O5rcB_NXbIeHbJV7JFNcdfqL-vY Mummy From The Heart...

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Warner Bros Studio Tour – The making of Harry Potter, Hertfordshire


Before our holiday we decided to cram in three or four Harry Potter movies, the reason being that the girls had never seen one and we were off for the Warner Bros Studio Tour – The making of Harry Potter in Watford, Hertfordshire at the end of our holiday. My husband and I have watched all the movies and JJ has seen all the older ones and we are all fans and had enjoyed them. Not fans in the sense that we know every fact or have watched the movies fifteen times a piece but just fans as in we can appreciate really good story telling and cinema.

I had wondered if you would need to be a mega fan to get the most out of the studio tour and to really enjoy it but I can happily say that it is a great day out for everyone, even my seven year old twin girls had a good time. Although truth be told it is probably best for older children and adults who enjoy talking to the guides and reading about all the sets, props, costumes and creatures that you can see.

This is one of those reviews where I don't really want to write too much or show you many pictures as I feel I'll be giving away some of the secrets and amazement of the Harry Potter films but actually how do you do a review without sharing the information? So what I'd say is if you are a Harry Potter fan and believe you will enjoy the studio tour don't read past the generic information below, just go along and have a wonderful day, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.


A bit about the attraction
Warner Bros Studio Tour – The making of Harry Potter is a permanent feature at the Leavesden studios (about 20 iles north-west of London), it opened in 2012 and had been a raging success since. You need to book in advance for your tickets and there are timed entry slots to ensure that it never feels too busy. Be aware that you cannot just turn up on the day and try to gain access. There is a large car park if you want to drive and the venue is easily accessible from the M1 and M25. Do make sure you have your email confirmation with you to show the parking attendant and then collect your tickets from the collection desk once parked, for us on a school holiday Saturday we had no queue which was great. You can also get a train to Watford Junction and there is a shuttle bus every 20 minutes or so during the day and this will cost you £2 return per traveller.

Warner Bros estimate that people will spend about 2.5 - 3 hours on the tour but the great thing is you can spend as long as you like there. Our slot was 10.30am and I think it was good to have an early slot as you don't feel any rush to move about, we left at 3pm and this was plenty of time but to be honest if we had not had the girls with us we probably would have stayed longer. Opening times vary depending on the time of the year so check online.

Eating and drinking
You are advised to arrive 20 minutes before your allocated time slot but you can arrive earlier as there is a nice Studio Cafe which serves breakfast until 11am and then main meals with a variety of options such as baguettes, salads, jacket potatoes, cakes and children's lunch boxes. There is also a Starbucks in the foyer if you want to grab a quick coffee.

No food or drink is allowed in the tour rooms themselves as they need to preserve the items displayed. Half way round the tour you enter the backlot, which is an outside area with some covered seating and here you can buy light snacks - sandwiches, coffees, cakes etc. You can also buy an authentic Butterbeer which is a frothy drink sort of like a butterscotch cream soda. We saw lots of people having picnics here too and I see there is an outside picnic area near the car park too if you want to eat before or after your tour. I'd say to plan your tour around eating times as you cannot just stop and eat or slip out and have a bite and then go back on yourself as the tour is just one way.

Shopping
The shop can be accessed before or after the tour and it is fantastic. If you are a Harry Potter fan you will be in heaven but be aware it is very expensive, a wand will set you back £25 and even the most basic of kids t-shirts were about £18. You can get confectionery gifts for less if you want just a little reminder but remember to set the kids (and yourself) a budget so you do not over spend.

As well as the shop there is the opportunity to buy photos or video of yourself either riding a broomstick or flying in the Weasleys blue car. We had wonderful fun in the green screen area making our videos but boy are they expensive. One photo sets you back £12 but the prices do get better with the more you buy. We bought 4 photos and a USB video for £40.


The tour itself
The tour is split into a number of different areas and flows really well. When you arrive you join a queue for entry and are only in this for about 10/15 minutes but the time goes quickly as there are lots of things to look at like the cupboard under the stairs where Harry lived in the first film or the flying car used in the second.

We were then ushered through to a black room with moving posters and it is interesting to see how many languages the film has been re-made into. You see a short video of how the J K Rowling books came to be made into films and I  felt quite patriotic standing there and remembering that both the books and the films are British.

Within a short time you move through to a very comfy cinema with a huge screen and watch a film about the making of the Harry Potter movies. All eight movies were filmed at these very studios and you start to get excited as you see the fun that Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Ruperb Grint had making the films along with the thousands of other dedicated professionals.


The screen lifts and you see the doors that you know lead to the Great Hall and then the guide gets anyone whose birthday it is to open the doors and your tour group go through to enjoy the splendour of the great hall. The detailing is amazing and there are so many fabulous costumes that you will instantly recognise. The floor is real flagstone and it all has a very grand feeling about it. The guide gives lots of information at this stage and the staff here really do know their stuff, we spoke to loads of them and you can't seem to catch them out with anything, they know all the answers.

Once you go through to the big room you are on your own (unless you have rented a digital guide for £5 or a real guide for quite a lot more) and you can go at our own pace. I'm not going to say a lot about this area as I really do think you should explore for yourself but it is fabulous. There are full sets, props, costumes, wigs, green screen technology and just so much to look at and be photographed with. It is a visual delight. Oh and thankfully (when you have kids with you) there are toilets and they are clean and well stocked.



After the big room you move outside to the backlot and as I've mentioned before you can have a snack or eat a picnic here. Again there are loads of photo opportunities and some really big sets for you to see and enjoy. My kids particularly liked the remote control chess pieces and chatted to the guide there for an age, personally I enjoyed a Starbucks!

Once you have had enough of the backlot it is time to go back inside (past more toilets) and first up you are in the creatures room, where there are some wonderful large screen presentations about all the artificial intelligence used to make all the the creatures you see in the films.

You can then spend time on Diagon Alley but sadly you can not go inside any of the shops but again the guides are great and will chat away to you about anything and everything Harry Potter.

After this you get to see many of the original drawings, art work and scale models for the creatures, sets, buildings etc from the films and again you are amazed at the amount of work that goes into this kind of film.

The final room is rather spectacular as it is a very large model of Hogwarts and you get to see it by both day and night. The interactive TVs around the room (there are plenty of them) are great as you can learn all sorts of interesting facts. To leave the tour you spiral around Hogwarts and can see it from all angels.

The final part of the tour is a wand room where everyone ever involved with any of the films has their own personal wand box and the kids had fun trying to spot the famous stars.

Special Features -
There are a number of special features that run during the year, whilst we visited it was the #bludgers andbroomsticks feature which had lots of great exhibits and information all about the game of Quidditch.


Anything for the kids?
When you collect your tickets you can ask for a free passport and this is a nice quality passport that the kids can stamp as they go round the tour. The stamps emboss the page and are really great, it makes a super keepsake. They can also try to spot the golden snitches around the tour too and on the one hand this was great but on another they sort of lost the enthusiasm to look at the sets and props as they were focused on finding the snitches!

Would we recommend?
Yes for sure. It was a great day out together, I suspect that an older child or adult would enjoy it even if they had never seen a Harry Potter movie before but of course the best enjoyment will come to those who know the movies. The one thing I would say is that it is expensive, if we had paid for our family of 5 it would have cost us £116.50, so you might need to save this for a special occasion or get saving but do make sure you go, it is a great day out.


Disclosure: We received free entry to the tour for the purpose of writing this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

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Monday, 1 September 2014

Start-rite Shoes - The Ultimate Field Test

Back at the beginning of the summer Start-rite contacted me to ask if the kids would be interested to field test some of their Back to School range of shoes over the next term. I jumped at the chance as I was really thrilled to find a brand who didn't only want me to give an initial impression on their shoes but they want me to continue to report on how well the shoes are lasting. I'm going to be taking regular pictures of each of the three pairs of shoes so you can see how they stand up to being used (or should that be abused) by my children. Start-rite are really confident that their shoes will prove to be durable, good value for money and have room for my kids feet to grow.

First up I had a Skype chat with a couple of Start-rite staff to establish what was important to me when I am buying my children's shoes. You can read some excerpts from my interview here if you fancy. Basically I am not too interested in the shoes being fancy or high fashion; durability and value for money are probably my big drivers. Along with finding velcro front shoes for my massive footed boy (he is a size 7 aged 10 years).

I know the Start-rite name and believe it to be a quality brand but I've never bought a pair of their shoes before, I have pretty much been a faithful Clarks shopper. I've seen Start-rite shoes stocked in John Lewis and I know many independents sell them but it hadn't occurred to me you could buy them online as well. I'm generally not much of an online shopper but having now moved to the countryside it is a bit of a trek to get to the shops and thus having things delivered to my door has become much more attractive. I was a little worried about getting the right sizes but thankfully Start-rite have some really good information on measuring for size.

So first up I needed to measure the kids feet and check the Start-rite size calculator. To be honest I have avoided Start-rite shoes before as I've never really understood the sizing, it is a bit different to other shoe shops. However once you have a Start-rite foot gauge it all becomes quite easy to find the right size and we all know how important it is to have well fitted shoes for our children whilst their feet are growing.


Start-rite have three different measure at home methods available for you to choose from and their instruction is very good as there are videos to watch as well as instructions to read. It was very easy once I had the length and width measurements to use the grid and see what size shoe I needed to order for each child.

The kids were a bit nervous about what might arrive for them as they did not have any input to the styles sent but Start-rite seemed to understand each of my children very well. Miss M received a pair of 'older girl' style shoes (Dawn) as she has enormous feet for a just 7 year old. Whilst her shoes are gorgeous and just what she wants sadly they look less durable than Miss E's, so it will be good to see how they stand up to the field test. They retail for £45.

JJ received a pair from the rhino range (warrior) which were right up his street, super comfy, durable rubber soles and bumpers and importantly for him the velcro closures at the front. They retail for £55.


Miss E received a pair of the Princess Serena shoes, which come in a stylish box and with two removable charms. At first Miss E was ready to dismiss these shoes as being too young for her as they look quite chunky at the bottom with the big bumper all round but once I pointed out the charms, pretty diamante heart closure and front detailing she was happy they were pretty shoes. These retail for £47.


Of course the important thing I needed to do was ensure that each of the shoes fitted well. Again I followed the video and instructions on the Start-rite website and I was really happy to see that I had obviously measured accurately as each of the shoes were a good fit and the kids are now ready for school this Thursday.


As I mentioned before I'll be visually recording how these shoes stand up to the normal use of a near 11 year old boy and two 7 year old girls. So do stop back in a month or so and have a read of the update.

Disclosure: We were sent these shoes free of charge for the purpose of this review/ field test. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Improve Your Child’s Grades with the Help of a Private Tutor

Now that both A-Level and GCSE results are out many students and their families will be reflecting on them and breathing a sigh of relief that the long wait for grades is over. There is bound to be some happiness and some disappointment as students decide whether their results reflect the time and effort spent preparing for the exams. If you want to improve your child’s grades one way is to hire a private tutor. Studies have shown that students having private tuition can see improvements by a grade or two.

This year's GCSE exam results showed a small rise in A* to C grades overall (0.7 percentage points on last year) but a sharp fall in English grades. A-level grades saw a slight fall this year with the pass rate down for the first time in 30 years.  This year GCSEs have been changed in some significant ways. The focus is increasingly on exams now with less emphasis on coursework. This year has also seen fewer younger pupils takings GCSE exams early as only a pupil’s first attempt counts towards league tables.

Private tutors can have a positive effect on exam results for a number of different reasons. On one level students having private tuition are getting highly focused tuition in the subject they need help with and they are spending extra time on that subject as a result, but one of the main advantages of private tuition is instilling confidence in a student. Tutors can motivate a reluctant student and bring out the best in their abilities with the one to one tuition they require. Under-confident students may be reluctant to speak out in class especially in front of a roomful of teenagers. With one to one tuition a quiet student is more likely to feel able to ask their tutor a question.

Private tutors can tailor their lessons to prepare students for GCSE or A level exams. At school teachers will be covering a wide syllabus and may not be focusing solely on teaching students how to pass their exams. A private tutor can be hired in the lead up to exams to fine tune a child’s exam technique and get them used to the style of exam questions. It is worthwhile having a number of tutoring sessions over the course of 6 months or longer but if time or funds are limited weekly sessions in the few months leading up to exam period will pay dividends.

If a child is not fulfilling their potential or has recently seen a decline in their results a private tutor could help improve things. There could be a number of reasons a child’s grades have declined, such as an upheaval in home life, bullying at school or a lack of understanding of a subject. These are just a few reasons, but a private tutor can offer help, stability and maybe a different way of looking at things that will give a child the motivation they need to improve their grades.

In order to get the most out of your child’s sessions with a personal tutor discuss your child’s needs with their teacher. Is there something in particular they are getting confused over, or is there some other issue holding them back? Often a different approach to teaching a particular topic can be all a child needs. A private tutor may just have a different way of looking at something which just means it ‘clicks’ for a student. At Fleet Tutors there are many tutors who are very experienced in GCSE and A level preparation, having been tutoring exam students for many years. They keep up to date with the changes to exams and can offer a child a valuable boost in learning in the lead up to important exams. 


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Friday, 29 August 2014

Potters Resort - worth a visit? (@pottersresort)


Potters Resort advertises itself as Visit Britain's (AKA the tourist board) first 5 star holiday village in the UK. It has held this 5 star award for 12 years now and that speaks volumes. It is also telling when you look at Trip Advisor that you find more good reviews than bad. This site is notorious for being brutally truthful and it is good to see that in the case of Potters Resort the truth is positive.

Whilst Potters has some aspects that duplicate other holiday villages we have been to before, my overriding feeling is that it is really unique and pretty darn special too, I suppose some of that might come from it being the longest serving and still privately owned holiday centre in the UK (the Potters family built and opened it in 1920). When we first drove onto the site we were greeted with the hotel with its balconies and posh looking penthouses at the rear and then you look right and see all the bungalows and yes on the outside they are not that attractive and the paved floor is a bit gloomy but you get inside them and see the luxurious finish and forget about the outside facade.


A walk up to the main complex takes you past tennis courts, adventure golf, an outside bar and a beautiful pool. Everything looks fresh and new and it is clear Potters have an ongoing renovation plan and a commitment to keeping the place updated.

Once in the main building we were first greeted by the enormous garden restaurant, which looks as if it should be on board a luxury cruise liner and then shortly after a small over 18's and children's amusements area and I commented to my husband we were in little Vegas as much of the decor looks a bit mock Grecian. Next up we caught sight of a Zumba class and a group of women and girls following the dance instructor and for a moment I was transported to Kellermans and Dirty Dancing. It really it is a little bit of everything.
On reflection the next day I actually think that the main complex in Potters is like an up-market David Lloyd fitness centre; you can enjoy a beer or coffee whilst watching various sports or children's activities. It was great that all the main areas link and we could allow the children to make friends and go off for short times, this definitely added to their holiday experience and Buzbys basement was particularly appreciated as this allowed them a kids only play and chill out zone.

I can't believe that anyone could be bored at Potters Resort, I understand that organised fun is not for everyone but if you are a sporty family then you can independently book for darts, golf, pool, snooker, table tennis, tennis, squash, badminton, bowls, segway, archery, football, swimming and so many other activities that I can't even recall. Oh and do not worry they are all included in the price you have already paid.



Our family is not really a sporty one but there was still loads to keep us entertained too. The kids enjoyed soft play, an inflatable assault course, the play park, laser quest, the climbing wall, skateboarding, adventure golf, meet the animals, back stage tour, village fete on the green and various activities at their kids clubs like 5 aside football, nail art, crafting and dancing games.

Everyone was exhausted on the first day so we headed home at 9pm after the kids clubs but on the second day after the back stage tour there was no way the kids were going to let us go. So we found seats to watch the show and I'm so glad we did, as the entertainment is really high end. The performers could easily have been in a West End show and after watching once we of course went back the next night too!


Potters is set right on the beach and you can easily walk down to the beach from the football field or golf course. The beach is truly stunning but I see at the moment they are redeveloping the beach to put natural stone breakers in this, this of course spoils parts of it at the moment but once it is all done it will be even better.



As we leave Potters Resort to go home my overriding feeling is one of sadness; I could just do with another couple of days here. I think this is probably JJ's best holiday ever as the park is small enough and he is now old enough that he could go off with his new mates and have so much fun. The girls have tried all sorts of new activities and stayed out for their latest holiday bedtimes ever and Miss M is now convinced that she will be a famous performer one day! And dh and I? We have done what we do best on holiday, we have enjoyed our children having a wonderful time and got to relax and chat together.

I always like to do a balanced review and to tell you the good with the bad. At the moment I'm struggling to find any bad points to talk to you about. The jolly join-in kind of atmosphere might not be for everyone but we did not find it over the top and the staff really do seem to care and enjoy their work. As I mentioned the bungalows do look quite old fashioned on the outside but from my point of view who cares, they are fabulous inside and really practical. I suppose the one thing that was the most annoying for me was the wi-fi was a bit patchy in the main building. At times it was brilliant and I could download to iPlayer at others I struggled to get connected to the cloud and I'd really of liked the option to have wi-fi in my room (but I suppose that was just because I'm a blogger).

I asked dh what his recommendations were to make our stay better and he suggested an optional welcome talk, as there is so much going on it would be great to find out all about it at the beginning of the stay and then we could have planned better and also he said booster seats in the theatre (like you get in a cinema) would have been a great addition and I think he is right.

Thanks so much Potters Resort for having us, we have had a wonderful time and as we left today the kids kept telling their friends they would see them next year so we need to get saving!

Here is just a few more memorable moments from our stay and I'll post about our eating experiences at Potters Resort next week. You can also see our intial reaction over here.


Disclosure: We are staying at Potters for three nights for the purpose of viewing the holiday resort. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Thursday, 28 August 2014

How to enjoy Colchester zoo in the rain


Yesterday on the way to our holiday we had an overnight stay in Colchester and for my husbands birthday we headed to Colchester zoo as he loves to watch the animals. Sadly the great British weather was not on our side and it was heavy rain pretty much the whole day. Despite being on holiday and thus not being prepared for this kind of weather we decided to brave it anyway.

Here are my top tips for enjoying a day at Colchester zoo in the rain (and yes I would recommend you still go, it is a great place) -

1)    Get prepared before you leave home. Make sure you have waterproof coats, wellies (there are lots of big puddles) and an umbrella. Personally I'd also advocate one of those shopper bags on wheels and pack it with your lunch, towels (to dry yourself or sit on) and all the other things your family might need. Also dont forget the positive attitude, whilst the weather might be miserable, you don't have to be.

2)    Don't miss the brand new Australian Rainbows walk through. For £1 you can purchase a little tub of nectar and feed the beautiful lorikeets. Just look at the smile on my boys face when the bird hopped onto his arm and fed. This was probably the highlight of my husbands day too.


3)    The animal shows continue rain or shine, so use your towel or a carrier bag on a chair and have a seat to watch one of the outside shows. Miss E loved watching the parrots fly overhead and as I was standing the hawks were a tad unnerving when they flew past me!


4)    Make sure you visit some of the public animal feeding times. The kids fed the giraffes and they felt so connected to the animals by doing this, it also meant they could chat to some of the staff and learn some new facts.


5)    Many of the animal enclosures are undercover and you can spend ages watching the animals inside or out. I really loved the fact that the enclosures at Colchester zoo are large and you feel as if the animals have enough space. Particularly good is the Orangutan area, where you can watch them inside and outside and also play with some apparatus and get a taste of what it is like to be an Orangutan.


The sealion tunnel is also much better than most aquariums Ive been to and it is great to watch them swim overhead and feed. The Penguins can also be viewed from inside and make for interesting viewing.

2014 is the year of the bear at Colchester Zoo and the new Bears of the Rising Sun enclosure is very impressive and large. So great to be able to watch the animals and have space to do it.


6)    The Lost Madagascar Express train is good as it is undercover and thus does not matter if it is raining. The ranger guide talks you through all the enclosures that you drive past and takes you straight into the Lemur enclosure and you can get out the train and take a walk and see what the lemurs are up to, it was really good.


7) Visit the Discovery centre for some hands on fun. Miss M loved getting in the cage to see what bears in captivity have to go through and holding the giant African land snail.


Of course if you go along to Colchester Zoo when it is not raining it would be even better I expect, there are so many great adventure parks all over the zoo and my kids really wanted to try out some of the fantastic looking slides but alas it was just too wet on the day we went. It is probably apt to mention that there is a nice soft play at Colchester zoo, we did go in there for about half hour but because of the rain it was really busy.

To be honest due to the weather we probably missed about a third of what we could have seen at Colchester Zoo, so do make sure you check out their website and see exactly what they have to offer.

If we had paid for entry to Colchester Zoo it would have been £78.25 for our family of 5 (this is 10% off the on the gate price). If you find you like it when you are there you can of course upgrade to a yearly pass and the cost of that day will be taken off.

During the summer months the zoo is open 9.30am - 6.30pm and this is plenty long enough to see everything. There are loads of snack and eating venues across the zoo and you can choose from things like cheesy fries at £2.20, wraps made to order, hot dogs or more traditional sit down restaurants and patisseries. We used used the vending machines where a coke bottle was £1.70 and a water £1.30.

In all I'd say Colchester Zoo is a wonderful place to visit, there is so much there and it is all presented well. The animals have lost of space to move and there is good variety. There is also plenty of opportunities for the kids to learn more and lots of interactive displays where they can open flaps, move doors etc to discover more about the animals.

Disclosure: We received free entry to the zoo in return for an honest review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.


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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Review of the LG G3 Phone

Over the last month or so I have been using the LG G3 phone which only launched a couple of months ago and is hailed as being one of the most impressively speced handsets on the market. It features a near bezel-free design, a 5.5-inch Quad HD display with a Snapdragon quad-core processor, 2GB of ram and a 13-mega pixel rear-mounted camera.

So what did I a devoted iPhone user and novice phone reviewer think? Well, in a nutshell I was far more impressed with it than I thought I might be. Let me tell you about it -

The screen resolution is fantastic
It is an absolute joy to watch a video or look at pictures on this phone. The quad HD screen really does what it is supposed to and you can see the difference from my iPhone 5C. The resolution on this screen is 538 ppi, which is what is commonly used to print high-end glossy art books

One touch photography
The 13mp camera is so easy to use, you have the option of no buttons and you can have the full 5.5" screen to look at and then tap with your finger to focus and shoot. Or alternatively tap the 3 dots and the controls appear on screen. There are a few nice options like magic focus, voice activated photo taking or selfies taken when the photo recognises your hand in front of the screen, so you don't have to worry about pressing the button and looking good! Also the OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) function reduces blur and shaking, with the laser measuring the distance to the object instantly to create clear and exquisite pictures. I also love how easy it is to share pictures straight from the camera roll, no need to go into Instagram or Google + (or any other social media site) you can share directly with just a few tiny actions.

Take a look at a couple of the pictures I took on the phone (with no enhancement) -



and just so you can see the quality of the images taken with the front facing camera, here is a selfie -


The phone looks really good
Available in three different metallic colorways, the LG G3 looks the business. One side is completely glossy screen the the other is the metallic finish. Sadly the metallic finish is on polycarbonate and whilst this makes the phone light and I believe has connectivity benefits too, it just feels a bit light and cheap to me. I also got a couple of small scratches quite easily.

Another benefit is that the back is really easy to get off the phone and this means you can insert a Micro SD card to increase memory capacity (up to 128GB) and change the battery if necessary.

It is a very big phone though, with a 5.5" screen it is practically a small tablet and I suppose it just comes down to personal preference. For watching videos and viewing images and web pages it makes things a lot easier but for storing the phone in a pocket or being really portable it is not so good.



Easy to use interface
Considering I've never used an LG phone before I was surprised how intuitive I found the phone to use, the controls at the bottom of the screen are pretty much the same as on my girls Samsung Tab 2 tablets. It was really easy to set up using the wizard which came up first time I plugged it in to charge and arranging the home screen was just like using my iPhone.

It all looks very ascetically pleasing with muted colours and I could add my own photos as wallpaper and screen save as you would expect.

The on/off switch and volume controls are on the back which at first I did not like but once I read I could tap the screen twice to turn it on and tap the status bar twice to make it go to sleep I was happy.

Intuitive keyboard
I was surprised how much of a difference it made to me having letters and numbers on one page of the keyboard, rather than having to toggle between the two. Something so simple but so helpful. It is also good that the keyboard gets to know you and the way you type, so it starts to predict your common typing errors and will start to allow for these. Auto-complete and auto-correct are easy and quick as well.

Not too fussy
By this I mean the phone did not come pre-installed with tons of apps that I don't want and can't delete. I love the fact I can really customise this phone to have just what I want on it. I can delete the pre-installed apps if I so desire and the Google play store is easy to use and download from. It would be better if there was some kind of password attached to downloads though.

Good enough battery life
The LG G3 has a 3,000mAh cell battery which can handle the strain the high resolution screen and fast processor puts on it. Using it for the whole day for social media, web browsing, texting and note taking meant the battery lasted me about a working day (8 hours) and then it needed a full charge again.

Decent sound quality
The 1 watt speaker with boast amp is good enough for a phone, it made a change to not need to add bluetooth speakers for decent quality sound.

Fast working and plenty of space
You could feel the quality of the processor on this phone as internet browsing is so fast and the phone comes with 16GB of memory as standard and you can add in a Micro SD card to take that up to 128GB if you need to.

Smart Notice
Can you believe that this phone tries to pre-empt what you might need, based on previous behaviour and interactions with the phone? It might ask you if you want to call someone back whose call you missed or if you want to switch wi-fi on. It is very clever and a little unnerving too! I did smile when it reminded me to take my umbrella out with me and then of course I didn't and got rained on!

Knock code
When you set up your LG G3 you are encouraged to set a knock code, which will wake the phone up and also act as a pass code to give you access to use it. You basically have a 4 quadrant grid and need to tap in 4 places to break the code and I like the idea of this but I kept forgetting the knock code so I had to turn it off and put a traditional number password on, I suppose that is because it is what I am used to using.

Conclusion
In all the LG G3 is a really great phone. If you like a big high-resolution screen, effective and easy to use point and click camera and lightweight phone then this could be for you. A new LG G3 is currently retailing for £357 on Amazon.

As mentioned at the beginning I really am a novice at this tech thing and can only give a perspective on the parts of the phone that I have experienced. If you want to read some more in-depth reviews of the LG G3 then check out Tech Radar or Know Your Mobile.

Disclosure: I received the LG G3 handset free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Our first impressions of Potters Resort

For weeks our family has been looking forward to this week and being able to be a family of five with no work (well except my blogging I suppose) and a whole lot of family fun.  We left home on Sunday and have spent two rainy days in Colchester (but still had a great time thankfully) and today we arrived in Norfok to stay at Potters Resort for 4 days.

We are reviewing this holiday but will still do so in a completely honest fashion as I know that is what my readers have come to expect of me and to be frank from what we have seen and experienced today we are going to have very few moans and groans.

Take a peek at our first impressions of Potters Resort -

Our very first impression was a fabulous one when we were greeted by Daniel at the reception desk. He was super smiley and informed us about all we needed to know to make our stay enjoyable. We had arrived a couple of hours before the 2pm arrival time and thankfully our room was ready for us.


JJ was quick to spot that you could buy 5 drinks tokens for £10 and this means the kids can get served at the bar by just handing over their token for a milkshake or pop, he loved the idea of being independent and when we found out this would actually save us money (as the drinks are normally £2.20 each) we quickly parted with our money!


We headed straight to our room to get settled and boy were we impressed when we walked in. We had been booked into the most basic accommodation type, a bungalow and frankly it is fabulous. They had put an extra bed in the twin room so we had three full size beds and three happy kids.


After getting unpacked we headed out to explore and see what Potters could offer us during our stay and again we were a bit blown away, there is so much going on and each time we saw something new JJ would ask 'does it cost more Mum?' and I was pleased to be able to say NO. The only things that seem to cost more are ten pin bowling and clay pigeon shooting. The kids have now got super-full plans for the rest of our stay and I'll blog about some of the things we get up to over the next few days.

One of the nice little extra touches that Potters offer, which we all loved is the kids check-in. Between 2-4pm the children could have their picture taken and a mini passport made, they then wear these all week and each time they take part in an activity they get a stamp in their passport and a certificate at the end of the stay. The girls were very pleased to get to meet Boo at check-in time too.


We did so much today in the short time we have been here, we swam, we ate (magnificently), we went to kids clubs and we relaxed but I'll write about those things another day.

For now it is goodnight and I hope you have a great day tomorrow, I sure know we will.

Mich x

Disclosure: We are staying at Potters for three nights for the purpose of viewing the holiday resort. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Sunday, 24 August 2014

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London - Great for the family


If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I love to get the family out to explore new places. We don’t have to go anywhere fancy or spend loads of money, the fun for us is in the discovering something new and exploring where we have not been before.

Or in this case where some of us have been before. Last weekend on my birthday we headed along to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, London. This of course is the home of the London Olympic games from 2012 and my husband and children all went to watch one of the Paralympic events whilst I was at work back in 2012.

They reliably inform me that whilst a couple of landmarks still remain and mean they can recognise this as the Olympic site generally the park has undergone such a massive redevelopment that is really is very different. One of the great legacies of having the Olympics here means that the area is very easy to access by public transport and there is also a massive multi-story car park, so you can travel in whatever way suits you. The Westfield shopping centre is also right on the parks doorstep and there is something there for everyone, what a wonderful cornucopia of shops, restaurants, street performers, fun activities and relaxing space.

First off there is no fee to enter the park and you can spend as much or as little time there as a you fancy. We arrived about 3pm and stayed until near 8pm and in that time we hardly even touched the surface of what is available, so I will happily go back again.

I often think that pictures tell a better story than words, so let me share with you some of the sights of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. First, the dancing fountains, which children were having so much fun with and there was plenty of bench seating around the outside for the adults. As the day was a bit chilly and we did not come prepared with towels our kids stayed pretty dry and had fun avoiding the water sprays!


The park itself is a visual feast, between all the enormous buildings that housed the games you have walkways that have beautiful planting and interesting things to look at - walls with blocks that turn, large wooden sun loungers and interactive areas where you can learn about some of the medals that were won by Team GB in the games.


Such a lovely birthday spending time with my family and I had the most delicious piece of banana cake and latte from one of the stalls selling food at the park. Of course they were not cheap, but I didn't really expect them to be here and JJ was super happy with his Nutella waffle, which set me back £4.00.


We found two good play areas as we explored, one right by the main heart of the park (close to the original stadium) and this had a variety of climbing areas, swings, slides, climbing walls and a fab sandpit.


The second one was a much further walk (down the canal, over the road and past the wetlands) on the north side of the park and by the time we got there it was deserted but we could see what fun it would be when there are lots of kids. There are water pumps which pump water down a big slope and you can build dams to stop the water. There is also a big rope bridge, sandpit, swing, wobble boards and balance beams.


As I mentioned earlier there really is so much to see and do here and it is a great place to be able to talk to your children about the Olympics and what they meant for this part of London. Next time we go and visit the 560 acre site I'm going to print off some of the trails for us to follow, there are kid specific ones, ones to follow the Olympic trail and an art one too.

Tesco Fuel Save
It is great to get out and about and going by car is far easier when you have a big family and lots of paraphernalia to take with you – picnic, towels, blankets, spare clothes, water etc but we all know fuel prices are very high nowadays. Thankfully Tesco is trying to prove yet again that every little helps and this time they have started a Fuel Save scheme. Over the last few years we have seen many supermarkets offering a fixed amount off per litre when you spend a certain amount in store and then fill up with petrol but Tesco have gone one better.

There is no single shop minimum spend with the Fuel Save scheme, every penny you spend in Tesco counts towards your fuel discount and once you reach a £50 spend in any one month then you can access that discount and it starts at 2p off per litre. Then for every £50 you spend in store you get another 2p off per litre. For a family like mine that spends £100 per week on their shopping that means a 16p per litre discount on my petrol cost (or diesel if that is what you buy). The discount is available up to a maximum of 20p off per litre.

Just think if I spend £500 a month on groceries (it can easily reach that with some new school uniform) and buy 100 litres of fuel I could be looking at a a saving of £20.00 and that would be really appreciated and could easily be spent on something else.

I really love the fact that the discount is tied to your Tesco clubcard, this means I do not have to worry about retaining receipts and gaining my discount that way, just by swiping my clubcard as normal I can access the discount available to me and if you don't already have a clubcard then it is free and easy to apply and frankly you should have one as the deals that you can access are wonderful and have paid for many of my families days out.

Disclosure: I have received some vouchers from Tesco to help us have a fun day out and to spread the word about the new Fuel Save scheme. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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