Aberdovey Panto 2020

Hansel and Gretel

Last weekend, despite the dire weather forecast and the imminent arrival of storm Ciara, we made our annual trip to Aberdovey Panto.

We again joined our local Girlguiding group, especially as I have a Rainbow and a Guide. Rhian has only just become a guide and it was her first time wearing her uniform so she was excited.

It started off with Transport for Wales, cancelling our train. They did put on a replacement bus, but because of travel sickness, we decided to go by car.

We arrived at Aberdovey Panto and excitedly went in. Nan and Granddad were with us and sat a row behind. Becky (14) and Ruby (13) were also glad they didn’t have to sit with us. I sat with some of the guides and Reese (6) and Rhian. Rhian even swapped seats with her one of her guide leaders so she could sit with her friends. I was really pleased to see this as Rhian has been suffering from separation anxiety recently. This means she doesn’t want to leave my side. It’s wonderful to see her joining guides, as well as actually joining in and socialising too.

Aberdovey Panto – Hansel and Gretel

Aberdovey Panto are an amateur dramatics group. But, don’t let that fool you. They produce amazing pantos which are unique, current, funny and would put a lot of professional groups to shame. They take a well-known fairy tale and make it their own. Like in Hansel and Gretel, a circus came to visit. This gave some of the children who were in the panto the chance to shine. In fact, children are at the very heart of their productions, with lost of dance routines and costume changes, to give the children a chance.

a rainbow and a guide waiting for Aberdovey panto to start

Reese, was totally amazed. She loved the fact that we were shouting BOO whenever the witch came on stage. Or shouting “Don’t be a wally, Wally.” Instead of being told to be quiet, like when we went to watch Frozen 2, she was allowed to dance and shout at the stage! At one point she leaned over and whispered “Mummy… that man has a beard and he’s wearing a dress!” as well as “Mummy, the prince is really a girl!” It was fun to see a panto through her eyes and even Becky said she loved how Panto’s turned stereotypes on their head with men dressed as women and girls dressed as boys.

girl wearing Rainbow uniform and unicorn headband watching Aberdovey Panto

One of the cast was our local vet. Rhian recognised him and whispered, “He was the vet that gave Gwen (our dog) her injections the other week.” I nodded and told her that he had also operated on a goldfish the other week, the picture of which I had shown her on Facebook.

Ed the Williams vet as Wally the Wally in the Aberdovey Panto
Ed the Vet as Wally the Wally

At the end of the show, all the children were invited on stage to join in and I’m so proud of Reese who went up to sing!

screenshot from a video of a little girl in a rainbow uniform on stage with a panto character
Reese on stage
Sorry for the poor quality, it’s a screenshot from a video

Meeting the Cast

At the end of the panto and because we didn’t have to rush off for the train (which thankfully for the other girls wasn’t cancelled despite the weather) we went to meet some of the cast.

girls with panto characters of a fairy and widow twanky

We didn’t get a chance to see Ed the vet, but we did meet other cast members. Including, one of my old school classmates who had played the circus ringmaster.

a rainbow and a guide with a ringmaster panto character

Our Verdict

Aberdovey Panto and their Hansel and Gretel was another epic production full of laughs. A unique and original take on a well-loved story and showcasing the future stars. Even when things went wrong, like Wally’s top falling down, they happily ad-libbed and carried on. In fact, those little imperfections made the show even better and were made part of the show!

I really can’t wait to go back next year and to see what they have in store for us.

Thinking About DNA Testing? Read this first!

So you’re thinking about testing your DNA or the DNA of an elderly relative. Whichever company you use and for whatever reason you want to test. You need to think carefully before you test.

As a researcher of my own tree, it’s great news that you’re thinking about testing. The more people who DNA test themselves and/or their relatives, the bigger the database and the more cousins we discover and connect with.

DNA testing is a great tool to help research your family tree. It helps connect you with cousins who are also passionate about researching their tree. Who might have knowledge that can help you break down your brick walls. As well as confirming your paper trail is correct.

But, before you take that step… are you prepared for what it might unveil?

You see, years ago, illegitimacy was a HUGE thing and having a child out of wedlock had a stigma attached to it. A stigma which would follow both mother and child. Marriage was also very important to our ancestors and anyone who didn’t marry or had a child out of wedlock faced a lot of condemnation from their parish. We believe our ancestors were all prim and proper and there were few illegitimate births, but it wasn’t like that. I was shocked at how many illegitimate children I have in my own tree.

The Law would sometimes punish unmarried mothers. Women were imprisoned, on average, to a year’s hard labour beating hemp for having children out of wedlock. Men, if they were found and punished, would only serve three months imprisonment for their part.

Even in the 1960s, the year of free love, it was a shame to be hidden. With families going to great lengths to hide illegitimacy. It was quite common for the grandmother to pretend that it was their child. Eastenders even got into the act with the Kat and Zoe bombshell.

Shockingly, contraceptives and the pill, have only been around since 1961. Until 1967, it was only available for married women.

black and white photograph of a lady from the 1960s staring at her round contraceptive pill container

My Story – Illegitimacy

I remember the day I found out my uncle was actually my half brother and the tears from my mum as she told me her deepest darkest secret. The one I guess that she hoped I would never know. Not because she didn’t want to acknowledge him as her son, far from it. Her biggest fear was that I would hate her and judge her for having a baby with someone else and out of wedlock.

I’ll admit I was confused. It was a lot to take in for a 16-year-old. To suddenly find your cool uncle, who was only 12 years older, was your brother. It was 1992 and illegitimacy was a lot more common and accepted than it was in 1966 when my brother was born.

Back then, my mum was looked down on and judged for being a teenage mum. She wasn’t even allowed to make decisions for herself, let alone her baby. She came out of the hospital to find my grandmother had named the baby and was treating him as though he was her son. She felt judged and hated, treated like she didn’t matter and that she was easy or a slut. People looked down on her and thought she was a bad person. She worried that I would feel the same way, that I would hate her and judge her. She didn’t want to lose my love, support and respect.

I remember her sobbing as she told me and I couldn’t understand why. To me, it was no big deal. I knew girls my age who had had babies, I’d even discussed with my mum what would happen if I fell pregnant as a teen. It didn’t bother me, it didn’t make me think less of my mum. In fact, it actually brought us closer as we had a heart to heart. She was able to tell me about her difficult and abusive childhood and relationship and why she had made the decisions she had. I became even more proud of her and how she had overcome all she did to become the loving mother I knew so well and it brought us a lot closer.

I’ll admit I found it hard at first, trying to understand why she didn’t raise him as her own. My generation was more open about illegitimacy and teenage pregnancy, in fact it’s become the norm nowadays and even my eldest was born before I married his father

Yet It took a lot of courage for my mum to tell me about those dark days, with an abusive boyfriend and abusive mother and step-father. It was in the 60s as well and I was shocked to learn that the contraceptive that we take for granted these days, wasn’t available and was illegal. Not to mention abortion was illegal as well with many women dying in back-alley clinics.

I look back and I’m glad my mum was able to open up honestly and tell me. I never judged her and I loved her even more, which I told her. In fact, my first words afterwards were… “Uncle S is my brother??? Does this mean he’ll beat up M (my full brother) for me???”

Hidden Secrets

I was lucky. My mum was able to tell me herself. I cannot imagine how much harder it would have been had I discovered this secret via DNA testing. Especially if she was no longer here to tell me the whys that I desperately needed to know.

Ancestry DNA match showing close family match and shared DNA of 1,641. A confirmed half sibling connection

For a friend of mine, this is how she found out. She contacted me for advice with her Ancestry DNA results as she was confused by what they were telling her. Her results showed she had a half-brother, but his father was a name she didn’t recognise. My friend had never known her dad but had been given a name when she was younger that she believed to be her father.

When her DNA results gave her such unexpected results, she was in full denial that the results could be true. We spoke at length and I encouraged her to speak to her mother, who thankfully was still alive. At first, her mother repeated that this man couldn’t be her father but the man she had previously named was. Despite the shared matches, the DNA matches which matched her and her brother, she was still adamant that it couldn’t be true. That her mother wouldn’t lie to her about who her father was!

A few days later, my friend contacted me with “I guess DNA doesn’t lie!” Her mother had broken down in tears and confessed she had had a one night stand with both men and she hadn’t known which man was her father. She had been terrified to tell her daughter and feared her daughter would hate her. Just like my mum had been too scared to tell me! This was in the 1940s, so even more of a scandal and even harder for her mother to tell her daughter after so many years!

Now, she is slowly coming to terms with her results. Thankfully, her brother welcomed her with open arms and they are slowly developing a friendship and getting to know each other. Sadly, she will never meet her father but through her brother she will learn about him.

Not all discoveries end this way. Sometimes people are in denial and will delete their results rather than admit their relative might have an illegitimate child. It’s even harder for the older generation who were taught that illegitimacy was a shame and a stigma that never goes away.

Be Prepared

This is why you need to think long and hard about whether you are prepared to face the answers that DNA might reveal, about yourself and your relatives. What would you do if you found out your father wasn’t the man you thought he was, that your siblings were only half-siblings and you had a different parent? Or that you were adopted and no one ever told you? Maybe your uncle/aunt or your grandparents had an illegitimate child, abandoned or gave a child up for adoption.

I remember back when I started sorting my dad’s DNA matches I had a panic. I didn’t seem to be getting any matches from his father’s side. All his matches were from his mother’s line. I wasn’t sure if it was because he had inherited more DNA from his mother, whether it just happened that more of his mother’s cousins had tested or that his father wasn’t his father.

This was my nightmare. My grandparents had adored each other. In fact, my granddad had passed just 16 months after my nan as he couldn’t bear living without her. I struggled with the possibility that, for whatever reason, my granddad wasn’t my granddad and how and if I would tell my dad.

Thankfully, I then found connections to my granddad which proved not only that my research was correct but that my granddad was my dad’s dad. But what if he hadn’t been. Would I have ever told my dad, or would I have kept quiet? How would he have dealt with the news?

Disney Frozen 2 Review

Frozen 2 poster and words review

On Friday the girls all had an inset day from school. It was also the day that Frozen 2 was released in the UK. We promised them that we would take them to see it once daddy finished work and we made it to the 4pm showing at our nearest Odeon cinema but other cinemas are also showing the movie.

The girls, apart from Reese who was a baby, remember seeing Frozen 1 in the cinema. Ruby often talks about it as it was her 7th birthday treat and she loved it so much, she used her Christmas money to preorder the DVD when it came out.

Teenagers

I was quite surprised that my 14-year-old daughter wanted to see it. Not just her as she begged for her friend to be allowed to come with us! You would think it would be too cool for teenagers, but mine couldn’t wait to see it!

Frozen 2 Review

The girls adored the movie and are already asking to go back again and watch it. They constantly have the songs playing on their tablets which has finally replaced Descendants 3.

The movie has a bit more of a grown-up feel to it compared to the first movie and it is a bit darker in places. The movie deals with their parents’ death and trying to understand where Elsa’s powers come from whilst protecting Arendale and discovering the past. It might be a little dark for younger children, but mine (aged 6, 9, 12 and 14) all enjoyed it.

I asked them afterwards which movie was better, the first or second movie and they all said Frozen 2.

Songs

As usual with Disney soundtracks, the songs are catchy. “Into the Unknown” is certainly popular, although they also like the version by Panic at the Disco. My favourite was Kristoff’s song “Into the Woods” which had an 80s feel to it.

Favourite Scenes

I asked the girls which part of the movie was their favourite. Answers have been edited to avoid spoilers.

Rhian aged 9 – When Elsa saves Arendale. Favourite song – Somethings Never Change

Reese aged 6 – When Elsa tames the water horse. Favourite song – Show Yourself

Ruby aged 12 – When their mother sings the lullaby “All is Found”

Becky aged 14 – The ending Favourite Song – Holding on Tight to You

Recommend or Not

All my girls, hubby and I certainly recommend this movie! They certainly enjoyed it and hope there is a Frozen 3!

frozen 2 poster showing Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf

*** Disclaimer ***

We purchased the tickets ourselves to watch the movie and haven’t been paid for this post. Check out my Reviews Page for more reviews

Blackpool Illuminations 2019

As a child, I have many fond memories of visiting Blackpool. With my family and also with my grandmother and cousin as a teenager. We used to spend the whole week just roaming the town together whilst grandma played bingo.

This October half term we decided to treat the children to a few days in Blackpool. Of course, because it was half-term, many of the hotels and B&B’s were sold out. So we decided to stay in the Travelodge in Preston for two nights and catch the train into Blackpool each day. The train journey, using our family and friends railcard, worked out much cheaper than the fuel and the parking it would cost to take my car. The only downside was the half an hour walk back to the hotel after spending a tiring day in Blackpool. This was quite hard on the younger children who were feeling tired by then and dreaded the walk with lots of begging for a bus or taxi back!

three sleepy girls asleep on a train
Three tired girls on the train back to Preston

We decided what we were going to do before we went and booked the tickets in advance, as this always helps save money. We also paid to have our breakfast at the Travelodge before we left to catch one of the frequent trains.

Had we been staying in Blackpool longer, I would have purchased a resort pass for us all, which would have worked out a lot cheaper and allowed us to do a lot more things. However, with just a few days we decided to visit the Tower and the Sandcastle.

Sandcastle Waterpark

The first day of our holiday we spent at the Sandcastle swimming pool. All my children are water babies and they love swimming so this was ideal for them.

girls stood by a water feature saying sandcastle water park at blackpool

What I liked

I purchased the tickets in advance which gave you a 10% discount. One thing I really liked was that you could load your locker wristband with credit to use in the cafe to buy food and drinks without having to go back to your locker to get your wallet. Any money unused at the end of your time in the pool is returned to you with your wristband deposit. This was a really good idea and loading £20 allowed us to buy everyone a drink.

The pool itself is really well designed. We all had fun with the waves, which living by the beach and spending time playing in the sea, we are used to. We also bumped into one of the school teachers assistants of all things during the waves which was quite funny.

The children all loved the rapids, every time they disappeared you knew they would be having a ride around the rapids. The little ones also enjoyed the smaller free slides and trying to splash us!

Another thing I liked was the life jackets you could borrow for the younger children. We tried one on our six-year-old Reese, but she wanted to swim without it!

What we didn’t like

The pool is quite expensive on its own, without the fact that you have to buy wristbands to allow you on the bigger slides. We only brought one for my husband and older daughter, but because of the queues and how busy the pool was, they didn’t go on any of the slides which meant we wasted some money.

The fact that the pool was so busy was also a big problem. In fact, the whole of Blackpool was extremely busy with long queues for everything. Being so busy meant that it was difficult to move when the waves were on and the rapids were so busy you were constantly bumping into someone.

I did feel, and I don’t know whether this is a policy or not, that at peak times the number of people should be restricted and that new people should only be allowed in when people have left. It also meant that after 2 hours we had enough of being constantly bumped into and we left.

Central Pier

Since we weren’t visiting the Pleasure Beach, we went to the Central Pier to ride the big wheel. This was a big hit with everyone. We also went on the dodgems and whilst I took the younger two on the kiddie rides, hubby took the older two on the bigger rides.

Whilst on the Central Pier, I spotted something that I had wanted doing for ages. At the Old Time Portrait Studio, we were able to have a family photo taken, which looks like it was taken last century. When we arrived to wait, there was a family having their children’s pictures taken and it looked amazing. The studio has so many props and the children were all holding Victorian toys and it looked very classic! When it was our turn we had plenty of styles to choose from, but I wanted a classic pose. We quickly added the clothes over our normal clothes and then we were posed by the photographer. The staff were lovely and friendly and put us all completely at ease and we only had a few minutes wait for the final photo which I loved! I definitely recommend the place and will visit again next time we’re in Blackpool. Maybe then we’ll go for a wild west theme!

victorian style family photo in black and white vintage style

The Illuminations

As usual, the illuminations were amazing. We met up with a friend who was also on holiday in Blackpool to view the illuminations together. We caught the tram to the end of the illuminations and walked along to see the animated ones.

We all had a favourite illuminations and they were all different. I loved the nursery rhymes ones as it was fun to guess which nursery rhyme they represented. Reese enjoyed the haunted house and dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller (my phone had died by now so I had to use my daughters). My other daughter enjoyed walking through the garden and seeing all the TV characters and my eldest daughter enjoyed standing on the surfboard and pretending to surf!

four girls at blackpool illuminations standing on a surfboard in front of lights looking like a wave

Of course, we can’t mention the illuminations without mentioning the illuminated trams! These are amazing and next year I’ve promised we’ll go again and ride the illuminated tram!

blackpool illuminated tram of steam train

Blackpool Tower

The second day we spent at the Tower. There was a long queue so it was nice to have our tickets already purchased and printed to avoid the queue. However, I still had to queue to get the circus tickets and I was disappointed to learn the circus was already sold out for that day. In all my years of visiting Blackpool, I had never been to the Tower Circus and I had been looking forward to it. Plus we were unable to get a refund. Had I known that I would have booked the circus the day before and I recommend that you do so if you plan to go.

Again it was a long queue to get up to the Tower. We had our pictures taken, but because of my eldest daughters blue hoodie, some of the pictures didn’t come out properly. So another suggestion would be to not wear anything blue if you want the pictures taken in front of the blue screen.

The tour guide who took us up in the elevator was very entertaining. He also mentioned that Blackpool was seeing an influx in popularity this year due to Brexit and the sad collapse of Thomas Cook which meant people were holidaying in the UK this October half-term.

When we got up to the top, the two youngest were a little scared about standing on the glass floor, but eventually, they ventured out. We also climbed as high as we could to enjoy the views and trying to see Snowdown in the distance!

Blackpool Tower Dungeon

After visiting the height of Blackpool at the tower, we then went to the lower part of the tower and the dungeons. Again, something I hadn’t done. From the front of the tower, the directions to the dungeon weren’t very clear and the first assistant I spoke to wasn’t very helpful when I asked where it was. Thankfully, the second person was more helpful and explained we had to go out of the back of the tower and queue up on the right.

blackpool dungeon family photo of parents heads in stocks and children looking like they're about to chop their heads off

We had another wait and another opportunity to have our pictures taken. Then it was time to descend. Signs warned us that, whilst it was a family-friendly attraction, it could be scary for younger children under the age of 8. This proved to be true and at the end of the first room we visited, my 12-year-old complained of feeling sick and my 9 and 6-year-olds were very scared and wanted to leave. So daddy took them out and I continued with my 14-year-old. The actors were really good, really getting into character and thoroughly enjoying themselves. At the end of the attraction, there is a ride, but we decided we didn’t want to go on it and went in search of the rest of the family instead.

Blackpool Sealife Centre

Once we had all been reunited, we walked to the Sealife Centre. Again was another opportunity to have our picture taken, but this time we decided not to. We enjoyed walking around and seeing all the different sea life. As Ree

se had been stung by a weaver fish during the summer, we were able to point one out to her.

Seeing the sharks were amazing, even if I do have a phobia of sharks! The turtle was definitely my favourite.

fish face at blackpool sealife

As it was nearly Halloween, the sealife centre had a little quiz where we had to find the hidden items in the tanks and then give the list to the wizard for his potion in exchange for some sweets!

Horse Drawn Carriage Ride

One thing the girls begged and begged to be able to do was to have a horse-drawn ride along the prom. I tried to persuade them to wait until the illuminations but they wouldn’t wait. All my girls are animal lovers and the thought of having a ride was too much for them. I was a little concerned about the horses, I felt sorry for them, having to work in busy traffic. But they seemed to be well looked after and calm and when I spoke to the driver, he told me that the horses were changed regularly to give the horses a chance to rest and calm down. The girls loved their ride and felt like princesses in their own carriage and there was so much choice, they found it hard to decide which one to ride!

Running out of time

Because Blackpool was so busy and we were trying to fit in as much as we could. We didn’t get a chance to visit the Pleasure Beach, the Waxworks and of course the Tower Circus which we had planned to do.

blackpool with tower in background and family waiting at tram stop
Blackpool 2019

We are already planning to visit again in 2020 and this time we will spend a lot longer so that we can fit everything in that we missed like the zoo, the Winter Gardens and much much more…

*** Disclaimer ***

This post is not a sponsored post as we paid for everything ourselves. Click here to read more reviews of products and days out

Home and Interior Trends 2020 Predictions

Spring seems so far away, but there’s no harm in planning in advance. Especially when it comes to decorating!

My lounge is looking tired and dated and now the children are older and less destructive, I’m planning to give it a revamp in the spring.

So I’m already looking at what interior designs will be popular in 2020 so that I can stretch my budget by buying what I need over the next few months. Not to mention checking out Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day Sales. Plus my letter to Santa asking for the more expensive items.

Home and Interior Trend Predictions 2020

According to House Beautiful, Sep 12th 2019;

“Bold shades of terracotta, burnt orange, ochre and buttery tan, gorgeous tactile textures such as bouclé, and furniture and accessories echoing nature and organic forms, the most influential interior trends of 2020 promise to bring mellow warmth to our homes.

This suits me as I like warm shades that help keep me feeling warm. Not to mention that I struggle with feeling even more depressed in dark rooms and on dark days, so a nice bright room appeals to me.

According to Rob Ellis, a designer at DFS ” Trends are a great source of inspiration, but don’t feel pressured to incorporate them in their entirety, You can take one or two aspects, such as colour, texture or pattern, and use them in subtle ways to create a look that’s still personal and liveable for you”

I love that I have a chimney breast. It makes it the ideal feature wall and means I can have a bright colour wall surrounded by more neutral colours, rather than the room feeling like its being bombarded in just one colour.

My tired looking living room, badly in need of a revamp

New Windows

To complete a revamp I would love to change the windows to breathe new life into the room. I have an amazing view of the beach and the sea but it does mean in the winter stormy months it can be very cold, especially when the wind is howling. We already have double glazing but I would love to add triple glazing for extra protection from the strong winds that buffet our house.

Looking at https://www.threecountiesltd.co.uk they have some uPVC Tilt and Turn Windows which are ideal for me. Living in a 4th floor flat makes it harder to clean the outside of windows, which get covered in sand, despite how high we live. Not too mention those flying pests that we affectionately call “Flying Rats” aka Seagulls who take great delight as using our windows as target practice! Tilt and Turn windows means we can open them fully, to clean the other side without having the additional cost of a cherry picker or paying someone with a very long hose to do it for us! It also means that in an emergency, we can also open the window fully to descend down a fireman’s ladder, should we become trapped in the living room by fire and unable to make it to our stairs or fire escape!

Furniture and Texture

So once I’ve decided on the colour of the walls and the new windows, it’s time to think about textures and furniture.

Textures help breath live into rooms and stop them feeling flat and uninviting. In 2020 we will see a strong focus on Bouclé which started on the catwalk and is now seeing as a wonderful texture in a warm and inviting home. Bouclé is both a yarn and fabric and the yarn is made from a length of loops in similar size which can range from tiny circlets to large curls. The looped yarns which are often in several subtle shades create a raised curled quality which gives a sophisticated but cosy feel. So looking for smart stitching detail will bring pattern and interest to decorative finishes on sofa arms, footstools and cushions. As well as adding depth and texture to your room.