Little Genius Eco Systems – toy review

One thing is very clear – Arlo loves everything about the natural world. He can churn out animal facts all day long and this summer surprised us all when he revealed he had been keeping a secret pet snail in his bedroom for weeks. Having the opportunity to try out the habitats and ecosystems toy from I’m a genius science seemed like a great opportunity. As soon as he saw the box he was excited.

This is one of those toys I saved for a rainy afternoon, I’d already opened it myself to check the contents and read the instructions and so for the first project I made sure we had some stones and natural materials collected from a nature walk to use whilst decorating our little biorb. When I told Arlo we were going to create our own little world he knew exactly what he wanted to include.

The box comes with a biorb in two halves, with various lids a stand, borage seeds, various scoops and a bag containing peat moss and lichens. Plus a delightful little book which includes various ecosystem projects and all sorts of useful information about things like the water cycle. We set to work immediately and used gravel to line the bottom of our ecosystem.

Planting the seeds and decorating the habitat took us a very long time. Arlo kept running around to find extra bits and bobs to decorate with, eventually settling on a pine cone centre piece with a shell and some wood and moss. He even managed to sneak a bug in there too which I spotted at the last minute. We used water to spray our environment and then added the lid and have placed it on the kitchen windowsill so that we can check in on it every day.

The idea is that the seeds will grow creating a mini ecosystem which constantly changes. You can use different pieces on the lid to emulate a water cycle and even add ice to try and create clouds via evaporation. This is such a great toy for nature loving kids and I like that it can also be used repeatedly as a learning resource for different topics. Available to order from Toys and Bears now for £19.99, however I have been kindly given the opportunity to give away one of these to a lucky competition winner.

Terms and conditions apply – click here for details – live until 18/9/2021- products provided for the purposes of review however as always all opinions expressed are our own.

Thirty days of mindfulness

I’m a huge fan of thirty day challenges, I’ve written about all sorts of different things I’ve tried in the past – from squat challenges which get increasingly tougher to more creative challenges where your skills develop as you try out a new make up technique every day. One thing I’ve been really focusing on is mindfulness. Over the lockdown I found compulsory online zoom calls for this appearing in my work calendar and I used to scoff at it because I didn’t really understand. I’d pop the sessions on, mute it and scroll through Instagram instead. Then when I left my job in December and suddenly felt the pressure and workload from work was lifted I realised just how stressed I had been.

I began to explore mindfulness and different techniques to find my inner calm. I started wearing a Fitbit to track my fitness but at forst I found it more interesting to monitor my sleep patterns – being a self confessed social media addict I realised I was going to bed and not “switching off” until way past midnight most evenings and this was having an impact on my sleep patterns. My scores were terrible. Releasing I had a problem is the first step but doing something about it isn’t quite so easy, especially when social media is a viable income source and I had committed to blogging and freelance writing projects in between my changing career plan.

I don’t know if it’s ironic, but using technology has helped me massively. I set myself personal boundaries on my phone – you can monitor your screen time from settings and then set yourself time limits for apps – I have a daily limit for social media which I have stuck to for six months. I also have a “down time” – I can only access essential apps between midnight and 6am unless I ignore the reminders – and so far I’ve managed to exert some self control and stick to my limits more often than not. This is despite me using my phone to run my blog and social media accounts.

This time away from my mobile screen has enabled me to explore other things – I have been writing from my laptop and have spent some time creating myself a home office set up, so that when I do need to work I’m in a productive environment and not hunched over a mobile device. This also helps massively when working from home with children – Arlo knows that when I’m in my office space I’m not to be disturbed, I set him up in his room next door with an invitation to play and he likes to independently create his own small worlds with his train sets and fire station. Once my work is done, I step away and can join in with him. Previously I would have tried to work from my phone in a shared space with Arlo and it just wouldn’t be productive. Now I can get something done and dusted in half an hour with some focus.

So once I finally got myself in to a decent work / life balance routine it was just around the time that the gyms opened up again – I signed myself up and started to head out to workout classes. I realised quite quickly that I needed to do more, Cardio was a major issue for me, and I found myself struggling at first. I had what was diagnosed as “atypical” pneumonia in February of 2020 and it took me about three months to fully recover – of course the sceptic in me thinks I probably had some sort of long covid but at the time I wasn’t able to get tested. Then almost a year of lockdowns meant that my fitness levels had declined – I struggled to participate in a short 40 minute Zumba class whereas before I would do two hour long classes back to back and jog home, not to mention participating in mud runs at the weekend for fun.

Again I went back to technology – monitoring my heart-rate and steps during workouts is a great motivator – you can see how many calories you’re burning and try and beat your own targets in every class. I noticed improvements as the weeks passed and in about six weeks managed to lose a stone in body weight, inches from my waist and just felt an overall sense of well-being. As my overall fitness improved I found my breathing also improved naturally and I’m back to doing two classes back to back. I’m not quite ready to sign up to a tough mudder but I can see it on the horizon! I do realise however that for some it’s not been quite so simple. The long lasting damage that the new “C who shall not be named” has done is something which we will be researching for years to come.

This topic is one I’ve discussed with many people and something I’ve been hearing lots about is the Powerbreathe breathing trainer – and being such a fan of technology given my own personal experiences I was keen to find out more.

Powerbreathe are a company who have been making Inspiratory Muscle training (IMT) tools since the 90s, and they were recently recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a great tool in COVID-19 recovery. The POWERbreathe has a wide use of applications for a wide range of people. IMT is scientifically proven to benefit patients with respiratory illness and healthy people, including athletes at all levels of competition, including Olympians.

I’m not an Olympian by any means but learning about this did get me to thinking about my breathing and my mindfulness again. I’ve been setting my watch to remind me to participate in guided breathing exercises – I have my own personal mindfulness tracker where I have learnt the basics of meditation and it all starts with breathing. I’ve also tried out some yoga and body balance classes – at the gym and online over the summer and been applying breathing techniques during these which I find helps me to focus, get deeper stretches and I’ve recently noticed that my balance seems to have improved as I focus on my breathing.

I like to approach things like meditation and mindfulness now with an open mind. I create my own versions of a thirty day challenge and I find that if I commit to something new for this short duration then it quickly becomes a habit and a lifestyle change. I start with a couple of minutes of a single simple exercise a day and then build it up and by the end of the month I notice the positive impacts and these new lifestyle changes quickly become a habit rather than a challenge.

Breathing is something I didn’t even really think about until I found myself gasping for breaths and reaching for an inhaler last Easter and this last eighteen months has taught me not to take anything for granted anymore.

Steiff Teddy bear – Elmar review

Arlo has very kindly been sent out a beautiful Elmar bear from Steiff. To commemorate his starting school I thought he needed a special new friend and he makes the perfect gift because he’s just so huggable and soft. In fact this bear is the ideal gift suitable even for newborns. Available to order online from Steiff. They have a great selection of bears in all sorts of different styles and colours.

Steiff was founded in the 1880’s in Germany by a seamstress Margarette Steiff and originally they began life as pincushions would you believe? Of course the play value was immediately obvious and Steiff began to design and make prototypes herself and the business took off after the Teddy bear craze began after a cartoon of the American president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was published with a bear cub he refused to shoot on a hunt.

With such a great selection of bears on the website, to suit all occasions, at first it seemed like a daunting challenge choosing the perfect bear but this little guy jumped out at us because there was something familiar about him. Arlo’s grandma has a much loved Steiff bear from her childhood, which was purchased by her dad when she was a newborn. Fred is almost sixty years old but my mum recalls that when she was a child Fred had the same soft golden fur. Fred has been on some adventures in his life and is one of my mums most treasured possessions.

Theres just something so special about a childhood bear and the quality which comes from a Steiff bear really does mean that they will stand the test of time. My favourite feature of a Steiff bear is of course the iconic button in ear tag which was designed to prevent counterfeiting of the bears at the turn of the century and is a unique part of the charm of each bear.

Steiff stands for quality, with meticulous attention to detail and rigorous safety testing. The company motto is that “Only the best is good enough for children” with the materials being highly flame resistant and smaller pieces such as the button eyes have to be able to withstand tension tests and wear and tear. We have called our Elmer bear “Ben” after his great grandfather and we know that just like Fred his eyes will still sparkle brightly in sixty years.

Fred arrived to us as an online order and I must also add that the delivery was part of the high quality experience you would associate with such a traditional brand. Ben arrived resting comfortably in an ample sized branded box and wrapped delicately in layers of tissue, protected and secure. Watching Arlo open the box was a special experience and he couldn’t wait to pull him out. With the five way joints he can be positioned in sitting positions and he’s also great for a cuddle. This bear is an unmistakable original from the famous traditional house and already a much loved member of the family.

Steiff bear provided for the purposes of review, all views and opinions expressed are my own

Plus sized bras – Tutti Rouge review

Let’s talk about boobs.

Bazooka sized boobs which make you feel like you’re carrying watermelons strapped to your front 24/7 and not in a way which is going to make a Patrick Swayze look-a-like swoon all over you. I’ve got them, and I always have, regardless of my dress size and weight I have been blessed (or cursed) with an hourglass figure since puberty.

There’s going to be some people out there reading this who just can’t identify with the struggles of having big boobs, and think it must be incredible to have such an asset but trust me, it doesn’t make life easy at all. Along with the backache and the constant worry about gaping buttons on blouses, there’s the constant need to wear a supportive bra and thus sacrificing style. I’ve never been able to wear a strapless or spaghetti string top because I never wanted my inch thick beige bra straps to be on display. I’m the woman who takes my bra off as soon as I get home so that I can relax and feel free.

When I was younger I used to see friends pick up new colourful lacy little numbers every week from affordable and fashionable stores whilst I ended up heading to stores you’d normally associate with your grandma to spend a whole days wages on an ugly looking bra just because it was the only one in the store which would fit. Once I found the style of bra which worked for me I would buy it in the three shades it came in – black, white and nude. I used to wear these bra’s until the elastic gave in and then go back and try and find the exact same style.

Whenever I plan my outfits, be it work wear, casual day outfits or my Saturday night dresses – everything would have to work around the bra. Nothing low cut would work for me and nothing backless either. Every so often I would fall in love with a new dress and head out to a shopping centre to try on a new style of bra supposedly for “fuller breasts” – heading to nee and upcoming lingerie stores only to find that the design of the DD+ bra’s were simply not supportive enough, with no adjustments made to accommodate the bazookas. I can’t even begin to tell you how many claustrophobic changing rooms I’ve encountered.

The trying on process always begins with a well meaning assistant brandishing a tape measure, throwing it around me and then counting up the alphabet on her fingers. I only go shopping for bra’s when I absolutely have to because I hate the experience so much. It always starts well, with the enthusiastic checking of the tags on the styles of bra’s I like, only for me to be told that they don’t go up to my size. I wait whilst store assistants end up checking the computer system to find which two or three styles do come in my size and then rummage around on the shop floor to find the one that is in stock. I always sit and wait patiently, and then try to feign happiness when the same boring beige number is eventually presented to me through the gap in the curtain.

So here I am, a mid thirties woman who’s only ever worn a handful of different bra’s successfully, and so when I was asked to review some lingerie from Tutti Rouge which was suited to fuller breasts I was sceptical to say the least – especially when ordering from an online retailer. I went off to scrutinise the size guide and was greeted with a series of questions which made me feel like finally this was a company which understood my needs. I confirmed the size of bra I currently wear and then also described the fit of the straps, cups and band to be presented with my size to shop the website. Not quite the size I usually shop but I thought I would trust the process.

I clicked over to the online shop and filtered the shop by my size. Not only did they have something in stock in my size – I had options. Clicking through different styles and colours available gave me a reason to be happy. Each style was displayed on the search landing page on a model with a full bust, and clicking through I managed to get views of the straps and band which made me feel confident that these bra’s indeed were designed with big boobs in mind. Having different options for the first time was a joy and feeling confident I clicked through to look at bralettes too.

As I browsed the website I felt ridiculous for even thinking that they would have a bralette in my size but then I clicked through to the ocean blue colour of the Ana. I’ve never worn underwear in a colour before and I added this to my wishlist immediately just for the novelty of having something bright blue. I hadn’t even thought about how I would style clothes over a bright blue bralette, but I knew I had to have it.

I never usually go for a matching set of briefs and a bra, I usually try to find myself briefs which compensate for the lack of style in the bra’s I wear – the matching granny pants always get left behind by me in the department stores – I can usually find something in the black, white or beige which works and doesn’t break the bank on the high street. Clicking through that website I noticed I had yet more options. Matching briefs in more than one style, and going all the way from XS to 6XL to accommodate all shapes and sizes. This was so refreshing, the online plus sized bra shopping experience with Tutti Frutti was fun in itself.

My order arrived via Royal Mail tracked delivery within a few days of ordering – discreetly packaged in a mailbag with my four items individually wrapped. I tore open the packaging of the Nika bra first. I say tore – even at this stage I was very careful to keep all of the packaging to be able to send everything back if it didn’t fit. With its Lacy black trim across the nude cups I had to try this bra straight on. I noticed immediately that the band felt strong and wider than I’m used to. The clasps at the back are spaced apart well enough to provide a strong and supportive frame. The cups themselves are made from a robust material which gives a smooth shape.

There was no side boob spillage, or appearance of the dreaded four boobed monster. I stood in the mirror and checked myself out from all angles – the Balconette style gave me a lift and a shape I wasn’t used to experiencing and I found myself reaching for a tight t shirt to see how the fabric would fall. I found myself standing just that little bit taller. Very impressed with this style and just to have matching pants was enough, but the same quality in design was represented, both well fitting and strong without losing any style or delicateness. I didn’t even need to adjust the shoulder straps – but I did notice the heart shaped detail on the sliders which is a lovely finishing touch.

The bralette had me feeling nervous – I wasn’t sure how this would even work holding up my boobs, but as soon as I opened it I realised that it had five hook and eye fasteners to the back and the double banding was not just part of the aesthetic but also served a function too. This bralette is basically a marvel of engineering! I was reaching for my high waisted jeans and a blazer and totally ready to rock that look before I realised that the cups were slightly transparent and I’m not quite brave enough to walk out of the house with nipples on display.

Just the feeling of walking out and knowing I have a matching set of beautiful underwear on underneath my clothes is enough to give me added confidence, I can’t believe it’s taken me twenty years to find underwear for big boobs which fits well and looks great too.

A journey to health and wellness

I’ve written previously about how I lost a sense of self over lockdown. A year of sitting at home with nothing to do but bake really had an impact on my waist line which in turn had an impact on my identity.

As the world tentatively re-opened I decided I needed to turn things around and completely overhauled my lifestyle. I started at home with thirty days challenges for myself. Some based on fitness and others on my mental health, and some just for fun. I also began to change the way I eat and incorporated exercise in to my routines.

Then the summer holidays arrived and all routine went out of the window. With a four year old snack monster it would have been easy to slip back in to old habits and I certainly struggle to find time to head to the gym but I was set a little challenge by the team at Everyone Active. We participated in their week long everyone is family challenge – designed to promote health and wellness and make it fun for all the family.

There are four different week long programmes you can choose to participate in, each with a range of activities designed to make it fun for families to engage in sports and healthy activities together, at your local leisure centre or even from the comfort of your own home.

We chose our activities together from the adventure programme (of course) and decided to attempt a family swim session first of all. Arlo and Paloma are both aged 4, Lincoln is 6 and Logan is 9 so it’s been a challenge finding activities this summer which are appropriate and engaging for all of them to enjoy, but they all love the water so it was a great place to start.

On our first visit to the leisure centre we noticed the clip and climb walls and not being the type of kids to shy away from a challenge they insisted we book in for a session. With even the little ones feeling confident and wanting to brave the heights. There’s nothing more energising than getting to the top of a wall! We had a great time cheering each other on and conquering the heights.

This week we have also been participating in fun together outdoors – the activity planner suggested a bike ride but I couldn’t get four in the car to take to the park so we opted for scooters instead – the beauty of these activity plans is that they’re flexible and can be adapted to suit your family. We have been touring our local area and enjoying open spaces. I wear my fit bit and keep an eye on my step count so even if I can’t get to the gym I know I can hit my 10,000 step target which is easily achievable when chasing after these kids.

Of course I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours for myself, and I’ve been doing group exercise classes. I find working out in classes to be really motivating, I always want to finish the sets and pull another rep out of the bag when I see other people beside me putting the work in. I’ve been attending group classes since gyms’s opened their doors back in May and the support from others attending the classes is incredible too. It can be really intimidating attending a class for the first time but my advice is always to just go for it.

After all of this activity it seemed only fair to book in to visit the spa at Bromsgrove Leisure Centre, purely to give the place a thorough review. A couple of hours to myself relaxing and enjoying a treatment is just what I need after all of that hard work!

Everyone Active has leisure centres across the U.K. with a full schedule of family friendly activities and adult workout out classes to enjoy this summer holiday – and beyond. Check out your local leisure centre and find out what’s on, you could start your own family challenge, get the kids active and start your wellness journey.

Membership provided for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.


How to travel on a budget

There is nothing better than getting some time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life by going travelling. Travelling is a great opportunity to experience new cultures and seeing countries, giving you the chance to immerse yourself in new environments. 

 

Whether you are going travelling just for a week or two, or are going on an extended holiday for a few months, your trip doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. While of course the longer you are away, the more costs will start to add up, but by being money savvy you can enjoy your travels for cheaper.  So by planning your trip before you go, you can keep to a budget, but still have a great time away. 

 

Choose your destination carefully 

 

If you already have a figure in your head of how much money you have to spend on your trip then this will help you pick your travel destination. While some places are affordable and great for travelling when on a budget, others can be quite pricey. Therefore you should do some research before making travel arrangements to see the average cost of accommodation and eating costs for while you are away. The last thing you want to do is book your flights, to then find that the price of living is out of your budget completely. 

 

You may even find that there are some destinations close to home that will offer you a great travelling experience and allow you to save money when getting there. 

 

Find fun and free things to do 

 

While travelling on a budget, it is important to remember that there are many fun and exciting things to do and places to see that don’t have to cost you a penny. For example, throughout the UK there are picturesque beaches and fun museums that are completely free to enjoy. Heading down to Cornwall to the world-famous Fistral beach is a great way to take in the beautiful views, and you can even make a day of it by taking a picnic with you! 

 

Look out for deals and offers 

 

When it does come to booking and paying for excursions, trips, and travel, you should always look out for the best deals and offers. From family passes to ‘children eat free’ offers, you will be surprised how much money you can save simply by having a look online for some special offers. For example, Chill Factore has a range of offers and discounts available to help you save money while still learning to ski and snowboard. Their deals on snow activities can make it even more affordable for you to learn a new skill and experience something different during your summer holiday. 

 

Pick the right accommodation 

 

A huge contributing factor of how much you spend while you are travelling is the type of accommodation that you decide to stay in. Many people consider b&bs and hotels to be the best and cheapest accommodation options while you are away. But in fact they could end up costing you more money in the long run. For example, if you were to stay in an apartment instead, while you may pay a little bit more up front, you will be able to prepare your meals from your accommodation instead of having to rely on eating out. The cost of eating out at cafes and restaurants for 3 meals a day can soon start to add up. So by having an apartment with kitchen facilities, you can eat at home and help cut down your spending. 

 

Pack the right things 

 

It goes without saying that you should always try to pack light when traveling, you also don’t want to leave anything behind and be forced to then buy it while you are away. Many shops make a fortune on tourists leaving necessities at home, such as sunscreen, and therefore bump up the price. Don’t fall into this common trap, and instead take the time to make a list of everything you need and ensure that you have packed it all before you set off. 

 

It is a common misconception that travelling can only be enjoyed by those with a lot of money, and instead, just by being careful and planning ahead, you can save considerably while on your travels and still benefit from new and varied experiences.

The important things you forget to consider when you have children

Noone likes to think about emergencies and unplanned circumstances when you’re wrapped up in the joy of a newborn baby. I’m writing this as a parent to a four year old and thinking about how much my circumstances have changed in that short period of time is crazy. I could never have anticipated a global pandemic, never mind a burglary, three house moves and a complete career change.

Prior to having children I was a go with the flow kind of person, if anything bad ever happened, I was able to manage and adapt as it was only me to think about. I had a decent paying job and if my washing machine blew up I could go and replace it using a credit card and just cancel a night out and a shopping trip to cover the costs.

One time my whole apartment flooded – I was having a new shower installed and the fitter managed to drill through a water pipe and hadn’t turned off the mains supply. He stood trying to plug the hole with his finger and by the time I he got hold of me to find out where the mains tap was my apartment was flooded throughout. I think it took a good three weeks to dry out the water damage. I did have insurance to cover the cost of new flooring and redecorating but it all took a while to get assessed and organised. In the meantime I showered at the gym or at work, and tip toed around the apartment when it resembled a building site.

The thought of having no water for even a day now when Arlo is such a magnet for mess fills me with dread. Every time I plan to decorate I make sure he’s well out of the way. Everything I do now requires a lot more planning, trying to anticipate the worst so that if anything does go wrong I’m not left in an awkward financial situation. This came in handy a couple of years ago when I was the unfortunate victim of a household burglary, where thieves entered my home and stole belongings, personal possessions as well as helping themselves to my car keys.

The car insurance policy I had in place covered a delivery of a courtesy car the very next day and I also was covered for replacement of car seats which would have been expensive to replace. We also had a locksmith come out and change every external and internal lock at a considerable expense, again covered by insurance. Admittedly I did have to learn the hard way a couple of years ago about “gap” insurance. When a previous car of mine was written off in an accident the insurance payed out the value of the car at the time, which wasn’t enough to cover the money I owed in car finance. Luckily I only had a small amount to pay off – but I was left with no money to fund a deposit on a replacement car and had to dip in to my savings. I’ve never made that mistake again.

Talking of savings – my rainy day savings depleted very quickly before Arlo even arrived. Nothing prepares you for the amount of stuff a newborn baby needs – my advice to all of those expecting their first child is to not go crazy but of course everyone wants to when it’s your first. Making sure you’re household insurance covers the value of all of the extra items “just in case” is a great idea – cots, prams and car seats are amongst the most expensive purchases I’ve ever made. When you’re on maternity leave with a very limited income, if anything goes wrong you need to know you can replace it immediately with the right protection and cover on household appliances.

I actually keep a paper file which has all the household appliances and guarantee certificates. From the TV to the kettle and everything else in between. I check the cover and guarantee certificates which comes with large purchases and add a calendar reminder in my phone to alert me a month before they expire. I recently had my boiler serviced within its guarantee time frame, and the technician found a part needed replacing, the cost of which was covered. If I had waited for it to go wrong, and Sod’s law it would go wrong the day after the guarantee runs out then I would have had to cover that expense myself.

It therefore makes sense to also protect yourself too against any unforeseen circumstances. Getting life insurance policies and changing the beneficiaries of your will to include your children is something which makes complete sense to organise. Not a nice thing to have to talk about in the but a necessary one. Income Protection is also another type of insurance to put in to place – covering your essential outgoing expenses should you be unable to work due to sickness or injury.

Prior to having Arlo I worked full time and had all sorts of employee benefits and insurance policy covers, but after maternity leave I dropped my hours to part time and then eventually changed my job – just like many parents end up doing. That’s a whole new topic to discuss another day, but it’s important to recognise that many part time or zero hour contracts which are sadly more likely to be occupied by mothers have sick pay policies which fall short, often paying out less than you anticipate.

I never would have thought that I would find myself making plans for lockdowns, for working from home and for school closures. Is impossible to predict what the future may bring, but you can make plans to be able to get yourself and your family through whatever the future holds.

How to express your personality through your choice of brooches

When I got my nose pierced at 19 years of age, my father didn’t understand it. I told him it was an act of self-expression, something that made me look more like the person I felt I was. In his mind, that meant it must have been a sign of insecurity; I must not have been comfortable enough with what I looked like sans piercing, therefore I was insecure in needing it. I told him he was wrong. The way I see it, I will only ever live in my body for my entire life, so you’d best believe I’m going to decorate a little and personalise this vessel to my tastes.

Needless to say, the topic didn’t come up again.

Self-expression is an important part of any human’s life, whether that self-expression is done through wearing jewellery, or questioning other people’s decisions to do what they want with their own bodies as legal adults that can make their own decisions (looking at you, dad). Telling the world who you are through jewellery is a fun practice that boosts your confidence and your mood instantly.

So, let’s get to the brooches.

Using brooches to express your personality can be as fun and playful or edgy and serious as you are. Over time, there have been so many different iterations of the brooch concept that you’re bound to find something that’s right up your street. With brooches coming back in a big way at the moment, there’s no better time to start learning about what they can do for you.

Victorian Victories

In the world of antique brooches, there are so many different designs, styles, shapes, and sizes to see you through. Some of the oldest brooches widely available on the market today are from the Victorian period. These beauties are likely to have all sorts of neat themes; nature was a big influence on the Victorians, with birds and flowers being most prominent on their brooches. Bows come in a close second, making Victorian jewellery very twee and romantic for the wearers of today.

Victorian brooches are perfect for: Granny-chic styles that let everyone know you have wisdom beyond your years.

Edwardian Effervescence

The transition from Victorian to Edwardian brooches can be seen through the quality of the pieces themselves. At the turn of the century, platinum started to be used in great quantities when making jewellery, and it was strong enough that designs could become exceptionally intricate and detailed whilst still maintaining their structural integrity. In Edwardian brooches, you’ll find lots of platinum, diamonds, and fine details like floral designs and delicate curves and arches littered with diamonds.

Edwardian brooches are perfect for: Traditionalists who enjoy the finer things in life such as being refined and elegant at all times.

Art Deco Allure

The Art Deco period, stretching roughly from the 1920s to the 1940s, saw innovations of all kinds in the design world. Symmetry reigns supreme in Art Deco brooches, with complex patterns made up from simplistic geometric shapes. The white-on-white aesthetic was a big part of Art Deco jewellery, with diamonds and platinum coexisting in perfect harmony. You’ll find duette brooches here too, where one single brooch comes apart into two matching pieces that can be worn individually. Innovation was key to the Art Deco period, and even a century later, there’s nothing quite like it.

Art Deco brooches are perfect for: Cutting-edge style queens who like to be at the forefront of fashion as much as possible.

Vintage Verve

As we enter the midst of the 20th century, we step into the real delights of vintage brooches. Yellow gold becomes more prominent than it has been for a while, with the warmth of the metal being welcomed back into the fold. Animal designs remain popular, particularly birds (there’s something about birds and brooches – you can’t keep them apart). Carved gemstones in the form of flower petals are also a feature, with colourful enamel being used as a popular accent. Generally, brooches from this period were playful and cute, with highly feminine designs.

Vintage brooches are perfect for: Tea-dress wearing, feminine ladies who enjoy all things adorable in life.

Whatever element of your personality you’d like to express, brooches can be of service to you. Wear them on jacket lapels, incorporate them into your hairstyle, attach your scarf with them, whatever makes you feel like the most authentic version of yourself!

Fuzzikins Home Makers Family Home Review

The award winning Fuzzikins sets are ideal for creative kids. They are a range of small creatures which have a fuzzy texture. Each animal comes with its own customisation kit including pens, felt, stickers and cardboard accessories. They can be coloured in, played with and then washed clean in water for the play to be repeated all over again. They are small enough to encourage fine motor skills and hand to eye co-ordination and inspire endless imaginary play concepts, and so the launch of the new home makers collection had me excited and I fetched these toys out to explore on a cousins play date.

The new Fuzzikins Home Makers range features modular homes to build and decorate. The Fuzzikins family home which is £19.99 and available to order from Smyths and retailers from September comes with two rooms and a garden, plus two Fuzzikins bears, felt accessories, flat pack furniture, stickers and pens – and absolutely everything can be decorated – from the tiny garden flowers to the walls of the homes.

There are additional houses coming to the range which are £9.99. These simple modular style homes are easy to put together and take apart – the three exterior walls slot in to the base Units and click together nicely, with the roof placed atop. We have stacked ours nicely and then arranged them neatly in a square to create a little neighbourhood with a courtyard.

The instruction leaflet contains all the details and a pictorial guide, which was so simple Arlo and his six year old cousin could be left to build it together independently. When they realised they could colour it all in they enjoyed taking it apart and putting it all back together several times. It’s clear that there’s been great care taken in the design of these toys, with the attention to detail on the furniture and with features such as the chimney of each house being hollowed out to store the colouring pens.

Paloma and Arlo, both aged four really enjoyed adding personal details to each of their Fuzzikins, and began playing with the family house and creating imaginary play scenarios about bath and bed time for their animals. I think their excitement bubbled over when I introduced the additional Home Makers kits with Hippo’s living room, Koala’s kitchen and Bunny’s bedroom. To view the full range ahead to Play Monster.

I’m really impressed with just how sturdy all of the “flat pack” furniture is, and because it is flat pack it can be neatly stored away however Arlo’s insisted I pop all of our houses on the window sill to display proudly in a neat little row so that he can check in on the Fuzzikins throughout the day.

We have had great fun with these and when I told the kids that all the Fuzzikins could be washed and cleaned they were in shock. We stood at the sink together washing away the colours from the animals and they asked for cloths to wipe down the walls themselves just to make sure I was telling the truth. (I wonder if this will inspire them to clean around the real house?). You can add even more Fuzzi Babies to your collection as they’re available from Amazon and HobbyCraft at £4.99

For your chance to be one of the first to get your Hands on the Fuzzikins Home Makers Family Home worth £19.99 enter my giveaway by clicking on the picture below.

Create. Rinse. Recolour

Giveaway closes 28/08/2021

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Products provided by Play Monster for the purposes of review