Monday, 30 March 2015

Ribbit DVD Review

Fun new animated family film RIBBIT is out to own on DVD and 3D Blu-ray from today, featuring the voice talents of TIM CURRY (Legend) and SEAN ASTIN (The Lord of The Rings). 

Ribbit, film, kids film

Ribbit is a frog with a serious identity crisis. Unlike other frogs, he hates hopping and he hates water! Along with his best friend, Sandy the flying squirrel, he embarks on a soul-searching journey of discovery, encountering a variety of colourful characters – both friend and foe – along the way.

When Ribbit is hypnotised, he starts to believe that he isn't actually a frog at all, but a handsome prince trapped inside an amphibian's body. He sets off on a mission to kiss a human princess to break the spell, but the adventure that he has hopped into may just make him realise who he really is inside and help him discover his rightful place in the world.

Ribbit is the reject in the Amazon Rainforest, the creature who has always knew he was different from everybody else, so you immediately root for him as the underdog. The film is filled with action and adventure, plenty of laughs and some danger! The story is ultimately a tale of friendship, self discovery and being true to yourself.

The film is colourful, the Amazon setting is lush and the characters are quirky. Freddy enjoyed it!  It's a great family film to watch together and we all thought it was cute that Sean Astin's real life daughter Ali was the voice of the princess - a bit of a family affair!

RIBBIT disc information:

Running Time: 81 minutes approx.

RRP: DVD from £10 / 3D Blu-ray from £13

Certificate: PG

Special Features: “Magical Moment” Music Video: Az Yet & Jaclyn Victor

Making of Ribbit

Copyright line: ©2014 KRU INTERNATIONAL SDN BHD. All Rights Reserved. ©2014 Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK.

Magic Tattoos Review

Like many kids his age, Freddy absolutely loves temporary tattoos. He will happily create a 'sleeve' covering his arm in cool designs.  So he was pretty excited to receive a pack of 24 new tattoos to try out. However, when he found out that these were no ordinary tattoos, the excitement levels rose considerably. For these were Action themed Magic Tattoos from Tobar!

Magic Tattoos work with the free Magic Tatts app from the App Store or Google Play, which brings the designs to life.  Each of the eight designs comes with its own sound effects and animation. Skeleton warriors, fierce ogres, T-Rex dinosaurs, ferocious sharks, battle robots, terrifying tarantulas, hissing cobras and hairy gorillas burst into life when you look at them through your smartphone, using augmented reality technology.. Freddy thought it was pretty awesome to have the fully animated characters move across his arm. I was pretty impressed too!

magic tatts app, augmented reality

The effect can stop working as well when the tattoos start to wear off, so it is best to enjoy them straight away. On the sheet, the designs spring to life instantly, so we kept a set unused for Freddy to play with using the app whenever he wanted.

They would be great for impressing guests at a birthday party.  They apply really well and they look impressive with a clear, colourful end result. They last well and if undamaged will still work for a couple of days.

You can get Magic Tattoos in Action and Fantasy packs of 24 for £4.00.

They are innovative, fun and affordable novelties that kids will love.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Climbing on to the property ladder

When it comes to the property market, Ian and I have been pretty lucky. We got on the property ladder at just the right time, moving from Hampshire to Shropshire, where house prices were still within our reach. For the cost of a one bed flat down south, we upgraded to a family home with a garden in the Midlands. Pretty quickly, the value of our three bedroomed semi-detached home, more than doubled. A well timed move allowed us to purchase a brand new four bed detached house with a manageable mortgage. We have been here now for almost ten years.

house building, building site

The current economic climate and the uncertainty of Ian's employment has meant that we can't realistically contemplate moving again anytime soon, but we are pretty settled and the kids are happy here. We love the rural setting of where we live and we are within easy reach of our favourite city Manchester, where my girls live. The journey to Northampton, where my son and his family live, isn't too bad and we have got used to being long distance grandparents to our grandson Ted, making the journey down for special occasions and visits.

When it comes to my grown-up children, I can't imagine that they will have such an easy route to becoming homeowners as we did. House prices are much higher now and the amount of money needed for a deposit puts buying out of easy reach. The high cost of renting eats up the majority of their wages, leaving little left to be saved. However, more and more schemes appear to be springing up to help young people make the step towards home ownership. With a bit of effort, buying your first home is still achievable and I hope that one day they will be able to start the job of house hunting. Whether they are looking for a property for sale in Wiltshire, Northamptonshire, Manchester or even here in Shropshire, I hope they manage to find their place in the world where they will be just as happy as we are in our family home. Having to strive to get somewhere will definitely make them appreciate what they have got in the long term.

While I still might dream of owning a country house in view of Salisbury Plain with a big kitchen equipped with an island and a range cooker, a music room for Ian and a granny annexe for my parents,  I am happy to hold out until such a time that my six numbers come up on the Lotto. (just imagine if that actually happened - I could also sort out the kids with their first homes - how amazing would that be!?) In the meantime I will enjoy living here in our own little castle filled with love and laughter, and remember just how lucky we are to be in the position we are in. After all, there's no place like home.

Breakfast or Tea with the Easter Bunny at Wyevale Garden Centres

This Easter, if you are looking for something wonderfully seasonal to do with the family, check out the Wyevale Garden Centre's Breakfast or Tea with the Easter Bunny event.  

Breakfast and Tea sessions are being held until the 5th April, with breakfast starting at 9 am and tea at 4 pm. Sessions last for approximately 90 minutes.

Suitable for boys and girls aged between 2 and 10, children get to meet the Easter Bunny in the restaurant. They also get to enjoy a meal, decorate an Easter biscuit and receive a cute, cuddly toy and a Lindt chocolate bunny!

We were invited to pop along to enjoy a delicious breakfast and some Easter fun at our local garden centre in Bridgemere. 

Wyevale Garden centre

We were met in the restaurant and showed to our reserved table, which had been laid out ready for our breakfast.  The kids had an activity sheet and crayons to keep them busy, while Ian and I enjoyed a cup of freshly brewed filter coffee.

Wyevale Garden Centre

We ordered vegetarian breakfasts, which were served to our table with hot buttered toast.  The children had hash browns, scrambled eggs and beans, while we had fried eggs, hash browns, mushrooms, beans, fried bread and tomato.  The food was well cooked and presented, and was lovely.

Wyevale Garden centre

After they had eaten, the children had to shout for the Easter Bunny who then appeared  at the door much to their delight.  The Easter Bunny went around every table to greet families and pose for photographs. The bunny was very obliging, hugging little ones and doing selfies with the older kids.

Easter, Wyevale

Freddy and Kezia were able to pick a cuddly toy from a basket, which was filled with cute, wide eyed farm animal toys.  Freddy fell in love with the yellow duckling, giving him lots of cuddles.


Every child was then given a plate with a yummy, shortbread biscuit along with a tube of icing and a pot containing sprinkles, marshmallows and chocolate buttons. Freddy and Kezia enjoyed decorating their biscuits.

Easter, Wyevale

They were also given a box so that the biscuits could be taken home and enjoyed later. I thought this was a very nice touch, keeping their decorated creations safe and secure.

Easter, biscuits, Wyevale

Breakfast with the Easter Bunny costs £9.99 per child to include the food, drink, soft toy, chocolate bunny, activity sheet and biscuit decorating.  Adults having a full English breakfast with coffee or tea pay £7.99, or can have a Danish pastry and a coffee for £3.99.

Tea compromises of a hot kids' meal and a drink or a picnic option, along with all the other fun stuff enjoyed at breakfast, for £9.99.  Adults can enjoy a lovely afternoon tea of filled rolls, cake squares, clotted cream and jam scone along with tea or coffee for £7.99, or a slice of cake and a drink for £3.99.

We were really impressed with the quality and the value of the event.  The atmosphere was relaxed, the staff were all very friendly and efficient and the food was great.  The toys and the Lindt chocolate bunnies were lovely gifts to take home.

Book events online on the Wyevale website.

Times and dates may vary by centre.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

What Fred Said About Jesus and the Crucifixion

So Freddy just said to his dad:

"Did you know that Jesus drowned on the cross?" 

Sadly, this was not a case of my child getting the wrong end of the stick.


He was able to go into graphic detail about how crucifixion kills you, including the fact that your lungs fill with fluid because you are unable to breathe properly, which causes drowning from the inside. He also explained how whipping someone with a rope whip, made with shards of bones attached, rips flesh and skin from the bones and that this is a very painful way to die.

It was the local reverend who explained the graphic horrors of crucifixion to my 5 year old during the annual Easter church service. I thought they'd be hearing a child friendly version of the Easter story, not a certificate 18 one.

I had hoped that the words would wash over him, in one ear and out the other, but Freddy, with his sponge-like thirst for knowledge, had taken in every detail of what was said. He just loves facts! He'll happily tell you about it in the same way he will tell you about magnets or the water cycle or whatever else he has just learned from Nina and the Neurons.

Even though he doesn't seem upset by what he heard, I am trying to counteract it with stories of Easter bunnies, fluffy chicks, chocolate eggs and bright yellow daffodils. After all, I don't want him thinking about executions while tucking into his Creme Eggs this year.


It's a Bing Thing! - New Bing DVD now available

For the first time, much to the delight of my son Freddy, Bing is available on DVD.  Bing is a cute little black rabbit, who has adventures with his carer Flop and his friends Coco, Charlie, Pando and Sula.  Based on the books by Ted Dewan, Bing celebrates the noisy, joyful messy reality of being a small child.

Bing, CBeebies

Freddy watches a Bing on BBC iPlayer every night before bed.  He loves the storytelling and each episode comes with an important message, teaching children social skills about friendship, sharing and taking turns. Each story ends with the reassuring "It's a Bing thing!" message.

BING will be available on DVD for the very first time on March 30th, and fans can enjoy the following episodes:

Swing, Bye Bye, Ducks, Growing, Hide & Seek, Lost, Frog, Bake, Atchoo! and VooVoo.

Filled with gentle humour, energy, wonder and everyday dramas, that little ones and their parents will recognise, the stories are told from Bing's perspective.

The DVD also contains a ‘Grow With Bing’ height chart – a perfect addition to the play room so you can see how your little one grows!

Cert. U 
RRP: £9.99

Friday, 27 March 2015

Shared Parental Leave - what it means to me

From April 2015, parents get a greater choice in how they take their time off work following the birth or adoption of a child with Shared Parental Leave.  Juggling employment with new parenthood can prove to be a very trying time for both mums and dads, and until now there has been very little flexibility when it came to taking leave from work.

There are expected to be as many as 285,000 working couples that will be eligible to share leave from April 2015.  Under the new rules, mums will still take at least 2 weeks of maternity leave immediately after birth, but after that working couples have the opportunity to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.  For example, this means they could opt to both have 25 weeks each at the same time, or mum can take 44 weeks while dad shares the first 6 weeks of childcare. The arrangement is totally flexible to suit the individual needs of each eligible family.

In our family, we enjoy very traditional roles. Ian is the main breadwinner and I stay at home with the children, fully funded by his paycheck.  I have never returned to a job following maternity leave after the birth of my children, preferring to be a full time mother for as long as possible with each one of my children. I count myself to be very fortunate that we have had this luxury as a family. Although stay at home mums are not recognised or supported by this government, I still believe that my role is exceptionally worthwhile to the wellbeing of my children. It's my family's choice and this works for us.

However, for my own adult children the new Shared Parental leave guidelines have much more relevance.  For example, my eldest son became a father for the first time in December 2012. After an emergency C-section, his fiancee had a slow recovery post-partum.  The basic two weeks paternity leave seemed woefully inadequate for him, as he helped in the care of both his baby son and his partner. She then had to be thrust back into the full time care of her baby, just a fortnight after a traumatic birth and major surgery, while my son reluctantly returned to work. My son is a very hands on dad and to be deprived of the early weeks of childcare was quite hard on him. He, like many other men, would have relished the opportunity to spend more time with his baby during those precious first weeks, and missed being there for his fiancee when she needed him most. The flexibility of SPL may have smoothed their transition into parenthood, providing extra support in those crucial early days.

My eldest daughter is a career woman, who in the future, may find the new SPL guidelines very relevant when she starts a family. Depending on her and her future partner's situation at the time, they could divide up the responsibility of childcare, so both can give equal attention to their role as parents and to their careers. Given that in up to a third of families, the woman is the higher wage earner, SPL can make economical sense, allowing the woman to pursue her career whilst the man cares for their child. It allows for a more modern, 21st century approach to parenting, freeing women from the notion that they should automatically become the primary care givers after giving birth. 

So, there is definitely a value to the new SPL guidelines, giving parents much more flexibility and the ability to make decisions on their work / life balance. Men have the opportunity to be more involved in raising their children during that first year. Career women can avoid potentially harmful long career breaks without resorting to expensive childcare for the first year. This equality in the home may lead to more equality in the workplace, as parental leave becomes the norm for both men and women.

SPL would never have worked for me, as I strongly believe in my right to be a full time mum which includes breastfeeding my babies for the first year of their lives - something that only I could do. So, although it would have been lovely to have had my husband home with me after my babies were born, my role is a stay at home mum, whilst his is working to support us. Maybe one day the government will come up with some legislation in support of families like us.

You can find out more about SPL and check your eligibility at



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