Sunday, 31 July 2011

Magpie Monday - Choo Choo

Last week's Magpie Monday, I mentioned that I'd spent a couple of days on a training course.  It was run by a charity (not the one I work for), and charities have a tendency to grab almost every opportunity they can to raise a bit of cash.  Over in the corner of the training room was a table I found myself drawn to in the first of many coffee breaks.  Second Hand Books - 50p!  I'm one of these people who *need* something to read if I'm sat still for any length of time, and I plough through newspapers & trashy magazines at lightning speed, so two days of hour long train journeys each way was looking expensive.


Until the table came to the rescue.  I love travel books, the kind that tell a story, rather than the ones that recommend an assortment of historic places & expensive restaurants.  This was the former, well written, though a bit too convenient for my liking, every turn the author seemed to accidentally meet someone else who'd played a major role in the Hippy Trail of the 1960's.  Yeah, I'm sure the tedium of finding people & meeting no-bods wouldn't make such interesting reading, but it would be that bit more convincing.  Travel IS boring in places, anyone who's set foot in an airport will attest to that.  This one took me home from training, and back there & back the next day, with a few chapters left for bedtime reading.

The second book kept me going in the car on our little trip to Banbury & Oxford last weekend.  Silly, slightly reminiscent of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime, and not just because of the dog in the title.  A nice trashy bit of 50p fun.  These books are more Magpie Monday, in my mind, than the majority of my charity shop book finds, because these actually saved me money.  By spending £1 on two books, I didn't buy 2 newspapers, plus a couple of trashy magazines, a bottle of diet coke & a packet of crisps while I was in the shop, just because they were there.  Spending a little to save a lot more, that's what it's all about.

Oh yeah, and Oxford?  No finds in Oxford, but I did see a street sign that made me smile.  I've seen a few town centre High Streets so full of charity shops they should change their name to this.


Who else has been bargain spotting this week? Find out here Me and My Shadow

Saturday, 30 July 2011

A couple of disconnected thoughts

1- I might have, at some point today, changed my mobile ringtone to Mr Bloom singing Meet The Veggies.  That's normal, right?

2 - I just read a review on a blog.  I won't say whose, or what for.  But I've found the identical item for less than half the price, as a regular thing, not on special offer.  Why do I really want to point this out?  The company has been generous enough to send it out for a review, but I really want to tell people to save some of their pennies. I'm a bad person.  I won't post it, so you'll never know if it's one of yours, but, argh!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Bad Examples

There was something in the news a while back now about Peppa Pig not wearing a seatbelt & promoting a bad influence on children.

I got thinking about that again recently, and wondered how many more examples of bad practice you can find, without really looking, in children's tv & related products.  And the flipside, how many "subtle" acts of good practice can you spot?

Image from bbc.co.uk
Well, I'm watching Mister Maker right now.  He's got a telly screen in the front of the Maker Mobile, which transmits "live" pictures, so he can talk to Mini Makers.  Except that he's driving.  OK it's hands free, I'm not going to go off on a phones rant.  But.  It's illegal to have a tv (or similar) screen switched on in view of the driver while driving.  I learned that last week on Cops With Cameras.  So Mister Maker gets a slapped wrist from me, 3 points on his license & a £60 fine from the friendly police who give him a wave.

Image from amazon.com
And I was reading one of our Maisy books the other night, Maisy Makes Gingerbread, if you must know.  And Maisy uses eggs, butter, flour, sugar & ginger to make her gingerbread.  And then licks out the bowl, with a raw egg mixture in it.  Now I know we all did it, and it didn't do us any harm *twitch*, but in these enlightened, post-salmonella days, raw eggs = Big No-No.  Maisy gets a slap on the wrist from me, an upset tummy & a prescription for Dioralyte.

On the positives though, CBeebies is actually really quite good at that.  Every time the Pontipines & Wottingers ride the Ninky Nonk, they wear seat belts.  Sarah-Jane (ick) and the children on Mighty Mites wear assorted protective gear before doing anything risky, and even Grandad Tumble wears a helmet when he rides a bike.  Also, the fact that I haven't yet been able to rid the world of Justin, or Sarah-Jane suggests their safety is a consideration at CBeebies Central.

I know, the real answers to all this include the phrases "get out a bit more" and "it's only pretend", but pretend has just as big an impact on children as reality, more so sometimes.  It's not deliberate, I don't think that for a second, but unconscious errors can still have serious impact.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

John Crane High Tea Shape Matching Review

I was really excited when John Crane Ltd sent me their High Tea Shape Matching game for review, it arrived just after our weekend away, and was a lovely welcome home treat for Squeaky.

I had a feeling she might be a little young for it, as you'll see it says 3yrs+ on the box.  As she was supervised throughout, I didn't find it to be a problem, and she happily engaged with the game.  I wouldn't leave her to play with it unsupervised though, as there are smaller pieces and they could be a problem for younger children.

Anyways, I opened the box to find the game beautifully packed, each cake had its own separate compartment, which means they are less likely to get damaged, and you can easily see that all the pieces are there.  One thing I would say though is that the plates to build the stand are packed underneath the cakes, meaning you have to remove all the cakes from their compartments to get the plates out & make the stand.  We've put ours away now with the cakes on the bottom and the plates on top, which should make unpacking again that much easier.  I know it looks nicer with the cakes on top, but it seems more practical to me not to have to remove them all before you can put everything together.

Putting the stand together was a piece of cake (a ha ha ha! I'm so funny).  The round topped dowel (at the bottom of the above photo) screws through the small plate, into the plain dowel (at the top of the photo), and a single screw - with allen key provided - screws through the bottom of the large plate into the other end of the dowel.  5 minutes tops, and that included getting into the little plastic bag the screw was in.  Then all the cakes fit into their own spaces on the cake stand.

The cakes are beautiful.  All brightly painted, with different patterns & fruits on them.  They're numbered underneath, corresponding with numbers on the stand.  A few of the cakes have uniquely shaped bases, and will only fit in their own space, others are part of a pair or more with the same shaped base, so depending on the age of your child there's variations to play, matching shapes, or number recognition.  Obviously Squeaky's nowhere near recognising numbers yet, but that didn't stop her spending a happy hour or two picking up and examining the various cakes, and replacing them into their spaces on the stand.  We talked about the colours, patterns, shapes and fruits on the different cakes, so even for younger children, there is plenty of opportunity for interaction with the game and learning opportunities.  

Look Mummy, cake!
There's really a long lifespan for this game.  As I said, Squeaky's a while below the recommended age, but she's very interested in it, and I can see it being a game we come back to time & again, with more to add to it, and get out of it, as she gets older and her understanding develops.  At £23.95, the pence-per-play (you know, like price per wear to justify that must-have pair of shoes) is down in the pennies, considering the length of time it'll last.

You can keep up with John Crane on their website: www.john-crane.co.uk, blog: www.thejohncraneblog.co.uk twitter: @johncraneblog and facebook: www.facebook.com/johncranetoys

High Tea Shape Matching Set is available from all good toy stores including Dillon’s ToyBox with an RRP of £23.95.

Disclosure: I was provided with the High Tea Shape Matching set free of charge for the purpose of this review.  I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Magpie Monday - Shiny!

Only a little find this week  (actually, I'm lying, but I've got PLANS for future posts, so some will have to wait)

I found a competition in my emails for a hot chocolate company, and the entry involved taking a photo of your jar of hot choc.  So I figured to myself I needed a nice glass to make a hot choc in, show it off, all whipped cream & marshmallows.  You know the deal.  I looked all round our local charity shops, and the car boot sales in Cannock to no avail.  In fact, it was quite a new experience, looking for *something* rather than *anything* as is my usual way.


Off I went then, last week, to Cardiff on a two day training course.  There's a nice little cluster of charity shops by the train station, so I couldn't walk past.  And I spotted a single hand painted hot choc/Irish coffee glass in the Marie Curie shop.  Wasn't sure, and I still had the others to browse too.  So I left it.  Went back that afternoon, it was still there, but I still wasn't sure, I'd really wanted a pair.  Clearly that wasn't going to happen though, as nowhere else had got anything that even vaguely met the description.  So on the second morning, I handed over my £2.00, and became the proud owner of this.  I had to carry it round with me in my bag all day, so I was VERY grateful to the nice man who wrapped it properly in tissue paper. There was a little bit of the original sticker on the bottom, saying it was hand painted & not dishwasher proof (good thing, as we haven't got one), which is now just a bit of sticky residue, but I don't want to scratch too hard as the base looks to be painted as well and I don't want to harm the colour.
What do you think, eh?  Pretty or what?  The perfect way to show off my hot choc?  So did I, and took lots of photos.  And then read the competition rules & discovered I needed a picture of ME with my hot choc jar, not my new mug.  Ah well, any excuse.  There's bound to be another competition that needs a photo of a drink in a pretty glass, right?

Join the magpies.  Me and My Shadow

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Nervous

We're having a couple of days off.  Squeaky is going to stay with my parents, while Daddy & I take a little excursion to Oxford.  No particular reason for Oxford, apart from that we've never been.

Now, my parents had me, they must have some idea of how to handle a child.  But I'm nervous.  They had her overnight last year for a night, and she was a bit of a minx.  She's sleeping a lot, lot better now, but she's also a lot more active and into absolutely EVERYthing at the moment.  She's going to run them ragged, isn't she?

Ah well, see you after the weekend internets.  Be good.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Oh yeah, and another thing...

That ear infection I picked up in Majorca?  2 months ago?  I'd like it to go away now please.  3 different lots of antibiotic ear drops, the last of which make me dizzy and kind of nauseous, and I've still got a sore, swollen ear with stuff in it.  Which Squeaky of course makes contact with on a shockingly regular basis.  Isn't it time it went away now?

I moaned about it on Twitter last month, and some strange spambot offered me a "free!" gadget treatment.  Free in as much as I pay a fortune in shipping costs ($80?? I think not) for a glorified vibrator, and they would refund me if I submit a video-review to their website.  I offered them a review here for not having to pay the shipping in the first place, but they weren't interested.  Wonder if I'd've ever got the refund? I doubt it somehow. Maybe I should just get a cheap vibrator & hold it against my ear?  (Confession time, I don't own a vibe, I never have. Does that make me strange?)

Frustration

Wasn't that a game?  My brain has just developed an earworm of an advertising jingle consisting of the words "Frustration - from Action GT", who I know were a kids' games manufacturer in the 1980's.

Anyway, that's not the point. Busy busy busy day at work today, I've no idea where the day went, and I'm on a course for the next two days, so I won't be in the office til next Monday now (hooray!)  Drove to work just fine, drove off to visit my clients, and back to the office, no problem. Into town, stopped at the post box, to the shops, then home.  All without incident.  Had a nice quiet half hour catching up with emails before heading back out to pick up Squeaky from nursery.  And the car won't start.  Stupid stupid stupid car.  It's been doing this more & more of late. The garage can't find anything wrong, it's an intermittent fault and it intermits itself away when faced with an oil covered mechanic in overalls.

I spent 25 minutes trying to start the stupid car, getting progressively more annoyed with it, then reached the point where I had to make a decision, because I was going to be late to the nursery.  So I legged it out of the road, through the village to the main bus stop, where there's a bus every 10 minutes rather than every half hour.  Waited for the bus, found myself as far as humanly possible from the nursery whilst still in sight of the place, ran across the muddy field & gathered up Squeaky, who was patiently waiting in the Big Kids Room, with chocolate cornflake cakes.  She's used to going home in the car. so she was very unimpressed that there was no car, and no pushchair either (I honestly didn't have time to gather one up), and that she had to walk sensibly or be carried to the bus stop & wait for the local bus (I wasn't carrying her through the two villages, and it was threatening to rain.

So of course.  We had a real, proper temper tantrum.  Screaming, howling, kicking. The kind of behaviour where you normally look the other way and think to yourself "Thank goodness they're not my child". Except, she is my child.  I just about managed to placate her with numerous verses of Row Row Row Your Boat before the bus came, and then as many verses as I could manage of The Wheels On The Bus while we were being The People On The Bus.  And give her her due, she didn't struggle while I carried her up the steps from the main road to our street.  Chocolate cornflake cake reward well earned in the end.

I've never seen her behave that badly though, and I hope it's not the start of things to come.  Hopefully it was just a combination of tiredness and frustration that I didn't let her run everywhere.  No more tantrums please.

Magpie Monday - Oooh La La!

We're in a French mood this week. I would have tried to write something in French but as a) it's nigh on 20 years since I last had a lesson, and b) there are people reading this blog who actually speak French properly, I decided not to make a complete fool of myself.

Instead, I thought I'd show you this week's purchase.  It's been a quiet few weeks on the Magpie front round here, not a lot in the shops, and even when we hit the car boots yesterday, there was nothing that caught my eye.  This little shirt is the only thing I've found for ages.

 Brand new, tags still attached (and the price tag said it'd arrived the day before - I love that bit)  crinkle cotton with a jersey cotton inner.  The label says "La Compagnie des Petits" and there's no other clue.  I can see this with a pair of cotton trousers, can't wait until we get some more decent weather (it's raining again here).

Oh yeah, and I did buy one other thing.  Maybe I shouldn't admit this one, but it amused me so much I had to buy it.  It's actually quite an amusing read for a cookbook (I've mentioned my love of reading cookbooks before, right?), it's almost an oral history, very much written as the recipes were shared, so some are quite "normally" presented, with a list of ingredients, cooking temps & times, and others, well they're more of a story than a recipe.  But it's interesting, and maybe I'll learn to cook Hush Puppies, and I don't mean the old lady shoes variety!
More Magpie Monday bargains to be found here: Me and My Shadow

Friday, 15 July 2011

Mini Gymnastics

There seems to be a real art to finding out what's on around here for little ones.  Even the Family Information Service only has a vague idea.  Anyway, this week I picked up a leaflet for the local sport centre, and spotted pre-school gymnastics, twice a week. Not enough information to really help, but as I park on their car park to go to town on Thursdays, I popped in to get informed.

And then today we went for the first time.  Just a quick post, because there's a very sleepy Squeaky on my shoulder. She LOVED it, absolutely loved it.  A mixture of guided running around/movement to music & then free time on the gym equipment.  Loads of mats out, but they get to have a go on the bars, the balance beam, jump off the vault horse, jump on the trampoline, dive off one mat onto another, silly stuff like that. And obviously parents get to help them, and roll around on the floor like fools.  There was also a load of balls, parachutes, tunnels etc, so a really great active play session.

I think this could become a regular fixture in our calendar.  It clashes with our Aquatots swimming on Fridays, but we can alternate.  And Daddy can go on Tuesdays if he's not at work, I was really pleased to see there were 3 or 4 other dads there, it makes it easier to convince him to go.

Shhhhh now though, Squeaky's napping.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

In The Night Garden... Live

Not a sponsored review. I paid for my tickets with real money.  This is just me.

I only found out that ITNG was in Cardiff last Tuesday. I was on a training course, got the train, and there at the station was a poster for the show.  I didn't really take in when it was, but the following evening, I thought I'd have a look online & find out.  And it started on Saturday. Well.  Clearly it was meant to be.  The decision making process was something like "Right, I'm going, Squeaky's going. Daddy, do you want to come? When are you not working? Then when's least expensive?"  So we ended up going to the lunchtime show on the opening day.

The Showdome
The showdome is set up right in the middle of Bute Park, so to even get to the Night Garden, you get a walk through a beautiful mature park, full of trees, stone circles, squirrels, the River Taff, and the likes.  The dome itself is like a couple of giant inflatable igloos, behind metal security fencing, which is disguised with giant pictures of the ITNG characters.  At this point, Squeaky figured out something was going on.

Upsy Daisy is a firm favourite in our house, but she kept going back to Makka Pakka, I think because he was more her size.  You might just be able to see that Squeaky's clutching her own Upsy Daisy.  You would not beLIEVE the number of cuddly Upsy Daisies and Iggle Piggles we saw, or the number of children dressed in Upsy Daisy dress-up outfits.

We trundled inside, parked our buggy in the ample buggy parking area (I was in Buggy Geek mode, spotting loads of Gracos, including another U'Go in a different colourway to ours) and went inside. The whole set up is really well organised, keeping queueing down to a minimum, and keeping everyone moving.  There's plenty of ways to spend your money, I was quite glad I hadn't been to the cashpoint, or we'd've ended up weighed down with spinning lights, dvds, helium Pinky Ponks, and all sorts.  We managed to be content with just a programme, and I'd already booked the Meet a Character session for after the show.


There's choice of two shows, which alternate through the day.  So if you've got a really tough bum, or a REALLY obsessed child, you could see both in one day.  Or go back (I'm tempted) another day to see the other show.  The seating was well planned, all set far enough back from the row in front to not have your view blocked, but not so steep that escaping little ones were in danger of hurting themselves.  There were lots of ushers around as well, delivering escaped toddlers back to their owners, and telling people off for using flash.

The show then.  It really was like a whole, extra length, episode of In The Night Garden... Once you learn to, well not quite ignore but just accept, the puppeteers, it's all good.  (It's kinda like Avenue Q in that respect, the humans are there but they're not.)  All the characters were in it, except those that aren't really in normal episodes anyway (Wattingers, Haa-hoos, I'm looking at you here!).  Flash photography wasn't allowed in the show, so these photos are a bit wobbly.


The strangest thing was Makka Pakka.  He's small compared to Upsy Daisy & Iggle Piggle, aboutthe same size as the Tombliboos, and huge compared to the Pontipines.  To be able to have all the characters at the right size would be a logistical nightmare, and the Pontipines would be so tiny no-one would see them if they were sat further back than the front row. Makka Pakka was washing everyone's faces, so he needed to appear with all the other characters.  That meant that we needed a big (adult in costume) Makka Pakka to deal with his stones, push his Og-Pog about & wash the Pontipines, and a small Makka Pakka to wash Iggle Piggle & Upsy Daisy.  So Big Makka Pakka would leave the stage to the left, and Small Makka Pakka would appear stage right.  I don't think it threw the children half as much as it did me.

Squeaky was transfixed throughout.  I've never known her sit so still and pay so much attention.  But by the time we had our turn to meet Upsy Daisy, she was a bit tired & fractious.  I wasn't sure how it was going to go anyway, she's been OK with some giant characters, and completely terrified of others.  She wasn't sure, wasn't exactly keen, but not screaming either. Until our time was up, and then she was all smiles & waves to Upsy Daisy, just too late.  Ah well.

I did take some, ok quite a lot, of video on the Flip, but I haven't edited it yet, or checked it to make sure I wasn't accidentally singing along with the Iggle Piggle song.  When I have, I'll make another post with some video.  Everybody loves video.  Isn't that a pip?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Magpie Monday - Feeding an obsession

No, I haven't missed some punctuation in the above title.  I know there's a few magpies who'd use this title to show off some beautiful cookware or tableware that they've found, but I'm a functional kind of girl, there's precious little pretty in my kitchen, and it's not somewhere for photography.

No.  The obsession is one I tried for a very long time to avoid.  I knew it would happen.  But I tried my hardest not to start, knowing it would be nearly impossible to give up, and it's an expensive hobby.  No, not smoking.  Terry Pratchett.  I held out as long as I could, but eventually the pressure became too much.  And I bought a copy of Feet Of Clay from my local Oxfam bookshop.  And that was it.  I might as well have signed my paycheque straight over to them.  While this isn't a great picture, it's most of my complete works of PTerry collection.  Every Discworld novel up to & including Carpe Jugulem came from a charity shop, the vast majority from the Oxfam Bookshop in Leeds, my old stomping ground.

What you can't see here is that there's also all the Johnny & The... books, all the Bromeliad trilogy, and the pre-Discworld novels again sourced from the fine charity shops of Yorkshire & South Wales. The newest books, I admit I've bought new, after the point where my reading caught up with Sir Terry's writing.  PTerry is an expensive hobby, there's no getting away from it, but I'm really proud of my collection, more so how I came by it.

See what everyone else has collected this week at Me and My Shadow

Sunday, 10 July 2011

I Go, We Go, U'Go!

I've never been one to shy away from the silly title, you know that.

As a Graco Ambassador, I'm lucky enough to be sent a range of Graco products to try out, and to make my life that bit easier.  The latest toy I've received is a U'Go stroller.

We had a lightweight stroller that we took on holiday with us.  While it lasted out the trip, Squeaky's not overly keen on it, and we get major dramatics most times we try to get her in it.  I'm also a bit wary of it, as it feels quite flimsy and exposed, though I like the lightness and how small it folds.  So, I asked Graco if I could try out one of their range, and chose the U'Go for the combination of compactness and looking a bit more secure.  I wasn't disappointed.

Compared to my previous Graco products, the box the U'Go came in was tiny!  Well, I should have guessed with it being a lightweight, umbrella fold stroller. As usual, very simple to put together, clipped the wheels on, adjusted the shoulder straps and we were ready for the off.  Squeaky looks unimpressed, but this is because nap-time was delayed for photos. The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice twitter open in the background, I doubt I was saying anything exciting.

The first thing I noticed was how much more comfortable the U'go is than the "average" lightweight stroller.  The black & grey seat cushion is really thick & squishy and despite the sulky look, Squeaky got in & settled down without complaint - none of the am-dram of our previous lightweight. It also feels impressively sturdy right from putting it up.

Off we went on our adventure. Up the hill, down the hill and into the village for a spot of shopping. The handles are well padded, and the angle makes them comfortable to push - in fact, the angle makes it easier to push the stroller one-handed.  That's something that's becoming more of an issue as Squeaky gets older and wants to walk herself more & more.  I can't push most buggies one handed and go in anything resembling a straight line, but the way the angled handles direct the pushing action across the buggy, it works.  (I know, my explanations aren't all that good).  Round the shops, and the narrow wheelbase came into its own.  There's an aisle of our corner shop that I still can't get down, but then again, you can't actually walk straight down it, as there's a stupid great pillar in the way, so you have to go sideways, but with the U'Go, I can get round all the rest without catching myself on things, and reaching the till with half a dozen things I wasn't planning to buy stuck to the sides of the chair. The generous basket underneath the U'Go was more than big enough for my bottle of squash, newspaper & loaf of bread.  And I found a very VERY useful pocket on the back of the hood.  Just the right size to fit your purse, keys and emergency bottle of diet coke!  With a velcro fastening so you don't need to worry about things falling out.

By this time, Squeaky had given up on her earlier sulk and succumbed to the comfort of the padded seat.  So I got to try out the recline.  Five recline positions, taking the seat to a complete lie-flat, making the U'Go suitable from birth.  You can tilt up the bottom where an older child's knees bend, so that small babies have a little more protection & don't wiggle down.  The recline is cleverly controlled by two slide mechanisms at the back of the buggy, you couldn't release them by accident, it takes a deliberate manoeuvre.  Very simple though.

Errands over, and the sky's looking ominous.  Time to head home. Back up and down the hill (I live in a really awkward place, ok?).  The hills are a nightmare with a heavy buggy, but the U'Go is so light it's no problem at all.  Evicted Squeaky from her seat, and folded up the chair.  And then I find not one, not two, but three of my favourite things about the U'Go.  First, the folding mechanism itself.  A lot of chairs claim to be one-handed-fold.  And a lot of them lie.  But the big twist handle, and the little finger-lift really do work.  So much so that SqueakyDaddy can manage it with ease, and I've never seen that happen before!  Second, the rigid clip on the side that keeps the chair folded, big enough to see, but not to get in the way.  And third?  My favourite thing of all?  On the side, when folded, there's a carry handle.  Such a simple idea.  And a work of flaming genius.  Really.  No need to tuck it under your arm, struggle with it upright, just grab the handle & carry it off.

The chair feels really sturdy & secure.  I said that was one of my concerns with our previous lightweight, but I don't have that issue with the U'Go, despite it being so light & narrow, it really does feel very safe, and I'm not paranoid about people squashing Squeaky in it.  We've taken it on the train, the bus, round the park, to In The Night Garden, shopping, and it's coped admirably (I even took it on the escalator, despite the signs, because there's not enough lifts in the shopping centre I was in, but being so light I managed it fine)  And unlike a lot of buggies on the market at present, the frame is narrow enough for so-called "universal" parasols to fit on.  Great if we get some summer!

Since I got the U'Go, I've seen quite a few of them about. (Yes, I'm one of THOSE people, a buggy geek. Sorry)  I'm really pleased with it, and it's a welcome addition to our household.  I'm sticking with the Symbio for everyday use, but the U'Go is now officially Daddy's buggy, which means it gets nearly as much use, as Daddy is normally at home a couple of days a week while I'm working.

The U'GO is available from ArgosKiddicareBHS DirectDebenhams Extra and probably a whole lot more places besides.  I can't recommend any particular supplier, these are just a few I found online this evening.

Disclosure: I was provided with the Graco U'Go free of charge as part of my ambassador relationship with Graco.  I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Friday, 8 July 2011

My brain has stopped

I was going to update tonight. I had at least 3 blog posts in my head that I was going to write.  I was going to tell you about my Graco U'Go, I was going to tell you about our trip to the new soft play place by our house, and I was going to tell you how excited I am to be going to In The Night Garden... Live tomorrow.

Instead I am full of all the hayfever in the world, and have new eardrops to try and kill the ear infection. That makes 3 different lots of anti-biotics I've put in my ears in the last 10 days.  And it meant I couldn't take Squeaky swimming this week either, last week I couldn't because I was at the hospital and doctors trying to get the ear infection sorted.  I'm getting fed up of this now.  Can I have a new head please? One that's not full of snot & gunge?  I'll look after it.

Oh well, SqueakyDaddy's on proper late shifts tomorrow & Sunday, that gives me more time to blog after Squeaky's in bed, so there may be posts.  There may be MANY posts. Don't be scared.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Bopps - Review

There's a new show on Nick Jr.  (That's Sky channel 615 or Virgin channel 715, if it's not already imprinted on your memory)  The brand new second series of The Bopps started on 27 June, and is on every day at 7.35am.

I was sent an episode to watch on the pc, and we've watched a few episodes since.  Squeaky is really quite the telly addict at the moment - I blame it on her daddy, he's just the same.  She's just started to show more interest in programmes with real people on them, rather than cartoons & puppets & that.  The Bopps fits that bill nicely.

The Bopps are Stan Bopp & Keith Bopp - if you're showing your age like me, you might recognise Stan Bopp as Stan Cullimore from The Housemartins ( the tall one with glasses, as opposed to Fatboy Slim, Paul Heaton from The Beautiful South & The Other One).  Each episode features a short slapstick comedy routine - think a less annoying version of The Chuckle Brothers - and then a song related to the routine, with a group of children joining in & dancing.

Squeaky's quite taken with it, she likes the music, though I think the comedy goes a bit over her head at the moment.  That's no bad thing mind, it means the programme's interest stretches out over a wider age range than many.  As for me? Well, it's less annoying than quite a number of the alternatives (it's actually on at the same time as one of my Least Favourite Shows on one of the other kids channels), SqueakyDaddy tells me it's quite Morecambe & Wise influenced, so it's got some pedigree to live up to.  The sketches are a little bit hit & miss, but the music is SO catchy it makes up for that.  I've spent days humming "I love breakfast time". I'm hoping that one day Keith Bopp will get his own back on that sneaky, cheeky Stan.

We're watching it, and if you're not yet, here's a little clip to show you what you're missing out on.
video

Disclosure: I was provided with a preview link free of charge for the purpose of this review.  I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.  I have received no payment for this post. Video and still images supplied for review purposes & used with permission.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Fun in the sun

It's been a gorgeous weekend, so we've made the most of it.

Saturday we went to our local park.  They've built a new play area, including one of those Splash Zone type efforts, all rubber bouncy floor & water sprays everywhere.  We hadn't got Squeaky's swimming costume with us (my fault, it was a spur of the moment effort and I don't tend to carry bathing suits in the back of the car on the off-chance), but considering she wasn't at all keen on sprays and shower type things when we were on holiday, I don't think she'd've been all that bothered there either.  There were enough swings & slides to keep her amused, but she was more interested in climbing up, and being helped down, a big set of concrete steps that lead up to the big kids' climbing web.  Typical.  All those things designed for her to play on safely and she wants to climb concrete stairs.  No photos, because like most public play facilities now, they're so PRECIOUS about photography that you can't take a picture of your own child.

Sunday seemed to be one of those days where every possible location had some sort of event on.  It gets a bit much after a while, and there's only so many people to go around.  Anyway. First of all we went to the carnival in Aberdare, mostly to see Squeaky's auntie & cousin (actually Daddy's cousin & her grown up daughter), our closest relatives for a good 60-odd miles.  Squeaky, as usual, charmed everyone, though she had to hide behind my legs to stop a corgi stealing her fruit bar.  There were nearly tears.  We had a look at some owls & falcons, and met the biggest dog ever, a huge harlequin Great Dane, who was finding it all a bit much and laying in the shade in one of the tents.  Don't blame him.  We were roasting, and made good use of the Ultrasun sun cream we were lucky enough to win a couple of weeks ago.  We tried to win something exciting on the tombola, but I managed to pick out 5 losing tickets.  The nice lady took pity on us though, and Squeaky was given some foam shapes as a consolation prize, so sticking & glueing will be happening soon.

Then we got back in the car & went to the "Global Family Fun Day" at the nearby country park.  It was a bit of a let-down to tell the truth.  Not very global, family or fun.  There was a stall selling Jamaican food (I had a gorgeous savoury pattie and some coconut ice), a stall selling curry, and a stall where Japanese ladies would write your name in Japanese on a bookmark.  Squeaky had fallen asleep in the 5 minute drive between the two parks, and so I managed to pour her into the Symbio still asleep, and somehow rig up a parasol over it.  This is the first real issue I've had with the Symbio - universal parasols just don't open wide enough.  Nothing specific to the Symbio though, the number of people I've seen struggling with parasols with other buggies says it's more to do with the parasols and less the pushchairs.

And to prove we really went out, have a picture.  If anyone reading this can read Japanese, and if the lady wrote it correctly (I always think of those people who get tattoos in foreign languages & end up with something other than what they asked for), then you may discover Squeaky's real name... (ps, strange light marks on her face & arms are just spots of light coming through a broderie anglaise parasol.)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Magpie Monday - Going Vintage

I've seen some fabulous vintage finds in other people's Magpie Monday posts, especially those containing my Very Favourite Thing - old books.  So I thought this week I'd share a couple of my own finds, fresh from a muddy field somewhere in the West Midlands.

First off, a genuine classic, in the dictionary sense of the word.  The 3rd? 4th? in the Little Women series (depending on which side of the pond you're on, as Little Women is split into 2 books in the UK, the second being Good Wives).  I've never read this one, in fact I don't think I've read Little Men either, the one that comes immediately before this.  But I've made a start, though I think it'll take me some time.  It's full of Old Book Smell, and if I don't finish it, or maybe even if I do, I think it'll find its way to its spiritual home in a bookshop in Hay-on-Wye one day.

(Background fabric, by the way is a very cheap & rather beautiful duvet set from Argos.  £5.99 for a double duvet & 2 pillow cases)
Ha!  Slightly less classic, but no less fun.  Sadly the "Monster Book for Girls" isn't a book about monsters, but more of the "improving stories for young women" nature.  All good wholesome fun, ripping yarns & jolly japes.  That sort of thing.

The two together cost me the mighty sum of £1.  I was sorely tempted to offer the guy on the stall a fiver to let me take away his whole box of Enid Blyton books, but then I realised that there's only so much Enid Blyton I can stand before I want to scream, and that has already been passed when I discovered the Complete Wishing Chair collection in reprint somewhere. So I didn't buy loads more books I didn't have space for, just the two.

But the second one really made me smile.  Inside the front cover, I found the following inscription:

Steal not this book for fear of shame
For there you see the owner's name  ->
And if you do the Lord will say
Where is that book you stole away
And if you say I cannot say
The Lord will cast you into hell

I have it on the very good authority of my mother that the penultimate line SHOULD read "And if you say I cannot tell..." because that makes it rhyme, and she apparently learned this rhyme at the convent school she went to back in the day.

I didn't take a photo showing the owner's name, but it was hand printed on the facing page, along with her address.  And in the corner, details of when and where the book came from.  There's something really sweet about this.  Makes me smile, anyway.

This week's finds are over at Me and My Shadow  Come & join in!