A Review of Hotel Chocolat’s Mingles & Jingles Bag

I’m very excited. I love chocolate and have been given the opportunity to review some Christmassy Hotel Chocolat Choccies! The Mingles & Jingles Bag contains 35, individually wrapped chocolates in white, milk and caramel chocolate. This particular gift costs £21 and would make a really lovely present, especially for those difficult to buy for people.

I love the fact that they’re individually wrapped because as they’re slightly bigger than your average chocolate they can be used as stocking fillers, treasure hunt prizes or bauble fillers if you don’t want to give as a gift, (see below!)

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The penguin chocolate is quite a dark, milk chocolate. It’s thick and chunky and incredibly moorish. I’ve never had Hotel Chocolat chocolate before and as a bit of a chocco connoisseur I have to say I’m very impressed.

The white chocolate bell is creamy and delicious with a lovely hint of vanilla, you can actually see the little vanilla dots in the chocolate.

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The caramel chocolate Angel, is definitely my favourite though. It’s melt in your mouth scrumptious and unfortunately there were fewer of these than the other two!

I have to be honest, although we only opened the bag 5 hours ago the chocolates have nearly all gone. The kids were obviously fighting over them and even my husband found them hard to resist. All in all, these are fabulous Christmas chocolates, they’re a bit special and definitely worthy of a little splurge…
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A Rather Exuberant Review of The Hama Beads Group Suitcase.

I like to think of Hama Beads as a gift from God. For me and my family, they are literally like Hama from heaven (quite pleased with that). Apart from Lego and Play Dough (Dough Dough), they are the only toy we have that all the kids like playing with together. If I’m totally honest, Izzy seems to prefer throwing them around, but sometimes when she’s not feeling destructive, she almost gets it. I give it three months and she’ll be sitting with her bro and big sis, making equally impressive creations. Another wonderful thing about Hama Beads is that the whole process of making the little mosaics is fantastically therapeutic. Forget the kids, parents, if you’re feeling stressed, get the ol’ Hama Beads out, turn on the radio and make away. You’ll find yourself in a much better place after creating a day-glo dolphin or a psychedelic princess.

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For those of you who don’t know, Hama Beads are tiny beads that you place on a frame to create a sort of mosaic. Once your child has made a mosaic they like, a grown up covers it with some special paper and irons over it so that the little plastic beads all stick together. I discovered them by accident a few weeks ago during a play date. The mummy host (Hi Kinnary!) wheeled out her Hama beads and all of the kids were instantly entranced. After that, I decided we needed them in our lives and went on the hunt to get some.

We ended up getting the Hama Beads Group Suitcase from Argos which costs £39.99. It has loads of beads and plenty of templates to use, but prices do start from as little as £7.99 for the Little Princess set which also makes them brilliant stocking fillers or gifts for kids birthday parties. It looks like Argos have loads of deals on these at the moment but I’m not sure how long they’ll last for.

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What I don’t understand is, how did I not know about Hama Beads before?? Everyone else seems to have them and love them, but they’ve completely passed us by until now so we have a lot of making up to do. Here are some of our beautiful creations…

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We recently had our cousins over and after the initial excitement of running about and giving Maisie and the baby an extraordinary makeover, they noticed the Hama beads and immediately wanted to play with them. What ensued was an hour of peace and companionable quiet.

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Hama Beads are a bit like Lego, kids are happy to play with them for hours without squabbling or more importantly parental guidance. If you’re after some inspiration for Christams gifts then do consider these as an alternative to all the robots and crazy electronics that are about this year. If however, you’re feeling the need for some electronic craziness then check out Argos’s Dream Toys 2013 list which has loads of inspiration.

An Overview of Tablets available at Argos.

I was recently invited to test a selection of tablets available at Argos, with some other bloggers. We all brought our own tablets and had the chance to compare the ones on display. We also talked about what we look for in a tablet and what sort of tablet would suit our children.

In our household we have 2 iPad’s. One that belongs to me and one that belongs to my husband. The kids are allowed to play games we select for them but they aren’t allowed to have their own tablets or games consoles. I think the reason for this is that we feel it’d be harder to monitor or fight against screen time, without the excuse that we need our iPads back! I think at some point we’ll get my son (age 7) some sort of computer to play games on but we’re putting it off for as long as possible.

It was really interesting to look at all the different tablets, especially as when you get the chance to actually play with them you get a better idea of whether or not they would suit your kids and also if they’re the sort of gizmo that they’ll just tire of quickly. The first I looked at was the Leapfrog LeapPad (kids) £109.99 (info in italics copied from Argos).

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The LeapPad looks like your tablet but it’s kid-tough with an ultra-tough frame and friendly controls. They can write, draw, take photos, make videos and have access to 500+ games, eBooks and music which have all be approved by LeapFrog learning experts. The browsing option even has parental settings for easy fine-tuning.

• Child safe LeapPad Ultra offers extra parental settings and tools that allow parents to easily control exactly what experiences their child has access to.
• LeapPad Ultra comes with 11 custom apps including: photo fun ultra, art studio ultra, pet pad party, utility suite, pet chat and LeapFrog learning songs.
• Features rechargeable lithium ion battery, Wi-Fi, peer-to-peer play, front and back camera/video recorders and MP3 player.
• LeapPad Ultra works with LeapFrogs award-winning library of hundreds of educator-approved apps, games, eBooks, videos, music and more.

I liked this tablet but felt that it would have a short “interest” life. The trouble is that our kids are so tech savvy these days, that if they’re used to playing on an iPad for example, this just looks a bit babyish. I think in reality is would suit from 18 months (that sounds shocking but Izzy’s been playing on the iPad from at least that age!) to about 4. So unfortunately, although I think all of them would like to own one, the fact that we won’t buy them a tablet until they’re older rules it out for us. If you want to get a tablet for your little ones though, this is fantastic and very hardy!

The second one I looked at was the VTech Innotab 2
VTech InnoTab (kids) £49.99.

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Here’s the blurb.

With the InnoTab 2 kids will have so much fun they won’t even realise they’re learning! This multimedia handheld tablet combines educational games, creative activities and e-books. The InnoTab just got better; it now features a built-in twist camera!

• Features a 5 inch LCD touch screen and G-sensor for fun game play.
• Now includes a rotating self-portrait camera, for photos and video and features a microphone for enhanced game play. Includes USB cable.
• Children can develop core skills in reading, spelling, maths, logic and creativity with the many included activities such as an e-reader, art studio, video player and photo viewer.
• InnoTab 2 is also compatible with the Kidizoom range of products.
• Parents can download additional games and learning apps from their computer (SD card required, not included) via the VTech Learning Lodge Navigator site.
General information:

• Size H28, W33, D6cm.
• Batteries required: 4 x AA (not included).
• For ages 4 years and over.
• EAN: 9086692.
WARNING(S):

• Not suitable for children under 3 years old.
• Only for domestic use.

I though this was pointless. It was very basic and not a patch on the Leapfrog LeapPad. The screen was very small and it just looked like a cheap product. I wouldn’t recommend it as I felt it had a short interest life and wasn’t sophisticated enough for the kids of today.

The Bush 7 Inch MyTablet Now £49.99.




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Bush MyTablet is a sleek 7 inch tablet designed for fun and tailored to you, with free pre-loaded games and apps, social networking, internet browsing, and a home screen that you can personalise with your favorite apps, photos and with your name.
• Expandable up to 32GB.
Display:

• 7 inch screen.
• Resolution 1024 x 600 pixels.
• 1.6GHz processor.
• 1GB RAM.
• 8 GB internal storage.
• Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system.
General features:

• Webcam.
• Wi-Fi enabled.
• Bluetooth – enabling you to easily and wirelessly connect with other bluetooth enabled devices.
• 3.5mm stereo headphone jack.
• microSD memory card slot.
• Mini HDMI.
• Micro USB.
Additional information:

• Up to 5 hours battery life (depending on usage).
• Bush.

I thought this looked like a nice piece of kit but fundamentally it’s a budget tablet with very poor battery life and low storage capacity. Where this may well come into its own though is for a child who wants to play games and have a smart looking tablet. Feedback from these has been that they’re not ideal for watching films or videos but they’re fine for basic use, which for kids means games. Overall I’d say this would be fine for a child who wasn’t expecting it to be able to everything an iPad can do.

Nexus 7 £149.99
The ASUS Nexus 7 is all about having your favourite things available, even when you are not close to WiFi. It features a mobile data connection that allows you to access your favourite media content in non-WiFi areas. The 7 inch screen is the perfect size screen for commuting – small enough to fit into your pocket or bag.
• 1.2MP front camera.
7 inch screen.
• Resolution 1280 x 800 pixels.
• IPS technology.
• LED backlit display.
• 1.2GHz NVIDIA – Tegra 3 Quad-core processor.
• 1GB RAM.
• 16 GB internal storage.
• Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system.
General features:

• Webcam.
• Wi-Fi and 3G enabled.
• Bluetooth – enabling you to easily and wirelessly connect with other bluetooth enabled devices.
Additional information:

• Up to 9.5 hours battery life (depending on usage).
• Weight 340g.
• EAN/MPN/UPC/ISBN: 4716659260691.
• Google.

I though this was a fantastic little tablet and definitely my favorite of the selection I looked at. It may be £50 more expensive than the Bush but it’s leagues better. The screen definition is excellent and it’s a joy to watch video on. Of all the tablets I looked at. This was my favorite and the one I would recommend. Having said that, when all’s said and done, I’m an iPad gal and this lady’s not for turning.

Cute photo-frames for a girls bedroom.

I bought these for £7 or £8 in Tesco about a month ago. They’re not exactly high quality but they’re made of hard card, fabric and clear plastic so you don’t have to worry about the kids breaking the glass. They come in a pack of three (my other one’s in Maisie’s room) and I just couldn’t resist them as they’re so pretty.

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Sock Monkey – A Gift Idea

Monkeygang Sock Monkey
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All of my kids have a sock monkey, Sam got his from his Uncle Grant and Auntie Sarah and Maisie and Isabelle got theirs from their Nana. They’re all rather precious. The Monkeys that Nana bought came from The Darryl Nantais Gallery in Linton, which has an amazing selection of paintings, sculptures, sketches, prints and… Monkeys! The monkeys, originally came from http://www.monkeygang.co.uk though and are all handmade in Norfolk. Prices range from £7.50 – £20 and can be bought online. We love them, you might too!

Review of “Hooray for Fish” by Lucy Cousins

Hooray for fish is another of our favourite board books, but this probably has a little bit more longevity than most others in this category. My son who is six will still listen to this story with his sisters and he still remembers the words fondly.

This is an engaging story about a little fish who swims around saying hello to all his different fish friends. There’s Ele Fish (a fish that looks like an elephant) eye fish (who looks like an eye, you get the idea)  and many other silly little fishes. The rhyming is solid and the rhythm is very appropriate, giving a gentle but not sluggish pace to the book.

Izzy, who is one, loves the fly and sky fish, which in our family, requires a great flinging of arms, swiftly followed by some squeals of delight, but all have had their own, different, favourite fish.

I’m still not bored of this book, even after five years of reading it. The best bit, which definately requires actions, is the bit at the end where little fish says, “But where’s the one I love the best, even more than all the rest? Hello Mum.”
“Hello, Little Fish.” Kiss, kiss, kiss, hooray for fish!”

Like I said, definitely requires actions.

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A Review of There’s a cow in the Cabbage Patch by Stella Blackstone, Illustrated by Claire Beaton

This has been one of the most read and most loved board books in our family. Sam and Maisie both loved it and now Izzy does too. I bought it from Igloo Kids in Islington about 5 years ago and its been worth it’s weight in gold, it’s just one of “those” books for us.

It’s such a charming little creation, the illustrations are basically photos of some gorgeous appliqué pictures and they depict plenty of animals with good sounds to try out with your baby. So far Izzy can woof for the dog, moo for the cow, woof for the owl and woof for the horse, which I think probably makes her a genius.

The rhymes work well with the correct amount of beats to make the words flow nicely. I can’t bear kids books with bad rhymes that don’t fit the beat, why are they even allowed to be published? What also works, is that it has enough of a story to engage little ones without being too long. It’s also far more interesting than your bog standard baby book that just has pictures with words underneath.

I think this book is fantastic, it’ll definitely be one for our kids “special stuff” box when they’ve all grown out of it.

Available at Amazon.co.uk

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Review of Memento – A Fabric Photo Book.

Memento

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These little books are a great idea. Mitali Peckham, who came up with the idea and creates each book by hand, let me borrow some to have a look at. I have to say they’re a real hit with the kids, even though they don’t contain any pictures of themselves! The idea is that you provide Mitali with 8 pictures and the text for each page, so you can make a book about whatever you like. I’d like to create a little story based on pictures of my kids but you could add pictures of the first newborn days or a christening or even just a special day out.

This is a memento that your kids can play with and enjoy every day, I think they’re lovely and so does Maisie! If you’re interested in getting one then you can just go to Mitali’s website http://www.babytreasures.eu and order online. The cost is £27.50, which includes the postage. A super gift!

A Review of Good Night Bunny Fabric Book by Oskar and Ellen

Oskar & Ellen Interactive Books
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One of my best friends got this book for my eldest daughter for her first birthday, she loved it then and she still loves it now. It comes with a gorgeous little squeaky bunny who you dress, undress, bath, play with, read to and put to bed. It’s fantastic for helping develop fine motor skills and is generally just great for growing imaginations. This book would make a lovely gift and they also have a boys version which is just as cute by all accounts. Mine has been loved so much that the bedding on the front page is coming apart and one of the toys has disappeared, surely a sign of a greatly loved book!

It’s pretty expensive, the cheapest I could find it on the net is £28.99  from http://www.borngifted.co.uk/baby-gifts/product/BG-3043 (Lucy you’re very naughty!) but for a special occasion or if you’re just feeling flush, then it’s a gift that’ll just keep giving!