Friday, 31 August 2018

Rubiks Cube School Prep

The summer holidays have been great to let the kids unwind and have a homework free 6 weeks! Although this is great and something that all kids love it is important to keep their brains active. Watching YouTube and playing Fortnite seemed to be the thing to do for majority of the kids this summer but we decided to restrict tablet time and get our son's brain to do a little work during the break.

We spent time as a family going places and even had a holiday but in the time that we were in the house (because I'm not made of money and can't take them out all day every day) I wanted to make sure that Jared wasn't glued to either the TV or his tablet, which actually died during the holidays causing upset even more tears shed when I told him he would have to wait until Christmas to see if he would get a new one. Luckily we were sent some fantastic Rubik's Cube puzzle's to try out, one being the standard 3x3 but also a 2x2 and a kitten shaped one.

Did you know that the Rubik's cube was actually first called the magic cube although I think really addictive but annoying would of also been a great name. The first cube we played with was the 3x3 I thought it would be a fun idea to mess it up right away and try and solve it, I still to this day have never solved a Rubik's cube. Jared spent ages turning the cube at random and managed to get on side done but then my dad told him it was all wrong and that there is a way to completing the cube. My dad is a little bit of a Rubik's fan in fact he has owned many over the years and has been looking at some of the bigger cube's to try and crack. Jared enjoyed learning about the way that the colours needed to be and spent some time watching video's of how it works and how to solve it which of course also led to speedcubing video's where people finish them in seconds!!

The 2x2 I thought would be super simple to complete because it was 2x2. Wrong! I was wrong very wrong it is actually pretty difficult and I got really frustrated with it Jared tried it and played with it for a good hour before asking his granddad for some help, he was more than happy to help. Jared watched and listened as my dad completed it in about 5 minuets explaining about the sides and the colours and the turns. He then messed it up and gave it back to Jared who spent ages trying to complete it. Again I still have not completed it.

The final cube or should I say kitten that we were sent is a junior version which is in the shape of a kitten. I messed this one up, a puzzle in itself, then handed it to Jared. On the first attempt he took a while to complete it as he couldn't figure out how to get the two head pieces back to get together once he had completed it I messed it up again and he had completed it within a minuet.

We are big fans of the Rubik's cube collections and I love how they kept Jared entertained yet also keeping his brain active. It's a great yet fun way of getting the kids ready for going back to school and having to work their brains, maybe school's should recommend it as homework in future alongside the reading. I will be getting some more Rubik's junior puzzles for Jared for Christmas as I think they are a great and simple plus they are cute.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Do They Need New Uniform?

As the holidays start to wind down and we wave goodbye to the extra sleep and lazy days there is a surge of parents still frantically buying school uniform but my question is do they really need it?

Throughout the school year I have to buy new shirts, trousers and jumpers, mainly because they go missing never to be returned. So it got me thinking does Jared really need all new uniform? No he doesn't. So why am I wasting money on new uniform when his uniform from six weeks ago still fits him and is still fit for purpose.

Parents pay upwards of £300 to kit their kids out in new uniform, shoes, bags, coats and water bottles. This year financially we have struggled so the thought of buying new everything for school sent me into a flap. This is when I sat down and went through everything. His shoes still fit but as they are getting a little snug we bought a bigger size for £13 from Asda, I wasn't going to spend the £30+ I spent last year in Clarks for them not to fit come Christmas. I have kept two pairs of his trousers and bought another pair as I threw two pairs away that had knee holes. When it came to his shirts he definitely needed new ones as his old ones had got really grubby so I bought 2 packs of 2 from Asda for £4 a pack then 1 twin pack of polo tops for PE again Asda, £3. I refuse to buy anymore school jumpers as at £10 a jumper it's just too much and his old ones fit fine, well I say his these are the ones we actually got back after his went missing.

I have seen so many pictures of new coats and water bottles being posted by friends and family. Not me though Jared's coat is still prefect to use and has a selection of water bottles anyway.

This year I have saved so much money just by actually looking at his existing uniform and making a judgement as to whether it was still good to use. I have saved space in landfill by not throwing away clothing that can still be worn. I've come to the realisation that just because it's a new school year it doesn't mean that the kids need all new uniform, shoes and the rest.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Staycation: Chapel St Leonards

We have just got back off our jollies and I must admit I do love a good British holiday. We spent a fun filled week at Skegness well Chapel St Leonard's, in a static caravan just us four. We booked our staycation through Hoseason's and got a fab deal, £340 for the week in a 6 berth static caravan with passes included to the local club where we could visit the entertainment on and evening and also use the swimming pool for free aa well as the kids soft play area. The campsite we stayed on was very basic but it was close to local shops and attractions which was perfect for us the bonus was it was also just a stone's throw away from the beach.

Just outside of our campsite we had many things to keep us entertained the main one being the amusements. We favoured a particular amusement arcade Bibby's this is because you could collect tickets while winning sweets and toys from the 2p machines. During the course of the week we saved up our tickets that we won so that when it came to redeeming them at the end of the week the kids could both get a decent prize, Jared chose a Tonka helicopter and Hot Wheels car and Eryn got some Shopkins dolls and a baby doll in a ladybird suit. Along the road there were plenty of cafe's offering a range of foods and ice creams or if you fancied cooking in the caravan you could pop into the shops and purchase something. There was a pub which offered children's entertainment which we visited the entertainment for kids wasn't that great it just seemed to be more of a distraction so the parents could do a little less parenting whilst drinking. There were some arcade games to the end of the room and the kids entertainment was a disco with colouring competitions and a game of musical bumps. If I had the money and the resources I would seriously consider setting up children's entertainment as I do like this is something that is lacking in the area yet having said that I would visit the area again but I would maybe go elsewhere for evening entertainment as a family.

The club that we had access to was a bit of a walk away but with (Golden Palm) entertainment on a night we took a walk down. Liam and I both agreed that the children's entertainment wasn't that great and the nights we went when the entertainment ended it seemed to be just followed by games of bingo. On the nights we went down after the entertainment had ended Jared and Eryn played in the soft play area where there was also a mini disco and an entertainer who would do the odd party game, Jared played a game of pass the parcel one night and won the main prize of sweets and a balloon. As our passes entitled us to one free swim session a day we went down to check out the pool, we had been advised to get there early because the queues can become long and the pool only has capacity for 150 people. Once inside the pool I immediately noticed a splash zone which was next to the baby pool which had a mini slide. The main pool was a decent size with the deep end not being too deep as I could easily stand up in it, there were two slides which Liam enjoyed going down neither myself or the kids used them. If you don't fancy joining in in the swimming then there are plenty of tables and chairs and even sun loungers that you can relax on whilst watching family swim, you can even grab a snack from the snack shack. As well as snacks being sold they also sold a variety of inflatable toys. We bought some inflatables from the shop inside which I thought was really well priced, £2.50 for a crab ring for Eryn and £4.50 for a big ring for Jared.

As mentioned the beach was extremely close to us and we spent some time playing in the sand and splashing in the sea. The sand was a bit sharp with plenty of shells for the kids to find (we have a bucket full). On our first visit there seemed to be many ladybird families on their holiday enjoying the beach as we did get covered in them. I have never seen so many in one place in all my life. While Jared preferred to splash in the sea Eryn just wanted to dig in the sand and fill and empty her Peppa Pig bucket. On the Sunday my friend came over from Kings Lynn and after a disaster day trip then the kids entertainment being cancelled we went to the beach, it was a good choice too. This time while me and my friend had a catch up and a few drinks Liam took the kids down to the sea where they found more than just shells, my friends daughter had caught a crab in her bucket and told us they had seen Jellyfish. Having only seen Jellyfish in an aquarium I had a walk down to the sea and sure enough they were there. This got the kids excited and made us glad we chose to sit on the beach.

We have been looking at booking next year's holiday and would love to go back to the site again as we had everything we needed so close to us and the kids really enjoyed it. The site was quiet and clean and had plenty of shops nearby and a laundrette. Even though the kids entertainment wasn't very good know that we could find alternatives to do on an evening as there are plenty of places that we didn't get round to exploring.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

William's Den

Last weekend we were invited to visit William's Den which is located in North Cave in East Yorkshire. I had read a little bit about it on their website but when I'm going to review a place I don't like to read too much as I want to go in with an open mind. I was surprised that I hadn't heard of William's Den before as it is only half an hour away from us and we always look for places that are different to go and visit.

William's Den is an indoor outdoor play area, with everything designed for both children and adults to play on. When we first arrived we were welcomed had the rules of play explained and given some wrist bands to write on. We could see the indoor play area and it looked so good but we chose to explore outside first. Outside there is a range of area's to play in the mud kitchen was where we went first and cooked up a few mud pies, Eryn wanted to just run around so we left the kitchens and followed her lead which led us down to some hills and tunnels within the hills. I had a crawl through one as it reminded me of a tunnel that I used to play in when I was a kid at my local park. It wasn't very busy when we first arrived which was nice as we didn't have to wait to play. Which was great when it came to the swings as they are normally packed when we go places.

Liam had spotted the den building area and took Jared to start building while I had a swing with Eryn, it was short lived as she really wanted to help her dad and brother build. Soon enough we were all building our den which I have to admit was so much fun. The main frame for the den is already there but then there are big long sticks so that you can build your walls. We built a tee-pee shaped den and Jared was so proud that he had helped build this. Also outside there is a pile of rocks that you can climb on and a wooden climbing section, zip lines and a really fun sand play area that has a water pump. Some kids were soaked from head to toe as they splashed and played in the water. 

Before we went to play indoors we had some lunch. The picnic area is outside and there are plenty benches we sat inside a tee-pee tent to eat our lunch as there were a lot of wasps around and I was complete on edge. I had seen a few wasp traps but there seemed to be a big issue with wasps and it was something that everyone was mentioning. I know the venue can't help this but hopefully it is a problem that they can get sorted by having more traps. We think there must of been a wasp nest or two nearby. There is a cafe onsite for if you don't fancy taking a picnic but I can't comment on the food or prices as we didn't use it.

Inside to play. I was amazed when we walked in and were faced with a big indoor tree house. Everything was made from wood and there was a little stream of water with an indoor cloud above it, children standing in the raining and splashing. It was hard to keep track of Jared in here as he was just running and climbing everywhere. I mainly stuck with Eryn and we played in the sand and then I let her take the lead and show me where she wanted to go, up. We climbed up and explored there was a really soft areas with soft bricks and pillows. As my child turns feral when out in public she wasn't too interested in this room and we headed off across a long wooden walking plank and found some tree stumps that we could make music with. There were a few musical bits inside which Eryn liked. Eryn was able to walk and climb around it all with the odd help from me or Liam as she is two I thought she would struggle a bit but then she is a climber. Jared loved playing with everything and towards the end of our visit he went and stood under the inside cloud and got rather wet, his shoes are still drying.

We really enjoyed our visit and would love to go back again with some of our friends. If you book online you do get a discount of 10% babies under 12 months are free and although there isn't much for them to do they can go into the soft and crawl about. If you really enjoy your visit you can upgrade to a season pass and if you do that on the day of your visit they will take the money off that you have already paid to enter. (if you are reading this in months or years to come then please check this detail). William's Den also offers birthday parties which start at £12 per child.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

VR Here - Virtual Reality Gaming

Last weekend me, Jade and my friend Reef got up early and jumped on the M62 to Liverpool. We had the opportunity to go to VR Here to experience their virtual reality arcade. Now, I am a gamer, ever since I got my very first SNES in the 90's, I have constantly had a passion for seeking out new games and technology. When Jade told me we were going VR gaming for the day I was excited but also nervous. I have never really had a fully immersive VR experience so I wasn't entirely sure how I would find it, if I would enjoy it or if it would just make me want to throw up. When we arrived we pulled up and parked right outside, VR Here are based in a small unit just outside Liverpool city centre so the ability to park outside the place for free is great.

Walking into the building we were greeted by a staff member who gave us a quick talk about what we were going to be getting up to in the virtual world we were about to enter. The unit was stacked with custom built PC's to make the gaming experience as smooth and immersive as possible. We learnt that VR Here was one the first gaming arcade to open in the country and also learnt a bit about the research that goes into making sure the game runs as smooth as possible in terms for FPS (frames per second) rate. The set up here uses 90FPS which is a lot higher than any of your home set ups.

The room had 4 separate booths in it, all with a VR kit ready and waiting, we all took up a booth while the guy strapped the headset on tight and gave us our controllers. As soon as the headset was attached the magic began to happen, looking around you could see the moon, the earth, stars, sky. It felt as though someone had just plucked you from planet earth and put you in a whole new world.

The first experience we had was an underwater scene, this gave us an insight into the detail that can be used in the VR gaming world, the colours were phenomenally breathtaking. You could interact with everything you saw in front of you. If you wanted to try and touch the fish all you had to do was reach out in front of you while holding the controller. We chased fish, stood in the middle of millions of jelly fish and looked a blue whale clear in the eye while standing on a ship wreck. They say "you only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it count" VR Here definitely made it count.

We then went into a classic game of Space Invaders, but with a twist. Rather than it being the old 64bit classic, your hands became laser pistols and you were thrown into a space utopia where you were tasked with shooting oncoming alien space craft. This game really highlighted how well the motion sensors work. When the enemies fired back you physically had to move your body out of the way to avoid losing health.

After this, we were thrown into a magical medieval world. In this game we had to work as a team of archers to stop oncoming waves of enemies from destroying the gate we were protecting. It was your classic tower defence type game. A new game, meant a new set of hands, this time we had a bow in one had and the other had was used to draw your arrows. The graphics again were outstanding and really add to the immersive experience. At one point my arrows were on fire and it looked as though real fire was only a few feet in front of me.

The next game was the first real game that made me feel a little unsteady for the first minute or so. This time we all faced off against each other in a futuristic death match. In one hand we had a gun and in the other you had what can only be described as a rocket that was used to fly around the world. The sensation of flying despite standing still was bizarre. For the first minute of so I felt like I was going to fall over several times but once you get used to it the feeling is crazy. You could land on building which was odd because naturally you bend your knees when landing despite you physical body not even leaving the ground.

We were then transported to a metropolis, a huge city and we had to get in a lift to the top floor of a skyscraper. The floor was called "The Plank" and guess what? We were asked to walk it. This was bizarre, I am not someone who is scared of heights but all of a sudden being 100ft in the air in a reality world seemed daunting. As much as I tried to convince myself that I was on solid ground in Liverpool my brain would not shift a sense of caution and danger. The game did not just make you fall when you got to the end of the plank, if you were not careful with your footing you could fall off the side of the plank, this again just showed how intelligent this form of gaming is when a sensor can recognise where you would step in a virtual world. Eventually I fell off the plank and fell to the floor, for the first few seconds of the fall I had that feeling you sometimes get when you are just falling asleep and you get the sense of falling. After this we could go back  in the lift and visit different floors, I went to the fireman floor, I had a Jet Pack and a Hose Pipe and I had to fly all over the city putting out fires. There was a painting floor which Jade tried out where she also had a Jet Pack and a Hose Pipe only rather than putting out fires she could choose a colour and leave a paint trail.

We then played a game that has become popular on social media of late. We had a red laser sword in one hand and a blue laser sword in the other. Oncoming were red or blue blocks with an arrow on them, we had to slice the block in the correct direction with the right coloured sword while dodging oncoming obstacles in time to music. Think of it as if Star Wars did a cross over with Guitar hero. Every game we played before I spent a lot of time exploring, and appreciating the brilliance of the concept but this was the first game I played as if I were at home in my living room, I found myself really concentrating and taking it quite seriously, I wanted to beat the game. At one point an obstacle hit me, I actually flinched as I was that convinced that I was actually in the game.  This was a great game, simple, yet so effective.

What is a VR gaming session without a a survival horror game. We were thrown in as a team into a desert, surrounded by Zombies and we had to kill them all to survive. I didn't find this scary, more jumpy. You would be focused on killing the enemies in front of you and then turn around to find a Zombie stood right in front of you about to tear your face off. There were many different weapons to choose from and all you had to do was reach for them with you hands and click a button on your controller. Some Zombies would be slow, some fact, some would have protection. You really had to work as a team to make sure you all survived.

This was the last game we got to play but the impression I had at the end was that VR gaming if the future, the opportunities are endless and it opens people up to a whole new world of gaming. There is truly something for everybody. I feel like this technology can be used in all forms of life, medical training, military training, overcoming phobias etc. This pretend world that feels so real can benefit people so much. I asked the staff member, how much is it usually for a session, due to the tech involved I expected it to be a small fortune but I was massively wrong. The prices ranged from £5 for 15 minuted up to £20 for an hour. I am already trying to organise a group of us to go back and have a play around with some other games.

If your still undecided and want to know more about my experience before giving it ago yourself just tweet me @LiamBurton92

Monday, 6 August 2018

Road Trip Must Have's

When I think of a road trip I think of a camper van touring the world with the freedom to just pull over and set up home for the night. I also dream of taking my own road trip one day around America and seeing as many states as possible. I'm sure many will have this same dream?
In a couple of week's time we will be taking a long drive to go on our first family holiday and as I like to super organised I decided to create this list of ' Road Trip Must Have's'. We will be travelling with two children so some of what we need you may not.

1. Snacks - We always pack the kids a lunch if we are going on a long drive but then we also pack a few sweets to keep us all going. I used to love the fruity car sweets as a kid.

2. First Aid Kit - For some people this is an item that is always in the car but it is also something that people can often not even consider, In some European countries it is an essential that you have this when driving anywhere. They are fairly easy and cheap enough to pick up.

3. Books/Toys - The kids get very bored very quickly and if you have ever played eye spy with a 6 year old you will know that this game can last no longer than 15 minutes. I try to take a book for each of them and then they also get to choose a toy each. I always hope they will fall asleep on the journey but it must be the excitement that keeps them going.

4. Sat Nav - I'm not ashamed to admit I'm useless with a map and rely on my TomTom to get me from A-B. Of course I do still take note of road signs and I have often ignored the TomTom in favour of the signs.
5. Tissue/Toilet roll - For us this is very much needed not just for if we are caught short in the middle of nowhere but because Jared has a lot of nose bleeds.

6. Drinks - We often under estimate how much we drink when we are travelling we normally take one drink per person but this year I will be packing more drinks as the weather has been a lot warmer and I really don't want to be paying service station prices.

7. Sunglasses - Seems such a simple item you wouldn't think you would forget these. However I do on a regular basis, I have considered buying a second pair and leaving them in the car so I'm not squinting.

8. Cool Box - We are taking food with us not much but I didn't want to spend the first day finding a shop or supermarket to go and buy milk, yogurts and other bits. We can't check in until 4pm so a cool box is the best solution and it can also keep our dink's nice and cold.

9. Sun Screens - Luckily we have these built into the car but for our older car we had one of the screens that went over the door so the kids couldn't pull them off no matter how hard they tried. The over the door screen was also really good for it they had the window down as no bugs could fly in. We always have bee's flying into our car and as I have a huge bee and wasp phobia it's not good at all.

10. Playlist - This has to be the most important right? There is nothing worse than driving to music you can't stand or listening to the radio re-tune itself every time you drive through a new county. The days of making a road trip may have gone but thanks to apps and USB sticks you can still make that killer playlist.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

XLS Medical Shake: Week 2

Let me just say it didn't go well. I started the week with two shakes a day alternating between strawberry and chocolate. I felt positive after my weight loss and determined that I would lose more this week, but I forgot that the kids broke up from school!

On the Wednesday it was day one of the holidays I didn't have a shake for breakfast but I also didn't have anything to eat either. When lunch time rolled around I had to leave to take the car for it's MOT and the rest of my week went from bad to worst and the one thing I do when I'm upset and stressing out is eat.

They were running nearly two hours behind at Kwik Fit but didn't bother to inform anyone so I had no choice other than to sit there and wait. The car then failed the MOT and I was told by Kwik Fit that it would cost £5000 to fix. At this point I was beyond upset, how the hell am I going to fix this? how will we get to our holiday? I got home informed Liam of what had happened he rang around a few garages and one who had fixed our car back in January said that the quote was ridiculous and for all the work that needed to be be done it would be £300. Of course £300 was better than £5000 but we still didn't have a spare £300 just laying about. That night I got some shopping and there were stacks of cream cakes and profiteroles reduced to 50p I bought a few and then sat and ate them. My thoughts were that it would cheer me up but it didn't.

Another contribution to my failing this week was it was my daughters birthday. We had to cancel her BBQ and bouncy castle party due to the car problem but we did have a little tea party at her Nanna's. I couldn't just sit there sipping my shake and I had already ruined this week since Wednesday so I just enjoyed the day with family and enjoyed the food, all those calorie filled cakes and pizza's.

I didn't weigh myself on the Sunday like I normally would as I had no car to get to my usual weigh place. I did a weigh in on some home scales and it showed a gain of 2lbs but I'm sure it would be more. So Monday it's back to the shakes and starting again. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Choosing The Right Rug

A home improvement project can be quite costly and sometimes go beyond what you had budgeted for. This is the point most home owners dread as it forces them to stop everything halfway and hold on until they get the money to complete the project. But did you know that there are home improvement ideas that will cost you less and still make your house stand out from the rest?

These are projects you can do yourself thus avoiding the cost of hiring contractors. The best part is that, as much as you may need the advice of an expert, you don’t have to be an expert to improve the look of your house. One great idea is buying a unique rug that matches your interior design.

There are different colors, sizes and shapes of rugs on the market and getting one that matches your needs shouldn’t be a hard task. All you need to take into consideration is the size of your living space, where you are going to place the rug and the theme of your interior.

This infographic from Land of Rugs will explain outstanding ideas with a good rug at the center of them all.