Wednesday 30 July 2014

Rio 2 DVD Giveaway and Free Printables

We all remember Rio - the lovely animated story about Blu, the Macaw who is captured by smugglers and taken to America. He's lucky and ends up in the hands of Linda, who loves him and cares for him, and eventually he meets Jewel, another rare Macaw, and his soulmate.

Rio 2 DVD packaging cover shot

Rio 2 is out on DVD from next Monday August 4th. Rio 2 sees Blu happily living with Jewel and their 3 children - Carla, Bia and Tiago - when they discover the possibility of more rare Macaws in need of help, and set out to find them.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Dirty Bertie: Rats! From the Little Tiger Press

Dirty Bertie is a really different style of book for my 5 year old. It is on rough paper and has no colour images inside. When he saw it, he was instantly dismissive, which led to a discussion about why you need colour photo's in a book, and 'judging a book by it's cover'.

Dirty Bertie: Rats! From the Little Tiger Press review

Moshi Monsters Arrive at Sea Life, Manchester

Blogging can give you some great experiences, and we've been really lucky - and busy - over the last couple of weeks having a look at some of the events running over Summer in the North West. One of the things we've really enjoyed is meeting the Moshi Monsters who have taken up residence at Manchester Trafford Centre Sea Life this Summer.

Moshi Monsters Arrive at Sea Life, Manchester

Monday 28 July 2014

House Of Fraser Genius Jeans

We've been out and about a lot in the past few days, and that's given us ample opportunity to try out some new jeans that House Of Fraser have sent my boys for their Genius Jeans promotion. Jeans and denim are brilliant, especially for youngsters - they can spend as much time as they want being children, and I can relax in the knowledge they won't wreck their clothes doing so!

We were sent 3 pairs to try from the huge range available at House Of Fraser, and we've been testing to see how great they are for playing....

They've been to the Chill Factore....

Chill Factore Mini Moose Land

Sunday 27 July 2014

Real Mums Of All-Bran: 5 Day Challenge

Britmums and All-Bran have challenged real parents to try the 5-Day Challenge and see if eating All-Bran for breakfast for 5 consecutive days helps us to feel more in love with our gut.
I'm quite attached to my gut anyway, I use it pretty much every day. I also have a long-standing hernia, so it's probably even easier for me to see the benefit from having regular fibre.

Real Mums Of All-Bran: 5 Day Challenge

The Imperial War Museum North Summer events for children

I've just posted about Summer fun in the garden and park for children, but if you fancy a day indoors then your local museum is likely to be free to visit.

The Imperial War Museum North at The Quays in Manchester is free to enter for people of any age, and has all kinds of special events and activities to interest children. Really easy to get to, in easy reach of the city centre and nearby the Trafford Centre, it has ample parking and is set on the bank of the canal next to Granada Studios and opposite Media City.

We were invited along to have a look at the Summer programme.

It started with story time - using puppets we were taught about Ali and Abdul, two brothers who were sent away to different parts of the world to fight for Britain in the first world war. 

The Imperial War Museum North Summer events for children Abdul and Ali story about world war one

Thursday 24 July 2014

Free and Cheap 42 Days Of Summer Fun

Britmums and BN Biscuits asked bloggers to tell them what we get up to over Summer. How do we fill those weeks with our children without going insane? How do we keep everyone busy without spending the equivalent of a small house on days out?

Along with a couple of Mums from school, we arranged to take our children to a local park and have a picnic - we walked there and took blankets, a football, bottled water and plenty to eat - including the BN Biscuits I was sent to try when I signed up to this project.

This is Manchester - it always rains. We'd expected rain or drizzle when we arranged it, we couldn't have ever realised just how amazing the weather was going to be! 

I'm not sure why my youngest carried his biscuit round for half an hour before he ate it, but he was happy! 

After lunch, which started approximately 6 seconds after we arrived at 10.45am and the chorus of "what's for dinner?" started from all 10 of the children we had between us, the children played with the ball while the adults sat on blankets and just was bliss. Then something amazing happened....

Staff from our local Children's Centre arrived with of bats and balls, hoops, chalks, a couple of tuff spots for sand and water, and set up a 'free for all' play session!

It was brilliant! We were on the verge of going home - but with the children all playing in the shade and enjoying every second, we stayed....

At one point there were more than 30 young children all playing and laughing in the sun together. There was even a big blanket and books for calm moments, but 5 year old and his friend found most fun spraying each other with water!

I've always given my young children a washing up bowl of water and assorted cups and kitchen implements to play with on hot days when the paddling pool hasn't been so handy, and I think the Children's Centre got it spot on with this. A group of older children even went over to the local Co-Op and got refills when the water ran out!

Somewhat unexpectedly the piece of equipment which got most use was a length of pipe that the children could talk into and use as a 'telephone'.....or just make daft noises at each other.


A fabulous day was had by all, we stayed on the park all day, when we'd intended to go home around 1pm. Sand and water play are brilliant for children and teach them so much about the world around them and what they are capable of. Playing with other children, especially unfamiliar children, increases confidence and social skills. It teaches about turn-taking and rules of play, and it keeps you active.

We're currently really lucky with our weather, and it is forecast to stay a little while, so outdoor play is looking like a distinct possibility for the next couple of weeks at least. Just don't forget the picnic! And if you're incredibly fair like me, even if you've applied factor 50 - make sure you take a t-shirt, just in case you stay 3 hours longer than intended!

Sure Start Children's Centres are mainly for families with children under 5, but they welcome children up to 7 to a lot of school holiday time events, and occasionally also cater for older children. You can find your local centre here. Most events and activities are free or very cheap.

Your local council will also have all kinds of free and cheap events for children of all ages that you can join in with local to you.

Local museums are usually FREE and have some fantastic events and activities for children. We've checked out the Summer events at the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester

This post is an entry for 42 Days of Summer Linky Challenge sponsored by McVitie’s BN. Learn more on their website. We shared our biscuits between all of us, there were plenty to go around (3 times) and they were a huge hit!

To see other great ideas for entertaining your children over Summer look at some of the other posts in the 42 Days Of Summer Linky Challenge! 

What's Happened? What's Happening?

Mummy of Two

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Circue Du Hilarious Show Review

I'll admit it. I would never have ever actually considered going to see a show on the pier in Blackpool until yesterday. I was given tickets to go and watch Cirque Du Hilarious with my family, and we thought it'd be a lovely day out visiting the beach and the children would enjoy the show.

Circue Du Hilarious Review

The venue is upstairs to the right of the penny arcade on the Blackpool Central Pier. All the chairs and tables were set out so that everyone faced the stage and there was plenty of space between tables. A really nice size, so everyone is close enough to the stage that you can join in and interact - or sit far enough back that you are just too far away to be singled out by the 2 main performers.

Circue Du Hilarious Review Dancing Girls

The show is performed by a fantastic crew who all seemed to be enjoying themselves. The main two are Clive Webb and Danny Adams - a father and son duo who whatever they say, are masters of the ad lib. Alongside they have a team who were brilliant, there were corpses and failed props and each one was used to advantage to make the crowd laugh some more.

Circue Du Hilarious Review Running BathCircue Du Hilarious Review Rolled Flat
Circue Du Hilarious Review musical number

Beneath any slapstick - and there wasn't too much at all - there are a very talented bunch of performers here. They show this with some great musical sketches, close up over-the-top magic, the fantastic split second ad libs and the non-stop grasp of your focus, so that you barely notice they're doing scenery changes and clean ups.

Circue Du Hilarious Review robot boxing

There was a bit of smutty humour, which went straight over the head of my nearly 6 year old. It was a bit cringeworthy for adults, but my 12 year old nephew thought it was hilarious, so I guess it means there's something for everyone.

Circue Du Hilarious Review on Blackpool Central Pier Speed Camera Gag

The one who enjoyed it most, and laughed so hard he cried, was my son who's nearly 6. He's been reliving moments from the show all day, as have we "remember in the Cirque Du Hilarious show when they....."

Circue Du Hilarious Review on Blackpool Central Pier meet the stars
'Boy with Cirque Du Hilarious cast' image loading.,...
I'll admit it, it was hilarious. I've not laughed so much in ages, and nor have any of my lot. It was a brilliant way to spend 90 minutes of my afternoon, and has completely changed my mind about the quality of the performers working in daytime seaside venues. Aside from the smut and willy jokes, which I personally didn't like (I've got 4 boys, I've heard it all before), it was all fresh and very funny, and most importantly excellently executed. I genuinely recommend it.

The Cirque Du Hilarious will be performing on Blackpool Central Pier at 1pm and 3.30pm every day except Friday (day off), or when it's scorchingly hot (the 1pm is cancelled during the heatwave as it would be too uncomfortable for the performers under the stage lights) until 31st August.
Tickets are available from the box office or in advance from TicketMaster. Online with booking fee a full price adult costs £11.25,concessions are £9.25 and a family ticket (4 people) costs £30

You can follow the Cirque Du Hilarious on Facebook, Twitter and on their website.

What's Happened? What's Happening?

Sunday 20 July 2014

Pilgrims Choice Pick and Mix Cheeses

A few days ago we reviewed the Pilgrims Choice Crumbles, and now it's the turn of the Pilgrims Choice Pick And Mix.

We eat tons of cheese in our house - literally - and although the bulk of our everyday purchase is Mature Cheddar or Lancashire, interesting and different cheeses rarely go amiss. Pilgrims Choice Pick And Mix offers six different cheeses in 80g blocks.

Pilgrims Choice Pick And MIx Cheeses Review

In the interests of fairness I tested all 6 of the range myself, and this is what I thought....

Vintage Cheddar - As you'd expect a nice rounded flavour. This is a creamy cheese with a bit of a tang. Full flavoured, but not actually very sharp. Slices and cuts well.

Indian spice - You can smell the coriander and cumin instantly. I really was unsure what to expect, but this is lovely. A mild spice flavour on a creamy cheese, it reminds me of bombay potatoes or in fact Indian spice crisps - which you can imagine would go very well with cheese in a butty!

pilgrims choice pick and mix cheeses review close up of cut cheese on cheeseboard

Smoky Cheddar - very creamy and soft, it has a good smoky taste that doesn't leave an unplesant aftertaste. We're big fans of smoked cheddar here, I love it on crackers.

Fire Cracker - again a creamy cheese, with the addition of the peppers. It has a bit of a kick, and you can feel it on your tongue, but not too fiery that it overpowers the cheese itself. Very nice and something I think my older lads would love melted on toast.

Wensleydale and Cranberry - Sweet and very creamy with a crumbly texture, this is a dessert cheese really. The taste is lovely, the cranberries actually soft and juicy, you could almost get away with crumbling this over the top of a cheesecake or other dessert, or for eating with fruit or fruit cake. Gorgeous, but not one I'd use on crackers or in a sandwich.

pilgrims choice pick and mix cheeses review close up of cut cheese on cheeseboard

Apple and Wensleydale - Much sweeter than I expected, and with a great green apple taste. The apple tastes really incredibly fresh and goes really well with the creamy, crumbly cheese. Delicious and again, something you really could add to a dessert as it is.

The Pick And Mix cost around £1.50 each, although are currently on offer at Tesco for 3 for £3. I think it offers fair value and is a fun and affordable way to have something a bit special. They were all really tasty and can hold their own against deli counter cheeses.

Thursday 17 July 2014

St. Helen's Farm Goat's Milk Products Hamper Review

Recently St. Helen's Farm sent me a fantastic chilled gift hamper full of their range of goat's milk products. Goat's milk and butter, cheeses and several yogurts, my family were delighted with it. The only things missing from their full range were their double cream and the ice cream - which sadly can't be sent by post!

Goat's milk contains less allergenic proteins and lactose than Cow's milk, and some people with an intolerance to cow's milk, or who feel uncomfortable after drinking it, feel their symptoms are improved by replacing it with goat's milk. Any health benefits aside, my partner's family bred goats when he was little, and goat's milk holds a very dear place in his heart, so he was delighted to be doing this review.

St. Helen's Farm Goat's Milk Products Hamper Box

Bubble Gum Hand Wash and a Helmet Camera...

I do sometimes get surprise parcels through the post - things I have forgotten about, things I haven't agreed to review or sometimes things I haven't even heard of. Today I got 2 surprise parcels. This amazing Krash Video Head X1 Helmet - which no doubt you'll be seeing more of over Summer - once I find out who sent it and why....

Krash Video Head X1 Helmet

and this selection of sweet shop goodies.....with the new Cusson's Carex releases - Bubble Gum scent hand wash, and Strawberry Laces scent hand gel.

Carex bubblegum hand wash and strawberry laces hand gel

We actually use these Cussons Carex Complete 'Fun Edition' handwashes and hand gel already, and have done for ages. They're excellent. I'm more than happy to endorse them because of several reasons.

1. They clean your hands without stripping them and making them dry and sore
2. They smell absolutely amazing. My bathroom smells delicious, my hands smell delicious.
3. My kids love them and even the 4 year old offers to wash his hands because he loves the smell.
4. They kill 99.9% of bacteria really quickly.
5. The hand gel is the perfect size for a handbag, pocket or glovebox, and it's really tricky to squeeze loads out - preventing waste and spillage.
6. My kids don't waste them, because they know I've got boring smelling handwash in the cupboard, and if we run out of the sweet shop scents handwash before next big shopping day, I'll get out the boring one and won't exchange it until it's finished!
7. The hand gel lasts ages, and the hand washes are very often on offer at £1 each - making them very competitively priced!

I'm sure that the hand gel and helmet cam will go hand in hand this Summer - we're definitely going to get best footage outdoors!

Tuesday 15 July 2014

LEGO City Arctic Ice Crawler 60033 Review

One of the new ranges of LEGO City this year is the Arctic range. I'm particularly fond of these as I'm into my Winter display, which grows each year, and the Arctic LEGO range will slot into that beautifully, and give the children something else to play with so that they don't disturb the houses as much.

LEGO Winter Scene

We've been sent the Arctic Ice Crawler set 60033 to review.

LEGO City Arctic Ice Crawler 60033 Review Pack Shot

Saturday 12 July 2014

Barny Bear's Little Adventure With Rabbits

We've had adventures with Barny before. We had an adventure looking for creatures and a night time adventure with torches. This time we've recently rescued two rabbits, so we thought we'd have an adventure low down at rabbit height, and see the world from a different angle!

Barny Bear's Little Adventures - the rabbit adventure

Friday 11 July 2014

My 500th Post....Meningitis 1 year on.


When I started this blog 500 posts seemed like something impossible that would take years, yet it's come up so quickly I nearly missed it. I actually can't begin to imagine the amount of drivel I've typed! I'm so blinking perfectionist too, that I dread to think of the hours that equates to.....

I can barely believe all the brands who take a chance and let me review for them over the past 500 posts, those who I am now a regular blogger for (including LEGO wahey!), and Drumond Park, who sponsored me to attend my first really big conference at Britmums. I'm incredibly flattered.

I also had no idea of what would happen and how incredibly eventful the last 500 posts would be, what they would document. I started my blog as a place to keep reviews I was doing for Izziwizzi Kids and I didn't expect to see that end fairly soon afterwards. I knew I'd record birthdays and holidays, I didn't expect to document Meningitis and a broken leg. The blog hasn't just been my record of events and days out, it's been my memory and my timeline, my catharsis and my rock.

I've never needed blogging more than I did exactly 1 year ago tonight. Alone and terrified in a house full of young people relying on me, it was bloggers I turned to. They were the people who were awake, they were the ones ready to listen, give advice and support. They sat there with me all over the country while I told them my partner was in hospital seriously ill. They were there for me until I could sleep at 2am, and they were back online at 6.30am when I rang the hospital to be told my partner had a 'good night'.

He hadn't. He was incredibly ill with Meningitis and didn't really even understand why he was in hospital or what was happening. He couldn't give his full name or answer anything tricky like 'how are you feeling?'. He was shaking so badly that his bed was rocking and waking the other patients. He had a steady temperature of nearly 40 degrees. In the 48 hours after arriving at hospital they pumped him full of fluids and 3 courses of antibiotics, but he lost 2 stone in weight. You really could see him wasting away. Thankfully yet he hadn't started trying to leave.

Without my blog I would have a lot of trouble trying to remember how events continued. It really was my diary and I can't read my early Meningitis posts without remembering exactly how I felt. I can't really read them at all, I cry. Who am I kidding, I cry even thinking about reading them. Thankfully we had a good outcome, a great outcome. My partner is here beside me as I type - watching crap on telly and playing a daft game on his phone.

He has poor memory now, he can't really remember much he did today, but tomorrow he'll remember more. He can't remember appointments or details, and he can't recite a number over and over to remember it while he walks from one room to another, he has to write everything down. He's coping fine at work, and his tiredness has pretty much gone, although he still falls asleep when he's stressed (and I really wish I did because it's an excellent get-out).

He still has back pain, and leg pain and he walks with a limp, but we can be a family, we can carry on our lives and take our kids out for the day. We are the lucky ones.

Meningitis 1 year down the line afterwards

If you ever, EVER, feel like you have the worst hangover ever and you've not had a drink or been in the sun all day. If you have a temperature that won't drop with Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. If you're in so much pain you can't lie still.  If you get cramping pains in the front of your thighs. And most importantly if ever you can't touch your chin to your chest - go directly to hospital.

Thank you for all those who've helped me along the way,  and especially to those Izziwizzi Playfest people who've been there from day 1 - you guys are still here, even though Playfest isn't, and I couldn't have ever hoped to meet such a great bunch.

Thank YOU for reading. If you can stand it, here's to the next 500...x

Thursday 10 July 2014

On The Table In 30: Baking - Sugar And Spice Doughnut Recipe

I love baking, but I spend so long in the kitchen making tea that it can seem a chore at times. On The Table In 30: Baking from Parragon Books sounded just the ticket. Quick recipes are also ideal for cooking with children before they lose interest and wander off, and usually a little easier, so great for beginners.

On The Table In 30 Minutes Recipe Cookbook Review

On The Table In 30 Minutes Recipe Cookbook Review Molten Cupcakes

Full of delicious looking recipes I knew immediately what we were going to make, as my son has been pestering me for doughnuts for ages now. I've never made them before, so now was the opportunity.

Sugar & Spice Doughnuts (page 76)

Makes 6 or 12


115g/4oz self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
 70g/2 1/2oz caster sugar
1tsp ground mixed spice
75ml/2 1/2fl oz milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
25g/1oz butter, melted - plus extra for greasing

2 tbsp caster sugar
1tsp ground mixed spice

30 minutes to go..

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Thoroughly grease a 6 hole doughnut tin or a 12 hole mini muffin tin (cake tin). Sift together the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the sugar and spice. Make a well in the centre.
Mix together the milk, egg, vanilla extract and melted butter and pour into the well. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.

25 minutes to go...

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag filled with a plain nozzle. pipe the mixture as neatly as possible into the prepared tin. Each hole should be about 2/3 full.

20 minutes to go....

Bake in a preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until risen, golden and firm to the touch. To make the sugar coating, mix together the sugar and mixed spice on a plate.

On The Table In 30 Minutes Recipe Cookbook Review Suggar And Spice Doughnuts

Leave the doughnuts to cool in the tinfor 2-3 minutes then gently ease them out. Toss them in the spiced sugar to coat completely and then serve warm or cold.

On The Table In 30 Minutes Recipe Cookbook Review rolling doughnuts in sugar coating
On The Table In 30 Minutes Recipe Cookbook Review Suggar And Spice Doughnuts cooked

On the table in 30 minutes: Baking has 176 pages with 60 super-speedy recipes. It also has loads of hints and tips and information pages including substitute ingredients, measurments conversion and preparation techniques.

On The Table In 30 Minutes Recipe Cookbook Review Raspberry cake page

And the doughnuts? They were delicious! They really did taste just like doughnuts, although less greasy and not deep fried, so they've got to be better for you! They were 'on the table in (less than) 30 minutes, and eaten in 35. My son is very happy that not only did he get some doughnuts, but he actually made them himself - he had a good go at every step - including piping.

On The Table In 30 Minutes Recipe Cookbook Review boy eating doughnut

On The Table In 30 Minutes: Baking has a recommended retail price of £12, and I think it's a great book at that price with absolutely loads to offer practically any cook.

On The Table In 30 Minutes Recipe Cookbook Review plate of doughnut crumbs

I was sent my book for review