Mission and Ocean Tunnel and lastly the Jurassic Seas zone. 

Blackpool Sea Life Centre

We have been to Blackpool Sea Life Centre before and we really like spending time in the Ocean Tunnel and the Stingray Adventure Zone. When we visited this time, we spent quite a lot of time with the octopus.

Whenever we’ve seen octopus before they’ve always been hidden away in the back of the tank having a sleep. This time the octopus was curled up in the corner at the front of the tank. We stopped to have a proper look at this amazing creature and we caught its eye. We’re not sure if we spooked it (we don’t tap on tanks or anything) or if it just wanted to show off for us, but we had a good five minutes with it swimming around and puffing itself up for us. Thank you Mr Octopus.

Blackpool Sea Life Centre

We also spent quite a lot of time watching the stingrays. There was a really good viewing area where you could pop your head in the domes inside the tank and watch all the fish and stingrays swim by. Sadly we’d just missed the stingray feeding session, but it did mean we had the area almost entirely to ourselves for a little while.

Blackpool Sea Life Centre is a really good sized aquarium with a fantastic collection of weird and wonderful creatures. It’s slap bang in the middle of Blackpool prom and the perfect place to take the family if it’s raining, or too sunny, or if you just want to spend a couple of hours feeling chilled out watching the creatures.

If you time your visit carefully you might catch them feeding the sharks. Or you could go backstage to find out more, or maybe catch a special talk. My tip is to go as soon as it opens when it’s quiet and it feels like it’s just you and the fish. 

I wonder which Sea Life Centre we’ll visit next?

Blackpool Sea Life Centre

For more information about Blackpool Sea Life Centre visit their website.

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I have been given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I wasn’t paid to write this post.

Summer Sale! Grab a bargain Merlin Annual Pass

The Merlin Annual Pass BIG SUMMER SALE starts at 10am on Thursday 1st June and ends at midnight on Monday 3rd July 2017. So there’s never been a better time to start planning adventures for your family this summer. With access to 32 top attractions across the UK, grab a Merlin Annual Pass in the sale for just £119 per person.

Escape this summer to the Alton Towers Resort, home to some of the world’s most iconic rollercoasters.  While you’re there, visit CBeebies Land which has new additions for 2017, including a live and interactive show hosted by the fuzzy puppets from The Furchester Hotel and the Go Jetters Vroomster Zoom ride which little thrill seekers will love.

Big Summer Sale! Grab a bargain Merlin Annual Pass

Go in search of The Gruffalo at the Chessington World of Adventures Resort. Visit Sea Life Centres across the UK; explore the wonders of the ocean and come face to flipper, fin, tentacle, turtles, sharks, rays and octopuses.  Or start your ninja training at the new Lego Ninjago World at the Legoland Windsor Resort.

Among Merlin’s attractions are; Sea Life Centres, Madame Tussauds, Legoland, The Coca-Cola London Eye, The Dungeons, Gardaland Resort, Legoland Discovery Centres, Alton Towers Resort, Warwick Castle, Thorpe Park Resort, Blackpool Tower, Heide Park Resort, Sydney Tower Eye and Skywalk.

Big Summer Sale! Grab a bargain Merlin Annual Pass

We have had so many wonderful days out with our Merlin Annual Pass. It’s very easy to quickly clock up excellent savings, especially over the long summer holidays. So whether you’re planning a staycation or just some fun family days out, a Merlin Annual Pass is a great way to maximise the good times this summer.

See what you can save on your Merlin Annual Pass

Big Summer Sale! Grab a bargain Merlin Annual Pass

For more information or to buy passes in the Merlin summer sale, please visit www.merlinannualpass.co.uk.

I am a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador.  I was not paid to write this blog post.