I think the fact that it has been almost a month since I wrote a post here is testament to just how busy our lives are at the moment.  I have found the jump up from three days at work to four rather more challenging than I thought it would be; just having one day to get things done without the kids under my feet is so tricky!  I’m hoping that I will crack it this month though, fingers crossed for that one.

That said, we’ve had a lot on this month too.  Both work related and just for fun.

boy in snowflakes

We kicked off the month with an unexpected snow day, although even as I type that I’m thinking about the rest of the weather we had in March and realising that nothing is really unexpected anymore.  I think I’ve mentioned before that we just don’t do snow in this part of the North West, it’s generally too wet and so waking up to find fat flakes floating down and sticking, actually sticking, was something of a shock.  The kids ended up at home because school thought it wasn’t safe for parents to try and bring them in so we got to spend the morning having snow ball fights and making snow creatures which was lots of fun.

violet beauregard newt scamander

blueberry cheeks close up

It was also World Book Day at the beginning of March and this year we proudly sent off two children dressed as characters from books.  Meg chose to be Violet Beauregarde from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, post-blueberry transformation, and we managed a compromise with Eli that he would go dressed as Newt Scamander.  Originally he had wanted to dress as a stormtrooper but with me being such a bookish soul, I tried my best to encourage him to choose someone who began their life as a literary character, rather than someone from a movie.  Newt was a good compromise and with the addition of a case and a niffler he actually went to school as a very happy chap.  He might actually be coming to terms with the realisation that being a Hufflepuff isn’t so bad either.  Whoop.

rhino knowsley safari park

lion knowsley safari park

buffalo safari park

pirate swing knowsley safari park

We celebrated Mother’s Day here in the UK at the start of the month.  James was, unfortunately, working on actual Mother’s Day so we headed to our local safari park the day before.  The weather wasn’t great (big surprise) but we did manage to have the experience of a lioness walking right past our car.  You can see that in the vlog here – it certainly gave us a real appreciation for how big those cats really are.  It’s the sort of thing that you know but until you get up close it isn’t something you can appreciate.  That is definitely not the case now.

easter egg hunt

Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt Rufford Old Hall

rufford old hall door

easter egg cake

Finally, we rounded off the month with the long Easter weekend.  It was a washout in terms of weather but we managed to fit in an Easter Egg hunt, a visit from my parents and my sister and even some good old fashioned fun at the seaside arcades.

Now as we head into April I am really hoping for some nice weather so we can enjoy the outdoors without having to wear gloves and hats.  It feels like we have had the longest bout of winter and I’m sure most of us are ready for some vitamin D from those sunny rays right about now!

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I mentioned in my last ‘Us’ post that we had gone into the year thinking that 2018 was going to be a quiet one.  If that wasn’t true in January then it certainly hasn’t been true this month either!  We have ended February with some big changes on the horizon, the most significant of which is that I will now be working four days a week rather than three.  I’m taking on some new challenges at work and although I’m excited at the prospect, I’m also not sure how it is going to affect the very fragile work-life rhythm we have just managed to get into.  For the next couple of months it is only going to be on a trial basis so we will have a chance to see the impact before I have to fully commit to anything.

canal walk

leeds liverpool canal

sitting alongside canal

February was also a month of crazy mixed weather.  At the start of the month we had a beautifully mild day which we took full advantage of and went for a stroll alongside the canal, one of our favourite walks.  This was quickly followed by some of the worst weather we have experienced in a long time.  Storm Emma arrived with a vengeance and we spent a lot of the rest of the month huddled in the house or rushing from house to car, trying not to get blown away in the process.

We did manage to squeeze some fun out of the month though.  We ventured into Liverpool a number of times.  I took Eli to the Clip and Climb centre and was amazed when he scaled each wall with absolute ease.  I’ve always suspected that climbing would be his ‘thing’ and it turned out I was right!  I’ve managed to find an outdoor climbing club which is local to us and takes place during the summer so I’m looking forward to enrolling him in that as I think it will be right up his street.  Although he seems to think parkour is more his speed; I’m not so sure.

clip and climb liverpool

climbing wall liverpool

albert dock

drawing mattel play

There was also the launch party of Nearly There Yet? which was hosted by Mattel Play.  We had a great morning watching the kids play and then afterwards we headed into Liverpool for some exploration and lunch.  Mattel Play is on the docks, which is one of my favourite places in the city.  When the sun is shining, even if it isn’t warm, the docks are just such a stunning location and I am totally there for it.

The rest of the month was, as I mentioned, spent in hibernation.  We made some travel plans for when the weather is warmer, talked about progress on the house (or lack of!) and basically tried to keep ourselves occupied whilst it was bitterly cold outside.  I don’t think we did too badly, but I will say I am definitely looking forward to the real arrival of Spring.

And that was February for us in a nutshell.  I am desperately hoping that we get a longer stretch of mild weather so we can properly get out and about again but with the unexpected flurries of snow we had again this week, I’m just not too sure!

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So last week was pretty bleak.  Storm Emma was doing her thing here in the UK and we were being treated to temperatures in the minuses which were much colder than we were used to.  It didn’t help that it seemed as though lots of places in the country were being treated to snow days and we hadn’t a flake in sight.

My parents live in the East Midlands and often get snow so we regularly checked the weather forecast and made plans to head down to visit them over the weekend; would you believe that Eli has never built a snowman in his entire life (the last time we had snow, he was a baby!) and he has been desperate to get his building skills on for such a long time that it seemed like an opportunity wasted if we didn’t pack up and go.  I was travelling on my own, without James, and it was slightly terrifying after hearing reports of people being stuck on the M62 earlier in the week but we managed to get down (and back again) without a hitch.

My Dad loves being in the snow so I also knew it was a good bet that they’d have someone who was as willing to engage in silly snow fun as they were.  I have to say, I was surprised at how much Meg enjoyed it.  This is the child who makes a fuss if you ask her to come on a walk with the dog; she’s a homebody in every sense of the word but she spent an absolute age playing in the snow and creating her snowman masterpiece.

building snowman

snowman with beard

snow ball

Our visit done, we thought we had seen the back of the cold weather and the snow and then, this morning we woke to a total whiteout.  It can only be described as a blizzard and it was more snow than they’ve had in decades in this part of the North West, according to my neighbours!  After watching cars crawl along the road at a snail pace and hearing reports of crashes just up the road I was relieved when we had the message to sat that school was closed.  Finally, a snow day!  And my, oh my, were the kids excited.

Once again they donned their wellies and coats and headed outside to enjoy some fun in the snow.  It was a LOT more snow than we’d had at my parents and part of the joy was definitely in it being so unexpected.  As I sit here and write this, the sun has come out and the snow is rapidly melting but that doesn’t really phase me.  The magic was in seeing the wonder on the kids’ faces when they woke up this morning and looked out of their windows.  It was the excitement when they realised that they didn’t have to go to school and could instead spend the morning playing in the snow.

climbing frame in snow

boy in snowflakes

snowman

And it was Meg who stayed out the longest again, surprising us all, working hard on a little snow creation and just being completely enchanted by the big, soft falling flakes.  She crunched up and down the garden, exclaiming and delighting over the inches which kept on building up, the way the snow gathered on the leaves and the branches, and how she could catch the giant flakes on her tongue.  It was a truly wonderful thing to watch and it sounds so funny but when snow is a rarity, it makes it all the more precious.

Apart from when we took them to the snowdome in Manchester, neither Meg nor Eli have experienced snow for perhaps four or five years so this was a lovely, and unexpected treat.  And I hope that we managed to make the most of it.

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Oh, World Book Day. As an avid reader, the idea of an entire day dedicated to the wonder of reading and all things bookish fills me with absolute joy.  As a parent, the idea of trying to convince my son that he would much rather go to school dressed as a character from a classic piece of literature, rather than as a laser-gun wielding stormtrooper, fills me with something a lot less pleasant.

But alas, World Book Day is once again almost upon us and so we make plans and we discuss outfits and we try to write down a note big enough that I won’t forget what day school are celebrating and we might actually get it right this year!

I think that anything which inspires our children to read is a real winner.  I recently started a series on my blog for just that purpose; with ideas for how to encourage our children to read and age-appropriate book suggestions.  You don’t have to hang around here long to realise that books are a big part of our family life, so when PizzaExpress invited us down to our local restaurant to discover their new collaboration with World Book Day, the first of its kind, we were all on board.


We have visited PizzaExpress on a number of occasions as we know exactly what we will get.  Their restaurants are no-fuss, family-friendly places to eat out and there is a great selection of options on the children’s Piccolo menu, including lots of choice for those with additional dietary requirements.  As you might know, Eli has a gluten intolerance and we have to be careful about how much gluten he consumes so seeing the variety of dishes which were clearly marked as gluten-free was fantastic.  Having the staff pick up on that and come to check with us that all was okay, was an added bonus we appreciated.

We had booked a table so there were already World Book Day activity packs laid out when we arrived which the kids soon had their mitts on.  The PizzaExpress and World Book Day collaboration is running from 9th February to the 25th March and their mission is to ‘encourage kids to use their imagination and unleash their creativity through reading’.  

There are a number of different activities to keep children entertained whilst they wait for their meal including a bookmark colouring competition to win a year’s supply of books – now THAT is a prize worth winning.  You can find out more details and enter the competition here.

Both Meg and Eli had great fun designing their bookmarks, giving them the chance to be creative.  Eli came up with his own character ‘Doughie’ to feature on his and Meg went for a prettier option with all different types of flowers.

The Special Edition World Book Day ‘Dough Ball Times’ also comes with a £1 voucher which can be put towards a WBD book.  I loved that you didn’t just get the voucher but that there were suggestions of age appropriate books too.  We had fun spotting some of our favourites including The Day The Crayons Quit by Oliver Jeffers, Wonder by R J Palacio and Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

The activity pack also had fun book related facts on the back which Meg and Eli took great delight in sharing with us.  I was very impressed with the quality of the packs; they had clearly been well thought through and kept Meg and Eli very entertained whilst they were waiting for their Piccolo meals to arrive.

The staff at PizzaExpress were absolutely brilliant with the kids, engaging with them, and asking them questions such as who they were going to dress up as for World Book Day (oh if only they knew what a loaded question that was!) and discussing who they were going to be dressing as come March 1st. PizzaExpress is encouraging its team members to dress up as their favourite book characters, with customers able to vote for the ‘best-dressed’ PizzaExpress restaurant team.  I think we might have to pop back in on that day just to see who our local staff turn up as.

This is a collaborative post with Mumsnet and PizzaExpress
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February half term is always a funny one.  Even as a family who love to be outside I struggle a little with keeping the kids entertained.  There are only so many days which can be spent wading around in the mud, pretending that it isn’t grey and drizzling.  So when Gandeys offered us a family ticket to their circus at Aintree racecourse we just about snapped their hand off.

We had been to Gandeys Circus in Liverpool a couple of years ago so we knew roughly what to expect.  This year’s theme was The Greatest Showman and the circus was full of exciting acts such as The Cuban Flyers and Duo Torres.  It had all the great features of classic family entertainment; there were funny moments, heart in your mouth moments and real ‘wow’ moments as well.

There’s not much I can say without giving away too much of what you will see, but it is worth saying that Gandeys Circus has been entertaining families all over the world for a number of years and it is clear that they know what they are doing.  You get the full Big Top experience, complete with Ringmaster and for children there is plenty to delight.

I have to say that our family particularly enjoyed the interludes which featured Andrea Delbosq, Europe’s leading female clown, as James was chosen twice to take part and he loved it.  Well, the kids and I loved it, I’m not sure how happy he actually felt!  You can see him in action in our weekly round-up vlog here.

I like that the circus tried to carry the theme through into all of their acts and that there was a good variety of things to watch.  Not every act went exactly to plan but I felt that just made it more of an honest experience and you could really see how much effort each act and each person put in.  There were a few familiar faces from a couple of years ago but some new acts as well which we appreciated.

I had a couple of people ask me about the use of animals when I mentioned that we had been to the circus and I can say that Gandeys don’t use any animals in their acts so if that is something you are concerned about then you needn’t be here.

Gandeys perform all over the country; they will be in Liverpool until Sunday 25 February and then they will be in Knutsford between Thursday 1 and Sunday 4 March before moving on.

Overall I thought it was a very entertaining couple of hours and I think the prices are fair for what you get.  There was a good level of audience participation and both Meg and Eli were as impressed with the show and the acts.  Meg even walked away saying she would love to become an acrobat although given she is afraid of heights, I’m not too sure how much she has really thought it through!

*We were provided with a family ticket to Gandeys Circus for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.
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