Get Christmas wrapped up with Aura

I am absolutely obsessed with Christmas (in case you hadn’t noticed) and we love all things festive in this household. We have so many cute little surprises for our family and friends – you can see our gift guides and amazing advent is practically bursting as they’re so full – now that the big day is approaching we have also been working hard on handmade gifts and our festive bakes to share with loved ones.

No matter what surprises we have planned I love to make them look wonderful for the recipient. We put a lot of effort in to wrapping presents and making the unboxing experience special for our loved ones and Aura has us covered with personalised Christmas tags so that we don’t get any gifts confused. With so many nieces and nephews we like to gift them the same things so a label for us is super important not to get things mixed up and we like to add a personal touch.

I’ve been having a mooch on the Aura website and there is so much I can share with you all – from custom tags to greetings cards and beyond there’s something for everyone wether you’re looking for items for personal use, or for businesses, maybe even to organise Custom greeting card printing for the entire class or sports club when you have a lot of people to organise cards for.

For those who are creative minded then Aura has a fabulous blog post about how you can turn those illustrations and graphics in to a side hustle and maybe set up your own printing service – along with all sorts of tutorials and blog posts to get the creative juices flowing.

My favourite idea however has to be the custom wrapping paper. This hands down beats anything you could possibly receive in the shops and adds a unique personal touch. Maybe you could get each kids name printed up, or add a pic / graphic to paper so they know the deisgn is just for them. Totally unique for a present pile picture which will certainly stand out from the crowd!

Check out the latests posts from Aura here – I just love the idea of creating my own deck of playing. Cards or tarot cards and then crafting a little box to store them all in! When it comes to party planning and hosting those all important gifts be family gatherings then signs and labels for food are a must have. Maybe you could opt for a hot chocolate station sign or something which says “Santa stop here for the Smiths Family” – you can’t get that kind of personalised touch in home bargains.

Aura also offers a rush service for a fast turnaround on orders so there’s still plenty of time to get your festive stationary organised if you have left it until the last minute

THE 100-YEAR-OLD TREND THAT NEVER FADES

Some styles are truly timeless. The little black dress, jeans and a t-shirt, and a well-tailored suit will never be out of style, for example. There are certain trends that extend beyond their original time period, and one such trend is Art Deco.

What is Art Deco?

Art Deco is the name given to all manner of design aspects that can be found in all areas of life: architecture, clothing, jewellery, and interior style. Art Deco jewellery has endured well beyond the 1920s-1940s, however, becoming a truly timeless trend.

The emphasis of Art Deco jewellery is on symmetry and architectural shapes. Often, shapes that are geometrically simple, such as squares, rectangles, and triangles are used in a repeated sequence to create something complex and intricate. This was a possibility at the start of the 1900s due to the technological advancements of the time. Before this period, jewellery with multiple gemstones required lots of metal to hold them securely. 

The improvements made to platinum at the turn of the century, however, meant that much stronger metal could be used to set gemstones into jewellery, meaning that less metal was required. This in turn led to jewellery with clean lines and finer designs that were more modern and structured.

Enduring Popularity

Even beyond the agreed Art Deco period of the 1920s – 1940s, Art Deco styles of various kinds can be found in everything from fashion to architectural design. Like all trends, Art Deco has gone ‘out of style’, but not in the same way that other elements of design and style do. The Chrysler building in New York City, for example, is a famously Art Deco-design building that has always been considered a beautiful building with a timeless design.

The jewellery that came out of this period also stands the test of time, being sought after for many reasons today. Not only is it very well-designed, made with strong metals and unique gemstones. The designs themselves are also distinctive and unique, with contemporary jewellery today often failing to meet the intricacies and beauties of the Art Deco period.

One such element of jewellery that lasts throughout the last 100 years is Art Deco brooches. The brooches from this time period are often large and ostentatious, reflecting the ‘roaring ‘20s’ time period from which they come. Owning such a piece of jewellery today, whether it is a new purchase or an inherited family heirloom, is certainly a statement piece that asserts a certain level of status.

The Re-Birth of Art Deco

Although brooches as a sub-category of jewellery have been out of the limelight for a little while, they are now making their comeback. Art Deco designs in general are also once again on the front lines of design and style. Mid-century modern designs and Art Deco designs are coming together with just a little splash of some Scandinavian minimalism to create the most popular interior design styles today.

Art Deco is on top, as it has been for the last century. Art Deco-themed parties, weddings, and other social events are at an all-time high, and a lot of the fashions are hitting the runways too. There is something intrinsic in the human appeal of geometric symmetry, with it occurring in nature as often as it does in man-made designs. Perhaps this is the reason why Art Deco is timeless, whether it is architecture, fashion, jewellery, or any other aspect of design.

Art Deco is a timeless trend because its styles are so unique and immediately recognisable. Art Deco represented a massive advancement in design, thrusting humankind from the Victorian era into the ‘future’. In any case, it is safe to say that Art Deco is likely to be around for another 100 years. What is your favourite timeless trend?

The 100-Year-Old Trend that Never Fades

Some styles are truly timeless. The little black dress, jeans and a t-shirt, and a well-tailored suit will never be out of style, for example. There are certain trends that extend beyond their original time period, and one such trend is Art Deco.

What is Art Deco?

Art Deco is the name given to all manner of design aspects that can be found in all areas of life: architecture, clothing, jewellery, and interior style. Art Deco jewellery has endured well beyond the 1920s-1940s, however, becoming a truly timeless trend.

The emphasis of Art Deco jewellery is on symmetry and architectural shapes. Often, shapes that are geometrically simple, such as squares, rectangles, and triangles are used in a repeated sequence to create something complex and intricate. This was a possibility at the start of the 1900s due to the technological advancements of the time. Before this period, jewellery with multiple gemstones required lots of metal to hold them securely. 

The improvements made to platinum at the turn of the century, however, meant that much stronger metal could be used to set gemstones into jewellery, meaning that less metal was required. This in turn led to jewellery with clean lines and finer designs that were more modern and structured.

Enduring Popularity

Even beyond the agreed Art Deco period of the 1920s – 1940s, Art Deco styles of various kinds can be found in everything from fashion to architectural design. Like all trends, Art Deco has gone ‘out of style’, but not in the same way that other elements of design and style do. The Chrysler building in New York City, for example, is a famously Art Deco-design building that has always been considered a beautiful building with a timeless design.

The jewellery that came out of this period also stands the test of time, being sought after for many reasons today. Not only is it very well-designed, made with strong metals and unique gemstones. The designs themselves are also distinctive and unique, with contemporary jewellery today often failing to meet the intricacies and beauties of the Art Deco period.

One such element of jewellery that lasts throughout the last 100 years is Art Deco brooches. The brooches from this time period are often large and ostentatious, reflecting the ‘roaring ‘20s’ time period from which they come. Owning such a piece of jewellery today, whether it is a new purchase or an inherited family heirloom, is certainly a statement piece that asserts a certain level of status.

The Re-Birth of Art Deco

Although brooches as a sub-category of jewellery have been out of the limelight for a little while, they are now making their comeback. Art Deco designs in general are also once again on the front lines of design and style. Mid-century modern designs and Art Deco designs are coming together with just a little splash of some Scandinavian minimalism to create the most popular interior design styles today.

Art Deco is on top, as it has been for the last century. Art Deco-themed parties, weddings, and other social events are at an all-time high, and a lot of the fashions are hitting the runways too. There is something intrinsic in the human appeal of geometric symmetry, with it occurring in nature as often as it does in man-made designs. Perhaps this is the reason why Art Deco is timeless, whether it is architecture, fashion, jewellery, or any other aspect of design.

Art Deco is a timeless trend because its styles are so unique and immediately recognisable. Art Deco represented a massive advancement in design, thrusting humankind from the Victorian era into the ‘future’. In any case, it is safe to say that Art Deco is likely to be around for another 100 years. What is your favourite timeless trend?

Panto’s back – Oh Yes it is!!! Beauty and the Beast at The Belgrade – review

Beauty and the Beast at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry is the must see panto experience in the Midlands this winter. Be transported to the town of Middle Widdle on the Piddle (somewhere near to – but not quite Nuneaton) for a few hours of silly fun with Billy, his mum Dolly Mix, alongside Maurice, Grub and of course the stars of the show Beauty and the Beast alongside a dance troupe who perform as gremlin waiters, skeletons and villagers as well as an Olympic mop team!

Bought to the Belgrade by Imagine theatre, a production company run by husband and wife team Steve and Sarah Boden, Beauty and the Beast is a sheer delight for its entire three hours running time. There was so much jam packed in to this performance we have far too many highlights to share but I have to say that we really did have a wonderful experience full of belly laughs – it was obvious just how happy the cast were to be treading the boards once more and this feeling was echoed by the audience in the auditorium.

We visited for a matinee performance: my mom, Arlo and my nephew Logan and each of us had our own favourite moments from the show so I can truly say that there’s something for everyone and it’s a real family friendly panto.

The sets were beautiful with all manner of small details adding to the enchantment of the story. As we entered the theatre the stage was set with the castles on each side and between acts the props and sets changed swiftly to immerse us in to the middle of the action. The same level of attention to detail was apparent in the costumes – and none more so than in the extravagant outfits worn by Dame Dolly Mix, played by Iain Lauchlan, whose mere stage presence had us in fits of giggles. Lots of cheeky innuendos kept the grown ups amused throughout the performance, Logan smirked throughout all the cheeky toilet humour and Arlo kept asking me if the flying saucer fascinator was real.

My mom’s favourite scene of the entire show consisted of Dame Dolly Mix with a fork, alongside Grub with a fish, Billy with a Bucket of water and Maurice with a blonde wig. I can’t even begin to explain what was going on, but we really appreciated the intricacy of the choreography and how challenging this must have been to perform – Arlo’s was sat beside me squealing with laughter as Billy managed to get poked in the bum and slapped with a wet fish! This skit bought the house down and rightly so – brilliant comedic timing!

Arlo’s favourite moment was the scene where the wolves managed to outsmart Billy and his mom – every child was out of their seats exclaiming “he’s behind you” and it was just so thrilling at that moment to look around as a parent and see so many children at panto for the first time and relishing in every moment. I found it quite emotional, and then when Beauty (Ruby Eva) and the Beast danced together to Iris by the Goo Goo dolls it sent me over the edge and I held my breath. I remember being four or five and seeing the Disney movie for the first time and being mesmerised – and for a moment I was experiencing those same feelings. The music chosen for the show really was spot on and had us all clapping along.

The one tune which has stayed with us all afternoon is “Soapy Soapy” (to the tune of Hokey Cokey) – a fabulous slapstick scene where poor Maurice (Peter Watts) was stripped down to his pants in the name of comedy. He did marvellously in this non speaking scene, where the stage was set with a huge sheet and Dolly and Billy went to town with bubbles and mops – it was chaos on the stage and had me laughing with tears rolling down my cheeks …. I also have to give a mention to the Beyoncé style moves from Maurice during the “best song in the entire show!” Great comic timing – it’s such a shame his character got thrown to the wolves in the end.

Honestly I could rave about this show all day – Arlo’s fallen asleep talking to me about mop stealing “naughty nickers” and said he had the best time ever. Thank you for inviting us to the show – Beauty and the Beast is running at The Belgrade until 4th Jan 2022 – good luck to the troupe for the rest of this run – next years panto will be Jack and the Beanstalk – we can’t wait to come back and see you again!

I do 3D – two pen activity set – things that go – review

I’ve been looking at 3D pens for a while (for myself ) and the opportunity came up to review these kids sets from I do 3D which we were delighted with. Logan and I stepped up to the challenge and I have to admit the airplane project is very intricate and so we worked together on this project very carefully as fusing some of the parts together did require two pairs of hands. One to hold the pieces together and one to hold the light.

The box contents included two coloured pens alongside a worksheet with templates, a transparent sheet to work on and also a little mould to work on some extra projects. We completed our plane in about 45 minutes and made a few little mistakes along the way but we got there in the end and we’re delighted with the end result. The pens are squeezed and then a gel like substance comes out instead of ink.

For this project we traced carefully over the 2D design template on the worksheet – placing a transparent sheet over the top of the paper and you use the blue light to cure them (a bit like they use in a nail salon) and then all of your components can be gently peeled off before finally constructing the plane by using the gel from the pens as a glue. It takes a couple of seconds for the gel to cure, depending on the thickness of your design so we took our light off the pens to give us more time to be accurate.

There was more than enough gel in the pens to be able to complete the project, fill the moulds to make some shapes and then get creative with drawing some freehand items – we went for our names and some simple shapes and are delighted to have a second project to try on another rainy day. Logan said he might give the plane another go all on his own using the opposite colours as a challenge.

We worked on a laminated table top and it wasn’t a challenge to clean up as the cured gel simply peeled off but you could work on a plastic tray if you have wooden surfaces. Overall I’m impressed – these retail at about £11-£15 from toy shops and online retailers. I think they’re a great gateway product for creative and construction minded kids to get the hang of working with 3D design concepts and have a little play before considering some of the more expensive products on the market. Pitched at 8yrs+ and I’d say this is just right with adult supervision.

The curing / setting process

Give the gift of Adventure this Christmas – Moms in the West Midlands recommend!

This year has been the year the world opened back up again and we really made the most of exploring some new places, we’ve listened to our friends suggestions and had some wonderful experiences all across the Midlands and so we thought we would recap some favourites and invite some friends, other moms (and no that’s not a typo) in the West Midlands to also share their recommendations for family friendly places to visit across the Midlands all year round.

All of these awesome places offer annual passes which are a great gift idea, and offer excellent value for money if you visit a few times throughout the year plus membership often includes perks such as free parking and additional discounts – so without further a do let’s get right in to it:

The Botanical Gardens

Westbourne Rd, B15 3TR

We are personally recommending the Botanical Gardens. I have a single adult pass because under 5’s visit for free and a membership allows you to invite one guest to accompany you for free entry. Members also get the added bonus of free parking which saves £2 on every visit. An adults pass is £42 and family passes are £67 for the year.

We visit the gardens regularly throughout the year, enjoying the peaceful surroundings in the middle of the city. With tea rooms, two children’s play areas and of course the beautiful botanicals and glass houses there’s something new to explore with every visit. Our highlights this year include access to the dinosaur exhibit and some the live music events from the bandstand during the summer.

All things Wild

Station Rd, WR11 7QZ

The dinosaurs at All things Wild

Season passes valid all year from 1st Jan are £80 per person. Discounts for four or more multiple purchases apply. All things Wild is such a wonderful place to meet so many animals but the things which our Moms in the West Midlands seem to mention over and over again are the amazing mud kitchen, the barefoot walk and the dinosaur trail – if you have dinosaur mad little ones this is a place they will repeatedly ask to visit. There are many different outdoor play areas and there’s a fabulous indoor play area here too which makes this a great all year round place to visit.

Warwick Castle

CV34 4QU

Warwick Castle (Brummie Mummie Amy)

Brummie Mummie Amy recommends Warwick Castle. With three children ranging from toddlers to pre -teens Amy recommends this as a great day out for the entire family. Their gold pass comes in at £65 and we agree that this is an amazing annual pass offer. This membership gives members year round access to the castle, gardens and grounds and Warwick Castle hosts so many fantastic events throughout the year this represents excellent value for money as a single day ticket is £16- so even if you only visit once in each school holiday you’re already saving money.

Members receive perks such as discounts in store, restaurants and on overnight stays in the knights village, complimentary parking and exclusive offers to special events and exclusive experiences.

Merlin Passes

Various locations throughout the UK

Legoland Windsor (Moms in the West Midlands)

Merlin passes had to be mentioned. These passes are perhaps one of the more expensive available but have such a huge variety of big names Family attractions under one pass it’s worth exploring – with local venues such as Warwick Castle, the Sealife Centre and Legoland Discovery there’s plenty to explore a stones throw from the Midlands.

Alton Towers – recommended by Kiri.mumto2leiversboys

Of course if you like to chase big adventures then the pass also entitles holders to visit some of the UK’s best attractions such as Alton Towers (recommended by Kiri , Thorpe Park, the Blackpool tower and so much more. Even if you created a bucket list and only went out as a family once a month you’re bound to make savings – options include a monthly direct debit to spread the cost and members receive way too many perks for me to list.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

Ox18 4JJ

The Cotswold Wildlife Park

If you ever wondered what it was like to see a rhino living the highlife then this is the place to visit, it’s almost surreal seeing them graze in front of the glorious house. This independent park is home to some one of the UK’s largest zoological collections and a fabulous day out for all. We love the magnificent play area and the variety of animals to visit. Adult annual passes are £78 and kids 3 and up £55 with family options also available.

National Trust

Various locations throughout the UK

At £78 for one adult and kids or £128 for two adults and kids this pass is one which has had so many mentions. The National trust hosts over 500 venues across the country and so if you like to travel and find new places rather than return to the same place then this is one for you. Attractions include gardens, houses and parks – many of which have historical and cultural significance. National Trust members receive perks such as free parking and a handbook which is a useful guide to all of the different places you can visit.

The Grand Theatre

Lichfield street WV1 1DE

Something a little different here – purchasing a friends of the grand theatre pass for a loved one entitles them to exclusive priority booking and discounted tickets alongside invitations to exclusive events.

West Midlands Safari Park

Spring Grove, DY12 1LF

The Ice Age at West Midlands Safari Park (Moms in the West Midlands)

Moms in the West Midlands founder Sangeeta recommends the Safari Park – annual passes are £70 for adults and £50 for kids aged 3-15. As always members receive exclusive benefits including discounts in retail shops, restaurants, theme park wrist bands and more. Annual pass holders also get one free trip to Midlands theme Park Drayton Manor too so this membership offers the potential for great savings.

Giraffes on Safari (Mumof4_lifewithliz)

WMSP hosts various seasonal events including at Christmas and Halloween – during the summer opening hours are extended so you can really make the most of it. Our Safari highlights include the Ice and and Dinosaur exhibitions – not to mention the brand new route of the drive through Safari a 2-3 hour self drive experience which takes you across the plains of Africa and beyond with excellent views across the Severn Valley to enjoy too.

Lorikeet feeding (Mumof4_lifewithliz)

Arley Arboretum

Lion Lane, DY12 1SQ

For the most scenic views across the valley then a walk through Arley Arboretum is highly recommended by all. An annual pass is £30 for adults and £15 for kids. Highlights at the Arboretum for us include the fairy garden, the maze and the awesome Easter trails hosted every year. My top tip would be to check out the cafe for seasonal treats and delicious hot chocolate.

Bodenham Arboretum

Bodenham Lane, DY11 5TB

Another beautiful treasure of the midlands is this beautiful Arboretum with its five pool walk. Memberships begin at a similar £30 for adults and £20 for kids with family options also available. Bodenham hosts the most glorious winter trails and the annual pass also entitles you to visit the Living rainforest in Berkshire and Batsford Arboretum in Gloucester. Arlo’s favourite experiences at Bodenham include the working farm you can visit right in the middle of the woods, and feeding the fish in the lake because they come right to the surface.

Park Hall Farm

Park Hall, SY11 4AS

Twelve month memberships available at £48 with families of four at a reduced rate. Based in Shropshire this is another delightful day out with animals to visit, play areas to explore and our favourite – the barrel train ride. Members also receive a discounted Santa experience too.

Birmingham Museums

Various locations

We are all incredibly proud of our city and our diverse history and thriving culture. The Birmingham Museums collectively have eight different places to explore across the region and membership gets you unlimited year round access to all of these places – Thinktank in the heart of the city centre is home to the immersive mini Brum play village and the science garden and I think the pass is worth it just to be able to visit on a regular basis. A family membership is £95, adults £35 and kids/concessions £30. Membership perks include discounts in cafes and shops as well as exclusive member events.

The eight Birmingham Museum attractions are: Sarehole Mill, Thinktank Science Museum, Blakesley Hall, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Soho House, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Weoley Castle and of course Aston Hall

360 Play

Kingfisher Shopping Centre, B97 4EU

360 play Redditch (Brummie Mummie Amy)

When you’re stuck for something to do on a rainy day then soft play is the answer. We are lucky to have some awesome indoor playgrounds in and around Brum, and many of them offer annual passes. One of the most popular suggestions from our Moms in the West Midlands is 360 Play based in The Kingfisher Centre in Redditch. This fabulous area has its very own merry go round, a huge soft play frame to explore and immersive play experiences with props too.

A peak membership pass for a year is £95 (currently on offer for £70) and is for one adult and one child. The best bit about this is the adult can be different for each visit so you can send mum, dad, grandparents or a childminder. Membership perks include discounts on food and special event tickets.

Twycross Zoo

Burton Rd, CV9 3PX

Image credit: Brummie Mummie Amy

Another awesome animal based attraction in the Midlands is Twycross Zoo. Recommended by Rebecca from House of Stew and many other local mums, passes are for Adults £65 and kids £50. This year round pass entitles you to visit every day (except for Christmas Day) and includes special events such as Easter and Halloween. With hundreds of animals to meet, and awesome indoor and outdoor areas to explore this offers a fabulous family friendly day out.

Twycross Zoo (House of Stew)

I’ve shared a blog post before covering some of our favourite family friendly farms in the Midlands and it’s delightful that many of these offer annual passes. Highlights for us include:

Hatton Adventure World

Dark Lane, CV35 8XA

Exploring Hatton (Kayla_89_xo)

Reccomended by Kayla_89_xo and many other moms in the West Midlands, Membership for the farm is £96 for individuals with a variety of family pass options available at discounted rates. We love Hatton and it’s year round family friendly events – the indoor facilities including the animal barn and soft play make this a fabulous place to visit whatever the weather and an added bonus is the beautiful surroundings and the shopping village with its array of stores to explore.

·         Unlimited entry to Hatton Adventure World all year round

·         Entry to Snorty’s Superslide Mania indoor soft play

·         3 members newsletters every year full of exciting news

·         Exclusive Members offer vouchers 3 times a year

·         Invitations to 3 exclusive members events at the Adventure World

·         Discounts on children’s birthday parties and Laser Combat parties at Hatton

·         Discounted entry to meet Father Christmas

· Complimentary and exclusive Hatton calendar every year

Birds of Prey experience at Hatton

Attwell Farm

Seafield Lane, B98 9DB

Attwell Farm is one of the places the kids request to visit most often for several reasons – recommended by Abby and Olivia Attwell Farm has the most awesome bouncing pillow and the “real” decommissioned fire engine. The kids always enjoy the huge soft play, sand pits, outdoor play areas and of course meeting and greeting the variety of farm animals too. As a grown up I can confirm that the cafe serves the most devious cakes and there’s always plenty of seating in the soft play which is an added bonus. Adult memberships £72 and kids £80.

Drayton Manor theme park and Zoo

Mile Oak, B78 3TW

Thomas Land at Drayton Manor (BrummyMummyDiaries)

Recommended by Hayley – Brummy Mummy Diaries, Just 40 mins drive from spaghetti junction, in Tamworth is Drayton Manor – home to 100 rides and attractions including Thomas Land and a zoo. With the annual pass you can visit whenever the park is open (check the website for closures) and enter seasonal events too. Family Pass for 4 people: £340 (£85pp) – Age 12+ £99pp – Age 4-11 £85pp – Age 2-3 £65pp and of course Under 2’s go free.

Members receive exclusive perks such as 20 £20 passes for family and friends to further share the gift of adventure as well as discounts to on site shops and restaurants, special events and hotels. Annual pass holders also receive a complimentary ticket to West Midlands Safari Park.

Dudley Zoo and Castle

Castle Hill, DY1 4QF

In the heart of Dudley is the famed zoo, the zoo itself features enclosures with the unusual Tecton architecture which attracts a mixed bag of opinions from visitors, especially as they offer a stark contract to the 11th century castle ruins – it’s unsurprising that the zoo has a protected status. Dudley zoo is a shining example of how attitudes towards conservation have grown over the years and the changes the zoo has experienced alongside its history are what makes us proud to have such a place on our doorstep. There’s such a wide variety of animals to meet, including some of the worlds rarest animals.

This annual pass is one which delivers the most value for money in the Midlands – adults £49 and kids £32 which offers unlimited entry for a year and you can also get a £15 annual parking pass too.

English Heritage

Various places throughout the UK

English Heritage is ideal for fans of historical architecture and for budding explorers. It’s most famed attraction is perhaps the beautifully mysterious Stone Henge but English Heritage proudly boasts over 400 attractions nationwide. Memberships start at £64 for one adult and up to six children. Perks include discounted entry to Warwick Castle and many other attractions as well as free parking and delivery of magazines and a members handbook.

Conkers

Rawdon Rd, DE12 6GA

Visiting Conkers – (House of Stew)

If you’re looking for the ultimate place for outdoor adventures then Conkers is it. Suggested by Rebecca – House of Stew – Membership is £18 for kids and £28 for adults with various family packages. Conkers is home to acres of woodland / forest to explore and has its very own ropes course which is great for an adrenaline rush. The barefoot walk is a highlight for a sensory experience and on rainy days there’s plenty of indoor activities to encounter too. We’ve visited so many times and still haven’t managed to experience everything Conkers has to offer. There something for all ages here to enjoy.

Ironbridge Museums

M54 J4 or 6 based on the attractions you wish to visit

Another place which has had so many nominations is the Iron Bridge Museums – with a family pass for one adult and up to four children costing £47 which gives you entry to all of the attractions including Blists Hill Victorian town. The iron bridge gorge itself is a world heritage site so well worth a visit.

Hawkstone Park Follies

Shrewsbury, SY4 5JY

The follies are open on selected dates throughout the year but a membership is still worthwhile as there’s so much to see and do. This is the kind of place to visit with your walking boots on and head out for a great hike so perfect for outdoor explorers and adventurers. This English Heritage attraction was one of the most visited landscapes in the 19th century but forgotten about and allowed to become overgrown until a huge project in the nineties set to restore it to its former glory. The views you can find at the follies and second to none and there are surprises to encounter throughout including a shell encrusted grotto, the Swiss bridge and gingerbread hall.

Black Country Living Museum

Tipton Rd, DY1 4SQ

If you’re looking for the best fish and chips in the midlands then the Black Country Museum is the place for you. This open air museum is where history comes to life, and it’s an experience quite unlike any other as buildings such as shops, houses and even a pub have been reconstructed to show what life was like for Black Country residents during the industrial revolution and beyond. They even host Peaky Blinders themed evenings and members of course receive discounts on special events, food, drink and additional tickets for friends and family alongside free parking. The best thing about a visit is the team of actors who do an excellent job of bringing the experience to life. It’s hard to explain but they have an awesome TikTok page you can visit to get a feel for the work they do.

Birmingham Wildlife and Conservation Centre

Pershore Rd, B5 7RL

Affectionately known by locals as “the nature centre” which was it’s name many moons ago, it’s hard to believe that such a lovely variety of animals lives behind the fence along the Pershore road, adjacent to Cannon Hill Park. A family season ticket is £86 (two adults and three children). This season ticket grants you year round access – highlights include the red pandas, the new pair of otters Charlie and Ceri, and the reptile house which is home to all manner of creatures. The conservation centre has its own cafe with an indoor play area too which is a bonus for rainy days and ideal for little ones.

Weston Park

Weston Under Lizard, TF11 8LE

A family pass for Weston park is £75, or for individual adults £30. This stately home is unlike any other in that nothing is “out of bounds” so you can bring a football, or take the kids bikes and scooters along to enjoy the space. The woodland adventure playground is one of the kids favourite play areas to visit, and members can also enjoy discounted (or free) entry to many events throughout the year including festive experiences and the summer fiesta.

Trentham Gardens

Stone Rd, ST4 8JG

Membership to Trentham has its perks – such as early entry – so members can arrive an hour before everyone else and priority ticket purchase for special events. You can also bring along family and friends at a 20% discount. The year round fairy trail at Threntham is one of the best trails in the Midlands to explore with beautiful sculptures around the gardens and then Trentham Gardens always hosts excellent trails for Easter too. We love visiting to walk around the vast lake which hosts many water sports and we can’t wait to come back next year and take a trip on the Miss Elisabeth boat and maybe bring our fishing rods for a quiet afternoon of fun.

Monkey Forest

Trentham Estate, ST12 9HR

Monkey Forest (mumof4_lifewithliz)

A stones throw from Trentham gardens is monkey forest – adults passes are £30 and kids £22. Liz from mumof4_lifewithliz has recommended this attraction and so we are avidly waiting for the announcement of the beginning of the 2022 season. Members not only get to visit throughout the opening season but also can few proud that memberships contribute to the valuable conservation efforts Monkey Forest is making.

If you have any top tips which you think local mums would be interested in hearing about, or if you’re a local business and want to be featured then please get in touch – we can’t wait to hear about your amazing adventures!!

My night with Lulu – a review of Lulu Wild Birmingham

The Hainan Cooler – At the boundary is where we meet – melon flavoured mocktail

Lulu Wild is the newest restaurant in Brindley Place and bought to us by the team responsible for Aluna and Siamis so I had high expectations and I’d heard great things and of course I was delighted to finally be able to visit to try out things for myself. I’m going to tell you all about the decor, the food and more importantly the cocktails. We had a wonderful dining experience and it was very challenging to find any faults from start to finish.

As a party of four we had a relaxed dining experience on a weekday evening, we all agreed that this is the kind of place we would book for a date or a special evening if we we’re trying to impress. The food of course has to take centre stage – I’m told that the head chef at Lulu Wild previously worked at Michelin starred Hakkasan and this quality is evident in the creativity and style of all of the dishes we tried this evening.

Peach Smash – Signature cocktail
Simplify – Bw inspired – Be original

We began our evening with cocktails. As a group we challenged the Lulu team to suggest the best drinks to try, and the passion each member of the Lulu team has for their menus is evident in the recommendations. The cocktail menu is one of the most diverse and exciting I have seen in a long time. We did our very best to sample as many different options as possible with the team making suggestions based on our individual preferences and their own personal favourites.

Dim Sum

We were also advised to try the dim sum and between us we ordered a range to try out. With steamed and pan friend dumplings available in several different flavours we didn’t wait long at all to be served. Again the attentive team took their time explaining to us the different ingredients in each perfectly presented pocket of flavour underneath the bamboo steamers – carefully replacing the lids to ensure continued steaming before we started eating.

Wild exploration – Dim Sum

My personal highlight was the wild mushroom which was deliciously buttery and had those wonderful earthy flavours. The truffle atop being the perfect compliment. The scallop and prawn Shui Mai we all agreed was very special indeed. It was very difficult to be critical but the only tiny detail we mentioned was that we would have liked to perhaps see the pan fried options have a little more of a crisp to them. This of course took nothing away from the flavours and presentation which was a great indicator of what was to come with the main course. We tried more cocktails and a delightfully refreshing pallet cleanser with a pineapple twist before mains.

Roasted chicken in satay sauce

Between the four of us we opted for the Strawberry Sweet and Sour Sea Bass, Rosemary and black pepper Lamb, Kung Po Prawns and Roast Chicken in Katsu Sauce I feel we had the opportunity to sample a good cross section of the menu this evening and we all agreed that portion sizes were ample and that the attention to detail with the presentation and flavour balance was consistent throughout. Again it was a challenge to pick faults with anything we tried this evening – perhaps the chicken was slightly over, but I liked the crispness this gave to the skin so it’s a matter of personal preference with this.

Stir fry Rosemary and black pepper lamb

The Lamb had a warm heat which didn’t overwhelm the dish and the Strawberry and Sea Bream combination was a delicate delight. The fish almost melted in the mouth. As we tucked in to our main course silence descended as we savoured mouthfuls and we realised that none of us had “food envy” because each dish stood out in its own right. We tried two rice and noodle options to accompany our main courses and these deserve their own review.

Singapore noodles

Quite often I find that the side dishes are often lacklustre but I would gladly come back just for the Singapore noodles which were a delight. It was also impressive to see the portion of prawns in the fried rice had no holds barred. If you’re a sea food lover then all too often these kinds of options are lacklustre as you hunt for prawns but this side dish had plenty atop and throughout.

Strawberry sweet and sour sea bass

We had a little bit of time to explore the venue – Lulu Wild has been open for just over a month and is still finding its feet – the upstairs serves as a multifunctional space. A luxuriously decorated dining room with many unique decor features creating photo opportunities and a piano taking centre stage so that diners can enjoy live music on special evenings. The bar is just as well stocked as the main bar downstairs for those all important cocktails and I’m advised that on weekends tables are rearranged after the final food service and a DJ comes to visit.

I am sure I can’t be the only person who likes to visit restaurants just for dessert – sometimes a sweet treat is all you need and Lulu really did save the best until last. Between the four of us we tried out every dessert and there really is something for everyone on the menu. I opted for the most unusual Spiced pear soup which was served with rice balls. I’ve never been able to infuse a pear so well and so I really admire the skill involved. It wasn’t at all what I expected and I was pleasantly surprised.

Mango Pudding

The mango pudding we all agreed was a refreshingly light option which is in direct contrast to the chocolate parfait – both accompanied with the smoothest fruit sorbets which were a real treat to savour. The highlight had to be the petit four selection – a little showcase of excellence including macarons, a white chocolate, coconut and lemon bon bon and more. I have to give a special nod to the peanut butter flavoured ice cream and the brittle too. These were simply delicious and I will be coming back again specifically for the experience of this taste.

Petit Fours

The food menu I feel is concise but well rounded and offers plenty of choice. This allows the team to have really paid close attention to each dish on the menu at Lulu Wild and each demonstrates high standards and is a showcase of modern Chinese Cuisine and the incorporation of fresh quality ingredients. I am really impressed after this evenings experience and I wish the team the best of luck with this new venture. I can’t speak highly enough of the quality of the food and the attentiveness of the team. Lulu Wild is a very welcome addition to the Birmingham food scene

Somewhere over the Rainbow Nursery decor

Somewhere over the rainbow embroidery hoop

The perfect addition to a nursery or gift for a newborn or simply to brighten up someones day!

This hoop is a hand embroidered rainbow with 3D clouds and a pretty little bird.
A quote from “Somewhere over the rainbow” which makes us all feel special and fuzzy from the inside out.

It is no secret that rainbows bring so much joy into our lives. Just by noticing the beautiful magical arc form in the sky, it can make us feel like something amazing is about to happen.

Share this magical piece with someone you know, so they can feel the magic whenever they look at it.

Handmade gifts for someone you know or for yourself are simply the best gifts.

If you can’t wait or need this rainbow in your life NOW, you can shop on the website here at Home of the mall which is a market place for an array of U.K. based small businesses and who are kindly offering one of you the opportunity to win this beautiful gift just in time for Christmas

Tap this picture to enter the free giveaway. T&C’s apply click here for more info. Giveaway closes on 8th December

Treat Republic Christmas Gifts – personalised Art Set

Personalised Art Set

When it comes to Christmas gifts there’s something special about adding a personalised touch – This beautiful art set contains a 63 piece set of arts and craft supplies including crayons, felt tips and watercolours for all sorts of creative projects.

The contents of the art box

Retailing at £30 this wooden box which is finished with a carry handle and two brass clips can be personalised with up to twelve characters and there are several different designs available to create a unique gift suitable for children over three years.

I am delighted that the team at Treat Republic are offering me the opportunity to share one of these sets in my Amazing Advent

Tap this picture to enter the free giveaway. T&C’s apply click here for more info. Giveaway closes on 7th December

Over the Rainbow birthday party

Arlo’s third birthday just happened and I can’t quite believe I’m sat here now telling you all I’m a mum to a three year old… time really does fly by!

A birthday in lockdown wasn’t the original plan, but you guys know me by now – a pandemic wasn’t ever going to stop us from having an amazing day. I set myself the goal of making it look like a unicorn threw up and I think we can safely say “mission accomplished!”

When it comes to party planning for us there’s always a few important elements which include: decorations, activities, food, cake and goody bags. Even though the only children were Arlo and his cousins I wanted to bring the same vibes this year.

My theme was “over the rainbow” to fit in with all of the different lockdown activities we have been doing and so it was fairly easy to use Pinterest for ideas and then amazon to search for rainbow party decorations. Getting everything prepared the night before!

I bought a DIY balloon arch kit, paper Pom poms, lanterns and fans which were all simple enough to set up and create awesome splashes of colour throughout the garden, really effective decorations, the colours of which can be adjusted to suit almost any theme.

I also created my own crepe paper streamer decoration using a hula hoop…. which I’ll write a step by step instruction blog about! All in all I think I spent about £60 on decorations – most of which have been stored away to be re-used for future celebrations.

When it comes to food…. a party has to have picky bits but with children you never want to go too crazy…. We had a rainbow platter of fruit and another of crudités with a hummus dip – plus a few bowls of crisps and savoury snacks all laid out on a bright table cloth with a splash of confetti. Arlo started helping himself before the party even started!

As our gathering was small one I also prepared a huge batch of bolognese on the morning of the party and we also ate this too. Normally I wouldn’t do this for a party, I prefer to go for rice salads and chicken wings which can all be prepared in advance and served cold, but pasta is one of Arlo’s favourite meals.

Arlo’s cake was ordered months in advance for his original party from a family friend with the original “On the farm” theme – at the last minute a rainbow was added for the party and Arlo loved looking at all the little details. We love cake in this family and this one tasted just as good as it looked!

In addition I also decided to call on another local business and book in a visit from the ice cream van…. not just any ice cream van either – Loppys creates the most decadent desserts and has fabulous packages/bundles – I think I was more excited about this than anyone – and Lincoln, bless him, managed to hobble out on his Zimmer frame to join us! I pre ordered everyone’s flavours in the morning and the van arrived to serve us our ice cream trays, a giant bag of pick and mix and mixed flavour slushes for the kids. I’ve never seen their eyes so wide before! A lovely little treat and so if you’re local to Birmingham I highly recommend checking them out!

Arlo had a candy land tub, which was drenched in coloured sugar, loaded with sweets and then topped with a fabulous lolly – I don’t think he’s ever had so many E numbers – the sugar in this gave the kids the energy to really enjoy the activities I had planned.

I froze some more animal toys in water balloons over night and the kids were delighted with all the mini beasts they had to collect and find – seeing them work together to find tools and help each other created a new dimension to the play – Arlo learnt the smash method from his older cousins and they also colluded together to ask for tools, salt and warm water to get all the bugs out of the ice.

Lincoln with his broken leg in a plaster cast was designated as the keeper of bugs by the others who made sure to include him which was lovely to see. They kept coming back to this all day!

I used the Tuff Tray as a stage for our tie dye project too:

I must admit that this was slightly chaotic with all the kids wanting to get hold of the dye – luckily we had one adult per child so were able to assist them and make sure everything was shared fairly… I’ll write another blog about this with step by step instructions too – once this was all done and dusted we continued to add in even more colour to the day.

I ordered our holi powder from amazon, we’ve done this before colour and the kids love it – so I made sure to plan ahead and prepare to ensure it lasted longer than a few seconds – I’ll write a blog with all my tips – theres honestly nothing more exhilarating than chucking coloured powder all over the place!

Needless to say after half an hour of throwing colours around we were all covered head to toe and the smiles make it all worthwhile! The kids were enjoying the footloose and fancy free vibes and so I got out a bubble pit for them.

This was a bargain purchase from the middle aisles at Aldi and worth every single one of the 399 pennies – keeping them busy and giving us time to tidy up some of the chaos around them.

Throughout the day we had our new Amazon echo dot playing any music the kids wanted, (they all know how to ask Alexa for baby shark) but I asked for a cheesy music playlist and was shocked that they’d never heard S club 7 before. We of course had to do a few party dances! Gone are the days of spending hours refining a perfect party playlist when you can just ask Alexa!

As the evening drew in I had trouble explaining to Arlo that he couldn’t keep his colours and had to have a bath – and not in a bucket in the garden – luckily I had a unicorn bath bomb stashed away to persuade him – all of the colours washed away and his head barely hit the pillow before he was sound asleep!