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What Emma Loved…in March

Emma got some beautiful toys and books to to play with and review recently and it is time we told you all about them!

First of all, as you know, she is in love at the moment with all things Zootropolis, she loved watching the movie and getting loads of merchandise from Disney Store, as we detailed in our last blog post. She loves them all but she has been having great fun with the Carrot recording pen, pretending to be Officer Hopps, down to a very heavy New York accent and all, hilarious!

Carrot Recorder

Alex splurged over Easter and got her also the Deluxe Figurine Set which has provided hours of role play fun already!

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Talking of sets, Emma was the envy of her wee friends these Easter holidays with the latest My Little Pony set.

She loves watching My Little Pony on TinyPop and she had already in possession of the My Little Pony Pinky Pie’s Rainbow Helicopter.

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The latest addition, My Little Pony Swan Playsetcan also play a little cheerful tune and proved very, very successful, not only with Emma, but with her little friends as well!

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We took the set with us when we went out for lunch with friends and the four little girls at the table patiently took turns to get Pinkie Pie in and out on her rowing boots and play with her and her beautiful little boat. I spotted the set reduced in Tesco yesterday from £20 to £15 and I do recommend it for any My Little Pony fans!

As you well know, Emma loves books and she has been getting one every month now from Parragon, as part of their blogger book buddy program, but I slacked and forgot to tell you about them!

In January, Emma LOVED the Factactivity: Human Body Kit she received; with her daddy, they spent loads of quality time putting the skeleton together and learning about different body parts and functions.

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The book is specially designed with small children with big inquisitive brains in mind. There are plenty of hands on activities to be done, like colouring in, drawing, quizzes and memory games.  Information is presented in a simple yet fun way for children to retain (The Gassy Guts Hotel proved a total hit, with Emma, I wonder why ;-)?). The book also helped Emma understand a bit more about Georgie’s leukaemia and we talked loads about red and white cells and platelets and how Georgie’s body wasn’t able to produce enough of the good cells to keep his body alive.

If you have a small child with a curious mind, like my Emma, who wants to learn more about the human body, I would totally recommend this activity set. Priced at £9.99, it is definitely worth every single penny!

This month, Parragon sent her two of their art therapy colouring books for children: the Disney Princess Art Therapy Colouring Book and the Disney Frozen Art Therapy Colouring Book.

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My Emma is not very much into princess stuff and I was a bit apprehensive upon opening the parcel as I thought she will want to touch them. But since the books offer plenty of colouring activities, which Emma adores and can spend hours on, she took to them immediately and has had loads of great fun with them so far. They are currently sitting on her desk and she periodically goes back to them when she needs a calming and soothing activity.

I was aware of the popularity colouring books have gained recently amongst adults but I never thought intricate patterns could keep a young child focused like that, for absolute hours!

The books retail at £9.99 each and if your child loves colouring in and finds the activity soothing, then I do recommend them, they provide hours of quiet and beautiful creations at the end!

What toys or books have your children been into recently? What would your recommend and what would you tell others to avoid when it comes to kids’ entertainment?

Disclosure: Emma was sent the My Little Pony set and all the Parragon books mentioned for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely our own and truthful.

Zootropolis, the new Disney movie

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Emma has been very lucky this season as not only did she get to watch Zootropolis, the latest Disney movie, as soon as it was released, but she also received a whole bunch of beautiful toys, all through mummy’s blog!

We watched the movie as a family, shortly after Easter and we all came away with some real wisdom nuggets.

For Emma, the most important message was to believe in oneself and one’s dreams and never allow the society and other people’s limitations restrict what one can do. She loved officer Judy Hopps, the little bunny with a huge amount of courage, and she came away determined to make her own dream of becoming a scientist true! And speaking in a cute darn American accent as well:-).

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For the grown ups, the movie was all about manipulation of our fears to the detriment of our fellow human beings. The movie cleverly analyses the way in which an isolated incident is used to create panic among the masses, justify discrimination and ultimately, serve the interests of a few scrupulous individuals, rather than the herds they pretended to represent. It did make us think almost automatically about the world’s current affairs and the way we have reacted to them sometimes as isolated groups rather than in harmony and support of each other. Disney does not disappoint in its subtle analysis of current affairs and shedding light on our human strengths and failures.

The movie sheds light, often in a humorous way, on other aspects of our society, like the sloth-paced speed in the public services.On how we accept things as givens and how bunnies get to give parking tickets although they are fully qualified police officers, based on the judgement of their size alone.

Other times, it confronts prejudices like “foxes are the rabbits’ natural enemy” and smashes them by creating the most unlikely police team.

The fast pace, the action packed plot and the presence of gruff police officers and a slim gazelle are all appealing, especially for the daddy viewers😉.

All in all, Zootropolis is a great movie to watch as a family, with many lessons to be learned by young and old alike, so we wholeheartedly recommend it!

Have you watch Zootropolis yet? What were your impressions and opinions?

Disclosure: we were sent cinema tickets and all the beautiful Zootropolis merchandise for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are genuine and entirely our own, as usual on this blog.

Our French holiday

We spent Emma’s half term break in Greece seeing Alex’s family but Emma was sick the whole time we were there so  it is fair to say that that “holiday” was filed under “disastrous.”

My brother and his family have been living in France for the past two years and we had visited last year and had a great time. We had been toying with the idea of visiting them again but the flights were expensive so we had sort of parked that idea… Until one Sunday, a couple of weeks before Easter, when we just decided to have a last look. To our surprise, the flights were much cheaper, as we were looking to travel AFTER Easter and the train from Paris to Limoges, close to where my brother lives, almost the same price as a trip within Paris!

We decided to book on a spur of a moment thing, as the whole trip, flights and all, were coming up at less than £350 for the three of us!

We visited with them last week and returned on Tuesday and despite an impromptu train strike upon arrival and having to find our way around five different train trips, instead of just two, we had a great time!

We had time to admire, once again, the architecture in the old town of Limoges and have a leisurely breakfast on our first morning in France, before heading to meet my brother:

 

Old town, Limoges.

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We enjoyed my brother and sister in law’s wonderful hospitality, cooking and loving care.

And most importantly, we created memories with them and my beautiful niece and raved over the beautiful relationship Emma and Laura have, despite not speaking the same language and having three years of difference between them.

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We also spent time outside, discovering the lovely region of Limousin and the beautiful weather:

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It has been good to see them during what is now such an difficult emotional time for us, Georgie was diagnosed two years ago, one week after Easter and the spring holidays are now filled with dread for me, not celebration. Being with my brother’s family offset some of those negative emotions, made us feel like we belong somewhere and gave us hope for the future and for real joy back into our lives.

We have thanked them many times for their wonderful hospitality but wanted to do it once again and publicly. It has been such a pleasure to spend time together and I truly hope we can see you all again very, very soon!

Gorgeous Easter outfits for little girls

I love dressing Emma up and her wardrobe is brimming with pretty things. The only “annoying” thing is that she grows out of them too fast!

This Easter, she will look beautiful because she has received new outfits from not one but two lovely shops we adore!

First of all, Lilly and Sid, need I say more?

I first heard about their gorgeous clothes from Jennie Edspire’s blog and then managed to order one of their tunics for Emma last autumn in sales. She loves it, it is one of her favourite dresses as it looks the part but feels comfy and soft to the skin. Emma has been wearing it with layers and on its own and has declared it many a time her party dress so she can wear it when seeing friends in town:-)

Pretty girl in her new @lillyandsid frock

A photo posted by Mama's Haven (@mamashaven) on

So I am so happy to let your know that her collection has increased by two new beautiful items that the kind Emma, founder at Lilly and Sid, sent my Emma to enjoy and look pretty in this Easter. Of course, we had to try and recreate the pose in the garden but the sun was a bit too strong on Sunday so it does not do the detailing on the dress justice and makes for the scrunched up face:

In her new dress from @lillyandsid #review #blogger

A photo posted by Mama's Haven (@mamashaven) on

Emma has been wearing it all weekend and has, once again, declared it as one of her absolute favourites. I love it for its double collar and the snug fit and for bringing pretty into our every day lives!

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Emma was also gifted one of the t-shirts from the new spring-summer collection which we hope she will be able to wear once the weather get a bit warmer and definitely while in France visiting her cousin these Easter holidays. I love it for its vibrant colours, its playful design and its high quality cotton, which will make it a summer favourite and see many ice creams enjoyed by Emma!

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The other collection which caught our attention this spring with its vibrant colours and fun designs is the Little Bird by Jools, currently selling in Mothercare.

Again, I bought Emma a warm cardigan from the winter collection a while ago and we have been on the lookout for their spring-summer collection so when we were offered the opportunity to review some of the items, we were more than happy to oblige!

We absolutely love the pinafore we were sent and the fact that we can match it up perfectly with the bright cardigan from Mothercare, for me, these colours spell Easter perfectly. Just in case the weather turns mean, we did get some lovely tights to keep those legs warm and cosy!

I also love the fact that the items in the collection fit girls from 9 months to 8 years, as more often than cute items tend to fit only smaller girls, leaving older girls left out!

What pretty items of clothing have you purchased for your little ones this Easter? Do you like the above items as much as we do?

Disclosure: we were sent the items mentioned in this blog post for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely our own.

Healthy Chocolate Egg Alternative by Indigo Herbs

I decided to follow up my last post with a healthy chocolate alternative, just in case you decide to treat the kiddos this year to something totally healthy. The Indigo Easter Raw Chocolate Making Kit is all organic, vegan, dairy-free, wheat-free and gluten-free and is the perfect alternative to the sugar laden chocolate eggs in the supermarket, with the additional bonus that children get to make their own treats as well!

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 The kit comes beautifully presented into an all recyclable cardboard box, as you would expect a healthy product to be, and has a adorable retro feel to it.

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Everything you need for making your treats comes inside the box, Easter shaped moulds as well as a very detailed and easy to follow instruction booklet.

The making process is a breeze. You add water to a pan and once it is warm, a glass bowl where you melt first your organic, raw cacao butter in a bain Marie, then your cocoa powder, vanilla powder and the agave syrup. All you need to watch for is for the water to stay warm but not boil, as it will damage the goodness of the raw products and for the products to melt entirely and homogenise really well.

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Since everything is done away from a source of direct heat, your lovely little assistants can help at this stage, like Emma did:-)

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Pouring the warm chocolate into the moulds is straight forward but since I like to keep my kitchen neat, I used the old plastic bag trick and squeezed everything in easily by cutting a corner(literally, lol!). There is enough mixture to fill up two mould trays so we made good use of one of our Valentine’s heart one as well.

We allowed the mixture to settle in the fridge for a couple of hours and then enjoyed the fruit of our labour with a cup of hot milk. We made plenty and still have some to display as decorations for the Easter table!

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Have you heard of Indigo Herbs before this blog post? Have you ever made your own chocolate treats and did you know it is so easy to put together a healthy alternative to the traditional chocolate Easter eggs?

Disclosure: we were sent the chocolate kit for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely our own.

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Sport Relief: Helping as a blogger through Team Honk

I love the idea behind Sport Relief and I know the impact the money is raised every single year has on human lives, both home and abroad.

I have known of Team Honk, an amazing group of bloggers who stop at nothing in their attempt to raise as much money as possible for charity, for a few years.

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They have done some amazing things since they started, from climbing Snowdon in 2014 to relaying the length of England in 2015 and dance marathoning at Wembley last year.

So, what’s a blogger to do when she lives in Northern Ireland and cannot join the team this year in their dash around the London subway, trying to establish a new world record?

She is to do her bit from home, of course, and raise awareness about this year’s Sport Relief efforts by putting together this post! In return,  Wayfair who has challenged me to come up with ways to raise money for Team Honk for Sport Relief from home, will donate £100 into Team Honk’s page.

This money will go to support self-advocacy organisations who support adults with learning disabilities to become independent and enjoy their lives to the full; it will help local hospices and provide respite or end of life care to families in need. It will make such a difference and I am proud to be a blogger and be able to support with my writing so many wonderful causes!

So tonight, Emma and I will don our pajamas and watch the Sport Relief show over pizza and popcorn. Tomorrow, Alex will return from Greece after a week of absence and we will rope him into purchasing some of our homemade banana bread. The money will be donated by Emma to Sport Relief so that she learns, from when she is young, that support is always possible and within one’s means, even when it means a few pounds!

Alternative Easter Presents for Children

Every year, the week preceding Easter and the one following it, my Instagram and Facebook feeds fill up with pictures of eggs. I am not talking beautifully decorated chicken eggs here, but chocolate eggs, mountains and mountains of them! Children stocking them up, little ones getting all hyped up with an overload of sugar in the system on the big day…etc…etc.

This year Emma is more aware of the implications that excess sugar consumption can have on her brand new “grown-up” teeth and she has asked for only one white chocolate bunny for Easter!

I have decided to include here some of the things she is loving at the moment, so that, if your child presents you with the same sort of request, you can hopefully find some inspiration in this post.

First of all, her Little Passports World Edition subscription.

This will go with Emma's explorer kit, she will be over moon to see it when she gets home! @littlepassports

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Emma has been receiving this as a gifted subscription from November and totally loves it! She is so impressed with it that she even brought it into school for Show and Tell and told her friends all about the interesting countries that she has been learning every month!

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The initial blue box, looking like a tiny suitcase, comes with a world map, a passport and an introduction to the two main characters, Sam and Sophia. They start this amazing adventure around the world from their auntie’s garage, with the help of a magic scooter and they will accompany the children on every adventure.

The subsequent envelopes come with fact sheets on the new country, a stamp for the passport, a postcard with some sort of emblem representative of the respective country,  an activity sheet and a small souvenir in the form of a toy.

So far, we have had Japan, Brazil and France and we look forward to this month’s envelope arriving in the post, as we will get to learn about Egypt.

What do I think about the subscription myself?

I was initially a bit disappointed in the contents, as the envelopes are pretty slim, compared to other activity boxes we know of. But seeing Emma’s look of delight every month and seeing her absorb the information so easily, makes me thing that the boxes are designed well, very child friendly and in consequence, worth the expense (£12.95 per ongoing month to month subscription).

Agi Bagi Toys and Games

Their DVDs and app are a good alternative to an Easter egg for smaller children, aged 2-5. The lovely team sent us a lovely bundle of goodies, as you can see in our Instagram picture below, even if Emma is a bit older than their bracket age:

Agi Bagi goody bag #review #blogger

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The characters are cute and the animation safe to watch for small children, as is their newly released app, The Meadow Flyer:

As I said, Emma found the app a bit young for her but she has loved the top she received as well as playing with Zeebee, the soft toy. Personally, I would like to see the clothing range available in GBP currency, as some of their items are truly cute (sizes available up to 5-6 currently).

Randomise

Randomise Cards

A good old fashion card game that gets all the family involved and looking ridiculous will always make a great gift, right :-)? Randomise has come up with this “mash-up of classic games like Charades, Articulate and Pictionary”, a hilarious game in which the participants either draw, act or describe what they drew on the card. This game will keep Emma and actually, the whole family, entertained over Easter and since it can fit into a bag easily, it will bring giggles in France too, when we go to visit my brother during the holidays!

The game is priced at £9.99 and sells at the moment on Amazon.

What other non-chocolate gift ideas do you have for your children this Easter?

Disclosure: we were sent the items mentioned above, a three-month subscription to Little Passports, the Agi Bagi goody bag and the Randomise game for the purpose of this review post. All opinions expressed are entirely our own.

Kuxxin Subscription Box- A Review

Our @kuxxin review box has arrived and we are very eager to tuck into these wholesome treats!

A photo posted by Mama's Haven (@mamashaven) on

As you may know, I have been trying for the past few months to eat better, exercise more and generally, treasure the body I have been given so when Kuxxin approached me, enquiring if I would like to review their organic subscription boxes, I knew I was onto a good thing.

You see, I tend to overlook myself and almost never indulge in healthy, organic snacks on a regular basis as they do tend to be quite dear and I always prefer to see that money going towards something that will benefit us all as a family.

The Kuxxin subscription boxes are a treat in a box, for sure. Their 120g pouches of dried, organic fruit, granola and coconut, cranberries and chocolate drop trail mix come in handy for breakfast and also for mid-day snacks. They can easily fit into your gym bag (if you are the gym bunny type!) or be handed into small, grubby hands when out and about exploring. I am sat here, nibbling on my delicious dried mango so I guess they work perfectly for office folk too😉.

How have we been using our Kuxxin?

The Flaxeed and Hemp Granola is absolutely lush and has been making for delicious breakfasts on its own. Some mornings, we have added the trail mix on top of our porridge for that extra flavour kick but the mix can be added onto salads as well, as you can see in the picture below. As I said, the dried fruit is a very handy snack to take and have everywhere.

Salad Kuxxin

Photo courtesy of Kuxxin

The boxes are priced at £24.95 per month and the lovely people at Kuxxin are offering a generous 25% discount with the discount code HM25 if signing up for a Kuxxin snacks subscription following this post. The 25% discount applies for month to month subscriptions. A 3 months subscription will receive 1 month free and a 6 month subscription will receive 2 months free.

If improving your snacking and consequently your general health is on your priority list, do give Kuxxin a try, we have found the products brilliant!

Disclosure: we were sent a Kuxxin subscription box for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are entirely our own.

On Pan, the movie and the fear of Death

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On Sunday, Emma and I took the car into Belfast, on a very quiet and bright morning and went to see Pan, the movie released last year.

Emma knew of Peter Pan, of course and had watched the classic version of the film several times but you can never beat a Disney movie!

We had booked our tickets online via the Odeon Kids’ Cinema and paid £3.00 for both of us, so it was an extra bonus realising that we were the only ones watching Pan, as we got to sit in the comfy seats and chatted to our hearts’ desire, without disturbing anyone.

Emma was engrossed from the word go and although she found some elements spooky, like the pirates kidnapping the boys from their orphanage dormitory at night and of course, cruel Mother Barnabas, she thoroughly enjoyed it and spoke about it for the rest of the day.

What did I come away with myself, as a bereaved mother?

I picked some golden nuggets that continued to simmer in my head over the weekend and came to some very interesting conclusions.

First of all, Blackbeard and his Utopian kindgom, built on the intense labour of thousands of boys and grown up men, made me question our fear of dying.

Bleackbeard, just like the wicked witch in Rapunzel, is obsessed with staying young and stops at nothing in his pursuit of eternity.

Child labour. Manipulation of ideologies and promotion of a fake “free” land in exchange for personal gain. Abuse of power, control and killing of anyone who shows noncompliance.

Blackbeard does it all and more.

Why?

Because he is afraid of what lies beyond the grave. As simple as that.

In complete contrast, the native population of the island he had decimated systematically, has another view of life. When faced with death, the wise old man of the village proclaims it as “the biggest adventure yet.”

I am not writing this to encourage or promote suicidal thoughts. I am writing this because it has dawned on me, on Sunday, while watching a kids’ movie with my daughter , that I have had this wrong all along.

Death is not to be feared. Death is never the end but the mere beginning of the biggest Beyond adventure.

Yes, I still fear the pain of leaving or seeing a loved one dying. I now know very well the devastating impact the separation has upon the ones left behind.

And in the same thought thread, I also know why God never intervenes to “save” us from Death.

I understood this clearly last night, while I was modeling clay and painstakingly creating visual reminders of my grief journey in the Belfast Children’s Hospice.

The pleasure for God has always been in creating, in giving breath. That is His ultimate talent and life is to be seen simplistically, if you choose, as a gift.

Death, in the same consequential pattern, is part of the process. What is born must die. What had breath must cease existing one day. Laws of life.

Our calling, if you want to see it as such, is to accept both aspects.

So stop praying. Stop begging. Stop tormenting yourself with thoughts of death as punishment.

Instead, just choose to live fully and beautifully what was given to you. No matter how long or short your journey will be, make the most of it by simply being in it, consciously and intensely.

As for me, I dream of a boy with light hair and blue eyes who, just like Peter Pan, is proud to be “his mother’s son” and whom I will meet again one day, with plenty of tales of life well lived. Because his death has opened my eyes to life.