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Aquabeads Star Wars Playset review

A (not so) long time ago, in a galaxy (not so) far, far away, Star Wars fan D was sent some fabulous Aquabeads to try out. Not just any Aquabeads but Star Wars themed Aquabeads. 

In case you're not familiar with them, Aquabeads are small plastic beads which then stick together once water is sprayed on top of them. They come in various 'playset' packs. 'Beginners sets' (with everything you need to get started) and Refill packs are available too.

The Star Wars Aquabeads playset comes with a tray to store the beads in (this one is grey and has a star shape made up of the compartments), the 'layout table' that fits over the top of the tray when not it use to secure the unused beads in there, over 1000 beads, templates to make 4 star wars characters and the water squirter.

So it was a case of simply sliding in the chosen template.

Getting the beads ready in the tray.
And get started by placing the right coloured beads onto the correct place on the layout table as guided by the template.
D chose to make R2D2...
The one thing that would have been handy to have in this playset would be the 'bead pen' which is a handy little tool for picking up beads from the tray then releasing them into the correct position on the layout table.

D used Miss T's bead pen from her Aquabeads Beginner's Studio set that we already had.

Then it was time to spray with water and leave to dry.

We've found that sometimes the beads need a second spray of water as occassionally they don't all stick together. Sometimes the shape curves as it dries so may need to be placed under a book or something heavy once dry to help flatten it. In the case of R2D2 the curve actually added to his appeal as it reflected his actual shape!
The great thing is that if anything does go wrong and they don't stick together as hoped, the instructions explain that they can be sprayed again and again as necessary with more water. So even if a design breaks, it can be re-sprayed to fix it!
The Star Wars Aquabeads playset would make a great gift for both Aquabeads fans and Star Wars fans. It's a great craft activity for kids to do. Whilst the templates are there to help and the colours in a particular themed playset make it perfect for those particular designs, children can also be encouraged to 'freestyle' their own patterns and designs too. 

You can find your local Aquabeads stockist and online stockists  via the Aquabeads website here.

Disclosure: We were sent the Aquabeads Star Wars playset for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own. 

Our 2016 round-up of the year!

I always mean to do a blogging round-up post as a reminder of what we've been up to each year and somehow never manage to get around to it. I'm learning to seize the moment a lot more these days so rather than wish to find the time to do it, I'm just doing it quickly now...

Blogging definitely feels like it has taken a back-seat this year as life generally got too busy to try to keep up with blogging about but it also made me realise that that's ok. The blog is here - it's not going anywhere, and there shouldn't be any pressure to write.

As the kids are growing older, I'm also facing the dilemma that I have read about countless times...for the sake of their privacy I don't feel I can blog about them in any kind of deep and meaningful way but at the same time they still enjoy looking back on previous blogposts and reminiscing about their adventures.

January started sadly for us in 2016 having to say goodbye to our family pet Bella cat. The kids were comforted a little by looking back over photos of Bella and writing up some of our Bella stories as treasured memories.

It came as a shock to us all and acted as a stark reminder of how sometimes we can grieve more readily over a pet when we somehow manage to bottle up our grief at other times.

February was another month of mixed emotions...Miss T's JIA seemed to turn a corner as we captured in this walking in the woods update. But there was the loss of another family pet. This time Holly dog, granny and grandad's dog who can be seen in our Easter photos from a couple of years ago here.

We also enjoyed some family days out together over February half-term.

March and April are always busy months with D's birthday and Miss T's birthday. D visited a trampolining centre nearby with a couple of friends for his birthday party and Miss T had a build-a-bear party which she thoroughly enjoyed along with brunch at Bill's restaurant which has become one of our fave places to visit.

We had a whirlwind weekend in London in May. Although it was crazy busy, it was actually brilliant that we fitted so much in.

 In June, our eldest turned 12. He had a fun-filled session of laser combat at Quex park.

I also did something for me in June - which never normally happens! I booked onto Henrietta Inman's summer cookery course in London one rainy summer's evening and felt totally out of my comfort zone doing so. Absolutely loved the evening and have been baking non-stop from her 'Clean Cakes' book ever since.

And then we were halfway through the year! I realised I'd lost a stone in weight by cutting out most refined sugar, reducing gluten and cutting down on dairy. I was eating more than ever - loads of veg, greens, salads, nuts and nut butters and felt better than I had for a long-time healthwise. Amelia Freer's book 'Eat, Nourish, Glow' was a turning point for me as it explained the reasons why various foods affect our bodies in certain ways - then it all made sense and as I gradually made these changes and felt better for it, it encouraged me to stick to it.

I'd increased my arthritis medication to help keep the pain at bay but realised that although I don't enjoy taking such a high dose of medication, it is better to keep the inflammation down to help reduce longer term damage to my joints. So I was starting to see that having less pain because of the increased pain relief was actually a good thing rather than trying to keep the dose down but end up with inflammation and pain.

Miss T's JIA continued to have it's ups and downs also as we found out in July.

August was AMAZING!!! We still look back at it and wonder whether we dreamt it.

We had an overnight stay at LEGOLAND, following soon by a week in Wales. Whilst everyone else was enduring a heat wave Wales was pleasantly warm and thankfully not too wet as we'd experienced in the past. We stayed in an idyllic cottage near the beautiful Lake Ogwen which became a favourite spot to visit. With a hot tub overlooking countryside all around it was a brilliant week of relaxation to prepare us for what was to come just a few days later.


Still good stuff, but just totally jammed packed adventures in....Dubai!

We kept a daily diary but for me Day 1 was in many ways the most magical. It is somewhere we never dreamt we'd be able to visit and yet now cannot wait to go back. There were so many activities crammed into our stay courtesy of Visit Dubai. We adored every second of it. When the weather is cold here, I find myself day dreaming of being by that pool at the Rove hotel. I think I'd quite happily feel able justify a holiday there just to spend time at that pool and stay at the lovely Rove. Plus another trip to Thiptara at the palace of course.

Richard wrote up a really great summary of just how perfect Dubai was which you can read here on Tots100.

Then September arrived and we were thrown into the new school year. Miss T started school and settled in brilliantly. I tried to keep up with a bit of GBBO baking whilst trying to stick to some of the clean eating principles of reducing refined sugar and gluten.

Our love affair with Pink Lining continued with the Wanderlust rucksack which seemed aptly named given all the adventures it accompanied us on this summer. But I have to admit I was saddened to find out that the Pink Lining brand had been taken over by another company at around this time and things just don't feel the same since!

We had another little break, this time just me and Richard with a Wicked Weekend in London. Being the first break away without kids we made the most of it by booking into a macaron cookery class at L'atelier des chefs. OK so the sugar-thing went totally out of the window that weekend but having had several failed attempts at Macarons, I REALLY wanted to know how to make them properly.

Talking of breaks, we also experienced the first broken bone in the family. D fell off his bike the day before term started and broke his wrist. Badly. It needed an overnight stay in hospital, general anaesthetic and an operation to re-set it and then several weeks in plaster.

In October, a tumble-dryer transformed our lives and I had a great birthday at LEGOLAND.

At the very end of October we spent the half-term break in Amsterdam, culminating in our visit to Utrecht to the Miffy museum. A long-awaited bucketlist adventure for us.

November and December have been busier than ever, the irony being that there are far fewer blogposts in those months because life has been so hectic. My dad's been unwell all year and he's been particularly poorly at times over recent months. It's not something that makes it onto the blog as he's always preferred his privacy but I guess it represents how blogs are sometimes just one teeny facet of people's lives.

Although Christmas has never been my favourite time of year, I do usually get a little sparkle of excitement on New Year's eve at the prospect of a new year and all the adventures that it may hold. This year that spark was missing. As yet, I cannot pinpoint why because in many ways circumstances behind the scenes mean that it could be a very interesting year ahead. In many ways I feel more ready than ever before to tackle challenges, to push open new doors, to continue to reclaim parts of me that have become lost within the title of being 'mother'. Perhaps it is this preparedness and calmness about it that has meant there is no need for the nervous excitement of a new year. It is more of a calm 'bring it on'.

Hope that 2017 is a good year for you!


Miss T puzzles it out: Miffy Farm Puzzle Review

Miffy mania continues to take hold in the Beesley household following our recent trip to the Miffy Museum in Utrecht. Whilst there we stocked up on lots of Miffy goodies and thought ahead for Christmas and have secretly bought Miss T some extra Miffy themed Christmas treats.

Having travelled hand luggage only, we found it quite a squeeze to fit in all our Miffy shopping to bring home. I only wish that we had realised just what a massive selection of Miffy products were available right here in the UK via the Official Miffy Shop.

So just when Miss T was beginning to think that her Miffy adventures were over, a special parcel arrived in the post...Here's Miss T and D squabbling over who opens it...
"It's miiine"
The kind folk over at Official Miffy UK had specially chosen this Miffy Farm Puzzle for Miss T.  Puzzles are just brilliant for kids to learn problem solving skills as well as for hand-eye coordination and improving dexterity and motor skills. When the boys were younger we had a huge range of puzzles for the different ages and stages of development which we have long since passed on to friends.

Miss T had outgrown those wooden peg style puzzles and wasn't yet up to doing the smaller pieced puzzles and we didn't seem to have any puzzles suitable for 'early years' stage. So this Miffy Farm puzzle with it's chunky 24 pieces was just perfect!

Miss T got to work straight away. She enjoyed having a bit of help from big bro to begin with...

As she grew in confidence, she then did the puzzle again by herself...

And was extremely proud of herself when she completed it!

I have to tell you that of course I love the bright colours of this puzzle, I love the picture (not too easy nor difficult), I love seeing Miss T enjoy working out where the pieces go and managing to fit them together.

But one of the things I love the very most about this puzzle is the packaging.

It comes in a super sturdy box that will last as long as the puzzle itself. One of my biggest bugbears when it comes to children's toys and games is that however good the game or toy is, the boxes are often flimsy and tear or wear out quickly making storage of that toy really tricky.

Not so with this robust puzzle box. It's also Miffy shaped for added interest and fabulously bright and colourful too.

We absolutely love everything about this puzzle!

You can find the Miffy Farm Puzzle in the Official Miffy UK shop and you can also follow Miffy UK on Twitter and on facebook to find out what Miffy is up to.

Disclosure: Miffy UK sent us this puzzle for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own. 


Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS

Regular readers may remember us reviewing Super Mario Maker when it launched on Nintendo WiiU. Now those clever people at Nintendo have created the Nintendo 3DS version... and it doesn't disappoint!

Just like the WiiU version, Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is essentially a game creator. You can build your own Super Mario levels, placing coins, enemies and even Bowser himself. You can change the theme of the level, and play through the different eras of Mario.

Similar to the WiiU version, but with even more options - the only limit is your imagination. And there's plenty of help to be had, including lessons on how to create courses - even giving you the choice of learning the basics, or the more advanced aspects of course creation.

One of our favourite features is the Super Mario Challenge. Each of the 100 courses built by Nintendo in the Super Mario Challenge will reward players with two medals for completing courses in a specific way. These challenges range from tasking players to finish a course making sure they only defeat one kind of enemy, reaching the goal without ever pressing the jump button, or making sure every coin has been collected. But you don't get to see the second challenge until you complete the first. This means the levels never get old - there are multiple challenges (some very tricky!) to keep them fresh and exciting.

As with the WiiU version, you can share your courses with others, and download courses that other people have created, so there will never be a shortage of new levels to play.

All course creation elements of the basic set are unlocked from the start, with additional course elements unlocked by completing worlds in Super Mario Challenge. So the more you play, and the better you become, the more complex your own courses can become.

Of course, one of the best things about the Nintendo 3DS is that it is portable - so Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS means you can create courses whilst out and about, taking inspiration from the world around you.

Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is a fantastic addition to our gaming, and the boys have loved both building courses and testing their skill in the Super Mario Challenge. Definitely recommended!

More information about Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is available from the Nintendo UK website... and in the brilliant video they've put together here:

As Nintendo Family Bloggers we were sent a download copy of Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own.

Reborn by C.M. Gray: Book Review

I always struggle to know where to start when it comes to book reviews. Describe too much of what the book is about and you give away the plot. Don't give enough detail and it doesn't feel like enough of a review. So I've been careful to try not to give too much away here...

Reborn is a teen fiction novel but one with a difference. I knew a teeny snippet of it being about angels before I began to read it. But it was way beyond my expectations. It gets stuck straight into the story to get you turning those pages right from the start.

The story is told in the first person by Abigail - a teenager who survived a near fatal car accident against all the odds with, it turns out, the help of a guardian angel. And these ain't no ordinary angels - forget twee little cherubs... these are angels with attitude.

This novel succeeded in being serious, fun, thought-provoking, and humorous all at the same time. It had just the right balance of love and romance without being over the top, mixed with elements of excitement and fear without being too scary. I loved the fun historical references reminding me of a certain time travelling doctor who also gets to meet certain great figures from the past.

I read this myself and loved it despite not being the target teen audience. I'd be very happy for my nearly teen children to also read it and, in fact, I think they will want to straight after me.

This is C.M. Gray's debut novel and I am so pleased that it is the first of a trilogy as I cannot wait to read more.

It is available as an ebook on Amazon here at the brilliant price of just £2.37. (Price correct at time of publishing, as always please check prices yourself before purchase).

Disclosure: I was gifted an e-copy of this book for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own, and I would happily recommend this book to anyone.

Autumn in Amsterdam - Day 5

Written on Saturday 29th October 2016

I wanted to write up the last couple of days of our Amsterdam trip before the memory starts to fade. Technically the title should now be Utrecht rather than Amsterdam as on Thursday we checked-out of The Fashion Hotel in Amsterdam and caught the tram to Central Station followed by the train to Utrecht.

We had one reason for going to Utrecht. In all honesty it was the core reason for our whole holiday. Miffy!

On our bucket list was seeing the Miffy Museum. So we left our luggage at the Court Hotel reception as it was too early to check-in and then headed straight for the Miffy Museum.

It proved to be the best value place we visited. Our family ticket covering 2 adults and 3 children cost only 18.50Euros and although the museum is not massive, it kept us busy for several hours. Miss T just LOVED it so much and so did I. Even D was inspired by Dick Bruna's artwork and style of art and has been drawing Miffy style pictures since our visit.

The museum has several different 'rooms' and it is very much play based and hands-on for the kids. There are various pieces of information written on the walls about Dick Bruna and some of his early artwork in display cabinets dotted around the museum.

The Miffy Museum is located across the road from the Central Museum where you must first go to purchase the tickets. The shop is also located there and that is a treasure trove in itself with Miffy items galore.

After we'd finished at the Miffy Museum we checked into our accomodation. A luxury apartment right on the edge of the canal. It was a converted cellar and it was a very special place to stay. Being the only one of it's kind on that stretch of canal, it did feel a little strange to be staying there. As much as I like doing things differently, there is something that feels so much safer and more comfortable about staying in the main part of a hotel rather than somewhere like this. Still it was only for one night.

We headed off for a meal at Sirtaki greek restaurant just around the corner. Well this was a great find as it had a bustling lively atmosphere and the food was fantastic. The portions were really generous and as we had skipped lunch, it was a very welcome meal starting with ouzo which set the room spinning for me!

The boys chose the feta in filo warm starter and I had stuffed vine leaves in a lemony sauce. Our main course was massive and included the salad bar.

We ended with the Grand Dessert to share between us - a massive platter of different types of cake, ice-cream and fruit. Delicious!

Back to our apartment for a sleep before our last day in Utrecht on Friday.