A Strong Coffee

Monday, 13 August 2018

Dinosaurs In The Wild Review

If you haven't heard of it yet, Dinosaurs in the Wild is an immersive theatrical experience showing in Greenwich Peninsula until 2nd September. We went along this Sunday as guests and I have to be honest I wasn't really sure what to expect. My boys are aged 6, 8 and 10. None of them are particularly into dinosaurs. They liked them as young children but thankfully my days of having to pronounce Ankylosaurus are behind me. So my concern was that they wouldn't be that interested.

Dinosaurs in the wild

Our tickets were booked for the 2pm showing and once inside you need to leave bags, coats and any pushchairs in the cloak room. You then wait for your departure slot for Timebase 67.

The themeing is fantastic. You are taken into a holding bay where you can read the timeline for the development of this time travel company, Chronotex, It is a like a cross between Jurassic Park and Westworld. As an adult I found it really clever, with so much attention being paid to detail.

Chronotex from dinosaurs in the wild

You start by being taken into the time machine with your UV glasses. As you land your vehicle is a jeep which takes you past the dinosaurs. There are a couple of T-Rex that are playing up, but you arrive safely at the main building. You are then taken through a series of rooms, including laboratories, egg hatching and an autopsy room.

Feeling the dino dung was a hit with all the children!

Dinosaur dung

Everything is well thought through and realistic. The actors are amazing and can answer all your questions. They even explained how some of the dinosaurs we were seeing inside were heavily sedated!

After moving through the rooms you head to the main viewing area. Here you can see a variety of dinosaurs through the "windows."

seeing dinosaurs in the wild

Then things go wrong. Panic sets in with the staff and we are moved out of the area. I kept my eye on middle man here. He knew it wasn't real, but he was so immersed in the show that he did get a little scared. But that all adds to the fun. When trying to escape we are shouted to get to the floor and everybody does this.

Luckily we find a machine to take us back to 2018. Well maybe.....

It was a really fun production which we all enjoyed. Travelling to the event is easy. We parked in car park 4 at the O2 and there was a short walk, following dinosaur footprints. The detail was amazing and actors fantastic. If you have a child that is jumpy then it is best to stay close as it could be scary for younger children. If you live near London and have primary aged children it really is worth a visit.

path to dinosaurs in the wild

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Cherry Frangipane Tart #LoveFreshCherries

We are well into British cherry season and BritMums have challenged bloggers to share how they enjoy cherries. My boys love cherries just as they are. Little man always wants to plant the stones to grow a cherry tree of his own!

British cherries

I remember as a child being extremely excited when I found two cherries joined, so I could make them into earrings. Who needs iPads and Kindles when you have a punnet of cherries!

Cherries and cake go together like fish and chips. My black forest meringue cake is the perfect show stopper at a party.

For me, I love the cherry and almond combination that is reminiscent of a Bakewell tart. If you love flamingos then my cherry and almond flamingo cupcakes are worth checking out.

With the boys off school, they are currently eating me out of house and home. I therefore decided that I would bake them a cherry frangipane tart. Middle man thanked me for this! It is nice and simple to make and if you like cherries and almond then it is a winner.

Cherry Frangipane Tart

  • 1 block of shortcrust pastry
  • 3oz ground almonds
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 3oz butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 200g fresh cherries with stones removed
  • 2-3 drops of almond extract

making a frangipane tart

  1. Roll the pastry as thin as you can and place in a 20cm flan dish.
  2. Prick over the bottom with a fork.
  3. Pre heat the oven to 190C.
  4. Arrange the cherries on the pastry base.
  5. Mix the sugar, butter, egg, extract and ground almonds together and pour over the cherries.
  6. Bake for around 40 minutes until golden brown.

Cherry Frangipane Tart

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cherry frangipane tart made with ground almonds and fresh cherries

This post is an entry for the BritMums #lovefreshcherries Challenge, sponsored by Love Fresh Cherries I will be reimbursed for the ingredients used to create this recipe.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Alice In Wonderland At Kew Gardens

This morning we were guests of Kew Gardens to see the Australian Shakespeare Company‘s interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. A family of 4 ticket costs £70 and has the added bonus of giving you access to the gardens as well.

Alice in Wonderland at Kew Gardens

The idea of the show is that you bring a picnic mat and sit yourself in a shaded area to watch the performance. There are some benches at the back which were helpful for the grandparents. I managed to get pins and needles being on the floor, but the children were fine.

I would personally recommend this show for children aged 4-9. I was actually shocked at quite how many younger children there were, but they all seemed to enjoy it. My eldest is 10 and didn't feel as comfortable with the audience participation parts as these are aimed at younger children, but the younger two were keen to join in.

The show was done really well with some good effects. The caterpillar was smoking a bubble pipe, when Alice grew there were large inflatable arms and the King and Queen were wearing stilts.

The performance lasts 70 minutes with no interval. However, you do get a chance to stretch your legs near the end by joining in the show. I won’t give too much away, but ladies, shorts are more appropriate than a dress for this!

After the show there is an opportunity for pictures of the cast and then you are free to explore Kew.

Kew gardens

We hadn’t realised that there was a dragon trial. However, managed to spot a few on the way. I believe you can get a trail map on your way in if you want to spot them all.

dragon trail at Kew Gardens

We also walked through the treetops and could even see Wembley stadium in the distance. I would have liked to visit the hive but it was so warm we decided to call it a day.

Have you been to watch an outdoor family show? What did you think? If you would like to see the show it is running until 27th August.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Kitchen Science Cookbook Review And Making Instant Ice Cream

For a part time science teacher and food blogger, there is probably not a better book to get me through the summer holidays than The Kitchen Science Cookbook by Dr Michelle Dickenson.

All three of my boys were excited when our review copy dropped through the door as it contains two of their favourite things: food and science. Even the contents page grabbed their attention with little logos to explain what the experiments were about.

contents page in the kitchen science cookbook

As a science teacher, there most of the experiments I have done before, however, not with my own kids! It is silly really as I would use "can crusher" in a class about pressure but would not have actually thought about doing it at home.

The book is large and has great photographs of the experiments along with instructions and a scientific explanation. My boys seem to like the ribbon bookmark so that they can show me exactly what they want to do next!

So far we have carried out two experiments. Growing candy crystals and making ice cream in a bag. We also have a long list of other experiments to try during the summer.

Instant Ice Cream

You will need

A small and large zip lock bag
120ml cream
12.5g sugar
vanilla flavouring - we used grated vanilla
3-7 cups of ice
75g salt

Little man loved weighing out all the ingredients to make the ice cream. The cream, sugar and vanilla is put in the small freezer bag. The ice and salt in the large.

making instant ice cream

You then put the small bag in the large bag, seal and shake for 5 minutes. I was actually shocked at how well it worked. Whilst it may not have looked particularly pretty, it tasted book. We were able to discuss the reason for adding the salt to the ice and the boys are now keen to experiment more.

Instant ice cream

The book gives you the theory on how the cream is an emulsion and how to make ice cream you need small crystals to make it taste best. There are also extension activities that you could explore further.

If you have a keen little scientist in the house then I am sure they would like this book. Whilst we have had to order in a few specific things for certain experiments, there are plenty that can be carried out with items you already have around the house.

We are big fans of the book here and I can see us carrying out many of the experiments over the next few weeks. If your children like science too then the book can be purchased from WHSmiths.

Have you got any other recommendations for books to keep the children busy over the summer?

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Drayton Manor For Ages 6-10

I have to admit that when I agreed to check out Drayton Manor's Summer Sensation, I wasn't sure that it would be any good for my boys who are aged 6-10. It is home to Thomas Land, but my boys outgrew their train sets many years ago. There are also lots of terrifying adrenaline fueled rides, which they are not yet into. So would it be worth the 2 hour drive?

Drayton Manor theme park

My boys are no stranger to theme parks with regular trips to Legoland, Alton Towers, Chessington and Thorpe Park. So what could Drayton Manor offer us that was different?

Well to start with there was Accelerator. This used to be branded as Ben 10 and when we visited Drayton Manor 5 years ago we got big man riding it. I would say it is a step up from the vampire ride at Chessington and we went on this first, before middle man could change his mind about riding it.

Luckily the ride was a hit. Unfortunately it was plagued with technical issues all day and we were only able to ride it once.

accelerator at Drayton Manor

We then stopped for a picnic and it was a welcome relief that there were picnic tables to sit at. Next up was the Buffalo rollercoaster. It was ok, but looked as though it was on it's last legs trying to get around the track.

Buffalo rollercoaster Drayton Manor

Ice Age 4D was good family fun as you were catapulted through time with Scrat.

We had a wander around the zoo and I particularly liked the Australian finches.

Australian finches at Drayton Manor

Another great thing about Drayton Manor is that most of the rides you could ride without an adult at 1.2m This meant that neither my husband or myself had to feel ill on Jolly Buccaneer or Drunken Barrels.

Jolly Buccaneer at Drayton Manor

We popped into Thomas Land as I remembered Cranky the Crane being quite good and it did not disappoint.

Cranky The Crane ride at Drayton Manor

We ended our day with Stormforce 10. A wateride where there is a backward drop. We had our waterproof jackets which helped a lot!

Selfie after Stromforce 10 at Drayton Manor
You don't get as wet as on Tidal Wave at Thorpe Park! Still wet though!

There was a lot we liked about Drayton Manor. Staff were helpful and friendly. The queue times were generally short (30 minutes was the longest) and this makes a huge difference to the enjoyment of your day. Noone wants to spend over and hour queuing for a 2 minute ride. I loved that there were no fast passes that could be purchased. I hate the fact that people can effectively pay to queue jump and it has a massive effect on queues. It was a welcome relief to get to the front of the queue and know you would get on the next ride, not have to wait whilst all the fast passes went on first.

The only thing that I missed at Drayton Manor was some kind of way of knowing how long the queues were, or when showtimes were. There was no app or even a suggestion on the queue line. We had a lovely day and middle man would like to visit on a yearly basis. If I lived nearer I would certainly visit more often.

Drayton Manor have a special offer this summer where you can pre book 4 tickets for £80 which is really good value for money. Even better is that you only need to do this before midnight the day before you want to go.

Have you visited Drayton Manor recently? What did you think?

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Drayton Manor is great for little ones that like Thomas the tank engine but what if you kids have outgrown him?

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

18 Delicious Summers.....

I am sat here with approximately 20 minutes before my boys finally break up for their summer holidays. Am I prepared? Ummmm no. I can guarantee that there is not nearly enough food in the fridge to keep them going for the whole of tomorrow as they descend on the kitchen like a plague of locusts with whines of "Where is all the food Mummy?" and cries of "He ate the last bagel!"

You have probably seen the 18 years of summers posts going around social media. I may have mumbled swear words under my breath when I first saw it, but the more I see it the more it annoys me. On many levels.

1. I don't need reminding that my kids are growing fast. I know that. Quite frankly I don't know how my eldest is old enough to be looking at secondary schools next year. However, I don't need to be made guilty for not enjoying them every minute of every day. I had lost it by 8.30 this morning when big man had forgotten to get a game for school and little man looked as though he was about to swim the channel with the sun cream he had applied. Three kids, predominately by myself for nearly 6 weeks is no walk in the park. The rest of the kitchen maybe bare, but I have endless supplies of coffee and wine to get me through.

2. Where did 18 summers come from? Have these people had teenagers? They wont even get out of bed before midday. And as for spending every moment with me when they are that age, I think we can say that is unrealistic. A summer of ferrying them round to various friends houses and activities seems much more accurate to me!

3. After 18, does it mean that you no longer see your parents? Whether mine like it or not, they get me visiting every summer with the grandkids in tow. And lets face it, I think they are grateful that I don't rock up for a full 6 weeks. Quality versus quantity and all that.

So 18 delicious summers isn't for me. Lets all try and get through this and hopefully make some memories along the way. There will be shouting and there will be tears. By the end of it I may be counting down the summers that I have to get through! May the holidays commence, but without the pressure that social media brings. Lets raise a glass to relaxed days, no routine and some boredom. Not everything has to be perfect. Which is good because I rarely am. Now I had better get a move on and pick up the boys before they think I have forgotten school ends early!

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Meal Planning Monday - Summer Hols Are Nearly Here.

Wow, the last few weeks have been so busy, I am certainly ready for the summer holidays. The boys will finally break up on Tuesday and I reckon our food bill will go through the roof! We also have a new house guest that requires some green beans and other veg.

This little fella has been scaring the life out of me over the weekend as he was a bit stressed out by the move here. However, his beard is no longer black so I am happy - and so is he!

Monday: Pasta with cheese and tomato and white wine vinegar. My friend made this for us when we were at uni and I haven't made it in ages. It is simple but really good.

Tuesday: Pork and apple burgers.

pork and apple burgers

Wednesday: Pizza

Thursday: Lamb chops. My sister gave us a South African rub for these so we are giving them a go.

Friday: Hoisin Chicken salad. This weekend we went to a 40th BBQ with the most amazing chicken. It was marinated in hoisin sauce so I am giving it a go myself at the request of my boys.

Saturday: We are off to Drayton Manor, so will probably take a picnic and then stop off on the way home to eat.

Sunday: It is our 13th Wedding Anniversary! I think big man wants to cook us steak and chips.