Top Ten Toys: Twincess Tested (Part 5: Julia Donaldson Gift Sets)

Julia Donaldson may very well be our favorite person. We have slowly built up our collection of Julia’s books over the years and we eagerly anticipate any new release.

Can you imagine our sheer delight then when this blog drop arrived:

Can you think of anything cuter than Julia Donaldson Book and Toy gift sets?

The Gruffalo is perhaps Julia’s most famous story… with the “terrible” but highly lovable Gruffalo making bedtime story-time the world over just a little more exciting. The beautiful box is adorned with the familiar illustrations and contains the book (slightly smaller – but not tiny by any means), and a plush Gruffalo Toy.

I’m almost certain I was more excited than the girls to see the beautiful Gruffalo toy! It’s just SO cute! The attention to detail… it’s all there… from the terrible tusks, to his terrible claws, and the terrible teeth inside those terrible jaws. I could see the that his eyes were orange and his tongue was black; and there were purples prickles all over his back!

The second Book and Toy gift sets we received was another one of Julia’s stories that we have read over and over: Sugarlump and the Unicorn.

This gorgeous gift set came with a plush unicorn, again with careful attention paid to ensure the toy matched the description of the unicorn in the story… right down to her eyes of blue.

I’m really so excited to share these gift options with you. I always ensure I add a few books to the Twincesses’ Christmas haul, but this book and toy combo will make a stunning gift on its own! I truly believe that as parents we should strive to give our children the gift of reading… and Julia Donaldson would be my go-to choice.

Thank you Pan Macmillan for spoiling us with these gorgeous gift sets. They will be cherished for years to come.

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Top Ten Toys – Twincess Tested (Part 4: My Little Pony)

Can you believe it’s just over 6 weeks until Christmas?! I’m kinda feeling like the festive season is sneaking up on us this year… but to ensure you’re not caught unawares… here’s the 4th post in our Top Ten Toys series: My Little Pony.

In our house, My Little Pony has become one of the Twincess’ most loved range this year. It’s probably down to the fact that the Equestria Girls Dolls were released and they’ve had the opportunity to watch the My Little Pony Live show.

Whatever the reason, MLP is on repeat all day every day, and they often role play as different characters from the show.

If your child is as obsessed with My Little Pony as mine are, you’re in luck: there’s a gigantic selection of MLP toys and accessories for you to choose from this Christmas.

First up, there’s the newest offering: the Equestria Girls Dolls. As mentioned in my review when the dolls launched, the Equestria Girls are the humanized versions of the beloved ponies. We received Rainbow Dash to review, but the girls often fought over the doll… and I eventually bought them Fluttershy, Twighlight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie.

The dolls bring endless hours of fun to my girls and the outfits are positively breathtaking, if I do say so myself!

They retail for R299, and is incredible value for the quality and detail you get.

If you’re intent on collecting all the Equestria Girls, there’s also the option to purchase Equestria girl minis. The minis will make great stocking fillers!

For those who prefer soft toys, you can find a whole range of MLP characters in your favorite toy store.

I got beautiful Pinkie Pie And Rainbow Dash from Checkers at just R99 each! They would make a great gift for the younger MLP fans.

If you’re looking for the original ponies with their well known cutie marks, there are various models and sizes available. There are also extravagant play sets, with scenes from the My Little Pony movie in stores to keep your little one engaged.

What I love about My Little Pony is that it teaches children the value of friendship and working together. Each Pony has a particular element or character that is represented in friendship. Be it loyalty, kindness or generosity – these are traits I’m happy to have my girls watch and emulate. I love that this show teaches children something so positive!

If you’ve got a MLP fan on your hands, you’ll be spoilt for choice when selecting a gift. Just be sure to inquire about which Pony your little one loves most and you’re sure to find the perfect Christmas present this year!

My Little Pony merchandise is available from Hasbro at all toy retailers, large chain supermarkets and online. Prices from R79,99.

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Top Ten Toys – Twincess Tested (Part 3: LOL Surprise)

LOL stands for Lil Outrageous Littles. When launched in December 2016, the line sold over 2,5 million units in the first five months! So it’s safe to say this was, and remains, one of the hottest toy items around.

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The appeal lies in the concept of “unboxing”. I don’t know about you, but my kids can watch unboxing videos for hours on YouTube! In the same manner, the LOL surprise balls build suspense as layer after layer is peeled away to reveal the treasures inside.

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Each Layer reveals a fun surprise: stickers, charms, shoes, outfit accessories and a collectable doll.

The toy appeals on so many levels! Apart from the unboxing satisfaction, it will appeal to the collector in your child. The very first series had 45 dolls to collect, but since then the range has been so popular, they have added more collections including a glitter series and a pet collection!

To add to the fun, there’s also LOL Surprise puzzles and games.

One of the Twincesses favorites is the LOL Surprise Water Game. With a similar ball shaped look, the game has several brightly colored smaller balls inside, with a centre sponge heart. The sponge should be slightly wet, and players each pick a card (inspired by one of the famous dolls).

img_8379Players then take turn to pick a ball, open and set it on the centre sponge. Setting the ball will reveal a picture… and the player then checks if it matches a picture on their card. If yes, the player keeps the ball, if not they return it. The first player to match all the pictures on their card wins!

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img_8382The concept of the game – matching – is both fun and educational, and simple enough for toddlers to grasp easily.

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This range is such a hit with kids, I predict the LOL Surprise Toys will remain a popular choice for the 2018 Christmas lists.

Available from Prima Toys at all major retailers and online.

 

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Top Ten Toys – Twincesses Tested (Part 1 : Peppa Pig)

I love alliterations – can you tell?

Anyway… can you believe we’re just about ten weeks away from the silly season?!

Since having a kids, Christmas has always been filled with such excitement for me! Searching for the perfect present and watching their faces light up with joy, makes me happier than I could have ever imagined!

In the spirit of the season (sharing is caring), I would like to kick off a series of blog posts showcasing our Top 10 Toys. These products have been tried and tested, and are 100% Twincess approved!

And since today’s marks exactly 10 Friday’s left before Christmas, I’ve decided to showcase one special toy each week in the run up to the big day!

So read on for a comprehensive look at what we’re loving this year.

First up: Peppa Pig selection

You’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard of this feisty little pig! Together with her family and other animal friends Peppa Pig has created a formidable following. Earlier this year the Peppa Pig Live Show swept through S.A. leaving audiences enthralled and wanting more.

Prima Toys has a large select of Peppa Pig goodies to spoil your little one this season.

My girls absolutely love the posable figurines. The figurines can be bought in packs with just the main characters or as part of a playset: Home and Garden playhouse, Outdoor Swing And Slide, Classroom And Day at the Zoo, to name a few.

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For those who enjoy board games, there’s a Peppa Pig puzzle and Peppa dominoes… guaranteeing hours of fun!

The Twincesses particularly love the Peppa Pig Sing and Learn microphone which plays music at random and even has a button you can press to have Peppa join in and sing along with you!

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There’s a Peppa Pig Camera that’s very popular with kids and has all the effects you’d expect from a real camera including a revolving lens.

Savvy savers will love the Peppa coin box while everyone will appreciate the Peppa lunch tin.

As you can see there are endless products to choose from in the Prima Toys – Peppa Pig range. If you have a Peppa obsessed little girl or boy in your home, head over to any of your leading toy stores and arm yourself with gifts they’ll absolutely adore!

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For more on these Peppa-tastic toys, read our full review here: Peppa Pig Toys Review

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My Little Pony Live Show

On Saturday we were invited to share the magic of Equestria and the Mane 6 in a brand new live production tour of My Little Pony.

The performance was bursting with song and dance, taking children on a journey of friendship and kindness.

The show featured all six ponies and their Equestria girls as they took us through a story, a fashion show and a game.

It was completely interactive and the kids loved being part of the magic.

The venue was the Rockwood Theatre at Sibaya Casino which I really like due to its laid back atmosphere. There’s a small food menu and a well stocked bar. Kids are free to run around and the vibe is very family-orientated.

Special confectionery at the show was in the form of slush puppies and popcorn at only R10 each.

There was also a dedicated Toys R Us stand selling My Little Pony merchandise.

We were lucky to have Meet and Greet tickets so we got to get up on stage and chat to the Equestria Girls whilst giving the ponies lots of cuddles. I found the Meet and Greet a little chaotic due to the kid’s over-excitement… which I guess was to be expected!

However the girls came back with beautiful memories of one of their favorite shows. Ask them who their favorite pony is, and it changes daily!

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The show takes place in Durban from 28 September to 2 October and then moves to Johannesburg for shows from 3-6 October. Tickets can be purchased from Computicket.

Thank you Hasbro for this wonderful opportunity!

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Book Review : Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson

Another charming, witty tale by our favorite author Julia Donaldson, creator of the beloved Gruffalo.

Baby Monkey is lost in the jungle. With the help of a friendly butterfly, they set out to find his mommy.

This endearing tale draws children in as Butterfly takes Baby Monkey to animal after animal, not realizing baby monkey’s mommy looks just like him!

After a series of mishaps… they eventually find Daddy monkey who reunites Baby and Mom who is waiting with big cuddles for her little one.

Another winning partnership with with illustrator Alex Scheffler brings the story to life in vivid colors.

I find the girls enjoy this book especially when we dramatically lead up to which animal they meet next … the girls obviously know the order by heart! So much fun for bedtime reading.

The book teaches us the value of helping others, even with no benefit to one’s self, and the recurring theme of communication comes through at the end… if Baby Monkey has just told Butterfly that his mommy looked just like him… it could have saved him a lot of trouble!

Thank you Pan Macmillan for another winner!

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A visit to the Chocolate Garden

The Chocolate Garden in De Chamoy Estate (north of Durban) is my new favorite hangout.IMG_0507

Set in a lush garden setting, the wooden pergolas and cobbled paths give the place a hint of a storybook atmosphere. Essentially a cafe/coffee shop, the Chocolate Garden serves delectable breakfasts and light lunches with a good selection of drinks and snacks.

But what draws me to the place time and again, is the fact that it is SO kid-friendly. There’s a colorful jungle gym and playhouse, all set on child-approved astroturf. There’s also a sandpit and a tepee which the Twincesses just love.

IMG_0525But perhaps the girls’ most favorite thing about the Chocolate Garden… the bunnies. They have named each of the fat, white bunnies that inhabit the place:  Thumper, Rascal, Betty, Daisy, Oreo, Lily, Milo and Bella…are but a few.

We linger over breakfast and pots of steaming tea while the friendly waitresses ensure we are well taken care of. Meals are value for money and there is a lovely kids menu that offers a twist on the regular choices. Deep fried mac and cheese balls, anyone?

It is one of the few places where parents look relaxed and peaceful instead of frazzled and hurried, which speaks to the calm that seems to emanate around the place. Of course we had a ton of tears when we had to leave (from girls, although I did not want to leave either), and they reluctantly climbed into the car as I had to make FOUR pinky-promises to bring them back the next week.

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5 more minutes, please mom!

I would highly recommend the Chocolate Garden for a lazy weekend breakfast spot. They can be found here: 1 Robert Armstrong Rd, Barrs Flats, Verulam, South Africa.

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The Slow Burn of Motherhood

The craziness and heaviness that comes in the newborn months are well documented. The sheer exhaustion and frequent “WTF am I doing?” moments are discussed at doctor’s appointments and whispered about at playgroups.

But the slow burn of Motherhood is often overlooked. The chronic fatigue, the overlooking of one’s self and the deprioritization of our own needs are factors that lead to Motherhood’s slow burn.

What makes this phenomenon dangerous, is that its often not seen as “severe” enough to warrant immediate action for change. We accept the weariness as a ‘way of life’ or a passing phase that never really passes.

All well and good in the short term, but constantly putting off one’s well-being benefits no-one in the long-term. As the well known saying about Motherhood goes: “You cant pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”

As a mom of 3 year olds, I know how difficult it can be to find time in the day for myself. My eyebrows have last been waxed in 2016 (I’m growing them out – my excuse), and I haven’t bought myself new clothes since before my girls were born. Seriously.

So I get it. There are a thousand ‘more’ important things to get done than my eyebrows. And honestly, I’d rather spend money on my kids than myself… but, but BUT! I need to revisit my unintentional  martyrdom. Am I really doing my kids any favors by overlooking myself so frequently?

How can I be teaching them to value themselves when I constantly reinforce the notion that I place little value on myself?

I’m not sure how just yet, but I’m going to try to change this. Maybe with little, tiny baby steps. I’m going to value myself a little more, focus on my well-being a little more. It could be a coffee with a friend here, a manicure there.

Here’s looking at me kid!

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Save the Drama for your Mama

Ever heard a teacher rave about how well-behaved your child is and thought in disbelief “You can’t possibly mean my kid”. Let’s explore why kids save their worst behavior for their Moms.

Having a child behave like an angel for others can be frustrating and confusing for us moms when we seem to always be at the receiving end of bad behaviour. It’s hard not to take it personally when it seems like the tantrums are saved especially for us, and it’s easy to fall into a way of thinking where we blame yourself and question our every parenting decision.

This is really something I have been struggling with for the past few months, and set about doing some research into the “Save the Drama for your Mama” phenomenon.

Almost all behavioral psychologists agree: it isn’t intentional. Your child isn’t spending her days at school counting the minutes until they can get home to scream at you. At the core it boils down to the fact that home is a ‘safe zone’. The child is able act their ugliest, be their most vulnerable, because they feel safe. And a vast majority of the time, being vulnerable looks and smells very much like a tantrum.

The number one thing to remember is to avoid getting angry yourself at your child’s outbursts. Your attention is the fuel to the fire and the minute you participate in the outburst, you reinforce the negative behaviour. Pretty soon your child knows exactly how to get Mom’s attention, regardless of whether it’s negative attention or not.

Be consistent in your method of discipline and carry out consequences as promised. There is no easier way to lose credibility with your child than to not carry out the promised consequence for bad behaviour. The punishment should be age/time-length appropriate (rule of thumb = a minute for each year), and parents need to follow through with threats of discipline.

It’s important to remember that kids cannot be well-behaved 100% of the time. They too need a way to vent and to let off frustrations about their day or feelings, which very often, is what a tantrum boils down to – a way to cope with emotions that are too overwhelming.

Help your child develop problem-solving techniques that are relevant to his/her age. Validate their feelings of anger or frustration (dismissing them makes matters worse), then offer them an alternative way to cope: “I see you’re feeling angry, and that’s ok. But would you like to play on the swings outside until you feel better?”

Dealing with the split personality ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ kid might seem challenging and deeply daunting, but I try to remember, even on the worst days, that while I may get the brunt of my child’s poorest behaviour, I also get the best of it too. I get to see her at her most real, so I get to experience her highs and lows at close range. And I wouldn’t change that for anything!

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Easy Peasy Dinner Cups

The Twincesses aren’t the easiest when it comes to mealtimes. They could have a favorite this week which they hate the next. And very frequently, one of them will like something while the other loathes it.

So as you can imagine dinner times are normally fraught with stress. I try to come up with imaginative ideas that encompass relatively healthy ingredients. Not as easy as it sounds when you work full time and have twins who could happily eat dry pasta all day, everyday.

I remember my mom used to make us scrambled egg cups when we were little. I loved it!!! So I tried a variation of it one day, and it was a hit!

So I’d like to share with you the quick and easy recipe for dinner cups with my secret ingredient!

What’s great about this dish (apart from the fact that its easy and quick to make), is that you can use any combination of ingredients you have in the fridge. Great to use up leftovers and super easy to hide veggies inside.

To make these easy dinner cups you’ll need:

– sliced bread (1 slice for each ‘cup’)

– eggs (roughly 1 egg for every 2 cups)

– any other ingredients your child fancies

(I normally use bacon or ham, cheese and sweet corn). Tuna, peppers, chopped tomatoes, chicken cubes or feta also work well.

Method:

-Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease a muffin pan for the required number of cups.

– Cut off the crusts on a slice of bread and use a rolling pin to flatten it.

– Fold the flattened bread into the muffin pan so that it forms a sort of ‘bowl’ for your fillings.

– Beat the eggs and add the desired precooked ingredients.

– Spoon egg mixture into cups and bake for approx 10 Minutes until eggs are cooked through.

I always add a few spoons of Woolies butternut mash. I have written a separate post about the sheer versatility of the Woolies mashed veggie range… it’s just brilliant to add a healthy dose of the good stuff to your kids meals with them being none the wiser! I add a few spoons to pasta, pies, stews, eggs… just about anything really.

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The Twincesses love their dinner cups, and I try to mix it up with different fillings every now and then to ensure they don’t get bored.

Hopefully if you try it, it will be just as big a hit in your household!

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