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chrisandmark_is_here

chrisandmark_is_here

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Getting rid of a lot of our 'too young' toys (*sob*) so I'm reviewing them thanks to the fact I CANNOT get new products added! Photos will be lacking as most of these reviews are updated from another site where I used the pics & Ciao's new rule scares me!

Reviews written

since 03/07/2011

923

Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII - Robert Hutchinson 22/11/2017

Horrid Henry...

Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII - Robert Hutchinson ~x~x~x~ A life of opposites ~x~x~x~ I have a fascination with the Tudors but my reading mainly takes me from Henry VIII's time with Anne Boleyn, which is when English history really gets exciting in my opinion, onwards - I've read a bit about Henry VII so have touched upon the earlier life of my favourite historical tyrant, but it is mainly his later life that interests me (with all the intrigue and political bedlam that came with it). I bought Young Henry in a charity shop a couple of years ago, not particularly to read but because I thought it would look good on my book case next to the biography of Elizabeth I - it does look good there, but having now read the book I can say it was a worthwhile buy all round. One thing that fascinates me about Henry Tudor is the fact his life seemed to go from one end of a spectrum to another - he was a beautiful young man but a horrifically fat and ugly when he got older, he was known as being spoilt but chivalrous when he became king as a teenager but vilely cruel and murderous in later life, a devout Catholic to throwing Rome out of England in favour of his own religion. And of course, the fact he was the second son to King Henry and Queen Elizabeth so the first part of his life was spent at leisure; highly educated and skilled in public life from a very young age, but it was when his elder brother Prince Arthur died that Henry had to turn his playful life around and become the cosseted heir to the still pretty unstable English ...

Harry Potter Gryffindor Dress Up Costume 10/11/2017

Being Hermione...

Harry Potter Gryffindor Dress Up Costume ~x~x~x~ World Book Day Drama ~x~x~x~ When Hollie was four her school dropped World Book Day on us with very little notice; everyone knew World Book Day was coming up but as she was new to this school (as were all the other kids and mums as this was their Reception year) we had assumed the school didn't celebrate it, as the day approached and no mention was made of it. Then one Friday it was announced on the newsletter that children were to dress up either on the Monday or Tuesday of the following week (I forget which day, I've slept since then). The fairly snotty newsletter request was that children were NOT to come dressed as superheroes or Disney Princesses as these are, apparently, the cheats way out and parents should be getting into the spirit of things by finding or making a 'proper' BOOK costume. Upshot was that weekend was spent travelling literally dozens of miles to source a costume, everywhere was out of stock of 'book' inspired costumes and we were just about resigning ourselves to raiding the wardrobe and making our own costume when I decided to try 'one last place' (Matalan) where, as luck would have it, there was one tiny Harry Potter costume mixed in with all the bigger sizes. Well, Hollie is a lifelong Harry Potter fan (having two older sisters, one who is bookish and the other a movie buff has helped this along) and she was absolutely thrilled to be able to dress up as her favourite character (Hermione - also a Gryffindor student). ~x~x~x~ Simplicity is ...

The Beatles Story, Liverpool 06/11/2017

An Education On The Fab Four

The Beatles Story, Liverpool ~x~x~x~ When I find myself in times of trouble... ~x~x~x~ It wasn't quite the Mother Mary who set us en-route to The Beatles Story in Liverpool, but a friendly Scouse parking meter man when we arrived in Liverpool a few days ago. We were only there for the day (well, part day really as Mark had a job on in Bootle and I decided to tag along in the hope of seeing some of the City Centre before/during/after this was done). Anyway, we hadn't counted on the CRAZY traffic on the M6 so to cut a long story short we ended up getting into actual Liverpool at around 4.30pm and by this point we were knackered, bickering and just wanted to find something that was still going to be fully open by the time we'd found a parking space - Mark had wanted to see a specific boat/ship in the docks but that closed at 4pm so we cast around looking for something else before I (in a needy, please help me, I'm miles from home kinda voice) asked the parking man for inspiration. Without hesitation he pointed across the road, said 'The Beatles Story is open until six' and told us if he was visiting the area that's the first place he'd head for. Well, he would say that wouldn't he? Being a Liverpudlian. ~x~x~x~ The Beatles Story - as seen by a non-fan... ~x~x~x~ The Beatles?! Mark, what?! That was pretty much my reaction when Mark starting striding over to the building - you see, I'm not a fan of the Beatles. I don't particularly enjoy their music, cannot see the appeal of any of the 'Fab Four' ...

Funko Pop: Vinyl Harry Potter Series Luna Lovegood 02/11/2017

Here Comes Loony Lovegood!

Funko Pop: Vinyl Harry Potter Series Luna Lovegood ~x~x~x~ The first in an ever-expanding collection ~x~x~x~ My older girls' have collected Pop Vinyls for a few years now, neither of them have a huge collection but they're always good as a go-to gift or stocking filler - just after Christmas last year, however, they introduced ten year old Hollie to Funko and now she literally spends every penny she has on them! Luna Lovegood is Hollie's favourite character in the Harry Potter books and films and Hollie came to own the Pop figure due to her big sisters' spotting it with a damaged box for a couple of quid in Toys R Us. Since then Hollie has grown her collection to ten Pop figures, all from the various Harry Potter collections, but she's definitely got a soft spot for Luna Lovegood - personally I think this is one of the duller Harry Potter characters but Hollie loves it (and that's obviously the main thing). This is number 14 if you follow the Funko numbering system, Hollie doesn't keep her boxes so the numbers aren't relevant to her collection but apparently they are important if you're a 'proper' collector. ~x~x~x~ Lovely Luna Look-a-Like ~x~x~x~ Luna has the same blonde hair as she sports in the Harry Potter films, she's vaguely reminiscent of the actress who plays Luna but as always Funko have styled their figure in a quirky way so that she tends to fit the character as a whole more than just being a visual representation. Luna's wearing her Ravenclaw uniform and has her wand in her hand, she's wearing earrings that ...

Riber Towsure Directors Chair 31/10/2017

Camping In Style

Riber Towsure Directors Chair ~x~x~x~ Action! ~x~x~x~ For the past few years we've taken to camping, my partner has renovated a Transit High-Top into a camper van and while it's been a work in progress for several years now he's made it so that it can always be used despite the fact he's still working on it. We can all sleep in the van (the four of us who go - me, Mark and our two youngest children) but we still take a family size dome tent as well as an awning so everyone has the full range of options as to where they're going to sleep and there's a place to sit quietly if you want a few minutes of 'alone time' (not especially easy to get when four of you are squeezed into a van). I bought Mark two Towsure Directors Chairs for Christmas four years ago, he'd recently had a huge change-around in the van which cut down an awful lot on free space - the need for comfortable seating outside was more urgent than ever, I hate lounging on those cruddy canvas 'fishing chairs' so his pressie that year was more to please me than him! At the time I purchased them the chairs were available in the deep green you can see in Ciao's stock photo and also a navy blue, I bought one of each at a cost of around £25 each (they are currently priced at £29.95 with a promotional offer where you can purchase two for £49). ~x~x~x~ A king amongst camping chairs ~x~x~x~ These chairs are crazily comfortable, they offer support both for my bum when I sit down and also for my back when I lean into the backrest of the chair to chill ...

Yesterday's Tea Room, Birmingham 23/10/2017

Killing An Hour, Yesterday's Style

Yesterday's Tea Room, Birmingham ~x~x~x~ Yesterday, Once More... ~x~x~x~ A couple of weeks ago I offered to take my friend's son's car for an MOT, it was all booked in and ready to go but after half of the test had been completed the garage's ramps broke so I had to take it back the following day. As the garage is located on a main road in a largely residential area there isn't much to do while you're waiting, at the side of the garage is a tiny shopping centre (as in a butchers and mini newsagent) which is where Yesterday's Tea Room is situated. It was during the aborted MOT that I first found it and was the first place I headed the next day when I found myself with yet another garage-induced hour to kill. ~x~x~x~ Mildly quaint ~x~x~x~ The interior of Yesterday's Tea Room is very light and airy, it was quiet during my visit so I got a choice of tables and nabbed one right by the window to enjoy the sunshine. Tables and chairs are what I'd term 'Ikea-like'; lightly coloured to blend in beautifully with the neutral decor of the tea room, chunky and very comfortable to sit at. Looking around the walls you'll see some attractive and interesting prints of old advertising posters and various tea/coffee/herb inspired pictures, along one wall is a display of teacups and other assorted 'quaint' knick knacks as well as a small bookcase filled with a selection of novels and baking recipe books (I'm not sure whether these books were for sale or there for effect, I had assumed they were there to be sold but once I ...

Rimmel 60 Seconds Nail Varnish 19/10/2017

Chipped in 60 Seconds...

Rimmel 60 Seconds Nail Varnish ~x~x~x~ Limealicious! ~x~x~x~ So goes the name of the Rimmel 60 Seconds Nail Varnish I'm reviewing today, having used it last night to paint the nails of two of my daughters. Ten year old Hollie received a coveted 'Gold Card' at school yesterday, the reward for this being she gets to wear her own clothes instead of her uniform today and tomorrow - she asked me to do her nails and I said she could pick the colour herself (providing she didn't go for hooker red or goth black, of course). Half an hour or so later she came out of the bathroom clutching Limealicious and sagely told me that she might as well get the last out of the summery colours as winter is practically here. I've had this bottle for years and have no recollection of where I bought it, or how much I paid. I can't actually think why I'd buy a colour like this and I've never been a huge lover of the Rimmel brand, I assume it cost around £2.50 - £3 as that tends to be the price of most nail varnishes from this brand - it's lasted amazingly well to be honest and after a good shake the nail varnish was as good as new despite sitting ignored in my bathroom for (probably over) five years. ~x~x~x~ Applies like a dream ~x~x~x~ 60 Seconds uses a trademarked 'Xpress Flat Brush' which is shaped more like a long eyeshadow brush than one you'd use for nail varnish. I absolutely love the brush, it means you can paint a nail in pretty much a single stroke (although obviously you will have to probably retouch the edges on ...

State of Fear - Michael Crichton 30/09/2017

When Natural Disasters Aren't Quite What They Seem...

State of Fear - Michael Crichton ~x~x~x~ 2017. The year I rediscovered Michael Crichton ~x~x~x~ Michael Crichton is an author I've been familiar with for years, I read his Jurassic Park novels back in the 1990s and in the intervening decades have dipped into his work occasionally. This year, however, I made a resolution (and have stuck to it pretty much) that any books I bought had to come from either charity shops, library sales and any other places or situations that a book can be purchased for 50p - £1 rather than the general £5 - £15 RRPs books tend to be given in 'new' shops. Michael Crichton is one of those authors that you can always find in charity shops and over the past few months I've built myself a little collection of his novels, currently owning ten which have cost me the princely sum of around £7. State of Fear is a novel written in 2004, surrounding the surprisingly murky world of the scientists who study and experiment on our planet to find out why things seem to be going so badly wrong in the environment. Michael Crichton, when alive, was a passionate scholar of the environment - while he maintained the stance that climate change is an unknown science (because it hasn't happened for millennia past) he did keep an open mind regarding both the causes and effects of weather patterns and 'global warming' in general. ~x~x~x~ Oh god, I've accidentally started reading a climate change book... ~x~x~x~ See, man made or not - I am TOTALLY disinterested in the whole climate change thing. I find ...

Barbie My House Furniture - Dream Bath Tub 29/09/2017

Barbie In The Bath... And, Erm, On The Toilet...

Barbie My House Furniture - Dream Bath Tub ~x~x~x~ A little girl's dream bathroom set ~x~x~x~ A few years ago we bought Hollie a Barbie Cruise Ship, she was heavily into Barbie and Bratz at the time so it seemed a really good idea - the problem was although she still loved the dolls and whole 'pinkness' of Barbie, she was slightly past the age of actually playing games with them and preferred to 'arrange' and create a kind of real life Sims situation with the dolls. The ship was huge, it had cost around seventy quid (I know, yeah...) so I wasn't going to immediately get rid of it when I noticed she wasn't playing with it - I started thinking out of the box and decided to make a house out of the ship instead, obviously it was still going to look like a big pink plastic boat but the idea I had was to kit out the inside with homey type accessories and remove the various sun loungers and seating that came with the cruise ship. It didn't work quite to plan, in fact it turned out to be a ridiculous idea as I grossly underestimated how (relatively) big Barbie furniture has to be to accommodate her long legs - but funnily enough having new bits and pieces did boost Hollie's interest in playing with her dolls again for a while, albeit using it as standalone furniture while the cruise ship remained unloved and gathering dust. ~x~x~x~ The usual plastic Barbie tat ~x~x~x~ And I say that in the nicest possible way, but in the grand scheme of kids' toys I do think one of THE absolute worst quality offerings tend to be Barbie ...

Hasbro Disney Frozen Musical Lights Elsa 14/09/2017

Let It Go (Please, Hollie. Let This Doll Go...)

Hasbro Disney Frozen Musical Lights Elsa ~x~x~x~ Was this doll the death knell for Frozen Fever in the chrisandmark household? ~x~x~x~ Hollie is ten now and has zero interest in Frozen, other than to watch the film very occasionally (as when you're ten even a film that's just four years old can have a throwback feel apparently, I heard her say one day that she watches Frozen to remind her of being 'a kid' again). Anyway, while she'd rather stick pins into her eyes than use the Frozen duvet set which is languishing in the blanket box or play with any kind of Frozen doll these days - well, back when she was six it was a whole other story and she had a veritable collection of Anna and Elsa toys. Including the Musical Lights Elsa, which was a late addition to her vast array of cheap plastic Frozen memorabilia - purchased around two years ago, at the time when she was growing out of both the Frozen franchise and also out of dolls in general. It's basically an Elsa doll, looking very much like any of the other Barbie style Elsa dolls which were available at the time (and probably still are, Frozen Fever shows no signs of going away...) - she's wearing her beautiful blue gown and has the sideways braid holding up her thick ice-blonde hair. Very pretty but also very 'samey' in appearance compared to the other Elsa dolls Hollie had. What sets this apart from the 'other' Elsas is the fact the snowflakes on her dress glow when you activate the doll and she sings a short snipped of Let It Go. Joy. ~x~x~x~ One of the most ...

Shopkins Series 7 Surprise Party 5 Pack 23/08/2017

Shopkins. The Great Fleece Of The 21st Century.

Shopkins Series 7 Surprise Party 5 Pack ~x~x~x~ Shopkins... well... ~x~x~x~ I count myself quite lucky that my (now) ten year old daughter was never really struck by the Shopkins fad - she had a couple of pairs of pyjamas but none of the toys until this Christmas, when her sister bought her a set of the tiny figures as a stocking filler. ~x~x~x~ What on Earth are 'Shopkins'? ~x~x~x~ Well, aside from being an absolute waste of money they're... I mean... the toys are... Yep, they're totally pointless . Shopkins are basically TINY little representations of things you might, or might not, pop into your trolley on any given shopping trip - these 'things' have been given eyes and made to look reasonably animate in a weird you're-a-parent-and-will-buy-any-old-crap kinda way. In each pack you get five or six Shopkins figures, one of which is sealed so you have an 'exciting' surprise character - there's also usually a shopping basket or trolley included to give you the full 'shopping in miniature' experience. They come in a box which is much bigger than it needs to be, but still feels like a pretty rubbish present (at least these smaller sets, I'm not sure how well packaged the bigger sets are) thanks to the fact the manufacturer uses that floppy type of clear plastic which is a pain in the backside to wrap and also feels quite crumply to the touch. Shopkins do have a role in some game or other, or at least I'm assuming they do as there are myriad accessories available for them including a vending machine and various ...

Plan Toys 7110 My First Dolls House 16/08/2017

The Plan Was To Find A Dolls House...

Plan Toys 7110 My First Dolls House ~x~x~x~ A dolls house with a difference ~x~x~x~ I've always loved wooden toys, and more so as the years have gone by and seemingly everything is now plastic. For Hollie's second birthday my mum asked if she'd like a dolls house, I knew she would as despite being so young she always loved the kind of games which involved role play - and in a very non-PC way she's always enjoyed games that involved her 'keeping house' and being a good little mummy and organiser. I remember that year we looked everywhere for the right dolls house for her - bearing in mind two years old is usually under the recommended age for this kind of toy, and also we had to consider the fact that Hollie was a very dainty toddler so most of the dolls houses we looked at were far too tall for her to play comfortably with. This one was recommended to me by one of my boring mum-friends who knows everything about what is right for other people's kids (and bugger all about disciplining her own, but that is a whole other review). She didn't exactly recommend this dolls house but told me to take a look at what Plan Toys had to offer; this is a brand I'd never heard of before but in the years since then have bought a fair few of their toys - the dolls house was my first Plan Toys purchase, and the reason I started buying the brand semi-regularly as we got on so well with it. ~x~x~x~ Get your tools (and patience) out ~x~x~x~ This dolls house comes packaged in a large flat box, mum ordered hers online to be ...

John Frieda Luxurious Volume Thickening Blow Dry Lotion 05/08/2017

Crud, by John Frieda...

John Frieda Luxurious Volume Thickening Blow Dry Lotion ~x~x~x~ Let's boost those roots! ~x~x~x~ My hair is, by and large, fine and limp. That's not to say it's not perfectly nice hair (I'm not one of those people who really gives a proverbial about my hair, but if I had to describe my style I'd say 'not very exciting'); I've had the same hair style since I was around nine years old, simply because it's so straight and fine that it won't really hold a style so I'm left with very long hair which sometimes has a fringe and sometimes doesn't. The sum total of my hair care 'routine' is wash, towel dry, brush and hope for the best - I'll use a hair mask occasionally but really I can't be bothered with the faff of creating anything other than a nice sleek ponytail or well brushed loose hair 'style'. A couple of months ago, however, one of my partner's bosses invited us out for dinner - knowing we'd be going somewhere a bit more upmarket than usual I started panicking about my hair, which by complete sod's law had decided to be even more awkward than usual. I was bemoaning the fact to a friend that I was going to look like a limp haired wonder next to the bosses very glamorous OAP wife (think beautifully cultured silvery waves of hair) when her daughter, who is training to be a hairdresser, offered me a few lotions and potions that may help - the John Frieda Luxurious Volume Root Booster Blow Dry Lotion (catchy name, eh?) being the item she raved about the most. **Please note that this is the correct product for the category, the ...

hasbro Pokemon Battle Figures With Pokeball 02/08/2017

Do YOU Want To Be The Very Best?!

hasbro Pokemon Battle Figures With Pokeball ~x~x~x~ Gotta Catch 'Em All ~x~x~x~ Pokemon has very much made a comeback in our house; thanks mostly to the fact my youngest two have remained OBSESSED with Pokemon Go for the whole year it's been out, but also due to the fact Hollie was given a 3DS recently so has been playing the new Pokemon Sun & Moon game. My older girls' were Pokemon fanatics but at the time I never really took much notice, between them they had boxes of the cards and toys so it's kind of irritating that ten years later I'm buying it all again as neither of them kept their collections. Pokemon toys haven't moved on much from 2005, there's still very little choice and not everywhere actually stocks Pokemon stuff at all - one shop I've found which does have a decent selection is Smyths toys, where a small section of one aisle is dedicated to these cute little Japanese monsters. It was in Smyths where David discovered these Pokeballs with a Pokemon inside - reasonably priced at £12.99, there's a selection of around nine available in the branch we use but apparently plenty more are available online (or presumably in other stores). Disclaimer The Pokemon Battle Figures and Pokeball we have are actually made by Tomy but my suggestion was refused and I was sent the link to write it here. Go. Figure. ~x~x~x~ The beginnings of a small collection ~x~x~x~ David has two Pokemon with Pokeballs - Popplio and Hoopa; the first he chose himself with some money he'd saved and the second I bought him as a reward for ...

Frankie & Benny's, Birmingham 30/07/2017

Italian American Dining In The Heart of Birmingham

Frankie & Benny's, Birmingham ~x~x~x~ Hollie's last meal (for a while...) ~x~x~x~ When Hollie had her tonsils out earlier this year I booked us a nice hotel near the hospital and gave her the option of where we'd have our dinner the night before - a rather complicated list of 'do and don't' regarding when it was safe for her to eat until the night before her anaesthetic left me feeling slightly confused (it's not as simple as the midnight cut-off they used to use) so I decided the best thing to do would be to eat a biggish meal in the early evening then snack up until midnight, when I thought it best for her nil-by-mouth to begin. We checked on Google Maps all the options and eventually she decided on Frankie & Benny's, which was located a shortish walk away along Broad Street and into Ladywood - I booked a table online as this section of Birmingham City Centre does get very busy regardless of what day you're there, we visited on a Wednesday evening and the restaurant gradually built up to the point of people being turned away so I can imagine how full it would be at the weekend. ~x~x~x~ From one hospital to another! ~x~x~x~ Hollie was really interested when I told her that this branch of Frankie & Benny's is actually situated inside what used to be the Children's Hospital in Birmingham - this was before it made the crazy move into the city centre proper and this beautiful old building was remodeled into a small entertainment complex. Hollie's big sister, Charlotte, had a few health issues as a child ...
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