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We are a big fan of Orchard Toys board games and puzzles in our house. They are always great quality and fun, with rules that are easy to understand and age appropriate. As hubs is a bus driver he decided we should get Little Man the Bus Stop game to add to our collection.
Bus Stop is a game for up to 4 players and involves picking up and dropping off passengers. Before you can play the game you need to set up the game board by building a simple 5 piece oval jigsaw, which Little Man loves. You then need to pick which colour bus you want to be - you have a small bus which sits in a little plastic holder which you use to move around the board, and a corresponding larger bus with 10 spaces to store passengers as you pick them up. There are 40 different passenger cards to choose from. The youngest player is meant to go first but we usually use the 'whoever throws the highest number on the dice' method, as it is fairer - it also shows Little Man that going first doesn't always guarantee a win!
You play the game by throwing two dice - one white, one red. The red one determines how many spaces you move - there are plus and minus marks on each space to show whether you should pick up or drop of passengers which are determined by the number on the white dice. Unusually the winner is not the person who gets to the bus depot first but the player who has the most passengers aboard when they get there. This was a bit difficult for Little Man to understand at first but he soon got his head around it.
We really enjoy this game - it's great fun and doesn't take too long to play so you can have a couple of games without being there for hours, and you can finish a game without anyone getting too bored. The only thing that strings it out is Little Man deciding what passengers to pick up and let off - he has a favourite one he thinks looks like Santa!! This game is also really good at teaching maths skills - not my boy's strong point! We started by counting out how many spaces to move and counting out passengers onto the bus but have moved onto adding and subtracting how many passengers will be on the bus without counting them and adding the two dice together. I also use the buses with various amounts of passengers on and get him to add them together just as some additional maths practice - he doesn't even realise he is learning and his number confidence has really improved!
The game is made up of robust wipe clean cardboard, and still looks the same as when we bought it. All the pieces fit nicely into the box, which is not that big so does not take up a lot of room for storage. This game is aimed at children from 4 - 8 which I think is about right, although it may become a bit stale for older children. Little Man is 5 and he is not showing signs of tiring of it yet! We got ours from The Entertainer as my sister works there, but orchard games are available from most toy retailers or from Amazon for £7.20 delivered.
After Christmas Hubs had this grand idea that he was going to do the Slim Fast plan in order to shift a bit of weight before he does the Tough Mudder race in April. As we are also having a break in the Easter holidays I decided to join him to see if I could drop a few pounds too. The milkshake powders were on buy 1 get 2 free in Morrisons after Christmas so you could get 3 cans for the bargain price of £5.45. The first one I tried was Simply Vanilla.
The powder comes in a can and is made up by adding 2 of the provided scoops of the powder to 250mls of skimmed milk - which makes an average sized tumbler full of milkshake. It is a bit like making up baby formula. I would recommend getting a shaker to make it up in - I picked one up in the fitness section of tesco for about £3 - as making it up in a glass and stirring it gave a bit of a lumpy result, and powdery lumps just aren't nice! The milkshake has 230 calories and each one contains around a third of your recommended vitamins and minerals - which is good for me as I am terrible at taking my vitamins and am often deficient in Iron and Potassium.
The taste is actually quite sweet and creamy so it does a good job of staving off my sweet taste during the day. I would compare the taste to the cream you get in rice pudding which I really liked but hubs was not so keen on, and found a bit sickly. I thought as it was made up with skimmed milk it would be quite runny but the texture is actually thicker than I expected, although it is not so thick that it is gloopy. I found it quite nice to have in the morning and it kept me filled up until about 11 when I would have a snack of a Slim Fast snack bar or a piece of fruit
The Slim Fast diet operates a 3-2-1 plan, where you have up to three 100 calorie snacks, 2 shakes or meal bars and 1 proper meal of around 600 calories (800 for a man) - this works out to about 1200 calories per day. As I am diabetic I had to ask my diabetic nurse before I started the plan, but as I struggle with breakfast having a shake to take my insulin and meds with really works. I tend to have one shake if I am home to prepare myself a low carb lunch, but have 2 shakes or a shake and meal bar if I am working all day. Hubs works nice so he has a shake during the night and another in the morning.
As I diabetic I find it quite hard to lose weight, but I have lost 6 pounds in January and hubs has lost 10!! We haven't stuck to it too rigidly, still having the occasional take away or meal out. I have tried quite a few of the shakes and the meal bars, but Simply Vanilla is my favourite. I have also tried the premixed version of this shake, which is a bit more creamy but at over a pound a bottle I don't find the taste that much nicer to justify the price difference. I will definitely be continuing with the plan at least until my holiday - and may keep it up at least for breakfast for some time to come.
These shakes may contain traces of gluten and egg. You should seek medical advice before beginning the plan if you have a medical condition, are pregnant, breastfeeding or have a lot of weight to lose.
As I have mentioned in previous reviews I have been losing my hair over the last few years so I am always on the lookout for products that help nourish and keep what I have. I tend you use a caffeine shampoo to promote thickness and stimulate hair growth, but these do not contain any conditioning agents and tend to leave my hair smelling a bit manly so at least once a week I like to use a nice girly shampoo to leave it smooth, silky and smelling divine! I also use it after swimming as I like something to take away the yucky chlorine smell and feel.
I recently bought Bee Strong from Herbal Essences from Tesco when it was on offer for a pound for a 200ml bottle. I am a bit of a fan of Herbal Essence hair care as the always smell heavenly, but I had not heard of this product before so decided to give it a try as it was advertised as a strengthening shampoo. The shampoo has been developed for damaged hair and contains honey and apricot extracts. It is a golden colour and looks like creamy honey in a bottle.
The bottle has a green flip top lid which is easy to open - even without glasses in the shower! When you open the bottle you get the sweet aroma of honey with fruity notes, although I would not specifically place this as apricot, and it smells lovely. It pours well with a little squeeze of the bottle. The shampoo is quite thick and I find a 50p sized blob sits in my hand well which is an ample amount for my hair which comes just past my shoulders. It lathers up well and rubs through my hair, coating it well until it is covered in a white lathery foam. It rinses out well and does not leave any residue, and my hair feels soft and tangle free without using a conditioner on it. It also does not sting if you accidentally get any of the soapy mixture in your eyes, which is a great advantage if like me you are always rubbing your eyes whilst showering. It also means I could use it on my little boy when I forgot his shampoo at swimming.
I am quite impressed with this shampoo so far - although it does not seem to have made my hair noticeably stronger it does leave my hair in really nice condition after using it and I do not seem to get split ends as quickly as I did. I also do not seem to lose as much hair when I wash with this shampoo as I have done with others I have tried which is great, especially for a shampoo at such a low price. The lovely honey fruity scent lingers once my hair has dried as well - this has also put hubbie off pinching it as he says it smells too girlie, which is another plus! It also leaves it smooth with a nice shine to it, and I am able to brush and style it easily after using it.
As I only use this once or twice a week at most I have found the bottle goes a long way. I bought a big 400ml bottle once my small bottle ran out, and I am only halfway through. There is also a conditioner, a leave in spray, and a hair mask in the range although I have yet to try any of these. The range is currently half price in Tesco with a 400ml bottle costing £1.89 (normally £3.79) so I will be stocking up, and treating myself to the hair mask too!
Little Man recently had an operation on his foot which means he was in plaster for October half term so we had to look for places we could take him that weren't going to be too tricky for him to navigate while he is confined to his wheelchair full time. As Lego is the current in thing I decided Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester's Trafford Centre sounded like a great day out, so I booked a room in the Premier Inn sale and we traveled the 3.5 hours from London to Manchester for a mini break.
I apologise for the length of the review - but wanted to cover all aspects of our visit!
I booked our tickets on line as this is the only way to guarantee entry to the centre. The online price for tickets was £12 each for over 3 years (and would have been £16.50 on the door) so was £36 for us all. When you add your tickets to basket you need to select the day you will be visiting and the half hour slot you will be arriving at. I also added a Legoland activity pack to my booking as a treat for Little Man. The booking process was very simple, and only took a couple of minutes from adding the tickets to basket to paying by debit card (Credit cards also accepted) You do not need to print anything to gain entry, just quote you booking number or show the confirmation email on a phone - as someone currently between printer I thought this was a great idea.
Arriving at Legoland Discovery Centre
Legoland Discovery centre is located in Barton Square in the Trafford Centre, and there is a car park nearby. We didn't realise this and ended up parking near Selfridges and walking down - not that that was a problem as we wanted to look around the shops after! It had been raining a lot overnight and once you get outside the paths are quite slippy so be careful. When we arrived at Legoland Discovery centre is was very busy. There were two queues - one for prebooked & season tickets and one for everyone else. This includes Clubcard tickets, which I was going to use but a friend who lives locally advised me not to during the holidays as you could wait for hours. As it was we had to queue for 25 minutes to get in, but the other queue was advised they would be waiting an hour and a half and the staff were talking of stopping general admission until the afternoon due to the crowds. The centre is open 10 - 7 each day (9 - 7 in the holidays) although this is subject to change so check before you go if you haven't booked.
Inside the Centre
Once we had got to the front of the queue and I had quoted my booking reference we were given our tickets and Little Man was given his pack. It consisted of a puzzle book, attached to a lanyard with a badge on it - he was overjoyed with it. There were spaces in the book to collect stamps as you explored the centre, but after we collected a couple we found the stamps had been ripped off the cord which was a bit disappointing so we gave up on collecting them. Once we had our tickets we were directed down a corridor to ....... Another queue!! This one was to have our photo taken against a blank screen with our arms and legs in the air. I assume this would be printed over a ride picture or similar - we didn't even bother to look as they didn't give us chance to get Little Man out of the wheelchair for a decent photo, just pushed it back against the bench and plonked us either side of it! I am a sucker for buying these overpriced piccies so they missed a trick there! Then it was up in the lift to join another queue for our real Lego adventure to begin....
The Factory Tour
We had to wait about 10 minutes for the Factory Tour and there is no way to skip this. Luckily they were showing some Lego cartoons on a screen which was probably the best part of this bit! Once we got in we were greeted by a Mad Scientist character who explained as it was Halloween the machines had been taken over and had the kids doing monster and mummy impressions to get it started. They then showed us how the magical machines made lego bricks - I was expecting something more mechanical and factual not something fictional and babyish, even Little Man was bored by it and he is 5! At the end though, every child is given a brick, which Little Man loved. This is the only freebie you'll get (unless you start stealing them from the building area which I saw a few people doing!)
Kingdom Quest Laser Ride
This was probably the best bit of the visit. You ride around in a car with your own laser shooting at skeletons and monsters to protect the princess and the dragon. You also get points for shooting the bad guys so it becomes a bit of a competition (which I won, causing much sulking from hubbie!) The queue was about 15 - 20 minutes which put of us riding more than once! We were able to take the wheelchair up in the queue but there is a buggy park if you are taking toddlers - no babes in arms are permitted to ride.
After laser quest you walk through Miniland, a lego model village, to get to the rest of the attractions. There was a mock up of Manchester, Blackpool and London. I love all the lego models, so was a bit disappointed that this section wasn't bigger. They had also covered the models with cobwebs and ghosts for Halloween which I felt detracted from the display a bit. They were also dimming and rainsing the lights sporadically which didn't help when you were trying to look at the intricate details, and a lot of visitors were rushing through without looking. One of the highlights was the Manchester football stadiums where Little Man and I played a Manchester derby. A lot of the interactive bits here such as the boats and the noises weren't working which was a bit of a shame
After Miniland the attraction opens up into a big open plan area with a soft play area, café and private hire rooms for schools and parties. We did not use the café as it was packed with a huge queue and no available tables. It also smelt like burnt cheese on toast - a smell that lingered throughout the rest of the attraction. There were also paddling pool like pods of bricks, with building plates on the edges for the children to free build on. Little Man absolutely loved this bit, and happily sat there for a good half hour building away.
The other attractions were located from here - the ones we tried were:
Lego 4D Cinema
A 15 minute film based on the characters from Lego Chima - Little Man is a bit young for Chima so didn't know any characters apart from Laval the lion (he got a key ring free from the toy shop a while ago!) but it was still enjoyable. You have to wear special characters so that you can see the special effects coming out of the screen, and there are a few special effects like smoke and water, but there are no chair movements or anything like that so it is quite safe for little ones. The effects are good and the film was amusing, and everyone seemed to really enjoyed. The film runs about every 25 minutes and there is a counter at the beginning of the queue so you know how long you have to wait to get in. We queued from 5 minutes to go, and had no trouble getting a place in the 100 seat cinema.
A great roundabout style ride where you pedal double glider cars up to the sky. We were quite lucky with this one as wheelchairs could enter through the exit so we didn't have to queue. Little Man couldn't reach the pedals, so I had to do all the pedalling! Make sure you wear decent shoes for this one, as I wore slip on dolly shoes and thought they were going to fall off at any second! You need to be over 90cm to ride this one and 120cm to ride unaccompanied.
Lego Racers - Build and Test
A great attraction where you have a selection of lego blocks and wheels to design vehicles that can be raced down various slopes and tracks with big timers so you can see how fast they go. Little man loved this one, experimenting with different designs, and the whole family got involved in racing our creations down the ramp. No queuing for this one, you just saw a space and started building - it never really got that packed while we were there.
Lego Fire Academy and construction Site
A large soft play area at the centre of the building. The Construction site is meant to be for under 90cm and the Fire Academy for under 140 cm. Little Man is a smidge over 90cm (in shoes!) so freely moved between the two areas, but no one was really policing them so it was a very busy free for all. The play area was not as good as our local soft play place, and it was so busy with children not being watched by their parents that I was worried for Little Man crawling about there that we didn't stay long.
The following attractions we didn't used, but in case you want to here is a quick overview:
Lego Friends: Olivia's House
A Pink and Purple House, full of girls building Lego Friends - was never going to appeal to a 5 year old boy!!
Master Model Builder
A group session every half hour where you are instructed how to build an animal out of Lego (which you don't get to keep). We kept missing the start of this one, otherwise we would have done it, but there are plenty of other build activities so didn't feel like we missed out.
Small area tucked away in the corner for under fives to explore Duplo - was of no interest for Little Man, but was a nice area if you have little ones.
Lego City Forest Pusuit
Drive Lego 4 x 4 go carts around Lego city! This is the only ride that Little Man would have loved to have ridden but couldn't - he was old enough but not tall enough as you have to be a metre tall, and he would not have been able to work the foot controls. It looked amazing and was very popular with the biggest queue.
In order to exit Legoland Discovery Centre you have to walk through the shop which holds pretty much every lego set currently available. The prices are the RRP so you are probably better off shopping around if you want something big. We got Little Man some mini figure sets which were £10 each or two for £15 (one to go away for Christmas) which I did not think was too bad. They had some great t-shirts and although they were on 3 for 2 they were £16.99 each and I thought almost £35 for 3 t-shirts for a 5 year old was ridiculous! They do not accept the Lego VIP card, but will give you 5% off your purchases as long as you don't buy anything on offer.
So would we return:
Although I am in no hurry to return to Legoland Discovery, Little Man loved it so I wouldn't say never! I definitely wouldn't go in the holidays again though! I think the experience was overpriced for what it was - we were there less than 3 hours, not including queuing to get in, but if I returned I would still book in advance even though it's cheaper to use offers as you get in far quicker. However I would say the disabled facilities were very good, and even in the crowds Little Man could steer himself about easily. There were some great parts like the laser and magic rides, but there is lots of room for improvement without too much effort. I think a few more staff, a few tweeks to things like the factory tour and soft play, coupled with a small price drop and the place could be an amazing day out.
Jake and the Neverland Pirates is an animated spin off series on Disney Junior which follows on from Peter Pan. It features Captain Hook, Mr Smee and Tick Tock Croc from the original film, with a new group of heroes Jake, Izzy, Cubby and Skully. At the end of each episode there is a song performed by two of Hook's crew - Sharky and Bones or the Neverland pirate band as they are also known. Little Man loves the songs at the end and when we found the CD for £3 in Sainsburys I decided it had to be worth a listen.
The Jake and the Neverland Pirates soundtrack probably the most listened to CD in my car - and if I am honest I probably love it as much as Little Man does. The songs are a cross between kiddie rock and bubble gum pop and are almost irritatingly catchy. There are 18 songs on the CD, ranging from 20 seconds to just over two minutes, so it is easy for the children (and the parents) to learn all the words as a lot of the songs are longer than the snippet played at the end of the song.
Some of our favourite songs are:
Never Land Pirate Band - I had to have a listen to this one as I couldn't recall it, then I realised it's the one I call 'Never say never no never to a neverland pirate' which obviously would be a bit of a mouthful as a title. We love this one, it's catchy and rocky and a great sing along song
Hot Lava - My absolute favourite on the album! I usually end up sing this as Hot, Hot Lover! Ok I am a mad mummy!
Pirate Password - Which is Yo Ho Ho in case you ever need it...
Roll Up the Map - This is Little Man's favourite song! I think it is because there are bits for the kid's to recite back, and at the end you have to sing the whole song really quick, which normally ends in fits of giggles!
Talk Like a Pirate - Can ye talk like a pirate, says you, says I, I can! This song is in pirate speak as you can tell and can be a bit of a tongue twister! It took me a while to get the lyrics to this one.
Trick Or Treasure - this song was written as part of the Halloween special and has a really spooky feel to it. We have listened to this one a lot in the last week or so!
On the whole this is a great album - the only songs that are less listened to are the short fillers from the show like Yo ho Mateys Away and Wey Hey,Well done Crew - I probably would have left these off of the CD as they do not seem to add anything.
The songs are performed by Loren Hoskins and Kevin Hendrikson who play the live action versions of Sharky and Bones and also write all the songs featured in the programme. They are members of American group Captain Bogg and Salty which is an actual pirate themed rock band!! I am definitely going to look up some of their stuff as I love the songs on this CD, I am interested to see the influence behind it!
I would really recommend this CD to any fans of the television programme! We have had our CD for over a year and it has saved us lots of times in the car when Little Man is being a grump or we are stuck in traffic. At Easter I bought a copy for the CD for the nursery where I help out and it's been played so much I've had to get it cleaned at CEX! I'm just waiting now for the songs from series 2 to be released on CD as at the moment it is only available in MP3 format. It's a definite 5 stars from us!
Available for £4.66 with free MP3 download from Amazon.
One of Little Man's targets to get him ready for full time school was to improve his social skills, to get him taking turns and sharing as at nursery he tended to play alongside other children rather than joining in. One of the suggestions from nursery was to play some games at home with him which involved turn taking as well as improving his cognitive skills. I found Shopping List from Orchard Toys at a summer fair for a bargain 50p I decided it was worth a try.
Shopping List is a really simple game based on memory for 2 to 4 players. In the box you get 4 cardboard shopping trolleys, 4 shopping lists, 32 shopping item cards and the instructions. Each player is given a trolley & a shopping list to start. You play the game by placing the food item cards face down and take it in turns to pick up an item - If it is on your list you put it in your trolley and if it isn't you put it back down. The winner is the first person to fill their trolley with all the items on their list.
We absolutely love this game! The shopping lists have a picture of the item as well as the word so you do not need to read to be able to play but it gets the children used to recognising the word that matches the picture so helps with reading skills. The card features a great selection of everyday food items that you would find in the supermarket including fruit and vegetables, Washing powder, toothbrush and treats. The game also works fine motor skills picking up the small cards from the floor or table and placing them in a slot on the trolley.
When we first started playing this I used to take out any cards that wouldn't be used as it took a while for Little Man to stop picking up the same wrong card over and over again, but now I see him putting the cards he doesn't need as far away as possible so he doesn't keep going for them, so I don't have to do this anymore. The game has really improved Little Man's patience and he is really good at waiting his turn. However, he does like to win and can get a bit stroppy if he doesn't - a trait he gets from his dad, and it gets a bit competitive when they are both playing!
The age range on this game is 3 - 7 which I think is about right. We got this for Little Man when he was 3 and he has got better at the game in the year we have had it. We also have a copy of this game in the nursery where I help and I often play this with a group of 3 & 4 year olds. They are all really good at playing, but they tend to tell their friends if they pick up a card that one of them needs which is quite amusing.
All the game pieces are made of high quality wipe clean card, which is really durable. You would never have known our version was second hand when we got it and it still looks just as good now. We play this game together at least once a week, and as it comes in quite a small box compared to some of his other games this is one we normally take on holiday and to Nanny's house as she loves this game too!
This game currently retails at £5.97 on Amazon - While looking up the price I noticed that there are two booster packs available Clothes and Fruit & Veg for £4.50 each so I have just ordered them too!
Hi, my name is Lisa and I am a Candycrushaholic - It has been less than an hour since my last game and I am writing this review in the vain attempt to stave off boredom until my lives replenish.....
If you have never heard of Candy Crush Saga, then well where have you been???? It is the first app of its type I have actually seen advertised on television for starters, and if you are a facebooker then you must be getting regularly bombarded with requests for lives and tickets to unlock the next level? But seriously, Candy Crush is a match 3 type game similar to Bejewelled and Zoo Keeper where the aim is to match 3 of the same candy to make them disappear and earn points. You can also earn special candies by matching 4 or more which help you destroy the candies quicker. They are:
Striped Candy - Created by making a line of 4 candies. Activated by matching 3 including the stripe candy which destroys all candies horizontally or vertically in the same line as the candy depending on the direction of the stripes. Combine two striped candies to get a simultaneous horizontal and vertical lines. Combine with a wrapped candy to get three lines destroyed both horizontally and vertically, or combine with a colour bomb to turn all candies of that colour into striped candies - this is my favourite combo!
Wrapped Candy - Created by making and L or T shaped combination. Activated by matching 3 including the wrapped candy. Explodes to destroy itself and the 8 candies surrounding it. Combining two wrapped candies and quadruples the blast area, and combining with a colour bomb destroys all the candies of that colour followed by a bonus blast wiping out more candies - worst combo in my opinion!
Colour Bomb - Created by making a line of 5 candies. Combining with any candy wipes out all of that colour. Combining two colour bombs destroys all candies on the game board, which can be handy depending on the level, but I usually hold them until I can combine with a striped one if I can.
Each level has an objective to complete it. To begin with as you work through the tutorial you play just to achieve a certain level of points in X amount of moves, but the objectives become more difficult as you work through. The levels include:
Timed - Getting X amount of points in Y amount of time.
Drop - Move X amount of nuts and cherries to the bottom of the grid in Y amount of moves
Jelly - The colours sit on a grid of jelly which disappears by matching a candy on it twice. Clear the jelly in Y amount of moves
Orders - Match X amount of a certain colour, bonus candy or combo in Y amount of moves.
As you progress they begin to throw in obstacles to make your job harder - these include bombs that need to be combined with candies of the same colour before the timer reaches 0, Candies that change colour, and concrete squares that crumble as you match adjacent colours.
I started playing Candy Crush last summer, and I'm ashamed to say I got into it purely to be better than my Monster in Law who started playing it first! I have always been a bit of a casual gamer, and I love match 3 games preferring to play Bejewelled over Facebook over the last big thing - Farmville, which I could never get into - so this game appealed to me a lot. It also appealed to the girlie girl in me as it is nauseatingly pink and cute. The game starts off easy to draw you in, but gets more and more difficult as you progress - I am currently stuck on level 350. I have since got it on my Galaxy android phone about six months ago. Thankfully it is not available on Kindle, otherwise I'd never read again! The game itself is pretty addictive but it also shows your scores against other friends that play which adds to the elements of competition. You get to play about 30 levels before you have to pay to continue or get friends to send you tickets to progress. You can also buy upgrades of extra colour bombs, lives, candy eating fish and much more but I have never used this option.
I really like Candy Crush Saga - it is easy to play when you only have a little bit of time and it provides the right level of challenge from the novice to the more seasoned gamer. You get 5 lives and once they are gone you have to wait 30 minutes before you get another unless someone is kind enough to send you one. Therefore unless you are having a really good winning streak it is unlikely to suck you in for too long! Ooh, is that another life I see.......
Available on Facebook, Android and I tunes
Last weekend we visited Truckfest in Malvern and as it was located almost 3 hours away from home and we were travelling with 4 year old Little Man we decided to try and find a cheap hotel and make a weekend of it.
Searching and Booking
Many moons ago when I used to have a real job Premier Inn were the company contracted to supply our hotel rooms so I have stayed in a few and have generally found them clean and comfortable. I logged onto their website www.premierinn.com and put the postcode for Truckfest, the date and how many people into the search box and the closest hotel was the Worcester M5 J6 Hotel (not to be confused with the Worcester city centre one). The hotel was £60 for the night for a family room paid in advanced (this was about 3 weeks before the event) or £75 for a flexible booking which can be cancelled up until 1pm on the day. As we were definitely going on this dated I plumped to book in advance as the £15 saving would almost cover breakfast at the onsite Beefeater.
I already have an account with Premier Inn so by logging in with my email address and password, which already had all my address details. As I had opted for advance booking I had to enter my card details for payment immediately. However, if I had wanted to book a flexible room I would have had to enter my card details for security against a no show. You also have the option off adding breakfast, dinner or wifi at this time but as the price of these would be the same whenever I opted to pay I decided to wait and pay on the day for any extras.
Arrival & Check In
The Hotel is set literally a minutes' drive away from Junction 6 of the M5 as the name implys, on an industrial looking estate. It has a large car park with 8 blue badge spaces so we had no trouble getting one outside the hotel doors. It is free parking at the weekend, although I do not know what the charges are at other times. It also offers match day parking for the nearby rugby club so may get busy at these times. The hotel has a Beefeater restaurant (The Three Pears) directly opposite across a small zebra crossing.
I was greeted warmly at the check in desk. My booking was found quickly and I was given my room key and directions. I decided to book breakfast for the morning which was £8.25 per adult and Little Man could eat free. I also booked wifi which was a very reasonable £3 for 24 hours for up to 2 devices. The girl on the desk explained about the good night sleep guarantee, and that the desk was manned 24 hours and to contact them if there were any problems. All the communal areas were clean and tidy.
We booked a family room which comprised of a double bed and a sofa bed for Little Man. The room was large enough for Little Man to move around safely in both his wheelchair (we don't really require a disabled room while he is so small) and with his crutches. There was a desk with a folder explaining all about Premier Inn, and the food options including a main menu for the Beefeater. There was a large shelf unit with hanging space, extra pillows and the TV enclosed in it. The TV had built in freeview, which is great as that means I can get kiddie programs for Little Man if necessary. There was also a kettle with tea, coffee, uht milk and sugar plus 3 mugs and 2 glasses. There was a basket of extra tea and coffee in reception if you needed more. There was also a full length mirror and a hairdryer.
The bathroom had a bath with wall mounted shower over it, plus sink and toilet. There were wall mounted dispensers for soap and shower gel, and a selection of bath and hand towels which were of a decent quality. The only downside was the toilet roll was of the single sheet at a time variety whereas I would prefer a good old fashioned loo roll!
A good night sleep?
I am always concerned when Hubs and I have to share a double bed as we have a king size at home, but the bed was surprisingly spacious. It was a medium divan, not too hard or soft, and there was enough pillows in the room for us to have 2 each. There was a small reading light on each side which was bright enough to read, but not enough to disturb the other. There was also a proper duvet. Little Man's bed was a converted single sofa bed, but you would not have known by laying on it as it was really comfortable, and once he had got over the excitement of being away from home, he slept really well.
The only downside was the lack of air conditioning in the room on the hottest weekend of the year so far. There was a heater on the wall but no way to call the room apart from by opening the windows, which only opened about 10 cms.
The hotel was almost fully booked, and located next to a motorway so we expected a bit of noise but it was very quiet and we were not disturbed at all by traffic or neighbours, even with the windows open.
Breakfast was held at the Beefeater. The order for the cooked breakfast is taken at the table, but all the continental bits are served as a buffet. You can order cooked food and visit the buffet as many times as you liked. The continental buffet was very good, with soft chocolate chip muffins and crispy croissants. We found the cooked breakfast to be average. It took quite a while to come and the bacon was very salty, and the sausages were quite bland. It was okay but I'm not sure I would book it again. However the service in the restaurant was excellent.
There was a key drop at the check out desk but as it was manned the gentleman there took the key and asked how our stay had been. As there was nothing to pay, check out took less than a minute.
I was very impressed with our stay at the Premier Inn Worcester. It was well priced, comfortable and local to where we wanted to be. We would definitely stay again and are looking at returning to visit the Severn Valley Railways in the school holidays. I would recommend the hotel for anyone looking to visit this part of the Midlands. I would give it 4.5 out of 5 but will rate it 5 stars as I feel 4 would be harsh for such a good value hotel!
In the last year or so I have noticed I have been losing more and more hair when I brush it, and my one thick hair has become a lot thinner and almost patchy in places. As I am only in my early (ok, almost mid!) thirties, and being of the female persuasion I found this quite distressing. Having spoken to my GP, she diagnosed stress related alopecia following the death of my mum, which is apparently not helped by being a diabetic as I am apparently more prone to hair disorders (whatever that means!) The upside is I no longer have eyebrows to rival the Gallagher brothers!
So off I went in search of something to help my ailing hair. Firstly I changed my parting to the side, following a very nasty sunburn incident which my hubbie found very amusing - Do not allow your scalp to burn, it is blooming agony!! Then I started googling hair regrowth remedy. Now the first thing I noticed was there was very little available for the ladies, and the second thing I noticed was how pricey a lot of these remedies are for very mixed results. Then I found Alpecin C1 caffeine shampoo for around a fiver, which seemed to have decent reviews, and picked up a bottle to try.
The shampoo comes in a matt grey bottle, and is definitely marketed towards men. It even states this on their website, although it says it is safe for women. It has a red lid with a flip top which is easy enough to open. The shampoo itself is bright blue, and the scent is a manly lynx type smell which I actually really like (I'm always stealing hubbies deodorant and sprays!) The shampoo contains caffeine which is meant to stimulate hair growth, and the idea is you massage it into your hair and leave it on for a minimum of two minutes to allow it to soak in. The longer you leave it the better the effect is meant to be. I tend to rub it in and then relax for ten minutes with a book. The shampoo massages into a nice lather, and it feels fresh while in your hair - almost tingly, similar to using a medicated or tea tree shampoo. The shampoo states that it does not contain any conditioning agents it gives your hair more grip straight away, and I can feel this when I rinse the shampoo out. It does not leave my hair tangled but you don't get the smoothness I get from my girlie shampoo.
I have been using Alpecin for about 4 months now and although this shampoo doesn't seem to have caused significant hair growth to the patchy bits, it certainly seems to have helped fill it out a bit. I still lose quite a lot of hair when I brush it but there have been no new patches appearing which is great. I tend to use the shampoo once or twice a week, and the lack of conditioning agents means it dries to look quite full bodied. I have avoided straightening my hair as much since I started losing it, but I have found that because this shampoo is a bit more weighty my hair doesn't kink up as much which is an added bonus.
I have been more impressed with Alpecin than I thought I would be. At around a fiver a bottle it is significantly cheaper than other hair loss medication, and is not that much more expensive than my usual shampoo. I have only just finished my first bottle as a little goes a long way. At the moment it is available on buy one get one half price at Boots, so I will be stocking up while I can. Now I just need to find something to stop me going grey.....
More information available from www.alpecin.co.uk
I have been a professional wrestling fan since I was eleven - I sort of drift in and out of it now mainly watching the big events although my hubbie is a huge fan. I have recently updated our WWE DVD in the massive Silvervision closing down sale, and am slowly working my way through the collection. However, the Royal Rumble has always been my favourite main event and Royal Rumble 2011 found its way to the top of the pile first! This review will contain spoilers, as the event is over 2 years old there shouldn't be any real shocks!
The Royal Rumble is WWE's first main event of the year, being held in January. The event usually features about half a dozen matches ending with the rumble itself, which is a battle royale style match where a superstar enters the ring every few minutes and is eliminated by being thrown over the top rope and both feet touching the floor below. It is a really fast paced exciting match, and they normally through in a few wildcard wrestlers for entertainment. I love the fact that it is the one main event which normally features every superstar on the roster so regardless of who you are a fan of, you are likely to see them in action!
The Matches (Spoiler Alert)
There were only 3 additional wrestling matches, all of which were title matches
The opening bout was Edge vs Dolph Ziggler for the World Heavyweight Championship. The storyline featured the rivalry centred on Vickie Gurrero who in WWE-land was Edge's ex-wife and Ziggler's current girlfriend - and as Vickie was General Manager of Smackdown at the time she banned Edge from using his signature move, the spear. This was a great match, mainly due to the wrestling talents of Edge covering up any short-comings from Ziggler. That said, I was impressed with the relatively green Ziggler - as this is one of his earlier ventures into the main event following stints in the Spirit Squad and in his current guise in the lower mid card. However it was hard to believe that Ziggler was going to be any threat to Edge in this clash, and he wasn't. A great opener which probably deserved to be further up the card than the opening bout.
The second match was The Miz vs Randy Orton for the WWE Championship. This Miz had cashed in his Money in The Bank briefcase to beat Orton for the belt back in November and had successfully defended it again at TLC. This match lacked the excitement of the previous match, and despite mixed reviews on whether the Miz was a credible frontman for the Raw brand's championship, I personally believe that his run was a good one. I did not feel that Orton had to carry Miz in any of their bouts and was pleased to see him retain the title. I think at just under 20 minutes the match went just a little too long for both men.
The final Championship was a fatal four way match for the Diva's championship. Natalaya faced off against Michelle McCool, Layla and Eve and despite outclassing all of them in wrestling ability Natalya eventually dropped the belt to Eve in five minutes. This match was pure filler, as are most of the women's matches. WWE has some great female wrestling talent who are often underutilised in place of model types who's wrestling moves are cringeworthy if not dangerous!
The 2011 Royal Rumble was unique as it is the only one to feature 40 superstars instead of the usual 30. In order to keep it fast paced the gap between entrance was shortened from 2 minutes to 90 seconds (although in reality the wrestlers enter the ring when they are instructed according to the action rather than adhering to a strict timetable) The main rivalry of the match was The new Nexus lead by CM Punk vs The Corre (aka the old Nexus) lead by Wade Barrett. CM Punk was the first competitor to the ring who was promptly attacked by the Corre and defended by Nexus, causing a delayed start to the match up. Once the match eventually got started CM Punk was the stand out performer of the night for me, lasting the longest and eliminating the most Superstars.
The two surprise (or gimmick) wrestlers were Kevin Nash in full Diesel get up, and Booker T. Nash was quite lacklustre in his performance, although it was great to see him as Diesel as it reminded me of watching in my younger years. However, as I had watched his deteriorating performances for TNA I was not that surprised by his underwhelming performance! Booker managed a spinerooni before being ceremoniously dumped over the top rope by Mason Ryan. I would have liked to have seen a few more surprise entrants, but these two were ok.
The low point of the match was when Punk and the Nexus ganged up and eliminated every one attempting to get in the ring, as it seemed to drag. This was made even worse when John Cena came out and defeated the Nexus pretty much single handed. This lame superhero status of Cena makes it impossible to take him serious as a credible wrestler (well that and his wrestling ability!)
The highs of the match for me was when John Morrison mananged to save himself from elimination by using his agility to spring onto the stairs, and the end when Santino Marella almost won it and thought he was going to Wrestlemania. I was pretty surprised that Alberto Del Rio won the match as a relative newcomer - and I am normally pretty good at guessing the winner, but it's nice for WWE can think outside the box occasionally and Del Rio's career has continued to grow from this!
Special features are an interview with Eve and Del Rio's victory celebration - pretty disappointing!
I actually enjoyed Royal Rumble 2011 more than I thought I would. It wasn't perfect but it is one of 2011 main events. I would give it 9 out of 10, and as I can't give it 4 and a half, it will have to be five stars from me!
For our recent holiday a friend asked if I wanted a packet of swim nappies as her son was no longer using them. To be honest I did not know that Boots made Swim Pants - I normally use Huggies Little Swimmers but as I'm not one to say no to a freebie I thought I would take these as well.
The Swim pants are bright yellow and decorated with fish and bubbles - My husband wasn't too keen on the loud design but as we always put a wetsuit over the top I'm not bothered, and Little Man really liked the design. They have a large elasticated waist which has a lot of give, with some elastication around the legs. They also have back printed on the back which is really handy as they are pretty much the same shape front and back. They fit really well when on and are not really bulky underneath Little Man's wetsuit, even when wet. I was quite concerned about the lack of elastication in the leg area but this did not seem to cause an issue.
As the same suggests, swim nappies are designed to be worn in the water and to be honest they are pretty useless as a normal nappy as the absorbency when dry is terrible - although I have found this to be the case with all swim nappies. Their main function is to avoid code brown situations in the swimming pool, and this it does brilliantly. I was a bit concerned that the lack of absorbency would cause nappy rash but this never happened, although he was never left in a wet swim nappy for too long.
One of the big advantages of the Boots product is the price. The Boots swim pants are £3.95 for a size 5 pack of 10 vs £5.99 for a pack of 11 Huggies. The only disadvantage I could find over the branded version were the Huggies have velco type sides that make them really easy to whip off, whereas you have to tear the sides on the Boots swim pants. However this is not difficult, and not enough to justify the price difference between the two. I have been converted to the Boots swim pants, and have gone on to buy a packet to keep in for when we go swimming at home. I have given these 4 stars as I would like to see them look at the absorbancy issues. I don't expect them to be as good as a nappy as otherwise they would be a lot bulkier, but a bit more protection while a child is sitting in the dry nappy would make them outstanding.
Available in sizes 3, 4 & 5 from Boots stores and Boots.com
We are a big fan of Mick Inkpen in our house - Wibbly Pig, The Blue Balloon and Nothing are firm favourites in our house, but Little Man particularly likes the Kipper series. Kipper is a little brown and white dog who has adventures with his friends Tiger the dog, and his piggy friends Pig and Arnold.
I bought Little Man a set of Kipper books when he was a just a toddler and he has become a character he loves, and we have bought quite a few others in the collection. Now he is four he is starting to read these books to himself (with a bit of help!) One of his favourites at the moment is Honk.
Honk is about a gosling that Kipper has found. Kipper tries talking to the gosling and asking him what he likes, but the gosling can only say honk. He goes through the book honking at items, and there is some great imagery - our favourite bit is when he honks at the hairdryer as it blows him out of the bathroom!! The gosling continues to honk his way through the book until he eventually falls asleep.
I found this book to be very sweet but there is not much substance to it - I know they are first stories but I found the story to be a bit lacking compared to others in the series. However Little Man loves it - he loves honking along with the gosling as he bumps into things and blows bubbles! There are 16 pages in this book, 8 of which have text on it and the other 8 have lovely illustrations of Kipper and the Gosling. This is short story which only takes a few minutes to read so we often have one of these books as a quick read along with his school reading book. Little Man practically has this memorised now but he is at the stage where he can pick out quite a few of the words.
I got this as part of a set of four books for £10 from Books Direct, and considering these have lasted us a good two years so far they have been excellent value. These books are available in paperback, but ours is the board book version as it was more suitable to rough handling, and it still looks pristine. I would probably give this 3 stars due to the weak story but Little Man would give it 5 so we have compromised on 4!
Available from Amazon £1.48 delivered
I had been looking at getting a hot drinks machine, but as I am not a huge coffee drinker I decided I couldn't really justify the expense for that something that could turn out to be a five minute wonder. However I was really tempted by the Tassimo especially when I saw that they were doing a Costa Coffee range, as I am partial to their lattes, and by the fact they do various varieties of hot chocolate which is my hot drink of choice. When my friend gave me £15 in Argos vouchers before Christmas I decided to treat myself to a Tassimo T20 as it was half price and with the vouchers it worked out at £35!
Setting up the machine is really easy. First it needs to be plugged in. There is a clear plastic tank that holds the water that slots onto the back. After filling this you need to pop the control T-disc into the top and press that start button, which flushes the machine through with boiling hot water. Then you are all ready to start making hot drinks.
To make our first drink you lift the round dome on the top of the machine. Inside there is a space for your T-disc which can only fit in one way so there is no confusion. Each flavour of T-Disc has a unique barcode which tells the Tassimo how much water to send through to deliver the perfect drink each time. You start the Tassimo using the big round button on the front. This lights up the green light which tells you that it is working properly. It starts by making a popping noise which is quite loud but not unbearable, this move on to the water coming through and a whiring noise. Steam gets pumped out of the top of the machine but doesn't seem to be hot enough to burn even though the drink is piping hot. The whole process takes about 30 - 45 seconds depending on the flavour (some drinks need to have a milk pod put through the machine as well), which adds up if you have a few drinks to make but is quicker than boiling a kettle just for me! After the drink is made you just need to pop the lid up and dispose of the empty disk. I have found that sometimes if the pods get a bit cold they tend to leave some residue in the pod. This is easily rectified by giving them a quick rinse under the hot tap before popping in the machine.
One of the big draws of the machine is the vast variety of drinks it makes. There are four varieties of hot chocolate alone (my favourite is the Suchards!) You need to check the front of the packaging to see how big the drink is as some of them are very small. For my hot chocolate I can get two portions in my mug which I did not think was particularly big, but the Costa Lattes make a huge mug full. If you do use a very big mug you can remove the cup rest from the Tassimo if you have trouble making it fit, but I have not had trouble fitting any of my mugs using the cup rest.
When I registered my machine online I was issued with a £20 voucher to use in their online shop which was fab as it gave me the chance to try lots of different drinks for my machine. I did my first shop with them in January and found the service very good - it was all delivered within 5 days of ordering and they take Paypal, although I have heard there has been on and off supply problems since. The Pods vary from £3.50 - £5 for a pack of between 8 - 16 drinks. You can also get them in all the supermarkets and I tend to buy mine from Amazon now, as they do some good bulk order deals there.
Am really pleased I bought my Tassimo - I use it pretty much every day. Although the drinks work out more expensive than a normal tea or coffee, it has saved me money in comparison to what I was spending in Costa! I bought myself the black machine as it was the colour that went best with my kitchen. The machine is approximately 30cm squared so it doesn't take up too much room on the side. It has a glossy finish so is easy to wipe down and keep clean, and the only bit I find get a bit mucky is the ledge under where the pods sit, and this cleans up easy with a damp cloth. I would recommend this to anyone who likes hot drinks, and it is definitely not just for coffee drinkers.
I remember playing Pop up Pirate when I was young, but it was not a game I had actually considered for Little Man. Since Little Man started at full time school I have been helping out at the nursery he used to attend, and one rainy day I was asked to play this game with groups of four 3 and 4 year olds. After having great fun spending all afternoon playing with them I decided this was a great game that he would really enjoy so decided to add this to his Christmas presents.
Pop up Pirate is a very simple game made by Tomy. Unlike the picture, it no longer comes with a base - it is simply a plastic barrel with 24 slots, and a pirate's head that fits into the top on a spring loaded platform. There are 24 plastic swords, six of each colour and you each take turns picking a slot until you find the one that makes the pirate pop up!
I am glad to say that this game is a big hit in our house as well as nursery. It is designed to be played by 2 to 4 players , however it is best played so that all 24 swords are used so in our house we double up if there are two of us, or we let Little Man go every other turn if Daddy is joining in! However Little Man has been known to sit there on his own with all the swords trying to make the pirate pop, and there are always massive giggles when he does. When playing this in the nursery (and sometimes when Little Man is playing with Daddy!) I do find myself refereeing impromptu sword fights, however they are little and flexible so not likely to cause much damage unless jabbed in an eye! The only slightly annoying thing about this game is occasionally you can put all the swords in and the pirate still doesn't pop - but we just shout 'Boooooo!' At the pirate and play again!!
This game is recommended for age 4 plus, which I think is about right although it is perfectly fine for 3 year olds with supervision. It is good for honing fine motor skills, as well as teaching sharing and taking turns. I got this game from The Entertainer when it was half price at a bargain £7.50 which has been well worth the money for us - we play this at least a couple of times a week. We love this game, and it is a definite 5 stars from us.
Currently available delivered from Amazon for £10.97.
I have loved Yankee Candles for a couple of years now but have mainly stuck to the little sampler candles as the jars are a little bit rich for my purse. Luckily my lovely Hubbie bought me a gorgeous wax tart burner for Christmas with a selection of tarts to try with it. He knows he prefers citrus and fruity scents and one of the tarts was Cherries on Snow, which I also got in a small jar. This review will mainly about the wax tart as this was the first one I had ever tried
The tart is deep red in colour and present in clear packaging with a picture of a cherry on some snow on the top. On the Yankee Candle website the scent is described as 'An enchanted, sparkling blend of bright, juicy cherries with sweet almonds and an Icy freshness' so from this I was expecting it to smell like a cherry bakewell. When the tart is melted I didn't really pick up any scent of almonds at all. The main note for me was of an icy sweetness, with a cherry undertone. However I found the lovely cherry scent lingered for ages afterwards. However when I burnt the jar I found the cherry was the dominant scent, but the overall smell was not as strong as the tart.
I burnt the tart whole (they can be broken up if you have a smaller burner or want to eek them out), and got over 10 hours of decent scent out of the wax tart, which is over the 8 hours recommended time from Yankee. As this was my first tart melting experience I had no idea that they don't actually melt!! I burnt mine for about a week before I twigged that there was hardly any scent coming of it and turned to Google - I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer!! However, I have found that if you stop burning them after about 10 hours while there is still enough scent in the reformed tart they make lovely drawer fragrances - just pop them in and you have lovely scented clothes! I have not burned through the jar yet, but it is about ¼ through after about 8 hours burning.
Despite my confusion over the melting I have become a real wax tart convert - they are economical and really fragrance the house nicely. Cherries on Snow is definitely one of the nicest ones I have tried so far, and I have stocked up on a stash of these post Christmas as they are part of the winter range although are still widely available online! The wax tarts retail at £1.25 each and the small jars at £7.99 - I normally buy mine from the local garden centre which has regular promotions and a huge range or online at www.yankeedoodle.co.uk.