6 Family Shows to see near Birmingham for Christmas 2018

I love Christmas, all the build up, sparkle and delicious food. Christmas is also an opportunity for great family time together. Team Mack love going to the theatre and watching lots of different family shows. A family show at Christmas time definitely helps me to get into the festive spirit.

I’ve written a round up of family shows around the Birmingham area for the upcoming Christmas period. There are some traditional Christmas shows included and others that you may not have heard of before.

Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave – Jingle Bells Ball

big fish little fish

If you’re looking for something totally different from the normal family shows at Christmas time, look no further than Big Fish Little Fish (BFLF). BFLF run family rave events across the country.

The events are aimed at families with children 0-8 years old and are jam packed with things to do. DJ Phil Gifford will send tunes across the multisensory dancefloor complete with glitter cannons, bubbles and parachute dance. The event has craft tables, play doh areas and giant colouring murals, long with soft mats and ball pools for tiny ones. If that wasn’t enough there are also free glowsticks and transfers on offer. Optional “Merry Christmas” fancy dress theme.

The Big Fish Little Fish Jingle Bells Ball is on Sunday 9th December in Birmingham. For full information and to book tickets please click here.

Peter Pan – Birmingham Hippodrome

Peter Pan

Peter Pan is the annual pantomime offering from Birmingham Hippodrome. You can’t beat a traditional pantomime as a great family show for the festive season. This year’s offering is set to dazzle and amaze the audience, with an all star cast including Jimmy Osmond, Meera Syal, Matt Slack and Jami Hensley.

The performance promises amazing flying effects, barrels of laughter, magic and fairy dust. Get ready for audience participation aplenty and lots of “he’s behind yous!”

Peter Pan is recommended for children aged 5 and over, under 3′ will not be permitted. The show runs from Wednesday 19th December until Sunday 27th January. I love that pantomimes often run until January. It can be good to have some sparkle to look forward to after the excitement of the main festive period has died down.

For full information about Peter Pan and to book tickets click here.

Rudolf – Midlands Arts Centre

Rudolf

Rudolf promises to be a festive family treat, full of puppetry, songs, laughter and lots of fun. The performance is a Pins and Needles Production, from the award winning team that put on Raymond Briggs’ “Father Christmas” show last year.

Rudolf runs from Saturday 17th November until Monday 31st December. It would make a great treat in the run up to Christmas or for those days after too. The show is recommended for children aged 4 and over and lasts 60 minutes.

The Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) is a fantastic venue for family shows. We enjoyed a visit to their outdoor theatre in the Summer to see Alice in Wonderland. The theatre isn’t too large so it’s not overwhelming for little ones going to their first performance. The MAC is situated in the grounds of Canon Hill Park. Why not send little ones for a run around the park first to use up energy to help them sit still through the show.

For full information about Rudolf and to book tickets click here.

Cinderella on Ice – Planet Ice, Solihull

cinderella on ice

Earlier this year we were kindly invited for a skating lesson at Planet Ice, Solihull. Mini had a great time getting to grips with the ice. She also learnt how much practice needs to go into being a professional ice skater. She was so excited when I told her that we were coming back at Christmas time to see a very special show of Cinderella performed on the ice. I can’t wait to see the costumes and how they create the sets to use on the ice.

Cinderella on Ice is on at Planet Ice, Solihull on Wednesday 19th December. Check the Planet Ice website for other dates for other venues.

For full information and to book tickets click here.

Pinocchio – The Old Rep Theatre, Birminghamfamily shows

We have already had a sneak preview into the world of Pinocchio. Earlier this year we were invited to the launch event and got to see a few scenes from the show. From our preview, I know that Pinocchio will be a family show full of bright colours, dance and magical scenery to bring the traditional tale to life. The story tells the tale of Pinocchio, a puppet on his special quest to find what it takes to become a real boy.

Pinocchio runs from Saturday 17th November until Sunday 30th December. There will also be a relaxed performance and British sign language performances on certain dates.

For full information and to book tickets click here.

Emily Brown and The Thing – Birmingham Hippodrome

family shows

Another offering from Birmingham Hippodrome, this time performed in The Patrick Centre, their second and more intimate performance space.

Emily Brown and The Thing is a Tall Stories production,  we went to see their version of The Snow Dragon last year and were all mesmerised. I’m sure that this year’s family show will be equally if not more magical for little ones.

The story focuses around Emily Brown and her old great rabbit, Stanley. One evening, they hear a Thing crying outside their window. So they decide to set off on an adventure to the dark and scary wood and beyond to find the Thing’s cuddly, his bedtime milk and his medicine. Will they be able to help him settle off to sleep?

Emily Brown and The Thing is suitable for children aged 3 and above and lasts 55 minutes.

For full information and to book tickets click here.

Wishing you all a very happy festive period from Team Mack

I hope that you’ve found my round up of family shows useful. It will be great to see some of you at some of these performances this year. I’d love to hear of other family shows for the Christmas period that you’re planning on going to too.

Here are also some of the Christmas family shows that we visited last year. Hopefully they will give you lots more great ideas of things to do as a family as many of these are also running this year too.

Warwick Castle at Christmas Time

Meeting the Reindeers at Blithbury Reindeer Lodge

The Snowman Tour

The Snow Dragon at Birmingham Hippodrome

Miracle on 34th Street at The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Disclaimer: We have been invited to attend some of the family shows mentioned above. I have not been required to include them in this post, I just wanted to offer lots of information to local families on what’s on over the festive period.

unicorn garden

Unicorn Garden Review, Creating a Magical Space

This post may contain affiliate links

Mini, like lots of children her age, is a HUGE Unicorn fan. Our house is full of Unicorns, Fairies and Rainbows. Recently we were invited to review the new Unicorn Garden kit. When I gave her the box, there were lots of big smiles and excited jumping around!

unicorn garden

The concept behind the Unicorn Garden is that children are able to create a magical space in their own special garden. Once the seeds are planted, they then have to take care to water the garden and get to watch the grass grow.

We were lucky to have an afternoon of Autumn sunshine and decided to head outdoors to make the Unicorn Garden together. Everything you need for the set up is included in the kit. The only thing we needed to add was the soil.

unicorn garden

unicorn garden

Mini carefully filled up the Unicorn Garden bowl with soil and added some water to make it damp.

unicorn garden

In the box there are lots of accessories to decorate the garden these include;

  • A Wishing Well
  • Arbour
  • Fairy Mushroom
  • Bunting
  • Multi-coloured gravel
  • Fairy Dust
  • Fairy Flowers

The arbour and wishing well needed assembling, which I helped with. The bunting also needed to be made. Mini chose which stickers to use to make her own design pattern. Once all of the accessories were put together Mini had free reign over where to put them in her Unicorn Garden. She particularly liked making the path with the bright coloured gravel.

unicorn garden

She then sprinkled the grass seed over the soil and added a little water. Finally she carefully placed the Mouse, Fairy and of course all important Unicorn into the garden. Children can also add their own decorations or items found from the garden as additional features.

Mini has given her Unicorn Garden pride of place on her window ledge. She has been carefully watering it over the last few days and is eagerly awaiting the grass to grow. According to the instructions, this can take a few weeks, weather depending. Once the grass does grow, it can be trimmed to keep it neat with scissors.


unicorn fairy garden

Mini really enjoyed making her Unicorn Garden. She was able to build most of the garden herself and had fun decorating the space exactly how she wanted it. She took lots of care in how she set up the garden and was proud of her achievements. I’m hoping it will help teach her a little patience with waiting for the grass to grow over the next few weeks.


unicorn garden

The Unicorn Garden retails at around £20, which I think is a fair price. It would also make a perfect gift for a birthday or Christmas present. I also like that the Unicorn Garden can be grown all year round, either outside in the summer but also indoors during cooler months.

Disclaimer: We were sent the Unicorn Garden to review. All views and opinions about the product are entirely our own.

Aluna

Date Night Dining at Aluna, Birmingham

We were recently invited by Aluna, Birmingham to review their new menu. With baby number 2 due in 6 weeks time, we jumped at the chance. We normally try to have a date night once a month and take it in turns to organise. Although, this may have to take a back seat for a while after baby’s arrival.

Aluna is situated within the Mailbox in Birmingham, a hot spot for trendy restaurants and bars. I’d heard of Aluna previously, mostly for their reputation of magical cocktail concoctions, but hadn’t got round to visiting.  Upon arrival we were shown to our table and talked through the menu options. The new menu focuses on Pan Asian flavours, as a lover of Thai food there was lots I wanted to try. The menu was divided into smaller dishes, which were similar to a traditional starter size portion. There were then plates to share; the waitress explained these were designed to share a few between the table. If you didn’t fancy sharing there were also bigger plates options.

There was also a rather extensive cocktail menu on our table. It was hard to focus on picking food or drinks first, particularly when we kept spotting the amazing cocktails being served at tables around us. I’d known that Aluna was famous for adding a spark of theatrical magic to the cocktails and they certainly didn’t disappoint. We saw drinks served in skull tankards that were lit on fire at the table, and an impressive cocktail tree boasting 9 cocktails.

Aluna

After we had finally concentrated on the menu long enough, we ordered our selection and waited excitedly for the order to arrive.

Cocktails

To start off the evening Mr Mack chose a Banoffeerama. It came with a slice of caramelised banana and was deliciously sweet. He is a huge fan of banoffee pie and was impressed how similar it tasted to the classic dessert. Having to stick to the Antidotes (Mocktails) section of the menu, I’d chosen to start with a Thai Smoothie. It came served in a tall glass and was a thick, oozy offering of Mango, Banana and Coconut, some of my favourite flavours. It was delicious and very filling, I could easily have had this instead of a dessert.

For our next round of cocktails, Mr Mack wanted to experience a drink made with the famous Aluna magic, and settled on a Lavalamp. When it arrived, the drink was bubbling and fizzing away and had hidden pomegranate gel balls inside. The flavours were based around orange with a gin base. Mr Mack enjoyed this one too, although found it a bit sour after his first drink was so sweet. I went for a Raspberry Sling, which also came in a tall, elegant drink and was a lot lighter and tangier than my earlier choice.Aluna

Our cocktails were all wonderfully presented and I would love to come back after I’ve had baby to enjoy more of the alcoholic selection and get to work my way through more of the menu.

Starters (Small Dishes)

We opted to go for the Tiger Prawn Cookies and Black Pepper Beef San Choy Bau to share between us. The cookies were served piping hot, a great start, and came with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. They had a wonderful crunch to them and the flavour of prawn, lime and garlic came through together beautifully. I could have definitely kept on eating more of these.

The Beef dish came served in lettuce leaves, similar to a Yuk Sung Dish. The filling was a rich, mix of minced Beef flavoured with Lemongrass and topped with crispy noodles. Not a dish for cutlery, definitely needed to get stuck in with fingers with this one. Again, I could have happily eaten more of these, they were delicious yet fresh too, due to the lettuce casing.

I think the small dishes were my favourite course and there were lots more on the menu I’d happily have tried. For our next visit to Aluna, I’d definitely take more of a relaxed approach to dining and have more of these smaller plates to share rather then stick to a traditional 3 courses option.

Mains (Plates To Share)

For our next course we had chosen to share a Red Scallop Curry and Beef Bulgogi Sirloin. Additionally, we’d opted for sides of Jasmine Rice, Skinny Fries and Steamed Seasonal Vegetables.

The curry was beautifully presented, as was all of our food and drink throughout the evening. It was a wonderfully aromatic Red Thai curry, with just the right kick of heat at the back of the throat. The scallops were soft, well cooked and had soaked up the flavour of the curry really well. The dish went great with the sticky Jasmine Rice to mop up the flavoursome sauce. I also enjoyed dipping the steamed vegetables into the sauce too.

The Steak, was cooked well, medium, as we had asked it. The flavour of the seasoning was great too, with a lovely lime kick. Unfortunately the Steak was served cold, it had been left to rest for far too long before serving.

The Fries were well cooked and deliciously hot and crispy, our vegetables were also cooked well, and came served still with a slight crunch which we both really enjoyed.

Even though the waitress had advised us that we may need a few portions to share between us, there was plenty of food, and we weren’t able to finish everything. Perhaps if we hadn’t have had the starters we would have had more room to share more portions.

Desserts

Having checked out the dessert offering, I had to admit I was a little disappointed. It was clear that Aluna had a great offering of pan Asian cuisine on the menu. However, it felt that the theme hadn’t carried through to the desserts and personally I found the selection a bit boring.

I did choose a Mint Chocolate Pudding and Mr Mack went for a Salted Caramel option. Both desserts were quite similar in style, a thin sponge base with a creamy filling. My dessert had a good mint flavour and I liked the crunchy topping. Mr Mack said his dessert had a good flavour too. There wasn’t anything bad at all about either of our desserts, but there wasn’t anything particularly exciting either.

Aluna

Our Experience Aluna

The décor at Aluna was well themed, with nods to both the scientific and elements of magic and mystical sorcery throughout. Every wall had something different to look at. Aluna has a modern yet also cosy feel to it, with feature lighting throughout.

Our visit to Aluna was on a Saturday night on a payday weekend, so we knew it was going to be busy. That said our service was good and food came within good times. Our waitress was happy to answer any questions about the menu and was really attentive at checking we were ok throughout the evening.

Given how busy it was, it was also very noisy. Aluna is separated into two areas, the bar and the restaurant with a low level separation in between. Whilst this created a good open plan feel, it did mean the noise carried over into the eating area. Aluna would be perfect for having great food and carrying on the evening in the bar area with more drinks. The environment wasn’t the best for a quiet, romantic meal out, but if you were looking for somewhere more lively then Aluna would be perfect.

Both Mr Mack and I enjoyed our evening out, the food choices and offerings were good and the cocktails were definitely impressive. We both agreed that we’d like to return to Aluna. Further, it would be good to bring friends to enjoy the sharing plates and one of those amazing cocktail trees.

For an up to date menu and booking visit the Aluna website here.

Disclaimer: We were invited as guests to Aluna to review their new menu. We were not required to leave a positive review and all opinions and views are entirely our own.

pregnancy diary

Team Mack is Expanding: Pregnancy Diary -Weeks 20-28

It seems like such a long time since my last pregnancy diary entry. On one hand I feel like I’ve been pregnant forever. However, it also feels like my pregnancy is flying by. I’ve been keeping a handwritten pregnancy diary to help me remember what I’ve done each week. It’s been lovely to read back on my notes and reflect back on my journey so far, as I write up this next instalment.

Week 20

This week started off with a delicious treat of Afternoon Tea. We went to The Fish, part of the Farncombe Estate in the Cotswolds. My friends had bought me a voucher for my birthday so was finally getting round to using it. The last time Mr Mack and I visited Farncombe, we stayed at Dormy House and were hiding away after the heartbreak of our miscarriage. Very pleased to stay our visit this time was a much happier affair.

pregnancy diary

We had our 20 week scan at the hospital and were pleased that baby was growing beautifully. It was also confirmed that we were expecting a boy, which confirmed our previous gender scan. Baby wasn’t being particularly co-operative with the scan. This meant it took quite a while of prodding and poking to get all the measurements needed, but glad all was ok in the end.

pregnancy diary

Week 21

This week I bought baby his first outfit, after I couldn’t resist in the Gap sale. We had kept all of Mini’s clothes however needed to start shopping for some outfits for baby boy. It felt surreal buying the two little cardigans knowing they were for our baby at last and not for a gift.

This week the heatwave seemed to hit England. Normally a sun worshipper I’d have welcomed the warmth with open arms. However, I soon found out being pregnant in the heat was not so fun. In an attempt to combat feeling like a hot sticky mess, Mr Mack treated me to some lovely pregnancy goodies. He got me some lovely soothing Burt’s Bees foot and leg cream and a peppermint cooling spray from Boots. I also picked myself up the ‘Cool It Mama’ Spray from The Natural Birthing Company. I really liked the smell of this one and worked a treat on my face and legs. It was good to keep the spray in my bag for work and worked a treat.

pregnancy diary

Week 22

This week was very exciting for me as I felt baby’s first little kicks. After feeling very worried that I hadn’t felt any until now, it was such a huge relief to feel him. Mr Mack also managed to feel too, which was a really special moment for us both.

The hot weather continued and I tried my best to remember to keep drinking lots of water to keep hydrated.

We visited The Confetti Fields at Wick, Worcestershire this week too. I’d been wanting to visit for a while however, the fields are only open for 10 days each year. The day of our visit was a beautiful day and I’m really pleased that we got some really lovely photos. That reminds me, I must get around to getting some printed out. The fields are totally exposed with no shade. As the day got hotter, it became too much for me so we headed to a nearby pub for lunch and a much needed cool down.

Confetti Fields

Week 23

We headed to Kingston Upon Thames for the weekend to stay with my Brother. He has two little girls, so always lots of mischief when Mini gets to play with her cousins. We had a great day out exploring Hampton Court Gardens. Luckily we managed not to get lost in the maze, and made it out in time for a delicious family BBQ.

I started to develop a pain down the middle of my right bottom cheek. It wasn’t too bad at this point, more of an annoyance and I put it down to baby perhaps lying across my sciatic nerve. Other than the bum pain, I was starting to feel like I had a bit more energy back and was feeling less sleepy which was good. Mini also finished school this week and I broke up from work for two weeks for a much needed break and some family time.

pregnancy diary Mini’s first and last days in Reception Class

Week 24

Team Mack Abroad! We went on holiday to Fuerteventura for the week. It had been a few years since we had gone abroad for a family holiday. Needless too say I was very excited to get away. Our hotel was really lovely, with great food, a huge pool and lots to do. We visited a deserted beach, that we reached via a special all terrain bus. We also went on a catamaran trip in search of dolphins. Sadly we didn’t find any and to make things worse my only pair of maternity shorts flew over board and were lost at sea.

Baby seemed to enjoy the sun too and I got plenty of kicks when lying down sunbathing. Mini had a great time, her highlights were the  kids club and the mini disco. She was so exhausted each day from our adventures that we had fantastic lie-ins every morning, which was an added bonus! I also loved taking advantage of the air con in the bedroom to cool down after a day in the sun.

pregnancy diary

This week also marked baby reaching viability. Obviously there is still a long way to go, however getting to this stage felt like such a huge relief. I think I finally started to worry less and relax more about being pregnant.

Fuerteventura

Week 25

I had this week off work to spend time with Emelia. I don’t normally take time off in the school holiday so it was lovely to go out for day trips and meet up with friends. We visited Dippy the Dinosaur at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Afterwards we went with Mr Mack for family dinner at Jamie’s Italian. We were also kindly invited to review Madagascar the Musical at The Alexandra Theatre. It was a fantastic show and we were all dancing along in our seats.

I had a Midwife appointment this week too and was pleased to finally meet my named Midwife. She gave me some information about the whooping cough vaccine which I was able to have the next day. This wasn’t available during my pregnancy with Mini. There were a few moments of panic when the Midwife struggled to find baby’s heartbeat. After a gentle walk and a jiggle to move his position, I was pleased that she managed to find it. I also got my MATB1 form at the appointment to pass onto work.

At the end of the week I treated myself to a pregnancy massage. I went to the At One Day Spa in Birmingham. The therapist was amazing and I felt so relaxed afterwards.

Madagascar The Musical

Week 26

Back to work for a rest this week! Although, I was still struggling with the heat and my office doesn’t have air conditioning. I had a glucose tolerance test this week too. This is to check if I have or am likely to get gestational diabetes. As I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, this puts me at an increased risk. Luckily the results came back all clear.

We decorated baby’s bedroom this weekend too. We chose a grey and mint green colour scheme. There may have been a minor hiccup involving wonky wallpaper but pleased that it’s all sorted now. It was exciting to start putting his clothes away that we’d bought and make the space personal to him.

Week 27

Another busy week! We had a lovely family day out to Hatton Adventure World, Mini loved feeding the goats. We were also kindly invited to review Planet Ice in Solihull. I decided it was best to stay off the ice for this trip. Mini was very wobbly to start with but started to get more confident with the help of the instructors.

Planet Ice Solihull

I also had a great girly night out for some delicious food at Digbeth Dining Club in Birmingham. After stuffing our faces we then went to see Matilda at the theatre. The show was just spectacular from start to finish.

We had a 4D scan this week too at Peek a Baby. We’d visited for our earlier scans and they kindly invited us back for a 4D scan. Mini, Nanny and Grandad also came along to meet baby boy. He was clearly not in the mood for having his photo taken and kept hiding his face in the placenta. I had a fair bit of poking and prodding to get him into a good position. We finally managed to see him and it was amazing to see him yawn! Nanny and Grandad think his nose looks like Mini already.

pregnancy diary

Week 28

I had a physio session at work this week to try and help alleviate the pain in my bum. She thought it wasn’t nerve pain but more my joints stretching. I got some good advice about how to sit and stand to avoid triggering the pain. She also advised me not to sit on my squishy sofa so no more cuddling up. Probably a good thing though as I often got stuck and needed help to get up!

I had an Anti-D injection this week too. This is because I’m a negative blood type. If baby has a positive blood type, my body may decide to attack it. The injection helps to stop this happening.

We went to a VBAC clinic at the hospital (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean). This was to talk to the Midwife about the choices we have for birth this time. Previously, we had seen a Consultant who had advised that if we tried for a natural birth it would involve continual monitoring and I’d have restricted mobility. This Midwife encouraged us to change to a different Consultant who may be willing to give us a wider range of options. My ideal is to birth on the midwife led unit, using the pool. The previous Consultant had advised this wouldn’t be an option. We left the hospital feeling really positive and looking forward to meeting the new Consultant in a few weeks time…

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this instalment of my pregnancy diary and I’d love to hear from you about your journeys too.

Perrygrove

Perrygrove Steam Railway Adventures in The Forest of Dean

We recently spent the weekend away in The Forest of Dean. Having looked for local attractions to visit we stumbled upon Perrygrove Steam Railway.

We were staying at Whitemead Forest Holiday Park, which was only ten minutes away from Perrygrove. We were making the most of Nanny and Grandad’s motorhome before the arrival of baby Mack. We’ve been lucky to have a few adventures in the motorhome this year including a trip to Weymouth, Blackpool and North Wales.

As we arrived at Perrygrove we realised it was their “vintage working weekend and railway gala.” As well as the normal attractions, they also had a collection of steam traction engines and vintage engines too. Mini got to sit on a beautiful mini engine that had been lovingly hand built.

Perrygrove

The entrance fee to Perrygrove gives you a ticket to ride the trains as much as you’d like during your visit. As it was a special event weekend they had additional trains running, which was a good idea as the carriages seemed to get filled up quite quickly.

Before boarding the train, Mini wanted to explore the brightly coloured treehouses that she had spotted from the car park. The treehouses are connected by a series of bridges, slides and walkways cleverly hidden amongst the treetops.

Perrygrove

We then headed to the platform to wait for a train. Whilst waiting it was interesting to see the different engines come into and out of the station. Some were passenger trains, where as some were carrying large logs. The logs were then passed to the engines on display as part of the gala, who were being used to chop them into smaller logs.

We boarded Anne, a very shiny red engine who took us on the journey through the woodland. The ride to the final stop was fairly short, although we did have to reverse and take a second attempt at the hill. You can choose to stay on the train to complete a loop back to the first station. Alternatively, you can explore the adventure play area and picnic spot by the station stop. It was good that the play area was under a large canopy to allow play in all weathers.

From this station you can either wait for the next train to take you back to the start or take a scenic walk through the woods. It really is only a short walk and you also get to explore the den building area if you take the walk option.

There was a café at Perrygrove with the usual selection of lunch items and snacks. As we’d already eaten lunch before our visit we didn’t eat anything but did use the café for a drink stop.

We spent a lovely afternoon at Perrygrove, it was great to see that the staff were clearly very enthusiastic and passionate about the trains, which were all beautifully looked after.

Perrygrove

For up to date opening times and ticket prices, please visit the Perrygrove website here. Details can also be found of their other special events such as teddy bears picnic and visits from Santa.

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