Mead Open Farm

Mead Open Farm
Mead Open Farm

Mead Open Farm

Located not far from Milton Keynes, Mead Open Farm was one of our favourite days out in 2013.  For one all-inclusive ticket there is absolutely loads to do including Shaggy’s huge indoor playworld, go-karting, crazy golf, and of course lots of amazing farm animals to interact with.

George and James are not normally big fans of animals but you can see from our youtube clip that George got stuck in feeding the pigs and goats. Other animals included rabbits at Bunny Hop, sheep at the Sheep Racing, lambs, a miniature Shetland pony, and cows.

Mead Open Farm is very ‘hands-on’ with petting, feeding and milking taking place throughout the day. You can  join in with the animal activities including lamb bottle feeding and bunny cuddling.

James was a lot more impressed by the giant slides in the indoor play centre, with scramble nets and ball cannons. Both the boys enjoyed the outdoor 20 ft Giant’s Rock, and go karts. Sadly we ran out of time before getting a chance to play on the crazy golf.

Travel by car:-

Just south of Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.

Call 01525 852954 or visit www.meadopenfarm.co.uk

Open daily from 10am until 6.30pm, last admission 5.30pm.
Closed 24, 25 and 26 December and 1 January only.

Free parking, gift shop and onsite cafe and tea room.

Address
Mead Open Farm
Stanbridge Road
Billington
Bedfordshire
LU7 9JH

info@meadopenfarm.co.uk

Film Reviews:- How to Train Your Dragon 2

 

This week the three of us watched the sequel to the amazing ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. The original was an instant hit with us, so we had very high hopes for more hilarious hiccup moments, not to mention thrilling dragon rides.

Joining us on our trip was James’s best friend Thomas who had seen the movie before. He had promised us that we wouldn’t be disappointed and when we offered to watch another movie he said that he would definitely watch this one again.

The film delivered excitement and mayhem from the start. The opening sequence is breathtaking, with Astrid and friends enjoying a dragon riding competition to entertain the village.  Meanwhile Hiccup and Toothless have abandoned the competition to go in search of strange new lands, making new friends and foes along the way.

The four of us where thoroughly entertained throughout the entire film. Lots of giggles from James and Thomas from start to finish. At one point I found myself leaning from side to side as Hiccup and Toothless soared majestically through the clouds. 100 minutes of great entertainment for me and the boys.

James’s review:-

Hiccup is on a new adventure! As he finds his lost mum something starts to happen. An unknown ship comes to Berk but then they see millions more ships and dragons behind them!

Hiccup is the main character. He has a young voice and is very brave. The other characters are Valka, Stoick, Gobber, Astrid, Snotlout and lots and lots more.

Every single picture in the whole film is espcially the dragons!

This film is awesome just like the first one, DEFINITLY.

If I was rating it out of 5 it would deserve a 10!

James describes the film he can’t wait to see next: Transformers: Age of Extinction

The Transformers are in a new war as everything gets ruined on earth. As Octamos says it is the end of human extinction, the world is ending.

Optimus Prime is the main character and is the leader of the Autobots.

It actually looks like you’re in the film watching the war and I like the way the transformers look.

I think that this is just as good as the other transformers films.

Weekendparent Top 5 Budget Tips

Budget those pennies!
Budget those pennies!

I thought it was about time that Weekendparent.co.uk had a top 5 !

Budgeting was something that I greatly underestimated when I separated from my partner three years ago. Back then I felt like I had plenty of other things to worry about. Looking back I made every excuse possible and because of that I had to make sacrifices later on which I could have avoided.

1. Start a spreadsheet  (and review it at least once every month).

I’ve attached my own spreadsheet to this page as a guide. If you can’t account for what you are spending each month you will quickly find yourself relying on credit cards or loans to see you through. Once that happens you will be paying interest on top of your repayments and it becomes a difficult cycle to get out of.

2. Regularly review any debts

It’s inevitable after a life changing situation that there are going to be some tough financial commitments; mortgage payments, solicitors/estate agents fees, moving costs. If you need to use a loan or credit card then don’t just go for the easy options. Spending time beforehand comparing rates and offers can pay huge dividends in the long term. Each month a debt continues there will be interest added so consider whether you have another way to pay it off, or whether transferring your loan or credit card will reduce the amount of interest each month.
3. Join a forum (and learn from others)

No matter how serious your situation I can promise you that 10 minutes on some of the popular debt/savings/extra-income forums will make you feel a lot more at ease, and provide you with a fresh outlook on how to you go about your budgeting.

4. Shop smart (experiment with own brands)

As you stop buying those Gucci handbags, and Ralph Lauren Jeans you’ll still be left with day to day items that you can buy more cheaply. Many own-brands are no different to the big names, and with trial and error you’ll be able to make small savings that will add up over the months.

5. Double your income – get temping
If you still find yourself in debt at the end of this month but have a few hours to spare, then why not get your cv posted quickly and easily to some online job search sites. Temping agencies will advertise local opportunities in your area and there is likely to be something that you can fit in. If time is limited then take a look at ways of earning online with surveys, paid-to-click, text answer services, and many more.

If you have a top budgeting tip that I’ve missed then why not post a comment below?

Weekendparent.co.uk budget template

Minecraft Construction Handbook

Who doesn’t love Minecraft? I love Minecraft, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going on. When I ask James to explain to me what they have to do, he just laughs. Then when he realises I’m serious he scowls at me.

The handbooks are written and edited by Stephanie Milton and published by Egmont. They are much adored by James who tries to learn how to complete complex tasks that involve Portals, and Enderdragons, and Creepers ( and yes, I have no idea what these things are) . He follows the instructions to the letter and feels really impressed by the knowledge of the authors. He then tells me about his sucess or lack of in repeating these complex procedures, and repeats the process over again.

George who is stlil learning to read tackles long paragraphs with enthusiasm when he’s allowed to borrow his brother’s book. I find this a bit insulting as he normally refuses to read more than a few words about Biff Chip and Kipper. He’s also a much more visual person than me and James and so he’s just as keen on the screen shots.

I was initially put off by the RRP of these books. £7.99 for what is a very slim book didn’t seem like great value. I managed to find them reduced to £4.99 at Asda, but I can see that Amazon now has them at £3.99.

The boys have the entire set of three books, ‘combat’, ‘construction’, and ‘red stone’ and all three are very popular. Whilst they can be read cover to cover in less than five minutes, they are constatnly picked up again for reference while the game is being played. They are also a great source of reference when school friends make amazing claims about tasks that they’ve carried out.

Now would somebody please be kind enough to tell me what you have to do in this game?

Weekend weariness

 

This is the weekend when I don’t have the boys. Finally I have five minutes to put my feet up and catch up on those world cup games that I missed. Or so I thought.

After spending last weekend catching up with a week’s homework and gossip for them both (Amy Thomas is now playing with Ryan, but won’t share loom bands with Sarah) I suddenly find that I can’t see the bedroom floor for washing and debris. During the week I commute to work and I’m lucky to get time to eat and wash in the same day. The weekend is not long enough to change the beds, iron the shirts, catch up with relatives and sit down to watch football. On the weekend when the boys aren’t with me I find myself busier than when they’re with me.

I always love telephoning the boys at the weekend to find out what they’re up too. It’s usually a long list that includes DVD’s, Hex bugs, top trumps, and I get really jealous. Next I get a list of everything they’ve eaten for 48 hours. This always sounds suspiciously healthy compared to what I’ve let them eat the weekend before.

The boys are always very polite and ask me what I’ve been up to as well.  “Washing, ironing…” and unsurprisingly they struggle to sound interested. I’ve now started dodging the question, or saying something generic “very long run this morning” before telling them how many salads I’ve eaten in the last 48 hours. They know that this figure is also suspiciously high.

At points like this I find wondering what it is I need to do at the weekend to make the calls more interesting for them. Which then leads me to think; will they stop coming to see me if I’m not interesting enough? I know that they enjoy coming to see me just because they love me and I’m their father, but it’s a doubt I have everytime we have our weekend call.

Of course as a separated parent I don’t have a budget that supports a weekend of motor racing, bungee jumping, or wind-surfing. With my new job I even struggle to find the time to go running more than a couple of times a week, and this has to be the most low maintenance hobby any weekend parent can have? My (single) house mate has taken up archery which sounds fun, but the costs are still high.

The washing cycle has finished so it’s back to the housework for me. I suppose I will have to keep bribing them with Dominos for now.

Have you ever taken up a hobby or attended an event just to impress your children?

Angry Birds Epic by Rovio

Angry Birds Epic
Angry Birds Epic

George and James are massive fans of the Angry Birds games. I have to admit to being a slightly bigger fan of the star wars franchise, but Angry Birds Go and the more recent Angry Birds Epic are really big hits in our house.

George did record a quick discussion  with James about the game, but in true George style he gets a bit excited!

The birds have now broken away from their flying antics and are now engaging in a strategic war game (or RPG). All the normal characters that you would expect to find are here in the various bird heroes and piggy villains, Your role is to take them from battle to battle conquering the various towns on the map.

Of course the game is free and the makers encourage you to use the in-app purchasing to boost your ability to succeed quickly. As a parent who has in-app purchasing constantly blocked, it’s a win/win situation for me. The boys were able to progress through the levels with relative ease, and are rewarded at each stage with a comedy video which they rush to tell me about!

Another great Rovio product.

Crealy Adventure Park (and Crealy Family Theme Parks)

Crealy Adventure Park
Crealy Adventure Park

Click here to watch George on the water ride.

Crealy Adventure Park (and Crealy Family Theme Parks)

Crealy was recommended to us by another weekend parent. He explained that the ticket included free returns within the week and suggested stopping at one of the hotels in Exeter and then visiting the local beaches with the opportunity of returning to the park during the week.

We stayed at Hallloween week and there were lots of activities and shows put on. The boys carved pumpkins, visited spooky houses, and tried their luck with a haunted lucky dip. I understand that these vary through-out the year and certainly they added a lot to our visit, with the boys daring each other to go into the witches garden!

There are two parks, Devon and Cornwall. We visited the Devon park although I understand that there might have been more at Cornwall. That’s definitely one for another year.

The address for Crealy Park Devon:-

Sidmouth Rd, Exeter, Devon EX5 1DR. Tel 01395 233200

Ticket Prices and Opening Times are updated regularly on the website as well as all the latest news.

We’ve been to a few parks together including Drayton Manor (Thomas Land), and Legoland. I didn’t get the impression that Crealy was set up to compete with these parks, with expensive branding, promotions and bigger rides, but for our age group (6-9) it was ideal. The week return made it absolutely amazing value too.

What other parks would readers recommend? Do you have experience of the Crealy parks?

Birmingham Thinktank Science Garden and Museum at Millenium Point

 

Thinktank Science Garden

Watch a clip

When it comes to free activities then we are first in the queue! If you have not already been to Thinktank in Birmingham then I would definitely encourage you to go. If nothing else the building and and grounds provide a lovely open space for children, just to explore, and run around. Even befor you consider what’s on offer. The Science Garden opened in Summer 2012. This outdoor space is completely free to enter and is full of interesting, well-designed activities. Even if, like George and me, you’re not interested in the science, you can still just start messing around with things and have and really enjoyable couple of hours. If you, like James, you are interested in the scient then there is a lot of information telling you about what the equipment is demonstrating. The garden is suitable for all ages. There is a stream running through the middle with steppins stones, so I’d advise caution with younger visitors, althouth there is a separate play park for tint tota. Our favourite of the many exhibits is the one in the video clip; a giant human-sized hamster wheel. If your child can make it go fast enough it will create enough electricity to light a small bulb at one end. Sadly for James, George was more insterested in turning it into a competion about which direction to travel! The website states that there are 42 hands-on exhibits. Certainly we got through about ten or twelve in a couple of hours before the West Midlands weather got the better of us, and we took shelter in the indoor exhibition space. We decidied to take a picnic with us and so the only thing we paid for the whole day was parking costs. If you’re inclinded to stretch the budget then there is the Thinktank museum itself, as well as the Imax cinema. Birmingham Thinktank and Science Garden can be foud at Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham B4 7XG Tel : 0121 202 2222. For opening times and ticket information please follow the link.

The Gate Gallop

Each year the boys and me  visit the Gate Gallop running event in Tamworth. This year the Gate Gallop takes place on the 28th June 2015 and as always includes families, and first timers, as well as serious athletes. There are various races that take place during the day including a 10k race, fun run, and children’s run. All events are traffic free and off road. There is a bbq throughout the day with refreshments, a  bouncy castle and much more. The event takes place at:-

Anker Valley Sports Complex, Amington, Tamworth B77 3AX

Funds raised by the event are donated to local charity St Giles Hospice Registered Charity No. 509014 Marshalls for the event are provided by local club runners from Peel Road Runners.

peel road runners

 

 

 

James and George enjoy running and love taking part in the event. There is a small entry fee but they get a finishers medal and goody bag for their hard work. There is always a lovely atmosphere at the event with everybody encouraging each other on. Start Times: Children’s  9.45am, Fun Run (4.4k) 10.15am, 10k Race 11.15am Parking, Showers and Changing: Available, free at venue. First Aid: Mercia EMA will be on hand around the course and at the finish.

The Gate Gallop
The Gate Gallop

 

Working on the website

The weekendparent.co.uk team hard at work on the website
The weekendparent team hard at work on the website

Click here for a clip from the boys working hard on recording and editing clips for next weeks website posts.

James and George love seeing videos of themselves  and enjoyed records clips to watch later.

So far we’ve recorded conversations on six books and games which I’m going to try and upload this weekend and then I’ll start adding journal entries from some of our days out.

Most importantly I need to get in touch with Gran now to start planning our next trip to Lego land!!