Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Thomas & friends Rattling Railsss Playset Review

Trains…Trains..Trains…Leo is trains MAD. He loves them. Toy trains, model trains, steam trains, diesel trains, rides on trains, all trains! He simply LOVES trains. You only need to look at my iPad and have a mooch around my YouTube account to see that a certain 3 year old often steals it in order to watch trains on demand. He watches the footage that train watchers create, and he also likes to watch Thomas the Tank Engine. Yup, my boy loves Thomas and his adventures.

2015 see’s Thomas and Friends turning 70 years old, how incredible is that!? It has proven so popular that it has carried on being loved and adored all these years later, it would appear that kids seem to love trains! In celebration of Thomas’s age old birthday, Fisherprice kindly asked us if Leo would like to review the new Thomas and Friends Take-n-Play RattlingRailsss Playset, of course I didn’t need to ask Leo twice. He instantly accepted the play challenge and then set up camp by the door awaiting the post each day, in hope that his new track would arrive. Of course when it did we had to get it out right away and get it built up so that he could play with it instantly!

Building train track is my downfall, I just cannot do it. I can’t follow instructions to save my life and I often find the pieces a little fiddly. Luckily Granny was on hand to help build the latest Take-n-Play set, and it wasn't long before Leo’s imagination was running away with him, and he had multiple trains lined up ready to hurtle around.

I have to admit even I was impressed by the Rattling Railsss Playset, it was hard not to be when the snake actually moves when you press the lever on the top of the set (this also acts as a very useful carry handle). Leo was putting Thomas around the track, letting him stay stationary in the snakes mouth and then pushing the lever down to send him whizzing over to the other side of the track before starting the process again!

The set comes with a diecast Thomas Train so that play can begin right away, there are no need for batteries, so once it’s built it is ready to rock and roll. This toy has been played with on a daily basis since its arrival, and with Leo’s rather impressive diecast Thomas collection, he is not short of trains to use with this set. I would recommend this for any Thomas fan, it is recommended for kids aged 3 and up and I would say that is a fair guideline to work to.

I really like that the set is so portable, it makes it easy for Leo to carry around himself during game play, and tidying it up at the end of the day. Leo absolutely loves this set and gets so much enjoyment out of his play time. Of course I love that it can be stored away so readily at the end of play, Leo's train collection is booming and we certainly couldn't have them all on display all of the time. 

Leo's game play is so full of imagination and it's rather fascinating to watch, train crashes, casualties, ambulances speeding in to take the injured away, train races, and the crazed snake gulping up engines! There is never a dull moment when it comes to Leo's games. The Rattling Railsss Playset retails at £20.99, but is currently on offer at Amazon for £17.99 at the point of writing this review.

Disclaimer: We were sent the Rattling Railsss Playset for the purpose of this review. All views and opinions are completely honest and my own.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Best family holidays in Wales

I for one am already casting my mind to distant shores and hoping that this year I get to jet off to sunnier climates as Summer swings around. Whether or not this dream will become a reality is a whole other question in itself, and as the weeks roll by and nothing is booked up, it becomes more apparent that a dream is the only place this will be a reality. 

Of course as much as I would adore to jet off to the blue skies and white sands of tropical lands, there are other options available to us even if we can’t afford to jet off abroad this year. 

There are of course many options right on our doorstep and one of those that has come to mind in recent discussions is taking a holiday to Wales! 

There's not a lot not to love about Wales, it's full of breath-taking national parks, charming villages and countless historical landmarks, Wales is among the most attractive tourist destinations to visit for a jam-packed holiday with your family. It's always growing as a tourist destination as there are endless places to visit, meaning that there is something for absolutely every member of the family, no matter your interests or hobbies, Wales probably has it on offer. Here are some of the best family holidays in Wales:

Cardiff: The capital city of Wales. It’s a modern, metropolitan location that has many roman-era historical sites. It is ideal for family holidays as it gives children a great taste of much of the culture and history. Cardiff offers a large array of entertainment, quality shopping and amazing places to eat and drink. It’s got a lot on offer for a great family break.

Pembroke: An ideal break for those who appreciate the wonders of nature, within close proximity to the town centre, Pembrokeshire is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Wales. Known as the dog-friendly destination, Pembrokeshire has over 50 beaches and endless country footpaths for you to enjoy beautiful walks.

Carmarthen:  The oldest town in Wales, but here you will find the perfect mix of old and new. In the town centre you will find high street names next to independent traders. You can find beautiful handmade crafts, homemade food items and unique clothing. The day will be written off due to the endless hours you will spend walking around the beautiful town that is oozing character.

Aberystwyth: Home to much culture and heritage, Aberystwth is a  University town that is the site of an Iron Age fort built before the coming of the Normans. You can take an unforgettable railway ride on Britain’s longest electric cliff railway and be taken back by the amazing views.
Snowdonia:  A peaceful retreat to get away from madness at home, Snowdonia is located in northern Wales, where the coast stretches for miles. Here you can find many indoor and outdoor activities that are suitable for everyone. Choose from the likes of rock climbing, white water rafting, hiking and much more.

Conwy:  One of the most popular destinations for history enthusiasts is Conwy. Conwy has an authentic atmosphere that makes you feel relaxed. It was built in 13th Century and is a great place to discover mediaeval wales. There are also stunning beaches for those times when you don’t want to go exploring and just, relax and unwind. 

Tip: Look out for great deals online for the likes of UKBreakaways and similar sites.

I am however still hoping to jet off over seas... But that is still a work in progress!

Sea Stars at Birmingham SEA LIFE Centre

Weekends bring adventures, there’s no doubt about that. With the rising sun we can be seen chasing the horizon on the hunt for our next greatest endeavor.  This last weekend we were invited along to the Birmingham SEA LIFE Centre to see the all new Sea Stars Exhibit.

As soon as I told Leo about our weekend plans, he couldn't stop talking about the Penguins. On the weeks running up to our visit, Leo has been so excited about all that he will see and the things that he will do on his next visit. His memory is so amazing these days, and he can cast his mind back to previous visits. We have been a few times already in the past year, and the latest addition upon our last visit, actually happened to be the Penguins.

Living in Worcestershire, the commute into Birmingham isn’t a tough one and there is parking in close proximity to the SEA LIFE Centre which is always welcome. We arrived early before the SEA LIFE Centre was actually opened to the public so that we could be one of the first to experience the Sea Stars attraction. We signed in and were greeted by the team and were pointed in the right direction.

First up is the Penguins, this is a firm favourite for the entire family. I love watching them waddle around after one another, jumping out of the water onto dry land and then all diving back in one after the other. They are like real life Happy Feet, and there is something quite calming about watching them. Leo loves them, he gets down on the floor so that he can watch them as they fly around under the water, seeing sights that you don’t see all that often. It’s like a complete other world.

We tend to follow Leo’s lead when we visit, and we were thankful that on this occasion he seemed to be taking things slowly and pacing himself. This meant that Daddy and I got to have a proper look at everything and really take everything in. Leo stopped to inspect the rock pool but decided he wasn’t brave enough on this occasion to touch the Star Fish, Daddy on the other hand decided to give it a go! That’s one of the great things about the SEA LIFE Centre, there are so many different things to see and do, something for every age and interest.

We stopped for ages just watching the Clown Fish swimming around, and I found myself and Leo both mesmerised as we watched two clown fish brushing up against the sea anemone just like in Finding Nemo. Of course we had to keep our eyes peeled for  Dory too.

As we moved around we came across creatures from all over the world. Sting Rays, Jelly Fish, Sea Horses, and of course.. Star Fish. As we got to the area that used to hold all of the very beautiful Jellies, we were met with a brand new part of the tour. Sea Stars! The first thing I noticed was the tanks with cut outs in the rocks, making room for young and old alike to place their head inside the bubble and see the world housing the beautiful Star Fish from a whole new angle. I loved this and of course had to be the first to give it a go. I did manage to bump my head in the process, much to Luke’s delight! I always have been a big kid at heart!

As we moved around the Sea Stars I noticed a big tank that was pretty murky, and among the murky waters was the biggest Star Fish I think that I have ever seen. For the first 5 minutes or so as I peered into the tank, I thought this Star Fish was a plastic model, not for one moment did I think it was…Alive! It was round about then that a very helpful member of staff came over and told me the story to the larger than life Star Fish inhabiting the murky tank. For starters he was real, and very much alive. Up until that very morning the waters had been clear and ready for the Sea Stars grand un-veiling. It was only that morning that the cheeky Star Fish decided to test the waters so to speak…In the hope that there were some lady Star Fish around to reap the benefits… I was told that it’s a very rare occurrence and that they only do it when they are very comfortable, and out of all the days for it to happen…

Around the Sea Stars there is lots of information to hand, quirky facts that I actually had no idea about. In fact there was and is so much that I didn’t know about Star Fish, crazily I didn’t actually think they could move, but I was wrong. Although I didn’t witness it myself, I apparently just missed some rather sizeable Star Fish wiggle their way, quite quickly across one of the tanks! Now that is something I wish I had seen with my own eyes! There are computer aids and Leo enjoyed having a play around with those before we made our way out and carried on our tour around the rest of the SEA LIFE Centre.

We were all really impressed with the new Sea Stars attraction and came away knowing much more about the mysterious Star Fish than we knew before visiting. It is certainly worth a visit to see the new addition, and of course the larger than life Star Fish himself!

On this occasion we decided not to head into the 4D Cinema, Leo gets a little worried about the water splashing out and he hasn’t forgotten about the time I brought him back in September, so for the sake of arguments we decided to keep going forward. We then came face to face (So to speak) with the Piranhas! I think they are fascinating, and told Leo about how vicious they could be, and that was exactly why they were in a tank with very high sides, so that people couldn't poke their fingers in. Of course Leo looked at me like I was bonkers and said ‘You winding me up Mummy!’.  Of course we all know that I was being perfectly honest, but we will save that argument for another day and hope that he doesn’t try and make friends with any Piranha’s in the coming days…

We made our way to the lift to take us down to the walk through bubble, this part is always rather spectacular and I have fond memories of visiting as a child. Although within those memories are the ones that still put a humorous smile on my face to this day. As a young child, I remember being told that we were heading for a family trip to the SEA LIFE Centre. Then my parents told me all about the bubble you could go into and see the fish. In my head a bubble is a circular object, or a sort of pod. So in my head before visiting I had dreamed up very high expectations of what this bubble would be like. The bubble would pop up out of the water, a door would open to the glass pod allowing me to climb inside, and it would then lock tight and dive back down into the watery depths! I do remember tears when I discovered that this ‘bubble’ wasn't quite what I had in mind, but we can blame my over active imagination for that one!

We spent a while just watching the sharks swimming around among the sea of fish, and then laid eyes on my favourite creature. The Sea Turtle. He really is something else and so majestic.

You can see a snippet of our exciting day at the SEA LIFE Centre, and all of the exciting creatures that we came across! The new Sea Stars attraction is definitely worth visiting and we look forward to our next visit in the coming months.

Disclaimer: We were invited along to the SEA LIFE Centre for the Sea Stars opening. All views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Time Tower at Warwick Castle

The weather is starting to brighten up and the cold days are relenting giving way to warmer trips outdoors, so when my little family were invited along the Time Tower un-veiling at Warwick Castle over the weekend, we were very excited to spend the day at one of our favourite local attractions.

We have visited the historic grounds a handful of times over recent years, and each time a little bit more is opened up to us as Leo is that little bit older. The last time we visited especially to meet the one and only Mike the Knight and we dedicated a whole day to the activities that were on offer, this time are purpose for visiting was to be one of the first people to see the brand new attraction. Time Tower.

Time Tower is the brand new attraction to Warwick Castle,  it is unlike anything else that is currently on offer to visitors of the historical grounds, and offers a sophisticated technical time travel experience for families to hurtle right from 914AD, right through to modern day, combining all of the stories from the middle ages, War of The Roses, The Tudors and the Victorian Era. There are so many myths and legends surrounding Warwick Castle’s past, and for the first time…ever. The true story of Warwick Castle’s dark history of death, treachery and bloodshed will be told in full in the Time Tower.  I’ll elaborate on this exciting development a little later on!

We arrived at the castle around 11:00am ready for an exciting day of discovery, and with Leo leading the way (only dropping behind occasionally because his feet hurt…) we were ready for a day full of family fun. We were directed to the Conservatory which is nestled on the Castle grounds overlooking the beautiful gardens, it’s a new venue that will be opening to the public very soon for food and beverages. We were lucky enough to get to enjoy some of the delicious cakes that will be on offer, and between the 3 of us, we wolfed down the entire selection! If you are visiting Warwick Castle soon, I must insist that you pop in and enjoy a cake (or two!) while looking out at the beautiful gardens.

It was here that the rest of the press group were gathering ready for our Time Tower preview, so after everyone had over indulged in the rather generous selection of goodies available, we were shown over to the Time Tower.

We all lined up and were split into smaller groups to accommodate for the audience sizes, and group by group we were lead in. Our group was the last group to get inside, and once we went through the gates we found ourselves in a room with screens and seating. Everyone sat down and looked ahead… patiently waiting. Leo was on his best behavior, he sat on the bench next to me and curiously asked questions about what was going on. Within a few moments the screens in front of us sprung to life and we were walked through the history of the castle in a series of clips, video footage and graphics. I for one learnt a thing or two that I didn't know before!

With the introduction over you make your way out of the back of the room and head up some windy spiral stairs (typical castle staircases!) to another room that features a model of the grand Castle. This is what really impressed me, how the model castle was used to demonstrate the destruction and peace that has been part of Warwick Castle’s past. This is where the technical aspects make Time Tower a visual master piece, and I couldn't take my eyes off the model castle as the history unfolded right before my very eyes. Leo was asking so many questions and watching the model so intently.

Figment Productions who are the creative team behind the LEGO Factory Toy Experience at LEGOLAND Discovery Centres and Octonauts at SEA LIFE, has used their 3D Scanning and modelling experience to create a scale model of Warwick Castle, that transforms through the times with projection mapping and 4D effects. This is all complimented by Green Screen filming, CGI and visual effect techniques! 

Time Tower may be aimed at older children, but there is nothing stopping younger children going along and enjoying the experience all the same.

When your time finishes in this room you head down a further stair case where you come across a number of portraits (screens). The portraits reminded me of what you would find in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and given the castle settings I didn’t think that was too farfetched! Once the group has assembled again, the portraits walk you through more of the castles colourful history, and just like Harry Potter, the occupants of the portraits can move among each other and even communicate! Certainly a magical experience for the children in your group!

I won’t go reveal much more of the details as I don’t want to give too much away, but Time Tower is visually stunning, informative and really interesting. It is going to make a fantastic addition to the already jam packed itinerary at Warwick Castle, and I think it is safe to say that it is going to be greatly received by the general public when it opens its doors on the 28th March 2015.

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the castle grounds and climbing the Ramparts, this was a first for Leo as each visit before had seen us bringing the pushchair, and we didn’t want to risk climbing the 530 steps only to find Leo wanted carrying! So on Saturday, Leo…My 3 year old climbed the 530 steps to the very top. He saw it more of an adventure than something he had to do, he absolutely loved it. He maneuverer around Guys Tower like a boss, and pretended to shoot the rather big gun out of the watchman’s tower.

We enjoyed a very lovely lunch in the State Room, which is right within the castle itself. As you can see from the photos, it’s absolutely gorgeous and we had a real feast. After lunch we informed Leo that Mike the Knight was indeed in the building (Or should I say Castle!) that day, and we made our way over to the meet and greet.

We saw so much more of the castle on this occasion and we had such a lovely family day together. Leo always has the most amazing time when we visit, so we will be sure to come again in the not so distant future.

Disclaimer: We were invited along to Warwick Castle for the press preview of Time Tower. All views and opinons expressed are completely honest and my own.

Open, Light & Authentic: How to Get the Nordic Look in Your Home

Getting the Nordic look in your home comes down to choosing the proper woods and designs. You can check out this page to see the kinds of furniture that offer this aesthetic and you can use these simple instructions to create a Nordic feeling inside your house.

#1: Light Woods

The woods that you choose must look like they came in directly from the forest. The lightest woods are most like the woods that you would find the forests of Norway or Sweden, and these woods help to create furniture that looks light on its own. Choosing darker woods hurts the Nordic image because those trees do not grow in Scandinavia.

#2: Light Construction

You should choose furniture pieces that are designed with the lightest construction possible. These furniture pieces should have very few parts, and they should look small enough to fit in a mountain cabin. Your choice of large furniture pieces and heavy woods will damage the Nordic aesthetic because Nordic carpenters must work in the cold nearly all year. They use the lightest woods possible to make their work easier, and they use lighter construction to conserve materials.

#3: Authenticity

There are many authentic pieces -- all signed or dated by the artisan. You can choose pieces that actually came from the old country, or you can choose pieces that look like they belong in the old country. You want to be as authentic as possible when you are decorating your house, and you can ask an associate to help you choose the right pieces for your home.

#4: Open Design

The open design of a furniture piece makes it look much more Nordic in style. These furniture pieces are built to be as light as possible, and they tend to have an open design that helps them to stand. A desk or table that is in the Nordic style is going to have higher legs and much more space for people to sit. 

You can make your home look Nordic if you buy the right furniture. Consider how you can make your home look authentic with the designs above.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Catimini Boys Down Jacket Review

Spring may be on the way, but for the moment Leo and I are still living in our warm winter coats trying to avoid the all too familiar British chill. In recent weeks Leo has been sent a rather beautiful Winter Catimini coat to review from Petit Fashion.

I picked it out from among all of the other gorgeous coats that Petit Fashion retail, because this one was just Leo, and I knew as soon as I saw it that he would look the bee’s knees in it. We opted to ge the Catimini boys navy down jacket in age 4 so that it could see Leo through next Winter as well, as in reality the weather will be warming up very soon and I wanted to make sure that he would get the most possible wear out of it.

The jacket features faux leather detailing over the shoulders, two side pockets for all the little items that Leo decides to store away, a zip fastening and a lovely fleece lining to keep him toasty and warm. The coat is filled with 70% down and 30% feather, so this coat really is going to be great over the colder months.

As soon as the jacket arrived I invited Leo to come and have a look, he wanted to wear it right away. We weren’t actually going anywhere at that moment in time, in fact it was almost bedtime, but Leo wanted to wear it there and then! So Leo modeled his new coat for us and strutted back and forth around the lounge. Then the next day he decided he was going to have to wear it to nursery to show all of his friends, and I may have been a bit precious here.. But because it is such a beautiful coat, and one that I want him to be able to wear over the coming year.. I insisted he wear his old coat and keep his special coat at home so that it didn't get damaged at school.

Our first trip out with the Catimini was when the car decided to start making a funny noise, so armed with Leo’s new coat and stroller we dropped the car off at the garage and decided to stroll into town and spend the day in the park and feeding the ducks. Getting Leo out of the car and ready for our stroll, I instructed him to put on his coat and he instantly exclaimed ‘I love my warm coat Mummy!’ and happily assisted me with everything that needed to be done before we left the car. It was a sunny but chilly day and I wanted to make sure that Leo was going to be warm enough, especially as he was strapped into the buggy for the walk in.

Of course Leo kept telling me how warm he was, and I only had to place my finger inside his sleeve to know that there was absolutely no way he was feeling cold. He was so warm even just sitting in the buggy. It was about a 25 minute walk to the park from the garage and when we were there, Leo was up and out ready to enjoy his time there. We fed the ducks, played on the swings and of course the tunnel slide!

It was a beautiful day all be it a cold one, and although I found it a little chilly, Leo in his rather snazzy warm coat didn’t seem to notice or mind in the slightest.

The Catimini Boys Down Jacket is from Petit Fashion and is currently on offer at £55.00 down from £122.00. The sizes are fair and Leo at 3 is happily wearing a size 4, and he will continue to get lots of wear out of this next winter. Leo and myself are very pleased with the coat and the overall quality.

Doesn’t he look super?

Disclaimer: Leo was sent the Catimini Boys Down Jacket in exchange for our honest review. All views and opinons expressed are completely honest and my own.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Debenhams Flowers For Mothers Day

With Mothers Day being the next big date on the calendar, we had all better start casting our minds to the treats we will be inflicting (I mean giving of course!). I guess it depends what route you go down? Is there something that she wants? Something that she REALLY doesn’t want? Stuck? Well you can’t go wrong with a beautiful bunch of flowers can you?

Flowers really do show that you care, they are a lovely gesture and are always greatly received, because who does not love receiving a bunch of flowers? Especially on Mother’s Day.

Debenhams Flowers are all kitted out and ready with their Mothers Day Flowers, they have a bouquet to suit every budget (Prices start from £18.99) and a truly beautiful selection. You order them online and have them delivered directly to your front door, and that’s exactly what I have had done for my Mum this year. I chose the Designer Elle Bouquet that boast beautiful Avalanche Roses, set amongst Lilac and Scented Lillies. They truly are beautiful and I know that they are going to be enjoyed.

Ordering is really simple and all you have to do is fill out the recipient’s name, address and specify the delivery date required. They are delivered by the Royal Mail Floral Courier and are guaranteed your Flower Delivery to arrive on the day specified.

The Designer Elle Bouquet retails at £54.99 and having received the flowers today, I can confirm that they look beautiful and smell just as good as they look. For the price I did expect the bouquet to be a little more substantial, but aside from that I am really pleased with this specific bouquet and the over all Debenhams Flowers experience.

If you are still looking for the perfect Mother’s Day gift I am really pleased to be able to provide my readers with 25% off a bouquet of your choice, it really couldn’t be easier to order your Debenhams Flowers by Post!  Simply enter: DFBLOG25 at the checkout to receive your exclusive discount.

Disclaimer: We were sent the above bouquet in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinoons are completely honest and my own.