Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Aardman Animation Exhibition at Waterside Arts, Sale

When I visited Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, Manchester before Christmas, we were lucky enough to catch the Puppet Masters Return with Aardman Studios exhibit. The even better news is that it's there until 1st April 2017, and it's FREE.


Part of the Manchester Animation Festival, Puppet Masters Return with Aardman Studios lets members of the public get up close and personal with the characters from some of those well-known family favourites including Wallace and Gromit, Timmy Time and The Pirates, An Adventure With Scientists!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Geronimo Festival 2017 new announcements - main stage celebrities

The Geronimo Festival will take place at Arley Hall in Northwich, Cheshire from 27-29 May this year. The children's festival is designed especially for families with children aged under 13, and promises to have far more than you can pack into a day for everyone...


This year for the first time, camping is available, and the event runs for 3 days over the entire 3 day Bank Holiday weekend. We'll be at Geronimo as ambassadors - and hopefully we'll get the boys on the zipline this year - glad it's not this weekend, Hurricane Doris would have put paid to that!

I told you about some of the 130 activities on offer in my previous introductory post, but it gets even better for those of you who are fans of children's TV especially. New announcements include children's telly celebs and You Tube stars, including some real crowd pleasers.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

My Year With Gary The Cat.

So exactly one year ago yesterday, I, the self-proclaimed hater of cats, won a cat. He turned up screeching and crying, and very grateful, and repaid our kindness and hospitality by needing 3 operations and costing about £1.5k in his first year. Happy Garyversary!


Gary's arrival was a surprise early one morning, and he's followed me around my house like a puppy ever since I opened that door. I have tripped over him more times than I want to think about, and if I stand in his pee in clean socks once more I'll scream, and maybe cry a bit. Called Gary by our 6 year old "because that's his name", he's very fond of football and will carry a ball upstairs and throw it at you when you're asleep. Playing 'catch' with a cat at 4am is not my favourite thing.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Dr Beckmann Service-it Washing Machine Cleaner Giveaway with 10 Winners!

Dr Beckmann can be relied upon to clean all of those things we try to ignore - smells and dirt from washing machines and dishwashers, nasty stains on your clothes and those not-so-white net curtains. Still family owned and based in Bolton, the people behind Dr Beckmann have been making cleaning and laundry products for almost 100 years.

My washing machine lives a very hard working life. My previous machine lasted me 9 years and over 10,000 washes, so when I got my new Hotpoint washing machine almost 2 years ago, I knew I wanted to look after it as best I can.

I regularly use Dr Beckmann Service-it Washing Machine Cleaner to keep my machine whiff-free and happy - in fact, I'm quite proud to say for once mine looked much cleaner than the one in the advert!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

My First Discoveries: The Bee - Children's Book Review (age 4-8)

The Bee is a small and incredibly beautiful creature, and The Bee children's book from Moonlight Publishing is also small and beautiful. From the My First Discoveries range, this is a non-fiction book aimed especially at children aged 4-8.


The Bee really is a gorgeous book. Created by Gallimard Jeunesse, Ute Fuht and Raoul Sautai, (the latter two of whom also illustrated) it is full of warm, vibrant colour and drawings so detailed that you look twice to see if they're really photographs.

February events for families in the North West and Manchester area

There is always loads going on for families in the North West, including free and cheap events, but over half term some venues push the boat out and put on some really special events. Here are some of the things you can get up to with your children this half term and Spring...

In Manchester...

Saturday, 18 February 2017

New Carlton Children's Books for Spring - Bundle Giveaway

One of the best things about any new season is all the new releases, and this Spring Carlton Books have loads of really interesting books for children. We've been sent 3 of the best to take a look at. They're a really eclectic mix taken from 3 different book ranges - and one of my readers can win all 3 for themselves.


The books I'm looking at are My First Creativity Book: Ponies (age 3+) by Anna Brett, The Fairy Creativity Book (age 6+) also by Anna Brett and Champions League Fact File written by Clive Gifford.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Who Will Be Your Family Flood Marshall?

Recent research has found that the 72% of us have no idea what to do in the event of a flood in our home. We don't understand what a flood alert is, don't have a personal flood plan, and only 18% of us know who is responsible for keeping our home safe from flooding.

My 8 year old has stepped up to the challenge to answer these questions and become our Family Flood Marshall.


Our home has never yet been in a flood, but some of my children's schoolfriends aren't so lucky. In December 2015 hurricanes Desmond and Eva caused 16,000 homes in the UK to be flooded. Many of those homes hadn't ever flooded in the past, and fairly close to us, a 200 year old pub was washed away. Nature likes to surprise us.

1. Are we in danger? The first thing the Family Flood Marshall needs to know, is if we are in danger of flooding. Listen to the radio, watch the news and weather reports, and if you feel you are at risk, you can always get the most up-to-date information available from the Environment Agency Flood Information Service or by calling Floodline 0345 988 1188.

Are you still financially linked to your ex?

It's always good to learn something new, and yesterday I learned that up to 6 years after you have closed a joint credit product, you are still linked to that person financially, and it could well have an effect on your ability to borrow money.

When my relationship with my ex broke down we both moved on, and within 2 years we both lived with other people. Our story is an all-round happy one, but it's easy to see how a whole group of people can become financially entwined really quite quickly. It would never have occurred to me that my exes new partner's financial history had any effect on me, and could affect my ability to get any credit from a mortgage through to a mobile phone.


I'm not alone. Almost 11.7 British people took out a joint financial product with a partner they’re now separated from, and 69% of us didn’t realise a link still exists when we close the account. Less than 3% of people surveyed by Censuswide knew you were linked for 6 years*.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

30 months - 2 1/2 years #TBCSmiles

It's ridiculous to think that it's been 2 1/2 years since we lost Elspeth. That is a really long time and back 2 1/2 years ago I don't know what I expected, but I think imagined we'd be settling into a different life where Elspeth was further from our thoughts. Instead, she's right there all of the time, and I guess this is how it's going to be. But we are learning to cope with that better.

Everyone here can talk about Elspeth now. We remember her with fondness, smile and laugh at things she once said or did. She is mentioned now more than she has been in a long time, and it is so much more relaxed than it used to be.

It would have been Elspeth's 19th birthday on Sunday, so when we were able to all get together, (except for our 19yo at Uni) we went out to eat. It was a lovely relaxed evening, the food was good, but the company was fantastic. There really is no greater joy for myself and my partner than to watch our children laughing and joking together - like any normal family. There were lots of smiles.

We remembered Elspeth's birthday with our annual Double-Cake Day. It's exactly what she would have wanted.


Thank you to everyone who shared smiles with us using the #TBCSmiles hashtag - it's been fantastic seeing them all and peeping into some precious moments with you. They are all amazing and looking through them really is the best job.

Monday, 13 February 2017

LEGO NEXO Knights: Season One DVD Review and Giveaway

My children love the LEGO NEXO Knights and are fans of the TV series, so they're very happy that Season One will be available to buy on DVD from TODAY - 13th February, and we've been sent a copy to review.


LEGO NEXO Knights Season One contains all 10 episodes - 212 minutes of action on 2 discs.

Friday, 10 February 2017

LEGO Movie Clips, Printables, Games and Activities!

You may have noticed that LEGO movies are everywhere at the moment,The LEGO Batman Movie has just hit the cinemas, and The LEGO Ninjago Movie trailer is whetting our appetite for the next one! Half term is around the corner, so I've gathered together some of the best LEGO Movie activities that are around at the moment....

The Lego Batman Movie

We reviewed The LEGO Batman Movie and loved it. Here's the LEGO Batman Cribs short, our favourite of the LEGO Batman trailer videos - there are loads more on their You Tube channel.


There is a great LEGO Batman Movie website, with loads of free stuff for kids. A good place to start is with the SigFig Creator. Make a mini version of yourself - go random or even create your own supervillain... We have a complaint - where's the curly hair!!

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Browns Brasserie and Bar, Manchester Restaurant Review

My partner and I have been very lucky with our date nights recently, and this week we took the tram into Manchester to review Browns on York Street. Open all day for food (9am-late), we visited on Monday to try out their new Spring menu.


This was date night, so we chose a little table for two, but there really is a nice variety of seating at Browns, with several larger tables for big groups. We visited at a naturally quiet time, but this is a huge building and that space has been well-used. Tables aren't close to each other and even with smaller children I wouldn't feel I was encroaching on someone else's quiet meal.


There is an excellent drinks selection, with several nice choices for non-drinkers, and plenty for anyone who does enjoy alcohol. Craft beers, a lengthy wine list and a big choice of cocktails including exclusive Browns Signatures, alongside the more commonplace draft and bottled drinks.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Girl On The Train (15) DVD Review - Date Night Movie

Monday 6th Feb saw the release on DVD of the thriller from Entertainment One - The Girl On The Train. With a fantastic cast and more than enough passion, intrigue and action to satisfy everyone, this is a movie that is perfect to watch on Valentine's Day.


Starring Emily Blunt as the eponymous and very troubled main character, supported by Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson, as well as Justin Theroux and Luke Evans, The Girl On The Train is rated 15 and is not a gentle romance at all. The suspense is held throughout, and your allegiances change as you find out more backstory, and follow the twisting plotline.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Tips And Tricks To Help Your Poorly Child Feel Better

When your children are ill, it's very easy to feel fairly useless and unable to help, but by simply being there, you will help them feel better. Vicks and Britmums have asked parents to share their tips and tricks, to help your child when they feel ill. Sadly I don't have any magic cures for the common cold, but I do have a few time-served tips I've learnt from my children over the past 23 years...


1. Ditch the guilt: Assume your job for that day is to look after and nurse your child - on call for 24 hours. That way you will still get nothing else done, but you won't be quite so frustrated or annoyed by it.

2. Be together: The greatest all-round painkiller and worry remover is a hug, and for my children, stroke their hair. Care, comfort and attention from you may not be magic, and alas can't solve everything, but it'll really help. Choose calm movies and books and sit together. If you have to work from home, do it in the same room, at least until they're asleep.

3. Never show disgust. If your child has a very runny nose, a chest or a throat infection then it's likely their tummy will be full of horrid. They won't feel hungry, and may be snotty, sick or have other tummy upsets. Be low key and try not to worry them. If they see you are calm, it's all less scary - especially if they don't remember being poorly before.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Thunderbirds Are Go Series 2 Volume 1 DVD Bundle Giveaway

Today 6th February sees the release of the latest DVD from from ITV Studios Global Entertainment - Volume 1 of the second series of Thunderbirds Are Go! To celebrate the release, I have a DVD Bundle to give away to one of my readers.


Thunderbirds Are Go Series 2: Volume 1 features 13 episodes over 2 discs, and a whopping 288 minutes of action in total. The Thunderbirds are voiced by a really good cast, including Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (The Maze Runner). David Graham retains his role of the last 60 years, as Lady Penelope's Chauffeur Parker.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The LEGO Batman Movie Review

Last Saturday we got up ridiculously early to catch the train down to London, for a special screening of the LEGO Batman movie courtesy of Warner Brothers. It was something we were incredibly excited about, and it really didn't disappoint...


We were tempted to take lots of LEGO Batmen with us, but remembering what happened to the rear end of our LEGO Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, we decided it better to choose one, and it was Tartan Batman who got a day out. I've already posted about the whole LEGO Batman trip to London, this is our review of the movie itself.

We went as fans, we loved The LEGO Movie, and Batman is a particular favourite of our 6 year old. None of us were disappointed.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Children's Mental Health Week 6-12th February #childrensmhw

I have far too much understanding of children's mental health. I wish I didn't. I wish it was all something that happened to someone else. Instead, all of our children also have far too much understanding about children's mental health.

Children's Mental Health Week 6-12th February #childrensmhw

On August 15th 2014 my step-daughter Elspeth took her own life. I wrote about it, you can read my Dear Elspeth post here, but it will make you sad, so maybe don't read it if you are at work. I also wrote about how our children seemed to cope over the first 9 months, and what helped them.

It's now 2 1/2 years later, and Elspeth is still dead. Her siblings don't see her or speak to her every single day. Her step-sister doesn't have another teenage girl at home to talk about make up and clothes. Her step-brother has gone to university alone, just as he went to college alone, after spending 8 years as her classmate.

Her little brother won't belt out Les Miserables songs beautifully at full volume any more. He won't sing at all. He says it's rubbish. Neither of her little brothers will enter or stay in an empty room.

One of her siblings has spent a large part of the last 18 months ill in hospital.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

S+ Non-Contact Sleep Tracker From ResMed Review

The S+ from ResMed is the world's first non-contact sleep tracker. It studies you while you sleep, monitoring the air temperature, and ambient light and noise levels, as well as recording when you are in dream sleep, light sleep or deep sleep. It'll even soothe you to sleep with background white noise that attunes to your own breathing, and wake you up slowly (from light sleep when possible) if you set a smart alarm time window to get up.


My sleep has always been pretty bad, and even a 'good night's sleep' is often much shorter than average. Although I can survive on less sleep than most, I'd like to sleep more, and sleep better. The S+ can help, and after 8 weeks of use, I'm genuinely finding that I can make some simple small changes that really do improve the quality of my sleep - and I'm feeling better for it.