Gift ideas from toxicfox

I spent some time recently browsing around the toxicfox gift website. They have 1000’s of gift ideas from cheap and cheerful through to wedding presents plus personalised gifts and the exclusive Claireabella range which is taking the UK by storm. However my remit was to come up with a wishlist from both their funny and cheap gift categories. Well my parcel of free goodies has now arrived and I excitedly unboxed it, to see what they had selected from my wishlist.

toxicfox gifts

So I received the following three items free to review.
Coz-E-Reader – current RRP £19.99
My Pad Door Mat – current RRP £14.99
Star Wars Cup Gift Set – current RRP £5.99

These are all from the cheap gift category, where everything is under £20, but let me share a few things that I spotted in the funny gift category. There was the Yoda Lookalite Lamp, the Radioactive Toxic Laundry Basket and the Marge Simpson Washing-Up Sponge.

The coz-e-reader is fab, both to use on your lap or in bed. I was so comfortable that I am tempted to get my own iPad now, rather than just borrowing from my other half. You can choose from a range of fabric designs.

toxicfox gifts - coz e-reader

toxicfox gifts - coz e-reader

toxicfox gifts - coz e-reader

I am very pleased with the door mat which is now installed at my back door. My previous mat desperately needed replacing as it was starting to rot from being waterlogged. This one with its iPad logo gives an interest factor to a normally boring functional item. But it is smaller than a standard door mat.

toxicfox gifts - door mat

The boys are both big Star Wars fans, so son2 was very taken with the Star Wars Cup. However I may have to get another for son1. This came with 3 packs of mini cookies which the boys quickly polished off. The only very minor point against it, is that it takes ages to dry the straw after washing-up, so you can’t put it straight away.

toxicfox gifts - Star Wars cup

toxicfox gifts - Star Wars cup

So in summary, I am very pleased with items from toxicfox and highly recommend you take a look.

Plus I have a couple of special offers to share with my readers of 10% discount off your order. These are valid until the end of May.
Please quote the code FUNNY when you place your order from the funny gift collection.
Or please quote the code CHEAP when you place your order from the cheap gift collection.
The voucher codes are only valid on the cheap and funny collections.

I’d love to hear your favourite gift idea from toxicfox, so do come back and tell me, once you have had a browse round their website.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Somewhere in the Shallow Sea by Dennis Macaraeg

I have received a free e-copy of the book “Somewhere in the Shallow Sea” by Dennis Macaraeg to review. This is his first novel. To find out more about the author you may visit his website.

Somewhere in the Shallow Sea

Here is the book blurb.

Danny Maglaya, a marine biologist from San Diego, finds out that a radical group in the southern Philippines has kidnapped his best friend Blake Mason while he was conducting research in the waters of Sulu Sea, he vows to do whatever it will take to get his best friend back.

He takes the first flight out of California and travels to Manila to bring his invention, the Rx-18 compound, to satisfy the kidnappers’ ransom. When he meets with his colleague for help locating the kidnappers, he is surprised to find his ex-girlfriend Helen Glass has traveled from the States with the ransom money. Because of the unresolved personal issues between them, the last thing Danny wanted was for her to be tagging along while he travels to the most dangerous part of the country.

As Danny and Helen are about to rendezvous with Kulog ng Timog, his old professor and nemesis Dr. Klein intercepts them, wanting the Rx-18 compound for himself. They race to deliver the compound to the kidnappers, for if the money and compound are not delivered on time, Blake may be beheaded like the hostages before him.

The country has more than 7,000 islands and Blake could be in either one of them. While Danny and Helen jump from one island to another searching for a way to save Blake, they slowly rekindle the love for each other that had been dormant in their hearts. But will it work this time? Will he get to Kulog ng Timog in time to deliver the compound before Dr. Klein gets to it first, meaning his friend’s demise?

The book begins with Danny hearing that his best friend Blake and fellow marine biologist has been kidnapped in the Philippines. The kidnappers are not only demanding a hefty $1m ransom but also the Rx-18 compound “The Cube” that Danny and Blake have been developing. Danny can’t understand why, as it is fish food.

However he flies to the Philippines with the compound to meet Professor Melchor Rodriguez who had been working with Blake, where he is surprised to find that his ex-girlfriend Helen (Blake’s cousin) has arrived with part of the ransom money. He is unable to persuade her to let him deliver the ransom, as it requires both her and Blake’s thumb-print scan to transfer the rest of the money.

But the rendezvous with the kidnappers goes wrong, when they are ambushed by a gang led by Dr Klein, Danny’s former mentor, who wants the Rx-18 compound himself. From then on, Danny and Helen are island-hopping in the race to locate the kidnappers and rescue Blake, but trying to keep one step ahead of Dr Klein who is chasing Danny for the compound.

Wow, a gripping storyline which kept me on the edge of my chair. A real page turner!

Somewhere in the Shallow Sea is available on Amazon, currently priced at £6.47 in paperback and is also available on Kindle. A brilliant read with both thriller and romance element. I loved it and highly recommend it. Looking forward to Dennis’s next novel.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

My two young Superheroes

My boys are both Superhero fans with plenty of toys and books featuring the likes of Batman, Spiderman and Hulk, so who else was I going to ask to help me test out a Marvel Spiderman pen that I have received free to review from Cross.

Spiderman Cross Pen Marvel

Cross Marvel Spiderman pen

They immediately decided that Superhero dressing-up was in order, so we have two Spidermen accompanied by two Hulk bears.

The boys make their mark with the Cross Marvel Spiderman pen

I asked son1 to use the Spiderman pen to make his mark by answering the following questions.
• Tell us about your favourite superhero and why?
• If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be?
• If you were a superhero for a day what would you do?

Son1 makes his mark with the Cross Marvel Spiderman pen

And here are his answers.

Son1 makes his mark with the Cross Marvel Spiderman pen

Son1 makes his mark with the Cross Marvel Spiderman pen

And son2 also answered the second question.

Son2 makes his mark with the Cross Marvel Spiderman pen

Son2 makes his mark with the Cross Marvel Spiderman pen

Son2 makes his mark with the Cross Marvel Spiderman pen

You can see we appear to have a Hulk bias in their answers. I blame the bears! With all that smashing going on, I think I had better choose invisibility as my own superhero power.

Cross have just launched this new series of fine writing instruments featuring the most prominent icons of the Marvel Universe – Iron Man, Captain America, and Spiderman. This ties in with the new Marvel movie, Captain America: Civil War which will be out in the cinema at the end of this week.

We will have our fingers crossed that son1’s blood counts will be high enough for a cinema visit. We’re all certainly counting down the months to the end of his chemotherapy when our lives can regain a sense of normality. No more worrying about picking up a bug which could be potentially life-threatening. He has been such a superhero throughout his treatment.

The pen we received is the Tech2 style, which transforms from a ballpoint pen to a stylus in a flash, so great to use on the iPad too. It is finished in a metallic lacquer and displayed in a Marvel themed gift box. This style of pen currently retails at £30, but is also available in the brand’s evolutionary Century II rolling ball style for £95.

This dual-use pen would be an especially great gift for Dads.

The Cross Marvel collection can be purchased online at www.cross.com and at select retailers. You can access the online store locator for more details.

Cross Marvel Spiderman pen

So I’d love to hear who is your real life super hero or your answers to the questions that I asked the boys?

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Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free. I will also receive 2 free tickets for the new Marvel movie, Captain America: Civil War after this review is published. All opinions are my own. 

The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave by Brydie Walker Bain

I have received a free PDF copy of the book “The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave” by Brydie Walker Bain for son1 to review. This is book 1 in the Natnat Adventures. To find out more about the author you may visit her Facebook page.

The Secret of Sinbads Cave

Here is the book blurb.

Nat Sheppard’s world is turned upside down on the first day of the school holidays by the discovery of a secret room containing cave maps with clues to an ancient treasure. But Nat and her friends soon discover they’re not the only ones chasing the jewels. Professional treasure hunters are on the trail – and they’re prepared to eliminate anyone in their way.

So imagine Famous Five meets Treasure Island set in New Zealand – with a mystical twist.

Here is son1’s video review.

The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave is available on Amazon, currently free on Kindle. Son1 enjoyed it and I have to say you can’t go wrong with the offer of a good free book.

The second book in the Natnat Adventures is also available on Amazon. This is The Ship of Sight and The Hand of Shadow.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Mumsnet Book Club review – Noonday by Pat Barker

I have received another book from the Mumsnet Book Club free to review. It is Noonday by award-winning author Pat Barker.

Noonday by Pat Barker

This is what it says on the back.

London, the Blitz, autumn 1940. As the bombs fall on a terrified city, ambulance driver Elinor Brooke races through black nights of carnage. A former artist, who – like her husband Paul – saw the hopes of her generation die on the battlefields of the First World War, she watches in impotent horror as death reigns down. Overwhelmed by the endless destruction and carelessly betrayed by Paul, Elinor seeks solace away from home, but no life and no lover can remain unscarred amidst so much ruin.

Although this book is very well written, I didn’t enjoy it. I persevered and have read the whole story but it just didn’t grip me. I found this strange as I usually enjoy novels set during the 2nd World War. I don’t know if this is because it is the third book in a trilogy, but it is supposed to work as a stand-alone novel.

It is the first Pat Barker book that I have read and I did feel that it definitely brought the period to life. I half-liked the first part of the story set in the country, but once it refocussed on London for the second and third parts, I just wasn’t engaged with it, although I did like the last page. That was a nice ending.

Sorry I don’t have anything more pleasing to say. It may just be me, as I have seen plenty of positive reviews of this book.

Noonday is by Pat Barker and is published by Penguin. The paperback edition is currently on sale on Amazon for £6.29 compared to an RRP of £8.99. It is also available in hardback and kindle format.

You may find out more about Pat Barker on Wikipedia.

I have previously read the following books from the Mumsnet Book Club.
Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner
The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall
The Forgotten Summer by Carol Drinkwater
The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Coming Home by Annabel Kantaria
Fallout by Sadie Jones
Falling by Emma Kavanagh
The Girl Who Just Appeared by Jonathan Harvey

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of a book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Honeycomb is the bees knees!

Gwyneth Paltrow recently revealed that she uses an ancient health treatment in which she is voluntarily stung by bees. Not something I would fancy, but I do appreciate bees for everything honey related. So I immediately said yes when I was offered the chance to sample some Mighty Fine Honeycomb for free.

Mighty Fine Honeycomb

I received a Dark Chocolate Honeycomb Bar, but the boys had their eyes on it too, so I ended up cutting into 4 pieces, so we could all have a taste.

It was delicious, a very tasty treat, but the others all said it was very similar to Crunchie apart from being coated in dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate. I can’t comment on the comparison myself as I haven’t had a Crunchie in years. But I have found out that Crunchie doesn’t actually contain honey, whilst this product does. In fact, this is all natural ingredients and handcrafted.

Mighty Fine Honeycomb

Pity there wasn’t some more, as I would have liked to experiment using it in a dessert recipe.

This product currently retails at £1.79 for a 50g bar and is also available in 90g and 220g gift packs. I highly recommend it. Do take a look at the range to see the other flavours.

I was also pleased to see that they donate 5% of profits to Friends of the Honey Bee, a campaign organised by the British Beekeepers Association to halt the decreasing number of Britain’s honey bees and other pollinators and build a better future for them.

The range is available to buy in-store at Harvey Nichols and at various local shops and delis, as well as online at www.mightyfine.co and www.notonthehighstreet.com.

I’d love to hear your favourite sweet treat.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Luxury JADU Tea plus giveaway

Regular readers of my blog may remember that I love a nice cup of tea and have reviewed a few teas on my blog previously. I’ve just received a selection of beautifully presented luxury teas free to review from JADU Tea. And I’ve now learnt that JADU is ‘magic’ in ancient Sanskrit.

Jadu Tea

I received the following JADU Tea products.
A box of 12 Mademoiselle Grey Envelopes
100g loose leaf China Green in gift box
15g loose leaf White Mango Lime
10g loose leaf Spa Afternoon
15g loose leaf Rooibos Crème Brûlée
2 individual Mademoiselle Grey Envelopes
2 individual China Green Envelopes

I was very impressed with the presentation of the China Green tea. I unwrapped the outer tissue to discover the sumptuous elegant gift box inside. And even within that, the tea packet was tied with ribbon.

Jadu tea

So first we tried the White Mango Lime. This was a very nice flavour and slightly pink in colour. I could detect the lime but not the mango although I could see chunks of a fruit amongst the leaves.

Jadu mango & lime tea

Secondly we tried the Rooibos Crème Brûlée. I’ve never been a huge fan of Rooibos and although perfectly palatable, this was my least favourite.

rooibos creme brûlée tea

Thirdly we tried the Spa Afternoon. I loved the notes of spearmint and found this really refreshing. Definitely my favourite. It also contains nettle, dandelion, burdock, and milk thistle, although I have never heard of a milk thistle. Certainly no prickly bits in the tea though.

spa afternoon tea

Fourthly we tried the Mademoiselle Grey both with and without milk. It is marketed as a take on Earl Grey, but finished with citrus notes and a sprinkling of red cornflowers. I frequently drink Earl Grey and was anticipating it to be fairly similar. However initially I found it much stronger than I expected and had to add extra water to the pot to enjoy it.

Mademoiselle Grey Jadu tea

And finally we tried the China Green, both the envelope and loose leaf varieties. Similarly to the Mademoiselle Grey, the envelope was a fairly strong brew, which again I preferred once I had added extra water to the pot. By comparison, I preferred my cup of loose leaf and you can see how much stronger the envelope looked, from the colour of the two cups below, both brewed for the same length of time.

china green tea

So personally I preferred the strength of the loose leaf tea to the envelopes, although I was pleased to see the quality and spaciousness of the envelopes. And don’t forget the strength can be adjusted by either brewing for a shorter time or by adding more water. Also some of the teas required water at about 80 deg C, whilst others used traditional boiling water.

The teas currently retail at £21.50 for a 100g box and £11.50 for a 100g refill and £16 for 12 envelopes. So well above the price of your standard supermarket cuppa but remember these are high quality luxury teas. I would certainly be happy to buy a box as a gift.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a box of China Green Tea courtesy of JADU Tea to one lucky winner. A fabulous prize.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your favourite tea.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Tidy – book review and giveaway

Although son2 now enjoys chapter books, he also still loves his picture books. So he was very pleased when we received a colourful book called Tidy free to review.

Tidy by Emily Gravett

This is what it says inside the back cover.

Pete likes everything to be neat and tidy – but sometimes it’s good to know when to stop.

In this fresh and funny story from one of today’s most gifted storytellers, a loveable badger learns to love his forest home just the way it is.

Even if it is a bit messy.

Tidy by Emily Gravett

Son2 loved this book which goes from Pete the badger tidying up one leaf to destroying the whole forest. I did try to explain how the lack of trees contributed to the flood, but he found that a hard concept to grasp. He has done a video with help from his bear to tell you all about it. Watch out for his favourite page with the mountain of bin bags. He was also very taken with the window through the cover and first page.

Tidy is written by award winning author Emily Gravett. It is currently available on Amazon for £12.08 compared to a RRP of £12.99 for a hardback copy. This lovely colourful book for young children is published by Two Hoots, an imprint of Pan Macmillan.

A lovely book in my opinion which helps teach children about preserving the environment, although son2 did compare me frequently asking him to tidy up his room to Pete’s obsessive tidying. Hmmm.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a copy of Tidy to one lucky winner.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear about your child’s favourite books.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Mumsnet Book Club review – Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner

I have received another book from the Mumsnet Book Club free to review. It is Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner. They also included a free miniature bottle of Southern Comfort in case I need a stiff drink once I get into the case!

Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner

This is what it says on the first page.

A young woman vanishes. A smear of blood in the kitchen of the house she shares with her boyfriend suggests a struggle.

As soon as Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw sees the photograph of missing Edith Hind – a beautiful Cambridge post-grad from a well-connected family – she knows the case will be big. And she’s right: pressure soon mounts from the media and from on high.

Can Manon see clearly enough to solve the mystery of Edith’s disappearance? Can she withstand intimidation from Sir Ian Hind, Edith’s father, who has friends in high places? And when a body is found, will it mean the end or just the beginning?

I loved this book and didn’t want to put it down, always wanting to know what would happen in the next chapter. I was pleased that the author took the time to introduce the reader to the character of Manon and colleagues in addition to family and friends of Edith.

In-between working on the case, we follow Manon’s personal life which seems very lonely. Her only friends are colleagues and she has had a series of disastrous internet dates. And she uses a police radio to help her fall asleep, via which she hears the code for a missing person. She immediately heads into work knowing that the first 72 hours are critical.

I can’t say much, as it would spoil it for you. There were so many twists to the story, but it was brought to a conclusion without me feeling I had unanswered questions which is the case with some books. It certainly kept me guessing through all the twists and turns in events.

I loved this book and have now added Susie Steiner’s previous novel “Homecoming” to my reading wishlist.

Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing Presumed” is by Susie Steiner and is published by The Borough Press, an imprint of Harper Collins. The hardback edition is currently on sale on Amazon for £7 compared to an RRP of £12.99. It is also available in kindle format and will be published in paperback in September. (The edition I received is an uncorrected paperback proof copy, which is why the cover also looks different).

Susie Steiner has her own website here, where I was very pleased to find out that she is writing another novel featuring Manon.

I have previously read the following books from the Mumsnet Book Club.
The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall
The Forgotten Summer by Carol Drinkwater
The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Coming Home by Annabel Kantaria
Fallout by Sadie Jones
Falling by Emma Kavanagh
The Girl Who Just Appeared by Jonathan Harvey

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Weekend Book Club

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Chia Seeds recipes plus giveaway

I guess this month must be my health drive. It is not long since I blogged about coconut oil in my Sticky Date Flapjack recipe and now I have received a 250g packet of organic chia seeds free to review from Indigo Herbs.

Indigo Herbs Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are an ancient Inca superfood which contain more iron than spinach and more calcium than milk. You can see in the photo below that they are tiny, only about 1mm and not all the same colour. The packet indicates that they are powerfully antioxidant which is good for nervous system support and that they are omega rich which helps maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels.

Indigo Herbs chia seeds


I’ve never tried chia seeds before but I’ve been planning to for a while. So I’ve now come up with a couple of tasty recipes using these products. Firstly one for breakfast.

Raspberry and Chia Seed Oatmeal

Raspberry and Chia Seed Oatmeal

Ingredients (serves 1)

30g oats
100g greek style natural yoghurt
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp honey
50g raspberries

Method

Tip the oats into a lunchbox.
Add the yoghurt, milk and chia seeds.
Add a little honey to sweeten if desired.
Mix well.
Stir in the raspberries.
Put the lid on the lunchbox.
Then put in the refrigerator overnight.
Serve and enjoy.

Raspberry and Chia Seed Oatmeal

This was excellent for me, as when I’m working an early shift, I have to be in the office by 6:45am. So it was wonderful to be able to grab this from the fridge and take with me. It was delicious. I subsequently tried making variants for the boys, with mixed berries for son1 and with apple for son2.


And secondly with two hungry young boys in the house, some snacks should go down well. I’ve used coconut oil as well as the chia seeds in this recipe.

Peanut butter and chia seed balls

Peanut Butter and Chia Seed Balls

Ingredients (makes about 20)

100g peanut butter
40g coconut oil
50g rice krispies
10g chia seeds
75g icing sugar

Method

Melt peanut butter and coconut oil in a saucepan over a low heat.
Turn off heat.
Mix together rice krispies, chia seeds and icing sugar in a mixing bowl.
Tip dry ingredients into the saucepan.
Stir well.
Allow to cool slightly, so you can handle.
Use your hands to form into small balls.
Place in fridge for an hour.
Serve and enjoy.

Peanut Butter & Chia Seed Balls

I found these very moreish indeed.

A 250g packet of organic chia seeds currently retails at £3.99 and is also available in 500g or 1kg sizes.

I’ll certainly be buying chia seeds in the future. They are very versatile. You can use them in smoothies or sprinkled over salads. I also liked how the packet opens and reseals easily, as I get really fed up of other supposedly reseal packs where the reseal tears away from the packet when you pull it open.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a 250g pack of chia seeds courtesy of Indigo Herbs to one lucky winner. Open to anyone in Europe. Closes 11th May.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your recipes using chia seeds.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.