Star Wars Action Figures – Review

How’s the Star Wars obsession panning out in your house at the moment?  With the third of the recent Star Wars releases hitting our screens at the back end of last year there was a predictable plethora of Star Wars related merchandise available to purchase ready for Christmas.  Ben was lucky enough to receive a bundle of Star Wars toys from Hasbro to review and I’ve decided to split them into two reviews – the first being of the Star Wars action figures – Interactech Kylo Ren and Star Wars Forces of Destiny Ray of Jaku and BB-8 figure.  I should add a disclaimer here . . . I know nothing about Star Wars, I haven’t even watched it . . .anyway, moving swiftly on . .

Star Wars Forces of Destiny action figures

Star Wars action figures

Interactech Kylo Ren

Klyo Ren is the son of Hans Solo and Leia (which you would think would make him a good guy but I’m reliably informed that after being trained by Luke Skywalker he went over to the dark side!)  As such he’s dressed in dark clothing with a black helmet in the vein of Darth Vader – Ben was impressed that when he pushes the helmet onto the figure’s head it makes a noise to signify the helmet being fastened which he tells me is just like in the film.  Who am I to argue?  In fact the Interactech Kylo Ren has over sixty different sound effects and phrases and a light up light sabre.  The figure also uses a motion sensor to “respond to specific movement and activate awesome battle affects” – I must admit I haven’t quite figured out what that means but what I can tell you is that Ben is a big fan of this Kylo Ren figure and loves playing with it.  The sound effects are true to the film and he found it thoroughly entertaining to investigate them all!

Kylo Ren action figure

Kylo Ren action figure face

Kylo Ren action figure with helmet

Kylo Ren light up lightsaber

Star Wars Forces of Destiny Rey of Jakku and BB-8

Rey is training to be a Jedi and as such is the “good guy” who stands up for what she believes in along with her fiesty, loyal droid BB-8.  Ben has been asking me for a BB-8 toy since he saw The Force Awakens so I think he was probably more excited about the BB-8 figure than Rey initially!  The Rey of Jakku action figure features an extendable staff which she holds in her hands and when you squeeze her legs together she twists and swings her lightsaber to strike- Ben thought this was ace!  Rey’s costume and features are detailed and true to the film, her accessories can be removed and she is highly pose-able making her great fun to play with.

Star Wars Forces of Destiny Rey of Jakku and BB-8

Rey of Jakku action figure - face and hair

Star Wars Forces of Destiny Rey of Jakku - super poseable action figure

Star Wars Forces of Destiny Rey of Jakku - squeeze legs to swing lightsaber

BB-8

The two characters are the ideal size for playing with and acting out dramatic battles together.  They’re good quality and built to withstand the sort of “active play” you’d expect from a Star Wars battle and they’re both on offer on Amazon at the minute too!

Star Wars Forces of Destiny Rey of Jakku and BB-8 with Interactech Kylo Ren

*Disclaimer – Ben was sent these Hasbro Star Wars action figures free of charge for the purpose of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

BIC Star Wars Stationery Range – Review & Giveaway

Ben hates writing.  He always has.  There’s so many things he would rather do than pick up a pen.  Even as a three year old, he saw no fun in mark-making or trying to write his name.  Of course this wasn’t such an issue when he was little but as he gets older and the expectations to write more increase, it’s something we need to address.  I’ve never quite been able to decide whether he doesn’t have great handwriting because he doesn’t like writing and can’t be bothered to practice, or whether he doesn’t like writing because he has poor handwriting – either way, he’s full of words and great ideas but putting them down on paper just isn’t his thing.

We all know the difference that new stationery can make when it comes to getting us organised or inspiring us to get on with our work and it would seem that Ben is no different.  When we received a bundle of Star Wars stationery from BIC, his eyes lit up and he was keen to get his hands on it all and start writing – although, in the interests of honesty the first sentence he wrote was “I have no idea what to write”  before asking me if he could draw instead.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

BIC Star Wars Stationery - 4 colour pen with Star Wars characters

BIC Star Wars Stationery - Star Wars 4 colour pen

BIC Star Wars Stationery - four colour pen

BIC Star Wars Stationery - Star Wars themed pencils

BIC Star Wars Stationery - pencil

BIC Star Wars Stationery - Tip-ex mouse

BIC Star Wars Stationery - tipex

BIC Star Wars Stationery - Star Wars glue stick

The BIC Star Wars stationery collection features instantly recognisable characters from the famous Star Wars saga – even as someone who has never actually watched a Star Wars film (I know!) I could still tell you who all of the characters were on Ben’s new pens!  And of course, the BIC Star Wars stationery collection isn’t just for kids – we all know someone whose day would be brightened by a Yoda ball ben . . .

The BIC Star Wars range includes:

… covering just about all of your stationery needs in one Star Wars themed hit!

If you’d like to win a selection of BIC Star Wars stationery – just complete the rafflecopter below, ensuring to do this accurately to avoid disqualification.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

*We received a selection of BIC Star Wars stationery free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own. This post contains affiliate links.*

Anki Overdrive Starter Kit – Review

I’m handing over to Dave for this review – car racing and techy toys are very much up his street so he was almost as excited about the Anki Overdrive Starter Kit as Ben: 

Anki Overdrive, for anyone not familiar, is a cross between Scalextric and a mobile phone racing game.  When I opened the Anki Overdrive Starter Kit I was greeted by two cars, a charging station, some track risers and ten pieces of track (6 bends and 4 straight pieces).  You may have noticed that I’ve not mentioned any means of controlling your cars but that’s what brings this toy into the modern era and I’ll explain more about that in a minute.  The track pieces use magnets to hold themselves together, making it very easy and convenient to try different track shapes, a number of which are suggested on the box.  After you’ve put your track together and charged your cars you need to download an app to your phone or tablet (Android or iOS) which will let you control your cars and navigate the game generally.  Once you’ve downloaded the app and created a profile you are asked to put the cars on the track.  The cars then drive around the track to ‘scan’ it.  A diagram of your chosen track shape is drawn on the screen of your device as the cars ‘scan’ it.  You can then race.  Either against a friend or a computer opponent.  You control the speed of your car via  your phone’s screen to race around the track, and you tilt your phone left or right to change lanes as you race.  Necessary for overtaking.  More importantly, the phone gives you control over one more thing which sets this apart from games of old . . . the weapons!  Yes that’s right… Weapons.  As you’re racing around the track you can blast your opponent to knock them out of action for a few seconds which can really change the shape of a race.

Controlling the Anki Overdrive Starter kit with an android mobile phone

Each car has it’s own strengths and weaknesses.  In their natural state, one is quicker while the other has more firepower.  Of course this keeps things interesting.  If it’s necessary there is an option to ‘balance’ the characteristics of the cars for a more even competition.  As you race you accrue gold coins which you can use to buy upgrades for your car in the shop through the app.  These vary from car to car but follow the usual themes of bulking up your firepower, your weapons range or the ability of your car to take damage before it is out of action ‘briefly’.  Ben loves the upgrades and spends ages reading through all the options before buying his additions.

Anki Overdrive Starter Kit - car racing track

Boys racing the Anki Overdrive Starter Kit

Different game modes are available after you’ve played a few games against the computer and unlocked them.  The interesting thing is that when you are playing against the computer you still have both cars on the track which makes the racing feel more real than just playing on your phone.  The game mode that Ben and I play the most was ‘Battle’.  In this game you are both racing around the track but the number of laps you do makes no difference.  The aim, unsurprisingly, is to knock out your opponent.  You fire your weapons through your phone.  In reality, a light flashes on your car, but if you’re close enough to your opponent then he takes some damage and his phone will vibrate to let him know.  After as while you can get an upgrade which allows you to fire weapons behind you which keeps the racing interesting.

If you’re feeling flush you can add to your track with more bits of track or extra cars (up to four cars can race at once to keep you and your friends/kids happy). There’s sections of track available which give you banked turns or jumps and even collisions!  There are also ‘Super Trucks‘ which you can add to your set which unlock extra game modes and look really cool but you could easily spend quite a bit of money doing this.

Anki Overdrive Starter Kit

The only things I can fault with the Anki Overdrive Starter Kit is that the racing is a little rudimentary.  I found I could keep the car at full throttle throughout the track without any real problems.  Although Ben managed to spin off the track any number of times so maybe I’m just a natural! I doubt it though. If you were a fan of the physical throttle on a Scalextric set then you won’t be impressed with the controls.

The kids really enjoyed the game and it was something I was happy to play with for more than an hour.  So if you’re looking for a racing experience for the family/kids which feels more real than a mobile phone game then it might be worth a look see.

*We were sent the Anki Overdrive Starter Kit free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own.  Post contains affiliate links.* 

Shark DuoClean Cordless Vacuum Cleaner – Review

Hi, my name is Colette and I’m addicted to my vacuum cleaner . . .

I’ve wanted a cordless vacuum for quite some time now, mainly for doing the stairs and the car or for whizzing under the table after the kids have eaten.  Yet, whilst I’ve loved the idea of the convenience, I’ve never felt I could justify spending in the region of £300 to make it easier to vacuum the stairs.

I didn’t realise what a game changer a cordless cleaner could be.

Shark cordless cleaner on carpet

The first few times I used the Shark Duoclean, it seemed to fill up really quickly and I was constantly outside emptying it into the dustbin.  Whilst this is a super simple procedure – it was a pain to be doing it before I’d even finished cleaning a room.  I commented to Dave that whilst I loved the ease and power of the Shark Duoclean I really couldn’t see it being able to replace your normal cleaner, he responded that it’s too expensive not to.  And I had to agree.

Emptying the Shark Duoclean

However what I’ve found over time is that the vacuum was only filling up so quickly because my floors were filthy (the shame) – a combination of my Dyson not being as effective as I thought and me just not cleaning the floors often enough. The more I use the Shark, the less there is for it to pick up and the longer I can clean for.  My floors have never been so clean.

Because the Shark is so easy to use and so effective, I find myself whipping it out several times a day and spot cleaning – under the dining table, where the kids have had a snack in the living room, by the front door when someone has tramped in wearing muddy boots. Instead of doing one big clean once a week I’m doing little bits all the time and keeping on top of it.

Since we’ve had the Shark cordless vacuum, my Dyson upright has remained in its cupboard. I’ve simply had no need for it.

Shark cordless cleaner with flexology

Having thought that the Shark would mainly be used for cleaning the stairs and the car – it has quickly turned into my go to cleaner.  Because it’s so compact and folds down to be really tidy, I tend to keep it in the kitchen on charge which means I can just grab it and whizz round while I wait for the kettle to boil – so much easier than having to drag the comparatively heavy Dyson out of the cupboard, plug it in, and push it around the room.  Essentially it means I vacuum far more than I’ve ever done because it’s so easy and as a result my floors are cleaner than they’ve ever been, but without it feeling like I’m doing any more work.  If anything it probably feels like less as it’s just five minutes here and there.

Of course as I had expected, the Shark Duoclean is an absolute godsend for the stairs and the car.  I absolutely hate vacuuming the stairs – dragging the heavy vacuum cleaner up the stairs, balancing it on a step and then having to stop half way to plug it in upstairs as I’ve run out of cable . . . all that drama is banished with my cordless Shark.  What I would say is that the handheld section of the Shark is pretty heavy as a result of containing the battery, so by the time you’ve given the stairs going over you can definitely feel it in your arms but it’s still a bazillion times easier than trying to clean the stairs with a standard upright vacuum.

Handheld Shark cordless cleaner

I’ve never been a fan of hauling my upright vacuum cleaner out into the street to clean out the car – it’s cumbersome for a start.  Previously vacuuming the car has tended to involve a trip to Morrisons instead but aside from faffing about making sure you’ve got the right money for the machine, the cleaner doesn’t really pack much of a punch so whilst it does do the job, it takes a lot of effort on our part.  Using the Shark means that we can clean the car out easily and quickly – no need to find an extension lead for the upright cleaner, or struggling to reach right into our huge boot.  The Shark gets the job done effectively and in minimum time – meaning of course that it gets done more often and therefore remains cleaner . . . can you see a pattern here?

Using the Shark Duoclean in the car

Shark handheld vacuum cleaner in the car

The Shark features DuoClean Technology which means that rather than a single brush roll, a DuoClean vacuum has two unique rolls that work together to remove dust and dirt from both hard floors and carpets.  Rather than having to faff about changing heads, you can swap from hard flooring to carpet at the push of a button.  The settings for hard floor or carpet, as well as a battery saving or full power option – are easily accessed on the hand unit with your thumb so can be changed quickly as the need arises.

You would expect that being battery-powered and so small that perhaps the Shark would lack power but this really isn’t the case – I was really surprised to find that in fact it packs such a punch that on carpet it practically pulls itself along.

Shark duoclean rollers

Changing the floor type at the touch of a button

Although the Shark does come with a number of attachments I find that for the majority of the jobs I need to do, I simply swap between the main floor cleaning head or the nozzle.  The rest of the attachments are stored away in a cupboard.  (This is probably one place where the Shark falls down for me, having lots of bits to find a home for – on my upright Dyson, all the attachments are stored on the cleaner itself)

As I’ve mentioned we tend to keep our Shark Duoclean cordless vacuum plugged in and easily accessible in the kitchen for spot cleaning however the removable, rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries mean that rather than being fixed to one charging station like other cordless cleaners, Shark’s battery can be charged in situ on the vacuum or removed and charged anywhere you like in your home which just adds to the flexibility.  You don’t need to find a special place to store or charge your Shark, it will live wherever you want to put it.  (The added bonus of the battery being removable is that you can purchase additional batteries which should curtail any frustrations over limited battery life – though as I’ve said, now that my floors are much cleaner anyway, this is no longer an issue for us – it is plenty for a quick whizz round the house, and to be honest I usually use it on full power and still get done what I want to.)

The quick release extended reach wand means curtains, light fittings or a persistently cobwebby Velux are not a problem for your Shark cordless cleaner.

Shark cleans high up spaces

My new Shark cordless vacuum cleaner has honestly been a game changer.  It has genuinely revolutionised the way our floors are cleaned – and this is no bad thing.  I’ve honestly never vacuumed so much in all my life, it’s no longer a chore and in fact the Shark is so easy to use that Ben has taken up helping me too!

*We were sent the Shark free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Shark Duoclean Cordless Vacuum

New Glasses from Vision Express – Review

I’ve been wearing glasses for the best part of a decade.  Sort of.

My prescription has always been fairly minor – I can legally drive without them but I do find that everything is just that bit sharper, particularly when driving at night.  I had the same pair of glasses for a good few years before losing them.  I didn’t get round to replacing them for quite a long time as I just got used to being without them and, as I say, my prescription is fairly minor.  I tended to just rely heavily on a pair of prescription sunglasses and they have served me really well for driving and outdoor events (though they’re starting to get quite tired now and I will be looking to replace them next year).

I finally got round to getting a new pair of glasses last year when I felt I had noticed a deterioration in my sight.  I popped to my local opticians for an eye test and then bought my glasses in Boots.  This was ultimately a decision based on convenience and price.  It turned out to be a bad one.  Now whether the prescription was at fault or the glasses themselves I’m not sure but after the initial few wears they started to make me feel really sick.  It was suggested to me that as they were a much larger frame than my previous pair this could have made a difference but as my prescription sunglasses were even bigger this didn’t strike me as being very likely.  I soon gave up wearing them preferring tired eyes over nausea which lasted for quite some time after taking the glasses off.

Of course this experience made me apprehensive about buying more glasses.  I knew I needed them but I really didn’t want to be wasting a another couple of hundred pounds on glasses that were going to knock me sick.  Lesson learned, this time I was going to make sure that both my eye test and glasses purchase would be from the same shop – if nothing else it meant I would have some “come back” if the glasses weren’t right.

Ralph Lauren glasses from Vision Express

Discreet Ralph Lauren logo on black frame glasses

Black glasses

I booked an appointment for Vision Express in the Trafford Centre using the Vision Express website, it took me a matter of moments and I got an email confirming my appointment followed by a reminder text a day or so before.

When I arrived at Vision Express for my appointment I was greeted promptly and guided to a waiting area before being invited for my eye health screening – this included a test to give a basic idea of what prescription I might need, the “hideous puff of air in the eye” test which is designed to measure the pressure in the eye and gives valuable information about the health of your eyes.  I completely failed at the retinal photography as the poor lady doing my screening just couldn’t capture an image with my eyes open (story of my life!).  The final test checks your peripheral vision and you basically have to click a button whenever you see lights flashing around a central target – I always feel bizarrely stressed out by this!

Once the eye health screening tests were complete I was met by the Optometrist who took me to do the more standard eye tests involving reading letters on the wall – we discovered I can no longer read the bottom line.  I always find eye test nerve-wracking – what if I get it wrong and end up with the wrong glasses which either don’t work, or make my eyes worse?  You know those moments when you’re being asked “Is this better or this?” and you really can’t decided . . . I definitely had a few of those moments.  The Optometrist was super patient and just kept trying things to make sure that he knew exactly what I needed from my glasses.

Having had my prescription confirmed (with a slight deterioration from the last time I’d had a Vision Express eye test almost 6 years previously) it was time to choose some glasses.  As I knew I would be attending my eye test on my own, I’d actually been quite organised and had visited the store with Dave a couple of weeks earlier to try on some glasses so already knew which ones I wanted.  They weren’t on display but with the help of some photos Dave had taken, the salesperson was able to locate them for me and we agreed that they were the ones for me.  He took some measurements of my face and told me my glasses would be ready in an hour.  An hour!! I know that was always the big selling point of Vision Express in the past but I honestly didn’t realise they still offered that service, I’m used to waiting weeks for new glasses!  There was me thinking that going to be local opticians followed by Boots would be convenient – let me tell you, in comparison to Vision Express it really wasn’t.  I was thoroughly impressed.  I had always thought that Vision Express were really expensive but they had glasses to suit every budget, I could have picked up two pairs for around £100 but, well, you all know I have expensive taste right?  I think you can really tell the difference when you spend more on your glasses and if they’re going to be sat on my face all the time I want them to look nice.  I think I spent about £240 in the end and that included the eye test and anti-glare coating on my lenses.

So . . do you want to see my new glasses?

And the best bit?  They don’t make me sick!  They just make everything look all clean and sparkly.  I flipping love them.  I bet you can’t guess where I’m going for my new sunglasses?

*I was invited for a free eye test and given money towards my new glasses in exchange for review.  All thoughts and opinions remain my own*

Jaybird X3 wireless headphones – Review

The Jaybird X3 wireless headphones are designed for runners and fitness fanatics  . . . so you might be wondering what possible use I could have for them?  I mean let’s face it . . . we all know I’m not a runner don’t we!  Well let me tell you now, I flipping love them.

For the most part, if I’m going to be listening to music out and about it will be on the train travelling through to London for work using Spotify through my phone.  I’ve tended to use the Samsung headphones which came with my phone and they’ve been fine – I’ve not had any massive issues with them but they’ve not been amazing either.  One of the main annoyances with my usual headphones is that the wires get tangled up in my scarf / handbag straps or whatever and they tend to fall out or need a bit of faffing with to get comfortable.

Jaybird X3 wireless headphones

The Jaybird X3 wireless headphones work via bluetooth so don’t need to be plugged into your device to work – you honestly wouldn’t believe how liberating this is until you try them for yourself.  The headphones are connected to each other rather then being two completely separate headphones which I must admit I prefer – apart from anything else I think it would be much easier to loose them if they were in two parts.  Being attached together also means that you can add a clip to your collar for extra security while you’re out and about.

Offering a full 8 hours of use between charges, the Jaybird X3 wireless headphones give you a full day of music or up to a full week of exercise!  The buds are charged with a USB adapter which I’ve tended to plug into my laptop at the end of the day and the Jaybird MySound app helps you to keep an eye on your battery charge levels.  They come with a really handy little pouch to store them in when they’re out of use.

Jaybird X3 wireless headphones and app

The Jaybird MySound app allows you to personalise your sound settings and store them on your earbuds so you can use them with any music device without having to faff about and set everything up again.  I must admit I’ve done very little to personalise my sound settings as I was more than happy with how they worked straight off.  (I’d rather the voice announcement that I’ve turned my buds on wasn’t quite so loud though!)  Another bonus of the Jaybird MySound app is that it allows you the option to find your buds with the help of your phone’s location settings.

I’m really quite funny about putting things in my ears . . . I can’t stand having people touch them and having my temperature taking by medical professionals takes some serious willpower on my part and as such I’d been a little worried about how the Jaybird X3 would feel in my ear.  Of course I’m used to using ear buds but the ‘fins’ (the additional piece which fits right into your ear for security) made me nervous – would it tickle, would it be uncomfortable or would it just not fit properly?  My concerns were unfounded and from the first time I used my earbuds I found I was able to put them in easily and they didn’t bother me at all.  Although I prefer the under-ear position, it is also possibly to wear them over-ear – either way the X3 are designed to stay securely in your ears while you are being active (or in my case whilst you’re dozing on the train to work).

Jaybird X3 ear buds - under ear position with ear fins

Jaybird X3 wireless heaphones

Featuring a Hydrophobic Nano coating to protect your earbuds against sweat damage or rain showers you know you can confidently use your Jaybird X3 wireless headphones during exercise or commuting or whatever else you happen to be doing!  They’re also much smaller and flatter than other buds I’ve tried making them more comfortable under hats or helmets. (Though with the super effective noise cancelling effect I’m not sure I’d want to be wearing them under a helmet myself!)

All in I’m absolutely thrilled with my Jaybird X3 wireless headphones and have recommended them to anyone who will listen!

*I was sent my Jaybird X3 wireless headphones free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain my own*

Personalised Mugs for Kids from Petit-Fernand! – Review & Giveaway

Petit-Fernand, makers of name labels and other such personalised delights have expanded their range recently to include personalised lunch boxes, water bottles and mugs.  All of which I think would make great stocking fillers!

I do love a bit of personalisation. I think it stems from having a bit of an unusual name so that as a child I hardly even found anything with my name on in a souvenir shop.  Of course Ben, Chloe and Amy have much more common names and so we never struggle to find anything with their name on but Petit-Fernand go one step further making their items fully customisable so not only can you have your name printed onto your chosen product but you can also choose a colour scheme and pattern.

This Christmas my little gang will be finding a Petit-Fernand personalised mug in their stockings.

When ordering your customised mug from Petit-Fernand, you can choose the colour of the handle & inside of the ceramic mug, the font colour and style, and finally the pattern (in fact there are 26 different themes to choose from).

The print quality of the chosen patterns is spot on though I have noticed a slight shadow around the names on each of the mugs – however, this is so faint that I only noticed it when I had photographed them!

Of course the mugs are aimed at children but there’s nothing to say you can’t buy them for adults too – I know my friend Lauren would love a mug covered in flamingos & cactuses!  You don’t even have to have your name on them, there’s up to 22 characters available for you to personalise your mug.

I’m confident that the kids are going to love having their very own mugs to drink their hot chocolate in this winter!

If you’d like to win a personalised mug from Petit-Fernand this Christmas (which will hopefully be delivered in time for the big day!) then crack on and complete the rafflecopter below, ensuring to this accurately to avoid disqualification!  There will be two winners of one mug each. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*We were sent the personalised mugs from Petit-Fernand free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

SkyParkSecure Airport Parking at Gatwick – Review

It’s fair to say I don’t travel as much as I would like to, not abroad at any rate.  I can probably count on both hands the number of times I’ve flown in my life time so airport parking isn’t something I think about all that often.  I’ve always thought it was really expensive and something to be avoided if I’m honest however when we realised we would need to fly from Gatwick for our recent trip to Venice, airport parking was suddenly high on my agenda.

Because we were flying “out of season” we couldn’t fly from Manchester.  For a combination of convenience and economic reasons we decided that driving to Gatwick would make more sense than getting the train this time.  Our flight was first thing in the morning so we had to leave home around 2am and as we were only away for a few nights we wanted to ensure that we made everything as quick and painless as possible to maximise our time on away.

SkyParkSecure don’t own or operate any of the car parks the sell, they work as a booking agent in a similar way to a site like booking.com operates in the hotel market meaning you can jump on the website and compare your options and pricing really easily.

Compare airport parking through SkyParkSecure

SkyParkSecure has a direct relationship with all of the 300+ UK airport car parks meaning you should always find the car park to suit your needs – be it official airport, meet & greet services or the more economical park & rides.  The independent review system on SkyParkSecure means there’s plenty of reviews to compare and rest assured if a car park falls below a set standard, SkyParkSecure will issue them with a warning before swiftly removing them if things don’t improve.  This means you’re not only being offered the best prices but you can rest assured the service will up to scratch too.

Previously Dave & I have always plumped for a park & ride service when we’ve flown from Manchester but as I said, this time we wanted to concentrate on making our trip as stress free as possible and, with an early flight anything that meant we could get a bit longer in bed was going to be a winner!

The Ace Meet & Greet service meant we could just drive our car to a specified car park at Gatwick, hand over the keys and be on our way!  The whole process took no time at all – just a simple phone call to confirm our arrival time twenty minutes beforehand meant there was someone there ready and waiting for us despite the fact we had arrived at Gatwick a full 45 minutes earlier than we had expected to due skipping the planned toilet stop and the roads being exceptionally quiet.

We signed the paperwork, handed over the keys and were given a ticket to keep safe for when we returned for the car.  The gentleman who served us was warm, friendly and efficient (which I think can take some effort pre 6am!), I noticed as we were leaving that he was taking photos of any pre-existing damage on the car which was reassuring (especially as we’d actually hired it for the weekend!).

A weekend in Venice

On return to Gatwick our flight landed quite early but this wasn’t a problem, a quick phone call to Ace to let them know we were through passport control and had collected our luggage meant that by the time we had made our way back to the designated car park, we only had to wait a few minutes for our car to be returned to us.  Again the handover process was really quick, by the time we’d all got our bags in the boot – Dave had handed over the card and we had our keys back and were ready to get on the road.

I was surprised to find that the total cost of our Ace Meet & Greet service through SkyParkSecure was just £50 – and for the ease and convenience it offered I would say it was well worth the money, especially as my sister said we’d paid £47 for over night parking at Leeds Bradford in the summer!  Next time I need airport parking I’ll definitely be heading to SkyParkSecure first to make sure I get the best deal and the best service without having to hunt around myself!

*SkyParkSecure provided us with our airport parking at Gatwick free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain my own*

St Bert’s Clothing – Review & Giveaway

As soon as I saw Karen’s girls sporting coordinating rainbow hoodies from St Bert’s over on her instagram, I knew I had to have them.  I’ve always co-ordinated the kids’ outfits to a point – sometimes outright twinning and other times just making sure what they’re wearing goes with one another.  It’s not like I make sure they match every day but when we’re going out somewhere I tend to make sure that at least look like they belong together.

Unisex hoodies from St Bert's

Both of my girls love a dress but they’re not always practical are they – sometimes you just need to wear jeans and a hoodie.  What I particularly loved about the St Bert’s hoodies is that they are completely unisex – in fact the whole range is.  Yes there’s a little pink in there but there’s nothing saying the boys can’t wear it or that the girls shouldn’t be wearing blue – none of the motifs are aimed at one gender or another and the website isn’t organised into boys’ or girls’ clothes.  The only time you’ll see gender mentioned on the St Bert’s website is in relation to the adult hoodies where it says “men’s” and “women’s” but that relates more to sizing than anything else – point proven by the fact that I ordered the men’s one for myself just because I preferred the colour.

matching St Bert's hoodies

It’s worth bearing in mind that the sizing on the hoodies can be a little small so I sized up in each of them to the cosy, slouchy look we were going for (and also just for the sake of growing room – nobody wants to spend £35 on a hoodie for it only to be worn for two months!)

Contrasting cuffs on the rainbow hoodie from St Bert's

cosy St Bert's hoodie

I love the little details on these jumpers – from the stylish contrasting tipping on the cuffs and hem, to the St Bert’s logo on the sleeve and of course the kids love a kangaroo pocket in their hoodies be it for keeping hands warm or filling with leaves and pine cones!

St Bert's branding on hoodie

kangaroo pocked on St Bert's hoodie

And the best thing?  They wash beautifully.  I was really worried that they might bobble quickly or that the fabulous rainbow print would crack and fade but my fears were unfounded.  Every time I’ve washed the hoodies they come out looking like new – which considering they kids have been wearing them to tramp through the woods or spill their dinner on is something of a win in my book!

Amy and Daddy

Grey rainbow hoodie from St Bert's

We’ve had so many compliments on these hoodies each time I’ve posted a picture of the kids wearing them on my social media feeds so it’s worth mentioning that they are selling fast.  If you do want one, you might want to pop on over and get them in your basket now.  I’ve got my eye on a couple of the sweatshirts for them next!

Unisex rainbow hoodie from St Bert's

If you’d like to win £100 worth of St Bert’s goodies yourself, then just complete the Rafflecopter below ensuring to do this accurately to avoid disqualification.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(If you like the look of the kids’ boots – you can read a review of those here)

*We received the St Bert’s rainbow hoodies free of charge for the purpose of review, however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

How family friendly is the new Xbox One X?

Yesterday saw the release of the new Xbox One X – this console is the world’s most powerful console and of course designed with gamers in mind.  But, how family friendly is the new Xbox One X?

Xbox One X loft

When Ben found out I was going to London to visit the Xbox One X Loft, the first thing he said was “Can’t you take me with you? You don’t know anything about Xbox” and he’s not wrong!  My Xbox experience thus far extends to many many hours lost watching Dave & Woody playing SSX Tricky or GTA… I don’t know why I never tried to join in, I guess it wasn’t really my thing and it was easier to just sit and watch.  That said, the Xbox 360 kept me company for many an hour when I was recovering from being hospitalised with pneumonia some ten or so years ago.  I spent weeks barely moving from the sofa at Dave’s house playing a puzzle game called”Hexic”

Since having kids, Dave’s Xbox days have been put on pause.  He hasn’t had the time for gaming and it’s something we’ve intentionally avoided introducing the kids to until now on the basis that they have many years of gaming ahead of them and we wanted them to develop their imagination and a love of reading first – to have the skills to fight boredom without screens.

However, the time has come.  Last year Ben asked for an Xbox for Christmas, we told him it was a very big present and something we thought perhaps Father Christmas would bring when he was older and when the girls would be able to share it with him.  He actually hasn’t asked again this year but we decided the time is right and as a family gift we will be getting an Xbox.

What I hadn’t realised is that Xbox now have a whole family of consoles available, the latest of course being the Xbox One X.  This is the most powerful console for hard core gaming with features such as a huge memory, super fast processing and six teraflops of processing power  (Yes, I know – I thought someone had made it up too!) and perhaps not necessarily what you’d buy as your child’s first console as it’s obviously the most expensive and your eight year old wouldn’t necessarily appreciate the super powerful features however if you know you’re not going to want to upgrade any time soon and want to future-proof your console (bearing in mind the increasing popularity of 4k TV) then you might want to look at investing more from the outset.  It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you already have an Xbox One or Xbox One S at home, if you upgrade your console to the latest Xbox One X then you won’t lose out on your previous games – it will all move across with you.  Essentially when you put your game in, it will know which type of console you are using and set up appropriately for that.

Xbox One X Console Controller

Whilst we’re on the topic of how family friendly the new Xbox One X is – it’s is vitally important that if your child gets any console this Christmas then you must ensure you set it up for them.  Do not let your ten year old take control of setting it up – yes we all know that they might well be quicker and more confident then you but the point is that you need to ensure everything it set up safely and with the appropriate parental controls.  Our new Xbox will be set up in the playroom where we can see it at all times and we will spend time playing the games with the kids so we know what they’re playing and who they are interacting with once XBox Live is set up.

With my experience of Xbox so far being predominantly of games which are not remotely appropriate for children, I had found myself wondering what we would get for the kids to play – particularly for my girls who I’m keen to ensure benefit from this Christmas gift just as much as their big brother (and probably Daddy too!).   And whilst I’m not one for pigeon holing things by gender – I can’t see either of them being all that interested in Fifa or Minecraft right now.  As part of my visit to the Xbox One X Loft last week I had the chance to try out a number of family friendly games which are basically suitable for children of any age, as long as they can mange the controller!  I would think about three is probably right though as I’ve said, we’ve personally avoided introducing our children to gaming when they were really little knowing that the time would come soon enough!

So, please bear in mind that I have little to no gaming experience but I’m coming at these games as a Mum thinking about playing them with my own children – I can’t and won’t use the proper technical terms and I know little about graphics or teraflops but I can tell you what I liked about playing the games myself . . .

Super Lucky’s Tale 
This is a brand new game launched alongside the XBox One S and is the sequel to Lucky’s Tale.  It reminds me very much of playing Sonic on my friend’s Sega Mega Drive as a kid but obviously way better!  When you start to play there are lots of clear instructions to help you figure out which bits of the controller do what – which for a novice like me is vital.  The characters in the game are very cute, in fact the whole thing is positively charming.  The satisfying ping as you collect coins felt really nostalgic for me and I was quickly absorbed in the game – each time I lost a life and returned to a check point, I found myself discovering something different, how to be better or quicker at what I was trying to do.  It’s a frustratingly addictive game and something I could definitely lose hours playing.  It’s worth mentioning that you need to be able to read as the characters aren’t speaking English – they chatter away in their own little language with a translation appearing in a speech bubble.  I suppose once you’ve had this read to you a few times you’d soon know what you needed to do though.  Of the four games I played at the Xbox One X loft, this was most definitely my favourite and one I’m certain will become a firm favourite in our household this Christmas.

Disneyland Adventures
I came to this game after someone else had been playing it so didn’t start from the beginning – as someone who isn’t all that au fait with computer games this meant I was a bit lost for a while, unsure of what I was actually meant to do be doing.  Eventually I realised that I was being given a set of challenges – for example taking an autograph book to Mickey Mouse or giving Goofy a high five.  I found it really easy to potter around completing missions but couldn’t for the life of me work out how to pick things up when I found them – I suspect this is just a complete lack of experience on my part as you know the kids would work it out immediately!  This is a great game for exploring Disneyland or for reliving memories if you’ve already been.  The interaction with the various Disney characters is lovely and something I think little ones would find really appealing.  It’s really easy to follow for little ones making it a great introduction to gaming – for Amy who is just four I think she would be able to manipulate the controller to follow the golden path and find the characters whereas Ben and Chloe would be able to read and follow the instructions to complete the game properly.  This game is more than just wandering around the theme park though and I had a try at the bob sleigh (which seemed to be accessed through some sort of magical portal) – it was great fun but I found the fast pace and immersive graphics actually made me feel a bit sick . . . this isn’t the first time that playing a computer game has given me motion sickness, I fear it’s my age!

Zoo Tycoon
This felt like a really “gentle” game – there was nothing loud or stressful, just nice interaction with the animals and a great way to familiarise yourself with how the controller works.  The graphics all felt really realistic with lots of attention to details eg the movement of the animals or the dirty finger prints on a window.  Essentially the purpose of the game is to create a great zoo where the animals are happy and well looked after and guests want to come and pay a high entrance fee – the better your zoo, the more money you will make conversely if your zoo isn’t doing well then your fame rating will drop and nobody will come to visit you!  This wasn’t my favourite game, I felt a bit like it lacked purpose however I think if you’re into the whole Sims thing then maybe you’d enjoy this too?

Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure
Now I should say that I came to this game in the middle of someone else’s play and didn’t manage to play it for very long.  I was playing some sort of mission with characters from the Incredibles but I believe there’s actually quite a bit of variety within this game.  Personally I found the game I was playing way too fast – with the flashing lights, loud explosions and a general sensory overload – it made me feel really sick and I had to stop playing.  That said I know that Ben would love it.  With lots of action – throwing objects, jumping and sliding along with big explistions sand a voice over adding to the tension – this felt like a great lead into the more grown up action games that I know he will want to play when he’s older.  This was definitely a game I could see Dave and Ben playing together (with me at a safe distance!)

Forza Motorsport
Before heading home I had a quick play on the Forza Motorsport game – which I was unsurprisingly rubbish at taking over 8 minutes to do my first lap and just over 5 minutes to do my second (that’s some dramatic improvement from utterly dreadful to really awful . . . ) but I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed playing it.  Funnily enough it didn’t seem to make me feel sick which surprsied me.  The graphics were incredible – especially on the wet track.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Dave didn’t slip this one into our basket come Christmas as I know he always loved a racing game when he was younger!

Forza Motorsport on the Xbox One X

All in my day at the Xbox One X Loft has made me realise that there are loads of really family friendly games available which can be played on both the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X – so how family friendly is the Xbox One X?  Very if you can afford to splash out!

*I was invited to visit the Xbox One X Loft but have not been compensated for writing this post*