Sunday, 22 April 2012

Charlie Monsters Fun House: Hotel Chocolat Review & Competition

Charlie Monsters Fun House: Hotel Chocolat Review & Competition: Easter is just around the corner and with the celebration comes lots of that yummy stuff they call chocolate. Whilst the chocoholic in me l...

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Baking with OXO - a fun review

As a child I used to love baking with my mum and my love of attempting to bake lasted right up until my teenage years. However since I’ve become a mummy myself time seems to pass me by at lightning speed and all thoughts of baking have flown out the window. Whilst I have never admitted to being the best baker in the word (flat buns are my speciality) baking’s always been something that I’ve found therapeutic and is an activity that I’ve wanted to attempt with my little monster for ages but 5 years after my last baking attempt would my already lacking baking skills be up to the challenge?
OXO Good Grips baking tools

OXO recently sent us a selection of baking tools in an attempt to enhance my baking skills- after all a poor workman is said to always blame his tools but with these super tools ready for action there was nowhere to hide!

We were lucky enough to be sent the following fab OXO items to assist us in our baking mission;

 2.8L Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl 

Medium Spatula 

Hand Held Mixer 

6 Piece Measuring Spoon Set

Hearing about our distinct lack of baking tools Mermaid also threw in a 9 Hole Hard Anodised Shallow Bun Tray to add to the mix
Hands off the bowl Mr Monster!

First to be tested was the classic black and white stainless steel mixing bowl. The bowl is pretty heavy and that combined with the non-slip rubber bottom meant that my heavy handed toddler couldn’t tip it up even after mummy had accidentally knocked over a glass of juice and made the worktop very slippery indeed.

Hand Mixing 
So in went the ingredients in a rather haphazard fashion and out came OXO’s brand new hand held mixer. I think it’s fair to say that electric mixers and I aren’t the best of friends- picture the scene I ‘forget’ to release the power button before pulling it out of the chocolate cake mix- ooops one shiny kitchen is now hidden under a mass of brown cake mixture! So whilst having to use my muscles and wind the mixer by hand may require a tiny bit of extra effort the thought of not having to spend the next half hour scrubbing mixture from every nook and cranny in the kitchen was very appealing.

Hand held mixer
The hand held mixer performed fabulously well and didn’t require half as much man power as I initially thought, in fact monster even managed to have a go at turning the non-slip knob whilst I kept a firm hold on the contoured non-slip handle to stop the little man dropping it in the mixture when he got bored.

The best bit about the hand held mixture is just how easy it is to clean. Press in the two grey buttons and the stainless steel beaters can be easily removed and either popped into the dishwasher of left for the human dishwasher aka daddy to wash up.

Finally I added half a teaspoon of vanilla essence using one of the Oxo measuring spoons from the 6 piece set. The spoons are easily removable and brightly labelled and hold anything from 1/8 tsp right up to 15ml of fluids which makes it much more accurate than my usual method of tipping it in until it looked about right.

Once the mixture was ready it was time to pop it into the bun cases that monster had lovingly laid out in the Mermaid bun tray. Okay so that was a little bit of a fib, monster threw the case all over the worktop and I gathered them up before having to persuade him to put the brightly coloured cases into the nine shallow holes nicely but he’s my baby and for me he can do no wrong!
Baking with the monster

Whilst I’m not a baking expert even I could see and feel the superior quality of this bun tray. Mermaid claim that the Anodised tray is twice as hard as stainless steel the fact that it isn’t coated ensures that it won’t peel of flake even in years which sounds pretty good to me!

Finally it was time to put the OXO Good Grips Silicone Spatula to the test and I’m happy to tell you that the flexible spatula was the perfect tool for scraping out the last bits of the cake mixture from the bowl which pleased me greatly as I hate waste.

r may not be a master baker the little monster and I had heaps of fun making out Easter themed buns and after 5 years in hiding I don’t think we did too badly do you?
Pretty Easter buns

A big thanks to OXO for supplying us with their fabulous tools that are just as superb quality as the other OXO products that we have previously reviewed.

Why not check out the entire range of fabulous OXO products and see how good they are for yourself.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Moon Sand Pet Shop Review– Sand you can mould

Lexi was recently asked to review Moon Sands Pet Shop and for the girl that continually quotes “sand that never dries out” from the TV advert before requesting a set for her next birthday which is a whopping seven months away this was a very exciting prospect. 
Moon Sand Play Set

As soon as the brightly coloured box arrived the girlie monster wanted to get her eager beaver hands on it but with an 18 months old monster as a brother the little lady had to hold her horses until he went down for his afternoon nap. I did research to see if Rilie could join in the fun but after seeing the Moon Sand in the flesh I can honestly say that the 3-7 year old age range is perfect as whilst the little man would possibly be okay to join in with constant supervision it would prevent Lexi from enjoying the Moon Sand Pet Shop to its full extent.
Moon Sand Pet Shop

So what’s in the vibrant box?

13 Funky animal moulds

A 2-in1 tool

2 colours of Moon Sand

So where is the Pet Shop?

 Well the plastic box opens out to reveal the little pet shop that evokes the imagination and lets the interactive play begin. Whilst the box is a fab idea I would say that it’s only big enough for one child at a time to play with as it may well get a little crowded with two little monsters trying to get in on the sand moulding action.
The sand comes in two individual bags of purple and orange colouring and has the most peculiar texture; it feels a little wet but not at all messy – perfect for the little lady who could make a mess in an empty room! 
Check out my Moon Sand!

However the one thing that I was a little disappointed in is the fact that when the two colours are mixed together by over excited three year old they turn into a brownish colour and this can’t be reversed. Whilst most children wouldn’t mind Lexi couldn’t quite understand where the two colours had gone and we ended up having a lesson in colour mixing.

Lexi absolutely loved the variety of animal moulds and I must say that I was pretty impressed too. Whilst the little lady is fiercely independent being at the younger end of the recommended age range she did need a little bit of help to mould the animals and set up the shop however the moulds worked really well and the animals came out looking just how they should which was great as there is nothing worse than trying to explain to a 3 year old perfectionist why only half an animal comes out of a mould!

Developing 3 year old Lexi's creativity

Lexi has spent ages playing with the Moon Sand Pet Shop and whilst she has seen it as a fun activity that lets her imagination run wild I have also watched it help to enhance her hand-eye co-ordination, fine motor skills, creative development as well as encouraging her communication  (the girl could talk a hind leg off a donkey).
We really liked the Moon Sand Pet Shop as its fun, creative, imaginative and fairly mess free and would definitely look into the other sets which are available.

The Moon Sand Pet shop is priced at a reasonable £14.99 and is available from Argos, Tesco, The Entertainer, Smyths, ELC & Sainsbury’s

Saturday, 31 March 2012

BeanBagBazaar- a perfect beanbag for a little monster!

My little monster is getting bigger by the minute and as he tells me at least 20 times a day he is now “a big boy mama”. I thought he’d be at least 8 before he refused to cuddle up on the sofa with his mama but oh no 18 months is way too old to sit on mummy’s knee apparently.

Recently BeanBagBazaar sent the little dude a bright red cotton beanbag to see if it was ‘cooler’ than sitting on mummy’s knee and I think I can safely say that it went down a storm.

The vibrant beanbag arrived in super quick time and was greeted by a very excitable monster but before he was allowed to test it out it was time for a mummy inspection.

The chunky beanbag stands at 60cm by 60cm making it a perfect size for toddlers to climb all over or for older children to sit in nicely. Now if only it had a harness the little man could sit there safely all flipping day and I could have two minutes to put my feet up and relax (just joking).

The cute beanbag is made from a thick and durable vivid red material that features lovely bright blue contrasting piping, making it a very pretty piece of furniture that I’m more than happy to have standing proudly in our living room. The best bit is that the cover is completely removable and 100% washable which is just what I need with my messy monster.

Whilst I love the bright colours my absolute favourite part of this trendy beanbag is the gorgeous robot that is embroidered on the side wall. The very attractive little robot stands around 5 inches high and has more detailing than you could shake a stick at. From a happy little face to a cute antenna and a variety of funky cogs he is one little man who is out to impress. The mummy side of me is also very impressed with the robots stitching - it’s second to none and in my opinion safe for little fingers to touch.

Safety is always a huge thing that I consider when purchasing anything for the little monster and the thought of all of those polystyrene balls just waiting for an inquisitive hand to play with makes me shiver. Well BeanBagBazaar have thought of that and have secured the thousands of little balls in a very thick cream lining that uses not just one but two zips to secure them safely, they really have thought of everything.

Charlie absolutely adores his funky cotton beanbag and uses it every single day whether it be climbing all over it, diving on top of it or sitting in it like a little armchair once mummy has spent all of 5 seconds moulding it into shape the beanbag is very much loved.

 It's official my little man has found a much ‘cooler’ seat than his mummy’s knee!

The washable embroidered kids cotton beanbag is priced at £49.99 and is available in 6 beautiful designs. From Rockets, Butterflies and Under the Sea to Robots, Cupcakes and Owls there is a gorgeous design to suit everyone.

Why not check out the entire range of kids bean bags at BeanBagBazaar now? I'm sure you will fall in love with their very pretty designs.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Yippydada Adventure Baby Changing Bag Review

By now everybody should know that I’m a self-confessed changingbagoholic but whilst I have a cupboard load of gorgeous bags to pick from daddy is stuck with the only changing bag that I let him help to pick and believe me it’s pretty well use- some might even say battered!

Our extensive search for a ‘manly’ changing bag came to a rather pleasant holt when Yippidada sent daddy their Adventure Baby Changing Bag to try out for size. This Army printed messenger -style changing bag is made using thick canvass and brown faux leather and comes jam packed with accessories and fully equipped for all of those challenges that the little monsters seem to throw at us.

The bag itself is much larger than I thought it would be, I was expecting something half the size and would still  have been more that willing to pay the same price for it. However the extra room allowed daddy to pack those additional ‘essentials’ (you try to tell him that 3 packets of crips are not essential) with room to spare. The roominess also means that when the monster no longer needs a pack horse then daddy can use the bag for his overnight work trips making it a product that will last.

The shoulder strap is long enough for even six foot daddy to use whilst the faux leather padding ensures that it’s comfortable to wear even when the bag contains a heavy load making it great for long days out.

Featuring 3 external and 7 internal pockets there’s no shortage of space to store all of those bits and pieces although I can’t see daddy packing in a hairbrush and comb like I would, I think you’re much more likely to find a couple of golf tees and a half empty packet of chewing gum lurking in there.

The 3 external pockets include 2 spacious side pockets as well as a zipped pocked with a chunky and durable zipper whilst the 7 internal pockets include 4 large open top pockets, 2 padded pockets which can be secured using the attached drawstrings and are just the right size to secure a bottle in and one zipped pocket to keep those personal belonging safe and secure. 

Yet again Yippydada has taken into consideration the challenges that we face as parents and have lined the bag with a lovely water resistant lining ensuring that those golf tees can be easily found and that the inevitable spilt drink can be easily mopped up- this really is a daddy proof bag!

The Adventure Baby Changing Bags fab accessories include a;

•             Colour co-ordinated bottle holder

One question I always seem to get asked is if a bottle holder is large enough to hold a Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature wide necked bottle and I’m happy to tell you that in this case it’s a great big YES!

•             Nylon clothes pouch

The Nylon pouch is thicker than the other Yippydada pouches that we’ve previously been sent making it extra durable and therefore ‘safe’ in  daddys burly hands. It’s a perfect size for storing wet or dry clothes or even all of those lotions and potions that I pack for monsters daytrips with his daddy.

•             Small wallet

This dinky little wallet is perfect for keeping loose change ensuring that you don’t have to fish around for it at the bottom of the bag when you’re in a hurry- after all this is a bag for the monsters daddy and you never know what you’re going to find lurking in there.

•             Changing mat

Whilst it’s lovely to have a small foldaway changing mat to protect the monster from the nasty germs that I always imagine harbouring on the communal baby change, this mat isn’t quite as practical as I would like it to be.  It’s a little stiff to unfold and a bit too small for my 18 month old to lay flat out on so I’d love to see it made as fabulously as the other Yippydada changing mats that we have previously reviewed.

Daddy was mightily impressed with his new ‘man’ changing bag and in all honesty I would be more than happy to carry it too. The one thing we would love to see is an easy way to attach it to the pushchair handles allowing us to access it quickly and easily but apart from that we think it's stylish and very well made.

Retailing at £49.99 and available from the Yippydada on-line shop this lovely changing bag is built to last and represents value for money in every which way.

If you fancy treating yourself to a gorgeous Yippydada baby changing bag then why not use this discount code, Monster15 , to get 15% off ANY Yippydada changing bag.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

iStylista Review and Competition

Something I hardly ever admit to is the fact that I need a little help to dress myself. Now before you say it I’m perfectly capable of physically dressing myself and if I could live in leggings and vest tops then I’d be fine however sometimes it’s nice to try something new, a new look if you will, and that’s where I struggle. 

Nine times out of ten I enlist the other half’s clothes picking skills which are scarily good for a man although I can sometimes get a little grumpy when he picks out something only a tall, skinny model would look good in and I have to explain for the umpteenth time that I have boobs and a not so little behind! So when I was asked to review an on-line personal shopper service by iStylista I thought that it was more than worth a few clicks of a mouse.

iSylista was founded in 2009 by award winning personal stylist Chantelle Znideric. Chantelle wanted to be able to offer professional and personal style advice at the click of a button and voila iSylista was born.

So how does iStylista work?

Firstly In order to check out styles and designs that suited my 5ft 1 body I had to complete a pretty comprehensive questionnaire which looked at my body shape, colouring, height, clothes size and that all import question- my budget. There are also a couple of questions in there about your lifestyle i.e mummy, student, office worker however this threw me as I personally needed an all of the above box but settled for yummy mummy.

What body shape are you?

The most difficult question I found to answer was what body shape I had so I asked the other half and was pretty surprised when he decided I was an apple shape.

After completing the questionnaire my personal style guide was ready to download. The 28 page comprehensive guide made a very interesting and enlightening read. It covered all aspects of styling from what suits my shape and colouring to what I should avoid and how I can make the most of what I’ve got without making a fatal style error that may well show off the bits I would rather hide!

The iStylista Goddess Style Guide highlights

Your body shape classification

10 essential body shape styling tips

Your key clothing shapes

Your best fabrics and patterns

3 styling tips to enhance your troublesome body parts

Your best neutral colour palette

Your best additional colour palette

Colour styling tricks and tips

Your ideal lifestyle capsule wardrobe and style secrets

Your face shape classification and tips on how to accessorise successfully

I’m sure you can see just how much this jam packed guide can help out those of us who would rather wear the same old styles day in day out.

 I can’t wait to try out some of the fab style tips during our next shopping expedition but until I can convince the other half that we NEED to drive the 45 miles to the nearest city I'll being using the on-line suggestions to help me with a bit of internet retail therapy!

So who fancies trying out this great service and picking up a few hints and tips along the way?

iSylista are giving 10 lucky readers the chance to win their own personalised Style Goddess downloadable guide worth £3O and all you have to do to enter is complete the Rafflecopter form below and  leave me a comment tell me why you would like to win this fab prize.

Good luck x

If you can't wait to see if you're a lucky winner then you can always use this code R4E6-3YD4-VR to receive a massive 40% off your Style Goddess Guide

Friday, 23 March 2012

Hotel Chocolat Review & Competition

Easter is just around the corner and with the celebration comes lots of that yummy stuff they call chocolate. Whilst the chocoholic in me loves all forms of chocolaty treats I always seem to end up left a little bit disappointed with the eggs that come courtesy of the local supermarket. Regular eggs now seem to be so  thin that you can practically see through them and for a chocoholic like me that just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Fear not fellow chocoholics as I've found the perfect solution to wafer thin eggs in the form of Hotel Chocolat’s Rocky Road toCaramel™ Extra Thick Easter Egg. Now this egg is exactly what it says on the gorgeously decorated  box- Extra Thick, in fact the luxury egg is that thick that I had to use a knife to cut through it and a sharp knife at that. This rich and creamy chocolate is thick enough to ensure that even the most dedicated chocoholic is left satisfied.

However it’s not just the Super thickness that makes this chunky egg extraordinary, 
  It’s also incredibly pretty to look at and that coupled with the fact that it’s the tastiest egg in town makes it one very special egg indeed.

The beautiful cylinder box encases two completely different half’s of the same 40% milk chocolate egg all wrapped up in thick glittering gold paper. One half of the milk egg features a rich layer of caramel chocolate whilst the other half is blasted with scrumptious rice cripies, mini cookies and chocolate chunks and decorated with a lovely  white chocolate pattern.

Delve a little deeper into Pandora’s cylinder box and you’ll find 14 scrumptious individual chocolates including smooth pralines, soft caramels and solid chocolate animals – enough delights to temp even the fussiest taste buds.

I would absolutely love to keep this special treat all to myself but unfortunately the other half has decided that it’s far too big for just one person so he has staked his claim and unless I can find a place to squirrel it away it looks like I’m going to have to share what’s left!

Priced at £26.00 the scrumptious egg may seem a little pricey but in all honesty I would definitely purchase it for that special someone as it’s a perfect treat that I’m sure would be much appreciated by any chocolate lover. However if this doesn’t take your fancy why not check out the entire HotelChocolat  Easter collection.

Yet again Hotel Chocolat have recognised just how much you lot love your chocolate and have offered you the chance to win your very own Rocky Road to Caramel™ Extra Thick Easter Egg. 

To enter just complete the Rafflecopter Form below and don’t forget to leave me a comment telling me how much you love chocolate!

Good Luck Everyone 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Trunki PaddlePak Review

My monsters eagerly awaited auntie Nics arrival when they heard that something special had arrived and sure enough Lexi beamed when she discovered that a bright pink Trunki PaddlePak had come to stay. She was even more impressed when she twigged that it looked like a fish and with its silver scales, green neoprene fins and bright purple belly this vibrant backpack was a very pretty fish indeed.
Trunki PaddlePak

Ever the eager beaver Lexi popped the padded shoulder straps on whilst I adjusted them to the correct length and then paraded her fishy friend backpack around the room.

When I eventually got a look in I was a very happy mummy to see that the PaddlePak was made from a lovely soft waterproof fabric that is super soft, durable and easy to wipe down when the inevitable happens and one of the monsters attacks it with a can of diet coke that I’ve accidentally left somewhere I shouldn't. It also means that I can pop wet contents inside without a hint of the wetness seeping through and drenching the kid’s clothes as they carry it around making it perfect from trips to the local pool or even to the beach.
Say Cheese- Check out my kids bag

Lexi insisted on swapping her nursery bag for her ‘fish bag’ and despite my  reservations I was shocked at just how much she could get in there. Now Lexi took this as an open invitation to pack 25 plastic people for show and tell but thanks to the PaddlePaks roll top the contents were readily accessible and easy to spot without having to pull it all out when looking for her 'favourite one'.
Look how big my Trunki PaddlePak is!

Lexi then decided to pop her hair bobbles into the little zipped neoprene pocket located on the fish’s tail which was just the right size. She has also told me that she will be carrying our locker money in there the next time we visit the pool although I’m not too sure I would get it back!

After spending a good half hour packing her big girls bag Lexi walked into to nursery a very proud owner of a Trunki PaddlePak and proceeded to show the nursery staff exactly what it was and followed that with a quick lesson on how it opened and closed.
Trunki Pink PaddlePak

The bag became centre of attention and the prime topic of conversation at nursery so much so that the children even created pictures of it using pens and sticking!
Lexis Fish 
The Trunki PaddlePak is going to come in very handy over the next few months what with visits to the swimming pool, trips to the beach, camping in the forestry as well as being used as hand luggage on the plane this vibrant little PaddlePak is going to build up a fair few miles with it’s equally vibrant owner.

Trunki PaddlePaks are priced at £19.95 and are available to buy at the online Trunki Shop