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Catching up with rates following holiday and recent Ciao glitches!

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since 02/07/2009


Butlins Resort, Minehead 13/08/2017

"Butlins is the Best Part of my Life!"

Butlins Resort, Minehead When I was young and carefree I loved travelling to new places and could never understand people who kept returning to the same place every year. Add one, two and then three kids to the mix and I quickly discovered that there is a lot to be said for going back somewhere familiar knowing that the kids will be happy - resulting in a stress free break. That is the main reason that we have been returning to Butlins on and off for over ten years - initially staying at the Skegness site and for the last two years visiting the Minehead complex. We have just returned from a seven night break at Butlins Minehead so a good time to share my experience. Booking I booked this year's holiday online without issue although the previous year I had some difficulty with the booking and had to contact the customer helpline who resolved things for me. We do get a small discount on prices as a Premier customer. Butlins Minehead offers quite a wide range of different types and classes of accommodation from the cheapest (standard chalets) right up to the most expensive Gold Blue Sky village apartments and various options in between. Getting There Butlins Minehead is in Somerset and for us heading down from the Midlands a trek down the M6 and M5 and then a straightforward drive down the A39. Our sat nav coped with the journey well and Butlins is clearly signposted from about twenty miles away. Silver Accommodation This year we priced up the cost of staying for seven nights rather than four and ...

Maypole Mobile Mains Power Unit 06/08/2017

Dancing Around the Maypole!

Maypole Mobile Mains Power Unit My husband persuaded me to give camping a go a couple of years ago, despite my reservations, and we spent a small fortune on a family sized tent and all of the equipment to go with it. Some stuff was the bare essentials whereas other items were those things that just make outdoor living a little more comfortable. One of those items that would be a luxury to some but an essential for us is this mains power unit, giving us access to electricity and all the home comforts that can supply. The Product This is a portable mains power unit produced under the Maypole brand and designed to be connected to an electric hook up system used on most commercial campsites. Most caravan and campsites offer electric hook up (EHU) for an additional charge per pitch per night but in order to access it some form of kit is required as the EHU has a single socket and an adapter is needed to connect up standard electrical appliances and devices. This mains power unit is designed to connect directly to an external EHU and then offers three standard plug sockets. In Use The Maypole mains power unit is designed for camping so is a fairly lightweight and compact piece of camping equipment which is easy to transport and store between uses. The lead between the connecting socket and the mains unit is of a generous length so there should be no issues if the pitch is not directly in front of the EHU supply. Connecting the unit is very simple as it simply slots into position to form a secure connection. ...

Spookyrumpus - T. Mitton 01/08/2017


Spookyrumpus - T. Mitton We own a collection of picture books illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees originally purchased as a set from the Book People website. Amongst them is this colourful story about skeletons, ghosts and other ghouls, with the unusual title of 'Spookyrumpus' which is written by Tony Mitton. The Author Tony Mitton is a popular author of picture books for young children with his best known examples including All Afloat on Noah's Boat, Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus and Down By The Cool of the Pool, all of which we also own, amongst many others. All of the books share an easy to read format with the clever use of rhythm and rhyme and bright engaging illustrations. The Story This is a rhyming story with a 'spooky' theme so there are lots of weird and supernatural creatures such as ghosts, witches, trolls and skeletons. Rather bizarrely, rather than having a Halloween theme, the story describes groups of various creatures and characters making their way to a castle to take part in a birthday party and share some birthday cake. Personally I think the contents would have been better suited to a Halloween party. The story is simply told with a fast pace due to the rhyming language used. There is a big focus on numbers with the story counting down in reverse order from the number twelve. This is rather unusual and a useful picture book from an educational viewpoint as counting in reverse order is a useful skill covered in early years education and most literature including this tends to use ...

Board games: which are the best for you? 30/07/2017

Not Bored of Board Games Yet

Board games: which are the best for you? With the schools now breaking up for six weeks of freedom I must admit that I'm hoping to spend as much time out of doors with the kids as possible. Nevertheless there are bound to be days where the weather is appalling and the holidays so far haven't got off to the most auspicious of starts. There is only so much indoor soft play that any family can cope with - ironically this is being typed from an indoor play centre as our outdoor plans have been called off thanks to heavy rain! At times like this it's good to have a selection of various board games to entertain the kids when they get bored of their tech. Games for all ages My kids are quite spaced out in age with the oldest being fourteen and usually outside in all weathers and rarely wanting to join in with family games, apart from the obligatory fun at Christmas time and the more electronic kind of interactive game, such as the many Bop It games. My ten year old tends to prefer online entertainment and console games but will join in on occasion so it is mainly my six year old son that plays board games regularly, so the majority of our games are those aimed at the younger age group. Pre-School Games We have a large selection of games for pre-school children that my youngest is now growing out of. I'm due to have a good clear out and pass on some of these games to somebody with younger children. For pre-school children, I've long been a fan of the Orchard Toys range of games, some of which have the traditional ...

AS Company Disney Frozen 3 Wheel Scooter 15/07/2017

Don't 'Let It Go!'

AS Company Disney Frozen 3 Wheel Scooter Having three sons I don't have much opportunity to purchase feminine toys - although all three of them have been through a decidedly 'pink phase' at one point. Fortunately having a young niece gives me an excuse to buy something girly for her on special occasions and invest in some Frozen merchandise, from a franchise that has otherwise passed me by. The Product This is a Frozen branded three wheeled scooter, manufactured by 'AS Company' and sold under the Disney branding. It has two wheels fixed at the back and a swivelling front wheel. The Frozen theme is bold and clear and designed to appeal to fans of the iconic Disney film. It's not unsurprising that there is a lot of pink around the scooter's design but this particular scooter is not as gaudy and dominated by pink as some other products and it is calmed down slightly by a blue base plate. My youngest son is happy to borrow this from his cousin when they play together at their grandmother's house but peer pressure and societal norms would discourage him from choosing this particular design for his own scooter to be used out in public. As well as the Frozen branding emblazoned around the base of the scooter, there is also a plastic plaque provided which clips into place between the handle bars and marks this out as a Frozen scooter. This can be removed quite easily which is useful as it was at a position where my niece kept banging into it when she first started to use the scooter and it was getting in the way so it ...

Angry Bird Flingers 12/07/2017

Feeling Angry?

Angry Bird Flingers With three children, I have seen various crazes and popular characters come and go - with some being more long-lasting than others. The Angry Birds phenomenon was absolutely everywhere a few years ago along with lots of over-priced merchandise, following the success of the addictive app, but then seemed to die out completely. Even the recent Angry Birds movie didn't seem to do enough to resurrect this particular craze (which is perhaps not surprising as the film wasn't very good) so the Angry Birds are distinctly out of favour - although Minions seem to go from strength to strength! The Product For anybody who managed to miss the Angry Birds' popularity at the height of its appeal, this was originally a smartphone app involving birds, pigs and flinging missiles! It was annoyingly addictive and spurned a ridiculous amount of spin-off merchandise. These Angry Bird 'flingers' were purchased as a boxed set of four different coloured birds/pigs and are small rounded soft toys, with each different figure having a hole in its underside just large enough to fit a finger or thumb inside. The toys can then be thrown either at a specific target or (as tended to happen in my household) at another sibling. The characters include the popular red bird, (green) pig and a blue and white bird. Play Value As small and fairly tactile little soft toys, these are pleasant enough to own and the 'flinging' feature helps to make them a little bit more interactive than a standard small soft toy. ...

Amazing Spiderman Lunch Bag 12/07/2017

Lunchtime for Spiderman

Amazing Spiderman Lunch Bag With three boys to feed, I have purchased a number of different lunch boxes from different brands over the years. This Spearmark 'Amazing Spiderman' lunchbag was purchased for my youngest son mainly for use during holiday club and the occasional school trip, as he is currently still eligible for free key stage one school meals. The Lunchbag Featuring the ever popular Marvel super hero, Spiderman, this lunch bag comes with a waterproof front and a fully lined exterior, which is a practical design and helps to deal with all of those leaked drinks and opened Frube packets that schools seem to insist on kids bringing home with them. The bag has a zip closure that runs three quarters of the way around the square lid and opens and closes smoothly. Rather unusually, the bag also features an adjustable long fabric handle, making this a handy choice for kids that will need to walk to school and prefer to have this over their shoulder. There is also a handy waterproof space for a name label to avoid the lunch bag going astray. In Use I find the size of this bag to be very spacious and practical, with a decent depth to allow for a range of different foodstuffs and drinks. I use the small Sistema branded plastic boxes to keep sandwiches fresh and separate from the rest of the packed lunch. This lunchbag can easily store one of these small boxes, a bag of crisps, a decent sized plastic drinks bottle and a couple of Frubes. This is all comfortably accommodated with no worries about the ...

Billy's Beetle - Mick Inkpen 09/07/2017

Spot the Beetle!

Billy's Beetle - Mick Inkpen One of our best loved books (and best buys) is a hardback compendium of some of Mick Inkpen's best children's stories, picked up for just a few pounds from the Book People several years ago. This collection has proved invaluable at bedtime over the past few years. Mick Inkpen is famous for introducing children to such lovable characters as Wibbly Pig and Kipper but this stand-alone story, featuring a little boy called Billy and his small (and easily mislaid) beetle, has been one of my boys' favourites when they were between the ages of two to six years old and one repeatedly requested for the bedtime slot. The Story Billy's beetle has unfortunately escaped from his matchbox home and Billy has to enlist the help of an increasing (and increasingly bizarre) host of different characters to try and track his beetle down. This funny story features not only the relatively typical children's book characters such as 'a girl' and 'a man with a sniffy dog' but also a talking hedgehog, a polar bear and an entire oompah band amongst others! The amusing little twist is that Billy's beetle is actually hidden away somewhere on each double page spread unbeknown to the characters, leaving it down to the young reader to track down before the other characters do. My son takes the task of finding the beetle on each page very seriously and is always proud when he manages to find it, although I'm sure he must have learnt the beetle's location off by heart by now given the number of times we ...

The Blue Balloon - Mick Inkpen 04/07/2017

Classic Mick Inkpen

The Blue Balloon - Mick Inkpen All three of my children have loved the many stories and characters created by Mick Inkpen and we have a much loved collection of classic Inkpen tales. Amongst my sons’ favourites is the ‘Blue Balloon’ - a story which has being read and re-read to all three of my children when they were between the ages of two and six years. The Story This fun tale is narrated by an unnamed little boy who discovers a soggy blue balloon in his garden. He soon discovers that this is no ordinary balloon. In fact, it is ‘indestructible’! One of the things that I do like about Inkpen is that he doesn’t try to dumb down a children’s story and he includes quite sophisticated vocabulary, with helpful imagery to bring the story to life. My youngest son started enjoying this story even before his second birthday and, whilst he may not have understood every specific word at that point, he could follow the gist of the story. Where this particular story excels is with the simple but really eye-catching images of the blue balloon. This is very cleverly done with the use of fold-out pages, where the balloon keeps getting bigger and bigger. So big that the pages fold out to four times the usual size to show the balloon! This is really appealing to youngsters, although the folds of that page have become worn and slightly damaged through repeated folding and unfolding - always a sign of a well-loved children’s story. There are a number of folding pages, to indicate where the boy’s dog tries to ...

Hand Spinner: what do you think of this new phenomenon? 03/07/2017

Short Lived Craze

Hand Spinner: what do you think of this new phenomenon? Having three children, I have had first hand experience of various fads and crazes over the year as shops and manufacturers try to devise new ways of parting parents from their cash. I have only just finished paying out a small fortune in collectable Match Attax cards, just in time for them to be cast aside for the latest 'must have' item amongst primary school aged children - the hand or fidget spinner. Hand (Fidget) Spinners Originally devised for children and young people with autism and other special needs, these spinners are small hand held spinning devices, used to keep hands occupied. There is a central section surrounded by three rounded outer sections. Usually made out of plastic or metal, the spinners, literally, just do that - spin when held in between two fingers. Whilst spinning, these make a faint whirring sound which can either be quite a reassuring or a very annoying noise - depending on the length of time spent listening to the spinning! Having been a fairly niche item until just a few months ago - these little spinners have exploded on to the market and caused havoc amongst our local schools. The two schools where my youngest boys attend soon had to impose a ban on bringing these innocuous looking items into school - although with thousands of similar schools nationwide. Target Market My oldest son is fourteen and far too cool to insist on one of these spinners - the age bracket seems to be from primary school aged children up to the first few years of ...

Sistema Salad To Go Container 14/06/2017


Sistema Salad To Go Container At work, we are very much a team that marches on its stomach and enjoys our lunch collectively and as individuals. The drawback to that is that the cost can soon add up as well as the danger for my expanding waist line. One of my colleagues came into work with a homemade salad stored inside this clever Sistema plastic container and, within the space of a week I had purchased my own 'Salad to Go' container and was following her example with my own healthy lunches. The Product This 'Salad to Go' box is a Sistema branded plastic container designed specifically to store and transport salads. The cleverly designed box includes a sturdy plastic base and an upper section which is split into two shallow compartments and a circular central section which houses a small lidded container. This little pot is perfectly proportioned to contain an individual portion of dressing. Underneath the top section there are two clips that hold a small plastic fork and spoon in place - both of which are supplied. The whole container is then covered with a sturdy plastic lid that is secured into place by four strong plastic clips that are easy to open and close but remain in place otherwise. I've owned a number of products under the Sistema brand including different styles of lunch boxes and plastic containers as well as the plastic drinks bottles. All of the Sistema products I've used previously have proven to be excellent quality and great value for money and this Sistema 'Salad to Go' container ...

Horrid Henry and the Football Fiend - Francesca Simon 10/06/2017

Reluctant Readers Beware!

Horrid Henry and the Football Fiend - Francesca Simon I've always tried to share my love of reading with my children, to encourage them to read for pleasure as I think it opens up a whole new world for them and helps to develop their imagination. As my oldest son got older, he seemed to be more interested in factual, non-fiction books so I went on the look out for some age-appropriate fiction stories that he would also enjoy when he was around eight years old. My local library stocks quite a selection of Francesca Simon's 'Horrid Henry' series, so we worked our way through them and finally found a series that encouraged him to read fiction. I have since shared the series with both of my two younger sons and found all of them to enjoy reading about the adventures of Horrid Henry and his friends and enemies. Horrid Henry 'Horrid Henry' is quite a well-established character nowadays, partly thanks to the CITV television adaptation of these stories, so I knew that this would be a character that my then eight year old son would be able to relate to. Throughout the series of novels, Horrid Henry manages to live up to his nickname and gets up to all sorts of mischief, often at the expense of his little brother, Perfect Peter. Fortunately, none of my boys are either horrid or perfect (not all of the time anyway!) but there is certainly an element of sibling rivalry between them that makes this seem realistic and brings a smile to my lips as I share this with my sons. The Stories This particular collection, 'Horrid Henry and the ...

Nizoral Shampoo 04/06/2017

Flake Away

Nizoral Shampoo My youngest son suffered from cradle cap quite badly as a baby but unfortunately it persisted well beyond his baby days. He experienced the symptoms of cradle cap throughout his toddler years and as a much older child. He is now nine years old and still has regular boats of dry flaky scalp that he will scratch and pick at - mainly while in a deep sleep. I've been seeking medical help about this issue for years. The treatments recommended during his early years provided some comfort but nothing has ever really seemed to tackle the actual causes of this condition. Nizoral shampoo was one of the treatments prescribed a couple of years ago and we have had a number of repeat prescriptions for this product since then. The Product Nizoral is described as a shampoo and is provided for the purpose of washing and cleaning hair but also to tackle dry flaky scalp conditions including dandruff. We have this provided free on prescription for a child's use but it can also be purchased without prescription. The shampoo is simply and plainly packaged in an opaque white bottle so there is no way of viewing the contents from the outside. The shampoo is dispensed via a flip top lid and it is easy to control the amount released even though the consistency of the shampoo is quite thin. Only a small amount of the resulting red liquid is required per application. The shampoo has a fairly inoffensive mildly medicinal chemistry scent. Application The shampoo includes clear directions for use ...

Kubo and the Two Strings (DVD) 31/05/2017

A Beautifully Animated Story

Kubo and the Two Strings (DVD) As a parent to three children, I have watched numerous animated films over the past few years but none quite like this enchanting and unusual film; Kubo and the Two Strings from the Laika animation studios - makers of similarly quirky films including Coraline and the Box Trolls. The Film This Japanese fairy tale like story follows a young boy, Kubo, living in the mountains with his seriously ill mother and unable to stay out after sunset for fear that he would be captured by his grandfather and evil aunts. Kubo has already lost an eye as a baby, due to his grandfather, and wears a distinctive eye patch. Kubo spends his days in the local marketplace, entertaining the locals with his magical stories about heroes and foes accompanied by origami like paper characters that are brought to life by the power of Kubo's stories and music. The film becomes even more surreal as it progresses with Kubo going on a journey accompanied by a talking monkey and a humanoid talking beetle (with more than a passing resemblance to Buzz Lightyear) as well as directions being provided by characters made out of paper. Reportedly based on an old Japanese legend, the story has all of the features of typical fantasy films with the hunt for powerful armour, magical aspects as inanimate objects come to life, battles between good and evil and supernatural elements featuring loved ones who have passed away. Despite the unusual setting and the fantasy elements I still found myself rooting for Kubo and ...

Nivea Vanilla Macadamia Lip Butter 27/05/2017

Lip Smacking

Nivea Vanilla Macadamia Lip Butter I don't tend to wear a lot of make up on a daily basis but usually wear mascara daily to make me appear a little less tired and regularly use lip butter or gloss to keep my lips feeling soft and to prevent dryness or peeling. The Product This is a Nivea branded lip butter with Vanilla and Macadamia fragrance. This is part of a range of fragranced lip butters including Original Raspberry Rose Blueberry Blush and Red Currant. The lip butter comes packaged in a small tin with a simple lift off lift and a plastic seal for protection before first use. The tin itself is a perfect size to keep in a bag or pocket, ready to hand for application throughout the day. I find this a practical means of applying lip butter/balm but do appreciate that not everybody would find this a hygienic option as it needs to be applied by finger so this isn't a product that could be shared with others and attention to hand hygiene is recommended to avoid spreading germs. I'm not always conscious of use by dates on make up items and toiletries but I do try to use this type of lip treatment up within six months of opening. I would also never use this if I have a cold sore for fear of cross contamination to the other side of my lips. Application and Results The lip butter is essentially solidified lip balm which has an attractive creamy white colour, firm consistency and an absolutely gorgeous fragrance. I don't particularly like nuts of any kind but don't find this to have a noticeable nutty scent. The ...
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