Friday 16 December 2016

Our Review of the Cbeebies Magazine!

Nowadays, with all the apps available online, and the huge range of children's channels available on TV, it has become common place to allow your children to sit on the sofa, lie in bed, or even sit at the table during mealtimes to watch their favourite shows or play their chosen fun games. Whilst some of these can still be very educational for a child and also a great tool for when you need 5 minutes to yourself, I personally really enjoy getting my children to do fun activities that stretch the imagination, and encourage them to read, get creative, and enjoy being active.

Riley and I were therefore really pleased to receive a copy of Cbeebies magazine, which was absolutely jam packed full with 43 pages of fun activities, and stories for him to enjoy. He was even more thrilled when he realised that the magazine also came with a bumper selection of colouring tools including pencils, crayons and felt tip pens.

We received edition no 470 which was described on the front page as a BIG colouring issue, and they weren't wrong with plenty of colouring pages inside to keep Riley entertained. The front cover had a wintry theme and featured a whole host of popular Cbeebies characters. Riley enjoyed naming all the stars on the front, before he decided to have a quick scan through the magazine and see what was inside. I was pleased with how many colouring pages there were, as he absolutely loves art (just like his sister). His favourite was the big picture of Bing, Flop and Sula.

On the first inside page, there is a great guide for grown ups, which explains the 6 areas of learning which support early years development, as well as an introduction from the editor informing you what is inside and on which pages you can find certain activities. My son decided that working through the pages in order wasn't for him, and so we just read through it at a pace which suited him, and then worked on whichever activity he chose to do in no particular order.

The whole magazine is really eye catching and colourful which is great for kids to help keep their attention and interest. On each page, there is again a section for grown ups with suggestions for further activities to follow on from what they have just read or drawn which is a great idea.

There was a bedtime story inside based on the clangers, which was great for when we wanted to have some quiet time too as we were able to read the story in the afternoon just after lunch, and again before bedtime, which meant that the magazine was getting plenty of use throughout the day.

In the centre of the magazine, there was a selection of stickers. Unfortunately my son doesn't like to follow any particular rule with where stickers should go, and just likes to stick them anywhere within the magazine. This was ok with me though as he was happy and enjoying sticking them wherever he liked, so as he was having fun, I didn't try and make him stick them in the correct places, and the majority of the activities could still be enjoyed without them.

I liked the Peter Rabbit workbook section which helped Riley to learn more about letters and how to write them by following over the printed letters with a pen, along with a matching game and a sticker activity.

There was a competition too for the chance to win a Talking Ubercorn and Vroomster toys and it was nice to see an opportunity for children to win such a lovely prize.

We had an enjoyable time reading through the magazine and enjoyed the activities together. I noticed that two of the pages within the magazine were taken up by full page advertisements which isn't too excessive compared to other publications. The rear page also advertised the next issue of the magazine which includes a Winter Workbook and shows you how to make your own snowman, reindeer and Santa. This edition is available now from all good newsagents and is priced at £3.99.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of the magazine for the purpose of providing on honest and impartial review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Winter Wonderland Manchester - A Review

My family and I have really been getting into the festive spirit lately, and so when we were given the opportunity to attend the official launch night of Winter Wonderland Manchester at EventCity, we literally jumped at the chance!

The mammoth 22,000 sq m exhibition space at EventCity has been transformed into an unbelieveable wonderland extravaganza, featuring over 50 family rides and attractions all under one roof - including new rides for 2016 featuring a giant carousel, and all included in one ticket price. (Excluding games and food stalls.)

We headed out there on a wet and windy Monday night, dressed warm and ready in our Christmas jumpers keen to find out more and experience the Winter Wonderland magic. We didn't need to wait long however as the attraction worked its magical wonders on us right from the very beginning, with the children delighted to be entering the event under a cascade of snow. My three year old son Riley has never experienced snowfall before, as the last heavy snow we had in our area was just before he was born, and so to see his little face light up as we walked through was amazing.

Upon entering we were immediately faced with a whole host of fairground attractions and my kids couldn't wait to jump on a ride and have some fun. They each chose a ride near the entrance to get started, and then we decided to have a good look around and find out where each attraction could be found.

In addition to the vast array of rides, there were numerous other festive treats to enjoy including a mini pantomime of Cinderella, a Christmas Circus, a fun family show featuring the fabulous Basil Brush and Mr Matt, and if that was not enough, there was of course the chance to meet Santa himself and his real reindeer too!

Having had a wander around and seen what was on offer, we immediately felt that the attraction offered excellent value for money. We had visited numerous fairgrounds over the summer which would charge around £3 a ride, which for 3 children can quickly mount up to an excessive amount of money, but there was no need to worry about that here, and my children went on some of their favourite rides three or four times. My youngest son Riley, absolutely loved the traditional carousel which is situated towards the rear of the building. It looked so grand and majestic, and he loved pretending that he was riding a real horse. One thing I would note though, is that the steps on the side are quite steep so make sure you are ready to give your children a helping hand to get on and off, and I would recommend riding on the horse with your child if they are quite young just to be on the safe side.

There was also a lovely minature version of a carousel a short distance away for toddlers too which my son also really enjoyed. I thought that this was a great idea.

My daughter Emma who is 10, is starting to show an interest in the more scarier and faster rides now, and so I really loved the fact that there were rides available for all age groups, so that none of my children felt left out or bored having to watch their siblings have fun instead of them.

Santa's grotto is fantastic, with friendly elves ready to welcome you and help make the experience all the more magical for children. Again this is included in the ticket price, but there is also the option of purchasing a gift for your child for only £3.50, but of course this is not compulsory. Real reindeer to meet and greet also assists in making this a marvellous grotto for families to enjoy. On the night we attended the queues varied in length throughout the evening, but on weekends I could imagine this being very busy, so would perhaps like to see the introduction of ticketed slots to reduce waiting times in the future.

The friendly elves can also be found throughout the attraction ready to make your children smile, pose for an "elfie" or quite simply answer any questions you may have. I thought that this was a great idea, as not only did the children love to see the elves walking round, but it also gave us parents an easily identifable person to recognise as staff should we have a query.

If however, winter is not your thing, and you would much rather the fun of the seaside, then make sure you head over to Salty Cove, where you can have a relaxing chill in a deckchair, whilst your children build sandcastles and meet the wonderful Pip Ahoy! I did find it slightly strange having a beach within Winter Wonderland, however Riley really enjoyed it, and it also gave the younger children somewhere to play, away from the more busier attractions.

I do feel as though the organisers have also really taken on board comments from previous years and have tried to cater for everyones needs. There is ample space for prams and wheelchairs, a cloakroom should you want to leave your coat or bag in a safe area, a quiet zone outside the main attraction zone and away from the hustle and bustle, and also a toddler soft play area. I found both the toddler soft play area and Salty Cove really quiet during our visit, so it was nice to take Riley away from the crowds for some quieter fun in between rides.

In order to prevent overcrowding, the organisers operate this event on a session basis to help ensure that vistors can experience all that Winter Wonderland has to offer. This is a great idea, as it helps to minimise the queuing and makes sure that you get excellent value for money by being able to visit each part of the attraction. Each session lasts for four hours, which was just about right for us, as the kids were starting to get tired, however we could quite happily return again and enjoy it for another session. If I was therefore going to make any suggestion it would be perhaps to offer the option of a 2 day ticket.

In terms of food and drink outlets, there was the usual fast food available, as well as coffee, bavarian beer, slushies and sweets. I have seen a few comments asking for more choice and healthier options, but with the Trafford Centre only over the road, there is an ample choice of restaurants right on the doorstep to suit everyones tastes, so you could always enjoy a meal there before or after the session. .

I would suggest taking some cash with you, as you will need additional money for any purchases such as gifts or merchandise, or for the games stalls and arcade area. I personally didn't spend any additional money at the attraction, but I knew my children would want to, so I set them a budget of £5 each to use on the games so that it saved any arguing or demands for money inside. They each knew how much they had to spend and this worked well for us. Fortunately they were more interested in the rides, than the fairground games, so they even came home with some change!

Overall, we had a fantastic time at Winter Wonderland, and my children couldn't wait to tell all their school friends about it the following day. I believe that it offers excellent value for money, and I think it is great that under 3's are free, even though there is plenty for them to do there. There was a huge amount to see and do, and hopefully we can fit in another visit before the 1st January to return again.

Winter Wonderland Manchester is open from Saturday 10th December through to the 1st January 2017. It is based at EventCity which is just next to the Trafford Centre and offers FREE parking. It is also easy to get there using public transport, which I did earlier in the year when attending the Digital Kids Show, and we caught the train into Manchester Piccadilly from North Wales and then the X50 bus from Piccadilly Gardens bus station which runs at regular intervals.

Group, family and individual tickets are on sale now and the event is also offering VIP corporate packages for companies who are looking to treat staff and their families to an extra special Christmas day out.

If you would like to book tickets then please visit 

Alternatively you can make a booking by telephone on 0843 208 1842 or for group bookings please call 0843 208 6003. However, don't delay as some dates are already fully booked!

Full ticket information is as follows:

Adult and child (3-16): £19.50 (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee)
Family: £64* (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee)
OAP: £14 (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee)
Child (under 3): Free
Groups: 10% discount (when booking 15+ tickets).
* (2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children).
School rate: £9.50 per child

Session times are:

Fri 16 Dec – 10:30am – 2.30pm and 5pm – 9pm
Sat 17 – Fri 23 Dec – 11am – 3pm and 4:30pm – 8.30pm
Sat 24 Dec – 10:30am – 2.30pm
(No Afternoon session on 24 Dec and closed Christmas Day)
Mon 26 Dec – 1pm – 5pm
Tues 27 – Fri 30 Dec – 11am – 3pm and 4:30pm – 8:30pm
Sat 31 Dec – 11am – 3pm
Sun 1 Jan 2017 – 1pm – 5pm

Please note that the Santa meet and greet is only available until the 24th December.

Disclaimer: I was provided with complimentary tickets to the launch night event for the purpose of providing an honest review of the attraction. All opinions are my own.

Friday 9 December 2016

Our visit to the DreamWorks Lights Lantern Experience in Liverpool

You may have seen several posts from me lately on events in Liverpool, having recently visited Disney On Ice presents Frozen, and Santa's Magical Grotto. Well it would seem that Liverpool is definitely the place to be at the moment for festive fun, and having recently learnt about the new DreamWorks Lights Lantern Experience in St George's Hall, we decided to take a look a find out what it was all about.

The DreamWorks Lights event is a first for the UK and is part of One Magical City, which is a programme of festive activity that is taking place throughout Liverpool. DreamWorks are responsible for the feature films Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar, which are all popular family movies, and this makes it a great experience for the whole family to enjoy. Described as a "Shrektacular" event, we couldn't wait to visit!

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool said "Bringing this event to the city is a major coup for Liverpool and is sure to pave the way for more experiences of this stature".

The venue of St George's Hall, is located directly across from Lime Street Station, which makes it easily accessible by public transport. You will have no problem finding it as even if you somehow manage to miss the big banners directing you there, you definitely couldn't miss the giant Shrek located on the roof!

Our time slot was for 11:30am til 12pm, and we arrived at 11:40am to find that there was no queue to get in. I presented my mobile tickets on my phone to the lady on the till which she scanned and welcomed us to the event. Immediately we noticed the huge 40ft dragon from Shrek suspended from the ceiling of the Great Hall which was amazing.

Although it was busy, it wasn't overcrowded which suggests that the organisers have planned it just right with assigning allocated time slots for arrival. There were larger crowds around some displays more than others, but we didn't struggle to get pictures of any of the lanterns.

Each display was set out nicely, and the lights were lovely and bright. The first few sets were all Kung Fu Panda themed, and looked fantastic. There are clear signs directing you which way to go, which helps to make it run in a one way system, however if you do want to go back to look a particular display, you are able to do so.

After all the Kung Fu Panda themed lights, we came across the Shrek displays which were my favourite. Shrek is one of our favourite family films, and so my kids were really excited to see all the characters.

My daughter's favourite is Donkey, and so she couldn't resist asking for a picture beside him.

Following on from Shrek, came the Madagascar displays. I love the characters from Madagascar as they are so funny, and the lights looked absolutely brilliant, whilst still displaying the humour that each one represents in the film.

Some of the larger displays throughout the attraction also had the added bonus of large projector screens showing excerpts from the movies.

At the end of the attraction, you can have your photo taken on a green screen, and then choose from a selection of backgrounds. The pictures I saw on the screen looked great, however I found that because of where it was located, it did make it slightly difficult for guests with prams to exit, as the queue was large and therefore partially blocked the way out. The photos were £6 each which I think is reasonable for a fun and unique family photo.

As with most attractions, there is a gift shop on your way out that sells a nice selection of goods and memorabilia. The products weren't cheap, but they also weren't overpriced so there was something to suit most budgets.

In total we spent just over an hour here, and really enjoyed it. For 2 adults and 2 children it costs £36 which may seem slightly expensive for an experience that isn't a full day out, however it is something unique and enjoyable and I feel that the cost is reasonable for what it is. There is also so much to do in Liverpool at the moment, so if you wanted to make it a full day out, you could easily combine it with Santa's Magical Grotto, a pantomime, or even the World Museum which is great fun and also offers free entry. There is also a small Christmas market just outside the Dreamworks Lights Lantern Experience, selling a lovely selection of goods to get you in the festive mood.

The Dreamworks Lights Lantern Experience is open daily between 10am and 7pm until Sunday 15th January. (Exceptions to this are early closing 2pm on Christmas Eve & New Year's Eve, and full day closures on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Day).

Entry is via allocated time slots which begin every 30 minutes, and online booking is advised to guarantee your preferred entry time and date.

Tickets cost £10 for adults and £8 for children. Babies under 12 months are free of charge. Some pay on arrival tickets will be available, but will be subject to demand.

If you would like to book your tickets, you can do so here - Dreamworks Lights Lantern Experience

Disclaimer - I was provided with complimentary access to this event in order to provide an honest review and opinion of the attraction. All opinions are my own unless otherwise stated.

Thursday 8 December 2016

Making a Kitty-in-Boots Snow Globe

The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots which is written by Beatrix Potter and illustrated by Quentin Blake, tells the tale of "A serious, well-behaved young black cat, who leads a daring double life defeating vile villains".

As a big fan of Beatrix Potter stories, my son Riley and I were really excited to learn more, and delighted when we were given the challenge of making our very own Kitty-in-Boots snow globe. We love making craft and have enjoyed creating lots of fun decorations ready for Christmas, but a snow globe was something neither of us had tried before and we couldn't wait to get started.

I was a little bit worried at first that it may be a bit too complicated for Riley to enjoy, but it was a lot easier than I first thought and other than using the scissors he was able to do everything with a little bit of help. I got everything ready that we would need and we sat down ready to start.

To begin with, I printed out the instructions as well as the cutout image of Kitty-in-Boots. We then stuck this with glue to some card and wrapped it in clear tape which helped to make the picture waterproof. We weren't able to find a small model of a Christmas tree to use, so we made our own using green card and wrapping it in clear tape again like we did with Kitty.

Once our figures were ready we attached them to the inside of the jar lid using water resistant glue, and I then also added a small piece of tape for extra support.

We then filled our jar with cold water and a drop of glycerin, and Riley then enjoyed adding his selection of glitter. We had originally opted for silver glitter, but he decided he wanted lots of colours so mixed all his glitter up before adding it to the jar.

Once Riley was happy that he had added a sufficient amount of glitter, we placed some glue around the rim of the jar, screwed the lid on, turned it upside down and there we had it, a wonderful Kitty-in-Boots snow globe.

It was a really fun and easy activity to do, and if you would like to try making your own Kitty-in-Boots snow globe, then you can find all the instructions you need here. You will also find the list of equipment that's required, along with a really useful video tutorial that provides a step by step guide.

You can find out more about the Kitty-in-Boots book here and if you would like to purchase the book then it is available now from the following retailers:


Tuesday 6 December 2016

Aquabeads - Finding Dory Playset Review & Star Wars Playset Giveaway

My son and daughter both received an Aquabeads Beginners Studio for Christmas last year, which they really enjoyed and made some wonderful patterns. My daughter found some great tutorials on YouTube that taught her how to make some fab shapes and figures, and we were all really excited when we saw that Aquabeads had brought out some Finding Dory and Star Wars Aquabeads sets to add to the collection earlier this year.

Aquabeads are unique individual beads, that you can arrange into a shape or design, which then stick together with a spray of water. They are such a fab idea and great fun for anyone with an interest in art and craft. Unlike other bead products on the market, there is no application of heat required, which helps to make it safe for children or families to enjoy together. You can create your own designs, or use the templates that are available. Add-on packs can also be purchased, including additional templates, beads, and themed sets such as 3D Animals or Crystal Charms.

Aquabeads kindly agreed to send us their Finding Dory Aquabeads set, so that we could try out this fab addition to the range which as you can see looks fantastic!

The packaging on the box was bright and colourful, and featured both Dory and Nemo. It provides you with brief three step instructions on the front that show how you simply Make, Spray and then they Stay. It also provides you with an insight into what is inside the box.

On the reverse of the box, there is a full list of what is included with the playset which is:

  • 3 x Template Sheets
  • Bead Palette
  • Design Table
  • Bead Pen
  • Sprayer
  • Layout Tray
  • Solid Beads (In a range of colours including white, black, blue, orange, red & ivory).
  • Jewel Beads (In a range of colours including Blue, Yellow, Purple, Orange & Red)
  • A set of instructions

After opening all the packaging, we selected the Dory template and placed the colours that we would need in the bead palette. There is enough space to put all the coloured beads in there, but we chose to just use the ones that were needed for this specific picture to make it easier for my youngest child Riley, who has never used Aquabeads before unlike his brother and sister. The template simply slid into the design table and we were ready to start.

We began using the Aquabeads pen to select the beads and place them on the palette, however my son found it easier and quicker to just use his fingers so we decided to use this method for the majority of the picture. The pen was very handy however, when trying to place in the last of the beads to get them in the right places.

Once we were happy that the picture was correct, we began to spray it to set it into place. Unfortunately on the first spray when I was trying to show Riley how to use it correctly, I squeezed too hard and the end flew off with water going everywhere. This was totally my fault and I should have been more gentle. Luckily I had some tissue to hand so was able to clean it up quickly before it affected the beads. I refilled the sprayer and my son took over, who was much better than me, and sprayed it gently all over the picture. We then stood the picture up at an angle as explained in the instructions and left it for an hour.

When the time was up we were able to easily peel the beads off the board and we had the perfect Dory artwork! My son was so happy with this, and he is taking it into nursery tomorrow to show his teachers.

I really enjoyed doing this with my son and I can see why it has been so popular with my other children too. It was a great activity to do together, and it was fun waiting to see the end result. All three of my children are now Aquabeads fans, which has meant a few late additions to their Christmas lists, however I am more than happy to purchase some more of these sets in order to provide them with a fun craft activity and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this product to others.

Aquabeads have also kindly provided me with a Star Wars Aquabeads set to give away to one of my readers. If you would like to enter, then please do so using the gleam form below. Good Luck!

Win a Star Wars Aquabeads Set

Terms and Conditions:
Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 or over. Any bulk/third party entries will be disqualified. The winner shall be drawn at random from all eligible entries. The winner shall be notified via email and will have 14 days to confirm that they wish to accept the prize. Should the winner fail to respond, then a new winner shall be selected at random from the remaining entries. The winner's details will be shared with the promoter for the purpose of prize fulfillment, which shall be sent directly from the promoter. Please allow up to 28 days for delivery. There is 1 (one) prize available of a an Aquabeads Star Wars Playset. 

*Disclaimer - I was provided with this product free of charge for the purpose of this review and to give my honest opinion and experience of using the product. All opinions are my own.

Santa's Magical Grotto - Liverpool Town Hall

It is a tradition for our family to visit a Santa's Grotto, and we like to try somewhere new each year. I am really enjoying the festive season so far, as my youngest son who is 3, is really starting to enjoy Christmas and has been learning all about the true meaning of Christmas in nursery as well as making lots of craft and talking excitedly about Santa. He was therefore really happy when I told him that we were going to see Santa on Sunday.

The traditional style grotto is housed in The Crypt of the Town Hall, and after being greeted by Santa's Elves, you can follow the Santa trail through a festive fantasy world featuring reindeers, fairytale characters, candy canes and giant gingerbread men.

Santa's Magical Grotto has been described as being bigger and better than ever for Christmas 2016, and it is open each weekend from 26th November to the 11th December and will then be open daily from Friday 16th December to Friday 23rd December.

Lord Mayor, Counciller Roz Gladden, said "Liverpool Town Hall is a Liverpool Landmark - so where better to bring your family and enjoy a traditional magical grotto".

"This year, our excited young visitors (and old ones too!), can look forward to meeting Father Christmas in the grand surrounds of Liverpool Town Hall. We look forward to ensuring everyone has a truly magical time".

We live in North Wales, but Liverpool is within easy travelling distance at only 45 minutes by train or car, and so after reading all about Santa's Magical Grotto in Liverpool, we decided to pay a visit. We often choose to travel by train as the kids really enjoy it, it is more cost effective and there is no worry about finding somewhere to park.

We arrived at the Town Hall just after 10:30am, it was very busy outside due to an event taking place and so I couldn't see any signage other than it was the town hall, so I wasn't entirely sure if we had the right entrance. However, it soon became apparent that we did, as when the door was opened two friendly elves came dashing towards us. The elves were full of enthusiasm and chatted away to the kids. I really enjoyed the fact that the experience began as soon as you walked through the doors, and my son was so happy to have met an actual *real elf!

As we were walking through the festive decorations, our elf guide asked our names and whether we thought we were on the good or naughty list this year. We were then encouraged to shout "SANTA" before being led into his cosy grotto. My son couldn't wait to tell Santa what was on his Christmas list, and I was a little bit worried about what is response would be as my son wants a Dolls House and a Kitchen, and quite a few people have proclaimed (much to my annoyance) that these are girls toys. I was relieved when Santa exclaimed "Well isn't that lovely, I will do my very best to bring you those toys on Christmas Eve as long as you're a very good boy." I was delighted with this reply as my son was grinning from ear to ear and my daughter loved seeing her little brother enjoy the experience so much.

Both children were provided with an early Christmas gift that was neatly wrapped, and I took a picture of the children side by side with Santa. When we left we took some more time to have a closer look at the decorations and take some photos. It was really quiet when we were there so the elves said that we were fine to take a good look and get some pictures.

As we left a lady approached and asked if we wanted to purchase our photograph, however no-one had taken our photo whilst we were there, nor was it mentioned to us whilst in the grotto, so I am not sure if the photographer had just popped out, or simply hadn't been made aware that we were there. This wasn't an issue though as the lady did kindly offer for us to go back down and have our photo taken, but it was at this point I was informed that there was an additional charge for this so I politely declined. I have read a few press reports on the event and note that none of the ones I have read mention the additional charge, so just to make you aware it is £6 for one photo or £10 for two.

For guaranteed entry, tickets can be purchased in advance via Ticketquarter and are priced at £8.25 per child which includes meeting Santa Claus, a selection box, and two accompanying adults (there is a cost of £1.50 for any additional adults). There are also a number of on the day tickets available at a slightly lower price of £7.50 but queues are likely at busier times.

My children really enjoyed the experience, and the elves were all really enthusiastic and friendly, which immediately made my son Riley feel at ease, as he is often very shy with strangers, but he chatted away to the elves and told them his name and age. As we were leaving one of the elves also approached us again, and asked if we had enjoyed meeting Santa and wished us a Merry Christmas.

Once outside I agreed that the children could open their gifts early, so they both unwrapped their presents and chose one of the chocolates to eat whilst we continued our day out in Liverpool and headed to Dreamworks Lights at St Georges Hall.

* Disclaimer - It was not a real elf (or was it????)
I was provided with complimentary tickets for the purpose of providing an honest review of the attraction. All opinions are my own.

Monday 5 December 2016

The VQ Retro Mini - Review and Competition

Like most people, I enjoy listening to music, whether that be whilst I am getting ready in the morning or for a night out, washing the dishes in the kitchen or even when I am doing the ironing, there is always an occasion where I want to just listen to some music, and play some of my favourite songs.

Unfortunately my phone isn't very loud, so I started using a small bluetooth speaker, but I found that the battery would never last very long, and it just wasn't suitable for my needs. I also like to keep up to date with the news and the latest new song releases, and so it was frustrating to also not be able to listen to the radio through the device.

I had a search online for a digital radio, and whilst there seems to be plenty on the market, the majority didn't really stand out to me, as I also wanted something that was funky and would look great in my home, and definitely not something that I felt I would have to put away all the time, or one that would look bulky and boring.

I then spotted an advert for a VQ Retro Mini, and although the one pictured was white, it definitely didn't look boring, and I loved the design. I had a read through the description on the MyVQ website and was delighted to find that it came in a whole host of colours and patterns suitable for all tastes. There are even some exclusive Emma Bridgwater designs available, and I could imagine these looking great in a kitchen, conservatory or summer house.

The product looked great to me, but I needed to ensure that it offered me the sound quality I was after, aswel as being able to run on mains power so that I didn't need to worry about the battery going flat. I was therefore delighted to be offered the opportunity to review this product and discover more about it.

The box it arrived in was also stylish and had a sticker over the edges claiming "Quality Assured". It is great when brands are confident in their product, and it instantly makes you feel more reassured in the item. It also features the Which? great value logo, which means it has also been recognised by unbiased reviews that it is a product that consistently provides quality and great value to consumers. I thought that the colour coding at the bottom of the box was great, as rather than it being an image of the product colour inside, or a simple tick box like some companies do, it featured a soft leatherette sample of the actual casing so you could even feel it too.

On opening the box, there was an envelope placed at the top which contained the warranty details and underneath this, was the quick start guide. Placed at the top of the inner packaging was the plug and on removing the inner packaging it revealed a white dust bag underneath. I pulled this out to then reveal my fabulous new digital radio & bluetooth speaker. The wonderful VQ Retro Mini.

I had chosen the light blue design, as although I am a big fan of monochrome, I wanted something that would inject a bit of colour into my home. I immediately set it up in the kitchen and connected the mains power to the power port. I pressed the circular VQ button in the middle to turn it on, and it began to scan for radio stations. The LCD Screen was lovely and bright, and easy to read. It visually looked fantastic, and I waited for it to complete the DAB scan before exploring the range of buttons.

The VQ Retro Mini, boasts a whole host of features including DAB radio tuner with 30 presets, bluetooth connectivity for smart devices and MyEQ equaliser for personalised sound. The quick start guide easily explains how to use the product, and which buttons to press for each function. I was really pleased to find that not only was I getting a digital radio, but that I could stream my music via bluetooth, use it as a clock, and even set it as an alarm. I was also really pleased with the size of it (224mm height, 147mm width, 105mm depth), and the fact that it was really light, weighing in at less than a kilo. As we are a family that travel regularly this was a big bonus for me as it means that we will be able to take it with us on our adventures, and have music wherever we may go. The handle also means that this can be easily carried, and the dust bag which is included will also help to protect it from dirt whilst we are out and about, so it had already ticked so many boxes for us.

You can easily save your favourite channels by simply pressing the star button when tuned into the station or if you want to play your own music, you can connect your device to the speaker using the "Bluetooth mode" which will allow you to pair your phone/tablet. The alarm can also be set using the clock icon, and again it is a really simple process, you can even use the arrow keys to select your desired alarm volume.

The price of the product is £59.99 if choosing one of the 11 block colours, and is available for a slightly higher price of £79.99 if you would prefer one of the Emma Bridgwater designs. I was surprised at how fantastic it was, and it really does offer excellent value for money with so many functions and features. My initial instinct was that this was a product for adults, however since receiving the product my teenage stepson has commented on how much he likes this, and my daughter who is 10 has been consistently dropping hints that she would love a pink one in her room for Christmas.

There are so many people that I would love to buy one of these for as a Christmas gift as I could just imagine my dad working out in the shed listening to his, or my mum cooking and singing along to some ballads in the kitchen, so I would definitely recommend this product as a great gift idea, and if my daughter is very lucky, then Santa may just bring her a pink one too! have kindly offered the chance for one of my readers to win one of these fantastic VQ Retro Mini's and if you would like a chance to win, then simply enter using the gleam form below:

Win a Retro Mini Dab+ Radio from VQ

Terms and Conditions:
Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 or over. Any bulk/third party entries will be disqualified. The winner shall be drawn at random from all eligible entries. The winner shall be notified via email and will have 14 days to confirm that they wish to accept the prize. Should the winner fail to respond, then a new winner shall be selected at random from the remaining entries. The winner's details will be shared with the promoter for the purpose of prize fulfillment, which shall be sent directly from the promoter. Please allow up to 28 days for delivery, though every effort shall be made to try and get this to the winner before Christmas. There is 1 (one) prize available of a VQ Retro Mini. 

*Disclaimer - I was provided with this product free of charge for the purpose of this review and to give my honest opinion and experience of using the product. All opinions are my own.