Christmas Toy Ideas For Girls Aged 7 to 10

Searching for the perfect gift for a 7 to 10-year-old girl? These days, there are literally hundreds of different gifts to choose from. No matter what she’s into and how much you have to spend, there’s sure to be a huge range of gifts to match it.

Investing in toys which get your child away from a screen is also going to benefit their health. Kids today spend a lot of time either in front of a television or a tablet. While technology can obviously be important for their development, it can also be detrimental if it’s used too frequently. So, buying toys which encourage imaginative play, and which encourage creativity, are a fab idea.

To help narrow down your search, here you’ll discover 5 of the best toys for girls 7 to 10 years old.

1. L.O.L Surprise! Bigger Surprise with 60+ Surprises

If there’s one toy most 7 to 10 year old girls are obsessed with these days, it’s L.O.L dolls. These cute little dolls are highly collectable and provide hours of fun. However, buying the dolls individually can prove to be really expensive. That’s where gift sets such as this L.O.L Surprise kit, come in useful.

It comes with two limited edition Surprise L.O.L dolls, each featuring seven great surprises. There’s also a Surprise limited edition L.O.L pet included which also comes with seven different surprises. That’s not all either. In fact, the entire set comes with over 60 surprises that she’s sure to love.

One of the bigger surprises to be unwrapped is the purse carrying case which stores all of the dolls and accessories. Perhaps the best feature of this gift, however, is that it comes with an “eye spy series”. She will need to look for clues throughout the series to discover the names of secret agents who are looking for their missing pets. It’s everything a little girl loves so your money will be well spent with this gift.

2. Lil’ Gleemerz Doll, Blue

The adorable Lil’ Gleemerz doll was named one of the top 100 toys & games on Amazon for 2018 and it isn’t hard to see why it is still popular. Featuring large puppy-dog style eyes and a cute bushy tail, this interactive toy is sure to become your child’s best friend.

It has more than 100 different reactions for her to discover. Just some of them include purring, growling and saying funny phrases. They can even play games with their child companion and put on dazzling light-up shows.

Controlling it is easy too. Simply press the nose to choose between three different modes including hangout, game or light party.

3. Fingerlings HUGS – Bella (Pink)- Advanced Interactive lush Baby Monkey Pet – By WowWee

Cuddly toys are always a winner with young girls and there are lots of different ones to choose from. However, if you’re looking for the best cuddly toy on the market, this Fingerlings HUGS Bella toy is highly recommended.

This isn’t just your average cuddly toy, it’s interactive. Each of the HUGS characters are designed with maximum fun and entertainment in mind. Their super-sized reactions make every minute fun, from burping and tooting to laughing hysterically, your child is sure to love this adorable companion.

The arms of HUGS are extra-long, allowing for great cuddles. You can also have hours of fun using the mimic feature. Simply press Bella’s left ear as you talk, then when you let go, she will repeat what you’ve just said in a variety of funny ways. This toy is sure to become a firm favourite with the little lady in your life.

4. Cool Maker KumiKreator Friendship Bracelet Maker – Quick & Easy Activity Kit for Kids Ages 8 and Up

Searching for the perfect gift for a girl aged 8 or over? This Cool Make KumiKreator bracelet maker is a fab choice.

It’s one of the easiest bracelet making kits to use, creating stylish friendship bracelets in a matter of minutes. Each kit can create up to 10 bracelets and it comes with a stylish carry case to store everything in. With an incredible 88 spools of thread included, the design options are practically endless. Your child and their friend will be able to create distinctive, personalized bracelets not found anywhere else.

So, if she loves being creative, this simple yet beautiful kit is sure to keep her happy for hours. Once the threads run out, you can buy replacement packs for continued use.

5. PIKMI POPS Giant Flips – Cinnamon the Bunny

If she loves all things cute and cuddly, she’s going to love Cinnamon the Bunny! Part of the popular PIKMI POPS Giant Flips collection, this large plush toy is perfect for cuddling.

However, it doesn’t just feature Cinnamon the Bunny. Your child will also find eight different surprise items inside. One or two of these will be exclusive, scented medium PIKMI POPS. Unlike the larger toy, these can be carried around everywhere.

Ideal for girls aged 5 and over, these adorable toys are super-soft and extra cuddly. The larger bunny doesn’t have a scent, but the smaller ones smell just like cotton candy. There are three main designs to choose from, but Cinnamon does tend to be the most popular.

So, there you have it – 5 of the best toys for girls aged 7 to 10. Whether she loves to get creative or she enjoys cute, cuddly toys, there is something on the list to suit every little girl – or boy for that matter!

Top STEM Toys Children Will Love and Learn From

Are you searching for toys that aren’t just fun, but educational too? If so, STEM toys could be exactly what you need.

STEM toys started to become popular back in 2013, but in recent years they’ve really risen in popularity. Short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, STEM toys are designed to give kids the skills they need in these core subjects.

The benefits of STEM toys

While there are a lot of educational toys out there, not all of them are designed to boost STEM skills. So, why are STEM toys considered more educational?

There are a lot of benefits of giving your children STEM toys. However, one of the main ones is the fact they can teach your child a lot of traits and skills they won’t necessarily get from other toys. These include:

  • Problem-solving
  • Patience
  • Cooperation
  • Cognitive development
  • Overcoming challenges

In the long term, STEM toys will also help your child to learn more about specific core subjects. So, by the time they start learning these subjects in school, they’ll already have a good grasp of the subjects.

There are a lot of STEM toys available on the market and not all of them offer the same educational and fun element as others. So, if you’re looking to invest in the very best varieties, below you’ll discover the 5 top STEM toys children will love and learn from.

1. Scientific Explorer My First Mind Blowing Science Kit

 

Aimed at children aged 6 and over, this awesome science kit teaches the basics of science in a fun, hands-on way. Featuring 11 unique activities, your kids will have hours of fun carrying out mind-blowing experiments.

Help them create an explosive colour-changing volcano, a stunning test tube sunset and watch in amazement as they change the colour of grapes! It’s dynamic science at its finest and all of the experiments can be carried out at home.

2. National Geographic Break Open 10 Premium Geodes

Teach your kids all about Geodes with this exclusive kit from National Geographic. Featuring 10 high-quality geodes, the whole family can enjoy cracking them open to reveal the hidden crystals inside.

The geodes range from the size of a tennis ball to the size of a ping pong ball, and all have been mined from numerous sources. Every geode is different too, so you’ll never know whether you’re about to crack open a calcite, amethyst, quartz or fluorite.

As well as the geodes themselves, the kit also comes with a beautiful 16-page learning guide. This teaches kids how they are formed and the different varieties that can be found in nature.

3. K’Nex 100 Model Building Set, 863 Pieces, Age 7+

This Amazon exclusive K’Nex 100 model building set comes with a staggering 863 pieces. The K’Nex connectors and rods can be put together in a variety of ways, enabling kids to create a huge range of shapes, structures and figures.

What sets this kit apart, is the fact it comes with numerous moving pieces too. So, the structures your kids create can actually move, making them much more exciting than your average model building sets. An instructional booklet is also provided, showing you how to create 100 different models.

This kit has outstanding developmental benefits, helping to enhance key areas such as fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.

4. Learning Resources Botley the Coding Robot Activity Set

This incredibly cute robot is designed to teach your kids key STEM skills in a fun, interactive way. They will learn screen-free coding in a matter of minutes, using an easy remote programmer. Suitable for children as young as 5, Botley grows with your child and can be used for many years to come.

Included with Botley, you’ll find a 77-piece activity kit including coding cards, a remote programmer, 27 obstacle building pieces and detachable robot arms. There’s also a great starter guide and numerous coding challenges included.

This awesome robot is the Toy of the Year winner 2019, and it offers endless fun and learning opportunities.

5. Anki Cozmo Limited Edition, Interstellar Blue

Introduce your kids to Cozmo, the creative coding robot. This limited edition, Interstellar Blue robot is designed to be a fearless explorer and an adorable sidekick.

Built with advanced AI, Cozmo can recognize you, remember your name and evolve with you the more you play with him. He loves to play games, whether it’s memory match, lifting up power cubes or Quick Tap. Thanks to frequent app updates, there’s always new games your kids can challenge him to.

The coding aspect is simple and easy to use. Via the remote programmer, your kids can drag and drop coding blocks and watch Cozmo carry out actions such as working out with his cubes or performing a victory dance. He’s one of the most advanced STEM robots on the market and offers exceptional value for money.

As you can see, there is a great range of STEM toys for children. Whether you’re hoping to teach them coding, or you’re looking for a model building set that will aid in their core development skills, there is something on the list above to suit you.

STEM toys are fast gaining in popularity and it isn’t hard to see why. Helping to teach your child the modern skills of today, these toys will set them up for a bigger, brighter future. So, which STEM toy will your child love and learn from? Whichever toy you invest in from the list, your child is guaranteed to love it.

Back To School Goodies For Your Pre-Schooler From Smiggle

The new school term is on the horizon and little ones may be envying their big brothers’ and sisters’ backpacks and lunchboxes.  No need.  Smiggle have a lovely back to school range of backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles and pencil cases just right for little ones.  Read on because I have a Smiggle Skip Teeny Tiny Backpack, lunch box and water bottle in Aqua to give away to one lucky winner.

We love the bright Smiggle colours and patterns and the fact that their stationery and bags are solidly made and with a great deal of thought to make them as practical and as user-friendly as possible for little ones – and mums and dads.  These are ideal items for first timers heading off to preschool or school. Even though Caitlin and Ieuan are in ‘big school’ now, I still went ‘awww’ when I saw them.

Sturdy, wide straps for security and comfort

First up is the Skip Teeny Tiny Backpack (RRP £20) featuring:-

  • Three zipped compartments – main compartment with double zips
  • Dual drink bottle sleeves
  • Padded adjustable shoulder straps
  • Carry handle
  • Internal slip pocket
  • Internal name label

It’s a decent size too (W 21cm x H 26cm x D 10cm) and has a wipe-clean polyester cover and lining.

Then there’s the Smiggle Skip Teeny Tiny Lunchbox  (RRP £12.50) which would make any little one feel very grown-up.  I remember Caitlin and Ieuan used to love their lunch boxes, even though Ieuan would only accept the finest peanut butter sandwiches.

The lunchbox features

  • BPA free and food grade safe lining
  • Main compartment with double zip
  • External velcro front pocket
  • Adjustable and removable shoulder strap
  • Carry handle
  • Name label

And lastly, I have the Skip Teeny Tiny Strap Drink Bottle (RRP£8.50) which takes 400 ml of liquid and has a flip-top soft-touch spout, ideal for little hands.  There’s a carry handle and the bottle is BPA free.

Of course, there is plenty of back to school goodies for all ages at Smiggle and delivery is free on orders over £50.  Sign up to their newsletter too, for extra discount and special offers.

Do your kids love Smiggle?

Mal Paper Daily Goal Setter Planner: Review

It is said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail and, whilst I must admit to wandering off the path occasionally, throughout my life I have generally been a goal setter, rather than a drifter.  I am also, a huge fan of stationery and, in particular, planners.  There is something almost cathartic about taking your pen (yes pen!) to a brand new planner and writing down your hopes and dreams.  This beautiful Mal Paper Daily Goal-Setter planner is a great place to do just that.

I have to confess that, even today, I find online calendars to be uninspiring and unremittingly dull.  There is truly no romance in the Google Calendar whereas there is in the act of writing.  Even the Husband who works in the field of technology still uses a notebook to record ideas and solutions to tricky coding dilemmas.

There is, though, a definite art to goal setting and the Mal Planner takes you through what is required in its early pages. Whilst the SMART goals method is used and you are asked to identify short, medium and longer-term goals, the approach used is closer to a values-led one – by which I mean it’s not just about getting things done, it’s about finding those goals which resonate with you as a person.

After all, have you ever succeeded at a goal which didn’t truly align with your core beliefs?  Think about it.  I’ll bet you’ve tried.  Perhaps you are even trying now to succeed at something someone else thought you should do.

How many of us started on the wrong career track to please a parent?  How many of us kowtowed to tradition because “that’s the way it’s always been done”?

Whether you’re studying something you hate, reading something that bores you witless or are holidaying in a place which is the death of joy to you then I highly recommend you start by discovering your values – what matters most to you- and then setting a goal.

If there was one amendment I would make to the Mal Planner, it would be to add some pages to work on identifying your values.

I am also sure that you have read about the power of gratitude – especially if you are a fan of the Law of Attraction or, another current hot topic, manifestation.  The Mal Daily Goal-Setter planner incorporates not only 3 things to be grateful for every day but also has space for your affirmations.

Many Law of Attraction (LOA) fans are advocates of the saying that “You’ll See It When You Believe It” which is the reverse of what I heard for years as a child.  Whether you think all this is a little ‘woo-woo’ or not, there is logic in the idea that to become someone new we must look forward, not backwards.

In the front pages of this planner you’ll find a suggested monthly and weekly routine, as well as a morning and evening routine which incorporates not only gratitude and affirmations but allows you to rate your day and identify any great things that happened.

This is combined with a solid, practical explanation of goal setting and how to prioritise your tasks using the ABCDE method where A has to be done and E is something that could be done if you have the time.

The weekly and monthly routines are very much about reviewing your progress and acknowledging your successes.

The Daily Goal-Setter planner lasts for 6 months and is undated.  Mine has a beautiful pink faux leather cover with gold lettering and dove grey ribbon page markers. There is a small document holder on the back cover too.  Black and grey planners are also available.

The pages are 100 gsm ivory paper and it is a solid, hardbacked book which will last long after its pages have been filled.  It is reasonably priced at £21.

If you are looking for a planner which will help you to not only declutter your mind but also help you to create goals which align with business and spiritual goals, then this one is worth looking at.  You can find a more in-depth description of how to use the Daily Goal Setting planner here.

The Mal Paper Daily Goal Setting Planner would make a beautiful gift too.

Hotter Shoes AW19 Raven Black Suede Review

I am a long time fan of Hotter Shoes.  In fact, I wear them practically every day.  They are one of the few shoe brands I have ever found truly offering comfort and durability in one shoe.  They are ideal for the school run, long shopping trips and everything in-between and I wouldn’t be without them.

I’ve been lucky enough to receive a pair of Hotter’s lovely leopard print Raven shoes fresh from their new autumn and winter collection, which come in a black, tan and Urban Grey leopard.  Mine are the black/leopard ones. and I can see that they will be an autumn staple.

Hotter Shoes’ Raven is a casual style shoe that combines a soft suede upper with easily adjustable laces and has the comforting Hotter deep padding which cocoons your feet and lets you walk miles without having to worry about blisters – right from the first moment you put them on.  (Who has time to ‘wear shoes in’ these days?)

The sock and lining are all leather and the insole is removable – although why you’d want to I’m not sure.

The sole is made from polyurethane which gives what I like to think of as the Hotter bounce and there are half sizes all the way up to 8.  There is a size 9 and I think an 8.5 is a slight omission but it’s nice to see that there’s an 8.

Most ranges offer an 8 these days, of course, but it wasn’t always so and the styles available used to be frumpy.  Hotter has got this right from the off which is another reason I like them.

Delivery is free over £25 and returns are free if you’re in the UK.  You can also return your shoes to the nearest Hotter store.  There seems to be an increase in retailers who will only pay for returns if products are faulty.  Not on in my book but no such problem here.

Raven retails at £75 and Hotter regularly offers discounts and special deals on its shoes.  I’ve got my eye on Viviene too (another leopard print style with a heel and an ankle strap).  Take a look at the new range.

All Hotter shoes are manufactured here in the UK in their Lancashire factory.  In these dubious BREXIT times, I’m all too happy to support our own industries.

If you want a stylish shoe that is as comfy as a slipper that will even let you walk around London all day without a trip into Boots for a plaster, these are the ones for you.



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Review: Hersey & Son Silversmiths Zodiac Pendant

If you are a fan of Astrology and regularly peruse your horoscope, you will love the beautiful Zodiac & Birthstone Pendant I have been gifted by Hersey & Son Silversmiths in London.

Hersey & Son is one of the few remaining traditional silversmiths in the UK and their expertise certainly shows in the quality of my pendant.  They are a father and son business and have been making jewellery in the UK since 1955.  They are also members of the National Association of Jewellers so you know you are purchasing from a genuine company.

The Zodiac & Birthstone Pendant comes with a solid sterling silver 1970’s style zodiac pendant but you have the option to add a birthstone gemstone charm and a mini silver initial charm.  The pendants can also be engraved on their back if you are giving one as a gift.

You can be confident that you have high-quality solid sterling silver as Hersey & Son pieces are hallmarked by the London Assay Office.

The gemstones used include cabochon-cut sapphires, rubies, emeralds, tanzanite and moonstone and, of course, all 12 horoscope signs are featured:- Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces and Aries.

Purchasing is easy and the final price of the pendant will depend on the options you choose.  After you have chosen the appropriate zodiac pendant for your star sign then you simply indicate your requirements using the clickable form on the webpage.

You’ll be taken through the various price options for the additional elements of the Zodiac & Birthstone Pendant including:-

  • alternative chain length (a 16-18 inch chain or a chain suitable for a child is included free)
  • birthstone charm
  • chosen initial
  • font required (if you would like your pendant engraved)
  • your special message

I am a Gemini, my birthstone is Emerald for May and obviously my initial is L.

My pendant arrived beautifully packaged in a little grey presentation box and, as a particularly nice touch, there was even a silver cleaning cloth included so that you can take care of your necklace.

It is beautifully made and polished to perfection.  The clasp is also just the right size to allow you to put the pendant on yourself.  The chain I am wearing is the 16-18 inch option.

There is also a man’s Zodiac Pendant which comes without the charms.

Orders over £50 are free and there are also special delivery options, including next day if you need to rush someone a gift.

You can also get 10% off your first purchase if you sign up to the Hersey & Son newsletter.

Review: Rimless Glasses From Online Opticians UK

Readers of this blog will know that I am very particular about my glasses and purchasing any new pair requires quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing and usually an eye test before I commit to spending what generally amounts to a not inconsiderable amount for them.  So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to review a pair of rimless glasses from Online Opticians UK.

My current frames are all made of lightweight titanium with the thinnest possible lenses and anti-allergy nose pads to avoid the remotest chance of irritation.  I hate heavy glasses as my nose is very sensitive and I cannot bear the burning sensation which these create.  I was, therefore, keen to try Online Optician’s price-friendly offering of a very similar frame type and lens style – from the Superlite range, a pair of Superlite 37 Titanium Rimless Glasses.

Although I often order contact lenses online, this was my first time ordering glasses and to do this you will need your current prescription which your optician is obliged to let you have.

Now, since it is recommended that you have an eye test every 2 years to check the health of your eyes, if your prescription is close to hitting this age then it would be worth having your eyes retested before you invest in lenses which don’t give you the best vision.  You may be entitled to a free eye test on the NHS if you meet certain criteria.

You will also need to know a piece of data that you may well have to return to your optician to get – as, in my experience, it is seldom measured during a routine eye test – it is called pupillary distance or PD.

This is the distance in millimetres between the centre of one pupil to the centre of the other and having a correct PD on your glasses prescription ensures that you are looking through the ideal spot in your lenses.

Now there are instructions on the website to explain how to measure pupillary distance yourself but I prefer to have an accurate measurement done by someone qualified.

So, before ordering lenses online, make sure that you have an up-to-date prescription which includes your PD.

Ordering your specs with Online Opticians is, however, quite simple and the website takes you through 4 stages in the ordering process.

Step 1 select your frame

The first step is to select your frame and you’ll need to check your measurements.  The easiest way to do this is to use an existing frame and compare the dimensions online.  You’ll need to check three measurements – eye size, arm size and bridge size.  Discover how to find your glasses measurements here. Online Opticians recommend that you order frames which are +/- 4mm of your existing frames.

Some frames also have different colour options.  The Superlite Rimless 37 is only available in bronze.

Step 2 select your lenses

Distance, Reading and clear lenses are free but there is a surcharge for the 3 levels of varifocal frame offered by Online opticians.

I will be honest and say that getting a varifocal prescription just right is something that, personally, I would rather do face to face with an optician in person due to the complexity of my requirements.

For that reason, I opted for distance lenses as it is always useful to have a spare pair for driving or just to have in your bag.  As a contact lens wearer there are still those moments of “I wish I could take them out and put my glasses on” when, for example, dust or dry eye hits or, worse, you get something in your eye which then irritates for ages afterwards.

Depending on which Superlite frame you choose, the lens shape varies so you need to look at them all to choose one that you think will be the most flattering.  I chose this frame as the shape is closest to my current specs.

Step 3 choose any lens option

Next you need to decide whether you wish to add any of the options in the online form the website presents you with.  Simply click to display a range of options but note that all of these incur a small additional charge and you do not have to select any of them.

For example, there’s a specific lens option if you are going to wear your glasses for driving.  You may require an anti-scratch or anti-glare coating, or an accessory like a cord or chain.  You can even have a coating to protect your eyes against blue light from digital equipment and, of course, you can choose to have a thinner lens or even an ultra-thin lens.

I am a huge fan of thin lenses because they reduce the weight of the frame on the nose and avoid that ‘milk bottle’ look.  And, for me, an anti-scratch and an anti-glare coating are non-negotiable – especially when you have kids.

Step 4 add your prescription details

With your prescription to hand, simply enter the measurements one eye at a time starting with the right.

For both eyes you will need to know:- sphere, cylinder, axis, and Add (near) and as mentioned, pupillary distance (one measurement covering both eyes).

Take your time and double-check your input to make sure you’ve got it right.

There is also a form field for you to add any extra comments.

You will then need to agree to Online Opticians terms and conditions before you finally order your glasses safe in the knowledge that there is a 100% no-quibble money-back guarantee. Delivery is free on all orders over £64.95 and payment is via a credit or debit card or Paypal.

Orders are despatched within 3-5 working days depending on the complexity of the prescription or specific requirements.

I particularly like that Online Opticians donate a pair of glasses for every pair they sell to help eye care charities in Burma, Ghana and Zambia.

After placing my order, my glasses arrived in around 5 days and came with a sleek black case, cleaning cloth, lens cleaner and, as a nice extra touch, a miniature screwdriver to tighten the frame screws.

The lenses were immaculate and the prescription was spot on and, whilst the titanium frame was not of the same quality of the usual higher-end brand I wear, it was perfectly acceptable for the price point of £79.95.

There was only one small detail which wasn’t quite right and that was the lugs housing the nose pads were not entirely symmetrical and the nose pads themselves were smaller than the ones I prefer. This means that the glasses do not sit entirely flat on my nose.

Neither of these is insurmountable and any frame will need to be fitted properly, no matter where you buy it.

This does mean, however, that if you do buy glasses online, you may still need to visit an optician to have them correctly fitted.  Whilst tightening the frame screws is something you can do yourself, altering the nose pad lugs and changing the nose pads is definitely not.

Most opticians will make these alterations for you free of charge, although I always think it’s a bit cheeky asking if you haven’t bought the specs there.

Would I buy glasses online again?  To be honest, no.

I prefer the personal service I get from my own local optician.  He knows how my prescription has changed over the years and exactly how I need my glasses to be fitted.  He also knows that I need silicon nose pads as I am allergic to other types.

That said, if you are looking for a replacement or spare pair or you can tolerate pretty much any frame, then online opticians are ideal.

Make sure though, that you get your eyes tested by an optician you trust – and that you get a fresh prescription every two years.

Not least because an eye test can flag up other problems with your health which need dealing with as soon as possible.

Review: Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels

We have long been fans of Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit.  A new animation from them is an event not to be missed, particularly at Christmas. However, something new has hit the stage this summer.  Wallace & Gromit have gone on tour with a new show – Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels – to celebrate 30 cracking years of fun, friendship and dealing with dastardly penguins.

In truth, we weren’t sure what to expect but the Carrot Productions show is a clever mix of live orchestral music, animation and video, all interwoven to create an interesting theatrical event which is unlike anything we’ve seen before as a family.

The first half of the show features classics like the overture from the Marriage of Figaro mixed with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and a medley of music from all the chase scenes in the Wallace & Gromit animations.

In between the musical numbers, there is plenty of input with Wallace and Gromit who are helping out backstage with the usual chaos put to rights by the inventor’s faithful pooch.  They appear via big screen to talk to the audience and direct the show.

The Wallace & Gromit theme tune was created by Julian Nott who was a fellow student with Nick Park at the National Film and Television School in the 1980s.  Did you know that A Grand Day Out was actually Nick Park’s graduation film?

Nick wanted something ‘brass band like’ for the theme, but there was no brass band available and Julian completed the famous theme the night before the music session with just a few orchestral brass players.

The master of ceremonies, Matthew Sharp, was funny, engaging and a great cello player.  In fact, he is an internationally recognised classical artist who has performed at major venues and festivals worldwide as solo cellist, baritone, actor and director.

We were treated to a lovely piece of music penned by Wallace himself – My Concerto In Ee Lad.  Or was it?  I won’t spoil it for you, suffice it to say that the concerto, for violin and cello was an uplifting piece of work by composer Daniel Whibley.

The Picture House Orchestra, which comprises some of the country’s top musician drawn from the Halle, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Concert and LSO, were excellent and entered fully into the spirit of the show.  Never before have I seen violinists disguised as pieces of cheese or sheep!

Conductor Steven Magee conducts and coaches many UK orchestras and ensembles and is himself a member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in his role as Principal Contrabassoon.

The second half of the show was a screening of The Wrong Trousers with the orchestra playing the score making it a much more immersive experience than sitting at home on the sofa.

The show was just long enough to keep little ones’ attention and, as with all of Aardman’s work, there are plenty of in-jokes to amuse the adults too.

There is nothing like experiencing live orchestral music and Matthew made sure that the kids were introduced to the various instruments and their players.  Caitlin said (rather ominously I thought) that she now fancies playing the violin.

Well, there’s a strong musical tradition in our family. Dad is a piano teacher and cellist.  My sister Sara went to Dartington Music College to study piano and I play piano (a bit) by ear. Shows like this are a great way to introduce your children to the joys of live classical music to help them decide for themselves whether they enjoy it as much as their parents do.

We caught Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels at Cardiff’s St. David’s Hall but you can see the show at various venues around the UK until 9th June.

Look out for The Snowman  Tour 2019 around the UK this Christmas too.

Highly recommended.

*We were gifted a family ticket for the purpose of this review.  All opinions are our own.

Review: Nixplay Seed Smart Photo Frame – And A Giveaway

There’s nothing quite so special as family photographs and I have discovered a brilliant way to display them around the home – the Nixplay Seed 10.1 smart photo frame.

We already stream our music with multi-room audio and this is a similar concept, but for all the photos you love, without having to search for them on iCloud for hours or thumb through old family photo albums.

It’s also a far cheaper way of displaying your photographs than trekking off clutching a USB stick in the quest to find somewhere to print them off.  Realistically,  there are only so many photo frames you can display without cluttering up the place.

I can also add more photos as I go along with just one click and create different albums of our family days out and holidays.  The possibilities are endless – a Christmas album, birthdays, any family celebration you can think of.

Photo sharing is a doddle too – simply email to the relevant Nixplay account.  You could send photos of the kids to the grandparents’ Nixplay Seed – how many of us remember to send a postcard when we are on holiday these days?  It doesn’t have to be your personal frame.

What’s in the Nixplay Seed 10.1 box?

The frame comes with a regular plug, a travel plug, connection cable, remote control and the digital 10.1-inch frame. At the back on the frame already attached is the stand and it can be placed either horizontally or vertically.

It’s quick and easy to set up.  Simply attach the connection cable to the back socket and plug in at the wall.

How to set up the Nixplay Seed 10.1 Smart Photo Frame

Setting up the Nixplay Seed was really simple to do, even if you’re a bit technologically challenged, as I am.

Firstly, make sure you download the free mobile app via the App Store. The app gives faster photo optimisation and 15-second video for both iOS and Android users.

Then you pair the frame to your phone which takes no time at all.  You are then ready to transfer your photos. The best way to organise your photos is on the app you’re able to create an album, give it a name and then add your photos and videos to it. You could even add captions if you wanted to. The photos and videos are then instantly sent to the frame.

Features of the Nixplay Seed 10.1

This is a pretty impressive piece of kit as the husband would say.  The Nixplay Seed offers:-

  • Instant sharing from anywhere in the world using the app or email
  • Simple connection via WiFi
  • Nixplay friends – invite family and friends to send photos directly to your frame
  • Access to all your photos via different devices using your Cloud account
  • High-resolution display – with clear and vivid colour photos
  • Hu-motion sensor – the frame automatically turns on when you enter a room

I started by sharing photos of our recent family day out to Dan Yr Ogof Caves in Wales and Kingsbridge in Devon. I created the album, added my chosen photos and sent them to the frame. As you do this, the frame alerts you that it has new photos to display which is particularly helpful if you are sending them to someone else’s frame.

The quality of the photograph display on the frame is excellent – at least as good as looking at them on an iPad or mobile phone.  And, with Father’s Day coming up on 16 June, what a great idea for a gift.

Head to the Nixplay site on May 30th as they’ll have marvellous promotions. You can get up to 25% off ALL Nixplay frames in Nixplay’s Father’s Day promotion.

You can also win a Nixplay Seed 10.1 worth £149.99 in my giveaway below.

Caitlin and Ieuan loved the frame and the idea of being able to send their own photos to it.  Having a blogging mother has certainly given them an interest in photography too.

You can find a full range of digital frames at Nixplay.

I’m really impressed with our Nixplay Seed frame.  Having your photos constantly on display is a lovely reminder of special times and is the memory boost you need to keep refreshing your photos and sharing them with the rest of the family.

The Nixplay Seed 10.1 giveaway

One lucky reader can win a frame like mine worth £149.99.  The giveaway is open to UK entrants only and ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday 23 June.

Entry is via the Gleam widget below and the usual terms and conditions apply which can be viewed on my giveaways page.

Nixplay Seed 10.1 Smart Photo Frame

Good luck!

 

Review: Eversbrook Men’s Luxury Shirts

GIFTED:  Eversbrook Men’s Luxury Shirts – Apsley Blue Shirt

The husband’s job takes him all around the world so his business attire has to be stylish, comfortable, durable and versatile – quite a challenge!

He has a wardrobe full of tailored shirts to go with his suits but when he is meeting clients in tech start-ups or small businesses, a less informal style is needed.  Plus, if he is entertaining clients in the evening, a more relaxed look is the order of the day.

We recently discovered Eversbrook Men’s Luxury Shirts. This is a luxury British brand whose menswear is designed by expert tailors and produced in London using fabric sourced in the UK wherever possible.

Eversbrook Men's Luxury Shirts Apsley Blue

We were sent the Apsley Sea Blue, a fitted shirt designed for wear on all occasions. It has a distinctive four-panel design and is made from 100% pure shirting cotton.  The shirt is a slim waist design with the panels accentuating the chest.

Features include a covered front button panel, whilst the inner collar and cuffs have a white lining and the shirt buttons are a toning deep blue.

Whilst the four panels on the Apsley Sea Blue are the same colour, you’ll find other shirt designs with contrasting panel colours for a stronger style statement.

The husband opted for size XL.  He would have preferred extra combinations of collar, waist and chest size to choose from in the tailor-made range since he has a 17″ collar but a 42″ chest.

This meant that the shirt we were sent was slightly long in the sleeves and a little large around the chest, however, neither of these were insurmountable problems.

The shirt fabric is excellent quality and, being cotton, should be comfortable to wear for business travel.

The lining on the cuffs is also a good feature since this is usually where wear and tear shows up first.  Frayed cuffs are not a good look when you’re trying to close a deal.

You also need a more generously cut cuff if you wear a larger watch or jewellery which the Apsley design has.

One small niggle was that there was no care label inside the shirt which, as chief laundress, I would have preferred.

We thought the Eversbrook Apsley Blue shirt was a good quality, versatile shirt with subtle design details that should go the distance.

Whilst formal suits used to be the standard for most workplaces, a smart-casual approach is often more in line with company culture these days. In fact, Eversbrook’s founder, Jay Bull, suggests that a pair of chinos paired with a formal dress shirt is the perfect combination for everyday work clothing.

A luxury shirt can be a value for money investment whether you are racking up air miles or wrestling with commuters on the DLR.

And don’t forget it’s Father’s Day on Sunday 16th June if you’re looking for gift ideas!

Review: Pure Green Coffee

You might have heard that lots of people are trying green coffee to support them in their weight loss journey.  I was recently sent some green coffee from the Pure Green Coffee Company to try.

I received the Slim Your Body 28 box which contains 28 individual coffee bags and read on because I have a box to give away worth £22.99.

What’s in the bags?

You may already be familiar with the health-giving properties of green tea but green coffee also has plenty to offer.

Pure Green Coffee Company coffee comes bagged in individual servings (28 per box) and has four primary ingredients:-

Green Coffee
Green coffee contains Chlorogenic acid to enhance metabolism. It can help to reduce high blood pressure, decrease the absorption of carbs and has antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
Common Nettle
Nettle is another metabolism booster and a natural diuretic.  It is used to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux and excess gas.  It is also a great source of iron, important for combatting anaemia and fatigue.
Common Dandelion
Dandelion helps to promote digestion and balance the good bacteria in your gut.  It is thought to improve liver function by removing toxins and reestablishing hydration and electrolyte balance.  Rich in antioxidants, dandelion is also believed to regular blood sugar and is rich in antioxidants.
Coleus Forskohlii: this increases cellular levels of an enzyme to support increased rates of fat loss.

What can it do?

There are some pretty impressive claims for pure green coffee.  The company says that their coffee:

  • burns fat faster than normal green coffee powder due to the addition of the herb Coleus Forskohlii, and it is a slimming aid that helps improve digestion.
  • can aid weight loss and help maintain weight as part of an active healthy lifestyle.
  • gives fast results, helping to reduce bloating and boost the metabolism – it’s a great drink when detoxing
  • boosts energy using natural caffeine and herbal ingredients.
  • is organic and natural with plenty of antioxidants to hydrate skin, increase wellbeing and vitality. 

How to drink your pure green coffee

You’ll need 200 ml of water per serving and the ideal temperature is below boiling at 90 degrees C.  Simply steep the bag for 3-5 minutes and discard.  You can add milk and sugar to taste, although the coffee has a pleasant taste without.

What did I think?

Whilst I didn’t experience a noticeable weight loss, (a couple of pounds), I did enjoy a daily pure green coffee and, given the huge number of weight loss aids on the market, this one is a natural alternative that I feel more comfortable taking.

I think that drinking pure green coffee is one of the small changes you can make to your daily lifestyle to get into a healthy eating mindset.

You can read more about the benefits of this coffee on the Pure Green Coffee Company website and on Amazon.

Any weight loss programme should, of course, be undertaken with advice from your doctor.

More coffee-related articles:

Review:  Bird & Wild and Decadent Decaf coffees

Review:  A Coffee Stash From Beanies The Flavour Company

Should you allow your teenagers to drink coffee?

Gift options for every coffee lover in your life

Customer service:  a little bit of coffee shop love will keep me loyal

Review: Show Them You Care With The Gift Experience

GIFTED:  Don’t you find that the older your family gets, the more difficult it is to find the perfect present?  Caitlin and Ieuan are generally happy with gift cards or anything digital, whilst the husband, much like my dad, has taken to saying “I have everything I need”.

Which is true.  But ….

The thing about giving gifts is just as much about making the giver feel good too.  And, it definitely makes me feel good if I don’t have to schlep around town getting hot and bothered trying to find something which will just end up in a drawer – or regifted.

Father’s Day is on the horizon (Sunday 6 June) and then there are end of term teacher’s gifts to consider, as well as the usual run of birthdays.

We were recently offered the chance to review family-run business The Gift Experience – an online gift shop offering gifts for almost any occasion you can think of, including personalised gifts.

You can search the site according to the occasion, or the person as you might expect but you will also find children’s books, experience days and personalised cards.  Just about everything on one website.

These are the gifts I chose (resisting the urge to treat myself).

Father’s Day Gifts 2019

Large Personalised Sweetie Jar

Tempted as I am to get Mat more socks, he’ll only accuse me of stealing them.  You can never have too many socks in my opinion and that’s the risk you run if you marry someone with a similar shoe size.  A better choice is this very large jar of retro sweets.

I can still remember when you could buy 4 Fruit Salad or Black Jacks for a penny. and you may find some of these in this jar (contents vary).  I’m am talking about the early ’70s though when Creme Eggs were the size of a real egg and a Wagon Wheel was the size of your head.

Other fond memories include love hearts, parma violets, cola bottles, space candy and sherbet lollies.  There’s even a packet of Candy Canes which the slightly older of you will remember used to be sold as candy cigarettes.  How times have changed!

Nestled beneath these treats are mixed packets of sweets such as dolly mixture, jelly babies and cola cubes.

The label on the front can be personalised with the name of the recipient or, preferably with the words “Keep Out – They’re Mine”.

This is a very generous selection and Mat has promised to share them, although strangely I’ve no idea where he’s put the jar now.

Motivational Statement Bracelet

These are all the rage at the moment and I’ve been looking for the perfect one for Caitlin for ages.

The If You Dream It, You Can Achieve It Bracelet is a beautifully made silver plated bracelet with this inspiring statement engraved on it.  Cleverly, the statement is repeated so that the words can be seen on the front and the back of the bracelet.

It would be perfect as a graduation gift but I chose it for Caitlin to boost her confidence for this year’s National Tests in school.

The bracelet comes inside a lilac coloured box with a small silver coloured plaque that can be inscribed with a short message or name of your choice.

Caitlin absolutely adores it – and despite its modest price point (RRP £24.99), it looks a far more expensive item.

The Gift Experience offer a gift wrapping service too to save you even more time and express delivery is available should you need a gift in a hurry.

We were really impressed with the quality of the items we received – and the personalisation was spot on too.

You can find them at www.thegiftexperience.co.uk.