Thursday, 30 January 2014

Wonderworld Recycling Game Giveaway


A while ago, as part of our role as Toadstool Toy Testers, we reviewed the fabulous Wonderworld Recycling Game. Suitable for children from around 2+, it's a really simple game where you travel around the board collecting all the different types of recycling from the houses.


It's brilliant for early numeracy skills, learning to play games, learning how to use dice, and learning about the world around us and what different materials things are made from.

What makes this game so special is the quality, it has real little houses and cars that drive and my youngest son plays with it as a 'street and vehicles' as much as he plays the game itself. It's a really beautiful game and makes an excellent gift. You can see our full review here...


The Toadstool Toy Shop is an online independent toy shop and sell all kinds of fabulous toys which can be tricky to find in the big chains. They kindly offered a copy of the Wonderworld Recycling Game for one of my readers - that giveaway is now over.

Terms and conditions - UK entry only. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Blogger. We hereby release Blogger of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends, if the winner does not respond within 7 days The Toadstool reserves the right to choose another. The prize is one copy of the Wonderworld Recycling Game to be supplied by The Toadstool. In the unlikely instance that the prize becomes unavailable, The Toadstool reserves the right to substitute for something of equal or greater value. If you have any additional questions - feel free to send an email to thebrickcastle@gmail.com or onfo@thetoadstool.co.uk. Additional terms and conditions are shown on the rafflecopter. The competition ended at midnight 26th February 2014.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Nelsons Rescue Cream And Balm

For the past two weeks I've been testing Rescue® Cream and Balm from Nelsons, which are perfect protection and recovery for your skin in the Winter.

The Rescue® range features the famous Rescue Remedy, a combination of 5 flower essences developed by Dr Bach in the 1930's. The Rescue Remedy was designed to soothe and calm, remove the stresses of everyday life and clear the user's head so that they can focus. The Rescue Remedy contains:

  • Cherry plum
  • Clematis
  • Impatiens
  • Rock rose
  • Star of Bethlehem

Rescue® Cream is an intensive face and body moisturiser which relieves dry, tired and sensitive skin. It has a nice soft feel and rubs into the skin very well without leaving it too greasy, it leaves a protective film on your skin, which feels really soft and nice. As well as the Rescue Remedy it also contains Crab Apple which is said to be cleansing.


It definitely works well and is incredibly moisturising and soothing. It claims to moisturise for 24 hours and the effects are certainly long-lasting.  It is lanolin, paraben and perfume free and  the smell is of sweet, damp greenery (although I'm never to be trusted on smells because I can barely smell anything).

The Rescue® Balm is essential care for dry, chapped lips, but can also be rubbed into the temples when you're feeling tired and stressed. I think it's really soothing, rubbing your temples always feels nice and, unlike the cream, the balm is scented with Limonene, so it has a lovely citrus lemony smell, which is very sweet and not at all 'tart'.


As a lip balm it works very well too, and leaves a nice thin film because it actually soaks into your lips. I find it really only needs applying once a day, which is far less than most others I've used.

I've really enjoyed this product review. The balm is really relaxing and soothing and excellent as a lip salve. The cream feels lovely to use and really moisturises. Whether you have belief in the special powers of Bach Flower Remedies, or not, using these products certainly feels soothing and calming to me. Two other members of my family have used the balm and in my opinion it certainly worked for them too

The Nelsons Bach Original Flower Remedies Rescue® range are available to buy from Boots and all good Chemists. The Balm and Cream cost around £5.99 each.


I was sent a 30ml Cream and a 5g Balm to review.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Lego 71006 The Simpsons House Review Part 2 ~ Upstairs

The first part of the Simpsons House review can be found here... After a good 10 hours building, writing it all up at once would have left me no time to play! Or sleep....

Bags no.5 - 3 bags containing the upstairs of the house excluding the removable section, the upstairs furniture and Maggie.


Maggie's room you soon realise is actually the end of Marge and Homer's bedroom when the house is closed, and Lisa's room seems tiny until you add the removable section. It's very cleverly designed to make great use of available space.



The cot is great,  there's no room to lie down, but who cares? The beds really make fantastic use of already available bricks to create a bed the figures can easily lie down on - although poor Marge has to hang her feet off the bottom of the bed! This build is a doll's house, there's no getting around it.

There are loads of extra free play parts throughout this build,  which will really encourage imaginative play. Lisa's room has a magnifying glass on the bookcase, and there's a wash basket in the adult's room.


The bathroom is the hidden room that you can't see until you take off the roof or open the door. It's fantastic with excellent use of space, even including a toilet roll!


The air conditioning unit is one of my favourite pieces of the whole build, with great use of ready available bricks and the last of the fantastic PROPERTY OF NED FLANDERS stickers....



End of Instruction Book 2

Bags no.6 - 2 bags which make up the roof sections. All of the roof sections are not attached to the body of the house and lift off very easily for play. They're sturdy and don't fall apart easily when manhandled either!


Bags no.7 - 3 bags which make up a removable section of the upper floor of house with furniture and the final minifigure in the set - Lisa.


Lisa has a fabric skirt, the same as Marge. While I much prefer these to the blocky sloped bricks that are often used to depict a skirt, if you're going to let children play with it then I hope they're not as fascinated as my nearly 4 year old who halves the lifespan simply by looking at it.


This is a section that was kept really secret, but it was clear it was going to be Bart's bedroom. It's also the landing and end of Lisa's bedroom.


I love the fact that all of the doors open onto the landing, and the stairs really work. As a child proper stairs and doors were something I really yearned for when I was playing with dolls houses or making Lego houses. It's proper.


Bart's furniture is now familiar, with the beautifully shaped beds, complete with pillows, turned down sheets and bedside cabinets.


Bart has a great little desk with an 'open drawer' which is ingeniously made again using the snot (studs not on top) bricks. Clearly the Lego design team realised they had been underused before.

The little details in this build are spot on. There are fantastic photo's on the stairs and there's a dent in the car, and the excellent PROPERTY OF NED FLANDERS stickers, and there are also a Radioactive Man comic for Bart and an A+ school work for Lisa. There are enough mugs for everyone to have a brew.


The use of colour throughout the entire build is brilliant. They've been able to really go to town and use the rarer colours. They've borrowed from the Lego Friends and other ranges - the vacuum cleaner is mainly made from a part we call a Droid.

The entire build took 2 of us around 10 hours. We're used to working on  Lego builds together, but were ahem....*assisted* by our 4 and 5 year olds. I'm not sure how good a guide that is for you really!


The best things about this build are the sheer playability, size and number of amazing extras - a camera and tripod, sun loungers and cocktails/smoothies, a wheelbarrow and plants, BBQ and sausages, the list goes on and on. It really offers excellent play value for a child younger than the 12+ this set is recommended for as a build. They may not be able to build it alone, but they can certainly enjoy it.


Nothing is perfect, so here's what's wrong....

They don't all fit in the car!! Well, they do, but I'm pretty sure it's not advised....and okay, they all usually go out as a family in Marge's Station Wagon, so we'll let you off....


They don't all fit on the sofa! That's just wrong. They definitely need to be able to seat 4 on the sofa... (without having to sit on the arms). I think that someone intended the sofa very slightly longer and the telephone table to go right into the alcove under the stairs, but you couldn't get your fingers in to reach it...


Hang on! Those stairs are on the wrong side! The very first time someone saw this photo they commented, and they're right. The house layout is not exactly true....at all....

Overall I think this is an excellent build. I guessed the price and age range before it was released, and I don't have any complaints. The footprint is plenty big enough and with the removable section, removable roof and split building it makes a huge area. 


All the loose parts and furniture are amazing and play value has clearly been heavily considered in the design. Almost everything is very strong and designed for accessibility, and because of the layout 2 children can play at once very comfortably.

At £179.99 this is not a cheap set, it's a really expensive big present (whether you buy it for someone else or yourself - like we did), but I believe in comparison with other Lego sets, competing bricks, dolls houses and small world sets it offers excellent value. As a build it's not particularly challenging, but it's incredibly rewarding. As a small world's play house it's absolutely brilliant. As a Simpsons product, or for that matter any other TV related product, I've never seen any better. I can't wait until the minifigure release so that we can add to the collection...



We got Early Access to The Simpsons House through the Lego VIP scheme, which anyone can join from the Lego Shop online. We bought and paid for it ourselves. All photo's were taken as we built, so some parts are not finished as you see them. The set goes on general release in February, is exclusive to The Lego Shop and The Lego Shop Online and costs £179.99 with free postage. Don't pay more!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Lego 71006 The Simpsons House Review ~ Part 1 ~ Downstairs


Lego set 71006 The Simpsons House is a fantastic set which is the first release in the Simpsons range. It is recommended for builders aged 12+ and has 2523 pieces, which makes it the biggest build we've ever done.


The box contains 22 numbered bags, a bag of base plates and 3 instruction booklets. 


Bags no.1 - 2 bags containing Homers car, Homer with briefcase, Bart with skateboard and all of the outside objects with the exception of the mailbox.


Bart and Homer are unique as aside from the head pieces, they also have 2 colour moulded arms, and in the case of Bart also legs. I have to say I was instantly a little disappointed as they look so tired and sad. The faces are actually very much like the Tracey Ullman show original faces, with overhanging upper lips.


The car is really nicely put together with a good solid feel and the way they've done the roof is really interesting. It's not a full roof - but as soon as you put Marge into the car you realise why! Opening boot and doors and space for 4 figures to sit inside. 

Bags no.2 - 3 bags which together build the garage with shelving, units, workbench and tools.


The garage has a construction using large pieces that's actually very true to the 'do-it-yourself' garages which are made from pre-formed blocks slotted together. It has a semi-faked 'up and over' garage door which works really well. There's a handle for easy opening and the roof is completely unattached and removable - as is every roof in the entire build.This is absolutely brilliant for playability.


The workbench has a really simple but effective vice and toolbox (doesn't open, boo) and there are a huge array of tools which are housed in a great little unit that has a cuboard, a deep box which is very cleverly made using windows and an ingenious shelving unit. The workbench and other unit sit on two shallow studs, so are very easily removed for play - as is EVERYTHING in the entire build. It really is designed for excellent access and playability.

Bags no. 3 - 3 bags containing the front aspect of the ground floor of the house, the mailbox and Ned Flanders.


It's a relatively standard house build, layer by layer. The bay windows are lovely, slightly different to the Vampyre House, but still using hinges to create the shape.


There are some gorgeous furniture pieces included in this build, the piano is lovely and the kitchen units fantastically coloured.


Included is a bag of kitchen equipment which I can only assume is Lego Friends, and contains 3 of everything - as well as tools and mixing bowl. Again, it extends the playability. My boys aren't interested in playing 'cooking', but they loved putting everything into the cupboards.

End of Book 1

Bags no.4 - 3 bags containing the ground floor rear aspect of the house and several items of furniture including the TV, kitchen stove, sofa, dining table and telephone table and Marge.


The dining chairs are a great 5 pieces construction that's simple but very effective and look particularly dashing in orange. The table is a bit clunky, but the chairs actually go underneath!


The TV is brilliant. It's an incredibly complicated design using loads of the 'snot bricks' (StudsNotOnTop) and it looks great.


The front and back of the house are hinged (disguised as a chimney breast) with a clip to hold them together when closed.


 And that's downstairs covered..... the review continues here - bedrooms and bathroom....

We got Early Access to The Simpsons House through the Lego VIP scheme, which anyone can join from the Lego Shop online. We bought and paid for it ourselves. All photo's were taken as we built, so some parts are not finished as you see them. The set goes on general release in February, is exclusive to The Lego Shop and The Lego Shop Online and costs £179.99 with free postage. Don't pay more!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Say 'I love you' with a really sweet giveaway....


Swizzels Matlow have long been known for their messages of love and romance. The Love Heart sweet is a classic, who among us hasn't ever given away their sweet and a smile to someone special?

This Valentine's Day those of us with a sweet tooth will be able to buy a selection of special Love Hearts including a tube of Mini Rolls and a special Limited Edition Tin full of mini Love Hearts. It's a real change from flowers and chocolates and is a great way to say 'I Love You' a bit differently.


This year is Love Hearts 60th Anniversary and to celebrate they have got a fantastic competition on their Facebook page where 10 winners really can win a prize money can't buy - a VIP tour of the Love Hearts factory where you will watch your own design being made into sweets! I know it's something I'd love to win for myself. To enter the Love Hearts 60th Anniversary Competition and go to their Facebook page.

If you aren't lucky enough to win the Facebook competition you can still be a winner because Swizzels Matlow have kindly offered the Love Hearts shown below as a prize for one of my readers.


This giveaway is now over. 

Kick Starter Winter Porridge

I make no secret of the fact that mornings are my least favourite time, and Monday is always the worst.

I get up first and use the bathroom, then get my partner up and he goes for a shower while I coax the small boys into their school uniforms. Then begins the nightmare task of getting all the teenagers out of bed and off to school. Invariably someone can't find their uniform/bag/socks/shoes/sense of humour and the shouting and screeching begins.

Getting everyone fed is another thankless task. It has to be the right bowl and spoon, sat in the right place and for 2 of ours "no-one can be looking at me". Once they've eaten breakfast everyone calms down - blood sugar is returned and peace, for the most part, restored.

I'm not alone in my dislike of Monday mornings and research from a YouGov poll of over 2000 adults shows that 25% of people agree with me. 22% however believe that starting Monday right leads to a more positive week, so if we can crack that first day back at work and school we can still reap the benefits on Thursday and Friday.

Quaker Oats, who commissioned the poll, suggest 5 ways to improve your morning and start positively -

  1. Having a healthy breakfast
  2. Greeting everyone with a smile
  3. Laughing
  4. Listening to a favourite music or radio show
  5. Eating porridge  - unsurprisingly, one in three (36%) porridge eaters love Mondays mornings
They've teamed up with George and Larry Lamb to create a one-off Love Monday FM podcast to help you beat the January blues. It's full of special guests including Rowetta from The Happy Mondays, The Fonz and the World Porridge Champion and you can download it for free from iTunes.


They've also shared the winning porridge recipe from the World Porridge Champion Ian Bishop (who features in the podcast)

Kick Starter Winter Porridge


Ingredients

40g Quaker Porridge Oats
100g Water
200ml Semi-skimmed milk
Cinnamon
Tbsp Diced Apple
Tbsp Raisins
(World Porridge Champion Ian Bishop likes to add a dash of Brandy)

Recipe

1.Add Quaker Oats, semi-skimmed milk and water to a small pan and bring to the boil, stirring frequently with a spurtle or the handle of a wooden spoon (we actually use a chopstick!).
2.Turn the heat down even further and add the dash of Brandy if you're using one. Simmer, stirring frequently for around 5 minutes.
3.Add a pinch of cinnamon, the diced apple and raisins and continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes.
4.Cover and stand for 3-5 minutes, serve.

There are more porridge recipes to try at www.Quaker.co.uk. We'll be trying this recipe out over the coming Winter, my partner might even add a dash of Brandy to his at the weekends....


I'm being sent some Quaker Porridge Oats so that we can test the recipe in return for this post. I'll let you know how popular it is later!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Little Nut Tree ~ An Early Reader from Orion Books

The Little Nut Tree by Sally Gardner is the latest in the Blue Early Readers series from Orion Books - for sharing and reading together.


Based on the nursery rhyme of the same name, it tells the story of a young girl who receives the tree for her birthday. The tree bears fruit and when word gets out about her amazing plant even royalty want to come and see it.

When we first started reviewing the Orion Books Early Readers a couple of months ago our reception class 5 year old could only pick out a few words,  but now he can really make a good effort to read them together with me.


There is a lot of repetition, few words on each page and the illustrations are really depictive, so The Little Nut Tree isn't intimidating for a newer reader.


I really like the quirkiness of this book. The starring character has her hair in a crazy Bjork style and seems to skip everywhere. The King Of Spain's Daughter wears a stunning little frock and every character has a different shape of nose. Nothing is boring about this book and it held the attention of my 3 year old throughout.


The Little Nut Tree is published by Orion Books and has 62 pages. It has an RRP of £4.99. Orion Books have a large range of Blue Early Readers for reading together, and Red Early Readers for a child ready to move on to the next step of reading the book without needing much help.



We were sent this book for review.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Miioon

Last year we were lucky enough to be able to review the Miioon Ruckjack, which is a fabulous jacket that turns into a rucksack, so the adult never has to carry it! It's a proper waterproof coat with thinsulate lining that my son has been wearing every day and still looks really good and keeps him warm even at 8.30am on the way to school in January. What's even better is that it has a Moshi Monsters lining and zip pulls (Oonits), so he's the coolest kid in Nursery.


Miioon don't only make the Ruckjack, they make a range of clothes that are not only good quality and practical, they're personalised by the child, so there will be no complaints about actually wearing them.


Miioon sell their products via their website, and gift cards can also be bought online or in ASDA, so that you can give them as gifts. Now Miioon want to expand their sales and they're hoping that you can help them. They are looking for people who wish to become Oontrepreneurs - running their own business from home or on-the-go, showing samples of the clothes, explaining how the website and gift cards work and selling the gift cards.


I wouldn't usually promote something like this, but I've spoken at length with Mama Oon and I believe that actually this is a very good deal. Oontrepreneurs start by buying a package of products which includes 3 Ruckjacks, 4 T-shirts, 2 Pyjama bottoms, shoe laces, Oonits (zip pulls) and a Swoopercape, plus all the paperwork you'll need, for only £98. You are then under no pressure to meet targets or sell certain amounts - but you will receive 30% commission on any sales you make. When we first got my son's jacket loads of people wanted to look and have been incredibly interested by it, I'd have had no problem selling a handful of jackets without even trying.

Mama Oon says:
"This is what makes us unique from other social selling models, especially clothing ones:

Because the kids do the designing themselves by redeeming the gift card, the Oontrepreneur does not need to hold large cumbersome amounts of stock.  A real business on the go that doesn't require the biceps of Hulk Hogan.
The sample pack and sales material are used to translate the amazing quality that is miioon and the cards are given to the customers directly to take away.  You can even sell cards at the school gate and raise money for your PTA.  The training and back end office support will be second to none too!  Easy!" 
They are looking to recruit Regional Heads too.

If you are intrigued and want to know more, then you can find out all about opportunities with Miioon on their website.

I was not paid in any way for this post. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Moments that mattered in 2013

More than any other year I can look back on 2013 and see certain moments that defined it in pure technicolour. In fact a lot of the last 6 months is very blurry, it's only those moments that stand out.

There are plenty of moments in my life that were played out in slow motion, every second catalogued and memorised forever. In 2013 we were gifted several 'moments that mattered' that will stay with me forever - for good or bad, in sickness and in health...

The year started really calmly, bumbling along. The Brick Castle was new, the blogging community were brilliant, I felt immediately part of a huge and completely surprising family. Little did I realise that the very first time I ventured onto Twitter purely to chat to that family would I find that the very worst had happened to one of them. It gave rise to this post, which showed a side of me that I hadn't expected to show in public.

March provided some of the most spectacular experiences and sights I'll ever see with the amazing 8ft snowdrifts at Easter when we visited my partner's parents in Scotland.


In July I was getting excited about attending my first ever blogging conference - Blog On at The Museum of Science And Industry - when everything crashed. At 12.30pm on 10th July 2013 I realised my partner was seriously ill, may have Meningitis and needed immediate medical attention. That moment was incredibly scary, but it wasn't as terrifying as when I arrived back at hospital the second day and found him even more seriously ill, and nothing has ever been as horrible as sitting with him while he had his Lumbar Puncture.

It led on to my moment that mattered the very most for 2013. My partner being allowed home from hospital under my care. He was still very ill, slept 21 hours a day and had to go back each day for a check up, but it was wonderful for everyone, especially the children because they hadn't been allowed to visit and it had been a very scary thing for us all to deal with.


August saw us back at my partner's parents and on the way home a moment that matters very much because I genuinely will regret it forever. The moment I jumped from The Great Stone Of Fourstones and broke my leg. It left our family with 2 disabled parents, 7 children and several almost impossibly hard and painful months ahead of us.

September saw our eldest move out and go to University, and our youngest start Nursery - big milestones which were lost in the post-Meningitis and broken leg blur, so I don't remember them as vividly as I perhaps should.


In December I found out I had won a hefty Amazon voucher in a Gingerbread House blog competition. The moment I decided to make that castle has to go down as very important. It meant we were able to almost double our present budget for the kids and buy loads of extra treats, and even though my scheduled leg operation didn't happen, a calm descended on the house, which, despite everything we had all been through, helped us have THE best Christmas ever.
  
All together as a family - and THAT is what matters the most. 




This is my entry for the Lloyds Bank 'Moments That Matter' Bloggers competition.