Sunday, 13 August 2017

Dinomania at Bristol Zoo Gardens Review

We went to Bristol Zoo Gardens Friday, primarily to see Dinomania as Aaron's always been a fan of dinosaurs but little did I know the amazing effect the zoo would have on my little 18 month old Lottie. Especially as it was her very first time at a zoo bless her. She was in awe, she was entranced, she was captivated and she was ever so animated, all day. So if you have a toddler, don't feel that they're too young to enjoy it. Wow she was in her element. Lottie and her God Mother cousin are both growling in the pic where she is sat astride a Gorilla - Bristol Zoo is famous for its gorillas. Oh and based on how VERY beautiful the horticulture is throughout the zoo I now understand why their full title is Bristol Zoo Gardens and deservedly so. 
We looked at lots of animals and then stopped for a picnic lunch, but throughout lunch all Aaron would talk about was Zooropia as his cousins all did it during their last visit in 2014 and he was devastated he was too young at the time, so boy did he want to make up for that this time.
I detect a slight look in Aaron's face that now he has his harness on he is slightly unsure, above, but going round he didn't have any wobbles at all and was completely unfazed. At the end all he could say was that he wanted to do it again. I was just about to say no, but the team member taking his harness off said "a second go is half price" so yep, he did it twice. And loved every minute of it. Clearly! As this pic below shows awwww!
Finally we started heading for Dinomania. A year or two ago Aaron would have been running over there, but now he was grumpy about seeing them as he kept saying "they're not even real" so I am so so so very glad I did not know that they're actually animatronics as it meant that this came as a delicious surprise. Bristol Zoo have brought the dinosaurs over, all the way from Texas and wow are they amazing. I will be making a youtube video for you to see, but given we were at the Zoo Friday and the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta yesterday, I haven't had chance to do the editing yet. Particularly as we stayed at the Balloon Fiesta for the night glow and the fireworks, so I went to bed at 4:30 last night on a high.
On reception upon your arrival at the zoo, admissions gives you a map of the zoo and a handout: Dinomania Dino Detectives. One of the things to tick off in there is "Have your picture taken riding the Pachyrhinosaurus (photo op) and we were happy to oblige :-)
There is a running track where you can check your speed and as the handout says "Test your speed on the running track. Could you beat Chas in a race?" This I would say was definitely Lottie's favourite part of Dinomania, but the older kids were running at Olympic speed (including my son, and 2 nieces) so we had to get her out of there soon enough as her toddling was in everyone's way but of course I got some good footage first :-)
I really wasn't kidding when I said that Bristol Zoo has parts of it that are like a botanical gardens. This bridge just blew me away and it's in the very heart of Dinomania's current home for the Summer.
The next Dinosaur we met on our trail was the Giganotosaurus, below, which we looked at for quite a while. As well as moving its mouth and tail it comes down low and goes back up high necked if you stand there long enough to watch the whole cycle. I don't think I've ever seen animatronics in real life before so I was as captivated as the kids. What they also loved was the thrill of running around and finding all of the dinosaurs. They're all sufficiently far apart that they got to hunt out each one and have a good sprint while doing so before squealing with delight "found one". You'll see this to better effect when I get a video up. We did this with the map so they loved looking up the name of the one we were now at. With our excitement to find them all we completely forgot about the Dino Hub Activity Centre and therefore stumbled upon it accidentally. Very glad we did as there was so much to do in there and the Zoo Ranger in there was fabulous with the kids.
We then found the 2 smallest Dinosaurs in the exhibition and I have to say I found these the most lifelike. Can't wait to see what my footage of them is like but here for now is the Stegoceras.
Next up the Chasmosaurus, below, which to me looks quite rhino like yet that's not reflected in its name. The fact that all of the dinosaurs are animatronics and therefore move is so worth it. Well done Bristol Zoo Gardens they're a huge hit with the kids.
Next is the Pachycephalosaurus.
We saved the best one till last, which was the dinosaur that spits. Oh gosh we couldn't drag Aaron away despite how many kids came and went in the length he was there. He didn't care how wet he was getting and kept goading the dinosaur to spit (spray water at him). He was in his element with the Dilophosaurus:
If you get yourselves to Bristol Zoo be sure to visit the Activity Centre: Dino Hub in Dinomania. Sooooo much to do in there and gave me a break from the racing and chasing of Dinosaur hunting. There's a great Zoo Ranger in there too and the conversations he has with the kids are very educational.
I don't think I can do Dinomania justice with a blog post so there's only one thing for it or rather two! One, I need to edit my footage and make a youtube video of our day and you, dear reader need to visit so you can see for yourself, how great it is.

I love this pic from our lovely day out:
Now I know how much Lottie just adores any kind of animal I really must make visits to the zoo a priority. She pretty much was like the below all day. Till she fell asleep that is 

Disclosure: our entrance was complimentary in order to review Dinomania.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

SS Great Britain Bristol School Summer Holidays 2017

From 22nd July to 3rd September there is so much happening in the school Summer holidays, for children, at Bristol's iconic ship The SS Great Britain. We were invited to the launch of the Summer activities last night to an out of hours social affair and my Aaron and Lottie were both absolutely CAPTIVATED.

They are watching:
Bristol-based Cirque Bijou bring a Victorian Summer Circus to Brunel's SS Great Britain. 
Watching Bristol's Cirque Bijou Victorian Summer Circus at Brunel's SS Great Britain
Above is their view from the upper deck of the ship itself. The Circus is at ground level. It's not quite as idyllic a scene as the photo leads you to think, as Aaron climbed up that mesh you see in front of the railings, so then so too did Lottie for the duration of the circus act. So rather than enjoy it in that adult way you can pre-kids, I actually spent it letting her climb to the job (holding my breath) while then gently placing her down, only for her to do the same thing again, ad infinitum. Luckily they were very well behaved before and after that, so it was a relaxed and fun evening, where each time I got distracted (or mingled) the lovely Jenni from Travel to Recovery minded Lottie for me
By the time the above pic was taken Lottie has had a costume change as the heat of the day was starting to cool away. Thankfully the rain held off till 8 o'clock which luckily was the exact same time the event was due to end. But speaking of costume changes you can get dressed up at the SS Great Britain which is great fun:
It was so much fun being on the upper deck, even though the circus act and the food and drink were at ground level, as it meant we got to meet all of the period costume people, like a Victoria child from steerage, below, and of course we were blessed with a great view. Not only of the circus act, but also there is a great view of Bristol from the SS Great Britain. I've taken pics with that fab Bristol view as a backdrop in the past.

  1. 1.
    the part of a ship providing the cheapest accommodation for passengers.
  2. We even got to meet a period Police Man from 1851 from White Chapel. I was fascinated as he's been a R
    eenactor for many years AND was a real life Police Officer for 27 years.
  3. The brilliant thing is, the things we experienced last night, were not only part of the launch (although we were treated to pies, ice cream, candy floss and drinks). You can see the Victorian Summer Circus Cirque Bijou all throughout the Summer holidays for free (after paying entrance to the SS Great Britain, entrance that will last you a year) and take part in circus skills workshops as below.
  4. When you are up on deck though, make sure you take the stairs/lift down to the lower decks as there is SO much to look at and my Aaron never seems to get bored of it. He loves the mouse/rat in the kitchens and all of the dormitories with bunkbeds. Also go below deck (before entering the ship) where there is a controlled temperature and lots to see. Despite visiting the SS Great Britain many times, we find something new that delights and astounds us each and everytime. Helped by the fact that the team provides supplementary activities that regularly rotate. Last time it was shovelling coal and meeting a worker from the boat's engine room, this time the wonderful circus. It's so worth a visit as like I said earlier your entrance price gives you membership for a year. Don't let rain keep you away, as so much of what is wonderful about the SS Great Britain is the lower deck cabins and the museum which are all sheltered. Bye for now, Liska xxx

  5. P.s. No doubt Jenni will be writing about the event too soon if only to say thank you for the candy floss LOL. Yep indeed she blogged about it straight away like me:
  6. Was such a wonderful evening and it was so lovely to be at a venue we feel so comfortable in that the kids now know their way around. It must be a while since we've been to a bloggers' event though as when I asked Aaron to queue up for an icecream for him and Lottie he said "but Mummy I don't have any money" bless him. Thanks for having us SS Great Britain and we'll be back.
  7. It was wonderful to see Purple Ella, Sarah and Natacha too.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Ready Brek Goes on a Bear Hunt

We're Going on a Bear Hunt has been our favourite book for many many years. It was Aaron's nursery that first got me into it and I was amazed that Aaron was able to finish each line of the book at such a young age (2 years and 4 months) so recorded him doing so. Aww listening to that has made me all nostalgic for my baby boy Aaron and makes me want to hear little Lottie speak. Very soon after that video was recorded we of course quickly bought our own copy of We're Going on a Bear Hunt and it was one that came with a copy of the DVD, which literally animates the illustrations, perfectly!
Ready Brek and We're Going on a Bear Hunt
I've always been a huge fan of Ready Brek! In fact me and my Step Dad used to take it in turns to make it for each other every morning all through my teens. I had to be careful because I like it literally so that the spoon can stand up in it whereas he liked it runny. Actually even in recent years (well pre-2012 when I got made redundant) me and my colleague used to get to work early and make it for each other. Spooky but I have just realised that they are both Virgo (I think) so that's a funny lil coincidence.
Ready Brek Chocolate
I was delighted to discover that Ready Brek make versions for children as you can see above AND have teamed up with our favourite book We're Going on a Bear Hunt. Aaron likes to have his Ready Brek in his favourite bowl. A bowl he's had since his Christening many years ago. It also features a bear. The most famous of bears.
I recently had my friend (pictured left of me above) over and she brought along her friend, which means we had 3 hungry pre-schoolers for a play date pre-lunchtime. They were aged: Lottie 16 months, Arthur 18 months and Timmy nearly 3 years. I was very excited to get the Ready Brek Super Fast Sachets Chocolate Flavour Super Smooth Oats out. Being that you can microwave them in 90 seconds I knew my guests would barely notice that their hostess had disappeared inside for a moment. Whilst they supervised the kids playing with water in the garden (we've had a heatwave don't you know) I snuck in and microwaved some oats for our 3 Bears. Yes just call me Goldilocks:
I was pleased that like me, the 2 other Mums also licked the spoon and discovered what I had done with Lottie - that it tastes delicious. Also..... as one Mum pointed out. NOT TOO SWEET! And interestingly she knew it would be because it contains cocoa and it does. So the verdict was that Lottie ate about half (it's very filling). I was thrilled as it means I got to finish it. Arthur at 18 months ate it all as well as a banana but he took probably 30 minutes to eat it, grazing on it on and off. I don't think his Mum got a look in. Timmy who will be 3 years of age soon, was the biggest bear and wanted seconds, but his Mum was polite and didn't let me make it. You'll see above I gave him the biggest spoon to distinguis him from the "babies". Try this Ready Brek for yourself it really really is yummy. Oh and don't fret about measuring the 125 mls (of milk or water) you just fill the sachet up to the fill line and in it pops. Forgive me that I don't have pics of the kids eating it, but us Mummies were focusing on keeping very busy little ones in one place to eat and I didn't have their permission to feature pics (plus I was too shy to ask).
So in celebration of the collaboration between Ready Brek and We're Going on a Bear Hunt, Lottie, Aaron and I went on our very own Bear Hunt today and as with the book we started with the 

Long Wavy Grass

Uh-uh! Grass! Long wavy grass! We can't go over it! We can't go under it! Oh no we've got to go through it.

On the back of the Ready Brek cereal is a brilliant cut out which helps you to create your very own Bear Hunt.
We actually didn't stick to the order on the cut-out as walking through grass is number 3 and building a cave is number 7. But we did very well as it only says to "imagine walking through long grass" whereas as you can see above we had a lot of fun doing so for real on the way back from church this morning. Our cave followed very soon after. It was an imaginary one in the sense that it was a tunnel, but we definitely went "through it" ;-) Aaron very much striving well ahead on his scooter, going through the cave well before a walking Mummy and a snoozing Lottie:
Put on your wellies is actually number 2 and we did that when we got home from Church except one wellie was downstairs and one was upstairs (glares at Aaron) so it was an adventure in itself just to find them GGgggggrrr, in this case I am the bear and I am a grizzly growling one! 

With wellies on it was time to find a 

Deep Cold River

The cut out on the back of Ready Brek asks the kids to find a puddle and see who can splash the most. Well even though our heatwave is over since Wednesday night, we don't have any puddles but we did have a murky old paddling pool that needed emptying so we created our very own river with a little bit of water and a lot of imagination. We emptied the paddling pool (which needed doing anyway so we could clean it ready for the next heatwave whenever that may be) and turned it into our Bear Hunt river:

The Bear Hunt on the back of the box of Ready Brek concludes with the words Yum Yum so we took that as a sign Aaron had now earned a bowl of Ready Brek. He didn't get a look in with the Chocolate sachets as all of them were long gone during school hours in days gone by (looks at Lottie) so he had his exactly as it shows on the box - with strawberries - which conveniently he'd chosen in the weekly food shop a few days ago. He also added honey as what bear doesn't like honey :-)

Brand new Ready Brek packs featuring beautiful artwork from the We're Going On A Bear Hunt film are in store now. Each pack comes complete with an original Bear Hunt Guide on the back, suggesting games and activities showing kids how to go on their very own bear hunt swishy-swashing through grass and splash-sploshing through puddles. Packs also include on the back a delicious recipe, with 3 different ones to collect: Bear Hunt Banana Muffins, Protein-packed Bear Hunt Bites and Bear Hunt Blueberry and Apple Flapjacks which are all nutritionally balanced, energy boosting snacks that will keep little adventurers going.

The We're Going on a Bear Hunt Ready Brek pack to buy is one that looks like this, below. As you will see, top right corner, all of the ingredients are green traffic light rated. This for me, especially with breakfast cereal which sets them up for the day, is very important.
Ready Brek we're going on a bear hunt
Ready Brek is made from finely milled wholegrain oats and flour, vitamins and minerals, with no added salt or sugar. Packed with Calcium for healthy bones and teeth, Vitamin D for a healthy immune system, Protein for healthy muscles and oats for healthy digestion, along with Iron, Vitamin B1, B6 and B12, Ready Brek delivers a super smooth and nutritious start to the day.

For this We're Going on a Bear Hunt adventure we were sent both of the Ready Brek boxes you see featured above: Ready Brek Original Super Smooth Oats and a box of 6 of the Super Fast Sachets Chocolate Ready Brek. I was delighted that we also received:

We're Going on A Bear Hunt My Explorer's Journal and
We're Going on A Bear Hunt My Adventure Field Guide.

These books are so super I think I will include them in their very own blog post. You can see the spines of them in the very first photo at the top of this blog post.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Prezzo La Famiglia Sharing Bowl Review #PrezzoLaFamiglia

We reviewed a Prezzo restaurant the other day, namely the Bristol Harbourside Prezzo* branch as part of a team of BritMums' bloggers that were unleashed on Prezzos throughout the country to check out their new La Famiglia sharing bowl.
Located in Anchor Square, the restaurant is next door to the Bristol Aquarium and @Bristol. Parking is available in the Millennium Car Park which can be found close by. The building that Prezzo occupies in Anchor Square is known for its large circular brick chimney. The building was originally built in 1884 as a lead works.
On arrival I was struck by the large outdoor eating area for al fresco dining perfect at this time of year and the visually impressive bar as we walked in. Bristol is known for its edgy slightly industrial grungy chic look so I can only think that is why this branch looks as it does. Totally different to any branch of Prezzo I've been in before, (like the Prezzo we ate in when we saw We're Going on a Bear Hunt) which to be honest are usually a bit more glamorous and open-plan interior design wise. I know I am not remembering them incorrectly as I've seen some of the reviews from the #PrezzoLaFamiglia blogging team. Some really gorgeous Prezzos out there. The Bristol Harbour branch is long and narrow a bit like the restaurant version of a galley kitchen. I sat on the seat outside our table, which was a big mistake as it was like a thoroughfare for both waitresses and patrons alike - I was effectively sitting in a corridor - but I could tell from the clientele this branch attracts it clearly isn't at all an issue for the locals. BUT our particular table did have ripped leather on the windowside seating and a wooden table that needs resurfacing. I think perhaps the branch is due a capex overview and a refurbishment - just a little tweak of a one.

Eating with Kids

Eating with children means you have neither time nor money and the La Famiglia meal considers both. You don't waste any food as you all take the portion that's right for you and you also don't waste time browsing the menu. You literally only have to make the small decision of whether to have 
  • Penne Arrabiata; or
  • Spaghetti Bolognese; or
  • Spaghetti Carbonara; or
  • Penne Alla Rusticanain 

in your sharing bowl. We'd actually had Carbonara for lunch, which was funny considering I haven't made it in about 7 years so we opted for the Spag Bol which was perfect as it is a real staple and favourite in Lottie's and Aaron's diet. They both love eating it home and away LOL. We got the 2 large garlic pizza breads that were part of our review arrangement and the 4 soft drinks that we were allowed. Judging by the experience of my colleagues if we'd ordered salad it'd have been complimentary but we weren't to know - would have looked nice in my photos though. But I digress. What I wanted to say is that the sharing bowl is a very reasonable £18.90. They did not give me a copy of the bill but we also had 4 icecreams in our BritMums professional blogging arrangement. 


When you arrive in a restaurant with kids you don't want to have to wait to be seated so we very conveniently booked in advance via which you reach directly through the Prezzo website. The feedback I would give though, is on there it says the La Famiglia is £18.90 per person which couldn't be right.

La Famiglia feeds how many?

It's advertised as feeding 4 depending on your appetite. What I would say is Daddy and 7 year old Aaron both had seconds, Lottie had 1 generous portion (for a 16 month old) and I only had chance to eat one serving as I was minding Lottie's table manners the whole time as Daddy gets very easily embarrassed when eating out. It's a good deal I reckon. We had that and 2 large garlic pizza breads. I guess it did well to fill us all considering it was dinner time and we hadn't had starters. 

What was the food like?

The dough of the garlic bread was exceptional, but I'd say they need to be heavier on the actual garlic. We're used to shop bought and I found it lacking. Also, as great as the cut it all over the place look is, when you're looking at a baby with one eye and trying to grab a slice with the other eye it would be easier if it was cut in geometric regular uniform triangular slices that can be easily shared. I know tearing and sharing is more edgy but not when kids like to have exactly what the other one is having and you want to be able to see at a glance how many portions there are so you can share them out.
Included in our blogging review deal we had an icecream each. I was very sad that the chocolate and sea salt gelato was out of stock - clearly it flies out the door. The kids both loved their icecream (strawberry for Lottie and chocolate for Aaron) and Daddy and I had sorbets. Daddy is not a sorbet sort of person at all but I took a chance and ordered it for him. He's a convert now as he discovered what we all know that they are VERY refreshing after a meal. For the sorbet there is a choice of melon and lime or blood orange sorbet. As we got two scoops each we each had one of each flavour. Considering that 2 scoops is £4 I was extremely surprised that there weren't any additions to the icecreams. No sprig of mint on the top or wafer on the side. Nothing to make you feel you were in a premium dining establishment which until now I'd always viewed Prezzo as being. To be fair though I have been part of a team reviewing restaurants in the past and I remember seeing photos my colleagues had taken (of identical food) and yet being surprised at how much better the presentation was in the branch I'd visited so these things probably vary branch to branch. 
The spaghetti bolognese was delicious but I wish I knew it's better to have the waitress add the cheese to each of your individual portions rather than to the sharing bowl as a whole. Once you start using the tongs to share it out the cheese (and the bolognese) seem to get a little lost and all fall off. I brought Lottie's bib as I know from experience how messy eating spaghetti bolognese can be for children. Okay, I'll tell the truth I wouldn't have thought of it had I not read Forget Me Knit's Prezzo review and seen that they were wearing theirs :-) Oh how beautiful, airy, spacious and open-plan their chosen branch was!

What did the kids think?

Aaron adored the meal, the icecream and the activity sheet. In fact he beamed most of the time he was there. He's always been a boy who loves eating out. Lottie can be fussy but dived into her main and dessert. You'll know I am telling the truth if you watch my Vlog on youtube below :-) As easy as it is to order the La Famiglia sharing bowl, thus getting your food really quickly and knowing you all have the same, no time wasted browsing the menu, Daddy still took Lottie for a walk whilst we awaited our food. He is so worried about being embarrassed in restaurants, or anywhere to be honest. I'm with the kids all of the time when he's at work so I have experience the full gamut of things that can go awry and I'm over it.

What was our evening like?

Well the easiest way to answer this very question is to ask you to watch our vlog on youtube below. I was editing it till 1:30 a.m. last night. On 10th June the evening we visited Prezzo, I even went the extra mile, despite my overdraft and paid £15 for a family of four to add the Sky View wheel to our evening. Aaron was laying an egg to go on it despite having been on it before and I thought it would add a certain je ne c'est quoi to our vlog :-) Then Daddy wanted to wander around College Green like tourists, which we did, but by then it was raining.
This post is an entry for the BritMums #PrezzoLaFamiglia Challenge, sponsored by Prezzo