Lyceum Youth Theatre: Blackout and Eclipse

Lyceum Youth Theatre

Having attended the opening night of the Connections festival, we were invited back for closing night at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. On show tonight, we had a company from the Oslo International School. They treated us to a performance of a play called Blackout. Waking up in the isolation of a prison cell with no memory of how he got there, we retrace the steps of a young man accused of attempted murder. A victim of bullying, driven to isolation, depression and violence. It was a compelling play and the young actors were on top form, especially since the play had a particularly Scottish tone and used slang at times. They delivered the lines with conviction and enthusiasm and conveyed the story very well indeed. They also used narration to convey the range of emotions running through the lead character’s mind which I thought worked well.

After a short interval, the cast of the Lyceum Youth Theatre performed a play called Eclipse. Using the premise of flashbacks to tell a story of a fateful night on a beach during an eclipse, a group of youngsters look to carry out a ritual of some kind, with a newcomer, Lucy Lime causing friction, tension between the group. Behind the beach setting, there is a more formal, courtroom setting with older versions of the group, giving evidence in the apparent disappearance of Lucy all those years ago. This play was more complex but the story was very interesting. The young actors again were excellent and gave intense performances full of conviction to the material.

Overall, I was very impressed with all the performances on show tonight and really enjoyed both shows. It was clear a great deal of effort had been put in by all concerned to give a very high level of quality.

To find out more about the Lyceum Theatre, click here.

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Lyceum Youth Theatre: Connections Festival

Lyceum Youth Theatre: LYT Discover
by Alex Douglas

Lyceum Youth Theatre

We were invited along to the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh for the opening night of the Connections Festival. Set on the main stage of the Lyceum theatre in Edinburgh, a group of kids aged between 9-11, dressed in pyjamas presented a short play about the difficulties of putting on a birthday party. The Connections Festival was off. It wasn’t slick or polished, and fell foul of some technical gremlins, but it was however delivered with commitment, enjoyment and honesty from all of the young cast who are all offered free participation in drama and come from the most underrepresented areas of the city. This was really good to see. There were a few funny moments as the eldest of the cast attempted to wrangle the rest of the kids into some order and organisation, only for her efforts to be thwarted by an annoying brother. At times, he reminded me of, well, me.

The next short production was brought to us by a slightly older cast of characters but continuing the birthday theme. They gave us a play which was a tour through some of their birthday highlights and also gave us a glimpse into the future, where beauty products can slow the effects of ageing and in some cases, reverse it! If they have found a cure for baldness, I can’t wait for this future to become reality! The performances in this show were again delivered with passion and there were some more confident performances on display, probably due to this group being older.

After a short interval, the young adults of the Indelible Arts Theatre Group treated us to a performance called The Musicians. Set in Moscow we followed the North Berwick High School Orchestra attempting to perform Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. They are hampered however by the lack of instruments, which have been impounded by Russian Customs and are helped out by a friendly,if not a little irritating, Russian janitor. The performances on display were excellent, with the two lead actors particularly impressive. They were funny, convincing and a little bit of bad language weirdly made the whole thing seem much more realistic.

Overall we really enjoyed the night and loved seeing young people getting a chance to tread the boards and have fun while they were doing it. A great way to kick off the festival.

To find out more about the Lyceum Theatre, click here.

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Book Review: How To Be Free

how to be free bookDo you ever feel that life is overly complex? That there are too many rules and regulations and that the happiness is being sucked out of you?

I was sceptical about How to Be Free, I thought it was going to be all hippy stuff that wouldn’t do what I wanted it to. It turns out that the author Tom Hodgkinson speaks a lot of sense. Tim pulls apart life bit by bit, chapter by chapter and makes you see how inconsequential most things are. From debt to work, material posessions to family, Tom covers it all. While I don’t agree with everything the book had to say (why would I, that would be a bit weird anyway) it made me question my own beliefs and actions at every turn. I think a good book changes you or something you do for the better, this book did that for me.

Verdict: If you want to wipe the slate clean and have all of your assumptions questioned, this is the book for you. I finished reading with a renewed sense of what was important and being able to shrug off many of the daily goings on that can grind you down and force you off track.

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Top Five Things To Do With A Ten Year Old In Edinburgh

Who better to tell you what to do in Edinburgh with a ten year old, than a ten year old. I’m handing the blog over to my own ten year old to give us her top five things to do in Edinburgh.

Princes Street Gardens

So, counting down from number five…

5. Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura is a great and interesting place to go no matter how old or young you are. Everyone enjoys it there as there is lots of cool things to do like the mirror maze or the vortex tunnel which feels like you’re spinning around, it really is an exciting place to go.

Ticket prices are:
Adult 14.50 senior 12.50 student with ID 12.50 Child 5-15 10.50 [under 5s go free]

4. Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street gardens is a good place to visit to have a picnic after shopping which almost all ten year olds enjoy, it’s a free place to go and in summer is really quite beautiful with flowers and benches to sit on.

3. Silverknowes

Silverknowes is a beach in Edinburgh, it’s a great place to take a walk or collect shells. It’s good to go there with your whole family.

2. S Luca

Luca’s is one of our favourite places to go for breakfast, they also do lunch and tea and of course ice cream – they have a sweetie counter where I like to spend my pocket money.

1:Ryze

Ryze is the ultimate trampoline park. They have single trampolines which can only have one person on at a time and they have bigger trampolines at the back which two people can go. They also have a foam pit you can jump into and ropes or silks you can hang from, and a tall tower you can jump off into the foam pit. You need special Ryze socks or no socks at all and you get about an hour and a half on the trampolines.

Ticket prices are:
2-6 :7.00 7 over :10.00

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Things For New Mums With A Baby To Do In Edinburgh

For many new mums, when you first get home with your tiny bundle of joy the thought of going anywhere to begin with (how much stuff do you need to start carrying about with you?) can be daunting but eventually you and your baba will settle into a routine, you’ll gain confidence and if you are lucky enough to have maternity leave you will eventually find time to go out and do things and get the chance to show off your wee beauty.

For the first few months the things you choose to do can be more about you than the baby (take advantage of this sleepy, cuddly nap stage) so think of things that are nice for you. When they get a bit older you might want to try things that stimulate them too. If you have friends on maternity leave to then it’s great to organise some things together but many will give you the chance to meet other new mums too. Here’s our list of Mummy and baby things to do in Edinburgh.

Lovely Pram Walks In Edinburgh

 Edinburgh

If the weather is kind enough try and get out with your pram for lovely walks. There is nothing nicer than walking somewhere peaceful with beautiful scenery, pushing your pram. You get to keep stealing loving looks at your little masterpiece as you walk and gather your thoughts. I loved doing this with mine, just me and my baby. Mostly they slept with the motion but I also loved it when they were awake, lying in the pram, entranced by the green foliage of trees above them. I can remember wondering what it was they were looking at and looking up as I walked through woodland paths and being amazed at how beautiful the view a baby has in their pram! So here are some lovely places to visit for those kind of walks.

Botanical Gardens – EH3 5NZ

Lauriston Castle – EH4 6AD

The Water of Leith – EH14 1TQ

Colinton & Craiglockart Dell – EH14 1JF

Inverleith Park – EH3 5NZ

Corstorphine Hill –  EH12 6UP

Union Canal – EH3 9QB

 

Baby Photoshoot

While they are still new if you can get some professional photos taken to cherish forever. Really newborn shoots usually are done in the first 7 weeks but photographers know that for everyone that just isn’t realistic. Find a photographer who will give you the chance to say what you are looking for and will advise you on prices before, a package deal is good because once you see the shots it will be hard not to want to buy them all. Here is our list of highly recommended baby photographers in Edinburgh.

Teresa Sumerfield Photography – www.teresa-sumerfield.com

Anna Moffat – www.annamoffat.com

Oh Daisy – www.oh-daisy.co.uk

Rachel Hein – www.rachelhein.com

The most important thing to remember when doing things with your baby is that it’s about you too. A happy mummy makes a happy baby. Enjoy as much as you can while they are tiny, they grow up so fast.

Baby Friendly Lunch

Friends, family and other new Mums can be a life line for your sanity and it’s nice to catch up for a cup of tea, coffee and cake, get advice or just enjoy some adult chat. The following list is where to go for a nice snack or lunch with baby in tow. Some are good for when they are a bit older too, with play areas to keep them amused. All offer delicious treats for you to eat and extra touches that make you know baby is welcome too.

Jenn’s Den – 31 Corbiehill Rd, Edinburgh

Babies and Bump Café – 13-15 Church Hill Place, Edinburgh

Summerhall – Summerhall Pl, Edinburgh

Joy Tots Shop and Café – 117 Ferry Rd, Edinburgh

Toots Play Café – 227 Gilmerton Rd, Edinburgh

The Pantry – 1 N W Circus Pl, Edinburgh

 

Baby & Mummy Classes

Going along to a baby class or playgroup is a great way to meet other new mums too. Don’t feel pressured to sign yourselves up for everything that is going, pick something you think you’ll both enjoy and have fun as well as making new friends. Most offer a free first session so you can decide if it’s right for you both. Here’s our top suggestions.

Montesorri Mornings – www.montessorimornings.com

Baby Massage – www.edinburghbabymassage.co.uk

Water Babies – www.waterbabies.co.uk

Gymboree – www.gymboree-uk.com

Jo Jingles – www.jojingles.com

Baby Sensory – www.babysensory.com

Book Bug Rhyme Times – www.scottishbooktrust.com

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Staycation in Edinburgh

 

Last year the summer weather in Scotland hardly existed at all, we just seemed to have a lot of rain. Ever the optimist I’m thinking that this means this year it will be so much nicer, so a good year to pick to stay at home for a Staycation.

A staycation, especially if you treat it as a proper holiday, can be lots of fun. You get the chance to do things in your hometown that you might overlook when you aren’t a tourist and with a bit of careful planning it doesn’t have to break the bank either.

Edinburgh Staycation

With all this in mind, I’ve drawn up a handy weeklong Staycation plan for you. I’ve based it on a family of 4, in the first week of August and included any costs of the activities based on this. 

1 month before your Staycation

 

Look at what’s on in the Fringe and book a few of the free shows.

 

1 week before your Staycation

 

Order an introductory offer from Gousto, Marley Spoon or Hello Fresh for 4 family meals to be delivered on the first day of your Staycation. You should get an offer for around 50% off your first box (there is no commitment to buy more either) with all the ingredients and recipes for 4 meals for 4 delivered to your door. Self-catering meals for 4 nights of your Staycation for around £30, which is a great saving, and you didn’t even need to go to the supermarket. It also means you can treat yourself to dinner out for 3 of your other nights.

 

Monday AM

 

Start your Staycation like a proper tourist and go on a walking tour. New Edinburgh Tours offer a free 2.5 hour tour of the city including;

 

Edinburgh Castle

St Giles’ Cathedral

The Royal Mile

Old & New Towns

Mercat Cross

Greyfriars Kirkyard (cemetery) and Greyfriars Bobby

Grassmarket

The original ‘Hogwarts’

William Wallace and the Stone of Destiny

National Museum

Covenanters’ Prison

Martyrs’ Memorial

The real Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The Scottish Enlightenment

 

Their guides work hard to be interesting and informative as rely on tips after your tour is complete. They have had excellent reviews, and you might discover something about Edinburgh you never knew.

Cost – Free, but leave a tip.

Monday PM 

Time to stop for some lunch after all that walking, head to Oink on Victoria Street for budget friendly hog roast rolls and then continue your afternoon with a visit to the Museum of Childhood, where you’ll learn about children and toys from the past and can dress-up or make your own puppet show.

Cost – Free

Tuesday Am 

Take yourself to Lauriston Castle along with the kids bikes or scooters. Loads of green space, picnic benches, woods for exploring, ponds and fab views of the shoreline. It’s free too.

Cost – Free

Tuesday PM

For some crazy golf fun, take the kids to Paradise Island Golf Adventure in Livingston. A family of four can play their two courses for £30 so it’s really good value as well as good fun. On the way home stop at brand new restaurant Fork and Field in Mid Calder.

Cost – £30 

Wednesday Am 

National Play day is usually the first Wednesday in August and Edinburgh Council turns the Grassmarket into an open playground with loads of cool play stations to coincide with this. There are sandpits, mud kitchens, water play stations and musical instruments to name a few. The kids will love it and it’s all free. Pack a picnic lunch and conquer Arthur’s Seat afterwards for a great view over the city.

Cost – Free

 

Wednesday PM 

Mamma’s Pizza in the Grassmarket does free make your own pizza workshops for kids age 5-16. You have to book in advance, so let your kids invite some of their other friends to join them and while they are busy learning, creating and eating you can get some peace and sit and eat while they are busy.

Cost – Free

Thursday AM 

As part of Edinburgh Art Festival Jupiter Artland operates a FREE bus service on Thursdays and Fridays in August from Edinburgh, with FREE entry to Jupiter Artland also included. Jupiter Artland can be quite a pricey day out, so this is a real bargain. Once there you will have 97 acres to explore with some really beautiful landscaped art and sculptures to find on your wanders. Plenty of space for the kids to run about.

Cost – Free

Thursday PM 

Go to one of your pre-booked festival shows and treat yourselves to dinner out in Edinburgh with all the money you have saved from the free activities. For a Spanish feel to your Staycation visit Café Anduluz on George Street and share and feast on their tasty tapas.

Cost – Free

Friday AM 

Time for a day trip. Get a train from Edinburgh to North Queensferry. Kids love going across the forth rail bridge and you’ll have great views of the old and new road bridge too. Visit Deep Sea World to keep the kids amused for a good few hours. There is a lovely place in North Queensferry called The Wee Restaurant that you could visit for lunch and it’s close to the train station.

Cost – Return Train (with a family railcard) £8, Deep Sea World Family Ticket £42 if you pre-book online. 

Friday PM

If the weather is nice, (yes, I’m still being optimistic) then head to the meadows with a disposable BBQ and some tennis racquets and balls. The meadows is a fab place to hang on summer nights and you’ll always find people who want to join in with your game of rounders to make it even more fun. At the end of the meadows there is also a brilliant play park for the kids to run around too.

Cost – Free

Saturday AM 

Fit in another free fringe show before heading to the national museum for another morning of free activities. The museum is very hands-on for kids and always has a range of workshops, new exhibits and activities for children to enjoy. With five floors, you could spend the whole day here easily, don’t forget to visit the quite often quiet space of the roof garden. Head to Lothian Road after for great Mexican food at Pinto.

Cost – Free 

Saturday PM 

Before heading home, take a visit to the Edinburgh Dungeons. The Edinburgh Dungeon is an 80-minute journey through centuries of Scotland ‘s darkest history. You will laugh and scream your way round here and I always feel it adds to the atmosphere if it’s starting to get dark when you leave.

Cost – Family ticket £40 if you pre book online.

Sunday AM 

You can’t be on holiday and not go swimming so head to any of the council run swimming pools in Edinburgh this morning. Most offer free entry for kids in the summer holidays if you have an Edinburgh Leisure pass. The Commonwealth Pool or Portobello Swim Centre are good choices.

Cost – Kids Free, Adults £9

Sunday PM

If the weather is nice then an afternoon trip to the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is always lovely. Again entry is free and there is so much space to run around or to sit and relax. Finish your Staycation off with a trip to the cinema and dinner out on the last night of your holidays. This time go Greek at Mr Nick’s inside Ocean Terminal where you’ll find the cinema too.

Cost – Cinema Family Ticket £33

 

Total Cost for Weeks Activities – £162

 

 

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Survival Kit for Warm Weather

Kids’ Survival Kits for Warm Days

Kids' Survival Kits for Warm Days

Even for those who work full time, there is something about the long school-holiday season that impels us to continue thinking of it as a “lazy” time of year. Maybe because things at home are a bit easier without homework and the daily routine of school on top of our own daily routine. Working hours feel a little softer, daylight stays with us longer. It seems we humans are still wired to appreciate this seasonal cycle. Loads of day camps offer wonderful activities for children to keep them occupied during the day, and they’ll need a different set of gear.

 

  1. Backpack

If they don’t use one for school, they should have one for camp, as these are often outdoors, with the kids hiking about parks and cities alike. Get a pack with a lot of pockets because holiday adventures always require multiple compartments. If your family is planning a trip, a new roomy backpack with a personalised name tag can also inspire them to help with the packing, but don’t be surprised if their list of essentials includes a rainbow wig, a rock collection, and their favourite stuffy. Don’t get too precious about the backpack because it’s going to get dirty.

 

  1. Sun protection

We probably don’t need to mention this one, but we will. Research has confirmed that sunburns at an early age raise the risk of melanoma later in life, and the medical community is still united in its support for sun protection. Roll-on or sunscreen sticks are more expensive, but if you’ve ever had to clean zinc goop out of the bottom of a bag, you’ll find it worth the money. Have one that just lives in the backpack at all times. Lightweight protective clothing should also have a place in the bag. Of course, skincancer.org recommends wraparound sunglasses, but we won’t hold our breath for the day the average 7-year-old remembers to put those on or doesn’t lose them.

 

  1. Stainless steel bottle with a wide top

Much easier to keep clean and to sterilise when necessary than plastic bottles, steel bottles can also take the banging around they’re sure to receive during an average week’s adventuring out of school.

 

  1. Their first wallet

Between field trips and snacks, children will sometimes need a little spending money at camp. Don’t send them with money if they aren’t going to need it, as it may get “traded” or used unwisely among young children.

This is a featured post.

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Little Darlings Afternoon Tea at Blythswood Square

When I think of afternoon tea in Glasgow, it conjures up memories of sitting in my great auntie’s flat in the south of the city, scoffing a Scotch pie accompanied by the finest HP sauce, washed down by some premium vintage Irn-Bru and finished with a nice coconut ice bun from the bakers. What we were treated to last Sunday was an all together more sophisticated affair.

Blythswood Hotel

 

We were invited along to the Blythswood Square Hotel to experience their afternoon tea, specifically their “Little Darlings” version which is suitable for children 12 and under. Originally, this was supposed to be for Erica & Erin, as a kind of “Ladies what Lunch” day out. I managed to negotiate an invite by offering my exceptional chauffeur skills. There’s a lot to be said for a lift there and back!

Afternoon Tea, Glasgow

We were greeted at the door of this impressive Georgian townhouse hotel by a cheery doorman who warmly greeted all of us, but in particular Erin, with that trademark “Glasgow charm” and pointed us in the right direction. We were seated in the lovely dining room on a very comfortable couch next to the window, giving us great views of the square itself.

Little Darlings Afternoon Tea

As we settled in and got comfortable, we were presented with our menus and offered drinks. All fairly standard stuff, right? Well yes, but I have to say that the service was exceptionally good from start to finish. Everyone was smart, welcoming and had an almost effortless way of making us feel that we were the only people they had in that day, even though they were very busy indeed.

Blythswood Square Hotel

We ordered two adult afternoon teas and Erin had the Little Darling afternoon tea. When they arrived, the waitress described what was on each stand in detail, which all looked very impressive. The star of the afternoon version for myself and Erica was the Coronation chicken tart, which was made with the best pastry I’ve tasted, closely followed by the coconut & mango macaron. Erin chose the honey roast ham wrap as the main element on hers but she is a dessert girl at heart. She picked out the chocolate brownie and ice cream cone as her favourites. She also really enjoyed the glass bottle of Irn-Bru she had. Well, you can’t remove the Glasgow element completely!

Ice Cream, Afternoon Tea, Blythswood Hotel
After a very relaxing and enjoyable two and a half hours we said our goodbyes and thank you’s and headed back to the car feeling very full and satisfied, with the girls happy they’d invited me, otherwise they’d have had to roll down the hill to Glasgow Central train station rather than falling into a food induced sleep in a comfortable car! At the price, I’d say it was not cheap but it was good value for what we had. And not a Scotch pie in sight!

Blythswood Square Hotel Afternoon Tea costs £28 for adults and the Little Darlings Afternoon Tea is £12.95 and is located in Glasgow city centre.

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Sensory Dining with Nespresso

We’ve been Nespresso fans for a while now, we bought our machine three years ago and we are club members. When the invitation to enjoy a sensory dining experience arrived, I couldn’t believe my luck. To say that a five course sensory dining experience with Nespresso infused dishes appealed would be an understatement!

Coffee with Currys

Nespresso have just launched their latest machine, the Prodigio. The Prodigio is the world’s first connected coffee machine. Not only can you manage your stock levels and reorder via your mobile phone, you can also have the machine make your coffee automatically via an app. Perfect for those lazy Sunday mornings.

Nespresso

The event kicked off with a tour of the Nespresso machines over the last thirty years. I loved the first ever Nespresso machine, how retro does it look compared to current models?

Sensory Dining

Inside the private dining area, each plate had a carefully folded blindfold. It quickly became apparent what was in store for us!

Our first course was eaten blind and we had to guess what it was.

Nespresso Sensory Dining

It was a classic Italian Caprese salad with an unusual garnish of Nespresso Rosabaya infused sauce. I loved it and it’s one I will be attempting to cook at home. Eating blindfolded? Probably not something I’ll try at home!

Sensory Dining

With blindfolds off, the full menu was revealed to us. Each course had a different Nespresso infused element.

Nespresso Sensory Dining

Our next course was an Italian risotto flavoured with Nespresso Cosi which has a bitter finish to it on the palate.

Nespresso Sensory Dining

The pan fried venison was served with an unusual fried custard flavoured with Nespresso Kazaar, the flavour definitely complemented the venison but the texture wasn’t to my taste. This kicked off a discussion about how we would have used coffee in the dish, we agreed that venison rolled in a seasoning mix that included coffee could really work.

Nespresso Sensory Dining

Dessert was definitely a highlight of the meal, and a contender for one of the nicest desserts I’ve had this year (alongside this chocolate and caramel tart). The pannacotta was flavoured with Nespresso Vanillito.

The evening was rounded off with fresh coffee (of course) from one of the many Nespresso machines dotted around, Nespresso Indriya and Frangelico truffles (love Frangelico, reminds me of a drunken night with my friend Becky…but we shan’t talk about that), and a particularly strong Nespresso martini.

Thanks to Nespresso and Currys for inviting me along, I had a great time and plan to get create over the next couple of weeks discovering how I can use Nespresso in my cooking!

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30 Kids Activities To Do In April

Guest post by Kirsty Herriot

I love a list, it makes me feel organised and can help keep me on track as well as giving me a sense of achievement when I can score things off of it. I make lists for nearly everything and this one is dedicated to the kids. It’s easy to get distracted, especially when you work from home, so I thought it would be nice to make a list of activities that you can do with the kids in April. They don’t have to be done in a specific order and some are quick and easy to fit in amongst a working day, whilst others are for family days off and out together. I’ve done this before and pinned it to the fridge so everybody could see what was planned and have a say in what we got up to. I found the kids loved seeing that even for just a little while on some of the days that some of my time would be reserved just for them.

Feel free to use my suggestions or to make your own list!

1st – Bark Rubbing: Head out to your local park or woodlands with some paper and crayons and make some bark rubbings on the different tree types. If you want it to be a bit educational too, take a pocket tree book and use the information to identify the trees. The first time we did this it was for a school project but we enjoyed it so much we have done it purely for fun on several occasions.

Kids Activities April

2nd – Visit the Edinburgh International Science Festival: This is so much fun. We have gone every Easter for the last 6 years and there is always so much to do. It runs from the 26th March to the 10th April, there are so many workshops to choose from as well as drop-in activities. You can book online at www.sciencefestival.co.uk

3rd – Get some fresh air at the Botanic Bunny Golden Egg Hunt: Follow the trails around the garden and discover the beautiful nature and wildlife along the way. The trail is appropriate for all ages and there is no bookings required, just pick up the £1 trail map from John Hope Gateway reception desk or the East Gate entrance.

4th – Make some homemade doughnuts together: This is a great and easy recipe and you can get creative with glazes and toppings.

April activities

5th – Build a den: Get some blankets, close pegs and what ever else you have around the house to help and make an indoor den. Doesn’t matter how old you are, this never ceases to be fun.

6th – Finger printing: Painting at home doesn’t always have to be a big and messy job. We use lots of different inkpads rather than paint pots and you can get lots of creative ideas from pinterest.

7th – Let the kids choose and make dinner: Get your recipe books out or trawl the thousands of recipes available online and let the kids decide what’s for tea, make a shopping list and cook dinner. We do this in our house at least once a week and turn it into a bit of a come-dining competition between siblings.

8th – Friday Night Movie Night: Pick a family movie to watch, get your jammies on and make some different flavours of gourmet popcorn to enjoy. Nice relaxing end to the week and start of the weekend.

9th – Find a beach to fish around the rock pools: Take a fishing net and wellies and keep your eyes peeled and you could spot whelks, limpets, crabs, starfish, jellyfish or even shrimp and lobsters. If you can collect some pebbles and rocks too you can use them for another activity later in the month.

10th – Sunday Roast at a Carvery: We’ve been to many. Kids love piling what they like on their own plate and many in Edinburgh are excellent value for money.

11th – Choose a new games app: Every month I let my kids pick a new app for the ipad. They have to read the reviews and pick one and decide which of their previous downloads they are going to delete. Sometimes they are purely for fun and sometimes they are a bit educational too (always a bonus) but they have to critically evaluate to choose anyway so that’s a learning process on it’s own.

12th – Paint monster rocks: Use the stones collected from your beach visit. Paint them bright colours and glue on googly eyes and pom poms for noses. We make little stories up for ours too.

13th – Get a new book from the library: It’s always nice to visit your local library and all chooses a book to borrow. We do this on our way home from school.

Kids Activities April

14th – Make a no-cook cheesecake: Nice and easy with the only bit of cooking being melting the butter for the biscuit base. Once you have your basic recipe you can get experimental adding different flavours. Our favourites are adding lime and mango or choosing favourite crumbled sweets to add – maltesers and mint aero are delicious.

15th – Star Gazing: It’s almost the weekend again and if it’s a clear night then this makes a great evening outdoor activity. Kids love getting to explore outside when it’s dark. We take a blanket, some warm cocoa in a flask, torches and some print outs of star maps to see if we can spot them. Sometimes we make up our own too.

16th – Adventure Golf: Great family fun at the weekend especially if the weather isn’t kind. We recently visited Paradise Island Adventure in Livingston and had a great time.

Golf Livingston

17th – Day out in North Berwick: one of my favourite places to visit. We get the train and then depending on the weather decide what to do. You can climb the Law, the beaches are great, there’s the seabird centre, a great play park, a swimming pool, putting greens, lots of nice little shops and we always finish off with dinner in Poon Thai’s beautiful Thai themed garden. They have heaters and shelter so you can eat outside no matter what the weather is like.

18th – Plant sun flower seeds: April is the month to plant your sunflowers either in pots for indoor or outdoors or directly into garden borders. So get some seeds and make it into a competition to see whose grows the tallest.

19th – Make Pasta Mandalas: You need paper plates, glue and pasta and then just get creative and make your designs. If you want to make it even prettier you can use dyed pasta but it’s just as much fun using it straight from your cupboard. If you want to know how to dye your pasta beforehand have a look here http://happyhooligans.ca/dye-pasta-easy-way/

20th – Go ten pin bowling: Nothing feels better than a naughty wee outing together on a school night as an extra treat to get you through the week. Ten pin bowling is a great family activity that doesn’t have to go on too late and you can usually get a bite to eat there too.

kids activities April

21st – Write someone a letter: We use emails and social media so much now that sometimes we can forget about the simple pleasure of receiving a letter. This activity is even better if you arrange with a family member or friend to send the kids a reply. Make cards, include what you’ve been up to and even some photos then head to the post office together to get a stamp and post it.

22nd – Family Board Game Evening: We love a family board game and it’s always a nice way to get together as a family, have fun and catch up with each other. Our favourites are Guess Who, Articulate and Pictionary.

23rd – Pedal on Parliament: Get your bikes out and join a mass bike ride to Holyrood. A fun day out for all the family. 3000 cyclists, young and old did it in 2013. Although they’re making a serious point about making cycling safer and easier, the day itself will be light-hearted, with a picnic at the end. Ride over traffic-free roads all the way to the Scottish Parliament. Starts at 11.30 in the meadows.

24th – Relax at the Dalmahoy: After all that cycling yesterday treat yourselves to some relaxation with a kind of Spa day at the Dalmahoy. The Edinburgh Mum’s app currently has an offer that entitles you to a free leisure pass for up to 4 if you buy afternoon tea for at least 1 person. The Afternoon tea only costs £12, so great value and a nice treat.

The Dalmahoy Edinburgh

25th – Bedtime Hot Chocolate Station: You can buy different flavoured sachets of Hot chocolate and set up a wee bar so you can each create your favourite. Don’t forget the swirly cream, marshmallows and sprinkles. Makes going to be much more fun.

26th – Make a Lego Village: Who doesn’t have Lego or Duplo in their house? But how often do you actually sit down and build it with your kids. Every now and again we tip it all out and sit on the floor together building our own lego village. Your kid’s will love the fact you are joining in.

27th – Bathtime fun: Not for every bath time but nice as a fun treat. You can get bath painting soap, tinted water colours as well as bath kneading soap to make what sometimes becomes a chore, a whole lot of new clean fun. This website has lots to choose from.

28th – Create a Jackson Pollock: So much fun! Hang an old white bed sheet from your washing line and let everyone have a shot of splatting it with different coloured paints. Leave it out to dry overnight and if you want cut it up and frame the next day.

29th – Climb some trees: Go for a nice walk together and find some fun trees to climb. Lauriston Farm has some great ones.

30th – Mary Poppins at the Festival Theatre: Going to the theatre can be expensive but whenever I do go I’m instantly reminded how much more magical and nostalgic a trip to the theatre is which always makes it seem worthwhile. Mary Poppins is on at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh from 27th April to 21st May. You can book tickets here

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Paradise Island Golf Adventure, Livingston

I’m always on the look out for alternative indoor activities to do with kids. When you live somewhere that doesn’t always offer the best weather it’s quite often an essential to have a few different ideas tucked up your sleeve!

This week we ventured to Paradise Island Golf Adventure in Livingston, which was handy as it rained most of the weekend. It didn’t disappoint, in fact Erin and her friends had such a good time we’ll probably be back regardless of what the weather’s like.

Golf Livingston

Paradise Island Adventure golf is opposite the Vue cinema in Livingston Designer Outlet. They have 2 adventure golf courses to choose from, you can play both in one visit, at a discounted rate, or save one for another (rainy) day. The décor is fun with shipwrecks, sea caves, desert islands and lost lagoons. The girls particularly enjoyed the interactive elements and those that made sounds.

Golf Livingston

The girls took a ton of photos of themselves posing next to all the features, I think they enjoyed that as much as the golf!

Golf Livingston

With an Easter trip to the zoo already costing over £60 for 2 adults and 2 children, Paradise Island was also excellent value for money. Children under 5 are only £3.50, 5-16’s are £5.50 and an adult is £7 for 1 course. A family of 4 can play one course for £21 or two courses for £30. They are open 7 days a week, till at least 10pm at night so you could even go without the kids.

Golf Livingston

The girls spent a good hour and a half doing both courses. I picked up a leaflet about their parties too as it could be a really fun option for future birthdays. They do an offer in conjunction with Pizza Hut, which includes food as well as the adventure golf.

Thanks to Paradise Island Golf for inviting us, we had a great time!

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Behind The Scenes at McDonalds

I’ve been lucky enough to have many experiences via this blog including going behind the scenes at Disney and being a cruise ambassador. Last week I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at McDonalds and I had so much fun!

I met Jim, a really nice guy who owns two McDonalds including the one at Silverburn, Glasgow.

McDonalds Scotland

We were shown the new iPads that customers can play on, and the new digital kiosks. As a parent I think this new use of technology will make ordering quicker and easier, they’re even rolling out table service so now you can order and get the kids settled down rather than hanging around in the queue.

Behind the scenes at McDonald's

After trying out the digital kiosk we got to go behind the counter. Waiting for us in the crew area were our very own uniforms and badges (which we got to keep). Jim took us around all the stations and revealed some interesting facts.

McDonalds by numbers…

12 – the millimetre thickness of a quarter pounder
20 – the millimetre thickness of a signature burger patty
30 – the amount of minutes you can go before washing your hands when preparing food
42 – the amount of seconds it takes to cook a standard burger patty
50 – the amount of seconds it takes to make a Big Mac, and just 35 if there is a full team!

I’ve never been bothered by eating at McDonalds, I love all food, as you can see from my Edinburgh food website. I eat everything from Michelin to fast food, and everything in between. I’ve also worked as a fine dining waitress so I’ve seen behind the scenes of a professional kitchen and I can honestly say I have no qualms about the cleanliness and food at either end of the spectrum.

Onto the fun bit, making our own Big Mac. I never worked at McDonalds as a teenager (I worked as a cleaner and a babysitter instead) so I was quite chuffed to have the opportunity to make a burger myself.

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How To Make A Big Mac

1. Toast your bun, which is split into ‘crown’, ‘club’ and ‘heel’

2. Add Mac sauce to the heel and club

3. Sprinkle 7g of ‘de-hi’, that’s onion to you and I

4. 14g of fresh iceberg lettuce on the heel and club

5. One slice of cheese on the heel

6. Add your 7 millimetre patties to heel and club (which have been cooked for exactly 42 seconds)

7. Pop the club onto the heel, and flip the lid closed

8. Pop it down the chute (video coming of this bit!) and hey presto One Big Mac ready to go!
All that in just 50 seconds….and just 35 seconds if there’s a full shift team.

If all this talk of McDonalds has made you hungry, head down to your local branch to sample their new signature menu – the burger patties are bigger than all their others so much more fulfilling as an evening meal. Burgers are currently in Classic, BBQ and Spicy flavours. And the good news? They’re here to stay!

Get more information on McDonalds here.

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Resolutions: Is it time for a screen detox?

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So my New Years resolution was to pick up a book before bedtime to unwind rather than do what I have been doing for quite a while now. I think we are all guilty of it, but I read an article recently about how looking at a lit up screen while in bed is not exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep. Your brain needs time to switch off so you can relax; the article also mentioned that not allowing this could increase poor mental health.

So far, with my resolution I’m failing. It’s all too easy to still be checking emails, messages, and scroll through Facebook or be inspired by pinterest when you have your ipad, the internet and even worse your phone, which cannot be good for my eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, its not all work related stuff that I am doing on these hand helds in bed. I love a game of scrabble; sometimes I’m shopping and have even been known to switch off by playing bingo online.

Another article I read recently was about twin sisters. They were separated by adoption at birth but had become friends for a good few years, playing on the same bingo site only to discover when their search for each other was over that they already knew and liked each other. Quite heart-warming and proves if you choose to play at the right bingo sites you never know what you could find.

So you see, I am actually still reading at night time, just not a book and I really want to get back into the habit of doing so. I’ve always loved reading, have done so from a very young age. Somewhere between the business of motherhood and thinking you’ll never have a minute or peace to read a book again and the increased usage of the world at our fingertips through our phones and ipads, I have lost that love and habit. It’s now March and the last thing I am doing at night is still looking at those little, lit up screens.

I think it’s time to introduce a bedroom ban on these items. Who can recommend me a good book?

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