Review: Little Tikes Music Series

We always knew that music would be an important part of our children’s lives as they grow up. We encourage music classes at school, expose them to a wide range of musical choices and ensure they get to go to local music shows at least once a month.

Which is why we were so thrilled to receive some of the Little Tikes musical instruments to review.

The Tap-a-Tune Xylophone is perfect for letting your child explore sound and movement. It’s even suited to smaller kids as the design is chunky and sturdy with a tough plastic backing that will withstand most knocks and falls. The Little Tikes Xylophone would make a great toy for OTs as it improves hand/eye coordination and boosts fine motor skills.

Older toddlers will also love this instrument, as they are introduced to different musical notes, pitch and rhythm. The Twincesses love banging out a tune on their xylophones and the bright colors and flawless design is irresistible.

What’s more, it comes with wheels and a carry-handle, and the mallet is attached by cord (short, so minimises hazards) so it’s easy to take along wherever they go.

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We also received the Pop Tunes Keyboard which is such a hit with my girls. I don’t know if it’s the light up keys, or the pre-loaded songs which they sing along to, but the love it!

It’s obvious from the video below that they still need extensive lessons… lol, but just the fact that they are being introduced to music and notes at an early age makes me happy.

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The Little Tikes keyboard comes with fully functioning major and minor keys and the volume button doubles as the power button so it’s pretty simple to use, and easy to start playing right out the box. Again, the material is study and durable, which means it’s built to last.

These Little Tikes musical instruments would make perfect birthday gifts, or a special gift for parents wanting their child to be more exposed to music and the joy and wonder it brings.

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Review: Our Generation Dolls

There is something to be said about empowering girls. And that’s exactly what Our Generation is on a mission to do.

They believe we are raising an extraordinary generation of girls, each different and each with a unique story to tell.

An Our Generation Doll is more than just another doll for girls to play with. They are dolls that inspire girls to be who they want to be, giving girls their own unique voice, in a generation where there are increasing pressures for girls to be a certain way.

I love the ethos behind this brand, and as a mother of two little girls myself, I cannot be happier about the message they are promoting!

It helps too, that the products themselves are flawlessly made and of the highest quality. We took the girls to Toyzone and let them pick out their favorite doll. Fair warning, the choice is extensive! There’s a doll for every little girl out there, something about the dolls character or unique clothes that will speak directly to her.

In the end Harper chose Alexa because the ballerina doll resonated with her. Avalon went for Holiday Hope, loving the carefree, spirited clothing choice that was girly yet bold.

The dolls are beautiful! Standing at over 45cm tall, they make the ideal companion for the Twincesses. They have the softest, almost life-like hair, which I find doesn’t get into tangles and knots as much as other dolls do.

They have fully moveable arms and legs which make changing their clothes fun and easy. Speaking of clothes, the outfit accessories are almost as abundant as the doll choices! There’s everything you could ever imagine, clothes for parties, specific careers, horse-riding, swimming, sleeping… the range is extensive!

The accessories include cars and scooters, home playsets, and a selection of horses and equestrian products.

We got the girls the Dream Bunk Beds which is a beautiful addition to their room. Fully kitted out with mattresses, duvets and pillows, the bed is easy to install and comfortably fits both dolls. You can often find Alexa and Hope tucked in and fast asleep while the girls are in school.

I find that because they’re able to dress their dolls up differently, and have various different accessory options, the girls don’t get bored with their OG dolls. They can spend hours playing independently, inventing different scenarios and letting their imagination run wild.

Definitely an investment in imaginative play!

We just love the Our Generation brand. We love what the brand represents and we love the quality of the products. I would highly recommend these dolls as an investment into your child’s development and imagination. After all, an extraordinary generation of girls deserves an extraordinary generation of dolls.

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Review: Baby Born Doll

Baby Born dolls was introduced to the market in 1991 and since then more than 22 million have been sold! Prima Toys gifted the Twincesses with their own Baby Born dolls and it’s easy to see why they are so popular.

The quality of the dolls are outstanding. The new soft-touch body feels supple, adds a greater dimension of realness, and makes you want to cuddle the doll even more. 

The dolls are 43cm in length which makes them perfect for even the littlest of toddlers. There’s options of boy or girl dolls as well as a doll with a darker skin tone. There’s even a choice of an older sister or brother doll.

The Baby Born dolls come with a full range of accessories including a potty, pacifier, nappies, baby food, bottles, bowl and spoon.

But perhaps what makes them so very unique is the 9 life-like functions that all work WITHOUT batteries. Yep, you heard that correctly – no batteries required!

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So let’s run through the functions the Baby Born doll can perform:

 She can sleep. The dolls eyes automatically close when the baby is laid down.
 She can move. The dolls arms and legs bend and move easily allowing for painless dressing and undressing.
 She can drink. Baby Born dolls come with an adapted bottle from which they can drink water. The Twincesses love to pop the bottle into their dolls’ mouths to feed them.

 

 She can wet her nappy. Whilst actual parents may loathe the nappy-changing regime, the Twincesses eagerly await a chance to change their baby’s nappies.
 She can wee. By pressing on the doll’s belly button, she can make a wee on her potty.

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 She can eat. I think this function sets the Baby Born range apart from other drink-and-wet dolls. The Baby Born dolls comes with sachets of baby porridge that is specially adapted to the range.
 She poops. What goes in must come out, right? A press on the intuitive belly button and the baby porridge is dispelled into the potty, much to the delight of my toddlers.
 She can cry. Real tears! A simple press on the upper chest made tears flow liberally from her eyes. This was the winner for my girls…as you can see in the video below. 

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 She is fully bathable. The doll can be completely immersed in water, so your little one doesn’t have to part with her best friend when she takes a bath. 

The Baby Born dolls provide hours and hours of fun for my girls. They adore giving their dolls a leisurely bath, which has been the perfect activity for this scorching summer days. 

They take so much delight in the doll’s bodily functions (should I be worried? Lol) On another note, if your toddler isn’t yet potty-trained the Baby Born doll in my opinion would make the perfect companion for your little one during this dreaded phase. Children learn by example after all.

The doll comes with cleaning instructions, so you don’t have to worry about mould build-up or clogging the functioning parts.

With special added touches like their very own birth certificate and matching friendship bracelets for both the doll and your toddler, the Baby Born dolls have thought if literally everything.

The quality is immaculate, so I can safely say this doll will be around for ages, and since it has been consistently holding my children’s attention this past week, I doubt it will be relegated to the bottom of the toybox anytime soon.

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A Rocking Good Time – Rockwood Theatre

Those who have followed us for a while will know we love spending a Sunday afternoon at Rockwood Theatre.

With branches in both Pretoria and Durban, our local theatre can be found inside Sibaya Casino on the North Coast of Durban. The Theatre regularly puts on world class performances with song and dance that will appeal to all ages. The vibe is informal and chilled… with big sound and vibrant lighting.

Being regulars at the theatre, we’ve watched a few shows now, and I can honestly say we’ve never been disappointed. And you may not realize it, but the performances are family-friendly and even little kids would enjoy it.

There is something for everyone, from old school Elvis to modern Lady Gaga, from boy bands to girl power… the cast at the Rockwood Theatre bring the greatest hits to life.

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Choreographed to a fault, the dance moves are slick and skilled. Powerful voices have brought the likes of Whitney Houston to Freddie Mercury alive.

I love seeing the look on the Twincesses faces as they watch the dancers and take in the beautiful costumes. I love that they’re being exposed to theatre and live performances at such a young age.

The low down:

Price – tickets usually range from R99 to R130 with pensioners paying half price and kids free on Sundays. There are regular special offers so be sure to follow the Rockwood Facebook page to be in the know!

Food and drink – The is a small but comprehensive menu offering perennial favorites from pizza to platters. You may also bring your own food into the venue, but no drinks are allowed. There are bars offering a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Functions and fundraisers – Rockwood Theatre would make the perfect venue for your function. From year-end shindigs to corporate events, and catering is also available at affordable rates.

For amazing value, and a rocking good time, I’d highly recommend a visit to Rockwood Theatre for awesome family fun!

Hollywood Hits (Music that Rocked the Movies) is currently playing at Rockwood Theatre until 07 April 2019.

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Cruising Pros and Cons

Thinking of booking a family cruise? – Here’s everything you need to know.

I’ve recently stepped off a local (South African) MSC-operated cruise from Cape Town to Durban. I was under the impression that cruises are a wonderful, low-stress holiday for families – boy was I wrong! 

Sure, there are some pros to cruising… cruise companies wouldn’t be the profit-making conglomerates they are if everyone hated cruising… but after our first family cruise, I’ve decided it’s not for us. 

I’ve put together a list of pros and cons of cruise holidays below, trying hard to remain as unbiased as possible despite our negative experience. The information below is my opinion, yours may be very different. Also remember that I am solely looking at cruising from a family perspective i.e. travelling with kids. Adult-only groups may also find they have a different experience.

PROs to Family Cruising

 You get to see many places without the hassle of actually traveling.

Lugging around heavy suitcases, using public transport,and figuring out maps in an unfamiliar place are some of the travel hassles that are alleviated when travelling on a cruise itinerary. Your booking will clearly let you know which ports of call are included in your cruise, you get a pre-set amount of time at each port and excursions can be arranged in advance if you want to see a particular historical site at the stop over city. 

 

 All you can eat food – included in your ticket price

Technically, you don’t need to reach for your wallet once you board the cruise. Food is abundant and served almost all day at the ship’s restaurants and snack areas. Drinks are not included. Save for water fountains and coffee in the buffet area ONLY. No drinks are included at the restaurants.

 

 Entertainment – included in your ticket price

From deck parties to quizzes and games, the entertainment staff are there specifically to ensure people have a good time. They urge people onto the dancefloor in the clubs and lounges and facilitate competitions and games during the day. 

The ship’s onboard theatre normally schedules a different show each night and this is usually a highlight for me.

 

 Kids Clubs

Most cruise lines (local MSC included) have different age-appropriate kids clubs that can keep kids entertained, busy and SAFE, whilst parents enjoy some adult time.Our kids flat out refused to stay in a strange place with strange people without us present, and even the thrill of LEGO could not convince them otherwise. So if your children are also a bit clingy, this may not be an option. 

 

CONs to Family Cruising

 Crowds

If you loathe large crowds, I’d strongly recommend staying away from cruises.

Unless you decide to stay in your stateroom and order room service the entire time, you WILL find yourself surrounded by people anywhere you go on the cruise ship.

 

 Endless queues

There’s no two ways about it, if there’s thousands of people getting on the cruise, there’s will be queues to embark, queues to get into the restaurant, to activate your cruise card, to get a drink at the bar, to pay your bill at the end, to disembark etc etc etc 

And maybe your kids are different, but my kids are averse to queues…they just don’t understand why we had to stand in a 30-minute line to get into the onboard restaurant. Come to think of it, neither could we. 

We found queues just about everywhere, and most annoying, long lines at every single elevator. It became extremely frustrating after a while.

 

 Unpredictable weather conditions

When booking a cruise, please remember that you are at the mercy of the weather. The cruise company have significant terms and conditions that wholly cover them if they need to change/cancel itineraries and this can leave you with unexpected costs and lots of strife.

 

 Space

If your “kids cruise free” as cruise companies normally punt, it means your children (2max) will be sharing your cabin with you. Unless you plump for a balcony suite, you’ll struggle with cabin space. It’s shocking really just how cramped you are… imagine opening a large suitcase on the bed while your children and partner try to share the same tiny corridor you’re standing in. I could not cope with the lack of space to shower and dress in. 

 

 Motion Sickness

I think this depends on various factors, the speed the ship is travelling, sea winds, the captain’s skill, and your own body’s susceptibility to motion sickness. I’ve been on 2 Mediterranean cruises and have actually marvelled on how I felt nothing on the ship. The local MSC cruise however was dreadful in terms of sea sickness for me (and several of my family members). We were sick the entire time. The ship rocked and lurched so drastically, I could not stand in my cabin without holding on to something for support and safety. And now, two days since disembarking the ship, I still feel my head spin from that motion. 

 

 Communicating with family – lack of cell signal

One of the biggest gripes for me personally was not being able to send a simple message to our family WhatsApp group to let them know I’m going to breakfast or going to the deck for some sunshine. We were a big group so keeping in touch was a hassle. And looking for someone on a cruise ship is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Parents with older kids might also find this challenging if they needed to easily locate their teenager, for example.

 

 Kids Cruise Free

I mentioned this above but wanted to add this to the ‘con’ list, because even if you love your own kids and want to be around them all day…you most certainly don’t want to be surrounded by hordes of sugar-hyped kids for the entire duration of your holiday. And that’s precisely what I found on our cruise ship. Most people have taken advantage of the ‘kids cruise free’ offer and there were kids everywhere! Kids splashing noisily in the pools, pushing you at the buffet lines, babies crying as you try to read your book on deck…just kids literally everywhere. If you work at a daycare, it might just be your cup of tea, but otherwise…not so much.

 

 Terrible Food

I mentioned above that food is abundant, but what happens when you’re stuck on a ship and the food is just awful? That was my experience on our local MSC cruise. The food looked and tasted like mass produced fodder. Perhaps we were just unlucky with the food due to the delays, maybe the food was prepared for the ship in haste? I don’t know…but the buffet was inedible and I found the restaurant offering was actually just something from the buffet which was plated and brought to your table. I ate hardly anything at all. And to be honest I could not find a single passenger that enjoyed the food onboard.

 

 Price of goods onboard. 

Ok, I expected drinks, spa treatments etc to be quite costly onboard, but even I was shocked that an average cocktail could set you back $6 plus 15% tax. That’s over ZAR100 for a single drink. All onboard charges are in US Dollars which makes it tricky to work out the conversion rates before you charge something to your card. 

A single jumbo-sized photo costs $10, plus an additional $10 for the (single) digital version. I think many people got a very nasty surprise when they got their bills on the last night to realise their few onboard swipes meant they were liable to pay thousands of Rands. 

 

I’ll never say never, but I’d be VERY unlikely to book a cruise for our family again. Besides the nasty experience we had with MSC Cruise Lines (a story for another day), I found cruising extremely stressful and tiring, which is not what a holiday should be. The crowds and lines were impossible at times, and the lack of space was a definite turn off. Add to that inedible food and motion sickness…and well, no thanks!

 

 

 

 

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Oscar the Hungry Unicorn & Mermicorns

Show me a little girl who isn’t obsessed with unicorns or mermaids….

PanMacmillan recently sent us some beautiful new books that fit right in with the Twincesses latest obsessions!

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn is a hilarious tale of unicorn named Oscar (you guessed it!) who eats literally everything in sight! This very hungry unicorn has just eaten his stable so he needs to find a new place to live.

But the pirates don’t want him (he eats their ships!), and the fairies don’t want him (he eats their toadstool homes). Even the trolls and the dragons don’t want him.

Poor Oscar is running out of options until he meets Princess Oola, who has been looking for a unicorn forever!! A match made in heaven!

Mermicorns is a gorgeous mix and match book that allows a child’s creativity to run wild. Kids can make hundreds of combinations of mermaids and unicorns (Mermicorns) until they find their favorite. With a sturdy board-book format, it’s perfect for little hands!

The girls had a blast with this book and I don’t see them getting bored of it any time soon!

2019 has kicked off with the girls attending big school… and a stash of books is exactly what we needed! Thank you PanMacmillan for these gems!

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Top Ten Toys- Twincess Tested (Part 10: Scruff a Luvs)

It’s the last Friday before Christmas! That means it’s the final post in our Top Ten Toys series. For this last post, we’re deviating slightly in that the toy isn’t yet Twincess Tested. It will be, in 4 days time as I have two of these patiently waiting under the Christmas tree.

Ever since a fellow blogger’s Facebook post went viral, I’ve been intrigued by Scruff a Luvs.

Inside the colorful box lies an animal that is matted and “ugly”, and with a bit of TLC this animal cleans up to reveal a puppy, kitten or bunny that just wants to shower you with love forever.

Quite simply, the concept is something that resonates very strongly with me (and I’m sure most parents will agree). Teaching a child to rescue rather than shop, to look beyond the appearance to what lies underneath… are all wonderful qualities that every child should posses.

The best part is that you are teaching a child that just a little love and care goes a long way and when it comes to rescue animals, will be reciprocated with loyalty and love.

And this lesson is well learned as it comes across while “doing” instead of just getting a lecture about rescuing animals. Kids are immersed in the extreme makeover from start to finish.

I’m in love with the idea of this toy. I can’t wait for the girls to open it on Christmas morning and see their reactions! I’ll be sure to capture and share.

Merry Christmas to all my followers and readers. Thank you so much for supporting our humble online space this year! May your festive season be happy and blessed xx

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Top Ten Toys – Twincess Tested (Part 9: LEGO Duplo)

I don’t know a single child that doesn’t love building LEGO. My kids are no exception. Earlier this year I bought them their first LEGO Duplo set after being drawn to the bright colours and large blocks in store.

For those who may not be familiar, Duplo is a brand of LEGO that is specifically designed for preschoolers (1-5 years). Duplo bricks are twice the length, height and width of traditional Lego bricks, making them easier to handle and less likely to be swallowed by younger children. But despite their size, they are still compatible with traditional Lego so your kids are still able to continue enjoying them as they grow older.

I picked up the Duplo number train as the girls were busy learning numbers at the beginning of the year. They really enjoy playing with this set and manipulating the blocks in different ways to achieve different results.

And because LEGO is such a fantastic toy to improve fine motor skills, problem solving techniques and lateral thinking, Santa has bought the girls two new big boxes of LEGO Duplo for Christmas this year.

First up, they will receive the Duplo My Town series which contains sets from popular “city” places such as the airport, office, park, pizzeria etc.

Additionally I also bought them a big box of blocks to ensure their imaginations are never limited.

I’m pretty sure the girls are going to be thrilled with their LEGO Duplo presents.

If you have a fidgety toddler on your hands, I’d urge you to grab a box of Duplo from your nearest toy store. It’s bound to keep them interested and engaged for hours on end!

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Afternoon Tea at the Oyster Box Hotel

Afternoon Tea became popularized in the 19th century when the Duchess of Bedford and her ladies of leisure would sit down with tea and cream scones to fill the long gap between meals. 

Today Afternoon Tea is an elegant experience to be savoured. I have had Afternoon Tea (sometimes referred to as High Tea) at some five-star venues around the world, but for me personally, nothing compares to traditional Afternoon Tea at the Oyster Box Hotel.

Tea is served at Palm Court, which is the heart of the Oyster Box’s dining scene. The venue is drenched in natural light and surrounded by lush palm trees. Four magnificent chandeliers set the ambience while live piano music cascades and mingles effortlessly with the leisurely conversations. 

The waiters are ever attentive, and that first glass of champagne materializes almost as soon as I sit down.

The palatial surroundings and the beautiful piano sounds just give you a sense of glamour and grandeur. The tables are laid with fine porcelain and a handwritten card to add a touch of personal charm. 

The centre console is laden with mouth-watering pastries, cakes and scones. For those who have less of a sweet tooth, and may prefer the savoury aspects of life, fear not. There are quiches, finger sandwiches, samosas and even sushi on offer.

The atmosphere is elegant and refined, yet totally relaxed. Groups of people enjoy sipping and chatting, not a care in the world. There are people celebrating all sorts of special occasions. 

Indeed, Afternoon Tea at the Oyster Box makes the perfect backdrop to celebrate everything from a baby shower to birthday, bachelorette party to graduation. 

Of course, we were celebrating our ten-year wedding anniversary, and were pleasantly surprised with a special cake from the team. 

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The selection of teas and coffees are as extensive as the food choices. We lingered over cheese plates and smoked salmon sandwiches before moving on to blueberry scones with clotted cream and preserves. 

The experience is a treat in itself, the opulent surroundingsand delicious delicacies will ensure you have an experience to remember. Worth every penny in my opinion! 

I would highly recommend Afternoon Tea at the Oyster Box Hotel whether you’re a local in Durban or passing through our beautiful city – put this one your bucket list! The experience would also make a special occasion/ celebration that much more memorable.

At the time of publishing this post, the Afternoon tea at the Oyster Box Hotel is R365 per person, and includes a glass of bubbly, tea/coffee selections and the all you can eat buffet of sweet and savoury offerings. I would highly recommend booking well in advance, especially for special occasions. 

 

Sample menu can be found here.

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Top Ten Toys -Twincess Tested (Part 8: Disney Princess Dolls)

Has our Top Ten Toys series given you some great ideas for your little ones? I hope it has! Our final 3 posts are bringing you some of our favorite products this year, such as the Disney Princess doll series from Hasbro.

If you have a little girl, these popular dolls are sure to put a giant smile on her face come Christmas morning.

The range includes some of Disney’s most loved Princesses; including Rapunzel, Belle, Cinderella, Tiana, Ariel and Snow White.

The Princesses are dressed in their iconic dresses from the story/movie, which will make them instantly recognizable by your little Disney enthusiast.

We received Snow White to review, and the Twincesses were thoroughly smitten with their doll. They began role-playing almost immediately, although neither of them wanted to be the Evil Witch. Lol

Kids will love playing out their magical story moments with their favorite princess. The price tag on these dolls makes them super affordable too! They retail at approximately R149 in toy stores, but Pick And Pay currently have them on special at just R79!

At that price I couldn’t resist getting a few more to add to the Twincesses’ Christmas presents! Can you guess which ones??

Disney is timeless, and there isn’t a little I know that doesn’t dream of being a Princess. Make her dream come true with these beautiful dolls and watch her imagination soar!

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