Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Our Favourite Family Christmas Movies (AD - GIFTED)

Favourite Family Christmas Movies

The lead up to the festive period can get rather manic for our family, the children both have extra activities with school and clubs, (our 9-year-old was in FOUR different shows this year!), my husband and I are really busy in work getting ready to take some time off and then of course there is the shopping and prep to do! I'm getting tired just thinking about it!

This means that when we get to Christmas eve we love nothing better than snuggling up on the sofa together with a box of chocolates and a good old Christmas movie. However, we can't always agree which is the best one so sometimes we have to watch a few! The lovely folks at Fox have sent us a selection of festive movies to get us in the festive spirit and you could win a bundle too in a super simple twitter giveaway - read to the end to find out more...

Home Alone - Family Fun Edition

Home Alone is a 1980 classic family Christmas movie that I remember watching throughout my childhood. Full of belly laughs and hold your breath moments, both my children love watching Kevin Macallister as he is left home alone and has to defend his house from a pair of bumbling thieves at Christmas! Their favourite scene is when one of the dastardly would be burglars climbs through the window and steps onto the baubles Kevin has laid out! Ouch!

Deck The Halls

Another comedy classic, this one is my husband and son's favourite, they love the hilarious rivalry between Steve and his new neighbour Buddy, especially in the ice-skating race but their favourite scene is when the rogue firework goes down Steve's chimney and destroys the tree!

Miracle on 34th Street

Now we're on to my favourite, I have fond memories of going to the cinema to watch this back in 1994, and I had my very own 'I believe' badge. This is the first Christmas movie I watched with my children and it gives me tingles inside every time I see it. Richard Attenborough embodies the spirit of Father Christmas and watching him use sign language to talk to that little girl brings a tear to my eye without fail. Six-year-old Susan Walker walking through the courtroom and melting the Judge's heart with the Christmas card and the one-dollar note just makes Christmas for me. It's all about believing in the magic!

A Christmas Carol

There are so many adaptations of this classic Charles Dickens tale, but whichever one you choose it is must-watch Christmas viewing and enough to convert anyone feeling a little Scrooge-like to a festive feeling. We don't want to be haunted by the ghosts of Christmas, do we?

Jingle All The Way

This nineties Christmas offering starring Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't everyone's cup of tea but we've all had that dreaded feeling that the one toy our child wants will sell out and here's what could happen when you go to every length possible to get it! The children always laugh their hearts out at the parade scene but there's plenty of giggles to be had throughout.

What's your favourite festive film? If I've missed it out please do share in the comments.

Now pop over to Twitter - Follow and RT the below tweet for your chance to win all of these DVDs!

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Throwback to the Nineties with The Spice Girls #AD

Disclaimer: I have been compensated for this post.

If I had to choose a decade that defined my formative years it would without a doubt be the Nineties. Platform shoes, 'Rachel from friends' hair, boob tubes with combat pants and of course Girl Power!

This decade spanned my childhood from ages six to sixteen and shaped me in to the person that I am in so many ways.

Of course you can't really talk about nineties nostalgia without mentioning The Spice Girls, they were the iconic band of the decade. Their album, Spice, was the first CD I bought when I got my very own boombox for my tenth birthday, I went to see Spice World at our local cinema for a friends birthday and I cherished my platform shoes that I hobbled around in!

For a young girl like me, the characters the girls 'played' gave me something to connect with, something I'd never really had with pop stars in the past. For me, Mel C's Sporty Spice showed me a celebrity with an accent just like mine from my home town and I really related to that, it gave me confidence at an important time in my childhood.

The concept of Girl Power was also something that I connected with, I had a hard time as a child in many ways, I was bullied at school, I was the only child of a single parent and I felt very lonely at times. This 'Girl Power' that The Spice Girls shouted and sang about was something I aspired to. It gave me confidence and in many ways and believing in this helped to turn me from the shy and timid child I was, in to a more confident and outgoing teen. Girl Power Indeed!

I was definitely a big fan and in many ways still am, but am I their biggest fan? Probably not...

Are you?

The Spice Girls and Walkers Crisps have reunited 22 years after they first worked together to find the girls' best ever fan!  Watch the hilarious new ad in the video below and join in with the discussion online using  #MustBeWalkers

Whoever is actually crowned Spice Girls best ever fan will be incredibly lucky with the first prize being VIP tickets to watch them live including a meet and greet  with the ladies as well as 5* accommodation and travel! Wow!

Would you share your Walkers crisps with the girls? I certainly would!

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Planning our first trip to Walt Disney World, Florida

Girl dressed as Rey meeting Donald Duck at Disney

Planning a holiday is always exciting, but when it's a holiday of a lifetime it can be pretty overwhelming as well. This summer, we will be taking our children on their very first trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. Long term readers of this site will know that we are a family of huge Disney fans, so this really is the ultimate dream for us all. My husband has been three times before as a child but for myself and our two children, it will be not only our first visit to Disney World but also our first time in the United States!

We did take the children to Disneyland in Paris a few years ago and although they had a fabulous time and made some cherished memories, I found it a very stressful trip. Therefore I want to do as much forward planning as possible this time, to make sure I share the magic with them!

We have already booked our advanced dining reservations for the meals we will be having on site, booked our eight year old a princess makeover slot at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Magic Kingdom and of course linked up our tickets in the My Disney Experience App.

Top Tips for your first Disney World Trip from UK Family Travel Bloggers

Having just passed our double digit day I feel like I can really get into geeky planning mode now, we've started to buy bits and pieces ready to pack and we have our 30 day Fastpass+ day marked on the calendar! To help me get prepared I thought I would pick the brains of some fellow bloggers and WDW fans. I've pulled together some of the top tips that they have shared with me below:

Angela who writes a fabulous family travel blog filled with Disney themed content - Life of Spicers - says we should enjoy everything that you are doing and don't worry about what you're not doing, as it's impossible to do everything!

Amy from Livvy Bird Adventures advises her top tip is to get everyone in the travel party to choose one MUST for each park. Then treat everything else as extra. Whether you go for one or three weeks you still won’t get everything done. Do check out her Instagram for lots of Disney memories!

Karen from That Lancashire Lass took her family to WDW in 2017 and she tells me that fast passes are brilliant for minimising queuing time when you have young children.

Louise from A Strong Coffee to Go suggests that if you don’t get a fast pass for one of the really popular rides such as Flight of Passage, either go for rope drop on a day without early magic hours or get in the queue just before closing. Once the fast passes have stopped going in, the queue will go down much faster than the time that was shown. Thanks Louise, I shall remember that one!

Emma Read has written a great post sharing what she learnt from being first timers at Disney World, it's full of great advice and I would recommend popping over and reading it, but one tip I will definitely be taking on board is to take our own food and drinks into the park. As a vegetarian I am expecting that the choice will be limited and I know that eating on park will be expensive too. We have a couple of character meals booked but other than that we fully intend to take packed lunches and water bottles to refill with the free iced water available!

Steph from Steph's Two Girls wrote a great tongue in cheek post sharing her Top Ten Tips for a Florida Disney Holiday following her last visit in 2015. In this she says, 'Stress over planning your days out meticulously if you want to, but be prepared to scrap all those plans and go with the flow every day as soon as your first FastPass+ ride breaks down.'

I think that is the perfect piece of advice to leave this on, we really can plan everything down to the last detail but sometimes things don't go to as we expect, rides may break down, storms may happen or little ones may just get too tired. If you do plan, you also have to allow for things to change and be prepared to just go with the flow!

I'd love to hear your top tips!

Have you been on a holiday to Disney World in Florida? Do you have any tips to share with us as first timers? If so please do leave me a comment as I would love to read them!

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Monster Jam UK Arena Tour - Review

Monster Jam UK Arena Tour - Grave Digger Jump

Disclosure: We were invited to attend Monster Jam as guests this weekend in exchange for a review of the event. This post also contains affiliate links.

Yesterday, we spent a fun filled family day out at Manchester Arena attending Monster Jam, the must see live motorsport event tour that's perfect for families!

What happens at a Monster Jam Arena Tour?

I have to be honest here and admit that I didn't really know what to expect prior to the show, I was aware of Monster Trucks and I'd vaguely heard of Monster Jam but that was all, when I mentioned the show to my husband and children, they were all really keen on attending so I thought why not give it a go?

We had tickets to the pit party first, which was great fun and I would really recommend (read more below) and then we headed to the arena to find our seats as soon as the doors opened. I would advocate doing this as although it was an hour before the show started there was still things going on to entertain! The presenters were wandering around the seating areas, talking to families on the big screen and were also interviewing the drivers who were walking around the seating area too! The lovely Brianna Mahon, driver of Wonder Woman and the only female driver in the event, recognised my daughter from the pit party earlier and took her up to stand with her for her interview! As you can imagine this made my eight year old's day!

Once the event itself was ready to start, the presenters explained the format and told the audience how we had a part to play in the show too! After each contest (other than the first tournament which was scored on timings) we had 20 seconds to go to www.judgeszone.com enter the code displayed on the big screen and give a score to the truck that had just competed! My children loved this part and of course gave 10's to their favourites. So remember to bring along a fully charged smartphone to the show as you won't just be taking pictures with it!

There were six Monster Trucks competing in this Chicago Style Racing event: Wonder Woman, Grave Digger, Max D, El Toro Loco, Monster Energy and Earth Shaker (although sadly this truck suffered some mechanical damage early on so wasn't able to continue to compete).

The event lasted around two hours and started with the timed tournament, of which Todd Leduc driving Monster Energy took the podium, then a two wheel challenge that we got to vote for our favourites! Max - D was victorious in this one!

There was then an interval to get food and drinks before we returned to some supercross bikes who performed some awesome tricks that left us all open mouthed! My 11 year old especially enjoyed this segment.

Back to the Monster Trucks and the donut challenge came next, some of the trucks seemed to struggle with this in the confined space and the obstacles in the way but this was made up for by spectacular spinning performances by Max D and El Toro Loco!

The final contest of fuel injected fun was the freestyle where each athlete had 60 seconds to use all of the obstacles to showcase to us what their truck could do! This was my favourite event as each of the drivers had now had the chance to perform in the arena and seemed to have got the hang of the different lay out and how the ground differed to their usual tracks. We were treated to some fabulous displays but ultimately Max D was again named the winner and took the title of the event!

Monster Jam UK Arena Tour - Max D Monster Truck

What is a Monster Jam Pit Party?

A pit party is quite an American concept and I wasn't aware of it previously but we decided to check it out and arrived just as the doors opened at 10.30. For this part of the event we were down on the arena floor and each of the drivers were with their trucks waiting to greet fans, chat to them, sign autographs and of course pose for pictures!

This was a fantastic opportunity to get up close to the colossal trucks, check out the awesome paintjobs and designs, take pictures and of course ask the drivers questions.

My daughter immediately fell in love with the Wonder Woman truck, posed for endless photos and loved meeting the driver Brianna. 

The pit party requires an additional ticket and does have a small extra charge but if you or your kids have an interest in Monster Truck racing then I would highly recommend it, do go early on though as it started off really quiet but the queues did build up towards the end.

What Souvenirs can you buy at the Monster Jam Arena Tour?

As with any arena tour there is an abundance of merchandise available to purchase as a memento of your day, Flags representing your favourite truck competing were a popular choice and ideal for waving during the races or getting signed by the driver at the pit party! Other items available included t-shirts, baseball caps, popcorn, soft toys and novelty cups containing syrup flavoured ice drinks! The prices started at £10 and increased quite rapidly as I've come to expect from shows like this.

My top tip would be to order some Monster Jam (affiliate link) toys online at around half the price they are on sale there for, to give to your child at or following the show, they'll be just as happy and you will have saved yourself some pennies! 

At Manchester Arena you are unable to take any food or drink into the arena with you, I am not aware if this is the case at all of the other UK arenas, but if it is then be aware that you may have to budget for purchasing snacks and drinks while you're there (which at arena prices  aren't cheap) as the event lasts quite a while if you arrive for the start of the pit party!

Flavoured Ice filled Monster Jam Novelty Cups

Would we recommend the Monster Jam Arena Tour?

The answer to this is a resounding, yes! We would wholeheartedly recommend the Monster Jam arena tour to any families with children or (or grown ups!) who have any interest in Monster Trucks.

I would also recommend paying the extra fee (I believe it was around £12 for the Manchester dates) to get tickets for the pit party as this was a great part of the experience for us.

One thing to bear in mind is that this is two hours of trucks and bikes driving around in a relatively confined space so it is LOUD! If your children are small or have sensory issues I'd suggest bringing ear defenders to make the experience more enjoyable for them. They were on sale outside of the arena but again you will pay a premium for buying these at the event.

As well as noise, another thing to consider is the fumes from the vehicles, the arena was well ventilated but towards the end of the show these where quite noticeable even up in the seating areas.

We had a fantastic day overall, and the event completely blew my expectations out of the water. It was chilled out, family friendly and pleasingly interactive!

Yes, there were a few mechanical issues with some of the trucks but these were managed well and we still felt very entertained! It did seem that some of the trucks weren't used to the concrete floors and would have been more at home on a dirt track in an outdoor arena, but they were still amazing to see.

My eight year old daughter now has a new hero in the form of Brianna Mahon, driver of Wonder Woman and my eleven year old son has been unusually vocal and and hasn't stopped talking about the show since!

Monster Jam UK Arena Tour  - El Toro Loco Monster Truck

Although the final show in Manchester is today, the tour continues around the UK, visiting the Principality Stadium, Cardiff on the 18th May 2019 and then Coventry Ricoh Arena on the 8th June 2019 and tickets can be purchased from www.monsterjam.co.uk.

Don't forget to visit Facebook.com/MJOnline and follow @MonsterJam to keep up to date with all the Monster Jam news!