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Tuesday 18 December 2012

Review: UNO Roboto game

Have you ever played UNO before?  Because if not I seriously recommend it, JJ and I have been playing it for a couple of years or so and we have great fun.  He particularly likes it as it seems to be a game that he wins, often!

It had never occurred to me to get my twins to play as well as I just assumed 5 was too young but it appears not, especially when Daddy is around to give them a helping hand. We sat down as a family to play UNO Roboto a couple of Sunday's ago and I wondered how much the funky little Robot would add to the regular card game but it does add to the fun.  The kids liked recording their name on the robot and the 'house rule' we could add made it a laugh too. We choose to sing a nursery rhyme while hopping on one leg, I can safely say the kids have far better balance than I do.

Roboto takes a good game and makes it even better, every 10 goes or so it will add in something random, like 'Miss M change all your cards with Miss E' or 'all players, touch your nose and the last one has to pick up 2 cards'. The Robot seems to be able to dish out the fun pretty evenly so everyone gets to be involved.

The instructions were clear and easy to read, although there is a quite a few but as we know UNO anyway it was good as we already had some familiarity. The robot is not the loudest or clearest when it speaks so you do have to listen out or you can miss it amongst the raucous of fun. The repeat button comes in handy!

UNO Roboto is perfect for adults and children alike, it is really nice to have a game that JJ can just play with his smaller sisters when I am buys cooking dinner or such. He seems to enjoy taking charge and ensuring all the rules are followed.

I would happily recommend this as a good buy for Christmas and it is currently retailing for £19.99 at Argos.

Game Information
For 2 - 6 players at a time.
Suitable for 3 years plus, recommended for 7 years plus.
Requires 3 x AA batteries, which are not included.

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

Sunday 16 December 2012

Review: Pictionary Family Edition

I have such fond memories of Pictionary; it is the game that my first year at University was based on. That makes me sound really square doesn’t it?  I wasn’t. We did all the normal student stuff and had a good time but I was also lucky enough to have been put into a guest house with 6 other people who were great. So many a night after tea we would get Pictionary out and have a couple of hours fun. I probably particularly liked it as my friend M and I nearly always won.  Without any cheating (of course!) we could always seem to tell what the other was thinking and drawing.

Pictionary Family Edition is much as I recall from when I was younger but just simpler than the full version game we played. In case you have never played before I’ll explain.  You need at least 4 players so you can have 2 teams of 2. Then in each round within the team you have one person drawing and one person guessing. The drawer takes a card which has an item on it – this could be coin, eyebrow, apple etc and they have to very quickly draw it or something that will represent it and then the guesser has to do just that, shout out what they think the item might be. But be careful - shout out too loud when the answer is only close and not exactly correct and you might give it away to the opponent guesser as they may just rephrase your answer and snatch the glory! The first team to guess right wins that round and they get to move on a space on the board. First team to the end of the board is the winner.

As this game is pitched at kids aged 8 plus there are 2 levels of play so that all can feel involved and enjoy the challenge. A nice addition to this version is that at the start of a round a theme is announced so that the children are set off thinking in the right direction and hopefully do not go off on any random tangents. There are also two sets of cards, adult ones with harder clues and ones for the you ger players.

We really enjoyed playing this game, the issue for my family comes in that not all of our children are old enough to play and as you need 4 people it is not always easy to get everyone together. We had to wait for Nanny to visit to make up the teams and then when you have 3 adults and just one child it becomes a bit lopsided and my dh and I ended up giving JJ quite a number of chances to get it right. I did see an option for 3 to play and then one person remains as the ‘picturist’ or drawer as I call them and the other two guess. This game would be perfect if it was pitched at a level where my 5 year old twins could join in, but seeing as they cannot yet read fully that makes it difficult. It won’t be long though…
Pictionary Junior is a super game and one we would happily recommend for hours of good traditional family fun. It is a great price at Argos at the moment, just £15.98 - definately a good Christmas buy!

Disclosure:  We were provided with this game for the purposes of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Thumbs up for Hedrin Once Lice Treatment!

A couple of weeks back I got an email asking me if I'd like to review some lice treatment and yes I tempted fete, I emailed back to say my children had been free of lice for some time now and I hoped it stayed that way, but why not - I'd take some for the future and hope I never need it!

Next day at school pick up I start to notice the familiar signs back on the doors 'please check your child for nits'.  Oh blast thinks I, I totally cannot be bothered to deal with those little critters again.  I check my three kids hair that night and breath a sigh of relief, all looks fine.  However, a couple of days later I notice that my little Miss E is having a good old scratch.  Check number two and oh yes, there they are!

Well what good fortune I said yes to receiving some Hedrin Once liquid gel ready for when I need it.  Little did I know I would be needing it within a couple of days of it arriving! After coming back from football with JJ at 6.45pm the last thing I needed was to have to deal with nits so I was super pleased to see that the Hedrin Once treatment works really quickly - 15 minutes in fact, or you cna leave it longer if that is convenient.

I covered Miss E's dry hair in the liquid gel, rubbed it all in well and sat her in front of the TV for about 20 minutes whilst I tided up the dinner things in the kitchen.  Then off we went to the bathroom and I covered her hair in shampoo as directed, while worrying that my shower might tun into a foam fest with the amount of shampoo I used!  Luckily for me the Hedrin Once contains anti-foaming ingredients to ensure this did not happen.

I washed all the Hedrin out and conditioned her hair and then we sat down for a good combing session. The Hedrin does not state there is any need to comb the lice and nits out but I like to be extra careful and always find it satisfying to see those dead lice and their egg cases removed.

We are now a week after I treated Miss E and I have been keeping a good check and have not seen any further activity.  I pray this is them gone once and for all!

A couple of tips for you if you are going to use this type of product, make sure you cover your child's shoulders in a towel as I find the oily gel does stain and also make sure you wash the shower throughly as of course it becomes slippery.

Ahh look at my good natured little girl!

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

Saturday 24 November 2012

Disney have done it again with #WreckItRalph

In February 2013 Disney will release their newest movie 'Wreck It Ralph' and in my humble opinion it will be a roaring success.  Last Sunday my family and I travelled up to the Empire Leicester Square for the official multi-media preview screening of this film and it was a hit, we all loved it.  From age 5 - 39, it went down a storm!

We have all come to expect a lot from Disney, especially in recent years. Films like Monsters Inc, Toy Story and Tangled have firmly established themselves as family favourites and Wreck It Ralph is sure to follow in their footsteps and become a must see movie.  It will certainly be joining our family DVD library when it is released.

The storyline is incredibly inventive, as I sat there and watched I found myself saying to my husband 'who thinks these things up?'.  It is just so clever. The film is set in a traditional amusement arcade and once all the customers go home and the shop door closes it is time for the characters to clock off-duty and come out to play. They travel around via their own quirky tube system through the electricity cables that plug in the gaming machines and they all meet up in Game Central Station - I just loved it!

The animation is superb and really varied too as there are so many types of arcade games featured that you get little aliens, cute girls, fighter types and everything in between. The main character of the film is of course Wreck It Ralph and we follow his journey to find acceptance and family.  He no longer wishes to be the 'baddie' and there are some really simple themes in this film that will talk to your children in language they understand. It will certainly help our kids to start thinking about their actions and presents a really great talking opportunity and they can think about - is it right for any person to be excluded?, do we all have to be the same? and Is the grass really greener on the other side?

I don't want to give too much away about this film as it is so good that you must go and see it yourself.  Suffice to say there is friendship, love, comedy and even a little bit of scare all bundled up as a PG rated movie.

I seriously cannot recommend this movie enough! 10/10 form our house.

Take a peek at the trailer and see if you fancy -

If you like the lookod the film, why don't you get your kids in the mood for the movie release by downloading some super colouring pictures - my kids are going to love these! There are also games they can play online too!

Disclosure:  We received tickets for our family to see this film free of charge.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Review: Friends with Kids DVD

Sometimes life gets too busy and you just need to stop and take a break.  I got to this point late last week.  I’d been at work training all day, my husband was working the evening, I had finally got all the kids to bed and I mentally shouted stop and slumped down on the sofa.  The kitchen still needed tidying after our dinner, the dining room floor looked like a full scale food-fight had happened but sometimes you have to say who cares? I certainly didn’t, time out was the order of the day.
That left me with the taxing decision - what would I do that meant I could enjoy my chill-out time that evening?  A long warm bath?  Nah the kids were not quite asleep yet, I don’t think I could deal with the chit chat! Get my craft box out and makes some cards? Hmm I don’t think I even had the energy to manage that. Sit on the sofa and watch a DVD with a hot chocolate? Yep sounds like a winner and what a fabulous film I had to watch.

Friends with kids was released on DVD and Blu-ray earlier this week on 12th November and I can promise you if you buy this for someone for Christmas they will not at all be disappointed.  I loved this film, not just a little bit but a whole lot. I will most definitely be watching it again and again and I am already planning to get some girlfriends round next time dh is working in the evening.
The main plot running through the film is that two single 30 something friends see how having kids is messing things up for their married friends and decide there must be a better way. So they agree to try for a child together but to carry on their single lives, dating other people, Of course there are lots of laughs and uncomfortable moments as they decide to get intimate in the name of falling pregnant.

Once the baby arrives there are all sorts of issues that this non-couple have to deal with, things that those of us who are parents will be so familiar with – the baby blues, a baby who won’t stop crying, jealousy,  babysitting. Of course all the normal trials of being a new parent are exaggerated by the fact that the parents do not live together and are not in a traditional relationship.
As well as the storyline around the central couple Jason and Julie, there are also two more couples who feature heavily in this film and form part of the tight friendship group. It is really interesting to see how these friends respond to the unusual situation that Jason and Julie have put themselves into. And it is interesting, I can't say I know anyone in real life who has decided this is the way forward for them.

Now I’m going to be mean and not give too much away about this film, as I really would not want to spoil the plot for you. It is such a good film and for me it panned out just the way I wanted it to, there were laughs, tearful moments, my heart jumped in my mouth at a couple of points and the ending worked. However, I did find myself tweeting as it ended ‘ohh I wanted more’ but that was not because it didn’t give enough, I just could not get enough.  I see a sequel in the future…
I will happily give this film a 10/10 for a great night in with the girls.
You can buy Friends with Kids now on Amazon for just £10.00.  It is a snip!
Playtime:  103 minutes
Rating: 15
Staring: A brilliant cast many of which were in Bridesmaids together - Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm.

Check out the trailer and see for yourself how fab it is -

Sunday 4 November 2012

Review: Sylvanian Families Campervan from The Entertainer

You know how some review opportunities make you more excited than others?  Well this was one of the ones that got me all fired up.  One of my little twinnies is forever on at me to let her have some Sylvanian families stuff, she has been nagging me for about three years now. Every time she spots them in a shop (mostly our local Entertainer branch) she tells me about how cute the little animal figures are and that she wants some for her birthday, Christmas or any other reason she thinks she might get away with.

I have to be honest and say that I have avoided buying them for the last few years as I did buy one small set when she was about 2 years old . There was a baby, cot/playpen type thing, little chair, drawers and some accessories - it must have been a set for a nursery room thinking about it.  It was very cute, there is no denying that but within a week all the bits had been lost, I have no idea where.  I keep a tidy house but they were never to be seen again. As they are not the cheapest toys on the market I have been avoiding them since.

I think I can now say that at age 5 Miss E is big enough to be trusted with all the little bits and pieces again.  A couple of weeks ago we received the Sylvanian Families campervan and chocolate Labrador family for her to play with and she has been so happy.  Completely delighted and enthralled with the play set, it has genuinely provided hours of play and the little brown doggies have made friends with her dolls and the campervan goes to visit her dolls house and they all have tea together.  I do love a toy that can be added to other things and the play experience extended.  The beauty of small imaginations - play is limitless.

What surprised me most is that my other twin Miss M has also been playing with the set, she is normally very easily bored and does not really 'play' much despite my best efforts but I think because the figures we have are labrador dogs that has been enough to engage her and she has named one of them Archie, which is the name of Nanny H's labrador.

I have often wondered if the figures would stand up to being played with.  I see they are covered in a soft kind of felt-like fur and I assumed that when you scratched them it would come away but I was wrong.  The figurines seem really durable, the limbs can move, the clothes can come on and off and they do seem sturdy, which is great as a set of 4 like we received is £16.00 at the Entertainer.

The campervan retails for £39.99 and comes with lots of little extras so you can have fun playing.  I do always think it is a shame though that the Sylvanian Families playsets do not ever seem to include a figure/ character to play with.  You have to buy those separately. That would be my only negative about these products.

I was really pleased with how easy the figures and the campervan were to remove from the packaging, some toys nowadays seemed to be literally screwed into the box but not so with these. The campervan was also easy to set up and required no adult intervention, my 9 year old did it by himself.

It is suggested that Sylvanian families toys are suitable for children aged 4 - 12 years. But I have to say that they are a toy I'm happy to join in and play with and yes I am a tad older than 12. I think the issue I may have now in the future, is to curb my desire to buy more cute little animals and I have just spotted there is a canal boat and tree house! oh dear.

I snapped a few pictures of the campervan set up for play, take a peek -

We are happy to recommend the Sylvanian Families campervan and Chocolate Labrador Family and give them a 5/5 for play value.

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

Saturday 3 November 2012

A great afternoons viewing with Warner Brothers

On Halloween afternoon I was working and the kids and Daddy wondered what they might get up to whilst I had the car. It was decided that a trip to the play park and a woodland walk would be fun and would get them all active in the morning. Then they could come home for a warming lunch and an afternoon in front of the TV with the fire, popcorn to munch on and a fest of great Warner Brothers DVD's to watch.

When I got home about 5pm it was lovely to come into a toasty house with chilled out kids who had enjoyed their afternoons viewing. I asked them each what their favourite DVD had been -

Miss M surprised me by saying she had really enjoyed Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens. She has not watched Ben 10 before but she seemed to love the aliens that Ben could morph into.  Lucky that, as in this film Ben is trapped in his alien forms after attending a Total Alien immersion training program on the other side of the galaxy. When JJ used to watch Ben 10 some years back I always liked Grandpa Max and Miss E tells me that she likes Gwen, so there is something for all the family in this film.

Available for £8.99 on Amazon 

JJ was predictable to the end and the slapstick comedy of Tom and Jerry was what appealed to him most. Generations have been watching Tom and Jerry and in my opinion it never loses its appeal. The oldies are definitely the best and these 22 episodes will sure delight any kids who like a bit of spooky fun! I do like it that my kids watch the same kinds of lighthearted cartoons that I watched as a kid, I figure they never did me any harm and I hope they won't for them either. Of course kids programs sometimes throw up topics and scenarios that might not be acceptable in today's 'cotton-wool wrapped society'. But that's OK as it presents opportunities to have a good conversation with your kids about things like whether ghosts are real or if it is OK for Tom to constantly chase Jerry in the hope of eating him.

Available for £5.99 on Amazon

By Chance Miss E loved the film 'Big Top Scooby Doo', but only during the daytime. She can't watch it at night she told me as it is too scary! Sensible little girl, bless her I can remember being the same when I was little too. This 75 minute film is full of werewolfs and the normal mad capers of Shaggy and Scooby. A fun family watch.

Available for £10.00 on Amazon

Disclosure:  Warner Brothers sent us 4 DVD's for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.  

Thank you Warner Brothers.

Friday 2 November 2012

#WWBack2Best - Week 4 Update

Hello all,

I feel a bit of a diet fraud at the moment if I'm honest.  I have good days and I have bad days, the last couple have been of the latter variety.  I always think the important thing with a diet is to persevere though, however poor things have been we can always make a conscious choice to change things, right then and there.

And this is it, I make that choice right now. It is late in the evening and I'll be off to bed soon but when I wake tomorrow morning I need to be good. This weight has to shift.  I'll be honest - I have not gone anywhere near the scales, so I have no idea if I have lost, gained or stayed the same and until next Friday it can stay that way.  I'll give myself a fighting chance by staying away from the scales until I know I have been better behaved around food.

Planning my food always makes the world of difference to me, so I'll do that -

Breakfast each day - porridge or beans on toast (something to really fill me up!)
Lunch - I'll vary day by day to keep me interested but basically - soup, ryvita and ham, salad, yoghurt, fruit
Dinner - Saturday - roast chicken, pots and 3 veg
Sunday - Spanish tomato and pepper quorn with mixed vegetable rice
Monday - Jacket potato with tuna mayo and salad
Tuesday - Chicken fahijas
Wednesday - Pizza & homemade oven chips
Thursday - Sausages, mash and 3 veg

I will also make sure I set to a few rules for myself -
  1. I'll record all this food on my Weight Watcher ProPoints app because I know that using that reliably helps me
  2. Twice this week I'll do my exercise DVD, I've not done this since about June! ekk)
  3. I need to drink at least 6 glasses of water a day (and then build from there)
  4. Ill use my calorie controlled oil spray, as it is really effective in cutting out the fat (just a word of warning though if you do buy one.  It is worth its weight in gold but read the instructions. Never pump it and do not release before putting it away or your cupboard will get very oily!)

I hope you are doing well in the run up to Christmas.  Have a great week, Mich x

Disclosure:  I have received 6 months online membership and a Weight Watchers hamper for the purposes of undertaking this review of the plan and products. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Review & Giveaway: Pop Party 10 CD

As a child I avidly looked forward to Christmas each year as most children do. One of the presents I hoped I would receive each year and always did was the 'Now that's what I call music' compilation album. I think this series might even still be going now, they are probably on the 120th edition or something! Back in the day this really was the compilation album to receive and I treasured my music.

I am now excited that my children have a series of music compilations that they can love and appreciate as they are age appropriate for them. In the summer we got the Dance Party 2012 album and this formed much of our summer. I even wrote about how the music n that CD will provide memories for years to come.

We have just been sent the Pop Party 10 album for review and I have to admit that so far only dh and I have listened to it. This is because I am going to give it to my 9 year old JJ for Christmas. He is really getting into music now and has even asked for this album already, so it is just perfect! I am sure it will take hardly any time at all to use the lyric cards to learn all the words to this favorite tunes.

There is a good selection of 22 songs on the album -

1. Gangnam Style (?????) - Psy
2. Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen
3. Payphone - Maroon 5
4. Young - Tulisa
5. What Makes You Beautiful - One Direction
6. Boyfriend - Justin Bieber
7. Call My Name - Cheryl
8. Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself) - Ne-Yo
9. Domino - Jessie J
10. This Is Love - will.i.am, Eva Simons
11. We Are Young - Fun., Janelle MonĂ¡e
12. Chasing The Sun - The Wanted
13. Where Have You Been - Rihanna
14. Twilight - Cover Drive
15. Dance With Me Tonight - Olly Murs
16. Part Of Me - Katy Perry
17. Black Heart - Stooshe
18. Can't Say No - Conor Maynard
19. Alone Again - Alyssa Reid
20. Mama Do The Hump - Rizzle Kicks
21. Proud - JLS
22. 30 Days - The Saturdays

Whilst JJ will be thrilled with the music CD my 5 year old twin girls will be over the moon with the bonus DVD that comes with it. Not only can they listen and dance around, our lounge can be transformed into a dance studio as they copy the dance moves shown on the 13 music videos. It is a good source of entertainment to dh and I on a Sunday afternoon as they put on a 'show' for us!

Pop Party 10 is available for sale now and to celebrate you can enter to win one of ten iPod shuffles, just head over to Poppartyworld.com and enter.  You can also find out the latest news about all your favorite pop bands like One Direction over there.  The CD is available from Amazon for £8.99 with free delivery, I think that is a bargain.

One lucky reader can win a copy of this great CD!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer:  I received this CD free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Review: Moxie Girlz Bendy Braidz Doll

I'm pretty fussy about the dolls that come into our house.  A short while back a friend of my Mums very kindly gave my girls some Bratz dolls but I have to say these made their way to the charity shop pretty fast.  I have a real objection to little girls growing up too quickly and I do not want to give them toys that encourage them that being a brat is good.  Nor do I want them to think that make-up and short skirts are normal for little girls.

So far I've not had any objections to the Moxie Girlz dolls, this is the third doll that we have in the Moxie Girlz range and the others have been fun and are lasting well. I tend to find it is the hair that lets these sort of dolls down, my girls Barbies look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards but the Moxie Girlz Glitterin' Style doll we have is still perfectly groomed.

There are 3 dolls to collect in this range

Miss E was my lucky twin who got to try out this Bendy Braidz doll and she was super chuffed.  Like I said while I don't want my girls to grow up too quick, I am realistic and know they are girls and want to be like mummy, so I feel it is OK to let them show some creativity in regards to hair styles and make-up.  Better to try it out on a doll than on yourself which is what Miss M has done on many occasions and still has lopsided hair to prove it!

The Bendy Braidz doll comes with rooted braids for you to weave into the Moxie Girlz hair as well as glitter gel, pom poms and hair jewels for decoration. I have to be honest and say that miss E did find it hard at age 5 to be able to plait and manipulate the hair as an older girl might but this did not detract from the fun for her, she still enjoyed herself.

It did not take long for the glitter to be used up and yes it did make it into the girls hair too but I'm glad to say it washes out fine and does not cause any problems.

This doll is recommended for children aged 3 years and older, it has an RRP of £19.99 and is available from all good supermarkets and toy retailers, the best price I found was £ 13.49 at Smyths Toys  I think that is a great bargain and well worth picking up a doll for a nice Christmas gift for a little girl.

Disclosure:  We were sent this doll for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Review: Moxie Girlz Bubble Bath Suprise Doll

My two little girls are just like any other 5 year olds and they love dolls, they don't seem to have got to the age yet where they are inseparable from their dolls, not like I was with my Sindy but they do enjoy playing with them and when Miss M got the Moxie Girlz Bubble Bath Surprise doll to try out she thought she was in heaven that the doll was allowed in the bath with her! Luckily for us Miss M hates bubbles in the bath and this is good as bubbles are not recommended for use with this doll, we don't want a mouldy doll after all!

Miss M received the pretty Sophina doll, there are 5 in this range

Miss M does love to involve water in most of her play and this is a problem much of the time, real water filled teapots in her bedroom have a habit of spilling.  So to have something that I could happily say to her, yes you can get this wet is great.  Just one problem in my house only one of my twins has one so we did try and let Barbie come in the bath too but she did not like it much!

The large detachable skirt is what allows the doll to float and that is fine until you get a couple of excited 5 year olds that start to see ho hard they can make the waves come and will Sophina stay upright.  Oh yes, I have some tough little kids!  Miss Sophina does pretty well it turns out but if you make it too choppy she will fall over and her hair gets a bit of a mess when wet!

As you can see the bubbles and dogfish attach onto her skirt for safe keeping!

Miss M's favourite part of this toy was the dogfish that she received with it, a tiny little pet for Sophina the doll that is half dog and half fish, I do have to admit it is cute.  There is also a small vial of bubbles for blowing and Miss M liked this but they were over in no time at all. Luckily we had some bubbles left over from a recent party bag and both girls were able to have super fun in the bath with Sophina, the soggy Barbie and some bubbles.

There are 5 dolls with different colour outfits that you can choose from.  I do love that dolls have become multicultural nowadays.

This product is recommend for children aged 3 years plus.  It has an RRP of £19.99 but I see you can buy it on Amazon for £16.04 currently.  I think that price is reasonable and certainly comparable to what you would pay for this size doll from any of the other popular ranges.

Disclosure:  We received this doll free of charge of the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Saturday 20 October 2012

#WWBack2Best Week 3 & Spicy Courgette & Squash Soup

Hello friends,  Today is my end of week 3 weigh in and I have to be honest, it does not feel as if I have been on a diet for 3 weeks, that's a good thing, yes?

This week has been a difficult one, part of this week I was still in Ethiopia and I took a night flight back Saturday night, this resulted in me being super tried for most of the week and it is always way harder to diet when tired I find.  Sleep is so important for losing weight.

However despite the tiredness I have been pleased with the result on the scales today.  I started Weight Watchers on Friday 28th September and weighed in at 17st 8lb, in that first week I lost 1lb, I then went away to Ethiopia and did not weigh.  My weight this morning was 17st 4lb, so that is a loss of 3lb since my last weigh in and I am well pleased with that.

I intend to do my measurements tomorrow morning and to start keeping an eye on those once a month as I know from past experience that sometimes the scales do not say anything nice but the tape measure does.

One of the bonuses of having been away is that my hubbie has been cooking so I came home to some lovely homemade soups, which are always fabulous for dieting.  He does a really good mushroom soup and he has followed the Weight Watchers Pro Points receipt to make us Spicy Courgette and Squash coup on a number of occasions, this has been a real life save to me.  The recipe comes from one of the books I was sent, called Members Favourites, which retails for £8.95.

I'll share the recipe with you  as it has just 1 ProPoint per serving and a batch makes 4 servings, just perfect for a week at work.  I have mine with some crunchy ryvita and low-fat phili to ensure I feel like I've had a full meal at lunchtime.

Calorie controlled cooking oil
2 onions, chopped
500g butternut (or other) squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
2 large courgettes
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 1/2 pts vegetable stock
Salt & pepper to season

  1. Spray the pan with the calorie controlled cooking spray an heat over a medium heat.  Add the onion and soften for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the squash and courgettes, followed by the ground cumin, then cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Remove from the heat. Use a hand blender to whizz until it is smooth. Season to taste and serve straight away.

See really simple, I'd recommend you give it a go. It is super cheap for us as we have been growing courgettes and squash.

This next week I am going to focus on -

  • Going to bed early and building my sleep back up.
  • Tracking all the food I eat
  • Planning my meals for the week ahead.

I expect these things to make a real difference and I'll report back next week.

I hope you are doing well, let me know how it is going and I'll come visit you.

Mich x

Disclosure:  I have received 6 months online membership and a Weight Watchers hamper for the purposes of undertaking this review of the plan and products. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Friday 19 October 2012

What to Expect when You are Expecting released on DVD & Blu-Ray 22nd October 2012

I have a bit of a confession to make I am a pregnancy geek, I'm one of those women who read all, yes I mean ALL the books that were around at the time of my pregnancies. I could not get enough knowledge and I have to say it has been so useful to me over the last few years.  When I have met people with pregnancy related conditions I am very knowledgeable and I have been able to comfort a few mums-to-be who were worried, it is most satisfying.  I also moderated a twins forum on BabyCentre for a couple of years and again I used to receive loads of comments about how sensible and knowledgable I am, if only they really knew me, sensible would not be the word coming to mind!

Probably my favourite series of books was the 'what to expect when...' series, I had them all - covering pregnancy, the first year, the toddler years and then I have to be honest and say life got a bit busy to keep reading books!  Baby twins and a toddler will steal anyones time, especially when you still work.

It was because of my love of all things pregnancy that I was excited to hear about the new film staring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez and a whole host of other well known and up and coming Hollywood stars. The film is called 'What to expect when you are expecting' and I was super happy to review it. It reminded me of a Love Actually or Valentines Day kind of plot with the lives of 5 couples being shown and each couple has their own story to tell - the twins parents, the ones who miscarry, the adoptive parents - who get the picture. I did enjoy the film, it was a very easy watch but I have to say that if I had missed half of it I would not have worried too much.  It is easy to watch but there is nothing amazing in there, I'm sorry to say.

I think this film will generally just appeal to women, perhaps the lady who has babies on the mind and is thinking of starting a family or someone like me who has been through pregnancy and knows how special it is but is now over it.  I would not recommend the film for someone to watch whilst they are pregnant, due to the one couple miscarrying, that is just too close to home for many of us.

I did not shed any tears as I watched and I only laughed a handful of times, some of the characters are quite funny like Chris Rock and Elizabeth Banks.  In fact Elizabeth has one scene where she is a speaker at a baby exhibition and instead of presenting the glossy exterior, she breaks down and reveals just how rubbish pregnancy can be at times - so very touching and yes true.

Anna Kendrick is really moving and watchable and I did get a lump in my throat at one point. It just seems such a shame that a talent like Jennifer Lopez was just lost in this film of many plots.

Here is the official blurb about the movie -

Oh baby! Starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid and Chris Rock, WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING is inspired by the best-selling book of the same name and is out to rent and own on DVD and Blu-ray and to download to own from 22nd October. This hilarious and heart-warming movie with an all-star cast follows five couples whose intertwined lives are turned upside down by the challenges of impending parenthood…

Over the moon about starting a family, TV fitness guru Jules (Diaz) and dance show star Evan (Morrison) find that their high-octane celebrity lives don’t stand a chance against the surprise demands of pregnancy. Baby-crazy author and advocate Wendy (Banks) gets a taste of her own militant-mum advice when pregnancy hormones ravage her body. Photographer Holly (Lopez) is prepared to travel the globe to adopt a child, but her husband isn’t so keen and tries to reassure himself by attending a male support group – ‘The Dudes Group’ - where new fathers get to tell it like it really is.

The crazy, charming, hilarious WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING shows that no matter what you plan for, life doesn't always deliver quite what's expected…

Overall I think I would rate this as 6/10. I would not run from the film but I also would not be desperate to watch it.  But don't be put off by me, take a look for yourself.  Here is the trailer and you can make up your own mind -

The DVD is available to pre-order from Amazon for £9.99 and the Blu-Ray for £15.00.  The release date is 22nd October 2012 in the UK.

Run time - 110 minutes
Certificate - 12

Disclosure:  I was sent this DVD free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Thursday 18 October 2012

A great kids haircare range from Galvin & Galvin Kids

One of my twin girls has the most ratty hair, it is bizzare really, her hair is polker straight but once wet or slept on it gets so ratty that she cries when you brush it.  Of course it's therefore really important for me to use a good detangler and to be honest I don't want to wash her hair every day so we need one that we can use on wet or dry hair.

The Organic Dubble Trubble Detangling Conditioner Spray in Cool Cucumber from Galvin & Galvin Kids is superb.  Probably the best detangler I have found yet and best of all it really does smell like cucumbers, so every time I do Miss E's hair I am reminded of summer picnics. I received the products to review without any knowledge of the kind of price they would be and I just assumed this was so good as it would be expensive but I was wrong, I happened to be in Morrison's earlier this week and I saw it is just £2.00 for a 125ml bottle and I think that is very good, certainly comparable with other similar products I buy. I notice the RRP is £2.50 so it may be that it is on special at the moment, but I'd still buy it for £2.50 anyway.

We also received a couple of 200ml tubes of the Organic Dubble Trubble 2 in 1 Shampoo & Body Wash in Bananaberry and Watermelon.  Miss E and JJ loved the Bananaberry whilst Miss M prefers the watermelon. I did not think I would like any of them as I generally do not like fruit scented toiletries but they are pleasant, the scent is not too strong and the clear gel is appealing and gives a really good foam. It also contains soothing certified organic aloe vera and moisturising glycerin.

When Daniel Jnr's own son was born he became concerned about the chemicals in children's products and started an investigation in 2000, here is what he says -
“I was always interested in what went in to baby shampoos, so in 2000, after my son was born, I began my research into ingredients in bathroom beauty products. The chemicals in haircare products today can ‘charge–up’ kids the same way sugar and junk foods can and 60% of synthetic ingredients are easily absorbed into the skin, so you can only imagine the harm it causes to children in the long run. Their delicate skins can be stripped of oil and children can often develop asthma or eczema.”

Daniel Galvin Jnr thus created this new range which is free of harsh chemicals, parabens, mineral oils and SLS. I was also pleased to see that these products have the GreenPalm sustainability badge on them and this means that they are supporting the sustainable production of palm oil to ensure that environmental impacts are minimised.

Another nice feature of the Galvin & Galvin Kids products is that they will donate £25,000 from the sale of the products (in the first 12 months) to Prince's Trust Trading Limited who will convert all taxable profits for use by the charity. A charity which helps to boast self esteem and develop transferable skills for once children enter the workplace.

Disclosure:  We are sent these 3 items free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Review: Leapster GS games console

My girls have been road testing the new Leapster GS consoles. These are designed for children 3 - 9 years, so at just 5 they are at the younger end of the spectrum but this does not matter as they were able to master their way around it in no time. It probably helps that we have an old style Leapster Explorer and also LeapPad so the girls know their way round LeapFrog products.  I would say this product is probably my favourite of the range as it is just a perfect size for their little hands.

What we like -

As per most LeapFrog products the console is available in both green and lilac colourways and the new styling is certainly an improvement. The handheld console looks much more grown-up and modern now but it is still nice and sturdy. The sylus is attached and stored easily. A great addition is the camera and video camera, this was Miss E's favourite feature, she just loved manipulating the photos that she took and drawing all over them - oh how attractive I look in some of them!

Other enhancements on the Leapster GS are the larger and higher quality screen, the new faster LF 2000 processor and 4x the internal memory (2 GB). Children can enjoy taking charge of the action with the built-in motion sensor by tilting, turning and shaking their way through the game. They can also bring the real world into their play, putting themselves right into the game with the built-in camera, video recorder and microphone.

Then the great thing for me is that LeapFrog have a real passion for educational fun, it can be hard for parents to know which apps or games are the best for their children in terms of age appropriate fun and development and I find it reassuring to know I can just turn to anything that is using the LeapFrog name and know I can trust it. I also love the fact that the product learns your child's skill level and starts to increase the level of difficulty as they get more answers correct.

Then as for variety when it comes to cartridges and apps there are so many to choose from and the price range is very wide, apps start from about £3.50 whereas games tend to be £19.99. You can get games, videos, ebooks, flash cards and music. Your kids need never be bored again!

Miss M already has her favourite game in the form of the Tangled cartridge and this came straight out of her old Leapster and into this new module which suits me fine as it has a great emphasis on letters and spelling. You have to love a manufacturer that allows you to transfer games from one device to another.

As with all LeapFrog products I have linked up the consoles to the Learning Path and I am able to track the girls progress and explore ways that I can increase their learning and set new targets. There are also suggestions for new games for me to purchase that would be developmentally appropriate. You can set up to 3 profiles on the Leapster GS and each of these can be tracked individually.

What we don't like -

The only grumble I have is the same as I have with all these kind of products - that they take 4 AA batteries and that even the best batteries only tend to last a matter of hours before they expire. I will either need to buy some rechargable batteries or an ac adapter for each as I just cannot afford to keep buying more batteries

What it comes with -

The Leapster GS comes with with 3 apps (Pet Pad, Escape of the Sillies--an exclusive LeapsterGS game and one app of your choice which you can easily download). Every Leapster GS also comes with the USB cable to connect it to your computer, a parent guide, stylus and headphone connection.

There are loads of extras you can buy for the Leapster if you so wish, such as rechargable battery pack, over 200 downloadable games, branded cartridges and my girls are now nagging me for cute little handag carriers, like these ones below. At about £11 on Amazon they might be in luck at Christmas!

The new Leapster GS is available on Amazon currently for just £50.68 and I think that is a complete steal and I would be happy to recommend it at that price. I think this will be a superb Christmas gift.
Why don't you take a look at the Leapster GS in action -

Disclosure:  We were sent two games consoles for the purposes of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Review of M and M Direct - My girls gorgeous winter boots

I am genuinely pleased to have been introduced to the website M and M Direct.  It is not somewhere I had heard of before and I am not a massive online shopper but give me a bargain and I can not resist and better still a brand name bargain.

The bulk of the stock sold appears to be men's, women's and children's, clothes, sportswear and shoes/ boots but there is also a gift section. The brands that are available on the site are just too numerous to mention but all the big trendy ones you would expect like Diesel, Ugg, Adiddas, Bench and Ralph Lauren are there. What I found though is that sizes or stock ight be limited and that is why you can get such great big discounts against high street prices.

I have my eye on a Helly Hansen coat at the moment ready for my trip to Belarus in December.  Normally this coat retails for £99.99 but currently on the M and M Direct website it is just £34.99.  You can't do better than that, surely?  It is a discount of £65 or 65%.

To try out the service from M and M Direct I was offered some bots for my girls to review. I can confirm that the package arrived very quickly and was delivered by courier. As I was not in the courier used their initiative and left the boots in a safe place and left me a note through the door. The boots were packaged in a heavy duty mailing bag so that had it of rained they would have been fine. I notice that right now there is free delivery on all orders over £10 but the normal postage is £3.99 standard delivery and other quicker options are available too.

If you need to return an item to M and M Direct it is easy to do and there is a 28 day no quibble guarantee but you need to note it is not free. One of the ways they keep their initial costs very low is by not offering a free returns service. A pre-paid label is available for £1.49 so it need not cost too much and if the item is faulty then they pic up the cost of return of course.

M and M Direct pride themselves on being the cheapest on the internet and they have a price promise that you can take them up on if you find the exact same product elsewhere for less money. You'll need to check out the terms and conditions but generally you will find that you'll get up to 75% discount at M and M Direct.

So what did we think of the boots that we received for my girls?  Brilliant is the short answer. They are branded as Norvic and I have not heard of them before but was willing to give them a go and I'm really pleased I did.  Normally I might spend £40 - £46 per pair at Clarks but not so this year, the M and M Direct boots were discounted by 50% and cost just £24.99.  That is practically buy one get one free in the case for me, having twins.

As you can see my girls were thrilled with their boots.  The fit is good and there is growing room for over the winter.  At first glance I thought they were not leather but I now see they are leather coated and that is why after a weekends really hard wear (Legoland, dog walking, park and shopping) they still look perfect - not a scratch in sight. I'm pretty sure I am going to have a fight on my hands to get them off my girls this winter!

I'll happily shop again at M and M Direct now I know about it.  Why don't you give it a try too?

Disclosure:  I received 2 pairs of girls boots for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Review: Britax Kid Plus SICT (Group 2-3)

A short while back Britax contacted me to see if I would like to trial out some of their products and be a Mumbassador.  As a Mum who is in no hurry to move her kids out of car seats, I jumped at the chance.  I have read enough news items and articles to know that children are far safer kept in seats or on booster cushions as appropriate for as long as possible.  My JJ is nearly 9 but already he is taller than the 135cm legal requirement for a car seat.  Much to his disdain he knows that he won't be getting away with no booster for a while yet!

Miss E and Miss M (5 years old) are currently in car seats that JJ had outgrown and whilst they have never been in accidents and thus I do not have any reason not to use them, they are now showing their age with ripped and stained seat cover and Miss E's one even had cracked polystyrene that had been brown taped back together!  It really was a relief to hear that Britax wanted to send Miss E and Kid Plus SICT car seat for her to try out and look at it - it is like the king of car seats -

I went for classic black covers to match my car interior, I am sure Miss E would have much preferred the hot pink but I was pulling rank on this one! There are currently 6 different fabric options to suit all tastes.

Here is what we really like about the Kid Plus SICT -
  • It received the 2011 Which Best Buy award.
  • The SICT (side impact protection technology), which means that side impact energy is reduced by over 25% for the child, making it a much safer seat than your average.
  • The seat is really padded and very comfy, as is the headrest.  Miss E tells me it is her best seat ever.
  • The cover can easily be removed for washing.
  • The width of the seat is adjustable so it can get wider with your child as they grow. I have never seen this option before, it is very simple to change and really nifty!
  • The placing of the seat means that the lap belt goes across in just the right place and this is so important.
  • All the areas that I need to adjust are in red making it easy for me to see what I need to do.
  • There are multiple recline positions for maximum comfort.
  • The headrest is easy to adjust to change for different height children or to adjust as your child grows.
  • Adjustable backrest so ensure that the seat can be fitted into many cars.
  • The seat belt guides are easy to use and not fiddly, even for my husband with bigger fingers.
  • Miss E is able to clip her own seatbelt in now, something she was not able to do with her old seat.
  • The seat and the backrest can be separated for easy storage.
  • It comes with a full user manual (so many things rely on you to go online and find it yourself nowadays!)
  • It is also available as an Isofix seat if you have a car with the right fittings.
What we did not like -

I only really have 2 grumbles with the seat and neither would stop me buying it. 
  • The first is that the SICT air-cushioning on each side makes for a very wide seat, this means the seat often feels very near the car door and it also means that if I have to have 3 kids along my backseat (2 car seats and one in the middle) then poor JJ in the middle gets very squashed. So if you need to get lots of children on your back seat think this through and maybe try it out first before buying.
  • The other thing was that I personally would not buy it for a child at the top end of the age range. Although my JJ is currently only 8, he has the height and frame of a 12 year old and thus I got him to try out the seat and his shoulders were tight in the seat and he said he did not feel comfy.

Technical Details -

Group 2 and 3 car seat
Suits weight of child: 15kg - 36kg (roughly suitable for 4 - 12 years)
Height:  68 - 86cm
Width: 60 cm
Depth: 43 cm
Weight of seat: 6.9 kg

If you want to see more about the Kid Plus SICT car seat then check out the videos at Britax.

The Kid Plus SICT car seat has an RRP of £124.99 but I found it on Amazon for anywhere upwards of about £98. 
We are really happy with our car seat and it is so nice to be able to go on a long journey and know that if Miss E falls asleep her head will be supported and she'll be comfy too. I am happy to recommend this car seat and I am giving it 9/10 overall.
Disclosure:  I was sent this seat for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Review: Mattel Junior Scrabble Boardgame

It's funny how things work out, a few weeks back JJ played scrabble with his Nan whilst we were at her house for Sunday lunch. It was his first time to play and he had an absolute blast, coming away saying we needed to get him scrabble for his birthday. Grandma, who watched him play tells me he was really very good and far beyond his years - that's my boy!

So imagine my delight when I was contacted and asked if we would like to review Junior Scrabble. JJ and I have played this quite a few times so far and I have to admit that I have been enjoying myself. I've never played scrabble before, I did not really think it was my kind of thing, but it seems I am mistaken.  It has been quite fun to stretch myself and increase my vocabulary.

Junior Scrabble is billed as being suitable for 2 - 4 players ages 5 - 10 years, so I did have my reservations before we played as JJ is 9 and very intelligent for his age but I need not have worried, there is enough in this game for him. I also worried that the age range was a bit wide, I know what a struggle it is to get my 9 year old to play with his 5 year old sisters.  Their abilities are just on different spectrum's at the moment but what I did not realise is that Junior Scrabble has a double sided playing board, so there are two games.  How sensible is that?  And how wonderful to be able to buy a board game that grows with your child.

I played the younger game with my 5 year old twin girls, at the moment they are both just learning to read but their abilities are quite different. One of them found it far easier than the other but they both enjoyed working with Mummy to try and figure out the letters and sounds that go in the words and match the pictures on the board.

Game play only lasted us about 15 minutes as their attention span when it involves work is still fairly short but I can imagine that in six months or so they will be much better equipped to be able to do the whole grid in this first game.

The real success for us was the more grown up scrabble board.  It does differ slightly to the adult version in that there are not any scores on the tiles but fundamentally it is the same game with slightly easier rules. A game takes JJ and I anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour depending on how fast we manage to block ourselves!

Here are the plus points of this board game -
  • Education dressed up as fun, what more can any parent ask for?
  • The board, box and tiles are all well made and look durable, as if they will last a long time.
  • There are 2 age appropriate games, so it has longevity.
  • A game can be played fairly quickly if need be.
  • The game is good value for money at £17.99 on Amazon. It would make a great Christmas gift I am sure.
  • The instructions are easy to read and understand and JJ was able to sort it all out and set u the game.
And the cons -
  • No major faults or flaws to note to be honest! The only comments that JJ made was that to make the game more fun he would have liked scores on the tiles and a holder for his tiles so I could not see what he had!  Ohh Mr Competitive.
I would happily recommend Junior Scrabble as a great educational board game that is heaps of fun too.

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

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Review: Guinness World Records Book 2013

At the end of August, just before we took a three hour car journey the postman arrived to deliver an exclusive preview copy of the Guinness World Records 2013 book.  Well I wish I had my camera then, as JJ's face was a treat - he was so excited.  More than anyone should be about a book!

In the summer we attended a Guinness World Records and Thomson event at Whipsande Zoo and JJ attempted to break a world record for the most hats worn at one time.  Sadly during his official adjudicated attempt the hats all fell off his head and we had tears but he still had a great time and we know that he smashed the record, it just was not recorded.

Attendance at this event really increased JJ's interest in Guinness World Records and when he learnt they would send him the book to review he really was jumping for joy. I have to say that the book proved to be an excellent travelling companion for our three hour journey to Norfolk. That day JJ was happy to regale me with astonishing facts and kept trying to show me the glossy pictures but that proved a tad difficult as I was the driver.

Let me share with you some of the facts I learnt during this car journey -
  1. Hong Kong is the city with the most skyscrapers. They have an estimated combined height of 205 miles.  Who'd have known?
  2. Richard Lecce from the USA has the most video games - 8,068 different titles at the last official count in 2011.
  3. Medusa, the python is the longest living snake, she is 25ft 2inches long - ekk!
  4. The world heaviest twins had a combined birth weight of 27lb 12oz - mine had a combined birth weight of 11lb 12oz, bit of a difference! lol
  5. A man from Argentina has the most pierced face with 280 of them.  Can you even imagine?
All very useful I'm sure you'll agree?  the funny thing is that I have found myself sharing these facts with friends and family in the last few weeks.  Guinness World Records really do get under your skin it seems.

I'd happily recommend the 2013 Guinness World Records book as a great Christmas present for your child or a niece/ nephew.  I think the book is equally suitable for a girl or boy and will probably be most enjoyed by a child aged seven years plus, so they can ably read the book themselves and be big enough to hold it (it is pretty big and heavy). The book is hardback and the pages are glossy and very high quality. All the facts are presented in a visually pleasing way and really engage kids.  This year there is a free download app for your iPhone or iPad which allows you to view some of the pictures in the book in 3D.  It really is a nice extra and quite amazing, you have to see it to believe it.

The Guinness World records 2013 book has hardly been put own since JJ received it.  I even noticed the other day that it was going to school with him most days.  Apparently a few of them read it at break time. It is certainly pretty common to walk in his room and find him on his bed like this -

Do you think this makes him a nerd?  A very nice nerd though surely?

The Guinness World Records 2013 book has an RRP of £20 but I notice it is currently just £9 on Amazon and that is a complete bargain!

Disclosure:  We received this book free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.