Friday 25 May 2018

Summer Half Term Events & Activities For Families In Manchester

The sun has been out, but there's still loads going on this half term if you want to spend some time indoors! Here's a round up of some of what you can find for families in the Manchester area this May/June holiday. If you have anything to add, please drop me an email. We like free or very affordable best of all, so don't forget your local park and library!

Z-Arts, Hulme, Manchester

Z-arts is blasting off with a space-themed half-term 26th May to 3rd June. A free family fun day and a Space Race themed theatre show by Oxford Playhouse provide something for the whole family to enjoy

Thursday 24 May 2018

The Time Travellers Club by Mark Roland Langdale: Young Adult Fiction Book Review

My latest children's book review is more for the older, young adult, age group. The Time Travellers Club by Mark Roland Langdale is published by Matador Press and tells the tale of Benjamin Digby Esq., Time Traveller.

The first thing I have to say about this book is "Wow". The Time Travellers Club is a wild foray into the mind of the author. I honestly have never read a more rambling book in my life. There are 3 times as many similes and asides as there is storyline, and there are so many references that a young reader is going to struggle to understand or recognise even half of them. For me it's full of nostalgia. I actually was one of only 7 people who turned up to see Furniture do a pub gig in Nottingham back in 1989, the last thing I expected would be to see them namechecked in a book in 2018.

Our hero Benjamin Digby wants to travel through time. Not only that, but he also wishes to collect the best scientists and inventors as he goes, creating the most extraordinary Time Travellers Club. If he perfects his time travel machine, he can go wherever he wants.

Wednesday 23 May 2018

All Star Family Fortunes Card Game Review for Ginger Fox Games (age 12+)

We've all seen Family Fortunes on TV, it's been showing since 1990 and has filled all of our evenings at some point. In 2006 All Star Family Fortunes took over and now, thanks to Ginger Fox Games, we can all take part. 3-11 players can try for the spot prizes and the Big Money round, and find out if what 'the survey says' matches your answers. We've been sent a copy to review...

This is a tiny little travel game box, barely bigger than a pack of playing cards, which stores everything you need except a pencil and paper to keep score (or a good memory) and is brilliant for taking on holiday or visiting friends or relatives.

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Frederick Thomas London £100 Voucher Giveaway & £10 Voucher For Every Reader

To celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday 17 the of June, Frederick Thomas London have offered one of my lucky readers a fantastic £100 voucher to spend in their online store. I also have a voucher to spend on my partner, so I've been having a look around their website too.

Frederick Thomas specialise in high quality men's ties, socks, cufflinks and accessories. Even if you don't work in an office, as we head into Summer it's easy to forget you might need something other to wear than Hawaiian shirts and swimshorts. Summer is also Wedding season and the time when a lot of clubs host formal dinners and presentation evenings.

Monday 21 May 2018

Meccano 10 Model Set Motorised Car Review for Spinmaster (age 8+)

Our latest review for Spinmaster is a fantastic Meccano model set - the Motorised Rally Racer Car. This set is from the 10-in-1 range and there are instructions for 10 model vehicles that you can create from just the elements included here, as well as an infinite number of your own creations.

Inside the box is everything you'd expect. The Meccano elements, metal nuts and bolts, instructions and the all-important tiny tools. In 120 years Meccano hasn't really changed in principal, and using small version of genuine tools and fixings is very appealing and long-lived. Batteries are not included, you'll need 3 x AA.

Sunday 20 May 2018

Gangster School by Kate Wiseman Book Review for Zuntold (age 6+)

Out tomorrow 21st May is a brand new children's book from author Kate Wiseman. Released by Zuntold Press, Gangster School is suitable for young readers around 6-8+, full of good humour and friendship, and it's sure to be popular.

We were sent a pre-release copy to review, so we already know all about Blaggards, the very desirable school for future criminals. Less desirable is Crumleys, which is nearby and offers plenty of opportunity for the pupils from both schools to test their skills on each other.

Our heroes are Milly and Charlie, who are just starting out at the school. They are both smart young people and have excellent skills that will make them master criminals, but they both lack a passion for delinquency, preferring fairness and feeling uncomfortable with the behaviour of fellow students and what they are learning in classes.

I Am Not A Number... #MHAW

Back 20 years ago I used to watch re-runs of The Prisoner and when he uttered his catchphrase cry of "I am not a number, I am a free man", we'd grin. I even visited Portmeirion and bought souvenirs with No.6 on and thought it was cool and funny. Now I just think it was pre-emptive and maybe a bit sinister.

It occurs to me that while our population is being impersonalised and reduced to numbers, our mental health is dropping. The more you are one of many, the less you are an individual.

Friday 18 May 2018

Ferocious Friday ~ UNTAMED Raptor Giveaway! (Age 5+)

It's Ferocious Friday and I have a great giveaway to celebrate. The most ferocious of them all - dinosaurs! Okay, he might really only be a tiny bit ferocious, but he's very, very cool and cute. A relative of the incredibly popular Fingerlings, the UNTAMED Raptor responds to your touch and movement, and will even close his eyes and go to sleep - plus he's a dinosaur!

We recently reviewed UNTAMED Raptor and he's great. We were sent Stealth to review, but there are four different characters available, each with their own colour: Blaze (orange), Fury (blue), Stealth (green) and Razor (purple)!

Thursday 17 May 2018

To The Moon And Back Paperplay Book Review And Giveaway For Carlton Books

Carlton Kids children's books are bright, colourful and full of information, and To The Moon And Back is no exception. This is a beautiful book crammed with facts about space and everything in it. What's different is that this a papercraft book and has 25 different cut-out and press-out projects for your child to create.

Susie Brooks' papercraft projects are incredibly varied in type and trickiness, and over the 80 pages there really is something ideal for anyone. All of the pages are designed to pull out easily, without ruining the book.

Summer Holiday: Octagon Theatre Bolton and ON A BUS! 31 May-23 June

In a couple of weeks time we'll be heading off to sunny Bolton Interchange for the start of a very different theatrical performance, when we review Summer Holiday.

Rehearsals are well underway and I think the cast with their pretend bus made of chairs is such a wholesome and grin-inducing image it would have been mean not to share...

Showing from Thu 31 May - Sat 23 June, the audience start at the interchange and then get onto an actual bus for the first part of the performance, before travelling to the Octagon Theatre for the second half of the show. I've been on the East Lancs Railway for their Halloween and Christmas specials, but that's the closest I've ever come to anything like this...

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Pinch 'n' Pass Family Board Game Review for Ginger Fox Games (Age 12+)

Pinch 'n' Pass is a family board game for 3-6 players aged 12+ and we've been sent a copy to review by Ginger Fox Games. Very fast-paced and loads of fun, this is one of those 'tip-of-your-tongue' games that really makes you laugh with frustration at your own inability to answer simple questions under pressure.

Packaged in a sturdy box, you can store it away safely between games. Inside you'll find the board with spinner, press out cardboard 'Head To Head' tokens, counters, 2 packs of (a whopping) 150 cards, game rules and the electronic buzzer/timer. Batteries are already fitted, so this is Christmas morning friendly.

Tuesday 15 May 2018

May #TBCSmiles #MHAW

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and in case you weren't aware, I collect and share smiles because it helps my mental health. My monthly posts started off as a way to update everyone on how we were coping after the sudden loss of one of our teenage children. I began to realise that every smile was a win. It showed we could do it, life could have good bits, it could have joy. I shared the first few smiles I took and eventually The Brick Castle Smiles, or #TBCSmiles was born.

Since then you guys have shared with the community your most precious smiles. Birthdays, weddings, Christenings, anniversaries. You've shown Grandparents meeting brand new relations and baby's first smile. You've shown sports wins and educational achievements, graduations and first days at school. The ones that always make me smile the most are the ordinary moments (that's a different link up). Kids playing in fields with sticks, a toddler discovering the world, the love of a parent looking at their child, however old. A grown up who has forgotten all about the outside world and has let themselves live in the moment.

I'm grateful to everyone who joins in, you fill my month with smiles. I know that some people have reasons for joining in and sometimes smiles are hard-fought, and I know how much that makes them worth. Each and every one is a precious treasure.

I hope you take the time to check the hashtag too, it's worth it - it'll make you smile, I promise. Anyone can join in, and we have a lot of new people this month, so thank you for coming along. All you need to do is tag any photo on Instagram with a smile in it - the bigger the grin, the better.

Here are 9 of the brightest of this month's smiles, which was a fantastic crop. I think we have all enjoyed this glorious weather...

This month's 9 were provided by the following photographers and/or comedians:

We had our own smiles as well. We've been enjoying the sun too - as much as my pasty lot can manage anyway - and we had a lot to smile about, but I really didn't take many photos. I'm storing most of them in my head.

Until next month...

If you find yourself part of TBCSmiles by accident and wish to be removed then please let me know. It's not happened yet, but stranger things have happened...

Monday 14 May 2018

It could be you... #MHAW2018

This post is for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 and carries trigger warnings.

For most of my life Mental Health was something I felt affected other people. Don't get me wrong, I've had my fair share of sobbing into my pillow, not wanting to leave the house, drinking a few too many because it made my reality further away. My life has not been plain sailing, but in general I seemed to skim round all the sinkholes and emerge relatively unscathed.

As a teenager I was a volunteer for MIND, spending my evenings playing pool and smiling yet again at photos of a stranger's family and great times, carried around as precious treasure. A reminder that life can be good, and a reason to carry on. I learned quite quickly about some of the realities of poor mental health.

Stuffed Fables Game Review for Asmodee (age 7+)

Stuffed Fables is a co-operative adventure book game for 2-4 players. It takes you on a journey through a child's dream, in the nightmare-laden world that is The Fall. The book is all-important. It is where you find the story, your guide and your playing board for the amazingly detailed character pieces to play out the scenes from the story. This is also one of the most beautiful games I've ever had the opportunity to play.

There are many components. Everything is packaged in a sturdy box and fits back inside for storage. You know you have something special even before you begin to read the rules. You'll be delighted to know that gameplay doesn't disappoint either - Stuffed Fables is an all-round winner here.

Whacky Shots World Warriors Power Pack Review For Yulu Toys (age 6+)

Whacky Shots World Warriors are collectible rubber toys which are different from most because they come with trading cards, obstacles and targets and they really fly...well, they certainly launch across the room once you get the hang of the power launchers...

Your Whacky Shots Power Pack is packaged in blown plastic with a cardboard backing, which really doesn't do the product justice and you won't have anything to store it in afterwards. There are 8 Whacky Shots included in the pack, as well as 2 Power Launchers, 6 Crash Cones, 1 Net, Instructions and 8 Whacky Shots Trading Cards with bases.

Friday 11 May 2018

Pointless The Mini Game Review for University Games ( Age 12+)

We've all seen Pointless on the TV and thought that we could do better than the contestants. This travel sized mini game allows anyone to prove that you aren't quite as clever as you suspected whilst having a laugh and maybe learning a thing or two!

Inside the tiny 8cm x 15cm box is everything you need. A set of 60 double-sided Question Cards, the Question Card Holder, a pad of answer/score sheets and the rules. You will only need something to write with. The game is suitable for 2-5 players, but is brilliant for teams, so any number can play.

Gameplay is super-easy and if you know the show from TV, you'll understand how to play instantly. Each question was originally put to 100 people, and 5 possible answers listed. The number of people who gave each answer determines the scores for that question, so if 55 people gave Teresa May as an answer to "Name a UK Prime Minister", the score is 55.

The cards are stored in the Question Card Holder, which prevents you from seeing either the back or the bottom half of the card, which is where the results are printed. Play starts with the youngest and all players take part, even the designated reader, all writing down their answers and then saying them in turn. If someone already gave an answer and you have the same written down, you need to choose another option or pass for 100 points. If you think they are wrong, you are allowed to give your own answer.

The results are revealed once all players or teams of players have given an answer. There are 5 possible correct answers and each will have a different score.

Answers which are wrong score 100 points. The aim of the game is to get the lowest score possible each round, and the player with the lowest total after 6 rounds is the winner. You need to try to select the answers that were given by fewest of the 100 surveyed people. Some answers weren't given by anyone, they are pointless. If you find them then you're on a to a win.

Pointless The Mini Game can be played in about 10 minutes, but it often lasts a lot longer because you talk about the answers and it's amazing what you can get wrong. It's loads of fun and full of "Ooooooh" moments. So simple to play, but the age rating of 12+ is right because younger children simply don't have the general knowledge.

Perfect for travel because it's so tiny and playing the game requires very little space. There are no small parts to lose in the grass or sand, and the game requires little time commitment, although you can easily play for hours. Pointless The Mini Game is also an excellent team game and could get quite competitive, although I think it'll always be light-hearted.

Pointless The Mini Game is distributed by University Games and is available now rrp £10.99 from all good games stockists instore and online, including Amazon (affiliate link*). 

I was sent my copy of Pointless The Mini Game for review. *The Amazon link is an affiliate link. In return for me adding this link, if you buy anything after clicking on it, it won't cost you any more, but I will earn a few pennies towards my running costs. 

Thursday 10 May 2018

The Totally Amazing World Atlas Review for Wellbeck Publishing

Carlton Books (now Wellbeck Publishing) make some lovely books for children and The Totally Amazing Fact-Packed Fold-Out Atlas Of The World is no exception. Genuinely full of information and big, bold illustrations, there's enough here to satisfy any young future explorer.

The book starts with a world map showing continents and The World At A Glance. The perfect introduction to our planet, neatly laid out and with text in manageable boxes. The book format is full colour in a large 24cm x 28cm with a really glossy cover and fold-out pages throughout.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Abalone Game Review for Asmodee (age 7+)

Our latest review for Asmodee and the Blogger Board Game Club is Abalone. Devised in 1987 by Michel Lalet and Laurent Lévi, Abalone is a 2-player strategy board game which is incredibly simple and quick to learn, but very difficult to master.

Inside the hexagonal box are the board, instructions and 2 sets of 14 coloured marbles - white and black.

The board is specially shaped with indented holes where the marbles sit, channels for them to move along and a moat around the edge which is the marble equivalent of the pit of doom...

Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh Dinosaurs! with Dommy B Family Ticket Giveaway with Z-Arts, Hulme, Manchester

On Saturday 19th May, poet Dommy B will bring his latest one-man show to Z-Arts in Manchester and I have a family ticket for 4 people, plus a copy of Dommy B's poetry book, to give away to one of my readers!

Dommy B is a spoken word poet and has been on BBC’s Rhyme Rocket. He's also the 2017 Glastonbury Poet In Residence, and has released several poetry books for young independent readers.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh Dinosaurs! takes you on an amazing adventure with a young troll girl. Dinosaurs threaten the safety of her town and it is up to the youngster to defend and protect the inhabitants and their homes.

She teams up with an unlikely band of helpers, including a fire-breathing dragon and a goblin wizard, but can they save the day?

Monday 7 May 2018

BlogOn X - Cake, Wine, Prince Charming and Ant Farms...

Huge high five all round to everyone who came, smiled, laughed and generally had a great time. I think BlogOnX was my favourite one yet, although I didn't get to a single session, missed afternoon break and could sleep for a week. I did make babies giggle, hug people I admire, laugh with many friends and meet loads of the names I have previously only spoken to online. It was a good do.

I took part in the pre-event 'introduce yourself' linky, and although I'm shattered just now, it's been a pleasure to join in with the post-event linky. Please add your posts, it's awesome to see what everyone else thought, especially what you enjoyed and what you took with you.

To kick off, the #PaladoneParty in Heaven - and it lived up to it I thought! Cocktails, games, prizes and excellent company. Cheers to the folk from Paladone for laying it on - and thanks for the win of the infinity light - my lads love it!  It was amazing up there watching day turn to night over Manchester...

Thursday 3 May 2018

The Jungle Book Family Theatre Review at The Lowry, Manchester

Last night we were guests of the The Lowry to review the opening night of The Jungle Book, which will be playing until this Sunday 6th May - so you still have time to book! Presented by the Children’s Touring Partnership and Royal & Derngate, this adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's 1894 classic children's Jungle Book tales was excellent, we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

The performance is a musical, with lots of singing and dancing, including several numbers with a large ensemble cast. The actors also played accompanying instruments, all while climbing around on a huge rotating set. It was loud, bold, but also very funny, with lots of laugh aloud moments for the whole audience. Baloo particularly was the lighter relief, he was very sweet and made my boys laugh and grin all the way through.