Cast your minds back to Christmas 2011. A long time ago I realise, but it was that Christmas Day that Mr C presented me with a voucher to for a track day experience in a single seater racing car. The pair of us are huge F1 fans and years ago he went for a Porsche vs Ferrari driving experience that I was still rather jealous of.

When I came to actually book my driving experience in late January there was a bit of a niggle in my mind as I read all the T&Cs about medical conditions that might preclude you from taking part. One quick pee on a stick pregnancy test later and I realised that I wouldn’t be driving any single seater racing cars anytime in 2012 and so Mr C benefitted rather well from the Christmas present he’d bought me.

Fast forward to Christmas 2013 and a replacement gift was finally under the Christmas tree and so yesterday Mr C took a day off work as we headed up to Leicestershire and Everyman Racing’s Prestwold Driving Centre. Finally I was going to get to be on the race track myself.

After a comprehensive (and strangely rather amusing) drivers’ briefing I was taken out onto the track for a demo lap in a Skoda. Round we went a couple of times having the various points for braking, turning and accelerating on all the corners explained to us, along with the general rules for overtaking etc.

By this point nerves were beginning to set in a little bit. Everyone else there seemed to be going on a standard experience in a super car where they got to have an instructor sitting next to them. I was going to be able to do that in a Porsche, but then I was going to be out there on my own in the single seater. Every member of staff that saw this on my driving ticket just responded with a “ooooh you’re doing the single seater. Brave lady!” What had I let myself in for???

DrivingExperiencePorsche2

The Porsche experience was first and I was taken to the Porsche 911 Gumball Turbo by a lovely female instructor (whose name I never did manage to catch – sorry!) and I finally got that experience of having some real power under my right foot. It certainly went a hell of a lot faster than our Skoda estate does and it felt really strange being able to just put my foot down totally and not worry about how fast I was going, other than to get round the corners safely. The thing I found hardest though was the lack of mirrors. To ensure your safety on the track the instructors set up all the mirrors for them so they can be in charge of overtaking and being overtaken by other cars. I had no idea how much I used my mirrors when driving until they were taken away from me.

Driving Experience Porsche

My experience was for 6 miles in each car which was 4 laps of the track at Prestwold. I’m glad it was such a distance as I really only felt that it was by the fourth lap that I’d really relaxed into the car and had got a proper feel for it. I struggled to remember to change gear at all, mainly as I was busy trying to remember everything else I had to do. I think also the nerves about the single seater experience were also taking hold.

Driving Experience

After the Porsche experience was over I was directed towards where they run the rally driving experiences from to get a race suit and helmet and then headed back to find the man that they seemed to affectionally call “Stig’s Granddad”, Alan Smith, who was my instructor for the single seater experience. It was when finding a race suit that I found another brave sole that was also down for the single seater experience, although with him being 6’4″ tall it soon became apparent that he was too tall for the car and I think he later went out in the Cosworth with Alan instead.

So there I was all suited and helmeted up and I Was taken over to the Formula Ford car that I was going to be driving round the track. Luckily at this stage I didn’t notice (and Alan didn’t point out) that it was car number 13. If he had I think I would have pulled out there and then!

DrivingExperienceSingleSeater1

The Forumula Ford car is really so very stripped down compared to what I’d been driving earlier. There’s not much inside other than the necessities for speed and safety. With my short little legs it was also a bit of a challenge to make sure that I’d actually be able to reach the pedals. A few cushions behind my back pushed me forwards enough though – and also prevented me from getting the bruised spine that Mr C got when he did his single seater experience.

After a quick lesson on the gears – very basic and easy enough to take the skin off your knuckles when you changed gear – and a realisation that these cars weren’t really built for women who had hips at all it was time to be off on to the track. I had worried about being out there all on my own and being a hazard to other drivers, but they way they do the single seater experience is that an instructor goes in front of you in a Skoda and you follow. They then keep their window wound down and use arm signals to tell you when to stay to left as you’re being overtaken, or when you need to move to the right to overtake someone else. Alan was the kind of guy that you just put all your trust into straight away so instantly I could forget all the worries that I’d had about being a danger to other drivers and enjoy the experience.

Driving Experience Single Seater

And enjoy it I did! The Formula Ford was so different to drive, but having had the experience of going out there in the Porsche first I felt that I knew enough about the track that I could apply what I’d learnt to driving the single seater. Certainly the experience of having your foot flat to the floor as you fly down the long straight was an amazing one, and not something I’ll forget in a hurry. I completely loved the whole experience and am so glad that I finally got to have a go.

In true review style I should say something about the day as a whole. Mr C didn’t book directly with Everyman Racing, but through some other gift company, but all my experiences with Everyman to book the experience itself was very professional. Promised emails telling me exactly what I needed to do and what I needed to send them in advance were all done in a timely manner. They were very helpful on the telephone and there were clear instructions as to what to take on the day paperwork-wise.

At the venue all the staff I encountered were very good. There was excellent customer service and the instructors were fantastic. The drivers’ briefing was very good, but did go on somewhat longer than I’d expected meaning that the rest of the times on my race ticket were pushed back a bit. Not a problem, but had we been dashing off later we’d have been late. Luckily another mum from school had collected Little Miss C for us so we didn’t have to worry about that.

The only thing that I would say let Everyman down at Prestwold were the physical facilities on site. The buildings (or portacabins as many were) looked very tired and it really looked like they could do with some money spending on them. The toilets were all adequate and generally clean, but again it looked like they’d not seen much investment lately and they could do with some. It was a shame as it jarred slightly with the luxury experience of driving a super car and when you see the prices for things like getting photographs of your experience it made you wonder why they didn’t invest some of that profit into the facilities at the site. In fairness they might be due an upgrade over the winter for all I know, but if they’re not I hope the management there will read this and consider doing so!

It was an excellent day though and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Everyman Racing for anyone looking to book a driving experience for someone as a gift, or even for themselves. Thank you Mr C for the Christmas present.

Disclaimer: I was not paid in anyway for this review. My driving experience was a gift from Mr C and we chose to pay for the photo package whilst there.

Wyld Wood Cider

There are some emails that you receive as a blogger that you end up reading and re-reading to check that they’re really true. The one that came from Weston’s Wyld Wood Cider asking if they could send me some cider to review was one such email.  Some people may think me a bit queer, but to be honest when I go one a rare night out to the pub I’m someone who is much happier ordering a pint (or half pint) of something to drink than a glass of wine – although don’t get my wrong, I do love wine too, but it’s just a preference thing. When Mr C and I moved to St Albans years ago I discovered my love of real ale and from many many summer afternoons spend at local beer festivals I also then discovered my love of cider and perry. There’s something just so refreshing about a proper cider and it really is a true taste of summer as far as I’m concerned.

Weston’s certainly didn’t hold back in making sure I had plenty to taste in order to write my review and I was pretty gobsmacked when the delivery man arrived at my door with two large, heavy boxes. In the first were several bottles of their classic Wyld Wood Organic Cider, whilst the second contained four three litre boxes of the Wyld Wood Organic Still Cider.

Wyld Wood Cider

The Wyld Wood Organic Cider was exactly as a good cider should be in my opinion – crisp, refreshing, sharp and fruity. It is described as an “intensely fruity cider, matured in oak vats from apples grown in organic orchards” and it really was perfect on a hot summer evening, and at 6% ABV it’s certainly got a bit of a kick to it.

Wyld Wood Cider

The Organic Still Cider was a bit different though. I’m not used to a still cider and to be honest as you go in for the first sip of a glass it’s almost a bit confusing at first when you don’t get the fizz on your tongue when you’re expecting to. It’s refreshing to drink, but being still it does lose a bit of the crispness I thought. Mr C initially thought it was a bit like a glass of normal cider that had been left to go flat, but since then he’s gone back to it time and time again to drink and it appears to have grown on him.

I really liked the taste of the still cider, but for me the problem was that it was just so easily drinkable, which can  be a bit dangerous when it’s also 6% ABV!

On a practical level the 3l box was perfect for going in the fridge and allowing us to just go and have a small glass whenever we wanted. It did demonstrate to us that our kitchen fridge is rather small though. The box would also have been ideal for taking along to a BBQ or to a festival. Mr C is also very keen that I point out how good the tap on the box is too – far better and easier to use than the ones we remember on wine boxes.

If, for whatever crazy reason, you decide you don’t want to just drink the Wyld Wood, Weston’s have pulled together a series of recipes that include their cider. In my mind chicken or pork cooked in cider is simply delicious.

We really enjoyed Weston’s Wyld Wood Cider – perfect when relaxing on a summer’s afternoon. And with the way that the hot summer weather is continuing through September, and possibly into October it looks like this year’s cider drinking season is set to continue. Cheers!

Disclaimer: We were sent a selection of Weston’s Wyld Wood Cider for the purposes of this review.

When reviewing children’s books here on Being Mrs C I’ve written so many times about the important role I believe books have in helping to explain situations and behaviours to our children. Conversations about difficult subjects can be opened up by reading a related book and with Little Miss C starting school properly this year I’ve found so many different books helpful in encouraging our chat and play. Being in a class with some of her old pre-school year friends (but not all of them) along with some children who are new to the school means there’s actually a fair bit of change in her friendships too. On Sudden Hill actually really helped me to talk to her about one specific friendship dynamic that I hadn’t really thought about before.

Birt and Etho are best friends and do everything together, especially climbing up Sudden Hill and taking their cardboard boxes with them. These boxes are pirate ships, castles and spaceships depending on what game they are playing at the time, but the one thing that doesn’t change is the boys’ friendship. Then, one Monday morning, a little boy called Shu comes up Sudden Hill with his own cardboard box. Etho welcomes him to their group and the three of them start to play together. But Birt feels strange. It’s not the same as when it was just him and Etho playing together. He feels angry and one evening destroys his cardboard box. He doesn’t go up Sudden Hill any more. Shu and Etho keep calling round for Birt but he hides from them. He misses Etho though. And his misses playing in a cardboard box on Sudden Hill.

Shu and Etho don’t give up on Birt though and one day there is a knock on his door followed by Shu telling him that they’ve made something for him and he should come outside. When his inquisitive nature gets the better of him and he does step outside Birt finds the most amazing cardboard box creation that his friends have made for him. Quickly the three boys race up Sudden Hill together with their boxes and their imaginative games begin again. Etho realises that he does like Shu. He does like the three of them playing together on Sudden Hill with their cardboard boxes. Their rhythm may now be different, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as good in any way.

Helping children to realise that just because they are friends with one child doesn’t mean they can’t be friends with anyone else, or can’t welcome anyone else into their games is actually a really valuable lesson to learn. Showing them Shu’s kindness will hopefully help them to demonstrate this themselves and trying to understand Birt’s emotions following Shu’s arrival may also help them to understand their own emotions too. Friendship can be a tricky business, even when you’re an adult. When you’re a young child and it’s your first time making friends away from your parents it can be mind-bogglingly tricky to negotiate. Hopefully On Sudden Hill will help somewhat.

It really is a beautiful book – illustrated by Benji Davies who also wrote The Storm Whale which we reviewed last year – and I love the way that what could be such a complicated element of friendship has been covered so wonderfully in story form. I am now under strict instructions though that we need to find some more big cardboard boxes so Little Miss C can have more adventures with her friends in them though!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of On Sudden Hill for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links.

The Sticker Club

So, whilst it seems that boys go mad for diggers, I think the equivalent thing for little girls has to be stickers and Little Miss C seems to have been obsessed with them since she was very young indeed. At first it was the physical act of just sticking them anywhere that exited her. Since then it’s moved on to how the stickers actually look and then spending ages creating pictures with them, or using them to decorate things.

I remember when I was a child collecting stickers and actually being too afraid to stick them on to anything in case it ruined my collection. I also recall sticker “albums” where you had shiny pages so that you could take the stickers out again if you swapped them with your friends. Do children still do that?

The Sticker Club

There’s absolutely no doubt though that stickers have retained their appeal to children over the years and combining that passion with the excitement that a child gets when they receive a letter addressed to them means The Sticker Club must be on to a winning combination.

The way The Sticker Club works is that it is a subscription service where each week your child will receive a brightly coloured envelope, addressed to them, which contains nine different sheets of stickers. These aren’t stickers that you’ll find elsewhere and they’re designed so that they’ll appeal to both boys and girls. Priced at just £1.99 a week (including postage) they’re easily comparable price wise with what you might find in the shops, but with the added excitement of the postman (or woman) delivering them straight to your child.

The Sticker Club

We’ve received a couple of weeks of stickers now and by week two Little Miss C was already looking out for the distinctive yellow envelope knowing what it would contain. There are just enough stickers in each mailing that they’re not all used up straight away and can easily last through a couple of sticking sessions in the week. The sheets are also small enough that I can slip a couple of them into my handbag along with a notepad and some crayons for a sticking session whilst we’re killing time in a cafe or a doctor’s waiting room.

The Sticker Club

The stickers themselves are well designed, bright and colourful, stick well to different surfaces and also come off the backing paper easily – which is important for little hands. I’m really impressed by the subscription service and think the price point is just right for it to be a little weekly treat for your children. A subscription would also make an ideal gift – possibly from a grandparent or other relative.

We’re definitely big fans of The Sticker Club here in the C household and I’d happily recommend it to other sticker fans. I’m just trying to justify if I can have my own subscription or not too.

Disclaimer: We were given a subscription to The Sticker Club for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.

Mr First JCB Joey JCB

What is it about little boys and diggers? When Little Miss C was younger she’d always point them out if we walked past one, but with Master C it’s a whole different level of enthusiasm. We’ve been known to go for walks just for the sole purpose of walking past some road works or a building site so he can sit in his buggy and watch the diggers and other building vehicles go about their jobs. Is it the bright yellow colour? (Pretty much the only colour he can identify – or is that a related thing too?) Or maybe the flashing yellow lights on top? Or is it the digging action? Whatever the reason it’s pretty clear that my little boy loves diggers and talking to other mums it seems he’s not alone in his passion for them.

When we were then asked to review the My First JCB range there was no hesitation in agreeing. We were sent Joey JCB from the big wheelers range and it was like love at first sight for Master C. With a triumphant shout of “DIGGER!” he grabbed it out of my hand and instantly got down on the floor and started pushing it around the room.

With four big chunky wheels it’s a great size for little hands to push around on the floor, and with they also mean it’s great for on deep pile carpet, or outside on grass or even in the sand pit. On the front is a large bucket which children can lift up and down a bit by moving the silver exhaust funnel on the front. There’s a second smaller digging scoop on the back which children can also use, but conveniently tucks away  when not in use.

Mr First JCB Joey JCB

Master C’s already had a huge amount of fun with his digger and he keenly alternates his digger play between Joey JCB and a smaller digger that he was given as a Christmas present. Although the smaller one is better for his fine motor skills it seems that he wants the different types of play that the two different sized diggers give him and I can definitely see that this larger version would work well for all children ages 12 months and over (the toy being marketed as 12m + on the packaging).

Joey JCB is a well constructed sturdy toy, definitely suitable to withstand the rough and tumble of a toddler boy’s play. In the distinctive JCB yellow it attracts children straight to it and LMC (who is also keen to play with it) has keenly pointed out that it’s “just like a real digger”.

Joey JCB and the rest of the My First JCB range is available online with Amazon, or in other large toy shops.

Disclaimer: We were sent Joey JCB from the My First JCB range for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links.

The Polar Pack

Little Miss C and I review a huge number of children’s books together and it’s a job we very much enjoy. Finding a book that stands out though can be tough, but The Polar Pack has managed just that – literally!

The Polar Pack

As well as being a beautifully illustrated book about polar animals, The Polar Pack also has an envelope at the back containing push out card pieces that you can use to make all the animals featured in the book. You just need a bit of glue to hold them together and then you have your own set of polar animals.

The Polar Pack

As well as turning the book into a craft activity it really helps to bring the animals to life and LMC really enjoyed seeing that happen. There was lots of putting the card creations next to the book and seeing how they compared.

The card animals also then became toys in their own right – with LMC acting out several stories with them and then also introducing more animals from her toy box as the stories became a bit stranger. Have you ever seen a panda and a reindeer together?

The Polar Pack

Some of the card shapes were a bit fiddly to get out of the sheets and they did require a fair amount of dexterity to build them, but it really didn’t take long to do so, and they do turn the book into so much more than it would have been without them. The card that the animals are made from is good quality and thick, meaning that they can withstand a fair amount of play too.

I’ve reviewed books before that have one card character in the back, but The Polar Pack was somewhat different, having several animals, and also having to build them yourself. We really liked it though and it turned the book into a whole afternoon craft activity and role play session – fantastic! And LMC got to learn about the polar animals at the same time. Even better.

The series also contains The Jungle Crew and The Safari Set which would be perfect for children who love these other animals. I’ll certainly be considering all three titles when I’m on the look out for birthday gifts for children over the next year.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Polar Pack for the purposes of this review. This post contains affiliate links.

There was a time, before children, when Mr C and I had a bit of a gadget thing going on. New bits of technology would come into our home regularly, after crazy amounts of online research by Mr C to make sure he understood exactly what it did and how it did them. When we needed a new car he just considered it like buying a new gadget, albeit a big one. These days our crazy gadget buying days are somewhat behind us, but Mr C still likes to daydream and many a time I find him doing some online fantasy car shopping. Here he has a bit to say about electric cars which are now a real option for many in the market for a new car.

This is an exciting time in the car industry, and for the average car-buying person the choices are more diverse than they have been in decades. Small displacement turbo and super-charged petrol engines with variable valve timing and waste heat capture are miracles of power and efficiency compared to what was available only ten years ago. Diesel engines are ever more refined and efficient. But most excitingly of all, the age of the electric vehicle has truly arrived and offers a tantalising proposition.

There are many big wins to be had from using a battery and motors rather than an internal combustion engine:

  • Refilling is very cheap – just plug in at home and use a few pounds worth of electricity.
  • Power is immediate and smoothly delivered without any gear changes.
  • The momentum lost when braking can be recaptured then used again.
  • Driving is much quieter – just an electric woosh and the sound of the tire on the road.

Driving a small electric car for one mile is approximately equivalent to running your hairdryer for 10 minutes, if that helps to appreciate the energy used. Of course that energy has to come from somewhere, and usually that means a power station, which may be burning fossil fuels, depending on where you live in the world. Still, the power station is optimised for efficiency, and doesn’t spit out pollutants into the heart of our cities. Personally I very much look forward to having clean air to breathe in London, and I won’t miss the roar of traffic.

Another great result arising from the advent of mainstream electric cars, is that it gives the designers a chance to skip a few years and aim for ‘futuristic’ as seems befitting of this new technology, and of course in the name of marketplace differentiation!

BMWi


BMW is a great case in point, with their incredibly distinctive BMWi cars. The BMW i8 looks like a wild concept sports car, perhaps envisioning what a BMW might look like in 20 years. But it’s here now and as a hybrid it mixes electric motors driving the front wheels, with a 231 hp 1.5 litre 3 cylinder petrol engine (tiny by BMW standards) driving the rear wheels. It’s not just the drivetrain and bonkers exterior that are notable however. BMW are using carbon fibre reinforced plastic throughout the structure and body to reduce the weight of the whole car, further improving efficiency and driving pleasure. They are the first manufacturer to use this material in volume production.

Perhaps of even more interest is the i3, which bundles the same technological feats, including the carbon fibre reinforced plastic construction, into a compact 5 door car. Powered by batteries alone it has a up to 100 mile range, though there is a “range extender” (REx) option which adds a very small petrol engine purely to charge the battery on the go when needed. That increases the range to about 180 miles.



This is a very exciting time to be buying a new car!

Disclaimer: This featured post was brought to you in association with BMW.

Manchester

When I was a lass growing up in Yorkshire the first thing that sprang to mind when anyone mentioned Manchester was Coronation Street. Eastenders was never a big thing up north you see. We watched Emmerdale, as it was from Yorkshire, and Coronation Street so we could keep track of what was going on on t’other side of the Pennines. We were always wary of them over there – after all, look at any map and it’s clear to see that there’s only one “right” side of the Pennines. So in my mind Manchester was this large city of small cobbled streets, local boozers like the Rovers Return and people with extraordinarily complicated lives. It almost felt like a shock when I finally went over there with my family and discovered it to be completely different!

When I recently booked a trip to Manchester for a conference I spotted a good deal on Hotel Direct and instead decided to turn it into a whole family weekend away. I’ve done my research into what we could all do whilst there and I was actually amazed at just how much there is going on – even in the Autumn time when you might expect things to be quieter after the summer. So here goes with my top Ten things to do in Manchester in the Autumn.

1. Walking Tour

From my time living in London as a student I’ve always been a firm believer that the best way to get to know a place is to walk its streets, and Manchester is no different. There are walking tours available to suit all interests and they range from pub walks, to ones about the spies and spooks of Manchester, through to the history of Manchester during the war. You don’t need to pre-book for most of these so you can easily take a last minute call based on the weather.

2. MOSI – Museum of Science and Industry

It’s only in the north it seems that science museums add the word “industry” to their names, but us Northerners are understandably proud of our industrial history. MOSI is part of a group of museums, including the Science Museum in London, the National Railway Museum in York and the National Media Museum in Bradford, and it really has become a bit of a destination museum over the last few years. The museum is free to visit (although there may be charges for some special exhibitions) and it’s easy to spend a whole day there are you’re taken on a journey through Manchester’s history from the cotton mills through to it becoming a 24-hour party capital.

Manchester United Old Trafford

3. Football

Mention Manchester to many people, especially overseas, and their first response will probably be to talk of one of the city’s two football teams. Although one of the teams’ fortunes so far this season aren’t exactly what they would have hoped for there’s no doubt that a game at either Old Trafford or the Etihad Stadium will show you some top football – even if the scoreline doesn’t go the way you want. At Old Trafford you’ve also got the Manchester United Museum and at the Etihad Stadium their Legends Tours are re-starting this October. Whether you’re red or blue, Manchester’s footballing history and pedigree is a must for all fans.

4. The Hallé Orchestra

Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall is home to the legendary Hallé orchestra and seeing them perform live is said to be one of the most incredible spectacles in the classical music world. Their season starts in September and throughout the autumn and the Hallé perform a huge number of concerts as well as working alongside their award winning education programme which reaches out to 44,000 children and young people.

If you still need convincing why not watch their one minute overview.

5. Manchester Sea Life Centre

Manchester being somewhat landlocked meant that I would never have expected it to be somewhere to visit a Sea Life Centre, but that’s exactly what fellow blogger Boo Roo and Tigger Too did on their visit last autumn. Located at the famous Trafford Centre this is a newer Sea Life Centre and one of the highlights is their Turtle Beach experience. All children love turtles and this takes you through the turtles’ life as they return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs, and how the temperature of the sand determines the sex of the baby turtle. Not something I knew before!

6. Legoland Discovery Centre

As if the Manchester Sea Life Centre isn’t enough fun at the Trafford Centre it’s also home to the Legoland Discovery Centre. Now, I think you’d struggle to find a child, young or old, that doesn’t love Lego so the Legoland Discovery Centre is a perfect attraction for kids of all ages.  Being indoors it’s also perfect for those autumn or winter days when the weather outside isn’t too good.

Visitors are given a demonstration as to how Lego bricks are made, as well as a Miniland featuring some well known northern sights and the famous Lego cars to drive. There’s definitely no shortage of things to do there and it’s become a northern must-visit for Lego fans.

7. Manchester Museum

So many people overlook museums in universities, but you certainly shouldn’t as they’re often fantastic places, with some great exhibits and the Manchester Museum certainly falls into that category. As well as one of the largest collections of Egyptian artefacts in the UK, there are also dinosaurs and live animals in their vivarium. They’ve even won and been shortlisted for several awards for being a family friendly museum.

8. Manchester Literature Festival

2014 sees the first St Albans Literary Festival (which I’m even going to be speaking at – more about that soon!) so I’m particularly interested to see how other cities approach their book festivals. The main part of the Manchester Literature Festival runs from the 6th to the 19th October, and features over 80 events, making it somewhat bigger than what’s planned here in St Albans. There are a few events that also slip into November so even if you miss the main part of the festival, it may still be worth checking their brochure to see what else is on.

9. Manchester Science Festival

The geek in my loves a science festival so I was delighted to find out that the Manchester Science Festival runs from the 23rd October to the 2nd November this year. This is the festival’s 8th year, and although it is produced by MOSI (see above) it takes place at venues across the city, Greater Manchester, Salford and Bolton. As well as there being a great family programme there are also threads aimed at teenagers – an age group that so often is missed out in my opinion.

10. Coronation Street

Manchester Coronation Street

Come on – you can’t be any sort of a soap fan and not visit those famous cobbles can you? Coronation Street The Tour takes you behind the scenes on the Manchester’s most famous street, and during September and October this year there are even some special evening tours where you could be lucky enough to have Richard Hillman, Maureen Naylor or legend Reg Holdsworth showing you around.

So, that’s my plans for Manchester this autumn. What would be on your must do list?

Disclaimer: This featured post was brought to you in association with Hotel Direct.

Pictures credits: Manchester - Richard Hayes, www.tecmark.co.uk, Old Trafford Manchester United – Paul, Coronation Street – Rach. All photos used under the Creative Commons licence.

My Ladybird collecting obsession is now at the stage where I have to carry round in my handbag two little notebooks containing a list of all the Ladybird titles in my collection, arranged by series. Otherwise it seems I can no longer remember which ones I have or which ones I just dream of having. Against each series I also have a tally number so that I know just how many there are out there in the series. Ladybird were a bit strange in that they had several series where there was only one or two titles, yet other series that had many more.

Ladybird Scouts

One series that is exactly the right size is series 706 which consists of books covering the Scouting and Guide movements. Looking at the listings on the rear covers it seems that the two books on Cub Scouts and Scouts were published first and then later joined by the Brownie Guides and Guides titles. For over a year now, three of these titles have sat on my shelf, but it was only a couple of weeks ago that I managed to get my hands on a copy of Scouts in one of my local charity shops.

Ladybird Scouts

First published in 1971 Scouts covers everything from the history of the Scouting and Guiding movements through to world Scouting and the badges that boys could work towards.

Ladybird Scouts

Over the years there’s no doubt that the Scouting movement has changed significantly. Just the fact that girls are now allowed to become Scouts and Cubs is a huge difference from what it used to be like. I also had to laugh when I read all about the role of Chief Scout. Up until 1971 all chief Scouts of the UK and Commonwealth were Lord someone or other (Lord Baden-Powell 1908 – 1941, Lord Somers 1941 – 1944, Lord Rowallan 1945 – 1959 and Lord Maclean 1959 – 1971) and Lord Maclean only stood down from the role when the Queen made him Lord Chamberlain. His successor was Sir William Gladstone, great grandson of the former Prime Minister. They’re all a long way away from the likes of Peter Duncan and Bear Grylls, but I bet I know which ones can relate better to young Scouts of today!

Ladybird Scouts

The world of Scouting is something of a mystery to me. When I was a girl they were just the boys that you sometimes saw when away at Guide camp but otherwise had no real interaction with. Their badges always seemed somewhat exotic and they always appeared to have more fun on their camps and trips than Guides ever did, and do far more exciting stuff. Both Little Miss C and Master C are already on the Beavers waiting list locally (yet another thing that didn’t exist when this Scouts book was written!) and I’m therefore expecting that I may have to swot up somewhat on how Scouting works. This book may end up being more useful than I’d initially realised!

Ladybird Scouts

If you have a collection of old Ladybird books then please feel free to join in with Ladybird Tuesday. There are no formal rules to follow, just leave a link to any post you write in the comments below and if you’re feeling kind link back to my Ladybird Tuesday category here on Being Mrs C. Thanks!

Before having children I had a dream about how I wanted to bring them up. Inspired greatly by SouleMama I dreamed of long days with them playing outside in all weathers, ignoring anything with an electronic screen in favour of spending hours and hours lost in games of their own imaginations. The reality is a little bit different, but I do still try to take things back to the simpler way of doing things and to encourage Little Miss C in particular to just let her imagination lead her play whenever it can.

Fafu Wings and cone hat

I’m always on the look out for products and brands that work in this way – especially looking for toys that are created to really support a child’s learning and play, whilst also being environmentally friendly. When I was introduced to Fafu I found myself sat at my computer screen shouting “Yes, yes. This is what I want!” The kids thought I was bonkers, but hey what’s new?

Take a look at this and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Fafu are a small company who really do take the business of play seriously whilst also injecting loads of fun. The team behind Fafu sound fascinating, and with Tom’s 40 years’  experience of working with children, and his work on early brain development, it makes sense as to why their product are so completely spot on. And if you just look at his profile photo of him on a swing you just know that this guy is serious fun to play with.

So what do Fafu produce? Firstly there is the most amazing range of costumes for children. Rather than being prescriptive fairy, princess or superhero costumes though these brightly coloured items are designed for children to decide what they want them to be. They can easily create skirts, cloaks, tails, tents, hats, trumpets, wings and so much more. And the bold colours mean that they work perfectly for families where you have boys and girls.

We were sent the Iminda Leikur Creative Play Costume set to review and from the second LMC opened the bag with it in (it all comes in a handy zip up bag for easy storage – a genius idea in itself) she loved it. Possibly the only slight problem we had is that she instantly insisted on taking off all her clothes to put the costume on. Maybe it’s all the natural materials (organic cotton, silk and wool made by Fafu’s fair trade producer in Nepal) but she just seems to need it all next to her skin rather than on top of her normal clothes. Needless to say whilst this is wonderful, and is a sure sign of her totally embracing her imagination in play, it’s not very helpful when you’re trying to take photographs for a review blog post!  So, apologies for the lack of photos in this post – including a semi-naked four year old didn’t exactly seem like the right thing to do.

Fafu cloak poncho

This costume set includes silk wings, a cape/poncho, a cone hat, two silk scarves and a pair of ribbon bracelets and LMC has worn it in so many different combinations over the last month or so. She’s been a queen, a superhero, a frog and a pixie to name but a few. At first she was puzzled and confused and kept asking me how she was supposed to wear or use things and what they were supposed to be. It was almost as if she couldn’t quite get her head around the idea of it not being a costume to dress up a a prescribed thing or role. Once she’d relaxed into this idea of it being what she wanted it to be she was much happier.

As if the costumes aren’t marvellous enough there is also a Fafunian Wood range which I am quite simply lusting after right now.

Fafu Adventure Castle Fafu Outdoor Kitchen

The outdoor kitchen and adventure castle are brilliant for the kids, but my favourite has to be the Arts and Crafts Centre.

Fafu Arts and Crafts Centre

I need this in my life! How brilliant would it be to have all the kids arts and crafts materials in one place and accessible to them so easily. I may have to get saving for this one. And then possibly redesign the whole house around fitting it in!

Disclaimer: We were sent the Fafu Iminda Leikur Creative Play Costume to review. All views are our own. We were not asked to write about the Fafunia Wood range, but wanted to as it looks so fantastic.

Fafunia Wood images used from the Fafu website.