Tuesday, 30 August 2016

BABY Born train Andy puppy **REVIEW**

When you think of dolls one of the names that springs to mind is BABY Born but did you know its not just dolls and accesories they sell as they also sell pets just like the train Andy puppy!

This adorable little puppy is the perfect companion for your little one. Andy is an interactive puppy who can walk, sit and beg and comes with a handy remote for your child to control and train Andy. Andy also comes with a bone which you can feed to him.

Evelyn adores Andy's soft fur and loves patting him on the back to make him sit. She thinks it hilarious when she feeds him the little pink bone only for him to poop it back out after! All of the main actions for Andy are controlled by the remote which is small enough for even a toddler to be able to hold on to.

We did find that the remote had to be held quite close to Andy's head for it to work properly which isn't a massive issue although did get a little frustrating for Evelyn who just wanted to wave the remote around in excitement.

I really liked how interactive Andy is which makes him really stand out. Sometimes Andy will start walking quickly which is a sign he is getting excited, a simple pat to the back is a sign for sit and Andy will stop. He also lets out a little whimper is you leave him switched on and unattended for too long.

 Evelyn has definitely taken Andy on as her very own pet which has been great for teaching her about looking after pets etc. It would be lovely to see some accesories brought out for Andy as I think this is a toy she will be playing with for quite some time. The toy states it is for children aged 3+ however Evelyn is just a little over 2 and adores it. She does need some help with a few of the functions but otherwise its a lovely toy for her.

You can check out more about train Andy over on the BABY Born website.


** I was not paid for this review, we were provided with a train Andy puppy free on charge in exchange for our honest review. All words and opinions are my own.**

Monday, 29 August 2016

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm **REVIEW**

We love spending days out as a family and we are always looking for new places to visit so when we were recently invited to come along and enjoy a family day out at Noah's Ark zoo farm we jumped at the chance.

Despite being the summer holidays the entrance and ticket booths were so well manned there was no queuing time at all. There are 4 ticket booths which definitely helps keep ques down much to our delight as Evelyn hates queuing.

As we entered the park we discovered the cafe and gift shop as well as a large play area which included a climbing area and huge trampolines. Noah's Ark also currently have the elephant trail which you can complete. You simple pick up a map and a set of stickers near the entrance and find the decorated elephant statues dotted around the park. James loved this and took lots of pride in doing his as we ventured through the park. Each elephant statue also contains a fact or question which really got him thinking which was great!

Next we discovered the tractor ride and decided to hop on to the first ride since we happened to be there (ride times are displayed on a clock near the tractor waiting area). There was no waiting although this may be different later in the day and we jumped on board for a ride around the bits of Noah's Ark we wouldn't usually see.

The tractor ride is charged at an extra £2 per person for a 10-15 minute tractor ride. Whilst we did thoroughly enjoy our ride I think at £2 per person this could certainly add up if you have a larger family and think £1 per person may have been more appropriate. However it is definitely worth doing, our tractor driver was lovely and gave us some really informative information about the working farm side of Noah's ark and the animals. We also got to see these stunning views over Bristol/Avonmouth and Wales.

There are also so many animals to see at Noah's Ark zoo farm, everything from snakes and lizards to elephants and bears! The new African Animals area at Noah's Ark is amazing. It features Elephants, Giraffe's, Bears and even Rhino! James adored being able to go inside the Giraffe house and get up close and personal to the Giraffe's (they were literally a few feet away!).

Unlike at other animal parks we have been to you definitely don't struggle to get a glimpse of the animals at Noah's Ark! The enclosures are huge with plenty of space around for everyone to see and if you still can't catch a glimpse, not a problem. Noah's Ark have placed plenty of higher platforms around the park next to large enclosures such as the bears and lions so you can climb up and get a birds eye view over the enclosure. .

At the end of our visit we were all very hot so decided to go to the cafe for an ice-cream before heading home. On our way we found this quaint little splash pool/ welly boot land which all the children were splashing around in. It certainly helped James and Evelyn to cool down and I think this is such a fab idea. I do think this could use a little padding around though as the edges are concrete and there are some corners dotted around at head level for children. This didn't affect our ability to use it though and the kids had lots of fun.

Would be recommend Noah's Ark zoo farm? 110% yes! We had a fantastic family day out and James is already asking when we can go back. There is something here for everyone from toddlers to adults and it really is a whole day out.

As well as all of the things I have mentioned above Noah's Ark also boasts several play area's including outdoor parks, indoor soft play area's, a huge outdoor maze and even a straw barn where you can realise your inner monkey and swing around! There is so much to do at Noah's Ark we didn't manage to enjoy these area's so we will definitely be back again soon!

If you want to find out more about Noah's Ark zoo farm or book your tickets you can find their website here - www.noahsarkzoofarm.co.uk.


** I was not paid for this post, we were given tickets to enable us to visit and review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Keeping lunch time fun with Hartley's.

A packed lunch is one of James favourite lunches and since he started school 2 years ago I am always looking at ways to keep his lunch box fun, interesting and delicious.

Whilst I would love to be able to show you a Pinterest worthy bento style lunch box full of art worthy sandwiches and snacks that's just not us. With 2 kids to get ready and out of the house by 8am each morning (one of whom refuses to get dressed!) mornings are stressful enough. However there are lots of ways you can keep packed lunches fun and delicious with little fuss and effort.

Here are my top tips for putting together quick, easy and nutritional lunch boxes the kids will love.

Sandwich cutters are your friend for quick and fun lunches. Even Evelyn who is a total sandwich snob will tuck in to a sandwich if its dinosaur shaped. You can find so many great designs and for a just a few £'s each these are a cheap way to jazz up lunch too.

Hartley's jelly pots are a great addition to lunch boxes too. With a huge variety of flavours they offer a fab low sugar sweet treat addition to lunch. Hartley's are also running a promotion at the moment where you can collect 12 jelly pots lids and send these off. In return you will receive your own Hartley's lunch box and stickers to personalise it!

If you are worried about lunches getting warm but don't have room in the lunch box for a bulky ice pack, freeze a juice carton. Not only will this keep the lunch inside cold but will double up as a refreshing cold drink by lunch time.

Get the kids involved with picking things for their lunch box. We encourage James to pick a different piece of fruit to try each week which keeps it different. Some of his other favoruites include baby bells, grapes, cucumber sticks, frubes and sometimes we bake our own simple cheese straws at home which are always a hit.

Do you have any top tips for keeping lunch boxes fun, interesting and delicious? I would love to hear them!


This post is an entry for BritMums #HartleysYourLunchbox Linky Challenge, in collaboration with Hartley’s Jelly www.hartleysfruit.co.uk.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Finding the right fit with Brantano.

From first shoes to school shoes I have always been adamant that the kids have properly fitted shoes. After all their little feet always seem to be growing and they certainly spend lots of time running around on their feet, it only seems right they have properly fitted shoes.

So when the lovely people at Brantano contacted us and asked if we would like to try out their fitting service I jumped at the chance to check the growth of James and Evelyn's feet, especially since we had to purchase school shoes for James soon.

Brantano care about getting the correct fit just as much as you do, they use a 3 steps to the right fit system -

  1. Measure - Brantano use a specially designed foot gauge to measure the length, width and depth of each foot.
  2. Try On - Brantano find the correct fitting shoe from their wide selection.
  3. Take A Walk - the very best fit cannot be achieved without taking a few steps. Thorough checks always ensure a comfortable fit.

From our experience the staff at Brantano are very friendly and keen to help you ensure your children's shoes are the perfect fit.

James went first and he had a growth spurt a few months back and so we weren't expecting too much of a change and as expected he has just gone from a 13 to a 13.5. His feet were double checked to ensure the fitting was correct and his width was checked too. He does have one foot half a size bigger than the other and so for the purpose of finding shoes you always go for the biggest width and size.

We set about finding some school shoes in Brantano once we had his feet measured. Brantano stock a huge range of shoes with a whole range of styles and brands to choose from. We noticed Brantano also had the new Clarks range in and James loved these Glo Form school shoes from Clarks (I am certain he was swayed by the alien hidden within the insole!).

Our fitter tried the shoes on his to ensure they were a good fit and offered support and some growing room and were an over all good fit. I loved that they didn't just rely on them being the correct size but checked they were the correct fit too.

Next up was Evelyn who can be very hit and miss with having her feet measured. However thanks to the calm nature of the staff in Brantano she was only too happy to have her feet measured and chat along to the staff as she did.

We discovered that Evelyn has a size 7 foot but it is very wide with a high instep which is why we have such difficulty in finding her shoes that fit. This was were things got interesting as we did struggle to get something suitable. I wasn't too worried about the style of shoe as she doesn't attend school or nursery yet so we just wanted a general shoe, however nothing seemed to fit.

I can't praise the staff in Brantano enough who were so patient and determined to find her a shoe. We eventually found a pair of Sketchers that fit her feet really well and Evelyn was in love with the light up toes and so we got her these. It would have been easy for Brantano to just say we have nothing in her size/fit but they didn't they were persistent and must have brought out 10+ pairs of shoes in our search.

It is so important to make sure your children have their feet measured regularly and with Brantano offering a FREE fitting service that is quick and easy to do there is no reason not too. You will also receive a card to take home once your child has had their fitting which will include all their fitting details for you to take home and keep for reference.

You can find your local Brantano via their website here - www.brantano.co.uk


** I was not paid for this post. We were asked to review the Brantano fitting service and received a pair of shoes for the purpose of the review. All words and opinions are my own. **

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The funny realities of family life.

As a pregnant first time mum I had all of these ideas whizzing around my head about how family life was going to be. Cuddles in bed in the mornings, family strolls on the beach and eating dinner together a family at the table each evening.

But lets face it whilst those idea's are lovely, and do happen occasionally the reality of family life is much different (and often much more amusing!).

Today I thought I would share with you some of our "realities of family life" that we can look back on and have a good laugh about now and for years to come. Please do share yours too in the comments I would love to hear them.

Before I had kids I imagined the kids climbing in to our bed in the mornings and us all having cuddles in bed watching a bit of weekend tv whilst we all woke up.

The reality is that around 5am I am given a wake up call by a child hollering across the hall that they need a drink and want breakfast (at 5am!!). Then I am usually greeted by Evelyn who has managed to strip most of her pyjama's off and thinks its absolutely hilarious to evade my attempts to redress her. All whilst I am shhing the kids to not stomp like rhinos in a herd as our neighbours may be sleeping.

I imagined us having lovely strolls along the beach in the summer and pulling on our welly boots and going out to jump in muddy puddles in the winter. Enjoying nature and being able to educate our kids as we went.

The reality is that whilst we do attempt these walks they don't always turn out so well. Our stroll along the beach on holiday results in Evelyn having a meltdown because being the cruel parent I am, I wouldn't let her out to sea to hold a wind turbine!? The winter welly walks usually result in someone falling in mud (usually James), heck sometimes we don't even make it out of the street without someone needing a change of clothes.

That weaning stage, we all promise ourselves we will cook home cooked well balanced meals and finally we would be able to sit at the table together. I was so looking forward to sitting around the table eating out dinner and sharing stories about our days.

The reality is meal times are fun but messy! I do cook the home cooked meals but usually the veg is left and anything that looks remotely like a vegetable is quickly dismissed. The chat is more along the lines of "please at your dinner" or "no toes on the table" or even " please your your fork not your face to get food off the plate". To be honest if dinner doesn't break out in a food fight I consider it pretty successful.

Whilst at the time these situations seemed stressful we always look back on them and laugh at just how funny they are. How different our views of family life change once you become a parent.

Thank you to Bassetts for sending us some of their range of vitamins to help keep the kids happy, healthy and keep my mind at rest as a parent that they are getting some of the vital vitamins they need!

Here's what Bassetts Vitamins have to say about their vitamin range: 'At Bassetts Vitamins we know that family life is colourful and rarely straightforward. Family activities are a great opportunity to enjoy precious and active time together,  and we believe that families need to be ready and set to go, to deal with whatever challenges the day may bring. Our intention is to support families through the ups and downs of family life.’ 

You can learn more about Bassetts Vitamins here.

Please do share your realities of family life I would love to hear them.


“I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher for this post. 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 **REVIEW**

A few weeks before we were due to go on holiday this summer I came to the sudden realisation that, whilst I love our big pushchair it takes up our whole boot meaning there was going to be absolutely no room for luggage! 

We are not a family that travels light so boot space was essential and so we had to look at getting a more compact pushchair. Luckily the lovely people over at Quinny came to our rescue, offering us a Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 for review. 

The Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 is designed with one thing in mind - to make life easier and it certainly did for us. 

Our first impressions of the Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 were really good. It looks sleek and elegant and it has a really good size seat unit. Evelyn is 2 but still uses a pushchair for long walks and near roads etc and some pushchairs have quite a small seat area, however the Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 offers a really generous size seat which is padded and looks super comfy. 

The next thing we did with the Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 was test it out in the car, after all this was our main concern with the previous pushchair. I was amazed at just how small the Zapp Xtra 2 folds down! It easily fit in the boot of our Ford Focus alongside 2 of our huge suitcases as well as all our holiday items for 7 nights. 

Putting the pushchair together was simple when it arrived. It was simply a case of clicking in the wheels (make sure you hear 2 clicks) and attaching the basket and we were ready to go! Putting the pushchair down however was a little more complicated to begin with. To collapse the pushchair you first fold the seat unit down then simultaneously press the numbered 1 and 2 buttons either side of the seat unit, this folds down the handle bars. This is when it got tricky you then have a section at the back on the bottom labeled 3 and 4 and you have to push 3 down and push 4 in. I found this a bit tricky to begin with but after a few attempts (and a few watches of the You Tube video) I had it worked out and its actually really simple to do but definitely a 2 handed job. 

The basket on the Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 isn't huge but this seems to be standard on most lightweight stroller style pushchairs. However its actually quite deceptive. We managed to fit 2 water bottles, sun cream, 2 nappies a pack of wipes, a change of clothes for Evelyn and a few snacks all underneath in the basket so I was pretty impressed! 

Another thing I love on the Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 is the extendable sun canopy on the hood, this really came in handy whilst we were on holiday. When not needed the hood is a standard size but when needed you can unzip the middle section of the hood, allowing you to extend the hood further and providing lots more sun coverage. Evelyn can sometimes get frustrated when the sun gets in her eyes but still wants to see out and Quinny have this covered.

The Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 is suitable from birth right up until you choose not to use a pushchair, its that versatile. It can rearward and forward face and can even be converted in to a travel system using the Maxi-Cosi Pebble or CabrioFix car seat. I love the adaptability of the Zapp Xtra 2 and that you could just buy this one pushchair to last throughout. 

Our over all verdict of the Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 is a big thumbs up! It is lightweight, easy to use and push and is small enough to fit in any boot. It comes with the extendable hood as well as a easy to use rain cover meaning you are covered for all weather.The most important thing for us, Evelyn seems to be happy and comfy so we would definitely recommend it. 

Have you tried out the Quinny Zapp Xtra 2 yet? 


** I was not paid for this post. I was sent the pushchair from Quinny for the purpose of this review however all thoughts, opinions and photos are my own. **

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Back to School with the Disney Store.

As September looms I am sure lots of us have been thinking about our children heading back to school or evening starting school for the very first time!

So today I am sharing my top tips for getting back to school and I would love to hear yours in the comments too!

Over the summer holidays we all tend to be a little more relaxed on bedtime and a routine which is great over the holidays but can be difficult to adapt back when school starts. Whilst it can be tempting to stick with the late nights and lie ins (if your lucky enough to get them!) try and get back in to routine the week before school starts. We try and set our alarms a week before school starts and setting a more sensible bed time so we can all adjust before school starts. Its makes it much easier if everyone is in that routine when school comes around.

- Let your child get involved in picking some of the items for going back to school, whether that's stationary and back packs or even their water bottles and lunch box. Having items they have picked will make your child feel involved and gives them a little responsibility. Also if they are like James excited to go and show their friends their new things.

- Try and arrange some play dates for your child with their school friends over the summer holidays. It can be quite daunting heading back to school if they haven't seen their friends for over 6 weeks so having that time to just chill and play outside of school can be really good. Even if its just arranging a trip to the park/a picnic with other parents and their children its a good chance for children to catch up outside of the school environment.

- If you don't already have one purchase a family calendar. It can be a great space for everyone to write things including events at school, school trips and record any important school dates that may affect everyone such as in service days. Put this somewhere everyone can see so that the kids can get involved in checking each day too.

- Start labeling EVERYTHING as soon as you can. I always underestimate how long this will take and end up rushing it. I get James involved in helping me pick name labels and let him choose a funky design so that he can easily recognize his own items from his name label.

If you are still looking for some back to school essentials why not check out the Disney Store, James has these super cool Marvel goodies to head back to school with and he is very excited to take them.

Do you have any top tips for those children heading back to school?


**I was not paid for this post, I was sent this item and we used the item to produce this honest review. 
All thoughts and opinions in this post are my own and written by me. **

Monday, 1 August 2016

James Update - Age 6!

Its hard to come to terms with the fact I am a mum to a 6, almost 7 year old!

James is blossoming in to such a kind boy, he has a heart of gold and goes out of his way to help others which is lovely to watch. He is an amazing brother to Evelyn and is always on hand to help her whenever she needs it. He has been such a huge help to me too especially during the school holidays when he has stepped in to help keep her entertained, he has also loved joining us for our swimming sessions.

He joined his local Beaver scouts group around 6 months ago and has really thrown himself in to the adventure and fun of it. He has made lots of new friends, learnt to tie his own shoe laces and has been on his very first Beaver sleep over (his first sleepover away from us!). He adores Beavers and it has made him so much more independent and confident in his abilities.

James has had some pretty big changes on the school front! Whilst he had been working extremely hard at his previous school we decided (with the help of James) to move him to a new school. I won't go in to the reasons why but we 100% included James in the decision and his final decision was to move and so that's what we did.

James has thrived at his new school and is loving it, he will be moving in to year 2 after the summer holidays which he is very excited for. Despite only spending around 4 weeks in his new school year 1 class the teachers were amazed at how well he adapted to his new school and made lots of new friends. His teacher remarked at how it felt like he has always been a part of the class which was lovely to hear. I think its fair to say I was extremely proud of him!

LEGO and Marvel Avengers are his favourite things at the moment and I love seeing his big imagination ticking over when he creates all sorts of LEGO models and vehicles. He is always so proud of them although we do have to hide them from Evelyn who we have nicknamed "the destroyer" for her quick LEGO crushing abilities.

Swimming has also been a big thing for James at the moment. He has been attending swimming lessons since he was around 3 but recently has been doing so well. He has moved up 3 groups in the last few months and now swims with some children who are a few years older than him.... and keeping up! His swimming teacher was pretty impressed that he could swim 50m without even being out of breath and still keep going. His ability to hold his breath for such a long time is also something that all the swimming teachers are pretty impressed with, we are all certain hes half fish.

Over all James isquickly becoming a kind hearted, sensitive yet confidence young man with a heart of gold and a smile to match. I am so proud watching him become more confident within himself and choose his own hairstyles and clothes which gives us all a glimpse of his quirky personality. I have everything crossed that he thrives in his new Year 2 class and continues to blossom.

You can read Evelyn's update here.


Evelyn Update - 2 years old.

Its been a while since I did a little update for both James and Evelyn but some time has passed now and I thought it would be a nice time to update you all on how they both are. This is Evelyn's update but you can also check out James here.

Can you believe Evelyn is 2 already (with the attitude of a teenager!). She certainly knows her mind and isn't afraid to put her foot down to get it. She refers to herself as "Princess Coco Pono something I am sure she has picked up from watching her favourite TV show Bing Bunny. Its quite funny really as she demands others call her this too!

Evelyn recently had her very first hair cut. It wasn't actually planned as we had gone to get James hair cut however the lovely man was certain he could get Evelyn to sit still long enough to cut her hair. I had explained my worries about her sitting still and her hatred towards the brush to him but he was still wanting to try. You see at home I only have to bring out the brush and she drops to the floor in a oscar winning performance tantrum so I had avoided haircuts all together.

Would you believe it though she sat still the whole time and loved it! I swear she does it to make me look stupid! Ok so the princess cape and lolly pop may have had something to do with it but still I was pretty impressed and her first hair cut was complete (just a trim to tidy up her wild curls).

Evelyn still loves the water (and being under it) and we swim at least once a week with one of her little friends at our local leisure centre. Its a lovely time for me and her to do something together whilst James is at school and its lovely seeing her confidence grow each time.

Bedtime is something we are still working on, whilst she does stay asleep once she is asleep the getting to sleep is the real issue. Some days she refuses to settle until 10pm which is pretty tiring especially when she is up around 6am most morning. She is sharing a room with her brother in a bunk bed which she loves so I am hoping this may just be a phase and we will eventually find our own routine.

James and Evelyn are still very close and she is loving having him off for the holidays and I think he is loving being home with her too. Its been nice not to have to worry about school pick ups and drop offs and just spend some quality time together. Saying this though they do bickering LOTS! Its usually over the most pointless things too, yesterday they argued over who could hold the empty doughnut pack in the car... yes really! I suppose this is to be expected with brothers and sisters though.

Evelyn has developed in to a crazy, strong willed but extremely cute character who adores adventures, running wild and getting muddy. Her smiles are totally contagious and her renditions of Twinkle Twinkle little star melt my heart. I am so proud of the confident little girl she is becoming, even if she does tantrum like a teenager and wake ridiculously early!

Don't forget to check out our Instagram feed where I share lots of pictures of the kids and our adventures most days! You can find us here - www.instagram.com/tantrumstosmiles.