Wednesday 30 April 2014

Stop The Bus....

I want to get off...

You know those times. THOSE times. The times when you reach that point where you really are wondering if it's possible to go and hide under the duvet and it'll go away.

The times when the easiest thing would be to just lie down where you are and close your eyes, put your hands over your ears and enjoy the cold feel of the floor, and the muffled sound of people talking but you can't hear them and they know it, so you don't have to respond.

The times when you wonder if you have time to run to the car and drive away without anyone seeing you go. Just for a while. Until it's all over and then you can go back and someone else will have fixed everything.

The times when no-one else can say anything because whatever they say, you'll cry.

I have a had a few of those times over the past 9 months. This morning I really did have one of those times.

My partner is ill, he has Tonsilitis. He's still not fully right after having Meningitis, so he's become really quite ill. Really 104 degree temperature ill. And this morning when I discovered at 8.15am that he'd spent the night vomiting blood I had one of those moments. I really did just want to announce I was going out to buy bread and just walk and keep on walking. Just until it was fixed. Just until he was better.

Of course I didn't run away. I very calmly said that I didn't believe that 16 gallons of brown slush (approx) equated to 2 tablespoons of 'undigested soup' and that I was very sorry, but "I am going to take you to A&E. I know you hate the thought of it and the reminders, but you are vomiting blood, it's a medical emergency and we need to go to hospital".

The 5 year old safely in the care of the school Office Staff - who said nice things and made me cry - we set off with our 4 year old. For the second (and I really wish it will be the last) time we went straight through triage and into a cubicle.

4 hours later and everyone is pretty certain all the blood is from my partners throat and tonsils - which are shredded. We're all happy with this outcome. Our 4 year old has eaten his bodyweight in Mini Cheddars and drawn us 42 pictures of himself in various poses. My partner has anti-emetics and cramp medicine for his tummy, a normal temperature and has even managed a smile as we say goodbye. 

As we walk to the car park I get a call from my 20 year old. "My rent is due at the beginning of the month and I don't have it, so I'll have to come back to live at home. I've got to be out on the last day of the month and I hadn't realised that's tomorrow. That's come quick hasn't it? So when can you come and get me and my stuff?".

THOSE sorts of times.....

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Belo and Me Little Lunch Bags Review

Belo and Me is a small independent company based in Bolton making reusable jute lunch bags. Belo is Portugese for beautiful, and these bags really are, they're also incredibly well-priced at only £3.75 plus postage. They're simple and practical and I think ideal for most age groups. I let my teenage daughter choose one to review.

Belo And Me Little Lunch Bag Review

My daughter chose a Little Lunch Bag with the Lunch Time design in Navy Blue. There are currently 14 different designs to choose from, most available in 3 colour options.They're mostly quite feminine designs and include birds and hearts, cupcakes and cartoon children.

The bags have a fairly thick plastic coating inside and padded handles. 
They're excellent quality for the price paid. 

The printing is also good. Very crisp and faultless. 

I think these bags are excellent value for money and make a great gift bag or lunch bag especially. They're very different and definitely cute. My daughter is very pleased with hers, which she'll be mainly using to take her lunch to school this Summer. 

We were sent our bag free of charge to review.

Monstar Finds A Home Early Reader Book Review

Monstar Finds A Home is this month's new release from Orion Books in the red Early Reader range for children aged around 5+. Written by Steve Cole and illustrated by Pete Williamson, it's a 72 page story about a fluffy green pet belonging to 2 children called Jon and Jen.

Orion Books Monstar Finds A Home review

The red Early Readers are designed especially for children who might still want to read with someone else, but are beginning to feel confident and can work out words alone. They're the next step along from blue Early Reader books which are designed to be read together with a brand new reader.

My son is 5 1/2 and he's pretty good with the blue band books now and can work out most of the text that he hasn't already learnt, so the obvious step is to try red band.

The obvious differences are that this red Early Reader is laid out more like a standard book with chapters, there is more text on each page and longer and trickier words throughout, with less repetition than is found in blue Early Readers.

My son spotted the difference immediately and was a bit daunted by this book at first, but after we'd sat and read a page or two he was happier when his turn came to read as he'd realised it's just the same as his other books, only slightly more of it.

The story is a simple and fairly daft one. The two children Jon and Jen have mad scientist parents who have promised they can have a pet, so they make them one - Monstar.

Orion Books Monstar Finds A Home review inside page

Somewhat as you'd expect things don't entirely go to plan and it's Monstar who saves the day.

My 4 and 5 year old boys enjoyed this story and thought it was very funny. They liked the character Monstar - although they were stunned when they fond out she was female, which led to a big discussion about monsters and aliens not always being boys! .

Monstar Finds A Home is published by Orion Books and has an RRP of £4.99, Monstar The Superhero is also available.

Monday 28 April 2014

E-cloth anti-allergy, no chemical cleaning products review

I was invited to an event to find out all about e-cloths and sadly I couldn't go - logistics with my children rarely allow me to attend anything. However they offered to send me some cloths to review and I was more than happy to try them.

E-cloth anti allergy chemical free cleaning products review

E-cloths are specially designed to clean without the need for anything other than water. No chemicals, no abrasives, nothing that'll take the laquer off your paint or make your appliances rusty - nothing to aggravate any allergies.

My hands are in water a lot and get quite dry and sore at times, so I'm more than happy to forego cleaning products whenever appropriate and possible.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Haba Lucky Sock Dip Game Review

Our latest review for The Toadstool online Toy Shop is from Haba. We love Haba, our Michael Doll is still a firm favourite and got a new outfit at Christmas. This review is a bit different because we're reviewing a game. 

HABA Socken Zocken Lucky Dip Sock Matching Game Review

The Haba Lucky Sock Dip Game, or Socken Zocken as it's amusingly called in German, can be one of the most frantic games you've ever played! 

The basic aim of the game is to all try and be the first player to collect 5 pairs of socks and then grab the Sock Monster. It seems easy enough, but the socks are all very similar, so there are a lot of errors.

Haba lucky Sock Dip Game Review

The person who grabs the Sock Monster is the winner for that round, and gets a peg. The pegs were incredibly popular. They are very sweet, and my 4 year old wouldn't leave them alone! 3 pegs and you're the winner of the game.

Haba Sock matching game pegs

The only thing more attractive to everyone than the pegs is the lovely wooden Sock Monster. The quality is second to none, the socks are really thick card with beautiful printing.

Sock Monster Haba Socken Zocken Lucky Dip Sock Game
However, back to the game! The recommended age range is 4+, and the game can be played by 2-4 players. There are 24 pairs of socks, which is plenty.

I suggest if you are playing with younger children and there are less than 4 players, take out a few pairs of socks so that it isn't as tricky. If you're playing with grown ups then you can take out a couple of odd socks so that there are loose socks without a partner to make it harder.

 We left the socks in the box to pick, but you could just as easily tip them onto the table.

The game is brilliant for hand-eye coordination and learning colours and matching skills. It encourages concentration and attention and helps children learn to spot more subtle similarities and differences. 

This game isn't only fun for children, it's very much playable by adults and teenagers too. The pace is faster and it gets very competitive. 

Teenagers playing Haba Lucky Sock Dip Game Socken Zocken

We like this game, although I think when they're older children might scrap a bit over this game, it's very snatchy and is better supervised. Replayability is excellent, and it does suit all ages, a 9 year old will enjoy it as much as a 5 year old.

The Haba Lucky Sock Dip is currently at a special offer price on the Toadstool website at £9.90, usually it retails at £11.90, which is a very fair price and it makes a lovely gift.

We were sent our game to review.

Friday 25 April 2014

LEGO DUPLO 'How Do You Play' Giveaway

I love all LEGO, and LEGO DUPLO is fantastic for younger children to start to explore their own creativity and imagination, making up stories and worlds and gaining all kinds of valuable skills.

Small children don't have the strength necessary in their fingers to push together, and pull apart, the little LEGO bricks, and they don't have the precision to create and play with a small model without frustration. LEGO DUPLO is a fantastic tool for building co-ordination and fine motor skills, which in turn gives younger children confidence and pride in their creations.

I'm really proud to have been asked to be on the jury panel for the LEGO DUPLO How Do You Play competition. I'll be helping to judge the final round, which will decide who will win a holiday to Billund in Denmark to the original LEGOLAND.

The competition is incredibly easy to enter, you need to film your children playing with their DUPLO. We want to see imagination and creativity in action. Submit your video of no more than 30 seconds to the app. on the LEGO DUPLO Facebook page.

LEGO DUPLO have also very kindly sent me some sets to keep, or give away to my readers.

My youngest child is now 4, he has been practising with little LEGO for a couple of years and is now pretty good with it. Although my little boys would love to keep the LEGO DUPLO, I don't think it would get the play it deserved and we're very lucky, we have lots of LEGO here, so I've chosen to give away my sets.

LEGO DUPLO 10566 Creative Picnic set

The first set I'm giving away is the Creative Picnic Set 10566. Suitable for children from 18 months, it is a lovely set with 52 chunky pieces which are too big to swallow, and including everything you need to make a delicious meal.

LEGO DUPLO 10566 Creative Picnic set contents

Using familiar items, in really simple shapes and an everyday setting, means that children have a good idea of what to do without play having to be led by adults, so they can work independently. It promotes thinking for themselves, problem-solving and decision-making.

LEGO DUPLO 10566 Creative Picnic set contents bricks

The Creative Picnic set has a recommended retail price of £19.99 and makes an ideal starter set for a child new to LEGO DUPLO, or a brilliant addition to bricks you already have.

As I have to pay postage the giveaway is UK only, my apologies to everyone else. Entry to the giveaway is by rafflecopter form below. The first question is mandatory and must be answered as a comment to this post. Extra entries can be gained by completing additional tasks within the rafflecopter. Please read the additional terms and conditions at the bottom of the rafflecopter form. This giveaway will end at midnight Friday 23rd May when the timer will end and no more entries will be allowed.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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. I've also posted a more general post about what's at Knowsley - including the amazing Seal Lions!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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