Friday 30 December 2016

LEGO Star Wars Captain Rex's AT-TE set 75157 Review

It really wouldn't be Christmas in our house without Star Wars LEGO, and very kindly Santa and LEGO conspired together for my latest review. My 8 year old found the LEGO Star Wars Captain Rex's AT-TE in his stocking, and it was built by Boxing Day lunchtime....

There are 5 minifigures in this set, which is based on characters and the AT-TE from Star Wars Rebels. Captain Rex, Commander Gregor, Commander Wolffe, Imperial Inquisitor Fifth Brother and a Stormtrooper.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Goodbye to the Kick-Ass Princess

You can't choose a girl their hero. You can supply them with all kinds of politically correct and gender neutral toys and books, teach them about Mary Seacole, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks and Emmeline Pankhurst. You can tell them they can be anything that they want to be, but you can't decide which influences they'll find most important. You can only watch and hope they chose a sensible path.

Primary school for me was generally awful, but never during the Spring of 1978. I was in demand, because I was the only 1 of the 7 girls in my year who liked Star Wars. The boys couldn't play Star Wars properly without the female lead role, and none of them wanted to play a girl. For every breaktime that Spring, I was Princess Leia.

Monday 19 December 2016

Spy Net Touch Video Watch and Eyeclops TV Microscope reviewed

We have been selected to be part of  the Jakks Toys Spy Net Blogging Panel and our first mission is to try out their brand new Spy Net gadgets! We've been sent The Spy Net Touch Video Watch and the Spy Net Eyeclops to review.

Spy Net Touch Video Watch

The Spy Net Touch Video Watch appears to be a normal watch, but it has a hidden camera and microphone that will secretly capture up to 20 minutes of video, 2,000 photos and three hours of audio.

The full colour touch screen allows for easy playback of videos and photos, whilst also functioning as a normal watch to keep enemies fooled. Charge the watch and download all photos, videos and audio files via the USB cable included, just like a real spy...

Friday 16 December 2016

Ad | Midnight Taboo Adult Game Review (age 18+) for Hasbro

Midnight Taboo is a very different sort of game review to my usual because it's not exactly a family game. Suitable for age 18+, it takes the original Taboo word guessing game to a whole new grown up level, and it's probably not great for the easily offended...

Inside the box are an egg timer, score pad, 4 packs of Midnight Taboo cards and a battery operated buzzer (2 x AA not included). We actually played mainly while the kids were in bed, and although the buzzer isn't horrendously loud, we didn't use it a lot.

Wise Words From.... Mum And Dad Personalised Book Review

You may feel you have a whole book full of clever things to say to your children, or you might be completely lost for words. Either way with the Wise Words From Mum And Dad book from The Book Of Everyone, you can create something that makes you sound intelligent and witty in abundance...and you don't even have to be 'Mum And Dad', these wise words will be gladly accepted from anyone...

There are a few basic choices at first - cover and style, personalising names and dedications, and then you are given a complete book template. You can choose to go with that, or you can spend however long you want personalising it. Most pages can be swapped or edited to your liking.

All of the books on The Book Of Everyone website are made in the same way, so this has 50 thick pages in a similar design to The Book Of Dad and The Book Of Everyone, which we have previously reviewed.

Thursday 15 December 2016

December #TBCSmiles - 28 Months After Losing Elspeth

This time last year I was really feeling that we'd reached 'as good as it gets' and it was never going to be very good. 12 months has taught me that it continues to get slowly easier. Easier for all of us to think about Elspeth, easier to talk about Elspeth, easier to go about our lives with a distinct lack of Elspeth.

We've bought cards and presents, and last night five of us went to choose our Christmas tree. We have taken our little boys to some amazing events, Christmas is happening. It's still very hard, it's so full of memories for us all. It's utterly exhausting, and a sometimes it has to take a pause in favour of doing nothing. My Christmas cards are yet unwritten because I don't know how to sign them off at the end, and I hate that I can't write 9 names, but they'll be done.

Part of the reason for our 'up' is that our young person in hospital is really seeming to be doing very well. They've been reunited with their little brothers recently, which has been a joy to watch and be part of. I am really excited at the prospect of our 19 year old coming home from University, and getting everyone together for the first time in months. They might be too cool to always admit it, but they all miss each other a lot...

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Winter Wonderland Review, Event City, Manchester 2016

Until Sunday 1st January 2017 Event City at Trafford park in Manchester has been transformed into a Winter Wonderland, offering children under 12 and their families the UK's largest indoor Christmas theme park, and a magical experience they'll remember forever...

Why Choose Wooden Toys As Gifts For Kids This Christmas...

This post is written by Ian Tolledo (and I have added the photos).

Plastic toys make up the majority of toys in shelves right now, but there’s nothing quite like reminiscing over the toys and games that defined our childhood. They were toys that provided us real joy, and now it’s time to pass the tradition onwards. Building blocks, dolls, tools, etc. – there are plenty of kid’s wooden toys for everyone.

Not only are wooden toys traditional, but they can also come is bright colours and can be formed in any kinds of shapes. They are safe, foster imagination and are an awesome investment because they are lasting and durable. Here are some reasons why you should choose wooden toys as gifts.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts Christmas Gift Guide 2016

There are tons of awesome goodies out there for fans of the Harry Potter series, and the release of Fantastic Beasts has only added to the merchandise available. We've been sent a host of goodies to take a look at - Christmas came a little bit early...

Our children have all grown up with the Harry Potter books and movies, the older ones introduced the 2 youngest to Hogwarts long before they could read. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them may be a little darker than Harry Potter (and the youngest 2 might have to wait a while before I let them watch it), but J.K.Rowling's world of Wizards and Muggles is a fantastic shared interest for all of our children from 6 to 22...

The Harry Potter Hogwart's Crest Light from Paladone runs on either USB or 3 x AA battery power and has 6 LED's which shine through the slot-in crest, giving an awesome glow. The supplied USB cable is an impressive 5ft (1.5m) long.

Monday 12 December 2016

Getting Into The Christmas Spirit With A Festive Family Movie...

Warner Brothers have asked me if I want to write about some of their Christmas Family Movies, and I'm more than happy to oblige. Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of year for films. Everyone has some actual time off to relax, the weather outside is frightful and the whole family are home for Christmas. Get the popcorn and some hot chocolate, grab a blanket and snuggle up to spend some special time together getting into the festive spirit...

Animation is a festive winner and The Polar Express is a gorgeous Christmas movie which has a lovely tale of honesty and friendship behind it. Adults watch this one for the nostalgia and the quite tricky storyline, children at first watch it as a magical train to Santa, before they get a bit older and begin to understand the deeper meanings. The animation style does fall deep into uncanny valley, so it's not to everyone's taste.

Saturday 10 December 2016

RC X Bladez Quad Blaster with Missile Launcher (8+) Review

Bladez make all kinds of R/C toys, including the R/C X-Bladez Quad Blaster with Missile Launcher. Either encased in it's removable 23 cm3 cage, or with the blade guards on, this is a very manoeuvrable little drone which will also climb up walls or travel along the floor, and with the bonus of missiles for target practise, it adds another dimension to R/C flying toys.

Friday 9 December 2016

dealspotr Deals Website Review

I've been asked to take a look at dealspotr, a website relatively new to the UK which aims to bring you the most up-to-date deals, offers and voucher codes, to save you money on just about anything.

Money is tight, so I save it whenever I can, and I hate it when I've lost a coupon or can't remember where I saw an offer. I'm a big fan of vouchers and voucher websites, but I do hate it when all you can find are expired deals.

dealspotr is full of publicly viewable user-generated content. Each submission made by site members can be validated by other members and commented on, even including photographic evidence, so you know whether or not it is live and actually works.

Underneath A Magical Moon Review - Waterside Arts Centre, Sale.

The Christmas show this year at Waterside Arts Centre, Sale in Manchester is presented by tutti frutti and York Theatre Royal. Underneath a Magical Moon - a re-imagining of Peter Pan as retold by Wendy Darling - is written by leading playwright Mike Kenny, and is suited best to children aged around 3-12, and their families.

The scene is set in the small garden of the 3 children - Wendy, John and Michael, and takes place sometime after the events in Neverland. They are camping out overnight, and Wendy relates the tale of Peter Pan for the boys, with the three of them playing all of the characters.

Wendy is older, and knows she is beginning to lose her innocence and 'grow up', and the three children all consider what this will mean, and how they feel about the inevitability. It's nicely done, and left me wondering when it was that I stopped being excited by the idea of a garden camp out.

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Checking Out My Risk Of Breaking...Osteoporosis Screening Test Review

On the day I was turning 45 an email about reviewing Osentia Osteoporosis Screening Test popped into my inbox.  At first I ignored it, but I kept seeing it and wondering why I hadn't deleted it, and I became more and more intrigued about what my results might be. I decided it was an omen, so I replied, and a few days later my testing kit dropped through the door.

It's got to be fair to say I'm becoming aware of my age, I'm being reminded of every old injury each morning, and I wonder just what pressure my life and my lifestyle has placed on my body over the last 4 1/2 decades. What is my risk of breaking a bone due to Osteoporosis?

I've carried 5 children, then breastfed them for just over 8 years in total. I've broken a few minor bones, dislocated my arm and had major abdominal surgery. I've drunk far more than my fair share of alcohol and never had as much sleep or exercise as I should. I've been a vegetarian for over 30 years, and although I do have good understanding of nutrition, you can't help but wonder if any of the people who tell you "you'll never get enough xyz" are right.

The National Osteoporosis Society say:

"1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will break a bone as a result of osteoporosis."
"It is estimated that around 3 million people in the UK have osteoporosis. This can lead to bones becoming fragile and breaking easily, resulting in pain and disability. Much can be done to treat osteoporosis and prevent fractures. We are committed to helping people with osteoporosis live the lives they want to lead."

Scholastic Christmas Gift Guide and #GiveABook Competition

November saw the launch of the new Scholastic Christmas Gift Guide, a time-saving round up of over 150 of the most popular books this Christmas. The guide is for children aged from toddler to teen and selected from around 70 publishers, featuring a host of well-loved authors and characters, and we've been sent 3 of the best for children aged around 6-9 for review.

All books bought through Scholastic will be significantly discounted with up to 70% off the RRP, and for every order over £10, Scholastic donate 20% worth of FREE BOOKS back to the shopper’s nominated nursery or school. Schools can build up their rewards and spend them on free books whenever they want. Books currently start at £1.99.

From now until Midnight Friday December 16th 2016, Scholastic have a competition whereby your school or nursery can win £50 credit for their Scholastic Books account. To enter, simply tell Scholastic which children’s book you’d love to give to a child this Christmas and why, tagging Scholastic and using the hashtag #GiveABook. More details at the end of the post!

Monday 5 December 2016

Case Company Voucher Giveaway - win a case or sleeve of your choice.

Case Company make custom cases for tablets and over 100 different smartphones, as well as laptop sleeves, and unusually they even make a wooden iPhone case. One of my readers can win a voucher for a free case or laptop sleeve of their choice from the Case Company website.

Case company keep the prices low and offer free shipping, which takes around 7-10 working days, although you can pay extra for faster postage.

Saturday 3 December 2016

Win A Big Box Full Of Christmas Stockingfillers!

Over the past year I've picked up all kinds of stuff which I haven't got around to doing anything with, and we've amassed quite a lot of treasure (my partner calls it something else). Some of my treasure needs to go because we need the cupboard back, and could fill a couple of Christmas stockings, so I've boxed it up and will give it away to one of my readers.

There is a ton of stuff and I'm not listing it all, but it does include Pirate and Fairy Theatres, Brio, Plasticine, Skylanders Battlecast, Hexbug Nano, A Nightmare On Elm Street (I somehow did 2 jobs with the same movie). There's also a Frozen puzzle and Bug Safari.

Friday 2 December 2016

Older Teenagers and Young Adult's Gift Guide 2016

Buying gifts for teenagers and young people can be tricky. You may not know their taste or what they have already, and once they have wages from part-time jobs, they're buying their own treats. This list should give you a few ideas. These are things that I like and know will suit at least one of my young people aged 16, 17, 18 and 22.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Christmas Gift Guide For The Man Who Already Has Enough Socks...

I have 3 fully grown adult men living in my house now, none of whom wear a tie or carry a hip flask, play sports or shave. Gift buying for the man who already seems to have everything can become a case of falling back on old favourites and/or beverages. Here are a few ideas that might help you think outside the box, or remind you of those smaller extra presents which everyone loves to open....

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Carlton (Mainly) Men's Book Bundle Christmas Giveaway

Books are a brilliant gift. They can be precious for many different reasons, and true treasures that we can all hold and own. They can be epics with a real sense of achievement when you have read them, or a few paragraphs long. Books don't have to be expensive or huge to make you laugh, cry, or feel nostalgic, and there is something for everyone, whatever age.

I love to buy books as gifts, and I find they can be especially good for the older males in your family. I liked the sound of all of these books myself, but I've chosen them with 3 of my (not quite so) young men in mind, so this the Carlton (Mainly) Men's Book Bundle Giveaway...

For my partner I've chosen Peter And Dan Snow's Treasures Of British History (rrp £30, currently £21). This is a gorgeous large format, hardbacked book in slipcase which, over 112 pages, examines British History via 50 of our most important documents.

An Evening In - with Spin Master Games

I love a good board games night, and always have done. When my oldest child was born I very quickly realised it was a great way to still see my mates and maybe have a lemonade or two, while also solving any babysitting problems.

In 22 years this hasn't changed, and when we were invited to a Spin Master Games evening over at Laura from Tired Mummy Of Two's house, along with gorgeous Eric there and his family from That Lancashire Lass, we gladly accepted.

Monday 28 November 2016

Asterix: The Mansions Of The Gods DVD Giveaway

Asterix: The Mansions Of The Gods is a PG rated computer animated adventure movie, with a voice cast that includes a host of UK comedians in the familiar starring roles, including Jack Whitehall as Asterix, and Nick Frost as Obelix. It will be released on DVD and 2D/3D Blu-ray on December 12th - just in time for Christmas, and I have a copy to give away to one of my readers...

The movie is set in 50 BC, and Gaul was entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely… as one small village still holds out against the invaders. Julius Caesar (Jim Broadbent), exasperated by the situation, decides to change tactics. Since Julius Caesar and his armies are unable to beat them using force, the Romans decide to charm the barbaric Gauls with the introduction of civilisation and modern luxuries. A fantastic housing complex is built near the village for Roman families, and it is named ‘The Mansions of the Gods’.

20 Questions To Ask your Kids - with my 8 and 6 1/2 year old boys...

It seems at the moment that everyone is asking their children some seemingly easy questions, and then posting the answers to social media. The replies are very often cute and charming, and are a great keepsake to remind yourself of the little things your children say and do which get forgotten over time.

Here is a printable list of 20 Questions To Ask Your Children, which I have shared with my 8 and 6 1/2 year old monsters darlings...

Q1. What is your favourite colour?
My 8 year old has been very honest - purple - even though some people say it's a girl colour. My 6 year old paradoxically chose green, which he specifically can't really see (3 of my sons are colour-blind), so your guess is as good as mine there...

Sunday 27 November 2016

Real Construction from Jakks Pacific Toys age 6+ Toy Review

Real Construction uses a dense plastic foamy material and plastic tools to emulate as closely as possible real wood and tools that adults use for D.I.Y. and crafts. This is a toy for children aged 6+, but they can really saw and hammer and make something they can be proud of.

We've been sent the 51 piece Starter Set (£9.99) and the 129 piece Deluxe Workshop (£24.99) for review. Suitable for age 6+, both my 6 and 8 year old boys were really excited and raring to start.

Friday 25 November 2016

WATCHU GPS Tracking Smart Watch For Kids Review

The WATCHU GPS Tracking Smart Watch is so much more than an analogue and digital watch. It's a GPS Location Tracker and a phone. If your child doesn't respond as you'd like, you can listen in to what is happening wherever they are, and it even has an SOS Panic Button for them to use when they can't find you in the LEGO Shop...or somewhere else...

I never thought I'd really ever want to tag any of our kids, although we've often joked about tagging the teenagers. Then we had our youngest. Our sensory-seeking bundle of fun, Turbo-Boy. He gets excited and can't resist looking at everything, all at once. Knowing exactly where he is, and being able to contact him, is a huge bonus.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Rockabye Originals Children's Clothes - Reversible Jacket Review

Recently I was contacted by Rockabye Originals and I'd mistakely assumed they only sold baby clothes. In fact, they sell unusual and different clothing for babies and children up to the age of 10. You can tell it's going to be good when it arrives in packaging that looks like this!

Full marks for amazingly simple yet clever design. I haven't pulled anything out of a record sleeve for years, and it took me right back... What was inside might not have been as cool as 12" 1996 remix of The Chemical Brother's Setting Sun, but it was impressive.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Hasbro Star Wars Bladebuilders Spin-Action Lightsaber review (age 4+)

My kids have almost all loved Star Wars, and I love Star Wars. The Bladebuilders Lightsaber is the best Lightsaber I've ever played with by miles. It's also the first Lightsaber we've ever had (and we've had many) that 2 children can play with at once...

The Bladebuilders Lightsaber is made by Hasbro, recommended for age 4+, and my boys wouldn't leave it alone while I was trying to take photos. It's one of the most exciting things any young Star Wars fan could ever review.

The packaging is great, almost all recyclable card with thin plastic fastenings that pull out easily. Christmas morning-friendly, the Bladebuilder arrives with 3 x AAA demo batteries in the Red Lightsaber, and you'll need 3 x AAA for the smaller White Lightdagger.

Lucky Voice Home Karaoke Kit Review

Lucky Voice make home karaoke equipment that gives great results whether for parties or a rainy afternoon singalong with the kids. Using their subscription website, you can also access a library of over 8000 songs - there really is something for anyone and everyone...

Our household are big fans of music, and when the children were younger we spent many, many hours belting out tunes on Guitar Hero or Rock Band together. More recently our music has been mainly on CD, radio or music TV, but growing up with song has clearly left an impression on my youngest, who is never quiet and sings half the day. This review is for him really, he loves it....

Inside the Lucky Voice box is everything you need to connect together your own TV, computer and sound equipment:

1 × light and chic microphone mixer
1 × metal-bodied dynamic microphone
1 × 5m microphone cable
1 × headphone to phono cable
2 × headphone to headphone cables
1 × instruction sheet
Plus a voucher code for a month of free singing with the Lucky Voice website.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Cinderella at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton review

On Monday night we were privileged to be among some of the first people to see 2016's Christmas performance at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton. This Winter Cinderella is brought to us in a completely different way, via the rats who live with her in the cinders and ashes...

The Octagon is a lovely intimate theatre in the round, and the whole audience feel very close to the performers. My 6 and 8 year old boys hadn't been before and were incredibly impressed and excited. In the centre of the stage area were a collection of musical instruments, which started much debate about what was going to happen.

The actors were great, not only acting and singing, but playing all of their own musical accompaniment. The instruments in the centre of the stage were never removed, only moved to the sides and used, and were perfect for a Winter tale with lots of metallic percussion. Chimes are just spot on for Prince Charming's Ball.

Silly Sausage Family Game Review (age 7+).

Chosen as one of the Dream Toys for Christmas 2016, Silly Sausage from John Adams is possibly the daftest looking family challenge game you'll ever play. It tests your speed, co-ordination and memory skills and you do get to look completely silly while you're at it.

Silly Sausage is probably unlike anything you've ever played before. Although it has some parallels with other action games, it plays quite differently, and I think is actually more equal between age groups. Although recommended for age 7+, my 6 year old had the highest score here for a while, and now it's his Dad, but we are all fairly evenly-matched.

Saturday 19 November 2016

Timeline British History Game (age 8+) Review

Timeline is a fantastic series of card games from Asmodee. Suitable for anyone aged around 8+, the aim of the game is for 2-8 players to put the events shown on the cards into correct date order. It may be history, but don't let that put you off, this can be a quick-paced game and children are often as good at making guesses as adults are!

I love the Timeline games, and we've been sent the newest edition in the series for review - Timeline British History. Also available are Inventions, Science & Discoveries, Historical Events, General Interest, Music & Cinema and Star Wars.

One of the features of Asmodee games is that they care about what happens when you've finished playing, and Timeline games are stored in their own beautiful metal tin. Not only attractive to look at, they are compact for travelling and taking to friend's houses, and will outlast the cards, unlike a cardboard box.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

BfB Labs Champions Of The Shengha Emotionally Responsive Gaming Preview

Champions Of The Shengha will be the first game release from British tech start-up BfB Labs. They are on a mission to 'help children develop the skills to combat the stresses of life' using Mindfulness techniques. In this case it actually means controlling your emotions while playing a game in order to increase your score...

BfB Labs work in a new generation of games which use emotional response as part of gameplay. Champions Of The Shengha is a fantasy battle-card app. game suited best to ages 10-15, which requires you to remain level headed and calm while playing, in order to gain power advantages.

A small BfB Sensor (heart rate monitor) is attached to the players ear, and connects to the phone or tablet by bluetooth.  At the beginning of each round the game encourages deep breathing to control your heart rate. The calmer you are under pressure, the more power you earn.

I was a bit dubious at first, I thought it might feel a bit embarrassing or weird, and couldn't really imagine the teenagers going for it. In fact it's a simple case of sitting up straight, breathing deeply and remaining calm while you play. The game gives really effective prompts to assist you in your relaxation, which actually help, and it really does train you to be aware of your own posture and breathing, and understand how to relax. I'm now convinced.

Roald Dahl's The BFG Movie - Free Printable and Amazing Bundle Giveaway (2 Winners).

The BFG is an absolute classic. One of Roald Dahl's most treasured books, the tale of a little girl named Sophie and her giant friend has been brought to life with a mix of animation and live action, and it is available for you to own on DVD and Blu-ray on 21st November.

A lovely tale, this movie edition has beautiful CGI animation which really compliments the live action. Starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill and Penelope Wilton, the acting is great, and the characters incredibly likeable.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

27 Month Smiles #MakeTime2Listen

Yesterday was my birthday, half way to my 'four score years and ten'. I think I have aged about 30 of those years over the last 3, and I'm probably a way ahead of where I should be now. But still I am here. Older, saggier, wrinklier and hopefully wiser. Everyone was so worried there wouldn't be cake that in fact there were 5 cakes. What could be better? Cake plus LEGO obviously - and I'm now also the proud owner of the LEGO Christmas was a really good birthday.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Santa's Polar Expedition Grotto at The Trafford Centre Review

Yesterday we went to Barton Square at intu Trafford Centre in Manchester, to visit this year's Christmas Santa's grotto. For 2016 the grotto has been turned into The Polar Expedition, and Santa is accompanied by lots of friendly Eskimo Elves.

My 6 and 8 year old boys are at the cusp of understanding, but are both firm friends with Santa this year at least...

We were a staggering 90 minutes late. My partner was called into work, so we ended up tight on time, but then the pre-lunchtime traffic was horrific, we were stuck in a jam for over an hour and our 8 year old was car sick. Christmas has started...

Thankfully it can be very beautiful...