Friday 27 September 2019

Christmas is coming: inspiring gift ideas to share with your family

This post is a collaboration to put food on my table, written by Ale Roman. It has some great tips and ideas. I've added some of my own images...

October is almost upon us, and that can only mean one thing… Christmas is just around the corner. Already you might start to see the familiar flashes of red and white on the high street as stores start to show their Christmas wares nice and early for excited consumers that are looking for the best gifts for this beautiful season.

While you may not even be thinking of Christmas just yet, rest assured that it’ll be here before you know it! And with just a little planning, you can ensure that you and your family have an amazing time around the tree, by the fire, at the dinner table and wherever else the festive season takes you.

Whether you’re the kind of early bird that likes to plan well in advance, or whether you just want to start feeling Christmassy to brighten up the gloomy Autumn days, we hope you’ll find some inspiration in our ideas.

Here are some suggestions to help make sure that you get the very best out of Christmas 2019...

Thursday 26 September 2019

What's on This Autumn in Manchester and the NW for Families with Kids of All Ages.

As usual there is loads to do in Manchester and the North West this Autumn - here are just a few events and activities which are suitable for families with children of all ages, possibly even when they're taller than you and have a full beard...

I will add to this post as more comes in. If you have anything you'd like me to add, please email it to me, with a photo! Please don't send me anything which isn't in the North West UK...

Z-access Family Fun Day
Z-arts, Hulme, Manchester

Sunday 13 October - an accessible day of interactivity, including dance, music, and arts activities. This day is designed especially for families where one or more members may have additional accessibility requirements.

Collage of 4 photos from plays listed below

Little Monsters and drag queens – and everything in-between
Z-Arts, Hulme, Greater Manchester

A World Inside A Book: Gruffalos, Dragons and Other Creatures
Until December 2019
Immersive Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler inspired world to explore. 0-8 years old and their families : £6 - £7

Tuesday 24 September 2019

The Board Game Family by Ellie Dix - Book Review (sent by Crown house Publishing).

The Board Game Family: Reclaim Your Children From The Screen is a fantastic 'how-to' for parents wanting to bring their kids back into the living room, away from their phones and back into family life together. Anyone who reads my blog will know that board games are a huge thing here, we play most weekends year round and usually everyone in the house joins in...

The Board Game Family by Ellie Dix - Book cover with bold title and small meeple playing tokens

As soon as I opened The Board Game Family I knew we were on the same wavelength. The writing style is chatty and full of sarcasm and witty quips. It's friendly, accessible and perfect for parents of today's teenagers.

The Board Game Family book chapters contents page

Ellie Dix starts by explaining why you need board games as part of your family life. The benefits of board gaming are massive. Playing games develops confidence, memory, co-ordination, logic skills, problem-solving and decision-making. It teaches you patience, tolerance and an understanding that everyone thinks differently. Ellie also explains how a healthy culture of competition and good gamesmanship can strengthen relationships.

Gaming helps us reconnect with our children. It is quality relaxation time where you aren't all doing the same thing separately or silently, you are working together as a unit, chatting, laughing and socialising. I personally see it as very important time spent, and I know my 10 year old likes absolutely nothing better than playing a game together with his family.

The Board Game Family by Ellie Dix example page layout regarding managing downtime

The examples of games included in the book really caught my excitement. Ellie rates a good few of the games which we really like to play. Carcasonne is my 9 year old's favourite game and a lot of the really good independent games we've reviewed for Asmodee are mentioned in this book. 

There is a great toolkit for getting started, even if you haven't been a game player yourself. Ellie suggests ways to bring games into your family's life, and which games will be a good starting point.

Monday 23 September 2019

Tips On How To Care For Your Vehicle Tyres (Guest Post)

This post is written by Emma Stewart, and I'm sharing it to put some food on my table, but checking your tyres at this time of year is really an essential part of car maintenance and she has some good advice.

Foggy and wet conditions need good grip, and the ice and Wintry weather will be back with us before we know it...

Tips on how to care for your tyres

Whether you are a car driver or not, it always comes in handy to know about the basics of how to care for your tyres because all of us either drive or get driven to one place or another. Keeping your tyres in good condition is extremely important not just for a smooth and comfortable drive but also for the safety of the passengers. Below are mentioned some top tips to keep in mind for maintaining your tyres in spick and span condition:

Saturday 21 September 2019

What Came First? Game Review (Age 10+) Sent by Big Potato Games

What Came First? is a light-hearted game where opponents wager tokens on their ability to correctly identify when things happened. If you are also someone who struggles to remember what you had for tea 2 days ago, believe me, it's trickier than you'd think..

As ever with Big Potato games, it is beautifully presented in a modern looking box which is useful for storage for the lifetime of the game, and you can play instantly. No tricky rules and everything is fairly obvious.

Inside the box are the Game Board, Question Cards and plastic Chips, and cardboard Playing Pieces, Time Tokens and a Starter Token.

What Came First? Game box contents cards board chips

You'll need 2 minutes before first play to press them out and then you're good to go.

Friday 20 September 2019

Zuru Smashers Epic Dino Egg Review (with giveaway) Age 5+Sent by Zuru Toys and Smyths Toy Superstores

The newest release from Zuru Toys is the Smashers Epic Dino Egg. This gigantic surprise-filled dinosaur egg has been flying off the shelves in Smyths Toy Superstores and is bound to be a huge hit this Christmas.

We've teamed up with Smyths and Zuru, who have sent us a Smashers Epic Dino Egg plus some of the regular series 3 Dino Smashers to review - and if you are reading this before midnight Friday 27th September, I'm giving away a £25 Smyths voucher on my Facebook page so that one of my readers can buy their own Zuru Smashers Dino Egg goodies in store (the Epic Dino Egg is currently reduced to £19.99 at Smyths Toy Superstore as I am typing this).

Smashers Epic Dino Egg and two multipacks of Zuru Dino Smashers

Dino are the 3rd series after Sport and Gross. The Smashers Epic Dino Egg is MASSIVE. It really looks an impressive present and the images on the back of the packaging just add to the excitement.

colourful illustration on the Smashers Epic Dino Egg packaging says smash slime fizz dig find build and more

It says it has over 25 surprises inside, which is a huge number and we were keen to see what was included. Not as heavy as you might expect and no giveaway noises coming from inside...

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Crazy Eggz Family Game Review (Age 7+) Sent by Asmodee

Crazy Eggz is an active family game for 2-4 players which involves holding colourful rubber eggs without using your hands. Fast-paced and at times a little contentious, you have to hold up to 5 eggs without dropping them in order to be able to win the game...

Crazy Eggz Family Game Review (Age 7+) Sent by Asmodee for the Blogger Board Game Club

The packaging is excellently designed - a cardboard egg box! Inside are 9 bright orange rubber eggs and 1 heavier blue egg, as well as a red Action Dice, white Body Dice, egg stand and instructions.

Sunday 15 September 2019

September #TBCSmiles 61 Months.

It's time for this month's smiles and I imagine anyone with kids is probably really glad it's the weekend. Back to school is hard work and they'll have been shattered by Friday. We had lots of photos of first day front doors - along with an equal number of scared or excited looking children. I hope that it's going well for them so far.

We also had lots of photos of your Summer holidays, and just about everyone sorry that it was ending. It's only about 3 months until Christmas and Autumn is a really beautiful month, if that helps...

Autumnal evening view from the top of a hill, as the sun sets over a festival scene, with people sitting on the hill below

We did also have World Suicide Prevention Day and I wrote a post especially. The reason I started collecting our smiles was because we lost someone to suicide. Every smile is a win. It reminds us we can still be happy, and that is the reason we carry on. When you boil it down, 'happy' is all that matters. Smiles are free and contagious, and sometimes you have to look out for them, but they are always there...

Huge thank you to everyone who shared their smiles this month - as ever I had about 56 photos picked out for the collage and then forced one of my family members to take responsibility for choosing 9. You can find them all, and add in your own smiles, by using the hashtag #TBCSmiles on Instagram. ANYONE can join in, and we don't even care if it's a bit blurry or the top of your head is chopped off. Just as long as it has a smile...

Saturday 14 September 2019

Capocci's Pop Up Restaurant Review - Manchester Media City

We were invited along to be among the first people to try out the food at Carpocci's. This unique pop-up restaurant opened it's doors to Media City customers in Manchester on Wednesday and will be here until September 22nd, before it moves off around the country.

Capoccis Pop Up Italian Restaurant Review collage of photos of food and staff

I wasn't really sure exactly how a pop up restaurant might work in September in Manchester, but I knew we all like Italian food, and Capocci's promised traditional Italian food full of flavour and a warm family dining experience.

Capocci's Pop Up Restaurant Review warm welcome from staff standing in makeshift doorway between painted oil can tables

My first fear was quashed, Capocci's was very easy to find, right next to the Media City Metrolink. Seating is outdoor, but I my second fear was also quashed - there is a roof and you are actually snugly tucked in, so you really aren't sat in the wind and weather.

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Life goes on.... World Suicide Prevention Day 2019 #WSPD

Today I got up and had a wash, got dressed and made a brew. I checked my two boys were dressed and were at least thinking about having breakfast.
I had the radio on, Radio X with Toby Tarrant because Chris Moyles is on holiday again. It was one of those mornings you end up running up and down stairs loads of times because you've forgotten something, and when you get there you can't remember what it was, so you go back down and instantly remember.
I made the kids sandwiches (we've only got cheese, so no choices today) and packed their lunchboxes into their bags. Then a moment's peace. I sat down for 20 minutes with Facebook, coffee and a slice of toast.
Time for school. We spent a good 5 minutes trying to get everyone out of the door with the correct footwear, coat and bags, and then had to turn back for a forgotten pair of glasses when we were 200 yards up the road. Dropped the kids off, came home, fed the pets.

It was entirely mundane.

Thursday 5 September 2019

So Slime DIY Slimelicious Station Review and UK Giveaway Age 6+ (Sent by Canal Toys)

We recently reviewed the So MAGIC DIY Wonder Magic Garden for Canal Toys and now they've sent us the So Slime DIY Slimelicious Station for review. Suitable for age 6+, this is a scented-slime making kit with enough ingredients and decorations to make 16 little pots of imitation ice cream slime...

So Slime DIY Slimelicious Station box with illustrations of contents in use

Everything is housed in a sturdy box, which can easily be used for storage if you don't make all of your slimes at once. It's an exciting parcel to open.

So Slime DIY Slimelicious Station what is in the box collage of everything

Included in the kit are a lot of parts, which are easy to distinguish:
Slime Station
4 Mini shakers
Scented Slime powder
2 Tools
3 Tubes of colour
6 bags of decorations
3 decorative straws

Wednesday 4 September 2019

Vanilla Underground Review - Merchandise For All The Family (sent for review)

Vanilla Underground call themselves the home of officially licensed merchandise for all the family and to prove it have sent us a big bundle of items - including something for everyone here. Favourite TV, movie, book, music and game characters on pyjamas, t-shirts, stationery, backpacks, lunchboxes and more...

I gave Vanilla Underground a rough idea of what sort of things we like, plus some sizes, and so our package was mainly a surprise parcel. It was a pleasant surprise too - we were delighted! First up, our 9 and 10 year old boys. Minecraft Pyjamas for the pair of them.

Two boys wearing Vanilla Underground licensed minecraft pyjamas

A big hit - I've already washed both pairs twice. No runs, loose threads or shrinkage, I'm pleased with the quality. My 10 year old's pyjamas are quite thick too, ideal for Winter despite the short sleeves. The same goes for the 5 Nights At Freddy's pyjamas in the photo below - great cold weather lounging pyjamas.

Modelling so that you can actually see the pictures on the pyjamas isn't their strong point...

Tuesday 3 September 2019

OKIDO Which Way? Coding Game Review (for age 4-8+) Sent by OKIDO

I really like OKIDO. My boys have enjoyed their magazines for many years and now they are branching out with a range of kits and games. We've been sent the OKIDO Which Way? Coding Board Game to review. Everything OKIDO do brings together creativity with science, making it not only rewarding and fun, but educational and really accessible to all children - whatever their ability or gender.

Which Way? Coding Board Game is a bit young for my own children, so I enlisted help from some of the children who play in my garden all Summer, but they don't appear in the photos or video.

OKIDO Which Way Game Review - Coding for age 4-8  photo of box

I'm really impressed right from the start. This is a game which teaches young children to think 'like a coder' and prepares them for genuine computer programming and use. The design is simple genius, a line-following robot car with a magnetic board and track pieces, which are designed to replicate blocks of computer code.

Monday 2 September 2019

Angry Birds New Toy Range Review (Sent by Jazwares).

This Summer toy manufacturer Jazwares have released a brand new range of Angry Birds toys to tie in with recent Angry Birds 2 movie release, and we've been sent a bundle for review. We've been sent 1 x Feature Plush, 1 x Game Pack and 1 x Catablind (Splat Ball)...

Angry Birds New Toy Range held by my 2 large boys who are sitting on the sofa smiling

Excuse the pyjamas! Summer holidays are for relaxing... and throwing things at the door! I will start with the Splat Ball, or Catablind. We've been sent a green Angry Bird Piggy and he's proven very popular with my youngest.

Angry Birds Toy Review Catablind Splat Ball Piggy on table on top of packaging

I always discourage my children from throwing these at the ceiling, but somehow they always 'accidentally' end up there. At least we are in no doubts that it sticks well!

Sunday 1 September 2019

National Geographic STEM Dig Kits And Ultimate Play Sand Review Age 8+ (Sent by Bandai)

We've really enjoyed being Bandai STEM Ambassadors over the last 6 months, and the final tasks they've sent have been perfect for the Summer holidays. We've been sent National Geographic Gemstone and Shark Tooth Dig Kits and Ultimate Play Sand - a miniature sand pit with 2kg of colourful sand that never dries out and comes complete with 4 mini sand moulds...

Nat Geo STEM Dig Kits And Ultimate Play Sand Review collage of photos from post

The Bandai National Geographic STEM Kits are complete kits for children aged around 8+, and they contain everything you need, including tools. Each kit contains a Learning Guide, which is a short booklet full of images and information about the items you'll discover in the kit. They're brilliant, concise and always teach me something new.

Bandai Dig Kits and Ultimate Everlasting Play Sand Review

The Dig Kits come complete with a double ended excavation tool, small brush, magnifying glass, instructions and a learning guide.

National Geographic Shark Tooth Dig Kit Review wha'ts in the box

Dig Kits are packaged in a cardboard box, with a cardboard tray insert which can be used as a work surface. They keep all of the mess fairly well contained and can be recycled after use. Your fossils and gems are hidden in a decorative plaster block.

National Geographic Gemstone Dig Kit Review what's in the box?

The Gemstone Dig Kit contains 3 real gemstones - Tiger's Eye, Quartz and Amethyst - and they're very pretty. They're also nicely varied, so children can tell instantly which is which. Once excavated you can clean them off by rinsing under water (put the plug in first), and then they catch the light really well. Or, as in our case, you can proudly show off just how carefully you exposed them!

National Geographic Gemstones Dig Kit Review showing stones exposed neatly on underside of plaster block

The Shark Tooth Dig Kit contains 3 real fossilised shark teeth - Crow Shark, Otodus Shark and Sand Tiger. There's a fascination in our house with exceedingly long-lived animal species, so it's particularly interesting to us that although our Sand Tiger Shark tooth might be 100,000,000,000 years old (one hundred million), Sand Tiger Sharks still exist today.

National Geographic Shark Tooth Dig Kit Review collage showing stages of exposing shark teeth and finished cleaned teeth

My boys are 9 1/2 and almost 11, so I've been really pleasantly surprised at the amount of use the Ultimate Play Sand has received. This is a really neat little sandbox kit which works very well to keep everything tidy and safe.

National Geographic Ultimate Play Sand Kit Review Box Contents tightly packed into plastic tray

The tray in the Ultimate Play Sand kit is plastic, but it is also your miniature sandbox, so it's definitely not single-use. Also included are 2lbs of play sand which never dries out, never makes dust and leaves your hands clean, plus 6 clever little sand 'castle' moulds.

National Geographic Ultimate Play Sand castle Moulds in shape of historical buildings

These aren't just any old sandcastle, the moulds are actually 6 historical buildings, something my older boys really latched on to. All week ancient civilisations have been battling it out in my living room...

National Geographic ultimate play sand formed into battle scene like something off Lord Of The Rings or Game Of Thrones

The sand is kinetic sand. Brightly coloured and fascinating to watch trickle out of your hand, it only sticks to the other sand. Very easy to scoop or sweep up and shouldn't ruin your carpet. It's actually quite mesmerising and incredibly relaxing to play with - whatever your age...

National Geographic Ultimate green Play Sand in plastic sandbox tray with castles and pyramid at front

Bandai's National Geographic kits are varied and interesting. They excite children and teach lifelong skills, supporting what your child learns in school. Kits start at around £9.99 each and they are available in toy shops, museums, gift shops and more nationwide. They are brilliant gifts for children aged around 8+.

Fossilised Crow Shark's tooth from National Geographic STEM kit - clean and shiny

You can find out more about the National Geographic STEM kits on the Bandai website, or check out our other reviews: 

collage of 9 Bandai National Geographic STEM Kits reviewed by us as listed above

The Gemstone Dig Kit £6.99rrp, Shark Tooth Dig Kit £12.99rrp and Ultimate Play Sand is available is several different colours, each £11.99rrp. Affiliate links below with latest prices on Amazon Prime...

This month Bandai have offered one of my readers the Gemstone Dig Kit as a prize in a giveaway. Entry is by the Gleam form below and is open to UK entrants only. 

No entries are mandatory, but each action performed earns you extra entries into the random draw. The giveaway will end at midnight Sunday 29th September, full terms and conditions are at the bottom of the Gleam form. For a link to help if Gleam is new to you, or to see my other UK giveaways, see my Giveaways Page...

National Geographic Gemstone Dig Kit Giveaway (age 8+)

We've been sent all of our National Geographic STEM kits for review by BANDAI, as part of our role as BANDAI STEM Ambassadors.