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I mostly review products such as books, toys, and household items. Thanks for all the rates and comments! :) I always try and give you one back.

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since 20/07/2016


Westlab Dead Sea Salt 19/01/2017

Westlab Dead Sea Salt for a relaxing soak in the bath

Westlab Dead Sea Salt Westlab Dead Sea Salt Price: from £2.99 for 1kg Available from: Dolphin Fitness (best price I could find for 1kg); Planet Organic; Asda; Boots;; eBay; Ocado; Home Bargains Suitable for: adults Offers: A 5kg bag costs £9.95 from Dolphin Fitness, and a 10kg bag from Home Bargains costs £24.90 (RRP 59.90) I have used different salt products in the bath, on and off, for many years. I have sensitive skin, which is prone to eczema, so unfortunately most mainstream bath products aren’t suitable for me, whereas sea salt is usually marketed specifically at people with skin issues like mine. I was given a bag of Westlab Dead Sea Salt last month, and have used a handful in the bath a few times since. I’ve found it’s been good for relaxing from the usual pregnancy aches (back and hips, in particular), as well as befitting my skin. What does it look and smell like?= Westlab Dead Sea Salt comes in either 1kg or 5kg bags (I have the 1kg bag). The bag is white with mostly black writing, and a very simple water-like design as a background towards the bottom. The back of the pack is ‘no frills’, and clearly explains the relevant instructions and precautions. The bag is thick plastic with a resalable top, which is handy so the salt doesn’t become damp when stored in the bathroom. The overall look is quite basic and almost medical-looking – I assume this was what they were aiming for. The sea salt has a crystal appearance, with large and coarse grains of salt, some of which ...

Craft Box Fairy Garden 18/01/2017

Craft Box Fairy Garden

Craft Box Fairy Garden Craft Box Fairy Garden Price: from £6.99 to £20.99 Available:, Suitable: from age four to eighteen Offers: the best price I can find is £6.99 on Toy Type: craft set (requires assembly) There are a few different ‘My Fairy Garden’ craft sets available currently, and ours features a little blonde fairy, toadstool, white mouse, cottage, and clothes line – from looking online, this version appears to be the best seller. There is a huge variation on price for this set, so please do a quick search online before purchasing as you could easily pay triple the price in some stores. First Appearances - Packaging The ‘My Fairy Garden’ craft set comes in a large cardboard box, measuring 29 x 29 x 16cm and weighing 558g. The front and back of the box look attractive, with photos of the assembled Fairy Garden and a fantasy-style font used for the name. The only part that’s slightly misleading is that the photos show the Fairy Garden with fully grown grass. In fact, the set doesn’t include soil or compost, and your child will need to patiently wait for a while until their Fairy Garden grows to look like these pictures. What’s inside the box? Inside the box, we have: * A good quality instruction booklet and activity guide (12 pages, all in English, with photo) * 1 light orange plastic bowl to contain the garden * 1 kneeling fairy figure (she has blonde hair and semi-transparent blue wings) * 1 pink and purple fairy cottage made out of foam (needs ...

Melissa And Doug Shape Sorting Clock 17/01/2017

Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting Clock

Melissa And Doug Shape Sorting Clock Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting Clock Price: approximately £10 Available: Suitable: for ages three years and older (states that it’s not suitable for under threes) Offers: I can’t find any offers currently, but the price varies somewhat between retailers, so make sure you do some quick online research before purchasing My daughter was given the Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting Clock as a Christmas present, from a family friend. She has just turned three years old, so can’t tell the time yet, but recognises numbers and is beginning to show an interest in clocks and telling the time. First Appearances – packaging The Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting Clock came with basic packaging, which wasn’t excessive (I like this as I don’t like contributing excess packaging to landfill!). There was some transparent cellophane over the front, keeping the pieces in place, and a cardboard triangle base to prop the clock up – this means that it would sit at an angle when on the shop shelf. The toy could clearly be seen as all the packaging was transparent. What does it look like? This compact shape sorting clock measures 21.6 x 21.6 x 10.9 cm, weighs 780g, and is made of wood. It has a colourful base, and each number of the clock is a different shape and colour. The number shapes each fit into a slot on the clock, round the sizes. The two hands on the clock are red, and can be moved round to show different times. Some versions of this clock seem to have a blue hand for the ...

Princess Polly's Potty - Andrea Pinnington 16/01/2017

Princess Polly's Potty by Andrea Pinnington

Princess Polly's Potty - Andrea Pinnington Princess Polly’s Potty by Andrea Pinnington Price: RRP £6.99 Available from: Waterstones,, The Works, Mothercare Suitable for: recommended for 18 months and over Offers: The best prices I can find are on Amazon – the board book from £5.24, and Kindle Edition from £3.99 Author: Andrea Pinnington Illustrator: Andrea Pinnington Published by: Ladybird Books Ltd (2009) Genre: children’s picture book (board book) When we embarked on our potty training journey, I looked for a range of books about potties and toilets. I found ‘Princess Polly’s Potty’ by Andrea Pinnington on our local library’s catalogue and reserved it. It didn’t become available for at least a month, so it must have been in fairly high demand! Story Over 16 pages, we meet Princess Polly, and accompany her as she learns how to use the potty and switch using nappies for ‘big girl’ pants. First, she chooses a potty and pants, then we see how she learns how to use it, and wash her hands. She has the odd accident, but keeps trying, and by the end of the book, she’s confident using pants and a potty instead of nappies. Characters Princess Polly looks to be about two or two and a half years old – she’s a smiley little girl, and wears a crown. We also meet some members of her family – her dad, mum, big brother, and baby sister. It’s useful that different ages of family members have been included as the book talks about who in the family uses nappies, passing on the message that nappies are for ...

Bargains: Do you manage to find good deals outside of the sales period? 15/01/2017

Hey big spender, spend a little less with me ;)

Bargains: Do you manage to find good deals outside of the sales period? Ciao Café Current Issues Bargains: Do you manage to find good deals outside of the sales period? “Hey, big spender… spend a little less with me” I’m not much of a big spender, and prefer to look for reasonable prices, where I can. I don’t consider myself a “bargain hunter”, but more a conscientious consumer. I’ll spend more on quality products (especially where safety is concerned), meat which is high welfare, and eggs which are free range. I prefer to lower our regular costs, rather than going out specifically to bargain hunt. For example, we do the bulk of our shopping at Aldi or Lidl; I shopped around for the most affordable electricity and gas tariffs; and I use price comparison sites when our insurance is up for renewal. I’d say that doing this has saved us a decent amount of cash over the past few years. As I said, I will usually buy a higher quality item when it’s electrical or safety related, such as car seats, white goods, and so on. I find that they usually last longer, so the cost per use is less overall, and they often have a better or longer guarantee, so they’ll be replaced if they break. What I’m not very good at, unfortunately, is haggling! I read about people who manage to negotiate excellent deals on their mobile phone, broadband, or television contract, but the most I’ve managed to do is negotiate a very small price reduction. There’s clearly a knack to this, and I don’t have it! In terms of buying items at bargain prices, I try to remember that ...

Guardians of the Galaxy (DVD) 14/01/2017

Guardians of the Galaxy (DVD)

Guardians of the Galaxy (DVD) Guardians of the Galaxy (DVD) Price: around £7 Available from: Amazon Suitable: rated 12 Offers: Actors: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper Director: James Gunn Produced by: Marvel Studios (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) Genre: Action / Fantasy / Superhero / Science Fiction Release: 2014 Run time: 121 minutes My husband was given “Guardians of the Galaxy” on DVD for his birthday. Having watched, and mostly enjoyed, other Marvel films, we decided to watch this one together. We haven’t watched it again, but I think we’ll probably watch the DVD once more before passing it on. Story and How it’s Told Our main character, the troubled Peter Quill, steals a sought-after orb, thus putting his own life in danger from bounty hunters. To protect himself, he has to work with a band of warrior misfits, including a racoon, a tree creature, an assassin and the aggressive criminal Drax the Destroyer. The group realise how powerful the stolen orb actually is, which leads to a galaxy-wide battle (and a lot of action!) to gain control of it. The special and visual effects are very good; it’s an enjoyable film to watch, even if you wouldn’t usually choose something from the science fiction genre. Although it’s mostly action-based, it still manages to have a fair few comedy moments. Characters and Cast Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) – part human and part alien, and raised by aliens called The Ravagers. He has come from a troubled background, but ...

Get Shorty (DVD) 13/01/2017

Get Shorty (DVD) - Great for Travolta fans

Get Shorty (DVD) GGet Shorty (DVD) Price: from £1.50 to £5.99 Available from: Amazon,, Suitable: for ages 15 and over Offers: can easily be found second hand from eBay or Music Magpie for around £1.20 Actors: John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina Director: Barry Sonnenfeld Produced by: Barry Sonnenfeld, Danny DeVito, Graham Place, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher Release: 1996 (DVD release 2000) Genre: rated 15 Run time: 101 minutes I bought a second hand copy of “Get Shorty” on DVD for my husband as this particular edition has an excellent range of languages available for both the soundtrack and subtitles, including his first language. We didn’t know much about the film before buying it so I didn’t have any preconceptions about what to expect. The Story Based on the novel by Elmore Leonard, “Get Shorty” tells the story of a loan collector (John Travolta) with a love of film, who decides to get into the movie business, leading him to meet rising and falling stars on his journey, as well as the odd mobster. Chilli meets Karen and they are faced with many challenges as they try to make their way in this world of movies and mobsters. There are quite a lot of little sub-plots going on in “Get Shorty”, which can be hard to keep up with. It makes me wonder if the director or producers were big fans of the book and didn’t want to abridge it, so kept in as much content as possible. For me, the overall ‘feel’ to the story is somewhere between a ...

This Charming Man - Marian Keyes 12/01/2017

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

This Charming Man - Marian Keyes This Charming Man by Marian Keyes Price: Paperback £7.99, and Kindle edition £3.99 Available from: Amazon, and some other book shops Suitable: for adult readers Offers: none currently Author: Marian Keyes Published: Penguin (2008) Genre: modern fiction Languages: available in 16 languages, additional to English (including Spanish, French and German) Length: my copy has 885 pages I have read most of Marian Keyes’ books, and have re-read the best-selling “This Charming Man” a couple of times since my mum gave it to me a few years ago, after reading it first herself. Lots of Keyes’ books feature the Welsh family, but this novel introduces us to a whole cast of different characters; mostly memorable women. “Everybody remembers where they were the day they heard that Paddy de Courcy was getting married” Story and Writing Style “This Charming Man” is narrated by four different voices – Lola, Grace, Marnie, and Alicia. Lola writes in a ‘diary style’ (not dissimilar to Bridget Jones), whereas the others write in a more standard (arguably more accessible) first person narrative style. Each character has their own font, so it’s easier to keep track of who is ‘talking’. I generally like this approach of writing in different voices, as it allows the reader to hear more sides to the same story, giving us a greater insight into the different characters’ perspectives on events and relationships. We soon find that the four, very different, women are linked by one man, Paddy De ...

Grown Ups (DVD) 11/01/2017

Grown Ups (DVD) - not very grown up!

Grown Ups (DVD) Grown Ups (DVD) Price: from £3 to £5.99 Available at:, Tesco, HMV Online Suitable for: rated 12 Offer: it can easily be found second hand online for around £2 (such as at Music Magpie or eBay) Actors: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek and Rob Schneider Director: Dennis Dugan Produced by: Happy Maddison Productions (which belongs to Adam Sandler) Rating: 12 Genre: comedy Release date: 2011 I don’t know how we ended up owning the DVD of ‘Grown Ups’ – I don’t remember buying it, so it must have been my husband! We’ve watched it a couple of times, and it was watchable enough for an evening when you want to veg out and not pay much attention, but it’s certainly not a classic, in my opinion. Story This film is a bit of an excuse for kind of silly high school ‘boys together’ reunion and doesn’t really have much of a plot. The premise is that five (male) friends in their 40s, who played together on a high school sport team, find out their coach has passed away, and decide to get together with their families and spend a holiday together, in his memory. The film looks at the conflict that exists between some relationships and friendships, and some of the characters go on a fairly shallow journey of self-realisation, but not a lot ‘happens’ in terms of a story or plot. This certainly isn’t a plot-driven film! Characters and Cast= As you’d probably expect from this type of Adam Sandler movie, the characters are mostly pretty exaggerated ...

Lego Duplo: Green Duplo Baseplate 10/01/2017

Lego Duplo Green Baseplate - just another brick in the wall?

Lego Duplo: Green Duplo Baseplate Lego Duplo: Green Duplo Baseplate Price: RRP £10.49 Available: Directly from the Lego Duplo online shop, Amazon, eBay, Toys r Us Suitable: recommended for children aged 2 to 5 years old (the Lego Duplo website contradicts itself on the age recommendation as the set states 2-5 and the product information below states 18 months to 5 years) Offers: none currently (the prices on Amazon vary hugely, so make sure you check you aren’t being duped into paying too much!) We have owned the Lego Duplo baseplate in green for over a year, and my daughter has used it to play along with other Duplo bricks sets most days since then. First Appearances – packaging The green Lego Duplo baseplate comes in flat packaging, with a cardboard cover and wrapped plastic cellophane. The front shows a photograph of the base, with some Duplo pieces on it, giving an idea of how the base might be played with. There’s an alternative photo to the top right, and the Lego Duplo branding and age recommendation to the top left. There is also a clear photo at the bottom left which shows the baseplate with nothing on it – I like this as it gives a good visual idea of the size and shape of the baseplate. What’s inside the pack? Just one piece comes in this Duplo set! The base plate is a fairly large square, and measures 38.1cm by 38.1cm, and it thin at just 0.7cm high. It comes alone, without any bricks or other pieces. It’s made of a vibrantly green coloured plastic, with bumps to fit Lego Duplo bricks ...

Penguin - Polly Dunbar 09/01/2017

Penguin by Polly Dunbar - quite an unusual children's book

Penguin - Polly Dunbar Penguin by Polly Dunbar Price: paperback version RRP £6.99, Kindle edition £3.98 Available: Amazon, and some other book shops Suitable: for ages 2 and over Offers: none currently Author: Polly Dunbar Illustrator: Polly Dunbar Published: Walker Books (2007) Genre: children’s picture book (fiction) Awards: voted as one of the top 100 children’s books by Amazon My daughter was given ‘Penguin’ by Polly Dunbar as a Christmas present when she had just turned two years old. So, while we have owned it for over a year, it has never been one of her favourite books and we haven’t read it many times. I’ve decided to pass it on to another child who might enjoy it a bit more, as I think it’s a quality book, just not to my daughter’s taste. First appearances – front cover This A4 paperback book has 32 pages and measures 21.5 x 0.4 x 26cm. It shows a stylised, somewhat crudely drawn penguin drawn on the front, and the ‘Penguin’ title above in a colourful patch-work style font. The author’s name is written below in a small font, and the background is white, making the illustration and title stand out. Our version of this book also contains the accompanying DVD (rated U), and explains this down the side of the front cover. Story A little boy, Ben, opens a present on the first page, and finds a penguin inside. He tries to make the penguin talk by doing all sorts of things, such as asking him questions, standing on his head, leading on to more fanciful ideas such as sending him into ...

Ooh, Pretty Flower - BBC 08/01/2017

Ooh, Pretty Flower - BBC (In the Night Garden, Upsy Daisy)

Ooh, Pretty Flower - BBC Ooh, Pretty Flower In the Night Garden… Upsy Daisy Book Price: RRP £3.99 Available: Ladybird books, Amazon, Abebooks Suitable: from birth Offers: none currently Author: based upon the series authored and composed by Andrew Devonport Illustrator: characters produced by Ragdoll Limited Published: The Penguin Group - Ladybird (2007) Genre: children’s board book (fiction) I bought “Upsy Daisy, Ooh Pretty Flower” for my daughter when she was around a year old and was a big fan of the CBeebies “In the Night Garden” programme. She has now outgrown the programme, characters, and book, so I’ll be passing this book on to a younger child soon. For people who aren’t familiar with “In the Night Garden”, it’s a strange dream-like world, populated with large colourful characters (including Upsy Daisy and Iggle Piggle). The ‘plot’ is quite loose and strange for adults, but it’s extremely popular with young children. There are lots of interesting, and often very funny, theories about “In the Night Garden”, which may make watching it a bit more bearable for parents! First impressions – front cover This little hardback book is almost a square, measuring 17.4cm x 17.6cm x 1.5cm and has 16 pages. The front cover shows an image of Upsy Daisy to the left, with the recognisable garden begind her. To the top left “In the Night Garden… Upsy Daisy” is written in a pretty purple font with little flowers, and the subtitle “Ooh, Pretty Flower” sits to the bottom right. The back cover shows the ...

Lego Duplo 10558 Number Train 07/01/2017

Lego Duplo 10558 Number Train - 123 choo choo!

Lego Duplo 10558 Number Train Lego Duplo 10558 Number Train Price: RRP £9.99 Availability: Tesco, Amazon, Argos, and Toys R Us Suitable: recommended for children aged 2 to 5 years old (however, I can see online that some boxes of this set state 1.5 years as the lower age limit) Offers: Tesco are currently offering a free Lego reindeer with selected sets (but I expect this offer will expire soon as it seems quite seasonal) The Lego Duplo Numbers Train was one of the first Duplo sets my daughter was given, when she was around two years old, but I’m only now getting round to writing a review about it for Ciao. We have owned the set for over a year, and it’s now mixed in with other sets, but I’ve removed the pieces from our Duplo box to photograph them separately. My daughter owned this set with just one other for a while, so I’ve seen how she plays with it when it’s not mixed in with other blocks and pieces. First appearances: packaging The Lego Duplo 10588 Numbers Train comes in a standard cardboard box, rather than the plastic storage case other Duplo sets come in. I remember my daughter reacting to the front of the box, and naming the numbers she could see on the blocks pictured! The front of the box has a clear photograph of the blocks included inside, set out as a train with an engine and three carriages, carrying the numbered blocks, stacked on top like cargo. The Lego Duplo branding and age recommendations are clearly set out to the top left of the front of the box. The blocks were stored ...

Playskool Mrs. Potato Head 06/01/2017

Playskool Mrs. Potato Head - a lady without many acessories

Playskool Mrs. Potato Head Playskool Mrs. Potato Head Price: RRP £9.99 Availability: Toys r Us, Amazon, eBay, Suitable: recommended for children aged 2 to 5 years old Offers: none currently, but the best price I can find is £8.99 on the Very website (above) My daughter was recently given a Mrs Potato Head doll for her third birthday. It looks a little different from the Mr Potato Head I remember from when I was little, but the basic design is the same. My daughter has enjoyed playing with the Mr. Potato Head one of her friends owns, so she was really happy to get a “Mrs.” Version of her own to play with at home! The Mrs. Potato Head we were given seems to be a fairly recently updated version of the toy – the previous one (which is pictured by Ciao) included trainers and a sun visor in place of the boots and blonde wig. I remember playing with a Mr. Potato Head toy as a little girl, sometimes with a real potato instead of a plastic body, so it was nice to see my daughter so happy with receiving what’s potentially a bit of an old-fashioned toy. First impressions – packaging The Playskool Mrs. Potato Head figure came with a relatively small amount of packaging. She was in a hard plastic shell with a cardboard surround, with images of the toy. The packaging opened up with a little adult help – my daughter couldn’t do it on her own. Most of the pieces were displayed alongside her in the box, so we could see what accessories she came with. In my opinion, the packaging reflects the ...

Psychologies 05/01/2017

Psychologies magazine - quality articles but too inward looking

Psychologies Psychologies Magazine Price: £3.99 Available: at larger newsagents and on subscription Suitable: for adult readers Offers: it’s usually cheaper per copy when bought on a yearly subscription In 2012, I was looking for a magazine which had a range of articles to interest me while going on a train journey, and decided to try ‘Psychologies’ when I saw it on the newsagent’s shelf. It was more expensive than the magazines I would usually buy, but I would be travelling for a few hours that day so I wanted something with a lot of reading to keep me entertained! I really enjoyed the variety of articles and features, and later bought a subscription for one year. I didn’t renew the subscription when the year ran out as I’d had my daughter by then and didn’t have as much free. First Appearances – what does it look like? ‘Psychologies’ usually sits on the newsagents middle shelf; if you’re in a bigger shop it’ll usually be alongside other more expensive magazines aimed at women in their 20s/30s, like ‘Red’. ‘Psychologies’ is an A4 sized glossy magazine, and quite thick with around 130 pages in each issue. The name ‘Psychologies’ sits at the top of the front cover, in a red capital letter font, and there’s usually a headshot of a women who stars in the magazine, with headlines about what’s inside the magazine around her. In my opinion, the front cover makes it look like a high quality magazine, and its target readership is quite easy to work out. Type of ...
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