Monday 30 April 2018

The Nokka by K.K.Nikolaou Children's Book Review (age 7+)

The Nokka is an excellent read which whisks you away to the land of the fairies. It does it very cleverly too, as it's very modern and easy to read, but has a classic feel and really could be set at any time...and in any woods...

The Nokka tells the tale of Jenifer and Jory, two youngsters living in Cornwall. Their names annoyed me, partly because of the spelling I'll admit, but I soon got over it as they are both intelligent and likeable youngsters. They have just enough bravery to get through the story, while still showing their own weaknesses. Jenifer's 8 year old brother Tristan features heavily too, and even he is a nice lad who you wish no harm to.

Jory's father went missing many years ago, so he lives with his mother, while Jenifer and Tristan live with their parents and Grandmother. Jenifer's late Grandfather told wonderful tales about little people living in the woods, and claimed to have even rescued one which had become caught in a snare. The little man dropped his bag, which Jenifer's Grandmother still has, and it contains 2 special stones and a riddle.

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Timber!!!!!! A brand new family festival in the woods 6th-8th July 2018

Wild Rumpus are brilliant at bringing a bit of magic to our lives and this year they are launching a brand new festival for families in the heart of the country. Feanedock in the National Forest, just south of Burton-On-Trent (and very close to where I grew up) will play host to Timber: The International Forest Festival. Running from 6-8th July 2018 it promises adventure for everyone...

We've been invited to review and I couldn't possibly pass up the opportunity. My young boys, just like their siblings, can create a day's worth of amazing pure fun given only a bit of woodland and some freedom to explore and imagine. It should be a weekend off for everyone...

Unlike other festivals, Timber is about music and art, but also philosophy and sustainability. It will be carbon neutral and powered by 100% renewable energy. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about their environment as well as play in it, joining discussions and workshops with thinkers and scientists.

Monday 23 April 2018

Classic BRIO Labyrinth Review - Wooden Ball Game For Age 6+

BRIO aren't a company I thought I'd work with again now that my children are bigger, yet they're one of my favourites, so I'm delighted to bring you this review of their classic Labyrinth Wooden Ball Game. Wooden toy manufacturers since 1884, this Swedish company make toys that last, educate and allow children to practise the developmental skills they'll use their whole lives.

Labyrinth was first introduced in 1946 and over 3 million have been sold. It arrives in a simple cardboard box, with the only plastic packaging being around the balls. It's protected inside, which is a good job as my postal service weren't careful at all. Inside there are the box-shaped maze and 2 small metal balls.

Saturday 21 April 2018

The Jungle Book At The Lowry Theatre Ticket Giveaway

Next month the Children’s Touring Partnership and Royal & Derngate will be bringing their adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's 1894 classic children's tale The Jungle Book to The Lowry Theatre in Manchester. The performance will be showing from Wednesday 2nd until Sunday 6th May.

We'll be attending the press night for review and I'm really excited. Even better, I have a family ticket to give away to one of my readers at the end of this post.

i-SPY books review for Collins & Michelin - the classic children's boredom buster

i-SPY books have been around for a long time. I remember diligently filling in my copy of i-SPY Butterflies as a child, although I mainly used it for reference as these fact-filled pocket-sized books have big, clear illustrations and concise descriptions. They also have a completist, competitive aspect as you try to tick off as many of the objects or animals as you can, score 1000 points and become a Super-Spotter, earning a badge and certificate.

We've been sent a bundle of 4 of the new i-SPY books  to review - At The Shops, Garden Birds, In The City and with plenty of nostalgia for me, Butterflies And Moths. They're very much the same as they were 40 years ago, with a wealth of information packed into a tiny book.

Friday 20 April 2018

How To Speak Emoji, Cat & Dog Children's Books Review for National Geographic Kids

National Geographic and their younger publications from Nat Geo Kids are renowned for being reliable, sensible and educational, and their series of How To Speak books really does back that up. How To Speak Emoji, How To Speak Dog and How To Speak Cat are fabulous books which have really taken me by surprise and captured the attention of everyone here.

We've been sent all 3 of the books to review and I didn't realise just what gems they were going to be. These aren't simply lists with definitions, they're full of facts and really fascinating.

Thursday 19 April 2018

Pal App. review - Find the people you need to fill your life.

The people behind Pal have asked me to take a look and write about their app. Pal is a free app which enables you to meet people, make new friends and join in with or create activities and events. A tool for locating like-minded people within your local area, it can be useful to anyone.

Pal isn't like other apps for meeting people. You can use Pal to find new friends, discover what's happening near to you, gather teammates or exercise partners, fill your coffee morning with new faces, the list really is endless.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Facing The Consequences Of Getting Older...

So the other day I was walking along the street and I saw an older man who I often say 'hello' to. We've never really ever commented on any more than the weather and then carried on our way. Unusually, he stopped, grinned, put his hand on my shoulder and said "He'll let you know when your time is up. He'll tap you on the shoulder and tell you to 'come on'. He won't forget you". Then he grinned and said "when it's your time".

I didn't really have an answer, you wouldn't really would you? I said something like "sure. He will" smiled and carried on. I was a bit rattled because it was a weird thing to happen, but it was even more weird because there was no way he could have known I was on my way home from the Doctor, where I'd just been given a series of unfavourable test results. I was already contemplating my own mortality, but I at least took it as a positive. Apparently my time is not up just yet.

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Star Wars Mighty Muggs Review for Hasbro (age 6+)

Star Wars Mighty Muggs are not something we knew existed before we were sent a couple to review, but I'm glad we found them. Heavy little plastic figures who have overly-large heads which switch facial expression, and in fact their entire face, when you press down on their heads.

We've been sent Finn and Chewie Star Wars Mighty Muggs and there were no shortages of offers from my family to take them off my hands. You can see why though. These might be toys, but they are very cool toys that will look just as good on a collectors shelf as a young child's desk.

Monday 16 April 2018

Potty Training - The Little Budgie way... Children's Book Review

Little Budgie is the star of the first children's book by journalist and ex-teacher Simon Harris. While going through the joys of potty training with his son, he created the Budgie family and found it really helped encourage his little boy, so he turned his tale into a book.

Little Budgie's Done A Fudgie is colour 30 page story book with a soft wipe-clean cover. It does give away the ending in it's own title, but that doesn't spoil the tale, or the message of the book. Written in simple rhyme and with full page illustrations throughout, the storyline is not War And Peace, but it has the same level of anticipation and a little more success.

Little Budgie wants to throw away the nappies and move on to pants - he has a setback or two, but nothing too major and by the end of the book he's ready for the toilet itself. It'll be very familiar to anyone with children over the age of 3. I have never in my life previously referred to a poo as a 'fudgie', but I admit I laughed at the title. The more I thought about this book, the more I realised it actually captures the real spirit of toilet training and the advice I would always give any parent - keep it light-hearted.

Sunday 15 April 2018

#TBCSmiles 44 Months.

This last month feels like a disruptive one all around. We've had Easter and seemingly the longest break (my own children are not yet back at school) and we went from snow to glorious sunshine as Spring arrived with a thump after very late frosts.

The blogging world saw two families lose a member this week, so right now my social media world is a quiet and reflective one, and we are all counting our blessings and hugging our family a little tighter. My best wishes and more importantly strength to anyone who has lost someone precious.

I have personal reasons to be reflective, after sneezing myself a hernia last month and some blood tests revealing that my physical health all round didn't fare well with the last 5 years of stress and aging. I'm now taking masses of iron to try and bring that back to a more normal level - and it's working because already I'm noticing my breathing is a bit better and I'm less tired. I'm having more tests on other bits and pieces, nothing too serious, but it's time to look after myself a bit better now. As a Mum you dedicate your entire life to looking after your family, it can be hard to turn that focus on yourself. I have obviously failed at it.

One thing I haven't failed at is making my family smile, and we've had absolutely tons this month - as have you guys! I'll start with our smiles and a proper good old-fashioned day off in Blackpool, an 8th birthday, belated world book day and a long 2 weeks off school, college and uni have helped make some excellent memories...

Wednesday 11 April 2018

Shaperise, BrainBox & Re,Cycle,Me Reviews - The Green Board Game Company

The Green Board Game Company make inclusive games that you can play together, whatever your ability or age. They encourage brain power and build skills such as memory and vocabulary, but don't ask for hours of commitment and concentration. Most of all though, they're fun.

Green Board Games sent us 3 of their most popular games to review: Visual-memory game Shaperise, one of the original BrainBox games - BrainBox Roald Dahl and the very different and creative Re,Cycle,Me.

The first game we tried was Shaperise, rrp £15. This was the winning game in the Young Games Inventor Of The Year Competition 2016 and was designed by 11 year old Sebastian Fleming-Smith. Suitable for age 8+ and 2 players, younger children can join in non-competitively and it's great for hand-eye co-ordination, concentration and even learning colours.

Everything comes in a neat cardboard box which can be used for storage afterwards. There are 40 coloured blocks, a timer, instructions and 60 different Shaperise Cards. The cards are in 3 levels of difficulty and each show a design that you have to copy using the blocks.

Monday 9 April 2018

Beyblade Burst Evolution Star Storm Battle Set Review for Hasbro (8+)

The Beyblade Burst Evolution Star Storm Battle Set is a heck of a mouthful to say, but it deserves the title as this star shaped Beystadium battle arena is definitely quite special. Also included are 2 Beyblade Burst SwitchStrike launchers and 2 Beyblade Burst SwitchStrike tops.

Packaging is brilliant. A no-frills cardboard box and very little plastic. Earth and Christmas-morning friendly. Not bedroom-friendly in the same way as the as the Epic Rivals Beystadium, because it doesn't fit back in the box once assembled.

Saturday 7 April 2018

BlogOnX Introduce Yourself Linky

It's only a month until BlogOnX - the 10th BlogOn Conference. I'm delighted to still be part of the team helping make it happen, and it looks like being a really special event with some fantastic sessions on everything from photo backdrops to GDPR compliance for bloggers, loads of on-the-day prizes from brands, and of course, the infamous goodie bags...

Traditionally we have a 'get to know you', so here are my answers to the BlogOnX Introduce Yourself Linky...

1. Share a recent photo of yourself.

I'm holding a pot of keyrings I won on the 2p machines - I am easily pleased.
PS. I do love Foo - Dave Grohl is genius.
For once and probably only once a genuine recent photo of me, taken on Tuesday on our day out in Blackpool. I'm so proud my partner actually took this photo - for once I have proof I left the house...

Treads Boys School Shoes Review: 1 Year Guarantee Against Destruction

When I spotted Treads school shoes have a '1 year Guarantee Against Destruction', I had to question if it was real. It is, and they're confident that their specially designed moulded soles and reinforced shoes can withstand all the punishment your little angels can put them through.

Treads asked if I wanted to review, and as my youngest is on his 3rd pair of shoes already this school year, I was utterly delighted to put them to the challenge. Obviously this post is our initial reaction, but I will revisit our shoes once my children grow out of them to see how well they did!

Friday 6 April 2018

Coral Island Blackpool Family Attraction And Restaurant Review

We might love books and theatre and kitchen science, but we also love a good traditional day off. Last Tuesday we had an awesome stress-free fun day off in Blackpool courtesy of Coral Island. Right by the pier, the tower and the best parking spots behind SeaLife, Coral Island is Blackpool's largest indoor free-admission family-friendly attraction.

I had no idea just how much Coral Island had to offer until this week, but the claw prize machines are just the start. They have a huge selection of arcade machines from brand new through to those which bring back memories from my SEGA days, 3 rides and 4 restaurants with freshly cooked food and staff who really care about their guests. We spent almost 6 hours there - by sheer fluke getting back to the van 3 minutes before the parking ran out!

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Friends For All Family Theatre Review at Z-Arts, Manchester

A couple of weeks ago we were guests of Z-arts and Half Moon to watch the interactive spoken word play Friends For All. Suitable for children aged around 5-11, it was a really excellent performance with a clear aim to empower youngsters and help them realise they are already special, and they already have the ability to create change. I think we all took something away from it.

I visited with my partner and 8 and 9 year old boys. We love Z-Arts because it's so warm and welcoming, and you feel like you are back with friends. The cafe is excellent and on this visit had children's milkshake cartons for something fabulous like 25p! You can't ask for more than that.

The stage set was sparse, with the only scenery several white rectangular blocks. Once the performance started they became populated with the projected characters from the story. The lighting and projection were virtually spot on, timed to perfection. It was really well executed, with the supporting cast remaining almost still except for subtle movements - just enough to remind you they were there.