Cardiff Gin Festival

I’ll be honest here, up until a few weeks ago I hadn’t tried gin at all, ever… I don’t really know why, it had just never appealed to me I suppose, but when the opportunity came up to visit the Gin Festival in Cardiff this year, I thought I would drag my gin loving friend along to try it out. And I am really glad I did.

The gin festival was all started by Marie and Jym, a husband and wife team, in 2012, because they love gin and thought other people would enjoy a gin festival too. It turns out they were quite right. The Cardiff gin festival was absolutely alive with people and was actually sold out before the night.

Drinks

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the evening other than, well, gin. But what we were presented with was a menu of sorts with very many different types of gin to choose from, a rather large glass and basically two of the four walls in the big hall, completely covered in bottles, with knowledgeable and friendly bar people ready to help. Before we had really began we found ourselves being educated in the different types of tonic available and which types of gin go with which tonic. I will admit I was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights but the staff were very helpful and chatty.

I tried a few different types of gin and warmed to them all really. We were also lucky enough to try the Cardiff Gin that had only been unveiled that week, it is made locally and very special and is-

“A NEW STYLE OF GIN CHOSEN BY THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH WALES. RICH HERBAL NOTES OF ROSEMARY, FENNEL, SORREL AND LIQUORICE, TOGETHER WITH CITRUS NOTES FROM THE LEMONGRASS AND VERBENA”

EccentricWe listened to the talk from Eccentric Gin (in what can only be described as the basement) and I found it really interesting, the Eccentric Gin name itself came from an eccentric druid called William Price, who was the man responsible for cremation being legalised. He also lived in Llantrisant where the Eccentric Gin distillery is. As a bit of a gin novice I really enjoyed listening to how the gin is made and the story behind the company. Chandilier

Once the talk had finished we made our way back to the large hall, and I thought that Portland House really was a perfect choice for the event, the chandeliers, high ceilings and white walls really helped the atmosphere, and listening to and watching the string band play made me feel as though I had been transported back in time. ViolinViolin2

There was also food on offer too which even the aroma of made my mouth water. FoodSign

Finally a cocktail was in order and the little cocktail bar was a lovely environment, with fairy lights twinkling and soft fabric draped from the ceiling, the bar lady was speedy and friendly and the cocktail was delicious! Menu

Who knew gin could be so much fun? And who knew there were so many types? I now know why so many people are fans, I had a lovely evening and my friend agreed it was one of the better nights out she’s had. To top it off we found ourselves in a little bar down the road listening to some more music and finishing the night off with one for the road (Rest assured neither of us were driving that night though). Pub

Thank you to the Gin Festival for your hospitality and for a wonderful introduction to the world of Gin. I’m now a fan. Glass

If you’d like to find out more, or would like to find out if there is a Gin Festival near you, click here- Gin Festival

*We were guests of the Gin Festival for this event, alcohol however was purchased and all opinions my own.

Ministry of Science Live

This week we were invited along to the Riverfront theatre to watch the explosive Ministry of Science show, I have mentioned before that one of my little girls is very keen to learn everything about science, and even picked up her science book to take along with her, and once we had finally arrived on the right day (yes I turned up a day early, yes I felt stupid, no nobody was surprised, sigh) this is what we thought of the show.

I wasn’t really surprised that the theatre was pretty much packed out when we arrived, and those seats occupied, were full of children, just waiting for the explosions they had been promised. It really wasn’t long before the first explosion of the show and it made me jump out of my seat! My girls were delighted and there were many excited children bouncing around afterwards.

As the scientists talked about methane gases and cow poo my eldest was flicking to the right pages of her book, from information about the different types of energy to the periodic table, she is a big fan of science so was in her element recognising the things that she already knew and absorbing the new information like a sponge.

Flowers

The exciting voice over from Peter Dickson (that one from the X Factor) added drama to proceedings too, and the great scientists in history scene explaining why they were famous was pretty special I thought. Especially as they included amazing women such as Ava Lovelace and Marie Curie.

BalloonAs the experiments and explosions continued and we all learnt something new the entertainment kept on coming, I’ve always said that children learn best when they are having fun and this wonderful show proved that. Even my youngest, who I thought might be a bit young to fully enjoy it all, sat still and was clapping and cheering with the rest of them.

From cannons made from fire extinguishers, to flowers frozen with liquid nitrogen the whole show was brilliant from start to finish, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the two scientists Mike and Vicky were very enthusiastic about everything they shared, getting members of the audience involved and even pulling one lucky girl around on a hovercraft made out of household items and a leaf blower.

I think it’s safe to say that this was one of the better shows we’ve seen to date and there wasn’t a dull moment, I was impressed and I know my children enjoyed every second of it. The quality of the set, performance and content was excellent and I would definitely recommend the Ministry of Science Live show to anyone.
The show is still running around the country until the end of November, click here to find out more- Ministry of Science Live

(Apologies for poor quality photos, I only had my phone with me this time).

*We were given tickets for the purpose of review, all opinions my own

Tredegar House Review

Family days together are precious, and it’s nice to spend time with the husband and girls sometimes without distractions, so during Cadw’s recent open doors event we decided to visit Tredegar House.

My girls were very excited about being ‘allowed’ to go inside the house, because even though they have walked through the grounds many times on family walks or helping their Nanny walk her dogs, they hadn’t actually been inside before.

We arrived quite early in the day and after we had chatted to the lovely staff on arrival we walked around the first small garden, which was home to some lovely exotic looking plants and flowers, and even though the leaves had started to fall and Autumn was creeping in, I managed to take a few snaps of the blooms. The girls and husband spent time as well finding as many apples as possible on the ground, they ended up left behind but it was a nice autumnal activity!

Pink

Once we’d finished wandering around the gardens, and it had started to rain, it seemed like the ideal time to venture inside the house. I have been inside Tredegar house before however that was years ago and before the National Trust took it over, and I have to say I was instantly impressed at how well everything was presented. It’s all in the detail and the effort to make everything seem as it would be hundreds of years ago, there was even a huge banquet laid out in the main hall.

Chairs

All through the house children have been considered too, there are simple but educational information boards for them to read, which my eldest daughter really enjoyed reading aloud, a dressing up box with old fashioned dresses and costumes, an old light puppet box and lovely little wooden board games. I think we spent a good half hour just in the entertainment room alone, and It did make me think “who needs iPads?!”.

I really enjoyed looking at all the old paintings on the walls and the wall paper that was found behind a cupboard and preserved for many years. It was also very interesting to hear the story of the lady of the house that once decided she didn’t like her husband, and the various ways in which she tried to kill him off, even though ultimately she was unsuccessful. That was one of the great things about the house, the staff waiting to answer questions and interact with the visitors. My youngest asked a fair amount of questions one of them was what a an ink well was, I was surprised I hadn’t explained this to them before. It took me back to the time I was a child and I visited St Fagans with my school, we had to dress up as Victorian children and use real ink wells!

PhotoPots

My favourite part of Tredegar House had to be the kitchen though. I’m always fascinated by the servant’s areas when visiting places like this, I loved the wall of bells and the many pots and pans. The day we went there were ladies in costume making traditional welsh cakes as well, which my family were more than happy to try of course, I can confirm they were lovely. There were plenty of other families visiting the house that day as well, but even though it was really busy everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves too and it wasn’t too cramped anywhere.

Pots2Lady1Bells

The last area we visited in the basement had a little stall with lavender bags and other sewn items, we were able to fill our own lavender bags to take home and they are proudly handing on our beds at home.

After we had finished exploring the house it was time to go on a little adventure around the lake, it was quite mild once the rain had stopped and it was lovely to wander through finding leaves and taking some more pictures (of course). There are so many lovely trees to walk beneath and even some old stumps being carved currently. I noticed plenty of wildlife and even some dragon flies darting around, which is always a sight that fascinates me.

CarveTreesSpiderBush

As days out go we thoroughly enjoyed our day out at Tredegar House and will definitely be visiting again this winter. There are plenty of activities going on over the next few months with Halloween next.

LadiesB&W

I have to congratulate the National Trust on the work that has been done so far to Tredegar House since taking it on, I was impressed and we had a wonderful family day together.

None of Your Business

We’ve all seen the news stories about mothers being told to move away from wherever they happen to be breastfeeding their babies, and I am sure we’ll see them again, but these stories always surprise me, and I want to clear something up about breastfeeding….

It’s none of your business. I mean this in the nicest possible way because it’s also none of my business. It’s none of your business how a woman decides to feed her baby to start with. It’s none of your business if that is in public. It’s none of your business if that child is being fed at home, cafe, the park, the moon… As long as he or she is actually being fed, it is just none of your business. If you happen to run a business, own a business or work for a business this also includes you, it is none of your business.

A mother feeding her child is doing just that, trust me I’ve been there. There’s hardly enough time to realise where you are sitting, who is around you and what they may be thinking, because breastfeeding is not always easy. For a lot of people, it can be really tough.

Some companies have been under the spotlight in recent years for not ‘allowing’ mothers to breastfeed. Most, if not all of them, reply to complaints with “we welcome breastfeeding”, “we allow breastfeeding”, “we have a breastfeeding friendly policy”, and so on.

But they are missing the point completely, it is actually against the law to stop a mother breastfeeding her child. It states this in the equality act 2010, so it isn’t in their gift to allow or disallow in the first place. Policies welcoming, not welcoming, allowing, not allowing, for or against breastfeeding, it is all irrelevant.

Let’s stop looking for companies to ‘allow’ breastfeeding. That’s like saying ‘we promise to pay our staff wages for the time they have worked’ or ‘we won’t discriminate against people for their race, religion, sexuality and so on.’ It is the law, not a business decision.

Here’s a policy for you. “It is none of our business where a mother feeds her child and how, but what is our business is to train our staff to abide by the law. So we have.”

So Mothers be confident in the knowledge that you can feed your babies pretty much anywhere, as long as it is safe to do so, be happy in the knowledge that if someone approaches you to question it they are in the wrong, and actually breaking the law, and be proud of yourself for doing a wonderful thing for your beautiful baby.

And everyone else… Be safe in the knowledge that this is one less thing for you to worry about because, well, it’s none of your business…

For more information visit the Maternity Action website here- Maternity Action

Newbridge On Usk Event

Last month I was invited to a foodie event at the Celtic manor’s Newbridge on Usk, I was really excited as I had heard great things about the place but never visited. It was a little bit funny that I should be invited since I am a terrible cook, but I do love food and learning new things so here is how it went.

It all began with me getting lost and turning up late, as always, even so I was warmly greeted by the staff at the Newbridge on Usk who handed me a glass of champagne. There were some lovely nibbles on offer too.

The other bloggers at the event had already been shown around the garden where the Newbridge on Usk team actually grow many of their own fruit and vegetables, you can’t get much more local or fresher than that! We were then shown into the room where we were to receive the ‘garden to plate’ demonstration from the head chef Adam.

Chef

Adam got stuck straight into the whisking up of some meringues and I was mesmerised to see how easy he made it all look, even I could make these I thought. To my surprise there is actually more than one type of meringue and one can be made with a blow torch, this was all new to me and fascinating to watch. Once Adam had finished the strawberry soup and added the cucumber flower to his creation we were then able to try it out and I have to say I was really surprised, I knew it would taste nice but I had no idea how a dish that looks so simple to make could be so delicious. I have to say I’ve yet to see a group of bloggers so quite, watching the masterpiece being created left us all a bit lost for words. I did however ask if this was a recipe children could get involved with and he sad yes, provided they aren’t allowed anywhere near that incredibly hot glucose and sugar mixture.

Cook

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Next Duncan the Newbridge on Usk manager gave us a little talk on the alcohols and mixtures that are available, again I was surprised to hear that they are able to pick herbs and fruit such as mint and raspberry from their garden and mix with the alcohols such as rum or vodka to make their own special blends, these are also sourced locally wherever possible. Of course the alcohol is a preservative and if the mixtures last longer than a week (apparently not often) they will keep perfectly well. Whilst Duncan explained the mixtures and alcohols are locally sourced where possible we were treated to some snacks, including little shot glasses of pea soup, and it was gorgeous.

Drinks3

Finally we were treated to an energetic demonstration from the entertaining bar man, who talked about muddles and slapping mint and all sorts of random things that resulted in some pretty fantastic cocktails. We all got to have a go at recreating the ones we liked best, I chose the mojito, and discovered it doesn’t need shaking with the shaker (duh!). Leanne from A Slice of my life, Wales was alongside me doing her thing with her choice too, then Kacie and her friend from The Rare Welsh Bit had their turn and finally Ed from Explore With Ed made his cocktail and I think we all had fun having a go. Again it was made to look easy but it really wasn’t!

Group

So as the evening came to an end we had all been fed, watered and entertained and were happy with our little goodie bags which contained a little loaf of bread, little tasters of alcohol and a discount code, which I have used since on a lovely piece of steak one evening with a friend. We were impressed and I will certainly be going back again.

Thanks again to everyone at the Newbridge on Usk, it was a wonderful evening and it was lovely to meet some other Welsh bloggers in the process!

*I was invited along as a guest of the Newbridge on Usk for this event, however opinions as always are my own.

My Sunday Photo

I won’t always join in with #mysundayphoto but when I do it will probably be a flower, insect or something nature related!

I have recently been wondering why I am drawn to flowers or nature when looking for a photography subject, and I guess it’s because there is always something new to find, and it’s easy to find something beautiful.

Today we had a lovely day out as a family, first we went out for breakfast, which is a rare treat, and then we took advantage of the National trust open doors weekend and visited Tredegar house and grounds (for free!) there were a lot of interesting things to see and I’m so glad we went.

Here is one of the shots I took in the grounds there, what to you think? Do you enjoy pretty flowers too?

MyPhotoSchool Review

As I have pointed out in recent months I’ve been working hard to improve my photography and learn as much as I possibly can, so I was very keen to try out ‘MyPhotoSchool’ when asked. I have been looking around for part time photography courses to fit around working, blogging and parenting, and have been unsuccessful so this really seemed like a great alternative.

MyPhotoSchool offer a range of courses from basic ‘introductions’ to photography to a foundation course and fine art subjects. There are a large range of subjects, and most of them for less than £150 which is good value I think. I chose to review the Macro photography course with Heather Angel and couldn’t wait to get started.

I had been playing with macro a little beforehand, and watched the first video with interest. Heather explained everything in the video in great detail but not in such a way that meant I could get confused, I don’t consider myself an expert when it comes to photography but everything Heather made sense. Once I had learnt about ‘A Seeing Eye’, which covered the basics of equipment and how to assess the potential shot, we were asked to take two macro shots at two magnifications and composing them in different ways. I tried to take some close up shots of the pollen stem of a lily but ended up frustrated as I couldn’t get the shot right, I did however manage to spot a little mosquito and snapped that instead, I also spent some time in the garden taking some other shots and ended up forgetting the original assignment. However I did upload the images I caught and awaited Heather’s feedback.

Your second shot of a mosquito is the star of the quartet. It is not an easy subject to photograph, yet you capture the spirit of this lively insect well with the narrow depth of field, making it pop even more from the background. You could try cropping it to a letterbox shape because neither the top nor the bottom of the frame, add anything to the composition.

I was really pleased with the feedback Heather gave and she made some excellent points about the settings I chose such as my F stop being slightly off as my depth of field was very shallow. I really appreciated the constructive criticism and even now some of the comments Heather made stick with me when I am lining up a macro shot. Clearly I learnt a lot.

The following lessons covered light and how to use a diffuser, and this was really interesting, I had a lot of fun playing with bouncing light around and working out how to get the best light on the subject. I even tried my iPhone torch at one point, but that wasn’t very effective, except to light a little spider, but I didn’t upload that one to the course.

Towards the end of the course we were given some direction on taking shots through water droplets and other techniques plus information about some different useful tools that can be used. By this point I had slowed down with uploading as life got in the way again, however I had taken the lessons from the videos and used them in my day to day ‘playing’ with my camera.

I really learnt a lot from the lessons in the MyPhotoSchool classroom and I really liked the fact that other people taking the course were able to comment on the images being uploaded and we could learn from each other. It was really nice to have individual feedback from Heather as well, and she is clearly very knowledgeable. The site was also very easy to navigate so I would certainly consider taking other MyPhotoSchool courses and would recommend them to anyone looking for guidance from a skilled photographer.

Here are a few macro shots I have taken since taking the course-

I was provided with the course mentioned for the purpose of review.

K’NEX Mighty Makers

Recently my eldest daughter has been very interested in everything science related, from our own little science experiments to astronomy and all the wonderful things she is learning about in school. I think it’s really important that children learn as much STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) as possible. So when we were asked by K’NEX to review the new Mighty Makers range I thought it would be great for my girls to try out.

The Mighty Makers range is essentially K’NEX aimed at inspiring girls, and by that I don’t mean it’s covered in pink glitter in the usual way things are aimed at girls, but in a nice, subtle and positive way in my opinion.

My girls were so excited for their Mighty Makers to arrive, my youngest had decided on the Deep Sea Dive set and her older sister chose the Inventors Clubhouse set. When they arrived and I had to collect them from the lovely neighbour that had taken them in for us, there were many shouts of joy and jumping around.

Even though it was a weekday evening we opened up the boxes and I set the girls on their way, I explained that the best way to start was to lay everything out on the floor in lines to make sure they could see which pieces they had, this took them a good half hour and then we were ready to get making.  My eldest, who is only just over the recommended age herself, needed very little help and focussed on her club house model and motor car (which actually moves!) for a good few days, only taking a break for food, dance classes and sleeping. It was fascinating to watch and I was pleasantly surprised at her persistence even when some parts “just won’t fit!

As our weekend progressed our living room floor became the work space and the whole family became involved at some point, my youngest daughter did need a little help with her Deep Sea Dive set, however she really grasped the idea of reading the instructions and following them, she seemed to learn an awful lot from working on her K’NEX.  Once both sets were finished we had a deep sea diver and her boat, plus the sea beneath, including marine life and the option to turn the girl, Marrisa, into a mermaid. Also a marine life food chain option or a mermaid castle. That’s the beauty of K’NEX I guess, you can make so many different things.

The Inventors Clubhouse was a really great set, once my eldest girl had completed it I was impressed with all the details, there was a pulley mechanism in one area to pull the lift up, and a zip wire that the girls, Audrey and Emily, can ride on. The idea behind the inventors club house is that the girls are the inventors and once you’ve made the car and club house you can then create their inventions, such as an egg beater, I thought that was an excellent idea.

K’NEX have always been something I have liked the look of, and have considered buying some for my girls before, but I am definitely adding more of these sets to my Christmas list for them now. I would recommend them as well. The quality of the pieces were great and are really good value for money in my opinion, they kept us all entertained for hours. The Mighty Makers sets also have other educational elements and I love teaching my girls at home, so opening up a conversation about marine biology and inventing was lovely for us.

We were sent these sets for the purpose of review