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since 02/07/2009


Rocket League (PS4) 22/02/2017

In a League of its Own

Rocket League (PS4) My oldest two sons are typical siblings and make it a point of principle never to agree on anything. This is only exacerbated by a five year age gap so there is rarely any common ground or mutual interest to overcome that natural sibling animosity. This PS4 game has been one of the few things that they agree on - to the unprecedented extent of agreeing to pool some of their Christmas money and purchase the game between them! The Game Rocket League is available in both PS4 and XBox One formats. It is a very strange concept that merges motor racing with football with the basic purpose of the game to score goals by pushing a giant ball around a particular course using rocket powered vehicles! The first time I heard about this game was through a review on this site and I thought the combination was pretty unusual but didn't really anticipate this being such a big hit with the boys. Game Play The format follows that used by more conventional racing games. There is a wide choice of different modes and within those there are a number of different game arenas so the setting varies each time and prevents the game from getting boring. Each of the games is subject to a five minute time limit which visibly counts down on screen. This helps to make the game feel really fast paced and tense despite being a lot of fun. Players are able to deliberately crash into other vehicles and can bash them out of the way so this is like a high powered version of rocket powered dodgems without any ...

Rayman Legends (Wii U) 19/02/2017

Fun but not Legendary

Rayman Legends (Wii U) With three children in the house, including a teenager, it is almost inevitable that we own a number of different games consoles and the corresponding games. The Wii U console was purchased for my then eight year old son for Christmas 2015 and he has gone on to receive a number of different games as gifts and has chosen a select few using his own Christmas and birthday money. Amongst his chosen games is this Rayman Legends. The Product Rayman is a well established classic computer game character and has featured in a number of games over the years. This particular game, Rayman Legends, is available in various formats including Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Xbox One and PS Vita. We only own the game in this Wii U format. This game needs the Wii U gamepad to operate but can also be used in conjunction with other Wii controllers so that up to five players are able to join in at any one time, alongside the online multiplayer options. Game Play Rayman Legends is a sequel to an earlier game, Rayman Origins but that game is not needed in order to play and understand this particular game. My son had no experience with the Rayman series prior to purchasing and playing this game but game play is fairly standard and self-explanatory and he was able to pick up and play the game without any issues. The game is based around the 'Glade of Dreams' which has been taken over by a range of monsters and mythical creatures. Rayman and his friends need to defeat these creatures and rescue the ...

The Folk of the Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton 12/02/2017

More Enid Blyton Magic

The Folk of the Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton The Folk of the Faraway Tree is the third and final book in the fantastic series of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree/Enchanted Wood stories. This is a series that I loved reading as a young child myself so it has been a real pleasure to revisit the excitement and adventures as an adult, sharing these stories with my own three children. The Story Here, siblings Jo, Bessie and Fanny are joined by a family friend, Connie. Connie is, initially, at least somewhat spoilt and expresses her disbelief in the very existence of the Enchanted Wood, the Faraway Tree and the fantastic folk who live within its branches - not to mention the magical lands that appear at the top of the tree. Connie soon discovers that the magic really does exist but unfortunately her attitude and curiosity leads to a few narrow escapes in some of the less pleasant lands. This book easily lives up to its predecessors. The themes themselves are familiar - with bad behaviour and personality traits always leading to trouble and naughty children getting their comeuppance and good behaviour being rewarded. Having three female characters in this particular story does help to emphasise the inherent sexism within the story with the girls being expected to help with all the domestic chores and the boys taking control. This is a common theme throughout Enid Blyton's books and representative of the time in which it was originally written. Age Recommendation I would recommend this book to be read to children from around ...

TKC Stomp Rocket Refill Pack 08/02/2017

Fill 'Em Up, Stomp and Go!

TKC Stomp Rocket Refill Pack My boys have owned and loved playing with a stomp rocket for several years and, during that time, have managed to lose and break a number of the rockets originally supplied with the kit. In my attempts to prepare for a sunny and fun filled summer -insert hollow laughs- I decided to buy a new refill pack of replacement rockets as a supplement to an existing Amazon order so that the toy would be all set for summer. What Is A Stomp Rocket? Stomp rockets are fantastic toys which are sctivated by the pressure created by either standing, jumping or 'stomping' on a squidgy plastic launch pad. This causes a sudden blast of wind to travel down the attached pipe and forces one of the plastic 'rockets' to fire into the sky. Stomp rockets can be used and enjoyed by both kids and adults of various ages and can reach pretty incredible distances in terms of both height and length. Amazingly, despite this being over four years ago, our stomp rocket is still going strong and brings much entertainment to our family whenever the weather is nice enough for outdoor play. The original stomp rocket kit consists of a stand, a pipe attachment which is connected to the launch pad and six plastic rockets. The rockets provided are pretty sturdy but with repeated use can either get lost - these go a very long way- or damaged. Some of ours have accidentally been stood on between uses and the long tube section has cracked rendering them unusable. A couple of the others have lost the coloured tail ...

Modern Family Season 5 (DVD) 08/02/2017

A Modern Family Wedding

Modern Family Season 5 (DVD) We are massive fans of the American sitcom Modern Family in our household and watch the individual episodes over and over again from each of the seven seasons that have been released in the UK to date. Season Five This is the complete fifth season of Modern Family in DVD format and features all 24 episodes across three discs along with a selection of special features. The discs run for 513 minutes in total although this is very much something to dip in and out of, but there is always a temptation to sit through a number of consecutive episodes. Originally shown on screen back in 2014, this season still feels fresh and current. In this series, the Pitchett-Dunphy family are well established, with Jay still the patriarch of a rather unusual set up featuring his younger, beautiful Columbian wife, Gloria, their baby son, Joe, and his step-son, Manny. Jay's older children from his first marriage are grown up with partners and children of their own and the series follows their milestones, significant events and everyday challenges with a mixture of humour and sentimentality. This season follows Mitch and Cam's wedding plans from the proposal in the opening episode through to the big wedding day itself which is so 'big' that it takes up both of the final two episodes and brings plenty of opportunity for humour, drama and crisis after crisis! Casting Ed O'Neill - Jay Pritchett Julie Bowen - Claire Dunphy Ty Burrell - Phil Dunphy Sofia Vergara - Gloria Pritchett Jesse Tyler ...

Carex Hand Wash Chocolate Orange 08/02/2017

It's Not Terry's - It's Carex!

Carex Hand Wash Chocolate Orange I love Terry's Chocolate Orange so as soon as I discovered that Carex had brought out a new range of fun fragranced hand washes, including a Chocolate Orange flavour, I knew I had to give it a try! Tracking this variety down proved a little difficult initially. This was not stocked in my local (large) Morrisons store or in Wilkinson's where I tend to buy household items such as this. I finally managed to buy some in a large Tesco store. This range has now been out for a couple of years, but this specific variety is much harder to get hold of than the Strawberry Laces and the Cola Bottles scents from the same range. I rarely shop in Tesco, so end up purchasing other varieties of hand wash even though is by far my favourite. I am willing to pay the full RRP of £1.80 for a 250ml pump action bottle but the hand wash is occasionally available on a half price offer, making this an excellent bargain and prompting me to stockpile when I get the chance! The hand wash is presented in the familiar Carex style with an easy to operate pump action helping to dispense the liquid soap inside in a steady flow. One pump is a pretty accurate amount needed for handwashing, helping to minimise waste. I do like this format of hand wash as the bottle is slim enough to fit on the side of the small sink in my downstairs toilet, conveniently to hand. It's not entirely mess-free, despite the pump format, as my children do tend to get a bit carried away and leave a bit of an orange trail over the ...

Valentine's Day: Do you love it or hate it? 05/02/2017

Roses are Red...

Valentine's Day: Do you love it or hate it? With the austerity of January out of the way it now seems to be time to loosen the purse strings and head off to the high street again. A quick visit to a local shopping centre yesterday saw us leaving a few hours later and around £200 worse off purely due to replacing worn out clothing items and school equipment. Shops need us to spend our money all year round to stay in business and Valentine's Day is just one of many commercial occasions designed to guilt trip consumers into parting with their cash under the guise of demonstrating their love for one another... The Teen Years I loathed valentine's day as a younger teenager never quite managing to time any potential love interest with that 'special' date and consequently being empty handed and embarrassed on the 14th February. My first Valentine's card and present didn't arrive until I was 18 years old and to make up for those wilderness years I had a huge padded card and a lovely bouquet of flowers. That is the first and last time that I've received flowers from a man! I would hate to be a teenager in modern times with all of the added pressure from social media reinforcing expectations and disappointments in such a public way. Twenties and Thirties As I've got older and felt secure in stable long term relationships valentine's day has become less significant but offers a legitimate opportunity to spend a little time thinking about small gestures and gifts to show love and affection. I've never particularly gone ...

SIS Drinks Bottle 04/02/2017

Science in Sport Refreshments

SIS Drinks Bottle I have discovered just how expensive it can be to 'keep' a teenager. My oldest son's latest obsession is with keep fit, exercise and body building which could, of course, be a lot worse! Part of his new exercise routine involves a set of home gym equipment to supplement membership of a local gym and another essential item has been a reusable water bottle to ensure that he keeps hydrated during and after exercise. The Product This reusable sports bottle is manufactured under the SIS (Science In Sport) brand name who are specialists in sports drinks and nutrition. The company produces a lot of supplements and sports drinks and this bottle forms part of their range. The bottle has the traditional style of pull up drinking spout as you'd expect from a plastic sports bottle but is quite wide, allowing a decent gulp of liquid each time. It has the branding clearly visible and the black lettering appeals to the teenage market. The bottle has a generous capacity for liquids but, unusually, there are no graduated markings for liquids. Instead this bottle has markings for 50g and 100g making this ideal for measuring out powder to create one of the popular protein sports drinks. Fortunately my son has yet to get into the craze for bodybuilding protein drinks as they can be a very expensive purchase! In Use This bottle is a decent size to take about holding up to 800ml of liquid and is handy for my teenager to take out with him when he's out playing tennis for most of the day. The ...

Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton 31/01/2017

Just Magical!

Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton As a mother of three boys, I have taken a great delight in dusting down some of the books that I enjoyed from my own childhood to share with my own children once they are of an age to appreciate them. I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books, so I still have the original copies of most of my old favourites including the Magic Faraway Tree which is just one of the many Enid Blyton classics that I loved as a child. The Magic Faraway Tree The Magic Faraway Tree is actually the second book in Enid Blyton's Enchanted Wood/Faraway Tree series. The story continues from the first 'Enchanted Wood' so is best read in order but works as a standalone book if you're not able to get hold of the first book for any reason. This one features the same group of siblings, Jo, Bessie and Fanny and also introduces their cousin Dick. (I must admit that I had a little giggle to myself when first re-reading their names but my youngest son remains in blissful ignorance about any potential alternative meanings.) The children have discovered a magical tree in the middle of the Enchanted Wood which is home to many magical creatures including pixies, fairies and the unforgettable Moon Face. The main reason that the children keep going back to the Magic Faraway Tree is because of the strange hole at the very top of the tree that leads into a magical land through the clouds! Every few days the lands revolve and a new and equally magical land will appear. The children were always getting into ...

Cameras or smart phones: how do you capture magical moments? 30/01/2017

Picture This

Cameras or smart phones: how do you capture magical moments? One of the features of modern life is the need to document and share everything contemporaneously. With no signs of the importance and popularity of social media waning, pictures of everything from the spectacular to the mundane can be shared instantly with friends, acquaintances and complete strangers all over the world. In order to do this, the right kit is needed and the choice made between utilising a multipurpose smartphone or purchasing a top of the range digital camera to maximise picture quality and performance. My Digital Camera I've owned a few digital cameras since they started to fall in price and become more mass market, rather than an expensive niche item. My most recent purchase was a Pansonic Lumix FS15 which is still very much alive and kicking, although not used on a regular basis nowadays. We purchased this camera from Currys in June 2009 and paid £159 at the time, plus a tenner for a 4GB SD memory card as no memory card was included. One of the main advantages of utilising a smartphone rather than a digital camera is the additional weight and bulk associated with carting a digital camera around but, in all honesty, this camera is very light and slimline. It weighs less than 140g, including the battery and a memory card and slips easily into jeans pockets which making so much as a telling bulge! I can't honestly say that the size of a digital camera is what prevents me from using this on a regular basis, although the more expensive DSLR cameras are ...

Fisher-Price Imaginext Ocean Submarine 25/01/2017

We All Live in a Yellow Submarine

Fisher-Price Imaginext Ocean Submarine Like most parents, I try to find bargains and items reduced in price all year round to set aside as presents for my boys ready for Christmas or birthdays. This toy submarine was one such item, purchased when the sale price rapidly plummeted on Amazon a couple of years ago. The Product This is an attractive fittingly yellow submarine and is part of the extensive Imaginext range from brand leading toy manufacturer, Fisher Price. This is a surprisingly large toy made entirely out of very thick plastic and, thankfully, requires no assembly or setting up prior to its first play - aside from wrestling the toy free from its packaging. What's Included The set comprises the solidly built large plastic submarine complete with: * Two plastic torpedoes * Two small figures * Removable diving flippers * Removable scuba diving tank The diving gear and flippers are interchangeable with both of the figures provided and should fit other figures from the Imaginext range as they all seem to be of standard proportions, complete with large shaped feet that are used to unlock/operate different functions on the sets. In Play Although this toy is a submarine it is, bizarrely, not actually designed as a bath toy. It is actually intended for use out of water and features wheels underneath to enable this toy to be pushed along carpet or hard surfaces. As the toy is pushed along, the turbine on the rear of the submarine spins around, creating a satisfying whirring noise as it goes. The effect is ...

Fisher Price Elmo Live 21/01/2017

Elmo Loves You!

Fisher Price Elmo Live The Elmo character should be familiar to many of us - the friendly furry red monster being a popular figure in the American kids tv series, Sesame Street. Although Sesame Street no longer seems to be a programme that today's children will be watching, for some reason the merchandising has continued and this Elmo 'Live' interactive toy was released by leading toy brand Fisher Price a number of years ago to capitalise on his enduring popularity. Elmo Live Elmo Live is an accurate representation of the distinctive Elmo character, complete with red fur, wide open mouth, orange nose and cute googly eyes. This is more than just a basic model of Elmo as it is battery operated and has a range of interactive functions - including sitting down on the small blue plastic chair that he comes with, telling pre-recorded stories and jokes and making fun sound effects when certain parts of his body are pressed. Elmo's voice is very authentic and instantly recognisable to anybody familiar with the Sesame Street programme and/or the character, along with his (slightly annoying) style of talking about himself in the third person. Elmo Live has a (limited) range of phrases and comments that he will say at intervals. He is particularly prone to falling over and will state 'Elmo fell down' and 'Will you help Elmo up please?' along with a very grateful 'Aw Thank you' when he is picked up and repositioned. This is a simple trick but very engaging for younger children and a feature that fascinated ...

Fisher Price Thomas & Friends Take-N-Play James 16/01/2017

Come In Number Five!

Fisher Price Thomas & Friends Take-N-Play James Having three sons, I have spent a lot of time playing with them when they were younger and one classic toy that all three have enjoyed has been their wooden train track and all of the trains and carriages that go with it. Most of our collection comprises of Brio branded wooden track and trains but it is possible to mix and match with different brands and sets and some of the Thomas and Friends branded 'Take-N-Play' range has made its way into our collection, despite being designed for a different (mostly plastic) track system. Thomas & Friends There can't be many adults, particularly parents, who remain unfamiliar with Thomas the Tank Engine and his many Friends. Ever popular, new characters are continuously being introduced but James is one of the original engines from WH Awdrey's classic series of books and the resultant tv programmes and films. James can be quite proud and boastful but, as always, learns his lessons the hard way at times and needs help and support from his friends. James is instantly recognisable to those in the know, thanks to his distinctive bright red paintwork and Number Five emblazoned on his coal-filled carriage. If, like us, you are only going to own a select few Thomas figures, I would recommend going for a well known classic engine like James, rather than one of the newer more obscure characters. The extensive Take-N-Play range is designed to be a portable train set, with lots of separate components available, all with the Thomas branding. ...

Anybody Out There? - Marian Keyes 13/01/2017

Anybody out there who doesn't love Marian Keyes?

Anybody Out There? - Marian Keyes As a lover of chick lit, Marian Keyes is one of my favourite authors and she rarely -if ever- disappoints when it comes to creating an engaging and easy to read piece of fiction. 'Anybody Out There' is the fourth in a series featuring the Walsh sisters and the unforgettable 'Ma Walsh'. Having read several others from the series and fell in love with the Walsh sisters, flaws and all, somehow I managed to overlook this particular book and just happened upon it by chance in a charity shop. The central character of this story is Anna Walsh, although the rest of the family feature at various points throughout the story, particularly Anna's parents and eccentric sister, Helen. The inclusion of the different family members really added to my enjoyment as it gave a sense of continuity to the story as I'd read several others about the same group of siblings. I wouldn't be deterred from reading this as an initial introduction to Marian Keyes' novels though as there is no real need to read the series in any particular order and no obvious spoilers from previous books in the series are given out. The back cover doesn't really give a great deal of information about the plot in this story. It simply alludes to Anna having returned to her family home in Dublin and needing to go back to New York and 'back to Aidan.' There is a sense of mystery over what has happened to force Anna to return home (clearly against her will) and just what has gone on between Anna and her partner, Aidan. This ...

Bargains: Do you manage to find good deals outside of the sales period? 13/01/2017

Bargain hunting for 2017

Bargains: Do you manage to find good deals outside of the sales period? As with most households, January seems a long month for a number of reasons, not least of which is the length of time between (the early) December salary and January's pay - not to mention all of the additional expenditure that has taken place in between! For anybody else who is feeling the squeeze this New Year, here are a few of my thoughts when bargain hunting and looking for good deals: It's only a bargain if you need it! Sales can bring out the worst in people at times as the desire to bag a bargain can result in impulse purchases. Admittedly, some times a sale price or offer can seem too good to resist but I would try and avoid seeing this as 'moneysaving' as no money has been saved if the item would not have been bought otherwise! Price comparison The internet makes it much easier to compare the prices of everything from home insurance ( moneysupermarket and the like) to everyday food items (mysupermarket is a good place to start. Sometimes a manual trawl of different sites can save a lot of money. This year, I found many toys and gifts much cheaper at Argos than Amazon, for instance. Prices do fluctuate very frequently on Amazon so I use a website called camelcamelcamel which logs the different selling prices for individual items on Amazon, making it easier to tell if a particular discount is actually as good as it seems or whether it was selling for even less a few weeks ago. It is also possible to set a preferred sale price for a specific item and the ...
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