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This game was one of the many toys that was on my daughters Christmas list this year so Santa left it for us to play on Christmas Day.
My 5 year old was very excited as she tore off the wrapping paper, amazed that Santa had bought pretty much all she had asked for.
The game in question is Smashed Potatoes (as pictured above). It is made by the well known toy manufacturer Hasbro who are of course famous for Mr Potato Head who this game is based around.
When you first open the large brightly coloured box you are presented with a load of plastic bits all attached to a frame so you need to remove them, a spinner and a large game board, instruction sheet and 4 small tubs of Play-Doh (oh I love that play-dohy smell!!)
Before you start play, you need to assemble the 'crazy kitchen' and set it up the board. Although the recommended age for this game is 5 years + the box does say that it requires adult assembly. It was easy enough to put together even for me after a good few drinks Christmas Day. Before you can play you also need to make your potato so choose your favourite colour Play-Doh and use the Mr Potato Head mould to make it. The mould is simple to use, just push your Play-Doh into the mould (half in each side) and push the sides together. The moulds are nice and chunky, easy to use but somewhat misleading. There is a Mr and Mrs Potato head mould however you can only mould a little bald potato in each one. Although the actual mould has the features on the outside the actual part you make them from is identical in each and with no features. My 5 year old was far from impressed by this as she obviously wanted to be 'the girl one'
The board itself is brightly coloured, has quirky potatoes on it and appeals to young players. Game play is pretty simple. Spin the spinner - it has 6 possible landings - numbers 1-4 and also a potato to move one 'plate' ahead and a smash potato space. You start in the bag of spuds, move your Play-Doh potato around the board that number of spaces (each space is a plate!). The first one to escape through the window to safety is the winner. As you go along, you will land on the crazy kitchen at certain points, but beware. Should someone spin the spinner and land on the 'smash' section any potatoes in the kitchen get smashed. Even if you aren't in the kitchen, the spinner can choose if no one is in there who will get it. Your potato can be smashed in 4 ways:
1. In the scissor slicer - turn the wheel to make the scissors chop you in half!
2. In the French Fryer -you are made into French fries! Put your potato in and push down and watch as you become chips.
3.The Crinkle Crisper - turn the crank the make your potato into a flat ridged crisp
4. The Chip Chopper - Cleaver style knife useful for chopping you into pieces!
The mash machine is made from chunky plastic pieces which are easy to use although the scissors are a bit of a waste of time as don't really cut anything. It's nice and robust and should be easy for small hands to use.
Bearing in mind that your potatoes are made of Play-Doh, after a visit to the mash machine, they will be well and truely mashed and smashed. You then have to remould your potato and start again from the beginning.
While this is fun the first few times, it soon becomes tiresome and the game can get quite long and drawn out. Eventually someone wins and you pack it away as you've already been playing 20 minutes and cannot bear another game! It packs away easily with no need to disassemble the mash machine.
Overall a fun game but a little repetative. I find it best to adapt the rules to suit yourselves. My 5 year old does enjoy playing it though although she's just as happy making the potatoes and mashing them without actually playing the game.
This game is available from toy retailers and is currently available on ToysRus for £14.49 although it usually retails between £20 and £25. In my opinion it certainly isn't worth that. I'd say £15 is more than enough to pay for this.
If you have a child or work with children under the age of 6 there is a good chance that you have heard of the fabulous book that is The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson.
It was first published in 1999 and has become an iconic children's classic. It was written by Julia Donaldson - who has written over 150 books, many only available in school but 59 of them are available to buy in the shops. Before writing books for children, she was a busker which led her into singing and songwriting for children's TV programmes.
The story of the Gruffalo tells a story about a clever little mouse who '''took a stroll through the deep dark wood'' in search of food. Along his way he meets various characters - fox, owl and snake who all try to tempt him into going back with them for dinner. Of course he's the dinner and he knows that so politely declines their offers and tells them that he's meeting up with the Gruffalo. Of course they have no idea what a Gruffalo is and neither does mouse but amzingly when mouse comes face to face with him he's exactly as described with his ''knobbly knees and turned out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose''
So all of these characters get together and have a chat, decides that they don't beleive little mouse..... Little did they know! Eventually mouse and Gruffalo meet.... shock horror!! Mouse didn't see that one coming and less so that he was actually going to get eaten by one. However he's so clever that he gets Gruffy (as my daughter affectionatly calls him) to follow behind. Obviously fox, owl and snake see the Gruffalo and get very scared. Gruffalo is unable to work out that he's the scary one and beleives mouse that its him they are scared of so when mouse says that he wants Gruffalo crumble, quick as the wind, Grufffalo turned and fled.
A happy ending for all, no one is eaten by anyone else and mouse eventually finds a nut. And the nut looked good. Presumably he went on and ate it!
The book is illustrated by Axel Schleffler who does it beautifully. The simple illustrations go really well with and compliment the story perfectly.
The story is all written in rhyming repetative text so is easy to follow and easy to remember. Kids really find this type of writing appealing - my daughter certainly has! We started reading this when she was around 2 years old. Shes 5 now and can recite the whole book ... as can I and hubby! All of us in this house thouroughly enjoy this story and never tire of it. It is quite a long story for little ones but does manage to hold their attention long enough for it to be read.
The book can currently be bought from Amazon and other well known retailers for around £4. We have the slightly dearer hardback version - a wise choice as it has been read so many time in this house! This book is definately a keeper and one that hopefully she will pass on to her little one when shes old enough just like I did with my faraway tree books from when I was a kid!
The book has also been made into a short film and is available on DVD. As well as this if yo ulove the Gruffalo you might be interested in the growing array of accompanying merchandise available ranging from soft toys, colouring books and baking kits.
I was shocked that just after Christmas there wasn't already a review written on Disneyland Adventures for the Kinect. It wasn't even in the catalogue when I first searched for it but the lovely people at Dooyoo HQ soon added it as I had asked them to.
This is the first time that I have written a review about a videogame, most videogame reviews I have read are quite technical in content so sorry if mine isn't up to the same standard! Im simply gonna tell you how I have found the game.
Well, I (I mean my daughter, Ahem...) was quite excited when this was first advertised on TV. Santa (a.k.a. hubby) bought it as a joint present for myself and my 5 year old for Christmas.
We popped the disc into the Xbox and proceeded to be greeted by a golden ticket. He is your companion throughout the game. This will only work if you have the Kinect for the Xbox - you cannot control the game through a regular controller. Once we had rearranged the furniture (downside to living in a shoebox) so that we had room to play we chose an avatar to play us. This game can be enjoyed by either one or two players. Each avatar is a child and you can customise to look similar to yourself.
My daughter started on her own, chose her avatar and started the game. When you begin you enter the park - It looks exactly how you would imagine Disneyland to look. I have been to Disneyland Paris and Walt DisneyWorld in Florida although not Disneyland which I beleive is in California? It looks pretty similar on the game to these 2 parks so I imagine its a great likeness to the original Disneyland. Its just as you would expect - clean and immaculately kept. The only difference is you are not in the baking hot sun and there are far less people in the comfort of your own living room! Its nice to have a look around without the crowds!
Once you have been greeted by your golden ticket, he introduces you to Mickey Mouse and you are given various tasks to complete. Each task is set out by a different Disney Character. Mickey's first task is for you to collect some autographs for him. You can fully interact with each character by hi-fiving, dancing, hugging, collecting autographs and taking photos. For example if you bow, the character will dance with you but you can also simply say 'dance' as it also has voice recognition. Voice commands such as this are limited to 'dance' 'hug' 'high-five' etc but it was lovely to see my daughters face when interactign with the characters. (imagine the money we could save by visiting Disneyland this way!).
As I already mentioned you have to complete tasks as set out by the characters. To do this you interact with the character (just wave at them or say hello) and it will tell you what to do. We have not yet completed the game so have not seen all of the said tasks but so far have had things like collect autographs for Mickey, find Donald Ducks hat and collect teapots for the Mad Hatter. To complete a task yo need to travel around the park which is easily done by holding your arm out infront of you and tilting it slightly in the direction you want to run. The kinect is pretty responsive and quite accurate although I have read reviews elsewhere slating it saying that it is sluggish and slow. I have not found this to be the case. None of these tasks are difficult to complete as you follow golden pixie dust to lead you to your destination. I'm sure most children are only too happy to help out their favourite Characters. I'm sure your favourite will be there whether its one of Mickey's gang, a Disney Princess or your favourite from Toy Story.
In addition to the tasks and running round the park you can also ride some of the rides. While its not quite like actually riding them they are a series of mini games which are fully playable. You need to collect hidden mickeys, coins (so you can buy virtual stuff in the shops) and get good at them so that you are rewarded pin badges for your efforts. If any of you know about the Disney Pin Trading - its much like this! There are 4 levels for each game bronze, silver, gold and I presume platinum or diamond or something (I've not got past gold yet!). So far we have ridden the Peter Pan ride - this involved flying over a moonlit London and swashbuckkling with Captain Hook. Simply use your arms in a flying motion to fly and swoosh your sword as you would in a fight! Other attractions we have done include the Matterhorn Bobsled ride - oh my such fun!! You ride a bodsled and ski with Goofy, again all controlled by sking motions etc. There is also a fab snowball fight with some Yetis here! Pelt them with snowballs until they let Goofy go!!! Again this can be played alone or work with a friend as a team. A second player can join the game at any time by simply waving infront of the kinect. One of my favourite attractions though has to be the Alice in Wonderland ride which includes the Mad Hatters Tea Party. You get to do freestyle dancing and then you need to copy the Mad Hatter in a silly pose and hold it to get the points. This is great but the sneaky kinect takes photos of you doing it.... and your mean husband uploads them to kinect share.... or maybe thats just me!
This game is a lot of fun for kids who can understand and read simple commands. Although I beleive it is aimed at kids its still a lot of fun for adults too. The whole family has enjoyed playing this so far and am sure we will continue to do so until we complete it. Tasks and games are simple so little ones 5/6 years are less likely to get bored quickly like with some of the more involved kids kinect games such as Kinectimals but thats a whole different review....... The game autosaves so you don't have to repeat things again and again and lose your place in the game.
It is an average price for an Xbox game - it started around £40 and now you can get it for just under £30. Although this is expensive in my opinion for a game it will provide hours of fun and is quite good value for money. It is a must for any Disney fan and its made me really geared up for our Disney holiday at the end of the year!
I recently had a few things to do in Milton Keynes so I thought I'd try and find a soft play area to stop at for my 3 year old as kind of a sweetener to get her to want to come - yes I know it bribery but sometimes it just has to be done!
So I had a google before we set out and found a place called 360 Play -I noted the postcode and out it in the satnav. It found it no problem so I was happy once I had found a parking space in their incredibly small car park.
We went in and it looked like a fun place with things on all levels. I went to pay for entry and was told that you had to become a member - it was £5 for membership - I'm not sure what the idea of the membership is entirely I just think it is a way to get £5 extra out of you. As I didn't live in the area I wasn's sure if to pay it as we may not go back often. As it happened my daughter loved it so much that we do visit quite a bit as it is much nicer than the play areas around here. Entry is quite expensive - £2.95 for adults, £5.95 for 1-3 years and £7.95 for 4-12 years. Under 1's are free. AS you can see if there are a few of you going it soon adds up.
We have visited on numerous occasions and while it has been busy it has never been unbearabley busy that you can't move in there - In my opinion there is nothing worse!
Once you are in you are greeted witht he usual large soft play things, this is multi level, all circus themed and includes slides, ball bits and a large area to run about. There is also quite a large area for little ones so they have a place to play without bring knocked over by some of the larger kids.
If you do have an older child who is happy to go off and play alone (I don't and have to climb all over the equipment!) and want to relax there is a large area with leather sofas and TV's so you can have a bit of me time. In addition to this there is also a cafe with a seating area with a range of meals available. Their food is very nice and not too expensive. They do serve breakfast until 11.30 too! They have the usual fish n chips, burger and chips, jacket potatoes etc as well as paninis, salads and sandwiches. All available in adult and child portions. It also comes on proper plates with proper cutlery, noone of this cardboard rubbish. Main meals are around £5 for aduls and childrens meals are £3.75. Drinks start from 95p for a soft drink and £2 odd for a hot drink so this can soon add up.
On the downstairs level there is also a carousel and bumper cars. These are included in the admission price so your child can ride as often as they like. There is also a messy play area where your child can paint and draw and do other fun stuff! There is a karaoke station and also some table football down here too so you can stillplay with your kids whilst not having to clamber over all the equipment!
Don't forget to visit club 360 on the downstairs level which takes you to a little beach area outside with a sandbit, racing cars and even pedalo boats. There is also a climbing wall thing here too.
One thing I did notice here is not only is is immaculately clean but there are always staff around tidying up and playing with the children. They are always very friendly. Obviously they are not their to supervise your child but its sometimes nice to watch them with others and sit back and have a coffee for a few minutes.
Upstairs is 360 Street - probably my daughters favourite bit! It is fantastic for role play. It is a mini street with little shops to play in which include all of the usual accessories you would find in these shops in real life. There is a pizza parlour, grocery shop a clothes shop and a vets. The vets is full of cuddly animals and 'vet stuff' to make the animals better. It looks very authentic! There is even some vets dresssing up in there so you can look the part too. The grocers is full of play food and a cash register so you can do your shopping as well as in the clothes shop. THe clothes shop has loads of dressing up stuff and some changing rooms to make it just like the real thing. In the pizza parlour you can don your chefs outfit and make your yummy pizza, it has ovens, food as well as all the cutlery and crockery to make mummy a delicious meal! As this is upstairs there is a large glass panel so you can still see below and your child has no danger of falling off!
The make it break it zone is also upstairs. Here there is lots and lots of lego, duplo and other building and construction activities.
You do have to swipe your membership card for exit so there is no chance that you child will escape! They also run childrens parties (we've never been to one but they look a lot of fun) and pre school classes such as baby signing, drama, cooking and music.
Play 360 is situated on Roebuck way in the Knowlhill area of Milton Keynes and provides a great day out for you and your children. It is open from 9:30 -5:30 sun-thurs and 9:30-6:00 on fri and sat. They also have special events on for Christmas/Halloween/Easter etc. I really recommend it here as it is clean, tidy and staff are friendly. It offers soemthign a bit different to other play centres I have been to, you are guaranteed lots of fun.
We recently had an afternoon out at Wild Britain in Wilden, Bedfordshire. Here is our experience......
We arrived shortly after lunch at Wild Britain, we found it easy enough, situated in the Bedfordshire countryside, just follow the brown butterfly signs (This was previously known as Bedford Butterfly Park!)
Payment was at the kiosk on arrival where we were told about the special events that were happening as it was during the Easter break. We paid our £6.95 each (adults and kids are the same price!) although under 2's are free. Consessions are £6.50.
We parked up in the gravelled car park and decided it was quite cold so put our coats on! We had a look at the information we were given and decided to plan our visit. Rain looked imminenet so thought we'd best start off with the 'wildlife' walk and get soem of the outside bits done before the heavens opened. The walk is actually called the hedgehog play trail and it follows the adventures of a little hedgehog called Urchin as he searches for some food in the butterfly house. There are boards around the trail which follow the story so it is imprtant that you stick to the path! Each point of the story has rather a cute staute/ornament type bit of Urchin having one of his adventures. These range from when he meets some bees and even finds a dropped ice cream on the floor which he eats. My daughter loved the simple but enchanting story although I think she got a bit confused as she started looking for a gruffallo half way round!! There are interactive bits for children to do throughout the little walk from looking for birds in a hide, to making a den from twigs to hide from the fox. There are little quiz questions on the way such as which leaf is from which tree etc and a touchy feely box in one of the hides to guess whats in there. It is quite a short walk - probably 20-30 minutes in total but is just the right length for a 3 year old.
Luckily it still hadn't rained by the time we arrived back at the start so we had a bit of a play in the lovely wooden adventure play area. I think this has recently been refurbished as it looks quite new. Just next to the play area there is Moley's Mine - a man built mole hill full of tunnels and things - don your hard hat, complete with torch on top and find your way out of the other side. If you manage it, you get a certificate at the end! You get a special voucher with your admission price for this so unfortunately you can only have one go. It looked fun and the children seemed to be enjoying it. We didn't try this though as my wee one is afraid of the dark. There is also next to this a fenced off area full of space hoppers - My daughter loved these and it was fun to see her bouncing about!
Next up we went to have a look at some of the small animals. The rabbit ranch is lovely - you can walk right through the rabbit run, stroking and feeding the rabbits and guinea pigs. Smaller children seem to love this bit!
There is also a chipmunk area, ferrets and small rodents area where you can veiw these animals and their antics through glass. The mouse bit was very good as you could see the nests they had built and watch them going through their tunnels. Right next to this there is a large goat area where you cxan feed and stroke the goats. My daughter was far from keen as it jumped up on the fence to take a bite of her coat. Still I found it quite amusing and told her not to be so silly!
We used our next voucher from our entry info which was to meet the keeper. This runs at various times throught the day and they bring out various animals for you to have a look at etc. We have been twice and seen the exact same things both times so I'm not sure if they use other animals or not. We had a look at stroke of a pygmy hedgehog, some sort of geko and a big scary looking beetle. We also had a look at a tarantula! This was very informative and the keeper kept it entertaining and interesting even for the little ones. This lasted about 15 minutes so wan't too long. Next to this there is a pond dipping area - open only in the summer but we tried it on a previous visit and really enjoyed it. If you find the things from your sheet you even get a medal!
By now it had started to drizzle so thought it was time for a cuppa. THey have a small cafe on site selling the usual sandwiches, drinks jacket potatoes etc. Prices I thought were average for this type of place. We had 2 slices of very nice cake! 2 pots of tea and an ice lolly and it was £7. Not cheap but then you expect that kind of thing at these attractions.
We popped into the craft cabin next to use our next voucher. Children are able to do a spot of painting, make masks or badges etc in here. Charlotte enjoyed her splodge painting of a butterfly so we hung it up to dry and left it there until later on.
As it was Easter we took part int he obligatory egg hunt! Luckily it wa indoor as it was raining by now. We found some 'paper' eggs and then took them to exchange for a chocolate egg at the reception. I would presume that they have other similar events for other occasions throughout the year too.
Lastly we visited the butterfly house. It is very hot in here as it is meant to be 'tropical' There are some amazing and huge butterflies here and they are all beautiful. It is full of exotic plants to attract the butterflies and there are lots flying around. They also have a 'peg' system - look out for coloured pegs the different colours indicate which stage growing butterflies are at for exampla blue pegs may represent that there is cocoon on that plant with a butterfly about to emerg. You might be lucky and see one hatching. There is a pond in here too with some giant carp as well as some ducks and other small birds. I am not a fan of being enclosed in spaces with birds but the ceiling is high enough for them not to fly past your face and scare you to death (that may just me be me though!). On exiting the butterfy house you walk through a dark room where you can see the pygmy hedgehogs, snakes and other creepy crawlies. Unfortunately we didn't stay in here too long as my daughter didn't like the dark!
Overall a lovely place to visit - everything was very clean and well kept. There is a small gift shop selling the usual wares and nothing is too dear so you should be able to find a souvenier for your pestering little one relatively cheap. You don't even have to enter the shop on exit like many places which gets a big thumbs up from me!
A great afternoon was had by all. I really recommend Wild Britain for families and especially young children as they can do the majority of the activities and the place isn't too big for them to walk round. We really enjooyed it and will be visiting again in the summer.
I have visited a couple of branches form the Red hot Buffet chain in the past - They are located in Liverpool, Nottingham, Northampton and Milton Keynes - I have visited the latter two and will focus on the Northampton one which I visited today for my review.
Red Hot prides itself as a world buffet with a wide selection of dishes from around the world. They claim to have Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Cajun and Italian cuisines.
The restaurant is very easy to get to, situated on the popular Sixfields leisure complex - also home to Northampton 'Cobblers' Football club numerous bars and restaurants, cinema, bowling and a gym. As it is so large there is plenty of parking unless you go on a match day when the car park is usually filled with football supporters.
The restaurant opens at 12 noon daily for their lunch buffet. We arrived at about 12.20 and the restaurant was starting to fill up although not too busy. When we have been previously it has been absolutely packed at this time and I was surprised that we got seated so easily. This may of course had something to do with it being Easter Sunday and people doing other things. As a rule its generally busier by now.
We were seated as soon as we arrived and our drinks order was immediately taken and we were told we could help ourselves -always something that pleases myself, hubby and daughter!
The decor in the restaurant is very nice but the lighting is pretty poor in places, making is quite dark. The restaurant appears to be separated into twp halves -one side is much lighter than the other and there is a really big and beautiful mural type thing painted on the ceiling showing various dining cultures.
So up we went to the well presented and beautifully laid out buffet, mouths a watering and spoilt by choice! I started with the grilled chicken bar and mixed a bit of Chinese grub on my plate too - my hubby cannot bear this so it gives me more reason to do it - He's very strange as he doesn't see how you can mix several cuisines on one plate! I don't mind (maybe I'm the strange one) but I cannot have all my food touching and sauces mixing together to I tend to to have rather small portions of each thing spread out over several plates.
I took my first course back to my table and tucked in. The chicken dishes -piri piri and several other crilled chicken wing type things were all delicious. The meat was tender and fell off the bone and it had a good flavour. I also wolfed down my spring rolls, peppered battered squid rings and noodles - they were all delicious. They do have a bar where you can select your ingredients -noodles/stif fry etc and they will cook it fresh for you before your eyes. I personally haven't tried this as there is usually quite a long queue and I'm too impatient.
Next up I had a spot more Chinese type stuff and some pizza and chips. I always try and vary what I have as I could never eat one of each thing they have on offer! Although it may look it, my belly just isn't big enough! Again these were lovely but I was starting to get a bit full by now. The Mexican and Italian bits are situated in the same area - their Chilli-Con_carne is lovely but too hot for me. There is also a selection of fajita type things and nachos here too. The chef will also prepare fresh pasta dishes here as well ifyou want one. You choose the type of pasta and which sauce and they will cook it for you.
I thought as it was Sunday I may as well have a Yorkshire pud with roast beef, roast potatoes and vegetables - simply because thats what I do on a Sunday! It was actually very nice and I was surprised.
I next had an Indian course - there were a number of starters -the usual suspects vegetable samosaa, papadoms, onion bhajees etc and also a selection of curries - chicken tikka masalla, korma, rogan josh, bhuna and soe accompaniments such as bambay potatoes, and some type of vegetable dumpling type thing -it looked like a meat ball too me! Not being very adventurous I stuck to korma and tikka massala with some pilau rice. The rice was lovey as was the korma but I really didn't rate the tikka masalla - it tasted as though it had been cooked in Heinz Cream of Tomato soup! I couldn't finish mine as it was truely horrible. Even hubby who is like a hoover wouldn't touch it. The chicken here was as and tasted nice in the sauce but I was slightly put off by the big bits of fat and gristle thatI found in it. Most of the hot food we had was really nice although it wasn't too hot - most of it was pretty lukewarm. I appreciate that it has been sat for a while in the buffet area but it was colder than I would usually eat it.
By now I physically couldn't manage much more savoury stuff so I thought I'd move on to a bit of dessert as the posh say - I always call it afters! This delighted my daughter as she had been wanting 'just a bit of ice cream' since we arrived.
I got the ice cream monster a 'whippy' style ice cream in a cornet and all - I love those machines feeling like I am an ice cream lady! I helped myself to a couple of marshmallows and held them in the chocolate fountain for a few seconds....mmmmm. I also had a small bit of chocolate cake and some pannacotta. I will say all of these were delicious and really quite gorgeous.
I found a tiny bit more room for some apple pie and custard and also some fresh melon and pineapple - the fruit was obviously only to cleanse the palate! Again lovely and the crumble was pretty perfect! I finished by grabbing a few (large) handfuls of pick n mix sweets and wrapping them in a serviette to eat later.
The total bill was £25 for all 3 of us to dine which I didn't think too bad.
Apart from the lukewarm food there are a few other critisisms. They want to get lots of people in so tables are packed very closely together and there isn't an awful lot of room. Also the music they play is very loud so that you have to raise your voice to hear each other at the dinner table. Drinks are also slightly expensive so we just stuck to a jug of water at the table. Before when we have been we have had soft drinks but they are around £2 each so it soon bumps up the price of a cheap meal.
The staff are all very friendly in there and service is good, dirty plates were taken away promptly. Make sure that you do not leave your cutlery on them as if they take these there are no eating irons available on show so you will have to ask someone to get you a new set. Tables are all clean and the whole place looks stylish. The toilets were very clean!
All in all a good time was had by all and although the food isn't Egon Ronay standard it is more than adequate.
A meal at Red Hot will set you back: Lunch Buffet £6.99 (mon - fri), £7.99 (sat) £8.99, (sun) incl. Sunday Roast. Evening gourmet buffet 6pm -10:30pm £11.99 (mon - thu), 5:30pm - 11pm, £13.99 (fri - sat), 5:30pm - 9pm £11.99 (sun)
Children under 10 years dine at half price. There is also a 20% off discount for over 50's on the lunch buffet.
After writing many reviews of childrens books and toys I decided it was about time that I started reviewing some of my things. If you have read some of my previous reviews you may have read my review on wool crafts and in particular felting and fulling wool.
This is the book that has totally inspired me in taking part and enjoying my new hobby. The book in question is 'Felt so Good' by Betz White.
Betz White is well known, mainly in America for her unique take on the art of felting. She uses old wollen items including jumpers and blankets and recylces them into something new by felting/fulling them. This is done basically by shrinking them in the washing machine.
This book provides over 30 interesting projects made from recycled felted items. The book is ideal for anyone who thinks that they might like to have a go at felting and fulling as there are various projects suitable for beginners right through to experienced felters.
The book starts by giving you some detailed instructions on how to deconstruct your jumper before you attempt to felt it. As it is an American book there are a few variations in some of the products that are used and I think some things are more readily available in the USA but with a little bit of common sense and background work it translates well to our English English. For example I don't think that many of us have top loading washing machines which you can open mid-cycle -apparently these are recommended but I get on just fine with out regular front loading non-door-opening-mid-cycle washing machine so don't be put off byt he Americanisms in there.
Next up is a very clear and detailed list of materials you may need for your new hobby. Most of these are nothing special and if you are a crafter you will most likely have a lot of them lying about.
The next page gives some instructions of useful techniques. There are clear and easy to follow full colour pictures and diagrams. It is useful if you have a basic knowledge of sewing but don't worry if you don't as all of the most common stitches and sewing maching techniques are clearly detailed.
Eventually you will come to the projects. These all do honestly look totally amazing and really inspired me. All of the projects begin with a lovely coloured photo and is followed by detailed, clear coloured step by step photographs throughout. There are also templates to accompany each project (you will need to enlarge them on a photocopier or scanner). If you are confident enough to draw them freehand then that would be as easy as none of them are overly complicated.
So what does the book actually show you to make!?! Well I won't go into every project but there really is something for everyone. It teaches you really basic things such as a patchwork type blanket, a cupcake pincushion -as pictured on the front of the book as well as various bags, hats and glove puppets. There is a fantastic fried breakfast cushion cover in there too - almost looks good enough to eat!
I personally so far have only made the cupcake pincushion and a few brooches and if I can do it anyone can. I have taken lots of ideas from the book though and adapted them to make my own original designs -after all thats half the fun. Obviously by using old woollen items you are recycling and making something from an item which may have just been chucked away which is great. However you may find yourself scouring car boots, charity shops and jumble sales looking for that perfect jumper. This makes it a relatively cheap hobby but if you are anything like me you will find yourself hoarding way too much for that project you are going to get around to making.
If you have been thinking about doing something like this for a while but didn't know where to start buy this book. I'm sure it will inspire you too.
The book is a softback and RRP is £12.99 but currently available on Amazon for £7.72. It's really worth the money with so many funky and fun ideas, step by step photos and instructions.
Well, Christmas has well and truely finished but I am still wading through reviewing some of the presents my daughter had. Here is another one of them - Fairy Whishpers from the Flower Fairies collection.
This is a truely delightful and enchanting bookfor any little girl. Anyone who loves fairies I'm sure will know the works by the late Cicely Mary Barker (1895-1976). She was famed for her watercolour paintings and illustrations of the Flower Fairies. Now over 30 years after her death her work is still being enjoyed by many new and old Flower Fairies fans.
The book which I am reviewing today is called Fairy Whispers. The story is based around Cicely Mary Barkers previous illustrations although I cannot find out who the actual author is. Obviously it couldn't have been her as this is a pretty new story bought up to date to relate to the children of today.
The story follows the Flower Fairies as they plan a very special party in the Enchanted Garden but alas the Fairies in all the excitement have forgotton to invite a special guest. It's not long until the party so they use fairy whispers to get their message to their special guest - Wild Thyme. The whisper is started by a magical sprinkling of fairy dust and it names each flower fairy as they receive the whisper, a little bit about them, going through from morning until evening until the whisper reaches Wild Thyme. Luckily it's just in time for him to get his glad rags on and get the the party.
The book is a hardback and the cover features a large cut out section allowing you to see a few pages into the book as they are set out to give a layered effect. This happens throughout the book and is a lovely detail. THe cover and some of the pages are also glittered giving it a lovely, sparkly, magical feel.
Original illustrations have been reproduced and not altered. I recognise them from the Flower Fairies ABC book I had when I was a child. I have looked at that recently and it feels very dated compared to this one. The reproduced illustrations have been put together with skill and there is much attention to detail here - they do look as though they have been all done at the same time and are meant to be together.
It is quite lengthy and I would say unsuitable for a starter reader but the story is much enjoyed by my 3 year old. The writing is also quite small. I would say this would be enjoyed by a little girl of up to about 8 or 9 if they love fairies and all things girly. I has also encouraged my daughter to want to know about flowers and has made me learn a bit about them too as she will ask me which flower fairy lives there -it's no good if I don't have a clue what flower is what.
The RRP of this book is £7.99 but currently available from Amazon for £4.20. It's well worth it.
For my Christmas present my hubby had booked tickets to see a show in London and make a weekend of it so along we went last weekend (I know its March but this was the earliest we could get tickets and a willing baby sitter!).
As usual hubby had left it until a week before we were due to go before bothering to look for a hotel despite my constant nagging. He spent a good few hours googling London hotels and came up with this one.
Custom House Hotel is situated in the Dockalnds area of London and is directly opposite the Excel exhibition centre. It boasts 282 rooms and 3 restaurants. It is also situated directly opposite the Docklands Light Railway station - making it easy to get into the city -about a 30 minute tube journey. I find this fine although I appreciate that some people may want to be more centrally located. It is worth noting that at the moment there is ongoing engineering work at this station but there is a replacement bus service which will take you about 10 minutes extra to get on the tube. I'm not sure how long they anticipate this to go on for but they were working on it when we went to Excel in December and they have pulled up a lot of the track so I'd imagine it will be quite some time.
We found the hotel no problem and checked in about 6pm although you can check in from 2pm. The sat-nav took us directly there so we couldn't go too wrong! We arrived and parked in the hotel car park - it is reasonably small with room for probably 50 cars. As with most hotels these days you just leave your car registration number with reception so that they know you are a patron. It is manned some of the time and there are barriers to let you in and out. You cannot leave without an exit code from reception so I felt that our car would be pretty secure here. Car parking is charged at £10 per day which compared to parking in most London car parks I thought pretty good -and they did let us leave our car there the following day while we did some touristy type things and collected it about 4pm at no extra charge.
When we checked in we were greeted by a friendly gentleman who gave us our room key and details. He explained that if we booked breakfast there and then we would get 20% off the usual price of £10. He explained that there was a full English and continental breakfast available but we declined as we didn't know what wanted to the following day. Breakfast is served from 7-10am should you wish to have it there.
We arrived in our room which was a superior room - it was quite small although had the necessities - double bed, flatscreen TV, wardrome, loo and shower. This was fine for us as we were just using it as a place to sleep and didn't need it all singing and dancing. The one good thing about the room is that it was spotless. It was lovely and clean.
Our evening in the hotel was fine, the temperature was just right although there was a thermostat in the room the adjust it should you need to. The matress was quite firm and the quilt was nice and snuggly. There was the option when we booked to either have blankets or duvet so its up to you.
After I got up I had a shower - towels were all there and quite soft compared to some hotels I have stayed in. There was also 2 bottles of complimentary shower gel and shampoo and 2 bars of soap. We didn't use these so I chucked 'em in my bag - you never know when they will come in handy! The shower/toilet and basin were in kind of a 'pod' which was pretty small but was fit for the purpose. The shower cubicle was tiny but there was enough room for a hair wash and shower. You couldn't swing a cat in there but I wouldn't want to! The water was just right and the pressure was ok, not a power shower but it was adequate. There wa also a hairdryer to make myself slightly more presentable.
There was kettle and tea and coffee available also in the room - a few sachets of each but these also found their way into my bag!
There are no ironing facilities in the room iteself but there is an ironing room on the second floor should you need it.
The hotel has 3 places to eat -although we didn't use any of them. The Ho Lee chinese restaurant on site looked absolutely lovely and I don't think it was too expensive - about what you would expect really looking at the menu. There is also the Custom House Cafe selling tea/coffee and snacks and the Custom House Pub and Kitchen serving meals, snacks and of course alcohol. They are all open late too so no need to worry about getting something when you get back to your hotel.
There is a lift and stairs to all floors so everyone is catered for and there is a choice of standard or superior rooms. Rooms are available as double or twins - there is no provision for families. The standard rate is £130-£150 per room per night. I think this is expensive but the other half had booked it through another site and paid under £50 so we were very happy. There are also banqueting and conferencing facilities available on site too.
We had a fantastic weekend and this hotel offered great value at the price we paid, it was clean and staff were friendly. I'd recommend it if you are planning a break in London.
Hmmm... well when I suggested to Dooyoo a category for felting and fulling they gave me the broad topic of wool crafts in general. When I made the product suggestion, I was sure I'd know just what to write and how easy it would be but now it's been approved I'm not so sure, but here goes......
Wool crafts...... There are so many around, many of them have been around for a very long time! The most obvious ones are probably knitting and crocheting which I can just about manage and do badly. Wool can be incorparated into many crafts from the obvious ones to scrapbooking and sewing.
A while back I read on a crafts forum somewhere about felting -this is the craft I am going to concentrate on for my review.
Did you know that felt can be made from wool? Felt, classed of a non woven cloth by which the fibres are mated together to create a sheet of felt. It is one of the oldest textile arts around. It has been around for literally thousands of years, beleived to be started by Asian Nomadic tribes. A totally renewable product as it is made from wool, as long as you have sheep there will be felt!
So how is it made? Felt is made from fleece. The unspun fleece or wool roving/wool tops from sheep and other wooly animals can be made into sheets of felt by using a wet felting technique. This wool is similar to human hair - I'm sure you've seen the close up pictures in the adverts which show little fibres coming off the main strand. Fleece is quite similar and is also covered in these microscopic scales. When rubbed together these scales catch together to create a mat which cannot be separated. So to make your felt you need abrasion to help it all join together, moisture and heat. So alot of rubbing, rolling and hot water will help you to create a flat peice of wool felt.
Another type of felting is needle felting. Again you need to use the unspun wool roving or wool tops here. Unlike wet felting you use a large barbed needle and work the fleece with it using it to permamnetly intertwine the fibres. This is great for detailed projects and also 3D scultpures and toys. This technique gives the most prescise finish but also takes the most amount of time.
The third type of felting (actually called fulling) is probably the easiest and quickest type of felting. This is the type of felting I am interested in and is a good base to start as it is relatively cheap, quick and easy to make something that looks good. There is much less skill needed for this process than the techniques already discussed (maybe why I am reasonably ok at it!).
So who has ever fulled a jumper -I'm guessing you will say no but I bet the majority of us have. Basically if you have shrunken your best wool jumper by washing it too hot you have fulled it! The heat and agitation of the spinning has had the effect described above in the wet felting technique and you now have a piece of felt. So do not chuck your jumper out because you have shrunk it - make something useful out of it (or send it to me and I'll make something!!)
You can also knit things such as bags and full them afterwards. Remember they will shrink so knit them bigger. The advantage of doing this and turning your wool into felt is that felt is pretty water resisitant and holds it shape well, it is very strong and above all you can make almost anything out of it.
By fulling old knitted jumpers etc you are also recycling -or upcycling as its now called - getting something of no value and making something of value from it. The best thing about fulling is that you can do anything with it afterwards. Because all of the fibres had matted together you can freely cut the 'felt' and it won't fray. I am a bit sad and find the process quit amazing and exciting! You will never know how it will turn out, some things full better than others. Basically if it has a care lable that says handwash only it will probably full ok. I wash them at 40 or 60 degrees in the machine which is usually enough to full them sufficiently. You can also dry them in the tumble dryer for a bit extra fulling.
The only problem here is that your fulled items do take a long time to dry even in the tumble dryer - if you are tumbledrying and washing them on hot alot this will obviously add to your energy bills but I just wait until I have a load to do and do them at once. Its also a good idea to wash and tumble them in a pillowcase as a bit of fluff does shed from them and you don't want it clogging up your filters.
I have found myself scouring jumble sales, car boots and charity shops for woolen items to full, therfore making it relatively cheap. The items must be wool though and not wool which has been treated to be washed in the machine. handwash, dry clean only items usually full quite well.
So you have a load of fulled jumpers and things but what are you going to do with them? Well the limit is your imagination! I have made bags and jewellery from them which I am pretty pleased with and I have just bought a fantastic book with loads more ideas in which I cannot wait to get cracking on! (If you are interested the book is Felt So Good by Betz White! and if you google her blog there are some amazing ideas and things on there and so inspiring) So as well as making bags and jewellery you can make cushion covers, slippers, throws, toys and kids clothes by piecing together various sections to make another style dress, jumper or whatever!
I am still relatively new to this but it is a fun and easy craft to get into and doesn't have to cost lots of money like many other things I have had a fad on! Why not have a go with that shrunken jumper you don't know what to do with. All you need is your shrunken jumper, needle and thread and a bit of imagination.
Thanks for reading - I hope you've enjoyed it and learnt something new. Please send me a message if you like this sort of thing too - I do not know anyone else who is into it and I like to have geeky chats with fellow crafters!
I purchesed a box of these Weight Watchers branded cookies (I prefer to call them biscuits! Its much more English!) from Poundland a while ago. I purchased them mainly because they have the handy points values for anyone following the Weight Watchers plan and because they are wrapped in individual cellophane packets, each containing 2 biscuits. Considering I am trying to loose a bit of weight and have the will power of a gnat I thought this was an excellent idea as I ordinarily would think nothing of devouring a whole, or at least half a packet of yummy scrummy biscuits.
These do come in a box which contains 6 wrapped packets of 2 biscuits -I do think this is quite a lot of packaging for just 12 biscuits. On the packet they look very appetising - almost like chocolate chip cookies (although these things I am thinking are chocolate are actually sultanas).
On opening one of the packs of two I am instantly greeted by a really strong smell of cinnamon. I love this as it reminds me of Chirstmas! Upon examination of my biccies there definately doesn't seem to be as many sultanas present as the picture on the box. I can see 4 in one of them but none at all in the other. Considering these are pretty thin biscuits I don't imagine that there are too many lurking within either.
On taking my first bite, these biscuits are quite hard with a crunchy texture. They are nice and sweet - just what I would expect from a biscuit, but as I thought there are not many sultanas! These are actually tastier than I first thought they would be and I would eat them again. It's just a shame that there are only 2 in a packet.
Now for the all important dunk test - lets face it who doesn't like a good dunk in their tea!?! To me tea and biscuits go perfectly hand in hand. I dunk my biccie for exactly 5 seconds and remove it - there is no floppiness that you would get with some biscuits such as rich tea, neither has the end dropped off in my cup, leaving me to fish around with a teaspoon - come on we've all been there. Instead I am left with a wet but still formed biscuit, softened from the warmness of my tea. It does taste quite nice but instantly goes rather mushy once it hits my mouth and has a strange greasy texture. I wouldn't recommend dunking these for too long but there is still a nice taste sensation going on.
Would I recommend these? -Yes! They are packaged well -if not a little excessively and perfect for someone who is trying to cut down on eating rubbish. If you are following the Weight Watchers plan each packet of 22g of cookies is 1.5 points - thats 101 calories, 4.1g fat and 0.8g of saturated fat to everyone else.
Ingredient wise they contain wheat flour, starch, oatflakes, vegetable oils, sultanas, sugar syrup, raising agents, emulsifier, ground cinnamon, salt and skimmed milk powder.
They are quite tasty but there is only 12 biscuits per box -They cost me £1 but I think they are usually a bit dearer if bought form the supermarket.
I bought a multipack of these today as I am following the Weight Watchers plan and I love crisps and bits like this. I especially love cheese so when combined they should be lovely! I will say I don't generally buy hte Weight Watchers branded food as I don't really rate it that highly but I thought I would give it a go on this occasion. having said that I did purchase some of their biccies at the same time!
Lovely? Well.... I got them home and decided to have a pack with my lunch. I opened the pack and they certainly smelled cheesy. They looked quite pale in colour though and slightly smaller (4cm ish!) than Wotsits. Now for some reason I thought these would taste just like Wotsits but no.
I chucked a few in my mouth and while they were incredibly light they didn't really taste of much. They didnt taste of cheese and they had a really bland flavour -didn't taste of much at all to be honest. The texture of them was quite crunchy initially but they dissolved on my tongue quickly leaving a claggy feeling in my mouth and on my teeth. As you can probably guess I was not a fan. I offered them to my 3 year old as she too loves Wotsits but even she wouldn't touch them.
I bought a multipack of these for £1 (poundland!) but they are around £1.80 in the supermarkets. There are 5 bags in a multipack and they are quite big although they only weigh 18g. if you are following the Weight Watchers plan they are only 1 point a bag (but personally I wouldn't bother with them). Each bag contains 75 calories, 1.9g of fat and 0.3g of saturated fat. They contain all the usual ingredients that you would find -Maize, Cheese Flavour, seasoning, cheese powder, palm oil, maltodextrin, colours, natural flavourings, sunflower oil and lactic acid powder.
I even forced a pack on my hubby so at least thats another one gone that I don't have to eat! Now he's like a human dustbin but even he expressed his revolt in them. Not a purchase I will be making again.
I'm sure that lots of you may not (or may) have heard of Folksy.com. It is the place on the Internet to buy quality handmade items. You may have heard of Etsy if you are into crafting which is a similar American site. Folksy is less well known but very similar and British so all prices quoted etc are in sterling rather than the US dollar.
So what is it? Basically crafters register as sellers (much like ebay) but they open a shop. Once your shop is open you list your products as you would on ebay. You need to tag all of your items with keywords so that they are easily found. Compared to lots of places the sellers fees are very low. They charge a listing fee of 20p which will keep your item listed for 6 months and then charge 5% of the total selling fee aswell which I don't think is too bad.
To buy on Folksy you have to register also but it is a simple process. Much like any other online shopping place really. Payment is by Paypal and all sellers clearly list P+P charges so you know exactly what you are paying. There is also a feedback system in place where you rate your transcation once complete. This gives everyone confidence when buying and selling on there. Many of the sellers also take commissions so there is the option on there to message them if you would like something in particular making.
The website itself is a very simple design and unlike some more complex ones still runs in Beta. There is no problem with this. It is always fast to download a page and I have never experienced any technical difficulties whatsoever.
The homepage is generally based around some sort of theme -and features sellers selling products based around it. In the last week it has been Alice in Wonderland to co-incide with the film release and now ther eis kind of a mothers day theme going on.
Items are categorised into jewellery, accessories, toys, etc as you would expect but if you are looking for a particular item it can sometimes be quite hard to find as it depends what the seller has tagged it as. Personally I like to have a casual browse on there - it's amazing what some people list as it's simply wonderful. There are hell of a lot of talented people out there! Some people also sell craft suplies on there as well so it's a brilliant place if you are a bit crafty!
There is also a making section with simple to follow tutorials to make something. These range form felt hair slides, bath melts and a finger knitted scarf (my next project to have a go at!). All instructions are clear with a clear list of what you will need to make it and some colour photos. You can also post what you thought of the 'make'. These are all written by members who use the site so they may vary in content and quality. A great place even if you don't buy anything as there are so many ideas all in one place.
if you enjoy crafting have a look in their online forum. It's really friendly and a great place to make new friends and talk about your crafts. I find this especially good as I don't have any friends local to me who do anything like this. There is a wealth of advice on there and I can guarantee that your craft will have a fellow crafter no matter how unusual it is.
Overall a fantastic community led site which is great for both buyers and sellers. It is a fantastic place to treat yourself or find an unusual and unique gift for someone. You name it it will be on there. Prices have a huge rang -starting at a couple of quid for some small items and obviously much more expensive for larger things.
My craft is making baby gifts and secondly also upcycling random otherwise useless items (basicically its recycling but taking something of virtually no value and making it slightly more valuable!) so I hope to open my own Folksy shop soon.
Go on, have a little browse but I will warn you time will fly by so quickly that you have soon spent several hours on there looking at the amazing work! It really makes you appreciate how much time and effort goes into some of these pieces.
Do you have a little girl (or boy) who loves fairies? If so then they might like the Playmobil flower fairy with wheelbarrow. I bought this for my Playmobil mad, fairy obsessed 3 year old so I thought it was perfect!
When you open up the box you get your Playmobil figure who measures about 5.25 cm - its a child sized figure rather than the slightly larger adult ones. She comes sporting a blue top and green shorts . She also comes with a blue flower hat and a little green backpack. The backpack attatches to her around the neck and on here you clip her pink wings. Bescause the wings and hat aren't attatched you can remomve them should you want to use it as a little girl rather than a fairy.
The figure has the iconic simple Playmobil face and grippy hands - perfect for holding the leaf wheelbarrow handles and the gardening shears that she comes with. The wheelbarrow has a proper turning wheel so you can push it along. This little fairy also comes with a hoe (I think! - I'm no gardener!) and 2 white bunnies. These bunnies have been quite poorly and had a trip in the wheelbarrow to the Playmobil vets on more than one occasion.
The set also comes with 5 flowers which look a bit like lillies in pink and white. They do smell lovely so I am told.
I bought this for £3.99 from our local Co-op. I think this is great value as there are a few little bits in here and I know it will last well and be played with. As with all Playmobil, this is just as good for developing imaginative and role play skills. There are lots more Playmobil fairies available ranging from abour £2.50 -£40 so there is something for all budgets. I'm sure this won't be the only fairy set that we add to our collection.
Like lots of my toy reviews I'll start this one much in the same way as the others..... My daughter received the Crayola Spir'Animal for Christmas. It has been played with quite a bit in the last couple of months, here's why:
The set is not overly large so it does not take up much room. When you open the box, everything is ready to go as it does include paper, pencils and a pen with a long nib! In addition to this you get your 3 animal shapes - lion, elephant and monkey. They are all brightly coloured so kids will ove them. Not only are these great to act as stencils and draw round but they have a large circle in the middle as well as a slightly smaller one too.
This is much like spirograph -come on you must remember them! This is obviously on a smaller scale. It comes with 6 different sized wheels with various holes in to create your pattern. You can create no end of designs by simply inserting the chosen wheel in to one of the circles. It has 'teeth' on both the wheel and inside of the circle and they act as cogs. Choose which hole to insert your pen in and go round and round and round.
There is a little pack of pencils in there too to colour your finished design in.
The quality of this is excellent as you would expect form Crayola, the plastic is nice and thick and doesn't look likely to break if dropped or whatever.
They recommend age 5+ but my 3 year old can manage it with a little help. I quite enjoy playing with it myself as I can obviously create quite nice and more complex patterns than a 3 year old (in my opnion anyway ha). The designs are all obviously ultimately circle based and combine a series of circles and loops to make a lovely pattern.
I think that this is brilliant for helping to develop pen control as one slight slip and your creation is ruined! While this can be frustrating for a 3 year old it teaches her to take her time and not rush, keeping her pen straight as well as concentrating on what she is doing.
The pen included is one of Crayolas writing pens which are ideal as they are washable and also have a longish thin nib which you will need - most biros will be too thick. It is well worth investing in some more of these pens if you are purchasing one as the one included will eventually run out. I remember my old spirograph not having a pen which fits fits in the holes - annoying!
This can be purchased from Amazon, Play.com, Toys R Us etc for around £5-£6. Well worth the money....