My name is Lily-Sue, but my mummy calls me Munchkin! I am 6 years old, and this is where my mummy will help me write all about all the fun things we do together. I hope you enjoy reading about the adventures of my mummy and me, Munchkin!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Bam Bam the bouncy hamster *Giveaway*

Win a Bam Bam from IMC Toys!

Earlier today, we posted our review of the wonderful Bam Bam, a product from the Club Petz range from IMC.

We shared with you how he was funny and bouncy and how he has brought nothing but smiles to the faces of the kids ...

... Especially Plumlet!

Now we have been given the opportunity to pass the joy on to one of our readers!

Bam Bam makes the perfect gift for any child from the age of 3 years and upwards, and will have your child bouncing and giggling in no time!

He's soft and cuddly, and just a little bit crazy as he bounces uncontrollably around the room with just a gentle squeeze of a button.

For more information, photos and videos, take a look at our review and see what you think.

Would you like the chance to win a Bam Bam of your own? He could be put away for Christmas (... sorry!! Slightly premature, I know!), given as a birthday present, or given to your child as a special little gift just to make them smile!

To be in with a chance of winning, complete the Rafflecopter steps below ...

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Terms and Conditions
This is a Rafflecopter Giveaway and all mandatory entries must be completed to make your entry valid and to unlock the bonus entry methods.
The Giveaway ends at 12am on the 6th September, 2016.
The competition is open to UK residents aged 18 and over only with no exception.
A winner will be randomly selected by 8th September and will be contacted by email and announced on the blog.
The winner must make contact with me by 11th September, 2016 to claim their prize. Failure to do so will result in a redraw.
We are not responsible for non-delivery of prizes.
The prize is 1 Bam Bam the Hamster from IMC Toys, and no cash alternative is available.

Bam Bam from IMC: Bonkers, Barmy and Bouncy fun!

Plumlet loves receiving new toys, and when he does, that toy will be clung to all day long, it will feature in every single daily activity and it will be the toy that his sisters are strictly forbidden from touching for quite some time!

And Bam Bam the Hamster was to be no exception to this rule!

Recently, Plumlet has started noticing toy adverts on the television, and I realised that, when Bam Bam (from the Club Petz range by IMC Toys) was advertised, he would start jumping around the room before falling down in fits of giggles!

"I really really want Bam Bam, mummy ... for my birthday!"
(He's been listening to his sisters way too much!)

So, when we were asked to review a Bam Bam, naturally I knew exactly who my little reviewer would be!

When he first arrived, Plumlet went through his usual ritual of talking to him and holding him tight to protect him from the girls! As you can see, the box that Bam Bam comes in is like a little house, so it was a while before he decided to let me cut the ties and release him from the packaging. in fact, even now, Bam Bam has to be placed onto his box every night before bed with a little blanket over him!

"Make him bounce, mummy!"
(At this point, the box was still attached!)

Bam Bam's bounce is quite fierce, and due to the style of box he sits in, he can easily be switched on whilst still fixed to his packaging. A simple squeeze on his side sends him jumping all over the place! When I say that his bounce is fierce, I mean that, when he was switched on, he didn't just shake a little on the spot, I mean regardless of him still being hooked up to his box, he still started to jump around the room ... box and all!

I think this shocked Plumlet a little ...

... But within seconds, I was dancing to the tune of "AGAIN, AGAIN, AGAIN, MUMMY!"

This was my cue to remove him from his box and to allow Plumlet to learn how to operate Bam Bam by himself.

As you can see, immediately he was a huge hit, having the intended effect of making Plumlet laugh and stare on in amazement and amusement as Bam Bam shook vigorously in his hands! 

When Plumlet finally let Bam Bam go, he was free to bounce around the room, causing the kids to chase him round and mimic his crazy bouncing whilst giggling and screaming loudly! My original thought was "Wow, this toy is a noisy one" ... but no! It was the joyous reactions of the children that was noisy!

We've reduced the speed of this video slightly so that you can appreciate just how bonkers Bam Bam really is!

Bam Bam's exterior is hand washable, as the mechanism that makes him bounce is a ball which is easily removed by opening the Velcro down his back. The only issue that Plumlet is experiencing at the moment is (and it really is only a small issue) as the toy bounces around in such a lively way, the ball inside shifts slightly with each operation, which means that he can sometimes struggle a little to locate the button to make him bounce again, but this will get easier as he becomes more familiar with it.

It's true, Bam Bam the Hamster does exactly what it says on the box ... he really will shake up your world! He will make your children laugh, he will make your children bounce around the room and best of all, he will make your children fall in love with him!

What more could you ask for?!

Bam Bam is available to buy from many major toy shops and online and retails at around £19.99. He operates on 4xAAA batteries (which are included) and is designed for children aged 3 and upwards. He makes the perfect gift for both boys and girls and is sure to bring a smile to the face of any little one!

Keep on bouncing, Bam Bam!!

We have a competition running for one of readers to win a Bam Bam of their own until 6th September 2016! Visit our Competition Post to find out how to enter.

We were sent a Bam Bam toy for the purpose of this review, but all words and opinions are 100% our own. No other payment was offered or received for the writing of this post.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Cookies and Vaping: It's really a thing!

Everyone loves Cookies!

Ok, so anyone that knows me knows I'm not a smoker myself, but I have many friends and acquaintances that are. My stance is I'm not against smoking, nor do I ever feel the need to think any differently of people that are. As long as it isn't put in the faces of my children, I have no problem with it in the slightest.

Since the change in the law meaning that all public places are now 100% non-smoking areas, smoking has actually become a very anti-social habit. In order to have a cigarette, one must leave a venue to smoke outside or within a designated smoking area, and I am aware that this alone prompted many people to kick the habit. During the Winter and the chillier months of the year, the thought of standing in the cold in order to satisfy that need for nicotine can be a very uninviting concept.

Then there was the birth of the Vape!
A revolution to many smokers and to those that had decided that they wanted to quit. Containing nicotine to stop that withdrawal, the vape allows its user to inhale and exhale water vapour instead of the smoke from a cigarette, making it instantly more socially acceptable to those around them.

Before the Vape hit the market, the only alternative determined quitters had was the likes of gum and patches. These were extremely hit and miss, and I know a few that have succeeded with them as well as many that stumbled and fell at the first hurdle, saying they caused all sorts of unwelcome side effects, or, worse still, failed to work at all. Similarly, the only choice smokers had was to step outside, in all weather conditions, to huddle into a small allocated space for a quick cigarette before re-joining their companions inside.

Some have switched to vaping as an alternative to patches and the like, whilst others have chosen to go with vaping as a substitute to smoking for the social benefits, considering many venues do not enforce a 'no vaping' rule within their premises. There is also the look. With the number of Vapouriser brands that now exist, the vape and its accessories now have a huge variety of appearances, some of which look pretty smart!

From a health point of view, in 2015, Public Health England published an evidence review about e-cigarettes. The main finding of the review is that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than cigarettes and are an effective quitting aid. However, in 2016, it was ruled that each claim of this kind now needs to be regulated on an individual basis to ensure the information is accurate.

In addition to the water vapour used by these vapourisers, a big thing on the market to accompany them are the E-Liquids. Available in what seems like every flavour you could imagine, they make vaping a much more sociable hobby, as users will compare their liquids and discuss which are the best! From donuts to fruits, and from ice cream to cookies ... the list is endless. And yes ... Cookies! There really is an E-Liquid called I Love Cookies - Layered Cookies dipped in Ice Cold Milk with a Hint of Creamy Strawberry and Drizzle of Caramel! How amazing does that actually sound?!

Regardless of all of the news reports out there that try to influence your views about vaping, be it in favour or against, the whole concept is still extremely new. Technology is changing at a rate of knots and medical science seems to differ every day but is doing its best to evaluate the benefits and long-term effects of vaping and, worldwide, governments are struggling to legislate sensibly about this new phenomenon. 

Do you vape? What are your thoughts on this reasonably new craze?

This post has been written in association with VAPELUX London. All words and thoughts are my own.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Me and Munch: Sharing the big screen!

Sometimes, sharing the remote control ...

... can work out quite nicely!

Like many parents, I don't like to promote the activity of watching lots of television to my children. Of course, I like them to have lots of physical play, social interaction and for them to fill their spare time with a variety of fun and 'mind stimulating' exercises. However, once in a while, nothing quite beats an opportunity to close the curtains, make a hot chocolate and snuggle up with the kids in front of a family movie.

Of course, if Beastie is involved in these movie sessions, we mustn't forget the popcorn!

As well as these special movie sessions, which usually consist of either one or two Disney numbers or a back-to-back Julia Donaldson marathon, there are other special TV moments that we enjoy in this house.

Myself and The Man share a particular little secret with our Munch. A secret that we keep between ourselves, and one that, just for now, is unknown to both Beastie and Plumlet. Ok, so we don't encourage secrets in our family, not even really in a joke like fashion, but once a year, for a few weeks, the three of us share something a little special ...

As that special time is drawing close again, with the new series of Great British Bake Off ready to begin for another year, Munch is counting the sleeps. Each day, she whispers to me with an uncontrollably excitable tone, "not long now, mummy!" whilst looking over her shoulder to make sure that Beastie is not within earshot!

Every single night, all three children go up to bed together. This is essential to them. If this routine changes, things are far from smooth sailing. Beastie decides she cannot possibly go to sleep if Munch isn't there, Plumlet struggles to settle and is completely thrown if he doesn't have everybody present upstairs for his nightly kiss and cuddle goodnight, then everything seems to go a bit belly up!

So on our 'Bake Off' Nights, we have to be a little clever.

All three go to bed at the same time, and as soon as we are sure Beastie is soundly asleep, we quietly carry Munch out of the bedroom, quickly before her insuppressibly wired giggles disturb her sister, and bring her downstairs to where her hot chocolate and cookie are waiting for her. The three of us then cuddle up on the sofa, under a big blanket, and watch the latest episode of bakers battling it out for the Star Baker title!

Not a lot in the world could possibly make these night any more perfect than they are.

I do sometimes wonder, however, how much it would enhance our viewing experience if we were able to upgrade on our television. The one we have was bought a little before Munch was born, and she is 7 this year. We often say, surviving 5 house moves and 3 children, we are quite surprised it has lasted as long as it has! It would be nice to have a new TV.

Something like this would make those bakes look as though we could reach into the screen and lift them straight from the plate!!

This amazing UHD TV from Panasonic combines style and performance in the true Panasonic way. Featuring a Professional Cinematic Display for outstanding colour, clarity and brightness, as well as a beautiful, sleek Art & Interior Design, it truly is a masterpiece in television. Also, the fact that it is fine tuned by Hollywood filmmakers, means that it promises to be an all round amazing addition to any home! 65 inches of crisp viewing ... 65 inches of amazing bakes ... 65 inches of Paul and Mary ... need I say more?!

Having this in our front room would make both our Bake Off Nights and our movie sessions (as well as my guilty pleasure that is soap marathons ...) a truly wonderful experience! With its astoundingly vibrant 4K HDR picture quality, we could have more vivid cream cakes, a more animated Nemo and a much more vigorously vivacious Gruffalo ...

What's not to love?!

This post has been written in association with Panasonic. All words are our own. And our Bake Off Nights ... very real indeed!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Scooby Doo Live comes to London!

Scooby Doo ... Where are you ...?!

... In London performing LIVE for the very first time!!

Following a hugely successful tour in North America, Scooby Doo LIVE Musical Mysteries comes to wow London audiences for the first time! Children and adults of all ages are welcome at the London Palladium in the West End to watch Scooby and his friends as they unravel mysteries and work together in their haphazardly clever ways right in front of a live audience.

But, if you want to get your hands on these hugely popular tickets, you'll have to be quick, as they are only in London for 12 shows between the dates of 18th-21st August, 2016.

During the 85 minute show (which includes a 20 minute interval), a local theatre is being haunted by a hair-brained ghost but never fear, Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo have boarded the Mystery Machine and are out to crack the case!

Scooby-Doo Live! Musical Mysteries is a brand-new family musical that sees cartoon favourites the Mystery Inc. Gang unite to solve another big mystery. Full of crazy twists, zany ghosts and, of course, Scooby Snacks, Scooby-Doo Live! Musical Mysteries features everyone’s favourite theme song, ‘Scooby-Doo Where Are You?’ and catchy new tunes to enjoy, such as ‘We’re Mystery Inc.’, ‘Round Every Corner’ and ‘A Musical Mystery’. Scooby will be there with his whole, much loved team, live on stage, with their hilarious antics alongside a host of interesting new characters.

There are no age restrictions for this show, although children must be old enough to occupy their own seats, and all audience members need to be young at heart so they can enjoy and participate in the fun and frolics that Scooby and his friends are sure to bring to the stage!

No Scaredy Cats allowed!

To get us into the spirit of this long time classic making its debut on the West End stage, we were sent some Scooby goodies to enjoy, which have gone down very well with my three Mystery Inc. Gang fans!

This promises to be a wonderful show, and will surely be a treat for kids during their Summer break as well as the kids at heart who accompany them! So hurry and get your tickets now, available through the official website from £17.25, and get yourselves to Argyll St, London (nearest tube - Oxford Circus) and enjoy the show!

If you do go to see it, we'd love to hear what you think!

We were sent a box of Scooby Doo goodies for the kids to enjoy as a thank you for writing this post. We had already agreed to write the post regardless as we thought it would be of interest to our readers! No other payment was received in return for publishing this information.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Can you really Chill when on holiday ...?

Holiday looming ...?
Consider this and keep your home safer!

How often do we see posts like this on our newsfeeds across social media throughout the year, especially in the weeks leading up to the summer holidays and throughout the warmer months?

Ok, so you're going on holiday. You're a family with young children and therefore this is a rare, maybe even unheard of, occurrence. You're excited, and you want to share your excitement with your friends and family and maybe even unleash a little envy amongst those that have a summer of work or general monotony ahead of them!

This is only natural.

The exciting day draws closer ...

This seems so harmless. After all, your photos are set to private and can only be seen by people on your chosen friends list.

But social media isn't private ... not by a long shot!

Maybe you tag family members in your post ... maybe your best friend ...?

Then your post can be seen by their chosen people as well.

So then, you check in at the airport. Information is instantly public.

Congratulations ... you have just advertised to the world that you and your family are on holiday for two whole weeks, leaving your home unoccupied.

Enjoy your break!

It's ok, you can relax, there are plenty of characters that will happily watch over your family home for you whilst you're sunning yourself on the beach ...

According to Chill Insurance, there are a number of precautions you can take when going on holiday to ensure that your empty home is safe and secure in your absence.

Asking friends, family and neighbours to keep an eye on your home is one of the simplest steps that you can take, asking them to stop by regularly to make sure everything is still secure. Giving one of them a key means they can enter if necessary. Maybe even ask a neighbour to switch on a downstairs light and close the curtains in the evenings to give the impression that someone is present.

Without the help of a neighbour, light timers are also a good idea, so that you can schedule different lights to switch on and off at set times. This can be a great deterrent.

However you choose to protect your home whilst you are away, it is always a good idea to look into Home Insurance. This can bring peace of mind and stop you worrying about what you will come home to. Ok, so it is never a nice thought that anything might happen to your home whilst you are enjoying your annual family holiday, at least having insurance will mean that you can deal with the worst scenario should you need to.

But, going back to my original point, as understandable as it is that you want to share with the world how excited you are that you are going on your dream holiday, and totally natural that you want to share your beautiful holiday photos whilst you are there, just think before you post ...

... can it wait until you get home?

This post has been written in association with Chill Insurance. All words are my own and have not been influenced.

When Captain Fantastic came to party!

When your party needs that extra special touch ...

Sunday, 31st July, 2016 ... a day that got Beastie very excited as it approached. Every morning, her first question was, "how many sleeps now ...?" This was the day Captain Fantastic was joining her and her friends & family for her 4th birthday party.

Captain Fantastic is an award winning children’s entertainment company covering London and the surrounding areas, including Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, and Surrey. Their sole aim is to give your child the best day of their year by providing fun-filled parties, original magic shows, theatre productions, mother and child groups, discos for all ages, and holiday workshops. They cater for all occasions including birthday parties, school and nursery events, fun days and family gatherings.

We were really happy when we were asked to review one of the company's party entertainers, and immediately set about planning.

First step was contacting the office to settle on a mutually suitable date. When I called, I didn't reveal immediately that I was calling regarding a pre-agreed review. I wanted to get an idea of the approach of the staff, without them knowing that I would be writing a review. After chatting for a few minutes with the wonderfully friendly Skye about parties in general, about who the party would be for and some initial details about our intentions, I could tell that this was a company that I would be very comfortable with and that I could happily rely on them to ensure that Beastie would have the most wonderful party.

In the lead up to the party, we chose our party theme, were assigned an entertainer, had a phone call to explain what was included within the package and was invited to put together a playlist of all of Beastie's favourite music tracks. Various emails were exchanged to ensure that we were clear of how the day would be organised, and all that was left for us to do was to look forward to the day ... and sort invites ... and food ... a cake ... oh, and did I mention that I had never organised a proper birthday party for any of the kids before?

So the day arrived, friends and family were invited, the cake was made, the food was sorted, decorations for our chosen venue were made and Beastie had chosen her costume (which wasn't a 'conventional' costume).

Captain Fantastic Parties offer a number of different party themes to suit children between the ages of 1-11 years.

Toddler Parties (Age 1-3 years)
These include everything that appeal to toddlers: Music, singing, dancing, bubbles and lots of silliness! Also mini-magic, musical instruments, puppets and balloon modelling.

Parties for 3-7 year olds
These are available in a variety of exciting themes. Whether you have a little superhero, a budding scientist, a keen pirate or a wannabe princess, there is sure to be a theme to suit all children within this age group.

Parties for 5-11 year olds
For those that want all the fun of a Captain Fantastic party, but without the specific theme, there are Classic discos and the innovative UV Glow discos.

Beastie, although a lover of being a girly girl, wearing pretty dresses and twirling like a princess, also loves superheroes. Her most favourite character in the world is Hulk Smash and when given the choice, there was no contest: she simply had to have a Superhero themed party. And better still, it was imperative that she would go dressed as the Incredible Hulk himself. We talked about how her costume would look, and being the contrary little thing that she is, it needed to include a tutu ... Are you starting to get an idea of her crazy character yet?!

So, with costumes complete ...

... and the cake an unexpected success ...

... We were ready to go! Well, the kids had been 'ready' since around 6am. They couldn't wait to go meet Captain Fantastic!

We arrived at the venue about 30 minutes before Beastie's guests were due to arrive, as myself and The Man had taken it in turns being back and forth since midday, getting food and decorations laid out. About 5 minutes after we arrived, so did the eagerly anticipated man of the moment, the Captain himself! His name was Kris, and he immediately came over and introduced himself to the children. He brought himself down to the level of Beastie, Munch and Plumlet, complimenting them on their costumes and joining in their bubbling excitement for what was ahead. He immediately won each of their hearts as he talked to them about the upcoming magic tricks, dancing and party fun and asked each of them which was their most favourite track from the playlist he had, pre-programmed on his phone, titled 'Beastie'!

Guests started to arrive as Captain Fantastic set up on the low level stage area in the room. Everything was falling into place perfectly. By the time greetings were complete, presents were gratefully received and the 22 children were settled in their surroundings, the party was ready to begin.

One word from Captain Fantastic, and all the children, aged between 1-8 years, were sitting on the carpeted area in front of the stage, excited for what was to come. He began by reminding everyone why they were there and lead a big "Happy Birthday, Beastie" which made her smile!

For the next 60 minutes, he had every single one of those children engrossed, amazing them with his magic tricks, amusing them with his silliness and encouraging them to join in his wacky games. Anyone that knows Beastie knows how tricky it can be to keep her sitting in one place for more than 10 minutes and how challenging it can be to hold her attention on one thing for any length of time. However, this man had something. He had something very special. He had something that made her forget that there was a world beyond that small stage. He had something that had her enthralled for 60 whole minutes!

And the fun wasn't over after the hour either. At this point, it was time to stop for a bite to eat, at which point, Captain Fantastic took a short break himself and left music playing. Of course, the music was all from Beastie's playlist, which meant there was some dancing going on too. Beastie didn't know what to do with herself - so she multitasked like a boss. She placed her plate of food in a convenient spot, took a bite of food, danced a little, before running back for another bite of food. This 'sequence' continued until the entertainment was set to start again!

After the break, there was more magic, more crazy games and more dancing. It was wonderful to see how much Beastie loved being made the star of the show throughout. Captain Fantastic made her feel so special, he had her sitting at the front with him for the majority of the party, involving her in his magic tricks and putting her in charge of choosing other 'volunteers' to participate in the entertainment!

Captain Fantastic had the most timid of guests joining in and embracing their sillier sides and the most restless sitting and watching closely as he made handkerchiefs vanish and reappear, balls transform in colour and attempted to tame George, his pet monkey, to act in a socially respectable manner in front of his audience!  

The children laughed, they screamed, they chanted and they gasped as they watched the antics of Captain Fantastic and George, and it was quite obvious that, even the older children completely forgot the fact that George was a puppet and this incredibly clever man managed to convince their inquisitive minds that he was in fact a real, live, cheeky character!

More games followed as every single one of the young guests joined in a crazy game of Limbo, encouraging the excitably competitive players to reduce themselves to paper-thin as they slid along the floor to squeeze under the pole!

And there was even a dance-off!
Captain Fantastic vs the Little Superheroes!

More dancing, bubbles, a smoke machine and a foam canon followed, prompting a number of children, including Beastie, to declare that this was truly the best party they had ever been to!

To hear such claims warmed my heart more than I could ever explain, but the afternoon would never have been quite so amazing without the presence of this one special man!

He made the kids smile with his collection of 'crowns' and his crazy wig ...

He made kids and adults alike laugh with his funny jokes and his inventive use of props ...

He made the kids ask each other "how did he do that?!" with his variety of magic tricks ...

He even made some little ones (inadvertently) cry when the fun was over and it was time for them to go home (... that's a good thing, right?!)

Best of all, he gave this little Beast an even better party than she had wished for, and one that she most certainly won't forget!

After our magical afternoon, we have come to one unanimous conclusion, and that is that every child needs to experience a Captain Fantastic Party!

To find out more for yourself or to make any no obligation enquiries, do follow Captain Fantastic Parties on social media. They can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The whole team are simply amazing and will be delighted to see you there!

All that's left for us to do is to say the hugest thank you to Kris and the whole team at Captain Fantastic Parties. You really did make the magic happen for Beastie!

We were treated to a complimentary Captain Fantastic Party for the purpose of writing this review, but all thoughts and opinions are 100% our own and have not been directed or influenced in any way - the party really was this good! No other form of payment was offered or received.