Friday, 28 July 2017

Stretch Vac-Man Toy

Littlest has been happily trying out a new toy from Character, the Stretch Vac Man- so what did he think?

Vac Man is a baddie- he is Stretch Armstrong's arch enemy. I'm sure I wont be the oknly parent to remember Stretch Armstrong from my childhood in the late 80s and early 90s- he was the toy that you could- as the name suggested- stretch across a room and he would snap back into place.

Vac Man is a little different and I think in today's hi-tech world that is quite a welcome difference.

Box appeal wise the box is bright and colourful, and definitely grabs the attention of any child who has a love of cartoons and action heroes. On opening it there's nothing to assemble and no batteries to fiddle with so you can play with the toy from the off.

The Stretch Vac Man can be played with as a smooth, non-pumped up character (and actually, Littlest has had the item like his at night and cuddled him!) which you can stretch just like his vintage pal. 

However, inside the box is a bicycle pump type affair, which, when you attach the end to the toy- and this was very simple for small hands and something Littlest at age 8 found easy without any adult supervision- pumps the Vac Man up.

He has beads inside and, once the pump is used, his "skin" becomes scaly and he can be stretched even further. It is also pose-able and will stay in any pose until the air is released. 

Littlest found this hilarious, and happily played with him against his other action hero toys.

To make him go back to his soft, in Littlest's view cuddly state, you simply press the air out from his ear.

It didn't take much effort to pump him up although smaller arms may need a couple of go's but to be honest this was just another element of the toy that Littlest found fun. In fact, it started off competitions to see who could pump him up quickest between Littlest and Mini. Mini, at ten, also loved Vac Man and she's not traditionally a fan of action toys at all.

Littlest gets to grips with Vac-Man from Character Toys

The detail in the toy is fantastic, he has a very well designed face which puts you in no doubt that he is a baddie character. 

The boredom factor is very limited in this toy for younger children as they can play together stretching him and he fits right in with imaginative play.

I'm sure once the tie in series arrives on screen Vac Man and Stretch Armstrong toys are going to become ever more popular and I for one am happy to say we are fans in our house.

The Vac Man is 35mm high and comes with his pump in the box. He is suitable from ages 5 and up. 

He costs around £30 from most major retailers including Amazon.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Veet Sensitive Precision Beauty Styler

We're back! 

Family Panel has had a bit of a break- families get busy after all and what with health issues, moving house and the like we've been away.

But the original and best (if we do say so ourselves) is back and we'll be keeping you updated on the good, bad and overpriced of consumer products.

First up, it's the Veet Sensitive Precision Beauty Styler.

Its June and that means all us ladies out there will be looking to beach holidays, swimming pool days out and casting off all those jeans, jumpers and winter clothes we've been covered in for months.

That of course means the arduous task of hair removal begins. However, Veet promise they can make the whole ordeal easy for us all!

The first plus point for me was the packaging. I hate plastic packaging that usually needs a degree to work out how to get inside to the product. The amount of times I have cut myself opening the plastic or on the sharp plastic itself is ridiculous, but Veet has a handy pull system in place that makes opening it safe and takes seconds. I hope other companies can adopt this too.

The styler itself is sleek, not too weighty, and angled to fit your hand beautifully. It also comes with two different styling heads- a small double sided one for eyebrows and a larger one like a mini hair clipper for the bikini line. It also has two pink plastic guards so you can trim easily without trimming too much. 

Finally it has easy to follow instructions, a bag to put the gadget in and a brush to clean it. It was also nice to see a battery included as there is nothing worse than buying a gadget, getting it home all ready to use and then realising you don't have a battery for it.

Its very user friendly, you twist the top to chose the styling wand of your choice depending on what hair you wish to tackle, and then once that clicks into place its simply a case of lightly twisting the base to turn it on.

I am terrible at remembering to get my eyebrows threaded, and tend to hack a them badly with a razor. I'm not very confident at styling them at all, which is annoying as they are quite bushy in places! 

The Veet Precision was very simple to use though, and at first I was quite nervous of dragging the small wand with the guard on it over the thicker areas of my brows but actually it was very safe and I didn't take too much hair off at all. 

I could also shape the brows very easily and quickly. It wasn't as great at removing the hair completely as with threading, but for a quick fix when I've forgotten again it was fine, and to be fair, if you do notice some regrowth after a few days (I have PCOS so my hormones mean a swift regrowth of hair) it was simple enough to go over it again with the Veet Styler. 

The bigger wand was also just as simple to use, it didn't pull, and even more satisfying was the lack of shaving rash that I usually experience on my underarms and anywhere else I attack with a razor blade! 

As I'm prone to sensitive skin, shaving and threading can be a nightmare and has previously ended up with me covered in spots. As you can imagine, when your goal is to be silky smooth like the ladies in the adverts, and then your end up covered in a rash, it doesn't have the desired effect and leaves me reaching for jeans again!

Its very simple to clean and although they don't recommend getting the wand incredibly wet I used it in the shower on wet skin and it coped very well.

The only negative point and was probably down to my wonkiness was changing the wands proved a bit tricky, but Elder came to the rescue and managed it with a few clicks.

This would make the perfect addition to your suitcase whether going abroad or staycationing, I also think after a wax before you can book another one it would
make a great stop gap to remove any pesky regrowth.

The Veet Sensitive Precision Beauty Styler is available at Amazon for £15.99

You can find a video guide to the Veet Sensitive Precision on their website

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Halfords Folding Picnic Table

This year, we travelled light to Camp Bestival, but you can't go without something to sit on for comfort! We tried a special offer foldable picnic table from Halfords. How did we get on?

In the previous two years of Camp Bestival, we've brought a roof box for our car and filled it with all sorts of tat we didn't in the end need. This year, having hired a car without roof box attachment options, we had to travel lighter.

However, we didn't want to go without something to sit on, which meant something which had functionality and which didn't take up too much space.

The same time as we bought our tent from Halfords, we saw a foldable picnic bench on sale too, reduced from £50 to a reasonable £20.

It was pretty compact when removed from the box and I had no trouble fitting it snuggly into the boot of the car (a Peugeot 2008) we hired.

On arriving, after the tent mishap, we had concerns that maybe the picnic bench wouldn't be great either, as we had already found we got what we paid for (eg: not much) when it came to that.

Luckily, Halfords redeemed themselves a little!

It was very simple to open out into a picnic table, and was quite sturdy when on flat ground. It had several locks which kept it all together safely, and which were easily pinpointed by helpful stickers underneath.

It was lightweight and made carrying it around simple, folding into the shape of a briefcase when not in use with a handy handle to the top.

It took the weight of our cooking stove easily, and the kids had fun sitting at it to eat or to read and play games.

Adult weight wise, I felt a little uncomfortable, as the seats were pretty basic and thin, but it managed to take my weight without collapsing. It wasn't the most comfy chair in the world, and I had to sit sideways rather than with my legs under the bench as there wasn't the space, but it did the job. It was better than sitting on the grass, but not as great as a lawn chair. 

For £20, it's gone in the shed for next year, I wouldn't recommend it for regular garden use, but for camping or day trips to the beach it's well worth having to avoid having to take along extra chairs. If space is an issue, you could do a lot worse for the price.

You can buy the picnic bench at Halfords for the same price we paid.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Groov-E Portable Solar Charger

Going camping is fun, but wanting to charge your gadgets in a tent minus electric sockets is not so much fun. Of course, you could go cold turkey and give tech the cold shoulder, but why when you can charge your phone with the sun! 

I tried a solar charger last year at Camp Bestival, and found it really poor! At first, we were impressed on the ease of use, to just charge it via USB and then stick it in the sunshine outside the tent. However, we found that after the first use- when of course it was charged from being USB charged in the same way a Powerbank works- it was rubbish and it ended up in the bin.

Groov-E however is a slightly more upmarket model, and we tried it with high hopes for charged phones over the weekend.

The Groov-E is sleek, it's lightweight, and it comes in a handy velvet pouch for easy transportation. It also had a USB charger cable (although not an iPhone one, but these would fit too) included, and, when charged, provided a handy little torch, which made plugging a phone into it in the dark easy.

It again needed to be charged at first via USB connection to a PC, and did so pretty quickly. You can tell it's charged as it has handy lights to the front which show when you press a button on the front. his of course stops the lights draining any charge it has.

When I first used it on my phone, which has the crappiest battery life ever, I found it charge it pretty swiftly, in a around an hour. It also stayed charged just as long as it would had I charged it on a conventional plug socket at home.

The great thing is that it also has an auto cut off for charging, so if your item is charged, it wont waste energy it has stored continuing to charge.

It's also compatible with cameras too, and it's top charging time for gadgets is two hours. The way I used it was to charge my phone at night, ready for the next day when I could put it outside the tent ready for night time.

Included in the box is a little metal hook, making hanging it from a tent or a window very simple to achieve. We then left it whilst we went off exploring.

So, did it charge my phone after being in blistering sunshine all day?

It did!

I was shocked to be honest as after last year's cheaper version by another brand I was rather dubious. But give it credit, this little gadget did the job impressively. In fact, I managed to keep my phone charged during Camp Bestival, which I've never managed before.

I would highly recommend the Groov-e to travellers, its so easy to use and works just as it should. I usually rely on Powerbanks but these work once and then need to be plugged into an electrical source so for trips they aren't amazingly helpful.

I will certainly be using the Groov-e again next time I'm camping, and at under £20, its a purse friendly solution for when you really don't want to be without a phone or want to keep kids amused via their tablets.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Budget Car Hire

In the next of our season of Camp Bestival tie in reviews, it's car hire. This year, we hired a car from our local Budget Car Hire company. Was it all smooth motoring? 

Hiring a car is pretty simple these days, and there are plenty of websites online- third party or otherwise- offering the latest deals to customers whatever your vehicle needs.

We wanted to hire a larger car for Camp Bestival, or a mid size with roof bars, and found Budget our best bet.

Like most sites, booking in advance can save you cash, but we weren't able to book as much in advance as we wanted as Littlest had a bit of a health scare and we weren't even sure we could make it to the festival until pretty much 12 hours before leaving!

We visited the Budget rental office locally, it was easy to find and the website gave great directions too. The website itself is pretty easy to navigate, and you can get a quote either there or on the telephone before booking.

The lady we spoke to was lovely, we told her what cars we were interested in and found one car- a Diesel Peugeot 2008 was available. We were happy with this as we hired the same model last year and used the roof bars to put our roof box on top.

The paperwork was pretty simple, with Elder's drivers licence being used to complete the set up. 

We were then asked to inspect the vehicle, and made notes of any marks on the bodywork or interior. We were happy to do this as obviously, although Budget offer you insurance as part of the deal, any marks or imperfections will have to be paid for.

One member of staff was a little sullen, and I did feel for the lady we spoke to- she had to ask several times for this male staff member to complete the check in of another customer returning his vehicle and eventually gave up and sorted us and the other customer out instead.

He did, though, on hearing us mentioning wanting to use a roof box that the model we were hiring didn't allow the owner or hirer to use the bars on the roof for that purpose. We told him we had done just that at Peugeots advice the year before, but he rather ominously said a previous hirer had done this and had to pay £1,600 to replace a damaged set of bars to the roof!

All in all, with a returnable deposit, we paid £407 (£200 to be paid back at a later date) and were asked to refuel the car on it's return.

We didn't use our roof box in the end, taking a smaller tent than we'd planned on as to be honest I was concerned we may be billed for using the bars if we did. That did cost extra- £50 for a hastily bought tent which turned out, as per my last review, to be a nightmare.

We set off on Thursday and problems began quite soon after. 
It appeared there was a problem with the engine as it would suddenly lose power trying to climb a hill or if we'd been in stationary traffic. Elder kept having to accelerate to keep the revs up or the car would just stop, and it meant a journey that usually takes an hour and half took 3! It also meant we used up more diesel,  

The car was a concern whilst we were away, usually we go into Wareham to buy supplies to avoid having to pay premium prices for food on site, but we didn't feel comfortable with regards driving it. We were unsure where we stood with regards breakdown cover too, and didn't want to be left stranded in Dorset with no car if the hire car was taken to be fixed, or worse, we didn't want to have to come home and return it and ruin our trip.

In all, the car took 6 hours to get us home as it just kept losing power and Elder had to pull over as a result. It was a cause for concern all the way home as we worried we would break down on a back route or in the middle of a lane of the motorway with no warning.

On returning the car, Elder told the same lady about our issues with the engine, advising that perhaps it needed to be taken in for a full service to find out where the problem was. For a brand new this year car, it really should not have such a major issue so soon, and we knew, from driving the petrol version last year, that the car is usually a great and smooth drive.

She was very kind about it, giving details of who we could contact about the problems, but I would advise Budget that check in on return should also include a check of the engine as not everyone is safe, careful driver and sadly with the car we hired it feels someone may have taken the "not my car, I can drive like a moron" idea too far.

Would I hire with Budget again? Yes, as the lady who dealt with us was incredibly professional and polite, and it was short notice to hire and we still left with a vehicle. Next time though I would ask when the engine was last assessed for peace of mind.

Budget Car Hire can be found online