Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire Feature - Review

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour - Hogwarts Castle

Leo is just about to turn 7 years old, and it seems rather crazy to think that my little blog baby has grown up so much, and it's just as crazy to think that my blog is the same age! Over the last 7 years I have shared so much of myself and my blue eyed boy here, and I love that all of those memories are safely tucked away.

Just over a week ago we took a family visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour to experience their latest feature: The Goblet Of Fire. The Goblet Of Fire experience commenced on the 30th March 2018 and runs through to September 23rd 2018.

If like myself, you have visited more times than you can count on your fingers.... You will still go along and see so much for the first time. This was Leo's second visit, and on the run up to our visit we worked our way through the first 4 films all over again. I wanted Leo to come along and have everything in the very forefront of his mind. I wanted him to be able to recognise what he saw on screen in the studios, because after all that is what it is all about. 

It's been 2 years since Leo's first visit, it was nice to see that he had retained many of the memories he made even after all this time. The tour starts as it has always done, only this time while you are lining up in reception you can feast your eyes upon the very large Goblet of Fire that has taken up residence there.

Ok... So before I go into our most recent visit, all I am going to say is... I hope you like photos. I have so much I want to share with you, so sit back and prepare yourselves for photo spam!

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire Feature

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire Feature

You are then taken into a side room where you are shown a history of the Harry Potter series and how Potter mania was born, once this wraps you are taken into a cinema screening, and this is where the real fun begins. I never like to give to much away on this front because I will never forget that initial WOW factor I felt when I first visited... I would hate to take that away from any of you!

Just trust me, you will not be dissapointed!

Once the cinema screening wraps your first point of official set touring is within the.... *Drum Roll*.... Great Hall! This set is not to be underestimated, it is incredible. The floors are solid slabs and the attention to detail is second to none. 

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire age line

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire age line

You look up expecting to see a bewitched ceiling (which of course isn't there), but the rest of the room is exactly as you see it in the films. As everything is set up for The Goblet of Fire, you will find the special effects version here, and you will even get your own demonstration, so that you can witness how the cup drew the names. You will even get your own parchment to take away with Harry Potter's name on it!

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire Feature

Fact: There were 2 versions created of the Goblet of Fire. The original goblet was handcrafted by head prop maker Pierre Bohanna. This was crafted from one single piece of wood. A mould was then taken from the original and the special effects version was made (You can see the original goblet on the tour).

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Great Hall

I loved that they had even set up the age line around the goblet and had the Weasley twins trying to put their own names into the cup. You could quite easily spend all your time in this one set, but your time in this room goes very quickly, as the next set of people on the tour have to come in. We moved on into the next part of the tour at this point and I was impressed to see just how different it all was to the last time I went along.

Some of the props and arrangements that have always had a place were still there, but it was nice to see that they had been refreshed or had some additional details added.

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire Feature

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire Feature

You will recognise this from the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I have always been impressed by this particular piece.

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire Feature

Remember when Harry Potter receives the egg from the dragon in the first challenge of the Triwizard Tournament? You will recall that Cedric Diggory gives Harry the heads up about taking the egg with him for a relaxing bath. These are the Prefect's bathroom taps complete with the multi-coloured water from the 53 spouts! 

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire Feature

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire Feature

The original Goblet Of Fire: It was carved out of one single piece of wood that was specifically chosen for its twists and knots!

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Philosopher's Stone

In all my visits I had never come across the Philosopher's stone before, I loved this cabinet that was full of little trinkets from the films. You will even spy a Rememberall to the very back left of the below photograph!

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Goblet of Fire Feature

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: Triwizard Egg

The egg Harry retrieved from the dragon in the first Triwizard challenge.

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: Triwizard Egg

Harry Potter Studio Tour: Gryffindor Common Room

Leo inspects the Gryffindor common room at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Harry Potter Studio Tour: The Womping Willow

The magical car that almost had Harry and Ron exposed to the muggle nation in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is set up against the green screen to show it's encounter with the womping willow!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets door

Another favourite from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Many people thought that the door to the chamber of secrets was in fact a computerised effect... But as you can see, that is not the case. It is a real work of art.

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: Tom Riddle's Grave

Now here is a pretty cool aspect for those of you who are really into your dark arts or have a secret (or not so secret) soft spot for the Dark Lord. Tom Riddle's grave is on display at the studio tour and it really does have to be seen to be appreciated. 

Leo really threw himself into our most recent visit to the studio, and for me that just makes me so happy. Leo can often hold himself back from experiences because he feels unsure about them, you could say that he over thinks the scenarios that he faces. This really does make me feel sad at times because I know that deep down he really does want to take part. 

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: Broomstick ride

He had talked about going on a broomstick against the green screen, but he didn't want to dress up. In fact it wasn't just that he didn't want to, he was going to point blank refuse. When the time came though, he slipped on his Slytherin robes (his choice of house no less), and he rode that broomstick like he was a pure blood wizard. 

And doesn't that smile speak volumes? I know it sounds crazy to be proud of your muggle son for riding a green screen broom, but on that day he overcame obstacles and stopped caring what everyone thought for a moment. At that precise moment in time he was as carefree as any other boy his age. 

With our green screen photos under our arms we moved toward the Forbidden Forest. Luke and I had both come along just before it opened to the public last year, but for Leo this was the highlight of his visit, and we hadn't even got all the way through the gates before he was telling me just how cool it was!

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Forbidden Forest Gates

Now I know that Hippogriffs are entirely a creation from J.K Rowlings imagination, but seriously.. How cool is Buckbeak? Leo was convinced that he was real, and reluctantly edged closer so I could snap the picture below, all was good until Buckbeak moved his head forward, which of course caused Leo to jump right out of the way! I am still not convinced that Leo doesn't believe it was just an animatronic model...
 The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: Buckbeak the Hippogriff

Another highlight from the Forbidden Forest was the spiders... You MUST go along and see Aragog.... and prepare yourselves for a jump or two. I am absolutely gutted that I didn't capture Leo's reaction on film!

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: Arragog

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: Arragog

Leaving the spiders far... far behind us we made our way through to Platform 9¾. 

On our last visit this had been the absolute honey pot for Leo, but I think this time it came a close second to the Forbidden Forest. 

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Hogwarts Express

We tried are darndest but unfortunately we are all muggles through and through.

Harry Potter Studio Tour: Platform 9¾

So instead we focused our efforts on simple muggle opportunities (maybe that is why there are so many photographs in today's blog post!).

Harry Potter Studio Tour: Platform 9¾

We tried Butterbeer, and Leo decided that it is nice but the best bit is the frothy top.

Harry Potter Studio Tour: Butterbeer at the Backlot Cafe

And finally we made our descent from the castle, preparing ourselves to walk back into the muggle world. I may or may not have got very excited to spot the Beauxbatons carriage complete with their winged horses flying in to Hogwarts ready for the Triwizard games!

Harry Potter Studio Tour: Beauxbatons carriage

Harry Potter Studio Tour: Beauxbatons carriage

I particularly loved this shot because you can barely see the wires holding it in place. 

Platform 9¾

I will finish this post with a photo of Luke having way to much fun with the baggage trolley...

It was yet another incredible visit, we all had the most amazing time (even Luke who hates to admit it!), and we WILL be returning again. 

Disclaimer: We were invited along to the Goblet of Fire feature and provided with entry and a few other little goodies. All views and opinions expressed within this post are completely honest and my own.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Winter in the Cotswolds: Broadway Tower

Winter in the Cotswolds: Broadway Tower

With the recent (and much welcomed) heatwave that warmed the countryside and people of the UK, Winter feels like a millennia ago. I know it didn't feel that way at the time, especially when the snow kept on falling, but the truth of the matter is that only 2 short months ago, there was still snow on the ground. 

For the first time in a long time, we had a winter to remember, and Leo got his first real play in the snow. His little face as those first flurries of snow started to fall from the sky was a picture, and then when it settled on the ground and he realised that we could go outside to build snowmen and make snowballs, it was as though all of his Christmas's had come at once.

Winter in the Cotswolds: Broadway Tower

We live on the outskirts of the Cotswolds, a place that everyone seems to know, and just down the road from us we have the beautiful village of Broadway, and the equally stunning Broadway Tower. I have seen Broadway Tower in many weathers, but never in the snow. With a fresh blanket of snow upon the ground, the family and I decided to take a slow and steady drive up Fish Hill to see what we would find at the top.

We put on our Winter's finest and stepped out into the sub degree temperatures. I was sent a really nice Winter's coat from Simply Be on the run up to Christmas - The Tog 24 York Womens Tcz Thermal Jacket, and this little family outing seemed like a great time to take some nice family shots for this here blog post. 

Even up at the top of Fish Hill on that cold snowy afternoon, I didn't really feel the cold. I was warm and taking in the frosty landscape around me. My red coat has done me proud during the harsh coldness we have experienced over the last few months, and I have been wearing it right up to early Spring as the weather has been so intermittent (One of the amazing things about the British weather is, you really do not know what card you are going to be dealt).

Winter in the Cotswolds: Broadway Tower

Broadway Tower is one of those places that is a honey pot for tourists, and in the many times I have visited this unique folly tower, this visit alone was the only time I had seen it so quiet. On this day there were only a handful of people roaming around, and it was on this day that the little tower looked it's absolute best. The view points across the 16 counties (a 62 mile radius!) that can be seen from atop the hill looked like a scene out of Narnia. You could almost be forgiven for taking a second glance looking for the snow queen herself. 

For years I couldn't get my head around why people from all over the world would travel so far to see Broadway and the surrounding villages within the Cotswolds. You really can live somewhere and not really see a place, it wasn't until I flew out to New York the other year and marvelled at how big that city really was, that I really grasped the reason as to why people were as captivated by my little corner of the globe as they are. Because upon my return from the concrete jungle, I too marvelled at how much greenery we have, our little oldie worldie landmarks and our cobbled streets, the big unspoilt open spaces that are drapsed in history and wonder.

Winter in the Cotswolds: Broadway Tower

I think as you get older, your understanding and perceptions do change. You start to see things for the first time, things that have been there all along, things that you took for granted. We have definitely been getting outside more since we added Lux (the family dog) to the fold, and that has meant that we have seen so much more of our local area which cannot be a bad thing. 

What I didn't know until fairly recently is that Broadway Tower has a bunker from the cold war, it was used to monitor and operated by men and women of the Royal Observer Corps. These select few would spend 3 weeks below the surface during a nuclear exchange. During this time they would study and share their findings on the effects of nuclear explosions and the aftermath. 

My other half Luke has talked about this bunker for as long as I can remember.... But for a long time i thought that it was just one of his tall stories. As it happens, there is is a bunker close to Broadway Tower!

Winter in the Cotswolds: Broadway Tower

Now the weather has warmed up, I might just have to venture back with my adventurous Leo and see what we can find down there.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

A little Update...

Dalmatian Dog

It feels so good to be back, and by back I mean to sit down at the computer and start putting my thoughts back down into my little corner of the internet. I know I have been so quiet around these parts, but it really has been for a good reason (well that and because I got especially lazy!).

Where do I start?

Last October I hung up my self employment hat and took on a part time position at a local company, and I think it could be the best thing I have done. I am lucky enough to work within a great team, and there isn't a day they don't cease to make me chuckle. It all works around Leo and Lux perfectly, being a local company, I can drop Leo at school in the morning, and get to work by 9am. Finishing at 2pm, I can get home to walk the dog and then pick Leo up at the end of the school day.

I didn't realise how much I had missed actually going out to work, I think that we all need that adult conversation during the day, and at home it was just me and the dog. My aim after becoming employed again was to take my blog right back to the roots, but seemingly I got lazy and I didn't have the motivation to turn the computer on at the end of the working day. I opted to get my workout in (I am primarily working out entirely from home again these days!), and then fall in front of Netflix for the rest of the evening.

Rape Flowers
It's now May and the tumbleweeds have been blowing around for way to long, I am ready to re-claim my space and start over sharing again! Moving forward you can expect family updates and reviews, I want to keep it all authentic and true to us. I have started a bit of a post 'tidy up', and will be removing anything that I don't feel is relevant to us, and at some point I want to spring clean my older posts and have them made into a book for Leo. 

Ultimately this blog was made to capture our memories, and somewhere along the way I feel like I lost my way on that front. Things got a little jaded, and I personally believe that is because it really did become my job. I sold out, I lost focus and in turn I lost my way. Now I have taken a step back, re-evaluated what's important and taken a very long break from the blogging community (and boy has a lot changed in my absence!), I am back and ready to start a fresh.

Leo is turning 7 next month, yup SEVERN! It seems so crazy that my little blog baby is as grown up as he is now. He's still the ultimate Mummy's boy though which I love. I know that in a few short years he will be taller than me, and he is already well on the way.

Dalmatian Dog

Lux otherwise known as the spotty one is still causing trouble on a daily basis, but he really is part of our crazy little family unit, and no amount of floor munching or targeted poop humiliation could change that! Thankfully he does have one good trait, and he is a pro spider catcher (it does help us overlook his less desirable traits!).

Dalmatian and children

Right now we are preparing for a busy couple of months, starting with June. We are all off to see Ed Sheeran in concert next month (This will be Leo's very first concert, and my Second!), then Lux turns 2, Leo turns 7 and there is even talk of a big family holiday to Rhodes (which means Lux is off to boarding for a week!).

This means I will have lots to share with you. Last year when we left Lux.... The boarder couldn't wait to give him back. So we may need some happy well wishing thoughts sent our way, because I think before long we will have exhausted all board options in our local area...

Finally we have enlisted a one to one dog trainer to help us perfect our spotty beast, here's hoping that he comes on in leaps and bounds!

Dalmatian and children

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Gazillion Bubble Fun

Giant Gazillion Bubble Wand

It's been a while since I have sat down and put hand to keyboard, and that is why things have been so quiet around here, but that is for another post... (One that I will write sooner rather than later, I can't believe that it is now May and I am only just checking back in after Christmas!).

May has seen some absolutely beautiful weather, and it has given the entire family cause to get outside and have fun in the sun. Last weekend we stoked up the BBQ, and set up residence under the great British sunshine. When I say we, I mean the entire extended family, Leo, my Mum, Dad, Brothers and Sister. We have all rallied around a lot recently since my Mum fell and broke her hip a few months back, so this weather for all of us has been just what the doctor ordered.

My parents have a large garden, a garden that Leo has grown up playing in an now our spotty dog Lux loves nothing more than burning off his disposable energy zooming around, only on this occasion we had an extra special treat for him...

Dalmatian and bubbles

Summer and bubbles go hand in hand, so it seemed like the absolutely perfect day to have some fun with Gazillion Bubbles! 

Now it's up to you to decide whether they were more for Leo or the pup? But both had equally as much fun chasing the bubbles as they floated away into the crystal blue skies above, it quickly became a game for both Leo and Lux to attempt being the one to burst the bubble... This shot I accidently captured really does sum up the action packed afternoon that they both enjoyed, and it has quickly become one of my favourite action shots. Just know if I had set out to get this shot, I never would have managed it!

Giant Gazillion Bubble Wand

One second either side of pressing that camera button could have resulted in a very different snap, but by complete accident, I caught the absolute best moment ever. Lux is leaping up to pop the gigantic bubble that has almost ballooned out into a tunnel in front of Leo, and out of the depths lunges Lux, who coincidentally we often refer to as a shark!

We had a play with the Giant Gazillion Bubble Wand, this one was my personal favourite, it was a little tricky at first to get the hang of, but we had some pretty epic bubbles coming out as soon as we got the hang of it! There was a slight breeze and I found that we just needed to slowly lift the wand out of the bubble solution and then let the breeze do the rest.

Gazillion Bubbles Tornado Machine

The Gazillion Bubbles Tornado Machine was the biggest hit with the 6 year old and the pup, the constant stream of bubbles kept them both entertained throughout the BBQ and well into the evening. 

I live for the weekends that we can enjoy the garden and lap up the warmer weather, more so than ever since we got Lux almost 2 years ago. You never really know what he will get up to, so it's good to make sure that I am on hand ready to retrieve whatever he steals next... But what I have realised in recent weeks is that when the entire family is outside, he is so content with just having everyone around him, that he will actually relax (Well.. Until the BBQ goes on and the food comes out of course!).

Gazillion Bubbles Tornado Machine

Let's just hope that we can expect more of the same over the long Bank Holiday weekend that kicks off on Friday, I could do with some more family time in the great outdoors.

On another note, it feels so good to be back to blogging!

Until next time!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review

Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review

I never thought I would be one of those obsessive people who vacuums multiple times a day, but that was before we welcomed our Dalmatian puppy home in August 2016. I could spend a good hour talking to you about just how much Dalmatian's malt. You might not believe me, but you wouldn't be the first people to doubt me, because people can't get their heads around how a dog with such a short coat, could shed hair 365 days a year. 

But they do. They really, really do.

People joke that Dalmatian's shed once a year (because they never stop). This brings me to just how much I have to vacuum the house, because as much as I love him, I am not a fan of the daily fur offerings that quite frankly end up everywhere. These days I have to hoover out my washing machine, and this is after I use the lint brush to soften the blow on the machine. Upstairs is now out of bounds because I cannot face the dog hair up there, and downstairs we just have to make sure we are on top of the hoovering. 

Until Lux came home though I had never really worried about how good my vacuum was, but when that little bundle of fun arrived in our home, that suddenly changed. Over the past 16 months I have discovered that my current cleaning regime was not sufficient for our spotty dog. If it wasn't the dog hair floating around the house, he was busy bringing outside inside. 

Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review

Over the past few weeks I have been putting the Shark Lift-Away NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner through it's paces, and quite honestly it really has been put to the test in this house. I have been intrigued by the Shark brand for a while now, so I was really excited to see how the reality lived up to the expectation.

And here is how we got on....

Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review
This rug was clean before Lux came out of the kitchen, but within a few moments was covered in dog hair. As you can see the Shark did a fantastic job cleaning it back up again in no time at all.

The Shark arrived from AO.com quickly and promptly as always (AO are my personal go to for appliances), and it was very easy to get everything up and running. I was impressed with how well equipped this model came, as it's not a designated pet vacuum cleaner but in the box I found:

- The Shark Pet Power Brush

- The Upholstery Tool 

- The 2 in 1 Duster Crevice Tool

It was easy to piece the Shark together and only took a few minutes, and then it was just a case of removing all of the plastic packaging that was still attached, plugging it in and giving a trial run. As soon as I turned it on and the headlights lit up my dark carpet I was really impressed. As I pushed the Shark forward I could feel the sheer power at the helm, it's not heavy to push but you certainly know that you have it (and I like that). 

Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review

There is nothing quite so satisfying as seeing all of that Dalmatian hair being sucked up and away, I could see straight away that it was doing a rather splendid job.

The Shark Lift-Away has a very clever double brush design that allows it to capture all types of dirt on both carpet and hard floors, and it took on Lux's fluff with no issues at all, and what I really liked is that it is bagless cleaning, which means you dont need bags! All you need to do is make sure you empty it after each use, and this is something that I have been ensuring that I do, because it is definitely having to work hard in our house!
Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review
Below: Dalmatian covered rug. Above: Shiny clean again.

Another aspect of the Shark that I just love is that you can actually take the cylinder off the actual vacuum to hoover the stairs, this is a great feature as it means that you don't need to lug the entire weight of the appliance with you, you can just take what you need, ultimately turning your vacuum into a portable handheld appliance! That is where the very generous 8m cord comes in very handy! 

This has made cleaning my stairs so much easier and I don't think that I could ever go back!

How has the Shark Lift-Away NV800UK Performed?

Shark Lift-Away with Duoclean NV800UK Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review
The contents of our very first Shark Vacuum session! I was impressed with how much it picked up, especially since I had vacuumed that very morning!

What can I say, I absolutely love this machine. I can't think of anything that I don't love on it to be honest, it does exactly what I need it to do, it's light and easy to steer around. I love how compact the head of the vacuum is, it allows me to get into the tighter corners (which is essential with a dog around the house), and it actually performs. It does exactly what I need it to do, and it has surpassed my expectations for a vacuum that is not designated for pets. In fact it's completely topped my actual pet vacuum by another brand and I am over the moon with the Shark NV800UK!

Disclaimer: I was sent this product for the purpose of this review All views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.