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chrisandmark_is_here

chrisandmark_is_here

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Pinch, punch, first of the month...

Reviews written

since 03/07/2011

889

Calpol Vapour Plug & Nightlight 16/03/2017

A Surprisingly Effective Branch-Out Product By Calpol

Calpol Vapour Plug & Nightlight ~x~x~x~ A timely Bzz Kit ~x~x~x~ As a Bzz Agent I get sent things occasionally to test at home and spread the word about, freebies from them have been a little thin on the ground recently but they came up trumps with their latest - a Calpol Vapour Plug & Nightlight. I actually applied for this in the dead of night when the invite came through and could swear it was going to be bottles and sachets of Calpol that I was being asked to Bzz about, when the Vapour Plug came through the post I was surprised and couldn't think that I'd really get much use for it - my kids are much older than the minimum age of three months, well past nightlight stage and don't really get snuffly anyway. I put it in the kitchen drawer actually and resigned myself to 'wasting' it just so I could fill the Bzz activities in - then last week my nine year old daughter had her tonsils out and our house became such a hive of 'medicine' that I thought I might as well try out the Vapour Plug and see if it would help with the 'blocked up' nose the operation had left her with. ~x~x~x~ What's a vapour plug, and what's it to do with Calpol? ~x~x~x~ I've actually had one of these before, years ago, but haven't noticed them on the shelves in Boots, Superdrug or any of the supermarkets for a long while. Having four kids I'm pretty clued up about what's available and do like to keep abreast of what's going on in the non-medicinal world so I think this product may have disappeared for a while, the one I had before ...

Naturya Chia Seeds 08/03/2017

Moving Over To The Seedy Side...

Naturya Chia Seeds ~x~x~x~ Feeling seedy... ~x~x~x~ A couple of months ago I went to an interesting foodie lecture which was based around the idea that a lot of our regular aches and pains can be solved through changes in diet - I've always believed this anyway but towards the end the lecture opened to specific questions from the audience, which were on a (thankfully) private basis where you registered your question and were called out by seat number to speak to the expert who had been deemed most likely to help with your query. I say 'thankfully' as my question was in the Embarrassing Bodies style and related to my going to the toilet (or not, as the case may be) - I'll not go into detail, but I suffer with constipation. Always have, probably always will. It doesn't matter what I eat, sometimes I just can't 'go' and sometimes I can go a bit - I eat LOADS of veg, keep the skin on my potatoes wherever possible, eat very little red meat and no processed meat at all so I assume I'm just a constipated person. My wonderful (really wonderful) GP has diagnosed me with IBS but having never had a colonoscopy I don't actually think I have it, and don't see how such a big disease/syndrome can be diagnosed by me answering a few questions and having my tummy prodded. He's given me laxatives (both bowel stimulants in the form of Senna based products and the osmotic Lactulose which works to help the stool absorb water and soften) and currently thinks Fybrogel is the way forward, but I'm only 40 and don't ...

Ravensburger Disney Cars Memory Game 18/02/2017

Other Characters Are Available!

Ravensburger Disney Cars Memory Game ~x~x~x~ Teaching kids something without them even realising... ~x~x~x~ All my kids have always enjoyed memory games so when David started showing an interest in card games I bought him a couple of the Ravensburger Memory sets - this Disney Cars one and a Thomas & Friends set. Ours is actually Disney Cars 2 but Ciao won't add that one, I can't say I blame them really as there's not all that much difference between the two games from what I can see other than the fact the characters and some of the scenery on the actual cards have been updated to reflect the new wave of characters/story in the sequel. The idea of a memory game is to help young children develop their recognition and memory skills, it's a fun game (albeit very boring for the adult after the first ten minutes or so...) and in my experience the addition of well known cartoon characters really helps to grab the child's attention. To play you simply lay all the cards face down, turn one over and try to find the matching card - at first this is obviously done through guesswork but as more and more cards are revealed it becomes more of a 'oh, where did I see that one?'. If you match the pairs you keep them but if you get it wrong both cards need to be turned face down again and the next player gets a turn, it's a game for two or more players really but David has played by himself lots of times and seems to enjoy challenging himself to find all the pairs (or rather he did, he's six now and has completely 'gone off' ...

Galt Horrible Histories Rotten Romans Jigsaw 14/02/2017

A Taste Of Ancient Rome

Galt Horrible Histories Rotten Romans Jigsaw ~x~x~x~ A different approach to learning ~x~x~x~ A couple of years ago my (now) nine year old daughter was home schooled for a while, I'd taken her out of the hell that was her junior school and afterwards realised that getting her into either of the schools of my choice wasn't going to be as easy as I first thought. The choice was take her back into her school (over my dead body - or, to be more exact, over the headmistresses dead body) or start the terrifying process of teaching her myself - it was a no brainer actually, there was no choice as she wasn't going back to school and I wasn't going to send her to the local slum-school which had available places. When I say I'd taken her out of the school, I mean this was a very last minute decision - in fact she was partway through a lesson about the Romans when I demanded (on threat of me calling the police) the deputy head go and fetch her as I had just about had my fill of the school. Of course, only being seven she was gutted to be leaving her friends and the school she actually liked (our issues were very much behind the scenes) so I aimed and planned to make her home schooling as interesting as possible. This was also for my benefit as I was, frankly, shi**ing myself at the thought of being responsible for a bright little seven year old's education. ~x~x~x~ My first defence against lesson-boredom ~x~x~x~ The Horrible Histories Rotten Romans jigsaw was one of the first things I bought when I came to start buying things ...

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner (DVD) 09/02/2017

Grittiness - It Began In The 60s...

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner (DVD) ~x~x~x~ Easy viewing ~x~x~x~ Five weeks. That's how long I've been poorly. A cold hit me a couple of days before New Year and while it was (slightly) entertaining when I realised I possibly had the 'Royal Cold' (I wouldn't have gone to bloody church either!), as the cold dragged on and on with no sign of getting better I started feeling run down and generally 'eugh'. The worst point was two or three weeks ago when for the first time in years I found myself absolutely unable to do anything other than drag myself from my bed to the sofa, Mark and our teen daughter rallied round with getting the little ones to school and one day before heading out to work he popped me on an old black and white film telling me it was an 'easy watch' as the day before I'd be complaining that I didn't even have the health to watch a DVD (zero concentration). I'm not a fan of black and white stuff and especially tend to dislike 60s films, which are always (in my opinion) either depressing as hell or overly 'swinging 60s' in tone/theme. It's a quick 104 minutes which coincidentally was around the length of the average cold-induced naps I was taking, I reasoned it was better to look grateful to Mark, doze through The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner then tell him how much I enjoyed it when he got home... ~x~x~x~ But I didn't have to! ~x~x~x~ See, I honestly did enjoy this film - it's gritty and interesting, has a good cast and not only a decent storyline but a good (but simple) twist at the ...

An Idiot Abroad: the Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington - Karl Pilkington 01/02/2017

The Seven Wonders - Pilkington Style

An Idiot Abroad: the Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington - Karl Pilkington ~x~x~x~ Gormless man visits the Seven Wonders... ~x~x~x~ I have a bit of a soft spot for Karl Pilkington (Ricky Gervais not so much...) so when I spotted An Idiot Abroad in one of my local charity shops for 95p I decided to grab it, not particularly because I wanted to read the 'accompanying book' to a series I've already seen a couple of times - but simply due to the fact it looked a nice simple read for those days when I want to ingest words, but can't seem to get my head around anything heavy. The book sat on my shelf for a few months but I finally got the opportunity to read it last weekend when we drove down to Plymouth to visit our daughter who is now living down there - it's a helluva journey from Birmingham and when I saw Mark pulling out the ELO CD I decided the time was right to pick a book to take my mind off the hell that is Mr Blue Sky on loop (kinda ironic that my partner, a massive Villa fan should class the Blues anthem as one of his favourite songs). I also considered ear plugs. An Idiot Abroad is basically the comedic travelogue of Karl Pilkington as he takes up his friends' challenge to visit the Seven Wonders of the World, the friends being irritant-savant Gervais and the not-so-irritating-but-kinda-smug Stephen Merchant who only feature in passing in the book (in the same way they feature in the Karl Pilkington television series, popping in here and there with a phone call to give Karl directions or inform him they've set him a little ...

Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends Trackmaster Shipwreck Rails 30/01/2017

A Thomas Track - With A Twist!

Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends Trackmaster Shipwreck Rails ~x~x~x~ The final instalment to David's Thomas collection ~x~x~x~ It was quite sad this Christmas as David's pile of pressies didn't include a single Thomas item, for most of the six years he has been alive he's adored the little blue engine but now he's all grown up (to hear him talk!) all the toys available just seemed a bit too young for him. This Trackmaster set was actually the last thing added to his Thomas collection, it's had so little use though that it's a shame - it was bought just as his obsession ended and while it was kept in the dining room/play room for a while, the track ended up being broken up and bundled in with the rest of it from other sets (in a closed box which hasn't been opened for months). Shipwreck Rails was released as the obligatory Trackmaster merchandise to tie in with whatever Thomas film has just been released on DVD, in this case Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure. David still loves watching the DVDs and episodes of Thomas & Friends and had had the film for a while before I bought this set, even then it was obvious he wasn't such a fan of the toys as he used to be so I'd waited until I saw it on sale before buying it (the previous year I'd spent £200 on Frozen toys for Hollie for Christmas, only for her to announce a week later that she 'wasn't into Elsa anymore' - I learned my lesson!). If I remember right the RRP was £50 but my set ended up costing just £25 as part of a multibuy offer in Smyths, the cost is rocketing on Amazon at the ...

Fisher-Price Imaginext DC Super Friends Robo Batcave 24/01/2017

Using Your Imagination With Batman

Fisher-Price Imaginext DC Super Friends Robo Batcave ~x~x~x~ A surprise mid-year present ~x~x~x~ At the end of last summer, Mark bought Hollie a motorised scooter. Hollie didn't want a motorised scooter and in all fairness had made it quite obvious to her dad that this was the case - Mark being Mark decided to ignore this and buy the scooter anyway, with the 'of course' ending being that he had to return it after three months of it taking up room and simply not being used. Despite the fact it was for kids aged nine and above, he put little David on it (then five) - the obvious happened and David ended up in a bloody heap underneath the scooter. 'Take the frigging thing back, they will give you a refund if you take grazed and broken David as proof of your stupidity. Ask for a credit note, I'll go and buy something suitable' is what I uttered (in maybe not so many words...) - he kind of did that, but spend some of the credit note on a couple of items David had spotted dotted around. One of which was this Fisher Price Imaginext Robo Batcave, in the sale at £16 with a full RRP of around £28. ~x~x~x~ What's Robo Batcave? ~x~x~x~ I suppose it's Batman's lair, or part of it anyway. It's where the Batman inspired robot lives, a supersized beastie that the smaller Batman figure can actually get inside - the Batcave features various platforms and interactive functions such as hoisting up a cage or activating the areas that 'free' the robot. Totally and utterly made out of plastic, the Batcave and robot do work really well together. ...

Gulliver's Travels (Blu-ray) 20/01/2017

Jack Black Playing Jack Black Again (Only Bigger and Better!)

Gulliver's Travels (Blu-ray) ~x~x~x~ Gulliver's Travels and Jack Black all in one package... ~x~x~x~ I love Jonathan Swift's 18th century Gulliver's Travels novel and have read it dozens of times since first being introduced to it by my nan when I was a child, at a complete other end of the scale I also love Jack Black who in my opinion doesn't get the recognition he deserves as a slapstick and totally self-depreciating actor and personality. When I found myself flying alone to Gran Canaria last year (a mix up in flights, I didn't go on holiday on my own!) I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to watch a film and take my mind of the sheer panic I was feeling at being on a plane with no one to talk to - Gulliver's Travels was the first film I spotted, it was released in 2010 so isn't exactly a new film but I hadn't seen it (or even many clips) and knowing how easy to watch Jack Black is I thought it would be perfect to take up some time during the flight. I really enjoyed it but with plane crashes at the back of my mind I couldn't get into it too much, I did decide however to buy the DVD as soon as we arrived back in the UK as I knew it would make a fab movie night choice that we could watch as a family. ~x~x~x~ True to the book, in a way ~x~x~x~ OK, so the basic story is pretty much the same as the Gulliver's Travels book - Lemuel Gulliver is bored and depressed at his manual job in the mail room of a newspaper, he wants to break into journalism and ends up plagiarising someone elses work in ...

Fisher Price Goodnight Thomas Soft Toy 17/01/2017

Goodnight Thomas - And David!

Fisher Price Goodnight Thomas Soft Toy ~x~x~x~ Soft and gentle ~x~x~x~ David isn't into Thomas as much as he used to be but he loves filling his bed with as many plushies as possible, when he saw this in a charity shop a few months ago he made a beeline for it and asked if he could have it. Bless him, he doesn't really ask for much while we're out so I was happy to pay the £3 they were asking - while I was paying the lady checked a little list she'd got next to the till and told me I'd need two batteries. I said 'ok' with a slightly confused air; I thought I was buying a simple (if slightly bulky) Thomas in toy form and couldn't work out why I'd need batteries, all was revealed when David did 'something' to the toy and it started talking. As a soft toy it's fantastic, the batteries died quite quickly (which I'm not complaining about as they were included) but David hasn't asked for them to be replaced - at six I suppose he's slightly too old for the sound effects, he did use them while the batteries were still working but it didn't bother him even for a nanosecond when he realised Thomas didn't talk anymore. ~x~x~x~ The not-so little blue engine ~x~x~x~ This is a really chunky plushie, it's incredibly well padded so has a feeling that's almost hard to the touch - I mean this in a good way, trains aren't supposed to be as soft as pudding so it's a really nice thing that Fisher Price have given Thomas a little more substance than your average Paw Patrol pup or basic teddy. He feels 'chunky' (that's the only ...

Bargains: Do you manage to find good deals outside of the sales period? 16/01/2017

My Attempts At Bagging A Bargain

Bargains: Do you manage to find good deals outside of the sales period? ~x~x~x~ January Sales - are they still a thing? ~x~x~x~ When I was a kid (not all that long ago...) I vividly remember the excitement as the new year rolled around, not because I come from a family of party animals who celebrated NYE with gusto but because my mum would make detailed plans for the January sales which would always start at 8am on January 1st. I couldn't name any of her bargains now but the excitement was catching and I would save my pennies (and in 1985 pennies were all kids were given, none of this 'here's a fiver for school' business...) ready to find my own bargain, this usually came in the shape of a Disney toy or something My Little Pony related and I still remember the buzz now of realising that I could afford that special edition toy which Santa hadn't managed to find. Then I had my own kids and realised I'd rather hammer nails into my eyes than navigate the January sales with a double buggy, I contented myself with a trip to our local high street but year on year noticed that the January sales were becoming pointless - prices in the 'expensive' shops still weren't matching prices for comparable goods in the cheaper stores. The January sales weren't working anymore, and the reason for this is... ~x~x~x~ ...there are sales going on all year round ~x~x~x~ See, there's no such thing as a 'sales period' these days - just about every shop on the high street offers reduced lines on a year round basis and if you know where to look there are bargain shelves ...

Goodfellas (DVD) 12/01/2017

It's Really Good(Fellas)!

Goodfellas (DVD) ~x~x~x~ As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a gangster... ~x~x~x~ So says Henry Hill, the main(ish) protagonist of Goodfellas. This is in the 50s and Henry lives a dull semi-respectable life in Brooklyn, Henry idolises the mafia style gangsters who run his part of the city and at a young age decides he wants to be a part of it. When he's old enough he leaves school to work for them, but after a shock result at court he's taken under the wing and protection of an older and more experienced gangster - and thus begins a journey that stretches across three decades, showing how Henry's life is going but also focusing cleverly on other major characters in the film. Goodfellas is based on a book released in the mid-eighties (Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi), the film was released in 1990 and became an immediate classic - helped by the fact it stars the evergreen Robert De Niro and incredibly talented Joe Pesci, but also because this is an amazingly interesting story on a subject which not many of us will ever actually face in the real world. I'm not big on gangster films personally but my partner is, he had Goodfellas on VHS (ask your parents...) when we met and this was one of the first films we watched together at his on a indoors date night. In the 21 years since I've seen Goodfellas on probably a yearly basis, occasionally more often as this is one of Mark's absolute favourite films - it's one of those films which is rarely on the tele, sometimes you'll catch it on Film ...

Gladiator (DVD) 09/01/2017

Caution: Overuse Of The Word 'Revenge' Below...

Gladiator (DVD) ~x~x~x~ Revenge, blood, guts, revenge! ~x~x~x~ OK, so it's probably fair to say that if you choose to watch a film featuring Russell Crowe dressed as a Roman warrior on the DVD cover then you're looking at something that's going to drag on for a while and feature battles and death. And revenge, the Romans were very big on revenge (usually of the violent kind). I don't mind an epic and do find the Roman culture interesting, but considering this film was released back in 2000 and I watched it (umm) 'recently' I sense my own disinterest in watching what is sometimes referred to as a modern classic. It's not just the fact that Russell Crowe is in it (although that does play a large part if I'm honest), I simply didn't feel that I wanted to watch a loose vengeance story linking together a lot of blood and murder and pain. I only watched it because my teen daughter wanted to and we'd had the DVD on the shelf for years, Mark saw it when it first came out and badgered me to watch it for a while but after he'd watched the film a couple of times he lost interest himself and it wasn't mentioned for years. Our copy, God knows where it came from, is a 'special' two disc edition which has the film and some extras on the first disc and more extras (including a documentary which is infinitely more interesting than the film) are on the second. ~x~x~x~ So, what's it all about then? ~x~x~x~ I've already told you, it's about revenge - or more accurately the revenge of General Maximus ...

Lego Minecraft 21123 The Iron Golem 03/01/2017

Lego For The Minecraft Fan

Lego Minecraft 21123 The Iron Golem ~x~x~x~ Minecraft and Lego, a perfect combination ~x~x~x~ During the summer holidays last year I took three of my four kids to Legoland in Windsor (all four were invited of course but seventeen year old Alice decided against it, as with a big college deadline looming she wanted to use the empty house while we were all out for revision). As we were leaving she raced down the stairs and gave her younger brother and sister a few quid spending money, with the caveat that she wanted (then) five year old David to buy something she could do with him when we got home. It didn't take long in one of the (many) shops inside Legoland for David to spot the Minecraft Lego sets, he had one other Minecraft set at home but couldn't remember which one it was - there were two reasons why I purchased this Iron Golem set; a) it was the cheapest by faaaaar at 'just' £22 and b) it was the only smaller size set there which David was certain he didn't already own. If you think about it, Lego is the perfect medium for Minecraft toys - the whole computer game is based on blocks and Lego-style figures/animation, in my eyes Lego is simply the non-tech version of Minecraft. All they've had to do really is colour some bricks certain ways to match up with the general 'outdoors' style of the game and come up with a strategy for building whatever the theme of that particular set is; the Iron Golem set is basically an area where your Minecraft character (in this instance, Alex) can build the Golem in order ...

Look Who's Back - Timur Vermes 01/01/2017

Making Hitler Funny... Kind Of...

Look Who's Back - Timur Vermes ~x~x~x~ A comedy book about Hitler. OK. ~x~x~x~ I'm the first to admit I don't know a great deal about Hitler, 'the war' doesn't interest me particularly and while I know the same basics as anyone else I've never looked to learn more than those (pretty dismal) basics. I do know that Hitler isn't funny, however. Of course I've seen the pi*s-take comedy sketches belittling him in the way we do when someone has really scared the pants off us, but on the whole I think it's fair to say that Adolf is a reasonably serious historical figure. I found myself reading Look Who's Back a few weeks ago; I'd had one of my regular book clear outs (sending boxes back to the charity shops, which was where the majority had come from), I'd been a little over zealous this time though and one night found myself with a hot bath, glass of Baileys - and nothing to read! One of the good things about having 17 and 20 year old 'kids' is the fact their bookcases are as heaving as mine so I'll always find something, this was on Alice's bookshelf and when she saw me pick it up she started laughing and told me how good the book was - her sense of humour is vastly different to mine (I don't think poo in any form is entertaining, she finds jokes about blacks highly offensive...), I wasn't sure just how entertaining I'd find a book about Hitler but with a rapidly cooling bath decided to give it a go. ~x~x~x~ Time travel has never seemed such a bad idea... ~x~x~x~ Look Who's Back opens in 2011, when Hitler ...
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