Saturday, 27 October 2018

Hape's Tea For Two & Microphone Review

When it comes to toys for my daughter one thing they need to be is robust! If they can't handle being dropped or possibly thrown then they are no good. I'm not saying that my daughter wrecks everything but I'm sure any parent with a toddler with understand where I'm coming from.

Hape has a wonderful selection of wooden toys that I have always found to be good quality and strong enough to take a tumble. We have recently been testing out two of their products Tea For Two Set and the Might Echo Microphone.

Tea For Two 
Every child who loves to host a tea party will love this tea set. The set comes with a tray that you can set your teapot and tea cups on ready to serve with milk and two sugars. The set is simple which is something that I really like about it mostly because I don't have to try and find a load of little spoons and lids. The design is perfect for any little girl or boy rather than most tea sets which tend to be bright pink. Always too much pink! Hape's Tea For Two set is a great size for tiny hands the wooden set is finished to a high standard so no fear's of any splinters whilst they play. I always fear of splinter's when it comes to wooden toy's.

Hape's Tea for Two set has something that I really appreciated maybe not so much for Eryn but it comes with a little wooden tea bag. I nearly missed the tea bag as it had slipped to the bottom of the box and it was only because Eryn had tipped it up and it fell out that I noticed it. The packaging was like nothing I had seen before each item individually wrapped with tissue paper and then inside biggish envelope placed inside a box, all which are recyclable which is a bonus.

You can purchase Hape's Tea For Two from Amazon for £17.99.

Mighty Echo Microphone
My daughter loves to sing a long to songs, the bing bong song is a firm favourite. So what does any singing child need? Yep that's right a microphone. Hape's Mighty Echo Microphone works without batteries as it just uses your child's voice to echo back the sound. I'm sure many of us had the cheap plastic one's as a child that drove our parents crazy. The Mighty Echo Microphone is suitable for any budding singer aged 12 months + perfect to hear those cute first words loud and clear. I tried to capture a video of Eryn singing but no luck she either looked away or just stopped singing so I don't have any in action shots to show you the sound. We did create a mini band with a few musical instruments that we have which both Eryn and Jared enjoyed.

The Mighty Echo Microphone is beautifully made and I think it will last for years to come so for the quality I think the price of £8.99 is more than reasonable.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Zuru Smashers Gross Series 2 Review

When it comes to toy's Jared just loves toys that are collectable, by that I mean ones where they come in series and there is a list of characters to collect to complete the set. Smashers is just that toy and here is series 2 which is totally Gross.

To find out what Gross character you have festering inside just grab a Smasher, which has taken shape in this series as an eyeball and smash it and watch what oozes out. Will you get an eyeball with a slimy surprise?

Each Gross character belongs to and equally Gross category, there are 9 of these which includes the rare and ultra rare character's, Filthy Food, Odd Bodies, Icky Insects, Smash Trash, Toilet Humour, Rare Awful Animals, Ultra Rare Ooze Dudes, Glow In The Dark and Exclusives. There is an app you can download to keep track of what character's you have and which you still need or you can use the free guide that comes with the packs. 
The Smashers App
There are a few pack's you can choose from depending on how much Grossness you can handle, you can get them in pack's of one, three, eight and even twenty for only £16.99 from The Entertainer. If you are wondering where you are going to store all these Gross guys then you can either pop them back into their eyeball as they are fully rebuild-able or you can get disgustingly named Sludge Bus. 

The Sludge Bus comes with two exclusive characters. Inside the bus, once you unfold it,  you will find the perfect eyeball smashing spot, the toilet! Just load up your Smasher onto the catapult then watch as it smash's into the toilet avoiding the stinky poo. The Sludge Bus can hold up to fifty Gross Smashers. The best place I have found to purchase the Sludge Bus is B & M at £16.99 but it is available from most Toy store's and some supermarkets and priced at around £20-£24.99. 

The Gross Smashers are now available to buy and are suitable for children and adults aged over five, although this doesn't stop Eryn getting her hands on them. They are available in most Toy stores and also in some supermarkets like Tesco.

We have been sent this item for the purpose of this review but all opinions expressed are that of our own.  

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Auschwitz Camp Tour

We recently got home from a few days in Krakow, Poland. While we were there we decided to do a tour of the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. Me and Jade have both been keen to visit in the past and we both find the history behind world war 2 both horrifying and interesting.

We arranged the tour through Cracow Local Tours and we were picked up at 8am by our driver Dawid. He was extremely friendly, funny and knowledgeable about the area. He even marked my tourist map with fantastic restaurants and bars.

We pulled up to Auschwitz first and your first impression is nothing what you'd expect. There is just groups of people everywhere waiting to get into the camp, we had to go through security on the way in to make sure we had no banned items. I was speaking with one of our tour guides who explained that people in the past have taken chisels and screwdrivers in, they have then attempted to chip off some brickwork or wood to take a some kind of "souvenir" which is utterly disgusting. After getting the all clear from the security staff we all put on our headphones and tuned into our tour guide, Conrads, broadcast station. I only learnt after the tour that Conrad was not an official tour guide, he was infact a driver from the company we booked the tour on but his level of knowledge was on another level. I also did not realise he was Polish as his English was also perfect.

The tour started by walking through the main, and only gate. This is when you forget about all the other tourists around you, you realise that where you are stood was a place where many evil people once stood and more importantly where thousands of innocent people once stood. The wording on the gate translates to "Work Sets You Free" this was just another sick example of the lies spewed out by the minds behind the death camps. They were sold a false promise of freedom in return for labour.

Walking into the camp you notice how similar it is to a military camp, this is because prior to area become occupied by the Nazi Party, the camp was occupied by the Polish military, walking round we were told about the treatment these people were forced to endure, food levels, a "soup" that was made from boiling water and some chopped up vegetables. The punishments handed out for crimes. For example, if someone were to attempt and escape, it would not only affect the individual but all other member of his work team would also be punished in horrific ways. We went into several different buildings and learnt about the tragic events that happened. The first building had an urn full of ashes that were recovered from the camp when it was liberated by Russian forces. Jade was visibly upset from the moment we walked in but I managed to keep it together until you are faced with physical items. A cabinet full of empty Zyklon B used to kill prisoners, a huge collection of human hair, prayer mats, glasses, cutlery and clothes. I could not concentrate on the tour guide after seeing the collection of children's clothes. Some of which were quite clearly for a child aged no more than 3 years old. The idea that a group of people can be so heartless and cold as to bring harm to a poor innocent child simply because of the beliefs or race was heartbreaking.

We had an opportunity to look at the living conditions of the prisoners and also look at the cells used as punishment. The most barbaric were the stand up cells. A room no more than 4ft wide in any direction was built with the idea of housing 3 prisoners per cell with the intention of someone being locked in for up to 4 days at a time. What I was shocked about was that they were not just subjected to physical abuse and torture. The Nazi party were able to mentally destroy prisoners as well. There was a suffocation cell. This was a cell with an extremely small air hole that can be covered by the guards should they wish. Several prisoners were put in this cell, and while a prisoner could not suffocate in there, the psychological suffering caused by the thought of running out of oxygen was much more terrifying.

We walked past medical block where experiments were carried out on young girls and twins. These people were operated on with no anaesthetic as this was too expensive. The Nazi's were attempting to find the best way to sterilise the prisoners in an attempt to kill off the bloodlines of those not deemed "worthy" Jews, Blacks, Gypsy's, any section of society who could not adhere to the Aryan race. A man names Josef Mengele was the doctor at this camp, he was also running trials on twins to see how one child body would react if something happened to the other child. Amputations and infections were the most common.

We then were escorted to the only gas chamber left in the area, the rest of the chambers were destroyed by the Nazi's in an attempt to cover over the evidence. Walking into the concrete structure your emotions are all over the place. Stepping through the door way the realisation that the doorway you just walked through represented the last few steps of thousands of peoples lives. The room is a large bunkers like building with holes in the ceiling where the chemicals were poured in. This is a moment where you have to just stand still and take it all in.

This was the last stop on our tour. The whole tour is a heavy experience, it is an emotional struggle but it gives you an insight into how these victims were degraded and discarded with no regard to humanity or morality. I went to the camp, knowing what had happened, I've seen the movies, I've read the history books but I don't think any form of media or literature can prepare you for the feeling you get when being there. To say I enjoyed the tour would be the wrong phrase to use, I appreciated the the importance of remembering the brave people who suffered and I was honoured to have been able to pay my respects by visiting and become more educated about the people who lived there.

We then set off to Birkenau Camp which can be read here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Do You Want Some Freebies?

If you have came across this post then the chances are you are looking for some Freebies. Everyone loves a good freebie and I spend a lot of time looking for freebies and discounts. It seems lately that it has been more difficult to find a good freebie that doesn't require signing your life away.

I have been using the website Gratisfaction. The website is really simple to use and as well as featuring free samples it also has a section with voucher codes and bargains.

The website is mobile friendly which has been great as I often like to just use my phone and I've found that there are still a number of websites that aren't mobile friendly. I like to look for anyway that I can save a few quid and even more so at this time of the year so being able to just look on here whilst I'm sat in the car on the school run is really handy, plus I can show the other mum's and dad's.

Below is a little list of my favourite freebies and bargains that I have found on the website.

Free Hugo Boss Perfume with Christmas coming up free perfume is a win.

Himalayan Salt Lamp I love these lamps and this is a great saving.
Dog Food you request a free sample and just pay P&P which is £2.50.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Lapland Mailroom: Review

When it comes to Christmas I like to get things sorted sooner rather than later. One thing for me that is it a must do ASAP is the Letter From Santa I panic that if I leave it too late then it won't arrive in time or the order books will be so full that they can't fit me in. Another issue is, choosing which Santa will write the letter. This year I'm working with Lapland Mailroom to create a magical letter for my children.

The Lapland Mailroom offers a great selection of personalised letters starting at just £8.95 and comes with a free good child certificate signed by the jolly man himself you can upgrade the package and opt for the one that comes with a Christmas activity pack priced at £9.95. Once you have chosen your package you can then choose from three different letter styles each one of them you can make more personal by adding location, saying what they left out last year and of course what they are hoping Santa will bring them. There is even an option on whether you use Santa Claus or Father Christmas.

The process is really easy and is full of opportunities to read what your letter says to make sure you are happy with it before purchasing it. If you are ordering more than one letter there is an option when you come to the payment section that says 'Add Another' there is also an option for express delivery which costs just 75p and the letter will be posted out to you in the next 48hrs.

I can't wait until the children's letter's arrive and to see the excitement on their face's. It has been such a pleasure to use this company for our Christmas letter's as the process was just so straight forward and easy to use we will definitely be using them in the future.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Fingerlings Hugs

Last year all Jared wanted was a Fingerling monkey, his cousin had one and he spent hours playing with it when we were visiting. Luckily Santa brought him two last year one being a Boris and the other a Sloth. The problem with this was that his sister also wanted one but being as little as she was I didn't think it would be wise to get her one. Cue tantrum's and tears. A little while back we were sent an email introducing us to the new Fingerling Hug's which are available in Blue (Boris) or Pink (Bella) and even a Sloth. We were sent the Blue one which is Boris, in cuddle form. As soon as Eryn saw what it was she was trying to cuddle him.

For fan's of the Fingerlings these super sized cuddly buddies are a must. Very much like the smaller Fingerlings they are interactive with over 40 different sounds. Eryn's favourite seems to be the kissing sound which it makes when you give it a kiss. You can rock him to sleep or even record a message. The Fingerlings Hugs have arms that can wrap around and give you a cuddle or swing around in the tree's there is Velcro on the hands so they can clasp together.

Eryn really enjoys playing with Mun-Keh (Boris) most of the time he is wrapped around her as she pushes her baby in the pram and then sits him down on the Rody horse. I have found that having Boris around has increased her imagination, although he has sounds she has also given him a voice. I watched her play with him while Jared had his Fingerlings and they had some kind of game going on which was lovely to watch.

The Fingerlings Hugs says that it is suitable for ages 3+, Eryn is two and has been fine with Mun-Keh however she has been supervised whilst playing. That being said she often plays with her brothers toys which are for older children. I personally think that as long as your child is supervised it's fine (don't shoot me down PP's).

Boris and Bella and Sloth are battery operated and they come with test batteries you can purchase them at The Entertainer, Smyths Toys, Argos and retail at £29.99. 

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Bear Grylls Adventure

Have you ever fancied testing your nerve? Facing your fears, and experiencing once in a life time opportunities? Well recently we had an opportunity to do just that by working with the awesome guys at Bear Grylls Adventure land in Birmingham. It was Liam's birthday the day before we went so I let him choose the main activity we did, for this reason Liam will be writing this post.

Bear Grylls Adventure was opened in the summer of 2018 and all the activities have been designed and signed off by the man himself. You have the opportunity to do 4 base camp activities which include a maze, room escape, marines assault course and archery. You can do these with any other main activity. The main activities are, Rock climbing, High Rope Climbing, indoor sky diving and snorkelling or scuba diving. All the activities are carried out in groups, led by a member of Bear's team. 

As it was a little birthday treat I chose to go scuba diving. It is something I have always wanted to do and when I found out that the diving would include sharks, sting rays and hundreds of fish, I knew my mind was made up. I was like a kid on Christmas eve during the build up to the journey down. I was stupidly excited and I ended up telling everyone I worked with about what I was going to do. 

The place is extremely easy to find, although there is no parking on site, there is a car park about 5 minutes away and with you parking ticket validation at Bear Grylls Adventure, the parking is pretty reasonable. We were there for just over 6 hours and parking came to £7.

Walking up to the building you hear music which add to the atmosphere of adventure and survival. With the high ropes to your right hand side you walk up a winding path and met with a helicopter hanging out of the building over the front door with a zip wire running to the ground leading to the high ropes. Walking through the door you are greeted by staff who show you to a locker and give you a wrist band to lock & unlock the locker. They also tell you what time your base camp starts and then you can explore. We had around half an hour to explore before our base camp started so we took this as an opportunity to look at the pool we would be diving into. The pool was a huge array of different colours and species of fish. Sting rays were swooping round the tank effortlessly, but, most impressively, huge black tip reef sharks were swimming around dominating the pool. I got talking to a worker there who explained that all the sharks they have, have been rescued. The centrepiece of the room is a giant tree with a plane stuck in it, which carried some significance later on in your base camp activities.

It was time to start the base camp activities, first up was the survival maze. I won't go into too much detail as I do not want to ruin the experience for anyone, however if you really want to know then feel free to interact with me on social media and I will divulge all. The maze is designed to test your nerve and make you face your fears. I personally did not think it would be too bad, it is just for entertainment right? While it is for entertainment it is the fear of the unknown that is the hardest to overcome. At the end of the maze you also have to undertake a bush tucker trial "I'm A Celebrity Style" As I've said, I won't go into too much detail as I don't want to ruin it so I will sum the maze up in a few words... Dark.... Wet... Small.... Meal Worms.

After this it was onto the room escape games, this is where the plane in the tree comes into the equation. You have to find the pilot on a map and the coordinates are you code to freedom. This game takes team work and communication, which sadly our team lacked as we were locked into the room. You have to decode instructions and also listen to information coming through on the radio for clues. After the first room you go down an escape shoot which is honestly, the most brutal slide I have ever been down. Coming out of the slide you reach another room and another puzzle, now I wish I could offer you help on this one but I was stumped There were flags with numbers on, a map and knots. Make of that what you will. The staff said that no many people escape the room and it has been designed to be extremely difficult.

After we left the escape room area it was onto the marines assault course. This is based loosely on a real marines training course but is obviously toned down. You start by doing a warm up and then set off in pairs... being competitive I made it my aim to finish first, I don't think the people in front of me knew they were in a race. You start by hopping between steps then climbing over and ducking under wooden beams. Crawling under netting you find your self having to climb up a steep(ish) hill with the aid of a rope to get onto the higher levels. The rest of the course is a mix of walls to climb over, poles to slide across and everyone's favourite punishment... monkey bars. Then there is a final sprint to the finish to do a fireman's pole. As you get down the staff ask how you found it and if you'd ever want to do it again... it seems I was the only person in my group who really enjoyed it and would of loved to go again. 

Last base camp activity was the archery. Jade had never done archery before so she was really excited, she is pretty good at things that require technique and skill. I have already tried archery in the past so I knew my skill was non existent. I'd have like to have spent longer doing this but we only really got to shoot 10 or so arrows each. The archery is done with traditional old wooden bow's which add to the outdoor's survival feel of the place which I thought was a great touch.

We then had about an hours break before we went scuba diving. We decided to check out the cafe as we both needed a drink. The prices were a little steep but the quality of the products look as though it could easily warrant the price being paid. The pizza's were £6 per pizza but they were cooked fresh in a wood fired oven so they were traditional pizza's unlike some other places that just buy frozen bases and put some cheese and tomato sauce on them.

Onto scuba diving, we had to go upstairs for this activity and we were greeting to a old rusted ship door which we passed through and into the briefing room. We were given a thorough talk from a qualified diver who explained what techniques were need to do in the practice pool before we were allowed into the open pool. These included, removing water from the mask, taking the mouth piece out under water and also dropping the mouth piece behind you and recovering it under water. Once the briefing was done we were over to the changing room to get into out scuba gear. Now, for those who haven't ever worn a wet suit before... they are literally the hardest things to get on ever. Once we were all changed and ready it was into the training pool. I could see Jade was panicking at this point, she's not a fan of feeling trapped or enclosed, and with how tight the suit was coupled with the mask blocking you from breathing out your nose it was not an ideal situation for her. We both got in the water and we were suited up. We took our first dip under the water and our first breaths as a scuba diver. Jade shortly after this had to leave the pool as she could feel her breathing going out of control. She was devastated that should could not do it, however it meant she could go back down stairs and grab some pretty cool photos. I won't pretend that scuba diving is easy, or that I wasn't nervous. All your life you've been told that you cannot breath underwater then all of a sudden you have to breath underwater. You become conscious of breathing and you have to think about how to breath. It took me a few attempts to get down into the pool, one because I could not get my breathing to a point where i felt comfortable and two because I could not get my ears to pop. The pool is around 4 metres deep but you can feel the difference in the pressure. The diving instructors take you round the pool and you can an experience the marine life up close, rays rubbing themselves against you, fish swimming between your feet and sharks swimming over head. It is a whole different world down there, all you can hear is the noise you your respirator and you breath in and out. Walking around feels like your in zero gravity and everything is just so peaceful. At points throughout the adventure you can just kneel on the bottom of the tank and really take in how beautiful the world around you is and something I took away was how we, as humans are killing marine life by over fishing and polluting and how we, as humans are solely responsible for the conservation of these beautiful creatures and underwater worlds. At the end of the dive you are taken back to the briefing room for a final speech, you obtain a PADI certificate which is your first step towards being a fully qualified diver and also you can be put in touch with local diving clubs if you enjoyed your experience.

At the end of our day I expected to be tired but it was the exact opposite, I will on a huge adrenaline buzz that lasted for hours. I still get the same excitement when I talk about it to people now. All the instructors we had were outstanding, patient and knowledgeable. I am already looking to plan my next trip where I would be more that willing to pay the maximum price and do all the activities in one day.

If you want to know more about my experience or the maze then get in touch 
Twitter & Instagram @LiamBurton92

Monday, 1 October 2018

10 Great Reason To Get A Reusable Advent Calendar

With Christmas around the corner I have started to look at the usual things we buy that help us feel that warm fuzzy excited feeling which ultimately makes Christmas feel like Christmas. The first thing the kids want to buy is an advent calendar, no surprise there! Each year they get a chocolate filled one and additional one, last year Jared had a Lego Star Wars. Of course they also have chocolate or sweet filled ones at the Grandparents houses.

I worked out that we spent just under £50 last year on advent calendars, crazy right?! So this year
I will be getting a reusable one for them to share, each draw will have two treats and they will take
it in turns to open the draws. Below I have wrote a few great reasons on why I think people should
switch from disposable to reusable.

1.It's better for the environment, although the cardboard part of the calender's can be recycled the
plastic trays can't be and often spend years on a landfill site. Making them Eco-friendly

2.Re-useable advent calendar's are great for people who have allergies. If you have a child who has an allergy then I'm sure you will agree that they tend to priced a lot higher and often don't look thatgreat.

3.If your vegan this is a calendar that you will love. You can pop in some vegan choc or even something different like wax melts. One thing is guaranteed it will be super vegan friendly. 

4.If you have more than one child then a re-usable advent calendar can save you some money. With each pocket or draw you can pop twice the amount of goodies in and just let the kids take it in turns at getting the treats out. It promotes sharing as well so that is a added bonus.  

5. They are cost effective. Each year we all get a calendar and the cost is around £5 plus per calendar with a re-usable one I pay once and I have it for years only shelling out for the price of the treats inside. 

6. If you are sick of seeing Peppa Pig or Transformers build snowmen then defiantly invest in one of these. You can find some great designs that will fit with your decor and many places will custom make them to match your colour scheme. 

7. As well as being able to get them to match your colour scheme you can also get them personalised with names. You could opt for a family one that just had your family name on or you could get the kids names on. 

8. Not everyone wants a chocolate a day making these great as you could fill them with whatever you want, alcohol mini's, wax melts, stationary or even mix it up and put a bit of everything in.  

9. Having a re-usable advent calendar can create a family tradition as it will become one of those items that comes out every year. If looked after it could even be passed down in years to come.

10. There are many places you can buy these types of advent calendar's but for me another plus is that so many small businesses sell these and custom make them, so not only do I get a unique advent but I'm also supporting a small business.  

Do you have a reusable advent calendar? Or are you now thinking of switching? For me I
really do love the freedom of being able to fill them with what I want which I know will be
appreciated so much more than a small plastic tasting bit of choccy. It’s a bonus that they
are eco-friendly as well.

Other great idea's for a less waste calendar are the book advents where you can wrap 25 books up, which can be pretty cheap if you buy second hand books from the charity shop. A more grown up version of this could be done by using DVD's or even Cheap Vinyl Records now that they have become more popular.