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My son is a typical boy and loves to get involved when we have to fix things or do DIY around the house. I noticed that he was really interested in trying to get to my tools after I had put them away and when I asked him why, he explained it was because he wanted to 'fix' a certain 'broken' toy. Much safer than letting him pretend to use the real thing, obviously it was time to buy him his own tools before he finally managed to access the real thing! The toy market isn't short of different play toy kits and tables so I spent a while looking for the best option. The specifications I had were that I wanted a whole set of tools and a tool table for my son to work on. I found this Home Depot 100 Piece Workbench in Toys'r'us for £49.99 and it had £10 off in the sale so I decided to give it a go. This tool table set is modeled on the American brand 'Home Depot' which is like the American version of B&Q so I felt confident that this set was going to be a good purchase, especially as I generally find role playing toys are overall better when they are made by American brands. The packaging matches the brand logo for Home Depot and I liked that on one side of the box you could actually see a selection of the tools. For a relatively expensive toy it reassured me that the quality of the tools looked good so I was happy to pick one up. There is assembly required for this tool table set. A selling point of this set is that it doubles as a travel set so I had expected assembly to be minimum if it was supposed to come apart to 'travel' frequently. It did take me a good half an hour to get everything ready though which was slightly annoying for my very eager son! But it does come with very easy to follow instructions and a nice touch is that assembly is done with only pieces of the tool set. So the bolts that hold the legs in place are the same bolts your child will use to play with, this is great because now my son gets involved with 'fixing' the table. When we first put everything up, I must admit I took a step back and was quite disappointed. When fully assembled the top of the tool bench is actually just the open case that you use to hold everything in when you take it away with you. The legs were made of thin plastic which weren't sturdy at all and overall the whole structure is flimsy and doesn't withstand play well at all unless it's propped against a wall. Every time my son would start to play the whole thing would tip backwards or the lid would threaten to fall forwards and shut. It was quite disappointing for my son. I propped it against a wall in our playroom and found my son got on much better with it that way. The support of the wall has prevented it tipping over etc and now my son can play with more confidence. However the lack of strength and stability in the legs is still a problem and the table wobbles all the time when played with. It's just not even remotely sturdy. And because of this and how long it takes to take the legs on and off, we don't use this as a travel set at all. It's not worth it. However that suits us fine because it hadn't been intended that way but if you are looking for a travel set, I wouldn't recommend this one. The tools you get are good because you get a good range of different tools. You get three tools which are battery operated so your child can get a really good role playing game going. The three like this are the torch, the power sander and the drill which has several exchangeable drill bits. The drill is good and you as the adult can replace the batteries easily but the other two require a 'battery pack' style clip on pack. It's beyond me why they have done this but you only get one battery pack for the two tools to share instead of them reasonably having their own. So you can't use both of them together. The problem is that it very stiff to remove and replace this pack so children wouldn't be able to do it anyway so to be honest this made me think all the pro's of having a selection of 'electric tools' were null and void. You do get a good selection of other tools including handheld screwdrivers which can share the drill bits with the 'electric' drill. You also get things like a saw, hammer and measuring triangle etc. You do get a good range of tools. You also get a selection of hooks to piece through the back of the tool table to help hang some of the toys on. However over only a few months of play these barely hold the tools up anymore. As well you also get a wide selection of nuts, bolts and screws and several other smaller pieces to help 'fix' things. The screwdriver, hammer and slightly larger tools are generally a good quality but the saw, measuring triangle and thinner tools are rubbish, they bend and buckle and aren't really good at withstanding play at all. Overall as a parent my opinion on this toy is that it's just very poor quality with no real thought behind it. All elements of the table have been disappointing with regards to quality and over time the tools show signs of wear quickly with the paint fading etc. However my son does enjoy playing with this set. It does exactly what it was bought for-gives him a way of fixing things and somewhere to do it. However even he loses patience with it frequently when the tools don't support his games very well or when the table keeps falling over and he just gives up trying to play with it. Sadly, most of this time this just collects dust as it's too much effort to play with! For £49.99 and a brand I expected more of I am very disappointed with this and wouldn't even remotely recommend it. If you are after a tool table, don't buy this one!
My son is your typical three year old in that he loves to play with cars and trains. In fact all of his other toys nowadays go unused in favor of his cars and trains. As this is a relatively new phase for us, I've really been enjoying searching out fun toys that he can play with while also using his cars. I realised that there is a huge gap in the toy market for toy car roads and car play tables. With toy trains, you can buy many different brands and types of train track for toy trains to drive along and lovely table sets with lots of tracks moulded on top to create a town to explore. But with cars there are virtually no versions of toy roads or tables that you can buy and play with unless you are going down the motorised route with Scalextrec etc. I spent hours looking for a road track or table that would slot together and allow my son to enjoy that element of play with his cars too and not just his trains. I had no luck with a road set but did come across this Step 2 Deluxe Train & Track Canyon Table in the process. The Step 2 Deluxe Train & Track Canyon Table is a very large multi function play table. The American brand 'Step 2' are one of my favorite children's brands because of their attention to detail and the innovative way they take standard children's toys (particularly role playing toys) and make them absolutely fantastic. You won't find a British toy brand that makes play houses and play kitchens like Step 2! We have had several of their items over the years and have never been disappointed, however their price is very high and unless you're prepared and able to break the bank then this isn't a brand for you. I keep a regular eye out for sales as that's generally the only time I can afford to buy from Step 2. This table was no different. The idea of this Train & Track Canyon table is that it acts as a play table which inside has roads and tracks with hills and bridges for your cars and trains to explore. It then doubles up as a normal table when you put the lid on. It was exactly what we wanted and the added bonus of being able to put the lid on and then use it as a table was great! The table itself is a large plastic play table, the main body of which is all one piece. When it arrives you don't need to do a huge amount of assembly but you do need to do some. Altogether it took me about half an hour to put it all up and to make it ready to play. The included instructions are clear and easy to follow and make the whole process very easy and understandable. The first thing you need to do is to attach certain parts of the track in place which are secured with small black plastic push screws. You don't need to screw them in place, just push them very hard. It's hard work doing all of them as there are about thirty to do, and your thumbs will hurt afterwards but I did it myself with no real bother. After this you need to attach the legs in place which does require some elbow grease as you need to pierce through the main plastic frame with proper screws. I couldn't do this myself and needed to wait for some help but the legs still slot in place and hold perfectly well without them in the interim. The most time consuming part of the set up was the stickers, there were so many of them and some are very long and difficult to place correctly. It's easy to follow the instructions with where they all go but as a lot of the track is bendy, I found some of the stickers didn't stretch and fit their parts of the track so in several places we do have small breaks where you can see the plastic as the stickers aren't long enough to meet in the middle. After you've done the stickers you're good to go! The track table inside is all made of molded plastic so you don't need to constantly set up the track all the time. This is great as my son plays with his constantly and would be quite impatient if I had to set it up every time!The tracks themselves switch between looking like train tracks and roads so your little one can enjoy playing with both inside. In fact the tracks are designed to fit all of the common toy car and train brands including Brio, Hot wheels, Thomas & Friends and Matchbox. This is great for us as my son has a wide selection of different brands and although Disney Cars are his favorite we found that most of them fit well too. Only larger characters struggle with the roads and tracks but then they can drive around the bottom level of the table where it's a clear cut out section so they can still be included somehow! Where the table is completely made from plastic, the separate lid is made from thick wood. It's very heavy in fact and we have to store it well out of the way because it's curved edges make it prone to falling over and if a child was playing nearby it would hurt if it fell on them! The lid is removed by a small finger hold in one end and is very easy on and off. I find it so useful that this track table can be put away so easily. When my son wants to play with it, it's all set up and ready and when he's done I can just put the lid back on and store his other toys on top. It's also great for storage inside too as we keep our cars and trains inside too. I generally find Step 2 products to be very durable and well made and this is no exception. The table may be made from plastic but it withstands the weight of children leaning on it and occasionally sitting on it. Although it's not designed for it, I don't worry about it collapsing under weight. My son also plays with great enthusiasm with his and I'm finding it to wear very well. We haven't yet had any stickers peeling or damage and we've had it for several months and it's played with on a daily basis. I also find it's very easy to keep clean which is great for me as it only takes a quick wipe and it's clean. Overall I couldn't be more pleased with this track table! Although train tables seem to be far more creative, with whole towns on top of them this is the only toy car suitable table I could find and we are very happy with it. It's the perfect height for small children so my son has no trouble accessing the tracks and roads and he spends hours playing with this. Price wise Step 2 sold them directly for £120+delivery however they have now stopped selling them and places like Amazon charge double that which is just simply ridiculous. Luckily Argos had a sale on their usual £159.99 price, making it £83.99 which is what I paid and I am very pleased with that price considering how highly I rate this. Overall this gets a very happy five stars!
As avid Disney Car fans in our house, we love to buy new Cars toys when they become available. Sadly the UK has a very poor range compared to other countries, particularly the USA, and what we do have over here is very expensive. This set is no exception. This Disney Cars 'Three Way tie' Cars set is quite simply a pack of ten individual diecast cars from the films. This particular set is based on the first of the Cars films, the scene when the original race is won by all three of the main competing Cars-Lightning McQueen, Chick Hicks and The King. It's a nice selection of cars that feature in that part of the film, even if they are classed as an 'extra'. Included in the set are: Finish Line Mcqueen Chick Hicks The King Red Mia & Tia Race Official Tom Tow Truck Darrell Cartrip Bob Cutlass Marlon Clutches McKay All ten cars are diecast which means they are made from metal, not plastic. If you've seen the individual Cars available in toy shops and the supermarkets-those are the standard diecasts which are produced by Mattel-those are the same as the one's in this set. The wheels are plastic but the main body work of the cars are metal, this makes them heavier to play with but overall better in my opinion. However the diecast cars aren't suitable for younger children. They do withstand play generally quite well but over time the paint will chip through standard play so it's best to stick to the diecasts when your child gets older. There are alternatives produced by the Disney Store and Fisher Price if you have a younger fan of the film which are more suitable. The standard of detail and the quality of the cars in this set is excellent. I've not yet been disappointed with a single Cars diecast, and we have hundreds! The paint work on the cars themselves is good quality and reassuringly the paint used doesn't contain lead as some toy cars do. The attention to detail on each car is also excellent, they match up perfectly to their on screen characters. Lightning McQueen is famous in this scene from the film for only being in the top three winning cars because he has to stick his tongue out to reach the finish line, his diecast in this set shows exactly this and he even features his two back tyre's missing-exactly as it is in the film. Chick Hicks and The King also show a huge amount of detail with regards to all the advertising and stickers that feature on their bodies-very well done and top quality. Mia & Tia are the same-their body work is top notch and although they are twins I like the way their eye's face different directions so you can tell them apart. The other cars in the set are cars which have generally less intricate detailing because that's how they are in the film. But they are still excellent diecats which perfectly match their screen characters. All the cars have their own facial expressions too dependent on what they were doing in the film at this point of the race-for example the racers are looking serious and Mia and Tia are looking excited. It's a touch that's typical of a true diecast and helps children to play out this scene at home. In fact my son always tells me that Finish Line McQueen always looks sad, so even this subtle element of detail is appreciated! As diecast cars, they do what it says on the tin. They are just cars with no extra features, just toy cars. But excellent ones at that! These cars are all the smaller 1:55 scale produced by Mattel and as mentioned before you can purchase them individually. You will pay approximately £5 per individual car in the shops so technically overall you're no better-or worse off for buying this set as it's priced at £49.99. None of the cars in the set are considered to be rare or hard to find characters so if you spend long enough looking you could chase these down yourselves. However Finish Line McQueen, Chick Hicks and The King are the most difficult to find of them all, I've never even seen a Finish Line McQueen or The King in shops. So you would look at paying about £10-£15 for them each on ebay so on that stance alone it's a little better for value. All of the other cars you will find easily sometimes in the Toys'r'us £2.99 sale. My son loves this set and plays with these characters a lot. Although it's expensive for a pack of ten toy cars, my son loves the Cars films so much and plays with his toys constantly so it's worth it. The quality is excellent and they are very durable. We have had our set for six months now and only a few show minimal chips in the paint work-the rest are still as good as when we first got them and my son does play with them in a rough way a lot! However I do appreciate that the cost is quite a lot. It's a Toys'r'us exclusive so if you buy elsewhere you will pay more (Amazon are selling them for £86.99!) but if you can catch the 'buy one get one half price' on Cars toys then it works out a little better in value if there is another item you want too. I give this product five stars. Excellent diecast standard as expected from Mattel, nice display box if you're a collector and if you are buying for children-as they are intended-then they won't be disappointed! I just recommend waiting for a special occasion (birthday or Christmas) to buy it for as a one off would make it a very expensive treat!
My three year old son is a huge fan of Disney Cars. If it's Disney Cars then it's what he wants to play with, in fact for months now all of his other toys have been collecting dust thanks to his love for this film and it's characters! You could say in recent times we have become collectors as we now search high and low for new cars and toys to add to our collection! In this time I have come to realise that the UK is especially poor when it comes to stocking Cars toys so I was very pleasantly surprised to see that this Disney Cars Radiator Springs World made it on the the shelves of my local Toys'r'us! Radiator Springs World is a play set based on the main town in the Cars film which is called Radiator Springs. It's the home to the main character Lightning McQueen and all his friends so I was very keen to buy this for my son so he could recreate what he has seen on screen. Because all of the first film and some of the second film is based almost entirely in this town it's great for little fans of the show to have the opportunity to set their own Radiator Springs up at home. Considering the Cars film was released years ago this is the first full town play set to be released here in the UK. I decided to buy this before I knew much about it. Simply because of how much my son loves Cars. But I did have some small reservations looking at the picture online as you can't really tell if it's going to be a good quality toy. Generally the Disney Cars diecast cars you buy of your favorite characters are very well made with excellent attention to detail, but the play sets and other toys seem to be mass produced to bring in as much profit as possible and don't live up to the same quality level. I ordered mine online and on arrival was disappointed to notice that the included Lightning McQueen car was made of plastic. Therefore not a proper diecast. Considering the set costs £49.99 I think they could have included a proper car, especially as Lightning is the most mass produced one of all of them and is always left on shelves-it's not like there isn't a huge surplus of them anyway! But never mind! Other than this the box shows the same image as above with a more detailed diagram on the back. Full assembly is required with this play set, which takes quite a long time. Every single piece needs assembling and the set does come with an instruction manual to help this process. The instructions themselves are clear and accurate enough to follow and we didn't find them confusing at all, which can sometimes be the case when a lot of assembly is required. The most laborious part of putting everything together was applying the stickers. This took as the most time of everything as there are so many. Overall assembly took us nearly half an hour before it was ready to play with which is important to mention if you have eager children by your side, like I did! I must admit from the second I opened the box I was a little disappointed with this but not to the point I regretted buying it. The different parts of the town were generally poor quality and flimsy and there was absolutely no attention to detail. But my son was so excited to play with it that I thought I would give it enough chance to redeem itself! The set consists of some of the popular area's of Radiator Springs including The Cozy Cone Cafe, Casa Della Tyres, Flo's Cafe, Mater's Junkyard, the Town Hall and Willy's Butte. It doesn't include Sarge's Surplus Hut, Fillmore's Tent, Lizzie's Curios Shop or Ramone's Paint Shop which are the other most popular places on the town's main strip. Willy's Butte is the largest part of the whole play set. Designed so that you can recreate the dirt racing scene's from the films. This part looks like a canyon and allows you to place a car inside and if you manually press down on the tall rock looking lever then a pushing motion ensues which pushes the car around the entire track section at speed. This is my son's favorite part of the whole set, he loves to sit and watch the cars go round and although it is a little noisy, the canyon itself is well made and the most durable of all the parts in the set. There is also the option to open a concealed barrier which will allow cars to escape down the hill on the side of the canyon and in to Radiator Springs. This is good because it means the canyon can be played with as a stand alone toy which is all inside or it can be used with other things when you let the cars finish their race by leaving. When the car does come down the ramp, if you have fitted everything together then it should land on the towns main road. Fitting everything together here is very easy as the road has hidden grooves underneath to allow everything to slot together. However the grooves are very shallow and they won't hold things in place for long, especially if being played with on carpet. The first part of the town you come to is the Town Hall. This doesn't do much but allows for Cars to go in and out by a garage door like opening. There isn't anything on the other side and it's not an enclosed building so it's quite a boring part of the set. It's also very flimsy, as it's made of thinner plastic with a stand at the back to support it. Which doesn't really support it when it comes in to contact with play. Next to this is Luigi's tower of Tyre's, which is a nice trademark of the town but doesn't have any features. It doesn't even come apart so you can re stack the tyre's. This section of the set is mostly for visual play, there isn't much interactive about it. Next stop if Luigi's Casa Della Tyre's which has a lift like operation for Cars when they need their tyre's changing. The building isn't the best representation of the actual place in the film but it gives enough similarity for younger children to know what it is. The lift isn't easy to operate from the back, especially by little ones but overall there is more you can do with this part of the set. It's also got several 'decorative' hooks on the roof which are forever coming off which is quite annoying. Next stop is Flo's V8 Cafe. This is my favorite part of the set. It's the most true to life part and is good quality and durable too. There is space for your cars to drive in and part up next to a gas pump for their food. It's spacious enough for this and my son has lots fo fun playing with his cars here. After this is the Cozy Cone Motel. A cute addition to the town as I've never seen any type of play set feature the Cozy Cone Motel before. It's where you send your cars at night time for sleeping and in the morning they get popped out ready to play by a small button. It's well made and durable but the plastic must be a different density because the stickers don't seem to like sticking to the outside so ours came off after only a play or two. Other than that we don't have any complaints about this part of the set and love to play with it. Finally the last stop is Mater's Junkyard. This features a claw like crane to supposedly pick up cars and move them around. This is very poor as the claw always comes out of it's clamp and is never held in place. It also is so weak that it barely holds any type of car, let alone has the ability to move it around. If you hold it together while helping with the pick up and moving motions then you can use it but getting it to work with a steer of the hand alone isn't enough to make it work. The junkyard is housed by a brown plastic fence which is very poorly made and barely stands up. It's too flimsy to do anything and comes apart frequently too. It's a nice touch to the set but again, if it interacts with play even a little bit then it falls over. Overall this set is a lovely set but massively over priced for the generally poor quality of the toy. However if you buy Cars toys you will have become used to the high prices as you won't get anything from the Cars range without a steep price. Sadly, and unsurprisingly this set also falls in line with the general knowledge that anything other than the diecast cars themselves tend to be shoddy in comparison. However my son adores this. He really loves to play with his cars and this set and because the parts of the town don't rely on each other to be played with, he can pick and chose what he wants to use depending on his mood which is great. The fact he loves playing with this so much redeems it slightly in my eyes however as the parent and the paying customer I do expect more for my money. Based on the quality I feel they could have included more of the main buildings from the film or generally made the whole play set a little better, with more attention to detail. Either of these would make it a justifiable £49.99 toy. Without these things the most I can give is 3 stars, and that's being generous! My son loves it and it's nice to have a whole town for our Cars but that is also helped by the fact we have other individual play sets to add to this. Without that I really wouldn't recommend you buy this, at least not until it goes in the sale! If you have a mad Cars fan like I do, then maybe it's worth the risk of buying but I would try and get it when Toys'r'us have an offer on it. I also recommend watching a youtube review which will actually help to show you the quality you will get. If your child is a take-it-or-leave-it type of Cars fan, then this is definitely one to leave.
As a huge Yankee Candle fan, I'm forever looking at the new scents when they come out. I have so many wax tarts still to use but when it comes to scented candles I just can't help myself, if I like the scent I usually buy it! That said, I haven't actually purchased a new Yankee Candle for a while. I hadn't been overly pleased with the last couple I got and had started using other brands. So when I saw this at the weekend I thought I would treat myself. I had actually smelt this in a shop earlier in the day and it was such a lovely scent that I threw caution to the wind and returned to the shop later that day to buy it. Fireside Treats is a very sweet marshmallow scent with a warm undertone. It's designed to smell the same as when you toast marshmallows and I completely agree, that's exactly how it does smell. However not in a sickly way. When you first smell it, the scent is very light and dusty as opposed to over powering, because of this I was interested to see how the scent level would change as the candle was burning. There isn't anything special about the packaging, it's typically Yankee with a thick, clear glass jar and lid and a photographic label. I particularly like the glass jars that Yankee use because you can see how far down you are, and how much of the candle you have used. Although the smaller size ones are a little too small and make it difficult to light the candle the further down you go. That's why it's best to use a candle lighter, not matches. When I first started burning my candle I was quite excited to see how the room would smell. The longer the burning time went on for, the more disappointed I got. After a good few hours I realised that this scent wasn't for me. I couldn't smell anything at all. The scent itself doesn't take long to be released, if you get very close you can smell it within half an hour or so. However the problem is that the strength is just so weak. Unless you are bent over standing over the candle, you won't smell anything and even then it's still such a light scent it's very weak. When you stand up, you will be lucky if you can smell anything at all. It doesn't scent the room either. I've had weaker scents in the past where you only get a very small trace of scent in the air but this is probably by far the weakest Yankee scent I've used. The scent isn't powerful enough to fill the room so really it's just a candle, not a scented one. To give the candle a fair go, I tried it in a smaller, less ventilated room in the hope that then there would at least be a small trace of the scent. No such luck. And I've now used this several times for long periods and seen no improvement. Ultimately this scent is lovely when you take the lid off and smell it, but a scent candle should by description, scent as the wax melts, which this one doesn't do remotely. I'm very disappointed that my first Yankee purchase in quite a while wasn't a good one. However I can't knock the scent itself, it really is lovely and I still genuinely like it. This is why I'm so disappointed that it doesn't fill the air when burning! It would be a new favorite if so! I like strong scent's, so perhaps it's my fault for picking something which did only have a light scent to start with. However I don't think my taste can take all the blame, if I could even smell something that would be better, but I can't. So sadly this Yankee Candle is only getting a two star rating and I still feel I'm being generous. The glass jar sizes that Yankee produce can all provide longer length of scent than their smaller tart and votive options. Whereas from a tart you will be looking at approximately 10 hours of scent life, with the jars this is much increased. A small jar will give you 25-40 hours of scent and the large jar will give you 110-140 hours of scent. The usual price for a small jar is £8.39 and a large jar will cost you £19.99, whereas a tart will cost you approximately 99p. Clinton's sell Yankee products and if you can buy their 'Scent of the Month' you get 25% off the price. This is how I bought mine, as it saves you a good amount of money as 'Fireside Treats' is the current Scent of the month for October. If you fancy giving it a go yourself to see if you get on better with it, then I recommend Clinton's as the retailer.
Appliances are one of those things I dread having to replace. I've had to replace my fridge freezer and my washing machine this year which makes for a very expensive year! If you want something that works well and gives you quality assurance then you are going to have to pay for it. After my fridge freezer stopped working I didn't have much spare cash for a new washing machine. So my shopping specification was being driven by price. Beko is considered to be a brand which cater for the budget ranges of appliances. I was a bit wary about getting one considering this but I had very little choice about it so it was a case of making the most of it as I didn't have the budget for a bigger brand. So I took the plunge and we now have the Beko WM5100. Ours is white but you can get it in silver and it will set you back between £169-£199 depending on which retailer you purchase from. As a parent to a young child, I do a lot of washing thanks to paint, tomato sauce, mud and other toddler related clothing marks! So I needed a machine that wasn't going to make this difficult or a lengthy process. I like that this model has a 5kg load capacity because this means I can get a good amount of washing in just one load. The drum is huge and I have to admit that my previous model didn't give me as much space as this for each load. It's helped me to wash more items in one go, so I would say on a weekly basis I've managed to save myself the equivalent of one extra load a week just based on the drum size. This is definitely a pro for me especially as the wash quality is no different between a full wash and half wash. Beko promote this machine with a key selling point being that it has 16 different program choices. I must admit we don't tend to use many of them, but there are various temperature settings for different material types including synthetics, cottons, woolens and delicates. You also have the option for a wash that mimics a hand wash, a rinse, a spin and drain and a mini wash too. The program that mimic's a hand wash is very useful for me, I like to wear a lot of chiffon style dresses and shirts of those sorts of materials, which are nearly all hand wash only. This cycle eliminates the laborious task of standing over the sink washing them by hand. The results aren't bad either, and are far better than I achieve myself. Other than this, the other programs are your bog standard ones, there isn't anything with this machine you can't do on others but for a basic model it gives you all the options you need. We tend to only really use the synthetics settings as I've found with experience this is where I get the best results. Especially when washing mixed loads of my sons clothing with different materials and colours etc. It's easier to wash them altogether and the synthetic settings allow me to do this. Choosing the program and setting the machine up for use is very easy. On the far left you have the drawer for detergent and fabric softener. It's very simple and straight forward to use. In the middle you have a single program dial where you select the chosen program. This is also very straight forward to follow. Then on the right hand side are the operation buttons and the overriding on/off button. The layout is also very simple and straight forward and there is a lighting panel underneath the buttons which shows you which stage your wash is at too. I find this is very useful towards the end of a wash for example because if I'm hurrying to get it out, or do something else with it, then these lights let me know if I'm able to open the door and change the setting. Overall I find that although the operations are basic, the use of the controlling panel is simple and straightforward which helps if you live a busy day to day life. Considering this was one of my purchasing specifications, I'm pleased that this is something that doesn't lengthen the process. Lets be honest though, the main reason we have a washing machine is to wash clothes. My opinion on this model is that it does a good job at washing and cleaning clothes. I've never taken anything out after a wash that hasn't been cleaned during the chosen cycle unless it's a heavy stain. I'm very pleased with how clean our things come out, but to be honest I do have to now use more washing gel and fabric softener with this machine. I started using the same amount as I had used in my previous machine-the amount specified on the packaging, for example one ball filled with persil etc and a cap full of fabric softener. To get the clothes smelling nice and clean I have to use quite a lot more than this as some how using this machine removes the scent of the cleaning products unless you use a heavy amount. I know the drum is bigger so more would be required but it is a marked difference in the amount I now have to use to get this affect. But overall once I've done this then the washing comes out really nice and clean. The problem lies with the spin cycle after the wash. This is where I am very dissatisfied with this product. This machine has a 1000rpm spin cycle. This doesn't dry clothes. At all. After every single wash I have to manual change the program setting and run another separate spin and drain in order to dry my clothes enough to take them out of the machine. Without doing this the clothes come out literally sopping wet as if you've just held them under the tap! It's messy and annoying and takes ages for them to dry like this. In fact unless you are prepared to run a separate spin cycle after each wash, then don't buy this machine. The affect after running another program to spin and drain is satisfactory. Some heavier items still come out retaining more water than I would like but it's an improvement on the level of water retention after the normal wash settings. I find this is a real problem with this machine. I don't want to have to run an extra setting after each wash, I feel it should dry the clothes to enough of a standard that they can actually be removed from the machine without covering the floor in water. Sadly it's not the case. Considering this machine has been rated A+ for energy efficiency, I feel that this feature is cancelled out by having to run the separate spin and drain after each wash. Bearing in mind that each wash ends with it's own spin and drain anyway, having to then add another one afterwards can't be that great for the environment! The other down side to this machine is that it is so noisy when in use. If we are watching television or listening to music when in use, we always have to increase the volume to hear above the noise. My next door neighbor has commented that he can hear my machine when in use, that's how noisy it is. And it shakes so much too that the noise increases. I now try and do our washing when we are going out so we don't have to listen to it. Evening washing sessions are now a thing of the past, it's too noisy to use in the evening. Overall I would say I am satisfied with this machine. I rest firmly in the three stars category and even then I feel that's generous. I'm not dissatisfied with this machine as for a budget model, when you learn what program and use method works for you then you will find you get nicely cleaned clothes. But it's far from the best machine I've had and the noise is problematic and having to run a separate spin cycle drives me nuts. My advice would be if you can afford a better model then don't buy this machine. If you're on a budget it's a fair enough machine, it's just not the best.
I started using Benefit make up products when I was still at school over ten years ago. The draw at the time was that although they were premium cosmetic brand, Benefit targeted a younger buyer with their packaging and marketing so at the time it suited me well. Now I'm in my mid twenties and I feel too old to often indulge in Benefit cosmetics. Too many times I've stood at their wonderfully girlie and indulgent counter, all full of the familiar excitement at buying their products, until I've looked over and seen the other customers are so much younger than me. I can practically feel the years adding up as I slowly put my intended purchase back and slowly blend in to the background! When I saw this mascara in the shop I was so impressed by the stylish packaging, which was modestly black and white and unusually lacking the usual Benefit glitz in design. Having heard great things about it, I purchased one immediately and threw my previous caution to the wind! Benefit 'They're Real' is now the UK's number 1 selling Mascara and I can understand why because it's by far the best mascara I've ever used. From the first time I used it and every time since, I'm never disappointed with it and I have no intention of trying any other variation of mascara for the foreseeable future. The Tube itself is a slick and metallic tube and the usual size is 8.5g and costs £19.50 but you can also buy a smaller travel size which is 4g for £9.50. I bought mine from Boots, and I usually do because it all helps add up with advantage card points but this is now widely available in most shops that cater for cosmetics, and you can also buy online. Benefit claim that 'They're Real' lengthens, curls, volumizes, lifts & separates lashes. The mascara has a spiked wand instead of the typical brush head that you find in most other mascara's. This can look a bit daunting when you first see it, as it's far from delicate looking! The wand also has thinner spike on the rounded tip too which is designed so that you can also coat the very tiny, inner eyelashes near your tear duct. A smaller wand would usually be needed for this because of the difference in these lashes, but Benefit have just covered the tip which works really well. The affect of this is that when the mascara is fully applied, if you have also coated the very inner and outer lashes as well then you will have a much wider looking eye (check out any make-up application guide!). The colour of the mascara isn't anything revolutionary. It's jet black, just the same as every other black mascara but the thickness of it is different as the texture is a lot more dense. When you are wearing it, you can definitely feel this difference on your lashes at first. If you've never used a thick mascara then you may want to start with a small amount of this as it will make you feel like you've caked your eyelashes out if you aren't used to heavy eye make up. But after a short while, you get used to it. Now it has the opposite affect and when using a normal density mascara, my eyes feel (and look!) naked! Benefit recommend that you position the wand horizontally and wiggle brush from side to side starting at the base going to the tip. This step will help to achieve maximum volume, length & lift for your lashes. They then recommend you hold the wand vertically, using the small spikes on the tip and stroke upward to curl and separate lashes. This is pretty much what I do when applying. I however don't do the second step of using the tip on a daily basis, that stage is just for special occasions when I want the extra 'wow' factor in my make-up. The first step is enough to give an excellent coverage for day to day wear as the spikes on the main wand section also separate lashes too. I find this process can take longer than when using previous mascara's. I put this down to the thick texture, if you don't brush it out through your lashes then it's not going to look good and will cause your lashes to clump together. So you do need to spend time on the application, it's not a quick application product. But the results are absolutely worth it! Although slightly more time consuming than normal, the application is easy once you've got the right technique, which of course will be different for everyone depending on how you like your lashes to look. I tend to find that for day to day wear, one coat is plenty and still gives the required finish. When I'm going on a night out, I will apply several layers which really increases the affect and volume of my lashes and really gives a false lash look-which is exactly what this mascara is designed for. I'm lucky that I have naturally long eyelashes anyway but I've also worn false eyelashes in the past and can say I wouldn't ever bother with them again now I have this as you can get the same affect, if not better from this. The increase in volume, even with just one coat is huge! And one coat will last all day without the need for reapplication. I tend to find that if I try to reapply too frequently then it has the opposite affect and weighs the lashes down. So once I've applied the right amount, that's it for the day, I don't even consider needing to reapply. Because of the thick nature of the mascara itself, the downfall of this is that it's a nightmare to get off. It's definitely a morning after panda eye mascara if you forget to take it off before bed! I think I've nearly terrified my poor postman a few times when he's knocked on the door a little earlier than expected! Generally most make up removers will remove it, although you do need to put some elbow grease in, particularly if you've used multiple coats. It does come off, it's just more stubborn than most mascara's. Being that it's not waterproof either, I wouldn't advise forgetting to take it off before a shower or bath. The water does something to the consistency and it almost dye's your skin and THEN getting it off afterwards is when it's near impossible. You have to rub your eyes hard to remove it from the skin. So try not to forget to do it first! The only other downside to this is the price however considering it's a counter cosmetic it's still quite fairly priced for it's market. If you don't buy counter cosmetics the price may seem high but if you look at top end counter brands like Estee Lauder, Clinique etc then it's still fairly priced. However because it's thicker than most mascara's you do get through it quicker. I have to buy a new tube every other month which is the fastest speed I've ever got through mascara. But even then I wouldn't change to another product. I've never been happier with a make up product than this, the affect is literally amazing and I always get compliments on my eye make up and recommend it to everyone I know. If you aren't keen on heavy eye make up, then this probably isn't the mascara for you but I recommend everyone else gives it a try because the difference is huge, and worth every penny!
My son has just turned three and his attention span is slowly increasing which is something I want to continue to encourage. It's taken him longer than other children his age to learn to concentrate as his sensory disorder means his brain sometimes struggle to let him focus on things. So over the last few months, as I've noticed him playing for increased periods of time I thought a good way to continue this was to start looking for games. Until this age, my son has only really had toys and puzzles. No actual games to speak of. So as I started researching I realised that appropriate games for his age and stage of development where going to be a little harder than imagined to find. But luckily I found this lovely game in the Early Learning Centre! Priced at £15 and available in store or online, I had been slightly put off by the price but decided that my son always love to play 'posting' games so at the very worst he could just use it as a toy. The packaging was great for children as it's bright and stimulating however there is no description of the actual game on the packaging. I didn't find this very helpful and felt like I was taking a bit of a risk by buying it as I didn't know the actual game strategy or whether it would be suitable for my son. Even though I did go ahead and buy it, I had reservations because of this and knew I would be keeping the receipt handy in case I needed to return it. Luckily the instructions for game play are satisfactory at explaining the game rules, although I did find them a little confusing at first too. 'Pop It In The Post' is a post box themed game with several game variations to chose from. The set contains a large red post box with bright yellow lid, which opens with a key style lock. You also get six letters, six envelopes and matching matching stamps as well as two large dice. All items are made from plastic with lively and bright colours which is great for helping to stimulate little minds. The letters and stamps also feature different animal characters for the game. The idea of the main game is quite simple and can be played with multiple players. You share out the letters equally and then each player takes it in turns to roll the two dice. The dice themselves are different, the first dice corresponds to the colour and character of the envelope and the second dice corrosponds to the number and colour of the stamp. The aim of the game is to first get the right envelope to match your letter, which is done by matching the colour and animal. Once you have the letter in the envelope, you start to work for the stamp. When your letter has it's matching envelope and stamp it's ready to post. The first person to get rid of all their post wins the game. The great thing about this game is it encourages colour recognition and also uses numbers too which are shown on the stamps and envelopes to help children match them correctly. It also encourages fine motor skills because the envelopes have quite narrow slots for the letters so young children need to concentrate to put them in properly. This is the main game for 'Pop It In The Box' however there are other ways you can play it, for example my son plays it as a one player game where we just have the aim of the game for him to get rid of all his letters and the principle still works. You can also use it to play with as a toy as opposed to a game which is great for role playing. Younger children can just post individual pieces too which will help with fine motor skills again. This game is suggested for 18 months and upwards however I can't imagine an 18 month old being able to play the game, just with the pieces. Until your child can fully understand the concept of turn taking games etc then I advise you wait until then to invest in this. However when you are looking for first games, I highly advise this one. My son loves it and I'm confident that he's learning while he uses it. The simple nature of the game is great for pre school ages and we have lots of fun playing with this. With regards to the actual pieces, they are quite durable, which I'm happy with. The envelopes and letters are strong and withstand heavy play very well. The post box itself is large but lightweight and the quality doesn't feel top notch but so far ours has lasted very well and it still looks good. The dice however feel cheap and not very well made but that's not too much of a problem and doesn't affect game play. Overall I give this product four stars, I would love to give it five stars but there are a few downsides. For example the game itself is colour orientated and there can be some confusion for example when the turn comes to match the blue stamp with the blue envelope, the yellow stamp is also heavily blue in colour too which is difficult for child to understand. And the point about not having game details on the packaging and the dice too means it can't quite have a full five stars. However we do love this game, my son enjoys it and it keeps him engaged which is the main thing. It's definitely a good educational toy, just a little on the pricey side when full price with all things considered.
My son has always been quite tall for his age so by the time he was almost two years old we found that our needs from a pushchair had changed. We had an excellent pram that he had been in since birth but as he got older we found his legs were reaching over the end of his seat and the previously very comfortable looking seat area, now looked like he was having trouble squeezing in to it. It was also bulky and took up a lot of space in the boot. By this age my son was fully mobile too so addressing our new needs we decided we needed something that wasn't restrictive for leg length and something which was more suitable for a toddler and young child, not a baby. After doing some research-mostly online but also I spent a lot of time trying to look at other people's too! There is no better review for a pushchair brand than seeing lots of the same one's being pushed by Mum's and Dad's! I quickly realised that what we needed was a stroller and decided on a Maclaren because of their high reputation. We chose this Quest Sport Stroller in a champagne and black colour. Cream colours had previously put me off buying prams/strollers as the parent in me thought about the amount of marks it would get but really liked the overall look of this one so I chose to forget my concerns and go ahead and purchase it. We paid £149 for ours from Kiddicare, I think there was a sale on at this point but I see it's now risen to £185 as the normal retail price. The packaging was very good and protective. A simple long cardboard box-no frills style. But it did the job and kept the stroller safe inside. There wasn't a huge amount of assembly needed which was a plus. Especially as our sons first pram had needed full assembly. This Quest Stroller came almost fully assembled, we just had to put the wheels on really and a few minor pieces. It literally took less than five minutes and it was ready to go. I was pleased with this, as for an expensive product I think it's important that we shouldn't have to do all the work! The work that we did need to do with the wheels etc was very well instructed in the instruction manual, which was clear, concise and easy to follow. My first impressions were very good, especially with the colour. The champagne coloured parts of it, had a sort of tone that wasn't metallic but was darker than expected so I felt confident it wouldn't be too easily marked. And over time this has shown to be true. We use this on a daily basis and we haven't got any horrible marks on ours at all and the colours still look as lovely as the first day we had it. The stroller itself has the ability to give your child the choice of four seat positions. All are an extension of the sitting position. So unlike a pram, there isn't an option to fully lay down your child. The first position starts as the standard seat back, sitting aid. And there are then three other reclining levels that can be used to allow your child to sit further back. I find this useful because my son doesn't sleep if we go out anymore, he's too old. He may nod off and doze slightly for a short period so being able to tilt him back is helpful for me to be able to make him comfortable. I actually like that there isn't a fully flat position available because it would encourage my son to sleep during the day, which at three years old isn't something I want to encourage or he wouldn't sleep at night. So the four seat positions that the Quest Sport has, are perfect for us. The leg support is also excellent. Usually the bottom part of the stroller just folds down to support from behind the knee and then your child's feet will rest on the attached foot support which is made of thick black rubber. However a very useful part of this stroller is that the leg support area is adjustable and extendable. This enable you to lift the bottom flap up and extend the seat in front of your child. This is good when your child is younger and it's more comfortable for them to sit with their legs rested out in front of them, as opposed to hanging down in the usual sitting position. However I still find it useful now for my son even though he's older, when we are out and about if he's having a snack, or playing with a toy because it gives him more leverage to hold things and keep things where he wants them. All you do is lift the bottom flap, and use the slide bars which are nicely concealed and click it in to place. Occasionally this is a little tricky to do as sometimes the weight of your child's legs on top counter acts the ability to use the bars, but that's such a minor, quickly solved problem that it doesn't affect my high opinion of this stroller at all. The overall comfort level for children is very high. The bottom seat pad is padded enough to be comfortable but not overly full of padding so it would loose it's shape and thus make it the opposite. It's comfortable and practical. My son is always comfortable in ours and I don't ever worry that he's not. It's supportive for his back and legs and I am confident in it's comfort levels. The Quest Sport also comes with an attached water resistant hood which is useful to help protect from drizzle or bright sunshine. The hood is a good size but with the regular sitting position it won't usually cover your child enough to protect them from these weather variations. As my son is taller, it can help cover his face from drizzle, but that depends which direction we are walking really. Overall it's not good at protecting from rain and it doesn't keep the sun off his face either. Obviously if it's raining I will instinctively put it up, but it doesn't do a lot. It's very easy to extend. It only need you to push it and then to lock it in place you push the extending arms down in to a straight, locked position. It takes a second. The best use we have found for the hood is when it's not used (most of the time) it acts as a deep pocket and if my son has snacks etc, then I find it easier to put them in here and hand them to him than keep reaching in to his bag! I know it wasn't it's intended use but it works for me! The back of the hood also has a clear, plastic window which allows you to see your child if they are in the furthest reclined position. This is a nice extra for keeping an eye on sleepy children. But the majority of the seat positions don't work with the window. Luckily when the weather is bad, particularly for the winter, the Quest Sport comes with a rain cover. This hooks on to the stroller on six places and is quick and easy to put in place. My son doesn't like having the rain cover on so we don't use it too often but when we do it fully protects him for rain and snow and keeps him nice and warm inside. The down side to the rain cover is that it is quite restrictive on your child's legs and doesn't leave them a lot of space to move their legs, I think that's what my son disliked about having it on. All that said, I still think it's added value including the rain cover, especially if you are outside a lot. Another great bonus for parents is the shopping basket underneath the seating area. It's a net style basket and is a good size, so it's perfect for shopping and baby bags etc. It's a very flexible material so it can hold even more than it shows by adapting to shapes. Permanently attached, you don't have to worry about it coming off-the way I had to with my sons first pram! It's not a huge basket but it's big enough for day to day shopping and trips out etc. With regards to how well it steers, it's truly excellent. It's very reactive to the slightest amount of steering and the wheels easily follow where you are trying to get them to go. You don't need to put a lot of weight behind it, or work hard. It's a very easy and comfortable stroller to push. Even with an older child inside, the weight doesn't affect how little work you need to do, which is really what makes it an excellent stroller. The wheels are smooth and lightweight enough to react well to your pushing and I don't have any problems in smaller places with maneuvering it around. The soft grip areas of the handle bars mean you can easily push hard if needed without hurting your palms (up hills etc) but overall you really don't have to work hard with this stroller. Likewise the brake system is very easy to use. There is a red lever just above foot level which you flip down with your foot to activate the brakes, and flip up to release them. Again it's a simple, second long operation. Very easy and very durable and you don't need to bend down to use it. When the brakes are in use the stroller won't move at all. Maclaren promote the fact that their Quest range (both the Sport variation and the non-sport variation) have a one hand fold down system. I find you can do it with one hand but it is easier with two-but that's because I'm not the strongest woman in the world! When you are putting it up it's best to hold both handle bars and all you do is rest your foot on the bottom bar behind the shopping basket, push down and voila. It takes a second. Likewise when collapsing the stroller all you do is hold the handlebars, and instead of pushing the bar down you push it upwards from the underneath and push it inwards to collapse it fully. The stroller responds to a small amount of pressure so it's another part of using it that is very easy and lightweight. A very quick and speedy process, one of the other reason's we bought it actually, it had the smallest amount of time needed to put it up and collapse it compared to many others we were shown. When fully collapsed, there is a simple latch that keeps it folded in place. When this happens it's a slim rectangle shape which will fit in even the smallest of car boots. It takes up very little space and is so lightweight to get in and out of the car. I find it very useful that it takes little space when it comes in and out of the house too as you can store it in the cupboard etc and not worry it's going to take up too much room. The only downfall of the whole structure is that when folded, the wheels rest against the inside of the hood. So if you've been somewhere in bad weather or it's muddy, the wheels mark the inside of the hood, which can then be seen the next time you go out. It's probably the only thing I don't like about this stroller. I don't have time every time I use it to clean the wheels before I put it away. We have had our quest Sport for just over a year now and I am still thrilled with it. It's everything I needed from a stroller-it's light, quick and easy to use, it's steering is fantastic and it's comfortable and safe for my son with it's excellent five point harness. Although it costs more now, I would still pay it's current price tag as it's worth it in durability, efficiency, it looks good and it helps me carry my shopping too! Although it's not perfect, with regards to the hood not really protecting from the elements and the viewing window not being always available to use-overall I still give it 5 stars because everything else is quite simply excellent!
I'm a huge scented candle fan. I love to try new scents but have some firm favorites too. Especially in the winter I love nothing more than filling my house with wonderful, cosy smells and I often get compliments on the way my house smells! However with a toddler in the house, naked flames are particularly dangerous. My son has a magpie like attraction to anything that he shouldn't, as most three year old's do! So I decided to browse for an alternative to my traditionally scented candles. The brand I found is an American brand called Scentsy. I must admit in the scented candle area, the American's are by far the most superior but I hadn't come across Scentsy before. After doing some research I found out that Scentsy are a home party company here in the UK, although in the States their products are much more widely available. Much the way we have Body Shop or Anne Summers Parties at home, with a rep coming to showcase the products-Scentsy works the same. However there is one key difference with Scentsy products compared to other Scented Candle/home scent brands. Their key point is that their systems are wick less-genious! I must admit that when I first read about their warmers, I knew I wanted one but the £35 price tag did put me off. Although Scentsy are a home party business, you can buy their products from the agents/reps online on their personal websites-so you don't necessarily have to have a party to get the goods! But they don't have one overall website here in the UK to buy from. Being able to buy online is good for me as not many of my friends share my huge love of buying scented candles so a party was out of the question. I toyed with the idea of buying a warmer until my birthday last year when I gave in to the urge and bought one with a few first choice scent packs with my birthday money. Scentsy's burner works without a naked flame. You just plug it in to the mains and it runs on electricity. This warmer is called 'Fizz' and features a circle/bubble pattern on bone finish porcelain. It's a beautiful soft white colour and comes with the separate dish, which you place on the top of the warmer to hold your chosen scented wax. When plugged in and turned on the light from the included bulb glows a lovely golden glow too, which shines through the holes in the warmer to act as a light as well. Quickly the bulb lights the heating pad underneath the dish and the wax melts quickly and releases the scent. When mine arrived I was pleasantly surprised with the size of the box. The packaging was simple but showed the Scentsy logo in white and purple. The burner itself was very well packaged and protected. Posting anything fragile worries me, so I was concerned how this would fair but it comes well packaged and I needn't have worried at all. The warmer comes with a a USA compatible wall plug, but with a special adapter which you need to clip around the end to transform it to fit our UK sockets. This takes seconds to do and is very easy and well instructed with the included instruction manual. The bulb comes already fitted inside so it's ready to go as soon as you've plugged it in. The whole process is very quick, with barely any assembly required. These burners can burn any type of scented wax, so you could combine it with a Yankee Candle wax tart or other branded scented wax object. I use mine with Scentsy wax packs which are small packs of cubed wax which come in a variety of scents. You just pop out a cube or two, heat them and enjoy the scent. I was also pleasantly surprised at the speed in which the warmer melts the wax-much quicker than with a tea light in my previous flame burner. This is lovely because I don't need to wait long for the scent to be released! Another reason I rate this warmer highly is because no matter how long it's been on, it wouldn't ever burn my son if he touched it. The warmer conducts the heat so well, the only part that would cause a burn is the heating pad underneath the dish but that is only directly accessible if you remove the wax dish itself. When it's in place the heat pad isn't even in sight, which gives me reassurance when we have it on during the day that there won't be any accidents! Cleaning the dish is also very easy. When you have finished with your chosen scent you just pour the wax away and wash the dish with warm/hot water. Although you do need a good technique to do this quickly as it's a bit difficult to wash the wax off from between the bubbles in the porcelain once it's dried, which is why you need to move quickly to wash it when it's still melted. I've had my burner for almost a year now and I couldn't be more pleased with a purchase. I've not had any problems with this, it's worked perfectly with no problems and we use it almost every day. It's an excellent candle alternative, which is exactly why I bought it! I love the soft lighting level it gives out in the evenings and I find the scent level of the Scentsy wax to be strong and long lasting so combined together I'm a complete Scentsy convert! Although Scentsy products are expensive, they last far longer than others on the market and this warmer is an excellent example of that! If you too love scented products then the best thing to do is a google search as it will bring up local Scentsy rep's and their website where you can browse the range and decide if you want to purchase one too!
Until this year, I'd not owned a printer for longer than I care to remember. My household isn't one in which we do a lot of home printing and in the past I'd always worked in an office where we were allowed to do the odd bit of personal printing if needed. However over the last five years or so, I've become a full time Mum and had to rely on using friends printer's when needed. And most of my bank statements, bills, correspondence and general paperwork now come through my in-box not my letter box and I decided it would be a good decision to invest in our own. The main specification for our printer was that it needed to be the lowest cost to maintain. That was it. I wasn't overly happy about having to buy one at all but it had become a need, although not a want. Therefore I certainly didn't want to be shelling out a fortune on something that would only be used rarely.When we went in to the shop, that's what I told the sales assistant and he showed me this Kodak esp 1.2 printer along with another non-brand printer. After explaining I needed a printer with cheap ink, he advised me of this one. The sales assistant told me that Kodak claim to have the cheapest average print cost per page. And although it wasn't the cheapest in the shop, perhaps the second cheapest, I decided that long term that was the main thing. I bought ours in the January Sales and paid £50 for it (the non brand was about £5/£6 cheaper). I was happy with this cost as £50 was my budget, and the esp 1.2 is also multifunctional and can copy and scan too which seemed to give me more value for my money. The packaging was impressive-nice and bright, and gives the impression you could print a picture with the same quality. And the printer itself was packed safely and was well protected. The instructions were well laid out and clear to understand and the software was easy enough to find in the box. First things first, you need to use the power cord supplied and turn the printer on. The small screen gives you prompts which is helpful to accompany the instructions when setting up. At the same time you install the software on your computer. A key point about this printer is that it's a wi-fi printer, so it didn't need connecting with a manual cord at any point during setup. This is helpful because we don't have a PC, just a laptop in our house and therefore we don't have many PC/Computer type cords laying around. To connect the printer to your computer or laptop is all done via wi-fi. It's very quick and an easy process and only took a few minutes. The software installation is done via the supplied disc and is also a relatively quick process. Within 15 minutes the printer went from fully boxed to fully working-all good so far. A major selling point for me with this printer was that you got a full color and a full black cartridge included with the printer. However during the set up process the test print that the process requires uses quite a large amount of ink, albeit on one page. It still seemed a bit odd to use so much. I didn't think anything of it and just happily printed out my first letter. The printer itself is all black, this is another thing I liked about it-I'm not keen on silver. It also has very few buttons, which is always useful with a toddler in the house with a magpie like attraction to any sort of button. The buttons are simple, clearly labelled and it's very easy to use. Especially when copying, it's literally a two button process. The quality of the scanner is good enough, I never had any trouble with it. Far from the best I have used but considering I never really use a scanner, I was happy enough with it's quality when I did need to use it. The copying process was also good, however the overall print quality depended greatly on what you were printing, so although copying was easy, the quality wasn't always great. Which was exactly the same when printing anything. I found that printing basic letters etc and only using the black ink was quite good. I was always pleased and never disappointed with it. However the colour printing was very hit and miss. The quality would again be better if more on the basic side of things for example printing a postage label that was mostly black with one or perhaps two, small area's of colour. However ask it to print a picture and you're pushing the limits. I quickly realised the printer was not only Kodak's basic model, but a printer designed for only basic printing. However I could deal with that I suppose. Most of what I needed to print was almost always mostly black ink (letters etc) so I never really printed anything detailed in colour after that first try. The speed of printing however is painfully slow. No matter what you are printing, the speed is like watching paint dry. More than it's lack of actual colour printing ability, it was this that I found frustrating. As well as this I found it frustrating how long the printer took to come to life after being turned on and after only a few months I was quite disillusioned with the printer overall. The really annoying time came when the cartridge needed replacing. The colour cartridge, despite being hardly used, lasted no time at all. And the black ink was almost out too so I bought both. The process of changing the ink was very quick and simple, you lift the top lid, push the old ones out, pop the new ones in and voila. I was hoping for a better experience with new cartridges-no such luck sadly. After this the printer never really worked again properly. For some unknown reason the printer started to pull the paper in at an angle, something I couldn't rectify. So at first everything printed at an angle, but over time the slant got so bad the printer wouldn't even print anything, just suck the paper in, chew it up and spit it out blank. By this time I had had it for 6 months and lost the receipt too so I couldn't even take it back for a refund. Fast forward to now-I have a dust collecting printer which doesn't work, lasted for one ink cartridge worth of ink and cost me £50 for the pleasure. It wasn't great when it worked and the only thing I felt was really good was the price which clearly in turn, became it's downfall. I know others have had similar experiences although the majority tend to be happy with this printer. My advice? If you want a decent printer, pay decent money. And if you do buy this one, be aware it's a budget model and only operates to that standard.
I have to confess to watching an insane amount of animated television these days. Believe it or not, since my son was diagnosed with Autism and having a sensory disorder, we were actually encouraged to keep the television on in the background when we are at home as it helps to center his attention. One of the by products of this is that as he's getting older he's crossed to the dark side and decided he likes...Thomas The Tank Engine. Gulp. Now, I'm partial to a bit of Mickey Mouse. Heck, I quite like Disney Cars, Despicable Me and the other Pixar films. But Thomas The Tank Engine? I can't stand it. In fact, it makes me grimace! I have no idea why, especially since my own family tell me that as a little girl, I too adored the good old steam engine that seems to befriend us all at some point. Maybe I watched it too much as a child and subconsciously I had my 'Thomas' fill in a small number of my early years? Who knows? All I do know is that I can't stand it! (I jest!...a little....) The happy medium for our household has been to buy Thomas Toys and make sure the DVD's occupy Nana & Grandad's house so my son can watch it when he's elsewhere but enjoy interacting with it at home with the toys. One of our recent birthday purchases was this Thomas and Friends Take n Play Tidmouth Sheds Play set. The Thomas and Friends Take n Play range is the biggest of the main stream Thomas ranges. Consisting of different play sets and track sets, all made of plastic, you can choose from a huge amount of sets and characters. The trains themselves are diecast models and usually made of metal but the other items in the range are plastic. In fact the range is so huge it usually has it's own isle in Toys'r'us, or it does in our local store anyway. We switched to the Take n Play range only recently after starting on the Thomas Wooden Railway range, which has now either been discontinued or just isn't actively being grown as a range. Either way we quickly realised we weren't going to be able to get additions to our wooden set easily and switched to the plastic Take n Play range so that birthday's and Christmas etc gave us the opportunity to grow our collection. We were looking for a few bigger, key sets which we could buy as a good starting base and I have heard good things about this Tidmouth Sheds set but had previously been put off by the price. However recently Toys'r'us had a sale and they had a collection of sets in one which was on offer and included Tidmouth Sheds along with two other sets, four trains and many accessories for £69.99 instead of £99.99. Saving over £30, we went for this collection but if you buy Tidmouth Sheds on it's own you will be looking at paying approx £36.99 depending on your retailer. Tidmouth Sheds consists of a large yellow and green shed with five doors to allow access to Thomas and his friends. It also has an attached oval shaped track which stretches out in front of the sheds. In between the run of track is a red turn table for you to put your trains and turn them around so they can easily move in to their correct position to continue on their journey or enter the sheds. The turn table is operated by a simple little knob on the top of the turn table itself. The track itself is the usual Take n Play track, sturdy grey plastic track with quite deep grooves to ensure the trains aren't easily pushed over the sides. It's one thing I like about the range actually, as sometimes children can get over excited while playing and could cause the trains to come off the track which ruins the play time as you have to constantly put them back on. You don't have to worry about that with this as the track is one of the best I've come across at keeping the train inhabitants on course. The track is also connectable at two points, one either side of the shed itself which means you can connect to other track pieces of sets from the range which is great and one of the main reasons we bought it. When you are finished playing with this set, the track folds in to two halves and tucks underneath the sheds and clips in to place, and with the attached handle it means you can carry it around as a travel set. The sheds back wall folds out too which gives easy access to the trains which can be stored inside and carried around, so it does actually double as a carry case which is great because it means you've always got a small part of the range to take around with you if you go out etc. Tidmouth Sheds isn't the most exciting part of the Take n Play range but it is one of the key pieces we have and is always the centre of our tracks when we get it all out. My son loves to use the sheds as the 'house' for his characters. It's very durable, considering my first impressions were that the plastic wasn't the thickest. Ours gets a lot of heavy play and we haven't had any problems with it. My only slight criticism is that the grooves that separate the lanes inside the shed are quite shallow, this is surprising because the track has deep ridges and yet in the shed the trains easily slide around when carried as there isn't anything to keep them in place. And as metal diecast trains they chip/dent easily so it's something to be aware of. Other than that, this set is portable, a great size and acts as storage too. And although I think £36.99 for it when purchased alone, is quite a lot, compared to other items in the range it is relative. While I do think the price makes it too expensive for a one off treat, it's a great addition as a birthday or Christmas gift. Overall impression-a great addition to the range, a must for little Take n Play fans everywhere.
I'm no saint on the housework front, I'm realistic enough to admit it! My house is always clean, but with too few hours in the day and a child with the energy levels of twenty Duracell bunnies all recreating the dancing from Saturday Night Fever together...well, my house more often resembles an explosion in a toy shop! It's a far cry from my pre-child-days where my house was always Show Home spotless, now I'm lucky if I can clear enough space in my lounge at night time to at least be able to see my television without a toy obstructing the view! As a result, I'm always looking for cleaning solutions that beat my current ones on time scale, value and quality, just to simply make life easier for myself! My pet hate is 'bits' on the floor. Carpet isn't too bad, you don't notice it as much. Wood flooring on the other hand is like every tiny 'bit' holding a neon, flashing light up in the air to alert you to it's presence. You can't ignore it. And no sooner have you heaved the hoover out, done the job, put it away and sat down again for a nice cuppa and....there's more bits, waving their signs at you. It's never ending with wooden flooring thanks mostly to the fact that I am also the proud owner of a three year old. Toddlers and wood flooring are not a combination to be mixed, in fact they should be approached with caution! I have no idea what the 'bits' on my floor actually are, but I can tell you that 99% of them are caused by the smallest member of the house. To combat this annoying floor invasion I've tried all sorts-sweeping, washing, hoovering-everything. The only thing that works is hoovering about a million times a day and even then by evening time, the bits are back. And it's annoying to hulk the hoover out all the time. So after a friend showed me her hand held vacuum and how easy it was to finally get on top of the 'bits'...I knew I had to get one. I looked at many models and was surprised to see that they were far from cheap. I wasn't sure whether to aim low on the budget front and hope for a pleasant surprise (which actually with the budget electrical ranges, happens quite a lot) or to just splurge and see it as an investment for my future. After all, it was going to save me from my mental torture of having to see 'bits' invade my floor all the time, wasn't it? I decided to get the budget model. This Genie Wet and Dry handheld vacuum was the model I walked away with for the bargain price of £25. If my memory serves me right, it wasn't the cheapest option but the second cheapest, with prices going to the £100 mark for the branded ones. So £25 seemed like a reasonable price...I had visions of using it to clean the car, the kitchen work tops etc and was really excited to banish the recent OCD like symptoms I'd experiences thanks to the 'bits'! Getting it home, the packaging matched the product-purple and grey. No decoration or visually stimulating details on the box-very 'no frills' in fact. But it was packaged carefully, and after a quick read of the basic instructions, it was removed from it's well protected box. The vacuum itself is purple and grey plastic with a clear front which allows you to see when the vacuum is full and in need of emptying. It comes with an easy to grip handle for ease of use too. It's not the most exciting looking thing in the world, in fact it looks quite poor quality and almost toy like. It's also very lightweight. Usually this would be something I classed as a product advantage but it was odd to hold. Heavy in the palm of your hand, where the electrics were and then so light in the opposing end that the uneven weight distribution made it uncomfortable to hold...and also makes you immediately think it's a poor quality product. The vacuum stands in a cradle like grey stand which plugs in to a mains socket to charge. This doesn't take long at all, and a green lights shines to show you when it's ready for use. After this it's ready to go. The product information says that this is a multi purpose handheld vacuum. Suitable for use on both dry crumbs etc and also wet spills too. The manufacturer blurb reads, and I quote: "It's got plenty of suction and is light enough to grab from the cupboard whenever you need it". However even it's 7.2 watts can't give you even the smallest amount of suction required to do even a half baked cleaning job. The vacuum has such a low level of suction that you can literally hold it over crumbs, bits etc and be stood there for what feels like ages, and it does....nothing. I tried this on my kitchen floors, worktops and wooden flooring-the smallest percentage of work was done, and to be honest I think if anything, the Genie just blew those bits away rather than removing them. Defiant to the last word, the 'bits' prevail... I wish I could comment on the ease of cleaning but it's never suctioned enough to be emptied. The top compartment does easily come off to empty the contents out but if you never get enough in their in the first place, then what's the point? So, the Genie wasn't too good on crumbs, bits or even feather like objects with barely even any weight to them...Hmm, time for a go on it's other suitable use-wet spills. Sadly there was absolutely no redemption for this product, it did nothing but move the spill around, and even that was more like a ripple than a wave. So it's sole purpose as a product is to remove unwanted spills and bits from the home and it failed on such a superior level that I can't even begin to wonder why it's still being produced. It's also really noisy. Not just annoyingly so, but deafening. It makes your ears ring for minutes afterwards as if you've stood next to a Jumbo Jet engine for an hour. I would go as far as to say that it makes as much noise as my normal hoover which is at east eight times the size (and a million times more capable of doing it's job). The Genie comes with a one year guarantee, which I suppose is...nice? Although I have it on good authority that throwing it in the bin and watching it break in to a million pieces might actually be more satisfying than a refund at this point! Although credit where credit's due-it does provide over and above it's advised 10 minute life span after charging (woo-hoo 10 minutes!! I didn't see that small detail on the box when I purchased it!) but who wants to deafen themselves while blowing bits and fluff around their house anyway? I've experienced bad products before, across all areas, that's life. But this one takes the biscuit for the worst I've ever bought. It doesn't work because it's a bad quality product from design to application it's poor all the way through. My advise would be to save your money for a better model, the only wish I will be making with this Genie is that it stays hidden at the back of my cupboard indefinitely!
If you have young children, then it's highly likely that you have heard about Happyland. The genius range from the Early Learning Centre that creates pre-school versions of classic town landscapes-houses, shops etc. It also has the odd spin off range for example a few pirate themed pieces and space themed pieces. Happyland was such a big hit in our home we had pretty much everything that was available at one time, sadly now my son has outgrown it but I still highly regard the range and recommend it to all my friends when their children reach the right age. A particular favorite was this Lift Off Rocket from the space range.We bought this as our first non-town themed piece of Happyland play and I couldn't have been more pleased with it, I mean, my son couldn't have been more pleased with, of course... The packaging for the rocket has the simple Happyland design, green grass and blue sky with logo. It's very visually appealing to pre-schoolers who come to recognise the packaging and want it immediately! Unlike most Happyland toys the rocket comes in a fully enclosed box with a plastic window to see inside. It's been a bug bear of mine about the Happyland toys that the majority of the ranges come in the style of only half a box with the toy being able to be touched fully through the front. This is a nightmare for posting as gifts to friends etc unless re-boxed. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find with our Rocket that wasn't the case and the toy had been fully protected from little fingers in the shop prior to our purchase. No assembly is required for this, the only thing that you do need to do is add the two batteries (sold separately) and it's good to go! Ours was bought a few years ago so was completely red in colour, with less white detailing than is shown in the above picture. I believe the current one in stock is mostly white with a slight amount of red, all still exactly the same design though. It's also a good size for a pre-school toy, when standing straight my son didn't need to slouch or twist to access it's parts which helped encourage him to get stuck in with playing considering younger children have less fine motor skills, so therefore size does matter with toys like these. The Rocket itself has three compartments inside, all of which are accessed by individual doors. At the very top is the section where the astronauts go and there are two seperate spaces for them when they are taking off and landing. There is a nicely decorated area which is supposed to be the flight deck which is quite cute for detail. This area is accessed by a lift up door and has a cut out window to allow you to see inside. The middle floor of the rocket is the living quarters for the astronauts. Opening the large door reveals on the inside of the door to be a bedroom with a bed with an indented pillow which allows the astronauts to lay on the bed without falling off. Inside is a kitchen area with cute details like microwave and cooker etc, nothing is removable, it's all fixed but it's nice for little ones to explore and further encourage their imaginative play. The bottom floor of the rocket is the storage bay for the moon buggy, and the door opens downwards to act as a ramp for the buggy to come in and out. The moon buggy is included with the rocket which I thought was great, as usually you are expected to buy the extra pieces separately but not on this occassion. The buggy has space for one astronaut and has large rubber type wheels so it grips flooring of all sorts really well. My son really enjoyed playing with the buggy, even when he wasn't playing with the rocket. You also get including a little moon crater style holding pot and friendly alien to sit inside. Another great way to encourage imaginative play as the astronauts can leave the rocket in search of life-and find it! As well as these pieces you also get an astronaut dog to accompany the two included figures. All who are 'dressed' in space attire. The rocket itself also has a useful carry handle, and when you are ready to finish playing with it, all the included extra pieces fit perfectly inside so you can carry it around in full. The storage it provided was a great addition and made it easy to pick up and take with us when we were hurrying out the door to go and visit family and friends. Also on the handle is a button which activates the sound affects and simultaneous lights. There are various sounds, mostly a voice saying things like 'Blast off' etc and the lights are on the bottom three stands which flash. My son loved this feature of the rocket, I however wasn't so keen! It's VERY loud and there isn't a volume option, so you have to suffer it while your child enjoys it! The battery life is great, considering how often my son played with it we never once had to change the batteries, another good point for it being value for money. We bought this for my son when he was about 18 months and we kept it until he was three. Throughout this time it had a lot of play. At first my son didn't understand the imaginative side of it actually being a rocket but he loved the characters, which are perfectly made to fit little hands-chunky, simple and lightweight. They also withstand chewing etc well which is quite important with younger children. So at first he just liked to explore with his hands (and mouth) but as he got older he appreciated it's use more and loved to play with it and his other Happyland pieces. Because all the characters are generic with Happyland you can mix and match, which he enjoyed and meant it had greater value as he used other pieces with this set while playing. By the time my son had turned 3, he still loved this but just didn't play with it as much as it is designed to suit younger children, particularly now as the entire Happyland range has been redesigned to suit an even younger age than when we purchased it. The design wasn't as stimulating or detailed for him but for the 18 months we had it, he played with it almost daily. Over the course of us having this I noticed how durable it was. My son can be over enthusiastic when playing and I would sometimes worry about the force he used when the rocket would 'land'. Never once did it chip, crack etc and the only wear and tear I noticed was that some of the white detailing on the outside began to rub off-but this I expect with most toys that are actually played with and not left on the shelf. We purchased our rocket for £35 and the price is now £30 (non sale) which for the amount of play we had from it, and all the pieces you get-it's a very justified and good price. The Early Learning Centra has regular sales on their Happyland so you can sometimes get it cheaper, but be quick as it flies off the shelves! Another great parenting thought for this is that it retains a good amount of value when sold. I'm sure some people don't agree with selling toys but we sell all of ours which are in good condition on ebay when we don't use them anymore, and it helps to go towards the toys for the next stage. Happyland is such a highly regarded range that it retains a good amount of value and I pleasantly surprised when we sold ours. Overall we were absolutely thrilled with ours, and we highly recommend it for little boys of pre-school age.
My son has been very in-to Cars for the last year. As soon as he reached the stage where he enjoyed playing with them, I knew for my own sanity that I needed to invest in some sort of garage or play set that could be the home for his tiny, four wheeled new friends. Mostly because without somewhere to keep them, they had the habit of emigrating to every part of the house, and more than once I found them sneaking underneath my feet at night time as I tried to find my way around in the dark without having to turn the light on and wake my sleeping child. Yes, it was time to find the cars a home. I must admit, as a first time Mum to a little boy I hadn't ever looked at cars, garages etc until this point. I nearly fell off my chair when I began searching the internet for one! They were all so expensive! I guess in hindsight I should have priced things up better in my mind, and prepared myself to be spending over the £50 mark, but at the time I remember thinking that my days of being able to entertain my son with items that didn't cost the equivalent of a food shop, were over! After trawling the online toy shops the best one I found was this Big City Garage from the Early Learning Centre. I had wanted a plastic garage as I'm not a fan of wooden toys (just personal preference, no other reason!) and I wanted something big enough to be stimulating for my son. This garage seemed to fit the bill. We have two branches of the Early Learning Centre near our house so after a quick decision, off I went to purchase it. The Big City Garage comes in a large box with it's own handle. The packaging itself is very good, very protective so if you did buy online you wouldn't need to worry about damage in the post (unless your postmen have a habit of drop kicking everything around on purpose!). And each item inside is very well packaged too. The box is very brightly colored, visually stimulating and quite frankly makes it look like a lot of fun! The garage does require fully assembly as nothing comes ready assembled but I found the packaging very clear with regards to labeling which part was which. The instructions were clear, accurate and easy to follow and all in all it didn't even take 15 minutes to assemble. I found the most time consuming part of the process was putting the stickers on. This is where I get a bit obsessive though, as they have to go on perfectly or I tend to go in to Mummy-melt-down! Other than that, the assembly process was quick and simple. Ideal really for impatient little ones! The garage itself is no longer blue, as shown in the stock photograph above. It's now red and grey. I suspect this is to make it more gender neutral. Either way both colors look nice, but the only one available now is the red one. Made of strong and durable plastic, there is no doubt from the moment you open this, that it's going to be a durable toy. Not something flimsy that's going to have bits that dis-assemble themselves or that falls apart frequently. This is one of the reasons I purchased the garage, E.L.C toys have such a good reputation for quality and for the price I wanted to make sure this garage was going to last and I wouldn't need to invest in a new one-ideally ever! With three floors to play on, there is lots to do with this garage. On the bottom floor is a parking area for cars, a car wash and a petrol station as well as roads and the entrance to the lift. The petrol station has pumps made from a more stretchy, almost flexible plastic which look a bit more realistic. The car wash looks great but most non Big City toy cars don't fit through it. I assumed the material that represents the washers would be soft to allow for different sized cars to go through, but it doesn't. Which is quite disappointing really as with so many different die cast and toy cars on the market, it seemed a bit of pointless part of the garage for us. The second and third floors are open spaces for cars to park and play. Connected by two ramps, each floor creates a track like run. My son takes great pleasure in lining his cars up on the top floor and then gently pushing them over the top of the ramp. They then follow the 'track' and slide all the way, perfectly down to the bottom and out of the garage. At the bottom of the lower floor ramp you have a barrier which means you can even choose which direction the cars will exit the garage. The effect is cars whizzing around everywhere! It's great for little boys (and girls!) who are intrigued by cause and effect play, it certainly really excites my little boy! Another key feature of the garage is the working lift. Cars can slide on to the lift and there is a manual wind up knob for you to transport them to their chosen floor of the garage. I was worried that over time the mechanism would loosen and wouldn't work properly after a large amount of use, but we have had ours for six months and it still works as well as when we first got it. On the very top of the lift and the highest part of the garage is a helipad too which allows an extra element of imaginative play. It also comes with a button that makes a helicopter noise when pushed. And just underneath this are another three buttons which make various fun and interactive car themed noise to fit in with the garage. This part requires 2x AA batteries, and again, I have been very pleasantly surprised at how long these have lasted. The garage doesn't drain them and the original batteries we put in when purchased are still the same ones in there now. The batteries aren't included so make sure you have some ready! The size of the garage itself was also very surprising. The dimensions are height 54cm x Width 78cm x Depth 44cm. This shows it's a great size, and not something that looks bigger in pictures and then disappoints you when you get it home. The Big City garage costs £55, which at the time I thought was too expensive but now I know it's worth every penny. It's one of the most played with toys in the playroom and my son doesn't just play with his cars on it, he plays with his trains on it, his playmobil and his character figures too so it's turned out to be more than just a car play set. Having different floors to use, and the ramps too means there is lots of different types of playing that this garage is used for, all of the imaginative type. It's one of the most durable toys we have too. It's never broken on us, dented or scratched and saying this toy has a LOT of play is an understatement. The only thing I've noticed is that when we move it across the floor from the playroom to the living room, the pieces of the floors can pop apart but they go straight back together. This isn't a fault, it's just because the assembly isn't permanent of some parts. This garage has also been invaluable for storage. We can store all of our cars and trucks etc on this garage when we put it away at night time. We keep a large box full of cars on the top floor and large vehicles on the bottom and middle floors, there is so much space for storage and we make it a game at bed time-saying goodnight to them all and putting them to bed. No more light night impaling myself on micro vehicles! The garage itself comes from the Big City range, which has numerous other pieces that can be added to it. Although we don't own any other items from the range it's nice to know that at some point we could extend the garage if we wanted to. I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised, or overall any happier with this garage. It's met every need we had for a garage and more, it's plenty big enough, it's durable, it's interactive and imaginative, doubles as storage and is a staple toy for all playrooms. My conclusion? Worth every penny!