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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas…

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 06-12-2017

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I do wish the weather would make its mind up. Its oddly mild today, yet a few days ago I was scraping ice off my windscreen. Thankfully we’ve managed lots of clear bright yet cold days recently, which is by far preferable to wet miserable days. Doing the school run at this time of year is amongst my least favourite activities, and that is largely down to the weather. Cold early mornings battling ice and trying to bustle the children into the car before they catch yet another round of coughs and sneezes is never enjoyable. And then there’s me; decking my boys out in coats and hats and scarves and gloves, and then dashing out myself hardly dressed for the occasion.

My school run uniform of choice during this period always features my trusty Gortex boots I got from Hotter a few years ago. But my winter coat has been seriously lacking. I broke the zip on mine last year and now I can’t fasten it, so its hardly doing its job when it comes to keeping me warm. And with daily school runs and a weekly evening spent outdoors watching my eldest play tennis – yes tennis is played outdoors even in winter around here… – I’ve started turning rather blue.

You know when you get those emails from PR companies or brands at literally the right moment in your life and you just grin? I got one of those a couple of weeks back from the team at JD Williams. “Would you like to pick yourself a new winter coat from the selection on our website and mention it on your blog?” Don’t mind if I do.

I am warm. I am cosy. And I think I look rather good too. This super cosy yet amazingly lightweight jacket from Tog24 has a thermal insulation to keep me warm – crucial for someone who is basically always cold – it is breathable so I don’t overheat and start sweating, it is windproof which is ideal for draughty playgrounds and tennis courts, and its showerproof for those occasions when the weather can’t make its mind up. I’ve been wearing this daily for a couple of weeks now and its been marvellous. The fit is really good, the pockets store me keys and phone without adding bulk, and when I use the hood I feel snug and protected from the elements.

Now this jacket is currently reduced on the JD Williams website, and comes in Navy or Red. But if this doesn’t take your fancy there is a huge range of other jackets and coats for all occasions to take a look at, and you get 20% off your first order. Sounds like a good opportunity to do some more Christmas shopping if you ask me.

#Review: Tangle Teezer

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 14-09-2016

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Tangle Teezer’s have been around for ages. They are one of those things I’ve wanted to try out for a while, so when a bright and funky Lemon Sherbet teezer landed on my doormat a few weeks ago, I was very excited.

sherbetlemonCute isn’t it? I love the contrasting colours. The sharp lemon and the softer pink make this stand out from the rest, and perfectly epitomises its name. I love how compact it is. It pretty much lives in my handbag, handy for keeping my hair looking neat when I’m constantly on the run. I love the shape. It is ergonomically brilliant, fitting perfectly in the palm of my hand giving me complete control.

Banish tangles and knots with a minimum of fuss, breakage or damage with the Tangle Teezer detangling brush uniquely designed with teeth that glide through your hair leaving it soft and shiny without tugging and pulling.

Using the brush leaves my hair smooth and sleek, and I think it works very well with my short bob style. A welcome addition to my handbag.

The Salon Elite Tangle Teezer is available in a range of fun and funky colours. There’s one for everyone.

#Review: House Of Fraser Kitchen Linen

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 24-06-2016

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Summer is here. Try not to laugh now. Okay I know if you look outside it might not look much like summer, though the with the crazy way the weather keeps changing at the moment maybe it does. Either way its times like this that I always feel inspired to do some home decorating, or freshen things up at bit. The team at House Of Fraser sent me some new linen for my kitchen to help with this.

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They have a lovely selection to choose from, and we were sent a set from the Dickins & Jones Farmers Market range. We received the apron, the tea towels and the oven gloves, which have brightened up our kitchen no end.

I love the bright floral design on each item, and it makes it feel very much like a countryside kitchen. The quality is excellent too, precisely what you’d expect from such an iconic brand. I am a particular fan of the apron. I’m not exactly the cleanest and tidiest cook or baker, so this is perfect for keeping me clean, if not the rest of the kitchen! Everything is machine washable thankfully too, something I have tested out many times so far. I’ll get better. Eventually.

The superb news is that if you dash on over to the House Of Fraser website these items are all currently in the sale!

#Review: Shark Rocket HV320

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 09-06-2016

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I hate housework. I’m sure I’m not alone in that statement either. I can generally find a million and one things I’d rather be doing than cleaning the house, and invariably can be found doing one of them instead.

Having two young boys in the house the floor is generally chaotic. Biscuit crumbs, bread crumbs, a few dozen dinosaurs, several books and cars are scattered far and wide, therefore vacuuming is something of an assault course. I was approached recently by the team at Shark asking if I’d like to test out one of their vacuums. It was a brand I had never heard of before, so I did a little research before replying. A swift Google search and I stumbled upon several comments about how they were infinitely better than Dyson which had me intrigued. I use a Dyson myself and have always been highly impressed by it – so easy to move around and seemingly efficient. But was there something better?

Shark-RocketHV320-SussexMummy

Shark sent me a Rocket HV320 to test out. “The only Shark® stick vacuum designed to integrate the performance and cleanability of an upright and with pets in mind.” I have never used a stick vacuum before. I have long lusted after the Dyson cordless, but I have only ever used an upright so I was again intrigued as to how this would differ. The vacuum can be used with a multitude of included attachments, allowing it to be used as a stick vacuum and a handheld. It has a mini motorised brush for pet hair, a Dustaway attachment for hard floors, multiple LED lights for seeing under furniture, and can be stored either hanging on the wall or free standing.

The first test I did with the Shark was crumbs. Little Dude creates more crumbs than the rest of us put together, and not least of all with his favoured treat of a croissant. It is probably my own fault for allowing him to enjoy this treat stood at the coffee table whilst watching Bing or Twirlywoos, but the mess is insane as you can see from the before shot below. The after shot was taken following a quick vacuum with the Shark. The results, I feel, speak for themselves.

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This doesn’t demonstrate the amount of crumbs that were over the table but I’m sure you can imagine. As you can see the rug looks like new, in fact I’m fairly sure it has never looked cleaner.

Next up was biscuit crumbs. Our sofas have wide arms which make them a frequent dumping ground for all manner of things, least of all drinks and snacks. Little Man arrives home from school each afternoon ravenous so snacks are dispensed almost the moment we walk back through the front door. He settles himself on the sofa with a bowl of fruit and biscuits and a drink and inevitably scatters the crumbs along the arms. Another before and after shot here, and this time I used the motorised head with the vacuum in its handheld form.

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For our final test – for now – I decided it was long time I cleaned out my car. The interior is basically an extension of the house, scattered with crumbs and stones and leaves and toys and books and all manner of chaos. Again it was time for the handheld vacuum to be used, along with the mini motorised head and the small crevice tool.

Shark-CarInterior-SussexMummy

My well battered car mats haven’t looked this clean for a very long time.

I think the photos here tell the story of the quality of the cleaning – entirely faultless. But how was using it? Well as I mentioned previously I have never used a stick vacuum before. It was a very different experience to an upright and it did take a bit of getting used to. It manouveres well however, and the heads fit neatly beneath the coffee table and the sofas. The lights, which I originally thought were a crazy feature, provided a great scope of vision beneath the furniture, allowing me to see precisely how untidy my house is!

I have a few more tests for the Shark which will be featured on the blog soon. I need to test it on the hard floors of the kitchen and bathrooms, I need to test its ability to vacuum the carpet in my bedroom which tends to be covered in my hair, and I need to use it on the stairs. But so far, I am vastly impressed with the vacuum and can well see me forgoing my Dyson entirely.

#Review: Hotter Ribble Boots

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 27-01-2016

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You’ll remember that I went to a blogger event at the new Brighton branch of Hotter a few weeks ago where I was lucky enough to leave with a pair of Ribble boots. They are officially my favourite shoes ever.

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They are superb for the school run where I walk on pavements and paths which have been covered in puddles, mud and more recently ice.  My feet are warm and cosy, but because the shoes are breathable they aren’t uncomfortable. The Gortex feature is amazing – they’ve got wet, splattered in mud, and hit with hailstones. They still look brand new. I could walk for miles in these boots, and no doubt I probably have.

But I don’t just wear them on the school run. I’ve worn them to go out in the evening – they are smart enough for dinner with friends and drinks at the pub. They get worn when I go food shopping, they get worn when I go into town. I wore them at Toy Fair this weekend, where comfortable shoes is vital for the miles you walk around the Olympia. I’ve worn them every day since I got them, in fact the only time I don’t wear them is when I’m at work, though you’ll still find me in Hotter shoes.

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I remember thinking Hotter was very much an old persons shoe, and to be fair to them I think several years ago their styles were certainly ones I was more likely to see my mum in than me – no offence mum! Nowadays their styles are a lot more fun, their colours vibrant, their designs altogether more trendy. If you head on over to the Hotter website today you’ll find there is a huge sale still on, and lots of great bargains to be had. I’m off their now to lust after the Antoinette’s I tried on in Brighton. Maybe its time to treat myself…

 

 

#Review: Trolley Bags

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 18-01-2016

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I’ve been having my food shopping delivered for years, even before we had children. I tried shopping with my eldest when he was young but he got bored in the trolley really quickly so it became a nightmare. When my youngest was born I thought I’d have another go, with his older brother off at school it seemed like a good idea. He LOVES it. Happily sitting in the seat, “helping” put things in the trolley, and grinning and waving at anyone and everyone. A sneaky snack also helps.

I own about a million bags for life. Okay maybe not a million, but probably more than my fair share. So I’d set off with a bundle of these bags and go and do my shopping, keen to avoid the 5p bag charge where possible. The system worked well, as long as I remembered my bags, but I seemed to always struggle to fit all the full bags back in the trolley whilst packing and keeping Little Dude amused. You need about seven pairs of hands by the time you get to the checkout! Help is at hand.

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I spotted an advert for Trolley Bags on Facebook and was intrigued. They looked incredibly clever, yet the design seemed simple. Could it really work? A row of four bags for life attached by velcro that sit in your trolley? Even with an enthusiastic 20 month old? I got in touch with Trolley Bags to see if I could test out the theory, and was really excited to receive a set in the post to review.

I received the Original Set in Vibe – four brightly coloured bags designed to sit in a standard shopping trolley. You can also get an Express version which is for shallower trolleys. The bags arrived ready to take to the shops – stuck together and rolled up. They’re easy to carry with the handle – my youngest actually likes to carry them to the car for me – and whilst the bars that help the bags sit in the trolley are sometimes a nuisance, you can easily pop them in the boot and go.

Here’s what Trolley Bags says.

“Trolley Bags Original are a system of four reusable shopping bags that are used to pack your shopping at the supermarket checkout, sized to fit larger deep trolleys. In one simple action the Trolley Bags system spreads out and rests on the deeper supermarket trolleys, giving you a series of open and upright bags into which you can pack and sort your shopping with both hands. Each durable bag holds up to 15kg and are designed to make your shopping trip easier and more convenient. The simple system can halve the time at the checkout as packing is quicker and easier without the hassle of holding bags open.”

My verdict? They’re genius. Once I’ve emptied my shopping onto the checkout belt I have my bags open and ready within seconds. I then park my trolley at the end of the checkout and drop my shopping in with speed and ease whilst Little Dude watches and/or helps. No having three or four part filled bags cluttering the checkout with me frantically putting things in each. No having to buy dozens of carrier bags because I’ve forgotten my own. And no bored toddler kicking up a fuss whilst I get more and more stressed. Shopping is almost a joy.

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Now I shop at a supermarket that doesn’t offer Scan & Shop – mostly because they employ me! These bags would be excellent at our rival supermarket where you could set them up open in your trolley and pack as you go round. I love Scan & Shop, and used to use it weekly before I went back to work and switched allegiance. Clearly I need to get in touch with our company director and encourage him to bring it in to our stores too…

Trolley Bags are £17.99 for the set of four, so they work out at just under £4.50 a bag. Your average good quality reusable bag tends to set you back £3 or £4 for to get a set of four at this price isn’t particularly expensive. They are great quality, very sturdy and will undoubtedly last far longer than the plastic bags for life or even the fancier hessian ones.

#Review: Aubeterre Blue Cookie Cutter Lights

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 18-12-2015

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We finally got around to putting our Christmas lights up this weekend. There’s no tree going up this year – the idea of spending weeks telling our youngest to not pull it down just strikes me as making the whole season more stressful than necessary. To compensate we’ve gone a bit overboard with the lights. We’ve got them up in the playroom, around the lounge and in the kitchen windows. The ones that would typically be adorning our tree are instead illuminating our house and when they’re all turned on it looks very festive and cheerful.

I particularly like have twinkly lights in my kitchen. If you ever watched the older series’ of Nigella Lawson’s cooking shows you’ll know they were set in her own home, her own kitchen. As well as wanting that immense walk in pantry she had which is about the size of my own kitchen, I wanted the lights. String lights in a variety of colours seemed to cover every surface and I thought the whole room looked gorgeous. I’ve often looked for similar lights for my own kitchen but never quite managed to find any that I thought suited that picture in my mind that I have of how I’d like to replicate her incredible kitchen in my vastly smaller space. That was until I was contacted by Aubeterre Blue.

“Aubeterre Blue – Bringing the Magic into Entertaining.

Believing that every moment you spend around a table should be special and giving you the tools to make it so.

Named after Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, one of the top ten most beautiful French towns where both sets of founding partners were married, Aubeterre Blue has a clear vision; to make the world a more joyful place by Bringing the Magic into Entertaining, this means enabling friends and family to share magical Aubeterre Blue moments wherever they may be.

Believing that every moment should be magical, from a cosy quiet night in, to hosting a party for family and friends. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lazy Sunday brunch or Christmas Day, we want to empower and inspire you to make special moments magical, by creating gorgeous and exciting spaces both in the home and out.

Aubeterre Blue’s ambition is to provide you with the inspiration to entertain in ways that you may never have thought, with unique and beautiful home-wares that have a story to tell and are show stopping centrepieces, generating conversation and perhaps a little envy.

Any moment can be an Aubeterre Blue moment with friends, family and a little magic…”

aubeterre-blue-cookie-lightsAubeterre Blue stock a gorgeous range of products for the home, specialising in entertaining. I was very excited to find a beautiful section dedicated to string lights, and to find ones which were precisely what I was looking for. Copper Cookie Cutter String Lights are the perfect choice for year round decoration in my kitchen. They are battery operated which I love, as it means I can literally hang them anywhere without having to hunt around for a none-existent free plug socket. At present they are draped over our meal planning chalkboard on the kitchen door, the white battery pack practically invisible on our white wooden doors. What I love is that I can, and invariably will, move them around the kitchen and possibly even the house in the New Year once our Christmas decorations come down.

If you head over to the Aubeterre Blue website right now you’ll find these gorgeous sparkly copper lights with 20% off, as well as the all the other string lights. A beautiful addition to your home, for Christmas and beyond.

#Review: Tutti Bimbi Weaning Kit

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 11-11-2015

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Weaning is one of the most exciting landmarks every baby goes through. That transition from living on milk alone to being introduced to a range of flavours, tastes and textures is a great experience for babies and parents to share. There’s a huge range of weaning products out there for parents to choose from but when Tutti Bimbi sent me there weaning kit recently, I was very excited to find something that would be usable well past those first weaning steps.

Now Little Dude is clearly well past the weaning stage. He’s 18 months old now and has been merrily eating everything for just over a year now. We attempted the same spoon feeding purees that we’d done with Little Man, but to no avail, so we went down the baby led weaning route which has worked really well for everyone. He eats pretty much everything we put in front of him, but is fiercely independent so meal times still remain rather messy as he’s insistent that he self feeds.

The Tutti Bimbi Weaning Kit consists of a nine hole freezer tray with lid, and two spoons. Its hardly the most high tech of kit, but it does so many different jobs. First of all it can be used for freezing precious breast milk. Moving on it can be used to freeze homemade purees and small portions of meals. When your little one reaches toddler age it can be used as a snack tray or for serving lunch. We use our tray for this every single day.

Little Dude’s lunch is presented to him in this tray every day, and I fill each pot with a different toddler friendly food. We’ve used things like grapes, blueberries, tiny sandwiches, pieces of cooked meat, crackers, cheese, pitta bread, and toddler biscuits. I don’t always achieve nine completely different foods, but Little Dude loves the sight of this tray on his table and enjoys the independence of effectively choosing his own food. Any that he doesn’t finish – and to be fair this is very rare – gets the lid popped back on and he can graze on it throughout the rest of the afternoon if he wishes.

TuttiBimbi-SussexMummy

When he outgrows using the tray like this, it’ll be heading back into the kitchen to be used for baking. It can be put in the over so will be ideal for making individual cakes with Little Dude, or even individual bread rolls. During the summer it could even be used to make homemade healthy fruit ice lollies for children of all ages.

This is a really versatile piece of kit. It’s really well made, nice and bright which I love, and will last for years. I can see this being a part of our kitchen for many many years to come. Head over to the Tutti Bimbi website to find out more about this product, and the rest of their range.

An Aldi Summer…

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 24-09-2015

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At the start of the summer I was contacted by Aldi, asking if I’d be interested in looking at some of their products. I’ve been fascinated by the rise in popularity of the so called budget supermarkets, so have always wondered what the quality is like and whether it genuinely tastes as good as the pricier alternatives. Before the delivery my only real experience of Aldi foods was the five bird roast they did a few Christmas’ ago so I thought it was about time I tried more.

I was interested in looking at their store cupboard items – those ambient bits and pieces that you have in the cupboard all the time. The selection I received was mind-blowing, partly in volume but also in pricing. We received pasta sauces, dried pasta, rice, curry sauces, croissants, tea bags, conserves, coffee, washing powder, fabric softener, popcorn, crisps, baby wipes, nappies, fruit pouches, rice cakes and raisin boxes. The first thing I noticed was the cost. A truly vast amount of products and it all came to a little under £40. Truly a bargain, but what for the quality. Cheap is all well and good, but only if the quality is there.

I have been working my way through the samples all summer, and I have been very impressed. The pasta sauces have been delicious, and make a great fast dinner for the boys. The croissants were huge and tasted so buttery, and with the strawberry conserve they made a perfect Sunday breakfast. Little Dude’s favourites were definitely the rice cakes. We were sent a couple of packets and once they were opened it became clear I’d have to start nipping to Aldi to keep the supply up.

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The baby wipes are superb – slightly thicker than your average wipes which make bottom cleaning easier. The curry sauce is a new favourite and a great alternative to a takeaway or ready meal, and the pasta and rice were good quality and good value. To be honest the only disappointment were the crisps, but that was purely a flavour problem and not the quality of the crisp.

So will I be doing my weekly shop at Aldi from now on? No, I won’t. There isn’t one handy enough and to be honest I get my food shop delivered as I can’t face doing it with a small child in tow. Will I pop in to an Aldi now and then to pick up a few bits? Without a doubt.

#Review: Casdon Toy Shopping Trolley

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 26-08-2015

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Some of you may be aware that I recently got a job. Just three evenings a week, but something outside of blogging and outside of the house for me to do to earn a bit of money and get some adult conversation! I am doing evening shifts at my local supermarket and I’m really enjoying it. I work with a great team and we have a lot of laughs, and its nice to have that small section of life that’s mine, and doesn’t revolve around the boys for a bit. Little Man and Little Dude have gotten used to the idea that Mummy now goes out to work. As soon as my uniform goes on in fact Little Dude starts waving at me and is clearly aware that I’m about to go out. Little Man knows where I work and what I do, and even refers to the supermarket as “Mummy’s shop”.

I don’t do my weekly food shopping in a supermarket – I get it delivered and have for a long time, even before the boys were born – but we do on occasion have to nip to the shops when I invariably forget something, so they are both well aware of the concept. Needless to say I was rather excited when UKMumsTV got in touch with the offer of reviewing a Casdon Toy Shopping Trolley – what better way to explain just where Mummy goes when she leaves for work.

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I was rather surprised when the box arrived and found it was flat packed and that I’d have to construct it myself. The instructions were pretty clear and thankfully it didn’t take too long to put together, but you will need a screwdriver and a hammer to build it. My two main disappointments with the trolley were the size – it says suitable from 3 but it is much too small for your average 3 year old (my 15 month old is about the right height for it), and it’s flimsiness. Whilst the frame is metal – the handle down to the part the wheels attach to – the basket itself is plastic and constructed of three sections that just clip together. It’s doesn’t come across as particularly strong and I’m not convinced it would withstand long term play from my rather boisterous boys.

Little Man is quite into his role playing and imagination play so I thought this would be a fun toy for him to play with but I must say its mainly been Little Dude that’s played with it. He’s so close to walking and spends a lot of time playing with walkers or toy prams or this trolley to help him on his way. It is really light though so whenever he tries to pull himself up on it the whole thing tips over which is a bit of a shame.

I was a big fan of the play shopping that came with it however. A large selection of boxes of food were included – you need to fold them up yourself – but instead of made up products there are replicas of things you’ll find in your local supermarket, and in fact a couple were things we had in the house ourselves. They were largely well known brands and the packaging was a true miniature replica of the real thing which I thought was a great detail. All of these fit in the trolley with room to spare, so to help with the weight balance problems we’ve put in lots of our own play food and we’ve managed to fill it.

I guess the ultimate question is would I buy this toy myself? Sadly I think the answer has to be no. It’s small and poorly built. I would have liked a full metal trolley as opposed to this flimsy plastic version. Admittedly this trolley only has a RRP of £15 so I would expect a metal one to be more pricey, but for something that would last a bit longer I’d be happy to stump up more money. All in all I found this rather disappointing.