Thursday 29 September 2016

Diary Of A Minecraft Zombie Steve by MC Steve - Children's Book Review

My youngest child is absolutely obsessed with Minecraft, and we have 5 players in the house, so I was intrigued by the idea of a fiction book for children. Diary Of A Minecraft Zombie Steve 3: The Lost Temple by MC Steve is a book for independent readers aged around 8+, so it's stretching my 6 1/2 year old, but he's been very determined to read it himself.

The book is set out as you would expect a diary, day after day, and each date has 2-4 pages. This breaks up the text and makes it seem less intimidating for newer independent readers.

The story is that of a Zombie named Steve from the game Minecraft. He works as an architect and wins a huge contract to develop the Isle Of Mists. When he sets off to carry out his work, his boat goes astray and he finds himself thrown into an adventure.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Rubiks Spark - bringing the cube into the 21st century.

We've all played with a Rubik's Cube. They were first introduced in 1974 and have remained incredibly popular and possibly frustrating ever since. Brand new for this Autumn is the Rubik's Spark, an electronic version with 6 different games to play, either alone or competitively against someone else.

The first thing you spot is that this cube doesn't move or twist in sections, you turn the whole thing to control where the flashing light travels. It's very different and takes a bit of getting used to at first.

You start the games by tilting the cube - and it's noisy - so expect it to go off if you move it unless you are very careful - it arrives cable tied to it's packaging and is set to a 'Try Me' demo mode. Something to remember if Santa will be carrying wrapped presents around the house on Christmas eve night!

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Dinosaurs In 30 Seconds Children's Book Review (age7+)

We love a good dinosaur book, and our latest review for Ivy Kids is a good dinosaur book. Written by Sean Callery and illustrated by Sam Hubbard, and released on October 6th, the full title is Dinosaurs In 30 Seconds: 30 Fascinating Topics For Dinosaur Detectives Explained In Half A Minute.

This is a book written in a style which really appeals to young independent readers. All of the text is in small snappy paragraphs which aren't too intimidating, and the whole book is broken into five segments each with it's own glossary, so even new words are introduced a few at a time, and nicely explained.

Specsavers Opticians Review (and my 8 year old's photography debut!).

A couple of weeks ago we visited Specsavers Opticians to review. As I couldn't really take my own photos, I let my 8 year old loose with my camera. This is a real 'child's eye-view', and he did a great job.

I was given a £150 budget and this paid for everything I received, including my eye test, Glasses with coated lenses and Sunglasses...

Specsavers is actually our regular family Opticians. The prices, range of glasses and service have always been great, and we've been using this branch for the last 9 years. It's familiar to our 6 and 8 year old boys, who have had their eyes tested regularly since they each started school.

My 8 year old was quite excited when I suggested he take the photos, but it was nothing compared to his 6 year old super-charged sensory-seeking brother, who was meanwhile bouncing off the walls. I have to credit all of the staff for ignoring him to the best of their ability and for not making me feel like a bad Mum. All bribes and even a screen ban threat were not getting him to stand or sit still.

Monday 26 September 2016

Coconutgrass Personalised Children's Wooden Bag Tags review and Voucher Giveaway

Coconutgrass are a small company who sell interesting and often quirky printed gifts for all the family. Some items can be personalised, and my 6 and 8 year old boys have each been sent a Personalised Children's School Book Bag/Luggage Tag.

Using the website and ordering was really simple, and less than a week later the tags arrived beautifully wrapped, which is excellent if you are giving items as gifts. Obviously it also protects them from damage during their journey, although the finish is a nice high gloss which doesn't seem as if it will scratch or chip easily - ours certainly haven't so far.

Friday 23 September 2016

Colt Express Family Game Review (age 10+)

Our latest game review is another more grown up game from Asmodee, suitable for 2-6 players aged 10+. Colt Express is a turn-taking battle with a difference, as each round has a set up phase, and then the action is played out - and it never goes exactly as you expected!

Inside the box are 132 game cards, wooden bandit-shaped counters and a Marshall, a press-out cardboard 3D train and scenery, 26 loot tokens and a rulebook.

The train once assembled has a locomotive and 6 carriages. A different number of carriages are used depending on the number of players. We played with 3, so used 3 carriages.

In a stroke of pure genius the Colt Express box is decorated inside and split into compartments to store the entire assembled set safely. It makes a really nice feature from something that is actually incredibly useful.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Minuscule: Valley Of The Lost Ants family DVD Review And Giveaway

Minuscule: Valley Of The Lost Ants is one of the latest family DVD releases from Lionsgate. A movie suitable for anyone, it mixes animation and live action backdrops really well, to create a nice tale that has enough adventure to keep my boys watching throughout, and is gentle enough to be perfect for a family movie afternoon.
This is a tale of excitement and peril starring a little ladybird who has become separated from his family. He very quickly finds himself attacked by some rogue insects (flies), and in the battle loses a wing.

Almost defenceless and crippled, he befriends a black ant named Mandible, and joins forces with his colony to defend their nest from an invasion by red fire ants.

Ninjago Event until October 20th at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Manchester

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in Manchester has transformed into the world of Ninjago to celebrate the brand new LEGO Ninjago adventure Day of the Departed Ninjas. We went down first thing on Saturday morning to be among the first people to take a look for ourselves...and to meet the 6 foot tall Kai minifigure obviously....

All the children can take a ninja headband on entry - which they were all delighted about. During the Ninjago event children arriving at LEGOLAND dressed as a Ninja can have a free poster (while they still have stock). The trip starts with the Factory Tour, this time with added Ninja skills!

Tuesday 20 September 2016

This Book Thinks You're A Scientist book review (age 7+)

We've been reading a few non-fiction books recently, and one of our latest reviews 'This Book Thinks You're A Scientist' has really captured my 6 1/2 year old's attention. He currently wants to be a Scientist, and loves experimenting, especially Chemistry...

This Book Thinks You're A Scientist is by Harriet Russel. Absolutely crammed full of activities and experiments that children can do in their own home, if necessary using everyday items that most children can get hold of.

Monday 19 September 2016

How I Came To Love Gary The Cat....

Well, I must love him because I just paid £181.30 to the nice vet for operating on him this morning. I don't usually shell out that sort of cash for randomers who turn up at my door wailing, but since I let him into the house 6 months ago, Gary has kind of grown on me. I still generally don't like cats though, let me make that one clear...

I'm actually a dog person. Dogs are loyal, they get excited to see you and care about you. It may be superficial, but I'll take it, I'm not proud. They mainly just want to sit as close as possible* to you and be petted.
*Unless there's a fire or other source of heat in the room, then you are history.

Beets Blu Wireless Heart Rate Monitor Review

Heart monitors are becoming really popular, with fitness fans wanting to know exactly how far they can push themselves, and working out in carefully divided portions to exercise their heart sensibly to the max. They are also useful for people who need to monitor their heart for medical reasons. Beets Blu have recently added an updated Heart Rate Monitor to their range, and sent us one to try out.

I'm not a person who works out, and nor is my partner, but last November he was taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack and his cardiac rate was all over the place for several hours. I pretty much agreed to this review out of sheer curiosity, although we do also have a 16 year old runner in the family who will take charge of the Wireless Heart Rate Monitor afterwards.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Z-Arts Manchester present Michael Rosen's Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake & Bad Things

I'm a big fan of Michael Rosen, and brand new to Z-Arts in Manchester is the interactive exhibition Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things. We were really lucky to be invited to be among the first people to explore the interactive experience in a preview on Friday night.

Michael Rosen is the children's novelist and poet responsible for We're Going On A Bear Hunt and around other 140 books. He served as Children's Laureate from June 2007 to June 2009 and is a TV presenter and a political columnist who is passionate about the importance of language and arts in the education and development of children.

Our Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake & Bad Things experience started with an introduction for the children from the storyteller, who also acted as our guide once we went through the blue doors and into the exhibit.

The storyteller was great, and incredibly patient and tolerant with our 6 year old sensory-seeking bundle of fun, who turned the volume and excitement up to 11 as soon as we walked into the exhibit....

Friday 16 September 2016

Spineless Classics One Page Books Swallows And Amazons Review

When is a book not a book? When it's a Spineless Classic. Posters which have the entire text of a book on one sheet, beautifully arranged, incredibly crisply printed, and still large enough to read - even with my tired aging eyes! We have been sent the ever-popular classic Swallows And Amazons by Arthur Ransome for review.

Swallows And Amazons was released in 1930, and tells the tale of a group of children from 2 families and what they get up to over a Summer holiday in the Lake District. They spend most of their time adventuring outdoors on two small dinghies (Swallow and Amazon), and battle it out to take control of a small island on which they have been playing and camping.

Thursday 15 September 2016

25 Months Smiles... #TBCSmiles

I don't have any clever words or deep sentiments today. I'm still exhausted from writing my #WorldSuicidePreventionDay post last Friday. Writing is cathartic, it is therapy, it sorts out your head, but I can't go through that too often.

Having to face reality head-on is hard, and it'll always be hard. Most of the time I daren't step back and look at the big picture because I fear losing my step. Head down and plug onwards. Just keep swimming Nemo.

A HUGE thank you to everyone who shared, liked, commented and messaged about my post the other day. The online support is invaluable, and I doubt we'd be upright without you. I have always said that if even one person went to get help, it was all worthwhile.

I heard on Saturday about more than one 'even one person'. I held out an accessible and useful net for not just someone, but some. I wish them all of the strength that they will need to go forward. I hope they find their support, and that in 10, 20, 40 years time they remember 2016 with their head held high and know that they didn't fail, they didn't let anyone down, they won. They are still here, and they will have created and shared many thousands of smiles.

Wednesday 14 September 2016

BlogOn MSI Autumn 2016 Icebreaker Linky

The weekend after next I will be attending BlogOn Conference in Manchester and I have to say I'm not particularly nervous - but knowing a lot of people, helping get the goodie bags packed and this being my 4th (?) BlogOn all helps! Zoe over at MamaGeek will be delivering a session, and she has also very kindly offered to host a 'get to know you' linky. So this is me:

1. Share a recent photo of you (or a doodle!)
Here's one my 8 year old took at Specsavers last week. A rare shot of me with my eyes open!

2. Describe yourself in five words or less
Smiley, friendly, perfectionist, tragic backstory. 

PLAY Expo returns to Manchester at Event City 8/9 October (Ticket Giveaway)

The PLAY Expo is Europe's biggest gaming exhibition, and returns to the North of England on October 8th and 9th at Event City in Trafford Park.  This is their 5th year and we'll be there to review for the first time. We've always been busy and missed it before but, after reports from friends who went in 2015, it's been in the diary for months.

It's no secret that our whole family are gamers. Our children have all grown up watching just as much LEGO Star Wars and Tomb Raider as they have TV, and PLAY Expo is a great opportunity for us to show our 6 and 8 year old boys the kind of computer games we used to play - even though they're generally not very impressed with the graphics!

There will be absolutely masses to see and do, including:

Scooby Doo And WWE: The Curse Of The Speed Demon DVD Review

I was always a fan of Scooby Doo, so it's nice that my children have all enjoyed the TV show and movies too. The latest DVD release is a bit of a collaboration, and features some of the most colourful characters from the world of WWE, as well as some particularly monstrous Monster Trucks.

In typical Scooby Doo fashion, a trip to an off-road racing competition is made all the more exciting by the fact Scooby Doo and Shaggy have parked at the side of the track, which had my children laughing right from the start of the movie.

Monday 12 September 2016

Googly Eyes Family Game Review (7+)

Googly Eyes from University Games is a board game that challenges you to draw picture clues for your team-mates within a set period of time, whilst wearing one of the 3 crazy pairs of glasses that are included. Great fun and definitely one that suits multi-generational play, our 7 year old is every bit as good at this as any of us!

Friday 9 September 2016

Tomorrow 10th September Is World Suicide Prevention Day

Today when I woke up Elspeth was still dead. She has been dead every single day for the last 24 months, 3 weeks and 4 days. But sometimes, just for a moment, I forget.

And then I remember...

And it's not just me. I see it when her Dad, or her brothers and sister forget. And I see it when they realise. I see that flash across their eyes as they remember she died.

Elspeth felt she was alone, weird, different. She felt no-one would miss her, it would make life easier if she went. She thought we'd all just carry on regardless, as if a car backfired outside, or the living room lights simply flickered.

She wasn't alone, she was surrounded by people who cared, but she hid that she needed help, and none of us were able to spot it. We weren't given the opportunity to help.

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Project MC2 Doll Giveaway (Science for age 6+)

The Netflix TV show Project MC2  has a great range of accompanying toys designed especially to interest girls who might otherwise not consider Science and other S.T.E.M. subjects to be fun or interesting. This Autumn there are several new sets, and I have one to give away to one of my readers...

The first sets for Christmas 2016 are the Core Dolls - McKeyla, Adrienne, Bryden, Camryn and two new recruits, Devon and Ember (rrp £14.99). Fully articulated and with lifelike features based on the show’s real characters, and dressed to reflect their personality and individual style.

Project MC2 Ultimate Lab Kit Review (Science for age 6+)

Project MC2 is a Netflix TV Show and a range of toys that are designed especially to interest girls who might otherwise not consider Science to be fun or interesting. This Autumn they've added a bunch of new sets to their range, and we've been sent the biggest of them to review, the Project MC2 Ultimate Lab Kit.

Obviously I'm a bit short on young girls here, so my 6 and 8 year old boys have stepped up to review, and they were instantly very keen to find out exactly what was in the huge bright red/pink case.

The answer is LOADS!! This is a really big kit and it has over 30 pieces - an activity booklet and plenty of equipment to do your experiments including slides, microscope, test tubes and rack, petri dish, flasks, funnel, pipette, jar, pH strips, stickers, safety goggles.

Tuesday 6 September 2016

Kidecals Personalised All-Purpose Washable Labels Review and Discount

Kidecals labels might initially cost a bit more than writing a name on in pen, but they are washable, waterproof, dishwashable, tumble drier and microwave safe, personalised labels that will stick to clothing, lunchboxes, PE Kits, bags and shoes, and practically anything else you can think of.

So lets test those claims...

Disney On Ice presents Frozen this October in Manchester.

This Autumn and Winter Feld Entertainment, Inc. is bringing 'Disney On Ice presents Frozen' to the UK. The Oscar-winning no.1 animated movie of all time will be brought to life on the ice in a brand new production for 2016, and the tour starts on October 13th to 16th at Manchester Arena.

The tour will continue across the UK until 30th December, after Manchester visiting Newcastle, Birmingham, Nottingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Aberdeen, Sheffield and London.

“In our more than 30 years of producing Disney On Ice shows, Feld Entertainment has been waiting for a film like this,” says producer Nicole Feld....and I think she might be right.

Monday 5 September 2016

Skylanders Battlecast Game (age 6+) Review

We've been playing Skylanders Battlecast for a little while now. We were properly introduced to it when we were invited down to London as guests of Skylanders to preview the new Imaginators console game which will be out on October 26th.

Battlecast is quite different from other Skylanders games in that it is a free app. game, with supporting booster cards, but gameplay is still very familiar to any Skylanders fans.

Skylanders Battlecast sees you controlling an individual or group of Skylanders, and taking on Kaos and his cohort in turn-based battles. You have strength to attack physically, and cards to attack, defend and change gameplay.