Thursday, 24 April 2014

Legotastic Facts

There are a bazillion LEGO facts being quoted on the internet at the moment, but one of my perennial favourites as a European living in the UK is that the plural of LEGO.....

Here's an infographic put together by the Kansas LEGOLAND Discovery Centre - which is a little further for me to visit than Manchester, but I'm happy to add it to the bucket list....and hey, if they ever want someone to review....

We actually own about 1 billion of those minifigures, I'm sure of it....

Feeding Time At Knowsley Safari Park

My boys adore animals, but don't get to see them that often, so an invite to check out the Family Workshops at Knowsley Safari Park was very welcome.

We met at 10am in the Safari School building, which was a really great room with all kinds of amazing skeletons and other interesting things to look at while everyone arrived. Our session "Food and Feeding" was led by two of the Park Rangers Nicky and Sue.

We started with explanations of the different types of foods animals, insects and other creatures eat and how their teeth work - including close ups with an Elephant's tooth and Lion's jaw

Then we met some of the creatures - the Hissing Cockroaches made everyone jump!

The Australian Tree Frog very kindly showed us the pads on his feet...

And the Giant Land Snails weren't as slimy as we thought they'd be...

My boys were just as interested in the deceased though! The collections of skeletons fascinated them. 


Then we made food for the Meercats! The Rangers explained they like to make it as interesting as possible, so we'd be filling hollowed out melons and logs.

This session is ideally designed for people aged 6+. Because my boys were younger they weren't allowed to handle Mealworms, our logs were filled with dog biscuits and fruit, plugged with melon and then carried over to the Meercat Enclosure.

Then it was over to the giraffes. Again, under 6's aren't allowed to feed giraffes due to some obscure Health & Safety, but everyone still got a good close look!

We were told that giraffes have black tongues to stop them getting burnt because they stick them out so much!

Back to the Jungle School and we prepared fruit for one of my favourites - bats.

And we were allowed into the really dark Fruit Bat enclosure where the keeper hung up the strings of fruit. The bats flew all around our heads and went crazy over the food. I did my best to take some flash free photos...

We had an amazing time. It was really great to get up close and personal with so many creatures and animals and my boys came home and told the other children all about it. We all learnt a lot, in a really friendly atmosphere.

I'd recommend these sessions to anyone because they make so much more of your day out. I really do like bats and being so close to so many is an experience I won't ever forget.

Knowsley Safari Park regularly run all kinds of Family Workshops at a cost of only an extra £6.50 per person for 2 hours, and children receive a badge and certificate. All sessions are shown on their website.

We received entry to the park and Family Workshop free of charge for review purposes.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Catch Phrase TV Board Game from Drumond Park Review and Giveaway

Everyone's seen Catch Phrase on the TV - the show with the the funny animated cartoons which depict a well-known phrase or saying. Drumond Park have turned Catch Phrase into a board game, and last night we played it with our 4 teenagers.

Catch Phrase is suitable for 2-4 players aged 8+. It is possible to play with more players, but each extra person will increase the length of the gameplay.

Catch Phrase isn't played on a traditional board, in fact the play revolves around the animated character from the show - Mr Chips. One player takes the role of Host and is in charge of the question cards, which Mr Chips holds.

Each card is double-sided, with the answer on the reverse.  

Round 1 is The Individual Round and players take it in turns to have 15 seconds to try and guess the catch phrase from the picture clue. If they get it right then they have a turn at the Bonus Round, if wrong then it's opened up to the rest of the players to have 15 seconds to take a guess.

When a player correctly guesses a catch phrase then they can have a turn at the Bonus Catch Phrase Round. This is a really neat card with 9 removable windows that reveal the full photo slowly after each correct answer just as in the TV show.

Each card answered correctly earns you £100, and the bonus round earns you £300. When you have exposed all of the picture in the bonus round or it has been guessed then play moves on to round 2.

Round 2 is the Rapid Fire Round. The host places a card on the Mr Chips stand and all players can shout out as many guesses as they like until the timer runs out. 5 cards are played and every one answered correctly within the time limit earns £200.

Round 3 is the Super Catch Phrase Round. This uses special one-sided cards placed randomly on a board with 6 spaces. One question from each row in turn must be answered correctly as in the rapid fire round, winning £300, £400 and £500 respectively. Then the next player has a turn to host and we start again at Round 1. After every player has hosted, money is counted and the winner declared.

My one complaint about catch phrase is that the Super Catch Phrase cards didn't really work. They have the 'answer' written on them and it's meant to be invisible without the special red film, but at certain angles you could easily read it, so we ended up having to obscure it anyway.

I really enjoyed this game. With 6 of us gameplay was a bit long, but it was great fun. There are plenty of 'ooooh' and 'aaaaagh' moments, and lots of laughs.

Catch Phrase The Board Game retails at around £19.99 and I think that's a great price for a game such as this. Replay is a little limited as there are only 30 bonus catch phrase cards, 2 of which are visible when you open the box, and I think after a few plays through you would learn them all, but it still offers excellent value for money.

Drumond Park have very kindly offered a copy of Catch Phrase The Board Game to give away to one of my readers. Entry is by Rafflecopter below. The first question is mandatory and must be answered as a comment on this post, and extra entries can be gained by completing more tasks. UK entries only please. Entries will cease on Friday 16th May at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm going to Blog On 2014....and it'll be very different this time....


Blog On 2013 was in July. At this point 2 weeks beforehand I was getting ready to attend my first ever blogging conference, excited and nervous.  I'd bought a new frock, packed goodie bags with Laura and then the proverbial hit the fan for us in a huge and forever way - my partner got Meningitis.

My partner out of immediate danger and home from hospital I went to Blog On. I left my 2 little boys with their 5 teenage siblings, with one teenager responsible for her Dad, including regularly waking him to drink water and checking his temperature every hour as his body couldn't regulate it yet. I had money for a quick taxi home just in case, and various other back up plans. At that point he was only awake for a couple of hours a day so in fact he slept the entire day and wasn't really aware that I'd gone anywhere.

I didn't realise until afterwards just what a mess I was. I was absolutely shattered and drained and really desperately needed that time off. I wrote another post about how great Blog On had been, I carried on doing my best to keep everything together and then another month later I broke my leg. The latter half of 2013 vanished into a blur and while it seemed to last an eternity at the time, I have very little memory of most of it - reading that post is like vaguely remembering a dream I once had.

My apologies to anyone who I met and don't remember this time...and please say hello and don't hold it against me. And anyone who I met who doesn't remember me - it's a win!

Blog On 2014 will be different. I will be there in body AND mind. I will remember the faces and names of people I meet. I won't be nipping out to ring home every hour and I won't be so tired that I try to get off the tram after one stop because I'm convinced I'm on a bus.

In case you wanted to know a bit more about me, Laura has put together a few questions, so here are my answers....

Name - Jenny
Twitter - @thebrickcastle
facebook - The Brick Castle
Location - North Manchester
Kids - 7 of them. They're everywhere, making my living room look a mess.
Favourite Food - Proper mushy peas, in fact, black peas.
Tea or coffee - Coffee, I have a dislike of tea.
Cat or Dog - Dog, I have a dislike of cats
I'm Left handed
Dietary requirements - Veggie since I was 13.
Special talents - I can sing the whole of 'Up The Junction' by Squeeze however drunk I am.
Describe Yourself In Seven Words - My hair is completely unmanageable - and blonde.
What Is The Best And Worst Thing About Blogging - The record of events is brilliant, the feeling when you've promised someone a post and don't have any time and it's already 2am not so brilliant.
What is the most embarrassing thing you've ever done - This is a family blog!
What will you be wearing at Blog ON - I'll be wearing a dress with a brick effect, so that if I stand in front of a window you'll think I'm floating outside.
What’s your favourite blog post you have written this year so far - This one - The post where someone I didn't know brought an entire street made of LEGO to my house to show us. It was such a stunning and bizarre thing to do, and we've made a great friend because of it - and playing with a 5 foot long street full of LEGO was awesome.
If you choke a smurf what colour does it turn - grey.
While you are here would you like some cake? What kind? - Benny

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

NOMAD ChargeKey and ChargeCard ~ The world's smallest USB cables reviewed.

My teenagers lay claim to every USB cable that they find, I've lost a couple this month and I've even started keeping my latest one in my handbag so it doesn't vanish. Something really small is ideal, so reviewing NOMAD's ChargeKey and ChargeCard is perfect for me. 

The ChargeKey and ChargeCard are shaped like a house key and a credit card respectively. They are the world's smallest, most portable USB cables and allow you to transfer data or charge your phone or other devices via a USB port.

The packaging was as good as it's word. Minimalist and fuss-free, but really attractive actually. 

NOMAD Chargekey and ChargeCard packaging shows size

And inside, the tiny USB cables - virtually 'cableless cables'.

Immediately I wondered if actually they'd be a bit too short and a bit of a pain, and also if they'd fit with my LifeProof case, which narrows the port.  The good news is that the ChargeKey does fit even with my case, although the card doesn't, so my other half bagsied the card for his Sony phone.

NOMAD ChargeCard USB charging cable miniature

I have to say it's not the best thing ever for using your phone while it charges, it's quite hard to get it to an angle where you can see the screen comfortably without feeling as if you're going to put stress on the charger, but after a weeks use everything is still working just fine. If you have horizontal ports then you won't find the same issue as me with this old laptop.

NOMAD ChargeCard USB in use with phone and laptop

I've been using the ChargeKey all week to charge my Samsung, and actually used it far, far more than I expected, every day in fact, it's been incredibly useful. (I've used my partner's phone as an example in the photo's as I used mine for the camera!).

Aside from the fact it is handy and will really come into it's own when I go away, it's very different to anything else we've got and I can keep it on my keyring, so it's always where I expect it to be and ready.It's probably ideal for my teenagers as they could also keep it attached to their belongings or person and might actually remember to bring it home rather than add to the collection of USB's and peripherals that they've left at school!

NOMAD ChargeKey USB in use with phone and laptop

NOMAD aim to make minimalist necessities for the modern NOMAD. When the ChargeCard was launched last year on Kickstarter it exceeeded the goal by 300%, and the ChargeKey was launched soon afterwards. NOMAD have some great offers - they even have an affiliate programme, and if you can think of a great way to promote the NOMAD USB charging cables, you can win yourself a free one!

This is the most expensive USB I've ever had and I've been harsh on it. It has travelled in my handbag with my keys and been bent and twisted and I'm still pleased with the performance. It hasn't as yet let me down, whereas I know that other USB cable's I've had would have stopped working a while ago. I think that the quality in this product justifies a higher price than a similar-looking item which wouldn't give you the same level of performance.

ChargeKey and ChargeCard are available for iPhone and MicroUSB. They have been officially launched on Amazon with next-day delivery.

I was sent my ChargeKey and ChargeCard for review.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles LEGO set 79120 T-Rawket Sky Strike Review

We are keen on our Turtles LEGO, we've reviewed a few before, and it gets played with a lot. Whatever vehicle the boys have made there's usually a TMNT LEGO minifiigure in the passenger seat.

TMNT Turtles LEGO set 78120 The T-Rawket Sky Strike Review

Today I'm reviewing the T-Rawket Sky Strike, which is recommended for age 6+ and has 286 pieces. I was probably a bit harsh when I reviewed the Karai Bike Escape (set 79118), but I feel this set offers much better value for money.

The set contains the T-Rawket, the Kraang Ship and 4 excellent minifigures - Donatello, Michelangelo, Mutated Dr. O’Neil and The Kraang with their weapons and accessories. 

minifigures - Donatello, Michelangelo, Mutated Dr. O’Neil and The Kraang

The T-Rawket is bag 1 and book 1, and the Kraag Ship is bag 2 and book 2. Really simple and easy for a younger builder, but the build itself is on the whole a bit tricky. 

The T-Rawket is nice and simple with a large piece chassis, and is a really fun and rewarding build, my 5 1/2 year old really enjoyed it. 

Lego teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-Rawket 79120
Lego teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-Rawket 79120

The Kraag Ship is really a fairly complicated structure, and my son did have some frustration connecting the four silver pieces to form the circular shape. As this was the only bit he couldn't do, I feel the age range is right. It should be a challenge, and it should be interesting, my son has learnt a new building technique with this set. 

T-Rawket LEGO set 79120 The kraang spaceship
T-Rawket 79120 Mutated Dr O'Neill and The Kraang

There's loads going on with this set. The the Kraang Ship has an opening hatch, drops 'barrels of goo' from a trapdoor at the bottom and has 2 flick fire missiles.

The Kraang ship LEGO set 79120
Mutated Dr O'Neill LEGO turtles minifigure Kraang Ship trapdoor

The T-Rawket has an ejector seat, so that you can attach the backpack glider to your turtle and shoot them off to battle. There are also 2 flick fire missiles and a pizza shooting oven at the back.

LEGO TMNT Turtle glider 79120 T-Rawket set
LEGO TMNT T-Rawket Sky Strike Pizza shooting oven

My boys generally play with a new set for about an hour before they start dismantling it to modifiy it so that it's got a space for Batman, 6 extra wheels and a cannon. This set is still intact and complete and they've played with it a lot. The play value is excellent and it really does give children a whole scene to recreate the stories from the DVD/show and to use their own imagination.

T-Rawket Sky Strike review LEGO 79120

The T-Rawket Sky Strike has an RRP of £29.99 and is available at the LEGO Shop online or in person, and at all good toy shops. 

I was sent my T-Rawket set as part of my role as a LEGO Family Blogger.