I’ve been a fan of Hotel Chocolat since I was newly married (quite a few years ago!) and my husband introduced me to their chocolate as there was a shop near his work at Moorgate station. He sometimes buys me their chocolate slabs, which are a real treat, so I was really interested in trying out some of the Hotel Chocolat Christmas range and I was sent a bag of Mingles and Jingles to try out.
Mingles and Jingles come in a cloth draw string bag and are individually wrapped christmassy shaped delicious chocolates. The three varieties included are:
Milk Chocolate Penguins
White Chocolate Bells
Caramel Chocolate Angels
I like that each one comes individually wrapped as when giving it to them children it makes it easier for them to have just one at time rather than keeping coming back for more! It also means that they all stay fresh until opened and that the bag does not get any chocolate marks on it!
Mine and the boys’ favourite shape is the penguin chocolates as they are very cute. As these are milk chocolate these were the most ideal for the children to try out, so we did share those with them and kept the other flavours for the grown ups.
The white chocolate is more sophisticated than normal white chocolate that children may eat, as it has a lot of vanilla flavour to it. I really liked the taste of these, and the caramel one too. The caramel is a flavour within the chocolate, so the chocolate is a little sweeter than the milk chocolate but it is a solid chocolate rather than having a caramel filling as some may expect by the name.
Mingles and Jingles are £21 in Hotel Chocolat for the bag which is 380g and 35 chocolates. It makes a great treat to share over Christmas and would also make a nice gift. They are an ideal choice if you are looking for an alcohol free selection of chocolates.
Which flavour do you fancy the most? Let me know in the comments
One of the things I love about this time of year is seeing all the houses and streets lit up in the dark wintry evenings, but I have to admit sometimes I have wondered how much energy it uses especially when some houses have so many!
I never realised that using LED lights could make such a big difference so I was interested to hear from LedHut.co.uk who have teamed up with TV Property expert Sarah Beeny to encourage families to switch over to Led lights.
Some of the benefits of switching to LED are:
Save 90% on your lighting bills
Long-lasting LEDs can keep going for more than 20 years
A typical home could save around £30 a month by switching to LEDs
LED bulbs are a direct replacement for your old energy-guzzling bulbs – just plug them in and save!
LedHut sent me some Led Christmas lights to try out to see for myself what they are like. As Mr T’s birthday is in December, we decorated the house for his birthday and decided to use the LED Christmas lights to surround the door of our living room, to make a sparkling grotto effect. We also used them to decorate when making our festive blanket fort the other day.
The colour I chose was warm white lights and they are also available in cool white or RGB – a multicoloured mix of red, green and blue. They look really effective, sparkling away! I used small adhesive wall hooks to keep them up around the doorway.
Another main advantage of the LED lights is safety as they are much safer than traditional lights. They are made of plastic instead of glass, the bulbs emit virtually no heat and are much less likely to shatter or crack. What’s more, as LEDs are filament-free, they won’t burn out or blow either! This is all quite reassuring for me, as the children are young they do get curious about the lights and come near to them and sometimes touch them so I would be very anxious about having hot glass lights all around!
The lights are 5metres long and have 50 bulbs. There are different effects, if you press the “on” switch again it will change how quickly the lights flash, and in what effect.
As a parent, safety is always one of the primary concerns! Now that winter is here, the nights are drawing in very early and I have noticed that it even starts getting dark on our way home after school some days! The plus side of that is that we are lucky enough to have Christmas lights and decorations on our local main road which we sometimes pass on our way home, so it is lovely to see the trees and lights sparkling away, and we have lots of residents locally who have done a great job with their houses and front gardens too. The boys really enjoy pointing at all the lights that we pass.
However, there are some downsides to the dark evening too and the main one is safety. I hope these winter road safety tips will help to keep your children and family safe this winter.
Statistically you are more likely to get into a car or cycle accident in the dark. There is also a risk with children that they may not be seen by a driver as they dash along in the dark, which is why it’s important to wear a coat with some reflective panels or a bright colour to allow the child to easily be seen. I also ask Mr Z not to run too far ahead in the dark. Even on the pavement, there is a risk of cars reversing out of the driveway and in the cold weather they are likely to have all their windows closed so they will be less likely to hear a child running along as well as having reduced viability in the dark.
A really worrying statistic is the amount of cyclists being killed or injured on the roads these days. The number of cyclists killed increased by 10% from 107 in 2011 to 118 in 2012- The number of cyclists reported to have been seriously injured increased by 4% from 3,085 in 2011 to 3,222 in 2012* – meanwhile the number of cyclists overall has only increased by 1.2% over the same period. This shows that accidents are sadly becoming a lot more common. I have noticed myself that we are hearing of more cycling accidents in the news.
My boys do not cycle in the street at all yet, as they are too young and don’t have the required skills to cycle safely, but they do cycle in the back garden. As cycling is such a good form of exercise I would love to encourage them in the future, as long as they stay safe.
Eversure have provided some tips and advice about how to keep safe when cycling and these will definitely be important to remember if I do allow the boys to cycle out in the dark winter evenings as they grow older:
Don’t overload a rucksack or backpack, you could reduce your ability to maintain your balance.
Don’t use a phone or wear ear phones with music playing
Wear a properly fitting crash helmet
Make eye contact where possible so you know drivers have seen you
Consider fitting a bike horn or bell to alert road users to your presence. You can get specialist electronic horns that can cut through most background noise
Don’t cycle on the pavement (unless marked for cyclists)
Always look and signal clearly, you can get electronic signals reasonably cheaply
Always cycle with traffic, on the correct side of the road, never cycle into traffic, even if the roads are quiet
Always have front and rear lights fitted to your bike, and check that these work before setting off
You should wear light coloured clothes / hi vis / reflective clothing always when cycling in low visibility, not just at night
Ride predictably, decisively, in a straight line, and well clear of the kerb
Do you allow your children to cycle in the winter evenings? What difficulties and worries do you have with Winter road safety? Let me know in the comments
It’s always been important to me to take plenty of pictures of the children, especially on special days or occasions to help preserve the memories. From one year to the next, they grow so much! Although I take a lot of pictures, I do wish my photography skills were much better at times, and I have had a look at some better camera ranges hoping that perhaps a better piece of kit may give me better results.
I have been wondering about a DSLR but the cost and high file size makes me hesitate a bit. The high performance cameras from Sony’s Cyber-Shot range look like a good option though with wider lenses to capture more light, and a powerful zoom. When upgrading my camera, I will also want to look for a camera with that can take a sharp crisp photo even in low light. A wide lens will help with this to allow in plenty of light even when taking a photo with a fast shutterspeed, this should hopefully help to capture my kids who do not stay still for so long!
My husband was telling me about his friends camera which is from this Sony Cyber-Shot high performance range. They used it on a long exposure to take pictures at night time and it let in so much light that the picture came out brilliantly despite the dark and difficult conditions, so he was really impressed with it so I’m sure he would be happy with this choice. It would certainly make life easier when trying to capture some of the moments which I find challenging like getting great shots of Christmas lights after dark.
I always find the changing seasons give some great opportunities for photographing the kids, and Winter is no exception – with Christmas giving the perfect opportunity. I love all the twinkly lights and reds and golds. If it snows, that also gives the chance to get some fantastic shots with a real sense of fun! Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s not just pictures of the children or family that will preserve the memories, it’s also worth while taking photos of the food or decorations as these can result in some really effective pictures and will still bring back plenty of memories in the future!
A camera is an ideal gift at Christmas too, not just for grown ups but even for children who are starting to show an interest in photography. Mr Z was given a camera in the summer and he felt so grown up taking pictures himself and being in charge of his own camera. It’s also great to see the pictures and find out what parts of the day your child has seen it most important to focus on! Once he gets a little bigger, one of the portable and powerful range from Sony Cyber-Shot would be ideal for Mr Z as its a lightweight camera which is not too bulky for him, but is still a very good camera at 18.2 megapixels.
Below are some great tips on how to take better photos at Christmas. I found them really useful myself. I had always wondered how to create bokeh in photographs, I think they look gorgeous! So sparkly and effective!
I love it when I go somewhere with a really good high street full of independent shops and something a bit different from the usual – especially when I find independent toys shops or children’s clothes and gift shops. I always enjoy browsing, but I have to admit with 3 little ones sometimes it is just easier to browse online! That’s where MyHigh.St come in as they have gathered together many of their good quality local retailers to recreate a High Street of independent shops on one website!
Since it’s launch in July 2012, MyHigh now have hundreds of retailers selling products from food and drink, to homeware, clothing, and entertainment products.
Browsing for the kids is my favourite kind of shopping, so here’s our wishlist from MyHigh.St focusing on all the cute and cool things I fancy for our playroom.
Everyone loves a bargain, I know I definitely do! Especially at Christmas if you have a lot of people to buy for getting a good deal can make life a lot easier.
Here are a few ideas of where to look for some bargain ideas!
Voucher code websites, like Extreme Voucher. This is one of the reasons why I often buy online rather than in the High Street, voucher codes can make a great difference!
Cashback websites, like Quidco or Top Cash Back. If you will be spending money anyway, you might as well earn something back from it! Although I am registered to both I am more of a Quidco personally generally and have earned nearly £500 back since being on the site.
Money Saving Forums, like Money Saving Expert have some great deals found and shared by other users. Often these won’t last for long, but if you keep your eye out and grab them while they are new you will get some great bargains. The Quick Grabbit while you can! section tends to be good.
Hot UK Deals is another site which works in a similar way with user submitted good deals and bargains
Bargain hunting Facebook communities. A group I have joined is the My Mummies Pennies Moneysaving Group. It’s a closed group, just request membership from the admin. There are plenty of money saving mums there to share good deals, and it is run by Jen from the money saving blog www.mymummyspennies.com
Mumsnet also have some brilliant bargain threads like this one – they are on the 26th thread so far this year and all the previous ones are linked in there too.
CamelCamel is a tool which helps you track Amazon prices. Very handy as they can be so erratic! but you can get some great bargains on Amazon if you get things at the right time! Especially now with Black Friday offers on, it’s definitely worth visiting and having a look! You can also set up alerts when something you want drops to a particular price!
Of course don’t forget the classic tip of buying plenty of Christmas stuff in the January sales ready for next year! So you can get bargain prices and be all prepared nice and early!
Where do you look for your Bargains for Christmas? Please share with me in the comments as I’m always interested in new ideas!
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post but all opinion and recommendations are genuine and are my own.
If you join Quidco via the link I have given, I will earn a referral fee. This costs you nothing but just rewards me for spreading the word 🙂 Images courtesy of hin255 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It’s easy to focus just on the children over the festive season, but here are a few ideas for the grown ups gifts. Most of these companies are also participating in our advent giveaways so keep checking back if you fancy one of these for yourself!
If they like to get creative you can’t beat Aquadraw for mess free art for toddlers!
Have a look at Junior Scholars for educational fun. (They do have toys and games for older children too!)
The Toadstool is another shop to check out for wooden toy gift ideas, with lots of lovely things that would make a great main present for Christmas.
If you fancy getting some construction toys, you could look at Lego Duplo – the number train is great, or for something a bit different you could try Artec Blocks for age 3+. A marble run is another idea which is sure to be a hit with most little ones of around 4+.
If you have a boy of 5 or 6+ then Battroborg or Power Rangers have some great options available this Christmas. Battroborg would make a great main present and Power Rangers have some fun options to suit all budgets!
For older children who want to get creative Makedo is ideal for keeping their brains busy with imagination and construction! Cass Arts also have a wide range of creative gifts for little artists. Look out for a full review of their 4M Spinning Art Machine on the blog very soon.
Skribbies is another great idea for the creative and fashion concious. Mr Z had some of these from the launch and found them so cool!
Harumika from Bandai is another fashion orientated gift. We will have some of these to give away in the advent competition! We will also have a decorate it yourself poster from Betsy Benn which also makes a nice Christmassy gift.
For something special and lovely, you could also look at something like this 3 piece Denby set from Monsoon for little girls. It is gorgeous and something a bit different if you are stuck on ideas of what to get! We will have this in the advent competitions too!
Another idea if you want to get something different than just toys would be to get tickets for a concert or show. We will be giving away Union J tickets in the advent too, and tickets to a concert could be an exciting gift idea for teen or pre-teen children!
Stocking fillers may be small, but good things come in small packages and stocking fillers are half the fun of Christmas!
Some Crazy Soap would be ideal in a stocking for a practical yet fun gift.
Stuck on You also have some lovely stocking filler gifts. Personalised sketchbooks and pencil crayons would work really well. The boys were sent some of these a while back and they are really nice. No stocking is complete without colouring things! (It was always my favourite as a child)
Little puzzles or games are also great for a stocking. Giant card games like this Tree Fu Tom one or whichever character your child prefers. Ravensburger have a really wide range, and for older children you could try these 3d Christmas puzzles which fix into a bauble once they are made (a review of these will be coming soon!)
You can’t go wrong with a couple of DVDs either.
Mumfie’s White Christmas is a short and sweet Christmassy tale from Britt Allcroft the maker of Thomas and Friends (full review coming soon!)
There are so many cute and lovely gifts around for the littlest people in your life! Here is my Baby and Toddler Gift Guide with some of my favourite suggestions this year, and for more ideas check this guide from That Sweet Gift too
This lovely and bright playmat is from Kiddicare’s Sunny Safari range and is included in their 3 for 2 offer on Toys. This covers 100s of toys from birth to five! You will have a chance to win this mat in the advent competitions. It has plenty of textures and colours for young babies to explore!
Baby Rocking Horse
Little Bird Told Me have some really gorgeous baby toys including this super cute Bobble and Pip infant rocker which is suitable from 9 months+. You will have a chance to win this in our advent competitions!
Gumigem Teething Jewellery
Jewellery which can handle being pulled, tugged and even teethed on by little ones! You wear this, and your baby gets the benefit too by using it to soothe their teething gums.
Teething toys made of the same soft, flexible non toxic, washable silicone as Gumigem jewellery. Babies will love this with all their own version of most desirable things things to play with like keys and phone. You will also have a chance to win this in the advent competitions.
If your baby is newborn this Christmas, a Cleva Mamas memory keepsake suitcase might be a good gift idea to help save all those precious memories for them to see when they grow up. These are really cute!
Cute Christmas Outfits
There are so many cute christmassy baby outfits around that it’s hard to resist dressing them up for the big day. What about these ideas from Next
Cuddledry Reindeer Towels
If your looking for something equally cute for your toddlers, then Cuddledry also have some very sweet and snuggly Christmassy things like these reindeer towels
We have been sent one of these to review, and it’s a brilliant toddler toy. Read the full review here
All of the Wow Toys are brilliant for toddlers! This Ernie Fire engine is one of our favourites recently.
You can read the full review here, and you will have the chance to win an Ernie Fire Engine in our advent competitions too. Any Wow Toys would make a great Christmas present for a toddler of 18months+
Wooden Ark Toy
Another lovely toddler toy that we have been enjoying is the Wooden Noah’s Ark toy from Wilko:
This is a great quality wooden toy with lots of play value and would make an ideal toddler present. You can read the review of this toy here and you will have a chance to win one of these too!
Mickey Mouse Club House
What toddler in their right mind doesn’t like Mickey Mouse? The Mickey Mouse fly n slide Clubhouse will keep them busy with imaginary play. My little ones received one of these to review and they love it. Read our full review here and you will have a chance to win one of these in our advent competition!
If you have any little ones who are just up on their feet this Christmas and starting to run around, a Toddle Bike is an ideal gift for them. We trialled one of these earlier in the year and loved it.
They are also available in pink, or in neon colours if you prefer. Whichever colour you go for, I’m sure most toddlers would love it!
Little Tikes toddler toys
There’s a wide range of Little Tikes toddler toys in Asda, you can read our review of the Hen Friends toy here.
These are just a few suggestions to get you started. What do you think? Is there anything that stands out for you?
Make sure you come back and join in with all the advent competitions in December!
The holiday season is approaching and for many older children, technology and gadgets will be on their wish list. Even my 5 year old has already started getting interested in gaming! The boys dad is always into his gaming and gadgets too, so when I want to get him a present he will really love, I know to focus on this kind of category. Here are my ideas for the Kids gaming and gadgets gift guide!
My boys love any remote control vehicles. There are some really cool ones available which you can control by using your iPhone or iPad like this Interactive Monster Truck. I’m sure this would appeal to both children and adults so it’s a nice one for families to play together.
It’s battery powered and comes with a headset. A great way to combine technology and creativity.
For the very youngest children, they could get started with something from the LeapFrog touch magic range like this rockin’ guitar (my boys have this and it’s really cool). The touch magic surfaces reacts like a smart phone screen.
Good Gaming TVs
For children or teenagers who are that bit older and starting to get into console gaming a lot more, a good gaming TV is a must so this could be a gift idea to consider. It’s essential to have a wide screen and HD makes a big difference to a lot of the graphics.
We have a Samsung 32″ TV which does the job well. They don’t have to be too expensive you can get some great bargains in suitable gaming TVs these days.
Another idea to consider is a good quality gaming headset. This can really add to the gaming experience because of the enhanced sound quality and has the added benefit of keeping the house quiet for the rest of the family! Whilst there aren’t many options out there for the new generation of consoles just yet, Gioteck are due to release some PS4 gaming headsets in next the few weeks.
Gioteck also do some really cool gaming chairs which would be ideal for a teenagers living room. I am sure we will end up turning our playroom into a teenage living space when the boys are a bit older and I would be thinking about putting these kind of chairs in
Console Accessories and Games
If you have XBox and don’t have Kinect, then this is definitely something to think about buying. I find Kinect enables the XBox to be more of a family entertainment by playing active games all together, and it can also make some of the games more appealing and accessible to the youngest gamers in the house. Some ideal Kinect games for families and young children are:
If your child has their eye on something really expensive like a new iPad air, their own iPhone 5s or even a 3d TV – then they might also be able to make use of a more low tech and traditional gift – the good old money box, like this Morph one, to help them save up and achieve their dream gadget!
*This featured post also contains some affiliate links
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