Rudolf at Midlands Arts Centre, Festive Family Fun


We were recently invited to review Rudolf at Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, this years’ festive family offering. Mini was excited and decided to dress up in her very own Rudolf outfit for the performance. Baby Mack had arrived the previous week, so at just 9 days old he was attending his very first theatre performance. I’m not sure that he was overly impressed though as he slept through the entire show.


Rudolf is a co-production between Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) and Pins & Needles. The story focuses on Rudi (Hannah Bristow) who arrives at the safari park with a crash in the middle of the night. The only problem is that he doesn’t know who he is or where he has come from.

Rudi embarks on an adventure to try to work out what animal he is and where he belongs. He wishes he could be as graceful as the flamenco flamingos or as cunning and sly as snake. However, he soon comes to the very sad realisation that there aren’t any animals like him at the safari park and feels very lost and alone.

Thankfully he makes friends with a kind snowy owl, Baggie (Lakesha Cammock) who thinks that she has a clue as to who Rudi really is and how to help him get home again.


The performance of Rudolf was the perfect way to kick start our festive season. The story was heart warming and funny for all ages. The set designed was simple yet extremely effective, we particularly loved the way that the snow scene was put together at the end. Even though there were only 4 actors, they seamlessly transitioned into different characters making it feel there was a much bigger cast involved.

I love the size of the theatre at MAC, it has a lovely cosy and intimate feeling and you get great views wherever you sit.

There are performances of Rudolf running at 10.30am, 1.30pm and 6.00pm so hopefully there is a time to suit all audiences, with running time being 60 minutes. Those attending the 6pm showing are invited to come dressed in their pyjamas, so they are ready for bed when they arrive home.

Rudolf runs at Midlands Arts Centre until 31st December 2018. Full ticket information can be found here.

You can also find out about my other top recommendations for family festive shows around Birmingham here in my round up post.


Disclaimer: We were invited to review the performance of Rudolf. All views and opinions are our own.

Little Brian Paint Sticks

Little Brian Paint Sticks Review: Mess Free Play!

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Little Brian Paint Sticks Review

We were recently kindly sent a package of Little Brian Paint Sticks to review. Mini, like lots of 6 year olds, loves drawing and painting pictures. She often comes home from school with anything up to 6 pictures she has done for us that day. She couldn’t wait to get stuck in and try out the paint sticks.

Little Brian Paint Sticks look like glue sticks, you twist them to reveal the colour. They claim to be a fun, easy and most importantly MESS FREE way for little ones to paint. This was certainly a claim I was looking forward to putting to the test.

Little Brian Paint Sticks

Mini got to work straight away. She had recently been enjoying planting indoor flowers, sparked by how much she enjoyed making a Unicorn Garden. She decided that she wanted to make a poster to put in her bedroom about her latest flower garden creation.

Mini was easily able to use the paint sticks herself, twisting them up when needed. The colours easily glided onto the paper and dried really quickly. As Mini is left handed, she can sometimes get into a mess when doing pictures as she smudges her work with her hand. I can honestly say I was extremely impressed by how quickly these paint sticks dried. They really were mess free and there was no smudging at all.

Little Brian Paint Sticks

Mini was really proud of her finished poster, I think she did a great job too. She made sure that she used all of the different colours she had. She said she found the paint sticks easy to use and they kept her occupied (and quiet) for quite some time!

The paint sticks are really versatile too, they come with an ideas sheet inside the box with more techniques to try. These include, blending the colours, adding water to create  watercolour effects and using them on stampers. They can also be used to create a really clever scraperboard effect. This is achieved by painting colours onto paper and when dried you apply the black paint stick over the top. You can then use a scraper tool to reveal the colours underneath. Mini hasn’t tried out these extra techniques yet but is looking forward to doing so soon.

Little Brian Paint Sticks

Little Brian Paint Sticks come in lots of different sizes and shapes. We reviewed a pack of 12 normal sized sticks, as well as a pack of 24 mini sized sticks. The mini sticks came with 12 classic colours, 6 fluorescent colours and 6 metallic colours. Mini particularly loved using the fluorescent colours and the metallic colours.

Our thoughts on Little Brian Paint Sticks

Both Mini and I were really impressed with the paint sticks. They were easy to use and truly were mess free. I’d be happy with her playing with them without being supervised knowing she isn’t going to get into lots of mess. When she had finished her picture, they were packed away in seconds and no need for any washing up.

Little Brian Paint Sticks

We’ve used other metallic paints before that haven’t been very good quality, these had a great shine to them. I must say that all of the colours of the paint sticks were strong, bright and clear.

We would use the paint sticks to take away with us on a trip or to a restaurant as something for Mini to do. There are plenty in the pack too so that they can be shared with other children easily.

Little Brian Paint Sticks

I think that the paint sticks are great value for money and reasonably priced, starting at around £6 for the smaller packs. They would make great gift ideas for birthdays or stocking fillers for Christmas presents too.

The paint sticks are widely available in most toy stores and online retailers such as Amazon as below.

Disclaimer: We were sent the Little Brian Paint Sticks for the purpose of a review. All views and opinions are our own.

Big Fish Little Fish

Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave Review

Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave Review

Imagine the scene, DJ playing massive dance tracks, people dancing, bright lights flashing across the dancefloor. You must be in a nightclub. Correct, but this is no ordinary night out. In fact its the middle of the afternoon. The dancefloor is filled with babies and little ones throwing shapes and there are chill out rooms with play-doh and colouring walls. Welcome to Big Fish Little Fish!

Big Fish Little Fish invited us to their Halloween themed family rave recently in Birmingham. Mini and I persuaded a reluctant Mr Mack to join in with the fancy dress theme, although entirely optional. We headed off to a nightclub in central Birmingham at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. Being 38 weeks pregnant, I was hoping that some dancing would encourage baby to move downwards.

Upon arrival, Mr Mack was relieved to see lots of other people in fancy dress. In fact there were some seriously impressive costumes about. Mini decided to head straight towards the craft table. She got stuck straight in decorating a Halloween mask with feathers, stickers and plenty of glitter!

Next we headed towards the first of two dancefloors. The music played was dance, drum and base. It wasn’t too loud, however if your little ones are sensitive to loud music you may want to take some ear defenders along. There were bubble machines blowing out across the dancefloor, as well as giant inflatable balloons being passed around.

After dancing Mini decided she needed to restock up her energy levels and quickly spotted the cake table. I must admit the selection of homemade goodies looked very tempting. Mini opted for a Halloween cupcake and I went for a slice of rocky road, which was super chocolatey. Mr Mack also headed to the bar for some drinks, which served a full range of alcoholic and soft drinks.

Big Fish Little Fish

We decided to head upstairs to explore the rest of the club. Mini headed to the chill out zone, where she found the play-doh table. She also decided to go on a mission to find as many glowsticks as possible. Every child is given one upon entry however, she wanted to scout out any dropped ones to make a super long glow train!

Upstairs we also found the second dancefloor, which wasn’t as crowded as the main one. There was also another bar and a colouring wall. It was quite busy when we got there though so Mini decided not to wait and opted to carry on dancing.

We headed back downstairs to the main dancefloor to watch the hula hoop performer on stage. I loved her light up hula hoop and there were plenty of babies transfixed by the shapes she was making. Mini spotted that there were free tattoos available and quickly darted into the queue, opting for a Frankenstein. Face painting was also available at an additional cost.

At all events the venue is split into different areas to explore. There is always a main dance floor area, which is likely to be the loudest and busiest area. However there are also smaller chill out areas for those that need a bit of quieter space.

Children and families of all ages are included at Big Fish Little Fish events. However, adult only groups are not permitted. Babies even have their own section of the club kitted out with soft play mats and tents.

Big Fish Little Fish family raves are definitely a different afternoon out. There is lots going on to get involved in and you could tell from the smiley faces that everyone was having a great time. The events last between 2-2.5 hours however you are welcome to come and go as you wish during the opening times.

For details of the upcoming Christmas event check out my round up post of top family days out for Christmas 2018 in Birmingham.

For more information about upcoming Big Fish Little Fish events near to you visit their website.

Disclaimer: We were invited to attend the Big Fish Little Fish Rave. All opinions and views are entirely our own.

third trimester

Team Mack is Expanding: Pregnancy Diaries The Third Trimester

The Third Trimester Update

Thank you for stopping by to read my latest pregnancy update. I’m so relieved and excited to have reached the Third Trimester. Again time has flown so quickly since my last update. I’m pleased that I seem to have a bit more energy in the Third Trimester, which is handy as we’ve continued to be so busy again.

Week 29

We decided to make the most of the last week of the school holidays with a family day out this week. We visited Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire, and enjoyed a delicious Higgidy Picnic. I am determined to keep as active as possible during pregnancy however, may have overdone it a little.

We explored the fairy trail around the grounds of the estate. Even though I took the walk at a gentle pace, I didn’t realise we’d walked over 6km that day. As the evening went on my hips became more and more painful and I was struggling to walk. Thankfully a hot bath and a good nights sleep helped and I was fine the next day.

third trimester

Week 30

We headed to London this weekend to celebrate my Niece’s 5th Birthday. I popped to the shops in Kingston Upon Thames and stumbled upon Newbie. They had the most adorable baby clothes. They were so soft and I just couldn’t resist getting baby some items. It felt really special to hang them in his wardrobe now that his nursery is all finished.

Mr Mack and I have had a few differences of opinion over a pushchair for the new baby. We had kept Mini’s and it is in good condition. However, I just really fancied buying a new one. Being practical about it, it wasn’t an expense that we needed to make but managed to come to a good compromise. The carrycot Mini had was pink although the main pushchair was black. I bought a new grey carrycot and a new cosy grey footmuff. I spent around £100 and it really does look like brand new again, especially after a good clean.

Week 31

Mr Mack was away in the week with work on a training course. I found it tiring not having him around to help out with Mini. He’s normally the one out of bed early in the morning so there were a few mornings we were nearly late for the school run!

I had a midwife check up this week too. Again I didn’t really feel that I benefitted much from the appointment. They feel very much tick boxes to me and I haven’t really built up rapport with any of the midwives that I’ve seen yet.

I also had a tour of the hospital and maternity unit this week. We will be having this baby at a different hospital to where we had Mini. So I found it really useful to get used to the unit as it is a very different set up to the previous hospital. I liked that the midwife let unit and delivery suite are in the same unit. It gave me comfort knowing that everything was so close and even if we needed to have baby on the delivery suite, we can still borrow some birthing equipment form the midwife unit. The tour made the pregnancy feel very real for me and I started to get really excited about meeting baby.

Week 32

We had a weekend away in the Forest of Dean using my parents motorhome. It was a lovely relaxed weekend away. We enjoyed swimming and visiting some of the local attractions.


This week we also saw our new Consultant. He seemed to be much more forward thinking and agreed for us to plan to have baby on the midwife led unit. Having had a previous caesarean the previous Consultant told us this wasn’t an option. I was so pleased that we’ve been given this option and he also supported me having a water birth. He’s written this plan up in my notes so I just need baby to play along and come on time now!

The Consultant was also happy for us to book onto the active birth class and have a more detailed visit to the midwife unit.

Week 33

This week was all about birth preparation, a typical feature of the third trimester. I bought some perineum massage oil as I’d read that massage from 35 weeks can reduce the chances of needing an episiotomy. No idea if it will work but worth a try.

I also bought items for my hospital bag such as maternity pads, big knickers and some new born clothes for baby. I was also impressed to find some washable breast pads in Boots. I’d not seen these previously and liked the environmentally friendly aspect.

We also decided to enrol on a hypnobirthing course. It’s something I’d been considering for a while and came across a digital pack from The Positive Birth Company. It was only £35 and seemed to have lots of great reviews so thought it was worth a go. You get access to around 60 short videos that you can work through at your own pace. There are also MP3s to download, as well as full course notes and a template birth plan. We watched the introductory videos together this week and are looking forward to working through the full course.

I was also surprised with a wonderful baby shower this week. Mr Mack and my two best friends had done an amazing job of organising an afternoon tea. There was so much delicious cake to eat and it was such a lovely relaxed afternoon to spend with all my special girl friends.

third trimester

Week 34

A very important week in the Mack household as Mini turns 6. She had a lovely party with her friends and we went out for dessert after school. She knows that now her birthday has passed it’s not long until baby will arrive.

third trimester

We’ve been continuing with the hypnobirthing course. I’ve really enjoyed listening to positive affirmations before bed. I’ve also been reading lots of positive birth stories. The course highlights that a lot of our perceptions of birth are based on TV shows and negative portrayals of birth. The course aims to help you feel positive and calm about the experience and not to expect it be horrid and painful.

I had an episode of flashing lights in my eyes this week at work. Luckily I’m surrounded by Paramedics who kindly checked me out. They agreed my blood pressure was high but were happy to monitor me and to be checked over by my midwife the next day. When I saw her I told her what had happened and that I was worried as I’d had pre-eclampsia with Mini and high blood pressure and flashing lights are two key symptoms. I was so shocked when after this, she told me that she didn’t have time to check my urine sample to check for protein as she was already behind with appointments. I felt so let down and should have been more firm with her but just couldn’t believe she was refusing to do the test.

Week 35

This week I decided it was time to pack my hospital bags. I asked Mini to help me and she enjoyed picking baby’s first outfits. I’ve used the helpful hospital checklist that came as part of the hypnobirthing course. It helped me to have a list to work from and tick off, then added some of my own items too.

We attended an antenatal course that was being run at our local children’s centre. As we had a previous caesarean, we were hoping to brush up our knowledge about natural birth. We both found the course very basic and agreed it wasn’t very useful so decided not to go to the rest of the sessions.

The one useful thing we learnt from the course was baby boxes. These are free to all parents-to-be from The Baby Box Co. You have to sign up and watch a short video and can then collect a box from your local pick up centre. The idea is to provide a safe sleeping environment for baby and can be used downstairs for example if you wanted to leave the Moses basket upstairs. The box came with mattress, mattress cover and a full pack of nappies and wet wipes.

Week 36

This week we escaped overnight for a little babymoon break to the Cotswolds. It was lovely to have some special time together before our family life is about to get a lot more chaotic. I had the most relaxing pregnancy massage and loved chilling out in the relaxation area with my book.

third trimeter

It was also baby loss awareness week, which also coincided with the first anniversary of our miscarriage. I’d underestimated how much this week would effect me and the emotions that it brought back from our experience last year. I felt very fortunate and appreciative that we have a baby on the way. I also spent lots of time this week thinking of those that may not be as lucky.

I’d been worried about reduced movements this week. Maybe it was the worry of thinking about the miscarriage that had really panicked me a little. Thankfully after a short trip to triage, baby was monitored and he soon starting kicking away. Since then I’d had plenty of Braxton Hicks so baby is definitely making his presence known.

Thanks for reading my third trimester update. I really can’t believe that I’m nearly at the end of my pregnancy and that my next update will cover the final few weeks.


Visiting Puzzlewood, Magical Woodland in The Forest of Dean

Puzzlewood claims to be “a magical woodland in the Forest of Dean.” As we were staying in the area for the weekend we thought we’d head over to check out the magical claims for ourselves.

We were staying in The Forest of Dean, at Whitemead Forest Holiday Park using Nanny and Grandad’s motorhome. Our annual insurance, that we got on the motorhome, for our trip to Blackpool last year, was about to run out so we thought we’d best make the use of it. Also, being realistic it was probably the last time that we will make use of it for a while as it’s not going to be very practical with a new born on the way.

Puzzlewood was only a 10 minute drive from our holiday park. Being 32 weeks pregnant I’d planned a relatively chilled weekend for us. I was hoping to spend some quality time together before our family expanded. It was also a great opportunity to get out into the fresh Autumn air and explore the nature of the area.

As we entered into Puzzlewood it was instantaneous agreement among Team Mack that it looked magical. Ahead we could see paths forking off in different directions, some high and some low. The trees towering above us had spread their roots far and wide, twisting out onto the paths. Mini said that she thought there was a witch living in the forest. I preferred the nicer options of woodland fairies.

The forest was created over thousands of years, as natural erosion occurred and exposed iron ore that is common in the area. The various trees like the iron ore and their roots grow around it, creating the magical root formations.

Before we went into the forest, Mr Mack downloaded the free Puzzlewood App on his phone. We then had to try to find 10 coins hidden within the forest. When they were found you could capture them using the app and add to your bag of treasure. We had a good explore of the different paths however only managed to find 6 of the coins. There’s no map as such of Puzzlewood so you just get to go wander and explore. Who knows, perhaps we walked around the same part over and over in a loop.


Puzzlewood has been featured in lots of film and tv productions over the years and it’s easy to see why. Productions such as Merlin, Tree Fu Tom and Doctor Who have all taken advantage of the breath-taking scenery to showcase fantasy worlds. It is also believed that JRR Tolkien used Puzzlewood for inspiration for his Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, after it was known that he had spent time in the area when writing the books.

On site there was also a café and small gift shop. Additionally, Mini enjoyed playing on the adventure playground and saying hello to the goats and ponies. Just before the entrance to the Puzzlewood, we also came across a barn with a good selection of ride on toys for little ones and an indoor maze.

We all enjoyed our visit to Puzzlewood, it was a really special place to admire the beauty of nature. It was also lovely to just get out into the fresh air and explore, it also helped to work off our roast dinner too! I would definitely recommend a visit to Puzzlewood and would love to visit again in the future, and maybe we’ll get to find the missing 4 gold coins.

Due to the narrow and winding paths at Puzzlewood pushchairs are not allowed, it also wouldn’t be suitable for those with limited mobility.


For up to date opening times and ticket prices, please visit the Puzzlewood website here.

During our weekend away we also visited Perrygrove Steam Railway, which happened to be just over the road from Puzzlewood. If you have a day to spend in the area why not fit in a visit to both on the same day.