Friday, 30 March 2012

Why I love my postman, or a Nick Jr Easter.

My postie is an absolute gem. He really is.  Considering the amount of parcels I'm responsible for him having to carry around on the offchance I'll be in when he rings the bell, I probably deserve my own personal postman now.  But when he handed me a big box earlier this week, I didn't realise what a great surprise was in store.

I opened the box, and found...  a hamper of Green & Black's dark chocolate (all for me! Squeaky Daddy is strictly a milk chocolate kind of guy, hooray!), and an Easter card, with a dvd giving us a sneak preview of Nick Jr's Easter offerings.  Luckily for our poor unsuspecting postman, by the time I'd opened the box, he was well out of range, or he might have got a great big chocolatey kiss!

Squeaky Daddy's been working late shifts this week, so it's been the perfect chance for Squeaky and me to have some serious Girly Time, and we cracked open the dvd (which came with a lovely set of postcards which Squeaky has been colouring in already), and settled down with some chocolate and the tv remote.

First up was Dora's Easter Adventure, which premiered on Nick Jr today (Friday 30th March), but we got to watch it a little bit early.  Join Dora & Boots on their adventures with the Hip Hop Bunny, and save the Big Easter Egg Hunt.  I won't spoil the story for you, if you haven't seen it yet, it's a full length episode full of excitement, chocolate eggs, and all your favourite Dora characters!  Squeaky hadn't really watched Dora before, though she's seen the toys and clothes, and she was fascinated, and kept holding her Dora doll up to the TV in amazement (and commenting on hats, her current obsession).  The show is repeated on Sunday morning at 11.00, and a few more times over the Easter holidays.

Next on the menu was Team Umizoomi who were on an Easter Egg Hunt, diving down rabbit holes in search of the special rainbow egg.  I'll be honest & say I've not seen Team Umizoomi before, but I'm assured it's a regular when Daddy's at home with Squeaky, and she certainly recognised Milli, Geo & Bot, and loved joining in practising her numbers, as well as spotting all the eggs.  The show is coming to Nick Jr in April.

Finally, we had two episodes of the brand new series Tickety Toc, starring twins Tommy & Tallulah Tockety, who are the boy and girl who pop out of a very special clock every hour to chime the time.  But what do they get up to when they go back inside?  We followed Tommy & Tallulah on two of their adventures, and Squeaky was absolutely transfixed.  The show launches on 23rd April, but I'm not sure she's going to wait that long, we'll be wearing holes in the dvd before then!  Squeaky is getting quite into routines, and concepts like "tea time", "bath time", "pens time" (don't ask) and Tickety Toc fits really well with that, as well as having gorgeous animation that Squeaky really took a shine to.

Thank you Nick Jr, for my very tasty treats, and for Squeaky's entertainment.  Daddy's at home over the next few evenings, if I was a softer soul, I'd buy him a treat as well, but isn't my company enough?

Disclosure: I was provided with a preview DVD & selection of Easter treats 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.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Babies In Sheep's Clothing High Performance Swimwear Review

The sun's been beating down here the last few days, and it's time to start thinking about summer.  Squeaky's nursery even asked for suncream & sunhats today!  (What they've done with last year's, I don't know).  I don't envy them trying to get that many small unco-operative people liberally covered in factor 50!

But along with summer comes playing on the beach. And whether they like it or not, our little darlings DO need their skin protected from the sun.  Delicate skin can burn very easily, even through clothing, and sunburn is a sign of skin damage, and can lead to skin cancer in the longer term, which none of us wish on our children.

Well, the kind people at Babies In Sheep's Clothing got in touch with me recently, and asked if I'd like to try out something from their new range of High Performance Swimwear from Little Red Fish.  It might sound early in the year, but as we were soaking up some March sunshine in Spain last week, the timing couldn't have been better, and a red & white striped bathing suit found its way into our case to join us on our travels.

The suit was a bit thicker than normal "high street" swimwear. Not as thick as a wet suit, but a little thicker.  It was also much, much softer, almost like a thick t-shirt.  The cleverest part of the design, in my opinion, is that the zip does up at the back, like a wetsuit.  We've had an all-in-one costume before, but the zip was at the front, and little fingers find them quite interesting.  Putting the zip at the back means it stays zipped up.  Squeaky loved the Little Red Fish logo on the arm, and kept looking at it.

We were sent a 1-2 year old size.  Squeaky turned 2 in January, but she's at the smaller end of her age bracket, and wears 18-24 month clothes for the most part anyway, and it was a great fit, with plenty of room for growth, so I'm confident it will still fit her in the summer and beyond, there was plenty of stretch, we just didn't need to use it!  We found the suit wore and washed well, dried quickly, and didn't lose any colour, despite the intensity of the colour on the suit (shame the same can't be said for some of the other items I took away with us!).  We gave the suit a full test over the course of a week, in the pool, the sea, the sand, and the children's play area.  It still looks brand new, not a snag or a single sign of wear.  As the fabric is designed to handle New Zealand summers, and in most cases the sizes cover a 2 year age group, they are meant to be durable, and it certainly seems to be the case in our experience.
Daisy says Yes!

The fabric offers the same level of protection as factor 50 suncream - which doesn't mean you can forget all about it, there's still arms, legs and faces to deal with, as well as the bits that start out covered by the costume until they start running around, but it means that the body gets the same amount of protection, and you can rest a little easier.  As you can see, the design met with the Squeaky and Daisy Seal of Approval.  By reaching her elbows & knees, it meant she stayed cool, but had freedom of movement.  (Yes, I am the person who believes you stay cooler if you have a layer on, don't give me science, I just trust my own experience)

The Little Red Fish range at Babies In Sheep's Clothing includes Swim tops and bottoms as well as One piece suits in a range of styles, in blue or red stripes.  They aren't cheap (prices range from £24.99 to £49.99), but the quality of the costume, as well as the peace of mind knowing Squeaky's skin is protected, makes it worth every penny in my opinion.  The only thing it didn't do was magically attract the fishes in the sea, despite the fish on the sleeve.  We went paddling, and called them, but only one fish came to see us.  They must be waiting for the school holidays.
Dig For Victory

Diclosure: We were provided with a Little Red Fish swimsuit free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I was not told what to say, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme, and will not receive any reward for their use.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Smoke-free for Squeaky & Me

I've taken the pledge.  No.  I'm not signing off my love of Mr Pinot & Mr Grigio, that's for another day.  I've taken the pledge to protect Squeaky, and any other children that travel with me, by making sure my car is a smoke-free environment.  I don't smoke, my family don't smoke, but I have friends who do, and I ask that they respect my wishes and the health of my family by not smoking when we're in the car.

Shocking results from a recent British Lung Foundation survey show that over half of children surveyed had been in a car with someone smoking1, which is surprising when only 21% of the UK adult population smoke2. The research also found that 24% of children have been too embarrassed to ask someone to stop smoking in the car, and 9% too frightened to ask3.

Neither of my parents smoked, but I remember being about 6, and saying to my parents "When I grow up, I'm going to smoke, just like Grandad."  I'm shocked just thinking about that now, and while I'm not certain, I have a feeling that sentence was fairly instrumental in my Grandad's decision to give up smoking shortly afterwards.

Since the smoking ban came into force in the UK, it's been illegal to smoke in a work's vehicle, or a personal vehicle while carrying another person for work, in order to protect the health of other adults.  Surely our children's health, and wishes, are equally as important?  That's why I've signed the pledge at Lung UK and why I'm asking you to do so too.

Your children can join the campaign as well, there's a letter template on Lung UK's young campaigners page which they can send to your local MP asking them to join in supporting the pledge.

I don't often get all political on this blog, you're more likely to find me talking about nailpolish, charity shops & kids tv, but this is an issue that's really important to me, and I'd love it if you'd join me.


Sunday, 11 March 2012

The next train to arrive at the platform is the Dinosaur Train

Dinosaur Train is the latest arrival to Nick Jr, starting on Monday 12th March, and showing every weekday at 4.00pm.  Dinosaur Train is a new animation from the Jim Henson Company, and was created by Craig Bartlett (who made Hey Arnold!).  That was enough to get me interested, I loved Hey Arnold! even though I was probably far too old for it when it was first shown in the UK.

We were sent a DVD with 2 preview episodes of Dinosaur Train to watch for this review.  What immediately struck me is that it's clearly a Henson production.  The quality of the animation is superb, the details (like when Conductor Troodon punches a ticket, you can see through the hole properly, like in reality).  The features of the characters owe a little to other Henson productions too, Don has more than a little hint of a certain green frog whose movie is in the cinemas at present.  There's some styles of animation that I don't like, but this is so well made, realistic without slipping into creepy, that it's very very watchable.

The star of the show is Buddy, a T-Rex, living with a family of Pteranodons.  He's trying to understand the world around him, with the help of his family, and the other dinosaurs on the Dinosaur Train, which can travel to any time or place.  Buddy is a curious & funny lead character, and very lovable.  Who could resist that smile?  My favourite character was Shiny, a great name, and a fab colour!

The show is aimed at 3-6 year olds, introducing them to dinosaurs and scientific thinking in a fun environment, as well as things like teamwork, growing up, and difference.  To be honest, at 2, Squeaky was a little young for this show.  Despite loving trains, and thanks to Peppa Pig, having an idea about dinosaurs, it was a bit over her head.  Unusually for an animation, she wandered off from the tv in search of something else.  That said, I loved it, and it's definitely a show we'll come back to when she's a little older.

You can catch Dinosaur Train on Nick Jr from tomorrow (Monday 12th March) at 4.00, and the same time every weekday.  Or, if you can't wait that long, pop over to Nick Jr's website where you can get to know the family a bit better.  Nick Jr is on Sky channel 615 (and other channels via other providers).

Disclosure: I was provided with a preview DVD & Nick Jr goodie 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.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Oooh eck!

Just a mini entry, purely to work out how this works. I've finally joined the 21st century and got a 'smart' phone to replace my previous stupid phone. So this is my first attempt at posting from my phone. Like it matters.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

200 Healthy Feasts Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook - Octopus Books Review

One of my guilty secrets is the number of recipe books I own, considering how infrequently I actually seem to use them.  Amongst them is a Hamlyn All-Colour cookbook dating back to the mid 80's that I "liberated" from my mum's house when I first left home, featuring such interesting gems as "Liver and Watercress", not a combination I'd've ever thought of, and a Sausage Plait that may or may not be the one made famous more recently by TOWIE's Nanny Pat.  I was quite chuffed then, when Octopus Books chose me to review the new 200 Healthy Feasts Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, not least because I might be able to give my mum her book back after all these years!

On first sight, I was surprised how small the book was, particularly for 200 illustrated recipes.  My old one is HUGE, and I was anticipating something similar.  However, this book appears to have been designed with my kitchen in mind - I don't have the space for an A4 sized book, open, on my worksurface, and so the pocket size of this book is much more practical.

(Nails, OPI Gone Gonzo)
Each page has the recipe on the left, and a picture of the finished dish on the right, the simplicity and consistency of the design really appeal to me, I like to know where I'm looking!  The recipes are divided into easy to follow sections for Breakfast & Brunch, Starters, Soups & Stews, Fish, Meat, Vegetarian and desserts.

As you can see, I decided to make a bean chilli.  Unfortunately, we enjoyed it so much it got eaten before I took a comparison photo, and I'm just not organised enough for avocado salsa.

Old meets new

The recipes are easy to follow, with clear instructions, and a great range of classics and modern recipes from around the world, and the pictures are colourful and inspiring.

I wonder, when Squeaky looks back at this book, 20-odd years from now, which recipes she'll be freaked out by?  Will it be the feta-stuffed plaice? The pesto and lemon soup? The chicken and pickled walnut pilaf?  One thing I know, it won't be liver & watercress, that didn't make the cut this time around!

200 Health Feasts Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook is available  from for £3.69.  (Amazingly, the 1986 book, pictured above, has a cover price of £6.99.  And they talk about inflation?)

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book 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.