Thursday 31 August 2017

Beyblade Burst Epic Rivals Starter Set (age 8+) Review for Hasbro

Our latest review for Hasbro is the Beyblade Burst Epic Rivals 2-Player Starter Set with Beystadium. It's the first time my young boys have played properly with their older brother's Beyblades and now they understand entirely what it's about.

Beyblades were very popular in our house when they first arrived in the UK in 2002. They've taken a back seat for a while and now they're back - stronger and faster than before.

Inside the box you have the Beystadium, 2 Beyblade Burst Tops and 2 Beyblade Burst Launchers. There really is minimal packaging here, just some sealed plastic bags, and it's opened and ready to play in seconds - Christmas morning-friendly.

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Ad | Madame Tussauds - Blackpool Has It All Review 2017

Just before the Summer holidays we took a trip to Blackpool as part of the Blackpool Has It All campaign with Visit Blackpool, Merlin Entertainments and Blackpool Pleasure Beach. We rode on the trams and reviewed 3 of the seafront attractions. Although we really enjoyed both Sandcastle Waterpark and Sealife Blackpool, the highlight of our day was probably Madame Tussauds.

We've been to Madame Tussauds before, so we thought we knew what to expect, but it was so different from our visit 4 years ago that it really was a completely different day out and we saw so much that was new - and got nostalgic about old favourites too..

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Just So Festival Review 2017: An Amazing Technology Free Weekend

Having been home from France a mere 76 hours, just about enough time to wash everything, we set off again for the Just So Festival. This is our 3rd year as visitors and it was probably my favourite of them all. We were already pretty relaxed and settled into the pace as soon as we collected our wristbands and went in through the Just So archway...

Just So Festival takes everything that we remember from childhood and gives it back to us, usually large scale and over-the-top. Fairies in the woods and pirates on the high seas are real here, as are pillow fights, woodland dens and midnight feasts. Sit at a campfire and sing your heart out, or dance the night away to live music or disco. Make a building from jelly beans, picnic anytime and roll down a great big hill. You can even run away to train with the circus...

The staff and volunteers are what really make Just So Festival special. Everyone has a smile and can't do enough to help you. It's no wonder that they recently received another award for accessibility. The entire time you are there, you feel like a valued guest amongst new friends.

One of the first areas you reach when you enter is the huge green, this year half dedicated to the Peekaboo area, for children aged 0-4. This area is sponsored by one of my favourite companies, Weleda, and includes massage, baby baths, yoga, musical and messy play - as well as samples and advice. Our camping neighbours included the gorgeous StyleBySquidge instagrammer - he especially enjoyed the painting.

The site is spread over several areas, but they're all close by each other and each has plenty to do when you get there, so you can have a sit down and are never worn out from walking.

The woods are very special at Just So, and you are never quite sure what or who you'll bump into. The 'Barefoot Walk' was not something my boys wanted to take part in - despite me spending half the weekend asking them to put something on their feet! We had a lot of fun with the solar-powered instruments by the High Seas though.

And we discovered what the cast of Tales Of Animalia do when it rains between shows! It's amazing how many people you can fit under one gazebo. It actually barely rained and we had some gorgeous weather on Sunday to make up for it.

The Actual Reality Arcade was a huge highlight and we could have spent hours in there. Giant versions of arcade games with humans in every role. We laughed until we cried - and so did several bystanders...

There was awesome food! The vendors are chosen for quality and everything we ate was utterly delicious. It was pricey though on average. Single person pizzas at £8-£10 each is out of our league, although they would give you a free pizza if you had a cheesy joke they hadn't heard. I scored a real bargain on Sunday with the gorgeous Amrutha vegetable pakoras - they didn't have any small trays left so gave me a huge portion for £4 - cheers guys!

If you had the stomach for it, you could of course tempt your palate with the Insect Eating in the Social Barn. Once again, thankful I'm vegetarian...

There was no coffee down by the Silver Screen and High Seas areas this year - boo! There was however a bar at the campfire and it did work exceedingly well for a nice evening tipple before stories, singsong and bed. Lovely beers, cider or lager for under a fiver a pint. Better than in Manchester.

You can't mention the campfire and stories without mentioning long-standing North West Storyteller Ian Douglas, who married his wife Jo on the Friday. The woodland was decked out and it was especially beautiful. We were lucky enough to witness his proposal at Just So Festival last year, so we wouldn't have ever missed it. I've never seen so many people around the campfire as there were that evening and the atmosphere was awesome. Congratulations to them both.

The campfire was only beaten for us by one activity, and that was the Pillow Fight. You'd never believe it if you didn't witness it. This is the first time it's been dry weather and everyone was out to celebrate - it was epic.

Even those who didn't want to fight with the pack got plenty of opportunity to join in... Thanks to Jane Hodgepodgedays for the beautiful photos of my 7 year old...

A highlight for everyone is the results of the Tribal Tournament. This goes on all weekend and as you take part in activities, smile at strangers or 'walk to the car the most times', you can collect golden pebbles for your chosen team. It was very exciting watching the Baghdaddies do sound check for their set and knowing the entire field would be full of around 2000 people in 10 minutes time as the parades of teams arrived...

We've always been a bit disorganised regarding teams and this year was no different, with two of us supporting Stags, me Bees and my youngest Foxes. We all collected pebbles and did very well. Foxes won, Bees were second overall and Stags retained a regal air of dignity throughout.

The Just So Festival is awesome. We spent 2 1/2 days there and it was like having a whole extra holiday. There is no better way of letting kids be kids and adults be kids too...

Special thanks to all of the staff - including the lovely and incredibly helpful lady who directed us in, and the security who found and returned Lancashire Lass and our missing 7 year olds within 5 minutes (they didn't know they were lost).

For even more of what's on offer, because it's far too much for one person to see, let alone write about (I didn't even mention the UNSA show, the jelly fight, the Woodland Theatre, Wild Food Foraging etc). you can read my previous posts about Just So Festival 2015, Just So 2016 and the Mystery Machine On Tour.

Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2018 (17 – 19 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale NOW at at special early bird prices. Under 3s free. Find out more on the Just So Festival website.  

We attended Just So Festival as guests in order to review and for this I couldn't feel more lucky.

Saturday 26 August 2017

Why It's Good To Be A #BigKid

The first Christmas I was with my.partner, I bought him a PSP. He bought me a coffee machine. That's the only time he's ever bought me kitchen equipment for Christmas. I tried to be very polite, but it was probably quite obvious I was a teensy bit disappointed. I simply didn't enjoy playing with my coffee maker as much as he enjoyed playing with his PSP.

Truth is my partner hadn't even considered to buy me toys for Christmas and to me that was very strange. It didn't occur to me that you bought people sensible presents at Christmas. Rightly or wrongly, he was happy to agree my way was best and we've never looked back. I've had a LEGO Creator House for Christmas each year since, and the Christmas Village LEGO set for my birthday in November.

Friday 25 August 2017

Amazing! Magazine Review - for children aged around 6-12

Every single month, as if by some sort of magic, my 8 year old will say "is it Amazing! Magazine time yet?" and within 2 days it'll pop through the letterbox. He loves it, and when he's read it, his 7 year old brother takes his turn.

Full of all the sorts of facts that young children enjoy, in a comic book style with puzzles, stories and quizzes, Amazing! Magazine cleverly and discreetly labels every article and activity according to National Curriculum subjects, and you can soon spot the links between what they learn as they read and what they are learning in school.

Thursday 24 August 2017

The Emoji Movie Poseable Light-Up Figures Review (age 3+) for Flair Toys.

I admit I'm not a particular fan of emoji's (although I use them often), but my 7 year old is, so this review was made for him. We've been sent The Emoji Movie Poseable Light-Up characters Poop and Gene to review.

There are 3 different poseable light-up characters available. As well as Poop and Gene, you can also buy the figure Jailbreak. These are 3 of the main characters from Sony Pictures recent release The Emoji Movie - a tragic and deeply moving tale of the secret world full of animated characters who live inside a Smartphone. A rogue app is about to wreak havoc and risk that ultimate of nightmares, a factory reset - I'm sure we've all experienced that pain at least once.

Z-arts Big Imaginations Festival 18 Oct-5 Nov - North West Family Theatre

9 Shows, 18 Days, 26 Venues. The Z-arts Big Imaginations Festival launch was at Just So Festival last weekend and I was lucky enough to be there to watch Joseph Coelho, producer of one of the shows, kick start the launch with readings from a couple of his poems. We'll be reviewing another show, Children Of The Divide, with our 7 and 8 year old boys.

Here is a rundown of what will be on offer over 2 weeks full of the highest quality affordable theatre for children and families. No single venue offers all shows, so check with the festival website to find what's on near you.

The venues taking part are:

Lancashire: Burnley Youth Theatre / Kingsfold Library / Lancaster Arts, Lancaster Uni / Skelmersdale Library / The Boo, Waterfoot / The Bureau, Blackburn / The Dukes, Lancaster

Merseyside: Chester Lane Library, St Helens / Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Hope St / The Atkinson, Southport / The Citadel, St Helens / Unity Theatre, Liverpool

Manchester: Astley Cheetham Gallery, Stalybridge / Leigh Dance Enterprise Hub / Longsight Library / Tameside Library / The Edge, Chorlton / The Turnpike, Leigh / Touchstones, Rochdale / Waterside Arts, Sale / Z-arts

Cheshire: Ellesmere Port Civic Hall / Ellesmere Port Library / Goodwill Hall, Northwich / Lion Salt Works, Marston / Tarvin Community Centre / Whitby Hall, Ellesmere Port

The Shows are:

Wednesday 23 August 2017

STABILO pointMax Fineliners and beYou! Rollerball Stationery Giveaway

We've worked with STABILO a few times before and today they return with an end-of-Summer giveaway. A firm favourite with most of my family, when we were asked if there was anything in particular we'd like to review and give away, STABILO pointMax Fineliners were top of the list.

STABILO sent us a pack of 12 fineliners and also included one of their new beYou! rollerball pens, and one of my readers can win this handy bundle for themselves.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

36 Months #TBCSmiles August 2017

Last week I was super short of time as I only had a couple of days at home between our holiday and going to the Just So Festival for the weekend, so I didn't have chance to post the #TBCSmiles for August. It also didn't feel quite right and my children needed me, so instead I wrote a shorter post about how we are coping 3 years after losing Elspeth and promised I'd be back with your smiles - so here we are.

Firstly can I thank 2 good friends who posted special #TBCSmiles smileless photos...they are beautiful, truly so serene and peaceful. Thank you.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

YUUschool Ergonomically Designed Backpack Review.Age 8-12

YUU are a Dragons Den backed company founded in 2010 by two Mums who saw their children carrying heavy backpacks and realised that it wasn't good for their growing spine and that a reported 1/3 of children suffer neck and back pain as a result (see bottom of post for the Science).

The YUUbag has been a huge success and this Summer they have added the YUUschool - a school version of the backpack for children aged around 8-12 (or over 120cm tall). It's ergonomically designed for maximum comfort and support for your child's spine, including tons of deep pockets and compartments to stop bag contents moving about and causing weight to be unevenly distributed around the bag.

Tuesday 15 August 2017

1,095 Days, 36 Months, 3 Years.

Three years where time has flown past so agonisingly slowly and the majority of it has faded completely. That morning three years ago is embedded into my yesterday, it recurs so frequently, yet I can't remember what life was like before it happened. Time is almost non-linear, the past creeps in constantly and not a minute can ever go by when you don't think of what has been lost for now and the future. How would life for the other children be different, the family dynamic altered. Where would you be now? How many courtships, part-time jobs, driving lessons. Borrowed make up, lost shirts and spilt tears. Exam results, friendships, nights out. How many times would you have made us laugh? The 3 years has gone so quickly and yet so slowly and it's been such hard work, although the sludge is reducing and the trudging getting easier, but always never a minute without remembering.

It'll never be easier without Elspeth.

Last year at Blog On Conference I won a holiday from Canvas Holidays and it took us more than ten months of build up, but we finally booked it and did it. We finally felt confident all of our young people were strong enough to leave behind - although they all had the option to come.

Saturday 5 August 2017

Back To School With Sambro Stationery And Backpacks

Sambro are a very well-known supplier of licensed products, mainly for children. They're responsible for loads of the smaller bits and pieces that fill stockings, as well as larger items featuring favourites from TV and movies. We've been sent some of their new range to review, including Paw Patrol, Miffy, Shimmer & Shine, Despicable Me 3 and Disney Princess.

On Thursday 10th August at 7pm Sambro will be hosting a Twitter party to promote their licensed children's stationery and backpacks. They'll be giving away some of their goodies, so it's worth following @SambroUK.

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Nerf N-Strike Modulus Regulator Blaster Review for Hasbro (age 8+)

Obviously we are Nerf addicts here and we accepted the offer from Hasbro to review the new Nerf Modulus with a large amount of pleasure. This is a huge Nerf Dart Blaster which can be adapted in a huge array of ways to make a really personal blaster.

The Modulus is a fully motorised blaster which requires 4 x C batteries - not included. Removal from the packaging is super easy and it's almost entirely recyclable card with a few rubber band ties.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Pudology Vegan Puddings Review - Dairy Free and Gluten Free

Pudology want to make vegan food that's just as indulgent and delicious as any dairy based pudding. Their dairy and gluten free desserts are now available in Sainsburys and they've sent us a selection to take a look at.

We've been sent the Deeply Decadent Chocolate Pud, Smooth Chocolate Orange Pud and Simply Sumptuous Millionaire's Pud. All are are free from gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts - and suitable for anyone following a vegan, coeliac or kosher diet.

Behind The Scenes with The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey this August

This August Wild Rumpus, the people behind Just So Festival, will be busy at Dunham Massey hall and gardens with a brand new Lost Carnival event. We popped along on Saturday evening to have a preview of what is going to be hidden among the trees for visitors this Summer...

We haven't been to Dunham Massey before, but the gorgeous gardens double up as a deer park, which delighted our children. In fact there was wildlife in evidence everywhere, those woods are alive!