Monday, 26 November 2018

A grand welcome - personalised house sign review

We have lived in our house for over 12 years now and there's lots we have changed in that time, but a fair few things that we haven't - including the old fashioned brass numbers on our porch door! The front door and porch is the first thing you see when you come to our home and it's important to make the right impression.

We had the opportunity to review a customised house sign, courtesy of UK Sign Shop, and I loved the idea of adding a special touch to our home.

There's a large range of house sign styles and materials to choose from, so it could actually take you a long time to make a decision! Hubs and I agreed that we liked the slate signs the most, but I still wanted a bit of a modern edge. I chose a rectangular design with a nice flourish / floral detail to it, then kept the font modern so it would be bold and clear to see from the street. It's the Bluebell Slate House Sign (£28.99) and features a deep engrave highlighted in silver, to combine the traditional slate material with a contemporary finish.


Thursday, 22 November 2018

To Become Dad reviews: NBA Playgrounds 2 for XBox from 2K Games

Way back in the day, I used to love NBA Jam on the SNES. Its super-fun, arcade pick up and play approach to basketball – a game not often seen in the UK back in the early 90s before the internet and cable TV – meant it was a firm favourite when friends came over and didn’t require in-depth knowledge of the rules of basketball to play – in fact, everything I know about the rules of basketball now started with NBA Jam. I put a hell of a lot of time into NBA Jam, less so for the sequel, and then didn’t play any basketball videogames for years and years.

Then, a few years ago, I bought myself NBA 2k13 in a Steam sale which, unbeknownst to me at the time, is far more of a basketball sim; I remember doing the tutorial which was so long that by the time I’d gotten to the end, I’d forgotten what it told me at the start. With no arcade alternative on the market, I gave up hope of ever playing something as fun as NBA Jam was.
Then, last year, 2K games released NBA Playgrounds. Immediately I was intrigued; cartoony basketball stars, more immediate, arcade gameplay and basic controls meant it sounded like it was right up my street. However, the game didn’t do so well critically, so I never took a chance on it.
Cut to today: I’ve been given the opportunity to review NBA Playgrounds 2 for Xbox One (or Xbox One X in my case) and I’m happy to say it totally scratches that NBA Jam itch.


The big Midlands grotto guide 2018 - where to see Santa this Christmas

*Updated* I've been making my list, and checking it twice, to bring you my round up of some of the best places in the Midlands to see the man in red this Christmas, 2018. Whether you call him Father Christmas, Santa or jolly ol' St Nick, this is one place you can find information on the best grottos in and around Birmingham and the West Midlands.

It's a tradition of mine, just like decorating the tree and singing Christmas songs, and this is my fourth bumper guide to where to see Father Christmas in the region. It takes time, but I love doing it and find that my past posts on grottos are some of my most popular - so I really hope it's useful.

This is going to be my BIGGEST SANTA GROTTO ROUND-UP YET, with new info and locations added as and when I have it. Now, some are so popular, they sell out long in advance, but I hope these links help you find out more and choose a fun festive day out for your family.

Enjoy, share and let me know if there's anywhere else I should be adding to my 'nice' list... 

I will keep this post updated with new events, and every attraction featured is based on my own research and no content has been sponsored.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

To Become Dad reviews: Carnival Games for Nintendo Switch, from developer Cat Daddy Games and publisher 2k

Christmas is a time that sees the family coming together to spend quality time, eat, drink and be merry - and play games! It's tradition, isn't it? As Ethan starts to get into computer games - and to be honest, he's getting pretty good - we've been thinking about games we could play together this Christmas, from traditional games (like Guess Who?, his current favourite) to computer games that all of us can play together.

I am not a gamer AT ALL, so my skill set and patience is quite limited and if I'm going to get involved, it's got to be something easy and fun to get into. Which is why I was keen to try out the new Carnival Games, as it's all about classic games you would see at a fair, from bowling to shooting targets. Just the kind of thing that you can dip into and anyone can pick up.

I think this is a fun and colourful game and something to have to hand to bring the family together over the Christmas break. As I say, I don't know a lot about games, so having something to dip into is all I am looking for, which is why I think this is worth a look.

To Become Dad, however, is a BIG gamer, so if you know your stuff and want to know the full ins and outs of the game, read on...


Tuesday, 20 November 2018

When the unexpected happens... and you need some extra money, fast!

I’d like to say I’m good with money, but what I really mean is I’m good at spending it. I do have a good handle on my finances and have kept a really detailed budget sheet for many years that helps me log all the incomings and outgoings in a given month so I know where I stand. But I do like to squeeze every little bit out of my monthly salary and enjoy looking ahead so we can budget for holidays or special occasions or the next thing we are working towards in our house - or perhaps even preparing to have this baby of ours!

Because there’s always something, isn’t there?

* Sponsored collaboration 

Monday, 19 November 2018

Adulting is Hard: Silly Mistakes We All Make (And How to Avoid Them!)

As a busy mum you have so much on your plate, it’s no wonder that things can sometimes go wrong. There are silly mistakes most of us make as adults and although they’re not life or death, they can cause issues at the time! Here are three examples, and how to avoid them.

* Collaborative post

Sleeping through our alarm

You wake up, and instantly you know something isn’t right. You check the time and it’s immediate panic, you’ve slept through your alarm (or it hasn’t gone off) and you’re running late for work, your children's schools or an important appointment. Most mornings you might throw a mini tantrum having to get out of bed, and find yourself feeling tired for ages. But on these mornings, you can bet that you’re awake right away and out of that bed like a shot! And of course, these will always be the mornings that your kids decide to sleep in themselves, instead of being up at the crack of dawn as usual. It can happen to the best of us every now and again, but if this is occurring on a regular basis then something clearly needs to change. Start getting yourself organised the night before, lay out your clothes, pack your lunch and your bag and set your alarm (as well as a backup alarm). Rejig your schedule so that you’re getting to bed earlier, more sleep will make getting up in the morning so much easier. It can help to plan a nice breakfast too, something healthy that you’ll enjoy. While your boss is sure to forgive a missed alarm once in a blue moon, if it becomes a regular thing then your job could be at risk.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Jingle Bells - a Santa grotto experience like no other at Resorts World Birmingham this Christmas

You may have seen my annual bumper guide to Santa grottos across the Midlands, and I have a new experience that has shot to the top of my 'nice' list - the Jingle Bells family escape room event at Resorts World Birmingham, which is open now.

We were invited along to be one of the first families to enjoy Jingle Bells and we kept it a surprise from Ethan - so seeing his face light up when a friendly elf opened the door to greet us, all the way through the activities and meeting the main man in red himself, was just so lovely. We had wondered whether we would have time to actually visit a grotto ourselves this year, given the timings of when baby number two is due, so we were so happy to have had this chance and I can honestly say, having been to a fair few places over the past few years as Ethan has grown up, this is one of our favourite grotto experiences.


Tuesday, 13 November 2018

How durable is rattan garden furniture?

There is nothing that can match up to natural things, but what if we tell you that for your outdoor space , we have something even better, yes the HDPE manufacture rattan garden furniture

* Sponsored post

Also famous as synthetic rattan, this younger cousin of natural rattan has been very much in demand since it came and is now one of the most preferred choices of UK homeowners for reasons best known to everyone. However, we still have put on the points together that make rattan garden furniture the first and the foremost choice of homeowners in UK.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

36 week update: things that have helped me through pregnancy

This bump of mine turns 36 weeks today which means there could be as little as one or as many as five weeks left. Either way, that's no time at all!

I feel like I have been pregnant for a long time; I've enjoyed it, but those first few nervous weeks dragged on and on, waiting for one early scan then the next, and being pretty damn big and heavy now, I do feel like this baby has been cooking for ages now. They can stay where they are for another three weeks at least! I am of course looking forward to meeting them, so so much, but it still feels pretty surreal.

I've been busy getting prepared this week - to finish work, to get the house and baby's room ready - and need a bit more 'me' time to practice relaxing and drink in these last few weeks as a family of three. Because life will never be quite the same again...

There's a few things that have been helping me to take care of myself, my bump and my mind too.


Friday, 9 November 2018

Take note: stylish notebooks for stationery addicts - and more designer options for the home from Crowdyhouse

I love stationery and since creating my little work nook in the dining-room-turned-den, I've really enjoyed using and working in this space. It's a pretty corner of our home and a place to store special bits of stationery, including some beautiful notepads from the 5mm Paper collection by designer houseware site Crowdyhouse.

Offering a range of beautiful items, from prints to home accessories and even jewellery, Crowdyhouse is all about bringing designer style into any home, with affordable prices. They work with local independent designers and pride themselves on the style and unique range that gives you something different to what you can find on the high street or from large-scale stores.

And it was love at first sight.


Thursday, 8 November 2018

My perfect A/W maternity look - intu Merry Hill shopping haul

I do love a good shopping spree. I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to using online a lot for the convenience, but whenever I plan a day out to pop to the shops, I always get excited and love planning what I need to get whilst wondering what gems I might find. Nothing quite beats walking into a store and not quite knowing what things you may come away with.

We live in Birmingham and it tends to be the main place we go to for a shopping trip, but there is somewhere which has all of my favourite shops under one (massive) roof... intu Merry Hill. They’ve got everything from clothes stores to toy shops, homeware to shoes, accessories and stationery. 


Friday, 2 November 2018

To Become Dad reviews: Crayola Scoot for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and PC

Crayola Scoot is a new four-player game that's released today for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and PC, and we've been lucky enough to be one of the first families to review it. Pitched as a non-violent old school co-operative game, Scoot is Crayola’s first video game in 14 years and it creates the chance to get the whole family together on the sofa to beat the Scoot Legends in a rainbow of exciting events like Splatter Tag, Trick Run, and S.C.O.O.T.

Here's some of the cool things you can colourise and customise in Crayola Scoot:
  • Create and customize your own Crayola Scoot character and start your journey to becoming a scooter legend
  • Perform insane tricks and jumps to splash your colour and activate traps, boosts and shortcuts
  • Upgrade your scooter and your rider's style as you rise to fame and challenge for the championship
  • Keep it fresh with six team and solo events including Colour Frenzy, Crazy Crayons, Splatter Tag, S.C.O.O.T. and Trick Run
  • Challenge the outrageous Scoot Legends for the Crayola Colour Cup on 12 parks across three worlds
  • Leave your mark on each park by bringing mega-sized pieces of art to life on walls and on the ground. View your finished masterpieces at the conclusion of each level.
  • Splat your friends in four-player split-screen battles

With it being half term, Ste and Ethan have been spending some time getting to know the game and have put together the following review, sharing their thoughts and experience of playing this exciting new game...


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Personalised fun and fine art prints - great gift idea for the family!

As Halloween has passed now, it's ok to mention Christmas now, right? And as part of that, we can start thinking about buying presents, yes?! To be fair, I know plenty of people who get their Christmas shopping done early and I have got through most of ours as baby is due early December and I wanted to get it ticked off my list as soon as possible.

I really like creating, and receiving, personalised gifts and have recently tried a new website that helps turn your favourite photos into a striking piece of art - so more than just a standard canvas, you can create something truly unique.

The website is Pictabulous and it allows you to create custom art prints from your own photos. The process couldn't be easier; you choose the style you like - fantasy, fun or fine art - then you upload your chosen photo. You can choose from different canvas sizes and then all you need to do is pay, submit the order and the creatives at Pictabulous will transform your photo into a work of art.

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