Thursday 30 April 2020

Benefits of Artificial Grass *top tips*

{Collaborative content} Have you ever thought about artificial grass? I quite often wonder what our garden would look like having a bright green, fresh looking lawn all year around. It would be quite the thing not having to mow it also, what a time saver! Artificial grass can make such an amzing improvement to how a garden looks aesthetically and there is lots to choose from these days. With the current situation there is not better time to start thinking about garden maintenance and renovations so if you're thinking about artificial grass or maybe not quite sure here is a few thoughts that might make you change your mind or make the decision for you.......

  • As I mentioned above it is ridiculously low maintenance. No mowing, no trimming, now watering, no ugly bare patches. How cool!
  • As this is artificial there is no watering required! Easily and simply installed with step by step instructions you could have a beautiful lawn pretty quickly.
  • Easy to maintain as no mowing but also easily cleaned. A simple brush to get rid of the debris will suffice and a good rainfall will keep the grass well maintained or using the specially designed detergent will also keep the lawn looking pristine.
  • Suitable for children and pets this is a great solution as is very durable and comfortable to be used for them.
  • Looks great all year round. Enjoy it in the summer and the winter, brilliant! Most of the artificial grasses have porous backing and will easily drain so there won't be any water log.
  • There is a wide variety of options when it comes to choosing the grass in a selection of piles and shades of green. 
Photo Credit thanks to Raj.

So as you can see there are lots of advantages to choosing artificial grass, there is of course the upfront cost but when the lawn is laid there is virtually any upkeep or maintenance costs for the grass. If you were thinking about installing artificial grass or just considering it I hope these thoughts have helped with your decision making.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Can you Relax Under Lockdown?

{Collaborative Content} Lockdown and relaxing are not things you would naturally put in the same sentence. There’s a very good reason for that: Life in self-isolation is stressful. Uncertainty is a difficult situation to handle. Therefore, it’s natural to find your mind racing about the potential risks of essential interactions – such as making a trip to the shop – or even worrying whether a minor ailment could be a COVID-19 symptom. But while you can’t fully relax during life in self-isolation, you can certainly change your routine to reduce your stress levels. Ultimately, chronic stress affects not only your mood but also your immune system. Staying healthy under lockdown starts by understanding how to make room for relaxation. 

Start a new beauty routine
If you’re the kind of person who has developed a reliable beauty routine, you may find that it isn’t effective anymore for your new lifestyle. The truth is that the lockdown has changed your habits dramatically. For a start, you might experience vitamin D deficiency as you are staying indoors. Vitamin D plays a significant role in your mood. Deficiency can increase the risk of depression and anxiety, which, unfortunately, can keep you awake at night. Lack of sleep is not something you can hide easily: Dull complexion and dark rings are the most common signs. If you’re looking for the best product for dark circles under eyes, take a look at innovative and safe products that nourish the fragile skin around your eyes. Addressing beauty issues caused by stress will also help to reduce your anxiety; it’s the positive self-care circle! 

Embrace DIY hobbies
Creative and DIY hobbies can become your best weapon against lockdown stress. Outdoors hobbies, such as gardening and learning how to transform your backyard into a veggie plot, can help you to feel centred. Being creative helps your mind to cool down. You can schedule time in your day for a hobby, whether it’s drawing, gardening, or simply baking. DIY is the new mental health care routine. 

Be kind to yourself 
You are going through a lot. It would be foolish to expect to keep a cool head. Be patient with yourself. You can’t afford to have high expectations. On the contrary, now is the time for self-compassion and self-love. Acknowledge that your situation is stressful and exhausting and forgive your short-comings. Yes, you missed a deadline because your anxiety slowed you down. But that’s ok. Next time, you’ll know how to handle things. 

Switch off the news
Last but not least, nobody needs a constant reminder of the pandemic situation. Daily news is rarely positive. But, more importantly, they don’t bring any novelty to the debate. So why should you follow them? Similarly, social media platforms can be a source of anxiety. Focus on your family and yourself rather than catching up with the latest notification. Have a digital detox on the news and social media front. 

You can’t achieve inner peace under lockdown. But you can help your mind, and your body relax a little. Nobody can sustain the constant tensions of lockdown life. Therefore, looking after yourself and embracing soothing habits can help you feel refreshed and recharged. 

Sunday 26 April 2020

Learning Resources Coding Critters *Review*

{Gifted Items} Being thrust into the home schooling role has challenged my husband and I some what! Not only are we juggling our jobs, the house work and having the kids at home all the time we then suddenly become home educators! During this awful time both my husband and I agreed that we still wanted to try and keep up with some essential learning over the next few weeks. It can be hard to engage them, of course, it's an unusual scenario suddenly the home that you play in and have fun in turns into school of Mum and Dad! It's all very confusing for them so anything that will help engage them and make learning a bit more fun and enjoyable I'm welcoming it with open arms. 

We were recently sent some really cute little coding critters; Bopper, Hip and Hop and an add on Fluffy and Buffy (RRP £7.50) from Learning Resources (RRP £40.00). Designed to encourage STEM thinking and introduce the concept of coding I knew these were going to appeal to my two, especially Elarna as they are adorable. Having used products from Learning Resources I knew that they were going to be excellent quality and aim to encourage the child to learn through engagement and enjoyment. 

Elarna thought they were absolutely fab and they are quite simple for the child to get to grips with and such a lovely introduction to coding. Using the directional arrows on Bopper's back to create  a sequence of up to 30 steps, Bopper can turn and go forwards, backwards and even has a 'play' mode where she will dance and go to sleep and make the cutest noises. Included in the set is Bopper and a load of accessories to add to the coding experience, it encourages the child to use their imagination and make up little stories and scenarios while coding Bopper to eat the carrot for example or go to the swings, there are so many possibilities. There is also a little storybook adventure included with further ideas for fun and ideas for what can be done. 

What did we love?

- Of course the educational aspect! It's a toy cleverly disguised as an educational resource, Elarna played with it and all whilst I knew she was learning to code and create her own little patterns and sequences. It's fab!

- I love the little accessories that were included, the mini carrot and teeny tiny bunny are just so sweet. 

- It is a fab little boredom buster, Elarna is often playing with it and creating her own little adventures with Bopper, it's fantastic for expanding a childs imaginative side and encouraging problem solving. 

- Learning Resources is a great brand and I was reassured that the toy was safe and fit for purpose. 

Anything we weren't so keen on?

- The bunny sometimes seems to malfunction, I'm not sure if it's the batteries we use even though we have changed them but just occasionally the bunnny stops working and makes weird noises but then turning it off and on again seems to sort the issue!

- I wasn't keen on the cardboard trees included in the accesories, they come with little plastic stands to prop them up but they aren't very sturdy. 

Overall we loved the coding critters, such a great little educational toy and anything that encourages my children to learn through play in this current climate is welcomed. They are aimed at age 4 to around 10 years old which is quite a broad age range but I can see how they can appeal to the younger child and the older. Elarna, who is now five really engaged with them where as Alfie not so much. You know your own child and what will appeal and I had a feeling that Elarna would take to them more. Coding Critters are available from leading retailers and are just a great thing to be getting while we are all in the middle of home schooling.

* Please note we were kindly sent the Coding Critters free of charge in exchange for review, all thoughts are my own. 

Sunday 19 April 2020

Candylocks from Spinmaster *Review*

{Gifted Items} Candy Locks are the sweetest smelling, crazy coloured hair collectable dolls that are very popular at the moment. Elarna was delighted to receive a selection of the recently launched tropical themed Candy Locks dolls and summer pop party pets. As a girl who delights in all things pretty, pink and brightly coloured these were just ideal for her.  There are a variety of pets and dolls to discover each with their own different looks and accessories and of course fun, fruity scented hair! 

Each one unique, open up the watermelon pet bed to discover who is inside, each pet is wrapped up in their brightly coloured hair which the child can unwrap to see who they have found. The little watermelon can then be used as storage and a play accessory for the Candy Locks pet. Style the Candy Locks hair with an added accessory included in the pack. There are some hair ideas that can be tried, what's great about the cady floss like hair is that is requires no styling tools and it stays put when you have achieved the desired look and will remain like this until played with again. The hair is so soft, it's great fun to play with - I confess, I had a go to! 

Aimed at age 5 up these are great little interactive toys. I love how unique they all are and although I couldn't really smell the scented hair Elarna could and though they were great. She loved having a go plaiting their hair and making different hair styles. The Candy Locks pets retail from around £5.99 and the assorted pack from around £12.99, these are available at leading retailers. They would make lovely little birthday gifts!

What did we love?

- Cute and unique product, they look so appealing and really catch your eye! Great little collectable toy.

- Lots of variety and playability.

- Retail price for the product is fair, they are great little toys to pop in your bag if you're heading out and about to a restaurant. 

- Encourages role play and imagination. 

- They all have funky names, Elarna loved some of them!

Anything we weren't so keen on?

- I couldn't smell the scented hair which was a bit disappointing, it would have been great if they smelt a bit stronger.

- I felt the accessories that they come with aren't great, I wasn't too sure what we were supposed to do with a couple of the bits but this really is just a tiny matter. It didn't spoil the actual product.

Overall, a great little collectable toy. Ideal for a little girl (or or boy!) that likes to collect things and do hair styling and role plays. They are such tropical, brightly coloured toys that really appeal to little ones and they have been in a hit in our house.

* Please note we were kindly sent the items free of charge in exchange for review, all thoughts are my own.

Friday 17 April 2020

How to Get the Most out of Your Garden During Lockdown.

{Collaborative Content} It is a very difficult time at the moment and a lot of us are struggling to adjust to being stuck at home all of the time. During the lockdown, it is important that you try to stay active and get outside, but you need to do it safely, which means making the most of the garden. We all have a lot of time on our hands, so now is a good time to start thinking about your garden and making some changes so you can get the most out of it. Here’s how you can the most out of your garden during the lockdown. 

Get Some Furniture 
If you do not already have garden furniture, you should invest in some. Now that the weather is warming up, you should try to spend as much time outside as possible because it is good for your health and it helps you to get out of the house during the lockdown. Obviously, you cannot get out to the normal shops that you would go to for garden furniture, but there are some great online shops, like Alice's Garden, where you can buy all of the garden furniture and equipment that you need. Putting a nice table and chair set out there means that you can sit out there and relax, and even eat your meals outside if the weather is nice enough. 

Add Some Outdoor Toys 
The lockdown is tough on everybody, but it’s especially hard for kids that would normally be able to go out and play with their friends. It’s important that the kids stay active, and if you can’t find things to entertain them, they will quickly become restless. That’s why you need to make sure that the garden is kid friendly by adding some outdoor toys and play equipment for them.
Plant Some Vegetables 
A lot of people have concerns about food during the lockdown and there are a lot of items that are hard to get hold of in the supermarkets. If you want to get more out of your garden and make sure that you have plenty of fresh food for your family, you should consider planting some vegetables out there. Now is the perfect time to start growing vegetables like carrots, leeks, lettuce, onions, and spinach. They’re actually quite simple to grow once you know what you are doing, and it’s a great fun activity for the whole family. Plus, you have the added bonus of delicious fresh vegetables in your back garden.  

If you are not confident about growing vegetables, why not try some herbs instead? When stocks are limited in the supermarket, you need to make the most of the kitchen cupboard essentials that you do have. Some fresh herbs can help to elevate your meals and make them delicious, and they’re simple to grow. 

The lockdown is taking a toll on us all, but you can make things a little more comfortable for yourself if you get out in the garden and make the most of it. 

Wednesday 15 April 2020

You are Five!

My darling little Elarna.  How is it possible you are 5? I can't quite believe it, I can remember the moment you entered into the world quite clearly. A slightly less traumatic birth than Alfie's but in typical Elarna style it wasn't all without a bit of drama......things really haven't changed much!

Now I know your birthday isn't all that you wanted to be and things are pretty sucky right now. All you've ever wanted since starting school was a class party and sadly that had to be postponed due to the ghastly Corona. For being almost 5 your grown up attitude amazes me, I'm so proud at the mature and gracious way you've accepted and realised that you won't be seeing your family or friends, be celebrating at this point with them or having a birthday sticker in assembly. You've taken it in your stride and I'm blown away by this. It's a tough time for us all and we promise that we will make it up to you. There has been lots of change in your life recently and yet you seem to have kept with a happy and cheerful outlook.

You're such a sassy little diva, strong, feisty and yet sensitive. You're kind of shy but sociable and chatty. You're creative, imaginative and love a bit of role play! We have watched you develop over the years into such a character, you keep us on our toes, boss us about and keep us in check. You are quite the gymast, the strength you have for an almost five year old is amazing and we love watching you embrace this. You had just started to enjoy your dance classes before everything had closed down and I hope to see you flourish and blossom more at this soon. You can often be found putting on a show and jumping around showing us things you have learnt in gymastics or dancing around to music, you just put a smile on our faces.

School you were enjoying, every day at pick up seeing you smile was a delight. You had just started to get a bit more of a grasp on reading, spellings and phonics and were forming some lovely little friendships. 

The cheeky giggle you treat us to every day is our favourite sound in the whole world and it sums up your cheeky and chatty little persona. You love your big brother so much, despite him at times being mean to you! You may look similar to each other but your personalities are miles apart. 

Elarna we love you with all our hearts, you cheer up every day and I'm so sorry your 5th birthday isn't what it should be but I hope it is just as special as you are. 

Happy 5th Birthday Princess. XXX

Saturday 11 April 2020

Easter Fun with Zuru Toys *Review*

{Gifted Items} Easter is a couple of days away, the children were very relieved to hear that the Easter Bunny is classed as a key worker so there was relief in our house that there might some choccy treats on the way. If you prefer Easter treats of the less chocolate variety, Zuru toys have recently released the Rainbocorns series 2 and some new unicorn surprise 5 in 1 toys. We were also sent some Dino Smashers along with some further 5 in 1 surprise toys. With the country on lock down these items were gladly received to provide some much needed cheer in our house and are such a fab boredom buster as well as making a lovely alternative Easter gift. 

My two love surprise toys, there is something about the anticipation of opening layers and layers of things to discover a variety of surprises which makes them very happy! I have to say I was very impressed with the new Unicorn 5 Surprise toys, the items inside were great and Elarna loved having a little character inside that she could then play with other than little random bits.  Alfie prefers the Dino Smashers and was thrilled to be able to add to his collection of Dino's from a previous smasher. He has quite the collection now and they are such fun little characters. Both the Rainbocorn and Dino Smasher retail for around £24.99 and they are massive, such good value for money. The little 5 surprise capsules retail for £6.99 and all are available from leading retailers. 

What we love about Zuru toys: 

- Such a great boredom busting toy. The Dino Smasher especially has some many things to discover such as slime, putty, dino bones and more, it's so much fun! The Rainbocorn is such a big size and we loved being able to add the sequined heart to the front. Absolutely ideal for a unicorn obsessed child like mine. 

- I love that they are so unique, both come in huge shaped eggs and they look brilliant. They would make an idea and pretty special gift for a child. 

- I like that they have brought out more variety and new items which keeps the range looking really fresh and appealing. 

- They are great both indoors and outdoors, in fact I would advise the putty is best played with outdoors haha! They make great boredom and offer some relief from the current situation. 

- They are high quality toys from a reputable and reliable manufacturer. 

Anything we weren't keen on?

- As previously mentioned in another review the packaging has to be talked about. I feel like there is such alot of avaoidable plastic waste. From the wrappings of the surprise toys to the outer packaging of the 5 surprise toys, they have little use afterwards which is a shame so inevitably they end up being disposed of.  Other than this the items are great. 

So if you're looking for something to entertain the children while on lock down this could be the solution. Head on over to Smyths where they can be found. What do you all think of these items? Would love to hear!

* Please note we were kindly sent the items free of charge in exchange for a review, all thoughts are my own. 

Friday 10 April 2020

5 Essential Ways to Look After Your Eyes

{Collaborative content} The health of your eyes is important.

Stop for a moment and consider how damage to your eyesight might affect your life. Which of your favourite interests would be most affected by a change for the worst in your ability to see clearly? What would you miss looking at the most?

There are numerous different problems that can affect your eyesight. A natural change in the shape of your eye can cause a change in your eyesight. While blackspots in your eyesight may be part of a much more serious problem. 

Slight changes in your eyesight can cause you to suffer from headaches, and they make driving unsafe. 

But how do you take care of your eyesight?

Here are five ways to look after your eyes. 

Get Your Eyes Tested Regularly 

Make an appointment to see your optometrist at least once every two years. 

Having an eye test will help your optician to identify changes in your eyesight. 

There will be several short tests. You will very likely be asked to read from a screen full of letters while looking through lenses. You may also have tests carried out to identify blind spots, as well as for glaucoma. 

From your eye test, your optician will be able to prescribe you with glasses if needed. 

Wear Your Prescription Glasses

If you have been prescribed glasses, it is important that you wear them. If you are short or long-sighted then you will strain your eyes when you are not wearing your glasses. This will result in headaches. 

If you need to buy new glasses, you can order a pair directly from spectacles online using the prescription provided by your optician. 

Eat The Right Food 

Eating the right food will help you to protect your eyesight. 
Of course, you should always make sure that you are eating five pieces of fresh fruit or veg each day, however, look for foods that are rich in Vitamin A or beta carotene such as carrots. 

Take Breaks When Working At The Computer

If you spend several hours working at a computer each day, then you should make sure that you are taking regular breaks to protect your eyes. 

Straining your eyes to look at a screen could cause your eyes serious damage over a prolonged period of time. 

Plan breaks away from your screen into your day to give your eyes the rest they need. 

Wear Sunglasses 

The sun can do serious damage to your eyes. You should never look directly at it. Even when there is some cloud coverage, staring at the sun will still have a negative effect on your eyes. 

If you’re out on bright sunny days, it is essential that you take the relevant steps to take care of your eyes. Wear sunglasses. 

Don’t just assume any sunglasses will protect your eyes. Make sure your sunglasses have a suitable UV rating of at least 400.

Even when you are wearing sunglasses, you should avoid looking at the sun.

Saturday 4 April 2020

Splash from Coiled Spring Games *Review*

 {Gifted} Sometimes the simplest games turn out to be the most fun to play and totally addictive! We were recently sent a game that ticked both of these boxes and appealed to both the kids and us adults. Splash (suitable for aged 6+ ideally, RRP around £12.00) it is both easy to play and lots of fun. 

The concept is fairly simple; place the different coloured and shaped pieces on top of each other matching either the colour or shape of the previous piece to create a tower and outwit your opponents, try not to knock it over! One of the best things about this game - it is perfect for travel due to its compact size, fab!

Included in the tin are 30 wooden pieces in a variety of shapes and colours and 14 water drop tokens. Do you know what else I thought when I opened the tin, what a fab little learning resource and we could totally use the pieces to learn shapes and counting and for solving maths problems. 

How to play:

- Each player in turn chooses a piece from the wooden pieces, each player should have the same number of pieces. Tip: Choose pieces with different shapes/colours.

- Play starts with the first player giving one of their pieces to the player on the left. Player 2 (the person that was just given the piece) must then place this piece on the table to form the base of the tower. Player 2 then gives one of their pieces to the next player on the left and who continues to build the tower and play continues this way. 

- Each new piece must be placed on top of the highest, uncovered piece on the tower but it must be either the same shape or colour. 

- If the tower is still standing after placing a piece play continues. If the tower has fallen....splash! The active player that forced their neightbour to collapse the tower receives a water drop token. The highest tower left on the table forms the base of the new tower. If there are several towers remaining the player that collapsed the tower chooses which tower becomes the new base. This player also collects all other pieces that fell on to the table (to a maximum of 3). Any remaining pieces get put back into the box. 

- To win the game either a player succesfully places their last piece from their stock or when a player collects 3 water drops. 

It's such a simple concept game but is lots of fun and is definitely one to play with friends on a Summers evening and of course to take away on holiday. Aimed at age 6 and upwards I would agree with as our 4 year old didn't really grasp the concept of it! We enjoyed it very much and would rate it a 8 out 10 for playability! Available online and from leasding retailers, I would receommend!

* Please note we were kindly sent the item free of charge in exchange for review, all thoughts are my own.

Friday 3 April 2020

The Best Investments when it comes to your Kitchen.

{Collaborative Content} Investing in your home can be done throughout, and there are certain products and pieces that will last a lifetime or at least be worth the money you spent. When it comes to knowing what’s best for your kitchen, there are things you can splurge on and things you can save money on. Here are some of the best investments when it comes to your kitchen.

Electronic Equipment
Electronic equipment can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but it’s important that the quality is there, no matter what it is. A stand mixer can be a great investment for the lover of baking, but when it’s a cheaper or budget version, then it’s likely to only have basic functions and probably fewer quality electrics that help power the mixer and to create the best results. By investing in certain items of the electronic nature, you’re going to end up wasting a lot less of it in the process. And the less you can contribute to waste in the environment, the better. Make sure that when it comes to the equipment you’ll use on a regular basis, like a kettle for example, that it’s a really good quality one and you’re not going to have to buy it several times over because you bought one that was cheap and kept breaking down.

A Good Set Of Knives
A good set of knives is definitely something worth getting because many of us will probably remember the frustration of having to chop foods with blunt knives. Certain textures and foods, in particular, can be hard to cut, and so you want a good set that’s going to cut through anything and everything with ease. You also don’t want to feel like you’re applying too much pressure when it comes to shopping ingredients because it can be easy to lose your grip if you’re not careful. There are plenty of options out there, but these Robert Welch knives from are a good option to start with.

Food Thermometer
The last thing you want to do when cooking for family or friends is to give them a bad case of food poisoning. There are certain meats that can be tricky to get right when you’re not that confident. However, a food thermometer can put you at ease when it comes to your kitchen utensils. There’s a lot of cheap options out there but when it comes to food safety, investing in one that’s a little more upmarket is worth doing.

Oven Dishes
And finally, oven dishes can be a great investment for your kitchen because when it comes to cooking in the oven, you want to protect the oven and trays don’t really protect it. Not only that but they’re usually made out of metal which makes them rust more easily. Ceramic dishes or glass oven dishes are really effective and will last for a long time, so long as you don’t drop them!

By purchasing better appliances and tools for your kitchen, it certainly makes for a more enjoyable experience.