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!)

20131212-205654.jpg

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.

20131212-215827.jpg
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…
20131212-220051.jpg

Advertisements

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.

20131105-195533.jpg

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.

20131105-195632.jpg

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…

20131105-195310.jpg

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.

20131105-195728.jpg

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.

Balance bike review and comparison list.

There are loads of balance bikes on the market, but this is a list of the ones I liked the most. In the end I chose a Ridgeback Scoot for Sam and a Bikestar for Maisie and I was really pleased with both of them. I haven’t listed any wooden bikes as I didn’t think they’d last as well as a hand me down, but two good friends have a wooden likeAbike and swear by them so if you’re looking for a wooden balance bike, that’s the one I’d recommend.

Islabike Rothan

20130428-222832.jpg
Frame – Aluminim
Weight – 3.6kg
My impressions – If this bike came in pink then I’d have bought one second hand from eBay, as it’s a lovely piece of kit. It’s designed for children rather than using parts designed for adults so it rides really nicely for kids. It’s a quality product and so pretty expensive, but if you love cycling and bikes then you might not be able to resist this! Loads of kids here in Cambridge have them and the parents I speak to about them think they’re fantastic. I chose not to spend so much on a balance bike as they all pretty much do the same thing, but many people I’ve spoken to think they’re worth every penny. At the end of the day, the more expensive they are, the lighter they are and the longer they’ll last. Resale on these is excellent.
Price – £120 from Islabike. Secondhand you can pick them up for around the £70 mark on eBay.

Ridgeback Scoot

20130428-222744.jpg
Frame – Aluminium
Weight – 12.1bs, 5.49kg
My Impressions – It seems long and was harder for my petite little girl to get to grips with when she tried to ride her brother’s one. My son loved it though and he only started using a balance bike when he was 4 and quite big. This is a fabulous bike but definitely not the lightest out there. It’s great for bigger kids who aren’t going to struggle with the extra weight. The rear break is pointless but the kids like the look of it. New models have a carry handle on the seat which is a brilliant feature for those frequent meltdowns!
Price – £99 at most places where it’s sold, but I bought my son’s one 2nd hand from eBay for £52.

Strider

20130428-222458.jpg

Frame – light gauge steel tubing
Weight – ST3 (old model) 2.9kg. ST4 3kg.
My impression – This is a fun little bike and it’s the lightest on the market. it’s a great choice for small kids as the seat height starts at 28cm and goes up to 40cm. My hesitation was that after reading reviews it seems as though the EVA polymer, foam-like tyres, tend to wear down so are not ideal if you want to hand them down to a sibling. They have also just launched Super Strider which has 16″ wheels for older or bigger kids. If this had existed when I bought my son’s balance bike then I’d probably have bought it as his Scoot was always a bit small for him.
Price – ST 3 currently being sold for £69. 99. The ST 4 is £84.99, from
Balance1st.

Puky LR1

20130428-215924.jpg

Frame – Steel.
Weight – 4kg
My impressions – This is a good solid bike with a great reputation. It’s heavier than other comparable products but it’s also cheaper than the lighter bikes. You’re unlikely to go wrong with a Puky, but my daughter found it awkward which is why we didn’t go for it. I like the footrest and the kick-stand which is really useful and you can also get a strap to carry it when your child suddenly refuses to go any further. This bike also has pneumatic EVA tyres which don’t puncture, but loads of kids around us have these bikes and they don’t seem to wear down much. Puky also do a smaller balance bike called the LRM which is more suitable for tiny ones, the seat height on these is 28cm.
Price – £65.99 on Amazon. You can also pick these up on eBay for around £40.

Likeabike Rosalie

20130428-222139.jpg

Frame – Aluminium
Weight – 3.8kg
My Impressions – This bike wasn’t around when I was looking for a balance bike for Maisie, I’ve just discovered it tonight! I’d have bought this if it had been available, it’s, light, it’s pink (the Kokua was the only one available when I was looking and it didn’t come in pink!) and It’s not outrageously expensive. Gutted.com – I love this bike! They also do a red version called the Likeabike Hardy.
price – £99.95 from Likeabike.

Specialized Hotwalk

20130428-222640.jpg
Frame – Aluminium
Weight – Approx. 8.63lbs (3.91kg)
My Impressions – This is a really good bike, it’s light and (crucially for us) comes in pink. I didn’t buy it because the Bikestar balance bike was half the price and had similar features, but if I wasn’t trying to save a bit then this is the bike I’d have bought. The Hotwalk is one of the lightest bikes on the market, it also has a footrest to encourage balancing.
Price – 2012 model currently on sale for £89.99 from Freeborn The 2013 model seems to be £100 in most online shops.

Ketler Speedy
imageBalance bike comparisons
Frame Steel Tubing
Weight 4.1kg
My impressions One of Maisie’s friends from Pre-school has one of these bikes so I asked her dad what he thought of it. He said he was pleased with it, it seemed easy enough for his daughter to ride but his only issue was that the wheels (made of a tough synthetic foam), sometimes “chip”, i.e. a little chunk sometimes comes of when she rides over rough ground. That said, his daughter likes riding it and it’s pretty light so what’s not to like? It has a padded seat which is adjustable – 33-43cm, so it’s not really small enough for tiny ones but still a good size for your average two year old. This is a good little bike, it’s not expensive, it’s not too heavy for little ones to maneuver and it comes in both blue and pink!
Price £44.99 from Amazon

Bikestar

20130428-220215.jpg
Frame – Steel tube.
Weight – 4.8kg
My impressions – This is the bike I chose for my daughter for Christmas when she was 3 1/2. She’s small for her age so the bike had to be fairly light but more importantly it had to be mostly pink. This bike is really pretty and nicely made. I’m really pleased with the quality of it and Maisie loves it. The wheels seem really wide but this doesn’t seem to make a difference to how it rides. The Bikestar has a kick stand which I find is a really useful feature as it just means the bikes isn’t always just lying around. This brand, like Puky, offers a smaller version with 10″ wheels for tiny ones. The price is excellent and Maisie picked up the technique after a few tries. It must be said that this does feel quite heavy to carry home, but she’s only given up once which is a credit to the bike (and her!) in itself.
Price – Currently £49.99 on Amazon.

Sock Monkey – A Gift Idea

Monkeygang Sock Monkey
image

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 Memento – A Fabric Photo Book.

Memento

image

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
image

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!