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I am a member of the great Bzzagent website which sends me some amazing products to review and try. The most recent campaign I was involved in was testing the new E45 body lotion.
E45 is a well know name for making body creams. In my household it has always been known as the simple, back to basics body cream. No thrills just a simple all-rounder. To be honest, being someone that tends to fall for marketing, it has never been on my shopping list I usually go for fruity fragrances, or some form of wondrous potion offering to make my silhouette 10 times smaller and firmer. (Dream on!)
I was more than happy to give this cream a go. I felt save in the familiar name and never say no to a freebie.
** E45 Lotion - the new formula **
The first thing I notices about this product is that it is a lotion and not a cream. E45 is usually a thick, slap on formula that takes ages to sink in and reminds me more of a chicken pox medication then a general body cream. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this new formula was in a fact a smooth, light and creamy lotion.
It was so light that a small squeeze is all I need and it literally glides on to my skin like milk. It feels cool, light and milky. With 60 years of experience it is about time E45 came into the 21st century and they have done just that with this lotion.
This lotion is formulated to be a light daily moisturiser that can be used everywhere every day. It is suitable for sensitive skin and is supposed to be easily absorbed.
** My Experience **
This lotion was far better than I expected. It ticked the anticipated boxes of being fragrance free (so I could put it on anytime) and I expected it to be delicate for my skin which it was. I don't have particularly sensitive skin but over the past few months my elbows have become increasingly sore and dry. I have tried other creams on this area but while they have moisturised the skin the stinging that came with it was not worth the hassle. I was pleasantly surprised that this left my elbows in no discomfort and actually eased the dryness and soreness that came with it. It literally did this instantly.
One of my biggest frustrations is creams and lotions which takes an age to sink in to my skin. I am very impatient and the last thing I need to do is to flap around trying to wave myself dry. I was really impressed that considering how light and 'wet' this lotion seemed to be, after 30 seconds I was free to get dressed or move as I please. The instant moisture didn't wipe off and my skin was grease free.
This cream is aimed at dry or sensitive skin. I have combination skin and it works like a dream. It was not greasy on my already oily bits and on my sensitive dry sections it felt like Roman milk.
It is an all-rounder for the whole family. A little goes a long way and should really be a staple in your bathroom, car, office, handbag etc.... it really is a great lotion that moisturised and improved the feel and appearance of my skin.
I have been using this lotion for the past 3 weeks and can say that it really has been a retro gem.
By the way, at the time of writing, E45 are currently giving away free samples of this lotion if you want to try it yourself. I am assuming it is for a limited time but I would suggest you give it a go. http://www.e45.co.uk/our-offers/lotion-campaign/.
Available in most supermarkets and pharmacies.
I recently won a £25 voucher for Molton Brown. I was very happy to have won a voucher for such a 'posh' store and was looking forward to treating myself. Molton Brown is an upmarket and expensive version of The Body Shop. They sell men and women's bath and body products as well as bathroom accessories.
I went into the shop with my voucher in hand waiting to grab a bargain and then I realised that at £18 for a bottle of hand cream, my £25 was not going to go far!
I settled on 3 little miniature bottles of their products so at least I could have a variety and feel as though I go my money's worth as they had an offer of 3 for £22.
I decided on buying a 100ml bottle of their 'NARAN JI' soothing hand lotion. At £10.00 it is very expensive and I would never have bought this little bottle unless I had the voucher. The clear strong plastic bottle shows the light creamy liquid inside and has a silver screw lid engraved with Molton Brown. Simple and chic.
The 'Naran Ji' range is classed as 'Lively, Zest and unmistakeable'. It is a citrus fragrance which is home to orange blossom (neroli), orange oil and grapefruit extract. The orange oil contains the vitamins which should moisturise the skin and the grapefruit extract is the zing that the hand lotion is supposed to give you. I thought it sounded lovely and I like fresh citrus fragrances especially on my tired and dry hands.
The first thing I noticed about this hand cream is it really is quite light and milky. Not the usual thickness you would expect from a hand cream. It feels quite oily and a little goes a long way. As soon as you start to rub it into the skin you can feel the silkiness spreading. It really is very light and rich. My skin soaked up the lotion in super quick time. There was no greasy residue and in less then a minute I can get back to whatever I was doing. This is excellent for me as I am so inpatient.
It gets a huge thumbs up for how moisturised it leaves my hands. They always feel super soft and silky after use and this little bottle is handy for me to carry around in my bag. My hands look and feel remarkably smoother and softer. I cant ask for a better hand lotion.
The only downfall for me is the fragrance. It does not smell as citrus as I hoped and in fact I don't particularly like the fragrance. In my opinion, it smells quite woody and more of a spicy aroma then fruity. It is strong and heavy, one sniff and its stuck up your nose! It really is a shame because the product works so well.
The normal size bottle 300ml is a whopping £18.00 and is usually found in posh hotels or restaurants. It is very pricey but as a light soothing hand lotion it works. If you have very dry skin, this probably would be too light for you. It is not intensive and is definitely not balm based hand cream. It does however work well if you have your hands in water a lot as you can have a little dab on you hand and it soaks in straight away.
The fragrance lets it down as it is far too thick and spicy for me.
Overall, a lovely treat for myself and I would recommend it if you're looking for a gift to impress someone. Although, make sure they know the price first so they wonder why you just bought them one bottle of hand cream!
I decided to treat myself and buy a pair of these sandals for my trip to Majorca. Sun, Sea and Sand always requires some flips flops or sandals. I had a cheaper plastic pair of sandals last year that were great as they didn't hold sand and were great by the pool but as they were cheap and cheerful they didn't last another year. I saw these sandals and they called me. I don't know if it was the pretty cute design or the sleek block colours but I decided to treat myself. At £30.00 they really are a treat!
I chose the black flip flops with the cream bow. Purely because I thought they would look better with swimwear that I had prepared for holiday. They also had them in bright pink with an orange bow, very pretty but very loud. I am sure they would look great with a sun tan!
The Flip Flop itself is a strong and sturdy PVC type material that doesn't bend but is a little flexible. It is very smooth and has a pretty Ted Baker logo in gold on the top of the flip flop. The sturdy bow also has a little gold pin with TB engraved. The flip flops are more worthy to be called sandals because they look so sleek and feel well made. Not flimsy at all.
The best thing about these flip flops is that there were made for the trials and tribulations of a beach holiday. They are sturdy enough to glide through the warm sand. They are study enough so that they stay on your feet but let the sand glide through. With a little tap any stuck sand soon floats away. A word of warning would be to keep them in the shade as the PVC / plastic gets very hot in the sun, although, on the plus side they cool down very quickly!
Next to the pool they were also brilliant, they are waterproof and the water literally sweeps off them keeping my feet stylishly protected from the dirty floor and without becoming slippery on the sold of the shoe. I am a size 7 and they fitted perfectly. I would suggest making sure you try them on before buying them as if they are too small or too big the plastic will rub on the sole of your foot. Not a good thing!
They look good and are very practical for the 'tough' weather conditions of a beach holiday. (If only every day was as tough!) However, the flip flops do have a slight downside. The little 'knobbly' bit that fits in-between your big toe and the toe next it (Making it a flip flop design) is not as padded as I would expect. It is the same PVC that the rest of the flip-flop is made with and does tend to rub after a while. I managed to get through most of the say with the flip-flops fine. Mainly because I was in and out of them and jumping into the sea! However, when it comes to strolling around the area the heat and my feet tend to not agree and they swell slightly. This then means the bit in-between my toes starts to rub. The one saviour is that you can slip them off and on super quick. But if you are thinking of doing more than just relaxing at the beach or the pool I don't think these would be very comfortable. They will start to rub there is no doubt about it.
Overall, I still love these flip-flops and they are in great condition for me to wear them during the summer at home or my next holiday. I see them as a bit of an investment for £30.00 as a cheaper pair of flip flops could have been left behind after being battered with sand and sea water. But these lasted well and look as good as new.
They are very pretty and stylish and make my feet feel treated; so long as I don't go on any long strolls they will do me just fine!
I trust the Crayola brand, mainly because I remember using their products when I was a child and how much I loved their sets. So it is always the main brand I go for when thinking of little bits and pieces to get my niece. We look after her quite a lot so I try and get cheap and cheerful things to keep her occupied.
** Crayola Washable Finger Paints **
These paints come in a pack of 3 different colours. Red, Blue and yellow. The basic primary colours which you can mix well to create other colours such as orange, purple and green. The paints themselves are quite thick so as well as finger paints, they can also be used as normal paints with a brush.
The paint comes in squeezy tubes with flip top lids which means the paint comes out really easily. The bottles are supposed to be none drip so this stops them drying out and being difficult to open. One word of warning, my niece is very independent and was adamant on squeezing the paint out herself, obviously not knowing her own strength a lot more squirted out then she expected. But we were prepared for mess and had aprons etc., but if you are using a small area, it might be better for an adult to stay in control of the squeezing! You can squeeze the paint directly on to paper and let the child (or adult) just get stuck in with the paint. We put a bit of each paint on some foil because we had no pots, but since the first time we used them we have found a few random things to put the paint in such as empty yogurt pots and containers.
These paints are great for my niece to mess around with and use her hands to be creative. Hand prints are the obvious but with help she also made pictures using dots with her fingertips etc. The colours are bright so create good hand prints. Plus as I said before my niece likes mixing the 3 colours to create other colours. The paint is quite gel like, which I think is because they are more washable then other paints. But this doesn't retract from how good they are.
They are washable, so there was no problems with getting the mess of my niece's hands (or her curly hair!). Luckily, because she wears an apron there was no mess on her clothes. The table took a little battering but wiped up easily with no marks anywhere.
The only downside is that this is just the paints in a packet, would have been better if they came with a couple of small pots to lay the paint out but you can find substitutes at home.
** Price & Availability **
I bought these from Asda for £4. They are £4.39 on Amazon and between £4-£5 on most websites if you have a look around. I think this is good value for money as a little paint goes a long way. Each bottle has 147 ml of paint (about quarter of a pint if that helps) so there is a lot of paint to play with.
** Overall **
A standard product that is great for all ages. The warning state is should only be used by 2 years plus. The paint is bright, works well as fingers paints because it is thick and dries quickly. Easy to wash off and a great load of fun!
** Play-Doh **
Play-Doh is pliable coloured dough that can be moulded, cut, squashed and shaped into a million different things. The dough comes in little plastic tubs with lids (the lids correspond to the colour of the dough), and as long as the lids are put back on the product can last for months.
Play-Doh is non-toxic and does not contain peanuts, peanut oil, any milk by-products or latex. However, the packaging states that those allergic to wheat gluten or specific food dyes may have an allergic reaction to this product.
** Play-Doh Barrel**
The play-Doh Barrel is a large clear tub filled with lots of goodies to help your child be as creative as possible with Play-Doh. I bought this for my niece last week because it is on offer and she loved Play-Doh. We often just use things around the house to help her make things but I thought this looked like fun and picked it up for her.
The Barrel itself is quite large and in my niece s little hands it looked huge! It has a bright red resealable lid so everything can be kept in the tub without anything going missing. Inside the tub you get 4 normal size tubs of play-doh and 2 smaller tubs. The colours we got were Green, Dark Pink, Blue and Yellow in the big tubs. The two smaller tubs were light pink and white. I could not see any difference in the colours of the tubs available when I bought ours so I am not sure if the colours change in other barrels.
Along with the tubs of Play-Doh you also get 16 tools to help mould, build and create. The ones that my niece likes playing with most is the rolling pin, the heart shaped cutter and the little turtle that if you press on top of some play-doh creates little worms of dough. (It sort of gives the turtle hair!). There is also a machine which allows you to squeeze the play-doh though and create different shapes. It is called a fun factory but Think of a play-doh sausage machine and you will have the idea. The barrel also has child friendly scissors (blunt plastic ones so that it just goes through the play-doh and a plastic blunt knife). There is lots to do in the barrel and lots of different ways of using the tools to create different models.
All the tools are brightly colours and made of plastic so you don't have to worry about the child hurting themselves or breaking anything. My niece found the barrel really exciting and even enjoys placing everything back in the barrel neatly. The fact it comes with play-doh means she could get started straight away and it gave her other play-doh packs a rest.
The tools add a bit of excitement to normal play-doh and my niece is much more creative when she has tools. She still makes her play-doh people but loves to give them hair that has been made from the 'sausage' machine and she likes to build up layers made from the cutters.
It is a simple set of tools that create lots of fun and new ideas.
** Price, Availability & Recommendation **
I bought the tub from Toys R Us for £9.99. The normal price is £14.99 and is exclusive to Toys R Us. I have another version of the tub being sold on the US Amazon site but not on the UK one unfortunately. But if you pop into Toys R Us then this is something to look at. Especially coming up to Christmas.
Play-Doh, in general, is a great creative toy and this barrel adds to that. Not only does it come with tubs of play-doh (which usually would cost £3 just for 4 tubs and in this barrel you get an extra 2 half size tubs), but it also comes with all the tools and the barrel is a great storage unit for everything. Really recommended to encourage children's creativity and to keep them amused for hours. My niece loves her box of tools and uses them every time she gets her play-doh. She has her favourite pieces but everything does get used.
The barrel states that it should be for 3 years and upwards, I agree to an extent because of the tools which could hurt if they bump themselves on the head with a plastic rolling pin. But under supervision, it should be a great toy to play with.
** Crayola Colouring Pencils **
The pack of Crayola Colouring Pencils I have is a pack of 24. They come in a yellow, green and orange box with a little window so you can see the pencils inside.
I bought these mainly got my niece as she loves drawing. But I also bought them for myself as I love drawing myself. I don't have much time for it but decided I would do it in my spare time to relax. I did art at college and have always had a soft spot for a fresh bit of paper and newly sharpened pencils. Anyway, as Crayola is one of the best arts and crafts brands around I was hoping for good quality pencils and my niece and I were not disappointed.
The pack of 24 pencils gives you some brilliant shades. Not just your standard red, yellow and blue. Some of the other colours are peach, tan, black and even white. My niece really liked drawing on dark coloured paper using the white pencil and when it was Halloween we cut out some shapes with black paper (spiders etc.) and she used the pencil to makes the eyes and other features.
The pencils are great quality and come pre-sharpened so ready to use straight away. The high quality grained wood means that the pencils sharpen really well without breaking or getting mangled. They only need a couple of twists and the pencil is ready to go. I also find that the lead in the pencil doesn't snap easily and you get a lot of use out of the pencils in general.
These pencils are really smooth and easy to hold. No matter if you are a child or adult they are comfortable in the hand. The strong colours are perfect for colouring in and the fine led is great for drawing. Each pencil has Crayola and the colour written with Gold writing on the pencil. I think this is a nice idea as it makes the pencils look really appealing but if you use your imagination you can help children with their spelling and word association etc.
The pencils in use are what you would expect. Nice and smooth lines with bright colours and durable lead. Very good quality with a huge selection of colours to choose from.
** Price & Availability **
I bought these for £3.12 from Amazon. This works out at 13p per pencil Pretty good value for money considering the quality of the product and that they can be used for months on end until you have sharpened it to death. These pencils can also be bought from other places such as department stores (John Lewis) and supermarkets (Asda). But shop around because the price as usual varies.
The pencils also come in a pack of 12 for £2.64 and a pack of 36 for £4.56 (prices from Amazon).
** Recommendation **
The packaging states that these pencils should be for 3 year olds and over. I imagine they would have a good munch on the pencil but with supervision they would enjoy the easy to hold pencil and have a good scribble.
They are good quality pencils, leaving nothing to be desired. Although I have given up on my drawing now my niece still used them at least once a week and enjoys the varieties of colour. She is 5 and has no problems sharpening them herself as the wood is so smooth. She likes to colour in large sections and these pencils are bright enough to show up on recycled or new paper.
A little pricey but well worth the money.
** Me To You **
I have always loved the Me To You brand. Some people may thing that I am referring to the Chuckle Brothers, but no! This is a greetings and gift range from Carte Blanche Greetings Limited.
The Me to You Range is based on cute little grey cuddly Tatty bears. Originally they were little Tatty bears made for special occasions such as birthdays and Valentine's day. But now the range is extensive. Everything from Halloween Tatty Bears to calendars key rings, wedding invitations and the list could go on. The designs are very simple, every bear has the same grey colouring and whether it is cuddly toy or birthday card, the bears themselves stay the same. So it is easy to know the Me To You Range.
The thing about The Me To You range is that almost every product is a keepsake. Usually they are just nice to look at memory pieces that are a nice pleasant gift to give to someone. Apart from the calendars and pens, they don't serve any other purpose then just a thoughtful token of appreciation.
** I love You This Much! **
This particular bear is a tatty teddy presented in a sturdy but pretty presentation stand. All the teddies are either boxed on presented on stand and the box is always the same ice blue and silver design with Me To You on the front.
All the bears come with a message and the range is so huge now I am sure you could find almost anything. They have special bears that are holding presents for birthdays or holding special numbers like 21 or 50. There are bears holding silver hearts with congratulations on and a little message and little bears with blue hats and a happy birthday son sign, plus other bears holding little bags of bubble bath! Even confirmation and bears holding Bibles are on offer.
This particular bear was given to me as a present. It wasn't for any particular reason other than a kind hearted gesture from my other half when I was having a bit of a down time. Little things like this really lift my spirits and now I keep it on my shelf in the bedroom and it makes me smile when I see it. The bear is as ever, the usually grey tatty style. Really cute with its arms sticking out to the sides in a 'hug me' stance. It is stilling on its little blue and silver stand with its too little eyes meeting in the middle and looking very baby like. My bear is wearing a red and white thick t-shirt that says 'I Love You This Much' which explains why its arms are stretched as wide as possible. The aim of these bears is to say what the giver is thinking and this says it perfectly. I know what my boyfriend was trying to say when he gave me this bear and the whole gesture made it loud and clear that he is thinking of me and he loved me. (soppy I know!)
There bear has some really lovely little details to it which make it special compared to a normal teddy bear. At about 6 inches tall it is big enough to stand out on the shelf but not to take up all the space.
The feet have little sewn on patches and one of the feet has 'Me To you' Sewn into it. It also has a little tag stuck to its ear which says 'Every Tatty Teddy is handmade with Love & Care...'. A lovely thing to thin that this bear was (almost) made for me!!
** Price & Availability **
This was a gift so I had to do some snooping. The Me To You bears of this size average at about £10.00. Originally they seemed to be stocked in Clintons the card shop but now they are in most card and gift shops as well as online. Me To You have their own website http://www.metoyouonline.com which stocks everything they produce. There is loads to look at and they would make great stocking fillers or small Christmas gifts. The Christmas range is wonderful.
** Recommendation **
I thought this was a lovely gift. The 'I Love You This Much' Tatty bear always makes me smile and if you give it to someone as a gift it is a good all-rounder. It can work for a birthday, valentine's day, Christmas, Anniversary... the list goes on.
A decent price for a keepsake that will last as long as you want it to. I have had mine for a year now and it is still going strong and the stand is as good as new. It would be easy to start a collection of these tatty bears so I have been resisting temptation to put them on my Christmas list.
A charming, thoughtful gift which makes me smile every time I look at it.
** Juicy Couture **
Juicy Couture is a flamboyant brand started in 2007. Made famous by the likes of Katie Price and WAGS (footballers' wife's and girlfriends) it became the pink, bubble-gum brand that was tacky but fashionable. Over time, it has somehow made its way up the ranks and is now a fully-fledged premium brand. I think it managed to do this by edging away from the valour tracksuits that originally made its mark and branching out into perfume, jewellery and bags.
I have never bought anything from Juicy Couture, but I have definitely had things in my wish list. It seems to have that affect where I am drawn into the lavish, pretty marketing and designs. Especially since the brand has evolved over the last few years, some of their items now look much more classy but still with tonnes of fun.
** Juicy Couture Faux Fur Ear Muffs **
These ear muffs are a lovely soft pink colour, what Juicy Couture class as 'Pink Tint'. The headband is covered in a soft pink and cream knitted fabric. It feels thick and very good quality. It doesn't feel as though it will wear away any time soon and the band feel like a strong bendy plastic underneath. The knitted fabric has a few clear sequins sewn in and when it catches the light it lets of a beautiful sparkle.
Underneath the head band is a sewn in pink label with Juicy Couture 'Born in the glamorous USA'. The whole design is incredibly pretty and feminine. A great winter wonderland style accessory and would look perfect with a red nose!
The muffs themselves are quit big; they go well over the ear and are the size as round tea coasters. They are very firm and don't bend so great for wear and tear. I think I have a relatively large head. Hats usually slide on and off (if they fit at all) but these fit perfectly. The band stretches that fits over your head so any size will be fine! The fact that the band is knotted makes it really comfortable and it doesn't dig in like some ear muffs. It lets your head breathe but keeps still at the same time.
The earmuffs are made from 48% Polyamide, 32% Wool, 12% Mohair, 5% Polyester, 3% Cashmere. As you can imagine they are beautiful and soft. Very fluffy on the outside and the inside with firm cushioning so it doesn't hurt your ears, even after an hour or so!
The only down size about the fluffy muffs is that the fluff does come away a bit and sticks to your clothes etc. Just typing this review I have already spotted two strands of the pink stuff floating about on my keyboard. I have worn these 3 times so far, as the cold weather has started to set it and I do wonder if the malting will calm down or if they eventually will just become bald! I guess time will tell. I have to admit, I didn't expect them to feel this sturdy. Usually my earmuffs tend to snap pretty quickly or I find them incredibly hard to untangle. These earmuffs are so simple and classic. The muffs can be bent upwards so that they save space and it protects the muffs from breaking or getting damage. There is no curling or major unfolding of the band itself, just the actual earmuffs.
Another downsize is that if it rains (or snows) they get a little bit matted. Once they dry off they are fine, but you need to give them a little comb to fluff them out again. But I prefer that then them being stuck with a damp smell. So to add to this, there is warning to not wash these earmuffs.
I was in New York recently so these were great for me great in the freezing temperatures over there, plus they are doing the job while I wait for good old London buses to work. They look very pretty and make the whole awkwardness of earmuffs a lot more fashionable.
** Price & Availability **
Full price these earmuffs are £49.00. Very expensive, although if the fur doesn't completely malt then these will last you for years. I bought mine on sale from ASOS.com for a bargain at £24.00. They are available in black or pink.
Having looked around they are mainly available on American Websites, but they do deliver to the UK. They are also available on the Juicy Couture website and there are lots of varieties of earmuffs. Stripy, cushioned, animal print etc. Large department stores also sell varieties of Juicy Couture ear muffs. Places like Selfridges stock them so have a look there.
** Packaging **
Just to add to the value of these earmuffs, they come in a beautiful pink round box. The same as a small hat box where the lid comes off to show the gorgeous product inside. The lid has a painted gold glitter bow on it and a little juicy couture gift tag. If you were to buy these as a present then whoever received it would fin the box a present in itself!
It also means that when the ear muffs are not being used they can be kept in the box to protect them in the most stylish way of course.
Other than popping into the Juicy Couture shop and being in awe of the beautiful products, I have never bought anything from the brand. Mainly because they are very expensive and also because most of the stuff is a bit too 'bling' for me. But I will definitely be looking into the accessories range as these earmuffs are well worth the money, look beautiful and are not too over the top.
I am really happy that I treated myself to these, not my usually style but I do feel like a snow princess when I wear them!
I100% recommended these to keep your ears warm and snug now winter is here.
** Crayola 18 Washable Kids Paint **
Crayola has to be one of the most famous arts and crafts brands for children. Their simple bright products always go down well with the younger generation and I remember using their paints and pens when I was a child.
This set of kid's poster paints is a pretty simple product to be fair. 18 bright coloured poster paints set in little see through plastic pots. The lids pop on and off and the set comes with a natural hair paint brush.
** Price & Availability **
I bought these for £3.39 from Amazon but you can find them popping up everywhere, especially on the lead up to Christmas. I have seen them for £3 in Asda but in other online shops they cost as much as £5.
** Painting In Practice? **
My niece loves arts and crafts which is why I bought these in the first place. She is 5 years old and loves drawing. When she comes to see me I always have a couple of little presents waiting. Obviously to make her smile when she comes to see her favourite Aunty but also to keep her entertained. We don't have any children our self and so our house is toy free! But things like paints and drawing pads she can take home with her, use up or keep them here without taking up a lot of space.
She loves being able to mix the colours which these paints are great at. Because they are the thicker poster paints she can mix them together and we sit to see what colours we can create. She isn't a fan of water colours as she says they have ''run out''. Obviously it is because they are water based and therefore a lot lighter.
The pots are quite hard to open but after a bit of a tug my niece can do it herself. She is quite independent and won't let me do it for her. It also helps to encourage her to close the lids after using each colour so that it doesn't dry out. In fact she actually insists on closing the lids after using each one. She is quite precise on this. This is great because if the lids are kept off then the paint will dry out.
The paint brush that comes with the set is useful because it is small enough to fit in the tubs, but to be honest is a bit pants. The hairs come out in the paint and leave marks on the paper. But my niece doesn't mind too much. We used it on paper and card and it showed up well, spread easy and didn't take too long to dry. The back of the paints also state that it can be used on wood and papier mache' as well.
The amount of paint you get in each pot is minimum. A couple of good scoops out with the brush (my niece like big blobs and rainbows (and the pot is pretty empty. But you could always buy some cheap poster paint and fill them up again. If my niece had big pots or squeezy tubes she would literally squeeze it all over the paper and herself so it's good she is limited. Even if she does make a mess the paints are washable so no worries there. My niece does get excited and likes to paint on her hands so I was relieved that with a little soap it came of under running water in a flash.
Overall, the set of paints are great stocking filler and a creative, simple way of passing the time. The colours are bright and thick which my niece prefers. With 18 colours my niece wasn't too upset when the red and pink had finished. The price is a tiny bit expensive but remembering the quality of the paint makes it easier to justify. I hate spending a pound on some rubbish paints which looks like coloured water.
My niece managed to paint about 8 pictures for the family on Saturday. A couple are on our fridge and the picture made from the poster paints is enough to put a smile on my face.
** IMPORTANT INFO **
For children 3 years of age and over.
** Crayola Colour By Numbers With 6 Pens **
I loved Crayola sets as a child and they are still going strong 20 years later. They have to be one of the most famous arts and crafts brands around and I expect their products to be of good quality.
This colour by numbers set comes with 16 different pages to colour in and 6 chunky pens. It comes in a cardboard package which is quite exciting to open. It is very bright and enticing so should make any child smile.
** Price & Availability **
I bought these for £4.00 from Very.co.uk but you can find them popping up everywhere, especially on the lead up to Christmas. I have seen them for £3.49 on Amazon but in other online shops they cost as much as £7.05 which is extortionate!
** 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Go Go Go! **
As well as painting, my niece loves to draw. She is 5 years old but patience isn't her virtue (a bit like me!), so she tends to colour in a little bit and then turn the page. So on her recent visit last week I thought these would be a great little thing to keep her occupied.
This product is exactly like painting by numbers, where each colour is labelled with a number and the child has to colour in the corresponding sections. There are 16 pages so quite a lot for my niece to get through and she liked to go through the entire pack before deciding which once to complete. So for example, there was a little flower that had the number 1 inside each petal, and this corresponded to the red pen which had number 1 printed on it.
The 6 pens that are included are numbered several times on the actual pen. The bright lids and coloured numbers make it easy to choose which the correct one is. The colours are bright although my niece was slightly disappointed there was no pink. The chunky barrels make it easy for her to hold and would make it easier for younger children as well.
The pictures that were made to colour in were quite simple with relatively thick black outlines making it easy for my niece to stay in the lines and would be great as a guide for younger children. She chose to fill out one section of the picture first and said out loud the numbers as she did them. She is fine with her numbers now but it would be quite a good learning tool for a child, helping them count from 1 to 6. Another way could be to challenge them to do all the '1' sections first and then all the '2's and so on.
My niece didn't quite finish the pictures as she did get bored after about two thirds of the way through. The exciting of matching the numbers got a bit boring for her. But she need go back later in the day and chose another picture to start again. The ink in these pens is washable but luckily my niece didn't get any on her clothes. She did get it on her hands and it didn't come off straight away even with soap and a little scrub.
Overall a great little set, it kept my niece amused for about an hour and she enjoyed the fact that she was almost completing a puzzle rather than just colouring. A great alternative to some pens and plain paper or a colouring book.
** IMPORTANT INFO **
Manufacturers recommended age 3+
I tried to be quite organised this year in terms of Christmas and in early November I asked my sister what my niece wanted. On top of the list was a Cookie Puppy. I had no idea what this was so did a bit of research and it seems to be everywhere at the moment. I was a bit naughty this year. Because I am going away for Christmas, and I won't be seeing them for a while, my sister and I agreed that I could give my niece her Cookie Puppy a few weeks ago! I think I was just as excited as her.
==** Hasbro Fur Real Friends Cookie My Playful Pup **==
The puppy itself is a toy version of a Golden Retriever puppy. It is part of the Fur real brand from Hasbro Toy Company, where the soft mechanical toys are supposed to have the most up to date technology to make is really life like.
Cookie, the playful pup us supposed to be one of the top toys for 2011 and since hearing about it from my sister I have seen it everywhere. It is meant to be like a real puppy that you can switch off and without the mess!
It is about 14 inches high so pretty big and has voice recognition so that the puppy moves in reaction to your voice. It also has touch technology and is meant to be able to move in different ways depending on where you stroke it. So for example, if you stroke its head it should bark and move its head. Cookie also comes with a squeaky, squeezy purple plastic bone, just like a real dog's toy. Cookie has sensory recognition and is expected to turn her head to follow the bone if you wave it in front of her.
It definitely is a simple looking puppy toy that has a lot going on inside. It sounds rather exciting and I knew my niece was looking forward to it. So, as I won't be around for Christmas this year we decided to give it to her a week and a half early!
==**Unpacking & Setting Up**==
The puppy itself is securely tied up in a cardboard box with a clear front so when my niece unwrapped it she saw cookie straight away. What I found really funny is that Cookie comes with display batteries and she would not stop barking and whining. We tried to put it in the corner of the room where she wouldn't be disturbed by us walking past (sensory stuff obviously working well at the point!). She quietened down but did keep going off in the box. As the on and off switch is located on her tummy, it was impossible to switch her off! So a word of warning, if you by this as a gift for someone... hide it well otherwise they will hear the puppy noises!
Cookie was very easy to set up once we got her out of the box which was a bit of a chore. We need put some new batteries in straight away (4 C batteries) and the battery department easily unscrews. You should use a screwdriver but as my niece was in a rush we just used some scissors to unscrew it! Once we did this, cookie was alive and ready for action.
==** In Use **==
Cookie is incredibly soft and furry. The first thing my niece did was give it a little cuddle. One word of warning, just like a real puppy, the fur goes everywhere! I was wearing black jeans and I was covering in it. My niece was wearing black leggings and the strands of fur were all over her too. My niece even mentioned that it looked like she had a real puppy.
In terms of the life like actions, it is quite funny to sit there and watch my niece with Cookie as it wags its tail (quite fast) and make little barks and whines. It is responsive to the actions and sounds but not as smooth or reactive as I expected it to be. For example, Cookie should turn her head when you wave the bone in front of her. I can only assume that whatever the sensors sense has to connect directly because she sort of moves her head when she feels like it. We played with the bone and my niece tried waving it frantically and then just put it to the side pretending to make cookie bite for the bone, but no movement. Then when my niece but the bone down and went to pick up Cookie, suddenly her heard moved and she let out a little bark! The one bit that works really well is the touch recognition, when my niece strokes cookie on the head then she barks a little and moves her head from side to side, all be it rather slowly. Cookies tail also wags when she is being stroked and this wags quite fast compared to the rest of the moving actions.
I am aware that the touch technology is also in Cookies cheeks and chin, so depending on where my niece strokes her will depend on which way she turns. But it seems the instructions are rather clear, but in action it really is a bit random. Cookie does move, bark and whine like a real puppy. Just a much slower version. There isn't a direct movement that will make Cookie move a certain way (although I thought there would be). So for example, even though the booklet says move the bone from side to side to make cookies head move, it is a bit hit and miss when it actually works.
We did change the batteries to ensure that the display ones had not run out and making cookie move slow, but even with new batteries, cookie did work but was a bit temperamental in terms of when, how fast and in reaction to what.
The good thing about Cookie is that she is vocal which means my niece gets a response from the puppy. It keeps her much more entertained than just having a cuddly toy and lets her imagine run a bit wilder. If Cookie barks my niece takes it as a sign that she is hungry or thirsty. Sometimes she tells her off for being a naughty puppy and other times she cuddles and strokes it to make her feel better. The on and off switch is on cookies belly so when my niece takes her to bed to cuddle up with, Cookie is always switched off.
Cookies little smiley face is lovely and when she barks her little mouth opens to show a pink tongue, this is one of the best features along with her tail. Cookies front legs can also be positioned so that she is either standing up or lying down. So when my niece doesn't want to cuddle up with cookie we put it at the end of her bed like a really dog.
My niece was really excited about getting Cookie and it hasn't seemed to disappoint her. She hasn't let cookie leave her side since she has had her and so far cookie has been a robust little thing, taking all the knocks and bumps that a 5 year old could give it.
==** Positives **==
* Soft and cuddly
* Behaves like a real puppy without the real mess
* Barks and moves
* Great for imaginative play
* Puppy 'Babble' is quite funny.
* Can be switched off.
==** Negatives **==
* Fur gets everywhere
* Quite expensive (would be better if it walked)
* Cookies movements are a bit hit and miss
==** Price & Availability **==
At the moment this toy is in the top 10 Christmas lists everywhere, and this means that most toy stores are stocking it. From Argos to Amazon, Cookie is around. The price varies from between £45 t0 £55. I paid the average prices of £49.99 and bought mine from Very.co.uk.
I think the price is reasonable le because it is a modern toy that really has a bit of magic to it. I can't see my niece getting bored of it soon, because even if she isn't actively playing with Cookie, she ensures she is sitting nearby just like a real puppy.
It would have been better value if it walked, just to give it a bit of an extra benefit. I do think £50 is a lot of money to spend on one toy and this was my nieces only present from me apart from a little box of sweets.
The fact it does let my niece role play and be very creative, I think it is worth the money. I just wish the actions that Cookie made were a little more precise and a little bit more consistent so that it seemed slightly more real. But then again, I don't have an imagination of a 5 year old. So in my niece's eyes, Cookie is 100% real and we have to make her dinner too!
==** Overall **==
An expensive but interesting toy that wins because it allows interaction with my niece rather than just a cuddly toy. It is also worth pointing out that by having this Puppy allows you to see if your child will really sustain the upkeep of entertaining a puppy. Obviously having the real deal is a different story, but as a trial, this could work quite well. (Especially if you keep the on button on!).
Although I was disappointed slightly by the slightly slow movements of the puppy, my niece was thrilled and that is what is important.
All the perks of a puppy, except the walking part and it is quite entertaining hearing it bark and whine occasionally. It looks very cute and is very huggable. My niece has certainly brought Cookie into the family and she isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
(Cookie is suitable for ages 4 and upwards).
I randomly ended up winning this book after entering some random competition or another. I have never really looked at it, until I recently found it hiding in my wardrobe one recent spring clean.
** ACCESS ALL AREAS **
Access All Areas is a large hardback book with a strong embossed dust sheet. It looks like a great quality book and one that would look great on the shelf. The black cover is embossed with film show reels and celebrity bright glossy pictures. A bright yellow star on the front gives the idea that it is a picture about those who are classified as famous.
The book itself is a collection of celerity photographs and the stories behind them. It is a look at the behind the scenes of some of the biggest celebrity events and the reasoning behind them. Some of the photographs are unique shots that have never been seen before and some are the more famous shots but with the real story explained alongside it.
The photographs spans 25 years in the celeb world and has glossy photographs and stories on everyone from The Rolling Stones to The Beckham Family. One of the most interesting sections is the photographs and stories from The Nelson Mandela Concert.
It is interesting to look at the serious and in depth pictures that have been taken, but also the funny and bizarre acts captured on film. The Elton John section was quite good for this.
The book itself is glossy, interesting and a unique item you have on your book shelf.
** DAVE HOGAN **
The book is a collection of photographs by Dave Hogan, The Sun Newspaper celebrity snapper. This in itself should give you an idea of the style of the book. Not that serious and slightly tacky.
Dave Hogan originally began his career as String fellow's nightclub and then moved on to celebrities. Everyone from pop stars to politicians. He has a long career spanning 25 years catching cringe-worthy, special and interesting memories in one picture. He does have extraordinary access to the stars, due to his time in the industry and this has helped him to create the stories and behind the scenes information that is included in this book.
Dave Hogan seems to be most well-known for his clash with Madonna where she ran him over and the pictures were spread all over the world. 'Maimed by Madonna' was the headline and it created quite a stir in the media world.
He seems like the perfect person to dish the dirt on the celebrity pictures that have left us with questions time and time again. The book could be classified as an autobiography of Dave Hogan's life as a photographer but it doesn't go that deep. It is more of a look back on his most favourite encounters since he has been in the industry.
** RECOMMENDATION **
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the world of celebrity and seeing them 'caught' in the act or even just normal pictures that you might not see elsewhere. Plus juicy gossip that you may never know about unless you take a look at this.
It could also be a good resource for new photographers who want to go down this route. It would give them some inspiration and tricks of the trade. Especially how having a camera to hand at all times can mean the difference between catching a criminal or catching Take That!
It is a really professional looking book, Glossy, full colour and with some great page layouts. I probably wouldn't buy the book myself although I could imagine it being a nice gift for a creative sort of person into the celeb world.
** INFO **
Amazon Price: £17.00
Green Umbrella Publishing (6 Oct 2008)
Everyone around keeps going on about Yankee Candles and I hate to feel like I am missing out so I decided to invest in a couple of candles. They were nice, quite magical actually but I personally found that they did not burn for as long as I would have liked. I love the fact that Yankee Candles are infused with essential oils that really do spread around the room. So after reading about these wax tarts I thought I would give them a go.
** Yankee Wax Tarts **
In brief, these wax tarts are like a solid candle without the wick. A disc of wax that when heated turns into a liquid (like candles) and slowly releases whatever essential oil it is infused with. They burn for about 8 hours and cost about £1 each. They can be found on Amazon and various other places if you search for Wax Tarts.
They sounded great, but my issue was having something to burn / melt them in! I had loads of little jars to put the candle in to heat the tart... but nothing for the tart to go in when it turns to liquid. So I had a quick search around and found the perfect item. Yankee Candle Petal Bowl Wax Tart Burner.
** Yankee Candle Petal Bowl Wax Tart Burner **
Because of the 'Yankee' brand being so popular, I thought I would keep with it and find one of their burners. As they are the professionals I assumed they would have the most suitable product. I was really chuffed when I came across this on amazon.
The wax burner itself reminds me of a pretty tri-pod. (Although this has 4 legs!). It has two parts. The first part of the structure is a black frame with four legs, it has a base which a little tea light goes on and the legs curl inwards on the base to keep the candle in place. I like the fact that the tea light is slightly more secure because of this. The base has a few indents to the bottom which helps the whole burner stay in place, a bit like stoppers. So it won't slide easily along a table or get easily knocked off a side.
Then, on top of this frame sits a pretty, cream, petal shaped bowl, which is in a ceramic type material. It is quite heavy and very sturdy. It has a simple but classic design about it. The bowl is quite deep so I wasn't concerned about knocking it my accident and the hot wax falling out over the edges. It is also classic enough to sit anywhere in the house.
In my opinion, the bowel fits quite securely on top of the stand as it has a little groove which sits in the frame. It is obviously not as safe as an all in one burner but this is much prettier and easier to clean.
** In Use **
I loved how easy it was to set the burner up. Literally unpack from the box and pop the bowl on top of the burner!
The only slight downside is that it is a little tricky getting the tea light in its spot on the base, in between the curly legs. The space is a bit of a squeeze, but I do feel better knowing the tea light is more secure. The best suggestion I have is to use a jumbo match and light the candle when it is in place, rather than lighting it and trying to pop or drop it in place. If you have tiny hands, this may not be too much of an issue!
The bowl is very pretty and sturdy with quite a depth to it. Considering this, the wax tart melts pretty quickly because of the heat from the tea light. I was quite surprised because I thought it would take a while, but a couple of minutes and the wax begins to melt. On the flip side, once the tea light is out, the wax cools down very quickly. So it won't take long before you can pop the burner away or leave it knowing there is no danger of melted wax being tipped anywhere.
The top of the bowl is wide open, meaning the beautiful fragrances from the wax tarts dance around the room. At the moment the wax tart I am using is called 'Christmas Eve' perfect as it is Christmas Eve today! I love the fact that the wax tart gives off a stronger aroma than the candles (in my opinion) but you still get the little flicker of light from the tea lights. I find that a whole melted tart comes just under a half way up the bowl. So you use two tarts and create your own fragrance knowing there is plenty of room for the liquid, and no concerns about dripping over the edge.
Of course, this burner doesn't have to be used with Yankee tarts, it can be used with nay essential oils and it will work the same way. Another positive with this burner is that the bowl is incredibly easy to clean. Because of its smoothness and its lack of little grooves or creases, if you wanted to get rid of the hard wax, you can cut it out and lift it a little with a knife and then easily wipe it over with warm water. The same goes if you did use essential oils and wanted to give it a clean out, it's easily done. At about 12cm high the burner is big enough to be notices but small enough so it doesn't get in the way.
** Price & Availability **
I bought my burner from Amazon for £4.99 plus £1.00 postage and packaging. I think this is a great price and considering how pretty it is and how long lasting it is, the value for money is brilliant. Having a look at the other Yankee candle burners, this is a much simpler design but the others are also a lot more expensive.
There is also a Yankee website which you have a browse on and it shows their range of candles and burners. If you have a search for the burner online it comes up on lots give stores and home ware stores.
The burner I have is with a lovely, simple cream coloured bowll. But it is also available in Blue, Pink, Sage Green and Yellow. In my opinion, other than the sage green and the cream the other colours make the burner look cheaper and a bit tackier. This is of course just my opinion and some people may love the other colours.
As for the tea lights, they are relatively cheap and I got mine from pound land, they don't last long, maybe a couple of hours max, but by this time the wax tart has well and truly melted and the fragrance is floating around the room.
** Overall **
I absolutely love my Yankee tart burner and I would recommend to anyone who wants to try out Yankee tarts or who loves to burn essential oils.
It is great quality, cheap in price and looks stunning. I am already planning on buying this as a gift for 2 of my friends who are Yankee candle fans but have yet to use the tarts.
I think I will use this instead of the candles from now on as it is cheaper and I can try out more of the fragrances that Yankee have to offer while still getting my twinkle of light from the little tea lights.
My niece and I love making things together when I look after her. Coming up to Christmas we decided to make her my sister (her mum) and my mum (her grandmother) handmade Christmas cards. I thought it would be a nice idea and I knew it would keep her busy.
We already have lots of craft bits such as paper, feathers and sequins. The only thing we didn't have was child friendly scissors. Knowing my niece likes to be independent I knew she would want to handle the scissors herself with no aid from me. So to save the trouble I decided to look out for some child friendly scissors which she could use herself.
** Price & Availability **
I was originally going to buy these off Amazon as it was quick and easy. They cost £2.56 with free postage. But while out last week I popped into Hobby Craft to get my mum some knitting stuff and saw them in there for £1.19. A bargain! I am surprised as usually the internet has the best deals but this just shows that sometimes the high-street stores are worth a look at too.
** Crayola Straight & Zig Zag Scissors **
The pack comes with 2 pairs of safety scissors. A red pair that's cuts straight and a purple pair that cuts crinkly (zigzag). The scissors are made with chunky plastic but still feel light and easy for my niece to use.
The packaging states that the scissors will only cut card and paper, which is just what I wanted. When using them, the scissors go through the paper and card really easily. My niece manages to cut out squares without having to pull any of the paper apart herself and it did cut the card rather than just bending it like some blunt scissors do.
She was really pleased that she could do the cutting herself and after feeling the 'blade' it was not sharp at all so I had no issues in her taking control of them. They would never be sharp enough for her to cut herself and they wouldn't be any good at cutting hair either. Even though she doesn't tend to do this I know some kids do.
The fact that there are 2 pairs of scissors is great value for money. It also gives my niece something else to do as she likes using the crinkly ones just to cut out shapes and stick them on paper. She thinks it looks pretty and that's enough to keep her entertained.
** Recommendation **
These scissors are great value for money considering I bought them for £1.19. They cut through paper and card easily making me feel comfortable that my niece can use them.
They are made quite robust and the screw or pivot in the middle is sturdy enough to handle being dropped once or ten times. They are brightly coloured making them look tempting for my niece to use and they have helped her make two very pretty Christmas cards. Lots of zigzag edges seem to be her design.
I recommend these for anyone who likes their child to have creative time and to add to any art and crafts box. They are very child friendly and a great price.
** Other Info **
Suitable for age 3 and over.
I have come to the conclusion that using ice in drinks is a money saving technique. If you put 4 or 5 ice cubes in a class then you don't actually need that much drink to fill the glass up. I say this because fresh Mango and Orange juice is drunk it my house like it is going out of fashion. Even though I buy the own brand stuff I was feeling bewildered that the cartons were just being used in hours let alone days!
During summer I started filling the glasses with ice first and the cartons of juice literally lasted double the length, because we only used half the amount in the glass. A cheap trick but it works. The only problem was that it was hard to have a sip of the drink without getting my lip stuck to the ice or my teeth getting knocked by the ice! Quite frustrating yesterday when you have just has some spicy food and you need a sip of drink.
So I decided to buy some straws... I didn't actively think about it, I just saw them in the Tesco's while doing a normal shop and had a light bulb moment. A small one anyway.
** TESCO VALUE STRAWS **
These straws come in a pack of 50 for 18p. Yes, that is correct. 18p!!!! I cannot think of anything you can buy for 18p these days. A complete bargain.
The straws are the basic kind and are quite thin in size but sturdy enough to be flexible in the glass when knocking the ice about. They are white plastic with red, yellow, green or blue stripes and are just over 7 inches in height so brilliant for big or small glasses. They don't have the bendy bit at the top as some straw do, so they may be slightly harder for young children to drink from.
The straws come in a clear plastic bag that can be unsealed at the bottom and resealed again. I do prefer it when straws come in boxes so you can just leave them on the side and pull one out when needed. The re-sealable bag is also prone to letting straws slip out of the bottom if it isn't sealed up properly. But for 18p, it is hardly a complaint. I tenant to keep these in the knife and fork draw so that if the bag does split or isn't sealed properly, the straws won't go everywhere.
As drinking straws these are perfect. They let enough liquid in so no blockages, and are a good size for any glass. A perfect way for me to sip my drink with ease.
** OTHER USES **
These straws are such good value for money that they can be used for more than just drinking straws.
Because of the colours and the flexibility of them, they are great to create things with. My niece loves making castles and masks etc. from cardboard boxes, left over loo rolls and that sort of thing. So these straws are brilliant to add to her little materials box. She has used them to create whiskers on a cats mask and to create windows and doors on a house made from cereal boxes.
Other ways of using them with children is to throw a few down and play 'pick up sticks'. You have to pick one up at a time wherever they land, without any of the others moving. If it moves, you leave the straw where it is and it is the next persons turn. The person with the most straws wins! (This game can also be played with dry spaghetti!)
You can also use the straw to blow through and have racing games. You can blow bits of cotton wool or little marbles if you have them. Create a finish line or an assault course. Who gets there first wins!
I think the list could keep going, but when I was a child we used to put some watered down poster paint on some paper and blow through the straw making the paint move. If done with lots of different colours it makes a really nice bright picture.
One more use... if like in my house you have quite a few plants, you can use them to help the plants stand up. Just push the straw a little into the dirt and lightly tie the step to the straw with a little cotton. It will help the plant to stand up and a great alternative to bamboo sticks!
** OVERALL **
18p for 50 straws is an absolute bargain considering the amount of things you can use them for. 100% Recommended.