Friday, 20 December 2013

Innotab 3s

Vtech are a brand name I trust, it is a name I know that injects education into all of their products. No matter what you buy you know that it will be able to teach your child whilst they play. We have the Vtech Innotab 3S and my children love it. From a learning aspect it helps them with cognitive development, basic maths skills, problem solving, science concepts, reading development, visualisation and memory. It is aimed at children age 3-9 but my 2 year old can easily navigate the tablet and I have found many of the apps that you can buy are also age appropriate.
The only app I was slightly disappointed with was a counting cat one called Silly Stacking Kittens, it cost £2.99 and for that price I did expect more however all of the other apps I have purchased or received via the free download I think are worth the money. Little lady loves the colour and pop app because she can colour and see a pretty result at the end, rather than them colouring as they would being careful not to go over the lines the colour flood fills the image. Her 5 year old brother enjoys the My Magic beanstalk app every time he logs into his account it alerts him if his beanstalk needs something, he can care for it to get things back in return to further on in the game. Once he has given it magic in return for beans it tells him to return in 24 hours helping him with the concept of time.
I used to worry about my children getting use to using their fingers for the touch screen but they happily use the stylus and all of them grasp it like they would a pencil. When it comes to the art studio I know she is learning the skills that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. She loves to colour and loves seeing the flood fill image but the art studio allows her to draw like she would using a pen on paper, she can also save her image if she likes it.
The Innotab 3s has the ability to take pictures and videos, the camera is able to rotate 360°. The camera does need a well lit area to be able to take clear pictures but my children do enjoy this function. I like that they can choose to access a safe Internet via the kid safe wi-fi connection.
Not only can the Innotab 3s connect to a kid safe wi-fi it has the ability to send and receive messages with iphones and android smart phones with the Vtech kid connect premium(sold separately). With hundreds of Downloadable apps and cartridges available to buy, you are sure to be able to fill it with apps that your child will love.
You can find this and other Dream toys here at Argos

This post is in association with Argos

Tefal Kitchen Machine Compact

Christmas came a little early for me, I have been a super good girl this year and only landed myself on the good list. The Tefal Kitchen Machine has been on my wish list for a while, I love to bake but I have never had a good mixer so would end up whisking my egg whites to within an inch of my life. Now making my royal icing is easier finally. Argos have quite a huge range of Tefal appliances to buy, you can view their range here, a steam generator iron is next on my wish list if my husband is reading. I would be able to make your clothes crease free in no time with one of those.
Back to my lovely mixer, it comes with 3 attachments, the kneader, the mixer and the whisk. Each attachment is used depending on what you are making, the whisk is great for making your egg whites have good peaks for royal icing and it is also great for beating the butter for butter cream, I managed to get my butter really white. The mixer as you have possibly guessed is great for mixing a cake mix, I easily managed a 4oz mix and you would still have plenty of room with a 6oz mix.
The splash protector comes in handy if you are mixing liquid, I so far have not needed to use it but I am certain when it comes to mixing my pancake mix for Shrove Tuesday the lid will be firmly on there. The Tefal mixer has 4 speed settings and a pulse setting, speed 4 does sound like it is about to take off and the attachment is spinning around the bowl faster than I could count in turns but the machine does not move an inch. Tefal have cleverly designed this mixer and attached suckers onto the feet of it making it sturdier than any other I have used.
It is an excellent machine for the hobby baker, it can manage small quantities of bread dough and is large enough to make a good batch of cakes.

Disclaimer- In association with Argos, all opinions and images are of my own.

My Family Tree picture

 I was walking through the isles in Ikea just browsing when I caught sight of a picture frame, it was one of those that is thick enough to allow you to frame 3d art. I knew instantly what I wanted to do, a few weeks back I was using my pyrography machine to burn names into wooden reindeer's but I had some lovely wooden hearts that I knew I wanted to use in something special but at the time I could not think what.

I instantly knew I wanted to burn all of our names into the hearts & use them to display in the frame, I then saw a bundle of willow sticks & thought that I could cut them down in size to create a tree.
Back at home I got out the glue gun & trimmed down the willow sticks then glued them onto a piece of paper creating a leafless tree. My husband looked at me like I had suddenly gone crazy(darling I have been crazy for years) & said "is that it!" I shot him a look of do not say another word. I carried on with my little art project by burning our names into the heart & began glueing them to the tree. I glued them so they looked like they were hung from the tree branches. It has come out exactly how I imaged it in my head, I am still undecided whether to add, Family, Laugh, Love and Dream around the thick mount. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Sugar & Crumb making baking easier.

Sugar & Crumb are a new company that have recently launched, they shown their fabulous products to the public at the recent Cake International Show at the NEC in Birmingham. I sadly did not attend but would love to attend the next show. Since teh show they have been very busy over at Sugar & Crumb which does not surprise me because their products made my recent cake making easier. I love to inject flavours into my cakes and it seems Sugar and Crumb do too. I received 3 125g sample packs that consisted of Tropical fruits & Lemon Drizzle icing sugar along with cocoa powder, I also received a 250g bag of coconut icing sugar. 
I decided to make chocolate cake with coconut butter cream and Chocolate coconut cake balls. For the chocolate coconut cake balls I followed the cake recipe Sugar & Crumb sent me using the cocoa powder. I baked the cakes then before cooling I placed them back in the mixer and mixed till it all crumbled. I then rolled it into small balls and placed on a tray in the fridge for 1 hour to chill. Once chilled melt white chocolate and generously cover the cake balls and then dip them into the bowl of desiccated coconut covering the whole ball and place back into the fridge to chill for another hour. After the 1 hour they are ready to eat.

Next I made a simple chocolate cake mix that would make 12 cakes. Once they were fully cooked I left them to cool, make sure they are fully cooled otherwise the butter cream will melt. Whilst they were cooling I made my butter cream using the coconut icing. I separated half of the butter cream and decorated half of the cakes in white butter cream and added red food colouring to the other half of the butter cream and decorated the rest of the cakes in the red butter cream. If you want nice white butter cream my top tip is to mix the butter for a good 5 minutes before adding the icing sugar. I love my Tefal mixer for this job because it really does make mixing easy.
Both of the cakes were topped with little iced holly, they really did taste delicious. The right amount of flavour is used in the icing to my liking, if you are not a big fan of intense flavours divide the bag of icing and replace the same amount with unflavoured icing.

You can find Sugar & Crumb on Facebook and Twitter, pop over to their page to be inspired.

Disclaimer- I was sent the products for the purpose of the review all additional ingredients I provided.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Christmas for less with Poundland

I love a good challenge and when Poundland sent me a voucher for £20 and told me to go and see what I could buy for Christmas I knew I could easily complete it. I visited my local store which is always well stocked with a good range of items. The store is always clean and tidy and enough staff to serve you so your not left in a queue for too long.
So the Christmas products, what did I buy?
I bought a cute please stop here sign, it is of course a reindeer to keep in tune with my theme this year of everything being about reindeer's. It has a white glittery background and is attached to a wooden stake. This sign has been battered by the weather we have had lately and I was very surprised at how well it faired, the same can not be the same for my poor outdoor tree(not from poundland).

For far too long now I have been wishing for a nice light up wreath to hang on my front door, I saw some gorgeous ones but refused to hand over £20 for one(Scrooge). I saw the wreath and other little bits and I had a light bulb moment. I looked about and found some fairy lights and a door hook, along with the bells and the decoration set I knew I could make a nice wreath for a bargain price of £5. 
The lights are indoor only but as the wreath is in a sheltered location I have had no problems with it. I set about bushing out the wreath and with a little tinker here and there, viola my wreath was complete. Many people have commented on it and asked about it. I think it looks really well and you would not be able to tell I only paid £5 for it all. The remaining balance went on drawing pins to stick up the decorations, a Christmas cd to get me in the festive spirit. Three metal cars, an ice cream lip gloss set, a Peppa pig comb & mirror set and a make up set for the kids stockings. Four Sony batteries because you will need batteries come Christmas day and the shops will be closed. I also bought sweets to put in the stockings so the kids are all hyper and After eights for me so I can cope with the hyper children. My husband was not left out he got the Milk Tray. 
I also bought a 40 pack of Christmas cards for the kids to send to their friends(not shown) and a balloon for my daughter(not shown) The balloon lasted for around 5 days before it deflated but to be fair she did use it to bash things and play pirates with her brothers. Why not call in and see what is in your local store.

Disclaimer, I was sent a voucher to purchase the above products

Christmas Crafts with reindeer prints

hand print foot print reindeer Christmas card
This year I've gone a little Christmas crafts crazy, I have also notice I seem to be going with a theme unwittingly. The theme of course is reindeer's, I have had my pyrography machine out burning names into wooden reindeer's for the kids Santa's sacks. I have been stitching their names into red felt reindeer's for their stockings and now I am making cards, cute cards at that. We were having a crafts day when I got little lady to do her hand and foot prints for me (we needed practice for a future project I have planned). She giggled as I painted on the cold brown paint and loved seeing her foot & hand prints appear on the paper. 
As they were drying I recalled seeing a reindeer print done using just the footprint and then drawn on antlers, the hand prints we had done looked like they would make fantastic antlers. I got little lady to use her finger to paint on a bright red nose because all good reindeer's have bright red noses you know. I then hunted for card to stick them onto, I had no card at all in(bad crafter) so we had an impromptu trip to Tesco to buy some, whilst there I saw some stick on eyes and knew they would be far better than the eyes I was thinking about drawing on.
Back at home with the dried prints we cut out her hand and foot prints and stuck them down onto the folded a4 card. Inside we used a stencil and felt tips to draw on the Merry Christmas. If you have an older child they could hand write their own little message.

We handed her card over to Nanna at the weekend and she loves it, and to quote her she said "well I won't be throwing that one away it will go in my special draw" so not only is it a personal card but a keepsake for someone who your child adores.
If you love this you will love making Salt dough hand prints

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Home made crackers you'll love

Cartridge Save challenged me to have a crafty Christmas & I do love a challenge, they sent me a craft box and some suggestions and guides. I put on my best crafty head along with my children's input/interference we came up with a simple idea of a reindeer cracker, with a plan in place we just obeyed the instructions, okay we went a little off and used sellotape on the odd occasion. I hold my hands up to using double side sticky tape too but we created a cracking cracker.
You can download the full cracker guide to follow at home by clicking on the link.
You will need(per cracker)
2 x toilet roll tubes(1 cut in half)
cracker snaps
hand written jokes
gifts to place inside

I started of by cutting out my cracker paper, I used silver wrapping paper for mine, I followed the guide and lightly used the scissors to create a score  line on the inner side so that when the cracker is pulled it is nice and even. I stuck down my snapper evenly and then placed the inners of the toilet roll onto the edge of the paper and secured with double sided tape, you can use glue if needed. I placed double sided tape on the opposite side of the paper and rolled my toilet roll tubes evenly. I tied of one side using red ribbon and filled it with a joke and chocolates but you can fill yours with whatever you like.  
Once you have placed your gifts inside tie off the other side then decorate. We are doing lots of reindeer themed crafts so stuck to the same theme and glued a small red reindeer to a wooden reindeer we had at home then glued it to the main body of the cracker. If you do use a large decoration be aware of the line you previously created with the scissors,  I would just stick the decoration down to one side or do not be over generous when glueing down. You will end up with a lovely hand made cracker.

 The fun does not have to stop there either, you can download the other guides to get crafty this Christmas, we had a go at the wreath and the angel, the children really enjoyed making the wreath because it was so simple to do and great fun. Head over to their website to discover how to have a crafty Christmas.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Ready, steady, play

 Being a John Adams blogger means I get to test some fantastic games and with Christmas just a few weeks away my games cupboard is bursting at its seams, you can never have too many games though especially at Christmas time. If your family is anything like mine then you will be busy visiting and making time to visit your family. I loved playing games as a child and that love of games is still going strong. I happily join in playing games with my children ages 2, 5, 9, 12, and 13, we played:
Gooey Louie If you want to get your snot phobic mother in law swiftly out of the room just play this game, it works a treat. Gooey Louie is suitable for ages 5 and upwards, my 2 year old did join in, we joined forces and become a fantastic nose picking team. You each take turns to pick Gooey Louie's nose(no peeking up his nose), the person who pulls the wrong gooey making Louie's brains fly out of his head is then out of the game, Louie's brain is replaced and the gooeys stuffed back up his nose and play continues, the winner is crowned the nose picking champion by being the last person to pick the wrong gooey. Who would have thought nose picking was so much fun? All of my children thoroughly enjoyed this game and they giggled so much, as for the adults, well, we did tell them that if you pick your nose your brains will fall out.

Silly Moo  This game is the strangest game we have played, however it brought lots of laughter and competitiveness to the table. You load Silly Moo up with the milk cartons and cow pats, with a flip of the tail and popping her eyes back in her head play can commence. You pull the udders the same amount as is shown on the die that you throw. White cartons score 1, gold scores 2 and if you get the cow pat then you deduct 1 point from your score. The winner is the one with the most points once you have fully milked her. 
Again all of the children enjoyed this game and it was the one we played the most. It is suitable for ages 3 and upwards but my 2 year old did play with help and supervision as the parts are very small. 

Don't take Buster's Bones He looks a little menacing doesn't he, he is all snore and bark though. This game is suitable for ages 4 and upwards which I do agree with, any younger would have difficulty in using the claw tweezers to pick the bones out of Buster's food bowl. Each player picks a card, on one side of the card it shows what colour and the amount of bones you have to carefully remove from Buster's bowl. Move carefully though, one false move will send the snoring Buster into action right in the direction of the food bowl. This will make you jump out of your skin, my 5 year old refused to play it because it scared him however the older ones loved the suspense of not knowing if Buster is about to wake. The winner is the last remaining person not caught stealing Buster's bones. This was a fun game, we all jumped each time Buster woke and the game didn't end too quickly either.
Each game that we were sent I would recommend, each one the children enjoyed for various reasons and they game be played again and again. Will you be picking noses, milking cows or stealing bones this Christmas? We will be doing all three.

Keep an eye on the blog for two more game reviews coming soon, we will be saying what we see with Catch Phrase and attempting to draw for Telestrations.

LeapPad Ultra

 We are new owners of the fantastic LeapPad Ultra, well we already had one so now we have two. One belongs to Little Lady age 2 and one belongs to Big T age 12(mental age of 5/6). They both are huge fans of their LeapPads and both use it for different things. I am a huge fan of the LeapPad Ultra because it is educational, I love products that allow a child to learn without them realising they are learning, lets face it we all learn much more when it is a fun way of learning. Big T having learning difficulties along with A.D.H.D makes teaching him new things rather difficult especially as he is only medicated during school hours. When we are teaching him new words he will get agitated easily and once this happens he will not stick to a task but give him the LeapPad and he will learn without realising. 
He loves racing games and Turbo Racing team is one of his favourite games on the LeapPad. Another game he loves is Jewel Train, he moves through the levels surprisingly well. The aim of the game is to complete the track to allow the train to come out of the tunnel and collect all the jewels along the track and reach the station. Some are really easy some are harder. Little Lady so far has managed to get to level 6 with a little help from her 5 year old brother. Another great thing I love about the LeapPad Ultra is it is Kid tough and when it belongs to Big T is has to be. It is durable and has been drop tested, if it can survive with Big T it can survive with any child.
The LeapPad Ultra is powered by battery but fear not it is rechargeable batteries that come with it along with the adapter. A full charge will give you a 9 hour playtime. The in built memory of 8gb can hold up to 40,000 photos than can be taken from the front and rear cameras, these cameras also video record and the quality is much better than I expected. If it is not photos your child is storing then they can hold up to 100+ game apps. 
The apps come at varying costs some can be bought for as little as a few pounds from the app store. Purchasing and transferring them over is very simple, if your extended family are stuck on what to buy as gifts then they could purchase an app gift card which allows you and your child to choose which apps they would like. As we have two LeapPads we just use one parent account which means both LeapPads are able to have the same game stored on them. The parent settings are very easy to use and leaves you in complete control, your area on the LeapPad is pass code protected so things can only be changed by you.
The LeapPad Ultra is aimed at children age 4-9 however my 2 year old loves hers, she sticks to the simple apps and loves being on the art studio, she grasps the LeapPad pen as she would a normal pencil and draws away using the different tools. She loves to proudly show off her drawings and quite likes to save each one.

I think the LeapPad Ultra is fantastic value for money and children outside of the age suitability can still enjoy it.
It can teach your child Reading, Mathmatics, Creativity and Life Skills along with Science and Social studies all whilst they are having fun.
I think many children would love a LeapPad Ultra in their Christmas Sack this year. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Tesco Chocolate

It is so hard being a blogger when Tesco send you delicious chocolates to review, we have to eat large amounts of mouth watering chocolate, we have to taste every last crumb just to be sure it tastes good! Okay that last bit is a lie, I could have shared out the delicious Cinnamon Chokablok and the Gingerbread stars, they are perfect for sharing with my family but who shares chocolate, my children certainly don't and I am not about to break a habit of a lifetime. I had to choose my chocolate eating moment carefully, sure I could have just retreated to my bedroom and hid in the wardrobe, the kids would've never found me there but I like to see what I am eating. I waited for the children to go to bed and for the husband to become absorbed in a computer game, and chocolate taste testing began.
I devoured half of the Cinnamon Chokablok, taking in the cinnamon taste, I do love cinnamon. The taste is not overpowering either, it is just right for the taste buds. It is milk chocolate with white chocolate swirled in. If the tree shape was not festive enough the chocolate malt balls gold dusting glistens in the light(I would not have noticed that in the wardrobe). Amongst the glistening balls of goodness you have caramelised biscuit and ginger crumble. It is fair to say the 150g Cinnamon Chokablok is definitely worth £5, it will make a great gift too, after all who does not like chocolate?(if you don't like chocolate don't answer that)  
With the Cinnamon Chokablok came the pretty presented Gingerbread Stars Square Box, I think these would make perfect little gifts for a teacher or as a stocking filler. They come wrapped in black tissue paper and presented in their own box. They are a good size piece of chocolate too, Tesco have been generous in making these rather chunky stars. They have topped the milk chocolate stars with a drizzling of white chocolate and caramelised biscuits and ginger crumble. They taste delicious, mouth watering delicious! The Gingerbread stars a bargain too at £4 for 100g. Tesco have a huge range of festive chocolate just ready to be placed in you stockings or even to hand out to visitors this Christmas, that is if you can bare to share.

 Tesco sent us the two selections from their range for the purpose of the review, all opinions and images are my own.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The nest remains empty

 Most chicken keepers will know that when you walk into that coop and see it covered in feathers your first thought is that you've had a fox attack, thankfully for us it is the lovely or not so lovely moult that chickens go through after their first year of laying. My chickens have all take turns to go through moult. Zebadee our Plymouth Barred Rock was the first, she stopped laying her eggs, her comb and wattles turned pink and her lovely black and white feather begin to fall out, she had a bare bottom for around 1 week and it seemed like it took weeks for her to start looking like her old self again. Next up was our Light Sussex, Layla, she is a rather plump lady and doesn't seem to have done too badly during the moult, she is still on the scraggy side and I am hoping her tail feathers grow soon. Third to go through moult is Rosie our Czech Brindle hen, as quickly as she lost her feathers she grew them back, her moult have by far been the shortest. 
Throughout Zebadee, Rosie and Layla's moult I was getting our daily blue egg off Janny our cream legbar and an occasional egg off who I presume our Jersey Giant but with less daylight hours and the fact that Janny in the picture on the right seems to have thrown herself into moult we are now eggless! She looks like she has lost the most feathers out of all of them. I have put two pictures side by side to compare and my poor girl does look like she is getting ready to throw herself into the oven. I can not wait till her feathers grow back so she looks like she does in the left picture.
Our last chicken is a Jersey Giant who I hatched in May, she still remains nameless and is in need of a good name, feel free to share your suggestions. Her comb and wattles are an impressive red, she is bigger or as big as my hens so I can not wait to see what size she will be when she is fully grown. Back in May I hatched 7 eggs, this Jersey Giant is the only one I kept, the others all went off to new homes. I was hoping the Araucana was a female but sadly it was a boy so I was unable to keep him.

Five chickens and not one egg between them, I fear I might have to buy some eggs!

Cosatto Hug 1-2-3 Car Seat

Being A Cosatto Buddy means we get to test their lovely products, we love putting products to the test and have even roped my nephew into being a mini tester too. Cosatto sent me the fantastic Hug 1-2-3 car seat to put through its paces. Being a 1-2-3 group car seat means it is suitable for ages 9 months to 11 years or 9kg - 36kg. This is where my nephew comes in, my daughter is 2 so I wanted to see what a 9 month old was like in the car seat so who better to be a mini tester than him. The Hug car seat comes in two designs, the All Star as shown and the beautiful Golightly. Cosatto describes the All Star design as "a monochrome mover with rebellious red flashes" and I 100% agree.
The Hug car seat is the most padded car seat I have come across, the padded matching liner can be removed as your child grows and the head rest can be fully adjusted too. The 5 point safety harness comes fully padded so your child will be in a comfortable hug from the front to behind. The quick release buckle is easy to release for an adult but not for a child. The easy adjustable harness makes life easier when you have thicker clothing on your child during the colder months, you don't have to fiddle with the straps, just press the release button and pull. 
What I first noticed about the Hug is the side impact protection on it, the second thing I noticed other than its gorgeous design is the fitting, it is different to any other car seat I have had and trust me I have had lots. Threading the seat belt has been made easier and safer, it has more lock off points and from a mothers point of view I feel that it is a safer fitting than your standard fitting on a car seat. The Hug with its great side impact protection does seem like it is a bigger seat than some, it comes in at 50cm wide and has a height of 64cm and a weight of 9.5kg. I love the leatherette fabric, you do feel like you are getting a luxurious product that costs only £220. I think the price is excellent as it can be use from 9 months right up to the age of 11 years. My nephew uses the All Star Hug every day, the recline is perfect for him when he needs to shut those beautiful eyes of his and his Mummy and Daddy also find it to be an excellent car seat.

I received the Hug car seat for the purpose of the review. All images and opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Cat beds from Swell Pets

 Anyone that is owned by a cat knows that the best seat in the house will always be under the cat! A cat will sleep in the warmest place, not only will they seek out a warm place they like to feel secure, after all they are about to drift off and dream of tuna. A cat living in a busy family home like ours needs its safe place, before we got our wicker cat bed from Swell Pets Shadow would often hide out at the top of the stairs away from the hustle and bustle of our home, once the children were all in bed you would find him sprawled out upside down on the sofa without a care in the world.

When the wicker bed first arrived I thought that Shadow would be too big to fit in because he is a rather big cat but as soon as I placed it on the floor he came to investigate and headed straight in. Since then he spends much more time downstairs in his cat bed rather than sleeping upstairs away from us. He feels secure, it is his own little place that he will not be moved from, nor can any child accidentally fall on him so I don't worry so much about the children being near him when he is sleeping. 

If you are looking for that purrfect bed for your cat Swell Pets has a good range of cat beds, from the Thermo Kitty Cabin Bed to the Jolly Molly Bamboo radiator bed and all of the other wonderful cat beds in between, I am sure you will find one that will suit your household and most importantly your feline friends needs.

I was sent the bed for the purpose of this post, all images and opinions are my own

Hotel Chocolate Squirrel's Stash

 It is not often I get delicious parcels delivered to my house, recently however I have. Hotel Chocolat sent me their beautifully packaged Squirrel Stash to try. I had planned to share my chocolate gift but once I started to try them I have to say I could not stop. I love nuts and when they are teamed with chocolate I love them even more. 

I like that they arrive tied with the Hotel Chocolat ribbon and gift card so they can easily be given to a loved one or friend as a gift, and what a wonderful gift they make.
In this collection you have, Caramel Truffle, Whole Roasted Hazelnut in Praline, Simple Hazelnut Pralines, Gianduja & Salted Caramel, Walnut-studded Hazelnut Praline and Praline with a whole hazelnut.

 The delicious silk feeling on my tongue from the Caramel truffle is divine, I wish there were more than two of these in this collection because they really do taste utterly gorgeous, I think I would have to say these are my favourite, a box of these would be very welcomed off Santa. 
They all do taste delicious, even the smooth gianduja & salted caramel is pleasing to the taste buds. Each one beautiful made and presented. 

Hotel Chocolate do a fantastic range of chocolate suitable for all budgets that make really nice gifts or luxury treats for yourself.

I were sent the Squirrel's stash for the purpose of the review all opinions and images are my own.