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 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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How I Met Your Father

Ok kids, I’m gonna tell you the story about how I met your father.

It was the Autumn of 2008, and I was living my best life. I had a beautiful little flat down the South Coast (Port Shepstone), where I lived for work. I’d just signed a rental lease for a full year.

I’d been promoted at my job: at 26 years old, I was the youngest senior manager in the company… responsible for an awesome team of 25 employees. Work was wonderfully challenging and fulfilling.

I had just bought a brand new car, drove it off the showroom floor with a big red bow on it. I was surrounded by loving family and loyal friends. I was young, confident and very happy.

10 March 2008- New corner office at work (thanks to my promotion) and a lovely company budget to decorate it.

I’d always wanted to travel… (I was the kind who hoarded Contiki travel brochures, painstakingly mapping my ideal itinerary)… so of course I was going to decorate my new fancy office in a very cosmopolitan way – with classy black and white images from iconic cities around the world.

I had already sourced beautiful prints of New York and Sydney, when I reached out via Facebook to a photographer in Paris asking about the price of his photographs and if he shipped to South Africa.

The answer to my innocent enquiry: “For someone as beautiful as you, I could deliver it personally ;)”

Wait? What!?

Ok, he was handsome… in that French kind of way (the BEST way)… but I just needed the photographs.

We ended up chatting … on MSN (remember that?!). Days turned into weeks, which turned into months.

By June 2008, we were chatting to each other for literally hours a day. We talked about everything under the sun. Hopes and dreams. Long philosophical conversations and shorter not so philosophical ones.

Paris, September 2008

Until we finally decided: We needed to meet. We needed to know if this chemistry was real or not.

So I said a little prayer, and bought a ticket to Paris!

My friends had been worried sick prior to my trip… fervently trying to talk me out of going, pretty sure I was going to end up murdered and turned into a skin suit for some psychotic serial killer who had obviously watched Silence of the Lambs one too many times.

10 September 2008: Exactly 7 months after our first online conversation, I met your father in a very busy terminal at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. He said “hello” and I said “bonjour”. It was a blistering hot day and I wore 6-inch heels and a strapless tulle dress à la Carey Bradshaw.

I can’t tell you much about the next 20 days, except that it was pretty much a fairytale. Long, long days…. longer than you’ve ever experienced in South Africa. Croissants for breakfast in the tiny garden of your dad’s apartment. Strolling around Notre Dame and picnicking in the shadow of the Eiffel Tour. Lazy cafe dinners at tables that spilled onto cobbled streets… names of which I couldn’t even pronounce. It was surreal for a girl who had never set foot outside of SA before.

Paris September 2008

Two days before I was set to return to SA, your dad asked me to marry him. (A mere 18 days since we first physically met). There was no getting down on one knee, no ring, no fanfare. Just a matter of fact statement during a particularly lovely pizza dinner. “We should get married”

And my very straightforward answer: “I think we should”.

And just like that, we were ‘engaged’. We scrambled to get airline tickets for your dad to come to SA on the same flight as me (I was leaving in 2 days)… but we did it.

I’ll never forget my mother’s face when they picked me up at the airport on 2nd October 2008… introducing your dad to her… she looking so utterly confused. (My poor mother! I love her so!) I had hinted at a sort of, maybe, might be, romance prior to embarking on my trip… but I don’t think anyone – myself included – would have dreamed I’d come back with a fiancé!

We took a month (A MONTH!) to sort out wedding logistics and got married on 1st November 2008.

01 November 2008

I moved to Paris later that same year, saying goodbye to the new job, the new car and taking a significant knock on the cancelled rental lease agreement. Leaving behind the only life I ever knew.

We lived in Paris, in that same tiny apartment for 7 years, making memories, travelling to over 30 cities in various countries around the world (my dream of travelling finally coming true).

Amsterdam 2011
Rome 2012
Crete 2011
Athens 2011
Mexico 2013
Alberobello, Italy, 2012
Venice 2012
Barcelona 2010

We moved back to SA in 2015, just 6 weeks after you two were born… that tiny Parisian apartment definitely too tiny for four!

I wouldn’t call myself a spontaneous person. I’m a planner. I like to think I’ve got a good head on my shoulders. If one of you told me you were flying half-way across the world to meet a guy you met online… well let’s just say it would NEVER happen. The world you will grow up in is very different one…

I took a giant leap of faith that could have easily turned out very differently. What I did was so out of character, so risky…, but also mighty brave, I’d like to think.

It hasn’t been easy, but we’ll be married 10 years this week!

Christmas 2015
Family in 2018

Maybe sometime along the next 10 years my friends will stop mentioning how close I came to being turned into a skin suit.

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Top Ten Toys – Twincess Tested (Part 2: Hasbro Collectibles)

In our second post of a ten part series where we’ll be sharing the top ten tried-and-tested toys for 2018, we bring you the range of collectibles from Hasbro.

Everyone loves collectibles! There’s the thrill that comes with finding the missing piece to your collection. The absolute excitement when you’ve completed a full set, and of course the fun in sharing the joy with friends as you compare and swap to continue building your collectibles empire. 

This year Hasbro has left us spoilt for choice with their collectibles ranges.

The ever popular Littlest Pet Shop is back with more to love and collect! There are 24 new pets in series 2, and the blind boxes comes with a teeny tiny pet in his/her own little home, complete with charm and key.

Another collectible range from Hasbro is the Lost Kitties. Lost Kitties is a new line of collectible adorbs cat figures from Hasbro. But these aren’t just kittens inspired by kittens, as all cat lovers know, each cat has a mind and personality of its own. And that’s just the inspiration behind this new line of collectible toys.

The Lost Kitties Blind-Box Singles feature blind-boxed kitten characters packaged inside mini milk cartons (think: the lunch room/cafeteria kind). Kids will have to open it up to find out “who’z hidin’ inside?”

This is series 1, which, for 2018, features 36 different Lost Kitties to collect. There are 8 Lost Kitties kitty squads with 4-5 kittens in each  squad. Kitty squads include #Noms, #Cattitude, #Workinit, #Ififits, #Adorbs, #Scaredycats, #Cathletic, and #Notfelineit.

Open up the milk carton, and start digging, quite literally, through the Play-Doh-like compound. Hidden in the compound, you’ll find your blind-packaged kitten, two accessories for your kitten and a sticker of a meme depicting your kitten. The compound also serves as a hint as to how rare your collectible Lost Kitties may be: white= common, brown=rare, and pink=ultra rare. 

And finally, for the older kids, there’s Hasbro’s Lock Stars. Kids can lock on with their awesome selves with Lock Stars figures, the collectable lock accessory that’s full of surprises. Each Lock Stars figure includes, 2 keys, 2 charms — 1 hidden inside the belly — and a mystery mini lock pal. Use the key to open the lock and reveal the adorable hidden surprise!

Kids will love collecting all the robots, monsters, animals, and other funky characters that help them express their own individual style. Rock these locks on backpacks, shoes, or other accessories, and look for the “Superstar” lock.

There’s something for everyone in the Hasbro collectibles range this year. Additionally with the festive season around the corner collectables make ideal stocking fillers!

Hasbro collectibles are available from all major toy stores, Takealot and Loot.

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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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Introducing Awe-thentic Clothing

We are thrilled to announce that we have partnered with a gorgeous new clothing design brand! They are called Awe-thentic Clothing and are based in Durban, South Africa. They produce beautiful, unique kids clothing catering for ages 6 months – 5 years.

The range currently extends to girls apparel, but plans are already underway to include a boys range, as well as a Mom & Me range.

The brains behind the operation is Jaydeen West, – Mom to two gorgeous little boys – whose passion is in both business and the empowerment of women. Awe-thentic Clothing allows her to fulfill both of these passions.

What I love most about the brand is that all items are completely handmade by women who would be otherwise unemployed and have no resources to start a business however, they do possess the skills to make a quality product- in turn providing them with a small income and most importantly allowing them to feel empowered again.

Jaydeen tells me: “Our brand name was born from the words- real, genuine & true.

We are a women-owned business that produce boutique clothing- carefully sewn together with loving hands. Currently, our range is small- consisting of an off-the-shoulder girl’s top, in four different fabrics. They say all great things start out small. Our plan to expand the range is underway & we can’t wait to broaden our market to include Mom’s wear and boy’s wear.

No doubt- we are a business that strives to produce a great product, at a reasonable price, with amazing service.”

As ambassadors for this beautiful new brand, the girls got to try out some of their stunning off-the-shoulder tops. I must say, I have been most impressed with the quality! The fit is genuine and very flattering. It’s easy to see the love and care that went into the production of the garments. There’s a careful attention to detail around the little shoulder sleeves, ensuring the fit is comfortable enough for little girls to play and be themselves in.

The colors are vibrant and bright, perfect for Spring – just a few short weeks away!

We cannot wait to see more from this unique new startup. To find out more about the range visit their website: www.myawethenticproducts.com or check out their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/awethenticallyme.

If you’d like to order your very own off-the-shoulder top be sure to give them a call on 081 409 6619 or email myawethenticproducts@gmail.com.

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Julia Donaldson’s Enchanting Bestsellers on Showmax

The beloved Gruffalo is a bedtime favorite at our house. Followed closely by Room on the Broom. In fact, Julia Donaldson may be our most favorite person on the planet!

So imagine our delight then, since subscribing to Showax, and finding our favorite books have come to life!

Beautiful animation is surpassed only by outstanding narration- The likes of Helena Bonham-Carter, James Corden, Martin Freeman and Jennifer Saunders.

It’s truly quite hard to choose a favorite, the girls obviously adore The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom as mentioned. I just love the tale of Stick Man and get totally wrapped up in the story each time we watch it. Dad is a big fan of the Highway Rat, while The Gruffalos’s Child is becoming a family favorite.

I’ve watched them many times already and I don’t seem to mind them playing on repeat. Maybe it’s the beautiful way Julia Donaldson writes. Maybe it’s the lovely animation… I’m not quite sure, but I don’t find myself getting annoyed at rewatching like I do with other kids TV shows.

And now, the bedtime story requests have been all about Julia Donaldson!!

Readers Warehouse has recently had a Picture Book Promotion where most of the Julia Donaldson titles were selling at R45! An absolute steal for these gems! I made a point of getting the titles we didn’t have yet to add to our collection and now our fingers are crossed that these animated versions come to Showmax soon!

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My Little Picasso

After working crazy hours these past few weeks, I really wanted to take some time off this weekend to bond with the girls and just have fun!

Our Saturday started with the usual ballet class and then we went to Pallet Jacks at Cornubia Mall for brunch afterwards. The girls had a blast in the play area – like they always do… coming back every now and then to sip on milkshakes and have a bite of their breakfast.

When we were leaving we passed My Little Picasso at the corner near the escalators. I had meant to go in and have a look many times, but was always in a rush of some sort. Not today, so we went in and chatted a bit with the super friendly Naledi who explained how it all works.

Basically you choose a size of canvas – ranging from R120 – R250. You can then choose a colorful apron from the selection- which you get to take home with you!

Then comes the fun part: choosing a pallet full of paint colors and all the brushes/materials you need to create your masterpiece. Naledi listened as the girls pointed out their favorite colors and obligingly squeezed their chosen paints onto the pallet.

They sat down at the easels that had been set up for them and just let their creative juices flow!

Such a simple- yet brilliant concept! I let the girls do their own thing with a little help from Naledi. She dried their canvases in between color applications and was just super patient with the girls. Left to their own devices, it was amazing to see each of their personalities shine through in their artwork. It is such a fantastic way to let kids express themselves.

We spent a good two hours there as the girls chose their colors carefully, and created stroke after stroke of their masterpiece. Then Naledi brought out little sponges in different shapes that allowed the girls to put their finishing touches on their paintings.

I was honestly so proud of what the finished products looked like. I was expecting a big brown splotch as all the colors melted together, but instead they had made beautiful artwork that was so reflective of them!

At the end Naledi showered their artwork with pink glitter, much to the delight of the girls. You get to take your masterpiece home (the canvas is sturdy, so you can hang it in your toddler’s room if you want), together with the apron and the memories you made.

My Little Picasso is a fantastic way to let kids express themselves through art, and to spend a few hours doing something almost all kids enjoy. The venue also hosts birthday parties and adult paint nights.

If like me, you’ve walked past the shop before, wondering what’s it all about, or if you’ve ever thought about going but never had a chance, I’d highly recommend My Little Picasso as a fun activity to do with the kids! Find them at Shop L05, Cornubia Mall, Durban

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