31 July 2019

Review & Giveaway: Carlton Books - Natural Disasters & Fortnite Battle Royale Pro Gamer Guide

It's almost August! Where has the time gone!? We've only got a few weeks of the school holidays left here in Scotland so keeping the kids occupied is becoming a pressure. Thank goodness for Carlton Books who've sent Logan some lovely reading material to stop his curious mind from becoming bored. He received the cool Natural Disasters book and the awesome Fortnite Battle Royale Pro Gamer Guide book.

First up is the Natural Disasters book which is billed as a DIY survival manual. Logan thought this was great as he's always talking about storms, tornadoes and the like. So as you might come to expect Natural Disasters has the answers to help you prepare for, survive and endure any major natural disaster. It's packed with easy to read step-by-step instructions, top tips and real-life survivor accounts. I think this was Logan's favourite part as he couldn't believe some of the stories. There's also myth-busting boxes that explain the science behind the disasters and common misconceptions held. You can discover how each natural disaster is formed and how to always be prepared for every likely scenario.

I thought the book was really good and had a wee read myself. It's got everything from flash floods, avalanches and earthquakes to blizzards and volcanoes. The top tips on each natural disaster is fab as it tells you how to be prepared in case such an event happens. I'm not sure we'll get many natural disasters here in Scotland however if we're ever abroad or away from home and something happens it's good to know Logan will have a little bit of knowledge on it. He practically eats knowledge like this for breakfast so he'll take it all in and remember it quite well.

Logan really enjoyed this book and found the A5 size quite handy for on his travels in the car. He's read it several times already and has become a favourite for night time reading. It has 112 pages and costs £8.99 and would make a great little present for someone who's into this sort of thing. Could be a good home education book as well.

Next up is the Fortnite Battle Royale Pro Gamer Guide Book. Now if your kid is anything like my 9 year old boy Logan then they'll automatically love this book. Logan is Fortnite crazy and plays it any chance he gets so to have his own gamer guide was like a dream. This book never goes into the book shelf but instead sits at the side of his bed for easy access.

So if you're looking to move out of noobsville and become a master then this book is for you. This in-depth title contains all the secrets, stunts and strategy you need to go from being a player to a master. It's the easiest way to get hold of the expertise it would take months of play to learn - no other guide gets this in-depth, from building to loot-finding to a special section on how to ace the endgame and attain Victory Royale. There's even room for tips on the best skins, dances, pets and gliders to make sure you look like a pro, as well as play like one.

Logan loved this book because it connects to his love of Fortnite. He was impressed with some of the tips included as some he hadn't heard of before and he's been playing Fortnite for a wee while now. Maybe one day he'll win the millions! This book has 192 pages and costs £12.99 and is worth every penny for your Fortnite crazy fans.

You're in luck if you'd like to get your hands on these books as I have one set of both books to give away to one lucky reader. Simple enter via the rafflecopter widget below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was sent these books in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

29 July 2019

Living Like Kings at Castle of Park with The Landmark Trust

Last week was one of the best weeks of the school holidays so far. The family and I have not long returned from a gifted stay at the lovely Castle of Park with The Landmark Trust in Dumfries and Galloway. When I looked at the weather forecast for the week (before our trip) it said cloudy and rainy but to our surprise the whole week was bathed in sunshine, blue skies and beautiful warm heat. It was like being abroad, you'd never have guessed it was Scotland!

Monday morning came around quickly, we packed up the car with our suitcase, some food and the dogs and we set off for the 3 hour journey to Castle of Park near Glenluce. For some background, Castle of Park is a Scottish tower house built in 1590. Whilst the exterior looks deceptively modest, the inside is surprisingly spacious and gives a glimpse into life as a Jacobean laird. We've stayed at a few Landmark Trust properties before and all have been of very high quality, Castle of Park was no different.

Check in time is normally 4pm but since we arrived a little early we decided to visit the Historic Scotland site of Glenluce Abbey which is only 5 minutes away. You can easily walk to it from Castle of Park but we took the car since it was less hassle with the kids and dogs. It's a beautiful ruin with lots of history and allowed everyone to stretch their legs and pass the time until we could explore our very own castle for the week. There was even a field of cows and sheep next to it which Harlow loved as they came running up to her.

Castle of Park is very easy to find, the sat nav took us straight to it, and has ample parking right outside for several cars if need be. It sleeps up to 7 people and allows dogs as many of the Landmark Trust properties do. My dogs love a holiday and adventure as much as us humans. You can hire out this lovely castle for as little as £414 for 4 nights, which I think is a bargain. Simply pop onto the website and check out the property calendar. It's easy and user friendly to navigate.

The massive castle door gives a sense of grandeur and excitement of whats to come. The kids were absolutely buzzing to get inside and check out where they would be living for the week as were us adults! When you enter the ground floor (we called it ground zero) and turn right it leads to a sort of basement with some small rooms which hold bins and cleaning equipment and there's also a toilet which is handy if you're outside enjoying the garden.

Travelling up to the first floor you're met with a very grand kitchen/ dining space when you unlatch the wooden door. This had to be my favoruite room. The ceiling height is incredible and the attention to detail is understated yet so professionally done. From the furnishings, paintings on the walls and the exposed beams up above to the grand usable fire place and gorgeous fresh flowers sitting waiting for you on the dining table, it was breath taking. We spent a lot of time in here as a family, it was perfect for the kids to run around plus the fully equipped kitchen was right there so easy to access snacks and cups of tea at our leisure. I loved reading the logbook which had past guests adventures in them as well as the historical information books provided on the property. We also discovered that there are two sets of stairs in this castle, a big stone set coming from the main door and a wooden set which go down the back.

The second floor has a twin bedroom, a lovely bathroom with walk in shower and a living room with comfy sofas and chairs and another lovely fire place. There's also a tiny room in the corner of the living room which makes for great hide and seek, the kitchen/ dining room had this as well. We all really liked the living room as it had such a beautiful ceiling and very interesting book case filled with Scottish books and poetry. The hubby even recited a Burn's Poem or two, he just couldn't help himself being the laird of his own castle for the week.

On the third floor is where we all slept. This floor had a twin bedroom, a double bedroom and a huge bathroom with a lovely deep bath for the kids. They enjoyed splashing around in the bath every night. Yet again there was another small room off the bedroom, more hiding places! We slept on this level so it kept all four of us together and made it easiest for getting ready in the mornings and going to bed at night. There were some gorgeous views from the windows and most nights I left the window shutters open to watch the sunset and sunrise. It was such a peaceful experience.

I wouldn't call it the fourth floor but there was one more set of stairs leading up to a single bedroom which is just as beautifully furnished as the rest of the house. We never used it but it's always handy for more hide and seek! There's more than enough room in this place for 7 guests to stay. It's welcoming, comfortable and basically feels like a home from home. Some people asked us if we would feel scared living in a big old castle and honestly we didn't. Everyone was settled, the dogs were happy and never barked and it all felt rather warm and fuzzy.

Castle of Park makes for a great Scottish staycation with tons of things to see and do locally. I did a quick bit of internet searching before our trip and lots of different sites and attractions popped up. After visiting Glenluce Abbey and getting settled into the castle on our first day we couldn't wait to explore the next day. We decided to head along to the Historic Scotland Cardoness Castle which is basically like Castle of Park but now a ruin. They were very similar and it was great to get a comparison and learn some more history. After this we headed onto Cream o' Galloway, a working dairy farm that has been turned into an adventure play ground for kids. We spent hours here enjoying all that was on offer including ice cream, cakes and a tasty lunch.

Each evening after our days of adventure we would always return to Castle of Park for our dinner and to retire for the night. It was lovely 'coming home' and relaxing in ample space with a lovely quiet atmosphere. We would take the dogs out for a nice stroll once the heat of the day had passed. It was a pleasant way to spend each evening enjoying the fresh air, the sounds of the birds and watching the cows.

Day 3 we visited the really cool Port Logan Fish Pond. Logan Fish Pond is created from a natural feature of the rocky coastline and was originally used as a sea fish larder for the laird of Logan. The Fish Pond is now a unique setting in which to see a wide variety of local sea life. I highly recommend going to see it for your own eyes. The lovely John showed us around and was very knowledgeable, the kids asked so many questions and he was great with them. Next up was a little beach in Ardwell, we passed a picnic spot sign when heading to Port Logan so decided to stop here on the way back. I'm glad we did as we did lots of rock pooling with the kids and had so much fun. Lots of fish and crabs to be caught and such a beautiful spot.

We nipped in to see the Kirkmadrine Stones on our way back to the castle. It was interesting to see and read about them plus it was a free Historic Scotland site to look around, well worth a little visit. Before we headed back to the castle we popped into the Glenwhan Gardens Tea Room to get some cake and a bite to eat. Everything was freshly made and so tasty. Harlow loved that they had hens running around so she was making friends with them whilst snacking on her tasty chocolate cake. It was a roasting hot day so when we finally got back to the castle we found some deckchairs on the ground level and sat outside on the grass watching the cows whilst the kids blew bubbles and played. It's what dreams are made of, even the dogs were loving life.

Day 4 came around so quickly and it was a trip into Stranraer (which is only a 15 minute drive away) to visit the museum. They had a lovely dinosaur exhibit on with lots to see and do for the kids. We spent an hour here then walked 5 minutes to Agnew Park since it was another scorching hot day. I didn't realise how much Agnew Park had to offer but it was brilliant! There was a massive play park for the kids, a lovely cafe selling tasty lunches, cakes, drinks and ice lollies, a little ride on train that you could pay to go on, peddle boats you could hire, you could feed the swans and in the middle of the water was a man made island which had yet another kids play area in. It was covered in sand and had a wooden pirate ship on it. The kids were in their element and we never left till around 4pm that day. Highly recommend visiting here with the kids or even just popping into the cafe for lunch, it was really nice. 

Our last night in Castle of Park had come around super fast! They do say time goes quickly when you're having fun and that's exactly what happened to us. We loved our castle and only wished the grandparents could have come with us as well as they would have loved it too. We'll be sure to have them along the next time we stay as there definitely has to be a next time!

This is a collaborative post. We were gifted our stay in the Castle of Park by the Landmark Trust in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

28 July 2019

Become a Super Sleuth with Thames & Kosmos Detective Kits for Kids

My son absolutely loves a good detective kit. Anything to do with solving a mystery and following the clues and he's there. His imagination runs wild and it keeps him happy for ages. He was lucky enough to be sent the new Master Detective Toolkit from Thames & Kosmos. It's a lovely kit bursting with activities which helps you learn about how detectives use forensic science to answer questions, gather evidence and solve crimes. It's aimed at ages 8+ and costs £36.

The toolkit encourages the user to "experiment with equipment and techniques used by real detectives to develop your own observation and problem-solving skills. First, you will set up your detective’s office and organise your tools. Then, you will do some exercises to hone your observation skills. Next, you will learn about securing a crime scene, and gathering and documenting evidence, including fingerprints, footprints, and tyre tracks. After you have gathered evidence, such as hair and fibres, counterfeit currency, and soil samples, you will head back to the lab to learn about analysing it. Finally, you can try your hand at deciphering codes, writing messages with invisible ink, and communicating with secret symbols. As your detective skills develop, you can use them to solve the mock crime presented in the manual.

The 32-page, full-colour experiment book guides your investigations with rich illustrations and step-by-step instructions. This is an inventive, engaging way to learn real science through roleplaying in imaginary adventures."

There are loads of different activities to be had in this kit and my son couldn't wait to get stuck in. He gravitated towards the ultraviolet light first (you need a AAA battery for this). He was intrigued to discover that you could write secret messages and only uncover them with the ultraviolet light. He spent a good while just using this over and over again. He turned his bedroom into a crime scene with the Do Not Cross barrier tape and suspected his Dad had committed some crime so took his finger prints.

The guide book is brilliant and explains everything. My son loves to ask a million questions and the guide really helped to answer lots without me having to google anything. Other items included in the kit are; sticker sheet, fingerprint stickers, fingerprint powder, invisible ink pen, plaster powder, wooden spatula, sheet of profile cards, plastic bag, magnifying glass, measuring tape, measuring cup, petri dish with lid, brush, forceps, screw-top tube, screw-top canister, blue chalk, red chalk, die-cut cardboard, ink pad and crime scene notepad.

Logan really enjoyed playing with his kit. A lot of the activities he could do himself but some of them he needed help with like taking a cast of a footprint. We haven't managed to complete every activity in the guide book however that just means there's things he can go back to to keep him busy when he gets bored during the holidays. It's nice to have something to do on a rainy day other than watching TV or playing computer games.

As well as the Master Detective Toolkit, Thames & Kosmos have other cool gadgets available to interest your kids. There's a cool Alarm System, Listening Spy, Cryptex, Multispy and UV Light Code - all £9.99. All can be seen on their website and can be purchased from Smyths Toys Superstores.

This product has been gifted in return or an honest review. All opinions are my own.

21 July 2019

Review & Giveaway: Baby Shark Wooden Sound Puzzle & Let's Go Hunt Fishing Game

Utter the words baby shark to anyone these days and you're guaranteed to get some kind of reaction. I've done it a few times and people just start singing! It's one of those catchy songs you're never going to escape and the kids absolutely love it. So to bring kids even more joy Spin Master have introduced some lovely new toys to the market.

Harlow was lucky enough to be sent the fab Baby Shark Let's Go Hunt Fishing Game and Baby Shark Wooden Sound Puzzle. She couldn't wait to get stuck in and see what they had to offer. Her first point of call was the fishing game. It's cute, colourful and very eye catching. Recommended for ages 4+ and for 2-4 players the game requires 2x AA batteries to get it going. Contained within the box is 1 motorized gameboard, 15 fish, 4 fishing poles and 1 instructions sheet. Harlow new how to play the game straight away just by looking at it so as soon as the batteries were in she was off catching fishes. 

When you turn the game on the round piece of the gameboard in the middle starts to spin and the fish jump up and down to open their mouths so you can hopefully catch them with your fishing pole. The baby shark song also starts to play from the gameboard so you can sing along and catch fish at the same time. Harlow really enjoyed this as she loves singing and baby shark so win win. It took her a minute to figure out the best way to catch the fish but once she had worked this out there was no stopping her. 

Next up is the Baby Shark Wooden Sound Puzzle. It's a really nice chunky wooden puzzle which is super colourful and has each of the baby shark characters on it. What makes the puzzle that bit more interesting for little ones is that it plays sound! You pop 2x AAA batteries in the back, switch it on and you're ready to go. All you have to do then is place each baby shark character into the correct puzzle slot and it plays the song. So if I put in baby shark the song would start to sing "baby shark doo-doo doo doo-doo doo" then if I did the same for Daddy shark it would start singing for him. It's really good and Harlow thought it was great. She tried to trick the puzzle a few times by swapping the characters quickly but the puzzle kept up. 

The wooden puzzle is suitable for ages 2+ and can be found for around £10 online and instore. The fishing game can also be found online and instore from £10 which I think is a really good price for the quality and hours of fun your child is going to get.

Luckily for all of you lovely readers I am giving away one Baby Shark Wooden Sound Puzzle so enter via the rafflecopter widget below to be in with a chance of winning. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was sent these products in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

4 July 2019

Review: Doodle Doo Game by Tactic

It's finally the school Summer holidays and I'm looking for lots of different ways to keep the kids busy, occupied and not fighting with one another! So when the lovely people from Tactic got in touch to see if we'd like to review their fab new game, Doodle Doo, I couldn't resist.

So what's it all about? Well Doodle Doo is a fun new board game which you play blindfolded! Cover your eyes with the mask and draw your way through a mealy maze. Each game board has an easier and more challenging gut maze to test your blind drawing skills to the max. Whenever you pen hits a wall, your journey is over until your next turn. It's simple and fun but not as easy as you would think.

Included with the game are 4x double-sided game boards with 8 tracks to try out, an eye mask, 4 whiteboard markers, a sponge, a whoopee cushion and a set of rules. This is a family game aimed at ages 6+ years with between 2-4 players. Each game will last around 20 minutes and with 8 different tracks to try it'll keep the kids entertained for ages.

I took this game with us on a recent road trip and we had such a laugh playing together. Logan got the hang of it straight away and so did Harlow even though she's only 4. We picked a colour of pen each, took it in turns with the eye mask and away we went. The kids took it in turns to hold the whoopee cushion and squash it when anyone hit the side of the gut maze. Any mistakes were quickly moped up by the included sponge so all was good.

It's a lot more trickier to follow the gut maze on the animals than I first thought. Each different animal has an easy side and a hard side with increasing leaves of difficulty depending on the animal. For example I thought the snake wasn't too bad but the cow was super hard! It's good that you have options to choose from though.

So what did we think of the game? Personally I loved it because it's such an easy concept for kids to grasp and follow as soon as you open the box. It's fun, makes everyone laugh and generally just have a great wee time together as a family. The kids loved it because it had the eye mask to cover your eyes as they've never played a game like that before and of course the whoopee cushion. You can't go wrong when you present a whoopee cushion to kids so that's definitely a winner there.

Doodle Doo retails for around £22.99 and it's a great family game to play especially at family gatherings such as birthdays, BBQ's and Christmas. One of my lovely friends even suggested it would make a great adult drinking game for when the kids have gone to bed, ha ha. So much diversity in one box!

We were gifted this game in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

3 July 2019

The Edinburgh International Book Festival for Families - What To Expect!

Everyone knows that Edinburgh is famous for it's festivals but what about the Edinburgh Book Festival!? It's not just for old stuffy librarians. Oh no, it's much more than random books littered around a tent. In fact it's a fabulous day out for the whole family no matter what age, and I'm here to tell you what it's all about.

The Edinburgh Book Festival runs from Saturday 10th August until Monday 26th August. All events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival take place in venues situated in the tented Book Festival village in Charlotte Square Gardens and along the west end of George Street, just off the west end of Princes Street. I think this is quite handy especially when you have young children, it's great that everything is in one place. It's also easy to get to from the train station or bus depot.

Did you know there are lots of children's events on at the book festival, so much so that there's even a dedicated families page for all the latest up to date info. A lot of the ticketed events are actually FREE as well! How amazing is that. They do book up fast so please make sure and plan ahead so there's no disappointed kids on the day. Most of the children's events last around 1 hour unless otherwise stated, great for short attention spans and also great to cram in more shows.

Searching for shows suitable to your child is easy as well. There's a calendar on the website, click on a day you want to attend the book festival and it'll list all the events available for that day. There's a handy 'refine your search' button at the top of the page which lets you be more specific. Each event has an advisable age when you click into it anyway so easy to spot if it's right for your child. The website has a great FAQ page which is definitely worth a look for all those extra questions you may have.

There's always lots to see and do at the Edinburgh Book Festival especially for children. There's free workshops, characters dressed up milling around and of course some really famous people who have written some great children's books. Some of those include; Julia Donaldson, Harry Hill and Francesca Simon - all have shows taking place over the book festival event.

You won't go peckish at the book festival either as there's plenty of stalls and places to grab some grub and a drink or two. One thing I love about the book festival is that they are happy for you to bring your own food and enjoy the whole atmosphere without even buying a ticket to see a show! They're so kind and just want everyone to come along and enjoy books. There's plenty to nose around at, you'll have fun no matter what you do.

So remember, any shows you want to see I'd suggest booking now and just come along and have some fun with books. It'll be a great day out for the whole family.

This is a collaborative post. All opinions are my own. Photo credit - Edinburgh International Book Festival.

2 July 2019

Review: Carlton Books - Minecraft, Sherlock Holmes & My STEM Day

Last month Logan received a bumper bundle of books from the lovely Carlton Books to review. As always he's one lucky boy and the books delivered are right up his street. He received; Reign of Terror (Minecraft Graphic Novel), Solve It With Sherlock Holmes (puzzle book) and the four My STEM Day books (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). He started with his favourite, Reign of Terror, as he really likes to play Minecraft on his playstation so he got stuck right in.

Reign of Terror is an epic graphic novel adventure in a Minecraft world. It's an independent and unofficial but that doesn't make it any less exciting to read. It's based on the saga from YouTube sensation Rainimator. The book tells the story of the monstrously evil Herobrine who brings his unstoppable zombie army to cause chaos and destruction. There are only a few who can stop him but they're going to need a lot of luck and some unexpected allies.

The book is filled with lots of lovely pictures and short snippets of text, like a comic book, which helped to keep Logan interested and engaged. He basically read this book cover to cover instantly and started reading it again. I can tell it'll be a firm favourite on his book shelf. Reign of Terror costs £7.99 and is well worth a purchase for those Minecraft fans out there. It would make an excellent gift as well.

Solve It With Sherlock Holmes is a puzzle based book where you have to crack the puzzles to solve thrilling mysteries! Become a super sleuth and use your powers of deduction to solver over 35 logic puzzles with Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Each page has some weird and wonderful puzzles to complete and even I found myself getting involved. It's definitely a brain food book and gets the old cogs working, great for kids as their young minds are like sponges. Logan loves a puzzle or two and this got his juices flowing. It kept him entertained and quiet on our recent trip and meant he didn't moan of being bored, as he so often does.

This book retails for £8.99 and it's money well spent to give your child hours of fun brain-busting puzzles to solve. Some of Logan's favourite puzzles included The Diamon Box where you had to crack the three digit code, Holme's Dominoes where you have to fill in the blanks to create a continuous loop of dominoes and A Question of Rooms where you locate the area the fitness saw the theft. All very exciting and brilliant puzzles.

There are four books in the My STEM Day collection and they're all lovely. Logan started with the Technology book as he loves it. Technology explains everything about the gadgets and machines you come across in everyday life. Taking you from waking up in the morning through to the last thing at night, you'll find out how technology powers many of the interactions of the average day. Plus there are a host of experiments, projects and activities to try - making technology learning fun.

Engineering is much on a similar level and help you discover how engineering powers everything from the journey to school to your night-time bath, and everything in between.There are tons of experiments, projects and activities for readers to try themselves, and every page is filled with amazing original illustrations which explain engineering concepts in a fun and accessible way.

Science is the same. Why do ice lollies melt? How do your lungs work? How do you digest your lunch? With the help of dynamic illustrations and fun activities, My STEM Day Science takes you through the day and explain how incredible science underpins everything you do. Starting in the morning and working through the day, you'll find out how science lies behind so many everyday tasks and objects. Logan really enjoyed this one as he's always fascinated by science and why things work the way they do.

Logan is really good at math but hates actually putting pen to paper in school so this My STEM Day Mathematics book really helped put a fun spin on it for him. I really liked it as it uses math in every day situations like telling the time, money, volume while taking a bath etc. It just makes it a lot more relateable than doing boring sums in school.

Each of the My STEM Day books retail for £7.99 and they are honestly great to have at home for school aged children looking to further develop their understanding of the world around them. I like that they're interactive as well with activities and experiments so not just another book to sit on a shelf.

Logan really enjoyed all of these books with Reign of Terror probably his favourite which doesn't surprise me at all because he loves Minecraft. Carlton Books have lots more child friendly titles on their website so please do check them out. A lot of the books are unusual and heaps of fun to have in your collection.

Logan was sent these books in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.  


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