Monday 29 February 2016

Gary The Cat Review

I've never liked cats and so Gary The Cat wouldn't have been the sort of thing I'd have thought to buy, but Gary has been with us a week now and although we've not had chance to test all of the features, we've found he's been popular with pretty much the whole family.

Gary was delivered by means unknown, without so much as a note or delivery ticket, and as soon as he realised we were awake, screeched and scratched and cried at our door for an hour until we gave in, opened it and let him in.

Mother's Day Last Minute Online Gifts

In less than a week's time you are meant to present your Mum with something fabulous, which you haven't bought yet. If it's looking like chocolates from the garage on the way there yet again, then here are a few ideas and you still have time to order online!

Peach Perfect have some lovely gifts to suit all budgets, and you may have seen on my social media that they sent me one of their Homemade Naturals DIY Beauty Craft Kits. I have the Relaxing Lavender Bath Melts Kit (£15), which is incredibly beautifully presented, 100% natural (free from any parabens or synthetic preservatives). In Eco-friendly packaging, it's also vegan and cruelty-free. The kit is really easy to use and contains everything you need to make around 10 cocoa butter based 'cakes' which melt in the bath to release gorgeous relaxing aroma and essential oils. My skin feels amazing...

My Passport Ultra from WD (£62.99) is an amazingly simple and good looking portable hard drive that you can set to back up your laptop or PC as regularly as you'd like. Protect those treasured family photos and videos or your entire music collection against the heartbreak of accidental deletion or hard drive failure. I have a giveaway to win one and my full review here...

Saturday 27 February 2016

World Book Day Roald Dahl 15 Book Collection Giveaway with

To help celebrate World Book Day on Thursday 3rd March, the kind folk at the holiday letting agency are offering my readers the chance to win a fantastic collection of 15 Roald Dahl books to keep your young fiction fans busy for a while.

World Book Day Roald Dahl Complete Book Collection Giveaway with has more than 15,000 properties across the UK, and to help you choose your next holiday destination, they have put together a map of places to visit connected with some of our favourite children’s authors and stories.

A Tour Of Storytelling Britain With

Britain has a rich history of literary connections, and visiting somewhere you have read about and imagined is magical for adults as well as children. To help you find the perfect day out I've teamed up with, who have created a map of some of the best places to visit if you want to immerse yourself into the worlds of your child’s favourite authors and stories.

I've been lucky enough to visit a few of the places that inspired some of my favourite authors, and it gives a real insight into how they and their characters lived and felt, and it helps make your favourite stories come alive.

Friday 26 February 2016

WD My Passport Ultra 1 Terabyte Portable Hard Drive Review And Giveaway

If you are looking for an unusual Mother's Day gift that protects what is of value and could save a lot of heartache and annoyance as well as being beautiful, then My Passport Ultra might be just the thing.

Western Digital (WD) are specialists in making sure you don't lose any of those precious memories saved on your phone, tablet or computer. They sell a huge range of back-up and storage solutions to meet any need you may have, and one of their most popular is the My Passport Ultra portable hard drive. Not only user-friendly and useful, available in 4 colours and with matching accessories it looks darn good too...

WD My Passport Ultra 1 Terabyte Portable Hard Drive Review And Giveaway

Thursday 25 February 2016

Bedtime Sleep Tips with the #Bedtimeguru

One of the biggest changes you face as a parent is the loss of sleep, and as a parent of children aged from 5 to 22 I've had a lot of broken nights, and I still can't claim to have ever found the secret of a great night's sleep.

Bed Guru are trying to find the best sleep tips for parents in their #Bedtimeguru campaign and have asked me to share my best tips. These are what worked for me...

I'm not a person who can leave a baby to cry, I'd rather cart them around with me and plot them on the floor or wherever nearby to whatever I'm attempting to do, with the end result that my children would sleep anywhere. This is a really handy thing.

Littlest Pet Shop: Sweetest Pets DVD Giveaway

The latest Littlest Pet Shop release from Hasbro on March 7th this year is Sweetest Pets, featuring over 2 hours of episodes from the universally suitable children's TV show. Available on DVD and Digital Download.

We've watched a lot of Littlest Pet Shop over the past couple of years, and it's still one of the more gentle animated children's TV shows that my boys enjoy. Featuring Blythe Baxter, a young lady who lives with her Dad above the Littlest Pet Shop, and spends most of the time she isn't at school or sleeping playing and having adventures with the animals.

The Egmont Star Wars World Book Day Giveaway Tour

This Spring Egmont have released a series of new Star Wars books for children. We really enjoyed the Early Readers they sent us to review last year - but these are even better. We have 3 story books for competent young readers, a colouring book, and our favourite - 'Where's Wookiee?'!

The Egmont Star Wars World Book Day Giveaway Tour

Star Wars has long been a favourite here, it really is a timeless classic that spans generations. It is one of the rare films you can put on and everyone will watch together. We all got into the spirit and with light sabres from wrapping paper tubes and gaffer(duct) tape, in a flash (and a dressing gown or two) Jedi and Empire were battling in my hallway!

Darth Vader and Obi Wan battle

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Kaya Jewellery Review and Discount Code - Meaningful Jewellery For Mums (and their children).

Kaya Jewellery sell 'Meaningful Jewellery For Baby, Child And Mum'. A company founded by Dutch Mum Tanja, Kaya specialises in personalised jewellery gifts, including gifts for mothers and daughters, and everything is handmade in the UK.  I really couldn't have said no when they asked me if I wanted to choose something from their website to review for Mother's Day.

Kaya Jewellery Review - Meaningful Jewellery For Mums (and their children).

The website is incredibly easy to navigate, products are split into really useful, clear categories, and often the same items appear on several pages, which better is much than having to search for something you spotted a while ago and can't find again.

Monday 22 February 2016

Interplay Rivetz Papercraft Giant Hornet Giveaway (age 8+)

We're long time fans of Interplay crafts, science and nature kits, and one of our favourite ranges is Rivetz. Models made from thick glossy paper fastened together using plastic rivets. They're a bit trickier than your regular papercraft kit, so are mainly suitable for children aged around 8+.
You may have previously spotted our Rivetz Hornet - which lived on our wall for a few months last year and appeared in the background for many of my photos. It's a definite talking point, and a really impressive model.

Vitacoco Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil tested 5 ways....

It's impossible to have used Social Media in the last 6 months and not have seen something about coconut oil. All over the internet people are praising it for it's health benefits and huge range of uses. I was really intrigued to find out for myself, and a review for Vitacoco Coconut Oil was my perfect opportunity.

Vitacoco Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil tested 5 ways....

I was sent both small and large pots of Coconut Oil, which is hard and white at room temperature, but quickly softens into a clear oil when heated. The large pot I have been using mainly in my kitchen, the small pot in the bathroom.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Snowflake Books Children's Traditional Chinese Tales Books Giveaway (age 5-15)

We recently reviewed two beautiful books from Snowflake Books, and today I'm delighted to be able to offer them as a giveaway prize for one of my readers.

Naughty Monkey and The New Year Beast are from two series of books retelling ancient Chinese tales. They are printed in both English and Simplified Chinese with beautiful illustrations. A great way to learn more about Chinese culture, and perfect for anyone wanting to introduce their child to the Chinese language.

Snowflake Books Traditional Chinese Tales Books Giveaway

Written by Su Yen Hu and Lihui Wang, the text is perfect for my competent 7 year old to read aloud independently, and my 5 year old understood the stories and took a lot from them, and so did I. They are fabulous legends and traditional tales, and these versions are very well done.

Books chinese english age 5-15 with translations

Star Monsters Pocket Friends Children's Collectible Review

Magic Box Toys, the people who brought you Zomlings, have a new children's collectible available to buy now.  Star Monsters toys have fallen from the sky in triangular shooting stars. When they arrive on Earth they take a form depending on where and how they land, and what they see, so star Monsters can be any shape - chairs, dolphins, wheels, fish, traffic's really different and makes them pretty special.

Star Monsters Pocket Friends Children's Collectible Review

Star Monsters are grouped into 4 families (Air, Plant, Earth and Water) and 4 categories because Star Monsters can evolve (Essential, Evolved, Rare and Ultra Rare). There are 72 Series 1 Star Monsters to collect in total. The starter pack (£3) includes a poster which shows the whole collection.

Star Monsters Collectible Review poster

Friday 19 February 2016

Snowflake Books Chinese Fairy Tales and Legends Books In Mandarin And English Review

Chinese New Year 2016 fell on February 8th, and Snowflake Books marked the event with a series of children's books retelling amazing Chinese fairy tales and legends, festivals, traditions and wisdoms.

Snowflake Chinese Fairy Tales and Legends Books for children review

Written by Su Yen Hu and Lihui Wang, the books are in both Simplified Chinese and English with gorgeous illustrations. They are not only a great tool for beginners learning to speak a different language, but a fabulous way for anyone to learn something about Chinese culture, and to see that however far apart in distance and language, the East and West share the same human values.

The way the Chinese characters are clearly shown with the Pinyin* below the English text makes it incredibly easy to see the translation and the use of colour to highlight key words and phrases is brilliant.

Snowflake books translation chinese and english

Thursday 18 February 2016

Powered Hovercraft Technokit From Interplay Review (age 8+)

Our latest review for Interplay is from their Technokit range. The Powered Hovercraft kit makes a working battery-powered model just under 30cm (1ft) long. It's aimed at children aged 8+, so my 7 year old has the assistance of his big brother for this review...

Powered Hovercraft Technokit from Interplay Review

The kit is housed in a sturdy box, and contains everything you are going to need except a pair of scissors to cut the skirt and foam to length, and a screwdriver to open the battery housing - plus 4 x AAA batteries.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

The Little Penguin Pororo's Racing Adventure Children's DVD Review And Giveaway

The Little Penguin: Pororo's Racing Adventure is one of the latest children's animated titles from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The star is the little penguin Pororo, who has a dream to be a Super Sled champion, and gets his chance to shine when he participates in the ultimate Super Sled race with his friends.

Pororo accidentally causes an aeroplane to make an emergency landing near his home in Porong Village. The plane is piloted by 2 turtles, Toto and Mango, who are on their way to make a delivery to the Super Sled Championships. Pororo has told everyone he's a Sled-Champion, which isn't strictly true, he's a delivery boy.

Secrets Of Winter Shine-A-Light Children's Book from Ivy Press

Some children's books are a joy, and Secrets Of Winter is one of them. This is a book with a secret, in fact every other page holds a secret, and it's only when you 'shine a light' behind the page that you can find it's hidden treasure...

Secrets Of Winter Shine-A-Light Book Review

Written and illustrated by Carron Brown and Georgina Tee, Secrets Of Winter is one of a series of 'Shine-A-Light' books. We were reading at bedtime, so we used a torch to 'see' the pictures as we read.

How Shine-a-light books work

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Hunting The Octopus at Sealife, Manchester

Last weekend we were treated to an exclusive early morning visit to Sealife at the Trafford Centre in Manchester to have a look at their new visitors, the Octopi! Annoyingly they like to lie in and are more active later in the day, so weren't really in the mood for photos. Sealife are well aware of how temperamental they can be, and the Octopus area is somewhat wittily called Octopus Hideout.

Hunting The Octopus at Sealife, Trafford Centre, Manchester

We've been to Sealife several times as we've been Ambassadors for the last year and had an annual pass. It's always really handy to promise the young lads a trip to Sealife 'just after we've done this shopping...' Incentive always helps little legs from getting too tired. It's also calming after a visit to the more hectic LEGOLAND Discovery Centre next door.

Fish Eye Lens Sealife Manchester

Monday 15 February 2016

18 Months Smiles....

And last Friday would have been her 18th birthday.

Milestones are hard because you are reminded so much of the 'should have been'. All the hopes and dreams and the loss of that potential. 18 is such a big birthday and one you imagine for such a long time, it was an event we had discussed and something Elspeth had always yearned to reach.

My partner didn't know I'd make a cake, and he also bought one, so forever more February 12th will be 'double cake day' and we will celebrate Elspeth's birthday in a way she would very much have appreciated. And we will smile.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Hotel Transylvania 2 Design-A-Monster Competition and Blu-Ray Giveaway

Hotel Transylvania 2 is out on Digital HD, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD now. It continues the story of Jonathan and Mavis and their son Dennis, who live in Hotel Transylvania with her father Dracula and a host of other horrific creatures, safe from the more tender human population.

Saturday 13 February 2016

Maya The Bee DVD Review and Bonus Giveaway

On 8th February the children's movie Maya The Bee was released on DVD and Digital Download. Based on the hit TV show of the same name, which was first shown in the 1970's and still airs on Tiny Pop, the Maya The Bee movie is actually suited to a wider and slightly older audience too.

Maya the Bee is the story of a young bee who has reached the age where she wants to get out into the big world and explore. When she does though, she and her friend Willy find that the fight between Bees and Hornets is actually not what everyone should really be worrying about, the much-loved Queen and the hive are secretly under threat from the Queen's own advisor.

Geronimo Children's Festival Review 2015

This year Geronimo Children's Festival will be headlined by Justin Fletcher, otherwise known as the incredibly popular children's icon, Mr Tumble. It will return to Tatton Park in Cheshire from May 29th to 30th, PLUS new venue Harewood House in Leeds from May 1st to 2nd. This year's acts will include Mr Bloom, Cook And Line and Alex Winters.

Geronimo Festival will also feature a huge array of arts and entertainment including live music, theatre and a literary zone. Arts and crafts, zip lines, tortoise greeting and den-building will also be there, among the hundreds of crazy and unusual activities for children under 12.

Last year I was due to attend Geronimo with my children, but unfortunately it fell just after my hernia surgery, so we couldn't go. Instead of wasting the tickets, I arranged for one of my readers who had entered my ticket giveaway to go instead with her family. Her name is Sara, and here's what she thought...

Friday 12 February 2016

Not 18.

Today Elspeth is not 18.

She won't be opening presents from her mates, or choosing what to buy with her birthday money. Her brothers won't be getting excited like little brothers do and waking everyone up early.

There won't be any post, no visitors, no giggling, no laughter.

She won't be taken out for her first legal drink by her Dad, and she won't get her first 2am passout.

She won't ever be driving us home.

She won't be starting the rest of her adult life and all that it holds onto.

She never got the chance to realise that being an adult can be great. She couldn't wait long enough.

We wish she could have waited, and we will eat cake, and we will always miss her...

Happy Birthday Elspeth x

Wednesday 10 February 2016

February Half Term Events For Families In The Manchester Area.

This half term it seems everyone is pulling out the stops to cheer up what is likely to be yet another windy, rainy week. If you want to get out and about in Manchester this half term then here are a few places you can go which won't break the bank....

Manchester Area:

Imperial War Museum North, Salford Quays, Manchester have Potato or Pike? for half term. Pack your sandwiches and dust off your pike. Discover what life was like in the Home Guard – also known as ‘Dad’s Army’. A week of free family activities this half term at IWM North between 13 and 21 February. Entry is free.

Storytime Magazine (age 2-11) Review and Discount Code

Storytime Magazine has the aim to move away from 'free gifts' and TV tie-ins, and deliver good old fashioned tales. Myths and legends from around the world and from throughout the history of writing, side by side with brand new children's stories and poems written by unknown authors or Children's Laureates.

Storytime Magazine (age 2-11) Review and Discount Code

I love to hear my children read to me. I feel waves of pride listening to my 5 and 7 year olds put on voices, pay attention to exclamation marks and 'sound out' those tricky words as they stride through yet another story. They have a love of books and reading which started before they were even able to sit up, as we sat them on our knee and shared picture books and cloth books with them.

Just as reading together is great for babies, it's great for my children now. We read most nights, but the difference is that we take it in turns. I love hearing them read as much as they still love to hear me read. Storytime magazine is perfect for bedtime reading together for children aged 2 to 11.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Cleo DVD Review and Free Printable Activity Sheets

Cleo is  released on DVD and Digital Download this weekend. Based on 'The Dog Who Stopped The War', the story focusses on a group of children living in a village in Canada. Snowy mountain ranges and beautiful scenery surround them as they play.

If you were expecting a cute tale about a fluffy dog named Cleo then think again. Okay, the eponymous dog might well be huge, fluffy and cute, and the movie might be full of laughs and jokes, but this is also a genuine 'coming of age' tale which covers some serious ground.

Over the school holidays the children's play gets a little competitive, they split into two groups and they take a snowball fight to it's limits, one side building the most amazing snow fortress you could imagine. As they progress through the holidays they continue the battle, led by their two leaders General Luc and Marc. Cleo is Marc's dog.

ProCook 24cm Carbon Steel Pancake Pan - Pancakes aren't just for Shrove Tuesday

It's Pancake Day! Hurrah! And every year I stand in front of my oven for far too long cooking a mountain of pancakes for my large family, and at the end when everyone is full and the last orange has been squeezed and the chocolate sauce wiped away, we say "we should do that more often".

The UK is rare in that we eat pancakes, or crepes, but the majority of us only on one day a year. Pancakes can be part of a healthy varied diet, they're an excellent carbohydrate base and you can top them with pretty much anything you want.

Monday 8 February 2016

Bratz New Super Styles And Sounds Dolls Review And Giveaway

The Bratz Dolls are back this Spring with 'Super Styles And Sounds', 3 different ranges with a very 'pop' feel to them! Bratz Remix, Selfie Snaps and Festival Vibes feature the regular Bratz characters (Cloe, Jade, Yasmin, Sasha and Raya) in their usual over-the-top bright and colourful style.

Bratz Remix reflect the characters musical taste and 'spirit animal' - each ready to dance the night away in their animal headphones.

LEGO Friends Girlz 4 Life Children's DVD Review

Over the weekend we spent a lot of time on the sofa watching movies, and one of them was Girlz 4 Life, the new DVD from LEGO Friends. We've watched quite a lot of LEGO movies over the years, and they're always pretty watchable for the whole family, with the occasional joke for the adults thrown in.

In Girlz 4 Life the LEGO Friends (featuring the regular characters - Olivia, Stephanie, Emma, Mia and Andrea) are doing well and have a great new song 'Girlz' ready to earn them fame and fortune.

A famous pop star called Livi comes to stay in Heartlake City and her manager hears Girlz. she knows that Livi will do very well with it and steals it, saying she wrote it herself. Livi's version of Girlz soars into the charts and she becomes even more famous, leaving the LEGO Friends cheated. They need to let everyone know that it's their song, they want to get it back, and they turn to Livi herself for help.

Sunday 7 February 2016

Valentine's Gifts For The Romantic....and the downright witty.

My partner and I have always marked Valentine's Day. With our large family and a lack of local relatives I actually don't think we've been out together for Valentine's Day since 2008, but we have had some lovely candlelit meals alone in the kitchen. We swap cards and small gifts and that's been our limit until now...

This year I've been asked by several companies if I wanted to have a look at their products for Valentine's Day. I felt like spoiling myself and my partner, so I picked the ones I liked and said yes. I just hope he doesn't actually read this...

Snapfish asked if I wanted to look at their personalised gifts, so I made a card for my partner and a photo mug with a nice picture of me on it. My partner saw I was making him one and he made one for me too, proving he really is just as romantic as I suspected...

Valentine's Gifts For The Romantic....and the downright witty.

Friday 5 February 2016

There's a gooey horrible Fungus Amungus

When I was offered the chance to review a brand new collectible children's toy that is sticky, horrible, and called Fungus Amungus, I just knew my 2 little boys would love it. We were sent our parcel covered in yellow and black striped 'CAUTION' tape, and inside was all the protective equipment necessary to open the parcel and examine the contents.

Fungus Amungus new collectible toy review

Thursday 4 February 2016

The Wilko Wild Bird Project: Feeding The Birds In Our Garden.

I'm pleased to say that this year we've been chosen by Wilko to be Wild Bird Bloggers. We're really lucky in that we have a quite large garden, and although we're in a town, we have countryside very nearby. We have a lot of birds who visit and live in our garden.

The Wilko Wild Bird Project - range of products

Wilko sent me a multi-purpose nesting box, a wooden bird table, a cage seed feeder and a bag of wild bird seed mix. When the boys came home from school they were genuinely excited and had a lot of questions about where we were going to put everything.

Wild Bird range at Wilko

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Dr Beckmann Dishwasher Cleaner Cleaning and Laundry Bundle Giveaway

Cleaning isn't the most glamorous of jobs, and it gets in the way of the fun stuff, so anything that makes household jobs easier is brilliant in my book. Dr Beckmann have a long history of making cleaning easier and giving us back some of our precious time.

I've been sent a bundle of Dr Beckmann products to try out, including Stain Devils and Glowhite Ultra for my laundry - both of which have been in my cupboard now for the last 25 years and have been essential since I had children. I haven't tried the Colour & Dirt Collector yet, but as my eldest has recently started manual work and comes home looking like he's been down a pit all day it'll come in very useful for his overalls!

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Cardooo Greeting Cards with Puzzles, Colouring, Stickers and Stories! Review and Giveaway.

Cardooo make greeting cards that are far more than just a card. The cards include puzzles, colouring, stickers and stories and even games, and are a gift all by themselves - and yet they still only cost £3 each. 

Cardooo Greeting Cards with Puzzles, Colouring, Stickers and Stories!

I've been sent a few cards that I can use for birthdays this Spring and I'm really impressed. Considering you can easily pay £2 for any old birthday card, the added value is massive.

Cardooo Greeting's Cards for children review

Vegetarian Sausage And Potato Supper Recipe with Goodlife Foods

For over 25 years Goodlife Foods have been providing the UK with good wholesome dishes that make mealtime easy and are full of tasty flavours. They don't resort to massively processed ingredients and the protein comes mainly from beans and cheeses.This is not 'meat substitute', this is good food that happens to be vegetarian.

Vegetarian Sausage And Potato Supper Recipe with Goodlife Foods