Tuesday, 31 January 2012

My Red House

MyRed House is a recently launched website from RedHouse, the children's book publisher.  It's an interactive website, designed to provide an online home for parents who want to encourage a love of reading in their children.

That sounded like my kind of thing, to say I'm a book lover is an understatement, books take up an awful lot of my house (and time), and I really want to encourage Squeaky to enjoy books in the same way.  I try to mix up the books that we read together, so there's new books, modern classics, and older stories that stand the test of time (or sometimes don't!)  Variety is the spice of life, so they say, and it keeps me amused to move from Peppa Pig to Hans Christian Andersen!

MyRed House is a little bit of everything.  There's live interviews with children's authors, including big names such as Jacqueline Wilson who is joining them on 7th February, and the opportunity for children and parents to send in their questions to the authors.  The interviews are streamed live, and available to watch on demand if you miss them on the day.  There's a blog, a what's on guide for book events in your area, a forum to share your own questions, thoughts & experiences, and the chance to ask the Red House team for suggestions of books for you & your children, whatever their interests or reading levels.

My favourite section though, is Learn, a whole online resource of advice & information for every stage of your child's reading journey, with activities, advice, recipes (yes, recipes) and book suggestions for both parents and children. There's even suggestions relating to specific life events that children may be going through at that age (potty training & fussy eaters are both very relevant in this house!)

The site is still fairly new, so elements such as the forum are quite sparse at the moment, and the number of events local to you varies depending on where you live - you're fine in the South-East, but as is often the case it's a bit quiet over in Wales, Northern Ireland and the South West.  That said, again, as the site grows events will come up.  Keep checking!

MyRed House is a site that will continue to grow, but an interactive resource is only as good as the users who interact with it.  I posted recently about parents turning to the internet for advice rather than more traditional sources such as family & reference books, My Red House is a link between old and new. Sometimes a book is more rewarding, but it can't have the answer to everything, which is where the interactive element comes in.

The Book People - Piccadilly Picture Book Library Review

Anyone who works in an office knows all about The Book People.  That nice man (or sometimes a nice lady, but ours is a man) who comes round every month or so with a random selection of books & you somehow always find something you want.  That's TheBook People.  They also have a website, www.thebookpeople.co.uk, which has a much wider range than your local distributor can carry in their car, with books for all ages & interests.

The nice folk at TheBook People sent Squeaky the PiccadillyMini Picture Book Library to review.  It's aimed at children between 2-5, and contains 10 books covering fairies, mermaids, animals, friendship, and toys.  The books may appear to be slightly more slanted towards girls, with the fairies and mermaids, but I know plenty of boys who'd still enjoy these books (and the rest of the set), as well as a certain Squeaky girl that likes pirates & cars just as much as pink & sparkles.  I'd maybe have liked to have swapped one of the two "girly" books out for a more boy orientated story for balance, but it's not a big issue.

Squeaky spotted the books straight away, before I got them out of the box, and knew they were for her.  The box that the books are stored in is bright and colourful, with pictures of the books' covers, and a snug fit to keep the ten books safe from harm.  I was actually quite surprised how big the books were, considering the name was a Mini Picture Library.  Mini compared to, say, our town library (still closed for renovations, reopening next week according to rumours), so mini in that sense, but when I see Mini in terms of books, I think buggy-book/Little Book of Calm sized.  These are pretty much standard sized books, hardback, but with paper pages, not board books.  That makes the box quite heavy when it's full of the books, as Squeaky discovered when she tried to carry it across the room & she dropped it, right on her foot. Poor mite. That said, 5 minutes of cuddles and Mummy kissing it better, and she was right as rain and demanding "My Books" again, carrying them a bit more carefully second time around.

Squeaky loves trying to read at the moment, or pointing out the pictures to me and telling me what's going on.  She curled up on the sofa quite happily with One Clever Creature, which is definitely our favourite so far, the big print and short length of the story make it ideal for keeping her attention. Some of the stories are a little longer, and they'll engage her more over the coming months, making the set something that will have a long lifespan.

We went through a phase not so long back of not being interested in stories, but we're firmly back in the Bedtime Story Zone at the moment, somewhere I hope we stay.  The Piccadilly Mini Picture Library is already well established in our collection, and gives me a good variety of choices, keeping my attention as well as Squeaky's.

The Piccadilly Mini Picture Book Library is RRP £79.90, but is available from TheBook People for the bargain price of £9.99, and would make a lovely birthday or Easter gift (I'm not thinking about Christmas again for ages!)

Disclosure: I was provided with the Piccadilly Picture Book Library 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, 30 January 2012

Magpie Monday - Returning to the fold

Miss, I've got a note from my mum. It says I couldn't do Magpie Monday because the bank man was very cross with me because I got paid early in December and that meant I had no money.  S'True Miss.

Well, it's been almost two months since I did a Magpie Monday post, according to my archive. You'd think I'd be overwhelmed with things to show you.  Well, nearly.  There's a couple of bits I picked up last week, that will form part of a present for a friend who I know reads my blog, so they can't go on here just yet.  I think I need another trip to Caerphilly, as I found a big basket of upholstery remnants in one of the shops, but couldn't think of anything to do with them. Then I saw hand stitched & embroidered Kindle cases on Etsy, and had a flash of inspiration, so I need to go back!

But I have had a few little treats.  Shopping just before Christmas, we decided to be eco-minded and get the train, rather than driving and trying to park in Cardiff.  Only trouble is entertaining a bored & grumpy Squeaky for the 50 minute journey home.  However, there's a lovely nasty, dirty little strip of shops, featuring no less than 3 charity shops, just outside the train station, so we popped in before our train & I found this little set of 6 Fifi lift-the-flap books for 50p.  We don't even watch Fifi, but they did the trick.

Next shop along, I needed something to entertain me on the same journey.  I'll be honest, there's no way in a MILLION years I'd've paid full price for this, and it's already in the pile to go to the charity shop on my next donation session, but for £1.50 to Macmillan, I didn't really mind, and the guy behind the desk was so helpful, opening the door for me while I pushed Squeaky's buggy, I was sold.  I found a shiny Celtic lattice bookmark in the third of the three shops, so it was clearly meant to be.  I had to stop myself buying a huge number of baubles I didn't need, just because they were shiny, but luckily I remembered we only had a tiny tree this year and had more baubles than we could use anyway.  So I was a good person.  Really.

And so we come to 2012.  As I said, the bank manager's in a bit of a mood with me, and I'm not allowed to go shopping at the moment.  Don't tell him, but I did pop my nose round the door of BHF in town last week, and I found something lovely on the bricabrac shelves, while I was convincing myself not to buy a LeapPad for £10.

Look at it!  Gaze in wonder!  Be astounded at the beautiful things that people give to charity here.  And be even more amazed that I paid less than £1 for it.

Then trust me, as I turn it over, and it doesn't say ANYthing on the base.  Seriously, you didn't think I'd picked up a real Le Crueset for a quid, did you?

And just to make you feel even better, a perspective shot next to a bottle of nailvarnish.  That's right, a tiny weeny mini pretend Le Crueset.  Just the right size for baked brie, or some sort of hot dipping sauce, but probably not for a ginormous casserole.

Pop on over to Missie Lizzie's place and see what else people have been buying! Me and My Shadow

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Tomato Soup!

Here is my entry to the Appliances Online messiest kid competition at Mother’s Always Right.

Despite what you see here, Squeaky is normally a very tidy eater, but she enjoys her tomato soup so much she wants to go face down in the bowl and make it a whole body experience!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Squeaky Goes Green

We're learning our colours, bit by bit, in Squeaky Mansions at the moment.  We can positively identify "red", find red things, and say "red" at the appropriate time.  We're not bad at "blue", though it tends to be said "bue". Yellow is a bit more tricky, and Squeaky's still getting that one a bit confused.

However, today, we're interested in "Green".  Ten Green Bottles, and all that.  I've put together ten hints and tips on how to save energy, money and the environment, with simple ideas from the mind of a simple mum (me), and a bit of help from La Squeak.

1. Close Doors.  I'm forever on at Daddy to shut the door behind him when he's leaving a room, even if he'll be back in a minute ("I'm only going out to the bin" is his usual reply)  Warm air from the house rushes out through an open door, to be replaced by cold air, which needs heating, and increases your heating bills.  Keeping doors closed means you keep the rooms you're in at a reasonable temperature, and you're not paying to heat the street.

2. Turn off the things you're not using.  Again, this is something I nag Daddy about all the time.  He'll put the radio on in the kitchen when he washes up, and then forget to turn it off when he comes back to the living room. No-one is listening to Radio 2, or whatever nonsense he's put on, and if no-one's listening, it's burning unnecessary power.  Flick the switch.

3. Dry outside.  Make the most of the wind and the sunshine (yes, I know), and put your clothes outside on the line to dry.  They'll get that lovely clean, crisp feeling, and you haven't paid a penny, just used what nature gave you.  And if the weather's a bit rubbish, get the clothes airer out & dry them on there.  Forget the tumble dryer.

4. Wear clothes that don't need ironing!  OK, I admit it. I'm lazy.  I hate ironing with a passion.  That's why, if you ever meet me, I'm likely to be wearing jeans & a slightly crumpled t-shirt.  But ironing takes more power, and that's what we're trying to avoid, right?  I know, there's times when you have to, and times when you want to, but think before you iron.  Do you need to iron teatowels & undies?

Doing very well on egg water, thank you!
5. Only boil as much water as you need.  And offer to make everyone else a cuppa when you go to the kettle.  There's nothing more wasteful than boiling a kettle, then someone adding a mugsworth of cold water to it and boiling it again 2 minutes later.  Make your family think you're kind & thoughtful, and save a few pennies.

6. Reuse water.  Yes, share a bath if you like, but that's not what I mean.  Boiled eggs for brekkie?  Let the water cool, and use the egg water to water your houseplants.  The tiny bits of eggshell & chicken poo are good plant food, and your plants will thank you for it.  Likewise with your washing up water - out on the veggies in the garden.

7. Get thrifty.  I'm sure you've seen some of my Magpie Monday posts, so you'll know I can't walk by a charity shop without a quick peek inside.  By breathing new life into someone else's unwanted items, you're reducing the number of new clothes made, stopping something going to landfill, saving yourself money (there's some real bargains to be had), and giving money to a good cause.  It's even better if you can donate some of your unwanted, outgrown, or otherwise unloved items too - makes space for something else.

8. Buy refills & economy sizes.  They're usually better value for money (but watch for special offers), and particularly with things like coffee, they're more environmentally sound.  The cardboard tub of a catering size tin of coffee takes much less energy to make than the glass jar, it weighs less so uses less energy to transport to the store, and mug for mug costs less.  Everyone's a winner.  Heck, you can get milk in plastic bags now, if you shop in certain supermarkets!

9. Turn off the lights! (Not the Nelly Furtado song, but if it's a reminder, then yeah)  Much as with my earlier point, if it's not being used, it's wasting power.  Squeaky's added this simple tutorial if you're unsure of the process.

10. Keep an eye on what you're actually using.  We won an energy monitor last year, it clips onto the cable by the electric meter, and feeds back to a display you can put somewhere else in the house, and it's a great way to remind you to think about what you're doing, and where you could save.  The way the use rockets when you switch certain appliances on is scary!

Along the same lines, British Gas are introducing Smart Meters, which have a monitor so you can see what you're using, and make your own choices.  I use the phrase "informed choice" a lot in my day job, but this is one of those times where it applies to real life as well.  If you know you're burning cash, you can choose to do something about it, and decide what matters to you the most.  Maybe you can't wash up without the radio on, but you can stop ironing those socks!

This post is my entry to the BritMums & British Gas Watt Loss Challenge.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Dressing Up Time

I saw Mummy Loves' competition with Appliances Online, looking for pictures of children's favourite dressing up outfits, and I was stumped.  While we've got a few dress-up outfits, Squeaky's really not one for wearing them, and the majority of photos I've got of her in a costume, she's either trying to rip it off herself, or just about the howl with rage.  I thought I was out of luck.

But I decided to have a mooch through the photo collection just in case, and there I discovered that, actually she does like dressing up.  Not in sparkles and flounces, but in Mummy's clothes.  So, may I present, Squeaky and highlights (or lowlights) from my wardrobe.

 My silly yellow t-shirt from Soreen!  She thinks this is fabulous.
 My wellies.  Apparently they're much better than her own (special guest appearance there from Daddy)
 My glasses.  One of the rare occasions she put them on the right way up. Don't ask how I managed to take her photo when I wasn't wearing them.
And my cowboy boots.  These are even more exciting than wellies, and she often insists I wear them, even if they don't go with my outfit, unless she's busy wearing them herself.

(I only wish I'd managed to take a photo of her recent fancy dress outfit at Pontins.  90 seconds to come up with an outfit, we managed glasses, a stuffed mouse, Mr Tumble's spotty bag, and a clean nappy on her head.  Somehow that won!)

Cooking With Mummy Episode 2!

 Hello, and welcome to another episode of Cooking With Mummy!  I'm your host, Squeaky, and this time, I'm going to show you how to make Yummy Pumpkin Cupcakes.  Don't forget, Mummy's not a very good cook, she needs all the help I can give her.  She also forgot to take many photos of these cakes, what am I going to do with her?
To make Yummy Pumpkin Cupcakes, you'll need a packet of cake mix.  Mummy says they are better, but I think she just doesn't like doing the measuring.  Before you mix everything together, get some orange food colouring (or yellow & red. I learned that today, they make orange!)  Add this to any other liquid you've got to mix in - you'll want quite a bit of colouring.  You could also add some flavouring, we used orange flavour too, it's delicious.  Mix it all together, and see how bright the colours are!  Upsy Daisy helped mix too.
 Put the mix into some cake cases, and get Mummy to put them in the oven.  I knew Mummy would come in handy for something, she doesn't even burn herself now, since Grandma gave her those things to go on the edge of the racks!  Leave the cakes in the oven until they grow.
Once your cakes have grown, you can get some fondant icing, and some green colouring, and mix them up to make little green stalks to go on top of your cakes to make them look like pumpkins.  Sort of.  Mummy isn't very good at this, is she?
All that's left to do then is eat!  And as you can see, I don't like to waste a crumb!

Mummy would like me to add that this is her entry into the Appliances Online Messy Kids Cooking Competition at Baby Budgeting. I'd like to add that cupcakes are yummy.

Cooking with Mummy

Hello, and welcome to "Cooking With Mummy".  I'm your host, Squeaky.

Unfortunately, my Mummy really isn't a very good cook, so today I'm going to teach her how to make a simple and tasty dessert for all the family.  You can join in too if you like.

Take a bowl of milk, and add some interesting looking powder.  Have a quick sniff, it smells sort of like strawberries!  Wow!  Aaaaaaaachooo!  I wasn't expecting that!  Make sure you watch what you're doing, or you might end up with strawberry stuff everywhere, and we don't want that to happen, because then we won't be able to eat it!  Gosh.  If your Mummy is helping, you can give her the empty packet to put in the bin.  Mummy can manage that bit, I think.

Next, take a whisk, and whisk the strawberry powder into the milk.  This bit's really exciting, and a little bit messy.  Look!  The milk!  It's going pink!  I didn't know you could get pink milk at home, I thought you only got pink milk when you're out and have been really really good.  The milk is starting to get a bit thick as well.  Make sure you mix it really well so there's no lumpy bits.  You can let Mummy give it a quick mix too if you like, but not too much.
When your pink milk is nice and mixed, get Mummy to find a big spoon.  Then you can share out the yummy pink dessert into bowls so that everyone gets their own bowl of dessert.  Be very careful not to spill any, we don't want to waste it, do we?

Mummy and Daddy can have pretty teacups for their dessert, but I'd recommend keeping the biggest portion for yourself.  I've used a Very Hungry Caterpillar bowl, but you might like to try Mr Men, Spongebob Squarepants, or even Hello Kitty.  Just make sure that your bowl is bigger than Mummy and Daddy's bowls.  You've done all the hard work, so you should have most of the yummy pudding!

Finally, don't forget to clean up after yourself.  Some people like to put all the dishes and spoons in the dishwasher, but I prefer to clean them up myself.  You've got to make sure they're properly clean, after all.

Well, that's all from me, I hope you've enjoyed this exciting episode of Cooking With Mummy.  Mummy would like me to add that this post is her entry into the Appliances Online competition to win £100 in Amazon vouchers with Red Ted Art

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Bottle Fairy's Visit

We've all heard of the Tooth Fairy, right?  Some of us have heard of the Dummy Fairy.  But have you heard of the Bottle Fairy, who paid us a visit recently?

The Bottle Fairy does a similar job to the Dummy Fairy.  She keeps an eye out for boys and girls who have grown up now, and no longer need baby things, in her case, bottles.  The boys and girls leave their bottles out for the Bottle Fairy, who collects them up and gives them to babies who need them, similarly to the Dummy Fairy.  If the boys and girls are very good, the Bottle Fairy might even leave them a special gift.

Well, as Squeaky turned 2 this week, we'd been expecting the Bottle Fairy to come and visit us for a little while, and had been talking about what would happen.  Squeaky finally accepted that milk comes in beakers about a week ago, so it was perfect timing for the Bottle Fairy's visit, so we didn't slip back into bad habits.

Oh! Look! I can edit, badly.
Squeaky helped me write a letter to the Bottle Fairy, which we left out on the sideboard with all her bottles, hoping that the Bottle Fairy would stop by our house on her rounds.

Lo and behold, the next morning, the bottles and the letter had disappeared.  In their place was a letter back from the Bottle Fairy (since destroyed, hmph), and a Chuggington book, as we're currently obsessed with the Choo-Choos (and Peppa Pig, Upsy Daisy, and Tang from Zingzillas)

I wondered, what fairies visit your house?  Are there any others we should be looking out for?

Pukka Tea Review

I'm a coffee drinker at heart.  I need it like Simon Cowell needs delusional fools to be on his shows.  But I'm pretty open-minded, so I decided to give Pukka Tea a go when box of Morning Time dropped through my door.

Squeaky's daddy is always on at me for drinking too much caffeine, so I thought Morning Time might help me get a bit of peace & quiet, as it's naturally caffeine free, but designed to give you a bit of an energy boost. Rooibos is pretty similar in taste to "normal" tea, and you can drink it with or without milk.  I prefer it without, but unlike fruity herbal teas it doesn't turn the milk into pink yogurt.

The Fairtrade logo in the corner jumped out at me as soon as I saw the box.  I do try to buy Fairtrade where I can, long long ago I was a charity volunteer for an overseas aid charity when Fairtrade was first coming onto the UK consciousness, and it's stayed with me to try and support the farmers and communities rather than the pockets of big companies where I can.

The first cup I tried, I think I let steep for a bit too long.  The box says to steep for at least five minutes, but for my taste it was too long, and the tea was too strong.  To be honest I thought "this really isn't my cup of tea".  And then I firmly berated myself for making such an appalling joke, shrugged my shoulders and got on with my day.  I'm not one to be defeated that easily though, so I gave it another try the next day.

This time, I didn't leave the bag in for so long, only about 3 minutes or so.  For me that was just right.  Tastes like tea, but doesn't strip the inside of your mouth off.  The Rooibos and Honeybush make the tea a little bit sweeter than a mug of builder's (before the 4 sugars!), and it's a nice refreshing taste.  I think I might be converted.  Not every day, but it's good to have a choice.

The ginseng is a natural stimulant, has healing properties, and apparently is an aphrodisiac (don't tell daddy!), though I didn't notice that effect. Maybe that's why I should leave the bag in for longer!  Morning Time also contains Licorice Root to promote clarity and deal with stress, and Maca Root to increase energy & libido.  No seriously, DON'T tell daddy!  I'm keeping these to myself.

I also had a few samples from the rest of the Pukka range, you can't see Love here, because I drank that one as soon as I opened the envelope!, but there's a great range for most times of day & emotions.  I love the Relax and Revitalise ones.  Now I just need to convince my office mates that drinking herbal tea doesn't turn me into a beansprout knitting weirdo and I'm still the caffeine addict they know & love, just slightly calmer!

Disclosure: I was provided with a box of Pukka Tea Morning Time, and a selection of other Pukka Teas 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.

Friday, 20 January 2012

All Babies Count

New Year, new start.  Every baby deserves a chance in life, and you can help to make that a reality by supporting the NSPCC's All Babies Count campaign.  The NSPCC work to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to support children and families at risk.

Sudocrem, the  http://www.sudocrem.co.uk/page/en/nappy-rash-en/4" title="nappy rash">nappy rash experts are supporting the NSPCC's campaign, and have pledged to donate £25,000 as part of their 80 years celebrations.  You can do your part by liking Sudocrem's facebook page http://www.facebook.com/Sudocrem - for each liker, they will donate 50p to the campaign.  They're already on their way to their target, but your like, and those of your friends and family can make a real difference.  It's not even costing you a penny.  What's a click take?  Your click could make all the difference to a baby's life.

It's heartbreaking to think of babies being abused or neglected, let's do our bit to try and make 2012 a better year for those at risk.  One click, one share, let's make a difference.

A little reminder of what the NSPCC are trying to achieve and why.

Toddler Takeover!

As it was Squeaky's birthday this month, we took her and her friend Pirategirl (not her real name, oddly enough) to Techniquest in Cardiff for their toddler day as a birthday treat.  I didn't realise about this til fairly recently, but the first Friday of the month is Toddler Day, with reduced prices for grown-ups (including a free cuppa, always welcome), toddler friendly activities, storytelling, crafts, and general toddler-style mayhem.

Mama gets artsy with water shots
I'd actually taken Squeaky to Techniquest in the autumn, but when it's general opening, there's older children around who don't always appreciate a marauding toddler haring up & down the floor-piano while they're trying to play chopsticks with their feet.  So while she'd enjoyed it, I felt that I'd spent so much time saying "no" that she hadn't really had chance to really explore.  Toddler Days seemed like a good way around that.


Off we wombled.  And off they went.  The place was manic, to tell the truth.  We got there about an hour after it opened, and it was like walking into, well, a Toddler Day!  Seriously, I have never seen so many waist height people running around!  But considering the average age would have been about 2 1/2, there were very few tantrums, very few tears, and it honestly wasn't the Hell On Legs that you'd imagine a whole building full of under-threes to be!
Move over Smashy & Nicey!

This isn't a review post. I paid for our tickets.  I just want to share some photos, and to encourage you to find out if any of your local attractions have family days, or even better, toddler days. It's a great way to spend some time together, doing something that interests and involves you all.  And provides some great photos.

Something that I'm loving as Squeaky gets older is how she's learning to develop relationships with others, and her friendship with Pirategirl is a great example of that.  They've known each other since Pirategirl was about 2 weeks old (she's a few weeks younger than Squeaky), as we've been to the same baby and toddler groups, and I've built a great and very welcome friendship with her mummy.  The girls have grown up together, and they have gone from playing next to each other to properly co-operative playing together.  It's incredible to see, and makes me really happy.

Best Friends.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Land of Sometimes Review

There's only so much CBeebies I can take.  And it's certainly less than Squeaky would like.  We discovered their podcasts recently, and she's taken to demanding them while we're out in the car, so I was really pleased when The Land Of Sometimes popped through our door to review.

From the fantasy cover, I figured we were in for an adventure.  We joined the twins, Alfie & Elise on their journey to "The Land of Sometimes", and met a whole host of characters, including Little Twink the fairy, the Willow Tree Choir Boy, and my personal favourite, Mr Smaller Than Smaller Than Smaller Small Thing!  (yes, you did read that right. I had to check it 3 times).

The CD is a mixture of a narrated story, and songs covering a whole range of musical styles, from reggae to Irish Folk, disco & jazz, it's a good introduction to different types of music, and it keeps your attention too.  Squeaky seems to enjoy it, I've seen her bopping around in her car seat, and she's not demanding "More Beebies" like she normally does, so that's a big positive.

The CD comes with an illustrated book, following the children's journey.  It's beautifully illustrated, but my one criticism is that I'd like to have seen more of the story written in the book, rather than just illustrations of the people and places.  I remember having the vinyl album soundtrack of The Water Babies when I was a kid (yes, showing my age), which had a booklet attached to the cover and you could follow parts of the narration, developing reading skills while listening to what becomes a familiar recording.

There's 31 tracks on the CD, which sounds like LOADS, but many of the narrated tracks are under a minute, and most of the songs are around the 3 minute mark, so it's no longer than, well a CD can't be more than 75 minutes anyway.  As most of the tracks are short, it's easy to dip in & out as well, just listen to a few minutes at a time.

The Land Of Sometimes is available to Pre-order on Amazon, and is released on 6 February 2012.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of The Land Of Sometimes to review. All opinions are my own, and I was not told what to write.  I am not an Amazon affiliate, the above link is provided for your convenience only, I will not gain from your using it.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Two Years...

From this...

To this... 

Happy 2nd Birthday Squeakygirl!  You make my world!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Where do you go for advice?

Where do you go?  Every mum has questions, niggles, worries.  Who do you turn to for advice, support, or a reality check?

Every child under 5 in the UK should have a named health visitor.  They're specialists in children's health & development and are trained not to laugh when you ask them daft questions (I should know, I've asked some corkers!)  But the reality is, each health visitor has a big caseload, they've got loads of families to see, and they're only available certain times.  And while some of them are fabulous, they're human, and there can be clashes, or other reasons why they're not always the first port of call.

Our own mums and families?  A generation or two ago, Granny would have been there, on the doorstep, any time night or day.  People move though, I live about 150 miles from my mum, and while she's on the phone, she's got her own life to lead as well, so mums can't always turn to their families for help.

Local Mums?  Mum & baby groups can be a huge source of support, and coffee!  They're not for everyone, and they're not everywhere, but groups can fill the gaps left by moving away from family.

Where does the 21st century mum go, then?  Here's a clue... you're doing it right now.

The Toddler Census revealed that an amazing 80% of new mums turn to google, facebook, and online forums for parenting advice!  That's incredible!  Sites such as Netmums & Mumsnet have a wealth of reference materials as well as advice forums, chat (and a bit of gossip), it's just a case of finding the site that best fits your personality, or preferred amount of swearing!

There's a few differences among us, though.  71 % of older mums (like me. I'm ancient) - those over 35 - were likely to turn to the internet for advice, but more under 25's use Facebook for their queries than any other group (15%, the average a mere 9%).

I'm not sure what turning to Facebook really entails - and that interpretation could well apply to the answers in the census too - does a status update of "Oh For Goodness Sake child, SLEEP!" constitute seeking advice, or is it just venting?  Depends on whether you get answers, I guess!

Apparently 75% of Southampton mums turn to their own friends & family for support, while 47% of their Plymouth sisters turn to forums.  21% of Brighton mums seek help from their Facebook friends, and 10% of London mums rely on YouTube.  And apparently that's not relying on YouTube for videos of the Tombliboos brushing their teeth, Mr Bloom singing Meet The Veggies, or a cat falling off a washing machine.

So, tell me.  Who do you speak to?  Me?  A little bit of all of them.  I work with a couple of Health Visitors, even though they're not my daughter's named HV, so I do ask them.  I ask my mum, my mummy friends that go to the same groups as me, forums, blogs, parenting books, magazines.  There's plenty of advice out there, just find the ones that fit you.

More info can be found at  www.growingupmilkfo.com  pop along, they're lovely!

Cow & Gate Growing Up Milk are sponsoring me to attend the CybHer conference in May 2012.  The statistical data in this post came from The Toddler Census, a questionnaire answered by over 1000 parents in July 2011.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Nature's Plus Animal Parade Vitamins Review

Gosh, is it 2012 already? 11 days in and not a Squeak!  It's been kind of busy around here with Christmas, New Year's, my birthday, the impending SqueakyBirthday, and general STUFF, but hey, we're back.  Did you miss us?

Well anyways.  You remember not long back, I posted about Vitamin D deficiencies in toddlers?  It was quite apt that Nature's Plus sent me some of their Animal Parade vitamins for Squeaky to try, following that post.  I got a bottle of multivitamin, and a pack of samples of Vitamin D3.  They're normally recommended for children aged 2 and over, so as Squeaky isn't 2 until next week, I checked with my health visitor that it was OK for her to take them, and she was quite happy. I'd advise you to seek appropriate advice if you're not sure whether supplements are suitable for your child.

The vitamin supplements are tailored for children's needs, and are sugar free, vegetarian & have natural flavourings.  The tablets are animal shaped (I've seen  hippos, elephants, lions & tigers so far, but there may be more!) and are chewable.  Here's a learning point for me.  Chewable is not the same as chewy.  Chewy is jelly-like, or like chewits.  Chewable is hard, solid tablets that you can crunch or suck, like polos.  I didn't know this, so I was a bit surprised to find hard tablets & not the jellies I was expecting.

That didn't stop Squeaky enjoying them.  The multivitamins are natural cherry flavour & the Vitamin D3 are black cherry (I'm not quite sure of the difference, but I have the same problem with yogurts!), which seemed to go down very well.  I don't like artificial fruit flavours, so it was good to see that the flavours were natural.  The tablets are coloured with rosehip, which makes them look quite pretty, BUT.  If your child is anything like Squeaky, the tablets will be in & out of their mouths really quite a bit.  Not because she didn't like it, just because it was something new & she needed to look at it.  A lot.  Thankfully, with the colours being natural, they washed off her face easily, and came out of her pyjamas in a single wash, so no worries there. (Yes. I know. They're boy's PJs. She chose them and wouldn't let go.)

It's hard to tell with a toddler whether a supplement is doing any good.  Let's face it, they're whirlwinds at the best of times, so the judgement can only really come with whether or not she likes them.  She's come back for more every day so far, so that seems to be a positive reaction from a very fussy eater.

I'm glad to have found something that she will happily take, I do honestly worry about what she eats, even though I know she's just being a toddler, and being fussy because she can.  There's only so much toast & marmite that one child can eat, so including a daily vitamin supplement means I can be confident that she's getting the balance she needs.  It won't stop me trying to get her to eat a more varied diet, but it does stop me worrying if she doesn't.

Nature's Plus Animal Parade vitamins are available through Amazon and other sources. (I am not an Amazon Affiliate, I will not gain anything through use of this link)

Disclosure: I was provided with a bottle of multivitamins & a pack of Vitamin D3 tablets 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.