Competition Time

So we’re all back to school, remedy sad that summer holidays are over and looking forward to half term already?

Whether you’re in the yes camp or no camp, the best way to face the school term (or the thought of another week of holidays in the not too distant future) is to ensure you’ve planned for the next one….and here at Family Super we’re doing just that by checking out where we might want to visit on our October break. (Not that the children have inherited my preference for planning ahead at all!)

Whilst we continue to plan our itinerary, why don’t you think about starting your plans for a family day out with the chance to win a complimentary ticket for four people to visit the top attraction Madame Tussaud’s in Blackpool.

To win a complimentary ticket for four to Madame Tussaud’s in Blackpool* , simply tell me in the comments box below who you would want to see in wax work form and why, and share this competition on Facebook or Twitter vis @workingsupermum for the chance to win.

Entries must be received by 12noon on Friday 13th September and the winner will be announced later that day – lucky for someone indeed!

Good luck.

*Important stuff to note :
Ticket must be used by 31st May 2014, so you’ve loads of time!
The prize is for a ticket for four people, there is no cash alternative.
The prize does not include travel or accommodation.
Winner will be selected at random.
The winner will be announced on the Supermummy blog on Friday 13th September.
Tickets will be posted directly to winner thereafter.

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Family Days (Holidays) – Hilly Cow Wigwams

Those who know me well, medical will know I don’t really ‘do’ camping. That’s despite many a year of happy family holidays in our caravan as a child. But there was an unfortunate incident with a bird flying into our cosy little two man number in the early hours of the morning when I’d eventually decided to give it a go one summer with Super Daddy pre-kids, order and it left me resolutely refusing to camp out again. The more I shrieked, the more afraid it became and the more it pooped all over me and my shiny new sleeping bag. Plus, there was no where to plug in my hair dryer in.

But then of course, glamping became rather chic and I mellowed as I realised going on an adventure with kids in tow is the best kind of fun. Even more so when that glamping adventure is in one of the fabulous wooden wigwams at Hilly Cow Wigwams, Kirknewton, just outside Edinburgh. Hilly Cow has six wigwams set out beautifully with their own little deck at front, overlooking the best views of the Lothians. Set on a working farm, and run by Lesley & Stewart who are superb hosts, it’s a great location for a short break with kids. The wigwams are modern, clean, cosy and hugely comfortable, with the option of an en-suite for those not fancying a midnight wander to the excellent toilet & shower facilities in the main block. There’s a huge family kitchen, equipped with everything needed to prepare meals and eat. BBQ’s are however also available for outdoor cooking without the need for a boy scout camp-fire and for that special glamping touch, fairy lights can be added inside your wigwam for a small fee.

We chose to kick start our summer holidays this year with a surprise treat for the kids, and on the day schools were officially out for summer, we drove then short ten minute drive from ours to Hilly Cow. It took me longer to pack the car! Being so close to home was no issue whatsoever, because once at Hilly Cow, we could have been anywhere, but lucky us with the added benefit that if we’d forgotten the bottle opener we could hot foot it home and back again in no time. (NB. The bottle opener was the first thing I packed after the wine!) Whilst I’ve no doubt that Super Daddy would have loved a wigwam stay (and he’ll find out as we’re booked to go back again in September) on this occasion I took the kids along with a friend and her two boys. Excitement levels were off the scale all round!

Upon arrival Stewart greeted us with a warm welcome, showed us to our wigwam for the night, introduced us to Misty and Ziggy the friendly farm dogs and left us to it. Our wigwam was a matter of a few steps away from the fabulous kids park, so our mob were entertaining themselves there happily whilst the mums unloaded the cars. All of the wigwams are close to the park, and we felt very relaxed about letting our two 7 years olds and two 4 year olds play backwards and forwards between the park, our wigwam and the games room – also part of the main block. It became clear however that Misty was very much the star attraction for our gang, and for that night I felt she was part of the family. We chose not to BBQ, as to quote my camping companion ‘it was blawing a hoolie’ which I learned (despite being Scottish and having lived here for my 34 years) means very very windy! That didn’t take anything away from our burgers though which were as equally yummy cooked under the grill in the main kitchen facilities. Whilst there we met three other families, who were also on their second trip to Hilly Cow, and in the family dining kitchen we swapped tales of previous camping exploits over a couple of glasses of wine.

Bellies full of burgers, the little ones were treated to a tour of the farm by Lesley, who rounded up all the kids and took them off to see the piglets and the horses. On their tour they also learned that Oreo the farm cat had recently had kittens who were currently tucked up in the roof space in the games room.

We’d packed swingball, frisbees, hula hoops, kites and all manner of outdoor games, all unnecessary as simply running around outdoors, the novelty of our wooden tent for the night and the good old fresh air was enough to keep our crew entertained.

When bedtime came, sleeping bags were snuggled into, and snoozing came fairly easily given the comfort of the beds. I felt like I was ten again, and it was all good.

We’re back in September and simply can’t wait!

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Note – this review is based on my own personal experience and no pennies exchanged hands for this post. All views and opinions are my own.

Staycation

It’s the second week of the Easter holidays and the week of our staycation. Last Easter we were lucky enough to be hanging out with Mickey and Minnie in Eurodisney, rx the year before, enjoying forest walks and the indoor subtropical paradise pool at Centre Parcs. This year, we decided to have a staycation. We’ve a busy summer ahead and there’s a to do list as long as my arm of ‘things I want to get done in the house’. So staying at home seemed like the perfect way to spend our first full week off together as family since Christmas. We cajoled ourselves into it with comments such as ‘It’ll do the kids good to learn that they can entertain themselves at home’, ‘we rarely relax and enjoy our own home, it’ll be good to do some of that,’ ‘we can have days out here and there for fun,’ and ‘it’s good that we’re not being frivolous with our money.’

Then Super Daddy got the opportunity to book himself on a course for the week. Harrumph.

So we talked about it, weighed up the pros and cons and he went for booking on the three day option as a compromise, and we agreed I’d have some quality time with the kids until Thursday. Then he’d be home and we’d pack the rest of the week and the weekend with trips away, family picnics and general holiday type activities.

This far, I’ve been happy with the plan, but didn’t quite have that holiday feeling when I packed up my desk at work on Thursday and said Cheerio for ten days. Equally though, I didn’t have a pile of ironing and packing awaiting me at home or the four different lists on the go that I usually need to get ourselves organised for the off. I did have two messy bathrooms that I knew would annoy me all week if I didn’t crack open the Cif and give them some proper elbow grease. So, the weekend was therefore a ‘normal’ one, cleaning, cooking, dancing class, crafting with the kids, food shopping, grandparent visiting and Sunday night film.

Very nice indeed.

But lacking that proper holiday feel.

So I sat the nippers down and we made a list of the best things about holidays. We’d make this staycation feel like a proper holiday filled with all the things we love about going away together.
Some of their additions to the list? Swimming, going to the park, dinners out, reading magazines, staying up late and extra cuddles. Perfect.

Mine was much more basic. Starting today with not getting dressed til noon. Tick. Done.

I’m now off for a Malibu and Pineapple juice before we have a wander to the park.

Adios for now!

The Chocolate Fudge Cake Cha Cha Cha

A recent addition to our kitchen was a fabulous personalised print capturing our ‘family rules’. We sat round the table one Friday evening, buy the princess, the monster and of course Super Daddy, throwing into the mix some rules or principles we felt we needed to confirm as being important to our family. The basics are in there about being kind, laughing lots and always saying I love you. ‘Stand back from the tv’ and ‘no shoes on the sofa’ also made the cut, along with ‘dance for your pudding’.

Now, where this came from I can’t quite remember, but sometime, not that long ago, it became a running joke that if you wanted pudding in our house you had to dance for it. It might have been prompted by the new shapes that the monster had started pulling which flabbergasted us all. Man, that boy has rhythm! It might also have been that I felt justified in having afters if I’d already had a little calorie burning booty shake session in the kitchen first. It was most probably Super Daddy winding the kids up, but anyway, it stuck.

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Brave – A Review

Today I saw easily the best film I’ve seen in a VERY long time. I should put some context around this by saying most films I watch fall into one of two (polar opposite) genres. Firstly and most often, nurse movies with a certification U, occasionally PG but very definitely child oriented and the second, Sci-Fi type thrillers which Super Daddy adores and I endure.  To give further context, on a rainy weekend back in May we picked up Ice-Age Three: Dawn of the Dinosaurs on DVD to watch on our then institutionalised Friday Family Movie Night. And we’ve watched in 1671 times since. Such ‘over the top’ movie viewing is only closely followed by Ice-Age 2 : The Meltdown which since showing on TV just a few weeks ago, and due to the vitriol of recordable viewing we’ve now watched somewhere in the region of 583 times. It’s fair to the say the kids are fans.

This mornings’ movie watching however took me completely by surprise.  Yes, I expected the new Disney Pixar film Brave to be good, it’s Disney Pixar after all, but I didn’t expect it to be the most amazing film I think I might have watched.*

When I first saw the trailer, I rolled my eyes and cringed more than a little at the Scottish accents. It also had a look suspiciously like Braveheart, another film I endured rather than enjoyed. So whilst the kids were cock a hoop about going to see it and we were all washed, breakfasted and teeth cleaned by half part eight well ahead of the nine-thirty kick-off such was the excitement, I was expecting to have my iPhone out half way through and doing a spot of internet shopping while we watched.

From the opening scene started however, I was enthralled. The colours were so bright and vivid and the music brought goose bumps to my arms (I think a bit of Scottish patriotism came into play here.) Merida is a feisty little thing with her vibrant and bouncy red curls and her ‘I’ll do what I want to do’ attitude (I know a 6 year old who’s a little like this minus the red hair and the curls.)

Billy Connolly as the voice of King Fergus was just hilarious and each line was delivered with the same aplomb as if he were in his own stage show. I laughed out loud lots of times, and found myself watching the whole movie with eyes wide open and afraid to blink in case I missed something. I felt like a child watching it. The story is lovely, and has lots of mother daughter exchanges which despite not being a real Princess, I expect myself and Little Princess Pink will have over the years. I blinked back the tears on many an occasion, and others, I just let them roll down my cheeks unashamed.  A truly, truly beautiful movie and I will be adding the DVD to my Santa list this year. The kids were equally impressed, a little afraid at some parts, and like me, laughing their heads off at others. I could watch this film again right now and I’m sure I’d love it more than the first time.

There was indeed a lot of ‘Och’s and they managed to get in a ‘Jings, Crivens and Help ma Boab’ but my favourite line, and there were many to choose from, was ‘Och, that scaffy witch gave me a gammy spell.’ If you’re Scottish, you’ll know what that means, if not, I think the closest translation might be ‘oh that unpleasant witch gave me a malfunctioning spell.’ It doesn’t have quite the same impact!

Since coming home, we’ve coloured in the Princess Pink’s Brave colouring book, read the story and dressed up the paper Merdia, Queen Elinor and witch dolls that were given as birthday presents.  Merida has now been promoted to favourite princess, ahead of Belle from Beauty and the Beast – and that is no mean feat at all.

The Little Monster? Yes, he loved it too, finding Merida’s brothers, triplets Hamish, Hubert and Harris just hilarious (and bearing a strong resemblance to one of his best buddies making them all the more adorable.)  I think it’s fair to say he’s all ‘Braved’ out now however as he’s just crept up to me and whispered ever so quietly “Mummy, can I watch Ice-Age 2.”

* With the exception of Top Gun, Dirty Dancing & Grease  which gives nothing away about my type of films at all.

This is not a sponsored post and no payment was received for this review. We paid for the cinema tickets with our own pennies from our own piggy banks. All views expressed are our own.

Family Days Out – Edinburgh Science Festival

Keeping a five year old princess and her pal entertained is no mean feat. I mean, buy it’s not up there with understanding Einstein’s Theory of Relativity but it can be tough going, ask particularly on a rainy day in the Easter school holidays.  Cue a day trip to the City Art Centre which becomes a science playground during the Edinburgh Science Festival. Six floors, seven hours, and over twenty different workshops, shows and interactive events to partake in, we were set for a jam packed day. Top on our agenda were the Splat-Tastic and Jungle Safari workshops which we’d pre-booked ahead of our visit to ensure we weren’t disappointed.

Jungle Safari first and our intrepid explorers donned the requisite camouflage safari kit and off they went, leaving me and my accompanying friend free to have coffee for a whole 40 minutes – a luxury these days. If only we’d known that we couldn’t join the kids on their safari, we’d not have had that first cafe stop on arrival where we’d practically had to glue the kids to their seats given they were bouncing off the walls with excitement and anticipation of the day ahead.

 

In honesty a little part of me was disappointed that I couldn’t join in the safari, yet relieved at the same time (well, there might have been actual snakes.) The two jungle buddies joined back up with us after their mini safari exclaiming that it was great but declaring as only five year olds can that they didn’t know what their favourite part about it was.  We established there were dolphin noises, lots of listening in and not a snake in sight. Phew!

With our slime making session scheduled for the afternoon we were free to roam and drop into any other session taking our fancy.  Nina and the Neurons was less than inspiring unfortunately with the ‘Ninas’ needing to up the ante on their enthusiasm and engagement of the kids who were really interested in learning about their senses but disappointed when they were asked if they wanted to colour in instead.  A quick word in the ear from one mummy (I’ll let you guess who) and the Nina’s decided that a Sneeze Workshop was in order.  With an instrument shaped like an inverted nostril and a bundle of brightly coloured feathers to act as the irritants in the nasal canal, there was much sneezing and indeed giggling to be had. Result at last.

 

All Nina’d out, the pull of standing in pod and being surrounded by a giant bubble in the rather damp World of Bubbles was too much to resist.  I did however let the little one go first and only when she had her turn did I step in. Such a simple idea really sparked a whole lot of intrigue in the nippers and so further time was spent with elbows in bubbly water, with no dishes to speak off, but plenty of weird and wonderful shaped giant bubbles floating above our heads.

 

The draw of the ‘moving stairs ‘(escalators) took us to the next floor and our next creative stop – this time Shadowgrams Photolab.  This was my favourite of all activities.  Choosing from a range of junk objects, creating a mini masterpiece on a glass board and then exposing the pattern onto photographic paper in the dark room was a bit hit with us.  One Monster Truck, one Flower Garden later and a stint in the dark room and our two little ones were happy as Larry with their Photolab experience.  Their outputs were pretty impressive too.

 

The Rampaging Chariots Race was the next stop for our two eager beavers, both keen to get in on the action and drive a readymade robot round an obstacle course with a tilting bridge as its final challenge. We had to wait patiently for this one as it was proving to be popular, but it was worth it to watch my daughter stick her tongue out ever so slightly as her father does when he is concentrating and daintily but confidently guide her robot round the race course to victory.

The afternoon sessions quelled any feelings of post lunch lethargy we might have had, starting with the amazingly clever and hugely scientific Chain Reactor.  We watched in wonder as a puff of donut shaped air triggered the pouring of liquid through a filter and set off a series of knock-on chemical reactions and pretty nifty effects culminating in a joyous clang of a billiard ball on a cymbal and rapturous applause from the audience. So good, we watched it a second time, and still guffawed at the corny gags the mad scientist in charge of the reactor doled out just for us big kids.

Next up, and last for us on the days billing was Splat-Tastic. The making and testing of our very own slime was made more appealing by the option of creating disco ball slime.  With the complicated and tricky addition of a good sprinkling of glitter, the gooey slime took on a whole new form of girly sparkliness. The goggles and latex gloves provided a bit of a challenge for my daughter who simply wanted to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in. Equally my mishearing of the initial introduction to ‘learning about polymers’ meant I was fairly confused when an hour later there was still no mention of Olly Murs and his relation to gooey disco ball slime, but neither mishap stopped us from finishing our day on a high with a good old splatting of the large target board with our very own slime creations.

 

Whatever the age group, there was something to suit everyone at the City Art Centre. Next year we might be brave enough to take our youngest and let them loose amidst all that science and creativity. By then the five year olds will be seasoned pro’s and will show them exactly how it’s done.

The final word comes from one very tired little princess, who on the train ride home announced to all and sundry that her day out has been quite simply ‘Exsplastic!

How’s that for creativity?

 

Diabolical Baddies, Eccentric Professors and Boy Eating Monsters!

How’s that for a blog post title?

Whilst Diabolical Baddies, view Eccentric Professors and Boy Eating Monsters might not be the snappiest title for the event we attended this afternoon at the Edinburgh Science Festival, there was indeed something extremely intriguing about the workshop that immediately caught the imagination of my five year old. Assuming we’d both be safe from any lurking hungry monsters (being girls), we popped along to the Story Telling Centre for a spot of creating and inventing with author-illustrator John Fardell.

 

This workshop is aimed at children ages five plus, and promises interaction and involvement for budding inventors and big imaginations. The immediate draw for my little one was the opportunity to throw out some inspired ideas of her own in order to develop a monster and machine drawings fit for a story. As a have-a-go writer, the pull for me was hearing a published author bring to life the creative process he goes through when writing and illustrating his books. We were not disappointed.

The workshop was interactive from the off with plenty of audience participation in both the making of monster sounds to accompany the story John took us through, and lots of encouragement for the children to get up on stage (which the little princess loved) and draw their own images of their imagined monsters and inventions.

Over the course of the hour the eager participants developed a monster story which saw good monsters (Mr Hairy, Sandy and Timmy) come together to defeat the terrifying and evil Squadalump who lives in the depths of a tunnel below a live Volcano under the sea. Using fantastically invented Tall Blaster and Lego Blaster machines which flew, shrunk and turned into a motor bike, and using the powers of poison in their tails the friendly monsters claimed victory.

 

There was a palpable energy in the small auditorium as the little ones threw up their hands, desperate to be picked to call out their ideas and develop the images and the storyline live on stage. Nia was simply bursting with ideas, and it was truly delightful to see her animated and inspired. Wither her imagination fuelled she had sketched and coloured her own boy eating monster within minutes of us arriving home, who apparently goes by the name of Spikey Lightening and only eats boys on Tuesdays – phew.

 

It was great to see the intricate artwork, sketches and models John makes before reworking into his final versions.  John was a joy to listen to and his interaction and encouragement of the big ideas from the little ones was just brilliant. I now have one very inspired girl who tells me tomorrow she is developing a blueprint for a Super Duper Monster Crusher Machine!

A fantastic session all round, which gets a big thumbs up from my mini inventor. Now, where’s my sketch pad..?

 

Family Days Out: Edinburgh Science Festival 2012

A call for bloggers from the guys at Clicket to enter the Science Festival Bloggers Challenge couldn’t go unanswered. When I saw the team were looking for parent bloggers, seek bloggers, and and generally anyone who shares experiences using facebook, flickr, blipfoto and the like to blog about their experiences at the Edinburgh Science Festival, I whizzed off my “PICK ME” 100 word entry and I’m delighted to now find myself amongst some great company in a crew of six other super bloggers who have also signed up for the challenge.

The Edinburgh Science Festival runs from 31 March – 15th April 2012 here in our glorious Scottish capital, and as it’s on our doorstep it would frankly be rude not to partake it all that it has to offer. Coinciding wonderfully with the Easter holidays and my need to broaden the horizons of the little monster and the little princess and find alternative ways to spend our days as a family, the Science Festival offers us the perfect opportunity to do just that.

See what’s been happening this far at the festival and pop back again to find out how the little princess and I fair when we go to see Diabolical Baddies, Eccentric Professors and Boy Eating Monsters* at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

*We’ve decided to leave our own little monster at home tomorrow as we’re really not quite sure how he would fair against boy-eating monsters…. it could be dangerous!

Family Days Out – Almond Valley Heritage Centre

My three-year old has a long standing obsession with farm animals (particularly cows), unhealthy which made a family day out to Almond Valley Heritage Centre and Farm in Livingston, West Lothian an obvious choice.  So much more than a Heritage Centre, Almond Valley is packed with activities and attractions for all ages – crawlers, toddlers, an inquisitive five year old and big kids alike (yes, I had a good old bounce on the trampolines, but it was one of the designated parent and toddler ones…though my toddler was exploring the wooden train with Daddy at the time!)  Animal wise there are goats, lambs, calves, some famous hogs (reared on an Island, due for slaughter, but donated to Almond Valley when the owner couldn’t quite turn them into his Sunday morning bacon butty.) There are opportunities to feed lambs and cow milking demonstrations, much to the intrigue and amusement of said five year old.

The simulated archaeological dig is quite something else, and being under cover is a bonus if the rain is threatening and you find yourself at that end of the farm with a mad dash across the bridge between you and the inviting haven that is Morag’s Milk Bar and Tearoom.  Morag is a fantastic Highland cow who lives with lots of sheep and few ponies in the field at the furthest end of the farm park. You can see her if you partake in one of the tractor and trailer rides, but be warned, whilst fun, it’s a bumpy ride round the field, and I felt seasick afterwards.  Morag is clearly a very talented cow as her home baked goods on offer in the traditional tearoom are out of this world, mint slice and fruit scones the size of bowling balls both highly recommended.  There are healthy lunchbox options for the kids, and the friendly tearoom team pride themselves for not selling chips!

The museum element could be easily missed as the lure of the outdoor play parks, mini tractors for those budding farmers, soft play, nutty bouncer and go-karts take you straight out of the main door and past it, but it is certainly worth a visit. Complete with a mocked up living room from 1900’s with washtub in front of the fireplace and grocery store manned by a very realistic grocer, as well as a mini mineshaft complete with mining sounds, it feels like two different visits in one day.

There are picnic spots aplenty, choose to sit by the duck pond, but be prepared to part with some of your packed lunch as the ducks took a very keen interest in the contents of our cool bag.  Or you could sit opposite the bouncy cow (not castle) complete with giant pink udders. There’s a soft play for the little ones, with a meadow theme and flowers which make animal noises when you jump on them, much to the horror of my youngest (and cheeky delight of my eldest). There is a working watermill and machinery shed which brings the shale oil history in Central Scotland to life.  We loved having a ‘bubble race’ with the three tubes each filled with oils of different viscosity  and seeing who’s bubbles could reach the top of the tube first.  All of the main paths are buggy friendly, and there’s a microwave and bottle warmer for heating baby food as well as baby changing stations in each of the main toilet facilities. The retro postcards in the gift shop are worth a look.  Expect the family to leave Almond Valley smiling, but exhausted and more than likely with some cow pat on their shoes.

 

This is not a sponsored post. The view expressed are entirely my own.

Family Days Out – East Links Park

Finding myself at a loose end one Monday, ask I packed the kids in the car for the 40 mile trip from where we live to get to East Links Family Park. Despite a glitch with the sat nav and a perpetual chant of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ from the back seats, viagra it was well worth the 50 minute journey. We met friends in the morning who were well versed with East Links spending many a morning there taking full advantage of the annual membership pass, which heavily discounts the cost per visit, and we took their guidance as to where we might want to spend our time.

The train safari was a great place to start, as the train took us right round the perimeter of the park, allowing us to spot and feed a number of animals along the way, including lamas, deer, rhea, pigs and sheep.  The children found it rather entertaining to see the sheep chasing the train in order to get a mid-morning snack! Needing to release some energy after our leisurely train ride round the park, we had an adventure in the vast wooden fortress which is a fairly new addition to the park, climbing and exploring amidst its cargo nets, rat tunnels and sky rope bridges. The pinnacle being its four lane covered slide which brings its riders speedily down three levels and over the railway track, and which is super fun for kids and adults alike – many of the adults screaming louder than its younger sliders.

The small animal barn was boasting the addition of some new floppy eared bunnies, though I was glad my eldest was still too young to read the sign advertising them for sale as I fear we may have made the long trip back home with an additional passenger as they were very, very cute.  The walk round chicken run was an experience, with the chickens playing hide and seek in the long grass and jumping out to surprise the little ones, much to their dismay but fellow visitors amusement

 

After a fairly basic, but fine lunch of sandwiches and soups in the cafe, the sun came out in the afternoon and we spent a glorious few hours between the toboggan run, which although I’d liken to skeetering down a hill on plastic tray, was great fun, and the roller racers and tractors let my mini drivers put their skills to the test. Despite spending a full day at East Links, there were still spots that we didn’t manage to get to which looked worthy of investigation, including an indoor play area, trampolines and go karts and we’re planning a follow up visit with Dad in tow to tick some of these activities off our list.

Overall, the park offers a great balance between a farm experience and an outdoor activity day out and there is much to see and do, and most certainly something for all ages. The parking and loo facilities are bog standard and no better or worse than anywhere else of a similar ilk, and the gift shop though directly at the exit of the park, is helpful bypassed by a walk-round exit for those who wish to avoid picking up expensive trinkets on the way out.  The icing on the cake of a great family day out as far as I’m concerned!

 

The views expressed in this review are my own and no sponsorship or payment was made for this review.

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