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chrisandmark_is_here

chrisandmark_is_here

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Ten year old Hollie is getting rid of a lot of her 'too young' toys (*sob*) - so I'm reviewing them thanks to the fact I CANNOT get new and still-available products added for love nor money!

Reviews written

since 03/07/2011

912

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 ...

Toshiba - mouse 24/07/2017

Hello Tosh, Got A Toshiba?

Toshiba - mouse ~x~x~x~ There's a mouse in the house ~x~x~x~ Several of them to be honest as while we all have laptops with a finger pad, none of us get on particularly well with that particular piece of technology. The mouse I use with the laptop I 'share' with my six year old son is made by Toshiba, it's donkey's years old and is a remnant from my old Toshiba laptop - I have absolutely no idea what model number it is as the mouse is so old the information sticker has rubbed off from inside the battery cover, I'd imagine that's a moot point now anyway as I doubt very much this particular mouse is still available in the form I have here (simply because of the age (at least seven years, maybe longer) and also due to the fact manufacturers seem to change mouse designs as often as their pants. This is an optical mouse which connects to my laptop wirelessly via a tiny USB dongle type thingy; I've used the Toshiba mouse in at least six different laptops and connectivity is almost instantaneous every time, the only time I had a problem was when I tried to lend it to my mum after her own mouse stopped working - her compact netbook just would not accept the mouse no matter which USB port we used and however many clever ways my daughter tried to 'find' the mouse in the inner workings of the netbook. Every other time it's worked perfectly and quickly though, on laptops ranging from several years old to brand new out of the box. ~x~x~x~ A simple mouse ~x~x~x~ This basic Toshiba mouse does nothing ...

Hyatt Regency, Birmingham 19/07/2017

A Whirlwind 18 Hours At The Hyatt

Hyatt Regency, Birmingham ~x~x~x~ Tourists in our own backyard ~x~x~x~ ~x~ (Or: why I'm staying in an expensive hotel less than seven miles from my house) ~x~ Nine year old Hollie has suffered massively with recurring tonsillitis since she was around eighteen months old but the, frankly, ridiculous process of 'proving' to Birmingham Children's Hospital that they needed to come out meant she's been in a kind of will they/won't they limbo for practically all her life. This all changed last year when school started mithering me about Hollie's attendance, I knew it was affecting her education (when tonsillitis strikes Hollie it strikes bad and she can literally lose a week of school just with one bout) - anyway, armed with a strongly worded letter from school and a printout of her GP records confirming the crazy amount of times she had to attend for antibiotics I made an appointment with her consultant and I didn't intend to leave until Hollie was confirmed to have a tonsillectomy. As luck would have it her consultant wasn't there when the appointment rolled around and Hollie saw a very sympathetic clinical fellow who scheduled her in straightaway, a little too straightaway for Hollie's liking as the pre-op appointment was a few days later and very quickly she was contemplating the fact that she was going into hospital. Like her mum, Hollie likes her luxuries and after hearing her say how nervous she was about the operation I decided to treat her (and me!) to a night in a hotel - parking is a ...

Tattoos: friends or foes? 18/07/2017

Tattoo Or Not To Tattoo, That Is The Question...?

Tattoos: friends or foes? ~x~x~x~ I've always had a thing for tattoos... ~x~x~x~ Ever since I was a little girl I've liked tattoos; the tats people get these days are different to the ones my uncles all sported back in the 80s, different as in far better artistic-wise but in my opinion totally lacking in the personality of the old school tattoos (which I prefer). Gone are the days of beautifully drawn but basic eagles, in an ink that turned bluer and bluer over the years, replaced with intricate drawings, tribal bands and words that could, frankly, mean ANYTHING in Chinese (if your tattooist changed the Chinese for My Beloved Cynthia to Chicken Chow Mein I doubt many of us would be any the wiser). I only have one tattoo myself, a little bow going around the front of my wrist - my partner paid for it as a birthday present a couple of years ago, the plan being to add to it over time (which has never actually happened as I really didn't like the whole 'being tattoo'd' experience and don't particularly want to repeat it). Mark himself had about a dozen crap little home-made tattoos on his arms when I first met him, he kept them for years then a couple of years back decided to get them covered up - the result being a fortnightly visit to a fab tattooist who has so far pretty much covered both his arms, his shoulders and even his neck. The neck one took a bit of getting used to, but the tattoos suit him and now I can't really imagine him without them - at £35 a time (half hour) it's a fairly expensive ...

Hasbro Despicable Me Minions Frustration Game 14/07/2017

You'd Be 'Bananas' To Pay £20 For This!

Hasbro Despicable Me Minions Frustration Game ~x~x~x~ Minions. They're bloody everywhere... ~x~x~x~ My youngest two love Minions and they're also huge lovers of board games, so I wasn't particularly surprised when they received a selection of games for Christmas a couple of years ago from their uncle. With no kids of his own he can be pretty rubbish at buying presents for children, while we've had a laugh in the past about his poor choices I've noticed that over the past couple of years he's been making more of an effort to buy more appropriate gifts (this is the man who would bought Sharpies for a six month old baby). Amongst other things they received this Frustration game which has been given a Minions twist, something that's completely obvious from the box and also from just about every game component inside. ~x~x~x What's Frustration and how do you play? ~x~x~x~ Frustration is basically Ludo, in fact I'm not sure if they are actually one and the same game as I don't know of any differences between the two. In this version of the game you get the game board, seventeen plastic moulded Minion characters and a dice popper - to play the game you basically choose a colour, travel around the game board once then branch off towards the centre of the board to go 'home'. It's very simple, a few added rules make the game slightly trickier than it sounds but it's easy enough even for very young kids to play - the youngest child I've played it with was David who was five when we first got the game, Hasbro themselves have ...

Brillo Soap Pads 23/06/2017

Clean Hob, Sore Hands...

Brillo Soap Pads ~x~x~x~ An accidental buy ~x~x~x~ Most evenings my partner phones when he's on his way home from work to see if we need anything from the shop, most of the time we don't but occasionally I'll anticipate this offer to do a bit of shopping and write him a little list - the thing with Mark is you have to be very precise when it comes to shopping lists, he's actually a very good shopper but sometimes if I want something specific he'll use his initiative and I'll end up with something that doesn't really do the job I want it for. Like yesterday, on the list it said 'onions'; he knew we were having stew, the onions were on the list with the carrots and leeks - so he bought a jar of pickled onions. Very nice yes, but not much good with the chicken and veg I'd prepped ready for dinner... And this was exactly how I came across Brillo Pads for the first time in around fifteen years, on the list I'd written 'scourers' (meaning, obviously, the green flat ones you use for cleaning pans) - Mark bought Brillo. ~x~x~x~ A blast from the past ~x~x~x~ I think EVERYONE'S mum and nan used Brillo Pads, they're very much a traditional brand and product which were hugely popular in decades past - you don't see them so much these days, they're still widely available but personally there are so many cleaning lotions, potions and accessories to choose from that I wouldn't really give these a second look. Mark bought ours from Poundland so no prizes for guessing how much he paid, there are ten ...

Baco Rainbow Bags 21/06/2017

Rainbow Food!

Baco Rainbow Bags ~x~x~x~ Somewhere inside the rainbow ~x~x~x~ I first discovered Baco Rainbow Bags a few years ago; we'd a big day out planned to an attraction we'd been meaning to visit for years and as nice weather was expected I decided to make a picnic, not just for the fun of having a picnic but to potentially save a few quid on what I guessed would be horrendously overpriced restaurants and snack bars at the attraction. I picked the Rainbow Bags up while I was doing the picnic shopping - I needed to buy sandwich bags anyway and these seemed a nice addition to the picnic bag, after all it's not every day you get your sandwich in a pretty pastel wrapper with a funky sticker! ~x~x~x~ What's the difference between Rainbow Bags and a bog standard sandwich bag? ~x~x~x~ Well, the bags come in a range of colours, all of them pastel with the majority being unisex. Of course sandwich bags are unisex, but I have a six year old boy who would, frankly, rather starve than eat a sandwich that comes in a pink bag so it's important for me personally that there's an (ahem) masculine enough colour available for him. There are five colours of Rainbow bag, so six each of peach, blue, purple, green and yellow - no one other than David really has a preference for colour (although I do like a nice peach bag...) so I just tend to grab them out of the box in whatever order they come, each colour is together in the pack so if you like to colour code your sandwiches for each person this would be easy to ...

Illumination Entertainment Despicable Me Minions Moulding Paint & Play Kit 19/06/2017

Despicable - In Name And Nature!

Illumination Entertainment Despicable Me Minions Moulding Paint & Play Kit ~x~x~x~ Minions Madness ~x~x~x~ Like most kids, David is very much into the whole Despicable Me franchise - like nearly all of his friends so I wasn't particularly surprised when for his birthday in December 2015 he received a fair few Minions gifts from his friends when they came to his birthday party. One of the presents he couldn't wait to get into was the Minions Moulding Paint and Play Kit, I knew he'd love this as soon as he opened it as at the time he loved painting and being generally artistic - the little boy who bought it for David apparently had the kit himself and his mum said how great it was, we made our Minions on Christmas Eve that year as a little wind-down-and-chill out exercise and while it was fun I wouldn't go as far as saying 'great' to be honest. ~x~x~x~ What is it? ~x~x~x~ This is basically a set where you mould and paint your own Minions, to create the models you use squishy dough (think Play Doh) rather than a liquid clay type substance which will harden into the mould. The dough comes ready made in little foil packets, it's already coloured as per the basic and standard colours of the Minions - all you need to do is choose which mould you want to use, tear off a chunk of dough off and press it carefully into the mould. The dough doesn't need time to set which threw me slightly as I'd expected it to go hard rather than stay soft and 'doughy' - the advantage being that (then) five year old David didn't have to wait for the models to be ready for ...

Tomy Pokemon - Collectable Pichu 12/06/2017

Pikachu, I Choose YOU!

Tomy Pokemon - Collectable Pichu ~x~x~x~ It's Pichu - all grown up! ~x~x~x~ If there's one thing I've learned since my son was born six years ago it's that 'boys toys' are faaaar more 'bitty' than the stuff girls generally play with. I've had to buy numerous boxes to keep David's figures and tiny action toys in with at least half of his toys being less than 3" tall. Take the 'collectable' Pokemon figures made by Tomy, they're very small and although they're made to be played with they have the perfect dimensions to be displayed too - David doesn't really have the shelf space to have hundreds of small toys dotted all around his bedroom so into the box they go! *Please Note* The 'collectable' I'm reviewing today is actually Pikachu which is a different Pokemon entirely, Pichu is the baby version of Pikachu but while they do have a similar look these are different products. Ciao themselves seemingly don't understand this and I've been told to post my review here - if you're looking for information on Pichu you should maybe look elsewhere, or alternatively read this review and imagine a differently shaped toy (as it's very basic, so the Pichu/Pikachu characters will differ only in their outward design). ~x~x~x~ Small but perfectly formed ~x~x~x~ Pikachu is modelled in a stance that suggests he's ready for battle with an intense look of concentration on his face and his little fists clenched to his chest. It's instantly recognisable as the Pikachu we all know and love, although this is a rather more stern ...

How will you vote in the forthcoming General Election, and why? 07/06/2017

If You Do Nothing Else Tomorrow - GO AND VOTE!

How will you vote in the forthcoming General Election, and why? ~x~x~x~ Promises, promises ~x~x~x~ It all seems to have been about politics for the past year, when Theresa May stepped in and grabbed the top job last July I predicted a General Election by Christmas - ok, so I was off a bit but I didn't for one minute believe her 'no election until 2020 bluster' and set about watching the Westminster shenanigans a bit more closely. Anyway, the election was announced back in April and is taking place tomorrow - a rather dull set of campaigns has made the intervening six weeks seem a very long time, but it's almost here (with most polling stations opening at 7am you can say it's less than 24 hours away). I'm not going to give sh*tloads of facts and figures, like Diane Abbott I don't have a head for numbers and I'll only get them wrong - at the bottom I've added links to the manifestos of the major parties so if you're an 'undecided' have a browse and see what convinces you (as I absolutely am not in a position this time around to help convince anyone to vote for any particular party, although as ever my head and heart are in agreement that the Conservatives must never get my cross...). ~x~x~x~ So, yeah. I'm voting Labour ~x~x~x~ With the fairly obvious reasoning of THERE'S NO ONE ELSE TO BLOODY VOTE FOR!!! I do like Jeremy Corbyn but I recognise he's not a strong leader, he says all the right things but I can't shake the feeling that the guy is living partially in cloud cuckoo land. I really, really like the fact that he cares about ...

Jakks Pokemon Pikachu 28/05/2017

Gotta Catch 'Em All

Jakks Pokemon Pikachu ~x~x~x~ Pikachu's Back! ~x~x~x~ Pokemon for us has been a weird one, our (now) twenty year old daughter had literally boxes of Pokemon cards when she was a kid and a bedroom which was pretty much 90% Pokemon themed - when she eventually grew out of it all the stuff was gradually given away and I didn't really think of these cute little Japanese beasties again for years. Fast forward twelve years or so... and I'm having to replace it all as her little brother and sister have decided they too are the biggest Pokemon fans in the world. It all started when Pokemon Go was released last year actually; while nine year old Hollie already had a passing interest in Pokemon (thanks to the various DS games she's played), David didn't really know the franchise at all - until Pokemon Go landed and now not only have I lost my phone to David, but he has decided he wants a toy of every single character in the game. A bit of an ask considering Pokemon toys are notoriously hard to get hold of, and because of this they often have CRAZY price tags which I'm not really prepared to pay! I bought two Jakks Pikachu toys late last year to put up for the kids for Christmas, they cost £16 each which is excessive for a small 7" plushie but such is the price of Pokemon toys I actually found that to be quite a reasonable price (I need to have a word with myself, I know...). Anyway, the current price on Amazon of £29.57 REALLY takes the proverbial so in some ways I consider the ones I bought to be a bit ...

Flair Stencil Activity Book The Backyardigans 25/05/2017

Draw Your Own Backyardigans

Flair Stencil Activity Book The Backyardigans ~x~x~x~ A Backyardigans blast from the past ~x~x~x~ Hollie is ten in a couple of weeks, I actually cannot believe where the time has gone - it doesn't seem five minutes since we were popping Nick Jnr on at 8.40am for her to watch her daily dose of the sweet little characters that make up the Backyardigans gang (or rather, made up as the Backyardigans don't seem to be around anymore). They were always a strange bunch of characters though as despite the fact the show was extremely popular with pre-school children there was very little merchandise available - I've always been very big on buying my kids toys that are endorsed/feature their favourite characters and I remember the frustration of not being able to find Backyardigans stuff in the shops, other than the occasional plushie and (very rarely) a t-shirt featuring the characters. In 2009, when I first suggested this book, I won tickets to a 'festival' for babies and toddlers - this was organised by Nick Jnr and was amazing fun, but for me the best bit was the pop up shop which Nickelodeon had erected at the exit. Here they had an extensive selection of various Nick Jnr merchandise including a whole range of stuff featuring the Backyardigans which had previously only been sold in South America and Canada (the show is made in partnership between Canadian and US companies). I spent a bomb , not particularly to spoil Hollie (although that was nice too!) but also because I knew that if I didn't buy the toys I'd regret it once ...
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