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Friday, 27 February 2015

Mother's Day Gifts from Artistry - Indigo Skies Colour Collection Make-Up

If you are looking for a gift for your mum this Mother's Day, cosmetics can be a good choice.  I'd definitely enjoy receiving some lovely new make-up, especially as some of the things in my make-up bag are older than my children!  The huge range of beauty brands available means there are lots of choices to suit every taste and budget.  

For great quality products,  Artistry, which is one of the world's top five skincare brands, offers beauty products created to push the boundaries, using beneficial ingredients and advanced technologies. New from Artistry comes the Indigo Skies Colour Collection of cosmetics, designed by makeup artist Rick DiCecca. The limited edition Indigo Skies Colour Collection is inspired by the springtime, in a soft colour palette ranging from pale blues to rich indigos to shimmering beiges.

Artistry Indigo Skies Colour Collection


Featuring seven products including the Indigo Skies Eye Crayon Trio (£43.05), Signature Eyes Volume Mascara (£23.80) and Signature Colour lipsticks or Sheer Finish lipsticks (£19.95) the Indigo Skies Colour Collection will give women the freedom to create a bespoke seasonal look.  I was sent the eye crayons and a lipstick to review.

The Eye Crayons can be used as both eyeshadows and liners to shade, define and highlight the eyes. The crayons are sleek and black with a twist up function. They have a long-lasting, lightweight formula and glide on smoothly, drying to a smooth, powdery finish. The three shades are Indigo, Sky Blue and Desert Sand.  The brighter crayons can be used as accent colours for a bold look, whereas the Desert Sand crayon is very natural, perfect for an everyday look.

Artistry Indigo Skies Colour Collection


The Signature Colour Lipstick and Sheer Lipsticks are formulated with plush pigments and contain hydrating ingredients to coat and condition lips. Available in Sandstone, Rose Quartz and Coral Sunrise, the Signature Colour lipsticks colour lips with high-pigment hues, whilst the Sheer range gives  a high-gloss hint of colour.

I love the Sandstone coloured Sheer Lipstick, which is a nude shade with an orangey undertone and a shimmery finish. Lovely for everyday wear, it can also be dressed up, making it a very versatile lipstick.  It feels very moisturising on the lips and the subtle colour lasted well.

Artistry Indigo Skies Colour Collection


Also available is the Signature Eyes Volume Mascara™ in indigo blue is a revolutionary, colour-intense FullFx formula mascara, which claims to increase volume by up to 600%.  It contains conditioners to smooth, gloss and enrich lashes.

The Artistry range includes make-up, skincare products and accessories.

Find out more from the Artistry product portfolio.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Pink Parcel - Celebrating Womanhood on International Women’s Day

International Women's Day 2015 takes place on March 8th. All around the world, International Women's Day represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.  #MakeItHappen is the 2015 theme encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women globally.

As a female brand with a mission to care for and bring joy to women every month when their period strikes, Pink Parcel is naturally proud and passionate about International Women’s Day. 

To celebrate, Pink Parcel is offering one free parcel to anyone that signs up to the subscription service on Sunday 8th March. (Usual full price is £9.99).

Pink Parcel is the latest monthly beauty subscription service for women for periods. Each month, Pink Parcel works with your cycle dates to bring you a luxurious box of full size beauty, grooming and lifestyle products, as well as a supply of feminine hygiene essentials. Brand partners include St Tropez, Elizabeth Arden, OPI, ROC, Maybelline, Rimmel and Bio Oil.

OPI, Maybelline, Witch


I was sent a box and am so impressed with the contents.   It includes full size OPI Nail Lacquer, Witch redness relief moisturiser and Maybelline The Smoother anti-age primer, plus a bar of Doisy and Dam goji and orange organic chocolate, a Pukka Love tea bag and a sample of Yardley body lotion.  There are also twenty five regular Tampax tampons and a drawstring bag, all neatly boxed and packaged in a Pink Parcel box.  Receiving it through the post, definitely helps brighten your mood, at what can be a pretty miserable time of the month.

periods, tampons


Pink Parcel also recently launched a teen-only version, TeenParcel, designed especially for girls between the ages of 11 and 17 featuring brands such as Teapigs, Flamingo candles, Yardley and Binky London.

It's easy to subscribe to Pink Parcel:

1: Visit www.pinkparcel.co.uk and select ‘subscribe’ to get started
2: Choose your favoured sanitary brand (Tampax, Lil-lets, U by Kotex or Always)
3: Choose the level of absorbency required – Individual (Lite, Regular, Super or Super Plus) or Multi (a selection of different absorbencies)
4: Choose your delivery dates based on your cycle

The subscription service is £9.99, including delivery, monthly. You can cancel at any time.

Remember, subscribe on March 8th and get your first box for free!


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Everybody Learns - Freddy's Progress

Freddy has been trialing the Lexia Reading Core 5 home reading course.  Doing a minimum of twenty minutes three times a week, is proving just about right for him. He remains a bit reluctant, until he actually starts a session, and then he really enjoys the word games.  He has powered through levels 3 and 4 and  is currently half way through the fifth level.  Every time he completes a level he gets a certificate, which he proudly takes to school to show his teacher! 

phonics


In addition to the certificates, I get a fortnightly progress update, giving the time spent on the program, his present position against chronological age expectations, his catch up rate and the time expected to complete the course.  I am delighted to see the rate that he is now catching up to his peers. The support team are there to also offer advice and give ideas on how to further encourage the child to maximize the impact of the reading course.

phonics, learning to read


Each level has a different fun theme from the rainforest to the Scottish cliffs, and has characters that help make the games fun. The content of the levels gets more advanced as the child progresses and the format of each section changes to make it more of a challenge. If a mistake is made, the child is taken back to consolidate their knowledge before moving on. At the end of each game, the child is rewarded by a fun animation.

Children learn to recognise and spell high frequency sight words; recognise, blend and segment phonics in words; learn sequencing of stories and learn vocabulary.  The progress of the games in the levels is clearly displayed, giving the child the incentive to keep going.

Freddy is definitely getting to grips with recognising the beginning, medial and end sounds of words. This has improved his ability to read lots of different words.  He is still a reluctant reader when faced with a physical book, but I'm sure he will make the connection between what he is doing online and actually being able to read independently.  I think a lot of his reluctance is down to confidence after his difficult first year at school because of his eyesight. The home reading course is definitely making him more interested in reading words, so it'll just be a matter of time before that translates into reading stories for his own entertainment.

I am delighted that Freddy has been moved up a group in the phonics lessons he does at school and his teacher has reported an improvement. Fingers crossed, all this extra work will help him make the leap and he will soon be a confident and fluent reader.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Netflix on TalkTalk TV

TalkTalk TV customers with a Netflix subscription have instant, easy access to a wide variety of programming from Netflix through their YouView box. Netflix features some great shows including critically acclaimed original series such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Better Call Saul and  Marco Polo alongside documentaries, comedy specials, feature films and kids' entertainment. There are lots of seasons of favourite series to rediscover, such as Gossip Girl and Dexter. All this from just £5.99 a month, with your first month free!  There is no long term contract to sign up to, so with Netflix you can enjoy top TV shows with no commitment.

For me, "binge watching" episodes of a top TV show alongside Ian, is my idea of weekend entertainment heaven!  I hate having to wait a whole week for the next installment of my favourite programmes.  Wondering what might happen next to my favourite characters, worrying about tense cliffhangers or simply wanting to know who did what to whom is like torture.  I want to watch the next episode straight away, not wait for the next scheduled weekly installment.  Netflix lets me do this instantly with its extensive library of TV series. Plus the episodes are ad free.  Other brand new shows are shown weekly, but available to watch anytime after the new episode is aired.

My current favourite Netflix show is the brilliant House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood. It's a brilliant political thriller, which follows Underwood's ruthless quest to elevate himself to a position of power and influence in Washington DC.  His manipulation of the media and his way of playing his opposition is simply brilliant.  Kevin Spacey is perfectly cast using his dashing charm to bring Frank to life.  Although you know just how ruthless, cunning and vicious he is, you can't help but root for him.  Even with blood on his hands, I am Team Frank all the way.  House of Cards is now in its third season on Netflix.


Kevin Spacey


Netflix is another way to watch and enjoy TV your way.  It fits in with your schedule giving you freedom to watch anytime on demand.  There are some exclusive shows that you won't find anywhere else, making Netflix a top choice for TV fans.

 

Proud TalkTalk Family Blogger

Monday, 23 February 2015

Not the half-term I had planned

I had been so looking forward to this half-term.  We'd had a difficult week beforehand with our boiler breaking down leaving us with no central heating and hot water, and we were looking forward to getting away from our chilly house and taking advantage of other places' warmth!  Ian had booked the week off work and we had a four night family holiday booked. Freddy had been invited to two birthday parties, which he was excited about and I'd also planned a lovely meal and activities for Valentine's Day on the Saturday to kick off a week of family fun.

Sadly, fate had other ideas.  Freddy woke up on Saturday morning unable to swallow and with a temperature.  We thought a syringe of Calpol might knock it on its head but as soon as the medicine went into his mouth, Freddy promptly threw up all over my bed.  Once we had stripped the bed we gave Freddy a sip of drink and again, as soon as it hit his tonsils he was sick again, this time over our cream bedroom carpet.  Cleaning up pink stained, Calpolly sick using a bucket of cold water (because of the broken boiler) was a low point of my day.  We had two extra loads of washing to do, with no central heating to dry any of it! Thankfully, we had lots of kind offers of help from friends and family and so with my sister's offer to tumble dry my bed sheets and a fan heater pointing at my clothes rack, we got by!

Freddy's poor tonsils were big and bright red and all he wanted to do was sleep albeit fitfully.  He missed birthday party number one and Ian and I put all our romantic candlelit dinner plans aside to look after our poorly boy. Freddy was up and down all night, waking every hour or so because he couldn't swallow his own spit. It's heartbreaking when they are so poorly.

By Sunday, Freddy had also come out in a rash, which I assumed was some sort of viral thing...although in hindsight could have been Scarlet Fever, which I've since read is doing the rounds. There is no way we could take him away on holiday when all he wanted to do was lie on the sofa under a duvet, sleeping or watching the occasional Nick Jr and eating nothing but ice lollies. So we made the decision to stay at home losing the money we had paid out. (Although initially a bit upset about this, I think we may have actually had a lucky break as we were going to spend four nights at Pontins in Southport.  Looking at their Tripadvisor reviews, which basically said things such as "cheap but not at all cheerful" and "stay at home"and "don't waste your money", I'm not sure it would have been the break we had in mind!)

Freddy did perk up a bit midweek, which meant we got to visit his sisters in Manchester, but as he still had no appetite, his energy reserves ran low pretty quickly and we wanted to be back home on his sofa, cutting short our visit. The same thing happened on Friday when we went to visit big brother Joe, who is sporting a triple toe dislocation, chipped bone and torn ligament injury from slipping down the stairs (but that's another story)! Again, when his energy run out, Freddy just wanted to be back in the comfort of his home. Unfortunately, this visit set Freddy back and he relapsed with tonsils swelling up and his temperature spiking again.

So, this weekend we have again been nursing a poorly boy with tonsilitis who just wants to sleep.  He tried to go to the second birthday party, but lasted five minutes before welling up and wanting to go back home.  Definitely not like him to ask to leave a party.  He returned to his spot on the sofa feeling very sorry for himself, but the party bag he was given by the party host's mum did soften the blow a little.

So today, Freddy has missed the first day back at school. He didn't sleep well last night because he couldn't warm himself up. I'm working on trying to get him eating again so he has some energy, but he is in better spirits and his temperature seems to be stable.  Fingers crossed for him being well enough for school tomorrow.  And our boiler is getting replaced tomorrow...so maybe things will finally look up after a pretty rubbish week!!

boy, son

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Beauty Products on Review - TanOrganic Original Self Tan and Jooma 2 in 1 Cleanser and Moisturiser

TanOrganic Original Self Tan

I've always used to associate fake tans with the cast of TOWIE, who sport their orange hued skin like a designer fashion accessory. Or I think of Ross from Friends and his unfortunate experience in the spray tan booth where he counted 'Mississipily' and ended up with a shade 8 instead of a 2!

However, in real life, fake tans are definitely not as extreme as those examples.  My daughter, who has a very pale complexion, swears by using a little fake tan to give her a healthy glow, and it looks great. So when I was offered the chance to try out some, I looked forward to giving myself a sunless bronzing, as an antidote to the winter blues. 

Fake tans are so much safer than using sunbeds or indeed sunbathing, but it is very important to me that faking it gives a subtle, natural looking tan, rather than an artificial orange coating!

TanOrganic is the first Eco certified, all natural, organic self tanning oil that nourishes and hydrates the skin.  It is marketed to those who care about what they put on their skin but who still want a professional looking finish.  As it is ethically made and approved by PETA it is also a brand for conscientious consumers.  For me, all these things are very important, and TanOrganic's outstanding credentials make it very appealing.

natural beauty


In addition to its ethical appeal, TanOrganic also gives:

– Buildable colour that allows you the versatility to go from a subtle glow to a deep tan
– 84% Aloe Vera for a streak free application that moisturises your skin and fades perfectly
– No perfume or fragrance, so no more “fake tan” smell
– Develops quickly and lasts for days

But what about the results?  

The TanOrganic oil applies really well to the skin.  When first squeezed out I detected a slight orange smell which was very pleasant, but this faded very quickly to give a fragrance free application.  It feels really smooth and moisturising on the skin, with no stickiness or residue.  I must confess that I was a little nervous and worried about streaking but it went on easily with a streak free and even finish.  I didn't have to faff about at all. Simple!

My skin glowed and looked naturally bronzed, but maybe more importantly, it felt lovely and soft and hydrated.  The formula feels very moisturising. It's amazing what a boost it gives you, having a healthy looking glow.  I love that it is an all natural and organic product, and is definitely something that I will enjoy using.

A 100ml bottle of TanOrganic costs £19.99 and is available from Superdrug or from TanOrganic online (with free delivery on orders over £7).  Aplication mitts and erasers are also available.


Joomo 2 in 1 Cleanser and Moisturiser

Joomo is a 100% natural face wash, made with out using any junk such as parabens, preservatives, soaps or foamers. There is nothing synthetic, nothing harsh and nothing dangerous in the ingredients list. Everything is 100% natural with no physical or chemical changes, harnessing the power of their active ingredients to cleanse and repair the skin.  Raw honey, cinnamon, orange and sea salt are among the ingredients used to create the gentle and effective face wash, which helps prevent acne, spots, blackheads, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and dermatitis.

Joomo Face wash contains SaponinJTM, which is a unique proprietary skin repair system that enables the skin to return to its natural state and helps prevent ailments. It consists of a specially balanced all natural formula of Saponins, essential oils, sea salt, natural sugars, natural pH modifiers, natural anti-oxidants, natural softeners & emollients.  It  treats existing skin ailments and rebuilds and repairs the damage done through the use of synthetic products. Joomo is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and hypoallergenic, making it totally safe to use with therapeutic properties.

face wash, natural beauty


Although designed for young, spot prone skin, Joomo is suitable for everyone, especially if you have sensitive or problem skin.  Both Kezia and I love using Joomo face wash and were excited to try out the new 2 in 1 Cleanser and Moisturiser.

The Honey and Orange fragrance is gorgeous.  It smells so natural with a warming hint of cinnamon spice.  Using the face wash can at first seem a little strange as it doesn't foam up like other synthetic cleansers that many of us have previously been used to. But it does make the skin feel silky smooth and soft after using it.  You simply smooth it on then rinse well. There is no tightness or dryness and your face feels hydrated and moisturised without any greasiness. Knowing that it is 'junk' free and natural is so reassuring.

natural face wash


The Joomo Face Wash 2 in 1 Cleanser and Moisturiser comes in two packaging designs for both boys and girls, to appeal to the youngsters that the product is marketed for.  I think this is a great idea as so many beauty products are targeted primarily at women.  Having the boy friendly packaging makes this product great for lads too, giving them ownership of their skincare regime.

The 100ml tube costs £9.95 and is available to buy from the Joomo website (delivery rates apply).

***

Both of these products tick all of the boxes when it comes to choosing ethical, natural beauty products.  I was impressed by the performance of both and love knowing that they are made from ingredients that are completely safe and not synthetic.  Both TanOrganic and Joomo are leading the way, creating natural, top quality, effective products for conscientious consumers who care about what they put on their skin and what goes into the beauty products they buy.


We were sent a sample of each product to test out for the purpose of this review, but retain all editorial control.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Mother's Day Gift Ideas - plus get a FREE Truprint photo card #millionmumssmile

This year, Mother's Day is on Sunday March 15th.  It's a great excuse for celebrating motherhood and saying thank you to our mums (not that we should ever need an excuse for doing that!) 

Truprint have challenged me to make some personalised Mother's Day gifts for my mum and my mother-in-law.  I decided that it would be lovely to use some old photographs from our family albums to create some nostalgic gifts for the mums in my life. 

I love old photographs.  Each one is rich with memories, evoking emotions from days gone by. Although the quality may not be as good as photographs nowadays, the images themselves are simply wonderful.  Losing a little bit of clarity when they are used in photo gifts adds a retro charm, reminding us of fond moments from the past when things seemed so much simpler.

Truprint, Mother's Day


Mother's Day for me, is a time to celebrate the relationship that I have with my mum.  I loved looking through old pictures from my own childhood, finding photos of my mum as a young woman with myself and my sisters.  Snaps from holidays, days out, family parties and even pictures from photo booths depicted moments from our shared past, which I knew would make an incredible photo gift, charged with love and emotion and steeped with happy memories.

My mum is a proud silver surfer, using the computer that we gave her to stay in touch with the grandchildren and to surf the net.  So the ideal gift for her was a new mouse mat.  Creating a collage design on the mouse mat allowed me to use eight photographs dated from the early 70's through to the mid 80's in both black and white and colour.

I added a caption onto the mouse mat "Always my Mum...Forever my friend" which sums up our relationship perfectly.  I was able to play with colours and fonts, but decided to keep the colour scheme simple, so as not to distract from the wonderful old photos I had chosen to use.

A matching notebook, featuring some of the same photographs used in the mousemat, completes her gift.  The note book can be filled with plain or lined paper and is ring bound. I love how a practical gift can still be so personal and hold so many wonderful family memories.  I hope she is going to love both of her photo gifts.

Truprint, Mother's day


For a more up to date gift, I also created a collage mug featuring 15 recent photographs of the grandchildren.  I picked photos of my kids that showed their personalities and the relationships between them to give a fun rather than a formal effect.  It's bright, busy and makes you smile...just like our family life!

Truprint, photo gifts


For my mother-in-law, I made some gifts using a set of photo booth photos of her and my father-in-law taken at the beginning of their fifty year relationship back in the 60's!  They are just such brilliant photographs that tell a story of young love. My MIL's shy and wistful smile and my FIL's sudden attack of the giggles is beautifully captured.  So my gift to my other mum this year is to immortalise this moment from her romance that lead to her marriage and becoming a mum to my own wonderful husband and his sister.

I chose to make an 8 x 10 collage photo panel and an 11oz mug.  I am so delighted with the results. Using the black surrounds on both gifts fits with the black and white photo booth effect.  The photo panel is made of high gloss acrylic and has an integral stand in the back for easy display.  It looks classy and is a great way to preserve photographic images as pieces of art for the home.

Truprint, old family photos


Notebook  £6.99, Collage mug £7.99, Collage 10 x 8 photo panel  £17.99, Collage Mouse mat  £6.99.

Claim a FREE Mother's Day card in Truprint's Mum in a Million campaign

Truprint would like to make a million mums smile by giving away 1 million personalised Mother's Day cards. Visit www.truprint.co.uk/mday15, create a card for your mum and simply use the code MUMINAMILLION at the checkout to claim your free card.

T&Cs

Awards one free 7x5 folded card
Standard P&P charges apply (99p)
Ship to recipient not available
Complete with envelope
Code is One time use only
Strictly one code use per household


I have worked in collaboration with Truprint on this post but have retained all editorial control.

#MapleVLemon - The Pancake Day Challenge

Today is Pancake Day, the one day of the year when eating an excess of pancakes is deemed acceptable.  Freddy and Kizzy love pancakes and need no encouragement when it comes to consuming them for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Making a big batch of pancake batter and cooking them up for the family is a tradition that we really enjoy.  The kids wait patiently for each pancake to be tossed and served before adding their own topping.  

clarks it, pancake day


This year we have taken part in the #MapleVLemon challenge with Clarks.  I gave everybody a choice between traditional lemon juice and white sugar or maple syrup as a topping for their pancakes that we made for a lovely Pancake Day brunch. 

Maple syrup contains 45% less sugar gram for gram than refined sugar, making it the healthier choice.  But would it prove to be the most popular choice for my family?

clarks, maple syrup


I had both of the toppings laid out on the table and it didn't take long for both Kizzy and Freddy to choose maple syrup as their topping of choice, squeezing it liberally on top of their pancakes.  In fact, the lemon juice and sugar option remained redundant.  The children loved the taste, texture and sweetness of the maple syrup. And Freddy loved getting to squeeze it out of the bottle.

maple syrup


I think it is safe to say that in the #MapleVLemon challenge, my family definitely took the side of Team Maple.  Both Ian and myself also opted for the maple syrup, which is an ingredient I use quite regularly in recipes.  

Of the eight pancakes we made, the maple syrup to lemon juice ratio was 8:0.  A resounding success for our Clarks Maple Syrup.

pancake day


For some other ideas for pancake toppings and fillings, take a look at this blog post I previously wrote for Clarks Maple Syrup with recipe ideas for breakfast, dinner and dessert pancakes, all featuring maple syrup as an ingredient.


Posts written in conjunction with Clark's Maple Syrup but all opinions and recipe ideas are my own.

Win £50 to spend on toxicfox.com's Mother's Day collection

This Mother's Day, toxicfox.co.uk have a great competition running.  It runs from February 18th to March 1st and there are 4 chances to win  a £50 voucher to spend on their Mother’s Day collection – one per social network (Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest).

To enter all you need to do is go to the http://www.toxicfox.co.uk/gifts-occasion/mothers-day-gifts browse around the fabulous Mother’s Day Gifts and Ideas, pick your favourite present and share it on your social channel of choice. To ensure toxicfox.co.uk can see your entry please use the hashtag: #toxicfox


competition, toxic fox


My favourite Mother's Day Gift from toxicfox.co.uk is the Queen of the Kitchen chopping board, perfect for cooking up a storm in the kitchen.  It's made of quality bamboo and is engraved for a personal touch.  It's £29.99 and measures 45 x 23 cm.

Mother's day


For full terms and conditions please visit http://www.toxicfox.co.uk/terms-and-conditions

Even if you are not a lucky, you can get a discount by using this 10% voucher code to use on the Mother's Day collection: TFMother


Voucher code t & cs: Can’t be used in conjunction with any other offer. Valid until the 15th of March so plenty of time to pick up that perfect mother's day gift.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Smart Ass - The Board Game Review

This half term, if you are looking for a fast paced family board game to get everyone having some fast-paced, competitive fun, then check out Smart Ass.  We were sent a copy to test out and thoroughly enjoyed playing it.

family games, general knowledge game


I really like board games with a general knowledge element to them.  You can learn some good trivia facts and get to show off how brainy you are in the process!  Smart Ass adds another dimension to the format, as players enter into a free for all where shouting out the answers before anyone else is the name of the game. But if you guess the answer wrong, you are frozen out of the round giving your opponents the chance to steal the points!

family games, general knowledge game


Each question card contains 10 clues to a place, an object or a person.  As soon as you think you know where, what or who the clues are describing, you can shout out the answer.  If you are right you get to roll the jumbo dice and move your playing piece around the board.  There are some bonus squares and penalty squares that you might land on as you head for the end square to take the title of Smart Ass, which adds fun and unpredictability to the gameplay.  You can also land on the Hard Ass square which gives you a challenging bonus question to win another roll of the dice.

family games, general knowledge game


The game is for children aged 12 and up, but 5 year old Freddy teamed with his Daddy helping to read clues, throw dice and move playing pieces around the board.  He really enjoyed being a part of the game, shouting out a few guesses to the clues himself too.  I was really happy that he could get involved and enjoy it (although he is far too young to play independently).  Some trivia games are a bit too high brow and difficult, which can exclude younger players. In Smart Ass, the cleverest player won't necessarily take the title, as if you guess wrongly, everyone else gets a chance to answer after listening to further clues that get progressively easier.  12 year old Kezia was able to play against myself and her dad without feeling penalised by being younger.  In fact, she was pretty shrewd in her tactics, waiting for Ian and myself to make a mistake in our haste to answer first, giving her the chance to hear all the clues before giving the correct answer and winning the chance to throw the dice and move her playing piece.

family games, general knowledge game


It is a very fast paced game from University Games suitable for 2 to 8 players.  There are 500 general knowledge question cards in the box, meaning you will get to enjoy lots of games before it becomes repetitive. Each game takes around 30 minutes, which is a good length of time for a family game.

family games, general knowledge game


It sells for around £16 (on Amazon.co.uk) and is definitely a good addition to the games cupboard!  I like the educational aspect to it, as you test your general knowledge and learn new facts (who knew James Cagney was a talented tap dancer?) and we enjoyed being able to shout out answers without having to wait our turn!



Dolphin Tale 2 - Film Review

I remember when I first watched Dolphin Tale, the true story of Winter the dolphin.  It really was beautiful, inspirational and heartwarming.  Now, Dolphin Tale 2 is out and we excitedly settled down to watch the next installment to find out what has happened to Winter since she was rescued and rehabilitated by the team at Clearwater.

The sequel is set several years after the first film and the team face a new challenge.  Winter's elderly surrogate mother and pool mate Panama passes away leaving her alone.  Due to the USDA regulations, the loss of Panama may mean that Clearwater loses Winter to another aquarium, as dolphin's can't be housed alone.  The search is on to find a suitable companion for Winter.

Winter the dolphin


The main cast is reunited for the sequel, including the brilliant Morgan Freeman, who plays Dr McCarthy, the creator of Winter's prosthetic tail.  Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Nathan Gamble also star alongside the main attraction of the movie, Winter herself.

When Panama dies, Winter becomes very depressed and angry.  How they get her to act so well is incredible! She needs a new companion, but it isn't that easy.  Winter's behaviour and her refusal to co-operate makes things very difficult for everyone, especially Sawyer, who is making some big life changing decisions of his own.

With time running out and with moral dilemmas to contend with, things are looking bleak for Winter, but then along comes some hope...

This sequel is all about friendship, determination and doing the right thing.  It is a great watch for older children and families.  The animal stars are amazing, and the fact that the story is based on true life events makes it very poignant.  There is a wonderful scene where a dolphin is released back into the wild and it is truly heartwarming and so emotional.

Dolphin Tale 2 will be a lovely film to watch, sat down together as a family this half term.

We watched it as a part of a home screening event.  You can find out other bloggers' reactions by following the hashtag #dolphintale2movie on Twitter.


RELEASE INFORMATION:

Release Date: 16th February 2015
Certificate: U
Running Time: 107 minutes
Format: Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital HD

BLU-RAY BONUS FEATURES:

* Dolphin Tale 2: Underwater Magic
* Dolphin Tale 2: True Story
* Look Who’s Running The show
* Bethany Hamilton Meets Winter
* Dolphin Tale 2: The Mission
* Cozi Zuehlsdorff - "Brave Souls"
* Gavin DeGraw - "You Got Me"
* Blooper Reel

DVD BONUS FEATURES:

* Dolphin Tale 2: True Story


Dolphin Tale 2 is available on Blu-ray and DVD from 16th February 2015.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Books on Review - The Butterfly Club and Fingerprint Fun

Fingerprint Fun

However young (or old) your children are, they will love the new Fingerprint Fun book.  Using painty fingerprints, children can complete the pictures adding spots on animals, creating fireworks or putting the petals on flowers.  

Each page is colourful and the designs are lovely and quirky, ready to be completed using multi-coloured fingerprints.  Once all the pages have been finished, the book will serve as a lovely memento of your child's little fingerprints.

Fingerprint Fun is good for reluctant artists, encouraging them to get arty with great results from little effort.  It's also lovely for very little ones who can be supported to finish the paintings using their little painty fingers.

Fingerprint Fun is from Buster Books and is published on April 2nd RRP £5.00.

Buster Books


The Butterfly Club

This is Jacqueline Wilson's 101st book!  Over the years, all of my girls have been fans of Jacqueline Wilson at one time or another.  They love her strong female characters and can relate to many of the situations in her books.  The Butterfly Club tells the story of triplet Tina, the smallest and most cosseted of the three sisters, as she enters junior school.  Used to being looked after and protected by her two sisters Phil and Maddie, it comes as a shock when their new teacher, the very strict Mrs Lovejoy, seats Tina at a table next to the school bully Selma.

Things look very upsetting for Tina until she is asked to help create a butterfly garden in the school grounds along with Selma.  Tina soon discovers that there is more to Selma than meets the eye, and also that she doesn't need her sisters as much as she thinks.  Tina learns to stand on her own two feet and finds friendship in the unlikeliest of places.

This book is a lovely read, written from Tina's perspective.  The themes of friendship and developing self-confidence bring some important messages to young readers aged 6 to 10 years old. Watching tiny Tina go from a nervous little girl who is almost unable to function without her sisters' support to a confident and successful young lady is quite heartwarming!  The butterfly garden plot line helps readers to learn all about butterflies along with Tina and at the end of the book are some informative pages for anyone wanting to make their own garden, filled with facts and advice.

For fans of Jacqueline Wilson books, there is a nice surprise as the characters from Double Act make a guest appearance.  It was really nice to meet Ruby and Garnet again now they are all grown up!

With Nick Sharratt's illustrations gracing the pages, The Butterfly Club promises to be a new favourite among younger fans.  It will also be a great introduction to Jacqueline Wilson for girls aged six and over, who are yet to discover the author.  It is a contemporary, fun story that is easy to read, with some great characters,

The Butterfly Club is out now in hardbook, published by Doubleday RRP £12.99.  Also available as an e-book.

Jacqueline Wilson


We received both titles for the purpose of this review.

Spring Blossom Persil Washing Up Liquid

It may be cold and wintry outside, but you can bring the scent of springtime floral freshness into your home with Persil's limited edition Spring Blossom Washing Up Liquid.  With hints of freesia, white rose, vanilla and dry fruit, it's the perfect aroma to remind us that spring is just around the corner.

I was sent a bottle to try and have to confess that I am actually a bit of a fan of seasonal washing up liquids.  (Yes...I am very easily pleased!) Washing up isn't a fun job, but having a choice of fragrances to match the season definitely adds a little something to the task, making it slightly less of a chore.  It's a little pleasure in my dish-doing life!

Persil does a good job on the dishes and makes plenty of scented bubbles in the sink.  It costs £1 for a 500ml bottle which lasts pretty well and does exactly what it says on the bottle!

Persil, washing up

Friday, 13 February 2015

Recipe Ideas for Pancake Day #MovetoMaple

Pancake Day is a great excuse to indulge in delicious pancakes for breakfast, dinner and tea. When I was a child, the only way pancakes were served was with lemon juice and sugar, but thankfully things have evolved since then. Although lemon juice and sugar remains a popular choice of topping, there are so many other ways we can enjoy pancakes. Pancakes are versatile, perfect in both sweet and savoury courses. They can be paired with fruits, vegetables, cheese and other ingredients to create some fantastic recipes. 

Clarks Maple Syrup have challenged me to come up with some pancake based meals for my family using their maple syrup.  I received a pancake day hamper which included a 500ml bottle of the Maple Syrup to use. I was more than happy to join in as we love maple syrup!  It's a natural sweetener made from the sap of the Maple tree, with a delicious rich flavour, perfect for pancakes. 

When it comes to Pancake Day and the #MaplevLemon debate, maple syrup wins hand down for us. Plus, gram for gram, maple syrup contains 45% less sugar than refined white sugar, making it the healthier option.

Using a basic recipe you can make the perfect pancake and adapt it in lots of ways.  I also use the super easy, no weigh American pancake recipe using one cup of SR flour, one cup of milk and one egg beaten together (watch Kizzy making them in this video here!)  Pancakes are also very cheap to make, making them a great value option when on a budget.

Here are some of my Pancake Day recipe ideas all featuring Clarks Maple Syrup:

Banana, Blueberry and Maple Pancakes are a perfect breakfast pancake.  The American style pancake batter contains mashed banana and blueberries in it, and the topping of soft fruits, walnuts and Clarks Maple Syrup is absolutely delicious.  It's a great way  to start the day, containing lots of plant based goodness packed with nutrients and antioxidants.

pancakes, maple syrup


For a fantastic main meal, add some defrosted chopped frozen spinach (squeeze the water out of it once defrosted), garlic granules and black pepper to the batter to make some tasty, savoury, Spinach Pancakes.  They can be filled with a Canadian Vegetable Chilli, which is a spicy, Quorn mince and five bean chilli, which has Clarks Maple Syrup added (this mix of spicy and sweet really excites the taste buds!)  The stuffed pancake is then topped with Mexicana Cheese and finished off in the oven until the cheese bubbles.  Really delicious!  You can experiment with different fillings to suit your own personal taste.

paancake day, savoury pancake recipe


For a more traditional dessert pancake, simply serve with maple syrup and butter, but you can jazz up a pancake by making a small batch of coloured batter and piping on detail.  You can use a piping bag or even an old tomato sauce bottle to draw on a face or a love heart on the top of the pancake just before flipping. You could even write a message or a name on your pancake.

We made one incorporating strawberries for a bit of fruity fun!  Simply squirt over some syrup to serve.  They are yummy served with a spoonful of ice cream on the side.

pancake, maple syrup

maple syrup


Pancakes really are a lot of fun to make and eat and are just so versatile.  My kids love pancakes in all their different guises, sweet, savoury, thick and thin. Plus they can help make them too.

This Pancake Day why not take the #LemonvMaple challenge and maybe make the #MovetoMaple. You can join in with these hashtags on Twitter and follow @Clarks_It for some Pancake Day fun!

Find out more about Clarks at www.clarksit.co.uk.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Grandpa Pig's Holiday Boat - Holiday Fun with Peppa Pig

Peppa Pig is a character who never fails to entertain Freddy.  He loves watching the antics of Peppa. George and the gang on Nick Jr.  So he was delighted to receive a Grandpa Pig's Holiday Boat to review. It's part of the new Peppa Pig Holiday Range.

Peppa Pig, toy review


Grandpa Pig's boat is quite an iconic part of the Peppa Pig TV series.  It makes a few appearances and is instantly recognisable.  The toy itself comes with Grandpa, Peppa and George characters all clad in their best summer holiday wear!  The boat is very well constructed with good attention to detail, featuring a flag, a bell, boat controls and propeller.  The characters stand in indented spaces, making them very secure when onboard.

Peppa Pig


Best of all, this boat actually floats on water!  This is a great feature that really delighted Freddy, making it suitable as a bath or paddling pool toy.  The construction of the boat means it does not take on water so it floats really well and is easy to dry after playtime.  Freddy tested it in the downstairs bathroom sink and it floated upright, even with the characters onboard.  This adds a huge extra element of fun to this toy. Very impressive!

Character, Peppa Pig


The Grandpa Pig's Holiday Boat from Character has an RRP of £19.99, which is good value for a toy that can be played with both on dry land and in water!  Plus it comes with the three characters, so can be played with straight from the box for lots of  fun Peppa holiday adventures.


       

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Valentine's Day Strawberry and Cream Sandwich Recipe

It's almost Valentine's Day, so why not treat your loved ones to a delicious Strawberry and Cream sandwich?  It's a romantically themed lunchtime treat that the kids will love too, perfect for a half term picnic.

Roberts, heart, Valentine's day


Roberts Bakery sent me a loaf of  their thick sliced Soft and Fluffy White Bread and some heart shaped cutters so I could try out some for my family.

valentine's day, sandwich ideas


Ingredients

4 slices of Roberts Soft and Fluffy White Loaf
8-10 ripe strawberries
1 tub of cottage cheese, ricotta or cream cheese
Handful of rocket leaves
Ground black pepper

Method

Cut four big heart shapes from the sliced bread.
Cut two small hearts from the centre of two of the large hearts.
Lay out the two whole heart shaped and put some rocket on the.
Drain the cottage cheese and add a generous layer on top.
Slice the strawberries and arrange on top.
Season with black pepper.
Put the cut-out heart shaped bread slices on top to finish the sandwich.


Valentines, Roberts bakery, sandwich fillings


Strawberries and black pepper is a very interesting combination - well worth a try!  For children you could use jam, cream cheese and strawberries to make a sweeter sandwich, using the same heart shaped cutters to make it look really pretty.

Here is a printable copy of the recipe card:

Valentines, sandwich fillings

Monday, 9 February 2015

Sling Your Hook over to IWM North for February Half Term

Ever wondered what life is like at sea? Where would you sleep? What would you eat?

This half term, visitors of all ages who visit the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, can delve into the true stories of men, women, and even animals who have sailed the seas.

IWM North, soldier


Families can discover what life was like on the high seas, in a week of family activities  at IWM North. From submarines to sea mines, you can explore the past 100 years at sea through storytelling, craft activities and objects on display. You can discover the real life stories of those who served at sea, such as Thomas Clare, a seasoned sailor who served on HMS Centurion - a huge battleship known as a super-Dreadnought.

We were invited along to try out some of the activities, prior to the half term holidays next week, and to explore the museum.

IWM, telescope


Families are invited to get creative in daily craft sessions to make a Message in a Bottle or a Scratch Art Sea Horizon.  Freddy and Kezia enjoyed taking part in the craft activities.  Younger visitors can take part in interactive story telling sessions and learn about the strange and surprising animals that have sailed the seas, including Olga the reindeer and Tirpitz the pig.  We enjoyed the story of Wally, the merchant seaman from Manchester.

IWM, craft


You can try out some sailor slang and learn when you should Pipe Down and when to Sling Your Hook. There are also live theatrical performances bringing to life the stories of two women who made their wartime contribution by working in the shipyards of the First and Second World Wars (on Saturday 14th and Monday 16th February).

The exhibitions in the museum are really excellent, bringing to life the realities of war and their effect on the people involved.  Freddy loved looking at the plane, the tank and the fire engine exhibits.  He also really enjoyed the hands on exhibits where he got to dress up as a schoolboy during WW2, try out camouflage gear, test his sense of smell with the smells from the trenches and listen to real life accounts of wartime through phone handsets. It is such a thoughtful and educational experience for children.  Kezia was really interested in all the artifacts and the information about them.

IWM


If all of that activity works up an appetite, you can visit the Watershard CafĂ© and Kitchen, which has some amazing waterside views. The kids can enjoy a ration pack including a drink, a sandwich and a selection of three more items such as jelly, yogurt, fruit, a boiled egg, a cake, crisps or a biscuit.  Both hot and cold meals are available alongside a selection of cakes and drinks.

If you are brave enough, you can ascend the AirShard to get a birds-eye view of what was once the busy Manchester shipping canal. It is very high and the floor is see through resulting in a nerve wracking experience if you are a little nervous of heights!

IWM, AirShard


Entry is free but donations are welcome. Find out more at iwm.org.uk or connect with IWM North on facebook.com/iwm.north or on twitter @IWMNorth


Thursday, 5 February 2015

Alphabites - Monstrously Good Cereals

Breakfast is often referred to as the most important meal of the day, so I make sure Freddy starts the day with a wholesome bowl of cereals. Unfortunately, many of the cereals on the market, especially those  aimed at children, tend to contain high quantities of salt and sugar. These are not the ingredients I want my kids eating first thing in the morning.

BEAR Alphabites are a fun and kid friendly cereal that is free from refined sugar, salt or nasty additives.  They are made from just six all natural ingredients - five tasty multigrains and coconut blossom nectar.  Cocoa Multigrain Alphabites are also available for those looking for a healthy alternative to chocolatey breakfast cereals.

BEAR Alphabites provide children with a bowl of crunchy and tasty alphabet letters, that spell an end to hungry bellies!  They are so good, they won't even realise that they are a healthy option!  At the moment, the fun factor is increased by the addition of free monster fridge magnets inside each box. Featuring letter shaped characters from Monsterbet City, the 26 magnets each represent one of the monstrous inhabitants, such as Barney the Bin Bellied Bloover and Horace the Hairsniffler!


cereals


Not only are the fridge magnets really cute and a lot of fun, they also get the kids' minds going as they think about their own ideas for monsters representing the different letters of the alphabet. Freddy made a monster using the BEAR's Monsterbet Creator and some lovely crafty bits that BEAR sent us.  He had a monstrously good time!

kids crafts


He started by drawing a big letter F, the first letter of his name, and then made the letter into a monster using tissue paper, feathers, glitter glue, felt, shiny card and pompoms. His monster was called 'Fearless Freddy who eats French Fries.'  He was very proud of his creation.  I love how the BEAR Alphabites manage to combine being a healthy breakfast cereal with being appealing to children and inspiring their creativity and imagination.  They really do make a great start to the day!

monster, arts and crafts


BEAR Alphabites are available in Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Ocado, Tesco and some healthfood shops and independent stockists for £2.69 RRP.

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