Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year!

There is no denying that 2020 has been very difficult for many including ourselves. We started last year full of excitement and looking forward to all the plans we had made, but it turned out extremely different from anything we could have anticipated.

As a blogger who focuses on travel, day outs and theatre, this meant that the majority of my work simply disappeared overnight. Our usual routine of visiting family every weekend quickly became impossible and we had to see people very close to us begin to struggle with both their physical and mental health. 2020 was definitely our year of challenges, but despite all the difficulties we faced, we did still manage to have some positive moments, for which we will always remember and be grateful for.

We currently have no plans at all for 2021, which feels very strange. However, we do have hope and lots of it. We hope for a better year, for better health and for a year of love and happiness. We don't know what this year will bring, but we can hope for the best and I sincerely hope that 2021 is better for everyone. So on that note, Happy New Year to you all!

Sunday, 8 November 2020

A Night of Family Fun with Spin Master Games - A Review

Whilst lockdown has had many disadvantages, it has created a very positive experience for us, in that we have been able to spend plenty of family time together. In the summer we were able to enjoy the fabulous weather in the garden, but now the colder and darker nights are drawing in, it has given us the opportunity to enjoy some fabulous family games that have provided us with plenty of entertainment.

We were recently sent a selection of games from Spin Master which included Grouch Couch, Beat the Parents and Hedbanz. All of these games were great fun and suitable for all of our family with our age ranges being from 7 to 40. 

Grouch Couch Review

Grouch Couch was the first game that my children wanted to play. Our first impressions were that it looked like a fun game that was sure to make us laugh and we weren't wrong. The box has a clear window at the front (which is always my preferred choice when it comes to toys), so that you can see exactly what the product looks like inside. The text on the front describes it as 'The furniture with attitude game!™' and it is recommended as being suitable for 2-4 players aged 5+.

The rear of the box provides some clear images of game play along with a brief description of the game, which provides you with a good understanding of what is involved to play. It looked simple to understand, exciting to play and lots of fun, so we couldn't wait to get started.

On opening the box we found the following contents inside:

  • 1 x Grouch Couch
  • 16 x Treats
  • 15 x Lost Goodies
  • 1 x Dice
  • 1 x Instruction Sheet

The Grouch Couch was fastened into the box using an elasticated band and two plastic connectors. These connectors simply need to be twisted to allow the product to be released from the cardboard base. This was really simple to do and even better they can be continually used going forwards, meaning that you can also refasten it back into the box once you have finished playing. My only slight frustration with the game arose at this point as it was only on removing the item that we realised it needed batteries. I had checked the front and rear of the box before opening it to check this, but hadn't noticed that the information was actually detailed underneath the box and that it required 3 x AAA batteries. Luckily we had already bought some spare packs in preparation for Christmas, so this was only a minor inconvenience that we could quickly resolve. We were soon ready to play and I began to read out the instructions to the rest of my family. 

To begin game play you lift the centre cushion of the Grouch Couch and load all the 15 Lost Goodies into the hole before closing the cover securely. The Lost Goodies look like tokens, but each one has an object printed on them such as a sock or a mobile phone.  You then place the treats in a pile within each reach of all the players. Underneath the Grouch Couch is an on and off switch, so when you are ready to play you simply switch this on to begin your game.


Starting with the youngest player, you roll the dice and place that may treats anywhere on the Grouch Couch. That player then presses the remote control button which will make the Grouch Couch come alive as it begins to move and open its mouth. If he likes what you feed him, the Grouch Couch will make some satisfied burping noises and then release one or more Lost Goodies. These are flung out of the bottom of the sofa and are released quickly and at speed, which my children found hilarious. You then need to keep these Lost Goodies safe as the person who has the most at the end of the game is the winner. You will know when you have reached the end of the game as the Grouch Couch will sing a song before releasing the final Lost Goodies.

The dice can also play an important part in helping you to win, as if you roll a vacuum cleaner on the dice, you can then roll a number and remove this amount of tokens from another player. This adds a good twist to the game as just when you think you are winning, another player could take some of your Lost Goodies. After we had played this game a few times, we also added a further challenge in for my older children, in that they had to catch the Lost Goodies as they were released otherwise they would be forfeited. This added another fun element to the game and we loved that it was easy to add our own variations.

Overall we all loved this game and found it really funny. I liked that as well as playing by the set rules, we were also able to adapt this to suit my older children and add some variation to the game. It is really simple and easy to understand and I know it is a game that my youngest son Riley will want to play with his friends repeatedly, once they are allowed to visit again. The game is currently available to buy at Amazon for £19.99, which I feel represents good value for money. I can see this being a game that many families would enjoy playing together and I would therefore happily recommend this to others.


Hedbanz Review

Hedbanz is a game we are familiar with and has been a firm favourite of ours for many years. As described on the box, it is the quick question game of "What Am I?" and provides a wacky guessing game as you try to figure out what is featured on the card on your head.

The game comes in a red square box with bright and colourful graphics on the front and rear. Whilst there is no description on the front, the images give you a good idea of what the game involves and what is included in the box. The rear of the box provides a contents list, further graphics and some more details about how the game can be advanced using the Hedbanz app.

On opening the box we found that the contents included:

  • 6 Blue adjustable headbands
  • 13 Scoring badges
  • 69 Picture cards
  • 3 Sample question cards
  • 1 Timer
  • Instructions

To set up the game you firstly need to separate the Picture Cards from the Sample Question Cards, then shuffle them up and place them face down in the middle of all the players, along with the Scoring Badges. Each player then places a Headband on their head, making sure that the Hedbanz logo is in the centre, as this is where the Picture Card will be placed. You then deal one Picture Card face down to each player, who must then insert their card into the clip on the headband. As tempting as it may be, do not sneak a peak at your card!

The youngest player then goes first, before play continues to the left. On each players turn the timer is flipped over and you have to ask the other players questions to try and guess the picture on your head.  The Sample Question Cards give you some ideas of what you could ask if you get stuck, but we enjoyed trying to think of our own questions. If you manage to guess the picture before the time runs out, then you take another card and continue asking questions until the time runs out. When you guess a card correctly, you can add a Scoring Badge to your headband and the first to collect 3 Scoring Badges is the winner.

Now whilst the rules of the game are simple and easy to understand, it is amazing how quickly your mind can go blank whilst you are trying to think of questions to ask whilst racing against the clock. I had a clear plan in my mind of how I was going to figure what was on my card fast, but once the timer began and the pressure set in, my plan of action went out the window. My family and I couldn't stop laughing throughout the game at some of the guesses that were made and it took a few turns each before we gradually started to work out our cards. Overall we think that this is a great family game that is easy to set up and understand. It is currently available to purchase on Amazon for only £10, which offers excellent value for money.


Beat the Parents Review

Beat the Parents is a game we have never played before, so we were keen to try this out and find out more. The front of the box didn't give too much away, but the reverse gave a good explanation of this head-to-head family game which is packed full of questions and challenges. Adults have to answer questions about kids' stuff, whils the children answer questions that the parents should know. As well as being full of fact filled trivia, it also includes fun and exciting challenges, with the team that crosses the game board first being declared the champion.

Inside the box we found the following contents:
  • 1 Game board
  • 110 Question Cards
  • 50 Challenge Cards
  • 2 Movers
  • Instructions

My children were really excited about this game as they were determined to beat us parents. The object of the game is for kids to play their parents as both teams try to answer questions and complete various challenges. The first team to get their mover to the other end of the game board are declared the winners.

Setting up the game is easy and each team sits on opposites sides of the board. Kids are yellow, whilst the parents are red. You then shuffle both decks of question and challenge cards and place them face down next to the board. Kids go first and the parents must draw a Question Card and read out loud the first question on the card. If this is answered correctly then the kids can move their mover by one space on the board and the parents then go on to ask the next question that is displayed on the card. An incorrect answer means that they can not move ahead and their turn is over. If you land on a challenge space whilst moving your mover then you must stop there and draw a Challenge Card. 

The Challenge Cards feature a wide variation of challenges. The challenges can be anything from playing Rock, Paper Scissors with an opposing team member or having to quickly add up the ages of everyone in the room and being the first person to shout the correct answer. We found the challenges to be great fun and some of them also provided plenty of laughter. The team that wins a Challenge Card can then move their mover the amount of spaces indicated on the card. The first team to reach the Win space wins the game!

Overall we really enjoyed this game and particularly liked the variety of challenges it offered. Beat the Parents is currently available on offer at Amazon for only £10, which offers great value for money, especially as this game can be played many times without feeling too repetitive, due to the amount of question and challenge cards available. You do need some extra items to complete some of the challenges such as a pencil or ice cubes, however most of these are ordinary items that you would have in your home and you could always remove any Challenge Cards that you would be unable to complete. My family and I enjoyed this game and felt that it also helped to improve our general knowledge skills. I would therefore recommend this game to others.


*Disclaimer - This blog post features items that were gifted to us for the purpose of writing an honest review of the products. Any thoughts and opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. Any prices stated within this post are subject to change. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Nadiya's Bake Me a Story Deluxe Baking Set Review & Competition!

Like many families, baking became one of our go-to activities during lockdown, in order to keep ourselves busy with an enjoyable activity that would usually end with a very tasty result. It is also something that Riley likes to do on a weekend and his older brother will often help him make some cakes that they can then enjoy together. 

Over the years we have accumulated a various amount of mix-matched baking products, but none of these were specifically aimed at children, so it is fair to say that our equipment was definitely in need of some replacements. We were therefore delighted to be offered the opportunity to review Nadiya's Bake Me a Story Deluxe Baking Set, which is packed full of funky coloured bakeware, that have been specifically designed with children in mind. 

Riley was really excited when the box of goodies arrived and he couldn't wait to open it up and see what was inside. The box was a lovely purple colour and featured clear images on the front of some of the products inside. A full contents list is also displayed on the reverse of the box. The full kit included:

  • A Silicone rolling pin with plastic handle
  • A Silicone whisk with metal handle
  • A Silicone spatula
  • 2.5l Mixing Bowl (Microwave Safe)
  • 12 reusable silicone cupcake cases
  • Sieve
  • 3 x Metal Cookie Cutters with safe silicone edge
  • Measuring spoons - 1/4 tsp, 1/2 tsp, 1 tsp, 1/2 tbsp and 1tbsp
  • Apron
  • 6 x Recipe Cards
All of the tools are bright and colourful, dishwasher safe and most importantly, they have been tested to the highest LFGB food standards. They are the perfect size for children, without being too heavy or large for younger ages to hold. Riley loved the idea of having his very own special set of utensils just for him, which will be perfect in the future for any baking or cooking that we do together. 


Riley excitedly took a look through the recipe cards before deciding which baked treat we were going to attempt first. After much deliberation he decided on the Very-Berry Breakfast Muffins, so we made sure we had all the ingredients required and placed them all ready in the kitchen. We then selected the baking equipment that we would need and put on our aprons, before beginning to work our way through the recipe.

You can of course use your deluxe baking set to make any of your favourite baked goodies, but the recipe cards included all featured recipes that we had never tried before, so it made sense for us to try something new for a nice change. Riley chose the Very-Berry Breakfast Muffins, but the other recipe cards featured Star Anise Gingerbread Men, Cookie Mallows, Pastry Roses, Rock Cakes and Zebra Cake.

The Very-Berry Breakfast Muffins were super easy to make and the recipe was very simple to follow. We began by making sure we had all the necessary ingredients and then having a quick read through of the full recipe. The first step was to preheat the oven to 200 degrees, so I did this for Riley, whilst he placed the cupcake cases in the oven tray. 

We then placed the flour, oats and brown sugar into the bowl. Riley enjoyed mixing all these together and started wondering what the muffins may taste like. He used the measuring spoons to get the correct amount of baking powder and he also then added this and a pinch of salt to the bowl. Again he gave it all a good mix, before we added the wet ingredients of milk and eggs.

We varied the recipe ever so slightly as Riley doesn't like the smell of banana, so we decided not to put the mashed banana as suggested in the recipe into the mix. Instead we chopped up some more berries to make sure there was plenty of flavour and after adding these and 3 tbsp of sunflower oil to the mix, we gave it one last good stir before dividing the mixture into the silicone cases.

We baked the mixture in the oven for 25 minutes and Riley kept looking through the oven window to see if they were rising. They began to rise really well and also developed a nice golden brown colour so once the time was up, we were confident that they were ready to taste and enjoy. After removing them from the oven, we let them cool for around 5 minutes before enjoying them whilst warm. They were absolutely delicious and we will definitely be making them again in the near future.


Overall we thought that Nadiya's Deluxe Baking Set was fantastic and included all the tools required to create and enjoy a variety of recipes. I felt that the set was really good quality and whilst the tools are lightweight and easy to hold, they are not flimsy at all. All the products all felt really safe to use and I particularly liked the silicone trim around the metal cookie cutters which is a great idea. The recipe cards were easy to follow and not over complicated, so this meant that Riley (who is 7) could read through the instructions himself and understand what process he needed to follow. With an RRP of £24.99 I feel that this represents good value for money and I would happily recommend this set to others. 

In addition to Nadiya's Deluxe Baking Set (£24.99), there are two other sets also available to purchase from Smyths, which are Nadiya's Simple Baking Set (£14.99) and Nadiya's Savoury Cooking Set (£19.99). Further information on all of these sets can be found over on the Smyths Toys website here.


However, if you are feeling lucky, then why not enter our fantastic competition below, where we have the opportunity for one lucky reader to win their very own Nadiya's Deluxe Baking Set. If you would like to enter then please read the terms and conditions and then enter using the gleam form below. Competition closes on the 30th October 2020, so get your entries in quick and good luck! 


Terms and Conditions
  • There is 1 (one) prize of a Nadiya's Deluxe Baking Set
  • Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 years old or over
  • Competition closes on the 30th October 2020 at 23:59
  • A winner shall be drawn within 7 days of the closing date and notified via email.
  • The winner will have 7 days to confirm their acceptance of the prize, before an alternative winner is drawn from the remaining eligible entries.
  • No bulk or third party entries
  • The winners details shall be shared with the promoter for the purpose of prize fulfilment and permission shall be obtained from the winner prior to doing so.

*Disclaimer - We were gifted Nadiya's Deluxe Baking Set in exchange for writing an honest review of the product. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

St Helens Theatre Royal Announce Full Cast for Beauty & The Beast

St Helens Theatre Royal is thrilled to announce the full cast for its Covid-secure Christmas pantomime for 2020, the enchanting tale of Beauty and the Beast.

Producers Regal Entertainments recently announced that the panto would still go ahead in St Helens this Christmas time, despite a change to the previously announced show. 

Beauty and the Beast will now run at St Helens Theatre Royal from Friday 11th December 2020 through to Sunday 3rd January 2021. Tickets are on sale now.

The countdown is now on to bring Beauty and the Beast to life on stage at St Helens, with all the high production values and comedy that audiences have come to enjoy. The highly anticipated show is sure to be a popular choice this festive season, especially given the lack of theatre productions over the last six months and audiences craving live entertainment.

Audiences are reassured that St Helens Theatre Royal and the team behind Beauty and the Beast will be fully adhering to social distancing measures and Government guidelines to ensure the safety of theatregoers, venue staff, cast and crew.

St Helens Theatre Royal also reopened it's telephone booking line last week, so tickets can be bought over the phone between 10am and 2pm from Monday to Thursday. Tickets can also be purchased online, however the theatre will remain closed for in-person bookings.

The full cast of Beauty and the Beast was announced on Tuesday 15th September as Jamie Greer as Potty Polly; Abigail Middleton as Madame Botox; Scott Gallagher as French Frank; Olivia Sloyan as Belle; Andrew Geater as The Beast; Tim Lucas as Gaston; and Jenna Sian O'Hara as Fairy Rose.

The show will be directed by Chantelle Nolan, written by Liam Mellor, with choreography by Nazene Langfield, and Callum Clarke as musical supervisor.

Get ready to go on a family adventure this Christmas with the fabulous family friendly pantomime, Beauty and the Beast. This is the timeless story of Belle, a beautiful young woman who falls in love with the most unexpected of princes, who has been cursed to look like a hideous beast. Will the beast learn to be loved? Will the spell be broken in time for all to live happily ever after?

Theatre Manager Chantelle Nolan commented: "It's been a very challenging time for theatres nationwide and everyone who works behind the scenes, and St Helens Theatre Royal is no different. But we're absolutely thrilled we can now announce a stellar cast of familiar faces and St Helens favourites who will take to our stage this Christmas to ensure the panto does go on, alongside our incredible front of house teams and production crews.

"Beauty and the Beast is a stunning tale full of friendship, faith, love and escapism - something we can all resonate with right now. Once again, we'd like to thank the community for their ongoing support, and we look forward to welcoming audiences to a special and safe festive family experience."

Beauty and the Beast replaces the previously announced festive show Cinderella which should have featured Birds of a Feather star and Loose Women panellist Linda Robson in the lead role. Government-enforced restrictions on theatres sadly made it unviable financially as the fairytale is one of the biggest and most costly pantomime productions to stage. 

However, to continue its tradition of offering one of the region's best festive family friendly shows, Regal Entertainments has worked tirelessly to ensure the show will go on to provide top entertainment to its community and regular attenders this Christmas.

Covid-secure safety measures being implemented include reduced capacity auditorium, temperature checks, the wearing of face masks, deep cleaning, and pre-order drinks and confectionary. Additional details will be announced in the coming weeks. 

Cinderella ticketholders are being contacted to ensure all patrons are rescheduled as close as possible to their original booking. 

Tickets for Beauty and the Beast are being sold as unreserved seats. Theatregoers will then be contacted to confirm seat allocation. 

Beauty and the Beast runs at St Helens Theatre Royal from Friday 11th December 2020 to Sunday 3rd January 2021. Tickets are on sale now. For more information you can visit the St Helens Theatre Royal website or their social media pages on the following channels:

Website - https://www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/sthelenstheatreroyal/
Twitter - @TheatreRoyalStH

Listing Details

Show - Beauty and the Beast
Venue - St Helens Theatre Royal, Corporation Street, St Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1LQ
Dates - Friday 11th December 2020 to Sunday 3rd January 2021
Times - Times vary, so please visit the website to obtain the most up to date information.
Tickets - Tickets start from £18*

*All prices are inclusive of a £1 per seat transaction fee. On-line bookings are subject to an additional 50p per seat on-line processing fee.

Due to Coronavirus, St Helens Theatre Royal Box Office is closed for in-person bookings. Telephone bookings can be made by calling 01744 756000 between 10am and 2pm from Monday to Thursday. Online bookings are also available on the St Helens Theatre Royal website.

*This post is based on a press release kindly provided by BEA. Details are subject to change, so I would always recommend visiting the venues own website, in order to obtain the most up to date information.