Friday 29 September 2017

Retro Top Trumps - Which Packs Would You Bring Back?

Top Trumps have been popular here for as long as I can remember. My young boys still play with some of their older sibling's sets, and they have a few of their own too. I picked up brand new Despicable Me 3 and Marvel Avengers Assemble packs at BlogOn last weekend, but it was the Retro Packs which really caught my eye!

If you haven't ever played Top Trumps, you've missed out. An incredibly simple game which anyone aged around 4-5 or older can play, straight out of the box, it really is as simple as comparing cards and saying who's is best!

Thursday 28 September 2017

Air Hogs DR1 Micro Race Drone (Luke Bannister Edition) Review (age 8+) for SpinMaster

Our latest review for SpinMaster is the DR1 Airhogs Micro Race Drone. Drones are incredibly popular this year and the technology has really come on massively. This indoor drone has flight assist technology with automatic take-off, height lock and landing. Perfect for the beginner.

Your drone is packaged in a carefully thought out box with minimal plastic packaging - easy to open and recycle on Christmas morning. You will have to charge your drone via USB before you can play (40 minutes for approximately 7 minutes flying) and the controller takes 2 x AAA batteries (not included).

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Star Wars Bladebuilders Path Of The Force Lightsaber (4+) Review for Hasbro

The Bladebuilders Path of the Force Lightsaber is so much more than a light up stick you wave around. It knows whether you have chosen the light or dark side and has motion sensors and awesome sound effects. There's even a Hasbro Star Wars Studio FX app so that you can make your own videos...

Packaging is almost entirely recyclable card and it's super easy to open (great for Christmas morning). The Lightsaber needs 3 x AAA batteries, but does come with demo batteries and we haven't had to change them yet, so if it hasn't been played with a lot in store, you may be lucky.

There are 3 parts - the Lightsaber itself and two different handles - one Jedi, one Sith. Both handles have moving parts with retractable 'blades'. They're easy to use at the press of a button and not at all sharp or dangerous.

Thursday 21 September 2017

Lumie Bedbug Optimised Bedtime Nightlight For Children Review

Lumie make lighting products that are far more than 'just a light'. Well-known for their excellent Bodyclock which slowly increases in brightness to wake you gently and naturally, they have recently released a brand new product for children with the opposite aim, the Lumie Bedbug.

Just like the Lumie Bodyclock, the Bedbug makes best use of coloured lighting, but in the case of the Bedbug it is to help ease your child to sleep and it can also be left on as a gentle nightlight. Absolutely ideal for parents of babies or children who wake in the night or may need changing or attending to, this is an excellent way to have enough light to see without disturbing the whole house.

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Our Shrinking Household.

Our young people have all reached the age where they've left school and are moving on. It's exactly what you hope for as they grow up, but then the day arrives and they say they're moving out, and somehow you can't be more shocked by it.

One of ours started uni last September, one moved out over Summer and a couple of days ago our eldest went. He's moved out before for uni, almost exactly 4 years ago, but was back after 9 months. Now a much more mature working young man who has gained an apprenticeship from Bolton College, I doubt we will see him moving back again.

Surprisingly he's not a Chef..
We've gone from a household of 9 to a household of 5 and it's a heck of a difference.

There is less washing and cooking and the dishwasher isn't on twice a day. The house is so quiet at times, some evenings we have no young people around at all. I came downstairs this morning and stared at my kitchen table because it's the first time in 8 years that it looked as tidy when I got up as it did when I went to bed. I don't even know if I like it.

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Sticky Brick Tape Review

Sticky Brick Tape is a new and exciting thing and the moment I saw it a thousand possibilities came to mind. Being able to secure your LEGO almost anywhere is something all adult fans have wished for, I'm sure, and turning that into a reality is a dream come true.

We've been sent 4 different coloured rolls of Sticky Brick Tape to review - 1 metre each of red, blue, grey and green.

Friday 15 September 2017

37 Months Smiles...September 2017 (My 1400th Post).

I am not really enjoying this 'back to school' thing. I miss my kids in the day time and my house is too quiet. I have to get used to the quiet though, as our 19 year old is going back to uni soon and our 23 year old is about to move out. One of the other big kids already moved out this Summer, so we will have only 3 children at home. It's been a long time since I was responsible for washing, cooking and cleaning for just 5 people and it's going to be a real decrease in workload.

I've decided I'm going to take that spare time between the hours of 11pm and 1am - sleeping. I have a lot of catching up to do...

We always knew this day would come and our young people would start making their own way in life, you joke about it from when they're small, and you already see just how much you'll miss them. It turns out it's actually more scary than you anticipate - you worry you'll discover that they lived on Doritos for 3 months (this happened) and haven't changed their jeans in 3 weeks (this is in question)...

And then they manage fine for a whole year (this really happened!) and you realise that actually they can do this. They're the adult now.

This is the 1400th post on The Brick Castle. I wrote a special post for my 1000th blog post, and 400 later, I'm still here. Especially now when my 'not-so-young people' are spreading out away from us, I am thankful for every post. Every captured memory, every day trip they wouldn't have gone on, the reviews where they helped, the times when they rocked it. Every time they made us laugh or amazed us with their talent. The times when they were the ones made it happen.

Thanks guys - you really have been appreciated.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Hopeless Heroes Children's Book Series by Stella Tarakson Review for Sweet Cherry Publishing

Just occasionally I'm asked to take another look at something I've previously reviewed and this is the case with Stella Tarakson's Hopeless Heroes books. The second book in the series is due to be released in February 2018 and the first is receiving a reprint, with a bold, bright new cover. These editions will have larger text, less words per page and a slight re-write that is suitable for younger independent readers aged around 7+.

We reviewed the first book in the series when it was first released in June. In February it'll be renamed Hopeless Heroes: Here Comes Hercules! This is a sneak preview...

This is the tale of Tim, a young boy who struggles a little since losing his father. He has to help his Mum with housework and spends quite a bit of time alone while she's at work, so he imagines that things in his house come alive. One day though, he breaks a very precious antique Greek vase and something does come to life in his living room - the Ancient Greek demigod Hercules!

Monday 11 September 2017

The Bone Wars by Nicky Dee Book Review (read together or independently age 5+)

Nicky Dee is a Children's book author who we've become very fond of in our house. Working with Palaeontologist Dean R. Lomax, she has created a series of fascinating and factual Dinosaur Books - the What's So Special? series, and The Bone Wars; Clash Of The Dinosaur Hunters! (with illustrations by Ian Durneen) is her first venture into traditional story-telling.

The Bone Wars tells the tale of two of the most prominent dinosaur hunters - Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. They were so determined to outdo each other that they were prepared to go to extreme lengths and forget the real reason why they were even there.

Saturday 9 September 2017

10 Years In Manchester

I moved to Manchester from Derby 10 years and 1 week ago. 

It took about 3 days to get used to how slowly people talk and 5 visits into town before I didn't feel like a tourist. 2 months to get used to the trams, 6 months before I didn't think it was weird to see blokes in suits eating a pie out of a brown bag for lunch and 18 months before I couldn't remember how to pronounce Manchester without saying 'Man-chess-duh'.

I doubt I'll ever stop thinking 'backstreets' are cute, but somehow I slotted in from day one.

There's a really special sort of welcome with Manchester that you simply don't find everywhere. Sure there's the odd exceptions, but on the whole people genuinely don't fear strangers and incomers, you are greeted in with open arms, No-one is bothered where my nan grew up, except to hear if it's story-worthy. Aside from being laughed at when I call someone 'Duck', no-one ever mentions that I wasn't born here. I'm here now and that's all that matters.

Friday 8 September 2017

Nickelodeon Experimake Rockets And Beyond Review And GIveaway (age 8+) For Addo Play

We love science and over the last few days of the Summer holidays my boys have been experimenting with the Nickelodeon Experimake set - Rockets And Beyond from Addo Play. This is a carefully thought out set with a handful of simple, yet interesting, experiments suitable for children aged around 8+.

Inside the box are most of the items you'll need aside from things that you can find around the house - plates, water etc. Aside from a couple of plastic bags, packaging is all reused for storage and it takes seconds to open - with the only construction being the papercraft space buggy.

Thursday 7 September 2017

King Pong Game Review (age 8+) and Giveaway for Drumond Park

The Summer is over but it's not all bad news, game season is back! One of Drumond Park's newest releases is King Pong, a very active game for 2-4 players aged 8+. This is one that'll get the couch potatoes sitting up and joining in...

Inside the box is everything you'll need, and you do have to assemble this one yourself. Much like the game Crazy Claw there is a cube formed from clear plastic with a solid base, corner pillars and top. Then the pyramid fits neatly into the centre. It'll take about 10 minutes maximum - it's a newer design and much better, less fiddly than Crazy Claw.

Wednesday 6 September 2017

BlogOn Christmas Jumper 2017 Linky

I had the dubious honour of writing this Autumn's get-to-know-you linky for #BlogOnXmas 2017, so I should probably be among the first to complete it! As it's the Christmas Jumper Linky, two of my teenagers kindly offered their modelling services...

The linky is open for anyone who is attending BlogOn Conference on 24th September to join in and add their answers, so that we can get to know each other a little beforehand. This isn't my first BlogOn, I've been a regular since 2013 and in fact it's my 4th BlogOn linky - here's my first. All being well I'll be the short blonde one greeting you when you arrive at Hotel Football...

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Family Ticket Giveaway to Disney's Fit To Dance Workshop With Ashley Banjo!

Sometimes I get offered tickets to an event that isn't for me, or I'm not able to attend. It's lovely to see those tickets go to someone else, especially someone who will really will get the most out of the opportunity.

On Tuesday 26th September from 4pm until 5.30pm (times may be subject to slight alteration) Disney On Ice presents Passport To Adventure will be holding a Fit To Dance workshop in the centre of Manchester. This isn't just any workshop, it's very special.

The workshop will be led by the Disney On Ice Skaters and hosted by leader of dance troupe Diversity, winners of the third series of Britain's Got Talent, Ashley Banjo himself!

Monday 4 September 2017

Catan Game Review (age 10+) for Blogger Board Game Club

Our latest review is a very familiar name in the game world - The Settlers Of Catan is rightly a classic, and Catan is simply a name change. A beautiful game which gets trickier as you become more experienced, yet a complete novice can start to play it in 15 minutes.

The aim of Catan is to build settlements and roads, then farm, mine and trade resources and expand your settlements into a network of cities. Each settlement has a value of 1, each city 2 and development cards can also have value. The winner is the first person to have a total score of 10.

The box is gorgeous, with a textured matt illustration, and that does reflect the muted classic colours of the game itself. It is beautifully presented. The hexagonal cards which form the board are thick and excellent quality and the playing pieces are painted wood.

Dr Beckmann Embarrassing Stain Social Experiment and Stain Devils Giveaway (5 Winners)

The kids are back to school and you'll have to wash all of those 'white' polo shirts covered in whiteboard marker, paint and an unidentifiable selection of foods. Hurrah! But hang on, it's not just the kids who manage to stain their clothes...

With children life is all about stains and it starts long before they can even walk, but it doesn't stop when you become an adult. As a child you can get away with it, my son doesn't care at all, but when you are grown up having a stain can be incredibly embarrassing.

Sunday 3 September 2017

Pickles And Ice Cream Pregnancy Cravings Book Review and Giveaway (2 Winners)

Pickles And Ice Cream by Vicky Jacob-Ebbinghaus and Juarez Rodriguez is a cookbook with a difference - all of the recipes are cravings that real pregnant women have had, and they've been lovingly recreated to share with you, alongside a short story from the inventor.

I'm not pregnant just now thankfully, but I have been 5 times and I had some pretty interesting cravings. Mainly I just wanted beetroot and boiled brussels sprouts, but with my 3rd child (and only daughter) I dreamt of eating coloured glass. Whenever I saw coloured glass I felt I could taste it and it was so delicious. I did manage to beat that craving by eating boiled sweets, but I would wake up having dreamt I'd eaten the glass and in a panic about it. NEVER eat glass.

Saturday 2 September 2017

Parrot Swing Minidrone And Flypad Controller Review For Parrot (age 14+)

This is a review I'm very excited about. I'm actually usually dire at controlling small flying vehicles, but I love having a go. Billed as being incredibly stable and easy to control using a console style Parrot Flypad Controller, that has been my experience, as you'll see from the video further down the post.

Even before you open the box you can tell it's going to be good quality. The design inside backs that up. It's not only gorgeous, but practical and will protect your minidrone when not in use.

Friday 1 September 2017

Ben 10 Figures And Toys Review

I joined in with a special Ben 10 Twitter party on Thursday afternoon to promote the new range of Ben 10 toys. We were sent a selection of the toys ahead of the party to take a look and get my 7 and 8 year old boys opinions, as well as the thoughts from their guests!

The children opened most of the toys during the party, but before they arrived we'd had a good look at 3 of them - The Ben 10 Omnitrix, The Ben 10 Deluxe Omnitrix and the Diamondhead Transform N Battle set. Everything is suitable for age 4+.