Wednesday, 16 August 2017

YUUschool Ergonomically Designed Backpack Review and Giveaway.Age 8-12

YUU are a Dragons Den backed company founded in 2010 by two Mums who saw their children carrying heavy backpacks and realised that it wasn't good for their growing spine and that a reported 1/3 of children suffer neck and back pain as a result (see bottom of post for the Science).


The YUUbag has been a huge success and this Summer they have added the YUUschool - a school version of the backpack for children aged around 8-12 (or over 120cm tall). It's ergonomically designed for maximum comfort and support for your child's spine, including tons of deep pockets and compartments to stop bag contents moving about and causing weight to be unevenly distributed around the bag.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

1,095 Days, 36 Months, 3 Years.

Three years where time has flown past so agonisingly slowly and the majority of it has faded completely. That morning three years ago is embedded into my yesterday, it recurs so frequently, yet I can't remember what life was like before it happened. Time is almost non-linear, the past creeps in constantly and not a minute can ever go by when you don't think of what has been lost for now and the future. How would life for the other children be different, the family dynamic altered. Where would you be now? How many courtships, part-time jobs, driving lessons. Borrowed make up, lost shirts and spilt tears. Exam results, friendships, nights out. How many times would you have made us laugh? The 3 years has gone so quickly and yet so slowly and it's been such hard work, although the sludge is reducing and the trudging getting easier, but always never a minute without remembering.

It'll never be easier without Elspeth.


Last year at Blog On Conference I won a holiday from Canvas Holidays and it took us more than ten months of build up, but we finally booked it and did it. We finally felt confident all of our young people were strong enough to leave behind - although they all had the option to come.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Back To School With Sambro Stationery And Backpacks

Sambro are a very well-known supplier of licensed products, mainly for children. They're responsible for loads of the smaller bits and pieces that fill stockings, as well as larger items featuring favourites from TV and movies. We've been sent some of their new range to review, including Paw Patrol, Miffy, Shimmer & Shine, Despicable Me 3 and Disney Princess.


On Thursday 10th August at 7pm Sambro will be hosting a Twitter party to promote their licensed children's stationery and backpacks. They'll be giving away some of their goodies, so it's worth following @SambroUK.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Nerf N-Strike Modulus Regulator Blaster Review for Hasbro (age 8+)

Obviously we are Nerf addicts here and we accepted the offer from Hasbro to review the new Nerf Modulus with a large amount of pleasure. This is a huge Nerf Dart Blaster which can be adapted in a huge array of ways to make a really personal blaster.


The Modulus is a fully motorised blaster which requires 4 x C batteries - not included. Removal from the packaging is super easy and it's almost entirely recyclable card with a few rubber band ties.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Pudology Vegan Puddings Review - Dairy Free and Gluten Free

Pudology want to make vegan food that's just as indulgent and delicious as any dairy based pudding. Their dairy and gluten free desserts are now available in Sainsburys and they've sent us a selection to take a look at.


We've been sent the Deeply Decadent Chocolate Pud, Smooth Chocolate Orange Pud and Simply Sumptuous Millionaire's Pud. All are are free from gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts - and suitable for anyone following a vegan, coeliac or kosher diet.


Behind The Scenes with The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey this August

This August Wild Rumpus, the people behind Just So Festival, will be busy at Dunham Massey hall and gardens with a brand new Lost Carnival event. We popped along on Saturday evening to have a preview of what is going to be hidden among the trees for visitors this Summer...


We haven't been to Dunham Massey before, but the gorgeous gardens double up as a deer park, which delighted our children. In fact there was wildlife in evidence everywhere, those woods are alive!

Monday, 31 July 2017

Disney Quiz Night at the Zombie Shack, Manchester

I'm not your average Disney person, but I'm a big fan of Pixar and I love Star Wars. I thoroughly enjoy Disney On Ice and should I ever get married then the dress of my dreams was always Cinderella's....so I gladly accepted the invite to a Disney Quiz Night at the Zombie Shack as a guest of Paladone - the gift people.


If you've never been to Manchester's Zombie Shack (it's up the spiral staircase) then it can be a bit hard to spot. GPS takes you round the corner, but happily I bumped into a couple of other lost North West bloggers and we wandered aimlessly together.


I have no idea why we didn't spot the 20 foot tall Paladone flag at the side of the stairs...you can't say they didn't try.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Bic Stationery Showcase Summer Bundle Giveaway

The Bic Ballpoint is a time-served staple found in every office, but it doesn't give you any idea of the huge range of stationery products Bic are now offering. The quality is excellent and if you want something a bit different, you really can find it here...


We've got 4 College and Uni student grown-up children and they've been sent a selection of Bic's latest stationery to review. They're already arguing debating over who has what! Bic have kindly offered an identical bundle as a giveaway prize for one of my readers.

Included in the bundle are:


Bic Evolution Ecolution Black Graphite Pencils (pack of 4, around £2). Wood-free and made from 55% recycled materials, with an extra hard graphite core. They're definitely striking.

Bic Kids Stationery Bundle Giveaway and Competition News

Bic make a huge range of stationery products for kids and it goes far beyond the fabulous felt tipped pen sets and the all-time classic 4-colour pen. The quality is excellent, they're reliable and every Bic product is designed to last for longest possible use.


This Summer Bic have a competition with Mumsnet for any budding artists aged 5-11 to email in a photo of their best drawing for a chance to win £50 of Bic Goodies AND have their artwork displayed on a local billboard! There's also a bonus prize of £300 Tesco vouchers. Entries HAVE TO BE IN BY 6th August - so get your skates on! More information is on the Mumsnet website.

To promote the competition with Mumsnet we've been sent a great selection of Bic Kids stationery for my children to review and one of my readers can win the same bundle for themselves.

Included in the bundle are:


Bic Kids Colour And Erase Pens (Pack of 12, prices vary, around £2). 10 colourful felt tipped pens and 2 eraser pens. My boys think it's magic...

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Get A Grip Game Review (age 8+) for Hasbro

Get A Grip is the 'no-thumbs challenge' game from Hasbro. Recommended for 2 of more players aged around 8+, this is a fairly active family game in which players wear special gloves and then face their opponents in a head-to-head battle - without using thumbs.


Inside the box you have:
4 no-thumb bands (100% polyester, machine washable)
2 jars of sculpting clay
2 drawing pads
60 challenge cards
Instructions

Friday, 28 July 2017

Flip Out Blackburn Trampoline Theme Park Review

Flip Out Blackburn opens to the public TODAY! We were among the lucky people to get a preview visit yesterday evening. We spent a good 2 hours there, plus around 20 minutes for the safety briefing and to get sorted beforehand - you have special Flip Out socks...

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Jack And The Worry Wizard Children's Wellbeing Book Review

The Worry Wizard is a concept created by Counsellor and Psychotherapist Amy Smythe. Worry Wizard products aim to help children and young people to develop tools to deal with worries before they become something more serious and affect day-to-day wellbeing.


Jack And The Worry Wizard is designed especially for young people of all ages and is far more than 'a book'. This is access to support from a genuine counsellor and the book is really a launching point which you and your child build on. I read it together with my 7 1/2 and almost 9 year old boys.


Our situation is very different to most people's. My young boys have added worries that a lot of children fortunately don't have. They have lost their sister and their day-to-day is not what we ever anticipated. They live in a house where unfortunately mental health concerns have been fairly normal now for 3 years.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Lucky Gecko Discovery Box (age 9-12) Review, Discount Code and Giveaway

Lucky Gecko make discovery subscription boxes for children aged around 9-12. At this age children are more mature and need something a bit different as well as with a challenge. Let's face it, it can be difficult to occupy them without them returning to their screens.


I love this box. Lucky Gecko is the most expensive subscription box we've reviewed, but that's because it's got the most in. This is a week's entertainment and your child will learn loads, while really enjoying themselves and making something they can be proud of.


There are 3 Lucky Gecko discovery boxes to choose from - Wisdom, Imagination and Curiosity - each of which supports what your child is learning in the classroom, in a way which is more accessible and fun! My almost 9 year old chose Imagination.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Family London - a London Days Out Guidebook for Families review.

Family London is a new release from Frances Lincoln. Written by Jimi Famurewa, with photographs by Camille Mack, it is a compilation of 100 fun places to visit in London with children. There are ideas for any age from tots to teens - perfect for a family like mine...


I admit I expected it to be bigger, but actually this is perfect. Family London is ideal for taking with you and fits in your hand or a large pocket. The days out are split into 7 sections, with maps at the end.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Stretch Armstrong is back - Vac Man Review (age 5+) for Character

Character have brought back one of the best-known toy characters from my youth - Stretch Armstrong - and he's not alone. Not only do we have Stretch Armstrong, Fetch Armstrong and Octopus, but also arch-enemy and all-round bad guy Vac Man.


Vac Man's box is a bit battered and I think you'll find that's a common theme because he's really heavy! Because of the nature of Vac Man it is a bit like carrying a box part full of sand - it caught me out and I nearly dropped it. He's 14" (35cm) tall and a big guy.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Was Chester Bennington A Coward?

Over the past few days suicide has barely been out of the headlines. Chester Bennington has been discussed a lot in our house and always with the same end to the conversation. Suicide isn't harmless, it has a massive, rippling negative effect, and anyone who treats it with purely sympathy is sweeping a lot under the carpet.

There's been a real backlash condemning Brian Welch for his outburst against his friend, and I don't agree with it at all. I think he's allowed to call his friend a coward. He will think that. He'll also spend time thinking his friend was selfish, nasty, foolish, wasteful, hurtful. When you end your own life, the people left behind will without a shadow of a doubt spend time thinking that all the pain they are feeling, and the hurt and sadness that they and your loved ones, your friends and everyone else is going through, is due to you.

As those who are left try to make sense of the shock, as they scramble to rearrange what is left of their life into some sort of workable order, and struggle to see why they are bothering, they will find it almost impossible not to think of the person who died as a coward.

Blaming the person who died isn't an option because we know full well it's not their fault. As Brian Welch found out, you'll be pilloried for suggesting it. Everyone will wave their fists and say that 'you don't understand'. You do. You know that actually the person who died was the one unable to understand. Right there and at that second, they forgot why they shouldn't. They couldn't see the right path ahead and you weren't there to save them. So you can't blame them, you have to try to lay blame somewhere else. Probably at least partly with yourself.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Lottie Dolls (age 3+) Prize Bundle Giveaway

My boys don't play with dolls any more sadly, generally they prefer more wheeled or construction toys - cars and LEGO. I am however still a big fan of Lottie Dolls - dolls that look like children, with the healthy body shape of your average 9 year old.


There are loads of different dolls and doll sets, as well as outfits and accessories. Because Lottie Dolls are like 9 year old children, they do things that 9 year old children like doing. A couple of years ago we reviewed a boy doll from the range, Finn the Kite-Flyer and the 'Gone Fishing' accessory pack.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

What's On for Families in Manchester, Liverpool and NorthWest UK this Summer

Summer is nearly here! Yeeeay! Here are loads of events and activities to keep the family amused rain or shine over the Summer holidays in Manchester Central, Wider Manchester, Liverpool or the North West UK. I try to collect as many cheaper ideas as possible, never overlook your local library and museum as they often have special events and a lot of them are free!


Manchester Central



THE LOWRY

Silentnight Pure Cotton Pillow Pair Giveaway

Everyone has heard of Silentnight, they are the UK's biggest bed manufacturer and you probably have some of their bedding in your house. Voted the UK's Most Trusted Bedding Brand in independent survey, their products are reliable, they have a range to suit all pockets and the prices are good.


This month Silentnight are teaming up with the online store and TV shoppping channel QVC to promote their Silentnight Pure Cotton Pillows. Exclusive to QVC, they have a 100% cotton percale cover and are filled with anti-allergy, silk-like hollowfibre, offering excellent comfort and softness for your money.


Silentnight Pure Cotton Pillows are also washable up to a temperature of 40°C and come with a 2-year guarantee, so you can expect them to last as well as more expensive brands.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Joie Trillo LX Group 2/3 High-Back Booster Car Seat Review For Kiddies Kingdom

On Sunday 30th July Kiddies Kingdom will have a grand opening for their new and humongous showroom in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire - for opening week they have amazing offers including up to 75% off and free gifts for customers.


At 9000 square feet, Kiddies Kingdom will have the biggest showroom in the North. Already one of the UK's leading online baby and toddler retailers, you'll now be able to take a proper look and feel, and often even a quick try before you buy.
The Kiddies Kingdom store will offer everything you could hope for from a larger retailer, including a Price Match Guarantee and Baby Wish List service, but they also offer extras including an Embroidery Service to personalise any suitable purchases and a full-sized car where parents can practice their car seat fitting skills.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Future Ratboy and the Invasion of the Nom Noms Children's Book Review

The shortlist for the 2017 Scholastic Books Laugh Out Loud Awards - or the 'Lollies' - has been selected by Michael Rosen and a panel of expert judges, and my 7 and 8 year old boys are reviewing a couple of the nominees, starting with Future Ratboy and the Invasion of the Nom Noms by Jim Smith.


Before you even open this 240 page book, you know it's going to be quite different. It has a comic book style which is really accessible to the 6-8 year old intended age group. Perfect for newer independent or reluctant readers, with short paragraphs of text and plenty of illustrations.

Pie Face Sky High children's game review for Hasbro (age 5+)

Stunningly we've so far managed to avoid any games where we get a face covered in squirty cream, but our time has finally come thanks to our latest review for Hasbro. Pie Face Sky High! is a 3 feet tall version of a fairground 'Test Your Strength' machine, but instead of ringing the bell, you can splat someone else in the face...


Everything is bagged separately in the box to prevent scratching, and there are several parts. You'll need to assemble your game before you can play, and you need to allow about 10 minutes.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

#TBCSmiles 35 Months

Summer is here! Or was here....or at least popped by... There are loads of awesome sunshiney photos among this month's #TBCSmiles, plus it's awards season and so many graduations and trophies - well done to all of you. Well done to everyone who did something to be proud of.


We did things to be proud of, including a day out in Blackpool where we actually relaxed - for the first time in years no-one cried, no-one had a tantrum and no-one wanted to go home early (I'm mainly talking about the grown-ups). It's actually quite scary to have less to worry about. You have to try hard not to fret over the 'nothings' instead.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Splendor Family Game Review (age 10+) for Blogger Board Game Club

Splendor is recommended for 2-4 players aged 10+. Players take the roles of merchants and over a 30 minute game the aim is to trade and upgrade your developments, attracting noble patrons and prestige. The first player with 15 Prestige Points is the winner.


Inside the box we see this is a token and card game with no board. The tokens are lovely, a nice tactile size and representing gems and gold. This is your basic monetary system.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Hot Wheels Fidget Spinnerz are far more beautiful than you knew...

When Bladez Toyz offered me Hot Wheels Spinnerz to review, I'll admit I didn't realise what I was agreeing to. 3 fidget spinners turned up and I was momentarily disappointed as my 7 year old has been obsessed now for months. But then I realised why he likes them...they are really beautiful spinners and mesmerising to watch.


The Spinnerz are available in Hot Wheels or Barbie designs (for those who prefer something a little more pink) and we did have a moment or two wondering how to extricate them from their packaging.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

SJ Works Bicycle First Aid Kits Review and Giveaway

First Aid is something that's always been in my life. I was familiar with bandages and the recovery position well before I was 7. I progressed through Brownie to Girl Guide First Aid badges to week long courses and I've spent most of my adult life as a designated First Aider.

Having some basic first aid knowledge and being in the right place at the right time can and does save lives.


Lots of First Aid involves simply knowing what is the right thing to do or not do, but a First Aid Kit is also an essential for every home, and a massive bonus to have when you are out and about.

SJ Works is the brainchild of Joan, who lives in Copenhagen. She makes First Aid Kits which attach to your bike, so you have everything to hand should you need it. I think they're selling themselves short, instantly we realised their Bicycle First Aid Kit with smartphone window can also work very well on a pushchair.

HayMax Organic Drug-Free Allergy Barrier Review and Giveaway

I prefer to avoid medicine unless absolutely necessary, especially when it comes to my children, so I'll always take a more natural option if possible. HayMax is a transparent balm which aims to catch pollen and other allergens, preventing them from entering your body.


I have been sent the 5 different HayMax barrier balms to try. All are organic and very natural. HayMax Pure and HayMax Kids contain only 2 ingredients - Sunflower Oil and Beeswax - and are safe for people of all ages.

The other 3 varieties are lightly scented with  Frankincense, Aloe Vera and Lavender. They are suitable for anyone other than small babies, including pregnant women and youngsters. All varieties are non-drowsy and drug-free.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Survivors

Four years ago today my partner became ill with Meningitis. We were lucky and fairly swift to act and he survived pretty much intact, but he will never fully recover. His memory is a bit broken, he has pain and tiredness. Life is harder for him now, but he's alive. He's a survivor.

Almost 3 years ago our family's oldest girl was a victim of suicide. For those left behind suicide brings devastating gifts that can crush the strongest of souls. The last 3 years have been the hardest of our lives in so many ways, the pressure immense, but we are all still here. We are survivors.

The Manchester bomb was very close to home. A girl from nearby was killed. She went to the same school as some of our lot, and the thought that the teachers have already had to deal with bereaved children because of us made me sob. The thought of her Mum, walking past me in the local shop made me sob.

Friday, 7 July 2017

MOKURU Desk Fidget Toy Review and Giveaway With 3 Winners

The latest craze to reach our shores from Japan is MOKURU. These are fidget toys with a difference, as they test your dexterity and with a bit of skill and practice you can do an impressive range of rolls, flips and tricks.


MOKURU appears an unassuming and very lightweight Beech wood peg with rubbber ends. What you don't at first realise is that it's cleverly designed and engineered to have perfect balance, so it can tip and flip end to end, back and forth.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

An Evening With AFOLs - Adult Night at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Manchester

If you don't know what an AFOL is then possibly last night wasn't for you, but the Adult Fans Of LEGO evening at the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in Manchester was the latest date of choice for my partner and I. (Click on any images to enlarge them.)


LEGOLAND Discovery Centre usually operates a strict 'accompanied by a child' policy. Whilst this makes complete sense, it does exclude many grown up fans who don't have children to take with them. The monthly AFOL Night solves this problem - and it is strictly for age 16+ only, so it's much quieter and I didn't have to chase my youngest round all night...bliss...

My Beautiful Room Children's Design Workbook (9+) Review for Ivy Kids

My Beautiful Room: Interior Design Workbook is written and illustrated by Jasmine Orchard and Olivia Whitworth and published by Ivy Kids. Through gentle tuition and completing of projects your child learns many of the essential principles of design.

If this sounds boring, think of it more as 'designing your own epic bedroom'.


The first thing you realise about My Beautiful Room is that you are jealous of your child's book. My partner and I both poured over it and commented how much we'd have loved it. We were actually more keen to get stuck in than the children.