Tuesday 31 May 2016

Smiggle comes to Bury in North Manchester on June 10th!

If you haven't heard of Smiggle then somewhat unusually I'm well ahead of you. The Australian-based stationery company have recently opened a branch in the Manchester Arndale, and now they're spreading out further with branches in Bury, Bolton and Bradford opening in early June.

Smiggle is dedicated to creating original, fun and affordable stationery. The products are focused on bold colour, quirky graphics, good value, innovation and most of all – giving fans the tools they need to have fun. A pencil at Smiggle is not 'just a pencil'. It might be smelly or furry or liquid chalk or disguised as a wild animal, but it isn't 'just' anything.

Sunday 29 May 2016

LEGO NEXO Knights 4D The Book Of Creativity Review, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Manchester

Today we were up bright and early to go to the Trafford Centre to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre and be among the first people to see the brand new LEGO NEXO Knights 4D movie, The Book Of Creativity, which launched this weekend.

It was a great opportunity for me to complete the photos for my post showing what's inside LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, and if you haven't been before, then it should give you a good idea of what you will find when you arrive.

Friday 27 May 2016

Draw With Me, Dad! and Colour With Me, Mum! Side-By-Side Book Review And Giveaway

If you are looking for a book to share with your child that is a bit different and will engage both of you equally, then Race Point Publishing may have just the thing. On May 1st they released 2 new books for you to 'Draw, Colour and Connect' with your child.

In today's busy life it's too easy to rush around and not spend time with your child, and when you do, it can be hard to get them to put down their screen and actually have a conversation. Draw With Me, Dad! and Colour With Me, Mum! hope to solve that problem by giving you something calm and active to do while you chat.

Draw With Me, Dad! by Jasmine Narayan and Chad Geren takes adult and children's colouring books and mashes them together with a surprisingly effective and beautiful result.

Simbrix - Craft Toy For Builders and Modellers Review

Simbrix are fairly new, so you may not have heard of them before. A very different sort of toy for children aged around 5+, they describe themselves as a 'Craft Toy', but that doesn't begin to cover it. We've been sent some Simbrix to review, and if you follow me on social media you've probably already spotted them in my photos because they are constantly covering my table...

All Simbrix kits come in a cloth bag - this is genius. They're tiny and arrive in multiples of 850. A cotton drawstring bag in which to store them is perfect. It's beautifully made and a really nice size too, so can store partially made models as well as loose Simbrix.

Thursday 26 May 2016

Let's Cook Spanish, A Family Cookbook - Churros Recipe - review

The full title of today's cookery book review is Let's Cook Spanish, A Family Cookbook: Vamos a Cocinar Espanol, Recetas Para Toda la Familia by Gabriella Llamas. I think the title is a pretty good description. This is a book of Spanish recipes ideal for cooking with your children.

This is a  hardbacked cookbook which is written in English and Spanish, with introductions for the children in the family, and the grown ups. It takes the stance that cooking should be a fun, participatory event. I can't disagree with that. It also introduces Spanish into the English pages of the text, and my boys liked trying to pronounce the foreign words.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Alvinnn!!! And The Chipmunks: Summer Of Sport DVD Review and Giveaway

My 2 young boys love Alvin And The Chipmunks,  and were more than happy to preview the upcoming DVD release of their computer animated Nick Jr TV series Alvinnn!!! And The Chipmunks. Volume 1, Summer Of Sport, will be released on DVD on June 13th and contains the first 14 episodes from the show.

Summer Of Sport features all of the regular characters, including the guys - Alvin, Simon and Theodore, the Chipettes - Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor, and their long-suffering carer David Seville.  The total runtime for the 14 episodes is over 2 1/2 hours, making this a pretty hefty DVD, but it is broken into short bites and universally rated, so it works for any child, whatever their attention span.

Snoopy And Charlie Brown The Peanuts Movie Review

Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang have been entertaining children and adults since 1950. 20th Century Fox's computer animated 'The Peanuts Movie' is the first full length film featuring Charles M Shultz's world famous characters, and it's available to buy from 30th May 2016 on digital download, Blu-ray and DVD.

I watched the movie with my 6 and 7 year old boys and we all enjoyed it. The storyline is easy to follow for younger viewers, but there is enough going on to interest the more mature film fans - and their parents.

In the movie Charlie Brown and his friends cope with the arrival of a new girl in class, they manage to score a win over the kite-eating tree, and they generally just have fun being kids and playing with their friends. Snoopy meanwhile battles his arch-nemesis The Red Baron, including some great aerial action in his biplane and goggles.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Whit week Half Term Events And Activities For Families In The North West.

Whit week half term holiday is somewhat unreliable, so here is a list of special events and activities running over the week for families in the North West. As usual I've kept it to events and activities that don't cost any more than £12 each

Don't forget your local museum and library, they nearly always offer holiday activities and clubs for a small charge, and entry is usually free - here is a great post by Jollies And Jaunts with 10 quirky items you can find in Manchester Musems..

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Trafford Centre has a second new 4D movie arriving - LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS! The LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS have to defeat the evil Jestro, the Book of Monsters and all their Lava Monsters - think wind, water and smoke - bringing the battle to life all around the cinema. Visitors can also see The LEGO Movie 4D A New Adventure. Both movies will be on rotation with two to three showings every hour.
There is also the new play area, City Builder, where visitors can create cities and buildings in the most unique city that can be imagined, including everything from huge skyscrapers to cosy family houses, all from LEGO. From £9.95 per person booked in advance.

Sunday 22 May 2016

Capture The Flag review - a Family Space Adventure from Universal Pictures

CAPTURE THE FLAG is a brand new animated movie release from Universal Pictures. Available from Tomorrow 23rd May on Digital Download, and from 30th May on DVD and Blu-ray, it is an all-action thriller of a movie. It tells the story of a boy, his father and his grandfather, and how they ended up protecting the legacy of the original moon landing.

At the beginning of the movie our young hero isn't a future Astronaut, he's a kite-surfer, and his surfer mates help him when they discover a wealthy and egocentric billionaire has decided to wipe away any signs of the original moon landing, discrediting the astronauts and everyone else involved.

Saturday 21 May 2016

Tall Tales At The Top Of The Blackpool Tower!

We've had the most awesome day today reviewing a special event at The Blackpool Tower, so I am anxious to spread the word because it would be a shame if they didn't sell out! Only for the next 3 Saturday mornings can you experience Tall Tales at The Blackpool Tower - and what you get is exactly the same as what we experienced...and it's a fantastic morning out...

For Tall Tales you have to arrive at 9am, an hour before The Blackpool Tower opens to the general public. This in itself is really special. Being inside when this amazing old building is virtually empty is something else...my youngest certainly felt it.

Orchard Toys Jungle Snakes And Ladders Mini Game Review

It's been a while since we reviewed for Orchard Toys, but their recycled card, UK made games and puzzles are still firm favourites in our house. Recently they have released a series of mini games, ideal for taking away with you on holiday. We've been sent Jungle Snakes And Ladders to review.

Everyone has played Snakes And Ladders, it's suitable from age 4+ and has been around since the 2nd century BC. A game of pure chance, so anyone has an equal opportunity to win.

Friday 20 May 2016

Transformers Robots In Disguise: Rumble In The Jungle DVD Review And Giveaway

We're long-standing fans of Transformers, and their latest release on Monday 23rd May is the next in the Robots In Disguise series. Rumble In The Jungle contains 6 new episodes from series 1 with a total runtime of just over 2 hours.

We've been sent a copy to review, and the characters and background storyline are obviously familiar, as this is a continuation of the series, the second after Transformers Robots In Disguise: A New Mission which we reviewed earlier. The 6 episodes in Rumble In The Jungle are:

True Colours
Rumble In The Jungle
Can You Dig It?
Advntures in Bumblebee-Sitting
Hunting Season
Out Of Focus

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Vegetarian Fajitas in 20 minutes with Iceland Foods #PowerOfFrozen

I have a huge freezer because I'm well aware of the #PowerOfFrozen. I've been asked by Iceland to take another look at their range and see if I can come up with an interesting meal for my family which demonstrates some of the benefits of using frozen food - quality and choice, value for money and convenience.

Freezing preserves vitamins and allows us to eat foods out of season, and it allows me to buy more cheaply for my large family. Among my shopping was this great 30 piece Barbeque Pack for only £5 - not only perfect for barbeques, also ideal for my little boys who often are the only ones eating meat at teatime in our house...

£5 value barbeque pack Iceland frozen foods

A tour of LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Manchester Spring 2016

If you haven't yet visited LEGOLAND Discovery Centre at The Trafford Centre, Manchester then you may wonder what it's all about and how all that gubbins fits inside the building. Last time we visited we were allowed early access before the general public arrived, so I took advantage of the lack of crowds to take some photos and I can show you the inside of the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre....

You start your visit by going up in a lift. Once upstairs there is a waiting area with screens before you are allowed in to the LEGO Factory Tour in limited numbers to prevent crowding. Here you find out how LEGO is made in a very simplistic and child-friendly way

Tuesday 17 May 2016

A Family Friendly Afternoon At The Printworks, Manchester (Peachy Keens and Odeon Cinema review).

Sometimes I'm not asked to write on my own blog, I am asked on behalf of someone else, and last Sunday we were asked by The Printworks in Manchester if our 2 boys would give their opinions about how family friendly it is at The Printworks. I had such a nice, relaxed time that I'd love to make it a regular thing...

The boys were excited as soon as they stepped under the archway and saw all of the lit up frontages. It was actually much quieter than I expected for lunchtime, and even inside the cinema with it's huge foyer, there was a nice chilled, smily Sunday feel. We  had no problem taking some photos with the film character displays.

Sunday 15 May 2016

21 Months after losing Elspeth...

Grief is an unwelcome journey. The treadmill starts immediately the moment you know. It slides into place and it gets you through those first days, doing all of the essential things while running. No time or chance to look to either side or get off, you can only run ahead. Everything gets caught in the treadmill, dragged along and it gets heavier and heavier. You can't escape, you have to run or no-one will eat, or have clean clothes, no bills will be paid. From one essential to the next, no time happens, no pause for breath, just running.

The treadmill slows with the weight of all it drags along, but you have to keep going. Behind you everything is trampled and crushed, destroyed. Lives, friendships, work, sleep, memories. Sometimes you can spot things and grab hold of them, but sometimes you can only watch as they are dragged under and fall behind you into the distance. You want to remember to go back for it, you know you intend to, when you can. Everything left behind is too much though, you can't remember it all. You hope it remembers you.

Saturday 14 May 2016

TMNT Half Shell Heroes: Blast To The Past DVD review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Half Shell Heroes: Blast To The Past is a brand new DVD release from Universal Pictures and Nickleodeon. Available from Monday 16th May, it's a bit different from some of the other Turtles DVD's we've reviewed because Half-Shell Heroes aims to capture the interest and imagination of the younger members of your family. Less dark and more about the fun side of crime-fighting and sewer-living pizza-eating.

In Half-Shell Heroes: Blast To The Past, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles accidentally time travel back to the Jurassic Era. During their stay they encounter several friendly dinosaurs, but also rather bizarrely some dangerous aliens from the future. Using their ninja skills the Turtles have to find a way to save the day and possibly just as importantly get back home.

Friday 13 May 2016

Ice Age Collision Course AR Children's Book Review and Giveaway

Books in our house are usually screen-free and mainly read in the bedroom. Occasionally though a book needs to be let loose a little, and the Ice Age Collision Course Augmented Reality Book by Emily Steed (on sale June 2nd) can definitely use more space. By downloading the free app. your phone or tablet can bring the characters from the book to life in your own home....or even outside your own home...

The new Ice Age movie is released in July this year, and it will see our favourite characters (including Manny, Scrat, Sid and Diego) travel a little higher than before - in space. Ice Age Collision Course AR gives us an insight into an some of the scrapes they will be getting themselves into. The first section of the book lets you help Scrat chase his eternal nemesis - the acorn...

Thursday 12 May 2016

What’s So Special Club - a free online club for young dinosaur fans

The What’s so Special Club, is, in their own words "a brand new, FREE online club for young dinosaur fans and budding palaeontologists everywhere". If that doesn't sound good then I am guessing you don't have children aged around 5-8. I know both of my boys are fascinated by dinosaurs and will love it.

Genuine Iguanodon Footprint - The Isle Of Wight
The What's So Special Club is run by Nicky Dee, the same person who created the What's So Special About.....? children's dinosaur books that we recently reviewed. We love them, they're a great crossover from little children's basic picture books towards complicated text-based dinosaur books. The website compliments the books, but can also be used entirely on its own for children (and their adults) to have fun while they learn.

What is the plural of Stegosaurus?
Membership of the Club gives children access to fun dinosaur games and facts, colouring sheets to download, dinosaur brain teasers and quizzes. There is regularly updated information and competitions, and a very special look behind the scenes for the making of the 3D models used in the What's so special About? dinosaur books.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

LEGO The Angry Birds Movie Piggy Pirate Ship Set 75825 Review

It's been a while, but I'm delighted to announce we have been selected as LEGO Family Bloggers for the 3rd year running, and we are back with another LEGO review. This is from the brand new movie tie-in theme The Angry Birds Movie, and as we have a giant pirate ship in our house, what could be better than the Piggy Pirate Ship set 75825.

In the box there are no loose pieces, just 6 bags. With only 620 pieces there isn't an intimidating volume for a less experienced builder. The Angry Birds and Pigs themselves appear 1 by 1 in separate bags.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Peter Rabbit - The Tale Of The Great Breakout DVD Review and Giveaway

This year would have been Beatrix Potter's 150th birthday, and her most popular character Peter Rabbit is 114 himself. He's looking good for it and that instantly recognisable blue jacket has worn very well.

My children have mainly moved on from Beatrix Potter stories, but they have all enjoyed them, as did I when I was young, and he is still as popular today. We've been sent the latest DVD release from Abbey Home Media to review, and I also have a copy to give away to one of my readers.

The Tale Of The Great Breakout is the fourth compilation of animated adventures and comprises 6 Peter Rabbit episodes lasting over 70 minutes in total:

The Tale Of The Great Breakout
The Tale Of The Mystery Plum Thief
The Tale Of Benjamin's Strawberry Raid
The Tale Of The Downhill Escape
The Tale Of The Unguarded Garden
The Tale Of The Cat And The Rat

Sunday 8 May 2016

The Hut Summer Family Preview Event in Manchester

Today we drove into Manchester centre to visit the Artisan Bar And Kitchen where The Hut were previewing a few of their new items for Summer. It's a gorgeous day with no rain for once, so a trip into town was actually really pleasant, and we didn't even need coats. It was like being on holiday!

I like The Hut. They are an online department store who have some great bargains at times, and a really wide range of products. Several years ago I won a £250 voucher from their Facebook page just before Christmas. Everybody got extra that year.

Saturday 7 May 2016

Happy Birthday To The Mr Men! Review And Giveaway from Egmont Books

This year marks the 45th birthday of Roger Hargreaves ever-popular characters, the Mr Men. Mr Tickle was the first book to be published, and as it was also the year I was born, it's probably no coincidence that Mr Tickle was also my first Mr Men book.

To celebrate the 45th birthday of the Mr Men a series of 4 new books and a special edition Mr Men Birthday Party Book are being released. The Birthday Party doesn't quite go to plan. It's Mr Silly's birthday and some of the Mr Men are not really capable of organising a party in spite of their best intentions!

Friday 6 May 2016

So when exactly do your kids take YOU for a drink?

I've been asked if I wanted to comment on a study which looks at the 'Age Of Payback' among British families. At first I thought that sounded a bit harsh, but actually what it's looking at is the age at which our children start to treat us to some of the things we have previously bought for them.

No-one needs to tell me how expensive adult children are - we have 4, including our 22 year old (who started his first full time job in January) and then the 2 small boys waiting in the wings. Although the dream is that they'll all get part-time jobs early on and support their own hobbies and pastimes, the reality is not quite so simple, and the need to revise and pass exams and go to College does somewhat get in the way.

One Third Stories - Your Child's Chance To Win A Kindle

If you have competent young readers who have a good imagination then you could do worse than take a look at One Third Stories. Started by two men (Alex and Jonny) who have a love of languages and storytelling, One Third Stories start in English and end in a different language. The stories are incomplete, and readers aged up to 11 are asked to finish them, with the best entries winning prizes.

Thursday 5 May 2016

My Living World Pocket Microscope Review

I was really keen to review the My Living World Pocket Microscope, mainly because I have only very recently finally given up and thrown away the one which belonged to my second oldest son - now 18. After 10 years use, inspection and misuse it finally came apart never to be repaired. It'll have seen a few sights...

The My Living World Pocket Microscope is made by Interplay - the children's craft, nature, technology and science kit specialists. We've reviewed several of their kits, but this is our first in the My Living World range.

Blog On MSI 2016

Blog On MSI is a blogging conference held at the Museum Of Science And Industry in Manchester. A local event which means for once in the year we don't all have to take the train down South. In fact this year some people even came up North to join us. We laid on some drizzle especially.

Knowing I was going to Geronimo Children's Festival on the Monday, I chose to avoid the Saturday night get together and I was bright-eyed when I arrived early with Sim, and Karen who was on the sign-in desk. She's having a baby...it's so exciting.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

May The 4th Be With You With Character World Star Wars Bedding Review And Giveaway

It's May 4th, so a Star Wars post is almost mandatory. We've been sent some great Star Wars goodies to review from the new The Force Awakens range from Character World. A reversible duvet cover and pillowcase, and a First Order Stormtrooper/BB-8 double sided canvas cushion...

In our house Star Wars isn't only reserved for 1 day a year, it's been a part of our daily lives since my oldest son was old enough to watch A New Hope. The Force Awakens has brought Star Wars up to date for my youngest children and Kylo Ren may be very much a villain, but he has also become something of an anti-hero for youngsters.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Geronimo Festival 2016 Monday at Harewood House Review

The Geronimo Festival is a festival especially for families with children aged 2-12. Last year it ran for 2 days at Tatton Park, and was so successful that this year they added 2 more dates at Harewood House in Leeds. We were invited along to review on the second day.

We're festival veterans, and I have been taking children with me for about 14 years. The weather is horrific for May, biting cold and wet, so we packed wellies, raincoats and extra socks. We also know food can be an issue, so we took sausage rolls, crisps and drinks. Aside from that, we took our 6 and 7 year old boys.