Monday, 22 July 2019

Rain Town by Andy Donaldson Children's Fiction Review (age 9+) Sent by Matador

Rain Town has been sent to me by Matador for review and it made me laugh aloud. It's brilliant. Written in a very modern tone and full of comments and 'Dad jokes', it's actually a light-hearted look at modern life, corporate crime, middle age and redundancy.

The stars of the book are father and son Sidney and Stanley, and their respective friends. Stanley's schoolfriends are Billy and Chloe, and Sidney's initially more reluctant sidekicks are Terry and Billy's Dad, Bobby.

Cover of Rain Town by Andy Donaldson showing night time scene in a town street

Sidney is a struggling single parent to Stanley. He's also The Raven, a nightime crime fighter alter-ego, sometimes described as "the crazy guy in the bin bag". No-one is entirely sure The Raven really exists, except Billy, who met him once and is his greatest fan.

Friday, 19 July 2019

AlphaBriks and Classic Brik Set review (age 4+) Sent by Strictly Briks.

Strictly Briks manufacture building blocks and other elements which are designed to work along with your own collection of building products and give you new and different options during play. We've been sent a couple of products to review. A 156 piece Classic Brik Set and the Strictly Briks AlphaBriks Set, which contains a 10" x 10" green baseplate, 100 letter and symbol tiles plus drawstring storage bag.

Strictly Briks.AlphaBriks and Classic Briks on baseboard spelling strictly briks

Strictly Briks produce elements you won't find from other manufacturers of building blocks, such as tall stacks to create levels, silicone baseplates, trap doors, flexible joining pieces and much more.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Timber Family Friendly Derbyshire Woodland Festival Review 2019 (Review Visit)

We were very honoured to be invited back to Timber Festival for a second time to review this year and it was even better than the last one. A very laid back festival which intertwines arts and nature, and takes place in the woodland in Derbyshire. It's a place I really feel at home...

Collage of scenes from Timber Festival 2019 showing people laughing and having fun

Timber Festival 2019 took place on Friday 5th to Sunday 7th July at Feanedock, near Ashby de la Zouch in the National Forest and it was, to put it bluntly, epic*.

*Except for the bit where I drank 'not enough water', bumped into Stuart Maconie and told him who he was, that I hadn't caught him on stage this year and that he'd just done the Jarrow March - clearly he already knew most of that, so I'll just pretend that never happened...

Photo heavy - click on an image to enlarge it...

Timber Festival 2019 Site Map

We arrived around 6pm, set up camp, collected our wristbands and went into the festival. There's plenty going on, even after 8pm on the Friday. The sunset was amazing, as was the view from the top of the big hill - all across the site and over to where they are still quarrying. You relax immediately...

Timber Festival 2019 review sunset over the site from the top of a big hill

Monday, 15 July 2019

#TBCSmiles July 2019.... 59 months.

This month didn't exactly go as expected for us, in fact the last week has been a bit of a roller-coaster of emotions. We had an excellent 4 days at Timber Festival (as guests and I will get my review live this week), but we came home to find that Gary the cat was not well.

Gary was an internet star from the moment he arrived, and possibly my glowing review helped. He lived his life on the internet and I know a lot of people cared about him. He owed a lot of people a coffee.


Gary was really poorly. He didn't survive the night and died in the early hours - peacefully and not in pain. We all had an extra day off work and school to say goodbye and help bury him. I think it was harder because Gary arrived at a time when we really were feeling the huge gap left by Elspeth. Losing him was like losing another part of her, but it was right I told everyone, and I did so in a blog post eulogy. 

He brought us joy and laughter, love, and someone warm who was always willing to have a cuddle. I admit it, my opinion of cats has changed somewhat. I miss him. He's left a shredded stair carpet, a box of chewed cat toys and a small cat-shaped hole that will never be filled in.


The universe realised we were short of a pet and needed a distraction, so it intervened and sent us another to save. My eldest son saw a magpie fighting a tiny bright green budgie near a park in Withington, stepped in and rescued the little fella.

He might be a full grown bearded adult, but he did what all kids do when they aren't sure what the next move is, he took it to his Mum. That's me. In his pocket, on the tram. I preferred it in a cardboard box (it's a proven rescue animal storage method).

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

A Eulogy To A Cat...

Gary was left outside our house. At first we thought he was a lost kitten, and we printed off big photos and put up posters looking for his owner. No-one rang and we were sad for an imaginary young family of children or elderly lady pining for her cat.


When he arrived, despite the fact I had a strong dislike for cats, Gary was determined he was at the right place. He knew how soft I am really and he knew he could break me down. I think he knew everything. Cats are smarter than we realise.

Thing is, he was really scared of outdoors and he really didn't want to go back out. He stayed with me all day, following me around the house and climbing onto my knee whenever I sat down. His eyes barely left mine and I chatted away to him the same as I did with my toddlers. Sometimes he even replied.


No-one ever came forward to claim Gary - who was named Gary by our youngest "because that's his name". We fed him boring dry food and left the door open for him to leave, but he didn't. He even went to the toilet inside - in the actual toilet (or the bath). It's one of the things I particularly liked about him.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

ColourMyWall Draw On Wall Prints For Doodlers. Sent For Review.

Most parents have at some time discovered their miniature Picasso has decided to do some impromptu home decorating - usually their bedroom wall with the only working permanent marker in the house. ColourMyWall have created a solution to give amateur artists a nice big safe area to doodle and draw without causing any damage.

ColourMyWall Draw On Wall Paper logo and small portion of poster

ColourMyWall create repositionable vinyl stick on wallpaper, which can be drawn on with dry wipe markers to your heart's content and then wiped clean and you can start again. Perfect for doodlers and amateur artists...

Colour my wall review giving idea of size of poster along wall

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

National Geographic STEM Build Your Own Volcano Kit Review (Age 8+) Sent by Bandai

We've all made volcanoes before and they're a real crowd-pleasing, reliable experiment which is easy, safe and dramatic and teaches children a lot. This month Bandai have sent us the Build Your Own Volcano Kit to review and it's hands down my favourite home volcano science kit.

National Geographic Build Your Own Volcano Kit box photo

Inside the box is everything you'll need in generous quantities, and it's all in a cardboard tray which pulls out and can be used as a work surface to keep everything neat. I love the National Geographic STEM Kits for this.

National Geographic build your own Volcano box contents

You are given plaster of Paris and a 3-part mould to create your own volcano. There is masses of plaster and we propped the plastic mould up in the shaping of the box to hold it still while we filled it and it set hard.