Great Yarmouth SEALIFE Centre

We rolled up to Great Yarmouth on a slightly drizzly Thursday morning. It was rather quiet apart from the growing queue outside the SEALIFE Centre!

Located on the seafront, the SEALIFE Centre is an unassuming building and belies the treasures you find inside. We did have to queue for quite while but once we were in Arthur was ready to explore.

I love the fact you walk through and becomes dark, lit by the tanks of weird and wonderful creatures along the way. I loved feeding the stingrays and Arthur was so pleased to get a medal for touching a star fish – for the record they are much rougher than I thought they’d be!

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The walkways with the huge tank above was great – Arthur couldn’t quite believe there were sharks in there and we stood for ages watching them glide from one side to the other.

My favourites were the penguins and they were all out to greet us for our visit. Some swam, some pruned and others just sat watching us and having a half-hearted fight with each other. They are just cute!

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I really like the fact that everywhere you walk these info pods and updates on the conservation work they do from protecting turtles to rehoming injured or unwanted animals and breeding seahorses. These almost mythical creatures fascinate me and Arthur was the same. He peered in at them for ages asking me why they had tiny pony heads! A SEA LIFE fund raising campaign has enabled a new Sea Turtles Rescue and Wildlife Information Centre to be built on the Greek island of Zakynthos.

He also spent time with daddy popping his head up through the clear domes to watch the colourful starfish – who knew there were so many!

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Arthur had a lovely few hours – apart from the fact it did feel very crowded. But I guess that’s a combination of wet weather, school trips and the winding narrow flow of the Sea Life Centre itself.

Check the site for ticket prices – they’ve just launched a new Parent and Toddler ticket. It’s £10 which is a good price for a few hours of toddler fun!

Ever gouged your eyes out in a meeting?

There are moments when I have to wonder what happened between people leaving home and becoming incompetent and wholly annoying ‘work colleagues’.

I’m not referring to those in my team – they possess the level of common sense I’m looking for from adults able to dress and eat unaided. No, I mean those who set-up meetings and force you to sit in a sealed room with only the whiteboard scribbles from the previous meeting to entertain yourself. They talk lots but you have a growing suspicion they know, well jack sh*t, to be honest.

This week has been filled with this kind of meeting . Fuelled with a growing panic that they were going to have to go out and speak to ‘real people’ in a series of  ‘visits’ we had endless meetings with big wigs about chairs, tables, location of said chairs and tables, even what would happen if they were late. I decided not to tell them the shocking truth that if they were late – well, they’d be late and the world would spontaneously combust, or at the very least their first born would be hunted down and beheaded.

At one particular meeting a well-paid member of this illusive posse decided to draw a diagram of the office he’s been asked to visit and proceeded to ask everyone individually how many chairs they thought would fit in the space. After I’d finished gnawing my own arm off and weeping silently to myself, I mentioned the possibility of having standing room only.  You could cut the air with a knife…no one had thought about standing room as well, cue the next meeting.

I get it, these people are holed up in sealed offices, peering only momentarily into their employees’ eyes before scuttling back to the floor with the plush carpet. But these guys are paid a lot to do this, they have families, they have friends – a moot point I’m sure.

Funnily enough, I have managed, fairly successfully, to run visits like this, write about visits like this and even attend visits like this with a simple ratio of less meetings more actions. Going somewhere is not a new concept…most people do it without death or radical surgery needed afterwards.

Common sense, however, is tragically lacking in the echeleons of  management – I think it’s a heady mix of not really being sure what you’re doing and spending many hours thinking…’result, how the hell did I get here?!’ Leaving little time for anything else.

At one particularly painful meeting we were asked to write down the ‘risks’ associated with these visits. After mentally undressing the cleaning guy who was emptying the recycling, I managed to come up with one big one. NO ONE WOULD CARE!!!!!

I haven’t shared this, much like my fear of sharing the outcomes of being late, I think some things are best found out for yourself. So to end my week I’ve produced a handy list of meeting tips – for those of us with lives and more than a slight leaning towards common sense:

  1. Do not look into their eyes – it only encourages attachment
  2. Remember to take your laptop/iPad – these meetings are the perfect opportunity for online shopping
  3. Agree with what they say, then, following the meeting, email those who have the common sense and tell them what’s actually happening
  4. Do not allow them to ‘plan’ alone. A bit like herding toddlers these people need a tight reign so make sure they are followed – or if possible, tagged at all times
  5. Get in contact with the team in the meeting room just before you and ask them to draw something interesting on the white board– it’s saved me gouging out my eyeballs on many occasions

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

My Life As A Mummy

Win a family ticket to BeWILDerwood!

This week I’m running a competition to win a family ticket to one of my favourite places to head for a family day out.

BeWILDerwood is just the most magical adventure for all ages. With Boggles and Twiggle houses in the trees and hidden behind grassy hills, it sparks imaginations and let’s children run wild in a safe, magical envirnment. With story telling, den building, huge adventure playgrounds and boat rides it’s perfect for most ages and abilities.

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This year there’s even more to experience with the new Sky Maze which opens in time for the summer holidays - here’s a little more about it:

Set high in the treetop canopy, the new Sky Maze takes adventure and playtime to magnificent new heights. Turning this way and that way; where no way is the wrong way, Sky Maze is made up of tunnels, walkways, cargo nets, spiral staircases, zig zag beams and spectacular vantage points. Weaving its way through natures playground, the new experience stretches nearly 1/2 km and reaches over 8 metres in height.

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*The competition will close on July 1 at 5pm and the ticket is for two adults, two children and valid for 12 months. Tickets are non-transferable and there is no alternative prize.

Super summer salad

This dieting lark isn’t so bad sometimes. Today for lunch I made a version of Prima’s grilled nectarine and mozzarella cheese.

I used goat’s cheese and a little roasted beet root with balsamic vinegar. It was lush!
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Literally big rocket on the plate, sprinkle with olive oil and balsamic.
Meanwhile heat a griddle pan and add the slides nectarines for a couple of minutes each side.
Crumble up some goats cheese and rip up some ham – Italian hams work well.
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Add all to the plate with a squeeze of lemon and a good shake of black pepper. I took the original recipe from July’s Prima magazine.

Delish!

Amazona Zoo – a great day out!

On Saturday we packed up the car, popped on our wellies and began our adventure in exotic South America…

It’s amazing what you can find on your doorstep and we were lucky enough to be invited to a VIP day out at Amazona Zoo, Cromer – it has to be one of Norfolk’s best kept secrets. As a fully paid up Norfolkian I thought I knew all the places to go for a family day out but this one passed me by.

Set in a beautiful wooded area just as you drive into Cromer it really was a fantastic day. The zoo is relatively small and focusses on species from South America. So no giraffes or tigers but plenty of weird and wonderful animals to spark the children’s interest. They do have some big cats too, including the very beautiful Jaguar.zoojag

It’s all set around a buggy-friendly walkway and around every corner there are sights and sounds to behold. I went wth a friend and her two children on a day when it wasn’t just the animals making us feel like we were in the jungle. It was humid with torrential downpours but it really didn’t dampen our enjoyment and by early afternoon the sun was out.

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The children loved the Macaws and spent ages shouting ‘hello’ as the birds answered back – although they were a bit miffed when they didn’t answer the question: ‘what’s your name?!’

Arthur spent ages with the Caiman crocs and it was a great enclosure where you could get really close. The staff were on hand and happy to answer loads of questions.

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As we wandered through to the yurt, which houses some educational boards telling you all about the people and places, a very strange creature caught our eye…

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A Patagonian Mara was wandering (or maybe hoping, I wasn’t completely sure) free on the grass. It was a real treat to see it watching us all, not scared in the slightest. The children all tiptoed up for a closer look before he scurried off for lunch.

I’d never seen a Mara before and he reminded me of an Alice in Wonderland creature popping up  – it wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d sat down for afternoon tea! As we turned another corner the Flamigoes were a wonderfully colourful surpise and the children tried to copy them by standing on one leg – very cute.

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We watched the otter being fed, the catfish enjoying their fruit and veg and the very cute Geoffrey Spider monkies jumping through their branches. We had coffee and icecream sitting outside the cafe and the view really did make you feel a little sub tropical – I guess the weather helped!

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Amazona Zoo is really geared up for families with loads of toilets as you enter, a lovely outdoor play area and Tumble Tots, the new indoor softplay. Our children had a lovely time in Tumble Tots and it was a great way to round off the visit. There was a toddler area and a great area for slightly older children too.

 

I would definitely go back, a really lovely family day out. It may not have the conventional zoo animals but that’s part of its charm – where else would I see a Mara, a Ocelot and a Tapir?

 

*Amazona also does a huge amount of conversation work with South American species and is the main sponsor in a programme of research into the life of the Titicaca River Frog.

 

The perfect garden party

How to Throw a Fabulous Garden Party
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Now that summer is almost upon us it’s the perfect excuse to host a garden party. Whether you have something to celebrate, like a birthday or an anniversary, or you simply fancy throwing a great party for all of your friends and family to enjoy, you’re sure to have an amazing time. So how do you go about planning a garden party they’ll be talking about for the rest of the year? Take a look:

Theme it

We often think of themed events when we imagine a wedding reception or a child’s party, but you can easily incorporate a theme into a garden party, even if it is just a case of having coordinating colours throughout any decorations you might have. You could have a quaint English garden party or a Mexican fiesta – just let your imagination go wild and tie in any decorations to match your theme.

Food

Hugely popular for a garden party is, of course, a bbq, so make sure yours is cleaned and ready to go for your party. If you don’t have one, why not buy a BBQ from George, you can choose from a small family style one or even event size bbq’s which are fantastic value and perfect for people who like to barbecue their food a lot (for plenty of guests!) during the summer months. With food cooked outside you can serve an array of delicious food that everyone will love from kebabs and steak to pizzas cooked on the grill. Alternatively you could have a hog roast, serve food that fits in with your theme (think Spanish tapas and paella or a spicy Mexican feast), or an afternoon tea on the lawn.

Drinks

The perfect way to serve drinks at a garden party is by having a little bar in the garden to enable people to help themselves. Fill a bucket with ice to keep beer, white wine and soft drinks cool. Serve red wine from the bottle and perhaps make a bowl of punch or a few jugs of Pimms or Sangria for a real summery take on refreshment.

Fun and Games

Playing games isn’t just for kids. If you have a large garden why not set up a few games that will keep both adults and children occupied for hours. From the more traditional croquet on the lawn to homemade piñatas hanging from the trees and giant jenga, let your imagination run wild and you and your guests (of all ages!) will have a ball.

Are you Sitting Comfortably?

Make sure you have enough seating for your guests. Of course many will be happy to mill around chatting to other guests, but legs do get tired, so having plenty of seating on hand will ensure your guests remain comfortable throughout the day. Even a few picnic blankets and cushions scattered about are better than nothing, if you don’t have lots of spare chairs available.

Of course, if you’re having a party you also have the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a gorgeous new outfit. So dress up and enjoy spending time with your friends and family this summer at your very own glorious garden party.

*This post contains sponsored content

Lollibop introduces…Lollibooks!

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LolliBop, the UK’s biggest kids festival has announced a brand new fun and lively book area for 2014 – LolliBooks presented by Ladybird and Puffin.

As if there’s not enough happening already, now your little book worms can enjoy storytelling and adventures with some of the best known literary creations in children’s book.

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<>Take a look below at what the Lollibop world of literature has to offer…

Mayhem with Dennis the Menace!

Join Steven Butler, author of Diary of Dennis the Menace, for a sneaky peak into the chaotic life of the naughtiest boy in the Beano! Expect lots of fun and games (maybe even a prank or two!) as Steven brings to life the world of Dennis the Menace.

Peter Rabbit

Hop along to the charming interactive puppet show where The Tale of Peter Rabbit is brought to life. See Peter escape from Mr McGregor’s Garden, and help him on his journey.

Spot the Dog

Perfect for pre-schoolers who love to follow the fun adventures of Spot the Dog, join in the numerous storytelling activities throughout the day, which also includes colouring and activity sheets and a chance to meet Spot himself!

Ladybird Live

Join Ladybird Live for a series of events to promote and celebrate the joy of storytelling for pre-schoolers and parents. The bespoke activities include professional storytelling, expert advice for parents and arts and crafts that encourage children to engage with the stories and enter a world of imagination and fun.

Adele Minchin, Publicity Director at Penguin Children’s, said: “Ladybird and Puffin are delighted to be bringing a whole host of magical storytelling events to this year’s LolliBop Festival. We look forward to welcoming families to join in all the fun of reading for pleasure and meeting many much-loved characters.”

The new LolliBooks area will also feature a Lolli Library. Pull up a hay bale and spend some quiet time reading from much loved classics to new releases, all aimed at children up to the age of 10.

Pensthorpe Nature Reserve – a fab family day out

On Monday we packed up a picnic, our wellies and said a little pray to the sun gods, and headed off to Pensthorpe nature reserve.

Pensthorpe is a beautiful place, tucked in the Norfolk countryside just outside the town of Fakenham and it’s well worth a visit with the children. It’s so much more than a nature reserve.

We spent the day with some of our friends and their little ones, all aged three, apart from little Charlotte who’s 16 months. Thankfully those pesky sun gods had listened and it stayed dry and sunny all day.The carparking is large and not too far away and there are loos near the entrance, which is always handy with small children.

The children absolutely loved exploring the wonderful gardens, around every corner there were ducks to feed, strange new birds to admire and even some red squirrels – although I think they ran away when they heard a herd of toddlers approaching!

 I was particularly taken with the Grey Crowned Cranes, when I say taken I mean, I was literally afraid I would be. Those things were big and I expected one to suddenly appear next to me at any moment.

It’s so beautifully kept and the flower gardens not only looks amazing but the scents as we wandered around were just wonderful.PENDAISIES2

We walked up to the conservation area to see the flamingoes and feed some more geese – one decided to take a peck or two at Arthur so he was a little less enamoured with them after that!

There’s so much to explore and while we didn’t have time this visit, I remember how lovely the wooded area was and Arthur spent a long time exploring bugs and den building too.

Even the field of daisies looked stunning and there was yet more exploring for the children with a huge wooden spider and net to climb. We also found the most adorable flower topped hut with tiny wooden seats inside. Perfect for small people and anyone who likes to believe in fairies and hobbits.

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Next it was time for a picnic lunch and the epic playground that is WildRootz. It’s just the best place for children. With a little stream around the outside, the tunnels and wood carvings it’s just one of my favourite places. It gives children enough yet urges them to use their imaginations and create their own wonderful worlds.

Arthur and his friends spent ages splashing in the water – that would be my number one tip, bring spare clothes! They danced on musical playgrounds and explored the tunnels and sand.

Each piece is so well thought out and even the benches are carved into creatures. The slides are fantastic and huge! There are zip wires, a huge wooden building to climb and even a huge see saw which whole families can stand on and endless things to climb.

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We spent most of our time in WildRootz, there are loads of benches and grass around the area for picnics and there is also a stand selling drinks and sandwiches and snacks. Although I would recommend a picnic as the selection wasn’t great.

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Pensthorpe is beautiful, both as an adult strolling through the stunningly beautiful grounds and appreciating the effort that has gone into making this reservation. And as a child, running free discovering new birds and animals and enjoying one of the best adventure playgrounds I’ve ever seen.

On a sunny day it’s become one of my favourite places to go and I would definitely recommend it as a great family day out.

BeWILDerwood – fathers Day Free-bee Bonanza!

It’s Father’s Day on June 15 and to celebrate, at the enchanting and totally amazing BeWILDerwood – dads get in free that day!

Dad's_DayIf you’ve not been then check it out. It’s one of my favourite places in Norfolk. Perfect for all ages, magical, adventurous and the perfect place for a family day out

BeWILDerdad’s Free-Bee Bonanza
We love dads at BeWILDerwood and we think they deserve a little present this Father’s Day. So bring Dad for  FREE on Sunday the 15th June.

Come along and enjoy a day of outdoor play and adventure – challenge dad on the Slippery Slopes and watch him get befuddled in the Muddle Maze. If you come along dressed in black and yellow (just like a bumble bee), you can collect an extra special treat for your dad at storytelling time.

Have you heard of the Slitherigrubs from the BeWILDerwood story book? Their glowing lights and silvery threads helped save little Sticklenose, (a teeny tiny Twiggle) when he got stuck up a tree. Bees are just as useful as Slitherigrubs, very important and they love flowers almost as much as Mildred loves the colour pink!

When you head off home, we will give you a little bag of flower seeds to take with you for your garden, your school or perhaps for a window box outside your home. The bees will just love them! Dads can also get a FREE-bee stencil at the face painting pavilion!

Keep an eye on my blog as I’ll be giving away a family ticket to BeWILDerwood in a couple of weeks – that’s at least one day of the summer holidays sorted!

Devilishly delicious chocolate brownies

Nothing beats the squidge of a good chocolate brownie and when the urge sets in I am powerless in its grasp.

Last night I was flicking through my recipes and found this one, scribbled down. It’s not mine originally but I have no idea whose it is. I have a feeling it’s my mums but I could be wrong.
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All I know is that is was easy and produced unctuous gooey satisfaction.

200g dark chocolate broken into pieces
150g unsalted butter
100g white chocolate
85g plain flour
2tbsp cocoa powder
125g muscavado sugar
125g brown caster sugar
Pinch salt
4 eggs beaten
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Melt the butter and dark choc in a bowl, I did it the old fashioned way over a bowl of water.

Next beat the eggs and measure out sugar

When the chocolate is melted whisk in the sugar and eggs for a couple of minutes.
Then sieve in the flour and cocoa powder with a pinch of salt. Fold in gently.

Pour this heavenly lava into a tin lined with baking parchment.
Oh I added the broken up white chocolate scattered over the top just before popping in the oven.

Cook at 180 for about 20 mins or until top slightly crisp.

Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and proceed to eat greedily.