Friday, 12 October 2018

A tale about friendship

I'd like to tell a little tale about friendship and how sometimes the smallest gesture can mean so much. This could be about me, about you, or about that friend you used to be so close to you shared everything, yet you've forgotten the last time you spoke. It may not feel familiar to you, or it may just make you pick up the phone...

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As a child our friends are often people we see every day, in school, at activities such as sports and other clubs, play dates, going round for tea, birthday parties and so much more. We get used to having them in our lives as a constant and our days are brighter for it. When we are small we may draw them pictures or write them notes then as we grow maybe spend hours making them friendship bracelets, as a teen we share photos, silly selfies, puppy dog filters and more. All these are small things but they are ways of letting someone know we care and are thinking of them.

When we were five it seemed so natural to draw a rainbow on a piece of paper and give it to our best friend because they made us think of rainbows and we wanted to make them smile, but as we get older that starts to wane. Maybe as teens we worry it would be uncool, maybe we want to impress, but we still do things together, our friends are who we spend time with our worlds revolve around them, we go out dancing, go to festivals, listen to music and watch shows together, our beliefs and views are shaped from shared experiences. We share our heartache, our worries and our secrets, but most of all we share our joy. New love, new clothes, new babies. These may not be the same friends from our youngest days but are still so important to us. Then we get older still and busier, we may move away from those friends sometimes geographically, but often just emotionally and we have less time to share. We may make new friends with shared interests such as children a similar age or careers in common but even these can start to falter.

A regular catch up for dinner becomes a quick coffee, which then becomes a phone call each month and eventually a text or whatsapp. We become engrossed in our own busy lives with our partners and children and all of a sudden it's been two years and it feels like it's too late to make that call or send that message and especially to draw that rainbow on a scrunched up piece of paper just to say you were thinking of them.

As a thirty something, working mother of two, life is busy, it's hard and it's tiring. 

Sometimes it seems too busy for friendships, maybe we manage to keep up with some friends online, or we get together with the kids, but there's never time to actually talk, to finish a sentence or listen to something they might really want to share with us. 

Life is lonely without friends. 

There are people all around us, we work with them each day and we chat to them but they have their friends in the real world and they assume we have ours. 

We walk down the street and see the joy in the faces of people as they meet up with friends after work, ready to talk (and maybe drink) away the worries and stresses of the working week. 

We watch movies that portray life long friends growing old together and being there for each other through every up and down.

We see our children running across the playground to give their bestie the biggest hug because they have missed them so much since yesterday.

Each time we feel a huge pang of loneliness, but that guilt of being a poor friend, the embarrassment of knowing that we may not have been there when it mattered stops us reaching out.

Then the phone rings and we realise we didn't need to reach out this time because they did. They drew a metaphorical rainbow to show they were thinking of us and it made us smile.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Liverpool's Dream Giant Spectacular #LiverpoolGiants

This week marks fourteen years since I moved away from the city I grew up in and yesterday I returned to Liverpool with my youngest  to watch the incredible Liverpool's Dream.

This final visit from Royal de Luxe marks ten years since Liverpool celebrated being European Capital of Culture and brings the story of Liverpool's Dream to the streets of the city centre. Not having been able to make the last two visits from the Giants, I was pleased to find that although our boys were away at Scout camp, my daughter and I were free to hop over to Liverpool on the train, meet up with my Mum (aka Nanna) and experience the Spectacular for ourselves.

Xolo the Dog Puppet - Giant Spectacular

Royal de Luxe started in 1979 in Southern France, where founder Jean-Luc Courcoult staged his first street theatre production, Cape Horn. Over the last almost 40 years, Royal De Luxe have grown to Giant proportions, and have travelled the world with it's incredible characters including the Giant, Little Girl Giant, Little Boy Giant, Grandmother Giant Sultan's Elephant, Giant Giraffe and her baby, Rhinoceros and of course Xolo the Mexican god-dog.

This visit to Liverpool included The Giant, Little Boy Giant and the lovable Xolo and marks a final farewell to Liverpool as Royal de Luxe return the Giants to their home in France.

Little Boy Giant #liverpoolgiants Giant Spectacular

Xolo the Dog Puppet - Giant Spectacular #liverpoolgiants

Little Boy Giant with lilliputians #liverpoolgiants Giant Spectacular

The task of bringing the giants to life is one of massive proportions and thousands of people are involved. The red velvet clad operators of the Giant's are dubbed Liilliputians and each Giant takes up to 44 of them to operate. 

xolo the mexican god-dog giant puppet

Lilliputians and frame to operate the boy giant - Royal de luxe

boy giant - Royal de luxe - giant spectacular

As expected the crowds in Liverpool were overwhelming so we had to be smart and plan ahead where to stand on the routes and where we would see the Giants.

We found a great space just outside of M&S on Church street to watch The Little Boy Giant and Xolo the dog and waiting for them to parade past, while the Boy was incredible and watching the skill involved in bringing this 20 ft, 0.6 tonne puppet to life took my breath away, we were a touch disappointed that Xolo took a slight detour and missed out our stretch of the route.

boy giant - Royal de luxe - Liverpool's dream

Elizabeth was really keen to meet the Mexican god-dog puppet, having watched some videos of him greeting children on the Wirral the day before, so we changed our planned route for the afternoon to wait instead on the Strand by the docks to watch him go past. This meant that we only caught a glimse or two of the Man Giant himself but it was certainly the right decision as she was overjoyed when we got to see Xolo close up and he even paused to cheekily relieve himself on the street right in front of us!

boy giant - Royal de luxe - Liverpool's dream

xolo the dog giant puppet stopped to have a wee

close up of head of little boy giant - liverpool's dream

Royal De Luxe - Giant Spectacular - little boy

xolo the dog on the strand - liverpool

back view of little boy giant in liverpool -  Royal de Luxe

close up of xolo the dog giant puppet

xolo the dog giant puppet with tongue out

Xolo the dog close up of head giant puppet liverpool

We had a fantastic day in Liverpool and the sun even came out to celebrate Liverpool's Dream with us which was a nice surprise! I hope you've enjoyed our pictures and you can find more images and information on the Giant Spectacular website.

I've popped a short video up on Youtube too:

Friday, 5 October 2018

Hatchibabies from Hatchimals - Toy Review

Hatchibabies from Hatchimals in packaging

There's a new member of the Hatchimals family and it's set to be one of the most popular toys this Christmas!

This week we had a new arrival in our house in the form of of a Hatchimals Hatchibabies Egg!

My seven year old has been nurturing and playing with the Hatchibabies egg all week and today she was very EGGcited to hatch it and meet her new best friend!

child playing Hatchibabies egg Hatchimals

Elizabeth is a huge fan of everything Hatchimals so she was just EGGstatic to have the chance to receive her very own Hatchibabies. As an extra surprise with the latest addition to the Hatchimals family, you don't find out if you have a boy or a girl until it hatches! Just like with a real baby!

gender reveal Hatchibabies egg Hatchimals

We had great fun taking some gender reveal photos,  check them out on twitter below:

Hatchimals Hatchibabies are available in 5 Species, Ponette, Cheetree, Chipadee, Monkiwi and Koalabee. The latter three will be store exclusives! Each of the varieties come in both hatchiboys and hatchigirls versions, but you won't know which you have until your Hatchibaby has hatched!

delighted child with Hatchibabies egg Hatchimals

Can you Play with the Hatchimals Hatchibabies Egg before it Hatches?

Yes! This year there is even more in egg play than with any any previous Hatchimals product.

When you remove the egg from its box, you will need to remove the two plastic locks from the base of the egg. This will wake up the egg and it will be ready to play!

If at any point during in egg play you need to stop playing just hold the egg upside down for 25 seconds and it will stop. Wake it up again when you are ready to continue by rubbing the base.

Even before the Hatchibabies has hatched from it's egg, you will be able to see its eyes shining through the shell. Each of the eye colours indicates something different.

Red Eyes - Upset -  You need to rock the egg or rub the bottom.
Orange Eyes - Gassy  - You need to pat the bottom or tilt the egg.
Yellow Eyes - Happy - Continue to care for the egg or try tilting.
Green Eyes - Sick - Rub the bottom of the egg.
Blue Eyes - Cold - Rub the bottom of the egg.
White  - Sleepy - Put in the egg base for a nap or give it the cuddle buddy.
Pink  - heartbeat - hold the egg still and listen.
Eyes turned off  - listening - tap on the egg.

Hatchibabies egg Hatchimals

Elizabeth spent a lot of time playing with, caring for and talking to the egg before it had hatched, she loved how it reacted to her and cooed or rocked when she nurtured it. She thought it was especially hilarious when it burped!

boy or girl surprise  Hatchibabies egg Hatchimals

How do know the Hatchimals Hatchibabies is ready to Hatch?

When the Hatchibabies eyes turn rainbow coloured (this means the eyes rotate through each colour) you know it's ready to hatch!

To encourage hatching hold and rub the bottom of the egg. If the movement stops inside the egg and you hear tapping, respond by tapping back on the egg. If the egg stops and you hear your Hatchibabies panting, hold the egg to hear the heartbeat. You may need to help your Hatchibabies hatch by peeling back extra pieces of shell. When your Hatchibabies has finished hatching it will sing Hatchy Birthday! You can now remove your Hatchibabies from the egg.

Keep the base of the egg a a nest for your Hatchibabies but dispose of the other shell pieces.

Hatchiboy or Hatchigirl?

Once you have hatched your Hatchibabies and given them a big cuddle, you should be able to see the gender quite easily from the colour of the fur, however if you're unsure, there is a secret scroll hidden at the bottom of your egg under your Hatchibabies, take this out to reveal if you have a Hatchiboy or a Hatchigirl!

We hatched a girl Ponette! She has purple fur with a turquoise tummy and stripe and a yellow bow!  She has a beautiful rainbow tail ans sparkly wings! Elizabeth was delighted as she was (not so) secretly hoping for team girl!

Ponette girl Hatchibabies egg Hatchimals

What's in the Hatchimals Hatchibabies Egg?

As well the Hatchibabies itself, and the secret scroll mentioned above, your Hatchibabies comes with it's own special accessories just like a surprise toy! 

Once your egg has hatches you can open up the little surprise compartments to see which accessories your Hatchibabies comes with. 

Our Ponette Hatchigirl came with a cute little brush for looking after her fur and grooming her, an adorable rattle with a 'H' monogram, her own bottle for feeding and a cuddle buddy in case she got lonely!

Ponette girl Hatchibabies accessories Hatchimals

In addition to this, the pink frame where the accessories were hidden, comes out and converts into your Hatchibabies' own highchair! You can also use the bottom of the egg as a little nest for your Hatchibabies to play or sleep in!

Each Hatchibabies takes two AA batteries which are included and can easily be replaced when needed.

How do you play with the Hatchimals Hatchibabies once it has hatched?

There has been so much though put into the development of the Hatchimals Hatchibabies. You have so much play value and aspects of different play in one toy! 

The accessories encourage you to look after your new Hatchibabies and care for it just like you would with a doll. You can use the bottle to feed it by popping the teat in between the beak and pressing down gently on the lower beak. Once your Hatchibabies has been fed, it may have wind and need burping just like  a real baby so don't forget to hold her against your chest and gently pat the back of her head. You may hear a cheeky burp!

The Hatchibabies will also respond to the other accessories, such as the rattle and the the Cuddle Buddy, to use these ensure that the monogrammed H faces you and then bring it to your Hatchibabies chest.

The Hatchibabies is also a great interactive toy. 

It can even learn to talk - to teach your Hatchibabies some words, touch and hold both of it's feet while talking to it. Let go and it will repeat what you said! ( I can see this being abused by cheeky older siblings - all kind words please!!)

Your Hatchibabies loves to sing and dance too, give them their rattle and they will show you their moves!

Just like a real baby, your Hatchibabies loves to play games. You can play Peek-a-boo by covering it's eyes and it known two special games of it's own too! Animal Colours can be played by touching and holding the left foot for 3 seconds and then when you see the colour that matches the animal sound tap it's forehead. You win by getting 8 right! Bouncy Baby can be played by touching and holding the right foot for three seconds. When the music plays bounce your Hatchibaby backwards and forward, when the music stops, you stop - just like musical statues! Get 3 to win!

What do the different coloured eyes on the Hatchimals Hatchibabies mean?

The colour of the Hatchibabies eyes show you how your Hatchibabies is feeling. Each colour means something different and you can do something to react to this:

Red Eyes - Upset -  You need to put the Hatchibabies in the egg base for a timeout or pet it.
Orange Eyes - Gassy  - You need to pat the back of its head.
Yellow Eyes - Happy - Continue to care for it or tickle its feet
Green Eyes - Sick - Touch and hold the forehead to take its temperature and pet to comfort it.
Blue Eyes - Sad or Scared - Pet it or give it the cuddle buddy.
White  - Sleepy - Put in the egg base for a nap or give it the cuddle buddy.
Pink  - Cuddly - Pet its head or nuzzle its nose.
Purple  - Hungry - Feed it with its bottle

How do you get your Hatchimals Hatchibabies to perform their Secret Trick?

You may have noticed earlier that there was something on the back of the secret scroll that revealed your Hatchibabies gender. This is a clue to it's secret trick! Each Hatchibabies species has a different one. To discover what your Hatchibabies secret trick is rub the back of it's head until it's eyes turn purple then tap the from and back of the head (either side of the bow) twice at the same time. 

Elizabeth's Ponette Hatchigirl played a cowboy song!

How do you turn Hatchimals Hatchibabies off?

You may be having lots of fun with your Hatchibabies but sometimes both you and your Hatchibabies will need a rest. After two minutes of no interaction, your Hatchibabies will fall asleep. They can be woken again by touching the forehead or can be turned off fully by using the simple switch underneath. The two AA batteries can also be removed and replaced.

If you need to turn your Hatchibabies off while still in it's egg - before it has hatched, simple turn it upside down for 25 seconds.

What did we think of the Hatchimals Hatchibabies?

Elizabeth loves her Hatchibabies and gives it a huge thumbs up, she's really enjoyed caring for it and looking after it both inside and outside of the egg this week. The gender reveal aspect really built up excitement for her and her face was full of joy when she hatched a girl. I do wonder about not being able predict what gender you are buying and whether this would disappoint some children if they don't hatch what they were hoping for. At an RRP of £59.99, it's a high value toy to not know exactly what you are getting. Surprise toys are all the rage however, and lots of children love that build up and anticipation!

Sometimes toys like this are a great hit at first but don't have a lot of play value after the initial 'reveal' and are soon left to be ignored. The Hatchibabies has a variety of play options and the addition of cute accessories to help care for it so I can see it lasting much longer than it's predecessors.

Hatchimals Hatchibabies are aimed at children aged 5+ and I think that's just about right for the amount of understanding you need to learn and play the games, younger children my enjoy it, but I don't think they would get as much out of it and the small accessories would be a risk for very young children. At almost eight, Elizabeth needed a little help understanding some of the instructions but is able to play with it independently.

I can see the Hatchimals Hatchibabies being on the top of a lot of children's Christmas lists this year!

For more Hatchibabies fun check out the Hatchimals website and  #Hatchibabies on social media!

We have been sent a Hatchimals Hatchibabies for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

A Care Package From Care Bears

a care package from care bears

There is nothing like a lovely package of goodies through the post to cheer you up!

As the weather gets colder, bugs and virus start spreading through schools and workplaces and last week I was struck down with the flu and confined to bed a for a few days feeling rather sorry for myself. This made it especially good timing to receive a lovingly put together care package from Flair to help promote their Care Bears range. I was a child of the eighties and I was a major Care Bears fan when I was small so I was delighted to be able to share this long time love with my seven year old daughter!

harmony bear and share bear with mini grimms rainbow

After school she came to give me a get well snuggle and we had a look through the lovely care package. Inside we found the 13" Care Bears Harmony Bear Medium Plush which is available from ASDA, Tesco, Amazon and Debenhams with an RRP of £15.99. This adorable teddy is the perfect size for cuddles and is super soft with a very cute tuft of hair making it even more huggable!

child holding care bear harmony bear and share bear

child holding care bear

Joining Harmony Bear in the box was a smaller but equally as cute Care Bears Cub Share Bear plush which is just 8″ tall and is a perfect as a treat or special gift as it retails at just £7.99 from ASDA and Amazon. The Care Bears Cub plush wears PJs so is all ready for taking to bed and is ideal as a night time cuddly companion for any Care Bears fan!

Just as I thought I had lost my two new Care Bears to my daughter, she spotted something else hiding away in the package! Like a lot of seven year olds, she is a huge fan of Squishies and Squishems at the moment, so she squealed with delight when she saw the pack of Care Bears Squishems!

rainbow of care bear squishems

harmony bear squishems

The pack contains 8 Squishems, 6 of these can be seen through the packaging and another two are mystery figures, hiding behind little white clouds. The Squishems figure pack has an RRP of £14.99 from Amazon, which is less than £2 per figure, great for imaginative play or just creating a rainbow display, these squeezeable figures feature all your favourite Care Bears characters in a fun squishy material!

rainbow of care bears squishems

In addition to the selection from the Care Bears toy range, Flair treated me to all the ingredients for a perfect evening of pampering, including, hot chocolate, a face mask and a beautifully scented candle to relax in the bath with!

I think these Care Bear friends will be very popular this Christmas!

Do you have a favourite Care Bear?

Check out some more images of my #CareBearsCarePackage that I shared over on Instagram:

This is a collaborative post.