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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A Lux Weekend at the Oyster Box Hotel

Sandwiched between the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean and the hub of Umhlanga, the Oyster Box Hotel sits proudly amidst tropical gardens. Occupying prime position in front of the historic lighthouse, guests who step through the revolving front doors are immediately transported into a luxury experience like no other.

We recently spent a memorable weekend at the Oyster Box to celebrate our 10 year anniversary, and it’s bound to be an experience I’ll never forget.

Check-in was a breeze, with a chilled glass of sparkling wine in your hand. OBH sends out a guest preference card to all guests prior to arrival, so they know exactly how to make your stay special. You can choose your pillows, soap and other amenities even before you set foot on their property.

The lobby is an oasis of calm and luxurious touches. Giant flower installations and sumptuous sofas dotted the area with large collections of art and Art Deco objects drawing the eye.

We were welcomed with a “Good Afternoon Mr and Mrs Dewolf”, and was greeted by this salutation throughout our stay.

Our bags were whisked up to our suite, while we followed, still sipping on the bubbly. The suite was breathtaking, old world colonial charm.

A bottle of champagne sat chilling in an ice bucket on the antique console table. The suite comprises of 2 rooms, one a large sitting area with a flat screen TV, minibar and loads of closet space. There was fresh nougat cookies (made in house), hot chocolate and a Nespresso machine with various capsules.

The bedroom was a focal point with an extra large king size bed, beautiful desk and en-suite bathroom.

The bathroom was large by hotel standards, with a deep-soak tub and his and hers vanities. The shower was separate and had the most amazing rain shower that seemed to melt away the day’s stresses. Not that I expect one can be too stressed when staying at the Oysters Box. I particularly loved the B Africa bathroom products… forget typical hotel minis, the Oyster Box spoils guests with deluxe travel sized amenities… which I’m not ashamed to say I happily brought home with me! – I dare you to find a hotel conditioner that leaves your hair as soft and silky.

Both the bedroom and the lounge led out to a private balcony, equipped with table and chairs and loungers. The view of course, was breathtaking. The waves lapped steadily a short distance away as we stared out onto the famous lighthouse.

The hotels resident mascot, Skabenga graced us with his presence. He recently celebrated his birthday and his party was fit for a king! It seems that he thoroughly enjoys his prestigious status at the Oyster Box hotel… though honestly, who wouldn’t?

We returned from dinner on our first night to find a romantic turndown service.

Rose petals were strewn across the floor, arranged on the bed, and thoughtfully laid around the bath. Together with the bath crystals and bath milk, it was hard to resist!

The hotel has a 24-seat cinema that screens movies on schedule and on demand. The best part? Complimentary candy and fresh hot popcorn is served while you enjoy your movie. You may also order from the bar if you prefer. The plush leather seats and blankets provided by the hotel made for a movie experience like no other!

A total of 14 pools and ponds can be found on the property. All the Villas and a number of rooms have gorgeous garden views and face onto one of the two large fresh-water swimming pools.

There’s a choice of bars and dining options, as well as an award winning spa… both of which we got to experience on our stay… but more of that in another post.

From looking at the prime position, the gorgeous decor and luxury amenities, it’s easy to see why the Oyster Box Hotel is consistently voted the Number 1 hotel in South Africa… but I truly believe that what sets this establishment apart from other 5-star hotels is the staff. The warm smiles are more than welcoming, they’re genuine, and never in short supply. Every staff member went out of their way to greet us, even in passing, and there was never a request that was too big or too small. The warmth radiates through the team and makes every stay at the Oyster Box truly memorable.

I would recommend this hotel to anyone looking to celebrate a special occasion, but perhaps most importantly, to anyone looking to make memories that will last a lifetime.

A huge “thank you” to the team at the Oyster Box for hosting us!

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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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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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The Chocolate Garden turns One

Yesterday we drove to De Charmoy Estate in Canelands to celebrate the first birthday of the Chocolate Garden.

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For those not in the know, a Chocolate Garden is a garden inspired by all things chocolate; chocolate colored plants, chocolate scented flowers, chocolate mint, chocolate sunflowers and vines …

The Chocolate Garden at De Charmoy Estate is Africa’s very first, and was planted in August 2017. All plants were selected and chosen with great care based on their properties, balancing water needs and bearing in mind the KZN climate.

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The weather held out over De Charmoy Estate this Sunday as a small crowd gathered over cocktails, canapés and an array of sweet delicacies to mark the momentous event.

We found ourselves at the heart of the The Chocolate Garden’s new party venue, the setting was informal and intimate. Children delighted over milkshakes and candy, while their parents were treated to welcome cocktails, and savory delights.

A Gin Bar tended by the effervescent Siyabonga was a hit, as were the individual cheesecakes and chocolate mousses.

The showstopper of course, was the birthday cake: spectacular chocolate (what else?) brownie layers with a cookie dough centre, topped with Ferrero rochers, chocolate chunks and chocolate buttons. (Did I mention the chocolate? Lol)

Seriously though, the cake was beyond delicious.

It was a beautiful moment when the staff came out to join Lauren and we all sang Happy Birthday.

Afterwards we headed to the beautiful stretch tent area were the ever-able Zama performed her magic in the form of a neck and shoulder massage. Harper even got a turn!

We spent the rest of the afternoon mingling with the other guests (many of whom I’ve come to know from Instagram!) and enjoying watching our children play and have their faces painted.

The Chocolate Garden is such a stunning venue to host a party – big or small. The restaurant is one of my favorite places to spend the day: with great food and really good coffee. There’s a spa offering a much needed break from the daily grind, and more importantly, theres a lovely kids play area to keep the Twincesses thoroughly entertained!

Here’s wishing The Chocolate Garden a happy first birthday. May it grow from strength to strength. Thank you to Lauren and her wonderful team for hosting us. We had such a wonderful time, and will be back soon!

 

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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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