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Christmas Toy Review #3 : Pop the Pig from Talkin Toys

Christmas Toy Review #3 : Pop the Pig from Talkin Toys

This Christmas my two children are getting to an age where they can start to play board games. Maybe not quite Monopoloy, but certainly games that involve interaction! You may or may not know, but this year I’m trying to find toys that I can buy for them together. Toys that they can both play with, and hopefully play without fighting #wishfulthinking. Whilst we were away in Hawaii, we played good old Jenga quite a few times, and I realised that they haven’t really had the opportunity to play games like it, that involve the whole family. They promote turn taking, patience and strategy! So when Talkin Toys contacted me to try out one of their new offerings, I jumped at the chance to try out Pop the Pig!

Pop the Pig is a game that can be played by two or more players. The Pig sits in the middle, and each person takes the turn to roll the dice. The dice shows one of four colours: red, green, purple or yellow. The player then picks up a token of that colour and turns it over showing a number. The token is then placed in the Pig’s mouth, and pushes down on it’s head the corresponding number of times. Each time you push down, it pumps the Pig’s tummy a little larger. The game keeps going until you….Pop the Pig’s tummy!

This game has been fantastic in a number of ways:

  • Turn taking….obviously!
  • Rolling the dice and recognising the colour
  • Recognising numbers
  • Predicting who is going to win based on how many times the Pig’s head has been pumped

It isn’t a game of skill, which is also great at this age because it means that no matter how old they are, anyone can win!

Pop the Pig can be purchased at Kmart for $25 here! Suitable for years 3+

Christmas Toy Review #1: VTech Toys

Christmas Toy Review #1: VTech Toys

In the cray cray lead up to Christmas, I’ve decided to hire my own children and put them to work, reviewing some amazing toys to help you all know what the heck to buy (aka ask Santa for) this December. There is sooooo much variety out there, it’s hard to know where to start. This week’s first review is about two toys from VTech. Have you heard of VTech? They are world leader in developmental, stage-based, electronic learning products for children. A pioneer in the learning toy category, VTech create innovative educational products that enrich children’s development and makes learning fun. With a history of almost 35 years,  they have now created toys that are available in 25 different languages worldwide, with more than 100 new products are introduced every year.

With something for everyone, from birth to 9 years, VTech toys offer the right mix of fun play time with enhanced learning and development for all ages.

For your School Aged Child : Ella – Aged 5

Kidizoom Smart Watch – RRP $79.95

Ella was recruited to try the Kidizoom Smart Watch DX (4-9 years).  Think of an Apple watch for kids, The Kidizoom® Smart Watch DX is the next-gen smart watch for little ones, available in cool new colours – lime green, camo, and purple.  Immediately, Ella was hooked. As a keep mini photogpraher, this durable smart watch has more memory so kids can take tons of pictures and videos; add frames and effects, anywhere, anytime. The Smart Watch DX takes learning to tell the time seriously with the clever Fun Time Master feature. There are more than 50 3D analogue and digital displays to choose between and the Fun Time Master uses verbal cues to match the display, helping kids understand the clock face and time. Kids can even customise their own clock face and, there’s also alarm, timer, stopwatch, pedometer, calendar and calculator features.

It also encouraged her to exercise! The new motion sensor encouraged her to explore three action challenges! The Smart Watch DX also includes eight games kids can play using the touch screen, as well as the ability to download even more from the Learning Lodge.  Sweat and splash-proof, with an intuitive colour touch screen, and built-in rechargeable battery, this watch is smart fun, smart tech. Available in blue, pink, lime green, camo and purple, telling the time never looked so cool!

Honestly, whether a girl or a boy…this toy is one for everyone!

For your Pre-Schooler: Hudson – Aged 3

Cars 3 Tablet, RRP $29.95

Huddy is literally obsessed with CARS. If you’ve got a little one who is equally hooked, then this one is for them! Help Lightning McQueen win the big race with the Race & Learn Tablet™. Interact with your favourite Cars 3 characters as they come to life in fun and engaging activities on the LCD screen. Seven exciting games introduce letters, objects, spelling, number order, counting, logic and more. Find letters to help Lightning McQueen gear up for the race, spell out words on road and crowd signs, count objects as you help clean up Doc Hudson’s garage, spell out words to pass other cars in the race and much more! Press the character buttons to meet and interact with Lightning McQueen and his friends. The tablet also introduces beginning typing with a QWERTY keyboard. Get on the fast track to learning with Lightning McQueen!

VTech toys are available from major department stores, independent toy stores, and select online retailers. For further information on VTech and its products, visit www.vtech.com.au , or check out the VTech news on Facebook @ VTechANZ and Instagram @vtech_toys_anz. For more info and to see these toys in action, visit our Instagram Stories!

Grief at Christmas & lessons of hope

Grief at Christmas & lessons of hope

Grief is like Melbourne weather. Four seasons in one day. Sometimes you start out the day feeling fine, and then it can quickly turn nasty. Sometimes it feels still and calm, and others it’s like your stuck in a torrential down pour, and all you can do is ride it out. These last four months have taught me a lot about grief. I thought I new. I’d experience loss before. Losing close family friends, and family members. I knew it was hard. I knew it would take time. But gosh, I’ve felt as though I knew nothing. It’s as though I’m a preppie in the school of grief, as I went back to square one. As though I might as well be learning a new language.

The past few weeks I felt as though I was on top of things. I felt a sense of wanting to be happy, and really try to make this up and coming Christmas a good one, as much as it could be. I’ve often heard in previous years, people reminding others that whilst Christmas can be a great time of happiness and joy, it can also be a time of immense sadness for some. For me, Christmas has always, always been the happiest time of the year. These last few days have actually had me realising that this is true, with the loss of our precious Dad. The thought of walking into my parents house on Christmas morning with my children in tow is both something I’m looking forward to, and yet it is a day that I’m sadly anticipating with a sense of trepidation.

I’ve learned a lot about grief these last four months. There are things you are told about grief that ring true, much of it weeks after being told. However there is much I’ve learned that I have found is helpful. Stuff I’ve been told, and stuff I’ve discovered myself. You see my brain is very scientific, and I’ve fond that I actually need strategies, phrases and sayings to help me make some sense of it all, and rationalise the loss. Especially because ours was so sudden. So in an attempt to try to help others who also may be stumbling and fumbling their way towards Christmas this weekend, feeling a little lost but wishing they could feel a bit better, I thought I would share some of the lesson’s I’ve learned about grief. I can only hope they help. Heck, I just hope it’s bloody useful really. I’ve just realised it’s also my 300th post on Happy Ella After. Quite ironic!

 

grief at christmas1. Grief if the price we pay for love

A few days after Dad passed, my Mum told us this: ‘grief is the price we pay for love’. Apparently the Queen actually said it. When you think about this it actuall resolves itself. In an attempt to make the loss ‘not happen’, you would never, ever choose a life without love. Love is in fact the meaning of life. A life of love is a life of happiness. So therefore, grief is an unfortunate, but very rational consequence of loss. This saying has helped me realise that whilst our grief is so intense and at times hard to bear, you in fact wouldn’t want it any other way.

2. Helpful and unhelpful emotions

A friend who lost her Mum whilst we were teenagers told me about helpful and unhelpful emotions. Some feelings can help you through, and some feelings can make you feel worse. The trick is knowing which ones to acknowledge, and which ones to ignore. Sadness, for example is hard to face, but it is in fact useful. It is something that we NEED to feel when tackling grief. Guilt and trying to find answers on the other hand are not useful. They actually cause your brain to stress, releasing cortisol and causing you to physically feel worse. They do not help to keep you calm and feel safe. You can also go out of your mind wondering ‘what if’ and ‘why has this happened’. It’s something I’ve tried to notice and explicitly stop myself from thinking. It has helped.

3. Let it come and go

In a similar way, you also need to let emotions come and go naturally. Don’t fight it, or dwell on any one point. My sister’s Godfather told us to treat our grief like a wave, ride it when it is high and when it is calm. Just let the waves come and go, and don’t try to swim against it. Everything will in time, calm down and the storm does pass.

4. The new reality

I’ve been seeing a psychologist to help me deal with the loss of Dad. She has helped give me some specific strategies to help me process how I’m feeling. She talked about sufferers of ‘grief’ dealing with needing to create a ‘new reality’. In times of loss, we live in our old reality, but without the person we love. We live in our houses, travel to the same places, carry out every day routines. All reminding us of that person. It isn’t until we create a ‘new reality’, one which involves memories of a new life, new experiences, new adventures that the old reality becomes new. The problem is, this takes time. But knowing this in itself actually helps. Time can’t be rushed.


5. It gets a bit easier

 

They say that the grief doesn’t go away, you just learn to live with it. I have found this to be true. However initially, when I was told t

his, I saw it as a life long curse of being sad . However it’s not like that at all. Four months later, I still feel incredibly sad. I still at times, fall apart and cry my eyes out. But I CAN talk about him sometimes without welling up. I CAN look at photos and smile. I’ve recently been able to look at videos and have a laugh. Someone once drew me a diagram to help explain this:

grief at christmas

In the beginning, grief consumes you. It is the centre of your life. It’s all you can think about and feels overwhelmingly huge. Every thought is about your loss. It’s hard to see anything else.

However over time, the grief is surrounded by new experiences, happy times, love and hope. In time the grief is still there, but it feels smaller and smaller as it is surrounded by new memories. You feel stronger and more able to tackle life and the new reality because it is enveloped in love. I have used this diagram several times to help me realise that everything will be ok.

6. Everyone is on their own journey

This is a hard one, but one that everyone in a family needs to realise. I am one of four children, and we have all lost our Dad, but we are all different and dealing with it in a variety of ways.  Our Mum has lost her husband and those feelings are very different too. We all have to just care for one another, and we do. Just because you are feeling sad, doesn’t mean that others are feeling that way on the same day. In other ways, you may also want to do something positive or happy, but it doesn’t mean that others are ready. We are all different and it takes time. We all need to be respectful of where everyone is at.

7. Sometimes the build up is worse than the actual day

Since losing Dad we’ve actually had a few ‘firsts’. Fathers’ Day, his Birthday, Mum’s Birthday, their anniversary. For the most part, the build up to the day, the anticipation is actually harder than the actual day. You think about what it will be like, you dread it in some ways. But then the day comes, and you realise, it is just another day. You can get through it. You will get through it. Yes you might cry, but that is ok. But you might laugh and smile to. And that feels really good.

7. Hope

There is always hope. There are not always answers to all of our questions, but there is always, always hope. Hope is a good thing. It helps us strive for positive and know that there will always be something happy around the corner. Life is too good not to be cherished. We need to be hopeful that there are better things to come.

grief at christmas

So this Christmas, if you or someone you know is feeling really heavy with the loss of a loved one, then know you are not alone. We are all doing our best to get on with things, keep our chins up and just live a happy life in their memory. At times it really sux, but just know that time does tick over and good things happen all the time. We owe it to them to be happy as much as we can be.

Product Review: DC Superhero Action Dolls

Product Review: DC Superhero Action Dolls

So it’s a week before Christmas. For some reason, actually…because of my hip surgery, I have all my shopping done for my kids. I did it online and it was so much easier. But what if you haven’t done yours yet? Even worse, what if you haven’t got any idea what to buy? Well if you have to buy a gift for a girl between 4-10 then this one is for you! If you have seen my IG feed of late, you would have seen a snap of my Ella kitted out in a Wonder woman dress up from Warner Brothers. She was also holing a Wonder woman Doll: a DC Superhero Action Doll. These dolls are just fantastic. If you live in a household dominated by Superheroes (Huddy’s room is out of control), but your little lady loves them too, then these are your answer.

dc-superhero

Warner Bros have brought out a range of action dolls, based on female super heroes. Beautiful quality, their outfits are bold, bright and colourful. They also make sounds and light up with the touch of a button. What I love about them is the fact they they encourage girls to be fierce. Brave, courageous and risk takers. They can take on the world and save the day! My Ella is somewhat shy and reserved at times, playing it safe. So when she dons her wonder woman outfit and grabs her doll in hand, she becomes invincible! Paired with the wonderwoman dress up, she will want to save the world!

So if you want to bring a sense of wonder and rebellion to a little girl in your life, then head to KMART and check out these dolls via this link. You can also see other fabulous offerings from Warner Bros via my ‘unboxing’ video below. Hope you like!

kate

 

The products in the video

LEGO Juniors – Batman™ & Superman™ vs. Lex Luthor™

Suit up alongside Batman™ and Superman™ and prepare to take on Lex Luthor™! Get the Batmobile™ ready and arm the Batcave’s bat-disk shooter. Help Superman take to the skies with his launcher before Lex Luthor arrives in his robotic vehicle with grabbing claw and kryptonite-powered laser gun. Save the day with your favorite Super Heroes!

RRP: $29.99

Stockists: All major retailers

 

Mattel – DC Super Hero Girls 12-Inch Dolls

Unleash your inner Super Hero with these DC Super Hero Girls action dolls inspired by the students of Super Hero High! Available in Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Bumblebee

RRP: $32.99

Stockists: All major retailers

 

Imaginext DC Super Friends Super Hero Flight City

Double the fun and double the trouble as Gotham City and Metropolis combine! Let Batman and Superman take flight in the 360 degree flight pack with an additional Super Hero launcher. But be careful – Lex Luthor is always close by.

RRP: $149.99

Stockists: Target, Big W, Toys R Us

 

The Christmas guide: gifts they’ll want, need, wear and read!

The Christmas guide: gifts they’ll want, need, wear and read!

It’s almost Christmas time once more. Hashtag joy, hashtag chaos, hashtag busy. Busy, busy, busy. This year I’ve had to be extra organised as I recover from hip surgery. For me that has meant knowing that I can’t drive for 2-3 weeks and at Christmas time this could mean disaster. So if I can’t go to the stores myself to do my Christmas shopping, then I guess I need to make it come to me. I’m pleased to report that I’ve done all of the shopping I need for Santa, and have had it delivered straight to my door. Honestly, what did we do before online shopping? God knows!

This year, whilst I’m spoiling my children more than usual in an effort to try to make this Christmas a little happier than years gone by, I’ve discovered a fantastic giving ritual that can help you to contain the excitement, and save a little money too. The idea is that you buy four presents. Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Granted, that my children may receive more than one present in each category…the sentiment behind it is lovely. I’ve also discovered that some families give their children an empty box with a tag ‘ something to give’. Children are encouraged to go through their toys following Christmas and donate to charity. The act of giving, either in the lead up to, or following Christmas is something that we all should instil in our children.

So below are some of my best buys and finds for my children Ella (4) and Hudson (2) under each of the giving categories. Some are snapped by moi on the run as I hide them from my kids, and others are taken directly from their website as they are either too large to snap incognito, or require some assembly from…um…Santa / aka Dad.

Something they want

This year Ella is obsessed with all things Barbie. She is the quintessential girly, girl and loves to dress up, mix and match her dolls. So when Barbie brought out their new ew Fashionistas dolls, which feature a range of new body types, hair colours and styles, skin colours and eye colours. They also have great outfits, so Ella can mix and match. Priced from $12 they are really reasonably priced.

Barbie Happy Ella After fasionistas Kmart

screenshot-2016-12-01-10-55-59

A girl can’t have barbies without a dollhouse to play in! The new ‘mansion’ dollhouses come in a variety of shapes and sizes, designed especially to fit Barbies. It even has a lift! Ella may just be receiving this one from KidKraft underneath the tree…put together by Santa himself!

kidkraft-magnolia-mansion-dollhouse-with-furniture-main-1068-1068

Something they need

For both of my kids, you can’t go passed play dough. Tactile, tangible, terrific. There is something about giving your kids new tubs of play dough. They just love opening the new colours of squishy, untouched dough. Perfectly soft and subtle. I will be loading their stockings up with tubs bought from Target.

They also love drawing, but I struggle to get them to focus on their own posters on their small play able. These giant colouring posters from OMY are genius. Huge patterns and pictures, you can put them on the wall or chuch them on the floor. Hours of fun! Available from Leo & Bella here for $25.95. 

OMY poster Happy ella After Christmas omy-giant-coloring-posters-magic-kids-play

When it comes to useful gifts that actually HELP with something, this one takes the cake. In our house, we have needed the gift of sleep more than anything. In the last few months our little man has finally turned the corner. I don’t know how or why. We haven’t done anything different, except use this little gadget that I think has been the little thing that has helped enormously. The Gro Egg light and monkey cover from the Gro Company has given Hudson a sense of comfort and safety. It works in two ways. Firstly as a soft night light that helps little ones feel secure when they wake in the night.You can use it as an egg, or pop on their adorable little covers, making the little characters come to life.  It also changes colour depending on the temperature in the room. The second clever operation is the fact that it keeps track of the temperature in the room, indicating which GroBag to wear for their level of comfort. Genius. So if you’ve got, or know a little one who is still struggling with sleep, then this may just be your answer. Available in shops nationally, but you can also check it out here. 

Gro Egg Happy Ella After screenshot-2016-12-01-10-56-34

Something to wear

For me, you can’t go passed Cotton on Kids for variety, colour and quality. Their prices are so affordable, and these days their discount sales run almost every fortnight. My Ella is literally obsessed with wearing ‘spinny’ dresses almost every day, so this gold pom pom dress will be on high rotation all summer I would think!

Cotton on Kids Dresses Happy Ella After

screenshot-2016-12-01-13-07-28

In terms of ‘wear’ my kids are also needing bigger and more robust back packs. For kinder and sleep overs at Nanna’s you can’t go passed Smiggle for their new range. Gorgeously bold and bright, with dozens of their signature zippers, there is a space and a place for everything. I love the handle on the top which means they can carry it in their hands and their straps are adjustable to fit almost any child! Throw in a few packs of their equally rad pencils, and you are good to go.

Smiggle Happy Ella After Back Pack Christmas

And finally every kid needs some cool pyjamas to wear at Christmas time. These awesome Batman Pj’s from Peter Alexander from Warner Bros are the perfect ‘jammies’ this summer. They even come in a super cool bag that the kiddies can use and reuse! You’ll also notice the cool batman eye mask from Typo….perfect for sleeptime!

Peter Alexander Superhero Batman Happy Ella After Typo

screenshot-2016-12-01-10-56-26

Something to read

For Ella…she adores, adores, adores the Ella Bella Ballerina series. If you have a little dancer in your house, then you cannot go past this gorgeousness. In each of the four titles, Ella Bella begins her dance lesson in class with Madame Rosa and ends up being swept up into the beauty of one of four famous ballets: Cinderella, Swan Lake, the Nutcraker and Midsummer Night’s dream. Beautifully illustrated they are the perfect length for a young child who loves ballet. Perfect for bed time dreaming. Available from Booktopia.

screenshot-2016-12-01-15-49-23 screenshot-2016-12-01-15-54-28

Huddy is tactile and still loves the ‘That’s not my series’. This Christmas I’ve added a few new titles to our collection including ‘That’s not my’…..tiger, tractor, plane and Santa!. For an extra sense of fun….find the mouse!

That's not my

screenshot-2016-12-01-15-54-13

screenshot-2016-12-01-15-54-20

Both of these titles are available from The Book Depository or Booktopia.

To finish…i couldn’t complete this post without a mention of Arlo & Co and their gorgeous SIMPLICITY bamboo gift tags. Personalized for each type of gift, you can label your presents with ..

  • something you want
  • something you need
  • something to wear
  • something to read

Christmas Happy Ella After

Available here for $25, you are supporting an amazing local Mum. Remember that including local products in your gifts this Christmas actually puts a smile on the face of a small family. The support system of those, who like myself, run small businesses for the love of it. So when you can, include local, small businesses in your shopping this Christmas.

We all WANT  and NEED some love this time of year. I hope you both give and receive it in bucketloads.

kate

Mumma Christmas Wishlist 2014

Mumma Christmas Wishlist 2014

I won’t lie, this week has been tough on many fronts. Yesterday felt like an eternity, as I juggled toilet training (for the 100th time), and a teething baby. Sometimes there are days that just seem to go on for ever. I do know however, that you have to roll with the punches, suck it up and know that for every bad day, you’ll have a hundred great ones. There is so much to look forward to at this time of year, and this weekend, I’m super excited to put up our Christmas decorations and ornaments around the house. Christmas with kids is just magical, and this year, Ella really knows what’s going on. I can’t help myself, every time I’m online, I find something else to get her from ‘Santa Claus’. I don’t know about you, but I spend so much time organising gifts for the kids, that when someone (aka. Santa Dan) asks me what I want, I actually can’t think of anything.

So with that, I’ve taken the time to browse my favourite Insta feeds and have discovered a few lovely things that this Mumma would love to see (for me) under our Christmas Tree….

Photo 1-12-2014 1 38 13 pm

 

Top Left: Boss Mumma Singlet from Howi Clothing – $30

Top Middle: PK Copenhagen Limited Addition Print from Norsu Interiors – $90

Top Right: Ferm Living Storage Baskets available from Norsu Interiors – from $90

Middle Left: Anarkid wall prints available from Hush Little Baby – Currently on sale from $15!!!!!

Middle: Nike Air Pegasus Runners – $160

Middle Right : Gold Trim Maxi Dress from Witchery – $149.95

Bottom Left: Amazonia Bucket Shoulder Bag from Mimco – $499 *#MYFAVOURITE

Bottom Middle: Sorbet Sunrise Tank Dress from Mister.i  – Pre-order

Bottom Right – the one and only, Thermomix – approx $2500

Some of these are to wear, some are to admire and some are to dream about.

C’mon Santa Baby, I’ve been a very good girl this year!!

kate

 

Hudson’s First Christmas Wishlist

Hudson’s First Christmas Wishlist

I can’t believe that it’s nearly Christmas again. This also means that our little man will be 7 months old. His first Christmas. It’s been such a jam packed year, time has literally flown. We have had a ball welcoming our little man into the world, and have enjoyed every second of getting to know ‘all things boy’. From Super heroes to trucks, monsters to construction kits…it’s been a blast, and Ella has loved it too.

Last week I shared my favourite pics for a little girl’s Christmas in 2014. This week, I’m thrilled to share my top finds for little boys to place under the tree this Christmas Eve. Some of them are for play, some are for wear and some are for their room. Oh gosh, it makes me tear up even thinking about it…..

Photo 21-11-2014 9 14 09 am

 

Top left: Munster ‘Don’t START Wars’ kids tee from HipkinKids – $39.95

Top Middle: Red Steel Wagon from Mocka Australia – $49.95

Top Right: ‘I will chase the wind, Touch the sky’ decal from Wondermade Decals – $21.95

Middle Left: Batman Tent from Peachy Baby / Project T Bear – $150

Middle: RAAAAAA Sloppy Joe from Freddy Alphabet –$54. Let’s face it, anything from Freddy Alphabet would be nice!

Middle Right: Noughties Bat Cushion from Willow and Sage. – $65

Bottom Left: Bat Coat Hanger from Little Pop Studio (available for pre order on Jan 20th 2015). 

Bottom Middle: Newbies Super Skittles from Little Me Little You. – $59.95

Bottom Right: Batty Skinny Trackies from Kapow Kids – $39.95

Hopefully some lucky little boys will get some of these goodies under neath the Christmas Tree!!!

Fingers Crossed!kate