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Monday, 30 November 2015

Santa's Secret Workshop Grotto at the Intu Trafford Centre #review

One of the most magical parts of the Christmas celebrations is taking your little ones to see Santa. Freddy is six and is so caught up in all the excitement of the season. He is old enough to question the whole Santa Claus thing, asking why there are so many grottos with Father Christmases in them all at the same time, but totally accepts my explanation that Old St Nick has a cloning machine and makes replicas of himself to keep on top of everything. So visiting numerous Santas throughout December does not detract from his unswerving belief in the wonders of Christmas and the knowledge that on Christmas Eve it will be the original one that pops down our chimney.

We were really excited to be invited along to the Santa's Secret Workshop Grotto at the Trafford Centre in Manchester at the weekend. The specially built attraction is located in Barton Square, right near to SeaLife and the Legoland Discovery Centre and next to a mini Christmas market with food and gift stalls. So you can really make a whole festive family day of it.

Manchester, Christmas


The experience lets families discover the secrets of Santa's workshop, inviting in children to help Santa prepare for the big day.  Santa's special helpers get to take part in a range of activities, each one earning them a stamp in their special Christmas passport. Once they have all the stamps, it's time to meet Santa himself in his special cosy room, for a friendly chat and to receive a present.

Christmas grotto, Trafford Centre


On entering the experience, you walk through a mirrored maze to discover the secret entrance to Santa's workshop. Here, you are greeted by an elf and let loose inside an area where you can make Christmas cards, do crayon rubbings of Santa and make paper lanterns. Other activities include helping Santa to sort out and weigh the huge pile of presents in the sorting office; making buckets of food for Santa's reindeer by finding the right combination of healthy food and treats and preparing a special portion of magic reindeer food to take home and leave out for Rudolph on Christmas Eve. Stamps are collected in the passport for each activity.

Christmas, Santa experience


Each passport is numbered and when your number is called by the head elf, it's time to go through to visit Santa. Santa was awesome!  He was engaging, funny and convincing. He was lovely to Freddy taking the time to chat to him, but was equally lovely to my two older girls. He spoke to them about being the generation who can make a difference in the world to make it a better place. We never felt rushed and he took his time to make sure the experience was a memorable one. In one magical moment, Santa even said that he recognised Ian from when he was a child and remembered that he had wanted a guitar as a present when he was thirteen...spookily accurate! This Santa was the real deal.

We had our photos taken with Santa, one serious and one silly, pulling funny faces!  I was impressed that Santa didn't take himself too seriously and the resulting photo is a great memento of a lovely visit.

Santa


The experience lasts about half an hour and you have a timed slot for your visit. Children's tickets are £6 each and adults cost £3 each. Kids get a small gift from Santa (Freddy got a stationery set and Kezia got a puzzle book) plus they can take home the reindeer food and the arts and crafts bits they make. You can book in advance online (£2.50 transaction fee applies) or pay on the day (but if it's busy it may get fully booked).

Photos cost extra, but there is no hard sell to purchase them. We bought a snow globe frame for £10, which we thought was a reasonable price. Photos cost £6, fridge magnets and Christmas tree decorations cost £5 each. There is a 25% discount if you buy three items.

The grotto is open everyday until December 24th.

Visit intu.co.uk/traffordcentre/events for more details and to book tickets.

The Gift - Film Review

"Not Every Gift Is Welcome" - but this DVD will be!

This Christmas, any film fans will be glad to get The Gift on DVD or Blu-ray to add to their collection. The hit chilling thriller from the producer of The Purge was loved by cinema goers and critics, who gave it 93% on Rotten Tomatoes!

The film stars Jason Bateman as Simon, a successful businessman, who is making a fresh start with his wife Robyn in a new house in the Californian hills. With a job promotion on the cards, everything is going well. That is until a chance meeting with an old high school friend Gordo, played by Joel Edgerton, (who also wrote and directed the movie) sets into motion a series of events that sends their world into a harrowing tailspin.

Uninvited visits, mysterious gifts left outside the door and strange encounters prove unsettling, but when a dark secret from the past is uncovered, the situation escalates and unravels the lives of everyone involved. As Robyn learns the shocking truth about Simon and Gordo's shared past, she begins to question just how well she knows those closest to her.

The plot of The Gift is full of suspense with a few proper jumpy moments to keep the tension high. The film doesn't rely on big special effects or gimmicks to tell the story, instead it relies on great acting, a compelling script and quality storytelling. It keeps you fully immersed and guessing until the end, as you share Robyn's confusion and doubts as she searches for the truth. Is Gordo a dangerous creep and a threat to the couple or is he a misunderstood loner looking for closure?


DVD, film review

Special Features:

·         Karma For Bullies
·         The Darker Side of Jason Bateman
·         Deleted Scenes
·         Alternate Ending (Blu-ray exclusive)

Certificate 15

Run time 105 minutes


Lionsgate UK Releases The Gift on Digital HD November 30th and Blu-ray & DVD December 7th, 2015.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Win some great prizes with Sudocrem and Infacol

I have news of two exciting Facebook competitions, with some excellent prizes, from the well known baby brands Infacol and Sudocrem!  

To play, simply visit and like the Infacol and Sudocrem Facebook pages and log into the game apps for a free daily play. You can earn extra turns too to increase your chances of getting lucky and winning a prize!

The Infacol Challenge Game asks players to navigate their way through two infant colic related games. The first game is the dropper challenge, where you have to squeeze the dropper to hit 9 targets in the allotted time. The second game is a bubble bursting challenge where you have to pop 40 bubbles in the baby's tummy before time runs out. It's fun to play as you try to complete each challenge and beat the clock.

If you complete both games successfully, you have the chance to win an instant prize. The overall main prize is an ultimate Phil & Ted's baby package worth over £700! Other prize include Venture vouchers and experiences.

The Infacol Challenge runs until December 14th 2015. You can enter each day for free and earn extra turns by Tweeting, inviting friends to play and following Infacol on Twitter.

competition, win
Click this image to take the challenge


You can help Save Christmas with Sudocrem, and get the chance to win instant prizes, by stopping the nappy rash gremlins!  The gremlins are parachuting out of the sky and infiltrating chimneys in an effort to ruin the big day.  Players have to knock as many gremlins out of the sky as they can in 60 seconds, while avoiding hitting the Christmas presents. Score over 40 hits for the chance to win some great instant prizes. Amazon Kindle Fire tablets and vouchers as well as prizes from Aquabead, Miffy, Sylvanian Families and Milton plus thousands of Sudocrem discount vouchers are up for grabs. 

Players can play for free everyday with additional plays gained from Tweeting, following Sudocrem on Pinterest or Twitter and sharing the #SaveChristmas app.

You can play right up to December 31st 2015 for your chance to win BIG!

win, competition
Click the image to play

Cutting the Cost of Christmas with Poundland

We all know how expensive Christmas can be, so it's always good to find ways to keep down costs. Using discount stores is always a good way to find a few bargains, especially as they often sell branded goods at reduced prices. So to test this, Poundland armed me with vouchers and challenged me to 'do' Christmas for just £30 - to include enough decorations, gifts, cards and food to stretch my festive budget. 

In Poundland, £30 equates to thirty items which equates to a whole lot of goodies purchased for Christmas!  I was very impressed with my haul, getting a great range of festive items at just £1 each! It's so easy to keep track of your spending in Poundland, making keeping within your budget a breeze!

budget, money saving


Branded Confectionery

Christmas isn't Christmas without sweets and chocolates and if you are looking for confectionery from Cadbury, Thornton's, Haribo or Nestle, Poundland sells loads at just £1. This can make your money go much further. Take for example the Smarties Santa and Friends 3 pack which is on sale today in one of the big supermarkets for £2. Butterfinger Bites are also £2 for a box, again making Poundland's price a real bargain buy.

Christmas


American Hamper

American candy hampers are a great gift to give to a loved one, but they can be very expensive to buy online costing upwards of around £20. With Poundland you can create your own hamper using some of the range of US branded goodies alongside some other American style goodies. Just package them up in a pretty basket or even a box covered in gift wrap and you have a great gift for a fraction of the price of ordering a hamper online. Kellogg's Pop Tarts can cost up to £3.50 a box, so buying them for £1 is a great saving. Reese's and Butterfinger products are excellent additions to an American food hamper and cost half of what they do in supermarkets. Bubblegum Bottles from Haribo, dry roasted peanuts and bbq pretzels complete the contents. This is such a good present idea allowing you to buy favourite products at just £1 each and creating a bespoke hamper without going over budget. Poundland also stock Nerds, Hershey's, jelly beans, Reese's Cups, Chupa Chups and Maom - all great for a cut price US style hamper.

Poundland


Books

Christmas books are a lovely way to build excitement and count down the days to Christmas by sharing a story with the kids every night at bedtime. Poundland has a range of both reading books and activity books with a festive theme to keep kids happy until the big day. I love the Disney Christmas books (RRP £3.99) featuring favourite characters in seasonal stories and The Christmas Surprise is a colourful, pop-up board book with a reassuring story about Santa being able to find you wherever you are on Christmas Eve. They are great if you are making a book advent this year (where you wrap up 24 Christmas books and unwrap one each day of December until Christmas Day).

reading, book advent


Gift Wrap and Cards

With rolls of wrap and assorted sizes of gift bags, Poundland have a wrapping solution for every present. From giant sized gift bags and sacks to bottle bags to multipacks of assorted bags, I love the ease of packing up presents this way. The Poundland ones are a fraction of some found in stationery shops. 

Individual cards for the special people in your life are available in an assortment of designs, alongside bumper boxes of 40 cards.  This makes it easy and cheap to spread good wishes this Christmas.

Christmas


Christmas Decorations

From dressing the tree to decorating the house, Poundland have a real variety of decorations in a range of styles. From traditional to funky, however you want to express yourself this Christmas, Poundland can help. The cheery inflatable characters will be a hit with little ones, while the wooden pieces add a rustic charm to homes. The packs of baubles are so reasonable when compared to garden centres.

budget Christmas


Kitchenware

These ceramic star shaped bowls are an absolute steal at £1 each. Perfect for holding sweets or snacks, they will look great on the table at Christmas. They'd also make lovely gifts if filled with sweets and wrapped in cellophane.

The drink cup I got for Freddy's stocking comes in a fun design and has a curly straw. Perfect for cold drinks on Christmas Day.

Christmas


Partyware

For tea on Christmas Day, I like to use paper plates to make cleaning up easier and to create a fun, party atmosphere after the formality of Christmas dinner. Poundland has two partyware ranges: Frosty Friends and Red Snowflake, both consisting of packs of 20 plates, cups and napkins plus a tablecover. So for just £4 you have all the tableware you need to host a party for up to twenty people. Most party stuff comes in packs of 8 so getting 20 for £1 is a huge bargain. The quality is good and the design is festive. You can't go wrong.

Christmas


Toys

The cost of stocking fillers can add up to a lot of money. For just £1 each, Poundland has a range of toys and games that will bulk out the kids' pressie pile. Disney's Frozen merchandise is bound to be popular and there is a lot of it to choose from in store. Poundland also have Block Tech toys, which are compatible with Lego but cost a fraction of the price. There are lots of other bits to choose from including craft sets, puzzles, games and cuddly toys. Poundland is a good place to buy presents for children's friends without spending too much money.

Christmas, stocking fillers


My top 3 favourite pieces from Poundland this Christmas

I love this Merry Christmas sign made of wood and rope, with love, hope and joy written on hearts suspended from it. It's very cute and pretty with a rustic, vintage feel. Something similar could cost in excess of ten times the £1 price tag in a specialist vintage shop or online.

Poundland


This moose ornament is another rustic piece that looks like it should cost a lot more than the £1 I paid for it. It is crafted from wood and has a string bow around its neck with bronze coloured bells attached. The distressed paint finish makes it look vintage. I love its simplicity and quirkiness.

Christmas, Poundland


My last item that has been picked out as a favourite is the coir Merry Christmas door mat. It has three Christmas trees and the Christmas greeting on it in black rubber. It makes a great novelty gift idea or will look great outside your front door throughout December. I was gobsmacked to find one that looks identical to this on Etsy for £12.50! For something that I will be using over Christmas and then disposing of, I know how much I'd rather pay.

Poundland, Christmas


As you can see from my Poundland haul, there are lots of genuine bargains to be found in store or online including branded goods. Many of the decorative items are similar to things that can be found in other stores or online that cost so much more!  It's great to be able to make your money go further by shopping in Poundland for some of your Christmas needs.

You can find all these items in store at Poundland or on Poundland online where you can also check out the latest promotions and offers including some Black Friday deals. 

I used mysupermarket.co.uk for price comparisons with supermarkets on branded confectionery.

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Launch of YouTube Kids - a safer place for kids to watch online videos #YouTubeKids

Yesterday, we spent the day at London Zoo to celebrate the recent UK and Ireland launch of the new YouTube Kids app. We had been trying out the YouTube Kids app for a few days beforehand with 6 year old Freddy, and were excited to spend the day with the YouTube team along with some favourite TV characters and some real life animals from the zoo.

The YouTube Kids app is a bright and colourful, kid-friendly version of YouTube for tablets and smart phones, available for free from Google Play or the App Store. With access to videos featuring nursery rhymes and songs, educational videos on topics such as maths, science and space as well as TV favourites such as Peppa Pig, Morph, Talking Tom, Postman Pat, Thomas and the Octonauts, there are countless hours of quality videos available. With large images and bold icons it is easy for little ones to navigate, allowing them to safely search and explore exciting content to entertain and educate them. An impressive voice search feature allows children to search for their favourite characters and shows, allowing independence and giving them access to a world of possibilities.

Content is listed in four categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore, bringing a host of family-friendly entertainment into an easy to browse format. Children can browse channels and playlists or search for something of particular interest to them.

YouTube Kids


Freddy loves being able to access his favourite videos and search for things that interest him such as Minecraft, Annoying Orange and Battle for Dream Island! He even did a search on London Zoo, the night before we attended the event, so he knew what to expect. As a parent, I am confident that he won't accidentally stumble across anything inappropriate (such as the 18 rated, expletive ridden, dubbed episode of Dora the Explorer we found him watching at age 3!) The platform is safe, age appropriate and, as it doesn't need the child to have an account, allows them to have a logged out experience free from the dangers of interacting with strangers online.

The YouTube Kids app has built in parental controls allowing the grown-ups to take charge of their child's experience by controlling broader search settings or using a built in timer to limit a child's screen time. As no platform can be guaranteed 100% perfect, there is an option to flag up anything that may concern you, making YouTube Kids safer for everyone. YouTube Kids can also be viewed on the TV using a Chromecast, Apple TV, games console or a smart TV, so the whole family can watch together.

The event at London Zoo was every bit as bright, bold, colourful, interactive and entertaining as the app itself!  Ian and I, along with Freddy, Megan and Kezia arrived at the zoo early and spent a lovely hour wandering around the Bug House and the Penguins before checking in to the event itself. The venue had been transformed into a child-friendly wonderland with a wild animal theme, which was so inviting and exciting for the little ones. We were spoiled with some delicious food, given marvelous animal make-up and kept well and truly entertained.

facepaint, Youtube kids app


Freddy absolutely loved taking part in all the activities. He met reindeer, a llama, meerkats, an armadillo and an owl in up close animal encounters. He met and hugged Postman Pat, Talking Tom & Ginger and Captain Barnacles. He had his face painted with an incredible tiger design and dressed up in a tiger costume. He played in an Octanauts themed ball pond, challenged his dad to a game of Hungry Hippos, played with some great cuddly toy animals, sat in the musical singing bus, enjoyed some really fabulous food and of course played on the YouTube Kids app on the special iPads. It was a brilliant family friendly event!

YouTube Kids app


The YouTube Kids app is designed for children between 3 and 8 years old, providing a safe online experience with rich content especially for younger viewers. It is fun to use and easy to navigate. I am really impressed with the app and love that Freddy can explore video content independently online, discovering new shows, learning new things and accessing videos on topics that interest him safely. It is great for when we are out and about, visiting grandparents or away for the night, guaranteeing that he has something fun to watch to keep him entertained whenever needed. I applaud YouTube for creating such an exciting and interactive app that kids will not only love using, but will also help keep them safer online, protecting them from viewing inappropriate content.


YouTube Kids

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Geronimo Festival will be back in 2016

The Geronimo children's festival will be returning in 2016 and promises to be bigger and better than ever with two venues, Tatton Park on 29/30 May and Harewood House 1/2 May. This festival is aimed at families with children aged under 12, who want to play, learn and have fun together. We went last year and it was an action packed day out with so much to do.

festival


With the biggest names in children's entertainment such as Mr Bloom, Alex Winters, Andy Day and Cook and Line from Swashbuckle, children will get to see their TV favourites perform in the Geronostage Zone and get to see them at special meet and greet sessions.

The Adrenaline Zone will give children the chance to climb trees, build dens and even whizz down a zip line at speeds of up to 60 km/h. Taster sessions of archery, fencing and parkour will introduce new skills to young guests. The Arena Zone will be home to live displays such as jousting, motorbike stunts, horse handling, falconry or sheep dog demonstrations.

The Library Zone will see children take part in dance classes, singalong to the songs of Frozen and watch Mr Yipadee bring musical instruments to life. There will be theatre shows and story telling in the Theatre Zone while circus skills and performances will keep everyone happy in the Circus Zone.

Animal lovers will love the Pasture Zone where there will be pony or donkey riding. Crocodile Joe will be hosting a reptile show and there will be lots of wonderful giant tortoises to meet. Tumble Tots sessions, balance bikes and baby yoga will be available for little ones in the 3ft and Under Zone. Live music will be played throughout the day at the Bandstand Zone.

The Funky Junk Zone will inspire crafty kids to get making. Totem Pole making, stone carving, hair braiding, face painting and fairy craft workshops will keep everyone busy. There will traditional fairground rides in the Fairground Zone such as a helter skelter and carousel. The Woodland Zone will let kids run off steam, make a mud pie, learn to make a carrot whistle, monkey around on the high ropes course or ride a mountain bike.

We have been asked to be ambassadors for this event and so will be posting updates on the Geronimo festival over the next few months. Here are some photographs from last year's event showing some of the fun experiences that Freddy enjoyed!

family festival


Tickets are on sale priced from £18.50 pp for one day. Under 2's go free.

Find out more and buy tickets at www.geronimofest.com.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Making Christmas Magical with Personalised Videos and Phone Calls from Santa with PNP

One of the things that really gets me into the Christmas spirit, is making my annual video message to Freddy from Santa using the Portable North Pole website. It is always such a magical moment, playing the personalised message for my son Freddy, seeing the wonder in his eyes knowing that he still has that total belief in Father Christmas. The videos are truly heartwarming, engaging and expertly crafted, delivering surprises and fun as Santa delivers his personal message.

There are both free and premium videos available to make on the PNP site or app. The free video comes with five points of personalisation, whereas there are up to sixteen personalisations, including up to five photographs and a choice of storylines with the premium service. You can make videos for children, but even adults can get in on the fun with some cheekier grown-up options available to send.

Santa has a personal message for children whether they are on his naughty or nice list. In fact, the video message can help encourage better behaviour with children eager to make it on to and stay on Santa's list of good boys and girls. It's a handy little incentive in the run up to Christmas, where a timely reminder about Santa's elves watching them, can prompt some best behaviour from little ones. Santa gives praise and encouragement to children for their efforts, which positively reinforces their good behaviour, and delivers a naughty or nice verdict at the end of the video.

Christmas, video messages, Santa


We are trying out one of the premium Gold Pass Bundles from PNP, which is worth £10.99. For this price you can make unlimited premium video messages and phone calls from Santa until January 2016. You also get HD video downloads and access to any archived PNP videos. (If you are quick, PNP fans can get a pre-season Gold Pass for £9.99 available for a limited time only.)

This year there are seven festive video storylines to choose from:

Visit an Elf House
Tour the Post Office
A Song Just for You
Secret Places
Christmas Eve
Movie Star
Birthday

Each lasts 5 minutes (except the Christmas Eve one, which is 2 minutes long, as Santa is super busy on that day!) Each can be personalised, which is really fun to do, and includes your child's name and photos and other details, to make a unique and magical video for a child. With beautiful settings, cute elves and of course a traditional Santa, the videos are a real joy to watch.

Also with the premium Gold Pass you can receive unlimited phone calls from Santa. These are so much fun and are really effective. There are lots of themes to choose from, such as receiving congratulations for working hard at school or making effort to improve, to gentle warnings about fighting or arguing to try and kerb behaviour that could find a child on Santa's naughty list. There are also phone calls to keep a child up to date on Christmas Eve progress reminding them to put out cookies or giving them a live update from the sleigh. These interactive phone calls really do add to the magic of the season, especially as Santa speaks to the child by name.

My favourite thing about the PNP premium Gold Pass is that I can use the videos and phone calls in the weeks before Christmas Day to build excitement and keep the magic of Christmas alive. Each five minute video is different, bringing some new excitement from the North Pole and allowing Freddy to explore something new with Santa and his elves. Freddy really loved the video I made him last year, so I imagine he is going to thoroughly enjoy watching the premium video messages and taking phonecalls from Santa over this festive season. You can make videos for any number of recipients with the unlimited pass so friends and family can also get a personalised message from Santa, shared via Facebook or by email. So much better than a card!

               


The PNP Children's hospital Program donates 5% of purchases to children's hospitals around the world, including four in the UK, so buying PNP premium videos will help other children. Over $100,000 has been donated to date.

To find out more about the different PNP services and products available and to purchase premium videos, calls or unlimited passes visit www.portablenorthpole.com

The free video message service will be available online later this month. Premium videos will be available to view online until June 2016 after which they will be archived and phone calls will stay available for 365 days.

Counting Down to Christmas with a Playmobil Advent Calendar

The countdown to Christmas is always made so much more exciting with an advent calendar. Opening the windows everyday, adds to the build up and excitement of the season. One of our favourite advent calendar choices from the last few years is a PLAYMOBIL Advent Calendar. Each window reveals a PLAYMOBIL figure or accessory, which when displayed together, create an attractive festive scene that looks great and can be played with. The best thing is that the toys can also be played with long after advent is over and for years to come, making this a great value advent calendar idea.

As part of the 2015 PLAYMOBIL Playologist team, Freddy has been sent a Christmas Room Advent Calendar featuring a rather elegant PLAYMOBIL family preparing for Christmas, enjoying the festivities, eating luxury food and trimming the tree in their rather fancy living room. It's suitable for both boys and girls, encouraging role play and inspiring imagination, providing a familiar setting for children to explore.

The advent calendar includes a 3D cardboard room backdrop, on which to display the pieces, adding one piece each day. It is easy to put together with slots and tabs. There is also a booklet included, which gives full instructions on the pieces and on any assembly that may be needed.

Christmas, advent calendar


The PLAYMOBIL family of mum, dad, and two children, along with their family pets, look very happy opening their presents from around the light up Christmas tree in their decorated room.  (The light up tree requires two AAA batteries, which are not included.)

advent calendar


The advent calendar itself consists of a large sealed box with 24 cut out numbered windows of various sizes. There is a push out section on the back that allows it to be wall mounted if required. The windows are relatively easy to open to reveal that day's surprise, although a little adult help may be needed for little hands to open them neatly. Some pieces in the advent calendar require assembly,which can prove a bit fiddly for children and may require a grown-up's help. The collection grows throughout December, until the full scene is completed on Christmas Eve. The excellent quality of the product is exactly what you would expect from the PLAYMOBIL brand.

Christmas


Find this advent calendar and the full range of toys on the  PLAYMOBIL website. You will find so many great Christmas gift ideas for the little people in your life!

                         


The PLAYMOBIL Christmas Room Advent Calendar is £19.99 and recommended for children aged 4+ .

Monday, 16 November 2015

The QI range of Quite Interesting Gifts

From the brains behind the TV show QI, comes a range of really Quite Interesting gifts, puzzles and experiments, which will keep families entertained for hours. They are suitable for both adults and older children and will be great gifts for Christmas. From a set to blow square bubbles to sand that can't get wet to incredible optical illusions to singing, bouncing magnets - curious minds will be stretched and fascinated by these amazing products from Wow! Stuff. Also available is a mug and calendar filled with fascinating facts and quotes to discover everyday and a rather funky egg timer filled with iron filings. Any fans of QI will enjoy these gifts that feature host Stephen Fry on the front of the packaging.

QI


We were sent two of the sets, the Quite Interesting Sand and the Square Bubbles.

Quite Interesting Sand

The special sands included in the Quite Interesting Sand set include a sand putty, that can be sculpted using the included tool or moulded by hand, and a hydophobic sand that has been treated with silicon gas, coating the particles making them come out of water bone dry. These tactile products let you explore the properties of the sands and experiment with them. The putty is actually quite stress relieving and playing with it is relaxing, making this a good idea for grown-ups as an interesting novelty gift.

The sets also come with a QI question and answer card filled with fascinating facts on a subject and an Elf Extra card featuring a fun activity to try at home. There is also a download to get a QI klaxon app included.

QI


Contents

150g Sand putty
30g Hydrophobic sand
Sculpting Tool
General Ignorance and Elf Extra Card
FREE QI klaxon app at qi.com/app
Instructions

RRP: £12.99

Square Bubbles

Making a square bubble is seemingly impossible until you have this kit. Inspired by Stephen Fry's demonstration on the QI show, this kit contains everything needed to achieve the impossible. A specially constructed structure, made from balls and connectors, allows you to create a suspended bubble that is most definitely more square than round. The iridescent, transparent cubic bubbles are sure to impress!

quite interesting


Contents

12 struts & 8 ball connectors
Bubble solution (250ml)
Full instructions for use, as well as online tips & tricks videos to get the most from the products
FREE QI klaxon app at qi.com/app

RRP: £7.99

QI


These products are great for children with inquiring minds and adults who are interested in Quite Interesting stuff! They are excellent for Christmas as executive gifts for grown-ups or stocking fillers for the kids. There are hours of fun to be had exploring the sets and trying out the Elf Extra activity at home.

The QI sets are available at John Lewis, Waitrose and Tesco.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Get Your Laundry ready for Christmas with festive edition Surf and Comfort

For this festive season, there are glad tidings of Comfort and Surf as they meet under the mistletoe with new limited edition Surf Winter Violets & Mistletoe and Comfort Creations Mistletoe & Crocus.

This festive duo of winter scents will add a kiss of fragrant winter magic to your laundry. Blended by perfume experts, the combinations of Christmas flowers, go together perfectly with their fresh floral notes. So whether you are snuggling up in your favourite Christmas jumper or are tucked up in bed waiting for Santa, Surf and Comfort will make your washing clean, soft and smelling a lot like Christmas!

laundry, washing


Surf Winter Violets & Mistletoe has an RRP of £5.00 and the Comfort Creations Mistletoe & Crocus has an RRP of £3.30. 
Both are available from all major supermarkets until the 1st of February 2016.


Thursday, 12 November 2015

An Elfie Selfie Christmas Top from the Selfie Clothing Co

We are without doubt, a nation who loves our selfies. Millions of selfies are uploaded to social media everyday as we record our daily lives through the medium of digital photography using our smartphones. But we don't have to keep these images virtual, we can use them in so many more creative ways, such as having them printed onto some cool selfie apparel, designed and printed by the Selfie Clothing Co.

With Christmas coming, the Selfie Clothing Co. have a great range of Elfie Selfie tops for children, using kids' selfies to create fun festive images featuring their faces. Much more individual than an off the peg Christmas Jumper, the Elfie Selfie will make children stand out from the crowd at parties or school discos this season.

Freddy was sent an Elfie Selfie Christmas tee from the Selfie Clothing Co. featuring his face embellished to look like a Mini Santa Claus complete with hat and moustache. His reaction to seeing himself as Santa on the loved sleeved tee was priceless. He giggled out loud for the longest time!

The top arrived well packaged wrapped in paper inside a sturdy box. The round necked tee is made using lightweight jersey blend with a bespoke print to the front. The sleeves include Christmas icons such as gifts, candy canes and snowflakes to match the design. The colours and imagery gives a quirky, retro feel to the top.

elfie selfie, Christmas


The Christmas Selfie tops come in a variety of designs including snowmen, elves, reindeer and Santa, so you can pick your child's favourite to make a unique piece of clothing especially for them.

The tops are so easy to order, you simply upload an image to the site or sign in with Instagram and pick an image. Selfie Clothing Co. do the rest, hand printing the design in the UK. Delivery is within three working days. Sizing for children goes up to 8 years.

The tees would make a wonderful, thoughtful, unique and fun gift for any little one and are great for getting everyone into the Christmas spirit. What child wouldn't want to wear themselves this Christmas!?

selfie clothing, printed tee, christmas, santa


The Elfie Selfie Tees are £15 each but you can get 20% off the price using the code: wendy20 at www.selfieclothing.co.uk.

The Selfie Clothing Co also do a range of tops for men and women using selfies in a series of cool designs.

Find out more at:



Wednesday, 11 November 2015

WIN a PLAYMOBIL Special Forces Firefighter to celebrate London Fire Brigade’s 150th anniversary

London Fire Brigade have recruited a specialist #PLAYMOBILBrigade to release a catchy sing-a-long stop-motion video, to introduce children to our Fire Brigade heroes and ensure they know who to call if  they ever find themselves in danger.

To celebrate, we have a PLAYMOBIL Special Forces Firefighters to give away to 2 lucky winners!

The video shows how London Fire Brigade fights more than just house fires and highlights how much they do for the community. It launches the Brigade’s 150th anniversary celebrations, as part of a partnership running into 2016 aiming to educate children about fire safety outside of the home.

In true PLAYMOBIL style, children can watch the fire service as they rescue clowns from an RTA caused by a dragon, save an elderly lady from a flood and attend an out-of-control campfire attended by Father Christmas. The video showcases the variety of heroic deeds our fire fighters do.

For your chance to win, simply watch the video below and answer the following question as a comment on this blog and complete the Rafflecopter entry form:

What is the second emergency our PLAYMOBIL firefighters are called to?


         


a Rafflecopter giveaway

To browse the PLAYMOBIL Fire Brigade range, visit www.playmobil.co.uk/LondonFireBrigade

January 1st 2016 marks the start of London Fire Brigade’s 150th year in operation. To find out how to join in the celebrations throughout 2016, visit www.lfb150.co.uk

The video will be used by London Firefighters and the Brigade’s Education team as part of their fire prevention outreach work, teaching children in foundation year classes (Nursery, Reception and Year 1) about the people who help us.



Full Ts&Cs:

1.  Participation in the competition is free of charge and does not require an order to be placed. By entering the competition – with the consent of his/her legal guardian if the user is of minor age – accepts these terms and conditions, and any other conditions or deadlines mentioned separately.

2.  PLAYMOBIL will handle all personal details such as family name, first name, phone number and email address in accordance with legal provisions.

3. Entry to the competition is open to all persons aged 18 and over, and resident in the UK. Legal representatives and employees of PLAYMOBIL or LFB and their family members are not eligible.

4. To take part in the competition the user must submit the correct answer to the question on this page by midnight on 19/11/15.

5. The winner will be randomly drawn from all entries in relation to the competition. Any recourse to courts of law is excluded.

6. The winner will be notified via email and will need to reply by email to confirm acknowledgement of the prize. If a winner fails to make contact by midnight on 19/11/15, the prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be drawn at random.

7. The prize: a. There will be 2 winners who will win 1 x Special Forces Fire Fighters figure each

8. PLAYMOBIL bears the costs for shipping the prize to the UK domicile of the winner.

It is agreed by the participant with PLAYMOBIL that any further costs incurred by winners in relation to this competition, e.g. customs duties and taxes for the prize, shall be met by the winner or his/her legal guardian.

9. The prize may take up to 2-4 days to arrive.

10. PLAYMOBIL reserves the right to replace the advertised prizes with other prizes and to change the game rules any time. The change takes effect the next calendar day. In this event the participant is not entitled to lodge a claim of any kind against PLAYMOBIL.

11. PLAYMOBIL shall not be liable for any loss or injury which the participant may incur as a result of accepting or making use of the prize.

12.  PLAYMOBIL is entitled to exclude participants from the competition at any time in the event of a serious breach of contract.

13. PLAYMOBIL has the right to cancel the competition at any time without prior notice and without indicating any reasons, particularly if technical complications arise.

14. Any recourse to courts of law is excluded.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Storage Solutions with Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay Home Media Storage #Review

In this modern age, we all have so much data stored across a multitude of devices, and much of it is precious and irreplaceable. Films, digital photographs, videos, music and documents are stored on our mobile phones, laptops and PCs. This is all well and good until one of these devices breaks, crashes or gets lost or stolen. It is a sobering thought to imagine the loss of years' worth of family photos and home videos. On my laptop alone I have some 64,000 images including scans of long gone hard copies dating back to the 1930's. These can never be replaced. If I add to this the thousands of home movie clips, MP3s of the children performing music and the photo edits that have been made for special occasions, thinking of any of them getting lost is truly heartbreaking.

Ian is constantly trying to back up data onto a second laptop, on memory sticks or external hard drives, but having this data spread around makes it difficult to retrieve and inaccessible without going on a major search. So I just tend to let him do it, knowing that we'll never access it unless in an absolute emergency situation. Having them backed up in this way means I don't feel confident in deleting them from my devices, which are now struggling with memory under the sheer volume of stored data.

I need to be able to get to my files directly from my laptop or smartphone, as I use my photos on a regular basis, so easy access is a really important factor when it comes to storage. Remote cloud storage is an option, but with the constant threat of security issues, I feel that saving personal files on someone else's hardware is not without risk. Renting room in the ether for my primary storage needs has never really appealed to me as an option.

Seagate Personal Cloud storage is a home based solution to the issue of storing files, and we are delighted to have received a Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay for review, to see how it changes our experience of file storage and usage. This review is done from my viewpoint - someone with limited technical knowledge, but with lots and lots of files that I want to be safe, secure and accessible.

home media storage


The 8TB cloud home media storage device has many of the features of remote providers, but with the benefit of belonging to you alone. The 8TB storage can be used as a whole for maximum capacity (RAID 0) or configured into two 4TB drives allowing the data storage to be mirrored, providing maximum protection (RAID 1) for your precious files. 4TB is a huge amount of space and plenty enough for us as a family, so the extra secure 2 bay system is right for our needs. If there is a problem with one of the bays, the second will still hold all the saved files safely.

Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay


The drive is a handsome, sleek black box that is simple yet classy enough to have in either home or office settings. Setting it up was so simple. Connecting the box to your router made it recognizable to our laptop, allowing the set-up wizard to do its thing. Once set up, all devices on our home network are able to see and access the cloud personal storage directly. This means we can all access stored material and save to the device. There is an option to have a private file for sensitive or personal material. The backup manager gives you lots of back up and syncing options direct from the homepage dashboard, which is easy to use with clear navigational tiles. You can choose to automatically sync data directly to the cloud, so you need not worry about remembering to back them manually and potentially losing files.

Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay


The homepage also connects you to the device manager, app manager and download manager, giving you the option to further personalise your experience according to your needs. The device manager is the setting menu for the personal cloud, allowing you to see status info and percentage of storage used etc. You can also check for updates, although the system does do autochecks. There are more advanced settings, but for me, I wanted the most simple way of managing my personal cloud.

Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay


You can enjoy your media on your TV using the Seagate Media app on your mobile to stream to your Apple TV, Chromecast or some LG TVs, to watch films, slideshows and home videos from your personal cloud. Devices with DLNA capability, such as PS4, XBox One or Smart TVs, can stream content directly. You can also connect to your device from anywhere using the Seagate Media app, giving access to your files away from home. So you can remotely access a photo or watch a film from wherever you are whenever you are online.

Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay


Our overall experience of the Seagate Personal Cloud has been really positive. I now have a fully accessible and extremely safe way to save all my files. I can watch slideshows or movies on my Smart TV directly from the personal cloud icon that appears on the screen. My photos can be accessed and used from my laptop just as easily if they were stored on my own hard drive. The Seagate Media app on my phone gives me another level of access to my files, which is convenient when away from home. The cloud is really user friendly to set up and to use. Ongoing, the Seagate Personal Cloud will be a real asset to our home, allowing the whole family to store and access files with confidence and ease
.
Seagate Personal Cloud 2 Bay retails at £359.99. Find out more about this product and the Seagate range of storage solutions for business and personal use including game drives, external hard drives and personal cloud home media storage at www.seagate.com.

A Daughter is a Little Girl who grows up to be your Best Friend

Happy 24th birthday to Megan. My daughter who gave me the strength to become the person who I needed to be, even before she was born. Whose positive attitude to life inspires and astounds me everyday. Whose strength and resilience constantly amazes me and motivates me to be the best person I can be. My daughter who never fails to fill our time together with energy and laughter.

motherhood, parenting, daughters
Me and my little girl


Megan is a a force to be reckoned with and someone who gives love to the people she cares about in abundance. And she is adored in return. I am so honoured to have her and am so proud that I had a hand in helping her become the woman she is today.

You are just such a cool girl Megan. 

So Megs, keep breaking that fourth wall, and continue to bring adventure, fun and hilarity into our lives. You girls really are my best friends and that makes me the luckiest mum ever.

I love you immensely.

Happy birthday my lovely xxx

birthday, family
Meg with Nana and Grandad

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Cadbury Opens the Door to Christmas

This week I stocked up on Cadbury advent calendars for my little ones in readiness for December 1st and the countdown to Christmas. Advent calendars really do signal the start of the excitement of the season with days counted down marked with a tasty morsel of Cadbury chocolate.

This year, Cadbury are using the advent calendar theme in their Christmas ad campaign, but instead of cardboard windows and mini chocolate pieces, they are using 24 Cadbury purple trucks filled with boxes of goodies to deliver joy to the nation. Each truck represents a different door of the advent calendar, which is brought to life as the fleet departs to different locations across the UK.

The ad launches on November 7th and promises to become a festive family favourite. Set at the home of Cadbury in Bournville, the ad shows the trucks being filled with Christmas cheer before taking the advent calendar formation – even Santa himself pops in to check on the preparations.

The journey of the giant Cadbury Advent Calendar continues to the sound of the Thunderbirds theme tune. The trucks pass through famous British landscapes on their journeys to deliver joy to the nation. Who knows where the trucks will open their doors?! Near me I hope!
You will also have the chance to see the Trucks deliver their joy through a series of 20 second spots that will capture the magic that lies behind the truck doors as they arrive at their destinations throughout December. (These will be available to view on TV, VOD and online platforms from December 5th.)
Keep up to date with the festive fun at www.facebook.com/cadburyUK.
Or join in the chat on Twitter @CadburyUK with the hashtag #freethejoy.
        

Friday, 6 November 2015

My Milk Memories #MilkDrinkersMilk

There are so many drinks marketed to children that are made using artificial sweeteners, colourings and flavourings, or which are packed with high amounts of sugars. None of which are good for your little ones to consume in excess. Experts are constantly telling us about the dangers of high sugar consumption and we all know the horror stories associated with chemical sweeteners. Thankfully there are alternatives to these highly coloured, sweetened and flavoured drinks that kids will still enjoy drinking. One such drink is milk.

When I was a little girl, milk was still delivered in pint bottles from the milkman - two a day, but three at the weekend when mum would make a big rice pudding to eat after our Sunday roast. It was one of my jobs to go and fetch the milk from the front doorstep. You had to do it early or the neighbourhood blue-tits would come and peck through the silver tops to pinch the cream on top. The tell-tale little holes would let you know if you were too late. After the milk was finished and the bottles were empty, they would be rinsed and returned to the doorstep for collection - recycling at its best. Silver foil lids would also be washed and put into the arts and crafts box ready to be stuck onto a cardboard box to make a robot's eyes or the buttons on the control panel of a rocket ship.

A glass of cold milk is something that is just so quintessentially reminiscent of childhood. An after school drink of cold milk and a homemade jam bun would quench your thirst and fill you up until teatime, giving you the energy to play outside until mum called you in to wash your hands. 

On a cold winter's evening a mug of warm frothy milk for supper was just the thing to tide you over until morning, aiding a peaceful night's sleep. I still remember my mum's frother - a long handled, metal disc with holes in that was plunged up and down into a tall pyrex beaker. The milk would froth up a treat under my mum's hand, making a foamy drink. A sprinkle of cinnamon on top made it seem very sophisticated.

As a child of the seventies, I remember the days when everyday at playtime we were given a small, foil topped, glass bottle of milk with a straw. Unfortunately for us, the crates were often left outside all morning, which on a cold day was not a problem. But in the summer, the heat would cause the milk to get warm and start to spoil. It really was the worst thing. Thankfully, the girl sat next to me seemed to quite like milk on the turn and she would happily drink it for me, meaning I could show my teacher my empty bottle and be allowed out to play. My eternal thanks goes to my pal Sonia! It wasn't long before the free school milk stopped, giving the nickname 'Thatcher Thatcher Milk Snatcher' to our infamous PM. To be honest, given the food safety standards in play during the seventies, she may have done us all a great favour (but I doubt my mate Sonia would have agreed with that).

milk drinkers


Nowadays, much has changed, but one thing that remains the same is our national love of milk. The glass bottles that the milkmen delivered daily have been replaced by convenient family sized plastic bottles from the supermarket, which we pick up with our weekly grocery shop. Cravendale is the brand that I trust most, to provide my children with the freshest, purest milk available. Each glassful tastes as fresh and clean as the first.

Freddy had a fantastic few days last month when his cousins Addy and Dylan came to stay at our house. Keeping three little ones fed and watered is made considerably easier by having a couple of 2 litre bottles of Cravendale chilling  in the fridge. When playing hard, little ones sometimes need refuelling. When they got hungry, a cold glass of milk and some cut up fruit or some quartered peanut butter sandwiches filled them up perfectly, providing them with a satisfying and nutritious snack. Seeing the three of them sat together, in the midst of a dressing up game, glugging down their milk made a lovely picture of childhood.

My nephew, 5 year old Dylan, is the biggest milk drinker ever. He can't get enough of the stuff and will happily gulp it down by the glassful, giving himself an impressive white milk moustache in the process. I was glad I had stocked up on Cravendale! A love of milk definitely runs in his family because his big sister's first word, and the word she repeated incessantly as a toddler, was 'Moo' - her word for milk. She was permanently attached to her black and white cow print sippy cup, shouting for her much loved moo and supping cup after cupful of the white stuff. It certainly must have given her a good start in life - as she is now at Oxford University training to be a doctor!

Cravendale

Cravendale is dubbed the 'Milk Drinker's Milk' because of its pure, fresh taste which is great for drinking. It is by far our favourite milk on the market, which I put down to the fact that it has been filtered giving it that all important long lasting freshness. It stays fresh for seven days in the fridge so thankfully there is no fear of Freddy;s milk ever tasting prematurely cheesy (unlike the school milk of my childhood!) 

milk


“This post is an entry for BritMums #MilkDrinkersMilk Linky Challenge, sponsored by Cravendale” 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Old El Paso Stand 'n' Stuff Tacos

Old El Paso Stand 'n' Stuff Soft Taco Kit range is great for quick 'n' easy midweek meals that the kids will love. Easy to fill, hold and eat, they bring the vibrant flavours and fun of Mexican cuisine to hungry families looking for something a bit different to eat. I was sent some to try out.

Mexican


They are so easy to make in three simple steps:

Cook the mince using the seasoning in the kit - I use Quorn mince to make them vegetarian.
Prepare the fillings - we use salad, grated cheese, nacho cheese sauce, refried beans and salsa ( a sachet of salsa is included in the kits.)
Fill your taco and enjoy!

Old El Paso's Stand 'n' Stuff Soft Tacos


It's such a fun meal, sitting together and filling the soft tacos with the fillings of your choice. They are so much easier to make and eat than the crunchy tacos, making them easier for the kids to manage.

Old El Paso's Stand 'n' Stuff Soft Taco


There are three taco kits in the range:

Smoky BBQ includes a smoky seasoning and taco salsa sachet with eight Stand 'n' Stuff soft tortillas.

Extra Mild Super Tasty includes a cool herb topping mix and a tomato stir in sauce with eight Stand 'n' Stuff soft tortillas.

Garlic and Paprika includes a mild, garlicky seasoning and a sachet of taco salsa with eight Stand 'n' Stuff soft tortillas.

You can also get a pack of eight Stand 'n' Stuff soft tortillas on their own, which are perfect for getting creative in the kitchen. You can stuff them with spicy flash fried onions and peppers or with Quorn pieces cooked in a chilli sauce. Or you could even use them for lunchboxes filled with grated cheese and salad.

Old El Paso's Stand 'n' Stuff Soft Taco, Mexican


The Stand 'n' Stuff Smoky BBQ and Extra Mild Kits are £3.79 RRP and the flour tortilla packs are £1.89 RRP. They are available to buy at major supermarkets. The Garlic and Paprika kits are limited to Tesco and Morissons.

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