We love Sylvanian Families; we think they are so cute and collectable (and also have educational value too!) Squiggle has a huge ever- increasing collection and loves looking at the website or browsing the catalogue to see what she can add to her wishlist next! So I think I might have been nearly as excited as she was when we received the fab Sylvanian Families Village Cake Shop to review…
The cake shop comes with the mum of the Toy Poodle family, who is the shopkeeper, and alot of lovely little accessories to stock up the shop with. There are 90 bits in total, including the figure, shop, till, cake stands, counters, various cakes, boxes, piping, tongs and other cool stuff. Not everything included is pictured in my photos because Squiggle inevitably spreads half of it across the floor within 10 seconds of opening it… but that just makes it all the more realistic – after all, you wouldn’t expect such a delicious cake shop to be fully stocked at all times, would you?!
Anyway, back to the review….
What I really love about this set – and other Sylvanian Families sets too – is the quality and attention to detail. Squiggle said “I think it’s very cool the way the cake stacks up to make a big cake.” When asked what her favourite part of the set is, she said “Those strawberry filling cakes looked very yummy!” It is also great for fine motor skills, as you will see when you watch the video…
When people hear the concept of zero waste, it can seem somewhat overwhelming. How can someone not create any rubbish?! But the truth is, for the vast majority of people who try to practice a zero waste lifestyle, it is more like zero waste is something to aim towards by taking a slow step by step journey in the right direction. And that’s ok. It is really about doing your bit to protect our planet. Plus each action you take tends to become a gateway to the next. So it really isn’t as hard as it first sounds!
This post covers alot of different areas, but the point is just for me to share tips and alternative products with you all. I intend for you, my readers, to pick somewhere to begin, and to find new ideas to continue from whatever stage you are already at; the idea is not for anyone to try to take it all on at once! Gradual change is the key to making it feel sustainable and not too overwhelming. This is also by no means a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination! There are many, many people far further along the journey than I am, but we can all learn from one another, so I am just sharing what I know!
Here are my ideas for developing a zero waste lifestyle, divided into sections for ease of reference (because I like to be organised!)…
This is the area that I have been working on myself most recently, so I figure it makes sense to start here!
Earth Conscious sell a zero waste natural deoderant that now comes in both tin or stick format. I have only just got mine so too early to comment personally, but reviews on it are great!
Shampoo bars are the obvious choice for zero waste hair washing. Alternatively, powder is another option. However, if you cannot get on with shampoo bars or powder, I recommend that you buy a huge bulk size container of shampoo and conditioner so that it needs replacing far less often. You can purchase a smaller reusable pump bottle to make it more practical.
For example, Faith in Nature sell huge 5 litre refills for around £50. If you feel put off by the price for a product you haven’t tried, it is well worth ordering the smaller size versions first then investing in your favourite. They also offer free samples for a small limited number of their products, so you can try before you buy that way too. I realise this may sound like it defeats the point of choosing zero waste items somewhat, but it is really about looking at the bigger picture and thinking ahead. Other brands probably have bulk size versions too, if you look into it and find any others, do let me know in comments.
As for conditioner, I have written before about natural hair conditioners. Although these are not actually zero waste ideas as such, they are items that can be used for a range of purposes and again can usually be purchased in much larger sizes so this helps to drastically reduce waste.
There are a wide range of beautiful, often handmade, natural soaps available that are sold without packaging (or minimal, recycled packaging) so produce little to no waste. If you prefer liquid handwash, again I recommend buying in bulk to reduce waste.
I totally recommend you make your own! There are some fab DIY recipes around if you google. I made a great coffee scrub last year. Alternatively, there are various eco conscious independents and other brands who ensure their packaging is minimal and environmentally- friendly. (And remember to check for no microbeads too!)
Go for a bamboo toothbrush. Most come in fully recyclable minimal packaging and the toothbrush is biodegradable. I have one from Save Some Green.
Alot of people buy many different types of cleaning products for all different purposes, which immediately creates far more waste. So my first bit of advice is try to simplify!
Cloths/ Wipes/ Scrub pads
Opt for resuable versions made from sustainable natural materials, such as bamboo, hemp or organic cotton cloths and wipes, and coconut hair scrub pads for example.
Multi – Purpose Cleaner
I recommend making your own DIY version if possible. We tend to use vinegar solution. Otherwise choose an eco-friendly brand in the largest size possible that covers a range of uses.
Washing up Liquid
Again my best advice is to select one that lasts longer so less waste!
I was sent this fab soapnut starter pack from Living Naturally, which I have used for my most recent washes (probably about 4 loads now of various items). I am really impressed at how effective they are; in my opinion, they leave clothes just as clean and fresh as regular detergent! Not only are they natural and zero waste but they also work out much cheaper too, so this is a very cost effective way to do laundry as well as protecting the environment. Do give them a try and tell me what you think!
Ok, so granted this isn’t relevant to everyone but menstruation products can cause alot of waste so this is an important one! There are various reusable products, so you will most likey find that there is something to suit everyone that needs them. Earthwise Girls are my go to site for this, since they stock a good range of items to choose from. Personally, I mainly use a cup but also have reusable tampons, period pants and cloth pads too so that I can go with the flow. (Get it?! Sorry, excuse the pun!!!)
This is a huge area. There are so many different aspects and I doubt very much that I have covered even the majority of them in this post, but here goes…
First things first; take your reusable bags along! Or use cardboard crates instead, which is what we do as we find that easier.
Choose items with minimal and recyclable packaging wherever possible. Aiming for a fresh raw food diet, rather than buying convenience goods, is not only good for your health, but better for the environment too. Fruit and veg, for example, do not need plastic wrappers! Of course, I totally understand this might be ideal but is not always realistic for many – but it is, at the very least, just something to consider when doing your shop. Buying bigger versions of long lasting cupboard food also saves on some packaging too.
Try not to buy more than you will eat, freeze if applicable so it lasts longer and my favourite for fruit and veg – make it into a smoothie and drink it up!
Storage/ Lunchboxes/ Picnics
There are lots of durable, practical ways to store food without causing waste. Mason jars, glass or metal containers, resuable sandwich bags and washable beeswax wraps (to replace clingfilm) are all good options. For snacks on the go, carry around reusable cutlery, made from bamboo or similar. Plus carry washable cloths rather than wipes in your bag too.
As part of Plastic Free July, I have been making more effort to find new ways to reduce waste in our home. We have been on a journey to consciously gradually reduce our waste, and especially plastic, for a while now anyway but there will always be more action we can take! So I walked around the house, and looked at our current waste and recycling, to come up with an action plan. Then I did some online shopping for zero waste essentials! Here are some of my purchases:
I purchased these Cheeky Wipes reusable cloths through Amazon* for multiple purposes. They come in a pack of 25 in five different colours (£17), which is handy for keeping separate cloths for own their different uses/ remembering who they belong to!
I was disappointed that they arrived in plastic wrapping! However, aside from that I am pleased with them; they are a nice size and wash well.
I needed a new toothbrush so it seemed the perfect time to opt for a more sustainable alternative than the usual plastic toothbrush! This lovely bamboo toothbrush (RRP £2.75) was kindly sent to me directly from Save Some Green, along with one to giveaway as part of my mini eco bundle too! (See below to enter). It even comes in eco friendly packaging, very impressed!
Coconut Scrub Pads
Again, the Safix scrub pad (RRP £2.70) was kindly received from Save Some Green and is a super environmentally friendly alternative to usual versions. It is biodegradable and compostable so zero waste.
Resuable Water Bottle
Hubby bought this water bottle from a local store recently, which can also be purchased through Amazon: Brita Fill & Go Water Bottle* (£12.37). However, I also know that the Clean Kanteen water bottle (£30) comes highly recommended and is made from stainless steel, so that would have been even better still!
Victoria decided to write the book because when she was first considering home education she didn’t really know anyone who was doing it and was surrounded by people telling her how mainstream school was the best and only way. This caused her to doubt herself and led to indecision and heart ache. She looked online at books on the subject but she felt that they were all written by ‘experts’ which she found both intimidating and unhelpful. What she really wanted was the advice and experiences of a real life home educating parent. So she turned to reading blogs and found the real life reasoning she was after; in fact she found them so useful that it inspired her to start her own blog. When she begun receiving messages from other parents saying her page had helped them decide to home educate she thought a book might be helpful too. Plus she generally enjoys writing and blogging too!
Home Educating The Mad Lads is a down to earth, honest and raw story of this home educating family. Victoria writes from the heart and shares her personal story of her own school life, recounts her eldest’s preschool and nursery experiences and the many reasons that led them to decide on home education.
The book is a quick, easy read that features snippets from her blog, useful information about home ed and glimpses into their lives. It is very relatable, and I think is especially handy for people who would rather read print than screen; I know there are certain members of my family who I struggle to persuade to even read my own blog simply because they have such a strong preference for the printed word, so I think a blog style book is a great idea!
Home Educating The Mad Lads book can be purchased through Amazon (RRP £5.79). You can also find their blog over on facebook.
Victoria has kindly also offered the chance for one lucky reader to win a copy of the book. Enter via rafflecopter below. Competition closes 2nd August 2017. UK only. Other T&Cs apply.
*Disclosure: This book was sent to me for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own. This post also contains Amazon affiliate links. This does not cost anything extra to anyone purchasing through these links.
We have three rabbits; two are paired up and I will be writing more about their enclosure soon, but the third is a smaller breed who lives alone. Having chewed through the wood on his previous enclosure, it was time for a replacement!
We wanted a home for him that provides freedom to be inside or out at all times, gives him plenty of space, and allows him to graze without fear of him digging out. (After all, this is the bun who was once found by a neighbour in the middle of the road after he dug a hole and escaped!) After some research, we decided that the Omlet might be a good fit for him, and they kindly agreed to let us review the Eglu Go hutch and 2 metre run.
The Omlet took quite a while to assemble! The instructions were not as clear as they could be, but there is a YouTube video to watch, which makes it clearer. We made a couple of minor mistakes, which added to the time it took. Plus we had to take a section of the hutch apart because one of the pre-fitted internal nuts had come loose. It was easy enough to sort that out ourselves though without any major hassle. It was fully assembled and ready to use within 3 hours, so I guess that’s not too bad in the scheme of things.
Once put together though, it is low maintence, easy to clean and it is obvious that it is very durable. There are lots of little features that I really like, such as the hay rack and bottle attached to the door and slide out tray for easy cleaning. I also like the attached floor to ensure nothing can dig in or out.
Patchy, our bunny, is given access to both the hutch and run at all times (personally I feel it would be far too small to ever shut him in the hutch alone) and he has free-range access to the garden under supervision sometimes too. He has plenty of space to hop, stretch and periscope!
Squiggle and one of our cats also demonstrate how much space there is…
We have been using the OMLET Eglu Go hutch and run for over a month now and it has been thoroughly tested in that time. After just a few days of Patchy moving in, we discovered a fox trying hard to get into the Omlet. Given that my daughter had commented that she heard a banging sound quite a while beforehand, I suspect it had been trying for quite sometime. We even spotted muddy paw prints on the hutch roof!
We were relieved it withstood this assault without any sign of weakness, but we have made a few extra safety modifications since them to improve security further still. This includes a padlock on the run door, cable ties on the joints and a couple of bricks at the back. We also throw a blanket or two over the run at night as well.
To help celebrate Squiggle’s 9th birthday recently, Bakerdays kindly sent us a letterbox cake. We were lucky enough to review one of these yummy cakes previously too, which you can read about here.
Since then though, there have been lots of developments over at Bakerdays! Their website has had a facelift; now even more user- friendly and is looking great, with new designs and more products being added.
The cake arrived well packaged and in perfect condition, same as last time. There isn’t excess packaging or too much plastic either, which I am happy about. There were also thoughtful finishing touches in the box, such as the party blower, some balloons and a little card. I also like the card that says who packed it too.
I chose this rabbit design after specifically searching the website for the word ‘bunny’ because Squiggle had a pet theme this year for her birthday. I then personalised the writing. Last time I ordered dairy free but I decided to order the regular vanilla sponge on this occasion, just to compare. (Generally we opt to eat as close to vegan as possible but aren’t strict about it!)
Squiggle was really excited that a cake arrived through the letterbox for her! She was very pleased with the design too…
We took the cake outside for a garden picnic and Squiggle had the honour of cutting her cake…
Squiggle also got to have first taste too as the birthday girl…
Her verdict was “Mmmm… it is YUMMY!”
I enjoyed it too, it was tasty and good quality. I do recall the dairy free one we had previously tasted more buttery (in a good way!) than this one, and it seemed to lack a filling, but it was yummy nonetheless!
The letterbox cake is plenty big enough for 3 people to have a very generous sized slice or two, and stays fresh for a reasonable amount of time too. It definitely makes a lovely novelty gift or surprise for someone!
Bakerdays are kindly giving away a letterbox cake to one lucky reader! Enter via the rafflecopter below. Open to UK residents only. Competition closes 14th June 2017. Other T&Cs apply.
AniMalcolm is the latest children’s novel by comedian and author David Baddiel, who already has two previously published bestsellers; The Parent Agency and The Person Controller. It is aimed at ages 8 – 11 years old and is the perfect book for any child, especially animal lovers!
The story of AniMalcolm centres around a young boy called – you guessed it! – Malcolm. He comes from a family of animal lovers and has a house full of pets… but the problem is, he doesn’t like them. However, when he attends his Year Six school trip to a farm, Malcolm changes. In many ways. As the blurb says:
He learns what it’s really like to be an animal. A whole series of animals, in fact…
It does make him think differently. And speak differently. And eat differently. And, um, smell differently. But will he end up the same as before?
Because sometimes the hardest thing to become is… yourself!
Behind the light-hearted humour and imaginative storyline that had us giggling out loud at times, there are hidden depths. The story teaches empathy and demonstrates beautifully how putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes can really change our perspective towards them. The down to earth writing style is wonderfully descriptive with quirky footnotes that really draws the reader fully into the story and keeps them right there throughout.
The story touches upon some insightful points like how one ‘traumatic’ incident in childhood can actually deeply affect how we feel about something and can cause a disconnect. It also highlights how understanding and empathy is essential in creating an emotional connection, which then fosters positive feelings and actions towards them. These underlying messages may not be explicit or obvious to children whilst reading the book necessarily but nonetheless it will help build the right foundations for them.
In conclusion: I adore this book!
AniMalcolm is available to purchase now in paperbook for £6.99 RRP. You can buy it via Amazon here(affiliate link).
*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I was sent the book for purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Clever Tykes are wonderfully inspirational storybooks for children ages 6-9. They are the creation of husband and wife team Ben and Jodie Cook, who were recently listed in Forbes 30 under 30, for social entrepreneurs across Europe. The initiative is sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, which has allowed these education storybooks and teaching resources to be available to UK primary schools completely free. There is a portal available where schools can sign up and access everything they need to teach enterprise education for key stage 2.
The Clever Tykes stories are centred around entrepreneurship. The characters are fantastic positive role-models and the storylines also promote other important traits such as problem-solving, resiliance, positivity, persistence, innovation and playing to strengths or following a passion. The founders aim is to“help you inspire and empower your children to be the most creative and proactive young people they can be.”
As an ex-teacher and now home educator, I think these books are absolutely brilliant! Everything about them resonates strongly with me, and I wholeheartedly agree with the founders’ values and thoughts behind these stories. As I read their website, I found myself constantly nodding along and thinking to myself ‘yes, this is so my thinking too!’
They want to“adopt a grass roots approach to inspiring innovative behaviour.” They go on to state: “As a society, we must demonstrate to young people that a challenging and rewarding career can be as an entrepreneur in a private venture, social enterprise or charity. We need to promote the right role models for our children to emulate.”Yes! This. 100% agree.
The books are very well written and provide awesome role-models who children can relate to, and encourage thinking outside the box and creativity. They genuinely empower children! They also cover a range of subjects; an excellent teaching resource in so many ways.
My favourite story is Change-it Cho. I have fallen in love with this story to be honest! I love her demonstration of persistence, even in the face of adversity. It reminded me so much of the phrase ‘Nevertheless, she persisted’. It shows children how to stand up for what is right and not give up, or take no for an answer – in a good way, of course! It teaches children the traits that are necessary to thrive in today’s world.
I can see these books have the potential to really help create a young generation of go-getters and change-makers! I seriously cannot recommend these stories enough. Parents and educators – check them out!
*Disclosure: I was sent these books free in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I think Caketoppers read my mind; just when I was busy organising Squiggle’s party and thinking about her birthday cake, they dropped me an email asking if I would like to review their personalised photo cupcakes. Since it’s her birthday, they kindly agreed to send me cake toppers for her birthday party cake as well as two cupcakes to sample too, which I really appreciate!
Caketoppers is based in Farnham, Surrey and offers a selection of personalised photo cupcakes, celebration cakes and toppers. You can use photos, logos or even drawings to personalise your choice of cake, so it makes it really unique. I chose my Living Life Our Way logo for the cupcakes. For the birthday cake toppers, I designed a picture on a photo app using some of Squiggle’s own drawings.
The cupcakes and toppers arrived promptly and were well packaged. I don’t like to create so much waste with plastic packaging personally, but it certainly meant that everything arrived very fresh and in perfect condition.
So firstly, the cupcakes. They are absolutely delicious! I literally dreamt about these cakes (yeah, yeah, I know). They were really moist and fluffy; they honestly tasted like they had just that second been made (by someone with far superior baking skills that my own!) Gorgeous. I would tell you what the rest of the family thought of them, but they wouldn’t know… they were way too good to share! I sampled one vanilla sponge and one chocolate; both were to the same yummy standard. I personally liked the vanilla sponge best but that is just my personal preference – both really were delicious!
The cupcake samples, like my example above, can be purchased for £5 including delivery. A set of 6 cupcakes are £12.99 plus postage. There are also various other options, so check out the website for details.
As for the cake toppers, Squiggle loved the fact that her party cake was so unique and personal, decorated with her very own drawings. It meant so much to her! The cake toppers are easy to use; they came with detailed instructions but basically you just peel the back off then use icing to stick them on. They are ideal if you plan on baking a homemade cake but want a special finishing touch to decorate it with. Cake toppers cost from £7.45 for a round, square or rectangle edible photo topper.
I ended up buying a supermarket ‘decorate your own’ celebration cake for the topper, which was a tiny bit too small so doesn’t really do the topper justice. However, that is entirely my own fault and not a reflection of Caketoppers whatsoever! Squiggle didn’t notice at all though – as I said, she was delighted with her special cake! We all were infact, love it.
Caketoppers do also sell the right size cakes to match the cake toppers so you can decorate it yourself, if you fancy a semi DIY job. A round or medium square undecorated cake is £20 and large square (10 inch) is £26. (Plus delivery charges). I’ll admit I would have much rather ordered her party cake from them too, especially after tasting those amazing cupcakes, but this didn’t quite manage to happen – despite the fact that they do also have a super speedy next day delivery option. Mummy fail. Oops! (Long story that I won’t bore you with but absolutely nothing to do with the company!)
Alternatively, you can purchase photo cakes with your own design printed on them, so the same concept as the cupcakes, only bigger. This is an easy, convenient option; and is the one that I am more than likely to opt for next time! These cost from £32.50 plus P&P for a medium 8 inch cake.
All in all, I would definitely recommend Caketoppers, we are really impressed with them. It is a shame that the same can’t be said of my cake- making or organising skills! 😉
Last but certainly not least, Caketoppers have kindly offered up for grabs a set of 6 yummy cupcakes, with the design of the winner’s choice. So enter my giveaway below for a chance to try these for yourself!
It had never occured to me to shop online for any type of glasses before, so when perfectglasses.co.uk got in touch with me, I was quite intrigued and keen to give it a go! As I don’t need to wear prescription eye glasses personally, and summer is (hopefully!) on its way, I opted to review a pair of sunglasses for myself.
They offer an excellent selection, including various designer brands, and have options across a range of prices. (Prescription glasses start at just £9!) The sunglasses can be ordered as non-prescription but are also available as prescription sunglasses too. I decided to have a little nosey at how this would work and it looked really straightforward; you simply enter the specifics of your prescription and they take care of it… so easy!
The website sells lots of different styles. If, like me, you aren’t sure what shape will suit your face, there is a handy feature where you can take a selfie then look in the virtual mirror to see what they would look like. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this made it to decide, without needing to actually try them on. There are also clear accurate measurements in the descriptions, which is helpful to note when making your choice. As with any sunglasses, some styles/ brands are smaller than others, so this information is useful to help pick a pair suited to you.
The website itself is easy to navigate. There are different categories, and the results can then be filtered based on materials, size, colour, type and shape, and can be sorted by price. In my opinion, I think there seems to be a bigger range than you would find in most stores. I am sure there is something to suit everyone!
I specifically wanted a metal frame as I personally prefer this over plastic, so I searched under this filter. (I probably would have opted for a wooden pair if that had been an option!) I had alot of fun ‘trying on’ the different styles and looking through all the various options. I found it far more enjoyable than going into a shop to buy some! Once the frame has been selected, there are various options depending on the type of lenses needed.
The service was excellent and delivery very quick. The glasses came via a carbon neutral courier and were well packaged with enough packaging that they were secure and arrived undamaged, but without unnecessary packaging (which is a good thing of course!)
The sunglasses are exactly how I expected them to be, the virtual mirror and accurate description meant there were no surprises there. They are good quality; they feel nice and sturdy. They are also really comfortable. Ordering the glasses online was convenient and easy – I’d definitely be happy to order from the website again.
*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.