Wednesday 31 January 2018

My First Job... In The Best Office I'll Ever Have.

I grew up in Derby and I noticed the other day that Derby Heritage Centre is now, somewhat bizarrely, a ladies hairdressers. This is the same building where I had my first proper all day part time job. It was also my most memorable job and the one I'm fondest of, for reasons entirely unrelated to my actual work.

My mother worked for a press agency in Derby city centre and when I was 14 their Sunday girl left. For £12.50 each Sunday I became a Copy Telephonist, a role that doesn't even exist any more.

It was my job to take the news articles and ring around all of the newspapers, radio and TV stations to see if anyone wanted to run the stories. Sometimes I'd read out the same copy 15 or more times, and often I'd read it to a journalist or editor who would then put me through to one of their copy telephonists, who would type as I dictated.

A single reporter and I would be the only people working, and I opened up in the morning and locked up at the end of the day, although I left the front door downstairs locked. Unless a big story broke the day was fairly monotonous, filled with 2 line local news stories and the odd football fixtures. Occasionally the Photographer would be in his office downstairs editing Wedding photos or something ready for the local papers on Monday, but we rarely even saw or heard him.

None of that is what made the job interesting.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Miss Winter's Demise by Paul Minton, Children's Poetry Book Review (7+)

Miss Winter's Demise And Other Crimes Against Poetry is a new release from Matador press. A light-hearted collection of comic verse by Paul Minton, ideal for independent readers aged around 7-8 + and great for more reluctant readers who might be daunted by huge pages full of text.

As you might have guessed these poems are funny and very much what children like to hear and read, they're also often a little bit dark, in that Roald Dahl way, with deaths and disasters befalling some of the more unfortunate characters in the book. Including of course the poor Miss Winter.

Friday 26 January 2018

EDF Energy #PrettyCurious : Encouraging STEM Careers for Girls!

Only 1 in 4 people working in core STEM roles in the UK are female and jobs in science, research, engineering and technology will rise at double the rate of other occupations between now and 2023.

EDF Energy's #PrettyCurious campaign aims to inspire girls' interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), something which I feel passionately about. I've tried to pass on a love for STEM subjects to my children and I'm proud to have raised a female future scientist.

EDF Energy are committed to bringing more young women into STEM careers and have already beaten their target of a 30% female STEM graduate and apprenticeship intake, with an awesome 35% in 2017. They've teamed up with Britmums and asked me to find out my daughter's feelings about STEM subjects and careers, and her reasons for choosing STEM subjects at exam level.

My daughter is 18 and studying Biology, Chemistry and Maths at A Level. Maths is her favourite subject. She's interviewing for places at university and hopes to follow a medical career in dentistry. She will be a scientist.

Thursday 25 January 2018

Magnus And The Jewelled Book Of The Universe Book Review (age 7+)

Magnus And The Jewelled Book Of The Universe is the first young fiction novel written by S.L Browne, released by Matador Children's Books last November. It is a book with the message to look after our planet, woven into a tale of mystery and intrigue, dinosaurs and tornadoes and an 8 year old boy named Magnus.

As the book starts Magnus and his elderly guardians move swiftly from mundane life to something completely different. A tornado approaches and a Police Officer visits their house to ensure they evacuate. There is a plan for Magnus and he is not only evacuated, he's removed completely to an entirely new world, an alternate Earth.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Air Wars Battle Drones Review (Age 8+)

Usually you try to protect your drone and avoid any obstacles, Air Wars Battle Drones turns that around. This 2 drone, 2 controller set also has a selection of 'weapons' to attach to each drone before you try to knock your opponent out of the sky.

Packaging is almost all card and very easy to open. Inside the box are two drones, two 2.4GHz  controllers, two USB charge cables and battery charge packs, 10 assorted weapons, a complete set of spare blades for both drones and instructions.

Tuesday 23 January 2018

The Jungle Bunch Movie DVD Review and Giveaway (2 Winners).

The Jungle Bunch family animated movie was released by 20th Century Fox on DVD on Monday and we were sent a copy to review, along with some snacks and merchandise for the boys so that we could have a bit of a party. It's mainly for families with children aged around 3-7, but my 8 and 9 year olds were happy to watch with me.

Set in the jungle, as the name suggests, this is the story of a group of quite eccentric animals. The main character is a penguin who was raised by a tigress and believes he is The Great Warrior Tiger. She also painted him stripey to fit in.

Monday 22 January 2018

Dr Beckmann's Royal Carpet Art Revealed!

We all know Dr Beckmann make fantastic cleaning products and they've saved me from many near-disasters over the years! The Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover has won Which? Magazine Best Buy for 4 years running and is brilliant at removing all kinds of stains including food, dirt, crayons and make up, yet so simple and easy to use that you don't need to get changed or break into a sweat.

Usually you want to get the entire surface clean, but Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover is almost 100% spillproof and has a unique curved brush applicator, so it's possible to direct it precisely where you want it. This has allowed Britain’s Got Talent contestant Nathan Wyburn to create a unique piece of Carpet Art.

Pop culture portrait artist Nathan specialises in creating art using unusual materials and was commissioned by Dr Beckmann to create a unique portrait of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in celebration of their engagement and upcoming marriage.

Unbelievably Nathan only used 3 bottles of Carpet Stain Remover in total and here is the finished product! He certainly has some unique skill there...

Friday 19 January 2018

The Cosgrove Hall Film Exhibition at Waterside, Sale, Manchester

When we visited Waterside in Sale to watch their Winter show The Bear, we also took time to visit their exhibition space, where they have a Cosgrove Hall Film Exhibition running until February 17th. The exhibit is free to visit and well worth popping in if you are visiting or nearby and have half an hour to spare.

I'm a big fan of Cosgrove Hall and have been lucky enough to work with them a few times over the last couple of years. Based in Greater Manchester, they are the people behind loads of children's TV and movies, and are masters of both illustration and stop-motion animation.

Cosgrove Hall created several of my own childhood favourites, including Chorlton And The Wheelies, Dangermouse, Count Duckula and Jamie & The Magic Torch. Still in the business 40 years on, they have more recently brought us Pip Ahoy!, Bill And Ben, Fetch The Vet, Noddy and Roary The Racing Car among many, many others.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Arokah Ultimate Multi-Puzzle Challenge Review (Age 6+) for Asmodee

My latest review for the Blogger Board Game Club is not a board game, but a brand new puzzle called Arokah. This is a wooden shape-fitting game, based on a set of 23 unique shapes which together form a hexagon. Arokah is one of the most beautiful products I've ever reviewed.

The Arokah box looks really nice, but is actually very flimsy and not ideal for future storage, however this possibly isn't the sort of puzzle you'd re-box any way. More experienced puzzlers, mathematically minded and logical people will have an advantage.

Monday 15 January 2018

41 Months.... #TBCSmiles

The most stressful and full month has passed and now we're all deflated, shattered and left with the tidying up. Over Christmas you're often too busy to sit and pose for photos - which has got to be right, surely. If you've got it in your memory, it existed. You did capture plenty of your smiles though - Christmas, snow and tons of gorgeous pyjamas which put all of our to shame! Most of all, some genuinely happy faces with grinning eyes. I hope your Christmas was an excellent one.

Here are 9 of the brightest smiles shared by people on Instagram over the last month. Anyone can join in, just tag any smile with #TBCSmiles and take a look at the others, it's an amazing collection to warm you from any cold weather.

Sunday 14 January 2018

My 1500th Post.

It's taken me 5 years and 2 weeks to reach 1500 posts, so I guess that means I've averaged 300 posts a year. It would be disingenuous to assume they were all brilliant, so please let me take a moment to apologise for all the drivel and  the posts that were crap. The blurry photos, the videos where I'd put the model together wrong or made up a phrase that made no sense whatsoever. The times I blagged it completely, the Twitter party where the product hadn't even arrived. The times I got the title wrong, or accidentally published a draft post which contained a few swear words and little else. The time Gary the cat wrote and published a post while I was on the school run. It wasn't even his best work.

It's dark, it's cold and everyone is shattered. No-one wants to play. With this in mind, here are a few of my most light-hearted posts. Hopefully something here can bring a smile to your face, whatever the weather outside....

13 Reasons Why Not.

I haven't watched 13 Reasons Why. Maybe I will one day, maybe in 10 months or 10 years. Maybe never. I don't need to find 13 reasons why, I've spent the last 3 1/2 years thinking of thousands of reasons why, Thousands of straws that could have added just too much to the weight carried.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Decide To Leave This Christmas Or In The Period Thereafter. I always felt I had more to say - so you may recognise some of these points, along with some more...

13 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Decide To Leave (even though it's dark and dismal and everyone's shattered and grumpy)...

Thursday 11 January 2018

Home Robotics: Maker-Inspired Projects by Daniel Knox Book Review (8+)

Home Robotics: Maker-Inspired Projects For Building Your Own Robots is written by Daniel Knox and will be released on 18th January. Recommended for younger readers and scientists aged 8+, I actually passed this on to my 20 year old Uni Student Engineer, as it's not only interesting to children. He can help his little brothers make something next Summer...

There are 13 different project robots that you can build at home, split into 3 difficulties - Basic Bots for beginners, Simple Robots for those with a little bit of confidence and understanding and Smart Makes, for when your child is ready to take over the world...

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Marvel Black Panther Gauntlet and FX Mask Review For Hasbro (age 5+)

Black Panther is an upcoming movie release and will be the 18th film in the incredibly popular Marvel Avengers series. We've been sent two of the brand new Hasbro Marvel Black Panther toys for review - the Vibranium Strike Nerf Gauntlet and Vibranium Power FX Mask.

The Vibranium Strike Gauntlet is quite an exciting toy for a Nerf fan like myself, so I played with this first. It comes complete with 3 x Nerf Elite darts and is manually powered, so doesn't need batteries. Packaging is almost entirely string and card, you can undo it, or cheat with scissors.

The Vibranium Strike Gauntlet is designed to look like head of panther and takes a little assembly as it arrives in two parts. You don't need any tools, it just slots together and it's obvious how to do it.

Monday 8 January 2018

AirHogs DR1 Racing Drone with FPV Review (recommended age 10+)

Our latest review for SpinMaster is an updated version of the DR1 Racing Drone, with the addition of the First Person View (FPV) headset and a camera on the drone itself. Really very steady and easily-controlled, it's a great introduction to drones and indeed FPV, although is recommended for age 10+ because obviously drones can be dangerous and need to be used sensibly.

Instantly I was really impressed as the box is awesome. It's a properly sturdy re-usable box that can store your drone, controller, charging cable, spares and headset/goggles for their lifetime.

Friday 5 January 2018

Cortex Challenge Brain Party Game Review (age 8+)

Cortex Challenge is a really fast-paced game for 2-6 players aged around 8+, although my 7 year old is brilliant at it. Card-based, each card is a challenge and it's up to each player to be fastest to spot the correct answer, shout it out and cover the card with their hand.

Everything is packed into a small box, so this is an ideal one for taking out with you or for using on holiday. Only the brain parts are small and have potential to be lost.

Thursday 4 January 2018

Havex Machines Review - Our Christmas Hit! (age 6+)

Havex Machines are an instantly transforming toy which is activated by a micro car. The miniature vehicles drive into the larger model and initiate magnetic release mechanisms. The model then leaps instantly into it's alternative vehicle model.

Havex Machines were a massive hit in our house this Christmas and have been played with far more than anything else. I was sent them a little late to review, so Santa brought them instead. Packaging was Christmas morning-friendly, no batteries and my 7 and 9 year old boys loved them. I'm pretty keen on them myself. They're really sturdy models and work incredibly well.

Tuesday 2 January 2018

Canvas Holidays - Luxury Camping In Berny Riviere Northern France

At BlogOn Conference in 2016 I was ridiculously lucky and won a break with Canvas Holidays. Because we had a teenager in hospital we didn't feel able to take it until last Summer - but it was really worth the wait!

Canvas Holidays have accommodation at over 200 campsites all over Europe, and we chose to stay fairly close to home in Northern France at Camping La Croix Du Vieux Pont at Berny Riviere near Paris. Canvas have got a variety of different lodges and pre-erected tents on site. We decided to go for a longer break and our £1000 budget covered us for an 8 night stay in a 2 bedroom Maxi Tent including return ferry from Dover to Calais.

We are used to tents, and our Maxi Tent was luxury. It was really cleverly designed so that you can have a gate across the kitchen section and the two bedrooms are on opposite sides of the tent, and both very big. The boys slept on 2 single metal camp beds and we had a double, and it was almost as comfortable as our beds at home.