I recently reviewed the Baby Annabell doll from Zapf Creations, but then I was sent the Baby Born Interactive Doll for our Christmas Gift Guide and have to say that it kind of beat the former hands down. My daughter much prefers this Baby Born even though it has no electronic functions or makes no noises, and here's why...Click here to read more...
I absolutely love wall art. I think that the new generation of wall decals that can be placed, removed, and re-places are things of pure genius and wonder. The website Art.co.uk has a phenomenal range of wall decals for kids and choosing one for my daughter took me ages. These would make lovely Christmas gifts from grandparents and here is why…Click here to read more...
I don’t think that there is anything cooler than a VW camper van except, quite possibly, the VW camper van play tent from The Monster Factory. This tent is the epitome of cool and available in both pink or blue for £54.99. The price may sound hefty to you, but this has to be one of my all time thumbs up, yes-let’s-get-it Christmas gifts of all time. Why?Click here to read more...
As Christmas fast approaches and we all start frantically looking for the perfect things to stuff into stockings, PlayPennies has gone out to find some of the coolest bits and pieces to help you along. Stabilo have a couple of offerings that are ideal for Christmas gifts in the stocking and here is how well they work…
The Stabilo EASYOriginal pen is this really funky, ergonomically designed roller ball that takes refill cartridges and, get this, actually ERASES. The pens are for kids over the age of six, come in both left and right-hand flavours, and a huge range of colours. The Stabilo EASYOriginal encourages a relaxed hold to prevent muscle fatigue and is supposed to help with neat and tidy handwriting.
The packaging is tough to get into and one of your three refills needs to be inserted into your pen to get started, a bit misleading. However, you do get a name tag! Three, in fact, in case you mess the first one up. You then pop off the cap of the refill, slip it inside the easy-twist tube and start writing.
The ink pours gloriously from the nib of this pen. And it fits beautifully in my hand. I struggled to give this to my child, the actual tester, as I am a sucker for a good pen. Ink is patchy on the twist sometimes with the line running thinner, but overall it’s a smooth experience that I love. The ink does erase and my daughter now takes it to school and refuses to use anything else! It easily gets 8/10 with a point kicked off for the ink alternations and another for the price of £6.99. High, but worth it overall.
The Stabilo Mini Ghosts are the product that I absolutely, completely and totally recommend to go it any kid’s Christmas stocking. Not only do these mini highlighters – cool in themselves – highlight very well, but they glow in the dark. Oh yes indeedy. They sport hilarious faces and expressions that glow in the dark.
The five funny ghosts are limited edition only, are the usual Stabilo quality of fluorescent ink, and just rock. They are around £5.99 (price TBC) for all five and if my kid’s face is anything to go buy, yours will adore them too. And you can split the pack if you have lots of kids and they each get one Stabilo Mini Ghost in each Christmas stocking! They easily get 9/10.
Rubies is one of the brands that has license to create all sorts of costumes from leading brands like Disney. They have Marvel and Disney Princess products (The Hulk outfit is genius) that cost around £14.99 each. Although you can get two for £19.99 at Argos at the moment, which is nice for the Christmas gift hunt!
So is this £14.99 well spent?
The packaging is neat and simple and mostly recyclable and inside you get the Tangled dress along with her hair. The hair is very clever actually. You have a hair slide on one side that sort of sticks to the hair. My daughter has fine curly hair which makes this particular type of hair fastening very difficult to attach. You also get this extremely long hair that can be divided in the middle.
Yes, the hair has a Velcro end in the middle so you can make it as short or as long as your child wants. This is a neat touch I thought and my child loved it. The hair is as thick as the picture makes it look too, but does look daft on girls with dark hair.
The dress is very well made. I must admit that having both bought and been given poor quality dress-up outfits made with terribly thin fabric, I am impressed with this. It is 100% polyester so don’t expect velvet trim or anything fancy, but in terms of thickness and lack of strange scratchy bits, this is a winner.
My daughter hates dress-up that has things that tickle or poke her skin and loves this frock. Another plus is that you can get it in three size groups of Small (3-5), Medium (506) and Large (7-8) and can be neatly stored away in the same bag it came with.
I would happily say that this is a good price point for what you get; I would buy this as a Christmas gift for a Disney-mad girl any day. Also, that Argos* special offer means that you can get two for £19.99 which is nearly £10 per outfit, a decent price all round.
Knitting is always guaranteed to get my fingers twitching and blood sizzling. Even as a wild and woolly party animal I would use my down time to knit. I’ve never been any good really, but give me a new knitting book and I’m, cough, hooked. So when I was given the Grannies, Inc. Guide to Knitting book I was really excited.
Grannies, Inc is a site that we reviewed and posted about a while ago and now the founder has created a book that fits in with the ethos of the site. From the start you see photographs of knitted items with an utterly modern flair – iPad and iPod covers, Kindle cosies, fingerless mittens and funky scarves – there are no boring knits here.
What makes this book really interesting for me is that it teaches you how to customise patterns and even create your own pieces – including advice on how to select the right yarn for the right stitches. While not for the advanced knitter, this book is ideal for anyone starting out with knitting. It is very basic and will guide you through reading the label, working with colour, understanding basic stitches and working with your needles.
The book is beautifully illustrated and has these great Granny’s Purl Of Wisdom boxes with excellent tips and tricks in them. Some of these I found out the hard way so they are appreciated. I have been trying to make a garment with YO – yarn over – and could not figure it out. The images in this book are well designed so you can follow them to create the stitch and that gets huge points from me.
The book has 20 different patterns, sketches, clever advice and support for knitting emergencies. It’s £12 new, although Amazon is bound to pop a discount on it with their free delivery, and it is brilliant. If you fancy getting started with knitting, then this is where you turn your first page.
Over the past two months I’ve been taking Proven Probiotics as a test to see if they would make any difference to my health and general sense of well being. This is in conjunction with, of course, a healthy (ish) diet and plenty of exercise.
Now I have always been a fan of probiotics as they have made a huge impact on my stomach and calmed it down considerably when I am stressed. Which is all the time really. Ha! Anyway, probiotics are good for the long term relief of IBS symptoms, traveller’s tummy, and intestinal health. Especially the unique strains known as Lab4. Yes, I also think it sounds a bit Resident Evil, but it’s cool…
The Proven Probiotics range come in a range for babies, toddlers and older children as well as for adults and they are on sale in Lloyds Pharmacies in prices ranging from under £5 to £19.95 – depending on what you get and for whom. They are cheaper than those little bottles of yoghurt you can buy in stores and far better for the environment…
Now probiotics for kids made me a bit nervous, especially babies. I always get a bit hinky when I think of messing with a child’s system unnecessarily. Fortunately for me, I have a six year old and I’m ok with giving her a probiotic supplement that can boost her immune system, reduce allergies and all those other tasty benefits. While she has not really been able to tell me whether or not she has felt any different using the tablets, I think she has found her system a little more, ahem, well oiled.
For me, the biggest difference has come in the allergy relief or control. I get hayfever around August time and constantly feel as if I have a low grade cold. I took the Proven Probiotics the entire month and genuinely felt like they made a difference to how I felt. Not a huge amount, but enough to keep me taking them regularly.
If you're still battling on with various bits and pieces of packed lunch equipment such as tatty old lunch box bags, lunch boxes that have really seen better days or drinks bottles that leak then you should have a quick read through this review - Asda sent me lots of great back to school lunch things to review for you.
I've got lots of items to tell you about, so I'll rattle through them one-by-one otherwise we'll be here all day!Click here to read more...
My little girl is going through a phase where, I think, her legs are growing faster than her ability to use them. At the moment she’s covered in little bruises from crashes, bashes and mad mishaps. It’s a bit like join the dots on her legs – we even did that the other day and are pretty sure we got a picture of a duck.
Anyway, I got some Moa Green Balm which comes in a tiny little pot of green goodness and is designed to soothe and ease those bumps and bruises and grazes naturally. The balm is made from natural ingredients – a big plus in my book – and includes Yarrow which was, amusingly, originally used to heal sword wounds. Hopefully you won’t need it for any of those.
The balm smells lovely, almost minty, and it fits perfectly into handbags, purses and little pockets. It costs around £4.99, which IS expensive, especially for such a tiny pot, but it lasts for ages. My daughter helped herself to the little pot and ran off with it. She said it helped her bruises feel better and I never expected there to be any left by the time I’d had a chance to find it again. And there is LOADS left.
The balm has soya bean oil, sweet almond oil, coconut oil and beeswax and feels utterly soft and decadent when rubbed between your fingers. I’ve used it on a nasty graze of my own instead of the usual sprays and found it to offer a far softer form of relief and that healing felt faster. And that says a lot as I’m quite sceptical of these things. I also like the fact that you can use it on insect bites and it TOTALLY calms my excema and for that I am eternally grateful.
The Moa Green Balm is gentle, smells amazing, looks and feels lovely and works. It is, however, far pricier than standard options.
There are few items of clothing that can strike as much fear into the heart as the swimming costume! This seemingly benign piece of beach/swimming attire has the power to reduce even the most confident woman to tears and transform her into a nervous wreck.
Never, EVER buy a white one to swim in - just don't, I only made this mistake once and, in my defence, I was very young but when I realised everyone could see everything through my, now, transparent swimming costume I just wanted to die on the spot. Since then it's been BLACK swimming costumes all the way.
If only buying a swimming costume were a simple process, life would be so much easier! Of course, I'm only talking about one-piece swimming costumes here, not bikinis - they come with thorny issues all of their own!
I used to spend a lot of my time in the water - I was a member of the British Sub-Aqua Club and also the British Canoe Union and lived and died in a swimming costume for years. It only became a nightmare after I'd had kids and my body shape had changed from slinky to....not quite so slinky (at the time).
Simply Swim UK sent us two Speedo Swimming costumes to review; we gave them to Tamsin to put through their paces and hopefully we'll be able to take some of the pain out of swimming costume choosing for you.Click here to read more...
When I was pregnant with my first child I really suffered with light sleeping and, coincidentally, my poor partner was hit with a bout of snoring. Honestly, I ended up moving into the spare room for a while, at least until his nose sorted itself out.
I wish I had known about Helps Stop Snoring then because snoring became such an issue. Recently, I got a little purple bottle of this product as I was the one, apparently, doing the snoring. I tend to do this, embarrassingly, every time I get a cold or work long hours as both upset my system.
Out came the Help Stop Snoring and I applied a squirt of spray to see if I could offer my husband a better night’s sleep. Now the product is made from a blend of essential oils that help tone the soft tissues at the back of the throat. These tissues are the ones that relax and vibrate as we breathe causing that vile snoring noise.
The spray costs £7.14 and it lasts for about five weeks at a spray a night and there is also a throat rinse that is the same price and you use after brushing your teeth. The Helps Stop Snoring Throat Rinse actually has anti-bacterial and breath freshening benefits too. Which is nice. Sort of like, terrible snoring but great breath!
Did the spray work? Well, I have to say that in our test scenario it did and it didn’t. On the first two nights I apparently – basing my verdict on my husband’s responses here – either didn’t snore or I did it very quietly because he had two uninterrupted nights of sleep. Then on the next three nights I did wake him up snoring so I did a quick re-spray and we both went back to sleep just fine. For us, it seemed to work but I think that the results may be quite subjective. However, the price is good enough to make it worth trying just once, especially if you're not getting any sleep because one of you is snoring.
I’m not sure if you saw it, but a while ago I did a deal from Play.com for the Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden Kit that they had on offer (I am not sure if the deal is still valid now, though). I thought that this was a genius idea for something to do with my daughter that wasn’t plastic tat and actually taught her something, and so I bought it.
Now the first thing you must know about the Live Butterfly Garden kit is that all you get is the garden mesh and a pipette and a voucher with some instructions. You have to then pay a FURTHER £2.50 for your caterpillars to be delivered to your door. I knew that the caterpillars were not included in the kit, it made sense, but I didn’t know about the extra dosh for P&P. It did not amuse me.
The mesh Live Butterfly Garden cage thing is ace. It’s stable, flexible and comes with a Velcro-fastened hook of fabric on top so you can put it on display somewhere safe. The caterpillars were something of a surprise. When mine arrived they came in a tiny little pot that was filled at the base with a browny-creamy coloured mixture. And instructions.
Do not feed your caterpillars or take off the lid, they said. Hmm, I thought, how cruel. And today, as those caterpillars sit in their own poo I feel like this is a tad inhumane. They are also enormous and a little terrifying.
Once your caterpillars have formed their pupae or chrysalids, you then carefully remove them from the jar and place them inside the habitat along with specific food. This is all laid out in the instructions. Once your butterflies have hatched, they recommend you set them free after a few days.
Overall, I have to say that the Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden has been a lot of fun – we all race to see what the caterpillars are doing each day – but I don’t like the jar or the secret costs.
This is a very funny book, especially if you’re already a fan of Zoe Williams, the Guardian journalist who wrote the hilarious Anti-Natal column. The book sort of sails over the plethora of titles that ramble on about motherhood and what you Should or Should Not Do, and instead just tells it like it is.
“There are only two things that make it [transition] remarkable – the first is that it is so bad, and the second, that anybody would expect anybody else to endure something so bad without analgesia.”
That is one of my favourite quotes from the book. I nodded emphatically at this point. I don’t DO pain and I honestly wanted to smack the smug midwives who expected me to. Sod it, give me drugs or cut it out.
Honestly, if you know somebody who is about to have a baby, be it their first or sixth time, this book would make a fabulous gift. Although the mum giving birth for the sixth time is unlikely to be able to read it… It is sharp, it is funny and it is entirely anecdotal. So don’t expect hundred of case studies or in-depth studies on the meaning of birth and parenthood, but do expect lots of sharp statistics that show you things you need to know.
Like the epidural statistics. Those really got me thinking and made me very crabby about my birth experience. Again.
Anyway, What Not To Expect When You’re Expecting by Zoe Williams is on sale on Amazon for around £7.99 (unless you hit a sale, which is always ace). Get it, read it, laugh and go, “Yes! Exactly!”
Recently my husband and I were looking at a new school for our daughter and one particular school kept cropping up as highly recommended by our peers. It was a Montessori School and because we knew nothing about it we were rather delighted when I was sent Learning Together, a book that teaches you what Montessori can offer your family.
The book is very well written and pulled me in immediately. If am honest, it made me feel like I had failed my daughter somehow. The “phase” she is going through at the moment is appalling and I wonder if it is due to my rushed lifestyle and my failure to make her feel like she has control.
I stole some of the ideas from this book and found that my daughter responded really well. I am swapping “No” for other ways of explaining my decision and actively encouraging her to see why I made this decision and to form her own thoughts. She is returning to her usual loving self and I am becoming a Montessori convert.
The book is laid out very well with plenty of imagery, clear writing and simple examples. It isn’t judgemental or preachy at all, a factor that I found very refreshing. It also offers enough insight to make you want to read up more on the subject and they also include resources at the end of the book, making it easy to find the information you want.
This is not the definitive guide to Montessori but it is a really good read that makes you feel like you can do something important in your child’s life, and with your child. It costs £6.99 directly from the Montessori shop and has a ton of advice you can implement today. Well worth getting if the Montessori way of life interests you.
Father’s Day is, oh, about five minutes away now and if you still haven’t managed to find the perfect gift, then how about some of these items from ASDA? I recently got the Marvel Notebook in to review and you can colour me impressed.
Costing a mere £4 it consists of a sturdy black and white cover with original Marvel imagery across its entirety, both back and front. This is made from rather tough stuff as it has been stood on by unruly six year olds and chewed on by an exuberant puppy. The puppy did leave a drool stain but the board remains unbroken.
Inside the book you will find the same pattern as the exterior but faded and washed out. It looks really nice, there is no WAY my husband is getting this away from me. I also like the paper that you get within the ring binder. It’s quite rough and has a yellow cast, almost as if it has been recycled. It isn’t great paper quality, you can’t use a very inky pen or marker on it without it seeping through.
As a quality gift for Dad from one of his little terrors, this definitely rates. The price is solid for a good gift that will fit neatly into most briefcases. You can also get the Marvel pen, mug and keyring at similarly low prices. I can't find these online so you will have to go instore.
ASDA also have a collection of Father’s Day care products in their Groomed range. I am not a fan of giving dad a tie or a shaving kit for any occasion, I’m afraid so I was already biased against the Groomed SPF15 moisture cream I was sent. BUT…it smells amazing. I find myself stalking my husband to wipe it on him. I use it as hand cream. Gorgeous. And it only costs £2.50.
My husband loves satchels and messenger bags. It’s as if he can’t get enough of them. Each time he buys a new one, he justifies it by saying that it is far better for work than the previous one. He needs them to carry his technology and other bits and pieces that he needs for work.
So, as Father’s Day loomed, I thought that perhaps it would be a good idea to invest in a new messenger bag for The Husband and I bought this one from M&M Direct – the Onfire Men’s Messenger Bag for £19.99.
This is usually on sale for around £39.99, so I was pretty pleased with the discount! The bag has leather trims with a cotton shell and polyester lining and a magnetic stud fastening. What’s really interesting here is that the buckles you see in the picture are not actually used, they hide the magnetic attachment. My husband found them far easier to use than buckles – much quicker access – but not as secure.
He liked the bag and the way it was designed. He felt that it was easy to carry and easy to use and looked fine. The only problem that he had with the Onfire Men’s Messenger Bag was that the inner lining was not stitched in. It is loose. I must agree with him on this as it is inconvenient and doesn’t look very good at all.
Overall, though, if you are in the market for a low cost messenger bag that’s sturdy and looks decent and can take an iPad or similar tablet and some books or notes, then this is a good investment. It is also worth noting that it doesn’t have any compartments inside so it may be too risky to use as transport for a laptop, unless that has its own protective covering.
I give this 6/10 as the lack of compartments and loose inner lining let this product down, but the discount from M&M Direct and the design really boost the overall score.
I recently got a pair of Reebok Womens Easytone Reeinspire 2 trainers from M&M Direct as I’ve been desperate to try these shoes for ages. Loads of people have raved about how well they have worked, and just as many people have said they are a marketing scam. So which is it?
Honestly, after wearing the Reebok Easytone trainers for the past three weeks I don’t care. They are so comfortable. They are like memory foam pillows for feet. They are both soft and firm, sturdy and supportive and utterly and completely, well, comfortable.
On my first wearing, the shoes did leave my big toes feeling a little odd, almost as if they had pins and needles. It was an odd sensation but didn’t last beyond the first few days of wearing the shoes in. These shoes are built to help you get a better butt and legs and for every day walking and use.
The Reebok Easytone trainers are also very subtle in their colouring. Instead of the pink looking as vivid and startling as it does in this picture, it actually is rather easy on the eye. These shoes match pretty much every walking outfit I have and the various features built in – like the anti bacterial and fungal growth material – make them very lush to own. Every had a pair of cheap and nasty trainers start smelling? Yeah, these won’t.
One other thing worth noting about the Reebok Easytone Trainers is that the laces are good quality and don’t undo after every step. Add to this the comfort and the lovely low price at M&M Direct (they have it on offer for £39.99 instead of £74.99 so you save about £35) and you have a pair of very nice trainers in your cupboard.
Do they make your bum and legs thin and sexy? I honestly couldn’t see anything dramatic but they are worth the price for the comfort and style alone.
My daughter has become well and truly hooked by the Moshi Monsters madness out there and her dad, firmly wound around her baby finger, recently bought her the Moshi Monsters Mash Up Series 2 starter kit as a present.
The kit includes a binder to store the cards, ten packets of cards, a game mat, a game guide, a Super Moshi Mask and one Mash Up packet. It’s only £5 in stores but extremely expensive online, so watch out for that. I have to say that I thought the binder included in the set was really a bit pants.
Remember the days when you used to collect things like this? I remember having a really funky binder that had a story with it, and clever slots for storing your cards. This is just like a giant plastic card holder with zero branding on it and no character. It is actually a bit rubbish.
For a little bit more dosh, you can rather get the Moshi Monsters Mash Up tin that includes plenty of bonus cards, bandages, stickers, badges and an exclusive card to boot. It costs around £9.99 on Amazon but shopping around can get you some decent bargains. The tin is beautifully branded and really lovely, it’s something you would buy for the look and you still get loads of extras.
The cards you get to boost your collection cost around 75p per packet in stores, or you can nab some bulk buy sales that happen from time to time on sites like Amazon. I find these cards very expensive as you only get six cards per packet and one of them is a picture card with a special code. This code will nab you free in-game items or Rox.
Overall, I have to say that the series is great, the cards well made and good quality, but the price is high. The Moshi Monsters Mash Up Series 2 is an expensive investment that kids adore but parental wallets detest.
There are a lot of toys, stickers, cards and books that have the Moshi Monsters label on them and they are proving as popular as the original website that spawned them. But we haven’t done a review of the website itself, and here it is.
I found the Moshi Monsters site purely by accident last year and thought that the idea behind it was perfect for my daughter. She was four at the time, and still learning to read, write and handle basic maths. The site captured her attention immediately but, at first, needed my constant participation as she struggled with mouse control and, obviously, reading the various instructions on the site.
One thing I realised early on was that the site was pretty empty without the paid-for subscription. I looked into the prices and realised that it was worth trying out for at least a month. You pay £4.95 for one month, £23.95 for six months, and £29.95 for 12 months. The latter is, obviously, the best deal and one that I have now opted for.
The reason I now have a yearly Moshi Monster membership is because the site works. I allow my daughter a maximum of an hour a day on the website and she has learned how to: handle a mouse and keyboard deftly, basic general knowledge that even I don’t know, spelling, reading, maths and problem solving. I can honestly say that the Moshi Monsters website and its Super Moshi missions have gone a long way towards encouraging my daughter to learn.
I think one of the reasons she is so good at reading now, six months later age 5, is because she was sick and tired of waiting on me in order to do her various games on the site! Great value for money, well designed, extremely funny for adults as well (Simon Growl anyone?), and has educational merit.
I recently took advantage of the Polly Pocket Super Fashion Collection deal that is running at Argos right now. The entire box of Polly Pocket goodies has been reduced from £43.98 to £16.49 which is substantially less than half price. My daughter begged me to take her to buy this with her pocket money and now, five days later, I can tell you what the pack is like.
First off I have to say that there is no way on this Earth that I would spend nearly £50 on this kit. At the reduced price it is just about value for money. The Polly Pocket kit comes with five dolls and loads of accessories and within 24 hours one of the head connectors had broken as had the strap of one of the dresses. That is ONE DAY later!
The concept is genius, I will grant you that, and the texture of the plastic outfits is awesome. You can slide them on and off, enjoy changing outfits for ages, and really get into the whole thing. Even I enjoyed playing with them and my daughter! It brought out my inner child.
The dolls are ace but can’t sit down or stay standing and some of the outfits are fiendishly difficult to put on – especially for a six year old. However, my daughter absolutely loves these Polly Pockets and their fashion accessories. She plays with them constantly and for that alone I have to give them a final positive result.
I think that if you can get Polly Pocket sets on sale, then they are worth the spend as they offer fun and imaginative play. I wouldn’t advise spending £40+ on the bigger kits though, rather wait until they are on sale and grab them then.