Category Archives: family

Foul Play is afoot After Dark – review and giveaway

Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

There seems to have been a trend in my recent posts of what we’ve been doing for entertainment during lockdown, so games have been interspersed amongst my many book reviews. We’ve also been digging the jigsaws out of the cupboard, but they are more of a long term project that we just do a few pieces at a time. This is the especially the case with the 2000 piece one we’re working on at the moment, which is very difficult with lots of sky, water and rock.

Foul Play Game by After Dark

But today I’m sticking with the game theme, as we have received another game free to review. This time it is Foul Play, The Manor House Murder Mystery Card Game from After Dark. Now regular followers of my blog will know that I love to read a good murder mystery story, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how much I enjoy seeing a murder mystery on stage or being involved in a murder mystery game. Whether it is solving or actually being the murderer, which I’ve done twice. The first occasion was at a party but the second time, one of the amdram groups that I used to belong to, had been booked as the entertainment for a murder mystery night. Yes people actually paid to try and guess and if I recall, none of them worked out that I was indeed the culprit. And guess how many versions of Cluedo we have here, not one, not two, not three but four. We have the original version, Super Cluedo, Harry Potter and Doctor Who versions.

Foul Play Game from After Dark

Murder Mystery events are the bread and butter business for After Dark and of course the pandemic has kept actors out of work for the time being, although they do hope to be back performing soon. But they extended their business model to come up with the Foul Play card game.

Dispatch was super speedy and I was very pleased to see how small the box was, just the size of a pack of playing cards. The boys have so many games that rattle around in big empty boxes, that we are almost running out of shelf space. But as the cards fitted so snugly in their box, I really didn’t see the need for the plastic around the cards inside. Hopefully they will reconsider that.

Foul Play Game from After Dark

This is a game for 2-5 players and is suitable for age 8+. It is set in Edwardian England and the Lord of the Manor is dead. You have to work out which suspect killed him. There are two versions of the game, one where you play as Good Cop and the other as Bad Cop.

Foul Play Game from After Dark

We tried the Good Cop version first, where you need to uncover the three pieces of evidence to track down the killer. My youngest got really into the swing of things by having several magnifying glasses as props and writing his suspicions and clues in a notebook. Although other players along with the fish seemed to be his prime suspects rather than those on the cards. The fish being the Red Herring of course! And his detective bear joined in the fun too.

Foul Play Game from After Dark

However props and notebooks are just window dressing for extra fun. All that is needed is the Foul Play deck of cards. But beware of other players stealing your cards, as I became a target. The boys kindly left me with one card rather than eliminating me from the game, so I had to steal a card back in order to have enough cards to revisit the crime scene.

The next day we played again but as Bad Cops this time. With 15 pieces of evidence in play, we found this to be a much faster game, as you’re trying to pin the crime on any suspect. Although Good Cop would have been quicker if my son had realised that watches didn’t have to be worn on wrists, He had the killer card, but swapped it at the crime scene.

Foul Play Game from After Dark

Until you have played the game a few times and become more familiar with the suspects, I did initially feel one of the pieces of evidence was slightly unfair. It said the killer is not related to any other suspect. I subsequently discovered that there are some extra downloadable resources on the website, so we could have printed a full list of suspects. And read a handy synopsis on each suspect, although the formatting needs to be improved to prevent text wrapping over other text.

The instructions were very comprehensive. The only things we felt unsure of were whether to shuffle the discard pile before restarting it again as the Evidence Locker, and should both players get to pick a card when swapping on Fair Play or only the player who played the card.

Foul Play Game from After Dark

As per all of my game reviews during the pandemic, we didn’t just limit it to playing in out household, we also tried it out over Zoom, which worked fine too. Great for mental health and wellbeing, to be able to involve those that the pandemic has forced into a lonely isolated lifestyle.

Foul Play currently retails at £8.95. Excellent value in my opinion and so much fun. The official case file reference for solving this crime is #foulplaygame and I’m delighted to see that a second game Once Upon A Crime will soon be hitting the shelves. Any suggestions for what other versions you would like to see?

Foul Play Game from After Dark

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition, courtesy of After Dark to giveaway a Foul Play card game to one lucky winner!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your favourite game or idea for a new game.

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Game Off Celebrities – a Head to Head Battle – review and giveaway

Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

We love playing games in our household, but during this winter lockdown, I’ve frequently been heard calling out “Shall we play a game?” It helps give the boys a break from their screens, which they would be reluctant to do otherwise, when most of the activities they enjoy are off limits. And although we have our favourites that we play again and again, we really like trying something new. So I was delighted to be offered the chance to try out the new Celebrities version of Game Off for free.

Game Off Celebrities

Gosh I’ve never compared games to buses before but it had been a while since I’d reviewed a game and now this is the second one our family have put to the test in a matter of weeks!

Dispatch was very quick and it was good to see how small the box was. No wasted empty space in a large box. A win win all round as it will take up less space on the shelf, plus portable too, which will be a bonus once we can finally start going on holidays again. But putting on my “Reduce Plastic Pollution” hat, did it really need two layers of plastic, one round the box and then a second one inside round the pack of cards. Ideally I would like to see none, but can understand the need for some method of sealing the new product. Perhaps something the company can review before their next production run.

Game Off Celebrities

Moving onto the game itself, I loved the chatty friendly style that the instructions are written in, with a cheeky way of deciding who goes first. It says that it is suitable for ages 8-118. We joked here about having to stop playing when we reach 119. Of course we’re a long long way off that upper age limit, so with technology advances, who knows what humans life span may be in the future.

There are five types of cards – Body, Mind, Skill, Courage and Luck. The object of the game is to be the first person to collect one of each category. You win the cards via head-to-head battles with the other players acting as judges, so it needs a minimum of 3 players.

Game Off Celebrities

So each card describes a challenge based on a named celebrity, who range from current right back into the depths of history like Pythagoras. Some of the challenges are verbal, others require pen and paper and a few you need to improvise with props. It certainly makes it funny being the judges and the rules have cleverly thought out what to do in a draw scenario.

There is an additional rule which permits players to swap three of one type of card for another. This could prove useful in changing the dynamics of the game.

Game Off Celebrities

As we played, one thing became quite apparent quickly. Not everyone had necessarily heard of all the “famous” people or fully understood the particular challenge. For instance, my youngest son could not get the concept of “sharpest cheekbones” for a Keira Knightley Off. This did tend to take the edge off the boys enjoyment of the game somewhat. I haven’t played any of the other versions of Game Off, but I’m sure the Family version would have suited them both much better, although this Celebrities one does suggest from age 8 up, so should have been fine. I did think this would work excellently as a party game for adults though once parties are back on the agenda.

We certainly had lots of giggles with it and some ideas were very tongue in cheek. All us judges abstained when the boys went head to head in a Greta Thunberg Off. We were supposed to be voting on which of their letters would make the world a better place. Neither would and son1 was advocating to destroy the world entirely!

Game Off Celebrities

Afterwards the boys took a look at a few more of the cards, and I have to say it would be very hard for the games designers to guess which “famous” people to include for older children. For instance I was very surprised when I realised that neither of them had heard of Nelson! He is obviously not on the history school curriculum these days. But my youngest is an avid reader of history genre books and still hadn’t come across him. Yes really!! Maybe a testing panel of say age 8-16 would be useful in determining which “famous” people to include or exclude.

And we didn’t just limit it to playing in out household, we also tried it out over Zoom. Great for mental health and wellbeing, to be able to involve those that lockdown has forced into a lonely isolated lifestyle. We did have to adapt slightly, so that someone else rolled for him, as this was the first time any of us had ever seen a Left / Right dice, so obviously he didn’t have one of those. There were some of the challenges that wouldn’t have really worked remotely, but luckily those didn’t come up for him, but if they had it wouldn’t have been a problem, as we could have just redrawn a different challenge card.

Game Off Celebrities

According to the website, there are several other versions of Game Off. The original family version is suitable from age 3 up, then there is the sequel, Game Off 2 suitable from age 5 up plus an 18+ adult only version, so something for everyone. Plus this Celebrities version also comes in Spanish and German editions.

Any suggestions for what other versions you would like to see?

Game Off Celebrities currently retails at £12.99 and is sold via Amazon. Good value in my opinion and plenty of fun. I love its hashtag #EverythingIsAGame

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition, courtesy of Captain Fats to giveaway a Game Off Celebrities to not one, not two, but three lucky winners!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your favourite game or idea for a new game.

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Last night I had 20 Dreams to giveaway …

Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Games have always been something we have enjoyed in our family, but during this winter lockdown we have been playing even more, whilst it is too cold to spend much time in the garden. So I was very pleased to be offered the chance to try out the brand new 20 Dreams game for free.

20 Dreams game

20 Dreams, a creative storytelling card game was ‘dreamt’ up by Karen Stallard, an Arts Psychotherapist. It focuses on using the more emotional side of your brain, rather than logic. Then launched as a small business venture with a successful Kickstarter campaign last summer.

20 Dreams game

Dispatch was quick and I was glad to see the care that had been taken to ensure the product was plastic free, with just a couple of paper strips to secure the cards. Every little helps to try to reduce plastic pollution. Plus a nice small box size was a bonus too, as not everyone has space to store many large games.

20 Dreams game

In fact, even the box gets used during the game as the ‘penalty box’ for incorrect guesses. Great innovative use of the box.

20 Dreams game

The game has different variants depending on how many people are playing. So there is a 2 player cooperative game, working together to collect points or a 3-6 player competitive game or a team version. So far we’ve tried playing it with 4 and 5 players, including over Zoom.

Playing 20 Dreams game

You take it in turns to tell a dream which includes the 3 picture cards and expresses the emotion on your white card. The other players then have to guess which emotion it is from their own coloured pack. Get it right and the dream teller earns points, but get it wrong and the penalties start stacking up!

The rules suggest a certain number of rounds depending on the number of players. Well son2 insisted we continue playing until all the emotion cards ran out as he was enjoying it so much, so you can adapt your own variations too.

As mentioned above, we did also try it out over Zoom. Great for mental health and wellbeing, to be able to involve those that lockdown has forced into a lonely isolated lifestyle. Ideally this would be best with a game set each or at least to have given a player pack to the person playing remotely. However we didn’t have this opportunity so our workaround was for him to write down the list of 20 emotions and cross them out once played.

Playing 20 Dreams game

I have to say son1’s emotions were impossible to guess. Every dream he told in a flat monotone, with barely any story around the 3 pictures. Very hard to work out what he was feeling so I think I wrongly guessed “calm” every time for him, until someone else played that emotion card. Meanwhile he seemed to deliberately guess almost the most opposite emotion possible for the rest of us. I’m not sure if it was tactical play on his part, but it meant all his blue cards ended up in the penalty box. And for the final scores, we all were negative, although son2 was the winner being least negative points. But everyone had great fun, even son1. We were in fits of giggles over how hilarious some of the stories were.

Playing 20 Dreams game

The dream teller is supposed to start each dream saying “Last night I had a dream” and end it by saying “and I woke up feeling …?” Well son2 even involved his bear by wearing the outer box showing those phrases.

The box indicates that this is the 2020 classic pop art edition and their online shop also says 1st edition, so looks like there will be more releases to look forward to. Any suggestions for what other versions you would like to see?

Playing 20 Dreams game

I believe that our family are all more analytical than creative, so I would be very interested to play this with a different group of people too, as I’m sure the dynamics of the game will be quite different. And the 20 Dreams website says that it can also be used as an educational tool by parents, teachers or therapists, with plenty of resources, tools and ideas detailed.

The game is aimed at age 12+ but on the website, they suggest that it can be adapted for younger or neurodiverse players by removing the more difficult emotions to make the game shorter and more accessible.

The only thing that did slightly surprise me was that the box says ‘Made in China’. I had just assumed that as a small start-up business, who had taken the effort to help protect the environment by avoiding single-use plastic, that the product would have had a lower carbon footprint and supported other local industry if made in the UK.

20 Dreams currently retails at £14.99. Great value in my opinion. I can certainly highly recommend this game, which has been very well thought out. Fun for all the family across the generations.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a 20 Dreams game to one lucky winner. What a fun prize.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your idea for a new game.

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AD Britmums #ACEit Challenge or has she gone conkers?

Disclosure. This post is an entry for the #ACEit Challenge, sponsored by ACE. Get ideas on how to wash whites, treat stains and laundry like a boss with tips from the ACE site!
This post mentions a product I received for free. All opinions are my own. This post is classed as an advert because of the requirement to include the #ACEit hashtag.

Britmums recently challenged bloggers to take part in the #ACEit Challenge for brighter whites when trying the new ACE Ultra for Whites. I was in two minds whether to take part in this challenge or not, especially since it is in a plastic bottle. Regular followers of my blog will know that I am trying to reduce plastic. Pity it isn’t a powder rather than a liquid, as the last ACE product I reviewed, ACE for Colours Powder came in a plastic-free fully recyclable carton.

ACE Ultra for Whites

However I have to admit that my whites have been starting to look rather off-white since I swapped regular detergent for more eco-friendly alternatives, like soap nuts or homemade from horse chestnuts (conkers). Don’t get me wrong, my laundry is clean, but not bright white. I know you can’t expect a natural product to give the same results that bleach does, so perhaps this would be the answer, an occasional helpful boost from ACE.

So I signed up and received a free 1L bottle of ACE Ultra for Whites.

#ACEit Challenge

Now onto the actual washing test. There were my eldest son’s school shirts complete with very bad underarm stains and greyish grimy collars, plus off-white socks and undies, along with a very grey floor cloth. Unfortunately only a very small load, as ACE Ultra for Whites should only be used on totally white items. Again from an eco point of view, I prefer to do a full load which would normally include cream coloured bedding and towels too plus clothes which are part white, part coloured.

#ACEit Challenge

The instructions on the bottle suggested 4 possible alternative methods of use as follows, (along with household cleaning instructions for your sinks, etc too) …

  1. Fill your CL bleach compartment with the product. (My washing machine doesn’t have a CL compartment.)
  2. Fill your fabric conditioner compartment with the product, if you’re not planning to use fabric conditioner.
  3. Pour product directly in during a pre-wash cycle.
  4. Soak by hand in 10L of water to 150ml of product, for 20-30 minutes before rinsing and washing as usual.

#ACEit Challenge

I decided to opt for method 4, but I have to say I didn’t see much difference after the 30 minutes, but I assumed that perhaps I had over-diluted it, as I had just guessed how much to fill the sink. I didn’t actually measure the 10 litres of water. Also there was no indication of what temperature the water should be, so I had opted for warm, which may have been wrong too.

#ACEit Challenge

Since I still needed to wash the clothes, I tried again, this time using method 2. A much better success. Everything did look bright white. However ACE didn’t work its full magic on the underarm stains. They were better but still yellowish. The most remarkable change was on the floor cloth. It actually was white again.

#ACEit Challenge

About ACE Ultra:

  • It’s specifically formulated to help brighten dull whites.
  • It’s gentle on delicate clothes.
  • It tackles germs and odours, including viruses. That means not only do your clothes smell cleaner, they actually are cleaner – something even more important in the current climate.
  • It’s concentrated, making it among the most affordable ways to keep white clothes looking bright!
  • It’s available in Morrison’s.
  • NOTE: ACE Ultra includes bleach.
  • ACE Ultra for Whites should only be used on totally white items.

So yes I can see some plus points from ACE Ultra, but I think on the whole, it is not the product for me. Instead can anyone point me in the direction of an eco-friendly answer for brighter whites please, if such a thing exists?

Horse Chestnuts for laundry

And for those of you still wondering, how on earth do I use conkers for my laundry, let me point you here to The Watercress Queen who I have to thank for this environmentally friendly idea. I tried this out last Autumn and I still have over 4 big jars left, so no need to collect any this season. Plus not only is it eco, but it is very cost effective too, saving all the money you would have spent on detergent. I made a couple of variations to the original method, one being I dried the pieces of conker spread out on trays in the airing cupboard for about a week. And secondly I only do two soaks rather than three. I can highly recommend you try this idea out, but if you do, please remember to plant some of the conkers you collect.

Soap Nuts for laundry

Before trying this, I had bought a large bag of soap nuts shells, which work on the same principle. However I am a bigger fan of using conkers because they are grown locally so have a minimal carbon footprint in comparison. Also subsequent to buying the soap nuts, I read that the export market has driven the price up so locals who have been using them for generations can no longer afford them, which is so wrong and needs addressing. I do also use the soap nuts in the dishwasher although I haven’t dared try conkers, since they are poisonous.

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Macadamia Energy Bites

Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

I do enjoy cooking, so I was very pleased to receive the following selection of products from Buy Whole Foods Online free to review.

Organic Carob Powder 500g
Ceylon Cinnamon Powder (True) 250g
Organic Amla Powder 125g
Raw Wild Flower Bulgarian Honey 900g
Macadamia Nut Halves, Raw 250g

I had already formulated a tentative recipe idea in my head when I chose this selection which was to make some healthy raw energy snacks.

I do like this brand and have previously blogged some TVP meal recipes and my healthy yummy chocolate puds, made using their products. However this was back near the start of this year, so I was keen to see whether they would have taken on board my packaging suggestions, as I hadn’t had any feedback.

I was also pleased to see that everything was long-dated, with best before dates of October 2020 and beyond. Even the nuts, which was quite a pleasant surprise to me.

Buy Whole Foods Online products

Now let me tell you a little about these products, especially if like me, you get confused between cocoa, cacao and carob. Carob powder is produced by grinding the dried carob pods into a powder. I have now discovered that unlike cacao and cocoa, carob is naturally caffeine-free and much lower in fat than other forms of chocolate, plus it has a naturally sweet flavour. And 2 tablespoons contains almost 20% of your fibre RDA. It is also a form of calcium, which is great news for the bones as well as the taste buds!

Amla powder is something I hadn’t heard of previously. I have now discovered that it is made from drying Indian gooseberries and grinding them down to make a powder. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and has had Ayurvedic uses for centuries.

Raw honey, unlike your average honey, is unfiltered and unpasteurised, so it retains all the precious nutrients which are normally lost through heating and filtering. Plus raw honey is a natural sweetener free from additives that other conventional honeys may have. And raw honey contains a considerable amount of bee pollen, which is a complete source of protein.

Cinnamon is a spice which I often add to the likes of cookies and buns, but it also works well in savoury dishes too. However I didn’t realise there are variations in the grade of cinnamon. Apparently this Ceylon cinnamon is the purest form of cinnamon you can buy. Packed with nutrition, there are a number of health benefits associated with consuming Ceylon cinnamon on a daily basis including anti-inflammatory properties and easing digestion issues.

Macadamia nuts are something that I buy on an adhoc basis for snacks. Ideal as they are high in protein, fibre and healthy fats. But I’ve also now discovered that they are great for creating your own macadamia nut butter. That is something I’ve never tried yet.

So let me share my Macadamia Energy Bites recipe with you.

Macadamia Energy Bites

Macadamia Energy Bites

Ingredients (makes 10 – 12)

125g macadamia nuts
2 tbsp carob powder
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp amla powder

Method

Grind the nuts in a blender.
Tip ground nuts into a mixing bowl.
Mix in the carob, cinnamon and amla powder.
Mix in the honey.
Break off walnut-size amounts of mixture and roll into small balls.
Serve and enjoy.
These may be stored for upto a week in the fridge.

Macadamia Energy Bites

These were absolutely delicious and didn’t last long. I used half the macadamia nuts in the recipe, so there is only enough left to make one more batch. After that, I need to come up with some more recipe ideas for the other products, particularly the cinnamon, which is a huge packet. I’ve got about a year to use 250g, when a small spice jar usually lasts me about that length of time. I’ll have to see if the boys like cinnamon toast. I used to eat that quite regularly, but haven’t had it in years. So please hit me with your recipe suggestions.

The honey is one standard size extra large jar, but all the dry products come in a wide range of sizes from 50g to the bulk 25kg.

Unfortunately no change in the packaging as yet. Apart from the honey, the products are all in plastic, even if it is labelled as BPA free plastic. I’m still hoping Buy Whole Foods Online will review their product packaging and switch to a paper-based solution. Or the fact that some of them can be purchased in sizes upto 25kg, maybe they could start selling those via bulk stores, so we could take our own containers to fill.

I do recommend that you take a look at the Buy Whole Foods Online store. There is a huge amount to choose from.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway the same selection of products as I received from Buy Whole Foods Online to one lucky winner. You’ll certainly be able to make some tasty treats with these.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your recipe suggestions using any of these products.

I’ve subsequently seen the most beautiful recipe for Rose and Almond Nougat on the Marvellous Mrs P blog, which I’m wondering how well it would adapt to using macadamia nuts. I’ve got a rose bush in the garden and had been considering the possibility of using the rose hips to make a cordial, but had never considered the potential of the rose petals.

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Britmums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge ad

Well I’ve certainly noticed the change in temperature over the last couple of weeks. It is definitely Autumnal feeling, although we’ve managed to avoid putting the heating on yet. Trying to wait until November. I even treated myself to a new secondhand pair of winter boots from the charity shop. I’ve been trying to be more sustainable this year, but this is the first time I’ve purchased secondhand footwear.

Luckily we have plenty of wardrobe space, so all the cosy jumpers and leggings, etc are easily accessible. I remember as a child, my mum used to use a suitcase as storage for summer or winter kids wardrobe according to the season, checking what still fitted us when she unpacked it again. However I have rearranged our hall cupboard and put all the sandals, crocs, flip-flops and sunhats back upstairs in the wardrobes and brought down our winter coats, hats, scarves, gloves and boots.

Winter wardrobe

But what’s with the idea behind the #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge? I was rather sceptical of the hashtag but signed up when Britmums challenged bloggers to take part, so I received two free boxes of ACE for Colours Powder. Apparently the brand-new ACE for Colours Powder reinvigorates clothes, using stain-removing powers and bringing coloured garments back to life. Plus, unlike other stain removers, it comes in a plastic-free fully recyclable carton. It was the latter point that sold it to me, as regular followers of my blog will know that I am trying to reduce plastic.

Britmums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge

However I drew the line at testing it on my winter wardrobe, straight from the hangers. It is already clean, so that does not seem very environmentally friendly. Instead I waited until I’d actually worn some of my winter clothes.

Britmums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge

There are various options on how to use all listed on the box, including pretreatment or soaking for stains. As this load of laundry was all standard, I just needed to add the detergent as usual, then add 2 tablespoons of the ACE For Colours powder to the main wash dispenser drawer. You would double the dosage for very dirty laundry like my boys’ school sports kits. But I’m not going to talk about that now, as I blogged about washing those last year here.

Britmums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge

All looked clean and bright, hurrah. And of course now that it is getting colder, it is time to swap my cropped running leggings for full-length. So there will be plenty of mud splashes on those as well as on school sports kit. Definitely the best time of year to begin the #ACEWinterRefresh, but it will certainly be on-going all winter.

About ACE

  • ACE makes life easy with the never-ending school laundry pile by gently removing stains
  • ACE keeps garments bright, robust and clean meaning clothes last for longer
  • Keep those colours bright and fresh with ACE for Colours
  • Ace for Colours Powder comes in a fully recyclable Tetra pak
  • Use ACE in your daily wash to keep clothes looking fresher for longer
  • Call to action: Pick up the ACE product range including ACE for Colours powder at your nearest Morrison’s store or buy online on Amazon.

I’d love to hear about your washing tips or nightmares.

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Disclosure. This post is an entry for the BritMums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge, sponsored by ACE for Colours Powder. Get help for all kinds of stains with the ACE Stain Helper and pick up the range at your nearest Morrison’s store or buy online on Amazon.
This post mentions a product I received for free. All opinions are my own. This post is classed as an advert because of the requirement to include the #ACEWinterRefresh hashtag.

An eco holiday at Owl Barn Retreat

In line with trying to become more eco-focussed this year, we decided that we wanted our holiday to follow the same principles, so we chose to stay at Owl Barn Retreat. This is a delightful barn conversion in a rural location about a mile from the village of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant in Wales. It is a sustainable and eco-friendly holiday cottage which has achieved a gold award from the Green Business Tourist Scheme. This was how we discovered the cottage. I’m particularly impressed with the kitchen work surfaces having been constructed from recycled glass bottles.

Owl Barn Retreat

Owl Barn Retreat

From here, we were able to do several walks to the nearby villages of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant and Penybontfawr, plus most magnificent of all, a longer walk from the cottage all the way to Pistyll Rhaeadr, the tallest waterfall in Wales which is in a remote area of the Berwyn Mountains. And of course we had to take a trip to CAT, the Centre for Alternative Technology, my third time there. We also enjoyed a walk from Lake Vyrnwy to a nearby smaller waterfall.

Pistyll Rhaeadr

Centre for Alternative Technology

Penybontfawr

Stepping Stones near Lake Vyrnwy

We were provided with Faith in Nature toiletries and Ecover, Ecoleaf and Method cleaning products, along with a tasty welcome pack of local food. We continued to try to buy locally with produce from the village butcher, Oswestry market, Llynclys Hall farm shop, plus Honeysuckle whole foods shop in Oswestry and Down to Earth in Llanfyllin. Zero trips to the supermarket on this holiday.

Recycling and composting are key at the cottage with separate clearly labelled bins for each type of recycling. I’m already aware how recycling varies from county to county. Here in Powys, there appears to be no recycling of tetra packs or metal jar lids. We did consider the possibility of bringing those back home but decided there probably wasn’t space in the car. But we did head home with an eco brick half filled.

butterfly

Owl Barn Retreat

And I loved relaxing in the wildlife garden watching the butterflies and listening to the birds. We’ve also seen rabbits, squirrels and a fox. Son2 has enjoyed using the telescope when it has been less cloudy and has spotted Arcturus. He also loved playing in the maze, which is another great area for wildlife with all the long grass and bracken.

Owl Barn Retreat

It was a great feeling to be on the same wavelength as the owners. Anne phoned me a few days in advance of our holiday and told me things like there being a fishmonger at Oswestry market on Wednesdays. Just like I do here at home, Anne takes her own boxes to the butcher and fishmonger to avoid plastic. She was quite happy to leave me a supply of boxes to use, so we didn’t have to pack those.

We loved it so much at Owl Barn Retreat, that we have already booked two future stays there.

I’d love to hear your eco friendly holiday suggestions and tips please.

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Jibbergiggle game including giveaway

A rainy day in the long school summer holiday and what better way to spend it than trying out our latest free game Jibbergiggle from Gamely. We have had great fun playing their other three games, so we were certainly looking forward to testing this one out too.

Jibbergiggle

Also just like the other three games, Randomise, Soundiculous and The Pretender, it comes in a nice small box, the size of two decks of playing cards. This has always been a plus point for me, as the boys’ possessions seem to be gradually taking over the rest of the house. And I’m even more focussed on minimal packaging this year, so I would add that perhaps they could lose a layer of cellophane to reduce waste. Currently the cards are wrapped in cellophane and then the external box is wrapped again.

Moving onto the game itself, the boys were delighted by the rule of how to choose who plays first, this being the player with the longest tongue. Son1 was voted the winner on this count, but who would become the ultimate Jibbergiggle champion.

Jibbergiggle

Once the rules are mastered, it is fairly simple to play but lots of fun. 9 possible scenario cards are laid out, the player then looks at their nonsense sound card and secretly chooses which scenario they wish to perform. But you have to sit on your hands and only perform the scenario using your sound and facial expressions. For example cast a spell using only the phrase “piggle wiggle”. The other players try to guess, but have to shout Jibbergiggle before making their guess. We had quite a few instances initially where the Jibbergiggle shout was forgotten allowing another player an opportunity.

Jibbergiggle

I do have one question for clarification though. We were playing as a 3 person game and both boys guessed wrongly for one of my scenarios, so they were out of the round. We misinterpreted this as just out of the turn and it was only when I re-read the rules that I realised it should have been out of the round. Doe that mean since I was the only one left, with nobody remaining to guess, that we should have discarded the remaining round 1 cards and moved onto round 2?

And as you can see from the photo below, hands did not remain sat upon for long.

Jibbergiggle

Our game went to a tiebreak between son1 and son2, with me trailing in third place. My reactions just weren’t quick enough.

The rules indicate that it is for 3-8 players and suitable for age 8+, so good for a party. What a lot of fun for a load of nonsense.

Jibbergiggle currently retails at £12.99 on Amazon and John Lewis. Great value in my opinion. I can certainly highly recommend this game.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a Jibbergiggle game to one lucky winner. What a fun prize. Open worldwide.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your idea for a new game.

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Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Free From Fellows sweets review and giveaway

For the last few years, I have become more aware of how bad sugar can be for us. It is known to be one of the worst foods for a variety of common diseases like arthritis, cancer and autism. I enjoy sweet treats far too much to eliminate them, but I do try my best now to reduce my sugar intake. I’m now buying less refined sugar and opting to purchase the likes of date sugar or coconut sugar instead. I’ve made a few little changes like always having fruit with my porridge instead of sugar and sometimes opting for something like a cheese scone or slice of fruit bread rather than cake.

Now although I feel like I personally am gradually winning the battle against sugar, it is a different story when it comes to my youngest son. He is such a fussy eater and so skinny compared to his brother, but he does have a sweet tooth. So we do have sweet treats in the store cupboard for him to help himself to, as I don’t aways have time to bake and sometimes he rejects my lower sugar baking anyhow. And one thing he has always been partial to is the likes of Haribo.

Free From Fellows sweets

So I was delighted when Free From Fellows contacted me, asking if I would like to review their sweet range. They sent me 9 free packs of their sweets along with a Utopia preserving jar. I used this to make a very retro look sweets jar. It looked just like a mini version of what I fondly remember being stocked at the sweet shop when I was a child. I particularly have fond memories of counting out chocolate mice from such a jar.

Free From Fellows sweets

The range includes the following six varieties.
Gummy Bears
Cola Bottles
Midget Gems
Rhubarb & Custard
Pear Drops
Lollipops (packet contains cola and strawberry flavours)

Their sweets are sugar free, gelatine free, gluten free and have no artificial colours or flavours. They are also suitable for vegans which is great as so often gummy sweets can contain pork gelatine. Apart from the lollipops packet which was 60g or 5 lollys, the other packets were all 70g each. All the packets were very long-dated to 2020.

However when I looked at the packets, I found they did contain other sweeteners instead of sugar. The 3 gummy varieties contain maltitol syrup and steviol glycosides whilst the lollipops contain isomalt and steviol glycosides, and the other 2 hard sweet varieties contain isomalt and sucralose. This reminded me that I had planned to do some research into sugar substitutes a while ago, but this is still outstanding.

Free From Fellows sweets

With all the choice of sweets in the jar, the boys took their time choosing which variety to try first. But once they had tried them all, everything got the thumbs up. And I have to say I’m struggling to decide whether cola bottles or rhubarb & custard is my favourite.

Free From Fellows sweets

Free From Fellows are stocked both in-store and online at Sainsburys, Morrisons, Ocado and Boots plus many smaller health food stores. I was just browsing in a small independent store called Honest To Goodness last week whilst on holiday and spotted all the varieties on the shelf there.

However one thing that was a shame was the packaging. Not only was it plastic packets, but the pear drops, rhubarb & custard and lollipops were all individually packed in plastic again inside the outer plastic packet, so an unnecessary double layer of plastic. How about considering compostable packets like a few brands are starting to move towards? Or since they were keen for me to use a jar, how about selling them in jars in the first place?

Free From Fellows sweets

One word of caution though. However tasty they are, don’t eat too many at one time. There is a little word of warning on the back of the packet that if eaten in large quantities, the sweets can occasionally give some an upset tummy.

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway 12 packs of sweets from Free From Fellows to one lucky winner. That will be 2 packs of each variety. What a sweet treat of a prize.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear about your favourite reduced sugar treats. Or perhaps you have an idea to share for an addition to the Free From Fellows range?

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Disclosure. This post is a review of products I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.

STEM Box review and giveaway

It has been a while since we last reviewed a Weekend Box. The boys have had great fun doing the activities from these in the past, but they have now got a bit old for them. However I recently found out that Weekend Box have extended their range to include a STEM box for older children. For those of you don’t know what STEM stands for, it is science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The STEM box sounded right up my boys’ street, as son1 already participates in the YES programme via school. All these acronyms – YES stands for Young Engineers and Scientists. So we were delighted to receive a free STEM Box to review.

STEM box

Son2 was the lucky one who got to put this box to the test.

STEM box

So the first part of the fun is opening the box to find out what exciting activities lie within.

STEM box

Son2 was quick to check out the booklet. He immediately decided that of the three main activities, he wanted to start by making a rocket. Most of the necessary equipment was included in the STEM box, but we would have to provide a plastic bottle. Oh no, there’s a word we didn’t wish to see – plastic! It was son2 who got us started on our journey towards a plastic free future in the first place. I haven’t bought any drinks in plastic bottles at all this year. However I had a rummage in the kitchen cupboard and found a suitable apple drink hiding at the back.

STEM box

So son2 did all the crafting to make his rocket indoors before we headed out into the garden for the scientific action. Add warm water and the effervescent tablets, pop the lid on, give the bottle a shake and put upside down in a mug. Then wait for the rocket to launch.

STEM box

We didn’t manage to capture a photo of the rocket launching.

The other two main activities in our STEM box are making a kite and pinwheels, as this box is on the topic of things that fly. Son2 plans to do those next weekend. Plus the booklet is also packed with plenty of bonus activities on the same theme. There are facts, jokes, puzzles and instructions for making two types of paper planes along with an experiment evaluation table and a “touch down” certificate. And there is even a door hanger to colour on the inside of the box. So lots more fun to be had.

When I had a browse round the Weekend Box website, I was pleased to see that everything contained in a box is either reusable or recyclable and that 95% of each box contents comes from recycled material. So if they are so committed to the environment and sustainability, why ask us to provide a single-use plastic bottle? Could something else have been used to make the rocket instead perhaps?

The STEM Box is a new addition to the Weekend Box range, targeted at older children from age 7-12. It currently retails at £8.95 including free delivery, the same price as a Weekend Box. It is sent out monthly and the one difference is that there are 3 activities, rather than 4. Well worth the price in my opinion for all the educational fun.

We have reviewed the Kids Weekend Activity Box a few times previously. You can see the fun we had before, on the following posts, along with an introduction to the principles of Weekend Box.
A mask and a rainforest
Chinese New Year activities
Cooking Potato Boats and making 3D glasses.
Sand Art and making a bird feeder.

If readers of my blog would like to try out any type of Weekend Box, I have an ongoing unique promo code for you to get your first box for free (including free delivery).

The unique promo code is CLAIRE43 and can be redeemed at www.weekendboxclub.com. If you have any difficulties with the code, try signing up with this direct link www.weekendboxclub.com/main/signup?promocode=CLAIRE43

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a 6 month subscription of STEM Box to one lucky winner. What a fun prize.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear what STEM or crafting activities you enjoy.

Visit Yet Another Blogging Mummy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Family Fever

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.