Friday, 28 September 2018

Tasty Yogurt Ideas with Lancashire Farm Dairies

I've always understood how valuable yogurt is nutritionally and it's something all of my children have loved to eat. We've often bought the big tubs and let the children add toppings of their choice, but Lancashire Farm Dairies have sent us some of their delicious Free Range Yogurt and their fantastic novelty game Toppers to really expand our horizons...


The yogurty game Toppers involves choosing a base yogurt card, picking a sauce card and then throwing the dice to see which two other toppings go in your bowl.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Who Did It? Family Game Review for Blogger Boardgame Club (age 6+)

This review for the Blogger Boardgame Club is Who Did It?, a family card game from Blue Orange. Suitable for 3 to 6 players aged 6+, this is a game that really appealed to my 8 and 10 year old boys and has turned out to be excellent fun for everyone. The premise of the game is simple  - get rid of your animal cards to pass the blame on and prove it wasn't your pet who pooped on the carpet.


I've raised 5 boys, I'll be honest, I've heard all of the poop jokes many times over. I was worried I'd be a bit 'yeeuch', but actually it's just funny, fast paced and there isn't time for many poop jokes.

Inside the box are 36 cards (6 animals in 6 colors), 13 poop tokens and a rule booklet. The box is brilliant. Thick card and a magnetic closure, plus it's tiny and will hardly take up any storage space - nicely done.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

The Disney Range From Jumbo Games And Puzzles.

A while ago I took part in a Twitter party for Jumbo Games And Puzzles, showcasing their new Disney products. I didn't receive my parcel before the party unfortunately, but I have it now and can show you some of the new titles on offer...


Starting with a couple of titles for younger puzzle fans, the Vampirina and Puppy Dog Pals 4 Shaped Puzzles. The rrp is £7.99 and the puzzles inside have 14, 16, 18 and 20 pieces. Age 3+.

Puzzles are great for practising hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and there's a real sense of achievement and success when they are completed, whatever your age.

Monday, 24 September 2018

intu Trafford Centre Stylist Live Event 2018

A couple of weekends ago we were guests of intu Trafford Centre to take at a look at the Stylist Live event. This was a free weekend long event with talks, catwalk shows and pop up stalls all throughout the main mall of the centre.


We were invited along and so was Sim from Manchester Mummy, so we all jumped in her car bright and early on the Sunday morning. It's really weird being inside The Trafford Centre when nothing is open and it's almost empty...

Discovery Young Explorer Kit (age 8+) Review and Giveaway for Trends UK.

The Young Explorer Kit from Trends UK is an excellent and well-working science set for children aged around 8+. It's not as 'young' as you might believe, with an impressive and useful Pocket Field Microscope, Binoculars, Compass and Notebook & Pencil. This is for intermediate explorers!


Everything is inside the box in a plastic insert, which can be used for storage afterwards, although realistically it's a big box and these are handy pocket-sized items which my son has instead stored in his treasure drawer. The Binoculars, Compass and Microscope all have a carry strap with a safety release, so you are less likely to have to pick them out of the mud when on explorations.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Field from Class Grass - Imaginative Toy Review And Giveaway (age 3+)

The Field is an amazing toy product from Ireland that really is a game-changer. Your figures, animals and vehicles can have a really impressive backdrop instantly, and that's incredibly satisfying - even to a grown up. Well-made and impressively realistic, I can honestly say this has been far more of a hit here than I expected.


You're allowed to be sceptical, I was sceptical, but genuinely since I put The Compound and The Field out, our living room table has never seen so much use.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Gangster School 2 by Kate Wiseman Book Review for Zuntold Books (Age 8+)

We reviewed the first Gangster School novel and I'm very happy to be back with the sequel, Gangster School 2. Subtitled The Brotherhood Of Brimstone, the second book sees the main characters settled into their school and more settled into who they actually are, and what they stand for.

Charlie and Millie aren't exactly cut out for a criminal life, but they are expected to take that path and this is their second year at Blaggard's School for Tomorrow's Tyrants.


It doesn't take long before our heroes to discover the reason for some mysterious happenings is not as ghostly as it first appears. This is like Scooby Doo but with a genuinely perilous twist and there are a couple of moments when I wondered how serious things were going to get.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Jeans For Genes Day - Friday 21st September

Tomorrow is Jeans For Genes day and up and down the land people will have an extra dress-down day, when they can come to work or school wearing the world's most popular outfit, jeans and a t-shirt, and it's all in the name of charity.

We've all heard of Jeans For Genes, but do you know where your donation goes?


The money raised by our donations to Jeans For Genes goes to the Genetic Disorders UK charity, who work to improve the lives of children born in the UK with a genetic disorder. These are often rare disorders which are unable to raise money in their own name, mainly because we've never heard of them, and that makes us the lucky ones. 500,000 UK families aren't so lucky.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

GB Posters - Posters, Frames, Mugs, Keyrings and Gifts Reviewed

A couple of weeks ago we received a parcel that equated to an early Christmas for us. A huge box full of products to review for GB Posters. My grown up kids and young boys all had a chance to add something to the wishlist, and we had a real mixed bag including Fallout, Skyrim and Playstation, Star Wars, the Periodic Table and the human skeleton...


I'll cover the posters later (most of them cost a mere fiver), first the branded or licensed products. GB Posters have literally hundreds to choose from, ranging from Ariane Grande and Adventure Time, to Yu-Gi-Oh and Volkswagen. You can browse them all on the Brands A-Z page.

My family young and old had no trouble finding some of their favourites. These are exactly the sort of thing we give at Christmas as stockingfillers, they're great for adults and awkward teenagers.

How do Modern Toy Manufacturers Successfully Reach Their Audience?

This article is written by Larisa Wong...

Major toy producers such as LEGO and HASBRO have existed for decades in one shape or form. While there is no doubt that they dominated the physical retail environment in the past, they have made an equally massive impression within the digital community. After all, parents are now turning to the Internet to shop for the latest and most popular items. Although kids will hardly care about the mechanics involved with online retail sales portals, parents could learn a thing or two. Perhaps you have been thinking about advertising your own custom-made toys to a virtual audience. If so, this article is definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Scrawl Grown Up Party Game Review for Big Potato Games (age 17+)

Our latest big kid adult game review for Big Potato Games is brilliant. It's called Scrawl and it's a grown up game (recommended age 17+) because it can all turn out a little risque or NotSafeForWork, in fact it's pretty much guaranteed. The game suits 4-8 players, but you can have as many as you want if you play teams. It's hilarious and makes an excellent party game, ideal for young people or when friends are round and the kids are in bed.


Inside the box is everything you need, including 8 white board pens and 8 little felt board wipes, 8 bulldog clips and writing boards, loads of 'Scrawl cards' for writing/drawing on, scorecards and game cards with 240 different scenarios to play.

Minecraft STEM Challenge Books Review (age 6+) For Carlton Books

This month's review for Carlton Books is a pair of books unlike any we've ever covered before - and they are a real hit! We've been sent 2 new Minecraft STEM Challenge books - Build A City and Build A Theme Park. These are exactly as they sound, books which will show your child how to complete some really complex projects within the game of Minecraft.


My boys love science and challenges, and STEM activities are something I actively encourage. Minecraft has been popular in our household since it was very first released and my eldest son played it. Since then all of our children have played, and as it's our policy that we should understand what they're up to online, we've also had a go.


I showed my 8 and 9 year old boys the books and they both chose one, then swapped, so were both excited by both books. I've never seen them both get into a project so quickly, and within minutes they had both chosen and made a good start on a project build.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

TBC Smiles...49 Months

I'm writing this month's Smiles post a day early because tomorrow we'll be delivering the second of our Freshers off to uni. It's been a more emotional time than I anticipated, I think I might even miss having to come downstairs at 2am to tell them to be quiet.

We gathered 6 of us together for a 'goodbye meal' of Veggie Tacos which my daughter made with me. It was lovely to spend the time with her before she went. I'm definitely going to suggest to our other two uni students that we cook something together too, maybe at Christmas. Cooking together is something we've always done and you don't think about the fact you'll miss it, until you realise it won't be possible.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Cooking And Eating Healthy Food at Uni with the Co-op And Britmums

I have 3 young adults off to uni this September and 2 of them are freshers in their first year. It's a scary time for them, but also for me, and I've tried to prepare them all for independence as best I can. This includes making sure they can cook themselves something hearty and filling without breaking the bank or missing out on the nutrition they'll need to stay healthy.


I'm delighted to be working with Co-op Food on a campaign to get students cooking and eating healthy meals. It really is something I'm passionate about and I've even put together all of my family's favourite and most-used recipes, as well as a few others, on my recipes page. I have tried to keep costs down, skill levels easy and nutritional value high. There is rarely a prouder moment than when I discover one of my young people cooking from one of my recipes.


The Co-op meanwhile show their commitment to students by offering a 10% discount at over 2000 stores nationwide with a TOTUM card (previously called NUS Extra). This starts at £12 a year, so you can get your money back very quickly just on Co-op food shopping. That's on top of the regular Co-op member rewards.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Minecraft: The Crash by Tracey Baptiste children's fiction book review (9+)

I know you are thinking 'A Minecraft novel?' and maybe think it's just been churned out because it'll sell on the back of that, but you'd be wrong. This official Mojang book by Tracey Baptiste is a great story which is really well written and offers adventure and real life in a mix which really pulls the reader in. We want to have a happy ending and right from the start we doubt that will be possible...


The Crash refers not a computer programme, but a real car crash, which renders our main character in a full body cast immobile in hospital. Bianca has a broken body and is desperate to know what happened to Lonnie, who was driving at the time. No-one will tell her and she begins to suspect she knows why.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

A Date With My Cat with Whiskas Cat Casseroles and Vegetarian Beefy Pie

Okay, a friend date with my cat is not something I'd ever have anticipated writing about and the people who have known me longest are entitled to laugh loudest. Go on, enjoy yourselves. Cats really weren't my thing until Gary landed at our door and forced us to care about him by being ill and cute. I've headed with his best model shot, you can see the cute...


I'm not made of stone, I tried to resist, but even I relented and it's taken a mere 2 years to get to this point... Cats will rule the universe one day. Whiskas have asked me to conjure up the perfect evening with my cat. Even Gary was surprised when I told him.


I'd have gone for the cinema, bowling and a nice sit down 3 course meal, but happily cats aren't generally allowed in restaurants or cinemas and they are rubbish at bowling, so I've settled for Gary's preferred choice, date night in. (That's a lie, but I'm not sitting on the back step for 3 hours watching the drizzle.)

Monday, 10 September 2018

Why we should talk about suicide #WorldSuicidePreventionDay

In the UK today, if you are aged 5-34 you are more likely to die from suicide than anything else. It is the biggest killer of our younger population. Just think about that for a minute. More people die by their own hand than for any other reason. It takes away our children, our parents, our siblings, our friends.

But we don't talk about suicide. No-one talks about suicide.

It's really hard to talk about suicide. It's really hard for me to write about suicide.


When our 16 year old died all of the older members of our family had counselling. We'd have been completely lost without that opportunity to talk. To sit away from the children and let it out and sob and be angry and say "it's not fair". To express our worries and fears, to find out if what we felt was 'normal'. To find out if our children's response was 'normal'. To keep us going.

My youngest 2 children were under 7 when they lost their sister and deemed too young for counselling. Children under 7 react differently and in general it's expected they should be able to cope. While that might work in some cases, our whole household was shattered and those young boys had a lot to try and understand.

As time went on and my boys still struggled with their sister's death, we were dumbfounded at how to help them. I built myself up and then emailed a UK charity for children who are bereaved.

I was given internet addresses where I could download information sheets and signposted to another well-known children's charity. The information sheets were more for advice immediately following a loss and didn't really help. They focussed on Cancer and long-term illness. I contacted charity no.2.

Children's charity no.2 simply suggested that what I needed was someone who was actually more used to dealing with our specific type of loss. They directed me to a charity for people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Maybe they were right. Maybe it wasn't children's charities I needed.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Mary And The Witch's Flower DVD and Book Giveaway

Mary And The Witch's Flower is a new DVD release from Studio Ponoc. Suitable for all of the family, but best suited to those school-aged or above, this is a beautiful animated retelling of the  book The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart. It features an amazing voice cast including Kate Winslett, Jim Broadbent and Ewen Bremner.


We were sent a pre-release copy of the movie to review and I watched it with my 8 and 9 year old boys. They both enjoy anime and a good fantastical story.

Mary And The Witch's Flower tells the tale of 10 year old Mary, who is living with relatives while she waits for her parents to return from working away. It's the school Summer holidays and she is bored and lonely, the most interesting thing in her day is being told folklore by the gardener.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Foxy Pants Family Game Review And Giveaway For Drumond Park (Age 4+)

It's September and one of our favourite brands are back with some new games for this Autumn. Foxy Pants from Drumond Park is a great active family game that makes your children squeal with delight and excitement. This is a fox who overfills his pockets and suffers the inevitable consequence. When his pants fall it's your job to grab and save as many of the chickens as you can.... It can get quite frantic.


The game is suitable for 2-4 players aged 4+ and as you'd expect, everything you need is in the box, including 1 fox with pants, 21 chickens, 4 chicken coops, 1 dice and instructions.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

SuperZings Series 2 Review! Children's Blind Bag Collectibles(age 4+)

SuperZings - Rivals Of Kaboom are a great little collectible rubber toy that are exactly the type of thing my 8 year old adores. Made by Magic Box Toys, the same people who created Star Monsters and Zomlings, they are available in various sets and blind bags and prices start at only 80p rrp for a single character. We were sent a big box full to review, much to the delight of my 8 and 9 year old boys...


SuperZings are the 'Rivals Of Kaboom' and there are 80 different rubbery characters to collect, split into heroes and villains. The heroes are led by Candy Strike and the villains by Pumpking.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Our Summer Holiday Visit With The Shetland Ponies

If you have followed my blog for a while or follow me on social media then you may well be aware that my children have Grandparents living in Scotland. Not only are they on a gorgeous farm with their own bit of woodland, but they also care for, and occasionally breed, Shetland Ponies.


The ponies are well used to children because they are used for riding and carriage driving, including working with disabled youngsters, and I think they enjoy the attention as much as my boys enjoy giving it.

BlogOnToys Get-To-Know-You Linky Post

I have taken part in all of the other pre-event BlogOn linky posts, so there can't be a lot left I haven't told you. No going back over the answers and checking I didn't change them...

Share a photograph (a recent one so people can recognise you!). This is pretty recent from a previous BlogOn Conference and I don't think I've changed any in 5 months. I'll probably even be in the same frock... and look just as confused.


What is the best thing about blogging? I can work around my family, even all night if I have to and then sleep....erm... Sleep is for wimps.

What was your dream job when you were growing up? I wanted to teach adults. I did teach adults! I even got to help write a couple of OCN qualifications. I haven't taught since I moved up to Manchester, but I've been busy enough.