Making Tracs in Delamere Forest

img_1737It’s half term, here in parts of Cheshire, a week later for some reason than the rest of the country.  I like many have had a ridiculous cough which left me gripping on to my bladder for real during a bout of coughing.  Hence not feeling up to much, but with two boys needing to be out and about I had little choice.  We are lucky living in the beautiful county of Cheshire with so many green spaces on our doorstep, Delamere Forest being one; a shady oasis in the midst of the agricultural landscape of the Cheshire Plain.

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Outside Tracs

Delamere is a place for families to let off steam and find peace in the heart of the forest.  We’ve all got our own bikes but have yet to purchase a bike rack for the car, so being able to hire bikes at Delamere Forest from on site bike hire, Tracs, was idea.  Tony and his team at Tracs know all there is to now about bikes and more.  As well as offering repairs and servicing, bike sales and hire, and a whole raft of events including school and youth groups, stag and hen events, corporate team building; you can see they have a lot going on from their log cabin on site!  The bikes are fine-tuned and perfect for the forest paths you cycle on, with wide tyres and responsive brakes, and more gears than I knew what to do with!  After Tony’s briefing and choosing to start with the four mile trail we were off.  In moments, you are deep in the heart of the forest, being Autumn the carpet of crispy leaves and the trees were full of colour were a lovely site to see.  There is always the inevitable bit of competitiveness between my sons and soon we couldn’t see them as they sped off up the trail, with us old codgers bringing up the rear!

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Carpet of leaves

I’d not been on a bike for a while so I thought I would struggle to keep up, but the path is gentle, with a few little humps and ridges to get your heart going.  The Forestry Commission look after Delamere Forest and they do a great job, we came across a clearing that was kind of spooky and boggy underfoot; all to do with forestry management.  We also found the Gruffalo; my 14-year-old secretly loved this!  You can push it as much as you dare on your bike or tootle along in tune with the landscape, the choice is yours.  Being on a bike means you can explore much further than on foot and get to see more of the forest.  It took us about two and a half hours to get around, but that included lots of stops.  I think next time we will bring our bikes and book them in with Tony for a service and head off on the 6-mile trail.  In the café, we all enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate, with cream AND a flake, for our endeavours.  Plus I didn’t cough once!

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Forest clearing

Explore the forest on two wheels. There are cycling trails for all abilities from relaxing family rides to mountain bike trails and a bike skills area.   There are events in the forest all year round to suit everyone, details here – Delamere Forest

Go see Tony and get on your bike and get your heart pumping in one of the most beautiful places in Cheshire, details – Tracs Bike Hire

 

 

A visit to the Far East in the centre of Manchester

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Corn Exchange, Exchange Square  

There is one thing guaranteed to get a teenager to engage with the outside world and that  is the promise of food.  My 14 year-old has a real interest in food and cooking, mainly from his Grandma who is a great cook.  Definitely not from school, as the curriculum still seems to be stuck in the 70’s with sausage rolls and rock buns being the most innovative things made!  So we all took a trip into Manchester to try Tampopo, with three locations in Manchester and one in London, we went to try the one at Corn Exchange, bang opposite Selfridges.  For a Tuesday night it was pretty busy in Exchange Square with hundreds of runners snaking their way through shoppers and office workers.IMG_9839

We’ve never been to Tampopo before and it promises “The world’s most exciting cuisines from East Asia, where food is fresh, healthy and delicious. Each country has developed its own unique dishes, and sampling them is a culinary adventure”.  We couldn’t wait for our journey to begin.  With the menu on a paper placemat the choice is abundant and we didn’t know where to begin, thankfully all was expertly explained to us by our server and with a few recommendations made we’d ordered a mouth-watering selection of small plates, main course and sides.  As other diners dishes were dispatched from the open kitchen the aromas that wafted throughout the restaurant, just made all our mouths water, such a punch of spice and freshness, my eldest started to gnaw on his chopsticks in anticipation!  Thankfully some prawn crackers were popped on the table by our thoughtful server.

IMG_9863With mocktails; apple and elderflower lemonade & pink lemonade for the children and, quite frankly, cocktails with a gigantic kick;  bangkok popsicle and lemongrass mule our journey into Asia began.  My lemongrass mule included vodka, gingerbeer, infused with fresh lemongrass & lime and boy-oh -boy I was smitten!  The food swiftly arrived all at the same time and our table was covered with a spectacular array of dishes and we were desperate to dive in.

The crispy fried chicken wings with sesame and a sweet soy and chilli glaze were practically inhaled by us all, so moreish.  My personal faves were the coconut prawns  with a sweet chilli dip, huge prawns in a light crispy batter, light and heavenly.  My youngest who is nine started with a Gyoza pork dumpling with a soy and chilli dip and after his first one exclaimed “I’m coming here again” before going straight back in for dumpling number two.

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Ready & waiting

The teenager was just having a total ‘food moment’ with the Pad Thai with chicken and prawn.  He’s literally a ‘growing boy’ taller than me and just needs decent delicious fuel and he practically ate the whole thing, whilst his younger brother had chicken katsu from the children’s menu which was enjoyed just as much.  The recommended asian sharing platter for two was also a hit and it gives you the chance to sample several things from the menu, the corn fritters a dipping sauce on here were lovely.

To end we had mint tea and Vietnamese coffee, which comes in a cute silver style pot with condensed milk , which sounds odd but is truly delicious.  We loved the churros, popular in the Philippines since Spanish colonial times, these deliciously crunchy doughnut sticks are served with a warm chocolate or caramel dipping sauce.

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Vietnamese Coffee

They were loved so much that we had to order some more to stop an argument over the last one!  We also tried Vietnamese fried bananas coated in breadcrumb and crunchy nuts, served with a cinnamon ice cream and fresh lime.

All the staff were lovely, relaxed with their approach and very knowledgable about the food and drink available.  They were all great with the boys too, which makes Tampopo and smashing place to take the children.

Yes there is chilli, spice and things you know about but don’t necessarily cook with at home each day, but take you children and just get stuck right in.  It’s fresh, delicious and awakens all your senses five-fold. I’ve felt inspired to inject a little more pizzazz into my own cooking at home with some fresh chilli, lemon grass and lime to get me started as I don’t want my far eastern adventure to end.

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Chopstick Teeth

Go to Tampopo right here Noodles – Rice – Soups – Stir-fries – Curries – Sides – Salads – Snacks – Small Plates – Express Lunch – Cocktails – Mocktails – Desserts

Corn Exchange

Trafford Centre

Albert Square

London – Fitzrova

 

You have a dirty little secret like me?

I’m almost to embarrassed to show you the ‘before’ picture of my oven.  When was the last time I cleaned it? Errr, well besides the odd wipe now and again I actually can’t remember! It’s used every day so I really should have shown it some care and attention.  Thankfully Ultra Clean Ovens  came to my rescue!  I was quite sceptical, could they really clean up such a vile oven?  But just look at the ‘after’ pics, yes really look, it is the same oven.  What is even more amazing is that no harsh chemicals are used, so children and pets don’t have to be kept away and you can use the oven straight away after the clean.  They don’t use any caustic products at all, they use a professional de-greaser with microbial enzymes to safely digest the dirt and grease.

If you book in August, with your oven clean completed by end September and you mention ‘Mumsnet Cheshire’ you will get a FREE of charge a Teflon oven bottom liner. These liners, heavy duty and rated from 250C, will keep the newly cleaned oven bottom clean, simply take out and pop in the dishwasher or rinsed out in the sink every couple of months. What are you waiting for?

Click here to get you oven sorted!

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BEFORE – vile, shameful and grim
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AFTER – shiny, clean and like new!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girls Cricket in Cheshire this Summer

We’ve had a chat with Cheshire Cricket Board (CCB) about their ‘Girls-only’ Summer Holiday Courses, here’s what they had to say.

Why host ‘Girls-only’ courses?

  • CCB are supporting English Cricket Board’s This Girl Can … Play Cricket campaign in an effort to boost participation at cricket clubs within the county.
  • Cheshire is already a leading County within women’s and girl’s cricket in England, with established senior and junior leagues offering competitive playing opportunities for all ages.
  • We hope the Summer Holiday Courses will motivate, engage and inspire attendance through a series of fun games and competitions that will offer everyone an opportunity to succeed.
  • Cricket

Is this the first time you have offered summer ‘Girls-Only courses’?

  • Yes, this is a new venture for CCB.
  • We do run ‘Girls-only’ indoor sessions (Advanced Coaching) during the winter, but these are ‘invite only’ for players.
  • The summer camps are aimed at player development rather than performance, giving girls the opportunity to experience a new sport and make new friends at the same time.
  • Girls are also welcome to attend our generic week-long Summer Holiday Courses (and many do), and we hope that the buzz from the Girls-only sessions will inspire more girls to continue playing.

Why does CCB want to encourage girls into cricket?

  • CCBoard are determined to increase participation across all sections of the community, with a particular focus on Women’s and Girls cricket.
  • We recognise the enormous potential for growth in this sector, and have the infrastructure in place to support girls on their journey through the game.
  • For those looking for competitive playing opportunities, we have a recognised talent pathway that leads from grass roots to the international arena; we have a current England Women’s player in Sophie Ecclestone.
  • For those looking for a new hobby, there are plenty of social opportunities with clubs throughout the County hosting weekly training sessions for Women and Girls of all ages.

Cheshire Cricket Board said:

“The timing could not be more perfect for Women and Girls to get involved in cricket in Cheshire.  Not only have we just celebrated Sky Sports Women’s Cricket Week, but Cheshire can now boast a full senior Women’s international in 17-year-old Sophie Ecclestone.

Sophie came through the Player Pathway here in Cheshire, and her meteoric rise to the top of the Women’s game will be a great source of inspiration and motivation to the next generation of female players in our County.  Clubs across Cheshire have been opening their doors to new female members, and we are starting to see new junior teams emerge in areas where there had been little activity previously.

Throughout the summer we hope to inspire even more girls to pick up a bat and ball, and would love to see as many new faces as possible on our Summer holiday Courses”

 

 

Click here to be taken to Cheshire Cricket Board’s website

Bunzilla from Byron – it’s a monster!

Did we run screaming from the big Bunzilla?   Never!  Manchester was packed, not surprised after a rainy morning the sun was out, bright and proud.  We’d come along to the fairly new Byron at the Corn Exchange in Manchester, which is packed full of great places to eat.

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The Honeycomb ice-cream is yum

Never one to turn down a challenge we sat ready and waiting to ‘Unleash the beast from the east’ by tying out the new Bunzilla; a 6 ounce hamburger, soy glaze, miso-roasted bacon, crispy onion ring, shredded white cabbage, wasabi mayo and pickled cucumber.  My husband and I got stuck in straight-away, so not scared of this beast.  A burger is just a burger some would say, but you could say that about trousers or a jacket right?  It’s the accessories, the thought and care and just the great idea of how it’s put together that makes the difference.  And the Bunzilla is a burger dressed up for a super-glam night out, with awesome shoes and a killer bag.  Can I just stop you now and say miso-roasted bacon should be the next biggest thing in food, hard to describe just how utterly moreish it is.  It should be on the menu as a regular side to order.    Again white cabbage in a burger, so not weird and just a crunchy delight.  The staff here work their socks off and are very cheery and chatty and I’m sure they’ve all been Bunzilla’d.  It is here I confess the Bunzilla beat me and I could not finish it, unlike my other half who scoffed the lot (such a beast :-)). So much choice when you decide to eat out and you want to feel you are loved and looked after and Byron does this with ease.  The best bit about Byron specials is that for each special bought they provide a school meal for children living in some of the poorest places in the world through the One Feeds Two campaign – www.byronhamburgers/onefeedstwo

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Of course the classics are a must on this burger menu, but inject these cheeky-sexy specials and we are hooked.  The specials come and go and I for one am excited about the next one, the ‘Byronaldo’ that features crispy Bovril onions which is something to do with the head chef, football and terrible weather.

Go figure, or go eat it at the very least, I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

Byron – Corn Exchange Manchester

PS: The children’s milkshakes (from the Mini Byron menu) are bang on the money, freshly prepared with a choice of vanilla, chocolate, banana or Oreo cookie.

 

May Day Parade Perfection

Just because I love the May Day parade in Knutsford! The weekend was sunny, hot and packed and the 600 or so children who took park were brilliant.  So many people work so hard to bring this spectacular event to our town year after year, for over 150 years in fact!  Thank you

Come fly with us! Runway Visitor Park

We’ve been to watch planes take off and land at Manchester Airport on many a sunny and rainy day over the years.  I’d never been quite sure of the attraction myself, this whole plane/train spotting hobby, but I am pleased to say that I am now a convert, of sorts.

The whole Runway Visitor Park complex at Manchester Airport has improved enormously over the years, with the addition of a café, event/conference venue and of course the star attraction, Concorde, underneath which you can hold a conference or party.  New to us this year are the tours and we were lucky enough to go on the Flight Academy Tour aged 8-12 (also available for ages 4-7) 90 minutes £7 per person.

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The Gold-plated visor
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The cockpit
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View from the cafe

You start off by climbing aboard a real aircraft, well a half of one from Monach Air.  You are then sit in the seats and a welcome and presentation starts.  There is some dressing-up to be done, parents and well as children as you are given a talk on what the airport is all about.  My son loved wearing the £350 fireman’s helmet with the gold-plated visor, which reflects the heat.   Did you know over 20,000 people work at the airport?  And that 450 planes land a day and a peak-times this rises to over 650?  Impressive stats if I do say so myself!

Next on the agenda was air traffic control and their shiny new £20 million control tower, followed by baggage check and details of how they scare ever persistent birds away by playing different sounds of birds in distress, which puts them right off thank goodness!

We’ve saved the best bit till last, getting to sit in the cockpit and to fiddle with all those buttons, every boy’s dream.  This is the bit my son really enjoyed, as you never get to see this view, a real treat.  The staff knew everything there was to know about the airport and handled the barrage of questions from the children well.  The tour is just the right amount of time and has a good balance between active hands-on stuff and talks.

The not-so good bits are paying £10 for parking and the plane used for the tour has seen better days, being a little cold and damp.  The café was great as you can sit and eat whilst watching the planes come and go.  We had some sandwiches and hot drink which were good.  With a play area and shop and all the planes to watch, this place is worth a visit.  You must book in advance to ensure you there is space on the tours.

There are loads of fun special events throughout the year including a special Father’s Day Carvery & Concorde (£24.50 PP) a roast and a tour of Concorde is surely many a Dad’s dream.  You can also buy gift vouchers for all the tours which would make a great birthday present.

Not to mention a two-day Aviation and Transport Festival 16th & 17th July, where even the most modest transport fan can fill their boots on all things with wheels, such as 500 classic cars and a the Spitfire Display Team.  £5 pp and includes car parking – full details here – Runway Visitor Park

Zip World- Betws Y Coed -MEGA!

My husband and I have always joked that as long as we are both on ground level we are fine.  He hates heights and I can’t do anything underground.  So for me to get the chance to zip wire in a Welsh forest is my idea of heaven and his idea of hell.  So here we were on the session with a stag do, the stag I presume, was dressed as Superman.  So he’d save me if things went wrong, right?

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Do I look nervous?
You have a quite a short but steep walk up from the car park where you are given training on how to get into you harness and use of the fail-safe clip system.  Our lovely instructor triple checks everything and you are good to go.  You get to practice with your feet on the ground, at first it feels hard and alien to get the clips on and off but you soon get used to it.  You basically can’t ever have both clips open at the same time, one is always attached.  Then you get to do you first lift off, albeit on just  few few off the ground. Superman went first as his mates hummed the Superman music.  Then with each section you get a bit higher, then a bit higher and before you know it you are 60 feet up in the air!

I went last, my eldest (13) first and then my youngest (9) then me (aged 45).  The first time you launch yourself off a platform your mind is just screaming at you “what on earth are you doing, stop it now!”  So you just have to literally take a leap of faith and go for it.  With my two children having done it before me it was no time for being a chicken, I had to do it.

And what a feeling you get!  It’s a rush, panic, daring and delight all rolled into one.  You can breathe when you make it over to the other side and steady yourself for the next zip. You can sort of see where you are going through the forest, but it doesn’t really matter as you zip from tree to tree.  img_6230Some zips longer than others, but it is the same for each, clip unclip attach the glider-thing (sorry forgotten name of it) and grit your teeth and go for it.

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Up in the trees
My husband seemed a tiny dot on the floor and he admitted later his legs were wobbly and his palms sweaty at the very thought of his whole family up in the branches.  About a third of the way round I realised I was totally loving it, off came one hand then the other at each zip to fully embrace to freedom flying feeling – wooo hoo get me!  Our instructor was close by at all times, which made me feel safe.  My boys loved every moment, totally embracing the wonder of every zip.  It was hard work on the hands taking off and on the clips, but my youngest did brilliantly; even yelling ‘I love you Mum’ on one of the zip runs.

About half way round there is a selfie-platform which takes seven adults (all the others take three max) and there is a certain mountain (nicknamed Snowdie by my youngest) in the background that just makes THE best view.  I stood there alone just looking, truly stunning and just makes you aware of how amazing Wales is.  I’ve not included a picture here because you just have to get up there and see it for yourself, words can’t describe and a picture won’t do it justice.

There are two gut-wrenching bridges to cross during the course.  You are still clipped on but my-oh-my they mess with your head.  One has little wooden posts you have to step on and this was no-doubt the most hideous bit of the whole thing; I was doing some sort of labour-style panting during these bits.  I gave the tree such a big hug after this bit and I just know the tree hugged me back.

Everyone gets hooked into the normalities of daily life and you are rarely pushed outside your comfort zone.  I am so proud of myself for doing this, it just shows when you want to do something, you darn-well can if you put your mind to it; even when it is screaming at you not to do it and you are breathing like you are giving birth!  The last two zips are the longest and most wildest fun, a brilliant finale to two hours of action packed thrills and heart pounding action.  We would have done it all over again there and then.  The whole site is genius and the team behind the design very inspired.

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GO GET YOUR ZIP ON!
There is a lovely cafe on site where much needed tea and cake was eaten after our adventure.  All children under 16 have to be accompanied by an adult at Zip Word Betws Y Coed (Zip Sarafi, Plummet, Skride, Tree Top Nets, Junior Tree Trail) is just one of three sites in North Wales where Zip World have some of the best adventures you’ll every go on, including:- Titan, Bounce Below and Velocity  Click here for full details.

 

 

 

 

Risotto Heaven at Gino D’Acampo Restaurant

We were all pretty tired when we arrived at Gino D’Acampo restaurant at the Corn Exchange in Machester after a full on day of cycling and football, so food was very much on the agenda. I was immediately in love with the lighting, huge cream shades above each table giving up a soft ochre light helping to set the relaxed mood. Lighting design can add ten fold to the enjoyment of eating out and I’ve been in some places where interrogation seems to have been the brief.

The speedy waiters did not look much older than my 14-year-old son (must be their Italian genes) and I briefly imagined their mothers back in the Tuscan hills pining for their precious adorable sons.  The kitchen is open and you can see all the chefs in action, moving furiously back and forth between stations before shouting ‘servizio’ the very second each dish was ready.

Grissini with Parma ham and fresh pesto to start with some olives and I had to fend of the rest of the family to get even one.  One of the greatest pleasures in life for me is fresh made pesto!  We are total no-brainers when it comes to food, seafood for Mum & Dad and pizzas for the children.  Hence Risotto with Scallops, creamy lemon risotto with Scallops and Seafood Linguine.

My eldest practically inhaled his Fiorenina Pizza steaming hot and crisp out of the wood-fired pizza oven.  The youngest opted for a pizza Parmigiana, with chicken, buffalo mozzarella, parmesan and basil.  Fresh, huge and full of flavour.  Pizzas are simple but often so dreadful, but not here.  “Best pizza ever” was the verdict  Of course we had to have some Courgette Fries, who wouldn’t!

Our seafood was fresh and perfectly cooked, I wasn’t feeling generous so didn’t even give away one of my melt-in-the-mouth scallops, but everyone else dived into the risotto and I was told in no uncertain terms in was ‘much better than mine’  Two glasses of Pinot Grigio Blush added beautifully to the mix.

I’ve always been a fan on the booth style seating, gives a real intimacy and cosiness to dinner.  We adored the music too and Shazamed several tracks to make our playlist at home!

The place is busy and bustling, with city centre workers popping in for an early dinner, and those looking for sustenance after a hard day hitting the shops.  The staff are all like little fireflies seemingly dancing around in your vision attending to customers needs. We finished with lemon sorbet and Nutella ice cream – home-made, hand-made and delicious, we all had a total spoon fight over these two!  Each came with a flat waffle cone, genius.  Two espresso’s for us and that was us all done, stuffed with deliciousness and ready for the journey home.

Every Mum knows that having dinner cooked for you that you have not had to think about, shop for and prepare is just the business.  Ramp that feeling by a zillion and this is the feeling I had when eating dinner here.  This place is just the total and utter BUSINESS and so said all of us.

To get you own slice of this Italian dreamboat visit here

You can pop in any time to the bar at the front and have a quick bite and drink and something  I plan to do soon.

 

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