Wednesday 31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014....

I shall not miss you....

Last year when I posted my 'goodbyes' on New Year's Eve and was so very glad to see the back of 2013, I had no idea that the second half of 2014 would make me wish I was back there again.

Today, 18 months after developing Meningitis, my partner still has a few memory problems, some residual pain and he does still occasionally fall asleep when stressed, but overall he's back to who he was. He even got back on his bike to take part in the Team Honk baton relay for Sport Relief. 2014 saw steady improvement throughout, and by Easter we had returned to a life where there were 2 strong parents in the house. Life did get a lot easier.

Camping at Tatton Park with Campertronic 2014

Tuesday 23 December 2014

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 24

Drum roll please.........

The one we've all been waiting for, making a grand entrance.....

On the twenty-fourth day of Christmas LEGO Star Wars gave to meeeeee.....

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 24 window

Monday 15 December 2014

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 16

On the sixteenth day of Christmas LEGO Star Wars gave to me....

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 16

4 Months....

Today it's 4 months since we lost Elspeth. Last week I actually listed her name when we were talking about which children would be here on a certain day. We delicately put things in her room for storage and hope she won't mind. We try and choose Christmas presents and give up because we can only see things Elspeth would like.

Her inquest was due tomorrow, but has been deferred, so we have at least 2 more months before the Coroner will officially rule her death a suicide. 4 months is a long time, but it isn't nearly long enough, forever won't be long enough. She's here in our thoughts every hour of every day.

We're lucky, we have the 2 little boys who are at the peak of their Christmas magic. At 4 and 6 they both know Santa is real and are already bursting with excitement. Every fairy light and sparkle is viewed with wide eyes and giant grins. Although it's hard to join in with the excitement, and I just haven't felt that Christmas spark yet this year, I look at them and I know we have to do it, we have to make it great. I smile at their little perfect faces, and I know that 2 weeks at home watching movies on TV with their family and some Pringles and a tin of Cadbury Heroes would make it good enough, so I know we will be okay.

Friday 12 December 2014

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 13

On the thirteenth day of Christmas LEGO Star Wars sent to me....

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 13

Arvor's Schooldays by Jonathan Ferrier book review (age 6-11).

Arvor's Schooldays by Jonathan Ferrier is a really different book to any which my 6 year old has attempted before - it's my son's first attempt at a 'grown up' book which has more story in the text than in the illustrations.

Especially suited to Early Readers and Reluctant Readers, Arvor's Schooldays is full of words that initially look tricky, but can be easily worked out by the reader as they follow the standard rules of English. Each 20-30 page chapter is an individual story in it's own right. There are illustrations on almost every page, and the text is a good size, so each page has less words. 

Arvor's Schooldays by Jonathan Ferrier children's book review

Hardwearing Winter Clothes From Scruffs

I'd never heard of Scruffs before, but I know that clothes designed for working generally last far longer than clothes designed for fashion. Scruffs sell workwear and safety footwear that even my fashion-conscious 20 year old is happy to wear.

Scruffs Workwear quilted fleece review

We've been sent a quilted crew neck sweater to review, and I admit I did 'gulp' at the idea of it being quilted, but actually it's subtle, rather than a bulky sweater that's going to affect your movement and weigh you down, but it's still incredibly warm. 

Thursday 11 December 2014

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 12

On the twelfth day of Christmas LEGO Star Wars sent to meeeeee.....

7 meals in 7 minutes with Cherry Tree Farm Cooked Meats from the Co-op

Now if you've ever read any of my recipe or food posts then you will have spotted I'm vegetarian, but my partner isn't and nor are 3 of the children. We're a 50/50 split. I'm quite happy to let the children choose, it's their decision, and therefore I'm quite happy to feed them meat as long as I don't have to do anything fancy with it. This is where cooked meats become a brilliant thing.

Cherry Tree Farm Cooked Meats from The Co-op

Cherry Tree Farm is a range of cooked meats from British livestock sold by the Co-Op. There are 7 different varieties in the range - Roast Chicken, Roast Turkey,  'American Fried' Chicken, Hickory Smoked Turkey, Turkey Ham, Roast Chicken Chunks and Tikka Chicken Chunks.

Cherry Tree Farm have challenged me to come up with 7 different meals using their cooked meats, which each only take 7 minutes to prepare.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 10.

On the tenth day of Christmas LEGO Star Wars sent to meeeee....

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 10

The Ozeri Rev Digital Bathroom Scale review

It's been a while since I reviewed for Ozeri, but they're back and I'm delighted to have been sent their Ozeri Rev Digital Bathroom Scale with Electro-Mechanical Weight Dial in white. New Year is a time when most of us count up the excesses of Christmas, and now I'll be able to do it with lights and in style!

Ozeri Rev Digital Bathroom Scale with Electro-Mechanical Weight Dial review

Ozeri make practical items which look really good. Beautiful as they are, they don't compromise on fuctionality, and the prices are good. My favourites are still the beautiful thermo-glassware and kitchen scales which we reviewed earlier.

The Finn Doll For Boys from Arklu review

We don't mind reviewing dolls, my two young boys have always played with them alongside other toys, so being offered the chance to review a doll for boys that challenges the aggressive stereotypes and hopes to show males in a more usual 'boy' role sounds great.

Finn Doll For Boys From Arklu The People behind the Lottie Doll

Finn is an 18cm tall doll who comes with different activities and outfits. We've been sent Kite Flyer Finn with a Gone Fishing Accessory pack.

Friday 5 December 2014

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 6

On the sixth day of Christmas LEGO Star Wars sent to me.....

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 6

The Snowman and The Snowdog Grotto at intu Trafford Centre, Manchester

Last weekend we were treated to a fabulous day out courtesy of intu Trafford Centre and The Snowman And The Snowdog Santa's Grotto. Our day started quite early as we decided it would be good to do a bit of shopping before our timeslot at 1.30pm.

The intu Trafford Centre The Snowman and The Snowdog Christmas Grotto

Barton Square at The Trafford Centre was covered in The Snowman and The Snowdog images, and the little boys got quite excited straight away. They didn't know we were going inside later!

The intu Trafford Centre The Snowman and The Snowdog Christmas Grotto review

Why is Mum so hard to buy for? Women's Gift Guide...

Why are women so hard to buy for? Why am I so hard to buy for? Whenever anyone asks me what I want I haven't a clue what to tell them. It's not that I don't like stuff, I am actually really easy to please, but this gift guide pretty much has me stumped, so I had to ask around some other bloggers to see what they were impressed with tis Christmas! 

Everyone will be buying gifts for Mum, or Gran, or their sister or older daughters, and although frankly I'd be happy with any of the 'Gifts For The Person Who Has Everything' that I posted a few days ago, it is nice to have treats and be pampered.

The Body Shop have a huge range of Christmas gifts and this year their Christmas focus is on 3 seasonal ranges - Vanilla, Cranberry and Apple. The whole shop looks and smells amazing and there really is something for everyone.

Gifts for her this Christmas from The Body Shop

Thursday 4 December 2014

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 5

On the fifth day of Christmas LEGO Star Wars sent to me...

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar December 5th

Christmas Stockingfillers under £10

Some of these are repeated in my gift guides for children aged 3-6 and 6-9, but I still feel it's worth putting together a post which specifically features cheaper items. I'm sure we aren't the only ones who end up searching round for a little fun something to finish off Child X's allocation of Christmasness...

Hexbugs are ace. There's no doubting it. We've reviewed the Hexbug Nano Glow-In-The-Dark and the Zombie Aquabot and both will keep my children entertained for some time to come, and cost under £10. They're a real fun gift with a lot of educational benefits - the Science involved with a glow-in-the-dark robotic shark that swims in the bath is pretty awesome.

Hexbug Nano and Aquabot glow in the dark collage

Building tracks for the Nanobots to race around is hilarious and takes all the pain out of 'trial and error', because even when it goes wrong, it's still fun!

Tuesday 2 December 2014

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 3

On the third day of Christmas LEGO Star Wars gave to me...

LEGO Star Wars advent calendar december 3rd

Christmas Gift Ideas For Children aged 6-9

Here are some of our favourite reviews from the last few months for children aged around about 6-9..

Hexbug - my 6 year old chose to buy the Hexbug Black Hole set with his birthday money and it's proven incredibly popular. We didn't review it on the blog, but we later got the chance to review the Hexbug Nano Glow-In-The-Dark. They're excellent fun, and the sets are brilliant for increasing understanding of Science

Hexbug Nano Review

Zip Stix are ace. They're so cheap they really count as a stockingfiller - they start at £2.99 for a single pack. We reviewed the Zip Stix Stunt Pack which has cones, a ramp and 2 Zip Stix and still only costs £7.99. Plenty of fun for your money.

Zip Stix review

Big books are traditional at Christmas and my children always get an annual as well as a couple of other books to keep them occupied when they need to be calm and peaceful. They lap up facts and can learn so much, as well as having a more mature brain and now being able to enjoy a story without pictures. One of the most read books in our house this Autumn has been The Top 10 Of Everything, which is where our 6 year old seems to get most of his opening conversational gambits! RRP £14.99

The Top 10 Of Everything book review

Early Readers - As well as the big heavy hardbacks children of this age are beginning to read stories independently and we love the Early Readers from Orion Books. Nothing like your traditional school reading books, these feature a wide variety of stories and characters, one of the best known being the ever-popular Horrid Henry.  Priced around £5.

Horrid Henry's Christmas Lunch Review

Board Games are brilliant for this age group. They help reinforce patience and sportsmanship, and bring the family together. One of our favourites is Articulate For Kids, which we've only had for a short while, but have played tons of times. Being able to read the simple words on the cards by himself gives our 6 year old a huge sense of pride and is expanding his reading skills in a really fun way. Don't Laugh! is an excellent game for this age group. Adults will find the jokes a little lacking, but 6-9 year olds will think they're absolutely hilarious.

Articulate For Kids game review

A slightly more unusual gift is one that keeps on giving. Children of this age really enjoy reading comics and magazines, and can get an awful lot from an annual subscription and there is something to suit everyone, from The Beano and National Geographic Kids, to Adventure Time and Playstation. Stew - The Magazine For Curious Kids is one of our favourites, a bit quirky and different, and treating children as smaller intelligent people, it'll be great to keep and revisit as my younger 2 get older.

Stew Magazine for curious kids review

There is an awful lot of LEGO which suits the 6+ age range. Children's hands are far more competent and strong, and their clutch power means they can build and take apart tiny pieces now. LEGO Minecraft is going to be absolutely massive this Christmas, but if your children aren't into that then there are all kinds of options. We particularly like the Ultra Agents and Arctic ranges, and of course the LEGO Movie sets, but one of the most used models with my boys is the Heartlake City Pool from LEGO Friends!

LEGO Minecraft Steve with axe review

This is the modern world, so my last recommendation is technology. Children of this age are reaching the point where 'what Jacob said at school' is becoming more inspiring to them. They want to be a part of the tribe and fit in, and keeping up with what's happening on Nickelodeon alone may not cut it any more. DVD's and CD's are something I would consider for this age group, and also games. There are plenty of Playstation/X Box/Wii and PC games around that are designed especially for younger children and aren't obvious 'learning', even though they will be solving logic puzzles, building hand-eye co-ordination, reading and typing and practising all kinds of other skills. All of my children have spent time playing LEGO games on the Playstation, and Club Penguin on the PC, and I'm more than happy for them to do that. No.1 rule as far as we're concerned for this age group and technology is "always know what they're doing, and always be more of an expert than your child". I've completed LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean several times....purely for research, obviously...

Club Penguin online review

Some giveaways featured within review posts may now be over - for all of my current giveaways please see my giveaways page. All prices shown on this page were correct at the time of posting. 

No-one gave me added incentive to include these items. These are my pick from the reviews I've done this year....

Monday 1 December 2014

The LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 2

On the second day of Christmas LEGO Star Wars gave to me.....

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar Day 2

Bunches Flowers And Other Goodies By Post

I am a big fan of I've used them many times to send flowers, balloons and chocolates to friends and family, and I have never been disappointed, so reviewing one of their Christmas Plants is a pleasure.

I was sent the Frosty Flower Basket just over 2 weeks ago - on my birthday as luck would have it!

Bunches UK flower and plant delivery review

The way the flowers are transported is really important, and Bunches do it very well. Inside the main box is a pull out carboard insert with handles, so you can lift out the entire assembly in one, and then recycle everything you don't need.

Bunches UK flower and plant delivery - cardboard packaging review