Friday, 31 May 2013

Bin Weevils Bling Collectors Tub and Jigsaw Puzzle - Review

Bin Weevils, what are they? Well if you have school aged children you may already know.

Bin Weevils are a set of critters that live, yep, in bins. Brought to life in an online interactive world which children can create their own pet weevil, chat to friends and play online games.

As with other online games such as Moshi Monsters and Club Penguins children really do seem to enjoy this sort of online activity.

My youngest in particular often talks about Bin Weevils to his friends at school, and loves to set up his own bin where his weevil lives, customising it with posters and gadgets he has collected from playing the games.


Bin Weevils online is free to play, but you can also upgrade to a paid for membership on a monthly subscription. This allows you more customisation options in the game.

Along side the online world, there are lots of Bin Weevils merchandise.


Children love the familiarity of characters they know, so having products that feature the little creatures from the Bin Weevil world is always going to be a hit.

We were recently sent some Bin Weevils products to take a look at. The first was a Ravensburger Jigsaw puzzle, this brightly coloured puzzle features loads of interesting characters, aimed at children aged 6 and above it has 100 pieces.

bin weevil ravensburger puzzle

The great ravensburger quality makes this a perfect gift for any Bin Weevil fan, or even any jigsaw lover who is yet to experience the Bin Weevil online world. The bright fun characters make it appealing.


Also in the Bin Weevil merchandise range is mini collectible figures, we were sent the Bin Weevil Bling Tin to have a look at.


This tin is a great size for storing in lots of of the little figures as you grow your collection.

Included in the tin is 6 mini bin bot figures and 2 slightly larger golden figures. These figures are special collectible figures as unlike the normal figures they have been 'blinged' the two larger figures Tink and Clot are golden, and the 6 smaller figures are crystallised. Making them rare and a must have to impress friends in the playground.

You aso get a sheet of small round bing stickers, but we were not quite sure what this was for as they didn't really fit anywhere on the figures!

golden bin weevil figures

Along sized the collectors tin, you can buy blind bags with individual bin bots, to expand your collection, and swop with friends, or you can buy larger figures and play sets.

bin weevils rare collectable figure sheet

Take a look on the Character website to see the full range of BinWeevil merchandise.We loved the Collectors bling tin, the larger figures are very detailed and a great size, bigger than most collectibles which are more in line with the bin bots.

The love of the online world means these little collectible figures will be a hit with anyone who has played the online game, but the quirky characters also make for intresting role play games even without seeing the virtual world.

Getting rid of stains on childrens clothes

Children make a mess, its a renowned fact, if something may make a mark on the brand new top, then children will head straight for it.

Mine in particular seem to stain their clothes regularly. What with running through mud and grass, their clothes never stay clean for long, so when we were asked if we would try Vanish  I instantly said yes.


I have used Vanish in the passed, and added it to my normal wash just to add a bit of umph to get things clean and it works really really well.

This time however, I thought I would really run it through its paces.

In the leaflet that came along with my two tubs of Vanish it gave examples of stains and how to get rid of them.

So I thought I would give it the ultimate real stain removal test and make my own mess.


I grabbed a felt tip pen, some make up and the trusty tomato sauce. I drew, smudged and squirt each onto a white school polo shirt.

I wasn't convinced that Vanish would get rid of the marks. They looked pretty nasty.

Vanish can however, be used in three ways. 1) put a scoop in your normal wash, 2) add direct to a stain or 3) soak.


With my stains looking abit tough, I decided to go down the pre treat route. and so I mixed up some vanish oxi with water and used the scoop to give the stains a rub.

The tomato sauce came away straight away, the pen and make up dulled but was still very visible.

So I decided to soak.

I filled a mop bucket with 4 liters of water and added a scoop of vanish,just as the instructions on the tub suggest, then placed in the stained top

Vanish has a nice smell about it and you can almost see it working.

After a couple of hours I took the top out, and I was pleasantly surprised to see all the stains had in deed gone! There is a funny sort of smooth feel to the clothes after being soaked, so they do need to be washed as normal after. but they come out perfectly clean.


So if you have some tough stains and you are looking at a way to get rid of them, then look no further than Vanish, great for all the nasty stains including baby poop, grass, red wine even blood stains.

Take a look at  the Vanish website to find out how to remove certain stains, or follow vanish on facebook to see upcoming offers.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Childhood

The amount of times that I hear people saying childhood isn't how it used to be, that the world is more of a dangerous place, that children don't get to experience the fun that we remember from our own childhood.

But really is it THAT much different these days?

Yes granted there is alot more technology, the toys are far more sophisticated and readily available, in fact children have a little too many toys.

But do children no longer enjoy the things we did as children, do they no longer like to climb trees, play in streams and have simple fun?

I would argue that, in fact the world is no different, the children are no different. What is different is the adults perspective, and the fact that people don't really see what children of today actually spend time doing.

What children really enjoy doing. They are not all sat indoors hooked up to the latest gadget all of the time.

I see children out on their bikes, sitting in the park with their friends, I see young children drawing hop scotch on the pavements with chalk.

I see children happily spending hours writing their own stories and illustrating them with detailed pictures straight from the imaginations of their innocent childhood worlds.

I see children who opt to run through fields.

Children who would rather spend time jumping through a muddy marshland, enjoying nature, finding bugs and beasties and creating their own adventures away from electronic gadgets.

I see a childhood in my own children, that you know, is not that far away from the childhood I remember.

Sometimes the best way to entertain the children, is to not entertain them at all.

Let them make their own adventures without any thing else there.


You might be surprised at how much fun you will all have, by forgetting about the mess, not worring about the potential to trip, bump or scrap knees.

Not having to take along a bag of 'stuff' to entertain and occupie the young minds. Let your children run around trusting their own instincts, learning their own limits.

The world isn't really that much of a scary or dangerous place, and everyone no matter where you live can find a open bit of space somewhere, where you can enjoy the best parts of childhood - and even when you get filthy dirty, or wet, even if you get bumped knees and torn clothes. These will be the bits that in years to come hopefully our children will remember.


 Of course, with the mud, mess, cuts and grazes you will no doubt have tears and moans and fall outs.


But you know what - thats all part of childhood too!


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How to get Blog Readers?

One of the most asked questions in blogging is 'how do I get more people to read my posts?' and its something which no matter what we do, there is no guarantees to getting a post which will be read by the masses. However there are a few little tips I have picked up over the years to help you increase your readership.So below I have outlined some of the most important things to concentrate on.

How To Get More Readers.

So you've took the plunge, you've got loads of ideas and your posting regularly.

You are really enjoying writing up post, tweaking your photographs or simply sharing your stories. But  your blog feels abit lonely.

Don't be disheartened, building up a strong blog audience is not easy. There are things however which you can do to try to increase your audience.

Firstly you have to think about who you want to read your blog, that may sound abit silly, but it really is the first thing you need to consider. If you are writing a tutorial based blog, who do you think will benefit from your information? If you are writing a humours blog, who might find it the most entertaining?

Once you have an audience in mind, then you can try to locate them. If you have a specific subject to your content, such as preschool activities, then it is wise to interact with other parents of preschool children. If your blog is more fact based, around a specific sport, then targeting others with the same interest is the way to go.

So where do you find people with shared interests? 

Social Networking is great for this, with the ever growing options to interact with social media there are loads of ways you can group together with other like minded people.

Facebook, has many different groups and pages where people with similar interests gather together, as does Google+  Joining in communities with other like minded people finds you a targeted audience.

But joining a new group of people and simply spamming your blog link, isn't going to get you many popularity points. The best thing to do is naturally find a set of people who you share an intrest with, build up friendships within the communities that intrest you and then share your blog link with the members of the group.

Other social media sites such as Twitter offer a great way to find and interact with large numbers of people who potentially share the same interests as you, and Twitter is a great way to share your blog post links.

Commenting on other Blog posts is a brilliant way to build an audiences, blog writers are often the most common blog commenter's, as they are already familiar with the layout of a blog and can navigate around the comment forms easily.

Joining in Linkies such as The Gallery, Silent Sunday or Reasons to be Cheerful, can really help build relationships with other bloggers. Linkies are weekly blog prompts, where several bloggers all post around the same subject on the same day each week and the host blog provides a list of all the participating blogs. You can add your link to this list too. Linkies are a great way to find new blogs to read and gain inspiration from as well as a way to get your name seen by other bloggers.

Optimising your posts for Search Engines is another thing to consider when trying to bring traffic to your blog. Now this may sound abit technical, but it really doesn't have to be. Two very simply tips to help you if you want to be found in search engines are remember to take a minute to think about the title of your posts and label your photos with descriptive names rather than IMG0894.jpg Just simply little things like this will have a big difference.

This Post is part of my Bloggingtips  Series for more Blogging help and advise about all things from finding the perfect topic to making money via blogging then please check out the rest of the posts by clicking on the badge below.

How to create a blog

So you've heard about this 'blogging' lark? and you think you want to give it ago, but are not quite sure where to start?

Well there are loads and loads of helpful sites around who can help you with everything you could ever want to know, and lots and lots of people wanting to offer their advice on how to blog.

Infact almost everyone who has a blog, quite likes to, at some stage, talk about blogging, up until now I had always avoided the whole 'heres how to blog' style posts, but due to the increased amount of people asking for some help and tips I thought it doesn't hurt to post what I know, and hopefully it may just help someone.

So I have put together some basic informative posts to help you learn about Blogging and to start with I'm going back to the very beginning...

How To Create a Blog

Creating a blog is really very simple, there are a couple of free blog hosting sites to help you along.

Blogger - thats who I use to host my blog, and Wordpress.

Both of these are free to use and allow you to get a good feeling for blogging.

I personally find Blogger to be the more user friendly and easy to understand, and for this reason I have always used blogger for the majority of my blogs, but many people recommend starting with WordPress as this is the one that if you get serious, and want to eventually buy your own web address and hosting package for your site, will be the option you will more than likely use.

But before you make your mind up on which platform you wish to blog with, there are a couple of things to think about.

The most important thing is to find which platform  you feel more comfortable with, and the one you feel you can navigate around easiest.  If blogging is not easy to do then it will loose its appeal pretty quickly.

Both Blogger and Wordpress have very similar options but both have their differences too.
Take a look at the screen shot below, on the left is blogger and on the right Wordpress the top two screens are the 'create new post' screens and the bottom two screen shots are the  display of published posts. This hopefully gives you an idea of the similarities/differences between the two.

click to enlarge


Other differences between WordPress and Blogger are the customisation options, and the way in which to set up and move around the items on your blog, I will cover more detailed tutorials for customising your blog in another post, but here is a couple more screen shots to see if either platform instantly appeals to you.

click to enlarge

The next important thing to think about is The Terms and Conditions.  Both platforms have their own set of Terms and Conditions to take note of when you are using their services.

Wordpress.com state that whilst you are using a free wordpress site you can not accept review items or money in advertising. This may not be something you are interested in to start with but it is worth keeping in mind Read through the full Terms of Service for WordPress.com here

If you decided you do want to venture into making money from your blog, then the way to go from wordpress.com is into self hosted. This is where you pay a hosting company such as TSOHost or GoDaddy a monthly or yearly amount for the space your site is using on the internet, and register your own Domain name. This service can vary in price depending on how much traffic you are expecting and what features you require  but basic packages are often all that is needed for a personal blog and these are normally less than £5 per month.

Blogger hosted Blogs are free to use and do not hold the same rules about review items and money from advertising, but as Blogger is part of the google group the terms of service fall part of the Google regulations found here and the specific content policy can be found here

A blogger blog can be given what is called a 'vanity' url, which is where you can register your own web address, that normally costs around £10 per year, to give your blog the professional look, but you are still using bloggers servers to hold all your information.

Once you decide which blog platform you would like to use, then you simply have to sign up for an account, think up a name and start posting!

This Post is part of my Bloggingtips  Series for more Blogging help and advise about all things from finding the perfect topic to making money via blogging then please check out the rest of the posts by clicking on the badge below.


 

What is Blogging?

For a few  years now I have been blogging away on this blog, posting all sorts of bits and bobs focusing on snippets of our life and reviews of the things we all love.

Recently Alot of people have asked me what IS blogging? and Why do it?

So I thought seems as its coming upto my blogs unofficial birthday I would do a series of posts, and hope that they help people out, I will be putting them all together in the top menu so you can look back at them as and whenever you want.

What is blogging?

According to wikipedia; A blog is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order.

To you or me, a blog can be so many different things, but basically  a blog is a virtual diary, a notebook where you can scribble all your thoughts and jot down things you don't want to forget and those things you want to remember to tell someone else.

Because a blog is publicly available, anyone can read it, you may find you have a regular set of readers who you can build up new friendships with, or you may find that your random musings are being searched and found from complete strangers.

Blogs can be about anything at all, some are very focused some are just about abit of everything. The one thing to remember is to do what you enjoy, write about the things you like.

So, Why do people blog?

Because blogging is so diverse the reasons are many. Some people love to write, they love to let their thoughts flow onto the paper and feel excitement when someone reads there words. They are creative authors and masters in literature.  Others want to share their photos, or family life with friends and relatives, others want to promote a business or have a sort of online portfolio of their talents to help them springboard into new careers.

No matter what your reasons for blogging are there is one thing that is agreed. Blogging is addictive.

For many people they start out blogging, thinking it is a fun way to share some of their words or photos little snippets into their lives, maybe they want to show the cakes they are baking or how they are renovating their house, many blogs start as a personal diary to document a change in someones life, having a baby, buying a new house, moving abroad may all result in someone wanting to write down their thoughts on the new adventure they are on. Other blogs might be to share knowledge, to connect with other people who have similar hobbies and interests. Writing out tutorials on how to craft, cook, fix and find. There is a blog to match everyone.

And once you have started writing down your thoughts, you start to notice other bloggers who are doing something similar. There is always something to learn and a new thing to think about.

Blogging is a hobby which can be as much of a new learning curve as you want, some people love the brain stimulation of learning how to build their own site, learn how to get to grips with up and coming social media and relish in the chance to prove they are doing something constructive.

Others just love to write.

Whatever it is that draws you into starting your own blog, it is something which is very rewarding, and I would encourage anyone to give it ago.

Take a look at my other posts in my Bloggingtips series where I cover how to create a blog, the possibilities of making money from blogging and much much more.

Old Styles - New Fashions

Fashion has never been one of my strongest points, I somehow managed to get through my tween and teenage years blissfully unaware that what you looked like has a certain amount of impact on how people perceive you.

I was never really the one who wanted to have a certain style of clothes, and wasn't bothered about make up or having a new hair style. In fact as a teenager I was pretty boring!

I was pretty much happy to put on whatever clothes I could find, I was ecstatic when I managed to persuade my mum to buy me a branded pair of Adidas tacksuit bottoms instead of the 2 stripped non branded counterpart but that was about as much as my need to conform went.

My favourite item of clothing, as a fashion un conscious teenager, must have been my denim jacket. In fact I pretty much liked all things denim. Jeans, dungarees everything. Even when denim become abit less fashionable I still hold onto my faithful jacket.

me and my denim


For the past 20 or so years I have not really given fashion a whole lot of thought, my wardrobe consists of clothes which have been brought without any thought other than is it practical, will it last and does it fit, that thought process is what I follow through onto all clothing I buy including that for the children.

So it is a bit of a surprise really to have a daughter who is almost the exact opposite of me.


She loves fashion and wants to be in the know with what the pop stars are wearing, she will read magazines and then pick out outfits to make up her own style, and every month that passes I see her getting more kean to have the latest trend in clothing.

It makes me smile tho as I look through high street shop windows and see lots of denim, including  denim dungarees which are making a come back, maybe the fashion scene hasn't changed alot at all since the 1990's and I might have to call into New Look and see if I can find myself some new denim items, in the name of fashion of course!

This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own (and yes that is me in the denim jacket!)


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Fashion Designer - Harumika Review

Chloe is like most pre teen girls, and is just starting to show a real interest in fashion styles. Far more than myself at her age.

She loves to doodle her ideas down and flick through girlie magazines looking at the stars to see what clothes they are wearing.

She loves to put her own outfits together and often makes something far more stylish than I could ever dream up.

So when we were sent some Harumika to review I knew it would be a hit.

I have seen Harumika sets around for the past couple of years and they were on my 'must get some of them for Chloe' list.


The idea is a very simple one, you get a small mannequin, and several fabric squares, and stickers to add to your outfits.


The instructions included are simple, the mannequin has a opening at the back which you can push the material through using the tool provided to hold the fabric pieces in place.

Enabling you to make up outfits with minimum fuss, no glue or scissors needed at all, and the great thing is that you can remove and re do your outfit as many times as you want, each time you learn new ways to fold and twist the material fastening it into place making totally unique styles.


Chloe simply loves this.

And she has spent longer making outfits than she has spent doing any single activity in a very long time.


The sets come in different sizes, the starter sets included one mannequin, 3 fabric pieces  and a couple of accessories (a belt, and piece of lace) and 2 packs of stickers, and the different start sets come in different themes, the theme we received is the summer carnival set which features bright coloured fabric. These sets are prices around £11 which I think is great value for money.


You can then purchase additional fabric and accessories in various packs starting from around £7 or you can simply use any spare material or ribbon you have around the home.


There are also more deluxe sets with additional features, these go up in price depending on what you receive.

Overall we are impressed with Harumika and think it is a great gift for all tweens who are into fashion designing, you can also share your creations online with other young designers to get feedback on your creations or inspiration.

Harumika is a brilliant boredom buster and a fantastic school holiday activity. Right now at The Entertainer toy shop and online, you can get some fantastic savings on Harumika, with as much as 60% off certain sets,  if you want something to keep the children happy this bank holiday then do give this a look!

Here is Chloe showing you how to make a simple outfit.


Friday, 24 May 2013

Lego Duplo Number Train Review

We are huge Lego fans here, my boys always favour Lego over pretty much all other products.

However the standard Lego that everyone knows and loves is not suitable for younger children, with the tiny bricks and fiddly bits. But there is an alternative to the small bricks of Lego that is perfect for pre school children - Duplo!

We have had numerous Duplo sets over the years including a box of bricks which came from my own childhood days, thats how resilient Duplo is. It is the toy which lasts and lasts and gets saved and stored and passed down through generations. A true timeless classic.

lego duplo bright coloured train set preschool

So when we were asked if we would like to take a look over the Duplo Number Train, I couldn't resist even tho I no longer have preschool aged children of my own.

When we received the box my 6 year old couldn't resist building up the train and giving it his seal of approval, I also know that my nieces and nephews will simply love this set. (I am passing it on to them to also review on their mums blog which she is just setting up, please do take a look  - Mummy Wilkinson)

lego train building brick preschool children setThe Duplo number train has bright coloured bricks which are perfectly handsized,comes complete with one figure and a dog. The bricks snap together with ease, and the possibilities become endless as children can build big towers or create scenes from their own imagination.

lego duplo number bricksThe figures and bricks in Duplo sets are similar to that found in the more grown up versions of Lego, but obviously chunkier, the figure in Duplo are approx 2 inches high and although they have the same characteristics as the small figures, with jointed parts, Duplo figures do not come apart. Which means they are safe for young children.

lego dupo mini figure and dalmation dog young children

The bricks have the same interlocking design as their smaller counterparts, with the iconic round studs on the top. The average sized Duplo brick is around 1 inch square, and the train bases are approx 5 inches in length, these classic base bricks with wheels are exactly the same as I remember as a child and they are great you can build up a car, truck, tractor whatever your imagination can create.

lego duplo train bright coloured bricks

The number Train boost the added benefit of having numbered bricks, so whilst children are playing they can also familiarise themselves with numbers adding even more educational benefits to this classic good fun toy.

Priced at £12.99 at most good toy shop this is a really great value set, and is a staple for every toy box. The sturdy quality of the plastic bricks are almost indestructible, and almost every aged child from the very youngest to, well I am not afraid to admit that I still can't resist playing with Duplo myself, will love these bricks.  proving this fantastic toy really does hold its appeal.

building a train out of bricks for young children

There are lots of other Duplo sets too so you can add to your collection over the years as your children grow and develop their building skills, the more bricks you get the more you can create. A perfect way to introduce children to the wonder of Lego whilst helping their imagination and hand eye co ordination. Take a look at the Duplo Website to see what other sets are available.


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bike rides and Shiloutte photos

If there is one thing I have always enjoyed is bike rides.

There is something about the simplistic nature of getting on a bike and just riding off.


I remember when the eldest two got their first bikes and I was so very pleased when they peddled off into the distance with a new sense of freedom, memories of my own childhood and how riding my bike was the greatest thing.

Then last year, when my youngest got a new bike and learnt to ride without stabilisers proudly following his brother and sister.  My heart once again surged with pride. His legs going as fast as possible to keep up.

Over the winter the bikes have not made many appearances, but the other day we got them out, checked them over and have been riding them again. Mikey has loved going on his bike and we've been riding to school each day this week.

Boys and their bikes make the best photos too,  at the weekend when Mikey wanted to go to the park for a ride after tea, after a dull and miserable day, I grabbed my camera and off we went. The late afternoon moody skies were perfect and I just loved the photographs I captured.






Tuesday, 21 May 2013

School trips and packed lunches

We were asked to trial Flora butter products as a part of a sponsored shop insight study on behalf of Collective Bias Social Fabric community. I decided to swop my normal butter for Flora to pack a healthy lunch for my youngest on his school trip to the science museum. With a busy day out it is essential that children have something healthy to keep them going.

I often struggle with what things to pack into a lunch box, so I had a look over at the Flora website which has some great recipes and ideas  perfect for healthy snacks to go in lunch boxes.

The website has a great selection of sandwich fillings which I hadn't thought of trying before with the children such as Pawn and cucumber or curried chicken and apricot. All these sounds lovely but when out on a school trip I wanted to ensure that we went with something I know Mikey likes.  I decided to pack him up a Tuna Salad sandwich, making it even healthier by using Flora spreads.

Flora spreads are made using a blend of natural seed oils and contain healthy omegas 3 and 6 also boasting that Flora has 70% less Saturated Fat than butter, switching from Butter to Flora means you can make your lunch boxes healthier without your children even noticing. I must admit we are all huge real butter fans but Flora Buttery really does taste as good, so you can have it without the guilt that comes when you use real butter.

After deciding on our fllings and eager to give Flora a try, Me and Mikey headed off to our local Sainsburys which is a smaller than average shop to grab the lunchbox essentials, including Mikey in the shopping always makes him eager to eat everything in his lunchbox.I took lots of photos while we shopped,  you can take a look at them in my Google+ album

I wanted  to ensure Mikey had a healthy lunch and so we brought plenty of salad, tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce, coupled with tinned Tuna and sweetcorn for the filling. Of course the best part  of a packed lunch, according to children, are the snacks to go along side the sandwich. Mikey picked out some Fromage Frais tubes and some flapjack bites along with an apple to finish off his lunch.

If I'd of been more prepared  I would of baked my own flapjack using Floras new Cuisine which has 45% less saturated fat than olive oil, but for now Sainsburys ready made flapjack fit the bill, I will however be giving the flapjack recipe  on Floras Website a try when we are not on a time scale for a school trip.


Mikey was really happy with his lunch box and couldn't wait to go and explorer the science museum this morning.  I was happy that he had plenty of food to ensure he could enjoy the day without hunger getting in the way.

When he returned home this afternoon the lunchbox was empty and Mikey had had a lovely day, he returned home full of stories of the things they had seen.

The Birmingham science museum is a great place for a school trip,  Mikey  favourite part of the day was the play area which he said had a water area and lots of cars to fix. He was also eager to show me the souvenirs he brought home which included a postcard with a picture of an old Electric Tram which they had all seen at the museum.

ThinkTank looks a fantastic day out not just for school trips but as a family too, after Mikey being so excited about all that he saw I have looked at the website and found that lots of the hands on workshops are available to everyone at a reasonable price. It is certainly somewhere I will try to take all of the children too this summer.

If you have a school trip  or a family day out that you need a picnic lunch for coming up and wonder what sandwich fillings to try then do check out the recipe on Floras website and make a sandwich a really satisfying healthy meal choice for everyone in your family.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and their client.
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