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A few weeks ago we got an offer from Edinburgh Zoo through the post we couldn’t resist – one third off a year’s membership. We were previously members and missed the opportunity to go for a few hours on a weekend. So we decided it was worth signing up again for a year. It will pay for itself in only a couple of visits.

Getting There

Edinburgh Zoo is situated on the west side of the city, not too far from Murrayfield Stadium. It’s easy enough to find by car, particularly if you’re using a sat nav. It’s well signposted too. There’s a steep and windy road to negotiate to get up to the car park. You can also get to the zoo easily by bus and there are bus stops right outside the entrance. If you want to go by tram, the nearest stop is about a mile away and the nearest train station is Haymarket which is a couple of miles away.

Edinburgh Zoo Tickets

A day trip to Edinburgh Zoo certainly isn’t cheap. The prices are currently:

Ticket TypeOnline PriceWalk-up Price
Adult£17.50£19.50
Child (3-15 Years)£9.95£9.95
Child (under 3)FreeFree
Concession£15.00£17.00

If you’re booking tickets online, you need to do it at least three days in advance. It’s worth doing though to save a few pounds. If you’re driving there’s also a charge of £4.00 to use the car park. It’s worth getting there early because the car park gets full pretty quickly.

Membership

If you live anywhere close to Edinburgh Zoo and think you’re likely to visit a few times a year, it’s worth taking out membership. It pays for itself within a couple of visits. Annual membership will set you back:

Ticket TypePriceDirect Debit
Adult£65.00£63.50
Joint Adult£102.00£99.50
Child (3-15 Years)£32.00£31.50
Full-time Student£48.00£47.00

Included as part of your membership, you get the following benefits:

  • Unlimited free admission
  • Discounted admission for family and friends
  • Discounts in the gifts shop, restaurants and cafés
  • Free entry to reciprocal zoos
  • Exclusive zoo entry via the Member’s Gate
  • Discounted car park charge
The Animals

When it comes to Edinburgh Zoo most people probably think of the pandas. They’re the only ones in the UK so they’re a big draw. They have a female panda called Tian Tian and a male called Yang Guang which are on loan to the zoo for 10 years.

You used to have to book a timeslot to see the pandas but currently you don’t have to. They’re kept in separate enclosures which have an indoor and outdoor section. You’ll be unlucky if you don’t see one of them walking around the enclosures. Although quite often they like to take a nap indoors!

There’s are loads more animals to see apart from the pandas though. Edinburgh Zoo also has the UK’s only koalas. They are nearly always asleep but it’s nice for the kids to see them even if the koalas are in dreamland.

One of our particular favourites is the penguin enclosure. The main pool at Penguin Rock is Europe’s largest. You can see King Penguins, Gentoo Penguins as well as Northern Rockhopper Penguins there. As you’re walking down towards the panda enclosures, you can also watch the penguins swim underwater. They’re pretty inquisitive creatures!

The further you go into the zoo, the steeper it gets. Walking up to the top really does give you some great views across Edinburgh and over to the Pentlands. There’s not an awful lot to do up there though. Other than the lions and tigers, it feels a bit sparse up there. There’s a picnic and play area up there so it’s often better left for summer time.

You can be unlucky sometimes with the animals throughout the zoo. They can be quite elusive. We didn’t see either panda the last time we went as they kept disappearing between the indoor and outdoor enclosures. On the other hand we had a great time watching the rhino playing with a huge tractor tyre in it’s enclosure.

Eating At Edinburgh Zoo

We’ve been visiting Edinburgh Zoo for a number of years now and over time the food offering has certainly improved. There are currently three places to get a meal at the zoo:

  • Jungle Food Court
  • Grasslands Restaurant
  • Penguins Café

The Jungle Food Court doesn’t open all year round but when it does, it has a burger bar, traditional chip shop, pizzeria and ice cream coffee bar. The Grasslands Restaurant offers freshly-made pasta, salads, stone-baked pizzas, homemade soup as well as carvery baguettes. If you’re just after a snack then the Penguins Café might be your best option. We had a coffee in their on our last visit and a cake to keep us going. The kids had hot chocolate and a cake.

Overall

Edinburgh Zoo is definitely worth a visit, particularly in the summer time. It’s quite a hilly place so it’s worth taking your time to get around it all. If you’ve got a pram or a buggy it can be challenging but if you have little ones it means they’ve got somewhere to retreat to if they get tired. We really like having the annual membership because it means we can visit for a couple of hours every few weeks. We always get to see something different every time!

The post Spending Some Time At Edinburgh Zoo appeared first on Tim Bonner.

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My family and I were out for a walk at Vogrie Country Park recently. It was nice to explore parts of the park which we hadn’t walked around before. During our walk, my son asked me about the TV programmes I used to watch when I was a kid and whether they were very different to what he watches.

As I explained to me son, many of the programmes I watched as a kid are nothing like things he watches! I grew up in the last 1970s and early 1980s and there was an abundance of weird and wonderful things on TV. Many of them I’m sure my kids would like and some of the programme can even be found on Youtube.

The Adventure Game
The Adventure Game Intro - YouTube

The Adventure Game was one of my favourite programmes of all time as a kid. It was set on planet Argon where the game show contestants (or time travellers) had found themselves. The native dragon-like creatures stole the crystal from their time-travelling machine and the contestants had to win it back in order to get home.

By solving clues, the contestants earned currency known as Drogna. They needed it to get further in the game and to purchase things like green cheese rolls. Those rolls came in handy in the final game – the Vortex – where they could be used to check if the Vortex was next to them. There was a whole host of famous people from the 80s who turned up as time-travellers, including Noel Edmonds and Fern Britton.

Captain Caveman And The Teen Angels
Captain Caveman Intro - YouTube

I used to love the Captain Caveman cartoon. I vaguely remember it as being similar to Scooby Doo but with a caveman and three girls instead. He used to scream Captain Caaaaveeemaaaaaan at the top of his voice and one of the Teen Angels used to say zowee quite a lot.

Captain Caveman used to fly with his wooden club but it always used to conk out mid-air. The club had a small pterodactyl inside with a candle. I seem to remember he also had loads of animals like mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers hidden in his fur.

Worzel Gummidge
Worzel Gummidge opening credits - YouTube

When it comes to weird then Worzel Gummidge is definitely up there with the best of them. It was about a scarecrow who came to life and could change his turnip heads for all sorts of occasions. The Crowman, Worzel’s creator, was someone he would turn to when things weren’t going to plan.

Worzel had a girlfriend, Aunt Sally, who wasn’t exactly pleased to be around him. She was always mean and rude. I seem to remember he also fell in love with a ship’s figurehead called Saucy Nancy, which really annoyed Aunt Sally. I’m not sure what kids would make of Worzel Gummidge these days. I certainly loved it when it was around in the late 1970s!

Dungeons And Dragons
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS Cartoon Intro - YouTube

I was never into playing Dungeons and Dragons but I found the cartoon fascinating as a kid. A group of friends take a ride on a roller coaster and end up in an alternate realm. The first thing they meet is a multi-headed dragon called Tiamat but thankfully the Dungeon Master comes to their aid. He gives them tools to help them fight the dragon.

The dragon isn’t their only problem though. There’s a strange looking demon baddie called Venger who is very powerful. It turns out he’s the Dungeon Master’s son who was turned evil by the Nameless One. The episodes usually involve the group of friends having to do various tasks in order to try and return back home but they always seem to be scuppered in their endeavours.

The Mysterious Cities Of Gold
The Mysterious Cities Of Gold Intro HD - YouTube

I dipped into the Mysterious Cities of Gold when I was a kid. I never quite knew what was going on but I found it fascinating to watch. It featured Esteban and his adventures in the New World trying to find his father and the Mysterious Cities of Gold. The series seemed to go on forever and I’m sure I missed some episodes.

The thing I remember the most about the Mysterious Cities of Gold was the theme tune. It was one of the most iconic pieces of music from children’s TV in the 1980s. The intro and theme tune made the cartoon seem even more mysterious and ultimately more enticing to watch.

What Were Your Favourite TV Programmes As A Kid?

There were loads more programmes I loved as a kid but I’ll save them for another time.

Did you have any programmes as a child you just couldn’t miss each week?

The post 5 Of My Favourite TV Programmes From Childhood appeared first on Tim Bonner.

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The AA has released a new video which aims to tackle car theft and car crime after:

  • 1 in 4 don’t think about car crime*
  • 1 in 10 think modern cars are theft-proof
  • 4% don’t bother to lock their cars
  • According to police figures for 2017, there were 280,313 recorded offences of theft from vehicles (13% more than 2016), and 103,644 were stolen (19% more than 2016) in England and Wales**
What do car thieves look for? - YouTube

There are two types of car theftfrom the vehicle and theft of the vehicle. Both can be planned or opportunistic.

Taking extra care if your car has a keyless entry system is essential – as signals from your key can be relayed.

Ensure you always stand by your car and listen for the ‘click’ of the locks before you walk away from your car as thieves now use signal blocking which blocks the ‘lock’ signal sent by the key.

You can read the AA’s Top Tips on Keeping your car safe here:

https://www.theaa.com/car-insurance/advice/car-theft

  • Always check your door handles are locked before you leave the car. Make sure your car is locked and be careful not to accidentally unlock your car when you put your keys in your pocket.
  • Remove anything from your car that could be of value to thieves.
  • Use a locked garage if you have one.
  • When looking for a public parking space try to use a car park that offers good security, such as one accredited by the Safer Parking Scheme. Avoid parking in dark streets away from public activity.
  • If your car has a keyless entry system then keep the key in a signal blocking pouch and keep it as far away from the car as possible.
  • Always keep your keys in a drawer or other safe place, not on the hall table or a convenient rack near the front door – keys are frequently ‘fished’ by thieves using a pole and hook through the letterbox.
  • Consider using a mechanical steering locking device – this could put off an opportunistic thief.
  • Fit a Thatcham certified immobiliser. These aren’t as vulnerable to some of the new electronic techniques that thieves may use to bypass your car’s standard security features or to override a keyless entry system.
  • Consider fitting a tracking system to help find your car if it’s stolen (for upmarket cars this may be an insurance requirement).
  • If you’re selling a car, always accompany potential buyers on a test drive. And if you change seats, take the keys with you and hand them over when you get back in the car.

More information: https://www.theaa.com/car-insurance/advice/car-theft

* AA-Populus online poll of 20,496 AA Members, 13 to 20 March 2018

* Office for National Statistics, Crime in England and Wales, year ending December 2017. ‘Police recorded vehicle offences increased by 16% in the year ending December 2017, continuing the rising trend seen over the last two years.’

The post New Video And Survey: 1 in 4 AA Members Don’t Think About Car Crime appeared first on Tim Bonner.

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When you think of Los Angeles, it’s easy to imagine sun-drenched streets, impossibly-beautiful people – and, of course, great music. This is a guide to the top musical hotspots in LA which continue to inspire today’s musicians, from areas which launched rap superstars to the cities which have inspired thousands of great songs.

If you’re flying to LA, take some time out to explore its musical history and get closer to the places which inspired the music you love.

https://www.airnewzealand.co.uk/los-angeles-music-tourMusical Tour of LA

Hollywood/Hollywood and Vine – The spiritual home of the American movie industry, it’s also home to the Dolby Theater, Capitol Records Building and is, of course, mentioned in hundreds of songs as a symbol of fame, success and glamour.

Compton – A city in the south of Los Angeles County, it is one of the epicentres of American rap music. Home to NWA stars Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and Ice Cube, as well as Coolio, The Game and more recently Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar.

Malibu – Although Malibu isn’t a hotbed for concerts or music venues, its beautiful beaches, coastline and ocean views have inspired songwriters for generations, because as The Runaways said in their song California Paradise – “Malibu shines like summer gold”.

Sunset Boulevard/The Sunset Strip – Home to many famous LA bars, recording studios and theatres, including The Viper Room, The Rainbow Bar and Grill, Whisky a Go Go and The Tiffany Theater. It also has an area known as Guitar Row, due to the high number of music stores and businesses.

Laurel Canyon – A hotbed for counterculture in the 60s and 70s, this Hollywood Hills neighbourhood was home to stars like Frank Zappa, Carole King and Neil Young. The area would inspire some of the most iconic music and photography of that era.

Santa Monica – A popular location for tourists, Santa Monica is home to Universal Music Group and its associated record labels, as well as The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Santa Monica Boulevard was also the inspiration for a hit Sheryl Crow song.

Central Avenue – The home of jazz and R&B in Los Angeles through the 30s, 40s and 50s, Central Avenue was home to a large African-American community including jazz legend Charles Mingus. It’s still home to an annual Jazz festival and a number of small jazz clubs.

Music Venues in Los Angeles

Whisky a Go-Go – A West Hollywood institution and the launching pad for bands like Linkin Park, No Doubt, System of a Down and The Doors. The nightclub has achieved such iconic status as a music venue that it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Troubador – A legendary rock and folk music venue established in the 1960s, The Troubador has hosted some of music’s greatest singer-songwriters. Elton John’s first American gig happened there and to this day it remains an influential venue for emerging artists.

The Roxy Theatre – A nightclub venue that has hosted many notable album recordings and other live performances. Including albums by Neil Young, Bob Marley, Guns ‘N’ Roses and Warren Zevon. It was also the location for The Ramones’ first Californian gig in 1976.

Hollywood Bowl – The Hollywood Hills is home to this unique amphitheatre that offers amazing acoustics and is the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Hundreds of concerts take place there every year and can sometimes be seen from outside the bowl, on the surrounding hills.

Staples Center – An arena that hosts both sport and entertainment events, The Staples Center is a go-to venue when the stars of pop, rock and rap are touring Los Angeles. It is also the regular host venue for The Grammy Awards.

The Greek – Tucked away in Griffith Park in the Santa Monica mountains, The Greek or ‘Greek Theatre’ is named for its Grecian-style stage. It hosts a variety of musical events and stage shows and was featured in the 2010 Jonah Hill film ‘Get Him to the Greek’.

Dodger Stadium – Best known as the home of the LA Dodgers baseball team, the stadium also hosts mega-concerts thanks to its massive 56,000 capacity. As well as acts like Dave Matthews Band, U2 and Bruce Springsteen, it hosted the penultimate live performance of The Beatles.

The Viper Room – Well known for stories of Rock Star and Hollywood excess, the bar opened in 1993 with actor Johnny Depp as one of the owners. A popular hangout for young actors and musicians throughout the 90s, today it regularly hosts metal and punk rock acts.

Rainbow Bar and Grill – Although not primarily a music venue, this bar/restaurant has been a hangout for musicians since the early 70s. Stars like Alice Cooper, Keith Moon and Lemmy were known to frequent. The venue is also referenced in a range of notable songs and music videos.

Musical Buildings in Los Angeles

Capitol Records Building – The home of the Capitol Records record label, and the famous Capital Studios recording facilities, which have been used by artists like Frank Sinatra and The Beach Boys. An iconic LA landmark – the light on top of the building’s spire blinks the word ‘Hollywood’ in Morse code, all year round.

Amoeba Music Record Store – Streaming and MP3s are very convenient, but can’t really compete with the thrill of holding music in your hands. Founded in 1990, Amoeba Music stocks 100,000s of titles, making it one of the largest independent record stores in the world.

Grammy Museum – The Grammy Awards are the Oscars of the music world and in Los Angeles you’ll find the Grammy Museum which features exhibits, memorabilia and specific programs designed to celebrate the best of recorded music.

Los Angeles Music Center – Home to both the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and Los Angeles Opera company, it’s one of the biggest performing arts centres in the US. It’s made up of various venues including the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

RockWalk – Hollywood has its famous Walk of Fame, but on Sunset Boulevard you’ll find the RockWalk. Among the many Rockstar handprints in the concrete outside the Guitar Center music store, you’ll find Chuck Berry, Stevie Wonder, The Ramones and Ozzy Osbourne.

Lyrics Countdown
  1. Hollywood – 3280 mentions.
  2. Compton – 874 mentions.
  3. Sunset Boulevard – 332 mentions.
  4. Malibu – 315 mentions.
  5. Long Beach – 299 mentions.
  6. Inglewood – 224 mentions.
  7. South Central – 219 mentions.
  8. Santa Monica – 179 mentions.
  9. Pasadena – 67 mentions.
  10. Laurel Canyon – 66 mentions.
  11. Hollywood and Vine – 63 mentions.
  12. Sunset Strip – 58 mentions.

Source: allthelyrics.com

The post LA Road Trippin’ – A Musical Map Of Los Angeles appeared first on Tim Bonner.

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Since the LOL Dolls are keen to take over our house, it was only fitting that Santa brought them a house to live in. I was a little worried that he wouldn’t get it in time because it was in great demand. At the start of December I managed to get on a waiting list for the LOL dolls house. Thankfully my local toy store guaranteed it would get to me before Christmas.

Santa asked me to pick up the dolls house for him from our local Smyth Toys Superstore. When the text came through it was ready and I only had 48 hours to pick it up, I went straight away. I couldn’t risk either of my kids seeing what I was up to! I managed to man handle it from the shop into the car and then from the car into our garden shed. It was heavy!

It’s Flat Pack Time!

When it came to Christmas Day, my daughter was very excited to get the LOL dolls house set up so she could play with it. The only problem was, it came in flat pack form and I had to put it together. There seemed to be so many pieces to assemble it felt overwhelming when I first took everything out of the box.

The instruction booklet which came with the dolls house was a little confusing. I eventually noticed that each wooden piece had a sticker on it with a letter. That corresponded to putting things together with the instruction manual. Phew! The only trouble was a couple of the pieces had no sticker on which didn’t fill me with huge confidence.

There were a couple of times I had no idea what the instruction manual was showing me. It was lucky that the folks who produced the LOL dolls house put together an instruction video that I found on Youtube. It made things a lot clearer at some of the stages of putting the house together.

LOL Surprise! | LOL Surprise! House Assembly Instructions | Easy Step-By-Step Demo - YouTube
The Finished Product

There was great excitement once I had put the final section of the LOL dolls house together. My daughter couldn’t wait to play with it and put all of the accessories inside. The house itself is surprisingly sturdy. I’m not sure what I was expecting but the majority of it is made out of wood.

The thing I found the trickiest to figure out was the spiral staircase. On watching the video instructions it sounded like it snapped into place in the house. That didn’t happen with ours. For ages I couldn’t figure out that you needed to remove the top of the staircase to add it to the house. I assumed I was missing an item from the box. That’s why the video instructions are well worth watching because they explain more clearly what to do compared to the printed instructions.

Even though it took up a good part of Christmas morning, putting the LOL dolls house together was well worth it. My daughter has had hours of play from it already and it means all of LOL dolls are tidied away every evening. It’s not cheap but if you can stomach the price, it’s pretty sturdy and will last a good while.

The post The LOL Dolls Got Somewhere New To Live appeared first on Tim Bonner.

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It’s always nice to visit somewhere you haven’t been before. Meiringen and the Alpen Tower are two places I’ve never been to on previous holidays to the Bernese Oberland. The travel pass we bought to get around during our holiday to Switzerland included travel to both places so it made sense to go and take a look.

We were hoping to get a glimpse of some more marmots on the mountain slopes. Their absence from many of the cable car journeys earlier in the holiday was a bit of a disappointment. We’d told the kids about the many times we’d seem marmots when we had been to Switzerland previously.

Meiringen© Thisisbossi – Bahnhofstrasse, Meiringen, Switzerland

I knew Meiringen had something to do with Sherlock Holmes but I didn’t know much more about it than that. The nearby Reichenbach Falls is where he fights to his death with arch nemesis Professor Moriarty. You can take the funicular up to the Falls from Meiringen. There’s also a Sherlock Holmes museum in the town.

Meiringen’s other claim to fame is the birthplace of meringues. There are several places you can eat them in the town if you want to try them out. We didn’t stay long in the town though and decided to head up to find the cable car station to get to the Alpen Tower on the Planplatten.

Getting To The Alpen Tower© Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), Meiringen-Hasliberg aerial cableway Reuti (1186-88) , CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s 15 minutes walk from the train station to the cable car to Hasliberg Reuti. That’s the first stage of getting to the Alpen Tower. It’s one of the larger cable cars and it was pretty busy and crammed with people on our way up. Alternatively you can get a train up to the Brünig Pass and then postbus to Hasliberg Reuti. That would be quite a long way round though.

© Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), Gondola lift Hasliberg Reuti-Bidmi-Mägisalp – Stopover Bidmi (1212) , CC BY-SA 3.0

Once you get to Hasliberg Reuti you then transfer to the smaller gondola cable cars. These only fit a few people in them and if there’s a group of four of you, you’ll probably get a gondola to yourselves. I seem to remember they fit six people in them and we had a couple of extra passengers on the way up. It does feel a little bit weird travelling up in such a small cable car with strangers.

You change gondolas part way up the journey to the Alpen Tower and luckily our extra passengers got out as they were going hiking. That meant we had the gondola to ourselves for the remainder of the journey. It meant we could do do our marmot-spotting in peace. The marmots didn’t disappoint either. On the slopes higher up where there were less people about, there were an abundance of the little critters.

The Alpen Tower© Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons) – Planplatten – Alpentower , CC BY-SA 3.0

When you get to the Alpen Tower, there’s a panoramic restaurant with spectacular views all around. On the day we went up there was no snow but plenty of low cloud. The views came and went as the clouds passed by. We had a snack in the restaurant and then ventured out to marvel at the views.

  • Cloudy view from the summit
  • Paraglider getting ready to jump
  • Marmots in the clouds

We took a walk out along the Planplatten ridge to a view point. From there we were lucky enough to watch several paragliders getting ready to start their journey down to Meiringen. Their gear looked very heavy to carry up but once unpacked it looked worth it.

Paraglider on Planplatten - YouTube
Walking Back To Meiringen Station

On our way back down from the Alpen Tower we walked back a different way through Meiringen to get to the train station. We came across an unusual church tower.

By that stage the kids were tired after a long day and wanted to get back to Grindelwald. We had planned to go back by boat via Brienz but decided the leisurely route back wasn’t the wise thing to do. By train it takes just over half an hour but the boat journey would take another hour on top!

I’d definitely go back to visit Meiringen and the Alpen Tower again. The weather wasn’t conducive to particularly great views from the top on the day we visited.

Have you ever been to Meiringen or visited the Alpen Tower? Is there anything else in the area you’d recommend as somewhere for families to visit?

The post Our First Trip To Meiringen And The Alpen Tower appeared first on Tim Bonner.

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My kids are trying to persuade my wife and I that we need to get a pet. Many of their friends have dogs, cats, rabbits and several other combinations of animals. So far we’ve been reluctant to get on board with their request though.

Taking on a pet is a big commitment in both time and money. There are many good reasons for us to get a pet but equally there are several I can think of against the idea. It’s whether at this stage the pros outweigh the cons. That also comes down to what type of pet we might go for.

Fish

Probably the most boring option would be to get a fish. They’re relatively easy to care for by all accounts and they don’t need walks and probably won’t amass expensive vet bills. If you go on holiday, they’ll survive for up to 14 days on special fish food you can buy.

But you can’t cuddle a fish and you couldn’t consider them as a companion for your kids. I know people say they can be calming to watch. Although I don’t think my kids would thank me if we decided to get a fish as a pet. They’re just not interactive at all.

Whilst getting a fish might be my preferred option from a practicality point of view, I suspect it would be bottom of the pet list overall.

Rabbit

A rabbit would be closer to the type of pet we might go for. They’re cute and cuddly and would give the kids more of a challenge to look after than a fish. I suspect the novelty would wear off quickly with a rabbit though and I’d end up being the one looking after it.

I’ve heard that having a lone rabbit isn’t great because they’re naturally sociable. They need the company of another rabbit to stay healthy and have a fulfilling life. Rabbits don’t like to be handled particularly unless they’ve been used to it from an early age. I suspect that won’t really meet with my kids’ expectations of what they want in a pet.

I don’t want more than one pet at the moment and we don’t have the space to keep them inside part of the year when it gets cold. That rules out a rabbit as a pet pretty much.

Cat

When I was growing up we always had a cat as a pet. We lived on a farm so they helped to keep the mice population down. I have fond memories of them because they were very affectionate. They loved to spend time in the house but also lived independent lives outside much of the time.

I do some have misgivings about getting a cat though. We live near a busy main road and I’d hate for the kid’s brand new pet to get squished. Cats are notoriously fickle too. One minute they’re purring away and the next minute claws are out and their biting the hand that feeds them.

Still, if we do get a pet, a cat would be one of the main contenders. The kids would get a great deal out of caring for them and I know my daughter in particular would be thrilled.

Dog

Out of all of the pets my kids could have, a dog is what they really want. It’s what they always talk about. We had a dog as well as cats when I was a kid. I know how much they’d get out of having one.

Whilst I’m at home a dog would be a good companion to have. I have time to take them for walks and even take them running with me. We have an enclosed garden with a high fence and most dogs wouldn’t be able to get over or under it. Our house isn’t that big but it’d comfortably accommodate a small to medium-sized dog.

I’m mindful that we don’t have any relatives living nearby. Travelling over to Ireland with a dog to see family may be an issue. We’d also have to put it in kennels if we were away for any extended length of time. Nothing that would put me off but certainly things to consider.

The Verdict

It’s got to be a dog. The kids would get a lot out of having their companionship. I don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds on one though. If the right rescue dog comes up then that would be the way to go. It’s got to be the right dog and we’ve got to be the right family.

Does your family have any pets? How did you decide what type was right for your family?

The post If We Get A Pet, What Type Is Right For Our Family? appeared first on Tim Bonner.

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Now that the Gutenberg project is live in WordPress, I decided to look into finding a theme for my blog to take advantage of the new editor. I didn’t want to move away from the Genesis Framework as it feels like a solid foundation.

A couple of weeks ago, StudioPress emailed me to say that they would be updating a number of their themes, although not the one I was using at the time. So I started researching the ones they were updating.

All of these themes include the functionality to add full width images, videos and galleries. They also add more consistent styling to the pull and block quote blocks.

Authority Pro

After spending time looking at the demos for all the themes, I decided to invest in the Authority Pro theme. It was the closest fit to what I was looking for in terms of design, font, functionality and overall style.

StudioPress describe the theme as follows:

Authority Pro perfectly highlights your knowledge, years of experience, and acquired wisdom. Even if it’s early in your journey toward building expertise and trust, this carefully-constructed design will accelerate how quickly your audience grows.

Hopefully I can live up to the potential StudioPress have in the theme!

What I Like About My New WordPress ThemeFeatured Image

With StudioPress themes I’ve had previously, the WordPress featured image doesn’t get used at the top of blog posts or pages. In order to use the featured image, I had to add a piece of code to the functions.php file. That’s okay but it always felt like a step I shouldn’t have to take.

Authority Pro gives you the option to add the featured image above the post through the Customize menu. It makes it a very prominent feature. If you’re using a sidebar, the image spans both the content and sidebar sections. The image it uses is long and thin, so I’ve had to experiment to get the right fit. You also need to consider that the same image is used on the blog page but at a smaller size.

Design

When it comes to WordPress themes, I prefer lots of white space. It makes it easier for people to read and to get a sense of what they should be looking at. Authority Pro provides ample white space, coupled with a clear, easy to read font. The default cobalt blue primary colour is a touch too hard on the eyes though so I toned it down a little to a more subtle blue.

I like the fact that the thumbnails on the blog page move when you hover over them. It makes things a little bit more interesting. You can also set the intro paragraph on each blog post to italics to differentiate it from the rest of the post. It helps to make the opening paragraph stand out more.

Gutenberg Optimised

All of StudioPress' themes are Gutenberg ready but as I mentioned earlier only six of them have so far been optimised for the new editor. What I particularly like about Authority Pro compared to some of the other optimised themes is that it is truly full width. You can have full width videos, images and galleries if you don't have a sidebar on your posts and pages. Not all of the optimised themes have this as they are fixed width.

At the moment I'm planning on keeping my sidebar. Previously I did remove it for a while. If I ever decide to do that again, this theme will be perfect for experimenting with storytelling posts including images and video.

Menus

There are three menu locations included in the Authority Pro theme:

  • the header menu is shown to the right of the header;
  • the footer menu appears to the right of the footer text;
  • the social menu floats along the left hand side of the page vertically.

Ok, so the header and footer menus aren't anything different from what you'd expect. The social menu though is a nice addition and means I can get rid of another plugin to do the same job. It doesn't use social media icons but instead shows links to your social media accounts. That's useful if you don't want to use it for the purposes of social media because it can also be a more standard menu if you wanted.

Is It Time To Update Your Site To A New WordPress Theme?

It's always nice to refresh your WordPress theme every now and again. Things change quickly online and new innovations can make the case for updating quite appealing. Otherwise you could be left behind!

Have you changed your WordPress Theme recently and is it optimised for Gutenberg?

If you need some inspiration, you can access a demo of the Authority Pro theme here.

The post Authority Pro – My Blog’s New WordPress Theme appeared first on Tim Bonner.

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When it comes to ice cream, the town where I live has more than its fair share of places to indulge. There are three ice cream parlours within walking distance and two of them are within yards of where I live. At times it can be too tempting not to go in when walking passed!

Two of the ice cream parlours have quite a history behind them. Both were started by Italian families around the turn of the twentieth century. The other one opened a few weeks ago and also has an extensive collection of sweets, slushies and other goodies.

S Luca

Luca’s has been around since 1908 when Luca Scappaticcio and his wife Anastasia opened their first ice cream parlour in Musselburgh. He was born in Cassino, Italy and came over to Scotland in the 1890s.

I remember when I first moved to Musselburgh, the ice cream flavours available at Luca’s was quite limited. There was only Strawberry, Vanilla and Chocolate. Their ice cream is so well-made I guess they didn’t need to extend the range. Over the past few years though they’ve added a lot of new flavours as well as sorbet. They also make luxury chocolates which make excellent gifts.

Behind the shop there’s a cafe where you can sit in and eat ice cream, including sundaes and other sweet delights. You don’t have to stick with ice cream though as they have plenty of savoury dishes and coffees as well as home-made cakes on the menu. They even do ice cream cakes!

Di Rollo

Di Rollo’s ice cream parlour started in Musselburgh in 1899. It was opened by Domenico Di Rollo after he came to Scotland from Roccasecca, a small Italian village near Cassino. Seems like Cassino was a popular place for emigrating to Musselburgh!

They’ve always had a wide array of ice cream flavours to choose from. I remember that in contrast to Luca’s. Di Rollo’s ice cream is very moreish and creamy. They also have sorbets and a huge selection of chocolates. I always love going into see the delights they have on offer.

At the back of Di Rollo’s shop there’s a small seating area where you can sit in and enjoy ice cream with a coffee. They don’t have a restaurant but that’s okay. It’s nice just to go there and sit for a while away from the hustle and bustle of the world.

Sweet Haven

Sweet Haven is the new kid on the block in Musselburgh but it’s already become a firm favourite in our household. They have a mountain of different ice cream and sorbet flavours. Not only that but they also have loads of sweets to choose from. Many of them are oldy-worldy and take me back a few years.

The kids love the place because they do slushies and sweets that they haven’t seen anywhere else. You can also buy tubes of Millions and Jelly Belly beans. It feels almost overwhelming for my kids when they go in there because there’s so much to choose from. Their eyes almost cannot believe what they can see.

There’s a seating area in the shop too so you can eat your ice cream inside if you want. They also serve drinks, homemade cakes, sundaes and some amazing cheesecakes. I didn’t think that Musselburgh could take another ice cream parlour but Sweet Haven has already won a place in my wallet.

Do you have any ice cream parlours where you live? What’s your favourite flavour?

The post You Can Never Have Enough Ice Cream appeared first on Tim Bonner.

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For many years I’ve used a manual razor because it gives such a close shave. Considering the price of replacement blades though, I’ve been exploring other avenues. After a false start, I decided to hedge my bets with the Philips Series 3000 Electric Shaver.

When I say a false start, I originally bought a Chinese brand of electric shaver from Amazon which I’d never heard of. On receiving it, the shaver didn’t work and I had to return it. Amazon were very speedy at paying a refund and it was all fine in the end.

What’s In The Box

In the box you’ll find:

  • the Philips Series 3000 electric wet & dry shaver;
  • instructions and warranty information;
  • a protective cover for the razor;
  • a 2-pin charging cable.

After you’ve plugged the shaver in, a green light comes on to show it’s charging. It takes an hour to charge and then you should have 50 minutes of shaving time. The shaver is designed not to be used whilst plugged in so it does need to be charged first before you can use it.

I had hoped there might be some sort of travel case that comes with the razor. There is one but to buy the razor and travel case, it was an extra thirty pounds on Amazon. I didn’t feel the case was worth that so I decided at a later stage I’d get a cheaper one which isn’t Philips branded.

Shaving Dry

I haven’t used an electric shaver since my teens. The Philips Series 3000 electric shaver gave me no issues in terms of using it for the first time. It’s pretty self-explanatory! I read somewhere that for best results you need to shave in a circular motion so I’ve been experimenting with that.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results from dry shaving. The shaving heads handle the contours of my face well, although it’s not as good as my manual razor around my chin. It works well on the neck and face and above the mouth but it’s less effective below the mouth. The results are more than acceptable though.

Wet Shaving

Where the Philips Series 3000 shaver comes into its own is wet shaving. It’s designed to be used with shaving gel or foam, just like you would with a manual razor. It’s cordless and you can use it in the shower so it leaves less mess to clean up afterwards.

From my experience, wet shaving with the Philips Series 3000 gives as good a result as using a manual razor. It feels like a very close shave – something I wasn’t expecting to get from an electric shaver. You also run less of a risk of cutting yourself due to the rounded profile of the shaving heads which are designed to protect the skin.

The shaver comes with a pop-up trimmer on the back so trim your sideburns. I like the fact that it’s integrated into the shaver on this model. I had originally considered buying a more expensive model. The trimmer on those is a separate attachment which is less convenient. There was also a suggestion in some online reviews that it made the razor attachment less secure each time it had to be removed to put in the trimmer.

When it comes to charging the Philips Series 3000 shaver, you might also want to consider getting an adaptor. Plugging it in to charge in the bathroom in a 2-pin socket isn’t very convenient. Getting a shaver adaptor makes it so much easier to plug the shaver in wherever you want.

Would I Recommend The Philips Series 3000 Wet & Dry Shaver?

For the price that the Philips Series 3000 shaver is available at you can’t go wrong. Based on the price of refills for manual razors, the Philips shaver will have paid for itself within a few months. You only need to change the blades on this electric shaver every couple of years.

Shaving with it dry doesn’t always give a particularly close shave but it’s acceptable. It doesn’t irritate my skin and it’s a comfortable shave. It also feels less likely that I’ll cut myself using the electric shaver instead of a manual one.

Where the Philips Series 3000 comes into its own is wet shaving. I’m impressed by the closeness of the shave and how convenient it is to shave with it in the shower. There’s no mess involved particularly as you can rinse it under the shower. I have no doubt that I’ve made the right decision to move from a manual razor to the Series 3000.

The post Hands On With The Philips Series 3000 Electric Shaver appeared first on Tim Bonner.

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