> The Beesley Buzz

"I can't stop Andy from growing up. But I wouldn't miss it for the world" Woody, Toy Story.

We were thrilled to be sent the Aquabeads Toy Story Character set to review. Miss T knew she wanted to make the Little Green Man from Toy Story and D said he would like to make Woody. There's also the template and beads for Buzz Lightyear and they're yet to decide who will lay claim to Buzz.

We're big fans of Aquabeads. It's not just the kids that love them, but I love the mess-free way that the kids can be creative and have fun, without the mess. Did I mention that there's no mess?

Don't get me wrong. I believe in the value of messy play. I really believe in it. My cupboards are full of paints and things like shaving foam and cornflour for messy play sensory fun. But sometimes I just get fed up of being the one who has to clear up afterwards - so it's really nice to have kits like this that the kids can do without making much mess at all.

You see, Aquabeads don't need glue or any kind of special adhesive, it's plain old water that sticks the beads together. Genius!

We've had lots of fun in the past with Aquabeads - You can get a starter set, called the beginners studio which was a gift that Miss T received ages ago and loved. Then there are loads of playsets too with various popular themes and recognisable characters. In the past, we've reviewed a Star Wars themed Aquabeads setFinding Nemo Aquabeads set and a Cars Character set.

The Toy Story set, like all the Aquabeads sets, is suitable for children aged 4 and over. It includes 3 popular Toy Story characters to make...Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the Little Green Man.

Unlike some of the sets, this set doesn't include a bead palette to store the beads in. As we have several from other sets, this isn't a problem for us. It also doesn't include a bead pen which can be useful as the beads can be a little fiddly at times. It is definitely worth getting hold of one and the Aquabeads Bead Pen can be found on Amazon or at other good toy retailers. 

The items it DOES include in this set is the layout tray, the templates for the 3 Toy Story characters, a sprayer for squirting the water and all the beads you'll need to make these characters. 
Miss T used the bead pen from a previous set of Aquabeads, they can be bought separately too. 

We've noticed that on the back of the packs, they always list very specifically exactly what is included, even down to the specific number of beads of each colour - so you really do know what you're getting. 

I've also just recently discovered that there are a whole heap of downloadable templates on the Aquabeads website so if you want to keep refilling your collection and making different designs, there are loads of possibilities. 

I was incredibly proud of Miss T as she worked really hard on getting all the right beads in the right places and although I was right there alongside her to help if she needed me, she stuck with it to the end until the Little Green Man was completed.

She did stop for a cup of herbal tea part way through!

Once all the beads were in place, she squirted them with water from the water sprayer.
Each pack comes with full instructions on how to do this. It's really easy as you literally squirt water all over the beads. We've found the important bit is to not 'over-water' them so by tipping off excess water it helps the designs not to curl or break so easily.

If it does go wrong, the instructions tell you how to put it right. Reassembling and then adding another squirt of water usually does the trick.

And then he was done. We left him overnight to dry and Miss T was delighted with how he turned out and rightfully very proud of herself too!

A set like this would make a great gift for an Aquabeads fan or Toy Story fan!

You may recall that it was D who reviewed the Star Wars Aquabeads set and the Cars play set. The last one that Miss T reviewed was the Finding Dory playset and as much as she enjoyed the process she struggled to finish it. This makes me realise just how much she is growing up. How her concentration has improved, how her dexterity and fine motor skills are improving and developing. She's growing up.

As I rush around on my own agenda with chores to do, with dinner to prepare and with my own projects and tasks I want to accomplish, I have to remind myself to stop and just take the time to enjoy these moments like sitting alongside her whilst she completed her Aquabeads little green man.

As Woody famously said, "I can't stop Andy from growing up. But I wouldn't miss it for the world."

The Aquabeads Toy Story Character Set can be purchased from Amazon and other good toy retailers.

We are delighted to be official Aquabeaders!

Disclosure: As official Aquabeaders, we were sent the Toy Story Character Set for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own. This post contains an Affiliate link which means that at no cost to you, I may receive a small payment if you buy something from a site I link to. I only recommend and link to products, services and companies that I am happy to promote.

Conquering the laundry mountain with Ecover! #EcoverLaundry

Mountains are majestic and huge. To conquer them can take courage and faith and determination. Quotes about moving or overcoming metaphorical mountains remind us of how solid and permanent mountains are, representing something so difficult to shift.

And that's certainly true in our household. Since we had children we have also become parents to a massive laundry mountain. One that does not ever shift or move.

The best I can hope for is to reduce that mountain to a manageable height - with a daily load of laundry, this is just about manageable.

Until, that is, we go on holiday. Upon returning home, we find that our mountain becomes an entire mountain range!

I know I'm not alone. I have a feeling that a 'laundry mountain' is the bane of many parents' lives. So this is my guide of lessons I've learnt along the way. Little things that have helped me to conquer the laundry mountain. We've been putting Ecover's non-bio Lavender & Sandalwood concentrated detergent to the test and that has certainly been of help. Read on to find out why.

Tip 1: A helping hand

Young kids love to help with chores. Make the most of it whilst they are young enough to want to help. They'll see it as part of playtime - sorting the laundry into piles, matching socks, helping to load and unload the washing machine. It's a really fun way for them to learn about colours, counting, size and it gives you a helping hand too!

Tip 2: Look at those labels

I used to think I knew exactly what the laundry symbols on clothing labels meant. Surely it was obvious whether something needed to be hand washed, whether it could be tumble-dried and so on. BUT I had no idea what those additional lines that sometimes appear under the machine wash/temperature symbol meant.

When an expert came out to fix our washing machine, I learnt something new...the more lines, the more gentle a wash that item needs. So no lines - it can have a normal wash, 1 line needs a more gentle wash cycle and 2 lines an even more delicate cycle still. So don't just stick to the same wash cycle all the time - look at those labels and set the washing machine cycle accordingly. Your clothes will last better and thank you for it. Remember that a lot of clothes can now be washed at 30 degrees - saving on energy - making it better for the environment and for your bills! Using Ecover's new detergent, we found that it was great with stains, even at 30.

Tip 3: Clear your cupboards

I used to have a cupboard full of various detergents and softeners but if you find a product that can meet the whole family's needs when it comes to washing all their clothes, not only will it save you money by buying fewer products, it can also clear the clutter from your cupboard by having just the one bottle of detergent instead of 6 different ones!

So whether you've got a newborn baby and you want super-soft babygrows, or a messy toddler where you need to tackle those tough stains, or even the teenage years with oodles of smelly socks to wash, we were pleased to find one detergent in the form of Ecover's non-bio lavender & sandalwood that can handle it all.

The smell is just amazing. I've actually stopped using any softener or freshener in my wash since I've been using this as the lavender and sandalwood scent does the job of leaving clothes smelling super fresh. And not in a sickly overpowering way as some detergents do. I'd go as far as saying that this scent is more of a relaxing spa smell. Personally I love it!

I've tried it out on towels and bedding and even on a dress I bought for Miss T in a charity shop to really freshen it up. I even washed a duvet with it. Hoppy and Patch have had the Ecover treatment and came out smelling super too!

So there's my top three tips to help you conquer your laundry pile as I've conquered mine. I thought it would be fun to make a little infographic of the Beesley household's own laundry mountain to illustrate:

We started by talking about mountain quotes and so I'll end with a lovely positive one from Dr Seuss as I wish you much luck with conquering your own laundry mountain. I'd encourage you to give Ecover a try if you haven't already, it comes highly recommended and we've always adored Ecover's green credentials and how they've been leading the way since 1979 in making products that work brilliantly AND care for the planet too.

You're off to great places,
Today is your day!...
Your mountain is waiting,
So...get on your way!

You can find Ecover on Twitter at @EcoverUK, and on Instagram at @Ecover_UK. We were kindly sent a full-size 875ml Ecover detergent to try for the #EcoverLaundry challenge along with a laundry bag. 

This post is an entry for BritMums #EcoverLaundry Challenge, sponsored by Ecover


In the Sunday Express this week: My JIA Story

I've been asked a few times to share my story of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) in magazines and the press. Since Miss T was diagnosed nearly two and a half years ago when she was just two years old, I've been especially keen to raise awareness of Juvenile arthritis.

The sad thing is that in the past 30 years since my own diagnosis, arthritis is still considered to be an 'old persons disease'. I see the same shocked expressions when people hear of Miss T's condition being arthritis as I did when people used to ask me why I was on crutches back in 1987.

This needs to change. Not just change for the sake of change but because if awareness is increased, then it will have a tangible effect on the quality of life for those children affected. Even amongst medical professionals, awareness can be low - so when a GP is presented with a child with joint pain or swelling, they may not even have JIA on their radar as a possible option.

These days, prompt diagnosis can mean prompt treatment and whilst there is no cure, treating the JIA quickly can make all the difference and prevent lifelong joint damage from occurring.

So that is why I tell my story. I'm particularly pleased with the article in the S Mag supplement of the Sunday Express this week because it tells the story in a lot more detail than previous journalists have done AND it tells a little of Miss T's story too. You can find the article online here if you missed the paper on Sunday.

Whilst I have found ways of helping my condition, taking the GOPO joint supplement for example on a regular basis, because the joint damage was done all those years ago, life is far from perfect where my arthritis is concerned.

I hope that for children being diagnosed these days, it will be a different story.

I'm always wary about making people think there is any miracle cure out there but it is good to hear of other cases where something they've tried has helped. Here's Larry Lamb telling of his experiences of joint pain and taking GOPO.

I want to point out that this blogpost is not sponsored content. I have been taking GOPO on an ongoing basis since I did a blog trial of it a few years ago which you can read about here. The people at GOPO have kindly continued to send me GOPO, but I only continue to take it because I feel it helps me.

For children with JIA, I strongly recommend following the medication plan from their rheumatologist. Miss T has methotrexate injections on a regular basis and we will continue to follow the medical advice from her rheumatologist. At some point in the future when we hope that her condition is considered stable in adulthood, I would encourage her to try GOPO for ongoing joint health.

We've put together some information on JIA here that helped us a lot when Miss T was first diagnosed in case it is of use to anyone going through a similar situation.


Mauritius Memories - Saturday 12th August.

Saturday 12th August 2017.

12th August is a day I hate. It was 15 years ago that my life changed forever when I lost my mum unexpectedly. At the time I told myself that there are worse things that can happen in the world and tried to carry on as normal as possible. Big mistake - by not allowing myself to grieve properly at the time, grief seems to creep up when I least expect it. What I have since learnt is that whilst there are worse things in the world that can happen, at the time she was the world to me. She was my world. 

Anyhow we have a busy day planned today including visiting a volcano. A bucket list wish of mine since childhood. Weird but true. 

We're heading off resort to experience a bit of the real Mauritius.  After seeing the scenery on the way here and the variety of architecture I'm really looking forward to it. 

Hoping for a better day ASD-wise. 

Tonight we're booked into the Asian fusion restaurant, Le Banyan, so it will be interesting to see what that is like. 

Waking up earlier than usual for a quicker buffet breakfast in order to be ready for our driver and minibus at 10am. The hotel is also getting a packed lunch ready for us so that will save time for the sightseeing to cram more in. 

Written on Sunday 13th August am.

What is it with holidays - I'm feeling so exhausted by the end of the day that I'm asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. 

Yesterday was the day we headed off resort to see some of the rest of Mauritius. 

First stop was the pamplemousse botanical gardens where we had just over an hour to zoom round. 

We saw the Talipot tree which flowers once every 60 years and then dies. We saw giant water lilies which were huge but apparently grow even bigger during the summer months here (November and December) and there were giant tortoises there too. 

Next stop was the volcano. The crater is 300m wide and there is a walk that can be done all around it. We didn't.  Too many ailments and arthritis in our group. We didn't stop for long as it started to rain lots. 

After that we stopped at the lakes and the hindu temple by the lake. 
The "view" at the viewpoint! 
After that we stopped at a view point without much of a view. It was so foggy and wet that 3 of us nearly didn't bother to get out the car but I am so glad we did. 

Whilst looking at the non-existent view we were surprised by a family of monkeys who appeared out the fog and came very close.  That was an amazing unexpected surprise to be so close to wild monkeys and the highlight of my day. 
The "view" gradually coming into view
The fog also began to clear enough to see a little of the view including a waterfall in the distance. 

After that we went to see a place famous for 7 different coloured sands, the the seven-colored sands of chamarel, except they looked rather underwhelming and very much the same colour. When we walked to the other side the sand did appear to be different shades.

Close by, there was another amazing waterfall to see. With the combination of the downpours of rain and waterfall visiting, it reminded me of our waterfall outings in the rain in Canada a couple of years ago. 

And finally back to the resort for dinner. Miss T slept for a while en-route back and I was wowed by the number of mango trees that seemed to be everywhere.  Next month mango season begins and it's crazy to think that a fruit we consider to be so exotic is so freely found growing along the streets here. 
Miss T using her Trunki Boostapak which we bought ages ago in preparation for this holiday
We also saw a pineapple plantation and the odd banana tree or two. As well as masses of sugar cane of course. We also spotted a couple of baobab trees and lots of banyan trees.  We were also told of how certain times of year Chinese guavas grow in the hedgerows and how people come to pick them at weekends much in the same way that we would go Blackberry picking. 

Dinner was booked at Le Banyan.  

The kids struggled to find anything on the menu that they would enjoy. I ended up with indigestion as the options I had were deep fried. I'm beginning to think that the Belle Vue is the best family friendly option here after all. Although it has been nice to try the different restaurants for a change of scene. 


Mauritius Memories - Friday 11th August 2017

Today has been the trickiest day so far. Weatherwise it was miles better than yesterday with the rain staying away. 

We opted for breakfast at the Belle Vue rather than the beachfront La Maree in order to have a quicker breakfast to be ready for Archery at 10am. 

Spotted some cute lizards whilst waiting for our archery session. It turned out archery was at 10.30 and not 10 so the boys got restless and went off for a quick visit to see their favourite kitten at the animal sanctuary. 

Meanwhile Granny, Daddy and Miss T had their turn at archery. 

Then it was me, J and D in the next session. Turns out I like archery. Finally a sport I can enjoy where I'm not hindered by my arthritis. Note to self  - must book another session or two before we leave. 

So far so good. Next we went to see the ruins of Balaclava to show Granny and Daddy who hadn't been with us yesterday. After J' s climbing of rocks around the waterfall and the ancient ruins too, we had stern words with him today about how dangerous it was and to make sure he asked specific permission from us before he attempted any climbing so that we could check he was safe. 

Before we knew it both he and D were clambering over rocks. One of the things we learnt about ASD when J was first diagnosed was about the physical differences in the brain between an autistic child and a neurotypical one. The part of the brain that should be telling J when to stop and to think ahead to possible consequences just doesn't work so when D got to the point of knowing when to stop climbing the sharp dangerous slippery rocks around the waterfall, J did not. He carried on until the point where he got totally stuck on a rock in the middle of a fast flowing river just below the waterfall.

Thankfully after several moments of total panic he managed to find a way to get back.  
That was tricky situation number 1. 

After lunch we were booked in for the family treasure hunt. Granny's knee had become painful so she sat out after clue number 1. 

Then the boys decided to go on ahead. Upon finding the clue at the boathouse they had carried on not realising that we had no way of knowing where that clue would lead and hence where to find them. 

Thankfully the guys in the boat house pointed us towards mini-golf to find the next clue (and hopefully the boys too).

En route to the mini golf, we found D who told us that J had headed back to the boat house to look for us. 

Eventually we were all reunited and with the other team being such good sports they'd left the treasure for Miss T to find. 

On the way back to our rooms J went into full meltdown mode when we tried to unravel what had happened and how each person had gone missing. 

In his rage he threw around his water bottle and went into disruptive and destructive mode. During his meltdown he sustained a horrible blood blister injury to his finger. Painful. But I'm hoping a lesson may have been learnt. 

Daddy and D went off kayaking up the river whilst the rest of us headed to the pool. After a visit to the nurse to check that finger, it was swimming time. Followed by hot chocolate and pool snacks to warm up.  

Dinner was at La Maree and my eyes are closing as I write this. So night night. 

spotted this bat in a tree after dinner

A few more notes written the next day about Friday...

A few more thoughts on last night's meal which I was too exhausted to write up. La Maree certainly is a beautiful intimate and relaxed setting for dinner. I think ours were the only kids there and Miss T fell asleep whilst eating her dinner as it ends up being a slower relaxed meal with table service rather than the Belle Vue which is buffet style. 

The  kids found it harder to find dishes they liked there too. We were surrounded by 3 dogs all evening along with one of the cats that the kids have taken a shine to. Although the animals here (the dogs, cats and birds that hang around the restaurants) are always hopeful for food, they never pester or become a nuisance. Feeding them is not permitted although they do seem to manage to find crumbs wherever there are children. 

A few more photos from Friday...