Thursday, 31 December 2015

Competition Wins 2015 - I won 179 prizes!

It's been another year of entering competitions and whilst it feels like it's becoming harder to win prizes at times (as more and more people are discovering the hobby) I have had another great year and won some lovely prizes. I usually I write a list of my wins in a note on Facebook but this year I thought it would be nice to have a round up of my wins here on my blog. 

Entering competitions has been my hobby since 2000. Some of the early years I entered less competitions but in the last ten years I would say I have entered more. I wrote a little guide to starting comping on my blog awhile back with a few of my tips on how to get into competitions. So if you are interested and would like some tips see my post here

I feel it's important to say that there is a new breed of compers (people who enter competitions) these days and the comping community is not what it used to be sadly. Whilst social media has seen an increase in competitions to enter and us being able to get closer to the brands we love it has also caused a lot of conflict with people going all out to win even the smallest prizes. This year has been sad in that we have seen more people using multiple accounts to enter competitions, people using bots to enter competitions automatically, people stealing other peoples images to win competitions and people using sob stories galore in order to try and get the sympathy of the person running the competition to let them win. This in my opinion is ruining the hobby. Whilst there are these bad people spoiling it for everyone else there is also a great community too and I have made many friends through the hobby. 

What I really want to say is that for me, for the most part, comping is just about luck. You win some, you lose some. I personally wouldn't be happy entering a competition knowing that I had cheated in some way in order to win that prize. Or that I had begged to used one of the sad stories in my life to win a prize. I keep it real and know that every prize I have won has been won fairly and if I don't win then that's life. I personally love reading about other compers wins. There are so many competitions out there for everyone to enjoy. So my hopes for the comping world for 2016 is for everyone to be a little nicer to each other and be fair. Sadly I know that there will always be cheats out there spoiling it for everyone else. 

There is also a bit of a negative feeling between some bloggers and compers too. Some bloggers feel that if you are a comper then you shouldn't be able to win their competitions. I'm not sure why. Some companies do the same too and it's sad because compers are just people who help bring awareness by sharing with their friends and also we do have a life away from comping and enjoy the same things every other human being enjoys. Also there is a new breed of bloggers who feel it's acceptable to use their blog as a way to win competitions by basically telling the company they are entering the competition for that they will do a review of their product on their blog if they win the prize. This in my opinion is just as bad as cheating. I would never use my blog to blag a prize. It's not fair on the people who don't have the time or inclination to blog. 

Anyway I think I've gone on enough about my views. I just want to say comping is a hobby. A fun hobby. Lets keep it real my friends! 

And without further a do. My wins of 2015.....

A Magners Beanie Hat, Christmas Pawsome box, Cushella Koala, Christmas hamper.... 


This Christmas hamper from Woman and Home magazine was amazing.
Lots of booze, condiments, chocolate and Christmas goodies and meat. 

Chicken dinner at the Harvester, Prince of Darkness blu-ray, Fingers & Tongues book, Bluebeard Revenge gift set, £10 Amazon voucher, £150 Joshua James Jewellery Voucher, The Equaliser DVD, Heart bowl and ladle, My Little Pony DVD, Looking (season 1) DVD, The Best of Me DVD, £95 Schuh voucher, Whole Earths 3nut butter and pancakes, Dog bed, Jordan's Granola, Hobgoblin t-shirt, 2 x nail varnishes, Bride In Bloom ebook, Tractor Ted book and DVD, The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance book, Dolphin's Tale 2 blu-ray, £300 Currys Voucher....

I won this £300 Currys voucher from Ace UK on Facebook...
we spent it on a new gas cooker which was very much needed

Atomicron, Fury goodies, Girls Will Be Girls book, Cheese voucher, Oxo good grip products, The Traitor's Mark book, a beauty bundle, Unfinished Business goodies, Broadchurch DVD, Tilda Basmati Hamper....

I couldn't believe how much rice I won....and we have already gotten
through most of it....there is also a Wok hidden in there too! lol! 

Scar Tissue DVD, Bahlsen biscuit hamper, 3 Drumond Park games, £150 cash, £10 Co-op voucher, Sunlife pen, Royal Family book and DVD, OPI nail varnish set, 3 bottles of Choc shots, Dolce Gusto coffee machine (with cups and After Eights), We Are All Made of Molecules signed book, Raised By Wolves DVD, Cricket Top Trumps, Dave mug, Secrets Of The Singer Girls book, Case of Toffee Crisp Honeycomb bars, 6 x packs of Chewits, £250 Joseph Joseph kitchen products....


I absolutely love these products I won from Onken, they are quality. 

Black Cherry Yankee candle, The Versions of Us book, Big Game goodies, I followed the Rules book, Unearthed food goodies, The Island Escape book, Border biscuits, Father's Day Kipling cakes...


I love winning personalised goodies and this one is no exception
for my Dad on Father's day...with a picture of us. Love it!

Into The Woods DVD, Horrid Henry DVD, Chocolate buttons, Monchhichi, keyring and goodies, Laimon Fresh memory stick, Pokey LaFarge CD, Nature Valley goodies, Head and Shoulders Shampoo/Conditioner, Safe House DVD, 30 degrees in February DVD, Pantene Shampoo/conditioner, Thrive on Five book, Apple Sports Watch...

I love winning gadgets and an Apple Sports Watch is a biggie! 

GoDoChoc Chocolates and Benefit goodies, Shiseido Zen shower gel, Thank you box of chocolates, A panoramic pod, bath bombs, Higher Ed book, Summertime book, Aquafresh Inside Out goodies, bundle of DVDs, This is Acoustic CD, 100 Bloody Acres DVD, Beyond The Lights DVD, Son of a Gun blu-ray, Accidental Love DVD, £20 Amazon voucher, Handmade Burger co voucher, Tealight holders, Emma signed book, adult colouring books, Personalised lip balm, £30 cash, Super Sweep toy, World of Warriors trading cards, Spongebob Movie blu-ray, Diesel Only The Brave aftershave, bath truffles, pizza voucher, £10 iTunes voucher, £15 Co-op voucher, P'tit Quinquin DVD, Scentiment candle, poodle mug, £20 The Works voucher, Zootfoods bars, 3 months subscription to Shaken Cocktails, £25 Amazon voucher, Crushed drinks, The Krays Kill Order DVD, The Martian goodies, Chocolate box, adult colouring book, lavender diffuser, £10 Amazon voucher, Third Time Lucky book, Let The Right One In book, Henry V CD, Hobgoblin gloves, Signed Cliff Richard calendar....

I love this win. I'm not a huge Cliff fan but my friend
Katie in Australia is. I made her day by sending her this.

Sanctuary Spa goodies, popcorn maker, Conor Couglan signed CD, Dogs of Courage book, Film book bundle, WKD and cauldron, 3 x deodorants, Boofle goodies, gingerbread advent calendar, case of Wicked Wyvern beer, Who's The Lucky Guy book, Senspa goodies, carbon monoxide alarm, 2 x She Who Dares fragrances, Cheerios personalised calendar, The Royal Secret book, case of Boost drinks, Snoopy wristband, box of Valley Mills wax melts, Steve Jobs book, bottle of Coldpress, adult toy, Partners in Crime DVD, A Cat called Alfie book, caricature of Shortie....

A bit of an unusual win but I love it. My dog
Shortie as a member of Gryffindor by Big Art Vinyl

Bottle of Shloer with limited edition bag, Decleor night balm, cinnamon snow candle, chocolate truffles, adult toy, 3 signed Sarah Morgan books and a tote bag, a bubbly santa, A Winterfold Christmas book, Dell Chromebook...

Another biggie, A Dell Chromebook....I think Neil might claim
this one :-)

Liz Earle goodies for my mum, Black mass goodies, 2 x Krispy Kreme doughnut tins, bundle of gadgets, Star Wars print, dog biscuits, fir tree bangle, bottle of wine, Big colouring book, Star Wars Rebels magazine, Harry Potter style kindle case, relaxing goodies from Sealy, Sue Perkins book, small bottle of gin, Beverly Hills toothpaste hamper and Michael Kors bracelet, chocolate cake for my niece Lilly and a chocolate cake card for me, bracelet, Football boot light, A Christmas star DVD, £10 Aldi voucher and my last win of the year that arrived today 3 x boxes of Fish "n" Chips....

Three boxes of Fish n Chips....yummy!!! 

And that is my list of my wins of the year. Some are small but I love them especially books and Neil always loves the foodie wins. My favourite wins though are the ones that I can give to members of my family or friends to  make them happy. 

I also have my Webkin's Poll competition still up and running to win a £25 Amazon voucher and more. It closes on the 10th January. I run the competition each year (though I missed a few years) for fun and to give back to others. Good luck if you decide to enter. 

All that's left to say now is to all my comper friends new and old - Happy New Year and may 2016 be very lucky for you! Good Luck my friends x 

Monday, 28 December 2015

My Christmas 2015

It feels like Christmas came around really quickly this year. I haven't managed to blog much because on the run up to Christmas there are hundreds of advent (daily) competitions which took up a huge chunk of my day. I had some good wins which I will discuss in my next post about my wins from this year. 

This Christmas I decided to stay at home again in the Midlands with Neil and our fur babies - Shortie (the dog), Tigger and Harvey (the cats). So the weekend before Christmas my Mum, sister Anna and niece Lilly visited us from Somerset. It was so lovely to see them and exchange presents. I showed them around Kidderminster and we went in some of the shops and then we went for a nice meal. We had a great time though Lilly got a bit upset about having to leave but I know she will see me again soon. I miss her a lot too, she means the world to me. 


Me, my mum, Anna and Lilly in Kidderminster.
Me with Lilly and the nutcracker (I can't believe how tall Lilly is getting) 

Christmas came around quickly after their visit and we woke to see that Santa had brought up lots of lovely gifts. I can't believe the amount of lovely presents I received this year from my family and Neil's family. Thank you so much to them all. 


My pile

My presents
Amongst my favourite presents was some lovely walking boots from my mum which will be perfect for walking the dog in the winter especially as they are waterproof. I also got some amazing Funko Pops that I have wanted from Once Upon A Time which is one of my favourite shows but also I was so shocked that Neil got me Dorothy and Toto and the Winged Monkey from The Wizard of Oz. They are quite rare now and I totally love them. 


My new Funko Pops. 

I also received a lovely present from a fellow comper Claire. There are so many reports of horrible people who cheat on competitions all over social media at the moment but there are good people too and one of them is Claire. She won a Christmas Monchhichi. As people know I collect them and her son was scared of the one she won so she kindly sent it to me. This made me so happy and I can't thank her enough for her kindness as I really wanted one and I know they were sold out in most shops. Neil also got me a couple of Monchhichi's for Christmas too which brings my total to around 25. They are so cute. 


Christmas Monchhichi opening boy Monchhichi 
After opening our presents we got on with our Christmas dinner. We decided to have turkey and all the trimmings and it turned out well considering we are still getting used to our new cooker. I love Christmas dinner. I especially love the pigs in blankets, stuffing and sprouts! I don't understand how people can't love sprouts they are so yummy. 


Our rather large Christmas dinner
After dinner we just relaxed, watched tv and had a few drinks. I watched the final ever Downton Abbey which was just perfect. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet but the ending was just right and everything tied up nicely. Just how I would have liked it to end. I'm sad to see it go though as it was a favourite of mine.  

Speaking of great television I absolutely adored The Sound of Music Live! with Kara Tointon as Maria and the rather dashing Julian Ovenden as Captain Von Trapp. I thought it was brilliant tv and they did so well including all the children bless them. Just fantastic. I love The Sound of Music as it's my mum's favourite musical. She went to the cinema to see it seven times when it first came out. As a child growing up my mum would play the sound track all the time when doing the cleaning so I know the songs word for word. I was so pleased that Julian Ovenden was in it because he is a brilliant singer and actor and I have been a fan of his music for awhile now. 

Overall we had a lovely Christmas and are now looking forward to the new year and seeing what 2016 brings us.

Seasons Greetings everyone from Ellen and Neil xxx 





Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Degustabox Review - October 2015

Back at the end of October we received our Degustabox. We are always so excited to get a Degustabox to see what lovely foodie surprises we receive. I'm sorry this review is a little later than I would have liked but it's that time of year when everything gets a little bit hectic. Here is our box: 




You can't help but notice that winter is drawing in. If it wasn't the weather showing us that, it would be the abundance of Christmas decorations flying up in towns and cities. To help us through these colder months, we have a lovely selection of heart-warming (and tummy warming) goodies; from feel-good snacks to spicy sauces. 

So without (much) further ado, onto the unboxing!


Kabuto Noodles - RRP £1.99 




First up, is a repeater from January's box. Kabuto noodles. We loved these the first time we had them and were excited to see them in the box again; they are a favourite. This is for two reasons. The first, obviously, is the taste. These are great tasting noodles. But the second reason is for the amount of fun and playfulness that has gone into the packaging. 




See what we mean? You can't but help smile when you read instructions like, "Beware Samurai, for your noodles will be hot. Make sure you eat them before they get cold and do not reheat. Failure to follow instructions will bring great shame to yourself and your family" 

Incredibly playful. Incredibly tasty. Still a favourite!


Geeta's Korma Curry Paste and Lime and Chili chutney - RRP £3.10 




A few months back in our Degustabox we received a jar of the Geeta's Mango chutney which was a really delightful mix of flavours. It was a mild chutney with a bit of a curry kick to it; and it oozed quality. So when we saw these (the first of two Db Discoveries this month) we were over the moon. In keeping with the winter warming, the chutney is hot (although balanced by the Korma being mild).  
What impressed us with the previous Geeta's we'd received was how well balanced the flavours were; this time is no different. At time of writing we've not made up the Korma, but we have sampled the chutney which has a great taste to it. The lime shines through and isn't over-shadowed by the chilli, and the chilli is hot enough to be warming without making you feel like your head is on fire. Great for dipping, and not bad for adding a kick to cheese and crackers - we loved it!


Chip Strips - RRP £2.00 




We were sent a couple of packs of Chip Strips. These are new to us and we wasn't really knowing what to expect. Would it be like the potato version of matchmakers? Would it be something completely different? Oh the questions we asked; but the only way to find out is open the packets. 

We were sent two flavours, salt and vinegar and BBQ. On opening we were met with a bunch of very thin strips. They had a decent crunch to them and were packed full of flavour. I guess the things I can compare them to are the old Smith's square crisps – only, instead of being square, they're long and rectangular. They are also perfectly flat; no curling here. 

While we just munched straight through them, we'd imagine these would be great for dipping. (Although, might be a bit fragile - but it would be fun trying!)


Naked Marshmallows "Ahoy Sailor" -  RRP £1.29 




One of our favourites this time around was this little bag of handmade marshmallows. Little is the key word; the bag only had three marshmallows.... but... they... were... divine! 

These are definitely the best and tastiest marshmallows we have ever had! It was probably a good thing there were only three in there – if there were more of these delightful things we would start looking like marshmallows! They had a great consistency, awesome flavour and … no... no matter how often I look in the packet, there aren't any more in there. Loved them. But send more next time nom nom nom!


Liberation Foods Oven Baked Salted Cashews and Peanuts - RRP £2.00




As a nut fan, Neil grabbed these for his snacks. He said they had a great taste to them; they didn't feel oily like some nuts – which might be part of the oven baking process. He thought they were full of flavour and really delicious and fresh tasting. 

We love their ethos being fair trade fans, and they delivered on taste. It would be interesting to compare with some of their other products which sound curiously tempting. Great stuff!


Degustabox 'product of the month'  - 9Bar - RRP £2.49 




This month's degustabox product of the month is a pack of 9Bar Super Seeds Original Carob hit. We have tried different 9Bar products previously and loved them and these are just as great. The mix of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and hemp) plus the carob chocolatey flavour are such a great combination. These bars feel like they are full of energy; the ideal thing for people with busy lives filled with activities. 

Loved the taste. Loved the texture. Loved the flavours and would seek them out again. A definite favourite!


The Snack Organisation presents Sweet Chilli Rice Crackers - RRP £1.00 




The first of two things from the Snack Organisation; we were sent a pack of Sweet Chilli Rice crackers (other flavours include lightly salted and Teriyaki). How do I describe these? Well they're small and round, thin with a nice crunch to them. They're gluten free and suitable for vegetarians. The chilli flavour was nice; very warming but not quite reaching a blow-your-head-off heat – which is nice; sometimes you get spicy things and they're just a little too spicy... or, worse, not spicy enough. This hits the right spot.

We ate them in a similar way to how you would eat crisps, but have a good firmness for dipping (imagine they'd be good with a nice blue cheese dip). They also kept their crunch and flavour a good week after opening which was nice too (probably would have kept it longer too if we hadn't eaten them all!) 

Very nice! Wouldn't mind getting them again in the box. Lovely!


The Snack Organisation Presents Freeze Dried Apricots  - RRP £1.00 




In previous Degustaboxes we've been sent freeze-dried fruit before (and enjoyed it) and these Apricots are no exception. We don't know if it's a thing that's 'in vogue' at the moment, but we are glad it looks like it. There is something about them – they have this firm texture and almost fizz when you pop them in your mouth; and once in your mouth you get that apricot flavour; if it wasn't for the texture and crunch to them, you wouldn't think they weren't actual apricots. 

We love these. They're also available in Strawberry, Apple and Pineapple and are gluten free and Vegetarian.  


President Unsalted Butter - RRP £2.00 




What can we say, it's butter. There is something really nice about proper butter – especially on a hot crumpet or muffin. I know, butter; not exactly the healthiest... but a nice little knob melting away once in a while. It's pure indulgence, and we all deserve a little indulgence every once in a while.


Cirio chopped tomatoes and Cirio la classica - RRP £2.25




We haven't used these yet, but are familiar with the brand; previously I've written about my diet and the wrap pizza; when we've made these we've used Cirio puree as the tomato sauce for the pizza wrap and have loved it. It's a great tomato taste and we expect these are no different (obviously, chopped tomatoes are chopped tomatoes – I assume Neil will use these in a Chilli in the near future)


Lorina Coconut-Lime - RRP £1.49




Now I know not everyone is keen on coconut water flavours; but this isn't that. This is a carbonated, French, Coconut and Lime drink. We didn't really know what to expect here, but, it is wonderfully refreshing. The combination of coconut and lime works really well and is in all honesty, quite a pleasant surprise. 

And that was our box; we love that Degustabox always gives us recipes to try out (although we rarely, actually, try making them ourselves.) This month's recipe is the bane of masterchef contestants everywhere; melting chocolate fondants. We might give this a go later... but we equally, might not. (Or might and not talk about it if it's an unmitigated disaster!) 

Another great box; we love the mixture of old favourites and new friends – although, to be honest, this month's box is more new friends than old favourites. Not a bad thing though. We loved it! 

If you would like your own Degustabox, please go to their website. It costs £12.99 a box (including delivery) however Degustabox has given us a special offer code for our readers to get £6 off their first box. The code is:

BLDEG15


We are very happy to recommend the service and selection they provide.


Links: 
Disclaimer: The October 2015 Degustabox was sent to me for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Black Friday/Cyber Monday at PetShop




Hi everyone; our good friends at PetShop.co.uk have let us know of a few special deals they’re doing for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend and have allowed us to share them with our lovely readers. As you may remember we’ve reviewed some of the products they offer before and been impressed by their range and the quality of service.




Obviously, Black Friday/Cyber Monday isn't a traditional English thing but over the recent years it has seemed to become a big weekend to grab a bargain; so why not to take advantage of these offers and get something nice for the animals in your life; be it an early Christmas present, or just re-stocking on everyday essentials.

The offers they’re running include:

  • A free £10 voucher for every £100 spent (voucher sent within 7 days of a qualifying order).

  • EXTRA 20% off selected brands: James Wellbeloved, Royal Canin and Applaws.

  • EXTRA £10 off on all big bags of Hill’s science plan.

  • 12 free dog trays when you buy any big bags of Huntland or Country Kitchen food.

  • 35% off Yumove Joint Supplements.

They’re a great and friendly site and we are happy to pass on this offer to our readers; the offers go live at midnight tonight and can be found at: www.petshop.co.uk/Specials/On-Sale/

Hope all you animal lovers can take advantage of these offers and snap up a few bargains!



* This is a sponsored post. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Kawaii Box - October 2015 - Review and Competition

Mina-san, konnichiwa! Hope everyone is settling nicely into Autumn and getting snuggled up in front of roaring fires; but nice as Autumn is, it never has enough cute to put happy smiles on our faces... which is why we're pleased to have received an incredible Autumnal boost of cute from our friends at Kawaii Box

October Kawaii box 

Today we're looking at the October box from Kawaii box; and keep reading because there's going to be a chance for you to win your own cute Kawaii box too.

These mystery boxes are a lot of fun and we always look forward to whatever surprises pop out at us; in October's box we had eleven items. Some edible, some not. Some functional, some not. Some decorational...but the overall impression is that this box lives up to its name. It is a lovely box of cute.



On the edible side of things we had some Meji DIY Sushi-bar gummies (we've had these before and had fun with them) and one Unchi-kun poop lollipop (yes, it looks like a cute poop; like that poop app game thing you get on most smartphones; disclaimer: does not taste like poop). 



On the decorational side of thing we were sent some heart shaped nail flakes, some jewellery seal deco stickers, an animal sticker sheet and a pattern envelope set. 



And, finally, on the functional side (and possibly, also, decorational – depending on what you do with it all) we were sent a popcorn rolling stamp set, a finger family monster pouch, a lollipop pen, a Neko Emoji mini mini pouch, and – probably our favourite (and I'm going to have to stop Neil from running off with ) a flan Dakigurumi Plush Pouch – which I can only describe as a cute, soft, rainbow rabbit pencil case-type- thing. 




These are so cute! I have to say that whenever we receive a box from our friends at Kawaii Box we always open it with a smile on our faces. Most of the items we received will be gifted to my niece as she will love it! It did brighten our Autumnal day and hopefully it will hers too! 

The Kawaii Box costs $18.90 (which is around £12 - £13) a month and this includes free worldwide postage. The box contains between 10 - 12 super cute items. To find out more and subscribe please visit the Kawaii Box website.

*** Competition ***


Kawaii Box is kindly giving one of our lucky readers the chance to win one of their cute boxes (please note: the items in the box will differ from the ones we received above). To enter please use the Rafflecopter widget below.  Good luck! 

Disclaimer: The October 2015 Kawaii Box was sent to me for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own. The competition is being run directly by Kawaii Box.  

Monday, 12 October 2015

COMPETITION: Win a Marimo Candy Club Premium Pack

Last month I reviewed the amazing Marimo Candy Club Premium Pack from Marimo Marshmallow. The pack contains between eight and ten of their best selling Japanese candies delivered to your door. We really enjoyed the pack as most of the candies we received were DIY candies and involved preparation which we found real fun and different to the types of candy we get here in the UK. 

A picture of our box

The kind people at Marimo Mashmallow have given us a premium pack to give away to one lucky reader who will receive their prize in December. The candy in the box will be different to the candy pictured above as a surprise. 

To enter the competition please use the rafflecopter widget below. This competition is open to UK residents only. Good Luck.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Listed on Loquax
More competitions at ThePrizeFinder

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Lilly-Ana is 10

Today is my nieces Lilly-Ana's 10th birthday. I can't believe how fast the last ten years have gone. I still remember the day my sister Anna told me she was pregnant with Lilly. After getting over the initial shock that my younger sister was having a baby before me I can remember getting this overwhelming feeling of joy that I was going to be an auntie. At the time my sister, her boyfriend and I lived in the same house so when Lilly was born I was there. I remember the evening she was born I went up to the hospital when Anna was in labour. I wasn't allowed in because only two people were allowed in so Ben (Lilly's dad) and my mum went in with her. It was a five hour wait and then she was here. I remember getting really upset because the hospital wouldn't let me see Lilly as it was too late and I had to wait for the next day. Whilst frustrated it was worth the wait. 

Twelve hours later I held Lilly for the first time. The feeling was amazing. I'm an auntie and this little girl changed our lives forever. She is the most beautiful gift to our family ever. 

Lilly - 12 hours old

Me the proudest auntie in the world holding Lilly aged 12 hours old

I lived in the same house as my sister and niece for the first couple of years of Lilly's life. I am so pleased I got the chance because it helped me feel a big part of her life and it was a joy to see her grow from a baby into a little person. I will never forget the way she got so excited in her baby walker in the mornings when the wiggly worms came on Nick JR. Or the fact that she loved watching Dora the Explorer but hated the map (especially if he was wearing a hat lol). 

My sister made friends with other mums and took Lilly to toddler groups. Whilst Lilly has grown up as an only child she has always been surrounded by friends. I am proud of my sister, she has always done everything with Lilly to help her grow up. She read to her, she sang with her, she played games and did crafts with her and socialised her with children of her own age which I think is so important. She also took Lilly to places from an early age such as Longleat, to the park, to the beach and on picnics which she loved as a few examples. 

Lilly on a picnic in the park

As Lilly began to grow and we lived together we had some great laughs. This is one of my favourite pictures of my sister Anna and Lilly. It just always makes me smile. 


Laughing
After a couple of years Anna and Lilly moved out. It was the right time for Anna but I still saw them both most days as we all still lived in Bath. As most people know I love entering competitions and one of my favourite wins was a Me To You bear I won. When I won I was told it could be personalised so I decided I was definitely going to give it to Lilly and I had it personalised with "I Belong To Lilly-Ana" and her date of birth on it. We didn't expect the bear to be so huge. Poor Anna was made to carry Big Bear around everywhere for a couple of days because Lilly wanted to show it to everyone. Lilly still has Big Bear now. 

Lilly and Big Bear

This is another of my favourite pictures of Lilly from a family get together. I just love her beautiful smile. I have this picture as a canvas on my wall at home. 

Lilly 

On Lilly's 7th birthday I decided to make her a little video on youtube of pictures of her with her family. I know every now and then she still looks at the video. It's lovely to have so many pictures and memories. 



And here we are.....10 years. I am so proud to be Lilly's auntie. She is a beautiful well rounded girl. She has a lovely personality, she is polite, kind and a joy to spend time with. Whilst I only visit Lilly every now and again as I live in the Midlands and she is in Somerset I still talk to her on Skype and love spending quality time with her when I can. 

Me with Lilly

Happy 10th Birthday Lilly-Ana - I love you so much. Auntie xxx




"Only an aunt can give hugs like a mother, keep secrets like a sister and share love like a friend!"

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Marimo Candy Club - August Review

As August drew to a close we received a box full of Japanese candy from those lovely people at Marimo Marshmallow this is the premium pack and contains 9 fairly reasonably sized pieces of candy and candy-related paraphernalia. 




But, unlike the other boxes of Japanese candy we've received, this one has a bit of a twist! 

With the exception of one or two pieces, we are looking at a selection of DIY candy that encourages you to play with your food! (Make sure you wash your hands first though!) 

So, throwing caution to the wind we're diving straight in – although as native Brits, our grip of the Japanese language is limited to Konichiwa! Kawaii! we're in debt to the web links which we'll share in this review that helped point us in the right direction! (Especially the youtube videos!) 

So here we go! Arigatou! 

Tanoshi Ramen Yasan - Grape flavoured, DIY Ramen noodle kit. (bit.ly/marimo5832




This was the first of the "more complicated" DIY candy makes we attempted. There is a lot to it (if you follow the link above you'll see more details from the Marimo website including a how to video). Having watched this, and some of the other videos (they're kinda addictive), we decided to give it a go. 

First up, the instructions on the back aren't that bad; there's lots of words, but for the non-Japanese speaking people out there (like us) it actually makes a fair amount of sense... although watching the videos helped fill us with confidence! 

First up, you make the little pasty things. (I know there's a proper name for these, but it's completely slipped my mind!)… actually, that's wrong. First up you separate the plastic mould, the bowl and the mixing tray. This is essentially made by taking the white candy block and breaking a bit off, making a circle (there is a template) and putting it onto the pasty mould, then filling it with the little balls and closing the mould and pressing it carefully together. Two of these later and we move on to make two eggs and a couple of swirly things. 

We then made the yolk for the eggs/ egg noodles by mixing one of the packs of powder with a little water in the mixing tray and filling the squeezing bag (little hole in the corner) with the resultant mix. We added water and the other powder pack to make the "soup" and squeezed noodles out of the bag into the soup. 



But enough of the process; what was it like? 

Firstly – this was actually a lot of fun! There is something quite enjoyable about it all. It took quite a while (I'm sure it kept us busy a good 10-15 minutes or so) and there were a few chuckles as we went along. 

The problem I had, is the problem I always have with working with clay, plasticine and candy. After a little bit of working, it gets a bit too sticky; although leaving it for a few minutes to cool down helped a lot. 

Tasting – first up the pasty things were a big success! I don't know what those little balls we filled the pasty shape with were, but they were great! Kinda sweet, light, and – I don't know – like something angels would eat or something! 

The eggs and swirly things were mostly the white candy 'dough' - which tasted a little like bubble gum; the noodles though – I know the flavour listed is grape, but they tasted a little lemony I thought. All in all though, it was a lot of fun we really enjoyed making; probably enjoyed it more than the eating!


 Watapachi – Melon Soda flavoured, cotton candy. 




This was actually the first piece we opened; to be honest, we were a little daunted by the rather complex instructions on some of the candy, and didn't want to dive into the Kirby gum (which we'll get onto later); although that's mostly because Neil is a Kirby fan and didn't feel right tearing into the packet. 

Once the packet was open, without looking at what was inside, the first thing we experienced was the great scent of melon – which is good, because that's the flavour it is! Inside is a good rectangle of cotton candy (or candy floss for us Brits). Green candy floss. 

For a start, I'm sure this is the first time I've seen candy floss in a packet like this! But once I got over my surprise I got straight onto the sampling. The flavour is great! It has a good melon flavour; and like a lot of melon flavoured things, is a little bit sour. But that's not all – this is melon soda flavour; and the soda comes from popping candy hidden in the candy floss. (Our poor Shortie dog; other than bubblewrap, the non-living thing that he hates most in the world is when we eat popping candy – fortunately he was dozing while we were sampling and wasn't disturbed at all!) We loved this and thought it was really cool – and was surprised nobody's brought something out like this in England! 

Kracie Himitsu no Neruneru 




This one gave us a few head scratching moments; but one quick view of the how to video explained it all. There are two little trays and two packets per tray with a little packet of topping "fizzy" candy. 

First we added the powder in the packs marked one into each of the trays; added a little water and stirred. These two looked a little odd. One was rather blue, the other a yellowish green. It had a texture of … I'm not sure, paste? Adding the second powder to each of the pots and it went from a translucent paste to a thick gum-like thing; one yellow, one pinky-purple (eventually tuning a nice shade of pink!) 

We then added the topping (splitting it between the two) and sampled! 



First impressions; both of the candies felt a bit like "angel delight" with fizzy candy on top. The one we think was pineapple flavour, the other (we think) was strawberry or something similar. 

We loved it! Once we had worked out what we needed to do (the pictures, although clear once you knew what to do, did cause a little head scratching before) the whole process was quite quick. It was essentially just mixing powders and water and then eating. No complicated shaping or forming or moulding etc. 

We loved it! (I know I've already said that!) This was fun, but quick fun. 

Star Kirby mix and match gum. 


This is fun gum! (And yes, Neil managed to get into the Kirby packet without destroying it). You have a bunch of little, different flavoured, gum balls ( yoghurt, soda, orange, apple and a mystery flavour!) and it's up to you how you chew them. Do you get a bunch of the same, or do you throw a mix in and see what happens? 

We started by having one of each flavour – there are some really nice (and different) flavours in there. The apple is particularly nice; when you usually get an apple flavour, we'll be talking sharp-slightly-sour green apple. This tastes much more of a crisp and sweet red apple. 

Of the various items in the box, this was the simplest of the "mix things to make something" - but that's not a bad thing. The flavour was great, and like Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, there's a good amount of fun to be had experimenting with the various flavour combinations. ( Although I've not managed to work out how Marimo made tea with milk yet) 

We've managed to get a few bubbles out of this (Neil always tempts fate with his facial hair … but there's an element of risk in most activities). A lot of fun! 

Ice Bar Soft Candy – Candy Popsicles! 



This was our first, proper, "make" of the kit; it wasn't too involved so was the perfect thing to break us in gently to the DIY theme. This candy popsicle kit contains four tiny ice-lolly stick, two soda candies and two strawberry candies, powdered sugar and clear syrup. 

Simply, you push the sticks into the candies and carefully shape them to make them look a little like ice-lollies; or, if you're us, like slightly squished blocks on a stick. You then squeeze the syrup into one of the trays and pour the powdered sugar into the other; then you dip the candy into the syrup before doing your best to coat it with the powdered sugar. (I don't think we were that successful, but it was fun trying! 

Finally, you eat it! 



This reminds us a little of the dip dabs we had as kids; except, with a little bit more work – and, just like with them, once the candy was gone we just were straight in with fingers to get up as much of the syrup and sugar as we could; no soggy paper packets here though – just mucky fingers. A lot of fun! 


Mi no Naru Shake – Jelly bead shake! 


I often seem to bring up "bubble tea" on these reviews (just coincidence), but there's something definitely familiar with the way this DIY candy looks. 

This time we tried just following the picture instructions. Unfortunately we did something wrong, so the grape (purple) bubble-bead things just didn't take. They kinda dissolved into the water-base thing rather than forming balls. 

(I think the thing we did wrong was use water from the mix rather than fresh water; the second set of balls – the green ones – worked a lot better). 

Finally we mixed up the "shake" mix; which was pink and didn't take too long to make. Now there was a picture of a fridge on the package, but we didn't want to wait; plus, having messed up the purple balls, we just had a big pink foamy thing with green balls in. We thought, "why wait? Let's just go for it" - and we did. 

Now, baring in mind we mucked up. It wasn't bad. It was fizzy and grape-ish (which could have been from what would have been the grape beads). Sucking it up in the straw mostly felt like sucking a fizzy shake). It was nice, not quite like the bubble tea we were expecting. But it was nice. Maybe next time we'll try and get better looking results. 

Niginigi Osushi Yasan Gummy – DIY Sushi Gummy Kit 


These we should have started with; they were quite simple to put together. Simply we took the jelly "fish and fruit bits" and put them on the sticky "rice" jelly bits, then ate them. 


The fishy/fruity bits tasted nice; the rice bits tasted a little creamy. It was good combination; but a little like most gummy sweets – although it was a bit fun (the sort of thing you'd imagine younger kids would really enjoy doing). 

Very simple, but fun and in keeping with the theme. 

Korokoro Animals – Rolling Animal Candy!
( bit.ly/marimo4429




This was actually the last candy we attempted; mostly because it looked like it could be either the most complex, or the most demanding of our artistic endeavours. However, we were a little wrong. We were expecting blocks of candy to shape and form, but, instead we had a tray with three packs of powder and a stick! 

Never mind; after checking out the video (because this is one of the ones we scratched our head about a bit) we gave it a go. Some water in two of the trays, and then the mix. One a pink … possibly strawberry... flavour, the other a brown, chocolate-like flavour. 

Once we had our gummy mix, we separated it into a number of balls. Five pink, three brown. Putting four of the balls (one at a time) on the stick and dipping them in water followed by the white powder (which is kinda sweet flour like) and then dipping back in the water to fix it gave us four white balls.

We then used the remaining pink and brown balls to make ears, noses, eyes and so on. (There are moulds for most of the animal part shapes). 

But how was it? There was an element of fun mixing and making – as with all of these; but there was an undeniable amount of stickiness to the pink and brown balls which made it a little tricky to shape all the pieces into the right animal bits. (You might be able to tell this from the photo of our attempts!) That didn't stop us trying though. 



We did enjoy the making; but how about the eating? First up, it was a lot of work for four little animals; so you might expect we took our time and savoured every bit and waited a while …. NOPE! We went straight in and tasted and munched. 

We'd made, essentially, jelly animals. There was a gummy nature to them; a soft gummy nature to them. They were nice, good and fun – although … I'm not sure you could tell that we were attempting to make a panda, pig, elephant and cat! 

Decoration 'layer' Cake – DIY Microwave cake mix! 


Cake! But how does five or six little packets turn into the marvellous desert delight you'll see below? 

Well, like all of these DIY candy's, some assembly is required; First you remove the strawberry mould and water measure from the plastic pack. Then you make the cake. The cake is a layer cake, so there're two little cakes to make. The first two packets are opened and emptied into each of the cake moulds. Three measures of water are added and the whole lot is mixed gently until the two reach a batter-level of consistency. 

Once that's happened, it's to the microwave for about a minute before removing the cake from the mould and leaving it on a plate to cool while we work on the decorations. 

First up are some jelly strawberries, then white icing/ frosting and finally pink icing/ frosting for piping. The icing/ frosting worked well (although I think I made too big of a hole in the piping bag and ran out of pink icing half way around the bottom layer – oops!). 

(I also think I attempted to take the strawberries out a few minutes too soon; but never mind, they more-or-less kept their jelly shape). 

Putting it all together, big cake under little cake. A little of the strawberry jam to hold the top and bottom together; white icing all over and then pink piping and mixed balls and strawberries to decorate – made the lovely little cake you see below. 



Taste-wise, this was good. Like a lovely little layer sponge. The top layer I think was a little dry and crunchy; I'm not sure if this was intended or if I left it in the microwave 10 seconds too long – but it didn't detract at all. The taste was good; all of the decorations worked (although we didn't cut out and roll out the candles, but appreciated them being there for emergency birthday cake needs). 

Lots of fun, a little messy, but fun. 

All in all we've loved our premium Marimo Candy Club box. Lots of fun things – which is great. Kids would definitely love this; all of the DIY aspects of making the food is great. It would keep them busy on a wet day while meeting that "I want Candy!" need. For adults the fun is no less – there is something remarkably enjoyable about playing with food – no matter how often you're told not to. 

We loved the box and would recommend it to anyone after a bit of a different candy subscription/ surprise box. If you would like to receive your own box of candy-related fun, Go to their website: http://marimomarshmallowstore.com/ and a premium box will cost you $29.99; although if that's too much for your wallet, candy boxes start at $11.99 for between 2 and 4 candies (all boxes include DIY candy!) and – if you're not after a box, you can just order your favourite Japanese Candy from their online store. 

We enjoyed it a lot – it kept us busy for hours!