Sunday, 30 September 2012

Review of M and M Direct - My girls gorgeous winter boots

I am genuinely pleased to have been introduced to the website M and M Direct.  It is not somewhere I had heard of before and I am not a massive online shopper but give me a bargain and I can not resist and better still a brand name bargain.

The bulk of the stock sold appears to be men's, women's and children's, clothes, sportswear and shoes/ boots but there is also a gift section. The brands that are available on the site are just too numerous to mention but all the big trendy ones you would expect like Diesel, Ugg, Adiddas, Bench and Ralph Lauren are there. What I found though is that sizes or stock ight be limited and that is why you can get such great big discounts against high street prices.

I have my eye on a Helly Hansen coat at the moment ready for my trip to Belarus in December.  Normally this coat retails for £99.99 but currently on the M and M Direct website it is just £34.99.  You can't do better than that, surely?  It is a discount of £65 or 65%.

To try out the service from M and M Direct I was offered some bots for my girls to review. I can confirm that the package arrived very quickly and was delivered by courier. As I was not in the courier used their initiative and left the boots in a safe place and left me a note through the door. The boots were packaged in a heavy duty mailing bag so that had it of rained they would have been fine. I notice that right now there is free delivery on all orders over £10 but the normal postage is £3.99 standard delivery and other quicker options are available too.

If you need to return an item to M and M Direct it is easy to do and there is a 28 day no quibble guarantee but you need to note it is not free. One of the ways they keep their initial costs very low is by not offering a free returns service. A pre-paid label is available for £1.49 so it need not cost too much and if the item is faulty then they pic up the cost of return of course.

M and M Direct pride themselves on being the cheapest on the internet and they have a price promise that you can take them up on if you find the exact same product elsewhere for less money. You'll need to check out the terms and conditions but generally you will find that you'll get up to 75% discount at M and M Direct.

So what did we think of the boots that we received for my girls?  Brilliant is the short answer. They are branded as Norvic and I have not heard of them before but was willing to give them a go and I'm really pleased I did.  Normally I might spend £40 - £46 per pair at Clarks but not so this year, the M and M Direct boots were discounted by 50% and cost just £24.99.  That is practically buy one get one free in the case for me, having twins.

As you can see my girls were thrilled with their boots.  The fit is good and there is growing room for over the winter.  At first glance I thought they were not leather but I now see they are leather coated and that is why after a weekends really hard wear (Legoland, dog walking, park and shopping) they still look perfect - not a scratch in sight. I'm pretty sure I am going to have a fight on my hands to get them off my girls this winter!

I'll happily shop again at M and M Direct now I know about it.  Why don't you give it a try too?

Disclosure:  I received 2 pairs of girls boots for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Review: Britax Kid Plus SICT (Group 2-3)

A short while back Britax contacted me to see if I would like to trial out some of their products and be a Mumbassador.  As a Mum who is in no hurry to move her kids out of car seats, I jumped at the chance.  I have read enough news items and articles to know that children are far safer kept in seats or on booster cushions as appropriate for as long as possible.  My JJ is nearly 9 but already he is taller than the 135cm legal requirement for a car seat.  Much to his disdain he knows that he won't be getting away with no booster for a while yet!

Miss E and Miss M (5 years old) are currently in car seats that JJ had outgrown and whilst they have never been in accidents and thus I do not have any reason not to use them, they are now showing their age with ripped and stained seat cover and Miss E's one even had cracked polystyrene that had been brown taped back together!  It really was a relief to hear that Britax wanted to send Miss E and Kid Plus SICT car seat for her to try out and look at it - it is like the king of car seats -

I went for classic black covers to match my car interior, I am sure Miss E would have much preferred the hot pink but I was pulling rank on this one! There are currently 6 different fabric options to suit all tastes.

Here is what we really like about the Kid Plus SICT -
  • It received the 2011 Which Best Buy award.
  • The SICT (side impact protection technology), which means that side impact energy is reduced by over 25% for the child, making it a much safer seat than your average.
  • The seat is really padded and very comfy, as is the headrest.  Miss E tells me it is her best seat ever.
  • The cover can easily be removed for washing.
  • The width of the seat is adjustable so it can get wider with your child as they grow. I have never seen this option before, it is very simple to change and really nifty!
  • The placing of the seat means that the lap belt goes across in just the right place and this is so important.
  • All the areas that I need to adjust are in red making it easy for me to see what I need to do.
  • There are multiple recline positions for maximum comfort.
  • The headrest is easy to adjust to change for different height children or to adjust as your child grows.
  • Adjustable backrest so ensure that the seat can be fitted into many cars.
  • The seat belt guides are easy to use and not fiddly, even for my husband with bigger fingers.
  • Miss E is able to clip her own seatbelt in now, something she was not able to do with her old seat.
  • The seat and the backrest can be separated for easy storage.
  • It comes with a full user manual (so many things rely on you to go online and find it yourself nowadays!)
  • It is also available as an Isofix seat if you have a car with the right fittings.
What we did not like -

I only really have 2 grumbles with the seat and neither would stop me buying it. 
  • The first is that the SICT air-cushioning on each side makes for a very wide seat, this means the seat often feels very near the car door and it also means that if I have to have 3 kids along my backseat (2 car seats and one in the middle) then poor JJ in the middle gets very squashed. So if you need to get lots of children on your back seat think this through and maybe try it out first before buying.
  • The other thing was that I personally would not buy it for a child at the top end of the age range. Although my JJ is currently only 8, he has the height and frame of a 12 year old and thus I got him to try out the seat and his shoulders were tight in the seat and he said he did not feel comfy.

Technical Details -

Group 2 and 3 car seat
Suits weight of child: 15kg - 36kg (roughly suitable for 4 - 12 years)
Height:  68 - 86cm
Width: 60 cm
Depth: 43 cm
Weight of seat: 6.9 kg

If you want to see more about the Kid Plus SICT car seat then check out the videos at Britax.

The Kid Plus SICT car seat has an RRP of £124.99 but I found it on Amazon for anywhere upwards of about £98. 
We are really happy with our car seat and it is so nice to be able to go on a long journey and know that if Miss E falls asleep her head will be supported and she'll be comfy too. I am happy to recommend this car seat and I am giving it 9/10 overall.
Disclosure:  I was sent this seat for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Review: Mattel Junior Scrabble Boardgame

It's funny how things work out, a few weeks back JJ played scrabble with his Nan whilst we were at her house for Sunday lunch. It was his first time to play and he had an absolute blast, coming away saying we needed to get him scrabble for his birthday. Grandma, who watched him play tells me he was really very good and far beyond his years - that's my boy!

So imagine my delight when I was contacted and asked if we would like to review Junior Scrabble. JJ and I have played this quite a few times so far and I have to admit that I have been enjoying myself. I've never played scrabble before, I did not really think it was my kind of thing, but it seems I am mistaken.  It has been quite fun to stretch myself and increase my vocabulary.

Junior Scrabble is billed as being suitable for 2 - 4 players ages 5 - 10 years, so I did have my reservations before we played as JJ is 9 and very intelligent for his age but I need not have worried, there is enough in this game for him. I also worried that the age range was a bit wide, I know what a struggle it is to get my 9 year old to play with his 5 year old sisters.  Their abilities are just on different spectrum's at the moment but what I did not realise is that Junior Scrabble has a double sided playing board, so there are two games.  How sensible is that?  And how wonderful to be able to buy a board game that grows with your child.

I played the younger game with my 5 year old twin girls, at the moment they are both just learning to read but their abilities are quite different. One of them found it far easier than the other but they both enjoyed working with Mummy to try and figure out the letters and sounds that go in the words and match the pictures on the board.

Game play only lasted us about 15 minutes as their attention span when it involves work is still fairly short but I can imagine that in six months or so they will be much better equipped to be able to do the whole grid in this first game.

The real success for us was the more grown up scrabble board.  It does differ slightly to the adult version in that there are not any scores on the tiles but fundamentally it is the same game with slightly easier rules. A game takes JJ and I anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour depending on how fast we manage to block ourselves!

Here are the plus points of this board game -
  • Education dressed up as fun, what more can any parent ask for?
  • The board, box and tiles are all well made and look durable, as if they will last a long time.
  • There are 2 age appropriate games, so it has longevity.
  • A game can be played fairly quickly if need be.
  • The game is good value for money at £17.99 on Amazon. It would make a great Christmas gift I am sure.
  • The instructions are easy to read and understand and JJ was able to sort it all out and set u the game.
And the cons -
  • No major faults or flaws to note to be honest! The only comments that JJ made was that to make the game more fun he would have liked scores on the tiles and a holder for his tiles so I could not see what he had!  Ohh Mr Competitive.
I would happily recommend Junior Scrabble as a great educational board game that is heaps of fun too.

Disclosure:  We received this game free of charge for he purposes of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Review: Guinness World Records Book 2013

At the end of August, just before we took a three hour car journey the postman arrived to deliver an exclusive preview copy of the Guinness World Records 2013 book.  Well I wish I had my camera then, as JJ's face was a treat - he was so excited.  More than anyone should be about a book!

In the summer we attended a Guinness World Records and Thomson event at Whipsande Zoo and JJ attempted to break a world record for the most hats worn at one time.  Sadly during his official adjudicated attempt the hats all fell off his head and we had tears but he still had a great time and we know that he smashed the record, it just was not recorded.

Attendance at this event really increased JJ's interest in Guinness World Records and when he learnt they would send him the book to review he really was jumping for joy. I have to say that the book proved to be an excellent travelling companion for our three hour journey to Norfolk. That day JJ was happy to regale me with astonishing facts and kept trying to show me the glossy pictures but that proved a tad difficult as I was the driver.

Let me share with you some of the facts I learnt during this car journey -
  1. Hong Kong is the city with the most skyscrapers. They have an estimated combined height of 205 miles.  Who'd have known?
  2. Richard Lecce from the USA has the most video games - 8,068 different titles at the last official count in 2011.
  3. Medusa, the python is the longest living snake, she is 25ft 2inches long - ekk!
  4. The world heaviest twins had a combined birth weight of 27lb 12oz - mine had a combined birth weight of 11lb 12oz, bit of a difference! lol
  5. A man from Argentina has the most pierced face with 280 of them.  Can you even imagine?
All very useful I'm sure you'll agree?  the funny thing is that I have found myself sharing these facts with friends and family in the last few weeks.  Guinness World Records really do get under your skin it seems.

I'd happily recommend the 2013 Guinness World Records book as a great Christmas present for your child or a niece/ nephew.  I think the book is equally suitable for a girl or boy and will probably be most enjoyed by a child aged seven years plus, so they can ably read the book themselves and be big enough to hold it (it is pretty big and heavy). The book is hardback and the pages are glossy and very high quality. All the facts are presented in a visually pleasing way and really engage kids.  This year there is a free download app for your iPhone or iPad which allows you to view some of the pictures in the book in 3D.  It really is a nice extra and quite amazing, you have to see it to believe it.

The Guinness World records 2013 book has hardly been put own since JJ received it.  I even noticed the other day that it was going to school with him most days.  Apparently a few of them read it at break time. It is certainly pretty common to walk in his room and find him on his bed like this -

Do you think this makes him a nerd?  A very nice nerd though surely?

The Guinness World Records 2013 book has an RRP of £20 but I notice it is currently just £9 on Amazon and that is a complete bargain!

Disclosure:  We received this book free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Review - Hotter Leanne Casual Shoes

I have reviewed some Hotter boots before and my Mum has Hotter shoes and we both agree these are the most comfy shoes we have ever had, so when Hotter asked me if I would like to try out some shoes, how could I possibly refuse?  My first thought was to go for some smart work shoes, in my job as a trainer I am often on my feet for the whole day and high heels become tiresome for me, so something like these Darcy shoes are just perfect.  I still look smart, I feel on trend and most importantly my feet are happy the whole day long.

I didn't end up going for work shoes though, as much I would loved to have.  My sensible head kicked in and I remembered that I am off to Ethiopia in just a few weeks and that I need some practical footwear for when I am out there.  Something I can do lots of walking in, something to protect my feet, something really comfortable and nothing too showy.  What did I find?  Well, I decided that the Leanne casual shoe was perfect.  They are like a trainer but much more lightweight with a cushioned and contoured sole and looking at the customer reviews on the site they appear to be perfect for what I need them for. I think breathable fabric has to be high on the list in the African sun hey?
I went for this bright and fun colourway but there are much more subdued blacks or neutral tones if that is your thing. I was thrilled to find they have a removable insole so you can re freshen them, I hate to admit that I have manky feet but I do. These shoes retail for £59.00 and having received the shoes and worn them a few times I feel the pricing is about right.  Yes, these are not a bargain pair of shoes but for me a pair of shoes has to represent value and these certainly do.  I am pretty sure in a  couple of years time I'll still be wearing them and they will be in fantastic condition.  My Hotter boots from last year were won in puddles, the snow, mud - literally everything and they are still fantastic.
When I am out in Ethiopia I'll make sure I get some good shots of me sporting these new shoes and I'll pop them on the blog so you can see them in action.
Ohh and I forgot to add that my Hotter shoes have always arrived in good time, been perfectly boxed and when I have changed my mind a few times and returned them it this has been fuss-free and free of charge to exchange. I would highly recommend Hotter shoes and recommend you go and take a peek now but be careful you'll become hooked!
Disclosure:  I was sent these shoes free of charge for the purposes of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Cleaning Reviews - Ecover Zero and BizzyBee

I've shared before on quite a few occasions that by most peoples standards I am a bit sad, I really quite like cleaning and I love the satisfaction of taking a really dirty or messy room and giving it a thorough make-over. So it has been no hardship for me to recently try out some household cleaning products.  I'll give you a quick low-down on what I have tried and how I feel about it -

Laundry Detergent and Fabric Conditioner
I tried out three products from the Ecover Zero brand - washing-up liquid, laundry detergent and fabric conditioner.  These products have all been approved by Allergy UK and are dermatologically tested meaning they are suitable for use by those with allergies and sensitive skin.  My little Miss E can suffer from eczema at times so there is always a little concern when I use new products but I can happily report she did not have any problems at all.

Ecover ZERO uses only gentle plant-based and mineral ingredients, no phosphates and is fragrance free and that was fine, but to be honest I like my fabric conditioner to give a nice smell as well as soften.  I have no grumbles with the laundry detergent and fabric conditioner, they both worked as well as the leading brands (and at only 30 degrees) that I normally buy and I was exceptionally surprised when I looked in Tesco to find they were both cheaper than brands like Ariel and Persil. I had wrongly assumed that an eco brand that was suitable for those with allergies would be more expensive.

Washing up Liquid
The washing up liquid was probably the biggest surprise to me. We do not really use washing up liquid much as everything goes in the dishwasher but in August we headed off on holiday for 9 days and with 7 of us in the house and no dishwasher we got to use this product a lot. But I have to say that a little goes a long way, we hardly dented the bottle in this time and originally I had intended to just leave the rest at the holiday house but having used it and realising it is very good, it has come home with me ready for the large pans that do have to get washed up. It gives a really good foam from just a small amount and that bubbles last along with the power to cut through the grease and grime.

You can buy the products in your local supermarket or online.

Over the summer I have slowly decorated our bathroom and in terms of painting this is an easy job as there is only a ceiling and woodwork but this means my whole bath room is tiled and it is not the smallest of bathrooms with both a double shower and bath area. Sadly our extractor fan had been broken for a year or so, a while back and this led to some of the grouting going a bit mouldy and looking very unsightly. Yes because I am sad, this upset me and I set about sorting it all out. Luckily the British cleaning brand BizzyBee sent me through some products to use.

Shall I tell you what my hero was when I was cleaning all those tiles and the grout?  It was the BizzyBee scourers.  I had to laugh as when I looked in my cleaning box I already owned some, must of been the pretty iridescent colour that attracted me.  These non-scratch scourers were phenomenal, I loved used them, so easy but really effective and I was even able to take the grout cleaner I had bought back to the shop.  Yes, you need elbow grease but it pays off, just look at this corner.  When I had last grouted a few years back I had got grout all over some edging and whilst at the time you could not see it, over the years it has discoloured and looks unsightly. The picture on the left shows before and on the right is after.  All I used was warm water and the BizzyBee scourer and when they only cost £1.32 for two you can't go wrong.

I also tried out some gloves from the range and I am not a rubber glove person.  When I saw they had sent me a medium size, I just sighed knowing that I have big hands but actually they were ample and fitted well.  My favourite feature has to be the colour and the comfy inside.  They were a joy to wear.

Disclosure: These products were sent to me free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

A superb deal for parent and toddlers at Legoland, Windsor

I just thought I'd share with you a great deal that I have learnt about, unfortunately not one for me as my kids are too old but if you have children 3 and under then this may well interest you.

You can visit Legoland, Windsor and access all the rides for yourself and up to 3 little ones (aged 3 and under) for just £23.50 all in when you visit Monday- Friday up until 30th October 2012.

Sounds pretty amazing doesn't it?  Have you been to Legoland before?  I can highly recommend it if not, we have been going there for years and the girls loved it even when just 18 months, there are attractions for all ages and the real benefit of going on a week day is that it is quieter and you will queue for far less time.

If you fancy going to Legoland with this offer, you just need to print yourself off a voucher from HERE.

Look out for my full review on my main blog in October, once we have visited for JJ's birthday.