Friday 31 October 2014

A Halloween Trick And Treat at Gulliver's World, Warrington

Yesterday we had a smashing day out at Gulliver's World in Warrington. We only took the 2 little boys as the teenagers were all elsewhere, and that was ideal because Gulliver's World is a theme park especially suited to families with children aged 2-13. On the way home our 6 year old pronounced it "the best day ever".

Gulliver's World Warrington Halloween Celebrations event review view of castle

Set in spacious grounds, but compact, incredibly flat and easy to walk around, even for younger children, Gulliver's World has over 90 rides, shows and attractions. 

Wednesday 29 October 2014

The Smarter Wifi Kettle from Menkind (review).

When I was asked by Menkind if I would like to promote their time-saving gadgets and try a Smarter Wifi Kettle my first question was 'how does that work then?' My second question was 'what happens if the kettle is empty? My partner just went straight for the 'omg yeah'. As it turns out it might just be me who likes this handy gadget the most - because I'm the one gets out of bed to make a brew when we're watching TV in bed at night, and I'm the first one up and about in the morning...

Menkind Smarter Wifi Kettle review

Before you even see the kettle you're reminded of the fact you won't need to stop what you're doing to put it on. I'm not certain it'll save me 2 days a year though - sadly there's always something I can be doing in the kitchen anyway...

Menkind Smarter Wi-fi Kettle review

It's a gorgeous looking kettle, with a lovely brushed body and fantastic polished control buttons - just in case you want to use it like a regular kettle and switch it on with your index finger.

Thursday 23 October 2014

A modified LEGO Arctic Artic

Yesterday's review from me was the LEGO City Arctic Outpost set 60035, which is a set designed for younger builders. It's a set that could easily be more detailed and complicated, but that would raise the difficulty level and lower the playability.

My partner asked the little boys if they didn't mind him having a play and adapting it, and with the addition of some wheels, Technic LEGO and a few other bits and pieces, he's transformed this...

A modified LEGO Arctic Outpost set 60035 Articulated trailer
A modified LEGO Arctic Outpost set 60035 with Articulated trailer

Into this....the LEGO City Arctic Artic...

LEGO brick Articulated trailer lorryLEGO brick Articulated trailer lorry with mobile laboratory

Tuesday 21 October 2014

LEGO City Arctic Outpost set 60035 Review

The LEGO City Arctic range is one that we are really keen on. It has lots of interesting vehicles and really fires the imagination. The whole range is really good value and designed for younger builders, so it has masses of playability.

The LEGO City Arctic Outpost set 60035 is designed for builders aged 5-12 and has 374 pieces. It's a bit trickier than other sets for age 5+, such as the LEGO City Arctic Ice Crawler 60033 we reviewed a while ago,  but still perfectly possible for our 4 1/2 year old.

The build is rewarding throughout, with instant gratification as you see the shape of your truck and trailer almost as soon as you start to build. It uses easy techniques and very few tiny elements, which makes it much less frustrating for a young LEGO fan.

LEGO City Arctic Outpost set 60035 Review
Included is a quad bike which is a great little vehicle and my 4 year old's favourite bit of the set!

 LEGO City Arctic Outpost set 60035 Review LEGO ARCTIC Quad Bike

Saturday 18 October 2014

Halloween Play-Doh Characters with ALDI's Specialbuys.

Halloween again and you can never find the stuff you had last year - plus it had fake blood stains and had been trodden on. Fear not, ALDI have a large range of Halloween goodies at really low prices. They've sent us a selection to have a look at, and it includes a neat pack of Play-Doh in 15 small tubs which are brilliant for handing out to 'Trick Or Treaters' and won't damage their teeth!

Friday 17 October 2014

Swizzels Matlow Halloween Spooktacular Sweets Giveaway

Swizzels Matlow are inviting fans to share their scary photographs on their Facebook page. All entries have a chance to win a fabulous hamper of Swizzels Matlow treats.We entered last year although sadly didn't win - the competition is fierce (see what I did there?).

Here are my terrors for this year's competition - enough to scare anyone!

Entry is really simple - just upload your photo to their Facebook Page.

LOGO Grab game from Drumond Park review and giveaway

It's been a long while since we've played any games, and LOGO Grab was a great one to come back to. With the tagline 'Roll, Spot and Grab', it's a nice simple card game for age 8+ where being alert and quick will make you the winner.

LOGO Grab game from Drummond Park review and giveaway
LOGO Grab game from Drummond Park box contents

LOGO Grab can be played individually or in 2-4 teams. 9 cards from the top of the pile are placed face upwards in the middle of the table. Each player or team is given 2 additional cards. The aim of the game is to collect 2 groups of 3 cards from the same set.

Thursday 16 October 2014

LEGO Ninjago Graphic Novels from Titan Publishing

On 17th October (today) Titan Magazines will launch a children's LEGO Ninjago Graphic Novel series with volume 1: The Challenge Of Samukai and Volume 2: The Mask Of The Sensei available immediately in book shops or online. With around 64 full colour pages of comic strip and character art, and priced at £3.99 each, they are perfect for my 6 year old and his early independent reading.

LEGO Ninjago Graphic Novels from Titan Publishing

The graphic novels feature Sensei Wu and his Masters of Spinjitsu - Cole, Jay, Zane and Kai, and maybe a few bad guys. 

LEGO Ninjago Graphic Novels character artwork
....and we've been lucky enough to get a sneak digital preview of the first novel.

LEGO Ninjago Graphic Novels THe Challenge Of Samukai review

Volume 1- The Challenge Of Samukai tells what happens when Samukai boasts he can beat Sensei Wu and the Masters Of Spinjitsu, and Garmadon takes him up on the bet.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Two months...

Today it's 2 months since Elspeth died. Two ridiculously long months that have vanished and I don't know where they went. Minutes take forever, but weeks fly past.

We're beginning to get routine into our lives. Washing gets done, people go to bed on time, meals get cooked and served. Life carries on.

We had a massive blow this week with the sudden and unexpected death of a little girl from my children's school. After 5 nights sleeping well my little boys are now unsettled again, and my 6 year old is troubled, short-tempered and crying a lot. Knowing just how those parents felt when they discovered their child had not survived the night has been very hard on us, and as yet we have shielded our little boys from that fact because nights are hard enough for them already. I have cried so much for her family  and their loss, and felt far too hard the pain and confusion they will have experienced as they wonder 'what on Earth do you do now?' Whether the cause of her death is ever found or not, it will be little comfort.

When I wrote my Dear Elspeth post I wanted to tell her story. I didn't want people to gossip and guess, I wanted them to know it was as much a shock to us as to anyone else.  I wanted to explain that she hadn't spent the previous 6 months in her room sobbing and being an angst-ridden teen. I felt that, scary as it is, other people needed to see that this could happen out of the blue, and I needed to let them know she did it because she loved us and felt it would make life easier for us. She wasn't 'just another teenage suicide', no-one who takes their own life is 'just another' anything. They're human beings, and they have other human beings who love and care for them. I felt that if it helped just one other person then it was was worth making it public.

Since that day I have had many hundreds of messages. I have heard from many, many people who lost their siblings, parents and friends when they were young, and when they weren't. I have heard the story of the mother who battled to prevent her son taking his life for 15 years and eventually failed. I have spoken to friends who have never told people of their own loss, and I have spoken to the parents of 3 young women who are now in the care of their Doctor since reading my post.

I have had support from the unlikeliest of places and I have been able to support others who need it. One of the most important to me is a woman who contacted me at the end of her own limits, who read my post and realised what it would do to her family, and has instead found strength and has started to turn her life around and remove herself from a harmful situation.

So many people with so many heartbreaking stories. 

None of this brings Elspeth back, none of it can ever tell her everything I wish I could tell her, but it shrouds the futility and leaves me in no doubt. You are never on your own.

Thank you to everyone who has contacted me, and anyone who found strength to speak after reading. Thank you to everyone who shared the post and let it reach so many. You made it worth writing x

'Elspeth's Field' by Laura Holloway. A beautiful gift from friends x

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Can You Guess? game from Orchard Toys review

It's been a long while since we played any games, but this weekend we did. We tried a couple of new games, and the first is Can You Guess? from Orchard Toys. The game is suitable for age 4+ and was a really fun game, a hit with all of us, whatever age.

Can You Guess? game from Orchard Toys review

Designed for children aged around 4+, Can You Guess? is really simple and fluid and the rules were incredibly quick to grasp - even for our 4 year old.

Zip Stix Stunt Pack Review

A little while back we were sent a pack of Zip Stix to play with and review. A new toy from Re:creation they're recommended for children aged 4+ and are set to be one of the most popular stockingfillers this Christmas. Our immediate experience was that our 4 year old just can't get the hang of them at all, but our 6 year old was the best in the house!

Zip Stix Stunt Pack Review

Zip Stix Stunt Pack Review what's in the pack

 We were sent the Zip Stix Stunt Pack, which contains everything you need to get started, and then progress to stunt work. Our 4 year old was incredibly excited and ripped everything open before the essential 'pack shot'...

Zip Stix Stunt Pack Review  pack contents ramps and cones

Thursday 9 October 2014

Wickey Flip Sand Pit review

Okay, okay, so the weather has broken and it's flipping freezing out there just now, and it really isn't the time for sandpit reviews, but it couldn't be helped, and my 4 year old doesn't seem to believe that the Flip 120x125cm Sand Pit from Wickey is a treasure.

When it arrived it looked a bit daunting...

Wickey Flip Sand Pit review sandpit package

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Chill Factore Mini Moose Land and Play 'n' Cake.

At the beginning of Summer we were invited to the Chill Factore with our youngest little fella to the official opening of the Mini Moose Land. Mini Moose Land is the revamped Snow Play area within the Snow Park, which we've visited before and really enjoyed, so we were more than happy to return. Our previous review is here...

Chill Factore Manchester Snow Play under 4 area Mini Moose Land

Chill Factore Manchester Snow Park under 4 area Mini Moose Land

Touch And Feel Story Books from the Little Tiger Press

We've been reviewing books for the Little Tiger Press for quite a while now, and this month we've been sent two gorgeous 'Touch And Feel' books by M. Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton. At first I thought they might be a little young for my 4 and recently 6 year old boys, but it's not so at all.

One Special Sleepover and One Special Christmas touch and feel story books for children review

All of the red print in these two Touch And Feel books has been printed over with flocked fibres, so it's soft and warm to the touch. It's really beautifully done with incredibly crisp edges and fine detail.

Little Tiger Press Tina Macnaughton touch and feel books red flocked printing

My children love running their fingers across the flock, and it can be excellent for helping with fine motor skills, as they practise following the edges of shapes and patterns, or thin lines flowing around the page.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Sunflowers everywhere...

When Elspeth died we decided that we wanted to make her service as accessible as possible for her friends. We wanted them to be involved and be able to say goodbye properly. Sunflowers were mentioned and they seemed perfect, not only for her friends, but even her youngest siblings know what sunflowers are.

We mentioned that if anyone wanted to send flowers, then they could send a sunflower. Teenagers and everyone else didn't need to feel obliged to find money to spend on expensive bunches of flowers, they could just bring a sunflower.

What we didn't expect when we mentioned Sunflowers was that it would take on a life of it's own. We didn't forsee that to show support friends and family would change their Facebook photo's. We didn't realise that we would end up with so powerful and beautiful a symbol.

It's now 7 weeks since Elspeth died. 7 weeks. It feels like just a few days,and then I wonder how I managed to fit in her service, and going back to school, and all the other stuff we've done, and I realise it's true, it is 7 weeks.

In those 7 weeks we've been sent and shown some of the  most amazing, and beautiful, and personal sunflowers that ever could exist, and we cherish them all...

Thank you to Red Rose Mummy's Mum for the artwork
Thank you to the Foundation Unit at school for the wall of sunflowers
Thank you to Michelle and Karen for the candle
Thank you to the Bury bloggers for the Willow sunflower lady
Thank you to Mothergeek and Syd for the LEGO sunflower
Thank you to Jo, whose Father works at the loveliest Co-op you could ever have to use
Thank you to Blackpool Pleasure Beach for the very timely unexpected sunflowers on the Dora ride
Thank you to Ave at Beadabode for the wooden etched sunflower
Thank you to MintyB Works Of Heart for the sunflower artwork
Thank you to Alice for the line drawing
Thank you to Anthea and Gandalf's Beard for the felted figure
Thank you to Dave and Kate at Camper Tronic for the garden sunflowers
Thank you to all of Elspeth's friends for bringing sunflowers
Thank you to everyone for being there, whether online, on the phone, or in person x

Thursday 2 October 2014

Galt Mini Masterpieces

Back in July we were given the chance to work with Galt on their Mini Masterpieces project. Every month they release a new free printable which is a line drawing of a famous masterpiece, and then your children can colour and decorate it as they wish, and compare to the original.

August's masterpiece was Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh, and it was our 14 year old girl, plus the 2 little boys, who decided to take part in the challenge. We were given the Galt Art Jar, which is a huge tub of craft materials and some felt tipped pens in order to create our own masterpieces.

Galt art and craft tub

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Ventura Portable Power PB80 Powerbank with Jump Start Review

We camp a lot. With modern phones and laptops and teenagers you have to have access to electricity in order to keep everyone happy, so being offered a chance to review the Ventura Portable Power PB80 Powerbank with Jump Start from Snooper was perfect for us. We also drive VW's. Volkswagen vans are excellent, but the older ones especially are notorious for being a little heavy on the battery, and on cold Winter's days or after a couple of days camping you can often find that you aren't going anywhere without a jump start.

Ventura Portable Power PB80 Powerbank with Jump Start

As soon as my package arrived I knew this was something a bit special. I've used instant vehicle chargers before, and they were the size of a medium suitcase.  This box was so much smaller and lighter than I expected, and when I opened it, the smartest little bag/case you ever did see...

Ventura Portable Power PB80 Powerbank with Jump Start Instant Car Charger Review

I've used a standard teaspoon to show the size because it's genuinely so impressive.