Monday, 21 July 2014

Review - Aqua Beads Jewel Starter Kit

Aquabeads have been a firm favourite for some time now, much like the more established Hama beads in that you can make little designs, keyrings, photo frames, 3D boxes etc but the massive plus point with Aquabeads is that they just need a spray of water and about an hour to fix solid and thus the children can do it themselves.  No more having to get the ironing board out and buying expensive backing paper to iron the beads and make their designs.

When we first got Aquabeads a couple of years back I did wonder if the designs might fall apart after a while but actually as long as you spray them and allow them to dry and then spray the other side they last an age. We still have some that have been hanging around way in excess of a year now.

The set we were sent to review is the new Aquabeads jewel starter set and this means the beads are not round and opaque they are jewel shaped and translucent and sparkly.  My twins really loved them and it is a nice twist on something which is popular with them already.

You make the designs in the same way as always. Open up your 800 beads (sounds a lot but actually they will be gone in a flash) and put them in the little plastic dish that you get to keep the colours separate. This has a very flimsy plastic lid for storing your beads but I would recommend getting a better storage box if you intend to build on your collection or use these a lot.

You then place a template sheet between the base tray and the layout tray and start to use the bead pen to delicately place your bead over the relevant space to start making the pattern shown in the template.  Of course you can also free style if you like to but my girls tend to like to follow the pattern.  Miss E actually finds it easier to use her fingers than the bead pen as she has a steady hand and lots of patience but Miss M uses the bead pen as she tends to knock all the other beads she has already placed otherwise!

The Aquabeads jewel starter set is recommended for age 4 years and upwards and I think it is worth every penny of its £10.99 price tag as it provides a lot of fun and some nice creative items at the end to keep. Miss E is currently making a rainbow with one bead missing at the top so she can thread a silver chain through it and wear it as a necklace.

For more inspiration you can follow Aquabeads on Facebook , Instagram and Pinterest and brilliantly you can also download new templates so your children can make even more designs.

Disclosure:  We were provided with this set free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Review: Sylvanian Families Cosy Cottage & Chocolate Rabbit Twin Set

Miss E has liked Sylvanian families for a while now and she was over the moon when we were offered the Cosy Cottage to review. The RRP for this is £29.99 but I see that at Argos it is on special at the moment for £24.99 and this is a rely good deal

In the past I have found that many Sylvanian buildings come without anything inside, no furniture and no figures and it then becomes a bit expensive to buy the building and kit it out. I really liked that the Cosy Cottage comes with a starter pack of Freya chocolate rabbit, table and chairs, bench, cooker and accessories, bed and linen and ladder.

You can have the house as two storey or the top floor is removable and when turned over the wooden floor becomes green grass and it can go just outside as the garden or in the case of Miss E be used as the picnic area.

I was super surprised that when Miss E (age 7) got this out to play with her 10 year old brother came over and really wanted in on the action too, so they got the camper van set out and played that long lost cousins had come to visit. I do love a bit of good imaginative play and the Sylvanian families sets really lend themselves well to this.

In my experience the Sylvanian families toys are very good quality and are built to last, the plastic is not flimsy like with some toys and there is also really beautiful and detailed styling in the accessories that come with the sets. In this case it was saucepan, plate and food.

Another good feature about the cottage is that it can be connected to Maple Manor and Beechwood Hall if you choose to buy more and extend your collection.

As well as the cottage we also received chocolate rabbit twin set and considering my girls are twins they really loved this. You get two little tiny babies, a double pushchair and a few accessories like a dummy and bottle for £9.99. Freya the rabbit that came with our house must be over the moon to have twins, but where is her husband?

Great prizes to be won
There is also a fabulous competition running at the moment to win a wonderful Forest holiday worth £1000 and some super sylvanian families products. All you have to do is take a picture of your Sylvanian family characters enjoying their summer and submit it by the deadline of 31st August 2014. Take a look at their webiste for full details and the T&C's too.

Just look at these little guys enjoying their time on the beach!

Disclosure: We received these toys free of charge for the purpose of writing this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Stylish Lunch bags from Sweeleestuff (review)

My girls have new lunch bags for school and they are over the moon and feel so grown up, I know that even the teachers have mentioned how great they are and if I was still working out of the home I'd happily take one with me.

Sweeleestuff lunch bags (or totes if you are posh) are a zipped bag made of Neoprene and they measure H29.5 x W29.5 x D17.5 cm.  They are small enough for even a young child to carry confidently and yet you can fit so much in them.  My girls have a box of sandwiches, bottle of drink, yoghurt and something snacky for lunch and this all fits in with a load of room, I could literally fit a couple of decent sized salad and fruit boxes in as well as a drink and they would still work fabulously.

Probably my favourite part of the bags (apart from them looking super stylish) is that they fold flat for storage, just look how much space I save on a weekend/ in the holidays when I put away these bags rather than the kids old more ridged ones.

When we first received the bags they did a smell a bit but I think that is just what happens with neoprene, we have had it with wetsuits too. A cool wash in the machine sorted this out in no time and that is another fabulous plus point for these bags, that I can put them through the wash as much as I like, I no longer have to deal with the horrible smelly stale yoghurt corners in square boxes and there is no lining to trap water when it goes through the machine, they are making my life just that little bit easier which is important as a busy mum.

The neoprene is super soft and the handles are comfy to use, there is a massive range of fabric designs but they definitely are more for those who like girly designs but there is plain black for a more masculine design. Here are some of the designs I particularly liked -

The bags are all the same size but the price does seem to range from £5.99 through to £12.99, I assume this depends on how popular the fabric design is. Both the designs my girls chose retail at £8.99 currently and I think this is good value for a stylish but long lasting and washable bag that is also free from Lead, PVA, Pthalate and BPA, harmful substances which have been found in lunchbags of other materials.

We are really pleased with our Sweeleestuff lunch bags and I'd happily recommend them.

Disclousre:  We received these lunch bags free of charge for the purpose of writing this review.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

What is your cleaning IQ?

I am one of a small breed of people, I realised this some years ago when I was chatting to some mates and I told them how much I liked to clean and that I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing a room all tidy and sparkly clean. The four or five people I was with all looked at me like I was an alien and laughed, one saying 'yeah right'. Luckily I'm a confident sort so I did fess up that yes I really do like a good clean and I don't even mind the yucky jobs either. Maybe that is what comes from years of living in student houses and then staff accommodation, you got used to having to really clean up.

When I first had the twins I found it was hard to stay on top of everything so I set myself up a system where I cleaned one or two rooms a day and I know a lot of friends recommend the flylady system but nowadays I just do a bit most days and at least once a week gut one room by doing things like sorting drawers, moving the white goods in the kitchen or stripping beds. I love having the time to stay home and keep my house nice, for me it is one of the things that make it a home.

But what about you, how do you feel about cleaning, take this short quiz (it is just 7 questions) and see what your cleaning IQ is, do you need a little help or are you like me on top of it all?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

JJ Reviews Minecraft Figures - Steve with Diamond Armour and Animal Mob 6 Pack

JJ was super excited to receive some Minecraft action figures last week.  Take a peek at his video review to see what he thought -

Disclosure: We were sent these 2 packs of Minecraft figures free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Review - Karcher WV60 Window Vac

As part of my duties as a Karcher Ambassador I was sent the WV60 window vac to review. I have to say that window cleaning is probably my least favourite of jobs and thus it often gets left. The external panes to my windows (even the downstairs ones which I can reach) I'm ashamed to say have never been cleaned since I moved into my house last August.

I do the insides but for some reason it always seems too much effort to do the outside and as we live in the middle of no-where there are no window cleaners that I can engage to do it, so they just remain dirty!  High time to put this right I feel!

Luckily Karcher sent me through their WV60 window vac, which has an RRP of £79.99 but I saw it for sale as low as £58.00 from ASDA direct.  For this price you receive the window vac, charger, 2 different length blades, spray bottle with special cleaning pad attachment and a sachet of cleaning fluid. Fully charged the window vac lasts for about 20 minutes and Karcher estimate it cleans 45 windows.  I have to be honest I can't imagine that I could do that many in the time!

The product was very easy to set up as you can see in my video and my 10 year old son JJ and I got to work on a mirror and window to see how the Karcher window vac worked out for us.

I definitely found that I got better as I went along, practise makes perfect.  My tips would be to not scrimp on the amount of water you use to wash the window and to pull the vac down in one swift and not too slow movement. Our windows were definitely of an acceptable standard afterwards, not every one was streak free, as you can see in the image below but I just re-did the odd one that I seemed to streak!

What we liked -

  • Very lightweight, at just 0.7kg it does not cause any issues holding it and using it for a long period of time
  • Really easy to set up and the blades go on and come off easily
  • The spray bottle with cleaning pad head is very nifty and you can take the pad off and put it in the washing machine
  • No drips or mess whilst you clean the windows
  • As it charges you don't have to be close to a plug socket. I'm looking forward to using this on my car windows
  • Picks up spills and removes water from shower screens and windows with condensation.  This will be so useful in the winter as with older windows we get lots of water on the panes and window sills
  • The water that collects in the reservoir is very easy to empty into the sink
  • You can buy an extension kit so you can do your upstairs windows easily too
Points to consider -
  • It is an investment product, the price of course has to be considered
  • It is yet another charge to store.  I do wish all products had a universal charger
  • In my opinion it works far better on large glass areas than on little panelled windows like mine

Disclosure:  I was provided with the window vac free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Review - Scotland Yard board game

As a child I recall a friends big brother having the Scotland Yard board game and we always wanted to play it but he used to tell us we were too young and it was not for girls, so I never got to play sadly.

I then don't recall seeing the game anywhere else for quite some years so you can imagine my glee when I was offered the Ravensburger re-released version just recently.  Would we like to review this?  Easy, yes please! JJ was super pleased when it arrived as he knows what Scotland Yard is and he is a little obsessed with cop and spy programs, he seems to be think he is a bit of a super sleuth.

He announced that he could not wait for me and he would start to unpack the game and read the instructions and get on with it himself.  I did of course advise him one person could not play this game alone so he roped in his 6 year old sister. Now this game is aimed at children of 10 years plus and whilst she is a bright little thing it was a bit hard as a first attempt with a bossy 10 year old trying to teach a bossy 6 year old!

Getting Ready
Getting the board and pieces ready for play was easy, all the transport tickets had to be popped out and they are a nice thick laminated cardboard so I think they will last well. The board itself is really up to date and has all the popular London landmarks like Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, the London Eye and even the Shard. It is probably the thickest and most durable board to a game I've ever seen. I'll certainly say that for Ravensburger they know how to produce something that will stand the tests of time.

The Instructions
For some reason you get two instruction booklets and it really was not clear to me why this is. The English text is buried at the back behind 5 other languages and even the main writing on the box is in German, which feels a bit odd when the game is being sold in England and is about our capital city.

You need to prepare yourself to take some time to read these and absorb. As someone is playing Mr X and then others are playing the detectives, there are two different sets of instructions to grasp, so this is not a game you can pick up in 5 minutes.

Objective of the game
Notorious criminal Mr X is on the run in Central London. Can Scotland Yard’s finest detectives track him down, or will he escape forever? One player takes on the role of Mr X, whilst other players take on the role of detectives and work as a team to try to find him. Mr X only reveals his location every 5 moves, but the detectives can get clues as to his location by looking at his travel log, which reveals his chosen method of transport. The detectives also move around the board using taxi, bus and underground tickets, and must try to surround Mr X, and then move to his hidden location to catch him and win. But the detectives don’t always win and Mr X can escape to any of the 199 locations shown on the detailed map of Central London!

Did we enjoy it?
In a nutshell, yes. Once we had got the hang of it but it did take us a few goes to feel as if we knew what we were up to. We have also only played the beginners version of the game so far and we have yet to move to the more advanced or the two person game.

I love the fact that this game teaches kids to strategise and really think about what moves Mr X has made and how they should go about finding him and it also encourages team work as the detectives which is super and well needed in our house!

Another plus point is that no game is ever the same and that keeps it really fresh and means the kids want to come back to it again and again. I'm told that next time Miss M wants to try and be Mister X, so I think we will be roping Daddy in to help her.

How long does it take?
It took us about 5-10 minutes to set up the game and then with 4 players it was about an hour long and that is a real bonus as games like Monopoly can go on forever and ever.

Where can I buy it?
Scotland Yard is available from Ravensburger on Amazon and the price is just £17.99 currently.  I think this is a fabulous deal and real value for money. You can also watch a short video about how to play Scotland Yard on there too.

Disclosure:  We received this game free of charge for he purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.