Friday, 26 August 2011

She's Leaving Home

(I was torn between this and Del Shannon's Runaway, but I suspect I will have better uses for that in the future. You'll have to settle for The Beatles [or Billy Bragg, if you remember the charity single on the other side of Wet Wet Wet's Little Help From My Friends])

Squeaky decided earlier today that living at home just wasn't good enough any more.  I don't know, maybe I bought the wrong brand of yogurt or something.  Well, whatever the reason, she gathered up some of her favourite things - Upsy Daisy was hiding in the bathroom - and headed for the door.  See?

I swear, she gets stranger by the day.

Oh, and for those who haven't seen this via twitter already, approximately 3 minutes inside the head of a 2 year old. Genius.

In the words of a LOLCAT



We've been cooking this morning, and it's still not even half past nine!  Wonders never cease.

(They're still cooling right now, but if you get here in the next half hour, there might just be a biscuit or two left!)

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Mystery of the Graco Potty

As a Graco ambassador, I get to try out all sorts of lovely products from Graco.  A little while back, I was asked if there was anything I'd particularly like to try out.  I'd seen a Graco branded potty at my mum's house, and as we're heading towards that wonderful stage, I thought one might come in handy, so I asked, as I hadn't seen anything on their website.

No-one knew anything. The only Graco potty that could be found was a toy one.  Ah well.  But I was still intrigued, because I knew this potty was there.  My mum had been given it by one of my cousins, not sure which, but both the possible suspects have children aged 6-7.

Thought no more of it, until I went visiting my mum this weekend.  I decided to take a couple of photos of the potty to see if I could get to the bottom of the mystery.  Yes. You read that right. I took photos of a potty.  What a glamorous life this blogging lark is.

The back held the answer to all my questions.  The company that own Graco, Rubbermaid, also used to own Curver.  And they sold Curver in 2005.  Both the possible previous owners would have bought their potty in 2004 or 2005.  So, they bought a Graco potty made by Curver, because Graco and Curver were part of the same company at that time.  They're not any more, so no more Graco branded potties.

And so the Mystery Of The Graco Potty was solved.  And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for you meddling kids! (sorry, Scooby moment)

Magpie Monday - All Quiet

I'm shattered.  It's been a long week.  My car has been back to the garage for the third time in as many weeks for something that may or may not actually be fixed yet.  This has really had a knock on impact on my bargain hunting.  It's taken me to Brecon every week, which should be a good source of bargains, because Brecon's all posh, like.  But out of the 3 or 4 charity shops I can find, most are rubbish, and the only one with real bargains is a complete jumble sale, and if I've got Squeaky with me, I really haven't got the patience to deal with it.  And I've spent a sodding fortune on car repairs (and expensive coffees to pass the time) which has eaten up my shopping budget.

My friend got married on Saturday, so I had to wrangle Squeaky into a party dress and deal with an over-excited, over-tired toddler who'd already spent a few hours at SqueakyGran's house being fed Too Much Cake.  Can you guess what happened to the pretty party dress?  Put it this way, I was very glad that I'd kept a couple of changes of clothes in the back of the car, for Squeaky at least. I just smelled less of J-Lo Glow and more of Toddler Throw for the rest of the evening.

No actual new finds this week, but Squeaky's party dress was one that featured way,way back in an early Magpie Monday post, so I thought I'd share how it looks now she's grown into it.  See also her favourite toy, a no-longer-working mobile phone - another piece of Magpie-ing I guess, finding a new life for something that would otherwise have been chucked out.  (and please note tidy hair, in pigtails. Don't ask how, it was a miracle)

A couple of new charity shops have sprung up in town, though they hadn't opened when I was shopping last Thursday, so I'll be making a tour later in the week, see if there's anything good.  And I finally located one I'd been looking for for AGES today, though I was working at the time & couldn't really stop & go shopping.

The magpies have migrated for a week or so. Pop over & visit. Molly and the Princess

Monday, 15 August 2011

Utter Confusion

I've been pondering for a while how to wrestle Upsy Daisy from Squeaky's grasp for long enough to give her a good wash and get her dry without Squeaky noticing she's missing.  Unfortunately it's the wrong time of year to be able to stick her on a hot radiator to dry, and my tumble dryer doesn't work very well.

So the best idea I've had so far, or so I thought, was "Why not get a spare?"  Then I could swap Real Daisy for Deputy Daisy, and get the real one washed & replaced while the deputy was standing in.

No.  I already know that different sized Daisies are Not Daisy.  There's a larger one at my parents' house, and while it's daisy, it's not Daisy, and just won't do.  But I thought that maybe an identical one would work.  Yesterday we were in the supermarket, Squeaky firmly clutching on to Daisy, when I spotted a box of small ITNG plushes, including a Daisy.  Squeaky loves cuddling all the toys in the shop, so we'd already said hello to a Makka Pakka, a Timmy (from Timmy Time), and a couple of ZingZillas, before I handed her the Daisy.

She beamed at her straight away.  Then looked at her other hand, and saw Real Daisy.  Threw the Deputy Daisy on the floor and howled!  Oh dear.  That's not going to work, is it?  Deputy Daisy just wasn't grubby enough, and let's face it, she wasn't Daisy.  Oh well, back to the drawing board.

There's only one Upsy Daisy!
(Oh, and there's no Magpie Monday post this week due to the attack of Lurgy we had last week, no time for shopping)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Unclean! Unclean!

Image Credit
(No, it's not the Daily Mail again)

I've finally got shot of the ear infection I picked up on holiday, only to come down with a chest infection last week, so I'm dosed up on antibiotics and feeling grotty.

Then on Thursday night Squeaky was a bit, well, Squeaky. She was a bit warm, so a dose of Calpol, and then all seemed OK. Off we went to Preschool Gymnastics without incident.  She fell asleep afterwards, and then it all began.  She woke up with a temp, and spent the afternoon variously grouching and sleeping.  More calpol, but no change.  Pretty broken night, with yet more calpol and those magic cooling head patches.

Saturday morning, and she seemed back to her usual chirpy self.  Until we met up with SqueakyGran & Gramp for a meal in a brand spanking new restaurant in town.  Screams from the minute we walked in.  No interest in food at all, even though there were scampi AND garlic bread on offer to her, both of which she loves.  Eventually she fell asleep and we could eat in relative peace.

Another disturbed night, though marginally better.  And today she's still running a temp, though it does drop when the calpol kicks in, and still grouching & sleeping.  I just feel helpless, she's upset, unwell and I can't make it right for her, poor petal.

So now we're going to curl up on the sofa & catch up with some of the rubbish on the Sky+

Friday, 12 August 2011

Tights Please Review

The lovely people at Tights Please recently sent me a pair of tights for Squeaky to review.  I'd heard of Tights Please before, but only for adults, and I didn't think they'd stock children's tights as well - but I was wrong. I like being wrong.

I know, it's summer, not the tights season, but have you looked outside recently?  It's howling down today, our summer clothes have barely left the drawer.  Tights Please sent us a pair of CountryKids daisy stripe cotton tights.  I was pleasantly surprised to find them in a size 6-18 months, slightly unusual, but it meant for a small sized Squeaky, they're a great fit.  A broad age range suggests there's plenty of stretch, so they should last longer than average.

The design is really attractive, with a repeating striped daisy pattern (hence the name?) which continues all the way up to the top of the legs.  Obvious? Well, not to other patterned tights we've had in the past.  They're cute, but not overly girly, and the colour matches really well with denim - shorts & tights or a denim skirt & tights are fairly common outfits for Squeaky, so they were a perfect choice.

See?  Big daisies and smaller daisies with stems & leaves.  Squeaky's slightly obsessed with a certain Upsy Daisy at the moment, so I'm working on convincing her that these are her special Daisy tights, and if she's wearing these it means she can leave Upsy at home without tears & tantrums.  We'll see how that pans out, eh?

Squeaky tried them out with a pair of shorts, and found that they fitted nicely, with a fair amount of room for growth.  The tights were really soft, and stayed put despite wriggling, running around and general toddler-ness.

I'm a supermodel, mummy!
In the interest of giving a proper review, they've been through the wash as well, after wearing.  The tights washed nicely, dried quickly, and have stayed in shape when dried on the indoor airer (I've mentioned the weather around here already!). I'm always wary of line drying anything with the potential to stretch, so the airer gets a lot of use in our house.

Tights Please have got a great range of tights for babies, children, teens and adults (including outsize and maternity - why didn't I find them while I was pregnant?) with ranges to suit pretty much every taste and budget, and an option to pay one delivery charge for multiple orders in a 12 month period, rather than a separate delivery charge for each order, and 99% of orders arrive within 2 days of dispatch, with in-stock orders made before 3.30pm being dispatched same day.

I'm really impressed by the quality of the tights we received, and by the range available online.  In fact, I'm very very tempted  to buy myself these skeggings.  I'm torn between love & hate of portmanteau words like skeggings (skirt/leggings combo, if you're still wondering), but the idea makes me a happy bunny.  Am I young & trendy enough, that's the question?

Disclosure: I was provided with a pair of tights 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.

The shame, the shame

A month or so ago, I entered a competition with Ribena to nominate your favourite picnic spot, and send in a photo. There were 6 categories, and obviously there were going to be loads of entries for "countryside" and "waterside", so I decided to enter the unusual category.  It was a couple of days before the closing date & I needed to take a photo and get it entered, and we were heading off to SqueakyDaddy's family for the weekend, so I knew I wasn't going to have many chances.  As a result, I came up with the rather silly idea of a picnic at the motorway services.

You can imagine my surprise a week or so later when I found out I'd won!  A hamper of goodies & a professional photo shoot are heading our way.  But that's not what this is about.  The lovely PRs who ran the competition issued a press release, with little comments from the winners.  And because I'd written a decent soundbite (if I say so myself!) and had nominated somewhere crazy, guess who got picked up by the press?

I was interviewed over the phone yesterday by BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester, though I haven't heard it go out yet.  And then about an hour later, I got a text from a friend asking "is that you in the Daily Mail?"  I haven't got the paper, but, for shame, here's the link

I never planned to be a media darling, it's just the way it pans out.  Strange.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Mixed Blessings CD & Enchanted Party Shop Review

A little something different today - a two part review.

When I was offered the chance to review the Mixed Blessings CD by Sheena Coote, I was pretty happy.  When Sheena said she'd also send me a gift bag from the Enchanted Party Shop, well, I was over the moon.
The parcel arrived, well padded, and I eagerly broke in to find the CD, and a beautiful pink gauze bag, stuffed with treasures!

So, first off, the CD.  There's 12 tracks, and it runs for about 25 minutes - which is plenty of time to calm down a grumpy, tired Squeaky in the bedroom, or in the car.  We've put the cd in the car, because when Squeaky's got her grump on and we're in the car, there's no CBeebies to hand to distract her.  And I have to say, it works wonders.  Within a couple of minutes, she's calmed down, and normally within 2 or 3 tracks, she's dozing happily, dreaming about whatever it is 18 month old girls dream about.

The music is all original piano compositions, written and performed by Sheena Coote.  I'm no expert on piano, I can just about manage a wobbly rendition of chopsticks, but what I do know is that the music is really beautiful.  Relaxing, lyric, simple without being basic or boring, just right for soothing fractious babes and fraught parents.  We particularly like track 3, Elation, because it's got a really catchy refrain, and I find myself humming it in quiet moments.

Mixed Blessings is available to download on Amazon, iTunes, or if you're Old Skool like me and need a physical disc, you can order it from Kent Gigs.

As I said, this is a two-parter.  When Sheena's not making beautiful music, she runs The Enchanted Party Shop, a children's party boutique, stocking everything you need for children's parties and gifts, from the basics through to unusual and special items.  We received a girl's party bag.  Inside the pretty pink organza bag,we found a whole host of treasures.

We found... (from top centre)
  • A tasty lollipop
  • A flower-shaped notepad
  • 3 sparkly bangles
  • A giant bunny balloon
  • A little dolphin ring (child sized, but I have teeny tiny skinny fingers & it fits my littlie)
  • An expanding toy watch
  • A bunny paper peg
  • A chocolate parrot
  • Chocolate crayons
I've got to admit, chocolate doesn't last very long in this house, and from the choc crayon I managed to wrestle from Squeaky's grasp,  it tastes good quality too.

I love that the items are more than just throwaway toys, The Enchanted Party Shop look out for green products that can be used again & again, and certainly the watch and paper peg are that, both are wooden and look to last far longer than most party bag gifts.

As well as the gifts and party items you'd expect for children, there's items for Christenings, Hallowe'en, cards & invitations, dressing up items, all the tableware you could wish for, and some incredible party clothes.

I'll leave you with a picture, not of Squeaky covered in chocolate, though we have many of those, but Squeaky with her new friend, the giant balloon.

Disclosure: I was provided with the Mixed Blessings CD & Enchanted Party Shop gift bag 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, 8 August 2011

Magpie Monday - Snooker Loopy

"Snooker Loopy, nuts are we, me and him and them and me.
We'll show you what we can do, with a load of balls & a snooker cue!
Pot the reds and screw back, for the yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black.
Snooker Loopy, nuts are we, we're all snooker loopy!"

And I didn't even need to look that up!

Snooker is probably the biggest obsession in my life.  No probably about it, it is.  Fact.  I've spent too much money, and too many hours sitting in darkened theatres watching men in tight trousers bend over a table in the name of sport, that I really shouldn't admit it in public.  And this week, as I haven't had any luck whatsoever in new finds, I'm sharing some of my favourites instead.

These 6 are about a quarter of my collection of "classic" snooker books of the late 70's - late 80's, including my most recent find in the top centre (Many of the others are inaccessible due to bookcase "issues").  I'm pretty sure these are all charity shop/boot sale finds, but I do pick them up on eBay as well from time to time, though they're a bit more expensive there.  It's amazing how popular & mainstream snooker was in that era, even Marks & Spencer published a snooker book!  I can't see them publishing a football book now, though I'm happy to be proved wrong.

But the real reason I'm sharing these books today is to show just what sort of treasures you can find.  The bottom centre book of this collection is one of my very favourites.  Not because of the content, but what's just inside.

Signed by the late Ted Lowe, a man I was never lucky enough to meet, though he was still commentating when I first started going to live matches. 

6 times world champion Ray Reardon, one of the nicest players I've met (and without bragging, I've met a LOT)  A genuinely lovely, lovely guy.

And 4 times world champion, albeit from a very different era, the late John Pulman - helpfully with an arrow pointing him out!

I don't know who James was, or how the signatures were obtained (the date is just after the end of the 1981 world championship), it's all just part of the mystery.

Maybe next week I'll have some new finds for you, maybe...

See what the other magpies have found Me and My Shadow

"It's only a game so put up a real good fight,
I'm gonna be snookering you tonight.
I'm famed for my aim so you'd better believe I'm right,
I'm gonna be snookering you, snookering you tonight. BIG BREAK!"


Sunday, 7 August 2011

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

HABA Zoolino Fabric Building Blocks Review

The Zoolino fabric blocks are like the little sister of the wooden Zoolino blocks.  They’re bigger blocks, 6 in the pack, which Velcro together to make a giraffe, hippo & elephant, or a girappo, hiphant, and eleffe!  The heads and bodies come apart, allowing children to mix & match and create their own creatures.  The bodies all have sounds, a crinkle, a rattle & a squeak, great for little hands learning to control their environment.

Squeaky loves the blocks, right from the moment they came out of the box.  The shapes are big, but not too big for her little hands, and she loved the friendly faces.  I love the colours of the animals, and the patterned fabric, bright and attractive, but not excessively so.  Squeaky’s very, very favourite thing is Velcro, she learned to open & stick it very early on, and she loves toys with Velcro, so these animals are a massive hit.  She really enjoys sticking the creatures together & taking them apart again, and I’m happy that she’s playing with Velcro that doesn’t involve clothes.  The Velcro pads are quite small, which is a good thing, it means the animals are less likely to get stuck to something they shouldn’t, and Squeaky can take them apart quite easily.  It’s also encouraging her to pay attention to what she’s doing, as she has to put the head in the right place to make it stick.

The Zoolino fabric blocks are a lovely toy for children aged 9months up.  Squeaky’s 18 months now, and she gets plenty of entertainment out of them, so they are a toy with a long-lasting appeal.  At £29.99 rrp, they aren’t cheap but the price reflects the quality & durability.  I’ve seen them get more than the odd chew, but there’s no sign of any damage to the stitching, and the ears & tails are firmly anchored, so I’m not concerned at all that she will be at risk of swallowing them, destructive as she can be.  And as a cheeky side-note, they look great around the tv.  We're trying to sell our house at the moment, and the toys need to be tidy a lot of the time, but the Zoolino creatures have pride of place on the tv stand when they're not being played with!

Disclosure: I was provided with the HABA Zoolino fabric blocks 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.

HABA My First Games Review

My First Games – Touch & Feel
Touch & Feel is a first game, as children are learning to follow instructions & introduces games with “rules”.  The game consists of 12 brightly coloured wooden food shapes (2 types of bread, sausage, cheese, chocolate & beans, two of each shape) a fabric bag, a woolly sheep, and shamrock tokens.  The game gives a couple of variations, depending on the age & understanding of your child.

As Squeaky is still a bit young for complex instructions, we went for the simple version, generally just exploring the shapes, talking about them, and putting them in & out of the bag and the sheep’s tummy.  Older children can play “What did the sheep eat?” guessing by touch which shape is inside the sheep’s Velcro-opening tummy, and receive a shamrock token for a correct guess.  Squeaky enjoyed putting the shapes in & out of the bag & the box, and soon began to understand me asking her to find a particular shape, or to put a shape into the bag.  The game is great for developing understanding of in, on & under, as well as shape matching.  It’s a brilliant educational tool, as well as being fun & engaging, and encourages families to play together.  Squeaky is right at the start of playing with the game, as she gets older and her understanding increases, I think we’ll be able to get a lot more fun out of it.

The game is beautifully made & packaged, and has the same high quality I’ve come to expect from HABA toys.  Something I noticed while reading through the instructions really struck me as what stands out for me about HABA toys.  If you lose a piece, which is inevitable in our house, you can send HABA a description of the missing piece, which game it came from, and €2, and they will send you a replacement part.   Toys aren’t cheap any more, but this stands out to me as exceptional customer service, and ensures that you can go on enjoying your game even if you mislay a piece.  At £18.99, I think My First Game is great value, as it will go on being a favourite for a long time to come.  And just in case you're wondering - HABA are a German company, hence the German writing on the box, but the instructions are in English, as well as German & a whole host of other languages.

Disclosure: I was provided with the HABA My First Games Touch & Feel toy 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.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The weekend away

I said we'd had a weekend away, and Squeaky spent the weekend at my mum & dad's, running rings around them.

Well, in that time, she seemingly ate a lot of ice cream (no surprise there), rode on the miniature train round the sea front, threw herself down the slide a lot, threw herself off the slide & gave herself her first nosebleed (took about a minute to forget), disturbed my dad from his afternoon nap schedule, and generally created havoc & mayhem.

And then when we got back from Oxford, she had her first ever haircut!  Her fringe had gone beyond cute & straggly to messy & in her eyes, so now she has a proper little fringe.  And looks so much more grown up.  Photos when I can find magic string to join my phone to the computer, because they're on the phone not the camera.