40 articles Tag Review

Beanies Coffee – A Review

A while back, we were sent a selection of items by Beanies Coffee to taste-test and review. For those of you who haven’t heard of Beanies, the company makes flavoured coffee, both roast ground and instant, in a wide selection of flavours. I opted for Cherry flavour and Maple Syrup flavour in the roast ground, and Amaretto Almond in the instant.

I would definitely class myself as a coffee drinker; I drink instant at home at least twice a day, and usually have a latte somewhere if I leave the house, plus Husband and I stick the pot on for a “proper” cup of coffee a few times a week, too. I also have a personal filter coffee machine which makes a thermally insulated flask of coffee for one person which I often take with me when I’m out and about. See – definitely coffee people!

I was worried at first that the sweet flavours of Beanies coffee meant that they had added sugar; being a diabetic means I have to avoid excess sugar, but I needn’t have worried. Beanies sweetness is explained on the website’s FAQ:

Your sensory cells for taste and aroma respond to the sweetness of the flavours and although they contain no derivatives such as dextrose, fructose, lactose or syrups the receptors tell the brain that the product must surely contain sugar. Therefore when you taste our coffee you in fact smell the familiar flavour notes and your brain is automatically tricked into thinking the drink is sweet. Clever eh!

Each of the three flavours I tried were very authentic – the cherry really tasted of cherries, while the maple syrup and amaretto versions definitely tasted of maple syrup and amaretto! All three flavours smelled amazing, too. It was almost worth brewing a pot just for the amazing aroma that permeated around the house! 

I have to admit, none were sweet enough for me, despite the Beanies claim that you shouldn’t need to add sugar or sweetener, but then I do have my coffee pretty sweet on a day-to-day basis, adding two sweeteners to a normal mug, so it may well be sufficient for someone who doesn’t like their coffee as sweet as me.

All in all, I was really impressed. I’m not sure that flavoured coffee could replace every mug for me, across the day, but it definitely makes a lovely mid-morning treat and I could happily see myself tempting a guest to try something flavoured rather than our usual brew!

If you want more info on Beanies, head to their website, or take a look at their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages.

Star Stable Review

Star-Stable-5Sometimes, having two kids with a large-ish age gap can mean that it’s tricky to find ways to spend one-on-one time with your eldest. Burrito Baby gets me to herself all day while Sausage is at school and although we’ve tried to maintain certain activities, like swimming, that Sausage and I do together, sometimes fitting things in around naps and bedtimes can be hard. That’s why, when I was asked if we’d like a free membership to Star Stable for Sausage and I to play together, I jumped at the chance.

Sausage is pony mad, having done some casual lessons for the past few summers, and loves anything to do with them, so the chance to design and name her own personalised pony within the game was definitely right up her alley. We downloaded the game and it loaded up with ease, even on my slightly decrepit laptop. Within the game, you use the directional keys to move around, along with the mouse for clicking on menu items, which made it a doddle for Sausage to get the hang of.

The actual environment within the game is really attractive – galloping through meadows in various weathers makes it feel really authentic, and although I’ve never actually been on a horse in real life, there’s something about the way the horses move that looks really lifelike – no mean feat for a game which doesn’t require a top-end graphics card to run.

One thing that Sausage really liked was the requirement to actually care for your horse within the game. Trusty steeds must be fed, watered and groomed, otherwise they simply won’t perform properly, giving a really ‘all-round’ feel for what it is to own a real horse, which require a lot of upkeep.

There’s a chat window which can be opened within the game, allowing you to interact with other users while you trot around, and although this is something I’d be slightly wary of if Sausage were to play the game by herself, playing it together means that I can keep an eye on any chatting that goes on, and to be completely fair, there seemed to be entirely innocent chat about school and the game going on, leading me to think that the boards are closely monitored.

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t only played the game whilst Sausage has been around. More than once over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself with half an hour to spare and have been drawn in by the game, which I find oddly relaxing! There’s something about the slightly soft focus and gentle background music which I find really soothing and I could easily wander around for hours if Burrito Baby let me!

Having played other online games of this type before, I have to say that I wasn’t expecting Star Stable to be as good as it is, but the graphics, game play and character options were all really impressive. If I could add one MINOR criticism, it would be that it’s only possible to play as a female character, and while I get that the game is mostly aimed at tween girls, it would be nice for there to be a couple of male character options in case boys wanted to get involved too.

All in all, Sausage and I are really enjoying Star Stable and would definitely recommend it to other girls, aged 6 and upwards, as well as to Mums who want a nice game that they can enjoy with their little ones, to give them some quality time together without costing a fortune or even needing to leave the house!

Going to the Cinema with a Baby – Odeon Newbies

Odeon NewbiesYesterday, I did something which, previous to my experience, I though was confined to absolute lunatics or people with disgustingly well behaved children. Burrito Baby and I went to the cinema together, to our local Odeon, to watch Selma. Odeon cinemas around the country are showing kids and adult films (up to a 12A rating) on Wednesday mornings in what they call ‘Newbies’ screenings, and offering cut-price tickets to anyone who wants to watch a film but doesn’t have the option of childcare. Obviously anyone can go along, child in tow or not and in fact BB and I were the only parent/child combo in the theatre yesterday, along with two couples, but at £2.50 per ticket the bargain factor is there if you’re prepared for the potential of kid-noise.

The cinema we visited does all of its Newbies screenings in a downstairs screen so that parents with pushchairs don’t have to worry about accessibility issues and the lights aren’t turned all the way down. I must say, this last part was a masterstroke as it meant that playing BB’s never-ending game of “Mummy, look, isn’t it funny when I throw my dummy/bottle/biscuit/shoe and you have to go hunting for it?!” was SO much easier. The staff also seated me in the disabled section (as there were no disabled people needing the space) which meant we had plenty of space for the pushchair and didn’t need to worry about folding it down or moving it out of people’s way.

Selma was an ideal film to break our duck with because although it features some scenes of a noisy, rowdy nature, it wasn’t overwhelming. This could also be because Odeon doesn’t have the volume as high for Newbies showings, which meant that it wasn’t uncomfortably loud for BB.

One thing that I was painfully aware of, ahead of time, was that BB could quite easily kick up an almighty row and ruin the film for the other punters. Fortunately, people are warned when they buy their tickets that there may be children in the Newbies showings and that they have to be prepared for dealing with noise. This really put my mind at ease and although BB was actually a really good girl and spend most of the two-hour period eating biscuits on the seat next to me, I was relieved that the other people in the screening were aware of the situation. I didn’t get any filthy looks on the way out, and in fact a couple came over to coo over BB as I was putting her back in her snow suit!

I was pleasantly surprised by what a lovely experience it was. The last time I went to the cinema to watch something that wasn’t completely kid-centric was in 2006 (Seriously. I’m not even kidding…), so knowing that Husband and I could go to watch a film we want to see on the big screen while Sausage is at school, without needed to find childcare for BB is genuinely exciting. Being at the cinema during the day actually felt like quite a decadent little treat, and when you consider that the cost of my ticket and a Costa coffee from the concessions only came to just over a fiver, it’s a treat which is really affordable.

I love watching movies at home with my family and I’ve been quite happy to wait until things come out on DVD in the past before seeing them, but I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on the listings for the Newbies showings in future. I’d happily recommend Newbies to any of my friends with children as it was perfectly relaxed and child-friendly, whilst offering an absolute bargain.

Eat Like a Horse at The Hungry Horse!

A couple of weeks ago, we were lucky enough to be invited along to The Travellers Joy in Rayleigh, our local Hungry Horse restaurant to sample their fayre and we took my lovely mother-in-law with us again so that I could offer the opinions of three generations of Crammond. We visited on a Monday afternoon and was surprised by just how lively the atmosphere was inside and were warmly greeted before being seated in a circular booth, which was perfect for fitting all of us in, as well as the buggy.

For starters, Sausage and I decided to share a plate of nachos, which were loaded with cheese, guacamole, salsa and jalapenos. There was also the option to add beef chilli, but we decided to keep it light. There was plenty to go around and the four of us all ended up tucking into the nachos! Husband went for the Chicken New Yorker Batons, which consisted of chicken, BBQ sauce, cheese and bacon inside filo pastry, served with a BBQ dip and were a very light choice, perfect if you have a smaller appetite. MIL decided to leave the starter and go straight for the mains as she’s got a fairly small appetite…which was about to be seriously tested!

For our main courses, Husband went for a fully loaded burrito which comes as a 12″ flour tortilla with Mexican rice, peppers & onions. Packed with shredded iceberg lettuce, grated cheese, salsa, sour cream and jalapeños, you can also choose from BBQ pulled pork, spicy chicken, rump steak or smoky bean chilli if you want a veggy option. Husband went for the pulled pork and was presented with a meal which would probably have fed two people adequately! Sausage opted for the kids meal which has a whole load of options to choose from, meaning they don’t have to end up with the usual nuggets and chips (although that’s exactly what she chose!), and Sausage was most impressed to find that they served authentic Heinz Alphabetti Spaghetti as a side option!

MIL chose the cheese, onion and potato pie which was served with chips, peas and gravy and was more like an enormous pastie than a pie, but she absolutely loved it and despite her best efforts to clear her plate, MIL was ultimately defeated by the huge Hungry Horse portions! I opted for the 14oz rump steak which was served chips, onion rings, buttered whole green beans, a flat mushroom and a grilled tomato. I ordered my steak rare, as I usually do – I’m pretty fussy about steak and find that it can be really hit and miss in the UK; usually, if you order rare you end up with something that’s medium rare and if you actually order medium rare, it turns up almost cremated. I was massively impressed when my huge slab of steak turned up properly rare! It was cooked to perfection and well seasoned, and the side dishes were excellent – some of the best chips I’ve had in ages!

By now, Husband and MIL were well and truly stuffed, but Sausage and I soldiered on (mostly because we’d caught sight of the very enticing dessert cabinet!) and ordered a slice of the Mars Attacks gateaux to share. The piece of cake that turned up was mind-bogglingly huge and could easily have fed all four of us! In fact, despite our best efforts, Sausage and I fell at the final hurdle and had to admit defeat halfway through our afters.

We were all really impressed with the food at the Hungry Horse and were aware, as we were ordering, that everything on the menu seemed to be pretty good value. However, I’ve just added up how much our meal would have cost, minus drinks, and I’m blown away to discover that the whole lot would have cost just under £38! That’s starters for three, mains for four and dessert for two, and all of our portions were really large. In fact, I was so surprised by the cost that I went back and added it up twice, just to be sure.

I can wholeheartedly recommend Hungry Horse and especially the Travellers Joy in Rayleigh, for the atmosphere, friendliness, excellent food, huge portions and brilliant value for money and am really pleased to know that there’s somewhere local we can go for a nice family meal which won’t cost the earth…and that gateaux alone makes it well worth a return visit!

Go HERE to find your nearest Hungry Horse.

Seagate Expansion Review

Review by Tony Crammond

We’re a completely digital family. We don’t do tangible incarnations of media at all and we love the freedom and space that goes along with it. On the road and want to watch a movie, sign in to BitTorrent Sync, wait a few short minutes and away you go – it really is the only way to fly. Naturally though, we use a lot of disk space, so when Tesco Compare home insurance asked us if we wanted to try out Seagate 3TB Expansion Drive, we jumped at the chance.

When we opened the box the first impressions were good. It’s a fairly small, unassuming little package with no gaudy, eye-catching decals or unnecessarily ugly ‘features’ like superfluous knobs or disco lights. It’s compact, black and well vented, which means there shouldn’t be any temperature related shenanigans. This was a plus one for Seagate, right off the bat.

Seagate Expansion 3TBDomo Kun Not Included!

Setting up the Expansion was a breeze. It was a case of sliding the correct plug adapter on to the plug and jamming both ends of the included USB 3.0 cable in. There’s no software to install or settings to fiddle around with. We have no qualms in saying that literally anyone could pick one of these up and have it up and running in no time with no outside assistance.

Now, aesthetics and ease of use are one thing, but we don’t buy removable storage for its looks or how easy it is to set up, do we? No, we buy it so that we can have somewhere secure to store all of our important media, be they back-ups for work, family photos or your entire HD iTunes movie collection, and in this capacity the Expansion was exemplary. Once you’ve plugged it in to your PC or laptop, you’ll notice a new drive appear in your ‘My Computer’ screen and you can dive right in, adding files to the drive.

The Expansion is fast, thanks to its USB 3.0 credentials, but USB 3.0 isn’t a necessity. You can go ahead and jam it in to your USB 2.0 port just as easily and while you won’t get the same nippy transfer speeds, you’ll still get solid performance. In our test run (using USB 3.0) we were able to copy a 1.2GB movie file from our home drive, which is a Samsung SSD, to the Expansion in about 10-11 seconds, which is more than fast enough for our everyday needs, and made moving a large portion of our media collection a painless affair.

The drive has so far excelled in stability too, with no drop-outs or outages in over 2 weeks of continuous use. Temperature hasn’t been an issue for us either, despite us having to keep our home at a balmy 22 degrees constantly to appease our new baby (who we think might be part lizard – but that’s another story, for another day).

So, overall we would like to give the Seagate Expansion (3TB) a huge thumbs-up. Its simple, effective approach to expanding home or office storage was a breath of fresh air and with an RRP of about £78 we can’t think of another device which we would choose above it.

Sky Dancers Review

Sky Dancers JasmineA few weeks back, Sausage was sent a Sky Dancers doll to review. She’d been seeing the adverts all over Christmas, but silly Santa forgot to bring her one, so she was chuffed to get her hands on something she’d been coveting for a while. Sky Dancers are winged dolls which slot into a base and are supposed to fly majestically around when a string on the base is pulled. They’re apparently based on an ’90’s TV show, although we’re not familiar with the show ourselves.

I have to admit, the toy itself was a little underwhelming. I wasn’t impressed at all with the quality of the doll. It felt pretty cheap and the finish looked quite poor; it reminded me of the cheap dolls I used to buy from the market with my pocket money when I was little. The handheld base felt a little sturdier, but made an odd rattling noise when you pull the draw cord and some of the joins in the plastic were so poorly finished as to actually be a bit sharp from certain angles.

Sky Dancers Jasmine

As for the actual ‘flying’…well, I’m not sure what I expected, but it was all a bit disappointing. Sausage’s strength wasn’t adequate to lift the doll more than a couple of inches out of the base, which given that she’s in the target market seems a bit short-sighted, although Husband and I were able apply more force, which sent the doll shooting high enough to hit the ceiling. Once she’s up, she comes back down pretty rapidly and doesn’t float quite nearly as magically as the adverts appear to show. It’s a bit like a bedazzled lead balloon.

I think the prevailing factor for me is the price – had this toy been under £10, I may have been inclined to be a bit more forgiving about its obvious shortcomings, but it’s actually priced between £15 and £20 (the one we were sent is called Jasmine and retails for £19.99 on Amazon). If I’d paid 20 quid for this doll, I’d have been seriously unimpressed. I’d also have been more inclined to be subjective if it was something that I wasn’t impressed by but something which Sausage really liked, but it failed to hold Sausage’s attention for more than about 30 seconds, and this is the kid who can role-play her butt off for hours with her other dolls.

I hate being so negative about things as I’m well aware that these things are totally subjective and that some kids may love Sky Dancers, but for us the massive disparity between the quality and the price was far too glaring for us to give the doll a positive review.

Review: Disney Talking Sofia The First Doll and Animal Friends.

Sofia the First Talking Doll I liked the animals when they spoke to Sofia and her amulet and her hair and dress are beautiful! – Sausage, aged 5

I must admit, in the run-up to Sausage’s birthday, two weeks ago, I was struggling to think of things to buy for her. We bought her a couple of ‘big’ presents (a Chromebook and a Nook), but I wanted to get her a few little bits to open on the day, so that it didn’t seem like she only had a couple of pressies. As luck would have it, Argos got in touch and asked if we’d like to have a look at their most popular dolls and choose one for the birthday girl, and I noticed this fab Sofia the First Talking Doll, which I knew she’d love.

When the doll arrived, it looked lovely in the box, but I didn’t realise just how cool it is until Sausage actually got it out to play with it. Each animal prompts Sofia to say a different set of phrases when you hold them up to her magical amulet, which is a really nice touch and you can actually get a proper conversation going between them!

The doll, animals and accessories all feel as though they’re very high quality and the doll itself is fairly weighty, not flimsy like some merchandise can be.

Sausage was absolutely thrilled with her talking Sofia the First; she’s been watching the show religiously since it first aired and she’d been checking our nearest Disney shop for Sofia dolls for ages, so Argosreally came through for us, giving us a great 5th birthday gift for our special princess, and providing her with hours of fun in the process!

For other great ideas and all of the best Argos toys, take a look at their website.

Build-a-Bear Workshop Review

Yesterday we had the privilege of being invited to our local Build-a-Bear Workshop with Sausage so that she could build her very own bear and see what the overall experience is like. Our appointment was at 3pm and because nothing is ever simple in the Mum’s the Word house, right around 11am, it started snowing heavily. Not to be deterred, I phoned the shop and asked if we could put it back by an hour to give ourselves plenty of time to get there and off we went.

The front of the store is bright, open and welcoming and we were greeted by the store manager Jackie and our lovley bear-builder Sophie who took Sausage and got started right away.

First, she chose her bear

Then, she chose a heart and something that played a jingle

Then came the stuffing!

Then the bear was fluffed up and brushed

Then an outfit was chosen…and boy was there a lot to choose from!

Then she was named and a birth certificate was created

Then a decree was made to the whole of Lakeside that Sausage would love her bear and protect her forever

And so…Sofia was born!

 

I can honestly say that Sausage was treated like absolute royalty, the staff were attentive and engaging and guided her through the whole process. The lady who was helping us, Sophie, really made the whole experience magical for Sausage and for that we cannot thank her enough. Our daughter came away from the Build-a-Bear Workshop one seriously happy little girl!

For the sake of giving a fair review, I eavesdropped a little bit onto another little girl who was being served while we were in the store and can say that she was getting the same treatment of us, so I don’t think for one minute that the red carpets were rolled out because we were there for a review. All of the staff were happy and helpful.

The bear itself would have cost around £45 if we’d not been receiveing Sofia for free and that covers the bear and all of the clothing and accessories. Now, this may seem like a lot but for a special occassion, this would make an amazing birthday or Christmas treat for any little girl or boy. They offer football kits, Star Wars characters and more, as well as the girlier options, so there’s something for all kids.

As a side note, I should also add that one of my friends had a Build-a-Bear made for me when I was about 15, a cow in a pink satin outfit and I STILL have her to this day, almost 15 years later and she is in pristine condition, so these bears really do last and are WELL worth the money.

We want to say an enormous thank you to everyone at Build-a-Bear Worshop for giving Sausage what she keeps describing as the ‘best day of my life’ and can say from Sausage, Husband and I that these shops have the full Mum’s the Word seal of approval and recommendation.

Book Review: Nightingale Woods by Kathryn Brown

I’ll be honest with you; I’ve not reviewed a book since senior school, so this may not be the most polished of efforts, but do bear with me!

Brief synopsis: Rachel Phillips, mid twenties, a little naive, rather gullible, has fallen for a married man. The thing is, he’s also fallen for her. In too deep, Rachel and married man Steve, begin an affair and develop intense feelings for each other, knowing what they’re doing is wrong. But after nine months of lies and deceit, Steve’s wife Olivia finds out and gives him an ultimatum. It was inevitable that someone’s heart would get broken, but Rachel truly believed it wouldn’t be hers and certainly not twice within a matter of days.

Seventeen years later, Rachel has been married, widowed and moved on to a new life in a little Scottish village in Perthshire. But one day her life comes crashing down around her when she spots Steve and Olivia in a nearby town, looking happy and very much together. So sure she’d got over Steve, she soon realises she’s never been able to move on since falling in love with him and when Steve sees her and follows her home, Rachel has to make it clear that she’s no longer the naive twenty-something he once knew.

But is she? Does the flame reignite when they meet again after seventeen years? And is Steve still in love with Rachel, or has he moved on?

Kathryn is a fellow blogger (You can find her blog, Crystal Jigsaw, here) and someone I consider to be a friend these days, so I thought it was only right to honour her hard work and read Nightingale Woods. I bought it from Amazon on my Kindle and got stuck in. Right from the off, it was one of those books that really gets its claws into you. I try to read as often as I can, but on a good day that can be limited to reading on the loo a couple of minutes here and there, but I really didn’t want to put Nightingale Woods down. It’s definitely what you’d call a ‘page turner’. Kathryn artfully gives you enough to keep you intrigued without giving it all to you on a plate, which for me is the mark of a great author.

I must say, the premise of Nightingale Woods was something new for me as, if I’m honest, I didn’t really like either of the main characters. Rachel comes across as naive and a little bit selfish and Steve is a philanderer who wants to have his cake and eat it, but their story is still irresistible in its way. You do get the feeling that there’s a love between them, even if it’s not the most traditional form of love, and that in itself leaves you aching to know how it all turns out. As the first half is written in diary form, you really get an insight into the personal feelings of Rachel and I think that’s part of what makes it so addictive.

Even when we skip forward seventeen years, despite Rachel having had life experience and being a middle-aged woman, the spell that Steve casts over her is clear to see, you get sucked into her excitement and the passion that she feels for him is palpable. If I’m completely honest, I’m not usually a fan of raunch in books – I tend to find that the authors use patronising words like “womanhood” when they really mean vagina or make it a little bit too ‘candles and rosepetals’ so that it’s adequately homogenized for the delicate female reader *rolls eyes* but the sex scenes in the book didn’t make me cringe at all, which may not sound entirely positive, but believe me, that’s a huge compliment!

The real stars of this book, for me, are the supporting cast. Rachel’s friends are great characters and even though they only feature in a small way, they offer a sense of stability and success to the story which is much needed. They’re probably the only thing that stop the book from being a truly tragic lovestory as Rachel is, essentially, a very solitary and lonely person, but her friends even out the balance somewhat.

I don’t want to say too much else as I don’t want to give any of the plot away, but I can highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the work of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Maeve Binchy and the like (it holds it’s own against any of these well-established authors, in my humble opinion), though this has a slightly more grown-up and less sugar-coated feel to it, making it accessible to just about everyone. Kathryn is as brilliant as I hoped she would be and I’ve already downloaded Discovery at Rosehill for my Kindle to read next!

I give ‘Nightingale Woods’ by Kathryn Brown FIVE stars       

(As a footnote, I know we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I absolutely love the cover art for the book too, pictured above)

Nightingale Woods and Discovery at Rosehillare both available on Kindle.

UGG Slippers – Like a (H)Ugg for Your Feet

Did you see what I did there?! FNAR FNAR! 

Husband and I have a long running disagreement. He’s always telling me that I should buy clothes which are slightly more expensive and better quality and would therefore last longer. I tell him that I like the tremendous sense of value I get when I go into a cheap shop and buy 5 t-shirts, two pairs of trousers, a cardigan and a pair of pyjamas, all for the price of one pair of Levis. And besides, with the amount of ketchup I spill down my front, my clothes end up stained before they wear out properly anyway, so it matters not whether they’re cheap or not, the fact is; I’m a sloppy moo.

By this token, if you’d asked me if I’d ever spend £100 on a pair of slippers, I’d probably tell you to jog on…until today. For today is the day that these arrived:

My beautiful new UGG slippers. Apologies for the slightly awkwardly shot photo, but I had trouble taking it on account of the fact that I’m NEVER TAKING THESE OFF. When the box arrived, I opened it up and was astounded by the plushness (yes, that IS a word…honest) of the inners, it didn’t look like my feet would even fit inside, but I removed the cardboard and slipped them on. OH MAMA. I can honestly say that these are the most comfortable thing I’ve ever put my feet inside.

They couldn’t have turned up at a better time either, we’ve had the heating off for a few days as Sausage’s temperature has been so high and I’m a cold-body at the best of times, so my feet were starting to feel like little icebergs. Not any more. Such cosiness they’ve never known! They look absolutely gorgeous too, the ones I’m wearing in the picture above are also available in a purpley colour, which are totally lush.

 I know a lot of people will reel at the idea of spending £100 on a pair of slippers but I commented to someone on Twitter that I can imagine these slippers lasting about 10 years, so when you think of them as an investment like that, £100 isn’t really that much. Sure, I got these for free to review, but now I know the quality of them I can honestly say that even I would save up the money and buy myself a pair of these anyway.

If you have a woman in your life who you love, or even mildly like, and want an idea of what to get her for Chrimbo, get her a pair of these. Trust me, she’ll thank you for it!

(I also love the fact that they’re currently selling pink, limited edition moccasins to raise money for Breast Cancer charity The Haven with £10 from every pair sold being donated.)