Review: Apple Jacks Adventure Park

Day 3 of my Easter week off, the random mini heatwave is well and truly over and we’ve already done a farm trip and chilling/movie day. So what else do we do when it’s blustery with April showers? Yep, head outdoors! #ILiveWithBoys

I’d heard of Apple Jacks and seen a few offers on Groupon in the past but never got round to buying a ticket. With boys that somehow never feel the cold we thought today might be a good day to venture out as it would most likely be quiet. 

Based in Stretton, Warrington, Apple Jacks is a great place to spend a few hours if you need little ones to burn energy whilst avoiding the usual softplay hell that ensues during school holidays. 

There are plenty of activities included in your entry pierce of around £8. From a giant slide to zip wires, archery to roller skating, it certainly has plenty of things to keep them busy. The big boys particularly enjoyed the maze and the Eliminator, an ‘It’s a Knockout’ style bouncing/boxing challenge…

Boy2 was quite disappointed that he couldn’t go on the giant, nearly vertical, slide or zip wire, but he was perfectly happy in the ball pit and miniature soft play. 


For just £1 a go he also joined Boy1 and his pal on the go karts. The rides only last a few minutes but you can’t  really complain for a pound. Word of advice though, don’t go for the karts closest to the entrance. There’s a larger track to the back of the site. 😉


My personal highlights were the pig race (yes, you read that right) and watching Boy2 attempt to roller skate with the big boys. I was pleasantly surprised they had skates small enough for his little toddler feet. He only lasted a few minutes, but he gets an A for effort 😊


Having to entertain 9 year olds can be tough. They are at that point where they feel confident to just run off from one activity to another, which can be hard to keep up when you have a toddler in tow. What’s great about this place is that it isn’t too big or crowded, so you feel a little easier letting them jog off together. They can’t really go too far, but I did make them promise to stick together at all times. 

Staff were also very friendly, letting me head back to the car to drop off the buggy once I’d realised Boy2 was in his element running and around with no intention of sitting down. 

Foodwise, there’s a small kiosk selling burgers, hotdogs, chips, jacket potatoes and sandwiches. Nothing too fancy but decent enough and not too expensive. But if you are on a budget, there’s plenty of space for picnics. 

All in all, we had a great morning and the cold didnt impact their time at all! I’m not sure I’d venture that way with just a two year old as he was restricted in the number of activities he could do, but if you’re looking for a decent trip for 6 year olds and above, definitely put this on your list. 

We’ll certainly be back. 

Apple Jacks Adventure Park is £8 per person, under 4s are free and so is parking! 

Rating: 4.5/5

Fashion & Freedom

Last night I had a rare hour to kill by myself after work, before another event. So I treated myself. 

I popped over to Manchester Art Gallery to check out their Fashion&Freedom exhibition. 

It covers the relationship between women and fashion since the First World War, with pieces from students and up and coming designers. 


Some really intriguing pieces. Just a shame it wasn’t bigger, but given the little time I had, it was perfect. 


I loved it. The exhibition and the free time, no kids, no companion, just me. I got to stare and read without being dragged away or asked a million questions. Then I snuck off for a quiet coffee. Bliss…

It reminded me of the importance of having time to yourself, no matter how short or what you do with it. 

Sticking to the fashion theme, the gallery is also showing Vogue 100: a Century of Style. 

I’ll definitely be returning one lunchtime. 

Getting Crafty with ToucanBox

I’m not the ‘craftiest’ of mothers, I’ll be honest. I always liked the idea of spending rainy afternoons creating various pieces of art with my kids, with some music playing in the background, laughing and joking etc…

That rarely happens. I hate mess! We do have craft box and umpteen toilet role tubes, so every now and then we will get crafty, when Boy1 has some inspiration, because I can never think of anything.

So I got very excited when I heard about Toucan Box. It seems as though you can get everything through a regular subscription box these days, food, cosmetics, cocktails (yes, I know!!) and now crafts.

The blurb

ToucanBox is a flexible subscription service offering mini craft ‘projects’ for children aged 3-8 years. According to the site, the boxes mean parents ” can spend less time trawling through toy stores and more time making mini masterpieces with your budding masterminds.”

How it works

When you sign up, you are asked to privide your children’s names, ages etc and even answer a personality quiz, so that their boxes can be tailored. This is a great touch and gives you confidence they’ll like what arrives.

A fortnightly subscription costs from £3.95 + another £1 p&p. Bigger boxes cost more, of course.

The activity

The box arrived fairly quickly in a lovely turquoise box, addressed to Boy1, which instantly got him excited.

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Inside our parcel

We opened it up to find our project was a dinosaur tail and mask. Lovely animated cards with clear instructions.

It came with enough tape and sticky bits. The only thing we needed was a pair of scissors. Thankfully, this particular activity needed very little adult supervision, which meant I could get on with the ironing.

Boy1 found the instructions fairly easy to follow and it took him about 20min to complete.

After a bit of peeling and sticking, followed by some cutting, we had our tail and mask.

 

The Verdict

I really do like the idea of ToucanBox. It provides the inspiration along with the materials. I believe in other boxes they even provide glue, so its very convenient. I like the fact my son was able to get on with it whilst I was ironing, rather than him being glued to a screen.

Boy 1 really enjoyed it. It’s not the kind of thing he would usually make (sword/marble-run/boardgame), so the surprise element was fun. Plus he felt a sense of achievement in completing it himself.

I’d say for £10 a month it is a bit pricey for me, because we aren’t that crafty. Part of me would rather spend £10 in B&M Bargains on lots of random craft items, which I know would last for ages. But it is a nice treat and for a child/family that struggles to come with ideas, this does provide some inspiration. I know Boy1 has already started to think of other things he could make.

Definitely worth giving it a try, so sign up for your free trial here: https://www.toucanbox.com/freesample

Remember summer holidays are just around the corner…

 

Rating: 4/5

Review: Zizzi, Corn Exchange Manchester

Last week I received an email from the Corn Exhchange in Manchester to say that some of the new restaurants are ready to open. More importantly it said that the new Zizzi branch was holding a training day, which meant I got to see the new venue and taste the food before anyone else. Result.

It’s been a long time since I ate in a Zizzi. It was always seen as a slightly fancier version of Pizza Express in my student days. So I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer now.

So I booked a table for myself, my mum, Boy 1, with Boy 2 in tow. We arrived promptly and they had my details. Tick.

As we we had a buggy, we needed to use the lift to get down to the main restaurant. With it being a training day, staff were literally learning on the job so we were the lift guinea pigs. Low and behold we got stuck!

Once seated, our friendly waiter Zsolt came to the table to take our orders. Unfortunately a few items on the menu weren’t available, but he was quick to offer alternatives and recommendations.

The food 

 

We went for the garlic bread and Zizzi antipasti to start. Both came on rather trendy long wooden boards, which were rather impressive. The garlic bread, fresh pizza base with a tasty garlic butter, was more generous than expected. Slightly crispy, but soft in the middle.

The antipasti came with a selection of prosciutto, speck, coppa and finocciona, along with a dollop of creamy mozzarella, olives and dough sticks. While the meat serving s didn’t look particularly big, when combined with everything else, it was plenty. Definitely enough for three of us.


My mum went for the Calzone Pollo Spinaci. It was huge! Generous portion of chicken, mushroom and spinach, stuffed in a pizza base and topped with coppa ham. The little tomato sauce on the size was tasty, but not really necessary. All in all … Tick 

 

I went for the Classic Caprina on a rustica base, which is stretched to a thinner, more oblong shape than the classic. The vegetarian pizza is topped with goat’s cheese, pepperonata, spring onions, roquito pepper pearls and baby watercress. All in all a very tasty and filling dish.  Depending on the size of your appetite, I’d say it could easily be shared with a side salad.

The kids menu at Zizzi is pretty simple and to be expected. All receive a starter of carrot and cucumber sticks with a couple of dough sticks, which is just enough. Boy 1 did tuck into some our starter too, but he loves garlic bread. A choice of pasta (sauce options of bolognese, tomato sauce or cheese sauce) or pizza (choose your topping).

The drink 

Both adults decided to go for a glass of wine (well, it would be rude not to!). The California Zinfandel was a little on the sweet side for me, but was chilled and refreshing, while the Montepulciano was crisp and light, a good value choice for lunch.

The good bit aka Dessert

Boy 1 chose a scoop of strawberry sorbet and a scoop of chocolate ice cream. Good enough size to fill smaller stomaches, although I wonder if a younger child would have been able to finish it all.


While mum decided to bow out after round two I just had to go for a dessert and chose the summer special Raspberry Rosa Sundae. If you are a fan of Eton Mess, this would work for you. Scoops of soft strawberry sorbet, ice cream, mascarpone, topped with meringue and fresh raspberries. Delicious!

The verdict…

All in all we definitely enjoyed our lunch. Good food and great service, a good choice for a family lunch, or a stop while out shopping if you don’t want to go for American style food or pub grub. Or total bill was just under £70.

Welcome to Manchester, Zizzi. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain the quality once the honeymoon is over and some of the other, more ‘exciting’ venues have opened their doors.

Rating: 3.5/5

Kids bike workshops at Halfords

During the holidays, Halfords, the national cycling retailer holds FREE bike maintenance workshops for kids.

We booked a place and went along to the Trafford store in White City.

 On arrival we had to wait a few minutes, as there was a bit of confusion about where the session would take place. I had to lug Boy 2 up the stairs in his buggy, only to bring him back down again, but a friendly member of staff have me a hand.
It turned out that we were the only ones who bothered to honour our booking, which meant a free 1-2-1 session for Boy 1. 😊

After being escorted to the back of the shop, we were introduced to Pete, who decided to tailor the session to my son’s preference.

Pete was really friendly and professional. Given that the shops aren’t really catered towards interacting with youngsters, he did a great job of speaking to Boy 1 at his level – not too patronising, but not too much bike jargon.


He talked through the ‘M check’ process used for checking a bike is roadworthy.

Start at your back wheel, checking for punctures and ensure the chain is positioned properly.

Then move up to your seat to check it is the correct height and firmly in place.

Next, the pedals, up to the handle bars and gears. Then finally the front wheel.

Rather tan just talking at us for an hour, Pete allowed Boy 1 to have a go at tightening screws, pumping tires and fixing punctures.


With a 7 year old who is obsessed with the number of gears on his new bike, Pete kindly offered to explain which setting a and combinations are best.

The verdict 

Whilst it wasn’t the most glamorous way to spend a Wednesday morning, we both found it very useful. I’d certainly recommend it for children age 6+.

Plus, we got biscuits!!

I do think they’ve missed a trick though…. Maybe giving some kind of pack with a certificate of completion, or quiz, or even some good old fashioned stickers. Kids LOVE stickers! Any kind of take-home item to remind them of the experience and what they’ve learnt would work really well.

Rating: 4/5