All I want for Christmas is Hue!

Philips Hue Go as a nightlight

*This post is in collaboration with Philips Hue* 

Regular readers will know that Dave is a bit of a tech geek so when I decided I wanted to introduce some lighting to our dark and dingy living room, he took the bull by the horns and did his research. I was planning on going pretty basic and just adding some white bulbs into the main lighting for daytime and warmer bulbs in lamps for a cosier feel of an evening but once we started looking into it a bit more, we realised that the Phillips Hue system was going to be the answer for us

Getting started with Philips Hue

Our starting point was a Philips ‘White Ambience Starter kit’ which provided us with three White  Ambiance bulbs, a bridge (this is the bit that allows the Philips Hue app to talk to the bulbs) and a wireless dimmer switch.  We also added in a Hue Lightstrip to pop around the back of the TV – I wasn’t sure about this at first but liked the idea of another light source in the room and Dave had read about Hue‘s ability to work in sync with video or audio using  the Philips Hue Sync app.

The lights are quick and painless to set up – you just screw the bulb in to your usual light fitting and set everything up via the easy to use app.  Once you’ve got the basics sorted you can name all the lights in the room so they can be individually altered, add in different rooms and set up routines, such as turning the lights on at a certain time in the morning.  There’s also additional features like the ability to set up “entertainment” areas, which we’ll go into more detail on later.  What really appealed to Dave when we started to invest in our Philips Hue system was the capacity to integrate with other smart devices, specifically the ability to control our lights with our Google HomePhilips Hue might not be the cheapest smart lights on the market however as Dave points out, the cheaper options really don’t measure up to the overall package you get with Hue.  There’s a certain peace of mind in knowing you are dealing with a big brand that have worked out all the kinks and niggles with a product over numerous generations.

Philips Hue E27 bulbs

We soon found ourselves with a range of favourite “scenes” which suit different times of the day. “Concentrate” is our main daytime scene giving bright white light, and then evenings we tended to go for a warmer glow. The Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit does exactly what I wanted it to – having control over the brightness and temperature of our living room lights has made a huge difference to the feel of the room.  Of course, now that we are settled into using Philips Hue in our living room, we are excited to add more Hue products throughout our home this Christmas!

All of the products we’re going to discuss below are fabulous extras for someone who already has Philips Hue set up at home and, in our opinion, would make great Christmas gifts – the sort of things you didn’t know you needed or wanted until you had them but then couldn’t live without!

Philips Hue Extension bulbs – give the gift of light! (the smart kind)

Now that we’ve got to grips with using Philips Hue in our living room, Dave was keen to swap out the White Ambiance bulbs for the coloured ones – this meant that we would still have control over the shade of white light (from cool white, to warm white) but that we’d also have more scope for different lighting colours (a full spectrum of 16 million colours in fact) and moods for the lounge.  Whilst this is pretty cool in itself, what Dave was most excited about was expanding the “entertainment” area he had already set up to include all the lights in the living room within the Hue Sync app. The light syncing works with our existing bulbs and Lightstrips, so although Dave and Ben had already tried linking the TV and the Hue Lightstrip when they were watching a film, the addition of new coloured bulbs allowed us to get the full light mirroring effect.  To set this up, you can highlight the locations of each light in a virtual room in relation to your TV so the app knows where your lights are and can mirror the colours of the right part of the TV screen, so you get the most immersive effect. It’s pretty clever stuff.  A bit gimmicky for me, but really cool nonetheless, and something we know is going to be really enjoyed over the festive period!  The option to set up an “entertainment” area means that Philips Hue Bulbs would make a great Christmas present – adding something special to your festive film watching – we tried it out with “The Snowman” and loved the way the Hue bulbs made it feel like the headlamp from the motorbike was flashing all over our living room!  I had initially thought it would be distracting, but it’s actually really cool and the kids loved it!

Philips Hue entertainment set up

Children watching a film with Philips Hue

Swapping out the bulbs in our living room for coloured bulbs freed up the White Ambiance bulbs to go elsewhere in the house.  The next place on my Hue list was the hall, which might initially sound like a bit of an odd choice but bear with me!  The Hue app allows you to turn on your lights even when you’re not home (I tested this from a gig in Dublin when Dave was at home so I know it works!).  From a security point of view, this is invaluable, as although you could create a routine to have the lights turn on and off when you were on holiday, being able to do it manually as well means your lights don’t become predictable if someone happened to be watching your home (paranoid I know but .. .  )  Because our living room is at the back of the house, it wouldn’t be immediately obvious if the lights were on, so being able to control the hall lights with the Hue app seems like a sensible choice – both from a security standpoint and just because it would be so much more welcoming to come home too on a dark night!

Philips Hue ambient white light for security in hall way

Philips Hue e27 bulb - warm light

We’re going to use the last bulb from downstairs to go in the lamp in our bedroom.  The same hands-free functionality will be available in bed as we’ve also got a Google Home Mini in the bedroom too.  As well as being able to set a wake-up routine in the morning, there will be no more arguing over who’s turn it is to get up and turn the lights off anymore.  From now on it’s Philips Hue’s turn!

Philips Hue Motion Sensor – for the late-night wanderer!

Now that we have Hue bulbs on the hall and landing, we thought it made sense to team these with a Philips Hue Motion Sensor at the top of the stairs. This means that if someone gets up in the middle of the night for any reason, the light will come on automatically.  Even better than that, we can have different settings for night and day (as we all know there’s nothing worse than a harsh, bright light in the middle of the night).  Currently we leave the bathroom light on at night for the kids but, not only is this bad for the environment (and your energy bills), it also means that our room isn’t properly dark at night which frustrates us both to no end.

Philips Hue Motion Sensor

We’ve also added a motion sensor to the living room so that when Dave gets up at stupid o’clock in the morning, the lights will pop on for him without any need to talk or fiddle with apps.  There’s definitely been occasions where I’ve had to come downstairs in the middle of the night not wanted to  tell Google to turn the lights on for me – so the motion sensor will be a game changer in that sense.  The motion sensor is set up thorough the app just like the lights – it’s quick and painless.  The Philips Hue motion sensor is automatically set according to the time of day.  In the day you get a bright light and at night a softer, more relaxed light so as not to dazzle you!  You can of course alter the times for day and night so they fit your schedule.  It is also possible to adjust the amount of light which is required to activate the motion sensor, as there is a daylight sensor in built into it. This means when it’s daytime and there’s plenty of natural light in the room already, your lights won’t turn on just because you have triggered the sensor. Of course, we will still be using the Google Home or the Philips Hue app to cover changing colour, or scenes, but the addition of the motion sensor means the lights are even easier to manage and won’t be left on unnecessarily.

Philips Hue Motion sensor

You know how I said some of these products were things you didn’t know you needed until you had them?  This is a case in point and I can’t believe what a difference it has made to our set up already, definitely one for popping in the stocking of someone who is already a Philips Hue convert!

Philips Hue Go – for the festive movie marathon!

Finally, we’ve added a Philips Hue Go portable light to the living room. It currently sits in the only corner of the room which had previously been without light source and acts as another part of the “entertainment” set up – full room immersive movie watching anyone?  I’ll supply the popcorn!

Although the Hue Go is powered via mains plug, it also benefits from a built-in rechargeable battery offering up to three hours of coloured light, for a world of possibility.  Its portable nature means you can take it outside or to a Christmas party without having to worry about where you might be able to plug it in.  It makes a great night light for the little ones too – or in Ben’s case a reading light that means he no longer has to get out of his cabin bed to turn the light off.  Dave and I have set a routine which means the light goes off automatically when he should be stopping reading!

Philips Hue Go - portable coloured light

Philips Hue Go as a nightlight

Although we have obviously linked the Hue Go up to the rest of our Hue set up, the Hue Go also has multiple light settings which work (via a button on the base, to toggle through pre-set scenes) without having a wider Hue ecosystem in your home making it an ideal standalone gift.

You might think that we’re all Hue’d up in our house now but no; next on the list is bulbs in the children’s bedrooms and the kitchen!

Thanks to Philips Hue, I’m able to offer you the chance to win a Philips Hue White & Colour Starter Kit worth £169.99!  The kit includes three colour E27 bulbs, a switch and the Hue bridge!  If you’d like to enter, just complete the Rafflecopter below, ensuring to do this accurately to avoid disqualification.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Philips Hue have kindly gifted us additional items for our existing Hue ecosystem which we had paid for ourselves, as well as compensating us for our time in writing this*

*Read more reviews here*

Neveo – A monthly family journal – Review

Neveo family newsletter review

Social media has been such a big part of our lives for so long now that I think we forget that someone people just aren’t really online – that they maybe don’t have a facebook account or follow you on instagram and therefore don’t see your updates or the cute family snaps you share.  My Mum is a case in point – she hates facebook with a passion, though we did convince her onto instagram about a year ago so she sees what we’re up to over there a lot of the time now!  Dave’s Mum on the other hand doesn’t have any social media accounts at all so when I heard about Neveo – a monthly family journal which is printed and delivered by post to your nominated recipient, I knew it was perfect for us.  (The Neveo website does suggest this as being ideal for Grandparents – presumably as they are the least likely to be online – however you could send it to whoever you wanted!)

Using the free Neveo app you upload you photos and captions throughout the month – you can do this as you take them or all at once at the end of the month.  I was bothered that I couldn’t change the dates on the images thinking that they would be printed alongside the pictures but that isn’t the case.  I would try to upload them chronologically though.  At the end of the month, Neveo sort out the layout for you and automatically send out a printed copy, keeping your chosen family member up to speed on what you’ve been doing that month!

NEVEO app - how to upload images to NEVEO

For our first month’s pictures I just used images I’d already published on instagram so everything was square.  Some pictures I wrote captions for, others I didn’t really need to say anything as they were just nice pictures in themselves.  You can always go back and add captions later or edit them right up until the end of the month – you can see in the image above where the images say “add comment” to them so it’s quite clear which ones are missing a caption.

At the end of the month you get a reminder that the deadline for adding new photos is approaching just in case you have any last minute images to add.  Once that time has passed, you get regular updates as to the status of your booklet until it is shipped.

Neveo headline - personalised family newsletter

Neveo monthly booklet of photos

Neveo comment space to be filled in with your news

Neveo family newsletter review

Neveo monthly subscription

As you can see, the name of the person who uploaded the photo is printed at the top of each entry – in this case it wasn’t really necessary as there was only me creating the newsletter however you can add other family members so that they can contribute too.  Now that Dave has seen how lovely the booklet is and has commented just how much his mum will appreciate it, I think he will be inclined to help me make it each month.

Do make sure you proof read your work as your comments will be printed exactly as you have typed them – unfortunately I didn’t notice I’d made an error and so my children apparently visited the “I’ve Cream Farm” rather than the “Ice Cream Farm” – whoops!

Although I chose not to include captions for a number of pictures, I do think that in future I will make sure I’ve taken the time to include a comment for each image as it looks a little strange without it as the space is just left blank.  I had just assumed the booklet would be set out in such a way as to fill any gaps rather than leave a space for a comment.  I think, whereas I had just written a little tittle or short comment, the Neveo newsletter is designed to be treated almost as a diary entry.

All in the Neveo family newsletter is a really lovely idea and something which I know Nana will love to receive each month.  The service costs £9.99 for up to 50 photos a month or £14.99 a month for up to 100 photos but can be cancelled at anytime so would make a lovely gift for a family member this Christmas.  (There’s currently a promotion running to get your first month for just 99p and once you’ve signed up, if you choose the annual plan you will get three months out of twelve for free).

*I have been gifted a year’s subscription to Neveo and compensated for my time in writing this post however all thoughts and opinions remain my own*  

*Read more reviews here*

Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas at Waterside – Review

Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas Waterside

Raymond Brigg’s Father Christmas is an absolute festive classic and one I have fond memories of from my own childhood so when I saw that the amazing Pins and Needles Productions would be performing their adaption of the story on stage at Waterside this Christmas, I just knew we had to pop along.

We had seen the Pins and Needles Productions performance of The Bear at Waterside last Christmas so we had high hopes for our Thursday evening jaunt to the theatre and I’ll tell you now, we weren’t disappointed!  In fact, at the end of the show Dave said to me “That was just brilliant, I think I could happily come and watch it without the kids!”  There are plenty of times I’ve taken the children on adventures and the majority of the pleasure for us as parents comes from watching them enjoy themselves, but when it comes to watching a Pins and Needles Productions performance, we find ourselves just as enthralled as the children.

Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas Waterside

If you’re not familiar with the story of Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas (have you been living under a rock?) then essentially it tells a tale of a rather grumpy but entirely lovable Father Christmas preparing for the busiest day of his year – from the moment his alarm clock goes off on Christmas Eve morning to him delivering presents around the world and back home again, to his pets Cat and Dog, to enjoy his own Christmas dinner.

The story of Father Christmas has been adapted for stage beautifully with every memorable detail of the book incorporated into the performance so you really do feel as if the book has come to life before your very eyes.  Waterside is a really intimate venue, which allows you to really absorb yourself in a performance – the compact stage focuses your attention.  The performance of Mike Aherne as Father Christmas was spot on, aided and abetted by the incredible puppetry skills of Richard Booth – who made it so easy to watch those puppets and believe they were real and yet it was equally as fascinating to watch him handling them  – I flipped between the two!  An unexpected highlight for us was musician Katy Sobey who really added another layer of magic to the story telling – sitting in full view, and adding every possible sound effect to the performance with incredible skill and precision.  Her performance was captivating – from the vast array of instruments she played, to the clever sound effects made with her voice, and all sorts of objects – she was an absolute joy.

Raymond Brigg's Father Christmas on stage

Father Christmas runs for around 50 minutes with no interval making it an ideal length of first time theatre goers.  Children are welcome to come to evening performances dressed in their pyjamas (and many do).  And just to add to the glorious bedtime story feel, you can pre-book a milk and cookie pack for £2 each (so much better at bedtime than the usual sweets and popcorn my three tend to much during a show!)

Tickets are available now for performances through till New Year’s Eve and can be booked here.

* See what Jenny from The Brick Castle thought of the show here

*We were invited to watch Father Christmas free of charge for the purpose of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

*Read more reviews here*

*Read about more of our adventures here*

HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back & Shoulder Massager – Review

Homedics chair with heat

After a long day on your feet at work or sat at your desk, what could be nicer than a full back and shoulder massage to help you relax and unwind?  Of course it’s not practical to be booking yourself a nightly massage (imagine the expense apart from anything else) but, with the HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back & Shoulder Massager you can enjoy soothing heat and a relaxing massage across the full length of your back, shoulders and neck!

Being tall, Dave and I both suffer from discomfort in our backs – mine tends to be from doing the same thing for too long – too much sitting / standing / walking – and it will start to ache, especially in my lower back.  I also find I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders.  My parents have recently invested in a small but powerful massage cushion which I use when I visit and whilst it is effective, it has it’s downsides.  The size of the cushion makes it easy to store and convenient to use, but it does mean it can only target small areas at once so it can take a while to massage all the way up your back and the rotating balls are hard, leaving me feeling tender and bruised after use.  The HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back and Shoulder Massager promises a more gentle massage experience with super soft Gel Massage Technology to mimic a more natural feeling massage.

Homedics back massage chair with gel

The HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back and Shoulder Massager is designed to fit any seat – we’ve tried it on both our dining chairs and the arm chairs in the living room.  Whilst it does fit the dining chairs, and the straps allow it to be held in place, I found the upright position was less relaxing and also made the massager less effective, I couldn’t really feel it working up my spine in the same way.  (This might just be because the shape of my body means my back isn’t as close to the massager in this position.)  For us, the optimum place to use the massage seat is in the living room on our armchairs as it feels the most comfortable and relaxing position.

HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back and Shoulder Massager

Once you’ve got the HoMedics massage chair in position it’s really simple to use (there are some bolts to remove before your first use but they come out with the allen key provided and this only takes a minute or two).  The seat is plugged into the wall (it has a nice long cable allowing you to be flexible about where you use it) and a remote control which is attached to the seat and stored in a small pocket on the right hand side.  The first time I used the chair I tried out the demo function which does as it says on the tin and runs through each of the features of the chair.

Homedics remote control

The Gel Massage Technology is definitely more comfortable than the harder massage cushion I’ve used in the past – it’s firm and effective but doesn’t leave my spin feeling tender to touch afterwards.  The HoMedics massage chair offers two different types of massage – shiatsu and rolling – both which work their way up and down your spine evenly unless you choose to stop them in a specific place for targeted spot relief.  This is something I tend to do it if I notice that a particular area of my back is less comfortable – just a press of the remote means the massagers will stay in the same spot until you feel ready to move them on again.  The remote control allows you to customise the intensity, width and height of your massage, so whilst you might just start with the massager running up and down your spine, you can then choose to move it further out for a more thorough experience.  There is also the option to add heat (which I do every time) – the heat is gentle and combined with the massage not always noticeable, but I do often apply heat to my back so I think I’m probably a little desensitised!

Homedics chair with heat

The HoMedics back and shoulder massager features a split zone design which means you can enjoy a shoulder massage or a back massage independently – or you can just enjoy them all at once (frankly why wouldn’t you!)  The shoulder massager moves up and down to allow you to position it perfectly (of course there are limits to how low it can go within it’s zone).

Homedics back and shoulder massage

It’s sorely tempting to just sit on the massage chair all night!  It’s so relaxing and has quickly become part of my daily routine.  If you’d like to try it yourself I’ve got a discount code for you which offers 20% off when purchasing from the gel massage range on the HoMedics website: ADVENTURE20  (the code expires 31st December 2018)

*I was sent the HoMedics Gel Shiatsu Back and Shoulder Massager free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own.*

*Read more reviews here*

Geomag Mechanics Gravity – Review & Giveaway

Ben was first introduced to the joy of Geomag earlier this year when we reviewed a Geomag Panels set and  Geomag Mechanics set.  We keep both sets at my parents’ house and he makes a beeline for them every time we visit – spending hours fiddling around and constructing various creations.  The latest addition to his Geomag collection is the Geomag Mechanics Gravity Motor System.  The Geomag Mechanics sets are more complex than the Panels and as such are aimed at the more expert player – children who have already figured out how the Geomag systems work.

The Geomag Mechanics Gravity Motor System contains 11 magnetic rods and 32 steel spheres along with 126 plastic mechanical elements – the set can of course be used independently or alongside an existing Geomag collection.  Once you’ve constructed the set according to the instructions, gravity pushes the steel spheres through the Geomag gravity motor spiral and, once this is set in motion, a combination of gravity and magnetism will keep it going until  you stop it again.  There’s no batteries or electricity required for this one!

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Milly Feels Better – a Baby Annabell Interactive Doll

Regular readers will know that Amy is a big fan of baby dolls, her favourites being Baby Jack (better known as Baby Annabell’s brother) and Sophie (who I think we picked up in Toys R Us with a voucher last year!  She loves to spend hours pushing them in their pram, tucking them up in a handmade, vintage doll’s cot which Father Christmas brought her last year and generally being a good mummy!  The latest addition to Amy’s brood is the Milly Feels Better Doll from the Baby Annabell range by Zapf Creation – Amy has named her Baby Lucia.

Milly Feels Better from Baby Annabell

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SensatioNAIL Peel Off Gel Nails – Review

My first experience of gel nails was about five years ago when my friend, Michelle, used her new SensatioNAIL kit to give me a bit of a festive manicure.  I flipping loved them.  I loved that my nails looked so neat and glossy – having beautifully polished nails made me feel more “done” and knowing they could cope with the constant hand-washing that comes with having a new baby was amazing.  Of course the downside was that they were a right pain to get off and my nails took weeks to recover.  This has been pretty much the story for the last five years – I adore having a gel manicure for a special occasion but I know I’ll pay the price with damaged nails, even if I have them professionally removed in the salon.

Until now . . .

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Thomas Sabo – Jewellery for Mother and Daughter

Thomas Sabo mother daughter jewellery gifting

*In collaboration with Thomas Sabo*

The first proper piece of jewellery I ever owned was a silver charm bracelet which I think my Aunty bought me when I was about 11.  It was a very traditional charm bracelet with a little silver heart clasp and a safety chain.  Over the years I added charms to it – some were passed down to me by my mum, others were bought as birthday or Christmas gifts or to celebrate special occasions.  I remember one of my favourite charms was an old Mother Hubbard boot – the sole of the boot could be opened up to show little people living inside.  It was a bit of a faff to get charms added to the bracelet as Mum had to take it to the jewellers for me to get them soldered on so I would end up saving them up and getting a few added at once.  I used to wear the bracelet to school on exam days for good luck, clearly flouting the “no jewellery” rule and just keeping it tucked right up inside my shirt sleeve.  I don’t actually know where my charm bracelet is now, hopefully hidden away safely in a box somewhere.

Charm bracelets have seen something of a resurgence in recent years – offering a means of really personalising your jewellery to suit your own style whilst adding sentimental value when charms are added to mark special occasions or milestones.

Thomas Sabo Charm Club for children

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Terradora Hiking Boots from Keen Footwear – Review

I always thought walking boots were a bit pointless unless you were the sort of person that spent all weekend climbing massive hills with a flask of tea and a dog in tow.  I was wrong.

There’s nothing worse than having cold, wet feet when you’re out for a walk – be that a big old stomp up a hill, a meander down the coast or even just an afternoon in the park with the kids.  I’ve had a few pairs of walking boots in recent years and whilst I’ve totally been able to see the benefits of them in terms of providing my feet with support and protection, I’ve never loved them.  My first pair were fairly traditional boots – big and clumpy.  They rather reminded me of Dave’s safety boots at work.  They did the trick but I never particularly enjoyed wearing them.  Last year I swapped them for a pair of walking shoes which were more trainer-like in shape and style.  They were much lighter and easier to wear but I still found them a bit cumbersome and not very attractive!  I have a bit of a weak ankle which tends to swell randomly and doesn’t cope well with uneven ground – this meant that when I was wearing the walking shoes for festivals etc and spending the whole day treading uneven paths, I missed the ankle support a boot would give.

When I was offered the opportunity to try a pair of Keen walking shoes for Chloe and I, I was excited to see if I might finally find “the ones” . . .

Mother and Daughter Terradora boots from Keen Footwear | We're going on an adventure

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Muddy Puddles Puddleflex Outerwear

Muddle Puddles Puddleflex waterproof clothing

There is no denying that autumn is well and truly here now – October seems to have brought with it much colder temperatures and damp days.  The leaves are definitely starting to turn and we’re starting to think about needing to wrap up a little more on the school run – I pulled a blanket scarf out for the first time yesterday and the kids have started digging out last year’s gloves to see if they can find a pair (they can’t . . ) and trying on last year’s coats to see what still fits!

Chloe and Amy have recently received some gorgeous new outerwear from Muddy Puddles.  I first came across Muddy Puddles about eight years ago when we invested in a whole class set of Bib & Brace overalls for Early Years and promptly went off to order one for Ben who was then just a toddler.  The Bib & Brace overalls were passed down through all three children and then on to another family to make use of them too!  A few years ago we tried out some Muddy Puddles Puddlefleece trousers for Ben, and again they’ve been passed down through all three children and now Amy wears them every now and again.

Muddly Puddles outer wear for autumn

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