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Friday 21 November 2014

Review: Photo Canvas from Wallcreate

Last week my Mum went in for an operation on her foot and now she is resting up in bed or on the sofa for the next few weeks and whilst I might think all that enforced rest is a good thing as it means I could ignore the kids and their constant demands, it seems my Mum is bored already.

I'm off to visit her tomorrow to provide some different conversation and to give my Dad a rest from the cooking, washing-up and ironing and I thought it would be wonderful to take Mum a gift.  We have already sent her cards and some flowers from our family but I now have a beautiful photo canvas to give her.

She has a space on the wall at the end of her bed and maybe she might just like gazing up at her daughter and grand kids whilst she rests up?  I'll soon find out tomorrow!

Above is the photo canvas that I am going to be taking down to Mum. It is 20 x 30cm and retails for just 14.97 with a 2cm depth frame or 16.97 with a 4cm depth frame from Wallcreate.

I was very pleased with this canvas and for the price it is fantastic value. It has been a couple of years since I last got a photo canvas but I'm sure they were not as cheap as this site.  Often cheap equals low quality but that does not appear to be the case here, the photo canvas is perfectly good, the colouring is accurate, it is finished well and you even get a couple of little fixings for when you want to wall mount it.

I like the fact that there is a whole variety of sizes available from Wallcreate (rectangles, squares, long rectangles) and I really adore the 3 canvas panels, where you have one print split over three different canvases. As I mentioned the prices are superb and the postage is reasonable too at 4.97 within the UK. They estimate that delivery will take 2-5 working days and mine did indeed take just 2 days.

I was happy enough with the packaging that the canvas arrived in, it was in bubble wrap and then sellotaped in a cardboard box. On the website it says there would be more card protecting it but I did not find that and frankly it didn't really need it anyway.

As well as the photo canvases Wallcreate also sell canvas wall art with famous pictures, pop art, cute images and so much more. It is definitely worth a good look around and see what you fancy.

Overall I'm very happy with my photo canvases and I'd happily buy from Wallcreate again.

Disclosure: I was sent 2 identical canvas photos for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Friday 14 November 2014

Shuffle card games - fabulous Christmas presents

Last week we were sent four Shuffle card games to review and I have to say I think they are fantastic. I love playing games with the kids but in this modern day I find it hard to carve out two hours to devote to a traditional game of Monopoly but this is where the Shuffle games come in extremely useful.  You can play with the kids and it is great that you can play a game with just two of you, for years JJ and I struggled as the girls were too young and dh was not into board or card games and you needed more players.

There are a whole variety of games and they all play in a different way, so the fun and variety just keeps on going if you have more than one set. Each game is clearly marked to show what age group it is aimed at, how many people can play and how long they estimate a game will take - about 15 - 20 minutes in the main, which is very realistic and manageable.

The games retail for £6.99 and can be bought in loads of major stores like WHSmith, Tesco and John Lewis. Or of course on Amazon too.

As you can see from the photos the games all come in the same sturdy plastic box, you will see the size from it in my hand and it has an easy to use but effective catch to keep it closed. These games are perfect for travelling and taking on holiday as they are small and easily portable. There is a sticky strip across the front of each box which shows you which game you have in the box and in honesty I'm not sure how long that strip will last before it is all dog-eared, dirty and has lots its stickiness, I say this as it was already curling up on a couple of the boxes when I too their brand new sleeves off.  This is cosmetic though and neither here nor there to be truthful.

The first game we wanted to play was the Littlest Pet Shop as the bright cards really appealed to my twin 7 year old's. Sadly our instruction booklet was missing from our package and we had no idea what to do but a quick look on the Shuffle website meant that I could print a new set of instructions an even watch a really clear demonstration video of how to play.

We found that the cards in each of the games are very high quality, the cardboard is thick and has a glossy, wipe-clean feel to it. The edges are really smooth and they are very suitable for children to play with.

Realistically it does take a few try-out games to get to know what you are doing and to start really enjoying yourself but once you know what you are up to, these are fabulous and such a lot of fun. Especially as many are based on games we already know and love like Cludeo, Trivial Pursuit, Battleships and Monopoly.

I'm pretty sure these games are going to be travelling with us when we go and visit all the family around Christmas time as we are staying in hotels and will have some down-time to kill and also it will be fun for the grandparents to be able to get involved with a game of Trivial pursuit that only takes 20 minutes. You can imagine how much fun the kids will think it is to steal a wedge from one of us!

Another great thing about these games is that once you have played them quite a bit and the shine might be wearing off you can then download a free app (both apple and android) for every game and this adds more fun, what it does will be different depending on the game but it is always great to get something for nothing.

At £6.99 I think these are perfect small gifts to give to children at Christmas and I'll certainly be stocking up.

Disclosure: We received these games free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Mayfair Hotel, St Helier, Jersey

Recently we travelled to Jersey with condor ferries and enjoyed a great family holiday on the island. Condor kindly arranged our hotel accommodation with one of the hotels that they partner with when arranging holidays through them. We stayed at the Mayfair Hotel in central St Helier and it was fabulous to be able to head out for a spot of shopping, a bit to eat or to enjoy the local culture on foot.

The central location is excellent. It was also good to have a large car park at the hotel so we had the car handy for when we wanted to explore further afield. I believe in the height of summer car parking can be an issue but it certainly wasn't in the October half-term. A word of warning though space is tight in Jersey, so get good at reverse parking and using small spaces!

The hotel building itself is not the most glamorous to look at but the important stuff is all there. The hotel is very clean, it is well maintained and there was nothing else I needed in my hotel bedroom. The kids described the hotel as 'well posh', likening it to 4 stars we have stayed in in London but I'd describe it as old-fashioned and decorated to suit an older market to be honest. Again this isn't to say there was anything wrong with it, it is just that emerald green carpet, fussy floral curtains and pink table clothes are not to my taste.

Catering for children
We were really pleasantly surprised to find that the hotel catered well to its child guests and there were quite a number of them. Apparently in summer and at Christmas there are tons of kids. In the school holidays when the hotel has more than ten children staying they organise an on-site kids club for a few times a week. My girls went to two of the evenings and they had a ball, one night making craft times and watching a movie and another evening having a disco party. It was very welcome to get my evening to myself from 7-9pm on a couple of nights, I sat in the public lounge and made the most of the free wifi (the area where this is available is quite limited though - literally reception and the lounge - not the restaurant or coffee shop).

We didn't eat at the hotel in the evening but there is a children's menu but it seemed a bit limited with things like chicken teddies, burger in a bun and fish fingers. I'd like to have seen more family type meals like Shepherds pie but then I suppose they cater to the guests they have.

In regards to bedrooms we had two good sized interconnecting rooms. One with a very large double bed (two singles zipped together) and a single bed and the other room had 3 single beds. Of course both had a large fully equipped bathroom. We were supplied with tea and coffee making facilities, remote control TV, hair dryer, complimentary toiletries, a desk area, some comfy chairs and plenty of mirrors and lighting options.

The views from the rooms were pretty naff but to be expected in a busy town. Probably the biggest issue for us was that the hotel seemed really hot, we had our windows open at all times as much as we could without them being dangerous but still it felt too hot quite often. Air conditioning would be an absolute god-send but I realise probably prohibitively expensive.

Public Areas

As you can see the public areas are pleasant, the reception is spacious and the staff working there were friendly and helpful. There are two computer terminals with Internet access in reception if you just need to use a computer briefly. There is a bar area where there is live entertainment a few nights a week. We were there for bingo (not my bag) and a singer and actually we really enjoyed him and I sung along. The prices in the bar were reasonable and better than UK pub prices I would say. Opposite the bar was a lounge area with loads of comfy sofas and seats and this is where we mostly sat.

There is also a nice sun deck up by the leisure club which would be fabulous in the summer.

We ate lunch in the coffee shop one day (this is open the whole day and early evening) and the food was excellent. The menu was not that varied but it was as we would expect and the surroundings were pleasant.

There is a children's games room on the first floor by the kids club and my kids liked to hang out there and spend 20p on the teddy grab machine. There is also a coin operated laundry room available for all in the hotel to use which was well equipped and clean.

Leisure centre
We went along to use the swimming pool as a family and had a great time. For a small club I was super impressed with how nice the changing rooms were. Good private showers, lots of lockers and hairdryers available. The pool itself was not very big but big enough to have fun and there were lots of inflatables and hoops etc for the kids to play with. My husband enjoyed using the steam room and Jacuzzi bath.

We did not get to use the gym as hubby had a cold but it looked a nice facility.

We had breakfast in the hotel each day and this was a continental buffet and English breakfast served to the table. The quality of the food serviced in general was excellent and we really enjoyed it. We did find on the first day when we came down later, about 9am (breakfast was served 7.30-9.30am) that the buffet had no croissants, ham or cheese but when we asked for more it was replenished. Breakfast is served in a large room which looks like it might be used as a ballroom sometimes, it was a packed with tables and was serviceable but hardly a pleasant surrounding. We did find the staff really friendly and attentive though.

In all I think the Mayfair is a really good middle-of-the-road hotel. It offers everything you need from a 3 star hotel. It seems to be geared up for the coach/ package holiday market but also managing to work well for individual families. If we were coming to Jersey again I would happily stay there.

Top selling points
  • Large bedrooms
  • Central location
  • Free on-site parking
  • Good English and continental breakfast
  • Fabulous kids club in school holidays
  • Free swimming pool on site
Check out the Mayfair Hotel's website for the current special offers and also follow them on Facebook or Twitter for up-to-date news.

Disclosure: We were provided with 3 nights B&B accommodation for our family as part of our review holiday to Jersey. A massive big thank you to Condor Ferries, Jersey.com and the Mayfair Hotel for such a nice half-term stay.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Review: Fellowes 63cb Shredder

I've never owned a shredder before, I'll be honest and say I've not seen the need. Much of the private information I need to access nowadays is online and I don't print much off. The letters that come via the post that I don't want to keep I tend to rip into small shreds and get rid of as soon as possible. I'm not one to hold onto clutter.

I assume it is OK putting them in the bin ripped up, surely I'm not that interesting and no one wants my old bills or payslips? But I am becoming more aware that identity fraud is big business. New research shows that 24% of UK citizens have been a victim of identity fraud, this is the highest figure in Europe and I'll be honest, that is enough to worry me.

I think perhaps I should take more care and dispose of things in a more robust manner having learnt this fact. This is why when Fellows contacted me and asked me if I wanted to trail one of their shredders I was happy to say yes.

The shredder arrived quickly and was well packaged. My initial reaction was that it looks smart but realistically is a bit big and heavy for a home-use shredder. I can imagine if you have a home office and some spare under desk space it would be perfect. Sadly we don't have an office or much spare space so I might actually donate this to my husbands work and keep it in his office. As we live on site I can still use the shredder whenever I need to but it is nicely out of eyesight.

The kids were very impressed that we have a shredder, as they sometimes help out at daddy's work doing this job. To show how easy the shredder is to use and to explore some of its features I got my 11 year old JJ to help me in this video -

This shredder retails for £149.95 and can be bought at all good business machine retailers, John Lewis and on Amazon. In all it is a great shredder and we are very happy with it.

Key points -
  • 16 litre shredding bin, which pulls out for easy emptying
  • provides Security Level P-3 quality shredding, dicing sheets into 4x50mm cross cut particles
  • takes 10 sheets at a time
  • can shred continuously for 8 minutes
  • shreds paper, small staples, paperclips and credit cards
  • includes the Fellows advanced energy saving system with reduced in-use energy consumption and ensures automatic power down after a period of inactivity
  • jam blocker to stop jams before they even start
  • 2 year warranty for the shredder

Disclosure: We received this shredder free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.