Saturday, 10 March 2012

Review: Pillow Pets

We were asked if we would like to do a review for Pillow Pets a few weeks ago. Before then I had never heard of them, not surprising really since they are only just being launched in the UK this spring. Originally developed by an American mum in 2003 (which sounds like last week but is in fact nearly ten years ago, eeek!) they are, as the name suggests, both a pillow and a pet.

The idea is actually remarkably simple: imagine a pillow which can fold in half and hold in place with a velcro strap. When it is folded, it becomes a soft cuddly toy, when unfolded it is a full sized pillow. Our particular new little friend is a puppy dog, though this is only one of eight designs you can buy. Since Daddy is a very keen dog lover and is trying his best to instill this in our baby boy, he was thrilled that we were sent this cute little dog.

When it arrived I was immediately struck by how soft the fabric it is made from is - I think it must be one of those super-soft micro fibre fabrics that they make things for babies out of, which just invite you to snuggle up with them. Its face is very cute and appealing, and my son seems to enjoy playing with it. In terms of function, the Velcro strap that converts it from pet to pillow is as simple to use as... well, as Velcro is, and there is a little flap to cover up the scratchy side of the Velcro when it is being used as a pillow, which I thought was a clever touch.

This idea really is a good one, since they are cute enough to work as a cuddly toy and large and firm enough to be a proper pillow for a child or an adult - Mr W has taken to snuggling up with his puppy pal under his head when watching TV in the evenings, not that he’ll thank me for sharing that! From a mum’s perspective, if I am going to have toys littering every room of my house - and it seems that I am - then it is great if they can also serve a useful purpose for the whole family as well. I would say that the Pillow Pet is larger than most of our other soft toys, but this does mean that it unfolds to be a proper sized pillow, which means it can be used for adults as well ad kids.

The website recommends that Pillow Pets are ideal for little ones to snuggle up with on long car and plane journeys. We haven’t had much chance to test our Pillow Pet on any long journeys since we got it but I can imagine that it would be especially comforting for children who get travel sick or are nervous about a big trip to have a familiar snugly toy that they can comfortably sleep with in strange surroundings.

Although my son was perhaps a little younger than their target market (the website recommends Pillow Pets), we have already found our Pillow Pet to be useful, cute and well made, and the price tag of around £20 seems reasonable, so I would be happy to recommend this product to other mums.

Available from: Directly from the website, on Amazon, or from Toys R Us
RRP: £19.99

Friday, 2 March 2012

Review: Mama Never Told Me books

The “Mama Never Told Me” books are based on real comments made to Emily Van Do during her pregnancy and early days of motherhood, with cartoon illustrations by g.f. Newland. You can tell from the image on the cover that these are not books about being a yummy mummy! As a mummy who spends a lot of time wearing stretchy trousers covered in biscuits and baby snot, I can certainly relate to this!

The Mama Never Told Me books are a funny, quick and easy read that give you an insight into the shocking comments that many of us mums have experiences while pregnant or as a new mother. I remember when I was pregnant with my baby boy I was constantly being told how enormous I was, how uncomfortable I must be (erm, yeah, duh!), how much bigger I was carrying than other women at the same stage of pregnancy, along with the usual theories on the sex of the baby. It is amazing how much you seem to become public property as soon as your baby bump starts showing. Even though I had been warned about it, the way total strangers would chip in with unwanted - an extremely personal! - comments really shocked me!

These books seem to me like books that you would definitely buy as a gift rather than for yourself. I think these books would make a really fun gift for a pregnant friend, and would make a great talking point at a baby shower. They feel young, fresh and fun and provide a nice bit of light relief at a time when you can find yourself bogged down in worries, decisions and concerns: sometimes don’t know whether to laugh or cry (or both at once, darned hormones!), but these books definitely remind you of the funny side of this strange time in your life around having a baby.  It is nice to read these books and see that Emily has had the same experiences, I definitely felt like I could relate to her and that she was the kind of person I would like to go for coffee with and share experiences!

More info:

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Review: Byron Bay Cookie Company

Hot on the heels of reviewing mother’s day chocolates, I was asked if I would also like to write a review for Byron Bay Cookies. So much for the new year diet... I was amazed when the box arrived from Byron Bay (not Australia) filled with every flavour of cookie you could imagine. This was going to be a serious job!

Byron Bay Cookies is originally an Australian company but since 2007 they have been working with a UK bakery to produce their cookies in the UK, meaning they could use as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. Their cookies are available from independent cafes and coffee shops and selected health food shops.

Byron Bay Cookies are certified by the Vegetarian Society, use only free range eggs, and are free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. Importantly for mums whose children have food intolerances (or mums with food intolerances themselves), Byron Bay also produce a range of gluten free cookies which have been approved by Coeliac UK and display the Cross Grain Symbol. The gluten-free range is also available as packs of mini cookie bites in the Free From section in larger Sainsbury’s stores.

I was interested to read about their environmental pledge as well. Here’s some more information about what Byron Bay Cookies are doing to be socially and environmentally responsible, taken from their website:

“We are leading the way with the following initiatives:

  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 86% ie 13, 000 tonnes
  • installing a recycling plant for cardboard & plastic
  • international orders now shipped by sea rather than air
  • all palm fat used in our cookies is sourced sustainably
  • we use as many locally sourced ingredients as possible
  • all outer packaging is now bleach free and 100% recyclable
  • employees are offered cash incentives to use pedal power to work”
So, with the science but out of the way, let’s get down to business: what do they taste like? In short, delicious. These are mostly crumbly cookies rather than the soft-baked type, and they taste buttery and crisp. The exception would be the sticky date, ginger and walnut cookie which was softer, maybe because of the dried fruit.

My favourite flavour, which turns out to be their original recipe, was the white chocolate and macadamia. I was really curious to try the gluten free cookies: since I am not gluten intolerant, I haven’t really tried any gluten free biscuits before and wondered whether the would be as nice as the ordinary ones. I have to say, if I’d been tasting these blind, I don’t think I would have guessed these were ‘free from’ cookies and I especially loved the strawberry, clotted cream and white chocolate chip gluten free cookie (as gorgeous as it sounds). My husband, who I got involved in the cookie tasting session to canvas a range of opinions, thought that the gluten free chocolate cookie he tried was drier than the regular one, but perhaps this is more to do with personal taste as I thought the buttery, crumbly texture was great. I certainly think if I was gluten intolerant and couldn’t eat normal cookies I would be thrilled to have these as an option in my local coffee shop.

Apparently Byron Bay’s best selling cookie is the Dotty cookie, available in regular and gluten free varieties, which is a chocolate chip cookie studded with coloured chocolate drops (think the popular multi coloured chocolate sweets that come in tubes and rhyme with “arty”). I can imagine this would be the first one that kids would go for, though it was also the first one my husband picked out as well...
In conclusion, I really liked these cookies. They tasted great, their ethical and environmental credentials seem solid, they fill a big gap in the market for people who are vegetarian and gluten intolerant and they offer a range of flavours which is a bit more unusual than your average cookie (lemon and macadamia nut shortbread, fig and pecan). I’m just hoping the next review I do is for mineral water or dumb bells, otherwise this mummy tummy is going nowhere...

Review: Lindt Lindor Collection Gift Box

I must say, when I was asked if I’d like to review the new Lindor Collection Gift Box in time for Mothers Day (the 18th March, write it down now!), I pretty much bit their hand off. Really and truly, Lindor are my go-to chocolates to give anyone, including myself. I just LOVE them, every colour, every variety, any time, any place. Basically, if you like chocolate, you can’t fail to like Lindor, which is why, if in doubt about a present, I always go for them, knowing they are a universal crowd-pleaser. Perhaps I am not the most objective person to review this box of chocolates, but hey, at least I’m already an expert on the subject in question...
Previously I have only bought the red boxes of Lindor (milk chocolate, the original variety) and the mixed boxes you can get, which contain milk (red), plain (black), white (gold) and hazelnut (brown) varieties. So imagine my surprise to learn that there are another two varieties, hitherto unknown to me, in this collection, Yes, you read that right, there are MORE flavours!

As well as the familiar mix, this box also contains... wait for it... Stracciatella and Irish Cream flavours! Yu-u-m! The Irish cream variety (bronze wrapper) improves on the original by adding a cheeky hint of booze, in that mum’s favourite tipple flavour ideal for pairing with creamy milk chocolate. Stracciatella (light blue wrapper) may be unfamiliar to many, but it is a classic Italian ice cream flavour that pretty much equates to chocolate chip. Here, it reminded me of other cookies and cream flavour chocolates I’ve had before, creamy white chocolate with little dark chocolate chips swirled through. In addition to the regular round Lindor truffles in all these flavours, the box also contains three sweet little heart-shaped milk chocolate Lindor, which would make the box an ideal Valentine’s gift to bear in mind for next year as well.

So, apart from the fact that the chocolates are delicious, as you might expect, what makes this box of chocolates worth buying compared to regular Lindor? As you can see from the main image, these are presented much more as a traditional box of chocolates, laid out in a gold tray within a lidded box decorated with ribbon. To me, they do look like more of a special gift than an ordinary box of Lindor (not that there’s anything wrong with them!) and more suited to a special occasion. Where you would perhaps take a normal box of Lindor as a gift when you go for dinner at someone’s house, this looks more expensive and impressive, ideal as a birthday gift or, as Lindt suggest, the perfect gift for Mother’s Day. Since I would often give my mum Lindor for Mother’s Day, this box is definitely something I would consider purchasing in future.

I would say that this box definitely has more wow factor, and the RRP of £9.99 is pretty much on a par with what I would expect to pay for this sort of thing. And I would DEFINITELY recommend that you try the two new flavours, they are so delicious. What a shame I had to sacrifice my diet for the good of this feature, but that’s how dedicated I am...
Website: Retails at £9.99 for a 285g box, though they are currently reduced to £7.99 on the Lindt website.

Review: Barfoots’ Sweetcorn Bites

I am always looking for ways to try and get more vegetables into my carb-crazed baby’s diet, so I was excited to be asked to review Barfoots’ new Sweetcorn Bites. It is a pretty simple idea really, they are literally just small-hand-sized pieces of corn on the cob, prepared, cut up and ready to cook. The packet gives you several options for how to cook the sweetcorn, but frankly I saw the “microwave in the bag with a bit of water for 4 minutes” option and went for it. If you were inclined you could also boil or steam them.
Before becoming a mummy I tended not to buy pre-prepared vegetables much, scornfully thinking “come on, how hard can it be to lice/dice/peel that?”. Since have a baby I know how it is to get to 5 o’clock and realise you don’t have any veg in the fridge and if your little darling is to eat vegetables its going to be frozen peas again. We all try to make sure our babies have a healthy diet as much as possible, and frankly if buying some pre-prepared fruit and veg every so often means my baby doesn’t live on breadsticks and fromage frais then its not to be sniffed at. According to the website, Sweetcorn Bites are “completely natural and with nothing artificial added, they’re a brilliant source of nutrition, containing carotenoids, vitamins A, B3 and C, plus Folic Acid, fibre, carbohydrates, sugars and protein for energy.” Sounds like something we should all be eating more of, eh?
Since we already knew we liked corn on the cob, it wasn’t much of surprise that my husband and I thought they were delicious, and made a nice change to our usual broccoli or greens. But I was really impressed at how much my 11 month old (pictured) went for the sweetcorn bites: Like all babies, almost any food can be hit or miss depending on their whim of the day, and I had given him tinned sweetcorn before but never corn on the cob so it was a leap into the unknown. However, he really seemed to love them on the several occasions I gave him them. I think the reasons for their appeal were that the naturally sweet taste of sweetcorn (like peas, butternut squash etc) is very palatable for little ones, the bright yellow colour is attractive and they are a really good size for a little hand to hold so that even a young child can eat it themself without needing help. It seemed like he enjoyed gnawing on the little cobs and ate loads, which I was really pleased with. One day he even insisted on taking a half eaten piece of sweetcorn up with him at bath time, and then throwing it into the bath...
As I say, in an ideal world we would be eating home grown organic veg all the time, but on the days when that isn’t possible (and I have quite a few of those...), I would definitely recommend Sweetcorn Bites. They were very quick and easy to cook, convenient and reassuringly natural and wholesome - just fresh vegetables. At £2.49 a pack I would think twice about buying them all the time but for a quick and easy way to get more veg into your family’s diet they are great and I can vouch for their baby appeal!
Website: from: Ocado and selected stores at Tesco, Waitrose and Co-op.
Retail price: £2.49 for a 300g bag (average 8 bites per bag), but Ocado currently have them on special offer, £3 for 2 bags until 10/4/2012, or whilst stocks last.


Hi there,

I've just set up this blog as a place to put all the reviews I write for Mummy Reviews . I thought it could also be a place for sharing any mummy-related joys and struggles. I hope you enjoy reading my posts!

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