M&S Spirit of Summer 2017 is In Store Now- 20% Off Meals, Deli & Salad Offers, Plus a Summer Meal Deal for £7

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Spirit of Summer has arrived in store at  Marks & Spencer and there are a selection of offers to take advantage of to try the new dishes and meals.

The first is the £7 Summer Meal for Two. It's a main, a side and a salad, for two to share. There are chicken, fish and meat options, but I really found myself fancying the vegetarian offers. I chose the tomato & mozzarella stuffed peppers, above, but there were also very tasty looking stuffed aubergines. It was tricky to choose, which became the theme or selecting items for this blog post. There is a lot of fab new products on the shelves in the Spirit of Summer 2017 range, dishes and ingredients I haven't seen in supermarkets before even, so choosing is tricky, due to wanting to try everything at once!

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So it's handy to be able to choose from the deli 3 for £7 deal, and the new Spirit of Summer deli dishes are included. There are also summer meat selections in the 3 for £10 offer and I had to try the new calamari with pomegranate dressing. 

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The new summer deli items are from all over the world so there are a lot of exotic tastes to try. Last summer season the ranges seemed fixed in the Americas for flavours, but Spirit of Summer 2017 is all new, and already I'm loving the variety this year a lot more. 

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Another deal you can take advantage of right now is 20% off a wide range of the summer meals and desserts. This includes much of the range that doesn't fall under the deli or meat deals. For example the lamb flatbread was only £2.40 with the offer, which is a bargain for a fancy pizza for one. 

The new desserts I haven't investigated too much yet, but there are cakes, cupcakes and fridge desserts in the 20% off deal.

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Finally, the small square salads are 2 for £4 and there are a good half dozen new dishes to choose from. The feta, tomato and morello cherry salad was a must try for me.

Let me know what Spirit of Summer treats you've tried this week, @rudedoodle on Twitter. 

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Tayto Park- Ireland's Newest Theme Park- A Visiting Guide, Hints & Tips

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I remember when my family used to take holidays to Orlando. We loved the theme parks so much, and for the months before a trip my mother would get guide books out of the library, then into the 2000s visit websites with tips and hints for families visiting.

Things like which rides to visit when for the shortest queue time, which park was busiest on a certain day. Mum would compile a notebook of all these time saving facts, and it made our visits more efficient and I guess then more relaxing and fun.

The websites with hints and tips on visiting a certain park would be posted by families who were experts at visiting the attraction. Usually a family who lived locally and took advantage of a yearly pass to the park, or someone who visited a few times a year & knew all there was to know about Universal, Disney etc. 

So my blog today hopes to give you a few of these in-the-know things to be aware of before you visit, but disclaimer- this is based off Smix & I visiting one mid-week, Easter time day, not even an Easter Bank Holiday. It was also fairly quiet due to it being drizzly. With that in mind, here is my guide to visiting the new Tayto Theme Park, with a nine year old child. Whilst Tayto gave us admission in return for sharing our experience, I paid for everything else, travel, food, souvenirs etc. 

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Tayto Park is just north of Dublin. It's 100 miles from Bangor, and takes about the same length of time as it takes to drive to Dublin. 

The website  has directions for you, coming from wherever you live, and we just put 'Kilbrew' into a Sat Nav and got their very easily. You drive the Dublin motorway until the Mary McAleese bridge, then exit just after passing over it. Coming off it you'll need to pay a €1.90 toll, so if you don't have Euros on you, stop at the Applegreen's services just off the road after Dundalk, to lift some money. Coming home again you will again need to pay the €1.90 toll, so be prepared.

(When it comes to money in the park, you can pay by card, but if you want to use cash be aware there is only one ATM, just in front of you as you come through the entrance.) 

Once you are off the main motorway it's about a 20 minute drive on country roads, which were quite quiet the day we visited. You'll see sign posts for Tayto Park once you get closer. 

There are a set of impressive Tayto gates to drive through, and you will follow through to the big car park, where staff will guide you to your space. This is done professionally and like big theme parks they have a little train to shuttle you to the park entrance should your car be parked far from it. Oh, and parking is free.

Take note of what aisle you are parked in! We got so excited when we parked that I didn't, and then we had trouble remembering where we were. You'll spy the huge wooden roller coaster when you park so it's easy to get distracted! 

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TICKETS- Worth visiting the park site to decide what way you are going to do your visit, as there are options. Park entrance is €15. This includes all areas of the park, both the theme park and zoo, but there is an upgrade for many of the rides. For the rides you can buy tokens, or pay €28 online, or €30 on the day as your park entrance, rather than €15, and you get a wristband giving you access to everything, including unlimited rides. Kids and babies under the age of 3 get in absolutely FREE, and the park is pram & wheelchair friendly.

Playgrounds are included in the €15 pass

Playgrounds are included in the €15 pass

So it's best to investigate the full list of rides to see which rides your family might want to go on, the site handily has a height restriction guide too. You can work out whether a €15 ticket with tokens, or a €28 wristband ticket is better value for your family.

 Should you all opt for the €15 entry, you still have access to the whole park including the theme park, zoo & factory visit, Ice Age and Dinosaurs Alive attractions, riding on the steam train and playing on any of the playgrounds around the park.

If you pre-book online, you can't cancel your tickets should you wake up and it be terrible weather, however if you want to change the day of visit you can do so, as long as it's 24 hours or more before your scheduled visit. 

You can also ride the steam train on a €15 entrance ticket

You can also ride the steam train on a €15 entrance ticket

 

 

 

Once you have passed through the entrance terminal, you can choose where in the park to start your day. The rides are located in two pockets, left and right on the map, with the 100+ zoo animal part being forward and to the back of the park map.

We chose to head straight to the right, to the adventure zone section that has the huge wooden roller coaster, and a number of exciting rides. 

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Everyone has a camera on their phone these days, but it's worth saying that there are a lot of great photo opportunities. The park has many unusual sculptures and fun attractions to take a snap with. You can also pose for and purchase professional green screen family portraits, at a number of kiosks throughout the park, so that's another thing to think about, if you want a family photo to remember your grand day out, but don't want to carry a phone or camera all day.

The right part of the theme park map which we started in is called Eagle Sky Adventure Zone. The big rides such as The Cú Chulainn Coaster require wristband for entry, or tokens to pay for your ride. The park map will tell you how many tokens each ride costs and you purchase tokens from kiosks scattered throughout the park, for €1 each. 

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The queues for the rides are structured, so there's no pushing or cutting in, however there isn't any set dressing or theme for queues, like an American theme park might have. As the day was a little drizzly, we didn't have any queues longer than ten minutes wait the whole day. 

The first ride we went on was the Windstar, which had hang gliders you control by pushing up or down on the bar, whilst spinning around. 

We also loved the 5D cinema experience. Moving seats, bubbles, 3D dinosaurs and a lot of fun. 

The park has two 'Vortex Tunnels', one of which is located beside the Windstar. You can go through them with just the standard €15 park ticket. It's an optical illusion of a spinning tunnel which makes you feel like the ground is moving, but it's completely static so if you feel dizzy just close your eyes and keep walking forward holding on to the railings. 

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Other rides in the Eagle Sky section were more white knuckle, and I was pleased Smix isn't a thrill seeker as The Rotator, Power Surge, Air Race and Endeavor looked terrifying to me! 

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The Eagle Sky Zone also has a huge ride under construction, which should be open this summer 2017. Viking Voyage is set to be an exciting water ride, and it looks great already. 

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Eagle Sky has a number of dare devil climbing activities, all accessed with either your wristband or by buying tokens. The Extreme Climbing Wall is the biggest I've seen, but is usually only open at the weekends in Spring, but all week once July & August come around. Summer opening also applies to the massive Tayto Twister Slide. 

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There's also a Sky Walk Aerial Course, which is a clip and climb attraction. Many of these have certain height requirements, but everything can be checked ahead of your visit in the park FAQ section.

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The next section we visited was right at the furthest left of the map, the working Tayto factory, which has a tour. We passed through the Eagle Nest adventure area which has open playgrounds and water fun areas, as well as a spiral mound and mini hedge maze which are open to all visitors, but more on those later.

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We've taken the Tandragee Tayto factory tour, which is done in groups where you actually go on the factory floor, in your hairnet & hygienic gloves, but for the Southern Tayto factory things are a little more removed, but fun none the less. 

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Your visit isn't staffed, you walk through at your own pace, and the story of manufacturing is told by videos and projected light effects on the corridor of each stage of production. This was pretty clever, and the kids took to it more readily than a list of facts read out to them. 

From your vantage points you can watch the crisps travel from seasoning to bagging, to boxing to warehouse. There are snazzy robotic arms working away stacking boxes which kids will love watching. 

You can view the factory floor and each stage of production via viewing bays, again really good for kids and I think the factory was one of my favourite parts of the day actually. 

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At the end of the tour there is a little fun discovery room with some tablet games and W5 style science activities. 

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Back in the park and we were hungry. As you come back from the factory tour you'll come across the huge Lodge Restaurant pavilion.

Its a lot like an American theme park restaurant, with choices like hot food, soup or sandwiches, or ice cream. Nearby is a smaller, outdoor but sheltered pizza cafe, with family deals or pizza by the slice. 

There are coffee docks and little shops scattered throughout the park offering refreshments at decent prices, so you won't ever have to trek far for a drink or snack. 

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I'm also pleased to announce a lot of bathrooms spotted around the park, no panic treks halfway back to the start of the map if someone needs the toilet.

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The must have snack for us however, was at the concession beside the start of the zoo section, beside the meerkats. At The Twisted Chip you can purchase 'the world's longest chip' a tasty crisp on a stick for €3, seasoned with either cheese & onion, salt & vinegar, or sour cream. You can also get a sausage on a stick or chicken wings. 

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You aren't allowed to feed the animals, but you could tell the meerkats were well aware how tasty the chips were. They would follow you along the glass if you had one! 

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So we took the mid point in the afternoon to explore the zoo section. It's more like Dublin Zoo than Belfast Zoo, and thankfully flat and easily walked around. They have over 100 animals including a petting zoo and tigers.

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Next we took a walk through the Ice Age & Dinosaur Alive attractions. These are open air and accessible for all visitors. You walk round through the animatronic displays at your own pace. 

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The last section we had to visit was back over towards the left of the park, the second theme park ride section called The Eagle Nest Zone. 

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While the Eagle Sky Zone is home to the fast thrill rides, the Eagle Nest Zone has a selection of gentle, fun rides for the smaller children.  

Queue times are posted, and again we didn't wait too long for anything. There is the calm Ferris wheel, spinning tea cup ride called Honey Pot Bears, and the gentle Leap Frogs. There was also a Pony ride which looked like a race round a track, but it was closed the day we visited.

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The Rocking Tug is fun for all ages, and the Shot Tower is suitable for younger kids who are thrill seekers. There's another, smaller climbing wall and Air Jumpers, plus a classic carousel. It's also the home of the steam train which is open to all visitors without needing tokens or a wrist band.

Again there are concession stands with ice cream, drinks and candy floss, should you need a snack. You could also bring your own picnic into the park if you fancy, and every section of the park has los of seating, including sheltered areas for the drizzly Irish summer weather!

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The Eagle Nest Zone has a couple of attractions which don't need a wrist band or tokens. There is a little fun water area, which must only be turned on on dry days. There's also a hedge maze and a spiral climbing hill which has a good view of the park from the summit. As well as the huge, main playground, there are smaller playgrounds dotted throughout the park.

There are plenty of souvenir shops, including a huge one at the entrance/exit, and prices aren't too bad. We bought a little snow globe and some stationary for Smix to take back to school.

You also get a free packet of crisps on your exit of the park! 

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So, is the park worth the trip & price? We say yes. We had a lovely day out. There was so much to do and see, and it's a proper theme park so you get the value of your ticket price. We would definitely go again, maybe during the summer, or again next Spring when even more rides are open. The park is open all year round, but not every day during off peak season, so make sure you visit the official website before you plan your own visit. It has opening hours and info about which rides operate all year round, or only for summer season.

Let me know what you think if you've made the journey to Tayto Park- @rudedoodle on Twitter. 

Personalised Roblox T-shirts, Smix Starts a Trend!

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I've always thought Minecraft missed a trick by not making available merchandise such as toys, t-shirts, duvet covers, pencil cases, quick enough on the market to take advantage of its huge popularity.

I remember having to order Minecraft things people had made themselves on Redbubble for Christmas presents, because the big shops had very little on offer. 

Had Minecraft had been quicker & more savvy, they could have flooded the market with merch and made a fortune. I wanted to give them my money but there was nothing to buy!

As it is now there is the Lego, some wildly priced tiny figures, and a couple of shops with the liscence to sell t-shirts or hoodies. But now the kids have moved on and Roblox is the game of choice. 

For us adults, I'll explain. Roblox has lots of mini-games created by other users. Some games have thousands of players in their virtual world, some are smaller.  

My son plays & enjoys these high quality games, but he also loves the feature in Roblox where you can put together your own landscape, with houses, trees, cars etc. & then he invites his friends to enter his games & play there. 

So it's a little like Minecraft, but a step on, so it's perfect for anyone over the age of 8 (you must be that at least to play). 

Roblox seem to be more on the ball than Minecraft, and they've already released a range of toys. There are characters from the most popular games, and a line of 'blind bag'   figures with 40 to collect.

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But as yet I haven't spotted any Roblox clothing in the shops. Again there are sellers on Redbubble who take images from the game & will print those on a tee for you, but we came up with a more personalised idea, which is cooler than just having the Roblox logo on your shirt. 

We were visiting Portrush this week, where there are shops who will print any image on a tee for you. You just bring along your image you want, and they can print it off their computer onto transfer paper which then goes on the colour of t-shirt or hoodie you pick. 

Smix originally wanted an image from searching on Google that said, 'Eat, Sleep, Roblox', but the guy in the store said it wasn't good enough quality to work.

So we puzzled over what image would work & Smix came up with a good idea. He brought up his Roblox character profile and there in the 'about' section is a great quality pic of his avatar.  

So not only was he getting a Roblox t-shirt but it was mega personalised as it was his character in the clothing it wears when he plays. 

An Instagram friend loved it, and the next day they took a trip up and he got one printed too. 

So if your child would love one of these too, you can have T-shirt World print your character too, as they offer an online service. On their site you will find their email address. They will need your child's age for sizing, whether you want a tee or hoodie, or any of the other personalise items they offer, the colour to use, and the image of your Roblox character.

To get that all you have to do is Google 'Roblox' plus their username they play as. The first result should be their profile page which will have the good quality picture of their character. If you are confused by that, you could always just send him your child's Roblox username and he will know how to get the character image from that info.

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Other local printers from your town could also make these, but we like T-Shirt World because the clothing is great quality, the hoodies don't bobble and the colours are so vivid. Plus Alan from the store will know exactly what you're talking about when you request a Roblox user print. So visit T-shirt World online and order your child's personalised Roblox tee today!

Who would have thought Smix could start a fashion trend!

My friend's son's version

My friend's son's version

A 1970s' Easter, According to Childcraft

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I collect Childcraft books that I find in charity shops. I love their illustrations and each book is packed with examples of popular drawing styles of the time.  

I happen to have the holidays & customs edition, so let's see what it has for Easter. 

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I don't have a taxidermy bunny, but I do have a Jackalope, who surely must be some distant cousin of the Easter Bunny.  

Have a great Easter break! 

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How To Wash Out Blue or Green Hair Dye In One Wash- AKA HairDye Kryptonite

I blogged a few days ago about our DanTDM Hair Fail using L'Oreal Colorista Vivids Turquoise Washout over dark brown hair. My son loved the result, but in sunlight there was a weird green tinge, so we agreed to try to reset to his natural hair and wait until the summer when he can lighten his hair before colouring it.

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Now L'Oreal Colorista do a Fader Shampoo, which should help wash out the dye quicker than using regular shampoo and waiting the 7-15 washes stated on the box. As Smix only washes his hair twice a week, and with school starting back in a week and a half, I had considered buying the Fader shampoo to do the job. However looking at reviews online people were saying it didn't do much more than a regular shampoo.

So with a little online research, my own experience with hair dye gone wrong, and a check in with the hair master, Clare from Vintage Rocks, I put together a concoction that in ONE WASH removed all blue and green tinges from his hair. This stuff is hairdye kryptonite, folks.

Before I used that we tried simply using Head and Shoulders last night, to see if that would pull out enough dye. Regular Head & Shoulders (we used Tesco own brand £1) is a nightmare for coloured hair, dye to the chemicals used to prevent dandruff. So if you've just coloured your hair a beautiful plum, red or even turquoise, if you use an anti-dandruff shampoo you will lose a huge amount of colour with each wash. If you are trying to maintain a colour, especially a semi-permanent, never ever use Head & Shoulders. The best shampoo for keeping colour strong is Baby Shampoo, so says Clare from Vintage Rocks and she is the expert! So we tried just a shower with using Head & Shoulders in place of his regular shampoo and a lot of blue did come out. In fact last night we thought we had got the colour out, but this morning in daylight the green tinge remained.

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The concoction had to go ahead. Here is the recipe for maximum colour washout.

  1. In a bowl put enough Head & Shoulders to cover the whole hair like a conditioning hair mask would.
  2. Add a 50p piece squirt of washing up liquid (dish soap)
  3. Add a heaped tablespoon of baking soda (make sure it's definitely baking SODA not powder, we aren't making a cake here)
  4. Gently mix together into a thick hair mask, then put all over the hair, scrubbing a little to bubble it slightly.
  5. Leave on for fifteen minutes
  6. Wash out in the shower using Head and Shoulders shampoo. The bubbles and water should now run clear, not blue.
  7. Condition.

We then dried and styled his hair as normal. There is still a tiny amount of colour- you can tell it's been messed with, but there's no horrid green tinge to it.

If that doesn't work for you, you can always try adding crushed vitamin C to the mix. I could have done that if I hadn't not thought things through and bought my vitamin C in the form of those effervescent tablets you dissolve in water and drink. I realised my folly when I put the crushed up Vitamin C in the Head & Shoulders and it started to foam madly! But thankfully my recipe worked without the vitamin C part.

So we are back to his normal hair, and all this this week has made me decide I'm going to just go to Clare and let her professionally do his hair in the summer. We will share those results with you too- DanTDM hair Part Three!

P.S. If your kid wants Dan TDM blue hair there is a wash out spray also from L'Oreal Colorista that worked really well-  read about our experience with that here.

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How To Get DanTDM Hair- L'Oreal Colorista WashOut Vivids Turquoise on Brunette Hair- It's a Fail.

Last half-term we blogged about L'Oreal Colorista One Day Spray in Turquoise, which was used to achieve pretty cool Instant DanTDM hair . It had great coverage and colour, but was messy if you left it in overnight. We concluded it was perfect for kids, but really needed shampooed out before bedtime to avoid morning mess.

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Smix loved the Colorista spray, but for Easter he pleaded could he try a longer lasting colour change, so we returned to the L'Oreal range and one step up, the Washout, Vivid 2 Week Turquoise.

It promised to last 7-15 shampoos, and to be 'visible on all hair types'. I've said before I coloured my hair every shade of the rainbow in my twenties, and having dark brown hair like Smix, I couldn't help but be skeptical. I knew applying light or medium blue hair dye on our dark locks was basically a pointless endeavour, that pre-lightening was always needed, but Smix was resorting to begging in the aisle of Boots, so I gave in. The product was £6.99 and I thought it couldn't do any harm to try; hair colouring techniques will surely have changed in the ten years or so since I last went blue after bleaching my own hair.

 

We followed the Colorista Washout instructions and shampooed and dried his hair in preparation. Never apply conditioner before you next plan to dye your hair at home, it blocks the dyes, especially semipermanent ones.

Colorista Washout comes with two sets of gloves, which is very much appreciated- many times with bright unusual dyes you need to reapply and top up after the initial dye application, and I've had to fashion plastic bag and cling film gloves over the years!

The product is pleasant and very easy to apply, no scent, certainly no overpowering dye smell, and wipes off skin blissfully easily. Using blue or purple dyes in my youth used to be such a messy business, I would have green or grey necks for weeks at a time- this isn't like that. The shower and bath doesn't get dyed either- my Mum used to dread me coming home with a crazy colour back in the day!

We left the dye on the maximum 30 minutes, simply because with his dark hair I thought that might help. The hair with the product on wet looked dark blue, so we were both pretty confident we would get a nice result.

You wash the dye off, don't shampoo or condition, then dry and style. Unlike Colorista Spray, the hair doesn't feel stiff or unnatural, your hair just feels like your normal hair.

The hair in natural light

The hair in natural light

Unfortunately we were pretty disappointed with the colour result. In indoor lighting his hair just looks darker. Outside in the light there is a slight green/blue tint. It's disappointing because the packaging states, "visible on all hair types" and although it's sort of visible, it isn't a nice colour. It says, "vivid colour for brunette hair" and, "brunette? Instantly visible results!". There's also a little photo of how it should look, like a very dark denim, but Smix definitely has a weird green tinge.

So our second experiment with L'Oreal Colorista hasn't gone well. I do think with prelightening we can get a good result and eventually the look Smix wants, just like DanTDM's hair colour. You will have to wait until the end of June for that one, but it will be happening.

slight blue green tinge. Isn't great :-S

slight blue green tinge. Isn't great :-S

In the meantime, we will have to go buy the L'Oreal Colorista Fader Shampoo. Yes, they make a special shampoo to help wash their temporary colours out quicker! Lucky for us because I've a feeling the colour will only get weirder and grosser green as it fades. Oh well! We had to try!

CONCLUSION- L'Oreal Colorista Washout Vivid Turquoise whilst recommended for brunettes, won't give a good result on very dark hair without some prelightening. The other vivid colours or pastels would be good on lighter hair however, and the process of dying is quick, easy and very mess free compared to other dyes. Very little staining and minimal clean up operation needed. A 9/10 product, but just not suitable for very dark hair like Smix's. If you've used it and had a good result, gimme a shout on Twitter @rudedoodle and I will post your pictures here.

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Retro Gaming Wallpaper & Other Affordable, Fun Wall Murals

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How cool is this  retro gaming design wallpaper?

It comes in a variety of colours to suit many different room colour schemes. It's £25 per sq m which isn't half bad for wallpaper.  

The whole  mural wallpaper site will give you home makeover inspiration, with a dozen categories of high quality, modern prints. There are large scale art murals of famous works, plus maps, photographic images, and a service to custom make huge scale wall art.

I have always wanted a 1960s' style mural wall of a mountain scene, hopefully one day my dream will come true! 

Here are some of the children's room designs I liked- remember there are literally hundreds more on the site. 

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Make Frozen Drinks at Home With No Ice Or Mess- ChillFactor Frozen Brain Slushy Maker

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Kids love slushies. I don't know why, but they are drawn to them like a moth to a flame. I remember as an 80s child coveting the Slush Puppies in Woolworths in Main Street, and more often than not being told no, it's a waste of money to pay that for frozen juice. I don't know what price they were in 1987, but a Slush drink for your kids now can cost anything between £1 and £5 if we are talking about them taking an arm & a leg at the cinema. 

So there's a range from Character Toys that can save us parents a small fortune, even in one summer season. 

For £12.99 you can purchase a spangly new  Chill Factor Slush Maker. Character sent us the new release 'Frozen Brain' cup, but you can get all colours and designs of cups that operate in the same manner. Slush Puppies are the number one cause of painful brain freeze, so it's a clever name, and also a design that appeals to those who love gory & gruesome monsters.

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The tag line reads, 'slushies in less than a minute', which is half true, but some prep is needed. When you first get your Chill Factor, you need to dissemble the cup (very easy to do) and find the very inner, sectioned padded cup. This will need to be put in your freezer to harden for six hours or more. It's the magic that makes any drink into a slushie.

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When your inner padded part has frozen, take it out of the freezer and reassemble the cup. You are now ready to make your drink. Take any drink, it can even be room temperature, and pour it into your Chill Factor cup. From experience I know that sugarfree drinks are really hard to get to Slush. You can use a dilute juice, Coke, fruit juice, anything with sugar content.  

Now you simply 'smoosh', crush and squish the outside of the cup for a couple of minutes. The padding is so cold that it starts to instantly freeze the drink inside. Because you are moving it around it becomes a slushie.  

Then simply drink with your straw or spoon. 

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When you are finished, rinse the cup, dissemble and refreeze the inner padded part, and use again and again. 

It really is that clean and easy. No hauling out a blender to try to crush ice- no actual ice even needed. So for £12.99 you could have a slushie every day this summer without breaking the bank, or them spending all their pocket money.  

 Check out stockists- I'm pretty sure Smyth have them.