Friday 30 August 2019

Gruffles And The Killer Sheep by Kate Wiseman Young Fiction Review (Sent by Zuntold Publishing)

ZunTold Publishing’s next release is the third instalment in the hilarious Gangster School series by Kate Wiseman, Gruffles And The Killer Sheep, and we've been sent a copy to review as part of the Book Tour to promote release on 2nd September.

Recommended for children aged 6-13, although this book is third in a series, it also works as a standalone story. Characters are introduced gradually and the setting becomes obvious and understandable within the first couple of pages.

Gruffles And The Killer Sheep by Kate Wiseman book cover showing large gold tiyle and scary red eyed sheep drooling, gloomy old castle and 2 children running grinning

Gruffles is the stinky pet dog belonging to Charlie Partridge, a pupil at Blaggard's School For Tomorrow's Tyrants. His best friend is fellow pupil Milly Dillane and neither of them particularly want to beome master criminals. Fortunately they get plenty of chances to hone their skills protecting their school and it's pupils...

Thursday 29 August 2019

Dice Academy Family Game Review (Age 8+) Sent by Asmodee

This month for the Asmodee Blogger Board Game Club we've been sent a great family dice game for 2-6 players. Portable, easy to learn and fun to play, Dice Academy is all about thinking and acting fast, knowledge isn't always an advantage.

Dice Academy Family Game box with title and images of cartoon people shouting random answers

Dice Academy is housed in a very small and sturdy box with a magnetic closure. It arrives shrink-wrapped and inside has a plastic insert to keep your 10 special dice safe between play, but everything is kept neat and small. The only game components are the dice, which are all different.

Dice Academy Family Game box contents 10 differently coloured and decorated dice and instruction leaflet

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Ellen Lives On by Lynda Haddock Young Adult Fiction Review (Sent by Matador).

Ellen Lives On is a young adult novel by Lynda Haddock which opens with the loss of a parent to suicide. This is a positive and empowering book, which offers real support to young people in the same situation, but obviously it has darker moments and for some readers it may be a hard read at first.

Ellen is 15 and returns home from school to find her front door blocked and no response from her mother inside. She calls on her neighbours for help, they ring the police, and her life stops. Just like that.

Ellen Lives On by Lynda Haddock Book Cover shows a young woman's face close up, she has a small smile

Instantly reading this book, it's obvious the author Lynda Haddock understands. She explains very well the confusion and dream-like state you enter. The way you are no longer in control and life happens to you. Everything you expected is turned on it's head and the plans you had made for years just don't count any more.

The police are in charge of your home, social workers and other people you barely know direct you. Strangers know who you are and express their sympathy for you in the street. And when you are told it'll never be the same again, it really won't.

Jibbergiggle Family Game Review Age 8+ (Sent by Gamely Games)

Jibbergiggle is a great little card-based 3-8 player family game for anyone aged 8+, which is far more fun than you might at first realise. Take a Jibbergiggle Sound Card and a Scenario Card, and try to get the other players to guess your scenario - but the only noises you can make are the nonsense words on your Sound Card....

Jibbergiggle Family Game pack shot of box

Suitable for 3-8 players, Jibbergiggle is packaged beautifully in a sturdy cardboard box and is only a little bigger than a pack of cards, so it's ideal to take out with you on holiday, travelling or visiting.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Just So Festival Review 2019 (Guests to review).

We love Just So Festival and my 9 and 10 year old boys were delighted when we were asked back again this year to review. We are big supporters of the team behind Just So, Wild Rumpus, who bring together nature and the arts to give families unique experiences they'll remember forever.

Collage of photos from JUst So Festival Review 2019

Just So Festival's 10th Anniversary took place in the usual Cheshire woodland location of Rode Hall and created a real festival to remember forever, and one for your CV if you work in events management!!

Just So Festival Friday night scene showing parked cars, tents and rain puddles

I've been to many, many festivals over the years and for the last 25 I've had children with me. It's really easy for it all to go wrong when the rain hits, and it hit Just So really hard. One month's rain in one day, as 5000 people arrive and attempt to start their festival weekend. It's the stuff of nightmares for any event organiser. They did fantastically.

The staff and volunteers gave everyone just enough leeway, and the festival attendees had enough common sense, to make it work safely for as many people as possible. I'm truly sorry to anyone who didn't make it in the end. For most of us at least, the festival went ahead virtually as planned.

It was a festival of the arts and the outdoors, and nature was determined to reassert the fact she is bigger than all of us.

Saturday 24 August 2019

Blackburn's #Brickburn PAW Patrol Brick Trail - until 1st September! (Ad)

Until 1st September Blackburn has changed it's name to Brickburn, as the world's first PAW Patrol brick trail has arrived and there are brick-built characters dotted throughout the town centre,

These incredible brick models of characters and buildings from the hit Nick Jr TV show is brought and presented to you by BRICKLIVE. The pups are big and range in size from 75cm to 120cm high. There is also a 2m tall Lookout Tower, a head in the hole wall and a Marshall’s Fire Truck selfie-zone. Each of the 21 models has it's own fun facts sheet, and if you scan the QR codes you get an extra treat.

Collage showing some of the PAW Patrol models Marshall Everest Rumble Fire Truck

Closest parking is multi-storey on Church Street, but we found tons of car parks right in the centre of Blackburn Brickburn and prices were very fair at £3.70 for 4 hours. We used to visit often for the ice skating and swimming pool, but haven't really been into town before, so being able to park across the road was a nice surprise!

Friday 23 August 2019

Gangsta Granny Board Game Review and Giveaway (Age 7+) Sent by Paul Lamond Games

Our latest game review has been sent to us by Paul Lamond Games, and it's a very easy to play board game for 2-4 players, where you have to collect stolen treasure and get it safely stashed without being caught!

If you have young readers then the chances are you've heard of Gangsta Granny, the children's book by comedian and author David Walliams. The story features a young lad, Ben, whose Granny cares for him when his parents are busy. He thinks she's quite boring until he discovers she's secretly a jewel thief, and joins her on her next escapade...

Gangsta Granny Stash The Swag Board in gorgeous embossed tin

Gangsta Granny Stash The Swag Board Game is packaged in a brilliant decorated tin. I love it and I have to say I was quite let down when I opened it.  It would have been excellent marks for usefulness and being Earth-friendly if it hadn't included a big plastic insert. Definitely Christmas morning-friendly though, instant open and play, no batteries or anything else required.

Gangsta Granny Stash The Swag Board Game box contents counters rules board

National Geographic Recycled Plastic Reversible Bedding Review (Sent by Dreamtex)

I worked with Dreamtex earlier this year because they sent my boys some awesome ISA NASA and Fallout Game bedding. I love their quality, bright colours and really modern, attractive prints.

They have impressed me even more now with their collaboration with National Geographic to produce bedding made from cotton and recycled plastic bottles - up to 12 in each set!

National Geographic Recycled Plastic Bedding in packaging. Two single bed sets dinosaur and oceans

I wasn't under any obligation to post anything here, but I love this bedding so much that it seems criminal not to give you a closer look. Our world is full of waste plastic and it's time we sorted out just what we are going to do with it. Recycling is so much better than almost any current alternative.

Close up view of 50% recycled plastic polycotton fabric

So what is it like? Is recycled plastic bedding different to regular pillowcases and duvet covers? No. It feels just the same. It's still 50% cotton and 50% polyster, or poly/cotton as you may know it. The only difference is that this is 50% manufactured from waste plastic bottles.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Q-Scout Programmable Metal Robot Review (age 6+) Sent by Robobloq

Robots are amazing tools that can teach your children a range of skills. The Q-Scout from Robobloq is a metal 65 piece remote control robot which you build yourself and programme using your phone or tablet. It can line follow, obstacle avoid and play music, and with 2 levels of coding built on open source Arduino, it should have the longevity to keep your child's interest for several years.

Robobloq have sent us the basic Q-Scout set to review...

Q-Scout Programmable Metal Robot packaging. Cubed box with images and text

The packaging is a nice sturdy box and easy to open with a lovely magnetic closure. Everything is neatly packaged in 3 layers and it's a gorgeous set to unveil.

Q-Scout by Robobloq has excellent packaging embossed storage box with magnietic closure

Monday 19 August 2019

Rubik's Summer Scrambles Puzzles Giveaway

We've just taken a good look at the new releases from Rubik's for Summer 2019 and John Adams have kindly offered one of my readers 2 of the new puzzles for themselves. One winner will win a Rubik's Edge and a Rubik's Cage, together worth well over £25.

Rubik's Edge and Rubik's Cage in box

Rubik's Summer Scrambles Games Review (Age 8+) Sent by John Adams

This Summer Rubik's have a whole new 'Summer Scrambles' assortment of toys, games and fidgets to play with and they've sent us a big bundle to look at. Rubik's are small, portable toys which are great for taking away with you on holiday or visiting relatives, and they are perfect for entertaining your children on long journeys.

Grouping of all 6 items in the Rubiks Summer Scramble new releases

We've been sent Rubik’s Cage, Rubik’s Edge, Rubik’s Orbit, Rubik’s Block, Rubik’s Match and Rubik’s 3x3. The variety is massive and we are long-time fans of Rubik's Cube here, my partner can even complete one in 26 moves (or something), so he was one of the first to want to dip into this lot.

Rubik's Classic Original 3x3 Cube boxed

Rubik’s 3x3 - the classic cube that we all know. So much better than cheap imitations, and I have actually managed to complete it a couple of times, but don't ask me to do it unless you've got about 4 hours while I figure it out.

The classic Original Rubik's Cube Puzzle completed

I've got a little room for improvement, the current record (held by Yusheng Du) stands at 3.47 seconds *gulp*. RRP £10 - there is also an environmentally packaged version which is cheaper - nice one Rubik's.

Friday 16 August 2019

60 Months... #TBCSmiles

The smiles are a day late this month, as they have been before in August, but that doesn't make them any less beautiful. Sorry if I confused anyone with the delay.

5 years ago we lost one of our children, and that is why #TBCSmiles began. I started collecting my family's smiles to remind me we can do this, and being happy is what it's all about in the end, so making smiles is exactly why we keep going.

Elspeth's Field oil painting

A HUGE thank you to everyone of you who shares your smiles with us, they are contagious and wonderful, and really do brighten up my day. Anyone can join in - just use the hashtag #TBCSmiles on a smile on any photo on Instagram!

For the next month if you happen to have a sunflower in your photo, I'm working with Sudocrem and you can enter my giveaway for a sunflower t-shirt if you take a photo of someone with a sunflower, and one person will win a mural for their school. I'm not suggesting cheating, but we won't be asking for proof that it's actually your sunflower - a big grin and a golden flower will be enough...

Thursday 15 August 2019

5 Years, 60 Months, 1825 Days...

5 years ago today we woke up to find one of our children had died. I've never gone to bed without checking on everyone in my house since. Each night I tell them I love them, and I'll see them in the morning. They have to answer. They have to repeat it back to me. I have to know that they intend to still be there.

Everyone who loses someone they love to suicide is a survivor. When you lose them you need to know why? But to understand why is the worst that could ever happen, so you can't ever understand exactly why. That door has to stay shut. Forever. Your job is to let those questions go, and carry on.

In the beginning everything seems so hopeless, pointless.  To keep going is the bravest and hardest thing you'll ever do, and 5 years on, I am so proud of my family for fighting through everything.

Beautiful bright image of a field of sunflowers in front of a lively moving sky

We have three big grown up kids at uni, something I'm incredibly proud to tell anyone, but whenever I say it, I know there should be four. I know that if she had done a 3 year course, Elspeth would be graduating now, alongside her school friends (well done to all of you who graduated this year - I hope you have something awesome to do next).

Two of our big kids have "moved out". Gone to live in the world of bills and private landlords. One of them has moved in with his boyfriend, and genuinely it makes my heart glow to see them together. Always though, you wish Elspeth could have met him and given her seal of approval - probably by taking the p1ss.

She's never truly gone, she's always there in your head. We all feel it, everything we do is tinged by a heavy atmosphere that we have to claw through to stay in the moment. The unsaid.

In some ways it still feels like this isn't a reality, that I could still wake up and find out I dreamt it. Life happens 'to us' much more now, we have less control over where we are going. I really don't have a good chronology of the last 5 years, just a jumbled mess of memories. It's like my brain tried to hold on to the important stuff, but it wasn't quite sure what that was.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

20 Second Showdown Party Game Review Age 10+ (Sent by Big Potato Games).

We really are huge fans of Big Potato Games and it's rare we find any of their games we don't like. I wasn't sure if 20 Second Showdown would be my thing, but they sent us a copy for review and it is brilliant! Active, but not too active. Silly, but not too silly. Fiercely competitive and frantic at times? Ohhh yes...

20 Second Showdown Game Review box photo

We were sent a whole box of treats and goodies to make an evening of it and 20 Second Showdown is suitable for 5 players or more, so we even invited a friend over for the first play through. As with all Big Potato Games, the rules are simple to understand, but it's once you start playing that you can really get into the swing of it.

Monday 12 August 2019

Share Your Sunflowers And Win A Mural For Your School (Paid Partnership With Sudocrem)

In the late Summer a lot of people already share sunflower photos with us, and they are all absolutely beautiful to see, especially as our garden is pretty much a peat bog and we can't grow our own (we've tried many, many times). This year, for anyone who wishes, you can share a photo of your child(ren) with a sunflower and have a chance to win a professional mural for their school or nursery - and I have a couple of gorgeous specially printed sunflower t-shirts to give away too.

We don't have many sunflowers growing nearby unfortunately, but we do at least have plenty of trees - and my 10 year old, who is just about as tall as me now and definitely growing...

Photo of 10 year old boy in front of huge oak tree with sunflower t-shirt

Hopefully you have grown your own sunflowers this Summer. They're easy to grow from their exciting black and white seed, and almost all UK gardens can easily grow a 5ft beauty. There really is no better flower for children because the end result is so useful and impressive, and maybe even taller than they are.

Solitary sunflower in front of setting sun in large field
Thank you to Sim for this sunflower

Saturday 10 August 2019

Billy Stink's Incredible Circus Children's Book Review (Age 7+) Sent by Book Guild Publishing

Billy Stink's Incredible Circus is a recent release from Book Guild Publishing, who sent us a copy for review. Written by Rik Arron, this is a very special book as the entire text is a poem, but it's still a full length short story, with some great little illustrations by Nicola Anderson.

And it's really very good...

Billy Stink's Incredible Circus Children's Book cover with circus big top and bright loud illustration

Billy Stink runs a circus and one day a young boy, Titch, turns up. Titch has run away and the circus people have no way to find Titch's home and family, and he won't tell them anything, so they welcome him into their extended family and let him earn his keep working for the circus.

Thursday 8 August 2019

Pandemic Family Board Game Review (Age 10+) Sent by Asmodee

This month Asmodee have sent us Pandemic Board Game to review for the Blogger Boardgame Club. Although I didn't own a copy, I have played Pandemic in the past, so before we even opened the box we knew we'd have a good evening.

Pandemic Board Game boix cover showing mysterious figures in outfits - workman doctor soldier medic businessman

Matt Lacock's multi award-winning game Pandemic was first released by Z-Man Games in 2007 and is so popular that it's spawned a host of different editions. The aim of the game is simple, prevent plague from infecting all of humanity and ultimately save our species from extinction...

Pandemic Game Review box contents Game board bags of items rulebook

Tuesday 6 August 2019

X-Gen VR Virtual Reality Centre Review, Stockport. (Guests to review)

X-Gen VR is a brand new Virtual Reality Centre which has opened in Stockport and excitingly they invited us down to have a look and a play on all of their new VR systems and games machines. We are all gamers, so it was a unanimous yes.

Unlike a lot of opportunities to play with VR, X-Gen VR allow children to join in from age 7, and have hundreds of available games, including absolutely masses which are age and ability-appropriate for any user. You can shoot aliens, race bikes, ride rollercoasters or take a canal trip to Amsterdam!

collage of photos from X-Gen VR Virtual Reality Centre Review

X-Gen VR is easy to find, at one of the entrances to the Merseyway Shopping Centre, opposite the WarHammer Game Shop. There is lots of parking nearby (the Merseyway Centre's own parking has a 6ft1in limit). Our GPS tried to send us in via the main entrance of the shopping centre - this one was much closer...

How to find X Gen VR in stockport

Monday 5 August 2019

Wonder Park (PG) Family Movie Review and DVD Giveaway (Sent by Paramount)

Wonder Park is a sweet feel-good family movie which has a couple of slightly more serious moments. Paramount Home Media Distribution sent us a copy to review, as well as some Wonder Park goodies, and we all really enjoyed it! Out today on Download & Keep, and on Blu-ray and DVD from 19th August, it's a great film to fill a rainy Summer afternoon.
Wonder Park (PG) Family Movie Review and DVD Giveaway pack shot with lots of smiling animated animals

Wonder Park has a great cast including Jennifer Garner, Mila Kunis and Ken Jeong, and centres on a young girl named June, who has created an amazing amusement park with her mother. They imagine and draw all of the rides and attractions, fill the park with animal characters who have fun all day, and it's a very happy place to be.

When June's Mum becomes ill, June loses her happiness, and she turns her back on the Wonder Park. Unknown to her, it can't function without her and it quickly falls into disrepair, and is overtaken by Chimpanzombies. When she returns she finds it broken and the characters desperately unhappy. June feels the weight of responsibility and realises it's up to her to cheer the whole park up in time to save it, and in the process, she also finds her own joy...

Friday 2 August 2019

National Geographic Mini Dig Kits STEM Toy Review Age 8+ (Sent by Bandai)

This month Bandai have sent us three of the Mini Dig Kits from National Geographic for review. Smaller than the standard Dig Kits, each contains one genuine specimen which your child can dig out using the tool included.

National Geographic Mini Dig Kits in boxes Dino Poop Treasure and Shark Tooth

The Mini Dig Kits are hard plastic-wrapped, so not very eco-friendly. With scissors they're much more easily opened, but can have sharp edges, so watch your fingers. Inside is your specimen and a digging tool, as well as a leaflet with information.

National Geographic Mini Dig Kits packaging plastic and sharp

I may not be so keen on the packaging, but I love the contents and so do children. Dig Kits offer a surprise reward - you don't know what you'll end up with exactly, and no two end results are the same.

Stars of Paradise By Mary Obozua Children's Book Review Age 6-9+ (Sent by Hashtag Press).

Stars of Paradise is the first book in The Wonderful Life of Daisy & Ewe (The WLDE) series by Mary Obozua and I've been sent a copy for review by publisher Hashtag Press. Previously better known for her designer shoes and brand Mary Smith, she promises the series to bring girl power, a multicultural cast, mystery and fun packed adventures.

Stars Of Paradise is recommended for young independent readers aged around 6-9 and stars two schoolfriends, Daisy and Ewe.

Stars of Paradise By Mary Obozua Children's Book cover with softly coloured stars and clouds and feathers

Daisy and Ewe are quite girly girls. They're a bit pink and fluffy, but they are also incredibly intelligent and fantastic gadget-makers. These are the sort of heroes I like best. They remind me of my own childhood hero, and really do prove that you should never judge anyone by how they look.