Sunday, 24 November 2013

Harry Potter Day at Stockeld Park

Last weekend we headed up to Stockeld Park after a tip off from a friend that they were having a Harry Potter weekend. After checking it out online we thought the boys would enjoy it and there were a few free events, so off we popped.

We eventually decided (upon arriving) to get a family day pass to the park, as there was a show in one section and a maze in another that we'd have had to pay for. That was the only negative of the day really, that getting into all the parts of the park was a bit cha-ching, and it wasn't really checked. We could definitely have gotten away with at the very least just buying a pass for me and Ethan. We were only checked twice, once on the way in to the 'Enchanted Forest' and once at the bean planting station (which would only have cost £1 without the pass). The maze and sorting weren't checked at all, which was a bit irritating after we forked out for it!

Anyway, back to the good stuff!

First off we had broomstick training, with 2 wizards and a witch from Hogwarts. They were brilliant. An aside, all the... actors? characters? anyway, they were all from Make a Wish Entertainment (facebook here) and they were amazing. More about them later.

This is Wesley Wizzo, who looks and acts freakishly like my brother-in-law Jonny. So much so that Sam shouted his name. Ethan did some magic spells, the group fought a swamp monster, practised flying, and helped a wizard earn his golden hood.

 There he is flying around, with adults acting as quidditch hoops and the whomping willow. He had a blast, and it was good imagination exercise!

Next there was bean planting, with very dry sparkly soil - points for lack of mess - and a white bean, planted with a wish in a small pot. Simple and enjoyable.

In the same area was an animal rescue/welfare group who'd brought some owls along for the event, and they were lovely about the children touching the owls and they both even got to hold the smallest one.

I can't adequately convey the pure joy this brought them, especially Sammy.

After this we stopped for a snack, and then went into the Maze. We were given a quiz and the answers were hidden in the maze, but, being Harry Potter questions, I knew them already ;)

We loved it, it wasn't too difficult, if you looked at the maps posted here and there throughout. There were a couple of bridges and a tower to see the maze from above too, which was fun. We made it through in about 20 minutes, though we did pass an arguing family who'd been in there an hour! 
 After the maze Ethan went for sorting, which was fab, the hat's face moved and it spoke, and he loved it. He got Gryffindor, so was made up. After this we had the Harry Potter Catwalk, which I have no pictures of because I was Sam-wrangling. All the dressed up kids basically did a fashion parade, with a guy introducing each one. I was impressed that they both had a crack at it, Ethan struck a spell pose, and Sam raced up and down. They were both outdone however by the only girl dressed up as Luna Lovegood. She was spot on, stripey tights, tutu-esque skirt, sprectre specs. She strutted down the catwalk, turned, and dropped into a perfect split. Naturally, she won, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Quick stop to hug a reindeer (Sam is slightly obsessed with these kind of costumed people), and then off to the Harry and Hagrid show in the Enchanted Forest. The show was fun, though Rich had to take Sammy out. When Hagrid called on Harry, he kept shouting "No Hagrid, I Harry Potter!" So they went off to look at the lights in the forest and Ethan and I watched the show. It was great, the actors were absolutely spot on, little bit of magic and great rapport with the kids.

Ethan was so excited, it was very cute. 
After we went through the Enchanted forest it was time to head home. There was a small ice skating rink, but it was busy and we needed to get back, which was a shame. Anyway, on our way out to the car, Harry and Hagrid were waiting for a pick up off somewhere else when we bumped into them and another witch (Polly Potions, from broomstick training) and the second we approached, they immediately turned it back on, and were more than happy to spend a few more minutes with the children. They were absolutely brilliant, and made the day. Very good with the children, really happy, enthusiastic and just seemed to really enjoy their work.

Then it was home to bed where two sleepy boys went to bed without Daddy washing off any Harry Potter scars :)

Make a Wish Entertainment apparently do parties and events, and I would absolutely recommend them and as soon as I can afford it I'll book them to do a birthday for Ethan!

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


We were lucky enough to get two chances the dress the kids up this year, for the trunk and treat at church and for trick or treating. So first, for the trunk and treat...
We had last minute vampire who decided he wanted this cape from the 99p shop. Thrifty!

 We also had a last minute gruffalo who refused to wear the ghost costume he'd asked me to make. Still, he had a gruffalo dressing gown and slippers already so all it took was a green felt tip for the poisonous wart at the end of his nose, and we were done. We had a fun time at the trunk and treat, I made a coconut shy with skulls in the place of coconuts in our car boot for the kids to knock down, they got sweets, bosh, done.
Then for trick or treating on our street we managed to get Sam into his ghost costume.
 He's 'woo'-ing. Ethan wore this Harry Potter costume, only with scar and glasses.
 We had a fun time visiting the decorated houses on our street and getting far too many sweets and chocolates, but to be honest the boys enjoyed opening the door the most. Sam spent as much time as possible with the door open, leaning out and shouting "come trickle treating!" across the street.
Henry wore this for both occasions and had no opinion. Unless you count spewing on it, which I don't, considering he is non-discriminatory with his barfing habits.

I did 3 pumpkins,  one of which when I took the 'lid' off the insides were so perfect I saved them for pie.

The pie was delicious and supremely easy, I just googled for a recipe and done. Except for the part where I forgot I had already bought nutmeg and ginger ages ago and bought them again, giving me a cupboard full of it. 

And that was halloween :) Lots of fun, a bit of mess and thankfully no damage done to my hands while carving the pumpkins - a first!

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Magic Chocolate Cake

 I've had a few requests so here it is, the un-killable cake. I made more this week (goodbye waist!) and forgot to take it out of the oven for like 15 minutes, and it was still fine. I'd turned the oven off at least. Right, let's get to it.

200g/7oz self raising flour
225g/8oz caster sugar
1/2tsp salt
25g/1oz cocoa powder
100g/4oz margarine
2 eggs
150ml milk
splash of vanilla

Preheat the oven to 180°c.

Mix the dry ingredients then rub in margarine. Mix the wet ingredients and beat. Combine.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. I usually stick it in what I think is a 9 inch round tin.

This is how the recipe pretty much reads in my book. It originally came from the Be-Ro baking book via my lovely friend Jannine, and I have since had and lost 2 Be-Ro books. They sell for about 80p, but last time I was in morrisons I couldn't find a replacement. Luckily I had it in my recipe notebook, although it looks like this through my terrible handwriting and overuse:

The original calls for 5tbsp of evaporated milk and 5tbsp of water, but Jannine and I both thought, nah, that's just milk, and replaced it. Because evaporated milk is gross, and I never want to buy it. I also usually have to cook it a little longer as the batter is really quite runny. I've swapped butter in for the marg, and I've never used caster sugar, just bog standard granulated, because when I make cake it's usually on a whim, and who has caster sugar just in the cupboard? Aside from you know, grown up people who bake properly.

Now for the icing, because of reasons.

9oz sieved icing sugar
2.5oz butter/marg
3tbsp hot milk
1tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp vanilla

Melt the butter, add the hot milk and vanilla, then the cocoa powder and sugar. Beat it to death, done. If you want it thick enough to spread (like the above picture) add a bit more sugar. I can't tell you how much more really because I just go til it looks right. Also I tend to guess with the cocoa too, but basically, you can't go wrong with this either.  Both last a few days, which is more than enough.

So there it is, make it, eat it, and curse me on the last slice. If you intend to take it somewhere or share, and you have willpower like mine, make it right before you need it, because it is very much moreish.

Also if anyone does manage to ruin it, let me know and I'll make you some kind of award, because seriously, you've got recipe destroying skillz.

Update: This blog has now moved to - Hope to see you over there!