> The Beesley Buzz

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Crawl around car: A review for Babies R Us.

The boys have enjoyed being Toyologists for Toys R Us over the past couple of years putting lots of toys through their paces. This time it was Miss T's turn to be a babyologist for Babies R Us.

This Fisher Price Laugh and Learn crawl around car could not have arrived at a better time. Miss T had been poorly last week so when the delivery man arrived with this, it really cheered her up. 

It requires a little bit of assembly before it is ready to use and I'm pleased to say that despite my general incompetence at DIY, I was able to put it all together myself. The instructions were clear. There were a few pieces to click together and a few pieces that needed a screwdriver. 

The car is aimed at babies aged 6 months and over. I have to admit that my initial thoughts were that Miss T would be too old for it but I could not have been more wrong. 

She spent ages playing with it to begin with and the novelty still hasn't worn off. It is the first toy she goes to when she wakes up in the morning 

And when we've been out, she comes home and hops into her car straight away.

It has lots of features that really entertain and educate. From parts that move, to songs and sounds. A real door that opens and closes and a built in shape sorter and ball rolling ramp. 

Here's a little video we made to show some of the things the car can do...

Although the back wheels turn, the car itself stays still. This makes it stable for babies as they learn to crawl around the outside of it and explore. Once babies can sit up, then the dashboard is great for learning cause and effect as they push the buttons and hear the sounds. 

This really is a toy whose play value will grow as your child grows. There are 3 settings to help differentiate the songs, sounds and learning for different ages and stages of development. Babies and toddlers can learn about shapes, colours, numbers, the alphabet and so much more. 

I'm actually really glad that we got the opportunity to review this with Miss T at this age because it is not something I would have considered for her as it is easy to assume the car is just for babies of crawling age. And yet it has been such a pleasure seeing her play with it with such enthusiasm each day as she announces to everyone that it is 'mine car' (mine is her way of saying 'my'). 

In summary, a fabulous toy that would make a great birthday or Christmas gift for a baby or young child. Thank you Babies R Us for the opportunity to review the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Crawl around car!

Disclosure: As Babies R Us babyologists we were sent this toy for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own. 


Kids in the Kitchen: Eric Lanlard's Southern Mud Pie

I'm absolutely determined to link up with Kids in the Kitchen this week. We love this linky so much as it really encourages us to get cooking each week and inspires us with new ideas to try out. Miss T hadn't been well last week so she'd lost her appetite and certainly didn't fancy cooking anything.

As cooking is her favourite activity, I knew she must be unwell if she didn't have the energy to join in with cooking. 

So I was delighted to see her back to her usual self this week when she got stuck into helping me make the Southern Mud pie we had seen Eric Lanlard make at the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes show last month. 

We found Eric Lanlard's theatre session hilarious. He has a fabulous sense of humour and had us laughing throughout.  He is also right up there amongst our very favourite chefs as he was the judge of the 'bakes' category at the show, where 8 year old D scooped top prize in the Junior Bakes category and got to meet Mary Berry for afternoon tea and received a stunning Kenwood K mix stand mixer. 

One of the recipes he made was a southern mud pie. The recipe was in the show guide but is pretty similar to this one found here on Baking Mad if you want to try it yourself. 

We were warned that it is highly calorific but also highly tasty. I'd never made chocolate pastry before but it turned out so well that I will be making it again. I could probably have done with rolling it a bit thinner but I thought it was ok for a first attempt.

Miss T helped roll out the dough. We used the clingfilm technique instead of flouring the pastry dough.

She broke the chocolate into pieces...well tried to, as it was a bit tricky as you can see from the facial expression. 

She also helped weigh the ingredients for the filling. She loves to turn the mixer on and off carefully under supervision. 
She is learning how to break eggs by holding it in one hand, and using the edge of a fork to hit it with her other hand and then pull the shell apart to get to the egg. She also helps get things out the fridge and put rubbish in the bin.

We didn't have any cream to whip to go on it but  it tasted amazing without. I made a mess of getting it out the pie tin so I'm afraid my photos don't really do it justice.

It tasted sooo good in fact, that even when we were trying to head off for the school run to pick D up, Miss T kept sneaking back for another mouthful!

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Striking mums - Treats for mums

I'm beginning to realise that if I want to join in with linkys I need to just write the post as soon as possible otherwise I don't seem to get around to it if it just gets added to my to-do list. So I'm quickly writing up this weeks Striking Mums post whilst the kids are having an afternoon snack.

I agree with Kate that treating ourselves every once in a while as mums is so important. I found that when my first baby came along, the family 'pecking order' changed. No longer was it just hubby and me but baby was number 1 priority, followed by hubby, then the cat and I was somewhere way down the list beyond that.

When babies are little, I firmly think that is the way it should be. Their needs are pretty urgent and immediate but as they grow up there should come a time when I'm able to say to them just wait. Wait until I finish what I'm doing, wait until I've cooked the dinner, wait until I'm out the loo. But I've always found that hard.

I don't like to let people down and that means that I end up putting everyone elses needs ahead of my own. When things got really bad last year, I needed to be told that as I was the one holding everything together, I HAD to start taking care of myself otherwise I would fall apart and then everything else would fall apart anyway.

I still struggle to do that but I do occasionally remind myself to take 5 minutes to sit down with a hot drink (it still only happens once in a blue moon but that's better than never!), I will ask Richard to take the kids to church without me on Sundays so I can catch up on a bit of housework, and I do now occasionally treat myself to the odd piece of new clothing (before that I'd regularly go years, and I mean 10 years or more in some cases, before replacing an item of clothing).

I think it boiled down to the fact that I didn't feel I deserved to treat myself. Without meaning to dwell on the past or blame my childhood experiences, I'd never had anyone to believe in me and I'm not the sort of person that believes in myself very much.

I hate myself even writing that because it is not the kind of role model I want to be for my kids. I believe in them 110% and I believe that they can do and achieve anything and everything they want to and yet I don't believe that same fact about myself.

But I am gradually getting better at it...So here are this week's questions from Kate:

When did you last treat yourself?
I very nearly did yesterday when I saw a new mixing bowl (which I kind of need so it is not technically a treat) but I still didn't buy it for myself.

I treated myself to some new slippers (which again I needed) and they are going to be given from the kids to me at Christmas.

Oh dear - I'm not very good at this am I. I sat down with a cup of Ovaltine a few nights ago. But that's not that much of a treat.

I got some lovely chocolates for my birthday in October so I'm sure that counts. I also like to eat out and we got to eat out lots when we were on our road trip in the summer so that felt like being treated.

What is the balance between you treating others and you treating yourself?
I've treated the kids to onesies this week and even though I saw lots of lovely Christmas jumpers and snuggly onesies in my size, I didn't get myself anything. So I am well aware that I'm not good at treating myself.

Again I think it comes down to feeling unworthy and undeserving of being treated and that is a big stumbling block I need to get over.

It's probably apparent from my online life (my poor friends on facebook that have to put up with my spammy timeline!!!) that I really enjoy entering competitions. Its something that I only really got into over the past couple of years (I think it was the boredom of those night feeds when Miss T was born that I started to enter a few and then couldn't stop). I work hard at it some weeks spending 5 or more hours each evening (and yes I know that is longer than someone would ordinarily spend in a full time job). But it gives me a bit of 'me time' which is a treat in itself and then if I get any prize wins then that feels like a real treat too.

One of the things that remains one of my best ever prizes was my Pink Lining bag that I won. It is not something that I would have had the spare budget to buy at the time and I'd used freebie changing bags before that when the boys were younger so it really felt like a treat to win such a fabulous bag for me and Miss T.

I think one of the reasons that I've become so attached to entering competitions is because it is a way of treating myself without feeling guilty. There are always competing priorities with things the kids need or things for the house and so I feel guilty when buying things for myself but if I've managed to win myself something then that lessens the guilt.

Having said that I find I will often share my prizes with others - more about that on the next question.

What joy do you get when you treat another person?
I love it if I'm able to treat another person to something they really need or want. Whether it is helping out when they are stuck for a last minute babysitter or being able to give them a gift that they've been wishing for.

But I don't enjoy giving gifts when I'm stuck for ideas - That's one of the reasons I dislike Christmas so much. I hate buying things for people who can and do buy everything they need themselves and so there is nothing you can buy that will truly please them.

I used to make my mum handmade gifts and she would really appreciate that but some people think that you've gone down the handmade route to be scrimpy and stingy and don't realise that by the time you've bought the materials you need plus the hours that go into a handmade gift, it is not the easiest or cheapest route at all. So I don't particularly enjoy making gifts for people these days for that reason.

I've got a very recent example of being able to treat a friend and it has brought me lots of joy. Because of D getting his amazing Kenwood K Mix stand mixer recently, I no longer had the space to keep my Kenwood Chef Classic. It was something that my friend had been wishing for and so it was a delight to be able to pass it on to her.

I've also been able to giveaway ipads, a kurio tablet, and share my voucher wins with others. Whilst I am really happy to be able to do this and I do it because I want to treat my friends, I also do it partly because I feel undeserving of the prize myself.

What treats would you buy with...£100, £1000, £10000?
In reality a spare lump of cash like that would go towards the mortgage but if I had to spend it on a treat I think it would be...

£100 for a relaxing facial and perhaps a massage too.

£1000 A weekend in Paris perhaps.

£10000 for a new car as hubby's is coming towards the end of its useful life.

What free or affordable treats do you indulge in?
I've recently discovered that I enjoy cooking and baking when I find the time to do so. It is something that I've historically been rubbish at doing but because of my kid's enjoying cooking so much, I now have a new found enjoyment of it. So for me being able to spend time trying out a new recipe is a treat.

As long as there is no pressure for it to turn out right as that would make it stressful. That's why when we have friends over, I use shop bought desserts as it is too risky to rely on things going right if I'm cooking something myself!

I love to learn new things - So again it boils down to time - but if I find enough time to have a browse on pinterest or be inspired by some craft or cooking ideas online then that is a treat for me.

Picking up a free magazine from the supermarket and getting the chance to read it is a treat.

Going to the hairdressers is an affordable treat as I don't go very often and don't have anything fancy done - just a basic cut - and my hairdresser really makes me laugh with stories about his kids and grandkids - it really brightens up my day!

I enjoy looking through photo albums. I love having a sort out of cupboards. Just little things like that feel like a treat if I find time to do it.

I was also enjoying the Britmums bookclub (is that still going?) as it meant that I would force myself to make time to read and I loved having a book pre-chosen for me to read as it meant I read things that I would not necessarily have read otherwise.

Talking of treats, there is a very lovely competition on Kate's Striking Mums post this week.

Kate on thin Ice Striking Mums

Can you help find the Missing 'IF'?

image courtesy of Panmacmillan
After our amazing Movember meals experience last year from Panmacmillan, it has been a real pleasure to stay in touch with them and review a fabulous selection of books. These have ranged from thrillers and murder mystery type books like The Human Flies, The Killing and The Informant right through to the other end of the reading spectrum with adorable children's books perfect for Miss T like Bear and Hare Go Fishing, Aunt Amelia, Again! and My New Home.  

We've also been getting into the festive spirit by reviewing wintry books like Bear and Hare Snow! and Hello! Christmas

The one area that might seem lacking with our book reviews are the ones J and D used to do so keenly before. Since they've been back at school after our time of homeschooling, they still love to read as much as they ever did but they don't seem to have time to write the reviews like they used to. 

Panmacmillan have been extremely kind in sending J a big supply of books (He's pretty much read every book in his age range at our local library so I've really appreciated the books they sent) but he's been very reluctant to read and review them. Perhaps its because I made the mistake of telling him that he MUST review them, whereas reading has always been for fun in our house and not something that ought to be done. 

So I think I'll need to tell him that he can read them and only review them if he particuarly wants to. Hopefully that will get him reading those particular books that he's been sent. 

However, he could not resist reading one of the books that he was sent from Panmacmillan as the cover really caught his eye reminding him of the Wimpy Kid / Tom Gates style books that he loves so much. It was Moone Boy: The Blunder Years by Chris O'Dowd (of 'The IT Crowd' fame) and screenwriter Nick V. Murphy. 

He still didn't review it although I know he did enjoy the book. It looks like such a fun book that I have to admit I'd quite like to read it too! 

From what I do know of the book, it heavily involves an Imaginary Friend, known as 'IF' for short. And Panmacmillan have come up with a genius competition idea:

Sadly 'IF' has gone missing and they need to find him by Christmas. He was last seen in a bookshop when Chris and Nick were busy signing copies of MooneBoy: The Blunder Years. They turned their backs for just a second, and then he was GONE…

If you have any information regarding the Missing IF, please contact the Twitter helpline immediately. You can send any details or pictures of sightings to #IFhelpline at @MacmillanKidsUK. Or find out more information by watching Chris and Nick’s appeal video here.

Panmacmillan are offering a reward for whoever spots him in the strangest place. Please help spread the word by tweeting or posting this link: http://panmacmillan.com/missingimaginaryfriend

Book review: Bear and Hare - Snow! By Emily Gravett

Earlier in the year, PanMacmillan had sent us Bear and Hare Go Fishing which was perfect in the summer with long lazy days when the kids can enjoy a spot of pond dipping or rock pooling as their own way of 'fishing'.

Now we are in November and our thoughts have turned to Christmas and our hearts are full of hope for...Snow!
Bear and Hare, two friends who enjoy sharing adventures together, are lucky enough to have had snow. We are told that Hare loves snow and the excitement can be seen in Hare's face. Hare gets stuck into doing all the fun things that we all love to do in the snow...or do we?
Poor Bear's face tells a different story.

Snow prints, snow angels, snowmen (well snow Hares to be more precise), and snowballs...Everyone's snow time dream, right?

Wrong. Poor Bear gets the rough end of the stick and it isn't until they go sledging that Bear finally starts to have fun too.

Beautifully illustrated, (as are all Emily Gravett books), Bear and Hare - Snow! is a charming winter themed addition to the Bear and Hare adventure series of books. So far Bear and Hare have gone fishing and played in the snow and I can't wait to find out what other adventures Emily Gravett has in store for these two loveable characters.

Thank you PanMacmillan for sending us this lovely book to review.

Grand Balcony Dolls house: Review for Activity Toys Direct

As Activity Toys Direct ambassadors we have been extremely privileged to have reviewed some absolutely FANTASTIC items over the past year. We had tons of fun reviewing the Berg buddy Go kart and you can find our review (along with a video we made) here. We've also reviewed the Step 2 Fantasy vanity unit which continues to prove popular with Miss T playing with it daily.

And now we have another brilliant, BIG Step 2 product to review...it is the epic Step 2 Grand Balcony Dolls House. Made from Step 2's signature style sturdy plastic this dolls house is built to last. 

Although the bulk of it arrives in one piece, there is a little bit of assembly to do - putting on the roof and porch for example. The decals are added on afterwards too. To assemble the dolls house there are guide holes and you need to punch through using the screw into the part it is fixing onto. 

Once that little bit of assembling is done it is ready for hours of play. It is ideal for 12inch 'fashion doll' sized dolls and would make a very grand mansion for them to live in. 

Having said that, we've also used it as a house for cuddly toys and J has his eye on it to become a Moshlings mansion at some stage. 

We had a few bits of dolls furniture and a few accessories ourselves already which really helped to make this house a home for our toys but if you don't have any furniture, you could always improvise and make your own with old boxes and nik naks. 

The grand balcony dolls house really is very grand and big so it would make a brilliant main present for a little girl (or boy) for Christmas. If you were planning on getting it, you could ask friends and family to buy little bits and pieces of furniture for the dolls house if they are stuck for Christmas present ideas for your kids.

I'm not sure if my photos do it justice in terms of showing the size of the dolls house. It really is big and the pictures over on Activity Toys Direct probably give a better indication of size where you can see the Grand Balcony Dolls house in the context of a child standing next to it.  

I love how it is an open-back style dolls house giving plenty of room for children to play. Both the front and the back of the house have features making it suitable to play with all the way around (rooms accessible from the back and the balcony and door and windows are accessible from the front). There's plenty of space for several children to play with it at once making it ideal for siblings and also in childcare settings like childminders, preschools and nurseries. 

This product is so robust and sturdy, I can see us taking it outside during the summer months and I imagine it will last for years and years giving plenty of play value. 

Disclosure: We were sent this item as Activity Toys Direct Ambassadors for the purposes of review. Please note that furniture, dolls and accessories are not included. 

You can follow Activity Toys Direct on Twitter here and on Facebook here for lots of fun stuff and competitions.